Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “family”

Family Trip to Thailand? Bring Patience, An Open Mind, and So Much Deodorant

Traveling Asia with kids isn’t for the feint of heart.  But man is it worth it… 

Last week, we headed to Thailand with our friends (the Tislands) for Spring Break.  Traveling with friends, we’ve learned, is important because 24 hours of non-stop family time without the comforts of home can be a bit much.  I suppose we figured this out in South Korea, where Jackie and I fought for hours one night because I got her the “wrong” sandwich.  In my defense, how could I have known she actually wanted a meatball sub with absolutely nothing on it?  Anyway, now we travel with friends.

As for the itinerary, here’s the good: we started in Guam heading to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai, and then back to Guam.  Lots of adventure.  Here’s the bad part… it was all through the Manilla Airport, which is a dirty, wifi-lacking maze that might just be hell on earth.  And here’s where it get’s downright ugly: we flew Philippine Airlines – a company operated by madmen.  The Manilla Airport/Philippine Airlines combo is devastating.  It’s kind of like a sandwich your hungry wife didn’t order, and 7 days of non-stop family time.  

Regardless, here goes a recap of one of our most epic family vacations.  


Day One: Travel Horrors

Everything was fine til Philippine Airlines and the Manilla Airport did their worst.  Our flight to Manilla arrived late, we missed our connection, and got rewarded with more time at the Manilla Airport.  Yelling was involved.  This caused us to get into Bangkok late, which put us in rush hour en route to our hotel.  Finally, we got to the hotel where the kids had their own room, and Jackie and I had ours.  Perfect recipe for lots of bow-chicka-wow-wow…  

Just kidding.  We were super tired.  And the kids were next door to us – often wrestling in the hallway and calling every five minutes pretending to need housekeeping.  It was a perfect recipe for phone calls from angry neighbors.    

Day Two: Floating Market…Horrors

Day Two we went to the “Floating Market.”  Travel websites and Thailand experts give this experience glowing reviews.  I was excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Until I realized…

The Floating Market involves taking a boat ride through a series of remarkably similar tourist shops along the water with a high-pressure sales pitch at every stop… all at a nifty 102 degrees.  It’s the worst.  More on this in a bit.

The ride to and from isn’t easy, as the Floating Markets are two hours from Bangkok.  Picture endless traffic while sitting alongside six PS4-deprived children.  For them, talk of farts and “Opposite Day” make the trip bearable.   For example, “you’re cool…but it’s Opposite Day.”  Classic burn.  

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We finally get to the Markets and I get the true dagger.  The boat ride to go shopping for overpriced tourist items will cost our family of five $200 out the gate.   Look, I’ve long learned that the key to any successful vacation is to not be a cheap bastard.  But for the remainder of the day, all I could think about was this $200.  

So. Here’s what my wife saw:

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Aaaand here’s what I saw: 

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It wasn’t all bad.  We got smoothies.  For what it’s worth, Jackie said she “really liked it.”  Frankly, she would have liked it a lot more had I not gone.  But aside from the heat and the price and the overall misery of the experience it was totally great. The 2.5 hour ride back to Bangkok was also great.  But remember, it’s Opposite Day. 

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Day Three: Grand Palace

On Day Three, we went to the Grand Palace.  Immediately prior to launch, I discover I won’t be allowed to wear shorts.  That’s ok because it’s only a million degrees outside.  We take a pretty sweet boat ride to the palace.  The kids enjoyed endless sodas and the adults began a day of endless perspiration.  

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We get to the entrance of the palace and things start to get crazy.  Our guide informs us it’s temporarily closed because apparently the Princess is praying.  Umm, ok.  It’s possible this one of Bangkok’s infamous scams, but nobody is walking into this Palace.  So if thats true it’s a pretty elaborate scam.  My guess is Thailand is like every other monarchy in the world: the Princess gets what the Princess wants.  

With time to kill, we buy overpriced ice cream and wait.  But soon the kids need to potty and there are no bathrooms in sight.  I walk four blocks with the boys to discover that the only bathroom available to us costs money to use, and I have none.  Also… wait, what?  You have to pay to use the toilet around here???  This ruthless display of capitalism almost makes Bangkok more American than America.    All that’s missing is a credit card machine.   

Back to the palace, where we eventually got in.  It was beautiful.  There was a temple that was cool as well.  Our tour guide shared historic tales of battles between good and evil.   Unfortunately I won’t remember any of this, because I’m too busy anticipating my imminent death.  Have I mentioned it was hot?  

