He is 5 years going on 15, Mother is unprepared.

Kids these days are just growing up so young. At least, this is what I’d heard. But I had no idea that it was the actual truth. Remember that kid of mine? The five year old? Yeah, well, he is now fifteen.

And he is SO OVER us.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I was forcing him into his clothes. Or video-taping him in a school dance. Or passing by the bathroom to find him happily sitting on the can, reading a book about ducks.

Now?  Well, NOW, his once colorful vocabulary has been replaced by the following phrases: “I don’t know” “No” and “This is SO BORING.”  That once bright and cheery disposition has been replaced with eye rolling, deadpan stares, and dragging feet.  In an instant, I have become the annoying after-school special parent.  The perky one whose very existence is such an unbelievable burden that it is nearly impossible to get out bed each morning, put on the clothes she washed, walk down to eat the breakfast she’s made, off of the plates that she’ll clean and put away.

Because Moms are, like, SO LAME.

On the days I pick him up from school, this is the typical exchange:

“Hi, Will!”  I’ll say much too perkily, “What did you do at school today?”

Will is silent.  He cannot speak while within viewing distance of the school. He melts into his seat, clearly pained to be seen. Did you know how difficult it is to like, breathe and stuff??

“Will? Will? WILL? Are you there?” I hate to be ignored.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID AT SCHOOL TODAY.”  He’s working hard to end the conversation before it starts.  I’m not yet convinced.  I mean, he used to just need a little help remembering...

“You don’t remember?”


I wait.  Maybe he needs some time?  Five minutes later…

“Hey Will, did you have art today?”   pause.  “Or English with Ms. Roxanna?”  These are his favorites, maybe he’ll talk about this?

“I.  don’t.  know.”

“Did you…”  Okay.  Now I’m just being silly.  I’m about to ask him if he went skydiving or visited Pluto or watched Dangerous Liaisons or learned about existential philosophy.  Sometimes, it makes him laugh?

“Mommy, do we have to talk? It’s SO BORING.”  That’s it.  He’s made it clear.  He’s not interested in playing my reindeer games.

Then, this morning, as he jumped out of his seat to run into school, he made the teacher pause just a second as he climbed to the front to plant a big kiss, square on my lips.  In front of the school, teachers, friends, and everyone.  If I look a little frazzled today, it’s because I’m still recovering from the shock.

Maybe I’m not so bad after all?  At least, not yet…


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Starting the year with a bang!

You will not believe what I am about to tell you.  I know that you won’t because if you had told me before I had experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But here it is:

The Most Incredible New Year’s Fireworks happen in Harahan, Louisiana.

“Harahan, the little industrial satellite of New Orleans proper, floating along the Mississippi in the shadow of the Huey P. Long?  THAT Harahan?”

THAT Harahan.  I know.  I’m still a little astounded, myself.

We didn’t have the video camera or the still camera to really capture it, but could one really?  Maybe, too, it’s the surprise of quality home-spun fireworks, coming from every vantage, that boosts the collective experience into something of legend.  All night, we had ventured out from Renee’s to watch her “redneck neighbors” light off fireworks (the phrase was used as a term of endearment, particularly considering present company).  And while they were generally good and impressive fireworks, we really didn’t think much more was going to happen.  But after listening to Renee’s insistence about how it was going to “knock your socks off” once midnight hit, we were convinced to go out again, in the cold, to see what would happen at 12.

Most were completely illegal, no question.  Word is that “a place on the West Bank” can hook you up.  They weren’t of the same force of, say, of the professional rockets used in a major city’s display — only because they didn’t have the powder to go as high.  But they were that big.  And that colorful.  And with all the little trick fireworks that you see in the big displays: the multi-color blooms, the ones that sparkle, the ones that pop and then explode in a hundred stars, the zingers, the changing-color ones that fill the sky.  All of them — and with precision, overlap, and timing that one would expect from a professional display.  But here was the truly amazing part…

It wasn’t just the 15 minutes of fireworks happening 20 feet away, filling the sky right above our heads.  It was that there were more than a dozen — at least — displays of the same type and caliber happening all around us.  Down the street, across the highway, a few streets over.  Filling the sky at nearly perfect 5 degree marks completely around us.  Surrounded by fireworks.  Everywhere, fireworks.  All of us stood in the street with our mouths hanging open, and as it continued, a few fell into impressed shouts and whoops, and a few (me included) into disbelieving laughter.  All Paul could say was, “no one will ever believe us.”

