All Corsa vacations are preceded by a moderate disaster.
One time we had to rush our French Bulldog to the emergency vet for a costly, time-consuming overnight visit that resulted in a diagnosis of “bad gas.”
Another night before leaving on a trip, my husband’s car stopped working.
Stomach bugs, pink eye, even a massive “bomb” dropping onto the hood of my car from the monkey puzzle tree in front of our old bungalow. It never fails.
This time, I take the dogs to get their vaccines so they will be up to date for a week at “camp” and the vet notices my Boston Terrier has a hematoma on his ear that will need to be drained.
Tack on 300 more bucks to what was already a hefty bill and my last day before vacation will be spent rushing him to and from the vet. (not to mention he will be wearing the cone of shame while being humped by strange dogs. Double shame.)
That night I also get ridiculously sick. So sick I call in to work at 3am. Yet, my boss text messages me at 6 in the morning and basically begs me to come in anyway.
I am miserable.
I haven’t washed my hair.
I can’t speak.
I end up leaving early to go to an after-hours clinic for a Z-pack.
While in recovery, I somehow develop a massive swollen gum in the space where my 4th wisdom tooth would’ve been… if I had one there. (but, I don’t) Now, I am kicking off my vacation with wicked jaw pain.
We’re on Cuban time, so my husband and I race around packing and dressing the kids (no small feat) (they have small feet) but then have to sit around wasting time for hours until the rest of the clan is ready to go.
Even then, we must depart in a group.
We’re going in separate cars, but it’s the soldier’s creed. No man left behind.
Anna Maria Island is beautiful and quaint, the vacation house ideal.
There’s a lagoon-like pool with a sometimes operable waterfall and a minimal amount of beach sand collected on the bottom.
We are two blocks from the beach.
This should be a great vacation, except for my aching jaw, endless stream of snot and the sensation I have plummeted instantaneously into the 1950’s.
I end up trapped in a bedroom with two insane children hopped up on VACATION, jumping around the bed we’re all expected to share while my husband is downstairs watching the World Cup.
Maybe it was the fear that this was going to become the anticipated routine.
Maybe it was the burgeoning revelation that the entire trip was secretly orchestrated to coincide with the World Cup in order to torture me.
Maybe it was all I could do to keep myself from racing through the home with a burning bra, but I stormed downstairs and demanded the keys to the car to go for a drive.
The next morning after being pummeled all night long by bony elbows and knees, awoken by the sound of my son grinding his teeth in his sleep and the pain in my whole face… I’m still ready to tackle my pre-women’s suffrage duties and help cook breakfast for the house of 12. (My family, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend, her two kids, his two kids and one teenage friend of her son)
I remember that they cook their scrambled eggs with oil while I opt for butter or butter spray so they’ll probably find mine bland and inedible. I decide to go for the bacon and start to get the pan when my mother-in-law says, “You need to put it in the microwave first.”
I mentally throw my hands up and avoid cooking bacon for the rest of the trip.
The next day at the beach, Mother Nature valiantly came to my rescue.
I am obsessed with sharks. Terrified of them, adore them, secretly hope and dread for encounters with them.
The very first time I am watching my mother-in-law wade in the water with my daughter on her hip, I spot something unusual a couple of yards behind them. It looked like something pointy and dark sticking up out of the water.
Then there were two.
They were moving.
I walked toward abuela Corsa and made a hand motion for her to come toward me.
I could see clearly now there were at least two, possibly three sharks in the water.
I didn’t want to be “that guy” that shouts “SHARK!” and terrifies everyone at the beach. But, then again my mother-in-law is embracing my precious cargo and this scenario is like an unimaginable nightmare.
I remain calm even as my mother-in-law continues to demand to know why I am telling her to come to shore.
Other people see them too, so I have confirmation. These were not dolphins. I know what dolphins are. In fact, we saw some of those later in the day. Completely different swimming behavior.
The same day, we also watched a manatee lumbering along in the shallows.
Late afternoon, the summer storms roll in and I am watching them from our balcony. Billowing, fast-moving, dark clouds. Swirling, hinting at circulation. Palm trees whipping around like witches on broomsticks.
God bless you Mother Nature, you have shaken me from my stress-induced stupor.
