Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reasons To Celebrate

On Saturday afternoon, in the middle of the most hectic day of the week in the Vaicius household, a little moment of bliss arrived courtesy of my rockstar cousin, Mary Cox. I mentioned that I wanted some parade watching shirts for the kiddies and without hesitating MCB made my wishes come true. I am ready to get the ladders set up and catch some beads. I wish I could wear one of these:

The pictures do not do MCB's impressive work any justice. I have been all thumbs with the camera lately and have been feeling uninspired from an artistic standpoint. It is a lack of time, creativity, and energy, not subject matter, that is hindering me and I hope that will change once the parades start rolling so I can do a better job of documenting life around here.

There was another celebration last Sunday when the Saints won the NFC Championship. I should dedicate an entire post or two to that night and that game, but I am still physically and mentally exhausted by it. One day I will explain why we were watching it on the puny kitchen t.v. Okay, there's no real science behind it, but it is possibly the reason they won.

Meenakshi, Luz and RME, Jr...amazed:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And They Are Off

James enjoyed his first trip the New Orleans Fair Grounds last Saturday while Nana and Papa-T were in town. Luz had been to the track a few times before with Christian and knew what to expect. James, on the other hand, was totally in awe of the horses and loved every minute of it. We made it just in time to watch Uncle Walker and Jonathan's horse, Cut West, run his first race and it was something to behold. He didn't win but he was clearly the fastest horse on the home stretch. It was all very exciting and I cannot wait to take the kids back for more races.

Things have been a little strange around here for the past two days. On Monday night a small fire started in our office copy room and, although the damage from the fire was minimal, the sprinkler system activated and 60% of our floor was saturated. The smell is overwhelming and remediation efforts are ongoing, but we are all working remotely until the air is clear(er) and some office necessities have been restored. I have heard secretaries badmouthing the copy machines on a number of occasions. The complaints are never-ending and are occasionally particularly disturbing and, as it so happens, true "I hope PS-2 blows up". Well...I don't know, divine intervention maybe? Needless to say, there are a few secretaries dancing in the streets because not only are we getting two new copy machines, we are enjoying a succession of what are, essentially, 'snow days'.

It isn't as care-free for the attorneys, however. I am pretty diligent when I work from home but am, undoubtedly, much more efficient in the office. I have been given a gift of freedom for the past couple of days, but am having trouble enjoying it because I am, instead, concerned about working enough. Isn't that always the way life works though. This is something I have daydreamed about all my life and I can't even appreciate it fully.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mardi Gras Tutu

So, things have been a little crazy around here from Luz's first soccer match and James' first trip to the Fair Grounds, to a visit from Nana and Papa-T and the Saints' crazy, absolutely heart-stopping victory on Sunday night. There's plenty to tell you about BUT I have priorities. I have finished my first honest-to-goodness craft project since I made a sit-upon when I was a Brownie in First Grade. Granted, I had plenty of help, but still...Without further ado, the fluffiest, fullest, finest Mardi Gras tutu imaginable:

Jessie and I decided that this design is far too "full" (not to mention, time consuming) so, the next round will be just one layer of alternating purple, green and gold pieces. I will post a picture once the prototype is complete. I am feeling so confident that after I finish the tutus I will start on my newest endeavor - painting the seat on the ladder. I have a great idea for what I want to do this time and cannot wait to get started.

Oh yeah, one more thing, WHO DAT!

James, ready for the big game

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thinking Purple, Green & Gold

We are gearing up for Mardi Gras around here and I am feeling lucky to be living in NOLA where the next celebration is always right around the corner. Luz picked out these beautiful Irises for Jamesy's birthday the other day because they reminded her of Mardi Gras, and I suppose that's when I realized how much I had to do before the parades start rolling.

So, while we are not busy tracking down the elusive McKenzie's king cake, we are considering sleeping arrangements, discussing menus, working out the logistics of parade routes and SAMS runs, and trying to create the perfect MG accessories.

This year I was inspired by a beautiful MG tutu and decided I had to make one. After purchasing the supplies I stared at the bag of goods for a few days, too scared to get close enough to unload it, too insecure to even begin the process of putting it together. Jessie came to my rescue tonight and, if it turns out as cute as the individual parts look so far, Luz and her friends are in for a real treat. This craft is a bit labor-intensive but I think it will be worth the effort. I promise to post a picture of the finished product.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunday Lunch

On Sunday, Luz and I joined GG, Aunt Margot and mom-mom for a girls-only lunch. Luz was excited about the idea all weekend and couldn't wait for Sunday to arrive. It was such a treat, so peaceful and lovely. The highlight for Luz was, much as it was for me as a child, playing outside and running along the golf course. She was ecstatic and I remember that same feeling like it was yesterday.

