Capri Sun

Suddenly it feels like summer. Not the weather so much as there’s not enough shift here to distinguish one season from the next, but more the vibe…the anticipation of summer which, like looking forward to Christmas, is a season itself. Looking forward to seasons before they arrive is half the fun. Which is why I’ve started to line up some June family fun, map out our summer road trip, search popsicle recipes, look for summer camps, create my summer reading list and practice my s’more techniques.

We dipped our foot in the shallow end of summer this past weekend by returning to one of our favorite Southwest Florida spots, the Capri Fish House on Isles of Capri.

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It delivered, as it always does, with a show of Florida’s finest sea life–shells, crabs, sea stars, a dolphin sighting and for the first time in a long time, a manatee–just a baby–that hung out near the dock for a good thirty minutes or so. The kids were getting ready to jump off the dock and then stopped when they say a large mass surface the water slowly and then go back down. Lainey made it clear that she was “NOT going in there,” and as the mass continued to surface and make its way closer to the dock, I was all “damn straight you’re not.” When we finally realized it was a manatee, I wanted to jump in and swim with the unicorn, but I held myself back.

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My favorite thing about Isles of Capri is the colors–rainbow kayaks, painted boats, buildings and fruit stands and bait shacks that don’t have to abide by the same strict must-fit-in regulations of surrounding cities (a.k.a. mine).

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New to Isles of Capri: Barbie’s Hot Springs Lagoon, best enjoyed in the nude, of course.

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We’ve been talking a lot lately about family adventures–how to make them such a natural part of your life that your kids enjoy them well through teenage years. Or is it a rite of passage to do the whole “I don’t want to go” thing when you’re 15? Our kids are all still in the “all in” phase, but I look ahead with reference to the boys when they got to Isles-of-Capri-isn’t-fun days (the blasphemy!) and to my own teenage years when–given going to Paris with my family (mind you, we were a little busted up in the family department) or sitting at home–I wanted to sit at home.

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Naturally, we do a lot with friends which makes just about any adventure fun, but I also want my kids to love just us time and not always feel a need for friends in order to have fun. For Lainey, that sometimes leaves her hanging as the little two are so compatible and run off together. I say things like, “But Mom and Dad are fun! We’re your friends!” which–in case you were wondering–elicits the eye roll of the century.When we’re in Michigan, a good portion of our trip includes cousins which is so great for Lainey–she’d really miss kids her age for that long of a period. But I’ve also heard her affectionately reflect on quiet little adventures we’ve made with just us. “Remember when it was raining at the cabin for two days and just you, me and Dash played games and watched movies? Can we do that again?”

I haven’t figured the balance of this out–just something I think about, wondering what we can be doing now to make a good foundation to preserve together time when later it’s not necessarily met with jumping up and down responses. I’ve seen far too many movie scenes where the family station wagon is all packed up to go to grandma’s, and the sulky teenager with the headphones on is refusing to go while the dad’s all “Dammit, get in the car. You WILL go to Grandma’s.” The positive unicorn in me smiles and says, “That will never be us.” But maybe it’s just part of life, and a softness for that sulky teenager will grow with time.

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This I do know: Adventure often with family. Instill such a sense of love and togetherness in these outings–whether they are road trips or picnics in the back yard–that they become the best part of life, the fountain your kids will run to drink from when life leaves them thirsty. For the record, middle school is a thirsty time. And maybe slip in a few stealthy brain-washing phrases during these adventures like, “Look how much fun we’re having! We are such a fun family! You are so happy right now!”

If all else fails, I guess there’s always “Dammit, get in the car. You WILL go to Isles of Capri, and you will LIKE it. Frolic, by golly! FROLIC! You’re having fun!”

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Hear that, Nella?

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I kid, I kid, but I do make a point to deliver a short sermon–the preacher’s daughter in me–whenever we’re blissed out on nature and I can tell everyone’s achieving a good 10 on the fun scale. “Feel that sun? That breeze? See those clouds, that sunset…smell that air? It’s heaven, isn’t it? It’s the best life has to offer. Don’t ever forget that.”

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And all God’s people said Amen.

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Leave a Comment
  1. ❤️❤️❤️
    Beautiful post mama- just what I needed to read this morning. You have such a talent with words Kelle. .

