Was it fun?

The thing about taking a trip to Disney with the kids is that you have kids with you. Kids ruin everything.

My biggest crippling fear about this trip included the kids. How would they behave? When would they flip out? How long would it be before we were “Those parents”? You know…the ones with the screaming sticky kids who are screaming at each other about things like “Well…I never liked your mother’s meatloaf anyway!”

The goal was to A: Survive, B: Give the kids an enjoyable trip. Survival was always #1.

Shmuppie, until this point in her life was a ride wuss. She’d convinced herself that everything more exciting than the little cars that ride around in a slow circle would make her sick. My mother had done a great job convincing Moo she was afraid of the dark. So, things would be awesome.

So, we drove down…10 hours in the car with the kids and my mother in the back seat. Thankfully, we made good time and disgorged ourselves into the condo. Do you take a crock pot when you go on vacation? We do. We’d planned to manage the days so we’d be back in time for dinner each night. As much as I wanted to do 8AM – 10PM every day, it just wasn’t something we could do. We had a ton of food packed for dinners and lunches.

We’d learned on a trip in 2000 that the #1 way to waste time at Disney is to spend time eating. Lunch can quickly turn into a lost hour and leave you nearly $100 poorer. Nope. We’d done our best to convince the kids that this was for the best. They had to play along if we were making this trip; we’d skimp on some things and splurge on others. Hot dogs were not a splurge item.

Sunday rolled along and we set out for our first park day…and promptly fell flat on our faces. The tickets were a pain in the ass to use (I’d bought them from a discounter) and Moo was overwhelmed. We started at the Magic Kingdom and it was just too much for her. She started shutting down within minutes. By the 2nd ide, we were in “combat the tears” crisis mode. We recovered with minimal blood loss but started realizing just what we were dealing with. This trip was to be about her pace; no one else’s. We regrouped, split up and managed to have a full day at the Magic Kingdom. We even got Shmuppie on Space Mountain. That was good because there were plenty of more thrill rides to go and we didn’t need 2 toddlers on our hands.

We even managed to hit EPCOT at the end of the day and had fun there. By 9:00, JewelrySlut and I had fed the family and were sipping pink wine on the condo’s screened-in porch.

Monday’s biggest success was me not vomiting on Mission Space. JewelrySlut and I rode the crazy version and I walked…nay I staggered off the ride and had to lie down for a while. Shmuppie was a pain in the ass, but it wasn’t a horrible day. Plus…EPCOT 2 days in a row. Pink wine was consumed in celebration.

Tuesday was the make or break day. Shmuppie was feeling sick with a head cold. I was ignoring the cold I was developing. And…it was Animal Kingdom day. Fucking Animal Kingdom. We were out of there by 2:00, hot, sweaty, cranky and snotty. We’d lost Moo and Shmuppie was grouchy (albeit understandably). We needed to rescue things fast.

You realize when you see your 4 year old light up at the sight of Fantasy Land why people will spend everything they have to go to Disney. We let Moo run amok in the Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and rode all of the rides she liked. We turned disaster into success with a trip on Small World and Dumbo. We also found that $10 is NOT too much to spend on a caramel apple.

Wednesday was arrival day for the other 2 and also a planned off-day. We needed a rest mid-week. We had a character breakfast and did some shopping. It also poured all afternoon. Wed gotten lucky with the weather and everyone relaxed. Once Grampy and C arrived, JewelrySlut and I left. We’d prepared dinner for the group and went on a Disney date.

We spent the evening in EPCOT having drinks in a few countries, having our traditional pre-fireworks dinner and enjoying some peace. I wasn’t lugging around a 40-lb backpack and we had no kids with us. For 4 hours, we were on our honeymoon again. Then, because we’d snuck in the park’s back entrance at avoid the $14 parking fee, we got lost finding the car. We went to the wrong hotel’s parking lot and I actually had to ask a hotel staffer “Where am I?” They understood…the 2 hotels look nearly alike and sit side by side. Getting lost was fun.