Here she is with GG and stretching her legs:

Monday, January 18, 2010

January Mix

It was tough mustering up the energy to get the day started this morning. The park was empty, James was still sleeping, Luz was eating Cheerios all bleary-eyed and huggable in her p.j.s, and Christian was enjoying a leisurely morning drinking iced-coffee and reading the paper. The blow was softened just a bit by the fact that I won the first quarter 'square' in the office football pool - hooray for mad money - and Christian put together a January mix. Here it is:

1. My Girls - Animal Collective
2. Sleepyhead - Passion Pit
3. Warpaint - Billie Holiday
4. Flakes - Mystery Jet
5. Let Em In - Wings
6. Farther On - Vetiver
7. Norway - Beach House
8. Angels in the Snow - Elliot Smith :(
9. Harold T. Wilkins - Fanfarlo
10. Madonna of the Wasps - Robin Hitchcock
11. Memories of Places We've Never Been - Faunts
12. Tin Man - Animal Kingdom
13. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song - First Aid Kit
14. Everyday - Vetiver
15. Kick Drum Heart - The Avett Brothers
16. Knotty Pine - Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
17. Transparence - Asobi Seksu
18. Sad Birthday - Bombaldi
19. Wow - Cinerama
20. Rabbit Heart - Florence and the Machine

I have only had two listens straight through and so far the real loves for me are the last one - Rabbit Heart - not at all what I was expecting but very entertaining and the Wings song - it is wonderful and reminds me of when I was a kid.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


How amazing was that game????

The tshirts are courtesy of Uncle Richmond and Uncle Josh. I love them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Woodfire Grill

While we were in Atlanta Christian and I had the opportunity to have dinner at Woodfire Grill with our good friends, Brad & Tally. I made the reservations a few months ago, about mid-way through the last season of Top Chef, when I realized how much I loved the contestant/chef, Kevin Gillespie (because of his striking resemblance to James, his humble nature, and his awesome looking food) and decided that I had to try his restaurant.

Everything about the restaurant and the food was exactly as wonderful as I had hoped and precisely what I imagined based on what I saw during Top Chef. The restaurant is extremely cozy and yet contemporary at the same time. Walking inside felt much like it feels to have that first wonderfully rich and warm sip of a old bourbon or good red wine after a long, cold day (this was enhanced by the cold and rain outside). There are a few tables with both chairs and bench-style seating made particularly inviting with the occasional throw pillow. I don't mean to hint that there is anything fussy or feminine about the place. I know nothing screams lady like a throw pillow but honestly it is not in the least. The lighting is dim and there are votive-style candles lighting the entry way, bar and main dining area.

We didn't have much of a wait, which was sort of a bummer, because I was looking forward to a pre-dinner cocktail. Generally speaking, at least in this country, no wait is the mark of excellent service, so I shouldn't complain. The main dining area is split level and the decor follows the same pattern and style as the entry/waiting area and bar - cozy but yet contemporary. I have no complaints about service at all. Everyone who waited on us was kind, knowledgeable and interested in making sure we enjoyed our experience. The waiter knew enough about the wine list to tell us why it worked (or didn't) with each dish we ordered, which is something I think should be expected but doesn't always happen.

After we ordered drinks the waiter brought us an amuse and it was, I believe, deconstructed borscht. It was delicious and beautiful to look at. We hemmed and hawed over the menu for what seemed like an hour. We debated uniting to do the 5 course tasting but since Tally is both expecting and a vegetarian (2 years of eating nothing but mutton in Mongolia while working for the Peace Corps will do that, I reckon) we opted to stay with the menu. Christian was set on a tasting menu and lucked out because there was a 3 course tasting option that he could do. That said, my choices killed the tasting choices - which was fine because I shared. I started with a beet salad that was outstanding, followed with scallops and pork belly (the best dish of the night, in my opinion) and settled on a pork loin for my entree - which was possibly the best pork loin I have ever had. I don't remember all of the details of Christian's courses and the menu has changed since our visit but I recall one course was a celery soup and he HATES celery, hates it with the same passion with which I hate cilantro. Fortunately, I LOVE celery and totally enjoyed the very refreshing soup. His entree was a quail dish - another Kevin forte apparently. I have never been much for 'small' birds. I don't love picking up and eating small bones, not sure why - perhaps they just feel too dainty and fragile in my hands. At any rate the quail was good but didn't hold a candle to my dish. We had a few desserts and they were not memorable necessarily, but dessert rarely is. One of the desserts was a bacon smoked banana dish and it was the most interesting of the selections.

