I’m tired and my head hurts

Go to hell.

Not much has been going on lately. Shmuppie spent last week on a cruise ship in the evil clutches of my mother. They got back late Sunday/early Monday after their train (??!?!?) broke down somewhere outside Rocky Mount, NC. Yes, they took the train home because they didn’t want to buy plane tickets home and my father didn’t want to drive up to MD to get them. I’ll never understand them. Now, Shmuppie is home and she refuses to talk to us about her trip (or anything for that matter).

“How was the trip?”
“Can we just talk about it tomorrow?”

I so look forward to a week on St John with her. Speaking of which…we’re 4 1/2 weeks or so away from the trip. I’ve done little planning.

Chicken (who I think I will start calling Moo) is crawling. She’s also got a taste for power cords. That’s fun. She likes to eat them, and anything else that comes within 7-feet of her head.

5 years ago yesterday, we bought a little house in NC and started this adventure. I guess it would be more meaningful for me if I’d spent all 5 years here. I did some ciphering and figured out that I’ve spent an entire year not here since we moved here. That’s fun!

As overheard last week while JewelrySlut and I only had one child:

Me: Would you like me to go get you a piece of fruit tart?
JewelrySlut: Yes, but come kiss me first…a lover’s kiss.
(Rolls eyes)
JewelrySlut: You can touch my boobies if you want.
(Sprints over, pulls up tank top, awkwardly fondles while kissing)
JewelrySlut: What the hell was that?
Me: I don’t know. The angle was all wrong. I hate to say it, but that was wholly unsatisfying.
JewelrySlut: It was. You could have said ‘no’.
Me: Say ‘no’ top boobies? Inconceivable.
JewelrySlut: I do it all the time.
Me: And I’ll never be able to understand how.

Some time later…

Me: Do you want more fruit tart? (We’d skipped dinner and were just having dessert)
JewelrySlut: Sure
Me: You have a choice; the piece with more fruit or the end. Mind you, the piece with more fruit comes with a piece of kiwi. And we all know that kiwi fruit is the bonus surprise to any fruit tart experience.
JewelrySlut: You should be writing this down.

In other news, Chicken had a cold last week. Now JewelrySlut and I have a cold. We both feel like shit, have a moody 8 year old in the house, and a reinvigorated 10 month old. We’re both feeling, looking, and acting like the walking dead.

4 1/2 more weeks. I keep telling myself it will be OK. Shmuppie will behave and ChurchBomber and MerlotMan will still want to be our friends after this. They’ve never spent that much time with Shmuppie, and if yesterday is any indication of future behavior, they’ll never speak to us again. Shmuppie starts school in 3 weeks. Maybe they’ll whip her into shape before the trip. Though, Js is SUPER EXCITED to be doing homework while on vacation. Because, it’s normally so much fun at home!

That’s it for me…for now.

Beaches and tracks

Man…there is just nothing going on lately. I guess this is what normal life looks like when you’re not stuck on a plane, in a job that you hate and being chased by midgets. Lately, life has been dull. This week; especially so. Shmuppie has no swimming for a few weeks, so we’re all at home for dinner at the same time for the first time since late August. This would be a nice thing if Shmuppie hadn’t decided this week to hate all food. That’s making dinner fun. On the other hand, Chicken is eating like a champ. When we were on vacation, we had just started introducing her to food and she wasn’t enjoying it. Now, she’s an eating machine.

We made a mess of baby food for her…sue those ice cube trays, people. She usually has 4 cubes of food for lunch and then another 4 for dinner. This is all supplemented by boobage and bottles. She’s going to weigh 47 lbs by her first birthday.

Let’s talk about the recent vacation.

Saturday:
The packing went well. I got everything into the car and was even able to get the cargo cover to close. The roof rack came in handy. The ride down was wholly uneventful and we arrived in time for lunch. We bought supplies (food and beverages) and grabbed some pizza. Check in, as usual, was a breeze and we got to the house. The EI houses are lovely, but they have one huge problem on move in and move out day. Our house was 3 floors tall and the living room, kitchen and Shmuppie’s room were on the 3rd floor. So that meant that al lot of crap had to be hauled up 3 flights of stairs. Ugh. We unpacked, settled in and went for a walk on the beach. The weather was cool, but it was OK. For dinner, we bought a mess of pizza and crap from Michelangelo’s and had a quiet evening.

The rest of the week:
Most mornings, Shmuppie and one of her parents would go walk to the local bait/ice/grocery/DVD rental store to get a paper. The house had a great location; less than half a mile from the newspaper, about the same distance from the pier and 3/4 of a mile to Cap’n Willis and his seafood.

