Monday, September 28, 2009

Race Fever

I think it's safe to say that Zach has race fever. He wants to do races any chance he gets. Lucky for him, by the time next weekend is over, he'll have run 3 races in 3 weeks. The latest run was this past weekend. I heard something at Zach's soccer game on Saturday about a 10 mile race downtown on Sunday, and since my sister and I are training for the Des Moines Half-Marathon in a few weeks, I had a long run planned for Sunday, anyway. I was planning on doing an 11 mile run, but I wasn't really looking forward to doing that run on the same path I always run on, so I decided I'd do the 10 mile race instead. It's always more fun to run with a big group of people on a course that unfamiliar. Anyway, there was also a free kids race, so of course Zach was excited about doing that. So I got up early Sunday and headed downtown to sign up for the race before it started, and Mike and the boys met me later on.

Here are the boys cheering on some runners.

I felt good on the run. I have been running around an 8:34 pace for my longer runs, and it seemed like I was pretty much on target during this run. The last two miles I really picked it up, though, and my pace those two miles was 7:52 and 7:35 respectively. I could see Mike and the boys as I approached the finish line, and I could tell they hadn't seen me yet, but I just didn't have it in me to yell out to them. Anyway, they finally saw me, but by the time Mike got the camera out and ready, I was basically past them.

I finished the Capital Pursuit 10 Mile in 1:23:21 according to my watch, which averaged out to about 8:20 per mile. The big shocker for me is that I finished 3rd in my age group, which means of the 44 women aged 30-34, I was third. I've never been third in my age group before! I even got a $10 gift certificate to a running store for it. I finished 54th out of all 257 female runners. I was so glad I did the race rather than running 11 miles on my own. It was way more fun!

After all the runners finished the 10 mile race, the kids lined up for their race. Kids 5 and under ran 1 city block. Zach was very excited.

Here you can see Zach in his little Adidas track suit right next to the cute girl in the white t-shirt.

I was running behind Zach, cheering him on and carrying Drew. After Zach's race last weekend, he talked a lot about how he cut in front of a little girl. He's also mentioned this after soccer games, and how he cuts in front of people. So I wasn't at all surprised when I watched him cut in front of that cute little girl. You can see in this picture how happy he is about his sneaky move.

I found out later on that Zach learned this cutting in front of people trick from the movie Cars. Apparently there's a scene in that movie where Lightning McQueen and the other car (Chick, I think is his name) are racing and cutting in front of each other or something.

As I said, I was behind Zach, so I couldn't see his face during his run, but I love all these pictures of him because of how happy he looks. Mike says Zach was just eating up the crowd's attention and talking to them as he ran. What a surprise.

I really hope Zach always loves running this much. Just look at that face- pure joy.

In one of the earlier pictures of Zach you may have noticed a little kid toddling along in the race. I didn't enter Drew in the race, but after seeing that cute little girl cross the finish line, I decided to put Drew down and see if he wanted to finish, too. Lately he's really been into having me say, "Ready, set, go!" and racing with him, so I figured he might like this. He did. He happily crossed the finish line and received his ribbon. That was about his only happy moment of the morning from the time I finished the race until the time he got in the car. I still forced him to be in a picture, though.

It was a fun morning, but I was definitely tired later on! I can't wait for Zach's next race. I may have race fever, too!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Drew at 18+ Months

I've been meaning to write a post about Drew at 18 months for a couple of weeks now, but I just haven't gotten to it until now. He turned 18 months on September 5, and it is just so crazy to think a whole year and a half has gone by since he was born. He is such a fun, spunky kid, but I have a feeling he'll present a few more challenges for us than Zach has so far. Drew definitely seems to have more opinions than Zach did at 18 months, and he's not afraid to voice those opinions. It's not that Zach was an angel; he just didn't test the waters too much. Zach has always been very compliant, but Drew is a bit more obstinate. Not always obstinate, but often enough that it's noticeable.

Drew had his 18 month check-up at the doctor a couple of weeks ago, and it went ok. He weighed 24 pounds, 6 ounces, which put him in the 29th percentile for height. He has steadily dropped percentiles since he peaked at the 72nd percentile for weight at about 8 weeks. Oh, well. Zach has never been very heavy, either. However, his head circumference was in the 80th percentile, so he obviously has a huge brain. : ) The biggest shocker, though, was that measured 33.3 inches, which put him in the 75th percentile for height. Our boys have never been so tall!! Just as I expected, Drew was not real cooperative at the doctor's office. He didn't really want to follow the doctor's light with his eyes, he barely let her get his temperature and look in his ears (I had to hold his head still), and he bit down when she put the tongue depressor in his mouth to look at it. He was of course very mad about getting three shots, too, but who can blame him for that? It wasn't much fun, really.

