Hit The Road, Jack

Ladies and gentlemen, the world's loneliest beach ball.

World's Loneliest Beach Ball

This beach ball will be floating around in my grandparents' pool while pretty much my entire family is at the beach for the next week. But don't feel bad for ol' Bally -- he'll get some peace and quiet, which might be in short supply in a house filled with 8 adults, 2 preschoolers, a pregnant lady, 4 bedrooms, 30-some years of healthy sibling rivalry, a freezer full of meat, 8 days and 7 nights, and a partridge in a pear tree. But we will do our best to keep being polite and avoid getting real.

Anthony's Bright Idea

Little Anthony here (my sister's friend's son, another cutie that we count in the brood even though he is not technically related) has the right idea: relaxation. Pinochle will be played. Drinks will be drunk. Waves will be jumped. Boards will be boogied. Solarcaine will be applied. Wii will be bowled. Fun will be had. And, oh yes, pictures will be taken.

Instead of checking off items from my to-do list, for a change I will spend the week on more satisfying pursuits, such as:
  • reading trashy paperback books on the screened-in porch
  • carrying 48 jillion tons sand back and forth from the beach to the house
  • photosynthesizing
  • evaluating all the flavors of Ben & Jerry's to determine which is my favorite
  • watching "Aladdin" for the eleventeenth time

I'll try to post every day while I'm away, but we all already know that isn't going to happen. At the very least, I will put up a picture every day. And I'll be tweeting, because of course I will have my iPhone with me or I will die.

Full recap when I get back, of course. Try not to miss me too much.


Who's The Happy Hana From Kamani-Wanna-Hula Bay?

(You win 3 million free bonus Internet points from me if you recognize the song title and can properly place the context. The points aren't good for anything, but they're free.)

Sarong 1

Here we are, modeling the latest in beach-towel-sarong fashion. While eating a cookie. And standing on the step in front of our (great-) grandmother's sliding glass door. And absolutely NOT LISTENING to our mother who JUST WANTS TO TAKE A STINKIN' PICTURE, for the LOVE of GOD, why won't you just LISTEN to me?

Sarong 2

And we are all, "So? Yeah? TALK already, lady. I have THINGS to do. Like EAT THIS COOKIE."

Sarong 3

And also we are all, "Don't be mad 'cuz you ain't me."

Miss America Wave

And then I just give up, and WHATEVER, because at least ONE of them is looking at the camera this time, which is a marked improvement over what usually happens, which is that NOBODY is looking at the camera, PLUS someone is CRYING.

(PS - I have been advised by reliable sources {i.e., THE INTERNETS} that "hana" is a Japanese word meaning flower. Which makes sense, since the song is a faux-Hawaiian ditty featuring a ukulele and is about, I imagine, a beautiful Polynesian hula-dancing girl. Now watch me as I walk away ... away ... away ... awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ...)

(PPS - Yes, that was a clue if you hadn't figured out the song already. Here's another clue: 1987. Now that's it. Go figure it out, these bonus Internet points are burning a hole in my pocket.)



We are now getting down to the part of the-week-before where I basically have nothing to say that makes any kind of damn sense because everything that spews out of my mouth at this point is basically a random list of random things, and even if you can make out what I am SAYING -- like, if the words sound like words, and not zombie-like grunts and groans -- you're still probably not going to make out WHAT I'm saying, you know? Like, what in the holy hell does "pistachiostoothpastepajamasflipflopsWiiremote" even mean any more? I can identify the things, but I'll be buggered if I can come up with any possible context in which that string of syllables together has any kind of significance.

So. Ahem. Pictures from the weekend.


I don't exactly miss the Snowpocalypse that we had back in February but I really wish the weather was a little more ... moderate around here. The snow melted, then we had the barest hint of springs, and then 100°F weather. It's bananas. I have imagines in my head of driving to my grandmother's and driving past one of those digital time/date displays outside a bank, and seeing a temperature of 88°F, and thinking, "Wow, that's HOT."

88°F = HOT. Amateur.

Butterfly Net

Shae was up to her usual shenanigans. You've seen them before.

