Bending the Rules on Summer Vacation

Back-to-school ads are already airing and we've only just started our family vacation (anyone else?). I’m writing this blog from the balcony of a rental on Balboa Island.

Since we're on vacation, we are bending the rules. The other day the girls and I all ordered lemonades with our lunch, instead of our normal tap water. (I am not the Ten Dollar Dinners lady for nothing.) Another rule I’m bending: Instead of planning our regular reasonable snack every day about 3pm, the whole family is venturing around the corner to Dad’s Original Frozen Banana shop and indulging in a chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-nut-brickle-laden frozen banana. (I say “bending” the rule and not “breaking” because I often use frozen bananas and cocoa in my smoothies.)

Perhaps the real reason I chose Balboa Island is that I used to come here as a child, and nostalgic connection with my childhood is a precious rarity. Every summer, my sister and I would spend six weeks at my grandparents’ house in nearby Villa Park, Calif. Stacy and I would dress up in our matching outfits (all sewn by Grandma), excited to board the tiny ferry to the island. Undoubtedly this was far more inconvenient than simply driving over the short bridge, but my grandparents aimed to delight. They’d take us to the nearby Fun Zone, a block of aging rides, overpriced games, and enough cotton candy and shaved ice to power kids to the moon and back. The star of the Balboa Island culinary scene, though, as any Arrested Development fan knows, is the frozen banana, dipped in chocolate and dredged in a variety of toppings, such as jimmies (or sprinkles), chopped nuts or toasted coconut.

As I write this, I hear my own daughters coming into the house, rinsing off the sandy evidence of their sandcastle-building expedition this morning. I’ve promised to stop work after lunch and take them to the Fun Zone. We’ll ride the Ferris wheel, and I’ll open my wallet to peel out another few dollars to get one more bucket of rings to toss onto the bottles or another dart to pop a balloon, all in the name of trying to nab the gigantic stuffed elephant dangling from the game booth ceiling. Of course carnival economics will insist instead that we’ll come home with a weirdly colored stuffed troll with stick-on eyes. We may even order a puff of cotton candy or a shaved ice to share. But we'll be sure not to spoil our appetite for a frozen-banana-deconstructed smoothie — 3 pm is only a few hours away, after all.

I'd love to hear about your summer. What rules do you bend on vacation?

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