Monday, June 22, 2009

He Came Back

The back of the mini van was packed--suitcases, towels, pool toys, shoes, snacks. We happily made ourselves comfortable in our seats, backed out of the drive and excitedly headed from dreary Ohio to the sun, the heat and ocean breezes of lovely Florida.

I had dreams.

I had visions.

I had expectations . . .

JR would skip through the sand, smiling, giggling and picking up shells as he ran toward the water. I would scoop him up and we would twirl in the cool sand and splash in the surf.

We would go to the aquarium where JR would look in amazement at the sea life as it floated effortlessly in reflective tanks. He would point and I, in my abundant wisdom, would name off every single animal he gestured toward. He would look at me with admiration, thinking how amazing his mama was (he would have no idea that I was simply reading from the fish chart above the tank).

At the pool, in the home we were renting, JR would tentatively approach the edge of the sparkling pool of water while his father and I watched as he grew increasingly brave with each dip of his toes. Finally, he would jump in the pool, we would place him in his floaty and leisurely float around, relaxing as the shadows made their way over the water.

Dreams. Visions. Expectations.

I'm not saying that none of that happened.

It did.

Kind of.

But not really. Not exactly.

See, no one can really prepare you for your first vacation with an active toddler. No one can really tell you what it will be like to chase after a toddler, a full diaper hanging down to his knees, as he runs down the beach while you clutch your nearly 8-month pregnant belly and run after him (it is more like 7 months, but I was 3 lbs. heavier and much rounder than when I delivered JR--so I'm still trying to figure out how to navigate this cumbersome pregnant vessel. By the way, I am 8 lbs. heavier as of today. ).

No one can tell you what it will be like to change a toddler who has found that stuffing sand into his swim trunks and Little Swimmer is SO MUCH FUN! Oh, and of course a shell or two (hundred) for added fun!

You can't be prepared for a toddler meltdown when you are soaked with sweat, covered in sand, lugging an umbrella, chairs, towels, shoes, bags nearly a quarter of a mile through HOT sand back to the car. The looks of sympathy from beach goers does nothing. "Help me, damn it!" you scream silently as you paste a tight smile on your face. "This is how people crack," you think as your evil glare falls upon an innocent, peaceful family having fun, stuffing their sand-free sandwiches in their mouths and giggling at their sweet toddler who sits idly playing in the sand.

No one can explain that an aquarium to a toddler is more like a floating feast. NO, thankfully he didn't try to eat the fish racing through the tank (he wasn't tall enough to reach in) . . . he tried to eat the skeletal models that sat on top of the tanks. Yummy. Crunchy.The heavy stares from the employees did nothing to me. I didn't even wince, for they have no idea.

Speaking of eating. We tried everything. But, the manual (that we never received) probably doesn't say a thing about how toddlers take finicky eating to a whole new level when in a new place with a bunch of new distractions (we know, should have been commonsense, but we tossed that out the window when we crossed over the GA/FL border). But I'll be damned if the seagulls didn't eat well. Too well, if you ask me.

Instead, JR stuffed fistfuls of sand in his mouth. Fistfuls. And, strawberries, raisins and a slew of other dropped foods covered in sand--into his mouth.

We tried to stop him. We did. But . . . he's very fast. And, there is a LOT of sand.

So as not to seem like a big-belly malcontent, the entire trip was not one fraught with misery. There were lovely moments on the beach where JR would climb up on the chair, wrap his legs around me and bury his face into my neck. It was pure bliss . . . until he realized that climbing over mommy and her huge belly was quite fun, especially with his sandpaper swim shoes rubbing against my legs, over and over and over. While he climbed, his sister kicked. And kicked. And squirmed. He squirmed. It was excruciating bliss. But I was destined to steal some blissful moment even if it meant PAIN.

Decked out in my rather cute tie-dyed maternity swimsuit, I was feeling pretty good that first day at the beach. I was invigorated by the sun, the heat, the ocean breeze. I looked at the ocean as a metaphor for all the adventures we were going to have. I buried my feet in the sand and leaned back to take in the sites of the families that wandered the beach, splashed in the waves. I watched as JR played in the sand and his daddy leaned back in the seat next to me.


