Saturday, July 31, 2010

Goodbye Ruby

For over a decade I've been hanging out with Ruby.  She's quite seductive.  She usually comes to visit after supper and is frequent guest on weekends.  When I'm with Ruby, I often feel serene - calm and relaxed.  She has been reliable throughout the years.  I might even credit her with the birth of our two sons.  Too much time with Ruby, however, seems to bring out the worst in me.  She occasionally makes me obnoxious, drowsy and forgetful.  She is rather expensive to keep around.  After my recent visits with Ruby, I have experienced heartburn and splitting headaches.  She even stained my favorite white shirt!  The time has come for us to end our relationship.  Who is this Ruby, you ask?

This is Ruby.  Her last name is Port.  So long, Ruby, time for your full body to hit the curb!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why I Love New Orleans, part 1 in a series of ???

New Orleans captured my heart when I came here to attend Tulane University's School of Architecture twenty years ago.  There are so many things to love about the city and today I was reminded of one of them.  While shopping at Sam's Club, I did a little "cart shuffle" - you've probably been there - it's when two carts can barely eek by each other in a narrow aisle, so both people dip and swerve to avoid ramming into each other.  When I look up, I see none other than Yvonne LaFleur.  She is a local icon who owns and operates a successful uptown boutique.  She is dressed to the nines (flawless make-up, not a hair out of place, flowing dress, four-inch heals and a to-die-for-bag that perfectly compliments her attire).   I am without a stitch of make-up, glowing from running errands in the mid-90 heat; slumming in a tshirt, jersey shorts and tennis shoes.  I could use the excuse of helping 150 kids in Vacation Bible School, but that would be stretching the truth.  When I go warehouse shopping, I always appear this way.

I nod and smile politely, hoping that she doesn't recognize me.  Whew!  When we arrive at the check-out, however, I notice her glance again and I finally re-introduce myself.  I reminded her of the hours I spent in her boutique back in 1994 as I prepared to be married.  I insisted on supporting a local merchant and tried on countless dresses.  Not only did she graciously lead me down the path of finding the perfect dress, she also made sure my five out-of-town bridesmaids looked their very best.

I've always admired Yvonne LaFleur's business savvy and philanthropic nature.  She oozes grace and hasn't aged a day in the fifteen-plus years since we met.  Time and time again, New Orleans proves to be the biggest small town I've ever lived in and today's experience is just of the numerous reasons I love New Orleans.

Yvonne LaFleur @ Airline Sam's Club, July 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Can't Find My Vibrator!

These words were not ones you'd think you'd find on a family-friendly blog, are they?  Well, they were not the words that I think would be shouted one sultry summer afternoon either, but that is what I shielded my young son from hearing today.  When I first met my husband 16-plus years ago, he told me about his family.  He is the the first-born son; number five out of eight.  His father worked long hours as the chair of radiology at Tulane.  With eight kids in the family, it came as no surprise that his mom stayed home (even though she insists that she rarely stayed home - she spent most of her days in the school office, thanks to my hubby, or shuttling the children to practices, since all were involved in sports, dance, music and theater).  As our love grew, he explained to me that his sister Debbie had some learning disabilities.  He also explained that he promised his parents that he would look after her when they were gone.  No problem, I thought to myself.  My mom taught special education for years and I had worked with several of her students.  Being young and madly in love, I didn't give it much thought.

My father-in-law passed away unexpectedly from complications following a surgery.  At the time, we had been married for six years, had a toddler and I worked from home designing jewelry.  I was suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar role of caring for an autistic adult.  It was later revealed that Debbie falls on the autism spectrum.  Life with Debbie is challenging, but our faith in God and our love for each other gets us through.  Debbie has perfect pitch, plays piano beautifully and bakes delicious cakes.  As with most autistic people, consistency is important.  I've found that daily life works much better when our kitchen is stocked with raisin bran, skim milk, low-fat vanilla yogurt, sliced ham, wheat bread and fruit.  Debbie's presence in our lives also shows our children a deeper understanding of disabilities and that life isn't always easy, but faith and love can make it easier.

