Saturday, September 19, 2015


I made gumbo for dinner tonight. As I helped Ianna stir the roux just so, I thought back to when I first learned to make it myself. I had an obsession for making things from scratch, and even though I grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, I had never learned to make real gumbo. We had some friends over one afternoon, and they were talking about how good their mom's gumbo smelled cooking. When I applied to her for instructions to make it, she told me that what her kids were calling gumbo wasn't REAL gumbo. "My mom knows how to make it though," she said. "I'll call her."

So I got my gumbo-making information over the phone.

"How do we know when it's done?" I asked.

"Mom says it'll be the color of a dirty penny."

When I was explaining to Ianna how to know when the roux was done, I pulled a penny from my wallet. "See?" I told her, "that's now you know it's done."

After the roux was make she went back to her game with her sister, and I continued working on dinner. Every time I make gumbo, I think of one particular pot that I make about ten years ago. 

It's kinda a long story, actually. 

When I was a young teenager, I got to know the wife of a distant cousin, and found her to be something of an unlikely kindred spirit. She was about fifteen years older than me, and her oldest kids were a little younger than me. When I met her, she had five or six children. I'm pretty sure that we were the only ones in the family who didn't think that they were absolutely crazy, when the babies kept coming. For the last three babies, Robin and I, stayed with her to help during the last few weeks of pregnancy and keeping things running after the new baby. For baby number nine (I think) I was eighteen, and Robin was seventeen. They were in the middle of moving, and though they were still mostly living in Arlington, they were having the baby in Tyler. So, we arranged for Shane and Adondra to go stay in Tyler once it got down to "any minute now" time, and Robin and I stayed in Arlington with the other kids. All of them. 

It need hardly be said that some family members were not impressed when they discovered that this was the arrangement. My cousin, who is almost my grandfather's age, and his wife drove from Tyler and dropped by one afternoon unannounced. I'm pretty sure they were expecting to find the disaster that two teenagers left in charge of more than a half a dozen kids would CLEARLY to in the middle of. 

As it happened, the house was clean, the kids were happy, and dinner was cooking. It was gumbo. They were impressed. It was darn good gumbo, too. It would have been better if someone had told me that okra gets woody when it gets too big. The kids got tired of "woody gumbo" pretty quickly. But I digress.

I was thinking back to that day as I was cooking this afternoon. I was so pretty proud of us too that day. I felt more than equal to the thought of a house of my own and a gaggle of kids. Fast-forward ten years, to a house of my own and a couple of kids, and I feel anything but. If those same relatives had dropped by my house unannounced, they would not be impressed. I wondered what happened. I'm far more experienced now. Why can twenty-eight year old me not handle what eighteen year old me handled masterfully?

The first thing, I realized, was that I didn't do it alone. My sister, my fourteen year old cousin and I shared the job that I do myself now.

Secondly, those kids were already trained to help, and listen, and contribute to family life.

Thirdly, I was only there for a few weeks. Even a month is a lot less long than "for the foreseeable future."

And lastly, the house we were in was almost empty. They were in the process of moving, so only the absolute necessities were left in the house. And it was SO easy to keep up.

Overall, I was encouraged to continue training my children, because eventually they will be more help than hindrance, and to not give up on my quest to get rid of the excess stuff in our lives. A have always admired Adondra, my amazing mother-of-eleven role model, but the longer I'm a mom, the more respect I have for the profound of time, energy and love she pours into her brood. When I grow up, I want to be as great of a mom as she is.

Which brings me full circle. To making gumbo with my little princess. I hope that she has gumbo stories of her own some day, and  that making gumbo with her mommy and making sure the roux is the color of a dirty penny is one of them.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dear Younger Self

