Our Toddler Beach Bucket List

bucketlist

Luna recently returned from her second annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. This summer vacation was a different animal compared to last summer. Last year, Luna was a 6-month old not-crawling-yet baby. This year she is a fearless running wild toddler with a will to jump in deep water at a moment’s notice. Meaning? This year’s beach trip was the best (and sometimes scariest) one yet.

Luna had such a good time that I decided to compile a bucket list of her (well, my) favorite beach activities.

  1. Watch the sunrise on the beach. Luna and I did this a few times because someone likes to wake up at 5am, but one morning we shared a special sunrise time with some of our favorite people and we added champagne.
Champagne sunrise!
Champagne sunrise!

2. Let the littles swim naked. Luna’s favorite skinny dipping time with during the sunrise.

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3. Take lots of bike rides and stay active. We rode bikes every single day around the island, and while it may not look like it, Luna loved being pulled around in her private cart.

She is clearly overjoyed...
She is clearly overjoyed…

4. Buy a puddle jumper and let them swim. Luna LOVES her puddle jumper. She begs to wear it, and I love it even more. Luna went swimming in the pool and in the ocean every single day.

I swear she normally looks more graceful
I swear she normally looks more graceful

5. Get a little dirty. What else would you do on the beach if not play in the sand?

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6. Dress that baby in white and force them to take a photo on the beach. You’ve just got to do it.

classic
classic

7. After the photo, let them just be their silly selves and get that new white dress all broken in.

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8. Finally, spend as much time with your crazy family as possible. Even if it means learning weird new yoga poses. This is one of the few times you are all together and that everyone gets to bond with that toddler of yours. Embrace it and enjoy it.

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Anyone else have any fun beach traditions or activities to share?

Cheers!

The Beach

Guess who hasn’t been writing and has more excuses?! I’m afraid I can’t use pregnancy as an excuse this time…whatever, yes I can. I’m pregnant.

Actually, a good friend of mine has been staying with us all week so we have been super busy forcing her to do everything Nashville has to offer. While I have a moment tonight, before I pass out, I want to share some of the gorgeous photos from Hilton Head’s beach.

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Several storms rolled in during our week in HHI which made for some awesome photos on the shore.

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The last morning  I got up at 5am to be sure to catch the sunrise, but my beautiful beach sunrise was rudely interrupted by another incoming storm.

sunrise copy sunclouds copy

Besides photos of the sky and sand we spent way too much time being ridiculous and immature. After our big annual family photo the young ones decided to hang around and take “vadering” and “Hadoukening” photos. I know, I know…this is like so 2 weeks ago. Who cares, it was fun!

vader zoeyvader copy stephpower copy hadouken copy

Don’t you want to hangout with us?

Cheers!

Sorry iPhone, But You Lose

I recently got a new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Normally, I could care less what kind of phone anyone has and I certainly wouldn’t blog about my cell phone, but OMG this new phone is freakin’ AWESOME!

When my 2 year contract was up at Verizon, I was pretty excited to update my old iPhone 4. It’s been slowing down and doesn’t even get reception at our new house. I went in fully expecting to continue being a yuppy and collecting apple products. On a whim, I decided to look around a bit and began playing with the new Samsung Galaxys. I was immediately impressed with camera quality. I was also surprised that I could easily use the phone. (After using Apple products for so long, it’s often difficult to us PC’s or Androids.)

I began feeling guilty for flirting with another brand so I decided to talk to a rep about why I should NOT switch phones. I even googled all the reasons why moving from an iPhone to an Android would be terrible. The worst response I got was that I might miss the simplicity and ease of the iPhone.

After about an hour of debating, googling and testing phones I thought “what the hell, be a rebel” and purchased the Samsung. (Not without making sure I could return it if I decided I hated it.)

This new phone does all kinds of really cool tricks (hovering your finger to read text, waving your hand to answer calls, open multiple windows, blah blah blah), but the best feature is the camera!

You can do the craziest tricks with the different photo modes…like take multiple pics of a group of people, then select the best faces for each person! We had a really good time playing with the different modes during our recent vacation to Hilton Head.

We learned to take a photo using the both the lens on the front and back of the camera at the same time…

Sorry, the quality is poor. We were sitting in a restaurant.
Sorry, the quality is poor. We were sitting in a restaurant.

