October 2007

Morning in Mandeville

We rolled out to Mandeville bright and early this morning. Paul had some stuff to do “on the north shore” and we decided to make a family outing. The kids and I found the park on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and played while Paul finished up the job. We were home by 11am.

The most exciting part was crossing the World’s Longest Bridge. The spring punch was in my pocket, just in case. But it actually wasn’t as frightening as I thought it would be… maybe I’m mellowing?

My kids seriously need a haircut. Can’t get away with growing it out with their straight locks. Poor Kate is going to need a seeing-eye dog if we don’t act soon.

Beautiful morning — calm water — and lots of fish. I demonstrated the Bert-and-Ernie approved fishing method and made Will’s day (not to mention surprise myself) when a big fish leapt out of the water (the method involves calling “heeeerreeee, fishy fishy fishy!“) Apparently, it works… the fish kept jumping! Will was THRILLED.


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The gross out weekend. First Jindal, now this.

As I left the kids’ room after giving Will a good-nap kiss, I walked a little too close to the right side of the door frame. The majority of my foot went left, through the door. The little toe missed — it went right, as it direct turn, spread, and SLAM into the corner of the frame. I’m pretty darn sure I heard a distinct *crack,* like the sound of splitting balsa wood. Not wanting to upset Will (i.e.: give him an excuse for getting out of bed), I hopped into our bedroom and announced, “I may have broken my toe.”

Just then, the phone rang. It was a family I have helped out with translation and other tasks for over a year — she was at the Zoo, trying to find the Children’s Hospital because her twin baby boys wear very sick and could I come help? I told her to stay put; I was on my way. I figured the toe would be fine and I slipped on my trusty 7+ year old clogs and limped out the door.

The boys were sick. Mom had tried to take them to the doctor on Friday, but she couldn’t communicate well enough with the doctor’s office to get them seen. There is no “on call” with this clinic where she can reach a pediatrician to ask what to do; so after a few days of treating a 103 temp with Motrin, she decided to go to the ER. I have no idea how Children’s deals with Spanish speaking patients and families, because if anyone there had even a word of Spanish, I didn’t see them and no one made them known. (I can get the job done… but I’m in no way fluent… I heard myself ask, “When you give birth, how many weeks pregnant?” and had to stop myself from groaning at my own limitations. It speaks to the desperation of our need for bilingual professionals when one must rely on gringa me to get good medical care! But more on that in another post.) It was about 2 1/2 hours in the hospital with them, and at some point I looked at my toe — which was aching non-stop, causing me to limp worse and worse, and clearly swelling in my shoe. Big, swollen, purple. Ouch.

If you’re easily grossed out, forgive me. I seek advice.

Is this thing broken?
It looks much more purple in real life (big flash) — and the purple is a stripe across the toe. But I can move it. I can spread it wide (the same direction it went in the door frame, I think) and curl it a bit (this hurts after I do it but not so much while I’m doing it). Walking is very uncomfortable. Standing is okay if I don’t put weight on it. While I can’t pretend I didn’t hear a *crack,* when I hit the door frame, I don’t think it’s broken (if it was, wouldn’t it be impossible to bend?) At least, I really really really don’t want to believe it is. I want this to go away quickly.
How can I do standing poses in Yoga?? Even some inversions could be out of the question. And seriously, I need my Iyengar right now, baby. Especially since walking in the morning, something we’ve been lax on due to our recent sleepless nights, is currently out. We don’t have a primary care doctor here (I know, I know, if I could only find someone that comes with a good recommendation in our system) so this might be an ER thing if I need an X-ray. In other words, I really want to feel like I *have* to go. There are actual people here with problems bigger than a little toe… I feel silly trying to make this a priority. So would you get this seen, or just wait it out a few days and see what happens?


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On the fence

It’s the eve before our election and I’m trying to make final voting decisions, something I’ve been putting off for weeks. There’s the no-brainer choices (Abramson, Quinn, Landrieu) and then the rest… a sea of repeats, recycles, and at least one completely ridiculous. The most depressing is the race for Governor. Have you seen these guys? They’re like the weird uncles you try to avoid at family gatherings. I’m trying to decide between Campbell (wet noodle) and Boasso (ole’ St. Bernard blow-hard) — I’ve just seen way too much skin on Georges to ever consider him a true candidate (his politics are so awful I don’t even want to go there), and Jindal? Puhleeze. I’d vote for Satan himself before even thinking of casting a ballot for Jindal (not that it would matter, as they are essentially the same).

