faith, family

Erin’s First Three Months of Ethical Shopping (and a list of other [some hilarious] experiments you may or may not want to try)

Ethical Shopping Experiment:  The First Three Months.

Our family’s foray into ethical shopping came about as most things do: through friends of friends who gave us just enough spark to dive in the deep end. Ben and I were part of a team launching a new nonprofit, which is how we were introduced to the names behind Parative. (I had met Carolyn once before when she expertly cut my hair a year or so before.) We were immediately intrigued. Per usual when I meet someone with a mutual interest, I monopolized their time at the launch party, asking them all sorts of questions about ethical shopping and how it was working out for them. I am impulsive and spontaneous, which, depending on the circumstance, can be both a blessing and a curse. I’ve done (and written about) lots of other experiments: multiple Whole30s. An ill-advised colon cleanse. Two bouts of vegetarianism. Slowly chipping away at one more item that we only buy organic after watching those horrific food documentaries. So, mostly experiments dealing with food. And mostly ones that, I hope, make me feel good or benefit my health. We want to know what’s in the meat. As much as we can, we want to eat our food with a clean conscience.


Deciding to purchase only clothing that is ethically sourced or secondhand was both exciting (another challenge! And one I can impose upon my whole family!) and daunting (what about when I feel the need??). The Need is what I refer to whenever I enter an Anthropologie or a TJMaxx. I know, the two aren’t exactly synonymous, but I love them both equally. I never really need anything inside of either store, but I always walk out with a candle or shirt or (God help me) a piece of pottery.

Here are a couple of takeaways after immersing ourselves in three months of ethical shopping.

Success #1: God always provides, and sometimes with hyperbole.

My sister recently moved to Costa Rica and unloaded her entire wardrobe on me. I can’t wear all of it, but there are heaps of items I love, and receiving an entire secondhand wardrobe means I basically doubled my clothing. (Small downside: I’ve aspired–experiment alert–to cultivate a capsule wardrobe, and doubling my closet isn’t helping any.)

Success #2: I made my first ethical clothing purchase. In bulk.

My English department (I’m a high school teacher) put me and a coworker in charge of designing and ordering department shirts this year. In no way do I want to push my experiment on anyone else, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to at least ask if my peers were interested in buying an ethically sourced shirt over any other shirt, even if it meant spending more money. We put it to a vote, and an ethically sourced shirt won. (Moral: English teachers are awesome.)


Visual evidence to back up my claim that English teachers are awesome.


Success #3: We survived Christmas.

I envy Mary.  When Jesus finally came, she needn’t fret about where his swaddled clothes came from.  Everything, I imagine, was local, everything homemade.  That’s not the case here.  When our own Christmas came, my husband and I had to think past our normal gift exchange. Usually it involves something experiential–a climbing gym membership or a massage, and always it involves a couple of items from Gap that also double as workwear. We had to get creative. We took getting creative with our gifting literally. I got my husband a weekend away at a Young Adult writer’s retreat at the Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Sewanee, TN; he purchased art supplies for me.

My husband is a beautiful writer–I fell in love with his long-distance letters to me long before I really fell for him–and he’s been working on and long dreamed of writing a book of his own. The weekend, he said, was perfect. The hosts, two published young adult authors, one we count as a long-lost friend from our Nashville days, were personable, encouraging, and relaxed. He came back from the conference inspired, refreshed, and energized, ready to get serious about writing. A dream awakened. It was and is beautiful to witness.

While he was gone, I cleared out our guest room closet, put the desk made by my great-grandpa Otis in it with a few writing accoutrements, and declared it Ben’s Writing Closet. It’s awesome.

I thought about the painting supplies for about six days before taking a crack at them. When we lived in Nashville and were first married, creative writing and painting were just part of our lives, as natural as binge-watching “30 Rock” became to me once it aired (Tina Fey as Liz Lemon as Princess Leia?  Fuhgettaboutit). When I started grad school and we moved to Cincinnati in 2006, the painting shut down altogether. I loved to paint, but the more the years ticked away, the less it seemed likely it would ever happen again. It seemed childish, a thing of the past.

But I cracked open that first canvas, had a picture in my head of what I wanted to paint, and went for it. I fell in love. It became a nightly endeavor, an obsession. Ever the Google Calendar evangelist, I created a separate shared calendar called “Create” so we can make a record of every night we spend at least some time writing or painting, even if it’s a puny twenty minutes. It’s exciting to add yet another notch in that belt. It’s awakened something new that feels urgent and important for us. And it’s so much better than khakis or flannel!

