Monday, September 23, 2013

Fort Fisher

While I'm not going to argue that this is the perfect time in the school year to take a break—it's not too hot and not too cold and we were just starting to resist waking up in time to catch the bus—I will complain that it's kind of a lame time for Andrew to not be on break. So though he has classes, which means we're stuck in town all week long, we decided to cram as much as possible into the weekends. After all, this is like the "rest" of our summer break.

On Friday we were supposed to get up and go to a friend's birthday party before leaving for Wilmington. However, it was also raining when we woke up, so the party was postponed. We made a split-second decision to get everything ready and loaded up before Andrew left for campus so that we could just go with him. It would save us about an hour of down time. So we scrambled to get all five of us ready to go and packed into the van.

Our neighbour saw us packing and asked where we were headed.

"We're going camping!" the girls excitedly explained.

"For a week?" she asked, noting the amount of stuff we'd already crammed into our van.

"No. Just for one night," we told her.

She giggled at us, a lovely, lilting laugh.

"You sure are taking a lot of stuff!"

And that was true. But we were packing for five people! We had the tent, our bedding (including a pack'n'play and an air mattress), a box of non-perishables, a cooler of fridge-worthy food, a cooler of water, multiple flashlights, a ukulele, a hiking backpack, firewood, camping chairs, and other camping necessities. Further, because we were planning on going to the beach we had all of our beach hud, too: swim suits, towels, boogie boards, and so forth.

I think that if we had been going camping for a week we would have brought about the same stuff, adding only a few extra changes of clothes and some more food.

We hung out on Duke campus while Daddy went to class. He left us in the parking lot while he ran to class (we were running a little late) and I sat and fed Benjamin while the girls read. After Benjamin finished nursing we made our way to the Sanford building, trying to follow the directions Daddy had given us. Unfortunately, my sense of direction slash my ability to remember verbal directions is a little weak. I didn't watch enough Dora as a child.

"We have to go through the soccer field," I recalled. "And then..."

If only Dora had been around when I was younger I would have remembered what to do next. What happened instead was this:

"And then we go this way...I guess."

I figured that we'd eventually either get to the Sanford building or we'd get so incredibly lost that Andrew would call us when he got out of class, ask us where we were, and bring the van around to collect us. I finally admitted to the girls, who were complaining about having to walk so far, that I was a little bit lost.

"I have no idea where we are," I said.

"Don't worry, Mom," Rachel reassured me. "Duke's a loop...I think."

The good news is that we eventually did make it to the Sanford building. Andrew laughed when I told him the way we'd come, but I told him just to be impressed that I'd made it there at all. We seriously had time to go to the bathroom and walk along a wall before he came out of class (that's how long we'd been walking), and then we were on our way.

We made it to Wilmington—and beyond to Fort Fisher—in record time. No stops.

Even more miraculous was that all the kids—even (and perhaps especially) Benjamin—stayed dry! I suppose we pretty much expect the girls to not wet their pants on road trips anymore, but we do expect them to beg to pull over so we can find a restroom. Benjamin, however, surprised us with his ability to "hold it." After his yeast infection fiasco, I started potty training in full force and he's seemed to pick it up fairly well. We were all so excited for him (he stayed dry the entire day)!

Since I'm busy talking about stuff that will embarrass my children in the future, please ignore the way Miriam is holding up her pants in all the pictures. The poor thing has a tiny waist and no bum and is growing a little gangly. She'll be four next month. These pants are size three (she still often wears 2T) but they don't stay up worth a darn even though they're a little short in the leg. She was hiking them up all day. This might be part of the reason she often chooses to wear dresses.

Anyway, Fort Fisher was pretty cool. We didn't spend much time inside the museum. It looked pretty neat but everyone was anxious to head outside. Besides, their signs could really use an overhaul—many of them were completely illegible, with letters worn off or the plastic coverings being so scratched up. Outside the signs were pretty run-down, too, but the children were happier there.

The fort itself was pretty cool. We learned that Fort Fisher was the "largest earthen coastal fortification in the Confederacy" and that "the two largest land-sea battles in history until that time took place here Dec. 24–25 and Jan. 13–15, 1865 resulting in the fall of the fort." The fort stretched through much of the island, though not much of it remains. The ocean has been creeping inland so the fort has slowly been going out with the tide. They've built up the beaches surrounding the remains of the fort—with boulders and breakers and so forth—in the hopes of keeping it around for a while longer. We went on a lovely walking tour of part of the fort.

There were lovely-looking climbing trees off the trail a ways, but we were continuously reminded not to enter the forest, much to Rachel's disappointment.

We enjoyed the little boardwalk over the marsh.

When I first saw the ship-loading cranes I thought they looked like giraffes off in the distance. I was like, "What in the world?!"

The boardwalk spat us out inside the fort. Rachel and Daddy immediately raced up the stairs to the top, where Rachel quickly saw how the height of the walls gave the Confederates such an advantage. "You can see everywhere from up here!" Exactly.