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Collectively, our back sweat could fill a kiddie pool.  I’m serious about this.

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That night we hit Chinatown.  We take a “Tuk Tuk,” which is essentially a moped with seats rigged onto the back.  “Tuk Tuk” is super fun to say, and they’re crazy cheap.  A ride for the whole family costs us a few dollars.  I know I’m supposed to be over this, but this ride is about $197 cheaper than our boat ride through the Floating Market.  I mean, I’m just saying…

We walk around eating street food and being tourists.  Jackie gets a real massage while the kids and I let fish eat the skin off our feet.  Knowing how long its been since our kids properly cleaned their feet I have concerns about the future of these poor fish.  Also, they tickle.  

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Day Four: Head to Chiang Mai 

Day Four we head to Chiang Mai, where we will be living in a Villa for the remainder of this trip.  Seven bedrooms, a pool, and toilets with those sprayers that you’d use on the dishes… only it’s for your junk.  This place is incredible.  

We swam a lot that day.  And drank beer.  It was legit vacation.  

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Day Five: Elephants, Massages and Deadly Snakes

On Day Five, Jackie and the kids went to play with elephants.  I didn’t go because I’m lame and got a massage instead.  The baby elephants were super cute.  The masseuse who dug into my skin and had me grimacing in pain was not cute.  I’m on a roll with poor decisions this week. 

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After we regrouped at the villa we headed to the “Snake Show,” and it did NOT disappoint.  For a few dollars, we got to see hilarious Thai dudes dancing around King Cobras…all while “Moves Like Jagger” played in the background.  Watching these guys evade venomous bites from angry Cobras leads me to conclude they are far more impressive than Jagger.  I mean, for goodness sake, their dance moves are what prevent them from literally dying.  

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Fully satisfied by the Snake Show, we went to dinner and ate insane amounts of Thai food.  Nobody spoke English, but Coldplay was blaring on the speakers.  It made no sense, but everywhere we go we seem to hear the whitest music imaginable.  Later that week, I’d go to a coffee shop where the second I walked in it went from Yoga music to Phil Collins.  This Country just gets me.

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Day Six: ATVs and a Night “Safari” 

Since we were in Thailand you’d think the kids would have no use for Youtube.  Wrong.  Each morning began with “can I play on my Kindle?”  The boys like videos with Fortnight commentary which, for better or worse, has provided them a wealth of newly discovered gaming vernacular.  For instance, when I Dab – a move I only recently mastered – I’m reminded that the move was popular four years ago.  “You’re such a Newb.”  And any time I even remotely screw something up I’m told to “get wrecked.”  

Anyway.  Eventually, we got out and took ATVs around Chiang Mai.  Although we weren’t newbs with the ATVs, riding through the forest was quite bumpy.  Thankfully nobody got, you know, wrecked.   

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That night, we hit up the “Night Safari.”  In my head, I pictured something resembling Jurassic Park, and was disappointed to discover the Night Safari is basically a zoo. Our son got pretty upset when a giraffe ate all of the food he was planning on giving to other animals.  On the positive side, no humans were eaten – a claim Jurassic Park cannot make.  Also, if you ever plan on opening a zoo one day, consider marketing it as a “safari” instead.  It sounds sexier.  

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After the Night Safari, we hit up the “Night Market.”  The area seems touristy, and I see lots of skinny white people.  Picture heavily-tattooed women who look like they just stepped out of yoga class, and dudes wearing colorful pants with elephants on them.   I’m surrounded by liberals.  

The food was good, and the prices were so cheap I’m not sure how any of these people make money.  But Jackie’s a consummate deal finder and can’t help herself.  “$1 for a hand-carved wooden tiger?  Way too much!”  She makes the Shark Tank seem like group therapy.  Safe to say I’m not totally surrounded by liberals…  

Day Seven: “Sticky Falls” 

A week into this eventful trip we went to the Buatong Waterfall.  We learned the actual name of it after our non-english speaking driver made it clear he had no idea what the “Sticky Falls” were.  Its a waterfall you can climb. 

You take steps to the bottom of the fall where you’ll find pool of running water.  Below the surface is mud-like substance that feels like poop.  Our son Brody was convinced this was a poop walk.  He may have been right. 

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The falls themselves were every bit as amazing as advertised.   

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On the way home we begin to appreciate how many towns and cities in Thailand contain the word “Dong” (and to a lesser extent, “Wang“).  My wife cannot let any of this go without obnoxious laughter and obligatory follow-on conversation.  One day we passed an area called “Hang Dong” and even I had to concede she had a point there.  

