Birthday, presents, and another year…


Did you catch that thing in the last post about the Epiphany celebrations in Ireland?  Where they honor today as “Women’s Christmas” and all the women party all day while the good gents take over all duties of home and family?  I completely and totally subscribe to that tradition as my Official Birthday Tradition from now on.  Paul willingly and thoughtful fulfilled all that he could to free me up today, but unfortunately work was not quite so forgiving.  Next year I’ll plan ahead.


Alejna and I are introducing THE BEST OF JUST POSTS 2009 — we (with other readers, hopefully you, too!) are looking for THE BEST Just Posts from last year.  Nominations for the year’s best posts are currently being accepted.  In roughly two weeks (stay tuned!) we will open up a space for online voting and give awards (presents! whee!) to the winner in each category.  (You’re perfectly welcome to start practicing your fabulous acceptance speech; you’ll find no judgment here.)

You can view all the Just Posts from last year by going here and read more about the Just Posts here.

Just Post entries are encouraged from anyone at anytime!


I participated in Holidailies again this year and enjoyed the challenge.  My humble thanks go out to the two who host the event.  The community they create is warm and friendly; I’ve found other interesting and kind bloggers through the site.  They also chose a ‘best of’ that is selective enough to be manageable to read, which is a great way to find other interesting blogs (and thank you, mystery readers for my own additions to this list!)



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Epiphany 101

Borrowing from the incomparable list-making of Alejna, this is a list related to EPIPHANY.

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Epiphany: In name and title

Epiphany: Sudden flashes of realization

  • Epiphany, the sudden discovery of some meaning.
  • Epiphany is also used to describe religious visions, such as Theophany, Hierophany, and Darsana.

Epiphany: A holiday around the world

  • According to the Gospel of Matthew, the three Kings (Magi) followed a Star in the heavens to the Baby Jesus, arriving with gifts for him on the day now celebrated as Epiphany.  Melchior represented Europe, arrived on horseback and brought gold.  Gaspar represented Arabia, arrived in camel, and brought frankincense.  Balthazar represented Africa, arrived on elephant, and brought myrrh.  Most Christian calendars recognize this date as January 6th.
  • Some branches of Christianity celebrate the coming of Epiphany by honoring it as the Twelfth Night.  These Christians Twelve Holy Days from December 26th to January 6th is considered the spiritual heart of the year to follow, with January 6th as “Holy of the Holiest.”
  • In England, “Twelfth Night” is traditionally the last opportunity to party before the resumption of post-holiday work.  The “Yule Log” is kept lit until Twelfth Night to bring good fortune in the new year.
  • Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the Baptism of Jesus with the Feast of Theophany (literally, “manifestation of God”) on January 6th.  They also perform the “Great Blessing of the Waters.”  In Greek Orthodox tradition, during the “Blessing of the Waters” celebration, young men dive into the water to retrieve a cross that was thrown in by a priest after being blessed.  The first man to find it is believed to have good luck for a year.
  • In Ireland, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th under the name Little Christmas (Nollaig Bheag) , or Women’s Christmas.  This is the first time I’ve heard of Women’s Christmas (Nollaig na mBan), but the general idea is that men take up all duties related to house, home, and family, and women party all day.
  • Italian children hang their socks on the eve of January 6th for Befana to visit to fill them with candy or coal, behavior dependent.  This is similar to Russia’s Baboushka,  who also provides presents on the eve of Epiphany.
  • In Spanish tradition, on the even of the Day of the Kings (El Dia de los Reyes), children polish and leave their shoes ready to accept presents from the Kings.  Roscon, a special type of bread decorated with candy fruit, is made.
  • In Mexico, children may leave shoes near the family nativity season or under a tree, with notes with toy requests for the Kings, sometimes with offerings of hay for the Kings’ animals.  A bread called Rosca de Reyes is made in the shape of a King’s crown and holds a small doll inside.  The person who finds the doll in their bit of Rosca is responsible for throwing a party on February 2nd, “Candelaria Day”.
  • Similarly, in Puerto Rico, children traditionally fill a box with hay and put it under their beds.  They eat Rosca de Reyes in the evening, with a small doll inside representing the baby Jesus.
  • The Christmas season ends on January 6th in the Philippines for Tatlong Hari (“Three Kings”).  Children here also leave shoes out, so that candy or money may be placed inside.  Others greet one another with the phrase “Happy Three Kings!”
  • The gâteau des Rois is eaten in France on Epiphany.  This is a kind of king cake, with a trinket (usually a porcelain figurine of a king) or a bean hidden inside.  The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes “king” for a day.  King cakes are eaten in other areas of Europe, including Belgium and Portugal.
  • King Cake is also available in Louisiana starting on January 6th, as Epiphany marks the start of the Carnival Season, which lasts to Mardi Gras Day.  (Side note: I’m all about blasphemy, but eating King Cake before January 6th is seriously messed up.)