We were in awe of the cannon, of course.

Back down the stairs we go...

Here we are by one of the doors leading inside the wall (it was locked).

At the end of the walking tour of the fort, you could either take a path back to the museum or you could cut across a field and take a dirt path up to the road where a crosswalk was waiting to help you get to the other side. The dirt path up the embankment certainly didn't look official...until you got up to the crosswalk.

Miriam had a hard time making it across the field because it was sprinkled with yellow flowers.

She, of course, had to stop and pick them and she chattered away while she was picking.

"This field would be a perfect soccer field! Look how big it is and how it's just perfect. And I love these flowers. I'm going to pick you a bouquet. Is soccer for girls or is it just for boys? I think soccer is for girls and boys. I'm talking about soccer, you know, not suckers. Suckers are really good and soccer is really good. But I'm talking about the game soccer that you play with a ball. Sucker is another word for lollipop. It's like a candy that I love but it's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about soccer the game and how this would be a perfect place to play it. Here—these are for you!" she said. 

I laughed at her because sometimes I just can't help it.

"What?" she asked.

"That was just funny, that's all," I said.

"I know," she said. "I'm a funny girl."

"Yes, you are," I agreed.

"And I'm a smart girl! And a cute girl! Three things! I'm three things in one!"

I'll confess right now that I've never actually read Anne of Green Gables (but I just started it and loved the TV show when I was a kid). However, I must say that the way my children are prone to monologuing certainly reminds me of Anne.

I love that Miriam loves life so much.

We crossed the road and caught up with Rachel and Daddy who were busy watching these bugs busily...mate. There were pairs of them all over these flowers, dancing, mating, laying eggs. It's like fall is in the air or something.

Here's a monument that stands at the once-headquarters of Fort Fisher:

And here are the girls and I doing "eagle pose" in front of the monument (because there is an eagle on top, obviously):

We made it to the beach and saw the preservation efforts that had been put in place to keep the island from eroding further:

Then we made our way down to the beach. Rachel, of course, was the first one to make it down there and though we called out after her "Don't get wet!" she was already in up to her thighs by the time we caught up with her. Fortunately, that's as far as she got...

Miriam was a little slower picking her way over the rocks and down to the sand.

And that's as far as she got. No need to tell her not to get wet.

In fact, I had to beg her to "just get a little closer." 

"Just up to here—where the sand is still dry. The water's not going to come all the way up here! You can come play here. You'll be fine. I just want you at the top of the hill then, so I can see you. No, don't go any further. Come back here. I promise—the sand is still dry! You're going to be fine!"

I wanted to go stick my toes in the water with Rachel but I also didn't want to leave Miriam out of sight.

Andrew came back to deal with Miriam while I went to splash with Rachel.

Rachel was having a grand old time with her friend, the ocean.

Andrew brought a terrified Miriam much closer to the ocean than she wanted to get.

She made a break for it the minute he put her down.

After watching Miriam run away in terror, Benjamin was no so sure he wanted to meet the ocean, either.

I don't know why he didn't just follow Rachel's example instead!

Here are Rachel and I enjoying the water while Benjamin clings to me for dear life:

And here I am all agape about how cold the water is. It actually wasn't so bad once you got used to it but that initial blast was plenty chilly!

Two of our three children were thrilled when we said it was time to leave the beach. The other one cheered up when we reminded her we were going camping.

We had to make a couple of stops on our way back to the van, however, because Benjamin, who insists on walking more and more, was pretty sure this bench needed to be climbed on. He thinks that most things need to be climbed on.

"Isn't he adorable?" Andrew asked, snapping a picture.

Upon hearing the word "adorable," Miriam climbed up on the bench to show off her cute side, too.

And then Rachel climbed up as well.

My first thought when I saw this picture was, "Where did Rachel come from?!"

Miriam and Benjamin are basically identical twins. And then there's Rachel.

I know exactly where she came from, of course. With my brown hair and my skin tone, it's perfectly clear she's my little girl. She's my little Laura Ingalls, except she looks like her Ma instead of her Pa, while the other kids look like their Pa. I suppose, in truth, that all three look like both of us—they're just exhibiting our traits differently.

Anyway, here's some more of Benjamin's cuteness because you can never have too much of that:

I was so in love with all the fanciful beach houses, each house on stilts painted a vibrant rainbow hue. The whole place just looked cheery.

And then there was this sad little 1940s trailer park:

It looked a little sad and ghetto next to all the swanky new beach homes. But it turns out that Fort Fisher was a training facility during WWII, which would mean that these were the barracks, I suppose. They're still owned and operated by the military.

We were all pretty excited to get to our campsite—at Carolina Beach State Park—because that meant we could have dinner soon (we were all rather hungry). The girls helped Daddy set up the tent while I nursed Benjamin again.

When he was finished we plopped him in the pack'n'play and told the girls to keep him happy while Daddy and I made some actual headway on the tent situation. We'd forgotten a hammer (among other things) so we used a log to pound in the stakes.

