(Sunday Paper, Volume III, Issue 29)
This past week we've been on vacation.
It was a joint 40th birthday celebration with my friends Justin, Kevin, and Dave.
But it was the vacation around which my family built our entire summer.
We have other travel plans, but the timing of everything revolved around this past week, when we rented a house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina - a trip that has been in the making for a while and was something we were really looking forward to.
By the numbers: We were 13 people sharing a house that was three floors high with 5 bedrooms for 7 nights.
It was a great time, and I'll share about it here not with more numbers, but with letters, from A to Z.
America: One of the cool things about the trip was seeing the country on the drive to and from the Outer Banks - in Delaware we drove down Route 1 instead of cutting through a piece of the state on I-95. It wasn't exactly the most exciting part of the country to see, but it was something different - like the stretch of chicken processing plants we passed. And the girls got to see their first live arrest - at a Virginia McDonald's where we grabbed breakfast after an overnight stop on the way south.
Babies: There was a time when my kids were the babies of the group. Not anymore. It was fun to watch my daughters as the big kids - and all three of them did a great job. Of the 13 people mentioned above, two were of the pre-toddler variety: a one-year-old and a 16-month-old.
Coffee: This is dumb, but since we were staying at a rented house instead of a hotel I really worried leading up to the trip about whether I'd be able to have the coffee I needed throughout the day. Just because there were so many of us who would be drinking it every morning and would the pot be big enough and would we have enough?...I needn't have worried. The first morning my concerns were moot - we made a few pots every day and I'd pick up an afternoon coffee here and there and it was fine. More than fine. I worried a lot about the trip beforehand - the unknown was killing me. What exactly did we need to bring!? It turned out we brought enough of what we needed and had a wonderful time.
Decks: Three floors, three decks. Sitting out at night with a drink under the stars, enjoying the cool mornings with a cup of coffee before the sun was at its hottest...we got full enjoyment out of the house's decks.
Early morning: On Thursday morning Kathy wanted to watch the sun rise on the beach. So we walked down there a little after 5am and got there about 5:40 and waited until the sun came up at 6. It's always something that I'm a little reluctant to do because it's always the same image, but it is also always something that I am struck by when I watch it. I'm glad we did it.
Friends: I've written before in different places about how much I appreciate the friendship I have with Justin, Kevin, and Dave. In the past when we have done a get-together like this it has just been the three of us, but this time it was with our families and it couldn't have gone much better. It was a great way to spend a week of vacation.
Games: There were a few games and activities we'll address later in the alphabet (see "W"), but in our downtime we played a fun card game called 'Timeline,' and in the pool we invented a basketball-type game involving a floating drink holder and little balls that fit perfectly in the drink holders. It was called "Beverage Boat Basketball." I was very good at it. On Saturday it was rainy and Kathy busted out a really difficult puzzle the house had and I sat and did it pretty much the entire day and it kind of ruined my last day of vacation. We also played Bananagrams.
House: The only drawback of the whole week might have been the fact that the house was too nice, and I had to worry that the girls wouldn't like our house as much after we returned from this beautiful place.
Ice Cream: What's a vacation without ice cream? Our go-to place was The Village Conery, less than a half-mile from door to door.
Jokes: Before I ever performed stand-up on stage I would take out the notebook with whatever I had written and read jokes to Justin and Kevin and Dave. It became part of our get-togethers and we did it this time too. I don't know why they enjoy listening to me for such a long time but they do.
Kite: Growing up I think I was conditioned to think that flying a kite was an impossible task. Partly this was due to my dad never wanting to attempt it, and partly because of Charlie Brown cartoons. But while we were here we broke out kites that we've had for a couple of years but never used...and though we missed the super-windy days we did get enough of a wind to get the kite off the ground and show that we could potentially get a kite into the air for a while. (My plan was to try flying the kites, not succeed, and then throw them away. Now we're going to have to keep them.)
Lighthouse: About mid-week we needed to do something where we weren't just laying out in the sun so we drove over to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It was neat to check out - once we were there we had a vague memory of when the lighthouse was moved from one location to another back in 1999, which we may or may not have covered when we worked in TV news. What we did not do was climb to the top, which we were considering, but would not have been a great idea to do with the girls. We thought about going back by ourselves later in the week but never did.
Money: This is a little silly, but it's significant - this vacation was primarily paid for by money I earned writing. That's kind of a milestone since it's not exactly like I'm raking in the dough, but it is something that I couldn't have done four years ago. So that's progressing nicely. And I did stop and think about that a couple of times this week.
Ninja Warrior: It's come up more than once in the Sunday Paper - Kevin is the reason we started watching American Ninja Warrior, and this week it was neat to watch an episode in the same room as him. Well, the girls did. I saw a few minutes before I succumbed to a Nap.
Outer Banks: I kept meaning to look at maps during the week and orient myself to where exactly we were, but it's amazing that this was just about a mile-wide stretch of land, with the ocean on one side and a sound on the other. We checked out the ocean and we waded in and sat by the sound, which was a really nice experience.
Pool: But it was the pool where we spent most of our water time. It was a lot of fun for the girls...and the adults enjoyed it too.
Quiet Time: Mornings were super active, and we hung out a lot at night. But in the afternoon there was always a little down time when we read, napped, or played one of the aforementioned games. We barely watched TV all week, but Tuesday night we watched some of the All Star Game and then when baseball resumed after the break we had that on for background noise at the end of the week.
Riptides: When Kathy and I went to watch the sun rise we witnessed what we had heard to be dangerous riptides. We only waded in the quiet Sound, we did not venture onto the ocean side, where apparently some of the riptides have been deadly this summer.
S'mores: A year or so ago a friend of mine started a fire pit in his backyard and told me I should be in charge of S'mores. I told him I couldn't do that - I'd never made S'mores before in my life! He laughed at my city boy-ness. I didn't realize how much of an outsider that made me. I didn't eat a S'more that night...but this week, I had several. They're amazing.
Tire: One of the four of us (no need to name names...but it wasn't me) had a flat tire this week. Luckily he knew what he was doing when it came to changing the tire - I watched closely because I've never had to and I'm pretty sure I could if I ever needed to, but this was a nice up-close opportunity to make sure. Getting the jack in the right spot was my biggest worry - now I know exactly where it should go. Everything in the tire department turned out OK.
Unclean: I mentioned we went to the Sound. That - and walking on the sand for the sunrise, when I didn't even bother to take off my sneakers - was my only experience with sand this week. Minimal sand irritation. (I don't like sand.)
Veggies and Meats: We prepared almost all of our meals, save for one lunch and ordering a couple of pizzas. Not as chaotic as it could be with so many people.
Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby: Remember when I told you about the different games and activities we played and I also told you about the decks? We played wiffle ball home run derby and the decks were inviting targets. It was the best. (And the sweatiest day.)
Xavier and Allison: These were the babies. I know I usually employ a no-names policy here, but they're out of context...I feel comfortable doing this. Also, it's X. That's a tough one.
Yikes!: Saw some pictures of myself from behind in the pool - it had been a while since I'd seen my back hair. (I don't often have that view of myself with my shirt off.) Yikes. At least that explains all the wiffle ball home run derby back sweat.
Zeroing In: In the girls' bedroom there was a Magic Eye poster. I'd never in my life figured out a Magic Eye. But one night my youngest daughter was staring and just said, "Oh. I see Lady Liberty." (It was a Statue of Liberty 'Lady Liberty' Magic Eye.) I stared, let my eyes kind of unfocus, and there she was. I can't explain how it happened, but I was able to lock in.
Maybe it was because I was as relaxed and enjoying myself more than I have in a very long time.