Family Stories

Will on Fall. And Zombies.

Will’s book, “What I Like About Fall.”  Order emphasized by Will, who reads each picture.


Page Two.  Carving a JACK O LANTERN.

Page Three.  TAKING a NAP.

Page Four.  Wearing JACKETS.


Will’s drawings of THINGS IMPORTANT IN HALLOWEEN.  (Drawn on Will and Kate’s daily chore chart.  The strange fairy on the first picture and the X-wing on the second picture were done by me.  Will decided to seasonally enhance them.)

Of note.

Ghosts.  “They say BOO.”


Pumpkins. Jack o’Lanterns. “That’s what they’re called when they have faces.”

Witches.  “They ride brooms.”

And Zombies. “They go ‘uuuuuuuhhhhhhh uuuuuhhhh.'”   (Sound notated by “W W W W.”)

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“Will, what is falling off of the Zombies?”

“They are wet and they drip when they walk.”

“Why are their arms out in front of them?”

“Because they need to feel where they go or they’ll fall.”


Happy Fall!

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“I wish I’d never seen monkey bars.”

He was so proud of himself.  Even though he had to jump up to reach them, once his hand held, he swung  across those monkey bars with confidence.  When other children approached, he kindly demonstrated the hang and swing, dutifully encouraging others to try, too.  But then, that’s just our sweet guy.

Finally he complained that his hands were hurting.  He showed Paul his palms, which were beginning to show signs of blisters.  “Maybe you should take a break?” Paul suggested.

“Just one more time,” Will said.

And he jumped and grabbed the first bar with his right hand.  But before he could grab the next with his left, he slipped in mid-swing, coming down on his left arm.  He jumped up in a scream so fast Paul said it was as if Will’s body had bounced on the pavement.

Paul, the parent with experience in broken bones, was extra helpful to Will while we went through the ins and outs of x-ray, exams, and setting the splint.  Among Paul’s finer stories: the pain of x-rays, discomfort while sleeping, itching, and gross things that come out of casts.  Still, that’s probably better than what my face looked like when I cut off the make-shift magazine cast that held his arm from playground to hospital.

Both bones are broken in his left arm, a little above his wrist.  The ER at Children’s was terribly busy, so we didn’t get to see the x-rays.  He’s in a hard splint until the swelling goes down and then back to the orthopedic for more x-rays and setting later this week.

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Beach Week

Bugs or no, I am a beach girl.  I love the water, the sea shells, the sounds, the smells, the sand, and the sun.  At the beach, I can wake up and walk in the morning.  My hair naturally lightens.  My skin clears.  I loosen up.

Pools help, too.  Actually, in our scheme of beach days, pools are an absolute necessity.  Our perfect schedule: Beach first thing in the morning.  Move to pool late morning for snacks.  I go up to make sandwiches around noon.  Eat lunch around the pool and drip dry, then head upstairs for naps.  Late afternoon swim, movies after an early dinner, and everyone to bed at a reasonable hour.

We built different sand castles each day.  Here is the octopus.

Will and I snorkeled, used a net, or just reached down and grabbed up sand dollars and shells to decorate whatever creation Paul and Kate supervised on the beach.  (The big guy above has round shells on the ends of his long arms and sand dollar eyes.)

We took days off, too, to give us all a little break from the sun.  One morning we drove to Destin.  After missing out on a fishing boat trip (it filled up before we arrived), we went to play in the water fountains in Destin Commons, took our first-ever build-a-bear experience (Will’s dog has stars on him, has a surfboard and is named “Fred”, Kate’s dog has a t-shirt and is named “Boy.”)  Then we walked over to the movie theatre and saw “Up.”  The kids hugged their dogs, wore the 3D glasses, and took in all the movie without incident.

(This particular trip wasn’t without sacrifice… after we missed the boat, we had a little parking lot fender-bender.  Guy flying into the lot didn’t stop at the stop sign and Paul backed into him.  No damage to our car; his passenger door bent in.  We exchanged insurance information and Paul reported the incident immediately… we’ll see what happens next.)

