Monday, December 12, 2011

Michelle Obama Visits Children's National Medical Center, Talks First Family Food Traditions

What's for dinner on Christmas Eve? What's the President getting for Christmas?...
First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday paid her third annual holiday visit to the Children's National Medical Center, located high on a hill overlooking Washington, DC. Accompanied by First Dog Bo, Mrs. Obama met with a big group of young patients in the airy atrium lobby, joined by a very trim Santa Claus.

The First Lady gave a spirited reading of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." She wore knee-high brown suede boots and a geometric print jersey top with a wide belt and a gold brooch at the neck over an A-line skirt. Many of the kids, toddlers to teens, wore pajamas as they sat with their parents or nurses; some were in wheelchairs or had IV lines, and will be spending their holidays in the hospital. Bo sat quietly at his mistress' feet the entire time, wearing a red collar with jingle bells.

Mrs. Obama opened the floor to questions, and got plenty of queries about Obama holiday traditions. She explained that the First Family's Christmas Eve dinner takes place in Hawaii because President Obama grew up there, and "that's hometown for us." The entree is usually turkey or steak, she said. That earned multiple exclamations of "ew!" from a little girl in the audience.

"Ew?" Mrs. Obama said, to laughter. "You don't like steak?"

The child explained that her family doesn't eat it.

"Well, we only have steak," Mrs. Obama said. "And our girls love macaroni and cheese. That’s big on the menu. Got to have a little macaroni and cheese."

That got an enthusiastic response from the kids. Macaroni and cheese is also a staple on the First Family's Thanksgiving menu.

"But we have lots of vegetables," Mrs. Obama added. Among the First Family's choices: Spinach, carrots, string beans, and salad, she said.

"Broccoli, that’s our favorite. We have a lot of broccoli."

Mrs. Obama also told the kids that her husband is a pie fanatic, and it's an important part of Christmas Eve dinner.

"We have pie. Loooots of pie. The President looooves pie," Mrs. Obama said, to more laughter. "All kinds of pie."

The First Family's 2010 Christmas Day dinner menu, as released by the White House, read, simply: "Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans, Pie." No menu was released for Christmas Eve. Pie is also the star of the First Family's Thanksgiving menu: Six kinds are served.

White House holiday parties...
The President and Mrs. Obama are in the midst of a very busy holiday entertaining schedule, and in response to a question about Christmas parties at the White House, she explained what goes on.

"Yes, we have holiday parties," Mrs. Obama said. "We have almost two every day for two weeks. And the President and I are at every holiday party, and we shake almost every hand or take a picture, and we usually do them twice a day."

This started right after the Mrs. Obama unveiled her "Shine, Give, Share" decor scheme on Nov. 30, she said. It will continue until she and her daughters leave for Hawaii late next week. The President and Mrs. Obama stand in the Diplomatic Reception Room during the parties, and they really do greet each guest, and take photos with most.

Still, there were some things Mrs. Obama wouldn't reveal: She declined to tell the kids what she's getting the President for Christmas. (Above: Mrs. Obama holds Bo as he greets a patient)

"We go through this every year," she said, laughing. "I’m not going to say because it’s going to be reported in the paper and it won’t be a surprise...And he’ll read it and say, Oh, that's what you’re getting me."

She admitted that sports gear might be involved, however. The First Lady did tell the kids what she wants as a Christmas gift, when queried about what was on her own list for Santa.

"What I really, really want is for all kids to grow up with the chance to be healthy and happy, and to live a good life, and to get a good education, and to grow up and be anything they want to be. And if every child could have just that simple gift out of life, that would be a wonderful Christmas present for me."

Mrs. Obama got big applause for that. She also revealed that her favorite holiday film is "It's a Wonderful Life," and her favorite holiday book is the one she'd just read aloud.

After the Q & A session, the First Lady led Bo on his leash along the rope line, and he greeted the thrilled kids. Bo's official White House handler, Dale Haney, stood in the background and watched. The First Lady also autographed a couple of kids' casts. (Above: During storytime)

"Yeah, cool," said one boy, Adrian, as he showed off the First Lady's signature in silver sharpie on the black cast on his forearm.

Before meeting the kids, Mrs. Obama toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Intestinal Rehabilitation Unit, where she met patients and families, as well as doctors, nurses, and other Children’s National staff. She was escorted by two long-time patients, Ashley Reimer, 19 and Romauld Vital, 8. Reimer receives treatment for acute myeloid leukemia; Vital also receives treatment for leukemia through the Oncology Division at Children’s National, according to the hospital.

Mrs. Obama's visit to Children's National continues a tradition started more than sixty years ago by First Lady Bess Truman. On Sunday evening, the First Family attended a star-studded benefit concert for the hospital. (Above: Vital is at Mrs. Obama's left as she arrives with Bo and Santa)

*Photos by Obama Foodorama, except for Bo photo; that's by Chuck Kennedy/White House