Category Archives: Travel

DC in a Day

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It’s been over a month since we road tripped it down to FL, so (because we’re crazy) we decided to road trip ~7 hours down to Washington, DC this past weekend. Clearly, we cannot get enough of our van. We picked the kids up right after school on Friday, pointed the car south and arrived to my sister’s well past bedtime, fueled on Twizzlers and gas station snacks.

We were coming back home on Sunday, which meant we had 1 day and 1 day only to squeeze in the highlights of Washington. We left my sister’s in the pouring rain at 9 am with Lala in tow and made the 45 minute drive into the city.  I love Washington. It’s my favorite city so when Scorch started fan-girling in the back seat the minute he got his first glimpse of the Washington Monument, I got a little teary. The kid was soooo excited and I was beside myself getting to show the kids the city where the Hubs and I worked for 3 years.

There are a lot of things to see in Washington- enough that you could easily fill 5 days of sight seeing. Since we only had one day and were visiting with a 9, 7 and 5 year old, we decided to hit the highlights. One day, I’d love to go back and do it all, but for this weekend, here’s how we made it work:

  1. National Museum of Natural History: it was pouring in the morning, so starting off inside just made sense. We got to the museum about 5 minutes after it opened, waited in line to go through security and went upstairs first. The main dinosaur exhibit was closed, so we hit up the smaller fossil area, the mummies and the insect zoo. Then we migrated down to the Mammals and Ocean exhibits with what seemed like thousands of our closest friends. I would have loved to have seen the geology section (including the Hope Diamond), but the crowds were bad, so after an hour and a half we moved on.
  2. National Archives: Scorch is a huge history buff like his father, so the guys wanted to see the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution so we moved over to the National Archives. The girls could not have cared less so after we saw the line to view the documents, I took them to the Family Center area (which was open for play Saturday) to work off some energy while the guys geeked out. Worked out perfectly! As a side note, the Museum Store there was our fav of all of them.
  3. Air and Space Museum: We walked over to the Air and Space to meet up with my parents and sister for lunch. This was ideal because there was a McDonalds and Boston Market in the museum which worked perfectly when dealing with 4 kids 9 and younger who were starving. After eating, we just did a quick walk through- we had been to the Air and Space Museum by Dulles Airport a few years back, so none of us had enough interest to brave the crowds and stick around.
    WWII
  4. The Mall & Monuments: the rain finally stopped, so we moved our party outside to check out all the monuments! Walking from the Museums, we did a roughly 4.5 miles loop that let us hit:
    • The Washington Monument (we didn’t go up it, just played around it)
    • WWII Memorial: there was something going on that day, so there was a few dozen WWII vets there when we were. It was very touching to see them and to get to say thanks.
    • Lincoln Memorial: if this place doesn’t give you goose bumps, you have no soul. (Same goes if you don’t get the urge to yell “JENNNNNNY” and wade through the reflecting pool).
    • Vietnam War Memorial: this one gets me every time- it’s amazing how a place filled with so many people can be so quiet.
    • White House: So much has changed since the Hubs worked there that it’s hard to get a good glimpse of the House any more (the giant tent in the yard didn’t help either), but it was still so cool to show the kids where Daddy used to work and to reminisce!
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  5. Thomas Jefferson Memorial: after walking back to the car, we bribed the kids with ice cream and drove over to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Such a gorgeous place on the river- it’s my personal favorite.

And then we were done. The kids were amazing, the sights were gorgeous and everyone had such a great day. We missed a lot- the Korean War Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, Arlington, and the Zoo just to name a few. But that’s Ok- that just means we have to go back again soon!

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Road Trippin’ in Florida

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We did it! For the 5th year in a row we made the road trip to FL. Two 11+ hours in the car in a row (and then again on the way back!) to go 1200 miles with more movie, snacks and pitstops than I can count. And you know what? I love it. My kids are *amazing* travelers and I actually like road tripping with them. The Hubs is a horrible passenger, so he drives the whole way, so I get to read, sightsee and chitchat with the family. What’s not to love?

