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All on a Lundi Gras Day

Sun is napping.  CS and Pete are at lunch with Katie and Daisy.  The TV is off; the dishwasher just shut down.  Hear that?  Nothing sounds sooo good.

So why am I enjoying the quiet?  Allow me to recap.

Thursday night: Krewe of Babylon and Knights of Chaos.  Left before Muses.  Loved Babylon and Chaos.  Great representation of the traditional and satirical parade, respectively.

Friday night: Krewes of Hermes and D’Etat. Left during Morpheus.  No Sun.  Got to see two old friends riding in Hermes.  Even texted each other during the parade so we’d not miss each other.  What a world!  Again, excellent presenations of the traditional and the satirical parade.  Fave of the night, hands down, Krewe D’Etat’s Dancing Darlings, the Papal Police poking fun at the mis-handling and injustice of the closing of local Catholic Churches.

Saturday: Krewe of Endymion at a private party.  Ahhhh.  Fave of the night?  Grilled oysters of the half shell.  The parade was just a backdrop to a very nice party.

Sunday: Krewe of Bacchus at my favorite family spot.  Sun and CS stayed home.  For about a decade now, I have been watching the parades that start at Tipitina’s pretty much right at the start.  I won’t say too much how awesome the spot is because one of the things that make it awesome is that it’s a much thinner crowd.  And we like it that way.  So if you are drunk and college-aged, stay on St. Charles.  Or better yet, in the Quarter.  Don’t mess with the family area on Napoleon Avenue.  My distant family has a home on the route and I have a house just off the route.  So this spot to catch parades is just home for me.  And it will be for Sun, too, in the years that come.

My neighbor rides in Orpheus tonight.  He’s in his 70s.  His wife is manning the 2 ten-top tables they have at the Orpheuscapade.  She says her daughter is the ringleader to such a big showing at the Ball.  Her daughter tells her that she blames her, my neighbor, her mother, for her love of Carnival because, my neighbor told me, “I dragged her to parades since before she was Sun’s age!”  I told my neighbor there were worse habits to have than a love of Mardi Gras.  She readily agreed with me.  I also mentioned this was Sun’s second Mardi Gras, and I could only hope that as an adult she loves it as much as her daughter does.

And tonight, Krewes of Pegasus and Orpheus.  With Sun.  And her newly-painted ladder.  At our beloved family spot.  With Katie and Slappy and Pete and Daisy and CS too.  Oh, my.

Education Lamentation

Sun is a year and a half.  I have been going to open houses for her grammar school.  I KNOW I am way early.  But I am a worrier and a planner. So there you have it.

Before I selected the schools to view, I talked to friends in the know and got their recommendations.  Ultimately, I will visit six schools.  Three because they are in the neighborhood and I feel I owe them a fair shake.  The other three came highly recommended.

The first I attended was one on the Highly Recommended list.  I liked it.  It didn’t WOW me.  But it didn’t deter me either.

Then I went to the second school.  And then the third.  Both being close to my house and Catholic.

Not to go off on a tangent, but in New Orleans, there is a VERY SMALL number of good public schools.  We do not live in those districts, and to get in those schools when you don’t live in the district is hard and not predictable.  So, private school is much more the option.  And privately, you can go religious or not.  Generally speaking, the Catholic schools are more prevalent, more affordable, and offer solid educations.  My husband and I both went through Catholic grammar and high schools as children; it is what we know and are familiar with, so such schools lead the pack for us.

The two schools I visited after that first school were nice enough.  They just fell short for me in one way or another.  One was too suburban and non-diverse, racially, and the other was way too small.  Both had what appeared to be mediocre pre-K classes as compared to the classes offered at what will be Sun’s daycare.

So three down, three to go.  The top two recommended are likely to be where I will make a decision from.

My point?

Through this process, my husband commented that we are doing FAR MORE than most parents do in this search.  That neither of our parents did these open houses, they plopped us in the closest school to our houses and voila.  And we turned out just fine.  He says I need to relax, that our focus on education will be her guiding light as she grows.

Bah, I say.  I could not disagree with him more.  Sure, I did well from an educational standpoint.  And two of my siblings also have advanced degrees.  But two do not have a college degree and it has a direct impact on their lives today.  And sure, our focus on education will HELP Sun know its importance.  But let’s face it, as she gets to be deciding about high school and college, it will NOT be our opinion that matters as much as her friends.  Sure, we could DEMAND she go to the high school we choose.  But she could just as easily rebel by doing poorly at that school.  Just ask my cousin about how to do that.

And who her friends will be are those kids she’s in school with, at the grammar school that IS completely in my power to select.  So if I KNOW the grammar school is a feeder school for a rock-solid high school, then doesn’t it make sense to put her in that grammar school?  If the suburban school is going to feed to a mediocre high school (one that is ok but not one of the best), then why even tempt those fates?

We all want what’s best for our children.  And I cannot guarantee Sun will go to college or love to read.  CS did not finish college.  I GET that a college degree is not a piece to the puzzle of happiness.  But such a degree is another arrow in her quiver.

