Thursday, September 6, 2012

It has been a long time since the last blog update. Between running out of internet minutes for the month (too many Olympic dressage videos ...), and going on a long and synthastical family vacation, I feel like I have valid excuses this time.

And God made sure we didn't have electronics on our vacation to distract us from enjoying family time and true beach living. Our laptop is apparently a homebody and responded to being taken out of the house by refusing to even turn on, until we got back to Missouri. I also may or may not have accidentally sent my phone through the washer machine right before leaving. It is a hardy phone, but the battery has become a little more temperamental. So if my phone is off all day and I don't return your calls, now you know why.

But I digress. I am taking a break from unpacking and washing a behemoth mountain of sandy, salty laundry to sort through vacation photos. It was a wonderful time.

We took three days to travel to South Carolina Low Country (I can't say that without hearing Josh Turner in my head), stopping at several rest areas, the original Lambert's (home of the throwed rolls), and Twin Pines Conservation Area (a lovely little nature center/museum in SE Missouri).
And we spent most of a day at Smoky Mountain National Park. The three mile hike and museums we toured there were well worth the stop, although I'm not sure our minivan appreciated the steep mountain vistas as much as we did.




Here are our kids, just finishing up the Appalachian Trail.
 The kids did really well in the car. Remarkably well. I was actually pretty amazed. Maybe it was the excitement of traveling, or the emphasis on keeping cheerful attitudes, or the excellent music selection, or just that we have great kids. At any rate, we all survived.

I did a couple little activities to help keep spirits up during the car ride. The first thing I did in preparation for the long trip was to rig up a BUCKET PULLEY SYSTEM so I could get things to and from Margaret, isolated in the way back seat. Especially with my rotund belly, I didn't want to be twisting around backwards and lobbing things haphazardly through the van towards the backseat, like I usually do. It worked wonders. In fact, we spent the entire driving time coming home passing each other cards and notes. I felt like I was in middle school again.

The other successful activity was constructing a TRIP TRACKER  to help the kids understand the concept of traveling through different states, and to get treats, of course. At each state (roughly) they each got a little goody bag filled with beneficial things like stickers and candy.

And then there was a full week on the beach. Total bliss.


Amelia spent most of the first couple days doing this:

Happiness is lying in wet sand.

And then she found a palmetto frond broom and wistfully thought: "If this were only cleared away would be grand! If seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year, do you suppose (the Walrus said) that they could get it clear?"

We were originally just planning a small family camping trip down in Arkansas or somewhere for vacation this year. And then we went on an incredibly hot family hike at Rocky Barrens on the 4th of July and decided that the ocean sounded absolutely amazing.

This resulted in us randomly picking a spot on the east coast that we had never explored before and making some reservations. It worked out superbly.

Edisto Island and Beach is a quaint little town, apparently mostly filled with wealthy, retired types who smiled congenially as I brushed shoulders with them, covered in salt spray and sand, at the Piggly Wiggly. It also rained and stormed several days while we were there (thank you, Hurricane Isaac), which helped keep the beach crowds down. I love the ocean on a rainy, blustery day.

Between the rain and getting up in time to watch three or four sunrises on the beach we didn't even get sunburned. We fell into a daily rhythm of getting up in the dark, consuming english muffins with marmalade and coffee, and packing sleepy kids in the van for the trek to the beach just in time to catch the beautiful colors of sunrise over the ocean. Some mornings it was a little harder to wake up than others.

After playing for a couple hours in the surf and we would leave just as decent folks started waking up and arriving at the beach. Then it was home for a late brunch, some little daily excursion, and afternoon naps for everyone, leaving just enough time for supper and one more visit to the beach before bed. It was perfect.



We managed to fit in a trip to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (including a very fun petting zoo and a boat tour to see alligators and marsh birds).

We did a quick tour of the Edisto State Park Learning Center (a highlight for Margaret since she got to watch all the animals being fed), a couple restaurant meals to score some delicious local seafood, and a hike around the marsh that surrounded our State Park rental cabin.


Of course there were downsides to the Low Country, like getting bitten by fire ants and having marsh crabs dart ominously across your bare toes as you ran out to the car to get something in the dark. And, of course, there were the mosquitoes. Poor William got it the worst, swelling up like a balloon around each bite.That, by the way, is a little crab that he is proudly holding. It survived its encounter with Wild Will, as far as we know.

The big highlight for Margaret (and me) was getting to see some park employees digging up loggerhead turtle nests. Thanks to a tip from some seasoned campers we managed to be at the right part of the beach at the right time to join a little group of nature lovers tagging along behind the biologists. Took me back to Piping Plover shorebird monitor days and made me just a little nostalgic. We got to watch them dig up two nests that had already hatched so that they could count empty turtle shells and look for any hatchlings that got left behind. Lucky for us (not so much for the babies) there were three little turtles that had lagged behind and we were able to see them up close and watch as they made the trek down to the waves.


Botany Bay Wildlife Area was one of the big highlights for me and Clay. Another tip from the locals. We discovered it at the end of the week and it quickly became our favorite beach spot. A half mile hike across the marsh led to a beautiful secluded beach studded with tree skeletons (due to erosion) and magnificent seashells (due to the no collecting rule). The kids had a blast climbing on all of the fallen tree trunks while we meandered and relaxed, taking in the view and the salty breeze. 'Twas the life.



Another highlight was the discovery of Bleinheims Ginger Ale, sold at the Piggly Wiggly. Any ginger ale that can make you cough violently after each sip is a worthy drink. The real stuff. None of this Schweppes stuff (which we also indulged in, thanks to my grandparents I always equate beach life with Ginger Ale, and English Muffins with tart orange marmalade). Now I need to figure out a way to get some Bleinheims in Missouri.

Yet all good things must come to an end, and here we are, 16+ hours from the Edisto beaches. Refreshed from a good week spent together as a family, thankful to see all our critters and to be settled again. But most of all thankful to be free from mosquitoes.

More pictures will be posted in the next day or two on our family photo album. The link is on the sidebar for those who are so inclined.


  1. The car pulley system... amazing!

    What a fun trip! Quite jealous. ;)

  2. Thanks for the pictures! I just love taking kids to the beach, but out here, it's all about the sunset. Makes me excited to take our yearly October pilgrimage to the beach.

  3. I love your way of describing things, Elissa!
    I feel like I've had a mini beach-side vacation myself (though surrounded by humming library computers and, further out, miles of prairie)! I like your early-morning routine and am so glad your children share your love for nature & the ocean!
    Keep writing - and sharing those photies: they're stunning =)

    1. Thanks Allie! Glad it gave you a little break while in the library :) And I have to give some of the photo credits to Margaret, she is becoming quite the photographer!

  4. Beautiful photos! I especially love Amelia's expressions :) It's so good to spend a whole week just together in a beautiful place, eh?
    I agree with Allison that you had a great morning routine going. A tough part of travelling with little ones can be balancing sight-seeing with routines, so I'll have to remember your system!
    I've already recommended the bucket pulley system to another road-trip-loving momma, & think the trip tracker's an awesome idea for keeping the excitement going & teaching a little geography to the older ones too.
    Have you tried ginger beer? It's got great 'bite' to it too!