Our Summer Days in Maine - We just arrived at our beach house for the week, here in Kennebunkport, Maine. This is our 16th summer in a row coming up to “the ‘bunks.” I truly can’t believe it has been 16 years! It seems like just yesterday we were packing precious little 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 we 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. We couldn’t afford a suite, we were lucky to pull off a single hotel room. We took the door off the closet and created a “nursery” for Christian (we put it back on before we left, we’re not the Rolling Stones). 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, even for a few nights.
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.” We simply adore this 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 loose change and started a vacation club account. Our ultimate goal was to be able to travel the country and the world with our family.
By the time Michael was born, in 2004, we were able to rent a house a few blocks from 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!)
Over the past 15 years, we founded our own law firm, a full-service Mediation Center, and some other businesses. We have sold some of our businesses but have kept the main ones, the law firm which bears our name, the Mediation Center and the travel agency. We had some failures, which we learned from, and forged on. Over time, we have both worked very hard and achieved enough success to allow us to pursue our passions: traveling, rowing, sailing, and private Catholic schools for our kids. We otherwise live very modest lives. We live in the same home we bought when we married 18 years ago. We spend almost nothing on things that are important to other lawyers, like cars, clothes and jewelry. I have always said, I'd rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.
We now go on several vacations a year, with our time in Kennebunkport still being our special time together. 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 Caribbean to the Mediterranean, but there's nothing quite like our favorite New England beach and the aromatic salty air.
Every summer, my first task is a big grocery run, which is necessary with all rental houses. I started out being able to walk to the little grocery store in town 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 two towns over and we each fill two shopping carts.
Dinner is easy. Anthony grills just about every evening and the rest of us make the sides. Every morning, I get up early to watch the sun rise. I like to sit on the beach with my cup of blueberry coffee and greet the glorious day all by myself. Eventually, I head back and make blueberry pancakes for my hungry boys. We like to pack up sandwiches to take to the beach. We basically walk out the door and plant ourselves in the sand and surf for the day.
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 on the Kennebunk River; hiking the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve; and of course, the intown narrated Trolley Ride (I often know more about Kennebunkport than the trolley driver -- and I do not hesitate to correct him or her -- much to my children’s chagrin). The kids spend pretty much the whole day boogie boarding, body surfing, fishing 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 little 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. It's good to know your kids have each other's backs.
For 15 years, we only went out to eat at one restaurant -- Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant, which not only had the best lobster and blueberry 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; the Bushes have a compound here in Kennebunkport. We were pretty disappointed to come up this year and find out that Bartley’s had been sold to a restaurateur from Booth Bay Harbor and had been replaced with an upscale Italian place. We haven’t been interested in going out to dinner since then, 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 enjoy local community theatre in town. This year, we will be going to the free outdoor Shakespeare Festival.
We have a few other vacations planned over the year: the Dominican Republic, Cape Cod, San Francisco, Hawaii, Disney's Grand Floridian, and Vero Beach, Florida. Not to mention Christian’s college visits.
It took a lot of perseverance, hard work, and belief in ourselves to get to the point where we can travel freely with our family. And it has all been worth it. There's nothing we'd rather do than be together as a family.
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. Whatever it is, do it as a family. Because one minute you're putting your kid in his car seat-- and in the blink of an eye, your kid is taking turns driving the car to Maine.
Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo
For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit www.lobiondopage.blogspot.com