The days that followed were filled with moments of joy, stress, hilarity and a healthy dose of awkward.
Perfect example of the latter: One of the said extraneous children along for the trip is about 9 years old.
He’s soft-spoken to the point of being irritating and even more bizarre than I was as a child.
He’s also a bit sneaky.
He and his sister appear to have some kind of arrangement that allows them to cheat and win at card games, hide each others’ crimes and possibly bury bodies in the backyard unnoticed.
At one point, my mother-in-law shouted that she saved me a piece of cheesecake.
Within a matter of seconds, I watched the boy grab the last piece and stick it inside an orange Dixie Cup so nobody would know he did it.
The night before I watched him go for some cheesecake in the freezer and when he saw me watching him, he rushed to open the freezer and put it back but his chicken-like arms were too weak to open the door.
He squeaked out a strange animalistic cry of frustration, like someone squeezed a rabbit REALLY hard.
To add insult to injury, a short while after he purloined MY piece of cheesecake, he shit it back out in the bathroom ATTACHED to our bedroom.
He is a Junior, so they call him “Tito.”
He shall henceforth be known as Cheesecake Tito to me.
Here’s another good one: In the afternoon, my husband was on the beach mercilessly teasing my sister-in-law and mother-in-law because they have decided they believe mermaids exist. Their scientific proof was viewed on a television show.
That night we’re playing Apples to Apples with the whole family with the exception of my sister-in-law’s boyfriend. He’s apparently holding some kind of grudge because he lost a game years ago to me over the definition of “The Big Bang Theory.”
So, while we’re playing we hear the sound of harmonious singing pouring from the open door to his room. It was like the bewitching melodies belted out by sirens, the ones who lure sailors to their deaths. The mermaids!
So, my husband says “He’s in there, unfurling his mermaid tail.”
I don’t know why, but this made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants.
I am a chortler. Maybe the occasional guffaw slips out. I NEVER laugh that hard.
I was crying, I was speaking in tongues, I was HAVING FUN.
Then there was the moment we were waiting for the trolley near a church and the truly Cuban members of the family decided to pose for a picture.
We ended up in Downtown Anna Maria Island, which for the record, does not exist. We were meandering down neighborhood streets looking like lost Okies drenched in sweat.
But, there were magical moments.
I watched my daughter discover the joy of being slammed by waves, overcoming her perpetual fear of the ocean.
I saw my son kick around a soccer ball with the big boys until sweat was dripping off his little melon head.
I saw sharks, I laughed until I cried and I drank more beer than seems humanly possible.
Yes, I was impaled nightly by little kid limbs. I spent much time trapped in bed watching PBS kid shows on the lousy cable while everyone else screamed about the World Cup downstairs.
I got a sun rash and gained five pounds. (my weird tooth issue resolved itself after days of gargling salt water)
But, it’s still the best vacation we’ve had with the kids since they were born. Good enough that my poor son is still grieving.
I am too.
I’ve been begging my husband for weeks now to go back to the beach. His hesitation is solely based on the temperature of the water. He was worried it would be too cold.
I finally convinced him the water was ready for us, so we chose to go… on Memorial Day weekend.
We’ve done a fair amount of stupid stuff, but this nears the top.
In second place might be choosing to start driving toward the beach at around 11 a.m.
It started out perfect. Both kids fell soundly asleep in the back seat. They stayed asleep while I ran into Publix to get subs and snacks.
Then, we arrive at the beach to find every single parking spot taken.
We drive around waiting for something to open up and miss every single opportunity.
We spot meatheads roaming around looking lost, so we follow them only to discover they’re drunk and have located the car which they need to remove a single item from so they can get back to looking beefy on the beach.
I asked one leathery old lady if they were leaving and she snapped, “After we shower! It’s going to be awhile!”
Countless people were loading up 30 bags of sandy crap into their trunks for so long we would move on to scout out another spot only to watch another driver snag their spot.
The kids are awake and I’m trying to appease them with Lunchables. Ignoring the wads of cheese they’re collecting under their fingernails, the cracker crumbs accumulating in all crevices. (the car seats and theirs)
We were literally driving around parking lots for an hour and a half. We were about to give up, but every parent knows you cannot renege on a trip to the beach when it comes to little kids.
