Random Thoughts: The Vacation Wrap-Up Edition

The five-day trip to Seven Springs was a nice little getaway for the family. The kids had a really good time. Dan and I did, too, although the only downside to the trip was that Dan and I didn’t get to spend much time together. We split POD time, and between naptimes and bedtimes, one of us was usually at the place while the other was either out with the other kids or visiting other family.

Saturday night we had thought to go up to the Rib and Wing Fest (yes, I know, the irony of a vegetarian at a Rib and Wing Fest) to see Bill Deasy. And we did go, but since we also went up with my parents and the kids, we spent a little more time with the kids than watching Deasy. And then although my mom was going to stay at the place with the kids after bedtime, Dan was wiped out from a late Friday night (or should I say Saturday morning?), so stayed there, too. I went a’visiting since it was our last night.


Michael napped, and Michael slept through the night (except on Sunday, when he decided at 5:30 a.m. he wanted to sleep with/on me). That made a huge impact on the trip, the fact that Dan and I could really sleep (or, during naptime, take turns chilling). One morning, Flora even came in the room and got M out of the pack’n’play without waking Dan or me up! So when (if) we didn’t get adequate rest, it was our own fault. Of course, Thursday night I was so tired that since I was POD, I went to bed at 10 p.m. Whoo, vacation party time!


Let’s see. We swam, played mini-golf, and played games in the arcade. We had waffles and pancakes with my sister-in-law and the four boys. The children ate a lot of mac’n’cheese and french fries. Flora got WAY too tired, and had a couple of melt downs. (Yeah, Flora, my eldest child.) We took the family photo. All-in-all it was great to catch up and see everyone. Dan had two nights out, and I had two nights out. Everyone commented on how adorable M is (it’s true, he is).


The girls loved going to the pool, of course. M was ambivalent about it. He went in a couple of times, but was content to sit on the side of the pool with me and some snacks.

I don’t really like swimming with the kids. I’m not really crazy about swimming in general, so although I am able, it’s not something I do unless I have to. Thank goodness for swim lessons.

On Saturday, after the family photo and lunch, M went in for a nap, and I took the girls to the pool. They swam for nearly three hours straight. I sat in a lounge chair or on the side of the pool and watched them. My parents were on me a little bit about letting the girls go in the water alone, but I was keeping track of them. And, they weren’t really alone. When we go up to Seven Springs, we pretty much take over one of the pools. So Flora and Kate were in the pool with about a dozen or so of their cousins, with lots of adults watching.


I did not take many pictures. I’ll have to look around and steal some from Facebook or see what my mother emails to me. However, I did capture a little of the family photo chaos:

The photographer is up on the ladder. We’ve already taken the BIG family photo, and now he’s getting a shot of the people who were not in the picture we took 12 years ago. That included a couple of spouses (like Dan) and most of the kids, whom we refer to as the 3rd Generation.

Here’s Kate and Michael during a pause in the action, and Kate’s expression pretty much says, “Now what, mom??” But she, Flora, and Michael did very well during the photos, which took about an hour, hour and a half. Thank goodness, once more, for snacks, including (at the end) red velvet cupcakes for a birthday.


My sister traveled from North Carolina with her husband, her teenage stepdaughter, a friend of the stepdaugher, and two dogs. In a Honda Civic.

Her dogs are Boston terriers, and one of them, Buddy, is at least 15 years old. Maybe 18, I forget. And is literally on his last legs.

I cried when I said goodbye to him. I’m sure it was for the last time. He’s been a good dog, and he’s probably literally saved my sister when she has been in dark places.

We’ll never forget you, Buddy.


Did I mention the arcade? While there are a few video games and pinball machines, the arcade at Seven Springs is largely given over to games that award tickets (skee ball, Deal or No Deal, a game where you can torpedo boats). By the end of the day Friday, Flora had 2500 tickets, and Kate had 800. Mostly through pure luck — it didn’t cost nearly as much as you might think. One machine had a 1000 ticket space — and Flora hit it twice. Kate got lucky on a couple other machines, plus shot the rainbow boat.

I helped them “shop” before we left on Sunday. They didn’t do too terribly (meaning I steered them away from the worst of the plastic junk).


What do you like to do best on vacation?

