destin, florida, pontoon, spring break, family, beach, waffle house
Family, Humor, Travel

Smothered, Covered, Chopped-Florida Spring Break Part Two



I mentioned in part one the traffic hell we experienced on the road to Destin.

Just after the Alabama rooster incident, Ella got car sick and had “sick” all over her clothes.

Thank God she had layers on (us Midwesterners, always ready), so we literally stripped her down in an abandoned parking lot,  threw out her blanket and made an executive decision: she is riding in the front seat.

I got in the driver’s seat, and my two teens in the backseat were furiously googling “age allowed to sit in the front seat” from the back seat.

It turns out that it was legal in Alabama, I know you were concerned.

Six hours later, we were finally there!



This was the first time our third daughter Simone had seen the ocean (or a palm tree for that matter), so it was exciting.

We’ve called Simone our third daughter for longer than I can remember. She lives across the street and has been friends with Anna since Anna was in kindergarten and Simone in preschool. Summers were spent almost exclusively in our home, she has gone on numerous trips with us, and she just feels like our child in a non-creepy way. She is a huge part of our family and fits in perfectly.



Our first stop after getting our feet sandy at the beach was The Back Porch. We went last year and the kids loved it so much that we did it again this year.

Really the only reason we go there is that you are essentially sitting on the beach eating dinner. The food is pretty good but the atmosphere is better. We can’t afford to eat dinner out every night, so we usually eat out the first and last night and cook in the condo the rest of the time.



After ordering, the girls ran back to the beach and played in the sand for a bit then after dinner as well. This kind of lifestyle is so appealing and makes us all wonder why in the hell we live where we do.



The first morning in Destin, Mike and I were wide awake at 5:45 for some reason. So I immediately googled the hours for our favorite donut shop there. They open at 6 and I had heard there was a line to get fresh donuts, so we decided to let the girls sleep and pop over to pick up donuts for them when they woke up.

And for us too so you don’t think we are that selfless.

Some people get up early to work out, some people get up early to wait in line for fresh donuts. I feel like you’re either one or the other.



The Donut Hole has really good donuts with their specialties being Key Lime and Red Velvet. They were pretty good but the regular chocolate iced donuts were better. But they do have the best Key Lime pie in Destin so if you’re heading there, get that for sure.





Florida has everything.


Except for heated pools.

We still swam in them because we have ice in our veins.

Literally not figuratively.



A positive of driving with the swarms of others is that you can bring lots more things from home.

Like Aldi wine, cups for Aldi wine, and my newest favorite thing: The Wand Wine Filter.

Supposedly it filters out the bad shit from your wine that makes you headachy.

In full disclosure, I didn’t get a wine headache!

But I also noticed I wasn’t feeling my normal buzz as fast.

So I decided that I needed to feel buzzy more than I needed not to have a headache.



Note to self: never stay in a place that is within walking distance from Waffle House. Every time I passed by this window, I would see my little waffle friend just looming, baiting me in.

We don’t have Waffle Houses close to our home and for good reason. I’d be on My 600 Lb. Life if I did.

Because of this:



Smothered, covered, and chopped.

The name of my someday-to-be-written autobiography.

Then I thought it sounded more like a horror story.

Maybe Bacon Infused Waffles is a better title.



Destin at night is almost prettier than Destin during the day.



One of my ride or die chicks is one of the coolest people on Earth if only for the strength she possesses. Ella felt like crap for the beginning of this trip and probably the majority of the trip if I’m being honest. We ended up taking her to a minute clinic on day three (it was the pollen down there aggravating whatever little virus she had), and after being on an inhaler and stronger cough syrup, finally felt better.

On the day we were leaving. 

But she powered through, laughing through the coughing, enjoying fully every single moment.

That picture up there was taken on morning two when she felt like garbage.

She said that she wanted to walk the beach in the morning with me.

I will love this picture for the rest of my days.

My badass daughter.



Morning coffee was always on the balcony listening to the beautiful bird songs. By the way. they sing all night long down there.


 And even on “cold” mornings.


What? It was “cold”.



Our girls are strong as nails, not afraid to get their hands dirty, and definitely not content to just sit around and watch.



We try to pick one big adventure while on vacation, something we can’t always do at home. Last year it was parasailing. This year it was renting a pontoon boat and going to an island to find hermit crabs, anchor the boat, eat a picnic lunch, and go swimming in the frigid water among the sea creatures.