On Thursday, we hit the Studios. JewelrySlut and I had a good time with Moo. We took her to the kiddie areas while Shmuppie, the grandparents and C did the action rides. We met up for some of the shows and had a nice morning and afternoon. Grampy was grumpy. Because my father is a moron, he purposely brought brand new sneakers on the trip. He did this so we’d be able to make fun of him for doing so. As if we needed a reason. His feet hurt. The kids were not done so we went back to EPCOT…because why not! We bribed my father with beer from Mexico and had a nice late afternoon walking about. We were back to the condo for dinner and bought the kids a rotisserie chicken that they ate poolside. Pink wine.

I think Friday was the day that we walked 11 miles. We did the Magic Kingdom and, everyone with me now, EPCOT. We managed to get Grampy all the way to Germany for his beer on Friday. It was a long day and longer evening. My darling parents decided to start bickering at dinner and my father stormed off to bury his head in the USA Today. My mother one-upped him by spontaneously developing a migraine. YAY! It was a terse and tense evening. Saturday was gonna be fun!

Saturday was our anniversary. JewelrySlut and I wanted to revisit our commemorative brick and have a little alone time in the morning. Of course, my parents were not speaking and my mother was wrecked from her headache. YAY! We went anyway because we wanted to and didn’t care about the rest of them. The older kids ran off on their own with $100 from me burning a hole in their pockets. Moo and the grandparents did their thing. We regrouped a few hours later to shuffle along while my mother slowly died. It wasn’t a very fun day, but we did get beer in Japan that had a foam ice-cream topper on it. Beer ice cream! Yay beer!

We survived the week and nobody got too injured. The weather cooperated and everyone (mostly) got along. I did declare on the way home that I needed a full year of non-Disney trips to recover. This was not a vacation; it was another week of work in a different job. We all had a ton of fun, but it was not relaxing at all. Me being me, I was hooked to an iPhone all day judging line times, scouting maps, and herding the masses. JewelrySlut was trying to keep everyone from killing one another. Was it worth it? Yes. Moo’s face on the kiddie rides and Shmuppie getting to enjoy the thrill rides…in a huge sombrero made it worth the hassle.

We’re going back next year.

It’s about a Mouse

Last September, we had to do it. One can take one’s children to the beach only so many times before they start chanting like deranged lunatics about what they REALLY want to do. So, we did it. And it wasn’t too bad.

We did Disney.

We’d been holding them off for a while because we’re of the mindset that if you take a toddler to Disney, you’re a fucking lunatic. Taking kids…taking ANYONE there is a chore. But a slobbering pants-crapping kid? No thank you. I’ll handle those 2 areas on my own thank you very much.

Like all things, we planned the trip. My parents belong to a timeshare thing. They bought it in 2004 for reasons unknown and have been adding points to their account at a pace unknown to mankind ever since. They’re all platinum level and have 80,000 points per year to play with. What does 80,000 points get you as a platinum member? Enough to spend 8 weeks in Hawaii in the high season in an oceanfront deluxe condo.

Or…it’s enough to buy a resort in the Disney area.

Over the years, whenever they didn’t’ know what to get us for any occasion, my parents gave us “a week of points” knowing damn well we’d never use them. So, while we had probably 4-6 weeks of points in our Christmas stocking, we had never cashed them in. Now was the time to do so. But, we did so with great trepidation because nothing in this world is free. I tried to convince myself that we could stay on the grounds in a discount hotel. I tried…and failed. We were stuck.. Basically, we couldn’t NOT ask for the points because we’d be in BIG TROUBLE if we went and didn’t use the points.

So I asked. In a “Well…if you have any extra points available and might be able to spare them, and it wouldn’t be too much trouble, we’d be really grateful if we could have some points…but really…only if you have plenty to spare”. They said yes. I was only using like 1800 points so my father laughed at me for even asking.

Then it was time to pay. “So Mom…do you want to come too?”

JewelrySlut and I cringed as she said yes. We’d discussed this too and knew that this was, at least, a double-edged sword.
Pros: We had an extra adult and could split the kids up and handle them separately
Cons: Have you met my mother?

We booked a 3BR condo and bought the admission tickets.

And wouldn’t you know it, as we got closer to the trip, the other shoe fell. JewelrySlut and I are not stupid; we were ready for these shoes because we KNEW this was coming.

“Your father wants to come too. “

Of course he does.

“And, he can come mid-week and bring C”

Of course he can.

