Summer At The Beach Essay

<<Cross-posted on Virginia Is for Mysteries blog August 10, 2013>>

The “educational” tag is SO over rated.  Especially when it comes to summer vacations.  My parents (a self-employed business man and an elementary school teacher) made it their mission to make sure we learned something over the summer break.  So while my friends were water skiing on Lake Michigan or riding donkeys down to bottom of the Grand Canyon or hanging out with Mickey & Minnie, my family was marching through the Smithsonian in DC or traipsing along the Freedom Trail in Boston or sitting/snoozing through historical lectures in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Did I have VA-CAY Envy?  You bet I did!

But here’s a little secret I never told anyone…there was one “educational” vacation I enjoyed very much--the one to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1972. The beauty of the “living museum” in Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to experience what life in the 1600s America was like by doing some of the tasks required for existence 400 years ago.  For example, my sister and I carded wool then spun it into yarn, used a printing

press to make our own little newspaper, watched blacksmiths pound iron into hooks, and enjoyed horse-drawn carriage rides along the cobble stone streets.  (There’s something SO soothing about the sound of hooves clacking against the stone in measured cadence. Be still my heart.) Oh yeah, and we got put in "jail."  (In Colonial times, people would throw garbage--and worse--at people sentenced to time in the stocks.  Fortunately this was not part of my experience!)

My one complaint?  The heat!  Southern summers are not for the faint of heart!  And those poor women who had to wear those heavy hoop-skirts and caps!  How did they do that?  I was practically melting myself, and I had on a sleeveless shirt, shorts and (as any well-dressed kid in the 70s had…) white Keds.

What I needed was a dip in the ocean.  I’d seen the signs for Virginia Beach.  Beach meant ocean.  Ah,  cool, refreshing water.

I asked.  I begged.  I got down on one knee and pleaded, “Please, please PLEASE!  Let’s go to the beach and cool off!  Please! Please! Please!”

“It’s four hours away,” my parents said. “That would make for a much longer drive home, too. It would take two days then Dad would have to take another day off work.”

I accepted that, as young children of the 70s did, not because I respected my elders but because I didn’t have the World Wide Web at my finger tips to prove otherwise. 

Fast forward twenty years when my military husband and I made the move from San Diego, CA to Norfolk, VA via Ohio.  That equated to nine days on the road, driving and eating fast food, with a three day layover in Ohio to visit family.  On our way south to Virginia we stopped at the Williamsburg exit to fill up on gas.  My parent’s voices echoed in my head, “Four hours away.”  At that point I honestly didn’t have four more hours of travel in me.  I suggested to my husband we find a hotel for the night.

“Why?” he asked.  “We’re only an hour away.”

<<insert sound of screeching record here…>>

“An hour?” I asked.

“Yup,” he said.

Needless to say, my first phone call to my parents once we got settled in our new home (this was in the days before cell phones, or trust me, the call would have been made there and then!)  “Hey Mom and Dad, did you know that Virginia Beach is less than an hour’s drive from colonial Williamsburg?”


They’d known.

And then it occurred to me, Virginia Beach may have been fun and refreshing, but it did not push the “educational” button.

After living here on and off for the past 30 years and spending hours bike riding on the boardwalk or picnicking on the beach, licking an ice cream cone while watching tourists frolic at the water’s edge, I’ve learned that there’s something about being near that water is good for what’ ails ya.  The light is different, the sound of the crashing waves is relaxing, the smell of the salt water is refreshing.  It restores one’s soul.  I feel better after a day at the beach.  Probably not smarter, but then as I’ve said before, that “educational” tag  is SO overrated. 

Have you noticed that the phrase "It'll be a day at the beach" is not "It'll be a day at the beach with kids"? When going to the beach in the summer with children, who just sits in the shade reading a book and sipping a pineapple juice with an umbrella? Not me.

Let's be clear -- this is my place to vent. I know I am beyond fortunate to live in an area of the U.S. where we have a beach and to be able to stay home with my kids. That is not up for debate... I love my kids. I do, however, hate sand with a passion. Are we good? Let's move on.

It's summer. Finally. And although I talked a good game of getting myself bikini-ready once again, na-gonna-happen. Regardless, my children do not suffer fools -- especially those on the Momecular Level. They certainly don't care WHAT I look like in a bathing suit, as long as I get my cottage cheese thighs down to the dock so they can swim.

