Back from Paradise

4:05 PM

We dropped off the grid for a solid 10 days and it was pure and utter bliss.
I barely glanced at my phone.
I didn't check email or look at blogs the whole time.
I did keep my watch on my wrist, but only because I feel naked without it.
Kyle took his off and left it off the whole 10 days. 

Why? Well, two Fridays ago, it was finally time to go on our long-awaited vacation to Captiva, Florida!

I spent the whole week in advance preparing for the trip.

Lining up house-sitters, writing up instructions and then making sure it all made sense to them...

Making sure we rationed our milk and food in the fridge just right to run out exactly by Friday morning (a feat that isn't as easy as you'd think...)...

Buying kitty litter, dog, cat and chicken food so no one went hungry in our absence...

My list of items to buy for the Treat Bags and where to get them all.  I ended up having enough snacks for the way there and back, all week long and still some left-over. Cut down on my grocery bill this week. And please note, there was a lot of junk, which is totally out of the norm for us, but also a cooler of fruit, veggies, cheese, water and real fruit juice. It wasn't a total abandonment of health ideals.
Making sure my kids each had swimsuits, life jackets and flip flops...

Purchasing snacks for the treat bags I was gonna make, bagging up the goodies into snack-sized ziplock bags and then dividing them up equally among the backpacks (aka Treat Bags)...

Putting activities together...

And finally, on Thursday - packing it all up and setting it by the door.

Before I remembered to medicate Brooklyn, we ended up outside Memphis, on the side of the road, giving her a chance to throw up. Poor baby. The motion sickness meds worked wonderfully after that first incident.
Friday morning, bright and early, we sprang into action and hit the road.

And much of it there was.
To Memphis, Tennessee through Tupelo, MS...pointing out the miles of kudzu slowly consuming the Mississippi landscape.

Then through beautiful Birmingham followed by Montgomery...marveling at the unexpected rolling hills and green beauty that is the State of Alabama.


Pulling out activities and Dramamine and snacks galore. 

Making the most of a rest-stop.
Stopping every 2 hours, as instructed by my midwife, so as to give my pregnant body a little exercise and some much-needed stretch breaks.

We ended our first night in Tallahasee, Florida and were back on the road bright and early Saturday morning, heading south on I-75 all the way past Tampa and eventually through Fort Meyers, stopping at a Publix to load up on groceries before crossing the 3 mile Sanibel Causeway, entering Paradise.

Just crossing that Causeway was pure ecstasy as the beautiful Gulf spread out on either side, giving you a taste of the week to come.  We paid the $6 toll and drove all the way up the island of Sanibel, passing all the familiar restaurants that never seem to change, the legions of toodling cyclists exploring the island in a leisurely way, passing the Ding Darling nature preserve and finally crossing the little bridge which separates Captiva from Sanibel.  The trees move closer to the road - palms and banions - flowers of every color and shape built into the landscaping. On one side, the ocean unfolds...on the other, mansions peek out from their winding driveways and palm fronds, until the road curves once again and you enter the main part of Captiva. And we were home.

Our house turned out to be even more fantastic than we had expected, and I even completely unpacked everyone's suitcases into the dressers and closets. I filled the fridge with our goodies and we managed to catch Saturday night's sunset on the beach.

After dropping off our bags and unpacking, we made our way to the beach.

Our little boardwalk access path...

Who'll get there first??

The sweetest moment - a reward for all your patience and sore muscles. The steady sound of rolling surf and the tang of saltwater in the air. The glorious beauty of children facing one of God's most beautiful aspects of creation. The feel of that water rushing over your feet as your toes sink into the cool sand.

A little boy freed to race across the sand.

Mom and daughter just soaking it in. 

Dorien greets the Gulf in his own vibrant way!

We made it!

A family photo-op captured by some nearby sunset watchers.

Back in the house....Our upstairs master bedroom with a king-sized bed - big enough for me and my belly, Dorien and Kyle. And then some. Our room opened out onto a balcony with some lounge chairs and a view of the neighborhood. We also had our own bathroom and family-sized shower that we frequently took advantage of after a day in the sand and sea.

The loft area's day/trundle bed which became Brooklyn's favorite place to spend naptime - reading books and snoozing.

