There’s beauty in spontaneous plans.

Inasmuch as it is possible to be both spontaneous and a planner, I’ve discovered that the best kinds of plans are the ones that are made on the fly.

As a parent, there’s a real struggle between giving your kids a rich and full childhood and being too busy. (More on this another time.) In our family, we move back and forth between overscheduling and taking a break from an overload of activities. Maybe our kids don’t know how to be bored because we’re constantly entertaining them. 

When you have a family, your friends are generally other people who have families. Time becomes very limited, so if you really want to see someone, you have to make an effort – which sometimes requires planning far in advance. 

Other times, you just make a decision to go do something, and if your friends can join you, it’s a bonus. That’s what happened last night. 

We’d been wanting to take the kids to hunt for ghost crabs as an end-of-summer adventure. We’re lucky to live very close to the beach, so we decided to have dinner there, then walk our nets and flashlights down to the shore once it got dark. 

Our timing was perfect. No sooner had we finished our poke bowls and burgers than the sun was painting the sky shades of lavender and pink, and the elusive little creatures began to scurry through the sugar-white sand. 

Ghost crabbing is simple. All you need is a net, a flashlight, a bucket – and some high-spirited children. 

The instructions for Addy’s new apparatus (yes, someone has capitalized on this summer pastime by selling a newfangled net-light combination with a clever name … well played, Illuminet) described ghost crabs as an “occult, secretive alien from the ancient depths of the sea” – which, once you see them, you’ll actually be like, “Fair.”

So you shine your flashlight in the sand near the water, and when you spot the little alien, you snatch him up (gently) and put him in your bucket. We captured quite a community of ghost crabs, and at one point, a beetle. 

Owen was the ghost crab champion. His parents said he was a natural, having attracted many a crab to his confident and capable hands during camping trips in Hawaii.

Maila, a skilled seashell spotter, found the crab I like to call Big Mama. As I surveyed our haul, she announced: “If you’re impressed, I caught it! If you’re not, I didn’t.” A strategy that will serve her well through adulthood.

Eli, who is always thoughtful yet tentative in his actions, paced the beach with his net. Noticing that Owen had caught a dozen if not more, he finally took to the tactics of his friend – grasping with his hands at fistfuls of beach. (This speaks to the nature of their friendship. After meeting Owen in the second grade, Eli gained a newfound confidence that saw him place first in a two-mile race and score a solo in the school play. They are a wonderful team.)

Addy, true to form, had a meltdown because she hadn’t caught a crab, but when everyone jumped in to surround four or five for the picking, she chickened out and cried some more. Through sobs, she said she hated ghost crabbing, but I don’t believe her. 

Sandy and sleepy, we dragged the kids off the beach and home into their beds. It was a night we won’t forget.

Since Jared travels a lot, when he’s home, he likes to be home. Most evenings, you’ll find us cozied up on the couch searching for a kid-friendly movie that will entertain our two, five and eight-year-old while not putting dear old Mom and Dad to sleep. (Leave your suggestions in the comments.)

It was really fun – sort of magical, even – to get off the couch and enjoy the laughter of friends, the majesty of a cotton-candy sunset, and the nocturnal oddity of a tiny translucent crab. 

So from now on, if you get a funny little idea, just go do the thing. 

2 thoughts on “There’s beauty in spontaneous plans.

  1. You captured this story with your writing perfectly. I love your fun and accurate description of our little crab catchers. What a lovely last minute summer night!


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