Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Been a Busy Few Days!

We have done so much in the last few days! I can't believe tomorrow is Thursday already. I always get anxious that we won't fit in everything we want to do. I had a conversation with someone recently who said when their family goes on vacation they literally do nothing. They just sit at their resort, don't do any research, and even if they are in a historical area, they don't bother to see the sights...when they are on vacation, they truly do nothing. Uhm...what?? I don't understand. Of course everyone is entitled to their own choice of what they want to do but I don't get it. The whole intent of us traveling is to see and explore each new place so I can't imagine doing nothing. Although I say that but on day one I wished for one day of rain so we could just hang out and do nothing. I got my wish on Monday. But before we get there, let me fill you in on Sunday - Jack's birthday. It was his choice to do whatever he wanted. The day started with his favorite breakfast - chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and milk. A growing boy's dream. Then the day was filled with a trip to the NC Aquarium where we surprised him with a behind the scenes tour. We have done these before at SeaWorld and the New England Aquarium....where it was feeding day for the anacondas...apparently they hadn't been fed in a month and outside their exhibit was a bucket of half frozen chickens and rats (complete with tails hanging over the rim of the buckets). So, when they opened the exhibits, it was like a snake charmers took 3 Aquarium workers to contain was frightening to say the least. This tour was pretty tame but still very interesting. After visiting the rest of the aquarium, we headed out for lunch and then it was off to the driving range, mini golf, go-karts, and the pool. It was a very busy day. The next day was sunny so we decided to head to Wrightsville Beach, which we hadn't been to yet. It was amazing. Beautiful houses sandwiched between the intercoastal waterway and the ocean. We found a great spot with great waves and spent most of the day there...until the black clouds rolled in. We got everything packed in the car before it started to rain and on the way home it turned pitch black, like it was 10 at night...but it was only 3 pm. There was crazy lightening like I have never seen before and the thunder was so loud it was deafening. We hunkered down for the afternoon and had our "lazy day". The kids read, I took a nap, and Tim took a nap and then read. I never nap. I always have so much to do that the idea of taking a nap just doesn't make sense. But, I had nothing else to do so I ended up taking a 2 hour nap. It was awesome. When was the last time you napped?!The storm came and went pretty quickly so we were still able to grill and then that night we played a few games before heading to bed. p Tuesday brought us pouring rain in the early morning so we ended up sleeping in...again, no complaints from anyone on that. Finally it cleared and we headed into Wilmington which we had all been anticipating. First up, a self guided tour of UNCW. For the last few years we have tried to mix in visiting college campuses with our trips so the kids can get a sense for what they like. Jack had id'd this school as a potential interest last year when he was interested in marine biology but since that is no longer an interest (as of 1 week before our trip...and a main reason we came down here), we decided to visit it anyways to get an idea for scale and type of campus. It was nice...and a good size...but certainly doesn't have the character of campuses we are familiar with in New England. Next, we headed into downtown Wilmington and immediately jumped on a trolley tour of the city....interesting but not much to see really. Some historic homes but still seems like lots of renovation needs to happen downtown. We did learn that Wilmington is the third largest producer of hollywood tv & movies behind NY and LA. Mimi really wanted to do the Hollywood Walk where they show you were famous movies were made. Don't do it, if you ever come to this area. A few red flags..."90 min walking tour" in the 90 degree heat of the day at 2 pm...the only time offered. It ended up being almost 2 hours, it was so hot we could have passed out, and unless you are Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill fan, it wasn't worth it. Always interesting to try and do different things but I don't recommend it. We were so hot after the tour that we immediately came back and jumped in the pool, swimming for an hour. Then we had dinner and played games again. I don't know about you, but we generally don't play games when we are at home. We all fall into our routines. That's one of the things I love about camping...we are in a small space, can't spread out as much, and end up interacting much more than we do at home. Today, we hit the beach in Wrightsville our favorite new spot. It was was overcast but warm so it was comfortable on the beach. The waves were great...but then they got a little crazy. Tim went to go in the water with the kids and a local woman came over to say she had seen 2 rip currents right in front of us and she suggested we didn't go in...that the area can get pretty crazy and dangerous. Of course, I ended up being the bad guy with the kids when I said they couldn't go in. Finally Tim took them over to the life guards and they said you really had to be of course the boys went out...when not another sole was out there. Whatever. Then we left and headed back to the camper to change for part 2 of our day which was to explore the USS North Carolina Battleship. So enormous...and such a great experience. We walked up and down through 9 tiny alleyways of the took 1 1/2 hours...and we weren't reading all the info. Pretty amazing to see. Then it was off to dinner and now everyone is slumbering. A very busy, exhausting few days...just how we like it. I should mention that when we had lunch in Wilmington at a restaurant on the Cape Fear River, the waitress brought us our check and said "Oh, before you go, you should check out the baby alligator that has been hanging out under our dock." WHAT? Sure enough, there was this baby the size of a large iguana, floating by their dock, hanging out. I can't live someplace where there are dangerous or poisonous animals that I might encounter. Which leads me to the one thing that the kids want to do before we go, and that I wanted to do until this alligator encounter, which is stand up paddle boarding. The best place for us beginners to do it is in the inter coastal waterway but there is NO WAY I am paddleboarding in a place where I might get stuck in a death roll with a gator. No. Way. I have to call that people can lie to me and say "No, we have never seen a gator in the water while paddleboarding". Yeah, right. We have 2 full days left and here is the list of things left to do: Stand Up Paddle board with gators, driving range (again), river cruise (meh), and shelling at Fort Fisher. And of course the beach again. The week has gone by so makes me sad but yet we have done so much and I have a new favorite place to come back to...if we ever lift the ban on going to the same place twice.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Just Jack

