They come every afternoon with book bags flying and their converse stomping the front lawn and their maniacal little giggles rushing into the still air, oblivious to what has been done while they were gone, and what still is to get done, too. I am usually clutching my to do list to my chest, with way too many to-do's still unchecked, a little frantic. It is rush hour at the Chiles household, and my second, third, fourth, and fifth jobs are about to begin homework tutor, chauffeur, cook, bathtub wrangler, midnight seductress. I want to hide. Or call in reinforcements. Or better, just take the doggone day off.

My husband, God bless him, notices these things, and, on occasion, takes mercy on me. Sometimes, that mercy comes in the form of take-out dinner, or a break from after-dinner kitchen duty, or all-access to the bedroom remote and my trusty pillow. And when he's feeling especially benevolent, Nick, the editor-in-chief of the travel magazine Odyssey Couleur, tosses a travel junket my way an all-expenses-paid trip to somewhere where laundry rooms and homework are non-existent, somebody else cooks and drives and cleans, and I can just chill, sans interruption or obligation. In return, I write a story about my trip for his magazine, but this is small payment.

The. Trips. Are. Glorious.

I started writing this MyBrownBaby blog from the shores of the Alabama gulf coast, where Nick has sent me for a four-day respite. I'm posted up in a well-appointed, three-bedroom, two bathroom condo spotless, with granite countertops in the eat-in kitchen, a grand king-sized bed in a master bedroom with a huge deck overlooking the bay, and a flat-screen TV equipped with CNN, HGTV, and an endless loop of Bravo's Project Runway, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. There is no laundry room (not one that I have to use, anyway). All dirty dishes are being left on the tables at fine restaurants all across town for someone else to clean. There are no dirty little brown girl booties in my Jacuzzi bathtub. And nobody is smacking me on my shoulder, waking me from a sound slumber to tell me their throat is sore, or they're so parched that surely they're going to die of thirst, or the little boy from Where the Wild Things Are just might be hiding out in the closet.

There is only peace here.

I'm finding it in the gentle whisper of the wind tickling the ocean just outside my window, a Heavenly early morning alarm, for sure. And on the deck of sail boats, while I teeter dangerously over the edge to feel the water spray against my face and watch the dolphin play tag and beg for the croacker and jewel fish and eel and shrimp the captain's caught and tossed their way. There is peace, too, in the wildlife refuge I hiked this morning, where Hurricane Ivan had his way, but somehow, the beauty of this land and all its inhabitants remained steady, stunning, and sure. And I found plenty of satisfaction at the bottom of the gigantic bowl of bread pudding and homemade whipped cream I just demolished, without worry or apology.

I wore red shoes and red lipstick, and sexy dresses and curls in my hair and drank mojitoes and slurped down raw oysters with plenty of horseradish and hot sauce, and flitted about without a care in the world. And then I came back to this big ol' condo, and turned on the TV, and lay across the bed and, well did the mom punk out. I'm longing for my family wishing that Mari and Lila could have held the slimy fish in their hands and giggled when the dolphin dipped in and out of the water, and that Mazi could have walked along the beach and tasted the plethora of shrimp prepared in more ways than even Forrest Gump and his friend Bubba ever could have imagined. And I am longing to fall asleep in Nick's arms to lay my head on his chest and let the thump of his heartbeat soothe me like no ocean waves ever can.

I'm longing, simply, for life my simple family life.

All of a sudden, this three-bedroom condo seems cavernous too dark and a little scary. As I sit here with every light in this place blazing, CNN blaring the same Obama/McCain/America-As-We-Know-It-Is-Coming-To-An-End stories it's had on repeat for the past three weeks, I'm reminded of a passage in bell hook's picture book, Homemade Love, a bedtime favorite in our house, about a little girl pie whose parents love her hard and strong. At night, they tuck their little honey bun chocolate dew drop in, and she snuggles under her covers in her bed, in her house, safe, satisfied, and surrounded by unconditional love. And when she falls asleep, this is on her mind:

Memories of arms that hold me
Hold me tight
No need to fear the dark place
˜Cause everywhere is home

Really, there's no place like home, is there? I mean, I'm so very grateful for this me time every last one of us hardworking moms craves it deserves it. I also know that so many of us aren't blessed to have these kinds of get away opportunities come their way that work gets in the way and family gets in the way and busy gets in the way and, yes, we get in our own way.

