Cajun Christmas in the Oaks

It was in the mid 60s last night and very humid, chilly and a bit damp, but otherwise a perfect night for a walk in City Park.  I’m embarrassed to admit that this was our first ever visit to Celebration in the Oaks.

Paul was a good sport pushing the kids in the Beamer stroller, while I wandered around with my tripod.  Yup, bad-ass me, with my camera and tripod… with the camera set to a high ISO the whole damn time.  So much for bad-ass.

My old 10D rocks, but at 800 ISO, can get a little grainy.  Oh, well, at least I had the tripod.

There was a laser light show (a little lame, but the kids loved the Rudolph song), dancing lights through the landscaped botanical gardens, a lighted telling of A Cajun Twas the Night Before Christmas, live dancers and singers, hot chocolate and hot dogs, and kiddie rides all decked out for the holidays.

Our favorite area was the Train Garden.  Miniature homes and historic buildings of New Orleans, laid out among streetcar and train tracks.  WAY COOL.

Here’s the Vieux Carre, below:

Here’s the train, comin’ by…

Isn’t it cool?  It was WAY cooler in person, too.  Each building was fascinating in detail and expression and the accompanying literature was interesting and insightful.  Little tidbits of local history.

Kate and Paul check out one of the lighted toys.  I can neither confirm nor deny Kate’s attempt to ride the horse while my eye was lost behind the camera.  We went through Storyland… quickly… as things got busy fast.  We came in at opening, but made the mistake of not running a line straight to the train ride and carousel.  We’ll get those later?  Maybe next year?

It’s just not Christmas without this story:

Words, in case you want to follow along:

Cajun Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.”

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’!

To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

And just in case you need some more Cajun inspiration this holiday:

Happy Christmas Eve!

Art & Photography
Family Life in NOLA
Special Family Moments

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Maybe I’m wrong? Maybe we haven’t evolved?

One of the reasons I have been distracted lately is because I’ve been temporarily stunned to silence by the deafening sound of thousands of foreheads smacking into hands in despair and disappointment.  I’m sure you understand.  You heard the news, right?

Of the 192 countries represented in the UN General Assembly, only 66 (like, a third !!) are willing to support the phrase, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” And the U.S.A., with our fingers wagging at other countries whom we feel are not supportive of human rights (whatever in the world we feel they may be?), is in that pathetic majority.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH.  I hear all the cover-your-ass arguments about federal government and state jurisdiction and blahblahblah.  But you know?  Here’s the thing.  When you take these ridiculous “moral” positions and apply them to policy, it codifies a social dynamic of good versus bad.  In the policy forum, you build systems of inequality.  And in the social forum?  REALLY bad things happen.  Those who are seen as morally deviant are persecuted, seen as disposable, and not afforded the basic human rights to life and dignity*.  By refusing to support a document that recognizes all of us, with all of our wonderful differences and similarities, simply as human beings — it makes it okay to marginalize, penalize, punish, and destroy each other.

It is one thing to have personal or religiously-based reasons to struggle with different sexual orientations.  That is personal situation.  It is another thing all together to not recognize all people, regardless of differences, as human beings.  That is the fuel to the fire of hate, leading directly to the support of acts of violence, bigotry, and xenophobia.  The bottom line is, not supporting this document goes completely against our moving towards a more humane and just world.  (And means that we, the ‘human right watchdog’ U.S., are Big. Fat. Hypocrites.)

But hey, my Grandma taught me to roll with the punches, befriend the enemy, and make change from the inside.  The U.S. has a moral objection to homosexuality for no other real reason than some folks here just don’t like it.  So, since we’re on board for marginalizing people as non-human due to our own personal morals, I’d like to add some things to our “those not human” list.  Here are a few that offend my own moral sensibilities:

— Men who urinate in public.  Definitely against my morals.  Also, a threat to public health.

— People who hawk up snot balls and hork them in public places.  (See above.)

— Creationists.  (I should note that I find stupidity and ignorance to be morally offensive.)

I mean, if people simply loving each other is reason for being sub-human, then surely those on the list above qualify for the same (non)distinction.

