Monday, October 15, 2012


You, too, can make a Mexican Red Knee Tarantula for your 2nd grader, the night before it's due. All you need is a text from your friend at around 7pm, casually mentioning the spider project due in the morning that you know nothing about, some pipe cleaners, and a small stuffed monkey. 

My kids. They are in full form this year. It's impressive, the number of projects and reports and time-consuming assignments they save for the wee hours of the night before it's due. My favorites have been: reading an entire Shakespearian play and writing a 6 page report on it, and starting to memorize the Gettysburg Address, 30 mins before bed.  (HIM: "Four score and seven years ago..."  ME: "Can't you work on that later, it's bed time, you gotta get up at 4:45am."  HIM: "Can't. It's due tomorrow. Gotta know it all by memory. Four score and seven years ago..."  ME: "AND YOU'RE JUST NOW STARTING IT!!!"  HIM: "Yes. Four score and seven years ago...")

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cord's latest performance

I got an email from Cord the other day directing me to this link:
Check out my latest performance:

I listened to the whole thing feeling almost mesmerized, slightly horrified.  At the very end, there is a particular abrupt note that forces a burst of laughter from me every time.  (Yes, I've listened to it multiple times.)

I gotta get ready for Homer's open house now, otherwise I would go off on my rant about jazz pants and theater teachers forcing boys to wear them.  I'll save it for tomorrow.  I think I'll title it "All That Jazz!"  Clever, no?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm getting smarter...

Me vs. the shoe closet...




Notice that tiny door in the back?  It leads to a world of pure imagination!  We knocked out the wall, cut a normal-sized door in half, and wa-la!  A cupboard under the stairs.  We finished it off with carpet and stapled up some white cardboard walls and added lights.  It's like a really nice homeless shelter in there.  Perfect for a boy-wizard.    

The shoes look kind of stupid, I know, especially those ones piled on that top shelf, but oh well.  I might get some totes or something to put them in so it looks better, or I might just leave it and continue to apologize for it.  (Probably the second option.)  I built that shelving beside the tiny door myself.  I apologize for that as well.  But the closet is too narrow to build a shoe rack on either side, so we had to make that space work as shoe storage.  

A metal rod used to stretch across the space under that upper shelf.  Our coats and some hanging shoe racks blocked access to the back of the closet, where there was some extra storage space.  Not that we needed to get back there often--it was basically a place to throw random crap.  But we took down the rod to give us access to the back of the closet, and added coat hooks to the left wall instead.  On the right wall are three backpack hooks and a dry-erase board.  And of course we painted (it was dirty white before).

The point is, I have a cupboard under my stairs. (!!!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brace yourselves...

Cord started high school this week. Freaky, yeah? His voice is an octave-and-a-half lower and beneath his armpits are sprigs of hair. I hear this is normal.  (I forgot to take his picture on the first day, but in my defense, it was 5am, practically the day before still.)  

He's not going to the nearby high school, but a far away performing arts one, instead.  It’s located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, on the corner of Bitter and Sweet--just past that giant waving cowboy you’ve seen in movies, and three homeless dudes.  Besides the core subjects, they will also teach him such skills as “movements across a stage” and “juggling,” which is a weight off my shoulders. I have neither the time nor the patience to teach Cord how to juggle. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Umhum. The kid is as clumsy as they come. I need to bake his juggling teacher some cinnamon rolls. 

Gus started middle school today, or as I like to call it, Pleasure Island. The children smoke and swear and play pool and sing “hi diddle dee dee” all day long. But at least Gus has a good schedule with good teachers. 

(this is Gus "smiling excitedly," trust me)

Beyond his core subjects and the serious life lessons he'll learn (like how to say “no” to gateway drugs), he will also take guitar this year.  (That's his elective.)  His cheeks are still as squishy as a memory foam pillow and his hair is still as silky and soft as a baby chinchilla.  (Phew!)  

Homer, the ittle baby, is starting second grade. (That's three separate schools, if you've lost count.)  He still can’t say his “Ss” or “glitter glue.” (ga-litter ga-lue.)  His teacher is Mrs. Glisson. (Mrs. Ga-listhon.)
(those are shorts, not capris, trust me he's just ridin' low) 

We read all summer long and worked hard on math skills so he would have a jump start for second grade... is what we MEANT to do.  Instead, we ruined him this summer, letting him play too many video games.  Minecraft is the bane of my existence.  Now I'm putting all my hopes and dreams in Mrs. Ga-listhon.

