Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Review

It's always a crazy thing to see one year end and a new one begin.  As with most people, the older I get the faster they go by!  Here we are on the very last day of yet another year!  2012 was very good to us.  It was a year full of blessings, good surprises, testimonies strengthened, growth and happiness.  2011 had been particulary tough and I was not sad to see it pass.  2012 was a peaceful year for our family with many new things going on!   A few random highlights from the year:

-Aaron and I turned 35 and celebrated our 14th anniversary
-Kenny turned 11, Jacob turned 9, and early in the year, Ellen and Meghan turned 5. -We moved to a new home and became landlords, renting our old home
-We went on our first beach vacation
-Ellen and Meghan started Kindergarten, Kenneth started 6th grade and Jacob 4th grade.The kids all have great teachers who seem to genuinely care about them and help them.
-We became part of a new ward in our church. This was a big change considering I had gone to church in the same building for pretty much my entire life.  It was a tough adjustment,  but we are making new friends and are thankful for those who have been so welcoming.
-Other new friends were made in our new town.

Having just come out of Christmas, I can say we had a wonderful holiday this year!  I have learned so much about prayer over this past year and my testimony has been so strenghtened. I have no doubt it was prayer that led us into our new home.  This fall, money was particularly tight.  Going over the budget, I realized we had just enough money for basic bills-without enough left over for most of the groceries and gas for our cars- and certianly not enough for Christmas.  I prayed that we would have the opportunity to earn the money we needed to meet our obligations and also be able to enjoy the holiday season.  Shortly after that, Aaron's phone began ringing off the hook with people needing work on their cars.  It was such a blessing and so humbling to see that direct answer to prayer.  It ended up being a very peaceful season (that is, despite the viruses the kids insisted on sharing.... ha ha!) with all our obligations met and enough money to give towards gift for our kids and others.   Here are just a few pictures of the holiday season (I didn't take very many and a few that I did didn't turn out, so here is just a few):

Aaron played Santa for our ward Christmas party!!!  Kenny didn't recognize him at first but Ellen did right away! Meghan didn't know it was her dad until we told her!  He made a great Santa and really enjoyed listening to the kids and hearing what they wanted!
 Santa with Ellie! (the one with Meghan didn't turn out, which is why it isn't posted here)
Jacob with Santa!


Kenny with Santa!


Christmas Eve morning, we had Aaron's family over for brunch.  We had such yummy food and really enjoyed visiting and spending time together.  Debbie always has a stocking for everyone filled with yummy candy and fruit. For the kids, she gives $5 McDonald's gift cards. For the grown ups, we get scratch off lottery tickets!  It is the only time we play any sort of lottery so it is always fun. Aaron was the big winner and won $100!  What did he get with his winnings?   Yep.... Legos!
Christmas Eve we had a wonderful dinner and celebration at Julie's house.  We decorated cookies to leave for Santa!!
 
They were so excited Christmas morning!!!  They got many things they wanted and a couple surprises!  Here they are on Christmas morning- they each got their own bean bag chair!

Christmas was "whiteish-" It has snowed a couple inches a couple of days before Christmas, but it had mostly melted by then.  The day after Christmas, we got another snow storm!  And then again that weekend!  The kids LOVED being able to get out and play and spent a large amount of time out!

Kenny and Jacob made snow forts and had a snowball fight! We also found the slope in our backyard is great for sledding.  It isn't huge and I am on the hunt for a larger slope near by, but for now, this one is works.


Meghan was quite proud of the snowgirl we made together (complete with raisins for hair!)


 Last year was a very mild winter- the most mild in years!  Just this month so far, we have had more snow then we did all season last year.  It was pretty at first, and the kids have enjoyed playing in it, but I have decided I am done with it....it's gonna be a long winter!

But, we have plenty to keep us busy next year!  Here are some of what I will be up to in the new year:

-I just found out today I will officially be the girls Daisy leader. I was supposed to be co-leader but our leader had to step down for health reasons.  She is broken hearted and I feel horrible for what she is going through.  It is going to be interesting to be the leader! Yikes!

