Summer Vacation 2009

When summer rolls around it’s time for family vacations. My wife, K, and I have written about our ordeal…I mean vacation. K’s accounts are in regular type and mine are italicized.

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A vacation at the beach. It sounded like the perfect antidote to a stressful spring. I spent hours – first badgering Mocha Dad about where and when we were going and searching Vacation Rentals by Owner for the perfect beach house.

The house had to meet some criteria that I call the 4 Cs: close to home (Mocha Dad didn’t want to drive very far), clean, comfortable and close to the beach. After several days of intense searching, I found an affordable, second row beach house in Surfside, TX.

A week after school ended, we loaded the family in the minivan and officially began our summer vacation.


Day 1

The drive to Surfside was less than two hours long so we didn’t have to contend with the kids’ constantly asking “Are we there yet?” As I drove, I could feel the tension start to melt away. I was excited about getting a few days of rest and relaxation, but my excitement started to wane a bit as we drove closer to our destination. Driving into Surfside, you get a lovely view of chemical plants that line the highway. I work in the hydrocarbon industry so the existence of plants doesn’t bother me; however, chemical plants near a beach town seemed a bit incongruous. Looking at K’s face, I could tell she felt the same way.

When we arrived at the beach house, we were greeted by a swarmed of mosquitoes. This unpleasant surprise was my second indication that this wasn’t going to be the idyllic retreat I had envisioned. By the time we climbed the stairs to the door, we were smacking ourselves and each other to kill the bugs devouring us. Things didn’t get much better inside where there were more bugs to greet/eat us. I think I killed 12 in our son, N’s room alone.

Once I covered everyone from head to toe in bug repellent (the owner had advised that we bring it, but he didn’t say we’d be eaten alive if we didn’t!), we decided to explore. Our next unfortunate discovery was that our 1-year old son, X, now hates the beach. While the sand was tolerable for digging, putting his feet in it was a whole different matter. He seems to have a problem with textures.

And the water? Forget about it. He wasn’t going anywhere near it, and he didn’t want me to either. “No, no, no,” X screamed as I attempted to place him in the cool gulf water. Meanwhile, Mocha Dad, Nee, and N were having a blast running up and down the beach, wading into the water (still wearing street clothes) and searching for shells. My attempts to join them were met with blood curdling screeches from X.

Although X was a beach hater, the older kids loved the beach. Despite the blight that surrounds the town, Surfside has nice beaches. The sand is pillowy soft and the water is clear with a bluish tint. As we waded through the water, I noticed a few crabs. Nee didn’t want to look at them because she was afraid they would pinch her toes. After N spied the crabs, he asked if we could catch them and have them and make Crabby Patties.

We spent about 45 minutes hanging out on the beach before getting cleaned up for dinner. After we ate at a Texas institution, Luby’s, we returned to the beach to experience “night beach.” The kids we excited to be playing on the beach at a time when they would usually be sleeping. Some of the neighbors were having a bonfire which fascinated N. I received several “What would happen if…” questions relating to fire on the beach.

Back at the beach house, I grabbed the hose to wash off the sand from our bodies. I noticed the pungent odor of dead fish as we washed. I quickly realized that the odor was coming from the water.

Since everyone was still covered in sand, Mocha Dad started running bathwater for X and N.

“K,” Mocha Dad called from the downstairs bathroom. “I think this is showering water, not bathing water.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I responded.

“It’s brown,” he said with disgust.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. It’s brown.” Sure enough it was. And so X’s next screaming fit began as Mocha Dad tried to give him his first shower.

I had purposefully selected a three bedroom house so the older kids could share a room and allow X to have the other. Unfortunately, the house’s extreme utilitarian design meant that there was no room for X’s playpen in either of the tiny upstairs bedrooms. We settled on placing X in the upstairs bathroom, but quickly regretted our decision. [When K placed X in the playpen, he looked around at the bathroom fixtures and gave her a “You gotta be kidding me” look.] He cried for an hour and a half. When we couldn’t take it anymore, we moved him into the master bedroom while Mocha Dad and I each stretched out on a futon in the living room.

Around 3 a.m., I was awakened by some strange lights flashing in the living room. Hoping this was not a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, I looked out the window to see what was going on. I spotted two police cars parked on the street in front of our beach house. One of the officers was standing in the middle of the street with a K-9. My protector instinct kicked in and I started thinking about packing it up and going home. I watched the scene for the next hour to make sure that there was no imminent danger. All of the commotion seemed to stem from the red house across the street. When we drove into the neighborhood, I noticed the red house was filled with college-aged men and women. I figured they might be instrumental in ruining my family vacation. More about them later.

Day 2

I like to think I’m one of those people who if the world gives them lemons, they make lemonade. But when Nee, N and X woke me up before 6:30 a.m. the next morning and my back was aching from the futon’s pancake thin mattress, I was ready to pull the plug on this family vacation.

However, we had already paid, so we weathered through. Things did improve. Nee and N got to have great quality time with their dad: they rode the waves in his arms [Nee told me that she was glad that I was in the water with them because Mommy wouldn’t allow them to go out so far], played tag on the beach, and built sandcastles.

As we strolled along the beach, Nee stepped into each of my footprints, “Daddy, I’m walking in your footsteps,” she said. This was one of those surreal moments when the impact of being a father hits you like a sack of bricks.

Later that night, after we got the kids to bed, K and I were relaxing in the living room when we saw more flashing lights outside. We peeked through the curtains and noticed two police officers running to the back of the red house. The inhabitants had decided to have another bonfire. Unfortunately, the fire grew out of control and was moving closer to the house. A crew of firefighters soon showed up on the scene and got the fire under control.

After the commotion settled down, K and I relaxed with a glass of wine and movie (BTW – Spiderman 3 is not worth watching at all).

Although X remained in the Master Bedroom, K and I were determined to sleep in a bed. We tip-toed into the room and quietly slid into the bed. Although X woke up early again the next morning, K and I managed to have a restful night of sleep.

Day 3

I got to hang out in the water some with the older kiddos because Mocha Dad kept the surly toddler occupied. We had fun together splashing in the water and playing in the sand. Later in the day, we returned to the beach house to cool off and enjoy Freeze Pops. I loved the view of the Gulf from our deck. God’s creation truly is remarkable.

As the day ended, I took the kids to the beach one last time. The beach had cleared out and the kids and I had free reign. N was thrilled to be able to run barefoot through the sand and Nee worked on a new sandcastle. We still had to be careful of the cars that would drive by periodically (Texas, please ban all motor vehicles on beaches). I sat on the beach listening to the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shore while watching God create a gorgeous sunset.

Red House Update: No police today!

Day 4

When we loaded the car for home after three nights at the beach, I was happy for the time we spent together. Unfortunately, my happiness subsided when we picked up our dog, Ginger, from the kennel and she was covered in ticks. A yard treatment, house treatment and dog treatment later and I’m still pulling ticks out of my carpet.

And as a final gift from our beach vacation, Mocha Dad got the first sunburn of his life. His back, head and nose are all peeling! We were so busy slathering on bug spray that he neglected the sunscreen (I now have a greater appreciation for my fair-skinned friends).

All in all, our vacation was not as bad as the Griswold’s but not as good as last year’s vacation to Florida (I didn’t write a post about it, but trust me when I tell you we had a great time).

Stay Strong

Mocha Dad & K

Question: Do you have any interesting family vacation stories?

About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at