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Family Values
by sandy feet

I would like to think that a certain percentage of the families who visit our shores at this time of year are "Leave It to Beaver" perfect . The members of these families are all well-adjusted, highly-motivated achievers who are sensitive, mindful of each other's feelings, and willing to concede a point as necessary. This ideal family doesn't get stressed out by a change in the scenery and has no problem fitting five people for two weeks into a room the size of the walk-in closet back home. They are all interested in the same activities and TV shows, and they are all happy eating at McDonalds - no special orders required.

I would like to think that such families actually exist, but in all my years of teaching sand castle lessons to family units, I don't think I have seen a single example. From my experience, there is usually one member who thinks a private sand castle lesson is a really good idea, and 3 or 4 others who think it sucks.

My mission - and I _always choose to accept it - is to convince the reluctant ones that mom (or Johnny Jr., or Aunt Millie) really is a sharp cookie and is spending those hard-won vacation bucks on an experience that may in fact prove to be one of the high points of the trip. I would like to think it is my finely-honed teaching skills -- though it may just be the fine quality of the local sand and the universal satisfaction experienced in organizing it into something lovely -- but generally speaking my success rate of turning skeptics into happy sand castle builders is quite high.... if not as high as I would like for it to be.

One recent day in my life on the beach is a case in point. I had two lessons scheduled, the first of which was for a large (20+) extended family group. It took a little doing, but eventually everyone was convinced to jump in and participate. Cloudy skies and even a smattering of rain did nothing to dampen this group's mounting enthusiasm, and the castle they completed in 2 hours was quite impressive. By every standard, I would call that a successful sand castle session.

The second lesson that day was for a couple and their three kids; two pre-teens and a toddler. They were about 15 minutes late for the appointment, which is usually an indication of trouble right from the start. The dad wandered off with the toddler and so missed the "how to build a tower" part of the lesson. Still, when he returned he valiantly jumped right in to give it a go. Having missed the instructions, he failed to do it "right," and the other members of the family were perhaps a bit too vigorous in correcting him. He didn't take it well - snapped at them and then stalked off in disgust.

While the older kids stayed with it for a good part of the hour, they eventually wandered off to the water as well, leaving just me and the mom to finish off the castle. I was humbled by the serenity of this woman. Abandoned by the rest of her family (except for the toddler who was constantly clamoring for her attention when he wasn't trying to knock down what she had built), apparently untroubled by the petulant attitude of her husband, she was clearly having a great time. When I packed up and left, she was still happily carving away. All by herself.

Was this lesson any less "successful" than the first? Not as far as _she was concerned.

I guess that is one of my favorite things about sand sculpting - it can be a fun group activity, but it is also a great way to "become one with the beach" all by yourself. Our regularly-scheduled lessons at Boomerang Billy's and Wanna Wanna will continue all summer long, and I would strongly encourage anyone who has even a mild interest in building a better sand castle not to let a grouchy family member stand between you and a lesson. Send the rest of the family off fishing or shopping or whatever - while you go play in the sand. It may be the best $10 you ever spent.

See you on the beach!

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://spionline.com/) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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