Trip or Vacation?

It’s almost the end of summer and we’re at the beach for our second week of the summer. Daniel starts first grade in two weeks, and I’m at a loss for where the summer went.

It’s been a good week…mostly. We’ve had good weather except for yesterday, allowing us to visit the aquarium. Awesome fish, yet Daniel was mostly interested in the gift shop. We’ve had good food although it has been takeout because we don’t feel like battling the crowds, waiting, noise etc.  I was bitten again by noseeums, and my left arm and feet look like I have some flesh-eating disease. And today we dealt with the surliest 6-year-old; you’d think it was torture being at the beach.

Have you read the HuffPo post on Vacation or Trip? That pretty much sums it up.

But the view isn’t bad and it could be worse: we could be at work!


Time to Say Goodbye to Summer

It’s Friday at twilight and Jimmy has just brought in the chairs and umbrella. It is our last full day at the beach and we intended to spend most of it outside, enjoying the gorgeous weather and soaking up every minute we could. We went in for lunch, decided to have a short quiet time and next thing I knew, the boys were napping. It happens rarely these days, so I let it continue; the result was that we forfeited the rest of our afternoon outside.

It’s OK. We’ve had a great time, spending hours each day outside, taking evening walks and relaxing. I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy. Some of it is due to the usual angst of leaving the beach and ending vacation, especially when we won’t be back for 10 months.

Most of it is due to my worry that we didn’t maximize our time here; you know, sucking the marrow out of our beach week and all that. We didn’t play in the water as much as we would have liked. We didn’t collect as many shells. We didn’t spend as many evenings chatting into the wee hours while the ocean breezes blew. The truth is, we were tired. It has been a busy summer of work projects, home projects and camp, and I think the three of us were relieved to sit (the adults) and dig in the sand (Daniel).

The end of this trip also symbolizes the end of summer. School will start in a little over a week and we will have a kindergartener. Our lives will begin to revolve around a calendar again; June and August will take on significance beyond “summer” and “hot” as “school” creeps in and takes over.

Time passes and all that.

Maybe I should focus on all the things we did do. Daniel had ice cream every night. He tried crab cake and lobster bisque (sadly rejecting both). Jimmy found a sandwich he loved (a bigger deal than it sounds for my sandwich-rejecting men). We added 6 new starfish and a clamshell to our starfish family. We ended each day sandy, salty and tired. It was a good week.

Now it’s time to pack up and go home. Wash the beach clothes and start organizing the back-to-school items. And maybe one day when the nights are crisp, I’ll put on a shirt I wore at the beach, inhale the scent of the beach and find myself back here.





No More Meetings in 2013

No more meetings

No more paperwork

No more stifling

Dirty looks *

Tuesday at 4:30, I closed my office door and practically skipped out to my car.  I was finished – DONE – with work until January 6, 2014. Cue confetti, popping champagne corks, cheers of jubilation.

I was desperate to get to the last day.  The weeks before had been insane with Jimmy being on call for 2 weeks and then more meetings than I thought possible. My stress levels were through the roof: I even started itching like crazy last week, and I think it was stress-induced hives.

But vacation is here at last.  Daniel is in school until tomorrow, and Jimmy’s last day of work for the year is today, so yesterday and today I have had the house to myself and have been purposefully slothful. It has been blissful.

Tomorrow the sprint towards Christmas begins. I need to attempt cards, finish shopping, wrap gifts, figure out a menu for Christmas Eve, make ornaments with Daniel. Oh and Santa is coming through the neighborhood on Saturday, and we are headed to Mocksville on Sunday for Christmas #1. Whew!

It always seem like everything happens at the last minute during the holidays, but it comes together somehow. I’ll think about that on Friday. For now, I’m going to put my feet up and read. I have a few more hours of solitude left.

* my apologies to Alice Cooper 🙂

“Shore” Do Miss Vacation

Let’s take a break from ranting and write about something more feel-good: our beach trip!

We had a great time. The weather was mostly good, and we spent a few hours every day on the beach. We never made it to the aquarium, but I don’t think Daniel minded. We ate great food; I think I had shrimp, scallops and tuna almost every day!  I was able to read 4 awful books from my book sale stash. They were Dan Brown wannabes specializing in conspiracy theories and though ludicrous, fun to read. I definitely taxed no brain cells reading them.  Never fear – I was able to visit the magical book store on the island (by myself!) and buy 3 new books for me and 1 for Daniel.  I call the book store magical because it has the most eclectic collection, and I am always able to find something unique.  The town house we rented was perfect as well with enough room for Daniel’s toys downstairs and two huge bedrooms and an amazing view upstairs.

