…and I think I overdosed on shellfish

I was really hesitant about our trip to the beach this past weekend. The last time we went, Catie was terrified of the water and spent the entire time building sandcastles, and she refused to so much as dip a single toe in the water.

This year, I think it’s safe to say that she’s overcome her nervousness.

Catie decided that she loves the beach

She still won’t dunk her head under water, but I wasn’t really a fan of that in the ocean, either. She went out a lot farther than I was expecting, and she had an absolute blast.

Catie jumping waves with Chris

My brother gets MAJOR cool uncle points not only for taking her out to jump waves, but also for spending ages helping her collect seashells.

Lucy was not so sure about the water at first either. It was windy, she hadn’t napped enough that day, it had the makings to be disastrous.

Lucy & me on the beach

Then my dad took her out and dipped her toes in the water. She decided quickly that this whole beach thing was pretty awesome.

Lucy decided that the beach was not so bad after all

They both had a blast. It was fantastic, and I can’t wait to take them again.

I think they both had a good time

Random aside, but a little backstory: back in 1943, when my dad was 7 years old, his father (my granddad) was enlisted in the Army during World War II. Instead of going overseas, though, he was stationed in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Apparently because my granddad was in his mid-30s at the time, he was deemed “too old” to actually go to the front lines. My, how times have changed, no?) So my dad & his parents lived in Florida for a year, then moved back to Mississippi. My dad often talks about living in Daytona and how he’d go to the beach and jump the waves every day after school. He really loved the ocean. The last time he went into the ocean was apparently in the early 1970s, before I was born. So this was long overdue for him.

Honest to God, I haven’t seen my dad that happy in ages. He laughed and laughed and jumped the waves like he was a freaking teenager, and not a 76 year-old man. He’s usually such a grump, it was great to see him downright giddy.

Pop-Pop & Lucy on the beach

Also, my favorite moment of the day was watching my parents hold hands as they walked out into the ocean to jump waves together. It was such a sweet moment between the two of them. I so wish I had gotten a picture of it, but I was holding Lucy and a bunch of other stuff and I couldn’t get the camera out in time.

Overall, it was a great day at the beach. Everyone had great fun and we completely wore ourselves out.

family pic on the beach

After the beach, we came back to the hotel, showered the sand off of ourselves, and went out to dinner. We happened to pass a little seafood restaurant a couple of doors down from our hotel, and we decided to try it out. If you’re ever in Wilmington, go to Hieronymus, because OMG the food was a-ma-zing.

That night, my brother earned even more Cool Uncle Points by helping Catie as she washed and sorted all of the seashells that she had collected on the beach that day.

Washing & sorting today's seashell haul in the hotel bathroom. My OCD kid is in heaven.

(Related: I now have to buy some kind of display jar to hold her seashell collection because holy crap we have a TON of them.)

…And Lucy eventually sacked out on my mom.

How the beach day ends. Good thing my mom doesn't mind being a human pillow for her grandbabies.

The next day, my brother headed home, and we toured downtown Wilmington for a little bit, then met up with Ali and her husband for lunch before we headed home. It was a short trip, but it was fantastic and definitely needed.

We’re already planning our next beach trip… I’m thinking next month when Catie is tracked out from her year-round school. Maybe we’ll stay two nights next time so we can allow for maximum wave-jumping time.

I can’t wait.

Charlotte trip recap

The trip to Charlotte this past weekend was really nice. I don’t know how to summarize it in a normal way because it’s too hot for my brain to function.

So, hey look! Highlights!

1. We saw Beauty and the Beast on stage. It was The girl who played Belle was fantastic, but the Beast was obviously hired for his singing voice, because when he transformed back into a prince, all of the adult heterosexual women in the audience kind of went, “… Oh.” He was decidedly NOT hot. Sorry, dude. The guy who played Gaston was really good, and Lumiere damn near stole the show.

Of course, I hear the “Bonjour!” song at the beginning like this in my head:

(Warning: If you watch this video, you’ll never hear the song the same way again.)

2. I finally got to see the house that my brother bought. It’s lovely.

3. The plan to time our departure with Lucy’s naptime? SUCCESS!

Operation "plan the road trip around Lucy's naptime": SUCCESS.

4. We split up so it was boy’s house/girl’s house. This meant that my dad stayed with my brother, and the rest of us stayed at my sister’s apartment. Catie and my mom slept in my sister’s room (her room is huge, she has a queen-size bed and there’s plenty of space to also set up an air mattress), and I slept in the guest room with Lucy. I brought the pack & play, but Lucy started screaming after about 30 minutes there. I didn’t want her to wake up everybody, so I brought her onto the futon with me.

