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Birthday girl

I almost began this post with an image from a recent maternity session, but then realized that it—along with the title of this post—would probably give you the wrong idea. So I’ll save that photo for later.

Things are good and bad here in Sharkeyville. J.P. and I went to Disney World with Character Builder and her family recently. That’s CB’s daughter above—she turned five while we were there, and was very excited to wear her new Cinderella dress when we had breakfast with the princesses on her birthday.

Vacation was lots of fun. As you may know, WDW is J.P.’s favorite place on the face of the earth. And it was fun to experience it through the kids’ eyes. For a blow-by-blow recap (and tons of photos), click on over to J.P.’s place.

I’ve been experiencing a little flurry of activity with my photography biz. I did two maternity sessions in March, and have already completed one of the newborn sessions. Now I’m just waiting for the little girl below to arrive so I can go spend some time with her.

So that’s the good stuff. Unfortunately, there’s some not-so-good stuff too. I know Character Builder has been planning a post about this, so I *think* it’s okay to mention it here. Last month, her nine-year-old daughter went flying off her scooter and got a concussion. As part of the treatment and diagnosis process, they did a CT scan and discovered a cyst on her brain. It’s not life-threatening, but she will need surgery this summer to drain it. UPDATE: Read the full story over at CB’s.

And speaking of surgery, it sounds like my mom may be in for some more. We learned yesterday that her ovarian cancer has returned. We’re waiting for the results of her CT scan to know the full extent of it.

So if you have some extra good thoughts or prayers that you could send along on my family’s behalf, we’d really appreciate it.

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Vacay recap

Retro chairs in the sun

So our vacation, it was good. (Is there such a thing as a bad vacation? I suppose there is.) As I mentioned the other day, we rented a beach house with J.P.’s mom and his oldest brother and family. In all, there were nine of us. It seems like nine people would really be a house full, but not in this house. It had six bedrooms, 5.5 baths, seven TVs, and wraparound decks on every level. There were rooms in the house that I literally never set foot in, and on the first day it was easy to get disoriented (if not outright lost) on one of its four levels.

Want to see what I mean? Check out the photos. No, I didn’t take these myself–why bother when there are good photos already available?

Other than renting the house itself, we had no plans and no schedule. It was wonderful. On the day that the guys golfed, we girls went shopping in the quaint little town nearby. I didn’t buy anything but I did snap a few photos, including the one above.

Of course, we spent a fair amount of time at the beach. Our house was probably about two blocks away, and it had a golf cart that we could park right at the beach access point. It really came in handy when we hauled our assorted umbrellas, chairs, towels, etc., down to the sand. And Maggie liked it too:

Golf cart excursion

She sat on the floor of the cart and stuck her head out the side. I had to put my leg up just to keep her in. But apparently I didn’t do a very good job, because at one point she jumped out. She was on the retractable leash, and I had it locked on its shortest setting. Generally, that’s a good thing. But when the dog jumps out of a moving vehicle while on a very short leash? Not so good. I let go of it as soon as I could, but she still did a roll or two and got a bit skinned up. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to bother her.

We spent one day at Hammocks Beach State Park. It’s on an island that’s only accessible by boat, and they only allow a specified number of people on the island each day. Here’s a shot to give you an idea how many people were there.

Deserted

And these two were both with us! It reminded J.P. and me of one of the beaches we visited in Hawaii. But the Hawaiian beach required a drive through a sugar cane field and included directions that referenced a monkeypod tree as a landmark. Fortunately, taking the ferry to this beach was a lot easier. I was glad we went there late in the week because we spent about five hours on the beach, and despite slathering sunscreen all over myself I still got burned. In fact, it’s still a little painful three days later.

Our drive home was uneventful except for traffic, of course. It seemed like half the cars on the road had OBX stickers on the back and luggage strapped to the roof. When they finally invent hover cars, I think J.P. will be one of the first in line to buy one.

The vacation wouldn’t be complete without one last adventure. We rented a minivan for the trip, and J.P. and his mom were getting ready to return it today. They went outside, and he made one last sweep through it to be sure we got everything out. Then he shut the back hatch and realized that the keys were locked inside. Back to reality.