Even more amazing, we’re realizing the baloney that is the idea that there’s just not enough time to do something. There’s always time. We’re learning to say no to the right things, even things we love like re-binge-watching “30 Rock” for the fourth time because we need humor in our winters. We’re still having quality family time (we paint and write after the boys go to bed), haven’t slacked one bit on our schoolwork (if anything, we’re more efficient at work so we can “play” at home), and we’re finding it’s life giving. God provides.

We’ll take creation over clothing any day, any gift.

Success #4: The mall just isn’t that appealing right now.

I’ve never been a mall lover. I get dizzy easily and mall-type crowds make me feel anxious. But. There are those times I just want to buy, you know? And Gap has been my go-to place for cheap, stylish, functional clothing for FOREVER. I can even remember those first few Gap items my parents bought for me when we visited the Gap outlet in Hebron, KY, for the first time in the late ‘80s. Have mercy.

Like Bill Murray in What About Bob?, I’m taking baby steps in this experiment. When Ben and I went to kill time at the mall during Christmas season, I thought we might be playing with fire, like when I tell people I’m gluten-free BUT THERE’S A FUNFETTI CUPCAKE STARING AT ME on the counter. The amazing thing? We felt ho-hum in our desire to go into any store. I geek out over Christmas decor, so I love the overdone lights and bling. But I wasn’t tempted to buy a thing. Plus it was strange for me to think first about the hands that made all of the clothing–and there’s a lot of clothing–in each of the store windows. We want to know what’s in the meat.

It feels weird to flip the switch from somewhat-aware-but-still-part-of-the-system consumer to but-not-at-the-expense-of-others consumer.  It’s becoming less strange as time goes on.

This post originally appeared on The Parative Project’s blog. You should check out their site.


Tribute To A Father Who Has Forgotten


The man in the photograph above is sixty-seven years old. The boy has just turned three. They are in Bar Harbor, Maine, at the rock beach next to the pier off Agamont Park. It is low tide. One of the things the boy loves about the man is that he can throw rocks — big ones — into the Atlantic Ocean, and he asks him to do this. Repeatedly. Whenever the boy sees a rock of significant size — the bigger the better, be it a boulder or slab of decorative stone on one of the carriage paths in Acadia National Park — he will ask, hypothetically, if the man is capable of throwing it into the ocean, even if the ocean or another body of water is nowhere in sight. The boy mimics the man, throwing rocks of all shapes and sizes into the water. They may have been at this for ten minutes when the picture was taken. They may have been at it for an hour. It is August, 2013, not quite two years ago. It was one of the last moments the man will recognize that he is the boy’s grandfather.

The man is my (Ben’s) father. He is sixty-nine now. Eight years ago, he was in a car accident on his way to work. As a pediatrician, he often drove to work at the wee hours, especially if he was on call. In his early years beginning a new practice, when he was one of just two doctors, he was frequently on call — every other weekend — and sleep for him was a luxury. But on the morning of his accident, he was not on call, nor was he unusually tired. He just blacked out at the wheel. He did not hit anyone else; he simply ran into a telephone pole going about twenty miles an hour. My father, for whom any public attention or recognition was a discomforting thing, was largely embarrassed by this incident. He insisted he was fine. After the accident was the first time he saw a neurologist, and the first identification of gaps in his memory, though they were then short-term, just blips on the radar.

I go back and reread the previous paragraph and see how I refer to my father in the past tense: “My father, for whom any public attention or recognition was a discomforting thing.” That “was” should be an “is,” because that statement is still true. But it’s also not true, in the sense that I can’t say with any certainty if my father is aware anymore when he’s receiving public attention — or even if there’s ever a time when my dad isn’t uncomfortable nowadays, trying to find his way through a landscape where no one’s face (even his wife’s now) is always recognizable, where no place (even his home of thirty-six years) feels comfortable, familiar. In other words, like home.

This is why I catch myself sometimes, when I think or talk about my father as though he is no longer living. In some very practical sense, he is not. When I call to wish him a happy Father’s Day later today, he will not immediately know that I am his son, or why I am calling. My mother, God bless her, will prompt him, and he will figure out how to play along, echoing what she says: an act that used to bother me but which I now understand and accept. She will hold the phone up so he can see my face, but he will not look directly at me — will not understand, even, what the phone is, how I am able to see him and he me on it, and this will make him uncomfortable and cause him to look away, usually down at the ground, speaking to someone he thinks is in the room with him.

