Vacation stories, part one

I never really eat Pop-Tarts so the fact that we had basically the biggest box of Pop-Tarts I'd ever seen at this beach house in Emerald Isle wasn't exactly the most exciting thing about our vacation, not at first. We got excited, first and foremost, about the house itself, where a whole bunch of J's family - parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and one Grandma Peggie - had gathered for a week of vacation. Despite living in North Carolina all those years I'd never been to Emerald Isle and when we got there I just couldn't believe the huge, deserted beach and the dolphins swimming just out beyond the breakers. And then there was the HOT TUB. So, naturally, within about half an hour of arriving, we'd made cocktails and were settled in or around the hot tub telling stories and laughing and talking about just how incredible this vacation was gonna be. IMG_4710

And guys, that is exactly how it went, from day one until the very last and nearly tearful day of our trip a week later. This looming, purple beach house was perfect for a group of our size and we spent the week eating big, family dinners, looking for shells, burying Nora's feet in the sand, talking about Lauren Conrad's literary talents, conducting a few handstand contests, not watching the news, reading novels voraciously by the pool, drinking coffee and eating pancakes and engaging in one vodka-fused dance off that featured plenty of Jay-Z but also Phoenix and that song "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies.

For J and I, this vacation was particularly relaxing because, as you parents know, a "vacation" - once you have kids - is different, waaaaaayyyy different, than a vacation before you have kids. At least, if said kids are in attendance. Because when you have to take care of your children, that sort of puts a damper on the whole relaxing thing. Believe me, a vacation is a vacation, I'm not complaining, but it's undoubtedly different with a child.

On this beach trip, however, we had like five trillion (estimate) live-in babysitters in the form of J's family. And they were incredible! Every time I turned around they were making Nora breakfast or reading her a book or putting her hair in pigtails. At one point I was sitting down on the deck and when I asked J's Aunt Andrea (who'd come down to bring us some snacks, I know, that's the best, right?) how Nora was doing upstairs with everyone, she replied that today, "I wasn't a parent," and that I should just let them take care of her. That, my friends, that's V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. And I'm incredibly grateful to all of them for giving us that.

So there was the beach and there was the sand and there were the dolphins. But the house also had this huge DVD collection and each bedroom featured a television and DVD player. So J and I picked out a couple of movies and most of our nights there, after Nora went to bed, we'd raid the upstairs pantries - packed with snack food - and we'd put in a movie and sit in the bed eating Pop-Tarts or maybe Handi-Snacks. Slightly suntanned, under the cool sheets after a long day of beach fun.

I don't know if it's because it was a fairly significant departure from my normal diet or what, but Jesus, I miss those nights with the Pop-Tarts. I think about all the good times we had, of course. It was the kind of trip you never forget. But there was something so inherently vacation-y about that peaceful, end-of-the-day exercise in relaxation, and as mundane as our semi-early nights were, they will forever be enshrined in the beach trip hall of fame.

I was talking to my sister in law, Megan, yesterday about our trip. She ate the Pop-Tarts on vacation, too. She said her mom had bought some recently and she didn't even want them.

It's just not the same now that we're home, she told me. I know, I replied, I know exactly what you mean.