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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Our Summer Days in Maine


We just spent the past week in Kennebunkport, Maine for our 15th summer in a row.  I truly can’t believe it has been 15 years.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing Baby Christian into his carseat to come up here for the first time, but in fact, that was August of 2001. Neither of our kids can remember a time when they didn’t go to Maine during the Summer.  I often blog about the importance of creating and maintaining traditions for your kids and grandkids.  It’s more than just a fun thing to do, it’s actually a building block for raising happy and successful adults.  (A great read if you have time is "The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” by Dr. Edward Hallowell).

There have been a lot of changes over the years but some things about our trip to Maine have remain steadfast traditions.

The first summer we came up to Kennebunkport, we only stayed for a long weekend, and we couldn’t afford a suite so we took the door off the closet and created a “nursery” for Christian (we put it back on before we left).  Somehow, that will forever be known to our kids as the year we “put Christian in the closet on vacation.”  We were still building our careers and I was only working part-time as a young lawyer, so it was a financial stretch for us to stay in such a “fancy” place.   

We made it work and we ended up falling in love with the six beautiful, pristine beaches of Kennebunkport, with our favorite being “Mother’s Beach,” and the sleepy, quaint New England village where cars actually STOP when you're in the crosswalk and life moves at about the pace of fictional Mayberry.  We vowed to come back every year.  We came home, learned to cut coupons, collected our loose change and started a vacation club account.

By the time Michael was born, in 2004, we were able to rent a house by the beach.  Michael was just 5 months old when he first came to Maine.  Four year old Christian towed him around in a little red flexible flyer wagon, which we continued to use as “beach transportation” for many years.  Yes, that was the year that I forgot to pack Michael’s clothes and had to run out to the mall for baby clothes (hey, everybody makes mistakes, don’t judge me!).

Over the past 15 years, we founded our own law firm, a Mediation Center,  and some other businesses, all of which are quite successful.  We have both worked very hard, and we live relatively modest lives, save for our passion for travel and our desire to send our kids to the best Catholic schools around.  Over the years, God has blessed us with success.  We now go on several vacations a year, with our time in Kennebunkport being my very favorite.  The first thing we do when we arrive is park the car, pile out and head straight to the ocean just to feel the waves at our feet and our toes in the sand.  We have been to many beaches from Hawaii to the Carribean but there's nothing quite like your favorite New England beach.  

Every summer, the first thing I do is make a grocery run, which is necessary with all rental houses.  I started out being able to walk into town to the village grocery store with the red wagon and haul back enough food for the week.  At some point, I had to start driving to the local supermarket.  Now, I take Michael and head for the giant Hannaford and we fill two carts; it's 20 minutes away, but it’s well worth the trip. Anthony grills just about every evening and then I pack up sandwiches to take to the beach the next day in my little cooler.  Some evenings  we will walk into town after dinner for ice cream but usually we play board games or read or watch funny movies on -- yes, it’s true -- the VCR in the house.

Our days are pretty simple -- we spend them at the beach.  I do like to get in a few of our other favorite activities -- the rides and the Boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach; kayaking the Kennebuk River; hiking the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve; and of course the intown narrated Trolley Ride (I often know more than the trolley driver and don’t hesitate to correct him -- much to my children’s chagrin).  The kids spend pretty much the whole day boogie boarding, body surfing and building sand castles.  The first time Christian was able to boogie board on his own was a major victory, complete with hundreds of photos and videos.  Anthony and I used to go in the waves to “lifeguard” him.  Now both of our kids can entertain themselves in the water or out.  One summer, my heart was in my throat as I watched Michael go INTO a wave and not come out right away; I didn’t see my older son either.  But that was because Christian had gone in to retrieve him.  Michael was able to swim back on his own with Christian kind of pushing him from behind.  Five minutes later they were both back boogie boarding like nothing had happened.  

For 15 years, we only went out to eat at one restaurant -- Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant, which not only had the best lobster in town, they accepted us with open arms when we first came in with babies.  Of course they were best known for being a favorite eatery of the Bush Family, which has a compound here in Kennebunkport.  We were pretty disappointed to come up this year and find out that the real estate had been sold to a restauranter from Booth Bay Harbor and had been replaced with an upscale Italian place.  We haven’t the heart to go out to dinner all week,  although we have had lobster roll for lunch in quite a few locales. (Hint:  the best food in town is often found at a food truck and Kennebunkport is no exception.  Check out “Ocean Rolls,” the oldest working food truck in the US -- dating back to 1961 -- currently it can be found at the corner of Ross Road and Route 1 in Kennebunk.  Great prices and delicious lobster rolls!)  We also made a new discovery, Smitty’s, a Dine-In Movie Theater in Biddeford, Maine, where we saw Mission Impossible and had quesadillas.  (Wouldn’t it be great to have a Dine in Movie Theater in Newburgh??)

Of course, time will march on when we get back -- Christian’s prep school crew team in NJ starts up August 31st, and I will be busy getting ready for Michael's return to Bishop Dunn and Christian's sophomore year of high school.  We make the most of our time together; we spent two weeks in California and Hawaii in July, and we have vacations planned this winter in the Dominican Republic and Vero Beach, Florida, all thanks to the Disney Vacation Club.  

This year’s Maine trip also includes a few days in Cape Cod, which the boys have never been to, and maybe Plymouth Rock.  Wherever we are this Summer, whether it’s Hawaii, Maine, or on our back deck -- all the hard work, all the long hours and idiot lawyers (and occasionally idiot judges) we have to deal with, it will all be worth it, as long our family can be together.

Have lots of fun this summer creating your own Summer traditions, whether it’s time at the beach, camping, backyard campfires, or outings at the park.  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo

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