Our vacation was so epic, it was named and hash-tagged, #operationtogether.  I thought it only fitting to follow-up on my post ANTICIPATION.  Was it everything I dreamed it would be?  Did my family align with my predictions?  Well, read on.  (Update in red print).

When I was little, I would get so excited about Christmas I would puke.  No kidding.  I would get a sick headache, as a child, and just throw up.  For me, there is as much excitement in the anticipation of an event as the event itself.

It’s exactly the same for me now, as a grown up.

Soon we are headed to vacation.  It’s a big one.  ALL the cousins & Co. will be together in one house for one week.  At the beach.  The introverts in the family are nervous as all get out.  And I’ve driven the relaxed people in the family mad with a series of emails, attempting to preempt any disaster like forgetting pepper.

There will be coffee, sunrise, (the sun rose all but 2 days, when it was extremely cloudy and cold).  beach, repeat – daily for seven solid days.  I’m giddy with excitement and anticipation.  Giddy.  It’s going to be so epic, I think I’m going to call it a ‘sabbatical’ on my email auto reply.   The piety that ‘sabbatical’ implies makes people think twice before asking you to do something.  Besides, God and I have a thing about the beach.  He knows what I mean.

I am anticipating a marvelous week of reading, writing, and loving my family.  Let me tell you about the company I will be keeping….

First, there is my Mom.  Now, she needs this week more than anyone else. Period.  And I hereby proclaim that if her iPhone rings and she even thinks about answering it, I will subsequently and immediately be forced to throw it as far into the ocean as possible.  And her computer.  She needs this week.  She needs that great big ocean and that long sandy beach to get right down to the bottom of her spirit and settle her all the way to her core.  I can’t wait to see it.  To see her fingers dangle off the side of the chair, carelessly.  To see her walk at a regular pace.  To see her smile and linger and not rush.  To see her read and sleep. To see her fuss with her beach hair, which is curly and unruly and beautiful.  She. Needs. This. Week.

Here is a picture of my mom, right before I threw her iphone in the ocean.


Here she is after the iPhone was drowned. 



IMG_1875IMG_1926Love you, Mommy.  There is nothing like you at the beach.  

Then, there is my aunt.  She is as serious a beach nut as ever there was.  She will park herself out there on that beach until the day is done.  She’ll drink 3 cups of coffee before she gets out there, then a massive Pepsi out of a massive cup, and she will mysteriously never have to go in as long as the day lasts.  She’s trained for this, if you know what I mean.  She’ll sit and feed the birds, from her hands.  She’ll be the only one still enough and patient enough to do it.


Here she is attempting to feed the birds.  That seagull was inching towards her when there came up a storm and we had to clear off the sound quickly.  There were 9 screaming children running about trying to gather their things and being peeled from the water.  I’m not sure if the seagull was fed or given an anxiety disorder.

My oldest cousin is exactly like her mother.  She will drag herself in from the beach at the last possible moment of the late afternoon.  She’ll be sorry that the day is done.  She’ll sit idly by, waiting for someone to trip (it will probably be me) on something.  Then she’ll laugh so hard, she won’t be able to talk.  She’ll tell everyone else about it too, calling each of us by the nickname she has bestowed lovingly upon us.  Mine is Nanner.  “Hey Porky, did you hear what Nanner did?  ahahhhahhaaaa……Chippy or Uni, you tell it, I can’t quit laughing.”  My favorite memories of her are from the beach.  Where she taught me to make drip castles.  We’ll still make them.  And we’ll get to talk.  And no matter how loud the people are, the ocean will drown out the sound enough so that we can have our own conversation.

We were able to talk.  Just us.  For about 2 hours.  Here are ruts I dug with my feet while we talked. Treasured, precious, moments.    


My sister, Keldy, will be there.  She’s my sister by marriage.  And I’m telling you,  I don’t know how we did family vacation sabbatical without her.  I wish you could see what she can do with a kitchen that isn’t hers.  She will get in there, and in 10 minutes, have it make sense for us.  We won’t know where plates or cereal should go until she gets there.  I’m not sure what this is called on the spiritual gift inventory, but it is undoubtedly from the Lord.  I’m so scared because I’ll be there 1 day earlier than she will.  We’ll just have to eat donuts for every meal until she arrives.

Until Keldy arrived, the counters were FULL OF STUFF.  Approximately 16 loaves of bread, 14 cartons of half-n-half, 5 pounds of coffee, 3 varieties of Cheeze-Its and 4 bunches of bananas.  Keldy arrived the next day and sorted us all out.  We only lacked labels… because although everything was perfectly organized, my short-term memory failed me.  Every time I wanted Cheeze-Its (and let’s face it…that’s all I wanted on vacation), I looked in the cereal cabinet (the door of which was broken and fell on my left foot every. single. time).  I’m limping without labels, Keldy.  Limping. 