Who, besides Hubs and the boys here, thinks it is just THAT easy to hit the beach? Let me walk you through the steps it takes to get there.

1. Determine that today is a beach day. Lick finger, put it in sky -- nice summer breeze, check. A few clouds, check. Bright summer sun, check. OK -- beach day. Let's do this. (Must be mentally prepared to endure the next several steps.)

2. Get everyone in their bathing suits and rash guard tops. Check.

3. Get me in a bathing suit. Not so fast. Please go to 3a and 3b.

3a. Determine mental health state. Fat day? Go with lightweight skort and tank top; do not attempt to put bathing suit on, or this will set estimated time of departure back 30 minutes due to self-image crisis.

3b. If mentally stable today, pick favorite go-to suit out of drawer. Not so fast. Check for inappropriate amount of leg hair.

If YES, go to tub; do drive-by shaving job, inevitably cutting shins. Wait a few minutes for razor burn to appear. Slather on lotion. Wince as your legs burn from stinging of lotion. Go from hairy legs to raised red bumps. Get aggravated. Clean up bathroom. Put bathing suit on.

If NO (this never happens to me, because I am Greek and always have a 5:00 shadow)... then aren't you a lucky girl? Go put your bathing suit on and thank God you don't have to shave.


4. Grab five towels out of dryer waiting to be folded from day before. Smile as you think you got out of folding those five towels, thinking you outsmarted the system. Throw them over your shoulder and run downstairs. Find all three kids playing with Legos and messing up the just-cleaned living room. Shudder -- look away. Let them play as you work on step 5.

5. Clean and cut several oranges, strawberries, apples and other fruits. Arrange them nicely in the cooler so nothing gets smashed. Pour pitcher full of ice water. Get cups, napkins, etc. Fill up bag with Cheez-its, Pretzels, Granola Bars, etc. Review contents of bag twice to ensure you haven't forgotten someone's favorite snack. Remember to refer to the Summer Food Pyramid.

6. Grab sunscreen, hats, cell phone, book (you still have the optimistic outlook that you will be able to read at least one paragraph, uninterrupted), etc.

7. Tell everyone to get their sandals on.

8. Get ready to walk out door. Middle child announces he has to poop. Remove everyone's sandals. Ask if anyone else has to go to the bathroom. No one. OK... minimal time wasted. Proceed.

9. Wait. Help middle child back into bathing suit. Get sandals back on.

10. Youngest is not coming to garage -- look around. Call his name. Go back in house. See him removing HIS sandals. He has to poop. Repeat steps 8 and 9.

11. Get everyone to beach. Unpack. Get towels set up on beach. AHHHHHHHH yes.

12. Watch kids splash around joyfully for approximately 2.2 minutes. See idea in youngest's face. He runs toward you. You know what's coming. Slow, slurred, robotic murmurs leave his lips... I'm huuuungryyy. He gets to bag before you do, unzipping with sand-hands, reaching in. You are trying not to lose a boob from your bikini top as you lunge for the bag yelling (you too in slow robotic moans): NOOOOOOOOO! I'LL GET IIIIIITTTTTT! But you are too late. Sand in snack bag, strawberries smashed by ice packs, youngest crunching on sand-covered apples.

13. Middler sees out of corner of eye that youngest is eating. Repeat step 12.

14. Eldest sees that Middler and Youngest are eating. Repeat step 12.

15. Run out of snacks and drinks 10 minutes into trip.

16. Eldest, who insisted he did not have to go to the bathroom, informs you that he cannot hold it any longer.

17. Gather belongings... trudge to bathroom. Wait for Eldest. Wash Middler and Youngest as they are covered in sand from head to toe. Between that and the slimy sunscreen, they have a moist, crunchy exterior that resembles sludge. (Mental Note: Reapply more slime at beach headquarters.)

18. Trudge back to beach. Repeat steps 11-17 for the next three hours.

19. Arrive home. Try to minimize sand infestation. Get kids in tub. Unpack. Clean up. Start laundry. Vacuum.

20. Collapse in chair, exhausted. Youngest approaches. "I'm bored. What are we going to do now, Mom?"

Cheers! (And YES -- I know I am absolutely blessed and fortunate to be able to be home with my kids! I love them all, even though they drive me bonkers.)

This post originally appeared on Underachiever's Guide To Being A Domestic Goddess.

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