C, you see, is Shmuppie’s best friendboy. We’re not allowed to call him a boyfriend. He’s a friendboy. So, why the hell not, let’s take a family vacation for 4 and turn it into a 7-person circus.

We has some old passes that we hoped my father and C could use.

So, we had quite a mission on our hands. We had 2 kids to deal with all week and then a cranky old man and another kid arriving on Wednesday. To say nothing of my mental state in 2013; this trip could not have come at a worse point in the project schedule, but I didn’t care. I was going away for the week and the world probably wouldn’t spin off of its axis. But, fingers crossed!

So, that’s all you get for now.

Though, the week down there led to this picture
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More useless words

So, I’m having a discussion of sorts with an internet pal about something that probably will never happen; the construction of a mega-resort on St John. I know…shocking. I’m discussing St John again. Sorry…it’s what I do.

He commented that he and his wife are probably done with the island. It doesn’t give them what they’re looking for anymore. And, we’re starting to feel the same way.

We’re getting priced out of paradise. And, to be honest, I think I’m OK with that. What’s the purpose of taking a trip if you either need to scrimp and save so much beforehand that you end up spending the week pinching pennies or worrying that you’re having enough fun for your dollar? And, that’s what our jaunts to the islands have become. “To get what we need” is starting to cost more for one week than I can possibly spend in 2 years on other trips. I’ll trade that one week for 4 weeks somewhere else.

Of course, I say all this while, out on the horizon of 2013, the mouse looms. Damn the mouse. But, we’ve been very successful in only having to visit WDW for one day with Shmuppie in her nearly 10 years. She went with my parents last December, but the full trip is due. Moo will be old enough to enjoy it by then. That’s going to be painful.

For now, we’re keeping it simple. Staying closer to home and enjoying the NC coast suits us. There’s no need to complicate vacation. It’s supposed to be enjoyed, not fretted over. And, trust me, that’s a HUGE step towards sanity for me.

Speaking of insanity…we’ve tacked a day onto our upcoming quickie March trip. JewelrySlut joined the Ikea Family Club and now she’s seriously jonesing for some Ikea. Since the Great Wolf Lodge and Ikea are more or less close to each other, we’ve decided to do a day of furniture shopping, stay in Charlotte for a night and then go to the lodge. The parents get to play at Ikea and the kids get to play in the pool the following day. Everybody wins.

We really need some bedroom furniture. We sold our set when we moved here and have been using odds and ends for going on 7 years now. We haven’t bought a new set because it’s damn expensive and we hate everything we’ve looked at. We needed to justify a trip to Ikea to go shop there. I think I found enough furniture to fill the bedroom for under $1000. That would be nice. Having drawers that open and close properly would also be nice. So, maybe we’ll go buy some furniture. It beats the alternative; having to go to a local unfinished furniture store and have me buy like 47 gallons of varnish and an acre of sandpaper. I don’t mind finishing g the occasional piece, but not a bedroom set.

Until then, I’m eyeballing the house we want to rent in April. It went down in price recently and that makes me happy. We’ll be getting a house for a week for less than the price of 1 1/2 plane tickets to the islands.

And you wonder why St John is currently off of our radar screen.

With problems like this…

Because I’m me, I always have to be obsessed with something. It’s in my blood to be insane I guess. I can’t help it.

My recent insanity, now that we’re in a New Year and work has slowed down, is travel. Shocking…I know. Because it’s so seldom that I think of such things.

I have a full year to fill with things and 136 vacation hours to burn. What to do?

Last year was my first with 3 weeks…finally lasted at a job past the 5 year mark. We took 2 trips to the beach and I ended up in FLA 3 times. Twice for fun, once for not so fun. I also managed to be off from December 21-January 3. That was fun and re-entry remains difficult.

2012 is posing challenges. It’s supposed to be a St. John year, but it’s just not gonna happen. There are too many boundaries.
1: What to do with the kids. We’d leave Moo at home, that’s a given. She’s NOT coming to St. John until she’s older. That’s a no-brainer. Plenty of people take little ones down there but we are so NOT those people. The thought of it makes me want to poke my eyes out. Shmuppie poses another challenge. We’d have to go in June or September because of her schedule. And, to be frank, we don’t even want to bring her. I know families should vacation as families, but don’t Mom and Dad (and MerlotMan and ChurchBomber) get a little time to themselves? My mother, in a stunning reversal, says we should leave both kids with her and just go.