15 years ago today I woke up to labor pains at 5:20 am. The little being inside of me was 11 days overdue and I had taken extreme measures to shake him/her from their slumber. First, I shoveled 6 yards of bark mulch by myself in the July heat. Then, I went in and did some deep knee bends hoping to break my water and get the party started. That didn't work. So, then I had an extra large meatball sub and a first in 8 months. I was determined not to carry that child until they were college age. Sure enough, one of those things worked and birth was underway on July 28, 1998. Everyone was happy to dispense all kinds of advice beforehand but the one constant thing I heard was "Don't go to the hospital too early." Apparently, you could get sent home, or you would languish in there for a day and feel like you were never going to come out with a baby. So, I was prepared to stick it out at home for a bit. I took a shower and dressed in a "cute" black shirt with flowers on it (looking back it was hideous) and I wore that on top of a white skort. Yep, I said white. And skort. In the same sentence. It was my first child, ok? I wanted to look cute. Let's just say...that outfit didn't make it home with me in the end. I had called work to say I wouldn't be in...I worked right up until the end so I could have more time with the baby on the back end. As I lay in the fetal position in a chair in the living room I kept telling myself that the pain wasn't that bad until my friend and co-worker Kelly called. I didn't pick up...I just heard her on the answering machine saying "You're in labor aren't you?? How bad is it?? Does it feel like a shot gun blast to the belly??!" I hated her at that moment. Meanwhile Tim was washing and rewashing clean dishes to stay busy. He was whistling like one of the Seven Dwarfs. If I could have gotten up I would have seriously hurt him. We did call the hospital twice. The first time they talked to me and said since I could have a conversation I was fine and should just continue to stay at home. The second time when I made some sort of animal sound when they asked how I was doing they said "You should come right in." It took another half an hour before I could physically get out of the chair and walk down a flight of stairs to the car. When we finally arrived at the hospital, there were no wheelchairs available and "conveniently" the maternity ward is on the 3rd the back of the hospital. When I finally made it up there, I told the nurse at the desk "I'm pretty sure this baby is coming out" and she said "Okay, just have a seat and we'll get to you eventually." She did not believe me. About 20 minutes later they ushered me to a room and told me to "hop up" on the bed. First, I threw up, to which the nurse said in a very annoyed tone "Okay, you just need to relax..." I'll just note that I did it very cleanly in a wastebasket and I was sure to spare my white skort. Then, when I couldn't hop up she told me "You need to try a little harder, honey." But I think the kicker was when she did the exam and the baby's head was coming out, she finally said "Oh! Okay...the baby IS coming out." You think I was just saying that for shits and giggles?! Get me a doctor! Tim had left me trying to "hop up" on the bed when he went to move the car from the front of the emergency room, only to come back with his baby pretty much being born. First he wouldn't come out and then he wouldn't slow down. That pretty much sums Jack up...he is either moving at the speed of a turtle or lightening. There is no in between. Now, I'm a big baby when it comes to pain. Major baby. So, the fact that I didn't get to have an epidural and that I delivered naturally came as the biggest shock to my system. I just got myself into a zone of no return and to this day, I don't look back on it as painful, yet I know it couldn't have been pretty. In the end, this kinda big baby boy popped out...Jack Timothy Nealon, after 12 hours of labor, weighing in at 7 lbs. 12 oz, 21 1/2 inches long. I really thought he was a girl so a boy was surprising. But, man, was he cute! And loud! The beauty of boys! Later, I called my brother to tell him about his new nephew and this was the conversation: Me: Hey, we just had the's a boy! Bro: Congratulations! What did you name him? Me: Jack Bro: Silence. Bro: What's his real name? Me: Jack....Jack Timothy Bro: No, I mean, his real name...John? Me: Nope, Just Jack Bro: How are you spelling that? Me: Silence Me: J-A-C-K Bro: Huh. Just Jack? Ok.... And that is how Just Jack was born. Fifteen years ago. Honestly, it feels like just yesterday that he was loving his "Foofy" (pacifier), saying his first word "Fan!" (he had a ceiling fan obsession for months), loving elephants, then crocodiles, then frogs, then turtles. Loving trucks, pulling out girl's pony tail holders at every turn (he liked to "collect them"...the pony tail holders, not the girls), and running everywhere he went. There have been countless frog funerals and an unknown number of trips to the emergency room. There have been many obsessions - turtles, Red Sox, baseball, basketball, and now golf. There have been many times I thought he might have a hearing problem, a forgetfulness issue, or the inability to do anything at a pace slower than a sprint. He went through glasses, braces....twice, contacts, and retainers. Suddenly he has emerged as this funny, handsome, athletic, studious, semi-responsible (he's a teenager...), young man who is ready to find the next challenge around the corner. I'm not quite sure how we got here or how we survived but I can't believe it's been 15 years already!

Happy Birthday, Just Jack!!

