Summer Staycation: The Dollar Tree Store.

Rather than vacation abroad, like the Roosevelt’s on their epic Nile cruise or Krakauer’s Everest summit, we reluctantly decide to remain home, visit the cheapest home country attraction–Dollar Tree.  Call me penurious.


Having spent what feels like 2hrs 45mins parading my three children through the already bruised and battered aisles–a true retail nightmare–we settle on saccharine-fueled crap. They’re happy.  Me?  I’m pleased to put this luxurious outing in rear view.  But let’s get back, discover the real reason why these creatures possess currency, the everliving almighty dollar.

dollar bill

Just last night, while cresting a congested highway artery, an ill-advised bribe occurs, a cash carrot in exchange for the nearly unobtainable–blessed silence.  An atypical ride home, silence reigns.  The toll is paid.  Once home, asleep, consumerism informs their dreams.


Wakey-wakey!  The next morning around 7am, confronted by what seems like ubiquitous flapping George Washingtons, Dollar Tree enters the conversation. After lengthy, spirited discussion a stunned silence rifles throughout the house, heartbreaking news–not open till 11am?!  Wut?!  To be truthful they open at 9am.  Like any good parent, we string-out this staycation.

Pro Tip

Turn “errands” into staycations. CVS runs for Mucinex, ShopRite for a quick Redbox, even Petco for some heavy petting, all work well in service of what’s needed most–leisure time.


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Vacuuming Play-Doh, and Other Parental Horrors.

Wait, just wait. Wait for that freaking cosmic miasma of Play-Doh to dry and become brittle, then vacuum.  A quick slough test should allay any fears. Vacuuming any sooner will result in your own personal Chernobyl.  FACT.

It’s crazy, the math I mean.  10 minutes of Play-Doh “play” equates to 6 hours of clean-up.  Totally not worth it.  And the parental guts required to keep them on task, have them cleanse the innumerable bits of doh?  Bananas.  I could scale Everest’s North Face–without a Sherpa–compared to what’s required to get my hellions to clean-up. Check-out these cherubs, nearing the end of hour 6.


I think I see a bit of Doh on the far right, glistening in the sun.

Play-Doh shenanigans don’t stop at home.  Google suggests there are 59M+ YouTube vids revolving around Play-Doh.  Those flicks are stop motion animation embolisms.  Ok, some of them are pretty cool, but the Spiderman shine-ons are an emetic.  Irregardless (not a word), and overall, these vids remind me of the seminal Beastie Boys album.  I am illed by Play-Doh.


Back to the kitchen.  Finally relieved of all things doh, an exhaustive triathlon of malleable goo complete, I give in to the human canvas request.

Dad!  We all done!  Can I give you a tattoo on yowr awm?” She’s so innocent I could pass out.

The other miscreant chimes in, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

“You got it.”  I mindlessly roll up my sleeve, pale bicep for the asking.

Why do I agree to be drawn on, suffer a budding artists “awkward” period, flanked by her hollering sister?  Because they’re no longer using Play-Doh.  That’s about it.  I mean it.

But I am reminded of one thing, a passing thought, a faint reminder of some other squishy kid-something–with all the attention on Play-Doh, Silly Putty must be jealous.

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A Vacuum Funeral.

The History Channel’s wildly popular series “Vikings” offers a raucous re-telling of dominance, reportedly the Norman conquest of England by 1066. Not sure about these details as I’m consulting Wikipedia.  Regardless, a Viking funeral is likely a sight to behold.  Given our inability to record said events, history suggests a vessel ablaze, an aggressive funeral pyre.

On another note, failingly mundane in comparison, I see a similar internment befitting our 2005 vacuum, a brutally aged appliance. At 12+ years in service she meets the same fate.  Our Kenmore Progressive with Direct Drive was a freaking gem in 2005. At an estimated 22lbs and outrageously sucky sucking ability, it’s time we move on.  Here she is, dormant and dark, like the Chernobyl amusement park a day after its demise.


Her silhouette is both shameful and proud, posture an erect edifice to a by-gone era, a time ripe with cleanliness.  Her “off” button strafed by constant use, sloughed and naked, time-honored access remains.


What could possibly replace this archetype of domestic suckage?  The Shark® Navigator™ Lift-Away™ Upright Vacuum, of course.  To be truthful, I’m getting ahead of myself–this is day one for our new-fangled plastic super model, an emaciated 12lbs in comparison.


Ok, alright… so why make such a fuss over this transition of power, this homeowner staple, a seemingly stunod blog post.  I dunno know.  The idea of Vikings and vacuums–cheesily they made me think.


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Snow Blower Politics.

