Disney Trip Log #5: Our Time Down Here

Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here.”  – The Goonies

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Grow for Victory…or Bananas

Well, it was the third and final day of going into the parks for us. I can honestly say for the first time that I am not sad about it being the end. We woke up casually at the Grand Floridian and ate our breakfast in bed. I think Zelda approved of the french toast Angela ate because she was kicking a bit afterwards. I have still yet to feel her kick myself, but I will take Angela’s word for it.

I continued to keep it casual and checked out at around 10:30am. Shocker for my lovely wife. This is the first trip that I have not gone 1,000 mph with her. Normally, I would be staring Angela down at six in the morning, waiting for her to get up and get moving. It is certainly different, but in a good way. Even last year with our two friends from Norfolk, I was a little more “on the ball” to go hard and fast all day. As I get older, I realize I can’t do the 14-hour marathon days I am famous for anymore. I don’t think there are shoes comfortable enough for that, at least in this weather down here.

China is Here, Mr. Burton
China is Here, Mr. Burton

We got into Epcot around 11am. First up was my favorite area of the park: The Land. We rode my favorite ride, Living with the Land, first. It’s probably one of the most boring rides in the Disney Parks repertoire, but I love it. The wall paintings near the entrance of the ride look vaguely like Soviet propaganda, which makes it even better because it’s sponsored by Chiquita Bananas. There is an academic paper on corporate sponsorship and Disney in there somewhere, but no time. What’s not to love? It’s educational, relaxing, and the end song on the ride is totally bitching. Who doesn’t like to learn about fruits and vegetables from other countries, and the latest techniques of how to grow tomatoes? I guess I was a farmer in my former life. That or Joan or Arc.

Our last ride we went on was Soarin’, which is also located in The Land. Angela was super excited, as it was her only “thrill ride” because she is pregnant. My favorite part of the ride is when you travel through orange groves and smell it coming out into the ride. It reminds me of Horizons, a ride that used to do something similar when it was around until 1999. Vintage Epcot stuff is like crack to me.

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Ten minutes into “Aladdin and Chill” and he gives you a look like…

We took advantage of the Food and Wine Festival one last time and took a stroll around the World Showcase. I was done with alcohol (I had my share the other night at Trader Sam’s), so I stuck to the food. I had a chicken gyro from Greece, Mongolian beef sliders from China, one of course the lamb meatball from New Zealand (my personal favorite). Thankfully, we bought a cookbook that has the Disney recipe for the meatballs in it. That way they won’t haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. Angela had a shrimp taco from Mexico and the richest macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted from the Florida stand. Thank God we have walked nearly ten miles each day during this trip. By 3pm, we were both ready to leave. The sky was getting dark and we were both ready for a nap. I said my final goodbyes to Epcot and we headed back to our condo. We leave for Alexandria tomorrow. No regrets. I can’t wait to see my kitty and puppy.

Disney Never Says Die

I wanted to make this post a little introspective. After all, this will likely be the last time I will be writing about going to Disney for quite a while. The biggest question I am always asked when I tell friends that I am once again going to Disney every year is, “why?” Why go to the same place you have been for the past four years? Why deal with the extreme heat or the unpredictable weather? Why spend so much money to do the same things over and over again?

It could be easy to just say none of your damn business, but there is more to it. I feel the need to explain myself a little bit. When we were down here in Orlando at Disney, or occasionally at Universal, it was our time. It was our time to do what we wanted to, whether that be riding the Haunted Mansion five times in a row or pounding liquor drinks at the Backstage Cafe in MGM Studios. This trip was our way of saying goodbye to doing it all for us.

When we come back, it will not be our time. It will be Zelda’s time. It will all be for her. This was the last time we could say we were going down here for ourselves. I can’t wait to come back with her. For better or worse, everything will be different. The familiar smell of the pavement after it rains will be different. The sound of laughter and crying. Living with the Land will be an educational experience for my daughter that I can use to teach her about growing things. I can see her reaction when she drinks the Beverly soda and grimace (hopefully). It’s all going to be attached to something I made with Angela. There is a beauty in it that I can’t completely explain. I think anybody who is a parent might be able to sympathize with what I am saying and hear my sympathetic vibrations (a little Haunted Mansion humor). It’s going to be beautiful when the 1,000th happy haunt comes into our world next year.

Looking forward to the future. This was a perfect vacation getaway and way to say goodbye to “our time.” Back to reality tomorrow.

But it was not THIS KID’S TIME. Not yet.

so good

Matt

Disney Trip Log #4: You Could Sustain, or Are You Comfortable With the Pain?

I should have known better when Matt told me we would take it easy this trip. According to our FitBits, we’ve averaged out 8 to 9 miles of walking a day. Then again, this IS Disney. Can’t expect any less. Besides, walking is good for Zelda. And in Epcot, you do a lot of walking. More on that in a moment.

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The entrance to the Food and Wine area.

Matt left out a couple of details from yesterday’s blog, mostly because he wanted to leave the topics up to me. The first is The Nautilus Adventure. See, we got tipped off about this elusive Nautilus mug from Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Trader Sam’s is a lot like Jock Lindsey’s: light on the food, heavy on the libations. Matt just wanted to get his hands on that Nautilus (RIP 20,000 Leagues ride). Both of us have fond memories of that ride, though mine are remarkably more fuzzy since I only rode it once in 1986.

Well, we made it to the Grog Grotto after a mid-afternoon nap. Unfortunately, it was pouring, which meant the outside deck was not open. The wait to sit inside was an hour. I said what the hell, let’s wait. After a bit, the bar in outside opened up and we were able to order a drink. Matt ordered The Nautilus and found out he had to drink it separately from the souvenir mug due to the inclement weather (don’t ask, I don’t get it either). Only when she handed Matt two full-sized drinks did we understand that The Nautilus was a drink for two. And it was potent. The Nautilus “mug” was the size of my head. Matt declared he would drink both “for the child” and proceeded to drink. By the end of it, he was serenading anyone that would listen to Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” He rallied for the rest of the evening and we went on to Mickey’s Halloween Party.

