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In 1959, an author and illustrator named Garth Williams wrote a book called The Rabbits’ Wedding. The beautifully illustrated book tells a story of two rabbits – a black one and a white one – that met in a large forest and lived happily ever after.


Lots of folks in the 60’s thought so and for that it was removed from libraries in the South or transferred to reserve shelves because it depicted the marriage of a black rabbit and a white one, leading some to believe it promoted interracial marriage, and was thus inappropriate for children. I am so glad times have changed.

But have they?

For the last 28 years, the American Library Association (ALA) has celebrated the Freedom To Read during it’s annual Banned Books Week, always the last week of September. I know, I know, that was last week. I’ll spare you the details of how hectic last week was and this week will be and tell you that you can see a complete list of banned or challenged books for 2008-2009 here.

On the list? Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)! Beloved (Tony Morrison)! Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger)! Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain!) And Tango Makes Three (Peter Parnell)! Uncle Bobby’s Wedding (Sarah S. Brannen)!

Wanna read any of these? Better watch out. Each of those and many more have been challenged, restricted, or removed from public libraries because somebody didn’t like them for them, and thus they don’t think they should be available to anybody.

Think this nonsense about book banning only happens in the South? Think again.

Banned Books Week may be over, but you can have an impact any day of the year. Buy a book and donate it to your local library! There are other things you can do, too.


Xavier's First Birthday

Last weekend we took our third birthday trip to San Antonio this year, this time in celebration of my nephew Xavier’s very first birthday. Monkey cupcakes, two bouncers, a piñata, a water table, individually labeled lunch sacks for kids, yummy food, family, friends, and fellowship. My brother and sister-in-law can throw a party, you hear me?

The sweltering heat helped in that it assured a solid afternoon nap for Mateo and Harper (and Mommy and Matou!). That evening, we ordered takeout burgers and congregated at Grandma Yoyi’s house and watched all five nieces and nephews play together. Mateo was up until 8:00 p.m. hanging out with his night owl cousins, but despite the activity, Harper was all “EXCUSE ME! IT’S 6:30 AND I HAVE GOT TO GO TO BED!”

I’m in the process of redesigning my blog. I’ve retained a web designer to help me navigate all the technical programming that I don’t have the time to get smart about. We met for two hours last week and we’ve both got homework assignments before our next meeting in a couple weeks.

Wow, Rachel, you might implore, are you getting a lot of traffic on your site and you’re going to do this more than just as a hobby? Um, no. Just to be clear, I have absolutely no business spending money on this. I mean what are there, like thirteen readers and four commenters?

It’s just that the free sites do not provide the flexibility I’m looking for, like the width of the columns, or multiple templates within the same site. And if I’m going to labeled High Maintenance, I MIGHT AS WELL LIVE UP TO THE TITLE.

It’s a work in progress that I hope to take live by the end of August with changes including a tab just for RaJen Reviews, a photo gallery for those photos I want to highlight with minimal text, and some other goodies. I’ll also have a new name and web address. Which means that my readership will probably be reduced to five people.

I hope you are one of them.

We spent early Sunday afternoon at the Children’s Museum of Houston. They have an area called TotSpot created especially for 0-36 month olds. And I get that older siblings and cousins need to remain close to their Adult Supervisor, but I sure wish their Adult Supervisor would teach them not to take toys from toddlers, and you know, generally supervise their children.


We bought a Family membership last week that will provide us us air-conditioned entertainment, discounted parking, and members-only hours for an entire year for a totally-worth-it-less-than-the-cost-of-two-mani-pedis-I-so-desparately-need seventy bucks.


One thing the website didn’t tell us was that adults must wear hospital booties over their shoes or over their bare feet. Children must wear socks or go barefoot. Next time we’ll be taking socks. Consider yourself informed!


Two weekends ago, in a flash of courage and insanity, I drove the kids to San Antonio for their cousin Sara’s first birthday party. Alone. This after a week of contemplating whether or not to it, and my sister saying “I would never drive with both kids alone, but I hope you will.” Jennifer had to work that weekend and was then off to another city for some solitude and vacation time to play in a golf tournament. So I figured I could venture out for a less-than-twenty-eight-hours-seven-of-those-spent-in-a-car trip, or stay at home. If it was great, then great, If it was horrible, well, blogging is cheaper than therapy.

