Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is always so exciting, whether it’s spent at the beach, the pool, or in the backyard.  My summer certainly started off with a bang, though not the kind I would hope for.  The fire threw a wrench in many of our summer plans.  I swore we’d go to the beach at least 3 times, seeing as how we live a mere 35 minutes away.  Didn’t happen.  I said we’d go to the Jacksonville zoo, the park, the water park–all promises unfulfilled.  I simply didn’t have the time or energy to take them.  Now school starts in exactly one week and all I can do is feel guilty about what we didn’t do.  Oh well, such is motherhoood. 

Despite all the craziness of Summer 2011, I was determined that my trip home would not be cancelled.  I needed that trip more than ever after all the drama. So I packed up ALL my clothes which, depressingly, fit into 1/2 of a medium-sized suitcase, the kids’ clothes, some toiletries, snacks, video games and chargers for home and the car, books, diapers and wipes, crayons, a cooler full of drinks, my hotel reservation confirmation, etc. and we took our trip

I learned a lot on the road and at home.  Some things, I can’t put into words.  Not yet, anyway.  As for the ones I can express, here are the top ten. 

Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

1.  If you’re leaving on an extended vacation, a major repair will be required on the car or the house the day you’re supposed to leave.

http://www.photl.com/en/copyright.htmlIn my case, it was both.  I had to get new tires for the car.  While this isn’t a major repair (new engine, transmission, etc.) it was still not cheap.  Gone are the days when a tire cost a mere $50.  Three tires=$600+  Ouch. 

The problem with the house was the plumbing.  The night before we were left, I was doing laundry and found the hallway flooded.  The washwater was backing up into the toilets and the bathtub.  I had to call RotoRooter to fix it.  They quickly cleared the pipes of tree roots and then rotorootered me as well with the $300 bill.  Double ouch.

2.  Not all music is driving music.

One of the most exciting parts of this trip for me was being able to pick all the music.  I spent a couple of hours making what I thought was the perfect playlist.   I started up the music before I pulled out of the driveway and I was cruising along fine.  Until about an hour down the road and Death Cab For Cutie’s album began to play.  Now, I like Death Cab for Cutie, but it is NOT driving music.  Ben Gibbard’s voice along with miles upon miles of tree-lined roads and yellow lines is a prescription for sleep that rivals Ambien.  I luckily had some other stuff that was perfect driving music, regardless of what my kids had to say about it:  The All-American Rejects (yeah, I actually like that), Adele, The Black Keys, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. 

3.  Cruise Control and the Nintendo DS are two of the best inventions ever.

Speaking as a woman with chronic back pain, a tendency for foot and leg cramps, and an extremely low tolerance for whining and fighting kids, I can honestly say these two things are right up there with central air conditioning and indoor plumbing.  That being said, fie on those stupid drivers who don’t understand what “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT” means.  They totally screwed up my cruise control experience.

4.  Never say anything in front of a two-year-old that you don’t want repeated.

You can read about that here.

5.  Your family is weird, whether you realize it or not.

I never exactly thought we were normal (see here, and here), but I didn’t realize just how different we were until I saw it in stark relief against the families of my brother and my cousins or in the now childless house of my parents.

6. Everybody loves the zoo.

It was approximately 200°F the day we went to the zoo but the only one who complained was my 12-year-old.  He complains that water is too wet, so I don’t pay any attention to him anyway.

Who wouldn't love this guy?

Pole dancing orangutans make me smile.

7. The line between mature woman and high school girl is very small indeed.

One of the highlights of my trip was girls’ night with some friends from high school.  We talked about motherhood, kids, jobs, and our lives in general.  We also talked about people from high school.  Specifically, we talked about people from high school as if we were still in high school.  It wasn’t the mature thing to do, but we also talked about how dumb we were in high school, too.  That totally makes it okay.

I haven’t had a night out with these girls for a looong time and it was a wonderful reunion. While we were sitting in the restaurant laughing and talking too loud, I felt several different things at once. I felt old, young, smart, stupid, sophisticated, childish, bold, self-conscious, happy, sad, and important.  It was good for my soul.  The margaritas didn’t hurt, either.