Oh yeah, and I got some unsolicited advice about rides. I’d done my research about what I could and could not ride. On the monorail, a lady asked me when I was due. I said February. I added I was happy to be in the Magic Kingdom that day because I could actually ride the rides, unlike Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios MGM. “Oh,” she said, “My daughter was pregnant and she rode EVERYTHING. Even that elevator ride. Her kid turned out fine.” You know what? That’s frikkin’ lovely. I’m sure your daughter’s pregnancy is the shining example of what all pregnancies are like.

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Various offerings of different sodas from around the world.

Today was an Epcot day. It’s also special because it’s me and Matt’s three year anniversary. We woke up early to some excellent room service for breakfast and took our time getting out of the hotel. When we got to Epcot, we spent our time walking around the World Showcase and sampling various foods at the Food and Wine Festival. We did stop by Club Cool and try the different sodas, including the ritual tasting of Beverly, the WORST soda I have ever tasted. 

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Looking pensive in China.

Matt made a beeline for the lamb meatballs from New Zealand, easily his favorite. I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I watched him enjoy various foods and beers. I was bummed I couldn’t have my favorite lychee vodka drink from China, but I noticed a lychee iced tea option and found it quite lovely. We spent a fair amount of time camped out in Japan, our favorite spot to relax and people watch.

SIDE NOTE: I have sampled more fru-fru nonalcoholic fruit drinks and flavored iced teas these past two days than I have in the past year. Also, our food and libation tabs are remarkably lower.

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View from our favorite spot in Japan.

We went to Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse, for our anniversary dinner. He had a ribeye, and I had a vegetarian potato cannelloni dish. Both were delicious. The only dampener on the whole day was how utterly humid it was (see what I did there?). It was so humid I felt like we were swimming through a sponge. We both spent the entire day covered in a sweat sheen. At one point, Matt put his hand on the back of my neck and remarked how gross it felt. I said, “Yeah. And Do you have any idea how gross the rest of my body feels?” Even as I type this, I am anticipating a nice, hot shower and getting this film off.

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Hold on, for one more day.

Two bonuses to the evening. One, my cousin came out with her family and we spent the evening doing another lap around the Showcase. Two, Wilson Phillips was randomly doing a show for the festival. For real. All in all, a fun evening. I ended it on a bright note, sitting on chaise lounge in the Grand Floridian, listening to the pianist play random Disney tunes.

A lovely day, and a lovely anniversary.

 

 

Disney Trip Log #3: Por Favor Mantengase Alejado de las Puertas

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Angela and I are doing one last trip to Disney before our daughter comes. It’s a tradition we have kept since we started dating back in 2011. You can read Part I and Part II.

Yesterday was our first foray into the Disney Parks. Naturally, we had to go to the Magic Kingdom because it is Angela’s favorite park. This is the sixth time going to Disney World with Angela, and there has yet to be a moment when she didn’t light up and get emotional when she saw the castle for the first time. I know its a weird thing to look forward to, but I find it so endearing that she shows such emotion at something like that. It’s adorable. I didn’t take any pictures of her getting emotional this time for fear of her getting mad at her own Claire Danes-esque cry face. That memory is just for me and my own memory, I guess. Sorry.

Our Monorail car was packed with eager children waiting to see a glimpse of Mickey, Donald, and Minnie. Oh how their faces lit up with excitement. This is only amusing because I know that their energy level from that moment is a fast-ticking time bomb set off to explode around 12:30 in the early afternoon. More on that in a second.

We stepped off the Monorail and into the park, or as I like to call it, “the highest percentage of dad bods in the Western Hemisphere.” Personally, I can’t wait to rock my boring tennis shoes and high-waisted shorts as I ferry Zelda around the park. I can’t wait for the frustration that comes with trying to juggle my daughter’s needs and my own sanity. It’s going to be terrible/great. Things to look forward to. I need to soak it all in over the next few days because it will not be the same at all when we come back. It will be much better.

The Empire Strikes Baby Bump
The Empire Strikes Baby Bump

I was already getting emotional by the time we got to Liberty Square to ride the Haunted Mansion. Rounding the corner near the Liberty Tree Tavern, I saw a little girl in a Cinderella costume, complete with gloves and “glass” slippers. She was holding hands with her father and skipping. The father was looking down at her and had a big smile on his face. It destroyed me. DESTROYED ME. I don’t think Angela saw me crying, cause I am a master at hiding emotion. Come on, I am half-Chinese: we swallow emotion like so much Dim Sum. Gwai lo can’t step to this. In any case, I had a good silent cry to myself. I didn’t even mean to stare, but it was so beautiful to watch. And for once in my life, I find comfort in knowing that dream is now halfway into becoming a reality. Maybe Morrissey was right.

Around 11am, I started to notice some strain in the adult population of visitors at Disney. The signs are noticeable:

    1. Dads, sweaty and tired from pulling a stroller, are visibly arguing with wives over the price of water, soda, and snacks.
    2. Kids beginning to whine, but not cry.
    3. Kids over-excited still now several hours after going 150mph through the parks.

These are all things that signify the calm before the storm, which I like to call “The Witching Hour.” The “Witching Hour” exists between 12:30pm and 1:30pm. It is a time when everything literally goes to shit for every parent at Disney World parks. I know this is a foolish thing to mention, because I will be doing the exact same thing several years from now. But I know the signs and symptoms. I had to document this experience on Facebook.

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After riding a few rides, we stopped for some lunch at the Starlight Cafe right in the middle of the park between Futureworld and Fantasy Land. Sure enough, that strain was beginning to reach a fever pitch.

