Special Family Moments

Fulbert and Button Beanie Prepare for Rain.

“It always pays to be prepared,” Button says.

“Yes sirree, indeed,” Fulbert replies.

“Do you think we need our galoshes, Fulbert dear?” Button asks.

“No, I want everyone to admire my cute ankles,” Fulbert answers.

(photos by Paul)

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Bunny Salad

Too much candy on Easter?  Try the BUNNY SALAD

Step 1: Assemble ingredients.  Pears, lettuce/spinach leaves, carrots, strawberries, cottage cheese, peppercorns.  A plate for your garden, peeling tool, and cutting board are also useful.  Note that the actual recipe calls for fully-sized carrots and cloves, which will screw you up later, so be prepared to roll with it.

Household bunnies are optional.  Note that if you take one to the store, there will be a lot of pointing and giggling.

Step 2: Contemplate safety of child’s fingers, then say, “F* it” (to yourself, please) and let them go to town with the peeler.  Consider counting fingers before he starts, just in case.

Step 3: Use a knife to cut peeled pear in half.  Keep the stem on the end for a nose, if you like.  Use the peppercorns and carrots as eyes and ears.

Damn.  The string carrots won’t work.  Substitute pear peel.

Damn.  Pear peel won’t stick.  Neither will peppercorns.  Realize you screwed up.

Get creative.  Dig some holes for the eyes.  And ears.

Step 4: Get smart.  Use toothpicks.  Let the kid cut the toothpicks before insertion, he’ll love it.

Pat yourself on the back for being such a Super Mom.

Step 5: Notch that Super Mom status up a few bars by letting the 5 year old use the KNIFE.  The emergency room won’t judge you, you creative Mom, you!

Step 6: Add strawberries and carrots to the lettuce patch.  You’ve got bunnies in the garden!

(Note: if you haven’t already realized that you need two bunnies for your two children, hurry and make a second.  Substitute whatever necessary to make it work.)

Step 7: Don’t forget to use the cottage cheese to make fluffy bunny tails!

Step 8: Have your kids pose with their salads so you can send them to Mothering and Parenting websites and magazines.  You need to document your awesomeness.

Step 9: Realize that your kids may begin to get that the salad is a ploy to distract from eating Easter candy.  Be prepared to talk up the awesomeness of the salad!

Step 10: Reward children who eat bunny salad with Easter candy.  As if it would end any other way.

Happy Easter!

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NOLA-style Bon Burgers

Will’s class works on a reward system where kids are given points for good behavior at the end of each day.  When the kids have earned 10 of these points, they are awarded a BIG “Bon” Point and are allowed to select a “Creature” card: a little picture of an animal on cardstock with their name, the date, and the animal’s name in French written on the back.  Somewhere in the craziness of last fall, Paul and I tied rewards at home to the school’s rewards… Will gets to pick dinner on the nights he brings home a Big Bon Point.  While he’s surprised us once or twice with requests for pot roast and/or macaroni and cheese, almost always the request is for a cheeseburger.

A few weeks ago, we decided to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and make an afternoon of the cheeseburger Bon Point.  We walked up to the Streetcar, rode down to Camilla Grill, ate our counter-service burgers, caught the Streetcar back down St. Charles Avenue and walked home.

A very New Orleans family outing.

Even though we can see it coming from a mile away (well, almost), I still get nervous about someone getting hit by the streetcar.  We end up holding the kids too tightly for way too long, dropping quarters in sweaty hands and grasping at falling bags because we were too anxious.  Silly, silly.

Windows open!

The kids are quiet and serene on the streetcar… once they settle into a seat.

The “wedding cake” house, nestled in the live oaks.  There was scaffolding up all around it for almost a year to paint it — the job simply took that long to get right.

Walking home, the kids had a lot more energy.

And did more exploring.

Kate LOVES to smell flowers.  Only, she doesn’t quite have the whole “smell” thing down.  She sort of snorts on them.  (Bummer for the unsuspecting plant when her nose needs a proper tissue-holding blow.)

Whoa!  A bee!

See the monkeys in the tree?

Kate was pretty independent on the walk back.

Enough, Mom.


No, she’s not running at Paul because she wants picked up (as if).  Kate is no more.  THAT is a MONSTER.

Incoming!  It’s a MONSTER!

This is the last picture I took, because Paul and Will were promptly eaten immediately following this snapshot.

And they tasted mighty good with those Camilla burgers in their tummies.  Just ask Kate… errr… The Monster…

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Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, Day Two

Where were we before school madness, the pressure of three projects, summer camps, donor fatigue, and worrying about my Mom?

Right.  Disney.

On Day two of our 3 days in The World and it’s orbiting moons, we took a day off from parks and went to Downtown Disney.  Once Upon A Time, this was simply called Lake Buena Vista.  You could rent paddle boats and feed ducks.  There were a bunch of little specialty shops and tiny boutiques.  Now it’s pretty much Disney oriented, with a performance stage (think: cheesy high school jazz choirs), a few cheap and free kid-oriented attractions, and stores.  It’s actually a nice place to spend the morning.