Indeed.  I know you don’t.  You can’t.  It’s just not possible.

But you heard it here: Harahan, Louisiana is the place to be for fireworks on New Year’s Eve.


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Goes great with spaghetti!

Try a taste here.

With special thanks to Jenny, who has made Paul’s internet experience so, so more delightful.


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Jasmine, Cloves, and Red Silk

I was going to write about my ongoing struggle with video games and handheld electronics… the weight of my son’s interest and inclination to them, my technology and development professional spouse, the heavy use these items get in my parents’ home, and where I sit in all of it.

But my heart is in India right now.

I have never south of Delhi, but the entire country has held my imagination captive for more than 6 years now. The sweet, humid air, the chaos and order, the colors and life. My friends are all in the north and are safe, but their work relies on international travel and interest. It may very well suffer in the months to come. If I were a praying person, I would pray that reaction to the tragedies unfolding involve the recognition of suffering and need rather than bombs and bullets. Please please let this end much more peacefully than it began and all who are under threat right now come through.

Home and Renovation

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Construction of The Man Palace Continues…

What is this outbuilding, anyway? Well, technically, it’s a storage shed. The leaky, termite-infested space which has held Paul’s tools, hockey equipment (just consider, for a moment, the smell on those pads after 5 summers out there), and dreams of woodworking, electronics tinkering, and grilling. In other words, that little space with no heat or A/C is the room of my husband’s dreams. It’s his Man Palace.


Cien and Paul continue to replace termite-eaten boards and have come up with an awesome design of the ‘new’ outbuilding (T.he M.an P.alace). The idea is that the center will be open, with windows in the back letting in light, and with the two sides having french doors. In the picture above, you can kind of make out the center opening. Below, you can see where they have framed out the opening for the new window on one of the sides.

This is the northern side of the building, the one featured in the post below.

This is a ground view of our yard, leading to the outbuilding. Will we ever be free of debris? In the background sits our Mardi Gras float. The one we build last February out of the wood we use to board up the house during a hurricane. Which was why we didn’t have enough wood to cover all the windows when we left for Gustav. Priorities, people. Can’t say we don’t have a firm grip on what is important.

Cat calls are perfectly acceptable while viewing the next few pictures.

This is really why we bought a fixer-upper. So I could sit back and watch him walk around with a tool belt, carrying heavy stuff.

As if that weren’t enough, he’s doing it in his geeky computer guy shirt. Did someone turn the heat up in here??


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Do not read while drinking grape juice.

A local blogger I admire tagged me and I’m feeling a bit like the freshman that gets called over to the senior lunch table. If I were, actually, a freshman walking over to the senior lunch table, what would happen next is that I would trip and shower the coolest of the group in grape juice, which I don’t even drink but happened to have it because the lunch lady with the droopy eye put it on my tray and I didn’t have the heart to put it back and hurt her feelings. Then all the seniors would laugh at my accident and the fact that I was drinking grape juice, and never know that if only they had just given me a chance, I could have been the one to jump the car when it stalls next Saturday night and save the day by having everyone home by curfew. If only.

The rules.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things.

1. I have a tough time following directions. It’s not that I can’t follow directions, or willingly choose to ignore directions, it’s just that when the directions don’t make sense (which is often the case) I find another, more sensible way. What are directions, anyway, but advice? Sometimes it has to be looked at from other angels, right? Because of my issues with directions, I typically ask for forgiveness, not permission, for things. While this has gotten me in heaps of trouble from time to time, I think that it is one of my best qualities.

2. I slept with a security blanket called “Me-Me” until my son, Will, was born. Although there were several Me-Me’s through the years, around age 8 the quilted Strawberry Shortcake blanket made by my neighbor became the “main” Me-Me. When we evacuated for Katrina, I left MeMe in a drawer in my bedroom. What finally made me break down in tears on Day 3, breaking through the shock and denial, was the realization that MeMe was there and I had no idea if I would hold MeMe again. (MeMe, by the way, is gender-neutral, neither male nor female. As a child, I felt very strongly about this and remember taking a swing at a kid who insisted that MeMe was a girl because it was pink.)

