Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home Sweet...Friends

 There's not much that can make coming home from the beach exciting.
 I mean it's nice to be back in your own bed and get back into a routine again, but our feet start aching for the feel of sand not long after we leave.
 On the way home our car is typically full of sand coated pails, half empty sunscreen bottles, and little boys asking when we're going back.
 But this year we had every reason in the world to be excited to get home, we had company on their way.
 Not just any company, but the best friend kind. The kind that may as well be family.
 The kind of friends that you stay up late talking with, have coffee with messy hair and no makeup, chase little boys around IKEA with, pray with, cry with, laugh way too hard about nothing with, hope with, and live with.
 Because honestly I don't know how we'd live without them. They are honestly, our hand-picked by God, iron sharpens iron, friends.
 For several awesome days we toured Arlington, invaded IKEA, saw spaceships, ate too much, slept too little, refereed little boy wrestling matches, and just soaked up new memories to last us until the next anticipated time together. 
So grateful for the miles they drove to be here, the days we spent watching our kids get excited about astronauts and be in awe at Arlington National Cemetery's changing of the guard, and so grateful for the blessing of these friends we call family. 
We love you guys!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On Nor'Easters and Saying Goodbye

I'm pretty sure it was due to my sister's fervent praying for a good storm while at the beach, something about loving curling up in a hoodie and watching the rain pound the surf. 
And so her prayers were answered with no basic storm, we got a full on, red flag, dune eroding, rip tide warning, high tide and higher tide nor'easter.
I have to admit, my sister had a point; if it's going to storm, it's better at the beach so we all adopted the "bring it on" attitude and enjoyed the beach in a way we hadn't experienced before.
We took walks on beaches that were now just pounding surf as waves washed up over dunes. We collected shells tossed up from stormy waters. And we took four young children out on pier in 40mph winds.
The gusts were so strong Jefferson literally was walking and not moving forward as the wind pushed him back. But it was incredible to walk down the pier over top of the stormy sea and get splashed by waves.
If that wasn't enough for one day, we decided to explore Bodie Island Lighthouse, in the rain, and 40mph gusts of winds, because we have thrill issues.
No, I'll admit, I have thrill issues and I wrangled my entire family into humoring me and checking it out and they were amazing enough to go along with my craziness.
But we ended up getting three new Junior Rangers out of the trip! The boys had the opportunity to complete the workbooks and be sworn in as official Junior Rangers for Hatteras Island National Park.  They could not be more proud of their new post as you can tell below from their "Ranger Picture".
 It was an incredible and much needed two weeks away, full of traditions, late nights, mini-golf, sun screen, pool time, Italian ice, and miracles. It's always hard to say goodbye to this place. I'm thankful for the memories and the pictures to get us through the winter.
Until next year OBX; so you'll have some time to recover until we invade again. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Lost Colonies and Touch Tanks

Our second week at the beach became cloudy and cool as the nor'easter prepared to invade the Outer Banks. 
Not letting that hold back our adventures, we went off exploring places we hadn't spent much time at over the years.
One being Roanoke Island and learning more about the Lost Colony. Harrison was fascinated by the history and the mysteries surrounding it.
Jefferson was having a blast climbing on and balancing on top of any surface he could find. 
And Wils was smushing his face against magnifying glasses and doing his best to become as lost as the colony.
After walking around the historical site we kept on following a path and found ourselves at the stage where they preform the play.
We had a blast exploring the amphitheater and helping ourselves to a literal backstage tour. We walked across the stage and behind the set and the boys got out a ton of energy racing up and down the stairs.
Afterwards we went over to the aquarium where the boys were promptly eaten by a shark.
Right after that Wils decided to observe the micro-bacteria from the foot traffic of a thousand tourists; we were off to a great start. 
We named snakes, chased otters, and the boys saved a few sea turtles.
I could literally see their immune systems going into Hulk mode under those lab coats which I'm sure are washed in bleach daily. Let me at least think happy thoughts.
But I didn't have to worry long because they got a chance to wash their hands off in the touch tank.
It's a widely known fact that touch tanks are filtered of bacteria with parasite free invertebrates gliding in pristine water void of waste products from said invertebrates...happy place people.
Thirty little fingers happily grazed dozens of sting rays, sea urchins, whelks, and starfish. Thirty little fingers were promptly marinated in Purell.
I promise I'm not a germaphobe, not really, but kinda. Only when I can visibly see the germs. But sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes the touching, and the climbing on, and the giggling, and the crawling over is worth every little bit, ok, lot a bit of purell.
And days of getting elbow deep in history and touch tanks are definitely included in those "worth it" times.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On Giving Boys Golf Balls and Sticks With Which to Hit Them

