Saturday, July 20, 2013

Destin, FL; The Girls First Trip To The Beach...

Friday July 5, 2013 is when we planned on leaving. The girls and I started counting down 71 days prior to this. Needless to say, they were pretty excited to wake up that morning knowing that we were leaving that day! So many days leading up to this, I had spent packing, making list, doing everything I could to get us organized and ready; I wanted this particular day to be as normal as it could be for the girls. We planned on heading out right before bedtime; so I wanted them to have had fun, play, and simply be tired so they would sleep for the ride.

We dropped our dog off at their friends' house that morning and had a bit of a play date. We came home for lunch, packed up the van and went for a bike ride. During that time I found out there was a tornado warning in Destin, FL (where we were planning on vacationing). So much anxiety set in, I just kept telling myself that were were heading to Pensacola, FL that night and not going to Destin until Sunday. I knew the drive wasn't going to be fun! Looking at the radar, there was nothing but rain and storms for our entire route. We decided to leave a bit early to have as much daylight as we could. 

I gave the girls a bath, fed them dinner, put on their pull ups and pajamas and off we went! There was so much excitement and so many questions! Twenty minutes away from our house and L was already asking when we were going to be there and when it was going to be morning... (we had told her that if she goes to sleep, then it would be morning before she knew it and we would be there). Daddy started driving and just a little bit into it, we realized that I should drive while I was awake and not tired (because I knew I wasn't going to go to sleep at that point and he could), so we switched. The girls fell asleep and all was well, other than the random down pours I drove through. I drank a whole thermos full of coffee (60 oz) and sang like I thought I was Mariah Carey!!

The girls would wake up at times having to go to the bathroom, but they were amazingly good about being in good spirits and falling right back to sleep when we got back in the van. There was a time going through TN that L cried a bit because she wanted me to hold her... it broke my heart... but I was able to sing her to sleep (although this took about 30-40 min)

I drove several hours, Daddy drove a few and was getting pretty sleepy (I slept for a little bit), I started driving again and about 1:00 am or so, somewhere in Alabama, we decided to call it a night and get a hotel room. We got the girls out of the van, carried them into the room and they went right back to sleep. It was such a relief to be in a bed. It started to storm and did so the entire night! Breakfast at this place was pretty interesting. Nothing bad. The owner of the hotel  was in the room where we had breakfast and was so nice but we talked a lot. He complimented the girls on how polite and perceptive they were. He was from Bombay and they respectfully noticed his accent and were very curious about it. He had an insane garden (that he walked us to in the rain), he brought out his pet turtle (which the girls thought was really cool), and offered to give us things from his garden if we stopped by on the way back home. We did not stop again, but he was very kind! We were happy to get back on the road; although the next 4 hours that morning was a way different drive with the girls awake... lots of potty breaks! But the good thing about it was, neither one of them had any accidents!

It was pouring rain when we made it to Pensacola and our room wasn't ready! All the girls wanted to do was to walk on the beach and to see the ocean. We sat in the lobby of the hotel for a bit and colored. It didn't take too long to get in our room, so it wasn't bad! We freshened up a little and headed out to lunch to the Shrimp Basket! We were hungry, but were also told that it was supposed to stop raining around 3:00. Lunch was good but the girls had a one track mind... BEACH! BEACH! BEACH!!! So off we went, rain and all. I took videos so we could remember the excitement in the girls voices as we drove the 25 minute drive to the beach. Rain and all, it was pretty awesome. Through the rain, we could see some blue skies off and on. Seriously as we pulled into the parking lot of Pensacola Beach, it was like it was a different day. I started to tear up as I laughed... L asked, "Are those happy tears Mommy?" WERE THEY EVER!!

I couldn't get their clothes changed fast enough! They wanted to see it, touch it, feel it and get in it! The video of them walking on the sand is the best!! Barefoot and feeling this sand between their toes, it was soft as powder and M asked if it was snow! They were amazed! They didn't take too many steps into it until they just sat down picking up one handful after another. Lots of pictures and lots of smiles. Then down to the water! I'll have to blog about the book I bought to help prepare them for this! 

My favorite moments from their first few minutes on the beach:
Watching how excited they would get when the water would wash up around their ankles and it would bury their feet in the sand.
How much they would laugh and smile when the waves would knock them down. (But then they wanted the waves to knock them down more and more)... 
Watching them see little shells wash up in the water and get so excited when they were able to grab one before the next wave came!!