Brooklyn and August's bedroom downstairs. They had their own bathroom, and their bedroom was cool, crisp and relaxing. I loved the decor!

Our living/dining room with the screened-in porch behind that.

Looking into the kitchen, and we also had a little wine/bar area. 
Dorien was particularly fond of the giant silver spoon over the bar. "I love that spoon!"

Dorien and Daddy were the first up each morning, frequently sharing breakfast on the covered patio. Dorien is a huge fan of Cheerios with milk. Probably related to his passion for the big silver spoon.

Looking down onto the living room from the loft area. The kids had a grand time tossing things over the railing to each other and seeing if they could actually catch it. Mostly, no.

My boys. 

Hours were spent by the kids playing on this porch. I loved it. I'm sure our neighbors did too, as the kids waged mock wars or argued over the identification of their shells.

Lunch is served!

A rapidly tanning August 

The handy little chart for shell identification.

Every day was perfection. Sunny and warm with late afternoon storms that managed to coincide perfectly with our naps. Kyle brought his bike and cycled up and down the island while the kids and I slept.
In the evenings, we found time to read some Hans Christian Anderson - the real story of the Little Mermaid was quite the eye-opener. I'm not sure who was more surprised, Kyle or the kids.

August helps me get the supplies out for making lunches.

Heading a block down the beach to the Mucky Duck to watch the sun set and eat dinner.

One thing the island restaurants are famous for is their ring toss games which provides endless entertainment for both kids and adults.  It is perfect for when the wait is over an hour. 

Which it was in this case. Fortunately, we are not early eaters and didn't mind the wait. There was plenty of opportunity to people-watch. For instance, I enjoyed watching my handsome husband and beautiful children enjoy themselves!

As 8:30 approached, the crowds on the beach outside the restaurant multiplied.

My kids focused on mastering the ring toss.

Not quite there yet, but still lovely.

I love that Dorien is still so attached to me. He never misses an opportunity to "cuddle wi' you!"

Sunset admirers galore...

What did people do before iphone cameras?

And now for the beautiful part of the evening....

I love it when the sky is painted with so many vibrant hues, and it's all enhanced by the whisper of waves rolling onto the beach, the murmur of happy, relaxed vacationers and, best of all, a shorter than expected wait time for dinner!

As a proud mom, I'm happy to say our family got so many compliments on our lovely and well-behaved children. Always makes a momma happy to hear that.
We spent the entire day, every day, at the beach in the water, playing. Our house was equipped with a beach wagon to haul down all the stuff we needed (which included toys, buckets, chairs and umbrellas provided by the house), and we had a tiny walk through our community down a boardwalk out onto our beach.  

We quickly staked out our spot, and each morning, before everyone else was up, Kyle would head down and put up our chairs and umbrella so we'd be assured of our spot. Clever man.  

Dorien and I spent lots of time together floating over waves and squinting into the sun.

The Sanibel/Captiva beaches are known for their shells, and we did our fair share of combing the beach for unique specimens, although we didn't really hit the jackpot until our last evening on the beach.

Brooklyn and August bodysurfed and swam...I floated on my back like a lilypad...I even swam laps in the ocean (a first for me!)...we played frisbee...marveled at the paddleboarders and parasailers...

Dorien hung out contentedly at our beach station under the umbrella when he got bored with floating in his floatie.  

Keeping it real.

Brooklyn practices swimming while I attempt to swim laps in the background. I had to set my watch timer to give me an idea of how far I'd swam, then switch directions. The hard part was not getting carried too far in or out on each lap. And not swallowing too much salt water.

August and Brooklyn alternated between wearing their life jackets and hanging out in deeper water with me and Kyle...

And taking them off to body surf closer to shore or just splash around.

They are by no means proficient swimmers - in fact, we had been taking swimming lessons up to the week we left - but for some reason, even having three "swimmers-in-training" wasn't stressful. They quickly figured out their limits, which changed daily as the ocean changed.

Kyle was, as ever, the perfect Daddy. Tossing the kids into the waves, letting them balance on his hands high above the water, teaching them how to snorkel...