There are worse people you could have to share a futon with.

This meant that I didn’t sleep that great, but let’s be honest, I’ve shared futons with worse people.

5. My kids love my sister’s apartment.

Piano sisters. (My sister's apartment is so not kid-proofed.)

And more specifically, my sister’s cats.

My sister's cat Valentino is very concerned about Lucy taking his cat toy.

6. Overall it was really nice. The heat was brutal (110+ degree heat index, whee!), but we just altered plans and made it so that we stayed indoors as much as possible. The trip home was pretty easy too. Both kids slept for a good chunk of the ride home and it was fine.

7. The one bad part: I came home to a house with no A/C. Well, partially. I have a two-story house, so the A/C upstairs (where we sleep) is fine. But downstairs, which is, you know, where we actually live, was boiling. I called the landlord’s after-hours answering service, but they couldn’t get anyone out here on a Sunday. The service tech called me this morning and said he’ll be here this afternoon, but he wasn’t sure when. Fingers crossed it gets fixed soon, because no A/C in July in the South? No thank you.

Overall, though, A+ weekend. And it’s nice to know that I can take both kids on a road trip. It’s exhausting, sure, but totally manageable.

Heading to The Queen City

Today is kind of a big deal at our house. We’re packing up and driving to Charlotte for the weekend.

And yeah, I know, Charlotte is a measly 150 miles from us, so it’s really not that big a deal. Normally I’d agree with you. But this is the first time I’ve undertaken a road trip with both a 5 year-old and a 1 year-old. In fact, it’s Lucy’s first road trip ever. She’s never gone more than about 15 miles in a car.

So, yeah, I’m nervous, is what I’m saying.

The reason we’re going is because both of my siblings live in Charlotte, and I haven’t been there to visit them since before I got pregnant with Lucy. My brother actually bought a house since the last time I was there. It’s been too long.

Also, my sister has hired a baby-sitter for Lucy and bought tickets for us to take Catie to see Beauty and the Beast on stage. She is so excited. (Ok, I am too.)

My parents are coming with us, we’re all driving over together in my mom’s mini-van. Hopefully the fact that I’ll have a higher adult-to-child ratio will make the road trip part easier to manage.

Day 12: My girls from a low angle #photoadayjune . (I was on the floor, they were on the bed.)

Yeah, I know they look all sweet, but I’m still nervous.

Catie will most likely be fine. She woke up today so excited, yelling, “It’s Tracy day!!!” (She adores my sister.) The only thing that worries me is that she tends to get carsick, but I have some chewable children’s Dramamine, which will hopefully keep that under control.

And we’re carefully timing our departure to coincide with Lucy’s naptime, so hopefully that will work to our advantage. Cross your fingers for us.

But other than worrying about the drive over (and oh lord, please let Lucy sleep ok in the pack & play), I’m really excited to go. It’s been ages since I’ve gone out of town for a weekend. I think a change of scenery will be good for all of us.

Scenes from the zoo

Because we’ve been back for two days and I still haven’t written about it (my brain, it is not cooperating with me these days), here are some pictures.

Near the entrance to the NC Zoo, there are these enormous life-size statues of elephants. We stopped to take some pictures. My mom saw this photo, and thought it was a real elephant, and she fuh-REAKED out. “Where’s the WALL?!! It could’ve KILLED her!!” Um, no, Mom. I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere.

Catie & the elephant statue near the zoo entrance

Although if the elephants were real, it would’ve made this moment with my brother all the more awesome.

my brother is funny

He’s hilarious. (We were trying to get Catie to agree to sit on the elephant’s trunk for a photo. She refused.)

As for inside the zoo…

Catie & a sea lion
Sea lions are awesome.

The flamingo exhibit was hands-down Catie’s favorite. She started asking for them the minute we got there, and she was so excited when we finally found them. She’s normally more of a giraffe/zebra fan, I’m not sure why the sudden obsession with flamingos? Maybe because they’re pink?

Catie & Tracy
I love this picture of my sister & Catie. I love their contrasting hair colors.

And then, of course, the obligatory “we’re going to take some damn family pictures before we leave here.”

Tracy, Catie & Chris

My very exhausted & sweaty family

I think it’s hilarious how my brother and sister both look all well-rested and healthy, while Dave and I look exhausted, puffy, and pale. Guess which ones are the parents?

P.S. Still no news on the job front. Hoping to hear something one way or the other this week!

