Thursday, August 30, 2012

St. Augustine Beach 2012!

Our beach vacation during the week of August 11-18th was wonderful!  We have been to the St. Augustine Beach area twice before, in August of 2009 and 2010, but this was our first time in this particular beach house.  My parents have kindly taken all their kids and our families to the beach for several years now.  I have my own childhood memories of summer vacations to the beach with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, so it is good to see the tradition continuing!

Here is the street view of the house where we stayed... it has three levels.  The pool is on the deck there, level with the second floor, which is the main living space.  It was across the street from the beach, not too far of a walk.

So, come on up for the grand tour!

Here is the pool... a view from the covered porch area on the second floor.

Here's the other end of the pool.  You can see the beach view in the left corner... there is a clear view because the house across the street there is only one story high... it has not been built up into a beach vacation home like the others in the neighborhood due to its historical significance... Martin Luther King, Jr., once stayed there, and now it is a historical landmark!

Here's the porch... note the big white gate to the right.  This made it nice for the babies to play on the porch safely, away from the edge of the pool!

Lucy and Chloe here... we'll take the tour from here, thanks!  This is another big white gate to protect us from falling down the stairs.  It was one of our favorite parts of the house, because it's made of metal and makes a delightful banging noise when we shake it!

Follow us over here into the kitchen... isn't this little slot under the sink cool?  It makes a loud whooshing sound when the big people pull on the lever and then all the crumbs we were scavenging for disappear like magic! 

Here is our fridge... the big people opened and closed it often and removed Chloe and me from it lots, despite our protests.

Up there is some grown up stuff that we don't get to share... we heard the big people refer to Uncle Tim as the "bartender" when he got to play with all those fun-looking breakable bottles.  We didn't realize Uncle Tim is actually an adult, but the other big people say he is...

A view of the whole kitchen from the dining table...

Ooh, here's our other favorite part of this house... the fireplace!  Somebody put a big screen over it so we can't go in and eat or scatter the little rocks, but the ledge is still fun to crawl on and scare the big people when we almost fall.  They put these towels on the tile floor to protect our heads when we fell off. 

It's like our own personal playground!

Come on, follow us - there's lots more to see!

This is the living room where the fireplace is... we had lots of toys on the rug in here.  That big huge padded thing on wheels in the background... see it?  The big people thought it would stop us from climbing up the stairs, because there wasn't a gate at the bottom of them, but the joke's on them, because that thing's on wheels, and on a tile floor, it is easy for us to push out of the way!  They have to watch us like hawks now that we're almost toddlers!

Okay, I'll let Mommy take it from here... she knows more about the upstairs that was just a boring sleeping area other than that room with the bath in it!  And she wouldn't let me play in the basement any or even see what was in there, although there is this "pool table" of which I have heard the big people speak... I didn't get to swim it that, though.  But the elevator was lots of fun - I loved that!!!


Okay, Erin here now!  So, in the basement there was a room with a foldout couch and a pool table.  Chris and I played pool with my dad and my brothers, Stephen and Tim, on two of the nights we were here.  We had a great time commenting on how much easier it is to play on a table that doesn't have sagging bumpers reinforced with Legos, and using cues that are intact, and such...  The guys would turn on music through the TV... somehow, I don't get the technology there, but they could select genres of music on the TV to listen to... and we'd play pool.  

On the second level, Lucy and Chloe's tour didn't take you into the bedrooms, but there were two of them behind the kitchen.  Caroline and Cecilia slept in the one with the two low twin beds on the nights that Grandaddy and Leila weren't there.  Then my brother Mike and his wife Crystal had the other bedroom on the second level.

On the third level, there were two smaller bedrooms and the master bedroom.  the master was huge; we could fit a queen size air mattress in there on the floor easily for Caroline and Cecilia to sleep on when Grandaddy and Leila were using the room on the second level.  Chris, Lucy, and I had the bedroom with the queen bed, and Tim had the one with the full size bed.  There was an upper balcony above the porch, and you could get to it from both Tim's room and the master bedroom, where my parents slept.

