Friday Dilemma

There was no school today (Professional Day for Teachers, or some such reason) and this morning a bunch of us (mothers and children) hit Coral World, which is sort of like an indoor/outdoor aquarium. It was great fun, but hot and exhausting running after BB who is a whirling dervish and a possible future Olympic sprinter. At one point today he was in a little ‘cul de sac’ type area by the sea turtles, with high walls, other children, and another mother. I was standing at the ‘open’ end while I looked down for maybe 10 seconds to read a text message. I look up, and he is on the other side of the TWO ropes, about to descend the steep uneven stone steps into the turtle pool. Or at least he looked like he was contemplating it (feet or head first, I don’t know which). I can sprint pretty fast too, by the way.

BB sprinting to the Undersea Observatory Dome at Coral World.

BB with fish.

On our way out of Coral World, where the access road meets the main road, there are stalls and vendors and pick-up trucks parked backwards, selling everything from fruit and vegetables, to fish and coconuts. I was incredibly thirsty, actually on the correct side of the road for easy drive-up access, and I couldn’t help myself. I pulled over, punched on my hazards, said ‘Good Morning, how are you?’ and ordered ‘a coconut with a straw, please.’ That was the actual order for my first ‘drive-up’ experience on the island. He introduced himself (goes by the name of ‘Coconut’ evidently, which begs the question: nature, nurture, or nickname?), machete-d the big green coconut open, and handed me a straw in paper wrapping. I gave him 3 dollars, shook hands, Coconut thanked me for me for ‘drinking something fresh and unprocessed’ and I was on the road again in less than 3 minutes. It was very good (and healthy!).

Coconut in hand, getting heavy. Probably not legal either.

Perched on dash at home (but thrown away two minutes later - I bet ants LOVE coconuts).

Which brings me to my dilemma. Where on earth do you put an open coconut while driving a car? It certainly didn’t fit into the drink holder and it was incredibly heavy. I eventually put it between my legs (after I couldn’t hold it anymore) and shared the rest with the babies at home.  Happy Friday.

(And Part Two of the Chartered Day Out will come very soon!).

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A Chartered Day Out With Children, Part 1

Captain Ocean Peterson picked the six of us up (Husband, Babies, visiting Mother and Sister, and me) at the dock at 8:30am in the chartered motorboat; he was taking us out for a day tour around the neighboring British Virgin Islands (BVI). We had been out on a boat several times before with the babies, so I managed not to pack eight billion bags of ‘just-in-case’ stuff for them this time. One still needs diapers, wipes, snacks, sippy-cups, life vests, dry clothes, sunscreen and towels with two little ones, just not several bags of each. Of course I am sure we could have managed without half that, but in my experience, the minute you don’t have something, you need it (the chances that someone will have diapers in your child’s size – or at all, for that matter – at a restaurant reachable only by boat are pretty slim). And, I am almost ashamed to admit that we try never to leave home without our iPad when there is a meal involved. Almost.

Captain Ocean on Jost Van Dyke. An incredibly experienced mariner (he literally grew up sailing around the world), he is also a fabulous story-teller and is wonderful with all ages (the Babies love him, and visiting family friends in their 70s were equally impressed).

At the grand old age of two, BB rarely sits still, usually wants to sprint in the direction of danger (bodies of water/narrow docks/feral animals/massive iguanas/steep rocky coastlines) and wails sadly when he doesn’t get his way. He sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but he is actually quite charming 95% of the time; you just have to head him off at the pass, be prepared to take long walks with eagle eyes and cat-like reflexes, and know that he naps beautifully on a boat after crying for three very looooong minutes. He loves being on boats and sits still on our laps for the most part, but the second he hits dry land, he is off like a shot. The iPad guarantees us that we might get to finish most of our lunch – selfish, but true (and we only use it for meals and long car trips – that is ALL I am admitting to). One day, perhaps we will wean him (let’s see how this year goes). BG on the other hand, is patient and obedient, as well as a natural boater. She always wants to go faster – she actually enjoys sea spray on her face; and, she too sleeps brilliantly on a boat.  But I am getting ahead of myself…

The iPad, with the most important accessory - the car seat strap holder thingie. Not only can you use it in a car, but you can wrap that strap around heavy table centerpieces, around chair backs, etc. etc.

