Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

The Body Betrays Us

Deoderant Discussion (1)

It is a great privilege to learn the intimate concerns of children. The last week’s discussion with the Causey kids has centered around the way our body betrays us in the heat of summer in New Orleans. These kids have enough to worry about; being locked out of the house and no one being home when personal issue flare up, like puffy eyes; passing the LEAP on the second go-’round and, lately, the issue is not smellin’ ‘musty’, as they put it.

As adults, we are keen to the battle of combating the summer heat and staying comfortable and presentable in 89 degree heat. However, I have noticed the kids have been having some issues about feeling clean, this, along with their washer being broke at home, the discussion has been pushed my way.

One of the older boys, Mike, came by this week to explain that he was suddenly ‘sponsored’ to go to an amusement park excursion in Dallas, TX with his church. In order to go, he was desperate to have clean clothes for his trip and begged me the let him use the washer and dryer, I graciously obliged. Always cognizant of the dignity issues surrounding such requests, “wash away!”, I said. No pleading necessary. I am more than willing to fold his clothes too, in order that they put on their best face and push their minimum level of presentability to a higher level.

In addition to this incident, I was making my grocery list this week. I put deoderant on the list and Josh piped up to me that he had some deoderant that he didn’t like and apparently someone made a comment that he smelled ‘musty’.

Today, I took him to Rouse’s to show him how to test smell all the deoderants in the aisle so he could get one that suited his personal needs. He got some Axe he liked. On a subtle level, I have noticed in doing their laundry that there exists a shortage of socks, which in summer can lead to naked feet in shoes, leading to more ‘musty’ issues. I brought it up and they said they need more socks really bad. We talked about the comfort of wearing socks in summer and I set them up with some socks I had set aside from my last package of socks. We sort of did a head-to-toe cleanliness inventory of needs too.

Today, this larger discussion coincided with a long bike ride Nick and I took today on the levee. I gave him a choice. Audubon Park . . .or . . . THE LEVEE. He insisted on THE LEVEE. My goal was to show him he was able to make it to the Huey P. Long Bridge which I told him is 14.5 Klicks (kilometers) which is 9 miles. I warned him that it was going to be really, really. Really HOT. He was scared of the dragonflies but got tough with it. When we finally made it to the Huey P. Bridge, we realized he was extra hot because he was wearing TWO T-shirts! So we undid one layer and he was much more confident that we really would be able to make the ride back after that! 

Nick loves to cook, and has a natural talent for it. However, he tends to eat more than he needs to because he’s often cooking/eating to entertain himself. Having been noticeably pudgy myself at 10 yrs-old, I am encouraging him to exercise at this early age. He complained about how hard it was but we made it there and back. We talked about the importance of hard workouts for good health. He got a lot of confidence for completing the circuit . . .at 12:30 in the afternoon in July in New Orleans, I told him this was really tough work and he should be proud of himself.

When we got back, both boys were concerned about how they ‘smelled’ before going to the night church services at Victory for 5:45 pm. Nick didn’t have the key to his house today and no one was home to let him in. He really wanted to bathe and change clothes before church.

So I set them up with some socks and a clean t-shirts of mine. The one Nick settled on had a scooped neck. He just wanted a white t-shirt with a ‘crew neck’ and he said it was “outrageous” that he was wearing a scooped neck. And, it was. I should have some more crew necks around. But we have all decided in our open talks that cleanliness comes before fashion.

So Nick took a shower at my house, likely, his first shower ever, from what I could tell, because apparently, they only have a bathtub and he was fine with the clean shirt in the end. I had to tell him how to set up the water temperature in the shower and he enjoyed it.

After getting both boys dressed with some fresh T-shirts and socks and they both applied extra loads of their new deoderant so they could feel very good about themselves about going to their evening church service. It was a profoundly simple and successful day. It’s so easy to make a couple inner-city kids happy and confident about themselves and it was a very good lesson in being a personally approachable type of person.

I recall the awkward moments growing up at that age and the shyness about talking about such personal issues as wearing a bra in eighth grade. My mom was little scared to discuss this with me, since I was the oldest of five kids, so I totally forgive her. But I know it made it hard for me, so I was happy to take that personal experience and it helped me know just how to make these young boys feel confident about discussing their hygiene needs so they could really put their best foot forward.

