Mi Familia

Sam, the mystery man.

Sam is Kate’s special friend.  For the most part, Sam is a boy.  He lives on “I Love You Street,” which is in California.  Sometimes California is a place far away, sometimes it’s a house a few blocks away, and sometimes it’s a secret spot known only to Kate and Sam.

Lots of people — friends, strangers, family members — have connections to Sam.   Like when we met our friend, Bryan, at Disney World a few months back?  Bryan was Sam’s Daddy.  The girl at the pool who played with Kate yesterday during swim break is Sam’s sister.  Sam’s Mom and I also share some similarities.  For example, we both have a Diva Cup.  Except that mine is plain; Sam’s Mom’s has princesses on it.

It’s not strange for a kid to have an imaginary friend, so we haven’t paid Sam a whole lot of mind.


Kate is the kid who comes into our bed everynight, often because “the ghosts won’t let her sleep.” Part of her bedtime routine of tucking her in is announcing to various monsters and ghosts (most of which are named “Georgia” or “Frederick”) that it’s bedtime and Kate is done with playtime.  On some nights, they are can be very persistent.

And Sam?

Sam, she’s told us, used to live in our house.  I didn’t really pay much attention to this, as I’m quite certain our house isn’t in California.  Maybe Kate was making a continuity error.

Oh, but also?  Sam’s dead.

“What do you mean, Sam’s dead?”

“He’s not alive anymore.”


So.  Someone tell me.  At what point does developmental appropriateness cross into contact with The Beyond?

Is this something she’ll outgrow without exorcism?

Mi Familia

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Sunshine, waterslide, and blueberries

Pearl River Blues Berry Farm, in Pearl River, Mississippi — the same organic farm that we gave our cast iron tub to years ago when we started renovating the back of the house.  (The tub is in the back.)  Beautiful farm, wide space for running and jumping, friendly people and animals, and lots and lots of blueberry plants.  No chemicals in the growth process — which means that you can eat them fresh off the vine.

Which means, a lot (a LOT) of blue-tinted kid poops in your future.

Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

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Strikes and gutters.

One of the great things about New Orleans is how nicely the city has promoted tourism interests to remain neatly tucked away from the rest of the city.  Bourbon Street, as I’ve been told, was created to keep tourists out of the rest of the city and as far as my experience has shown, it’s done a fantastic job.  In general, the frat boys, the wanna-be-frat-boys, the remembering-the-days-of-being-a-frat-boy, and the associated hangers-on stay in a few blocks within the French Quarter and leave the rest of us alone.

But occasionally we get a visitor who wants to get New Orleans.  And man, oh man.  Showing someone from another part of our lives just why we live here?  This is one of our favorite things in the world.  The only thing better than that Reconcile Bananas Foster Bread Pudding is having someone new to share it with.

We were thrilled to share these past five days with a good friend of mine from college — a guy who gave me my most lasting nickname (Hosh), studied with me in Switzerland and Italy, and who I hadn’t seen in more than a decade.  We went out, hung out at the pool, hung out in the park, played with the kids, ate good food, explored random parts of the city, and just generally enjoyed the awesomeness of having someone so open and positive about all the things we love about our home.

On Saturday afternoon, Jeb and I, along with a friend of his who had recently moved to the area, went to Commander’s Palace for the Jazz Brunch.  Commander’s Palace is the long-standing launching pad of culinary royalty; Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are among its dignitaries.  While there, enjoying the music and company and food and all that comes with it, I mentioned the odd fact that every time Paul has eaten at Commander’s, he’s been ill within 24 hours.  No, it is never because of the food… just really bad timing.  Paul enjoys a completely fantastic meal and four hours later it’s floating down the Mississippi.  Bad timing.

Of course I had to tempt the fates by telling Jeb all about it.

The next morning, we didn’t hear from Jeb.  We thought maybe he’d gone jogging in Audubon Park, or perhaps needed some extra sleep to compensate for late night music at Les Bon Temps.  So we went blueberry picking in Mississippi in the morning.  On the way back, we spoke to him for the first time that day: it had been a rough night.