We asked someone to take pictures of the four of us pretty quickly after we got there. The girls looked so happy standing in the water with us. PURE JOY!!!

We stayed for a few hours, played in the water and played in the sand... it was pretty awesome! After all of that rain, we had a beautiful afternoon. The water was a bit rough, so we didn't go out that far, BUT IT WAS A GREAT AFTERNOON. Dinner, bath and bedtime was pretty easy.

The next morning was also exciting! (It was Sunday) We had about an hour drive into Destin. We saw a lizard in the parking lot during one of our bathroom stops and a dog on the back of a motorcycle wearing sunglasses and a helmet. Coolest things ever! Not to mention ... THE SAND DUNES! The excitement of the sand dunes also came from the book that I'll blog about later!

We got to the condo a little earlier than check in, our room wasn't ready but we were able to get access to their amazing pool. We swam a bit, had some lunch, then took the shuttle that ran from the condo to the beach. The water was still pretty rough. There was a red flag, so we played in the sand, picked these little shells (they are actually called Conquina Clams), walked around in the shallow water and of course, took lots of pictures! We headed back to the condo at 4:00; our room was ready! We showered and headed out to dinner. We were going to go to Fudpucker's although we didn't make it! The girls were beat down tired and fell asleep in the van. We decided that as tired as they were, it could potentially get ugly trying to wake them up and sit down in a restaurant. We let them sleep. Daddy ran into a fresh seafood place and then in the grocery store. We went back to the condo, made a sandwich for the girls and bedtime took less than 10 minutes once we laid down. Daddy made dinner and I made strawberry daquaries. Our condo was on the eleventh floor and the view from the balcony was amazing! We sat out there for awhile and eventually went to bed. 

Monday: The girls had breakfast on the balcony which they thought was incredibly cool! They ran around the condo for a bit and played then we went to one of the beach souvenir shops (I wanted a BIG beach bag that would be good for our sand toys) and we let the girls pick out some shell necklaces. While we were out we drove down to a beach we had passed on the way into Destin (it wasn't that far down the road, it was around some pretty large sand dunes that the girls thought were awesome!) We were hoping to find a good area to pick up some shells. The way my girls like to collect rocks, I knew they would love collecting shells and I really wanted to find some shells WITH THEM!! There weren't any shells there; just more Conquina Clams. Eventually the three of us headed to the beach across from the condo and Daddy went to the grocery store. We played in the water (it was much calmer but not totally calm). We went out to the sandbar (they always wore their puddle jumpers in the ocean). I wouldn't take them past the sand bar though. I think we would've been okay, but I didn't want to push it with it just being me and BOTH of them! We had fun though. We played in the water, built a real sand castle, I buried them in the sand, they tried to bury each other. It was all so much fun! We headed back to the condo between 3:30 and 4:00 so could get ready and get to Fudpucker's earlier that night, so we could spend some time there. We got there about 5ish and I'm so glad we did. This place was pretty cool and SO MUCH FUN! They had "alligator beach" there (where you can feed alligators), we got our picture taken holding a REAL ALLIGATOR. The girls thought it was the coolest thing that they held a real alligator! This place had a play ground in the middle of it (next to the bar). We weren't drinking there, but it just seemed so crazy seeing a set up like this!! Once again, bedtime was so easy and Mommy and Daddy ended up out on the balcony (I'm so glad I thought to take the baby monitors with us)! We talked about how much fun the girls had picking up those "shells" and googled good places to find shells around Destin and decided to drive to Panama City, take the girls to St. Andrew State Park and take the shuttle to the boat to head out to Shell Island.