At some point during the last few years, I said goodbye to the father who knew me as his son, who had a shared past that included hiking, wiffle ball, watching “The Simpsons” together, bicycling the Beartooth Highway, going to Pirates games and attending my graduation. All those things still happened. I remember them. But he does not.


In the years following his accident, my father began to forget things. He began repeating himself. Though it seemed impossible to me and my brother, who were used to his meticulously planned vacation itineraries which included rising as a family at six a.m. to ascend some peak or bike some trail, he began slowing down. I remember discussing with my mother at some point — this would have been 2009 or 2010 — whether it was safe for him to continue practicing medicine. She worked with him, as a pediatric nurse, and could keep close tabs on him throughout the day. He’s still very sharp, she said. Though he gets tired quicker, she added. Again, this seemed impossible to me … that my father, who biked across the country when I was in ninth grade, dipping his rear tire in the Pacific and, two months later, his front tire in the Atlantic — who was forever a couple steps or paces ahead of me, so that I always seemed to be staring at his back — could run out of steam.

He was still sharp, yes, but nonetheless, he moved retirement up a year. Then things deteriorated quickly. There was another car accident — this one more serious, involving another driver, with my father at fault — and he stopped driving. He got lost, wandering away from our home until he turned up hours later a couple miles down the road, or in the passenger seat of a police car which had picked him up. He stopped bicycling, the thing I was certain he would never stop doing. He became sedentary. He could no longer finish books. Whenever he cannot recall a name, he sticks his tongue out and touches it to the side of his mouth — a tic he can no longer control. He put dish soap in the refrigerator and forgot to wear a shirt underneath his jacket one day to church. When my mother began to help him take his jacket off, she saw his bare chest and said, “Steve, where’s your shirt?” He shrugged. They laughed. (“If you can’t laugh about it, you’ll cry,” she says.) It was Easter.

My father has never been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There are many subtle variations of dementia (a catch-all term for a wide variety of symptoms including memory loss and behavioral changes) and it’s hard to pin down what, exactly, my father has. I latch on to Alzheimer’s, if only because it gives me something to call it by; naming it gives me some power over it, when really I know that I have no power over something which has wiped my father’s mind clean, and which may be lurking somewhere in my own genetic make-up, waiting for its time. This is my greatest fear. That one day I will be throwing rocks into the ocean beside a boy who is my grandson, and that may be the last moment I am fully aware of that fact. That Sam or Leo will be watching that scene from afar, wondering what happened to their dad, asking how it came to be that he got erased.


Stephen King was once asked by Terry Gross what scared him. He responded “the supernatural stuff doesn’t get to me anymore,” then described a movie scene which haunted him:

KING: The movie opens with a woman in late middle-age, sitting at a table and writing a story. And the story goes something like, then the branches creaked in the – and she stops, and she says to her husband: What are those things? I can’t think of them. They’re in the backyard, and they’re very tall, and birds land on the branches. And he says, why, Iris, those are trees. And she says, yes, how silly of me. And she writes the word, and the movie starts. That’s Iris Murdoch, and she’s suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

GROSS: Yeah.

KING: That’s the boogeyman in the closet now.

GROSS: Why is that the thing you’re most afraid of?

KING: I’m afraid of losing my mind.

GROSS: Losing your memory?

KING: Mm-hmm. Well, you don’t just lose your memory. You lose your mind, basically.

GROSS: Yeah.

KING: You lose your identity, your sense of who you are, where you are. If you’re a block away from the house, you may forget how to get home. I think I could put up with a lot of things and a lot of pain. I have put up with a lot of pain. I got hit by a car in 1999 and got most of the bones on the right side of my body broken, and I bore up under that and I got better. But you can’t get better if your mind is stolen away from you.


I am learning to talk to my dad all over again. It used to be that I needed him to understand what I was saying to him. When he stopped understanding, I felt uncomfortable in his presence — a guilty witness to his disease. Over time, I’m learning how to be around him, which is to say I’m learning to be less self-conscious. I am learning that just because he may not understand me doesn’t mean I should stop saying the things a son should say to his father. So moments like this can still happen:

My father and I are playing with Sam and Leo in the driveway. This was the last time my parents came to visit. He becomes flustered by too much busyness and activity; sometimes being around his grandchildren is taxing. But being outside helps everyone. I am struck by how much his illness has made him childlike. Helping him navigate the world is not that different than helping a toddler. A little fussy and agitated? Let’s go outside!

