Big Papa + GMama Cape Canaveral Trip – July 2021

Zach has always had a close relationship with his parents and as he’s gotten older his Dad has truly become his best friend. They have such a special bond! We do a good bit with Zach’s family and live in the same town together as well. Even though we get together often (and Zach plays golf with his dad on a regular basis) our little family unit is probably the least “involved” with Zach’s parents out of Zach’s siblings because we don’t attend the same church so we don’t see them three times a week like his sisters do!

We enjoy getting together as a BIG family with all the cousins and it’s always a great time but there is also something just super special about the quality time the kids are able to have and enjoy with JUST Zach’s parents. 10 grandkids are a LOT of cousins and it’s harder for Big Papa and GMama to really connect with each child individually when all the cousins are wanting to play!

When Zach and I first met I actually started working for Zach’s parents and Zach then came on and started working in insurance and supplemental benefits as well. Over the years things have shifted and changed. Zach and Mr Rusty have changed titles and roles and positions. Mrs. Charlotte has continued to be a huge backbone for them both. I’ve jumped in as the kids have gotten older on things as well.

This last year has been a very exciting one in the business side of things for Zach and Mr Rusty especially and it’s also meant a lot to learn for Mrs. Charlotte. Zach truly could NOT have the success he does in business without his Mom and all she does for both he and Mr Rusty!

It is really important to Zach that his parents always feel appreciated. Of course, he shows it in many small ways and he loves the quality time he and his dad spend together and we love having Mrs. Charlotte join us on many of our family trips to Disney with the kids. But we don’t often get the chance to have them BOTH together or a chance to say to them BOTH how much we love and appreciate them. Yes, from the business perspective but obviously way, way more than that as well. As the amazing parents, they’ve been to Zach, the awesome in-laws to me, and incredible grandparents to our babies.

We both really love giving to others and Zach and I came up with the idea to take Zach’s parents on a trip. We were SO excited to host them and tried to figure out things they would enjoy and ways in which we could make the getaway super special for them!

Mrs. Charlotte has mentioned wanting to take the grandkids to the beach so we knew we wanted to do a beach trip. We struggled to find somewhere to stay that could accommodate us all comfortably and be in a super close distance to the beach too. We ended up deciding to switch things up for Tess’s birthday trip to Disney and instead use some of the days we’d planned to be at Disney World to go to Cape Canaveral!

We found a large house just a block from the beach and booked it for three nights. Zach really wanted to make sure it was a true vacation for his parents and he was so sweet in his thoughtfulness and planning activities. Even thinking through meals to make sure they were places his parents would enjoy. I hope Kye was taking notes for someday for us πŸ˜‰

On the way down a must-do was a stop at Buc-ee’s. Mr. Rusty had heard about it but hadn’t yet been so that’s where we went first! Had to load up on snacks for the trip! Kye was super pumped to ride down with G-Mama and I know she loved the one on one time with him πŸ™‚

This was our first experience booking through Airbnb and it was NOT good. I understand now why our property manager for our Disney Rental House doesn’t have us do any bookings through that site. We arrived to the house and had NO CHECK IN INFO. Literally we got lucky that another tenant on the same property ran into us in the driveway and told us to try the same door code that she used for her booking and it worked! C-RAZY.

It was super embarrassing because he we were trying to make a special trip for Zach’s parents to really let them feel a bit spoiled and appreciated and the house we booked not only didn’t give us check in info…but then had like THE bare minimum of essentials. I’m not exaggerating. 3 forks. Total. In the “fully stocked” kitchen. We laughed it all off and thankfully the large house and close location to the beach helped make up for it but stilllllll.

Something Zach’s dad really enjoys doing when they travel on golf trips is getting local pizza to try out so night one we ordered from a local pizza place for dinner. Even though this was a trip for Zach’s parents I still had that “mama guilt” about highjacking Tess’s birthday trip so I tried to make little elements of it about her too – Zach and Big Papa picked up a cake for dessert for the birthday girl πŸ™‚

We had beautiful weather and the location truly was ideal. We ate dinner and walked down to the beach to check it out. I know people prefer the gulf coast of Florida over the east coast but I am originally from Satellite Beach which is just a 20ish or less minute drive from Cape Canaveral. So for me – the east coast is HOME.