So, we tough it out.
My blood pressure is rising.
I am wishing I could trade the Gatorade in for a bottle of Vodka.
We find a spot and it’s like the heavens have opened up and the light of God is shining down on us.
Oh, wait… it’s just the glare of the scorching sun made more intense by bouncing off the
My son’s experience with sand is limited, so he immediately starts whining that we need to pick him up because it’s “dirty.”
My daughter is shuffling down the boardwalk so slowly in her flip-flops, exacerbated beachgoers are grunting in irritation and pushing past.
Like pack mules, we haul our load of beach junk and one solid little dude with sandophobia to a spot where we can set up shop.
Alma is thrilled and immediately starts playing with sand. Huxley is puzzled as to why everyone thinks it’s okay to coat yourself in inedible sugar that’s really just glorified dirt.
Needless to say, I’m already sweating… mostly the perspiration of STRESS.
So, we head to the water. The second Alma’s teeny feet hit the wet sand, she starts shrieking that she doesn’t want to go in the water.
I pick her up and carry her crying into the ocean. It takes a solid 15 minutes before she realizes I am not going to dump her head first under a wave and watch her flounder for fun. (nothing like watching hot, young, childless folk give you dirty looks because you’re forcing your kid into the ocean)
My son had a blast in the water. He would LOVE it if we dumped him head first under a wave for shits and giggles. In fact, even if you don’t, he’s going to spend the next hour TRYING.
We’re in and out of the water for about an hour before the notorious and punctual Florida storm clouds start to roll in. My experience with this is so vast, I can predict the amount of time before the rain reaches the beach.
I say we have about 15 more minutes before we need to head back to the car when the first bolt of lightning strikes.
Alma starts whining and grinding her teeth and I know we have to hightail it.
I am rushing ashore to start the Sisyphean task of loading up our beach gear, while the throngs of scantily clad teenagers continue to shimmy to Rihanna and drink their secret booze.
The crispy, burnt old folks with their rotund bellies popping out over their swim trunks are posted up in lawn chairs like suntanning slugs.
No one is moving but us. We have a child that is about to lose her shit, so we are practically RUNNING.
Even once you get everything and everyone to the parking lot, you’re faced with a logistical nightmare: How do you get your sandy, wet children from their skin-tight soaked swimsuits into the car without ruining the car?
Reluctant to peel off their suits and reveal their nudity to the inevitable perverts lurking around, I end up telling my daughter to stand inside the car behind the driver’s side door so I can attempt to peel off her suit, which is basically enmeshed with her body. Clumps of wet sand fall to the floor of the car and I squeeze her still dripping body into clean clothes.
One kid down.
My husband was in charge of Huck. I am pretty sure some lucky sicko got a glance at his junk, cause getting a kid out of a swimsuit AND a swim diaper is pretty much impossible to do discreetly.
You’d think the kids would be exhausted from our travails, but instead they decide to let out ear-piercing screams in unison for half the ride home. We ended up rolling down the windows to try and drown it out or shut them up.
My husband turns to me and says, “The only reason why we will ever go to the beach again is for the kids, because this was horrible.”
I turn and ask Alma if she had fun. She says she made a star with sand on the beach and that was kind of fun.
So, let’s just buy a bucket of sand and STAY HOME!
(NOTE: Absolutely no pictures were taken of this lovely day for obvious reasons)
It was a huge weekend, anticipated for weeks.
Nana was coming to visit.
I asked Alma repeatedly what she wanted to do with Nana when she came to stay with us for a couple of days. She said “she’ll give me bunny ears.”
The chick has a memory like an elephant. (What exactly is it that elephants remember? That their life is boring? That bathing is still unnecessary although you smell that foul?)
She actually remembers that Nana gave her and Huck bunny ears around this time last year for Easter. She was 2 then.
A Nana visit means great anticipation.
Not for Alma. She has to be reminded about how many days are left. She still thinks anytime after today is “tomorrow.”
Huck has no concept of time, particularly when it comes to when it is appropriate to wake up screaming and demanding milk.
A Nana visit means I am counting down the days until I have a spare moment alone with my husband.
