Tag Archives: beach

{p,h,f,r} An Answer to Prayer

A couple of weeks back I linked up with the lovely ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter to share the joy of my daughter’s First Holy Communion, but also to put in a sincere prayer request.

Let me tell you, you guys and God were really working overtime, with some pretty amazing results. Please keep up the prayers, but know that the situation is getting better. Much better. And a special shout out to St. Rita, whose feast is today. 

I was having a really hard time turning it over to God. I was stressed to the max and in physical pain. I was so tense and uptight, muscles and nerves were getting pinched and I was popping ibuprofen constantly just to get through each day. But by Tuesday morning, a weight was lifted and I woke up pain-free, energized, happy and unburdened by so much worry. I finally felt like it was going to be okay, after approximately two months of constant uncertainty.

In true Mantoan fashion, since it was sunny, we went to the beach. I know I’ve written about how difficult these trips are getting for me, but we’d been stuck at home so much lately, the kids needed the outing as much as I did. Plus, the older three agreed to make dinner once we got home. BONUS! I tacked on a trip to a seashell museum so it was an educational field trip too.


I was expecting a sunny, but cool, late spring day, but we were blessed with summer like temperatures. Lots of people were out and many Boardwalk stores were open. But it wasn’t so crowded that I had to worry about losing anyone in a crowd.

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The kids, dressed in their normal clothes because I was NOT thinking clearly, jumped the waves, splashed in the tide pools, buried legs, built castles with complex drainage networks and generally made huge sandy messes of themselves. Thankfully I always carry a stick of sunscreen, so no noses were burnt in the process.

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And yes, we visited the seashell museum. Here’s a “look nice!” shot.

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Here’s an “okay, now look like you’re being eaten by a shark” shot.

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I’m still kicking myself because the museum (which was more a gift shop than anything else) had all sorts of unique items for sale that I didn’t even think to take pictures of. You’ll just have to image the shelf of baby sharks preserved in jars (which I told Fulton he could not buy), stuffed toads, gator heads, “lucky” gator feet, and stuffed blowfish with attached googly eyes.

Fulton did buy a large shell which spawned a fascinating lesson when we got home about what makes shells and how.Good thing I bought this seashore science book last year at the Outer Banks. So glad I could finally dust it off.


A week ago, I couldn’t have done this because of severe leg pain. (Sciatic? Hamstring? Still not sure.) Tuesday, I could help Fulton dip his toes, watch the waves and pick through sand clumps in search of creatures. I think this picture, captured by Addie, accurately portrays our moods.

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Of course, now all the kids are asking when we can go again, or buy our own beach house. I’m still trying to convince Tony that beach school is a viable option. Plus, I really need to snap some pictures of those gator heads and sharks in jars. Who wants to set up a “Move the Mantoans to the Beach” fund? Anyone, anyone….Bueller??

For more pictures capturing all that is beeeeuuuuuuteeefullll swing back to Like Mother, Like Daughter. Just be sure to visit me next Thursday when I’ll be writing about Leila’s new book ‘The Little Oratory’, how we do prayer in our home and A GIVEAWAY! (I’m trying to convince the family to do a rosary video, but as of yet, no one is on board with the idea.)


Filed under Catholic, Pretty Happy Funny Real

{p,h,f,r} I’m Baaaaaaccckkk, From The Beach

February, you don’t own me! I am the master of my own destiny and you know what? I’m going to the beach! I refuse to be held a slave inside my house any longer! So take that, grey winter days and smothering cabin fever; I am taking some of life’s marrow and sucking it!

Okay, maybe that’s a little overly dramatic, but Monday I had a craving that could only be cured by cowbell or the beach and since I was all out of cowbell, the beach it was. Thank goodness it’s only a 45 minute drive. One of the benefits to homeschooling in Jersey means shore “field trips” on nice days when it’s only you and the gulls. I even took my good camera. So nice to be able to have something besides Instagram selfies to take and share.


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Lone Instagram shot.






Don’t let his face fool you, he was loving every minute of it. I was just glad I could actually drag that adaptive stroller onto the beach, otherwise…well, I never planned that far in advance so, yay for things actually working out as anticipated!




The boardwalk is ours, all ours, mwhahahahaha!


Just perpetuating the stereotype that homeschoolers are trend setters.



“No you may not take them all home! Here let’s make a display and I’ll take a photo. That will make everyone* happy right?”
*Everyone = only me.



