Wall Street Steward Blog

The Griswold Family Vacation

Most people aim to relax when they go on vacation.  Insane people, like my family, choose to rent one big house and invite every person who even remotely resembles a family member.  Some have a blast, others are stressed out, but all the while we grin and bear it as it is our one, true family vacation.

One precursor to this story:  this is NEVER a vacation for Laura and I.  We have three small children who are more likely to set the house on fire then they are to sit quietly and eat a nice dinner.  So, we suffer through the vacation every year because our children absolutely cherish the time at the beach.  Because of this reason, we partially enjoy the beach, but partially dread it also.

This is my daily recap of this year’s beach trip.

The Journey Begins
Our Saturday morning begun with Ava and Cole asking “is it time to go to the beach yet?”  It was 5 am.  To give you an idea of what an undertaking this trip is, my Uncle (who owns an antique business) always pulls a trailer to help us carry all of the essentials.  I know what you’re thinking – a U-Haul.  Not hardly.  His trailer is about 7 feet tall and nearly 20 feet long.  Yep, that’s how we roll. 

Uncle Doug was due at our house at 9am, but since he subscribes to the Lombardi school of time management (read:  habitually early), he arrived at 8:45am.  No big deal…this is not our first rodeo.  We were prepped.  Trailer loaded, and we were ready to roll.  We packed up the SUV, found some crevices to fit all 3 kids in, and left the house at 10am.  Uncle Doug calls this A.I.S. time (arse in seat).

About 25 minutes into the trek, Laura’s vehicle starts beeping.  I am not sure about you, but when I hear beeping inside a car while traveling with 3 kids, I immediately start praying that she forgot to get gas.  We were not so lucky.  Car overheating.  A/C off.

I’m sorry.  You must be joking.  I could care less if the car detonates, but the A/C is broken?  Wonderful.  I will say hello to Satan as we enter the eighth element of hell.  Twas 98 degrees out, we have a 4 hour drive, and we get to roll without A/C.  This rant should tell you what I know about cars…I was worried about cool air instead of the condition of the engine.  I am a city slicker.  I know how to drive a car, and how to pay other qualified people to care for my car.  Never claimed to be a specialist in the automotive industry, but hey, I bet your mechanic can’t explain what the 50-day moving average is.

My wife, on the other hand, is an absolute brute.  She has a working knowledge of everything “redneck.”  Country music, cars, power tools, beer, hunting, etc….that is her domain.  If this financial services deal doesn’t work out for me, she could support us by working for a NASCAR team. 

The temp gauge was pegged out, so we stop at a convenience store to purchase some substance called “coolant.”  She wasn’t freaking out, so I also remained calm.  In fact, I could almost see the twinkle in her eye as she explained to me that we could add coolant and we would be fine.  She got quite the kick out of seeing my clueless face as she broke down Fluids 101.  She walks outside with the coolant, and I ask the stupid question of “hey, do we need a funnel to help pour the coolant without spilling?”  Irritated by my automotive ignorance, she said something like “City boy wants to get a funnel.  We don’t need no funnel city boy. Why don’t you keep your mouth closed and tend to the kids.  Dey ain’t even got a funnel no-how.”  Of course, my wife’s grammar is perfect, but for sake of the story, try to follow along.  Me, being a skeptic, proceeded to walk in and ask the nice attendant about said funnel.  Beula was so irritated that I had interrupted her daydreaming, that she avoided eye contact and pointed at the wall.  A wall chute with paper funnels.  Ha!  City boy taught his redneck wife something.

As I proudly strutted out of the door and showed my wife the funnel, I saw that she was practically neck deep in the engine.  The only thing missing was a toothpick protruding from her mouth.  She had poured the coolant in, no problem.  “Keep your funnel, yuppie.”

Problem solved.  Ahhh, not so much.  After about 15 minutes of driving, the temperature was still pegged.  Luckily, we were right across the street from a Chevrolet dealership, and we jumped to the conclusion that they would know how to repair a vehicle manufactured by General Motors.  Stupid us.

“Hi sir, I know you have 3 cars waiting for oil changes, but I am driving to the beach with my wife and 3 small children and the engine is overheating.  If there is any way you could put us ahead of the routine oil changes, I would be deeply indebted.”

“Not a problem.  You guys can wait inside, where there is air conditioning, and we will have you running before you know it.”

Our kids were done.  We had left the house 2 hours ago, yet were only about 30 minutes from home.  They were hot, and bored.  It was almost as if they conspired to make our lives as miserable as the circumstances had made theirs. 

We walked them around the showroom floor, where Cole proceeded to pick his nose and wipe a booger on the candy-apple red clearcoat of a Chevy Volt.  That’s what they get….granola, tree hugging, electric car.