Oh, as for the vibrator...turns out it wasn't a vibrator, but a neck massager and thankfully, it was found.  Hey, anything that makes Debbie happy is bound to be good for the family!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome, Newbie!

Newbie...noob, for short. As a mom of two boys who are totally into potty humor, I can't help but think how noob rhymes with...well, you get it.

My adventure into blogging began earlier this month when, through connections with the Bookieboo, Mamavation, and MomDot communities, I learned about Bloggers on Bourbon. What a fantastic event for a New Orleans girl, I thought, but I didn't truly have a blog YET. Attending this meet-up was the inspiration I needed to get started NOW.

Little did I know how much I enjoy the company of these incredible women and how much I could learn from them. As I hesitantly entered the quaint suite, I was warmly greeted by Trisha of MomDot. She's energetically whirled around the room making sure that everything was prepared perfectly.

Then I had the pleasure of Leah of Bookieboo and Mamavation. She is beautiful - inside and out. She gave me the warmest welcome hug and introduced me to the group. My fears eased immediately as I explained that I was the ONE, yes I, the problem child who started a blog in order to attend this event. I expected some eye-rolling or cold-shoulders, but what I received was nothing but support and enthusiasm.

I'm still in awe of how Leah and Trisha pulled off this incredible event. They found wonderful major sponsors: Global Resorts, Open Sky and Collective Bias. Tara of Global Resorts meshed with the group and subtly promoted her brand. She has serenity about her and there's no doubt in my mind that I will use Global Resorts on my next trip to Florida. Shannon, the Cajun/Traveling Mama, delighted us with a sponsored tour of Houmas House. As a native of Louisiana, she passionately represents the state. Ted Rubin of Open Sky oozes charisma. He's a wealth of knowledge and I can't wait to become an Open Sky member. Next I had an opportunity to meet John Andrews from Collective Bias. In a mere few hours, I became enchanted by his honesty and candidness. Overall, I would sum up this weekend as a grand slam!

As I delve into the blogosphere, I will forever be thankful for all the people I meet at Bloggers on Bourbon for sharing their knowledge!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Little "Do I Know" League

It's with mixed feelings that I launder Charlie's Carrollton Boosters Brewers uniform for the last time. Our journey into Little League began back in March when I received an email from one of the most awesome moms I know. "Hey, who's signing up for baseball?" was the subject line. Like any mom, I think my kids are the greatest. At camp last year Charlie earned a red ribbon for catching and two blue ribbons - one for pitching and one for best overall player during the Pepsi summer challenge. So I ask Charlie if he'd be interested in playing baseball. He enthusiastically replies, "Sure, Mom!"

When I visit the registration site, I'm excited to see that Ace makes the mixed 4-year-old t-ball age cut-off by just two days. Oh, what fun...two boys at the ball field! I grab my platinum (as my husband call it, the "lead") card and register. I soon check my email to find out that the registration was processed (whew, I think, as I have no clue what the actual balance is on the low-limit card that is solely used for internet purchases - one can never be too careful about putting those random numbers into cyberspace, even if the site claims to be secure). Next comes a welcome message about grading. Huh? What in the world is grading??? I delve deeper into the CB site to find that all boys in the 9-10 league must be "graded." Really? In my day (yes, I am aging myself), we called it try-outs. No sweat, I think to myself. My kid is going to rock their world!

I'm excited as I report the recent events to the hubby. My husband played a little ball as a youth and he responded by saying that we'd have to get the boys gloves. No problem - we have time before the season starts. Charlie has school and I have the nanny lined up to watch Ace so I can accompany my husband to his doctor appointment (this is an ongoing theme - my husband is undergoing cancer treatments, so Tuesdays are doctor days). We head to Academy Sports on Tuesday and shell out nearly $90 for two itty-bitty baseball gloves. I always thought baseball was America's sport...who knew it was so expensive???

