December 2009

Words to Ring in the New Year…


… “Eat Yer GUMBO!” — Kate.

Happy New Year!

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Searching for Inspiration: The 2009 Post Round-Up

Like last year, I am doing a post round-up by listing the first sentences from the first post from each month in 2009.

Looking back on that post, I see that I made a few blog-related resolutions.  Things I would do, or finish, or whatever.  Predictably, I did none of them.  Resolutions are not my strong-suit.

But wait!  I may be redeemed… were any of my first sentences improvements on those from last year??

January: “You will not believe what I am about to tell you.”

February: “Remember the back of our house?”

March: “We’d been discussing it for years, when would be the best time?”

April: ““Stand by Me” performed by musicians around the world

May: “I took these last fall in Boston — my continued obsession with shutter speed.”

June: “Did that belly dancing class make us uppity?”

July: “Surprise!”

August: “The last two days have been a bit of a daze, punctuated by periodic conversations that go something like this, “where the heck are we?””

September: “I wrote each name and order of comment on a little slip of paper, folded them up, and stuck them in bowls — one for new friends and one for the old friends.”

October: “On the can.”

November: “Will had his second ear surgery on Friday.”

December: “Try as I may, I just can’t get the job of independently wealthy woman of leisure.”

Maybe half-credit?  Good enough.

Have you ever made a resolution and saw it to the end?

And, do you have favorite things you read on a blog this year?  Looking for inspiration to bring in the New Year!


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City of Frogs

Kate wants to kiss a frog. Because she thinks it will turn her into one. And she really likes to pretend to be a frog.

We saw The Princess and the Frog the day before Christmas. The movie is big talk around these parts, where there is an acute sensitivity towards how this city and us, the people who live within it, are characterized. Let’s just say that we’re accustomed to disappointment and leave it at that.

With this movie? Our peanut gallery was not disappointed.

Okay, YES. Cajuns are stereotyped to be backwards fools with few teeth, which was not a surprise. It’s a cartoon. There has to be someone for good-humored slapstick conflict and in a film based in the South, it’s not a surprise where the buffoon character is going to come from. (And in all honesty, it could have been much worse.) Besides, the main Cajun representation of the film, beloved ole’ Ray, is the hero of the story. (Plus, he’s hilariously funny. “I’m from far, far away…” “Oh, y’all in from Shreveport?”)

All in all, the beautiful pictures of New Orleans — so delicately and thoughtfully portrayed — were as authentic as they come. In terms of the food, I was all ready to give an eye-roll over all the talk about gumbo and beignets, as if that’s all we eat around here. But then just last night we made that very same movie tableau. There we were, sharing in on a friends gumbo pot, talking and laughing while the kids ran around collecting fallen magnolia leaves and singing Louisiana songs. So, yes, there is a lot of gumbo-talk and eating and all that. But for the record, we do eat other things, too.

We loved the bands in the street, the bright colors of each setting, the subtle hints to local lore and tradition (Evangeline, as the best example).

In the minefield of race and representations, I found the movie respectful. Are Tiana and her family too much the happy servant? I’m sure this is already out there in spades. But it’s a fairytale following the fairytale story line — poor girl turned princess. I thought that French-speaking, penniless Prince Naveen was made somewhat racially ambiguous on purpose. Class and race are tied together in uncomfortable ways not just in New Orleans but all through the United States — the movie didn’t betray this reality. Unlike many other classic Disney animation films, I feel very comfortable showing this to my kids without having to apply revisionist history. (Having conversations about what Cinderella majors in when she goes to college, as an example.)

Have others seen The Princess and the Frog? Tell me then, y’all — did it make you fall in love, even a little bit, with our beautiful city and wonderful State?

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Lessons in Obstinance. By Kate, an Expert.