Now back to our usually scheduled dreary winter days and sibling throat tearing. But first, let’s check the weather at Like Mother, Like Daughter. Leila?


Filed under Photography, Pretty Happy Funny Real

{SQT} 2012 Christmas Letter

Dear family member, friend, stalker or random stranger,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hopefully this letter finds you celebrating in the revelry of the Christmas season. Our family keeps our decorations up until February second, so reading this letter before then fulfills any obligation we have to each other of yearly holiday correspondence.

Now here in seven bullet points are the highlights of our family’s year.  I thought about including some random photos, but then I realized you’d see how tall/fat/ unkept we’ve all become during the last 12 months and I decided against it.

  1.  As usual, our family didn’t run any marathons or “fun runs”. If you asked my kids what a 5K was, they’d think you were springing a math quiz on them. Besides Byron, who continually runs laps while thinking, the rest of us avoided exercise and competition as much as possible. But I’m thinking about getting a new pair of sneakers if that counts for anything.
  2.  The older three children are active in the North American Explorers, a Catholic scouting group just taking root here in the U.S. Highlights of the past year have included a trip to the local Coast Guard station, a camping trip to Upstate NY, and having an excuse to play with fire and tie things in knots (but not simultaneously, usually.) As a bonus, Tony is a scout leader and he looks really hot in a beret.
  3.  Addie wrapped up fourth grade and started fifth, Bryon continues in the third to fourth grade ranges and Edie continues to excel at looking cute and avoiding all school work. We’re pretty sure she’s in first grade but she won’t admit to learning anything. Fulton is working on learning his letters and numbers and hacking his iPad. If the FBI shows up at our door due to a security breach in the Pentagon’s servers, I’m blaming Mr. Nimble Fingers.
  4. Tony wrapped up his second year at Drexel University in the Math Forum. While I’m still uncertain as to what he actually does all day, except for sitting at his computer trying to catch me on Google chat, he was fortunate enough to go to Poland and meet with other computer people who do similarly techie things that I don’t understand. Tony throughly enjoyed his first trip overseas, taking wonderful pictures and collecting thoughtful souvenirs while I was fighting an imaginary army of bats, zombies and Jason Voorhees every night from under my covers.
  5.  Teddy started sleeping through the night at the beginning of this year allowing Tony and I to wake up and not wish death upon every living thing. The Bear continues to crawl all over the house and his favorite new words are ‘ewbacca’, ‘oda’, ‘R2′ and ‘dark side.’
  6.  I performed in our church’s second annual dinner theater show, ‘Me and My Shadow’ in February. Playing the role of a snippy, gossipy neighbor wasn’t easy, but somehow I managed.  I also took a lead role in a horror movie / documentary called “The Kitchen Renovation Project From Hell.” It’s the tale of one family’s nightmare journey through the remodeling of their home. I’m still waiting for filming to wrap on that.
  7. In July, we spent a week with my mother in Ocean City, NJ soaking up the sun and salt air. Highlights included trying to cram three kids and my husband into a two person surrey and not making it past the third hole on the ‘Haunted Minigolf’ course. The sign said “No refunds” and I told them I thought it would be too scary for them, but noooooooooo, they said they could handle it. Now, when mama says, “I think this might be too scary for you” and they protest I say, “Who was right about the haunted minigolf!? Who? Say it! Mama!!!” And they hang their heads because they know I’ve won.

We also had some surgery, health scares, a nursing crisis, possible head trauma and untimely death (RIP Butters the cat) but we managed to go another year without moving or having a baby.

May God richly bless you and yours in the coming year with health and happiness (but if he sends you misery and woe, be sure to be thankful for that too),

Sincerely, Kelly, Tony*, all the kids and the rest of the Quick Takes Crew.

*Tony did not actually read or approve any of this letter in advance and does not want to be held responsible for any of the content.



Filed under Humor, Seven Quick Takes

It’s The Sandy Pumpkin Charlie Brown!

We didn’t wake up Tuesday morning with the house situated on top of a witch so Mantoans 1, Sandy 0. We did however lose our pool and develop a new leak in the roof which puts the score at Mantoans 1, Sandy 2. I actually had to convince Tony to not go on the roof during the storm to fix the leak. I was yelling out the front door at him, rain lashing my face,  about how I’m not driving him to the emergency room when he falls off the roof during a huge gust of wind.  He eventually relented but only because he was afraid his tools would slide off, or the ladder would blow over before he got to patch the hole; the nagging wife had nothing to do with it.