Epiphany: The day that comes tomorrow

  • Epiphany = January 6th = tomorrow.
  • It is the last day of the yearly daily blogging event, Holidailies.
  • King cakes will go on sale in New Orleans; Paul will have jury duty; and Kate will go to the Aquarium on a field trip.
  • My age will change from age 21 to age 22.  In hex.
  • Tomorrow, January 6th, is My Birthday.



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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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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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12 days of Christmas, in sound only.

We’re 6 days into the business trip, and here is where we’re at:

Twelve critical car failures
Eleven inside-out shirts
Ten broken pieces
Nine honey-soaked shelves
Eight groceries lost
Seven piles of cat puke
Six un-mailed packages

….Five sections of tree lights out!….

Four flat-tire helpers
Three more days of single-parenting
Two arguing children

Mi Familia

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My kids are going to FREAK.

We celebrate Christmas because it would feel strange not to, I think that is the bottom line. Also, I love the idea of the “season of giving” — and when we talk about Christmas, this is the way we frame it. We say that people, for centuries and eons and since time forgotten have had these mid-winter celebrations, all right around when the days are the shortest of all the year.

We have explained that some celebrate the life of a man named Jesus, who some believe was special because he did nice things for others. I’m pretty sure I use those words exactly. We hadn’t spoke much about God in the past, just “Gods” in the sense of mythology, with Christian myth as prevalent than those of Greece and Egypt. Then, God came into our household on the silver voice of some proselytizing child in summer camp. Initially we were troubled, but decided to take it in stride. It gave a good learning opportunity. That not all people believe the same thing and that this is okay. In fact, it can be very important… otherwise, how we would ever learn new to see new things?

I feel good about our celebration of Christmas, even as atheists, because I love ritual and celebration and delight in giving. Like it or not, Santa is a modern day representation of these things, so we have chosen to embrace him.

Does all of this justify my use of The Santa Threat during the holiday season? Maybe it’s appropriate that Santa represents Christian tradition, as I am definitely applying him within a fire-and-brimstone theology. Or, more likely, I am just really being lazy and need to step up on my parenting.

In any case, it’s been hot and heavy over the last day, These Threats. I feel badly about it. It’s bad parenting, sure, but it’s also working against my view of how we participate in this whole darn holiday. So when I saw Emmy had made these for her kids, I had to join in.

I give 50/50 odds that upon hearing her name in the first 3 seconds, Kate misses the rest in her excited squealing and that Will gets so worked up he has to run to the bathroom and miss the entire video.

Here’s Will’s.

Here’s Kate’s.

Mi Familia

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Twas the first night of Paul’s business trip

Twas the first night of Paul’s business trip, and all through the house,
The cat lay not stirring, reminding me of said spouse.
There were stockings somewhere… maybe in the front room?
But we can’t hang them or Kate will pull them down with a boom.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
Because I tucked six blankets up to their heads.
After sitting up to watch Modern Family online,
I sat fighting the urge to calm my thoughts with wine.

Remembering this morning, when out of the blue,
The car coughed and bucked and made sounds like ‘poo-poo.’
In a flash, I called Georgia and then, in a jiffy,
She convinced me that things would turn out just spiffy.

So tomorrow I’ll go to G’s and find out more on the car
(while wondering why this only happens when Paul is out so far).
And thanking my wonderful friends, oh the many
Who are offering help, more and more, plenty, plenty.

So with this, I send one last thought off into the night,
Thank you thank you, one and all!  And to all a Good Night!

Mi Familia

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Holiday Photos and the Quest for Eerie Perfection.

Picture-portraits have been a key part of our holidays for the past few years.  Specifically, I take holiday portraits for families as a fundraiser for our beloved preschool.  There is always a little craziness around it — what is the best way to give families the most options of photographs, what to charge that makes enough money for the school to be worthwhile without being out of reach, how to minimize the amount of one-on-one coordination and money collecting, and so on.  This year, I think we struck gold in the set-up: weekend portraits scheduled in back-to-back 15-20 minute time slots over a few hours.  Families come, sit, have pictures made, and leave.  For a set fee, I send out one favorite JPG with all the bells and whistles of color enhancing, teeth whitening and booger removal.  The money goes right to the school, and each family gets a photo for their holiday cards.

