Flash, the name Tyler gave our trusty green Honda Odyssey served as our chariot for a shopping run to a huge outlet mall about 30 minutes away in Pennsylvania. We only go there a couple of times a year and I think we now have it down to a science. We head out as early as possible and time it to arrive about 10 minutes after opening. After securing a good parking spot that allows for rapid, clean lines of escape, we head inside and plunge ourselves into the major stores we want to hit that day. Momentum was pretty good but we got way-laid at the Marshall’s (pictured above) which was fascinating because the household goods and toy sections were like an attic for failed consumer goods. The 3 foot pepper mill, the porcelain statuette of a cherub playing soccer, the gigantic paella pan, cooks for 40 – these were the things that stores just couldn’t move and one can see why!

Tyler picked up a pair of “scooter red” Keds, Julia a fresh pair of flower-patterned spats, Zoomer got some shirts and a funky pair of floodwater-hemmed jeans, and dad got a bunch of short-sleeved shirts for the Summer and a nice running shirt to make up for the 2002 World Cup Brazilian soccer jersey that was melted down in the dryer.

We got home late and I now understand the seething disgust reserved by parents for the man that drives the ice cream truck. We hadn’t even gotten dinner organized yet when his plinkity-plink sugar-high melody could be heard warbling it’s way around our corner. The kids immediately started moaning and frowning their entire bodies in an attempt to soften our resolve that they were not to spoil their appetite despite the fact that the entire block of kids were lined up outside the truck for their jet pops and crazy cones. The truck had parked itself strategically in front of our house and the melody played itself over and over as the ice cream man served up one treat after another, the tune was almost mocking us, as if to say, “come on, don’t be such a prude. . . .it’s just ice cream after all. . .” I have to hand it to the kids though, once the truck motored away (this time at top speed, not the tempting crawl when it first came to our block) they finished all their vegetables without too much fuss.