Day 1 - Kamping in Karolina Beach

We didn't get to bed last night til 11:00 and I think everyone was asleep before their heads even hit the pillows. Usually on our camping trips I have most days planned, with us doing things from morning til night. The kids start each day asking "What's on the itinerary today? We like to take advantage of all the things new places have to offer. This year, I didn't have as much time to plan so I left it open to what we would do each day. Instead, I just noted the key events that were happening in each town and figured that would guide our activities. The one exception being Sunday, Jack's 15th birthday. He gets to pick what he wants to do and eat all day so we have a sense for what we are doing that day. Today we all slept in, with Jack and I getting up first around 9 am. We ended up having to wake Mimi up at 9:30. We started the day with a smorgasbord breakfast - muffins, sweetie pies, lemon blueberry bread, and fruit salad. Then we all got in our suits and headed to Carolina Beach, a nearby town about 30 minutes away. We hit the farmers market first - the only thing I had hoped to do that day. It was on a lake, filled with turtles, so Jack was entertained. Apparently there were also alligator, as the signs warned, although we didn't see any. Apparently last week a Husky went swimming in the water and an alligator went after it. Yikes. As Jack trolled the edge of the water I had images of a gator snatching him away into a death roll. Luckily, we left there with both our kids intact, 3 tomatoes, and a sea glass bracelet that I treated myself to for my birthday (in a month). We left there in search of a place to park so we could hit the beach but we couldn't find a spot. Driving along we all agreed this area reminds us of the Outerbanks and Virginia Beach. There is a narrow road that runs alongside a row of houses right on the beach and the ocean is so close you could touch it. Carolina Beach is like the West Yarmouth of this area and Kure Beach is like the Chatham, if you are familiar with the Cape. We ended up just driving into Kure and finding a spot. The road is lined with pastel houses on stilts that overlook the beach and the ocean. Yellow, turquoise, brilliant blue, hot pink - the houses are just adorable. I say this about almost every place we visit, but I could live here. It's quiet, relaxing, and on the ocean. People drive their golf carts to the beach, to the store, and just to take a drive. I would like to live someplace where I could drive around in a golf cart all day in my bathing suit. We finally got to the crowded beach around 1:00 and were not disappointed. The waves were great and the water was warm but not like bath water. You know it is a good beach when the kids say "Even Mom went in". We spent the day reading books, eating a picnic lunch,body surfing, checking out the fishing pier, and swimming some more. Oh...and "watching tv"....and by that I mean, getting completely absorbed in the people next to us. There are times when Tim and I will go out to dinner and he'll say "Hey, this isn't a tv show", because there I am with my mouth hanging open, completely absorbed in the couple next to us, like I'm watching them on TV. The same thing happened today...there was a group of about 15 people...5 couples and their kids. It was like watching a new tv show, trying to figure out who was married to whom, which women liked each other, and who was causing all the drama. More than once Timmy had to tell me to stop staring. Around 4:00 we decided to pack up and head back, because the pool at the campground was calling our name....and my tv show friends were starting to pack up too. After a brief stop at the grocery store, I put the food away while Tim and the kids hit the pool. I have to stop here and say this is our first time at a KOA campground. I have resisted them up until this point for one reason....they misuse the letter K. My pet peeve is companies that use the K as a C. "Katie's Hair Kuttery"..."Kute Kids Preschool"...K's are not C's. I have an affinity for K's since my name starts with one. I would never call myself Celly. It's just not right. When the KOA's started using K's for Kabin's, I was immediately turned off. But, it was the only highly rated Kampground in the areas so I had to give it a shot. I have to admit, I'm impressed. The place is very klean. They have, not just a dog park, but a dog agility park. We are across from the stage area and tonight they are playing Angels in the Outfield on the big screen so the kids have the side of Jack's pop out zipped down and they are laying on his bed watching it like they are at the drive in. While the kids were at the pool, I took advantage of the quiet and took a first one in 2 days. Man, it felt good! It also feels good not to have to do my hair or wear make up. After my shower I found I even had time to read my book. nice to have a little time to myself. When everyone got back we started dinner - a first for us this go around - I made meatball sliders. Before we left I made my special meatballs and then I put them in little slider rolls with cheese, covered them in foil, and heated them on the grill. Stupid good. For dessert we had some astronaut ice cream that Mimi had got in DC on her class trip there in June. If you haven't had it, let's just say it is interesting. We "supplemented" that with our homemade chocolate chip cookies that Mimi made. Everyone is just taking it easy and getting ready for bed. Big day ahead of us tomorrow....Jack's birthday! I'm sure it will be filled with animals, bbq, candy, and his new obsession - golf.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Drive

When we take these long trips we try to break it up and get a few hours in at night, which is exactly what we did this trip. We left about 7pm on Thursday night and made it to New Jersey in 4 1/2 hours. At 11:30 we camped out in our usual rest area spot for a few hours of sleep. It's a good thing we are small people or this would never work. Jack sleeps on the floor with tons of pillows and blankets ant then Tim, Mimi, and myself hunker down on the kitchen table that turns into a bed. They go in one direction and I go in the other. It's not a pretty night's sleep but it does the job. This morning we woke up at 5:45 and were heading out by 6:15. The kids went back to sleep until about 10 so Tim and I enjoyed our Sweetie Pies in nice solitude. By 12:00 the car was hot, smelled like teenage bodies without showers, and I was basically lulled into a coma. It didn't help that we had sat in traffic for an hour. At about 1:00, after reaching our traffic tolerance level, we pulled over for a picnic lunch. It was great to get out of the car for a bit. I won't bore you with the details of the ride other than to say it involved hours of traffic that caused us to arrive to the campground almost 4 hours later than expected. At one point I think Tim was delirious. We saw a coyote on the side of the road and he swore it was a bobcat. We ended the day with sentiments like "I hate Virginia" and "so far this trip is not what I expected". But we all agreed we had great food on the trip down. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Camping Trip #2 - Wilmington, NC

Over the years I have been amazed at people who don't use up all their vacation time. They say things like "I didn't have time to take vacation". What the what??!! Honestly, it's like a foreign language to me. I assume the people that say these things think 1) they are too important to take vacation - the working world won't be able to continue without them or 2) they don't know how to relax.

