November 2007


Thanksgiving came — and with it, my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. It was fabulous having that many family around. Always someone ready and willing to entertain the kids, always other people around thinking about things like what to have for dinner and whether anything in the dryer needs folded, and lots of helping eyes, hands, and ears.

My Mom outdid herself with FOUR pies. Major portions of 2 are still in our fridge. She marked each of the apple pies for Will and Kate — one with a “W” and one with a “K.”
Will was so excited about Uncle Skip and Aunt Emily’s arrival around noon on Thanksgiving Day that he didn’t nap… and fell asleep just as we were getting a 3:00 meal to the table. (My Mom pre-made almost everything, making this the earliest Thanksgiving dinner on record.) Kate, however, was ready for chow!
And yes — I was Thankful. For the usual stuff… health, home, and happy kids who do not know hunger or the sounds of bombs and go to sleep without fear.


Comments (0)


Catching Up

Among the many things that have happened since our lives turned into an extended episode of Candid Camera was a visit from Nana (Paul’s Mom). That amazing Mom intuition must have been at work months ago, when she arranged her travel to arrive the morning after Paul’s appendectomy.Despite the work that greeted her (me with papers to grade and a fellowship to finish; Paul in the hospital — leaving two kids and a house in need of extra support) we managed to take a few moments outside. Nana also pitched in at school, spending a day with the kids (i.e.: providing us with translation for the cryptic activities Will describes when we ask him what he did at school that day).

It was wonderful to have the visit and we can’t wait for the next!


Comments (0)


To Will, who is now FOUR years old

On your birthday, you explained exactly what I should expect from a 4-year old:

“4-year olds are big boys. They don’t hit, or whine, or kick, or talk back, or have a bad attitude.”


I had my doubts. After all, you’d spent the months leading up to age 4 testing almost all of the above… lapsing into defiant stand-offs that involve my carrying your thrashing body back to your room for time alone. Perhaps all of this effort wore you out? Because honestly, so far, the reality of you at age 4 has been closer to your prediction (outlined above) than mine (continuing increase in maddening defying behavior and tantrums). I remain skeptical of a complete transformation but am happy to be in this place while it lasts.

One of the things I am enjoying most about you is that you love art projects. Ever since “Miss Georgia” came from the Bead Shop to teach you to make earrings, you’ve been begging to make jewelry. I am not sure you appreciate how incredible happy it makes me to hear you ask to do art and craft projects and I am doing my best to take it all in stride, lest you realize the power the request has over me. After we put Kate to bed, you and I share an hour each night doing these projects together. We paint, make jewelry, draw, make ornaments, and string Mardi Gras beads into garland for the Christmas tree.
This last activity was what we were up to when you sailed from the stool where you were perched holding beads, hitting the wooden armrest of the sofa on the way down. Rather than climb down (as you’ve done many times from this same stool you sit on regularly to play pinball), you decided to jump at an angle, as if to land next to the bag of beads. I saw the blood before you did, seeping out from between your fingers as you covered your eye. That sight — you holding your hand over your eye, screaming out while blood began to pour — definitely aged me as I considered the possibility of a serious eye injury. For the record, you only cried for a short minute. Either due to my immediate response, cradling you in my arms and speaking softly and quietly to calm you, or because you are like your sister and have a diamond-clad head. We were all very thankful to see that you missed injuring your eye, bursting open the tissue in your eyebrow instead. We are also very thankful that we had you fixed by a doctor, as the location and depth of your wound made a level of complication that we could not have addressed. Now you have one purple eyebrow patch over your right eye, making folks suggest you’re sporting a Drew Brees look. (Believe it or not, I still don’t have a picture of the injury. Coming soon, though.)
Speaking of right and left. You have begun to master these directional specifics. Although you are committed to getting them backwards. I explained how you use your fingers to make an “L” for left, but realize this is a mute point since you are similarly committed to writing letters backward.