Nothing seems to be more frustrating than getting lunch at Disney. For a family of four you are guaranteed to drop at least sixty dollars. But enough about money. People that argue about the price of things should not go to Disney. EVERYTHING is expensive. If you don’t like to pay 10 dollars for a kids hamburger, don’t come to Disney (or pack your lunch and prepare accordingly). It’s even worse now that you can tie your credit card to your magic band. You don’t even need to bring a credit card or your wallet to the park – it’s all tied to one wristband on your arm. It can get dangerous. Water – CHING. Lunch – CHING. Souvenirs – CHING. Root beer float – CHING. It’s all part of the fun. As it turns out, you can put a price tag on happiness.

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It’s important to note that screaming and crying sounds the same in every language.  That poor kid. I bet they were from New Jersey. The best part of that scenario was that the dad was so over it he gave her a credit card and just walked away. Father of the year!

With the “witching hour” upon us, I noticed that kids pretty much go limp of held and if not held they will do their damn best to run as far away from their parents as possible. Who knows what Zelda will do when we come back here with her. I ca only assume a combination. 

Over your shit
Over your shit

There was this one woman who looked COMPLETELY over it. Grandma was tired of her grandchildren’s shit. They had whined and cried until they both got a bubble gun. When the bubbles were emptied two minutes later, one of the kids decided to throw it on the ground and grab for something else. She. Was. Pissed. I captured the look on her face after she told the girl to pick up the gun and give it to her brother, who proceeded to drop it on the ground again. She could probably kill somebod

Kids suffer from a multiple personality disorder during the 12:30pm witching hour. In an instant, they go from screaming to happily running around. These are the kinds of things that I only notice now that I am about to have a kid. I think I just tuned it out before. I can’t wait to become a parent.  

We had to be careful because of her swelling feet, so we returned to our hotel for a nap after I rode Space Mountain solo (sadness). I have to note that the ride is getting jerkier and jerkier. I am glad we have a child on the way, because I might be sterile from the amount of times my nuts banged against the lap bar of my car on the ride.

We woke up around 6:30pm and looked outside. It was pouring. Great. This would be the third time in a row that we would be rained out of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Then everything went woozy from about 7pm – 9pm. Angela is going to write about that. More later. Let’s just say that I will question drinking any alcohol for the rest of the trip.

In order to make this post a bit shorter, here are some key points of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party:

Even though it seemed like everyone was leaving when we got there around 9pm, it was crowded. CROWDED.

The fireworks were meh, but I am never a huge fan of fireworks. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. They played bad versions of Disney songs in the background as they shot off bright orange and green fireworks into the sky behind the castle. Very soon, all you could see was smoke and all you could smell was sulfur. Spooky.

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THE HIGHLIGHT of the evening was the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular.” We got to see the only performance of the night, and it was more than worth my aching and damp feet. All of the villains made for a pretty awesome dance party, including everyone’s personal favorite, JAFAR. No Prince Abu Abu, though. It was a once in a lifetime show. Seeing Captain Hook booty dance to “I Put a Spell on You” was something else.

We got back to the hotel around 11:30pm, scarfed a midnight snack and headed to bed.

Today: Epcot, Anniversary Dinner, and maybe drinks?

Disney Trip Log #2: Anything Goes in Downtown Disney

In case you’re just catching up, Matt and I are on a whirlwind trip to Disney and back. it is surely the shortest trip we’ve ever taken, and it is probably the most significant. Why? because this is the last trip we take with just the two of us. We probably will not be back for another few years, and we’ll have a +1. No doubt the Land of Happiness will be a totally different experience. Matt wrote about the first leg of our travels yesterday, so I’m picking up where he left off.

We woke up early, ate a rather pitiful breakfast at our hotel in Darien, and hightailed it on the road by 8 am. I did not sleep well. The room, for some reason, was alternatively damp and hot. When I kicked the covers back to cool off, I got too cold and had to cover myself again. And so on until dawn. Good thing the adrenaline of getting to Disney today carried me through.

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Karma’s a bitch, man.

The trip to Orlando took about four and half hours. We stopped at the outlets in St. Augustine, which seemed sadder and more desolate than ever before. We left rather disappointed. I didn’t need as many bathroom breaks, so Matt didn’t have to make snarky comments about my thimble bladder. SIDE NOTE: As we were leaving Darien this morning, Matt was making smart remarks about me driving to Jacksonville. As he raised his coffee cup to his lips, the top flew off and dumped the coffee all over his lap and t-shirt. He screamed, “It’s hot! And wet! It’s hot and wet!” as he frantically drove back into the parking lot.

Anyway, we decided to go straight to Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) right away so we could try and get a spot in the brand new Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. It only opened about four days ago, and Matt told me we HAD to go. Since I’m an Indiana Jones fan myself, I couldn’t argue. A little research informed me that there were no reservations, so an early visit was our best bet.

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Downtown Disney under construction.

Disney Springs Downtown Disney has changed. Like, massively changed. Lots of it is still under construction and in transition, but the entire area where Pleasure Island used to be (RIP 8TRAX) was either redone or behind construction walls. Jock Lindsey’s was nestled between Paradiso 37 and the brand new Boathouse. Matt lost his shit. No joke. We hadn’t even walked in the building and his eyes were wide and shiny, like a kid’s on Christmas morning. I rarely see him that unbelievably stoked about anything, so this was a real treat.

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This would have been my drink of choice. I ended up with a Shirley Temple.