2: Putting aside the hellbeast that Shmuppie would become, it’s too damned expensive. Delta and US Air seem convinced that we have unlimited funds. Couple that with the jeep, house cost, beer money and planning and St. John suddenly became more task than vacation. I know…cry me a fucking river…it’s too hard to plan a trip to the Caribbean.

3: ChurchBomber and MerlotMan also aren’t sold on St. John this year. They’re going to Ireland for a while and it’s just not meshing on calendars. Until it sinks, St. John will always be there. We’ll be back.

What to do now? My schedule is free.

Here are my plans:
Shmuppie is off for 3 weeks in March. We’ll need to do something to appease her but we don’t want to take a full vacation. We’re thinking of The Great Wolf Lodge. She went last September with my mother for a night and had fun. Moo would have fun splashing around in the kiddie pools and we could limit ourselves to one night there. Add in some coupons and it’s not a bad deal. But, the reviews are mixed at best on it. So, because I’m crazy, I had an idea while running yesterday. I was bundled up from head to toe and had a thought… SNOW! We could go snow tubing somewhere. Moo would have to stay home, but the 3 of us could take a trip to a mountain somewhere and go tubing. 15 minutes of research told me that was a shitty idea if I wanted to stay in state. Yikes…PRICEY! “Hey…West Virginia says they have snow!” I found a resort that offers free lift tickets and has a pool and bowling alley. That could work for a night. Let’s consider March closed; one night somewhere; Great Wolf Lodge for water slides or WV for tubing. 8 vacation hours gone.

April: JewelrySlut and I are convinced that we’re going to take an “us-only” trip this year and April seems to be the time. I found a cute little sound-front house in Emerald Isle that appears to suit our needs. I, obviously, looked everywhere for this trip. I found all-inclusives that would cost like $800 for the 2 of us for the whole week. Then I checked air. I’m not paying $600 to fly ANYWHERE that keeps me in the same time zone. Hell…I’d need to cross many time zones to rationalize such a flight. In the end, EI is close and easy. I’m not booking shit until I see how the next few weeks go. Things could change with my parents in a heartbeat and I don’t need to eat a house deposit because I piss them off by blinking inappropriately. If we go, there go 40 more hours.

June: Shmuppie is off again; for 5 weeks this time. My mother is taking her on their annual “Spoil the Child Cruise”. But that leaves 4 weeks. Last year we went to FLA for the 4th of July. I’m not in the mood to do that again. ChurchBomber and MerlotMan want us to come up to visit. I’m trying to figure out how to get up there while minimizing time off and travel time. We’re not buying 4 plane tickets just to go to NJ. Look at that! $1200 to fly 500 miles. “Sorry kids…put on your seatbelts…we’re going for a ride”. But the fucking ride to NJ sucks such balls. Pretty much the entire trip above Richmond is one potential disaster after another. There’s not a single mile of road between Richmond and Morris County NJ that’s not a potential traffic disaster. 500 miles could easily take 20 hours. Even if I route us west through WV and PA, it’s still a drive. I need to chew on this one. Let’s deduct another 24 hours here.

So far, it’s June and I’m down 9 of my 17 days.

September: I can’t see us all not going back to EI. Shmuppie is off again and we had a great trip last year. The weather is not too hot and the ocean is still warm. I just need to convince myself that I don’t need to go on a full house search. The house we rented in March was great, but, it was a duplex and the main deck isn’t divided. The thought of having to look at people we don’t know does not appeal to us. The one in September would work for us but the stairs were odd. You had to go outside to access the ground level. Said ground level housed the foosball table and laundry. Dock me another 5 days.

That leaves me 3 (maybe 4) days left. I can use them around the holidays and be off again from Dec 22-Jan 2.

I will now argue with myself about all of this. Because, in all this madness, I don’t have a trip to FLA planned. JewelrySlut and Moo will probably take at least one trip. Possibly 2 if Gram gets her knee replaced. But I don’t know when I could make it there AND get to NJ AND get a week with my Beach Baby in April. Because, let’s be honest; that’s the only trip I care about at this point. We have grand plans for the week in April. We plan to DO NOTHING! Sleep, read, eat, have sexy time. That’s it.

