Thursday, July 30, 2015

End of July Catch Up

July has clearly not been a productive month of blogging for me. Thankfully that doesn't mean we haven't been productive making family memories. We're busy as ever and I have the pictures to prove it. Unfortunately, every day that I don't blog is a day where I am further behind in photo editing. So, here's a miscellaneous compilation of our adventures from the past week.

On Sunday we attended our first ever party at Chuck E Cheese. We celebrated the 6th birthday of one very dramatic, stubborn little girl. I took Jackson and Jesse stayed home while the trio napped. Each child was given a card with 45 points on it, which translates into 45 rides or games. That's a whole lot of entertainment, especially combined with a dancing rat, pizza, cupcakes, and lots of little friends! The first hour was so much fun. By the end, kids were crying and parents were frazzled. Talk about over stimulation! We've never taken Jackson to any kind of arcade, so he was so enthusiastic with every single ride and game, especially the ones that generated tickets. He traded in his 90 tickets for tootsie rolls, a ring, and a slinky. It was such a fun, busy afternoon.

While I attended book club on Sunday evening, Jesse FINALLY cut his hair. I had been nagging him for over a month about his bangs and womanly hair cut. (Admittedly, I should have kept my mouth shut because it's just hair.) He found it amusing to temporarily cut his bangs. While not pictured here, he eventually buzzed it on the lowest setting and he looks so handsome!

Monday morning we crossed another item off our summer bucket list: free bowling. Jackson and I met some friends at an especially nice bowling alley in Huntersville. The computer prompted each bowler to take a selfie, then placed the individual heads in these ridiculous characters. It was so funny to watch! The six kids made it through two whole games, thanks to bumpers and dinosaur ramps to roll the bowl down. While they bowled, I happily volunteered to let my friend's baby nap on my chest.

Tuesday was another busy day. Jesse took Jackson to the $1 movie to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the morning. Despite popcorn and Skittles, Jackson didn't want to stay 'til the end of the movie. Jesse took him around the grand town of Kannapolis before heading home for lunch.

In the afternoon I met Jesse's brother and his sons at the children's library uptown. I had extra tickets for a drum circle and thought they would enjoy it. My brother-in-law took the older boys into the show while I played with my favorite ten-month old nephew. After the show Jackson and I stayed a bit longer to explore the library.

Our activity for Wednesday was meeting more friends at the splashpad and park. Since the girls don't typically enjoy the water parks, Jesse took them to the gym while I took Jackson and James to the splashpad. It took James a solid hour to actually get wet. He stayed in my lap almost the entire hour before his curiosity won. After an hour and a half at the splashpad, I helped the boys change. We hopped on the train for a quick ride around the park before heading home.

Today Jackson and his cousin had a special lunch date with their MiMi. Jesse and I took the trio to the Chinese buffet for lunch since kids eat free and the lunch special is $5. When Jackson returned home we had some down time (aka buffet induced coma), then spent our evening at Ikea. Jackson has recently discovered thumb tacks and he enjoys hanging each of his drawings on his bedroom wall. We bought him a cheap bulletin board and magnetic board so he could hang his artwork without putting holes in the wall or having thumb tacks accessible for the trio. Of course, we made time to play and eat at Ikea.

This last photo was actually taken a few weeks ago, but I've been meaning to post it and never did. Here's Jackson and his friend at the Airport Overlook Park. I always try to find an excuse to take kids to the overlook just to satisfy my own love of planes. I was happy that Jack's friend enjoyed the planes as much as I do.

The best part about our week is we spent less than $40 for everything: bowling, arcades, movies, hair cuts, drum circles, train rides, splashpad, and multiple meals out. I love all the fun summer deals and free shows available in our area. With only 2.5 weeks left before Jesse goes back to work, I hope we can continue to make the most of our final days of summer together.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kure Beach: Day Trip that Almost Didn't Happen

Jesse's Aunt Robin rented a house for the weekend on Kure Beach, located just outside of Wilmington, NC. Jesse's mom, aunt, uncles, and niece and nephew stayed the week. Being the welcoming people that they are, they invited us to come anytime. While we could have spent the night, there weren't enough beds and we don't have three pack-n-plays anymore. I thought it would be easier to go for the day rather than chance a terrible night with poor sleeping arrangements. 

Jesse does not love the beach, road trips, or unpredictable schedules. Thankfully, he loves me enough to go along with whatever crazy plan I come up with. Since it takes four hours to drive to the beach, I wanted to leave at 4 a.m. and let the kids sleep the entire way. The only way I could get Jesse to agree to this plan was to volunteer to drive the whole way. 

We packed a bag Thursday evening and loaded the van. During my evening run, my knee gave out and I fell pretty hard on the sidewalk. Around midnight James and Amelia woke one another up crying. Jesse rocked James downstairs while I comforted Amelia in our bed. Once the kids fell back asleep, I was wide awake with excruciating knee pain for over an hour. It hurt so badly that I told Jesse I couldn't manage driving or chasing the kids on the beach. Everything was going against us so we decided not to go and turned off our alarm clocks. I took a few pain killers and eventually fell back asleep.

At 4:45 a.m. I was wide awake again, hobbling around the bedroom trying to test out my knee. It still hurt to put weight on it, but I knew I'd be okay to drive. I checked the weather forecast for the beach and was disappointed with this:

We had every reason not to go to the beach. But one of my greatest strengths and faults is that when I have decided to do something, I'm going to do it, come hell or high water. I woke Jesse up, got dressed, carried three sleeping toddlers to the van, and even fixed some oatmeal--all by 5:20 a.m. Jesse got ready and carried Jackson downstairs. We were on the road by 5:30.  It was such a quiet drive with Jesse and the kids asleep. I enjoyed watching the sunrise.