We managed to snag a prime spot on the outside deck. Matt gleefully thumbed through the menu and drink list, pointing out treasures such as the Lao Che’s Revenge (stick Asian wings), Good Dates (cheese-stuffed dates), and Rolling Boulders Sliders (made with meatballs and yogurt sauce). He opted for a drink called “The Scottish Professor” (whiskey, gin, pear nectar, simply syrup, and lemon juice) and finished off with a Tusker beer. I rather forlornly cast my eye over treasures like “Anything Goes” (dragon fire spirit, lime juice, passion fruit, and pineapple juice) and Shorty’s Singapore Sling, but settled for “The Antidote” (a Shirley Temple), and “Teddy’s Tea” (green tea with tangerine and mint).

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Bar interior. Remarkably ambient.

The ambiance was lovely, and I was really surprised at how delicious the tea was. Maybe this not-drinking sentence won’t be so bad after all. The food was so-so, but it’s more of a spot for hanging out and drinking, not a sit-down meal. Matt was in love. When I pointed out the Pankot poster hanging on the wall, I thought he was going to explode. Me, I can’t wait to get back there and try some of those loaded drinks.

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Matt’s making it a point to get pictures of the bump. I’m doing a survey here and had no idea he took the pic.

We visited all of the shops, as per tradition. We shared a rather sweet moment when we walked into the girls’ section of the World of Disney store and he stopped short, saying, “Look at all the stuff for little girls!” As if on cue, we both started getting weepy. Me, I’m a mess. I don’t know what his excuse is. I also FINALLY got my much-coveted Dooney and Bourke Haunted Mansion purse. I’ve been drooling over the damn thing for two years, and I was in the right spot at the right time to snag one. On our way out, Matt rather wryly pointed out that I was standing to the right on every escalator. “You don’t need to stand on the right,” he said. “This isn’t DC. They don’t do that here.” Thanks.

We opted to relax this evening instead of go anywhere. I had a crappy night’s sleep, developed a bit of a cough, and my feet were swelled. Taking it easy sounded good. After getting accosted by the RCI representative (she gave me the Look of Death when I said I didn’t want their “free” breakfast and listen to their sales pitch) we got some Publix, some Crown for Matt, some tea for me, and now we’re camped out in bed watching HGTV. Tomorrow, we ride on to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, and Mickey’s Halloween Party. Can’t wait!

You can catch a few more pictures from today on our Tumblr page.

Disney Trip Log #1: Shiny and Chrome on I-95

In case you are not the one person following this blog that is not a Facebook friend of either me or Angela, we are excited to announce that our vacation to Disney World has begun. This will be our sixth trip together to Disney, which is hard to believe. As we drove down Interstate 95 yesterday, we rehashed our last five vacations:

August 2011: Dating: It was hot as shit and it rained the whole time. We were still testing the waters as a couple, but had some of the most iconic moments of our relationship during this trip.

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Oh, we also went to Universal Studios.

May 2012: Engaged: Although we called it our “reverse honeymoon” because we could not go after we planned to get married in September. Also very hot, but Angela was sick the entire time. It was Star Wars weekend, so who cares.

Long Island Iced Tea and Beer at MGM (I will never call it Hollywood Studios)
Long Island Iced Tea and Beer at MGM (I will never call it Hollywood Studios)

May 2013: Married: Also Star Wars weekend. Angela got sick again this time. Drank too much alcohol and nearly lost my wallet near the American Pavilion in Epcot.

Waiting in line for the 24-Hour Day at Disney Celebration (We didn't say all day, but close)
Waiting in line for the 24-Hour Day at Disney Celebration (We didn’t say all day, but close)

September 2013: One Year Anniversary: Came down for a quick couple of days to wear our costumes for the Mickey’s “Not So Scary Halloween.” It also rained, and my gator costume from the Haunted Mansion smell like wet ass now, although I think we threw it away when we moved from VB to DC.

The Tightrope Walker Stretching Portrait Costumes
The Tightrope Walker Stretching Portrait Costumes

September 2014: Two Year Anniversary: Trip with our friends Holly and Garrett – very fun. Also drank too much alcohol and scared some kids in a pool at the Grand Floridian. Discovered lamb meatballs. Ate about seven of them in two days. I kept the plastic fork because I loved them so much. Life is hard.

Safari Ride on Simba 1
Safari Ride on Simba 1

September 2015: Three Year Anniversary: Now with child, Angela and I want to soak it in before we come back as a trio in four or five years.

Okay. Now you are up to speed. We planned to use this blog as a travel log of our excursion down South to the land of happiness and children’s puke splattered on the hot pavement from heat exhaustion. What a time to be alive.

Day 1: Shiny and Chrome (Friday, 25 September)

We got up around 4am to start our vacation. I did the smart thing and completely packed everything into the night before. All I had to do was roll the preggo out of bed and situate her inside the car. Easy enough, right? Due to the high volume of traffic that comes to the DC area around rush hour, I wanted to make sure we were completely out of the corridor before the sun was up. Hell, I wanted to be all the way past Richmond before the sun was up.

I spray painted my teeth at around 4:30am. We were officially on Interstate 95 at 4:45am, shiny and chrome on Fury Road – one straight piece of asphalt ten hours down the road to our destination in Darien, GA.

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The trip was, for the most part, relaxing. Unlike last year, however, it felt like it was took forever. This is most likely due to the need for Angela to get up and walk around every couple of hours for her pregnancy. She also has the bladder of a grape now, which is only slightly larger than the tangerine-sized one she had before she got pregnant. Oddly enough, I had to stop and go more than she did because I downed two Red Bulls and a large coffee before we even got out of Virginia. Not smart. By 8am, my urine smelled and looked like melted Otter Pops. What a lovely day.

Other highlights of the trip in the early morning include, but are not limited to:

    • The worst service ever at a Chick Fil A in North Carolina
    • The most boring stretch of I-95 ever is in North Carolina
    • Seeing my first Donald Trump 2016 sticker somewhere in southern VA (makes sense)
    • Putting on some Explosions in the Sky while the sun came up somewhere Rocky Mount (SOOOOO EMO)

By lunchtime, we made it to South of the Border in Dillon, SC. Of the five times we have gone to Disney World, four of them were by car. We traditionally stop at S.O.B. for a bathroom break and a look around the kitsch that is collecting dust and germs in the outdated stores. It is still always a great time.

