A Cottage by the Sea

I have always dreamed of living in a cottage by the sea, the charm and cozy feeling that comes with a cottage when you can smell the salt air is something that I long for, something that soothes the mind, body and soul.  When we moved to Hilton Head in 2010, we looked at cottages by the sea, but as a primary home to a family of 5 with a dog, a quaint cottage just wasn’t practical.  However, every summer I take the kids back to my old stomping grounds of Ocean City, New Jersey, and for two weeks I get to live my Cottage by the Sea dream.

My Cottage by the Sea.

My Cottage by the Sea.

My good friend Michelle is lucky enough to own a cottage in Ocean City that she rents out.  Michelle has been in our lives for many years, spending Christmas Eve sleepovers at our house, and visiting me when my baby was born, needless to say, she is special to us, and I have fallen deeply in love with her cottage. I am not sure when the cottage was built, but it is loaded with beachy charm, original built-in cabinets in the kitchen, big white woodwork, hardwood floors, an enormous front porch and a palette of soft colors that awakens the inner beach bum in anyone.

This reminds me of the original Butler's Pantry that was in the house my husband grew up in.

This reminds me of the original Butler’s Pantry that was in the house my husband grew up in.

It is not big, but it is functional.  I am here with my kids, all three of them, while my husband stayed back on Hilton Head, so for the four of us it is perfect.  For all our visitors, it has also been perfect.  One night we had three moms and nine kids sleeping here, it accommodated all of us.  Another night we had 5 kids and 6 adults, again, it accommodated us all.

I have been living the epitomy of coastal parenting the last few weeks, walking to the beach, boardwalk, arcade, mini-golf and ice cream!  Soon I will be back on my little island, some people say the beach is the beach, but each little beach community is different, has a different vibe and energy, and I love them all.

Love Ocean City, NJ.

Love Ocean City, NJ.

 

Dolphin Head Playground

We moved to Hilton Head Island on July 1, 2010.  This adventure started in a rental I saw online with a lease signed via fax.  We had  never seen the house.  I left Ocean City, New Jersey, where we had been living with my sister, in a SUV packed to the gills, a 5 year old, a three year old, and CadyGirl our 10 year old black lab.  We took two days driving the 14 hours down 95 S,  and pulled in around noon the day our lease started.  My husband and his buddy were about 4 hours behind us in the rented Uhaul and an old but beloved Honda Accord.  We unpacked all day and most of the next, as his buddy headed back north he wished us good luck and good vibes for unpacking.   Shortly after he left, our kids told us they wanted to do something fun, this to parents everywhere is a good indicator that they are bored and could be on a one way trip to trouble.

Our first house.  The only house I ever lived in that I did not see before move in day.

The only house I ever lived in that I had not seen before.

We took a break, got in the car and headed to find a playground.  Prior to this, we had been to Hilton Head one time and one time only, and that was to go house hunting.  As I previously mentioned, we were renting this house, so the house hunt was unsuccessful. The world of renters was actually a nice break from the responsibility of home ownership.  We did not know the area, or the roads, and were not acclimated to Hilton Head Plantation at all.  We knew there was a playground here, but had no idea how to get there.  We were trying to find Dolphin Head, and ended up on Ribault Island.   There is no playground on Ribault Island, but if the gate is open, (and it is usually not) it is an experience to look at the beautiful homes that make up this  ultra-private section of Hilton Head Plantation.

When we finally wound our way along the beautiful tree lined streets, past the golf courses, and lagoons, we found the Dolphin Head Recreation Center.  The Sea greeted us with a warm smile.  For a moment I sat in the car and took it all in.  The playground equipment, basketball courts, Mossy Oaks, Sea Wall and the Port Royal Sound.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  This was my playground, this was where my children would come to swing, climb and spin.  I thought about the playgrounds back in Pennsylvania, and even in all my beloved New Jersey Beach Towns and nothing could compare.  We had made the right choice.

The view from the Swings at Dolphin Head Playground.

The view from the playground at Dolphin Head Recreation Center.