Now, the furniture in this house was annoyingly huge.  Huge and heavy and massively bulky.  We all commented that while it was very, very nice, it wasn't "beachy" type furniture, and we found that to be odd.  Another quirk was the complete and total lack of towel rods.  Not even a towel ring for a hand towel in a single one of the four bathrooms.  And at the beach!!  Having super-high covered-with-upholstery-looking-curtain-things shower rods for the baths didn't help either, since you can't hang towels over those things.  

The beds and couches were all very comfortable though, and the kitchen was a good size with good counter space.  All the appliances worked, which was a plus!  


And now, on to the beach!

There was a path through the dunes to the south side of the house, and this boardwalk was located just north of the house.  We took the boardwalk almost every time since it was easier to walk on while carrying all our beach gear.  Cecilia follows Uncle Tim down the boardwalk...

Almost there...

Lucy's very first time to be on the sand!!!  Well, first time for the camera, anyway.  I didn't take any photos on the beach that first day, Sunday.

Here she has picked up a shell and is "sharing" it with me... she likes to hold things up and make "thhhh" noises.  Not sure what that means... but she always looks so pleased with herself to be showing things to us!

Studying the ocean for the first time... I realized that when I told her to look at the waves, she thought I meant to wave, and she would wave her hand back and forth toward the water.

So, this is the beach, huh?  Nice!!

Does it just go on and on forever??

Let's find out!

Lucy typically did her "one foot, one knee" crawl on the sand, where she crawls normally with the left leg and pushes along with her right foot.  She can go faster this way, and she crawls like that on harder surfaces where she can get good traction with the bottom of that right foot!  

Cecilia checks out the ocean... she liked to go out in the waves just a bit, but when they got up at her chest, she wanted to go back to the sand.  The men got her out to the sandbar a few times, and I did once, too, on an especially calm day for the ocean.

All three girls digging in wet sand...

My brother Tim and my mom sitting on the beach under an umbrella

We arrived here on a Saturday afternoon, and then Sunday morning we got up early to go to Mass at 8:00.  We got back to the house and had a big brunch before heading down to the beach in the late morning that day, before Grandaddy and Leila arrived.  

This second day down at the beach, Monday, we happened to be there right at low tide.  Caroline paced off the distance between the dunes and the water.  Then, later that day when the ocean was at high tide, she paced it off again.  It was about 200 paces at low tide, and 100 paces at high tide.

We liked to sit with Lucy right where the water would come up to us and then go back again, leaving just wet sand... we dug holes that kept filling with water every time the tide came up to us, and Lucy enjoyed sitting in these little puddles of water.

This picture was on Monday... you can see that Cecilia's face was a bit pink.  I hadn't put any sunscreen on the kids' faces on Sunday because hey were wearing hats, but apparently the sun reflected off the sand and got their faces a bit anyway, so I put sunscreen on their faces every day after that.

All three girls enjoy the water and the sand!!!

Now for some adorable baby shots... of a baby who absolutely loved getting covered with sand and splashing in the water!  A couple times she was a bit leery of sitting by the water's edge alone at first, so I sat right with her and held her as the water rushed up until she was comfortable.  by the end of the week, she would get excited on the boardwalk as soon as we were able to hear the roar of the ocean, and she couldn't wait to get down there!

Caroline and her cousin Julianne, who is two and a half

The babies loving on their Uncle Tim... in one of his cool white shirts

And speaking of cool shirts... this one my dad is wearing, a shirt he got in Chile, is a blast from the past.  he went to Chile when I was a junior in high school, so... 16 years ago now?  When we got back to my parents' house after this trip, Tim and I were looking through old photo albums, and we found a photo of my dad at the beach near St. Petersburg... wearing this same shirt!!  And that was the first year for those multi-colored beach chairs, too.  I should have scanned in the picture to show them both here... i think that vacation was in 1996!