-I am figuring out my new calling in my new ward.  I actually have 2.  One is sacrament chorister. That is easy so I just wave my hand around and no one really looks at me...  The second one is the additional RS meeting coordinator. That means I am in charge of the monthly enrichment activities for the adult women! Now this one is scary!  Planning activities is not my strength.  Lots to learn here!

-Volunteering as usual for the school in the girls room and room mom in Jacob's room.

- I have decided at some point during the year, I will get my subsititute teaching license.  Yikes!  But, it will be good to earn a little extra money and get some classroom experience to determine if education is what I want to do or not. 

-Twins club- I am in charge of the social portion of the meetings and I am assistant treasurer- still figuring that out.

So, it will be a busy year but I think it will be a great one too!  I am looking forward to what the new year has to offer!!!!  I feel truly blessed and so thankful for my family and this wonderful life we have!

Happy New Year!!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Momma Said There Would Be Days Like This....

My blog has been a little quiet recently due to lack of material.  With the kids in school all day and me putzing around getting things done, well..... things just haven't been that exciting.  Our evenings and weekends are always a rat race of activity, but nothing that exciting to write about.

Today, however, is blog worthy.  No doubt about it.  I was dreading today all week long and sure enough it seems, I should never have gotten out of my warm cozy bed.

Jacob's soccer league had tournaments today- it was to be 3 games today (?!) and 1 tomorrow.  The games were to be at 10, 1 and 3. We were to arrive at 9. I was not thrilled when I saw the forecast- 50's and rainy.  Great.  What makes that harder is we just had a nice Indian summer and it was 80 degrees on Thursday!  That would make it seem that much colder.  Add to that that Aaron would be out of town so I was left to take Jacob to the games- with the other 3 as well- and be outside all day in the drizzly cold rain.  Ugh.  So yes, I was dreading it.  I hoped for a huge downpour overnight making the fields unusable and therefore cancel the event.  I didn't even understand why we had to go anyway. His team never did well and only won one game all season!

I got up and checked my phone right away but no such luck (the coach communicates by mass text).  I woke all the kids up and came back to my phone and saw a text from the coach.  Part of me was excited thinking "Yay it's cancelled!"  The other part thought...."Really, he had to wait till AFTER I woke the kids...."  But, either way, no such luck- it was just a reminder to all parents to let him know if you weren't coming. Sigh....

So, we are getting ready to go and I am gathering our stuff and I could NOT find my keys anywhere.  And Aaron is out of town with the other set so if I can't find mine, we are screwed.  I searched everywhere. I knew they were in the house. Friday I did the Halloween party for Jacob's classroom and had so much stuff to take, I put it all in our wagon and walked over there.  I knew the keys were in the wagon. I remember getting them out to unlock the door when we got home, then dropping them in the wagon and pulling the wagon inside.  So I KNEW they had to be in the house.  I checked under furniture, in bags, even in places that made no sense.  I knew it had to be somewhere with the things that had been in the wagon- I worried maybe I threw it away with trash from the wagon so I checked the inside and outside trash- twice. No luck.  I worried that maybe I left them IN the wagon, though I didn't think that was likely because I would have seen them. But, I still worried because Kenny had taken it outside to rake leaves and gather them into a pile. So, I checked outside and dug through the pile of wet leaves...in the rain...twice.  No luck.

I sat defeated, crying not knowing what to do. At one point in the middle of all that, I said a prayer to help me find them and kept retracing everywhere and looking everywhere but no luck. I kept hoping for a "grand revelation" as to where they were but it didn't come and my frustrations soared.  I sat defeated a couple of times as I had been looking for an hour and didn't know where else to look.  The thought kept coming to me "Think about what was in the wagon...." but all I could think of was the bags of trash I already checked and the pans I had already cleaned and put away.... what else was in there that might have my keys?!  I couldn't think and kept looking and trying to think as I kept having the thought.... "what else was in the wagon?!"  So, I knew my answer was what had been in the wagon.  Finally at about 9:40 (game starts at 10- 20 min away!!), I finally remembered what I was forgetting.  There had been a box in the wagon with left over paper plates, cups, etc that I am saving for the next school party and I put that box on a shelf downstairs!  I ran downstairs and the keys were in the box! I had totally forgotten about the box being in the wagon.  I am so thankful I was able to think that through (no doubt with some help from above) because I would never have found those "accidentally" until December for the school Christmas party!

