Here it is. The final notes on our perfect-for-us vacay with the little troop. It might not fit in with everyone’s definition of the perfect vacation, but it wayyyy surpassed my expectations and will serve as the model for all future vacations involving our brood. Rather than bore you with all the notes from our trip home (which were essentially the same things that allowed us to arrive with our sanity intact), I’ll just clue you in on some of what I’ll keep in mind for next time.
This beach house was perfect for us. It wasn’t directly on the beach, but it was walking distance from the beach. It did have plenty of room for all of us in terms of sleeping arrangements- the girls shared a bunk bed, the baby slept in the room with us, and the big fella slept in his ports-crib in the room with his grandparents. Absolutely ideal. They also had a pull-out couch in the event the bunk beds didn’t work, but we didn’t even have to use it 🙂
I normally would have checked things like a view, spacious rooms, and instant beach access, but this trip made me see those things are not deal-breakers. We spent very little time in our bedrooms, we kept the blinds closed the whole time anyway, and the beach was such a short walk that being off the beach made virtually no difference.
The one thing I did LOVE about this place was the pool. Not a pool in a complex- an actual private pool down below the house in a very small space. It worked out perfectly in helping the littles feel more comfortable in the water, and for those short attention spans who decide they want to swim one minute and have lunch the next. It was confined enough that I could keep an eye on everyone with no trouble, and send them upstairs for bathrooms and snacks whenever they wanted.
I’ll also extol the beauty of being able to keep up on our routines. A well-equipped kitchen that let us eat dinner at regular dinner times and have a quiet breakfast in our PJ’s was fantastic. We pretty much stuck to our daily routine as it relates to bedtime, baths, and meals with almost no exception. When you have a kid with autism, that makes or breaks a vacation (or a not-vacation. Because routines are the thing).
Sticking to routines wasn’t just for the kids, either. This place had a washer and dryer, and I packed a nylon laundry bag which hung in the bathroom, so the kids weren’t leaving stinky socks or damp clothes all over the place. It was amazing coming home with suitcases full of clean clothes and no laundry to do. Plus I got the added benefit of washing sandy clothes out in someone else’s washer instead of my own. Bonus.
This is where it gets interesting. I will always think I have all the answers. And then I will always laugh like an idiot at myself at how much of an idiot I actually am for thinking that. Here’s what I saw:
- A beach vacation with kids is not a fashion show. And this was coastal Georgia, not Cannes. Next time, I’ll pack shorts, comfy t-shirts, and sundresses and leave the swanky stuff at home. The only reason I even touched the swanky stuff I packed was to move it off the top of my clean undies. Silly.
- All those “have-to-haves” for vacations are actually a load of baloney. The old me would have died at the thought of going to the beach and not eating seafood, or not having a hired photographer take our pictures, or not picking up souvenirs labeled all over with where we’ve been. But the enlightened me realized: my kids don’t like fish (and we don’t eat meat), we saved $400 by not having a photographer wait impatiently while my kids all ran in different directions, and we saved money and space in our minivan by not picking up extra knick-knacks that in 5 years we will be dropping off at Goodwill. Our kiddos had a blast without any of those things and came home feeling completely fulfilled by a great trip with family.
- We don’t have to always be sharing our opinions. I know. I should probably tattoo that on my forehead backwards so that I see it every time I look in the mirror. As a family, we think differently from my husband’s brother and from his parents about a lot of things. And that’s okay. We actually don’t have to tell them all the time. In retrospect, I honestly think all the stress from every familial get-together (including with my own family and my in-laws from my first marriage) has come from trying to convince others that we are doing the right thing, and assuming because they disagree that somehow that means we are wrong. Yeesh. This trip was enjoyable because we weren’t outsmarting or one-upping each other; we were just enjoying each others’ company. And when Miss Co told me that her favorite part of the trip was time with her aunt and uncle, it reinforced this idea tenfold. Maybe we will practice shutting up and letting each other be more often.
- Life unplanned is still one heck of a life. I think I am actually going to get this tattooed on myself. Okay maybe not for real, but this was the biggest eye-opener of all for me. In my schedule-driven, document-everything world, I was amazed that we could go into a week with virtually no plan of what we would do whatsoever, and emerge unscathed. It was beautiful. Letting the day shape our plans instead of trying to fit eight million things into one day was exactly what this type A mama needed in order to relax. My hubs always jokes about my day- my plans always look like they’re made for a 36-hour day, but the 24-hour day is pretty much a set-in-stone kinda thing. Those unplanned moments, like listening to sweet Celia tell her grandma how happy she was at the beach, or watching Cora tell funny stories to her grandpa, or seeing James climb up and down the stairs a hundred times, were some of the sweetest. And I would have been frustrated at them wasting precious time if I’d had somewhere for us to be. I think I’m going to set a goal of being willing to walk into the day without knowing how every hour will be spent.
And that’s it folks. A simple vacation that suited us perfectly, and one that will serve as a model for future excursions. I’m so glad I didn’t let my inner cynic talk me out of going, and I hope you find a restful, relaxing break in the near future too.