Friday brain-melt

The job interview was yesterday, and… I have no clue about it. Here’s the run-down:

* 3 separate interviews with 3 different members of the team. – Those all seemed to go pretty well and I think I made a good impression on all of them.
* Writing test. – I think I kicked ass. (Actually, Dave’s boss told me that mine was way better than the other candidate’s that he saw. Nice to have the affirmation.)
* Lunch with Dave, his boss, and another engineer. – Fun. And the food was awesome. (Japanese, one of my favorites.)
* Teleconference interview. Singular: interview. With 3 people at the same time. Yeah. Three engineers in two remote offices (two guys in Texas, one guy in California), who btw were all asking me questions at the same time. – Holy mother of God, that was intimidating. For one thing, since it was on the phone, I couldn’t read anyone’s facial expressions and see if they were responding well to what I was saying. For another, two of the three guys aren’t native English speakers (one guy is French, and the other one is… I don’t know, maybe Indian? I couldn’t place his accent), and the conference room speaker phone was fuzzy, so I think some things might’ve gotten lost in translation. But besides that, some of their questions just threw me because they were completely not “technical writer”-y questions and it was just really, really strange.

The whole interview process took about 7 hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and was unbelievably exhausting. I was showered and in my pajamas before 6:30 last night. It kicked my butt, to say the least.

So, honestly? I have no idea how it went. I just hope I find out one way or the other soon, because I hate waiting. Patience is not one of my virtues, to say the least.

Moving on! Guess what we’re doing tomorrow?

(Apologies if this song gets stuck in your head for 10,000 years. We’ve been singing it around here for days.)

So, yeah. The North Carolina Zoo is in Asheboro, which is about 60 or so miles from here. It’s about the halfway point between here and Charlotte, so my brother and sister are going to drive over and meet up with us there. Catie is unbelievably psyched. I can’t tell if she’s more excited about seeing Tracy and Chris, or if it’s going to see all the animals, but either way, she’s practically bouncing off the walls about it.

You can expect about a million pictures when we get back. Should be fun! Hope everyone has a great weekend!

a weekend in the mountains

Dave had been saying for a while that he wanted to go away for his birthday weekend. We don’t have the budget for anything major, but luckily, we can go on what feels like an honest-to-God vacation without leaving the state of North Carolina. We had the choice of going to the beach or going to the mountains. Dave picked mountains. And I’m so glad he did.

View from Grandfather Mountain

Not bad, eh?

It’s about a 4-hour drive over to Boone, NC. We stayed in a small town a bit further up in the mountains. Catie did great with the drive until we ended up on this unbelievable winding mountain road full of 180-degree hairpin turns. Luckily, she didn’t get too carsick, but we did have to make an emergency stop on the side of the road when she thought she was going to barf. (We walked about a city block’s length and that seemed to help her shake it off.)

We got to our hotel around sunset on Friday evening. We got snacks from the local Food Lion, checked into our hotel, and settled in for the night. Incidentally, we stayed at Blue Ridge Village, and we loved it there. Full kitchen, washer and dryer in the suite, jacuzzi tub, the works. It felt less like a hotel room and more like a furnished apartment. Totally comfortable and nice. (And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. Although if they want to comp me a room next time we go there, I sure wouldn’t say no.)

Saturday, our plan was to first go to Linville Caverns, then Grandfather Mountain. Due to a spectacular GPS fail that took us on a 30-mile detour, we scrapped that plan and went to Grandfather Mountain first (just because it was there).

I put Grandfather Mountain on our itinerary because they have an Animal Reserve there, and I knew Catie would love that.

chillin' in the shade


I was right, too. She did love it.

Pretty Catie

The views at Grandfather Mountain are unbelievable. (That’s where I took the picture at the top of this post.) They also have something called a “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” that people can walk across, which was… not so popular with us. I thought I’d be ok until I actually stepped on it. I made it about three steps, then decided nope, can’t do this, and I turned around and bolted back to the mountainside. I’m not sure if it was the bridge itself or me leaving that made Catie freak, but Dave only made it about 5 more steps before she started to cry and said she didn’t like it and wanted to go back. So, none of us made it all the way across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. And you know? I’m perfectly ok with that.

Once we were done with Grandfather Mountain, we headed over (finally!) to Linville Caverns. That was really, really cool.

cool stalactite

I mean, any time you get to hang around rocks that are estimated to be around 22 million years old, and see trout that live in a stream inside a cave, that’s a pretty good day right there. Plus it’s 52 degrees year-round inside the caves, so after being outside in the heat, it felt fantastic.

trout in Linville Caverns

We were worn out after that, so we headed back to the hotel and got some take-out from a nearby restaurant for dinner. I took Catie swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool after dinner, she loved that. (“The pool is INSIDE?!?!!”)