Will and Kate were great play partners, particularly in public.

I had no idea there was a National Flip Flop Day.

I found at least 30 hermit crabs.  They were all over the sandbar, in every single shell I picked up, no matter how large or how small.  I took a few to shore for the kids to look at.

And also because this shell was the COOLEST SHELL EVER.  Paul called it Goth Crab, which was very appropriate.  The shell was actually darker (the umbrella is red and casts a red reflection on everything) — actually a black color — with spikes along the edge.  Seriously cool.  I secretly hoped this guy would hop in another shell or Paul would let us take him home.  (Both were equally unlikely.)

Isn’t that shell cool?

We let them run around in here for about 20 minutes before setting them free.

Here is the big fish.  Originally the idea was the have a HUGE mouth and put Kate inside.  Instead, Will and I found pointed sand dollar pieces to use as teeth on the bottom of the mouth (hard to see due to their color, but they are there!)  The boogie board became the fin, gills defined the sides.  He reminded us of the piranha fish in the Amazon.

Another off-beach day was at the Pensacola Air Museum.  Initially we were meeting my Mom here to bring her back to the beach with us.  She didn’t show, but we enjoyed the museum so much we returned on the way back to New Orleans on Sunday (with me limping along).  During our first visit we watched the 3D Grand Canyon IMAX movie, River at Risk, which we heartily recommend.  Both kids were awesome.

And they loved the overwhelming museum and the amazing exhibits.

The ocean was calm for the majority of our trip — so calm that we found it impossible to sneak out to go sailing (something we’ve been trying to do now for over a decade).  Well, technically we were thinking of going on our last afternoon after having an early dinner.  But we made the mistake of splitting a frozen adult beverage and were a little too fuzzy to sail afterward.

It was so clear that seeing all sorts of fish was incredibly easy. Just beautiful.

Will was determined to catch a fish.  I caught a jellyfish for him that he took to the beach and studied with several beach-friends, but managed to only catch fish when Will wasn’t around and I wasn’t trying.

The fish nibbled our feet.  It tickled.

We made drip castles, with steep walls in the front so that the water had to slowly work under and around the fort before taking it out.

I found another full sand dollar and a huge side of a shell.  Neither were found with the snorkel, though… my new friend is the net for shelling! (This makes me want to spend more time snorkeling there in the future — maybe out farther once Will is a little bigger and a bit stronger swimmer!)

Paul brought a shovel and dug wide holes in the shade for the kids to play.

They built castles and put chairs in their holes.

We didn’t sail, we didn’t kayak, we didn’t walk the Pier… but we swam, snorkeled, shelled, walked, flew kites, crabbed, watched movies, and had a wonderful time!

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We like to move it, move it. Day One.

With the knowledge that we were all fighting off colds, shivering from the dip in temps over the weekend, and likely to miss all Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras Day celebrations if we stayed home… we took off for Disney World. On Monday night we drove 140 miles to Mobile to stay with my parents. Tuesday morning, we left at 9am to travel the remaining 500 miles. Thank goodness we filched my parents’ portable DVD player… the kids were tired enough to zone out to the glow of the screen for most of the trip.

Driving to the park Wednesday morning was fantastic. Our car was filled with the popping sound of exploding heads — each sign, each character, each step was almost too much for them. Paul and I were convinced we were the World’s Best Parents.

Not that it lasted long. A few minutes later, when Will fell against a pole he’d been leaning and dancing around and hit his head for the 8th time in less than 24 hours, Paul and I fell into laughter so hard and long that we were instantly brought back down to our usual status as Parenting Embarrassments. Will, by the way, is fine. And did not need stitches for any of his injuries.

Kate was equally enthralled, but handled her excitement by running a verbal play-by-play of everything we encountered. Under usual circumstances, I would say that 2 is too young for Disney. After all, a 2-year old gets freaked out easily, tires too easily, is not tall enough to enjoy most attractions, and won’t remember it, anyway. Kate roundly provided that each of those points do not apply to her. Further, her running commentary was the stuff of comic genius and kept us laughing all day long.