So, is it wrong to stack Sun’s educational deck to the advantage I want it to have?

Successions

Life is a succession of moments.  To live each one is to succeed.  ~ Corita Kent

I read that quote yesterday in a shop.  I do estate planning and probate work.  In Louisiana, that probate work is called Successions.  So when I see that word, “succession,” I think about death not life.  And the juxtaposition of that one word struck a cord with me.

I daresay none of us live each moment of our lives to the fullest extent.  How could we?  But there is something to being in the moment, experiencing just the moment.

For example.

Yesterday morning, I was putting on my shoes with Sun watching me.  I couldn’t find my other shoe and asked Sun if she saw it.  She walked behind me, bent over, picked up the matching shoe and brought it to me.  I thanked her.  It was a quiet moment of little consequence.  But it stopped me in my tracks.  Here we were, my daughter and I, having a conversation in which we both contributed and we both understood the other.  It was stunning in its simplicity.

Last night, for the second time in 30 minutes, I asked Sun if she was ready to go to her room to read.  She nodded, took my hand and we walked to her room.  I grabbed her favorite books and read them to her, returning again and again to her favorite parts.  Then I inhaled her scent and was captured under a spell.  I stopped reading and just looked at the picture of us sitting on the chair in the warm glow of her lamp.  And I leaned down, kissed the top of her head and thanked her. I thanked her for bringing me such joy.  I didn’t know my heart was capable of the love it has for Sun.

This won’t be every day.  But it was yesterday.  And by my measure, it was a success.

Neatly Tied

My weeks have been moving quickly.  We’ve been busy with Open Houses and tours of day cares and grammar schools.  Our friend that watches Sun on Wednesdays, SoMo, is pregnant with her third child and though throwing another one on the heap seems easy enough, I know those early post-pregnancy months are going to be rough for SoMo, and tending to Sun even once a week will be too much.  So our little boo will be going to “school” three days a week starting in June (her other two week days will still be spent with me).

And in a way, I am relieved.  When I was pregnant, I swore I never wanted Sun to end up in day care.  And I still feel strongly for a young baby.  I understand that many NEED it, but we didn’t.  And I wanted to be the one feeding her, changing her, bonding with her, sculpting her young mind.

But even now, and even more so in 6 months, Sun is HUNGRY for more than I can give her at home.  She blossoms when around other children and you can see her little hamster wheel humming along more strongly when in an environment that is catered to her size, interests, and skill levels.  She’ll love the art classes, the play time, the reading, the outside play yard.  She’ll make friends that will likely follow her to grammar school and maybe through her whole life.

The teacher at her school said something that I connect strongly with but never found the words so succinctly:  Parents spend so much time focusing on college for their children.  But it’s the start, the foundation, that is most important.  If you don’t build a solid foundation, they play catch up most of the time.  Instead, teach your child to LIKE school; to find learning stimulating and inviting; build that solid foundation.

And like the rash of knitting I have been accomplishing lately, things here are all neatly tied.

Still Life with Sun

CS and I take lots of pictures of Sun.  In the age of digital film, we are all amateur photographers with no costs of development to worry about.  At year end, we pick our favorite pictures and print them for a photo album we have for Sun.  In looking at that photo album tonight, I am humbled by how fast she is becoming a child and leaving babyhood and toddlerhood behind.

The thing about photographs is that you take the pictures of the smiles and the first good things: petting a goat, seeing snow, flying in a plane, eating Bud’s Broiler, holidays, and relatives.  You tend not to get the meltdowns, the disappointments: cranky, nappus interruptus Sun, fights over toys, spilled milk, busted chins, and laser treatments.

And so in looking back over the past year, one would think it has been all smiles and that it should have been all enjoyment.  And it just wasn’t.  Mainly, it was exhausting.  I am just tired all of the time.  I am not complaining.  It isn’t Sun that makes me tired.  But it is Sun that makes me realize that my tiredness is a deficit.  I feel regret in not doing more, not being more full of life and not basking in her seemingly endless smiles more.

But overall I just feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  It’s been over a year now that I have felt I finally got all I ever wanted and I still want for nothing more than the maintenance of the status quo.

(P.S. My grandfather is doing quite well–the clots have been cleared and he’s moving out of ICU tonight.  Once his blood thinner medication is where they want it in his system, he will be sent home.  Thank you all for your kind words of support and concern.  They were very much appreciated. –Nola)

It is ON

The marathon week has begun.  Final gifts purchased; that last trip to the mall to get a pic with Santa; procurement of groceries…  We still have so much to do!  The in-laws arrive on Tuesday for a period unknown (I have odds they will leave Saturday).  Cleaning, decorating, gingerbread houses to build; pecans to penuche!

But today, today. Ah.  Today, I finally acquired that last piece of art.  From now on, I am told I will need to give something up if I want to buy something new.  Seems harsh.  But.  We have a LOT of art.  Lots of it is arranged on the wall in a “clutter.”  But we are close to looking cluttered.  So, no new pieces.  We are DONE.  I was allowed to fill the one last blank wall however I chose.  I chose this. It is about three feet wide and two feet high.  And FABULOUS if I do say so myself!

