Saturday, May 24, 2014

Topsail Beach

We went to the beach today and had way too much fun and took way too many pictures. Only a few valiant readers will make it to the end. Shoot—even I might not make it to the end and I'm the one writing this, so don't be surprised when I write something like, "And then we played in the water more. Pictures."

Seriously, though, I think I could live here. And I guess I kind of do, though the three-hour drive kind of puts a damper on calling the beach our backyard. Still, it's nice to live to the ocean again.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I planned this beach trip for Memorial Day weekend, which is usually a crazy weekend for trying to go out of town. After we decided to go I started having flashbacks to the Memorial Day weekend fail we had before Benjamin was born—when we tried to go to the copper mines with my parents and ended up sitting on the freeway in backed up traffic unable to go anywhere.

Fortunately, traffic was fine this morning and the beach wasn't even crowded!

We went to North Topsail, which I guess is a less popular beach for whatever reason. We happen to think it's awesome, even if it is a little more rustic. Probably because there's free parking.

Anyway, we left our house around 8:20 (aiming to leave by 7:30 so only 50 minutes behind schedule—not bad) and got to the beach around 11:30. Rachel got a little worried when we turned down a street with a dead end sign and I said, "Yeah, because we've reached the end of the continent."

"What do you mean 'the end of the continent'?" Rachel asked nervously.

"I mean we're at the beach," I said. "There's no more land."

I suppose that's not technically true because there are water rights and blah, blah, blah, but it was funny that Rachel was so concerned. Within minutes of arriving at the beach we all hopped off the continent and into the ocean. And it was glorious.

I think the water was warmer than our pool's been (and we've been swimming for a grand total of nine times this week, I think, so I'm pretty familiar with the temperature of the pool), though it was a tad chilly on the shore—high of 26°C/79°F. That's chilly, right? Well, it is when it's windy.

Here are the kids building a crazy castle with Daddy—the kind where you pit your engineering skills against the tide. Spoiler: the tide wins. Always.

Rachel acted as a wave breaker in a futile attempt to protect our castle.

Clearly these pictures were taken after we'd done some boogie boarding.

I didn't take pictures for the first little while we were at the beach because I was trying to get Miriam over her fear of the water. I slowly inched our way to the wet sand. Then to where the water was barely tickling the shore. When we were about ankle deep we sat down together in the water and let it lap against of legs while we talked about how warm it was (good thing we're on the east coast) and noticed how we weren't being whisked out to sea.

After—I'm not even kidding—about a half hour of that Miriam had stopped crying and shaking and we stood up to jump over the waves like Rachel had been doing. That was fun! So we went in deeper. And it was still fun!

Soon Miriam was perfectly content to play in the water with everyone else—though she kept her puddle jumper on for most of the day—which, if you had ever gone to the beach with her last year you would know is a huge thing. It was certainly fun to be able to all play together happily.

I'm hoping that this will help her be more confident in the pool as well. Because honestly I am nearly at my wit's end with this girl. It wouldn't be so bad if the other two didn't like swimming quite as much as they do. But when you have two who love it and one who doesn't, it makes for awkward pool/beach time.

Anyway, here's Benjamin trying out the boogie board (to show Miriam that it's awesome):

And here's a picture Andrew insisted taking of me:

And here's the obligatory selfie of the two of us:

We went to Old Navy a couple of weeks ago to buy some new flip-flops for Andrew and to look for a few other things. The Old Navy store happens to be close to a Five-and-Below store and they had a stand of boogie boards out. Miriam begged and begged to get a pink one so that she can be "Daddy's boogie board buddy!"

Our girls love being Andrew's buddy. Walking buddies. Cleaning buddies. Dinner buddies (oh, the fights we have about who gets to sit by Daddy). Boogie boarding buddies.

For some reason I'm the left-over choice. Like, "Oh, well. I guess I'll sit by Mom."

Anyway, Miriam managed to convince us that she'd be brave and try it out this summer so we got her one, just to egg her on a bit. It was only $5.

Needless to say she didn't use it today. But that's alright. We now have three boogie boards: two kid-sized ones and one adult-sized one. Andrew saw them at Costco this week and asked if he should buy another one but I told him we wouldn't need one for several more years since both of us can't be boogie boarding at the same time—our kids are too little for that.

So instead we take turns boogie boarding with Rachel.

Andrew went crazy taking pictures of me boogie boarding. I've only included a few of them here, but from the entire collection, I've learned that I make a nervous face every single time I'm about to catch a wave:

And then I make ridiculous faces mid-ride:

But I end up happy because, honestly, it's fun:

Here I am with the kids, still working on keeping our crazy castle standing:

And here is Benjamin decorating our abandoned efforts with sea shells:

Benjamin discovered the universally-loved baby game of "push the wet sand." He was crawling around singing, "Push! Push! Push!" I don't know how babies come up with these things. I think all my babies played this at the beach. I don't think I taught it to a single one of them.