It's 10:00 the night before I leave for vacation and I must have said three times today "Why is it so hard to take a vacation?" Perhaps some of these people have a point. A very small number...but some people.

I have to admit, I may be a bit ambitious in my planning. First, let me tell you what we are doing. We are going camping - to Wilmington, NC beach area....Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Cape Fear....right on the SC border. We chose the location because, as Jack gets closer to going to college, we try to visit nearby colleges so he can get a sense for the type of school he might like. He has always been interested in Marine Biology and identified UNC - Wilmington as a school he was interested in. So, I planned for months and just 2 weeks ago, after he said camping wasn't for him anymore, he also dropped the bombshell "I realized marine biology isn't for me. I don't really like math or science...I just like turtles." Uhm, ok....glad you realized that now rather than in your junior year of college....but 2 weeks before the vacation to go see a school you are interested in? Little tough to swallow. Luckily, the area has tons to offer so it's not a big deal. I will admit...the "I realized I just like turtles" will go down as one of his infamous lines. So cute and so funny.

I literally have been planning this vacation for months. First, there is the research of the area - is there enough to do around there? Where are the great campgrounds? Do they have availability?

Then comes the menu planning. Years ago, when we bought our first pop up for $175 on the way home from a soccer game, the woman who owned it filled me in on a little tip. Make as much as you can ahead of time and freeze it. Then pull out and defrost as you need it. I have been doing this for years and it has been great.

First, I sit down with my friend Pinterest and look over all the potential recipes. Since we will be driving for 16 hours, I need breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the road, and then those meals for the first few days. Then there is dinner....I found that if I don't make/prep things ahead of time, we end up eating out half the time...which really isn't camping at all. I'm also of the school of thought that when you camp, you don't need to eat typical camp fare. I cook as though I'm at home. This is what gets me in trouble.

Add on top of all of this that we typically go away this week and it's Jack's birthday. Last year I made a camo cake and transported it to the Outer Banks. Stupid? Yes. Worth it? Yes. He loved it. But there I was slaving over the stove at midnight the night before we left making 3 different colored cake batters, swirling them to look like camouflage, frosting the layers, and then finding a spot in the car where it wouldn't fall apart.

So, what's on tap for the menu this vacation? Well, for our "car breakfast" Friday morning, we'll be having The Pioneer Woman's Good Morning Muffins (made 2 weeks ago and froze), Sweetie Pies (which are little raspberry filled, heart shaped pies sprinkled with cinnamon sugar - they are a standard of our car trips), and fruit salad. For lunch, we'll have sandwiches that we'll make on the road that will be accompanied by my friend Ann's excellent broccoli salad. Dinner will be out...we always need a break at that point.

During our vacation we'll have (all homemade): lemon blueberry bread, breakfast quesadillas, birthday chocolate chip pancakes (topped with whipped cream and sprinkles), egg "mcmuffin" sandwiches, corn salsa, black bean burgers, steak, ribs, meatball parm sliders, grilled pizza, chocolate chip cookies, and strawberry shortcake. 

Add to all this cooking.... working at my full time job and packing... clothes and camper supplies (sheets, towels, pots & pans, dishes, games, you name it). Yeah, I's my own fault and I don't have the right to complain that it is too hard to take vacation. I choose to camp and I choose to treat it like an Iron Chef Competition with myself. But it's all worth it when the kids say, at the end of each trip, that it was even better than the last.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Holy Heat Wave

God, I love a 95 degree humid day! You don't hear that often do you? You know why? Because they are stoopid. Totally, totally stoooopid.

I have never been a central AC kind of gal. I really like to open the windows and let the breeze in. There is something unnatural about the fake air. And I feel closed in with all those windows closed up. When we built our house we opted not to put it in because of this belief of mine.

The last few years we have had a few heat waves that have caused us to sit in our underpants in front of fans and pant like dogs. But it's been over pretty quickly and life goes on.

Last year it seemed a bit worse...but then this year... I was about ready to hurt someone to be allowed just 5 minutes in central AC. Well, I'd hurt someone if I had the energy to move but I didn't so you don't have to worry. This year we did get some AC units for our bedrooms and that has helped. I feel like if I break down and get central AC we'll never really need it and then I'll be mad for spending the money on it. Although I know the longer I don't get it, the longer the heat waves will last.