Day Eight: Bungie Jumping

On the Eighth Day, I decided to go Bungie Jumping.  Anyone who has seen me while hanging Christmas lights can testify to the fact that I fear heights.  In high school I asked a grown man to “hold me” at a ropes course.  20 years later, I’m still hearing about this.    

Bungie Jumping is cheap in Thailand.  Also, life insurance is included, which is great because I’m fairly certain my military insurance won’t be covering any of this.  I sign my life away, pay the fee, and head over to the jump site.  While speaking in Thai, they tie my legs together, put me in a chair that takes me up 200 feet, and then set me up for the big fall.  

We get to the top, and I’m asked to hobble to the very edge of the lift while I stare 200 feet down.  “1, 2, 3, Bungie!” the guy said.   I went nowhere.  But now I hear Jackie hazing me and I know there’s no chance I’m getting out of this.  I fall while screaming like a maniac.  “HOLD ME!” 

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Day Nine: The Hellacious Journey Home

Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Manilla to Guam.  With kids.  What could go wrong?  

Well, it all went south when Philippine Airlines linked up with, you guessed it, the Manilla Airport. Picture delays, non-sensical excuses, lines, countless security checks, temper tantrums (by the adults), more delays, and a desperate need for Gold Bond.  This place is the worst.  

Thankfully our kids have tablets which keep them occupied and makes all of this ok.   The universe has now reminded me of exactly why we got these kids tablets to begin with.  

Around midnight, the boys slept.  Riley put a sandwich on Jimmy because she was bored.  Sleep deprived, this was hilarious… much funnier than it looks now.  

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After 24 hours of travel, we finally got back to Guam and I’ve never been happier to be home.  


Overall, the trip was exhausting, and at times downright difficult.  But Thailand is a special place unlike any other in the world.  I’ve been blessed to go on several very relaxing vacations where I remained firmly in my comfort zone the entire time.  This was not one of those trips.  But the memories will last a lifetime.  

Traveling through Thailand with kids is not for the feint of heart.  It takes patience and an open mind.  Oh, and don’t be a newb...  

Bring friends, and an endless supply of deodorant as well.  It’s hot here.  

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Our Drama-Filled Adventure to Tarzan Falls

I confess I’m not the world’s most outdoorsy person. Kayaking? That’s a sunburn waiting to happen. Camping? My bed works better. 

Left to my own devices I’d spend a perfectly good Saturday on the couch setting my fantasy football team, watching HGTV and eating copious amounts of Cinnamon Life. Now that’s living.   

But alas!  My wife is a planner.  She is outdoorsy.  And she is a big fan of mandatory fun.  

She’ll want to spend her entire Saturday doing something intrinsically senseless like picking apples or cutting down a Christmas Tree.  Apparently these activities are far more exciting than the football matchup I wanted to watch between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  I digress…

Naturally when my wife proposed we go hiking this weekend I had reservations. See, like doing Hot Yoga and eating hard-to-pronounce pastas, Ive always kinda assumed hiking was an activity exclusively for liberals.  Plus, see paragraphs above. 

Well, on tap this weekend was a trip to a place called Tarzan Falls.  Like, for a hike.  

As always, I tried to bargain. What if instead of going to Tarzan Falls we watch the movie Tarzan instead???  In the end we compromised… and went to Tarzan Falls. 

As with all directions on this island, the directions to Tarzan Falls lacked street signs, an address, and visible markers. We were literally told to take a left out of our neighborhood, then “go till it gets kinda forest-y,” and then look for the shoes hanging from the telephone wire.  Then, of course, you’re there.

In preparation I drank three cups of coffee.  Which is where this whole adventure begins…

Three minutes into the ride over and we need to stop. Like right now! 

And so there I was, on the side of the road.  Going to the bathroom in a sea of painful prickly bushes and bracing for a tree snake attack while the rest of my family laughed from the car.  Guess you could say it was your standard car ride…

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We arrive at Tarzan Falls around 11am and I waste no time taking an insane amount of pictures so my Facebook friends will think we do this kinda stuff every day.  Smiles kids! 

Jackie is sporting the brand new workout shoes she (ahem, we…) just bought in order to replace the older ones that had mud and dirt all over them.  That will become important in a moment…

Okay moments up.  Jackie’s new shoes were drowning in mud and dirt no more than 100 yards into this adventure.   AND THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS. 

In fairness, I suppose we all underestimated how insanely muddy this trek would be.  So much mud.  And sitting water.  And more mud. 