After two pool catastrophes in two years, I think Tony will veto a pool purchase next year. Byron attacks the old pool with a light saber to put the poor beast out of its misery.

We lost power twice, and regained it, took on water in the basement, which always happens and got a yard full of tree branches, but none on the house. We’re very lucky given the extent of the damage only 45 minutes from our house in my beloved Ocean City. Tony thinks the storm damage to the coastal towns has squelched my desire to own a beach house. I’m thinking, “This is a great time to invest in real estate!” Can I put up a Paypal button for “Kelly’s Beach-Front Home; Help Prevent Us From Squatting” ?

Without the basement or the yard the kids were bouncing off the wall, except for Fulton who just crashed around a lot more than usual. Tony got off Monday and Tuesday and must have commented a thousand times about how loud the house was and how he doesn’t know how I put up with it day in and day out. I think he’s looking forward to his quiet 45 minute train ride today more than ever. It didn’t help that they found an old emergency radio / flashlight combo and ran around with the siren feature on between bouts of classical music and weather updates.

He’s a quiet army battle fought by flashlight.

We went to sleep thinking the worst had passed only to awake to our cat, who I’d let sleep inside (like a sucker) pawing at our faces. The heavy rain and wind kept me wide-eyed for a while afterwards expecting at any moment an errant tree branch would somehow impale Tony but leave the rest of this dumpy house intact.

Since Byron packs all the energy of a Category 5, it seemed fitting that Sandy would make landfall on his birthday. Happy Birthday buddy! We got you a day stuck inside, full of boredom and monotony!

Today, we’ll focus on Halloween and all the last-minute costume prep I drive myself to do. But tonight as we head out, Sandy’s toll will be felt most deeply; NO TRICK OR TREATING ON HALLOWEEN. When I read aloud the townships announcement that trick or treating was moved to Saturday, when we already have non-flexible out of town plans, it was as if a million pieces of candy were brusquely stolen from my children’s hands and tossed before their eyes into the fiery woodstove. But don’t worry people! The crisis has been averted by a last-minute party. Since the grandparents have been so generous with the candy, we certainly have enough to share.  With some apple bobbing, light saber battles and Tony’s annual telling of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ the kids will hardly miss that bonus pack of Raisinettes tied to a religious tract. (This year, Addie was prepared to take down the addresses of people who gave fruit and pamphlets; for a letter writing campaign maybe?)

May you and yours have a Happy Halloween! (But please remember to say a prayer for those still without power or storm damaged homes.) Check back  later this week for multiple posts in which I detail in minutiae all the kid’s costumes and the backbreaking work I undertook to make them look somewhat uncrappy.


Filed under Humor, Photography

Being A Good Parent Requires Days Like This

Somehow, the most gorgeous day of fall just happened to coincide with the day we selected to go to the zoo. The weather even inspired me to suggest a side trip to the beach that was overwhelmingly accepted by everyone, with only mild coercion on my part. “Look Tony, we can tell the kids we’ll buy them frozen yogurt, but we won’t actually have to spend the $60 because the stands will be closed. I’m positive.”

We cooked a big breakfast, packed lots of snacks and I even remembered my camera. Which was great since the kids all wore their most outrageous outfits. The message was loud and clear; “We’re a large homeschooling family! We’re not limited by trends, or the need to match! We’re individuals! My parents are just happy I can dress myself since they’re so overwhelmed with our gargantuan family size!”

Thankfully, both the zoo and beach were short on crowds. The lady at the entrance booth actually asked if we were with a school and I’m thinking, “Lady, do you see what my kids are wearing out in public?” Then I remembered the windows were tinted so I just smiled and said “No”.  Move along, nothing to see here…

Addie really thinks that if you pair any two bright colors together, they match.

I knew I needed to step it up in biology when Edie exclaimed, “I want to go see those big humpy things!” “The camels??” “Yeah, whatever.” Apparently, if she hasn’t seen it in our backyard it’s on par with a griffin or the Loch Ness monster in terms of familiarity.

Teddy, Tony and some big humpy thing in the background.

I loved peering at the changing foliage as we walked through the zoo. I heard Fulton exclaim something in front of me and I replied, “Yes Fulton, I think it’s beautiful too.”  Tony quickly corrected me, “He said it was spooky.”

