Life is a Beach

My husband Tim once took our girls to Florida a week ahead of my joining them. Kaia and Audrey, ages 7 and 5, claimed they never got out of their swimsuits, not once. In the mornings, they went from bed straight into the motel pool, then the ocean—stopping only to eat—and back into bed at night. In their swimsuits. For a week.

Why bother changing? It’s a waste of time when the pool and ocean await their indulgence.

There’s nothing like a vacation for relaxing, revamping, revitalizing, and rejuvenating. Especially on the beach. For 15+ years, my kids had the distinct privilege of free lodging at their Grandma and Grandpa’s Sandy Shoes Motel in Melbourne, Florida.

Almost yearly we made our home there for one-week or two-week stays, either at Christmas, spring break, or in June, after school was out.

There’s no end to beach holiday benefits:

  • It creates memories for the family chronicles, both good and bad (from surfing and sipping 7-Eleven Slurpees to falling into prickers or getting stung by jellyfish)
  • It fosters appreciation for nature–pelicans, sea turtles, water, and shells
  • It inspires creativity in architecture through building sandcastles
  • It’s conducive to seashore walks and shell collecting 
  • It inspires crafts and artwork, from tie dye T-shirts to candles made from shells (which I still have) to shell and driftwood mobiles
  • A day of activity in wind and waves induces deep sleep
  • It provides plenty of material for producing family scrapbooks of favorite pictures that capture our times together

Speaking of which . . . I loved scrapbooking after being introduced to it. I jumped in full force. I bought all the scrapbooking tools and papers. I pored over the family pictures, selecting and arranging them into double spread pages. As my kids got older, I found snatches of time to work on these between running errands, carpooling, and cooking.

One time, after finishing a complete album and rather proud of myself, we drove to Michigan for the weekend to see my side of the family. My sister-in-law presented us with a photo booklet she had created herself—online! She did in an hour what I had just spent 20+ hours doing. I deflated.

That was my first introduction to places like Snapfish and Shutterfly where you can easily point-and-click your way to a brand new memory book with uploaded pictures. For years, she sent us lovely books for each Michigan vacation at the cottage. I still love looking through them.

Those books made my scrapbooking efforts seem laborious and outdated. But after trying the online method, I realized that I preferred scrapbooking “live”—holding pictures in my hand, experimenting with layouts. I liked the human touch, the imperfect handwritten labels that personalized each page. 

Sea turtles are a common site in June on Florida beaches. We saw them often when we walked the shore after midnight.

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but I like the homemade aspect that can’t compare to shiny, polished books that come in the mail.

But the point is—it’s great to capture the memories and experiences in a book, no matter how you get it done. Relishing fun vacation times leads to gratitude, especially since the rest of life sometimes can’t compete with those fond memories.

That’s because life IS a beach. Not just a happy holiday, but full of flinging sand, stinging saltwater, and unexpected wave slaps–metaphorically speaking. Just like life is a doughnut, a roller coaster, and a garden . . . 

But today I’m celebrating pure fun at the beach. Family fun. Good memories. Please indulge me. I invite you to share your own memories below. Wherever they took place.

Our pilgrimages to the Florida beach started early. 

Audrey, 11 months old, 1992
Kaia, queen of the Sandy Shoes Motel pool at age 3–perhaps in one of the swimsuits she wore for a week straight?

You’re never too young to look cool after a long day on the beach.

Audrey, almost 2, in her new outfit. 1993

In 1996, we went to Florida for Christmas. Colin, my third child, was only 3 months old.

It’s not enough to tie dye at home for neighborhood art fairs. Tim started a Florida tradition, too, in the motel parking lot. This is something you can get away with when your parents run the motel.

Audrey and her cousin Megan standing with Tim, 1996

We found a sand shark on the beach. Colin wasn’t too happy about it. Not that he knew what it was.

Kaia–7, Audrey-almost 5, Colin–3 months, 1996

These may not be the greatest pictures, quality-wise, but they still evoke great memories. These are Colin and Jeff in 1999 and 2002. 

Tim gets into the fun, too. 

One thing I could never get pictures of was watching the sea turtles. Whenever we were there in June, we’d go down to the beach at midnight and walk the shore, searching for mama sea turtles crawling out of the water onto the sand to dig holes for laying their eggs. We had so much fun doing this, but cameras with flash were forbidden–the rangers saw to that. So no visual proof we were ever there.

In 2006, we took Tim’s parents to a “secret place” for their 50th wedding anniversary: Tybee Island, Georgia. We had a beach house 2 blocks from the ocean, and stayed there with Tim’s siblings and their kids. Cousin time! 