As for me, I've decided to spend more time in my car this year, to just practice my driving techniques, becoming more skilled at merging into high traffic areas, waiting in long pick-up lines... break, gas, break, gas... things like that.  It will cost us around $16-$18 a day in petrol (almost 5 gallons), but I figure it's worth it.  Why shouldn't I indulge a little?  Sheesh!  Don't judge me on my first day back at blogging!     

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

How to spend too much money taking your family to Disney World without regretting that you haven't any money left to jet off to Paris*

*not saying we accomplished this, just gonna tell you how we might have succeeded had we done a few things differently

First, how we spent our money:

1) Round trip airlines tickets: $158 x 5 = $790 + various unreasonable fees = $930

2) Six nights at a Disney hotel: $444

3) Five, 5-day park hopper tickets to Disney World: $1589

4) Five, 2-day park hopper tickets to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure (where Hogwarts is!): $806

5) Four separate Cab fares to and from Disney and Universal: $150

6) Seven days worth of food for a family of five: $760

7) Souvenir money: N/A

8) TOTAL: $4,679 (or $935 per person, if you wanted to put that in perspective for your family)

We try to take at least one big family vacation a year to some place new. These trips cost us anywhere from $2,500-$4,000, the cheapest (and bestest!) being Washington DC. (I highly recommend pricing out DC for your family. Wait for a good deal on flights and hotel, and then enjoy lots of free entertainment. God bless America!)

Last year we decided 'twas time to travel to Disney World. But it is crazy expensive. We priced it at around $9,000 for our family of five. We could go to some place super exotic, like Burbank Alaska, for that price! So we decided to skip our "big trip to some place new!" in 2011 (although we did take driving trips to visit family and friends), save up our money, and wait for good deals to D-World in 2012. We ended up getting some good deals, making some good spending choices, and making some not-so-good spending choices.

So, analyzing the costs...

1) Airfare. This was our crowning achievement. That fare is freakishly low. It's lower than a double-jointed roller skater in a limbo contest. Trust me. I've regularly checked airfare from LV to Orlando for the last 3 years and that's the lowest I've ever seen it. Plus, Southwest, so no charge for baggage.

In booking this cheap flight, we had to take our kids out of school (which stresses me out, so I rarely-if-ever do this) and we accidentally picked "testing week" to leave town so Cord had to schedule make-up tests (ulcer inducing). But it meant we were also vacationing during Off Season, which was a plus for many obvious reasons that I will state anyway in great detail throughout this post to make myself feel better about the irresponsible parent stuff.

2) Hotel. We stayed at the infamous Disney's All Star Music Resort. This was our first mistake. The price was right (greatly reduced from the normal outlandish price, due to us traveling [brilliantly] during Off Season), but it wasn't worth the savings for the two following reasons.

First, to get that price, we booked a hotel room for 4 people (max) and we had 5 people.

We are horrible, horrible people who laugh in the face of fire codes and cheat hotel moguls out of extra-person fees. We always pull this trick. Sneak lil' Homey in. It's no big deal cuz we always do it and it's no big deal, right? Wrong. At Disney World, where every man, woman, and child are accounted for and billed accordingly, it is a big deal. You see, each person in your room gets his/her own "Key to the World" room key, which is Disney's way of making sure they charge 6-year-olds for sleeping on the floor. No one gets a free place to stay. You use your "Key to the World" key, along with your admission ticket, to get into the Disney parks significantly early/stay late, which is also the only reason you stay at a Disney hotel rather than book a cheaper/nicer hotel on Priceline.