This year we started out in Orlando. We stayed at our favorite hotel and got to visit with some of my favorite in-laws for a few days…

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…spent 1 day at Hollywood studios and saw the Star Wars fireworks display…

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…and then spent a day at Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive one-day resort where you get to swim with dolphins, snorkel and float in a lazy river all day long. Breakfast, lunch and all the snacks and drinks you could want are included in the price. Our weather was crummy, but it was still the most incredible day. I really, really wish I could break my rule and show a picture of the kid’s faces while they were hugging a dolphin because it’s everything. Truly, a magical experience for all of us. Here the kiddos are looking into Dolphin Lagoon.

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The next day we went to Sea World- which, yes, I know I’m supposed to be morally opposed to. But going to Discovery Cove gets you free admission to Sea World and I’m cheap, so off we went! And it was a great day. We rode some rides, saw some shows, petted the string rays and marveled over more dolphins.

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We spent the latter half of the week in the Tampa area visiting my parents, along with my sister, her husband and their 2 kids. For those keeping track at home it was 6 adults and 4 kids in my parents 2 bedroom, 2 bath doublewide. And it worked out beautifully primarily because these 4 kids were amazing. (See the little one on the right in the pink shirt? That’s Lala! She and her little brother were the best company!)

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Mother Nature didn’t cooperate for beach days our first few days, but a cooler evening made for perfect Spring Training weather. We got to see the Yankees and the Mets play at the Yankee’s stadium and it was amazing! The stadium is about as big as a minor league field, so you’re up close and personal. The players and visiting past players often sign autographs before the game- in fact, Scorch got Reggie Jackson’s autograph this year. The games are fun, the crowds are friendly and there is plenty of food to keep those not as interested in the game (*cough*Bean*cough*) happy. I cannot recommend these games enough for baseball lovers.

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This year we tried out a few new beaches. Normally we hit up Clearwater Beach (which is lovely) but this year we went to Anna Maria Island and Fort De Soto. I’m a sucker for any beach, but these beaches were breathtaking.

Another heart shell for the collection.

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The view from Fort De Soto.

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We all came home with some sort of cold/flu- but who cares. Escaping the cold, seeing the beautiful sights, spending time with family and making life-long memories was worth it!

 

Gone Campin’

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We spent this past weekend at my favorite place taking a very abbreviated camping vacation. Being an adult sucks when you have limited vacation days, but we made the most of it. For the first time in years the weather was absolutely amazing which meant lots and lots of beach time.

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In my 37 years, we’ve gone camping at this campground with this group of people (plus or minus a family or four) for roughly 32 of them. Each and every year was wonderful. We had friends we only saw a few times a year that would come camping with us and we’d run tame all over the camp ground with our bikes. It was everything a vacation should be with no electronics or distractions. Just card games, games of Spoons, bikes, hikes and eating. So. much. good. food.

We took Scorch camping for the first time when he was 2 months old and we’ve gone every year since – although we did only go for 1 day the summer Bean was born since she was only 2 weeks old and I’m not completely crazy. Camping with kids is a lot of work but there are so many people helping so the fun outweighs the work 9 times out of 10.

Except for when it was time to shower.

At the camp ground, there are communal bathrooms and 2 showers in the woman’s room, 2 in the men’s and two family showers. You have to stand there in your flip flops (DO NOT go barefoot- ever) and constantly press the water on as it doesn’t stay on by itself. The water comes out in a sharp spray and is either cold or hot- there really isn’t a middle ground. When the kids were itty bitty we’d find other ways to bathe them, but once they were mobile toddlers, covered in sunscreen, bug spray, dirt and sand it was shower time.

You guys, showering kids in this shower was like wrestling a greased pig. The kids were pissed, crying and slippery as hell. It was, at minimum, a 2 person job although 3 adults worked best (two to wash them and one to dry them and calm them down). You’d often end up sweating and wet when you were done, hoping that the whole camp ground didn’t think you were torturing your kids.