We got to see a turtle nesting area and….THE DISNEY DREAM BOAT!!!! So awesome! We even saw it go out to sea for test runs. Cruising had not yet resumed at that time but I think it actually was announced that next week that sailings would start back up. Who knows when/if we’ll rebook our April 2020 one though! For awhile this may be the closest we get to a Disney cruise πŸ˜‰

It was so nice to just let the kids play in the calm ocean and the slow pace was so nice for Zach’s parents to get to enjoy the kids too in a way they aren’t able to at home. Mr. Rusty was so sweet taking the girls on a walk with him down the beach while the rest of us headed back to get ready for bed!

The house was not so great on the amenities but was MASSIVE which was so great for us all to be able to spread out and be comfortable. There were also two master bedrooms and Zach’s parents were able to stay on the main level which was a huge blessing…because RIGHT when we arrived Mrs. Charlotte got injured!

While we were locked out of the unit and trying to figure out how to get in she saw the other tenant coming out of her unit and was trying to get our attention and missed a little step-down in the walkway and fell. Over the last year or so she’s had total foot reconstruction on BOTH of her feet and she’s been SO excited for this trip to be able to use BOTH “new” feet for the first time at Disney. And, of course, she fell right when we arrived.

We felt SO BAD. She kept saying she was fine but we knew she wasn’t. Yall. As you read the next several posts keep in mind…when she got HOME she finally went to a dr and her foot was BROKEN IN THREE PLACES. She broke it DAY 1 of this trip. She is SO crazy strong with her pain tolerance and I cannot fathom the fact that she pushed through this ENTIRE TRIP with her foot broken in three places. SO INSANE.

I feel so bad because I know she had to have been fighting through a ton of pain that week and I hope it didn’t hinder her enjoyment of things because, let’s be real it FOR SURE would have mine. I would have been like “I gotta go to the hospital” right?!?! Mrs. Charlotte is super tough and she never wants to miss out on special moments and didn’t want us to be spending time worrying about her. Thankfully she’s all healed up now!

The girls shared a room and had a bathroom that connected with Kye’s room and then Spear was able to stay in our huge master closet. So the sleeping arrangements really worked nicely. The girls did a Bible study together before bedtime. Sweet babies!

The next morning we had an early start with a breakfast stop at Bagel World! It is a different location than my forever favorite spot in Satellite Beach. While still good, it didn’t quite compare to the original. Hopefully we’ll get to go back there at some point soon πŸ™‚

We all loved jet skiing in Key West but the kids LOVED it and Zach thought it’d be a fun outing as part of the trip. He also felt guilt that Spear wasn’t with us on our trip with the big kids to Key West and knew he would have a blast on jet skis too.

Zach reserved two jet skis for an hour so both he and his dad could drive and we could all swap out if Mrs. Charlotte and I wanted to drive. I actually really love driving jet skis but I didn’t want to take up any of the time allotted because I’m slower and way less fun than Zach is with ’em and I knew the kids would enjoy it with him and Big Papa more than they would Mommy πŸ˜‰

Luckily the rental place had a perfect hang out spot for those who weren’t riding to hang out and wait their turn. The water was nice and shallow and the sand was great for playing in. The guys who were there working were also super sweet engaging with the kids the whole time!

It was no surprise…Spear LOVED the jet skis and had so much fun! He even saw dolphins out in the water and spent his time waiting his next turn “swimming like dolphins” πŸ™‚ We even got G-Mama to take a turn out on the water with Zach! I really try to encourage moments of just the two of them as I know as a fellow boy-mom that as my boys get older I will get less and less of those times and I know she probably soaks them up too!

The coolest thing from our sand hang out time was when one of the guys showed us a crab! It was SO fun watching him come out of his shell and walk and they said they often put them up on the dock to watch them go off into the water. The kids LOVED it!