There were of course other things that happened between South of the Border and our arrival in Darien at 4pm. The most notable was seeing a small turd in a sink in Manning, SC. That was a shock to me, but that CVS was not anything to write home about. Thank God we brought shitloads of hand sanitizer for this trip. After leaving that bathroom I wanted to coat my skin in it like Neo after he unplugged from the Matrix.

We took a quick nap at our hotel and showered off our trip funk. It was evident on both of us, for sure. We ate at our favorite place in Darien, Skipper’s Fish Camp, which is also customary for our travels down to Florida. We topped it off with some DQ Grill and Chill, which is actually better than Netflix and Chill, btw.

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This was a mistake on my part. I always forget that I don’t handle ice cream well. Needless to say, my evening was spent hunched over like a shrimp on the bed, waiting for sleep to come for me. It did, and I am happy to report that the Blizzard did not kill me. Onward and Upward!

You can view all of our pictures by going to our Tumblr page HERE.

Today: Flagler Target, Indiana Jones themed bar, and the uncomfortable RCI talk we loathe.

The Quickening

If I were to say I just experienced the quickening, it could mean one of four things:

  1. It’s the name of a horror film under development, slated for release next year.
  2. A phenomenon that refers to beheading a character known as an Immortal and the powerful energy release from their body.
  3. A disease called The Blight that leaves black lesions on the body that “quickens” and spreads into a red form, leading to a slow and painful death.
  4. The moment in pregnancy when a woman feels the baby’s movement for the first time.

All of these are accurate descriptions of the quickening, with the exception of the first one. A friend commented that “The Quickening” sounded like a horror film, and I agreed. I’m not an Immortal, nor do I have any painful black lesions, so I’m happy to say that I felt Zelda moving for the first time.

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Fun fact: When you Google “the quickening,” the Highlander reference is the first hit.

 

I actually came across a neat Slate article that laid out a quick summary of the quickening’s importance in Western culture. It covered the finer points of the Church and abortion, but that’s a bit deeper than I want to dive at the moment. Two interesting quotes, however, illustrate the significance. The first is from Tudor chronicler Edward Hall, describing the quickening of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour:

On 27 May 1537, Trinity Sunday, there was a Te Deum sung in St Paul’s cathedral for joy at the queen’s quickening of her child, my lord chancellor, lord privy seal and various other lords and bishops being then present; the mayor and aldermen with the best guilds of the city being there in their liveries, all giving laud and praise to God for joy about it. The bishop of Worcester, Dr Latimer, made an oration before all the lords and commons after the Te Deum was sung, explaining the reason for their assembly, which oration was marvelously fruitful to the hearers. And also the same night various great fires were made in London, with a hogshead of wine at every fire for the poor people to drink as long as it lasted. I pray Jesus, if it be his will, to send us a prince.

Royals, ay? Great fires, wine for everyone, pomp and circumstance. Too bad she had less than a year to live. The article also quotes Mary Wollstonecraft: ““took it into his head to frisk a little at being informed of your remembrance. I begin to love this little creature, and to anticipate his birth as a fresh twist to a knot, which I do not wish to untie.” So there you have it: a momentous, emotional moment for the mother.

I guess that’s kind of what I was expecting, too. Like the author of the Slate article, my own experience was fleeting and anticlimactic. I was sitting at the kitchen table, slogging away at a 50 page line edit that needed to be done ASAP. I’d just finished my cup of coffee when I experienced what felt like a bubble pop at the lower left of my navel. I assumed it was gas, but a second later I felt it again. The third and last time, it felt like a series of taps. I texted my mom and described the feeling, and she said that’s probably what it was.

I said all I could think about was the chestbursting scene from Alien. Hey, I spent two years studying horror theory. Alien was a film with undertones of the archaic mother and monstrous childbirth. Natural connection, right? I could picture my mom shaking her head when she texted, “You WOULD think of Alien.” 

In short, I guess I was expecting more. It surprises me how much I’ve been kind of not emotional about these milestones so far. I didn’t cry at the first ultrasound, I only cried at the second when they assured me her upper lip was whole, and might have gotten a bit weepy when I heard her heartbeat. I think I’m supposed to be in shock and awe over these things, but that might be the product of popular culture. I’m apt to react more to an episode of Masterchef these days.

Truthfully, the best part of the whole experience was reading the stories and reactions of my friends after I posted about it to Facebook. My personal favorite:

chestburster

Daddy Issues

BRACE

There likely comes a time in every father-to-be’s life when he has a few questions. These questions can be about pretty much anything. They ARE about anything. I won’t say they are random thoughts that pop into my brain because the same ones keep reappearing. I find time in my day to think about everything from my ability to be a father to the amount of poop I will get in my mouth in the first year of Zelda’s life (I guessed 20 ounces, or roughly the amount you can fill in a bottle of Diet Coke). Then there is the big issue of money and finances. Obviously, having a baby begins the slow drain on my already draining bank account (DC living, right?). But that’s okay. That was the choice that Angela and I made when we wanted to move away from Virginia Beach and as far away from the Douchebaggery of Norfolk (if you don’t know about it, imagine hipsters from Brooklyn with three times the complex and half the creativity and/or beard oil). We both have jobs now and are beginning to settle into our life up here in the area, except of course, with the added bonus of caring for a child in less than half a year. No pressure.

