Dance like nobody’s watching

I felt compelled to do a photo montage of the 3 Amigos’ dancing skills from Casey and Garret’s wedding reception.

Gabriel is psyched to be shaking a leg with the beautiful bride!


Gabriel & Zeke study the big kids moves, and then put the rhythms into action!


HL & Zeke get Merdy, and Gabriel goes round and round.



At left: Gabriel & Meredith do their grooviest Macarena, as Zeke checks out the other people getting down to this iconic ’90s dance tune.

Gabriel does a funky robot (below left), and Houston gets air bound (below right) as he overcomes his slight apprehension to party dancing.


The Big Easy

The big news since the last blog was that Casey and Garret got hitched, and we traveled to New Orleans for the multiple-day love fest.

The dudes literally hang out in a bevy of palms in Jackson Square.

We opted to drive to Louisiana, instead of fly. Not only would the latter have been extremely expensive, but we wanted to avoid the many hassles of air travel, most notably the TSA feeling up our kids.

To make our road travels as stress-free as possible, we decided to take two days for the 12-hour trip. Cousin Meredith was also our partner in crime, which was great fun and quite helpful to boot. She played games with the boys, took them on bathroom breaks, tied their shoes, helped distribute car food, etc.

Poor thing, I think we wore her out! Nah, I’m pretty sure she had a large time and enjoyed the many antics that result from travels with Clan Dillingham.

Shopping for Mardi Gras masks on Bourbon Street w/ Meredith.

The trip down south went swimmingly. We saw landmarks, like the South Carolina peach under construction, and got a slowpoke view of Atlanta due to traffic. We were able to easily spot cool sites, including the Olympic torch, Cartoon Network, Coca-Cola, CNN, and the Georgia Capitol. Half the fun’s getting there, right?!

The boys were extremely excited each and every time we entered a new state, joyfully screaming when they were lucky enough to spot the “welcome to” sign. We tried to make our car tunes correspond with the geography, so you know the dudes were belting out “Sweet Home Alabama” by evening.

We spent our first night in Montgomery with my old pal, Jamie. The last time Stephen and I saw Jamie was when I was pregnant with Houston. It was wonderful for him to be able to meet the 3 Amigos, and for us to be able to meet his wife, Kim, and adorable toddler daughter, Claire.

After French rule, New Orleans was part of a Spanish colony and today’s Jackson Square was called Plaza de Armas. Then the French ruled again. Then America got the land in the Louisiana Purchase. Then the park was renamed after Gen. Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. And then he rode this fame all the way to the White House. History’s so interesting.

Jamie treated our entire crew to a veritable feast at a Thai restaurant, and then we crashed for free at his father’s old house. Both gestures are indicative of Jamie’s sweet nature and willingness to always do for others.

I had a total fail, somehow managing to take zero pics of this memorable reunion. (That’s so unlike me.) I suppose we’ll just have to get together with you and the girls again some time soon, Jamie!

Driving across Lake Pontchartrain, jamming Lucinda Williams, soaking in the Big Easy skyline in front us: it was just a surreal thing. Some of you may remember, after a brief summer internship, I left New Orleans in August 1998, shaking my fist in the air and swearing that I would never be back.

Why on earth is there a giant cactus in the front yard of this home in the Irish Channel neighborhood? ‘Cause Nawlins does things big and bad, that’s why!

And here I was, with husband and kids in tow, back to see what she had to offer. Fortunately, the Crescent City and I made up and are good friends again.

We arrived in the evening without hassle and got settled into the well-preserved Garden District mansion in which we were renting with our crew: Meredith, Lisa, Albert, Gramsey, Papa, and Rick. For dinner, our first outing was a quick jaunt over the bumpy, broken sidewalks to the Irish Channel for yummy po’boys with hot sauce.

The next day, we took a street car to the French Quarter with Meredith. We ate at Deanie’s, corner of Iberville and Dauphine. Gabriel still talks about the full shrimp (with ihead and eyeballs and everything!) that garnished my Bloody Mary. And I still remember those succulent oysters on the half-shell. Mmm.

Beignets smothered in powder sugar & warm coffee w/ chicory: perfect medicine for a chilly day exploring the big city.

Once our bellies were full, we tooled down Bourbon Street while shopping for masks to wear to Casey’s Mardi Gras-themed wedding reception. Yes, many strange, tawdry, and debauched things were afoot on Rue des Bourbon, even during the middle of the day in wintertime. Zany.

Then we walked to Jackson Square, where we listened to a funky brass band; rested alongside the mighty Mississippi; and warmed up and recharged at Cafe Du Monde.

