Sigh. Anyway. On the Friday of our vacation, it was too cold to go swimming -- only 68ºF -- so we went sightseeing. Cupcake was a total trooper, even though she had absolutely no idea what was going on. See? This conch shell horn is as big as her whole head:
really charming aquarium, even if it is a little on the small side. It was built by the WPA back in the 30's, when Key West went practically overnight from being one of the richest cities in America per capita to being one of the poorest. The designer of the building also designed parts of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, if I remember correctly. Could be wrong, though; I was in the tropics.
real marlin, as you can probably tell. Fiberglass, I think. There were a bunch of tchotchkes on the wall that gave the place a TGI-Friday's-meets-Old-Man-and-the-Sea-for-margaritas kind of feel. Some of the details of the place really stood out, though, like the tile work on the touch tank. Definitely check it out.
very Old and Historic, judging from the public restrooms. Lots of chickens here, and people fresh off the boat -- literally, as the cruise ships dock at Mallory Square. Every day they have sunset celebrations there. We didn't see any this time, but they sure sound like fun.
(Incidentally, this is one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip. Not really sure why, but I think it's the light and the look on Cupcake's face. This was taken right around noon, and the day really was just about perfect -- not too hot, not too cool, not too boring, not too busy, and at this point we have not passed the Point of No Return regarding naptime or lunchtime. YET. We'd get there about half an hour after this picture was taken.)
trolley instead because the friendly ticket lady told us that the train did not stop at the Southernmost Point Buoy. I think it's pretty much a rule that you have to go to the Southernmost Point Buoy when you visit Key West. We didn't really have an itinerary this time, but this was the one thing I wanted to do while we were in Florida. It was a lovely trolley ride, and two minutes after we got on Cupcake fell asleep.
We spent the rest of the day trying to take a nap (hahaha, complete failure) and eating dinner at Quizno's, because that's how we rolled. For the third night in a row, G and I fell asleep before 9pm. Bliss.
We had breakfast first, of course, because isn't that why people go on vacation in the first place? So they can eat at the IHOP on a Thursday morning with impunity? That's what I go for. (That, and the margaritas.) For the record, I split a plate of French toast and bacon with Cupcake, and somewhere on this trip she learned how to "dip" her food in syrup and now we can't get her to eat pancakes, waffles, or French toast without also providing her a side dollop of syrup. I blame my husband for that.
In the parking lot of the IHOP -- which, by the way, love the food, but our service there was terrible, and the waitress was absolutely one of the nastiest, laziest people that you could ever possibly imagine working in a customer-service-oriented position, but I believe in Tipping Karma, so we were decent even though she got part of our order wrong, and ... that's all I have to say about that -- in the parking lot, we saw a feral chicken with a couple of feral chicklets, and it was the weirdest and coolest thing ever. Someone told me about the chickens before we left, and I kind of laughed but didn't believe him. It's true, though: there are, like, gangs of wild chickens running around all over Key West. Gorgeous tropical colors. It's trippy.
We drove downtown, where there is a Ron Jon Surf Shop, which I mention by name only because there are no actual waves on the beaches of Key West. I have genuine photographic evidence. Not sure how many surfers they actually get in those parts -- maybe people surf over from Cuba?
NOTE TO POTENTIAL TRAVELLERS TO KEY WEST: You can probably park somewhere near your hotel and take the trolley into Old Town to do your shopping and stuff, unless you're okay with paying $15 to park for three hours (or $20 for all day). I kind of think that's a lot, but then again, the trolley was $29 per person, so if you're only going to be in the Duval Street metroplex for a little while, it's really not a bad deal to drive. Parking can be scarce, so be prepared to walk. Although you can take lots of breaks and stuff, because every other building is a bar or a tchotchke shop. And there are plenty of pie shops and ice cream stands:
Bathing suit and souvenirs acquired, we headed back to the hotel to slip into something more comfortable and get with the getting. Cupcake kept hollering "POOOOOOOL!" so we know where she wanted to go first:
Anyway, blahblahblah I talk too freaking much, here is what it looked like when Cupcake saw the ocean for the first time:
ANOTHER NOTE FOR TRAVELERS: By god, Crocs are some of the ugliest shoes in the world, seriously, but they travel fantastically well and are great for just about every practical application. And after you've been tromping up and down Duval Street, you can just wear them right into the Gulf of Mexico to clean them off.