Come on, U.S.A.  Come on, people of the world!  Our first job needs to be to protect and promote human rights without exception.  Period.  What are we, if we can’t do something as simple and clear as that?

* There is a good chance that something in one of those links came from Gentilly Girl, who is constantly linking to thoughtful and insightful articles on the topics above.


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Egg nog won’t cut it.

Dear Santa,

When you visit us this year, could you bring something to help me gain the patience I need to deal with my kids non-stop for the next two weeks?  I admit I’ve made some dumb moves (agreeing to teach last minute, for one) that have me thinking about all the other things I’m suppose to be doing… which means that I’m frustrated and not focused on being a Mom right now.  With Paul still working his 18 jobs around the clock and the house in complete chaos, I’m just not in a good place, you know?   Could you bring something to chill that out a little bit?

Oh, and I’m totally cool with pharmaceuticals, if that’s the way you want to go.

Just looking for that Christmas high,


This post is a Monday Mission. This week’s Mission is to write a post in the style of a letter to Santa.


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Geography is not his strong suit.

“Will, what do you think about us spending a few months this summer in a country where everyone speaks French?”

“I think that would be GREAT!”


“YEAH… we could go to MEXICO.”


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Our beloved monster cat, Scout, is missing.

We think he went out the backdoor while Paul was working in the backyard yesterday afternoon.  Unless the weather isn’t agreeable, Paul always works with the backdoor open.  Scout tends to hang around the door, but has never ventured like this before.  It’s not his style (he’s a bit of a ‘fraidy cat).  There have been dozens of times since last night where either Paul or I thought it strange that Scout wasn’t under foot — but neither of us compared notes and put it all together that he was missing until this morning.  It’s strange, but not uncommon, that he isn’t sleeping with us at night (maybe he’s with Will?)  It’s strange, but not uncommon, that he isn’t begging for food at the crack of dawn (maybe he’s asleep under the Christmas tree?)  But when Paul sat in his chair this morning with the kids and Scout didn’t show up to lay on his lap, we realized something was very very wrong.

He has never been outside for any extended time.  After several days of temperatures in reaching 80 degrees, last night turned cold and rainy.

We are completely distraught.  We’ve canvased the neighborhood a dozen times.  We’ve flyered houses and cars.  We’ve crawled under houses.  We’ve called and whistled.  We’ve got food outside.

The kids don’t really understand what is wrong, just that Scout isn’t here (“hey, Mommy, I miss Scout!”), and the fact that they can simply play is both a testament to their innocence and the most annoying thing in the world.  I’m trying to keep myself in check and not direct my worry and frustration into anger at the kids.  Don’t they realize that Mommy and Daddy’s hearts are breaking??

Please help us wish our first baby back home.


UPDATE: 1:52pm.  Paul found him!  On his fourth trip under our neighbor’s house, crawling through fiberglass insulation and petrified cat poop, Paul discovered a small tunnel/path leading to the attached shed on the back of her house… the shed where the water heater is located.  Scout was there, freaked out, and ran away from Paul.  Interestingly, when Paul first looked under her house, he swore he saw something dart around and kept coming back to that area to look.  Apparently, fourth time is the charm.  Paul emerged much dirtier than the cat, who was instantly placed in the tub and washed liberally with Will’s shampoo (much to Will’s delight).

We are making him tags and getting a collar right away.  One that he can’t pry off.  The little shit.


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Rambo would have cried like a baby.

“Mommy, can you get me something to read while I sit on the toilet?”

“You need something to read?”


“Like, a magazine?”

“No.  A book.  Can you get the one in your bedroom that is about ducks?”

Before you go to snap judgments…

That Little Man, the one who wants to read about ducks while sitting on the throne, has silently endured an ear infection so bad that the pressure burst through the membrane of his ear drum and started leaking fluid out of his ear.  I noticed the dried fluid when we came home from his Christmas party Friday morning and within 30 seconds, had the doctor’s office on the phone.  Any thoughts on how painful it must be to have your ear filled with pussy fluid* with pressure so strong that it breaks through an organ?  (Okay, so probably that membrane isn’t an organ.  But wow, shouldn’t this at least be memorable in the short-term?  Cause an ‘ouch,’ maybe?)  I found photographic evidence of it from earlier that morning, from photos I took during the holiday party:

So, just to be clear: men who like to read about ducks on the can are tough.  T-O-U-G-H.