Tuesday: It was a awesome morning. The girls were so excited for their surprise. They couldn't wait to get on the boat! It was a fun ride out there. The girls were playing with their cameras, singing and LOTS of playing "I SPY!" M didn't like the boat ride so much... she didn't like the noise. Luckily it wasn't that long of a ride. She sat there the whole way with her hands over her ears. They dropped us off on one side of the island and told us where to walk. It was quite a long walk with 2 little ones, a cooler, a beach bag of all of our necessities and a beach bag of sand toys! L did good with it and M cried part of the way. This didn't bode well for the beginning of our morning there. L was excited playing with Daddy in the water and finding shells. I was secretly sad in the beginning. That's one thing I was totally looking forward to on this vacation: Picking sea shells with my girls and I had one on Shell Island that just wanted to play in the water and one that was more miserable than I had seen her in a long time. I was trying to talk her into doing what we came there to do, even though I could see it was a lost cause.... Finally I let her sit in my lap, cry and settle a bit. I told her it was alright, asked her what she wanted to do, what she wanted to play...  and she wanted to build a sand castle. I was a tiny bit sad, but at least she wasn't anymore!!! Daddy and L came out of the water to join us. After a few minutes, I asked if he cared if I walked down the beach by myself to see what kind of shells I could find. The captain of our boat told everyone that the further you walked, the better you would do with the shells... that's what I did. I saw how some others were doing this in the water (about waist deep) and I found some on the coolest things. I didn't stay gone long ... but the time I was gone, it was such a RE CHARGE!! As I headed back to my sand castle building family and showed them what I had found, everyone was happy and all of us headed out into the water.  We had fun swimming a bit then all 4 of us took a walk TO LOOK FOR SHELLS, we had a lot of fun. Both girls would get so excited to show us each shell they would find and be able to put it in our shell bad. :) We stayed out there for about 4 hours. We decided to head back while everyone was still happy and in good moods (not to tire them out and then have to make that long walk). We headed back, changed our clothes, found a great restaurant for lunch and had a really fun drive back to the condo. Lots of singing and excitement about things we've done so far and things yet to come!! I part of the way back once the girls fell asleep and hubs fell asleep too. I decided to wake him once we were close and I ran into a store... I came out with lots of things and a hermit crab (because I'm crazy)! Later that night after the girls were asleep, we were reading about how to take care of them and apparently they do better in pairs, so I headed out and bought another one. Daddy cooked him and myself another special seafood dinner that was amazing and we spent another night out of the balcony!!

Wednesday: I was so looking forward to this day! The girls had breakfast out on the balcony, just as they had been doing every morning since we had gotten to the condo (and they loved it). We went for a swim, had lunch, got cleaned up and headed out to the Harborwalk. We walked around for a bit, looked at some shops, and took lots of pictures. Everyone was having a great time, the girls were having fun and being so good, so we decided to get them a treat. We walked into an ice cream shop, ordered what we wanted and as we went to pay, we realized Daddy's card was in MY WALLET and I didn't bring my wallet (because I knew I wasn't going to need it). He had a few dollars in his pocket and they were able to get something to share. BUT we had to leave the Harborwalk, go to the condo, get his card and go back to where we were. Doesn't sound bad, but with the traffic of that area, during that time of day, that trip was 30 minutes one way. We had a shelling/dolphin watch/sunset cruise booked for that day. As we drove back to the condo, it was looking like the worst storm EVER was rolling in, then it started to rain. I called the company to see what the status of our trip was and it was still (at that time) planned to leave like normal. By the time we got back to the Harborwalk, it was pouring rain!! L had to go to the bathroom and Daddy didn't want to get out of the van. He actually wanted to reschedule our cruise for that night. I had been watching the weather and that night seemed like the best (weather wise) to go (despite the rain at the time). We were told this was a pop up shower and it was suppose to clear up. I took L to the bathroom and we found a great place to sit outside of Starbucks. I called Daddy and him and M got out of the van to join us. We decided to have an early dinner and see what the night brought. We ate at Poppy's The Crazy Lobster, right on the water, we sat outside (it was covered) and it seemed to be clearing up. A little light rain. We were supposed to be at the place to check in for our cruise at 5:30. As we asked for our check it was 5:25. I left the table, ran around the corner to where we were supposed to check in, asked if we could switch to JUST the dolphin/cruise and NOT DO the one with the shelling... that was a go. I checked us in. I went back to the table, of course both girls had to potty, I sent Daddy to go pay for the cruise and believe it our not everything worked out.

