Whiplash: The Family Vacation

whiplashThe baby daddy and I just spent an entire week in confined spaces with our three children on vacation. So many cherished memories were made and how fortunate that we were able to get away. To live only two hours from beach paradise is the stuff of Alaskan envy. So why do I feel like I have been on an cortisol roller coaster only twenty four hours of returning?

The energy a parent expends in making family vacation memories tends to give a mother major emotional whiplash.

For example…


Anxious anticipation coupled with laser focused urgency. Everybody can’t wait to get to the destination but only you have the mental knowledge of what must be placed in the vehicle prior to pulling out of the driveway. Cortisol level rise commences now. All clothing items must be busily washed and strategically packed all the while preventing small, mischievous children from speedily removing crisply folded items from suitcases and older kids from clawing one another’s eyes out.

In order to come home to a decently neat home, some cleaning and organizing is preferred prior to embarkation. The kids should assist with the cleaning. However, you quickly quantify that keeping them on task requires energy and time that, frankly, mama is unable to provide given the current situation. “Just keep you brother and the dog alive and inside!”

Now that you are all packed up and kids are situated with choice entertainment, the baby daddy charts course for a destination of family friendly fun.



“Mama, I need the iPad charger now!”

“Mammaaa he keeps kicking me!”

Toddler singing and screaming along to 1980’s Transformers episodes, “Robots in disguise.” and “Autobots, ATTACK!” and “Transformers, ROLL OUT!”

“How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” “Now?” “We have been in here FOREVER!”

Magic Kingdom is a six hour drive from where we live. We vow to never take them to Disney. Sorry Mickey! Maybe high school graduation? Oh wait. Can’t afford it then. College tuition.


Small win for mom and dad. The kids help carry a few things.

Elation and Delight: “These bunk beds are awesome!” “Look, the puppy LOVES the beach. She is SOOOOO cute!” “Thank you dad for bringing us here.”

While cortisol levels escalate again during unpacking, the kids start begging to leave the condo.

The toddler keeps messing with the patio door, letting all the cold air out. We are on the fourth floor and there is furniture that could be climbed on, near the rail, on the balcony. “Watch him babe! I’m up to my ears in underwear and ALL of baby girl’s loot she brought to sleep with.”

“Dad, my TV won’t work. That’s NOT fair mom. His works and mine doesn’t!”

We are all getting HANGRY at this point.

“When can we go to to da beach?” “I don’t want to go to the beach. I want to go to the pool!”

“Dad, when can we go to the arcade?”

“I’m hungry.”

As I am placing the kids’ clothes in drawers, I place the pizza order. Check. All is well again and we are in paradise for a week!


Predictably, in the middle of the dolphin watching, sand play and glorious Kodak moments, there are episodes of whining, fighting and gnashing of teeth. The sun wears out even the most chipper of personalities eventually.

Our bed is still crowded and the dog wakes us up every night. Thank you for lighting up the night sky with those fireworks at 1am young teens. It was epic.


My personal favorite is the whole beach versus pool tug of war with three children. For example, the hubs and I could spend all day on the beach alternating between hanging under the umbrella, reading a book and swimming in the ocean.

The kids, on the other hand, beg for the salt life and then annoy us until they are bathing in chlorine at the condo pool. I get it. I was once that kid.

If the week hadn’t been eventful enough, our fur ball decided to become a full-blown woman our last night at the beach. WHY did I reschedule that vet appointment for after vacation? One benefit of the toddler refusing potty training…Lightning McQueen Pull Ups! NEVER a dull moment.



Surprisingly EASY, except for the exhausted, grumpy, sun glistened offspring in the back seat duking it out over movie selection and such.


No less than thirty minutes of us sitting down to relax after putting up all luggage contents, we hear the following: “Mom and dad, PLEASE play Nerf war with us. We are bored. You must not love us. All you want to do it be lazy and sit on the couch.”

Whiplash I say! Whiplash.

It’s all just part of marriage, parenthood and life in general. However, family vacations with a bunch of little ones will gift a parent with every single emotion known to man.

Family vacations are a lot like childbirth: it’s painful, unpredictable and recovery is most definitely involved but you would do it again in a heartbeat to get the end result…eternal memories.

Be sure to like, share and subscribe for e-mail notifications! Thanks for reading…xoxo, ThreeKidsandaBabyDaddy.



7 Ways to Survive Water Exploration With Your Kids

water explorationThere is nothing quite like making memories with your children around water. It’s a quick summertime remedy of exploration when the thermostat peaks into the triple digits and your kids have upped the fighting in confined spaces. You get to work on your tan, children play and giggle for hours and bedtime may get pushed up by a good two hours.

However, fear may creep in. Drowning stories plaque a parent’s hypervigilance during the summer season. Also, multiple children force us into zone defense mode and there aren’t enough hands and eyes to latch onto their every move. We want to be smart and cautious, yet make fun memories despite our concerns. It can be a tough feat to make these outings as easy on ourselves and enjoyable as humanly possible. Here are seven ways to survive water exploration with your kids.

