04 May 2015


I was excited to show Isaac Houston's Cockrell Butterfly Museum ($7 each with a military discount) at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. And he WAS delighted...for about 10 minutes. Then he was more interested in the Herman Park Train we'd seen on the way in and the fish sucking algae off a fish tank wall near the waterfall. 

"What's he doing?" 
"Maybe he wants to give you a kiss." 
This resulted in the above photo of a horrified Isaac lunging away from the fish tank. Hee hee. 
After our brief jaunt through PARADISE---cool humidity, sunlight illuminating countless butterfly wings, a waterfall plunging into Suicide Pool (dead butterflies floated around the edges), fluttering beauty all around---we exited toward the park. 
Train tickets ($3) are sold at Kinder Station near the zoo. The train circles all around Herman Park, past the reflection pond, Miller Outdoor Theater, the Japanese gardens, and lots of playgrounds. 

Eloise, who slept through the butterflies snuggly-packed to my mom, flirted with the grandpa behind her the entire train ride. She's such a charmer! 

"It's a butterfly-al day!" Isaac observed during a rare stretch of nice weather last week. 
"....do you mean beautiful?" 
"Yeah! It's a beautiful day!" 

I instantly regretted correcting him. Butterflyal. Adorable. And today really was a butterflyal day! 

02 May 2015

Flying High

"Ha ha ha! We're in a TAXI CAB!" Isaac was delighted with our ride to the airport. So delighted we both forgot his backpack with his special blankets and stuffed animals. The driver turned around. After our initial brief setback, we were on our way to Texas! 

Eloise did ok on her first flight. Isaac was my big helper. They both did really great considering we flew at bedtime. Amazing. 

We found Pa and Grandma no problem, then got to ride on the airport train! What a day. Thanks for coming to get us! Let the party begin! 

29 April 2015


All the animals were munching fresh greens grown at the zoo Monday morning. 

It was cool but sunny, and everyone seemed extra playful. The lions paced. The red pandas scampered. Siamangs swung through their playground. Snakes slithered. Isaac climbed onto the brass rhino and tortoise all by himself. Eloise chomped baby biscuits. 

I love living so close to the zoo. My favorite part was seeing the new two-year-old giraffe, who arrived just two days prior. The zookeeper informed my friend Peyton and me that the other female giraffe is probably pregnant, so we will keep lurking around the zoo in hopes of seeing a baby giraffe before we move away next summer! 

Giraffes are pregnant for like 15 months. So there's a reason to be glad you're not a giraffe. 

25 April 2015

Chef Isaac

He's ready for his cooking show, I think. From washing his hands first to doing the dishes afterwards, this small chef knows his way around the kitchen. 

"Moooooom! I can't reach the chocolaaaate!" I heard from down in the kitchen after putting ELOISE to bed. His step stool can't reach the microwave over the stove. But he stirred the chocolate pieces into a melty swirl, dipped the berries, and lined them up neatly. Then he stuffed the extra strawberries in his mouth and made silly faces and growly boy noises. 

Eat your heart out, babies! 

23 April 2015

My Sailor Dad

Chris was stuck with duty on ship their first night back in port. 

"We're bringing you dinner!" I informed him. Chris feels bad asking us to come meet him because he often has last-minute meetings and stuff pop up, so I took the initiative. Sure enough, we were just settled in the wardroom when his radio crackled, "Active shooter on the pier. Repeat, active shooter on the pier. Lock down," 

Chris and I stared at each other, then he grabbed the radio and ran out of the room. It turned out it was another ship's drill that got miscommunicated down the piers. Too late, I'd already had a five minute heart attack. 

And that is one of many reasons this is called an Aviation Appreciation Tour. But the sunset from the flight deck was spectacular! 

Under the Sea

I had all these fun things in mind for Isaac's spring break while Chris was gone, and we ended up house bound the whole time. We're making up for it now! The Marsh Pavilion at the aquarium has the seahorses and otters, and we'd never been there. It was surprisingly small, so we had plenty of time left over to trot through the nature trail area, climb an observation tower, and play in the special play area before a quick pass of the regular exhibits. The tunnel tank where fish, sting rays and sharks swim over and around you is my favorite. Isaac touched a sting ray in the touch tank for the first time. Both kids were wiped out by the walk back, so I had to carry Isaac like a backpack. "You look well-balanced there," Chris said when I sent him this picture. Thanks. That is, in fact, what I'm going for. You know, in life. 

Paradise is Under a Tree

Poor Isaac had two weeks of spring break right when Eloise was at her sickest. One morning it seemed she was better (the day before her highest nighttime fever spike) so I snuggly-packed her and we went to the botanical gardens. 
She slept peacefully, albeit warmly, while Isaac and I ate lunch, kicked a soccer ball, took pictures, and climbed trees in the flowering tree arboretum. Crabapple blossoms, I discovered, smell wonderful. 
The Crabapple of my Eye! 
I helped Eloise settle into her nap by walking in circles around the Yoshino Cherry in which Isaac had found a peaceful spot to eat an apple. 
 It was like being in the center of an atom. Petals floated down as bees and other buzzers zig-zagged all around, like the whole tree was suspended in time and space. 
A peaceful, bright spot in an otherwise trying week. It was even warm enough for isaac to run through the splash pad on our way out!