We quickly realized our error while sitting on our double-sized beds with our legs crossed (so as not to take up all the floor space), reading the pamphlet they gave us. Our lil' stow-a-way did NOT get a "Key to the World" key, although he would always have the key to our hearts, even though we don't like paying extra for him. After a brief argument where Tony and I blamed each other for everything from the price of gas to global warming, we swallowed our pride and made an embarrassing phone call to the hotel concierge, admitting what we had done in an "aw shucks, we're jus' simple country folks, we mean no harm" kind-of way. They let us sweat it out for a good 30 minutes and bite our fingernails to the nubs, but they eventually agreed to let us stay in our $444, cramped, poorly decorated room-for-four (did I mention the double beds?), and gave Homey his own different-looking* "Key to the World."

*a constant reminder that we were cheating the Disney corporation.

Reason number two this hotel was a mistake, is that the hotel had a bad ambiance. That sounds stupid when I type it out. Anyway, it's hard for me to explain why the ambiance was bad, although the ghastly photos hint at the problem. I will say that our tiny room was clean, the hotel grounds were well-kept, and the staff was friendly. I just didn't want to be there, the same way I don't want to be at Chuck E Cheese's. And we were forking out so much for this trip... and staying at a no-good hotel??

I'm all about good deals, but I also think a bad hotel can make or break your vacation. Do I look forward to crashing at our hotel at the end of the night, or do I dread it? Does the location add an extra hour of travel time to our already long days? On this issue, Tony and I somewhat disagree. He's more interested in saving a buck, and only back-peddles after we check into the Happiness Hotel (<--thanks for the reference, HotPants) with the rest of the middle-class poor.

But especially when you're visiting the Magical Kingdom every day, where you “leave today and enter a world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy” (or some such quote as that), going back to your lame hotel every night is a mood-killer. At the All Star Resort, you leave the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy and enter a tacky baby shower where the expectant mother has decided to let the sex of her baby remain a surprise.*

The expectant mother is also fan of cartoonishly large, pastel rock instruments.

Anyway, just so it's clear, we regretted our choice in hotels. Depressing ambiance, uncomfortable, and it was too far away. Now, enough about hotels! Sheesh!

*I've given birth 3 times, and every time we decided to be surprised and find out the sex of the baby from our ultra-sound technician. Huge surprise! As a bonus, I would receive a second surprise on the day of delivery in the form of a hasty episiotomy. Double surprises!

3) Disney World Park Hopper Tickets. (Note that these tickets cost us more than our flights and hotel combined.) We made some mistakes with this purchase as well. Mainly, we shouldn't have spent money on the park hopper option, which allows you to "hop" from park to park throughout the same day, rather than stick to one park per day. This may work when hopping between Disneyland and California Adventure, but this is not a practical option when it comes to Disney World.

Don't be tempted by the different opening and closing times of each park. Just save your money and stay put. The parks are farther apart than it looks on a map. It takes about 15-20 minutes to travel to and from the different parks, not including the time it takes you to make your way to the exit, walk to the bus zone, and wait in line for a bus to come pick you up. You could easily waste a good hour "hopping" to another park, and torture your feet in the process, with all that extra walking. Or you could stay put, dust off one the seats in the Hall of Presidents and take a cat nap. If you aren't tired (You are, though! Think of your feet! Your poor, aching feet!), there's still Tom Sawyer's Island or a leisurely stroll through Liberty Square.

Adding the park hopper option to our tickets cost us an extra $335. We used it one time. One. Time. Not worth it.

4) Universal Studios Park Hopper Tickets. (Note that you can almost fly 5 people across the country for this price.) The only reason we (or anybody else) wasted time/money going to Universal when there was a Disney park in the vicinity was because we are Harry Potter nerds and we were dying to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (<--!) and choose our wands. It did not disappoint. It was the highlight of our trip. But more on that later.

Universal has two parks. Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure. What I would have done differently here is only buy 1 day tickets (without the "hopper" option) to Islands of Adventure (where Harry Potter is located). Doing this would have saved us $356, plus $75 in cab fees, for a total of $431. So, that was spending mistake #3.

5) Cab fares. I already addressed this, but if we had only gone to Universal one day instead of two we would have saved $75 in cab fares. Also, I should say that the Disney hotels include transportation to and from the airport, which probably saves you at least $100 in cab fare. Something to ponder while perusing Priceline.

6) Food. I have to pat myself on the back for coming in way under budget here. You should always over-budget for food (we budgeted a whopping $1,000 this time, since there were theme parks involved) and then pat yourself on the back for coming in way under.