Next, Lila and Cole took turns bum rushing the gumball machine and form-tackling it.  In order to bribe them, we bought a few pieces of gum.  Lila, being the nastiest child on Earth, thought it was hilarious to put the gumball in her mouth to moisten it, then take it out and rub the remnants all over the tile floor, while then reinserting the gum ball back into her mouth.

This is my life.  It has been reduced to this.  What I would really like to do at this moment is to take a 4 inch wide paddle, bend each child over my lap, blast “Down With the Sickness” over the intercom, and pulverize their hind ends.  Heat to the seat.  But, since there are other human beings here that would call DSS if I did such a thing, I will try to act mean and talk through gritted teeth.  Which they will see right through.  They are too smart for their own good. thought done
Lila:  “Daddy, I gotta pee.”

Laura was somewhere babysitting Ava, so I asked my folks to watch Cole while I took Lila to the bathroom.  Since I am a man, naturally, we head to the men’s restroom.  When we finish up, I walk back out to see Cole smearing the leftover saliva puddle around on the tile floor.  Knowing that the rage had risen to the top, he saw me and immediately ran….into the ladies room. 

I’m stranded.  No wife.  My son is screwing off in the women’s restroom while I try to wipe up my 2 year old’s saliva from the tile floor inside a po-dunk car dealership in Lancaster, SC.  Happy #bleeping# vacation.  “Anyone have a razor blade?  I’d like to end it all.”

Eventually we arrived at the beach.  A trip that normally takes 4 hours took us 7 hours.

Yesterday was a cluster, and I didn’t sleep well at all.  I slept on a pullout couch, with a piece of rebar wedged in my vertebra.  I know what I need:  a nice, stout cup of coffee.  There is nothing worse than believing you are about to devour a cup of coffee, only to sip some back dirt water.  To say this coffee was weak would be an exaggeration.  The individual who prepared this cup of coffee had to take extra measures to make sure it was weak.  He must have taken bottled water, filtered it, added .17 scoops of light roast (“wuss” coffee), and then brewed a gallon.  I spit it out, and proceeded to make my own.  This was not coffee. 

Beach.  Kids.  Pool.  Sunscreen.  Hot tub.  Good day.

Apparently, my wife had not been tortured enough over the first 36 hours of our vacation, because she rented Footloose for our evening “entertainment.”  Although I assumed the flick would be hideous, at least it had Julianne Hough in it, so how bad could it be?  It was worse.  This made Gigli look like Forrest Gump.  The biggest disappointment was Dennis Quaid.  I actually like him, and apparently he has decided to wind down his career by setting new low after new low.  This was career Hiroshima.  Thanks for playing Dennis, you had a great run, but buh bye.

Today was Aquarium day.  The kids always have a blast there, and it gives us something to use to distract the rugrats long enough to get through another day.  Yes, it is also expensive. 

2 adults $43.98
2 children 2-5yrs $7.98
1 child 6-11yrs $10.99
Tax $4.72
Total $67.67

70 bones.  A full tank of gas.  A new pair of running shoes.  An iPod shuffle.  A round of golf at a nice course.  No worries….if it keeps them quiet, I will pay twice that.

One small issue:  apparently every breathing person within a 100 mile radius had the same idea for Monday.  This reminded me of Disney World.  The most commonly uttered phrase was “excuse me, pardon me.”  Well , the MOST commonly used phrase has expletives in it, but I can’t write that. 

Overall, the Aquarium was cool.  Until the mermaids.  While waiting near the wading pool for the mermaids to come speak to the kids, I felt a warm viscous liquid splash onto the back of my left foot and seep down the front of my flip flop.  What could that be??

I turned around to see a mom scrambling to grab her kid’s bottle up off the ground.  “Sorry.”  There were three possibilities here: 

  1. It was formula, in which case it is no big deal.  Toss me a wet wipe and I’m good.

  2. It was real milk, which is even more palatable.  I can deal with real milk.

  3. It was breast milk, in which case I will need to schedule a time to have my foot amputated.

I did not have the courage to test the sample.  I chose to believe that it was formula, despite the fact that this mom was so granola that her breath smelled like organic Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.  Of course it was natural breast milk, but if you convince me of that, then you get to push me around in my wheelchair after I become a peg-leg.  Got it?

Fast forward to bed time.  We had purchased Cole some new toys.  Small, plastic ocean animals (sharks, eels, dolphins, etc.).  This is standard operating procedure for Cole as he loves those types of toys, but this time he had, unbeknownst to me, buried some of them on the beach.

Being that I am a good daddy (despite what you may read here), and that I would walk into Manhattan traffic for my kids, I decided to go out to the beach and dig around with my hands.  I know.  Tis stupid.  I am looking for a needle in a haystack.  Actually, I was looking for an atom of the eye of the needle inside a factory of haystacks.  Decided to say a quick prayer, because that was my only chance to find these things.

Imagine me on my hands and knees, digging around in the soft sand.  Hoping.  Found one!  3 more to go.  Found another one!  A third!!  The last one was the original one he was sad about losing….a moray eel.  You know the story.  Found it too!  I literally found not 1, but 4 needles in the haystack.