Lesson One: Using the Potty.
First, refuse to use it. Even if your knees are pressed together to prevent an accident. Then, insist on being in the bathroom alone. Once everyone has sufficiently made some distance between themselves and the bathroom, call for help. You can’t open that toilet seat yourself… it’s too heavy, it’s wet, you suddenly hate the color white… use whatever works. Insist on being lifted to the toilet. Threaten an accident, this will make them work faster. Insist that you can wipe yourself and remove half a roll of toilet paper before feigning dramatic failure.

kate (2)

Lesson Two: Bathtime.
First, refuse a bath. Then work towards negotiation. What extra treats and privileges will getting a bath give you? Be creative. Once a contract has been established, be cooperative to the point of entering the bathing area. Then promptly get lost in your clothes and go hysterical. The more you can get your clothes twisted, turned inside-out, and stretched — the better. Perch on the edge of the tub and insist that the water is too hot. Then insist that it is too cold. Keep up these extremes until you are thrown into the water. Once in, find every toy you can to make the biggest possible splashes. Extra points if you can get your bath towel soaked or cause Mommy to submerge her sleeves into the water. Once out of the tub, hug Mommy as many times as you can before you are dry. Be sure to insist on evaluating at least 3 sets of pajamas before going for a fourth to wear.

kate (1)

Lesson Three: Bedtime.
First, refuse bedtime. Insist on your alertness, even if it means pinching yourself to stay awake. When you have run out of options, go boneless. You’re too tired to walk, you can’t move. Drag yourself, in your clean pajamas, along the floor — this makes for great impact. Once you’re in your room, perk up enough to take a pile of at least 12 books for bedtime reading. Negotiate down to no less than 8, making sure you’ve picked the longest ones. Note page numbers and make sure every sentence on every page is read thoroughly. Stall everywhere. There are monsters in your closet, under your bed, and even some inside your pillowcase. You are hungry, thirsty, and cold. Also, you’re hot and your tummy hurts. Once you have been left alone in your room for sleep, get out of bed and drag your pillow and blankets into the hallway, it sends the message that you are still in charge. Set up your own sleep space there. If they don’t notice you, take a few minutes to erase your chore chart before settling into your chosen restful spot. Then curl up in the hallway and settle in for sleep. If you happen to wake up a few minutes later in your own bed, promptly pee. If necessary, remove your pull-up to ensure your blankets are wet. Then cry out for Mommy. If you do this enough, she’ll run out of laundry and have to bring you to her bed by default. Once you are in Mommy’s bed, kick, curl, cuddle, and lay on her all through the night. You want her nice and exhausted in the morning — it will make the your lessons much more effective tomorrow.


Mi Familia

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Today’s Headlines from Cold Spaghetti Daily

Boy child learns to ride bicycle in under fifteen minutes;
Lance Armstrong loses endorsements to the young protege

Woman finishes His Dark Materials series;
Declares DUST to be part of life’s joy and refuses to clean again

Inside of washing machine coated in GOLD!
It only took one wash of daughter’s Belle princess dress, says Mom

Parents alerted when rouge animals eat household pet!
Kids’ imaginations create compelling Lego story, but family cat remained unharmed

Husband goes 24 hours without viewing an Episode of Mythbusters
He’s not ill, he’s just playing Mario Kart


Mi Familia

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The Bird is the Word.

Sometime late in the day on Christmas Eve, Paul and I started discussing what we were going to do regarding food the following day. Would he care for pot roast, I asked him, or maybe chicken? Or, hey what the heck, a turkey if you want. Turkey? Really? He asks. Sure! I say, why not, it IS Christmas.

And also? I figure, like me, he’s thinking turkey breasts ’cause they are easy to cook.

He wasn’t.


So he brought home an 11 lb bird. Frozen. For the record, my kitchen does *NOT* include any of the following items: roasting pan, meat thermometer, cotton string, basting brush, baster, roasting rack, or meat carving utensils.

In other words, we were completely ready to make a turkey.

