Tuesday, July 09, 2013

North Topsail Beach

Yesterday we went to North Topsail Island on a relatively spur of the moment spree. I was surprised how many friends said they'd join us considering it's nearly a three hour drive away and we only decided to go on Saturday. We were joined by the Hennessees, Greens, and Tessems, though all their husbands stayed behind to work so Andrew was our lone male—with four women and fifteen children.

We caravanned out, splitting our four families between three minivans. We joked that Andrew looked a bit like a polygamist (but what can you do?).

Rachel was excited about this trip for various reasons. She loves the beach so much that she'd be up for a trip anytime but this time her friend Grace came along and Grace is moving next Monday so she was more than happy to spend the entire day with her. We also had found a boogie board at Five And Below (like a dollar store, only where everything is $5 or less) and got it for her birthday. But since we were going to the beach anyway we decided to give it to her early. She was so excited she could hardly sleep.

Rachel's in the middle (Carolina on the left, Andrew on the right, and Rylee right behind her)
We had a terrific storm at about four o'clock in the morning, with blinding flashes of lightning and windowpane-rattling claps of thunder, and Rachel, who had been dreaming about the history of Topsail Island had incorporated the storm into her dream and woke up terrified, screaming at the top of her lungs for Daddy (who slept soundly through it, of course). Legend has it that Topsail Island (which isn't pronounced as topsail but rather as topsill) was a pirate's playground back in the day. Pirates as well-known as Blackbeard himself would lie in wait for unsuspecting merchant ships in the channel between the island and the mainland—no need to go hunting for ships out in the open. Eventually stories of the pirates pillaging had spread and sailors knew to watch for the topsails of pirate ships before entering the channel.

Rachel was dreaming about this when the storm began. The sound of the thunder made an excellent soundtrack for a cannon battle, which is the very part of the ride Pirates of the Caribbean that terrified her the most.

After getting her calmed down she said a little prayer and then asked if she could read for a little while—she was at the part in Charlotte's Web where Charlotte had just revealed her egg sac. I told her that she could read one chapter and then she should try to go back to sleep. It was only four in the morning, after all. So, leaving the hallway light on, I left her alone—book in hand, primary songs playing in her CD player—to go back to sleep, myself.

I succeeded. She apparently did not.

As soon as Andrew's alarm clock went off (at 7 AM) she ran into our bedroom, ready to fill the house with light (to chase away anything scary that might be lurking) and get going. I wasn't quite as ready to be awake as she was. Benjamin had stayed up crying until 11 PM. Then she was up at 4 AM. Not to mention the storm and so on.

We managed to leave the house just a little bit late and met at the Tessems just a little bit later.

We made it there in under three hours and immediately fell in love with it. Free parking! Not crowded!

It was worth the few extra minutes we spent driving.

Too excited to change, Rachel asked if she could just run straight into the ocean in her clothes. I told her that she absolutely had to get changed first. She got changed as quickly as possible and, after I basically wrestled her to the ground in order to apply sunscreen, ran off to jump in the waves.

Miriam, meanwhile, was a class-A grump.

"Please can I just sit in the car until we go home?" she asked. "I only like freshwater! I hate the ocean! I hate the beach! I just want to go home!"

She didn't want to get wet. She didn't want to get sandy. She just didn't want to be there. And she wasn't afraid to let me know. Eventually she sat on a chair to sulk and suck her thumb while everyone else had a wet and wild time in the ocean.

We had six boogie boards (which our girls call "buggy" boards (with a good ol' fashioned schwa) and which Andrew calls "buh-ggy" boards (IPA: ʊ) and which I call boo-gie boards (IPA: u); this has caused all sorts of good-natured conflict in our home) to share between the twenty of us. I suppose the three and under crowd (Miriam, Ethen, Rosiemary, Olivia, and Benjamin) shouldn't be counted in that, so there were six boards between fifteen of us and since we had to have adequate babysitting for the tots and preschoolers at any given time, it seemed to be a good number of boards for our group.

I left Miriam pouting in her chair and Benjamin building sandcastles with Daddy while I went out with Carolina, Rachel, and Rylee. We were out being pounded by the waves for what felt like a long time (and probably was) when I tagged Andrew in to take my place. Lugging Benjamin around, I took some pictures:

Carolina, Rachel, Rylee, Andrew (and a mystery child on the far left)
That's Rachel with the board over her head; Andrew's on the right, obviously
Carolina, Rachel, Rylee, Andrew
Rachel, Rylee, Carolina, Andrew
Something magical happened while I was ignoring Miriam and somehow someone convinced her to come play in the tide pools. For the first time (on this American continent) Miriam got into the ocean willingly and under her own power.

