Ocean Isle was a big hit with Ben again this year. Every August, Mimi's side of the family packs their sport utility vehicles full of household items, food and beach supplies and participate in this trip. We travel from all four corners of North Carolina to a house on stilts in the middle of the island. Traveling from as far as the North Carolina mountains to as close as a 45 minute drive within the county (and everywhere inbetween), we hang out, reconnect and worship the sun for seven days. After spending our final year in a beautiful five bedroom house last year, the family opted for a bigger place. Six in one bedroom was cute and everything, but we're not getting any smaller here. So this year, we hung out in style, in an eight bedroom home with four flights of stairs, an elevator, and a neat view of the ocean. Unfortunately, Ben and I represented the Hendersonville Turners alone this year. Someone has to earn the paychecks around here, so Jacob volunteered. At our last visit, Ben was nine months old. This year, he was 21 months. Definitely more aware of his surroundings and more responsive to his relatives, Ben really seemed to enjoy the extra attention, homecooked southern meals, and play time outside. Things he did not enjoy were severely interrupted sleep schedules, the ocean, and the inability to brush sand off his hands. He spent most of the day playing indoors with his cousin Adam while his very pregnant mommy avoided direct UV rays. He and Adam bonded over a dump truck and a pile of legos. Ben very sweetly shared his toys with Adam but was also a very overbearing project manager regarding how Adam played with said toys. But overall, a success. Ben traveled to the ocean three times during his visit and hated it every time. He was good for about 20 minutes before having an epic meltdown, throwing himself into the sand and demanding that we leave. The most we ever got out of him was probably 90 minutes. But we can at least claim he was there.
At the shore and almost enjoying it while Poo fills his bucket:
Chasing bubbles with Adam:
Ben also enjoyed a couple of trips to Calabash for seafood night. He remembered his love of hush puppies and ate them by the basketful, but did not have the same affinity for fried shrimp. He did, however, enjoy stuffed flounder, which is a fabulously filling combination of flounder and breaded crabmeat. Between that, the endless hush puppy baskets, and Mommy's phone equipped with Yo Gabba Gabba episodes, Ben was perfectly content. He even got to check out the dock behind the restaurants afterward.
Rocking the Dockside tie-dye t-shirt in front of his shrimp boat:
Other fun happenings included a trip to the Ocean Isle museum to be educated and escape the heat. Ben, his grandparents, aunts, cousin and Mama all spent a couple hours checking out exhibits at the museum. The adults definitely learned more than the babies, but fun was had by all.
Checking out the wildlife exhibit, or as Ben calls all furry animals, the Titi exhibit:
After a week of family and sunshine, Ben and Mama returned to the mountains. Only to head down our mountain and back up the Avery County mountain for Mimi's birthday celebration. And then back to Henderson County for the rest of the summer. We're traveled out. And now in nesting mode, cleaning excessively and waiting for our newest family member to make his appearance. In related news, our family has welcomed another little cousin in the first week of August. Technically due at the end of July, Ella Katherine was fashionably late and welcomed by her parents, Elizabeth and Blair in Raleigh. We still haven't met her yet, but the pictures are precious. Because we are traveled out (and ordered by the doctor to stay close to home), it may be the holidays before we lay eyes on this little pink bundle, but it will be worth the wait!
At the end of July, I left my full-time job to be an official stay at home mom and complete another "gestation vacation". It's been amazing to wake up with Benny every morning, fix all of his meals, and play trucks on command. He loves it too. We've had lots of fun bonding and spending all the time we can together, just me and him, before our family expands. It seems like he's beginning to get what's happening. As the belly grows, he's taken more notice of it and pats his own belly when he sees me patting mine. When I ask "Where is the baby?" he first pats his belly, and then pats mine, trying to lift up my shirt so he can see my belly button real quick before covering it up again. He loves his baby brother and will hug the belly when he's just hanging out with me on the couch. Hopefully his attitude stays the same when the baby is on the outside, but I don't anticipate it being that easy. This is the same child who freaks out if a cat is in my lap when he would rather be there. And by freak out, I mean full-throttle, epic meltdown complete with glass-shattering screams and headbanging. Every time I think we've arrived in the "terrible twos" early, he kicks things up a notch and shows me what true toddler behavior can consist of. Meltdowns are no longer quick, dirty and to the point. They can last for hours, and walking out of the room doesn't solve the problem anymore. He will just scoop his pitiful self off the floor and follow me where ever I go, wailing and shuffling his little feet like the saddest boy who ever lived. And this can be for reasons including me refusing to pick him up and carry him all day. Or his truck wheel getting caught up in the rug edge, requiring a different maneuver to navigate it. Or Spongebob going to commercial. You know, really serious situations.
