The Home of Daddy's Day Dare! ~ I am just trying to stay above water

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

Happy Beach Day Skylar!

Our trip to Ocean City was good for our little Sandy Monster.  While Skylar had been there 2 years ago she was sick for most of that time and really had a misaerable time of it.  This time she was older, healthy (!), and a little bit more independent.  Not unlike a 16 year old with a new driver’s permit, Skylar took a lot of joy and pride in being able to do new things this trip.

Skylar, has always been ‘her own child’. While our oldest can steal the scenes with a lot of her heroics, bravery, perceptions, and personality, Skylar has never tried t be like her older sister. She maybe be more outgoing or friendly at first, with the cutest smile ever, and very very loving.

She is the opposite Dylan when it comes to bravery however. And that’s OK. We may worry less with this one! While Dylan likes to jump off 5 stairs, into Daddy’s arms in the morning, Skylar may only jump two steps and that is when she is already holding onto Daddy’s arms to start.  She is very careful!

So it was joy to see Skylar come out of her shell a bit this trip, do her own thing, and genuinely having a great time.

First, one more advertisement for Ocean City, New Jersey. I found an amazing thing at the beach. When it comes to calling itself ‘America’s Favorite Family Resort’ it goes to great lengths to be so. This included replacing the feisty sand crabs with bunnies in thd dunes! That’s right I said bunnies.

"Happy Easter Bunny Day!"

“Happy Easter Bunny Day!”

While we didn’t see a single sand crab on our trips to the beach, every evening we saw a bunny or two eating in the sand dunes. On a vacation that came to be known “Happy Beach Day” by our youngest, when she saw the rabbit it became, “Happy Easter Bunny Day!”  Too cute!

And how does OCNJ do this?

One of the things that led to Skylar’s ‘coming out’ was that she was finally able to get on some rides this year and have experiences like the other kids; even if she had to cheat to get on some…

On tippy-toes

On tippy-toes

Here she is trying hard to reach the height requirement to get on a ride. She naturally tried to stand on her tip-toes; no one told her. Honest!

Her stoic look is what she carried on to most of the rides. All these things were first time, brand new expereinces for her and I think they left her in kinda awe. If she got on a ride a second time she would crack that award winning smile. But first times she was always kinda emotionless in her face. She was waiting to hear a “No” or “You’re not tall enough”.

She wasn’t scared to ride the huge, sky-scraper of a Ferris Wheel with her sister, even though it was windy and cold that night..


Yes, they are sweaters they are wearing…in July! It was cold that night.

Skylar wan’t afraid to ride the rides (very unlike herself), spin around on the tilt-a-whirl, or fly high in the ballon ride. She even braved Jaws at the putt-putt course and wasn’t scared of the big shark…much:

For weeks she was asked if she “was ready to go to Ocean City”. Not knowing exactly waht that meant she equated the boardwalk as ‘Ocean City’. So at night she asked if we were going to go up to Ocean City. Then she called the amusement rides. “Games”. She enjoyed the ‘games’ at ‘Ocean City’. She really enjoyed the ‘games’.  🙂

I think she had the most fun, or best experience, of her life so far and it did our hearts good to see her enjoying herself so much. Did you see that smile in the Jaws video?


So here’s a look at a typical “Happy Beach Day” in the life of our Sandy Monster.  You can see here brave the (cold) ocean, experience the under-toe at her feet, have some fun driving her own bumper car, as well as just going “Up, down, up down, up” …

Happy Beach Day Skylar!

Fun was had by all!


Be part of a Travel Documentary!

We are getting close to going on our vacay to Ocean City.

I receive so much interest on the activities and pictures of our girls. So, I wanted to let you, the reader, help guide me to tell our next beachy vacation story.

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When I post the story and pictures of our vacation adventures, what would YOU rather see on the blog:


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Your vote matters!

Plus some lucky participant can win a fun-filled trip to our Indigo Way Pool Society Grand Opening.

Vote as often as you would like!

What else would you like to see covered in post-vacay stories?

Friends…Thanks for friends!

How could this world spin round without your friends? Have you ever thought about it? I mean what is a good friend worth? It doesn’t have to be your best friend, just one of any of your good friends? What are they worth?

What do you think?

I say, “Anything”. They are worth anything.

This week we were blessed again by the kindness of Friends.

Our best friends, and neighbors from our old house, who moved far away, about 2 years visited this past week. They stop back in town about 2 or 3 times a year. While we often joke about finding houses together in the future when they move back to our town (we hope). This visit they gave us a reason to ‘keep bugging them about it’! They surprised us with a wonderful house warming gift, a tranquil painting of the sun going down over the ocean. It fit perfectly on our wall  It really was too much!