Fifteen minutes from the beach house, we stopped for a quick breakfast and to change out of pajamas 

We changed the kids into bathing suits almost immediately (not sure why I bothered dressing them in the van) and headed straight to the beach. Based on the weather forecast, I felt obligated to spend every dry moment outside on the beach. I was expecting it to storm at any moment, though the skies were simply overcast. I can't imagine having this as your back yard!

My side of the family takes an annual beach trip in late October. By then, it is too cold to go swimming in the ocean. This was probably Jackson's first time getting immersed in the ocean. His MiMi eagerly changed into a bathing suit and excorted him into the ocean.

Jackson loved the waves.

The trio had different opinions. Amelia was overwhelmed and wanted to be held. It was quite windy and the water was choppy. She needed a lot of lovin' before she would even play in the sand.

Maddie had me laughing so hard. She was playing with a ball and chasing after it in the sand. When it rolled into the water, she ran after to get it. 

As soon as her precious toes touched the water, she started yelling at the waves. "Go away!" I retrieved the ball and we repeated this scenario multiple times.

She happily retreated to the safety of the dry sand.

James wasn't sure what to think. I expected him to love the water, but he never once voluntarily approached the ocean. He preferred the sand.

Again, Jesse's not a beach fan. This is how he spent his morning.

Jackson was elated to get tossed about and jump over waves with his MiMi and Mommy.

Here was the only family photo we had from the day. Not perfect, but everyone's present.

After a while Jackson's cousin came down to the beach with us. I'm sure they were both happy to have another kid to play with closer in age.

The other members of Jesse's family trickled down to the beach throughout the morning. I was relieved that the skies had cleared up. It was still windy, which made perfect kite flying weather.

Not wanting to waste a minute inside, we ate lunch on the deck. Our extended family graciously offered their food so we didn't have to spend any money the rest of the day.

Jesse's mom suggested that we take Jackson to the Civil War Museum while she stay in the house with the trio. We all showered and dressed. I gave the toddlers their blankies and pacifiers and they laid down in MiMi's bed. Maddie was the only one who actually slept, but at least James and Amelia were able to have some down time.

The museum was free and less than a mile from the rental house. I wasn't especially excited about spending my day at the beach looking at Civil War stuff, but it was surprisingly interesting. There were old uniforms, books, and other artifacts, along with maps and videos. We spent most of our time walking the perimeter of Fort Fisher.

Our experience reminded me of my own childhood vacations when my dad would drag us around different historical sites and monuments and my mom would make us pose for pictures. Twenty years later, Jesse explained all the history in kid friendly terms...

and I made the kids pose in front of things.

The physical geography of Fort Fisher was beautiful. We were able to see the Cape Fear River, then walk across the street to admire the Atlantic Ocean. Please notice the perfectly blue skies. It never once rained the entire day!

Check out this awesome example of erosion.

Jackson was on the verge of becoming a total grump when we returned home. We tried to keep him calm on the couch.

That didn't last long. The toddlers weren't sleeping so we were back outside fairly quickly.

MiMi fed the birds some stale chips.

In a matter of minutes, there was a full flock of seagulls awaiting food.

Then it evolved into an Alfred Hitchcock scene with birds in every direction. The kids were amazed. James was especially amused by all the birds. (We were less amused by the amount of bird poop raining down on us.)

Jesse's mom and aunt picked up an early dinner and brought delicious burgers back for everyone. Jackson was begging to return to the ocean, so off we went.

While we had no part in the picture below, it's still worth mentioning. There have been numerous shark attacks and sightings at the Carolina beaches this summer. Thankfully the only shark we saw was made of sand. The next door neighbors spent all morning sculpting this intricate shark with a fish in its mouth. The kids were so intrigued. I had to stop James multiple times from getting too close.

If I hadn't already spent so much time culling and editing photos today, I would have compiled the following pictures into a collage and written a narrative. Hope you don't mind scrolling through some of the sweeter moments that were captured on the beach.

We stayed on the beach until 7 pm, which is generally the time when we get the trio ready for bed. They didn't care if they were at the beach or not; their internal clocks and lack of a nap signaled sleepy time. Jesse was over it by that point, too.

We headed back inside for yet another wardrobe change and to gather all our belongings.

Once we had thrown everything in the van, we had to tell the beach "bye". 

The whole family made a pit stop at Wings for the obligatory salt water taffy and cheap toy purchases.  MiMi spoiled her grandchildren by buying toys of their choice. 

Our final stop was the Boardwalk for ice cream. The ice cream parlor gave the trio these tiny cones for free.

I laugh at Amelia's expression every time I see this picture!

We finished our ice cream and walked around the Boardwalk. Jackson and I ran knee deep into the ocean one last time. I love the beach at night. I would have happily stayed longer, but it was after 9 pm, the kids were exhausted, and we had a long drive home ahead of us.

Jesse and I changed everyone into pajamas in the van. I drove a few hours while everyone slept, then asked Jesse to drive the final stretch home.  

It was such a fun, relatively easy trip. We spent a total of eight hours in the van and twelve hours at the beach. There was a lot of room for error, but everything went so smoothly. The kids (and Jesse) slept on the ride there and back. We had plenty of family members to help supervise and entertain. I'm so glad we were able to spend the day surrounded by loved ones in such an awe-inspiring environment.