This was our third trip with Ocean (yes, his real name) and even though we didn’t have a plan in place, I knew he would come up with the right islands to motor around, the perfect spot for snorkeling (you have to take into consideration currents, waves, and Lord knows what else), and the best place for lunch with the Babies (as opposed to places where people happily drunk on rum flash each other – that will be another post about a chartered day out sans enfants). First stop: 30 minutes away on Jost Van Dyke to clear customs. Jost Van Dyke is 4 miles long, with a sandy main street bordering the water and hammocks in palm trees alongside. Besides being a beautiful and charming island with fewer than 200 full-time inhabitants, Jost is also famous for other things, among them: having the largest New Year’s Eve Party in the Caribbean (or, as it’s called there, Old Year’s Night); being the birthplace of the ‘Painkiller’ (a very rummy and incredibly tasty drink); and two pilgrimage-inducing bars– Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar (there are obviously many other terrific things on the island that do not include alcohol, but those will have to be for future trips).

Jost, looking from Foxy's end to the other.

Main Street.

The dock in front of Foxy's.

We cleared customs, sat at Foxy’s, listened to Foxy himself strum the guitar, and sipped Painkillers. I don’t care what time it is – when in Rome…though the Babies had pineapple juice. BB found a brand new spin on his favorite activity of throwing rocks into the water: he would throw them, a very friendly playful black lab would bound into the water and try to catch them, then wait for BB to throw another. Seriously, it could have been hours of entertainment for both Baby Boy and Dog – I wanted to take the dog home with us. BG discovered an empty hammock stretched between two palm trees overlooking the rock-throwing, so she amused herself climbing, swinging, and watching pelicans dive for fish. Mother and Sister fell in love with the Painkillers and spent the next week trying to recreate the perfect Painkiller. There are all sorts of different recipes on-line, and as a result, when they left I inherited the most random tropical selection of drink ingredients ever. It is quite difficult to recreate Foxy’s, though they did a masterful job.

Foxy's sign.

Foxy with guitar. Besides being an incredibly interesting, successful, and friendly person, he tells great jokes.

Great sign over the bar at Foxy's.

BB throwing rocks.

BB still at it, with Husband keeping tabs.

BG chilling out.

BG would have stayed there all day if we had let her.

BB checking out other seating options.

Sister and I then took a walk down the beach to the other end of the main beach/street, and happened upon a cool tire swing shaped like a horse. We went back to get BG (BB not being a fan of swings) and ran her back there. She was in absolute heaven. It was time to go soon after, and back on the boat we went…

BG sprinting down the beach to the swing.

The ingenious horse tire swing.

BG happy on swing.

We had to promise that we could come back soon to use that swing.

Church at the quiet end of the beach.

Possibly the most peaceful place on the beach on Jost. Every cemetery I have seen in the VI and BVI is above ground.

A perfect little boat, though not ours that day.

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Six Month Statistics

In the six months since we moved here:

We have had ONE hurricane (so low-grade that some people scoffed at it, but as it turned from a tropical storm into Hurricane Irene directly over us, it counts).

Husband has had ONE low-grade case of Dengue fever. He also stepped in ONE fire ant nest last month (at the Tot Lot – shocker). The children, thankfully, have hardly been sick at all – hurrah for Vitamin D!

We have found ONE place that delivers food to us (pizza – twenty dollars, one size, cash only).

I have put on TWO long sleeved tops: one shirt and one sweater (I am sure those acclimated or from here have put on many more, but I enjoy the slight ‘chill’).