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Coming Soon: There Will Be Mud 

The kids waste no time reminding Jackie and me that we’re legit tyrants.  “It’s so hot,” I’m so hungry,” and “I can’t walk anymore.”  Not even ten minutes in and all the kids are apparently going to die.  

The good news is there are some pretty cool things to point out along the way. 

Like…

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Stunning views of Guam

And even more importantly…

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A “Prince” Frog!!!

It was all fun and games until our 5 year old daughter slipped and fell into the mud.  I don’t have a picture of this particular moment, but what follows should give you a good idea of how this went down: 

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MUD!!!!

Others would soon follow suit.  Slip, fall, mud, tears.  Repeat.  

Eventually we make our way down the steep hills. The blood sweat and tears were all worth it when we got to this: 

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And did this: 

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And this: 

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One more: 

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After lunch it was time to head back.  

The hike back up was tough, no doubt.  The kids noted that the trek was “soooo far,” and that they were “soooo tired” and inquired into exactly when we would “finally get to mommy’s car.”  My personal favorite?  “I’m not hydrated enough to take another single step!” 

Try not to die, kids…

Then we hit a swamp.  The kids walked around it in painfully slow fashion until my quick-thinking wife convinced them there was an alligator in there.  Speed-walking commenced.

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We finish around 1:30.  Two and a half hours of Guam-inspired mandatory fun.  

Honestly? It was a blast! And perhaps somewhere deep down I really am an outdoors-y person. 

But for today, I’ll be watching the Indiana-Ball State Football Game and eating cereal on the couch while my wife does laundry. 

Say, she sure is lucky to have me. 

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A Step by Step Guide on How to Move Your Family to Guam Without Any Drama Whatsoever

We’re baaaaacck! And in case you’ve been out of the loop since my last post (over two years ago), here’s a recap: I spent 8 months living by myself in Norfolk, VA prepping for a deployment, then I deployed for 7 months, then I came back. And then, we PCS’d (military slang for moved) to Guam.  So basically, we’ve followed the standard progression of any normal family of five from Northern Virginia…   

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Perfectly normal family here.

Bottom line: our kids are older, my hair is thinner, and my wife is *loving* the Navy more than ever. Which happens to be where this whole blog picks back up…

So. If you’ve ever wondered how a legit professional takes his family and moves them to Guam without ANY drama/tears/tantrums/ iterations of ”oh-my-gosh-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me”, then listen up. Because I’m about to educate you.

STEP ONE: BE DEPLOYED WHEN YOU GET YOUR ORDERS TO MOVE FROM THE EAST COAST TO GUAM.

This is huge. You see, when faced with orders to move to a small island kinda near Japan (but really not near anything), your spouse may want to talk to you about all these questions she has, like “where are we going to live?” and “when is all of this going to happen?” and most importantly, “where the heck is Guam?” Fortunately for you, you will be on the other side of the world, incapable of answering any questions whatsoever. It makes the news that much easier to digest.

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Me being too busy to discuss moving to Guam…

STEP TWO: GIVE YOUR WIFE A LAUNDRY LIST OF THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY BUT THAT CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT WRITTEN ORDERS, WHICH ARE COMING.  WE THINK. 

Medical screening needs to be completed. Are we sure Brody had his tetanus shot? Movers need to be arranged. Car needs to be shipped. We need to get on the base housing list. We need to enroll the kids in school. We need to do it now!

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Stop wasting time, this medical screening is due ASAP!!!

Problem is, nothing happens until written orders are in hand. And getting written orders from the military can be as enjoyable as a 16 week seminar in “Commercial Paper.”   Or (foreshadow alert!) a 36-hour flight to Guam. Super fun.

STEP THREE: COME HOME FROM DEPLOYMENT AND COMMENT ON ALL THE THINGS YOUR “WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY” TO PREPARE FOR THE BIG MOVE.

My wife just *loves* comments like these:

“You scheduled the pack out for a Tuesday, huh? I would have gone with later in the week.”

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Should have done this Friday…

“I see we let the kids color and paint all over the floor and walls in the dining room while I was gone.” Or…

“Did you forget about the lawnmower I left in the garage while I was deployed?”

Stuff like that goes over real well in our house.  

STEP FOUR: RENT OUT THE HOUSE OF YOUR WIFE’S DREAMS TO A FAMILY OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.

You love this neighborhood, huh?  Well this is no time to get all sentimental on me. Paint the walls. Clean the carpets. Replace the carpets. Fix the grout. Stain the deck. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T LET THE KIDS WALK ALL OVER THE DECK I JUST STAINED!!!

