Vacation Like it’s 2005.

We just returned from our fifth traditional summer beach trip with our friends, David, Ashley, AJ, and Tessa. We arrived Wednesday evening in Isle of Palms, South Carolina (just a few minutes outside of Charleston), got unpacked, and hurried out to the beach to enjoy the last colors of sunset.

150729-Isle-of-Palms

The skies, the water, and the full moon were a blissful start to the trip.

150727

The next morning, we set out for a long day at the beach (after spending the required amount of hours sunscreening the little people and then distracting said little people with silly selfies so they didn’t lose patience with how long it took to sunscreen all the big people.)

IMG_0291

We lugged our five tons (per child) of beach equipment with us, and staked our claim on the lovely and largely uninhabited beach.

IMG_0587

I decided that before I got wet, I wanted to get some pictures of the kids. So I pulled out my camera, which immediately became covered in a fine mist from the thick humidity. And it proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that it would not be cameraing. At all.

I took it back to the house to put it in a dry time out, then headed back out to the beach – old-fashioned style, no camera.

I mean, I did have my phone, but something about not having my “real” camera made me just…let it go.

Not immediately, of course. I was pretty mad at the camera/worried about it/determined to fix it that evening, but that was not to be. It was cooked. But I somehow accepted the fact that this was not meant to be a properly photographed trip and settled into the most bizarre decade-old lifestyle where I simply enjoyed the vacation for myself – and shared the moments almost exclusively with the people I was with.

…I let my Twitter and Facebook feed go.

…I took very few pictures on my phone.

…I tweeted or Facebooked once a day or less.

…I didn’t take any notes for future blog posts.

And in five days of constant fun and beautiful scenery, I only put up six Instagram photos.

I just enjoyed the trip for what it was….a really, really great trip.

Bizarre, right?

And I really liked it that way.

IMG_0586

But I captured a few moments…

The children, as always, had the most blissful five days of their year, paired with their best friends in their favorite spot.

IMG_0309

And this year, we added a huge upgrade for everyone – we brought our babysitter, Sarah, with us.

IMG_0537

(Yes, Noah WAS excited as well, especially since he’s insistent that he’s going to marry Sarah one day.)

The kids got an extra playmate, Sarah got to do what she wanted all day (which ended up sometimes including the kids – lucky them), and then she kept the kids at night so the parents could go out for a lovely dinner with no over-tired beach-burned children to whine throughout our entrees.

Right??

Right.

It was perfection.

IMG_0535

On all of our previous trips with our friends, we have gone to our sandy white Alabama beaches, but Isle of Palms was a fun variety, as we had the super hard Atlantic sand to make the best sand castles,

IMG_0598

(Even though it totally looks like mud when photographed),

IMG_0584

And the added benefit of the fun sights and activities in Charleston.

IMG_0545

IMG_0558

Charleston is absolutely one of my favorite southern cities – the history and colors and beaches and atmosphere are all eloquently unique and fantastic.

IMG_0578

….And all of it is surrounded by the most beautiful marsh waters, adding a sense of calm and elevated beauty to the entire area.

IMG_0588

But other than the above ridiculously choppy narrative, I have no further tales or quotes or silliness to share with you – because I just completely vacated,

IMG_0594

Almost as thoroughly as the children.

IMG_0593

And it was fantastic.

IMG_0596

Just as it should be.

IMG_0542

How To Be a Terrible Sunsetter.

Sunsetting is an introvert’s sport.

Only they can truly appreciate the long spans of time spent watching the skies…the fiddling with camera settings…the locating of the perfect angles…and the quiet admiration of the cloud iterations.

It’s like fishing – but minus the fish and plus a camera. And minus the water and plus the sky.

But otherwise it’s totally like fishing.

Sometimes, though, you run into other people partaking in this same introvert’s sport. And sometimes, those people are not introverted enough. And since it’s not exactly like fishing, you can’t motor your boat away from them.

I don’t mind talking to people – I really don’t. I even like people most of the time. (Okay some of the time.) I’ve met some wonderful people sunsetting. But I’ve also met some people that can befoul a sunset rather magnificently.

For instance, the lady that I’ve run into on more than one occasion who has informed me during each visit the details from her last surgery, her current medical condition, and the ailing state of her family unit. As sunsetting is typically pursued for its calming qualities, hearing about giant cysts and toe fungus does not, exactly, aid in the enjoyment of the sport.

(Then again I blog about similar atrocities and you willingly read about them so are either of us allowed to complain? No.)

However, running into her is now as thrilling and catching the Queen of England taking a few sunset shots compared to the new acquaintances I met last Friday night.

