Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up

Even though I feel it is more than a little presumptuous to call this a Weekly Wrap-Up (which feels, to me, as if it should certainly contain some hard news, or, at the very least, a few factual and newsworthy items), there are a few random scraps from this week that are buzzing around in my head like flies.  (It is annoying.)  And this is the best way I know to kill those items.  (You know.  In an effort to stop the buzzing.)  I make no pretense that the following bits are of any interest whatsoever.  This is merely a head-clearing exercise.

So here goes.

Item 1:  Your sprinkles.  They SHALL be mine.

So summer is here.  (Or perhaps I will take to calling it 'simmer'.  That would be far more fitting.  And, months from now, when I hear some twenty-something on some show on the CW ---but NOT 'Supernatural.'  THAT show is awesome.--- referring to it as 'simmer', I'll sit back and smile, and think:  I did thatThat was ME.  =)

Anyway, it's hot.

And with the heat comes the desire to cool off.  (Perhaps in a pool.  . . .or might I interest you in an ocean?)  And fresh on the heels of THAT little desire, is the knowledge that in order to cool off in a body of water of my choosing. . . I am going to have to don a bathing suit.


I'm not going to sit here and bash my body.  (Though it would be easy to do.  But it is self-defeating behavior and, more than that, it sets a bad example for my children.  It is one behavior of many that I am attempting to curb.)  The simple fact is, I don't think I have EVER met a woman that was 100%, completely happy with her physical form, with nothing that she wanted to change.  And another simple fact is that I am now 36 years old.  And I am a mother.  I do not look as I did when I was 21, and I am okay with that.  I can no more rid myself of the C-section scar in my middle than I can change the patterns of moles and freckles that dot me from head to foot.  (I am really just one big connect-the-dots puzzle.  There's an octopus in a top hat on my left forearm, but you have to get creative to find it.)  Nor would I.  I waited too many years for that child.  It is a scar that I will wear proudly until my dying day.  But that does not mean that I wish to spend the entire summer feeling completely and horribly self-conscious, and trying to hide under yards and yards of (stifling) fabric.

Which means that I have had to start getting some exercise.

And, if you know me at all, you will know that I have done this, at best?  Begrudgingly.  At worst?  Kicking and screaming. 

I have never cared for exercise, and it is not something I have kept secret.  But I have found that I can stomach walking the baby around the neighborhood in his stroller once a day, usually for a time of anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.  Which, I know, is not a lot. . .  But once you factor in the heat, the fact that I am generally pouring sweat within the first 4 blocks, and the fact that my route takes me up and down and up (fairly large) hills continuously. . . I figure that it's enough.

So I've walked every day this week.  (Except for today.  On the seventh day. . . I rested. =)  Sometimes I have had to employ trickery to get myself out the door. . .  I would wake up saying:  "Oh, it's okay.  You walked yesterday.  You can take today off.  No shame in that."

And, just because I told myself that I WOULDN'T. . . that was enough to get me going.  (I am a defiance even unto myself.)

Sometimes I have had to employ a reward system:  Just do this, just 45 minutes, and then you can go home and take a nap.

And sometimes I have just had to be a hard-ass:  DO IT.  Get your ass out there, breathe some fresh air, and break a sweat.

But. . . I don't want to. . .


And so I have. 

And it is. . . HOT.

But the silver lining in these little excursions. . . is that the people in our neighborhood like to keep their yards looking healthy.  Which means that at least a few of them now have their sprinklers going in the mornings. . . and, since the front yards around this place are small, and can't contain the full arc of the sprinklers. . . there is inevitable sidewalk overflow.  Extra sprinklage, if you will.

And so we have altered our morning walking route, so that we might hit several of the Mist Houses more than once.

Walking along, drenched in sweat, jamming to my tunes---
(see below)

---and then we reach a Mist House, and run, full-tilt and with complete abandon, through our neighbors' sprinklers.

I giggle.  The baby giggles.  It is easily the highlight of our walk.