One of my scrapbook pages, with cousins Megan & Travis.

For spring break 2007, we took a family trip to Disney World (more on that later). But first we spent several days on the Sandy Shoes Motel beach and took a ride down the Banana River on a pontoon boat. It was a lovely ride . . . until we started sinking. But we survived and made our way to an island where we had lunch and explored.

Most of the following pictures (except the ones she’s in) are taken by Kaia, self-designated family photographer. She’s much better at picture-taking than I am. Later, Audrey followed in her footsteps. 

DISCLAIMER: These photos looks better in my album. These are actually pictures of pictures because they weren’t digital then.

One of my favorite pictures of my 4 kids, ages 17, 15, 10, & 8. In 2007.

I’ve always loved swimming in the ocean and diving into waves. It was a blast doing it with the kids. When I wasn’t in the water, I’d watch them from the beach, happy that everybody was having a great time. 

One day, after one of these great times, I tucked the boys into bed. “Man,” I said, “you guys really had a fun day.”

Colin started whining. “I had sand in my eyes, saltwater in my face and down my throat. It was terrible.”

If I hadn’t witnessed his great day myself, I would’ve felt sorry for him. But I knew better.

Does this look like a kid having fun?

Colin, age 10, 2007

How about this kid?

Jeffrey, age 8, 2007

Here’s another one of my favorite pictures. Doesn’t this look like a photo you might see as an ad for . . . Coke? Or Pepsi? Or Dr. Pepper? Ah . . . as refreshing as a day at the beach . . .

Best buddies Colin and Jeff, ages 10 & 8. 2007

After a long day at the ocean, we’d sometimes go to my sister-in-law’s house and jump in the jacuzzi. Apparently, one can never have enough water.

These are two other favorites pics of mine, can’t decide which . . . 

Kaia, Audrey, Colin, & Jeffrey–17, 15, 10, & 8. 2007

Even when not building sandcastles or swimming, we’re at the beach for something or other–including portraits. Kaia insisted.

Not the best family portrait, but who wants perfection? It’s memories we’re after. Here are the 6 of us in our various moods, then a cousin portrait with Megan, Travis, Ellen, and Bradley.

Of course, beach life wouldn’t be complete without a beach birthday party. In 2003, Tim’s mom threw a Sponge Bob beach party for 5-year-old Jeffrey. (See previous post.) 

Tell me about your own favorite family vacation memory–beach or otherwise.

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


14 thoughts on “Life is a Beach

  1. Fun! Thanks for taking us to the beach with you. When I was young we had few vacations, but in my teen years, several family reunions in South Dakota and Colorado created great memories and lasting love of extended family.
    We took several road trips—my husband, sons and I—and two of our favorites were to the east coast and to Montana. Always in the fall, because we homeschooled and could. They were precious days.

    1. The flexibility to travel any time is definitely an advantage of homeschooling! Also, I’m glad you were able to attend the family reunions so you could get to know your extended family.

    1. Our happiest family vacations have been spent on a small lake in Boulder Junction, WI. Good times, good times! The resort was American plan, so 2 meals a day were served in the dining room. What a way for mom to get a relaxing vacation! Fishing, swimming, reading on the porch…. Just doing a lot of nothing! Thanks for sharing the great family photos! What a joyful time!

  2. We stopped by the Sandy Shoes in 1996 on our way to General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale. Jenny age 11, John 7, Michael 4. We walked down to the beach to see the sea turtle tracks and I remember when we pulled up to the motel Tim was standing outside tie-dying. Good memories.

    1. Ah, yes, I remember hearing about that. I guess you can’t escape us no matter how far from Wisconsin you go!

  3. Our lives mirror each other’s in amazing ways. My father lived near Melbourne for a while in Satellite Beach–just a mile straight down the sidewalk to the beach. We loved the carefreeness of visiting there, enjoying the water, the sand, and just being together. We were sad when they sold the place to move further inland in Florida, several hours from the beach.
    We are thankful to have relatives who built a cabin by Michigan’s Lake Michigan beach–just a mile down the trail and over the sand dunes, and you’re staring at the loveliest views. Haven’t made it there as a family in a few years, but between the days in the sand and the nights by the campfire, I can’t think of a more relaxing get-away. (The water’s usually too cold for me to take the plunge, but walking in the tide is perfect.) Just wish the ferry were a bit cheaper so we could get over there faster and more often!

    1. Sounds like you have plenty of water memories, from Michigan sand dunes to Florida beaches–similar to our family excursions. My in-laws eventually left the motel and moved inland, too. End of an era. But we still go to Michigan on Lake Macatawa where the water is much warmer than Lake Michigan!

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