April 2009

Just Posts in a Pun World.

The calendar tells me it’s the 30th, the last day of April.  (That’s the thing about calendars.  Their days are all numbered.)

So we’re gathering up Just Posts.  Please send on posts written in April that brightened your day, expanded your horizons, helped you learn new things.  (We don’t want someone’s photographic mind to be left undeveloped.)

Get ’em in as soon as you can… (Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like bananas.)


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My Crazies.

I am a woman with many irrational fears.  And three times as many pet peeves.

A few of the things I am irrationally afraid of:

— Driving off of a bridge and into a body of water with the kids in the car.

— Intestinal parasites that enter through the feet (oddly, I am not afraid of any other intestinal parasites).

— Kate falling off the slide/swing set/stairs/ladder or whatever else she has climbed up despite being half the size and a quarter of the age requirement.

— A child running into the street.

— The attachments to bicycles where kids ride? They are so low that I worry a car won’t see them.

— Someone breaking in the front of the house and I can’t the kids out of the back of the house fast enough.

A few things I am irrationally irritated or preoccupied by:

— Yard chemicals being tracked through the house on shoes.

— Mud on shoes or clothes getting on bed linens or furniture.

— Whether or not my pillowcase is causing me to break out.

— That I’m not diligent enough about the kids’ teeth.

— Dirty hands.

Lucky for me, the people in my life tolerate my craziness.  This means that they generally abide by my crazy rules.

— No sitting on furniture when you’ve been working outside, until you’ve bathed/changed clothes.

— No walking around barefoot outside, especially in rural areas.

— I have to brush everyone’s teeth.

— Unlocking the doors when we go over a bridge (one less thing to do if the car flies off).  When I’m feeling particularly crazy, I also get out the glass punch from the glove compartment and put it down my shirt or in my pocket until we’re off the bridge.

— Sleeping with one of the kids (sometimes both) when Paul is not around.

— Strict handwashing.

I try really hard to not be as crazy as I am.  In general, I consider myself pretty laid back.  I’m not afraid of getting dirty, I like mud pies, and have absolutely no problem with getting stains on things (I’m a master remover.)

Also?  I love walking in the rain.

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Okay. NOW that Fest.

Paul and I have limited Jazz Fest experience, all of which has so far been tremendously excellent.

So why would we want to bring the kids and ruin a perfectly good record?

At least, this is what we thought.

But last Saturday, the first weekend of this year’s Fest, we couldn’t help but want to have the kids there.  The Imagination Movers were the first act up on the Acura Stage and a huge masse of their friends (read: our friends) were going to be there, too. 

We sucked it up and shelled out the extra $5 to bring them.

Thank goodness. It was awesome.

The awesomeness was not in small part to our incredible friends. No really, these people can do all sorts of mind-boggling things like have crew passes so that they can sneak in boxes of juice drinks and get in birthday cakes with their booth exhibition materials and simply just be so cool that they know all the local celebrities and yet aren’t embarrassed by us when we show up with our flies down. Because we are just that kind of classy.

We hung out before the gates opened with friends who live right outside the race tracks.  (Yet another example of cool.) Fate took over and somehow we all met at the stage perfectly, a huge hodge-podge of families and friends taking over with strollers. We wore the kids on our shoulders and danced around as if none of us had ever experienced back problems. (Probably because we managed to send someone out for frozen cafe au lait and rosemint tea before the music started).

We love Imagination Movers.

Message to parents who are suffering from a household full of The Wiggles or Ralph (or, heavens to Betsy, Barney!)… CHECK OUT THE IMAGINATION MOVERS.  You will thank me.

We hung out with an Imagination Mover spouse.  (A friend of our friend Kathryn, whose husband was the original “Warehouse Mouse” in early videos and who now does crew stuff for the band… the Movers gave a shout out birthday wish to her son during the performance… see what I mean about the coolness?) Years ago, Kathryn introduced me to her at a music performance at Tulane (a girls’ night from long, long ago).  Can you guess which Mover she’s married to?

I love people who understand the importance of accessories.

But I’m not giving anything away.

Nina, one of the cast members on their Playhouse Disney TV show, came by to say “hi.”

(I know.  I didn’t realize we were that cool, either.)