About Last Night

In case you caught bit and pieces of my Twitter stream last night (like my father did, on my blog — poor dad), let me fill in the blanks.

For amusing vacation anecdotes, please come back tomorrow.

Michael and I returned to Pittsburgh via the Cranberry exit of the turnpike, and were home by about 4 p.m. And locked out because Dan had the house key. Fortunately my in-laws were home, and we said our hellos and got our house key from them.

Dan and I traveled separately because we needed two cars for all our stuff. Well, the kids’ stuff really. Plus, you know, the kids. (It’s time for us to invest in a bigger vehicle.) Sunday after packing the car and having brunch with my parents, sister, and her family, Dan took the girls to visit a friend near Seven Springs, while M and I headed for home.

M napped about an hour in the car, and was, not surprisingly, cranky once we got home. He threw a fantastic tantrum, and I figured he was headed for an early bedtime. We had cheese and noodles for dinner — we need to go to shopping — and took a nice little walk.

Once we got back home, he played in the tub for a bit. Then he decided he wanted to get out as I was rinsing the shampoo out of his hair. As a result of his eagerness, the slippery tub, and my hands being full and wet, he slipped and smashed his chin on the edge of the tub.

I was terrified for a moment that he had hit his *teeth* — he went down hard. But it turned out he had just put a nice gash in his chin. I called my MIL because it looked to me like a trip to the hospital was in order. It wasn’t bleeding a lot, but it was… well, gaping. After the fall, he didn’t even cry that long, and he didn’t knock himself out. Once the first wailing stopped, he actually asked for ice, which I was more than happy to give to him.

My FIL drove us to the ER, where they were friendly and efficient. Instead of stitches, Michael got Dermabonded — basically superglue for your skin — and then got an orange popsicle.

As we left the ER, I said to M, “Let’s not come back here for a long, long time.” The male nurse who was assisting us said, “I have bad news for you. He’s a boy.” Seeing as M has already attempted to climb a tree, ride a scooter, and reach the monkey bars on our jungle gym, he may have a point.

On the way home, M happily babbled in the back seat, and once home, we snuggled, he had his bottle, the girls peered at his wound, and everyone (except the grown ups) went to bed. Not the best ending to a five-day vacation (which was really nice), but everyone is fine. A couple of days in our normal routine should get everyone back in equilibrium.

Do boys go to the emergency room more than girls? Or do they go to the ER for injuries more often than girls?

Random Thoughts: The We’re Outta Here Edition

Vacation starts at 4 p.m. today.

Flora has been out of her mind with excitement for a week now. I’ve had to channel her energy into many constructive projects: Arts and crafts to give to Nonna and Pap-pap! Packing the toy bag for the car and condo! Today I have the sitter helping them put clothes aside for the trip. I had to put the kibosh on the TWO LAUNDRY BASKETS OF STUFFED ANIMALS she and Kate wanted to bring with them.

We’re going for five days, kid, not moving there.


Thanks to Holly at Eyetique in the Robinson Mall, I have contact lenses for vacation.

Thanks to Van Salon in Sewickley, I managed to fit in a bikini wax as well.

I never did get around to a pedicure though. I’ll have to polish the piggies tonight after the kids are in bed.


Somewhat on a side note: Finding a new place to get waxed is a big, giant PITA.

For the longest time, Ulta was up at the Pointe; they had Sunday hours, and I could get lip, brows, and bikini line waxed all in one appointment without worrying about childcare (Dan could handle it). The aestheticians were great, too, friendly, skilled, appropriate.

But then they moved, and got rid of the private waxing room. Now, if you want your brows done, they do it in the middle of the store at the Brow Bar. I am not a fan. And, obviously, they aren’t going to do bikini line waxes there.

So I started getting my brows and lip done at a place near work. It’s only a five minute drive away.

Well, I scheduled my last bikini wax there as well, thinking, “One stop shop!”

Not so much. The aesthetician was a horror of a bikini waxer. Too much wax, all over the place, and she left bruises.

Bikini waxing should not leave bruises, people.

So I took to Twitter, seeing if people had recommendations. Someone mentioned Van Salon, and with a little assistance from my ILs, I got there on Saturday. (They had to watch the kids for about 45 minutes.) Van Salon is a lovely little salon/spa in Sewickley, and I plan to go back to take advantage of their facials and maybe a pedicure some time, too. They have great hours, too — open late on the weekdays, and 9 to 5 on Saturday.