Dolphin Head is so much more than a playground, there is a little beach house you can rent with a full kitchen.  We have had many a birthday and family event in that little house.  There is also a walking path along the bluff and a beach you can walk, play and have awesome scavenger hunts on.   If you walk all the way to the end of the beach and around the point,  you will find yourself at a point between two bodies of water, it is beautiful, and is also my husbands favorite fishing spot.

My husband's favorite fishing spot.

My husband’s favorite fishing spot.

Dolphin Head Recreation Center in located within the private gated community of Hilton Head Plantation.  Unlike Sea Pines, you can not pay to enter Hilton Head Plantation, you have to know someone to visit so they can call in a guest pass.    I believe hands down that the playground at Dolphin Head is the most beautiful playground around, and as an added bonus, if you get there at the right time, you can catch the most beautiful sunset around.

Sunset from Dolphin Head.

Sunset from Dolphin Head.

I will be highlighting many of the playgrounds on Hilton Head, and other coastal towns in the coming months.

Twice I’ve Saved my Kids

Part 1:  The Ocean.

I did not intend to start Coastal Parenting on a heavy note, but last night I saw a news story about Heidi Klum, and how she had to pull her son out of the ocean.  This got me thinking about the two times I have also had to pull my children from the water.  As a Coastal Parent, or any parent for that matter, it is so important that you never, ever, ever take your eyes off your children when they are in or around the water.  My two bigger kids started swimming lessons when they were infants.  Before I lived at the beach, I already knew the importance of teaching a child to swim.  I believe it is a survival skill every child must have.  Strong swimmers take on a different meaning when you live on an island.  A strong swimmer in my community is the 8 year old on the swim team that wins the gold medal in the 100 yard freestyle.  Those are not my children.  Mine can pass the deep water test at the pool.  They can swim from one side of the deep end to the other, they can tread water for 60 seconds and they can retrieve a dive stick from the deepest part of the pool.

Swimming Lessons with Miss Jen.

Swimming Lessons with Miss Jen.

The first time I had to save one of my children, it was my son, and was one of the scariest days of my life.  He was still little, maybe 3 and we were on what the locals refer to as Toll Beach on the Northern most point of Ocean City, New Jersey.  (A bit of background, before we moved to South Carolina, we would spend our summers in Ocean City, living with my sister who has been a local there since 1992)  Toll Beach is an unguarded beach, so therefore you do not need a beach tag, (another post, beach tags suck) so we were frequent visitors to Toll Beach, our kids were still to little to be in the Ocean, and Toll Beach gets an awesome tidal pool every summer that I came to refer to as Mother Nature’s baby Pool.

Mother Nature's Baby Pool

Mother Nature’s Baby Pool

This was a chilly day, before the season really got underway and we were in sweatpants and sweatshirts allowing the kids to play in the sand and look for shells.  My now six year old was an infant and we were walking along the water line, she on my hip and my son about ankle deep, pants rolled up.  Well he stepped out a little too deep, and the ocean floor dropped off.  One second the water was nipping at the bottom of the rolled up pants, and the next he was underwater on his way out to sea.  I ran into the ocean, baby still on my hip and was able to grab his arm, I pulled him up and he sputtered and I could see the fear in his face.  And just like that the all mighty ocean grabbed him right out of my hand, and he was off again.

Seeing your child face down in a cold ocean being pulled away from you is the scariest feeling in the world.  My husband who had at this point gotten up and was on his way down to help looked up and saw my son in my grasp.  Seeing that, he relaxed his pace a little.   He had not noticed that he had slipped away again.  I think I threw the baby at him and jumped in to reach my son.  I got him, we were both soaked, freezing and in tears.

I can’t let my brain go to the what could have been.  This incident almost 5 years ago at this point, opened my naive, new parent eyes to the dangers of the water, and the respect everyone must have for her.  She is a power not to be taken lightly.  With a keen eye, and a careful mind, the ocean can be enjoyed endlessly.  But in the blink of an eye, or the distraction of the mind, she can change your life forever.   I do not fear the ocean, she brings peace and balance to my life, but I have taught my children to respect her, we have a lovely relationship with her, but if she is getting nasty or angry, or even when she is calm and angelic, I do not let myself get distracted by the birds, or the tourists.  My eyes, and my mind are constantly on my kids.