So, I ran upstairs and shouted for the kids to grab their stuff and get in the van.  I grab everything and load it up.  We were in the van ready to go at 9:50 and I turn the key and......NOTHING.  The van's battery was completely DEAD!!!! Seriously?!?!?!?!

I would like to say I held my temper and did NOT throw the keys against the wind-shield.... but, well, I can't say that.  But, thankfully the wind-shield held up fine....

I felt like I was apparently not meant to leave the house today.  I tried to think positive and think maybe it is God's way of protecting us- like we would have been in a horrible accident if we left on time or something.  Or it could also just be His way of teaching me a lesson to keep better track of my stuff....  

I was thinking how I would have to find the jump box, probably call Aaron and have him remind me what setting and such to put on it (has been a while since I used it), find an extension cord and so on..... but then I remembered his other car was in the garage and we could just drive that. But now, we had to unload the van and reload his car...in the rain... and cram all 5 of us in that tiny car and get on our way- finally at 10:10.

We got there at half time of the first game.  I saw the purple shirts of Jacob's team and had him jump out and then I would go park.  After I parked, I sent Kenny to take Jacob his jacket he had left in the car and then the girls and I walked up to watch the game.  I was so busy just getting settled, I honestly didn't notice I didn't recognize any of the players until Kenny came and told me we were at the wrong field.  These were the 5th and 6th graders.  Jacob's 4th grade league was on the other side of the park.  Of course..... so we had to reload the car again and head to the other side of the park.

So, that was the biggest drama of the day but the rest was just miserable.  The coaches of our town's teams provided hot dogs and everyone brought food to share so we ate after the 1st game and it was somewhere around noon that the rain stopped but it was still so cloudy and cold and windy.  The kids and I huddled in the tiny car until the next game started at 1.  The 3rd game wasn't supposed to start until 3 but they moved it up to 2:15 to get us home a little faster. What a relief.  The kids were so bored and so cold and were getting so restless.  We brought a few things for them, but not enough- not that there is much to play with in the rain anyway. There wasn't a playground close at this park either.  After the 2nd game, Ellie asked if it was time to go home and I said no, there was one more game. The poor thing cried!  I could understand her feelings!!!  Meghan got her fingers crushed in a collapsed chair at one point and thankfully another mom had band-aids.

It was just plain miserable.  They lost all 3 games....horribly.  But, they are good kids and played hard with good spirit.  They all improved so much during the season- especially Jacob. The coach said the Jacob was his most improved of the season!!  As we were getting in the car when we were finally done, Jacob said that there would be no game tomorrow since we lost all 3 games, we were out of the tournament.  I couldn't resist and energetic "SWEET!!!"  I was so relieved to hear it was all over.  Poor Jacob was offended by that and was sad they don't get to play tomorrow so I had to retract my words but of course, really I am thrilled that we are done, despite the fact it meant they lost! ha!

Once we were home the day improved a lot.  The kids all got baths to get clean (to say Jacob was a ball of mud is an understatement- those fields were a MESS!), clean clothes and warmed up.  I made breakfast for dinner and then we went over to the elementary school where there was a Halloween activity and the kids had a great time.  I fought a headache and a bone chill all evening I couldn't quite get rid of, but I was just thankful to be inside out of the cold!  I felt kind of wimpy because, even though the other moms were miserable too, they seemed less miserable then me and more used to it.  Many said they have baseball tournaments or spring soccer that is like that all the time it seems.  I think what was hard about it to me was that it was ALL DAY with no easy way to get warm. And the crappy beginning to the day of course did NOT help my spirits... Well, I guess I just don't have kids that are quite so "sporty" and into every sport to make me have to get used to that.  And you know what, I am totally okay with that! I am just thankful that soccer is over and we can have our evenings back for family time again!  I like them to be active and involved but I am glad they also don't seem to go from activity to activity to where we are always running.  I know the coach of their team doesn't even get a break. His son starts wrestling this week which has more of an intense schedule than soccer does....  I guess this is where finding balance comes in and I hope that is what we have found. It is good to be involved, but you also don't need all these activities running your life.  A balance between activities and family time is important.  I am thankful to be getting that family time back. 