My sister and her husband had Just. That. Week. finished putting in a beautiful flagstone patio, and leveling off the backyard playground, the location where one colorful butterfly piñata, caught in the web of fifteen or more children, would meet its fate.


It was incredibly hot, but the only people who seemed to notice were the parents assigned to chase their kids around outside. Mateo and Harper’s gift to Sara was a big hit, though I’m not sure the other guests necessarily came prepared for wardrobe changes. Ooops. I’m putting that one down in the Cool Tia column.


Other than driving alone with 14 month olds for up to four hours one way, I was concerned with how they might respond to more-people-per-square-foot than you’d find surrounding the ice cream truck in summer, but neither cried. Harper, the – of late – more shy of the two, stayed a little closer to me and grandma. But gosh darn it was she cute in her pink Converse All-Stars.



And Mateo the ham basked in all the attention like a little pig rolling around in the mud. He was most intrigued by the big kids, seen here coming out of the room where they convened.


The party was fun, except for the part where I had to chase down Mateo after he escaped from an opening in the gate leading to the woods behind my sister’s house. Were any other kids doing that? NO.


And add to the milestones, I kept the kids out until after 6:00 p.m. – SHOCKER! – before heading back to my mom’s house. My sweet mom who got up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to make us homemade tortillas for egg and sausage tacos. Then again, she shut the garage door before I was out of the driveway, and was probably back in bed before I got to the end of the street.

Oh, the drive? Let’s just say DVDs are of no interest to the kids (though thanks two moms from my neighborhood group for letting us borrow the DVD player and Planet Earth DVDs). And that snack traps filled with baby trail mix attached to the carseats with toy links are no guarantee when you have a kid who can unlink those links. While mom is in the front seat driving seventy. The last hour of both legs of the trip were nothing short of horrible, but I am so glad we went.


Sea World season passes: $138
Gas to get to San Antonio and back: $47
Plastic Pool from the grocery store: $12

Grandma’s homemade tortillas on a Saturday morning, playing with cousins, meals with grandparents, lots of bubbles, lots and lots of walking, and swimming in the back yard: priceless.








Jen got up with the kids at 6:30 and I got to sleep in all the way until 7:15. (Hey, it’s the little things). And then the kids had their morning naptime. Except they didn’t really nap. And then Harper was ready to nap – translation: throwing the head back tantrum – thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave for lunch. Put Harper down. Can’t get the damn shoes on Mateo’s feet. And then he managed to take one of them off (like here). And then we were finally ready to go. But both kids needed diaper changes. By then I was sweating. In a silk skirt. And heels. But everything was calm in the car on the way to the restaurant. We were meeting Jennifer’s family which means a party of 14. We were 10 minutes late for our 11:00 reservation. There were no high chairs at the table. Do you know how much 25 pounds of boy weighs? Fifty. Greetings exchanged. Hugs, kisses.

Meet And Greet

Nice to be there. I order my iced tea. Should have made it a long island kind. It was past the kids’ lunch time. Ordered the kids some meatballs. Crisis averted. I ordered my meal. Not sure why I even bothered. Sitting between two kids who are tired of sitting in high chairs in a crowded, loud restaurant. (remember: they didn’t nap well in the morning). Ask for to-go boxes. It’s now 12:45. Afternoon nap is usually around 12:30 or 1:00. Trying to wrap things up. Jennifer orders dessert. WTF? Another to-go box. Meltdowns approaching. Awkward bill situation. Gather bags. Still sweating. In a silk skirt. Meltdown. Pile into the car and drive home. Sing loudly to keep the kids awake until we get home. Diaper changes. Lights out, sound machine on. Put kids down. They don’t fall asleep. But I do. Best 30 minute nap ever. Kids sleep for almost two hours. 3:30 rolls around. Snack time. Make smoothies. Grab crackers. Change diapers. Take a family trip to Lowes. Kids in the wagon. Get stuff. Head back home and go to directly to the back yard. Ride the yellow fish. Head first on the slide. Fill up the water table. Teach the kids to drink from the hose (best. water. ever.).


