I've tried typing this out 3 times now because for some reason my computer keeps freezing and erasing my work. Third times a charm, right? Let's hope so. :)
Anyway, several weeks ago, we were invited to go on vacation with Dave's mom, brother, nephew and brother's girlfriend. My first response was, "No way!" As a new mom, our daily routines can be pretty challenging, so I couldn't imagine doing them somewhere else and then throwing beach and pool visits on top of all of that in the mix. And I couldn't help but think about all that normal mom stuff like, "What if he gets sunburned? What if he keeps everyone up all night? How will he do on the car ride there and back? What the heck do I pack?" Plus, we were in the middle of trying to sell our house and learning to re-budget since I had just resigned from my job. The anxiety of it all was just too much. Thankfully, we had a long time to think about it.
Deep down I really wanted to go (who doesn't love the beach?) so we decided to give it a shot, but the decision wasn't easy to make. In fact, we debated on going all the way up to the moment we pulled out of the driveway. I remember saying all day before we left, "Are we really going to Florida tonight?" Haha. Cracks me up to think about that now. We wanted to try it though because honestly, we weren't sure when the opportunity to take a trip would come up again. We knew life was about to get extremely busy so taking a few days away seemed nice. So we used some money we had saved, decided to drive at night and made up our minds that if it wasn't working, we could always turn around and go back home.
And you know what? It ended up being one of the best trips I have ever been on. Remember when I wrote about how having a baby slows you down? Well that remained true even on vacation and for the first time, I feel like I relaxed and actually enjoyed myself instead of running myself to death. Each morning we took our time getting ready, we didn't rush pool or beach time and truly took in our time there.
Below is a series of pictures that we took along with a little description of what we did each day. I loved going back through these pictures and reliving those few days we spent down there. It truly was a sweet time for my family. Enjoy!
We left on Sunday night around 8 pm. We chose to drive at night because that's when Elias sleeps the longest. We gave him a bath, put on his pj's, fed him and hit the road. There was a lot of coffee involved. And pit stops.
Elias did so great on the drive down and back. He would sleep, wake to eat and then go right back to sleep. He hates his car seat so I expected a total meltdown, ending with us turning around and going back home but none of that happened- he was such a trooper.
We arrived in Florida around 8 am, completely exhausted. We went straight to our room and slept for about 2 hours. Dave's family had already been there for a couple of days so when we woke up, they made us breakfast and let us rest some more. After we felt awake enough to function, we all headed down to the beach. I was so excited to see the ocean and stick Elias' toes in the sand. I kept my fingers crossed that he would love it and he did! He smiled and laughed, making the 12 hour car ride and very little sleep already completely worth it.
The weather was so wonderful on that first day. It was breezy, but warm, perfect for napping and relaxing by the ocean. We searched for shells to bring home, walked along the shore and Dave's brother, Bryan, found a hermit crab. I was nervous to hold it, but how many times in life do you have the opportunity to hold critters straight from the ocean?? So I went for it and made sure to have Dave snap a pic. Also. Sandy baby toes = the cutest.
My favorite moment from our first day though has to be when Elias slept with Cindy (his grandma) on the beach. He got super fussy and tired, so Dave walked him up and down the shoreline until he fell asleep and then passed him off to Cindy. I'm pretty sure he slept there for at least an hour. It was the sweetest thing.
The next day we all went to the bay where there was a huge sandbar that we could walk out on. I went out for a bit, but Elias got hungry so I ended up sitting in the back of our car watching everyone while I fed him. It was nice sitting there, really. The breeze was cool and it was so quiet and peaceful. I could have got used to feeding my baby right there by the water.
While I was out on the sandbar I saw shells, a few crabs, sea urchins, sponges and a starfish. Bryan was the brave one who picked up all the little critters for us to see. He was full of knowledge on all the sea life and it was fun to have him educate us on the things we found. I think that day was a favorite for a lot of us. We could have walked the sandbar all afternoon.