No, it wasn’t the food.  It was just bad timing.

And completely my fault.

Thankfully, he bounced back in the afternoon and enjoyed the rest of the blissful weekend.  Then Sunday night, last night, the fates rolled over to Kate.

She had eaten her body weight in blueberries at the farm so we expected a certain amount of tummy disturbance.  But it wasn’t until 3 am that the disturbances truly made their intentions clear.


The weekend then was like any other time in New Orleans — incredible highs and miserable lows.  We accept both and appreciate the need of each.  It is just that sometimes, we’re surprised at just how they materialize.  And in Kate’s case, the incredible monochromatic palate that results.

In honor of Jeb, quoting NOLA’s beloved John Goodman… Strikes and gutters.  Strikes and gutters.

Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

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Real sportsmen don’t ask questions.

The river sure looks cool in the wee hours of morning.  If it weren’t for soccer, I’d never have known.

One practice a week.  Then one “game” that is half practice, half mini-game.  2-3 hours a week.  PERFECT.

Or so I thought.  My lollipop and rainbows perspective of kids sports is that it should all be high-fives and camaraderie.  But in reality, we’ve had to have serious talks about it.  Some of the kids (and coaches, coaches of 4, 5, and 6 year old kids to be specific) are actually out for blood.  I’ll hold the tirade on why adults are encouraging 4, 5, and 6 year olds to attack each other in the hopes that this is just one or two isolated douchebags.  But the fact is that kids pick up on that negative influence, my kid included.

It was horrible.  This is my sweet kid who can’t pass by a baby without making goo-goo faces.

I swallowed my thoughts on how, maybe, kids under the age of 10 should only do dance and art and music and swimming and gymnastics.  Things where competitiveness is really about doing their best, not about beating another team.  Maybe there is something to learn from playing in a team, but it certainly isn’t about winning, and I’m starting to feel like that sort of experience doesn’t exist.

Paul talked me down from the ledge with thoughts that we could make this a teaching moment.  Okay.  Fine.  So we’ve had talks about sportsmanship and the oh-so-not-important scoring/winning thing which is lame.  Seriously, people.  Winning anything in team sports at age 5 is lame.  Let’s be real here.  It’s about not letting down your team and being a good athlete!

We deliver all of this in the most enthusiastic voices.  And deliver our disappointment at those who feel that taking out the other team by knocking them down, or talking trash, or seeing them as anything less than colleagues and friends and other jovial kids in the most decrepit, vile voices.  Bah on them, we say!  Up with peace, love, and happiness on the soccer field!

That’s the spirit!

And then I have to bite my tongue and swallow my questioning thoughts.  I have to secretly thank all that is good and right in the world that he hasn’t come around to question us about all this sportsman-like play stuff.   That his brain hasn’t circled back and recognized the discrepancies between doing and saying.

Because Will was there when we went so crazy with joy every time Brett Favre gazed up at the roof of the Superdome when someone planted his behind to the turf.  Make no mistake, it was awesome.  Every. Darn. Time.  AND HARDER EVEN!  YEAH!

Sure, we can argue it’s different for a million reasons.  (And besides, it isn’t about football, anyway.  I actually am NOT a fan of football, I things considered.)  But still.

We’re still hypocrites.

So if the question comes, I’m just glad Paul will be around to answer it.  Because me?   I’ve got nuthin’.

PS: Alejna has the most recent update about the Just Posts Best of 2009.  Just don’t call them gerbils.


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Bacchus, Sunday night.

Bacchus was wild.

We were not prepared for just how wild.

Okay, so we’re not completely oblivious.  Breesus was presiding as King, so we knew it was going to be a mad-crazy event.  The Saints homecoming parade drew the biggest parade crowds of any event, ever, according the local media.

