The Year In Pictures

It’s that time of year again, and this year, I really hope to keep up with ThinkIt’s Year-End Blog Wrap-Up. The prompt for December 1st is the Year in Pictures. I had a hard time reducing it to one moment, so I collected these, in no particular order:

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.




Is it me, or has this been the "Year of Bacon"?

Is it me, or has this been the “Year of Bacon”?

Family vacation

Family vacation

I’m surely leaving out many memories of the year, but hopefully they will come back to me as we continue this process over the next few weeks.

A Perfect Day at the Beach

We are getting ready to go down to the beach, and the kids are running around with a balloon outside while they wait for Manfrengensen and me. Edison is driving the game, calling out rules and color commentary. The Princess is so excited to have her brothers play with her. She jumps up and down trying to hit the balloon Clooney brought home from Red Robin last night. In a rush, she exclaims, “I love you, Edison!”

Manfrengensen is making my customary turkey-and-cheese-on-a-roll lunch as all this is happening. He says he envies me a bit. I know I have the life, and I thank the fates every day for it. Even the simple things — that Manfrengensen makes my lunch, and carts it down to the tide’s edge for me, that’s one special part of this enchanted life.


Manfrengensen was watching the start of the All-Star game with the boys. At the beginning they did a tribute to America’s real-life “all-stars,” and they had all five living presidents appear during the presentation. When Bill Clinton came on, Clooney exclaimed, “Hey, I know that guy! He was on The Simpsons.”

bill clinton simpsonsSee, it’s educational.

We just got back from one of the nicest family vacations ever. Just went down to the beach, stayed at my parents’ place. It was actually really relaxing, though admittedly, Manfrengensen did most of the work. He’s the guy who packs everything in the Wonderwheeler and hauls it all down to the tide’s edge.  He does it all, takes chairs, buckets, boogie boards, sets up the umbrella. He made lunches for everyone too, and packed them in the cooler. Why is it that sandwiches always taste better on the beach? (Edison says it’s because of the sand factor. Get it? Sand?) Manfrengensen is some kind of husband, let me tell you. He would let me sleep in every morning, while he took the kids out to the playground and then around to the Wawa for donuts or soft pretzels depending on their personal preferences. Then he would bring the kids home, where I was often still working on my morning coffee. He’d take a brief rest, and within the hour he’d start packing that Wonderwheeler.

And he hardly Eddie Haskelled me at all about how my only jobs were applying everyone’s sunscreen and packing the sweatshirts with our books (I always packed his though, unlike me, he never seemed to have time to read on the beach) into the tote bag, which, eight days out of the eleven, rode to the beach with the rest of the gear on the Wonderwheeler.

We had perfect weather, though the wind was a bit brisk a few of those days. The final Sunday was the best one though and the water was absolutely perfect for sea bathing.

Let me see if I can draw you a few postcards:

Took The Princess with me to find myself a new bathing suit. She was pretty good in the store and “helped” me pick out one that I was happy with. Later that day, when she put on her own suit in preparation for the beach, she went straight over to the full-length mirror, turned around and pondered how her butt looked in it. Osmosis, I guess.

All five of us played skee ball side-by-side one chilly afternoon on the boardwalk. Later we went to an amusement park where we got $50 worth of tickets for the rides. Those were gone exactly 32 minutes later.

Clooney, the social butterfly, moving from one set of kids to another on the beach, often spending more time talking their parents’ ears off than the kids’. Even the lifeguards know him. In fact, one day when he’d ventured too far over in the water, rather than blowing their whistles, the guards just yelled, “CLOONEY!” and then pointed to where they wanted him to be.

The Princess, learning how to boogie board, the same way the boys did, just waiting on the sand for the tide to come and give her a ride. Each day, she would go a little further out. One day she was even bold enough to follow Edison out a little too far. We were watching closely, of course, and just as Manfrengensen was getting up to call her back a bit, she got clobbered by a wave and went under. Edison quickly pulled her up, and then we took her out to calm her down. She had kept her mouth closed (so those swim lessons are paying off) but she was a little freaked out by the experience. She did get back on the board later, though. She’s a trooper.

