(The beautiful tree next to the bridge to the beach.)
(The Menonis place.)
(Hunter loves when Daddy carries him like this and he says, "Hunter flying!"
as he's being carried through the air.)
(Working on Sissy's walking.)
(Hunter's latest thing has been holding onto my leg for security.
It melts me.)
Going to the beach with three kids takes an army. And it's always the one thing you left at home thinking you wouldn't need that the kids repeatedly ask for so we opt for leaving nothing behind.
Dave and Jeremy set up this cool beach pit for Emerson. As soon as it was completed the two boys jumped inside of it bringing in lots of sand with them. Good thing Emerson enjoys eating it. (Before you go judging, I did read that kids can eat up to a pound of sand a year.)
Some of the grown-ups found the sand pit useful for other reasons too.
When the kids had tired of the pit, we moved on to the blow up pool.
The little guys wanted so badly to help Dave and although they were making it very difficult for him to accomplish his goal, he just let them think they were big helpers. My husband has the patience of Job.
All was worth it.
(This is the last photo I have of Sissy with her paci. When we returned home Dave put
her to bed without it and, since she did ok, there was no turning back. It was emotional
for me because I look at her and see such a baby and the removal of the paci was one of
those rites of passage into childhood.)
The kids loved the pool and played in it non-stop. Although the exciting Gulf waves beckoned their attention, they always seemed to want to check back in to the calmness and security of that pool.
(Spoiler alert: The moon does shine during the day in Destin Florida.)
After two days Emerson finally braved the waves.
Then she took her first real swim in an ocean.
She loved it and the pool became more of a dumping ground for toys. Each day we would put her in it but she would crawl right out because she wanted to make sure those waves were still there.
Florida sand beckons you to let your feet sink inside of it. Our northeastern beaches are grey and rocky which make for prickly to somewhat painful walks.
As I was enjoying the softness of the southern sands, I felt a little warm body snuggle up on my leg and give a shiver from the gentle breeze blowing.
And there's nothing better than letting your feet sink into softness next to somebody you love.
Get ready for the cutest photo EVER.....
Aside from writing the letters of the alphabet in the sand, turtle watching became a favorite sport of Hunter's while we were in Destin.
Each time we crossed the bridge between the lake and the beach he would wave at them and say, "Hi turtle! Hi turtle! Turtle eating!"
Another first for Hunter on our trip was learning to fly a kite.
Not sure if this is true of everyone but, Florida beaches seem to claim most of our kites. We would make it an adventure of searching for them the next morning, finding them hidden among roofs of houses and tall trees that were unfortunately too high for us to reach. (Apologies to those neighbors who found multiple Avatar and Buzz Lightyear kites on their property.)
Full disclaimer: I made my husband take this photo much to his chagrin. I hope we'll appreciate it as much as I think we will years down the road or he's totally going to call me on it.
On one of our early evening beach trips Aunt Leslie crossed an item off her bucket list, taking a sundown swim.
I loved capturing this moment that was unrehearsed and even the posed picture turned out so sweet--you can see the love.
Beach days require daily baths, multiple wardrobe changes and serve as a free card to wear casual hair and less makeup for nights out. For one of our evenings out we gathered at one of our favorite southern pizza joints, Mellow Mushroom.
(Love the drippy tie dye highchair.)
Menonis love pizza like nobody's business and Mellow doesn't disappoint.
(The smudge on the left is not your imagination. It's thanks to Sissy's fingerprint.
She likes to make her mark.)
Our sweet little snaggle tooth ate two whole pieces of pizza.
(I love me some baby teeth.)
After pizza we headed back to the beach for our nighttime ritual of kite flying, ocean side cocktails and sandy baby toes. (....and hands, and arms, and legs and faces.)
(I adore this shot. Her signature scrunch face which, apparently, I also did consistently as a baby.)
(And her signature crossed legs. She always sits just like this--truly a little lady.)
(Hunter holds his hands just like this when they get "diwty." I tell him that dirty hands are ok but he still prefers clean hands and will patiently wait for someone to wipe them down.)
Little Miss in her big girl chair. We already know who's going to be queen of our house.
I can't help but smile whenever I see my boys race. I love the way Hunter uses his pointer finger to say "On your mark, get set, GO!"
I have fond memories of racing with my own Dad and I know Hunter will have those same memories of his Daddy.
Dave's family kindly watched the kids so we could have our first overnight together alone in over 2 1/2 years. It was amazing and we really reconnected in a special way. We love our kids like a fat kid love cake but time alone is the icing on it because before our little guys, there was us.
I'm sure they barely missed us because their evening started with crayons, a bubble bath and cousin James.
We left confident that Aunt Leslie had full control.
Dave got us a room at a beautiful hotel overlooking the beach. After a delicious sunset dinner at a nearby restaurant facing the Marina we fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves from our bedside terrace.
The following morning we enjoyed a quick last visit outside our room to watch the quiet beach before returning.
Because I love dining in restaurants only local to areas we visit, our last morning at the beach we opted for Destin's own Pancake House where we had Kevin as our waiter. Hunter loved the smiley face pancakes and saying, "Kevin" over and over. Kevin would continually answer Hunter saying "yes, what can I get you man?" to which Hunter would just stare at him.
Hunter loves being a helper. One of his favorites ways to help is pouring creamer into my coffee and, when finished, he'll smile very proudly and say, "Mommy cawfee...vewee hot!"
After brekkie we were back to the beach where I sported my new swimsuit that my sweet hubby picked out and bought for me. Yup, I told him I wanted him to pick one out for me and I haven't looked back since.
We spent our last day in Destin soaking up the sun, writing our last letters in the sand and fully appreciating what these beautiful beaches have to offer.
(Why is it that you can have a kiddy pool, raft, blanket, and beach toys abounding yet all
they want to do it sit in the one spot where you want to be?)
It was an amazing week and hard to say goodbye. The Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote is so true;
"One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach; one can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.”
If we were able to frequent these beaches often I don't know that I would appreciate their beauty quite so much. It's in the infrequency of the occasions that opens my eyes to how exquisite they truly are.
Yet although it was hard to say goodbye, I welcomed the sight of bright green golf courses and horse farms from our airplane windows that I knew as home. I was even happy to see our swollen kitchen door that often requires a heavy hip bump in order to wedge it open. And after it was open our house felt so fresh, open and quiet because for once in a long time it was just us.
We didn't even take time to get fully settled and saddled the kids up for our ritualistic weekend stroll on our beach. (Note: Hunter cried and cried saying, "stay home!" because he was afraid we were about to take him away on another trip. Once we told him we were going to Hunter's beach he felt better.)
We did our usual beach things like ordering a pie from our favorite pizza joint.
Hunter used big sticks to trace letters in the sand.
We played with our sand toys that felt brand new since we had been away from them for so long.
The boys played a little football.
And Hunter walked along his favorite wall saying hello to all the dogs that passed by saying "Hi doggie! Hi doggie!" and when they walked off saying "Night night doggie!"
The old adage is so true. Home really is where your heart is. And, I am glad to be back to our sweet little home where love frequents with constant visits from friends who have become our family and our beach that although gray and pebbly, is our own.
P.S. I couldn't go without including this adorable spot. On our drive back to Atlanta we stopped at this cute place in Alabama that had some of the best fried seafood I've eaten. I was also craving a lemonade and they informed me that although it wasn't on the menu that night, the woman who makes it from scratch was the hostess that night and she would be more than happy to make some for me. You gotta love those friendly southerners! It was delicious and closed the chapter on another special visit for this SoNo gal!