We used the “drama” mode to catch moving objects…

drama

Panorama…

View from our balcony
View from our balcony

There are lots of other modes and tricks, but our favorite to play with was by far the “animated photo”. You can actually select parts of the photo you want to move and parts that you want to freeze. It’s basically a super easy way to create your own gif, and be really silly.

Here are my favorites from the week…

silly noodle arm dancing

Baby jellyfish in a wine glass
Baby jellyfish in a wine glass

zoey winking

I LOVE this one
I LOVE this one

the waves

I still feel slightly guilty for abandoning the iPhone, but it just doesn’t satisfy me like it used to.

Cheers!

P.S. If the videos don’t work, try clicking on them. They’re worth watching!

A Bicycle Built For 12

One of the best activities to do while vacationing in Hilton Head is bike riding. Hilton Head Island is covered with bike paths. You can easily ride from one end of the island to the other without leaving a path (except to cross a few streets). Our family rents over a dozen bikes every year and we spend at least a portion of every day biking.

Every morning there is a handful of us who hop on our bikes at 7am, ride to Starbucks, get our fix and ride home with at least 3 copies of the New York Times. (We need multiple copies to keep the family from fighting.)

starbucks

The path to Starbucks involves crossing a few bridges that go over swamps, often full of turtles and the occasional alligator.

gator gator bike ride

Our long bike rides usually start on the beach. We swerve between kids digging holes and families lounging under umbrellas. We splash through the shallow water and get hot enough that we are beyond ecstatic to get off the beach and onto the bike trail.

beach copy beach ride copy me,steph,amy copy

The paths are all shaded by thick willowy trees covered in moss. They are so shaded that it acts as a shield from the sunshine and the rain.

bike with steph

Every year we take the same bike rides…some are short and sweet and others are long and miserable. It’s tradition to spend at least one day riding ten miles that go through mosquito-infested preserves and unshaded paths. We ride to the historical tabby house at the Baynard ruins, the mysterious shell ring at the Sea Pines Forest Reserve, Harbor town and South Beach.

While walking around the tabby house we saw a lizard scampering along the shells and Husband insisted that I catch it… While dating and getting to know each other Husband and I spent lots of time sharing stories from our childhoods…his in the hills of middle Tennessee, mine in the marshy flatlands of southeast Texas. I told him how I used to catch lizards, put them on my ears like earrings and then freak out my sister. He couldn’t believe this, so the first chance I got, I proved it to him. Now, anytime he sees a lizard he thinks it’s hysterical for me hang the poor little creature from my ear lobes.

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The best part of our long bike rides is the end. We always finish our ride at Coligny Plaza where we get Italian ice and custard from Rita’s.

italian ice rita's

Taking bike rides every day is one of my favorite Hilton Head traditions. It also makes me feel a little less guilty about the junk we eat on vacation.

Cheers!

Family Photos

We are home from the beach, and I am finally ready to get back to writing. I honestly thought I’d continue working on vacation. I mean I was on “vacation” after all…I should have had nothing but free time. However, I forgot that our annual Hilton Head trips are meant to spend time with our family. We went on family bike rides, played family games, swam together, ate together, read together, cooked together, shopped together, watched movies together and rarely got on our laptops.

In fact, I failed to respond to almost anyone who texted, emailed, or called. Sorry about that. NOW, I’m back and boy do I have lots to share! The beach was AMAZING, Husband and I are going to Pittsburgh today, Chicago on Thursday, I have a new project in the works, and a special surprise blog planned! This is going to be one great week of blogging.

I’ll begin with Hilton Head. Every year we take a group photo during the Hilton Head trip. We typically take a cute normal group photo and then a couple of silly ridiculous photos. It’s just a fun family vaca tradition. I have now been to Hilton Head with my in-laws seven times, but while going through my photos I can only manage to find the group photo from 5 of these years.

2007
2007
2010
2010
2010
2010
2011
2011
Attempt at photo in the water 2011
Attempt at photo in the water 2011
2012, our first jumping photo
2012, our first jumping photo

This years photo may be the best looking photo yet…

2013
2013
The new "annual jump photo" 2013
The new “annual jump photo” 2013

Do any of you have annual family vacation full of fun and quirky traditions? I’d love to hear all about them!

