For most of us, our memories of early childhood have a golden hue. There was a sense of infinite possibilities and a sureness about the future. An unquestioning resolve and faith in family and friends.
These were the kindling years, the moments that started and stoked the fire of our growth. Imagination was the only currency that mattered amongst friends, and time the only debt.
I look at my three (soon to be four) sons and am so happy when I see the glow. The infinite imagination in their eyes and the smooth veneer of innocence left still unscathed on the surface of their personalities. It’s in this that I found my role as their father. To not only protect them physically but also protect and enhance their youth.
We travel a fair amount, but living in the mountainous region of northern San Diego – as beautiful as the view is – leaves us a bit wanting. Fortunately, we have numerous beaches to visit not too far from home. With the boys being as young as they are and Chelsea as pregnant as she is, traveling an hour “down the hill” (as we say) to the beach is a bit of an ordeal. We have to gather swim clothes, towels, buckets and shovels, water diapers for the baby, dry clothes, chairs, and smiles.
Even though it's an effort, every now and then, to the beach we go. I mean, what’s the point of living in Southern California if not for the near-instant access to the ocean? As a father wanting to add flavor and color to such an experience, I consider how I might brighten the glow of the kids' memories. Ice cream, I decide. Ice cream will do the trick!
Through my extensive experience camping and overlanding, I've gained the necessary top secret equipment needed to transport such deliciousness to the shore. I have the NASA-grade mechanical device required to maintain a subfreezing environment while in the harshest of San Diego’s 80 degree summer weather through an hour commute and a full day at the beach. It has been dubbed “the remote fridge.” Really, it’s just a portable ARB refrigerator that we put in the back of the truck for these types of outings.
If you're not quite as freezer-obsessed as we are, dry ice and a cooler will do the job.
I load up a carton of Vanilla Bean, Classic Chocolate and Neapolitan along with some sprinkles, cones, whipped cream and even cherries. We're partnering with Dreyer's for a series of posts (they're also known as Edy's east of the Rockies), and their Slow Churned® Simple Recipes light ice cream is our pick. The new line of light ice cream has real ingredients like fresh cream and milk with no weird chemically stuff like RBST, artificial colors or flavors. I'm not one to stress over calories, but Chelsea likes that it has half the fat of full-fat ice cream. When Chelsea's happy, I'm happy. So off down the road we go. After we arrive, I work quickly to open the doors before the kids make their mad dash to the water’s edge. It’s the perfect distraction, giving Chelsea and I the time needed to set up our little ice cream station.
After a few minutes of dipping their feet in the water and eating sand, the boys' attention is drawn back to the truck. It’s almost as though they can sense the frozen dairy delight being prepared just off to the side.
Now, they excitedly scurry away from the water and back to the curious activities of their parents. They each get a chance to pick their flavor and – of course – sprinkles and whip cream. Minion even takes it upon himself to add just a touch of sand. Babies can be a bit crazy.
The sun lowers slowly over the ebbing white foam. Lick by lick, the boys scour the sand for “pretty rocks” and seashells to add to their now-copious collection. I’m not sure if it's the twinkling of the sun in the ripples of the water or a finger smudge of chocolate on my sunglasses but from where I stand, I see a golden hue.
All in all, it's a good day. The water is warm and the sand is soft. The sweet cold flavor of Dreyer’s ice cream makes time at the beach almost too good to be true. I get to enjoy a “European-sized” cone of my favorite (and best) flavor: chocolate. I watch the boys fight the waves in the never-ending battle of “dig a hole right by the water” and I enjoy the view.
How do you add flavor and color to your kids' childhood?