Little do these kids realize, this topic is covered at length by adults who talk about endlessly about the battle of the sweat in summer as well! I have found that it’s simply a slightly broader discussion with kids compared to the same one between adults about how we battle of the sweat drips between our respective ta-tas, etc in summer.

Ducks

Today I took the baby to City Park. I had seen people feeding the ducks many times so this trip I took some bread to feed them thinking this would be a fun experience for all involved. Just behind the museum I spotted some ducks hanging out and thought this would be a great place to stop. No sooner had I sat the little one’s feet in the grass did the ducks and geese start to waddle toward us from the edge of the water. At first things were ok but they just kept getting closer and closer and before I knew it the geese were just a foot from the baby. They are as tall as he is and seemingly unafraid of humans. So, I picked him up and we walked back a few steps but he overly friendly waterfowl just kept on coming. When the pigeons swooped in, I knew it was time to go. I threw the slices of bread I had left and walked briskly to the car.

We then drove around to the playground area where we played and were able to toss the rest of our bread to some ducks in the water who were much more respectful of our personal space. And when I say ‘we’ threw the bread I mean ‘me’ because though the baby seemed to like the birds he just ate his bread. Lesson learned; few birds – cool, lots of birds a la The Birds– not cool

Two Kid Friendly Restaurants on Magazine

A trip down Magazine Street has taken us to a couple restaurants that are very kid friendly so I want to share them here with you.

First is J’Anita’s. This is a cute little place on a part of Magazine we had not been to many times because it is that little section on the downtown side just before Magazine turns two-way. Usually when I drive down Magazine I am headed in the downtown direction so I do not see much of the block where J’Anita’s is located but even if you have to go around the block to get to it the food and atmosphere is well worth the extra maneuvering. The family and I stopped in for some lunch not too long ago. We were greeted at the door, before we even stepped inside actually, with a warm hello and a promise of animal crackers for the little one. They have plenty of high chairs (thumbs up) and after settling ourselves at the table of our choosing a little plastic (they know kids) bowl full of animals crackers was presented for the baby to play with and munch on which he did with great gusto. We ordered a sandwich and Nachos with BBQ beef brisket on top. I had never tasted Nachos with brisket topping but they were very yummy. The brisket turned the Nachos from an appetizer into a meal. The staff was very friendly, playing peek-a-boo with the baby and generally giving the restaurant a very comfortable vibe. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner opening at 7am and closing up shop at 8pm 7 days per week. This is a great place to grab a bite anytime and with their kid friendly atmosphere they get two thumbs way up. Don’t let those new summer hours get you though, they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the season.

Another place a little farther down Magazine Street is Nacho Mama’s Mexican Grill. This is one of the few restaurants that my husband and I frequented pre-baby that we can still enjoy post-baby. They have a bar but no gaming machines so we are allowed inside and for allowing us a little piece of our pre-baby lives in this crazy world we live in now Nacho Mama’s makes the list. Ok it is not for that reason alone, they also have pretty good food. Their décor is an interesting array of Mexican inspired art done New Orleans style with the whole place being drenched in that adobe/terra cotta color scheme. I am a fan of their regular chicken burrito; their burritos are “California style” which I take to mean not covered in melted cheese. Now I like melted cheese as much as the next guy but what I like about Nacho Mama burritos is I don’t feel as if I am clogging an artery as I eat it (thumbs up for not actually clogging an artery at the table). The hard walls make it a noisy place at times when they have a full house but the baby does not seem to mind and high chairs make it an easy visit. There website boasts celebrity dinners so if the food and the high chairs aren’t enough to bring you in maybe the celebrity watching will.

Nick and I Do Blue Dog

NOMA Field Trip (16)

I have a group of tiny fans on Rocheblave who sit around waiting for me to come with a laptop to play games, print coloring pages and share snacks. There are a lot of kids who need attention over there but there are two who are particularly smart and have endeared themselves to me. Nick and his brother Josh. Their mom works over at Rouse’s and she is tired after her day shift. I sort of take over in the afternoon, so she can have a nap.