So much better than last year’s jet skiing from hell adventure.


Last year on our final night in Destin, we wanted to go to Lulu’s, a restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister. It got great reviews for having amazing food, a beach the kids can play on while you eat, blah blah blah. Last year it was raining, so we passed and went to Hooters. The girls had never been before last year and we thought the last dinner was going to be just eh.

They loved it.

We even took them to a Hooters at home because they loved the wings so much.

So when we tried to go to Lulu’s this year, we were met with a 2.5-hour wait.

I love food, I don’t love food that much.

When I suggested we do our traditional last night Hooters dinner, you’d thought I suggested we go to Disney World.


Although Ella did say, “why are the women dressed so inappropriately and the men aren’t?”

You just summed up the Me Too movement in one question, my dear child.

Also, we were floored she used the word “inappropriately” in a sentence.

Also, Simone had never been to a Hooters either, so another first!

Good grammar. palm trees, ocean, and Hooters. Good times.



On the road trip home, we decided to make it a little more fun and had a pit stop two hours away in Fairhope/Daphne Alabama.

It’s about 40 minutes north of Gulf Shores and it was spectacular.

That road above was like out of a movie.

Okay Alabama, I forgive you for the ride down.



A little further up 65 was Priester’s Pecans, a place my mom told us we needed to stop. The girls at this point were tired, and we still had a solid four plus hours left until we got to our hotel in Nashville, so Mike and I ran in for a bit.

Absolutely adorable and wish we’d had more time to nose around but this porch was worth the stop. There was a gentle rain, it was in the high seventies, and the southern birds were chirping so sweetly.




Oh, look! More traffic! Time to get a snack!




I took this picture from the front seat after six-plus hours of driving. Ella was braiding Anna’s hair to beat the boredom because even this generation gets tired of devices after a certain amount of time. I texted the picture to my mom and she immediately texted back that she couldn’t believe how much Anna looked like her “Great” (read about her here).



We had big plans for our morning in Nashville before heading home, Simone had never been to Nashville, so we wanted to walk Broadway with her, Mike wanted us to meet a co-worker who lives there for lunch, but it happened to be 35 degrees and rainy that morning.

Oh and we all kind of hated the sight of each other at this point. Actually, it was more Mike and I hated the sight of each other at this point.

We had a little tiff, I had my first migraine of the trip, and we all decided we just wanted to be home, out of a fucking car and snuggling our dog because we had serious separation anxiety.

From the dog. Not from each other.

Being in the car for 20 hours with your family always sounds better than it really is.

But I did want to see the angel wings in The Gulch neighborhood of Nashville, read here for the story.

Pre-tiff, I had mentioned to Mike that I really wanted to go there and had texted him the address so he would have it for the GPS on his phone.

Post-tiff, we all piled into the car and got ready to get on the highway in silence because of TIFF. I was in the backseat with Ella, Anna was in the front, Simone behind me when tears started streaming down my face. This wasn’t how our vacation was supposed to end! Plus, I really wanted to see the angel wings especially after writing the Hummingbird post about my grandma AND having stared at the picture of Anna from the night before.

I felt like my grandma was coming through to me and I just needed to see the angel wings.

As the tears streamed silently down my face, Anna happened to look back at me and grabbed my hand. Then Ella noticing my tears put her hand on top of Anna’s and mine. I heard Mike whisper to Anna to plug-in an address into GPS, the address of the wings.

We got there a few minutes later, Mike and I hugged in the parking lot realizing how stupid our tiff was, and the girls ran to the wings.

I tell you all of this because it was real, not sugar-coated. There are a lot of memories from this vacation that I will never forget but that moment, in the car, when my girls were comforting me when my husband was doing something he knew I liked even when I wasn’t very likable.

That is the moment of this trip I will never forget.

My grandma was in the car the whole time. I didn’t need the angel wings.

But since we’re here! 



We joked a lot on this trip about Buddy being my comfort dog because of my anxiety, The entire trip any time an anxious moment occurred, Mike and I would joke that my comfort dog wasn’t there and how I needed him.

Ella (who inherited my anxiety) had heard us joking and asked what exactly a comfort dog’s job was even though they have one at her school.

