Beach vacation highlights

photo-194We’re back home from the beach, and easing into the new routine. The 7-year-old starts school Tuesday, and the other two shortly thereafter. Then soccer practice starts, we’ll put mums in the yard, and all will soon feel like fall.

But in the meantime, since this blog has taken the place of my journal, I’m remembering a few highlights and discoveries from our time on the Jersey shore.

First, taking 2 weeks away feels different from taking one, which is my standard vacation length. In 2 weeks, you develop a new routine. It feels like a real break from normal life.

On the other hand, when you have three small kids with you, vacation is never truly relaxing. I probably shouldn’t expect this. As I’m trying to decide if we want to try something like this in the future, I realize the problems in trying to draw pat conclusions — either life is stressful or life is wonderful — from any sequence of events. Life is both stressful and wonderful, and that was true of this vacation.

Getting ice cream every night — at an ice cream parlor you can walk to — is awesome. I like coffee and peanut butter flavored ice creams (not in the same ice cream). Candy or chocolate chunks are good too.

I loved waking up early-ish and going for a run on the boardwalk. I think those 4 miles or so may have been my daily highlight. I especially liked running on the newly renovated parts of the boardwalk (post Sandy) that made me feel light and springy. In the morning there was a nice breeze and it wasn’t as hot as it would be later. I felt like I earned my coffee when I came running back to the house.

Watching House Hunters on HGTV most nights gave me a lot of decorating ideas. I have big plans for the house now that we’re back. We’ll see if they happen. Has anyone ever redone a bathroom? How did it go?

Someone set up a bunch of plastic houses and toys on the beach and turned it into a little kid playground. My kids absolutely loved it. It turned out to be a great way to kill an hour.

The 7-year-old definitely developed a love of the waves. He’d race out and go diving into the big ones. This alarmed me the first few days, but I soon learned to let him go a little.

My 4-year-old has all sorts of fascinating ideas about the way the world works. He asks a lot of questions, and I’ve learned to probe what he thinks before giving my answers. He asked why there was one big house at the end of all the roads heading out from the beach, when most of the houses farther away from the beach were smaller. Before I told him my idea (people who can afford beach front houses often like big houses) he told me his: The big houses made it look like there was only one house on the street, so robbers wouldn’t try to take anything from the houses behind the big houses. I have no idea how he came up with that, but it’s quite a theory.

It was hilarious to watch my kids get used to the idea of TV shows only coming on when they come on. They’d see a show on PBS Kids, and my 2-year-old would ask for another episode of the same show. I’d try to explain that you couldn’t just get any show any time you wanted (at home, we DVR all their favorite shows so we always have episodes around). This blew their little minds.

The kids bickered a lot. A lot. But sometimes they played so well together. One night toward the end of the vacation we all went to walk on the sand around sunset. The beach had pretty much emptied out, so the kids could just run around in the cooler air. They made dinosaurs out of sand and ran races and jumped in holes. They had such a good time together, and it was nice to sit and watch them. I spent a lot of time separating people on this vacation, and so I’m trying to remember the moments when I didn’t have to do that.

We’re pondering doing a trip out west next summer to visit some national parks, so I welcome suggestions on ones that are good for kids who won’t want to hike 10 miles.

9 thoughts on “Beach vacation highlights

    1. @Nancy- I was in talks with some people about giving a speech there — it didn’t work out, but too bad. It sounds lovely!

  1. Raising hand on the bathroom question. We’ve redecorated several bathrooms. We didn’t remove tile or floors but we did replace sinks and vanities and (in one case) a toilet. Much easier and more satisfying than a larger room because it’s done faster. We haven’t done tile work – we removed wallpaper and painted, put in new lighting, hung new drapes, etc. Moving things is MUCH harder than replacing them.

    Western parks – Grand Teton, Glacier, Yellowstone all have wonderful things to see from the car or from short, easy walks. All also have strenuous hikes available if you want.

    1. @Jay- we went to Yellowstone before and loved it, and I’ve heard good things about Glacier — glad to hear it might have stuff that could be done with kids too.

      1. Glacier has boat rides and waterfalls and hikes of all varieties. Also, well, glaciers, although not as many as they used to have.

  2. We’re still waiting for our flooring to come in (that home depot ordered, got, and lost, argued about with the contractors, then reordered). Meaning we’ve been without the childrens’ toilet for over a month and a half. Current estimates are we’ll have new floor next week. I hate renovating, even when someone else is doing everything.

  3. Hmm… best national park for families.

    My family traveled to all 50 states and we visited as many national parks as possible.

    It seemed like to me that all of them had at least 1-2 easy hikes good for kids. The bigger the national park, the more easy hikes and other activities.

    The national parks that stick with me most are Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mammoth Caves, and Crater Lake.

    Being in PA you could go to the West Virginia mountains and go hiking/camping/swimming/kayaking in a cute mountain town pretty easily.

  4. I love both Winter Park and Estes YMCA of the Rockies locations. LOVE THEM! So much fun for all ages, hiking optional. Seriously, any place that has a library as part of their campus is a place for me. Not that I check anything out, but knowing they exist makes me happy.

  5. Not a national park, but um, don’t visit Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, then. 😀

    Er, that is, don’t take the route to try to see all the waterfalls there. We did that when I was around six years old, and I remember getting SO TIRED. 😀 And the song my older siblings made up, “Sore Feet,” which is sung to the tune of “Fried Ham.” (“Sore feet, sore feet, tired and weary…”)

    On the other hand, I grew up always wanting to go back there when I could, so I guess it still made a good impression! And there are shorter, tiny little loops you can do, including walking behind a waterfall.

    http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=151

    Oh, I would also recommend driving through the redwoods, if you can. Really impressive for kids, but doesn’t require any hiking at all! Just a stop somewhere, so they can see more than massive trunks through the car windows.

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