Tag Archives: beach

Reframing for the memories

Here we are, finally galloping towards the finish line as the last week of summer looms and everything goes into fast forward, after the creeping, juddering back-and-forth of the very long break, longer than ever before because this year in their wisdom the county decided to move Back-to-School to after Labor Day instead of the third week of August. Yesterday my Timehop showed me that Mabel had started second grade this time a year ago, that Dash started Kindergarten six years ago, and a myriad of other milestones. Mabel wishes she was already back at school; Dash still has to finish his summer packet so it’s just as well he’s not.

I’ve seen other people’s photos and posts about how it’s been the best summer ever, about all the fun they had and the things they saw and learned and did, and I was feeling a little down about our summer. It wasn’t the greatest ever. It wasn’t fun all the time. It was, perhaps, a summer of too much of too little to do, a summer of fights and arguments, of conflict and boredom and screens and complaining. But then I remembered it’s all about the reframing. Reframing isn’t just how we make our boring lives into enviable blog posts and Facebook updates – it’s how our brains remember things so that our childhoods glow in memory and holidays gain a sheen in hindsight that they didn’t have in the moment. It’s how our brains deal with childbirth. We focus on the good and gloss over the bad. Besides, I don’t take photos of the fights and the whining.


I know the waves don’t look big here, but the beach shelves dramatically just there

So our almost-week at the beach was … nice. Yesterday I realised that when I think back I won’t really dwell on the things we didn’t do or the times we disagreed, or even the spectacular sunburn I managed to procure because I am the queen of making sure everyone else puts on their sunscreen but I’m a bit blasé about doing my own. I prefer my swim top and my big floppy hat, but sometimes I happen not to be wearing those and … oh well. Sun and me don’t go. You’d think I’d know that by now.

Kids in bumper boats

Genuinely the most fun at the amusement park

So: we had a lovely time. My children were impressively brave (but not foolhardy) in the big waves on the shelving beach. My children were adventurous and tried new things (go-karting, bright red tortilla chips). My children fulfilled long-held ambitions (doughnuts for breakfast every day) and laughed at each other’s jokes till milkshake came out their noses. We walked home in the dark singing variously, simultaneously, songs from Hamilton and hits of the 80s. The people-hating eight-year-old easily made friends on the beach a few times. We saw an eclipse. (Not totality, but about 80%.)

Girl and man looking up at sky wearing eclipse glasses, shadows through trees

Eclipse watching. See the little crescents in the shadows of the leaves? That’s the eclipse.

I did no laundry, the absolute minimum of shopping and cooking, and was forcibly prevented from Facebooking too much because I didn’t have my laptop and I’m terrible at typing without a real keyboard. I sat alone in the serene peace of the screened porch and read a book instead. I drank real coffee and ate too much sugar. It was almost like a holiday, not just the same old thing in a new location – at least some of the time.

beer in sunshine

Now there will be buying and eating of fruit and vegetables, imposing of schedules and picking up of schoolwork, making of appointments and doing of useful things, because we are refreshed, because a change is (almost, maybe) as good as a rest, and because we’re nearly there.

Beach looking back at the sunset

Quiet evening beach

The blog post it would have been nice to read before our trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina

So you’re going to the beach. Here are a few tips from those of us who just got back.

  • Remember that you are not the only people leaving the greater Washington DC area in a southerly direction on the Saturday morning before the 4th of July. Or on any given Saturday in summer, for that matter.
  • Don’t panic. Not absolutely everyone else in that particular traffic jam is headed straight for Duck, NC.
  • All the people you encounter in the dead-stop traffic five miles from the bridge to the Outer Banks, however, are. Be prepared to add another couple of hours for the last twenty miles of your journey.
  • Maybe next time, consider getting a rental that starts on Sunday, and/or leaving earlier than 9.30 in the morning. Yes, that means you’d have to actually make some effort to pack a little more the night before. Deal with it.
  • Never forget – don’t worry, you won’t be allowed – that a vacation with children is not so much a vacation as a relocation of all your daily hassles to a new and less purpose-built area. If you have to eat out, they won’t like the food. If you’re self-catering, you’ve just brought all your food-preparation requirements to a new house with an empty fridge and bare cupboards. If you’re lucky, there might be a sharp knife, a can opener, and a decent chopping board.
  • So let the kids eat fries for dinner every night if that’s all there is. A week of it won’t kill them, but a week of trying to feed them properly might kill you.
  • Leave the Internet behind if you like, but don’t unplug so much that your rental has no TV. In fact, cable TV will provide a world of wonder to children who are accustomed to nothing but PBS.  Do try to make sure your accommodation has cellphone reception, though. (Ours didn’t.)
  • Think of bringing a stepstool so the kids can reach the basin. It’s the one thing your rental  almost certainly isn’t equipped with.
  • Be advised that the a/c will be set for somewhere near freezing, to ensure that nothing moulds in the excessive humidity, and to drive you outside to the beach or the town after a little while inside. You are not allowed mess with the a/c settings, so do bring a cardigan.
  • If you lose one of the house keys, don’t panic until it hasn’t turned up in the load of washing you just put on.
  • Come to think of it, if you’re bringing seven of everything so you all have enough clothes, why bother doing laundry? Either skimp on packing, or avoid the laundry room entirely. You’ll spend most of your time in your swimsuits anyway.
  • Your place will have an outside shower so that you don’t track sand onto the carpets and into your bedsheets. Don’t bother trying to get the kids into it. Just send them to the pool, and don’t worry about the signs telling you to wash off any sand before entering. Nobody else did.
  • Let the kids know that it’s okay to pee in the ocean. Impress upon them that it’s not okay to pee in the pool. And this doesn’t mean that they should get out of the pool and pee standing beside the pool.
  • It’s hard to predict how much the sunshine and the water will tire everyone out. Instead of trying to estimate when the kids will be tired, just keep going until they all collapse in a screaming heap of devastation, then bring them home and put them to bed.
  • Stop complaining about how it’s as hot as hades and as humid as the inside of a tumble dryer, and just go to the beach. That’s why you’re here.
  • Avoid hurricanes, wear hats, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
And then my camera got a teensy bit damp and now I can’t see anything on the screen, even though it still works, but I have to look through the viewfinder as in the olden days, which is very vexing.