This recent blast of snow reminds me of many things.  Aside from the initial beauty of snow, school closings and imposed lethargy, a gas-fueled beast reigns–the  snow blower. If you have one, you possess the premier Winter accompaniment.  Basically, you’re cool (pun intended).  If you don’t have a snow blower, you make friends in possession, those who raucously fire-up Churning Blades of the Gods (CBotG).  They graciously relieve us from back-breaking snow removal.


The DSM-5 diagnosis qualifies this as Free From Shoveling (FFS).

This blog post could end here, but I’m snowbound, so let’s move on.

If you’re bereft, do you ask for a loaner, do you wait for the offer?  Typically, we’re out there at the same time–the audible riot of power is clear. Aristocrats own a snow blower, plebeians borrow a shovel.  It’s a class war.

I’m agreeable by nature which leads me to establish a solid relationship with my neighbor (am I a Snow Lobbyist?).  Seeing me toil, a Carhartt laborer ineligible for OT, my neighbor  magnanimously offers his snow blower, only after his driveway is cleared I might add–this is the nature of the game.  Although a pittance, I offer my Hopkins 2610XM Subzero 52″ Super Extender Snowbroom (colors may vary).  This does the trick. 


Once in hand, I fire-up the brawny self-propelled snow blower, quickly dispensing snow with a fury reserved for the clinically mad.  I won’t go on about how I eventually broke the damn thing, the left wheel careening into a snow bank, a rusty black silhouette begging for its axle.  Once repaired, my shoveling time is cut in half.  I am grateful.

The haves and the have-nots dynamic continues to exist.  In the end, be cool if you have access to power.




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About 10 Items or Less?

We’ve all been there, subject to those who undermine math, the scofflaw jack-asses hell-bent on skirting the system.  Some humanoid in front of us unfurls 20+ egregious items, free from compunction, grinning four-thousand teeth astride the check-out aisle.  We boil under the affront, having followed the rules, right-minded, suffering those who can read but refuse to comply.


I wish prosecution was applicable.

The gaul of these creatures!  This is Super Bowl weekend–we have to be here, supermarket drones, grabbing sodium and saccharine-fueled snacks for the big game.  I can’t say I’m upset about that, though.  I’m an appetizer wolf.  We have an alarming number of snacks on the sideline, eagerly awaiting kick-off.

So. Let’s get scientific about this mundane crap.

Actual Case Study:

10:24am, Shop Rite, Anytown USA.

  • A hand of bananas, iced tea, potato skins, BBQ chicken wings, pizza rolls, freaking pigs in a blanket, among other gastro-horrors–eight items in total, well below the “about 10 items or less” dictum.  Dude in front of me?  Twenty-seven items!  I have enough time to actually count due to the sheer number of infractions this rat presents.  I look–no, glare like a hungry wolf–at this ass-bag, and he knows it.  A lame peace-offering, he gently places that plastic cylindrical divider on the conveyor belt–HE STILL HAS EIGHT ITEMS IN HIS CART.  The olive branch is rejected, as it should be.

So what’s this about, people?  Follow the rules, be cool to one another, offer a lame apology in the face of one’s crappy judgment?  Don’t know.  Just make sure you use your powers for good.

Here’s to a good game!

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Great Wolf Lodge: Desirable Water Torture.

Idyllically situated just off Rt. 80 in the Pocono Mountains, the town of Scotrun hosts a colossal indoor/outdoor water park, the truly impressive Great Wolf Lodge.  A study in unabashed branding, wild animal motifs and the ubiquitous paw print constantly remind us of our temporary home. Take the “barely perceptible” paw handle on the condiment carrier in the Loose Moose Family Kitchen.


Massive water park huffing behind the window.

I should say, too, although swimming in maple syrup, to the left, Reese’s untouched 50s spaceship waffle is branded with the Great Wolf Lodge paw. No surface is safe.

While I’m fascinated by the clever, nearly assaulting brand, I’m possessed by an altogether different element.  Navigating the serpentine 1 Great Wolf Drive, I’m immediately struck by the similarities between Great Wolf Lodge and the hotel featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining–the Overlook Hotel.  Remember those creepy girls from the movie?


We’re looking for Danny…

They’re not alone.


We stayed in room 237.

Aside from the macabre, this Great Wolf Lodge corporation truly has its act together.  The Pennsylvanian site is but one of 16 locations across the U.S. and Canada.  My hope is that each location equals the amenities and service.  The team behind this 78,000-square-foot colossus should be applauded.  The plastered euphoria on our kid’s faces is reason #1 why we’ll return.

Of the many, here are two impressive points with regard to organization and execution:

  1. Wristbands are both room keys and sources of purchase throughout the lodge.  Swipe–you’re good! No cards of any kind required during your stay.  Finally emerging from the water, recovering from Coyote Cannon, a 40-foot drop into a water-jet-fueled vortex?  Head back to your room for some R & R, mindlessly shrug your wrist for entry. Not ready to rest?  Blankly swipe to purchase food, drink, gifts, among other deafening options, a bowling lane at Ten Paw Alley.