Drew has his top 4 teeth, and he recently got a third tooth on the bottom. It also looks like maybe some molars are coming in on top. He has great curls on the back of his head that look great when his hair is dry. When his hair is wet, he has a terrible mullet! I know we'll need to get his hair cut soon, but I just can't bring myself to do it quite yet. Plus, with the way the doctor's visit went, I don't feel so good about him sitting still for a haircut anytime soon.

Just like Zach, it seems like once Drew hit 18 months, his vocabulary started taking off. I was worried he might not talk as early as Zach, because I've heard that second and third kids often talk later, but he seems to be right on par with where Zach was at this age. Some of his words are hat, water (wawa), bus (usss), fish (isss), balloon (baba), ball, Mama (something he says a lot!), hi, bye (bu-bye), Zach (Dat), all done/all gone, book, banana, truck (it doesn't sound like truck, so Zach and I might be the only ones who know what he's saying), and Thomas (I'm not sure how he says it, but it's something consistent). There probably are others, but I can't remember them all. He also still signs words like please, more, thank you, sorry, and water. He also makes sounds to identify many animals and a few other things. He makes the sounds for cat, dog, sheep, horse, cow, monkey, snake, bug (buzz), duck, pig, lion, hippo, train, and probably some other animals I'm not thinking of.

Drew used to eat anything and everything, but he suddenly has gotten a bit more picky, which may explain the drop in his weight ranking. He occasionally boycotts old favorites, like canned carrots, broccoli and cheese, and string cheese. I can't say I blame him for boycotting the carrots and broccoli, but string cheese? Seriously? One day he won't eat those things, and the next day he'll gobble it up. I never know if it will be a good eating day/meal or a bad one. I know that's not unusual with a toddler, though. Drew still will not really drink milk. Occasionally he'll drink chocolate milk, but it seems like he only does that if we're at a restaurant and it comes in a cardboard box or something. I've bought every kind of milk to try at home- whole 2%, skim, soy milk (vanilla, I think), chocolate- and none of them seem to pass. I've also tried diluted juice, but he won't drink that, either. If it's not water, he seems to not want it. However, I feel like we are making progress. For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to fill a sippy cup about 1/4 to 1/3 full with skim milk, and then I fill the rest with water, and I make sure Drew sees me fill it with water. He has done ok with that. It's not much, but it's a start. And, the other day Zach wanted chocolate milk, so we mixed some up and gave some to Drew, too, and he liked it! So maybe we'll make a milk-drinker out of him yet!

Some of Drew's favorites include:
-his orange Tonka trash truck. He wants to take this thing EVERYWHERE, and that is not an exaggeration! Usually he likes to have the trash truck and the Tonka ambulance at the same time.
-his lawn mower. If we are outside, Drew is pushing his lawn mower. He actually hands me his trash truck so he can put both hands on the lawn mower. I guarantee that this winter he'll be pushing that lawn mower around while I'm outside blowing snow. Wait a few months and you'll see.

-Thomas the Tank Engine. For quite some time now, Drew has loved playing with the wooden train set Zach got when he turned 2. He loves Thomas books a lot, which is ok, except that most Thomas books are way too long for Drew's attention span, so I have to make up my own one or two sentences to summarize each page so that we still get the gist of the story.
-books with real photographs of animals, especially giraffes and zebras. I don't know what it is about giraffes and zebras, but he really loves them.
-fruit. He'd eat fruit all day, if I'd let him. He is suddenly boycotting bananas, though. He used to love them with peanut butter, but lately he just wants to lick the peanut butter off and leave the banana on his tray.
-his puppy. He has this little white-ish puppy that used to just sit on his shelf is now his favorite stuffed animal. I think it was a gift from Grandma Cynthia and Grandpa Kevin when he was born. For some reason, if Drew is sad, that puppy helps make things better.
-rubber ducks. He really wants those ducks during his baths.
-his wild toucan shirt. Aunt Katherine gave Zach this button-down GAP shirt for his first birthday, and it is brightly colored and has toucans on it. If I'm holding Drew and picking a shirt out of his closet, he always picks that shirt. It never fails.