I’m surprised at some of the difficulty of finding information on the candidates. The League of Women Voters has been the most useful resource. Every time I have to google a candidate to find out about them, my desire to vote for them goes down… this should be easier. It is also interesting that my “sample ballet” given by the Sec of State gives incorrect information regarding the candidates in our precinct (we noticed this last time, too).

One of the interesting options involves the spot for Councilmember-at-Large. Virginia Boulet, who I’m loved in the 2006 race for Mayor, is a candidate. After she was out of the running for Mayor, she endorsed Nagin (*shutter*) and took a position in his cabinet. And then disappeared. I’ve heard that she became disenchanted with the Mayor (duh!) and stepped out in protest, but still, it gives concern. That said, voting for her was the happiest ballot I’ve ever cast. The other candidate (at least, that I am considering) seems nice and honest (although vague), but I kinda want to give Boulet another shot. Maybe it’s my soft spot for RPCV’s.

Still, I am thrilled with the prospects of change and so excited to be in a place where people really are thinking about local elections. Even if the candidates aren’t so exciting, the time and place definitely are.


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Zombie Family

We had a few nights of blissful reprieve from the middle-aged fraternity party next door. Blissful, this whole notion of sleeping through the night (or, at least, in our case, only being awoken by our sleepwalking children — Will falling out of bed or Kate bonking herself against the crib as she throws herself around).

Then, Wednesday night (or, really, Thursday morning), we — as in Paul, Kate, and I… followed quickly by Will — woke up to the sound of loud music, drums, microphone, and amplified singing at 2:00am. Yes, you read that right. Band practice at 2a.m. — 6 feet from your sleeping neighbors. To fill out the picture, he had been playing loud music most (maybe every) night until about 10:30-11 (Wednesday night included) — and we were okay with it. We’re not being stringent to the law, we’re being pretty darn flexible (all things considered) and are just asking for the slightest bit of consideration during OBVIOUS sleep hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a serious pain when it’s cranked up during nap-time, but noise can also be nice and we can live with it every once in awhile. But daily? And at wee hours of the morning?!?!? How is this reasonable?

So we called the dispatch, who happened to have taken our calls before. Again, she heard the music over the phone and heartedly commiserated with us. The police came around 3am. This time, neighbor & co. (there were guests) answered the door, delivered a heated discussion, and (as we are to understand it from the police) rebuked: “my 5-year old sleeps through it.” An interesting observation, but the fact is that the said 5-year old is 40+ feet away from the instruments and amplifiers, through several walls and a floor, whereas we are at best 6-8 feet away, through one poorly insulated wall and another completely uninsulated wall. (There maybe other questions there, too, but I am trying very hard to not be incinerary. We really want to end this amicably.)

The lack of sleep, stress over the situation, and almost daily assaults have made us Zombie people. I’m WAY behind. We’ve stopped morning walks for want of more sleep, the kids are cranky (and I’m concerned their health defenses are wearing down and they will catch one of the bugs flying around — making them miss one of the fantastic events coming up), and we feel completely beat up. Maybe being Zombified is in with it being a few weeks to Halloween and all, but we are totally over it.

For the purposes of documentation, this is the local law:

It shall be unlawful between the hours of 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:00 a.m. on the subsequent morning or between the hours of 10:30 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday and 10:00 a.m. the subsequent morning to operate or play in a dwelling occupying a parcel or lot of land or to operate or play anywhere on a parcel or lot of land contiguous or adjacent to another parcel or lot of land occupied by a neighboring dwelling any radio, television, phonograph, loudspeaker, sound-ampli-fication equipment orsimilar device which produces or reproduces sound in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of one foot from any exterior wall of the neighboring dwelling or at a distance beyond the boundary between the parcels or lots, whichever is the lesser distance from the point where the sound is produced or reproduced. (emphasis added)

The fact that we can hear music (drums, amplifier, microphone… hello!?) INSIDE our house, across our house, and from the street in front of our house makes it pretty clear there are serious noise violations occurring. So I don’t think we’re being out of bounds here.

