Bouncy World

On beach vacations since I was eight, our toes typically remained in the sand, except for an afternoon of mini golf or a few trips for penny candy. So, a beach vacation where the beach itself is not spectacular, means readjusting expectations.

Well, my expectations. The kids are not as tied down.

So, when the largest bouncy water slide we’d ever seen loomed into view high above us on Day One, I privately groaned. And when the one slide turned into an entire park of bouncy castle fun, I knew, reluctantly, I was doomed to miss at least a day of beach time.

One side of the park houses water slides of all sizes. No shoes. No socks. Probably not quite sanitary. The other side is home to dry bouncy adventures. Socks, please. For a dollar, we bought a pair of black socks for the nine-year-old in flip-flops. New or from the Lost and Found? I’d rather not know.

In-between the two lands – wet and dry – are two snack bars, picnic tables, beach chairs, and even cabanas for $50 a day extra. Families bring their coolers and stay the day or check into the adjacent motel for stay-and-play special weekends.

And the place, unimagined by me prior to this week, was packed.

I let my guys loose, found a chair in the sun, and opened a good book. They played for more than three hours, and would have stayed much longer. No fights. No whining. No injuries. No “can we go home now?”

One stopped by for a rest every so often. Another sat for a snack, then rushed off again, dragging his older brother with him. I only caught glimpses of the youngest racing between slides, or heard his voice yelling as he plummeted downward or calling out a challenge to whatever child waited in line behind him.

“The best part of vacation!” “We have to come back!”

As we fly home, I already miss the sun and the sand, and the possibility of every day being a good beach day. But I have to admit, Bouncy World – in all its plasticky, dirty, strange distortion of my vacation expectations – was the highlight for the boys, ready to go back in a second.

Why We Need Our Dog

We were standing at the edge of the water, the sun splashing itself against the curling waves so that the water itself sparkled. My thirteen year old son, whose freckles reappeared after a few days on the beach and whose blue eyes match the turquoise sea, leaned into me. “I don’t want to leave.”

“Me neither,” I answered with my arm around him.

“It was an awesome week.”

And we took a few last moments watching the sea together.

Two hours later, having packed up and showered, our nine year old and I sat on the Harbour island dock with our bags while my husband went back to get the older boys and lock up the golf cart. Our son wore a Kansas City Chiefs baseball hat and a fluorescent green t-shirt from last summer’s swim team. His red fox neck pillow was wrapped around his neck.

“You guys are so much fun to travel with,” I told him and couldn’t help but kiss him on the nose.

He smiled, “You and Dad are fun to travel with too.”

And when we were all together, having made our connecting flight, but nostalgic for the day we arrived eight days ago, our fourteen year old reminded us that home is not so bad, because…

“I can’t wait to see the puppy.”

The puppy who is no longer a puppy. “Poor puppy,” the boys added and were suddenly ready for vacation’s end.

 

The Best Vacation

Spring Break 2016 has ended, and I return from a week at the beach certain that it was the best vacation ever. Ideal weather. Tan but no sunburn. Lots of rest despite the roosters. Delicious lobster quesadillas for lunch three out of seven days. Softest sand on the planet between our toes. Clear blue water.

Sounds great, but “best ever” because…

Our three boys played together in the water, splashing through waves that looked too large… even larger when I was in the water with them several times a day. We dove under waves, Let them crash on our heads. They talked and laughed and made up silly games as the waves kept pummeling us.

They told stories, gave opinions, laughed more, told jokes, paused mid-sentence, dove under, and came up talking. Tireless. Fearless.

They played hours of football with Dad.

We made two styles of sandcastle. A multilevel traditional fortress and a drippy one that received a “Lovely drippy castle. Well done!” from a British accent who walked by as we completed it. They were both our best to date.

The boys read good books and talked about them. Killer Angels, Moneyball, Wings of Fire.

They helped the youngest find Orion in the night sky.

