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Surprise, We're Goin' to the Beach!

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 25/02/2016 Rebecca Stoufis

The thousands of poetic descriptions of the beach, its waves, familiar and comforting, sound and scent, and no need for me to reiterate all that's been noted far more eloquently by others.  It's our final morning here as I write on our balcony, so grateful for an ocean-front room, laptop resting on my at least five pounds bigger belly, and I just can't will myself away from the waves as my backdrop and the continual warm breeze kissing me.  The happy seagulls are calling out, such sweet sounds as light as my children's giggles the first time feeling the cool water splashing over their tiny toes.  The tide inevitably intensifies then recedes, and the mortals that we are must be carried away, despite our occasional protests.
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Nine days ago, we piled in the truck, Nikolas and Elizabeth were fighting before we'd rolled out of Northfield, and picked up Nikos from work along the way. We were slow as usual, a million pee stops and fires extinguished, and two hours later we faced a snowstorm. Our truck was sliding, darkness had swiftly fallen at a mere 4:30 as we trudged on. Our goal was to make it to Illinois before stopping for the night and well, we never made it out of Wisconsin!
Nikos said we'd die if we didn't stop, and conveniently, like a mirage in a sea of pummeling snow, a Holiday Inn Express appeared!  The oh so clever/compassionate manager who had given us the "Snowstorm Rate", was all hyped up, announcing to the flood of guests that the storm was expected to drop ten more inches.
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Even if the manager's discount was questionable, he had been fairly accurate with his forecast, once morning arrived. It would be a long day;  our goal was to get to WV in time for Ava's birthday party at 7 pm.
The drive was grueling as we slid, silently prayed that no one was hurt based on the numerous accidents left and right, while we barely missed sideswiping cars, ourselves.
I whispered to Nikos, trying to communicate "the big surprise" until three nosy bedhead faces stretched their necks like turtles to eavesdrop. Exasperated, I told Nikos to just stop at the next rest area.  We were somewhere in Indiana, and Nikos and I would've burst if we'd held  the big news any longer.
We piled out of the car and instructed the kids to hold up so I could get a picture of them in the snow.  As we shivered in our sneakers, I yelled out while ready to capture the kids expressions, "It sure would be nice to go someplace warm like the beach!"  Elizabeth rolled her eyes and wailed, "Yeah, too bad you're forcing us to go back to WV when we were just there two months ago!"  Nikolas chimed in, "Yeah seriously, why'd we even move to MN in the first place?!"  Katerina's little voice squeaked out, "Mama, I'm fweezing!"  I ignored them and announced, "Wouldn't it be nice to be at the beach?  Because that's where we're going!"  The kids mouths dropped, all properly shocked and confused, and Nikos yelled out, "Surprise!"  Wahoo, we got em'!  Many of you know how we live for surprising the kids!
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The cheer level for the rest of the drive increased by tenfold.  Elizabeth begged to see a Broadway style show, Nikolas lamented that he wished he would've brought his boogy board, and Katerina was just happy.  Nikos and I were most excited to eat.
We were forty-five minutes late for Ava's party, but it was at a gymnastics center and absolutely perfect for a ridiculously long drive!  We had an awesome time visiting with family.  The cupcakes were loaded with yummy buttercream frosting and what?  There was a party?  Oh yeah, it was great!
We stayed at the Gain Ranch, except they'd left with Nancy from the party to pick up Alex from the airport.  It was a quick visit when they returned, because we were headed to Myrtle Beach!
Our traditional stop back when we used to travel to Myrtle every Thanksgiving was the Strawberry Stand.  They truly have the best boiled peanuts and fresh-squeezed lemonade, and it is also the largest strawberry-in the world. It felt blissful shedding our coats, and enjoying the quenching sunshine and boiled peanuts!
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The last hour before Myrtle, we passed the time playing a version of Headbands, in which we assigned an object or food to a person and then they had to guess what it was by asking questions. Nikolas was alarmingly bad at the game, but made us laugh till our bellies ached! Poor kid, my mathlete and science nerd just couldn't figure it out.
Approaching the Island Vista Resort, we belted out a made-up song Elizabeth used to sing when she was three, "Let's Fly to the Beach!"  Our five was the cheesiest bunch of hyperventilating dorks and most embarrassingly excited family that's ever graced the sands of Myrtle!  That's what happens after spending three harsh winters in MinneSNOWta!
The moment we entered our condo, all of us grinning goofballs charged out on the balcony, inhaled the sacred fresh ocean air and I nearly cried. Grumbling tummies coaxed us back in the car and we headed to the Sea Captain's House, a culinary must. Nikos' was the favorite-jambalaya.
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I jogged with Nikolas and Elizabeth-oh whatever!  My obnoxious two told me I fake-jogged!  I was moving my arms and breathing heavily!  I walked miles daily, and imagined what great shape I'd be if I lived at the beach.  We hunted seashells and I feigned excitement every time Katerina presented yet another cracked piece of a shell, a proud grin on her upturned hopeful face.
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I took the girls to the Christmas Spectacular, a British version of Broadway, and such a treat!  The boys meanwhile, had gone to drive go-karts which was closed, and then raced our clunky truck with a Ferrari. Besides the jambalaya, the highlight of Nikos' trip was beating that Ferrari.  Nikos bragged about it for days, how he'd outwitted the driver, and I imagined that the guy had simply taken a right-hand turn.  Nikolas sure was worked up as well and mighty proud of his daddy. Yes, I married a dude who is a perpetual 12-year-old!
What a wonderful Thanksgiving we had!  I made the entire meal in our full-sized kitchen, set the smoke detector off only twice, Elizabeth remained glued to the Macy's Day Parade on TV, Nikolas started complaining that he was starving by 9:30, and it was perfect.  I truly mean that the day was perfect.  I made four pies, not sure why we're the biggest piggies in America, and we ate till we were food drunk.
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Nikos and I took a nice autumn nap, and finally, we took a family walk on the beach. If I hopped on a boat and headed straight, the Atlantic would carry me to Africa.  There's no place like the beach that ignites my chronic wanderlust to nearly unbearable levels.
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The kids shimmied in their cold damp swimsuits, and I plunked down in my chair on the beach, as the ocean breeze swept me away in a lovely nostalgic trance.
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I thought about my dear friend Scott Wise, whose greatest wish is to get back to Myrtle Beach. Scott, this article is dedicated to you, buddy! I thought we could set up a GoFundMe account and get you to Myrtle.
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We remained on the beach long after the sun had begun its evening descent, until cold shivers won out, and then reveled in the hot jacuzzi-that's right my faithful readers who know me, germ-freak me hung out in the jacuzzi all week long!
Suddenly, fireworks penetrated the black sky, giant mushrooms of light, my favorite always red.  Right then, right now, our little family collected tangible joy encased in a precious memory.
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Goodbye, Myrtle Beach.  Thanks for the immense joy, and happy lingering memories with my precious family.  Thanks for the gratitude and fresh ocean air that washed inside my soul lest I forget during foul weathered days.
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