Fun like that…

STEP FIVE: MOVE IN WITH YOUR MOTHER IN LAW FOR A FEW WEEKS WHILE YOU ARE HOMELESS AND EVERYTHING YOUR FAMILY OWNS IS ON ITS WAY TO GUAM.

Yep. I’m just gonna leave this one right here without further comment. Moving on…

STEP SIX: HAVE THE NAVY BOOK YOU SUPER CONVENIENT FLIGHT TO GUAM.

Sometimes Always the Navy likes to spend as little as humanely possible, without any consideration for your well-being or the well-being of your family. So a direct flight might make a whole lot more sense and cut out five hours of flight time, but if it’s costs an extra $10 in the system, you’re not getting that direct flight.

Nope, instead you wind up with a downright hellacious itinerary that starts in D.C. and goes to Detroit and then to Tokyo and then some random Japanese Island I’ve never heard of before called “Kansai”…and then to Guam. Leave Tuesday morning, arrive Wednesday at midnight. More on this in a bit…

STEP SEVEN: WATCH TIME SLIP AWAY AS YOUR BEST LAID PLANS TO “SEE EVERYONE BEFORE THE BIG MOVE” FALL APART DISASTROUSLY. 

If you end up with text messages like this, then you’re doing it right:

Friend:  Can you get together tonight? 

Me: Actually, I’m boarding a flight and won’t be available for three years.

STEP EIGHT: FLY TO GUAM.

It’s easy! I mean, it’s not like a 14 hour time difference will impact your children in any way.

But here is the REALLY important part: overlook where everyone is sitting until minutes before boarding. Then realize your seat is nowhere near your family’s. Then make your useless attempt at convincing the very nice Japanese couple that can’t speak a word of English to trade seats with you.

Then, sit alone in silence and pretend not to hear the screams from the back of the plane. 

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Me looking fabulous.  And not hearing the drama in the back…

STEP NINE: LIVE IN A HOTEL ROOM WITH YOUR WIFE, KIDS AND 15 BAGS OF LUGGAGE FOR 10 DAYS.

To soften the blow of a move to Guam the Navy sends you and your family to a hotel. It’s downright cruelty. From here, you will discover there is an “unanticipated shortage” of base housing and that we might be living there for a while. Welcome to paradise.

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Loving this hotel…

STEP TEN: GET YOUR CAR BACK.  

Here’s the process: (1) go to office that has your car and fill out forms, (2) go to the DMV to fill out forms, (3) go back to the office that has your car to…you guessed it…fill out forms. But wait! Brand new policy involving…you guessed it again…more forms. (4) Take the forms to customs, and then (5) bring them back for processing. And if you think your work is done? Start back at one.

Even Brian McNight couldn’t make this romantic…

STEP ELEVEN: GO PRETTY MUCH BANKRUPT.

A box of strawberries? $9. On sale. Dinner for five? $75. Kid’s meals aren’t what they used to be. Breakfast muffins? $5 each. The blows keep coming: Phone plans, sun screen, internet, moving costs, therapy. It all adds up SUPER fast, and your ability to make ends meet is ENTIRELY dependent upon the skill and capability of some Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice with about five months of experience in the Navy. So good luck with all that.

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DONT DROP THAT $9 BOX OF STRAWBERRIES!!!!

STEP TWELVE: BE AT WORK WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN.  

See:  “The kids didn’t pass the swim test? So sorry. Gotta run!”

See also: “The air conditioner isn’t working at our rental? Bummer. Let’s talk about this later!”

Hate it when that happens…

STEP THIRTEEN: BE READY TO BRIBE YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY START ASKING ALL THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.  

Daughter: Daddy why did we have to move to Guam?

Me: Chocolate, or vanilla?

Oh, and for the older crowd…

Spouse:  Didn’t you say we would be making MORE money out here than back at home? 

Me:  White wine, or red?  

And if that fails…

STEP FOURTEEN: MISLEAD (OR, LIE) TO YOUR MILITARY SPOUSE AND TELL HER EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE VERY SOON.

My personal go-tos are “I’m sure a house will open up any day now” and “we’re gonna do some amazing traveling real soon.” If you’re really desperate, you may try offering to acquire a new wardrobe. Or diamonds.  Or plastic surgery. Or something crazy like that. Regardless, you gotta go big here, because the usual flowers or night out on the town just aren’t gonna cut it. And besides, after all this, a night on the town with you is gonna be the last thing she needs.

 

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We’re going to Australia soon?  