Kate remains your biggest fan and your biggest bully. Rarely does a day go by when she hasn’t clobbered you with something. We are working hard on reigning her in, showing you that the behavior is no way tolerated, reminding you of how we all have to work together to teach her how to treat others. Still, we realize that what really needs to happen is for you to just clobber her back. Of course we will never suggest this, and if you were to take up such a position we’d correct you accordingly with much displeasure. But we think that a little dose of her own medicine would help her learn a bit faster.Despite the regular beatings, you adore your sister. At least, when she’s not playing with the toy you Just Had or taking apart the train track you Just Fixed or pushing the truck you Just Took Down or banging on the drum too loud when you Just Want To Play Guitar. All of these things are major offenses in your book and cause for incredible whining. In general, we are supportive of your arguments of injustice but the truth is that we have a hard time caring that much about it. If your Dad and I have learned anything about parenting, we have learned that parents don’t want justice, we want QUIET.In the face of our resolution that you Work It Out, you have actually begun to find ways to play with your sister for extended periods of time (i.e.: longer than 1 minute). Like the other morning, when your Dad was in the hospital and I was alone with you two, trying to get dressed in the back of the house. I could hear you, laughing and playing together up front. I was so proud, almost not believing that your playtime had gone so long without either one of you breaking the mood with an ear-splitting wail. When I finished and went to retrieve you both, I found that you were bonding over art — happily planting stickers all over your rocking chairs and supplementing the colorful menagerie with marker ink. This is now a common theme: that you and Kate find an uncanny comradery when the two of you are doing something you are not suppose to be doing.

In your 4-year check-up, you got FOUR injections. Two in each arm. You spent two days talking about how you were going to “get shots” from the doctor, so much that you seemed excited about it. When the moment came, you hesitated and then started to stutter: “B..b…but I d.. d.. don’t like to get POKED!” By the time you got out “poked,” Dr. Oates was done with two of the shots and you had an alligator tear pouring down your cheek. Aside from the time a nurse failed to hold your leg, causing you to kick and the needle to tear into the tissue of your thigh, this was the only time you’ve cried tears for an immunization. The good news is that you’re now immunized for just about everything we can immunize you for — so it will be awhile before you have to endure another poke.

At the same visit, you had the following stats:
Weight: 36 pounds, 7 ounces (75%)
Height: 42 1/5″ (90%)

These were very exciting numbers because it means you’re tall enough to ride most of the rides at Disney World. It also shows that you are actually thickening up; we’ve had to loosen the waist adjustment on your pants in order for you to button them up. Finally — eating Granna’s pie with PapPap (read: 16 ounces of whipped cream with each ounce of pie) is working to fill you in.

Each night, we still sing our songs. “Feed the Birds” remains the favorite. But when you’re truly ready for bed, you request “Stay Awake,” and sing the first few words with me before falling quiet. Like in the movie, you close your eyes in the middle and by the end, are asleep.

Family Photos

Comments (0)


Superman flies… and lands, 15 minutes before bedtime.

The Stats:
– 1 call to babysitter (our hermanita, Michelle) since Kate was asleep.
– 1 quick visit to Med School neighbor for a professional opinion.
– Just under 4 hours at Children’s Hospital.
– Zero stitches, one big tube of glue.
– 15 minutes of holding and maneuvering (fatty tissue was problematic).
– 2 minutes on the exam table before he fell asleep during the wound cleaning.
– 1-2 day follow-up with PCP.
– 1 bet that after 1 year, the scar won’t be visible.
– 2 very tired parents.
– 8:30am. Time we’re suppose to be on the 9th floor of Oschner for Paul’s post-op visit tomorrow.


Comments (9)


Wearing Us Down

This morning, properties behind on taxes went up for auction from the city. This is when properties with deliquent tax bills go to folks willing to pay the back taxes. If the owner doesn’t exercise their right of redemption, you get the property. A great opportunity if you’ve got some cash to sit for a little while. Jefferson Parish (next door to Orleans) had a similar process awhile back — where an inside connection gobbled up everything before the locals had a chance to bid. Orleans Parish pledged to do better, making an online process.

Paul and I registered at the website days ago. We checked out a few properties. This morning, Wonder Woman Hermanita Michelle came and took the kids to school so we could be ready for the 8am opener. We were. When we went to buy, the system did not recognize our payment source. Hmmmmm…..

I sent this note to them and cc:ed the News folks at the T-P, not that any of it means anything. I guess the good news is that someone is investing in the city — the bad news is that it’s the same old people profiting at the expense of others.

Dear New Orleans Tax Sales,

I would like to log a complaint to the “currently open tax sale” and officially request formal documentation of the auction process.