Shen! An! Iggans!


Sassy Redhead

Oh, and there was a different kind of shenanigans -- my sister's new hair color. Very nice. I've been this color before, a few times, and I dug it, until I washed towels and couldn't get the dye out. But everybody needs a change once in a while, and it's very liberating to look at the world through the eyes of a redhead. I approve. Very sassy.


Oh Look, More Cake!

You know how Thomas Kinkade is supposed to be "the painter of light" and all that? Well, I am "the photographer of birthday cakes."

Joe Hoole's Cake

This one is for my other brother-in-law Joe. Sometimes I feel like Larry from Newhart, with two brothers-in-law named Joe. But only sometimes. Sometimes I feel like Eloise, from the Kay Thompson books. Yes, I am not making a lot of sense right now, but there are only 4 days left before we leave for vacation and I can't remember where I left my brains. (If you find them, keep them, since they haven't been doing me much good anyway.)

Candle Out!

Of course my poor other brother-in-law didn't get to blow out his own candle. Sorry, Joe! Shae didn't even wait for us to SING before she blew out the candle the first time. Three-year-olds. Hmph.

Mmmmm Chocolate Cake

And that cake was seriously delicious -- some kind of Carvel all-chocolate number. Sweet baby Jeebus, I don't eat ice cream cake very often, but whenever I eat Carvel cake I remember what a treat it is, and I understand why Dina Lohan has the problems she has with Carvel.

Smuggle Snuggle

Anyway, a big ol' HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my other brother-in-law Joe. I hope it's a good one, and that you get to blow out at least one candle by yourself.

(That last picture is just there because it's cute, by the way.)


I Can Has Joey Burger?

I am looking forward to vacation for many reasons -- not the least of which is getting away from work for more than a few hours at a time (and believe me when I say that I am not going to think about that place once, except in passing while I'm sitting on the beach with my toes in the sand, eating frozen grapes and cold melon chunks and thinking, "HAHA SUCKERS!") -- but near the top of the list of things I am most looking forward to is spending time with my nephew.

o hai!

My delectable, delicious, delightful nephew. Sweet cracker sandwich, do I love this kid! And how lucky are my parents, that we have the 2½ most adorable children in the world for their grandchildren?

mai dehummifer, let me sho u it

Sometimes I miss when Shae was this age, almost 2, when everything they do is completely adorable because they're so excited to be able to do stuff on their own. I never thought that watching a kid play with a dehumidifier would be fascinating, but yet I could sit in front of my computer, hooked up to Skype, watching Joey do just that all day long.

o hay ladeez

It certainly doesn't hurt that playing with that thing gives him so much unmitigated joy. Just look at him -- doesn't he make you want to yell "HOORAY FOR APPLIANCES!"? No? Just me?

i can has dancey-dance tiemz nao plz?

Oh, come on now: "HOORAY FOR APPLIANCES!"

ooooh its snacktiem!

Yes, Joey, we're ready to go too. SHAE! is ready. (That's just how he says it, exclamation point implied and everything.) We're all ready, and we can't wait to see you. And you look very tasty and nutritious, and I will EAT YOU UP WHOLE. Nom.

(PS: I am not a cannibal, I just play one on TV, but COME ON -- look at that kid and tell me he doesn't look delicious.)


Desperation Samba

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the week before the week before vacation is the worst week of the entire year. I can't put my clothes in the suitcase, because I haven't changed my mind about what I want to pack enough times yet. I can't really switch to autopilot at work, because there are still projects and deadlines that need to be met before I go. And I can't really go grocery shopping, because if I do, and we don't eat every. single. thing. in the house before we leave, then you just know that while we're away we'll have a major electrical storm and my house will be without power for 4 days and the basement will flood and the toilet will overflow and everything in the fridge and the freezer will spoil and we'll get rats and bugs and squatters and looting and our home will be condemned and we'll have to live in our cars or even worse -- WE'LL NEED TO MOVE IN WITH MY MOTHER.