The day of grading finally comes. During the previous week, I relentlessly hounded Charlie about his nutrition and made sure that Charlie had a good night's rest prior to the big day. When we arrive at the field, I'm amazed to see two dozen men seated in uncomfortable portable chairs on the first-second baseline. As we get closer, I want to faint...there have got to be at least four dozen boys waiting for their "at bat." CRUD! Who in their right mind chose 6pm? We've had snacks after school, but now I've been stupid enough to bring the four-year-old to this thing. Gheesh! We'll be lucky if we make it home by 9pm! Dinner? Most certainly I'll scrounge up something...baths, on the other hand, will have to wait until tomorrow.

Charlie is suddenly shy - perhaps feeling a bit of my nervousness at this whole process. I walk with him as he tells the "fearful man with clipboard" his name. Oh, I guess some things haven't changed that much. Clipboard = Authority. Charlie is instructed to wait in line behind the other boys. I round up the wee one and we find a comfortable place on the bleachers. Wait a minute...what??? All the other boys have batting helmets, bats, baseball shoes (at least Charlie actually has his tennis shoes on, rather than his post-school staple of Crocs sans socks). A feeling of doom passes over me. What have I done? How in the world could I have thrown my first-born to the wolves, reeking of bacon?

As I watch the other boys confidently approach home plate to face the first pitch, I am overcome by feelings of guilt. Fortunately, I spot several familiar faces and enlist another mom to keep an eye on Ace as I figure out what to do. I track down the dude with the clipboard and explain to him that we've never played baseball before and are unfamiliar with grading. I tell him that we've come without a bat or helmet. "Authoritative Clipboard Holder" lowers his glasses and assures me that Charlie will be fine - he'll ask another player to provide a helmet and bat. At first I'm relieved, then I think we'll be labeled a charity case...nevermind, I tell myself. Charlie will "WOW" them nonetheless.

Donning a potentially lice-ridden helmet and some potentially fungal-filled bat, Charlie strides to home plate as if he'd been there a million times. First pitch - strike, second pitch - strike, third pitch - a nick...he made contact. Hooray! Other kids had done exactly the same thing. My heart is pounding and I'm grateful when batting is finished. Oh, where's that other kid? He's digging in the dirt with some other rugrats...perfectly content and doesn't even know that I've mentally neglected him for the past hour. Sheesh! We have been here for an HOUR!

Next comes fielding grounders. At least Charlie has a glove (not a broken-in extension of his hand, a glove which he has simply tried on). He does fine...juggles and stubbles a bit, but does fine in my untrained eyes. Then out-fielding...ouch, the poor guy looks genuinely afraid of the ball. Again, I find myself thinking...what have I done?

Grading complete at 9:20pm and we dash home. All I can frantically think about is that we have school tomorrow. The boys devour some mismatched left-overs, brush teeth, crash into bed and say prayers. I cannot sleep. I am consumed by guilt.

The alarm clock rings and I hit snooze...not good, as this means I will have no time to work out. I lie awake, not able to snooze, hating myself for torturing Charlie. The days go by and no word from the coaches about the draft. Finally word comes that Charlie will play on the Brewers team. Whew - he made the cut! I later find out that everyone makes the cut, but I'm thrilled that Charlie has a team. I eagerly contact the other moms and am surprised when one asks, "Why is Charlie playing 9-10 ball? He's only 8!" "By the time the official season gets underway, he will be 9," I explain. The mom (a mom I adore) hesitantly recommends that I ask the Commissioner (I find it amusing that a bunch of kids need a commissioner) for permission for Charlie to play 7-8, coach-pitched ball. I thank her for her advice and don't think twice about the predicament I've gotten us into...

The coach sends a friendly email with the practice schedule, which is in direct conflict with our plans for the upcoming week. Within minutes, I fire back a response that we can make the first practice, but will miss the next three because of prefectly ligitimate obligations: church choir, last session of his after school robotics class, and little brother's 4th birthday party on Sunday. I receive no reply. Not a good sign.