After the ocean we took a nap, which is pretty much what you would expect, but I include this picture anyway because that is a real, honest, un-self-conscious smile, and also, look at that hair!:
Before I get to the good stuff, I will tell you this much: although scheduling a flight with a toddler at 6:55 in the morning is not the absolute dumbest thing I have done as a parent, it is right up there. G and I got up at 3:30 AM, after not sleeping well the night before -- can't speak for him, but I can never sleep the night before vacation. Never could. I get too excited. At least we attempted to compensate by staying up late Monday so we could go to bed early on Tuesday. It didn't work out perfectly, but it wasn't a complete disaster.
We got Cupcake up at 4:30 AM, and headed out the door at 4:45 AM. Our plan was for her to sleep in the car. Nope. She saw the moon out the window, and that was the end of it. "Moon, Mommy!" "Daddy, truck!" Singing and dancing and clapping along to the radio. Cupcake is relentlessly cheerful, even at the asscrack of dawn. It would be completely obnoxious if she weren't so damned cute.
Due to the fact that G and I are practically never on time for anything, ever, no matter how well we try to plan, we got to the economy parking lot at 5:30 AM, and just missed a bus to the terminal. Fortunately Philly's airport buses run pretty often, so we made it to the terminal and to the TSA checkpoint by 6:00 or so. Somehow, we managed to schlep one suitcase, one toddler backpack, a car seat, a diaper bag, and two extra "junk" bags, plus all our coats and shoes and a sippy cup, through security in time. We made it to our gate literally just as the end of Group A was boarding.
NOTE TO SELF: ALWAYS LEAVE THE HOUSE AN HOUR EARLIER THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED TO FOR A FLIGHT. WHY DO YOU DO THIS EVERY SINGLE TIME? ARE YOU NEW? WERE YOU DROPPED ON YOUR HEAD AS A CHILD? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
The flight was mostly uneventful. G entertained the baby, and I watched "Gossip Girl" clips on my iPod. (Did you know Ed Westwick, who plays Chuck Bass, is British? I did not. He is much sexier when he talks in his real accent.) Cupcake ate one fruit-and-cereal bar, one lunch pack of mini Fig Newtons, and one fruit snack bar that tastes like a Fruit Roll Up all squooshed together and eaten in one bite, only this brand was allegedly made with real fruit. I only snuck a teensy bite. You know, for quality assurance purposes.
So we get to Fort Lauderdale. Change Cupcake out of her pajamas and into shorts and her "Little Miss Sunshine" sweatshirt that I got at Target for $4. Four bucks for a jacket! I ♥ Target. While G is getting the rental car, I finally comb Cupcake's hair. Did you know that 2½ hours on an airplane + heat + humidity = GIANT BABY AFRO? Now you do. Her hair had its own gravity for a while. It was pretty phenomenal. And then ...
Yeah, we let Cupcake drive, and it turns into a TMZ photo op. Whatever. At least she kept her pants on, which is more than I can say for Paris Hilton or Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan. We booked her for DWA: driving while adorable. Sentence: extra cookies and snuggles and 3½ hours in the car seat while we drive to the Keys.
Almost done, pinky swears, because let me tell you -- it's a lovely drive from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys, and easy, but looooooooooooooooooong. 190 miles or so, and a lot of it is on Route 1, which has stoplights and stuff. It's kind of a "fast long drive," if you know what I mean. I spent the entire time admiring the water and the busted-up broken-down bridges and the copious amounts of pelican poop. Once you get to Key Largo, you are surrounded by the water and you can smell the salt spray and hear the gulls and watch all the little old men fishing off of ancient bridges, and isn't that what vacation is supposed to be about?
