I think I'm done, I think I'm done, I think I'm done...
Here's a start to our family vacation we took to Charleston, SC this past weekend. We went with our friends, the Himstedts, who had a wedding to attend on Saturday. They have 4 little people and didn't want to take them all to the wedding, so we opted to keep the kids on Saturday evening and then made a whole weekend out of the trip. We had wanted to do something this weekend anyway because the kids were out of school for Fall Break and it fell over Bennett's birthday as well. We just didn't know we wanted to go to Charleston. It was a fun trip and one that the kids would do again. Bennett said it's his best birthday ever! And it rained on us the whole time. Imagine a 2 year drought and the one weekend to vacation it rains. We're thankful for it though... even if it was in SC!
We started out Friday by picking the older two up from school and hitting the road east. Mapquest says it's a 5 hour trip but those guys never account for children, potty, food, crowds, etc. So, technically we started about 2:30 and arrived about 10... that's a little more than 7 hours. Elizabeth is the youngest Himstedt at 4 months. She always took the longest potty breaks! :) We stopped at Chick-fil-A for dinner on a Friday night at 8pm in the middle of a very popular South Carolina town. It was a common thought for many other people in the area, including a rather large youth group that was deposited at the door as we were parking. We knew there was no way all 7 mobile children could get inside and beat the crowd, or even withstand it, so we sent Curtis and Corie running while James and I maintained some sort of order in the parking lot. We took 4 parking spaces around back by the drive-thru and lined the kids up on the curb and passed out chicken. I think people were actually laughing at us... but there were no seats inside the building and the kids didn't mind eating outside after sitting for so long already. It was a welcome break... but it included some man-eating mosquitos that really liked Avery (Himstedt #3).
We stayed in a hotel room all together... the 12 of us. It was a 2 room suite with a living room/kitchen in between. It was a great set-up and the kids loved being all together. Our girls constantly request sleepovers so it was a dream come true! It was also nice that we could put them all to bed and still sit up and play cards or watch TV. We like to play Farkle with them... a dice game that I can never win. Each morning we treked downstairs to have breakfast. It was always fun to watch and listen to everyone's reactions when the 8 kids showed up. We got compliments from different people every morning on how well they all acted. You just never know with little people in public! But they did a great job and made us all proud. The kids especially enjoyed the special sugar breakfast treats... like Fruit Loops, doughnuts, & waffles. :)
Saturday was a dreary wet day. We attempted to do some sight seeing of Charleston and drove downtown, but as soon as we paid to park and unloaded the crew the bottom fell out and we were quickly quite moist. Curtis talked the parking attendant into giving us our money back while we loaded back up and piled the dripping jackets on the floor. Since we really couldn't take these kids on a rainy walk we decided to all go to the local grocery store and buy lunch supplies for the hotel. That experience was almost as much fun (for the kids) as sight seeing. At one point I had the 6 bigger kids hanging off my basket and it actually tipped over and almost dumped the groceries as well as Lydia. It made them all sad and scraped a few fingers. But they didn't all hang on to the same side again!
We went back to the hotel and had lunch in our room then took the kids swimming... in the rain... It was an outdoor pool, but it was heated! And that's all that mattered to the kids. Maggie wanted to swim for real, without flotation devices (see previous post about trip to the lake) and Ruth just wanted to sit in the "hot pool" which is the hot tub. I think they all had fun but there are no pictures because it really rained on us the whole time. The lady at the desk thought we were crazy when we asked for pool towels.
After the swim time we hung out in the hotel while the old Himmies went to the wedding... an outdoor event. Curtis and I had a "shopping" trip for the kids in our room. Corie's mom had brought the Sack-O-Grandma-Goodies (a rather LARGE garbage bag stuffed with items little people might enjoy while stuck in a hotel room with 11 of their closest friends). I made piles for each child to shop from. We decorated their shopping bags with stickers and markers and then they all went in the room to pick out their loot. It made the afternoon much nicer. Thanks Grandmommy and Granddad!! We fed them a gourmet dinner of hot dogs and mac-n-cheese and started herding ours through the tub. Corie had already washed the pool off her own. Before we were even half done with baths the other adults returned from the wedding. Then it was a huge party showing all the treats they had.