We volunteered to work the school parking lot (a block off of Napoleon, which is the street where the parade was to begin).  Though the Archdiocese demanded a hefty sum of 50% for us to use the parking spaces the school rents from them (ahem) it is always worth it to help our little nonprofit school bring in funds, so of course we wanted to help.  At first, the plan was for me to bring the kids home after the morning parades for nap and let Paul walk up to the school.  But the fun of the morning put us into some sort of ecstatically-impaired state of mind where our sensibilities left us completely.  We threw the ladders and wagon and bags and signs and kids into the truck and illegally rolled ourselves slowly down back streets until we arrived at the school.

Then the plan was to meet up with friends who we knew were on the route and let the kids run around until parade time (it was still more than 2 hours before the parade start time).  Paul would work parking until right before the parade and then join us. In a normal situation, this would work perfectly.  Except that it was Bacchus and the people were already DOZENS deep.  The streets were already filled with Mardi Gras mess, and the people were Very Serious about their tent cities.

Thank goodness we found Emmy and the kids — and thank goodness that her friends, Erin and Chuck, were kind enough to 1. share the space; 2. help watch the kids, and 3. accommodated Will, who instantly fell in love with their adorable baby boy and tried multiple times to fold him up and put him in his pocket (Honestly though, who could blame Will? That kid is great.)   Chuck masterfully maneuvered our ladder and wagon in with the mix so that all the kids could sit up safely — nearly eye-level with many of the riders — allowing them to see and keeping them safe from the crowds.  I stood beside on a step stool, often with one of the kids standing with me, talking to the kids and keeping an eye on the straps and bars (I get a little freaked out when the kids get antsy.)  Still, the crowd was so tight that one man held on to the side of my step stool to keep from getting shifted too much in the jostling crowd.

Or, maybe because he wanted to be that close to the view of my rear-end, depending on your perspective.

Despite the crowd, it was a fun night.  The energy was amazing and for the most part, the people were all friendly and thoughtful.  Another child in the crowd joined into an open seat in our ladder set-ups (another unwritten rule — when you have open seats, you ask other families if their kids want up — one more small child out of the crowd lets us all breathe easier) and he was hilarious.  (“Here are your guesses for the next float, Ms. Holly.  A porcupine, a giant heart with letters, or chickens in a pot of soup.”)

The parade itself was mostly standard fare of floats and parades and riders — with added coolness of confetti, search lights into the night sky, and several “mega” floats pulling dozens of riders with several connected units.  Combined with the incredible crowd, it was sort of breath-taking to be there.  Especially at the start of the parade.

A woman nearby had a mini-Lombardi trophy.  Several folks came over to take pictures with it — including these kids.  The cuteness!

What we didn’t see was that further up the parade line, friends of ours had made a NINE FOOT LOMBARDI TROPHY.  (Photo from Cade‘s collection.)

We heard that Breesus himself bowed down to it upon passing, that Sean Peyton acknowledged it, that folks are leaving signed mementos on it, and others are showing up to get photos with it.  Here’s an interview showing the statue and talking with them about it.

How cool is that?

But back to the parade.  Breesus went right on by us, just like that.

A friend of mine from college is shocked that Paul doesn’t get stopped in the streets regularly for being mistakenly identified as Drew Brees.  I wasn’t sure there was much resemblance and then I saw Breesus’s new Dove commercial.   (Note: this is really worth watching.)

After seeing that shower scene, I whole-heartedly agree. Paul is a dead ringer for Breesus.

Being a big Krewe, the mega-bands were out, too.

It was a beautiful night, full of crazy energy and madness.  A wonderful way to cap off our Mardi Gras parades for the season!

Family Life in NOLA

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Sunday Morning Mardi Gras Magic

I know what you think.

You think it’s not for you, this Mardi Gras thing.  Maybe you don’t see yourself as much of a drinker.  Maybe you’re a little put-off by the whole girls-gone-wild thing; you weren’t the type to want to do Spring Break in South Beach even when you were in college.  So you figure that Mardi Gras isn’t for you.  And also?  That city?  New Orleans?  Well, you saw the pictures and heard the stories and it’s a mess.  You can’t figure out why people would even want to live there, let alone visit.

You’ve thought at least some of those things, I feel certain.  I fully admit that until I moved here, I thought THE VERY SAME THING.  Actually, both Paul and I did.  And now we can say that we were very wrong.