The kids loved it.  Despite the strong morning sun, Kate played a rattle and dutifully performed all moves as instructed.  Us parents had a few head scratching moments when they busted into “She Sells Sanctuary.” (Um… did they just play “The Cult?”)  And we all sang along to “In a Big Country,” their finale.

But Jazz Fest is about so much more than music.  The food.  Oh… the food.

Kate clearly understands that one should not delve into snowballs until so much mango freeze has been ingested that the skin starts to turn orange.

Her Jazz Fest food of choice was cochon du lait po’boy.  With the spicy coleslaw.  As if there would be any other.  (I promise I will get food pictures next time.)

We visited our friend Mark’s booth.

Mark made the tiles in our bathroom.  Each are handmade and exquiste in detail.

We spent the majority of the day in the kids’ area, meeting up with other families and taking turns watching kids to go on food runs and bathroom trips.  There is a children’s music tent and a variety of activity and craft tents — staffed by the nicest, warmest people.  The kids decorated fabric squares…

…and added them to the children’s Jazz Fest quilt.

We chilled in the kids’ tent for a few hours during the heat of the day (even spread out a blanket to lay down for a bit), and saw a variety of performances (puppets, drum band from Malawi, kids’ high school dance group).  Then, a washboard performer came up and got the kids involved.  Will not only got a washboard, but was deemed “Earl of Crawfish” (or something) for the story.

He was so into the washboard that he almost missed the second line going around the tent.

After the big dance around the room, the story kept going.  Kate is up posing with Will.  She played the tin can and then traded for a parasol for the parade.

Both kids passed out on the way to James Taylor.

Our friend Georgia graciously invited us to crash in their lawn space to listen to JT.  I was too antsy to sit (back was tired and sore) — even to one of my favorite vocalists.  So we took in a few songs and moved on.

In moving on, we caught part of Erykah Badu (sans Elmo) and Wilco.  We headed out about a half-hour before the official end of Jazz Fest and had no problems with traffic or crowds… successfully spending the entire day at Jazz Fest with the kids.  Wow.

But next time, we’re totally going solo.

Family Life in NOLA

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The Fest. No, not that one. Right, THAT one.

Though I posted pictures of Panorama’s French Quarter Fest performance weekend before last (not to be confused with New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which started this past Friday) — I didn’t post anything about the Fest in general.

And French Quarter Fest is too good to be passed up.

We missed the first few days because I was in full-day trainings for one of the community-based research projects I’m involved in… which, by the way, is a wonderful reason for missing FQF (they’re aren’t many.)

Jazz Fest is the city’s premiere celebration, drawing tourists and artists and fans from a wide base to hear musicians and music inspired by the sounds of New Orleans.  French Quarter Fest is often dubbed the “old” Jazz Fest in that it involves primarily local artists in a smaller venue spread throughout the city.  Because it’s free, it doesn’t have the exclusivity of Jazz Fest.

We took the Streetcar downtown and walked into the Quarter towards the river.  First we hit on gospel performances, which was fitting since it was Sunday morning.

There is a ton of food and drink.  Which is why it makes perfect sense to see my kids drinking juice and eating goldfish.

Jackson Square had Dixieland… and of course, lots of dancing!  The crime is that I didn’t get either of my kids boogie moves.  Paul and I were busy with our duck po’boy from Jacque-Imos.

No wallflowers in this city.

Between acts and food booths, we strolled through the Quarter and some of our favorite places.

I don’t know this for certain, but I’m guessing that as long as there has been booze in the Quarter, there has been the presence of someone (or someones) who feel themselves to be personal appointees in God’s Condemnation Task Force.  Everyone has a different take on them, whether it be that they are annoying, patronizing, self-grandizing, nice for those that need them, or a nusiance.  Me?  Well, I figure it’s all kinds that make this place special.

This guy is my personal favorite.

His philosophy is that sinners love shiny things.  It keeps us distracted for a few moments while he preaches.

Oooooooooo… preeeeeeeeeeeeetty….

His little army = A LOT of happy meals.

The postcard?  I couldn’t find one.  But I think I can guess the message, because I’ve been through the Quarter enough to hear it.

It goes something like this: God loves you, but if you don’t believe this very specific set of things, he’ll smite your ass in an instant.

But don’t dwell on that.  Remember, we’re happy!

Once enough po’boy was in her belly, Kate passed out.  This let us enjoy the rest of the afternoon with relative ease.  We walked down to The Mint, where the blues tent was set up.  Kate had no idea.