The passage of time hit me like a ton of bricks this past weekend after I showered my kids (9 and 7) and my niece Lala (4) with no fuss. I didn’t have to fight anyone, I didn’t have to wrestle them and no one cried. They took their showers, dried themselves off, got dressed and hopped right back on their bikes.

Where did our babies go??

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Our nightly camp fire.

The Hubs and I came back on Monday night (again: being an adult stinks) but the kids had the privilege of staying with all the extended family for a few more day.  This makes me happy for so many reasons. I firmly believe the gift of friends and family is the best gift we could give our kids- and time with them without us even more so they can form their own connections. While we’re camping, the kids also get their first real taste of freedom when the answer is always yes. Yes, you can ride your bike. Yes, you can walk to the park. Yes, you can play at the ball field. Yes, you can make new friends. Yes, you can have s’mores every night. Yes, you can be independent and not always within eye sight because there is pack of 7 of you and cars can’t drive faster then 5 mph.

The kiddos will come home tomorrow covered in bug bites with hair streaked blond from spending 12+ hours per day in the sun. Our kids are lucky because we travel a lot with them and they’ve seen some amazing places, but it make my heart so happy that that their favorite place on earth too.

 

Start of Summer

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So…hey, been a while. Life got nuts. Like more nuts then usual. We had the end of school- both kids passed and I got all teary on the last day of school. I’ll let you decide if they were tears of joy or terror for the summer ahead. I cannot believe I have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader now!  The day after school ended, Little League ended with a bang when Scorch’s team won the championship game. There wasn’t even time to celebrate because we left the next day for the Outer Banks in NC.

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Scorch, Bean and Lala

And that is when summer really started.

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It was the perfect vacation. The hardest decisions were deciding whether we went to the beach first or then then pool or vice versa, and what we wanted to drink each night around the pool (don’t judge- deciding between margaritas and Cape Codders isn’t for sissies).  The weather was gorgeous 85% of the time and when it did storm it was a night and the lightening was spectacular.  My biggest complaint about this vacation is that it is over.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn't go in far even if they wanted.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn’t go in far even if they wanted.

I read 6 books, spent time with my extended family and vegged on the beach for hours a day. That’s my definition of heaven.

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And now we’re back to reality. Camps, more baseball, work and all the craziness that comes with real life. But at least it’s summer time- that makes it all OK.

3rd year in a row we've found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

3rd year in a row we’ve found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

Happy Summer!

Snow Birds

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Earlier this month we took a break away from the cold and the snow to spend time in FL. It was *wonderful*.  We started taking these trips down south 4 years ago and now I can’t fathom how we survived winters without this quick trip to the sunshine and warmth.

Normally we drive down- a trip that usually takes 2.5 days (we can sometimes do it in 2 but that is really, really pushing it). This time we decided to shake thing up a bit by driving down to northern VA and hopping on the Auto Train- a train that allowed us to bring our car with us. The train left NoVa at 4 pm and arrived in Sanford, FL (outside Orlando) at 9 am the next day.

I had no idea what to expect, but it really worked out well! We upgraded to roomettes- so we had “cabins” that held two chairs in it facing each other. At night, those two chairs formed a bed and a bunk folded down from the ceiling so each cabin slept two people (pictures of the setup not taken by me can be seen here). A full service dinner and a continental breakfast was included in our fare. We all dosed up on Dramamine, explored the train, did homework, read and played lots of Uno. The hardest time was from 6-7:30 when we had dinner as the excitement of the train had worn off and the kids were bored and hungry. After dinner we all went to bed and by the time we got up the next day, we were almost there.

We spent the first half of our trip in the Tampa area with my parents. Our days consisted of the pool, the beach, fishing and watching the sunset. Our most exciting day was Sunday when the Hubs and my father took Scorch to a Yankees game (basically heaven on earth for Scorch) and my mom, Bean and I went shopping. Tough life, but someone has to live it.

Our picture-perfect day at the beach.

Our picture-perfect day at the beach.

