Destination: Gulf Shores, Alabama
Date: July 2008
Being a California native, I love going to the beach! However going to the beach in Alabama is a whole different experience. Sure there is water, sand, and enough waves to keep the kids entertained, but everything is packaged with a southern twist. I have to say the first time it really came to my attention that things were different was when we pulled up to the local surf shop. Going to the surf shops is one of my favorite beach time activities. Hearing a southern twang accompany my purchase was an eye opener! My kids could hardly contain their giggles as the girl checking us out at the counter in all honesty said, “Ya’ll come back now ya hear!” And my kids have been born and raised in Texas and they’ve seldom heard that famous line even down here in the Lone Star State.
Our trip to Gulf Shores was inspired by my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary! That brought all my husbands family in from all over to celebrate this momentous occasion. They had rented a large home right on the waterfront and all thirty-six of us family members packed ourselves in for a week of food and fun with family.
Of course the best part of family reunions is spending time with cousins. My kids had a blast. At the time the grandkid count was in the low twenties and that made for lots of fun for all ages. The year we had our twins, Leah and Lexi, four of Trent’s siblings had babies within a four month period. So Lexi and Leah have cousins “K”, “M”, “T”, and “C” to play with at every reunion. We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves. Actually each of my children have a cousin exactly their age to play with or I should say “hang” with. It is great.
However having so many people in one house can be difficult at times. We usually split it up so that every family has a bedroom. Then all of the small children have to sleep in the bedroom with moms and dads. Most of the teenagers split up into the living rooms which is a little tricky when parents want to stay up late and talk, but we seem to always work it out. Some kids have even been known to go out and sleep on the sand.
Besides sleeping arrangements the next big factor to tackle is the food. In our family my mother-in-law is a great cook! We all look forward to her breakfasts. My kids can’t wait to wake up to Grandma’s chocolate chip pancakes or cream egg on toast. Usually for lunch we leave it to the individual families to provide. This usually works out well since sometimes we go out to eat, have left overs, or just make sandwiches. Dinner is when we split it all up. Every family is assigned one night to make dinner for the entire tribe. Since there are six kids in Trent’s family that usually means we each make dinner just one night during the week. This is one of my favorite parts of the reunion. I love to see what my sister-in-laws make and I get to enjoy their cooking!
Other fun traditions we have are family t-shirts, embroidered towels, late night card games and even a family olympics. During this trip we even had a biggest splash contest! The kids love being together and the best part is that the beach usually keeps all of the kids busy.
One fun activity we did while we were there was go on a dolphin cruise with all the kids. We chose Dolphin Queen Cruises to take us out to find some dolphins. The captain told us some great stories of the area and the sunset cruise was perfect with the kids. Of course we not only spotted our dolphins but we got a little show as these magnificent creatures jumped in unison next to our boat.
My only problem I had with Gulf Shores was the incredible amount of jelly fish in the water. I’m not sure if it had to do with that particular year we were there, or the time of year, but the water was full of jellyfish. At first the kids complained and we just brushed off their complaints but once I got in myself to do a little body surfing with my kids I was stung so badly through my bathing suit that I was in a considerable amount of pain. This was not your average jelly fish!
In the end the long walks on the beach, the sand castles galore, and just sitting beach side with my husbands brothers and sisters and their spouses is always one of my favorite activities. Our conversations are filled with “remember when’s?” or “what if’s?” and through it all we can’t stop laughing.
Safe & Happy Travels!!