8.  Madonna may not be an affected poser after all.

Image via Wikipedia

Living somewhere for an extended period of time almost guarantees a change in speech patterns.  Like Madonna, I have acquired an accent.  Unfortunately it isn’t an English one, it’s a southern one.  I’m sure some of you are under the impression that Kentucky is a southern state (it is if you’re from anywhere in Kentucky except for Louisville, it isn’t if you’re from any other southern state–strictly Border State.)  If you are under that impression, you may also be under the impression that all Southern accents are the same.  They aren’t.  Anyway, I was informed that I have acquired an odd way of saying “want.”  I now say “wont.”  At first, this disturbed me.  I’ve prided myself on my minimal accent all my life.  For example, I’ve never said the word “warsh” for “wash” as many Kentuckians are wont to do.  (I did mean “wont’ and not “want” there, in case you were wondering.)  Then I took the proper attitude about it and decided I didn’t care.  Besides, everybody’s got an accent.  Furthermore, a ridiculously cartoonish southern accent has done wonders for people like Paula Deen.  A few more years down here and I might be able acquire enough of the local dialect and milk it to sell cakes or publish a book.  The world really needs more eccentric southern writers, don’t you think?

9.  I have an unhealthy relationship with food.

White Castle, Mark’s Feed Store, Christy’s, Rally’s, Steak and Shake, and Valley Dairy Freeze.  I patronized all these places while I was in Kentucky.  Some of them twice.  I also drank Big Red.  I relished every morsel and drop.  I even brought it home with me (in the form of 50 lbs. that went straight to my giant gut.  At least it had plenty of company with the other 300 lbs. I acquired in Georgia.)

10.  I prefer hills and dirt to marshes and sand.

Living on the coast has its perks–beaches, warm winters, and coastal skies.  However, driving through the hills made me forget all that.  Up, down, and around we went–the kids squealing with every dip and curve.  Me, reveling in the terrain and the greenness of it all.  I took pictures of tree-lined, deeply sloping driveways.  Of hills covered in green, regretting I’d miss the reds, oranges, and yellows of Fall.  I took my shoes off to walk on my grandma’s lawn of soft grass, not a sand spur or fire ant bed in sight.  I did a lot of porch sitting, enjoying the sounds of the bobwhite, which is my favorite bird.  My favorite because it’s the only bird I recognize by its call and because my grandma used to whistle to them when we sat in her sideyard when I was little.  The bobwhite call. 

Of course there are trees, grass, and bobwhites in Georgia.  But it’s not the same.  Like Dorothy Gale from Kansas so wisely stated, “There’s no place like home.”


The Kentucky Hills in Late Summer


28 thoughts on “Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

  1. Pingback: Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation (via momfog) | Ado Feck

  2. What a fantastic post. And what an excellent trip. You speak many truths here. I have put thousands of miles down and know that there are certain times of day where nothing even remotely mellow can be driving music. I hope you had french fries and an orange freeze at Steak & Shake. Oh, and I’m getting an accent too. Sadly, it’s a New Jersey accent. It will never be enough to be fully accepted here, which is fine by me, but an accent nonetheless.

  3. PS: You can take a pass on the guilt. Your frickin’ house burned down, and you are amazing for all that you have done in the interim to make sure that the kids can actually start school in a week. Absolutely God provided, but as my friend says, “you can tell God you’re hungry, but he’s not gonna shove a hotdog through the keyhole of your locked door.” It’s up to us to see his signs and do the footwork indicated. You have done well, my friend.

  4. Himself and I visited Louisville Kentucky (before the kids were born) and stayed with a friend who’d helped me get the silk ribbon for my wedding dress embroidery. We had many “educations” and confusions with accents and pronunciations of words. They said words like “par” (pie) and “tar” (as in car tyres) and had us looking very blank during great parts of the conversation at first.
    I also learned that “Louis-ville” is pronounced as “Lul-vil” by the locals, also something I don’t “get” at first.

    One funny moment: we went into a shop and the lady asked me question after question,(random stuff) Eventually I had to ask why so many questions and she confessed that she liked my accent so much that she just delighted in hearing me reply. I thought that was totally funny as I don’t consider the way I speak to be anything special.

    Glad to hear that you survived the road journey and that you had such a fabulous time at “home” too, yes there IS something special about the place you grew up .. no matter how far you go away there are invisible threads that tie you very much to those places, and all those strings are firmly anchoured in your heart.

    Cool post! btw guilt for not going to the beach? you live close enough, it will still be there some weekend in the future LOL Sounds like the kids had buckets of fun despite the missed treats, so in fact they missed nothing right?