Generally speaking, we are cheap eaters. I actually hate spending money on food and would take a food pill instead if they were invented yet. But we could have done even better on our food budget if there had been a nearby grocery store. There wasn't. We had no options besides park food, unless we wanted to pay a cab to take us somewhere. I wish we would have thrown a few boxes of Poptarts in our suitcase. And some juice boxes, too.

A tasty yet reasonably priced place to eat in Downtown Disney that we highly recommend is the Earl of Sandwich. Best toasted caprese I've ever had. We went back three times.

7) Souvenir money. Here, I am sort of cheating. We do not normally purchase souvenirs, beyond buying a patch for our sweet travel quilt.* But this time, I saved some of my guitar lesson cash, along with the Christmas money our kids got from grandparents, and gave everyone $20 per (full) day to spend on snacks, souvenirs, tattoos, piercings, etc. I am not adding this money into our vacation expense because most of it was gift money, it was an optional expense, and I dunno I am just not counting it. None of it came out of Tony’s paycheck.

I got this idea from family vacations I had taken as a kid. My mom would sometimes budget in $10 or $20 per day for each of us kids to buy our own snacks, lunch, entertainment, souvenirs, tattoos, etc. To this day, those trips are the richest I have ever felt in my life. Simon would call it all a bunch of indulgent nonsense, and I’d agree and add that that is exactly what made the whole thing so awesome. Our kids learned a lot about money, the price of things, and planning and saving up to get what they wanted. But mostly, we all just strutted around like we were filthy stinkin' rich.

*We have a quilt covered in patches of all the exotic places we've been, like the Philadelphia Mint and the Denver Mint and the Nintendo store in NYC (<--my personal favorite). Trust me. This travel quilt/patch thing... it's less nerdier than it sounds. The idea is, instead of wasting money on a silly key chain or an etched piece of glass or a replica canon from Gettysburg that was made in China… we’ll only waste money on a patch.

8) Total money spent. Traveling during off Season made a huge difference. We saved about 50%. Though it could have been a lot worse, this trip was still expensive. We could have saved ourselves $766 in smarter ticket choices but I just would have put that money toward staying at a better hotel.

In case you're a little appalled by how much we spend on family vacations, I just want to clarify that we've chosen to spend our money on experiences rather than more things. We don't completely deprive ourselves, but we definitely choose to go without new stuff and things like lawn maintenance in favor of creating new experiences.

I had this epiphany about family vacations when Cord and Gus were little. I realized all of my own strong childhood memories are centered around family vacations (and doing lots of chores). But a few years ago, I heard about this study that backed up what I was feeling. Basically, it says that money can't buy you happiness, but how you spend money can. The study said that buying stuff can make you happy for as little as a few minutes, to a few hours, or up to a whole month if the thing is super awesome like a sweet new car*, but spending your money on new experiences creates feelings of happiness that last forever and compound annually like interest or something like that.

It's true, cuz I never sit on the couch we bought in 2003 and feel genuine happiness about the purchase, even though we like it and we use it a lot. But I do sometimes sit on that couch, snuggled under our not-nerdy travel quilt, and laugh when I remember the time we were at this random Olive Garden in Delaware in the middle of the night and we suddenly panicked, realizing we had to be to the Philadelphia airport in a few hours.

*I don't think this includes Apple products, because I still feel happy about my iPhone.

I'll post pictures of Hogwarts later. And our wands that we chose chose us!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

staggering genius

Homer is at the age when the things he says can either sound profoundly brilliant or completely ridiculous.

At dinner the other night, he turned to me and said, "Did you know friends are more valuable than gold?" If I said something like that I'd sound like a doof, but coming from a measly 1st grader? Pretty darn profound.

But then, we were watching TV one night and a Halloween commercial came on with Michael Jackson's Thriller playing in the background, and Homer looked at me and said, "Did you know Michael Jackson died from singing that song?" I said, "You can't die from singing a song, Homer." And he said, "You can't die from singing a song?" in this super incredulous tone of voice. I answered with an emphatic, "No," and then added, "Duh," for good measure.