And here is Rachel going out for another round of boogie boarding with Andrew:

Now it's my turn to go crazy taking pictures of people boogie boarding:

Andrew took this ride pretty seriously:

Rachel is so fearless in the water. She was probably the most worn out of anyone. Since Andrew and I took turns taking her out she was in the water twice as long as either of us. She took a few tumbles but kept getting back on her board.

I'm also proud of Miriam for simply getting her feet wet.

Miriam went off to dance in the waves for a while while I continued to sit on the beach.

I was busy getting mudded by Benjamin to join her. The ocean kept rinsing my legs off so it was a frustrating task for him (even if he appointed himself to do the job).

But not too frustrating, obviously:

A flock of sea gulls landed nearby and Benjamin ran over to them, roaring all the way.

He was a little disappointed when all but one flew away. I don't think he really intended to scare them off at all.

This is Andrew trying to convince Miriam to go for a little ride in the shallowest of water. Rachel's showing her how not-scary it is.

And then she stood on the shore making childhood look glorious:

I went out for one last turn on the boogie board before lunch:

We didn't even bring chairs for the kids this time—we just plopped them down on their boards. It was perfect.

Miriam wandered up and down the beach scavenging interesting things. She found some slimy seaweed:

She was excited about it at first but then decided it was kind of gross:

She broke it up into little pieces to decorate her castle (not the crazy variety, but the good ol' fashioned build-it-far-away-from-the-waves-so-it-lasts-longer kind).

She also found a clump of seaweed that had a bunch of tiny crab-like things hiding on it:

Andrew and Rachel had started a game of soccer/volleyball (I don't know of two more poorly matched sports—their rules are completely at odds with each other, but whatever) and Benjamin wanted to join in.

He's so cute and tiny—he makes the ball look ridiculously huge:

When everyone stopped to watch the dolphins leap through the water...

...Benjamin kept on playing. But because no one was playing with him he decided to bring the ball to me.

See what I mean about being ridiculously huge? He can hardly handle that ball!

On Facebook my brother David already noted that Rachel must take after her Auntie Josie, who can't see water and not get in it. That just about sums Rachel up.

I think that picture is from when she wanted to see if she could go out as far as the dolphins were. I wasn't too nervous about her getting very far. As much as she loves the water, she's pretty cautious in it and is a stickler for rules.

Benjamin is pretty strict with himself, as well. When he and I would be playing in the sand up by our things and he'd decide he wanted to go down to the water he'd ask me, "Mommy—me go?"

He's too cute for words. Maybe that's why he doesn't talk much.

He was so excited to find this rock that he took it for self-imposed rest time:

This boy was all about relaxing in the sun—kicking back here, laying out there.

I think he was just getting tired by the end of the afternoon. He could hardly keep his head up while he played.

Somehow we eventually convinced Miriam to try boogie boarding on my back. It was actually rather difficult for me to adjust my method of riding to accommodate a passenger, especially one who was a little unwilling, but we eventually figured things out and ended up having a blast.

Rachel, of course, was with us.

I think this is my favourite picture of Rachel boogie boarding–you'll notice that she's rolled her tongue:

Here's Rachel dancing in the waves, a very important beach activity:

And here's Miriam caught a little off-guard by a wave:

Benjamin, meanwhile, was playing by our stuff. That cabana was a lifesaver this trip.

We couldn't find the beach we went to last time we went to Topsail and ended up at one that seemingly had no bathroom facility. Not only did we change in that hut, but we also turned it into a makeshift outhouse.

Miriam will be embarrassed when she reads this in a few years, I'm sure, but she had to go #2 at the beach and, in my opinion, it's just not acceptable to do that in the water when there are people swimming all around. We had her go into the cabana and squat over a plastic grocery bag (with the doors zipped closed for privacy, of course). I don't know what we would have done without the cabana...probably something similar (though a lot less private).

The cabana was a complete lifesaver...even if we had to move it back away from the ever-reaching tide six times.

She certainly got braver this trip, though, because she asked Andrew if she could have a turn going boogie boarding on his back. He, of course, said yes.

Meanwhile, I played with Benjamin in the sand.

Here's Miriam coming in from her last ride:

Everyone decided they were cold so we moved to sand dunes (not on them because that's illegal—just close to them) where the sand was dry and warm so that we could warm up a little, too.

While we were exploring this area a flock of waterfowl flew overhead.

They were obviously following the the direction that I think is north. I'm terrible with directions but it only makes sense that they'd be heading north.

That other thing in the sky, in case you can't tell, is a kite that someone had attached to their cabana.