We’d get back to the house for breakfast. We brought a lot of bacon on the trip and the ladies enjoyed bacon and eggs every morning. The house’s kitchen had a nice bar area where they’d sit as I slung food around the kitchen. A 2nd mug of coffee out on the deck made for a peaceful start to the day.

After breakfast and Chicken’s nap, the weather dictated our days. We got really lucky this year and had much nicer weather than we did last year. It rained Monday morning, but after that it got sunnier and warmer with each passing day. By the end of the week, I had abandoned my pants all together and was wearing out my one pair of shorts.

We took a lot of walks. The tide comes up pretty far, so as a result, the sand tends to be pretty packed down. This made for good stroller terrain. We’d walk to the pier to see the sights and then continue on to buy dinner. On 5 of the 7 nights, I made some sort of fish. We had a little of everything; triggerfish, grouper, rock fish, shrimp, scallops, etc. Simple dinners, prepared simply. Wash it down with some wine…it’s all good.

It’s funny that when we go to EI, we’re not really vacationing in the traditional sense. We still ended up at the local Food Lion nearly every day, we did laundry, and we cooked. We more or less just shifted normal life out of the insane asylum that is home and moved it to the coast. And…that’s a good thing. I can’t handle staying in a hotel for a week and needing to go out to eat all my meals. I’m just as happy cooking some dinner and enjoying a week’s worth of meals by the beach.

We played mini-golf twice. Js and I took turns with Chicken in the backpack. It’s not east to putt with a squirming, cackling baby attached to your abdomen.

We went to the aquarium. JewelrySlut and Shmuppie did the behind the scenes tour while Chicken and I went on a wee little nature hike. The ladies haven’t been getting along lately, so it was good for them to have a little together time among the fatties and sea turtles.

On other days, when the weather cooperated, we sat on the beach. The house was oceanfront, so we just had to walk downstairs and across a small deck to be on the sand. Chicken was in somewhat of a foul mood for part of the week so poor JewelrySlut ended up spending a lot of time on the blanker trying to soothe the beast. Said beast isn’t much of a napper. She prefers to get pissy when she’s tired. That made for a few un-relaxing afternoons for JewelrySlut.

After tromping around, or sitting, or watching Shmuppie play in the 53-degree water, we’d spend the late afternoon and evening on the upstairs deck. We’d put on some music, pour some wine for the parents, make a painkiller for Shmuppie and watch the sun set.

It’s a great vacation. This is the 2nd year in a row we’ve done spring break down there and we’ll probably do it again…it’s just a matter of when.

You see…Shmuppie is changing schools for 3rd grade. We’ve had enough with her current school and the mayhem it brings. She’s had 2 years in a row with shitty teachers. So…we pulled the plug. She starts the 3rd grade on July 9th. She’s going to a year-round school. It will be different for her and she’ll undoubtedly take it out on s in one way or another, but in the end, we think it’s a good move.

This is how it works: you go to school for 9 weeks and then have 3 weeks off. Rinse, repeat all year long. There are other breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas and at the end of June, but otherwise, it’s 9 in, 3 out. If she gets into the track (as they’re called) that we prefer, her summer won’t be bad. Normally, she’d be in for 3 then out for 3. They need to do this to get the staggered-ness of the tracks going. With our July vacation, she’ll be in for 2 and then out for 4. Then back to school at the end of August until the end of October. Out for 3 and then back the week before Thanksgiving. Then, in until December 22 and then out until January 3. Out again in late January. Then, in until late May. School ends on June 30.

We like it…so far. Me being me, I’ve identified the breaks by their possible vacation destinations:
August: St John/FLA (to see the grandparents)
Oct/Nov: Disney/St John (Before Nov 15 when the season switches)/EI
Jan/Feb: FLA/Disney
April/May: EI/Disney/St John

That’s not to say that we’ll take 4 trips per year, but it leaves options.

We find out tomorrow if she got into Track 3. If she doesn’t, I’m gonna be pissed because we don’t like Tracks 1 and 4. They’re awful.

That’s enough for now. I should probably be working.

So many things…so few typing skills

On occasion, I get complaints. Mostly of the “you don’t write often enough” variety.

Blow me…hard.

I know I’ve been a bad boy lately, but sometimes, life gets in the way of my meager typing skills.

I’ll recap the last several weeks and then attempt, at a later date, to get into more detail about them.