TWO people collaborated to write instructions to get me to the distant Tot Lot (toddler-friendly playground) for the first time. The instructions were TWO pages long and I got there on the first try (after many slightly wrong turns).

It took TWO weeks to get my car serviced (that is evidently quite quick, and involved getting parts sent from off-island).

Husband has bought TWO ‘island cars’ – ‘island cars’ being ones that are so beaten up that more dings or cracks or duct tape won’t show. The one missing the speedometer needle with the big windshield crack actually works, while the one held together with duct tape stopped working the week after he bought it (even after getting it ‘fixed’).

Husband has been in TWO car accidents within 24 hours of each other (minor things, no one hurt) – both while riding on Safari Taxis when his “island cars” were being fixed. These were his first TWO taxi rides.

The Orkin ‘Professional Killers’ exterminators have visited us THREE times.

I have had FOUR flat tires (two on my car, two on a rental car).

We have eaten at Cuzzin’s FOUR times (looking for reasons to go more often).

I have paid over FIVE dollars for a tiny jar of Nutella.

I have had to buy SIX new tires for my car.

We have been to SIX birthday parties on the beach (one of which was BBs).

There was a SEVEN-week waiting list for highlights at my salon before New Year’s.

We have seen SEVEN cockroaches: three alive, four dead. To be fair, the last four we saw after one jumped out of the box from Oriental Trading Company. I am currently awaiting a call from the manager.

There are SEVEN screens at the Caribbean Cinemas – the only movie theater on island. We have yet to go.

The daily temperature is more often than not in the EIGHTies. And by more often than not, I mean almost every single day.

I have run into people EIGHT or NINE times around town right when I was thinking I needed to get in touch with them. (‘Hmm, I should order cupcakes from VI Desserts for BBs birthday.’ We pull into the Tot Lot and I see the VI Desserts van. Bingo – ordered them at the picnic bench right there. Same with a chartered sailboat trip – ran into Rumbaba’s co-owner at Island Latte’s coffee shop an hour after I sent her a text message.)

A bottle of rum (decent stuff, too) costs NINE dollars. So can a carton of organic milk.

We have been out on TEN boat rides (one sailboat, five motorboats, and four round-trip ferries).

We have had ELEVEN guests (some repeat, some staying with us, most staying right next to us). People tell us this won’t happen again after the first year, so we are enjoying it while we can.

We have been to TWELVE beaches in the USVI and the BVI.

For THIRTEEN dollars, a friend can get me 80 diapers (Pampers or Huggies they are not, but they do the trick).

It took THIRTY tries to make a phone call one afternoon because the reception was so bad (we don’t have a landline and evidently ATT lost a couple of towers during Irene). I finally got through perched on some rocks at the edge of the beach by our house.

Our electric bills have totaled over FOUR THOUSAND dollars thus far (they are getting better, but still…).

And to be filed under the MANY to COUNTLESS section:

New friends we have all made. There is something about island living that makes just about everyone super friendly.

Times we have really missed our family, friends, and neighborhood back home. Luckily, many have come or are coming to visit and we will be back to see them soon!

Times I am blown away by the view as I round a corner in my car or, well, almost anywhere on this island.

Mornings, afternoons, or evenings spent at one beach or another.

Times I think wistfully of all the cute winter clothing I bought the Babies during the sales last year, before we knew we were moving. (And times I have thought of my winter clothing, for that matter.)

Evenings I have spent standing on our balcony looking at the view, feeling the breeze (when there is one), and thinking how lucky we are.

Hues of blue and green you can find in the Caribbean Sea (and Atlantic to the north).

Mornings I have woken up and thought, ‘wow, what an absolutely spectacular day!’ (Ok, so perhaps not countless, but well into the 100’s).

Number of potholes I have driven through by accident because they weren’t there the day before (or I just became inured to them).

Ants. Period.