The Brewers have their first exhibition game and I am thrilled to see Charlie "suit up" in the catcher's pads. Yes! The coach sees his talent! Charlie rocks back and forth as he squat balances behind home plate. As a proud mama, I think he does well and the coach commends him for "taking one for the team" when he is whacked by a stray bat. Charlie strikes out, but swings with good effort. The game ends in a tie and all is well...for now at least.

We have a several LENGTHY (I'm talking 2-3 hour practices before the next game). I focus on what I'm good at - accessorising! I properly equip Charlie with only the finest cleats, properly weighted bat, socks and monogrammed bag (enlisting Dad's help, as he has a true Platinum card and we rack up another $200 in a flash). Just when he's prepared, Charlie comes down with a fever, which is a result of an incredibly nasty stomach virus that invades our entire household. With a family full of sleep-deprived, drenched in vomit, without a stitch of clean clothing, beings, Charlie misses the next three practices before the first game of the real season. I shoot the coach an email explaining the situation and again, no reply. Hmm...I can't believe that my son's presence, or lack thereof, isn't important enough to this guy to not warrant a response. I'm now peeved and wonder if this guy is suited for coaching at all.

The bug clears and we report to to field for pre-game warmups as instructed. The team is a few players shy because, go figure, there are a bunch of players out with a nasty stomach virus. Apparently the coach is desperate, and has Charlie play every position under the sun. Charlie is walked and makes it to first base. Whew! I'll take a walk to a strike out anyday, I think. The next batter is a phenomenal hitter and knocks the ball (almost) out of the park. Run, Charlie, run! Not so just missed third base, dude. He goes back to touch third and is tagged out (which, of course, is the third out), so the awesome hit doesn't mean diddly.

No surprise that the Brewers lost that game. The coach is angry, absolutely beside himself. The coach's wife apologizes to me for her husband's poor behavior. Charlie declines "team drinks" and just wants to head home. We get stuck behind the slowest moving train I've ever encountered and I attempt to console my heartbroken son. Charlie sadly says, "Mom, you can't make me feel better. I'm smart enough to know that I'm the reason we lost the game."

I make every effort to assure him that baseball is a team sport (how cliche). He's down on himself and baseball for the next few days, but pulls himself together after a few days. Practice is rained out, so we jump right back into a game. Charlie is now playing right field and thankfully (in my eyes), doesn't see any action. He gets walked and then strikes biggie, as half the team does the same thing. The Brewers again lose and afterwards the coach says to me, "Charlie needs to come to more practices. The only way we're going to win is if our worst players get better." My son, one of your worst players??? I calmly reply, "Didn't you receive any of my emails?" He responds, "Yes, I get ALL of your emails." As I now think I've sent too many emails, I assure him that we're healthy and do not have pending obligations, so we will make it to EVERY practice from now on.

Charlie LOVES baseball. Regardless of how he felt, he was always ready, I mean ready at least an hour prior to games and practices. This, coming from a kid, who I usually have to drag out of bed for school. In a weird twist of fate, we discover that the coach lives around the corner from us. I've always admired the cute little girls that dance shoelessly in their front yard, but until this summer, have never noticed the adorable freckle-faced boy with sparkly eyes. All the coach's son wanted for his tenth birthday was for his dad to sponsor and coach his little league team. As we got to know the coach better, I realized that his passion for the game was almost as great as his passion for his son...and his stressful reaction to the devastating loss was partially fueled by the knowledge that he and his wife were expecting their fourth child. God bless this wonderful dad and his family! Shame on me for missing the point a few months ago.

Blah, blah, blah...I'm not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow recap of the entire THREE MONTH LONG season. The Brewers had their ups and downs...finishing 9th in a field of 17 teams. Along the way, Charlie got some hits, made good friends, captained the team twice and had the most spectacular confidence-building, game-saving catch ever during the Brewers only opportunity to appear before the GameDay recording crew. My hands shook with excitment as I filled out the paperwork - name, parents, favorite food, school, pasttimes, etc. I'm more pathetic than a kid at Christmas as I check the mailbox daily for that DVD! When the day comes, I'll be sure to share with you.