Our friends had their tent RIGHT BESIDE the stage.  The report was that they are still trying to find their voices.  Do you see Paul?  He’s arguing about paying for our sorbet and gelato.  Have you heard of La Divina? It’s wicked amazing, and you don’t have to take my word for it.  Although you’ll think so when you taste it, I have it on good authority that there is no crack cocaine in their from scratch, homemade, totally local ingredient product.

From The Mint, we wandered up Esplanade to Royal.

Just admiring the city is relative quiet.

The battle for art is front and center ’round here.

I love the angels in this iron work.  There is something new and interesting and unique to see with every building… even with ones you’ve seen a hundred times.

These are the sort of porches that make the Quarter architecture famous.  Interesting, too, that they are more Spanish than French in design.  (Or so I understand.)

Kids LOVE the Quarter.  Will kept running ahead to scout out details in the sidewalk and buildings, pointing and talking the whole time.

Here’s a tourist favorite: the cornstalk fence!  Notice the guy checking it out to the left?

He wasn’t a alone.  A whole horse-drawn carriage full of folks were doing the same thing.  From what I remember, the owner of the property built the fence for his Iowa-born and bred wife, so she wouldn’t feel so homesick.

Street performers.  But watch out for the “where’d you get them shoes” guy.

There are living statues all over the Quarter, but none of them can hold a candle to this guy.  That board is balanced on his shoulder, his right hand (not visible) is pulling out plyers from his back pocket, and his foot is completely bent so that he is on his flexed toe on his right side.  Will could not stop asking questions about this guy and actually speculated that he wasn’t even real.

The kid had a point… real is relative in New Orleans.

Family Life in NOLA

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The End of the Levee

April in New Orleans.  What a tease.

Beautiful, beautiful weather, low humidity, sunshine, and music, music, music.  She comes to us at the height of our crazy spring, coinciding with finals, abstract submission deadlines, and all of the other stress-inducing things that come when folks are trying to wrap up their lives to prepare for summer.  In New Orleans, you learn to stop and smell the roses when you may… because if you wait until you’re ready, it’s too late.  She’s gone.  April has run off into a breezy dreamland and you’re stuck with sticky, unpredictable May.

In an effort to keep the stifling grip of May at bay, Paul has been dedicating his afternoons to the repair and renovation of the yard.  Yup, we’re shifting gears yet again, before the summer hits full swing.  It’s yard time.  The schedule is a familiar one… he leaves for work before 6am, works until I’ve taken the kids to school and comes home to continue work, stopping around 3.  Then he starts on the yard and works until dark, when the kids are going to bed.  He eats dinner and showers and then works the second job for awhile, until he’s too tired to think and crashes.  We do this schedule a lot, with me sort of flying around trying to keep all the pieces from collapsing in order for Paul to make progress.  This is why DIY home renovation takes a lot of time.

The current project is the next phase in one we begun before Katrina, when the builder next door (Todd Tedesco) built the house roughly a foot and a half above grade and then brought in truckloads of sand to build up the land around it.  Paul realized quickly that the run-off would severely erode our foundation and built a “levee” to protect our house almost overnight.  We’re glad he did… the neighbors on the other side, who do not have nearly the proximity and volume we experience, have severe settling to their handicap ramp (and likely to their home) so it’s alarming to think about what state our house would be in if Paul hadn’t acted quickly back then.   (See the depth of the shovel?)

The levee was a temporary fix.  We had a site surveyor come out and was preparing a report about the problem… this was literally a day or two before Katrina.  After the storm?  Well, nothing is the same after. So we’ve had to deal with the problem ourselves.  The run-off, while not going under our home, is still a tremendous problem.  Rather than erode our foundation, it’s eroded our front yard.  We haven’t been able to plant anything in the front because it is washed away.  The entire front sidewalk has a lean that wasn’t there before due to the weight of the flowing water… it’s that dramatic a problem.

So, Paul has brought our side of the yard to grade.  Where it was when we bought the home.  Down to the original sidewalk.  This matches the other side of the house, where Paul installed a drain long ago to great success.  He exposed the downspout, created a bed of concrete to slope to the drain, and unearthed the original sidewalk, which naturally leans inward to prevent water from going under the house.  We are just thankful that the contractor the builder used* didn’t tear up the bricks when he dug up the area between the house to lay down plumbing from the backyard.

