Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer 2015

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I had Ella Fitzgerald's lyrics, "Summertime, and the livin' is easy" on my mind when the DH and I {ok mainly me} planned out activities for the kids. I took the entire break a week at a time and did my best to find meaningful activities for them. Here's what I came up with.

Every Tuesday the kids attend a one-hour reading program at the local library. The best part about this program is that to attend the end-of-program you have to be one of the top readers. This has made Stinky and Blinky more cooperative during reading time at night. Thank you Jesus!

The first week of June, the kids went to Lego Math Camp at Auburn University Montgomery (AUM). It was a long commute, but the kids enjoyed it immensely. I don't think they learned any new math concepts, but they did have fun doing activities that reinforced what they already knew. The second week, we spent with my MIL in New Orleans. For the next three weeks, they are at camp at our local Rec Center where they do arts & crafts, music, and get the opportunity to swim, play basketball and go on the playground. In addition, Blinky is spending her lunch hour this week at ballet camp where she is learning the choreography for a recital this fall.

The second week in July they will attend VBS at our church. The third week, they will head back to AUM where Stinky and Blinky will attend Second Grade Prep and First Grade Prep respectively. My Mom gets into town the following week, which is great because she will keep the kids until school reopens. She's a teacher with 40+ years experience and will have lessons with them in the morning to help bridge that summer gap. We are also planning a long weekend with her in Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate.

One of the things I was most concerned with this summer was not overscheduling our evenings. In fact, we have no organized events after 5pm. The idea was to be able to spend quality time together. As a result of this both Stinky and Blinky have learned to ride their bikes without training wheels. YAY! (But let me tell you, this was not without a fair share of tantrums.) I also didn't want hectic {ok let's call it what it is, CRAZY} moments leading up to bedtime, which has been pushed back from 7:30pm to 8:45. Yes, the DH and I have sacrificed precious quiet time, but it makes for more peaceful mornings. Too bad this won't work when school reopens.

So that's our summer. What does yours look like?

Quote of the Week

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On being picked up from camp in the babysitter's Honda, "Oh man, I thought you'd be driving a Bugatti."

-non other than Stinky Marinky

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Vacationing with Kids in New Orleans

Because the DH and I are not the kind of couple who hang out at bars, we always get "the look" when we announce we're taking a vacation in New Orleans. We argue that New Orleans is a cultural hot spot with lots of fun activities for little kids. We went with my Mom in 2012 and just last week, we visited with my MIL.

In 2012, we sailed on the Steamboat Natchez, did a swamp tour with the Louisiana Tour Co and toured the French Quarter and Garden District. We made a point to eat at the local joints (we had the best crawfish boil from a vendor in the French Market) and experience as much of the local life as we could. The DH and I even piggybacked on a Ghost Tour one night, but quickly lost interest as it wasn't nearly as interesting or scary as we imagined. It didn't help that the guide seemed drunk.

This go round, we purchased Audubon Experience Package tickets which included the Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy IMAX Theatre and Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Such fun! The exhibits were very interesting and the facilities were well maintained. (BTW I've visited many zoos in different countries, and the Audubon Zoo is my absolute favorite!)

We happened upon Lafayette Cemetery where we encountered an eccentric guide who was very helpful. We did not get to sail on the riverboat as the lunch cruise was sold out, but we did do the same swamp tour. And because we stayed in the heart of the French Quarter, we had dinner in the local restaurants every night.

Apart from having to cross Bourbon Street on a Saturday night where we saw way too many characters, it was a fun, wholesome family trip. The food is delicious, the people are warm and friendly, and the history is alive and well. So you see, it is possible to have a fun time in New Orleans with kids. Enjoy some of our pictures below.

The Zoo:

 
19 year-old albino tiger.









 
 
Blinky really did not like the Swamp Monster exhibit.

 
One of two albino alligators.


 
The Aquarium:





Two of the cutest wild animals.



At the Insectarium the DH and I were the only two brave enough to eat Southwest Waxworms, Crispy Cajun Crickets and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Roasted Crickets. (The first was my favorite.)



The butterfly room had an Asian theme, with a very large and very beautiful koi pond. The butterflies were allowed to fly freely but visitors were prohibited from touching them or interfering with them in any way.
 
 




 
During the Swamp Tour, the guide fed alligators marshmallows, which they fought over like it was a piece of meat. 



 While one was distracted, the guide successfully balanced a marshmallow on his head.


 
 
Beautiful Bayou

 
On the way back to the French Quarter, we caught a mardi-gras parade. Who knows why they had one in June. But since the roads were blocked, we left our car like everyone else and chased beads. Stinky said this was his favorite part of the trip. Go figure!





 
Just FYI, if you don't have the time or budget for the entire Audubon Experience, I would highly recommend the Zoo. It was the largest attraction and had so many unusual features like a manmade swamp, aquatic creatures on display, and a water park (for an additional fee), you get a bit of everything in one stop.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Blinky McStinky's Big Girl Room

Last week while we were in New Orleans, we had some painting done in various rooms in the house. For years, I've wanted vertical stripes in Blinky's room and this was my opportunity.

While she had a big girl bed, the room was a hodge podge of bargain purchases and the same wall color that the builder put in every other room when we first bought the house eight years ago. Here is the before picture:

 

With the walls done, now I'm on a mission to find artwork to connect the pink and orange color scheme. The dresser which I hand painted when we set up her nursery, will have to be refinished. Finally, I am hoping to find new white curtains with a subtle pink and orange accent to complete the room. But for now, here is our work in progress:

 
Blinky and I love it!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Quote of the Week

Upon learning how stepparents are acquired Stinky Marinky declares, "Mommy, I don't think you and Daddy will ever get a divorce. He likes your chicken too much."

I hope Daddy likes more than that, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gentle Reminders

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On my lunch break today, I went to the library to check out some books on Stinky and Blinky's summer reading list. In the children's section, there were two exasperated Moms sitting and chatting, while three very rambunctious toddlers were running amuck. The male child was screaming different ways to kill the girls, who were working together to destroy a wooden puzzle. Most surprising though was that the children's librarian was in her office completely oblivious to the noise and destruction around her. [Not like her. At all.]

As luck would have it, the two Moms and I headed to the check-out counter around the same time. A nanosecond later, I heard the lady at the front desk mention to Mom #1 that her daughter was running up the stairs and gently suggested that she catch her before she falls and hurts herself. What she really meant was probably along the lines of, "Lady, please control your child. This is a library!"

I started to wonder about my own children at that age. I was raised super strict, which is not how the DH and I raise Stinky and Blinky. Sometimes my Mom gives me grief because they can't sit still through a three-hour church service as I was made to do, or go long distances without reaching for an electronic device. But by George, they were never allowed to run amuck in public! Sure they tried, but a pinch or a stealth spank fixed that. Most of the time.

I find I "get on" to my children a lot. I struggle to find a balance between letting them be kids and adhering to some fractionalized standard of how I was raised. I refuse to adopt the laid back parenting style I see a lot of here which allows kids do as they see fit, especially in a public setting where they may disturb others. But most of all I am conscious of the fact that I am raising two super intelligent, smart-mouthed, bi-racial children of immigrant parents, in the deep south. I want them to be shining examples, but as they are 5 and 7, that does not always work out.

At the end of the day I know I have GREAT kids. Even on the days I want to pull my hair out. Even on the days they have selective hearing and refuse to obey anything I say. Even on the days they fight ad nauseum  only to cry for each other when separated. I have great kids. Still, God places these gentle reminders in my path to remind me of that.