I thought I might share my Top 10 List of Things That I "Love" About Heat Waves:

10. Boy do I love the ants that for some reason want to seek shelter in my house only during heat waves. I hate them.
9. I love when the commuter rail doesn't have any AC and you are stuck like a hobo on a freight train on a 1,000 degree day.
8. I love when your feet blow up from the heat like you are a bloated pig.
7. I love when you feel that little breeze and you think "oh, here it comes!" and then it quickly dies and you are sitting in the dead hot air again.
6. I love when you stick to your seat when you go to get out of the car.
5. I love when your sunglasses slide down your nose because of all the sweat. It's a good look. Both sweat and the sliding of the glasses.
4. I love when you get out of the shower and are already dripping in sweat by the time you get your clothes on.
3. I love when you try an outfit on and it's not doing it for you so you attempt to take it off but you can't because your clothes are stuck to you. Guess I'll wear this then...
2. I love when you attempt to put make up on but your face is "glistening" so much that it slides right off.
1. I love when you get up in the morning and it's as hot as when you went to bed and you know your make up is going to slide off your face and you know you will be soaked with sweat by the time you get to work. Good times.

Happy Sweating!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Climbing Elephants

In previous posts, I have expressed how much I love getting together with my girlfriends. Last week, I got together with two friends I haven't seen in some time. My friend Kristal introduced me to my first Droid when we were traveling to Park City Utah for work. I think she was the 2nd person to purchase one and I was immediately mesmerized by it's abilities. We've spent time traveling together, dealing with stressful situations, and dealing with work people that normally we would never choose to hang out with. She is smart, very talented, and one of the funniest people I have ever met. And the deadpan kind of favorite.

My friend Katie and I worked together for years. She was like my little sister that I worked with. She once said to me in the bathroom "Can I tell something as a friend?" and I had visions of her telling me she was pregnant since she was newly married. Instead she told me I had a crazy old lady whisker coming out of my chin. Oh. My. God. Horrible moment of recognition of getting old. But great moment of a friend being completely honest and looking out for your best interests. There was no way she was letting me go to the café with that rip van winkle hair. I'm just going to say, that those little hairs don't come out easily. Try to pull them out and they curl like Shirley Temple's hair.

Once Katie and I went to a conference together and one thing led to another...we had a few glasses of wine, and on the way back to our rooms we noticed the hotel staff cleaning a very large (life size) elephant in the lobby. They were up on a lift cleaning the top of it. So many questions should have come to mind for us. Why an elephant in the lobby? Why are you cleaning it? But no, instead the only question that came to mind was "How can we get on that thing?!" Katie used her adorable charm and soon enough she was up on the lift with the cleaning crew attempting to scale the elephant. It was then that we had a sudden epiphany that if she ever fell off and hurt herself it would be very difficult to explain what she was doing up there in the first place.

Katie and I definitely are mischievous when we get together. And Kristal would just say "Go ahead.." and watch us with a smirk. When we got together last week, Katie and I both agreed, we had to behave and not have "an elephant kind of night."

So, the three amigos got together and literally we could have spent all night together. We talked about old co-workers, our new work places, kids, pets, and of course, Pinterest. Why is it that time passes so quickly and before you realize it you haven't seen your friends in person in 2 1/2 years?. It's just not right. We talk through email and text but often its hard to find the time to get together when you live in all different directions and have very busy lives.

It was such a great night and now Kristal is moving into Boston so we'll all be a little closer together. We promised to get together more often by trying restaurants in Kristal's new neighborhood. I love friends, I love to eat, I love to laugh...I'm in! I can't wait....and I hope there aren't any elephants in her new hood.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Camping of the 2013 Season

Typically, our first camping trip each year is on April vacation but we had decided to go away for February vacation this year and then did a staycation in April. Our next camping weekend is typically Memorial Day weekend but this year my company took us to Mexico to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Our next trip is typically 4th of July...which was our first camping trip this year. It has been 9 months since we camped - hard to believe. Needless to say, I was excited to get back into preppy camper action.

I forgot how much work it is to initially get ready for the first time. Everything needs to go back in for the season - dishes, silverware, beach towels, shampoos, conditioners, blankets, pillows, clothes, lanterns, and food galore. Oh the food! I spend days thinking through a menu, then go grocery shopping the weekend before, and then make whatever I can ahead of time. It just makes it easier. We typically spend all day at the beach and by the time we get home and showered, the last thing we feel like doing is making a gourmet meal, but we do love to eat well.

And eat we do! I made "good morning" muffins - a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, fruit salad, tacos, I marinated chicken, made sweet corn salsa, black bean burgers, and strawberry shortcake. Let's just say we didn't go hungry.

We started our adventure on Wednesday. By the time we got set up, we were 30 minutes away from the office closing to get our annual beach pass so we drove there as fast as we could. Then we took our first ride out into the dunes. The green of the grass against the turquoise blue sky with the sandy dunes is just spectacular. makes me feel home each time I see it. To be honest, just crossing the bridge and smelling the salt air makes me feel at home..but I truly feel the most comfortable on the Outer Cape. If you have never been, you need to go. Call me and we'll arrange a trip. Once on the beach, we hung out for about an hour - playing wiffle ball and searching for beach treasures. Then it was back to our camper for dinner - grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and salad.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it. Insert sound of screeching tires here. I should just mention that on the way down I asked Jack why he had an attitude. First, welcome to the teenage years. Sigh. But beyond that, it was obvious he was not as interested in camping. And that's just what he told me. He told me that he didn't want to ruin things for me because he knew I was looking forward to the weekend but that he had "outgrown" camping and wasn't what he wanted to be doing. I get it...he's about to turn 15 and it doesn't hold the same appeal anymore. We had an honest conversation about it, with the end result being that we understood how he felt but we were going to continue to camp and if he wanted to bring a friend along for one of our trips to make it more fun he could do that. Insert my crushed heart here. I knew this was going to happen some day...and no matter when it came, I knew I would never be ready. And I was right. I'm not ready to stop camping, at least not yet. I also know that he does have fun in the end.