Peel off wet clothes. 5:30. Prep dinner. Head upstairs to feed the kids. Yum for them. Jen takes Mateo down for a bath. Work with Harper on drinking from a glass.


Prepare cups with whole milk. Take Harper and two cups of milk downstairs. Bathe Harper. 6:30 We all play downstairs. Drink milk. Brush teeth. 7:00. Gather Raffy and Woobie. Sound machine on, babies to bed. We clean up bathroom and play area. Back upstairs to prepare our dinner. Which was supposed to be lunch. Sit down. Look at each other and say “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Finish eating. Clean kitchen. Prep kids’ breakfast for next day. Check on neighbors’ cats. Take out trash.

Everything you’ll read about how to do the first birthday party will indicate that you should “keep the guest list small”, “make it a quiet and intimate family affair,” “don’t do anything too big as to overwhelm the little one”, but the authors of such advices are obviously neither of Hispanic descent nor South Louisianans because the combined heritage alone gets you no less than thirty uncomfortably loud people in a space. And that’s BEFORE food and drink.

When it became clear that no action on our part was going to prevent them from turning ONE, people began asking me “what’s the party theme?” And I will not lie to you when I say that I had no idea what they were talking about. A theme? Yes, a theme! Like is it a Zoo Theme or a Cars Theme or a Noah’s Ark Theme?

Ummmmmm….it’s Crawfish?

And the logic went like this: Crawfish. Too spicy for kids. Fish sticks. Kids like Goldfish crackers. Activity for the 2-5 year lot. OK, sand and water table. Sand. Water. Sea. Wait a minute, something’s happening here. Yes, I’ll draw sea animals and we’ll cut them out of construction paper because I’m too cheap to buy decorations I don’t want anything too commercial. BAM! And just like that, in a flash of parental comprehension, we had a theme.

Our small family gathering? A crawfish boil for fifty.


We did, at least, schedule it post- afternoon nap when the kids are as rested as they’re going to get. We had originally planned an outdoor gathering with tables of crawfish in the driveway, ride-on toys and kid seating for the garage (thanks for letting us borrow, SJN!), a refrigerator full of sodas and juices, an open door from the garage – through the house- leading to the backyard where we have a slide-playhouse and sand & water table, ample set-up for a crowd that size. But noooooooooo, the biggest storm of the season came through that day. ALL day long. So we crammed into the garage and kept a table under a tarp & tent (thanks AJ & KF!) for the mudbugs.

Birthday Garage

Jennifer’s dad and brother boiled a spectacular batch of crawfish, potatoes, corn, and sausage. And we had fish sticks, goldfish crackers, and peas-n-carrots for the little ones. In the picture above, I think Mateo had managed eighteen or so fishsticks into his mouth and he’s using his index finger to keep it all in.

Their cakes were simple, homemade yellow cake by yours truly. I wasn’t about to spend crawfish money on a cake that wasn’t going to get touched by the the RJBs. Sure enough, they didn’t disappoint.

happy birthday

The kids received (too) many generous gifts from family and friends, but we’ve already learned that no one listens when you say “no gifts”. Especially grandparents. Mateo was especially excited about his Little People Cars toy from his aunt & uncle.

Birthday Boy


Harper stayed attached to me, Jennifer, my mom, our nanny, or the ride-on fish toy. Here, she’s attached to grandma’s fingers.

Birthday Girl

Even with crabby weather (crabby, get it?), it was a great party and I think most everyone had fun.

The After-Party

RaJen Cajun Familia

On Saturday, I loaded up the kids and their wagon and we headed to our area Mother’s Of Multiples Egg Hunt. We had planned to do our church’s Easter Egg Hunt come Easter Sunday, but the timing is such that it falls smack in the middle of their nap. And while we’ll be at the later service to celebrate the risen Lord, I can assure you we will not jack with the morning snooze, otherwise known as The Single Most Important Daily Event That Can Make Or Break The Rest Of The Day. So. Help. Me. God.