The first order of business was to thaw the thing, so we spent more than four hours soaking the bird in cold water that we changed every half hour.

t (1)

We didn’t brine it. The thawed bird spent the night in the pot (sans water) in the fridge. When morning came, we got out the neck and giblets (after watching a youtube video which showed the technique), rinsed off the thing and rubbed it down with butter and whatever random spices were hanging around. (I believe this amounted to salt, pepper, and rosemary.) Along with the flour, which is recommended to prevent bag explosion, I threw in onions, carrots and celery. I filled the inside with these veggies as well, just because it seemed to make sense to me to do so. The turkey went into the bag and into the aluminum pan — upside down — at Kitty’s brilliant suggestion.

t (2)

After 3 or so hours at 350, we flipped the bird (wow, that was messy) cooked it a little longer, and then took it out.

t (3)

The thing was just falling apart. It certainly looked done and based on the whole “clear liquid” thing we determined it was done. I did my best to put together a gravy. (Though Paul liked it, I thought it needed more flavor.) But the turkey? It was good! The darn thing was moist, too!

Paul “carved” it right into containers for freezing/storage. No picture perfect roasted turkey for dinner table carving, but that wasn’t our intent anyway. We were just shooting for a night that didn’t include food poisoning.

t (4)

We brought a big collection of turkey sandwiches to the park today for a big impromptu playdate — no one was ill and two seasons cooks praised the meat. Take that, holiday cooking! You’re not so big and scary afterall.

Though next year? It’s worth it to pre-order a bird from someone else — or change the menu to a more New Orleans fare!

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Unbridled avarice… but done relatively neatly.

Wow. We told the kids that they could not dive into the holiday bounty until we gave the go ahead… and they listened.

(Please forgive the unfinished touches of the room. Have a mentioned that we’re in year 5 of renovation on our 100+ year old house… wait, I have? Well, don’t I get to use that excuse for at least a decade or so? Or at least get some reprieve because it’s Christmas?)

xmasday 1

Paul and I were exhausted. Presents had been stock-piled far away from child eyes for weeks — Will has developed an “exploration” habit — because we couldn’t risk a security breach. So, it was a last minute effort to pull it all together. The effort would have come off without a hitch, had Kate’s tea cart come with both a right side and a left side. Instead, it was equipped with two left sides and a nice note on the receipt asking buyers to please return the items by December 15th if there were problems. The item? It’s no longer available on the seller’s website.

This is yet another reason why doing Christmas shopping early is SO OVER-RATED. Next year, I am totally waiting until the last minute.

Here’s another behavioral surprise for the day: the kids also took turns giving out gifts and watching others open them. (With constant reminders, but still.)

I did manage a few surprises for Paul, despite his finding out about his Very Special Surprise, which I had worked for months to acquire. (By months, I mean reading a few internet articles and wiki forums.) So when he opened the awesome astronomy binoculars I researched and planned for, he was underwhelmed.

Wait. Why did I work so hard for weeks in advance?

BUT. I did surprise him with this little cutie. A piece by a local folk artist:

xmasday 4

It says:

“I loves you once
I loves you twice
I loves you more than
beans and rice”

Yea, you rite!

xmasday 5

Kate loved her surprises. A Belle dress from Will, dress-up box and Fancy-Nancy book from Nana, princess puzzle & bracelet from friends Dave, Shelly & Zoe, cute socks from Aunt Deb & Uncle Gary, games from Uncle Skip & Aunt Emily, toys from cousins Brayden & Maggie…. and CINDERELLA’S CASTLE from Santa.

xmasday 8

At it’s opening, I was expecting an ear-splitting scream, followed by a fainting episode. This didn’t quite happen, though she was definitely excited. Who wouldn’t be? The castle lights up. And plays music.

Really, we were all enthralled.

xmasday 6

Will’s interest in it was a bit different. He was looking closely for things to push later on, for the purposes of driving his sister crazy. A skill he is VERY adept at using.

xmasday 7

Also? There were one of a kind hand-made gifts!

Nana made a BEAUTIFUL matching sweater and hat!

xmasday 9

Gwen made felt SUPERHERO capes!

Super Will…. with his pants unbuttoned.

xmasday 2

And Super Kate, too.

xmasday 3


Family Photos
Special Family Moments

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Happy Holidays!

Beautiful double rainbow, this afternoon, from our house to yours!


Merry, Merry!