#1) Have a restocked swim bag ready to go at all times. This is assuming you plan on making frequent visits to the pool, beach, lake, etc. Throw it over your shoulder, into the car and off you go. Have a bag strategically placed out of arms reach of little hands with towels, sunscreen, water goggles, diapers and wipes (if applicable), bands aids, change of clothes, small toys, drinks and portable snacks. For example, chips. Who cares if they aren’t impeccably healthy. You can feed them apples at dinner. Furthermore, the expiration date is good for the whole summer so you are set! Never get stuck with ornery, starving children after swimming. It ruins the moment.

#2) Apply sunscreen prior to leaving home if possible. Kids see water, they leap and good luck trying to get them out to lather on the lotion! I have sprayed the stuff on them from the edge of the pool, chased them down a small stretch of the Gulf Coast and may have even forgotten to apply one time before but I wouldn’t recommend any of those scenarios. 🙂

#3) Utilize a Coast Guard Approved life jacket for small children, put it on them BEFORE they get into the water and keep it on them the entire excursion. This is a must, especially around bodies of water that are not transparent, such as a lake or river. Those handy straps around the base of the neck are especially convenient in case of a rogue rip tide, to swipe your kid up out of water when they are in harm’s way or need effective persuasion on not terrorizing their sibling with a pool noodle.

O'Rageous Toddler Life Jacket (Coast Guard Approved)
Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket

#3) Mermaid tails, blow up basketball goals, Finding Dory toys, dive toys, floats, sand toys and water guns (if you don’t mind getting squirted) should get you an extra 30 minutes of Vitamin D exposure, pending they don’t fight over the item. In that case, invest in two or more to prevent kid on kid mortal combat.

Finding Dory Water Toy
Finding Dory Water Toy

#4) Wet bags, Grocery or plastic bags to store wet clothes in prior to departure so you don’t have to hear the “Mama, I’m freezing!” all the way home.

#5) Technically, swimming counts as a bath. Who really wants to fight a grumpy, sun glistened three year old for a hair wash. Unless you see gobs of sand in the hair or have a medical reason to do so otherwise, skip it!

#6) Explore with a proper perspective. Outings with children, especially around H2O, are going to be work. Rarely will you obtain an even tan, someone will argue, whine or rage and you may get stuck loading all the loot back into the car by yourself. We all need to be educated in CPR. It is what it is.


#7) Make it a priority to take lots of pictures and take special precaution to keep your choice picture taker DRY! I lost an entire adventure one time due to getting it soaked with a rogue water gun.

In conclusion, these are just a few survival tips I have learned over the years. As the kids grow into their teenage years, I may be investing into one of the latest and greatest waterproof GPS devices. Including, but not limited to, a hidden microphone, a 360 degree view camera and a built in human pheromone indicator with a signal that connects to my device, from anywhere on the planet.

That is another season of exploration for another day. In the meantime, may us all enjoy a safe, enjoyable summer with our children. Feel free to comment on any additional suggestions that we could all benefit from when exploring water with our children.

Mermaid Tail
Mermaid Tail



Pet Friendly, Kid Approved Gulf Coast Condo


Finding a condo on the Gulf Coast that is pet friendly, reasonably priced AND kid approved can be quite the challenge! I speak from first hand experience. In the past, we would beg grandparents to keep our fur baby or go the boarding route. However, the last time I utilized animal boarding services, my then geriatric maltese suffered a severe case of separation anxiety, his health declined rapidly afterward and he passed on within three weeks, not to mention the pricey bill sustained for a week’s worth of doggie daycare. Furthermore, we already feel we place an undue burden on our parents when we beg them to keep three kids for a night alone, so asking them to watch after our fur child seems somewhat excessive at times.

Since welcoming Bella the Shinese and her brother into our family last Christmas, and then the unfortunate incident of losing her better half, we have grown very attached to our fourth child and, frankly, we prefer that she be able to tag along with us. Consequently, when looking for vacation rentals along the Gulf Coast we decided on specific criteria and we lucked out last week! It was a fabulous experience.

Our criteria:

#1 – Pet friendly, yet classy clean (some pet friendly condos are older and not kept up well)

#2 – Beach front condo, and I mean DIRECTLY on the beach (no streets to cross and dolphin watching a go)

#3 – Low rise condominium with little crowds (Under 12 stories, minimal elevator weight times and no claustrophobic situations!)

#4 – Decent sized beach front pool, because who wants to share a tiny 5′ x 5′ wading pool with 20 other children?

#5 – Kid approved. In our house, our children define a “kid approved” condo as one having a hot tub, bunk beds or a sleeper sofa, flat screen TVs and, let’s NOT forget the top amenity for kids these days…FREE wi-fi. In our house, parents define “kid approved” as no one jumping off balconies, enough entertainment to keep the animals from killing each other and mom and dad having enough room to breathe.

