Friday, June 24, 2016

Emerald Isle

When my dad was stationed at Camp Lejeune one of his favourite beaches to visit was Emerald Isle.

Now, our family has been to several beaches in North Carolina. We've been to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. We've dipped our toes in at Ocracoke, danced in the spray at Cape Lookout, and chilled at a beach house in Salvo. Our favourite beach to visit though has been North Topsail—which has taken us by Camp Lejeune on several occasions. But we've never quite managed to make it to Emerald Isle (which is rather funny considering how it's sandwiched between the North Topsail and Atlantic beaches).

But with my dad in town we figured we'd strike out for Emerald Isle—and it did not disappoint! Its beaches were beautiful, the ocean was perfect, and the public bathhouse was swoon-worthy.

You might not think it possible to swoon over a public bathhouse, but you guys! I swooned. It was clean and well-lit and not at all stinky. North Topsail has a public bathhouse, too, but it's dingy and stinky and scary.

To its credit, North Topsail beach is always free—the parking, the bathhouse, everything. Emerald Isle has a bit of a catch: it costs $10 (per car, per day) on weekends and holidays (but we visited on a Monday so it was free). But, frankly, I'd probably be willing to fork out that much just for the privilege of having such a fabulous bathhouse close by because *swoon*.

And did I mention the ocean was perfect?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fort Macon

Our first stop of the day on Monday was Fort Macon. There's a little environmental museum in the visitors center, which we all enjoyed exploring.

Here's Miriam being harpooned:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Asphalt Spill of '85

Eventually I'll get my posts about the rest of my parents' visit up, but for now I'll keep alluding to our excursions before you've even heard about them. 

At Fort Macon we went through the little museum at the visitors center and I found this little poster (which I vaguely remember coming across in October) about "The Asphalt Spill of '85," which just happened to occur on June 22, 1985 while my mother was busy birthing me.

In your face

My biggest birthday wish was that my kids would be cheerful and happy helpers today and while it took a while to get them motivated they eventually pitched in and we got our house mostly put back together. Sheet changing and laundry and unpacking and laundry and tidying and laundry and then some more laundry.

When we'd finished our work we settled down for some quiet time (that involved a nap for me and Zoë and a show for the older kids) and then the girls made some (interesting but not terribly intoxicating 2-ingredient banana/oatmeal cookies) and we had some lunch. Our plan was to walk to the pool after lunch (Daddy had the van today) so that we could do something fun together for my birthday...not just work the whole day.

So after lunch we started getting ready to head to the pool—the kids changed into swimming suits and started lathering each other with sunscreen on the front porch while I was gathering up things in the house (freshly laundered beach towels, for example). When they were mostly finished with their sunscreening and had started playing in the yard I brought Zoë out to them so that I could lug the stroller out of the house without her toddling right behind me.

I put her down in the grass, Rachel came over to pick her up, I went inside the house, picked up the stroller and...CHAOS erupted. All of my children were screaming at once. I dropped the stroller and ran to the door in time to meet Rachel, who handed me a screaming, bleeding Zoë.

"Benjamin hit her with a water gun!" she blurted out.

"Excuse me," I said, pushing past her through the door in time to see Benjamin duck down to hide behind the electrical box. "Yeah, you'd better hide!" I hollered and then turned around to go back inside.

"Aren't you going to punish him?" Rachel asked.

"Yes," I said. "But right now I need to focus on Zoë."

"Should I bring him to you so you can stick him in time out?" she asked.

"Naw," I said. "Let him live in fear for a little while."

Ermergersh! It's New Bern!

We spent a couple of nights at a hotel in New Bern. I realize that the city has a rich history (it was named after Bern, Switzerland (before Bern was the capitol of Switzerland) and was once the capitol of North Carolina (before Raleigh was the capitol, obviously)) but all I could think of, for whatever reason, was the ermergersh girl.

If I was in charge of marketing for the maternity ward of the hospital in New Bern this would definitely be on a billboard:

This is obviously why I'm not in marketing. You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Swimming pool and haircuts

On Saturday we went swimming with Naanii and Bumpa at our neighbourhood pool. Bumpa hadn't been able to get into the pool earlier in the week because his swimsuit managed to avoid his suitcase. After visiting Duke Gardens on Friday, however, we stopped by the store so he could be properly outfitted with a pair of swimming trunks. My kids practically expect to go swimming every day in the summer, so swimming trunks are imperative when visiting us in the summer.

Bumpa showed the kids the art of squeezing water through your hands to squirt people.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Life and Science Museum with Naanii and Bumpa

"Do you girls want to do the lab today?" I asked.