Sam zips around on his bike. He learned on a Strider balance bike. Once he mastered that, it took less than an hour to adjust to a bike with pedals. Although my dad cannot appreciate how Sam’s newfound skill is a sign that he is his grandfather’s son, I appreciate for him. I see three generations of Vores standing together, and I know that while my dad isn’t fully present, he is still physically here.

“Sam loves to bike,” I say. “Just like his Papaw.”

“Oh, is that right? We were just talking about what was going on over there.” He has a number of stock phrases he goes to which bear only a tangential relationship to what’s going on in the moment. He often talks about the weather, traffic, his brother Eric.

“You were a great biker. You bicycled across the country when I was in high school, remember?”

“Oh, sure. Uh-huh. Now that you mention it…”

“I biked with you for two days in Ohio. Had a hard time keeping up, but I did. I still remember that.”

Sam zips by again. He takes one hand off the handlebars at a time, testing his limits.

“I loved biking with you, dad. I was really proud of you.”

“Well, we all did what we could and, you know, I’m not really sure where we’ll be going from here…” He’s talking about going back home to Pennsylvania, although sometimes what he says carries a double meaning. I’m not really sure where we’ll be going from here either, Dad.

Sam passes again, this time with his legs kicked out, feet off the pedals. He’s grinning. I’m grateful, for the moment, that we’re all here together. I am lucky. I still have a dad I can talk to.

family, friends, movies, NBA, Sam, Scooter Thomas, sports, Utah Jazz

Voreblog Power Rankings: December 8, 2011

Ranking who’s currently wearing the pants in the Vore household. Previous rankings here and here.


Entering the list dead last.


8. TUESDAY’S DATE NIGHT. Previous ranking: N/A

You know you’re in for a bad date night movie when your babysitter tells you, as you’re walking out the door, “Oh, I saw that over Thanksgiving break and it was terrible.” We knew the movie in question, Breaking Dawn, would not be good, but just how not good it was startled even our low, low expectations. Taylor Lautner needed all of five seconds to rip his shirt off, while the CGI sequences involving wolves speaking to one another were almost as bad as the flaming moose CGI sequence from Knowing. (Almost.) Date nights being a rare commodity, Tuesday’s date night was, shall we say, a Flaming Moose. Did you know? Jacob imprinted.

7. OUR CHRISTMAS TREE. Previous ranking: N/A

Charlie Brown, move over.

Our five foot artificial Christmas tree is sparkling and festive … starting at three and a half feet up. The Vore Christmas tree is #7 this year thanks to #4 and #1. O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, how lovely are thy topmost branches.

6. ERIN (down). Previous ranking: #4

After being dealt a grievous blow by David Stern and the National Basketball Association, Erin last night suffered another setback at the hands of the site Vistaprint, which suckered her into designing a super-sweet Christmas card only to tack on an egregious charge for envelopes before slipping in an even more egregious shipping charge which we had to pay if we wanted to see our cards before next February, so that what started out as an enjoyable endeavor filled with Christmas cheer soon devolved into a price-gouging, knicker-twisting, profanity-laced tirade at 11:30 at night. To top it all off, Gmail’s new look is terrible. Future prospects: Grim. A Google search about how to switch back to the old Gmail format proved fruitless. On the bright side: Vetoed Ben’s favorite cow ornament. On the less bright side: Ben put her Graeters black raspberry chip in the fridge instead of the freezer the other night. This was honestly not payback.

5. BEN (down). Previous ranking: #3

Despite once again failing to appear on People’s Sexiest Men list, Ben has, for the first time in his five year fantasy football career, qualified for the Mustache League playoffs thanks to his savvy midseason pickups of Cam Newton, DeMarco Murray and whoever is playing defense against the Chiefs. Ben is also ecstatic to have an NBA season this year, and has spent the last two weeks doing meticulous research on the new luxury tax and its ramifications on Utah’s bloated payroll. Though things look grim in Salt Lake this season, at least there’ll be basketball. Good news: A Dunkin’ Donuts opened across the street from where Ben works. Bad news: A Dunkin’ Donuts opened across the street from where Ben works. Also: Unlike Tim Tebow, Ben cannot pull another man into the bathroom during a tug-of-war contest.