 

Sunset

Sunset

From there, we went to Disney! This year we splurged and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Resort. You guys, this place was amazing. Like, take-your-breath-away amazing. This was the lobby:

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And this was the view from our hotel room:

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Right outside our door were giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, ostriches and a variety of other birds. It was the coolest thing!

We only had 3 days, so we picked our favorites and tried to hit them all at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. We did the safari at Animal Kingdom:

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Checked out the Flower and Garden Fest at Epcot:

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And got awestruck at Cinderella’s castle:

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And then we had to come home. I figured we must be doing pretty well as a family if we survived two 12-hour days in the car back to back and were still speaking to each other when we arrived. I tried not to grumble too much as I swapped out my flip flops for snow boots as we arrived home in the middle of a winter storm warning. Winter can’t last forever, right?!?

There’s No Place Like Home

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Last weekend  I flew to San Francisco for 5 days to attend a conference. The day before I left, we were at a party with quite a few friends and the running joke was whether or not the house would be still be standing when I got home. The Hubs had never spent this much time parenting solo before. Ever.

Because of the flexible work-at-home nature of my job and the inflexible nature of his, a lot of the domestic stuff like shuttling kids back and forth, making dinner, grocery shopping and doing laundry falls to me. I’m the homework task master, the CEO of permission slips and lunch making and the czar of family logistics. It’s a system that works for us and keeps everyone happy. That’s not the say the Hubs doesn’t help out because he does quite a lot, but this is the first time he’d have to wear both hats at the same time for so long.

On our way home from that party, the Hubs remarked that those jokes weren’t funny, they were going to do just fine without me.  So with that ringing in my ears, I hopped on a plane and flew across the country to have a fabulous week in one of my favorite cities.

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I learned a lot, saw some amazing speakers, got to hear Bruno Mars live and ate so much good food that it makes me sick to think about it.

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And when I got home, the house was still standing, the kids and all the pets were still alive and the Hubs had it all under control. I missed them all like mad, but good lord it was so much easier going away now that the kids are older! Taking care of them isn’t a guessing game, we can catch up on the phone every night without someone crying and they can tell us exactly what they are thinking.

Coming home was awesome- and crazy- as we left the next day for a weekend away to see Disney on Ice Present Frozen (more on that later)! Scorch and the Hubs were thrilled to have me back, as was the Bean, although she’s made me pay for leaving at least once a day since I got back. At least my little spitfire is predictable in her unpredictableness.

 

And Just Like That…

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…Summer is almost over. How did that happen?

Well, I know how it happened. It was a very fun combo of baseball + vacations + work + never, ever sitting still. Ever. We have never had such a busy summer and the craziest thing is I know that this is just the start. We only had one kid with a 3x a week commitment- soon it’ll be both kids and bigger commitments.

We just got back from a wonderfully relaxing vacation to NJ. We started going to the Jersey shore 12 years ago or so- it was a place the Hub’s family went to yearly when he was a kid. I admit- I was a snob about it, all I knew about NJ was what I saw on TV, which was not favorable. But here’s a little secret I found out- NJ is gorgeous.

Even when it’s grey, it’s gorgeous.

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But let’s face it, it’s a heck of a lot more gorgeous when it’s sunny and 85, which it was for 5 days in a row:

SunnyDayScorch and the Hubs were on this trip with us but you don’t see them in these pics because they spent hours every day playing in the water. The waves were huge thanks to an offshore storm and Scorch, oddly enough, loved being pummeled by them. The harder they knocked him down, the more he laughed. He walked away from vacation with skinned knees, elbows and a raging case of swimmers ear (to be fair, he was nursing that before we left- we just thought it was an ear infection).

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We ate wonderful seafood, saw some spectacular sunsets, rode the ferris wheel a million times, rammed each other in bumper cars and spent at least 5 hours a day at the beach.  It was just about perfect.

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So here’s to 2 more weeks of summer!