On a scale of 1 to 10 this scenic path is a panic-inducing 8.

Any time we saw a bear, it was time to drag Teddy from his stroller and take a picture. I clucked,  “Look, the bear with a bear!” at least a hundred times,  with a huge goofy mom smile on my face as I waved and gestured to get the right expression from Teddy. And to think, when we named him, I disliked the thought of other people constantly making Teddy bear references around him. Now, I think Fulton is convinced his younger brother’s name is actually Teddy bear because that’s all I call him.

Teddy’s so adorable! It’s taking all the self-control that stuffed bear can muster to not eat him up.

A stop at Ocean City, NJ put me a little over the edge in a happy, crazy sort of way. Yeah, we just hauled ourselves all over a zoo, but damnit, we were hitting the beach, walking the boards and savoring the silence of the off-season if it killed us.”Kids, kids! Listen, you can hear the ocean! Isn’t this weather beautiful! Tony, the breeze, can you feel it?!” Judging by their glances I knew I was starting to sound like the macaw from the zoo who Byron claimed could talk, but whose vocabulary was limited to the word “AAAAAWWWWWWWWKKKKK!”

Sure enough, the yogurt stands were closed but, curses!, the arcades were not! It’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday in October, who is going to a beachside arcade? Not my kids, wrote the mother who caused the only major ruckus on the boardwalk that day.

Fulton got to cruise around without stopping short and hurting someone, backing up unexpectedly and hurting someone or suddenly taking off at top speed and hurting someone. Sure, there was that close call with the senior in the Jazzy scooter but we emerged unscathed.

Tony retrieves Fulton…again.

We did get some chocolate pumpkin fudge at Shriver’s  (20 % off! What, what!!) and allowed the girls to shop with the money they brought along.  Edie was heartbroken to discover that none of the huge stuffed animals on display were $2, even in the off-season. Luckily, the tears dried up with the purchase of two Barbie knock-offs from the Dollar Store.

Edie’s frowny face upon leaving the candy store empty-handed. Curse you Gund! Taxidermy on Ebay is cheaper than your stuffed animals!

We capped off the visit with some time on the sand and despite telling the older three to only put their toes in the ocean, Byron soaked himself up to his thighs. (But who didn’t see that coming right?) And I forgot baby powder so they’ll have to deal with gritty sneakers for a while.

After playing Mommy All-Star, I arrived at home, collapsed on the couch and told the kids to stay away from me. Having partaken in Addie’s pixie stick haul, they still had energy to run around the house for the rest of the evening. When they all started arguing at the dinner table over their favorite parts of the day, I knew it’d been a success. The memories will last long after fudge is gone… which it’s not…yet. But I really can’t be trusted in the house with fudge. Speaking of which, I hear something calling my name.

Has your family taken any great fall day trips this year?


Filed under Humor, Photography

Surfing Safari Or Sausage In The Waves

There’s nothing like the feeling of coming back from a week away to an insurmountable ‘to do’ list. But because I consider blogging right up there with writing lesson plans, organizing my new kitchen and painting trim, you get the privilege of reading about my totally gnarly surfing experience. Yeah, we did other vacation-y things, made memories, blah, blah, blah. But really none of it, besides a couple of HUGE mullets I spotted on the boardwalk, are really as notable as me packed in a wet suit looking like a lumpy Vienna sausage, flopping and groaning across a surf board. Oh, in front of hot young shirtless gentlemen too.

I was sort of like this,

in front of hot young gentlemen, and numerous other strangers all much younger than me.

My oldest daughter Addie agreed to join me. We arrived bright and early in front of the 7th Street Surf Shop on the Boardwalk of Ocean City. After signing in, we were handed wet suits and told to pull them up to our waists. Now, the only swimsuit I have is skirted on the bottom. So, it didn’t matter how much I was sucking in, my skirt bunched up all around my butt and middle under the unforgiving cling of the wet suit. Meanwhile next to me, Barbara Bikini and her friends were sliding into their wetsuits with no effort while I was grunting, sweating,  stuffing and cursing like a smuggler getting ready to take drugs through an airport.

Then I was handed my “light practice board”, told to place it on my head all ‘Endless Summer’ style and walk across the boardwalk and down to the surf. I mistakenly assumed that because I carry children around all day, that carrying my “light practice board” would be no problem. This was when all my Hawaiian princess fantasy dreams started to crumble. I reached the sand out of breath and the water’s edge sweating and in pain. After handling a practice board, I’m convinced competitive surfers must hang ten on concrete.