And so, just to show good form, I posted a Thank You on facebook to the owners of our Mist Houses.

And it has subsequently resulted in a new nickname for me:  Sprinkles.
(I have to admit --- I am not displeased with it.)

So, in conclusion:  YOUR SPRINKLEZ!!!!!  I STEALZ THEM!!!

(And I am unrepentant.)

Item 2:  Suddenly Chipmunks.

We might have chipmunks in our back yard.

Not in a "We might have chipmunks over for lunch, grill out and make a day of it."  Not in that way.  Not at ALL.

We have a little flower bed situated by the door to our garage, and a little while back Michael discovered a hole in it.

My first thought was:  Snake hole!!!  KILL IT!!!  KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!  . . . But Michael (pretending to be the voice of reason) told me it was probably chipmunks, moles, or gophers.  (He did spot a chipmunk in the yard just a few days ago, and has concluded that we have a chipmunk problem.  To which *I* replied that "Chipmunks are only a problem if they don't SING."  Clearly, snakes are the real danger here.)  But regardless of the species, for some reason he remained hesitant about pouring lighter fluid into a hole in the ground beside our garage, no matter what convincing arguments I presented.  (He has hang-ups.)  So he just covered the hole with several large rocks, and waited for the snake-munks to make the next move.

Which they did.  By making another hole, quite similar to the first (but my eye is untrained in the area of snake-munk holes. . . I'm sure the snake-munks probably think all of our homes look the same, too.  Racists.), and about 8 inches away.

So Michael responded to this hole much as he had the first, and placed several large rocks over the opening.

. . .Which I am SURE caused quite a bit of confusion in the snake-munk community.  I can just picture the snake-munks, coming home from a party: 

"Dude.  . . .Did we leave a huge rock over our front door when we left?"

"What?  AW, MAN!!!  Not again!!"

"Soooo. . . you didn't do this?"

"Of COURSE I didn't do this, Harold!!  Why would I block the entrance to our OWN HOME??  . . .HOW IN THE HELL DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING??!?"

And. . .scene.

Anyway, yesterday I found yet ANOTHER hole, which the industrious little snake-munks are determined to make into a home.

So. . . if you know my husband, you probably know that he is tenacious, dedicated, and can be much like Hank Hill when it comes to his lawn.
(see below)

Which means that, essentially, he considers this third snake-munk hole an act of war.

And I am completely serious when I say that I am afraid. 

Is it the fear that I will one day look out my kitchen window and see dozens of little snake-munks, marching around in a circle with protest signs, chanting things like "HELL NO, WE WON'T GO!"?

No.  It is the fear that my husband is about to find his newest obesession, and that I am going to wake up one day to find myself married to Carl Spackler from Caddyshack.
(see below)

Moving on to. . .

Item 3:  My baby has been stricken with "the bossies"

In all fairness, this is only right, and is completely in keeping with family tradition---
(see below)

---as I was, myself, an unbelievably bossy child.  ('Leadership skills', my mother has decided to call it.  This is gracious, on her part.)

Growing up, I was the oldest of my grandmother's seven grandchildren.  Which meant that, to my way of thinking, I had gotten there first, and was thus the one in charge.  (It was nothing personal. . . I just had seniority, is all.)

So whenever all the grandchildren got together to play, I dictated what we played and how we played it.  ***I was not trying to be bossy.  I simply knew in my heart that I had the best ideas.  And, since the others went along with these ideas, I became convinced that my cause was not only just, but correct.  Playtime warfare, essentially, and I had named myself as the Commander.***  I would listen patiently to what my cousins wanted to do, and would then proceed (just as patiently) to lay out my plan for the day, and then tell everyone where they needed to be.

(It was shameful, I know, but flawless in its elegance.)

And it is a trait that my offspring appears to have inherited.

He wants things HIS way, and he wants them five minutes ago.

He screams in the face of any dissent.  He flails wildly when the slightest thing is amiss.

And I have been. . .unsure as to how, exactly, to address this issue.