Remember that thing about traditions I was telling you about?
This night, the night our loud, baby toting, cheerio snacking, camera clicking, golf club sword fighting family, invades a putt-putt course, is one of those traditions.
But not just any putt-putt course. That's the part my boys cling tightly to because this isn't your typical 18 hole, in a fake turf, course.
There's plenty of fake turf, but this course comes with a train ride up around a "mountain" to the starting hole.
And as if train ride wasn't cool enough, the course winds through streams, literally, under mountains, through a pirate ship, and inside tunnels. 
So this year we once again cleared out unsuspecting fellow vacationers, actually we kept letting them play through since we weren't exactly moving at a competitive pace, and handed my three boys golf balls and clubs.
Harrison was finally old enough to get a real metal club with his younger brothers sporting their bright plastic ones, but the clubs turned swords weren't the biggest issue.
It was the golf balls! Wils kept finding ways to lose his. The tiny holes in the sides of decorative barrels, slits in wooden doors, and just a good old throw into the water were all too tempting to a mischievous two year old.
But even with going through multiple balls, reminding Harrison he wasn't on the driving range, feeding LilyMae baby food in between holes, and keeping Jefferson from jumping back on the train for another ride around, Matt and I found time for a fun game ourselves.
Matt even "carved", ok penciled, our initials on the pirate ship to join the hundreds of other putt-putter couples before us. But I'm fairly certain none of them had as much entertainment along with their game as we did. ;)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Pirates and Pink Monkeys...

For the past two years Captain P. has raided our beach house and left behind a treasure map for the kids.
What started as a fun idea, grew into a tradition, and now it's a full on production of planning and secrecy.
The arrival of Captain P. has us all excited whether we're the ones burying and hiding, or the ones finding the letter left outside just for them.
Little boy shrieks were heard round the world when they realized the most anticipated (read year long anticipation), day had finally come.
The infamous day started with the discovery of a letter left by Captain P. along with compasses for each boy to use in treasure hunting. 
The boys were in full on pirate mode and we couldn't move fast enough for them as they followed the letter's instructions to head to the water's edge.
Along the way they found a cache of swords Captain P. left for them before spying the bottle in the surf.
I honestly didn't know my boys could move so fast, but they were not going to let that bottle get away.
That didn't prove to be the hard part. Once the map was finally pulled out it took one aunt, two uncles, a Poppa, and three boys, two of which can't read, to decipher the next steps.
The boys were so wrapped up in the map's directions they didn't care what it said as they were willing to do it all to find the treasure.
The map lead them up over dunes, around fences, crab walking across the beach, and counting paces before they finally spied the "X" on the sand.
The phenomenal speed they possessed to get to the bottle also seemed to come forefront in their digging.
How in the world can I not harness this speed for, oh I don't know, chores, school work? I guess if I buried their "to do list" it would help? I digress.
They finally uncovered the chest with the help of Matt and their uncles, but when it came to lugging their bounty back to the beach house, this was a quest they wanted to accomplish.
Once the caravan made it back to the house we all ran in as Captain P.'s treasure chest was opened and more shrieking and laughing had us all sucked into the moment.
I don't know how long my huge imagination, pirate believing, treasure hunting boys will look for Captain P. year after year before they realize it's the mastermind of aunts and uncles who love them dearly, but I hope it takes a long time.
I hope when their age finally shows them the truth they will realize how incredibly loved they are by family willing to stay up late, build, design, create, and bury year after year. 
I know one day they'll make some great Pirate P. "helpers" to younger siblings and cousins as they grow old enough to join in the treasure hunting.
Because they are all growing fast! And with LilyMae's pink monkey as her piece of the pirate treasure, even she's already taken with Captain P. and the wonderful memories he makes year after year.