3. I kept my name when I got married. That means that my name is exactly the same as what it was before I was married. That means I am not a “Mrs.” It means there is no hyphen. There is no additional name on the end of my name. It means that the name on my birth certificate is the same one I have now, after 8 years of marriage, and it’s the same one I’ll have 50 years from now. It means that my last name is different than my kids’, who have Paul’s last name (they have my last name for their middle names). While those are the facts, I’m okay with almost everyone — including my closest and oldest friends — consistently getting this incorrect. It was my (and Paul’s) choice and is what works for us, but I don’t have the need to shove it down other people’s throats or make my choice superior to what anyone else decides to do. It’s just a name.

4. The trait that I find most deplorable in people — more than ignorance, arrogance, or pretension — is when people complain but do nothing to be part of a solution. I’m all for sarcasm and wit, and will admit to feeling apathetic at my low points, but I find those who — no matter how intelligently — bitch and moan about things (life, work, politics, kids, schools, health, whatever) and don’t show the initiative to try something different to change the situation, to be closed-minded, resistant people who are a bore to be around.

5. I decided to have children early in my career because I wanted my parents around for as much of my childrens’ lives as possible, because the earlier a woman gives birth the better the outcomes for both mother and child, and because I think it’s ridiculous that women in academics have to ‘delay’ having children inorder to be seen as ‘serious’. But now that I have children, I must admit that it has slowed me down (not necessarily a bad thing) and because of how it has impacted my particular circumstances, I know it has limited my intended international health career. I have no idea what I will do or what will happen after I graduate.

6. The first time Paul and I locked eyes, as he walked up to the booth where I was selling tickets to a play, I felt a shock run through me. We had dinner the following night, went hiking at Mountain Lake (where the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ was filmed) the day after that, and have been together since then. Until I met Paul, I thought love at first sight was a ridiculous, foolish notion, based on lust, not true companionship. With this, as with other things I’m always learning, I was happy to be wrong.

Now I’m suppose to tag 6 others, which gets me all freshman-lunchroom anxious. Maybe if I admitted in one of my 6 random things that I was a total nerd that it would clear up any misconceptions I have regarding whether anyone will actually respond. (In other words, I expect no one.) But I’ll work with optimism and with the spirit of getting to know people whose blogs I’ve recently found and am enjoying. Here’s my list:

Su, because she has a 5-year old son, plays the piano, and is very likely someone who can correctly pronounce my last name in one try. (And also because I find her writing inspiring.)

Jen, because she rocks an incredible job, is moving to a paradise where everything will be different and so much will be same, and because there is so much that can be done.

Magpie, because “filch” still wins out as my current favorite word.

…and I can’t think of anyone else because it’s Will’s 5th Birthday and my brain is occupied with intense ponderings over the passage of time and how I could possibly have a 5 year old and be just 23 years old? (If you’re reading this — please feel the love, and take the tag if the mood strikes.)


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Pumpkins on the Farm

A cutesy fall picture to cheer us up after the disappointment of leaving the unbelievably delicious leftovers from our lunch at Lilette to spoil in the car.


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Birthday Smirthday

With the ongoing birthday drama, I thought it would be helpful to list some of what I’ve found out about birthday options in the Greater New Orleans area. If you, like me, cannot host a birthday in your house and feel oddly compelled to still have one, here are the options I’ve found… with my take on each.

Please feel free to help me with other ideas!

Audubon Park. Bathrooms are few and far between, but the park is beautiful and space is plentiful… if you manage to not co-incide your event with a big family reunion blarring music, a huge walk-for-(insert cause here), or a torrential rainstorm. If you want electricity, you’ll need a shelter, and those range in price from $125-550 per day, depending on the shelter size and location. Space walks and the like are allowed with permits. There are two smallish ‘tracks’ good for small kids to bike their hearts out. Shleping stuff in and around the park can be a pain, but that’s why we families have wagons.

Audubon Zoo. Best I can tell, arranging to have a party at the Zoo is a painful, expensive process where you have to hound your friends and neighbors for their membership status and plans of party attendance weeks in advance of your party or else the Zoo Keepers come and pop the balloon of the birthday child and confisicate all their presents. Just reading the rules and requirements made my head spin.