The wine list was extensive and obviously very carefully thought out - something I always appreciate. The bread, generally the second most important part of my dining experience, was mouth-wateringly delicious (caveat - I could live off of bread along, especially good bread).

All in all it was a lovely night at Woodfire Grill. I would love to go back one day and will continue to recommend it to friends. The highlight of the night was, however, this little note I discovered hanging on the wall in the bathroom. I tried to get a picture of it with Brad's iphone but I was getting the stink eye from some lady who must've been offended by my amateurish behavior. The shot below was my best effort under the circumstances. In case you can't read it it says, "Kevin, tell the Voltaggio's - sticks and stones may break my bones but foam will never hurt me" and is signed by some 10 year old girl.

I love it. Thanks to a handy new tool on Blogger you can click on the title of this post and it will link you to the Woodfire website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas 2009, Part V

The remainder of our Christmas holidays and NYE vacation was spent in Atlanta visiting family and friends. It was a lovely week and an almost easy drive. Dealing with Luz was a breeze thanks to endless dvds. James, on the other hand, was a little tricky. The crying seemed to make Christian drive faster, which made the trip shorter, but I am not sure that was a good thing. Once he is entertained by movies, like Luz, it will be a piece of cake. Until then, we have to plan for frequent stops and tons of distractions.

Luz and James spent most of their time in Atlanta hanging out with Nana and Papa-T and my adorable nephews, Liam and Wes:

Wes (aka, Pete), Luz and Liam:

Christian and I took advantage of the opportunity to have a few nights out together and spent one night at a movie - Up In The Air - which I liked, but didn't love. The second night out we spent at Woodfire Grill, something I had planned months ago, something I was waiting for with great anticipation, something that was well worth the wait. More on that soon.

We also took Luz to Little Five Points in Atlanta, an area where Christian and I used to shop for records and books and drink coffee for hours on end when we were footloose and fancy free. We followed that visit with a trip to Ikea to stock up on all sorts of things whose names I cannot pronounce, and The Varsity where Luz got to experience her first Varsity Dog. I think she loved every minute of it. But mostly we just hung out around the house, enjoying some quality time with family and friends, making lots of noise and causing a commotion and doing things like this:

I am sure Nana and Papa-T could not believe how quiet the house was once we left!

There was also lots of vying for Nana and Papa-T's attention. I don't think they had a minute without someone on their lap or in their arms:

James and Aunt Susan snuggling:

Luz and I took advantage of Susan's excellent baking skills and decided to make cookies while she was around to supervise:

We also celebrated NYE together. It happened at around 9 p.m. and involved lots of banging pots, sparklers, and poppers in the front yard:

I attempted many photo sessions with all of the kids and, sadly, didn't manage to capture that one great shot:

I am determined to make it happen and hope to have another opportunity soon - Mardi Gras, perhaps?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

James, 1 Year Checkup

I took James in for his one year well-baby visit today and was reminded, yet again, that there is some good medical science behind well-baby visits, science that holds true even when up against a second-time mom. Thanks American Association of Pediatrics or whoever you are; you are smart.

I had a room filled with medical professionals on Saturday - EMTs, doctors of varying fields of medicine, and a nurse. Each one commented to me, on different occasions during the course of James' birthday party, that he was tugging at his ear and each one politely and very unobtrusively asked if maybe his ears were 'bothering him' and if he possibly 'had an ear infection'. To each inquiry I responded in my - this ain't my first rodeo - tone 'oh no, he is teething...and, well, maybe a bit tired'.

After less than 30 seconds in the exam room this morning, James was diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home with his first prescription for an antibiotic. Okay, in fairness, I have had his ears checked each time Luz had hers checked, because I am diligent that way. Each time, against the odds, they were clear. So, there was some good reasoning behind my nonchalance - not to mention that he got 4 new teeth, molars included, in the past two weeks and the books tell you that teething will cause babies to grab at their ears. Okay.