Times I have exchanged ‘Good Morning,’ ‘Good Afternoon,’ or ‘Good Evening’ pleasantries with people here and everyone means it.

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Medical Longings

We used to have a wonderful, sweet, old-school, top-of-the-line pediatrician on the mainland. He was part of a small practice – all members of which I adored – and there was a 24-hour number we could call with whatever concerns or dumb questions we had (and we had plenty). There was an onsite lab so test results were immediate, they had Saturday hours, and would even open for you on a Sunday if need be. These doctors, nurses, medical assistants and secretaries were the people who gave my Babies their first check-ups in the hospital when they were born, helped keep them healthy and happy, and made them well when they weren’t. They watched BG, and then BB, grow from newborns to toddlers, and I spent hours and hours there with my Babies between ‘well visits’ and countless sick visits over the last three snowy, bitter winters. A week before we left town, I went in to pick up BG’s and BB’s medical histories; I burst into tears when I told the secretaries there we were moving. Twice.

Ah, Rockwell. Close, but their old pediatrician was younger...

When we came to St. Thomas, we found out that most people at BG’s school didn’t have a pediatrician. Rather, they went to the highly rated Red Hook Family Practice. One of the doctors there is the father of BG’s classmate, and during the second school day drop-off, he very kindly introduced himself and gave me the precious 24-hour clinic hotline number. There is also a pediatrician on staff at the clinic, who I’m told is excellent. All that being said, I really didn’t want to have to go to the ‘best medical practice in the Virgin Islands’ – I was still in mourning for our old pediatric practice. I tried very hard to keep my children healthy: they ate well, took vitamins, slept well, and got plenty of fresh air and exercise. We avoided: unknown and untested allergy-type foods; leaving the house when they had a cold (once until this week); and especially sick children and places where their germs ran rampant. The one time we had to go to the clinic was to get a medical form filled out and they had to send a simple test somewhere else; between the normal mailing time, a Sunday, and Three Kings Day (closed), it took a week – not their fault at all (they send their lab tests to Miami), but I couldn’t help but wistfully compare.

Beautiful Conch shell

Beautiful Conch fritters on almost every menu here, which I worry BB might be allergic to.

So imagine my dismay when this past week, not only were both Babies sick, but BB developed some weird hives out of the blue. All is okay with both Babies after staying home, over-the-counter meds, a baking soda bath, and cream, but I am now petrified that she will develop bronchitis (which I hear is going around) and he will develop some bizarre deadly allergy to palm trees, no see-ums, coconuts, or conch. This is on top of my current daily worries of Dengue fever (which Husband got our first month), weird biting insects, and crazy iguanas (I know they don’t normally attack, but I have heard stories).

Fever? Rash? What child doesn't occasionally have these? Freaks me out.

I want our old pediatrician so I can call and ask what to do, or just voice my concerns so he can tell me not to worry so much. I want a CVS that most definitely will carry what I need instead of having to settle for what is available. I want to know that if I have to take my Babies to the hospital in the dead of night, I won’t frantically drive off a cliff by accident, we won’t have to wait behind gunshot victims (have heard this is not out of the ordinary), and they will have all staff, equipment, and supplies at the ready. We are fortunate enough and grateful to have health insurance that covers emergency airlifts to Puerto Rico and Florida, and credit cards to cover anything else. I have met countless people who grew up here and are ridiculously healthy and happy. People assure me that island children are healthier and taller than mainland children, and I have heard wonderful things about many doctors here. But still, but still, I miss the kind of medical and emotional insurance that familiarity brings. I miss Dr. P.

The closest CVS, store #3236 in Key Biscayne, FL, is 1100 miles away from us.


