Saturday, April 14, 2012

North Carolina--Day Zero, and some Outtakes

Not only is North Carolina home to the most beautiful barrier islands I've ever seen, but it's also home to my sweet niece, Alia!!  Oh, and her parents, too!  We we so happy to learn that we could get a direct flight from here to Durham and get a chance to see them before heading to the beach. 

The kids did really well on the flight.  The man across the isle from us consistently humored James every time my naughty little boy would say "uh-oh" and then throw his sippy cup down to the floor.  The girls did well with their coloring notebooks that grandma gave them last Christmas, some food, snacks, and a few of their favorite books.  I went into the flight wishing that we had an Ipad or Ipod or I-anything-that-keeps-kids-entertained-for-long-period-of-times.  But my girls surprised me.  They did better in those 3 hours than they usually do in 1 hour of church!  I think between the novelty of flying and the fact that they got their very own sodas, they were too happy to be bored!

Jared and Kristie were wonderful hosts, letting us completely take over their nursery and front room.  We finally got the kids to bed at midnight (!!) and forced Jared and Kristie to stay up even later to tell us all about their life, their future, and what it's gonna take to get them to move to Colorado.   Kristie also showed me some of the amazing things she's been sewing lately, including this adorable Easter dress and jacket--she's amazing!!

The girls were so happy to play with their cousin in the morning.  And she was so happy to have so many adoring fans--not to mention a life-sized baby doll she could climb all over.

The 5-6 short hours we had in Durham that morning were extremely well spent.  Jared took us to the Duke Gardens, and i swear my jaw was dropped and covered in drool the entire time we were there.  I've never seen so many beautiful blooms and blossoms in one place in my life!  EVERYTHING was in full bloom! They say it's stunning everyday of the year, but the beauty we saw that day was more like paralyzing.  Standing in that garden, I had the thought that we could turn around and fly back home right there and then, and the trip still would have been worth it.  It was just the beauty that my winter-logged heart needed to see.

And I forgot my camera.

So these photos are courtesy of Jared's camera, my phone, and the Duke Garden's blog.

Look at the wisteria on this canopy! (Speaking of wisteria, my brother was on a certain shameless TV show a few episodes ago!  Check him out from minutes 2:01-2:19)

The tulips were breathtaking.  And they were everywhere.  In full-bloom
The rain let up the second we arrived, but the girls still insisted on using the umbrella

The Duke Gardens aren't the only amazing thing that Durham has to offer.  They also have Hog's Heaven--a restaurant famous for their North Carolina BBQ.  Now, I'm no connoisseur of BBQ, but I really can't imagine that any other state's BBQ could top that heavenly grub!  It was the best pork I've ever eaten in my life.  And that includes Cafe Rio's sweet barbacoa pork!  

Thank you, Jared and Kristie, for hosting us, and sharing your beautiful town with us!!!  We love you!!


And now's the part of this post where i include pictures that i forgot or didn't fit in the last post--'cause I'm still not done thinking and talking about this trip. 

Did I mention that the house had a huge billiards room?

Did I mention that we saw the most beautiful lighthouses in the world?

Did i mention how good-natured my baby was, in spite of getting very little sleep, and not feeling well?

Or how stinkin' cute he is?

Did i mention how much fun we had at the beach?

Did I mention that Reid and our brother-in-law, Nathan, ran 4 miles, barefoot on the beach? And that some serious blisters ensued?

Did i mention that Reid got plowed by a wave, thought his ear was plugged for 6 days, but turns out it had all this sand in it?  You gotta click on the picture to fully appreciate this.  

Did I mention that Reid's dad took us all to the Aquarium in Manteo and that we saw sharks, petted sting rays, and rescued virtual sea turtles?

Did I mention that getting back into reality has been particularly hard on a certain bread-winner in the family?  Did i mention how we already miss the family we just spent a week with?  and how much we love them? Did I mention that I now dream of living in a lighthouse?

I just want to be sure I've mentioned every single last detail about this trip.  

'Cause it really was such a great vacation.  

Did I mention that?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outer Banks, NC

I've been told that my posts are too long-winded.  This really is no surprise to me, as i'm quite aware that I talk and type too much.  But enough is enough!  I'm turning over a new leaf!  I'm going to make my posts a little shorter, and more manageable!  Starting next post.

We just got back, on Saturday night, from our Spring Break vacation to the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  We joined up with Reid's mom, dad, and sister Alisa, and her family.  And it was one of the best vacations I've ever been on.  It was beautiful.  It was relaxing.  We struck the perfect balance of sightseeing and staying at home.  And the company was unbeatable!!  We could have done nothing but hang out together for seven straight days and it maybe would have been just as awesome.  It truly was everything we could hope for in a vacation.  (plus a few things we'd not hoped for, but i'll get to that later...)

Until last year I'd never even heard of the Outer Banks (unless you count seeing all the OBX bumper stickers and wondering if perchance there was place called "obnoxious".)  So when Alisa suggested that someday we have a family vacation there, I got online and quickly learned why all the hullabaloo!  It's like the Bahamas of the U.S.!!  How had I never heard of this strip of barrier islands just miles off the coast of NC?!?!  Once we realized that all of our Spring Breaks coincided(!!), we got searching and found the perfect house for what would become the perfect vacation!  

(well, I can't truly call it "perfect" because there were 5 people missing.  Tom, Jana and kids, and Karen--we really did miss you guys the entire time!!! It wouldn't take much arm-twisting to get us to go back with you someday!!)

Our vacation rental home was amazing.  Alisa wisely insisted that if nothing else, we get a house that was on the beach.  Not near the beach.  On the beach.  And she was so smart to stand her ground with that one.  It was so nice being able to see and hear the ocean while we were eating our meals, playing games, staying up late.  And it was even nicer that we could run out to the beach for a minute, an hour, or five--and not have to make a big event of it.   We had gorgeous views out of nearly every window, and especially off of our deck.

