...Here Are Ten Things You Should Know:
- Arrive early. Parking is US$40 for the night pretty much everywhere on Miami's South Beach, but we got there before sundown, got pretty stellar parking around 13th Street and Washington Ave, and had that $40 spread over about seven hours. For SoBe, that's not too bad and takes the OUCH! out of it, when you do the per-hour breakdown. Also, as you can tell from this picture, I didn't prep properly. I had planned to take the kids to the beach there that afternoon, but I didn't plan for myself to go, too! Duh. So I got a million strange looks from the other beach-goers when I showed up dressed to the nines, but my whole "F-ck it!" attitude for the night - which is what I hope will carry into 2016 and beyond - got me through the would-be embarrassment. Whew.
2. Bring the kids. YES! Bring. The. Kids. (Or take them, whatever. I'm pretty freakin' awesome at obeying most English grammar rules, but the bring/take ones always mess with my ever-weakening braining skills.) Especially if you follow the first point noted above, your kids will have a blast at their SoBe NYE celebration. They can spend several daylight hours jumping in and out of warm winter waves, but when darkness rolls in, as you'll see below, there's plenty more fun for children to have, without interfering in responsible parents' amusements. If this is the one-and-only chance you have at celebrating this occasion at the world's #3 New Year's Eve destination, I vote hands-down for a "YES!" in the bring-them-or-leave them-home debate. (Of course, if I had left mine at home, the responsible parent in me might be writing a whole 'nother post, but maybe we'll save that for when they are older and don't declare partying with Mom and Dad their "Best Night EVER!" y'know?).
3. Take those damn selfies. I don't care whether you post them all over Instagram with the connect-thru to Facebook and Twitter, and later all over your own blahg, like I did, or if you are more of a Social Media Bah Humbug, but take them anyway. If you're an Interwebs Whore Lover like I am, your friends will at least pretend to enjoy seeing each others' festivities on such a hugely-shared date, as much as you (I don't pretend, so I won't write that) will enjoy seeing theirs for all 24 hours of the change! If you are more private about life (no, you cannot ever claim that I wasn't an open book!), you and your dear ones will definitely cherish these memories.
3. Wear whatever you want. Seriously, this is important. I selected three dresses from my closet and had Hubs pick the one I should wear. I had never worn any of them out in public, ever. I ended up rejecting Dress One, because the shoulder straps were all-satin and kept slipping all the way down, and you know what? My girls have nursed three children past their first birthdays and just need more support than that! I rejected Dress Two for that same reason - HELLO, clothing designer people, at least put a stopper on that strap-adjuster thingamajig! Dress Three was the one I truly wanted to wear anyway, and not just because it's bright red (it's kind of my signature color) and showcases the afore-mentioned 'girls' in a pretty fantastic way (and wasn't made in China...). I told Hubs I wanted the word to described how I looked to be "AMAZING" when I put it on. And it was! I rocked a size 5, sexy, kinda skimpy dress out in public for possibly my life's biggest audience, and the whole time until this morning (and by that I mean 5 PM on New Year's Day, y'all), I thought I was wearing a size 8. Hello, my head is for once bigger than my butt.
After the dress fitting, I won't even go into how long it took me to choose the right undergarments, the perfect f***-me heels, the shades of make-up... it's exhausting, ladies, am I right? Rob just wore what he wanted, despite my nitpicking, and the kids did the same. In the end, I enjoyed wearing the dress, and nobody gave me an ugly glance about it, but I also would not have been completely out of place had I worn flip-flops and a tank with jeans. So. Don't over-stress. It's South Florida, after all, where the dress code is always "come as you are."
4. Don't forget your wallet. South Beach is not cheap on all the other days of the year, but when a humongously huge event hits the Oceanfront, expect to pay through the nose. I already told you about the quadruple jump in even the cheapest parking. Did you want to stay a while and maybe eat or drink? Expect to have at least a few Benjamins on hand that you don't mind parting with, or else stay home. I mean, you could always pack a picnic lunch and walk more than the three blocks we did to get to the main stage (Hubs is disabled), which would always be more economical when it's a possibility. But especially if you're bringing your offspring, there are bound to be unexpected expenses.