Snow Birds

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3 years ago we started to go to FL in the winter. Being in upstate NY, winter lasts from roughly Oct through April so this mid-winter break is an amazing thing not only for our tan lines, but for our state of mind. Last week was finally the week- so the day after another major storm struck we hit the road, pointed our car south and didn’t look back.

First, we went to visit a Mouse. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and it was amazing:

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The kids loved the pool and would have honestly spent all vacation going down the water slides there over and over and over…. We stayed in a Pirate themed roomed which just was the cherry on top of all the rest of the awesomeness.

We only had a couple of days at Disney, so we spent day 1 at Hollywood Studios where Scorch got to live out his lifetime dream of fighting Darth Vadar (last year he fought Darth Maul).

Don't worry, Scorch kicked his butt!

Don’t worry, Scorch kicked his butt!

We also got to ride the Star Wars ride 3 times at the Bean’s insistence, see the stunt show, go on the back lot tour, run around like ants in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground and finally (after trying for the past 3 years) go on the Toy Story ride (worth the wait!). It was hot so we only lasted from 8:30 – 4 and then we went back the pool for swimming, pizza and drinks- which is the perfect night if you ask me.

Day 2 was the Magic Kingdom. Last year we were there on President’s Day and this year between it being a Monday and the rainy weather it felt like we had the place to ourselves in comparison!

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A little rain wasn’t going to stop us, so we bought some over-priced ponchos, made good use of our Fast Passes and walked from one end of the park to the other. The best part about the rain and lack of crowds? Being able to take the kids on Big Thunder Mountain over and over! It’s safe to say we’re raising thrill seekers.

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$32 for four ponchos. We’re never throwing them away- ever.

Tuesday morning it was time to head to the West Coast to visit my parents. Which was fortuitous timing because the Bean woke up with a stomach bug. I’ll spare you the details about how fun the 2 hour drive was, but we all go there in one piece and the Bean finally could curl up on a couch and watch Frozen* over and over until she felt better- which was thankfully within about 6 hours.

We spent the last 3 days of vacation at the beach, the pool and my parents house and it was lovely! I love ending our vacation on the relaxed note.

Clearwater

The Hubs and I even got a date night while my parents took the kids out. Want to guess who arrived home first that night? Hint: it wasn’t the two 60-somethings with the kids under 7 years old.

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The last night we went to the beach for sunset. It. Was. Spectacular.

684I don’t usually spend too much timing wishing my life was different, but I’ll admit that these trips down south in the winter make me really question why exactly we live up North. The Hubs has a little over a decade until he can retire and I told him on our drive home that my goal is to be a Snow Bird when we grow up.

*Best guess, the Bean watched Frozen 14 times between Tuesday and Saturday. Want me to recite it to you?

I’ve Had Better

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We just returned from our annual camping trip.  I really wish I could tell you it was as relaxing as years past, but frankly, this was the worst trip we’ve had in as long as I can remember.

First, there was the weather. Hello rain and cold temperatures- you’re not welcome this week.  We arrived on Saturday to the camp ground and within an hour, it started to rain. And it didn’t stop until 4 pm on Sunday.  While we do have a pop-up camper, you still have to get out in the rain to walk to the bathrooms, get food, talk to others, etc.  So we spent Sunday at a local (30 minutes away) mall seeing a movie and wandering around.  Thankfully that night was gorgeous, so we were able to go back, have dinner and a much needed campfire. Monday was lovely, but cold so we drove an hour to this cute touristy town full of great bars and adorable shops. You know- just the things a 5 and 7 year old want to spend their days doing.  Thankfully there was also a 2 hour boat ride to help pass the day along.

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Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday were picture perfect beach days so we did get to soak up some sun and relax.  But the weather was supposed to take another nasty turn Wednesday night, so we packed it in after a day at the beach and headed home 2 days early. That about broke my heart, but there is a very limited number of things to do when the weather is bad and we did ’em all.