On Thursday Tim and I woke up early and went for a walk. We checked out the view from Highland Light (amazing) and then walked halfway to Coast Guard Beach in Truro. We then hustled back to get ready to meet Tim's cousin Kelley and her adorable family at the Wellfleet 4th of July parade. It was crazy hot, but always a fun time. After that we went back and had lunch and then packed up for the beach. I had been spearheading an effort of getting a bunch of family together since many people either live, were vacationing, or visiting the area. We used Thursday to scope out a good place to set up with about 30 people the next day. We found a great spot and spent the day there. We played wiffle ball, corn hole, paddle ball, swam, read, soaked in the sun, and rested in the shade. All in all, it was a very relaxing day. I asked Jack that night, wasn't that fun? Yeah....I guess. Huh? How could all this be bad, I wondered?

Then it was back to the camper for some rest - most of us read...and some of us, who are teenagers, had their noses in their phones....they almost got taken away. I'll be honest, the constant connection with Facebook, Instagram, and texting is just out of hand in general with kids. I know it is different than when I was growing up but I had to draw a few boundaries with the electronics.

We had our taco dinner and strawberry shortcake and then played BS and Crazy Eights. As usual, Jack was the first to turn in, then me, and then the card sharks eventually turn in after staying up late trying to beat each other in whatever card game they are playing.

Friday morning arrived and I started the day with a walk to the beach. It took 20 minutes each way but was totally worth it. The sun was coming up and there were tons of seals swimming along the beach. They made my day...those darn seals are so cute. When I got back we all started packing for the big get together. We were all really looking forward to it. Hanging with cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents, and friends...what could be better? Some people got dune permits and drove out in their Jeeps and then those people shuttled everyone else out. Let me just say that 18 adults and 15 kids bring a lot of stuff to the beach! Corn hole, volleyball, wiffle ball, beach chairs, a beach potty (essential and also my contribution), towels, diapers, coolers, grills, and enough food to fill a small grocery store. I'm pretty sure we could have survived a week on the beach with all that we had.

The best part of the day was just seeing all the cousins playing together. From toddlers to teenagers, everyone played together and had a blast. And I got my baby/little kid fix with all the little ones. From little Amelia who just wanted Mimi and I to hold her in the water and play, to my skipping stone buddy Lucy, to listening to Ryan's knock knock jokes, it couldn't have been any cuter. And the adult cousins and family had a chance to catch up, which was great. With everyone being so busy with their families its often hard to find time to connect. For me, the night ended too quickly. There were so many more things to talk about, so many more memories to make.

At the end of the night Tim's parents came back to the camper with us to spend the night. We shared the rest of the strawberry shortcake and then hung outside reliving memories of when they used to camp. It was such a great night...and Jack even said he had a great time.

The good news is that the weather throughout the weekend was fantastic. The downside was that it was so hot that everyone needed a break from the sun. So, on Saturday, everyone got to sleep in and we took our time getting out the door. Jack's choice was to play mini golf at Arnold's in Eastham. Afterwards we went back to the camper for a late lunch of appetizers and just hung out a bit. Then we headed off to the beach around 3 just for a little bit to say our temporary good byes to the National Seashore since it will be awhile before we will get back down there. When we got back, the boys had burgers and the girls had black bean burgers with leftover sweet corn salsa. You must try this recipe:! Dessert was bomb pops and the game of choice was Crazy Eights once again.

Sunday dawned - another sunny day - but it was time to pack up. We let the kids sleep while we started packing up. Then we took off to the Wellfleet book sale - apparently the ENTIRE town comes out for this - we got a bunch of great books tho.  When we got back we finished packing up and then began our trek home. And what a long trek it's been a long time since it took us 4 hours to get home from the Cape.

Reflecting on the weekend, I was so happy to be camping again. And even though Jack's interest in camping is waning, I know he had a good weekend and we always enjoy our camping time with the kids. Someday I really do think he will look fondly back on these times and maybe he'll even want to share the same kind of adventures with his family. Insert crossed fingers here.

I told the kids that when they go to college, Tim and I will spend the nice weekends in the fall enjoying the dunes of the Outer Cape. They were more concerned with who would be feeding the cats. But that is likely the place we will spend our retirement....and we'll bring the cats with us.

I know a lot of you talk about going camping but keep putting it off. GO camping TODAY! You won't regret it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Personal Flocking Rules

It's been very busy over the last few weeks between work, the kids finishing up school, and trying to get ready for our first camping trip of the season. We had an all-company meeting last week in which part of it was focused on developing some basic guidelines that we will all understand and operate under - called "flocking rules".

This term originated with geese and the informal "V" formation that occurs when they follow the pack "rules". In our meeting we did some research on flocking rules and one article laid out some interesting facts:

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a 'V' formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. The lesson here is that teamwork and community make a difference.

When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front. The lesson here was that we need to be willing to accept and give others our help.
One of the most interesting facts for me was that geese flying in formation 'HONK' to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed. I have always wondered why they were honking. Now I know! The lesson we can learn from the geese with this "rule" is that we need to make sure we are encouraging each other.