It was the best beach trip our little family has had.  At 4, Daniel still requires constant vigilance on the beach, but he didn’t try to run off and was able to entertain himself playing with sand for short periods of time. Jimmy and I were actually able to sit at the same time and watch him play before he demanded to go to the ocean.   Daniel loves the water and he’s quite the water baby. We brought back an impressive collection of sea shells, and Daniel even found a few star fish 😉

The three of us returned home rested, yet exhausted (vacationing is hard work!).

We’re firmly back in the real world of work and day care, and thinking about our vacation fills us with longing and a bad case of the vacation blues. Seven days in which we shut out the world and did whatever we wanted to do. How we needed that.

So, we decided that going to the beach once this year is not enough. Last weekend we booked the townhouse for the week of my birthday in September. I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday.


Beach attitude

Beach attitude



Beach selfie



Eating at Amos Mosquito’s



View from our enclosed lower patio







View from our upper deck



Daniel finds a star fish





I’ll stomp your sand castle!

Gone Fishing

Daniel's favorite.

Not really. It might not surprise you that I don’t fish.  I have fished. I grew up with a pond in my back yard and can dig for worms and bait hooks with the best of them. And yes, it is fun when a fish takes the bait and you reel it in. Cleaning and eating what I’ve caught? No thank you. I’m weird about fish in that I prefer someone else to cook it for me. Just one more way I differ from my family.

I digress.

Jimmy, Daniel and I are leaving for the beach in a few hours.  Seven glorious days at the beach.  This year we’ve rented a beach house.  That sounds very grand. In actuality, it’s a townhouse, but it’s an end unit and ocean front (my one requirement). When we began to plan our annual beach trip, we talked about finding a three-bedroom condo or a beach house.  Jimmy wanted to find a house if we could because he thought we needed more space.  A third bedroom in a condo would just get us another bedroom but not really more space.  Last year’s condo was good, but it did start to feel a tad claustrophobic in the living area. 

Surprisingly, there are affordable options for ocean front beach houses for one family.  We’ll see how it goes. Since it’s a townhouse, it’s two levels, and the beach views are on the second floor where the bedrooms are.  I wonder if I will miss seeing the beach from the living room.  On the other hand, it will be nice to be in a real house with real appliances and not Lilliputian ones. And we’re only steps from the sand and water!!

There are new bathing suits. New sand toys. New books.  We are ready. Most importantly, we are mentally ready.  We need this vacation.  Jimmy has been working so hard at work. I don’t think a week has gone by that he hasn’t had to work late (thankfully from home) at least one night. Daniel has been working hard at daycare, and I know he’s ready for a break.  As for me, work continues to be interesting.  Some days are good; others make me want to beat my head against the wall. Sometimes it feels like death by a thousand well-meaning cuts.  The last two years, our beach trip has happened after the summer all-staff meeting at work. I know I’m ready for vacation when I leave that meeting muttering, “F this. F all this.”

And then there are the dreams.  In the last month, I have started having vivid dreams about work. And violence.  In these dreams, something bad always happens.  People are hurt. People are shot.  I neither perpetrate the violence nor am a victim and as dreams go, it’s never exactly the people you work with, but the theme is the same: bad stuff happens at work. Gee, I wonder what that means.  Stress? Anxiety? Uncertainty? Psychologically unsafe?  All of those things, but for now, I’m concluding it means that I am very ready for vacation.

I’ve posted before about the beach restores me.  I’m looking forward to that and very much need it.  I can’t wait to build sand castles for Daniel to smash. To wiggle our toes in the sand. For the three of us to swim in the ocean and pool. To go to the aquarium and see what’s new. To eat great food. And most importantly, to do nothing but what we want to do and if that means nothing at all, that’s OK. I hope we three return rested and rejuvenated.  And hopefully I’ll read a better book than 50 Shades of Grey (one of last year’s beach reads).

See you next week.


What’s So Amazing About Really Deep Thoughts?