That night at the rehearsal dinner, we were treated to delicious local cuisine at the Tigermen Den in the artsy Bywater neighborhood. This place was so hip and quaint that we almost couldn’t find it or even figure out how to enter the old-home-turned-rustic-event-facility.

There’s something so intense about standing beside the Mississippi, as it flows boldly and freely through New Orleans. As Mark Twain wrote, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.”

Two of Casey and Garret’s friends were performing mellow jazz on acoustic guitar and piano. Lisa made an intricately beautiful charm cake for all the bridesmaids. Plus, there were four king cakes from which to choose for dessert, so the whole New Orleans vibe just permeated the relaxed evening.

The next day was the wedding, which was held at the magnificent Saint Theresa of Avila, the second oldest Catholic church in the city. Casey looked drop-dead gorgeous, Garret was handsome and oh-so happy, and Papa was extremely proud to give away his beloved granddaughter.

Meredith was the cantor, expertly performing hymns throughout the ceremony. I mean, I knew my niece could sing, but her version of Ave Maria literally brought me to tears. Wow!

Karate chops by by the 3 Amigos & Meredith @ the Tigermen Den.

The reception was a blast, of course. People donned festive masks and Mardi Gras beads, sipped Sazerac cocktails, feasted upon flavorful fare, like seared tuna and bacon-wrapped dates, and danced like no one was watching!

In fact, the 3 Amigos stole the show with their moves. Gabriel and Zeke were some of the first to hit the dance floor and really set the tone for some mad boogying, and soon thereafter, Houston joined in the frenetic fun. So much for unsocialized homeschoolers, eh?!

After heading back to the house to get the boys settled in for the night, Stephen and I hung with an ultra-innebriated Rick. So, we opted to play it safe and hit the nearby Verret’s Lounge, as opposed to trekking all the way to the French Quarter to meet up with the wedding crew.

It’s a little blurry & I’m blinking (of course!), but here’s the family-of-the-bride photo … & ain’t she a gorgeous bride!

Verret’s was a cozy, hole-in-the-wall kind of joint, brimming with lots of friendly locals, strong drinks, and killer live music. Unfortunately, Rick spilled his drink a little too close to the pianist (translation: ON the pianist), so we had to hit the road. But at least Rick picked up the tab for our many mojitos … thanks, dude!

Plus, our early arrival back gave us a chance to hang out with Lisa and Albert, who had been super busy with wedding stuff till then. You know you’re having a grand time when you stay up till 5 in the morning watching economics videos with your big sister. Yes, we Quate girls confidently embrace our inner dork!

Then our last day in NOLA included jaunts to the Rum House, a great Caribbean restaurant on lively Magazine Street; a stroll through Lafayette Cemetery No. 2; and then a kid-free night out with Lisa and Meredith to Delachaise, a snazzy wine and appetizer bar that serves some incredible Cuisses de Grenouille (translation: frog legs)!

Lafayette Cemetery is at the same time beautiful and eerie, stark and graceful, tranquil and impactful. The above-ground tombs are a reminder of NOLA’s rich history, as well as the topographical fact that about half of the city is below sea level, giving it an extremely high water table.

So, our trip to New Orleans was a smashing success. And I, who had previously felt so bitterly about the Big Easy, now have quite the sweet spot for this wonderfully complex city and all that makes it so vibrant and unique.

Now, the trip home wasn’t so hot. I mean, we were all pretty tired and a bit bummed about our fun nearing an end, so there were some short fuses for this portion of the journey. There was even a pee-pee mishap (ugh!), but we survived. And what you can expect, really?!

We made it to Auburn, Alabama, on day one heading north. Luckily, the hotel where we stayed had an outdoor hot tub and heated pool, which eased the boys’ road weariness and post-Big Easy blues.

One of the many quirky things found in the Garden District mansion where we stayed in NOLA.

Overall, though, I am quite impressed with the 3 Amigos’ behavior, fortitude, and ability to handle new challenges, big cities, road trips, lots of walking, and unseasonably cold weather (for which we way under-packed). Way to go, dudes!

Congrats to Casey and Garret on embarking on their new life together. Also a hardy thanks to Daddy for funding our vacation, Lisa for scoring the mansion rental, Meredith for being our partner in crime, and God for keeping us safe.

And here’s to our next family adventure, whether that be another trip to a famous metropolis, a trek to one of America’s natural wonders, or perhaps even a move to a new and unfamiliar locale just ‘cuz. New Hampshire, anyone?!?