Of course, I’ll spend the next several weeks pounding the assorted sites hoping that, somehow, airfares will come down and April will land my ass on an island. But, we all know that’s not gonna happen. And that’s OK…I’ll just need something new to obsess about.

Hmmm…now about that closet of mine I need to reorganize.

Sand anyone?

We went to FLA a few weeks ago to see JewelrySlut’s father. He’s doing progressively worse. I’d love to write about what his saint of a wife is going through and how it’s impacting us and the greater family dynamic, but you don’t come here for feelings and shit, do you? No. You come here for stories about shit.

The plan was to leave here on a Wednesday afternoon, drive to Savannah, stay the night and finish the drive in the morning. Savannah’s just about half way to their house and the hotel complex we’ve chosen has everything we need.

We left a few minutes ahead of schedule and were streaking across the highway in no time. This was Moo’s first major car trip and we all had doubts. She’s not a great passenger. Her sister, on the other hand, when not vomiting on the sides of Caribbean mountains, is a great passenger. She’s more than content to play her DS, read, listen to music, take pictures of the back of my head, and generally be well-behaved. Her younger sister likes to yell.

Stupid people that we are, we had to stop at South of the Border. We’re sorry…we can’t help it. The plan was to push on from there to a little hole in the wall along 95 called Santee, SC. My estimates had us arriving between 6:30 and 7:00. We chose Santee because it has a Cracker Barrel. While Cracker Barrel is no Michelin-starred restaurant, it offers what we need; quick service, clean bathrooms and consistent food.

That is…with the exception of Santee.

What a mess. The place was dirty, our waitress was awful and the food was bad. And, no top of everything else, we asked to be seated in the non-smoking section and they sat us right on the edge. This gave JewelrySlut an instant headache. Did I also mention that Moo was yelling? We managed to feed her something, but she mostly threw food on the floor.

We ate and, rather unhappily, got back in the car. Off we went…back onto 95. Shmuppie was watching a movie on her DVD player, and for once, Moo was quiet.

“At the next exit, we need to stop”
“What? You’re kidding me. We have an hour to go until we reach Savannah. What the hell?”
“Stop. The. Car”

Luckily, there was an exit…and, as luck would have it, a Cracker Barrel. JewelrySlut decided to make the poor people in Walterboro pay for the sins of Santee’s kitchen. We made it in the nick of time. If there hadn’t been an exit, she had planned to either hang her ass out the window at 80MPH or go alongside the road. Hell…we had plenty of baby wipes in the car. Cleanup would have been a breeze… Thanks Cracker Barrel.

The night in Savannah was mostly uneventful.

The drive the following morning, while annoying as all getout, was also uneventful. We did have one acrobatic diaper change in a Hardees’s parking lot in Bumfuck FL, but that was it.

(This is where I skip the part about me having to work while in FLA, my father in-law’s deteriorating health and the 60lbs of rotting food we pulled out of the fridge)

On Saturday, we needed to get out of the house. A few weeks back, anticipating this, I’d gone looking for a beach to go to. The local beach in Crystal River more or less sucks. It’s a protected gulf-side beach so the ocean is more like a lake than anything else. It’s shallow, flat, mushy-bottomed and has odd plant life floating in it. I don’t care much for it.

I found a little speck on the map called Pine Island Beach. It would be about 45 minutes away and looked nice enough. So, off we went. We piled into the car and headed south.

I hadn’t done my full due diligence on the beach…or the weather. I’d forgotten what happens to Florida during the month of September the love bugs come out to play. The little shits are everywhere.

Well, we arrived at a cute little beach and were instantly set upon by 47 billion bugs. Also, Moo decided to freak the hell out. She’d missed her morning nap because we’d been stupidly convinced she’d sleep in the car. WRONG!

Shmuppie and I ventured out into the muck and found a family who was hunting for blue crabs. Shmuppie had a good time trying to catch crabs. Al the while JewelrySlut and Moo were back at the beach fending off bugs. Moo was none too happy. I went back after a while to see how things were going. Moo was in a better mood, mostly because she’d decided to eat the beach. Fistful after fistful of sand was shoveled into her mouth. We couldn’t contain her and keep the bugs off of us. It was A: have bugs rape every hole in your body or B” have the child eat sand. We ended up being successful at neither.

