Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wrightsville Beach

When people ask me where I'm from I can never give them a straight answer because there isn't one.

Answering questions such as "Where did you move from?" or "Where were you born?" are easy to answer because there's only one possible answer. But "Where are you from?" is a difficult question with a complicated answer so when I'm asked this I take a deep breath while I think about how much of my life history I should share. I don't even have the privilege of that two word answer, "Army Brat," because I wasn't one, but I did do my share of moving around. I also have the added complication of being a dual citizen. Where do I belong? Here and there and nowhere at all.

Part of me feels like I belong at the coast, probably due to the time I spent living on the coast (briefly (but not in my memory...much) in California, several years in British Columbia, and a couple years in Egypt (those were Seas, technically, not the ocean but that still counts as coast)).

Going to the beach is a homecoming of sorts.

That's why I was so excited to move to a coastal state. But we've lived here for nine months already and I haven't seen even a hint of the ocean (except for that one time we went to South Carolina) so I've been whining about it to Andrew (and we planned and aborted a few trips) and finally, finally we made it out to the beach yesterday.

We left straight from the ballet studio and drove the 2.5 hours, past Wilmington (because, we were informed "there are no beaches at Wilmington"), all the way to Wrightsville Beach (which is in the town of Wrightsville, which is in the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area (so is technically part of Wilmington ...ish)).

Parking was a bear, but we finally found a place to park after driving in a loop several times. All the parking is metered ($2 per hour—thank goodness you can pay by phone because we did not have nearly enough quarters on hand!) and there were metermaids-enforcers just strolling up and down the street, handing out tickets willy-nilly (don't they have anything better to do?).

Stumbling onto the beach was like stumbling into paradise. We were stumbling because we were dragging along three small children and a cooler (and various other packages) and it was paradise because it was the beach.

I was surprised by how warm it was. It's May and was only about 80 degrees, but the water was fine—it wasn't exactly warm but it wasn't terribly cold either. I didn't get goosebumps in the water but I wasn't sweating on the beach either. It was lovely.

The waves were huge, which is probably why both Miriam and Benjamin did their best to stay as far away from them as possible. Both of them cried whenever we tried to take them closer to the water.

Rachel, on the other hand, couldn't stay out of the water so Andrew and I took turns playing in the waves with Rachel and sitting in the sand with Miriam and Benjamin.

So now all that's left to do, I suppose, is warn you that there is an inordinate number of pictures for this beach trip that you'll have to live through. I took well over 300 photographs so I really did pare them down quite a bit. My family's just so cute (in my humble, yet amazingly accurate, opinion) that it's difficult to settle on just a couple of pictures.

Benjamin enjoyed the sand a whole lot. He ate an awful lot of it the first little while we were there but soon decided that this gigantic sandbox made a better toy than a snack. Unfortunately, the people whose spot we took (literally as they were packing up to leave) had spilled a bunch of goldfish crackers in the sand so Benjamin had a heyday with those—he was fighting the seagulls for them.

We had a lot of fun watching the seagulls. They aren't the California Gulls we're used to seeing back in Utah but I'm not quite sure what kind of gull they are. They're in the genus Chroicocephalus rather than the genus Larus (which the Califonira Gull is in) but I can't decide if they're a black-headed gulls or whether they are Bonaparte's gulls. I suppose they could be either of those or both of those or neither of those. Whatever they were, Benjamin liked to watch them and tease them with his crackers. They would somehow manage to catch air currents just right so that they could float right above you for a few seconds before diving for a piece of food. 

I love how curious Benjamin is about everything.

He examines everything he touches very thoroughly. He wants to know how it works, what it tastes like, what it does...

Miriam was nervous about everything. She was nervous about the water, she was nervous about the birds, she was nervous about the people, she was even nervous about lunch. When Daddy told her that we'd be having sandwiches for lunch she thought we'd be getting right down to the root of that word.

"But I don't want a sandwich!" she wailed as we were getting lunch out.

"Why not?" we asked. "We brought grandma-jam."

Grandma-jam is the apricot/pineapple jam we made with Grandma a couple of summers ago. Miriam loves the stuff.

"I just don't want it with sand in it!" she informed us. So I told her not to worry; the food has little to do with actual sand—it was named after the Earl of Sandwich, which is a place in England, on the coast. In Old English, "wic" means 'trading place' so Sandwich was a sandy trading place, which makes sense since Sandwich is a bay in England. The earl part I learned from Sesame Street years and years ago (but it's also on wikipedia so must be true) and the etymology of the place I learned just now.

Incidentally, I also recently learned that "Ye Olde" is from Early Modern English when "th" was originally written with a thorn, which looked a lot like "y." So, Ye Olde Shoppes were actually The Olde Shoppes. But now we say "ye" because...we're awesome. Anyway...

Would you look at this boy's hair? And his smile?