So this week we're doing what I like to call the "desperation samba," a very carefully choreographed dance that involves cleaning out the current provisions and making meals out what basically amounts to random crap in my freezer and cupboards. Mysterious baggies of ground meat. Baked beans of unverifiable provenance. Canned soup out the wazoo. Cereal and PB&J for supper, with sides of creamed corn and freezer-burned lima beans. I mean, yes, we'll go to the store for absolute essentials, like milk and bread and the occasional fruit or vegetable, but my husband is under very strict orders should that unfortunate eventuality occur: quarts of milk only, smallest loaves of bread you can find, only three ears of corn. Our biggest splurge in the last two weeks was buying two pounds on strawberries last Sunday, and we did that only because, hey, we really like strawberries in our house, and I knew they'd get eaten.

I will say this much: doing this? Living like complete savages? It takes a lot of cojones, and confidence in your own cooking abilities. I like to think of myself as a better-than-average home cook, and I pride myself on my ability to make a meal out of basically anything, provided that I have access to basic herbs, spices, and bouillon cubes. But making meals out of scavenged foodstuffs is part skill, part alchemy, part divination, part illusion, and part faith, with a big heaping swig of ballsiness thrown in: "Oh, yes, you WILL eat what I am feeding you."

This is the kind of wackaloony stuff I've served to my actual family this week for dinner:
  • Browned loose sweet Italian sausage with chopped onions and canned diced tomatoes, served over elbow macaroni that was tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese
  • Thawed package of pre-cooked chicken with a sell-by date of November 2009, with some kind of noodly stuff
  • Zucchini gratin -- sliced zucchini sauteed with olive oil and Italian seasoning, with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese added
  • Frosted mini-wheats cereal
I mean, yeah, this is totally a first-world problem -- "oh, poor poor pitiful me, I am serving my family food that we bought maybe two weeks ago but that we had to properly store in the refrigerator or freezer until we got around to using it" -- and it's more than partly my own fault since I'm such a cheapskate, but still. When was the last time you served chicken to your kid that had been in the freezer for 8 months? I just don't want to waste money on stuff that will just sit around while I am laughing it up at the beach, and I don't want to take two chicken breasts if I don't have enough to share with everyone.

Now do you see why I worry about drinking?


Does This Mai-Tai Make My Butt Look Big?

I was having a bit of a freak-out this morning because it occurred to me, later than perhaps it should have, that I won't be able to spend my entire vacation sitting around drinking blue stuff in giant vats with paper umbrellas while I'm on vacation because (1) we'll be there with small impressionable children, and (2) I understand the service at public beaches is terrible, and also (3) I kind of don't want my diet to go completely off the rails at this point.

Don't worry, this isn't going to become a full-time "listen to rockle whine about her diet" blog. Because I am not unhappy with it, or anything. No sir: I just had blueberry waffles and sausage and actual real-live syrup for breakfast, BECAUSE I CAN. But what I can't do is pretend to be a total sloppy lush while I'm away for a week, unless I plan on eating nothing but grapes and pistachios the rest of the time, because of all the calories in my delicious beloved rum drinks.

I mean, I could do that, I suppose, but why would I want to? There is a Ben & Jerry's in Beach Haven, and I can already hear it calling my name.

So I'm trying to set things up for myself so I can enjoy myself, and enjoy enjoying myself, without feeling the least bit guilty about it. And after I scoured the Intarwebtubes for recipes (there are more than I thought there would be, but many involve weird ingredients that I have never heard of before) it occurred to me that I had the answer right in front of me the whole time.

SPOILER ALERT: I'll be drinking diet Cuba Libres -- rum and Diet Coke with Lime. (And fresh lime wedges, of course, because I think I'm all fawncey.) It's kind of absolutely hysterical, because why is Diet Coke with Lime my favorite kind of Diet Coke in the whole wide world and all of the Heavens above, amen? Because it already tastes like a Cuba Libre.

But I might also try this thing called a "Bikini Blueberry," which sounds like a nice little fruity concoction, and only about 115 calories or so per drink, plus a piece of fruit!
Bikini Blueberry
1¼ oz. pineapple vodka
3 oz. diet blueberry juice
1½ oz. club soda (or flavored diet seltzer)
pineapple chunk for garnish
Who's going to try it with me? Cocktails on the back deck in 9 days.