Basement:
The work is 99% done. The plumber’s coming back any minute now to repair the toilet tank. The seals or something aren’t sitting properly and we need a new tank on the toilet. The drip drip drip of water on the floor was not in the estimate. We need to get one closet door painted. It hadn’t come in

***2 minutes later*** Said plumber just arrived carrying the new tank. It’s the wrong model. Back to the drawing board…

So, the door hadn’t come in when we had everything painted. We also need a cat door cut into that same door. We held off doing it until after the inspections because someone may have raised an eyebrow at it. 2 doors need to be planed down a bit and then we’re done.

I’m in the office as of this week. It’s smaller than I was used to, but as I tell everyone, I used to have way too much space. It’s cozy in here and I’m figuring out where to store all of my stuff. It’s been quite liberating; throwing away old files and things I don’t need but, for one reason or another, had held on to.

We need to do more moving this weekend. The storage unit still has things that need to come in to the basement…the guest room bed included. That will leave 2 piles; attic and “Where the fuck is that going?” Unfortunately, we have an excess of tables and chairs in the unit. I don’t know what to do with them. I hate to get rid of that stuff because, we’ll need it should we ever move to a proper house, but, for now, there’s no room down here and I’m not lugging a table into the attic. We’re almost resigned to needing a small storage unit for the foreseeable future. That saddens us.

Vacation:
The trip to EI went really well. Maybe I’ll post some pictures. That will count as an entry, right? We had good weather all week and had a lot of fun. Shmuppie behaved and Chicken practiced her sitting up and rolling. It really was a nice trip and we all got a chance to relax.

Cleveland:
I followed up the vacation with a marvelous trip to Cleveland. 60 of us gathered for a 3-day training session for work. It was good to meet all the people I’ve been working with since December. No midget attacks though. I did get to see both of their buildings and was lucky enough to see the poor people wait for the bus.

The last morning…the night after the last night…one person came up to me and said “I saw a totally different side of you last night”. Really? You mean the lunatic side? I had spent a good part of the evening discussing the nuances of southern living in my Ricky Bobby/Forrest Gump hybrid voice. People were crying. Good times.

Work:
There’s the main reason I’ve been a bad boy. Months ahead of schedule, they’ve turned me loose on an account. I’m back working on Medco. It’s easier to shake herpes than it is for me to shake them. So, I’m back working with them; currently with the people in Memphis I met twice last year. I was told when I was hired that it would be 6-9 months before I was given an account because, until then, I’d be more or less useless as I learned the job. 4 months into it, they’ve given me an account. It’s cool and scary at the same time. I’m good at managing a client and getting good at using our tools. I’m admittedly very weak on some of our specific procedures, so it’s crash course time for me! But, in the end, when I look back at career moves, this may be the 2nd best one I ever made. Leaving Medco was the best one…things didn’t turn out all that well from 2006-2009, but it was the gateway to this job. I’m happy and more or less stress-free!

Life and such:
Chicken is 8 months old. Not sure how that happened. As of this morning, Shmuppie will be attending year-round school next year. She got accepted and can get out of the educational cesspool she’s been in for 3 years. She starts the 3rd grade on July 9. We need to talk to the school to see what track she lands in. We’re hoping for 3 or 2 (not that any of this means anything to anyone). After the somewhat staggered start to the year, the kids fall into a “9 weeks in, 3 weeks out” routine. She’ll have vacations at non-traditional times of the year. Me being me…I’ve already identified the breaks by their unofficial names: Florida, Disney, Emerald Isle, and Caribbean. We both think it will be a good move for multiple reasons. We have lost all confidence in her current school and think the continual schooling will help too. Face it folks, they’re doing it in Asia…we should be doing it here too.

That’s it for now. I hope you’re satisfied.

The Easy vacation

On Saturday, we’ll hop in the car and head southeast down to Emerald Isle. Boy…that’s gonna be nice.

We haven’t really had a vacation in a year, since we last went to EI. Having a baby and taking 3 days off from work does not a vacation make.

We’re describing this as the easy vacation. The more difficult one is coming up and looming on the horizon. But back to March.

What we most look forward to is the bridge. After you’ve passed through Swansboro NC, you make a right turn and head towards the water. Looming ahead of you is a tall bridge. You start to cross the bridge and pass over the sound and Intercoastal Waterway. Usually, at about the halfway point, we can feel it…we’re on vacation.

In the fall of 2008, we took a long weekend trip to EI. Work, as was the case at the time, sucked balls. We probably hadn’t completely gotten over the Great St. John Disaster of 2008 and I had been on the road non-stop. But, when we crossed that bridge, we felt a wave wash over us. We were back on EI and all was well.

