Our little run to the beach yesterday was far too short of a trip to give the coast a proper goodbye (so we'll pretend that we haven't said our goodbyes). We went to one of our favourite beaches: North Topsail Island. It was the perfect day. It wasn't terribly windy, the water was nice and warm, and it was actually quite a lot cooler than it was in Durham so it was a great way to escape the dog days of summer that we're suffering through.
We applied sunscreen in the parking lot before hitting the sand because we're finally getting smart about these kinds of things (putting sunscreen on sandy children is...exfoliating). Even Andrew put sunscreen on willingly. He, himself, spread it on his arms and legs. I only had to do his face—and he stood still for that part. We've been married for 11.5 years and that has never happened.
"Aw, you're growing up," I teased.
"I am not," he said. "I just don't want to get burned this time."
"Aw, you're growing up," I repeated.
Last time he got burned and then had to fly out to BYU for interviews and was flaking dead skin everywhere, which I guess he felt was unprofessional or something. He's getting weirdly excited about dressing professionally for someone who loves flip-flops so passionately. I guess it's all part of growing up (which he's not doing; don't worry).
Because we'd already sunscreened-up, the kids were free to run to the water when we found to our spot and they wasted no time in doing so.
Even Zoë, as evidenced in the pictures I posted yesterday, soon found herself in the water. I was glad that I'd had her "carry" her puddle jumper...by wearing it...because she got right into those waves along with everyone else.
The summer Zoë was born was the summer of the sharks (~8 attacks within the space of a month in 2015, which is an exceptionally high number for this area). This year, however, seems to be the summer of rip tides (with, for example 80 rescues and 4 deaths within a 10-day period last month). Even factoring in media sensationalism, those numbers are high. The sea has been rough.
I was glad that we bought a second puddle-jumper at the beginning of the summer (before Benjamin began cooperating with me in the pool long enough to remember how to swim) so that I could have both of the little ones in a flotation device...not that I'd trust a puddle-jumper to keep them from drowning in the ocean, but it was nice for them to have the cork-like ability to pop out of the water faster than they'd be able to do on their own.
Still, as relaxing as the beach is, I managed to worry and worry and worry about sharks and rip tides and other dangers of the ocean as I sat in my super comfy beach chair (it's got a foot rest and an umbrella and everything) to watch my family play. I did manage to squeeze in what was probably the best beach nap of my life...but that was only after everyone was out of the water building a sandcastle together.
Anyway, we managed to make it through our beach trip with all of our limbs and children accounted for so we're calling it a win.
Here's Rachel catching some waves:
Here's Andrew making a skeleton with the little ones:
Zoë took me on a long walk down the beach while she pretended that she was Moana. When I tucked her in last night I asked her what she liked about the beach and she said, "Me, Mommy, Moana. Walk. La-lo on my toes, [patting her body up from her toes to her head], la-lo on my head. MOANA!"
Miriam did some boogie boarding with everyone else but I don't have a picture of her for some reason. Perhaps I have a video of it (but I'm not going through our videos tonight). Unfortunately, one of our boogie boards snapped in half when Rachel was pummelled by a particularly wild wave. That meant we had to do some turn-taking instead of all going out together...which really means I should have had more time to capture Miriam on the board, right? Wrong. Because I didn't.
She did, however, spend more time out of the water than Rachel did—hunting for shells and playing in the sand—so maybe that's why I ignored her with the camera (because I wasn't watching for her head to pop back up over the water). Here she is holding a crab leg she found:
She also found a shark tooth! We've been combing these beaches for years and this is the first one we've found. She was so excited!
Andrew went out to boogie board with Rachel and left Zoë playing in the sand by my feet. I tried to engage her but she quickly ran after them yelling, "Me, too! Me, too! Me, too!"
I kept thinking she'd eventually stop but she kept on running straight into the ocean.
Andrew caught a wave and zoomed back to "rescue" her but ended up knocking her completely over, which she wasn't too happy about.
I think it was after this that Andrew convinced me to take a couple of runs myself.
"No way," I said.
"Oh, come on," he said.
"I can't even lie on my stomach," I pointed out.
"You're mostly floating out there. It'll be fine."
"I'm high risk."
"You're still supposed to be active, just not do anything strenuous. And boogie board isn't even close to 20 lbs..."
"What if something happens?"
"What if something doesn't happen? You sat out on our last trip. Just go. We don't know when we'll ever be back. And Alexander will like it."
So I went. Because I did sit out on our last trip (I was only 10 weeks and was still spotting because pregnancy is always easy and a joy and every woman dreams of spotting for months on end) and we don't know when we'll ever be back.
"But if anything happens, it's your fault," I said to Andrew, who apparently felt he could live with that. So at 24 weeks I took a couple of runs, which were fun and gentle. And then I took a nap. And nothing bad happened.
Here's the castle/village everyone worked on while I took a nap:
Here's Miriam covering herself in sand:
She ended up sinking so deep into that hole that Andrew had to help extract her:
Here are the kids back in the waves:
And here's our last (for now) family picture at the beach. We sure are going to miss this coast.
Andrew and I were talking about how much easier it was to carry all our beach stuff this year, compared to when we first took the kids to the beach when Rachel was a little kindergartener. Benjamin had to be carried because he couldn't walk yet; Miriam was tiny and couldn't carry much; Rachel wasn't much more help; so Andrew and I were completely overburdened carrying the sunshade and the diaper bag and the towels and beach chairs and lunch bag and so forth.
But this time, Zoë walked, Benjamin carried the sunshade, the girls managed the beach chairs, Andrew tackled the boogie boards and the water bag, and I carried the towels and lunch. Easy peasy.
It wasn't so easy peasy convincing four tired children to schlep our things back to the van, however. There was much moaning and groaning and melodramatic collapsing under the weight of their load and no one could remember what they'd carried out. Rachel was sure she'd carried one or two chairs and Miriam had carried four or five (yes, I'm sure that was it). Benjamin was sure he'd carried nothing (sorry, buddy). Zoë didn't want to walk. It was all getting a little ridiculous.
Then a couple sitting nearby came over and offered to help walk us back to our car. I tried to turn them down, but they insisted, and started grabbing bags and herding children along. It was so nice of them!
After we were all showered and changed, we packed up to head to McDonald's (it's a beach tradition: peanut butter sandwiches on the beach, McDonald's on the way home). Here's our view crossing the bridge:
Benjamin loves this little waterway (so do I). He says it looks like puzzle pieces (it kind of does).
I had to snap a picture of the road, too, so that I would remember how there's often no shoulder on the road. See how the grass is growing flush against (and on top of) the white paint? It's fine when there's a gentle slope on the side, but it's less fine when there's a steep ravine or a forest of trees or a bridge or something and there is no forgiveness. We actually nearly got in a wreck when we were crossing a bridge (with zero shoulder space) and a driver coming the other direction had crossed the yellow line. It was slightly terrifying...but we survived. I'm kind of looking forward to bigger driving lanes (which I feel are a lot more common out west than here).
All in all it was a fantastic trip, though I must say that my tummy was super sad about my salad from McDonald's. It was fine going down. It was not fine on its way out. I spent the entire night (and much of this morning) in the bathroom being sick.
If only I had ordered a burger and fries like everyone else (silly diabetes)!
The kids were wonderful, though, and let me take a long mid-morning nap (while they watched Harry Potter and a few episodes of Sofia the First so it's not like it was a real sacrifice for them to let me nap (though I did hear Zoë act up a few times and Rachel pulled some stellar babysitting tricks to get her happy again)) and I'm feeling much better.