We got back to the house with plenty of time to get a light lunch and hit up the beach for some fun time before naps! All of the kids LOVE to boogie board and loved getting to show off their skills to Big Papa and G-Mama! It was great being so close to the beach and being able to just walk down and walk back when it was time.

Tessie is our BBQ – boogie board QUEEN πŸ˜‰

During naps was the perfect time for the girls to get to have GIRL TIME. When I went on my solo beach trip the girls were both very envious and have been asking me to go to the beach and layout so I saved the outing for when Mrs Charlotte could be with us as I thought she’d enjoy the girl time too πŸ™‚

We brought books and snacks and sat in the shade together talking a bit, reading a bit, and snacking a bit. Not surprisingly, they didn’t sit for long! G-Mama is WAY cooler than I am as she hit the waves with them! While she traded off I enjoyed the quality time with the one who was waiting her turn.

Tess asked me if I was trying really hard to make sure she felt special for her birthday and when I said yes she said “You make me feel special everyday!” Sweet girl. Britt spent her time with me brainstorming about doing something JUST THE TWO OF US. She ADORES Tess but she is always asking for the opportunity to do things “just us” and I need to try to figure out a plan to make that happen!

Probably the biggest perk about the house we stayed in was the MASSIVE porch. It was BEAUTIFUL and had this incredible breeze coming through and I neverrrrr wanted to leavvvvveeeee ittttttt.

When Spear got up from nap he was so proud that Big Papa fixed his hair for dinner πŸ™‚ We had debated having a meal at the house but ended up deciding, thanks to the limited “full kitchen” items needed to cook/eat, to go to another local spot that is special to me – Longdoggers!

Longdoggers has multiple locations now but I remember when they first opened and we’d all go as a big family back in the day and then they opened another location SUPER close to where my grandmother, Nana, lived so every single time I came to visit we’d eat there together. It was our spot πŸ™‚ Zach and I even included both Bagel World and Longdoggers in our wedding weekend!

It was SO special to be at a place with my babies and their grandparents that was so special for me with mine. It was gorgeous weather to sit outside and feel the breeze and enjoy yummy food and even a birthday surprise for Tessie!

After dinner we were headed back to the house and sitting at a light and saw Ron Jon’s across the street. I made a comment about how I’d really like to take the kids in there if we ended up having time. It’s another “my childhood” kinda thing. I don’t think of Ron Jon’s often or have any super special meaningful ties to it but I also NEVER get to have any “my childhood” kinda moments with my kids the way Zach does on a regular basis! Kye literally attends the same middle school Zach did and has had some of the same teachers he did as a kid. Valdosta is RICH with “daddy childhood” moments and memories and it’s so exciting when I get to share a bit of my heritage with them too.

This moment will probably stay etched in my heart forever. Which may sound silly but Zach was like “Let’s do it!” And we DID IT.

We text his parents to let them know we were gonna skip bedtime for a bit and instead hit up Ron Jon’s and we changed lanes at the light and pulled in the parking lot. Not only did we do something totally random and spur of the moment but ZACH then suggested that EVERYONE should pick out something to BUY.

I about died from shock and joy. My husband suggesting that the kids could pick out whatever they wanted to buy on a whim? Literally a Zach first. PLUS we were at a very, very overpriced tourist destination. But you know I wasn’t about to speak up and deter him!

We had SO MUCH FUN. It was such a special night for me that filled my love tank so full. We walked around the store and it was crazy how it is exactly the same. Right down to the glass elevator. I love that about being from a beach town area – time is literally frozen.

We had no rush. No hurrying. Just straight up browsing and shopping and taking our time and looking at all the things before deciding what to take home. I loved every single second of it and I love that the kids have something special from that stop to keep (even if it is a loud snorting pig on a surf board like Spear chose ha!). We def grabbed an ornament to remember the occasion πŸ™‚

It probably sounds super lame and dumb but literally that hour or so of time is something I’ll never forget and made me feel so, so loved by Zach. He was so fun with it and it was just carefree and relaxed and I know he was intentional with the decisions and it meant the world.

