The Minutia Behind Unstructured Summer Adventure Days

My friend Gretchen asked how exactly we make this get-to-the-beach-with-young-kids thing happen on a regular basis.

Beach With The Boys. MomsicleBlog

First, the backstory: I worry that K-Pants is going to be depressed or possibly is depressed. He says things like “I’m a terrible, stupid idiot,” or “I’m a terrible boy,” or that thing happened “because I’m so bad”—like when he can’t pick out sugar-cereal at the store, or a drawing doesn’t look just right.* And I keep reading everywhere that more nature equals less depression.

*I don’t want any advice about how to make this black-and-white thinking stop, but thank you for your very well-intentioned help I didn’t ask for. You might be thinking, “You say that, but I have to say something because the No Drama Discipline book changed everything for us.” I understand. I do the same thing to others. But I just don’t have the mental energy to take it in right now.

*

What sealed the deal on our no-camps, get-into-nature plan was that my friend Sara shared an article that suggested that the rise in depression in kids is partially due to the fact that they don’t have unstructured play time—time without an adult nearby who will intervene to make things fair or solve problems.** The argument went something like this: People feel depressed when they feel like they have no control over their lives, and modern kids always have an adult in control.

I don’t pay much attention to the newest research, but it happened that this study came into my life when I was feeling like my kid was going to be prone to some severe depression and anxiety, and that I didn’t want to add more appointments and activities to our life because the logistics of three kids was adding to my own postpartum depression.

Here we go talking about postpartum depression, again, and I am totally off track….

*What?!? You let this Sara chick share unsubstantiated research with you and you won’t let me transform your life with No Drama Discipline? You are totally right. I have double-standards, and Sara has privileges. I’m a mess.

*

….I’m stalling because it feels awkward to share strategy and tips. I try not to be a know-it-all on the blog. Momsicle’s tagline could be, I don’t know anything, but I’m still here.

Or Everything I’d planned went totally off-course.

Or Please don’t share your “expertise.”

{Segue here, or Segway, if you’d prefer a two-wheeled tour.}

Apocalypse Mobile. MomsicleBlog

In order to be ready for adventure, here’s what I keep in my car no matter the season (photo above):

  1. Plastic tub filled with extra clothes and shoes for me and the kids—some warm stuff like fleece jackets hats and scarves, and some lightweight stuff. I don’t check forecasts, so this is crucial.
  2. Plastic pull-out drawer filled with emergency supplies and snacks. This is the bin that gave our car the nickname, “the apocalypse mobile.” This bin may at any time include first aid, water bottles, twine, granola bars, extra tooth brushes, sunscreen, jerky, plastic forks and spoons, plastic bags large and small, extra cash. Who knows what we’ll run into?
  3. Giant sun umbrella. This was a $50 investment after we were at the beach with some cousins-of-cousins who owned the beach with a sun umbrella. Now I keep it with us all the time for sports events, fall-festival downpours, and the occasional snow picnic (below).
  4. Two picnic blankets—one that folds and zips up with a carry handle and is water-resistant, and one fleece one that also doubles as a kid-warmer.
  5. A pack of diapers and wipes.

Snow beach party. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what I prep the car with for summer:

  1. Swimsuits and beach towels and additional extra clothes, because we go through more changes of clothes when sand and water are involved.
  2. Beach toys. The usual stuff plus some old gardening equipment, yogurt containers, and a Neti pot. Weird stuff make good beach toys.
  3. A giant box of granola bars and extra water bottles. Making sure the gremlins are fed and watered at all times is critical—and let’s be real: I melt down from hanger just as much as they do. We like Nature Valley crunchy honey oat bars and whatever the cheapest box of Larabars is. I found the best prices this year from jet.com.
  4. Parks passes that allow us to have parking privileges for the season without stopping at a kiosk or waiting in a line.
  5. Sand sports games like koosh tennis and a giant soft Frisbee. These are new additions this year, and are mostly aspirational. I’m still trying to find the ideal sand-tennis partner.
  6. One or two fold-out camp chairs.

Here’s what I throw in the car the morning of:

  1. A squishable cooler with a bunch of cut-up fruit and protein (mango, blueberries, watermelon, sausage, pizza, chicken and rice, etc.).
  2. A bunch of water bottles (more than the number of people in the car).
  3. The biggest game-changer this year, with me being on my own with the baby and the boys (last year my husband had time off for paternity leave), is hiring a summer nanny to come with us each time we go. Below is Tris with the baby at Cape Lookout State Park. She took the Fairy Pig on a walk down the beach to get her to take a nap, but first she got excited about the rocks from Goonies. Without help, I would have been trying to figure out how to take the boys to the state-park bathroom while the baby screamed and crawled under the bathroom stalls and the boys freaked out about mosquitoes and I yelled, “GET OVER IT AND GO TO THE BATHROOM, NOWWWW!” No longer.