I explained it to her and then she hugged me and said, “mom, you are my comfort person”.




It briefly crossed my mind that this might be our last spring break trip with our Annie.

Who knows what her plans will be next year, who she’ll meet in college, what plans she might make with friends and so on.

I know this won’t be the last trip with her but we did think about the possibility of it being the last spring break trip with her.

I hope that we will always be close, that those three won’t ever break their bond of sisterhood, that they will always have each other in their lives.

We take our girls on trips for many reasons. To create lasting memories, to get the hell out of Illinois, to see new things, learn new things, meet new people, but the biggest reason is that when we are away from our reality, we get even closer than we are at home.

When we go away, we are one unit and it makes us appreciate the time we have together, look at each other with different eyes, pay attention to details we might miss in every day living.

To make memories that we will never forget. Of the time when it was just us and them. Before courtships and marriages. Before bills and work stress. Before they take their children on trips just like these.

Out of all the trips we take with the girls, I hope this is the takeaway for them as well.

16 thoughts on “Smothered, Covered, Chopped-Florida Spring Break Part Two”

  1. Wait. There’s an age for the front seat. Oh crap. I have a lot to learn before I do this mothering thing all over again.

    Those smothered hash browns! Yesssss! I remember the days.

    Ella ?. I vote you get a second week in Florida this year so Ella can have a redo. ?

    Coffee on the balcony each morning is my favorite part of vacationing in Florida. We vacation more in our home state than anywhere else.

    I don’t like hooters, probably because I’m not a chicken eater and the rest of their food is not so great. And watching women walk around with firm, non-cellulite thighs does nothing for my self-esteem. I was born with cellulite!



    I love your vacation recaps. Your family is amazing. Tiffs just bring us together, I think. All that good make up time.

    Anxiety….sigh. I think the perimenopause period of our lives does not help this. I’ve had a few unexpected anxiety moments this past year. ?

    Okay. Shutting up now.


    1. In Illinois, I think it’s some ridic age like 12. But they also have a law here that no child under the age of 13 can stay home alone. EYEROLL.

      I vote she does too because then I get to tag along!

      Your home state is lovely. I have a friend who lives in Lithia, I don’t think that’s too far from you? I should come down and visit both of you.

      That makes my appetite go away as well. But their shrimp is the only reason I go. I just pinned a recipe so maybe I can make it at home and see less of their cellulite.

      OMG anxiety is the worst and it is at epic levels now that I am going through menopause.

      Don’t ever shut up.


  2. Aww, it sounds like you had a lot of fun. Making memories is what it’s all about. Having at least one tiff is what it’s all about. Awesome that Simone got to see the ocean for the first time! Ok, not the ocean…the gulf. Sorry little Ella was sickly most of the time, but sounds like she did OK. In that pic it looks like she’s saying goodbye one last time. Waking up at 5:45 also sounds like the norm when you’re on vacay. Glad you got to stop at Fairhope, Daphne, and Priester’s. We always go there if we’re passing by.
    Maybe sometime you can tell us about the “jet skiing from hell adventure.”
    Vacations are so much fun to go on, but it’s always so much fun to come back home, don’t you think?


  3. I’m one of those people who loves cold weather and beaches. I know, weirdo. So your vacay looks amazing to me. I now crave donuts and pecans…I blame you. The angel wings brought tears to my eyes. That was beautiful how grandma made sure everything was okay. I just lost my grandma 3 weeks ago, she was my best friend and there is nothing better than getting signs from them.


  4. Love reading your vacation recap, especially because you kept it real (the fighting). I actually teared up when I read the part about the girls grabbing your hand when you were crying. And then you and Mike hugging in the parking lot. Yay! They lived happily ever after. 🙂

    Anxiety…oh, you know I feel you on that one, girlfriend. Did I tell you about an app I have on my phone that has guided meditations? They truly do help. If you’re interested, let me know.


  5. This is so wonderful. And heck yes, on those hashbrowns. Waffle House is one of the best things about road trips to Florida. I took my husband there for the first time last year, and really felt excited to be there on his maiden WH journey. I felt like I was really showing him something special, haha.

    You’re girls are the best. Got misty eyed reading about their support. The love you have for them pours out into your writing, and it’s really wonderful to read. Yeah, I used wonderful twice in one comment, I have no regrets.


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