We stood in line at the Reef Runner (the name of the boat we were going out on) in the rain. We were standing on a dock with excited kids. They were so excited, there were a lot of people (because despite the rain, LOTS of people were down there waiting to get on different boats!!) I was so afraid the girls were going to fall in the water) We held them and all of our things, in the rain, Daddy was being such a good sport! I know in his head he was wondering why in the world we didn't cancel! M wasn't being that good (potential for disaster). It was a 2 hour cruise and the first 30 minutes were rough with M!! BUT ... the rain stopped, M started acting so much better, we saw so many dolphins. They weren't just out there, a few were doing back flips. The dolphins were so close to our boat, the girls were able to see them too. With the rain that happened earlier, the sunset wasn't much to see BUT BOTH GIRLS GOT TO DRIVE THE BOAT!!! L drove it first. When you look at the pictures of her doing this, you see nothing but PURE JOY!! So she kept steering it to the left... We were literally doing doughnuts in the middle of the ocean. The captain got on the radio to tell the other boats out there that a kid was driving the boat. It was pretty awesome. Then it was M's turn ... again, she also thought this was the coolest thing in the world! The wheel was a bit hard for her to turn on her own. She had to have a little help, but she still had just as much fun! After they were both finished, L looked at me and asked, "If I can drive a boat, why can't I drive your car?" No joke... I had to explain how the rules were different in Florida. She's a smart girl!!! I thought bedtime was going to easy again this night, BUT there was a band playing down by the pool. Even though our condo was on the 11th floor, as I laid in the bed singing the girls to sleep, the band was throwing me off (they were singing "Free Falling" as I was trying to sing our goodnight song)! Soon enough they were asleep and of course Daddy and myself ended up on the balcony, had a few drinks, and even danced a bit) ... we have so much fun with each other and everyday I really fall more and more in love with him (even this many years later)!!

When the band finished we started to google some of the things that were pointed out during our cruise. I didn't realize how many celebrities actually lived in Destin! Literally 15 minutes from where our condo was. A few of their houses were pointed out to us during the cruise and they had told us where some of the other ones were (they were all around the same few streets). Daddy wanted to ride by there at some point that week..

Thursday: We woke up to pouring rain... Although the girls were still able to have breakfast on the balcony and still be dry (which they also loved)!! We decided that was a good time to take a drive to see those houses. The two that I got excited about were Garth Brooks house and Tim McGraw/Faith Hill's! Throughout this drive the girls kept saying, "Are we at someplace fun yet?" We weren't sure where this "someplace fun" was that we were going to take them to... but we kept telling them that we weren't there yet. When we were finished, we took them into a souvenir shop to let them pick out a key chain for each of them. We let them get a key chain from where ever they are when we stay someplace out of town and put in a box for them. While we were in the store, Daddy googled some indoor places to take the girls to. We found a science center. It was fun for them! Took a few hours there then headed for lunch. We ate at Gilligan's Seafood right on the water. The weather cleared up! It was a beautiful afternoon. We headed back to the condo and took the girls down to the pool. We swam, played, had ice cream poolside, and swam some more!

I looked at hubs, told him how good the girls had been, said we should get dressed and take them to a beach to see the sunset at night. The normally go to bed so early, I wanted them to see an amazing sunset over the water. This didn't happen during our cruise the night before and I really wanted them to see it! The girls and I had also brought some glass bottles with corks in the top of them that we picked out at Michael's to make a keepsake from their first vacation to the beach. We took those bottles that night. The whole night was SO SO SPECIAL. We got some AWESOME pictures on the beach with the sunset! We put sand in our bottles, we played, I let them climb up on a sand dune (there, they decided to build what they were calling a snowman). We took so many pictures and so many videos! M got so upset her snowman was going to be lonely because we had to leave it there.... As we were about to leave, we heard someone say there was going to be fireworks over the ocean at 9:00. M wanted me to hold her. I did for a bit, she fell asleep, I passed her off to Daddy. He held her while he was talking to another family there. L wanted to sit in the sand with me. She was being so sweet and snuggly. This was such a great day and that night on the beach was so special to me! Absolutely perfect!

For the life of me, I can't remember what we did for dinner this night... I know we ate lol

Friday: Our last day there! The forecast called for rain, but it was beautiful the whole day! We went to the beach. We were there for hours! The water was so calm and it was unbelievably clear. We could see schools of fish swimming by. We played and played. So much in the water. Built sand castles, buried each other in the sand, took so many pictures! When we were about to head back to the condo, I took a video of the girls saying bye to the beach and telling me their favorite parts of the day/week... It was all so sweet! I was just so happy. It had been a great vacation and as I listened to them, I was crying behind my sunglasses. I was a little ready to be home, but at the same time, OF COURSE I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE!

We headed back to the condo, got cleaned up and had one more dinner at Fudpucker's. After everyone went to sleep, I started to get things packed and ready for our LONG drive the following day.

The adventure of our long drive will be in my next post!

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