The Children’s Museum. This seemed more reasonable than the Zoo, but I avoid TCM on Saturday mornings because it’s CRAZY when parties are in session. Maybe parties there are better with kids 8 and older who know how to elbow kids for a turn.

The Monkey Room. The new hotness. Super-fun indoor play-yard for kids wearing socks. They must wear socks. A very reasonable $90 on the weekdays and $125 on the weekends gets you 2 hours in a party room (there are two) and each kid who comes to the party is an additional $5 and has free reign to Monkey their hearts out. They give you plates, utensils, and cups and will help you coordinate food delivery from local vendors. Except for random Monday nights, they are pretty much booked solid on parties until 2010.

Ivanov’s Gymnastics (Metairie). We went here for a party pre-K. Will was two and the party was for a 4-year old — everyone had a great time. They set up an obstacle course of gym mats and bounce equipment for the kids and then did some activity games. A small party room was used for the last 30 minutes for cake cutting. 90 minutes total for $170. Not a lot of room for loitering parents, but we had fun watching the kids bounce around. They pretty much just have parties on weekends.

Creole Creamery. Ice cream parties offered before they open at noon (parties are from 10:30-12). The whole place is yours to play in, with the last 30 minutes for make-your-own-Sundays ($190 covering 20 Sundays, $5 for each additional Sunday). Older kids can have a ‘this is how we make ice cream’ tutorial party for $250, followed by MYOS. Parents can buy their own treats either on a party tab or pay-as-you-go. Love the idea, but hated the thought of feeding 5 year olds ice cream at 11am and then sending them home to their parents.

Gym Rompers. Big beautiful church room with bad indoor lighting holding a ton of fun toddler and preschool climbing equipment. We did this for Will’s birthday last year (thank goodness, since there was frost on the ground that morning!) They do a short story/song game with the kids, too. There is a stage set up in the room with a long table for a last-supper type cake and ice cream celebration. $200 for 2 hours.

Elmwood Kidsports. The Harahan mega-gym has a variety of parties, two offering indoor play spaces and one seasonal pool party option. The price range goes from $10.95-15.95 per child, with minimums of 15 or 20 children depending on which option you choose. One party option is a huge inflatable obstacle course with climbing and a trampoline. In this option, you stay in the room the entire time, even for cake and snacks. The other party goes from room to room (where different equipment is located) at the sound of a bell for 60 minutes and then spends 30 minutes in a tiny party room for snacks and cake (we’ve attended one of these parties before — fun but sort of loud and crazy). You basically can’t bring a thing — they provide food options, cake options, and only provide utensils, table clothes, plates and napkins if they provide the cake. They provide juice boxes for kids and have soft drink pitchers available for purchase for parents. They also have a Gymnastics party option in a separate facility down the street with similar pricing and offers.

Rivertown Kenner Science Center. $200 for 2 hours, facility is open to the public during the party (but since it’s not particularly busy on any day, this isn’t necessarily a big deal). Sort of a really really really small children’s museum, with toys and a few exhibit type things to play with. Bring quarters for the little rides. There is an upper level that involves steep stairs, so you’ll be freaking out about toddlers in a party environment. Otherwise, it’s a decent size and there is plenty of seating and tables for food within the center itself.

City Park. The Carousel Gardens offers parties located around different rides in the amusement area, including the carousel, from $250-300 for 1 1/2-2 hours. Some parties are offered before the area opens to the public at 11, others are offered during opening hours. Storyland also offers party space within it’s storybook themed areas, ranging from $150-250. You bring everything into the park and do your own set up and clean up. The parks are contained but still spacious and you need a lot of adult supervision, particularly for small children. The parties limited to one ride (i.e.: the City Park Train or the Carousel) are more contained in one spot.


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School Daze

The kids are a few weeks into their new school and Paul and I are finally getting adjusted.  The kids figured things out pretty quickly, but us?  We have new kids, new teachers, AND new parents to get to know with only a few minutes each day to sort it out.  It’s a big step for us.