Because the doctor seemed on the ball I reluctantly brought up the fact that lately, and I am not sure what the time frame is, James has been waking up at odd times in the middle of the night and it is tough to get him back down. There is no specific pattern - sometimes he wakes up at midnight, sometimes it is 5 a.m. - but regardless of the time, Christian and I both agree he shouldn't be waking up. The solution has been to share duties using some rudimentary form of rock/paper/scissors that generally involves me kicking Christian while he fakes sleep. Occasionally he wakes up, but, more often than not, I am the one that hears James cry so I am the one that wakes up, the one that looses precious hours of sleep and then cannot wake up to run, the one that starts to take it personally that James cries in the middle of the night. We decided that milk was out of the question - it would give him more of an incentive to continue to wake up because it is so delicious - and opted, instead, to give him water. The water never really seemed to do the trick, though occasionally he would quiet down and go back to sleep. Some nights though, like last night, we are up for 2 hours rocking and chilling until he calms down enough to go to sleep.

After listening to the story and learning that James goes to bed around 7 the doctor, without hesitating, said that he is hungry and that there is no way - based on his growth chart - he will sleep from 7 until 7 without some milk somewhere in between. So, mean old mama has been Ferberizing and providing tap water when all along the poor guy is hungry, I mean, at 25 lbs I just would not have guessed he needed more to eat. I suppose there is a chance that the doctor, who was once my pediatrician, is suggesting more milk (and adding cereal to it) simply because the dark circles under my eyes and her profound understanding of what it means to rear children and work outside of the home suggest that maybe it is me, and not James, who has a problem. Either way, I am ready to amp up the milk and push bedtime back an hour to see what kind of results we can get.

In addition to the great advice about James, I learned a new way to keep Luz from getting in our bed in the middle of the night. This is a new habit that started about a month ago and is getting out of control. I am up, on average, about 4 times a night between James' hunger pains and Luz's desire to cuddle with me. To say that I am EXHAUSTED is an understatement. At any rate, I am still bribing her with quarters but if that doesn't work I will set this new plan in motion. Wish me luck.

And, for the record, James weighed in at a scale tipping 25 lbs and 31 1/2 inches. He is big and healthy - 90th for height and 80th for weight. I am holding on to the hope that he will inherit Papa-T and Pop's height genes.

James, sucking on a Tylenol dispenser, maybe I should've taken a hint:

Monday, January 11, 2010

James' First Birthday

Much like his Uncle Richmond, who also has a January birthday, James is stuck with having a king cake as his birthday cake each year. If you like king cake this isn't such a bad thing and, from what I can tell, James thinks it is great. I broke tradition, however, and went with a cinnamon and white sugar style king cake as opposed to the family favorite, brioche style cake that McKenzie's made famous. I love the McKenzie's king cakes but could not imagine getting out to Kenner on a Saturday afternoon on the odd chance that the Tastee Donuts still had a few. The last few times I checked they were out and I felt foolish asking, like Christian asking for a space heater at Home Depot last Thursday night before the big freeze. I get it.

It didn't matter, however, because everyone seemed to enjoy the king cake, even the die-hard McKenzie loyalists, you know the ones, they still lament the fact that even the Tastee's version of the McKenzie's classic is missing that essential cherry and sprinkles piece at each end.

Along with the king cake we had some of the most delicious ice cream ever that Aunt Margot picked up - Blue Bell Birthday Cake ice cream - it is the best. Even on one of the coldest days in NOLA, this ice cream is worth the indulgence.

James enjoyed opening his presents and spending time with his family. It was the perfect way to celebrate a first birthday.

James, ready to open his presents:

Singing Happy Birthday:

Playing soccer with Catherine:

The Vaci:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Birthday James

James, now you are one and I thought that this time would have passed a bit more slowly since there were no hurricanes and flooded houses. I assumed you would just be born and I would have a lovely maternity leave and life would continue as usual. But that's not the way that life works, and if I have learned anything over the years it is the lesson about life being made up of peaks and valleys, yin and yang, highs and lows and the profound swings in between the two. I am starting to understand why it happens and that leads me to believe that maybe it is something more than blind, dumb luck that brings me immense joy on the heels of crippling sadness. It cannot be a coincidence, there is some greater reason why you, like your sister in the year of Katrina, came into my life in the saddest year I ever experienced. Were you, like Lucy, sent to fill a hole in my heart, to ease an ache that nothing, save the unconditional love of a new baby can help?