4. SCOOTER THOMAS (up). Previous ranking: #5

After his precipitous fall from the top spot in the power rankings, Scooter Thomas has since regained his footing by asserting his dominance over the Christmas Tree (#7) — by eating the (fake) needles off all the bottom “branches” and then regurgitating them back into his food dish. (Why?) Despite the incoherence of this behavior, what’s undeniable is that Scooter T. has his mojo back. On the downside: Negligent owners forgot to fill his water dish yesterday, resulting in him licking the bathtub floor after Erin’s shower this morning. Sad.

3. CAMILLE AND MIKE ALLEN. Previous ranking: N/A

For sending us a Christmas card with the following message on the front: “Happy Holidays!” And the following message inside: “…is what terrorists say. Merry Christmas!” We were going to do the same thing but we didn’t have the cojones. Future prospects: Bleak. How will they top this next year? Guess they’ll have to have a kid or something.

2. GRANDPARENTS (same). Previous ranking: #2

The grandparents maintain their perch at #2, thanks to traction with the head honcho (see #1) and a willingness to indulge his sweet tooth with second helpings of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving (Nana and Papa) and fawn over him via Skype while he attempts in vain to pound the keyboard (Mamaw and Papaw). Grandparenting. Can’t beat it.

Papa and le tigre.


Papa, Nana, le tigre.


Papaw and Mamaw, Skypers extraordinaire.


1. SAM (same). Previous ranking: #1

Aside from a small bout of diaper rash, Sam continues to own the power rankings with his Christmas Tree dominance and irrepressible ability to bend everyone’s will to his liking. (“Sam wants more pie? Well sure, let’s give it to him!”) With a burgeoning vocabulary and firm handle on the sign for “more,” Sam runs shop at the Vore household, crashing trucks down the stairs to his heart’s content and getting Classical Baby on demand whenever he so chooses. He also knows just the right moment to grab and pull at Scooter Thomas’s tail whenever his feline nemesis gets a little too chippy. Future prospects: Bright. Despite the need for absolutely nothing for Christmas, he’s still everyone’s favorite to shop for. Ain’t that the life.

family, Sam

Beach Baby, Beach Baby, Give Me Your Hand

Consider this fair warning: There are an unconscionable number of vacation photos in this post.

Ben, Sam, and I were lucky enough to join my family in a beautiful house on Seabrook Island, South Carolina, last week. The weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and Sam was adorable! It was the perfect vacation for him at age eleven months. Plus, he got his first taste of seafood. Flounderx=xdelectable to SuperSam. We also found out that he likes my Uncle Jeff’s homemade deer sausage. Weird!

Let’s get to the good stuff — pictures! They’ve been categorized for your viewing pleasure.


Introductions, please.

Our main star, hanging out on the deck of our house.


Speaking of the deck: the view from the deck…at least, for people over 2′ tall.


The family.

Sam loves his Aunt Ellen.


And his Aunt Bevin.


And his Grammy.


And his grandchild-crazed Papa.


Dad’s cool.




Wildlife Encountered From Least Scary to Most Scary.

A crab.


A tree lizard.


A dead jellyfish.


A baby shark! Don’t worry, he was thrown back from whence he came.


A not-so-baby shark. Did you know that electric toasters kill more people per year than sharks? It’s true. We read it in People magazine.




The Creature From The Haunted Sea. (It goes without saying this was the low point of our vacation.)


The Boys.

Daddy’s nose is fun to break!


Endless fun for Sam.


Ben in various states of “open mouth.”


We all have great legs!


Our Little Sam Crab.

All clear below.


Rosy cheeks!


Take me to more flounder.


Seriously, I want flounder in this belly pronto.


Someone was really into his tongue this week. (Thanks, Aunt Bevin.)


Like a Turtle, He Crawled to the Sea.

Let me at it. LET ME AT IT.


I can handle this one, Dad. Trust me.


OK, may have gotten a little carried away there. Glad you had my back.



Ignore the weird baby hairs…still haven’t quite recovered from the post-pregnancy issues.


Being a mom is the best.


Obligatory Scenery Shot #1.


Obligatory Scenery Shot #2.


Obligatory Scenery Shot #3.


Ben learned how to use the continuous focus feature.


Don’t you love how I meant to focus on all those drops of water and not my family?


This is my shovel!