New Orleans is an absolutely fantastic place to be, especially during Carnival season — and especially for families.  As an example, here is our family, enjoying parades this past Sunday morning.  Music, laughter, conversation, floats, horses, football, dancers, prizes, and of course, beads.

Krewes of Okeanos, Mid-City, and Thoth.  Vantage on Magazine Street.

Family Life in NOLA
Family Photos
Mi Familia

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School Mardi Gras? Oui!

Too cold for the parade in the park, so the kids’ donned their class-made costumes and home-brought throws to an indoor audience.  Paul made Will’s parade (bonus: live band); I made Kate’s (bonus: singing by Kate’s class).

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Thanks for asking.

So there’s the one job that is going really well but applications for the new fellows are due Friday and the questions and the calls and meetings and the board and ad hoc committees and event planning and current Fellows and writing articles and doing interviews, well, it’s a busy work time — but then the other job is gearing up again, too, so Sunday I did the design layout for 15 or so groupings for this conference next month, but there are meetings and measurements and emails and phone calls to confirm all that — and then the dissertation, which I’m really working on for real and have to call back my committee chair after seeing him out at a bar last weekend so I owe him a call but can’t get over to do it — and then we bought a mattress for the first time ever yesterday and it’s a Keetsa and we’re so excited — and we also got a ‘returned, no box’ TV on big time clearance from Sam’s because we’re hosting the Superbowl party on Sunday and yes I ordered fajitas from Whole Foods and picked up some chips and drinks but need to clean out the back room of dangerous tools and other things so that the kids can play — and my mother-in-law and her friend arrive on Friday and she’s a gardener and all the flowers are dead from the freeze and still sitting there dead on the porch can you imagine the horror — did you call Sears, the ice maker is broken and it’s under warranty — and it’s Carnival season, which is actually a whole season, not a day, sort of like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, and the Fourth of July, all wrapped up together except that they go on every day for more than two weeks — and there’s sittings for photography clients, yes clients, how did that happen? — wait, did you see this video, you have to see it — who dat nation united — and oh, the kids have appointments and school conferences and nightly homework, and soccer practice and soccer games — and Paul just signed on for more work — and then after the more work, an old boss calls and wants Paul to contract for even more work — Will, do you have clean uniform shirt to wear to school today — oh, by the way, maybe I’m in DC the week of Mardi Gras — and can I come and have a meeting at the school of social work about more teaching? — and did we put cash in the envelope for the field trip, I don’t know — what’s for dinner — did you pick up the drycleaning, I didn’t know there was drycleaning — he hit me Mommy and I didn’t do anything — Paul why is the phone not working — have you seen the warranty for the ice maker anywhere, I swear it was in this file — wait, is the vacuum clogged again, can you check it is making this sound — why is the fridge thumping — taxes, taxes, did you sign the forms wait I’m not done where are the forms — did you hear the dryer buzz– oh no, Kate, that took paint off the wall — it was my night to make dinner, why didn’t you tell me — the cat just threw up on our bed — let’s go buy a TV, why not — my head hurts, take some medicine — it’s just a lot right now but I’m okay, thanks for asking.

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Party Crashers

Last week, I joined A-M, an actress/singer friend of mine, to take part in an “Improv Anywhere” style event. On the request of another friend, we crashed her hospital nursing department’s Employee of the Year luncheon. A-M was the crazed fan. I was the paparazzi. The shtick was that A-M (character name: Nola Bee) was a hospital volunteer and completely head-over-heals for the Employees being honored at the event. Mz. Nola Bee brought a book — complete with staff pictures and areas for signatures — and dutifully requested each to sign with me snapping away (“she’s photographing for my documentary”).  A matching red-wig for me and a few practice sessions and I think we could have pulled a Sweeney Sister routine out, too.

I can officially check “Crash a formal event” off of my bucket list.  Maybe even add it to my resume?

