Well, folks, the tiny humans and I have landed back home in Nebraska at last.

It was a long, fun summer, but I speak for my whole little family when I say that we are glad to be home and in some sort of routine again. Yesterday, both kids ate three complete meals at the dining room table and napped for two hours in the afternoon. We haven’t had that kind of regularity since before we took off to West Virginia in June.

As if the exhaustion of every day spent either digging up worms while exploring in the woods or getting our tan on in the swimming pool was not enough, my husband and I decided to end summer with a huge bang by adding in a trip to Myrtle Beach before heading back to the Midwest. Looking back on it, I’m not sure what we were thinking, but needless to say, I learned a few things about taking tiny humans to the beach…

I learned that when you pay over $50 to go to an alligator farm, you are actually paying to get into their gift shop where you’ll spend another $100 on junk that will probably get lost somewhere in the hotel before the vacation is over.

I learned that once a toddler sees the sharks at the aquarium, they’ve seen it all and will demand to go home. Better to save those creatures for last if you want any chance of seeing the jelly fish.

I learned that expensive seafood buffets will fail if for some reason the decorative submarine the restaurant is located inside kills all mobile data and cell service. A dinner without YouTube is a no-go. I’ll live with the regret of only eating one plate of crab legs from that place for the rest of my life. On that note, I also learned that even when you spend a lot of money for your kids to also eat off the expensive absolutely-everything-you-can-imagine buffet, your kids will likely just eat some shredded cheese and croutons from the salad bar and call it a quits.

I learned that you think you’re paying for a beachfront hotel with easy access to the beach, but really you’re paying for the kiddy pool featuring a tiny frog slide. Nothing we did during our vacation topped the fun the kids had in that kiddy pool. Halfway through, my husband and I found contentment by lowering our expectations and being thankful for the relaxation of an adult beverage while lying in an oversized lounge chair by the kiddy pool. At least I could still enjoy the ocean breeze as I sipped from my stainless-steel tumbler cup.

I learned that toddlers are terrified at first of the ocean because they are convinced that the waves will sweep them away. However, if you give playing in the sand enough time, then they will eventually grow curious enough to dip a toe in the water. My son was particularly fond of taking shovels of sand and shells from the beach and throwing them back into the ocean. No matter how cool the shells we found were, all but four found itself being thrown back in.

I learned that sand will inevitably get everywhere and bringing half the beach back home in the bottom of bags and in the threads of beach towels is unavoidable. Even a week later, I still feel like there might be sand in my hair.

Beyond all, I learned that a beach vacation with toddlers is exhausting and expensive, but it only takes that one moment of watching them play chase with the ocean to make it all worth it. I’ll hang on to those little giggles as the bubbles brushed their toes for a lifetime.

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