For dinner, we stopped by the local market and picked up fresh shrimp with their heads STILL ON (they were crazy looking!!) for gumbo that night. If you haven't had my brother in laws gumbo, you are seriously missing out. Bryan seriously makes THE best gumbo. He made it for mine and Dave's wedding and it lasted all of about 2 seconds. Dave and I both were very much looking forward to having it again in Florida. He and Dave took the heads of the shrimp off and made a shrimp stock- yum! He made his own rue, put sausage and shrimp, peppers and tomatoes in it, then poured it over rice. I swear, I could eat his gumbo every. single. day. I want it right now, in fact.
On Wednesday, Bryan and Julian went on an 8 hour fishing trip, so the rest of us went shopping and then to the pool. Elias looked so darn cute in his little wetsuit and hat. I actually liked his wetsuit more than his swimming trunks and long sleeved shirt. It fit him so much better than his shorts and didn't get sand in it like his shorts and shirt did. I'd recommend buying one if you have a little boy. :)
Elias really liked the pool but we figured he would because he LOVES bath time and just recently learned how to splash. He swam for a little bit with us but then got super sleepy and fell asleep on Dave. I got to lay out for a bit while Elias napped which was unexpected so that of course, was nice. The sun felt great and I felt so relaxed, which I honestly didn't think was going to happen on our trip.
For dinner, we had shrimp + cocktail sauce and grilled veggie kabobs. YUM.
Thursday morning we had bacon and shrimp omelets (so good) then went back to the pool for a bit. After the pool, we all relaxed and got ready for an evening on the beach. That night was my favorite night of the trip. We packed up all of our stuff and went down right before sunset. The weather was again, perfect. We took lots of pictures, built a fire and ate leftover gumbo right there by the water.
While we were eating, a big crowd started to form down the beach a little and word got around that a man had caught a shark. We decided to go check it out and sure enough- he had a shark on his line! We walked with him down the beach as he and his friend wrangled it in. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. The shark was at least 6 ft. long and they guessed it weighed around 200 lbs. I freaked out a little once it was up on the shore because I felt bad for it (I'm overly sensitive) but they thankfully, put it back in the water and it swam off. :)
On our last day we went to a town called Apalachicola. It was a small town with these beautiful, old plantation style homes and tiny antique shops. We shopped a little and found this cute ice cream shop that served a drink called, Gulf Breeze. It was basically Sherbert ice cream and Sprite but oh man.. it was so yummy. I want to try and recreate it myself sometime soon. When I do, I'll post the recipe so you all can try it too. It's the perfect drink for those hot summer days.
We also stopped to take pictures on these rocks by the ocean near our condo, which is something I wanted to make sure we did before we left, because look at it! I've never been to California, but I've seen pictures and these rocks reminded me of the beaches there. I hope to see those beaches in real life one day. I thought they were really neat and I'm glad we took time to climb and explore them.
On our last day, we also explored this bay area. It was so beautiful. The skies were a perfect blue and there was a pier we could walk out on. The water was clear so we could look over the edge and see large hermit crabs and shells. I really hoped we would see an alligator while we were there but that didn't happen. Maybe next time.
Our few days there came and went so incredibly fast. What I would give for just one more day on the beach. To feel the cool breeze and to put my feet in that soft sand. The trip came at the worst, yet best time for us. Our house just recently sold and the stress of packing and moving was starting to take it's toll on us. We needed to get away for a bit, to regroup and just be a family. I feel a little silly for thinking so negative about this trip, but then again I'm glad I prepared myself for the worst. Preparing myself in that way made the trip that much more enjoyable when our boy continued to surprise me time and time again.
If you are wanting/thinking about/getting ready to take a trip with your little one for the first time and are anxious about it, I highly recommend to push aside your anxieties and give it a shot. I'm SO glad we took this trip and I'm extremely thankful for my family who helped us out while we were down there. This trip is definitely one that I'll hold dear to my heart and never forget.