Batter up

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jicama = Perfect Weapon Against Terrorism

Recently I read an article boasting how eating a cup of jicama could boost post-workout calorie burning by 30 percent. My naive, "far-too-gullible-for-my-own-good, wanna-believe-that there's-a-magical, non-life-threatening-cure-to weight loss" side takes over and I find myself searching for this mysterious stranger in the produce section. What I find is a onion-shaped, potato looking thing and toss two unblemished wads into my basket. I breeze through the market to acquire the usual suspects: fresh spinach, tomatoes, apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, Greek yogurt, assorted berries, nuts, DHA-enhanced milk, chicken, celery, some grains, and yes, sadly, I'm overcome by the plethera of tasty samples as I make my way to the register, so in go a few small hunks of outrageously expensive cheese. I somehow justify the indulgence by measuring my incredibly-healthy to indulgent ratio and walk confidently to the checkout.

I'm not sure why this always seems to happen, but I somehow get the feeling that the over-worked, under-paid, overly criticized checkout person is judging me by the contents of my cart. The items fly past the red laser beam and I'm astonished when the cashier asks me what these strange bulbs are. Suddenly I find myself wondering the same question...what the heck are these things again? "Oh, they're JIMACAS, " I mutter. Thankfully she does not question my pronounciation or lack of produce knowledge and finds the correct code on her cheat sheet. Whoa- these two, softball shaped aliens just set me back a whopping $6.86! I'm somewhat of a tightwad when it comes to grocery could I have let that price per pound slip by???

As I unload and sort the abundant haul, I glance sadly at the jicamas. Did I really just spend seven bucks on something that doesn't look at all enticing and I have no idea how to prepare? The jicamas sit on the counter, haunting me for a few days. I try to recall the recipe that encouraged me to buy these blasted things in the first place, but, as usual, I have tossed the magazine out with the trash and now, just when I NEED it, it's nowhere...but, I digress (my obsession w/ saving recipes is an entirely too lengthy topic to get into now - it deserves its own blog).

All I can recall is that the jicamas are peeled, grated and tossed with lime juice. Whew - got that covered. I convince the young one to assist me in the kitchen, as I know this will take some time. We spend roughly an hour in the "room of doom," as I not so fondly refer to as the kitchen. Young one has a healthy lunch of homemade whole grain honey cornbread, chicken, broccoli, quinoa and watermelon (these foods not touching, of course, since he's a wee one) for lunch. I am practically bursting at the seam to taste this jicama lime slaw that I've whipped up when I'm interrupted by our aging 90-pound German Shepherd. This old sweet dog has failing hips so I need to carry her down the steps so she can "take care of business." When the deed is done, I shuffle her back up, make sure she is comfortable and head back to the kitchen. Then it dons on me...wait, it wasn't much of a workout, but I think I just exerted enough energy by hauling that enormous, uncooperative dog around to constitute an exercise session...perfect! Now I can enjoy my jicama slaw and reap the extra 30 percent weight loss benefits!!!

The two softball sized jicamas made an incredible mountain of grated much so that I feared that three limes would not be enough. I scooped a healthy portion into a cereal bowl and transferred the rest to a container for refrigeration. Awww, finally, I savor -

DIRT! I kid you not, this creation tastes like DIRT! The heinous forkful that so greedily shoved into my mouth feels as if its growing. Since the young one is still with me in the kitchen I refill my water glass and try to wash it down.

I get back on the computer to see where I've gone wrong. There are numerous sites describing this wonderful tubor and it's sweet apple-like taste. Apparently jicamas are a staple in South American kitchens...well, for all care, that's where they should stay. Or, even better, I propose that the military use my jicama concoction to fight terrorism...terrorists would be no match if they were forced to eat jicamas day and night.