Today, I promised the kids I would take them to NOMA to see the Blue Dog Exhibit. Just as Emily said, it was fantastic. Plus, we brought the camera. Josh opted to play basketball at the Victory church, so Nick and I went and we had a blast. It was only $6 for us to visit with two sets of the audio headsets for narration, which really added to Nick’s enjoyment of the paintings. Especially fun is the audio story of how the Blue Dog began as George Rodrique’s interpretation of the myth of the Loup-Garou. He also really liked the replication of the artist’s studio. When Nick spotted the Blue Dog in his tiny Saints jersey with Drew Brees, he really began to grasp the far-reaching influence of the Blue Dog.

Nick’s so funny. I tend to let kids get away with murder, the quintessential aunt. Nick ran full speed across the mezzanine to get to the stairs so I could take his photo and I couldn’t bring myself to stop him. It was so funny to see him tearing along in the staid museum atmosphere. I just wanted Nick to be exposed to museums and to know the protocol but to feel comfortable. Taking photos is one of the limited activities in a museum. We were not permitted to take photos of the Blue Dog exhibit but we took some photos around the rest of the museum. So we had a two-tiered opportunity today; taking photos and just visiting NOMA. Nick said he liked the brass drinking fountain outside the bathrooms too.

On the way home, we went to visit his Mom at Rouse’s and pick up some snacks. Nick is hooked on taking photos and videos with my camera and I love to see the world from his perspective. What a great day! I decided that we would do the sculpture garden next time . . .

Danneel Park

The other day the baby and I went way up St. Charles to Danneel Park. We had passed by the park a few times before on our way to other locations but this time we made a special trip just to go to the park. Danneel Park is at the corner of St. Charles and Octavia Streets. There are three different “Jungle Jims” in the park as well as a fire engine and a slide that I had heard used to be part of a jump into a sand pit? Behind all the play sets along Octavia the park opens up into a grassy field for running and playing. For those geocachers in the audience there is a cache in the park as well. Some of the park is fenced in and some is not so you have to be careful since the street is very close. It seems once they start walking it only takes a second for them to reach the edge of the road.

It was great having a play set just for really little ones, the baby could climb up there all by himself all he needed was a spotter and that is of course one of a Parent’s many hats. We also spent a good bit of time “driving” the fire truck, see driving the fire engine While we were at the park four or five families came and went, it is definitely a park that gets used but even so it is clean and the equipment is in good repair.

On the way out of the park I stopped to read the wood sign and stone marker near the front fence. The sign stated the usual park rules and list of officials that sit in plush chairs in big offices and signed the papers to help keep this spot a park under NORD (New Orleans Recreation Department). The stone marker is carved with two names and a date, Hermann Danneel, his wife Maria Louisa Grace and 1906. This I could not let lie I needed the story so when I arrived home I did a little searching and this is what I found.
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Meetup Groups

Parents Unite! It sounds like I am rallying for a protest or something, I am not. When we moved here, Just after Katrina there were little to no services/groups for parents let alone anything really for kids. Hell there weren’t even schools yet, so anyway I was a little discouraged and after the baby came I was lonely. It happens to the best of us but NOLA is a big city I knew people were moving back (and still are) and I knew there had to be something out there. After much searching I have found a few playgroups that have been so helpful and fun for me. They have given me and the baby an opportunity to get out and meet new people. I have learned that the alone feeling is not just a depressed NOLA thing it is sort of a feeling you get after having a baby no matter what. There are new people joining our playgroup all the time. So if you are out there and you are a parent who is looking to get out and meet other parents and let the kids socialize and have fun then you should check out these area groups. I know there are a lot of other groups out there; you could even start your own group with friends or neighbors you just have to set the dates, get out of the house and actually do something. There are meet up groups for the three big areas of the city. The New Orleans group is geared more toward city dwellers most of the events are centered in the city, The Metairie group is a bigger group and that holds most of its events in the Metairie area, the Westbank group is centered on that bank and does most of it’s events in that area. There are more parent/child meetups close by too as well as other meet ups on the website for all kinds of other interests as well, check it out and get out and socialize.