21 April 2015

Front Porch Artist

I watered the new spring plants around the front porch before heading in to make chicken Caesar salad for dinner. Isaac wanted to stay out. Eloise and I came out to check on him mid dinner prep. 
Little rivers criss-crossed the porch where water drained from the pots and planters. Isaac had traced these lines with his sidewalk chalk, and the saturated colors gleamed in the setting sun. Lovely! 

Then he'd figured out he could make a pasty chalk paint, so now there are also three-year-old boy chalk handprints all over the deck and storm door. 

So if being an engineer or train-bearcub-boy doesn't work out, he could always pursue a career in sidewalk chalking! Ha. 

15 April 2015

Two-fer Zoo-fer

This week we had an unsuccessful church visit. Both kids conspired to wiggle and fuss the whole time so we left early, frustrated. But last week, while Chris was at sea, I took both kids by myself with somewhat more success. We got there late and had to leave early, but Isaac even listened to the sermon (exclaiming to me in an excited whisper: "The FUTURE?! He said future, like the car!" Because Chris had made us watch Back to the Future a couple weeks before). 

Anyway after church last week I loaded Eloise into the snuggly pack and she finally snoozed while isaac and i trotted around the zoo. 

Eloise woke up and wanted to go home right around the time isaac was timing out because he couldn't scramble his way onto the brass tortoise. Both kids crying = go home alarm. 

I had thought we were meeting some friends there but we miscommunicated, so...  
We went back with them the very next day! And rode the zoo train again! I asked isaac to feed $20 into the train token machine. ABSOLUTE TOT DELIGHT. 

And with an audience of two pretty blond tots, whaddaya know? That kid conquered the brass beast in no time! 

12 April 2015

Six Months of ELOISE!

Eloise celebrated her first six months by getting really sick. She is finally on the mend, thankfully, and back to her easygoing, engaged self. 

The poor thing had a cold, then a tummy bug, which gave her an infection, which gave her a scorching fever and needed antibiotics (during a weekend while Chris was gone, of course), which gave her more tummy and gut troubles, and finally a rash all over. Apparently she's allergic to that antibiotic. 

But now she's pretty much the happiest baby you've ever seen. She LOVES ISAAC. His voice, antics, raspberries, attention, harassment, whatever---she wants all isaac all the time! 

She also likes to babble, grab at her toys, eat mum mums, tickle her own toes, and chew on the one train isaac lets her play with. She refuses to eat any baby food at all. She loves her stuffed bear and turtle, sitting in the bumbo or walker, watching Bears with Isaac, grabbing fistfuls of Isaac hair, and getting hugs and kisses from mom and dad. 

Eloise, I am sorry I didn't know you were as sick as you were, and I'm sorry we took you to DC when you were unwell. I am so thankful for your sparkling eyes, your mischievous smile, your solid baby body sleeping soundly in the snuggly pack, and the way you kick your chubby legs when you see me. 

We couldn't possibly be more delighted with you!! We all love you so much. Having a daughter is more fun than I imagined. You make our family complete!! 

A Capitol Time

I had a bad attitude our morning in DC. We went to the National Cherry Blossom Festival April 4 only because Chris would be at sea the weekend of the full bloom. I expected rain; I expected crowds. I did not expect NO DANG CHERRY BLOSSOMS. 

I saw my heart reflected on the many, many faces of dejected-looking Japanese tourists walking around the National Mall. 
Chris and Isaac were like whatever, we have a soccer ball to kick around. It was super bright and extremely windy, and Eloise screamed and screamed in the stroller so I had her in the snuggly pack, where she fell asleep. She and I left the boys to their game and went in search of one of the three trees we saw with a branch of cherry blossoms. Beneath this tree, we took about 500 pictures of wind-whipped flowers by the Washington Monument. Nooooow does it look like it's awesome? How about now? I couldn't see anything---my eyes were streaming from the wind. 

Finally I looked up and saw a line of Japanese tourists queued up behind us, waiting to use our tree. Finally, something about this trip that falls into the expected! I was about to offer to take a photo for the trio behind me but---silly me!---they had a selfie stick. I saw a lot of those. 

The most unexpected part of our trip? Hearing, "hello, friend!" as we passed the White House. We ran into Mary and Mason. What are the odds? They were having a lovely time. I was being a grouch. Mary pointed out a bunch of magnolias blooming gloriously. It fell on deaf ears. Cherry blossoms or bust, says I! 

Back on the road headed home, we started seeing cherry blossoms in full bloom as soon as we got near Richmond, just 90 minutes south. It's all so miserably unfair (quote from animated Robin Hood). In fact, the prettiest blossom photos I took all weekend were at a bloomin' Chick-fil-A. Sigh. 