But on a more positive note, his sweetness is also developing, melting the hearts of everyone around him. In explaining Ben's emotions to someone recently, I described him as picking a feeling and REALLY committing to it. When he feels something, he feels it at 100% and expresses it accordingly. Ben is the best hug and kiss giver of all time and will do both on command. His cuddle times are rare because he is a very busy boy, but when he crawls onto the couch and snuggles, it is the best snuggle ever. The love he has for his cat is endless and sort of surprising. I've never really seen a toddler care about a cat before. Cats aren't the most friendly creatures to walk the planet. Generally speaking, anyway. But Ben and Toby have a love that can't be comprehended. Toby greets Ben every morning when he wakes up by standing on his hind legs and rubbing Ben's head with his own. And Ben smiles from ear to ear and greets him by saying "Titi!". Sometimes, he'll even wake up in his crib and call "Titi" instead of "Mama". His newest phrase is "Hi Ti?" which seems to be the way he calls his cat. He'll walk around the house and say very sweetly in a high pitched voice "Hi Ti?" until Toby answers him. And he always does. Ben is very gentle with cats and pets them sweetly and carefully, if they'll let him. And very few will. But Toby is a good sport.
Ben's playfulness and confidence is also starting to develop. Better late than never. My child has always been very cautious and the ultimate spectator when it comes to perceived danger or activity in general. A genetic trait that I'm afraid I've passed down. But recently he's become more trusting of the "throw Ben in the air" game and will approach certain family members to be tossed around. He'll also get in the middle of a group of kids and play alongside them, whereas before he would just stand on the sidelines and laugh from a distance. We recently got a membership at Hendersonville's children's museum, called Hands-On. It's a neat little place with community sponsored stations that have different themes, stimulating different senses and evoking creativity. He loves it and takes me at least twice a week. As soon as we get there, he takes off running, after a group of kids or into the Legoland where he can build towers to knock over. It's been a great outlet for him and an even better way to keep him entertained when his own legos and dump trucks just aren't cutting it.
In other news, Ben is about to start a new journey in his life. The quest for verbal communication. We finally mentioned our concerns about a suspected speech delay. At 21 months, Ben's vocabulary consists of less than 10 words. And most of those are pronounced incorrectly. After discussing this at length with his doctor, we were given a referral to Early Childhood Intervention. And the referral led to a formal evaluation. The speech therapist observed Ben carefully for a few hours, asked me tons of questions and determined that Ben is in need of speech therapy. Twice a week. For an undetermined, yet prolonged period of time. She even threw out a "suspected diagnosis": Childhood Apraxia of Speech. This is the fancy way of saying that Ben has verbal planning difficulty and understands exactly what is being said to him, but has trouble mapping out the word in a meaningful way to repeat it back. It seems to be a neurological condition, not much unlike stuttering and can be corrected with good outcomes if it is caught early. So our suspicions were right. And now we finally get to bridge the gap and work on acquiring some speech to go with the many signs he's picked up this summer. We look forward to working on the therapy as a family and are excited to see Ben jump this hurdle to be a better communicator.
So that's been our life in the last 6 weeks. We're still in the heat of the summer, but can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The news says this has been the hottest summer on record for us North Carolinians. We look forward to cooler days. And fresh from the orchard Honey Crisp apples. And a new Turner to join us. Another milestone on the way for Ben, as he goes from only child to big brother!