I was on a long stretch of sidewalk overlooking the city. It’s a fantastic view – a nice foreground of kudzu and framing of trees. I don’t go here as often as some of my other spots, but I should – it’s just lovely.

150724-Clouds-Tipped-in-Pink

I was all alone in my sunset adventures  – no one else was anywhere along the extended stretch of sidewalk-with-a-view, and Chris was waiting in the car with the kids, thoughtfully giving me a quiet moment to recover from motherhood reflect as I enjoyed my favorite time of day.

The sunset was changing colors and different clouds were turning on and off in brightness, keeping the night interesting and a fun guessing game – what would happen next?

I had just texted Chris to check on the kids and make sure it was okay if I stayed a few minutes more – it was getting to a good part.

Chris assured me they were fine. So I studied the skies, staked out the spot I wanted, and began shooting.

150725b-Birmingham's-Colors

…Which is when a very loud bunch of giggly girls and one guy came bouncing down the sidewalk, all asqueal about selfies, with their phones out and ready.

And then, of that whole long expanse of sidewalk, they stopped. DIRECTLY in front of me.

To the point that one literally jumped into my photo.

Sunset Bomber

I stopped shooting for a second and pulled my camera down, staring at them rather like they were aliens from the planet Narcissicia. I looked to my left, then to my right. 100 feet of sidewalk, all with a view, and I was still the only person there, except for these girls who were – are they lifting each other up on their shoulders for pictures?

Why yes. Yes they are.

But the sunset was at such a nice spot. And I didn’t want to miss it. So I took two steps to the right. At which point one of the girls noticed my presence [six inches from her face] for the first time.

“Oh I’m sorry! You’re trying to do the same thing we are!”

“Uhhhh….NO.”, I muttered under my breath, and then waited for her to follow up her apology with a gesture of moving out of the spot I had clearly just been occupying.

But no.

“Hey Mom! Take one of us doing gang signs – for Snapchat!!”

I turned my head further left to realize the female that I thought was the fourth teenage girl was actually one of their moms – I’d been previously mistaken as her shorts were as short and tight as the other girl’s – she blended in quite impressively. And she seemed to be as pleased as a Mom watching her daughter give a Valedictorian Speech to be taking repeated photos of her daughter and friends as they flashed various gang signs and toothy smiles.

“No, not that one – I hate that one!”

“Oh I know let’s do this one!”

“Is this on Snapchat yet? I bet it’s already on Snapchat.”

I let my camera hang again and began taking iPhone pictures of these girls to text to Chris. Not that they noticed – they never noticed me again after the empty apology. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have started to wonder if my introversion had somehow morphed me into an invisible ghost.

I looked over at the Dad, mentally imploring him to be the thoughtful one. But he was bored and detached, bobbing his head to the tinny sounds of rap flowing out of his iPhone.

The mom yelling at the girls jolted me out of my mental meanderings. “You’re blocking the sunset! Move over a bit so I can get you and the sunset in the picture!”

“I don’t CARE about the sunset! Just take the picture, Mom!! Geez!”

You. Don’t. CARE. About the sunset.

You say you DON’T CARE about the sunset.

THEN WHY ARE YOU IN MY PERFECTLY CHOSEN SPOT.

It’s not that there weren’t other fantastic spots on that sidewalk. That THEY could have chosen to see the sunset they didn’t care about. But I surely wasn’t moving to those other spots and allowing them that great of a victory. I was going to stand there, as close to my original spot that I could be without getting kicked when it was time for the “Let’s do Herkies and Duck Lips!!!” photo. Because I wanted to make them feel like I was standing over them like Sheldon would, saying repeatedly in a monotone, “That’s my spot. You’re in my spot. That’s my spot. You’re in my spot. Um, by the way – you’re in my spot.”

Except that I was invisible to them. So my strategy was flawed. But I still wasn’t going to budge.

“My turn!!”

I looked over and the Mom was taking her own selfie while the girls discussed their next pose. I took more pictures as I live-blogged the whole thing to Chris.

While they waited for their Momtographer to finish up her head shots, one of the girls climbed onto the other girl’s backs for the obligatory piggy-back ride pose. Because piggy-back is what I always try to capture when I’m at the sunset.

At that, I finally walked back to the car, laughing at the ludicrousness of what had just occurred, and even considering thanking them – because although they sure know how to ruin a sunset, they’re experts at creating fantastic story content.

The Life and Times of Busy the Bee.

Eli is my seven-year-old nephew.

Eli is a fantastic kid, mind-blowing in intellect and often infuriating in adventure. He is intensely curious about the world around him and has very little impulse control. As such, there is nothing I adore more than hearing my sister-in-law Lindsay’s rundowns of his daily pursuits.

