Outer Banks Vacation: A Plastic Kayak + The Paper Canoe

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Have you ever woke up early to watch the sunrise? What about the sunrise over the ocean? As a kid, when at the beach, I always aspired to wake up early before everyone else for first dibs on seashells that washed ashore overnight. Watching the sunrise would be an added bonus as I collected fully intact conches and starfish normally only found in stores.

My aspirations never turned into reality though. As the chubby kid I was, I lacked the discipline to actually wake up that early. But now, years later, I happened to naturally wake up before 5 am and decided to head to the beach.

My childhood memories of thinking I’d be the only one on the beach stuck with me as I walked down to the ocean. Those thoughts quickly faded as I found several groups of people walking the beach in search of shells as they waited for that burning ball of fire to rise above the horizon. And those store-quality shells waiting for me to find them on the sandy shore? Negative. But I met this guy who popped out of his hole.

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I thought he was coming out for a friendly “Top O’the mornin to ya!” greeting, but turns out he was being a little crab. *bada-bing*

Despite the lack of shells and peaceful isolation, the early waking was well worth it as the bright yellow-orange crested the ocean horizon.

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It didn’t last long as the sky was covered in gray clouds, but those few minutes were glorious.

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With part of my childhood dreams accomplished, I still had a couple hours before anyone would be making like the sun and rising for the morning, so I walked the beach a while longer. I received a surprise text from my wife asking if I wanted to go for a walk. She didn’t know I had already been up and out, but I would never turn down a nice walk with my wife.

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Going Mom made the morning beach experience a million times better, and I even got a kiss out of the thing!

Kissing on the OBX Beach_2

Glad she doesn’t care about bedhead. After our romantic stroll along the ocean water, we stopped at one of three coffee shops within the area, the Outer Banks Coffee Company. If you’re in the area, save your cash, the place did not impress. It looked all cool and done up inside, but when I get a styrofoam cup, I’m instantly turned off from even the best brew. It wasn’t that bad tasting (we drink it black), so maybe bringing your own mug would be a good option. We didn’t pack our mugs, so that was the only time we tried the place.

Back at the beach house, after our normal morning routine and breakfast with a toddler, it was past noon. After my ocean kayaking experience the day before, I was itching to get back on the water in our sit-on-top vessel. The waves were throwing another fit that day, and I wanted to bring the girls out with me which would not be safe in the ocean. Luckily, that turtle pond we hiked around was large and calm enough for the perfect first time kayaking as a family.

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Kelley kept a safe hold on Avery while I acted as a human motor. I expected Avery to be more excited than she showed, but I blame most of that on the oversized life vest pushing into her face. That didn’t stop Mommy from taking the obligatory selfie.

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Somewhere, behind those cool shades, our daughter was fiercely striving to keep her cool and not let her excitement show, I just know it! Either way, I enjoyed getting out as a family and creating another first for Avery. At least Mommy and Daddy were happy.

Kayaking with Family in Turtle Pond_OBX

G-Ma, my mom, and Uncle Paul and Aunt Tammy all party more than Going Mom and I. Probably because they did their time with little kids and are enjoying freedom once again. So while we’d stay at the beach house, they were out doing things during the day and night. But today, the fifth day of our trip, we planned on going out for a family dinner somewhere nice.

After scanning the available places that would be most acceptable to the picky foodies (my wife and I), we settled on The Paper Canoe. We had actually stopped there on the drive in with Avery screaming about having to go pee and not wanting to let us down by going in her Honest Company training pants. The waitstaff were all happy to help our child in distress that day, so at least we knew they were nice.

When you’re extremely particular about how food is prepared and where it’s sourced, you should call the place ahead of time. Tommy, who happened to be the owner, kindly answered my call. After explaining how I prefer to have no added oils when cooking, but really really really wanted scallops along with a side of steamed veggies, he was nothing but happy to accommodate my requests. This, in turn, made for a wonderful dining experience for all.

The Paper Canoe Family Photo

Not that Preston and Aaron were concerned. They happily sipped on Mai Tais. I’m sure that helped Preston’s third-degree sunburn.

The Paper Canoe_Aaron and Preston drinking Mai Tais

Very rarely do I receive that kind of response when I go through my multiple needs, but they delivered and never put off that they were annoyed. The food was delicious, service was outstanding, and my sea scallops were perfectly baked (per my request) and fork tender.

A photo posted by RC Liley (@going_dad) on

I ate all of my veggies first because I like to save the best for last. This drove G-Ma, sitting right next to me, insane. She eventually broke down with her fork heading towards my plate, yelling at me to eat them. I shared one of the delicacies with my dear mother since I tortured her for so long. It’s the least I could do since she gave me life. If you’re in the area, The Paper Canoe the choice dining spot for parties big or small. It truly is unique with quality food and outstanding service.