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Water Update

A friend just informed me that WAPA said yesterday there will be rolling water outages until Friday. The saga continues…

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West Side Story

The 15th Annual Bordeaux Farmer’s Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair took place this weekend in Bordeaux, on the far western side of the island. For an island this size, the geographies are surprisingly diverse. The western side is stunning, with dramatic cliffs and rugged views down to the pounding surf and across to the islands of Culebra and Vieques. There’s one main road that leads to Bordeaux with twists and turns and steep drop-offs, until suddenly you come into what I would imagine a suburban New Zealand town looks like: tidy one-story houses, neatly manicured lawns, and pretty fences on a sort of grassy flat plateau. You don’t get lawns or a suburban feeling like that anywhere else on the island. The west end of St. Thomas is also where the majority of the Rastafarian population lives and farms.

Follow that truck.

We got there in time for lunch, because any event of this kind will have amazing food. The saying “ital is vital,” (‘eye-taaal is vi-taaal’ – and say it slowly), which I heard repeated several times, has to do with the Rasta belief about the purity of food enriching life. All their food is grown naturally without any pesticides and prepared using no additives, colorings, preservatives, or sometimes even salt (although they use many other wonderful spices). “Health is wealth’ is another common expression. The hardcore Rasta food (at least the St. Thomas contingent) is not only super healthy and traditionally very vegetarian, but is also really good and incredibly flavorful (okay, so you must like vegetables, but I am an unabashed carnivore and it had me wanting to find recipes). We had for lunch: red pea soup (AKA red kidney beans); vegetable and tofu stew over brown rice and red peas (again, kidney beans); sorrel (part of the hibiscus family), guava, and lime juices to drink (we had to try at least three); and for dessert, soursop cake. I wanted to go back for seconds, but got too busy chasing the Babies (who actually managed to sit still and eat for a bit– again, it was THAT good). Besides eating, we wandered around and looked at all the stalls, bought honey and sorrel vinegar, listened to music – both live and DJ-ed, and had a fun, relaxing, and ‘different’ day (the beach does sometimes get old – all that sand to clean up afterwards). BG and BB also made little bracelets with all the traditional Rasta colors; I gather there was some Rasta man showing older kids how to braid leather, and a very nice woman took pity on the little ones who were too young and brought out a big box of beads for them – whoever you are, thank you! The only things I would change? I would have tried all the different juice flavors, and I would have left the double stroller in the car – pulling it through the deep gravel at the fair was no joke, and we certainly stood out. Hello, ‘Stateside’… There is a monthly Bordeaux Farmer’s Market that we will most certainly be going to in the future – just without the stroller.

BG making bracelet, with sorrel juice and soursop cake.

Entrance to Fair.

Farmers' stalls.


More stalls.

More stalls with sunshine and Rasta art behind.

Plants for sale.

The music stage.

The Fair with blue sea in the distance.

Prepared goods.

You want a coconut? I have a machete. (The only way I have ever seen them opened, by the way).

A honey and vinegar stall (with a box of active bees that BG almost pulled down to show BB.)

And more stalls with customers.

The farthest stall at the Fair. We were told by another mom that there was nothing beyond it down the path except for the 'smoking' section. You could smell it very faintly on the breeze at that end.

A pretty nice view.

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Newbie Winter, P.S.

BabyBoy has a cold now – a slight one, not that big of a deal, but a cold nevertheless. Usually by this time of year, BB would have had a cold for months. He would have had a constant runny nose, sneezing, and the kind of symptoms that made us miss countless toddler classes in our previous life. On St. Thomas, he had a cold 6 weeks ago – a milder form of the one that every other island child seemed to have had, and it was hardly anything to write home about. Now he has a cold again, two days after our chilly windy swim. Coincidence? I have no idea. Maybe children acclimate faster than adults. At any rate, the babies will stay on dry land for a couple of days. Neighbors, feel free to say ‘I told you so.’ You have until BB’s nose stops running…

BB with beach toys for now. He is quite happy...

