Saturday, June 13, 2015

A day at the beach

I woke up on Friday morning to Zoë fussing to eat, so I pulled her into bed to feed her, and pulled out my phone for company. My friend Crystal had just sent me a message. The message was this: "Don't ever show this to Miriam!" In the message was a link to a news article: 13-Year-Old Injured After Shark Attack in North Carolina.

"Great. We're planning on going to the beach today..."

The alarm went off and I poked Andrew until he woke up and turned it off.

"What'cha reading?" he asked.

"I'm just talking to Crystal," I said. "She sent me this article about a shark attack in North Carolina yesterday."

"Ugh," said Andrew, rolling his eyes. "I wasn't going to show you that article."

I don't usually follow the news on my own and instead wait for it to be fed to me by word of mouth or through my Facebook feed. That might not make me the best informed but there's just so much news out there, you know. And most of it is depressing.

Hearing this news just made me happier about going to the beach. Going to the beach this soon postpartum might seem a titch crazy, but it's a lot more sane than going to the beach last week, which is when we first considered it. We really wanted to take a day while Uncle David was here, pull Rachel from school, and play hooky on the beach...but then it was rainy and I still wasn't feeling very great and when we talked to our parents about it, my mom said, "You're definitely crazy to consider this—sand will get everywhere!" With Zoë's not-quite-healed belly button and my own not-quite-healed body, avoiding sand made a lot of sense.

Karen, however, said, "Just have Andrew take the kids! You stay home and rest!"

"Are you kidding me?!" I asked. "I would just worry the whole time!"

That certainly planted a seed of an idea in the very fertile soil of Andrew's brain, though. He suggested going on Friday—which would basically be our only chance to get to the beach the entire summer—and then forgot that he suggested that until Thursday night when I asked him what his plans were for Friday.

"Just going into campus, I guess," he said.

"I thought you wanted to go to the beach," I said.

"Oh, yeah!" he said. "I did! Let's do it!"

"I don't know," I said. "I'm still not feeling 100% and couldn't get in the water even if I was and..."

"Oh, come on! You won't have to do anything—just sit in a chair with the baby. I'll do everything else."

"Why don't we do something different, like..."

"The beach is all there is. There is nothing else."

So, I decided to go to the beach three weeks postpartum. I think Andrew's a great father, but I'm a trained lifeguard and...I can't send him to the beach with three kids by himself. He doesn't watch them like I watch them. Not that I'm cocky or anything—just super paranoid.

We were on the road by 9:00 and the only thing we forgot to do was gas up the van, so we were off the road by 9:30, and then back on the road soon after that. It was our first time having Google Maps give us directions (the first time we went we followed friends and then after that we used the location we saved to our GPS when we followed friends) and it took us a really weird way through back roads, claiming it would save us a half hour.

Unfortunately, when traveling with children sometimes the road most travelled by is preferable to the road least travelled by. When Zoë started screaming her head off we couldn't find anywhere to pull over! We were on a windy two lane road, with no shoulder, and too much traffic to just boldly stop in the middle of the road.

And thus we learned that Zoë can scream for a long time (but she's still not very loud). The worst part of her screaming, actually, is Benjamin. He hates it when she cries so he starts crying about it.

"Don't scream at me, Baby Zo!" he'll sob. "Hey! Stop it! Mom! Baby Zo is crying at me."

And then he dissolves into flat-out wailing. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

Come to think of it, Benjamin might be the reason Zoë doesn't seem very loud even when she's fit to be tied.

We finally came to an obscure gas station and I hurriedly hopped out of the van to get her out of her carseat. She calmed down right away, which meant that Benjamin calmed down, too, and after she was fed and changed we made it to the beach without further incident.

We set up right by the public beach house, nice and close to the showers and toilets. There was another mother with a new baby who'd set up nearby, probably for the same reason we set up where we did. Like we'd triumphantly marched from the car to the stairs leading over the dunes, across the boardwalk and down to the beach and we weren't taking one step further!

Her baby was eight weeks old, though, so I guess we win the crazy parents prize.

