Category Archives: Vacation & Travel

Sand Toys

Construction Time

Construction Time

Our kids are 18, 15, and 11.  Almost every year we spend a week at the beach, and most years my sister-in-law’s family is also there, including my two nieces—now 14 and 16.  And for the last 18 years, there has been this green, vinyl drawstring bag from Benetton right there with us, a holdover from my wife’s days as a trendy teen in the ‘80s.  The bag holds the toys:  Shovels. Buckets. Rakes. Sand molds. Boats.
Though the contents have evolved over the years as new toys were added, as some disappeared into the surf or under the sand, and as others wore out and were thrown away, the Benetton bag has been a constant.  But there’s one problem:  Although no one has ever accused me of being a neat freak, sand that finds its way anywhere but actually on the beach is my proverbial kryptonite—an odd confession from a 30+ year volleyball player, I know.  Perhaps I need help—or perhaps the sand just needs to stay where it belongs.

So for years I have more or less hated that Benetton bag.  At the end of each day, someone has to carry the awkward bag full of toys that you can never get completely clean as you come off of a beach.  Then there’s always the decision:  Take the bag back to the room or leave it in the back of the van?  Either way, sand is going to wind up somewhere it has no business being.  If it gets on the floor of the condo, it will then find its way all over the unit.  If it gets on the floor of the van, traces will still be showing up months later when I am looking for the ice scraper.  It’s the Kobayashi Maru of beach vacations.
On the beach, it has been years since our now-18 year old has had any interest in playing in the sand.  Castles and canals are all in her past.  And this year, for the first time, our 15 year old and her two cousins spent all week playing in the waves and hanging out under the umbrella with books without ever touching the sand toys .  Our son is now the only one.  He once again spent hours each day on complex sand engineering and construction, drawing his grandfather, his parents, and temporary friends made on the beach  into his projects whenever he could.  I commented that if everyone worked as hard at their jobs as that boy works in the sand, we would do anything.

So on our last day at the beach, I wound up carrying the accursed green back to the van, trying not to get sand on my driving-home clothes.  But on the way across the parking lot I wondered how many more summers the boy will use them.  And I realized:  I’m going to miss that green bag.


The Green Bag of Sand Toys


Filed under Finding Peace, Transitions, Vacation & Travel

Finding a New Balance at Disneyland

25 years ago…15 years ago…even 3 years ago, our approach to a theme park vacation resembled a battle plan.  We (whether there were 2, 3, 4, or 5 of us) were at the park gate by opening and we pushed ourselves all day.  Our goal:  to maximize time for rides, shows, and sometimes even parades until it was time to leave, often after the fireworks.  Then I would usually carry whoever had fallen asleep from the shuttle bus back to our room.  Sounds relaxing?  Of course not.  Even though we had a GREAT time, afterwards we needed a vacation to recover from our vacation.


Checking out the map

Now the kids are 18, 15, and 11.  And I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down, to appreciate more & chase less.  So when Mrs. DadKnowsBetter was invited to attend this year’s Disney Social Media Moms Conference at Disneyland, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  The conference was set up to include a mix of participant activities, family activities, and free time.  Our plan:  Mrs. DKB would focus on all of the conference activities, and we would all be together for the family activities and for free time in the parks.  While she was conferencing, I would manage the herd.

We still got to the gates more or less at opening each morning.  But with 4 days to visit 2 parks, we tried a slower, more comfortable pace.  For the first time ever, we even went to the room one afternoon for re-charge time before heading back to the park for the evening.

I am in no rush for my kids to get older–something upon which I am reflecting quite a lot with only a few months before our oldest heads off to college later this year–but that does not mean I can’t appreciate how much easier this trip to Disney was compared to travelling with younger kids.  Maybe the kids aren’t the only ones who are growing up….

Good times.



Note:  I did not receive any compensation or consideration related to any part of this post.  Mrs. DKB paid the standard registration fees to participate in the DisneySMMoms Conference; the rest of us accompanied her to Disneyland from April 10-14, 2014 at our own expense.

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Filed under Blogging, Dad Takes A Break, Places to Go, Vacation & Travel

A Call For A Little Decency


On the beach!

Our family just returned from a GREAT week in Ocean City, Maryland.  We always enjoy our time there, and having visited almost every year since 1979, I have seen family-friendly improvements implemented in almost all aspects of the town.  There are many more kid-friendly options for lodging and dining.  Several competing grocery stores have moved in.  In a major safety renovation, the city has installed pedestrian islands between traffic lanes on the main highway that runs through the entire city.  In my opinion, Ocean City grows into an even better option for families each year.

But there is one flaw that I believe has become more and more anti-family, particularly over the last decade:  T-shirt shops.

Yes, I said, “T-shirt shops.”

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed browsing through t-shirt shops at the beach.  It used to be that the relatively few shirts that might been of any concern for parents featured beer ads or ambiguous sexual inuendoes.  Instead, many shirts advertised the town, depicted movie or television characters, or offered innocent jokes.  My personal favorite purchases in the early ’80s reflected my enjoyment of Ocean City, my appreciation of the art (?!) that was The Dukes of Hazzard, and my support for Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins (along with a corresponding hatred of the Cowboys).  But the world has changed.

Shirts hanging outside of these same shops now brag about illegal drug use–in words and images.  Some make explicit proclamations about casual sex; they celebrate treating others–especially women–as objects, marginalizing the importance of emotional attachment.  Others joke about violence and/or racism.  For perspective, there is no doubt that such shirts violate typical public school dress codes for content.

So since my kids have been old enough to read, we have avoided going near these shops.  We have even abandoned what used to be annual trips to the boardwalk.  Am I just getting old and uptight?  I don’t think so–at least not when it comes to this.  I recognize that a reasonable counter-argument might be that people wear those shirts, so kids may see them anyway.  But for me there are two critical differences between what I would consider a tasteless shirt on an individual and dozens of them hanging outside of a shop:

First, my kids are well aware that not everyone lives according to a single set of values.  So we can have a conversation if they notice someone wearing something I would expect them to view as inappropriate.

Second, there are other shirts hanging alongside the “adult”–How’s that for an ironic euphemism?–ones.  And those other shirts draw children’s attention with images of pop singers, Sesame Street characters, and sports.  Some of the inappropriate shirts even satirize characters children love.  Familiar images serve as attention magnets for kids, who are then exposed to offensive content.

So, assuming anyone agrees with me on this, WHAT COULD BE DONE?  Assuming laws are not already on the books, waiting to be enforced, it seems to me that a simple ordinance prohibiting PG-13 and beyond content from being displayed outside of shops or in shop windows would be reasonable and effective.  I am not an attorney, but I have to believe the same types of community standards that allow the sale of pornographic magazines–but restrict their display–could be invoked.

Mini-golf!  Good times.

Mini-golf! Good times.

In the end, there is probably more money to be made by making the boardwalk and shopping centers more welcoming to families.  Family-friendly is good business.  It’s also usually right.

Not everyone plans to visit the Maryland shore.  But we all take our kids out into the world to places where standards that I–as a dad–consider appropriate to protect children have been relaxed, or even abandoned.  If you have encountered something similar–or if you disagree with my concern–please take a moment to leave a comment sharing your perspective.


Filed under Morality, Places to Go, Vacation & Travel