Kate and I rode the carousel.

By the way, any horse that Kate rides is christened with the name “Lucky” by The Patootie Herself.

Copious amount of cute pictures with Winnie the Pooh.  Paul kept saying that it looked like Pooh’s hand was cut off and oozing.

Paul joined the kids for a photo.  Not that Kate initially approved.

The LEGO store has some fantastic displays.  I love the waves in this pirate display.   (That’s Will, checking it out in the corner of the picture.)  I also like the kid in the background.  I think she’s freaking out about the half-of-a-guy in the water.  Did the nearby shark get the rest?

Outside of the LEGO stores are a good dozen tables for little builders, as well as a racing table for trying out self-made cars.

The windows are portholes to famous cities.  This one is Paris.  Will LOVES to see anything with the Eiffel Tower on it and is quick to point out that “that pictures speaks French.”  Of course it does.

Here’s London.  I told them that Aunt Lee was moving here just as soon as she gets her visa.

One of the toy stores had a huge build-your-own Potato Head table.  We built fairy, mermaid, storm trooper, and Han Solo potato heads.  Then we went to explore more of the store and stumbled into a “Make Your Own Light Saber” table.  Uh-oh.  We broke down and bought the kid a light saber, something that not even Santa Claus was willing to do.  Upside?  He was able to defend Cinderella.

Okay.  Now is where I should spill about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  It’s actually happening in the window behind Cinderella.  There is a child in that window whose parents have paid $200 bucks or so to have their kid made up (hair, makeup, glitter, tiara) with full costume (clickity-shoes, dress, prom court sash) to be their favorite princess.  I’m not joking.  It’s very… um… well, it’s very Jon Benet… a cute idea taken to the point where it’s just sorta creepy.  I think I’d be better with it if it went a little further to be more inclusive. If they are “making dreams come true” then why not dress up girls to be pirates, or Minnie Mouse, or spooky ghosts, or astronauts?  Aren’t those dreams, too?  And more inclusive for boys, for that matter (I hear that there is a ‘prince’ package for boys, but I think most parents understand that this would not be worth their child’s future therapy bills.)

Really, though, shouldn’t girls get to imagine being more than just princesses?  And when you get right down to it, consider how downright DULL some of those princesses are.  Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is such a wuss that a tiny prick of blood sends her into a coma… who’d want to be that boring??  Especially when you consider the other female lead in the story, Maleficent, is so bad-ass that she can turn into a dragon and summon up all the powers of hell.  Ask a 4-year old what they’d rather pretend to be — a sleeping lump of boring or a fierce and powerful dragon?  — and it’s no contest.  So seriously Disney.  Re-think the oversexualization of preschoolers boo-tique, please.

Speaking of cool dragons, LEGO has one in Buena Vista Lake.  Notice the change in blocks on it’s neck?  That’s because a hurricane (Charley, maybe?) took off it’s head when it rolled over Orlando.

We learned that tidbit from my friend, Jennae, who works for Disney and met us for dinner.   Jennae has worked for Disney since college and worked in just about every place one can work — including donning those famous ears to be The Boss, himself.  She said that being Mickey is by far the hardest job in the park, as the heartbreak of hearing the stories from parents, children, and just random visitors — and not being able to say anything from inside that costume! — is difficult over time.  There’s a niche job to get with Disney… being the therapist for Mickey actors!

Now Jennae gets paid to accompany families on Disney vacations.  She plays the travel “host” and gets to see the world in Disney four-star luxury.  And gets paid for it.

For dinner, we went to the T-REX restaurant, which is more an entertainment venue than place to eat. It’s filled with impressive robotic dinosaurs… including a roaring T-Rex that meets you at the door. We ate in an ice cave that changed colors, under a HUGE dinosaur skeleton “frozen” in the ice above us. The kids were ga-ga the entire time. It’s was incredibly over-stimulating, but thankfully the kids waited until the after dinner walk to the car to completely melt down. It was our only Disney-related melt-down and completely understandable, considering the stress they had of keeping track of 50 different dinosaurs while they ate. And because they didn’t want to leave Jennae once they learned that if they travel with her, they can stick to places with running, potable water and regular electricity service. The sort of stuff that is not necessarily guaranteed when I am your tour guide.

But back to the Dragon, whose job at Disney is not quite so glamorous.

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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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Off to the Market!

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It’s cold here today.

Cold weather accessories taken out, as a rare necessity.  Also necessary: modeling them.

(The glasses influenced the Photoshop actions.)

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Counting birthdays in hex is totally the way to go.

I’m 21 today!!  (In hex.)  Good thing, too, because I recently heard this exchange among my Schweitzer group:

“What did he look like?”