Cheers!

The Perfect Vacation

Look who finally came back from Costa Rica!

Husband and I love traveling more than anything, and as I keep mentioning, we always travel to a new place so that we will one day reach our goal of traveling to every country in the world. These trips are so adventurous and fun, but are rarely relaxing. As much as we enjoy hopping around the globe, our favorite destination (yes, even more than Disney…well maybe….) is a place we visit every summer…Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Hilton Head is an actual vacation for us. Husband’s family has taken an annual summer trip to Hilton Head since the beginning of time. For the last 400 years (give or take a few) the entire extended family has rented one huge house together, and done basically the same exact things they do each summer. It’s a beautiful tradition.

 

This years annual group picture

 

Each Hilton Head morning I wake up early, not because I have to, but because I want to get up. I am so well rested and so excited to start the day. A few mornings I actually woke early enough to take a walk on the beach before dawn, watch the sunrise, and search for turtle tracks. I wasn’t lucky enough to find baby turtles making their way to the ocean, but it was still fun to walk around the nests in hopes of seeing them.

 

 

Then, by the time I return to the house the coffee fairy has made a fresh pot of coffee, just waiting for me. It’s magical. For breakfast I have the option of walking about two blocks to pick up fresh croissants from “The French Kiss” bakery with Grandma, or making myself some eggs and toast. I spend the next hour reading and drinking my coffee in the comfy living room, wrapped in cozy blanket, (I just love central air conditioning!) waiting for everyone else to get up.

Around 8:30am a group of us normally want Starbucks and we often take about a mile bike ride to the closest Starbucks together, because one coffee at 6am is certainly not enough.

By the time we get back with our coffees and 3 copies of the New York Times, the rest of the family is up and it’s time to hit the beach. Our beach routine goes like this: swim, see how long we can volley the ball to each other (I think the record was 42…we aren’t the most athletic family), get out and either build a giant sand castle or play a crazy Scandinavian game.

 

 

Our Finnish family/friend lady introduced us to a really fun game that is similar to bowling called Molkky, which we’ve played for years now. Last summer, while visiting other friends in Sweden we were taught to play another game called Kub, which is unlike any game I’ve ever played.

 

 

Lots of us are really competitive and these games become very intense. We scream, argue with each other, makeup team names, cheer for our teammates, attract a crowd of strangers, finish by saying “We can’t play this stupid game anymore!”, but always play again the next day.

After everyone is sunburnt and starving we head back to the house to cool off in the pool and make enormous sandwiches with potato bread for everyone. (Hilton Head is the one time of year where everyone forgets the healthy 100% whole grain bread, and indulges in the yellow soft potato bread.)

 

 

The afternoon is spent either going on a very long bike ride through the shady tree-lined sidewalks decorated with tons of Spanish moss, reading by the pool, or more swimming. Also, the coffee fairy shows up again each afternoon and makes large glasses of vanilla flavored iced coffee! It miraculously appears next to me as I sunbathe in a beach chair with a book in my hands. What could be better?

 

 

Each night we wash all the saltwater, sand, in chlorine off to pretty ourselves up for a nice dinner in town, or sometimes a homemade dinner at home. Once everyone is stuffed and maybe a little tipsy, we force the whole family to play games together.

 

 

Our favorite games are charades and Scattegories, and we introduced half the family to “murder” this year. These games are all played in a similar fashion to the games played on the beach, but no one takes the yelling or competition too seriously, just serious enough to loudly announce your score, jump up and down, and dub yourself the “Scattergories queen”.

And, the whole day ends so perfectly… each night I lay in my comfy large bed with the AC turned way low, the fan on high, and the cable TV on E! Coming from our hot loft, window-unit AC, non-cable Television, teeny-weeny apartment, I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury and fall asleep to the sound of the Kardashian’s planning their next family trip. Perfect.

 

 

The only downside to Hilton Head is that Husband and I are sad that it has to end. I’m on the way home now, typing away as my ears pop on the plane, and already looking forward to Hilton Head next year.

*I had every intention of keeping up the blog while on vacation, but it somehow kept slipping my mind. Damn coffee fairy, I blame her for distracting me. Hope you all had a great week!

Cheers!