Our vacation experience with kids has been somewhat uneven. Let’s face it, it screws with the kids’ schedules and routines in a big way. I’m hoping Michael does better this year than last, when he woke every night, and was up between 3 and 6 a.m., wanting nothing more than to sleep on me.

I’m less worried about the girls, although I do hope they don’t get too run down between EXCITEMENT and exhaustion. Fingers crossed!


Have a great week. I’ll probably be tweeting poolside on occasion, but I’m mostly going to swim & play with the kids, nap (I hope), and read crappy books. Yay!

Guest Post: The High Priestess of Boogie Responds to Billie Hollidaysburg

Disclaimer from the priestess, Erin Fleming, herself:
Yeah, sure, thanks, that’s fine, but I would ask that you add the disclaimer that I was writing back to a bunch of friends who I know really, really well, and who are used to my sense of humor, because if I were on a guest panel or in a more public forum I’d like to think I would temper my cheek just a bit. (Or am I just kidding myself?) And also, I have to say that Angel really had the best reaction, which is how silly it is that we’re all discussing a book that none of us have read. We’re just ranting in order to amuse ourselves and our friends. Probably not unlike what goes on in actual book clubs.

Editor’s note: Or, really, what goes on in the blogging and social media worlds pretty much daily.

Well, as funny as this is, Jen, and as you always are, and as great as it would be for you to post in on the your mom blog, just so that there would at least be some more interesting writing on there, it seems to me that you’re going a long way out of your way to deliberately miss her point. (Or is that Ms. it?)

She is a humorist, after all, so I don’t think she chose the title “How to Be A Woman,” with an actual, earnest, Emily Post type agenda, and I don’t think she’s talking about controlling our vaginas as in stopping them from running amok and getting into trouble without our consent. I think she means controlling it as opposed to letting  others  be in control of it, you know, in the way some others try to do, with their ultrasound legislation and third world clitorectomies and the like. I think that’s the control she’s referring to, not your hilarious blinding nylon vest scenario.

I think what she is clearly challenging is the type of modern woman who is suspicious of using the word feminist to describe herself, because it might put off her more conservative friends, or her controlling husband, or the guy she’s dating who likes to open the door for her, or her boss or her bat shit crazy tea party-ing father. I think she is provocatively challenging the type of woman who shies away from the word feminist because that kind of woman, like many of us, might be embarrassed or offended by what some fearless feminists might say or do. As many of us are, periodically. Pun intended.

I myself, although unabashedly a self-proclaimed feminist, am often offended or embarrassed by what some Americans might say or do, but I don’t shy away from either term as a descriptor. That’s just me. 

I think her challenge is something along the lines of getting women to stop thinking that “feminist” is a dirty, unshaven, word, and I think she uses that line as a funny way to make the distinction. I could hear Tina Fey saying the same thing.

But I am the LAST person to talk you off a ledge if you want to publish what you think. Blog your lady business away.

Guest Post: Billie Hollidaysburg Rants

This is a guest post from my friend Jen. It started out as an email between friends. Jen writes and blogs for the a newspaper in central Pennsylvania, and she was, in her own words, asking us to “talk her off the ledge” of posting the following to her own space on her blog.

Where she lives is an extremely conservative place.

Jen is upfront that she is reacting to the interview of Caitlin Moran, who is a British feminist/humorist, and not reacting to the book itself, which she hasn’t (yet) read. Saucy language ahead.

Lady Business
Yesterday on the radio I heard an interview with the author of a book entitled something like “How to be a Woman.”  I thought having a 4-year-old would have reduced the lightning speed at which I could get pissed off. I thought I’d learned to be patient and listen before launching into full-on fulminating.
Really? I need a book? And I need it NOW? I’m 43! I’ve given birth. Now, I need a book called “How to be a Woman”?  I thought all I needed was a vajayjay and my brain to be a woman, but it appears I need that AND A BOOK. It gets better.
Groovy, book-writer lady closed her interview by saying, “It comes down to this, do you have a vagina and do you want to be in control of it? Then you are a feminist.”  Now I might need a drink, because now I have had this vision that in my sleep, my junk has been running amok. It’s possible to not control my hoo-ha?