We lined up our boards in two rows and prepared for instructions, which lasted about 15 minutes before we were sent into the waves. Having not yet recovered from carrying my “light practice board” I was dismayed to see the lifeguards were not yet on duty.

Once in the water, I was met by one of the hot young gentlemen who chatted with me and gave me pointers while I tried not to mouth breathe too much into his face. Then I hopped up on the board,  took several waves to the face,  swallowed and spat salt water and maintained a friendly conversation for a few minutes, snot hanging from my nose. Then the instructor spun me to face the shore and gave me a push once the next good wave appeared. Ideally, I was to jump up in one swift move and ride the wave to the shore. And on my first two attempts, I did actually make it to my feet on the board and ride a few feet before falling in. (Honest! ) Then I walked into shore and Addie went out to the instructor.  I laid on my board in the sand panting like a dog, trying to give her a thumbs up as she effortlessly rode a wave in.

Definitely not a sport for wusses…like me.

And then to my horror it was my turn again, and again and again. Each time I headed out, I joked about being too old and out of shape for this but the instructors encouraged me all the same and sent me in on a wave. However, my arms were weak and that one swift move began resembling  a drunk person trying to get up while holding onto a bar stool. I just fell right back down in no time, more clumsily with each attempt. I was lucky to get to my knees on the board before all my strength gave out. I think I was the example all the other moms on the beach were using with their own kids. “See honey, you don’t want me to try surfing with you. I’d just flail around out there like that poor woman. I wouldn’t want to humiliate you like that. Oh my goodness, she just doesn’t know when to quit does she? It’s better if I just stand here and take pictures.Try not to go out too close to her. I don’t want that train wreck in any of my vacation photos.”

Meanwhile Addie was a born natural, jumping up with ease and catching wave after wave.

It’s really easy Mama, let me show you.

Tony showed up to take some pictures all “Okay, I’m here now. Go surf.” and then he started snapping away. I really tried to summon all my strength for one last good showing,


but alas, this was the closest I came before sinking into the salty mire.

Jelly arms giving out…can’t hold on..much…longer

After an hour and a half of getting spanked by the ocean, I could now cross “embarrassing myself at surf lessons” off my bucket list. Thankfully, Addie was not ashamed to be seen with me afterwards. With only half a dozen rest stops on the way, we returned the equipment to the store.

Addie preparing to carry me and our surfboards back to the store.

The next day, and the day after and, honestly, most of the remaining trip I was sore through my entire upper body. I also acquired two ‘trophy’ bruises on my lower ribcage from how I laid on the board. (Which I guess means I did something wrong since I didn’t see bruises on any of the shirtless gentlemens’ chests.) However, I would like to try it again sometime and if I was ever fortunate enough to live at the beach I would make surfing my exercise routine…after investing in a non-skirted swimsuit.

Next year’s plan? Trapeze school in Atlantic City, so long as I don’t have to wear spandex.




Filed under Humor, Photography

{SQT} First World Problems

This week I’ve been dealing with the greatest of all first world problems; no internet. Okay, I’m still technically able to get online through my neighbor’s unsecured wireless network but only the desktop can pick up the signal, and not reliably. That’s meant no photo uploads or downloads and no video streaming. And normally we’re not a huge online video family, but of course, this was the week I planned to show some Bill Nye clips for science.

I actually had to write this post offline and if you’re reading it, I guess that means I was able to upload it when my neighbor wasn’t eating up all his bandwidth. Next week, we’ll be vacationing at the beach and relying on the signal from the hotel next to my grandmother’s condo for internet access. It’s reminiscent of 2001; I click on a page, and go make a sandwich while I wait for it to load.

I debated whether to write about all the topics without pictures, or just go all crazy the week I return from the beach (because I won’t have tons of unpacking or laundry to do.) So because I didn’t really debate it that long, here are seven things that have been going on that I’m going to write about (with pictures!) once this damn unfortunate internet issue gets straightened out.


#1 And by straightened out I mean, my husband used it as an excuse to buy the fanciest new modem, router and surge protector money can buy. Plus I saw he threw some special wire in the Amazon basket so I think it’s safe to say that once the new supplies arrive, our house will look like a scene out of Tron.


