Sunday, October 31, 2010

Family Photos

Some more photos from the day of Cooper's birthday party. Thanks to Stacy for taking these for us!






Man Card downgrade

I thought that when I had a boy I would be a macho seed-spreadin' superhero, but instead I end up watching stuff like Lady A's new video and bawling like a baby. Go figure. (Can't watch Rascal Flatts' video for "Here Comes Goodbye," either.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Okay, just 9?

In lieu of our recent fourth anniversary, from Grif.net:
After I waited patiently while my husband played a round of golf on our 18th wedding anniversary, he and I went out to dinner at a lovely restaurant. We discussed many happy memories we've shared during the years.

Then I smiled coyly and asked, "Want to go for another 18?"

"No" he replied. "I think it's getting too dark."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four years


Happy Anniversary to my Darling Valerie! Four years ago we set off on an amazing journey, and every year has been a learning experience, and chance to grow together, and an opportunity to make every minute count. Sure, we may be getting the "poorer" rather than "richer," but we're also getting the "better" instead of the "worse." ILYTM!!!!

Cooper's 1st Birthday Party!

Val and I are one step closer to being full-fledged members of The Parent Club. We held the time-honored tradition of organizing a big party for our child!

Yes, we have a one-year-old today!

Cooper didn't seem to care if we celebrated early (I asked, he just said "pfffft"), so we invited our immediate families and assorted aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents to fill our home last Saturday. And I mean FILLED. About 31 could make it - not counting us - including six other kids.

The weather was perfect, at least, so folks could sit outside on the back patio to eat, and the kids had plenty of room to play in the backyard. (Well, except for by the old tree stump on the golf course where little John was bitten by a fire ant. Guess I need to do some bug killin'!)

Val and I spent two months planning for the big day, with pages of lists of things to do, buy, clean and panic about in short spurts. Valfrey Estate was as de-cluttered as it has been since before we moved in nearly four years ago. Still, we happily enjoyed the floors getting dirty and the floor covered in opened presents and toys.

One of the goals - advised by all of the "experts" - was to keep this sucker tight. Say hey, serve food, sing to Cooper, open presents, and bingo-bango, all done, time to relax and let Cooper take a nap!

The food, well, first let me tell you about the food. Val's Mom cooked her famous meatballs and Mexican dip, Mom brought a chicken and cheese ball dip that Val hovered over most of the party when Cooper was otherwise busy and still talks about, not to mention some pigs-in-a-blanket, fruit bowl and veggie tray and chips and dips, and oh yeah, a birthday cake.

We ordered a Pooh cake (marble on the inside) from Banky's in Millington big enough to serve 50 people, so there was plenty to go around (and later bring some to work so that we wouldn't eat all of it and derail our diet). It was DEE-licious!

Cooper had his own smash cake, but when we sang "Happy Birthday" he didn't exactly get down and dirty. Instead he got the icing on his hands and couldn't get it off and got upset. So we let him up and Val's Dad let him sip some Caffeine-Free Diet Coke.

When it was time to open gifts, Val got to enjoy the pleasure and do all the oohing and aahing over the great toys and adorable outfits. Cooper would play with some of the toys, then wander around the couch to the adults watching his presents being opened, and then he would play with all of his cousins, who also helped unwrap. He really enjoyed getting to play with all of the other kids.

Since it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, folks started filing out shortly after to go enjoy the day, and Val and I and my family who came from out of town stuck around to take pictures out back. We got some great ones that I'll share later, or you can go check out all the pictures right now if you're on Facebook.

Here are some pictures from the day, and I will post some others on here later, too!





Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cooper's Florida Vacation, Days 6 & 7

THURSDAY, OCT. 7

Today was an ideal day for Dad to show off his grandson at his office!

But first, we met Jorge, Natalie and Lilly at Casa Lario's for lunch. I had requested to try some Cuban food earlier in the week, and they are all from big Cuban families, so who better to school me in new flavors? And, they didn't even haze me by telling me to try the "mild" sauce that would, in fact, burn out the little dangly thing in the back of your throat.

With an assortment of yummy items to try on the menu, I don't know what my favorite was, but the fried plantains certainly stand out the most. Everyone kept saying to use some salt to bring out the flavor, but I thought they were darn good just the way they were served, though the sauces certainly added a splash of Cuban moxie. Or as they say in Paris, "Ooh la la!"




Afterward we went to Dad's FedEx office so he could show off his grandson. The office was full of ooohing and awwwing, of course, from the ladies, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just because Dad's the boss and they have to. Maybe the guys, but not the women. They love them some babies. The guys were probably just making sure that Dad didn't notice that they were earning high scores on "Call Of Duty: Black Ops" while Dad was on vacation.