An important element of the trip was to make sure we DID have downtime to allow little moments of connecting. Mr. Rusty and Mrs. Charlotte are planning to build a home and we had so much fun the first night staying up late looking at house plans with them just the four of us. The second night we let the big kids stay up later to play Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza.

We also played Tripoley which is a game my family played growing up. I remember all of my aunts and uncles getting together to play and all of us cousins would run around together. We had a blast with Zach’s parents playing and even let Kye stay up to watch!

He was instantly in love with the game so the next morning while Zach and Mr Rusty went golfing Kye and Britt learned how to play. Tessie and Spear were perfectly content playing “house” in his “bedroom” and it was nice having a bit of a lazier morning.

Pretty sure Zach inherited his competitiveness from his mama as it was super funny to listen to her teach Kye and Britt how to play card games. It was also good for G-Mama to REST HER DANG FOOT! We watched Raya and the Last Dragon (and Spear LOVES it) and by lunch time the guys were back!

I literally just wanted to stay on the porch forrrrreveeerrrrr. All the big kids cycled through that afternoon coming to hang out with me on the porch while Spear napped. It was a good chance for Zach’s parents to get some rest and we all enjoyed the chill time.

Zach and Mr Rusty were cracking me up buying matching slides at Ron Jon’s to wear with their socks to golf outings together πŸ˜‰

When planning the trip Zach asked his mom her favorite meal and she said steak so he really wanted to make sure to get her a steak dinner on the trip and we decided it’d be the perfect end note for the last night!

We ended up eating at Florida’s Seafood in Cocoa Beach and it was AMAZING. The vibe was so fun and perfect for a family our size. It reminded me, again, of being a kid and going out to eat at our favorite family spots and all the cousins going to walk around together while the parents sat and talked.

The food was amazing, the kids meals included a free frisbee and theeee frittttterrrrsssss were phenomenal. They were bottomless and they kept ’em coming for us all night! We had a blast and it was a great way to end a great trip! Kye even ordered the surf and turf – he had the most expensive meal on our ticket but it’s so worth it when he’s old enough to ENJOY it and truly appreciate it!

We got back from dinner early enough for one more little beach outing. We loaded up stuff in the back of Mr Rusty’s truck to drive the one block to the beach. Literally the house is located on a corner, you pull out of the driveway at a stop sign and turn down and there is the beach.

We let the big kids ride in the back with the stuff and Zach and apparently when Mr Rusty (with Spear “driving” on his lap) backed out of the driveway he backed up directly in front of a police car. Obviously a police officer can’t tail you with kids in the bed of the truck and not pull you over, even only being around the corner.

I didn’t know any of that as Mrs. Charlotte, Kye and I had decided to walk down since it was so pretty and since the truck didn’t have space for everyone. So as we walk up we see the police car behind the truck and my instant reaction is to tell Kye to slow down so the police won’t know we’re with them hahahaha

We get up there and not only did one police officer pull him over but there ended up being THREE police cars on the scene. They were SUPER nice about it but just wanted to remind us about car seat safety. Which had me DYING laughing later because car seat safety is like MY THING.

The whole encounter was so, so funny. We could not stop laughing!

We had a beautiful evening to end the trip!

Even with a airbnb fail, broken foot, and run in with the police we still had a wonderful time with Zach’s parents and they really seemed to enjoy it too! It was great for the kids to get so much quality time with them but especially for Zach and I to get that time! So often when they do get time with our kids it’s When Zach and I are traveling and there is something special about watching the kids interacting with their grandparents, ya know?

I think Zach’s parents had a good time (aside from the whole foot thing anyway!) and I hope they left with their hearts full and knowing how love and appreciated they are! It is a blessing to be able to do something like this for them and I am so proud that Zach wanted to do this and that he was so sweet in all of his planning to make it so great πŸ™‚

We had a wonderful trip and it was a great way to start off Tess’s birthday trip too! Mr. Rusty headed back to Valdosta the next morning while the rest of us loaded up to head to Orlando!

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

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