“Tigger, I’m taking you home. I’ll teach you to say, ‘throw me somethin’ Mister!'”

Here is Kate in Minnie Mouse’s house.

Minnie lives in a cute purple house filled with everything that reinforces gender stereotypes. Actually, this is my biggest and perhaps only complaint about Disney these days: the codification of rigid, insulting, and simply ridiculous gender stereotypes goes beyond annoying to boarder on the grotesque.

Here is a mild example of what I’m talking about.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer my daughter (and son) have heroes whose daily lists involve things like, “attend Swahili language class,” “volunteer at the animal shelter,” “practice cello for next week’s concert,” “help Mickey rewire the junction box,” and “give lecture on brain surgery techniques to new residents.”

Why does Disney think it’s okay for kids to aspire to be love-sick saps who are fixated on dieting?!?!

*deep breaths* *deeeeep breaths*

Refocusing on the situation, Kate can’t read yet, so I’m free to interpret for her.  I’m used to doing this, since I get a lot of practice when I read them anything by Richard Scary.

“This is where Minnie does her math homework.” “This is the window where she uses her telescope to study the stars!”

This chair, by the way, was where Minnie studies medicinal properties of plants to use in curing disease.

I do what I can.

All that aside, the day was spectacular.

Here is our pictorial representation of the Mad Hatter’s tea cup ride. Paul and I didn’t spin the cup, by the way. Will and Kate did.

Paul was so darn awesome all day.  It was amazing to be together, ALL DAY LONG, as a family.  He did get an inordinate amount of phone calls from recruiters and co-workers, but managed to keep most of the calls short.

One of our favorites was Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster in Tomorrowland.  The jist is that Buzz has picked up bad activity in Sector 9 and needs help to zap Zurg and his no-good aliens.  Below is Will, studying up on Zurg’s symbol (this is what you’re asked to “zap” during the ride.)

Here is Buzz talking to us while we wait to get on board.  He’s giving us our assignments.  Unfortunately, I had to manipulate the camera to get the picture and Buzz’s face was a bit too lit to show up…

You ride in pairs.  The capsules spin around, which is how I was able to turn and get pictures of Will riding.  He’s using the lazer to zap Zurg’s insignia.

“Hi Mom, I got Zurg!”

Incidentally, Paul out ranked all of us by scoring over 110,000 points during one of our times on the ride.  I topped out at 86,000.  Kate routinely scored in the 400-800 range.  Will?  Well, he never made it past 400 (Kate beat him everytime).  But he WAY made up for it in ethusiasm!

At lunchtime, we exited the park for naps back at the motel.  On the way out, we caught a parade!  The conga line involved the crowd with a chorus of “I LIKE TO MOVE IT MOVE IT.”

Oh, Yes.  I picked up Kate and we danced the line.  Paul grabbed the camera, but missed us shimming with Mickey and Minnie on the other side of the float.  We moved it, moved it!

That’s us, finishing up our crowd-pleasing dance and waving to our celebrity dance partners (or, in this case, pah-ners).

After a great family nap, we arrived back at the park around 3.  A band was playing just past the entrance gates and right as we walked through, they struck up “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  No kidding. 

We took the remaining beads from our bag (having given out a ton throughout the park that morning) and passed them out in the crowd watching the band.  It was a perfect moment that called for nothing less.

We weren’t the only ones throwing through the park, either.  Other folks from the Gret Stet were doing a fantastic job spreading the love, as was clear from all the beads we saw in the park!

Both kids surprised me by taking The Pirates of the Carribean, a wonderful, classic boat ride with some spooky elements… including a 10-15 foot plunge down a waterfall, skeletons, darkness, mist, and ghosts.  Kate asked to go on it again.