STEP FIFTEEN: ENJOY EVERY SECOND.  AFTER ALL, YOU ONLY GET 36 MONTHS OUT HERE…

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DISCLAIMER: In all actuality, we are having a great time, and making lots of new friends. Most of the time. And I’m told by the local Navy divorce attorney that my wife hasn’t made an appointment yet. So that’s always a good sign.

Our Wild and Crazy “Family Vacation” in Paradise

Vacationing with small children is a wild, exhausting, action-packed, drama-filled, Kodak moment-waiting-to-happen adventure suitable for those most brave, fortunate and reckless of parents.  I’ve pretty much said this before.  And in my family, it goes a little something like this:

The madness that was our recent trip to Aruba began right out of the gate.  Literally.  After landing, and then dragging four carry-ons and two diaper bags off the plane, and then weaving my way to the baggage claim, I notice something very odd.  Someone’s toothbrushes, sunscreen, big-boy underwear and other items are making their way around the conveyor belt, and everyone who was on Flight 829 from Baltimore is totally getting a kick out of this.  Whose luggage was it?  I’ll give you one guess…

Next stop: our all-inclusive beachfront resort where they serve endless amounts of French Fries drenched in nacho cheese, super-greasy chicken nuggets, and delicious fruity beach drinks.  This will be my meal of choice for the next nine days.  It’s a menu from Heaven – unless you actually mind undoing seven months of intense exercise in about four days.       

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should mention that in addition to my family (two adults, three kids) our group consisted of an additional five adults and seven kids all packed into four hotel rooms.  It’s a gloriously-chaotic compilation of nieces, nephews, and in-laws.  Ten kids.  Average age of the little ones?  Three and a half.  There were ten of them. 

Our time spent at the resort was an awesomely-tiring circus of fun and craziness.  Here’s how an average day would go down:

3:00am: baby wakes up.

4:30am: baby wakes up again.

5:00am: baby…

Look, anyone who can maintain their baby’s sleep schedule throughout the course of an international vacation really has this parenting thing down.  Furthermore, baby Brody had an ear infection and I’ve found that when you’re traveling, you’re only ever as happy as your least healthy child.   

6:00am:  Jimmy decides he’s ready to be up for good.  

Quickly and quietly, I surrender and take my oldest outside so my still-nursing wife and the other kids can get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep.   See, when our family of five shares one small hotel room, each night brings with it yet another hostage negotiation, and these kids know they have all the bargaining power.  They’re cute little criminals.   

Don't be deceived...

Don’t be deceived…

8:00am-10:00am: kids play in sand nicely while mom and dad enjoy coffee and conversation. 

Umm, just kidding.  The kids are probably arguing over who had the pink bucket first… at least that’s what I gather as I hear a chorus of toddlers screaming “MINE!”   Or perhaps it’s a scuffle over the rightful owner of an incredibly popular Thomas the Tank Engine toy.   The purple sand shovel?  That’s “MINE” too.  If you’ve ever been on a trip with a bunch of kids, chances are you’ve said “you can share” many, many times.  Or my personal favorite: “well, take it back from him.”  Either way it’s gonna end in tears. 

The aftermath...

The aftermath…

All of this leaves me wondering why I’m drinking coffee when I could be drinking bourbon.   I’m kidding, of course.  The bar doesn’t open til 11… 

10:00am-11:00am: get ready for the pool. 

Getting small children ready for the pool truly is God’s work.  If you’ve ever seen how ghostly pale I am, you’ll know that we’re rollin’ to the pool with sun shirts, sun hats, and lots of SPF 75 sun screen.   Spray-on sunscreen is amazing, but the best way to cover a face is the old fashion way, which can get sloppy.  So imagine all this happening while two toddlers scream “MY EYES!!!!” at the top of their lungs.   

Ready to swim?  Almost.  All we need is our flotation devices and ear plugs.  And one last trip to the potty.  Oh, and JUICE! 

I may need a vacation from all this vacation…

11:00am-2:00pm: pool time.

Time spent at the pool is legit family fun time, and involves a lot of playing a pretend “silly” lion, or launching kids up in the air as far as humanly possible, or contests to see who can make the most amazing football reception while leaping into the deep end.  It’s all good stuff.   

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My wife and I keep those kids swimming as long as possible because every two minutes spent in the pool adds another minute to naptime.  It’s science.  And when you’re vacationing with small kids, each hour of naptime is like a stick of pure gold.  You treasure that stuff.   

2:00-3:00pm: shower and prep kids for their naps.