I can’t seem to write lately. I couldn’t put something together for National Infertility Awareness Week. I wanted to write something for PAIL’s most recent theme because believe me, I have lots of things to say, but I worked on a post for days and was never able to make it coherent.  I have several half-started posts in draft status. I guess this is what writer’s block looks like?

Maybe it’s that I am incapable of deep thought right now.  My brain seems flighty and moody right now. I have two new books in my iBooks and an honest-to-god tangible book that I checked out from the library on my nightstand, and I can’t bring myself to start them. Instead I waste time on Buzzfeed or Twitter.

I don’t think I’m the only one in my household suffering from Flighty Brain Syndrome. Jimmy and I have given up our weekly declarations that we WILL start Game of Thrones finally. We settle for repeats of space shows (there’s some weird shit in the universe) or even an episode of Starkey’s Monarchy (we’re on Henry II and Beckett). Or an episode of Coupling when we’re particularly brain dead (three words: “Lesbian Spank Inferno.” That episode is gold).

Maybe my brain has been trained to cool off this time of year thanks to 17 years of school on a traditional calendar. Muscle memory and all that.

Today starts Daniel’s last week as a 3-year-old. One week from today he’ll be 4. Mind. Blown (apparently that isn’t difficult right now).  We’re having his first kiddie party next weekend, and I’m thinking about garbage truck cakes and herding sugar-fueled preschoolers.

And we’re going to the beach for a week at the end of June. I think all 3 of us are counting down the days.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe my brain is on vacation already.




What’s in the Box?????

Diva Cat in the Box

What’s in the box???? Ok, so yes, my diva cat Lucy is in the box. The box, though, came from Land’s End and contained my new bathing suit for our beach trip. Today, we head to the beach for a week, and I don’t think we could feel less prepared.

Compared to other trips, this one was easy to pack for because we have almost no summer clothes. Despite our house being declared “clean” (feel free to imagine that being said by Tangina in Poltergeist) after our last carpet beetle treatment, we haven’t had a chance to bring back our clothes from storage. Daniel has 14 pairs of shorts and assorted shirts; Jimmy and I have the jeans we’re wearing, a few t-shirts and bathing suits. Looks like we’ll be going shopping. In addition to my wardrobe, my body is definitely not beach ready. I’m flabby and out of shape from months of takeout and quick meals due to stress and general busy-ness.

This vacation is also our first week-long one. Normally our beach trips are more like long weekends. Those trips were fine pre-Daniel, but another pesky little detail left out of “What to Expect”-type books is how vacations change with children. Honestly, that realization was a rude awakening for me 2 years ago during our first family beach trip as silly as that might sound. I was used to spending all day on the beach with several books and doing whatever, whenever I wanted.

Vacation with a toddler? Relaxing isn’t quite the word I’d use. On the first trip we lugged a high chair, pack ‘n play and a million other items into a hotel room and felt claustrophobic after 5 minutes. Last year we found a place with a bedroom that could be closed off from the living room. It was small and Daniel ended up sleeping with us on the pull-out couch. Comfy! That trip did have the perk of exposing us to old reruns of The Office, and when we returned, we bought and watched every season.

This year’s trip will be different. Hopefully. We are renting a two-bedroom condo for the week, and I already feel less stressed at my need to cram in as much quality time on the beach as possible. Exhale.

I love the beach. That may be a surprise since my skin is the color of a dead, plucked chicken and my encounters with the sun include the highest SPF possible. But I do. I have to make a pilgrimage to the ocean every year to let the sand stream through my toes and bathe in the ocean. When I look at the ocean, its size overwhelms me and I feel like I’m at the end of the world. I remember that life began in the ocean and thousands of generations later, my soul still responds to that primordial call. It calms me and puts everything into perspective. It’s a giant, much-needed reset button.

I feel a little unready for this trip considering how much I’ve been out of town recently; I don’t think I could have waited a moment longer though.

Also? Five points if you can name the movie in which the title of the post was uttered.

Stick a Fork in Me

As of right now, I am done with work until January 2, 2012. Yay!!!! Being a state employee can suck in many ways (no raises in years; assumptions that you are a worthless employee; infuriating campaign rhetoric), but I love that the university for which I work gives several days off at the holidays. I save several vacation days each year so that I can take off a good block of time. J is fortunate to be able to do the same with his employer, and we have begun to rely on these 2 weeks off to rejuvenate us. Especially after the last few years.