I like to think that it is true because it is just impossible for it to be otherwise by the looks of you. I have never met a happier, more content, more loving, more joy-filled baby. It is obvious in those eyes that never stop smiling. So, thanks for coming along at just the right time with that perfect smile and a heart filled with love.

Thanks also for being the busiest baby ever. You leave me no time to daydream and lounge around feeling sorry for myself. If I start to do either of those things, for even a second, you will have something sharp in your hands or in your mouth or maybe a handful of Lucy's hair in your sticky, fat fingers or Loki's snout gripped between your palms. Nothing is safe with you on the move, you find every hazard imaginable and have a knack for opening doors and cabinets I thought were permanently stuck. I think you are probably strong enough to pick me up, but we haven't tried that yet. Thank you. Thank you.

I am impressed by your energy. I was warned about boys, it is true, but I was also incredibly spoiled by Lucy who was introspective, calm, and able to play quietly for hours at a time in the pack and play or the corner of the living room. Your curiosity has led us to baby-proofing the house, or at least discussing it, something we never had to worry about with Lucy, something neither of us feels like dealing with. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that at the end of the day your father and I literally flop onto the sofa, fingers crossed, holding our breath until we are sure that you are fully asleep.

You have an infections laugh and a beautiful smile and you are full and fine and totally deserving of your nickname, Big Sexy. You are just on the verge of walking (any day now, we think). You love every food that we have ever put in front of you and would drink bottles of milk all day long if we let you. You can say a few basic words: mama, dada, baba. You have the baby talk/gibberish thing down and often treat us to fake phone calls to other babies on your 'phone' or whatever square-ish shaped object that happens to be around. You like having stories read to you, love listening to music and dancing. You can clap, snap and wink/blink and you love waving hello and goodbye.

Lately you have started to enjoy sitting on my lap and rocking while we stare at and talk to your ceiling fan and light. This is my favorite part of the day right now, my 15 minutes of quality time with you, when nothing else in the world matters except smelling your baby clean hair, listening to your happy babbles and kissing your putty-like fingers. I hope this goes on for a while. So, thanks for being the best part of my day and the best part of my year. Thanks for coming along early enough to get to know your grandfather who, I am certain, left an indelible mark on you in a short period of time and loved you very much.

Happy First Birthday Jamesy - Love, Mama

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Christmas 2009 - Part IV

Christmas morning, post Santa's visit, pre absolute destruction by the Vaicius kids:

Christian, James and Luz, so sleepy:

James started out in striped pjs like Luz but at some point in the pre-dawn hours had an explosive diaper that destroyed everything within a few square feet. It was so out of control that we actually had to put him directly into the bathtub while Luz waited, so patiently, at the top of the stairs...poor kid.

After a quiet morning at home we headed to mom-mom's to open presents and have breakfast and Ojens (in honor of Pop, of course).

Here is Jamesy with Christian outside of mom's house:

James and Lu:

Richmond and Josh in their new hats...what are the chances:

On Christmas night we had dinner together with two of mom's old students from Costa Rica. Christian made grillades and mom supplied the rest. Dinner was perfect and the crackers were a huge hit. They never get old. Here is Luz in her crown:

And the Vaicius family with James tasting his first bite of my all time favorite Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream:

It was a beautiful Christmas day.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas 2009 - Part III

Despite terrible weather on Christmas Eve, we managed to make it the block and a half to St. Stephens where my immediate family and most of my extended family were attending the vigil mass. It was absolutely wild with the three babies cutting up and drawing attention from all corners of the church. It is almost impossible for James to make it through mass without causing some kind of ruckus so I was relieved when he was relatively quiet and was happy just to be walked around to check out the sights.

After mass we headed to GGs for Christmas Eve dinner with everyone. It was the perfect opportunity to get a picture of all of the babies together but this was as close as I could get. I suppose three out of five is not too bad considering.

GG with Luz, Helen and James:

Luz, showing James the presents:

James (11.5 months) with Helen (10.5 months) aka Beauty and the Beast:

Casey and James, hanging out - this one cracks me up because James looks like a doll stuffed into that outfit like a sausage:


Luz, opening her present from Jane:

Molly, giving James a bottle at the end of the night:

The pjs don't make it to Christmas morning so all of my effort for kids in matching pjs on Christmas morning was for naught. More on that later...