In closing, here is a picture Aaron took of Jacob after a (warmer....) game last week.  Jacob really enjoyed playing!!!(ignore the shadow, I can't figure out how to crop it at the moment on the computer I am on....)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

With All My Kids In School......

Just WHAT am I doing with myself?!

I worried about this all summer.

Yet, I didn't feel like it was time for me to go back to work.  Despite them being gone all day, they still need me.  They are still here in the mornings and afternoons- breaks and summers.  I wanted to be able to volunteer in the classroom more because I didn't get to do that much with the boys since the girls were there.  I also knew that it would be helpful to Aaron as well if I was home because it means I will still be there when they are sick so he doesn't have to take off work and I can still do the bulk of the housework so he can focus on work and just being here.  I love that he has been totally supportive of whatever I want to do.  He was fine with me working if I wanted and- so far- really likes that I am still at home so I can be here for the kids.  We both like that I can be here for whatever is needed. So, even though it just felt strange, there was no doubt in my mind that my job is still here in my home.  (and I by no means am saying this is what everyone should do. Every family is different. I am simply saying this is my decision and what I feel is best for my own family.)

So....what to do then?


 So much of my life seemed like it was caring for my children and I worried what I would do and started making plans.  My house would be clean, I would work on catching up on having pictures printed, I would volunteer at a couple different places, volunteer in the classroom, and do my running around while they were in school so I could be home in the evenings when they were.

How much of this have I succeeded in?  Very little....

I find I am just as busy as before- I just don't have to drag kids around with me in doing it!  Here are some of my observations:

- There are so many errands to run, doctors appointments, shopping needing done, volunteering at school, and other obligations that I am actually rarely home.

-and I may be glutton for punishment.  I agreed to be the assistant treasurer in the twins club and am also still on the social committee.  I also agreed to be a co-leader for the daisy scout troop my girls will be in.  I don't think I will have time to be bored....

- when I am home, it is just waaaaay too quiet in the house.   I usually carry my iPod around with me playing music.  In the evening, the kids seem so noisy! ha ha! Aaron says that I now know how he feels!

-My house is still not clean. I have been too busy!

- I still have not printed one single picture- I just haven't had time!

- this is my first blog post in almost a month because i just haven't had time to sit down and write! Who would have thought with all the kids in school, I would be too busy to blog?!

-I have been volunteering in the classroom once a week and am loving it!  It feels great to be in the building, getting to know the teachers and helping out.

-I am babysitting for the community choir again.  I am probably crazy, but it is only once a week (more often in December....) and it makes good Christmas money!

-I absolutely HATE eating lunch by myself in the quiet house.  It sucks.  That is the only part of this I really hate.  I have been looking for excuses to not be home at lunch time.  I really miss having my kids here at lunch time to eat with them.  I have gone to lunch with Aaron or my dad- or I have just stopped when out. But, I can't do it all the time because we just can't afford it- neither the money or the calories....

- I do enjoy being able to get up and go and get errands done faster without kids. Or that I can go to the doctor without asking a friend to babysit.

-I also enjoy life being not as hectic in the evenings (though it is busy of course, with soccer and all) but it is nice that I can get my running done during the day and just be here for my family.

-I am grateful for this opportunity that I can do this.  I know it is a huge blessing.  Not that we are rich. Oh my we are not... we live pay check to pay check and struggle to get everything paid. But, we make it work.  I am very willing to sacrifice financial security so my kids know I am here for them.

-I will likely go back to work at some point- probably substitute teaching or something (so I can still be on the same schedule as the kids) on a part time basis but probably not this school year if we can swing it financially. Right now I just want to be here for them and focus on what needs done.  Maybe next year. We will see.  After that and when the kids are grown- I no longer no what I want do. I feel like I no longer know "what I want to be when I grow up."  I used to be so sure but now I have no idea.