So last week, we attended the first parent-group meeting for the kids school.  We got there early, so that Paul could hang huge curtains on the massive windows upstairs while I navigated the waters of a strange new parent group below.  A few minutes into the meeting, the 10 foot ladder that Paul was on the Very Top Of collapsed on it’s bottom rung.  Consider first, the danger: the damage of a 10 foot fall, coupled with the collapse of a huge metal ladder, and school tables and shelving lining the floor beneath.   Then picture the amazing response: a teacher happened to walk by the room at the very instant the ladder buckled, bearing shocking witness to Paul RIDING THE LADDER TO THE GROUND AS IT COLLAPSED UNDER HIM.  Yep.  He walked away just fine.  I’m placing a bet that Paul’s next job is with Cirque di Soleil.

Despite Paul’s near-death experience at our first official school volunteerism event, we are now officially volunteers with committees and such.  We have met a lot of very nice, down to earth, unpretentious parents… and a few who have given us well-intended lectures about the importance of parental involvement in school, how rewarding it is, and how we really should find a way to get involved.  It gives us a good laugh.

Will is picking up French like a sponge, randomly throwing out French words in conversation.  The best is the word “bleu” pronounced by Will as “BLEGH” and taking the place of where he would normally say the word “blue”.  Like, for example, “Mommy, when I wear my Superman sunglasses, they make everything look BLEGH.”  Kate’s French comes from repeating whatever Will says.  This means that the most commonly heard phrase in the house is “BLEGH.”

What is most definitely NOT BLEGH is the school hot lunch program.  We signed up both kids for a song, considering that now I know that school hot lunch is The Most Amazing Thing in the World, and that I would rip my kidney out with a spoon, eat ramen for a year, and even say something nice about Sarah Palin if it meant keeping my kids in the program.  And it’s not just that I no longer have to worry about going to the store for lunch supplies, or packing lunches, or making sure containers are clean, or juice is made, or freezer packs are frozen… I also don’t have to stress over whether or not they eat dinner.  I know that they are getting a good lunch at school (or, at least, I make myself believe this by dutifully ignoring the school lunch menu) and therefore, have officially stopped having to panic over whether or not dinner is something they choose to eat.  Or, more aptly put, my desire to stuff food down those ungrateful whiny throats encourage them to eat is greatly diminished.

This Thursday, while Paul and I board a direct flight to Boston, Will is going on a field trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art.  I’ve made it a point to be at every school event before, and I am pretty disappointed to miss the trip — where Will is going on his first ever school bus (not counting the school buses he rode as an infant in Honduras) and his first ever Art Museum.  But once Paul and I are on that quiet airplane, deciding whether or not to read novels, gaze into each other’s eyes, take in a few moments of restful sleep, or basque in the comfort of hearing someone else’s kid howl through the flight… I don’t think I’ll be as bothered by it.


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Fay, Fay, GO AWAY.

Last night, Paul and I took Will out for some special time.  Driving across the bridge from Fort Walton Beach to Destin, we noticed some older looking planes flying in formation overhead.  We drove around the beach side of Destin, hopped out at the park at the edge of island, and climbed through the sand to watch the sunset and see what the planes were up to more clearly.  The planes quickly returned, looping around blowing colored smoke, flying low over the jetties and into the bay, and swooping up to the sky making shapes and swirls with their trails.  What were they?  (Skip?  Are you reading this?)  They were P-51 Mustangs, a fighter aircraft used during the Second World War.  It was incredible to see them making tricks in the air, over the golden bay and sea, against the painted sky.  I’d share the moment photographically, but — dotcha know? — I had left both cameras back at the condo.

Murphy isn’t done with me just forgetting my camera during once-in-a-lifetime moments.  No, no, it was just the beginning.  This morning, Will and I swam in an absolutely still ocean — we actually went out with our diving masks a good 60 yards or so — because of the dead calm of the water, we were able to go out without swells or waves without Will feeling vulnerable.  The sea was filled with seaweed, though, which Will has aptly named ‘sea boogies;’ a description that sort of sums up what it is like to swim through.  The calm was so odd that it made it hard to ignore the clouds piling up in the sky.

Around noon, the wind picked up and enough clouds showed up to block the sun for the first time in 4 days.  Now, the sky is thinly overcast, a light blue color, with the sea still as clear and calm as it was this morning.  We’re buckling down with puzzles, a bunch of craft ideas (including buckets of white sand in protected buckets on the porch), and books.  (This last one is my hopeful and wishful thinking… I just want to curl up with The Kite Runner.)  Rainy day activity ideas appreciated!


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