"Uhhh...sure," they answered hesitantly.

 "Then go ahead and line up here," I instructed.

 "I don't think I want to, actually," Rachel said, squirming away from the line-up area with Miriam tailing close behind.

I herded them back into place. "Sure you do," I said. "You're the only ones here. It'll be interesting and fun. You'll learn something new!"

"Fine," they grumbled.

They ended up having a fine time and are excited to go back (lab attendance has been incentivized this summer). Today we learned about climate. Benjamin joined us when we were watching a demonstration involving dry ice to help us learn about carbon dioxide. My favourite part was when the kids were testing the level of acidity in their ice core samples (I guess years that saw a lot of volcanic activity means a layer of ice with a higher acidity (or something like that (obviously I was totes paying attention))).

Here they are examining their ice cores:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Duke Gardens with Naanii and Bumpa

After spending the morning at the pool, we came home for lunch and some downtime—napping and board games and a little bit of Mako Mermaids—before heading off on our afternoon adventures.

Here's my mom ever so patiently playing Chutes and Ladders with the kids (that game is one of my least favourite games to play, so I think she's a saint):

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stagville and spider wasps

My parents arrived late last night, after being delayed for several hours in Las Vegas (due to a damaged plane; a new one had to be flown in to replace the plane they were supposed to be on). It was like waiting for a snow storm; the children were wild with anticipation. Amazingly enough half of them were asleep by the time my parents arrived (after 11:00 PM), though I swear they were still awake ten minutes before they walked through the door.

They sure were happy to see them in the morning! By the time I woke up, Benjamin was nestled on the couch between Naanii and Bumpa. Zoë took to Bumpa right away and is always happy to let him (or make him) hold her. The girls are both over the moon.

We went swimming this morning. I taught lessons to some kids in our neighbourhood while my parents watched my little brood (it was lovely to not have to multi-task) and then we came home for lunch. In the afternoon we headed to Stagville and tagged along with an already-in-process tour. We missed touring the big house but got to see the slave houses and the barn.

My mom was amazed at how the tour guide could discuss slavery with such nonchalance, as if it were no big deal that it happened. History is hard and complicated; with hindsight we can see that certain practices and attitudes were so, so very wrong. But in the moment they seemed natural, normal, even right. I suppose it is hard to condemn slave-owners as a group; although slavery itself was an evil practice I'm not sure I'm comfortable saying all those who owned slaves were evil people. That brush is too broad. Surely, though, if they themselves looked back at history armed with what we know now they, too, would find their practices disgusting.

The sad thing is that there are wrong practices today that we accept as normal and natural, even right, that we should probably find equally disgusting. Prejudices still abound. Inequality runs rampant. There is hate and fear and a spirit of revenge... But there are also many, many good things about today, about the people of today, so I think that in spite of everything that we will be able to look back at ourselves with forgiveness.

Obviously these tours tend to get my blood boiling as well as my mother's.

Anyway, here's a picture of my dad with Zoë:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Musical Family Night

The minutes leading up to family night were fraught with melodrama (as much of the day was; welcome to summer vacation) as well as peril (which, thankfully, most of the day wasn't).

Shortly before dinner I made the kids practice the piano and ukulele, which caused a little bit of tension. I lost it completely when we were practicing a fairly easy two-chord song and the girls "couldn't figure out" how to switch between C and F and "couldn't even remember" what the F chord was. I sent them both to their rooms to "figure out" and "practice" the CFG chord progression because we've seriously been working on these chords for three solid years (give or take).

I was like, "Other chords you may ask me about. Other chords you can make a face about or refuse to play because they are too hard. But for crying out loud YOU. KNOW. THESE. CHORDS. But since you claim to not know them you can practice them in your bedrooms until dinner."

Because, so help me, you will learn these chords.

True to their individual natures, Miriam went to her room and hammered out the chords until she was jamming with them. It took her all of two minutes because (surprise!) she already knew them; Rachel, however, went to her room and pouted and raged before practicing. But practice she did. And she played beautifully, and apologized without prompting (which is a lovely thing about this girl).

During dinner we talked about why we are "making" the kids learn the piano and the ukulele—and it's not just to learn how to play the piano and ukulele! It's because music helps promote brain development in language and math, it helps with memory and movement, and while I doubt my children will ever be professional ukulele-ists, I'm hoping the ukulele (and/or piano) will act as a gateway instrument for them (so that when we can afford to give them actual lessons they'll know they want to learn (though the piano I will probably keep pushing for longer than the uke)).

"Complain to me now," I said, "Thank me when you're thirty, or forty, or fifty."

"If I live to be that old," Rachel glowered.