Jennifer was working all weekend (as opposed to just Saturday’s), and while I am accustomed to taking the kids out and about on my own, I had not previously done so with them not confined to a stroller, or at least not loose with other kids around. And a scary looking bunny.

This bunny had an interesting effect on the children. Some kids steered as far away as possible from him, despite their parents’ efforts to get said kids to take a picture with the slow-motion clapping, oddly waving thing. And I’ll just tell you right now, I could totally understand their horror. Other children would not let the bunny go. It was like watching Harlow’s cloth and wire monkey experiment. And for those of us with non-walkers, it made it a little challenging to get a bunny photo. But not impossible.

The Boy

So there I went, navigating my way around army ants of toddlers, trying to have a serious, but brief conversation with this bunny: “See those kids sitting over there? When you get a chance, please head over to them so I can get a picture.” Ok, maybe I forgot the please part. The bunny was in full-bunny mode meaning that s/he wouldn’t speak, so I couldn’t tell if bunny understood or heard my request. And I couldn’t look to the bunny for a visual acknowledgement because bunny had this weird grin and unblinking eyes frozen onto it’s face. In parting, I said “Bunny, when you go to them, do not try to get their attention. Do not look at them. Just hop on in behind them and bend down so I can snap a picture and then leave quickly because they’re afraid of strangers right now.” And as I walked back towards the kids, I can’t tell you how absurd I felt for having had that conversation. But whatever, I got the picture, and the kids were oblivious to the trauma in white behind them.

One-Eyed Bunny

The hunt was well organized, sections of the field marked for 0-18 month non-walkers, 12-24 months, 24-48 months, 48 months +, or something like that. Each family was asked to bring a dozen plastic eggs with age-appropriate goodies inside them. I really want to get to know the family who thought that Hershey’s foil-wrapped chocolates and choking-hazard egg shaped malt balls were appropriate for 0-18 month olds. Because when I do something horrible like accidentally make a finger bleed from trimming nails, I can think of them and know Well At Least I Didn’t Impede Their Airway.

At some point, I sat back and observed the greater controlled chaos. And I noticed that all the other families had a one-to-one adult-to-child ratio, with many having a grandma or aunt as reinforcements. THERE IS LOGIC TO THIS. Something the ever-present film of sweat I carry around has already told me.

BAMOM Egg Hunt 2009

A couple weeks ago, my niece E! turned two. It seems that it was just yesterday that I was posting her birth announcement, and now here she is all toddler and talky talky talky. To celebrate, my sister arranged for a birthday party at a place called Fiesta Farms in San Antonio. There, there were three covered areas and a barn, each packed with a party of of cuñados and primos and abuelos and hermanos and a couple white people scattered about.

E!, the birthday girl.

And let me just say, albeit a bit windy and chilly, it was a spectacular place for a party for kids in the 2-5 age range. The farm was basically a bit of a petting zoo and safari all within walking distance for the toddle crowd. There were pony rides and chicken feedings and staring down llamas and cuddling bunnies.

Jennifer had the ingenious idea of bringing the wagon that her dad and step-mom gave our kids for Christmas. Riding in it allowed the kids to be transported without being carried, and with more freedom than a stroller. And their cousins got in on the ride, too.

Baby S, E!s sister.

X, my brother’s boy.

Harper and Mateo got in on the fun and pony rides, too. And I’m just smitten to have shots like these to remember their babyhood.

Harper and Matou.

Cowboy Up!
Mateo on the pony.



It was a quick trip, less than 24 hours. But it was really nice to see my siblings and their families. Of course, we couldn’t leave without the obligatory photo of my mom with a tossed salad of her grandchildren. They’ve all grown in just a few months, and I can already tell things are going to get really fun as they grow up together.

Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been playing with iMovie, trying to teach myself how to make videos from still photos. I am less than pleased with the transitions, but given that I won’t get to play on the computer any evening soon, I’m posting my first attempt which contains all the photos from the Fiesta Farms party.

Grandma and the kids.

More Photos!

The Aforementioned