Immediately my mind goes rampant too.  Let’s check the news reports because now I think, maybe, in my SLEEP, my chick-stuff has been escaping my underpants and going out committing acts of vandalism or worse.  Maybe in the middle of the night it has been stealing letters off signage and leaving lewd messages in the bushes at major intersections.
Let’s see. “80 year old man bludgeons home-intruders dressed as meter readers.” My bits wouldn’t be caught DEAD in a blinding yellow nylon vest. But they would totally smack the sh*t out of some home intruders. They don’t look 80, though. Okay, safe so far. It wasn’t my marauding vajizzle.
Hmmm… a failed attempt at robbing a convenience store where the suspect was apprehended with 27 dollars and a bag of Doritos. Coulda been the munchies for sure but there don’t appear to be any telltale signs of orange dust. I think I’m still safe.
So, okay, I’m going to go with NO. I think, sadly, my lady-bits go where I do and don’t run away like the gingerbread man or anything exciting like that. I think I AM in control of it, whether I’m a feminist or not. I think if I were writing such a thing it would simply state the following.
a) Be who you are and love that.
b) Find a way that you’re comfortable with to keep your nether regions tidy, and don’t make a big deal of it.
c) Have babies when you’re ready to be responsible for them.
d) You are not required to have babies unless you want them.
e) No is always an answer.
I suppose that’s why I didn’t get a book deal. 
But hey, nice job, groovy book lady. Thanks for objectifying feminism via a body part. Well done. A word of advice? Think outside the box.

Random Thoughts: The Let Me Catch You Up Edition

Saturday morning, Dan came into the bedroom and said, “Flora’s been up since 2 a.m.”


Yup. He found Flora sitting on the couch, watching cartoons. She told him she woke up at “2-something” and came downstairs. I informed her she would be taking a nap later.

Later that day, Dan mentioned that Flora seemed warm. We took her temp, and it was 104. Medicine and cold compresses were immediately applied to the situation, and her temperature came down, which was just as well because Dan and I were supposed to go out.

I don’t know if the early rising and high temperature were related — she didn’t complain about anything else, no ear pain, no sore throat, and no belly discomfort. She just ran a fever for about four days, lower and lower each day.

I think there is such a thing as the “I’m worn out” virus. My kids seem to catch it when they’ve had a crazy busy few days.

We’re keeping our eye on Kate.


The girls are taking swim lessons. Kate talked (and talked) about how scared she was about going underwater. Four lessons in and all she talks about is how much she likes to go underwater. And that she can dog paddle now. Flora went from Level 1 to Level 3 in three lessons, and now regularly goes off the diving board and the water slide. I’m so proud of them.


The countdown to our Seven Springs vacation is on: seven days as of today. Flora would like to pack post-haste. The girls have been drawing pictures of the vacation house, all the people that are going to be staying there with us, and, of course, the dogs (my sister’s Boston terriers, Buddy and Roxy).


Our air conditioner stopped working at some point on Tuesday. I am sincerely hoping that by the time I hit publish on this post, it will be fixed.


My daughters have discovered Pokemon. The cartoon, the cards, the whole shebang. I said this the other night: “Thanks for turning off the television. Have fun with that Pokemon battle.” No one ever told me motherhood meant Pokemon.


Other stuff we are doing around here, in pictures:

This is our wading pool:

Letting my daughters choose how I polish my toenails:

Going on long walks, being sure to hydrate:

Going on long walks, and discovering things:

“Mowing” the lawn (this is my new favorite photo):


How about you? What are you doing this summer? Are you a member of the “our air conditioner broke” club? How are you staying cool?

A Completely Unnecessary and Gratuitous Review of Magic Mike

Disclaimer: I am a very shallow movie goer. I like simply to be entertained. I tend not to see serious, artistic, Academy-award winning films. I like action movies and comedies primarily, or any mix of the two. Oh, and I’ve seen my fair share of animated flicks, too, because of the kids. Next on my to-view list is Brave.

All that said, I found Magic Mike to be very entertaining. Channing Tatum in the titular role was a real charmer, and he has an amazing body. All the male strippers are, not surprisingly, very, very fun to watch. I would have liked to see a little more of Matt Bomer. I know he plays for the other team, but a girl can dream. And Matthew McConaughey was fantastic as the egomaniacal club owner Dallas.