After dinner, we ventured outside to take a few pics where the restaurant is right along the bay. Grandma made an already beautiful sunset picture into a spectacular one.

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Next in line of beautiful photo captures outside of The Paper Canoe was G-Ma.


As another family took pictures beside us, I offered to play photographer if they would return the favor. They quickly accepted and put their best photographer in charge. Or so I was told.

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I love this shot, we’re just missing my other cousin, Uncle Paul and Aunt Tammy’s oldest boy, Nick, who arrived the next day. Their almost complete family photo turned out well nonetheless.

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Avery was becoming restless at this point (wait, she’s always restless), but we tortured her with another picture with just Mommy and Daddy.


We promised her that was all and loaded up in the van to drive back to the beach house. The rest of the night was spent, surprise, at the beach house with Avery running around giving us entertainment. With my early arrisal, I was feeling tired and didn’t have much longer. In preparation for yet another day at the beach (maybe more kayaking), we turned in for the night for much needed rest.


Outer Banks Vacation: Ocean Kayaking and A Turtle Pond Hike

After our vacation lull the previous day, we were looking to change things up a bit for our fourth day at the Outer Banks. Uncle Preston and Cousin Aaron and Noah wanted to try their luck at catch fish by kayaking, so they brought the two-seated sit-on-top kayak we rented down to the beach that morning . With Avery, we were always late to the beach party, so Mr. Kayak was there waiting upon our arrival.

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The winds decided to pick up from their calm state that morning which quickly changed the minds of the bold fishermen. They decided to stick with what they had been doing every day since arrival; casting their lines, sticking the poles in the sand, and sitting down with a beer as they waited for the fish to bite.

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And waited and waited. Even with the waiting, they still kept a smile on their face. I guess that the beer had something to do with it. Since it was already there, it only made sense to try testing my kayaking skills in the ocean. I even offered to carry the boys’ fishing lines out farther to help their luck. Uncle Paul, Preston, and Cousin Aaron helped push me out on the kayak to get me started against the strong current and constant waves.

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Fighting against the non-stop waves to make any progress was exhausting from the start. I eventually made it out far enough to drop the lures full of fresh shrimp bait. After I was off the hook to carry out the lines, it was time to battle against the waves. Holy current, Batman, the ocean is no joke! When I reached a good distance out from the beach, I began paddling parallel to the land.

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The waves were fierce (to me) and until I realized you need to lean into each peak of the water, I almost capsized a dozen times. I wasn’t scared, but didn’t feel all that comfortable with what was going on. Regardless, I kept at it because……ocean, YOLO!! Actually, that saying annoys me, but it was fitting here.

Going Mom and Avery watched as I struggled along the coastal waters, but then Avery had to go potty. We tried to say it was okay to pee in the water (I know, hypocrite parents), but she didn’t need to pee. My wife had to walk Avery the half mile back to the beach house so our daughter could relieve herself. Probably for the best, because my return to land was far from graceful.

All was going well, I rode the waves like a champ (or that’s how I felt), but then, as I sat on top of the last big wave before hitting beach, I flipped. A few underwater tumbles and a kayak bonk on my head later, I stood up, grabbed the giant plastic vessel, and dragged it to shore. Phew, that was an intense first time kayaking in the ocean, and although it was difficult, I loved every minute as I paddled with my muscles burning in areas I never knew existed.

We spent a little longer on the beach before heading back for lunch and nap time. Oh, and a little hanging around.

outer banks vacation, family, travel, ocean, beach, fun

G-Ma once again gave my wife and I relief by taking a nap with Avery so we could venture out on walk and to pick our fresh seafood of choice for dinner. I was hoping that by helping the boys with casting their lines, we’d have free and super fresh fish for dinner, but once more, no luck.

Upon our return, we caught G-Ma and Avery still in a slumber. After snapping a pic, we woke the sleepyheads up and prepared to go back out for more adventure.

Avery and G-Ma Bottom Bunk

On the agenda for the second half of the day was, shocker, more beach! But there was a turtle pond we always passed on our walk to the ocean, so we detoured to take a hike around the short path.


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We never took a pic of the pond, but there was a general location where dozens of turtles would pop up and you could get right next to them. I lectured several families feeding the poor hard-shelled snappers white bread, a highly processed food imposter even humans should avoid. Besides, their diet is full of bugs and some fish, not bread and crackers. Anyway, the short walk was full of lush greens, birds singing, and bugs biting. She moved slower than usual for the hike, but once we hit the sand, Avery took off like a ballerina.


Look at those toes! Kelley and I both agreed we could watch our precious kid prance around the sand for hours. Well, prance, dance, or crawl that is.