But the peace and solitude I found here in Alabama can't compare to the peace and solitude I find in my chaotic, messy, love-filled home. There, with arms that hold me tight, I have no need to fear the dark place.

Because at my house, everywhere is home.

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  1. uuuum next time you want to get stay in your chaotic, messy, love-filled home…I’ll take your place in WHEREVER xoxoxoxo beautiful post!

  2. Renée aka Mekhismom

    What a great post. But I have to say that during my weekend away I felt safe knowing my son was being taken care of by mom and I was getting some much needed Mommy time.

  3. MelADramatic Mommy

    That sounds like heaven! It’s funny how we look so forward to getting away but can’t wait to see the kids again.

  4. Love this one, Denene! I'm giggling at the "Mommy punk out" comment b/c I tend to do that even when my demanding employers (read Marley & Sage) are at their grandparents' house for one night. Kris and I are so lame!! We end up laughing at things the girls said or did, or exchanging stories about moments one of us might've missed with one of the girls. Just blissfully pathetic, but pathetic nonetheless!

    I love reading your stories — they're guaranteed to stir me up one way or another.

    Thanks for sharing.


  5. Thank you so much for your lovely word at my blog… so kind!!!

    Unfortunately my english is not so good, so it takes me a lot of time to read and well understand everything, but I will try!!!

    Have a nice day 🙂

  6. Blogalicious Designs

    So, so true! Can’t wait to get away from the chaos, but I always the kiddos so much!

    Thanks for stopping by Blogalicious Designs… really appreciatd your comments!!

  7. Hi Denene,

    You were the highlight and best conversation I had all weekend in Alabama. It was a pleasure meeting you. How funny it is that we both ended up blogging about missing our kiddos at home. There is no better sound to my ear than the chaos that my kids create.

    I hope we cross paths again


  8. You make the trip sound so wonderful, then remind all of us that no matter where we are or what we're doing, the mommy instinct is never far away. A few years back when we were living in Florida (in Pensacola, right down the road from where you were in Alabama), my daughter spent about 3 weeks with my mom and sister in Georgia. I appreciated the break for about 2 days. Then I missed her like crazy and called them what seemed like every 5 minutes. Still, hubby & I needed the break, and I wish we could have one now, even for a day 🙂

  9. comin over from SITS- you’re the comment above me in roll call!

    I agree- there really is no place like home. Even when you think you’ve had enough, nothing compares to how you can feel there!

  10. Your household sounds a lot like mine. Isn’t it wonderful to have a hubby who will grab take-out when needed?! Love your post!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am so thrilled that there are others who take “the right to vote” as seriously as I do 🙂

  11. Stopping by to say “hi” from SITS 🙂 Love the blog

    by the way I launched my coffee site today, open and ready for orders 🙂 If you want to check it out go to

    Also, we are doing GIVEAWAYS for the rest of this month. To enter visit 🙂

    Have an awesome weekend!


  12. Justice Jonesie

    Now how can I sign up for that job?! Lucky you. Love your blog, I’m a first time visitor.

  13. With your writing talent…I’d say that Nick is getting the better end of the deal! Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I really appreciate the visit!

  14. Isn’t it funny how that happens. You long for “me” time and when you are alone, with just your thoughts and a new environment, all you can think of is home and the loved ones who are there in the daily grind awaiting your return.

    I think that feeling is just what you said: Us getting in our own way, lol.

    I hope you were able to turn that feeling off just for a little while in order to allow yourself a few minutes to savor the moment.

  15. “the mom punk out” – i totally know that feeling (and in fact just experienced it 2 weekends ago). it just reminds you that you are no longer “just” Denene, but truly a part of and connected to 4 other beings that adore you.

    the trip sounds great though 😉

  16. All of us moms need a break sometimes. But we always end up missing our loved ones and wanting to go back home too. Great blog!

  17. I did not realize until a serious burnout, that mommy time alone is absolutely necessary. I spent my birthday weekend in Miami at a very relaxing boutique hotel. For me waking up without an agenda was the best part. I was able to walk for breakfast and enjoy my meal with no interruptions, it was the best. The pleasure of enjoying mojitos, sitting by the pool reading a book or whatever tickeled my fancy for the day was heavenly. OMG having someone else make my meals and leaves the dishes behind was the greatest feeling. Daddy had the kids and all was right in my little getaway world…..Small pleasures meant the most, I can't wait for next year's mommy getaway!

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