Monday, August 1, 2016

Swimming Lessons

This summer, we decided to put all the kiddos into swimming lessons at the pool across the street. Olivia's had lessons before, but the rest of them had never had formal lessons. Our goals were to have the boys out of their floats and swimming on their own and the littles to be more comfortable in the water so they would be more independent in their floats. For Olivia, we wanted her to get some more technical practice with strokes.

In the end, we were really, really happy with the results. See for yourself!
(Love the sneeze :)
 Both Gabe and Ezra were very comfortable and happy to swim without their floats. Ezra, in particular, loves to do flips in the water.

We are so impressed with how Emma did. Understandably, Irene wasn't interested in going that far with it, but she wasn't scared to be in the water and was brave enough to jump off the side if someone would catch her.

Our biggest concern was whether they would continue to be so brave when they weren't in class and they have been. We've been going to a friend's house where they have a pool and the boys are till doing great and both Emma and Irene are really excited to get in the water.

If you live in Greensboro and are considering swim lessons, we highly recommend the lessons at the Lindley Park pool. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

Today is Rebecca's 38th birthday! 
 We wanted to do something special, so she chose to go out to breakfast at Smith's Diner, which is one of her favorite places.
 Everyone else loves their pancakes, so it was a real treat for the whole family.
 Later, we went for a walk in the woods and stopped by My Friend Kate to let her pick out some new earrings. (I never thought I'd say those words since her prior experience with earrings has been rather unpleasant, but these are doing wonderfully!)
But to cap off the day, Olivia made her a "card" in multiple pages that she then hid around our room for Rebecca to find. It was very sweet.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Beach Trip 2016 - Part 4 - The Voyage Home

On the last morning there, we didn't really have a plan. We packed everything up, left the tent and tarp to dry out after another stormy (like super high winds, thunder, lightning, and heavy rain) night, and went back to the Wright Brothers Memorial for a couple more pics that we missed the day before. Once that was done, however, we had to decide what to do next: head home or go exploring. Olivia requested to see a lighthouse. So we decided to take a ride north along the Outer Banks to Corolla to see Currituck Lighthouse.
 Once there, we decided to pay the fee and climb to the top. Everyone made it with no problem. :)
Irene liked that she could see so far. "Look there! And there!"

It wasn't easy keeping these three from racing up and down the stairs.
Once we were done there, we headed back South and made the decision to keep on going and see at least one more lighthouse. 
Bodie Island was the next one down the coast.
Unfortunately, all the tickets had been sold for climbing this one, but since it's a twin of Currituck, we were OK with that. Instead, we walked out the nature boardwalk they had set up into the marshes. 
We saw a very pretty egret
and a bright red dragonfly.

Now here's where we really had to make a choice. From here, it was a pretty easy ride back to the road home. It was only 2pm and we could make it home from here by bedtime. However, Hatteras was only another hour down the coast and then we could take the ferry to Ocracoke and then another back to the mainland and get home a bit later. We figured that this was one of those opportunities you don't get very often, so we soldiered on to Hatteras.
It's a bit taller than the other lighthouses (2nd tallest in North America!) and you can climb it, but unfortunately, you have to be a certain height to do it. That meant that the littles couldn't go. Rebecca volunteered to stay on the ground with them while I took the bigs up. 
It was quite a climb. By this time, it was getting really hot, so it was in the high 90s inside the lighthouse. Getting out at the top was a welcome relief!
Rebecca and the littles looked so tiny form up there.
It's cool that they maintain the path that they used to move the lighthouse about 1/2 mile back from the shore 20 years ago.

Fortunately, we made it back down again. :) From here, it was on to the ferry to Ocracoke.
Since we didn't plan, we didn't really know when the ferries would be running or how long they took to make the crossings. The next ferry was at 4:45, so we thought we were doing pretty well. 
Turns out that the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry takes 45 minutes and then the drive down to the Ocracoke to the mainland ferry was about 20 minutes, so it was about 6pm when we got there to buy our tickets. That's not a big problem except that the next ferry home wasn't until 9! That gave us more than enough time to take a look at Ocracoke Lighthouse, our 4th one for the day! 
You can't go up in this one, so we had to content ourselves with a picture outside it.