For dinner we talked Dad into going to Benihana (yeah, right, as if that takes much convincing), which was delicious, of course, and not just because Val always lets me have her veggies and shrimp "appetizer." (Seriously, it's just two shrimp, but I'll take it because I'm a seafood hussy.) The chef didn't ignite the big fireball, though, which was a let down because it would have been Cooper's first time and it's always nice to get a picture of the faces of the kiddies to see whether they're fascinated or freak the heck out. Cooper was okay with the onion volcano, though he was also gnawing on a spoon at the time, so it's hard to tell if he cared or not.

Dessert was at Yogurtland, a self-serve yogurt shop. (There are no yogurt-themed rides, in case you wondered about the name. Although The Yogurt Gogurt is a cool name for a roller-coaster.) You grab a cup bowl and go up to the yogurt dispenser of your choice, pour whatever toppings you want, and they charge you based on the weight of the cup. Val was very pleased at this place, which made her temporarily forget that we don't have a Coldstone anywhere near us. *sigh*





FRIDAY, OCT. 8

Earlier in the week, temperatures at night back home in West Tennessee had dipped into the 30s. Now it was time to leave the sunny, breezy climes of south Florida and head home. (Where, it turns out, was now warmer than Miami. Go figure.)

We arrived at the airport with about an hour to spare before our noon flight into the past. Well, maybe not the past, per se, but we changed time zones, at least. We also ended up paying $71 in baggage fees, $25 on the way there, $46 on the way back since we checked two bags to keep from dragging one extra piece through the airport. With those kinds of prices, I expect that the airline at least gave our luggage a massage, or hot oil therapy.

Thankfully there was a Quiznos right next to our gate, so we plopped down for some lunch and hung out there until it was time to board. Cooper was okay in his stroller while engaging in some people watching. I was on the lookout for suspicious persons in Muslim garb breaking the tiny toilets on the plane. I love how the PC police try to act surprised that anyone would be worried about terrorism and eye certain people warily. Oh, sure there was that thing in 2001, but why are you worried? Yeah, that guy tried to light his shoe to blow up a plane, but hey, it was one guy. Oh, of course that guy in Detroit wanted to blow up his underwear, but now you're being picky.

This time there actually was an announcement for parents with small children to board first, for which we were very thankful. At least I could lug the car seat down the aisle without worrying about slamming into passengers' knees and shoulders.



Cooper really enjoyed having his own seat next to the window. He would stand up in the car seat and look behind him, eat the instruction card, try to kick the seat in front of him and play, play, play. He napped for about an hour in the middle of the flight so his parents could check out SkyMall magazine for cool stuff we can't afford, and he ate on the way up and seemed okay with the ear popping on the way down. He was a handful but nothing you wouldn't expect from a precocious 11 month-old, so we concurred that the experience went splendidly overall. No mean old lady gave us the evil eye this time, at least as far as I could tell.




As with the flight down we waited to exit until all others had cleared out, then made our way to the terminal where Val's dad was waiting for us (or, at least, Cooper) to get home. Once there, I had to take care of the flat tire that had been making my car sad all week, then Val's parents took our little man for the night and we turned into vegetables before attempting the task of unpacking.

The real test of a good vacation is, when you return do you feel a little more carefree? When you're in traffic, do you find it easier to ignore those folks who tailgate and go around you to get one spot closer at the next light? Or if you're one of those drivers, at least you give a wave of thanks to others for them not shooting out your tires when you cut in front of them? Back on the job, is that guy the next desk over who hums the theme to "Charles in Charge" ... all ... day ... long ... a little less annoying? (Okay, that one's me.) Your friends wonder what's up with the goofy grin of contentment? It wears off eventually, unfortunately, alas. But it sure is nice while it lasts!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Party time not as bad as expected

Remember when I started my diet I said it was a process that could take a couple of years. And I'm still okay with that, especially since there are going to be weeks like Miami where we ate very badly on vacation and gained six pounds, then lost it, and then there are weekends like this past one where we celebrated Cooper's first birthday and I didn't worry that much about what I was eating. Thus I enjoyed my Mom-in-law's meatballs after the party, pizza with my family that night, cake before bed and yesterday more leftovers from the party. So I gained a little over a pound for the week. Doesn't bother me a bit. I'll hop back on this week and be fine.

KEEP JEFF ACCOUNTABLE

Starting weight (July 12, 2010) - 387
Last week (Oct. 18) - 349
Current weight (Oct. 25) - 350
Total lost - 37
10% target - 349
Ultimate goal – 225

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday links

TODAY'S TOTALLY AWESOME LINK - Awkward Family Photos. I only pray that we have nothing in our albums that could end up here. Then again, when we were in Miami, Val caught sight of a professional picture done with my siblings in the late 80s and I had what could almost be described as a near-mullet, wearing a sweater vest over a turtleneck. I only have one word for Val and her incriminating past: "Perm." If any shots of me and my pinch-rolled jeans pop up, though, I may lose this battle.

