Beach Beauties

The beachfront in Port Aransas was excellent.

Once we exited the car, and stripped the cover-ups, and smeared on gobs of greasy gopher guts – er, sunscreen, and set up the chairs, and unpacked all the sand toys, and dragged over the cooler, and set up the umbrellas….well, then we HAD to stay all day to justify all that work. No one objected.

Some folks prefer the sand. It does not wave about or push you anywhere you don’t want to go. And there are lots of mysterious things all in and around it.

I’m not sure what it is about the expanse of sand and water that makes you want to PLAY. Every person there, no matter what their age, was playing in some way. Shovels, frisbees, boogie boards, kites, dogs, intense splashing. It was like being in the largest outdoor Kindergarten you can imagine with every single person hard at work with their play.

It’s beautiful.

And there’s also beer.

Some others prefer to spend EVERY MINUTE in the water. Robby threw himself around so much I was sure he’d grown gills by the end of the day. I kept thinking I’d lost him only to spot his head right at the top of a roiling wave waaaaaaayy out there. (There were so many grown people to take a turn playing out in the deeper waves he wasn’t alone.)

Somehow people look lovelier resting in a bed of sand, too. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you’re naturally beautiful to start with, like our aunties.

And the beach is a good place to tell secrets. The wind and water won’t tell anybody!

Granna was operating the whole week with a broken wrist, but she had a water-proof cast. Isn’t that amazing?

The line where the water meets the shore is curious beyond belief. Things come in, things go out, things come up and go down again. Sometimes mysterious little spurts of water and bubbles of air come up where nothing is!

We had fun right-side-up and upside-down.

Towards the end of the day Helen had lost her fear and was painting everything and everyone with drippy sand.

Worth every gobbet of sunscreen.

Once or twice during our day I found myself regretting that we never took Lucy to the beach during her life. She would have loved the smell and feel of so many unusual things. It would, however, have been difficult to keep her sufficiently cool and her equipment free of sand.

I find myself hoping that Plato and Aristotle and Lewis are right, and that our realities are but poor echoes of true heavenly realities. That somehow Lucy can experience in heaven, with the Lord, something like but better than this reflection of His grandeur in wind and wave. To experience with heightened, perfect senses what she was limited from having here with us. These things are difficult, and maybe fruitless, to imagine but I still, like all parents, wish for her to have the fullest life possible. And I still think of her as alive, just living a different and fuller life than the one I have.

I miss her during the familiar and comfortable times and I miss her during the exciting new experiences, too.

It makes the beach ever-so-much-more-so to experience it with good company. Who also happen to be drip-castle experts.

Rob has now made plans for us to move here someday… – Katie


Crossing by ferry

After the jellyfish encounter we took the ferry (the 6 minute ferry) to Port Aransas to swim at the ocean beach there. A jellyfish-free experience.

The three ferries can hold upwards of 30 cars apiece, packed pretty closely. The car immediately to the left of us was a Decepticon. Very helpful when they identify themselves for you.

You barely have time to get out of the car before the ferry arrives at the opposite side. Look at all the palm trees! James says it was one of his favorite things about Rockport; the beautiful mix of tropical palms and good ol’ Texas oaks and elms.

Still waiting to exit. My hand. (Abbey and Aunt Midi gave many of us ladies Henna tattoos the day before. Henna, as you know, is a temporary tattoo, and we decided the sun and sand made them fade unusually quickly. Sometimes they last two weeks but ours faded about one week out.)

And before you know it, there you are! – Katie

Mornings outside and inside

Several mornings on our trip it stormed violently during the night, leaving behind a lingering mist and cloud cover at daybreak. The gentlebird above frequented a pier beyond our house, standing there rain or shine hunting fish with beady eyes.

There was a large  metal statue just at the water’s edge which somebody told me was a marlin. Big fella.

Inside the house it was cool and pleasant, saved by airconditioning from the oppresive post-rain humidity. In grand family tradition everyone fit into the kitchen at once.

Those not in the kitchen hung out in front of the TV.

And drank juice.

And ate leftover popcorn brought home stealthily from the movie the day before. (Mom always wants to LEAVE the leftover popcorn rather than adorn the entire car and house with it: kids always insist they could not bear the WASTE of leaving behind a half-bag of popcorn! Don’t be so WASTEFUL, Mom! Other places in the world kids are starving!) When they drag in global hunger I give in.
We saw, as a family, the Pixar film Brave.  This was in part a birthday gift to Corrie, who had requested that we see it together. It was fantastic. Several spots I was in tears, for a variety of reasons I can’t articulate, and  many among us burst out laughing repeatedly.

