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The Toadstool Theatre and other tales... 5/3/2017
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As you may remember from my last entry, my niece and her little daughter had arrived from France for an eight day visit. Her professor husband, who had been in Chicago for a big conference, arrived on the first of April. Their beautiful family was reunited and we were overjoyed to have them.

We had so much fun introducing them to the variety of activities that Cleveland has to offer. The Botanical Gardens were especially delightful. There are so many little workshops there at this time of year, especially for young families. Take the tiny Toadstool Theatre, for example, where beautifully-detailed costumes await little ones in the wings behind the curtain. Our little Frenchie was totally game and chose to entertain us as two different butterflies on stage, while my sister’s three-year-old granddaughter preferred to dance for us in her street clothes. There was also a worm race--opposing five slimy critters who sometimes had trouble staying in their lanes, a magical butterfly release, beautiful gardens, a story room with puppets and chalkboards for drawing… And everything was wisely set indoors, since Cleveland weather is so iffy in April.

The following day was warm, so we all set out for the zoo. As a special treat, the two little girls got to feed large romaine lettuce leaves to a hungry giraffe, a meal we followed with our own, more substantial, picnic.

Among our many outings, there was a visit to a fabulous playground called Preston’s Place, set in a pretty, wooded area. On another day, we drove the scenic route to Chagrin Falls, where we visited the falls, played at the park along the banks of the river and enjoyed a fun lunch, followed by a little shopping for gifts for their family back home.

Besides our field trips, we enjoyed cooking with the help of our always on-board three year olds. We had wonderful dinners in and out!

One evening I watched my little niece, while her parents and my sister’s son and wife had their “private” dinner out together. My little charge was an angel. We got along just fine, in spite of the language barrier, through dinner, fingernail painting, bath, and a story in English. At her request, I also read “Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains” as well as “Alice au Pays des Merveilles”--Snow White and Alice in French! “The rosebud”, as we call her, on my lap, seemed to follow. Although I didn’t understand all of the words, I made my best effort to pronounce them correctly. The following day, Rose’s father asked about our story time together "en français" and she replied, “It was fine, just very bizarre.” Need I say more?

We also celebrated my husband’s birthday, with the fun addition of two little gals helping with the candles, singing Happy Birthday and bringing in the cake and gifts… as well as “helping” unwrap them!

Peppering our week were several improvised sleepovers at our house with my sister’s son, his wife and their two kiddos, a brilliant idea dreamed up by their little gal, who wanted to share every minute with her cousin. It made for a fun-filled houseful! There were pancake breakfasts, thrilling games of hide and seek in the basement, and breathless dance fests with all of us participating, one of which was accompanied by the rosebud’s papa on piano, while the little gals danced their hearts out… We never stopped !

Eight days later, our lovely French family was to return home, but they received a message informing them that their flights had been cancelled. Due to severe thunderstorms and a tornado or two in the southern US (unbeknown to us), there was a huge backup of planes and an airline personnel scramble: what a mess! As a result, the next day brought new “bump offs” and re-scheduled flight messages…and so did the next day. Crazy!

We had no choice but to have two more days of fun, darn it ;). And no one was complaining. We went from tee-shirt weather to a snowy wonderland on the first day! My little niece and her papa eagerly made a snowman on our front lawn.

The following day we bundled up and headed to Lake Metroparks Farmpark, “a Top 10 educational site to learn about farming in the country,” to quote USA Today.What a wonderful place! The more adventurous among us milked cows, but we all petted horses, sheep, cows and goats. The snowy, fluffy lambs were a special hit with the girls. The “milkmaid” of the pair asked if she could please take one back to Paris! We saw chickens, rabbits and pigs up close, enjoyed a picnic lunch and took in the sites on this impressive 235-acre working farm. It was a fantastic last day!

The next morning I drove the little family to the airport. After two hours of finagling, with a very helpful attendant on our side, flights and seats were secured to the same destination (they had set up the mother and little one on a flight to London…with no connecting flight to France!),and on the same plane, back to Paris. These kids were lucky to get out when they did!

They arrived home the next morning (local time), without a hitch. I miss them all so much—the nest feels a little empty around here after all the excitement of their visit. We all wish they lived closer…but I’m thankful for the great memories we made and the zillion photos we have between us to illustrate them.

The rest of the month, Ed and I enjoyed lunches and dinners out with friends, as well as a fundraiser for Beech Brook, a behavioral health agency. We also attended an outstanding high school play, “All Shook Up”, in which our dear friends’ son, CJ, had a supporting role. And I took care of my precious 11-month-old nephew one day, which wore me out…whoah,the energy of these little people! And there was fun a photo shoot with Abe and interspersed with many rehearsals for our upcoming concert at Cain Park, in June.

On the last day of the month, we celebrated my mother’s 92nd birthday at my home. My sister helped me with the birthday gal’s specially-requested menu, topped off with a chocolate truffle bomb cake. It was a sweet day and Mom, looking especially lovely, enjoyed every minute!

That’s all, for April. As we taught the rosebud to say, “seeyouguys” May!