So: Wednesday was a travel day. We got to our hotel, waited to check in, checked in, went to Denny's for dinner, went to bed, the end. And I loved every boring minute, even the point at which G realized that he didn't pack a bathing suit. To go on vacation. At the beach. Hahaha. No, I am not kidding.
We're taking the camera and I hope to have a lot of good stuff to share when we get back. The laptop is staying at home, where it will sit in its drawer and sulk and send electrotelepathic messages to the TiVo and the microwave and no doubt our appliances will rise up as one and slay us when we return. This is a chance I am willing to take -- and anyway, I will be taking my iPod and my iPhone and four brand new books, which is really all I need for survival anyway.
In the unlikely event that we are sucked into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen or heard again, please know this: we love you all, and Amelia Earhart says hello. Otherwise, there will be no new blog posts for a few days, but I will still be Twittering about anything good or exciting or cute that happens. (Check the sidebar under the Cupcake Cam, or click here to follow me.) If I can figure out how, I might even include pictures, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay?
Love you all. Happy motoring.
"Gert, are you there? [louder] GERT, ARE YOU THERE? It's me, Gladys. [louder] I SAID IT'S ME, GLADYS. [muttering] I don't know, I think she has that damn answer-ma-jigger on, all I heard was some kind of 'beep' or something. [shouting] GERT, THIS IS YOUR FRIEND GLADYS. GLADYS LEIBOWITZ, FROM DOWN THE STREET. [muttering and crinkling] I don't know -- here, you take the phone, Herb. No, you don't need to --"
ANGRY TOUCHTONE NOISES AND A THUD.
"Gert, it's Gladys again. Sorry about that, you know how Herb is with the phone. Honest to goodness, it's not like he [rasies voice] WORKED FOR THE PHONE COMPANY FOR FORTY YEARS OR ANYTHING. Christ, that man, he gives me such agita. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we're leaving tomorrow for Boca. The nice girl from the travel agency, you know her, Pamela, she's Josephine Panto's daughter? Pamela says there is still room on the tour bus if you want to come. It's supposed to be twelve degrees next week, Gert. In Boca it's seventy. And Pamela says the resort where we're staying has shuffleboard and pinochle tournaments and bin --"
"Gert, it's Gladys again. [sighing] I think Herb was listening on the other line and he accidently disconnected us, or else your answer-ma-jigger is broken or something. Anyway, Pamela says there is suffleboard and pinochle and bingo every day and a nice early bird buffet with that creamed spinach you like, and she said if we want to we can even take a day trip to a [whispers] topless beach. So anyway -- [shouting] HERB, PUT THAT AWAY, I already told you we're not going to Tampa so you don't need your pirate sword, did you take your medicine today and honestly aren't you even listening to me? -- anyway Gert, we're leaving tomorrow, so try to call Pamela and see if you can still get on the bus. Okay? By --"
"Gert, I think your answer-ma-jigger is definitely broken. Anyway, just wanted to say goodbye. From Gladys. Gladys Leibowitz, from down the street. And I definitely know there is going to be a seat available on the bus because [loud clatter in the background] HERB I SWEAR TO GOD I AM GOING TO PUT RAT POISON IN YOUR COFFEE TONIGHT AND THEN SMOTHER YOU WHILE YOU'RE SLEEPING, CAN'T YOU HEAR ME ON THE PHONE WITH GERT? Christ! Fifty years of this and I can't ta --"
Anyway ... here is the February calendar page. These pictures were taken the first weekend that Shae lived in our house. Nobody slept for a few days. She was in a new place, with new people and new sounds and new animals and new routines, and we are all, "Holy shit! There is a BABY in our house RIGHT NOW."
When she moved in with us, we didn't even have her room finished. We literally went from zero to parents in two weeks. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Before she moved in we spent almost every evening with her at her former foster family's house, and then we would come home and root through boxes and throw stuff away and assemble furniture and panic and maybe eat if we remembered.
