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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Welcome to Hoopie Beach

I am only gone for 10 minutes. But in the time it takes me to drive to my sister’s house and back to get the beach towels, all hell has broken loose.

“Daddy! Look at me!” my daughter cries out from the shore line, where she is sitting, fully clothed, in the sub-60-degree waters of the Gulf of Mexico. “I’m peeing in the ocean!”

“Welcome to Hoopie Beach,” says my sister, resigned to the fact she and my wife have completely lost control of the situation. Just then her 2-year-old daughter scampers past us down the beach, sans underwear. I look over to see my son, still soaking-wet from falling into the water, teeth chattering, as he sits in the sand munching on a sand-covered apple slice.

Yeah, this was a great idea.

I’ve never been much of a beach person. When I was 5-years-old, my family and I went to Cocoa Beach in Florida during a Disneyland vacation, and on our first day there the tops of my feet got badly sunburned. For the rest of the week I set up camp underneath a beach umbrella, wearing a hat, t-shirt, and socks, while the rest of my family jumped and frolicked around in the surf.

Strike one.

A few years later, I was playing in the shallow waters of Ocean City, Md., when I started having a rather uncomfortable pinching feeling in a certain unmentionable area. It felt like I had fire ants in my bathing suit. The culprit: sea lice. All I remember is darting back to the hotel and jumping into a hot shower as I tried to rid myself of the tiny, crotch-invading critters.

Strike two.

By the time I’d reached college, I’d pretty much had it with the beach. I still went on spring break, but while there I spent most of the time inside a beach tent, a large cup of Dunkin Donuts and a USA Today in hand. (I was a real party animal.) The one time I dared venture out of my shelter – a mere half hour to toss the Frisbee around with my friend – I ended up getting sun poisoning so bad that the skin on my chest looked like crust bubbles on a pepperoni pizza.

Strike three—I’m out.

So when my wife and my sister suggest we take the kids down to the beach for the afternoon, I am, of course, less than enthusiastic. But then I figure, it’s the middle of winter, so the sun shouldn’t be too intense. Plus, the water’s so cold that we won’t have to worry about anyone actually going in. Then, five minutes after we get there, my son runs down to the water and falls, fully clothed, into the frigid, salty Gulf. And since we forgot to bring any towels with us, I have to make a run back to the house.

And that brings us back again to Hoopie Beach.

We stick around for another 45 minutes or so, three adults chasing after four very wet, sticky, sandy kids, as the other beach-goers glare at us disapprovingly. Meanwhile, the powdery white sand is finding its way into our lives forever, thanks in part to my son, who still thinks all things are either meant to be eaten or thrown.

Or both.

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Barely Surviving at 30,000 Feet

“My nuts are getting a little sun!” announces my daughter, loud enough for everyone in the cramped cabin of the DC-10 to hear. We were on a flight to Florida to visit my sister, and my daughter wanted to show me how she had carefully placed her peanuts on the windowsill next to her, not wanting to eat Delta’s generous offering in one fell swoop.

Hence the nuts-in-the-sun declaration.

As pleasurable experiences go, flying with young kids ranks right up there with a colonoscopy. It all starts with the preparation, which begins weeks before the actual flight. It’s like planning for an expedition to Mt. Everest, really. You have to make sure you have everything you need to handle any possible situation, just so you can avoid potential disaster at 30,000 feet.

First you have to pick out and pack the kids’ clothes—a difficult task, which, thank goodness, my wife takes on. I’m in charge of the Toy Selection Process, which, although infinitely more interesting, can be just as tricky. You have to make sure you select toys that are a) lightweight, b) relatively quiet, and c) will be able to keep the kids’ attention for the duration of the flight. For my daughter, who prefers stuffed animals, this is pretty easy. My son, on the other hand, likes to play with small trucks and trains and Matchbox cars, which can create quite a ruckus when smashed together (which they most certainly will be) and which will almost certainly end up on the floor of the plane, where, due to the spacious seating, are virtually impossible to pick up again until the flight is over.

Our one must-have travel item is the portable DVD player. My kids, who immediately become zombies when confronted by glowing rectangles of any kind, will stay completely motionless and quiet as long as they’re watching a movie. It’s a little scary actually. Sometimes we have to take their pulse just to make sure they’re still breathing.

On this particular flight, we also had to bring along a stroller and a car seat, which only enhanced the misery of the experience.

Getting all this gear, plus our carry-on bags and our kids, through the airport is an adventure in itself. And being the closest thing resembling a man in our family, it’s usually up to me to do most of the heavy lifting. At one point, while rushing to make our connection, I was carrying a backpack, my daughter’s carry-on suitcase, the ridiculously oversized car seat, and my daughter herself, who was riding on my shoulders because she was too tired to pull her suitcase.

I felt like a pack animal or, more appropriately, a Sherpa.

Going through security with kids is where the real fun begins. Suddenly you feel like the guy who snuck 20-plus items into the 8-items-and-under aisle, while a line of annoyed people impatiently wait for you to check out. It took about 16 of those big plastic bins to cart all of our stuff through the scanner. Then, after we finally made it through, we had to wait for them to check my son’s sippy cup for explosive liquids. Little did they know the potentially explosive device was my son.

Once you get to the gate, you start to sense the hatred radiating at you from all directions. Although they appear to have oh-your-kids-are-so-cute smiles on their faces, what the other passengers are really thinking is, How dare you bring children onto an airplane! The nerve! Your snot-nosed brats better not disturb me whilst I read Sky Mall magazine. 

As you board the plane, the glares become even more menacing as you try to make your way to the back of the plane down that 6-inch wide aisle, your carry-on bags and the car seat coming precariously close to the heads of the oh-so-privileged in First Class. Those jerks.

On the flight down, my kids were uncharacteristically well-behaved. On the way back, however, we ran into the perfect storm. Our flight was delayed and we found ourselves up in the air right smack in the middle of dinner time with two hungry, tired kids. My daughter, unbeknownst to me, scarfed down our only form of sustenance: a container of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers.

Then the DVD player battery ran out, and for the last hour or so, it was everything I could do to keep my napless, ravenous son under control. During the remainder of the flight, he let out a few shockingly loud yelps, as he is wont to do, and he was relentless in kicking the seat in front of him. But other than that, I somehow managed to keep him from eating his tray table until we landed.

I think that’s worth some bonus frequent flyer miles in itself, don’t you?

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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