I Love the Beach

We spent this whole past weekend on the beach.  It was fantastic and I was in heaven.  I absolutely love everything about the beach.  I love the feel of the sand under my feet and between my toes, the chill of the ocean water in June, the smell of the salt as it sticks to my skin, the sound of kids yelling as they jump around in the surf.  By the end of a good beach day I am just a little crispy and a little tired and my hair is extra curly.  If it is a great day I get to see the diamond sparkles from the sun reflecting on the water as I go over the bridge, and it all just makes my soul happy.

I don’t even mind that getting my entire family onto the beach can be a cartoonish endeavor.  There is lunch for seven (picture twenty slices of bread on the counter… that’s one sandwich each, plus one for the ride home for the boys and Sheepdog – the boys are always so hungry!), drinks and snacks, the cart, the tent, the blanket for laying in the tent, the giant cooler on wheels, the chairs, the plastic toys, the beach towels, the boogie boards, and the frame backpack to carry Kid E.  And let me point out that my family is not one bit unique in bringing all of this stuff down to the beach.  We are surrounded by almost a hundred families who are toting around the same stuff for a glorious day of sun, surf and sand.

And those of us who love it will do it day after day after day after day.  All summer long if you’d let us.

I remember my very first beach day with Kid A.  She was born in January so she was just about six months old when good beach weather rolled around.  I was bound and determined to navigate the beach with kids as easily as I did when I was young and single and would take the NJ Transit bus from Absecon to Atlantic City with only my beach chair and a tiny beach bag.  And I was determined to do it by myself because Sheepdog does not love the beach as much as I do.

I found a parking spot just a couple of blocks back.  I had a pack-n-play cabana thing (it had a cover for shade – awesome!) with wheels on one side that I decided to open up and pile everything into so I could just wheel it down to the beach.  I carried Kid A on my hip and the plan actually worked really well.  Until we got to the beach block and I smelled something horrible.  Kid A had a blow-out and, as a result, both of us were now covered in baby poop.  I was just seconds from crying (alright, I totally broke down in the middle of the street) when some angel woman who lived there invited us in, gave me a clean shirt and let me get Kid A cleaned up.

Many years of trial and error and so much new gear later (some indispensable – like the frame backpack, some a complete waste of money – like the Happy Cabana), I have a system that works.  Sheepdog is still not as much of a beach fan, so it has continued to be important for me to do it single parent style.  It has gotten easier with time because the kids require less stuff as they get bigger and they can help me carry things now too.

But despite the years of practice at planning and packing for the beach, even the best of us can mess it up sometimes.  After seeing a flying ad banner from WaWa about Hoagiefest, yesterday I heard a mom next to us sigh, “Oh crap, I totally forgot the sandwiches!”  I often forget to bring a camera or the extra beach chair (which means someone is sitting on the cooler).  When the kids were little I would forget to bring extra diapers or a change of clothes (trust me – this is key for keeping them safe from sand rash on the drive home), or enough towels, or something else that seems critical when you forget it.

I swear that I did not drug them.

But then there are the awesome days.  These are the days when you bring everything you need and nothing you don’t.  The days when you get a great parking spot.  The days when you not only remember the beach badges, but you have enough for everyone in your party.  The days when the seagulls stay away from your lunch and you brought enough food to satisfy even the hungriest kids (and Sheepdog!).  The days when the water is just cold enough to cool you off and there aren’t too many shells on the ground or flotsam and jetsam in the waves.  The days when you get a great spot near the lifeguard stand and nobody comes and sets up their camp right on top of you and proceeds to smoke stinky cigarettes all day long.  The sun is out, but occasionally some cloud cover drifts by to cool things off.  There are no bugs, but not too much wind.  The kids play hard in the surf all morning, then chill out in the afternoon.

These are the beach days that bring me joy.  That I get to spend them with all of my kids (and Sheepdog!) makes it that much more special.  I actually prefer it this way over the days when it was just me and my one beach chair.  And after two really great beach days in a row, my soul is extremely happy.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Very Hungry Mommy

By the light of the moon a sleeping Mommy lay in her bed.

One vacation morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – into her bed came very tiny and very hungry Kids A – E.

They started to whine for some food.

On Monday they ate through a bag of Twizzlers.  But they were still hungry.

On Tuesday they ate through two Primo pizzas.  But they were still hungry.

On Wednesday they ate through three boxes of Tastykakes.  But they were still hungry.

On Thursday they ate through four cheesesteaks.  But they were still hungry.

On Friday they ate through five Blizzards from Dairy Queen.  But they were still hungry.

On Saturday they ate through blue chips and guacamole, cupcakes with jimmies, salt water taffy, WaWa hoagies, a bag of pretzels, tacos, hamburgers, chili dogs and a blueberry pie.  That night they all had stomachaches!

Sunday comes afterwards.  They ate through one nice dinner that Mommy made from the South Beach Diet menu (pistachio-chicken salad) from whole food ingredients and after that they felt much better.

The kids weren’t hungry anymore and they were fine and still fit (because kids must have holes in their stomachs).  But not the Mommy.  Because she wasn’t a little Mommy anymore.  She was a big, fat Mommy.

So she put her skinny clothes away in a drawer and she stayed inside for almost 90 days.  And she pushed play on every one of those days and by the end…

She was a Super Fit P90X graduate!  The End.

This picture is from the summer of 2009. I do not look anything like this currently in the summer of 2011. In fact, I think I recently ate that very bikini and maybe even some of the children in this photo.

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I did, in fact, complete 60 of the prescribed 90 days of the super-hard P90X program two years ago.  The family photo above is my after picture.  I just got bored with it and did not keep it up.  And you don’t get to keep a super fit body without working at it every day (trust me – I’ve tested that theory).

The Beachbody people who produce the program are now talking up their new P90X2 DVDs, which are due out soon and I am getting excited about them.  But I haven’t worked out seriously in more then two months.  That fact, plus my very bad vacation eating habits have led to a plethora of mom tankinis, caftans and casual hiding behind towels and beach chairs and kids.

So I have decided to stop whining and covering up and I’m going to start working out and eating better.  I have a new friend who has decided to train for Savannah’s Rock-N-Roll Marathon in November (http://rfbr262.wordpress.com), and if an old man can do that then surely a spring chicken like me can do a few push and pull-ups.  Right?

And a very sincere and heartfelt shout out to Eric Carle for creating one of the best children’s books ever for me to parody in my story above.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic in our kids’ library right next to Goodnight Moon, Big Bird’s Very Busy Day and the newly minted Go The F**k to Sleep.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…