Mini Van Feed: Gingerbread Refugee Camp

Van and I attempted to make a gingerbread village.  It was a complete disaster.

The next morning I woke up and found this gingerbread math equation.

Translation: Van had four gingerbread houses. Two collapsed. How many are left?


Mini Van Feed: Go Back and Look Dawn

There have been an increasing number of memos posted around our apartment lately.

On Tuesdays, I let Van sleep with me. He gets to pick where he wants to eat out, I read to him instead of him reading to me and he gets to sleep with me. Big Tuesday. So this past Tuesday, Van is hard at work on the side of the bed that he sleeps on. He has gotten a stool and is laying out his slippers and folding his Snuggie (my mom made him a pint size Snuggie with planets on it) and setting out a thermos of water. Not two feet away is this sign.  He explains to me that the sign is just in case he accidentally walks past the stool with all of his morning amenities and needs a reminder to “Go Bak!”

This “Look Dawn Van!” memo was posted on his bedroom door. When I looked down myself to see why he needed a reminder to look down, I witnessed a long train of toys set up side by side. When I asked what the deal was, he explained, “the sign will tell me to look down, and when I look down, then I will slip on this ball, and the ball will roll into the car, and the car will go down the track and trigger the spinny thing, and the spinny thing runs the car into the snuggie, and the barrel shoots off that way and sets off the alarm clock.”

Mini Van Feed: Yoda Topper

Van tried to convince me to buy a Yoda Christmas tree topper at Target yesterday. When I said, “What’s so Christmassy about Yoda?”, he said, “What are you talking about?! He’s GREEN, isn’t he?!”

Mini Van Feed: Speedometers vs Scales

In the car today after neither one of us could figure out what the other was talking about for about 20 minutes (turns out, he was talking about the speedometer, and I was talking about the scale in my bathroom).

Me “You know what Van? You are funny. You know that?”

Him “Sometimes.”

Me “Some people think your mom is funny. What do you think of that?”

Him “You should tell them that you got it from your son.”

Mini Van Feed: Capoeira, Hip Hop Chess, and the Adventures of Mr. Potato Head

This past Saturday Van’s Capoeira class did a demo at a Hip Hop Chess event in downtown Raleigh. I am only recently becoming familiar with Capoeira, and I didn’t have a clue what Hip Hop Chess was. The event was held in a large meeting room behind the IMAX theater at Marbles Children’s Museum.


A minister-type man kicked off the event with a rather extended 30 minute talk about “why we were all there”. I originally thought the purpose was to showcase different martial arts and dance troupes, but quickly realized that was only the half of it. The group that organized the event had a larger mission in mind. The philosophy behind the mission was that teaching at-risk kids chess would greatly improve their life-decision making skills.

There were several things that the speaker said that struck me.

1. He was able to tell all the teenagers to “leave their cool at the door”, and do it in a really-not-so-cheessy sounding way, where you could tell they were all listening and would actually comply. Even I was thinking, you know what, I think that I too,  will leave what I have left of my cool at the door. We had to do this to allow us to meet someone new.

2. He explained why learning to play chess was crucial. He said that the skill of learning to think through all of the consequences when making a decision, as is done when one plays chess,  helps you become a better man or woman. Plus they had video footage of the Wu Tang Clan doing it, you can let your cool back in now.


The RZA of Wu-tang Clan wins the championship belt at the first annual Hip Hop Chess Federation's Chess Kings Invitational.

3. Towards the end of his talk, he started the poem, “The hand that rocks the cradle…” and stopped. The entire crowd responded with, “rules the world.” How did I somehow miss this piece of language? The way he spoke about this particular passage had me in tears in less than 5 minutes.

I like to think that I was on the verge of tears because my smoocher was nervous. He is 6. He has never been on stage. He hates crowds. He hates noise. He is new to capoeira. It wasn’t him that was nervous, I was nervous.

After the man finished speaking, he introduced the teacher of Van’s Capoeira class. He was great. He took a lot of time to explain the history and instruments of Capoeira. It is a martial art invented in Brazil by slaves from Africa. They would practice self-defense moves in public and disguise them as dance. The instruments are basic yet effective.

He also explained he had given all of his students Portuguese nicknames. He went around the semi-circle and told the audience each student’s nickname. There was a kid nicknamed “Viking” and another called “Battery”, and then he came to Van. He said that his nickname was “Beedu”. It means the wise one. A funny kind of emotion is being a proud parent for seemingly silly reasons.

It is all pretty neat to watch. The class all took turns sparring with eachother and the crowd was into it. At the very end Van’s teacher whispered to him and asked if he wanted to spar and he declined.  He was brave for standing up there.

What does this have to do with the adventures of Mr. Potato Head? Being so close to Marbles Children’s Museum, we *had* to go there afterwards. The exhibit this month is the Adventures of Mr. Potato Head. Just had to give a shout out to Hasbro, the exhibit is brilliance in marketing. Lenovo should sponsor travelling children’s museum exhibits.

Mini Van Feed: Fried Chicken Floor

Van put a giant Post It note on the TV that reads, “I like fried chicken”. OK, my friend, duly noted. I think I am going to start leaving Post Its around too. Maybe I leave one on his forehead, Better off Dead style, that reads, “I like to see the floor of your room”.

Mini Van Feed: Smokin’ Pancake Balls

Van and I went to Denny’s tonight to get breakfast for dinner… something he absolutely loves. If he had it his way, he would eat breakfast for dinner every night. I thought Van would like Denny’s because a colleague mentioned that they make robot pancakes for kids.

I haven’t been to a Denny’s since I was around 10 years old when I was stuffed into a minivan with my sisters and cousins and we drove from Athens to Orlando to go to Disney World one summer. I remember it being so hot and miserable… and being so jealous of my older cousin Nano who listened to Yaz  on her new walkman (the band, not the birth control), while I had to listen to whatever my mom and Aunt Nano picked on the radio. We may have hit a Denny’s more than once on that trip.

From what I can remember, nothing about the Denny’s has changed, layout is the same and the menu looks only slightly varied. And did you know people can still smoke in there? Smoking in restaurants is illegal in Raleigh, but somehow Denny’s is exempt? There was no one in there (it was 5:30 afer all), which made it feel a tad creepy, and for it was for sure unhealthy. It was one of those cases where you are like, well, there is nothing good for me here, may as well just go all out.

So. Van had these deep fried pancake balls rolled in cinnamon sitting on whipped cream with a side of sausage and bacon, which I think was supposed to resemble some sort of football scenario, but didn’t at all. And I had a cheddar bacon burger with onion rings which I must admit, was delicious. Toward the end of dinner, Van asked me to try some of the pancake balls. He told me I had to dip it into the syrup. He lifted up the syrup container on his plate and started to hand it to me, then he took it back and looked underneath it, and said very seriously,  “Does this look like a parallelogram to you?”