Then the kids got some lessons in pirating from this guy:

We took in almost all of the Magic Kingdom that day — including the classic Haunted Mansion (one of the rides my Grandfather worked on), Winnie the Pooh (which Kate LOVED), Peter Pan’s Flight (Kate yelled, “We can Fly!” over and over again for the entire ride, much to our delight), and PhilharMagic, a new 3D movie.  Kate sat in her own seat and wore the 3D glasses like a pro, flinching minimally when champagne corks flew past her head.

We even rode Dumbo when the lines diminished at the end of the day.

Although it’s just a simple hub-and-wheel ride, Dumbo is a perennial favorite of children who force their parents to wait for unbelievably long stretches of time to circle the skies of Fantasyland.  It was beautiful to do the ride at night, watching the castle change colors from up high.

Even with getting caught in the post-firework traffic jam leaving the park, we were back to our car by 9pm and asleep at a reasonable hour… thus ending Disney, Day One.

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Will, and all his parts.

The kids stood in the crowded elevator enjoying the bounce at each stop up to the 6th floor. “It feels funny, doesn’t it?” Paul asked them.

“It makes my penis feel funny!” Will exclaimed to half of New Orleans.*

And with that, we entered the pediatrician’s office.

What we know: there does not seem to be fluid in his ear, an access of ear wax interfering with “membrane movement,” or anything else in there that would displace enough air to make anyone concerned. He is scheduled for additional testing at Children’s on Wednesday. Damn. I was really hoping for a slam duck on this one… and now I’m thinking that he’s physically fine and instead has some larger, big picture issue. Like, he’s just being five. And five can just be weird. No drug treatment for this.

But while we’re on the subject of Will, I thought I’d share what I know will be his most favorite picture of all time. One that he posed for purposely and requested photographic capture:

Well, this one could be a close second.

* We’ve had some practice with this before.

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Stuff to store, stuff to treasure?

My family’s brand of crazy is less of the run-around-the-house screaming variety and more of the subtle wear-you-down-until-you-snap variety.  Like most families, we take turns in the crazy seat.  We find it spreads the love around a bit more that way.

My Dad has been in and out of work for a few months now and after a few experiments finally decided to do what everyone has been smartly telling him to do for years: start his own company.  A few days before Christmas, he did this.  Now he is in the game of stop and go as details like insurance, office space, and equipment all get sorted out.  There is no lease on office space quite yet, which means my Dad is spending a considerable amount of time at home… in the crazy seat.  This is figurative, of course, because my Dad is a machine.  The man cannot sit still for a moment.  You know how Kate was so active during her first year that her weight dropped dramatically and we had a hundred tests and sleepless nights and worried, worried, worried… until finally no one could find anything wrong and was left us with the conclusion that she was burning several hundred calories a day simply because she was So Unbelievably Active?  Well, turns out Kate did get it from somewhere.

So in his attempts to ready my Mom for her turn on the crazy seat, Dad decided to empty the attic.  This is a HUGE endeavor.  The attic is actually includes normal attic space in the eves of their house, plus an entire room they left unfinished so they’d have more attic space.  Our entire house could fit in there, with room for the outbuilding.  Not that we are being critical: Paul and I have used this to considerable advantage.  We storage much of his pinball manuals and equipment there, as well as several boxes of non-essential ‘stuff’ that came from Michigan that we’ve never retrieved (things like high school yearbooks, old framed posters, and bins of artwork I did in elementary school).  There are also several dozen boxes of things from my Grandma Betty and Grandma Alice (my Mom and Dad’s mothers, respectively).

Dad decided he was ready to purge.  The boxes were waiting for us when we arrived on Friday afternoon.

Our stuff is one thing.  That is easier to identify both practically and emotionally.  But the things from my Grandmothers, I’m struggling to place.  Am I okay with letting these go, these little ties to forgotten memories?  Plus, so much of it is just unique and kitschy and cute.  And some of it involves birds and/or swans, on which I have an addiction that runs so deep I’d trade you my last bar of dark chocolate for a one-of-a-kind tchotsky with little other purpose over dust collection.

But really, milk glass is so creamy and wholesome!  And those bumps feel cool and interesting.  Also?  I have glass plates that are similar (with bumps along the edges) that were also my Grandma’s.  (Okay, I admit it.  My cabinets reflect that I’ve been led down this path before.)