Our 'Rachel and Ross'

Our ‘Rachel and Ross’

Actually, while I say, “it was a surprise” it kinda wasn’t as our ‘other wife’ (yes my other wife) actually called and asked what we needed for the house. She asked  about something for the walls. I told her our theme, our color pattern we were attempting, and a black frame continuity and let her / them do the rest, as they have always had great taste in friends in decorating.

So Thank You so much Troy (my other husband) and LeeAnne! We love ya man!

me memory

Then! Last night the, now familiar UPS man, caming a knocking again. He brought a very large cardboard envelope. What could it be this time?

As usual, it had the names of our two princesses on the package. It was from Grandma Wa-Wa (a.k.a. our other Grandma).

If you remember about a month ago, our trusty UPS guy brought a package to our door (in a day full of surprises) around dinner time that just happened to be filled with great beers from Texas, plus a bottle or two of wine to help us move in and ‘de-stress’ from that horrible moving experience. The gift was from Laura Hayes, our first great nanny’s mother who lives down-under (in Texas).

Laura Hayes, known as Grandma Wa-Wa because our then 1 year old could not pronounce ‘Laura’ only ‘Wa-Wa’ has been mailing great gifts and especially great educational material to our girls for the past 5 years. She has only met Dylan once, about 4 years ago. Her daughter, Jessica and our first nanny would send picture after picture Dylan to her, which I understand lined many a wall and desk 10 hours away in Texas. She has been too kind and a great friend to the family!

Friends to the family have ment so much to us! Recently some other very special friends,a  birth mom and Grandmother, mailed a huge box in the mail, clothes among other things, for our girls to wear this summer on vacation. It was so great to see our girls being loved and doted over.

This last special surprise Dylan was able to read the enclosed note to the girls herself, which we filmed and sent back to these great gals that sent it. ~ Ladies I hope you recieved that email. If not let me know and I will try again.

But it was special as Dylan got to read the love this family sends for herself. And a big reason she can do that begins with the generousity of our other Grandma, and her daughter Jessica with these great educational gifts from a far. I can’t discount all our other great nannies and friends of family forthe help educationg our girls but the initiative seems to have come from Laura Hayes. And we (all) will be eternally grateful!

So Laura, and eveybody else, here is Dylan, who just starts kindergarten next month (!!!), reading a the note from Ms. Laura as well as some other nice things this week…

Ok, the fence was not a gift. We had to pay for that one.

But thank goodness for good FRIENDS!

All of you! Thanks for your kindness, and thoughtfulness, generousity and support.

What would we do without them?

I tell people I’d do almost anything for my friends. Because ‘anything’ is what they do for me!

I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)

Ocean City, NJ: America’s Greatest Family Resort plus My Top Ten List of Firsts at the Beach!

This past weekend there was a lot of excitement at our house as the time is drawing near for our summer vacation. We are opting to take the girls back to my favorite childhood resort, Ocean City, New Jersey.


Ocean City, New Jersey likes to call itself “America’s Greatest Family Resort“. And with good reason. This barrier island is designed to be conducive to families and kids. They do this to the extent that no alcohol is sold on the island; not in stores, in restaurants, gas stations, nowhere. Coming from a restaurant background I have a feeling for what kinds of revenues this city sacrifices in order to keep it ‘family friendly’.

If you must have a beer or a cocktail there are plenty of stores on the other side of the bridge before you enter Ocean City. Or, if you are feeling lucky, Atlantic City is on the other side of the north bridge leaving Ocean City. But in town, this nostalgic ocean community, there is no booze. And the tourists that frequent this resort town are the type that appreciate this!


The Urban Dictionary has an entry that describes OCNJ simply like this: Dry town with Liqour stores 10 seconds over the bridge. Every guy in town either plays basketball or surfs, usually both and every girl lives in bikinis and their only job is to work on their tan. ~ Does that remind you of any highfaluting’ resort town? Ocean City is simple. Its laid back and it caters to kids and families. And it has all the fun a kid can ask for!

While their are plenty of the typical coastal amenities to do, the main focus of Ocean City is its 2.5 mile long boardwalk. Among the many attractions of this famed and nostalgic boardwalk are two amusement piers, with rides (mostly) designed for the younger kids, a music pier, all sorts of gift shops and beach stores as well as ANY sort of junk food imaginable!

This includes, fresh, warm, made to order donuts, hot caramel corn, the best soft ice cream custard, fudge shops and much, much more! The sweet smells of the boardwalk alone are worth the trip! It may not be zip lines and bungee dives. Its good, old fashioned fun tried and true over the ages.