The kids were so happy to be with their cousins.  As long as we were inside, we honestly didn't see much of the kids.  They were either watching movies downstairs in the home theater, playing "waitress" in the diner, going up and down in the elevator (which was maybe more popular than the home theater), or playing who-knows-what-else in their bunkroom, or any of the other bagillion rooms there were (seriously, this house was awesome!).

James sittin on one of the stools in the Diner in our house

Check out those seats!  Reid actually slept in one of those chairs one night...more on that, later
They all got along so well (minus a little unnecessary drama from some of my girls), it was so nice! And when James, or little 21 month-old Kate needed more attention than their lazy parents were willing to give--Grandpa was always willing to step in and take them for a horsie ride, or just a walk out to see the ocean.  Or Grandma was always more than happy to feed them, read with them, or give them some much-needed Grandma snuggles.  Reid's parents are such awesome grandparents. This comes as no surprise, given what good parents they are.  It was so nice having their constant help and supervision.  

The weather was what you might expect when you travel to the beach in the "off-season"--unpredictable and less than perfect.  We still made it down to the beach nearly every day, but we certainly did not get in the water every day.

There were windy days, which made for brief visits to the beach, warm communal baths at home (the kids, of course), beautiful waves and great kite-flying

One of Abby's many futile attempts at running faster than the waves.  Moments after I took this photo she got drenched--hoodie and all

James loved the beach, but not the wind
Grace, Abby and Ella at the windy beach
Beautiful waves seen at dusk from our balcony
 If the wind has emotions, I'm guessing it was thrilled at the chance to blow Eliza's kite to shreds and her hair to....well...even crazier than it usually is. 
There were rainy days, which made for good movie-watching,diner-eating, hide-and-seeking, and Easter egg hunting

And there were amazingly perfect days (well, one really) which made for good spend-every-last-waking-minute-on-the-beach days.
James was so cute in his beach outfit and hat.  That perfectly-fitting hat, btw, is size 2t-4t!!!  
Eliza, Christopher, Abby, Grace and Ella--these kids are so cute together!
Reid and Nathan mastered the art of Boogie Boarding

We took a day trip down one of America's most beautiful highways--from Duck, NC all the way to the tip of Hatteras Island.  Along the way we stopped and saw the most beautiful lighthouses, stopped at one of the most beautiful beaches, and ate the most amazing clam chowder. These superlatives are not mere opinion.  And i have photos to prove it!

First stop--the beautiful Bodie Island Lighthouse
For approximately 2 hours of my life, this was the most beautiful lighthouse I'd ever seen
Next stop--Pea Island Wildlife Refuge
Ella looking at one of 370 different species of birds found on the island
Abby loved to "help" with Kate.  Not sure how Kate felt...
Then onto the 5th most beautiful beach in the country--Hatteras Beach.  (wish i had more pictures of this beach, it really was amazing)

And our last stop was Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  With it's black and white candycane stripes, red brick foundation, and extremely interesting history (the ocean grew too close to it, so it had be to moved 1/2 mile inland in 1999--crazy!  read more about it here) this is officially my new favorite lighthouse!! Thank you, Alisa, for taking such awesome photos of it!! (most of the photos on this post are hers, btw)

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the beach, pre-1999 relocation. Photo found here 
Cape Hatteras lighthouse today--2900 feet inland.  They predict that in 100 years the ocean will again threaten its location.   
This lighthouse is HUGE!  Look at how small Nathan looks on its steps!

The one stop that didn't happen was Ocracoke Island.  We were hoping to catch the ferry out to the island, but the line of cars was too long.  But i did get to hear a ferry employee speak with the North Carolina Brogue--it was awesome!!

As wonderful and relaxing as this vacation was, it was not without a hitch.  On wednesday, James woke up with what Dr. Emily diagnosed at RSV/bronchiolitis.  It sounded and looked exactly like what Eliza had three years ago.  During the day it really wasn't too bad.  Although his breathing was tight, i truly believe that being at sea level meant that he didn't have to fight as hard to get oxygen.  And the moister in the air was like an eternal humidifier.  He was a trooper, and spent most of Wednesday napping or on the beach.  
James and Grandma in their coordinated beach attire
Wednesday night, however, was ugly.  His coughing was so of control. The only thing that helped was holding him upright, and letting him breathe in the cool ocean breeze.  We sat in the sunroom from 1am to 4am, until the waves got so violent sounding that I was afraid they were going to swallow us whole.  Luckily, by that point, he'd calmed down and fallen asleep.  I quickly followed.

Thursday, during the day, James was okay.  But Abby came down with what Dr. Emily diagnosed as pink-eye, and Eliza started to get a UTI.  My poor kids!  Lucky for us, Abby's pediatrician phoned in a prescription, saving us a trip to the urgent care, and Eliza drank some apple cider vinegar, which cleared up her problem.  But they both wanted to spend that night in our room, rather than the bunkroom--a choice they regretted from about 2am-5:30am.  James screamed, on and off, until Reid took him down to the theater room and got him to calm down.  There they both fell asleep.  (I wish I could have taken a photo of that--it was very cute!) It was a rough night, but not rough enough to put even the slightest damper on the last days of our vacation!

The last couple of days were windy and cold, so we stayed inside lots and talked, played games, soaked in the jacuzzi, dreamed of a day when we might be able to purchase that house, and wished Spring Break was a month long!   

And for the first time in my life, I have come home from a trip without feeling the need for a vacation from my vacation.  That is what I call a perfect vacation!!