My main criticism of the movie is that instead of leaving well enough alone, the creators of Magic Mike tried to give the movie weight with too many plot lines. They would have done so much better to have simply made the movie about Magic Mike and his arc (so to speak), rather than **SPOILER ALERT** (skip to the next paragraph) throwing in a business relationship gone sour, and drug deals gone bad.

It’s a summer movie, guys. Give us the eye candy.

I also want to commend Magic Mike for not shying away from nuances of female sexuality. Magic Mike is not a romance, it’s not a chick flick (I mean, obviously a lot more women than men are going to see it), if anything, it casts Mike as the one looking for “true love”. In that spirit, I loved Cody Horn’s character Brooke. The scene where she sees Mike (and her little brother Adam, played by Alex Pettyfer) perform is just brilliant — she’s shown in close-up while first Adam, then Mike, do their thing.

Here’s how I read that scene: Brooke is conflicted by her own reaction to what’s going on, especially when Mike takes the stage. First, she’s dealing with the fact that her little brother — a ne’er do well character in general — has gotten into stripping. Second, she’s in a crowd of screaming women who are very much enjoying the show. Third, she’s been charmed by Mike, but now she’s witnessing his lifestyle, and she really doesn’t know what to think of him. Lastly, she’s attracted to him, sexually and viscerally. Any straight woman with a pulse is going to react to Mike (and probably a lot of gay men, too). And I don’t think she wants to because of her ambivalence about the scene.

And that’s what I mean about the nuance of female sexuality. The other main female character is played by Olivia Munn, who is pretty much Mike’s booty call. Or maybe he’s hers. But an ultimate revelation about her character, Joanne, starts Mike down the path to his epiphany. In short, it’s clear from what happens between Joanne and Mike, and what happens in the strip club in general, that women are just as able and willing to sexually objectify men. And I’m not making any kind of judgement on that, whether it’s right or wrong. After all, I didn’t go to the movie to see the plot.

All-in-all, I think Magic Mike was worth the price of admission — if you go to a matinee. I’ve obviously thought too much about it because I brought a critique of it to light, but I really enjoyed it despite its faults. It’s got a lot of laughs, and there’s an easy chemistry between Mike and Brooke. It’s not just waxed chests and assless chaps — and maybe it should’ve been.

If nothing else, rent it when it comes out on DVD. After you watch it in its entirely, you can skip to the good scenes.

Twitter: What is it Good For?

I ask a lot of questions on Twitter. A lot.

Someone mentioned that using Twitter instead of Google to find information was an attention-getting tactic.

To which some people replied, “Isn’t Twitter in general a way to get attention?”

But I digress.

I do not use social media professionally. I am not a brand. I am not marketing myself or my writing or a company or a non-profit.

Which is not to say, especially when it comes to my children’s school, I wouldn’t like to use Twitter in such a way — to market, to communicate to a specific audience, professionally. And I do post my blog posts to Twitter.

If asking questions on Twitter is attention-getting, I am guilty, in spades.

But I do use Twitter for information. It’s so very efficient! If I throw a question out there, such as, “What is superfine sugar? Is it confectioners’ sugar?”, I get anywhere from one to five answers. (My favorite answer to that question the other day was, “It’s really, really good-looking sugar.” h/t @onedamnthing.)

If I google that phrase, I get more than 300,000 results, and many of the results are ads that take me to a particular brand page (which, go SEO!) or recipes. I would have to sift through those results. When I ask on Twitter, not only do I get an answer, but I also learn, for example, that while I can buy superfine sugar, I can also get the same effect by putting regular granulated sugar in a food processor.

Plus, a lot of time when I use Twitter to ask questions I’m at home, and I don’t sit in front of a computer at home. I am running around with my kids, or cooking dinner, or cleaning up, or whatever. So I use my pocket friends and their stores of knowledge. My pocket friends are very smart, very patient with me, and pretty willing to answer my inane baking questions. (I also asked about self-rising flour recently. In case you didn’t know, self-rising flour has nothing to do with yeast.)

(Phrase “pocket friends”, h/t to @tehamy and @jayesel — I’ve seen them both use it. Or maybe one of them says “pocket people”. Anyway, you get the idea.)