Bonus points when she gives kisses for Mommy!

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As we watched Avery cover more sandy terrain than most lazy beachgoers, Kelley had us make a footprint beside one of our daughter’s. Such a simple thing, but something I know we’ll cherish having for years forever.

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From left: Daddy, Daughter, Mommy

We walked along the shore getting our feet wet in the cold ocean water as we searched for seashells a little longer. Eventually, it was time to make the walk back for dinner. With weary legs, Avery’s transportation back to the beach house was usually via Daddy’s shoulders.

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Another day full of family fun was complete. We were tired, hungry, and dirty. After cleaning ourselves, I cooked our chosen fish for the day, yellowfin tuna steaks. Seared outside with a tender pink inside. Perfection!

A photo posted by RC Liley (@going_dad) on

You could cut the buttery fish with a fork. Kelley, Avery, and I savored every bite along with our standard sweet potato and veggie sides. The meal was just what we needed to replenish from a busy day and prepare us for another one ahead. I ended up waking earlier than my usual early time and before I knew it, I found myself walking to the beach to catch the sunrise. Check back for the next post to see what I captured.

5 Healthy Summer Habits for Kids

I’m handing the Going Dad reigns over to another stay-at-home dad who’s also into nutrition, fitness, and raising a healthy family. Sean Morris has a wealth of information on healthy living to share, and today it’s all about habits to help our kids keep healthy and have fun during the summer months.

Summer is filled with fun, relaxation, and the joy of not having a rigorous school schedule to keep up with. But summer can also mean later nights, meals from the baseball field concession stand that aren’t exactly the healthiest choices, and other poor health habits sunscreen, safety, healthy living, that can impact both physical and emotional well-being over time. Here are a few healthy summer habits to instill in your kids that will cultivate healthier habits for life.

Always Wear Sunscreen

If your child loves to spend the whole day outside in the sun, wearing sunscreen is a habit you’ve probably already developed. But even if your kids tend to spend more time indoors on their smartphones or video games, teaching them about the risks of sun damage is a valuable nugget that will help them stay healthy and well throughout their lives. The sun can cause damage even on cloudy days, so daily sunscreen application is key for all children and adults.

Check for Ticks

Ticks carry Lyme disease, and in some parts of the U.S., tick populations are growing. It’s not always possible to avoid areas where ticks are common, but you can wear insect repellent and protective clothing (with long sleeves and long pants) when you know you’ll be in an area well-populated with ticks. You should also carefully check your child’s entire body for ticks after spending time in such areas. Remove ticks properly and know when it’s necessary to seek medical attention for a tick bite.

Get Adequate Sleep

One especially useful habit to foster in your kids is getting ample rest every night. Sleep is the time your body uses to rest and rejuvenate, yet, especially during the summer, many children and young adults happily sacrifice sleep to participate in fun, late-night activities, whether they’re simply watching TV past their bedtimes or hanging out with friends. Teaching your kids now that the time they spend awake is more productive and enjoyable when they’re well-rested will prepare them to make better choices about sleep as they get older.

Stay Hydrated

When kids are having fun outdoors, it’s easy to forget about drinking water to stay hydrated. Most kids won’t think about drinking unless their bodies are telling them they’re thirsty, but they may ignore such cues if they’re having too much fun. Have your kids carry a water bottle, and encourage them to drink pure, cold water rather than sugary sports drinks. If they do have a sweet tooth, adding a splash of citrus fruit or berries can enhance the flavor of plain water, making it more appealing to some kids. Make sure they know that it’s necessary to drink more water than usual on especially hot days or when they’re engaging in rigorous physical activity.

Stay Safe Around Fire and Fireworks

Camping, Fourth of July celebrations, and other activities bring with them camp fires and fireworks displays. Kids who understand fire safety and know how to stay safe around fireworks are less likely to suffer burns or injuries. Teach your kids about the dangers of fire and fireworks, how to use child-appropriate fireworks such as sparklers safely, and safe habits to practice around fires.

Teaching your children how to stay safe in the many different circumstances they’ll encounter throughout life is no simple process. As a parent, you want to protect your child from every possible danger. While you can’t be there to keep them safe every moment, you can begin to teach them safe and healthy habits that will help them lead a long and happy life.

Sean Morris became a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get to spend more time with his kids. He enjoys sharing his experiences via LearnFit.org and hopes writing for the site will help him provide other parents with tips and advice on juggling life, career, and family.

Image via Pixabay by milli_lu

Meeting other health-minded dads like Sean is always a pleasure , and hopefully he’ll share more of his tips/advice on healthy living in the future. Thank you Sean, for taking the time to create this list of handy healthy summer habits for kids!