See this little teacup?  It was my great-grandmother’s and now it’s all alone.  Just one tiny cup and saucer.  It’s too small for two lumps and would have a tough time taking cream.  Perfect, really, for the dainty shot of gin.  Isn’t that what tea parties are about these days, anyway?

I can’t decide which of these I like more.  Instead of laying my earrings on the bathroom counter, wouldn’t they look cute in one of these?  (Please no smart comments about the jewelry looking best where it goes… in a drawer… I’m trying to be realistic here.)

Did you know milk glass GLOWS?  Sure, it’s glowing on the bottom, but how cool!  My Mom told me that Grandma used this on the kitchen table as a place to put receipts and keys.  In other words, if I took it home and Kate used it to mix plaster of paris, I wouldn’t be completely disowned.

Ah, but this!  Your heart will just break.  I have another for holding my rings while I do dishes.  But not quite as adorable as this little sweetie…

Little touches of my Grandmas.  Definitely worth finding a place for at home… and then packing up and evacuating with once a year.  Right?

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Holly (and other) Days


My brother, Skipper (now answering to his true name, Tim) and me.  I’m a little older than Kate is right now in this picture.  Billerica, Massachusetts.

This must be the moment that my parents explained that my brother, being the boy, would be financially supported through college and that I was expected to marry well right out of high school.


Skip and I with our first big wheels.  I rode mine until all the stickers fell off or faded to white and there were holes in the wheels.  The big wheel Skip is on is different than the Hot Wheels tricycle he rode onto the 4-lane high way in the middle of rush hour traffic while my Dad was painting the house.

That’s my grandfather’s German train set under our tree.  Paul and I have that garland (Filene’s basement special — my Mom worked nights at Filene’s).  My Dad gave the trains to my Uncle, who sold them (d’oh!)  This Christmas, my Dad and brother put together parts of the same train, bought used over the past few months on ebay.


Still in Billerica!  I was a Strawberry Shortcake girl.  I’ve seen that Strawberry and her buds are back… but taller, thinner, shapelier, and with makeup.  Ugh.


We’d moved to Summerville, SC, by now — but spent this holiday away from home.  This is at my Grandma Betty’s house in Woodstock, VA.  That’s my cousin Becky in Grandma’s lap.

That’s my cousin Stephen.  The same guy who took Will fishing last September.  Remember the necklace?  That’s an Annie locket.  My hair is actually growing out from an Annie perm.  OH YES, a Little Orphan Annie Perm.

That was all I could find in the attic.

Here are some old photos I had backed up my parents’ computer.


Mobile, Alabama.


Mobile, Alabama.


Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, LA.


Mobile, Alabama.

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Did I almost destroy us all?

I made turkey this year for Christmas dinner.  Not a full turkey, I know my limits, but a full turkey breast, which I figure is pretty darn good for me, all things considered.  Those ‘all things’ include that I was a vegetarian for 8 years and Paul for 15 — in other words, neither of us are particularly knowledgeable in the preparation of meat.

When I was pregnant with Kate and overseas, I became pretty seriously anemic.  Actually, between you and me, I think I’m still struggling with this whole anemia thing, but that’s another story.  In any case, the iron issue was what brought me back to meat in the first place (it was easier than going out of my way to find soy products in Peru).  But it was at least a year until I got the courage to actually cook meat myself.

Now when I cook meat, I do so almost exclusively with the crockpot.  It’s just hard to screw things up and I feel confident that everything is cooked through without being too dry.  So, naturally, when I considered cooking turkey, I gravitated toward recipes that involve a crock pot.

So we’re talking to my Mom and Paul mentioned my newly found turkey cooking skills.  How DARN GOOD that Christmas turkey from the crock pot was — with the added perks of how great the house smelled all day, that the kids loved it, and how he was just thrilled as can be that we had three more meals of it tucked away in the freezer.  The compliments went right to my head and I threw in how easy it was… cut herbs from the porch, juiced some lemons, marinated everything overnight, and then put it all in the crock pot to cook all day.