So, we’re heading out this weekend. This will be our first time away from home with the baby. Anyone with children knows what that means; we need to hire a moving van. The volume of space needed by a child is exponentially inversely proportional to their age. Shmuppie gets a part of the suitcase and a clothes basket. We let her fill the basket with toys, games, movies, etc. If she doesn’t pack it, it doesn’t go. She’s on her own. As a result, we end up with some odd things in the house, but, as long as she stays in her basket, she’s fine.

Chicken, on the other hand, is fun to pack for.
Let’s outline what we need to bring for her:

Clothes: Approximately 47 outfits per day. Yes, we have a washer and dryer at the house we’re renting, but any parent worth anything knows to prepare for a baby explosion at any time. One night a few months ago, we went through 6 pairs of PJ’s in an hour. One must over pack for a baby.

Seating: Sure…we could rent something, but our experience with the island’s gear rental agency is mixed. So, we pack seating. The bumbo will likely go because it’s small. We’re not sure if her table-top feeding/smearing chair will go or if we’ll pack the collapsible one. She’s still a bit too small for the collapsible, so the other chair (not collapsible) may have to go.

Pack and Play/crib: This must go because the child needs to sleep and be contained somewhere. This does fold up, but it’s still big.

Things to play with/drool on: We’ll need assorted chew toys. While small, they need to be accounted for at all times.
Linens: We’ll need all 700 spit rags (the affectionate term we use for them) with us. One can never have enough of these. We’ll need sheets and blankets…again…you always need 3 or 4 sets.

Consumables: Diapers, creams, bottles, formula, etc. We won’t need too much because there’s a supermarket within walking distance of the house, but we still need to bring some.

Of course, we’ve already blown through the available space in the car and are moving on to the roof rack…all for a relaxing vacation 2 1/2 hours from home.

Yes, this is relaxing.

The adults will need some clothes I suppose.

I’m allowing myself a wine box for my goodies…there’s a separate wine box that will be filled with cheap wine. My one box will hold my cooking essentials. Because, of course, I go on vacation too cook dinner every night. Trust me, it soothes me. Cooking a dinner of fresh seafood while watching the sun set over the ocean relaxes the hell out of me. But, this means I need to bring essentials:

Kitchen essentials:
Knives – I can’t trust the house. I’ll need 2 or 3 good knives
Pans: I had to buy a pan last spring. I have a large non-stick “vacation pan” and a shallow Le Crusset (perfect for cooking fish)
Seasonings: I’ll being my little bag of tricks from St John Spice along with other essentials like sea salt, olive oils, and other things like ketchup and mustard
Dry goods: I’ll bring rice and couscous. I could buy it there, but it’s in the house already
Real food (This goes in the big cooler): We’ll pack cheeses, breads, hot dogs, these lovely little dumplings that Trader Joe’s makes, bacon, sausage, and other things of the sort. I’ve been hitting on sale items for a while now to prepare for the trip. Again…I could buy all of this there, but if I can buy it for 40% off at home and bring it, why not do so?
Booze: We’ll bring a case of $3 Chuck and I’ll provision the rest at the local ABC store.

We also need things like beach umbrellas and little sun shade house things for Chicken.

We’re gonna look like the damn Clampetts as we pull out of town.

And, yes, this is the easy trip.

I’ll be less than 3 hours from home and have access to real supermarkets. The house’s water will work and there will be no termites. Saturday morning will be frenzied and JewelrySlut will stay out of my way until I reach the point where I declare “Fuck all of this. It’s not fitting”. At that point, she’ll pack everything and I’ll seethe.

This is the easy vacation.

I’m already terrified of July’s trip. There’s so much on the line for that little island and our future on it. Will the flights be on time? Will the bags (and cooler) make it? Will JJ’s be open? Will the house work? How soon after landing will one of the 4 of us need to strangle Shmuppie because she’s mad that there are no go-karts or zip line tours on St. John?

A lot of my dorky island friends seem to be engaging in a competition lately. They’re all trying to prove to one another who is the “most St John”. They do this by going down 4 times per year and putting off car payments…just to go over and over again. I’m not one of them. We’re all prepared to walk away should this go wrong.

But…next week…it’s the easy vacation. And I look forward to it.

The funny thing about life changing moments

The funny thing about life changing moments is that, sometimes, it takes a while to realize that you’ve had one.

January 7, 2000. It had been a good day. Our cruise ship had stopped at some place named Tortola and we’d been to some other place called The Baths on some other island called Virgin Gorda. We’d had fun and visited some fun shops. We even got to be on the ship’s bridge when we pulled out of town. My brother steered a cruise ship. That was cool.

