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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Outerbanks - Previously undisclosed photos!

I thought I would wrap up my Outerbanks series with some photos that I didn't include in previous posts.  If you enjoyed this series and know of someone you want to share it with, please do!  I enjoy seeing my audience expand. Most recently I reached China!  You just never know who is reading.

Anyway, let's start with a close up of what the fisherman brought in.  We think this is yellow fin tuna but feel free to correct me if you know your fish.

A close up of an exhausted Ellie.

Brayden thought he was such a comedian taking this picture.  You know kids, they are all about saying the word "butt"

Approaching the island.

This little creature stole our heart. He washed up on the shore determined to make it to land. We desperately wanted to help him but we could tell there was nothing we could do.  We frequently went to visit him and would comfort him with talk. He seemed to like hearing our voices.  He only lived for about 24 hours.

Closer view of the hermit crab. They look nothing like the ones at the mall.

Here is a very majestic looking crane.

The view of our camp site while standing in the ocean.

Teagan was such a happy girl on the beach,

Brayden was always in deep thought and

Ellie thought it was a big playground.

The beach can be an eerie place to be at night.

Our camera did not do the beauty of the island justice.

Someone was sad to be leaving the island.

"Look mom a whale!"  "No dear, that is just a log"

There was plenty of fun to be had off the island.

And a beautiful drive home

This vacation definitely left a lasting footprint on all of us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Outerbanks - The final day

I almost forgot to tell you about our final day!  It started like any other day with breakfast and getting ready to head out.  We planned to start the day at the Emerald Isle pier.  It was so windy we felt like we would get blown off it!  Brayden still was not drinking much so he got a little something special to share with his sisters. There were lots of fisherman but no one was catching anything.

After lunch we headed to the pool for a much needed cool off.

Brayden really wanted to head back to the ocean but Teagan was ready to leave the sand forever.  So daddy, Ellie and Brayden headed to the ocean while me and Teagan took some last minute shots of the view from the concession area.

That is Gary waving in the picture above.

Storm clouds quickly rolled in so the beach visit didn't last too long.  Since we were leaving the next morning, we decided to pack up everything except the sleeping tent.  That meant no cooking for me so I'll admit, we had subs and pizza.   As we were finishing our dinner, a man with his son rolled into the spot next to us. We were quickly drawn to their cute dog despite the rain that was now falling.  They mentioned they were going to Dairy Queen and we decided that sounded better than packing in the rain.  So Dairy Queen it was.

By then it was getting late so Gary took the kids to the playground so I could pack the car.  You have to understand that I love packing.  I know, weird huh?   I think I missed my calling in life because I love trying to fit those pieces into the car best utilizing every bit of space. I like packing groceries too.  In fact I'll avoid stores that don't have self serve simply for that reason.  Enough of my weird joys in life and back to our night.

We finished our night like all the rest with writing in our journals.  I happily read my book until about 10:30 pm before deciding I was too exhausted to fight sleep anymore.  By then, everyone else was already sleeping.  

At about 11:30, things took a turn for the worse.  I was awoken by what sounded like a freight train running through our tent only to see that the side of the tent where Teagan was lying next to Brayden was being blown off the ground.  I leaped out of bed as if I wasn't just entering that deep stage of sleep and held the tent off of Teagan.  I quietly called "honey!  honey!"  with no response so I had to use that "something bad is happening" tone and promptly woke Gary just in time to find the other part of the tent caving in.  We both stood there holding the tent as if we were built in tent poles and looked at each other with a "what the heck?" kind of look.  It wasn't even raining out but the winds were stronger than any we had previously encountered.  Gary looked at the radar on his phone and saw a very large red cell just south of us.  Given its size and location, we were certain it was coming our way.

At that point, still exhausted but with adrenaline running high, we made the decision that we couldn't stay in our tent through this storm.  We packed up every remaining bit we could without disturbing the kids before lifting them into the car.  Brayden and Ellie promptly fell back asleep while Teagan was excited for whatever adventure had awoken her.  By then it was midnight and we said our farewell to the ocean.  

Now at this point one might think it best to just drive all the way home with sleeping children.  Historically though, our children do not sleep well in the car.  We discussed all our options of where to go.  We really didn't want to incur the cost of another hotel as the campground itself had already changed our planned budget for the trip.  We drove for a bit in silence and then we found that red cell.  It was a horrible storm of thunder, lightening and torrential down pour. Driving was hard and fatigue quickly set in.  It took us two hours to find a hotel en route as we were just passing through small towns with nothing to offer.