[photo credits: Not-so-baby shark,; Ursula,; Creature From The Haunted Sea, theringmastersrealm.]

family, marital tension, marriage

Did We Or Didn’t We?

One of the recurring little arguments in our marriage is whether or not we watched The Last Temptation of Christ together. Erin says yes; Ben no. “I distinctly remember sitting on our futon in our apartment on Westlawn watching it with someone else,” Erin says. “Then you were watching it with another man,” Ben says. “Yeah, I called my secret boyfriend and said, ‘Hey, feel like coming over to my husband’s house and watching The Last Temptation of Christ with me?'”

As evidence, Ben cites his journal, in which he obsessively (Erin may not choose so kind a word) records any books or films he has read or watched. Scanning back through the early years of our marriage in Nashville, there is no record of The Last Temptation of Christ. (There is, however, The Spanish Prisoner, which Erin claims she never watched. “Yes you did, remember?” Ben says. “It had Steve Martin and Campbell Scott and Campbell Scott thought he was going crazy.” “I have never seen that film,” Erin says. “Why would I have written it down in my journal?” Ben asks. “Why would I have written it down in my journal?” Erin says in a higher-pitched, whiny voice: the game, set, match of any elementary school argument.)

The nature of these arguments, and the reason they endure, is that they are essentially freed from any determinative fact. Evidence from one party that is seen as infallible (Ben’s journal) is seen by the other side as highly suspect if not irrelevant (or simply downright erroneous). There are only conflicting eyewitness accounts and a hung jury. And the case can always be retried. It’s like a “Law & Order” repeat in which both sides reiterate the exact same arguments and it ends with no resolution. Then it’s on again the following week.

We have only been married six years, which is not nearly as much time for memories to entrench and fossilize as, say, thirty or forty years. If we can’t remember things correctly now, how will our memories — the shared understanding of the way our story happened — ever improve? The answer is they won’t. Rather than fret about this, however, we’re trying to make peace with it.

There is also always the chance of resolution, of one party finally acceding to the other and saying, “Yes, yes, you’re right, it happened the way you say it did.” My (Ben’s) parents for years recounted their sides of what came to be known as “The Deviled Eggs Incident.” The account more or less goes that my mom and her family, being good, down-home, Midwestern-bordering-on-Southern Baptists, had a thing for potlucks and deviled eggs. My dad did not, and so throughout their dating my father frequently declined to partake of what was, to his prospective in-laws, a supreme delicacy.

Fast forward to their first year of marriage when, at a party or on a cruise (depending on who’s telling the story; the mental picture of a cruise is what settles in my mind, though it is almost certain my parents never went on a cruise together), a young, somewhat attractive (again, how attractive depends on the teller) woman offered my parents a plate of deviled eggs. Dad took an egg; Mom went ballistic. (Some accounts have my dad saying, “Why yes, I love deviled eggs!”)

Throughout my childhood, this incident was recalled and hotly debated many times. It is why my brother and I were never once served deviled eggs. My mom pledged never to make them for her husband until he agreed to her account of the story and confessed his wrongdoing.

Then, not too long ago, the accounts suddenly merged. We were at a family reunion and there, on both of my parents’ plates, were deviled eggs. “Wait, what’s going on?” I said. They laughed. It was no big deal. My father had apparently pleaded forgiveness and fessed up, corroborating my mother’s account of the incident and since enjoying, on occasion, her deviled eggs when she decided to make them for parties or church potlucks. “Your mother makes very good deviled eggs,” he said, to which she responded, “That’s right, and I always have.” Whether my father finally remembered the incident differently or whether he just wanted to bury the past and make his wife happy, to this day I’m still not sure. Maybe he was simply hoping I was taking notes, and wouldn’t make the same mistake he did.

family, movies, parenthood, Sam, Uncategorized

I Feel Good, I Feel Great, I Feel Wonderful

First The Dude, now Steve Zissou.


This latest stylish onesie comes courtesy of Aunt Bevin, whose impeccable taste once again does not fail her.