Christmas in July

We're having a little trouble with personal responsibility in our household. I get so frustrated by constantly cleaning up everyone's messes. I grumble to myself "I went to college for this?" I question why I didn't get a "real job" after graduating...then I'd have enough money to hire a full-time nanny and maid, right? Then I remind myself that I truly, way down deep inside, wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and give to most of myself to my kids. What I've discovered, though, is that I end up doing too much for them. This summer I've challenged myself to get the boys more involved in cleaning up.

I gave the boys a ten-minute countdown before getting ready for bed. I instructed them that they needed to put their toys back in the toy box (which, of course, is a challenge in itself, since it's over-flowing). Five minutes go by...nothing. Then another five minutes...still nothing. So, I calmly begin putting the toys in a trash bag. The nine-year-old seems unfazed, but the four-year-old screams, "What are you doing?" I explain that if they really cared about their toys they would have put them away. Next I tell them that these toys will make some underprivileged children very happy when I donate them. The four-year-old doesn't seem to understand fully, but the nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old explains it quite simply. "Don't worry, we'll just ask Dad to buy more." The four-year-old is now excited by the idea of getting new toys. He then asks how long it is before Christmas because he is going to ask the REAL Santa for new toys, not that guy at the mall.

Talk about a plan that back-fired! After I lug the bag of loot to the garage, I announce, "Kiddos, there will be no Christmas in July."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Silly Mama, Your Shirt Goes in the Hamper, Not in the Trash Can

After a fun-filled, glorious day, the hubby suggests that we dine out. Who's to argue with an offer to NOT cook a meal that everyone criticizes and then NOT spend another hour cleaning the kitchen? We decided it would be casual - the neighborhood grill joint with a splendid patio for ansty kids to stretch their legs and the most accomodating staff around. The menu offers something to please everyone and the food is out in a flash. This is the neighborhood family-friendly place, so we are soon surrounded by a few families we know.

New Orleans is by far the biggest small town I've ever known...especially since Hurricane Katrina. We are so relaxed as we enjoy adult conversation (and adult beverages, too). The boys are chatting it up with their own circle of friends and behaving extremely well. The evening, was, up until this point, absolutely flawless.

Like I said, New Orleans can be a very small town. I attempt to divert my eye, but it's too late...SHE already saw me. This elderly, name-dropping, social-climbing, cantankerous old bitty whom I haven't had the "pleasure" of seeing since Katrina makes her way to our table. She asks about our extended family, Tulane, and makes small talk in general. Then she says, "Congratulations on your growing family. I hope this one's a girl."

Wow - I am stunned, shocked, and, completely speechless, which, for those of you who know me is utterly uncharacteric. Her words hang in the air link Damocles sword...waiting to pierce my heart. I compose myself just long enough to state, in no uncertain terms, "I am NOT pregnant."

COB (Cantakerous Old Bitty, as I now refer to her) stares blankly and I excuse myself so no one sees a few tears escape my angry eyes. I pause and take a few moments to compose myself in the restroom. When I emerge, COB is seated at a distant table. Talk about a self-esteem-killing, ego-busting turn of events.

By the time I arrive home, I've mentally convinced myself that, although I know I have some pounds to lose, I certainly cannot look pregnant. It must be the shirt! A new shirt - a fashion experiment run amok. My youngest almost wet his pants when he saw me putting the (new) shirt in the trash can. "You're so silly, Mama. Your shirt goes in the hamper, not in the trash can."

No, sweet boy, this shirt does go in the trash can...if only I could find a way to fit the COB in the trash can, too...

Uncharted Territory

I enthusiastically signed up for an event called Bloggers on Bourbon (Bourbon Street, that is, not Bourbon itself). I figured that I'd finally get to meet a group of fabulous women who have inspired me through their posts. "Jewelynn, what is your blog?" I was asked. Egad - you'd think I'd have enough common sense to realize that BLOGGERS meant active bloggers - not the "bench-warming, admire-from-afar" blogger. I'm not sure exactly why or how I've not managed to start a blog yet, but I guess the best excuse is that real life gets in the way.

Thus begins the adventure into uncharted territory...