After parking and going to the beach, at 1820 (6:20 PM for you non-military 'Mericans) we went to a certain restaurant I won't name here that was just terrible throughout the visit, and this was during Happy Hour when all menu prices were supposed to be half-price. For a meal for five, including just water for the kids and my husband's constant habit of picking the least pricey thing on the menu (despite my also-constant urging him to eat what you want), they wanted us say adieu to US$200. After my calculations, I expected half of that. My grandma taught me to ALWAYS CHECK THE RECEIPT, everywhere I go, and I caught that not only did they charge us double without the supposed half-priced Happy Hour specials, they also charged us for TWO of Sophie's cheeseburgers when the first one they served her was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside! Are you kidding me?! Our bill was cut in half after the absentee server FINALLY came over and asked why I was shouting; I wondered why he didn't mentioned the colorful language I was also using?! Not only did the final US$103.xy check not eliminate some of the doubled charges, but this restaurant also had the enormous balls to charge us an automatic gratuity! For the first time in my life, I stiffed them on the check - but only by one-sixth of the $18 "tip" charges, and only because all I had were five $20 bills, didn't want to wait even longer for change, and did not want this bleeping restaurant to have our credit card information! (If you want the name of this particular restaurant, please let me know in the comments. I'm happy to share. ;P) )
After parking and the sucktastic dinner experience, we decided to make our way down Ocean Drive from the 1300 block to 5th Street. I don't think we shed any further weight in our wallets other than shakes and cheese fries at Johnny Rockets ($42 and infinitely better than the eyeroll-inducing, sarcasm-filled dinner experience) and hitting up a side-street market for prepackaged frozen treats (I sound like a marketing survey) and a four-pack of wine cooler-sized bottles of some decidedly brut champagne (again $42 total, which was fine since it would otherwise have cost us about $100 per glass to toast in a restaurant at midnight). Sure, there were lots of ways we could have scrimped even more to save our precious pennies, but there were also a ridiculous abundance of ways that we could have gone flat-out crazy in racking up expenditures. If you wanted flashy New Year's Eve-themed swag to embellish your stylin' look, for instance, the glow-in-the-dark sunglasses were $20 per pair. After I put my bugged-out eyes back in my head, I decided to pass. If there's a next time, we'll hit up Oriental Trading ahead of time!
5. Use your phone camera's FLASH-ON setting. I don't like to use a flash, because I prefer natural lighting, but obviously in a setting like this, there is very little of it. And if it's the difference between a bad photo and a halfway decent picture, then go for it! Even if it means people blinked and you have to take several snaps, use the flash. I wish I had remembered that last night.
6. Visit Lummus Park. You guys. Whether you're helicopter parents who can't bear to take their eyes off their progeny for one second, a staunch crusader in the usage of "child-free" vs. "childless," thank-you-very-much, or somewhere betwixt those options like me, seriously, you should go to this park. Adults should experience the carefree, childlike joy of swinging on the swings by seaside moonlight at least once in their lives, and this is a gorgeous place in which to do just that. I have glorious memories of swinging with my University of Miami BFF, Kristal, almost 20 years ago there, and I doubt those will ever grow cobwebs in my mind.
Children, on the other hand, will have so much fun exploring and discovering. I don't just mean the swings, the slides, or the cool exercise area... but specifically on this one night of the year, they will also experience so much more. I don't know how much the rest of America, particularly in the more remote areas, realize what a multicultural jackpot Miami is, but the rest of the world seems to know it if they do not. While hanging out for about two mostly uninterrupted hours on this giant tire swing, they made many friends. I recall Sophia and Chloë breathlessly telling me, running to and from the area, that they had met new folks from Australia, England, Italy, India, Brazil, and distant parts of the US. In two hours! (Jack was too busy playing there to visit Mom and Dad unless we signaled him over.) If only our phones weren't nearly dead and I hadn't brought the tiny clutch that certainly didn't hold pen or paper, they might have a novel set of pen pals.
7. Dismiss your expectations. Oh, my gosh, whoever said, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" might never have been to South Beach! You will see things you never imagined equally as often as you'll observe the more everyday stuff. Certainly if you have your kids with you, you'll want to know that we had a drug deal go down directly adjacent to us from where we were sitting on the brick wall separating Lummus Park from the extra-wide sidewalk, along with the tremendously skunky smell that permeated the air. Definitely if you're anti-smoking like I am, you'll think to yourself about 900 times throughout the evening, "How do THIS MANY people STILL smoke tobacco?!!" And of course, if you're more conservative-leaning and do not want your young folk to be exposed to things like open homosexuality ("Ralph, look at that! Tsk-tsk, they're holding hands!") and other walks of life being the norm, then maybe this isn't the place for you. (Psst: Don't go to Key West, either.)