In the evenings, we hit our favorite local restaurants, eating grouper and shrimp...finding a great local pizza place...hitting the dessert cakes (Orange Crunch Cake!!!) at the Bubble Room...eating She-crab soup that was to die for..teaching the kids to play Scrabble...watching the Sand Lot while eating take-out Garden Pizza from Captiva Pizza. 

Notice the oddly dangling top front tooth? We were on high alert all week waiting for that tooth to fall out.
 The funny thing about spending a week at a beach house like we did is that you're surrounded by strangers who are there for the same reason you are. And there is immediately a camaraderie and yet, a silent agreement to leave each other to privacy.  You nod and smile as you pass each other on the gravel roads.  Everyone stakes out their beach spots and by mutual, unspoken consent, those spots are reserved for you. Your equipment and things are safe while you leave for lunch - everyone watches out for each other.

By the end of the week, after gauging your neighbors, you might even strike up a conversation and make a friend. Kyle found a possible business opportunity on our last day with a gentlemen who was there with his adult children and their kids. 

Watching the trash-man maneuver the tight corners of our neighborhood.
By the end of the week, we're all sharing our beach finds with each other - the sand dollars and conch shells, the angel fish and jelly fish, pointing out manta rays or dolphins we spotted. Or the bizarrely re-appearing spotted sand crab which was missing 3 legs and one of his claws (he was very distinctive). I found him repeatedly in different parts of the ocean and beach, as did every other person on the beach! It was crazy!

You even stake out your own slab of ocean which always makes me laugh, because the flow of waves is always trying to move you in front of someone else's beach spot. And towards the end of the week, those lines are looser as you drift into each other's space and chit-chat while bobbing along peacefully.

You run into the same families at dinner each night. Everyone's tanned, a little sunburnt, perhaps, wearing flip-flops and their breeziest summer clothes. The children interact like they've always known each other.

I say everyone was tanned...everyone except this huge group of people who had their set-up near us on the beach.  We were instantly intrigued when they popped up four huge tents to gather under and filled them with chairs - not beach lounge chairs, but the kind you sit around in for tail-gating. Come to think of it, their whole group all week was like one big beach tail-gate party.  There were about 30-35 of them, and each and every one dressed like they were terrified of the sun.  They might have been a convention of dermatologists! 

Head to toe rash-guards. Full body suits. Long sleeves. HUGE floppy hats. Completely white, zinc-ed out faces. Maybe a few pairs of legs were showing, but even those were WHITE with sunscreen. They clustered together like bobbing organisms draped over huge inflatable noodles, everyone bobbing over the waves while holding a beverage in their hand. And they were all in separate houses around ours. 

A smallish group of the Crayons!!!
And they held themed parties every night. And they popped in and out of each other's houses with such frequency that I wish I could have helped them organize better so all the trips wouldn't have been necessary! They'd pop over for a cup of coffee. A jelly jar. Just to say hi. And then immediately, "Bye." They cooked food and hauled it down to their beach tents. We dubbed them "the Crayons" for their wide variety of colored rash guards. And for their loud and vibrant personalities. It was a Captiva first for us....providing us with much amusement and entertainment.

Kyle and I secretly wondered why they picked the beach if they were so averse to the sun...

 Oh, and while there, I hit the 30 week mark of my pregnancy.

 In all my pregnant glory!

Brooklyn and August winding down at bedtime - each reading their own library books. 

And wouldn't you know it...Friday morning, when Brooklyn woke up, her little front tooth just fell out of her mouth. Fortunately, there is a Tooth Fairy on Captiva.

Don't think we aren't huge proponents of sunscreen. We most definitely are.

By the time Saturday morning, August 3, arrived, we were re-charged, re-energized and ready to get back to our lives. Not that we couldn't have spent another week happily bobbing around the waves...

Another 18-19 hours later, after a few movies, many Adventures in Odyssey CDs, lots of knitting on my part, a stopover in Montgomery to sleep, and another full day of driving, we made it back home.

And you wanna know the best part?

I went out to check on my chickens, and I found the first two eggs.
Does vacation get any better than that?

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  1. Oh, that was so fun to see your photos! I think you should frame the one of you and the kids! Love it. That looked like a beautiful place and such a relaxing time. Rob is in the same state, by the way! You could've waved at him on your way through Tampa :)