It’s hard to say which Bill Murray film will be the first we make Sam watch. In terms of age-appropriateness, the regrettable Garfield, for which Murray did the voiceover, would be the obvious choice. The Fantastic Mr. Fox would also qualify although it’s once again voiceover work, and for a much smaller part (Badger). In terms of the Murray canon, though, our favorites — Ghostbusters, Ed Wood, Rushmore, Lost in Translation, Caddyshack and his indelible turn as Ernie McCracken in Kingpin — all feature, to varying degrees, what Ben’s mom termed “adult situations” when he wanted to see a movie she didn’t want him to see. That leaves our other two favorites: What About Bob? and Groundhog Day. What About Bob? takes the “Slightly Less ‘Adult Situations'” category (there’s some hanky-panky in Groundhog Day, plus more cursing, dying, and violence to groundhogs), but Groundhog Day takes both the “Better Film” and “More Likely To Lead To Meaningful Parent-Child Conversation” categories. There’s just so much in Groundhog Day: questions of atonement, absolution of past sins, the Buddhist notion of Eternal return. (The religious themes abound, such that Buddhists, Jews and Christians have all made claims on the film; one critic, Michael Bronski of The Forward, said, “The groundhog is clearly the resurrected Christ, the ever hopeful renewal of life at springtime, at a time of pagan-Christian holidays,” adding, “And when I say that the groundhog is Jesus, I say that with great respect”). Plus you get to see Bill advise a groundhog that is sitting on his lap steering a truck not to “drive angry.” That’s just good comedy.

(You can test your Bill Murray trivia knowledge by taking this quiz at the AMC movie blog. We got five out of five.)


The Joys of Maine

When it comes to vacations, Ben’s family are mountain people, not beach people. The one or two times growing up that we went to the beach — Hilton Head once, Chincoteague once — we seemed incapable of really relaxing. Someone always got blistering sun burn the first day, or had a traumatic experience getting mauled by a wave and then sucked down by undertow, leading to the ingesting of untold gallons of salt water and the near certainty of death. This is what people do for fun? we thought. Melville wrote of finding refuge in an “insular Tahiti,” but our Tahiti was decidedly more moderate in temperature.

So we usually went somewhere in New England, often the White Mountain range of New Hampshire, to hike and bike; frequently, these activities began at a very un-vacation-like time such as six o’clock in the morning. If we happened upon the Atlantic Ocean, there was little to no temptation to plunge in to those chilly waters. We could enjoy the view, smell the ocean breeze, and then promptly turn around and march the other direction.

Bar Harbor, Maine, was a spot we frequented several times. We went the summer before Ben’s senior year of high school, and his experience of eating lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s provided the material for his college application essay — an essay which, upon rereading a few years ago, was so unequivocally dreadful that it’s a miracle that the admissions folk at Kenyon restrained themselves from jabbing their eyeballs out with pencils, much less decided to admit Ben to their institution of higher learning.

Ben’s parents have continued to vacation in New England, and, as they’ve inched closer to retirement, have started taking off the entire month of September. We joined them in Bar Harbor for the first time five years ago. That was the week we discovered “Lost”; season one had just come out on DVD. On a whim, we bought it and started watching our first day there. We never looked back. (And we’re convinced there was no better place to be introduced to the show than on an island itself.)

We returned the following year, but this time it was bittersweet: With Erin starting teaching, we knew we wouldn’t be back the following September. Nor probably the September after that, or after that.

But a funny thing happened this year — we had a kid. And Erin had maternity leave. Not only that, but Ben’s folks were in Bar Harbor for three weeks. Our friends with kids told us it’s way easier (not to mention cheaper) to fly with a two month old than a two year old. So we went for it.

One virtue of returning to the same vacation spot is that you can relax almost immediately. The sites are familiar. The routines are familiar. We visited our favorite restaurants and shops — Rosalie’s Pizza, the Jordan Pond Tea House, Sherman’s Books & Stationery — as well as took our favorite hikes — Great Head, the Beehive, the ocean path walk. And of course we took pictures. So gather round for the first official Vore family vacation slides.


xSteve and Donna Vore walk Sam on the carriage paths. Stroller duty was rigorously monitored to ensure equal time.


Sam yawns at his Maine adventures. Or he was trying to claw out of his fleece stroller bedding insert.


Steve and Donna shower grandchild Sam with attention and cooing.


Sam, exhausted from his walk.


Erin brings sexy back to drinking bottled water.


The rare and exotic Beers tree, native only to Maine.

This is for you Kids in the Hall fans.


Erin at Sand Beach.


The Amish at Sand Beach.


“Did you see those Amish at Sand Beach? Or was I hallucinating?”


Ben’s favorite spot on Acadia — The Bowl.


We demonstrate our remarkable skill with the auto timer.


Modeling agencies, please do not call all at once!


Vacation hijinks!