WHEN OGLING'S A CRIME, ONLY CRIMINALS WILL OGLE - Memphis Memories from October 9, 1910:
To halt a growing practice in Memphis, police have been given strict orders by Commissioner Riechman to stop all ogling of women pedestrians on Memphis streets. The police have been ordered to arrest every man discovered ogling.

I BLAME BUSH FOR THIS HORROR! - "Detainees' diets at Guantanamo Bay have been a controversial issue for some time and now the U.S. prison is said to be rationing ice cream. The frozen dessert is allegedly being tightly measured, with only one ice cream allowed for each of its 147 detainees."--Daily Mail (London), Sept. 26

KINDA COOL - A set of maps of major cities showing racial and ethnic divides.

Monday, October 18, 2010

COOPER'S FLORIDA VACATION, DAY 5

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 6

Since Cooper was up in the middle of the night, he slept in until 8 o'clock, allowing us a bit of a sleeping in before breakfast at Camille's on the southern part of the old part of town. Mornings are much quieter in Key West with just some teetotaling Americans, Asians and school kids out and about while shops are closed, few cars clog the roads so there's a few people on bicycles and all the construction folks getting what needs to be done ASAP before the rowdiness of the afternoon and evenings.






After a stop nearby at the Southernmost Point, a requisite touristy spot to take pictures and not much else, we headed back to the hotel to go to the beach. Unfortunately when we went out there, it was so windy that the sand was blowing in our faces like we were crazy weathermen you see during hurricanes, so hard that it even stung, and the water was so choppy I began to look for George Clooney from "The Perfect Storm." So no beach for Cooper. We all went to the pool instead, me and Cooper and Dad in the pool, Val enjoying some sun poolside.






A quick nap for Cooper, then we went back out to finish our shopping and get some lunch. We sat outside on the patio of Hard Rock Cafe on Duval Street and chatted up our server, Boston Brian while bemoaning having to leave Key West and the sun and breeze and comfortableness of it all. Seriously, I can't emphasize enough just how relaxing and peaceful it is just to sit outside, enjoy a meal or drink and have nothing else to do. If this was a movie we'd have quit our jobs, moved to Key West, opened a restaurant and gone to work on roller skates down Duval Street with Cooper in a stroller and dogs in tow.





Apparently we needed that extra relaxing, because it took well over four hours to drive back to Dad's house that afternoon, not helped by a traffic jam right out of the keys. A cop had been shot at several hours before and the road was blocked both ways. I mean, several hours before, so it seemed unnecessary to keep it blocked this long.

There's nowhere else to go, so four lanes of traffic squeezed into one and we had to go around a shopping center to find another main road to get back to Miami. The cops were no help, standing around doing nothing except talking, and since I was driving Dad could lean out the window and yell at them to try directing traffic for once. Apparently they're notorious down here for not doing squat while blocking traffic for hours.

I didn't even mind Dad risking getting us arrested for bothering the police and didn't try to hold him back, unlike when we were driving up to Gettysburg and Antietam and that Virginia trooper bugged us about pulling over on the side of the road to change drivers when Dad was getting sleepy. Dad wasn't happy about that. Neither was I, but I was still in college and too young to realize that sometimes cops can be D-bags, too.

After that - did I mention that Cooper had been fussy for a couple of hours and ready to get out of that daggum car seat? - all we could do was stop at Chick-Fil-A to grab some dinner to take home (and yes, I was bad, dieting be darned by this time) and watch baseball and crash with an early bedtime.

First 10 percent goal attained!

Good news for me! I was down 7 pounds this week, losing the 6 I gained plus one more to get down to the magical first 10 percent target.

(Actually, I lost about 7.5, but with Cooper's birthday party coming this weekend I may need that half-pound back!)

Starting weight (July 12, 2010) - 387
Last week (Oct. 11) - 356
Current weight (Oct. 18) - 349
Total lost - 38
10% target - 349
Ultimate goal – 225

Sunday, October 17, 2010

COOPER'S FLORIDA VACATION, DAY 4

TUESDAY, OCT. 5

Time to head south to Key West!

We packed up for the three hour drive for the one night stay - Dad had a tiny little Red Sox bag, Val and I brought about 24 items of various shapes and sizes, including a giant suitcase. I would blame this on having a baby, but we did the same when it was just us.