Riding the train through the park

Riding the train through the park

I tried to introduce my family to Ocean City, New Jersey OCNJ) two years ago as I was eager for them to enjoy it like I had. The trouble was our girls were about 3.5 years old and 18 months. For the most part they were to small to get on the rides. Add to that our youngest got an ear infection the first few days we were there, that ended in a 102 fever. She was not a happy camper for most of the trip!

But that doesn’t dull the excitement of returning. We are looking forward to riding the rides, “hot, fresh, made to order Browns Donuts” on the boardwalk for breakfast and then riding bikes on the boards to wake up, the beach, did I mention the rides, the great junk food there along with all the smiles and laughter of kids that goes along with it.

This year, as the past time, we are renting a house where my whole family can stay (us, Mom, Dad, and the great Aunt Sue). That in itself was loads of fun last time. It was a block off the beach. We had our bikes. We had our beach gear rented in a wagon. Dylan even found a scooter that matched hers back home the owners of the house left for us. It was nice

Look how little she is in this!

Look how little she is in this!

And by the end of the week even lil ol’ Skylar could manage a smile…

Hey good-lookin'

Hey cutie!

Our kids (and Mom) got their first experience on the boardwalk. There were so many things to see and do, rides, eat, bike, eat, shop, eat. We caught a parade on the boardwalk as they seem to find a reason to have one most every week in the summer.

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Its just a festive place. The local theater group even put on a kid sized play at the historic Music Pier on the boardwalk, ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ and all our the favorite hits from that old Saturday morning series. Can you remember ‘Conjunction Junction‘?

And, of course, their was the Atlantic Ocean amenity their too, with waves big enough to satisfy any Beach Bum!

Future Beach Bums!

Future Beach Bums!

This beach bum body surfer found himself in heaven with the size of these waves!

Waiting to catch a big one...

Waiting to catch a big one…

Its all about picking the right wave!

He scores!

He scores!

Of course I was having some fun in the waves with my girls too!




And while Skylar was a bit too small for the surf (when she was feeling well) she did enjoy playing sand castles with Aunt Sue. She had a big wet beach, a sand castle to protect, her own moat, even her own pond to play in. It was her first sand castle to build and swim in and protect. She loved it!

There were dozens of other “firsts” for our girls on this past trip to Ocean City as well. But since I see I am running on here, again, I thought I would leave you with my Top Ten of favorite  other ‘firsts ‘we experienced on this first trip to Ocean City.

While we may be heading back up to OCNJ again this summer we’ll never have these same ‘firsts’ with our growing girls.


10) First time our 18 month’er had soft ice cream…. on a warm summer evening


She was a wet mess!


9) First time one of my girls went down a Giant Slide

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8) First time Ms. Fearless  went down a Giant Slide with out a mat, her daddy, waiting for instructions, anything!


7) First time she beat daddy in a race.


6) First time our girls played miniature golf, simply known as  ‘Golf Balls’ from that day forth.


There was more than one shark on that putt-putt course….

I saved the kids from the shark....cause that's what daddies do

I saved the kids from the shark….cause that’s what daddies do

5) First time one of our girls was spun out of control in a whirlie-whirl kinda ride.


4) First time I gave my girls my debit card.

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Yea, right!

3) First time our girls got to experience all the sights and sounds and smells and excitement of exploring the boardwalk.


2) The first time our girls were too tired to walk all the way home after a night on the boardwalk.


#1) The first time our girls got to eat hot, fresh (made to order) donuts in front of the ocean before touring the length of the boardwalk on bicycles, just to start their day.

Bonus First: First time my 3 year old filmed me as I changed her pull-up!

PS: we’re hiring nannies right now. If you think you could kid-wrangle my crew get your resume in today!

Hidden Gems: Curacao in the Netherland Antilles

I am in the process of doing a Guest Travel survey for one of my favorite travel blogs, EmilyLuxton: Explore, Dream, Discover. Emily accepts surveys from people taking special trips and so I wanted to offer her one of our favorite hiding spots, the island of Curacao. I sent Emily our story and she will post it next week.

I thought in the meantime I wanted to offer it to you. If you have some spare time this holiday and you want to go someplace exotic, come on along with us to Curacao!  Here is the survey for Emily:

My wife and I love to travel. We love to explore anywhere and dig into the history or discover the local people and culture. Every place is different and that’s what’s interesting to us. One of our greatest passions has been the water and beaches.

My wife, who is cold blooded by nature, doesn’t like to be cold and so each winter we try to take trip some place warm in the Caribbean Ocean. The warmer, the better! So what could be anywhere warmer than close to the equator, right?