If I could have stopped time a hundred times since they were born, I would have. At each moment, I imagined I could not love them more. But then we would not have had this vacation and I would not have seen how sweet they are together at 8 and 12 and 13, how much fun they have with their brothers.

And I might not understand that “best ever” and “love more” will happen again and again, washing over us like the waves and the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

Attack of the Vacation Beasts

It is a good thing that all went well in March 2013, while on safari in South Africa. I have bad luck with vacation animals, and that was the only recent trip where the beasts were not on the attack even when our jeep got stuck a few yards from an alpha lion and his fiercer looking ladies.

Phew.

On other trips, however, there were the all-night partying roosters who never learned to wait for sunrise.

The pack of chickens, led by Geraldine, who chased me through the barn, pecking at my calves because I had not brought them grapes.

The toad that made our dog vomit five times after going after “frog’s legs” for an appetizer.

The crazy swans who swarmed every time we went near the water, sending the kids into high-decibel shrieks and the Puritans in neighboring lake homes wishing we had never come.

And now, falling asleep each night, is it the swans or the frogs honking?

I miss our dog. She may roam the halls, nails clicking on hardwood floors like an alarm clock we do not need to set, but she sleeps through the night and doesn’t bite when she is hungry.

 

I Almost Forgot

Family life stole something from me that I had almost forgotten until this week vacationing on a farm – a place where our three boys run from field to field, play Frisbee and baseball, ride ATVS across the countryside, help split wood for an afternoon…. And then sleep deeply for hours.

Each morning on the farm, I wake up to the sound of birds singing and the sun shining through the window. A cool breeze blowing across the sheets on the bed. I lay there peacefully for ten minutes, thirty or more, soaking it in.

Fresh air. Quiet.

No dog paws clicking across the hardwood floor, or growling at the bottom of the bed. “Time to go out.”

No child tugging at the blanket, morning breath in my face, by 6:00 a.m. “Mom, I’m bored!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you awake?” “Can you come downstairs?”

No list of errands.

Just me. My muscles slowly stretching. My brain turning on one thought at a time. The singing birds. The sun for a few moments before it all begins.

South Africa: Far from My Kids

I have been away from my three boys for five days now. It is the longest we have been apart, and there are still six days before I see them back home in Colorado.

When three giraffes run alongside our Land Rover, I wish they were here. They would love that. Or the baby baboon riding on its mother’s back. Or the herd of elephants playing in the water. Two tons of animal swimming gracefully, nearly disappearing under the water’s surface. A male supervises the water fight from the land. They would love racing around in the darkness searching for lions while dodging giant spider webs.

We will have to come back one day so they can experience what it feels like to finally discover where the rhino has been hiding for three days.

I hear their voices on the phone. I know my five year old is going to look taller after eleven days. I hear how much my ten year old misses his parents. I wonder if my nine year old is still misbehaving at school. Or if the talk we had before I left was enough.

I tell them about how close we were to the lions, and feel the urge to cry. Is it in the retelling of the drama of that moment? Or that I wish they’d experienced it with me?

The leopard remains in hiding, maybe saving himself for discovery by three boys on our return.

The Changing of the Guards

There is a day I dread every year, and I have wished it away since I can remember.

It’s the first day every summer when the newly trained lifeguards twirl their first whistles. It means that the veteran guards have returned to college. That the swim team has disbanded. That the neighborhood kids are all getting reacquainted with their school friends.

It shows when the new, still-in-high-school guards wear their sweatshirts in the suddenly brisk mornings. There is a melancholy in the afternoon light, as if the pool itself knows it will soon be drained, abandoned by its children with only leaves collecting and rotting on the top of the tarp that covers it.

I have nothing against the newly trained guards. I was one once myself a long time ago, eager, alert, proud to be a pool elder, empowered by my new whistle and the height of my chair.

I just know that their first day on the job is the harbinger of the changing seasons, the end of another glorious, happy summer.