The other plus is that the wood used in the previous solution’s ‘levee’ was creating a termite draw.  Much better that these old pieces of lumber are away from our foundation.

Another benefit is that Paul will be able to access the underside of the house on this side — rather than having to crawl all the way from the opposite side to address an issue that is right there.  Considering this is the side that has the junction box, this is a big deal.  (Look below… see the light sand over the dirt?  It’s several inches thick.)

There is much work still to be done, but so far he’s laid more than 800 pounds of concrete and moved several hundred pounds of dirt.  In less than 5 days.

* Remember him?  He was very nice.  Let Will drive the bulldozer.

Home and Renovation

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Photohunt: Protect

For more of my photohunt, go here.
For more information about photohunt and links to many more, go here.

Art & Photography
Special Family Moments

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I have a friend who is a single mother of 4 school-age children.  She cleans houses for a living and has no formal education.  For more than a decade, she has been overweight.  The kind of overweight where knees hurt and it’s hard to get around.  She had never made chicken that wasn’t fried and knew nothing about starches and carbs and calories.  And then last fall, she was watching The Biggest Loser and decided that she could do it, too.  Just like that.  She bought the show’s cookbook and workout DVD.  Now, 9 months later, she is half of her initial size.  She finds a way to workout each day — between running 4 children back and forth to 3 schools and traveling all over the city to clean whatever she can get hired to clean — and manages to get a dinner on the table each night that is healthy and contributes to her continued weight loss.  In losing her weight, she re-learned how to cook, she tried dozens of new fruits and vegetables, and she stuck to her goals.  I am in complete and utter amazement of her; she is an absolute inspiration.

There is absolutely no reason in the world for me to not have better behaviors when it comes to taking care of myself.  Everything from how often I get a haircut or pedicure to when I can take a yoga class.

Yes, it’s true I do a lot and have a lot going on.  But I schedule everything and manage to make time for anyone who asks me for it.

Except me.

I’ve gone over and over about this for as long as I can remember.  I get angry at the people around me for not thinking about me — after all, I think about them and anticipate their needs all day long.  I know that the bottom line is that I have to be the one to make it happen.  And I’ve tried a hundred thousand times in seventy billion ways.  It doesn’t work.  Whatever connection has to be made, I can’t make it.  Whenever something needs to give, it’s always me.

When the kids are in school, I want to spend every moment of it working.  When they are home, I want to be with them — AND this is when I do the house stuff (laundry, cleaning).  In order for Paul to work his job and work on the house, I have to cover all the bases to allow him to focus on those tasks.  He gets great exercise and creative challenge from his projects on the house and does a good job of fitting in other hobbies, like juggling with the kids in the park.  I don’t know how or where to fit in anything for myself.  It makes me feel guilty for even thinking about it.  An hour to take a walk?  To do my hair?  Indulgent.  Wasteful.  I feel like a mess all the time and I don’t know what to do about it.  I don’t know how anyone else does it, either.

So I’m asking.  Officially, asking.  How does a mother juggling a bazillion things manage her own needs?  I’m very very serious, because it has to get better.  How do you do it?

Mi Familia

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Jean Petit

If I completely lose my marbles in the next few days, it’s not because of the three part-time jobs, the conference submissions (one more tomorrow and then today, an invite to apply for this one), the dissertation writing (hah!), the ongoing home renovation, the husband and his penchant for putting t-shirts in the laundry inside-out, or the number of times I have to say “LEAVE YOUR SISTER/BROTHER ALONE” in a day.

It’s because this song will not let me rest:

Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans

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Potty and other details.

According to all those guides of readiness, Kate has been ready to potty train for a few years.  Unfortunately, she is not on board with that assessment.

Which means that any attempt (as seen below) is only a flirtation with disaster.

MY REFRAIN: I will not force the issue.  She will do it on her own.

THE PART THAT MAKES THIS CHOICE OKAY: If you don’t force it, it will be easy when it happens.

ALSO: Go out and buy a ton of diapers.  That will ensure she potty trains as quickly as possible.

In other news, it’s Gwen‘s birthday!  She’s 21 in hex, too.  And I can prove it.  See this picture of us, taken last week?  Young vixens.


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Panorama Jazz Band at FQF

Panorama Jazz Band performing on Royal Street, French Quarter Fest.

Art & Photography
Family Life in NOLA

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