My Mother, Goodness Bless Her, picked right up on something.  She quickly called her girlfriends to gain support.  Then with the voices of Two Seasoned Cooks behind her, she reported to me that I committed Serious Culinary Sin.  Apparently, one NEVER cooks poultry in it’s marinade.


This is what the recipe* said:

Place turkey, skin side down, in a large leakproof food storage bag or a nonreactive (glass or ceramic) dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over turkey, turning to coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, or overnight. Place turkey and marinade in the crockot; cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, or until tender.

A similar recipe is here, too.

My Mother has never really recovered from the trauma of realizing that I make far superior chocolate chip cookies**, so I take her critique with a grain of salt.

But she is my Mom*** and has our best interests in mind.  (By ‘best interests’ I mean more than maintaining that my children only eat meals that she prepares.)  So, I appeal to the experts of the internet: is the recipe above one for good turkey, or gastro-intestinal illness?


* I should note that I deviated from the recipe considerably, as I always do.  (I fear that I do not follow directions well.)  I added broth.  I wouldn’t know a dry wine from a glass of water, so I used the only bottle of wine in the house (it was a chardonnay, which I assume is a white wine because it wasn’t red colored).  I used more wine than the recipe called for, as well as more herbs.  I added salt (a lot, because I know you’re suppose to have a lot of salt in a brine) and peppercorns, also because I hear they are popular when you cook turkey.  I didn’t have Dijon mustard in the house (I think mustard is foul) so I used a dried mustard powder that I have on hand because it works good with several tofu dishes we cook.   I have no idea if any of what I have done matters in whether or not what I served was deadly.

** Yes.  I make one seriously awesome chocolate chip cookie.

*** In all seriousness, my Mother is an excellent, Excellent(!) cook.

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Breaks my heart without even trying.

Will came home from school to find my sketching supplies out with evidence that I had been using them.  He was curious and paused to look, then ran in the back to change clothes and work on the house with Paul — the call of power tools.

Then, 5 minutes later, he’s back inside.


“Will, dinner is going to be soon, so no snacks.”

“No, Mommy.  I don’t want a snack.  I want to draw.”


“Draw.  Like you.”

Behold, internets.  I give you, MY SON.

What was that, you ask?  That sound?

It was the sound of my heart, breaking into eight thousand pieces a hundred times over.

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The Lagniappe

Gris-Grits tagged me and ’cause it gets me all blushy and bashful, I’m totally going to do it again.  The rules are the same, but as I mentioned last time, I’m terribly unreliable when it comes to things like RULES.  It’s one of many things I’m unreliable about, actually.  Here are some more…

1. I cannot be trusted to put shoes away, ever.  Particularly before bedtime, which means that someone who is stumbling through the dark to find the bathroom is likely to encounter shoes.  Be warned.

2. Recipes are very hard for me to follow.  It’s not that I CAN’T follow directions, it’s just that it is an incredible bore.  Paul disagrees.  He likens my meddling with recipes to a dog marking it’s scent on every passing lamp-post.  Lovely man, my Paul.

3. I cannot be trusted to keep my mouth shut.  Ever.  About anything.  It’s one of my charms.

4. I bit through my tongue when I fell off a sit-and-spin at age 5.  My tongue had a hole for years from the bite and still has a visible cut.  The fall happened because I wasn’t listening and was standing on the toy.  I show Will the injury as a warning of what happens when Children Don’t Listen.

5. Doctors wondered if I would have a thumb nail after I slammed my left hand in a door (also at age 5).  Surgeons re-attached my thumb and a few months later, a new nail grew in.  Today, there is no visible evidence of any injury, so I do not have the physical evidence required to use it as cautionary tale to my children.

6. I would give it all up to tour with The Supremes.


UPDATE: Lisa noted that I didn’t tag anyone.  So I tagged her, bashfully.  Anyone else new to Cold Spaghetti??  Please play and link here so I can find you!

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