-I know I need to close this now because I have piles of laundry to fold, dishes to do and messes to clean up- and my kids will be home in 30 minutes!! Yikes! There are just not enough hours...


Till next time....



Skool Iz Kool!!

We had a wide range of emotions over the summer in regards to the quickly approaching new year of school.

 The boys of course, were just grateful to have the previous year behind them.  Though, as the new year approached, they were excited to be a part of their new school. 

Ellie was excited as could be to go to Kindergarten.  She spent the summer excitedly counting down. 

Meghan spent the early part of the summer insisting she was NOT going on the first day.  After that, maybe but for that first day- she was surely NOT going.  When I went to register them in early August, she asked me to ask the principal if there were any bullies because if there was, she was NOT going (I guess this is what had been worrying her- she had heard about her brothers struggling with bullies in their old school).  I came home and assured her that the principal said they do not accept bullying.  From that time on, she was excited! 

But what about me?!  Sure a part of me was excited for their new adventure.  But really, I was so sad.  The past 11 1/2 years of my life has centered around caring for children during the day (longer than that if you include the day care years...)- and now suddenly they would all be gone all day?!  I spent the summer worrying about what I do with myself all day and making plans.  (to see how THAT has turned out- see the next post...)  I was sad knowing that my babies were officially no longer babies.  I just couldn't believe that the time had come this quickly for all of my children to be in school.



But, despite the excitement, the fear, the happiness and the sadness- the big day arrived!

Thankfully, the first day went off without a hitch!  The kids woke excited and quickly dressed.  I made them pancakes for their first day- packed FOUR (!!) lunches, did the girls hair and then it was out the door for the annual pictures.  It was nearly impossible to get them all to stand still and smile at me because they were excited!



I love all the expressions so I had to post them all!  And here they are, just outside the school-




And here are my sweet baby girls on their first day of Kindergarten!!!




They LOVE their teacher and their classroom.  There were no tears (from them anyway...) as they went into class and I left.  Mrs O is definitely making Kindergarten fun for them!
 

 

As I walked away, I felt my eyes well up and my throat constrict.  I knew I was so close to just breaking down and was doing all I could to hold it in.  Aaron (who took the morning off to come along) asked if I was okay and I just meekly said yes and hoped he wouldn't say anymore.  You see, if I am on the verge of crying and someone notices and says something, there is no more holding it in- I will break down.  So, I walked and took several deep breaths willing myself not to cry and willing Aaron and anyone passing us to not say anything to me or it would be over and tears would flow.  Thankfully, I made it through. 

So, I can not believe I have...


a 6th grader! (Kenneth)


a 4th grader! (Jacob)


and TWO KINDERGARTENERS!!

 
Ellen


 
Meghan


So, I am happy to report, that so far the year is going well for everyone!  Kenneth is doing well in all his classes, staying focused well enough despite a lower dose of medication and he is showing signs of making friends.  The school has received a copy of his 504 plan from the old school and will, of course, honor his necessary accomodations.  He just started playing trombone in the 2nd year band and is showing interest in learning the drum also and may join the 1st year band to learn that- and thus do BOTH bands so he can learn both!  I am proud of him! He is doing safety patrol again also and thrives on the opportunity to help and protect others!  I love how he is getting himself involved!

Jacob is making friends and doing well with all of his classes as well.  He just started the talented and gifted program this week also and loves it.  He is my reader- having read several books on his own over the summer.

The girls love Kindergarten and both are doing well in the work and making friends and adjusting to the routine.  They are very tired at the end of the day but they don't seem to mind too much!