Benjamin was pretty sure he didn't want to be in the pack'n'play...

Rachel forgot she was supposed to be entertaining him and she sat down to take some notes on her day while he did his best to escape.

Fortunately, he's pretty short, so his attempts were futile. He'd resigned himself to his fate by the time we had the tent set up.

In fact, he was quite enjoying himself.

I'm sure he didn't understand why this was so funny, but he quickly figured out that when he rubbed his face up and down the mesh siding he could get everybody to laugh at him. (It's easier to see these pictures when they're small...)

The girls helped Daddy make the fire. Andrew was so proud of that fire—it's his first solo fire-building experience (aside from the "assistance" of two little girls). He'd started fires several times in his scouting days—but only tiny ones that were put out as soon as the requirement was passed off. This was his first time building a roaring fire by himself.

It was perfect for roasting our hot dogs.

Miriam kicked back in her camping chair to eat her dinner, like some sort of exotic, barefooted, filthy dirty, urchin princess.

Rachel was happy that she convinced us to buy a third adult-sized chair so that she had somewhere to sit, too. It boggles my mind that she's outgrown the kid-size chairs.

Our campsite was fairly close to the bathhouse (you'd better believe we picked our campsite based on how many yards it was to the bathhouse) and the girls loved "leading the way." Miriam, especially, had this self-important swagger she'd adopt when she was the one carrying the lantern to light the path.

After s'mores and songs around the campfire (accompanied on the ukulele by yours truly), the girls went to bed without putting up much of a fuss. They still had most of the comforts of home: their favourite blankets, their favourite dolls, and water bottles. We still read from The Horse and His Boy and even the sounds of the forest weren't scary to them because, frankly, the sounds of our backyard rival (and perhaps out-croak, out-click, out-buzz, and out-hoot) even the densest of North Carolinian forests (or at least the forest of Carolina Beach State Park).

With the girls tucked in (Miriam fell asleep right away but Rachel stayed up to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which she finished this afternoon...after starting it on Friday)), Andrew (and Benjamin) and I settled down for some reading—he brought a bunch of articles to plow through while I enjoyed a bit of Anne of Green Gables (while Benjamin enjoyed his milk and cuddles)while the fire died down. When the coals were just about perfect (and just after I put Benjamin down for the night) I remembered that we'd packed some jiffy-pop, and while the instructions implicitly state not to pop it over the campfire, we couldn't resist trying it (the internet said we could).

Andrew was super excited about it.

At the very end, the bag burst open and the force of that sent the coals scattering but other than that our popcorn turned out beautifully. Once the fire had gone out completely, we went to bed, which was quite the feat! We only managed to blow the air mattress up halfway before we gave up (we used the car as our power source and didn't want to run it forever) so it was a very unstable bed.

We had to lie very still or we risked bouncing the other off the mattress (and onto the children, who were sleeping on the floor). It was like sleeping in a water bed...but also like sleeping in a hammock. It was neither terribly comfortable, nor entire uncomfortable. It was just very wibbly-wobbly. And aside from getting rained on, it was a good night!


  1. Seriously? You are just NOW reading the Anne books?!!! I am a bit shocked. How did I not ever insist that you read them; Canadian classics as they are?!!!

    And also, Miriam is so funny!

    1. I know--we even had them in our house. Unfortunately they were deemed unlendable so I never got the chance to read them. We have a paperback of Anne of Green Gables and the rest of the set can be purchased for kindle for 99 cents. So far it seems like a good read-aloud book...

    2. Actually they're available on project Gutenberg as we'll probably do that. Free is cheaper than 99 cents. :)

  2. Fun trip and nancy I say this with love but spring for some adjustable waist skinny jeans for Miriam. You can get them at children's place when they do20-30% off for like 8 dollars or check out eBay or a children's consignment store. Target does some really cute pairs to but I always wait until they are on clearance. Anyway trust me on this. I have Gigi and captain e. all legs no girth. I just pull those elastics as tight as I can get them and if they are skinny jeans they have less fabric to bunch :)

  3. 1) I love the picture of Benjamin not wanting to get wet.
    2) camping with children boggles the mind. Go Heisses!
    3) Pants with adjustable waistbands save the day for Espen and his snake hips. Definitely give them a try if you haven't already.

  4. She probably didn't read them because you gave all the ANNE books to me :D
    Malachi quite often narrates his life too... I actually looked it up because his narration has increased dramatically over the past year but alas, it's just a way that some children learn. I think it's weird he's picked it up now though... Cute pictures of your kids! I always like to hear what you guys are doing. You're such a good mom.

    1. Well, I wasn't going to name any names about who wouldn't lend them to me...but since you outed yourself... :P

      Love you, Abra! :)

  5. Rachel's pants all seem to have adjustable waists. But the pants Miriam is in (Rachel's old pants) don't. My kids hardly ever wear pants so they usually are in good enough condition to be passed down. I'll have to see if we have any adjustable waist ones that would fit Miriam length-wise.