Oh, did I mention?  He wore a red flashing Rudolph nose from the party all afternoon, including through the entire trip to the doctor’s office — thoroughly mortifying the two teenage boys that he sat beside in the waiting room — and delighting everyone that saw him.  You know, while his little 5-year old head was leaking pussy fluid*.

That’s my guy.  Keepin’ it real.

(Last photo by Paul, who took the photo.  Photo by Paul showing Will wearing the stocking on his head, taken by Paul, who took the photo.  Just in case: that last photo?  Paul took it.  Thanks, Paul!)

* Meagan kindly noted my use of the phrase “pussy fluid” (not once, but TWICE) in this post and though it would totally be the right thing to, um, watch my phrase-ology, I just can’t bring myself to change it.  I just can’t stop laughing at myself.


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Photohunt: Wide


Wow, this kind of photography assignment could be dangerous.  Where and what (who?) can I capture as wide?  (My mind panics thinking of the picture of my backside Will took with my camera while I we were decorating the tree last night — mental note, deduct fee from college savings as retribution.)

In this case, what HAVE I captured that speaks to WIDE?  Just saying the word makes me think of the Dixie Chick’s song, Wide Open Spaces, of which I only know the words to that particular phrase in the song.  And I love me some ‘chicks, but whoa, I just can’t get past it while on That Word.

So “wide” in terms of “space” was on my mind as I hunted photos.  And this is what I found.

Wide, open, everything in front of them totally and completely open to them and for them.

Paul and Will, flying a kite, Fort Walton Beach.


No more Dixie Chicks in my head now, as my thoughts have switched to the all-consuming question of why is it, again, that we don’t live there?

Art & Photography

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Not quite as cool as the time release camera would have been.

When Will was born, our multi-talented friend Dave (really, folks, this guy can do anything) made a pencil drawing of infant Will being held by Paul based on a photograph he took of them.  It was and remains one of the most precious gifts we’ve been given.  That feeling of seeing something handmade capturing my baby… the surprise of it, the delicate details within it, the touching realization of someone laying out each detail with line by line care… it hits straight to the heart.

So a few years ago, when I wanted to do something really special for Gwen on Clare’s first birthday, I remembered Dave’s gift.  It had been years since I drew with any regularity — and more than a decade since I had drawn my last portrait sketch.  But I decided I was going to do it, so I made a few practice sketches and worked up to a final product.

A year-and-a-half later, I drew one of my nephew.

And ever since then, I’ve wanted to do more, but couldn’t get around to it.

I knew, too, that I really wanted to try and draw from my own photographs (if possible) so that I could use the camera with a drawing in mind (not every good photograph lends itself to a good drawing).  Ultimately, though, I knew that I wanted to make one for Emmy.  At one point, my goal was to make one as a gift from the school to our director.  But I couldn’t get it together to make it happen.  Even as the thought remained, nothing clicked.   Then she had Oliver this fall and I knew.

In order to make sure I’d follow through, I TOLD a few people.  Then I started.  Checked on what supplies I needed, dug out my old sketch pads, and dove in.  After a few passes during my work and commenting on the progress, Paul finally commented that I should be taking pictures of it step by step.  Here is what I took:

This is my set-up… a few versions of the same photograph in black and white, three graphite pencils of differing softness, charcoal sticks, blending papers, erasers, tissues, a rag and (not pictured) a lamp.  I try to use tissue paper under my hand so that the oils from my hand don’t smudge the rest of the piece.  The rag is to wipe occasionally in case my hands get hot or cramped, the lamp turns on and off to help me see things differently, and I use a ton of erasers because I’m still not convinced any of them are my eraser of choice.

In the picture above, you can see that I’ve filled in some hair, part of an ear, an eye, and his nose.  You can just barely make out the lines of faint charcoal that mark the features I’ve yet to fill in.