On the other hand, if you are more progressive leaning, I promise you're in for the people-watching of a lifetime. And your kids will blossom in front of your eyes. Sure, their vocabularies might expand, but probably so will more of their other abilities. Take the chance and find out. For example, Sophia had never been exposed to one of these boxing heavy bags, to my knowledge. But when she started punching and kicking it, I was a little bit awed! For reals. I didn't know she could kick that high! I didn't know she had those muscles there! I didn't know she had that much stamina! The feeling, as a mother, was amazeballs. And that is just the beginning...
8. Strike a pose. Oh, wait, I already gave you the "take selfies" advice, and this point may seem quite like that. But taking it was fun, and I look kind of hot for once in this photo with Chloë, and it was really meaningful to me to play like I felt good about myself in Model Mecca of the Universe. So really, this advice is more like I'm saying to you, let your inhibitions about yourself go - whether or not a drop of 50-proof alcohol is involved - and enjoy the moment. No, enjoy all the moments. Not just this one night in this one place, but every living minute you are alive. For my younger audience (I can say that, because this is the year I turn - gasp! - 40 years old), this may be my most important take-away message. What other people think about you doesn't matter. The ONLY people whose opinions of you matter are either the ones who drove, flew, or rowed with you to South Beach in the first place, or if you might have taken an Über ride, they might be the people you miss the most on Christmas, I dunno. Clearly, your own self-image matters the most. You know what? I have a billion what-if? messages that I send to myself the same number of times per day, but what if I had actually said and done things the "right" way? So what. I didn't. Shit happens. I'm letting it go and now, letting things flow. Because I am old enough to love myself enough to do, say, and freaking feel the way I do. And that, my friends, is what this picture represents to me.
(P.S. I totally got carded when I bought that champagne. Perhaps the dude was just humoring me, but he was also eyeing me and hitting on me, so I am still allowed to be flattered!)
9. Don't crop your photos in the editing room. If you're like me, as I suspect many women and a lot of men might be, you dwell on your negative aspects and completely miss out on the positives. I have been told time and time again, specifically by men, that I need to stop that! So do you. I spend so much time apologizing for my supposed flubs and flaws instead of having more meaningful things to say, or listening more, or sharing significant silences. I crop out so many of my pictures, if I haven't deleted them entirely, instead of realizing how beautiful some of them, or their parts, are. In the photo above, I did not crop out Chloë's bottom half, because in my mind she is physically perfect, as are all my children, don'tcha know - but my own. I don't like my legs. I don't like my belly. I don't like those flappy-fish arms of mine. But those legs have carried me around on so many important wifely and motherly - and yes, selfly - duties. And that belly carried and birthed four beautiful children in just 3½ years. And those arms carried those babies around until they could walk, and held their hands after they learned to go on their own two feet, and reached out to hug wherever hugs were necessary. So I need to cut myself some damn slack once in a while and show off those parts of me of which I should be more proud. Right?
For more on this subject, read this article I spotted while writing this post (ignoring the obvious complaints about that grabber of an opening picture, please).
10. Use the good camera, and take lots of pictures. No, I don't live my life behind the camera lens instead of experiencing it firsthand. As I hope you can tell from this post, I love both! I debated, not for the first but more like the hundredth time this month, whether or not to carry along my Nikon D5100 and accoutrement, which is basically just a starter dSLR. Even if it was just a small point-and-shoot camera (at least one of the newer ones), the pictures probably would have been a huge improvement over my awesome Samsung Galaxy S5's photos. lolz... Listen. I'm just an amateur when it comes to my photography skillz, but I learn more with every picture I take. Not just about lighting, magic hour, and angles, but certainly those, too. I also learn behind the lens about my kids' strengths I hadn't yet witnessed myself, I learn to take time and do things right instead of always being the first one to jump in or stop doing something I'm having trouble with or don't enjoy fully at first, and I learn to let go and let my kids handle the spendy camera once in a while to take pictures that may just stop my breath for a moment in time. Those are all good lessons for a parent to learn. So sling that camera bag strap over your shoulder and walk along, without stressing about sand or water. You'll thank me when your phone's battery drops to 5%.
What lessons learned from 2015 can you share with me? What lessons do you have yet to learn in 2016 or beyond? Drop me a comment and let me know!