On vacation

Sunrise on the beach

Would you believe that I’m on vacation again?!? Yes, it’s true. This week were in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, staying at an unbelievable beach house with J.P.’s family. More details later (probably, but you know how I’ve been lately), but I wanted to post this shot from today’s sunrise. Yes, believe it or not, I was up before the sun today. And I conned J.P. into joining me on the beach (Maggie didn’t need to be asked twice).

Have a great day!

An update . . .

Capitol as viewed by a four year-old
Photo credit: the 40-pound furnace

So I know I need to write a post. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days, but don’t feel like I have much to say. How about a little travelogue?

On July 1, Character Builder and her family came for a visit. They flew into D.C., and J.P. and I drove down to meet them. For three days we traipsed around the city, visiting museums and monuments and memorials (oh my!). And for some of that time, I was carrying a 40-pound furnace named Lauren.

That mouth, it never stops moving
The mouth, it never stops moving.

Have you ever been to D.C. in the summer? Have you felt its oppressive heat and humidity? Do you know how miserable it can be? Well guess what? We didn’t have any of that! In fact, we couldn’t have had better weather if we’d paid for it. The temps were in the high 70s/low 80s, and there was absolutely no humidity. It was unbelievable.

So typical

I just love the expressions on their faces here—very typical and representative of their personalities. They did really well, considering how boring it must’ve been for them. They would’ve preferred it if we’d stayed at the hotel, where there was internet access (for Webkinz) and a swimming pool.

We got home Tuesday night, and had a very low-key day on the Fourth. It was overcast and rainy, and around dinnertime the storms started. So no fireworks this year. But we did have potato salad!

On Thursday, we took the kids to this place. We had a lot of fun in the obstacle course/ball shooting place, and of course the kids were all about the games where they could win tickets.

And Friday, we went to the NJ shore. Ocean City, to be exact. It was the perfect day (except for missing our exit on the way there and then trying to get where we wanted to be without having to backtrack). The water was absolutely FREEZING—it made my feet almost achy.

Icy
I know, I know—they’re not as cute as the kids.

But Lauren couldn’t have cared less about the water temperature. She had a great time standing at the water’s edge, waiting for the waves to come in and “get” her. Even when a bigger-than-expected wave got her in the face, she didn’t let it faze her. She simply turned around and started sticking out her butt to meet the waves. It was hilarious, but you’ll have to take my word for it for now. Character Builder took some photos and a video of the whole thing, but since they’re hers and the kids are hers I’ll let her post them if she wants (hint, hint!).

After they left on Saturday, it was like a ghost town around here. We wish they could come back every year!

**More photos on my Flickr site. If you’re one of my Flickr friends you’ll see more cute kid pics (some with kittens!). If you’re not one of my Flickr friends, you’ll have to settle for boring photos of buildings and monuments (but also kittens!). Let me know if you wanna be my friend.**

Three trips down, three to go

Worn out

This is how I felt last night. After work on Wednesday, we drove 4+ hours to Pittsburgh. We got to bed after 1:00 AM, and got up the next same morning at 4:45. Then we drove 30 minutes, waited in line for the metal detectors, and waited some more for a school bus that would take us to the U.S. Open.

I don’t follow professional golf closely, but because I live in the same house as J.P. I do know a lot of the players’ names and faces. So it was kind of cool to see them up close in their natural habitat. We saw Tiger and Phil and Villegas (pronounced Va-JAY-gas, but I usually refer to him as Vajayjay when I’m talking to J.P.), and some awesome golf shots. Even though I’m not a golfer, I do appreciate the good shots.

After our day of sun and wind, and after our dinner of barbecued ribs, I could hardly keep my eyes open. We got back to the hotel around 8:00, and I was asleep by a little after 9. I think the last time I was asleep before dark, I was probably about eight years old.

I can’t say I’ve ever thought of Pittsburgh as a vacation destination, but we took some time to explore it before heading home today and I was impressed. Maybe it helped to have low expectations, but we had trouble deciding which activities we should do. We ended up taking the Monongahela incline from the river up to the bluff above, where we had gorgeous views of the city. It seems like it would be a touristy thing, and there were several tourists on it. But was originally built for commuters and is run by the Port Authority. Here we are waiting for our return trip:

Incline

We don’t always wear matching clothes, but as Suzie pointed out (click the photo above and read her comment), it’s not exactly uncommon.