Exhausted, we all collapsed in the fluffy white beds and slept soundly.  Ellie promptly woke us at 7 am and we were ready to go.  We went to the free breakfast offered by the hotel, gathered something for everyone and returned ready to go.  The clock just ticked away as Brayden and Teagan slept soundly.  Finally at 8:30 we could wait no more and we woke them.

The drive home was slow and long.  Our beloved DVD player cord had broke at our arrival the week before and we had planned to replace it right before leaving in the morning.  Now there was no where to buy a cord and the whining was worse than ever.  About five hours into our drive, we hit a long construction delay for all of 300 feet of construction.  Some people just don't know how to merge. Right after that we made finding a cord our priority.  At about 7 hours into the drive, we finally found a store to buy our cord. We fueled up, fed everyone and hit the road. 

As we closed in on the Kentucky state line with excitement, the traffic suddenly stopped.  Not even a crawl, just stopped.  We found out there was an accident and the road was closed.  It was at this point that we agreed we were done with long drives for a long time. We made it home without any further incidents but boy were we exhausted.

We are still cleaning up the sand that we keep finding from our trip.  It was a very eventful trip but with lots of fond memories.  The kids constantly talk about their time at the ocean so we know we made that lasting footprint in their memories.  

My plan for an intervention with Brayden's eating failed miserably with respect to increasing his hunger.  It was a success however in teaching me more about why he can't eat and what we need to do next.  I hope you enjoyed hearing about our trip and I hope to post a few more previously not seen pictures in a future post.  Happy Summer everyone!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Outerbanks - Day 4

We woke up on the morning of our fourth day finally a bit refreshed.  We still battled some winds at night but not having sand everywhere really made a huge difference.  We were back on track with our diets as we started the morning with bacon, eggs and for the kids, pancakes.  I'm pretty sure our neighbors were jealous.

The kids were eager to get to the beach as were we, so we packed our very portable sun shelter, towels, books and snacks to spend the morning at the beach.  It was heaven!  For the first time I was able to relax. Me and Gary alternated between watching the kids and reading.  Brayden quickly learned to catch little fish and was set on spending his time doing that.  The girls were all about the wave jumping.

After getting cleaned up from the beach, we decided to head into town so that Teagan could get another taste of shrimp for lunch. We were shocked to find a gluten free nutella and marshmallow sandwich on the menu! Brayden agreed to try it so we ordered that $6 sandwich only for it to arrive on a very grainy bread that looked like someone had mashed up a bunch of corn and oatmeal.  Needless to say no one ate it but Teagan loved her shrimp again and made this face.

Teagan's I love food face
After lunch we decided to enjoy some time in the pool.  We had forgotten how fun it was to swim without sand in your bathing suit.

After a few hours of swimming, we headed back to camp for the long process of cooking a healthy meal. I'll be the first to admit that grilled chicken and broccoli did not sound appetizing after a lunch at a seafood restaurant.  Determined to not let the rest of our meat go to waste, I cooked us a healthy dinner.  Now cooking without counter space and organization was extremely frustrating.  Add in wind with sun heat and it was down right miserable.

I fed the girls first and was so happy to see them as they took a bite of broccoli. No sooner did Teagan get that bite in her mouth and big gust of wind blew her plate over her head onto the street next to our camp site. She was in tears and I was frustrated as Ellie battled to keep her plate.  I handed her a bag of cheese puffs and vowed not to cook another camping dinner.  Of course I still had to make Brayden his pancakes.

At this point I was very hot and frustrated and declared it time for ice cream. We decided there was not a noticeable difference from removing dairy from Bray's diet and it made no sense to have him eat pancakes all day when he could be enjoying ice cream.   We headed into town and found a Ben & Jerry's!  Yummm. After that we still had time for another swim in the ocean.

We then roasted smores over our camp stove before calling it a night.  It was so nice to have a day without too much hassle.  A plate of chicken and broccoli flying seemed like small potatoes compared to what we endured on the island.  In fact our day was so enjoyable that we decided to add another night to our camping time at the Holiday resort.  Was that a good decision?  Stay tuned to find out!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Outerbanks - Day 3

Well Monday night was a difficult night with strong wind and storms. I woke many times wondering if the tent was going to spiral down the beach with our family in tow.  You can see in this video the side of the tent being pushed in from the morning wind. This was the "calm" part of the day.

When I woke Tuesday morning, I was again greeted by the pleasant calm of an ocean morning.  The morning cup of coffee was just the icing on the cake and tasted better than any Starbucks I could recall. Perhaps it was because of the time and labor it took to brew a good cup in a coffee press without the morning conveniences.  Or perhaps it was the tranquil calm of a cool morning on the coast with a steaming cup in hand. Either way, I treasured the moment.