The nice thing about Carolina beaches versus California beaches (really my only points of reference on this continent besides British Columbia beaches which are just cold) is that the air and sand doesn't ever feel scorching hot like it does in California, so even though Zoë and I never got in the water we managed to keep cool enough; it was a breezy, breezy day.

Here's Princess Zoë in her throne room:

And here's everyone else rushing off into the water:

Rachel wasted no time in boogying with those waves:

Benjamin was a little frightened by the "avesies," but Daddy made him try boogie boarding anyway. He reacted with both tears and laughter, but ultimately he left the water and dug in the sand with shells:

But the water was really quite inviting so he forgave those scary "avesies" and ventured into the surf again. The alternate caption for this photo is "Exhibit A of why I don't want Andrew taking the kids to the beach by himself" because....recognize anyone in the background? Those two little girls dashing into the ocean behind Andrew's back? Those are my little girls.

Two sets of eyes are far better than one.

Here they are building a sand castle together:

I did my best to avoid both sand and water this trip, which was difficult because beach. But I still did my best and just sat on my chair by Zoë's throne room, taking pictures, scanning the water for children (and maybe sharks), reading my book everyone was playing in the sand, and doing all of Zoë's "cares" (ever since Benjamin's time in the NICU I think of the feeding/changing diaper routine as "cares" because that's what they were called at the hospital—"Are you coming in for his 9:00 cares?").

More sand castle work:

For some reason I really like this picture of my kids marching down the beach, though I'm not quite sure why:

Here's Benjamin running up to tell me something super exciting:

And here he is, jumping off his chairs to yell, "Happy-coppies!"

We went to Topsail Island, of course (are there other beaches in North Carolina?), which is right by Camp Lejeune, the Marine base my dad used to be stationed at. There were a lot of helicopters flying around today, which made Benjamin very happy (they are happy-coppies, after all!).

Here's Miriam debating whether she wanted to get in and do more boogie-boarding (Rachel and Andrew already knew they wanted to do more):

Eventually she decided to come get her board and join Rachel and Andrew in the water:

She had a blast!

These two played in the water for most of the afternoon:

This one played in the sand for most of the afternoon:

Miriam scoured the beach to find all the pretty things; she brought several to show me:

Here are the girls playing a weird game in the waves—they were falling backwards into the waves!

The tide was coming in fast and furious, so there was plenty of water to catch them when they'd fall over, though I'm still not sure how the managed it.

Here's another silly game they played—they'd sit in the sand and let the tide rip it out from under them, making them fall over:

Meanwhile, Benjamin threw sand at his sister through the cabana's screen windows. The screen kept most of the sand out but he did manage to sprinkle her with a fine dusting of sand.

Here's Zoë hanging out on my lap to avoid falling victim to further sand-throwing attempts:

This boy is a crazy little monkey!

At 4:00 we decided to pack up for the day, which meant we left the beach around 5:00. The tide was coming in, as I mentioned, and it was lapping the stairs of the board walk and the waves were so crazy that the kids didn't want to play in the water anymore. It was also getting super windy; the cabana wouldn't stand on its own anymore (which is why the table is inside it in the picture—without the table the cabana was blown flat on its side) so that's the first thing we took down.

The kids had fun chasing sea foam around. The wind would blow little chunks of it across the beach like tumbleweed. Benjamin called them "bubbles" and would run and "pop" them.

Just before we left we had to take some pictures of the kids altogether, though I don't think we managed to get a single shot of them all smiling at once:

We also had to take a few pictures of Zoë to commemorate her first trip to the beach (even though she never touched the sand or water):

That's about all she saw of the sun. (She's getting so chubby!)

While Andrew was packing up the last few things, I took the kids to the showers, which had a lot of traffic (because a lot of people were deciding to call it a day—there simply wasn't much beach left to enjoy). Benjamin didn't notice the showers, I guess, and took off through the crowd toward the parking lot. I started trying to follow him, but a three-year-old skirting around the legs of a crowd moves a lot faster than a full-sized adult carrying a newborn and a diaper bag!