Overall, just a great week in the life of this little family. Great routine we’ve developed with getting to the beach, the kids playing there, keeping our eyes peeled for the ice cream man, The Princess sleeping in her little tent, then home for showers, dinner, and walking for more ice cream. (Ice cream two times a day! If not always for myself – still watching those calories- at least for the kids. But even for myself, it was nice to have a week where my toughest decisions involved weighing the caloric content of the Choco-taco over that of the frozen Snickers ice cream bar.) The simple life, perhaps, but one full of lots of laughs and lots of fun. Who could ask for anything more?

p.s. – I also had time to read two books and part of a third while we were away. You can check out my thoughts on those on the “Books 2009” page.

Vacation, all I ever wanted.

Here are a few postcards from our trip:

At the beach end of our street there is a big, beautiful house.  It’s the kind of house that, were I making a movie about beach living, would make a fabulous backdrop.  It’s green-shingled, three-stories of what looks like generations of living on the beach, with turrets and arches, well maintained with a lushly landscaped perimeter.  It’s got a pool on the beach side of it.  The landscaping is meticulously maintained.  How this guy gets such thick green grass with sand in such close proximity is, frankly, something the environmentalist in me doesn’t want to know about.

Ee and Manfrengensen jumping the waves

Ee and Manfrengensen jumping the waves


The guy’s a little crazy about his house.  At some point, and I am not sure whether he got the city’s permission to do this, he removed the sidewalk in front of his house and replaced it with something more aesthetically in line with his property.  There’s some concrete to the sidewalk there, but it is bordered by the same brick as his driveway.  I suppose, having footed the expense for this upgrade, he has come to believe that the sidewalk is his.  Over the years, I have seen him remove many a bike and wagon left there by public beachgoers, my own included.

On Saturday, I saw a woman unlocking her bike from the post on the sidewalk.  I hesitated to speak, but I thought, in the spirit of community, I would warn her about how crazy the guy is about the sidewalk.  I said carefully, and in a friendly way, “This guy here is a little crazy about the sidewalk.  Just wanted to let you know in case he ever moves your bike.  He doesn’t like people to leave them here.”

And she went crazy on me.  Yelling about how it’s a public sidewalk, and he has no right to do that, he can call the cops, blah blah blah.  All this crazy stuff, like I had been the one who moved her bike.  I just wanted to get away from her, so I said, “Okay, you have a nice day,” and I took Ee in the stroller and quickly got away from her.

Then she caught up with me at the corner where we were waiting for the light, and she apologized, but the apology was this other long rant about how she’s just so sick of these people who come down here for the summer.  She can’t wait for the summer to be over.  She’s a full-time resident, and these people who come for the summer really get on her nerves.  They act like they own the place because they own a summer place.  These people crowd the town, they  make more traffic, these people.  And I was like…I’m one of these people.  I don’t feel like I own the place, but what kind of apology is that?  But then I noticed that she had three kids, and I knew how she felt about needing the summer to end.  But that’s no reason to take her frustrations out on a total stranger.  Can’t she do like I do and just yell at the kids?

Seriously, though.  What’s wrong with people?


He got a 9.72 from the judges under the next beach umbrella.

He got a 9.72 from the judges under the next beach umbrella.

We were into the Olympics, at least the ones that were broadcast live, and the kids really enjoyed the gymnastics.  Clooney kept doing his “floor exercises” on the beach, including repetition in “slow motion.”  Thursday my in-laws came to visit, and we had lunch on the beach.  While we were talking, I held the last bit of my sandwich in my hand, and I was on the outside of our circle.  A seagull swooped down suddenly and grabbed it right out of my hand.