On the one hand, he is essentially growing up as an only child (though he has two brothers), and I do NOT want to allow him to grow up to be that kid.

On the other hand. . . he comes by it honestly.  =)

Yes, I WAS bossy.  . . .but he ALSO has his father's blood in him, and it was only a few months into my relationship with his father when I bestowed upon him the nickname of:  Mister Persnikety.

(Also, his dad is a little OCD, and I believe the Took might have just a touch of that, as well.)
(as seen below, organizing the bath toys)

So. . . what to do?  After all, I DON'T want to let my little one grow up to be Took the Tantrum Thrower, Scourge of the Jungle Gym, Great Turd of the Playground. . .

So I feel that the only option available to me is to nip these little habits in the bud---
(see below)

---before they have a chance to take root.

Even as I type this, he is sitting on the ground at my feet, playing with assorted toys as he wails miserably and pats the kitchen floor with his hand.

(He has taken to doing this lately.  He pats the area where he wants you to sit.  It was only a few days ago that we had a Great and Woeful Meltdown because he kept patting the seat in his Cozy Coupe, commanding me to sit there.  Said Woe occurred when it became clear to him that I would NOT sit in the Cozy Coupe.  . . .never mind that the reason I didn't sit was due to the fact that my ass will not fit through the door to the Coupe.  It was clearly just disobedience on my part, and he wasn't having it.)

So he pats the floor beside him, looks at me, and wails.

I try to appease him.

"Here, buddy. . . do you want your car?  The one that plays 'Funky Town?'"


"Sweetheart, mommy is trying to do something right now.  Let me finish this, and we'll play.  Let me just. . ."

(pats the ground insistently)

"Took!  You need to calm down, darlin.  What is WRONG?"

(pats and pats and pats, then wails some more.)

I am getting aggravated.  I am trying to type, I am trying to keep a thought in my head before it wings away, I am trying to GET SOMETHING DONE, and WHAT is this baby doing???

He is driving me crazy!!!  He is wailing and flailing, pouting and crying.  He is slapping the ground, he is about to wake up his Daddy, he is irritating the crap out of me, he is . . .

He is trying to spend time with me.

He is being bossy, yes.  But he is wailing and crying and ---do I see a real tear?--- patting the floor next to him.

Because he wants ME to sit there.

He wants me to sit there next to him, and play with his cars with him.

Soooo. . . I'm terribly sorry, but this post is over.

I've got shit to do.

And it's important.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sundays, Soccer Games, and Mindfulness

In recent months I have found myself thinking more and more about the concept of mindfulness.  It seems to just creep up on me all the time, usually brought on by deep contemplation about my husband and family, and the knowledge of how lucky I am to have them.  They make my life.  They totally make my life.

So I guess it began with feelings of overwhelming gratitude.  I would watch the kids play, or talk with Mr. while he grilled dinner in the back yard, and suddenly I would think:  This is perfect.  I need to remember this.  In every detail.  I need to be aware of it, and appreciate this moment while it's here, and while I'm in it.  I need to be here for it.  Fully.

And I feel like I'm getting better at it.

I make it a point to spend at least a part of every day just sitting in the back yard, being.  Sometimes I will watch the baby run around and play.  Sometimes I will watch the rain drip off the tin roof of the porch.  And sometimes I will watch Michael walk around and pull weeds and talk about what needs to be done with the lawn, and where he wants to plant this or that.

It is at least one part of my day, every day, that I can hold in my hand and feel like I truly experienced.

And I think it's important.

. . .

This morning, as we are waiting to hear whether or not Padawan's final soccer game is going to get rained out, I decide to take a book  and go out onto the porch for a bit.

. . . and I find myself completely out of book.

(It is not a place that I ever like to be.)

"I am out of book!!!!!", I shout, to no one in particular.

(It was just that alarming.)