I did get my first call from the principal though.  And I mean first call EVER.  I had never gotten a call from the principal at the old school either! And even more shocking, it was because Ellie was in trouble- the one I LEAST expected!  She is very sweet and gentle and is a people pleaser like me- she can't stand the idea of being in trouble or someone not liking her and it really upsets her and she will often go out of her way to do things right.  But, this day, she was in the bathroom with another girl.  This girl wanted to see the bracelet Ellie was wearing but didn't ask first- just grabbed her wrist.  Ellie thought she was trying to take it and jerked her hand back.  The girl got mad and teased her and called her names so Ellie pushed her- causing her head to hit the paper towel dispenser and get a bump.  So, both girls got sent to the office.  Considering the situation, the other girl got in trouble for teasing (the principal really does take bullying seriously!) and Ellie just had to miss a recess since she did it in reaction to being teased. We just talked to her about appropriately showing her anger without hurting someone.  She was mortified over being in trouble and just sobbed in the principals office for a long time.  I was surprised as well because she had talked about this girl as a friend.  But, by the next day at soccer practice (they are on the same team...) they were friends again!  The girl gave her a picture saying sorry and they played together during the whole practice! Silly girls...

(as a funny side note, I had posted on FB that we had gotten the first call ever from the principal and asked everyone to guess who it was that got in trouble, getting the "honor" of being that first call.  Most of those responding said Meghan being that she is the more ornery one! Poor Meghan!  Funny though....)

I am so happy that we are off to such a great start!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Family Vacation 2012: Emerald Isle, NC

Last week, we were so excited to go on a rare vacation. This was, in fact, the biggest vacation we have taken since we have been married. And even so, we kept it simple.  We had an absolute blast!  I knew we wanted to go to the beach- the kids had never seen the Atlantic Ocean and I had not since I was their age, I think.  After asking around, we settled on a little place called Emerald Isle, NC.  It is a small island about halfway down the NC coast.  It was completely beautiful and I am so glad we chose to go there!  I will share the highlights and some of the better photos from the trip.

To make it easier, I have divided this post into five main sections:  The drive, the house, the beach, touristy stuff and the drive home.  This is probably 5 blog posts in one, but I know me and I know I do better to just get it all out instead of continuously coming back to it.

1) THE DRIVE

Wow.... what a long day it was!  I had not slept even a little the night before.  I tried, oh how I tried. But I was just too wound up from packing and worrying I would forget something important.  I was thankful Aaron loves to drive because I knew he would now have to do most of the driving. We left the house at 6am sharp.  See how bright eyed and excited they all look?  Ready to go!!


We stopped for breakfast in WV and then about 30-45 min later, Jacob threw up all over the van....oh what a mess it was to try to clean up on the side of the freeway!   But, aside from that, the trip was fairly uneventful. We just had the normal stops for food, potty breaks, gas and a stop at a drug store for some dramamine (I was NOT taking anymore chances!)  Despite being in the car all day, everyone stayed in pretty good spirits....


And yes, Aaron drove most of the day.... Here is our awesome chauffer....

Even so, I think I only slept in the car at most a couple hours, despite being up all night.  I contributed about 3 hours to driving- he drove all the rest!

We finally pulled into our rental house at 9:30 pm!  Google maps put the drive at about 11 hours, but with all of our stops,  and some traffic around Raleigh, NC, it took us 15 1/2 hours! Phew!

2) THE HOUSE

We rented a vacation home for the week, which was definitely the way to go.  It was the same price or even cheaper then a hotel and we had soooo much more room and a kitchen so we could save money by preparing some meals there.  I was upset at first when we arrived and I saw no linens on the bed, even though our contract said there would be.  But then I noticed by the door was a large bag full of clean towels, sheets and kitchen linens.  So, linens were provided but I had to make the beds.  Not what I wanted to do after a 15 1/2 hour drive with minimal sleep....but, other than that (and a crappy internet connection), the place was great! Here is a picture of the front of the house:


Underneath the house, under the back set of stairs was an outdoor (enclosed) shower. This was perfect for after the beach! We just brought our shower stuff down there and got the sand off and bathed while there!  It got the sand out of our suits and off of us so then we went up and changed. This is just a shot of the living area...

Plenty of room for lounging and it had 3 bedrooms and two baths.  And our view out the front door:

Those large houses in the distance are right on the beach.  We were literally one block away from the beach.  It was a less than 10 min. walk from our front door till we were at the ocean.  The location was perfect!

There were deer ALL OVER the place! They were constantly walking through the yard and we frequently had to stop while driving on the main drag as deer ran out in front of our van!  I have never seen that many deer- and with no fear of humans- ever!  And it was a very small- and narrow- island! They would just walk by as as we stood in the yard, like "hey, how ya doing!"  We also had lots of these little guys....