The second strike against our trip was the Bean. Or more specifically the Bean and her mighty attitude.  Her sass turned to down right rudeness and for the first 2 days of our trip I really wondered if I gave birth to the spawn of Satan.  She was rude, she was demanding and she made me feel like the biggest parental failure on the earth.  Thankfully after Day 2 (and countless time outs, loss of privileges and discussions), she came back around to her normal self.

And lastly, my husband.  Last week before we left on vacation, he went to the doctors because he thought he had strep throat. That was negative, but he didn’t feel much better before we left. He was a *trooper* on vacation- taking turns getting up with the kids, taking them fishing, playing kickball/baseball/lacrosse- but he clearly didn’t feel good. We got home around 8:30 last night and he was back at the walk-in at 9:15.  Turns out the poor guy has Influenza-B.  In July. While we’re on vacation.  Only him!  Here’s hoping the meds kick in soon.

All that said, the trip was not a complete bust. The kids had a awesome time, despite the weather.  We had a great time with the kids making fun memories on the boat ride and on our first fishing expeditions.  We laughed until I cried around the camp fire at night telling stories and reconnecting with the family and old friends camping with us. The days at the beach that we did have were gorgeous- pure sun shine, clean water, gentle waves.  We ate like kings and I had a blast watching my kids get more self-confident and self-assured navigating their way through camp site life.  We started to teach Scorch how to ride his bike without his training wheels and I taught both kids how to play a mean hand of Uno.  The bad never outweighs the good- I mean, we were on vacation and that can’t suck no matter how hard it tries- but I can’t wait for our do-over next year!

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Beach Lovin’

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Last week, the Heat’s went to the beach. And it was wonderful.  And now we’re home. And that’s not wonderful.

The end.

Honestly, that’s all I really feel like writing as it sums up life today perfectly.  But that’s not the whole story.  We drove to the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week by way of Jamestown, VA so my history nut husband could impress us with his smarts.  Breaking the 12 hour drive up to 3 days felt so luxurious- we never once sat in traffic longer then 5 minutes and we had all the time in the world to explore.

The kids and I exploring a replica of one of the ships that sailed from England to Jamestown, VA.

The kids and I exploring a replica of one of the ships that sailed from England to Jamestown, VA.

Jamestown was really neat- they had a Native American village, a replica of the settlement set up by the English and replica’s of the 3 ships used by the English to sail to America (ships that I couldn’t imagine spending 1 day on, let alone 4.5 months). The kids enjoyed it and it was a perfect pitstop for a few hours during our travels.

But the main attraction for the week was our time in Nags Head, NC.  We rented a house with my mother-in-law, her husband, and my husband’s brothers and their families. In all, we had 14 people in one house- 8 adults and 6 kids ranging from 4 to 13 years old.  It was an awesome week. We don’t see my brother in laws often as they live all over the country, so it’s always a treat to hang out with them and my nephews. The kids get along like long-lost best friends and keep themselves entertained well, so there is plenty of time for the adults to catch up.

Wiffle ball on the beach- can't beat it!

Wiffle ball on the beach- can’t beat it!

We did some sightseeing- first, at the Wright Brothers National Monument.  The Hubs and I thought this was awesome, but it was wasted on the kiddos.  Maybe in a few years they’ll appreciate it.

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We also went to my favorite place in the whole OBX- Jockey Ridge State Park. 

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Jockey Ridge consists of the largest natural sand dunes on the East Coast. The sand is powder fine, the views are breath taking and everyone has a blast- as long as you don’t mind getting sand everywhere. See that huge hill behind the Hubs and Bean? People run down it, boogie board down it or roll down it.  There is also a hang gliding school located there where people throw themselves off the dunes. It’s amazing.

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But mainly, we hopped between the beach, the pool, the hot tub and the kitchen. We got too much sun, went to bed too late, slept too long, ate too much, jump a lot of waves, read a lot, reconnected and basically loved life.

Scorch and his cousin dodging waves.

Scorch and his cousin dodging waves.

And now we’re back to the land of alarm clocks and schedules and laundry and real life. And while our real life is pretty great, it’s no day at the beach.

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