Pack Rat

In 10 days we leave for vacation. This time on that fateful morning, I will be running around the house like the proverbial headless chicken, shrieking and panicking as we start to load up the car, constantly doing an inventory of what we have and what we need and what we forgot. Where is the umbrella? Did we pack the toothbrushes? What about underpants? Deodorant? Beach towels? That one weird kitchen tool that nobody knows what it's for or even how to use it but you know the second we arrive at the rental house we're going to suddenly realize that it is a Vitally Important Utensil? Do we have enough lighters? I only have five in my purse, will that be enough?

Yes: I am aware that I am off-the-charts bananapants crazy and possibly certifiable.

I've been sort of stealthily packing my own stuff for a few weeks already -- stuff I know I want to put in the suitcase that I can manage to do without until then. Some new shirts that I would like to be seen in by my mother at least once before there is a food stain in the bosomal area. A pair of shorts that don't quite fit yet but that should be okay by the time we go. The new outfit I got for when my sister and I go to a concert in Atlantic City. I am not packing a whole lot, because there will be a washing machine, but of course in the next ten days I will reconsider and revise and revamp and reimagine my entire "resort collection."

Which is ridiculous, because I'll just end up packing the same stuff I already have set aside anyway. But then, I am not always the sharpest tool in the crayon box.

We have also already started packing up the non-perishables in the ice chest:

Big Cooler

See if you can identify the one thing in there that will definitely NOT be coming out.


And One Other Thing

Last thing about Hersheypark, but worth waiting for, I hope. Music by Guns 'N' Roses, so you might want to turn your speakers down -- or turn them up, if you're into that sort of thing.

Best part -- around 3:49, when she says "Hi, Mom!" into the camera. That's my girl. I can't wait to see the awesome movies we're going to get when we go to the beach.


Something Strange Is Happening

I don't know what's going on this summer, but something strange is happening. I mean, something very, very odd and funny. And not "ha-ha" funny, either, but funny as in "oh, God, no!" But nevertheless, there it is: I am having a good time having a boring life.

Look, I am absolutely the Queen of Manufactured Drama. My special talents are jumping to conclusions and making mountains out of molehills. It's part of why I wanted to study television in college -- perhaps, if I knew something about how to write a script, I could kind of force things to happen the way I wanted them too.

Or at least have a good comeback when the Universe dropped a steaming turd in my oatmeal.

Sandcastle Cove Spiral Slide
Sandcastle Cove Fountains
Giant Water Ball Thingy

But I'll be damned if taking a three-year-old to an amusement park on the hottest day of the year and watching her have a hell of a time on every single ride isn't the quickest way to kick your blues in the ass that I have ever seen.

Who'd've thunk?


The Sweetest Place on Earth

So. We went to Hersheypark yesterday. And it was great.


Shae didn't get to go on the "Hoolahooper," or any roller coasters, but we had lunch in a dining area where we could watch a bunch of coasters. Shae loved the noise and the screaming.

Railroad Ride

We managed to stay cool and calm by getting on rides with no lines and checking out one of the free shows -- a tap dance spectacular. Shae didn't want to sit in her seat and I was afraid she was going to go join the cast.

Milton Hershey Fountain

We really, really didn't want to leave. Not even me, and I hate heat, people, roller coasters, and amusement parks in general. It's the best time I've personally had at an amusement park since G and I went to Disney World on our honeymoon.

Fun Times

We took the video camera instead of the regular camera, and I took 62 (!!!) movies. They're all only a few seconds long, and I hope to edit them down into one long movie soon. I did manage to get some screen captures, and you'll be seeing them soon. I apologize in advance for the image quality for the next few days, but I was busy having a good time for a change.


The Geekest Place on Earth



The sweetest place on Earth just got nerdier. And just in time for the annual company picnic tomorrow, too! That little Kiss in the app icon holds so much power. For one thing, there is a park map.