Something Drew has been doing for a while now is screaming. It's quite frustrating, annoying, and embarrassing. One day a couple of weeks ago we were at the mall, and every saleslady said something to Drew like, "Aren't you cute..." and Drew's response was an emphatic, "Reaaaaaaaaaah!!!" in a terrible, high-pitched scream. I tried to smile politely and say, "He's a little crabby today," but it really was embarrassing. He screams whenever he doesn't want someone to talk to him. He screams at Zach a lot. Sometimes, I don't blame him, like when Zach is trying to force him to do something he doesn't want to do. Other times, though, I feel really bad for Zach, because he'll say something nice to Drew, just trying to engage him in a conversation or an activity. For example, Zach might say in his sweet little voice, "Drew, do you want Zach to get you the zebra?" and Drew will respond with a scream and nasty look. Zach's kind of a sensitive fellow, and this tends to hurt his feelings. I'm not sure how to combat this, but I am sure I don't want Drew to still be screaming at people when he's 2, 3, 4 years-old, etc. So lately I've started telling Drew that it's not nice to scream, and then I tell him to tell Zach he's sorry. I don't know if that's enough to make a difference, though. I also have instructed Zach to say, "Drew, it hurts my feelings when you scream at me," just to help Drew start to get used to that language. I don't know. Half the time I feel like popping him in the mouth when he does it, but so far I've restrained from that. Hopefully I can maintain my composure until this stage (at least I'm hoping it's a stage) passes.

Another stage I'm hoping will pass is the hitting. When Drew gets mad about something, he hits. For example, he did not want to get back into the car last night, so as I set him in his car seat, he started crying, wiggling, and fussing, and then he hit me. Now, of course his hits don't hurt, but I don't want him thinking it's ok to hit. So if we're at home, he gets a time-out and has to apologize. It's just so weird how begin hitting. We don't spank our kids, and Zach doesn't hit, so I don't know where/how Drew came up with this whole hitting thing. The other day Drew got mad when Foudy did a lick-and-run on him (licked him in the face as she walked by), and he hit Maggie because she was closest. I told him that wasn't nice and that he needed to say he was sorry. He said sorry and then gestured down the hall. I followed him down there, and watched as he sat himself down on the stairs for a time-out. I asked if he was giving himself a time-out, and he said yes, so I left him on the stairs for a minute. He's now put himself in time-out a couple of times since then, so I'm wondering if that is the most effective form of discipline for him...

When Drew isn't hurting Zach's feelings by screaming at him or hitting him, the two boys can usually be found having a lot of fun together. It's great that they're at that age now where they can play together without me needing to be involved all the time. They can even both go downstairs to the basement and play while I finish cleaning up dishes and stuff upstairs. It's great!

Drew still tells me when he poops, and occasionally tells me when he's about to poop. The other day he reached behind him and said, "Poop," (I guess that's another word he knows), so I asked if he wanted to go poop on the potty. He happily went in and sat down on the little potty chair.

Then Drew stood up, faced the toilet, grabbed his penis, and said, "Shhhhhhhhhh," like he was going potty! Then he sat down on the potty chair again, and got up to potty in the toilet again. After a couple of times of standing up, he started pulling his shirt up and pinching his belly button and making the sound of pottying. It was pretty hilarious. I should have gotten the video camera out, but it was downstairs, and I thought I'd miss the moment. He never did poop or potty for real, but he sure had fun practicing. Oh, and I went ahead and fuzzed out any offensive material in this picture, so Drew won't be embarrassed later in life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

IT'S A BOY!!!!!!! (With a picture as of 9/27)

I just got the news that I have another nephew!!! Becky gave birth tonight at 7:57 to a 6 pound, 13 ounce baby boy who was 19.5 inches long. She told me he doesn't really have any hair. I asked if he looks like Cam did, and I honestly cannot remember her answer. I was too excited. At this point, my nephew is unnamed, but I'm told they're debating between three names, so let's hope they don't take as long as my sister Sandy and brother-in-law Will took last year in naming my nephew Anders. Just kidding, Sandy and Will! Well, sort of.

My parents are now the proud parents of 3 daughters and proud grandparents of 5 grandsons!! We may never produce a granddaughter!

Anyway, congratulations, Becky, Tom, and big brother Cam!!! We cannot wait to see pictures and especially to meet the newest family member! Love you guys!!

