Saturday, June 6, 2015

North Carolina

In the 9 years that Josh and I have been married, we've never taken an honest-to-goodness family vacation.  Sure, we've taken trips to visit relatives for holidays or special occasions, but we've never picked a spot on the map and just gone.

We decided it was time.

Several years ago I picked up my very first Nicholas Sparks novel and I was immediately drawn to his beautiful descriptions of North Carolina.  Since then, I've known quite a few friends who have either visited or lived in North Carolina and have loved it.  That piqued my interest even more.

It just so happens that two of my very good friends from BYU recently moved to North Carolina with their cute little families and were thrilled at the prospect of a visit.  Within minutes of that conversation our trip was booked.  

We left our house around 3am in hopes that the kids would sleep in the car.  Unfortunately, that plan totally backfired.  The kids were happy {thankfully} but they were definitely awake.  Maybe that was a good thing because they were able to see the beautiful scenery in West Virginia and Virginia.

After 10 long hours we were finally greeted with this lovely sight:

Our first stop was to the beautiful town of Holly Springs to see my friend Kristi.  She and I lived on the same floor our freshman year at BYU.  Because we had completely opposite schedules we really didn't see each other much at the time, but over the years we've stayed in touch.
After such a long drive, the kids were thrilled to roam free in her nice big backyard.  We had a bonfire that night and the kids were in heaven when they realized they could stay up late and participate in making s'mores.

The next day the kids woke up bright and early.  Since church wasn't until 11:00, Kristi volunteered to do the girls' hair.  I should mention that Kristi does hair for a living.  The girls were so excited!

We attended church at Kristi's building, which happens to share a parking lot with the Raleigh NC Temple. What a pleasant surprise!

That afternoon we spent a good amount of time outdoors.  We ended up walking about a mile to a fun little park where the kids could burn off some of their boundless energy.

When we got home we had a fabulous dinner, followed by a late night of talking and laughing.  It was fun to relive the brief moment in time that was my freshman year with someone who shared the same memories :)

All too soon it was time to go.  Kylie wanted to stay forever and ever and ever.  I wish we could have stayed longer too.  We had such a blast.  Kristi is one of those people that you like instantly and is generous to a fault.  I'm already looking forward to when we can hang out again!

But before we left we had to try to snap a family picture.  "Try" being the operative word.

After leaving Kristi's, we drove about 3 hours south to our true destination, Carolina Beach.  We stayed in a condo very close to the beach for 4 days and nights and it. was. dreamy.

The girls were so excited when I showed them their bedroom... then less so when I told them Jackson would be in there too.

Within minutes after arriving Kylie exclaimed, "MOM!  They have magazines here!"  She read quite a lot on that little couch.  Sometimes she was even kind enough to read actual books with pictures to her siblings :)
With the beach being only a 5 minute walk away, we spent almost all of our free time there.  It was sunny everyday, the beach was practically empty, and the water was warm.  The conditions really couldn't have been any better.

When I was researching vacation rentals I went back and forth between a few.  But the real selling feature for the one we ended up choosing was the wagon.  That thing was a lifesaver!  We could haul kids, the beach umbrella, towels, toys, shoes, snacks, etc.  Josh was SO sweet to do the hauling all week.  He definitely got a workout.

Jackson wasn't a huge fan of the water.  Or the texture of the sand.  But he gradually warmed up to both {thank goodness!} and ended up having a really great week.

We also tried boogie boarding, which soon became a favorite activity.  The waves were pretty intense sometimes but the girls thought they were awesome.

Kure Beach was just a few short minutes down the road and it had a nice boardwalk so we went there several times too.

On our last day, I woke up super early to watch the sunrise and take one last stroll down the beach.

There were other fun things to do besides hang out at the beach all day.  We took the kids to the Fort Fisher Aquarium where they saw {and touched} all sorts of fun sea creatures.

We happened to be in town for a carnival, which was an added bonus that we hadn't anticipated.

There were two kids standing in line behind Summer for this elephant ride and they ALL chose to ride together.  How funny!  After the ride Summer exclaimed, "I MADE NEW FRIENDS!" and those new friends came with us for several other rides as well.

And, of course, we had to try a seafood restaurant or two.  The Jack Mackerel was a favorite.

After leaving the beach we headed a few hours NW to visit my friend Keri.  She and I were on the same early morning custodial shift at BYU.  Since then I don't think I have ever laughed so hard during the hours of 4 and 7am.  We became fast friends and, thanks to her, I was able to graduate.  She watched Kylie for 2 semesters {for free!} so I could attend my classes.  People don't come much more charitable than Keri.
Her family lives in this beautiful home on 25 acres of land. My kids thought it was so cool that they had chickens, pigs, frogs... and a trampoline.

 Jackson thought their dog, Roxy, was just the best.  He followed her everywhere.

The guys made everyone some delicious enchiladas for dinner.  I wish I would have remembered to snap a picture of that, darn it.

At Keri's house, Friday night is movie night.  After a long afternoon of playing, the kids were more than willing to settle down and munch on some popcorn.

Keri's family had plans the next morning that sent them out the door pretty early so I wasn't able to get any pictures of the whole crew.  I hope she doesn't mind me stealing this one from Facebook :)  They're just such sweet people, I couldn't not include a picture of their sweet family.

We feel so blessed that we were able to spend such a fun-filled week together as a family.  We explored a new place, visited wonderful friends, spent quality time with one another, and made lots and lots of memories.

We couldn't have asked for more.

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