Caroline and Cecilia with their seals, a beach tradition at this point... I bought them for our beach trip when Caroline was four and Cecilia was one, the first time we came to St. Augustine Beach.

More cute baby photos!  She didn't eat too much sand, but you can see the evidence on her chin...

Julianne digging in the sand... she did NOT want to go into the ocean!  But she was quite content digging and playing in the sand!

One of my favorite things... watching my kids excitedly heading towards the ocean!

This was taken on Tuesday around 11:00 in the morning... a beautiful day!!  

Lucy amid the drizzle castles and beach toys...

Tuesday was also Uncle Stephen's last day here.  he came on Sunday and left Tuesday afternoon to head back for work on Wednesday.  The girls enjoyed spending a little time with him!  Here, he's helping them out to the sand bar.  Cecilia went willingly since he carried her!

Then Mike and baby Chloe went out to join them.  Stephen is my oldest brother, about two and a half years younger than me, and then Mike is about three years younger than him, and then Tim is three and half years younger than Mike.

Daddy with Cecilia out in the ocean... on a different day; the way my photos upload to my album is all screwy and they are out of order, so they aren't all in order here, either.

Mike helps the kids build sand castles.

Pretty baby Chloe

wet sand!!!  so messy, so fun!!

Here is Mike and Crystal's umbrella tent thing... pretty cool; it gives lots of shade.  The people with the blue tent behind our stuff had nine kids, the younger ones adopted from Asia, it seemed, and they were there every day we were.  They fed the seagulls frequently.

Lucy in a shallow pool we dug for her

A cute series of the babies in their beach hats... Lucy wonders if there is anyone under that floppy brim!

Oh - it's that other baby under there!!!

Adorable baby cousins!

Stephen, Crystal and Chloe, Tim, and my dad...

Coming in from the sand bar: Caroline, Cecilia, Chris, Stephen, Tim, Mike, and Julianne (the one time Mike got her out in the ocean)

Grampa helps build a sand castle

And now for more precious Chloe pictures:

Julianne running through the sand... I love how the sand is all kicked up behind her in this shot!

Grampa helps Caroline with the fish net... she did catch one minnow-sized fish one day and was sad to have to let it go.

Julianne played in this hole for a long time... I think that was Grampa's intention in digging it so deep!

Sweet, happy sisters!

Uncle Stephen poses with four out of five nieces shortly before leaving.  Lucy was napping on me while I took the picture.  She couldn't resist the lulling combination of ocean wave noise plus nursing!

Here I am with all my girls on the boardwalk one evening.  More beach pics further down in this post... I had two folders of pictures from this trip, so there are lots!!!

Now for some pool pictures...

Gramma bought this cool baby float for the trip... on one side, the baby sits in an insert, and then on the other, an adult can fit into it and float facing the baby!  Lucy loved it, regardless of who was floating along with her.  She's a water baby!

Like Gramma, we also hit the end-of-season pool and beach toys at Kroger, which is where we got the dolphin raft for Caroline and the alligator raft for Cecilia.  Yay for going to the beach in August, which is now considered to be the "off-season" because of school starting do early now.  We always went to the beach in August as kids - it was the normal time to go back then!

Here's Tim jumping into the pool.  I took one of Chris too, but I only got the splash and not him midair.

Tim, Cecilia, Caroline with Lucy, and Chris... we got in the pool every afternoon that it wasn't raining (and even one day when it was, when no thunder was heard)

The beach was a nature observer's paradise!  We do lots of nature study in our homeschool, so we continued our studies here.  This is a snowy egret, we think.

This is a sanderling... they were plentiful on the beach.

This is a sandpiper of some variety.

