possumcowboy: (Default)
We got a lateish start. We ended up at Steak N Shake for lunch.


Macy's ketchup smiley says "hi".

I wanted to go walk in the White River, upstream of Noblesville, like I'd done once before. I wasn't able to find where I'd parked, and didn't see anyplace that looked likeable to stop, so we ended up back home. We walked over to Flowing Well Park, to the bridge where Leah and I got married, and the kids walked in the creek there.


Macy found some random piece of something, and is waving it to make sure everyone sees it.


Where did my baby go? Maddie is growing up so incredibly quickly. I swear, only yesterday she was no longer than my forearm...


This guy is rapidly becoming a handsome young man in his own right. He's obviously rocking out, here. He's got the hat that he picked as a souvenir from our trip to Florida last week.


We tipped the seats of the van back so that if you sat in them correctly, you'd be flat on your back like an astronaut on an acceleration couch. Clyde crawled under, into the luggage area. This is Bonnie going in there to see what Clyde is doing.


The kids put the seats back in the upright position, and the girls just decided to sit in here like this. No clue why.
possumcowboy: (Default)
I'm awake now after sleeping for three hours. Somehow that just doesn't seem fair.

Day Seven: Went to the beach, ate, went to the pool. Yeah, yeah, I know, that isn't enough detail. Ok. Here goes:


When we got to the beach, a dad had already finished this pyramid. Pretty amazing, if you ask me. He used a part of one of his kids' toys to make flat edges after pounding the sand firm. Like all good things, though, its existence is only a fleeting thing. A marauding baby grunted and puffed and finally climbed his way up the side to where he could reach and smash the point at the top.

click for the rest of the story )
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As of this time in the evening, I have been without any sort of foot covering for more than twenty-four hours. No shoes or sandals or socks. I haven't been barefoot this long for longer than I can remember.

I wish wish wish I had a little tiny video camera in a corner of the room to capture breakfast conversation. There was a lengthy discussion about the varied merits of "Special K Red Berry" breakfast cereal. Nathan doesn't like "red berries" and so it was suggested that he go ahead and pour a bowl cereal and then simply give his red berries to Clayton, who was the one who wanted Special K Red Berry cereal to begin with. We then proposed that we have this cereal at home, and he could save up all the red berries and then take them over to Clayton's house, so that Clayton would have Double Berry Special K Red Berry cereal.

There was a discussion about the vanilla yogurt that Maddie was eating, in which it was noted that "vanilla" was not, in fact, listed as an ingredient. The closest thing was "natural flavor". Clayton's yogurt had some chemical name which was followed by, in parentheses, "a preservative". I explained this as a sort of embalming fluid for foods, which rapidly degenerated into a conversation about the shelf-life of Twinkie Snack Cakes. We determined that if you were to eat nothing but Twinkies, you should probably pump yourself full of enough preservatives to be able to live forever.

We had some hard-boiled eggs, chilled in the fridge overnight. I glanced over, and Maddie was rolling hers gently on the plate to crack the shell, whispering "crushhh...crushhhh...crushhhhh...". It was creepy and glorious and filled me with pride all at the same time. If I may borrow from Captain Malcom Reynolds, "Morbid and creepifyin' I got no problem with."

Grandmother took the van and went to a store which has supplies for beachy-type fun. She returned with four boogie-board things.


Pretty neat, eh? Kids were already at the beach when she returned, so she and I carried them down to the beach where they were met with a lot of excitement.


Four kids paddled out into the surf to begin trying to ride the waves. Fortunately, the waves were somewhat more tame than previous days.


Still, washing ashore is a splashy mess. Maddie's first attempt was successful (by our standards, anyway). I didn't get a pic of the grin right after she wiped her eyes clear, and I wish I had.


Macy took a few runs, as well, grinning the same. Nathan and Clayton tended to sort of float right at the edge of where the waves broke, bobbing up and down and having a conversation in that undecipherable language peculiar to twelve-year-old boys. I used to know it, but can't speak it very well anymore.


I think this is Maddie swooshing into shore; for certain it's her walking out of the water.


I like the way this one of Macy turned out. If we could just keep stray walkers off our beach, I'd have a clear shot!


There were a lot more dead fish, today. One pic of a dead fish ought to just about do it, right?


I realized that, what with me taking all the pics with my iPhone, there aren't any pics of ME. So, I took one. With my iPhone. I AM smiling, dammit.