The kids thought they were the coolest things! They would be on the glass doors and everywhere!  It was raining when we arrived Saturday night and was still raining Sunday morning so we were pretty well stuck at home- but the kids found lots of fun in the yard in the rain....

There were so many shells of all sizes all over the yard!  The kids found quite a few treasures! (LOVE her
toothy grin!)


And even though we didn't go to the beach right away, they found water to play in! This was in a giant puddle at the end of the driveway.

 

But, by noon, the rain passed and the sun even came out, so we were off to the beach!  We went every single day we were there- sometimes even just for a short time!

3) THE BEACH:

We LOVED the beach!!!!  It was just so peaceful and so fun at the same time.  The salt taste from the water got old after a while, but a small price to pay..... 


 
 

 
And of course, there were many sand castles built....  That was one of the first things Ellie and Aaron did!

 Playing in the sand was a favorite activity for ALL of the kids- even the biggest ones.
And, what would a trip to beach be without BURYING EVERYONE IN THE SAND!!!!!



Meghan....



Kenny....


Jacob....


and Ellen!

One thing pretty much anyone knows about me is that I am NOT a morning person...even a little bit!  I would much rather sleep later and be up later than get up early.  But, I had always thought about how cool it would be to watch to sun come up over the water.  So, one morning, we got up super early to watch it happen- even the kids wanted to come.  I even checked the weather before we left and it was clear where we were.... so off we went.  and This is what we saw.....

A big giant cloud to the North east where the sun was coming up.  Ugh.   So, I didn't get the view I wanted but I can't deny there was still a beauty to it.  It was also very peaceful...except for one guy who passed by walking his dog, we had the beach completely to ourselves!  But, I just didn't have it in me to get up early another day and try again! That was enough for me!  Ha ha!  I would have watched the sunrise on the morning we left since we got up early that day too, but it was very cloudy.  Oh well.  I had good intentions anyway!

So, we spent a TON of time at the beach, but we did venture off the beach to see some other really cool things around that area of NC.  Good thing too, because some of us got really burnt- especially me, Aaron and Kenny.  Ellie got a little but not bad.  Meghan and Jacob didn't burn at all though- they just got browner and browner- I have NOT idea where they get THAT from!  So anyway...... on to the

4) TOURISTY STUFF!!!!
There was an awesome aquarium right down the road so that is what we did on Tuesday!  And the admission price was very reasonable. In fact, since we have a Columbus Zoo membership, I guess this aquarium is part of that network and we got 2 adults and two kids in FREE so we only had to pay 2 $6 kids admissions to get in! 
 
 

It was a really cool aquarium too!  It was turtle day so they had a whole presentation about sea turtles and how to protect them.  They got to touch one after the presentation....

They also had a few touch pools where you could touch sting rays, crabs and more! Here is Kenny and Jacob picking up (!ewwww!) a spider crab!


Afterwards, we had lunch at McDonalds and cooled off with ice cream!
 
 
 Afterwards, we went and visited Fort Macon.  Fort Macon is part of a system of forts that were put up in the early 1800s along the coast and through the gulf.  (this was the only picture I took there for some reason!)

 
The war of 1812 showed America how vulnerable their coast lines were so there were several forts put up. This one in particular was used during the Civil war and even WWII and a few times in between.  It was neat to tour it and learn the history and how it was used. The kids enjoyed exploring the rooms and climbing on top where you can look out into the ocean.  There was also a museum part to it where it had old uniforms and weapons and pictures and such on display.

One "not so pleasant" (at least to me...) tourist activity we got to do was find the local verizon store and get Aaron a new phone.  He forgot to take his out of his pocket once when we went to the beach and his phone drowned in the salt water....  he made it about a day before he couldn't stand it anymore and had to get a new phone.  He finally got the smart phone he wanted- that we had put off due to the expense of it.  Oh well. He is happy anyway!  I like to tease him that he did it on purpose to get a new phone!   The Verizon store said they often get 10 people a day getting a new phone for the same reason. Not surprising!!

