Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beached 2015

Beach Reads: Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay--a story about a chef named Lizzy and her relationship with her sister, Jane. The perfect mixture of Austen quotes and foodie chatter, plus a close look at relationships and redemption. Marmie even enjoyed reading this! I also liked her other book, Dear Mr. Knightly.

Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber--this may be one of my favorite books ever! It's the true story of a woman who completed her graduate study at Oxford and how she found God during her time in England. I'm not sure if this book is for everyone, but I could relate to so much that was written, and hearing her simple descriptions of the city I fell in love with 11 years ago was like cool water to my Anglo-parched soul! It's written by a professor of Romantic Literature, so be prepared for lots, and lots, of literature quotes. There are also several excerpts of her conversations with her peers and professors which were occasionally difficult for my mom-brain to process!

Longbourn by Jo Baker--this is the servants' side of the story of Pride and Prejudice. I liked that it added a different perspective from "the help," a group that is rarely mentioned in Austen's novels. I got put on the library waiting list for this book months ago, because I kept seeing recommendations for it and because, Jane Austen. But other than passing mentions of the characters we all know and love so well, this isn't really Austen at all. I like Jane because she's witty and bright and fun and, I'll just say it, always ends happily! This book was dark and depressing and dirty. I guess you could say the ending was happy. Call me shallow, but I prefer my pain and sadness to come along with some love and redemption. In short, DO NOT RECOMMEND.
(After 25 years of beach vacations and 7 years of blogging, it's hard to come up with creative post titles for our annual family vacation.)

Our annual "Keep Off" family photos. 

This year, I didn't both with matching outfits. We also waited until the last night when my photographer-brothers were already gone and the kids were tired and cranky. But also when I was completely "whatever" and so I think these photos kinda capture it all so well!

Jack had his last day of school two Thursdays ago. Can I just say how much I'm enjoying not packing lunches, doing "mandatory" reading, or racing to meet the bus (it would seem the earlier my kids wake up the harder it is to catch the bus since we have so much time to get wrapped up in dishes, laundry and playing with toys!) I'm so relieved to put Kindergarten behind us, well, at least until August when Jude starts. So we closed that chapter Thursday afternoon and by early Friday morning we were racing through the patchwork of farmland and waterside towns that is Maryland's Eastern Shore.

I love that drive. Jon and I have started talking about retiring in that area (or permanently settling, I should say, not sure what retirement will look like for us!) It's the perfect marriage of beach and farm, deep-seated history and that sense of freedom you can only feel at the water's edge. And still within a reasonable distance to DC and our family in PA. Of course, it's all just a dream right now. But it's one that comes up often when making the trek out to the beach.

Tongue out, always.
This year, our house was a Friday to Friday rental. That was pretty awesome for several reasons, not the least was that there was no traffic heading in or going home. This year, Marmie and Poppa also sprung for an oceanfront house. That is, right.on.the.beach. We could watch the sun rise from our kitchen (if we were so inclined to get up at that hour), see our "camp" down at the ocean from the deck, and even send the older boys back to the house for potty-breaks on their own.

My parents have been taking us kids to the Delaware beaches since I was 7. Some of our first vacations were sharing a 4-bedroom house in Dewey (that only cost $550 a week!) with 4 other families (a total of 22 people!) I have the most wonderful memories of spending long days at the beach (in matching swimsuits) and short nights sleeping on the living room floor with some of my best friends.

The fireplace rocks were perfect perches for little Lego figures.

We've stayed in many different houses over the past 25 years--a few of them more than once, some close to the water, others farther back along the bay, and every year when we'd walk along the ocean we'd check out the oceanfront beauties and talk about "someday," when we kids were all grown up and had "real" jobs, maybe we could stay in one of those mansions that face the rising sun... we were still talking like this last summer, I might add.

The beach = healthy doses of Vitamin D and nieces and nephews!

She loved morning bike rides with Poppa!
But during one of Marmie and Poppa's visits this winter, my dad came across a fantastic house in South Bethany that, if we went in mid-June (still considered off-season) would actually fit into the budget. Not only was it right on the ocean, but it was also big enough to fit our growing family and some guests. My brother, Jared's, in-laws joined us for the first half of the week again. We also invited some friends from back in Annapolis to join us for the day, and Miss Mary came out for a night in between nursing shifts--it was a full house and we still had room to move around the kitchen!

Tickles from Auntie Ky.

These kids were asking anybody who was willing to read them Star Wars books. Thanks, Aunt Carrie!

Unfortunately, but not really, our family had some major life events this year that affected our week-long vacation. Uncle Micah and Aunt Carrie were still fresh off their honeymoon, so they could only stay for the weekend. And Uncle Jared and Aunt Kylee had just closed on their new (first) house the day vacation started, so they had to leave halfway through to work on moving in. So by Tuesday night, out merry band of pirates was down to just my parents and us. I would say it was a quiet second half of vacation but--four kids. It was definitely quiet after 9pm!