This situation is due to the fact that I recently finished the fourth book in the Game of Thrones series, and am now anxiously awaiting the time when I can get to the bookstore to purchase the thrilling conclusion.  (Can't find it in the stores around here.)  I also just finished the second book in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.  It is technically in the Young Adult category, and for a second I felt a little guilty about enjoying a kids book. . . but then I remember that Harry Potter and The Hobbit are considered kids books, too.  (This made me feel a great deal better.)  So now all I have to do is wait until October 22nd, which is the day that the third book comes out. 

The next Odd Thomas book doesn't come out until next year.

. . .I am going to be doing a LOT of waiting on books.

. . .And if I should end up dying before all of these books come out, and thus NEVER get to find out how the stories end. . . I am just going to be SO mad.  (Probably how all angry spirits start out.)

As a matter of fact, this is probably how I will one day know when I am ready for death:  Absolutely no involvement with a literary series whatsoever.  All existing story lines resolved.

. . . So where was I??

Yes.  I was out of book.

But I am not the kind of person that just walks out onto a back porch on a rainy Sunday WITHOUT a book.  (Please do not EVER mistake me for THAT person.)  So I rummaged around in one of our (overflowing) magazine racks, and came away with Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh.  It is a book that I purchased at 2nd and Charles a while back, and haven't really gotten too deeply into yet.

*****Sidenote:  THIS IS WHY WE PURCHASE BOOKS LIKE THIS, MICHAEL.  For this EXACT situation.  THIS is the reason that we should ALWAYS have unread volumes on our bookcases, and why we should ALWAYS purchase books when they are reasonably priced.  It is a rainy Sunday INVESTMENT.*****

Many years ago I read a different book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Peace Is Every Step, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  In a nutshell, it talks about how peace is not something we wish for, it is something we do.  It talks about different ways to walk around your life, being peace.  . . .it might sound a little flaky.  But I found it to be well-written and enlightening.  It's a slim book, and a quick read, so if you're looking for something in this genre. . . I recommend it.


 So I took the still-fairly-new book outside, opened to a page at random, and began to read.

(I don't normally do this, but it is integral to the story line, and so I am going to share a couple of passages here.)

"We see into our own nature by bringing light to each act of our existence, living in a way that mindfulness is present all the time.  When walking past the cypress tree in the courtyard, we really see it.  If we do not see the cypress in our own garden, how can we expect to see into our own true nature?

When we believe something to be the absolute truth and cling to it, we cannot be open to new ideas.  Even if truth itself is knocking at our door, we will not let it in.  The student must strive to be free of attachments to knowledge and be open so that truth may enter.  The teacher once said:  "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha."  For the one who has only devotion, this declaration is terribly confusing.  But its effect depends on the mentality and capacity of the one who hears.  If the student is strong, she will have the capacity to liberate herself from all authority and realize ultimate reality in herself.  Truth is not a concept.  If we cling to our concepts, we lose reality.  This is why it is necessary to "kill" our concepts so that reality can reveal itself.  To kill the Buddha is the only way to see the Buddha.  Any concept we have of the Buddha can impede us from seeing the Buddha in person."


As you can see, I'm clearly trying to convert everyone that is reading this to Buddhism.


But I thought it was an interesting passage.

I will be thinking on it today.

I will walk around being peace, and reminding myself to see the cypress in my own back yard.

(***This is a lie.  We do not have a cypress.  We have a blossoming pear.  We have heard that they have invasive roots, and can really wreck a yard.  We are hoping that this proves to be untrue.  It is causing Michael a mild amount of stress.)

And so continues the tight-rope walk that is my life:

Making a point to see the blossoming pear outside our kitchen window.

And making a point to ignore all the toys, cars, and assorted nerf weapons that litter our kitchen floor.

I'm grateful for every giggle, even if it means that every once in a while, someone might pee on my leg in the process.  (see below)

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Orleans Trip, May 2013

Every so often, generally about once or twice a year, Mr. Michael has to go out of town on business.  (Just writing this last sentence makes me feel oh-so-VERY-grown-up.  "Where is your boyfriend?"  . . . "Oh, he's out of town.  On business.  Pass the mimosas.") 