And, of course, the seagulls

We found this snail in the wet sand as the water was coming up.  I saw something burrowing into the sand and couldn't tell what it was, so we grabbed a big shovel and scooped it up.  It would retract into its shell if we touched anything up against it.  I didn't realize snails lived in the ocean!

This little crab was spotted right at the edge of the dunes.  Not sure what kind he is...

And by far the most unexpected ocean wildlife... rabbits!  These are actually marsh rabbits, and they were in abundance throughout the dunes.  Did you know that marsh rabbits can actually swim?  They do it to escape predators but also because they like to swim!  We didn't see these swim, but we had just read about these water-loving rabbits a week or two before our vacation - we are studying mammals this year by reading the Burgess Animal Book for Children, and we read about marsh and swamp rabbits and thought they sounded neat... and then we got to see some, live and in person!  This photo was taken from the boardwalk.  I took Caroline out one evening at sunset to look for more sense they are generally nocturnal, and we saw seven or eight at that time.  We watched closely for them each time we walked to or from the beach after i saw this first one!  They liked to hide in the low shrubs throughout the dunes.

These flowers were growing along the edges of a few yards along the roadside... not sure what they are, but they must thrive in sandy soil!

Now for some family shots around the beach house... here's Leila, who is my "step-grandmother..."  my grandaddy has remarried twice since my mom's mom died in the 80s.  Grandaddy and Leila recently moved out of their house and into a retirement community - still independent living, but without having a house and property to maintain.  Leila's daughter and her husband drove them out to the beach and stayed to visit awhile with us, along with my mom's brother, my Uncle Kevin, and his girlfriend, Phyllis.  So we had a big group there, and we had snacks and drinks and then dinner: Uncle Kevin made and brought potato salad and broccoli casserole, and we grilled bratwurst and burgers - yum!  Then Grandaddy and Leila stayed through Tuesday, when Stephen was leaving - he dropped them back off at their place before continuing on his way home to Charleston.

Mike with his little girls!

Julianne, Caroline, and Cecilia enjoying cookies n the kitchen floor, right next to one of Lucy and Chloe's favorite things, an outlet for the central vac.

Fresh seafood night!!!  This was Monday evening, the last night when everyone was here... we grilled fresh shrimp, wahoo, and grouper from the local fish market.  Yum!

Here's Stephen helping take the shrimp of the skewers.

My mom, Crystal, Leila, and Grandaddy hanging out on the porch near the pool.  Grandaddy and Leila didn't go down to the beach any... too much of a walk for them.  But they enjoyed watching the kids swim in the pool.

Leila holding Chloe

My Carvel ice cream cake!!  Thanks for picking it up at Publix, Tim and Crystal!  I had mentioned to my mom that I hadn't had a birthday cake yet (this was a little more than a week after my birthday), so they heard me and got this one.  Carvel ice cream cakes are my favorite!!!

Holding my cake in one hand and my baby in the other...

Cecilia and Caroline enjoying some ice cream cake

And here's everyone at the table having cake... this is the dining table, which had chairs so bulky and heavy that you had to struggle to get out of them... very hard to move them!  The table legs were also huge and bulky, but we still managed to pull extra chairs from the porch up to it for everyone, and there were also four tall chairs up at the counter.  One evening, we played Balderdash at this table: me, Chris, Tim, Mike, and my dad.  That was fun.  That was also the same night when my mom was watching one of those Jane Austen movies, Pride and Prejudice, maybe (which is why she wouldn't play Balderdash with us, I guess), to which my dad asked, "Is this Saturday Night Live?"  It wasn't anywhere near Saturday at that point.

Lucy sits with Stephen just before he leaves...

Two redheads, although you can't tell on Stephen any more!

This photo makes me think we need to rethink the term "chair and a half."  Not only can this thing fit two adults and a small child all at once, but they can also fit one gramma and five granddaughters all at once!

And what a comfy chair it was!  One of the pieces of oversized furniture that was much appreciated!