Look, I am totally directionally challenged, and even more so when I am surrounded by eleventy thousand people and screaming children and heat and humidity and the heady seductive smell of freshly-made kettle corn, so it's nice to know that I can click something and the GPS locator will GPS-locate me and tell me where the bathrooms or the Ferris Wheel or the smoking sections are. Because COME ON: amusement park in July? On what is always one of the hottest days of the summer? If I could, I'd be chain-smoking.

Truth is, we'll be spending most of our time in the Boardwalk area, and then in the picnic area where we'll be getting lunch, but Shae's going to want to go on some rides -- she loved them last year, and I'm sure this year will be no different.

Ride Selector

We'll be able to find out which ones are appropriate for her height range. I think this year she's eligible for an upgrade. (I'm still not even a Jolly Rancher, and I am 36-goddamn-years-old.)

Ride List By Height

When we see something that looks cool, we can verify that it isn't going to be too exciting. No Sooperdooperlooper, at least not yet.

Ride Info

And then click that little crosshairs to find the ride on the map.

Ride Locator

And then we're back where we started. We'll be able to do the same thing for shows, too. And we can find out if any rides are out of commission for the day, and also we'll be able to conveniently locate the smoking sections. Which I might have mentioned, but COME ON.


Feed Me, Seymour

It might be kind of hard to believe, but this is what diet food looks like:

Week 10

I mention this because there are a bunch of people at work who have recently started a Weight Watchers program, and I listen to them talk about what they've been eating, and nothing sounds like what you see on that plate -- 4 ounces of strip steak, marinated in Worcestershire sauce, with ¾ cup of roasted Dutch yellow baby potatoes and 1 cup of fresh steamed green beans, both with lemon vinaigrette.

No, what I am hearing from the WW crowd is stuff like "brown rice" and "plain broiled chicken" and "no dressing" and "cabbage soup" and "popcorn" and "rice cakes." And I wonder to myself, every time I hear certain buzzwords, "WHY? Who eats THAT?" Who can get excited about a menu that doesn't sound like it tastes very good? I mean, I love microwave popcorn as much as the next person, and I even go through phases where I am borderline obsessed with it, but I don't think I have ever once eaten it for breakfast because it's a "filling food."

That is not to say that I am opposed to WW, or that I think it is bad, or anything like that, because believe me, I am an old-timer. I have been around the block a time or two. Like most women my age, I have spent a good portion of my adult like on some kind of weight-loss plan, and WW is one that works for a whole lot of people. WW worked for me at one point -- more than once, actually. It's a good program, based on very solid, very important ideas that have been proven to be effective in many, many cases. My co-workers are already having some success following the WW plan.

It's just that it isn't what I want to do right now. Right now, ten-and-a-half weeks into a diet that I "developed" myself but that references several important WW concepts, like drinking lots of water and getting maximum volume for minimum calories, right now I can't imagine going back to eating that way. Because I remember doing WW, and I don't remember ever feeling so satisfied, ever, as I did after eating my dinner last night.

Week 10

When I started this diet, it wasn't supposed to be a weight-loss plan, or at least not immediately. I said back in May, when I implemented this "12-Week 12-Step Plan": "I do not really have a goal here, beyond the generic 'eating better and being healthier.' ... I am more interested in making positive changes and sticking to them than I am in hitting a specific target." The "12-Step" part of the plan was kind of a giveaway -- I didn't explicitly mention it then, but I was very concerned about my caffeine consumption, which was one of the big triggers for starting in the first place.

I also had other concerns that I did not mention at the time, which were big driving forces behind the plan I put together (i.e., small changes, one week at a time, adding up to what amounted to a really significant reduction in calories). I worry about high-fructose corn syrup, and genetically-modified foods, and artificial sweeteners, and salt. I didn't want to go jumping with both feet into a diet that was equally-but-differently as bad for me as what I started with.