Since I've married Leah, I've been amazed at how my daughters and I have been welcomed into the family and treated with such love and acceptance. Here, Grandmother is putting more sunscreen on Maddie, because that's what grandmothers do. If you haven't become part of a blended family, I can't properly describe how warm this makes my heart feel.


I think it was mostly Maddie and Clayton who wanted to dig a pit. A side of it caved in, so Clayton created an armchair for himself. It really is a huge pit. Such industry! Now, if we could only harness this energy, we could power the world!


Macy found a beensy little dead fishie that was just too cute of a corpse to not include. I forget what they named this one.

We came back up to the condo, had lunch, and watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That's some fun shoot-em-up blow-em-up cinema, right there. I want to know more about what the brothers did between wars; were they soldiers of fortune, or did they find some sort of nine-to-five until the next conflict? I want to know how they got along from boyhood and running from home until adulthood.

Kids were getting set up on computers and other electronic devices after the movie, so I rounded them up and headed them out for some more fun. Maddie and Leah and Grandmother went back to the beach. The boys and Macy and I went to the pool.

Dinner was disorganized. I ended up pulling a meal out of thin air, though, and everyone seemed to like it well enough. Let's see: seven people, two polish sausages and three chicken breast halves. The sausages went into a gallon ziplock with a little bit of barbecue sauce. The chicken breasts I butterflied, and the six pieces went into another gallon ziplock with some extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of one lemon. I also cut some zest off about a quarter of a lemon and minced it with the santoku knife and threw that in there, too. I then prepped carrots, green onions, and mushrooms for salads, and put water on the stove to heat while I to the meat outside in search of a grill.

I think I mentioned that the grills on the grounds are basically the same model Weber grill that I have at home, only connected directly to a gas line rather than a tank. Sadly, only three of the six visible grills seemed to be in working order. I finally found one, and got set up. The chicken breasts got fresh-ground pepper and fresh-ground sea salt, and went on the middle of the grill with only the side burners on (cooking with indirect heat is one of my favorite ways to keep things from catching fire). The sausages went on the top rack, and I listened to tunes while the smells from under the hood started to become very pleasant.

After dinner, I was starting to nurse what was working on being a migraine. I got that "ice pick behind the eyeball" feeling and went to stretch out on the bed for a bit. Grandmother ran to the store again and came back with little flashlights for everyone. We grabbed buckets and shovels and headed to the beach to catch some of those mole crabs we'd seen last night. Those little buggers are fast, and you have to sort of dig them out of the sand right as the wave recedes from the shore. We caught a couple, and I gave two to some little girls who weren't having any luck catching their own. They thanked me, and I told them that it was part of special training that sixth grade teachers get. I think they may have believed me!

I had to smear Leah with about half a squeeze bottle of aloe gel. I think that one of the spray cans of sunscreen was really low when I did that part of her body, and by the time she wanted to apply more sunscreen, she was already burned.

It's after midnight already, and I smell like dead fish and dieing seaweed. If you'll excuse me, I believe I'll have a shower before I crawl into bed beside my bride.
possumcowboy: (Default)
Breakfast was nice. We've accumulated enough foods that we were able to pretty much graze from the fridge.


I ate cold leftover pork loin.
images and vacation narration )
possumcowboy: (Default)
Nathan and Clayton mugging for the camera at our lunch/dinner stop on the first day.. We are in the gift store part of Cracker Barrel. Nathan looks like he's actually had that much coffee. Either that, or we allowed him to come into the restaurant without his helmet if he promised to be a good boy.

cut for lots of pics )
possumcowboy: (Default)
First thing this morning, I had a roast beef sandwich, and then headed to the little airport a few miles away to pick up Grandmother. We stopped at Publix on the way back to the condo, and got a few more groceries. She'd already had a full day of traveling at that point!

Back at the condo, we geared up and got sunscreened and headed for the beach. Our umbrellas were in the front row, this time, which was really nice. Leah had sent the kids on ahead, with a caution to go in only wading until we adults arrived. When we adults arrived, they all had wet hair, which (if I remember correctly; and I do) indicates more depth than wading. The riot act was read, with a promise of consequences which would be most unvacationy if simple directions weren't followed again.