We went to the boardwalk.  We visited Storybookland.  Overall, a great week.  Only three days of beach, weather permitting, left to the summer.

Today we are shopping for school shoes, which necessitates a trip to the mall for proper sizing.  The mall closest to us is kind of sad. There’s a mom-and-pop shoe store that’s been there since I was being fitted for school shoes.  But the rest of the mall, like I said, is kind of sad. There’s not even a Gap there.  A mall without a Gap is only one bad holiday season away from being a mall with a wig store.  And a mall where there’s a wig store, well, that’s the saddest kind of mall there is.

A Movie Review

Manfrengensen and I went to see Tropic Thunder last week.  It was okay.  Overall, uneven.  There were some really funny parts, but many of the jokes fell flat.  Much has been made of Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance, which was fine.  But what really bothered me was Tom Cruise.  I’m not a Tom Cruise basher.  He’s fine, for what he is.  My problem is that he’s always Tom Cruise.  Even under 70 pounds of latex and acrylic hair, he’s still Tom Cruise, and you can tell that.  I thought his performance was a caricature that was so cliche that it was annoying.

Another thing that kind of bothered me was the signature Dream Works use of music. I don’t know if it’s a Geffen requirement, but have you ever noticed that 90% of Dream Works films have a song in them that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie?  It usually comes at the end, and one or more of the characters will dance to it like it’s supposed to be cute or funny, but in reality, it’s just a tie-in to sell the soundtrack.  I hate that.


Another Movie Review

The best movie I have seen lately is one I happened to catch on cable.  I’m not huge on sci-fi, but I really enjoyed Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. It’s about this crew that tries to reignite the dying sun, which sounds a little like you’ve seen it before, but you haven’t. Kind of a cross between Alien and 2001, it was visually stunning and had us on the edge of the sofa for much of the last forty minutes.  No big name stars, unless you count Cillian Murphy, who was in 28 Days Later, and he also played The Scarecrow in Batman Begins. His performance was subtle, quiet, and quite brilliant. I have found myself haunted by the film for a week now.  I just keep thinking, man, that was a good movie.  And I don’t think that about movies often.  Highly recommend.

And a Mystery

Last night Manfrengensen went to make himself some tea in his Mr. Tea Ice Tea Maker.  He does this often, so we usually keep a spare pitcher handy in the back corner of the kitchen counter for him to collect water to pour into it.  It’s opaque, made by Rubbermaid. So, last night, he had the pitcher in hand, and he asked me, “What’s this?  Is this a joke?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  He tipped the pitcher toward me and asked, “What’s this supposed to be?  A bat?”  So then, I was really confused.  “A bat?” I asked.  What the hell was he talking about?  He said, “There’s a bat, or at least, I think it’s a bat, in this pitcher.”  He continued to think I was trying to pull something over on him.  We took the pitcher outside and poured its contents onto the patio where it landed with a hard,  inanimate smack. It was, as it turned out, a dead bat.

How did a bat get into the house?  And even more curious — how did it get into the kitchen, under the cabinets and down into the pitcher?  How did it die? How long had it been there? Totally weird. And I think, a mystery that will remain unsolved.


p.s. – Clooney asked, “A bat?  Is it an acrobat?  Because, they can do tricks.”

Weekend Getaway

The summer has begun in earnest, and we are down at my dad’s beach house, a wonderful place where the family comes together in a completely dust-free environment.  It’s fun, though Manfrengensen says it’s like Gattica. If you shed an eyelash, they’ll find it.  If you leave a glass unattended on the counter, when you come back from the bathroom it will be gone.  Stepmom is cool, but very fastidious, and it’s her place, so them’s the rules.  Saturday night I left my sweater and jacket downstairs, and her first words to me Sunday morning were about all my “jazz,” which I immediately took upstairs, feeling sorry and somewhat criminal.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just her thing, and sometimes I wonder if her thing might be borderline OCD.  But she’s got other things too, and some of them are actually good.