As a rule, I am welcome to go with him.  The hotel room is paid for, his food is paid for, and the only real out-of-pocket expense would be whatever I need to eat to survive.  But we have a baby (a toddler, now), and since toddlers as a group do not tend to be synonymous with ease of travel, the Took and I have always opted to stay home until now.

But a few months ago Mr. approached me with the idea of going to New Orleans with him, and I jumped at the chance.  We went back and forth for several weeks about whether or not we should take the baby with us.  Michael had . . .  reservations.  But he ultimately left the decision up to me and, since the baby has really only been out of town once in his life, I was all "The kid stays in the picture!!!"

(***This is a lie.  What I actually said was something along the lines of:  'Let's take him.  He'll enjoy it.  He won't be any trouble.'  And then I drifted off into a fantasy of strolling around New Orleans with my little one, his eyes shining with delight as we taste-test pralines and beignets, dancing in the streets to the jazz of sidewalk musicians, and laughing at street performers.  . . .I will readily admit that at no point in this colorful fantasy did I give any real thought to the difficulties involved with attempting to change a diaper on a busy sidewalk packed with tourists. . .

Sometimes my fantasies get the best of me.  Also, I can on occasion, be a little naive.)

But Mr. swallowed his objections like a good sport should, and on Monday morning we put out the kitties' automatic feeders, loaded several bags (one containing nothing but brightly colored plastic blocks) and the baby into the truck, and set off on our mini-vacation.

(Took, wearing his Ready-For-An-Adventure face)
As is customary, our first stop was for a sausage biscuit, eaten on the road.  (Eating in the car is one of my favorite parts of travelling.  Always has been.)
The trip was broken up by pit-stops for diaper changes, as seen here:

. . . and, for me personally, by marathon reading sessions interspersed with power-naps. 

(No photo available.)

Also, about 5 miles after we left home, I was pulling my hair back and became aware of a dent in the back of my head that I had previously been unaware of.  (Like, for real, just at the base of my skull. . . a dent.)  Once I FOUND IT, of course, I became RATHER concerned with it, AND with the fact that I had never noticed it before.  This prompted me to assume that the dent was new, and probably recent.  (I was worried about it for several miles. . . Have I had a head injury??  Would I remember it if I had??  . . . My imagination ran amok with theories about what would cause this portion of my skull to cave in, and whether or not it was likely that it would kill me within the next few days.  Because we were on vacation, after all, and I would hate for the experience to be tainted due to a simple thing like cranial collapse. 

My sweet husband, of course, was INCREDIBLY concerned with the dent, as with the possibility of impending  disaster that it represented.  

I believe his exact words were:  "You are insane." 

. . . Which was less supportive than I had hoped for, to be sure, and hurt me quite deeply. . . but then I got distracted, and forgot about it.  --VACATION!!!!--   Sometimes short attention spans can be a blessing.)

So the drive was largely uneventful, until the point where we got about 12 miles away from our destination and suddenly I became aware of the sensation that someone was trying to shove a large brick under my eyelid.

I pulled down the passenger seat visor and scrubbed at it furiously.  (Probably the wisest, and most prudent course of action.)

Michael:  "What's wrong?"

Me:  *scrub, scrub, scrub*  "I have something in my eye."

Michael:  "Like what?"

Me:  *scrub scrub*  "Like. . . I dunno. . . a Miata?"

So by the time we got to the hotel to unload everything, I looked like I had just been beaten pretty severely. 

It did not go away.  My eyes became gross and goopy.

. . . I had the pink eye.


(Which now means that everyone in the house has had it except for Michael.  But on the positive side. . . this also meant that I had drops for it.)

Since I had been treating the baby's eyes for the last several days, I was very much aware that pink eye is supposed to be highly contagious. . .  So for the rest of the week, everywhere we went, I imagined myself as Patient Zero in some kind of sci-fi film:  walking around, unknowingly perpetrating a pandemic. . .  I pictured a map, with little red dots pinpointing the "outbreak zones" as I travelled around the city. . .  in my mind, I was the Typhoid Mary --- Pink Eyed Dani!!! --- of New Orleans. 