Sounds simple, right?

Right, except that *I* am involved… and nothing I do is ever simple.  Part of the problem is me, myself.  I live to please and I love to photograph… a dangerous combination.

And then there is the insecurity around my inability to guarrantee THAT photograph.

You know what I’m talking about.  THAT photograph is the one every family wants.  It’s the one that you want.  It’s the one that I want.  The one where you and all your kin sit around looking lovely.  Everyone is looking into the camera.  Everyone is smiling their nicest, brightest smile.  It’s PERFECT, THAT photograph.  Eerily… perfect.

It’s not that it is always impossible.  THAT picture is much more likely once all kids are older and sort of get that it is in their best interest to look their bright and shiny best for photographs.

But when they are little?

It is even a realistic expectation?  And further, should it be?

Yeah, I can get that adorable little child to smile for a fraction of a second and be ready to capture it with my shutter… but I’ll promise you dollars to donuts that Mom or Dad or Sister Sue is talking, waving a hand, or closing their eyes at exactly the same time.  And we can fire photograph after photograph all day, but the bottom line is that kids can’t handle more than 10, maybe 15 minutes of posed portraits before they explode.  Literally, explode, right their in their parents laps.

The bottom line is that every moment of being a parent of a small child means, well, parenting that small child.  And the camera captures reality.  Not some eerily perfect moment with everyone doing exactly the same thing and looking in exactly the same direction and smiling their exactly the same perfect smiles in their perfectly beautiful matching outfits.  It sure looks pretty.  But our eyes know what families look like.  They are crazy and wonderful — arranging, calling, clapping, laughing, encouraging — all to make one moment of stillness and calm.   If it works and we see THAT picture, we know that there is something a little… surprising about it.  We wonder, How did they do that? How did they get that picture?  It looks pretty, but… what story does it tell?  And is the story it tells an authentic one?

I’m not sure it is.  Authentic.  How can it be when it comes from my shouting, LALALALALALALALA look heeeerrrrrrrrreeee babbbeeeeeee!  — MOM, EYES UP, DAD, DON’T TALK — LALALALALALA baaaaaabbbbbbeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!  And if I’m really lucky, this is combined with Paul in the background jumping up shouting PEAK A BOO from behind me.

All this, to get THAT photo.  It’s no wonder it looks eerie.

But still.  I work and work and work for THAT picture and beat myself up when it doesn’t happen.  I mean I really feel guilty.  I feel like it should be something I can do at will — that it should just HAPPEN.  I have the stuff… the toys in the bag, the comb and tissue and wet ones.  I have an eye to see when things are off and can fix them.  But still… I manage to capture reality.  I can’t seem to create that fleeting moment of eerie wonder that everyone wants.

And then?  I feel like I’ve let someone down.

Even with photographs of my own family.  Just look.

But.  Maybe.  Just Maybe…

… this is better?  Cheesy, yes, but gives a bit more personality…?


I mean, compared to this?

Don’t my children look miserable?  I mean, honestly, how can we expect them to SIT for FIVE SECONDS?  It’s no use bribing.

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That look below is suppose to be Will’s nice smile.  I will find a way to make him pay for this during his teenage years.  And where is Kate?  Also, might I consider getting a hair cut and touching up highlights more often than every 8 months?

Can you tell I’m running back and forth setting the timer on the camera?  (A remote trigger would be a nice touch, Santa.  Ahem.)

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So, maybe, instead, we should stick to this?

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It’s messier than the posed family shot, sure.  Personality over perfection.  Maybe I’ll feel better if I lead with my strengths?


With that, if I were to photograph you and your family — what would you want?  What do you look for in a photographer?  What kinds of photographs do you want after a sitting?  What do you expect to pay and what kind of flexibility do you want?  Is there such a thing as a good holiday photo that isn’t “perfect”?

Art & Photography
Family Photos

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Soundbite Edition.

Us: “Will, what’s that stamp on your hand?”

Will: “I got it because I read and spelled words right!”

Us: “That’s great!  What words?”

Will: “Um, words like… HER.  S-H-R.  Her.”


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