Art & Photography
Mi Familia

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Christmas List



— The Nutcracker Ballet.  Kate wanted to be taken on-stage to join in on the dancing fun.  Will admitting liking it after an hour of 6-year old whining about life.

— The Teddy Bear Tea at the Roosevelt.  High marks for decor (see above) and tasty treats.  Price keeps it a purely blue-blood affair.  Friendly wait-staff helped us smuggle out uneaten goodies.  We can say we’ve been there, done that.

— Lights at Lafrienere Park.  Original lights more interesting than the Copeland lights.  Free and open, a plus.  If you’re in the ‘burbs (say, because you need to buy car parts), it’s worth a few minutes of your time… and that’s all it will take.

— Holiday Movie.  The Princess and the Frog rocked in about seven-hundred ways.

— Packages mailed.  TODAY.  Used awesome FedEx discount.  Lots of lucky folks getting POST-Christmas surprises!


— Holiday eats.  Paul bought a turkey today.  The kind that you have to put in the oven and cook.  Can someone dial 9 and then 1 and just be ready…?

— Presents wrapped.  EVERYTHING for the kids is hidden and unwrapped.  We’re hoping for an early bedtime so that we can get to work.

— Christmas cake.  Kate is still begging for a “Christmas Cake” — this is the child who doesn’t even LIKE cake.  I must remember to not leave Southern Living magazines around where she can see them.

Happy Holidays!

(And, if you can, send suggestions on what to do with an 11-lb bird!)

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia
Special Family Moments

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Middle class collection jar is full of whine.

Man, am I in a sour mood.

I want to tell my kids about Santa. Just rip off that bandaid in one quick swoop. It’s too easy for me to rely on the Santa Threat and I hate myself for it. They should act appropriately because that is the right thing to do, not because they want presents from some shadowy character.


We’re facing some big financial burdens, which isn’t unusual for us but these sorts of decisions are just awful — they have to do with two of the most important things in our lives: safety and education.

Our car is unsafe, by my esteem, as it is unreliable. It is un-repaired, but we haven’t decided what to do with it. Paul is home tomorrow night (crossing fingers for no more snow delays) and then we can look at the loooooooooong list of malfunctions more closely. It’s probably time for a trade-in, but not the time to take on a car payment. Until then, we will just risk the inconveniences and potential hazards that I’ve been living all week. Car safety can’t be all THAT important, right? I mean, we don’t drive that much.

We really like the school our kids currently attend. The teachers are great, the curriculum solid, and the classes are small. The administration is attentive, helpful, and responsive. But getting these things in New Orleans is not the norm. It’s a private school and tuition is going up. A LOT. Roughly $300 a month more. The bottom line is that there are other charter schools that offer immersion education (2) and we will re-apply to these programs… but the quality of the experience and the administration cannot be matched. I absolutely hate compromising the kids’ educational experiences because of a financial barrier. So we’ve got some tough decisions. In the meantime, it’s on my plate to scramble for applications, watch dates and announcements, stress over every step, and take full responsibility for any rejection as a deep, personal flaw.

Maybe we should go back to considering just leaving the country?

Going with that theme, our property taxes have gone up. To the tune of $2400 this year, making our contribution to the city’s coffers more than I can actually write out. We continue to shoulder a much more significant tax burden based on our unlucky fate of not being politically connected.

The irony of the two: property/school taxes and tuition for the education we must buy because the one our taxes provide isn’t fit for any child — is not lost.


In the interim, I still have not mailed my Christmas packages. These are the ones holding presents I’ve had for months and had wrapped since the first week of December. Maybe tomorrow, hopefully, I can get it together to re-pack and send. No matter what, they won’t get there in time for Christmas.


Combined with a hundred other things, all of this has just put me in a rough mood. And the icing on the cake? Emmy sent me a HILARIOUS video to cheer me up and it did. And I wanted to use photos of my kids and post it here… my little attempt to show that I am working on the positive. What happened? Well, after an hour of trying to get the faces cut properly, the site won’t work to load the faces into the video. TOTAL WASTE. So there you go. My attempts at trying to be positive are fruitless.

Bah. Whine. Sour. Grouse.

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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