Saturday, January 30, 2010

All Roads Lead...

to the Beach...

For Christmas, one of my favorite gifts was a shirt with this saying. I had seen it in a magazine or something and had fallen in love with it. I am already ready for warmer weather just so I can wear it! (I did get to wear it while in Florida over the Christmas break)

Anyway, I didn't grow up going to the beach. We did take trips to Disney World sometimes, and when we did, we usually stopped by the beach. And I did spend some time playing on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan when we visited our grandparents in the summer. But otherwise, I had little beach experience other than occasionally watching a Beaches. :)

In college, one spring break I did do a beach reach with a trip to Hilton Head island. Yes, we actually did mission work AT the beach. I remember enjoying the trip; I actually have more vivid memories of that trip than a lot of others. It was fun, but I don't remember my heart just being sold out...yet.

When our big kids were young, Mark took a business trip to Destin. I have no idea why they had lighting meetings in Destin, but he went anyway. I remember him calling and saying, "You have got to see the beach here, Reba. It is beautiful. The sand is white. The water is so blue." So when our daughter was around one and our son was three and a half, we took a little trip to Destin. It was everything Mark promised and more. We didn't know much about beach rentals. For instance, "beach view" as listed on advertisements actually means you will be able to see the beach. It doesn't say that you might have to stand on the roof or see just a glimpse of it between the high rise condos that are between you and the beach. In our case, we failed to see "a short walk to the beach" as having to cross a fairly busy highway. We also didn't know at the time that those little umbrellas and chairs set up were there for use IF you were willing to pay to rent them! We learned a lot that trip. Some of my favorite memories: Child 2 eating sand. I have pictures of her little mouth just covered with sand. Swimming with the dolphins at a local aquarium. That was SO much fun. Mark and Child 1 taking a helicopter trip. Don't you know as a preschooler that was a big deal? And first time to do it. I never knew that fish would go crazy over frozen peas! Anyway, it was fun.

We didn't go to the beach again until Child 3 was home. The first full summer she was with us we packed up and headed to Galveston. Yes, we always drive. We just cannot afford to fly. Mark doesn't particularly care for that part but it is a necessary evil. (Of course, he would fly two towns over I think if he could...he much prefers flying over driving) The good part is that often the rentals are weekly, and with the weekends in there, we have enough time to drive and still enjoy much of the week. Anyway, Child 3was three, Child 2 was six, and Child 1 was eight. We rented this beautiful little beach house...gulf front. We learned a few things about wording. :) It really was gulf front too. We walked out the door and walked down the steps and onto the sand. It had a huge deck where we could listen to the waves. We stood on that deck and watched a sand crab scuttle down a dune. Favorite memories? Child 3 in the water...her first time to see the ocean other than flying over it. Visiting NASA in Houston. And finding out that our youngest's DNA test was being done...we were in the midst of another adoption already. (I know, crazy, huh? :) My very favorite memory though is just our time together. I loved watching Mark and the big kids boogie board. Sitting out on the deck. Collecting seashells. That time together. It was then my heart was hooked. A year later, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston. I am pretty sure that beautiful little beach house we stayed in is gone. (It is no longer listed as a rental property anyway) My heart still aches. It wasn't as pretty of a beach as the Florida coast but it was beautiful and holds dear memories that I will forever cherish in my heart.

Two years ago, we decided to visit Gulf Shores, which is sometimes referred to as the Riviera of the South. This time, we decided to stay in a townhouse. While we loved the beach house, we realized that with children, having pool access was a pretty big deal. Yes, even when you are by the ocean! And that is what we did...we spent time in the ocean. And then the kids would spend some time in the pool. Favorite memories? Joshua's first time to see the ocean. Watching Child 3 jump in the water our first day there, fully clothes. Having our family portrait (several hanging in our living room) made on the beach. Visiting Dauphin Island by ferry. The zoo...little but with a lot of animals! A dolphin cruise. And food...lots of good food. Like Lulu's. Yum!

Last year we decided to return to Destin. This time we looked for those cue words "gulf front" (I don't have a lot of experience with other waters, but we LOVE gulf water...warm and fairly gentle). We found a wonderful townhouse on a quiet beach. We also took our first visitor...Our oldest's friend L. joined us for the week. Favorite memories? Walks on the beach. Crabbing. Visiting some friends at a nearby lake. Watching the kids build sand castles. Snorkeling with kids. Sitting with Mark on the deck overlooking the water. And seafood nachos at Elmo' mouth still waters when I think of them!

Needless to say, I am hooked. I don't know if it is the warmth. I have mentioned how much I prefer warm weather over the cold. Maybe it is the peace that comes from walking barefoot on the sand with the waves crashing at your feet. I feel closer to God there than most anywhere else. Of course, I also think it is the slower pace. There is no tug to go do chores around the house. I don't feel depressed looking at the unorganized piles that need to be dealt with. We get to truly just enjoy ourselves. (Oddly, we do laundry better on our vacations than at home...there is just something about doing it at our own leisure and listening to the waves crash around us...) And of course, lastly there is that time together. My heart feels like it will burst when I watch the kids run into the waves laughing. Or stretch out on the sand together. Or dance in the moonlight as we "hunt" for crabs. It is just one of my favorite memories, something I look forward to each year. (Not that it is all smiles...they still argue too. But for some reason, it doesn't bother me as much there :)

As usual, with snow swirling outside, my thoughts turned to the beach again. It happens this time of year...I start to think, "Hey, let's plan a trip!" I told Mark that for six months I am basking in the memories, then for the next six months I am in eager anticipation of our next trip :). I like to travel, which is kind of funny since I am such a homebody. I like to see new places, try new things. And my travel list is long. I want to go to New York City, the Grand Canyon, back to San Francisco, visit Hawaii, spend some time in Chicago, travel the East Coast. I have lots of places I long to see. And maybe one day I will. But for now, all we can afford (if that) is one "real" trip...and I choose the beach.

I had thought we were going to be traveling with some family this year. It just didn't work out which was crushing. I want so much to experience those beach times together...maybe one day we will. And unfortunately while I was waiting to find out if it would, the townhouse we stayed in Destin filled up the summer rentals. I was feeling a bit defeated. Then this week my thoughts kept going back to Gulf Shores. I had just assumed we would go back to Destin, and I hope we will next year. But Gulf Shores is a bit closer. Plus they have Lulu's. :) I started looking at Fort Morgan which is nearby but not quite as busy (I think). I spent much of yesterday checking out rental possibilities. I finally narrowed down to what I thought was a good option for us. And today, I watched Mark push "reserve" on a townhouse there, "gulf front" of course :).

So, now for the next six months, I am going to eagerly anticipate the time we will spend on the sand and in the rejuvenation for the year. (There are still some townhouse rentals available, some for very reasonable prices if you want to join us :)

After all, all roads lead to the beach!



  1. My sister and her family are still waiting for hard copy orders but as of now they will be moving to Panama City, Florida in June. We are so excited for them and for us. While I will be sad that they will live farther away from us we are planning to see them as often as possible. Also they will only be there for 3 years. Glad to hear that you were able to book a place to stay. I'm sure that it will be fun to explore a new place.

  2. So tell me.. Since we have never done a beach vacation.. What IS a reasonable price?

  3. I love your beach vacations! One day I might get Chris to a beach, he just doesn't get it... yet!

  4. We're thinking of Dauphin Island during spring break. So, tell me . . what is LuLu's? Will it be worth taking the ferry back across to Gulf Shores? Not sure if we are going yet or not.

  5. I love the beach! We are planning to go this summer also. I hope you have a wonderful trip, and enjoy dreaming about it until then.


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