But mostly, I am cheap and lazy and didn't want to have to buy or plan or cook anything "special." I didn't want to fill the fridge with stuff I don't want my kid to eat. And I certainly didn't want someone to look at my lunch bag in the office fridge and immediately say: "This is diet food." I just wanted it to look like I was just trying to save money by packing a lunch. In the beginning, I was pretty quiet about my goals. I didn’t announce that I was on a diet. I just … stopped snacking and drinking so much Mountain Dew.

Whether it was conscious or subconscious, I wanted to prove to myself that given enough time and enough discipline, it was totally possible to lose weight while eating, every day, the same stuff that I was always eating, all along. I just recently started actually tracking calories so that I can keep making changes and reductions, to keep up the slow-but-steady pace. That's kind of what WW is all about, but I feel more proud of what I have already done because I did it "my" way, and I didn't have to do any fancy math, or learn any secret tricks, or ever feel that I was suffering or sacrificing anything. And I definitely didn't ever have to eat a frickin' rice cake.

Week 10

This morning, when I got dressed, I put on a pair of pants that were shoved in the way-back recesses of my closet. I can't remember when the last time was that I wore these pants, but I'm pretty sure they got phased out of the regular rotation because they were too tight and uncomfortable. They're not my "skinny pants," or anything remotely like them, but they're a size smaller than what I was wearing when I started, and these are going to be too big soon. Maybe not for another month or so, but soon enough.

And it might be kind of hard to believe, but I'll be able to keep this up for a lot while longer (my goal is to lose another 100+ lbs. before I stop) because I have a very different idea of what constitutes diet food than other people I know.



This is turning out to be a week of totally random pictures, for which I apologize, but I've been so busy lately with my hectic schedule of alternately sweltering and starving to death that I haven't taken a whole lot of pictures. Well, okay, I did take over a hundred pictures of people wrestling, but I blame that on the heat and the low blood sugar, or something. In any case, nobody wants to see that.

= = = = =

On Saturday, Shae decided to dress herself up in her mermaid dress, without any help or supervision. It's a little on the small side now -- used to be, the dress touched the floor, and she could swim in it. Now the elastic in the top is stretched almost to its limit, and it barely hits her knees. She is definitely not a 2T any more, that much is for sure. We haven't quite mastered the necessary coordination to dress ourselves, but we are working on it.

Mermaid Dress Front Mermaid Dress Back

I love how her face is all, "This cannot possibly be right," but she doesn't quite know why, exactly.

= = = = =

One of these things is not like the other.


That's because one of these things is a 50-mumble grandmother of two who does not care how silly she looks. Which is exactly why she is an awesome grandmother.

= = = = =

Shae has a new favorite shirt.

Wonder Woman

This was supposed to be a surprise, not to be revealed until vacation, because I got a "matching" Superman T-shirt for Joey and I wanted to get a picture of them together. But when Shae saw this shirt in the shopping bag, she demanded to wear it immediately. I kind of have a thing for Wonder Woman myself, so I relented, of course.

Evidently we need to watch more professional wrestling so she can learn how to properly flex those little muscles.

= = = = =

What? Even superheroines need to be rescued once in a while.

Wonder Woman's Hero

She could do worse than My Anonymous Mother, honestly.


Poker Face

After that whole pig head thing, how about a little palate cleanser? Let's go with a round of "goofy faces that my kid makes for no particular reason," how about that? These pictures were all taken on the same day -- at the pig head party -- while Shae was running around in the backyard with my cousins' kids and my mother and just generally causing a right holy ruckus, as kids that age and in that quantity are wont to do.


I keep telling her that if she frowns too much she's going to get wrinkles. I wish I could remember what she was doing when she made these faces. They crack me up.


I can picture her teenage years already: "So, I was, like, NOOooOO!, and she was, like, OH YESSS!, and then her MOM walked in and now she is, like, COMPLETELY GROUNDED. Can you believe it? Parents suck!"


This kid has never seen Popeye. But I bet I could teach her to theme song in one go-round. Toot toot!


I don't know how it happened, but my 3-year-old already has the "bishplz" face down pat. We are going to be in a world of hurt in like 7 years, right?


We can't read her poker face because she doesn't have one. This look of pure, unadulterated joy is my favorite expression of hers.