A few months ago, my friend Lisa put out a request on Facebook: might there be anyone willing to help doggy-sit her two elderly pups at her river house while she cycles the entire East Coast Greenway?
Our immediate answer was "Duh." So Noah put in for a luxuriously long two-week vacation, and our turn came up for River Camp on Saturday. We've been here for six days so far, and it's been glorious. Mostly.
Don't get me wrong, this is a trip rather than a true vacation. (Do yourself a favor and click on that link.) But it's been a magnificent one so far.
Lisa's house is on the Neuse River, a tidal river, very near the Pamlico Sound. And the Crystal Coast, aka a gorgeous section of North Carolina's Outer Banks. So yeah, we're doing all right.
Our days do start early because the kids and the elderly dogs tend to rise at dawn. Major thanks go to Noah, though, for taking the lead in the mornings and letting me sleep a bit longer. Not only do I get up with the baby during the night, but fatigue is one of my main lupus symptoms, so the extra zzz's are crucial.
Lisa's dogs, Amos and Juno, are hilarious and sweet. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about dog-sitting for pooches I'd never met—especially since Lisa wanted to make sure any volunteers knew that Juno can be a little aggressive toward strange dogs and Amos likes to steal shoes—but it really couldn't be better. These two dogs are characters. Funny, sweet, cuddly. They've even been getting along well with Bonnie, after an initial 30 seconds of posturing and growling when we arrived.
Today, when we rudely left to go get ice cream in the nearby village of Oriental, some thunder happened, and we returned home to a sneaker in the kitchen and a shredded diaper in the front entry. Juno is the only one as yet unimplicated in the crimes.
Amos is remarkably like Cody. He's about the same size and build, his head and ears are startlingly similar to Cody's, and even his personality (sweet, easily confused). The only striking difference is his lovely copper color. The kids have referred to him as Cody more than a few times. Which probably doesn't help his confusion, but is better than "Anus," which they also keep accidentally calling him. Sigh. At least Anus sounds a lot like Amos, thus reducing his confusion levels.
Juno is spunky. She's the feistier of the two, but she also loves cuddles. Her little ears are a scream: one flops over, the other sticks out sideways. In some ways, she reminds us of Noah's childhood dog Suzy: kinda bossy, mischievous, yet lovable.
Highlights of the first week at River Camp include the pier in the backyard (PRIME sunset views); the deer we see on literally every walk we take the dogs (the deer live in the woods between the house and the marina a block away, if you can call what these streets are "blocks"); the car ferry just a couple of miles up the road that takes us across the river to the Crystal Coast; and the view out our bedroom window.
Lowlights include the time I went running out the back door with the kids to look at a turtle....
THIS turtle, a run-of-the-mill BOX TURTLE, not even any weird river species of turtle...
and completely busted on the slick back porch (the bruising is not cute with my new bathing suits); the time Noah pinched his finger badly when setting up our beach chairs; and a couple of relatively brief tired-and-hungry-kid meltdowns. Oh and the time I struggled to launch my kayak after a number of kid-related aggravations made just getting ready to get into the kayak a seemingly hours-long ordeal, and I shouted, as I flailed wildly against the sand I was stuck in, "I'm going to have some fun, damnit!" To which Oliver calmly asked, "Why did you say 'damnit'?" #parentingfail
I'm documenting this trip on Instagram, anchored by a hashtag I created on Ethan's first day of summer: #eohsummerselfie2018 (eoh being Ethan Oliver Harry). I thought it'd be fun to keep track of our daily shenanigans in this, the last summer before Oliver starts school and Harry's first summer on Earth. I've enjoyed trying to cram Noah's head into the selfie shots while he's with us during business hours on this trip.
We've sensibly decided to try to Do One Thing each day. Something to get us out of the house midmorning or early afternoon, but nothing's being crowbarred in since this is a long, leisurely trip. So far the One Thing has included seeing The Incredibles 2 at the charming Bear Town Cinema in New Bern; visiting Atlantic Beach; going to get ice cream and walking around a bit in the village of Oriental; and so forth.
Our other regular activities are sunsets on the pier in the backyard (when it's not raining/lightning-ing), fishing with Ethan off the pier (which is a whole other comedy of errors I won't get into now), walking the dogs to the marina or the nearby river beach, and the aforementioned kayaking. I even had Noah help me get the baby in his little life jacket into the kayak with me today, in the great hope that he would actually take a nap in there on a towel while I paddled around. I was so young then, so innocent. I see that now.
Actually, he did fall asleep briefly, but not for long. And owing to my pointed suggestions, Noah came out and took some pictures of the baby in the kayak with me. We need to work on Noah's sense of photographic framing, though, because the angle really highlights my bare thighs in such a way that it looks like I just birthed the baby in the kayak. So those photos (he took TWO pictures in total, back-to-back so the angle is exactly the same) will not be making an appearance here.
Noah did take several unflattering photos of me trying to kayak around with Ethan. I was so young then, so innocent. I see that now.
Ethan is exactly the wrong child to be paired with me on a maiden parent-and-child kayak voyage. I get stressed in new transportation situations, particularly ones which rely on my upper body and core strength (I have none), and Ethan...how do I say this...talks constantly. Constant commentary and front-kayak-driving. E.g. Why aren't you turning around?! Turn faster! Faster! Go that way! Why are you going this way? You keep bumping my head with the paddle. Ugh you're dripping water on me! Etc.
So the combo led to this gem of a picture, which Noah took while shouting "here comes the happy couple!" as I wrestled our vessel back into port.
All in all, the balance sheet is definitely in our favor.