. . . But when I shared this notion with Michael, he just said that even if it goes untreated, that pink eye tends to resolve itself in about 2 weeks.  (I don't think I have to tell you how disappointed this made me feel.  But he loves me enough to be honest.)  So he said that, essentially, I would be the bringer of a plague that made people mildly uncomfortable and goopy for about 14 days.

(We have learned to take disappointment in stride.)

So I decided to refer to it as my Wonky Eye, we got all our stuff up to the hotel room, changed clothes and hit the street.

Ahhh. . . New Orleans.  =)

I love this place.

(Watching the musics.)
Michael pushed the stroller, and I ambled along behind, looking in all the windows, and at all the people, and just so happy to be there.  Past signs for everything from The World's Best Pralines, to art galleries, to advertisements for "Love Acts". . . which should be comforting, I suppose. . . the world always needs more love.  =)

We made our way around, no particular destination in mind, enjoying the sights and sounds and smells.

"It stinks," Michael says.

And he is quite right.  Occasionally, it does.

But this is what I love about New Orleans, honestly.

This is my first time here since Katrina.  And enough time has passed, and enough restoration occurred, that I am happy to find it largely the same as I remember it. . . 

It is music in the air.  A lively beat that covers everything you see, as fully as the blanket of almost-tangible humidity that coats you instantly, frizzes your hair and makes you sweat, and ultimately binds us all together.  It is a place where a deck of tarot cards can be an investment in your future.  It is 500 souvenir shops that all sell the same 15 t-shirts.  =)  It is creativity, raucous laughter, and the smell of seafood and beignets.  It is daiquiris and sweat, jazz and panhandlers, and a city full of people that actually say "Good morning!" to you. 

It is flawed, and beautiful, and unapologetic.

It is Human Stew, and I adore it.  =)

We make our way through the French Quarter, and eventually wander up to a restaurant that we take a chance on for dinner.  I can't remember what it was called, but it was good.  My fried shrimp po-boy took up the entire plate, and even though I was starving I only finished maybe half of it.  Our waiter was nice enough to bring Took some fruit punch from the bar, and he enjoyed some saltines while his Daddy and I tucked in to our seafood.  No toddler-meltdowns, so all in all it was a nice dinner.

The next day, Mr. had to do business-y things until about 5 p.m., so the little one and I were on our own for the day.  At 8 a.m. I found myself standing in the bathroom, goopy-eyed and irritable, trying to figure out how to operate the teensy little coffee machine that the Holiday Inn had been kind enough to provide for us.  Hmmmm. . . there was no filter, and just a meager amount of coffee in a little tea-bag.

As it turns out, I was right to be distrustful. 

It was dreadful.

I needed some real coffee.

So Took and I got dressed, and in 15 minutes we were out the door and on our way to Cafe du Monde.

We found a table under the awning, the better to watch the people on the street, and in a matter of moments we had a sippy-cup full of orange juice, a plate of beignets, and a REALLY fantastic frozen cafe au lait for me.

(Crazy kid REFUSED to try a beignet.  What a brat.  =)

This is enough caffeine to see me through a morning of sight-seeing, and at lunchtime we head back to the hotel for a nap.  (As seen here:)

(This was an excellent move on my part, and secretly one of the greatest things about travelling with children:  built-in nap times.)
Awesomeness.  =)
That evening, when Mr. was finished being professional, we walked around some more, had another great dinner, and found a new t-shirt for my man.  (see below.)