**Update 9/27**
Here is one of the pictures of my new nephew last night. I also got the news that his name is Myles. I picked the picture of Myles with his big brother Cam since my sister Sandy put the picture of just Myles on her blog. What a cutie!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day Out with Thomas

On Sunday we went to the Day Out With Thomas extravaganza up in Boone with Grandma Linda and Grandpa Curt. This was Zach's third time going with Grandma and Grandpa, and the second time for Mike and me. It was Drew's first time. Drew absolutely loves Thomas, so we thought he'd be all over it, but the idea of riding on Thomas was kind of lost on him, which wasn't surprising.

In this picture Zach and Grandma are waiting patiently for the train to depart.

Drew rode with me, and was mostly happy throughout the 20 minute or so ride. He enjoyed seeing the cows and horses as we passed a field. He also liked seeing the other trains that we passed.

Here's Zach getting a better view of the rails.

Zach and Thomas, as we waited in line for the official Thomas picture.

We took about 20 pictures of the boys in front of Thomas, but none of them turned out. First of all, Zach's at this point where it's like he can't just smile normally for a picture most of the time. He does this weird, uncomfortable smile that looks completely unnatural. Maybe the sun was bothering him; I don't know. And Drew was way too interested in looking at Thomas to turn around for a silly picture! He is a classic 18 month-old who might love to pose for a picture on one day, but vehemently refuses the next day. The same thing happens with eating his vegetables and many other things. But more about that in a future post.

Probably Drew's favorite part of the whole day was playing with the wooden train sets that were set up. He loves to do that. At times the train tables were super busy, but Drew managed to hold his own pretty well.

Zach enjoyed the bounce house.

Again, it was difficult to get a good picture of the boys together, so we got this one. At least they're both looking at the camera this time.

Both boys really liked the straw maze, but Drew was particularly interested in it.

There were two older men playing some cool folksy music, and the boys and I enjoyed enhancing their music with some instrument playing of our own. Unfortunately, about 5 minutes after we got to that tent they took a 30 minute break.

Zach, Grandma Linda, and Grandpa Curt enjoyed the magician.

Usually I try to avoid petting zoos because they seem so germ-y to me, but I'm trying to be less uptight about that, so we went right into the animal area and paid our dollar for some feed. There were tons of signs about how these animals do bite, so I felt more than a little nervous about the boys getting bitten. We all walked away with all 10 fingers intact, however. Thank goodness!

Thanks for the fun day, Curt and Linda!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Big Day for Zach

Today was a busy day for Zach. We found out that this weekend was the Beaverdale Fall Festival, and with that was the Beaver Dash 5k. I decided not to do the run, but Zach really wanted to do the Beaver Trot, which was the race for kids. So we headed down to Beaverdale bright and early and got all set up for Zach's big race.

Zach and I got a little warm-up in before the race started.

We found the starting line for the 4 and 5 year-olds and the kids were off! I don't think you can see Zach in this picture, but I put it in to show all the kids in Zach's age group.

The night before the big race, Zach prayed that God would give him "power" to help him run fast. I think this picture shows some power, as he blows past that cute little girl in red.

He really did a great job with the race. I thought maybe he'd get tired out and would slow down before the finish line, but from where I stood (which, granted, was behind him), it looked like he ran hard all the way to the end.

Here is the proud guy with his ribbon.

After the race ended, Mike headed home to work on his lecture for the class he's teaching next weekend at DMU, and Zach and Drew stayed with Grandma Cynthia, who had met us before Zach's race, and watched part of the Beaverdale Fall Festival parade. I left to go do a 9 mile run on one of my favorite trails that I haven't run on in years. It was a perfect day for a long run- not too hot, slight breeze, and the trail had plenty of shady patches. I was quickly reminded of the things I love and hate about this trail. I love the gorgeous and varied views- the trail winds through forests and prairies, alongside cornfields and a butterfly garden, and above a reservoir. However, this trail also has quite a variation in elevation, so there are some big hills. I always start at the 10 mile-marker, and today I ran up to the 14.5 mile-marker and back down to 10. Just about at the 11.25 mile-marker begins this steep hill, and the climb continues until right at the 12 mile-marker, with one little teaser flat-spot of a few yards in the middle. The only upside to this monstrous hill is that when I'm really tired and near the end of my run, I get to run down it, and it's a nice rest for my legs. There's also a very small but very steep hill at about the 13.75 mile-marker, and it's tough because I have to go up it on the way back, when I'm tired, but at least it's short.