I began my morning ritual of making Brayden's pancakes. By that day I was convinced that he would not eat bacon this whole trip and frankly there was no time for it if we were to make our ferry on time.  In fact there was barely time for pancakes and if you wanted food anytime in the morning hours, gluten free chocolate chip pancakes were your only option.

Packing up proved to be a greater challenge than ever anticipated.  Everything was blowing around.  You couldn't set anything down, like a chair bag, without it blowing down the beach.  The process was slow and tedious.  We had to leave by 9:15 am to make the ferry in time and we were stuffing things in at the last minute including our three children.  Beach driving is not something you do in a hurry.  Here is a small sample of driving in the middle of the dunes, the quickest way to the ferry.

We arrived just in time and drove right onto the boat. It was a bitter sweet ride back.

Brayden was invited up to the captain's chair to drive the boat. They even offered him a salary of $2.00. I know deep in his heart this was something he would love but his anxiety got the best of him and he couldn't do it.  He retreated to the car for the rest of the boat ride.  It was a sad mommy moment.  He still insists though that he wants to be a fisherman when he grows up.

By the time we arrived on land, settled our account, loaded ice and reached civilization, it was well past noon.  Our kids were beyond hungry, thirsty and in Brayden's case, very lethargic.  Our first order was to get anything in their bodies.  In fact, we bought Brayden a soda pop at the ferry dock (a big no no in our family), just to get liquid and sugar in him.  At this point Brayden was still on his dairy free diet so there was not a restaurant food out there that we could buy him.  The girls on the other hand were all too happy to indulge in milkshakes and chicken nuggets from McDonalds.  I felt horrible that Brayden couldn't have a milkshake.  Me and Gary searched frantically for the nearest Starbucks for ourselves!

We headed back to the town of Morehead where we knew there was a visitors center with possible campground information.  We decided we would continue to camp but with the amenities of a civilized campground.  We had a brochure for "Camp Forest" on Emerald Isle, North Carolina.  The man at the visitor center told us there was only one other campground and it was right next to "Camp Forest".  This one was termed "Holiday", but there was no brochure.  We were given the directions of crossing the bridge to Emerald Isle, turning left and we would find it on our right.  Given that Emerald Isle was just another island, we figured it would be easy enough to find.  Here are the girls at the visitor center.

The drive seemed long after an already exhausting morning.  We were quickly feeling that each segment of the day felt like a full day in itself.  By the time we crossed the bridge to Emerald Isle, it was around 2 pm. We finally found Camp Forest after stopping to ask someone and quickly wondered where they found the inspiration for it's name.  This "campground" was more like a mobile home park.  It had what appeared to be a total of five tent sites with the rest full of RVs and mobile homes.  There was not a tree in sight and everyone was crammed in together. It bordered the entrance to the beach but other than that, it had zero attraction.

We were quickly getting discouraged, tired and frustrated.  We found a kind looking lady and asked her for directions to "Holiday" as it clearly wasn't next to the Forest. She told us there was a camp type place left at the gas station up ahead.  We took those directions for a good 30 minutes before deciding it was no where to be found.  We pulled up to a corner gas station only to find the sign "Holiday Resort".  Resort?  Could this be the campground?

There was a beautiful swimming pool, several stores, an arcade, go-carts and a gated community.  We decided to check it out.  We were so relieved to find that it was indeed a campground and there were openings right next to a large playground and very clean bathroom/shower building.  We hurried to our site and finally felt like we had the "Hilton's" of camping.  The bathroom blasted cold air and required a key to get in.  The playground had everything our kids would need to work off their car jitters.  The pool was a welcomed retreat from the sandy beach.

By then it was approaching 4 pm and we had the daunting task of setting up camp again.  Given that we were still right by the ocean, the wind quickly reminded us that it was here to stay.  We set up our camp and were completely exhausted.  Our intentions to make a wonderful Paleo dinner were quickly being influenced by the thought of convenience and relaxation.  We caved in and pizza won the vote.  I still had to make Brayden his pancakes but it was much quicker than a full dinner.

Camp fires were not permitted in this campground and we were surprisingly happy about this.  There was no smell of smoke or late nights.  We all headed to bed early.  While the kids wrote happily in their journals, I picked up my book for the first time that trip.  The sounds of the campground activity reminded us that we were no longer on our secluded island but we had come to terms with our decision at that point. I was certain our next few days would not be quite as exciting as the first few and that is just the way I wanted it!

Stay tuned to hear a bit about Emerald Isle and in a few days, the dramatic end to the Outerbanks!