I can’t even begin to describe the look of pure adulation on Cole’s face when he saw me walk in with all of his toys.  Once he was happy, all the kids went to bed easily, so we decided to watch another movie….the new Sherlock Holmes.  It was quite the pallet cleanser after the trainwreck that was Footloose. 

Laura and I woke up to find none of our kids in their beds.  Uh oh.  As we began to worry, we heard Ava taking care of Lila, just like a mommy.  She had lifted her out of her crib, given her something to eat, and was reading her a good morning book.  I was so proud that Ava’s love for Lila is so pure that instead of being jealous of her, she genuinely helps care for her.  But the feeling was bittersweet because IF Ava is old enough to take care of Lila, that means she is growing up.  Too fast.  She is not a baby anymore. 

Once Ava and Lila were accounted for, we began to look for Cole, who was nowhere to be found.  That kid can wreak some havoc when given alone time, so we were worried.  We found him downstairs, sitting at the kitchen table, explaining the characteristics of his new toys to Uncle Doug.  We were relieved.

Coffee and breakfast.  Beach, but it was cold, so we ended up in the hot tub.  Relaxing.

Slept in until 8:40am.  With 3 babies these ages, anything after 8 counts as sleeping in.  Apparently, Cole had decided that we had slept long enough, because he climbed into bed with us and proceeded to tell us “you guys stink!”

Took kids to Alligator Adventure.  68 bucks.  Saw gators, birds, snakes, tigers.  The Tank (Lila) sticks her hand into several birdcages.  “go ahead Lila, that way we’ll be on the news tonight.”

According to our kids, the highlight of the visit was watching the lemur defecate.  They got a big kick out of that.  The black mamba had the best potential….he was fed two mice, but he declined to eat them while the crowd watched.  Bummer.

Hit the gift shop, got Fuddruckers for lunch, and headed home.  After being treated to entertainment, gifts, burgers, and milk shakes, Ava blurted out “this is turning out to be a good day for me.”

Dinner.  Kids to bed.  Then, we watched 21 Jumpstreet, which was surprisingly hilarious.  We had extremely low expectations, but there were at least 15-20 good laughs in that movie.  As pitiful as most comedies are, 15 laughs qualifies as a great flick.

Laura made fresh, homemade waffles for breakfast.  They were scrumptious.  This was our beach day.  No pool or hot tub, beach only.  Around lunchtime, Laura brought lunch down to the beach for the kids, and an adult beverage for me.  Yes, indeed. 

For me, today’s highlight was holding Ava’s hand on one side, and Cole’s hand on the other and taking them out into the ocean.  I swung them into the oncoming waves.  I am not a beach person…I can’t stand sand, salt water, or the Sun…but the look of exhilaration on their faces made my sacrifice well worth it.  They were in Heaven.

I gave up the ghost around 5pm and came in the house to shower.  Shortly after dinner, I got a migraine headache.  My night was finished.  In bed.   Writhing in pain.  If you’ve never had a migraine, please stop reading and say a prayer of thanksgiving.  It feels as though your entire head is in a vice.  Every sound, every glimmer of light, each movement….the vice tightens a little more.  I am ashamed to admit that I actually prayed that God would take me from this Earth.  Seriously.  It hurt that badly.  Clearly, he declined to take me.

Kids and Laura also had tough nights.  Bad dreams, hollering, kicking, moaning…just restless sleep.  The beach really screwed us up….tis no joke.  I knew I didn’t like it for a reason. 

“Daddy, I heard a good joke.”  “Ok buddy, let’s hear it.”  “Go-bee.”

I realize that this nonsense is not even mildly comical on a computer screen, but when a precious 4 year old boy tells it, and then cackles uncontrollably at his own punch line, it becomes good material. 

This was our last day, and those are always depressing.  When you have one big family vacation halfway through the year, once it is over you realize that you have nothing else planned for the rest of the year.  For Laura and I, it sort of feels like the day after Christmas feels for a kid.  However, Laura and I needed a vacation from the vacation.  For those of you with small children, you know exactly what I am talking about.  For those without kids, may I move in with you?  Our vacations are fun for the kids, while the adults just move their job from their home to a beach house. 

The background is pretty, the weather a little nicer, but we are still parents all day, every day, even at the beach.  No break.  Not a single one all week for us.  We were ready to head home, because at least there we can give each other a break. 

We have a family tradition that on the last night, everyone eats whatever they can of the leftover food.  Whether it be broccoli and cheese soup, pastami on rye, BBQ pork, or Klondike bars…you are required to gorge yourself.  If you are not on the verge of vomiting, you have not eaten enough.

Naturally, I am right at home in this type of environment. 

Home sweet home.  It took us about an hour to move back into our home.  Once we did, it was back to the daily grind. 

Until next year.