But then I watched the X-Factor and there were some terrible singers on that stage and I wondered... what if you could die from singing a song? Surely, all those singers would be dead. Their audience, too. And maybe, just maybe, this a good idea for a Young Adult dystopian novel. Entitled Swan Song. It sort of sounds familiar so maybe it's already been done.

Speaking of, what do you think of the X-Factor? Is it not exactly like American Idol, but for a few rule changes? The judges are the same, the editing is the same, the theme music is similar. So far, the most significant change is that the judges are now drinking Pepsi instead of Coke. How weird is that?! Who does that? To switch soda preference at their advanced ages... I'm telling you, that is unheard of!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Punching Handballs

Cord hurt his arm/wrist last Thursday in PE. He punched a handball that was flying straight at him "full force!" he said. When I picked him up from the nurse’s office, his eyes were red and he was wiping his cheeks every so often, but that was it. He thought he had sprained his wrist because he couldn't move it. So I got him an ace bandage with a splint. But his "sprained wrist" wasn't getting better; he was waking up in the middle of the night asking for pain medicine. So on Sunday (3 days later), we took him to an Urgent Care to have it X-rayed. Turns out, his arm is broken.

Cord was thrilled (as you can see). He didn't even try to hide it. When the doctor said it was a broken arm, Cord started pumping his fist and saying "YES!! YES!!"

I took him to an orthopedic physician today to get his permanent cast. Turns out, he has two broken bones. The radius is broken straight across, and one of his wrist bones is broken. He chose a green cast so it would clash with his school's dress code. I really liked the doctor. He asked if I was Cord’s sister. I played it cool, but inside I was pumping my fists and saying, "YES! YES!"

But here's the really cool thing. I sent him to school yesterday in the temporary cast (the tan/white one) and I didn’t bother to send a note or anything because I figured it's pretty obvious… he has a broken arm. Well, his PE coach called me that afternoon. He was in disbelief and wanted to confirm that Cord had in fact broken his arm. The coach was like, “I looked at his arm after it happened, but I didn’t really say anything or think much of it, because it looked fine.”

And Cord had shown up to PE the next day with his wrist wrapped in that ace bandage. His coach probably looked at that ace bandage the same way I look at ace bandages: with a heavy dose of skepticism.

The reason the conversation was cool is because while I was on the phone with the PE coach, his opinion of Cord changed. I could hear it in his voice. He went from thinking Cord was this wimpy kid who wore a stupid ace bandage to get out of PE, to thinking Cord is a pretty decent kid. He kept saying, “Wow. I can’t believe it. Don’t worry about his grade, he can help me with some stuff. Wow. His arm was broken that whole time?” And Cord said that while I was on the phone with the coach, Cord had changed into his PE clothes and started running laps, and when his coach saw, he waved him down and made him stop, and Cord was pretty annoyed because what does running have to do with his arm? Because what the coach didn't realize is Cord likes PE. He doesn’t want to fake an injury and sit on the bench.

Isn't it awesome when you find out someone isn't what they seemed to be? It's it awesome when it's your kid, and your kid's PE coach is the one finding out, and you get to hear his voice change over the phone?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This seems obvious to me

This is the current proposed plan for development of the empty lots surrounding my community (the schools are already there):

Here is my plan:

I just need to find a fax number, then I'm submitting it. Wish me luck (like I need it)!

ALL the kids in school, ALL day

8th grader:

1st grader and 5th grader:

1st day of the rest of my life*:

[Insert picture of me relaxing on my hammock-tramp]

You might notice Cord looks a tad taller and stands slightly awkwarder these days. He has grown roughly 7 inches since last I blogged. His feet have grown 4 sizes, and his voice is that of a man, speaking in a strange falsetto. Ah, puberty!

*I know I said last year was the first day of the rest of my life, but I was wrong. That was actually the first day of my job as a chauffeur and chaperon of endless after-kindergarten play-dates.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Madonna and I have much in common

Hydrangeas? Might as well give me a bouquet of poop! *eyes*

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Turns out, we don't need a new trampoline

Lots of stretchy places to sit:

A taut surface upon which to jump:

And then more relaxing when jumping becomes tiresome:

Hammock-like relaxation:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Back to the Start

This makes me wanna eat more bacon. But that's not the point. The point is, I'm back. And also, I'm downloading The Scientist by Willie Nelson and going to Chipotle for lunch. See ya!