It helped, I think, that we had a handful of children playing in the water at any given time. The tide was quite far out so the waves didn't even come close to touching the little pools of water left behind. The water was warm and calm and, apparently, inviting.

Miriam spent a lot of time playing with Grace, who is also a rather cautious child who doesn't dare enter the ocean.

Benjamin had fun joining in the splashing. Splashing is one of his very favourite things to do.

So while Andrew kept track of all the little ladies out boogie boarding...

...I splashed around in calmer waters with the littlest of our crew.

Joe, Miriam, and Grace (as well as some unfamiliar children who joined in our playing)
Those three little girls (Carolina, Rylee, and Rachel) showed such fantastic endurance that they were still out in the waves by the time Benjamin decided it was nap time.

I left Miriam playing in the pools with her friends and sat down to nurse Benjamin. He fell asleep and took a lovely nap inside the sunshade Grandma sent for his birthday. Our little friend Ethen had napped in it earlier in the day and even Daddy eventually moved under the shade to nap after coming back from boogie boarding.

Daddy was going to get way too sunburned napping here:

It's a good thing he moved inside the tent!

With no in-water adult supervision, our littlest boogie boarders handed the boards over to the older kids and spent some time enjoying the sand and pools (I would call them tide pools but it's really just the "intertidal zone," since tidal pools are typically bound by rocks).

Rachel and Rylee

I found a little critter floating in the water and brought it over to show to a group of kids. Miriam, Little Miss Afraid-Of-All-Bugs, was the first one brave enough to take a turn holding it. It was fairly shocking.

I don't know what it is. It's this, but whoever took that picture didn't know what it was either. I think it's some sort of sand flea. The kids thought it was quite interesting to look at.

When they got bored looking at it they decided to dig a hot tub.

Grace, Joe, Miriam, Rachel, Carolina, Rylee

And here's some more of our friends enjoying the water:

Here's Grace with Rachel and Miriam. We're certainly going to miss Grace and her family!

Poor Olivia wanted to play with Benjamin but he was being boring.

He did eventually wake up and play again though.

I just love his smile!

Hey, look! Everybody got back in the water again...go figure.

Carolina, Rachel (with mystery child?) and Andrew

Lauryn, Benjamin, Carolina, Andrew, Lily, and Rachel

Miriam got brave enough to visit the ocean itself—not just the pools left behind. The waves were still breaking much farther out than where she was standing...

...but she did allow the water to rush up to her toes before screaming and running away.

We had a great time at the beach and I think we ended up staying for around six hours. I think some people were ready to call it a day before others but even after we started packing up some children were raring to go and others were whining about leaving.

We stopped for gas and dinner on the way home. This isn't where we stopped, but isn't this a crazy store? The shark's mouth is the entrance.

We got the girls ice cream and fries to eat at McDonald's. We also got a smoothie so that we could ask for a spoon without feeling embarrassed (though perhaps we could've asked for a spoon with the ice cream). We had packed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jam but had forgotten to pack a spreading implement so we used the spoon from McDonald's to spread our peanut butter.

Benjamin cried more or less the whole way there and the whole way back, but the three girls in the backseat were wonderful! They were awake when we set out for home...

...and asleep by the time we arrived.

After showering off and lathering the kids with aloe vera, we sent them to bed, and all three slept through the entire night!

Miriam was very concerned about her sun burn.

"Mom! I got sun cancer today. And so did you!" she said worriedly.

Fortunately, skin cancer isn't quite as immediate as that but I do feel bad that we all sizzled a little. We spent an entire week and a half in Florida, spending hours at the beach and in the pool and just walking around under the blazing sun and no one gets burned. We spend one day at the beach in North Carolina, reapplying sunscreen, and even sitting under our shade tent, and everyone gets burned (except Benjamin—I think he may have escaped). Oh, well...


  1. Looks like you had a fantastic day - and I'm so glad Miriam is finally allowing herself to have fun at the beach!

  2. How fun! Sorry about the sun cancer though.

  3. Thanks for including us in your brilliant idea! Loved it! And Olivia did awesome (and made up for the no sleep by napping about six hours straight the next day, brilliant!)

  4. How fun that we made your blog! We had such a fun day -- thanks for inviting us!!