The thought honestly blows my mind, and I certainly don’t know where to begin with the many answers to my mounting questions. That being said, there are certain things that I have come to find that I certainly don’t want to hear. Facebook is the worst culprit for this, as it is a direct injection into the vein of unsolicited advice. It’s like water cooler talk with a group of guys who just want to talk about their tribal tattoos. Nobody wants to hear it but the people who are saying it. Now I cannot inject the right kinds of questions into the mouths of friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. What I can do, and do often, is filter them like spam email. I don’t want a miracle cure for my erectile dysfunction, nor do I want to hear about why we are already damaging Zelda’s life by living in this particular school district in Northern Virginia.

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I’m not trying to be mean here. This is real talk, and given the growing belly of Angela and my growing concern for my own ability as a father, it’s as real as it gets. I think this kind of stuff is why I wanted to start this blog in the first place – I want to keep it as real as possible and chronicle the experiences I am having, such as they are, while the real work is being done by my wife-turned aircraft carrier. I want to preface by saying that I appreciate all of the help and advice everyone has given Angela and I over the past few months. There are only so many ways I can present a shit-eating grin to someone before I begin to snap. There is a lot of stress floating around right now, and I have to try to remain as calm as possible for the safety and sanity of our growing family. So I write….and I keep it real.

The dialogue of any true unsolicited comment goes something like this:

Me: “So, Angela and I are having a baby.”

Person: “Oh, wow that is fantastic! Are you excited”

Me: “Yeah, it’s great, it’s all I have ever wanted.”

Clearly the conversation is going well here. Solid theme. I like the hypothesis. But we are slowly reaching the climax, and I know already that it’s about to come like a Coen brothers movie. Let’s keep the explosions going, right? The action is high and the tension is low. It’s a recipe for a perfect conversation, or a terrible Michael Bay movie.

Person: “So how is everything going with you two?”

Me: “It’s great! To be honest, I am a little stressed out about it. It’s a lot to think about – the finances, the food, etc. We are even trying to look for a home. I don’t know if it’s a good time for that because there is so much going on.”

As a response to this   It may sound like I am fishing for some sort of complement. In most cases, I might be. If I said I was stressed about work or an upcoming lecture I was about to give, I might need a little encouragement. A metaphorical pat on the back if you will. I don’t think that applies for baby advice. Either way, the person will give one of the following responses that I really do not want to hear.

1. “You’re Going to be Fine”

2. “Everything Will Work Out”

3. “Just Relax”

4. “You can do it”

This is always followed by:

“Just make sure that….”

“Just remember to….”

“So long as you…”

“Don’t forget…”

Here is where you insert your unsolicited advice. Topics so far range from the CORRECT choice of a baby’s name to the right kind of crib or the dangers or rocking your baby too hard. Oh, don’t forget that the stress environment of a father can seriously impact the health of a baby….what?

This conversation is ALWAYS bookended with:

“That’s what ( ) and I did…and it worked out great…just a thought.”

Fin.

Congratulations. You just gave me the verbal equivalent of a fish handshake.

It’s not JUST A THOUGHT. This is a command from the gods of parenthood. We can only strive to be Hercules when Zeus and Athena are in control. I’m not going to forget anything. Why? Because I am CONSTANTLY thinking about it, day and night. This only adds to my growing fear of not being a good father. Is this what all fathers-to-be think? Apparently, yes. Good.

These incomplete sentences mean about as much to me as the quotes with a minion poorly photoshopped on it that you reposted on Facebook from a random country station in the Midwest. Inspirational quotes are for people without inspiration. I am inspired…to be a good father. There isn’t a quote out there that says “You are going to be a terrible father.”

TERRIBLE FATHER

Okay. So I made one. It’s comforting.

What would I really want to hear as a response? Keeping with the Michael Baysian philosophy of conversation, it may go something like this:

“Yeah, I feel you on that. We were scared shitless when we had our first kid. It does get better though…and then it’s shitty for the first few months…like really shitty…and then it’s rad.”

We have some amazing friends back home who gave us that exact advice. They have an adorable little girl who is a perfect model for Zelda. I personally can’t wait for them to play together.

I want to hear that it is great and that it is terrible. Nothing great ever comes easy. And that’s why this is STILL the best time of my life, unsolicited advice or no unsolicited advice.

So, in summation, less Coen Brothers, more Michael Bay.

via showmetech
via showmetech

“Oh, You Have a Bun in the Oven!”: Excuse Me While I Bust Your Buns

This week, when mentioning I was pregnant, the response was, “Oh, you have a bun in the oven!” For some reason, the phrase really irked me. Like, got me angry. I’m rather emotional to begin with, and when you add in a generous helping of pregnancy hormones, well, suffice it to say really small things get to me. I wept this morning while listening to Peter Gabriel on the radio, for god’s sake. So maybe I was out of line in getting a teensy bit angry at being referred to as an oven.

bun1
Okay, okay. Maybe this pregnancy announcement is a little cute.

Of course, I studied English for 11 years. Language is important to me, as are the meanings derived from it. Consider one of my favorites, good ol’ Roland Barthes:

Language is never innocent; words have a second order memory which mysteriously persists in the midst of new meanings.”

A lot of people have accused me of “reading too much” into things. I have two responses to that: 1. It’s what I was trained to do, and 2. Heaven forbid I try to probe for the deeper meaning of the culture I encounter everyday. A cigar very well may be a cigar (or a pipe just a pipe), but inquiry is what makes us stand apart from mindless consumers, kids.

What follows is me reading too much into the “bun in the oven” comment.

I tried to track down the origin of this term as a way to determine if I was overreacting or not. Maybe the origin was perfectly innocent, some cute term that derived from some off-kilter experience. I don’t think I was quite prepared for what I found.