I feel like I earned that time off this week.

Monday: three meetings including a conference with Daniel’s preschool teachers (recap coming soon).

Tuesday: a few hours of work followed by a trip to Morganton with a coworker (three hour trip).

Wednesday: We meet with local manufacturers and economic developers in Morganton in support of our grant project. Sit in traffic in Hickory and finally have another meeting before heading home (three hours).

Thursday: Prep for a 9:30 meeting. Prep for meeting later that day. Attend coworker’s farewell luncheon before going to the afternoon’s organizational-wide meetings from 1-5.

Friday: Organizational-wide meeting until noon and then holiday luncheon. Another meeting from 1:30-2:30 and then try to catch up on work until 5 pm at which point I tiredly set my out-of-office message, put a note on my door and trudge out to my car.

Oh. And as if work weren’t chaotic enough this week, we’ve had health issues with J’s grandmother to deal with. She has been very confused this week, and she’s been to the hospital twice. She’s currently in the hospital undergoing more tests but seemed to respond well to some antibiotics. Honestly, J and I don’t know what to think but we’re hoping for the best.

And now we are packing for our trip to my mom’s tomorrow for Christmas #1. It is a short trip (only one night), but it feels like we are packing for an eternity.

And so the holidays begin. We are exhausted already.

Vacation: Always Eventful

We are on a much-needed vacation this week. We arrived at Atlantic Beach yesterday and will head home for a “Staycation” for the rest of the week on
Wednesday. Vacation has not been without its challenges, though.

When we were preparing to become patents, I read all the usual books. I perused blogs, read articles, and talked to other parents. I got the message loud and clear that our lives were about to change drastically. I understood and was prepared: no more sleeping in? Check. No more just running out on the spur of the moment? Yep, takes MUCH longer. The difficulty of finding a babysitter for a night out? Got it. Despite all of that, what I didn’t understand or accept was how much our vacations would change. Beach vacations to me were slathering on sunscreen and reading books (note the plural) while sipping pineapple juice and vodka as J played in the ocean.

Boy was I in for a rude awakening our first vacation as a family. Daniel was about 14 months and into everything. We walked into our room at our traditional hotel and quickly agreed it was a nightmare for a toddler. It was also one room, so claustrophobia as well as the constant crunch of baby snacks on the floor, flung from the high chair, set in immediately. Books? Ha! The beach? Daniel decided the sand wasn’t nearly as fun as the water and darted for the ocean any chance he had. Dining out in fine restaurants? Ehhhh Daniel did well when we took him out, but some of our favorites were off limits b/c they were definitely NOT child friendly. In short, last year, vacation was not exactly restful and very much a culture shock.

This year I got it and tried to plan with our new reality in mind. I found a hotel that had a suite, thinking that a room separation would be a huge help at naptime and bedtime. I didn’t worry as much about child proofing b/c Daniel is older and it is simply not as much a worry. I didn’t feel like we needed to pack our entire house. I understood and accepted that vacation was just as different as the rest of our life and approached it with a much more zen-like attitude.

You can guess what’s coming? Life excels at throwing curve balls.

None of us slept well the night before and Daniel napped for only an hour on the way down. The room I had so thoroughly vetted was a bit smaller than I anticipated, and we weren’t sure how we were all going to sleep.

We headed for dinner at our traditional first-night restaurant, and Daniel was very much in his “no” phase. There were moments where I thought we were going to have to give up and leave, since I wad determined not to be THAT parent…the one who lets her child run around the restaurant while she feebly says, “No, no.”

But bedtime, oh bedtime. Daniel was very likely over-tired but would not go to sleep. By midnight, I had been designated as his cuddly of choice and J was sleeping on the pull-out couch. I say sleeping, but that may be too far from reality. It was alternately cold then hot. Daniel woke up at 6:30.


The day got better. We had a nice trip to the aquarium and after 30 minutes of crying, Daniel finally went down
for his nap. The clouds have cleared, and the beach looks great-hopefully ready for us after nap time is over.

What I’ve learned is that family vacations are thrilling, unpredictable adventures. I need to be more laid back and go-with-the- flow. As J said last night while Daniel was spinning the bread basket and licking off the butter instead of eating the bread–occasionally flicking Parmesan–we’re making memories. And those memories are what last once the sand and surf are gone.