Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vacation: Push the pause

I love vacation. Love everything about it. There is something so special about packing up the family and heading out of town on an adventure together...I love the break from the daily grind; love the quality family time, exploring and experiencing both familiar and new things together; and I especially love the beach! One of my very favorite things in the world is being near the beach on a hot sunny day with Colette and just goofing around, sitting, laying, and talking with her. When it's just the 2 of us I swear we could do this forever. Tends to be a little more difficult when we've got the whole gang with us, but we've got a few other beach bums in the clan so we always find plenty of ways to have fun together and it tends to always work out great!

So we just got back from a short trip to the beaches of Fort Myers, FL (I say short because our spring break trip was shorter than usual this year, but also because in my view vacations are always too short, no matter how many days they actually are). We've been to the Fort Myers area a lot (Naples in particular, where Colette's Mom & Dad lived for many years until recently) but this was our first time actually staying in Fort Myers. It was a great experience all the way only regret is that we couldn't stay longer! We did a lot of new/different stuff this trip. For example, while we normally stay at traditional hotels (our very favorite is the La Playa in Naples. This year we tried something completely different and rented a resort condo at a place called the GullWing on Fort Myers Beach. This place was great and we highly recommend it!
And speaking of recommending it, I'd be completely remiss and would get a gigantic earful from Mitch if I didn't pause right this very second to give him full props and credit for discovering this little gem! This year the boys pitched in to help with our vacation planning and Mitch did a great job finding the GullWing. We got a great 2 bedroom unit there on the 7th floor, with kitchen and family room and a side view of the Gulf of Mexico from the balcony. The building was clean and nice, as was our room, and it fit our family very comfortably for a very affordable rate of $389/night. The resort has its own private beach which is clean and not crowded, and you can rent an umbrella and chair set for $20/day. The resort supplied towels and had an assortment of beach toys we were able to borrow....Chloe had a ball digging and building sand castles and all sorts of other sand-things, and she got quite a bit of help from the rest of us along the way!

The Gullwing also has a great pool which gets plenty of sun and is not crowded...we spent a couple hours each day in the pool and really loved it!

One of the other things we did differently this trip was to not rent a car....we've done this once before, and have found that when possible this is a great experience! In addition to saving some money, not having a car can really relieve the pressure of feeling like you need to always be on the go-go-go while on vacation (which, upon reflection, we've realized is one of the biggest things we're trying to vacation FROM). So for us, anyway, being tied to the beach is a good thing and very much enhances the whole vacation experience! Of course, if you're like us and dining out is one of your other greatest loves in life, then not renting a car requires that your vacation location includes some other form of workable alternate transportation for when you do want to pop out for a bite or go souvenier shopping or whatever. In the case of our trip, Fort Myers Beach was perfect in this regard. There is a great public trolley system than costs $1.00 round trip per rider to go anywhere you want up and down the island.  Route 400 Trolley in particular.

waiting to go back to the condo
By far our favorite trolley stop on Fort Myers Beach was the Fort Myers Beach "Times Square" area . This is a great little area filled with shops and restaurants and full of activity and life.

 There's also a great pier extending out into the water. But our very favorite Times Square desination during our stay was a great restaurant right on the water called Nervous Nellies This place is awesome! We love eating outside in the sun, and this place has a great deck right by the water, with umbrellas for those in your crew who are more sun-allergic! The menu at Nervous Nellies is huge and everything is amazing! Seafood, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, name it, we probably tried it. And it was all amazing! We ate there several times during our stay and came away happy and full and satisfied every time! They've also got live music and room for the kids to run around and play - it's just an all-around fun place and typing this is making me wonder how we can get back there RIGHT NOW!

We also got to meet up with Colette's cousin and her awesome family on this trip!
We had such an amazing time together as a family on our vacation. For me it's always difficult and sad coming back from vacation, because everything seems to go by so fast while you're actually on vacation, and it's usually only when you get home that you fully realize and appreciate just how special those family times together really were. For me, I love everything we do together as a family, and I've highlighted some of my favorites in this post, but I also find myself reflecting on a multitude of other "little moments" from the trips we take - moments like:
Pulling out of the driveway on the way to the airport, full of excitement about the trip ahead
Waiting for our plane in the airport terminal, and browsing through airport shops for magazines and treats...a relaxing family lunch in an airport restaurant

i also remember the 'finger in the picture' the boys new 'thing'
The ultra-cute sight of Chloƫ pulling her bright pink Hello Kitty suitcase, crammed almost to bursting full of her many "stuffies"
Chloƫ tired out after a long day of traveling
...sitting around together on the balcony just enjoying the breeze and sight of the ocean and each other's company...crazy cab rides to and from the airport, where we all learned to pray just a little bit harder...Giant sandcastle building contests, catch with a water-logged Nerf football as heavy as cement

playing with the boys in the pool or on the beach...amazing sunsets and photoshoots

 as the tide rolls in...walks to 7-11 and CVS for necessities like water and cereal and hosts of other sugary and salty must-have supplies

hanging out together at the trolley stop, while Chloe picks flowers
...laughing at the boys being silly...hugs and kisses and hand-holding with Colette as we savor our latest momentary pause of life

Our last sunset…good night Ft. Myers Beach- until next time
So many great moments, like a fleeting life-collage whisping in and around you and then gone before you know it or before you even thought to grab hold of it...So many special memories I want to grab onto and not let go. But try as I might, it's usually not till after they're gone that I fully realize just how many special & magical treasure-memories were wrapped up in this wide and varied collection of little moments. I find myself wishing I could go back in time and savor them as they're happening the way I'm savoring them in my mind now...but then ultimately having to settle for appreciating the grand memory these special moments while I resolve to do an even better job next time of enjoying all these precious moments with the family I love more than anything else in the world...

And more importantly, I find myself appreciating the new-found perspective that follows a vacation like this. Now that we're home, I feel energized and refreshed to make every moment count just a little bit more. Because, ultimately, the bottom line is that time goes so fast.  Too seems like just yesterday our trips to the beach were with babies, and now the babies are all but grown. Yes, time moves so fast, and if you don't push the life-pause button sometimes you'll miss it all in the middle of living it. So for me, that's what vacation really is--a chance to pause and enjoy all that's precious in my life, all that God has blessed me with.  And that's why I love vacation so much
Thanks for reading,