Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ocean Isle 2011

My family has been vacationing at the same beach for over twenty years. It's become a sacred week we look forward to all year. We start our countdown sometime after Christmas and talk for months about which house we are going to stay in, which side of the isle we are on, and all of the other fun details. All extended family is invited but every year is different in who is able to join us. I love this beach. I love what it means to my family. I love that my sisters and I explored every inch of it growing up and I have loved watching my kids do the same for the last three years.

This summer we had family come from Wisconsin, Idaho, Georgia and North Carolina to celebrate my cousin Tim's son, Tyler, turning 16. So many wonderful things happened this year we had a lot to celebrate. My cousin, Rhiannon, and her husband, Travis, are pregnant! Mollie and Drew got engaged days before the trip and Mandie, Tim and Creighton are now living in Asheville, N.C. We are so happy that we will get to see them more often. We felt especially blessed that my  grandparents were well enough to make it this year. Like I said, a LOT to celebrate and so much to be thankful for and over 30 people to celebrate with.

We had a blast and Patrick and Madelyn enjoyed every moment. It was awesome to have so many kids around! Patrick and Jack (my cousin Dan's son) are about a year apart and they were inseparable the whole week. It was so much fun to watch them goof around and just be boys. Besides riding the waves Patrick's favorite thing at the beach this year was a dump truck that Papa had found. He played with that thing every. single. day. He also enjoyed sliding down the slide into the pool and jumping off the diving board. Most of the time Patrick is sweet to his little sister but this year they really had fun playing together, not just around each other. They chased each other, buried each other in the sand, splashed and swam and danced like the sillies they are during Aunt Mollie's Zumba "class". On our last morning there, after everyone had left, we were on the beach and the kids were playing in the sand. Out of nowhere Patrick cocks his head to the side and asks, "Mad, do you love me?" Madelyn's face lights up with a huge smile as she promptly pours a shovel of sand on his foot, giggles, then runs away. I think that's a yes.

Madelyn was all over the place, as per usual. She loved the freedom of running forever down the beach after the birds, or following the waves crashing or just running away from us. If she knew what the word freedom meant I believe she would have yelled it while jubilantly running head first into the ocean. She would do that as well. Sprint into the ocean, I mean, when she thought no one was looking. We let her go one time, just to see what she would do, kind of thinking if she got knocked over maybe she'll be more careful next time. She got pummeled by a wave, stood up with a mouth full of salt water, looked at us with a huge grin on her face and lunged back toward the surf. Not exactly the lesson we were trying to teach. Dumb parents (we've only been doing this for three years, as you can see, we are still learning!).

It's easy to see why Patrick and Maddy couldn't get enough of Creighton the cutie!
Patch and Jack, two little goofballs

Daddy and Patrick playing in the sand
Happy 16th Tyler!

We had an amazing week making memories I will never forget. Thank you to everyone who came, everyone who coordinated this wonderful trip, and to all of my family. I love you!

Here's a video Toby put together with some of the highlights from the week. Enjoy!

And here's a slide show with plenty more pictures. You can also see the whole gallery here. I know I'm biased, but there are a TON of cute pictures of all the kids :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mollie's Engaged!

Drew proposed on July 28th, making Mollie's birthday extra special

By the time my youngest sister, Mollie, came into my life I had learned something important about babies from Abbie: they grow up way too quickly. So, I used to sneak into her room at night and rock her for awhile, sleeping cherub that she was, soak up the feeling of her weight in my arms, inhale the scent of Johnson and Johnson shampoo on her freshly washed black hair and kiss her face again and again, knowing that moments like these were fleeting. I wanted to eat her perfectly round cheeks (in the nicest way possible, of course). I was ten years-old and absolutely smitten with my baby sister.

I still am. And now she’s engaged. And driving across the country to Colorado. And eventually moving there to start a new life without me (selfish, I know). Did I mention that my baby sister is engaged?!

My little sisters way back when. My heart swells with love for them both.
Patch and Maddy burying Drew in the sand
All kidding aside, I am so happy for Mollie and Drew’s happiness. We were fortunate enough to spend the week at Ocean Isle with them before Drew had to report to Fort Carson.

It was wonderful to see Mols and Drew so excited; planning for the future and all that it holds for them. Drew was fantastic with the kids and dominated at Mexican Train Dominos so he’s a keeper in my book.

Watching Mollie plot out the rest of her adult life this past week I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for my little Mouse and those precious moments in the nursery when I felt I could never let her go. The girl who would dance and sing with me and the sisters, dress up the dog and make silly home videos. Oh wait, we still do that. Never mind. Carry on.  
This next year will be a fun and exciting one! Congratulations Mollie and Drew. We love you!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Getting Back From The Beach

Whew! What an awesome week that just was. Honestly, the person who thought we should all have to work 40+ hours a week just to have a place to stay and some food to eat should be identified, found and introduced to the business end of a pummeling stick. (As if there's any other end to a pummeling stick.)