    • Oh, I cannot believe you know how to properly pronounce Louisville! That is fantastic and so unexpected. I wanted to say something about that but didn’t want to go into the whole thing. I must say I have never heard pie pronounced like “par.” Maybe a “par” of shoes, but not a piece of apple “par.” “Tar” for “tire” I’ve heard.

      My kids are certainly not hurting for fun things to do. Even if it hasn’t been what they were expecting. That should make it better, right?

      • Knowing/learning how to correctly pronounce “Lul-vil” is true proof that travel is ALWAYS educational if you spend time with or stay with a local 🙂
        Ok, I know the sound our friends made for “par” but getting it into written form maybe didn’t do it justice… it rhymes with the “tar” for tyre thing though.
        Kids actually need very few toys to entertain them… generations of us spent entire summers outdoors playing by rivers, forests, fields or just a single tree, and used their imaginations far more as a few blankets, a tent, a picnic lunch all make these places, places visited on journeys, castles, pirates caves or whatever was in fashion in the kids imaginary world that day.
        It’s been my experience so far that giving kids space to run off excess energy and express their imaginations, usually guarantees far more happiness, satisfaction and health than being parked in front of computer games etc.
        Only had to threaten to pull over twice? wow… bottle whatever you did and sell it… I for one, would buy in bulk.

  5. Have you heard the one about how do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans!

    This will be the summer your family remembers forever, and ok, the house burned down which any one could easily do without, but I am so in awe of how you moved on, packed that car up and took those five children off on that adventure, from one home to another. Love that little Miss Potty-Mouth, she is so adorable!

    • It definitely has been a summer to remember. And the kids were actually pretty good during the trip. I think I only had to threaten to pull over twice. 🙂 Miss Potty-Mouth is definitely adorable.

  6. Oh have to add: I may know how to pronounce “Lul-vil” but “White Castle, Mark’s Feed Store, Christy’s, Rally’s, Steak and Shake, and Valley Dairy Freeze.” are still a mystery to me, apparently my education wasn’t all inclusive LOL.

    • Our whole vacation seemed to revolve around what, where, and when we would eat. It was a great time, but I’m sure paying for it now. Time to cut back and watch what we eat!

  7. Hello! so nice to read your blog… I found you through the Crazy Chicks Club! WOW! You just brought me back…I live on the West Coast now, but grew up on the East Coast. I miss White Castle, and Big Red…oh, Big Red… it has been far too long! Thanks for a fun trip down memory lane. ~Pam

  8. haha as I read your intro paragraph regarding the unfulfilled promises, I immediately began to think of all of our summers and the many unfulfilled promises. I love summer, I truly do but I often bite off more than I can chew and end up doing nada, nothing, zip, zero, zilch! My kids have grown to expect this and give the ‘ol eye roll with each trip plan I verbally proclaim we will accomplish.

    Being land locked and surrounded by hills, I long for a coastal place to live….all of my kiddos are beach babies (most likely because it is such a treat to us). You can have our hills and I’ll take your coast!!

    All of my kids have repeated things that we would prefer be forgotten (and most of the embarrassment didn’t even come from us but rather stuff they heard). The worst is our youngest, who at the ripe age of 6yrs, has learned many things from his older siblings, their friends and strangers in public.

    I have learned to perfect the smile/shrug maneuver effortlessly and am convinced I do it in my sleep!

    Great site.

    • Thanks! My baby girl also has 4 older siblings to learn from. Her favorite thing to say right now is “idiot.” Ah, me. At least she’s not repeating anything else from her potty-mouthed mother. Glad you stopped by.

  9. Ive got tough bare feet, but the first time (and only time) I tried to go barefoot in a southern state, I was shocked. I never knew just how bad sand spurs and fire ants were till that day. Its EVERYWHERE. But I had a dog who loved to eat fire ants. He munched the mounds like it was a buffet.

  10. Love your post – I was on my own “vacation” when you posted this – I posted a similar theme – No S’more Left Behind – Lessons from my summer vacation. My biggest guilty pleasure was cherry limeades – I love both Steak and Shake and Taco Bell versions. Never, ever, eat there unless traveling. Your family sounds great and the trip delightful…

    • Cherry limeades do sound good! We try not to eat out too much either. After this vacation, we enacted a total boycott on fast food and hamburger in general.

      Love your title, by the way.

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