This first photo pretty much captures how our Thanksgiving trip to meet family at the beach started out. With joy for the days to come and the time spent with those we don't get to see nearly enough.
While laid over in Atlanta, some of our very favorite people made the trek in to meet us for lunch. Here the kids are meeting their new 'cousin Will' for the first time -- I loved how Henry had to take a photo, too.
It was dinnertime when we finally rolled into the beach house and we all made a bee-line to love on sweet baby Jennifer. One of the biggest surprises of the week? Discovering Michael is nearly as much of a baby-hog as Ella.
The temperature stayed in the 60s on Sunday and Monday so we made the kids wait to head out to the beach while it warmed up a little and we could enjoy a leisurely start to the day. This resulted in a dead-run to the shore when they were finally released from the house. Which was a nice change from the two hours of whining that preceded heading outside.
Venice Beach was full of interesting finds. A month before we arrived, there was a red tide, the remnants of which littered parts of the beach. Shells were abundant and apparently the beach is also known for sharks' teeth but we didn't luck out with finding any of those.
What do good parents do to entertain their kids on the beach without sand toys? Trick them into thinking the find-mama's-toes-in-the-sand game is awesome.
What do *great* parents do to entertain their kids on the beach without sand toys? That now-empty Miller Lite can isn't just for the recycle bin, folks.
We should have known that things were going too smoothly by Sunday night. Our flights ran on time, we got a deal on upgrading our rental car, the cousins were all getting along, there was no rain in the forecast.
For all of this, we were punished with a stomach virus that hit Henry first and kept us up most of the night. Poor kiddo was feeling a bit better in the morning and so I carried him out to sit and chill on the beach. (Yes, those are his jammie pants and maybe the second or third shirt I had changed for him since 1 a.m.)
Thankfully, everyone else was still feeling well and I was making use of Lysol wipes on every possible surface of the beach house on a regular rotation.
Jennifer's first time out on the beach was a hit.
Joshua proved to be much smarter than our kiddos (not that we were surprised). He explored the beach thoroughly over the week, but wisely chose to steer clear of the very chilly ocean water.
Monday evening, the bug took down Michael...then Ella. Tuesday morning, Wes got hit. It was another sleepless night but, gratefully, it seemed to be a fast-moving bug and only Henry was still trying to fully recover by Tuesday night.
Given the amount of clean-up and snuggling duty I took on for a couple of days, it's a wonder I didn't also get sick. I did try a new trick -- can't say that it's what kept me healthy, but I'll share it in case anyone else wants to give it a try at warding off GI sickness. Three times a day, I drank a full glass of 100% grape juice with a generous splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar. I chose Bragg's ACV that includes the Mother in the vinegar.
Most of all, we are grateful that neither Joshua -- who has been recovering from a nasty bout with strep and has a weakened immune system -- and Jennifer stayed well. PHEW.
Lysol wipes and quarantining strategies for the win!
Wednesday night, we started preparations for our Thanksgiving dinner. Wes began to brine the turkey and us ladies got the apple pie underway.
With an early wake-up call to get to the airport on Friday morning, we made the most of our Thanksgiving day on the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and very peaceful with hardly anyone else around.
I felt a deep thankfulness that day that went beyond my normal sense of daily gratitude. Life is truly good and we get to share it with the most incredible people. We will seek to pay forward as much kindness and giving as we can this Christmas season and I look forward to all of the traditions we've begun to build as a family over the years.
Thursday morning, the bird spent a little time smoking on the grill, then got an herb butter bath and headed to the oven. It was quite tasty, under Wes' careful supervision.
As for me, it was my first time trying my mom's dressing recipe, and it turns out that I needed to pay a lot closer attention to her cooking skills. Oh well, the mashed potatoes were edible. I think.