#2  We went to a monster truck show last Saturday as a belated birthday present to Fulton. Last year’s trip for his third was the first time any of us had set foot at such an event and we all became instant fans.  I got a couple of good shots but to appreciate the awe of oversized pickups, you really need to attend at least one Monster Truck show. Deep down, don’t we all have a carnal desire to watch things get completely smashed and destroyed? It’s like the Colosseum except instead of lions, it’s trucks and instead of Christians it’s cars.


#3 Our kitchen is inching closer to completion. Tomorrow the electrician will come and, fingers crossed, hook up everything (and not find any fire hazards.) Being the type who loves to organize, I’m totally pumped about the opportunity to spend most of August organizing the new kitchen, which includes a small school room. Then I get to design and organize the new mudroom which will rise from the ruins of the old kitchen! The fact that I can’t get on Pintrest and save ideas is maddening.


#4 Tony’s family left town last weekend and already the kids are clamoring to make the 17 hour + car ride to Wisconsin. For smaller families in sports cars with super bladders, the trip can be made in about 14 hours. I’m amazed at how quickly our kids can forget all the time in the car because during the drive it seems like an eternity to us all. However, until then we made some great memories and got a lot of great family photos, including the first of all of us since Teddy’s birth I think. Somehow, in all of them except the ones where I’m purposely opening my eyes wide, I look ready to fall over and go to sleep. I really think smiling accentuates the bags under my eyes so from now on, I’m going with a more serious face and see how I look. Should make for interesting beach photos.


#5 Our bedroom is the hottest room in the house, but somehow our bed is still the go to place for scared children. Tony and I can’t even touch each other without perspiring and yet Addie wants to cuddle with her blanket next to us after watching a “freaky” episode of the Twilight Zone.


#6 One of our chickens made a nest under the ramp leading up to our deck and was trying to hatch 20 eggs. Twenty!!! However we don’t have any roosters (mature roosters anyway) so they’re all duds. Or twenty stink bombs waiting to happen. We had to pry up boards on the deck to retrieve the eggs and try to get her out.


#7 While at the beach I’m going to try surfing lessons. Addie has agreed to come along too, and not just to laugh. Stay tuned for the photo hilarity that is sure to come from my lack of common sense.


If your internet is still up and running, you’d better go catch it! And be sure to check out the rest of the Seven Quick Take posts over at Conversion Diary.

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Filed under Humor, Seven Quick Takes

{SQT} Hit the Beach and Avoid Sandwiches



As you may have noticed if you’ve spent any time poking around my blog lately, I enjoy hauling my family to the beach. Despite all the sand, sun and sweat, I tend to have as much fun as the kids. My love affair with the beach goes back early in my childhood. I don’t think a summer has passed that I didn’t get in at least one day at the beach. I even converted my husband, who was not a beach goer growing up and whose fair skin made him shy away from prolonged outdoor exposure. (Now he’s matured into a beast of a man who jumps in the surf looking for a great white to wrestle. I’ll save that photo for a future post.)

So today, my Seven Quick Takes are 7 helpful tips I’ve learned to help make your day at the beach more fun and less “I have a ton of sand stuck in the crotch of my swimsuit!”

#1 Plan! Here’s a list to get your started.  I know, I know; a last-minute jaunt to the beach on a gorgeous day sounds so fun. Just toss everyone in the car on a whim and go. But without minimal planning you will wind up spending a ton of money on convenience food for children who will decide they don’t want it. Run out of milk or formula for a fussy baby. (Or try nursing with sand all over your boobs. Aaaa! Flashback; block it out, block it out!) Kites will break, shoes will get carried off in the tide and a sea-gull will poop on your head all because you didn’t plan. Just look over the list; keep it handy in the car or on your fridge. Don’t ruin a beach trip by lack of planning.

#2 Teach your kids to apply their own sunscreen BUT SUPERVISE THEM!!! Even Byron had to admit he looked like a clown after smearing sunscreen down each cheek and nowhere else on his face. I’m a huge proponent for making kids more independent but learning a new skill will take time. After a few visits, your kids will be pros and may even offer to slather up the baby if you’re lucky. Spray sunscreen can be helpful, but may go on too thin. I recommend sticks for their faces, which they rub in, and lotion for the rest of them. Sticks are great because nothing will drip in their eyes and cause pain with screams and wails leading to rubbing at their eyes with their sandy hands topped off by a frantic attempt at trying to wash everything off in salt water by which point I’m ready to just jump off the fishing pier.

