We've spent more time outside than in past years, increasing Elena's tolerance to sun and heat (last year E had a hard time handling the sun for more than 2 hours at a time). I wasn't sure how to help Elena navigate sand--she doesn't use the Beach Walker anymore. She can walk on her toes for a good while, but can't stop (without falling). This beach doesn't have much in terms of shells, so I didn't have to worry about her falling on sharp objects or scraping up her legs while crawling around the beach. Still, I was hoping Elena could spend as much time upright as she wanted without holding on to another person. I wanted to make Beach Crutches (to save her regular ones from sand/salt water), but I didn't have time--so we figured we'd try one day at the beach with no crutches, and if she needed them we'd just use her regular pair.
|Everyone walking on the beach!|
I don't want to sugar-coat it; Elena's gait looked TERRIBLE at the beach. Super high toes, all the time. I know she was excited, and I know the terrain was difficult. I did try to bite my tongue and let her enjoy herself--she can move much better, but it takes a lot of brain power for her to put her feet down and move slowly. She also did LOTS of sitting in the sand, which didn't help her legs at all. Still, she made a lot of progress from last year--she could get up to standing (even after a long day) almost every time, and could walk anywhere she wanted on the sand. She could carry little buckets, even some filled with water--and still have water in the bucket (lots of it, actually) when she arrived at her destination. We opted to leave her crutches at the house for the duration of the vacation.
|First Day on the sand|
|Viv wave jumping|
Something was strikingly different this year...size. The waves were strong most of the week, and the contours of the beach made it so the waves crested in a relatively shallow water. This made riding waves together with the kids almost impossible for me--Elena was too heavy and long for me to maneuver her onto a board so that I could ensure her safety before we were hit with a giant wave. Without the buoyancy of deeper water, I simply couldn't lift her, and Elena couldn't move fast enough to get on the board herself. If we went deeper, we'd have both been bowled over by a huge wave, which I will not risk. Vivian was slightly easier, due to smaller size and better stability--but it was still too much for me.
The great news is that there were lots of little waves (in about a 18 inches of water) that packed a punch, and the girls could sit in them and try not to get knocked over, or try to walk through them, or even ride them in on a raft by themselves!
|Viv loves the waves|
|E wave jumping|
|Elena rode some waves solo!|
We learned to time the tides just right to make huge walled-in tidepools. Everyone loved them!
|Our shady pool (with Bonus Elena photobomb)|
|Double boogie tow|
We did some of our favorite beach activities, including building a sandcastle. This is significant, because we were out there for nearly 5 hours! That's the longest we've been at the beach in one stretch. I was worried about dehydration/sun exposure/constipation, so I kept the kids hydrated and under umbrellas while we were out in the heat of midday sun. I am proud to say that we never got sunburned!
|E went to get some water for the sandcastle! That's E far far away!|
|Walking back with her cup of water for the sandcastle|
Our sandcastle was the only one to survive the tide. It became our sand island.
|High Tide pool|
|High Tide Pool|
|Making a sandcastle is tiring|
The kids probably spent more time in the surf and sand than the water. There were two days, though, where the water was incredibly calm and the waves were few and gentle. The kids LOVED being out in the water in their swim vests, bobbing up and down in what Vivian called the "whoosh waves", where the water lifted their bodies up but no one got a face full of salt water.
|swimming in the "whoosh waves"|
|E loves the beach|
Elena and I went on a tandem bike ride. This was another size change--E is so much bigger, it was difficult for me to stabilize the bike in deep sand (she is strapped into the foot pedals). We actually fell once (right when we were leaving the house), because I forgot the driveway was small gravel instead of pavement. Elena got a small scrape but was ready to go. I was pretty frazzled, and kept my turns to a minimum if I wasn't on foot. My sister kate helped get the bike and Elena through the handicap access ramp onto the beach. I did this last year alone, and it was challenging--this year I could not do it without help. I decided on the way back to just take her off the bike and have her walk the ramp. One good difference is that Elena is stronger now, and she can really help me propel the bike!
|Biking on the beach|
While I love this trail-a-bike, hauling it to the beach is a lot of work. Elena is doing so well with a bike (with training wheels) that we'll just take that on the beach next year. Jason took the kids on a different ride (2.5 miles) with their little bikes around the neighborhood (there are alligators inland, we all saw them! yikes!) in the heat of the day. Surprisingly, Vivian wanted to do another one the next day! I convinced her to go to the beach instead.
|Grandpa readies the fishing net|
|Mom buries Viv|
Every day there was something new to do. The kids played together in the house--legos, making necklaces, playing piano, board games, airplanes, showing each other some games on the ipad. We had our yearly Sorry! tournament--Grandma was this year's champion! Family dinners were wonderful--a full house, great company, and lots of home cooked meals. We did go out to dinner one night--that was after a big day at the beach, and Elena got sick that evening. I thought we were in for another few days of constipation-related vomiting, but she only got sick once. That's a WIN in my book! Again, thanks to all you readers for your suggestions to avoid constipation.
Jason and I decided to take the kids to a nearby historical plantation/botanical garden, Brookgreen Gardens. It was super hot outside. Elena used her crutches some of the time, and she and Vivian shared an adult stroller (plenty on-site) for the rest of the time. The driving factor was to get Elena on her feet and walking around, while still being outside. The girls had a great time--keeping them hydrated was the key.
|Kids Village at the Botanical Garden|
|E mans the wheel at the Botanical Garden|
|Viv and E at the plantation rice paddy view|
There was a learning zone for kids in a small, air-conditioned room where they could dig for artifacts, learn about amphibians and do rubbings and colorings. We spent a nice cool-down time there before going on a historical tour of the old rice paddys. With alligators. We did see part of one--it was bigger than a park bench. People-eating size. Yikes.
|Alligator boat ride! We actually saw one!|
|Hot afternoon leaving the garden|
Our last beach day came too quickly. Frequently, I find myself ready to return home at the end of a vacation. Not so here. I wish we had a few more days to soak up the sun and play in the surf.
|Our Family on Vacation|
Our last evening, the waves were very strong--but at the evening low tide, there was a giant tidepool that provided a great water play space. Vivian started launching herself on the boogie boards, and all the other kids followed suit--even Elena. This is significant, because she is just getting proficient at jumping straight up-and-down. Jumping or launching herself purposefully forward is a new skill. And she did a pretty good job at it, too!
|E launches her boogie board|
|The running of the boogie boards|
Huge thanks to my parents (Grandma and Grandpa) for helping out with the kids, the shade canopy, cooking, picture taking, and shlepping the bikes; thanks to Hawk and AMA for cooking and company; big ups to Aunt Kate, for helping with kids, taking pictures, and getting us to go exercise and with the bikes; and to the Andersons, who are great company. It was a well-deserved, much needed break!