We gave up a little while later and grabbed lunch. Then, we went home while Moo barked at us from the back seat.

Sometime later, we smelled a familiar smell. Moo had pooped.

Ever want to know what happens to the digestive tract of a baby who’s been eating sand? Trust me, you don’t.

From her, a foul-smelling pile of gritty shit had emerged. Couple this with Grandma’s odd decision to buy Activia yogurt, and we had ourselves a 4-alarm fecal disaster on our hands.

Gritty Activia shit is like nothing else on Earth. It clings to everything (especially the hands of a baby who for reasons unknown does NOT enjoy being changed and uses that opportunity to roll about on whatever surface she’s being changed on) around you and is nearly impossible to clean. It was not fun. We also knew that this was setting up for a bad ride home.

So, Sunday rolled around and we continued to rue the beach trip. The plan was to leave FLA between 2-3 and drive straight. That would get us home at around 1:00 AM (With a dinner stop).

We managed to leave at 2 and JewelrySlut took the wheel. I don’t normally let her drive, but I was going to take the late leg of the trip and was now free to radio surf and get football updates on my BB.

The plan was to get back to Savannah and visit…you guessed it…the Cracker Barrel at that exit. Why tempt fate again? Because along 95, your options at nearly every exit are McDonald’s, Burger King, locally-owned scary place and Cracker Barrel. As much as I hate chain places, at times, they’re your safest bet. I don’t know about you, but as I’m somewhere in northern GA/southern SC a Chinese buffet does not appeal to me. No person in their right mind made the journey from China to be slinging food along the side of 95 in the American South.

We arrived at the restaurant with a familiar stench wafting out of the backseat. Oh shit…quite literally.

We chose to redneck it and parked in a secluded section of the lot. We found some grass and set up a changing station. There, along the side of a road, in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Savannas GA, we changed an epic diaper. It was awful. Moo had crapped all through her clothes. So, not only did we have to wrestle with her to get her cleaned up, but we also had to surgically extract her clothes and get her dressed.

JewelrySlut barely touched her dinner. She was too afraid to eat. I’ll add that the bathrooms were appalling (Faithful readers know where this is going).

Back in the car, Shmuppie had a movie on and we bit the bullet and squirted a few drops of child’s Benadryl in Moo’s mouth.

Don’t look at us that way. Don’t do it. You either have or will do the same someday. We just needed her quiet for the 5-hour run home. I was not going to be able to deal with 5 hours of yelling and not drive the car into a bridge abutment.

The ride wasn’t bad…mostly quiet. Until, of course, we hit the NC state line.

Now, I enjoy my GPS. Annette gives good directions but she also gives me an estimated time of arrival. There’s no better feeling than watching those minutes tick downward as you drive along “I’m winning!” I exclaim to nobody in particular. Well, between Savannah and South of the Border, I’d shaved like 45 minutes off the trip. I was estimated to make it home by midnight. SC line to home should take 1:37 – 1:42 depending on how many lights I hit in Raleigh. I was smokin’.

BAM…Rain. And not any nice rain, a Biblical flood unleashed itself on the lower half of the state. What did our fine Tar H ell drivers do? Well, they, as expected, started crashing into each other. Every 5 miles or so, there was another impressive wreck. Card in ditches, cars on top of cars, pieces of cars everywhere. Between the debris and the rain, I was forced, at times, to slow down to 50 or so. I watched in horror as the ETA crept upward. I was powerless to stop it. I was Ok driving in the rain…not happy, but OK with it. The people around me thought his was a perfect time to slow down to 25 or so. Folks, 25 on an interstate is never a good idea. If you’re that afraid, get the fuck off the road.

We made it home at about 12:08 and changed gritty mcshittypants once again and collapsed into bed. We’d survived a much-needed visit to FLA (Perhaps the last time we all visit before the funeral) and were ready to tackle another week of at-home madness.

PS: After my letter was sent to Cracker Barrel, I got a Golden Ticket entitling me to a meal for 2…on the house. Who’s sexy?

I am.