We planted our very own, very literal, kindergarten on the beach:

Miriam was the only child patient enough to be buried all of the way—leaving only her head exposed.

When she went to rinse off she ran off to the ocean without even thinking about putting on her puddle jumper. We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open, watching her. It's like we brought home a completely different child than the one we took to the beach with us.

Here's Rachel watching the waves mere seconds before being caught off guard, losing her balance, and falling into the ocean, towel and all:

And here I am snuggling Benjamin while he took a cat nap:

And here he is after he realized his eyes were starting to stay shut...

And here he is slowly losing the will to stay awake:





...I'm done.

So we decided to call it a day.

Benjamin could hardly stand up and Miriam and Rachel had spent the last few minutes shivering in their towels. And we still had a three hour drive ahead of us.

We took a family picture:

And then this good man took a load of stuff to the car while I cuddled Benjamin:

On his way back from the van for a second load of beach hud, Andrew found a jellyfish. I'm just glad the jellyfish didn't find any swimmers.

After I wrestled the cabana closed, we picked up the rest of the stuff, and dragged ourselves and our children to the car. Benjamin fell asleep before we even pulled out of the parking lot.

I took some pictures of the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway as we were crossing the North Topsail Bridge. This is where legend has it that pirates would hide their ships to lie in wait for unsuspecting merchant ships to pass by, though since they could see their topsails poking out (hence the name) I'm not sure how effective of a hiding place it was. At any rate, they probably hid here:

Not here (as our children pointed out—"How could a pirate ship hide there?"):

I also took pictures of the shark store as we passed by:

One day we'll have to stop there for a visit because the girls were super freaked out when they asked where the door to the store was and we informed them it was through the shark's jaws:

It would just be fun to go inside, don't you think?

And we also took some pictures of Camp Lejuene for my dad, who was stationed here when he was in the Marine Corps (it is Memorial Day after all). We didn't actually go to the base, we just drove past it because that's the way the road goes.


We stopped at McDonald's for dinner and got the kids ice cream cones for dessert "because they're only 49¢, Mom!" Who taught those kids how to read, anyway?

Miriam shared her ice cream cone with Benjamin (and actually she shared it with Daddy, too, because those ice cream cones were humongous) but didn't want him to hold the cone but he kept reaching for it subconsciously. Eventually he thought up the brilliant plan to keep his hands under the table. It was pretty funny to watch him eat.

And here's a close-up of his sandy, sandy hair. You should have seen the bathtub when he was through rinsing off this evening! I think he brought half the beach home with him!

Phew! So that was our day at the beach. I wish we could have stayed there longer but we have obligations at church tomorrow. That's what happens when you wait until the last minute to make plans when it seems everyone else has had plans in place for weeks—we're also dog-sitting for some friends who went away for the weekend so we had to come back to take their dog out for its evening walk/poop.

It's slightly terrifying for me, even though it's a tiny dog—even more terrifying than sharks in the ocean because it's only a possibility I'll encounter a shark in the ocean while I know there is a 100% chance of a dog being behind our friend's door every time I open it—so I bring Benjamin with me because he loves their dog.

I open the door, let the dog jump all over Benjamin and lick him nearly to death while he squeals with joy. Then I leash that puppy, take him for a quick romp, make sure he does his business, and then put him back in the house.

I'm sure the dog is lonely because it's used to having two little boys loving on it all day long and I'm terrible at loving on dogs. So it's a win-win for the dog and Benjamin.

Benjamin even cried when I told him it was time to say goodnight to the dog because it was bedtime and we had to go home. "I wanna puppy! I wanna puppy!" he wailed as I dragged him away from our friend's house.

Not happening, friend.

But I will promise to take you to the beach as often as I can.


  1. We LOVE North Topsail. We have rented several houses there over the years because it is just "so right". We always take time out of our week to visit the Shark store once. I loved seeing your pictures!

  2. That was very long, but also very interesting! I am so jealous of your day at the beach!

  3. Thanks for the memories of the base. Most of the time I was there I went to Emerald Beach, it was the closest to the base. I'll let you in a little secret (not, I think most everyone knows this), if you walk up and down the beach looking through piles of small rocks and shells you will find sharks teeth. I collected around 50 in one day and still had fun at the beach. Have you noticed that the Atlantic Ocean has greener hue than the Pacific Ocean. One more thing if you're at the beach at the right time and are looking in the right spot where the sun is rising or sinking you will see an emerald green flash. I caught it only once, but it was worth it.

  4. Look how much she had changed from last year. I love the puddle jumper. It got Sadie off the sidelines as well!

  5. Beautiful pictures, and I read the whole post, too. I'm thrilled to see how much Miriam was in the water. I do remember how she acted at the beach last year - different child!

    Glad you were able to go. Looks fun!