Then when she got here, we were afraid to move. She's never been fragile, not exactly, but she was so small, so foreign, a tiny little alien being for us to observe. We watched everything she did as much as she watched us. I could never -- still can never -- get enough of watching her sleep. Her strength and smarts continue to amaze me as much as they did then.
Although we still live in fear that something could go horribly, terribly wrong, right now we are speeding towards the Big Day when things will become official, when all the rest of this will be just a memory, those days before she and we found each other floating through space, a parentless child and two childless parents, on a collision course with destiny. BOOM!
But I still remember that first weekend, when she had no switchplate on the wall in her room, but otherwise, our lives had never been so complete.
Instead, what I got, was this:
Damn him, and his proper training! How could he do this to me? The RAT-BASTARD.
(If he thinks he's getting out of buying me all the key lime pie I can eat on vacation, he is sorely mistaken. And I can eat a lot of pie.)
Oh, wait, we never really grow out of that, do we?
Mostly, though, I can't believe how much more independent Cupcake gets every day. She can practically make her own dinner at this point, fill her own sippy cups, and definitely amuse herself. Now that she can climb the stairs and saddle up on the rocking horse by herself, there is pretty much no stopping her:
Compared to just over a year ago, when she wasn't even wearing shoes yet full time:
My beautiful Boo Boo Kitty looks like almost a completely different person now -- gone are the chubby chipmunk cheeks and the weensy Chiclet teeth. Now she's my Big Girl, and she can do things for herself. Although I still sometimes have to cue up the closing line:
This is what happens when we get bored on a Monday night, and the 'rentals turn off the TV at 7:00 -- we dig around in the toy box until we find the Ariel "costume" that the neighbor lady gave us and run around the house with our Chicken Dance Elmo doll.
... peanut butter, that is. And jelly.
Been a couple of slow news days around here, so I am sorry to report that these pictures of Cupcake eating a messy sandwich are the best we can do. Oh, I mean, I could tell you about how I have the plague again, how I think we all have a touch of it, really, and how at this point I'm basically just hoping to stay alive long enough to die on vacation, but that's not nearly as cute or exciting as Cupcake. And I suppose I could mention that I somehow managed to "ding 80" in World of Warcraft and now I have no idea what to do with myself, but that isn't interesting to anybody but me and maybe one or two other people in the world, so forget I even brought it up.
Here. Just look at my kid. And try not to think about that after tomorrow there is no more football for like 6½ months. Instead try to focus on pitchers and catchers reporting in a week. That ought to hold you over, right?
Also, I am deliberately trying not to talk in these movies so you can hear some of the silly stuff Cupcake has to say, but of course here she decides she doesn't want to say anything, the little booger. I've heard all kinds of crazy things in the last week from her -- she asked if she could drive the car the other day, and just this morning she called that cute little TV rodent "Minnie MOUTH"-- but of course when I want her to talk? Nada.
One of these days, though, I will catch her saying hello in at least two foreign languages. (Spanish and Mandarin -- we're still working on the rest.)
Let me assure you, I do not use the term "hot ghetto mess" loosely when it comes to television shows. I am the Queen of Trash Television. Every reality show that minces down the pike gets at least one episode's worth of my undivided attention. Survivor? Check. Flava of Love, Rock of Love, and I Love New York? Check. Celebrity Rehab? Check. RuPaul's Drag Race? Oh my God, hell yes, check!
I have also dedicated valuable TiVo space to other, non-reality shows that people hate / hated: Big Shots. Two and a Half Men. Prison Break, for three whole seasons. So, really, I like to consider myself a connossieur of "zhe gahrbahge." I watch it all. I do not discriminate. The crappier the show, the more likely I am to watch it (except "The Hills" or and of its evil undead offspring because: Spencer Pratt and his creepy flesh-colored beard).
But I don't really know how to feel about a show that used to be so very, very good, and so very, very naughty, and so very, very trashy, and which has recently become so very, very ... not. Like Gossip Girl has. "Disappointed" does not even begin to cover it.