Below is another view.  Note that the tissue paper lifts off the charcoal as I go, which is a bummer.  I freaked out a bit when I got to his lips and they were almost completely gone.

Here I’ve filled in the other eye but still have a lot of detail work to add.  I think I ended up re-working this eye three times.

I was most nervous about his lips.  They are so full and puckered — a prominent part of his features.  I knew that this was the make-or-break part of the picture.

This is getting close to done, or so it seems, but really there was still a lot to do.  Filling in the rest of the facial features, shading in the whole face so everything balances.

Almost there!  Can you see any of the detail difference?  Or, better said, do you FEEL the differences?  I feel them before I see them, which sounds a bit out there but is completely true.  Or maybe it’s evidence that I don’t use my words well.

Here is the FINISHED version.  I knew I had to have a frame on hand immediately — lest I would be pulled into messing around more with it and risk ruining it with too much.  (This is one of my greatest weaknesses when I work on a piece… I can’t pull myself away.)  I’m bummed I didn’t think far enough in advance to get a mat.

I gave it to Emmy this morning.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t there when she opened it, but I know it meant a lot to her to receive it.  And maybe this sounds a little trite and Pollyanna-ish, but it meant so much more to me to give it.  I know what it feels like to receive something like this and can say without hesitation that it feels even better to know you’re passing that feeling on… so it makes me all awkward to say ‘you’re welcome,’ when I’m just so happy to have done it at all.

And now?  Now I’m bummed that I just agreed to teach this spring because I want to draw more.

Art & Photography
Arts & Photography

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Breaks my heart without even trying.

Will came home from school to find my sketching supplies out with evidence that I had been using them.  He was curious and paused to look, then ran in the back to change clothes and work on the house with Paul — the call of power tools.

Then, 5 minutes later, he’s back inside.


“Will, dinner is going to be soon, so no snacks.”

“No, Mommy.  I don’t want a snack.  I want to draw.”


“Draw.  Like you.”

Behold, internets.  I give you, MY SON.

What was that, you ask?  That sound?

It was the sound of my heart, breaking into eight thousand pieces a hundred times over.

Family Stories

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Thinking, thinking, thankful.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours in the park photographing some friends.  A family, actually, who we met when they started at Abeona last fall and who remind us of Helen and Paul.  There is just this glow about them — their happiness, their manners, their causal and friendly approach — that reminds us of the friends we miss.  My mind goes there anyway this time of year.  My eyes linger a little longer on the photograph taped to the fridge, the one Helen took of our kids and husbands together in Music Together class.  Seeing it presses the work of being a better person, living more fully, and being grateful into my daily grind.  Then there was a random email about the need for our community to take a stand, again, against crime.  (For those who aren’t up on NOLA news, our Mayor showed up long enough to cut funding on anti-crime activities in a petty hissy fit that the City Council wouldn’t sign off on the ridiculously high salaries for his sycophants.)

These thoughts have had me feeling a bit lost for the past day or so.  Just… off.  Questioning, again, why we work so hard to be here?  Thinking, what would happen if we just… ?

But it’s no point thinking about it, really.  There is no other place for us in this country, we know that now.  Even as I dream of a home near the beach, I know that this could only be a weekend escape, a summer retreat.  Not home.  Not New Orleans.  But still, I question my faith.  I wonder if my longing for this place puts us at risk or inflicts undue hardship.  If life were easier, would we be happier?  I think that I don’t know the answer, so the question remains, plaguing me.

So the affirmation and support from other writers was a huge boost to my spirits.  Especially to see that Lisa, a vineyard owner in California, made the space to so elegantly write about New Orleans and several bloggers — even me, who she pinned so neatly and squarely you’d think we’d been buddies for years.  Amazing, timing wise.  A little holiday cheer so neatly placed right before me.

My favorite thing?  The award is in Portuguese.  (The Spanish would read something like ‘Este Blog invierte y cree en la proximidad.’  Although Jenny or Alejna could probably do better than that with the English, Spanish, and Portuguese translations than I have.)

I’ll pass on the love shortly; once my thoughts settle and clear.

I’m trying to figure out where this award originated?  Any one better at the google search for this type of thing?


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