We took the kids mini golfing for their first time! Lia was more into the accessories than she was into the actual activity.

Captain Jack's!
I'm always a little hesitant about vacationing in June, but our weather was perfect. The water was really cold 2 of the 7 days (I think it's so fascinating how it can change overnight!) but completely mild the other days. And I know what you're thinking--sharks?!? I actually didn't even know there was a shark "issue" during the first half of the week, perhaps I should read the news more! We weren't far from Henlopen, where there was one attack earlier this year. And only a few yards north of Fenwick Island, where a hammerhead recently washed up. There was one instance where the lifeguards made everyone get out of the water for about 20 minutes because a bull shark was sighted 25 yards offshore headed south. But other than that, no serious mishaps!

Although it rained a few times, it was always overnight or early in the morning, which kept things nice and cool but never affected our beach time. Which was great, because you know we're all about the beach. And since it was still early in the season, there was plenty of space for us to make camp in the sand and build castles and ball mazes and dinosaur parks and play lots of beach games.

And our traditional crabbing adventure!

I packed one dress each for the girls ... and they wanted to wear it every day!

I'm sure she would have jumped right off the dock after the crabs if she'd been given the chance!
So I actually did get in the water, thank you very much. And Jack was begging someone to take him in the water about every 10 minutes. That kid loves the waves! Jude liked to jump the waves at the edge. We were able to convince him to get in a few times that week, but we're still working on cultivating another seaman. Julia rarely wandered down to the water. Miss Mary somehow worked a miracle and got Julia into the waves with her. And Jon took her in one other time ... in the vice of a death grip. And Joci, well, she didn't even want to put her toes in. Anytime I was holding her while standing in the waves she'd yell over and over, "No wet, no toes!"

This is her waves face.

That girl! She's quite the handful. Thankfully she has a Poppa with the gift of nap-giving. He'd carry her off (screaming, of course) on a walk down the beach and by the time he'd return she was dead to the world... and stayed that way for sometimes several hours! I can't help but wonder if this will be the last year we need Poppa to work his nap-giving magic on our kids. And I can't help but hope that perhaps there will be new grandbabies for Marmie and Poppa to snuggle at our next vacation. Too soon? I've only been waiting, like forever, for some nieces and nephews! Moving on...

In addition to welcoming the start of summer, our beach week also held two other significant events--Father's Day and my birthday! Both on the same day this year. Which presents a bit of a challenge for Jon and I. Who lets the other one sleep in that day? Who should make breakfast/lunch for whom? Who should volunteer to handle yet another potty break? The kids and I ended up giving gifts to Daddy before we left on vacation. And my brother's and I celebrated our own Father that afternoon and then dedicated the evening to my birthday.

Happy Father's Day to this baby snuggle!

And Happy Father's Day to the guy that's always "looking out" for us!

"Politics According to the Bible" and place names leftover from the previous night's party.
And by that, I mean I forced everyone to participate in the Jane Austen Murder Mystery dinner party game that Jon bought for me last year. I won't give away the mystery (just in case you want to borrow it for a party of your own!) but it was great fun and I appreciated everyone's good-humored participation--we have some great improv actors in the family!

Miss Lynel's dinner night's always include a bit of "mandatory fun."

We secretly like being made to do crafts that help us remember our fun week!

Because fun isn't just for kids!
Jon and I also squeezed in some alone time this year, thanks to Marmie and Poppa's babysitting offers (with contributions from Aunt Kylee and Miss Mary, too!) We went stand-up paddle boarding one morning. I love SUP, but I thought it was better when we did it in Florida a few years ago. This time, it was a bit more windy. And on several occasions I was furiously paddling forward and still moving backward. It was still nice to be out on the quiet water! Another evening, we got out for a date night--dinner at Sedona in Bethany Beach followed by coffee and ice cream (and kidless store browsing) at the Bethany Boardwalk.

Date night!

A bit more of a "natural pose."
We got back to the house just as Marmie and Poppa were putting the kids to bed. Joci was screaming, of course, but not because she had to go to bed. Apparently, she had just been put in time-out for biting Jack during story time. We decided we may have come back too soon and immediately headed out towards the ocean for a moonlit beach walk!

A visit to Funland at Rehoboth Boardwalk.

If it's not the tongue, it's duck lips.

Our boardwalk trip got cut short by a brewing storm.
Our final day of vacation was chilly and rainy--which helps make the leaving a little less disappointing. Despite our smaller numbers, and despite the fact that I told myself over and over again that week "I don't need any more clothes," we still participated in our yearly tradition of visiting the outlets on the way out of town, grabbing lunch at "Irish Eyes" in Lewes, and stopping off in their historic downtown for ice cream.

They think "outlets" means $.75 rides and the kids' bookstore.

And that closes the chapter on yet another family beach vacation. A huge thanks to Marmie and Poppa making our oceanfront living dreams come true this year! We're so thankful for a week of rest, and for a family that we love to spend time with ... and that's genuinely fun, too!

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