Carnival is gearing up. Krewe du Vieux was over the weekend.  Krewe du Vieux is one of the earliest parades and is known for its satirically-oriented adult theme.  It’s not the parade to bring the kids to, particularly if you child wants to know why the Governor is in THAT position, for-goodness-sake.  The whole leaving the kids at home situation has made it tough for us to go in the past.  This year, a friend graciously offered her 16-year old for sacrifice: he watched 4 kids (ages 2, 3, 4 and 6 — two were his younger siblings, two were ours) waaaaay past their bedtimes.  It felt a little like babysitting crashing; which, for the record is very worth it.

For us, Krewe du Vieux was a great night out with many friends.

Costumes are encouraged, of course, so we obliged.  I wore my favorite purple wig (Kate: “Mommy, why isn’t your hair white?” Me: “Because I thought I’d make it LAVENDER, that’s a fancy word for light purple!”)  I also used a purple and gold feather boa as a scarf (it was cold) and left purple plumes flying behind me wherever I went.  Paul wore a Fleur-di-Lis cape and helmet.  To my knowledge, no one got a picture of us and for that, I admit, I lose 2 points and do not pass go.

To be fair, we were busy.  Friends, socializing, drinks, food, and parade and all.

The bar where we collected ourselves for the start of the night had food for sale outside, including FRITO PIE.  I had never heard of this culinary delight before and I can honestly state our horizons have been significantly broadened.  Open up a bag of Fritos, dump in a scoop of your favorite chili, and viola!  FRITO PIE.  A friend demonstrates it’s goodness:

It really IS good.  I’m still craving it two days later.  And with the assortments of bagged junk foods available, the creative options are endless.

After the parade and after-parades filed through, we made our way down Frenchman and eventually ducked into Maison, the very location of the coming Krewe du Vieux and Krewe du Jew (no, I’m not making this up) after-parties.  A great brass band was playing and eventually we found drinks and headed up to the (relatively) quiet upstairs where we snagged chairs at the balcony.

The place was actually quite cleared out for over an hour (the crowded area shown above had a kid hulla-hooping in it for awhile).**  We enjoyed more bar-eats and general conversation.  And then I saw my Committee Chair.  Yup, the very person who holds all the cards in my game of doctoral degree-seeking.  Then he and his girlfriend joined us for awhile.  At first, it felt a little like being out at a party with your parole officer, but hey, it’s Carnival time in New Orleans.

Crashers welcome.

** We left when the Krewes were arriving — had to clear out to get back to the kids — but here’s a video of the fun when the Krewes entered!

Family Life in NOLA

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Post-Game in the Quarter

Hello, world. Are you still there? It’s been about 24 hours now and everything is still coming into focus.

It’s sort of like every holiday, event, celebration, party, and tradition all converged on one point.

If you want particulars or specifics or play-by-play or impact, go here. Oyster’s got the line-up well represented.

Us? Well. We went out to watch the game with the intention of leaving “soon.” Several hours later we rolled home, threw the kids through the tub-teeth-bed routine, and then I left. Off to the Quarter to celebrate our Ah-Maze-zing win (!), that Fan-Fricking-Tastic kick, and the joy of Favre’s last pass to… our Porter. E, G & I were out until 3am and are still a little loopy.

In other surprising news, my 16-year vegetarian husband makes pretty darn incredible blueberry barbecue ribs. RIBS.

But back to the Quarter. Here are some highlights:

  • Fireworks, music, dancing, costumes, high fives, kisses, and singing… all before we even got to Canal.
  • It was insane.
  • It was packed. PACKED.
  • We shook hands and thanked every Vikings fan we saw. And you know what? The ones I saw, who were there, I believe they got it. They understood.
  • I was the envy of co-eds for the cool beads I caught (lordy, people, forget the stupid flashing thing — that is what tourists who don’t know any better do for other tourists), though when they asked how I got them when they were stuck with “only shitty beads” I should have responded that clearly my rack was superior.
  • Emmy and Georgia broke a few dozen hearts.
  • Music was everywhere.
  • No one should name a bar “Napoleon’s Itch.”

Photo Highlights below.

Recovery and Rebirth

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