Can’t complain.

That’s my simple, two word summation of our week in Hilton Head. I know you expect much more than that from me, though. I will do my best no to disappoint.

Our home was gorgeous. S. spent many, many hours researching the options and looking for something that would hold a significant chunk of our family and be a nice place to stay. She found the perfect place. We stayed in the Forest Beach area, which is on the ocean-side of the island. Our home sat a half-block from the beach. We were close enough to hear the surf crashing against the beach at night. The home had a huge kitchen and dining area, which was perfect for our evening meals. There was a small pool – roughly 20′ X 10′ – where we spent most of our days. There was also a hot tub, which we did not have heated but served as a diving pool where C. could drop and chase her diving sticks until she collapsed from exhaustion.

The pool was in a great spot. Sun first began to hit the water around 11:00, so we could get some morning swim time in without having to worry about sunscreen. Most mornings I went for a run and returned to find the girls already in the pool. It turned out to be the perfect way to cool down after running.

The girls did wonderfully in the pool. All three were comfortable being in the water from the first day, and improved greatly over the week. We kept floaties on even the big sisters most of the time, so we’re excited to see how they do without them when swim lessons begin.

Another highlight of the pool area was the geckos that would scamper across the fence and side of the house throughout the day. The girls thought they were great, and named them for members of the family. L. got concerned when her name had not been used yet and kept asking, “Where duh L. lizard at?”

M. and C. had their own room, which they turned into a clubhouse. They also used the screened-in balcony/porch area as their daytime activity center when not in the water.

Of course, the whole reason for this trip was so the girls could experience a real beach and the ocean for the first time. They went nuts when we made our daily excursion over to the shore. It’s safe to say that Hilton Head is not the ideal beach, if you’re a kid. The sand is compact and hard. You can run or bike right to the edge of the water it’s so solid. If you fill a bucket full of sand and try to turn it over to build a sandcastle, it takes some serious force to get the sand to come out. And the water is kind of dingy. Not that it’s dirty, but it’s also not crystal-clear Caribbean water. All that said, they didn’t care all that much. They still did their best to dig in the sand, build some moats, write their names, collect shells, etc. The other downside to the beach was how freaking hot it was. It was tough to spend too much time there during the heat of the day.

Their favorite part of the beach was the search for shells. Most of the shells we found we small ones, but they didn’t care. They carried buckets and would pick up as many as they could find. The first day, even after she had filled her bucket with several inches of shells, C. still yelled, “SHELL!” each time she saw another one in the sand. They also enjoyed staring at the jellyfish that washed up with the tide.

One funny beach anecdote: M. and I were at the water’s edge along with my sister-in-law KG and her son. KG had her camera and was snapping pictures of 17-month-old Will, who was enjoying the sand and surf almost as much as the girls. A random woman strolling by walked over and asked, “Would you like me to take a family picture?” KG and I looked at each for a moment and the woman said, “I don’t mind, really.” How could we resist an offer like that? And while it wasn’t the family picture the woman imagined, it was still technically a family pic, so it all worked out.

We did not do much exploring around the island. We went over to Harbour Town for dinner one evening, with plans to check out the light house. Turns out the lighthouse A) isn’t very tall and B) you have to pay to go to the top. We bargained with the girls and spent than money on ice cream after dinner. I went to the outlet malls one day with a couple of my sisters-in-law, getting some Nikes and some super cheap jeans, but that was about it for getting away from the house.

The travel went about as well as we could have hoped. There was some minor grumpiness, some yelling from the front seat for the back seat occupants to chill out, and so on. But it was an amazingly successful 24+ hours in the car. We did have a couple situations on the way home, but when you’re asking kids to deal with a 13-hour commute, there are going to be some rough patches.

Not that the drives were completely without incident. On the way to Hilton Head, we drove through a severe thunderstorm. This was a serious storm. At one point it was raining so hard that you could barely see cars 3-4 car lengths in front of us. Throw in lightning bolts on the sides of the road, and it got a little dicey for my sister-in-law AMG who was driving at the time. On the way back, we had to make an emergency stop at Target in Spartanburg, SC to buy another in-car DVD player. Our trusty model, which is only about two years old, suddenly stopped working that morning. We figured it was worth the stop and money with nine more hours of road in front of us. And finally we were about 45 minutes from home Saturday when we drove into another severe thunderstorm. This time we battled 60+ MPH winds in front of the storm and then more torrential rains for the last 20 minutes of our drive. While we were picking up limbs and sticks in our yard Sunday, our neighbor said he had never seen our collective trees bend as much as they had in the midst of the storm.

So that just added a little excitement to our van time. Fortunately we made it through the storms fine.

It was a fantastic vacation and we were thrilled with the girls, for the most part. We highly recommend Hilton Head as a destination, as long as you can deal with the beach and the traffic.

And now summer starts. We’re off to swimming lessons in about an hour.