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Honor of Fried Egg

Rebecca Black's single, Friday (pronounced Fried-egg), is number 23 on iTunes, and still climbing the charts. Srsly, I checked it last night and it was like number 82 or something. Smash hit!

Also, I'm sure you've heard the news about Jennifer Lawrence landing the roll of Katniss in the upcoming The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins) movie--very pleased with that decision, btw--but I read something in this article regarding the casting that confused me:

"[When] asked about Lawrence playing the dark-haired, biracial Katniss, Ross replied: "Suzanne had no issues with Jen playing the role. And she thought there was a tremendous amount of flexibility."

A) What... I had no idea Katniss was biracial and I've read THG at least a ha'-dozen times.
B) Not that there's a problem with that, I just didn't see race specifically mentioned in the book. Unless "Seam" is a race.
C) Did you picture her biracial?
D) Charight.
E) OK, what two races is she?
F) Fine, then why isn't Prim biracial?
G) Yeah, that's what I thought.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Your Attention, Please

HOMER: He is 5 and a half and his favorite movie right now is Matilda.

(Just wanted to write that down somewhere permanent in case I forgot)

He watches it several times a day, and he likes these two songs from the movie in this order:

GUS: Have I ever mentioned that Gus sleepwalks? He's been doing it a lot lately, maybe five times a week, but it comes and goes in waves. Usually he'll come to our room and we'll just tell him to go back to bed and he'll turn around and walk out. But if we ask him questions, he gets very confused, sometimes frustrated, and sometimes he'll say a string of nonsensical words. Creepsville. One way we can tell he's asleep and not just waking up and getting out of bed (because he does both), is by his eyes. They will look almost glassed over, and his pupils will be dilated.

Anyway, I've been meaning to get a good video of him talking in his sleep, because he doesn't remember doing it, and I want to show him/you. He came down the other night when we were watching TV, and I remembered to record him, but before I could get anything good, Tony comes along, being all "responsible parent" and ruins it all.

CORD: Casting was just completed for the spring play at Cord's middle school. They are doing a spoof of Peter Pan, called CSI Neverland. Cord was cast as the "Captain Hook" character. I'm glad his drama teacher was able to look beyond his physical stature.

MEMZY: She pointed this out to me last week while watching AI:

I don't overstand why she wasn't at least in the bottom 3.


Scared babies trapped in their exersausers with nowhere to run are the cutest:

You're not supposed to laugh at this, but it's OK if you do (PS. I love these parents):

Online speed dating. She probably went through a lot of jerks to get to him:

And in case you haven't met the brilliant lyricist, Rebecca Black, yet:

DISNEY: They're making another movie based on one of their most popular (?) rides. Yes, I'm talking about the Jungle Cruise. I hope the movie uses those anamitronic rhinos. They're my favorite. And the backside of water.

HOTPANTS: She texted me this last night, after looking up directions to Japan from her house on her iPhone. Apparently, she'll need a kayak.

EEK: She texted me some pictures of my new niece, Tuesday (aka Tootie). That name is tdf, yeah? I LOVE it!

Yes, it's dark and sideways and a little blurry, but her cutest shines through.

That's all I gots.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New and Exotic Places

Have you ever been disappointed with your pictures after a trip because you didn't think you got any really good shots, so you don't do anything with them, just leave them in a computer file and forget about them, but then almost a year later, you open the file and look through the pictures and you're flooded with happy memories, and you realize that maybe you did get some good pictures? That happens to me all the time. I guess I need to distance myself from the moment to really appreciate it sometimes.

It's usually around this time of year (Jan-March) that I'm scouring the www, looking for sweet travel deals, planning our next family vacation. It can get really time-consuming. I sometimes spend entire days going through options, and end up with nothing planned, nothing to show for all that time I've put in. But I get this craving to go someplace new, and I can't stop thinking about it until I find it. Tony wants to take an epic road trip across the country, visit 17 or 20 states. He's always mapping out different routes, and they sound fun when he's showing me all the places we'll see, but then I take a closer look at his humanly-impossible timeline and start searching for cheap flights again.