It turns out that “bun in the oven” has no clear origin. Gary Martin, a linguistics enthusiast, notes the particulars of the phrase–oven=womb, bun=baby–and that it appeared in the 1950’s, but offers no origin of the phrase other than it might be connected to a phrase I’d never heard before today: up the duff. Martin defines it as “commonly but not exclusively used to describe unplanned pregnancy.” He pinpoints the origin to the 1941 Dictionary of Australian Slang. However, the term has roots as far back as the 18th century, in the form of the word “pudding.” Apparently, pudding was another term for penis. The British slang in the pudding club is a related phrase to up the duff when describing pregnancy. Martin also comments that in the 1840s, dough was another word for pudding, and duff is alternative way to say dough. Martin doesn’t explicitly connect this phrase to bun in the oven, however. So I needed to do a bit more hunting.

BunOven
                      This Halloween Costume? Not so much.

Sadly, I couldn’t find much more information related to the phrase. I did stumble on one site that commented, “The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang claims the word ‘oven’ has been used to mean ‘vagina’ or ‘womb’ since the end of the 17th century, but didn’t elaborate. I can’t say I wasn’t shocked by this interpretation, as the word “vagina” has origins literally meaning “sheath” and has evolved to metaphors such as the cave or other similar vessels. Maybe, since the oven was a popular tool for cooking in the 1950’s and that’s where the term first showed up, there’s a connection there? Another source causally mentioned the definition of bun from the Old French buignete, meaning “a fritter,” originally “boil, swelling.” However, no examples or explicit connections were made.

A simple search also led to the somewhat horrifying alternative meaning: a reference to the Jewish in the Holocaust. That’s it, I was done.

I had no clear answers as to where the term came from, but maybe, I thought, I could see what other people thought of it. I came across a neat book entitled Analyzing 21st Century British English, with an essay by Jonathan Robinson, Jon Herring, and Holly Gilbert about language use in the UK. They offer an interesting tidbit:

Comments and discussion surrounding the elicitation of lexis provide a wealth of information about the participants’ use of, and attitudes towards, a small part of their active and passive vocabulary.

What was one of their studies? You guessed it: connotative meanings of phrases used to describe pregnancy. They point out the avoidance of the word in the past and how euphemisms were used as a form of social etiquette (i.e. “delicate condition”) in order to avoid embarrassment or offense. However, times change and euphemisms evolve. Robinson, Herring, and Gilbert tackle both up the duff and bun in the oven, noting that the reactions to up the duff were largely negative (words used include “rude,” “negative,” and “awful”) and reactions to bun in the oven were mixed (“awful,” “crude,” “light-hearted,”). I also did a quick peek on some forums and found a lot of “Lighten up!” comments, but did see a fair amount of “I hate that phrase” kind of comments, too. Like the authors point out, both terms have the potential for negative connotations for communicating ideas about pregnancy or the pregnant woman.

So, in conclusion, maybe I should lighten up. However, I really resent my ladybits being referred to as a major appliance. Also, what would be said if something went wrong with the pregnancy? My oven is defective? The bun didn’t bake long enough? That’s some smooth euphemism usage, right there. I stand by my feeling that using it is unimaginative and crude.

Maybe, if someone uses it my presence again, I can point out the alternative meaning I found and ask if it’s really an appropriate term to use.

 

Great Expectations at Tyson’s Corner

The calm before the storm.
The calm before the storm.

Angela’s parents came up from Virginia Beach to visit us this Labor Day weekend. It’s been a great couple of days filled with good food, good family, and a few very frustrating games of Monopoly (nobody landed on my properties…ever). On our adventure du jour today, we decided to trek to Tyson’s Corner Mall to do some shopping. For those of you that are uninformed, Tyson’s Corner Mall in McClean, Va., is the largest mall in the Washington Metro area. Some would say it is a “supermall,” but I generally attribute that phrase to something like the Mall of America or the King of Prussia Mall. Still, it’s big. There are several high end stores and shops we frequent, as well as a few other fun ones that cannot be overlooked (LEGO, Disney Store, etc.). I AM AN ADULT.

One of the main reasons why we came to mall (other than having a nice cool place to walk around on a hot day) was to get Angela some new maternity bras. She has been struggling with the wiring of her conventional bras lately because the “girls” are growing exponentially during her pregnancy. The feeling is like wire digging into skin. Ouch. I won’t say what her bra size is, but I can say that you can spell the word “cage” with all the cup sizes she can fill. Brutal.

After a bit of window shopping, we found the maternity section in Macy’s Department Store. After a few minutes of shopping, Angela had a number of bras and clothes to try on. That was my cue to experience the all too familiar feel of waiting for my significant other to try their clothes on.

I decided to plop down in a chair at the very edge of the dressing room and check some emails. About two minutes into my exploration of email checking, I hear a small, thin voice spoken directly in front of me.

“Excuse me…EXCUSE ME.”

HAVISHAMI first thought it wasn’t directed at me because a. This was the maternity section for women, and b. I was completely minding my own business. A few seconds later, the voice was on top of me. I look up to find a mousy woman staring sternly back at me. No, let me rephrase that. There were daggers. She smelled like years of regret and vaguely expensive perfume. Company discount, son. For the sake of this story, let’s just call her Miss Havisham.

“Excuse me, can you please sit somewhere else,” she said. Her tone was both firm and matter-of-fact. I guessed I was too close to the dressing room area. I thought that was a fair assessment, so I obliged. I knew I was in trouble when I told her I would get up and leave. Her eyes followed me the entire way up. She remained inches away from me, and then proceeded to position her back towards the dressing area as if to block my entrance. Ok. I bit.

I asked why I wasn’t allowed to sit in the seat at the edge of the dressing room. I thought the question was simple enough. Hell, wasn’t that seat specifically designed for dudes who are waiting for their lady to try clothes on? It’s like an unspoken rule, like numbers divided by zero being zero or knowing that guacamole is extra on a Chipotle burrito.   