Support, suggestions, and ideas are appreciated. As is caffeine.


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My Constant Companion, Linda Blair

Tonight was the first class for Public Health and Nutrition in Complex Emergencies, the course I’m TA’ing. Paul dropped me off at Tidewater around 4, which gave me enough time to find out that the course was scheduled to meet in a different (much smaller) room, make notes to send students to what should be the classroom, and try to set up a video conference for our guest faculty, who we needed to beam in via Skype. Last year, I had to mess around with Skype for guest lecturers for around half of the classes. We generally worked it all out, but there was certainly some MacGyver action taking place in those last moments before each class.

I came prepared tonight: laptop, cell phone, power cords. I managed to get everything up and working… but no sound. This was a problem last year, too, and if I remembered right, took three technicians, a grand-standing supervisor, and a borrowed headset to make it work. Not willing to go this route and delay class, I busted into play B — using my laptop. But to connect to Tulane’s wireless, I had to follow their directions… which included disabling the firewall. (I know, I know, I can hear the blood-curling shrieks…) What can I say? I was desperate.

The good news: we got it working — sound, video, everything. Everyone was pleased and everything went smoothly and on-time.

The bad news: Paul is convinced that my trusty T-series is now the harbinger of a wide range of assorted infections and in need of a complete exorcism.

Rat farts.


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Brass Knockers

I’ve got to hand it to those Audubon Place folks. They have got some serious audacity. It was one thing to private-jet-and-helicopter elite Israeli mercenaries to guard their estates while fellow citizen drown after the storm. It was a crazy time, right? Who can really think clearly in a disaster?

But this class-action lawsuit regarding the increase in tax assessments? Where the original plaintiffs are two regular folks masking the interests of these private-drive, jet-flying, guarded aristocrats? In a law suit concocted by an inside friend, with connections all through the Louisiana political system and previous tax assessor dynasty? Wow. And I thought I was bold. Especially since one of the neighbor’s hasn’t gotten the message that the homes on the street are really only worth the $1.1-2.1 million claimed in the previous assessments.

As a 6th District resident and homeowner, I’d like to put it on the record that this “class-action” lawsuit in no way represents me. Class action… as if!

However confusing some of the names and connections are to get straight, the article is a very interesting read into the ever-more-exposed underbelly of Louisiana money and privilege.

My favorite part is how Nancy Marshall is so tactfully dealing with the ridiculous suit:

Smith noted that Marshall more or less conceded her methodology was different than that of other assessors in a letter she wrote to him after he filed the suit.

“I did try to get the other assessors to use MLS date, as well as data from the UNO Appraisal Board, to provide adequate information about square footage and other pertinent information,” Marshall’s letter states in part. “However, my fellow assessors were not interested.”

The letter, dated Aug. 17, concludes: “I look forward to defending this lawsuit and taking the depositions of your named plaintiffs and all others involved in bringing this suit.”

Ha. I’d love to see those depositions. Question 1: How much is your home insured for? If things really are turning around in this city, this is a case that won’t last long.


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Painting Crackers

A few days before Will was born, I finished a painting that now hangs in the kids’ room above Kate’s crib.
I was really into making “birth art” during my first pregnancy and this painting was suppose to be a series of two pieces — the second one never got started because Will came early — inspired a bit by Pieta-ish motherly love and based on the work of the whimsical artist, Nancy Thomas. (Whom I never should have googled to find a weblink. Oye! Those plaques! So great!)
This piece is still my most favorite painting. When I look at it, I think of how I felt painting it… I remember my picturing myself holding my little baby and felt great anticipation for how that moment would feel. In short, it is a very sentimental and important thing to me.

So you can imagine how I felt when Will told me that Kate calls the painting “MaMa.” Sure enough, she toddles back, points up her little finger and says “MaMa” right to the painting.

It is important that she induces these moments of unbelievable, unimaginable heart-swelling joy. Particularly because there are other moments, like when Mommy has to do something important. Like blink. And this happens:
Do you see the mini-rice cakes — each with one bite out of them — spread all over the floor? The water can? It’s out there as a crushing device. And to push crackers under the ice maker.Sticky rice cakes on her butt. Crazy Kate.


