No one should have to live six whole months without seeing the ocean.

Yet Natalie already had. Clearly this needed to be remedied. So we borrowed Nana and Grandpa’s minivan, piled Noodles in, and roadtripped to the Outer Banks. (A-plus on the roadtrip, incidentally. She slept for about two and a half of the four hours, and played contentedly for the rest.)

Natalie wasn’t quite sure what to make of the ocean when she first saw it:

But she immediately figured out that the beach was a fun place.

Not to mention relaxing.

And with yummy hats to snack on.

She dipped her toes in the ocean, but the water was too cold.

Then she dipped her toes in the jacuzzi, but the water was too hot.

Then she went for a swim in the saltwater pool. Just right!

The weather was clear and warm, with gorgeous sunsets.

Three other families shared our giant rental house. Natalie loved playing with the bigger kids (and they all were bigger than she is).

She learned to clap her hands, to sleep in her Pack & Play, and — before our very eyes — to sit up. She loved practicing, and also just hanging out, in the giant bean bag chair.

(Our days of putting her down on the activity mat are numbered.)

She even got to swim with Nana and Grandpa, who flew down to Kitty Hawk in Grandpa’s little plane for a day’s visit.

Grandpa’s hat was just as yummy as Mommy’s.

But nothing beat going to the beach every day with Mommy and Daddy.

It’ll be twice as much fun in the future, when she’s old enough to play in the sand and splash in the ocean and run around with the other kids. But I’m glad we took her to the beach so young. It’s something I want her to soak in, a feeling she’ll have for the rest of her life that will date back before her earliest memory. The next time we’re back, she may not remember having been there before, but she’ll feel it.

Next up, the Pacific.