We had a lovely time on our vacation. This year we decided to do something for the girls and traveled to the Outer Banks via Chincoteague to get a glimpse at some ponies. Fr. Joel was determined to pack 13 bodies and all our stuff into one vehicle without a trailer on the back. So we stuffed all we could onto and under seats and then crammed 2 rooftop carriers full and added a shelf to the trailer hitch on the back for coolers and a large container of ocean-faring paraphernalia. I was impressed. We even managed to pull out (relatively) as scheduled on Thursday evening.
It was a bit of a trick getting a place to stay in Chincoteague. We finally settled on a motel where we reserved a 2 bedroom efficiency and a 2 bedroom cottage which worked well with a bit of creative arranging of sleeping bodies. Adora, Nehemiah and the big boys got the efficiency (of course now that John Michael is 4 he fashions himself one of the "big" boys) while we got Nathan, the girls, and David in the cottage. We quickly realized the drawback to our packing methods when we pulled into the hotel nearing 10:30 at night and our luggage was sorted by size rather than by future destination. We crashed into bed with a day and a half ahead of us to explore the wilds of Southern Maryland.
Friday got up and explored our immediate surroundings. The motel had a nice little playground area which served us well while the grown-ups made runs to the local Dollar Store for essentials. We ventured to the beach and got our first glimpse of the ocean. Nathan immediately decided he didn't want to have much to do with that and Adora wasn't far behind him. She had a rather sullen pout in her beach chair holding a sleeping and hot Nehemiah while the rest of us whooped it up in the sun, sand and water.
Of course, you can't do that part of the world without taking in the sights which has to include wild ponies. The girls and I had been preparing for this each evening for months with our daily readings from Misty of Chincoteague and I was determined to get them a glimpse at the ponies. So after a day at the beach, Daddy took the "big" boys to the motel pool while Adora and I took the twins and the girls on a bus ride through the areas of the state park reserved only for employees and special tour guides. Nehemiah once again fell quickly asleep while Nathan grew more and more restless. We found ourselves surrounded by a group holding a family reunion who decided to adopt Nathan into the family. The grafting in complete, Nate began to crawl contentedly up and down the aisle of the bus visiting the likes of Cousin Jim and Aunt Carole who would announce his arrival at the back of the bus with a loud "I've got Nathan! He's coming your way Grandpa Bill!" We did indeed see lots of ponies as well as equally as many deer, a hand full of rabbits and lots of birds.
Saturday morning we got up and packed up the van again, stopped off for local shopping and donuts and then hit up the NASA Visitor's Center on our way down to North Carolina. We arrived at our rental house just shortly before our friends joined us for the week. We were staying on the same street as the friends with whom we stayed last year except this year we had a house to ourselves to which we had invited a family from church. So we had beach access via our friends across the street and they had access to the pool at our house. It worked out beautifully.
We began our ocean side vacation with a nice little mass in the living room. The kids read the lessons, JT served as acolyte and John led the music with his guitar. It was really nice.
Tuesday was Dinner:Impossible! night for Adora. Every since we got addicted to the show on the Food Network we've been ribbing Adora about her own Dinner Impossible mission. Tuesday morning we presented her with her surprise mission - to plan and prepare a poolside party for 21 children and 3 adults to include an array of stromboli by 6:00pm. The reception of her mission was met with tears and Adora's backside retreating to her room. Unbeknown st to me Adora had gotten in her mind her first Dinner Impossible mission was actually going to be Thanksgiving dinner for Fr. Joel's family. She wasa bit insulted to be given a mere pool party for the young 'uns when she'd already been dreaming up deep fried turkeys and pumpkin pie. I'd walked into an emotional land mine and realized Adora's heart had been set on redeeming the miserable Thanksgiving she'd had the year before with her family by cooking up a whiz bang meal for ours. I do love her heart.
At any rate, I didn't make the mission any easier by getting Clifford stuck in the sand on our way out to the grocery store (score minus 2 for me that day - I later also managed to drown my cellphone in the pool). We abandoned the husbands to the task of digging the van out (and I understand JT was a tremendous help as well), and Jenifer to the task of feeding lunch to all the kiddo-s while we ran to the grocery store and returned with just barely 2 hours before the evening deadline. Adora did a great job putting it all together for the kids and we were able to usher John and Jenifer and Brett and Terri out the door while we entertained all the children poolside. The food made, Adora collapsed in a poolside pout while Fr. Joel cranked up the VeggieTunes. It was great fun to have the pool available for all the kids to gather and enjoy themselves. They especially enjoyed jumping from hot tub to pool to hot tub while eating pizza and stromboli and listening to their tunes. We have a couple of great video shots of the boys dancing to VeggieTales tunes that we'll be saving for blackmail material later. The rest of the pics will be embarrassing enough for now...
We got in loads of beach time. John led daily early morning excursions in search of shells and critters which always yielded some neat show and tell upon their return. Ben, being our morning guy, was especially fond of these sunrise trysts. Then we would head out to the beach, come home in time for lunch or naps for the littles and head back out for more ocean. Jenifer just couldn't get enough of the ocean while the kids came up with some pretty neat sand castle creations. The most elaborate one involving three separate garrisons with a labyrinth of channels connecting them. We didn't see much of the tropical storm supposedly brewing in our exact area but by mid-week the ocean had washed ashore tons of dead jellyfish. After a day or so of treating their gelatinous carcasses with some small respect our regiment of boys began thinking up some more...creative...uses for them. I'll just leave that to the imagination but I did have to draw the line when they suggested serving jelly donuts for breakfast.
I caught some good waves on the boogie board but the highlight of the week was the night we got shooed out of the house for an evening to ourselves. Jen, John and Adora held down the fort while my beloved and I took a sunset ride on a sail boat. It was a lovely 2 hours of gliding on the water and chatting and worrying about nothing. We followed that up with a trip to a bookstore and of course ended the evening with dinner at Mako Mike's - it wouldn't be the Outer Banks without a date under the big swordfish. What a treat!
Thursday was Miah's birthday which we celebrated with a birthday dinner of pancakes, eggs, sausage and bacon. He got to lick the beater and really seemed to enjoy his fire engine chocolate cake. Jen thought of livening up the party with some animal masks which everyone donned for the gift opening. Happy Birthday Little Man!
The whole week was a nice, relaxing (well, as much as anyone is able to relax in the midst of 12 active children) time of doing just what we wanted to do. We got to spend time with some good friends, relax and slow down the pace to match our own desires. It was a sad, sad day on Monday. I knew without a doubt vacation was over when the beard came off Fr. Joel's face and along with it the end of our brief respite from the "real" world.