We then got Sun’s Fearful Santa pic (every child has at least one), and I did yet another batch of Penuche Pecans.  I am finally getting the hang of candy making!  And we met with friends and swapped gifts.  And played.

Tonight, CS hung the outside lights and will de-clutter his office.  And I will (continue to) make two pillows for the sofa.  And there WILL be Christmas movies playing in the background.

Christmas 2008, IT IS ON.

Update: I failed to mention that the artist for my lovely new piece is RK Rowell, and you can view and buy his work at his website by clicking here.

Open Season

Today, for inexplicable reasons, the holiday season began for me.  I even started listening to Christmas carols.  I think it’s that New Orleans had its first legitimate cold snap.  Or that my office is having its Turkey Day this Wednesday so I have had to start looking at recipes.  Or that I sent out invitations to the big family Christmas Eve party that we will be hosting again this year.  Or maybe it was all of these things converging on one day.

I love the winter holiday season: the food, the decorations, the music and television specials, the traditions and familial elements.  I do not like the commercialism of it all, and I HATE that this year it started after Halloween instead of after Thanksgiving.  It’s absurd.

I will again make efforts to do many homemade gifts, mainly in the cooking department.  I am too tired and its too late for me to start knitting like I did last year.  And for the little kids that will get store-bought items, those are already purchased.  So the rest on my list will be taken care of by time spent in my kitchen.  With my new little helper.

This year, though not Sun’s first Christmas, will be for Sun the beginning of the magical quality that the winter season encapsulates.  And I am rather certain that I am far more excited about it than she is.

Money Matters

Before I had Sun, I worried about money all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.  How could we save enough for retirement?  Get out of debt?  Travel and enjoy life?  Ever afford a child?

Now, with Sun and a tanking economy, money is tighter in my life than it has been in a decade.  And I worry not.  It’s the weirdest thing of all about having a child.

Now I KNOW we’ll have what we need, NEED, to accomplish our goals.  We WILL pay the bills, save for retirement and even Sun’s education.  And we will do whatever it may take to get there.  But the worry? It just isn’t there.  Deep down, I know CS and I will make it work, with either working harder for more money needed or living leaner with less.  Will we travel less? Eat out less? Hell, yes, we will.  But will we enjoy life less? Absolutely not.

I so enjoy seeing the world, and New Orleans in particular, through Sun’s new eyes.  I WANT her to grow up thinking Mardi Gras, neutral grounds, snow balls, gumbo, Jazz Fest, the French Quarter, above-ground cemeteries with its All Souls Day traditions, all the unique NOLA things, I want her to think that’s just normal and other cities have it all wrong not to do as NOLA does.

And growing up in New Orleans doesn’t take a lot of money.  It just takes a lot of heart.  So BRING IT bad economy.  I’m not scared.

Their World

They take their daughter to Oktoberfest.  This is Sun’s second.  She marvels at the oompa band, still too young to enjoy the Chicken Dance.  She is too shy to be comfortable on her own feet; she hugs her mother’s legs when set down.  Her parents are happy to hold her and not fear her getting lost in the crowd.

They enjoy bratwurst and stuffed cabbage rolls and sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.  The adults drink German beer and wines.  There is laughter and joy.

They leave the Deutschen Haus and decide to get ice cream.  They drive to Brocato’s and park on the street.  Sun’s father carries a now-shoeless daughter.  Sun’s mother looks back at the car several times, knowing she turned the headlights off but wondering why they are still lit.  After half a block, Sun’s mother turns to go back to shut off the headlights.  Three steps back, the lights go out.

Sun’s mother turns again and walks back towards her family.  She catches eyes with her daughter.  Sun laughes.  So does her mother.  They hold each others’ gaze and laugh lightly, no one paying them any mind.  They are caught in the moment like it is its own planet; held together by an ephemeral magic.

Treasures

In what passes for a cool Fall day in New Orleans, I took the opportunity to enjoy the weather.  Sun and I walked down the street to the little park on the corner.  The school kids were sitting on the table and avoided us.

I took Sun to the slide and let her come at it on her own.  After some time of walking the grounds and finding the drain fascinating, Sun finally found the courage to climb the stairs of the slide.  I climbed with her.  She wouldn’t go down the tunnel-swing and opted instead to walk across the swaying bridge to get to the twin slides.  Her and I slid down together.  She loved it.  She then tried to climb up the slide.  I’d help her climb up and slide down, laughing all along.  Then she worked up her nerve to go down alone.  I was very proud of her.

Then we walked to the swings, and met a neighbor boy and his grandmother.  After swinging, we began our walk home.  Sun didn’t want to be carried.  Instead, she walked and kept her eyes pealed for acorns and leaves that passed her muster.  She found enough to fill both of her little hands.  When we got home, we sat on the front porch enjoying cool glasses of water and admiring Sun’s treasures.

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