After that, it was just a long wait for the ferry to load. Rebecca and I fed the kids and picked up some fru-fru pizzas for ourselves. I should mention now that this ferry ride is more than 2 hours! Rebecca used the time wisely and got in a nice, long yoga session on the upper deck under the stars and then read with Olivia (they usually have one book going together). The kids, except for Olivia, passed out in the van and I sat around reading a book. Once back on the mainland, it was another 5-hour drive that got us in at around 4:30am. Quite a long day, but totally worth it! :)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Beach Trip 2016 - Part 3 - The Beach!

While we have taken beach trips in the past, they've all been in the off-season, so going to the beach meant just walking and playing with the sand. The kids had never been in the ocean before. It had been almost 10 years since I had even gotten in. 

Before I start in about their first dip in the "big pool", I should say something about our accommodations. We decided to camp rather than get a hotel in order to save money. We found a campsite (Joe and Kay's Campground) in Kill Devil Hills right behind the Wright Brothers Memorial, less than 2 minutes off the main road through town. While it's primarily an RV park with full-season/year-round rentals, they have a couple of open tent sites that were perfect for our 3-room condo/tent. The usual rate is $25 for 2 people and then $5 per person after that, but they only charged us for one extra person, which was really sweet of them. The place was clean and had a fairly decent bathhouse with showers.

We got into town around 11am, set up the tent and ate lunch. A new addition to our camping gear this time was 2 folding cots for Rebecca and I rather than the inflatable mattress we'd been using for years. We just got tired of waking up with the mattress mostly deflated and us flopping on the ground. It turned out to be a great thing for us to be up off the ground because at night we had some heavy thunderstorms that caused water to pool under the tent right beneath my cot and making some puddles around the feet of it. Had we still been on the mattress, we'd have gotten wet.

So after we got set up, we changed the kids into their swimsuits and headed for the beach.First we stopped and picked up some beach toys since we didn't have any at all. We let the kids also pick out a shell from the bargain bin. Little did we know what Ezra would pick...

 It's a puffer fish... with a hat. I thought at first that it was fake.
But no. It's a real puffer fish that has been stuffed with cotton and they stuck googly eyes on it. It's simultaneously funny and horrifying.

With toys (and creepy, taxidermied fish) in hand, we headed for the beach.

 We made sure they all had floats on because we knew they'd be swamped by the waves.
The older 3 had no problem going right in. The littles got themselves wet, but really preferred to play in the sand. Every so often, Emma would walk to the edge of the waves and get herself wet. We spent the entire afternoon out there in the sand and waves and had a fantastic time. The kids really loved it and were sad to leave for dinner.

The next day, after our adventure at the Memorial and the Sand Dunes, we wanted to find a playground for the kids to blow off some steam before dinner. A quick search on our definitely-not-smart phones came up with Sandy Run Park, which was supposed to be one of the best kept secrets in Kitty Hawk. We managed to find it, but there wasn't a playground anywhere in sight. However, they had a very cool elevated boardwalk loop for nature viewing.
 The girls took off in a race.
 They found a ramp that went down to a platform in the water where you could tie up a canoe. From there, you could also see about a dozen turtles. We got the impression that they were fed often by visitors because they came right up to us to investigate. They looked like large Box or Painted turtles, so I wasn't concerned about Ezra's finger in this picture. I managed to catch one and pull it out of the water, but it scurried off the dock before I could even get the camera up to take a picture. So much for turtles being slow!
 As we walked around the boardwalk, we spotted this sign explaining what kind of turtles we had seen.
 The girls got into a bit of a wrestling match. I have to point out that this is a common occurrence at home when they have nothing else to occupy their time. They just grab hands and push each other until one falls down.
 There were some ripe wild blackberries along the walk.
 At this point the boys got into the race.

When we got back around, I loaded the kids in the car while Rebecca took the time for more yoga. :)
 After a quick dinner, we went out to the beach in Kitty Hawk, about 5 miles up from where we had gone the day before.
 The water was freezing! However, it didn't stop us from going in. 
 Gabe really got into the waves this time.

 Ezra spent more time on the beach experiencing the waves as the washed the sand around him.
 The girls pretty much avoided the water altogether.

 I managed to catch a sand crab for the kids to see. Unfortunately, it was getting dark, so the camera focused on the wrong part of my hand.
 Even though we were looking Northeast, the colors at sunset were really pretty after the storm.

  That night, we had some more storms roll through, though this time, it was primarily wind that was heavy enough to do a little damage to our rainfly, but not enough to cause a leak, thank goodness!