I finished the run and headed to Kevin and Cynthia's house, which is very near the trail. I got there just a little before Cynthia and the boys, who left the parade before it ended. Apparently it's about a 2-hour parade, so they opted to not stay for the whole thing. Zach did come home with lots of candy (Mike and I have been enjoying it already) and a story about how he was sneaking candy into the bags of two little girls near him because they weren't getting much. I thought this was very sweet, and then we asked him if it was his idea to do that or Grandma Cynthia's, and he told us it was Grandma's idea, so although it was still sweet of him to do it, it was less sweet that he didn't think of it on his own. Anyway, the boys had a lot of fun playing around and watching the parade with Grandma Cynthia.

We headed home for a quick clean-up and lunch, and then Grandma Cynthia was at our house to stay with Drew while Mike and I went to Zach's first soccer game. The game was right at Drew's nap time; otherwise he would have gone with us.

Here's Zach right before we left for the game. Zach plays on a U6 league, which means the kids are all 4 or 5, and of course, the uniforms are all size small, which is 6-8, so Zach's just swimming in it. He still looks cute, though, if you ask me! The funny thing about this picture is that Mike was getting totally annoyed with Zach while trying to take this picture, as Zach was complaining about how bright it was outside and he would NOT look up towards the camera. He kept staring straight at the ground and doing this terrible, pained, fake smile. Though I was annoyed, too, I was laughing at the whole situation. Finally I suggested that maybe we change angles so that Zach wasn't looking into the sun, and viola! we got this very nice picture.

In the U6 soccer games, the kids play 3 v. 3 with no goalie. There are 6 kids on a team, and they play 8 minute quarters, switching out players every 4 minutes. It seems like a good system. The coaches just ref, and no score is kept. It seems like a perfect introduction to the game of soccer, as it's very low-key and fun for the kids.

Just like t-ball, though, it's very obvious which kids played soccer last year, and which ones are new. And, as will be the case with most activities, Zach is one of the youngest, and often smallest, out there. For two people as competitive as Mike and me, it's sometimes difficult for us when it seems like Zach is less focused on the ball and the play that's happening than he is on how great that kick he had 5 minutes ago was. I truly do believe, though, that the most important thing is for Zach to just have fun out there, and that learning the strategy of the game will come later, when he is developmentally ready for it. It's still really hard to bite our tongues, though, and not give him tips and pointers all the time. All that being said, Zach did score a goal in his first game, so that made us all very happy. In all the seasons (which number about 6 or 7, I think) I've been playing soccer in my co-ed "Over the Hill" league, I think I've only scored one goal, so already Zach and I are tied! My excuse is that I'm playing with guys who don't always like to pass to the women on their team and that I'm playing against mostly guys, which makes it a lot tougher, too, but still, I hope he's a better scorer than I am!

We didn't get a picture of Zach scoring his goal, but here he is (on the far left), getting in the mix at least. Notice the two kids in the green uniforms, fighting for the ball. Classic little kid soccer- teammates stealing the ball from each other.

What a fun day. Thanks, Cynthia, for coming to watch Zach's race and for helping us out so much today. We appreciated it!

*Ok, a little side note- it's 10:45 p.m., and we just heard Zach, who has been in bed for 2.5 hours, get up upstairs. Then we heard him com traipsing downstairs and down the hallway. Mike turned around and said, "Hi Zach," and Zach looked at him, blinked a few times, and turned around and went back upstairs, never saying a word. That was funny!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Future Grandchild

Today Zach and I completed his weekend homework for preschool, which consisted of putting together a puzzle of his name and talking about how Mike and I came up with Zach's name when he was born. About 20 minutes later, Zach told me, "When I have a baby in my wife's tummy, I'm going to name it Potatohead. But if it's a girl, I'll name her Luke." He was joking about the Potatohead part, but not about the Luke part. So I'm looking forward to having a grandchild named either Potatohead or Luke in about 25 years or so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Key West

Last week Mike and I took a little getaway trip down to Key West with our good friends and neighbors, Brad and Molly. Zach, Drew, and the dogs stayed with Mike's mom and step-dad. We left very early Thursday morning and had a long day of travel. Thanks to the very casual atmosphere of Key West, we were all able to fit our clothes into carry-on suitcases, which was very convenient. After 3 flights (here to O'hare, O'hare to Miami, Miami to Key West) we finally arrived in beautiful and humid Key West. None of us had ever been there before, so we were all anxious to check the place out. We stayed at the Parrot Key Resort, which is an awesome resort. Instead of hotel rooms, this place is all townhouses. So the four of us stayed in a two bedroom townhouse, which actually had 3 levels and what I would call 3 bedrooms (the top floor was a room with a pull-out couch, bathroom, and closet). Each bedroom had it's own bathroom, plus another half-bath down on the main level. We neglected to get a picture of the front of our townhouse, but it was absolutely adorable. And the landscaping all around the resort was just gorgeous. Here are a few pictures of the inside, though these were taken the last day of the trip, after we had successfully dirtied the place up.

