So, yesterday was it, the big day, the day I've been waiting for since the end of April when I found out Janet Evanovich was going to do book signings and she was coming to New Jersey. It only got better when I posted to the blog asking if anyone wanted to go to New Jersey with me, and not only did Melissa respond, but Russell and Amy said they'd like to come up from Savannah for the occasion! PARTY!
So at 9am yesterday, we met up with Melissa in the commuter lot on 123 and headed to New Jersey. The email we got from Janet's site said there'd be a big street festival in New Jersey to kick off the book's release, complete with a costume contest (this turned out to be a bit of a bust--nothing was really going on while we were there, although we won free drinks from Chick Fil A). We went back and forth--I immediately knew that I was going to dress Leah up as Lula, but finally we all decided to dress up--Melissa as Stephanie, me as Connie, and Amy as Mrs. Plum. I thought we all looked great! Melissa volunteered to drive and for her blue Vue to be the vehicle of the day, so we crammed in and off we went! Russell was excited because he got to see a new state--he'd never been to New Jersey before.
We made good time. We stopped once at a rest area to use the bathroom and get some provisions and still got to New Jersey at 12:30. We had a little bit of a challenge finding the B&N, getting a wee bit lost along the way (apparently I drained the iPhone's battery playing Tetris, so we weren't able to get directions as clearly as we might have), but finally found it, wonder of wonders, next to a Wegman's and... *drum roll* a CHRISTMAS TREE SHOP!!!!!!!!! Wahoo! Seriously, the shopping area was huge. We finally got out of the car and everyone hit the ground running for the bathroom--apparently it's not a good idea to get big drinks when you're going to be stuck in the car for a while :-) Then we went and bought our books--we cleaned them out! Well, not really, but we did buy a LOT of books. Afterwards, the clerk sent us outside to get our wristbands. We were #447-450 in line.
We headed over to Cheeburger Cheeburger for lunch instead of going into Philadelphia for a trip to the Dining Car, as planned. I'd never been there, but it was SO good. I had a grilled portabella melt, and it was amazing. On good Jersey rye bread. YUM. We got extra onion rings, which were delicious and then we decided to dress Leah up in her Lula costume. Melissa had borrowed donuts and fried chicken toys from her school, and we had a Cutielicious onesie from my mom, and Melissa got her a pimp hat and pants and cuffs and my sister contributed pants as well. Leah looked SO Lula by the time we were done, it was awesome.
Then we did some wandering and shopping for a while--hit the Christmas Tree Shop, went to Wegman's (their raspberry cupcakes are AWESOME!!!!!), and then decided to go back to B&N to see what was going on. We met Mr. Cluck and then went into the store. They'd broken out a bunch of helium balloons, and I decided I wanted to get a couple for Leah. I went over to a young woman with a pile of balloons and she said hello and started asking about the baby. She said, "What number are you?" and I said, "448" and she said, "Well, I hate it that you'd have to wait that whole time with a baby. Tell you what, I want you to go up to the front of the line and tell them that Alex said it was OK for you guys to go first--we're letting babies and people with disabilities go ahead."
Well, alrighty then, I thought! GREAT news! So I went towards where she pointed, thinking B&N has the nicest employees ever. Melissa said something about Janet's daughter and I said, "Who's Janet's daughter?" and Melissa said, "You were just talking to her!" Yes, folks, Alex is Janet's daughter and I didn't even know it!!!!! *Sigh* :-) But it was cool that she was so awesome, and I got balloons for Leah.
So we went up and stood where Janet was coming out and then I thought we should probably figure out where to stand to get in the right place to have the books actually signed and I went up to the B&N line manager and told her Alex said we could cut the line with the baby and where should we stand? She gave me directions, I rounded up our crew, and we stood. They let the line open for the first 50, and I will say, I agreed with the fact that the people who got there first should have gone ahead of us. After those 50 went through, they sent us through--it was the 4 of us and one other lady in a wheelchair. It was AWESOME.
Alex came back through the line and started asking Ranger or Morelli? I said, "Please, ask your mom to write 300 pages of Stephanie and Ranger, just once, no detail too small, and then Morelli forever." She said, "Sounds like you're a Ranger girl!" and handed me an "I love Ranger pin". I wore it proudly, despite also being a Morelli girl. I think Amy and Melissa got Morelli pins and Russell and I got Ranger pins :-) FUN!