I figure since the last post was about our trip to the beach, I'd follow it up with a post about our last day on the beach and the trip back. Then go back and fill in the other days once we have a chance to go through  our pictures and videos. Our final day at the beach was split in two: the beginning where we had a great last couple hours playing on the nearly abandoned beach; and the end, where the universe conspired against us to make everything that could go wrong with a flight - short of crashing - go wrong. Every time it seemed the departure was going to right itself, Murphy's Law jumped in the pilot's seat and showed us what was up. But first, let's start with the good, because I've learned from Angie that it's best to eat your dessert first.

Our flight didn't leave until 4:45 yesterday afternoon which meant we had the whole morning to get in some beach time with the kids. Everyone else drove off around 6 AM to head back home which meant we had the beach house to ourselves. (It also meant all the pictures of the last day had to be taken with my phone since we sent our cameras back with the family.) It was great for the kids, who were exhausted at this point, to have a little down time before a long day of travel back home. We also discovered that most of the island had the same plan of leaving in the morning, which left pretty much the entire beach just to us. The added bonus of low tide gave about 9 miles of sand too.

Patrick went straight away to puddle jumping with Madelyn close behind him...

Then we ran in the waves, built a small city for the dump truck, dug lots of holes, poured sand in every crab hole we could find (one of Madelyn's favorite things to do this week) and just generally had a fun beachy time.

Then we got snacks, got dressed and headed off to the airport. That's where things went crazy...

We should have known we were in for a fun time when we realized Patrick's shoes had accidentally been sent back with all the other bags. Luckily the cab service we used was great and they gladly stopped on the way to the airport so we could get Patrick a new pair of Crocs (breaking my cardinal rule of parenting: never get your kid Crocs. Mostly because, you know, nobody should be wearing Crocs. Those things are hideous.).

I think the rest of the day's events work better to be explained in a list of sorts rather than me rambling on and on. First though, let me set the stage: the kids went to bed the night before after 10 PM because we were up late enjoying our final night with everyone. We all woke up at 5:30 AM that morning. We left the beach house at noon even though our flight wasn't until 4:45 so it could get cleaned for the next set of guests. We exhausted the kids playing on the beach that morning then only gave them an hour long car ride to attempt to nap. We got to the airport at 1:30 PM. And here's how the rest played out...

  • We rode the escalators about a million times and walked all over the airport for 3 hours till we finally went to our gate to try to board.
  • The flight was delayed because of rain in Myrtle Beach and the flights before us being delayed.
  • Rather than boarding at 4, we boarded around 5:15. After getting settled on the plane and getting the kids setup with snacks and such and a bit of waiting, we are asked to get off the plane due to delay from thunder storms in Atlanta.
  • We wait for a while by the gate again as we're told it'll be another hour or so before we can attempt to leave. After that hour goes by, they say it'll be another 90 minutes. We decide to eat.
  • After ordering in the airport restaurant, our drinks arrive, the kids are excited about food, I'm wishing there was rum in my coke and we suddenly hear over the intercom that there's a break in the Atlanta thunderstorm and we're going to attempt to fly in. All passengers need to board immediately. We cancel our order, pay for the drinks, grab our bags and rush to the gate.
  • On the plane. Kids settled. The normal taxiing around the airport for 30 minutes goes by. We're getting ready to head to the runway to take off and we're informed there is an engine problem. We need to go back to the gate to have somebody check it out.
  • Back at the gate, we wait another 20 minutes or so then are asked to once again get off the plane so they can fix the engine. Kids, bags, high hopes all de-plane.
  • It's now 7:45 and we're told we'll get an update at 8 as to what's happening with the engine. I take this as a good opportunity to get some dinner since we still haven't eaten anything other than fruit snacks and Nutri-Grain bars.
  • I wait in line for a while at the Pizza Hut, order some pizza and drinks and pay. Almost as soon as I pay, an announcement is made that the engine is fixed and all passengers need to board immediately. I decide that if something goes wrong with the flight again, I'm just going to order Chinese delivery from the plane since apparently us almost eating dinner is what gets things moving.
  • Amazingly, we take off and the plane doesn't blow up mid-flight. We land a little after 9 PM in Atlanta.
  • We then taxi all over the place because we're looking for a parking spot in the shade or something. I don't know. But it takes way longer than anyone wants.
  • Once we finally park the plane, everyone stands up and crams themselves into the aisle to sprint off the aircraft. But we wait for about 10 minutes with nothing happening. The pilot exhaustedly tells us that the bridge from the gate to the plane is malfunctioning and a repair man is coming out to fix it. I contemplate pulling the emergency slide because a) it would get us off this plane and b) it seems like it'd be pretty fun to bounce down in a non-life threatening situation.
  • We're finally released from the plane and we all scramble to baggage claim. There, we find our car seats, soaking wet. At this point though, we really don't care. After taking the pre-flight parking shuttle back to our car, we throw the kids' clothes on the car seats (since we changed them into pajamas while we were flying) and assume they're both too tired to care about being a little damp. After all, it is now after 11 PM.
  • We manage to make it home around midnight with no flat tires, spontaneous combustions or other acts of God.
Despite the string of bad fortune along the way, I can tell you that there are few times we've been more proud of our kids. Their behavior was AMAZING. We didn't have a single break down from either one. They took every change in schedule in stride and their personalities bubbled to the top: Patrick asked me forty-thousand questions about what was happening (at least half of them were just "Why?" in response to whatever my last answer was) and Madelyn was silly and funny and made friends with everyone in the airport. It was confirmed that we weren't just imagining the good behavior when almost every person on our plane that had kids or grandkids stopped us and told us how impressed they were with Patrick and Madelyn's behavior. We told them in the car on the way home they could both have ice cream for every meal today if they wanted. Luckily they were both sound asleep within minutes of getting in their car seats :)