Macy had brought down her new $4 pink raft. We adults got ourselves settled, and I headed for the surf line with the pink raft. I got out several yards, about chest deep, and managed to get a leg over the thing, and paddled like a madman as a wave crested behind me. The raft accelerated and I went hurtling toward the beach. The kids all (naturally) wanted a go, so we got Nathan up there, I helped steady him for the wave, and he washed up grinning insanely. Next was Maddie's turn, and I helped steady the raft again. The wave hit and threw us both forward. I felt a hard BUMP on the back of my head and felt that buzzing you get from a hard hit in the head. I somehow knew that it had been Maddie's head, and when I came up from the surf, she was kneeling at the beach, eyes wide in fright and blood streaming from her nose. I felt that terror that parents know all too well at seeing my child injured, and knowing that I'd been part of her pain. I walked her up to our stand of umbrellas, got her seated, and Grandmother had a look at her. Grandmother is a nurse, so we had out own medical professional right there with us. No break, thank god. We sat in the shade for a good while, and then headed up to the condo to rest during the middle of the day.

Clayton had requested hot dogs for his meal of choice. The water park area has Weber Genesis grills almost identical to mine at home, several of them around the pool area (several yards back from the water). They're plumbed into a gas line so you don't have to worry about tanks. None were in use, so I fired one up and stood in the sun and listened to my iPhone while the dogs cooked up nicely. I brought those back up, and found that Leah had cut up the melon and pineapple I'd bought earlier, and that the only thing missing from the table was hot dogs! We ate, cleaned up, and I prepped the pork loin I'd bought this morning by rubbing it with olive oil, and laying a mosaic of little discs of sliced garlic on top, then coating with fresh-ground pepper and sea salt. This went into an oven pre-heated to 400F, which I promptly turned down to 175F. That's just a little higher than what the USDA recommends as an internal temp for correctly done pork. You leave it in there for several hours, and it'll be perfect when you take it out. I bumped it to 225 for a while, knowing that we didn't have that many hours.

Everyone took some down time, and then we headed back toward the beach around 4:30. I began a sand castle, which soon became a sand Sacrificial Temple to Zod. I had three of the four towers, a central ziggurat, and four walls with three watch towers on each, when it was time to head back inside. Rather, I went inside, and everyone else went to the pool.

The condo had an aroma of roasting garlic and meat that I can only imagine one would compare to what heaven's kitchens smell like. I quartered potatoes and peeled the last clove of garlic, and put that on to boil.

I make mashed potatoes the way I like them, and that's without apology for the ingredients. I did limit myself, though, to only half a stick of butter and only half a brick of cream cheese. A little half-and-half to thin out the mixture, and healthy doses of fresh-ground pepper and sea salt, and the side dish was done. I pulled the pork loin out of the oven, and moved it to a platter to rest while I chopped carrots, green onions, and mushrooms to add to the salads. Each person got only what he or she wanted in the salad. I like the bag of mixed herb salad, but everyone else likes just baby spinach. I made sure of what each person wanted, and that's exactly what was served for each bowl of salad.

Leah baked some Nestle's pre-formed chocolate chip cookies, and everyone had a scoop of ice cream on top of a hot cookie. (no I didn't have one). We'd thought we were going to watch a DVD, but the boys started watching goofy youtube videos, and Maddie came over to watch my working on my planets on Lacuna Expanse. She decided it looked cool, so I set her up to start an empire. Clayton was interested, too, so we got him set up, and the two of them talked back and forth as they worked through the tutorial to start building a world.

Now, the condo is quiet, the kids are asleep, and I'm about done for the day, myself.
possumcowboy: (Default)
The king-sized bed in this place? It's-a verrah nize (/french knight).

We decided that getting on the beach was more important than a big breakfast, and so we gathered towels and swimsuits, sprayed on sunscreen, and headed toward the three umbrellas and six chairs we've reserved for the week.

Nathan and Clayton immediately upended a bucket of sand and began excavating a complicated moat system. The girls headed for the surf line and began trying to ride waves in, bodysurfing. The waves weren't really big enough, and they needed to work on timing, but they had a great time. I got several good pics that I'll have to get loaded in a separate post.

As the sun got higher in the sky, cheeks and shoulders started to get pink, and we headed back inside to cool off and have lunch. As people got out of swimsuits, they found tons of algae in places where no algae should ever be. It looks like the showers are going to get cleaned every time we come back up from the beach!