Oh! Let me back up. Our first night at the hotel, Dave and I had stupidly thought that all three of us could easily sleep in a king-size bed (completely forgetting that Catie tends to sleep sideways and likes to kick in her sleep). It was awful, none of us got a good night’s sleep at all. So on Saturday night, we decided to take advantage of the fold-out couch. You have never seen a three year-old’s mind blown like that. “You mean, the COUCH turns into a BED?!?!! And I can sleep on it?? Are you KIDDING me?!?!!” Between that and the indoor pool, she’s going to think this particular hotel is the site of Crazy Magic Stuff.

"The couch turns into a BED?!?!!"

Anyway, she slept great on the fold-out couch, and the grown-ups got a decent night’s sleep ourselves.

On Sunday, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, before heading to the Tweetsie Railroad, which is kind of like an Old West-style theme park. The admission rates are crazy expensive, but then all the rides are free after that, so I guess it works out. Catie loved it.

me & Catie at the Tweetsie Railroad

my nutty family

The park is kind of built into a mountain, and we saw that there was a ton of stuff at the very top, but you had to take a chair lift (like at a ski lodge) to get to the top. Catie took one look at the chair lift and said, no way. So, we walked it instead. It was about half a mile, straight uphill, and she didn’t complain about it or ask us to carry her once.

Little person in a big world.

Of course, after we hiked it, we realized there was a bus for people with wheelchairs or strollers. Which we could’ve taken for free. Sigh. Oh well, at least we probably burned off that funnel cake we ate later.

But thank God we didn’t skip the top of the park, because that’s where the petting zoo was located. Which I’m pretty sure was Catie’s favorite part of the entire weekend.

It's Bambi!

Catie feeding the goats


I think this emu thought my camera was food. He got super-close to me with his giant crazy bird eyes, and kinda wigged me out.

After all that, we went back and got on the train, where this is the best picture I got.

self-portrait family pic on the train

Yeah. Not my finest photography moment, to say the least.

Even in spite of the fact that we were all tired and grumpy, we still had to drag Catie out of there, she did NOT want to leave. And of course, she was asleep before we even got on the freeway.

It was really such a fun trip, but it also feels so good to come home. All three of us took the day off today to just veg out and relax. Oh, and Catie and I made Dave a birthday cake today, since he didn’t get one yesterday on his actual birthday. Unless funnel cake counts. And I don’t think it does.

P.S. In case the ridiculous number of photos in this entry isn’t enough for you, all the pictures from our trip are here.

beach weekend

Last year, Dave and I decided to take advantage of Memorial Day weekend and go check out the North Carolina coast. That trip came at the perfect time, we’d been stressed out and worried about a lot of things that were going on then, and we ended up having an absolute blast. It kind of sealed it in our heads: Memorial Day weekend, we go to the beach. A new tradition has been established.

Dave, me & Catie in the Atlantic Ocean

Of course, the problem last year was that Catie absolutely hated the beach. She hated the sand, and the waves, and all of it. But I’ve noticed that in the past year, she’s started playing in the sandbox at the playground, and she doesn’t seem to mind the texture of sand as much as she used to. So we thought it’d be worth another shot.

This time, we had much better luck.

Catie on the beach

Catie still doesn’t like the ocean. The waves came up way too fast for her, and the water was just a little too cold. But she had a great time building sand castles, digging big holes in the sand, and collecting seashells (most of which she threw back into the ocean, don’t ask me why).

sandy toes

This year we also decided to invite my brother and sister along, since they live in North Carolina too, and neither of them had ever been to Wilmington before. It’s a longer drive for them, but they took a shortcut across the southern part of the state and met up with us there.

It was great to have them there. It was a lot easier to make sure we had one or two adults on the beach with Catie, while the others were out in the ocean jumping waves. The higher the adult-to-kid ratio, the better.

Side note: At one point, Dave carried Catie out into the ocean. When she started to get a little bit scared, my brother Chris tried to make her laugh by acting like a goofball. And that’s how I ended up with this, one of my favorite photos of the weekend.
my brother trying to make Catie laugh
I love that I managed to get the picture of him while he was suspended in mid-air. Awesome.

So, yeah. We went to the beach, we hung out at the hotel pool, we ate a lot of delicious and fresh seafood, and we had a fabulous time.

jumping girl

How was YOUR weekend?