Getting multiple sandy children to willingly take a shower is painful, and once in the shower, getting them out can be twice as difficult.  I find bribing them with Skittles helps move this process along quicker and with fewer tears, but if you have a better method please let me know. 

3:00pm-5:30pm: naptime.  

Now quick!  Grab a drink, take a deep breath, and enjoy every glorious moment of childless conversation.   And remember the cardinal rule of naptime parenting: you wake ‘em, you take ‘em.   

NAPTIME!!!!!

NAPTIME!!!!!

6:00pm-8:00pm: dinner.

If there’s one way to ensure you’ll get terrible service and judgmental looks from strangers, it’s walking into a romantic restaurant at its peak busy hour and asking for a “table for 14 plus 3 high chairs.”  Predictably, once we’re seated it’s nothing but chaos.  Picture broken glass because someone didn’t use two hands.  Picture a toddler in timeout because he was climbing on the table and yelling for no reason. Picture a scene as loud, wild and destructive as a group of college students on Spring Break… only louder.  THAT’S what it’s like dining at a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs. 

CHAOS!!!!

CHAOS!!!!

8:00pm-10:00pm: keep kids occupied until bedtime. 

This usually involved long walks, contests to see who could make one of the babies laugh the hardest, or dance parties – and indeed, some of these kids can really shake it.   At this point I’m down for pretty much whatever it takes to bridge the crucial dinner-to-bedtime gap; however, that does come with a few caveats.  Climbing rocks?  “Just be careful.”  Running around the pool?  “Be careful.” Dancing around a cactus?  “CAREFUL!”

Which brings me to my point: I don’t understand why I tell my children to “be careful.”  It’s as senseless as “it is what it is,” and as unhelpful as when you lose your phone and some genius says “well, it’s gotta be SOMEWHERE.”  Lesson learned: “being careful” means nothing to my children – particularly Jimmy, who actually did fall on a cactus.  I guess that just is what it is… 

Not my fault.  I told him to be careful...

Not my fault. I told him to be careful.

10:00pm: bedtime. 

How do we go about capitalizing on this newfound freedom?  We go to sleep cuz we’re exhausted and this whole process will repeat itself in the morning.   

So yea, that’s what it was like vacationing with a bunch of kids. 

Timed family photo fail...

Timed family photo fail…

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what it’s like getting a flight out of Aruba, apparently this is the process: you stand in line to check in, and then check your bags.  Then you stand in a line to have your passport checked, after which you stand in another line to have passport “verified.”  Then you stand in line to go through security.  Once your shoes and belt are back on, you make your way to “US Departures” where you grab the bags you just checked, and then stand in line again to go through another layer of customs, after which you go through security.  Again.  And then you check your bags.  Again. 

It was every bit as long and painful as a tax audit.  Or a Redskins game.  At one point I actually wondered if this was the island’s way of punishing me for not attending a single timeshare presentation.   Perhaps I’ll never know. 

What I do know is this: in a few years, these trips will be relaxing and rewarding.  But for now, while the kids are this young, I’m simply thankful that it was indeed a very rewarding nine days in paradise. 

Cuz let me tell ya, there’s nothing relaxing about a table for 14 plus 3 high chairs… 

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28 Totally Random Thoughts From Myrtle Beach

I spent the last week in Myrtle Beach, SC swimming with children, bathing myself in sunscreen, and doing some thinking about life down by the boardwalk.  Consider this a print-out of those thoughts:

1. This whole YOLO thing isn’t going way. 

YOLO, or You Only Live Once, is the “WWJD” of this decade, as about half the shirts and hats I saw on the boardwalk bear the acronym.  It also goes on my official List of Things I Never Thought Would Last Longer Than Two Years, which includes energy drinks, Taylor Swift and text messaging.

2. If I ever see my daughter wearing a “Beer Slut” shirt she will be grounded for months, and then forced to wear a turtleneck and corduroy pants for the rest of her life.

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

To clarify: there will be no wearing of shirts that say “Beer Slut.”

3. Cruise by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly kinda makes me wish I had a brand new Chevy with a lift kit…

4. My two year-old son is in love and he doesn’t care who knows it!!!

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Jimmy did not hide his feelings for this girl! Look at him…he’s hooked! Meanwhile, my wife, mother in law and I enjoyed chanting “Jimmy’s got a girlfriend!” and good Lord are we going to enjoy embarrassing him when he actually gets one.

5. We have a twin stroller and a baby stroller.  So naturally our twins fight like savages over who gets to ride in the baby stroller.

Riley wins this battle...but the war is far from over.

Riley wins this battle…but the war is far from over.