Living room looking towards kitchen and front door:

Living Room:


View from our bedroom balcony (that's the Gulf of Mexico behind the palm trees):

So after checking out the place and getting our stuff set up, we decided to head out to one of the four swimming pools at the resort. But first we needed a refreshing drink. Here we are- Brad, Mike, Molly, and me.

After a few drinks and a couple of hours of swimming, we decided to get cleaned up and head downtown to Duval street to see what was going on. We had heard that the weekend we were there was both Womenfest, a lesbian celebration, and Couples Fest, a swingers gathering, so we knew we could be in for an interesting night (for a bunch of Iowans, anyway). We knew about Womenfest about a week before we went, but we hadn't heard about Couples Fest until we got there.

Anyway, here are Brad and Molly out back of our townhouse before we left to go downtown.

And here Mike and I are. I'm not sure what was so funny. And no, we didn't plan the green.

We ate dinner at a delicious (but pricey!) restaurant called A & B. We all had absolutely scrumptious seafood. Then we just walked around town a little bit and headed home.

We were up fairly early on Friday so we could catch our dolphin watching cruise. We weren't sure about the weather, as it looked as though it could storm at any time. We were all wanting two main things- to get some sun and to see some wild dolphins. For a while it was looking like we weren't going to get either, so we took some pictures, asked the captain some questions, etc.

Here Mike and I are waiting to see those elusive dolphins.

And Brad and Molly were waiting patiently, too.

I think we were all sort of starting to give up hope (well, everyone but me, as I kept telling myself that this was a four hour tour and it had only been one hour), when all of a sudden, somebody (Molly, I think) spotted something in the distance a little ways. We had stumbled upon a pod of 7-12 dolphins, though it was hard to tell just how many there were. There was definitely one young one that was smaller than the others.

You can see the dolphins between Brad and Molly's shoulders in this picture.

Here's a good shot of the dorsal fin of one dolphin.

And this dolphin came up for a facial shot.

The dolphins were so close to us- it was amazing. At one point one was right next to the boat, and it turned over and smacked its tail on the water, then it swam a few feet and smacked it again. It seemed like it was telling us to leave it alone. It was so cool.

After following the dolphins for awhile, we decided to do the second half of the tour, which was snorkeling. The sky, however, looked like this.

As we headed around towards the other side of the island, we ran smack into pouring rain. We thought we could snorkel through it, but then it started lightning and thundering, and astonishingly, the captain seemed like he would still have us go snorkel, but we were a little uncomfortable with snorkeling in the lightning, so we headed back to the dock. We were disappointed that our trip was cut short and that we didn't get to snorkel, but what can you do?

So we went back to our resort and had some lunch, and when the rain passed, we went back to the pool. Later that night we headed back down to Duval Street. We had dinner at the oldest restaurant in Key West. My blueberry margarita was pretty good, and my dinner was delicious, but I think I enjoyed the food more than the rest of the group. After dinner we went to check out some of the other places on Duval, which seems like an area that never shuts down.

Here Molly and I are enjoying a Hawaiian Sunset at a restaurant called Cheeseburgers. We chose this place to have a drink or two because we could sit at a little counter facing Duval Street and people-watch. That was very interesting, to say the least!

On Saturday we found a great breakfast cafe right across the street from our resort. The guys were very happy to find that the Iowa/Iowa State game was being broadcast on a channel we got in our townhouse, so they then settled in for the afternoon while Molly and I headed back across the street for massages. We were both a little unsettled the second we walked into the salon where we were to receive our massages, as it was not at all busy on a Saturday (not a good sign for a salon), kind of weirdly decorated, and the masseuses weren't especially professionally dressed (which we later realized is just the Key West lifestyle- as I noted before, it's very casual). However, we both had outstanding massages- some of the best we've both received, which just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover! After our massages and the big Iowa win, Molly and I headed downtown for some shopping, and the guys hung out by the pool again. Molly and I had our picture taken with a pirate (that picture is on Molly's camera), and when I told Zach that, he was so excited. "A real pirate?" he asked. When I told him yes, a real pirate, he said, "Was he alive?" It was cute. After Molly and I got home that evening, we ordered some pizza and just relaxed.