I attempted to buy several properties this morning, having registered myself and payment source several days ago. For some reason, when I attempted to buy these properties, the system refused to recognize my payment source. Whether deliberately manufactured or due to a process — one that was NOT outlined, described, or even suggested on the website — this “systems error” caused loss of auction to both myself and others. The phones to your office have also been unreachable all morning.

Therefore, I would like to know the formal process to protest this process, whom to contact and with what forms, as it arbitrarily denied my right to bid.

UPDATE: At around 8:30, the system magically recognized our payment source and we did purchase a lot on a street not far from the school. We feel certain that the city will say the system was so overwhelmed it randomly worked for some and not for others… but I’d be willing to bet that a search of new owners will not look so random…


Comments (2)


Thank you, Santa.

Can the world just stop so we can catch up?

Eventually, I will post about the past two weeks. For right now, I just want to give a shout-out to the Big Man in Red, to whom I owe a great debt.

We have been (once again) finding our selves in serious contemplation of leaving Will on the steps of his Grandparents’ house and running for the border. In his highs and lows of development, he recently hit another Very Low Low. Back to having accidents. Biting his nails (not that this is ever stopped, but we noticed it getting worse). Talking in a baby voice. Being incredibly defiant, even having a few crying, stomping, kicking episodes — which were rare to begin and had seemed a thing of the past. Then Emmy pointed out that Ana had begun doing many of the same things, something she chalked up to the situation with the death of their teacher’s husband. (Lightbulb: these were all behaviors mentioned on that handy social-work provided form.) I sort of thought Will had handled it, talked about it, and was okay. Don’t boys tend to move on faster from emotional situations? Maybe not. Either he is acting out from confusion or stress, or he’s regressing at each birthday. Both are distinct possibilities.

Nevertheless, we had company (Paul’s Mom, my parents, my Brother and Sister-in-Law). We had a birthday party. We had a lot of stuff going on. And then, Saturday afternoon, we started to put up the Christmas Tree.

This is where Santa comes in. Will began to ask about presents and Santa and presents. The perfect segway for parental warnings of good behavior, lists of children who do not behave, and keeping to the straight and narrow for a bountiful Christmas morning. Presents from Santa seem to be quite a motivator, because we have had some really nice, helpful, sweet moments with him in the last day. Let’s hope it’s a sign he’s moving on into territory befitting to what Will tells me is more suited to a 4-year old. (He says 4-year olds don’t whine, hit, bite, cry, talk back, act defiant, or have a bad attitude.) Cheers to that!


Comments (0)


Happy 4th Birthday, Will!

From Aunt Julie to Will… Mommy’s Most Favorite Birthday Message.

Thank you to everyone for all the birthday wishes!

Deep thoughts to come.


Comments (1)


What is love at three?

How does a preschooler understand the complexities of love?

One of Will’s teachers was notified during school on Monday that her husband had been killed in a car accident. Just like that. Right before the holidays. Even with the strength of youth, the support of community, and the love of many, how does one survive that kind of loss? How can this terrible thing happen to someone so good, giving, and patient? I do not understand.

Will had questions, too. Thankfully, a social worker had provided talking points for how to address our kids’ questions… not that I had read it with enough detail. I had to wing it on gut and distant training, keeping my own stuff under control. He wanted to know if we could find children “to give Miss. Kynisha since hers got killed by the car.” So, first we talked about people, how we are irreplaceable, nontransferable. “If I lost you, Will,” I told him, “not even a hundred children could take your place.” It occurred to me that maybe he was struggling with understanding relationships and maybe he had placed the event and seeing his teacher so upset within the context of a relationship he could understand: one that involves a child. I tried to address it. I explained that Kynisha’s husband had died, “it would be like if Daddy died. If Daddy died, I would lose my husband.”

“But Daddy is a DADDY, not a husband.”

“Well, Daddy is a Daddy AND a husband. He is YOUR Daddy and MY husband.”

“Just like Katey is my husband.”

“Kate is your sister, Will. She is your sister.”

“Kate is my sister AND my husband.”

Pause. Refocus on the important parts. “Kate is very important to you. If she died, you would be really sad, right?”

Very very quietly: “Yes.” Then, “Mommy? I need to be quiet now because I feel really really sad for Miss. Kynisha.”