#3 Save a lot of time on #2 by investing in rash guard shirts. Spend money on cool ones your kids will want to wear. Don’t buy your son a Justin Beiber rash guard on sale from the girls department at Wal-Mart and expect him to wear it. Make them happy because you will also save a TON of money on sunscreen. I love rash guards. If they made them for my kids heads I’d buy them so when they don’t apply the stick sunscreen properly, they don’t look ridiculous. I’ve seriously considered buying a swim burqa just to save on sunscreen. Okay not seriously but maybe after that one  bad beach trip when someone got sunscreen in their eyes.

#4 Pack extra towels. I know they can be bulky, but really, if you only take one per child I guarantee that upon arrival  at least three will be unrolled, dropped on the sand and then ran over by kids eyeballing the surf. Then they come back wet, sit on the towels and are all “Hey, I’m cold, give me a towel.” “You’re sitting on it.” “But now it’s all sandy! I can’t use that!!”

And if you’re lucky enough to have a baby that will sleep on the beach, you’ll need a clean towel for that, as well as a bunch of other random stuff that will inevitable come up once all five of your towels resemble crusty driftwood. Take extra towels and keep them hidden.

#5 Invest in a good umbrella or pop-up beach tent/ shelter. A weak one will blow away every time. Do you really want to be that poor gal chasing her beach umbrella that always blows three steps ahead of her two? And then yelling at your husband on how he should erect the umbrella this time before it blows into the ocean? No, just spend the money on the good umbrella. I t will allow you a place to lay a baby, and give everyone a break from the sun which means you can usually convince your family to stay longer!

#5 1/2 Towels, sunscreen, umbrellas – don’t  hesitate to make your kids haul them! Wagons and special carts are nice but who has room in their van for that? Beach toys for the sand or surf aren’t necessary and will wind up used for 1/4 of their time anyway. The rest of the time you’ll be stepping on half hidden toys and chasing after kick boards washing out with the tide. Pack only the essentials and put your kids to work hauling them.

#6 Wear the bathing suit that covers more. I’m not talking sunscreen here, though that’s another reason. You’ll never regret wearing the suit that provides more coverage. By comparison, you could very well regret wearing the string bikini top your toddler keeps untying, the over stretched two piece that keeps sliding down in the surf or the low-cut one piece that your milk heavy boobs keep spilling out of, much to the delight of the scary, hairy old man who camped uncomfortably close to your family. You’ll have a much easier time chasing kids, relaxing and riding in the surf if you’re not pulling spandex out of some sandy crevice every other minute. You’re not at the beach to pose, you’re there to have fun so dress for it! I don’t go into a bounce house in heels and I don’t go to the beach dressed for a nightclub.

#7 Last but not least-BABY POWDER! Did you know, if you sprinkle baby powder on a sandy part, the sand magically brushes off with the powder??!!! No access to a shower, no problem! Except for the sand caught in the neither regions of your suit, you can powder yourself off! Even if a wash off is available, I find baby powder to be the easiest way to clean off little ones who won’t go near a spray of water without sounding like they’re being abducted by a stranger.

So there you have it, seven tips, coupled with a planning list that help make our beach trips a little more seamless. If you hate the beach, and even if you don’t, be sure to check out the rest of the Seven Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.


Filed under Humor, Seven Quick Takes, Tips and Tricks

{p,h,f,r} Entertaining

This week we are entertaining my husband’s brother and family from Wisconsin. The cousins quickly create adventures to fill the days, picking up where they left off a year ago.  Of course a shore trip was inevitable, multiple games of Stratigo plus one long ongoing game of Risk, lots of talking smack amongst the men folk and many nights of going to bed late and dropping quickly into an exhausted summer sleep. Tonight we’ll hopefully get a bonfire in (I know, total shock) and tomorrow my husband’s oldest brother will drive up from Virginia to join the fun. It will the first time all of us have been together since Tony’s grandmother died last year, and the first we’re hosting everyone. Despite the sunburn, periodic childhood spats and glut of ice cream, it is everything a family reunion should be. Maybe someday we’ll all be geographically closer, but until then, we’re making the most of the time we have.


Edie, who was shortchanged by a low camera battery last week.


Fulton, who agreed to acknowledge his love of the beach.


Tony and Teddy taking a couple of moments to work in the kitchen.