He's adorable. He wasn't a fan of the waves either, though by the end of the day I was able to stand on the wet sand and look at the water with him while he was still smiling, he kept a sharp eye on the reach of the water and would start to cry whenever he felt it got too close to us. If it happened to touch my feet (heaven forbid) he'd start shrieking and would attempt to climb over my shoulders. 

Needless to say, he and Miriam spent a lot of time playing in the sand together.

Andrew and I took turns playing with Rachel in the waves.

Andrew got more ocean time in since Benjamin kind of prefers my company to Andrew's at this stage in his life. He's saying Momma now and whenever I get back from an absence (whether it's half an hour in the waves with Rachel or thirty seconds to use the toilet) he repeats it over and over while clinging to me for dear life. "Momma, Momma, Momma!"

Rachel was confused when he called her Momma the other day so I explained that Momma is a generic baby word for "person I care about." So tonight when I asked her to do something she said, "Sure, Person I Care About."

"What?" I asked her.

"Uhhh...Momma—that's baby for 'person I care about,' remember?"

She thought I was saying that Momma is a baby word and decided that she shouldn't use it anymore. I told her that to Benjamin Momma means Momma and Momma means 'person I care about,' so Momma means Rachel and Miriam and Daddy, too, but for her Momma/Mom/Mommy could still mean me. She didn't have to go around calling me 'Person I Care About.' That's just awkward.

She's been very interested in foreign languages lately. Her kindergarten class has been studying the continents, and by extension various countries within those continents  and by extension various languages spoken in the various countries on the various continents. She also has a new classmate who doesn't speak English well and so she's been trying to learn Spanish so that she can talk to her. She approaches it like she should be able to pick it up in a heartbeat.

"Mom, will you teach me Spanish so I can speak to Kiyara?"

Sure. It's just that simple.

We've worked on a few phrases but, frankly, I don't speak enough Spanish to go around instructing people on how to speak it. Rachel, though, is fascinated with language right now and was thrilled to learn that Benjamin has his own lingo, too.

Here's Rachel in the waves with another Person She Cares About, her Daddy:

He got her "over" her fear of sharks. She was so sure they were lurking just in front of her and if she got up to her knees then *whamo* she'd be mincemeat. This might be partially my fault because I found the story of Lucy Mangum when we were looking at graduate schools and considering Duke. She's a sweet little girl from an LDS family living in North Carolina while her father is a resident, or something (there are a lot of medical students out here) and she was attacked by a shark, and lived to tell the tale. 

And she's not the only one to be attacked off North Carolina's coastline, either. According to ABC news, "sharks have attacked 41 people in North Carolina in the last 75 years," and only 29 attacks of those attacks happened in this millenium (with only one fatality) according to Yahoo Voices (referencing the International Shark Attack File). It seems only a handful of people are attacked each year in the states with the highest rates of shark attacks (we'll be extra careful in Florida).

The good news is that you can avoid becoming a shark's snack by avoiding the water when they feed (dawn, dusk, dark). They apparently often swim in shallow water but typically go unnoticed. 

My brother Patrick warned me that most shark attacks take place in relatively shallow water, and indeed that's true, but I'm not sure if that's because that's where sharks are more prone to attacking people or if that's simply because that's where the people are. I don't know many people who just go swimming in the middle of the ocean. 

So it's still a little bit scary for me—the ocean, that is—and I'm sure it's still scary for Rachel, but Andrew at least got her in past her ankles. Sharks are a danger, sure, but so are bears and she goes into the forest.

Andrew was giving her bodysurfing tips. She was getting quite good at it from what I could see—at any rate, the waves were easily washing her ashore!

Now I'm kind of squirming in my seat from looking up too many scary tales about shark attacks and Andrew keeps sending me links about that monstrous tornado in Oklahoma. So, how about something a little more lighthearted—like pictures of sweet Benjamin in the sand?

I can make that happen. Look how sweet:

I love this picture of Benjamin, doing the splits, and rocking out on the beach—it looks like he's playing the air guitar or something.

Andrew started burying Rachel in the sand and Miriam actually went close enough to look. She almost set foot on sand wet with ocean water. Almost, but not quite.

She preferred to take things in from a distance.

After being buried waist deep, Rachel requested that she be buried all the way. She was cold and the sand was warm.

So Andrew began burying her again while I kept my eyes on the littler ones. Miriam stayed far away, in case the ocean should suddenly jump out at her, but Benjamin crawled over for a closer look. Here he is doing his standard wave:

He slowly made his way over, stopping just by Rachel's head. He watched Daddy gather up handfuls of sand and plop them onto Rachel and then mimicked what he saw, plopping his handful of sand right on Rachel's face. He then sat back and grinned while everyone else laughed.

Even Rachel was a good sport about it. She had another good laugh when Benjamin tumbled face-first into the sand just seconds after flinging sand in her face.

He was not very impressed but Rachel sure thought it was hilarious.