On Sunday morning we went out for a little kayaking trip. We saw lots of interesting wildlife and learned a lot about the mangrove trees, which basically formed the Keys. Our guide was really knowledgeable and fun to talk to. We didn't get any pictures of the kayaking because we didn't want to take our camera and have it get wet.

I know this will be hard to believe, but after the kayaking, we headed back to the resort and hung out by the pool. We really took advantage of having four pools to use on this trip.

We really saved the best for last on this trip. Sunday night we went on a sunset dinner cruise with Dream Chaser Charters. If you ever go to Key West, book a dinner cruise with these them. The company is just two people- Ken and Kathy- and they are so much fun. Somehow there was some sort of miscommunication, and we thought we were supposed to be there at 6:00, but really it was 5:00 or 5:30 (I'm still not sure which). Ken and Kathy were really awesome and never made us feel bad about being late, and assured us that the cruise would not be cut short at all, and the other couple on the cruise was great, too. They were an older (he was in his 60's and she was probably in her mid to late 40's, so they weren't old; just older than us) couple from Poland (him) and France (her). They were very fun and interesting to talk to.

Here are Brad, me, Molly, and Mike as the cruise set sail.

Molly and I laid on the ship's bow (the front of the boat- is that the bow?), enjoying the sun and some Pinot Grigio.

A little while into the cruise, we were lucky enough to spot a small pod of dolphins. This was even better than the dolphin watching cruise, because we could lay on the netting in the front of the boat and watch as we went right over the dolphins. It was so awesome.

Here you can see Brad lying on said netting, with the dolphins in the water beneath him. They're a little hard to see with the ship's reflection there, but if you enlarge the picture, I think you'll be able to tell where the dolphins are.

Here you can see how we're all totally engrossed in watching the dolphins. Arianna (the French lady) and I are in the background, with Kathy, the hostess, standing, and Brad and Molly are in the foreground.

Shortly after this our Captain Ken and Kathy came out with their silly dolphin hats on. They were so fun. It felt like we were sailing with old friends from the get-go, not strangers we had never met.

As the sun set, we made sure to get a few more pictures. Here are Brad and Molly in a picture Mike took. Is that Christmas card worthy or what?

And the four friends- we had such a fun time. I may need to print and frame this one!

And one of Mike and me. I don't know if it's Mike's shirt or what, but my normally gray-green eyes look very blue in this picture. Maybe my new Facebook profile picture?

Then Kathy talked us into leaning out over the edge of the boat, so here I am saying, "I'm the king of the world!" (If you haven't seen Titanic, see it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.)

After an really tasty dinner (shrimp cocktail and conch fritters for an appetizer, salad with mango poppyseed dressing, grilled shrimp and lobster, carrots, and delicious bread) prepared by Ken and Kathy, we headed back outside to enjoy the evening. Then Kathy brought us some homemade key lime pie (a signature dessert in Key West), which was the best I've ever had. Even Mike liked it, and he's not a key lime fan.

On the trip back to shore we saw this cool ship and had to take a picture for Zach since it looked like a real pirate ship. It was impossible to get a clear picture because of our speed, but I still thought this looked pretty cool, like a ghost pirate ship or something.

We left Ken, Kathy, Arianna, and Richard (the Polish man) with big tips (for Ken and Kathy), hugs, and well-wishes and headed back to our townhouse. The four of us have a running joke about "wife-beaters" (the white tank-style undershirts), and so Brad and Mike broke out their black "wife-beaters" and we took this silly picture. They're holding a fish sculpture, pretending they caught it.

We all stayed up way too late, and as a result, this is how we felt the next day at the Key West (and Miami, and Chicago) airport.

The trip was awesome. It went quickly but was so fun. It was just the right amount of activity and inactivity for me, with lots of time to read (especially on all those plane rides), relax, and see new things. Thanks, Brad and Molly, for going with us. And thanks, Curt and Linda, for keeping our kids and dogs safe and happy while we were gone. If you are thinking about a trip somewhere fun and in the U.S.- Key West is a great place!