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Every Little Thing: Our family’s first big vacation in Florida

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

We did it. We finally went on a big family vacation. Not to stay with family, or to a reunion, but we got away just for the sake of getting away. A vacation with just the five of us — something we’d never done before.

April Jeppson

The last time Brian and I were in this part of Florida, we didn’t have kids. I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids. Thirteen years ago we drove down with my parents and met my brother, his wife and their toddler. It was over Thanksgiving break. I was teaching cosmetology, and Brian would be starting his new job at the USDA when we returned.

We met up with a cousin who was stationed in Pensicola, and my aunt and uncle who were RVing it through Florida at the time. The weather was good, and like all vacations, it felt nice to just get away for a bit.

While we were all staying in the same condo, I got to know my nephew pretty good. He behaved exactly as you’d expect a 2 1/2-year-old to behave — except I had minimal experience with kids at the time, so I kind of thought he was a little stinker. His vocabulary was limited, he still wore a diaper and he threw a tantrum every time we went on the elevator. He needed to be the one to push the button. Always.

As Brian and I were riding in the back seat of my parents’ car on the way home, we were texting each other. I’m sure that sounds odd, but we didn’t want my parents to hear our conversation. We were talking about my brother’s kid and how when we have kids, they are going to be sooooo much cooler than that. I was actually looking forward to having children just to show my brother how much more awesome mine were than his. Ahhhh sibling rivalary.

Ten months later we had our first child.

So flash forward to this week.

The condo we rented is about 45 minutes away from where Brian and I stayed the last time we were here. The beaches are so soft, and the crowds are minimal. We went to the same alligator-themed restaurant and aquarium that we visited all those years ago. I kept having these flashbacks. I didn’t even know I was going to have kids the last time I visited these places, let alone be able to bring all of them back here. Those moments were surreal.

I found myself squeezing my kids a little tighter and whispering “I love you” every chance I got.

Our condo has an elevator, but we only took it the first day. My kids didn’t fight over the buttons, but they are much older than my nephew was at the time. Knowing what I know now about children, I can see how silly I was being. But the Lord works in mysterious ways. He can use all sorts of things to motivate us. Maybe it’s a job, or a cute neighbor, or even a sibling rivalry. Heck, maybe even a pandemic. I know I wouldn’t have been so eager to get away if 2020 would have played out smoother. But boy am I glad I pulled the trigger and took this vacation. I’m also really happy I had those kids, too.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.