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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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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Starting off the New Year, in pictures.


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Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Where y’at?


Here’s where we’re at, January 1st, 2010.

1. Christmas tree is still up.

2. 300 pages in to American Gods.

3. Wearing a size smaller pants, not that this means anything.

4. Getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday party.

5. Friends from Michigan en route to NOLA.

6. Eating leftover red beans for dinner.

7. Kate in a Cinderella dress and vintage glass Mardi Gras bead necklace.

8. Me in necklace and earrings made by Will.

9. Paul feeling better than yesterday, but still rough.

10. Happy to be healthy and happy in New Orleans!

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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Benefit Concert for the children of Katie Young

Justin is a friend of mine from college.  To know him is to like him.  He’s an incredibly talented musician, friendly, and kind-hearted.  I’ve loved seeing pictures of his beautiful family and adorable children, who are not much older than my own kids.

His wife, Katie Young, died tragically in a car accident the day before Halloween.

Today and tonight, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, there is a benefit concert for Justin and Katie’s children.  10% of proceeds from all sales go to support family and the children’s college funds.



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Pre-Halloween Cookie Party

Will had his second ear surgery on Friday.  It was a blow to miss his Halloween festivities at school — and with that, the opportunity to wear Luke Skywalker clothes — so Paul and I tried to make the morning as special as we could.  He watched a Transformers cartoon Movie, one that Paul and I kept remembering and forgetting (Wait, what? Optimus Prime dies? A machine that eats planets?)  We were very supportive and did not make fun of him on the Goofy Juice.  Even when he turned to me and said, “Mommy, I have to say something.  You have two heads.”

He did great.  Both ears were full of fluid.  Instantly after surgery his hearing improved.  Our instructions are to use Cipro drops, which are like liquid gold, to keep his ears clear.  Since it took 3 weeks for one of his last tubes to fall out and 5 months for the other to completely clog, we are looking at daily drops for a long, long time.  Have we put in the drops today? Is the new household mantra.  Please feel free to ask us, because we are likely to forget by tomorrow.

When he left the hospital at 2pm with a sleepy, sleepy kid, we were sure he wasn’t going to make a 6pm party.


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Cookie making with friends trumps ear surgery.

Thank goodness.  We needed the night out, too.

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I know it’s six months away, but who can resist the hat?

hallo 11

Family Life in NOLA

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Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things

If I start now, maybe by Christmas I’ll be caught up on all the thank-yous we owe for the past week. To say that we are humbled by how our friends have supported us through all the craziness is an understatement.

Re-entry to the U.S. after time abroad has historically been hard on us… job layoffs, yellow-jacket attacks, coughing fits that lead to popped-out ribs, identity theft, car failure, malaria-like illness with hospitalization… those are the sorts of things that welcome us back to the States. We figure it’s karma at work. That we have been so lucky in work and travel abroad that things have to go wonky at home in order to even out the karmic balance.

This time back found both of us with mild-but-annoying respiratory crud and Kate not quite over a sinus infection. Kate and I worsened, we saw a medical provider and were treated. Then we were exposed to the flu and took steps to ensure no one would unintentionally bring illness into the kids’ school. Then Will broke his arm. Then he broke out in hives so suddenly and completely, with swelling to his face and lips, that his pediatrician encouraged a fast trip the ER (after 4 hours of waiting without treatment, Will’s face swelling subsided and they left without being seen). Somewhere in all of this, it became clear that my lingering crud was not only failing to improve, but getting worse. So yesterday I saw our new primary care physician for a magical breathing treatment that made Every Difference. Other key moments within all the above were our work hours, finding strange black dust on Kate’s bed from the wall (we don’t thing termites, but what…?), my leaving my wallet in the parking lot of the local grocery store, and the truck clutch giving out mid-intersection (close call).

But the real story is how many people have rallied around us.  So many people have sent well-wishes via phone and email.  Paul’s Mom was here to help with Kate while Paul and I cared for Will and his injury.  Emmy and family brought Will a beautiful made-by-kid-hand card, a huge sack of candy and the biggest darn lollipop I’ve ever seen.  Gwen sent Clare’s dry-arm pouch.  Ann Marie brought red beans and rice with sausage and brownies.  Kathryn brought artisan pizzas, quiche and eclairs.  Ecoee and Melody brought a bag of games and made fabulous make-your-own burrito dinner… with cupcakes. 

No really, check this out:

I know.  I KNOW!

Paul and I are so incredibly thankful and feel so completely and totally speechless.  We look forward to returning each favor.  (We’ll step up our culinary skills for it, promise.)

Also?  We are surrounded by the most wonderful, giving, thoughtful people.  Thank you.


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A gift for the bride and groom, story told in pictures.

Arts & Photography

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Portrait of Ardis

Kate’s first caregiver, Ms. Gladys, (blog mentions of her are here) retired last week.  I used to hang out with Gladys when Kate was a baby. Usually it was to nurse (since Kate was adverse to the bottle and I am adverse to the pump) but sometimes when I’d go in for that afternoon feeding, it was hard to leave. I’d help out around the room, giving a bottle, changing a diaper, or rocking someone to sleep. The perk was that it meant I got to talk to Gladys. Gladys can tell it straight, but has a way of gently leading you to the answer so that you come to it in your own time. She is such a wonderful listener that it is easy to get carried away and babble on and on to her soft affirmations. Eventually, it got easier to ask her questions. This was how I learned about her daughter, Ardis, who died shortly before the Flood came and engulfed their home, taking with it most of their physical memories.

Abeona threw a big surprise retirement party for her last Saturday, with people there representing her 27 years of service.  We helped a friend put together a book, scanning pictures and sending photographs from Abeona’s first three years.  She did a fantastic job on the book, which included photos, stories from families, scanned art projects, and memories reflecting many years of work. But I wanted to do something else and asked for help from staff to make it happen.

As I understand, it took some serious work to get this photograph scanned — the last one taken of Ardis. 

As usual, I forgot about taking photographs of the process until I was well into the piece.

This was my toughest portrait to date, mostly because I was so very nervous to do it.  It felt very personal and, in a way, invasive to be doing this as a surprise.  She hadn’t asked me to do this because she felt I could do the job correctly — it was something I was just doing.  What if there was something I missed?

This is the only finished photograph I have — I didn’t take any of it in it’s frame.

Even now, I’m at a loss of what to say about it.

This is Ardis.  She was a beautiful, smart young woman born to an amazing, compassionate woman.  It was a pleasure to draw her.

Arts & Photography
Family Life in NOLA
Life in New Orleans

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