And then . . . POOF!

The last day at the beach had me bemoaning personal space issues--turning my once happy and light demeanor into one that leaned on the edges of misanthropy. I raged about my inability to get up from a seated position without rolling to my side, into the sand, first. Personal grooming turned into an Olympic event for me--I mean, how do women do it? I have no idea what is even down there anymore. I can't see anything beyond my navel.

And, I HATE SAND! HATE IT. At first I said, "Oh look, I'm exfoliating" as I found sand on nearly every inch of my body. By the end, I cursed every single granule. And shells, especially when they get stuck in your backside or nether regions--SUCK! Former homes of now deceased sea creatures no longer thrill me. "Oh, look. A beautiful little pink and purple shell," I would say as I would gently pick it up and place it into the bucket. By the end, I was, "#$%&* SHELLS!" as I would pluck them from between my toes and flick them into the sand.

Oh, and there were other pregnancy related issues that I suffered through--and because I like and respect you, I will spare you the details. You may thank me later. Ah, but all was not lost. I did discover the benefits of a built in serving tray. Pregnancy bonus #236.

Couple all that with THE TODDLER and you get more fun than anyone should ever be allowed to have in one beach vacation. The mixture of heat, sand, sun and crazy toddler had the husband and I fully entrenched in survival mode. After the "flinging poop" moment that the hubs had to endure while changing JR in the dark beach bathroom (he said it was like a small, smelly corner of hell) we finally gave in--humor would be our only form of sustenance if we were to survive. We talked about tying tubes, vasectomies, therapy, medications, the therapeutic benefits of liquor, lots of liquor.

JR's father and I tapped into our sense of humor. We had to . . . by day three (of our 11-day trip) we had nothing left. As we headed out to the beach on that third day, JR went running along the banks. His father looked lovingly toward me as he spoke, "You know, they say that if you love something, you should set it free . . . " We both looked ahead as JR ran and ran and ran.

We looked at each other and didn't even try to stifle our laughs. It was either that or falling in the sand in a fit of tears.

JR, way ahead of his downtrodden parents, turned around, saw us, hunched backed, baggy-eyed, yet still smiling and laughing. And with that . . . he came back.

And oddly . . . I'd do it all again.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You had me smiling in recognition and then laughing. Now I'm having vivid flashbacks to the camping trip from Hell. 5 days cut back to 3, because . . . Get me out of here!

Woman in a Window said...

Beautiful sand filled moments.

At least it wasn't chips. Ever eat sand covered chips? It can be done but it hurts the soul.

Eight+ months already? Holy cow! (The time flying by, not you.)

Kelly said...

ah, yes... the beach bathroom poop flinger! I had one of those.

I sometimes think doing anything outside of the house with a toddler is asking for trouble. Hope you did get to relax at least a little bit.

KG said...

For me, the main issue is on vacations is keeping my kid from destroying the hotel room. We went to a family festivity this weekend and had to stay in a hotel and I swear my kid was hell-bent on destruction of that room. Between attempting to flush the room key down the toilet and eat small objects off of the super gross hotel room carpet, it was all we could do to bathe and get dressed and get out of the room. We had to do it in shifts to try to keep him from destroying the place. Good times.

Anonymous said...

sand lingers in the teeth longer than i would like. i grew up at the beach so have a certain tolerance for the stuff. but i think vacationing while 8 months pregnant is an accomplishment to be noted! (totally love your suit too by the way!)

Bon said...

see, i was just writing about how perhaps i ought to expand past my park-friendly safe zone and get my kids to the beach.

now i'm curled up in the corner of my couch, hyperventilating.

eep. but that IS a very cute bathing suit.

ConverseMomma said...

If you love something, set it free...I love your husband. He is hilarious. Just wait unitl you have two. Seriously, they run in different directions, and you have to decide which one is in more immediate danger. Either that, or you just never leave the house. Good Times!

Burgh Baby said...

Vacation with kids is so. much. fun, isn't it?

Wait. What? said...