(He is very proud of it.  If you see him in it, you should probably tell him how nice he looks.  =)
Then we went back to the room and let the baby play with his first non-cellular phone.  (also see below.)
Unfortunately for all of us, I guess the baby was wired up or something (or possibly on a real fruit juice high). . . because he didn't go to sleep until about 10.  And then proceeded to toss and turn, cry out several times, and basically keep us up all night.  At some point during these festivities, I moved over to the bed he was sleeping on to cuddle with him, but really only succeeded in making it easier for him to kick me in the stomach, repeatedly.  And so it happened that, when the three of us woke the next morning, and the first words out of Michael's mouth were:  "Nolan, you sleep like an asshole", I did not utter a single word of argument.
But that's what coffee is for, after all, and so shortly after Mr. left for his meetings we made our way to PJ's of New Orleans, for coffee.
Then we sat in Jackson Square for a while.
We just sat.  And watched people for a while.
I let Took run around like a wild person, and I took photos of this and that, and sipped my coffee and just felt FINE.  Then I dug around in my purse until I found some saltines, and the baby and I took turns throwing pieces of them to the pigeons.  . . .this was a move that required CONSTANT vigilance on my part, as Took became fond of throwing a cracker to the birds, racing them to wherever it landed, and then trying to shove it into his mouth before I could stop him.  Then one of the park employees got a little too close to us with his weed eater, and my young son COMPLETELY lost his marbles and climbed me like a tree.  That's when we decided it was time to go, but it was still 2 blocks before I could pry him off my neck. 
Fun times.  =)
After that, we took our time strolling around.
We wandered aimlessly, looking in windows, watching street performers, with me passing strips of fruit by the foot to the baby when he got fussy.  (Awesome parenting in action.  Take notes, people. =)
At one point we ducked in a particularly promising-looking art gallery, and were fortunate enough to spend 20 or 30 minutes speaking with one of the artists.
This is significant, and strange, to me for several reasons.
The first is that I do not talk to strangers.  As in, EVER.  This is not because I have a policy regarding strangers, so much as it is due to my anxiety about speaking to people in general.  I am AWFUL about talking to people.  I clam up, get freaky-deaky-nervous, and just CANNOT think of a SINGLE thing to say.
Like. . . ALWAYS.
And yet we happened into this random little shop full of paintings and stood there talking to this guy for ages (relatively speaking).  He wasn't hitting on me, and I didn't feel uncomfortable (which is strange, because I ALWAYS feel uncomfortable.  I am, in fact, a little uncomfortable talking about this right now. . .)
Anyway, we stood there and talked about kids and dogs and magic, and finding your voice as an artist.  I divulged that I was trying to learn how to paint, myself, and he told me that Cezanne (one of my favorites) said to "paint what you know".  Then he started describing some of his work, and suddenly we were talking about being fully present for our own lives, and where inspiration comes from, and the difficulties involved in actively cultivating silence.
It was illuminating. 
And it was a rather strange conversation to be having with a perfect stranger at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, but I enjoyed it greatly, and will continue to think on it as a moment of serendipity.  =)
Then we went to the room and took another nap, and suddenly Michael was back, the conference was over, and it was our last night in town.
We wandered again, as a family, and I made Michael tell me how PROUD he was of me, for wandering the city for TWO DAYS, BY MYSELF. . . without getting lost.
Not.  EVEN.  ONCE.
It was a very big deal.
(My secret was that the street names were clearly marked, and I made a POINT of remembering which street our hotel was on.  Trade secret. . . shhhhhhh. =)
Before too long we found ourselves at Pierre Maspero's, almost by accident, and ate the best dinner we had the entire trip.

(Note that the baby is dining on the traditional New Orleans delicacy of mini-marshmallows and saltines.  The only word for this is "snazzy.")
We made our way to the water, and back again, took several photos that Mr. has urged me to try and recreate in watercolor, and looked for a souvenir.
I do not care about t-shirts, and most of the art was too pricey for my budget. . . so, though I had been wracking my brain all day, trying to think of something nice I might want to take home. . . I had come up with nothing.
And then, completely unintentionally, we came across something we just had to have. . .
And we found the PERFECT place for it. . .
And thus concludes the Turbervilles very first mini-vacation as a family. 
Mischief managed.