“No,” she said, “we have gotten a complaint from one of the customers of your presence.”

oh. OH. OHHH? I had been sitting there quietly for an entire two minutes. Within that time, I managed to generate a complaint. I didn’t think I was doing anything in particular that screamed “creeper,” but apparently I was wrong. I left the area without saying a word. If there was a way some one could push you away with their eyes, this woman had it down to a science. Miss Havisham was not messing around.

Whatever. Water under the bridge, right? I could stand and wait for Angela outside of the dressing room near the edge of the section without a seat.

WRONG.

About five minutes after my first complaint, Miss Havisham came up to me again. She looked all too pleased with what she was about to say.

As it was, I apparently made the mistake of standing up next to a mirror (at the very edge of the maternity section). According to Miss Havisham, this was TOO FAR. I crossed a line and should now register as a sex offender in the department store registry. How will I shop for clothes now? I hope that registry doesn’t extend to Kohl’s, because I have about 25 bucks of Kohl’s Cash burning a hole in my pocket.

“Excuse me, I am going to need you to move again, Sir.”

“Why do I need to move?” I said in a matter of fact tone. I started to get pissed. My voice was elevated. “I already moved away from the first place and am standing here minding my business.” The tone was not quite “let me speak to your manager,” but way more than “As you wish.”

“We have gotten another complaint from a customer. You are making some of them uncomfortable,” she said.

WHAT? More than one? What the hell was I doing? Not only did I offend somebody when I sat down at the edge of the dressing room, I was so much a brooding and disgusting figure that I managed to get kicked out of the entire maternity section. I have zero Dad street cred at Macy’s. What kind of Dickensian hell did I get myself into? I was waiting for a couple of kids covered in soot with consumption to pop out of the kitchenwares section any second. That would really tie the entire Miss Havisham motif together. I came to the maternity section with no great expectations, and now found myself as public enemy number one.

“Ok,” I said, “where do I need to stand.”

She looked at me and told me to stand “away.”

I muttered something underneath my breath, which I believe she heard. I won’t repeat what I said, but I think you can probably guess it correctly. I walked away from the entire area, and stood on the corner of the nearby petite section, as if that was any better for a thirty-something male standing alone.

My exile from the maternity section, with Miss Havisham getting ready to patrol the perimeter.
My exile from the maternity section, with Miss Havisham getting ready to patrol the perimeter.

I could not win. I was on a deserted Island of my own doing. I started to think: was I making the customers uncomfortable, or was I making her uncomfortable? What the hell did Miss Havisham have against me, anyway? Surely, there have been guys who did the exact same thing I was doing. What made me so special? Is it because I am half Asian? That’s totally it. Racist. So Solly.

I spent the next ten minutes in exile waiting for Angela and her mother to finish trying on/buying her items. Miss Havisham did not miss a beat. Until the minute we left Macy’s fifteen minutes later, she periodically patrolled the maternity section to make sure I would not approach. She kept putting items back onto the floor and staring me down. It was certainly intense. At that moment, I was Pip. What could I do to win Miss Havisham’s favor? I left my exile still asking that question. We may never know. Out of the blue and into the black.

These are the things that I endure so my wife can have a nice cushion for her dirty pillows while she carries our child. If that’s the price I have to pay for that to happen, I guess I need to make sure to stay in the mattress section when she goes shopping. Hey, at least it makes for an interesting story.

Zelda’s Heart Container: The Second Ultrasound

I’ve been dreading today. I’ve been a ball of anxiety all week, all because today was my big ultrasound. The “high-risk” ultrasound, which involved going to a specialist ultrasound clinic for some testing. I was worried, of course, about what the doctors would find. Funny enough, Matt never really talked about what was coming up, either. Both of us just kind of silently chose to not say anything and let the day come as it would.

wonkameme

Before I go on, I know. I know I have nothing to worry about and everything is going to be fine. I know I need to relax and stop thinking about everything that could go wrong. And trust me, I try. I try really damn hard. But my head goes on its own tangents, and sometimes its really hard to reel in. I’m the kind of girl that worries about the kind of things I may or may not have control over. I was terrified of failing tests and exams, even though I knew I’d studied hard. Last time I flew, I knew the plane wasn’t going to crash, but I still needed medication before I boarded. So yeah, I’m going to worry about whether my baby is healthy or not.

I was relieved to find out there was no poking, probing, or prodding for this ultrasound. The last one, important as it was, wasn’t exactly pleasant. So the nurse smeared the jelly on my stomach and got to work. My first thought was, “Damn that baby has grown!” I was told she was only half a pound (one cup, Matt joked), but the picture on the screen made her look huge, especially in proportion to the first ultrasound photo.

The nurse gave us a virtual tour of my uterus, pointing out the baby’s head, body, arms, legs, feet, brain, heart, and spine. So far, she said, everything looks great. The heart (or as I called it, the heart container) was beating away. I could even see her moving, which was just a little weird. I can’t feel her yet, but she looked like she was doing a fair amount of gymnastics in there. The nurse told us her mouth was opening and closing a lot, and I joked about her having a big mouth already, like me.

body
                                   Happy to oblige, Mr. Wonka.
The biggest deal, to me, was whether or not her face had formed correctly. The doctor had told us there was a higher risk of her having a cleft lip, since I was born with one. The chances, in the grand scheme of things, were minimal, only about 10%, but I still worried. When the nurse told me her upper lip was perfectly formed, I almost burst into tears. So much relief.

Ultrasounds don’t do much for me. Usually I would react to an ultrasound I encountered on social media with a passing, “Oh, ok.” I know now that’s because the photos don’t do the experience any kind of justice. You can look at the picture of the baby on this post, and it’s pretty objective. But my experience? Totally subjective, and I don’t think I could even really try to explain the sublime joy that comes with knowing–and seeing–that my baby is alive and healthy.

Ok ok, for today, you can say I told you so.