The Carnival season/Valentine’s Day combination, when it occurs, always kind of wipes me out. For myself, I have more or less had my fill of both holidays at this point in my life. I mean, I love the smaller family-friendly parades on the first weekend, and I always get a kick out of Muses and Le Krewe d’Etat, but I’m not much of a drinker, I’m not crafty enough to make costumes, I hate crowds and traffic and I can’t parallel park to save my life, so the rest of Carnival is not exactly jampacked with appeal for me. And Valentine’s Day has never been my thing; even as a kid, I liked the chocolate but didn’t care for the sentiment: Forced romance just seems like an oxymoronic concept.

But parades and valentines are very important to my kids, so I’m doing my best. It’s just a lot to juggle and keep track of: Yesterday was Georgia’s Mardi Gras day at school, so I had to dress her in something festive and make sure not to forget her purple, green, and gold scarf, but it was also Valentine’s Day (Observed) for Ruby’s class, so I had to scramble to get her cards assembled and treats packed for her teachers. Today they’re celebrating Valentine’s Day at Georgia’s school, so I sent her in something pink and red with a bag full of valentines to pass out, but Ruby’s school is off, so I had to find someone to watch her. And of course in the midst of it all, there are parades, friends in from out of town, and my full-time job.

Ruby has been begging to go to Muses for weeks, and so even though I would have preferred (by a factor of about 2,000) to stay in and re-read my Sookie Stackhouse novel in my pajamas, I rallied and put on real pants and met some friends on St. Charles with my girls; a canvas bag stocked with juice boxes, Band-Aids, and hand sanitizer; and a Manhattan-filled sippy cup. And once I was actually there, it was a blast; Georgia is the perfect Carnival accessory: cute enough to be an absolute magnet for throws but, at 24 pounds, not cripplingly heavy on the shoulders. “Her ROI is great,” my friend said admiringly.

Ruby and Georgia have complete different parade strategies, too. Ruby will get a toy, spare it the briefest of glances, and then stash it in our bag. “I want them to think I am a poor kid with no stuff,” she whispered conspiratorially to me between floats. “Then they’ll feel sorry for me and give me more.” Georgia has no time for such subterfuge. Every toy she gets is the best toy. And it has nothing to do with age; Ruby has been ruthless about Carnival throws since she was able to wave her tiny hands in the air. Ruby keeps trying to encourage Georgia to develop her Mardi Gras game: “Come on, Georgie, there’s another float coming. Give that itty-bitty little fish to me and let’s try to catch something even bigger and better.” And Georgia pulls the stuffed fish away from Ruby’s grasp and looks at Ruby like she’s crazy. “No, sissy. This is my favorite fish. I love it.”

I think it’s funny how much that tells you about their personalities. Ruby is the ambitious striver, which is fantastic and will no doubt serve her well. And Georgia may be even better-served by her ability to be content with what she has. I adore these two, and I don’t need it to be Valentine’s Day to say so.