Benjamin's face was usually covered with sand but he didn't seem to mind. His eyelashes are so long and luscious that I'd be surprised if any sand got through them. He didn't complain about his eyes one bit all day.

We did a lot of burying of each other. The girls love turning their legs into mermaid tails. Benjamin and Miriam covered and uncovered my legs more times than I could possibly count, and even Benjamin got buried a time or two. We were all so sandy you could hardly tell us from the beach!

We had fun sifting through the shells on the beach. Benjamin was happy to be involved in everything. So often he's told to go away so the older girls can do their own thing.

Picking up shells and putting them into a bucket was right up his alley.

He's such a fun little guy!

We all kept marveling at how Benjamin suddenly started crawling. I don't know what was so special about the beach, but it made Benjamin decide to get his tummy up off the ground and crawl on his hands and knees.

Miriam had a few close encounters with seagulls, thanks to the goldfish crackers that were scattered all around us in the sand. We kept unearthing new ones by all our digging and the seagulls would swoop down and snatch them. Some of them were quite brazen and surprised us with how close they were willing to fly to us just to eat a lousy cracker.

Soon, though, she decided it would be so much fun to be a bird and constructed a little nest for herself.

She took a long time doing it and spent a long time playing in and around it after it was completed.

Miriam also did some yoga on the beach because "that's what some people do—you know that?" At times she took herself very seriously. Other times she got a little goofy. She was doing sun salutations and tree poses as well as a lot of other silly stuff she made up on her own.

Meanwhile, Benjamin played and played and played...

...while Rachel and Andrew raced from the water to the sand and back again.

As we were getting ready to leave for the day, we paused to watch a beach wedding take place. It was beautiful, but I think it would be weird to have so many random people in swimsuits watching you get married. There was a whole passel of little girls, dripping wet, standing in a pack, just drooling over the bride. It was almost funny to see.

Our little girls were also intrigued. Miriam is already dreaming of her wedding day—she'll often tell me that when she grows up she wants a wedding—and Rachel gave her nod of approval to the colourscheme (turquoise is her favourite colour right now).

Here are the girls playing in the sand after the marriage was a done deal and the wedding party was busy taking pictures. They had a whole area set up with a pulpit and chairs and everything but started taking it down not five minutes after the groom kissed his bride.

Rachel, you can see, was jealous of Miriam's nest and decided to make her own.

Meanwhile, Benjamin finally decided to take a nap. He'd been so busy playing all afternoon that he couldn't settle down to nurse and when he finally did he was out like a light.

Unfortunately, we were getting ready to leave so we had to wake him up (it's easier to carry an awake child than a sleeping child and since we had so many other things to carry we needed him to be awake so he could hang on). He wasn't thrilled about having his nap interrupted...but then again, neither was I. He's not a very dedicated napper so I try to take what we can get.

We paused for a few family pictures just before hitting the showers.

For dinner we stopped at Wendy's and let the girls have their choice off the dollar menu (chicken nuggets or a Jr. Cheeseburger—exciting options, right?), but they loved it. As we were walking out to the van to load up our sleepy children, with freshly satisfied tummies, Andrew predicted that all three of them would fall asleep on the drive home, and that totally happened...twenty minutes before arriving home! Before that they watched a movie, screamed, fought, demanded snacks, and were little terrors in every other way imaginable. 

It didn't help that the ride was longer than we'd anticipated due to heavy rains.

We stopped for gas when we were about halfway just so I could nurse the baby, who was thrilled to be out of his carseat. Unfortunately, he started screaming the minute I buckled him back in.

Rachel was the first to fall asleep, which was no surprise considering how long she played in the ocean. Benjamin was next, he screamed himself to the point of exhaustion, and then Miriam finally succumbed after peppering us with questions long after the other two had drifted off. Unfortunately, we only got twenty minutes of silence the entire ride home.

Once we got home we rushed to get the children showered and in bed. I think the girls were in bed by eleven. Benjamin stayed up screaming because he discovered that he could pull himself to standing in his crib. He gets so tired from staying up all the time that he wants nothing more of life than to fall asleep...except to stay awake a little bit longer. He's a champion sleep-fighter.

But even if an afternoon at the beach didn't make our children fall asleep on the ride home, and our house got sprinkled with beach residue, and I had several extra loads of laundry to do today, it was worth it. And I'm sure it will be worth it when we do it again.


  1. I don't like the forest either for exactly that reason :).

    1. I hear ya loud and clear! I'm always nervous about wild animals and/or crazy people. But I also think I can't let fear dictate my actions otherwise I'd probably stay in bed all day. :D

  2. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time at the beach. And I love that Rachel called you "person I care about." Too funny!

  3. I have been waiting for this post! Thank you!

  4. How fun! I love all the pictures. Your children are adorable. And you can never take too many pictures. Oh the beauty of digital photography. We are so spoiled as parents today to be able to take pictures ad naseum of our children! Oh, they grow up so fast.