I count down the days until I can have a conversation with my mother that’s not over the phone and interrupted by her News Director looming over her at the top of the 5 o’clock newscast. (she also works in this Godforsaken business)
So, when I get the text message from my mother saying her flight has been delayed by an hour I immediately feel a lump swell up in my throat like a rock.
Then I get all weirdly hypochondriacal and convince myself the cramp in my calf is a blood clot and I am about to die without seeing my mom one last time and my children will grow up motherless and turn into drug addicts.
She still arrived in time to see the kids before they went to bed.
We still got to go to dinner.
It was probably just a leg cramp.
We had a wonderful visit with one exception. It’s those damn expectations that destroy everything.
We made plans to go to the beach on Sunday, just my mom and me and the kidlets. (My husband can feign feeling left out, but we all know he gets the best part of that deal)
We started by swinging by McDonald’s to get the kids something quick to eat. My mom totally freaked out while I was driving because Alma’s egg white was sliding out of her sandwich. Like… full on crisis mode.
Huck’s oatmeal was too hot and had chunks of fruit that could pose a choking hazard.
So, we ended up sitting in the Target parking lot waiting for an eternity for the kids to finish their food.
I think my mother underestimated just how long it takes my daughter to consume even a small portion of food. Even without television to distract her, each individual bite comes with a 3-4 minutes pause in between. It’s like she has to digest each morsel before moving on to the next.
So, we eventually make it inside the Target where I spend the college funds we were never going to start buying a bunch of crap for the beach.
Got a cooler, umbrella, weird screw shaped thingie to get the umbrella into the ground, sunscreen (which is ridiculously expensive… and is probably just lotion with ZERO SPF… and we’re all gonna die of cancer anyway) and fruit, cheese and juice.
Oh, and Minnie Mouse flip flops because Alma refused to leave the house without wearing her pink cowgirl boots.
We find parking at the beach despite it being Spring Break. I wait in line at the parking pay station for some dipshit with a million quarters to pay. Seriously, are you really going to stay at the beach until TOMORROW?
That dipshit is followed by another dipshit who doesn’t understand which buttons to push.
That dipshit is followed by another dipshit who doesn’t remember what their parking space number was. So, they just keep trying endless combinations like they’re trying to crack a safe filled with cash.
Finally, we pay and start to load up our gear. We managed to find a way to carry all of our crap, without realizing that we also have to schlep two small human beings across a busy parking lot.
Like two pack mules with midgets, we wobble across the boardwalk to the beach.
On the other side, we’re immediately slammed in the face by gale force winds, pelted by sheets of sand. The kids burst into tears simultaneously, cowering and grabbing at the beach chairs I’m holding. The strap is digging into my shoulder like a scythe.
Alma is screaming that her flip flops are digging into her feet.
But, we keep moving. There has been much to do about this beach day. The last cancellation of a beach day led to a wild tantrum by my daughter that could’ve gotten her Baker Acted.
We end up trying to set up shop behind a sand dune, but we were being sandblasted. The kids were terrified. It was Lawrence of Arabia dermabrasion for babies.
So, we find a way to gather up our enormous haul and drag the screaming kids back to the car.
Poor things had sand in their eyes.
My mother and I were chewing grit for the rest of the day.
The inside of my purse could fill an hourglass and then some.
We ended up trying to salvage the day by heading to a park. I had to sit and watch our stuff because Lord knows that even in St. Pete some crackhead will steal your purse. My mother was watching the kids on the playground and had the revelation that it’s impossible to keep them both safe.
Alma is ideal for snatching and Huxley is hell-bent on playground suicide.
The wind was just as strong. Check out my kids speeding down a raceway. Or just sitting in a stationary car.
My mom had the genius idea of filling their buckets with ice from the cooler so they could play with it like sand. Note to self and to any Florida moms. Ice is cheap or free and won’t get stuck in anyone’s crevices.
This is the kind of afternoon that leads to what we refer to as the “cruise ship effect.” There is much consumption of alcohol followed by big evening plans that turn into an unusually early bedtime.
It’s like, “Let’s hit the midnight buffet! Yeah!” Then, you wake up drooling at 2:30am.
I actually caught my mom snoring during “The Road.” And she loves Viggo Yellow Rice Mortensen.
I had a great time, but it was no day at the beach.