We have made some plans to visit family and travel with friends this year, but it's yet to be seen if our family will visit a place as new and exotic as the place we went last year:

We paid a homeless man $2 to take that picture^.

The thing we discovered about Philly is there is no short supply of homeless people to take your picture/ask for money/make you feel bad about vacationing/make you stop having fun and consider the world's most serious social issues/worry about your kids' safety.

However, I must say, there is something very special about Independence Hall.

Independence Hall is worth walking past fifty homeless men to see, practically.

The boys waiting to go inside:

I suppose Gus needed a haircut before we left for this trip. Most pictures, you can only see one of his eyes, whilst the other is shrouded behind a fine veil of blond hair. (His hair is really soft, like that of a new born babe. If you ever get the opportunity, you should feel it.)

(No flash allowed inside)

Where the Declaration of Independence was singed:

Liberty Bell, which is displayed in a nearby renovated museum of its own:

Also in this historic area is the National Constitution Center, a very modern, interactive museum that is well worth a visit.

The view from inside, looking towards Independence Hall:

Tony was feeling pretty patriotic right about then, so he had the kids do another pose under the flag.

After that, we hung our heads before Ben Franklin's grave, to pay respect.


Some of these gravestones were as thin as paper (<--slight exaggeration, but you get what I mean)

It was a pretty little graveyard (Christ Church Burial Ground). Very small.

Then we headed over to Besty Ross's house.

Very old, very cramped, no place to spread out yards and yards of fabric to make a secret flag.

One of our favorite things in Philly was Elfreth's Alley:

It's the nations oldest continually inhabited street.

I wish I had a picture that really captured the street. Tall skinny houses lined both sides of the narrow one-lane cobblestone street. It looked more like an alley, but not a dark scary alley that you could get mugged on. A cute alley with old unique houses. The utility van you see in the background clogged the whole street.

Waiting to tour one of the houses:

I like the old metal boot scraper in front of this house. This house was built before the cobblestones were laid, back when the street was paved with mud.

The metal plaque on the wall outside this house below represents the fire insurance the homeowner purchased. Fire wasn't a public service back then, so if your house caught on fire and you hadn't purchased a fire service plan, you'd be on your own as to how to put it out. Although, I'm sure the neighbors would pitch in, or else their house would be next.

These houses are all occupied, except one house that serves as a gift shop, and another house that is open for historic tours. Tony and I sat outside the gift shop, speculating on the kind of people who would live in these houses. We were guessing old University professors, rich empty-nesters, archeologists, Russian spies, when suddenly a mini van rolled down the street and stopped right in front of this house with the black door. The van doors slid open and this spectacle of a family got out. The mom was loaded down shopping bags from places like Old Navy and Famous Footwear and was yelling at her kids to pick up their backpacks, and the brother and sister (who looked like they had consumed a lot of fast food in their short lifetimes) were fighting and pushing each other and kicking their backpacks up to the front door of this historic house dating back hundreds of years. Interesting juxtaposition, yeah?

After that, we toured the US Mint, cuz Tony made us.

Then we headed over to Franklin Court to see Ben Franklin's house, and found this travesty:

Yes, his relatives tore down his house to make way for more important things, something I plan to do to my own relatives' houses after they die, cuz it's such a good idea. Anyway, that structure is the same size as his house, and a floor plan is painted on the floor. Dream big, Historic Tourism Department of Philadelphia!

Also in Franklin Court is the Ben Franklin Underground Museum. We were amused by the displays, dating back to 1981. I suspect Mr. Franklin... inventor, publisher, statesman, scientist... would not have been amused. My favorite part was the huge room filled with rows of closed-circuit beige phones that were all broken. But in this museum's heyday (circa 1980), I'm sure those phones did some cutting-edge stuff.

Also, the US Post Office Museum.

It was more like a small, dark, dusty room of stamps.

After that we walked to Franklin Square, a grassy old park in the middle of downtown Philly with a brand new miniature golf course, carousel, and playground.

Miniature Elfreth's Alley:

Feeling the brotherly love...

The agony of losing:

Gus's arm...?

Then we walked back to our hotel...

And that's what happened on our first day in Philadelphia.

One day down, twenty days to go!