6.  My wife doesn’t think hotel maids need to be tipped.  I, however, vehemently disagree and think they deserve to be tipped.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise.  Or better yet, a new job.

Of course, what maids really deserve when they walk into our cracker crumb factory of a hotel room is a heartfelt apology and a pay raise. Or better yet, a new job.

7.  I totally forgot our anniversary. 

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one.  Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day?   Equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

Fortunately my wife did too, so I got a mulligan on this one. Say, will someone out there please give me a heads up about three days before Valentines Day? And equally important: will someone give my wife the same heads up?

8. The pool is no place to call a toddler’s bluff on the subject of going “poop.”  Moving on…

9.  Restaurants that slip a $.50 charge on the bill for each little Dixie cup of ice water served should be shamed publicly.

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants.  If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife!

This place belongs on some kind of sex offender registry for restaurants. If you see this establishment then I suggest you hide your kids and hide your wife! And your husbands too! 

10. Whoever invented spray-on sunscreen deserves a Nobel Prize as far as I’m concerned – a mind-blowingly genius invention on the same level as air conditioning and the bunk bed.

Totally covered.

Fear not: this white boy is totally covered!

11.  Navigating a double stroller through heavy pedestrian traffic on the boardwalk is pretty much the worst thing ever.  It involves a lot of this: “Excuse me.  Sorry.  Excuse me.  Sorry.”  Now repeat…

12.  No, daddy, no!” I hear that quite a bit now, and will probably continue to hear that for at least the next 18 years.  Nooooo!!!!

13.  Getting our toddlers to leave an arcade without crying is simply impossible.

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More! More! Please! Please! No, daddy, no!” Yea, that’s the thanks I get for shelling out every last quarter to my name.

14. Watching Shark Week minutes before heading out to swim in the ocean is kind of terrifying.

Not too deep son!!!!

Not too deep son!!!!

15. The 1200 N Ocean Boulevard at which we arrived after 8 grueling hours of driving is about 45 minutes from the 1200 N Ocean Boulevard we really needed to get to.  Dang you iPhone Navigation!!!!

16. Continental breakfasts are so underrated.  I applaud the hotel industry for making this pretty much standard.  Now let’s start working on Continental lunches, dinners and midnight snacks…

17.  There is an ocean and four amazing pools at this hotel, and naturally our kids want to spend almost all of their time on these 90+ degree days in the 102+ degree hot tub. 

18. Watching hundreds of disgusting catfish eat little pieces of grain is strangely fascinating to me.  Is that weird?

No, it's not weird.  It's actually awesome.

19. There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a delicious fruity beverage in a lazy river, and having rowdy teenagers ruin EVERYTHING by turning it into a racetrack.  #firstworldproblems.

20. When your son wants to ride the giraffe but someone else takes it and all that’s left is a horse, carousel rides are only medium-fun. 

#toddlerproblems

#toddlerproblems

21. At what point during the course of an eight hour drive is it no longer a lie to tell your children that they’re “almost home”?  After two hours?  Three? 

22.  Nothing will make you run through a fast food restaurant faster than seeing your two-year old daughter naked in the play place.  Like, totally, completely, 100% naked.   Not even socks.

23. In high school, I came here for “Beach Week.”  Now, 12 years later, it’s referred to as “a week at the beach,” and trust me there’s a huge difference.

24.  You know you’re a mom when…

An expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it.  Mom with the save!

…an expensive pineapple drink starts leaking and you fix the problem by putting a diaper on it. Mom with the save!

25. This is what 95% of our family pictures look like:

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26. The Ferris Wheel is the only place in Myrtle Beach that offers a military discount.

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Trust me, my wife checked everywhere. Every. Where.  

27.  My daughter sleeps with her bottom pretty much straight up in the air.  Which is amazing.

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What’s even more amazing is that my mother-in-law, Tricia Craddock, slept with these two each night of the trip so my wife and I could get some sleep.  Yes!

28. And lastly, thank you, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, USMC.

A year ago this week, Jeschke was killed while honorably defending our country in Afghanistan.  He was a hardcore special ops Marine serving his fifth active duty deployment.  Five deployments.  He embodied “YOLO” before YOLO became YOLO. 

Or better yet, that’s WWJD.

And more importantly, he sacrificed his life for others, which is exactly “What Jesus Would Do”

May God bless his wife and family, and may our family never forget the sacrifices others have made so that we can spend a week playing in an arcade, drinking in a lazy river, and yes, chasing my naked daughter through a Chick-fil-A.

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