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Newbie Winter

Five months still qualifies one as a “newbie” on island; the word has been used to describe me four times in the last 48 hours. The first was when I was trying to ‘make nice’ while calling for last-minute, hard-to-get-in-high-season reservations at Havana Blue restaurant (absolutely stunning food from soup to nuts – or actually from lettuce wraps and lobster tacos to sorbet and crème brûlée – with more lobster in between, but I digress). I mentioned that I was a local as I always hope something magical will happen, like a 5% ‘local’ discount or jumping a line.  She asked how long we had been here. ‘Five months,’ I answered somewhat proudly. ‘A newbie!’ she said kindly, not changing the reservation time.

Havana Blue

Whenever people say, ‘how’s your vacation?’ or ‘where are you from?’ – polite high season banter – I always respond that we live on St. Thomas. It puts one in a special club: it sort of makes you one of the ‘cool kids’ (or not, depending on your opinion); you form an immediate bond with whomever you are talking as you both understand island life and all it entails; and it sometimes does actually get you the 5% discount.  Our waitress at the Ocean Grill on St. John for lunch yesterday (we get around when family visit; we also eat out a lot – try the cheesecake there, the owner’s mom makes it) said I was a newbie. Then the woman running the Fabric Mill store (also at the Mongoose Junction shopping area) who was dressed in long sleeves and long pants, said that as a newbie, I wasn’t acclimated enough to feel the cold yet. It was 80 degrees. She said that next winter I would be dressed more warmly; I was wearing a light cotton dress and was very comfortable.

Lunch at Ocean Grill - fantastic amidst the palms.

Then there is the whole, ‘only tourists swim in the dead of winter’ issue. I am originally from a state with an ocean – not a particularly warm one – but warm enough in July and August. The sea and unheated pool here are the same temperature as the ocean at home in July, which is hardly freezing. I am bound and determined that my children will not ‘soften up’ and refuse to go swimming when we go back to visit in the summer. They will not dip a toe in the ‘summer ocean’ and run away shrieking. They will not turn their noses up at an evening swim (or early morning swim) because the water does not feel like a bathtub. They will not get made fun of by tougher children playing happily in 76-degree water. As we wandered to the pool yesterday evening, my neighbors were slightly appalled that I was going in and taking my children. ‘You’re going swimming? It’s the middle of winter! Newbie!’ (They were laughing, though I felt a bit of ‘unfit mother’ implied there as well – I ignored it). Ok, it was chilly to begin with, but as BG said as she jumped right in, ‘It’s a little cool, but that’s okay Mommy. It will get better.’ I have been told that I will change my tune next year, but I hope not. Your swimming options narrow significantly when you only swim in 85-degree water. May I always remain a newbie!

BG at Magen's Bay

Postscript: Water is back!



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Three Kings; Wrap-Up; Water?

Today is “Three Kings Day,” or the Feast of Epiphany, in the Virgin Islands as well as in Puerto Rico and much of Latin America and the Caribbean; banks, federal offices, schools, and many businesses are shut. I gather it is the beginning of many holidays down here that we have never before really observed. I am all for holidays – more so when nothing is required of us. It is a little ironic then, that I was up until some ungodly hour trying to clear up once and for all the rest of the holiday detritus (except for cards – they are still arriving and I can’t bear to take them down quite yet; besides, it is nice to see photos and cards from all our family and friends that we miss). This morning, I was reading on-line that being 12 days after Christmas (12 days? seriously?) today, Three Kings Day, is considered the last official day of the holiday season. I had been worried that my decorations were up too long; now I can say I was doing it by the books and waiting for Three Kings Day.

Three Kings showing up with gifts for a 12 day old baby Jesus on St. John.



To wrap up the holiday season officially: the Christmas trees lasted splendidly and no needles were dropped; we recently unwrapped a Roomba from our wonderful family and we all (cats included) spend hours watching this marvelous invention vacuuming our white tiled floors (with BG shouting instructions and giving the play-by-play); and I swear I have seen two Century trees sprouting their yellow stalk-like flowers (though the first one seemed to have evaporated before I got a photo). I have been on the lookout for these mature Agave plants for ages (since I learned they were endangered) and yesterday I saw my second one. I pulled over the car, put on the hazards, and ventured as close as possible to the edge of the underbrush/forest (whatever you call a wild place filled with palms, spiky plants, and feral cats) to take a photo. I zoomed in, got the photo, was very excited, and promptly stepped in an enormous pile of cat poop – still worth it.