Ashley will be there too.  Now, I’ve always liked her, but I fell head over heals for her when we went to New York City together 8 years ago.  The Pierce family was a disaster in the Big Apple.  We aren’t fast paced. Like…at all.  All we did was walk from one Starbucks to another complaining about how far we were from an actual beach.  When she found humor in our ignorance of the subway system, the ferry system, and the bus system, I knew she was a keeper.  She fit so perfectly into our family’s hilarities… and I’m pretty sure that was the weekend that my cousin, Jason, decided to propose.  Am I right?

Jason will be there.  And no matter what, he will be talking.  To anyone or anything. We just love to talk to each other, and these pesky things called careers, kids, and home maintenance are constantly getting in the way of our important conversations…which could probably solve global warming, the marriage crisis, and all the wars if anyone would just listen.

When I was six years old, I followed Jason into the woods without my mother’s knowledge.  Four of us did.  We four went into the woods in search of one, who we assumed lost.  We were very dramatic in our reasoning about being disobedient.  “What if someone kidnapped her?  We should find her. We have to find her!”  Instead of telling our mothers of the alarm or waiting for them to finish their coffee, we set out.  Exactly 1 foot into the woods, Jason stepped on a yellow jacket nest.  We were stung from head to tippy toe.  I remember walking around in only underwear and having to bathe in a baking soda bath for several days. 

In a very similar act of drama, Jason, Ashley, and I set off on a walk to the sound side of the island.  Instead of driving to the other side of the island like everyone else, we decided to walk.  “Where’s their sense of adventure?” we said.  “We have to walk!” FOR THE LOVE OF VACATION! We took off across a field with 5 of our children (Michael and Nolan were chasing a kite, the string of which had broken for the second time, and the retrieval which required my son to learn the term ‘trespassing’.)  Keldy had specifically warned us not to walk through the field because of the sand spurs.  Whatev.  We’ll just watch where we step.  (I wish the yellow jackets had entered my memory here.)  Sand. Spurs. Hurt.  Bad.  They can also puncture straight through a flip flop.  4/5 children were in tears, and unafflicted Josiah (read: Michael Jr.) was telling everyone, “you should just ignore the pain.” 3/3 adults were punctured and sweating and holding multiple bleeding children.  And although Jason has gotten us into a few sticky situations, he’s also kind of a hero.  He once rescued 3 of us from a riptide.  Similarly, he ran through the spurs and cacti and carried each child/wagon/stroller across the field.  We’re limping because we didn’t listen to you, Keldy. Limping.



Don’t let them fool you, the little ones were just as painful.

My uncle, Eddie, will be there.  He’ll wander off daily, and have a seriously unbelievable story to tell when he returns.  Like, we won’t actually know whether or not to believe it unless my aunt confirms it.  I thought he served in the military until I was 22.  He’s likely to pick up a new hobby as well, like surfing.  Or kiteboarding.  Whatever it is, it won’t be coffee and conversation for 16 straight hours.  He’ll find something to do.

Want to hear an unbelievable story?  Well, during one of Eddie’s many excursions with my brother, Jonathan, they saw a frantic woman in a store.  She was looking for a lost debit card.  Eddie, moved with compassion and his gift of evangelism, prayed for her right, out loud, in the middle of the store.  When he got done praying, he looked her in the eye and said “You’re going to find your debit card in the next five minutes.”  (Uhmmmm…..can you say, ‘faith’?)  So, upon finishing the prayer, Jonathan noticed something he hadn’t seen before, “Does your name happen to be Sandy?”.  “Yes…” was her nervous reply (at this point she has to be thinking she is on candid camera).  “Is that your card?” he said, pointing to a debit card on the floor across the aisle.  And that is a true story. My aunt confirmed it.

Kelly will be there.  And we’ll stay up until we can’t hold our eyes open, talking.  Because we can.  And it’s worth it to be tired and grumpy the next day to talk just a little longer, to make one more memory.  Her husband, David, will be there, thinking up hilarious one-liners for all of the idiosyncratic things we all do all week long.

David and I got stuck in the 2 x 2 elevator with 22 pounds of crab legs on our way up to the kitchen to fix dinner.  We busted down the door on the 2nd floor to escape.  It was almost as awkward as when Ashely grabbed Michael’s derrière  at Thanksgiving a few years back. 

Kelly and I made it every night until at least 9:45 p.m.  Vacation is exhausting. We did manage to paint our toes one night, but fell asleep so soon after, the paint got smudged.


Michael will be there.  He’ll drag the kids around on the snow-sled-turned-skim-board.  For hours. On. End.  The ‘rope’ you see is an extension cord.  (That’s the kind of thing David will comment on.)  But, hey, it’s been going strong for about 5 years.