To break up the trip for Cooper in his car seat, we stopped in Key Largo at a popular Rushing spot, Senor Frijoles, which is next door to our favorite sunset restaurant, Sundowners. You'd have thought we entered "The Stand" when we went in because it took at least five minutes for someone to even come out from the back. Guess they weren't expecting customers at the inconvenient lunch time of 11:30 a.m.

Even though it was a windy and cloudy day, we still sat outside on the back patio by the Gulf. I mean, it wasn't that windy. Our tacos didn't blow away or anything.






By the time we got to Key West the sun was shining and the wind had turned into a pleasant ocean breeze as we checked into the Pier House Resort off Duval Street, the main drag connecting the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. It's only a mile long, so not as far as it sounds. We stayed on the Gulf side on the north side of the island.

Once the 24 pieces of luggage were in our rooms we took a stroll down Duval Street. It was Val's first visit, so she got an early peek at the shopping, the eccentricity, the numerous Key West t-shirt shops that featured, shall we say, "questionable" material. She turned down all offers to buy one for various family members who might appreciate shirts about drinking, the F-bomb or boobies. The next day we settled for a more appropriate shirt with baby turtles for Cooper.



On the way back we made the one stop at Dad's request, Hog's Breath Saloon, so he could treasure their chili cheese hot dog. Hey, I craved Cheesecake Factory earlier on the trip. We all have the one thing that will happily derail a diet!



We walked back to the hotel to give our Cooper a nap. He was tuckered out from the driving and stroller ride in the warm weather. Once he was awake we made our way to Mallory Square, the popular touristy spot to catch the world famous Key West sunset.

We stopped at one of the few spots where you sit down by the water and wait for the sun to go down, while Dad took Cooper in the stroller to look at the vendors. The sunset was great and all, but behind us, Val and I were instead watching an old guy in a funny hat play songs on his guitar while his dog (wearing boxers) would take dollar bills from tourists and put them in an orange bucket. That's his act. To our left, the sword-swallower didn't seem happy that he wasn't getting as many watchers as the dog.



Then, when we were taking pictures of ourselves and the sunset, some drunk European lady (there are a lot of European visitors to Key West) actually jumped in the choppy water ten feet below. We have no explanation. It took five guys to pull her up, and she didn't look like she cared one bit, nor did her guy pal. I'm pretty sure she ended her night several hours later retching into a toilet at Sloppy Joe's bar.



Once the sun was down, we strolled to the other side of the square for some ice cream. As light became dark and we sat comfortably outside enjoying the breeze and the view with few others around, it was one of the most relaxingly pleasant times of the trip.






Well, except that Cooper was exhausted and didn't want anything to do with the stroller anymore. Even walking in Daddy's arms didn't make him any happier. The boy needed sleep. So we headed back to the hotel, put him in his PJs, got him to sleep and put him down in the crib where he crashed.

At least until 12:30 a.m. If he was at home in his own room he probably would have gone back to sleep after some crying. Here, however, he was in the same room only a few feet from our bed. We couldn't just ignore him. He's standing up looking over the crib like, "Hey, I can SEE y'all! Get me out of this pack 'n play!"

At first we tried to get him back to sleep in bed with us in the dark. After an hour of failing, I turned on the TV to pass the time while he played on us in a good mood. Finally, by 3 a.m. he went back to sleep. Hey, it's his vacation, too, am I right? If the boy wants to be entertained, he shall be.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

COOPER'S FLORIDA VACATION, DAY 3

MONDAY, OCT. 4

Today we headed to South Beach at lunchtime, eating at Van Dykes outside under the patio umbrella, with a warm breeze blowing and good food at the table. Cooper really went for this, so peaceful sitting in his stroller and watching people, then enjoying a walk down the main drag between the shops and palm trees with Granddaddy so Mommy and Daddy could finish lunch.







After lunch we strolled down to the Ghirardelli chocolate store for dessert. Yes, they have their own store. The first time Val saw this a couple of years ago, I'm pretty sure I heard "Ode to Joy" coming out of her ears. This time around, seated outside and enjoying some relaxation, Val very much liked her hot fudge sundae, as did Cooper and I.



For almost every meal that wasn't at Dad's home we ate outside, which seems to be the thing to do in South Florida. And it's much more worthwhile. When it's always 85 with a breeze, and you're under a big umbrella with palm trees swaying overhead, it's much better than sitting outside in sweltering summer weather in Memphis.

Cooper was a big fan of eating out, which was a nice distraction. Sure, he's 11-months-old so he's always a handful, though with eccentric folks on South Beach it's easier to get him to eat our mashed potatoes and veggies.

Every time we'd eat outdoors Val would sigh and say, "I don't want to leave." We vowed to try it at home on the patio out back, but it's just not the same. At least, not without someone else cooking the food, infusing the patio with the smell of the ocean breeze, and not having to go to work the next day. Maybe then it would be equal.