Last week, those episodes included microwaving Cheetos for three minutes with the vision of creating melted Cheetos for breakfast, attempting to make “Dog Juice” for their yellow lab, Layla, by soaking dog food in water and then pouring the newly-bloated dog food down the kitchen sink, and opening his sister’s birthday presents on her behalf.

(I’ve begged Lindsay to be a recurring guest-blogger for years but I think Eli most likely poured chocolate milk on her computer as a legitimate experiment long ago.)

Eli also has a very special bond with animals and insects – if ever there were a child Doctor Dolittle, it is Eli. He remembers every fact he’s ever learned about any creature, and watches shows like Wild Kratts religiously to continually gain new knowledge.  His desire and ability to befriend all living creatures even extends to cockroaches, whom he insists make wonderful pets.

(He is wrong.)

Lindsay and I took our combined brood of five kids to a playground not long ago. It was a particularly hot summer day – the kind that all of the mothers cling to the shade of the pavilion and are constantly shooing the children out of said pavilion because “We’re at a playground for goodness’ sake and we didn’t bring you here to complain about the heat and sure it’s hot but you’re supposed to be playing!”

Unlike the other kids, Eli didn’t seem to be weakened by the heat. In fact, he was quite caught up in…something. What exactly is he chasing around? What’s he staring at?

Oh.

A bee.

Lindsay was off to take another kid to the bathroom, so I felt mostly responsible for preserving Eli’s life and well-being until she returned – a grave responsibility indeed. I called him over and asked what he was doing.

He ran over with a sweaty, beaming face as if his life had recently been made complete and stuck his finger out at me.

“Look Aunt Rachel! He’s a Carpenter bee. His name is Busy. He lives at my mailbox at home and follows me everywhere I go. He flew behind us to the playground. Busy would never sting me – he’s a nice bee. And I’ll tell him not to sting you either. Busy, don’t sting anyone, okay? There. Now Busy won’t sting anybody.”

IMG_5328

Although I was skeptical about Busy’s stated place of residence, he did look oddly happy crawling on Eli’s finger during his entire monologue. The bee seemed curious and…was that a bee-version of affection? It certainly seemed so.

There was one other Mom currently seeking shelter under the pavilion – one that I did not know. She became very nervous during Eli’s explanation of his new pet and suggested that Eli needed to be careful – he was likely to get stung. Eli turned to her and insisted that Busy would never sting anybody, and besides he was a Carpenter bee and Carpenter bees do not sting.

“I’m not so sure of that…”

She picked up her phone and Googled Carpenter bees. She reported back decisively that Busy was indeed a Carpenter bee, but she was definitely a “she” (because she was missing the male’s yellow head spot) and girl Carpenter bees do sting (but she left off the rest of the sentence usually found when Googling female Carpenter bees, which is “…but they very rarely do so.”)

The whiny pavilion-dwelling kids who heard this news nervously slinked off to the playground while Eli continued insisting to this bubble-bursting stranger that Busy was NOT that kind of girl and she would NEVER sting.

Meanwhile, Busy lazily went back and forth between flying in circles around Eli and landing on his finger in a familiar manner.

When Lindsay returned from her quest and got up to date on Busy and Google and the clear friendship that had blossomed in her absence, she instructed Eli that he must take Busy to the top of the hill and allow her to fly away before someone got stung.

Eli sadly stomped up the hill and squatted down at the top, having a long conversation with Busy, ending in an impassioned “Go, Busy! Just Go!!”

I watched as Busy would fly away for about five seconds, then come right back to Eli.

After a few attempts, Eli quietly left the hillside and went back onto the playground, Busy still following him. He played, with Busy alongside him, for at least twenty minutes. It was clear that Busy was just as attached to Eli as Eli was to Busy, and us Moms mused aloud that maybe Busy did love Eli.

Until she didn’t.

And Eli ran screaming and crying to Lindsay, holding out his rapidly swelling finger.

“SHE STUNG ME!!! HOW COULD SHE?! WHY WOULD SHE?! SHE PROMISED SHE WOULDN’T!!”

Eli cried, partially because his finger was swelling and turning white, partially because he was heartbroken over the great betrayal of Busy the Bee, and partially because he knows all the facts about all the animals – and he assumed that the sting meant that Busy now had to die. Lindsay comforted Eli and I Googled to confirm that, as opposed to honey bees, Carpenter Bees actually do not die upon stinging.

But for once, all of the animal facts in the world could not mend Eli’s broken heart that had been stung by the bitterness of betrayal.

He crawled out of Lindsay’s lap and spent the rest of our visit to the playground squatting sadly under the slide, head and shoulders drooping, mourning the loss of a best friend.

But there are many more bees in the world.

And Eli will not be deterred in his future attempts at friendship.