Computer Literacy at Freret Community Center

Freret  Community Center

I have always seen a need for a computer technology center in New Orleans, or hell, like eight of them. CTC’s are community centers with a focus on computer tutoring. I thought I could start one in Treme once I got my house done over there. . . but due to a wicked turn of events, that didn’t happen.

I sort of gave up on that project over the last couple of years. But New Orleans is funny to me, it seems to secretly hold all my wants and desires and places them squarely before me to cure a bad episode of city cynicism. Rewards for my loyalty and perseverance.

So one day in December, when life was looking rather dreadful, I sat down and had three beers with Jack Ware. I figured his life is likely scarier than mine . . . he’ll help me keep my perspective. So, we’re yappin and he starts telling me that he’s set up this network for a computer lab at the Freret St. Community Center. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Completely stunned. The facility was there, the computers had been found, the operating system installed. All I had to do was get in and start teaching. I just went into shock. I couldn’t believe that Jack, with all his, non-community-meetin’-bullshit talk had done this! I explained to him that this was something that I had always wanted to do in the city and he and Kimberly had already done all the really hard stuff that I would have had to plod through in order to get to the part that I really wanted to do.

So the lab is up and running and we have been doing a soft rollout with some students which has already proven extremely rewarding. I teach on Saturday mornings, which means my Friday nights are pretty nerdy too . . . but it is a really great facility and the students are so grateful. The workshops are student driven and very flexible because we truly are teaching the fundamentals of using a computer and I do not want people to feel that they have any pressure on them. They can’t fail. Most of them are doing the two finger poke on the keyboard but that’s ok, we dive right in and start mousing around the desktop and Googling their curiosities and creating emails.

Kimberly VanWagner and Kate Peak run the center. They have a broad spectrum of programs/activities for kids and adults from FREE yoga on Wednesdays, to math workshops and there is an art gallery in the center with rotating exhibits. There is a nice backyard with a small stage, it’s a wonderful space.

The kids from the center made $600 from their art booth at the Freret Festival last week and today they did a math class about there profit/investments and about philanthropy and decided how much they would give back to the center.

For more information about activities at the center:
Freret Neighborhood Center
4605 Freret
New Orleans, LA 70115
504.373.6403 phone

Restaurants with kids – VooDooBBQ

Since adding the baby to our little family we have been searching the city for a new type of restaurant. We used to be looking for a bar with food somewhere with drinks and a good menu or damn good drinks and an ok menu either way we were not concerned so much with the atmosphere. As long as we did not feel as though we might leave the place with blood spatters on our clothes (though that can make for one hell of a story) we were pretty much good to go. Now however things have changed just a bit. The places we frequent for food and drink must be kid friendly. They don’t have to be kid oriented like Chuck E. Cheese but they need to at the least allow children through the doors. They get double points if they actually have high chairs in stock.

Finding these places in a city known for its drunken debauchery can be a little challenging. Ok maybe debauchery is a little far but New Orleans certainly hasn’t been known for its kid friendly aspects. That being said I also find a lack of high chairs in restaurants. We live in the Marigny and sure there are actually quite a few restaurants that we can even walk to that will allow the baby inside but if they don’t have a high chair then it is a logistical challenge to enjoy a meal there. Anyone with kids will tell you it is a bit of a challenge to enjoy a meal in a restaurant with the little one(s) in tow under the best of circumstances so making in harder on me by frequenting non highchair venues is not top on my list of things to do.

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Dissing Sesame Street?

As a child of the 70’s, like many of you, I grew up watching Sesame Street on public television. Needless to say, when I had my daughter, I immediately introduced her to the fun loving puppets created by Jim Henson, that teach children their alphabet, numbers, and how to interact in social situations with adults and their peers. Now up until her recent discovery of Barbie, Elmo was the greatest thing in my toddler’s life. Elmo, who speaks in third person when referring to himself in conversations, was a buddy to my toddler whom she could relate to when going to the zoo, trying new foods, playing music, and even going on the potty. Now suddenly Elmo and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are being accused of brand promotion by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood according to an article written by David Crary from the Associated Press.
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