Mmmmmkay.  Here’s something you’ll need to know if you ever visit the OBX.  This is a raw beach.  Meaning, commercialization has not yet reached every single nook and cranny.  There are undeveloped miles and miles of beach.  AND you can’t swim in the ocean.  The rip currents are so powerful, they knock  you right off your feet.  Also, sharks lurk about 30 ft from the shore line.  David spotted one, and the water had to be evacuated.  Nolan informed me that it was a hammerhead, due to the placement of the fins.  (We once had a shark book from the library, for like 3 months.)  Also, there were giant sting rays.  (See picture.)  Ok, so there was 1, and it was dead.  But still. Steve Irwin. Enough said.  So, rather than risking the lives of our children, we moseyed over to the docile ‘sound side’ of the island.  There, the kids could play for hours, virtually risk free.  The only sea life on the sound side were some minnows and a hermit crab.  Uhm, I get overly excited to see creatures in their natural habitat.  I once drove down the road in nothing but a robe and a towel on my head because Ashely and Jason had spotted a bald eagle 1 mile away.  It was the coolest thing ever.  A real bald eagle, unclipped wings, sitting in a real tree – wild and free.  It was awesome.  Exhilarating.  So when I spotted a large hermit crab in the sound (the kind you can buy at Myrtle Beach for $2) I shrilly screamed “EVERYBODY STOP!!! I’VE FOUND A HERMIT CRAB!!!!!!  HURRY!  SOMEONE GET A NET! I NEED A NET!!!!!  NET!!!!”  At that very moment, Jason walked over, and scooped it up with his hand so the children could see.  We also saw hundreds of dolphins, moon jelly fish, several deer, bunnies, a turtle, and a sign that said ‘watch for bears’.  This beach is legit. 


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My brothers will be there.  They’ll be fully present too.  Jeremy will dig a hole big enough to park a car in.

Jeremy started to dig a hole.  It just wasn’t very deep.  Here’s the thing: we have so many children. There are nine of them, ages 7 and under….and more to come.  As fast as he could dig, children would throw sand back in said hole or see it as an invitation to slide.  Mission: semi-accomplished.

Jonathan will cook.  This is his meal from last year (see previous post)….  I mean…

And here it is from this year:


They don’t sell this at Costco.  Sorry.

The guys will play football until they have sandburn so bad they can’t move.  It will be on top of the sunburn they all have, except Jason….who will liberally apply SPF 70 every hour on the hour.



Here are the 50 shades of my face.  I forgot to sunscreen my face one morning.  My nose didn’t take it so well.

We’ll eat ‘Sweet 16’ powdered sugar donuts every day.  Because my granddaddy started the tradition, and we will honor that, by golly.

I can’t talk about this yet without pure anguish stirring in my heart.  You can’t buy Sweet 16 donuts anymore!!!!  Because they were made by Hostess, they are presently not being produced.  I saw today that you can again buy Twinkies.  Twinkie, you disgust me.  GIVE ME MY SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!  Oh sure, there are inferior, bad tasting brands like Tastee-O’s.  But there is nothing like our Sweet 16.  I plan to sue somebody for pain and unnecessary suffering.  For the honor of my Granddaddy, people!

We’ll try to set a time for dinner, bless our hearts.  But we’ll be late every single day.  We just will.  It will be annoying, and we’ll try to figure out why.  And that will take 10 more minutes.  (That’s what my husband will comment on.)

We consistently ate between 6:00 and 6:30.  We told everyone, every night, dinner would be done by 5:30.

All of our kids will be there.  There will be screaming and crying and carrying on.  It’s all part of it.  I am super afraid my kids (who are oldest) are going to teach all the kids who are learning to speak words like ‘lame’ and ‘stupid’ and how to roll their eyes at adults.  But Nolan said today he is most looking forward to watching TV at the beach. Whatev. It’s his vacation too.  We don’t have cable at home.  I honestly don’t care if they max out their screen time for the entire year.  I’m going to stick them in life jackets, put snacks on a low shelf,  and re-lax, my friends.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied our 7 day trip is to be noted.  For sure.  Children were up between 5 and 6 a.m. daily.  And daily, there were children who needed consoled.  And daily, there were children who fought.  And daily, there were things being hurled from the top of the steps to the bottom.  And they did watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas” at least 27 times.  But at the end of the week, after bubbles, pool time, beach time, sugar (although not too much because of the Sweet 16 debacle), and even a 14 hour birthday party, our children responded the same to our question.  “What did you enjoy most about your vacation?”

“Playing with my cousins!” they all responded.

Me too. 

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And at the end of the week, when we begrudgingly pull out of that drive to go back to our various responsibilities, I will be so saturated in gratitude for this precious family I won’t be able to speak.  Everyone is sacrificing something to come.  Money, work, time.  I’ll glare out that window and try to sear every single moment into my memory, because I know how unusual it is to truly enjoy a family vacation.  I’ve seen every single National Lampoon’s movie.  Our vacations are exactly like that, except we all like each other.

Playing with my cousins are my greatest memories from childhood.  And being with them now is a gift I treasure more and more as time goes by.  It’s been so long since we’ve all been together.  Someone is always in PNG, Cambodia, Africa, giving birth, or otherwise obligated.  There are usually 4 or 5/6.  But this week, we all six made it with families in tow.  My gratitude for these people, for this week, is more than I can bear.  

Thank you, Lord, for your creation, which teaches us of You.  And for these people, who have shown me to love like You.  May these blessings always turn back to praise.  

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