Oh the memories you brought back to me - the memories!

I am with you - I would do it all over again.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Oh my! Never a more entertaining tale of woe has been heard. At least in a while. I'm glad we don't live near the beach and won't be traveling to it. Blasted sand! I already hate it! Just from your description! :-)

I can't believe you are at 8 months already. Wow! Soon we will be seeing photos of a new beautiful baby?!

MommyTime said...

You have my sympathy. I did that trudging 438 mile walk back to the car last summer with a melting-down 4 year old and a very heavy 2-yr-old who REFUSED to get a single grain of sand on her feet, oh NO, not sand, on her FEET, the HORROR!, so she had to be carried, whereupon she peed. Just like ocean water, pee pee runs right through those swim diapers, and therefore all over mama, her one clean (not anymore!) sarong, and down her legs. Which really makes the whole family just perky and ripe enough to go to their haven't-seen-them-in-a-year friend's house for dinner. said...

First of all? This was a truly lovely post. Nicely written and tied together. It was its own mini-short story. :)

Second, I so know that feeling. The expectations of the vacation vs. the realities... And yet, you tend to look back at them and smile as you plan the next one.

S said...

i remember how exhausting those early vacations were... exhilarating, but exhausting.

seeing them experience something wonderful for the first time made it so worth it, though.

Unknown said...

Hey, at least you were at the beach. That sounds divine to me. I love the ocean!

Love your suit! : )

Elan Morgan said...

Your vacation sounds exhausting, but your boy sounds so happy and active. It sounds like he had the time of his life.

Flea said...

Bwahaha! We lived in Florida for 11 years. Spent lots of time at the beach. I never did care for it too much before the sun set. Thanks for the memories!

painted maypole said...

i think last year, with MQ at nearly 6, was the first time a vacation came close to feeling like a vacation. when you're watching a kid, it is WORK. Especially a toddler!

good for you for keeping that sense of humor!

Kristi said...

Ah, the memories you made :)

The only picture I have of me pregnant with me first son is sitting in a rocking chair with a bowl of grapes balancing in the bump. You brought back fond memories.

maggie, dammit said...

It's never the way we think it will be. NEVER. But somehow it's just as good. Maybe better. Poop and all.

I LOVE yer belly, babe.

stefanie said...

I love your blue watermelon belly. My sister in law called it her bumper. They do come in handy! I loved how you told this, the good and the bad - all normal. Reminded me again why I am a once a year beach girl. Give me the mountains, any day.

flutter said...

*sigh* so beautiful

Putting the FUN in DysFUNctional said... least somebody had a good time! =)

Unknown said...

I know a woman who can do that with a can of beer on her boobs.

Anonymous said...

So funn! The beach gets a little easier when they can carry their toys. We still end up with more sand in the suits, car, and ultimately our house than is at the beach.


Kat said...

Hahaha!!!!! I know this so well. I really do. You described it perfectly.
I think you need a vacation from your vacation! ;)

Lindsey said...

Oh what a trip to remember!! PLEASE tell me you at least are going to scrapbook or put into albums all the pictures you took! Your prego belly is adorable! I know that doesn't mean you FEEL cute, but at least you look it!!

Momisodes said...

What a whirlwind. I really must commend you for making this trip at 8 months pregnant. I could barely make our trip down there in May without several doses of wine.

Loved the photos from the trip though. That is the most beautiful serving tray, ever.

Unknown said...

Aren't boys the best? I still cannot figure out for the LIFE OF ME how it is that I do not weigh 40 pounds, considering that from sun up 'til sun down, I CHASE CHASE CHASE the little people.

I love the pic of your belly!!!

Kristen said...

Hysterical!! You have the best way with words. :) Seriously, I am itching from sand as I type!

Hope you were able to enjoy yourself at least a little. Chasing him around, with the sand and shells, and him eating sand!


abby p said...

I'm trying to picture you running down the beach in your condition. I'm sure it was a site to see. But how cool is it that you had this moment with him, no matter how tough it may have been.

Jaina said...

What wonderful memories...laughter is always the best medicine. :)

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