Listening to your own children laugh out loud is a healing thing. – Katie

Footballs and Jellyfish

Our house in Rockport had a lengthy deck behind it, which was almost more comfortable and useful than a yard would have been. Each morning different ones would drift outside, sometimes before the sun and fog and had completely lifted, and take a quiet moment for devotions or puzzles or sipping coffee. Beside the outside table and chairs was an open space perfect for short football passes.

The boys never miss an opportunity to show off the coolness they are convinced they have, but beware the stray football that lands in your coffee!

Two perks for coffee this vacation: the bottle of Rumchata (a liquor made with cream, rum, and sweet spices) that substituted for creamer while it lasted, and the Turkish coffee that James made in tiny copper pot on the stove. His parents brought him the coffee specially from their trip to Israel.

Life can be hard when you’re too small to have the football OR drink coffee.



During our first visit to the beach we swam in the intercoastal water and it was the jellyfish time of year. Both Corrie and Amos were stung by a jellyfish, but we didn’t see it happen either time. As they ran and splashed out in the waist-high waves, the swirls of cloudy water hid the clear jellyfish completely. It was only after we realized the water was full of them that we started to see them everywhere. Corrie was stung on the arm.

And Amos was stung on the leg. It hurts terribly immediately after it happens, but after about an hour there’s no pain at all. The welts take a few days to subside completely. (Your very own can of Big Red seems to help a little, too.) We found out during our visit to an aquarium that the jellyfish were Moon Jellyfish, about apple-to-cabbage-sized, with clear bodies and often a white four-leaf-clover outline on their top. The plaque at the aquarium said: usually does not sting.

Me: “But they did sting!”

Amos, in a deadly serious voice: “Us.”

It was decided, however, that the sting may have been worth being able to walk into 2nd Grade on the first morning and announce that you were stung by jellyfish! during the summer. Elementary school kids dig scars. – Katie


Our area in Rockport had a canal that ran behind each street row so you could leave your house by boat and sail along into the intercoastal bay. We didn’t have a boat, but there were both a kayak and a paddleboat on the back deck.


One morning James gave each of the children a turn at the kayak.

While you suppress your shudder at Helen’s closeness to the edge (one of those pictures that you see after vacation and gasp, “Aauugghh! Did I let her do that?”), I’ll just let you know that a ladder going down into water off of a deck can entertain a 9-year-old boy for TWO SOLID HOURS. And he’s pretty wet afterwards.

Kayaking is harder than it looks. James had his lifejacket between his knees, doing most of the work from the back while calling instructions to the companion in front. Some of our kids are really coordinated and some not.

The waiting ones checked out the paddleboat.

Apparently it can be made into a four-seater.

James is a master of the kayak from years of canoeing the Rio Grande during his annual fall trip.

Sometimes being in the water leads one to burst into song.

Or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

And if they won’t let you on the boat, you can at least mess around with the lifejacket. – Katie

Balconies and coffee

The Grandparents rented a luxurious house for our time in Rockport. No sooner had we arrived than the children glommed onto the landing at the top of the staircase leading to the bedrooms on the second floor. Ah, the thrill of danger! To lean out from on high and wave at one’s nervous and travel-weary parents! Long car trips inject the kids with Nascar-level adrenaline. James and I drag into the house behind them, both looking like something the cat vomited.

And once you get up there you must lean as far out as possible to make maximum parental impact. Bonus points every ten times you get Mom to say, “Be careful!”.

One of our vacation traditions is that the children all get to drink one cup of coffee in the mornings, mixed liberally with milk and sugar. Abbey keeps telling me that 11 is plenty old enough to drink one of these EVERY day. She points out it might improve school alertness and give her quicker reflexes in P.E., that sort of thing. I, not being born yesterday, refuse to consider it.

And, really, does anything feel more vacational than coffee while you work on a jigsaw puzzle first thing in the morning? – Katie

Wendish Country and Reba’s

On our way south to Rockport, we passed through a string of small towns in Wendish country. This is an area where many Wends, Slavic people of Northern Europe, settled after immigrating across the ocean through the gulf of Mexico and up through Texas.

We ate twice at Reba’s. Pretty good food. Alarming statue out front.





Wendish country is improved with suckers. – Katie