#6 – Reasonably priced. My nemesis is when a resort taunts low nightly rentals and you spend 30 minutes selecting the perfect condo, complete all blank friends of the application, hit “Checkout” and then BOOM…$800 of fees are tacked onto the final price. Grrr. Not cool.

Our family just returned from a five day vacation at Pelican Walk Condominiums in Panama City Beach, FL and if I could sum up the experience in one word it would be “EASY”. Everything was just easy. When you have three wild kids and a youthful pup, you NEED easy.

By the way, I get ZERO kick back for recommending this place. I’m just writing a review to help out my fellow man. You are welcome. 🙂



Pelican-Walk-from-beachThe resort offers 3,2 and 1 bedroom rentals and individual condos may be viewed at Pelicanwalkrentals.com or various other search engines, such as vrbo.com. Some are pet friendly and some are not. Most are up to date and renovated, some are not. We rented directly with the resort and found the staff to be very courteous and laid back.

So, here are our observations from our trip to this resort from a parent’s perspective.

#1 – 1 Bedroom Pet Friendly Condo: Our unit was on the eighth floor and 1 bedroom condos have smaller balconies than 2-3 bedrooms, yet still spacious.. All units have unobstructed views of the Gulf. Furthermore, our unit was up to date with flat screen TVs, comfortable beds, 2 bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen and FREE wi-fi. One nice perk of the layout is that the master bedroom is down the hall from the sleeper sofa area and there is plenty of room for a Pack ‘N Play in several areas of the condo if needed. We felt it imperative to contain our caboose child and he ended up sleeping in our room…AWAY from the balcony. A simple lock on the door can’t stop our inquisitive beast! We had renters on both sides of us with small children and never heard them. Thick walls…check.

Bella Dolphin Watching
Bella Dolphin Watching

#2 – Elevators: They were NEVER crowded and it was Memorial Day weekend. PLENTY of luggage carts. There are only 10 floors in the building and it only took seconds to get from the 1st to the 8th floor. You could park, walk to the elevator and be in your room within a couple minutes. EASY.

#3 – Grounds: Professionally maintained and very clean. The parking lot concrete has some wear and tear but overall it was laid out well.  There is a pet walk area at the end of the parking lot, beside the tennis courts. This resort is not brand spanking new, but it isn’t ancient either. It is very well maintained.

Pelican Walk Pet Walk Area
Pelican Walk Pet Walk Area

#4 – Renters: Surprisingly, the resort was NOT CROWDED, even though it was SOLD OUT. We assumed that approximately around 1/3 of the owners may not rent out at all and just happened not to travel to their condo that week. The renters we encountered were either families just like us or older couples with their small dogs. Everyone was friendly, the kids made nice with other kids at the pool and, as mentioned before, it was never congested.

#5 – Location: Historically, we tend to rent in Destin, FL (which we still love) but had trouble finding a pet friendly resort for our desired dates and with our aforementioned criteria. Pelican Walk Resort is located on the west side of Panama City Beach, is in very close proximity to St. Andrews State Park (campgrounds are pet friendly but not the beach), Schooner’s and Captain Anderson’s restaurants and doesn’t tend to experience near as much congested traffic as most encounter only a mile or so farther east. For example, when overlooking our balcony, the beach area directly in front of the condo was never packed, but when looking three resorts over to the east, the people all began to look like a colony of ants.

Pelican Walk Balcony View
Pelican Walk Balcony View

#6  – Pool and Hot Tub: The pool is directly on the beach and the hot tub is close by, located just a a few steps away in an enclosed building. Restrooms are conveniently located at the pool and also at the hot tub area. Hyper-vigilant mom side note: 1) The pool is just the right size for a parent to rescue a struggling child to safety. Literally, you can make one large leap in any direction and the kid is in your arms, but still large enough to accommodate a large quantity of swimmers. 2) There is a code activated security gate leading from the hot tub to the pool that will assist containing most small children. My three year old figured it out in 10 seconds and bolted to the elevators, attempting to retrieve a toy he forgot to bring down. He is stubborn, smart and FAST. However, a security gate gives a parent an extra few seconds to capture their Tasmanian devil/angel child.

Pelican Walk Beachfront Pool
Pelican Walk Beachfront Pool
Pelican Walk Enclosed Hot Tub
Pelican Walk Enclosed Hot Tub

#7 – Cost. Even with the $150 pet fee, our four night rental cost was $500-$1000 cheaper than most all other pet friendly rental inquiries we researched. Prices may be viewed on the resort website and deeper deals may be found renting directly from owners.

In conclusion, our family highly recommends Pelican Walk Condominiums for a pet friendly, kid approved vacation at Panama City Beach because it was EASY, enjoyable and low stress. Lastly, there is coffee available 24/7 right across the street at Waffle House. Kids feast upon waffles and parents inhale necessary quarts of caffeine. Always a win win!

Waffles, coffee, memories
Waffles, coffee, memories