On Thursday, we took a ferry out to Bear Island.  (apparently it was originally called Bare Island because it was very bare.  But, an early map maker misspelled it to say Bear and it stuck...).

We went mostly for the ferry ride so the kids could have a boat ride.  We realized once we got there that we should have packed a lunch and swim stuff and made a day of the beach there. But since we didn't, we just walked the path leading to the beach, walked the beach for a while and then headed back to the ferry. It was worth it just for that!   There were other ferry rides around for different things but they were so much more expensive- like $15-$20/ person but this was just $16 for the whole family!  It really is no accident that I am not in any of these pictures- especially at the beach. I took most of the pictures, but that isn't the only reason!  That just wasn't happening.  But, just to prove I really was there too, Aaron took this one of me on the ferry with his new phone.  It is okay, so I will post this so that I, too, will be seen on this post.


Thursday afternoon, we ran into a family from our new ward! 
 
Their daughter had told me the week before that they were going to the same place we were- I meant to call her parents and set up a time that we could get together while there but I got busy and forgot so I had no way of getting a hold of them.  Well, wouldn't you know it, we were walking into a shopping center (to go to a movie- it was showing Ice Age 4 and the kids were so excited to see it!) and they were coming out of a store!   We set up a dinner date with them for Friday night and enjoyed a nice dinner and it was fun getting to know them- a very cool family for sure!

The last big thing we did on Friday was visit the town of Beaufort.  It is a historical town and was the 3rd city to settle in NC after it became a state.  They have restored many of the sites and it has neat shops and people dressed in old style clothing.  Beaufort was the reason why Fort Macon was put where it was.   The town was constantly getting raided by the Spanish and by pirates so Fort Macon helped to protect it from invaders.  They had many tours but the one we chose was the double decker bus tour- where we got to sit on top of the bus and it told stories of the town as the bus drove through it.

The kids thought that riding on top of the bus was the coolest thing ever.  Aaron and I enjoyed the ride as well but also enjoyed the stories shared- it was a really neat place!



 So, it was a totally amazing vacation.  The kids are asking when we can go back- and we would totally go back there too!  But it will be a while for sure.  We can't afford vacations very often and when we do it is because we scrimped and saved.  I am sure it will be a few years till the next one!

5) THE TRIP HOME

Thankfully, the trip home was much less eventful and much faster.  Still some traffic, but not bad and lots of stops to eat and potty but no car sick kids this time. We left at 7am this time and arrived home by 9pm. However, it was a heartbreaking arrival at home.  We received a call about 4:30 or so- while driving in WV- from Aaron's aunt who had been looking after our cats while we were gone.  She was in our house and said Dino seemed very sick.  He was laying around and not moving and she could just tell something was really wrong.  With us being on the road, there just wasn't anything we could do except to get home as fast as we could and hope he was okay.  We were so so thankful for her call to give us a heads up to be prepared for anything once we got home.  We know the move was stressful on him and so we were hoping he was just stressed that we had been gone so long and that he would be fine when we got home.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.  We got home and he had passed- we think shortly after Aunt Julie had left.  He was in the same place he was when she was there- by our back door. We think he was waiting for us to get home.  We just don't know what happened. He was old, but not ancient.  Aaron's uncle Mike had fed them a couple days before and he was fine.  So, I don't know if since he was old (and very overweight) if he just went quickly or if he got into something or just became sick.  We just don't know.  So, in memorium of Dino, here are some pictures of him.   He was our first pet as a married couple.  He came before our dog and any of our children.  These pictures are old- taken before we had digital cameras and I don't have a scanner so I took pictures of the pictures, hence the poor quality.

Dino  June 11, 2000- August 18, 2012

 
This is him as a kitten- he would always sit the baby chairs I used for my home day care.


 
As an adult a few years later...


 
Sunday morning, after we got up, we buried him in the flower bed and the kids had a little funeral for him. They said good bye and sung him a song and then decorated his stone.  Meghan goes out there sometimes to read him a story!    He was always a very good cat and always loved us.  He will be missed!  Rest in peace, Dino- running free in Kitty heaven!