But it turns out it could have been worse! We could have been there this weekend when that guy killed himself outside the Capitol. Yikes! 

09 April 2015

Easter Cherry Blossoms

Trinity Presbyterian Church was surrounded by blooming cherry trees Easter morning. So lovely.

Chris won't be here next Easter, so it was especially nice to celebrate together this year. I love Easter. Such joy, such hope! Church bells chimed and tolled while Isaac raced all over the backyard finding eggs. His favorite was up in a tree. I had fun hiding them in his construction toys in his dirt pit. Pear blossoms flitted down around us. It was sunny and absolutely perfect. 
We've been reading the Easter story to Isaac and I asked him about it as I tucked him into bed. 

"Why did Jesus go in the tomb?" he asked. 
"Because Jesus loves us so much he died for us, and his friends buried him there. But he didn't stay dead; he conquered death and rose from the dead, so that's why we don't have to worry about dying." 
"And the rock."
"That's right, they put a rock in front."
"Yeah, and he opened it."
"The elephant opened it." 
"....no. What?" 
"Jesus was in the cave and the elephant rolled away the stone." 
"The elephant came and rolled away the stone and saved Jesus." 
"Ok NO. Wait, are you talking about your new elephant book Grandma sent you from South Africa where the elephant rolls the stone away from the cave and saves the dassies?" 
"That's different. Jesus is not a dassie." 

Theology from a three-year-old, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you had a joyful Easter!

03 April 2015

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Not a single dadgum flower. Not a single one. We left Norfolk behind this morning, and as I watched the fluffy pink cherry blossoms in our neighborhood blowing in the wind, I thought giddily of the beauty that awaited in Washington, D.C. 

Then we got stuck in holiday traffic for SIX HOURS---twice as long as the route usually takes. We were prepared for rain, prepared for cold, windy weather, prepared to miss the peak. But with the peak bloom (when 70% of the buds are open) scheduled for next weekend, we figured SOMETHING would be blooming. NOPE. Six hours of traffic with bored and screaming kids and NOT A BLOOMIN THING.  

We drove around the Tidal Basin to a parking area, realizing slowly that the trees were waaaaaay later than advertised. Chris parked, I snuggly-pouched Eloise, and Isaac ran ahead as we trekked back over to the festival area. 

In the time it took us to walk there, all the food booths closed. The musicians called it quits. So there we were: no food, no flowers, no ambiance AT ALL, just the stark Washington Monument towering over us, as bare as the trees. 

Isaac and Chris kicked around a soccer ball. Eloise and I found one clump of pink buds. I would guess from our Japanese neighborhood these trees are at least 10 days to two weeks from being gorgeous. Minimum. Sigh. 

Both kids cried and cried on our way to the hotel. "It is hours past my bedtime!" Wailed Eloise. "I don't want to stay in a hotel! I want to go hooooome!" Wailed Isaac. "Are you sure this is the right direction?" Wailed Chris. "I haven't had any dinner!" Wailed Mari. Sigh. 

At 9:30pm, both kids in bed, Chris and I finally had some sushi, donuts and twist-cap wine for dinner. 

Worst. Festival. Ever. Cute kids though. 

Feed the Animals

Express from South Africa: a carved giraffe, lioness, African red bush tea, and a South African book about an elephant who saves the day in Kachoo! Thanks, Mom!! Isaac was so delighted with the book, he insisted on bringing it to the zoo with us. 

The weather was absolutely perfect. Completely ideal. I called to make sure the ZOO TRAIN was operating. It was! So we zipped over after Eloise's nap and bee-lined for the station. I was parking the stroller when Isaac's face lit up with delight. 

"TESSA!" A cute little blond with a curly ponytail and glamorous sunglasses skipped up and hugged him. Isaac asked her to join him in the last car of the train. Zoo date! Adorable. They even held hands as they headed to the tiger exhibit afterwards. 

A lot of animals were out enjoying the sunny, warm day. A tiger prowled, the lion shook his mane, a giraffe SAT in the sun, the rhino paced the watering hole. Isaac and I got ice cream and raced through Africa. Then Eloise got tired and grouchy so we headed home for (short) naps! 

I LOVE the VA zoo! 

01 April 2015

Pear Blossom Tea Party

At the first signs of spring, Isaac and I made an agreement: when the pear tree in the backyard is covered in flowers, we'll make a cake and have a party under the blossoms! And what's a party without a guest of honor? Fortunately, Megan is having a baby AND a birthday! 
So Megan, Sara-Michelle, Heather, Marci, Lindsay and I (plus the kiddos) enjoyed a sunny afternoon of cake, canap├ęs (goat cheese, cantelope and mint on wheat crackers; humus and cucumber on red onion triscuits), scones, fruit with whipped cream, and of course TEA! I liked the ginger coconut red tea with the cinnamon and cardemom in the cake icing. Yum! A delightful afternoon!