It’s not just a lemonade stand, it’s a travelling bazaar! My father-in-law constructed a lemonade stand on a wagon for the kids to pull around in the neighboring development. They took it one step further by making jewelry, homemade crayons and shinky dinks to sell, plus then added a box of free goodies to entice buyers. The dads chaperoned, but hung really far back so as to not be associated with the screaming children. Oh, and Byron took his electronics kit and hooked it up to play an annoying song over and over, like an ice cream truck, to help garner attention.

They made a dollar.


And because the gorgeous sunsets just keep coming I leave you with this. But look I added a spiritual quote to keep it fresh!


And it that doesn’t inspire you, be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real} photos.


Filed under Photography, Pretty Happy Funny Real

{p,h,f,r} Good Photos From the Week…or not

I don’t know what it was, but I was whipping my camera out and taking snapshots all week. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my camera battery died suddenly at the beach yesterday. (Sorry Edie, no pictures of you.) It had me wishing for my old manual SLR that metered and took pictures sans battery or advanced settings. It was my first real camera, purchased at an estate sale, and it helped put me on the path to a lifelong love of photography.

It took a long time for me to accept society’s conversion from film to digital photography. I swore I’d be developing Tri-X in my basement darkroom until the apocalypse. I managed to hold out until I had children. Then as I flipped through picture after picture of awkward, blurry or just plain awful child photos that I had paid for, I quickly saw the benefit to digital photography which allowed the banishment of bad photos into oblivion with the tap of a button.

However, being able to erase the bad photos more easily does not necessarily mean I’m left with more good photos.  I suppose in an effort to make the most of what I’m left with, I’m now tweaking my images with photo effects via Google + (which acquired Picnik) or on PicMonkey. (I have yet to get a smart phone and make the leap to Instagram. My husband says we need that money for “necessities” like food and the electric bill. Whatever.) Do the effects make better pictures? Or does a good photo need to be a good photo without special effects?

The perpetually 19-year-old photo student in me says a bad photo can’t be turned into a great photo with special filters, it can only be made less bad. Great photos capture the decisive moment and stand alone.  But I find that my eye gravitates towards photos other people may overlook or dislike so I’m curious to know your thoughts. I’ve heard it said that all these photo sharing / doctoring sites make it easier for everyone to take great pictures. Is that really the case? Or are we being flooded with mediocre images and thus, unable to recognize a truly beautiful image when we see it? And when we do find a captivating image created by the heavy use  of filters or Photoshop, is it inferior to a beautiful image presented without any alteration? Or do we view them both on a level playing field?

So now that I rambled on about photography and put you all to sleep, I present my {p,h,f,r} shots of the week. Some altered, some not, some candid and some posed. Let me know what you think, and then head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to view the rest of the Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real links.



I’m going to make you hate me like my kids hate me for screaming at them several times a week, “Kids! Come look at this sunset! It’s beautiful! Look! LOOK! Someday you might live somewhere where you can’t see sunsets like this!!” I’ll never tire of this view or of slathering images of it all over my blog and Flickr feed.

Beautiful day at Ocean City, New Jersey yesterday.  It is my dream to move there and homeschool on the beach.

{funny} & {happy}

We had a party for Fulton’s fourth birthday on Sunday with my parents and grandmother. I took lots of posed shots, and close-ups of Fulton opening gifts, however these two are my favorites. The first is my husband ripping into the back of the “Frustration Free” packaging one of Fulton’s toys came in. He can fell a tree and tackle Fisher Price. He’s a regular man-beast.

And although Fulton is blurry, you can see him trying to blow out the four candles on the elaborate cake my mom made him. His expression cracks me up. He devoured most of the green car himself.


Many of the blogs I read post favorite recipes with beautiful food pictures thrown in to make the reader salivate. I thought, hey, I cook a lot I should try my hand at this. And I thought it would be a good excuse to try out my macro lens. I tried a new recipe for tortilla soup and snapped away the whole time, even during dinner much to the confusion of my family. (Until Tony exclaimed, “Is this for the blog? This is for the blog. You know you need my permission before you can put my image on your site.” ) In the end, I was not happy with the soup or many of the pictures except this one. It is the first tomato of the season given to us by a friend.

Lots more good stuff coming up, and thankfully I’ve got a fresh battery at the ready. And if I get around to cooking in this heat, maybe I’ll bust out the macro lens again too.

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Filed under Food, Photography, Pretty Happy Funny Real