Pretty certain it's a Century Tree hidden away in the underbrush. I will keep checking (and watching for the feral cat poop).



My visiting Mother and I saw a shiny deep purple truck the other day with a terrific slogan on the side: Pimpy’s Water Delivery. I had never seen this truck or company before (it is a very small island – you see everything or everybody all the time) so we googled it. The company is based in St. John and must have been over here picking up or delivering much-needed water.

There has been a massive water shortage since November 15th on St. Thomas and St. John for homes, businesses, hotels, and schools connected to town water; hence the water truck we had never seen before from St. John. We are very lucky where we live because it has a reverse-osmosis system that turns seawater into useable water (there are a couple of these on the island, and WAPA is trying to set up more quickly), but if you venture out, places might be shut due to lack of water, and bathrooms are either closed, or ‘number 1 only.’ Some tourists have not been at all sympathetic or even appreciative of the fact that they are using a precious commodity while they are on island. The newspaper even reported terrible behavior with people trashing bathrooms or saying they will never come back. Good riddance. Be thankful today when you use water to flush toilets and turn on a faucet. We are.

Postscript: We just got the paper and the latest is that people may have water tonight. I will believe it when I hear it tomorrow, but a tentative “Hurrah!”





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Special Things

Every night before BG falls asleep, she asks for ‘special things’ to put on her bedside table. ‘Special things’ is a classification that encompasses a massive variety of objects; the feature in common is that they must be pretty small – about an inch and a half or less in diameter (although sometimes if it is super-special, you can get away with bigger). Finding them becomes a bit of a challenge, as she doesn’t like to repeat too often. Past special things have included: small wooden ‘cake toppers’ and toy accessories, miniature animals, paper clips, crafty decorations, tiny erasers, a small Christmas tree, ornaments, small books, sparkly things, fun pencils, shells, rocks, anything small that belongs to us…you get the drift. It makes you become very creative and aware of small things in our universe.

A few past (and current) special things. Items of note: paperweight (upper right, under fuzzy ball), 'fish' shower-curtain ring (in front of giraffe), sheep key ring (on orange book), and the ones that started it all - the wooden cake 'toppers' with velcro backs (bottom right).

Unexpectedly, we hit the jackpot the other night at Duffy’s Love Shack. This restaurant and bar is permanently in the middle of a parking lot in Red Hook (on the East End of the island), and locals and tourists go alike. Terrific people watching (especially when the dancing starts), great food (conch fritters, fish tacos, Polynesian pu pu platters, among other things) and fun music are what we expected when we went out for a last ‘fun-island-sorta-touristy-but-not’ night with departing family. What we did NOT expect was the big influx of special things into our lives via the kitsch and the drinks. At Duffy’s, you get ‘lei-d’ with a lei and a sticker, and you can get (depending on order and waiter) a plastic flower necklace, a small wooden back-scratcher, and (on the large assortment of fruity drink concoctions) TOYS – little plastic jewel-colored animals: a whole zoo in miniature. Husband and I saw these and were both way too excited. We collected all the ones from our party’s drinks, ordered a few more, and carried the new special things home as though they were the crown jewels. BG was so pleased that the gasps of happiness could probably be heard in St. John.

New, carefully doled out, special things. (Okay, so we don't actually put leis on her bedside table.)

(On a side-note, we made a long-suffering family member order something called a ‘shark tank’ because we wanted to hear the giant shark on the wall make noise, and you get to keep the fishbowl it comes in. She donated it to the children for toys. Good times…)

Shark tank paraphernalia with eye patch.

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