October on the Coast

Here on the islands, this time of year is a favorite for many of the locals, in large part because it still feels much like summer, but the crowds are gone.

We have the islands mostly to ourselves, y’all.

(Not that we don’t love you: we do. But we prefer not to wait in line for ninety minutes before we eat dinner or purchase toiletries.)

(And y’all don’t know where you are going sometimes. Just saying.)

(Not that I know where I’m going either in…oh, say Toledo, for instance. Well, actually I kind of do, since I’ve been there several times. But take Kansas City. I’m pretty sure I don’t know my way around…well, either of them now that I think about it, so I’d be a bad tourist driver in both Kansas City and Kansas City.)

IMG_9029We celebrated Homecoming this month, which included a week of themed dressing. I now feel like a costume coordinator who’s just realized she just doesn’t have the right skill set for her profession.

But on the upside, I was able to get both my boys to wear bowties for Southern Preppy day. Honestly, for the first five years of living in the Carolinas, I thought bowties were kind of weird. One of our pediatricians came in wearing one the first time we met, and it was highly distracting. I’d never seen a bowtie-clad medical professional in real life before. But I’ve grown fond of them over the years, so I’m glad my boys wore them. They both claim they have no desire to wear them again, but I attribute this to their opposition to neckwear in general.

IMG_9090Here’s some Spanish moss. It really has nothing to do with fall in general or October in particular, but I did take the picture in October, so there you go. 

IMG_9009This is dune grass that, you guessed it, was photographed in October. Something about the color just makes me think of autumn.

IMG_9056IMG_9053Sunsets on the nearby waterways are often glorious. These were taken during a recent October shindig, the kind you walk away from with full stomachs, full hearts, and really dirty feet if you happen to wear sandals.

(Truth in blogging here: They were so bad I actually took a picture because I’ve never seen my feet look like that before. Don’t worry; I won’t show you. I just want evidence in case I ever need it for…something.)

We are getting the beginnings of the color changes that are spread large over so many of your hometowns right now. But it’s also coastal Carolina, so while October is hayrides and pumpkins and cider here, it’s also still

100_8597girls seeking shells and

100_8612boys wielding boards and

100_8641men in search of the last warm waves.

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Things I Love About Island Living: #13

100_8595I love that I am everywhere reminded

IMG_5814100_8582of the beauty

100_6955100_6344of light on water.

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Because Not Every Day Can Be a Ten & Not Everyone Can Live by a Dairy Queen

100_4372This last summer, I was having a conversation with a fellow mother in the school parking lot. We were talking about our children and their excitement or decided lack thereof about going back to school. While both of my boys would gladly never darken the doors of an educational institution again (or so they say with the amount of conviction one can have when one believes one’s own lie), her daughter and mine were both looking forward to the social aspect of school.

And then she said something that I loved so much I asked her if I could use it. She was beginning to grow weary of trying to come up with summer activities for her daughter, who, like almost every kid in America it seems, can be quick to cry “Boredom!” during an unstructured day spent at home. And then, she told me what she told her daughter.

“You know, not every day is a ten.”

Then she continued, saying that not only can’t every day be a ten, but that it might even be good to have, say, a four day.

Girlfriend speaks crazy. Had any children overheard our conversation, they’d probably still be tucked in the fetal position.

But don’t you feel it? Don’t you often feel this pressure to make your children’s childhoods magical, to not be the one that ruins their chances at growing up with all of the fun that can possibly be had in a time of such opulence, in a time where every event, every party, every moment has to surpass the one before it?

I know I do.

And then when my kids grow to the age where a place or an activity loses its magic for them, I more often than not lament not that I didn’t give them that experience, but that I didn’t give it to them enough.

I’ve taken my kids to Disney twice, but I lament that I didn’t take them when they were younger, and that I didn’t take them the year we had planned to before I unexpectedly took a teaching job again, and that I may never get to take them during Christmastime so they can see the decorations.


Or here’s a fun fact about me: My kids lived with the Atlantic in their backyard for many years, and now they live on a salt marsh, and I can regularly thank God for the overwhelming blessing of that and yet still lament, almost in the same breath as the thankfulness sometimes, that I’ve never had the yard space to give them the over-the-top swing set I once saw at a birthday party.

We took our kids out West for two and a half weeks, spent several nights in an RV and saw dozens of interesting sights, but when we got back, I felt guilty that they had to entertain themselves for a good part of the next week because I needed to work.


But then, in a moment that is not lost on me, after a day of working and running various errands, I came home to find my children had spent the last five hours (literally, five hours!) cutting cardboard boxes into various forms of weaponry and running around the house battling over the fate of the universe.

Being the good mother that I am, I made them stop when I got home so I could take them to the pool for some “summertime fun.” The pool’s not Disney, of course, but having to drive there qualifies it as a structured, fun activity at least. When we arrived, however, we were turned away due to some light thunder reported in nearby areas.

Guess what the kids did as soon as we got home again?

They found another box and between battles, began adding to their arsenal of weaponry. LCB and I spent the remainder of the day finishing up work in the house, but if we suddenly departed for China, I doubt they’d have noticed.

I doubt they’d label that day as a ten if I had asked them afterward because they’ve been conditioned (not least of all by myself) to identify things like Disney trips, extended vacations, and the birthday where they got the new gaming device they’d been longing for as days that merit a ten. But perception often differs from reality, and the reality (and perhaps the irony) is I’ve rarely seen them so consumed with an activity, and I’ve rarely seen them have so much fun.

Besides, no matter how hard you try, they’ll probably want something else anyway. Case in point: Last week, a student turned in a short essay I had assigned on a local issue. In his essay, he argues that our area needs a Dairy Queen in close proximity. Okay, fair enough, but here’s the part that had me rolling with laugher. He wrote, “Think about it. Would you rather live in a house on the stinky, smelly, disgusting salt marsh without a Dairy Queen, or in a house that has a beautiful view of the Dairy Queen?”

Wow. I’m nearly consumed by my own failure now.

He probably doesn’t know or doesn’t care that I live on the stinky, smelly, disgusting salt marsh, nor the lengths I’ve gone to over the years to avoid living in places with direct views of retail buildings and neon signage. And yet, it made me think that perhaps, after all my work to try to provide a home for my kids that I’d rate as a ten, maybe their idea of a ten house is one that basks in the nighttime glow of the red Dairy Queen lights.

Ah, well. Maybe so. But just maybe, someday after my children build their perfect ten homes in the shadows of all things commercial, attempting to create “magical childhood experiences” for their children, one of my grandchildren will write an essay about her longing for a life by the sea.

While not every day can be a ten, that day would be one for me.


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