For lunch, I made breakfast. I brought only one piece of cookware from home, and it is my large cast-iron skillet. Bacon went in there first. I cut the bacon in half, making shorter pieces which I can turn to get done more evenly. It annoys me to have bacon that's crispy in the middle and basically still raw on the outsides, so this is an easy fix. While the bacon was cooking, I sliced potatoes. Ok, I brought my santoku knife, which is another bit of cookware, but that's it. As thin as I could get them, and then reshape the slices into a potato shape to cut down the middle, and then again to make quarter-disks of potato. When the bacon was done, I poured out most of the grease into a bowl, and put the 'taters in there. They got a good stir, and I diced up some garlic and onion, got those in there, too, and prepped for an omelet station. I had diced ham, green (spring) onions, mushrooms, and colby-jack cheese. The omelet-sized pan available here in the condo is stainless steel. I did the best I could with bacon grease to lube the pan, but still ended up making mostly scrambled eggs. I had to get the pan under hot water and a scrubby sponge after each omelet. Pilsbury cinnamon rolls went in the oven, and we ate as the food came up.

After some more relaxing, we headed down to the pool area, found a place to stash our stuff, and hopped in. After an hour or so in there, we went back down to the beach, where our umbrellas and chairs were waiting for us. Another hour, and back to the condo, around 6.

There were some things we hadn't thought of for yesterday's run to Publix, so we wrote a new list and Macy and I headed to the store. Leah and I had decided that she could get something special for going with me to help me, and when I asked her what she'd like (expecting some sort of food) she said, "the pink raft by the door." Since it was $4, I added it to the cart and we checked out.

Back at the condo, I started making dinner. Diced garlic and put it in a saucepan with a half-stick of butter to warm, then diced chicken breasts and got them in the cast-iron skillet, and trimmed up broccoli crowns and got them in a pot with just enough water to get them to come out looking like steamed rather than boiled. Angel-hair pasta went in another pot once the water boiled. When the garlic looked right, I poured in a pint of half-and-half and brought that up to a simmer, then added the back of six-cheese blend and stirred it in. Sliced whole-grain bread went under the broiler, and once it was just a bit toasty, I rub/grated each piece with a piece of garlic, and then dressed each piece with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil with ground pepper and salt. Everything plated up nicely, and we enjoyed recapping the day and laughing about the silly things that families laugh about.

All four kids are having a great time, I'm having a great time, Leah's having a great time, and we still have several more days of great time ahead! Even with the driving, this is the coolest vacation I can remember since I was little and we drove in my mom's VW van to Hershey, Pennsylvania. I wonder if there's just something magical about taking a VW van full of a family to somewhere that makes it so good? I remember we took the middle seat out of Mom's van and put down sleeping bags, and sat cross-legged on the floor and played Monopoly and cards while my parents took turns driving. On this trip, everyone was strapped in, but they still took turns doing different activities.

Grandmother's flight was canceled, so I'll pick her up in the morning at the little local airport rather than this evening. I think she'll add a nice little something extra to our little band of relaxers and diggers and body-surfers.
possumcowboy: (Default)
Awoke this morning and headed to the hotel lobby for the hot breakfast buffet which was included with the price of the room. Usually it's runny eggs, dry biscuits, filmed-over gravy, stale cereal, watery milk, oily coffee. THIS place had an omelet station run by a woman who seemed to have eight arms. She kept three omelets running in a one-woman assembly line. She'd finish one, plate it, and slide the other two pans to the right, starting a new one on the far left. She just kept moving, smiling, saying good morning to everyone. It was a really nice start to the day! The rest of the buffet had the above-mentioned items, but the eggs were good, the biscuits fresh, the gravy steaming, the cereal crispy, the milk sealed in individual cartons, and the coffee practically sparkled.

Filled up the van at a Costco (so much cheaper!) nearby, and got back on the interstate. I punched up the cruise control and we cruised along happily until we reached Birmingham. Birmingham was backed up like an old truck driver who only eats cheese. We slowly grunted, strained, and rocked back and forth until we finally emerged on the far side, exhausted. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks to save us. I downloaded this week's free song while we were there. Leah needed a beach towel, so we crossed the street to a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The kids and I stayed in the car while Leah's "just be a minute" trip into the store started to stretch into another ice age. Just before we had to start worrying about glaciers scraping Alabama into the Gulf of Mexico, she came out, and we got back on the road.

We picked numbers, and Maddie got to choose where to have lunch. I was whispering "c'mon! Chick-Fil-A!" in my head, but she wanted Subway. So, after a foot-long double-roast beef provolone spinach tomato cucumber pickle salt and pepper olive oil on whole wheat later, we pulled across the parking lot to drive through Dairy Queen (Fairy Queer, we used to call it...) and everyone got a mini Blizzard. Not me, of course, since it's generally considered bad form to go into a diabetic coma while driving a van full of people at highway speeds.