As our meeting progressed we spent time identifying the flocking rules that we, as a company, wanted to guide our behavior in the future. It got me thinking about my own personal flocking rules or those things that I use to guide myself by. Here is my short list:

1. Do the right thing - do what you would do when you are by yourself, as though others were watching. Pick up the paper on the floor rather than walk past it. Be polite.  Be kind. Treat others as you want to be treated. Don't put off doing the right thing. It's funny....when I reminded myself of this after reflecting on it, I caught myself doing a few things I probably would have overlooked. What I found most interesting is that your one act of doing the right thing can impact others. For example, I stopped and let someone out of a busy intersection. They then let someone go ahead of them and then I saw that person let someone else out further down along the road. It was amazing to see that one little act of doing the right thing can have a domino effect on other people doing the right thing.

2. You only get one life - make it a good one. Don't spend time doing things you don't want to do, feel you "should" do, or generally don't enjoy doing. Enjoy life every day. Find joy in every day. Choose to be happy. Be adventurous...our whatever it is that that you want it. Don't have regrets. Sure, some of the choices you make might not be the best, but you always learn from them and you can always move on. Take the risk.

3. Choose to see the good. Don't be the glass half empty kind of gal. Choose to see something positive in every day...even when you have a really, really tough day. Focusing on the negative only brings you down more. And no one likes a Debbie Downer. There is always good in the day, even if it is something little. Choosing to be positive makes you happier and opens up possibilities and opportunities. Choose to smile at one thing each day. At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, I'll share a little moment that made me smile...our cats were curled up together today and one was using the other's legs as a pillow. It was so cute how entwined they were and how comfy they were. It had nothing to do with me but made me smile.

4. Take time for yourself each day. It makes you a better person. It really does. I'm going to be honest...I have no tolerance for people who tell me they are too busy to read, exercise, or do anything they want to do for themselves. I once found a quote that said "You are only as busy as you make yourself" and it hit me how true that is. I know people who are running here and there to do a million things but it's so hard to find time for themselves. I used to be that person but when I realized I was one minute away from having a complete breakdown and needed to change things to save myself, I realized it is actually possible to take time for yourself. You just need to make the time. Take away the stuff that isn't adding value to your life and replace it with a few minutes to yourself. For me, that meant I had to get up an hour earlier in the morning and I'm not a morning person at all. As hard as it is, I get up at 5 am and do things like watch the news, read, or exercise. And at night, on days I might get home a little early, I'll take a quick walk before making dinner. The kids aren't expecting dinner any earlier and it gives me time to do something good for myself. Believe me, if you really look, you can find time to do the things you want to do.

5. Life is an adventure. Dress for it! I habitually overdress and I NEVER feel bad about it. Yes, I have worn pearls when hiking. Not purposely but in the end I looked cute and I felt good. I do love my pearls...they are big and chunky and are something I wear about 75% of the time. When I go out to dinner with friends, I'll wear a skirt. When I go out with Tim, I always dress up. I think it's important to take the time for yourself and look good. I think it makes you and the person you are with feel special when you take an extra few minutes on your appearance. It may sound superficial but I don't think it is. I think it just makes you and your partner/guest/friend feel a little special - and let's be's nice to feel a little special.

I could keep going on but I'll stop here. I'm curious what your personal flocking rules are...the guidelines that you use to make you be the best person you can be each day. Share!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jumping Jacks are for Youngins'

I went to bootcamp for the first time several years ago. My friend & neighbor Melissa dragged me into it. She said "C' bad could it really be?!" Uhm. Pretty Bad.

On the first night there were about 10 people. We had to frog hop around each other as our first exercise. Don't know what that is? Well, imagine this. Ten people stand in line and then the last person in line jumps like a frog all the way to the front and gets in front of the first person. And you sit in a squat while you wait for the 9 other people to hop by. By the end, our thighs were shaking. And that was just the first exercise. 50 minutes later, the instructor, and that's not at all what I want to refer to her as but I'm being nice, whipped a tennis ball at the gym wall and each of us had to catch it. The gym is basically all rubber...walls, floors, you name it.. rubber. So the ball was highly unpredictable. If you didn't catch the ball, then everyone had to drop and do ten push ups. We hated each other until it was our turn and we realized how hard it was. I think only 2 people caught the ball...and I was not one of them.

But we went back week after week, loving the challenge, but also loving the people watching, We would take turns cycling through different stations that lasted for 1 minute. Things like sits ups, wall kicks, jumping jacks, lifting weights, and jumping on and off the bleachers. There were times when the teacher turned her back and we all froze and didn't do anything until she was about to turn around. And there were other times when I would catch Melissa's eyes and we would crack up. There was a woman in our class that wore only one black glove, we never understood why, but we named her "Ha, He!" like the words Michael Jackson sang in Bad..."I know she's Bad, she's bad, ha he!"

Do you remember in gym class when you would tumble on those blue and tan mats that folded up? Yeah...well, one week we had to get in teams, pick one up, and hold the mat above our head while we ran the length of the gym and back. I literally laughed out loud when she told us what we were doing..I didn't think it was possible. Apparently it is but the whole time I was worried my arms would fail, the mat would hit the top of my head, and my neck would snap. Stoopid. Stoopid.

Amazingly, we took two bootcamp classes in a row and then we took a break. A few weeks ago I went to Tim's aunt's retirement party and  at the end of the night I found myself signed up for another bootcamp. Funny how beer + family = good idea to say yes to a bootcamp. Tim's cousin Callie roped me into it.

The class is basically filled, and by filled I mean like 5 people, with family and friends...who are easily 10 years younger than me. The instructor is Callie's friend. "It's only an hour" I reminded myself...I can do this.