Sunday was Bennett's 8th birthday. We didn't have anything planned other than a fun trip to Charleston... the poor neglected child!
We loaded up the kids and headed over the bridge to Patriots Point. If you ever go to Charleston with any school aged kids, this is highly recommended. At Patriots Point we were able to tour a retired aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, as well as a submarine, The CLAMAGORE (SS-43). The sub is identical to the one Curtis' dad served on many moons ago. He was telling Curtis all the specifics of the boat, but I can't remember now. It rained off and on (mostly on) all day while we were on the ship. We tried several times to make it up to the flight deck to see the aircraft up there. We didn't espeicially want to get drenched so we opted to head back down and tour other parts instead. Eventually, we walked fast and took a photo, then headed back under shelter.
I think the kids liked the submarine too. It was nice and tight in there. I had to lift Lydia over every threshold since they were almost the same height has her.
We had lunch and a strange lady donated her kid's leftover birthday cake to our table because she didn't want to take it home. We stuck potato chip candles in it and sang to Bennett. :) Then we took a boat ride over to Fort Sumter and toured the historical Civil War fort. On our way over the rain was blowing so hard we all had to go "down below" but while we were actually walking around the fort it didn't rain. The wind blew like a hurricane, but it wasn't wet. At the end of the day we ran like the wind from the ship up to the welcome center where the vehicles were parked. Of course, it was POURING at that time so we were all dripping just in time for supper. We went to a nicer place to eat some seafood on the water front. Nothing like watching 12 people that look like very sad, tired drowned rats walk into an eatery and ask for a table. They were really nice and told us as long as we had shoes and shirts we could stay and eat. Corie and I quickly got dressed again. :) Kidding!
Bennett had his plateful of peel-and-eat shrimp and was pleased for his birthday dinner. They brought him a little cup of ice cream and we sang again.
At the end of the day we all passed out rather quickly. But they were good memories to share.
Monday morning we packed up the hotel and headed to the beach. The kids had wanted to go every day but the timing just didn't work until we were ready to leave.
We drove out to Folly Beach and found a nice quiet spot to run and splash. The beach may have been empty because it was windy and cold and October... but it was nice and empty! That's good enough for me. I didn't have to worry about the kids running off in a crowd and getting lost out at sea. Well, I did worry about that one but it wasn't because there were too many people there. The wind was seriously blowing at hurricane strength. I'm not sure how fast that is but it hurt. The sand was wet from the day-o-rain before and the wind was blowing just the top layer that had dried out. It felt like someone was shooting my shins. Now imagine if you're 2 and only as high as my shins. Avery and Lydia didn't enjoy the beach as much as the bigger kids, who got to actually go out in the water and play in the waves. There was no sand blowing out there. The dads and biggest 5 kids played out in the waves while Lydia, Avery and Elizabeth suffered through the sand storm. They were good sports about it for a long time, but eventually the sand in the eyes gets old!
You can see in this picture of Ruth, the sand blowing along the beach behind her. It really was neat to see, just not so neat to feel.
We went up to the dunes, where the sand was less vicious, and had lunch on some picnic tables. Curtis filmed the search and rescue of someone out at sea. What we guess is that he was parasailing or human kiting or something and went in the water at a greater distance from shore than he intended. They pulled him in with the handy-dandy jet ski and Curtis was able to then eat his lunch.
We cleaned all the kids and loaded up our vehicles to head back home. I was hoping for lengthy naps after all the morning fun. The men had walkie-talkie radios with which to discuss all things related to driving together in seperate trucks. They were also able to discuss how "did you see that deer stand" sounded so much like "did you see that Trans Am" for a LONG time, as well as the sudden needs for gas, snacks, drinks, and potties. Our naps were short, but the kids were happy. We were home in time for bed which made the mommy happy. A good time was had by all!
If you want to see more pictures, read Corie's blog here.