Sometimes the things that we have been waiting the whole year for come rushing in and out of our lives so quickly that it takes a moment to recover. We have been so blessed that, despite having 5 kids and a busy schedule and living far away from family, we have been able to spend a week on the beach with both my entire family and Nick’s entire family every summer. We have gone to different beaches, different houses, different coasts, but we have managed a week together every year since we moved to North Carolina.
My kids look forward to those weeks all year. It is one of the rare times they get days in a row to play with their cousins and especially fun because when you are at the beach you get to run and play and be loud and just enjoy each other. The adults get time to sit and to talk about what is going on in our lives and to laugh and enjoy each other’s company. It is definitely a highlight of the year. So like Christmas when I was 8, I spend a lot of time thinking forward to vacation. To planning and daydreaming and counting down days. And then there is a crazy whirlwind, and we are back home surrounded by suitcases and a growing list of things we need to be doing in order to prepare for football season.
The other thing that being on vacation does is that it motivates me to plan our next vacation. I don’t know the last time I made it through the road trip home without scouring VRBO or researching hotels and planning a long weekend to look forward to next. This year was no different. On our way home from spring break I booked a house for the first weekend that Nick had off in the summer. It was supposed to be a little family vacation before the BIG family vacations. A minute for the 7 of us to catch up, catch our breaths, and play a few board games. And then baseball happened. My son was fortunate enough to be asked to play for his league’s All Star team, and they just kept winning. All of a sudden our vacation had arrived, and his team hadn’t been eliminated. So I stayed back with Lucas while my husband and the other kids headed to the Outer Banks.
Lucas and I enjoyed our break together and after his team won the tournament in dramatic fashion, we hustled home, hopped into bed at 9pm and set an alarm for 3am. At 3 I jumped out of bed, grabbed some coffee and woke up my big boy to head to the truck and start our drive to the beach. (Let me say my son is a deep sleeper. I thought about picking him up and nearly threw my back out. But I woke him up long enough to walk out and buckle in eventually.) We love Winston Salem for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we can get to the beach in just a few short hours. Our 3 am drive had us rolling up to the beach house around 8 and being greeted by our happy family as we prepped for our one night of vacation together.
When I booked the house we were staying in I was mostly concerned about the dates being available and the house being clean. I knew that it was a little bit of a walk to the beach, but it wasn’t until my husband started talking me through the strategy to make it across the 4 lane highway we had to cross on foot, with 5 kids and beach stuff, that my full appreciation for what he had been doing alone the previous days grew. He looked at the kids and said “One Voice!” and they grabbed coolers and digging equipment and little hands and focused on their dad’s instruction of when to go and when to stop, and like an elite level of Frogger we made it to the beach. We had been down at the water for an hour or so when a couple of older ladies came up to me and asked “Is that your husband?” pointing out to Nick in the waves with the girls. They went on to tell me what a wonderful father he was and how impressed they were that he had taken 4 kids to the beach by himself for the past 2 days. (Sidenote: of course. Everyone notices good dads!) We laughed later as we wondered what stories the other beach goers had created about why this dad was at the beach alone with his 4 kids and how lucky he was to find love on day 3 when I rolled up with our other son and our family was complete. It’s a beach-romance novel waiting to happen!
Now I will say that the one area that was a little ignored on the trip was my girls’ hair. Two of the three have LONG hair and apparently they had encountered some sort of jelly sea life in the water that had stuck to their hair the day before I arrived. When I got there the jellies had hardened and crusted their hair together into some sort of ocean dreadlocks. It took a lot of rewashing and conditioner and brushing to return their hair to normal. But they were so happy and had had so much fun that no one really cared about their hair. We walked to the sound that night and did some fishing from a little dock and everyone caught something. We had one small moment of tragedy when our 6 year old, Gracie, got a turn with Will’s Paw Patrol fishing pole. Nick and I both warned her that she needed to hold on tighter to the pole. She said she was holding on tight. And then seconds later she dropped William’s most prized possession into the watery deep, never to be retrieved. He cried and screamed because his precious pole was lost. She cried and screamed because she was sorry and didn’t have words to explain it. They learned a lot about love and fishing that night.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack up our stuff and move out of our home by the beach and head back to reality, for a few days. We had swim meets and baseball practices to attend and then another beach trip to pack for. It was a wonderful and fun kind of busy, but that first stretch of summer was crashing into the middle before we even had a minute to blink.