We just returned from our first–yes, first–week-long vacation as a foursome (Fivesome? Four-and-a-utero-some?). Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gone places before, and we’ve visited the beach every year–my gosh, people, it’s not like I keep us locked in a closet–but this is the longest time we’ve ever been away just by ourselves. My close family members jetted off to Ireland last week to see Notre Dame’s season opener in Dublin. Many years back, after our own big family tour of Ireland, this had been a trip David and I talked about with my parents and brother about taking together again–because it’s NOTRE DAME in DUBLIN, man–but alas, David and I started procreating adorable young children, and some other family members decided to do some of the on-site Guinness tasting we’d be missing out on.
So we went to the beach. The four of us, in an adorable, overpriced beachfront condo in our favorite small Delaware beach town. We went to the beach, and we went to the bay, and we went to a waterpark because for some reason we felt like our children needed more entertainment than what they could find at the edge of the continent. And it was lovely, even when it rained, but more so when it didn’t. And it was short. When you give a stay-at-home mom a week away from home and laundry and cooking and Target, and that stay-at-home mom has a husband who’s massively hands-on with chores and kids and will run to the supermarket in the next town at 8 p.m. when you run out of milk, the week is always too short. Even when the condo has no washer or dryer and you have to pack 28 washcloths just to avoid going to a laundromat, it’s still short. We’re back to reality now and Quinn’s the only one who’s really happy about it–she actually gets to sleep in her own bed, for as long as she wants, at her usual naptime–and that, my friends, is the toddler equivalent of a trip to the beach.
I jotted down some notes of what happened over the course of the week so I’d remember them. Here are some snapshots of our all-American family holiday. Who needs Ireland, anyway, I say (said no one, except maybe Great Britain about part of it). Sniff.
- Ever hear a herd of wildebeest stampede? No, I haven’t either, but I imagine the sound is close to a 4-year-old running barefoot through a hardwood-covered beach condo. There’s a certain advantage to staying on the first floor when you have young children.
- Last night’s steamed shrimp and mint chocolate chip custard being emptied into a toddler’s swim diaper right before you’re about to go out onto the beach is the most disgusting substance known to man. Enjoy that image for awhile.
- The next-door neighbors would cook dinner at home with what appeared to be an entire bulb of garlic for each plate. I am 22 weeks pregnant. I thought I was going to throw up.
- The image of Quinn running from the ocean to the blanket on which I sat, wailing the entire way, her face as red as her hair, while the beachgoers around us giggled, is ingrained in my brain forever. “I don’t WANT to play in that pool!” she declared, pointing in indignation at the rolling waves.
- Quinn, from the breakfast table, in front of the beachfront picture window: “Whoa, Mom! The water, Mom!”
- Saoirse, the first morning of our trip, after a terrible night of thunderstorms deemed by locals as the Lightning Apocalypse: “I couldn’t dream because the rain tried to get my dreams away.
- Quinn’s obsession is her sister. About to embark on a morning walk to get coffee: “I want Saoirse to go with Daddy.” As she pulled up the covers for her afternoon rest: “Is Saoirse napping?” Any other time: “I want Saoirse!” Anyone who can’t figure out how to pronounce SK’s name should hang around Quinn for a couple of minutes. You’d get it in no time.
- Overheard from the sisters’ room, an hour after bedtime, as they shared a queen-sized bed, repeated for probably another half hour:
Quinn: “Hi, Saoirse!”
Quinn: “Hi, Saoirse!”
- Saoirse noticed the kitchen rug was decorated with sea life and got so excited: “Look, Mom, there are crabs on the rug!” A beat later: “YUMMY!!”
- There is nothing more precious on a vacation than the twenty minutes it takes for your husband to take the girls every morning to get coffee. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of silence in a week of family time, of checking the news on the iPad and sitting out on the deck and padding through the quiet condo in absolute peace. And being able to greet the young family with open arms on their return, ready to drink my half-caf coffee and conquer the beach together. Beautiful.
- Saoirse started calling me “Mommy” again. Not “Mom,” but “Mommy,” usually while reaching for my hand.
- Quinn, the mama’s girl, started asking for Daddy.
- Our girls are addicted to carnival rides, the more terrifying for their parents the better: “Faster! Go faster!” called Quinn to the merry-go-round horses as Saoirse asked to ride the pirate ship. My OB would not be happy with my blood pressure those evenings.
The best night at the beach for us is the family bonfire night the city hosts every week during the summer. They build a big fire, or “fire truck,” as Quinn calls it, lend out sticks and marshmallows and sell those glow-stick necklaces to the kids for a dollar. We brought the makings for s’mores this time, and a blanket, and the girls made new friends and got marshmallow stuck to their hair and we chatted with locals and tourists long after the sun had set and the almost-full moon rose over the ocean. It was absolutely magical until I saw someone crawl onto our blanket to steal marshmallows out of my bag (I was more worried she’d taken the camera, but really, lady, marshmallows? From a pregnant lady and two kids?! Are you a sadist?). It was still sort of nice after Quinn started crying because a girl threw sand in her face. And it was even okay after an exhausted SK broke down into tears because she realized she’d never see her new friend Tiana again (“I’m tired, Mommy! I miss my friend, and I’m tired!”). It got a little sketchy after a little boy gave Saoirse a verbal list of what boys can do but girls can’t. But the true, true capper of the evening was a woman–I swear it was the marshmallow-stealer–who came up to David as he roasted marshmallows with SK and hit on him. (“Do you like to play?” he said she asked him. “Um, I don’t understand?” he laughed as he told me his reply. “I like softball?”). Good times were had by all, people. Except maybe the lady that got my marshmallows.
So, take that, Ireland. You have your Fighting Irish win and your delicious, delicious Guinness and your emerald landscape and your incredibly narrow roads with signs that never seem to point in the right direction and your really high cliffs with absolutely no fence to keep crazy people from pushing tourists over the edge, but we had the beach. That’s right, the beach. With sun and sand and lightning and steamed shrimp-filled diapers and non-alcoholic beer and marshmallow-knotted hair. That’s what we had, Ireland. Don’t be jealous. We’ll catch you the next time around.