“Oh, you know… tall, brown hair, middle age… like, in his late 20s/early 30s.”

Phew!  Good to know hex puts me squarely in the early age category!  Although I am young and so thrilled to finally be able to buy booze, I am going for a low-key celebration.  So for all you peeps ready to take me out drinking on the town, here are some things I won’t be doing today, on my birthday:

— I will not be putting gifts in my children’s shoes in celebration of Epiphany (although the cat may leave one in mine.)

— I will not see the parade in the French Quarter to kick off the start of Carnival Season.

— I will not be taken out to a Fancy Dinner (although I may serve a mediocre one to my family.  Readers are encouraged to send easy recipes to this culinary-challenged woman, with the understanding that I can barely boil water.)

— I will not be rudely awoken from an afternoon nap.

— I will not be lavished seduced with presents (although I will probably be given a hidden gift from my mother-in-law and sung to by my parents).

— Our household will not relocate to Disney-developed Celebration, Florida, even though Casa Latino, one of the country’s largest Hispanic and minority owned real estate offices, is moving there from New England (how strange is that?!)

— I will not be bothered if I decide to eat frozen cookie dough in lieu of not having Fancy Dinner.

— It will not be judged careless if I decide to catch up on random websites and enjoy things like these portraits, these lights, these light cords, these knitted curiosities, and these paper illustrations.

— No one will bother me if I want to play Momma-razzi all night with my camera.  Smile, kids!

Thank you for all the birthday well-wishes!

UPDATE: A big whoops for forgetting the hat tip to laloca, for pointing out the knitting curiosities.  I’d say that they made my day, but considering how many people I’ve shown them to and how it’s still up in my browser, I think making my week is much more appropriate.  I guess I’m in a bit of a twisted funk??

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Cajun Christmas in the Oaks

It was in the mid 60s last night and very humid, chilly and a bit damp, but otherwise a perfect night for a walk in City Park.  I’m embarrassed to admit that this was our first ever visit to Celebration in the Oaks.

Paul was a good sport pushing the kids in the Beamer stroller, while I wandered around with my tripod.  Yup, bad-ass me, with my camera and tripod… with the camera set to a high ISO the whole damn time.  So much for bad-ass.

My old 10D rocks, but at 800 ISO, can get a little grainy.  Oh, well, at least I had the tripod.

There was a laser light show (a little lame, but the kids loved the Rudolph song), dancing lights through the landscaped botanical gardens, a lighted telling of A Cajun Twas the Night Before Christmas, live dancers and singers, hot chocolate and hot dogs, and kiddie rides all decked out for the holidays.

Our favorite area was the Train Garden.  Miniature homes and historic buildings of New Orleans, laid out among streetcar and train tracks.  WAY COOL.

Here’s the Vieux Carre, below:

Here’s the train, comin’ by…

Isn’t it cool?  It was WAY cooler in person, too.  Each building was fascinating in detail and expression and the accompanying literature was interesting and insightful.  Little tidbits of local history.

Kate and Paul check out one of the lighted toys.  I can neither confirm nor deny Kate’s attempt to ride the horse while my eye was lost behind the camera.  We went through Storyland… quickly… as things got busy fast.  We came in at opening, but made the mistake of not running a line straight to the train ride and carousel.  We’ll get those later?  Maybe next year?

It’s just not Christmas without this story:

Words, in case you want to follow along:

Cajun Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

And just in case you need some more Cajun inspiration this holiday:

Happy Christmas Eve!

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Louisiana Afternoon

On one of those fantastically delicious hot and sticky summer days, like last week*, we took the kids waaaay out to the Louisiana countryside to feed wild geese.

Oh, okay.  We went to City Park.  That’s the New Orleans Museum of Art in the background.  FUN FACT: NOMA does not allow strollers.  So we’ve not been, kind of as a point.  But Will went on a field trip earlier this year.

We had about 4 bags of bread — collected from frozen ends of loafs and other assorted stale varieties that I stock pile in the freezer for days like this.

And the kids went at it.

So did the birds.  Will, who had recently discovered the delicacies of duck, suggested we bring one home for dinner.

Just kidding, buddy.

This was only a few months ago, but I can’t believe how much smaller they look, especially Kate.

Then, we realized that a new group was interested in sampling our wares.  Momma and her 5 babies.

Don’t these two look like they are playing “Cee Cee My Playmate?”

Fast moving, with sharp little teeth.  And very bold.

But cute.

Sort of like Kate.  Fast moving, sharp little teeth, and bold.  We were a little afraid that she would try some of her favorite playtime activities with The Cat, Scout.  Things like sitting on his back, pulling his tail, and zerbering his tummy.  He’s a pretty chill cat.

Paul is ready to scoop her up if needed.  Will, on the other hand, wanted to stick to the ducks.

When they had their fill, they climbed up on branches right over our heads…

… and went to sleep.

*Actually, it was in early August.

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