Here's Why We're Surviving. MomsicleBlog

Then we all get in the car.

I like to leave by 9 a.m., because every minute after 9 a.m. is like telling the entropy gods that we are easy bait they should destroy us. So I yell “GET IN THE CAR” a few times.

No He Doesn't Use This Seat. MomsicleBlog

I tell the boys they can have a granola bar when they’re buckled in. Boy Woww, the three-toed sloth, gets the phone for screen time until we start driving. Suddenly he’s very fast. I have no idea why K-Pants hasn’t figured out that this is wildly unfair, and I don’t care. Hopefully it will last.

We're There. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we get there:

  1. Everyone helps carry something (we do it all in one trip—that’s a must). [I just wanted to say “that’s a must,” because it sounds so blog-expert.]
  2. I get 15 minutes of set-up time when the kids can’t ask me questions or talk to me. I like to have the umbrella set up, the cooler under it, the picnic blankets out, and the bag with towels and clothes somewhere safe from getting splashed or sandy.

Then we chill out on the sand. The kids play and build stuff. They fight less at the beach. I shove food at them. When they do fight I tell them to figure it out—and it’s much easier for them to solve problems or get distracted at the beach than at home. I’m tired of solving their problems, and the beach is the place where they do it themselves, sort of.

Beach Problems. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we leave:

  1. An hour before we go I warn the boys, in the vain hope that they won’t melt down. But they always melt down when we leave. I don’t care anymore. Not caring has been a nice game-changer.
  2. I pack up our stuff while our nanny takes care of the baby and helps me if the baby isn’t too fussy. The boys don’t really have jobs at the end of the day. People look over and think, “Kids these days are so spoiled. Look at that mom! She’s picking up everything!” Once again, I don’t care. What do I have to prove? K-Pants and Boy Woww have been out in the sun all day without a rest or nap break and if you poke them just right they’ll turn into psychotic spawn of Satan. I would rather clean up and work on their entitlement issues another day.

Here’s what happens when we get home:

  1. The boys watch shows basically until bedtime. We stop to feed them leftovers. They do bedtime routine stuff. They melt down in blazing balls of fire.
  2. I unpack the cooler and refill it with clean cloth napkins, silverware, and plastic trash bags, so we’re ready.

It all sounds like a lot, I guess, but really all I need to do the day-of is pack the cooler and the water bottles. And I am so happy when we go to the water; and the boys are so happy; and the baby gets to explore instead of wandering the house looking for me like a forlorn puppy.

I will do anything to get to the beach.

And then all of the other days, when we’re not at the beach, I can look at the car and think “If we needed to have a beach party right now, we could.”

Beach Time. MomsicleBlog

 

 

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5 responses to “The Minutia Behind Unstructured Summer Adventure Days

  1. Your vehicle has inspired me! You have your car ready 365 days a year for ANYTHING to happen! The apocalypse will be a breeze for you. I’ll start working on my apocalyptic vehicle tomorrow thanks to this awesome blog 😉👌🏻

  2. Hi Evelyn, your articles make me feel like I am a normal mother, and so are my kids! We also have lots of meltdowns, unanticipated outcomes etc. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I get insights for raising my kids.

  3. I’ll spare you advice, well, because I’m a semi-young first time mom with anxiety. So, well, I have none, ha! But I can only suggest you put bring along some floss with your toothbrush and toothpaste.
    But on a serious note, isn’t it amazing knowing you can just hop on in the car and go for a day trip to the beach? I live for that!
    Great job, mom!

  4. I love how well you have mastered being prepared for the end of the world, and how well you know what to bring and do for you and the kids. Summer adventures are necessary for the soul, and how lovely to have the preparation be as low-stress as possible!
    Also, I am so honored to have privileges! Look out, because I plan to head to your house soon for a porch cocktail and bring along my No Drama Discipline for eye candy. Isn’t it something that no amount of good advice/books in the world ever leads to daily fireworks, and only comes across as an admission of a falling short? Not helpful, only demeaning….in spite of the best intentions.

  5. Pingback: In the End, It Was Not the Summer of Postpartum Depression | momsicle

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