Falling Again

IMG_3506I’m ready to hibernate.

Our entire summer was a blur: sleepaway camps, day camps, Bible School, Volleyball Camp, Art Camp, fishing, swimming, the beach, the lake, trips to NC to visit family and the Outer Banks, Niagara Falls….

I don’t even remember everything that we did. Just that it was a LOT. As the mom, this involved a lot of sorting, cleaning, planning (not my strong suit), logistics (also not my strong suit), HOURS of driving (that either), and laundry (ah yes, there it is: laundry is my strong suit.)

But now the trips are done. The boogie boards are back in the attic where they belong. The car is vacuumed. The laundry is all done (not all put away, mind you, but it’s washed and dried, at least).

And now? Now I just want to stay home.

So we’ve finally traded in the beach bag and the flip-flops for hoodies and boots. We’ve tracked down some matching gloves and a couple of hats – just in case. The leaves and acorns are getting tracked into the kitchen, right on schedule. The mums look like they are lighting fires in yards all over the neighborhood.

I love the smell of a bonfire and the crunch of dry, crackly leaves. I love blazing oranges and reds and golden yellow with neon green edged leaves. I love watching the fat gray squirrels chuck acorns at us from high in our giant oak tree. I love the chill in the early morning and how, after the sun goes down, the breeze brings that little whispery message that winter is thinking about us and might just pay us a visit sometime soon. I love falling asleep to the sounds of football on TV. I love how the kids run in and out, trying to decide if they’re too hot or too cold – and sometimes capturing wooly-boogers (their term for those brown and black fuzzy caterpillars.)

We’ve done the Family Fun Fest, gone to a couple of pumpkin patches, attended a build-your-own-scarecrow party (there are now 4 big scarecrows holding a creepy vigil in my front yard), and guzzled down the mandatory 2 gallons or so of local apple cider. We went creek-stomping, explored the woods, and picked some apples.

My fall to-do list is just about done!
The only thing left is to hunker down, light a fire in the fireplace, and do absolutely nothing for the next few months.

Or maybe four.

The Beach: Not Disappointing.

We just got home from our first ever family vacation. REAL vacation, that is. Sure, we’ve traveled a lot, but we’ve always stayed with family and I don’t think that really counts.

This time, we stayed in an actual beach house with the actual ocean right in our front yard.

Talk about a real vacation.

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Um… has anyone seen Josie?

The weather was perfect. The location was perfect. The crowds were non-existent.

Once we got there I realized that I had somehow forgotten how to relax. I guess that comes from being on constant red-alert (you know, for crying, screaming, accidents, peeing in the bed, etc.) for the past nine years or so.

I remembered about three days in, thank goodness. The warmth of the sun and the sound of the waves worked some seaside magic and I actually fell asleep on the beach with a book in my hand.

That just does NOT happen.

My children counted down the days until this trip for over a year. Once we finally got there, they weren’t disappointed (well, except for one small incident involving a door, a certain 9-year-old, a yanked-off toenail, lots of blood and a visit to Urgent Care. But that’s another story).

Some of the non-disappointing things were:

Chasing fiddler crabs across the beach with flashlights after dark

Digging for buried treasures in the sand

Burying each other in the sand (but not me – I have an irrational fear of sink-holes)

Making sand castles with extra deep moats and flags made from a “mermaid’s purse”

Holding hands and jumping waves

Boogie-boarding (but not with me – I have an irrational fear of sharks)

Getting swept out to sea with Dad and spending the next two hours swimming back to shore

Making footprints in the sand

Petting sting rays

Watching sandpipers and sanderlings run from the surf so they won’t get their little birdie feet wet

Listening to Jed yell, “Hey! A big chair! Over dere!” when he’d see giant customer-luring Adirondack chairs sitting in front of businesses

Being on the lookout for wild ponies

Being on the lookout for pony statues, which were everywhere (we were close to Corolla, NC, where a herd of wild ponies lives)

Breathing in the smell of the ocean

Flying kites out on the beach

Watching Jed go “shishing” with his Daddy

Watching the brilliant sunrises and the pink and orange sunsets

Para-sailing 900 feet up in the air (but not me – I have an irrational fear of heights)

Seeing flocks of pteranadon-looking pelicans skimming over the water

Looking for dolphins (and looking out for sharks)

Finding seashells, shark teeth, and horseshoe crab skeletons

Watching the (bajillion) stars come out and fill up the entire sky

Each time I go to the ocean it feels like I’ve been away too long – it’s almost like it’s a part of me. I think my kids felt the same way.

I can tell because they’ve already started their countdown to our NEXT trip to the beach.

Phases of a Road Trip

There’s nothing quite like a road trip with your kids.

The intense anticipation phase:

“How many more days till we leave?”
“Can I start packing? It’s okay, I just won’t use my toothbrush again until then.”
“Listen to the countdown poem I made – Pack a bag, a shovel and pail, the beach trip is coming, only 29 days to set sail!”

The packing phase:

“Exactly how many toys are TOO many for my activity bag? 11? 16? 47? I can still zip the bag shut if I sit on it, so that’s not too many, right? Right?”
“Can I take all of these pillows and 7 blankets? It gets really cold in the car.” “But I NEED this winter hat AND these snow boots. You never know when there might be a freak snowstorm at the beach! In the summer!”

The driving phase:

“It stinks in here. I definitely smell a stink. All right, who tooted? Strike a skunk match!” (In our family, we always have matches in the car for lighting and blowing out. The smoke extinguishes any “unsavory” smells that might be wafting through the vehicle. They have been deemed “skunk matches,” since we always bring them out when we smell a skunk.)
“Look at those clouds! That one looks like an Indian smoke signal!”
“Look at that chicken truck! Oh, poor chickens. They don’t know they’re on the way to meet their doom. They probably think they are going on vacation.”
“Wook at dat twactor! Dat guy, he is workin’ and dwivin’ dat twactor! I see him!”
“The Sea Ray! We saw a sea ray and we aren’t even to the beach yet!” (After passing a broken-down fair ride bound from one county fair to another.)
“What’s a Wawa?” (A chain of convenience stores that we came across in southern Virginia.) “I REALLY have to go to the bathroom, Dad, can I go wee-wee at the Wawa?”
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“Wook! A gawage sale! Over dere! We go to dere?”
“Look at all the mist rising up from that pond!”
“Look at all the windmills on that hill!”
“We are going in a tunnel UNDER the WATER. UNDER the WATER, do you hear me?”
“What’s dat? A am-ba-lunce? I hear it! Da fire works! And da fire twucks!”
“What’s the ETA?”

The arrival phase:

“Hey, look, it’s the ocean!”
“Yeah, but I can’t find my shoes!”
“And I cut the bottom of my foot!”
“Well, I knocked my toenail off!”
“I skin! My knee! Wook! My knee! Hurts!”
“Where are my clothes? I can’t find my clothes!”
“Hey, look, it’s a pelican!”

And finally, once we are all settled in and hitting the sand, at LAST…
The triumphant yelling phase:

“We are at the BEACH! THIS IS THE BEST DAY THAT WE’VE EVER HAD!”