We were set to arrive at St Thomas the following day. To be honest, we were tired and wanted to go home. Enough activity and enough food. We just wanted to relax. We’d visited the excursions desk late on Thursday and asked what there was to do. The lady there told us our best bet was NOT to book a trip but to catch a ferry to some place called St John.

January 8, 2000. We were still tired and a tad bit cranky, so we slept in. We did our usual morning laps around the ship and then even went to the dining room for breakfast. We were seated with a bunch of obnoxious people. But, we all discussed our plans for the day. We more or less shrugged and admitted to not having a plan. We were told “Go to St John”.

Fine.

We’ll go.

We gathered some stuff and went off the ship. We’d learned that we needed to catch a taxi to the other end of the island (What a pain in the ass) and then take a ferry (JESUS!). We both recall thinking that this little island was a pain in the ass to get to. And that it had better be good.

Not yet understanding the concept of Island Time, I got in a fight with a cabbie. I demanded that we be taken to this Red Hook place and not be dragged across the island dropping people off here and there. Dammit! We had a schedule to keep!

We arrived at that Red Hook place and got on a ferry. We were immediately separated. I ended up on the bow and JewelrySlut ended up somewhere inside. The ferry ride was nice enough and I struck up a conversation with a mother and daughter who were headed to St John for the day. Mom was visiting her daughter and husband (A Coastie stationed on St Thomas). I told them that we had no clue about what to do and they told us to come with them to a beach. Cinnamon Bay. I was assured that we’d like it.

Meanwhile, inside the ferry, JewelrySlut was chatting up a family from NJ. They had flown down and were spending a week on St John. They were renting a house?!?!? (Seriously…WHAT?). JewelrySlut got a card from the rental company and stuck it in her pocket.

But really…who the hell goes to that length to rent a house on some tiny island that’s damn near impossible to get to?

We got off the ferry in some dinky little Caribbean town and got in a safari cab with my new pals. We bounced along in the back of the truck for 20 minutes, up and down insanely steep hills before arriving at our destination. On the ride, something started clicking with us. Somehow it seemed like an OK place to be. We only had about 2-3 hours in total before we had to be back on a ferry and back to St Thomas, so time was of the essence.

We arrived at Cinnamon Bay.

Wow…this sure is a pretty beach. Look at that little building. Look at the tree leaning into the water. That’s nice. But, it sure was windy. The soft white sand was nice…but it got everywhere!

Our hour up, we got back in our cab to go back to town. Along the way, the skies opened up and we got soaked. Dodging raindrops, we got back to town with about 5 minutes before our ferry was leaving. We ran into some little shop and ogled the rum prices before picking up a pin. We’d been collecting pins on every island of the cruise and wanted one from this tiny little island.

As we ran to the ferry, we went past some crappy looking bar with a Texas flag out front. Seriously…what a shit hole. Who the hell would every think of going to such a place?

We took the ferry back and got a cab to take us back to town. We did the obligatory Charlotte Amalie thing and were happy we hadn’t spent the day there.

We went back to the ship and set out for our last night.

But that business card stayed with our stuff. For some reason, JewelrySlut had kept it. It landed on my computer desk and I went to the site from time to time. I mean…really…you can rent a house in the Caribbean? Why on Earth would you want to do that when you have huge resorts to cater to your every need? Seemed like a silly idea to me.

But, somehow that little island had an impact on us. We even said, after leaving, “Well…if we didn’t have a cat, we’d consider moving down there”. Big talkers we were back then. The cat? That’s what kept us in NJ?

Fast forward 4 years and 8 months. I turned 30 on that silly little island. That crappy bar with the Texas Flag? Cremate me and spread my ashes in front of it among the chickens and crazy people. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.

We’ve been back to that silly island 3 times since January of 2000 and will be there in less than 200 days (not that we’re counting).

We suckered 2 people into joining us on these trips and they’ve fallen in love too. That island, and a shitload of booze, helped forge a relationship that stopped being just friendship a while ago and became family.

We’re taking Shmuppie this year. We’re about to ruin her life because she’s going to fall hard for that island. I have no doubt that we’ll end up sitting down with her 10 years from now and discussing a 1-year deferral of college so she can go work on that silly little island. (PS…we’d let her do it)

I’ve met several wonderful people because of that island. Some I’ve even met in person! It’s like being in a secret club. Once people know that you go to St John, they kinda nod knowingly. They know that you know.

It’s a good place.

And it all started with a ferry ride that we didn’t want to take.

What if we hadn’t taken that ferry?