Not sure whether you watch Gossip Girl, but here is the very-brief summary of the beginning: Serena van der Woodsen is a bad girl gone good. She disappeared for a while under mysterious circumstances, and then came back with a new attitude and a new lease on life, and some old secrets that she is not ready to share. Her old BFF is pissed, her new BF is suspicious, and everyone else only knows part of the story. Plus, there is Chuck Bass, who is possibly the root of all evil on the Upper East Side. Oh, and did I mention these kids are all in high school? And completely, sickeningly rich?
For the entire first season, we gradually uncovered Serena's secrets. She was an addict -- drink and drugs. She slept with her best friend's boyfriend, and well as pretty much everyone else. The friend never knew, but Chuck Bass did. She was blackmailed, told the truth anyway, had to make things right with her friend, had to get her boyfriend to start trusting her, had to clean up her act and get her life together ...
... then the writer's strike came, and when everyone went back to work, things got ... weird. Georgina Sparks appeared, an old co-conspirator of Serena's, and she tried to get Serena to stray from the path of righteousness. She tried to steal Serena's boyfriend, starting spreading lies and half-truths, sowed seeds of distrust and distaste everywhere. We found out Serena killed a guy, except she didn't, and we found out Serena's brother is gay, and we also found out that Serena's mom and her on-again-off-again-always-true-love-of-her-life boyfriend's father were former lovers who were almost married. Still following?
And then the season ended. And when we came back -- wait, WTF? Serena and Dan broke up? Now Dan's ex-GF and Serena's BFF's-ex-BF are together? And the BFF and Chuck are doing whatever they're doing? And Serena's mom is married to Chuck's dad, but she's still horny for Dan's dad, and just what in the holy hell is going on here? And why are we in the Hamptons for some reason, where nothing in this show has happened before, and we are dealing with people that we never saw before, and who we won't see again after the third episode?
Listen: these shenanigans have got to stop. At this point, about halfway through the second season, we have discovered that: Serena's mom and Dan's dad have a kid together, which Dan's dad never knew about because Serena's mom went to Boston to put him up for adoption, which makes Dan and Serena kind of related, which makes their sleeping together completely gross; and Chuck's dad is dead and maybe was a member of some weird secret swingers' club, or maybe he isn't dead after all, but nobody really knows; and Blair is trying to get into Yale but she's a complete bitch and everybody hates her and personally I don't really see why she's such a big deal either but anyway she keeps acting stupid and getting caught and she's in love with Chuck and oh my God are we there yet?
So I'm getting confused -- which is saying a LOT because I also watch Lost and hello have you met my boyfriend Daniel Faraday? -- and also bored. And so the point of all this is this:
Act right, or you're gonna get smacked right. OK?
You know I love you.
Added after the fact -- If you don't actually watch Gossip Girl, this pictogram from Wordle will make about as much sense as the rest of this post anyway, plus it's pretty:
I like this picture for two reasons. One, my living room curtains look REALLY GOOD in this light. And two, Cupcake's 'fro is SPECTACULAR. Lookit that -- that's a good five inches of hair right there, I shit you not.
That the Steelers won? Pretty damned awesome, even though some of us might have given up with 2:53 to go in the 4th quarter, after the Cardinals scored the go-ahead TD. (Not naming any names, but their initials are RG.) Pretty typical, really, but can you blame us? The Eagles right about killed us this season, and we just couldn't take any more disappointment. We found out the Steelers won in WoW trade chat, of all places. (Because we are giant nerds.)
The Super Bowl: not for chickenshits.
(Originals of all four of these pics are in my Flickr photostream, if you want them. And sorry to use a cheesy lyric from a cheesy song, but come on, look at that kid! Isn't that some mind-blowing level of fineness and cuteness? It's also thematically appropriate, dammit.)
We have a LOT of tub toys. More tub toys that probably we ought to, if you want to know the truth. Although I have never done the actual math, I'm willing to bet money that the combined weight of our bathtub toys exceeds that of our actual child.
Cupcake's favorite tub toys are her rubber duck (from Aunt Jaime) and two Little People that she got for Christmas. She calls them "Mommy" and "Daddy":