Where did you go/what was it like?

So several years ago we looked for a nice resort, close to the equator (warm!) that offered great beaches and diving to cool off with. We found the hidden gem of Curacao, one of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles).


We chose Curacao because it is supposed to have some of the best diving in the Caribbean. The island boasts of some 60 diving locations and 35 beaches.

Close to the Equator, this island is little more than a stone’s throw from Venezuela in South America. In fact farmers from Venezuela ride boats to Curacao and sell them at their ‘floating market’; home to everything fresh, fruity and tropical!

the Floating Market downtown

The colorful floating market with fresh produce

Curacao is a small volcanic island, like most in the Caribbean. It has a diverse heritage being fought over and conquered by the Dutch and French in colonial times. You land on north side of the island than take a bus trip to the south side. When you reach the other side you sit atop a small mountain with a great picturesque view of the capital, Williamstad.

Curacao's 'Rainbow Row'

Williamstad is a colourful town, separated in the middle by a deep harbour for cruise ships. It is largely comprised of Dutch based architecture.

Dutch Architcture

On the east side of the capital (Punta) is the touristy area, filled with colourful, affordable shops, multi-cultural restaurants, night clubs and hotels.

shopping downtown

The west side of Williamstad is more of the professional and artsy side. The two halves are connected by a swinging pontoon bridge that actually swings open across the large harbour to let the large ships pass by.

poontoon bridge

Along the harbour in the Punta are many boats that make the trip across the sea from Venezuela. These boats are filled with the produce of that country and dock. It is a unique attraction called the Floating Market. Here you can barter for loads of fresh produce, both known to this traveler and unknown.

If you are interested in more of Curacao’s diverse history click here to find out more.

Where did you stay/what was it like?

Each time we visited Curacao we stayed at an all-inclusive called Breezes. Its rates about a 3 on a scale of 5, but it offers everything we look for in trips, free food and alcohol! ~ kidding. But it does offer one free dive per day, free diving lessons and the best part is there is a great man-made coral reef just a stone’s throw from the beach.

That is how far the reef is from the beach!

That is how far the reef is from the beach!

The mudslides were great for my wife. They pour free Amstel light on tap (Dutch heritage) and so we have gone back to this Breezes 3 times. It would have been four but I found someone bought this resort and is turning it into a Timeshare resort now.

Kids area from our room

The picture above was part of the Kid’s Corner part of the resort that we looked forward to taking our girls to.

Any time of the day, you can go to the dive hut, pick up some snorkeling equipment and go explore this reef. On the lagoon side are colourful fish, protected from the larger predators of the deep.

tangs at the reef

school of fish at the jetty

If you swim to the outer side of the reef it is like exploring the moon, with huge corals and underwater plants. Its like another world we never see…. lets go for a swim

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Curacao - Underwater & west coast beaches-13

This is some of the best snorkeling we have ever experienced and you can do it any time of the day right from the resort; no schedules or buses to catch. I even had a face to face encounter with a four foot barracuda that is STILL vivid in my mind.

I was looking down at the corals and fishes. I looked up to clear my mask and there he was about 30 yards away just looking at me. Huge! I froze! I remember our diving lesson where they told us barracudas are lightning fast and like to go for shiny things (rings, watches) thinking they are fish.

I folded my wedding ring under my other hand in a prayer type of position (literally…Help!) Then, I slowly backed away. I looked down to see where I was at one time, looked up, and she was gone!

Later I found her offspring hiding in the lagoon…where we swam!

A baby barracuda blending in in the shallows of our lagoon.

A baby barracuda blending in in the shallows of our lagoon.

One of the nice things about staying at Breezes was there is a nice aquarium within a 5 minute walk of the resort. This ‘open water’ aquarium has the dolphin shows, sea lions, swim with the fishes and more. Not to be missed is the eel feeding. I have never seen anything so vicious as these nearly blind creatures fight each other for the food.

The aquarium is also unique in that instead of a large filtration system it is actually maintained by the ocean. This aquarium has ocean rocks for walls and the ocean freely passes in and out the areas where the large fish are maintained. A perfect Ph!

the Curacao Aqurium

the Curacao Aquarium

Curacao boasts of 35 beaches around the island. We only had the one at Breezes. So one day we paid one of the staff of the resort to take us around to some of the better ones. Most of these beaches are small and secluded. Lovers or divers this is Shangri-La!

We visited some nice romantic beaches, romantic if our guide had not been along. A few of the beaches didn’t have any one there at all. We did some snorkeling, saw some of the scenery and then our guide took us to an overlook he described as Post Card at Kenepa Beach.

Postcard from Curacao

What do you think?