“Me too, Will, me too.”


Comments (7)



I’m worked up. Too much anxiety to sleep. Too heartsick to be still. Too tired to concentrate on grading.

To wind down, I’m wasting time on an interesting meme BC4 did awhile back. In it, you take the first 106 books from LibraryThing tagged as unread. (I just copied BC4’s list.) Then, you:

Bold what you have read, italicize your did not finishes, strikethrough the ones you hated, put *asterisks next to those you’ve read more than once, and put a + cross in front of the books that are on your bookshelf.

This was the result (with some commentary)…

  • Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
  • Anna Karenina
  • Crime and Punishment
  • +Catch-22
  • One hundred years of solitude (On my short-list of ‘books I want to read, and soon, because I can’t believe I haven’t read them’)
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion
  • Life of Pi: a novel
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Don Quixote
  • Moby Dick
  • Ulysses
  • Madame Bovary
  • +*The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife
  • +*The Iliad
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • +Mrs. Dalloway
  • Great Expectations
  • American Gods
  • A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
  • Atlas Shrugged (I refuse to read Ayn Rand on principle)
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • +Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Historian
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (On my short-list of ‘books I want to read, and soon, because I can’t believe I haven’t read them’)
  • Brave new world
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum (Not read this, but I have read plenty of Foucault)
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • +*The Poisonwood Bible
  • 1984
  • Angels & Demons (Not read it, but I did read The DaVinci Code, which was enough literary torture to convince me to steer clear of Dan Brown)
  • The Inferno
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (I know I started long ago, but I’m not sure if I finished it?)
  • Mansfield Park
  • One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
  • To the Lighthouse
  • +*Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Misérables
  • The Corrections
  • +The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
  • Dune
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • +Angela’s Ashes
  • +The God of Small Things
  • A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Neverwhere
  • A Confederacy of Dunces (Another top must-read and soon)
  • +A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Dubliners
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • +Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-five (I don’t feel a pressing need to read this, yet I’m a bit embarrassed that I haven’t)
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon
  • Oryx and Crake : a novel
  • Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • +*The Catcher in the Rye (I can’t believe this book is on this list.)
  • On the Road
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (I refuse to read it on principle)
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • +*The Hobbit
  • In Cold Blood
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island
  • David Copperfield
  • The Three Musketeers

Observations… although some on the list I had “issues” with one way or another, I couldn’t say that I didn’t like any of them. (The only books I can think of that I really haven’t liked are Snow Crash and anything by Hemingway.) I’m also impressed that I’ve got so few on the bookshelf (an academic who purges books!) The “pluses” are therefore, by definition as something I’ve kept, books I really enjoyed. There were a number of books I’d never heard of on the list. A good exercise, if only because it reminded me that there are some fiction books that I really am enthusiastic about reading some day (I tired of fiction awhile back and haven’t been able to re-engage.)


Comments (2)


Benefits Put to Use

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of some of Paul’s coworkers, he is getting disability for last week and this week — a welcomed relief since now he is not eating through his precious vacation time as he recovers. This has made us feel so much better; Paul may not be able to drive or work long hours, but he can catch up on little things… like pulling the family video off of tapes and burning it onto disc AND drawing up plans on graph paper for the back of the house. We’re trying to look at this as an extra bit of time to get really prepared for the renovation (since we are seriously delayed at starting it)… pricing out doors and windows, deciding on materials.

Paul’s Mom left this morning and we are officially on our own. We were really lucky to have her here; if Paul had to loose his appendix, we’re glad it happened the day his Mom was scheduled to arrive. One more pair of hands offers many moments of respite for me… they let me sleep in little two mornings and have generous time in the bathroom to do things working Moms only dream of… like brush my hair and floss. I’m the only driver now which brings one more logistical issue to the already overwhelming mess of kids, class, guest speakers, assignments, and grading. Through on party-planning, holiday prep, house plans, Paul care-taking, and general things like laundry and meals… wow. I have absolutely no idea how single parents manage. Thank goodness I have the Abeona Village helping out with the kids each day.

The assignments I had intended to turn back in tomorrow? Five are graded out of the two hours I worked on them. I’ve got 38 more to go. I’d really like to finish them on Wednesday before family arrives. I have high hopes for down time this holiday weekend!


Comments (0)