  2. Love this post and all the pictures. Be encouraged. It doesn’t have to turn into a fight with teens. My husband and I sort of have two sets of children 4 biological adult children and then three, quite a few years later, adopted children with special needs. They range in age from 4 years to 24 years and the older kids still like to go where we go. Sometimes I think we went way out of our way to make things fun and exciting to offset the challenges we faced as a special needs family. But whatever it was, we did and still do have great fun together. And if your family is anything like ours, Nella will be a draw to the rest of them as she grows. They will delight in her and her joy and uniqueness (and sometimes stubborness). She–and their need for mom’s cooking– will cause them to want to come home. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  3. Carrie Beth says:

    I love your isle of Capri posts more than anything. I’ve never had a chance to tell you this, but you and your writing are the very reason I learned how to have fun and adventure with my kids.
    I got pregnant 2 months after we got married and was the first of my friends to have kids. I was upset and dreading it and had heard people complain about their kids all my life and what a pain they were.
    I started reading your blog while I was still pregnant and was amazed at the joy you had in being a mother.
    Quickly after my first child, I had a second and I remember I’d live for Tuesdays when you posted your “enjoying” posts. I’d save it for my youngest’s mid-morning feeding and I’d savor that whole lost while I nursed him…like a mini vacation every Tuesday.
    5 or 6 years later I’m so thankful for all I’ve learned from you and hope to follow your adventures forever. I am a better mother because of all I’ve learned and continue to learn from you.

  4. Love xo

  5. My 14 year old was great about it with a phenomenal attitude, but yeah, he’d have rather stayed home and done his baseball tournament than join us for four days at Disney. Growing kids are rough some days.

  6. Jennifer B. says:

    This comes through a friend of a friend of a friend. All Mamas. I thought it might be fitting.

    I only have one child, and doing fun stuff with Mom (and/or Dad) used to be super fun. But he’s getting to that age where he thinks our stuff is “boring.” Hiking? Really, Mom?

    I had to fight him to go kayaking with me recently. He swore it would be dumb and he would hate it. And of course, he ended up loving it.

    It’s a natural thing, I think, for kids to sort of pull away from their parents, but I am not ready for it at age 7!

    Reading this helped: https://www.morethanmainstreet.com/the-travel-pledge/

    And I try to remind him: Family members do things for each other; sometimes they are not fun for everyone but that’s what families do.

    We try hard to choose things that will appeal to all of us, but we all have different interests and sometimes that means doing something you’d never pick … just ’cause you know it will make the other person happy. And wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you?

    It’s a philosophy in progress!

  7. AMy TUbbs says:

    Do not fear! You do not necessarily have to have sulking teens. I am a single mother by choice of a 17 year old daughter and 13 year old daughter – both adopted from China. We often vacation and do things with friends since it is just the 3 of us and like you, we have trips or get-aways that we take annually. My kids still love doing these things. We also have done many trips or even day trips alone – just the 3 of us and they really appreciate those times as well. I am so happy that they still love to do things as a family and things that they loved as younger kids. Last summer we took my 5 year old niece to NYC and did all the things with her that my kids loved as young girls and now enjoyed passing on the excitement to Lily! So, it is possible to not have to “drag” them along! Enjoy your summer and I look forward to seeing all that it involves!

  8. I love your posts, especially the photos with the ocean…altho the Michigan posts intrigue me as well. We live in Washington state; since the time our kids were little we took them on road trips & adventures. We had a standing reservation every August at a cabin in the woods near a lake & never let anything prevent us from that trip. We have a son & a daughter; when they reached the tween/teen years is when we allowed them to bring a friend each along. It made it more fun for them to have that someone special to hang out with & we always enjoyed the trip. (of course the friends were parent-approved beforehand). As they grew closer to graduation, we would do a trip to a Mariners baseball game or a trip to the ocean & we rented beach bikes. (we live in the middle of the state surrounded by farmland & semi-desert). We never gave up that trip to the cabin by the lake, even when they left for college. Now they’re both married and have blessed us with little ones to love on & play with & we still have a family trip every August. The lake cabin is too small for us all so this year it’s with RV’s at a different lake but we’re still spending time together.
    I agree this trip-taking/adventure time is important for the family…the kids will talk about it forever!

  9. My brother famously declared on a family vacation — in Hawaii no less — that as a sophomore in High School he “was over family vacations” and that one would be last. But time wears on, he is now is a father himself and can definitely be found hanging out with the Grandparents camping from time to time.

  10. Amen, indeed!!

  11. Gorgeous post and gorgeous place. So cool about the manatee. And that starfish is amazing. Have a great weekend!

  12. We are heading to Maine next week and when planning our trip I was giving my 20 yo son some options of flying out later, returning earlier or… his response was “can I just drive out and back and take thetwo
    Week vacation with you?” Why yes, said his very surprised mom! As he is the youngest, I am so looking forward to this 15 hour drive with him next weekend! I hope Dash still travels with you in 16 years!

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