This is Lucy on Sunday after we arrived... this is her eleven month old photo.  I forgot to bring the stuffed sheep that I use for all the monthly photos... oh, well.  Eleven months!!  Getting so close to a year old!

Uncle Tim helping Lucy crawl up the stairs... she doesn't get much practice at this since we don't have stairs at home!

She made it!

Back to the beach...

Caroline and Cecilia play in a "seal pool."  

I love this photo!  So happy!!

Here are my parents and Tim, camped out on the sand, my mom and Tim reading on their Kindles, and my dad just hanging out.  This was our last morning here... everyone else had already left, including Mike and Crystal, who left on Thursday.

I took this to show where our beach house is in relation to the beach.  It is the one farthest to the left with the reddish colored roof.

And this shows where the public access boardwalk was located.  A bit of a walk from the house to get here, but not bad at all.  It probably took five minutes in all to walk it.

Our abandoned sand castles and piles...

Some cute group shots of the girls:

Tim walking back to the beach chairs after rinsing off the bottom of the umbrella.  This was a new umbrella with a screw at the end to make it easier to anchor it in the sand.

Cecilia tended to loose energy pretty quickly on the beach... she spent a few long periods drawing in the sand like this.

Feeding the seagulls... the girls wanted to feed them after seeing another family on the beach feeding them potato chips.  Unfortunately, all I had brought down to the beach was a box of Annie's bunny graham crackers... so, the seagulls got an expensive snack!

All lined up and waiting...

I love this picture for some reason...

My dad at work on a sand castle...

Lucy digs in the sand with her fingers.  This swimsuit was Chloe's, but it was a bit small for her, so Lucy inherited it.

This was the biggest seal pool we dug... with its own little area for Lucy to sit in.

My dad doing his job of umbrella anchoring - he gets a bucket of water from the ocean and pours it around the base of the umbrella to help it stay up and in place.

Back to the pool now...

The pool was all our own, unlike a shared pool we've had at St. Augustine Beach in the past... and good thing, because it certainly wasn't a huge pool.  Look, Tim can stretch across from one side to the other at the narrowest point!

Caroline swam under him like he was a bridge or something...

Aww, cute little thing!!!  Messy hair!  I love her so!

We have to remind the children that Uncle Tim is an adult and they do have to obey him from time to time... 

Cecilia jumps into the pool by herself - she would do this willingly at age 18 months while wearing water wings, and then wouldn't again for years... this summer she took swim lessons, and the swim teacher got her to jump off the side, and she decided that it was lots of fun again!

More nature study... a gopher tortoise in a yard near the road on our way to the beach boardwalk

Another marsh rabbit... he was up on his hind legs eating from this shrub.

Here's where we ate dinner our last evening here... this restaurant is just up the road a mile or two and across A1A from the beach.  It is on the intercoastal waterway and has a great view of the water.  And it has   cats everywhere!!  People eating out on the deck had cats lounging around at their feet, waiting for dropped bites of fish!  The girls had fun watching them.

This is Tim's reaction after eating a shrimp... he doesn't like shrimp and many kids of seafood.

I guess he's washing it down now with his drink...

I love the look on Chris's face here... he looks like this is several of my favorite photos of him.  He'll probably tell me to take it down, ha.

Now for some photos on the beach... we tried to get some nice shots that evening after dinner, but it was too dark already, so i walked the girls back out around 9:30ish the next morning while everyone was packing up the cars.

Here's a few from the evening... flash required, ocean not visible, but still cute... Lucy in the sling.

A cute Cecilia grin

the dunes against the sky

Our family... thanks, Dad, for coming down to take a few photos for us!

Back to the next morning's photo shoot...

I love this one

Bright blue eyes!

Caroline took this one herself!  Goodbye, beach... it is always sad to leave, but we had a great time and hope to go back again next summer!  It's always a fun, loud, entertaining time when traveling with my family... never a dull moment!  Wonderful food and conversation, and more beach memories created!