We broke out an episode of Diego on the iPad for the last part of the flight. Patrick loved his new head phones!

Madelyn taking a short nap on Mommy before we landed.
So now we're back home and going through unpacking and laundry and all that good stuff. The kids are still catching up on sleep and we're enjoying our last day of vacation before work starts up again. We can't wait to look through all the pictures and video from the trip! We had such a fun time and miss everyone a ton already. Hopefully we'll have a post up soon!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting To The Beach

We're at the beach! For a whole week. Which is amazing. I can promise there will be no shortage of pictures and stories of the week in the near future but I thought I'd break the trip down a little to both save me from having to type a post that's four miles long and you from having to dedicate an entire afternoon just to read it.

Watching the planes take off
Installment number one is about our journey here. Every other year we've come to Ocean Isle, we've gotten up long before the sun to begin our trek. Since we've had kids, that's become even more important since the hope was that they'd sleep for half the drive if we left early enough. But, it's also become a bigger pain in the arse since, you know, bringing kids means you bring everything in your house with you. But this year, we found tickets on Spirit air for $9.99. You read that right - no missing zeroes, no misplaced decimals. And since Meme and Papa were driving the van, we were able to send most of our bags of clothes and floaties and other assorted kid stuff with them. Leaving us with the kids, some toys/snacks for the plane and our two car seats to put in the rental when we got there.

Patrick has been on a plane once before, but he was only three months old so this is really the first one he's actually aware of. This was Madelyn's first trip on a plane as well. Patrick had been looking forward to it all week and told everyone at school that he was going to get to "fly on a plane REAL FAST and WAY UP HIGH like this" and then would make his best plane sound which actually sounds more like a rocket ship going through a dishwasher. 

Looking at all the small roads and cars
Even though a 55 minute plane ride is WAY better than an 8-9 hour car ride (especially with a potty-training 3 year old and a very wiggly 18-month old) the day wasn't without its potential hazards. We had checking in at the airport, going through security (Patrick was NOT happy he had to take his shoes off), waiting to board for an hour, waiting on the runway for a long time and THEN the flight. Then the exact reverse of that process once we landed, followed by a 45 minute car ride to the beach. The kids did amazingly well through every step of the process though. We were also lucky in that Aunt Abbie and Uncle Matt were on our flight too so they helped us juggle the kids and car seats through the airport and didn't seem to mind too much when our kids treated their seats in front of us like punching bags. 

All in all, the first plane ride with two kids was a big success. Their favorite parts were the train in the airport (Patrick would make sure we all knew where the train was stopping next after it was announced over the speaker - "Dad! This is Concourse C. We're about to be at Concourse C. Dad, did you know that this is Concourse C?!") and looking out the windows to see the clouds under us while flying. Here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone...

Madelyn reading the safety guidelines prior to takeoff
Pre-flight snack with Mommy
Saying hi to Matt and Abbie
Coloring/Please sit still time :)

So happy about the plane!
Waiting to get off the plane

Sleepy ride from the airport to the beach. She fell asleep before I could even get the luggage tag off.

We looked over and realized he had wiggled his arms out at some point. No idea how/why that happened.
We're having an awesome time at the beach. The weather has been great and the kids have had SO much fun. We'll be sure to post pictures when we get back. Hope everyone is having a great week so far!