I just returned from the most amazing three-day getaway. No, I wasn’t sipping cocktails at a beach resort in Bali while toasting the love of my life at sunset. Nor was I ziplining through Costa Rica, wind whizzing off my helmet as I shot over a rainforest canopy. Ditto on shopping it up on Rodeo Drive or spinning a roulette wheel in Monte Carlo.

All of those sound amazing, mind you, but they just didn’t fit into my three-day time limit, and they most certainly did not fit into my nine-family-members-on-a-tiny-budget demands.

So we opted for toting chairs and coolers and cranky forty-pound toddlers over a hot, shelly beach on Tybee Island, Georgia. Instead of Bloody Mary’s we nursed bloody shins, and pop knots on foreheads, and giant welts of salt water contact dermatitis.

The weather was as challenging as our toddler’s demands, pummeling us with low-pressure systems and high humidity levels that delivered thunderstorms and kinky-banged selfies, afternoons in crowded hotel rooms, and the untimely death of a freshly-purchased beach canopy.

 

 

Luckily, the wildlife we encountered was more docile than the weather, the toddlers, or my hair. We saw pelicans skimming the ocean surface, dolphins flipping in the surf, and tiny alligators in penned-in ponds. And there were gnats. Lots and lots of gnats.

We stayed at the only beach-access hotel on Tybee, in a couple of spongy rooms with high-powered microwaves and low-functioning refrigerators. There was also a melt-as-you-ride elevator up to our third floor accommodations. Tate was obsessed with this magical box of sweat and steel and asked to ride it at least eighty-nine times in any given sixty seconds. Kid you not. He may grow up to be a world-renowned lift engineer for the planet’s seediest dives.

But back to the hotel appliances… they got quite the work out, thanks to our limited budget and kitchen space. I had meticulously planned our dine-in menu to include pop tarts, variety pack snack chips, bananas, and seedy blackberry jam and peanut butter masterpieces in smooshed-up and travel-twisted Sara Lee sandwich bread. There was even that one night when we got super fancy with a brick of Velveeta, a can of Rotel tomatoes, and some complimentary paper cups — turning highly processed food products into individual queso dips, served alongside Kroger Hint o’ Lime tortilla chips. We were so big time.

Now don’t let me steer you wrong — it wasn’t all bargain-fare bon apetit. We did splurge our final night there on snow crab and boil ‘n peel shrimp at a legendary local joint (where we fed the aforementioned gators from cane poles wielding weird little particle board pellets). While a monsoon raged outside, we dined in style amidst twinkly lights and ceiling-mounted fans, causing our hair to shine and billow like Beyonce (and me to grace random stranger’s plated shellfish with strands of frizzy, highighted DNA).  Now the food was truly delicious (no hair in our dishes, and those corn cobs — Lawsy!), but I must tell you, our hotel room sandwiches came in a very close second. Nothing quite compares to a straight-from-the-beach-and-half-starved fistful of PB&J for customer satisfaction.

 

 

Much to this mama’s dismay, my family lives worlds apart these days, in both distance and dynamics. We reside in three different geographical states along with vast and varied mental states — from big and bodacious to quiet and contemplative, from tightly strung  to perpetually unwound (yeah, that would be me) — but when our worlds collide, beautiful things happen. Love and laughter and renewed life to sustain us all (and especially this mama) until our next go round.

I came away with so many big memories from our little weekend, but some of my favorites include: Bentley and Tate riding the waves for hours like fledgling sea turtles; Boop and Parker waging water gun wars at poolside; Mike and Bradley marching on their futile but fabulous mission to rescue our tortured, cartwheeling beach canopy; and Caitlin’s, Bray’s and my giggles during our impromptu girls’ night, complete with rocking chairs and red wine in clear plastic cups (imminently classier than red solos), the youngest amongst us sipping Sprite through her head gear (upping our classy quotient by about a gazillion).

 

 

Our weather may have been temperamental – right along with our toddlers– but we still had the most glorious time (and one glorious sunset before all the rain, which Caitlin captured beautifully between sea oats and sand). I can’t tell you how good this trip was for my soul.

Now before I go, I want to leave you with some final foodie fodder: Huey’s beignets in Savannah our last morning there. It may have been drizzling rain, but it was also drizzling praline sauce atop powdered clouds of breakfast transcendence.

 

 

So if you’re feeling a bit distant from the people you love the most in the whole wide world and you live in our neck of the woods, take a little three-day vacay to Tybee Island, the tiny little beach with the big heart just outside the sweet southern city of Savannah.

Do it for the family, do it for the fun, do it for the food. Just do it. No matter what. (And do it for Huey’s. No matter what.)

 

 

 

 

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