The first few minutes were ok....and then we did jumping jacks. Listen....for those of you who don't have children or a bladder over 35, cut the crap with the pee pants jacks. I can't wait for you young people to turn old and do some jacks.

Then we moved into planks. Now listen, planks are tough but I love the challenge of the plank. And at 30 seconds, I remind myself that I can do anything for 30 seconds. But this plank involved getting into plank position, then lifting opposite arm and leg while in plank position, and then doing the other arm and leg...continuously for 30 seconds. I literally said out loud "Are you kidding me with this?" and got a rug burn attempting to do it. Holy Stupidness.

We moved on to weights for the last 30 minutes, which I love. Until I had to hit the chin up bar. Our instructor said he would help the ladies by holding their feet and giving them a boost up. So, I grabbed onto the bar and literally could not pull myself up. At all. Andrew was holding my feet and said "Ok...pull up" and I said "Uhm..I am..." and he said "Okay, let's not try and push ourselves on the first night...." Or any night. I can't pull myself up but I can pee my pants in bootcamp. Goodie!

I will say, I love the challenge of a bootcamp. They suck. Don't get me wrong...they suck bad. But you feel so good afterwards. I'll keep going...I love the challenge and it's a great workout but I'm just going to give you a little advice. If you are talking to a friend of family member at a family event, and if you have had a few cocktails, don't say yes to a bootcamp...I'm just sayin'....

Monday, July 1, 2013

8th Grade Graduation

Last Thursday night, Mimi graduated from middle school. When Jack left middle school last year, I never thought of him as graduating, mainly because one day middle school ended, we had summer, and then he started high school. For the first time this year, the school decided to have a graduation ceremony to mark the momentous occasion of no longer being a little girl and being a hair away from going to college....or at least that's what it feels like to me. They should have just glossed over it, like they did for Jack, so I wouldn't have to reflect on this milestone.

If you know me at all, you know I am going to cry my eyes out at high school graduation. It's not going to be pretty. This year, we had several friends with seniors so we watched the ceremony on our local television station. I got weepy when kids I didn't even know sang, I welled up when our friend's children crossed the stage, but most of all I cried when a senior girl I didn't know got up to share her story of how she is currently fighting non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and instead of going to college in the fall she will be fighting for her life. I loved the idea of the school having her speak - life isn't tidy, things don't go as planned, and life is tough. It was an inspiring, amazing talk but one I was glad to be at home listening, instead of in person, because I was a puddle.

Fast forward to Mimi's graduation - I knew I would never survive with dry eyes. The night started off with the 7th grade band playing a few songs. No need to cry for that. Then came the awards. Each teacher picked a child that they felt really progressed the most in that subject, whether it was French, History, or Wellness. Mimi's friend Ally won an award for Health because of her positive attitude, wonderful smile, and just general ability to make people happy. That totally describes her - she is one of the sweetest girls. I was sitting with her mom. She was beaming ear to ear. I was wiping away tears for 5 minutes. I can't help myself. And it wasn't even my child!

Then one of Mimi's classmates had written a speech - valedictorian-like - and it was amazing. It made me well up just thinking how proud her parents must have been to hear her. Again, didn't know her.

Then a boy got up who had written a song that he sang acoustically, accompanied by his guitar. He was excellent. Yep, I cried. I was thinking how proud his parents must be, how much courage the kid had to get up and sing in front of about 500 people, and how great he was. That made me think of him potentially performing at their high school graduation, singing the same song...which made me think of Mimi in her cap and gown...and moving away to college...and that made me cry more. Good Lord.

The killer moment was when they were called up to cross the stage and collect their diploma. Seeing Mimi cross the stage was almost too much for me. It just hit me that time is going by so fast and before I know it, she'll be starting her own life and our days of seeing each other every day and having sleep overs are coming to a close. That made me think of Jack going away to college in just three short years and I had a hard time getting myself back under control. Seriously, it's making me well up right now.

When I got home from work it was hectic getting her dinner, getting her ready, and out the door. We didn't have much time to pause, except when she came down right before we left. There she was in her little (and I mean literally can't find anything but teensie little dresses for this age) white dress that had hot pink trim. She was wearing a navy ruffle cardigan over it and hot pink wedge sandals. We curled her hair while she ate dinner and then she put it up in a barrette. She had a little blush on (over her freckles) and pink lipgloss. She literally took my breath away. It made me well up but I distracted myself by taking tons of pictures so she didn't even notice. She would have rolled her eyes at me for sure.

After the graduation there was a school dance for the kids. Tim and I eagerly waited in the hallways between the auditorium and the gym where the dance was, waiting for her to come over and say hi before she disappeared. She never came over. Sigh. She had gone right into the dance and didn't even give us a second thought. Her mind was on her friends, having fun, and being able to take her sweater off and wear a strapless dress because the dress code didn't apply that night. She probably also wanted to avoid Tim and I standing in the hallway with our welled up eyes, with all the other parents. Instead we went right into the dance to say goodbye, with Tim making sure to whisper "Don't dance with any boys."

I picked her up later that night and after she shared all her stories from the night, I told her how beautiful she looked that night and how proud I was of her. Silence. I said "Did you hear me?" and she said "Yep". I looked over and there she was staring out the car window...all welled up. Yes! It wasn't just me that cried that night!!

Happy Graduation, Mimi!