Those of you in the restaurant scene might know of a blue cordial called Blue Curacao. This liqueur is made on the island and you can go to this quaint factory and have some samples. The beverage originated from the slightly bitter oranges that grow on this island. It now comes in 4 or 5 colours.

Blue Curacao

What was the highlight of your trip”

The highlight of our many visits, to me, was that one beach exploration trip with our guide from Breezes. He took us to a secluded Jeremi Beach.

Jeremi Beach

No one was there. I hopped in the water and swam out to the edge of the cove along the cliff walls. As I reached the edge I saw, not one but two Atlantic Puffers (Porcupine Puffers) swimming together. Having a saltwater aquarium at home I recognized these two fish were getting more than friendly. They just kept a slow chase in circles, like they were courting each other.

Here is my distant pictures, on my disposable underwater camera. Can make them out in the center? They are both about the size of your head circling in the middle of the picture. .

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After watching them for several minutes, I swam back to get my guide and a camera. The fish either didn’t know I was there or didn’t care. I swam back to my same spot and they were still there. I wanted to get a picture of this but knew not to get too close as I knew from my aquarium they have a sharp beak for a mouth, often used for breaking up coral in search for food.

Keep in mind this picture was taken with a disposable underater camera. Not top of the line!  Then think about how far away  or deep those Puffers are. That’s easily 30 feet away yet a cheap camera can easily pick out the fish. This gives you an idea of how clear Curacao’s waters are.

 What was the food like?/Where did you have the best food?

Sadly, we did not get off the resort that often for meals; one of the downsides to all-inclusives. We did stay at a hotel, the Renaissance Hotel, on the mouth of Williamstad’s harbour one night. This attractive hotel was once a fort protecting the harbour in the 19th century.

We walked the streets and found a water side café with some great seafood. Again, the dining is diverse from the diverse heritage of the island.


Any funny/embarrassing stories or disasters?

We often make these Caribbean trips in the middle of winter to warm up. What better time to go then Valentine’s Day!  We don’t celebrate the day much so it’s our gift to each other!

One year my wife’s wedding ring broke about a month before our trip. I took it to get fixed and while waiting enjoyed looking at the various rings. I could afford a bit larger diamond now and so decided to trade in our diamond for a bigger one, have it reset in the original ring and then re-propose to my wife on Valentine’s night at Breezes. I had proposed on Valentine’s Day originally.

Well we picked a nice restaurant that night. Had dinner. Then I got down on my knee again, in front of everybody and asked if she would still have me. She laughed at me and thought I was joking! The curse of a vivid sense of humour!

and I proposed again

I gave her the new ring and she cried. She wanted her old one back! It was sentimental to her. That ring salesman didn’t tell me that would happen! I was in the dog house the next two days of the trip. Live and learn!

How was the weather (and when did you travel)?

The weather was hot but not as hot as you might think for the equator. We did get our share of sun.

I saw an old friend

I got some sun that day!

I think in the 3 weeks we have been there we might have seen about 3 hours of rain. Curacao does sit below the hurricane zone in the Caribbean so gets spared from most of those storms

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone planning a similar trip?

My only advice is if you visit there please make plans to explore the island and its many secluded beaches. There are other sites to see as well including a national park, national dive site and the Curacao aquarium and more.

With the closing of Breezes Resort we were forced to look for another family-friendly resort. A short swim or walk up the coast from Breezes, and right beside the aquarium, is a Dutch resort Called Lion’s Dive Resort. This is a beautiful resort but not the all-inclusive we look for.

Lagoon at Lions Dive Club

It does have the same man-made reef out front. It has its own dive shop on property, right beside Curacao’s aquarium and a very popular beach bar, Hemingway’s, that gets a good crowd at night.

We occasionally walked up to Hemingway’s, grabbed a local Polar Beer or Mojito and sat on the edge of the island just listening to the waves turn over at our toes and the Caribbean music in the background. It was very nice!

with Polar Beer and Mojitos

Traveling is not real difficult as the island is small. But many of these beaches are off the beaten path so a guide would be helpful if you do.

Most useful word/phrase you learnt.

Bon! This simply means “Good”. Its easy to say with a smile and always gets a smile back.

If you go to Curacao’s homepage they offer a handful of useful expressions. ’ it was my experience that the locals speak many languages there. I was quite impressed that the young staff at our Breezes spoke five languages with ease.

The island of Curacao is affordable, the hotel rates are cheaper than similar touristy Caribbean islands and its not the tourist mecca that some exotic locations can be.

So that’s the story of our passion for Curacao. Weekend at Bernies!

Can you think of a better place to spend next Valentine’s Day?

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