Then we were up! There was an assistant taking cameras and pictures, and so I stepped up and gave him my camera. Then I went to stand with Janet, who was signing my books. She wasn't doing personalizations, which gave her a chance to do pictures, and I'd have rather had the pictures, honestly. Unfortunately, coming face to face with your favorite author tends to render you speechless and I could think of NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, to say to her. And I was buying a good number of books, so it's not like I didn't have time. My mind drew a complete blank. She admired Leah a bit and finally I came up with, "Thank you for writing these books, they've brought me hours of joy" like a dumbass.
Because they'd said we could take a group picture afterwards, I stood to the side while Melissa got her book signed and then Janet turned to me and asked if she could have Leah. :-) She said, "I want one of those!" and I said, "Sorry, it took me too long to get this one." She said, "Oh, I can tell she was worth the wait!"
Then Russell and Amy went and then we all went back and got a group picture taken together. (Leah had long since lost the Lula gear--it was HOT in the store and we were all sweating.)
Each time I stepped forward with Leah, you could hear a bunch of sighs and squeals! Leah was eating it up. She was smiling like a champion. And then it was time to head back south. We loaded up the balloons, but soon it became clear that they had a mind of their own, so we decided to let the helium out and before long, Amy was huffing helium and saying, "I love you, Russell" and giggling in a helium voice. It was hilarious. Then Russell got in on the action, and I thought he sounded just a little bit gay with the helium voice, so I told him, "Say you love your J. Crew sweater" and Melissa amended it to, "Say you love your pink sweater from J. Crew." When he said it, I thought we were all going to fall out of the car laughing. The helium ran out WAY too quickly.
Russell requested we stop for Roy Rogers for dinner, so we hit a rest area with a RR and had some grub. Leah was starting to get VERY angry, so Melissa and I fed her and then Amy and I strapped her back in the car and we got back on the highway.
In no time flat, the screaming began. And continued unabated until finally we decided to pull into the next rest area and I would try to calm her down. I walked her around for a bit and then we settled into the car, her snuggled into my chest. Melissa offered to drive slowly around a bit to get the feel of the road back into her, and I said something to the effect that I had a noisemaker at home that plays a heartbeat, which babies find very soothing as it reminds them of being in the womb and they feel secure and snuggly. I asked her if she had a heartbeat on her iPhone and she found a free app for it, but it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do. Then she logged on and found a "baby soothing app" and it was only 99 cents, so she decided to download it. It had a heartbeat sound, so she plugged the phone into her car's sound system and soon we were listening to "ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump". Melissa put the car in gear, and started slowly circling the parking lot, and we were all giggling quietly, when I said, "I feel like we're being stalked by the tell-tale heart" and we all busted out laughing. There was a dude standing by his car in the parking lot and we were driving in circles around him with the heartbeat blaring. Melissa said, "Well, we've got a womb on wheels!" and we all started dying laughing again. It was HILARIOUS. I was crying I was laughing so hard, and I was not alone. So we start making all these heart jokes--I told Leah (who was snoring happily away against me) that she'd better be a cardiologist. We came up with every song we could think of that had the word "heart" in the title.
Finally, Leah was settled enough that we put her back in the carseat and headed down the road, heartbeat blaring, and the 4 of us 'adults' cackling like crazy. We got to the Ft. McHenry tunnel toll booths, and I told Melissa to crank the stereo as she paid. We were all dying laughing again, but the attendant didn't do anything. DISAPPOINTING!
Finally we made it to Virginia. The Beltway was clogged, so Melissa made a crack about clogged arteries and maybe we needed to get a bypass. Then Russell turned on his video camera to film us on the Wilson Bridge and at the mixing bowl and said into the microphone, "Here we are on the DC Beltway. We've been listening to a heartbeat for the last 200 miles to try to keep Leah calm" and I interjected, "But it was not 'in vein' because she's stayed asleep." and we all just totally lost it. Completely and totally lost it. The womb on wheels was rocking from the 4 of us just busting a gut laughing. How the baby did not wake up, I do not know. Seriously. We were howling, the tears flowing, I thought we might even drive off the road.
Well, all good things must come to an end, and eventually we hit Woodbridge and parted ways leaving the Womb on Wheels behind, and of course, Leah woke up and started SCREAMING without the heartbeat on. She screamed most of the way back to the 'burg, but I think it was just some serious tired, because we got home, I fed her, and I put her to bed, and she was out like a light in about 2 minutes and slept 8 solid hours. (For which I was very, very thankful)
It was a WONDERFUL trip, the most fun I've had in FOREVER on the road. I'm so glad Melissa, Russell and Amy made it and we had as much fun as we did. As Russell said on his Facebook this morning, "I'd do it again 'in a heartbeat'."
Excuse my while I go dry my tears and start reading. I've got Fingerlickin' Fifteen to get through :-)
1 day ago