The GPS took us off the Interstate and onto a two-lane highway. Several miles along, and a restroom break was suggested, rather urgently. The first place I found looked like the sort of structure that homeless people refuse to sleep in. That's where we went. I decided that, bladder or not, I wasn't going in. I did my "check-in" on Foursquare (because I'm a nerd like that, and don't deny that you have your own nerd stuff, so there) and the place wasn't even listed! There was a spot called "The middle of effin' nowhere" with the address listed as "near some field". I think that pretty well sums up the sort of place I'm talking about.

This being the second day of six hours of driving, I was impressed with how well the kids got along. They took turns with the wireless headphones, listening to satellite radio or whatever. I got a power inverter so that they were able to plug in laptops and watch movies or play games if they wanted.

We finally arrived at the Waterscape Resort. It's on Okaloosa Island, near Ft. Walton Beach. The building is basically a large U shape, with a waterpark in the middle. The two "arms" of the U reach toward the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. You can float in the Lazy River in clean pool water, or you can go play on the beach. After we unloaded the car, Leah took the kids down to the beach while I drove back a mile or so to a grocery store, to stock up on what we'd need for food (this is a condo with a full kitchen).

Apparently, every resort on this little island rents from Saturday to Saturday. The grocery store was more crowded than...uh...well, it was really really crowded. I stood in the line at the deli counter for (no shit, really) thirty-five minutes to get sandwich meat. The store had whole shelves bare of stuff, from where people had come in today and bought a metric shit-ton of Poptarts or cubic meters of potato or corn chips.

The only things stocked in the condo are salt and pepper. There were two packets of dishwasher soap, a little yellow sponge, cookware and utensils, plates and cups. Everything else needed gettin'. Sandwiches? Meat, yeah, but also mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, bread, cheese. Dishwasher detergent, sand buckets with shovels, sunscreen, extra beach towels, sunglasses for Leah who forgot hers, milk, fruit, yogurt, potatoes, onions, garlic, bacon, eggs, pre-made cookie dough, Pilsbury cinnamon rolls; you get the idea. I had a full cart.

I was hoping to make my homemade alfredo sauce, with chicken and broccoli and angel-hair pasta, but it was 10 local time when I got home. That's 11 home time, and kids were tired. We had a (nearly) midnight sandwich snack dinner, and everyone headed for bed.

Leah and I get the master bedroom. Nathan and Clayton are in an alcove with bunk beds. Maddie and Macy are on the pull-out couch. Grandmother (Leah's mom) will be in the other bedroom when she arrives tomorrow night.

Each kid will get the chance to choose what I'll make for a meal this week. Publix (the grocery store) is walking distance if you're walking for exercise, but probably not if you're bringing groceries back, so that's really close. As soon as I got back here, we started noticing things we'd forgotten to put on the list before, so there's at least one more trip there in store for me.

My wife is breathing in an even, slightly snor-ish fashion. The sound is making my eyes heavy.

Good night.
possumcowboy: (Default)
I woke up about an hour ago, went to the bathroom, and have been tossing ever since. Here in a few hours, It'll be back to work as usual; the vacation is over. It was actually a really good vacation, despite a few days which were a bit of a worry. The girls were here for a week, we had Christmas dinner five times, and I got the Nook eReader (which is Barnes and Noble's selected reader). I've read a 500-something-page novel, a 900-something-page novel, and I'm about halfway through another 350-page novel. It's like I've discovered reading all over again! Right now, I'm on a Greg Bear stint. I tend to read authors I've enjoyed before, and this guy has some incredible stuff. He's one of a select few who I can count on to always deliver. The only issue I've got with him is simply that he's way too smart. Sometimes I can sense the ideas he's trying to convey floating just over my head. That was only one book, though, so I suppose we'll call that a statistical outlier and just move on with enjoying his writing, eh? I recommend Darwin's Radio as a fine first read from Greg Bear. If you enjoy that, you'll want to follow it with Darwin's Children, of course.

More favorite authors:

David Brin for science fiction. Has a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Harry Turtledove for alternate history. Has a Ph.D. in Byzantine History.
Arthur C. Clark. 2001: A Space Odyssey (need I say more?)
Alan Dean Foster (he's entertained me since I was twelve, and Flinx was someone I wanted to be)
Robert A. Heinlein. He's simply the master of the SF genre. Start with Methuselah's Children, if you dare.

I'm going to try to get another good hour and a half of sleep. I want to get in early and get the room as ready as possible for my little darlings when they walk in this morning.


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April 2015

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