It’s funny, everyone milling around, soaking, draped in raisin-like skin.  We exist in some massive sanitarium, our ever-present wristbands making us all look like aquatic patients…



2. As a business owner I can’t help but think you’re asking for hell managing a water attraction.  Although dark and raw, people drown at home, miles and miles from this 1000-gallon bucket dump…


Without going too far, water is the most powerful compound in the universe–too much of it we die, not enough we die.  So where’s the happy medium?  Great Wolf Lodge has either adopted or designed an awesome regiment.  Both indoor and outdoor  attractions have lifeguards in constant motion, literally casing the joint, rescue tubes under their arms, whistles pursed for infraction.  With calculated precision, lifeguards constantly rotate from station to station so as to keep their skills fresh, free from monotony. Nice job lifesavers!

Can’t say enough about this chlorinated gem, and we didn’t even take advantage of the 4-story obstacle course.  Bananas, just bananas.  Main site is here:

Seeing as the indoor water park is kept at a constant 84 degrees, I look forward to revisiting in the dead of winter for a swim, re-admitted, an aquatic patient.




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(De)Vice Family.

As of this writing–in real-time–all five of us are consumed, an entire family connected to seemingly divisive devices.  Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you–everybody’s on something.  Got it.  Let’s check-in with these humans and their vices.

Subject #1

Me.  I’m on a laptop writing a blog post about my family, doing my best to remain focused, surrounded by jarring sounds, graphic images, driven to distraction.  Forgive me if this written account sucks.

In an effort to concentrate I interrupt them, interview them throughout this post, gather lurid details on their habits, fact-check assumptions, compose a hardscrabble editorial. I love making the mundane meaningful.

Subjects #2 and #3

Mommy and the boy are glued to Xbox One, his recent birthday gift, his vision quest earned by a commitment to typical childhood chores. Making his bed, feeding his grotesquely bloated goldfish, getting dressed and occasionally making his breakfast, all served this one goal–gaming.

Hollering threats and near to tears–a train wreck lack of teamwork–Mommy and Jack eventually find their groove, and boy do they!  Crushing multiple levels on Lego Jurassic World, first time out, true artists at work.


Mommy exhumes her Nintendo youth, latent skills erupting from untold hours playing The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.  Having dissected first-person YouTube archives, Jack deftly draws from a ridiculous memory.  His on-demand compendium serving as sage and guide, the go-to-guy for moves.

The two bond over the course of–at this point–3+ hours, and I’m cool with it because their relationship is evolving.  Mommy needs Jack’s advice, something unheard-of in life outside of gaming.  It’s soothing to hear the two flip-flop.  Jack learns, too, to keep his sh*t together, play on a team and communicate the needs required to advance.

Prior to Mommy and Jack’s obsession, Forza Motorsport 6 was the main draw, me and the boy free-playing, eviscerating track after track behind a Lamborghini Gallardo or Bugatti Veyron.  We’re exotic bastards.


The Veyron.

I could go on and on about these cognitively and emotionally tethered players, but what about Subjects #4 and #5?

Subject #4

Roz and the iPad. Ultimate middle-child, a force to those who’ve witnessed her raw beauty and Jobsian “no blink stare.”  Currently rifling through content, Elsa videos rule Rozzie’s day.  Weirdest thing?  Spiderman shows up in a boatload of these live-action vids, rescuing Elsa across various settings, creeping me out–for real.  This genre makes me tense because costumed adults on the Internet ultimately lead to off-limits cosplay.  Party over.

In any event, here’s the Roz taking a device break, accompanying me to Home Depot.


So stylish!

Subject #5

Our youngest, Bleegs, vestige of vanishing innocence, reviews a smart phone.  Granted, she’s been given this device, which some might say is a no-no, easily a surrogate parent.  I get it.  To save us from DYFS, we’ve protectively dialed-up innocuous animal videos.  C’mon, you’ve done it, too.

Her gaze is fixed, frighteningly so, on dolphins playfully flanking a massive tanker cleaving the Pacific. No one is safe from devices and their beguiling content.

We Eventually Unplug

Each of us realize, either consciously or unconsciously–and in our own way–it’s time to unplug and reconnect.  Laptop, console and controllers power-down, iPad and smart phone lose their allure.  Something called “dinner” occurs.

I edit the remaining words you’ve read and we call it a day.  Baths, pajamas and prep for the coming week lead us to our final family device, the American staple of viewership–Television.  Remember when TV used to sign-off, too?

Sign off

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