After our incline trip, we wanted to go to the Three Rivers Arts Festival. We had seen some information about it in the touristy mall, so I asked a clerk where it was. She said, “Oh, I think it’s Donn and Donn Tonn.” At least that’s what I thought she said, but I had no idea what (who?) Donn and Donn Tonn were, so I asked for clarification. She said it again, and I repeated it to try and get some clarification. Then she said, “Yes, DonnTonn, near 9th and Market.” Ohhhhh!! DOWNTOWN! I thought maybe she was foreign, but everything else she said was in unaccented English. And people say Minnesotans have accents!

So the art festival, it was good. No purchases and no photos, but I did get a freshly-made corn dog, and it may be the only one I get this year because I don’t think we’ll be in Minnesota during the State Fair.

I know it’s probably considered sacrilege for me to say this, but I think this trip was better than Disney World. And the best part? We still have two days of weekend before we have to go back to work!

42 Down

Name that Honkytonk Star

I got to cross Tennessee off my list today. I think now there are only eight states in the union that I haven’t visited. I’m in Nashville for a work meeting, and it just so happens that the Country Music Awards are in town tonight. Our hotel is downtown, and the Gaylord Entertainment Center is only about three blocks away.

Gaylord Entertainment Center

Of course, my co-workers and I couldn’t let all that activity happen around us without at least venturing out in search of some famous faces (never mind that I don’t actually know what any of them look like). In the rain. The good thing about the rain is that it kept the crowds away, and we were able to get glimpses of the red carpet area. The bad thing about the rain is that it was quite wet.

Because of the rain, a tent was erected over the red carpet. As each limo approached, a guy would walk up and ask the driver who was inside. If the occupants were deemed important enough, the car was allowed to proceed and stop under the tent. Then another guy would announce the people or group as they emerged from the car, and they would turn around and wave to the adoring fans before scurrying into the brightly-lit larger tent for interviews and photos.

The conditions for taking photos were terrible. We were relatively far away, I didn’t have my long lens, it was dark and raining, and I was trying to balance an umbrella and take pictures at the same time. Excuses, excuses. But I did manage to get a shot or two of the Female Vocalist of the Year. Can you see her?

Find the star in this picture

Posted in Travel. 7 Comments »

Over & Out

Well, my last post has moved from “withering” on the vine to outright dead. I’ve been busy trying to wrap things up before we leave on vacation tomorrow, and consequently the blog has been neglected.

I’m still getting used to the MacBook. Mostly it’s good, but I seem to have trouble with some of the keys. Especially the G, and sometimes the T—they just aren’t quite responsive enough, and soon I’ll be writing like Ricky Ricardo: “I’ve been busy tryin to wrap thins up.” (My proofreading skills have a tendency to decline after 1:00 AM.)

Hey, speaking of the Mac and 1:00 AM . . . does anyone know how to adjust Blogger’s timestamp on a Mac? On this computer, I don’t have the Compose tab and the HTML tab—everything’s HTML. I can deal with that, but I also don’t have the date/timestamp info at the bottom of the page.

J.P., Maggie, and I are taking a road trip to MN. We had great intentions of getting the car all packed tonight, but I haven’t even started packing my suitcase yet. And I think we’ll have more electronics than clothes. Between the camera, two or three laptops, the GPS, iPod, and cell phones, the cigarette lighter power plugs will be at a premium. We even bought an adapter so we can plug in the laptop during the trip. Now if only we could get satellite internet, I’d be all set (J.P. will likely do most of the driving).

We don’t have any big plans for our time in Minnesota. We’ll go to the state fair, of course. If you don’t know much about it, you really should go and read J.P.‘s recent post. Besides all the food, walking around with 100,000 other Minnesotans makes for some interesting people watching.

But at 1:40 AM, about the only thing I’m interested in watching is the back of my eyelids. I’m sure I’ll be posting at least a few times from the road (I know, I know . . . you can hardly wait). Until then, Sharkey out!