Fortunately, our fellow beach-goers noticed both my panic and the child on the loose and between me and everyone else we managed to stop him just as he was rushing into the parking lot.

The ride home went fairly well (we're not going to talk about how Miriam spilled her chocolate milk in the seat back pocket holding her library books—we were very lucky...and frustrated (because why did she have open chocolate milk in the back seat anyway!?)). They watched a movie and we taught them the alphabet game because "back in our day" we didn't have DVD players in the car (we didn't even have DVDs) or iPads or anything to keep up entertained. We had to read or look out the window or play silly games. So we made them do all these "old fashioned" things (Rachel actually used that phrase to describe the alphabet game) before we'd turn on a movie. They had fun playing it on the way there and even played a round by themselves on the way home.

When we were stuck on the letter F and there were no signs around to be seen Miriam found the words "First in Flight." That would be our state license plate catchphrase. I don't know how we didn't think of look on that part of the license plate. Andrew and I told the kids to scan license plates, but he and I were so focused on reading the actual license plate number, not the words on the plate.

In another game we were at the end of the alphabet, trying to finish up quickly before we got out of the town we were in and ran out of signs.

"Y!" Andrew said. "Everyone look for a Y!" We were approaching a car so he read the license plate (looking for a Y in the license plate number, of course) and said, "Wyoming. That's far away... *pregnant pause* Oh! Y in Wyoming! Z! Everyone look for a Z!"

Speaking of Z, Zoë lost it when we were about half an hour from home. The kids were all on edge at this point (it was nearly 10:00 and they were worn out from playing hard in the sun) and we didn't want to stop to feed her because that would make us get home even later, so I stuck my finger in her mouth to buy us a few minutes of quiet. She happily sucked on my finger the whole way home.

I was completely shocked. Aside from Miriam, who was/is an avid thumb sucker (we're still working on breaking that habit), my kids have hated anything in their mouths unless nursing. Rachel treated any pacifier like poison. Benjamin even rejected pacifiers in the NICU. Miriam sucked her thumb quite happily for years, but never really took a soother. None of them were placated by anything but...nursing (and her own little thumb, in Miriam's case).

I, frankly, was expecting Zoë to suck on my finger for a minute or two before spitting it out and howling again, but she didn't. She just sucked and sucked and sucked. And today we tried out a pacifier and she loved it. She'll sit in her sisters' laps sucking on that soother and calmly looking around the room, with her little fists pulled up under her chin. She might just end up being a soother-baby!

I have a theory about this, because I know babies need non-nutritive sucking. Miriam got hers with her thumb, but Rachel and Benjamin both had reflux...BAD...which they self-treated by eating all the time (it's a thing). I think they got their non-nutritive sucking nutritively. And then spat everything up, of course.

Zoë is not a big spitter. Aside from that one time she spat up a ton in her car seat she's been spitting up like a quarter-size amount at a time (on the rare occasion she spits anything). So maybe she likes the soother because she still wants to suck but knows her tummy is full (and will stay full for a while).

Anyway, the beach was fun, but exhausting. I'm glad we went since we won't have the chance to go again until after the next school year starts, was definitely exhausting. Andrew pointed out that it's always exhausting, but this was a different kind of exhausting, a postpartum kind exhausting that a father will never understand. Kind of like how he doesn't get breakfast, either.

"I haven't even had breakfast yet," I moaned as we were scurrying to get things thrown into the van before leaving for the beach.

"Neither have I," he said in a so-don't-whine-at-me tone.

So I stopped whining and made myself some toast because he might not have had breakfast but he also didn't feed another person from his very own body any given number of times between dinner and breakfast. I'm just saying. That's something a dad will never experience. By morning I'm fairly well ravenous so when I say "I haven't even had breakfast yet," what I mean is, "I'm about to eat my own fist. Put some food in my mouth now!"

Man, I can be a grumpy sometimes. I'm as bad as the kids! Guess who's got two thumbs and got completely worn out yesterday and hasn't quite recovered—this girl!

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