Search engines very much have their place. Google and Bing are a great resources, and I do use them quite often professionally and casually. But if I want information quickly, Twitter is the place for me!

When you need an answer to a question, where do you turn?

Friends with Benefits

(Not those kinds of benefits.)

One of my friends came to visit us this weekend. She was actually in town to do us a great favor. She wrote about it here — and yes, I lifted her title. My favorite line, “They ran around like molecules.”

I missed my kids a lot this weekend, even though we were home together. I was up to my elbows in art supplies, old paperback books, photographs, and paper in my home office — also known as the Office of Doom.

But Jen came with her 4-year-old, and entertained my kids. A lot. For the better part of two days. I’m going to have to find her recipes for “chalk” paint, and find another tablecloth my kids can fingerpaint on, and figure out how to glue more tissue paper onto glass jars for vases (I suddenly have a great idea for teachers’ gifts this year!).

The biggest progress Dan and I made was to get stuff out of the house. We donated two bags of toys, and a box of clothes. Plus gave Jen clothes for her daughter. I took two boxes of books and games to Half-Price Books. We recycled a diaper box full of paper. And I reclaimed the arts and crafts drawers for actual arts and crafts supplies, organized into bins and ziploc freezer bags.

But more than that, we renewed ties with friends, and showed our kids how to do the same. I’ve known Jen since college, and we have never lost touch even through a lot of changes.

I am reading The Little Prince to my daughters, and Saturday night, I read them the passage about the fox and its taming. And I told my daughters that what we did, being friends with people by choice, people who technically aren’t part of our immediate family — that’s being tamed. Whenever someone mentions Bedford or Route 22, I am reminded of Jen and her family. When I see Michael’s muddy shoes when I get home tonight, I’ll recall him delightedly splashing through the yard with Aunt Jen (“Den!”). My girls have embraced her daughter as another sister — for better or for worse. And after the kids were in bed, we exchanged recipes and parenting war stories, shared drinks, and tried to see our way through the next 20 years.

I sometimes feel more benefitted than benefitter when it comes to friendships. I listen well, and am always willing to do so over a beer or glass of wine. I give out hugs freely, either virtually or in real life. I pray a lot for my friends. But between a full-time job and three munchkins, time to give seems in short supply.

But you know, I think my friends understand.

At least I hope so!

Thinking Aloud: Ignorance is… Bliss?

I was (as per during my afternoon commute) listening to NPR yesterday, where they reported that 45% of Americans don’t know what the Supreme Court ruled on the healthcare law (PPACA or Obamacare). I couldn’t find NPR’s story, so here’s a link to Poytner’s coverage. This breaks out to nearly 30% not knowing there was a ruling, and 15% THINKING THE ACA HAD ALREADY BEEN STRUCK DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

I am left nearly wordless at this news. This parses to me as: 30% of Americans don’t consume any news whatsoever. Not newspapers, radio shows, local news, cable news, Internet sites. And 15% just believing whatever the hell they want to believe.

As an exercise in time wasting, last Monday I went and took this quiz from the Kaiser Foundation about the PPACA. I got 10 out of 10, and frankly I think that’s something to brag about. The results page was very discouraging, however. One of the questions has a mere 27% of people getting it right.

I sincerely don’t understand the trend toward not being informed. With true facts, not the shit that the talking heads on the news tell you. Is it really that hard to educate yourself? By my estimation, I could have found out the real answers to the quiz questions (if I didn’t already know them) in about an hour. Maybe less. Granted, it requires a certain tech savvy-ness and access to a computer in my case — that’s how I would educate myself.

Now differing opinions I get. I really do understand that not everyone thinks Obamacare (let alone Obama) is good for the country. And I am willing to talk about differences in opinion. But don’t give me a statement like, “Obama is ruining this country!” without some facts to base that on. Don’t tell me that Obamacare is “government run healthcare”. Because it’s just not.

So why don’t people inform themselves, educate themselves, fact check, and/or consume news — real news, not just spin, blogs, or editorials? Why are 45% of Americans in the dark? Willfully? And don’t blame it on age, either. I may have not been the most informed 20-something back in the day, but I knew the basic facts in the news. I remember the day the first Gulf War started — where I was and what I was doing. I was 19 years old. And, no, my parents didn’t call to tell me.

I’m serious. I’d like to understand. Why do so many people choose to be ignorant?