Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Survived a Day at the Beach (And So Did All Nine Children I Brought With Me)

Last summer, my sister and I spent time every week at a community pool.  We also did summer movie club ($1 movies) and park days and had a great time.  But this summer, she's back to work since she's no longer pregnant ... so it's up to me to arrange fun summer outings for our five kids, plus her four, so that they don't all rot their brains just watching television for hours (which as bad as it sounds, would be a lot easier for me sometimes).

So today, we drove up to Cochiti Lake Beach -- about an hour north of Albuquerque -- and spent time at the beach.  It was my first attempt at doing something like this on my own with all nine, where water and no lifeguards are involved (I remember when we just had our first three and I didn't even like to take them to the beach by myself ... but I got over it since I don't love sitting around the house all the time).  Before we left, though, I had a good talk with all the big kids and explained to them I needed their watchful eyes to help me keep track of the little kids.  They did a good job.

And we prayed together as a group for safety! and fun.  God answered both prayers.

Anyway, this was our first time spending any time at Cochiti Lake Beach.  It was surprisingly nice, considering it's a man made lake (as it seems many of them are here in the desert) created by damming the Rio Grande.  The water was generally clear, though there was a little algae as most lakes seem to get (in my experience) and the beach part was all sandy and nice.  In the water, the sand was pretty rocky in the swimming area, but one end was more sandy and the kids kept spending most of their time down there unless they kept their shoes on (flip-flops).

The kids were thrilled to discover a crawdad (I guess?) in the water and grossed out by seeing a cicada walking across our beach blanket.  I snapped some pictures and then realized how gentle and slow he was, so I kindly picked him up and moved him elsewhere so the kids could stop grossing out ... hence making them gross out more because I was actually touching it.  Oh well.

Yes, this is me, holding a cicada.  No biggie.
Anyway, we got there early-ish.  We left town about 8:45am, but had to make a couple stops for ice and a swimming pool.  Yeah, that second one doesn't make a lot of sense when I write it either, but I had an idea to provide a swimming area for E in the shade, so she'd be less likely to burn.  Plus, when my kids were younger, large bodies of water terrified them, so I figured she'd appreciate a smaller container of water.  Turns out she loved the pool, but she was pretty happy at the water's edge in the lake, too.  So one provided her with shady, wet entertainment, but the lake was nice in short spurts (again, to avoid burning).

Speaking of burning, only one kid got burnt -- J.  She was too impatient to wait for me to put on her sunscreen, so she had one of her cousins do it and they were apparently not thorough enough on her back.  She got fried.  It's bad.  (Made worse by the fact she has to wear tight-fitting dance clothes for dress-rehearsal this evening and the recital tomorrow.)

We sustained only one injury.  S.  She was dragging our ice chest (on its wheels) and then it somehow ran over her toe and bent her toenail back pretty good.  That sort of put a damper on her day, but she was more willing to sit around and help with E because she was afraid to get that toe wet.

I planned to leave there by 1:00pm (after the picnic lunch I packed) to be back in time for J to shower and get ready for the dress rehearsal.  We started packing things up around 12:20pm and I think we were fully loaded into the van by 12:50pm.

There had been gusts of wind all morning.  A couple of them sent our umbrella tumbling and blew some other stuff around the beach, but nothing major.  Then just as we were getting into the van to leave ...

That was our shade structure for the day -- where we were eating lunch just an hour before this.
I managed to snap this picture with my cell phone and this wasn't even at the craziest part of the wind gust.  There was a wall of sand blowing at us and we could hear the sand bits pelting the outside of the van hard.  The kids were saying things like, "Look at that other family!" and "There goes all their stuff!" and "Ouch, I'm glad we're not out there ... that would hurt our legs!"  And I said, "I think we loaded up to go in the nick of time!"

Other families were dropping to the ground and curling into a ball to avoid being sandblasted -- and all their stuff was miles away by the time this particularly lengthy gust grew quiet. 

So then we left.  I declared this beach a "morning beach" and said next time we'll bring breakfast and leave before lunch.  This was too close!  Here in the desert, the windiest parts of the day are afternoon when it gets warmer.

But overall, it was a successful day.  We'll do this again more this summer.

My haiku inspired by the day:
Sun, Lake, Sand, Sunscreen
Nine kids and me, Picnic Lunch
Fun Day at the Beach

A few more photos for you...


  1. Wow! The wind really did come up. So good that you were packed up before the blast. Such a good idea for E to have her own private pool.
    I really admire you for taking on this venture.

  2. You're very brave to take that many kids--thank goodness you have some helpful olders to make it slightly less scary. Still--nice work! And it's so cute seeing E doing all these older-baby things, like playing in a pool and on the shore.

    Oh and yeah, thank goodness you weren't stuck in the sand storm. That would've probably messed up the day. Sorry about the toe, S! That sounds painful. :/

  3. I'm impressed! It looks like a nice lake... cleaner than most of the lakes around here.

    Cicadas - blech!!!