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Double Shot Under the Big Top

Thanks to Emmy for the invite and to the thoughtfulness of a friend who comped us the tickets, we enjoyed Oshner’s Double Shot Under the Big Top Children’s Health Center fund raiser. Emmy brought Ana and I brought Will — making it a special night out with Mommy for our big kids. We met up with other friends (Emmy’s neighbor, Georgia, who is the owner of The Bead Shop, and her daughter Amaya, who is about the same age as Kate).

Ana and Will are great friends and watching them was a delight. For example, when Ana was scared to go alone down the big slide, Will climbed up and held her hand for the trip down.
Strong man and bathing beauty. This was set up over by the dunking booths, where Will was obsessed with wanting to “dunk someone.” I told him that it was a real bummer we’d forgotten to bring Daddy, because he would have LOVED being dunked.
There were several jugglers and street performers. Both Will and Ana held the spinning plate.

Photography aside: I used the 24mm lens that my Mom washed (three times) in the washing machine when it returned from the Grand Canyon wrapped up in Dad’s clothes. Amazingly, the lens works — and it works well! It’s a bit clunkier in auto-focus, but still faster than I would have thought. Manual works fine (with kids around, I often use auto because they move so much — otherwise, I prefer manual). Although it seemed very sensitive to exposure and gave a lot of flare in different situations. This may also be a bit of user error because I’m experimenting more with exposure after playing around with this during sunset shots with Matt. Because I don’t really have any time to set up shots in this type of setting, I didn’t get any of Will with the plate properly exposed. Bummer, because one of them is really cool. But I did get some cute shots of Ana. (I pixelated this one a bit to get some more subject focus — the result of me having trouble with auto focus.)
In addition to the inflatables and performers, there were 5 huge inflatables, a silent auction (we all put in for a variety of stuff but got outbid at the last second), jewelry making (the kids made key chains), t-shirt decorating (Will’s is Very Will, in that most things are completely colored all in black), cookie decorating, and a TON of seriously great food from local restaurants. All free!

Radio Disney was there and had a dance-a-thon, hula-hoop contests, and group dancing. Ana and Will were mesmerized.
Then Ana started to pick up some of the moves.

After dancing, they decided they wanted to go back to the Big Slide (see it in the background, behind the stilt walker?) That was when Will made his move:
(He was very sweetly helping her down from the curb, as Emmy and I stood behind giggling.)

And off they go!


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Before — After

We enjoyed a quiet, quiet, quiet night last night. Everyone slept in — until 9am!! We all were exhausted by the lack of sleep.

Paul and Kate are in the potentially losing battle against a bug. Will and I are tired, but don’t seem to be under any microbial influences, yet. So Paul didn’t juggle at the Children’s Event downtown as originally planned. Instead, I put him to work in the kids’ closet.

Before — just a sagging bar. One shelf. This is the largest closet of the three closets in the house (three total, anywhere — no linen closet, no coat closet, no utility closet — the study closet is tiny and the closet in our room isn’t deep enough for hangers to hang straight, everything is in at an angle). The kids have one drawer each for clothes and one bin for sock, undies and accessories… which cuts down on them having needless things that don’t use. But with it being the dual-season time of year, this becomes difficult. (Usually it means that we have bins from the upper closet storage on the floor for a few months… something I’m not willing to do right now.) So I decided we needed closet space for the kids’ stuff and craft/art/painting supplies (which are currently all over the house in various parts of every room, including the kitchen table).

Closet before:

Closet after. We need to find two more shelves for the bottom section, but we have to find a way to remove the pesky Shoe-Messing-Rugrat first.
My favorite part of the closet so far is that almost everything hanging up is a costume or costume accessory. (Will spent most of the day as Buzz Lightyear minus the boots — hence why they hang alone.) My second favorite part is that almost everything on Kate’s rack (and several on Will’s) were used things I picked up at the CCEX — including a new Talbot’s kids overall & shirt, a new Janie & Jack shirt and pants, and several adorable used jumper dresses and shirts. Great scores at the CCEX this year!


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Pumpkins on the Porch

Friday night, after they got home from school. Our pumpkins.


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