Will SmithMy brother and I watched The Pursuit of Happyness Saturday night, which I have to say was pretty good in a way that brought about the appropriate emotional responses in me at the appropriate moments.  I cried at the end, though I thought it was too abrupt.  They spend almost two hours bringing you down into this guy’s spiral, and then in the end, hooray he makes it, hugs his kid, and the credits roll.

Saturday night Manfrengensen and I came in from our ice cream walk to a dark house.  Everyone had gone to bed, so we figured we would set the alarm for the night.  Well, of course, I pushed the wrong buttons, and the thing started beeping, beeping like the countdown on Fox’s 24,  My brother was coming down the stairs as we fiddled with the buttons, the thing beep, beep, beep, beep.  I hit the right combination bomband the thing stopped.  He said, without turning, in that dry, deadpan, monotone way he has, “Did you cut the red wire or the blue?”

We’ll see if this moment is any kind of harbinger to what kind of summer it’s going to be with 10 people sharing a house.

It’s great to be with my brother, who is now in his forties (as am I). He’s been sick with a cold, and the cough is lingering.  How many times this weekend did I hear that cough and assume it was my father?  My brother is a lot like him, and that is a wonderful thing.

Back to Grey’s Anatomy

(Part 2 of the series)

So, anyway, more about Grey’s Anatomy,  specifically Meredith and Derek.  First of all, Derek can do SO MUCH BETTER than Meredith.  I don’t know if it’s the way Ellen Pompeo plays her or the way she’s written, but Meredith Grey is the most whiney, annoying character ever written for prime time television. It’s been four seasons, and rather than getting her shit together, Meredith just seems to get worse and worse as far as emotional train wrecks go.

Several times over the course of this series, the writers have threatened Meredith’s life.  She had a burst appendix, she almost let herself drown, etc.  Each time, I didn’t feel like the drama was real.  I just didn’t believe they’d kill off the title character. Not in this case.  Not for this series.  But, man, did I pray that they would.

Meredith DerekSo now she’s in therapy with some doctor in the hospital who apparently has no other patients, because Meredith seems to just burst in to the woman’s office whenever she has an emotional epiphany, which apparently happens several times a day.  Are we to believe that the shrink is just sitting around waiting for Meredith to work it out and come back to her?  This doctor appears to have a lot of time, perhaps too much time on her hands for filing.  That’s no kind of shrink.  No wonder Meredith is still such a mess.

So at the end of the season, a season in which Meredith and Derek have mostly been apart, and Derek has been dating a nice, patient, understanding nurse (I liked Rose.  Rose is cool.  Rose could see the writing on the wall.  She was cautious, but she couldn’t help loving McDreamy.  Who could?  I ask you, who could? He’s the Loverboy.), Meredith shows up at the end of the episode and does this sappy romantic thing, so we can assume they are getting back together.  A lot of fans of the show are mooning over this moment, but I’ve got to tell you that it made me want to GAG.


Next, why is George such a chick magnet?….



The Eternal Optimist

My parents are taking the kids away for the weekend, and the forecast at the beach, where they are going, is rainy all weekend with highs in the low- to mid-sixties.  So my step-mom called me today to ask if I have any “windbreakers” for them.  I said they have fleece things, and they have raincoats.  “Fleece?” she asked, “Not nylon?”  I said they were fleece, but had some nylon incorporated, and assured her that they would “break wind.”

A few hours later, I spoke to my father.  He wanted to know whether I was sending their bathing suits down.  I told him I thought it was going to be cold and rainy this weekend.  “Well, Saturday’s supposed to be a high of 68,”  he smiled. My father — the eternal optimist when it comes to beach weather.  He always believes it’s going to clear, always has faith that it will be warm enough for beach activities. Could be a nor’easter, he can see the bit of blue sky on its horizon. It’s quite an endearing quality in him, actually.

Filling the bucket 2004