Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sand, Sun and More Sand

I have five amazing kiddos. My oldest is 13 and the youngest is 4. We go halfway across the country once every two years to visit Real and her family and a whole bunch of other people. On the opposite year we try to make it to the beach. This year is a beach year. I have a few tips for those of you who will be going to the beach or other sandy location this summer.

First, sunscreen is a must (duh), but you will also want to pack the baby powder. Wet sand is sticky and tough to get off of hands when it is time to eat and feet when you need to get back into your sandals. When applied to sandy skin and rubbed a bit, the baby powder will take the moisture off of the skin and the sand will fall off! You will need to apply a good amount so get the big one.

Second, you must bring drinks and lots of them! Each person has a large reusable water bottle that we fill before we leave and we bring another gallon of water with us to the beach. When we are at home outside of meal times, my kids drink water. Luckily, they all like ice water and no one complains. However, at the beach I sweeten the pot. The deal is if the kids drink their entire water bottle by the time lunch is over, then they can have Gatorade after lunch. Getting the powdered Gatorade in the individual sleeves makes it easy to fill their reusable bottles. I do not recommend trying to get a large bottle and pour it into the drink containers; one little spill and you are in for a sticky mess! Or a little sand in that big bottle and suddenly it is much less appealing. Disposable single serving bottles are an option but my crunchy side hates all of the wasted packaging. With the amount of boogie boarding, running around, body surfing, wave skimming, swimming, ball playing and general horsing around my kiddos do, I think they need to electrolytes and the extra calories.

Third, snacks! I often tease my 13 year-old son that if he went to public school and could not eat during class, he would starve to death between breakfast and lunch. This is only amplified at the beach. Our favorite healthy beach snacks are seedless grapes and what my kids call granola pouches. A granola pouch is homemade granola put into a 3x4 inch baggie that they sell at craft stores. The kids can open the top and pour the granola into their mouth without getting the contents sandy. You can also do this with trail mix but be careful using one with chocolate because on a hot day the chocolate will melt making it hard to get out of the bag.

Other snacks we enjoy at the beach are:

Bait and Dip. Each person gets a small container of peanut butter, a few pretzel rods and a sandwich sized container with a handful of goldfish snacks in it. The idea is to go fishing by baiting your hook with some sticky peanut butter and then trying to pick up the goldfish with the rod. You end up chasing those last few fish around the container and that always gets a few laughs. The boys have always really enjoyed this game/snack and it gets them to sit on the blanket for a few minutes and take a break.

Chocolate covered snacks. For this snack we put some chocolate chips in a plastic container with a lid. When someone wants a snack their container out of the cooler and stick it in the sun to melt it. If the sun is nice and hot, melting only takes a few minutes. Then they dip strawberries, cherries with a stem, pretzel rods or anything you can put on a skewer into the chocolate. Yummy!

Another word about snacks... I pack everything I can in individual containers with lids (reusable when possible). Everything is labeled with people's name with Sharpie on masking tape. This prevents fighting over who got more, allows the person to reseal the contents and come back to it, keeps the sand out (hopefully) and prevents people from mindlessly eating the entire snack. Also, if someone gets sand in one portion, the entire snack is not ruined.

Another rule of ours is only Mom gets food out of the cooler and bags. One set of sandy hands can ruin an entire loaf of bread, a bag of chips or put sand on everyone's plate.

Meals. The beach is surrounded by food. Most of it is unhealthy (Never ask for the nutritional breakdown of a dinner plate sized funnel cake with whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, powdered sugar and sprinkles.), some of it is unappetizing (Deep fried cheesecake, anyone?) and all of it is horribly expensive ($3 for a 16-ounce bottle of water, really?) Plus, hunting food can take a big bite out of your time at the beach. With our big family, we can easily spend over $100 on a meal and take over an hour to hunt it down. Instead, we try to rent a condo with a kitchen. This has not always been an option. One time I cooked for all seven of us in a hotel with a kitchenette. Kitchenette meant a small sink, a tiny microwave, and a 2x2 foot fridge. Thankfully, I brought a crockpot, a can opener and a sense of humor! But in general, we do fine.

My beach time is greatly impacted by the amount of time it takes me to prepare food. So, I have streamlined it a bit. Maybe somethings I have learned will help you. First, find a grocer in the area with online shopping. Being able to preplan your meals, click on what you need, have someone else shop for you and you pick it up when you arrive is worth the $15 service charge. Second, lunch starts the night before. No one wants to drag all the stuff in from the beach to go get lunch. So, I take orders the night before and come in to make sandwiches or wraps while my hubby watches the kiddos. With sandwiches, I suggest using chunks of baguette or mini bagels. People often are in such a hurry to eat that their hands are not quite dry and wet bread is icky. Third, I know you are only taking it a hundred yards to the blanket but wrap everything! Seagulls will feel free to dive bomb and steal open food. A not watching tourist can bump you and leave a sandy, suntan-tasting imprint on your sandwich. A sudden wind can make it all sandy and pointless. Or someone will not want to eat right away and theirs might be a little worse for the wear by the time they get to eat it. WRAP EVERYTHING! Third, bring the crockpot! Chicken enchiladas, spaghetti, pulled beef sandwiches are a cinch to make for dinner. But be sure to make more than you would at home. All the sun, surf, and fun makes for hungry tummies!

We do not avoid the boardwalk all together. It is fun to take in the sights and sounds and tastes. But we have found that our kiddos would have a familiar dinner at the condo, then buy ice cream at a local shop and wander down the boardwalk than have to sit in a restaurant for an hour.

Plus, I do not cook every night. One night towards the week, we get the kiddos whatever they want out for dinner. Then tuck them into bed early and my hubby goes to a terrific seafood place (I always ask locals where they get seafood at. We have found some great hole in the wall places this way.) to get us take out. We sit on the patio or balcony eating out of paper cartons with a bottle of wine.

That is all of the surf and turf wisdom I have for today. I hope this helps! Hope to see you at the beach soon!


Suzie said...

Wow, great tips! I cant wait to hit the beach! However, I can't get behind the public nuts aspect. Your family eating peanut butter at the beach could likely send an allergic unsuspecting family straight to the hospital.

RealMom4Life said...

o.k. you've made me feel guilty. You do all that work to make sure your family has fun on your beach vacations.....

I, on the other hand, almost never even take my kids to the beach (and we live..what...less than 15 minutes from THREE lakes with beaches!) So...I will take your suggestions and make a trip to the beach for the kids and I.

I think I'll enjoy it more with those tips :)