Hello Darling,
I've been thinking about you for while now, and it occurs to me that I might be able to offer you some advice that could save you some grief.
1. Be yourself. I know that advice is trumpeted from the rooftops... in theory. In reality, being not just like everyone else not very well regarded. That's okay. Embrace the things that make you who you are.
2. That advice, however needs to be tempered. Different in and of itself isn't a virtue. Consider the person you aspire to be, and work toward becoming that person, but don't just shun what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it.
3. The above being said, lose the sunbonnet, at least it public. And the prairie dresses. Find a way to make your style jive with what people actually wear.
4. You need friends, Dear One. It's much easier to be yourself if you have other people who like the person yourself really is. Perhaps you might even have things in common with them. "We both have a weird lifestyle" doesn't count as "things in common," in case you were thinking of using that as an out. Be on the lookout for kindred spirits.
5. Learn to make decisions. Eenie, meeney, miney, mo. There, it's decided. Now move on.
6. Know what you want. From life, from friendships, from romantic relationships. We can start with what you want for dinner. You won't always get what you want, but you will certainly never get it if you don't even know what "it" is.
7. When you don't get what you want, move on. Don't fixate on something you can't have. Forget what is behind, and strive for what is ahead.
8. Heartbreak and pain are some of the things that shape who you are, but they ARE NOT who you are. Some pain never goes away, and some broken things can't be fixed. It's tragic, and it's sad and it's wrong that things happen as they do sometimes, but God has enough grace to make something beautiful out of the most heartrending tragedies. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
8. Accordingly: Buck up, Buttercup. Everything wrong in your life, contrary to what you may have heard, isn't someone else's fault. And even if it is, there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes life is just bumpy. This little thing we call sin nature has done a number on the world, and those around you (not to mention you, yourself) can be relied on the let you down. Your mood and your demeanor are your responsibility. Have a good cry, close your eyes for fifteen minutes, read some of your bible for a refresher of the doctrines of "God is God and I'm not,"  and "God is consistently reliable" and move on. Smile, do something you love, and decide to be happy.
9. You know the old saying "Jack of all trades?" If you have forgotten, the rest of the line is "... and master of none." Master something. Pick one of the 500 things you are interested in and become actually skilled at one or two of them. Dabbleing is fine, but becoming just barely competent at everything you do isn't.
10. On that note, PRACTICE. Play the piano for hours a day. Why not? GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON! Sorry, I'm a little sore with you about this one.
11. Do math. You may not actually be good at it. Even if you're not, you've got to know it.
13. Memorize copious amount of scripture. Read your bible and and study it, then read and study some more.
12. There are wonderful, never-to-be-repeated things happening in your life right now. Savor them.
13. When they are over, it's okay to miss them. But don't forget to revel in the new things.
Finally, rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you.

Your Twenty-Something, Happily Married, Mother-of-Littles, Busy, Tired, but Oh-So-Happy Self.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tea Time

Yesterday my girls wanted to have a tea party. They always have tea parties for birthdays and when they go to my grandparent's house, but I'm usually too busy at home. But I'm making an effort to take time to enjoy little things, so we dropped everything, make scones, and had tea. As it happened, I talked to my sister, and my niece was apparently also clamoring for a tea party, so she joined us. My girls like everything in life better when Selina joins the fun.

 I discovered that our teatime manners are sorely lacking, so we'll have to make a point to have tea a couple of times a week and work on speaking softly, taking small bites and not rattling the china. 

I didn't have any cookies of any kind, so we had to make scones.
I found this delightful recipe from the Food Network, sans the currents. I don't like currents.
(Thank goodness for the Food Network website. Without it, we would subsist solely on tacos and spaghetti.)

We took turns adding ingredients. 

If you bake- ever- and don't have a pastry cutter, get one. 

Cutting in the butter us so much fun! 

We didn't have cream, so we used whole milk. It worked.

We opted for wedge-shaped scones. Yummy.

"Look, Aunt Rish, it looks like a crown!"
I love now little people find beauty in really simple things.
Somewhere I read a suggestion for "poetry tea parties," where everyone brings a poem to share.
My kids brought Barenstien Bears and Fancy Nancy. I guess we need to work on poetry...
So yes, I still have laundry to do and dishes to wash. But my kids are growing up every time I turn around. So we'll take time for poetry and tea and dress-up. Because what is life without a little beauty?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarroti 

The breath of God
That spoke swirling galaxies
And a myriad of stars
into the vast array of heaven,
breaths life into a form of dust
And infuses him with the Divine Spark.

The hand of God
Touching the hand of man
The angels watch with bated breath
As the Father of Heaven
Gives life to Adam, the father of earth

The image of God
The crowning achievement of creation
Gazing at his creator with trust and peace.
Unmarred and unashamed.
Looking at the face of God

With love

Ballet Magnificat!

My girlies, my neice and their friend
on the first day of ballet classes this year. 

"You do WHAT? Seriously, you drive all that way? Why?"
This is the response I tend to get when I casually mention that my kids go to ballet class two hours from home.

I'm not gonna lie. Sometimes I have a similar conversation with myself. Tuesdays are long in our house. We leave the house about 9:30 and head to Jackson, where we have a round of violin lessons, and later in the afternoon, ballet classes. We get dinner at Cracker Barrel, and head home. We usually get back around 9:30 at night.

I was once again reminded this evening. It's pretty simple: Ballet Magnificat.

I mean, there are other factors. For example, there isn't a violin teacher for the girls in town. However there are teachers closer than Jackson. Why on earth would we choose to sacrifice the time and expense to drive a hundred additional miles round trip further than we have to?

I usually tell a story to illistrate why my husband and I consider the drive worth it:

It was a normal Thursday. The trainees were about to file out of one studio after bible study with bibles and devotional books in hand.  We were a little early for Ianna's class, and so we were watching a few members of the touring company rehearse in the studio across the hall. The new ballet clearly dealt with temptation and it's allure. Two dancers were also watching, and were engrossed in conversation.

"It's creepy, isn't it?" one of them said. "I mean, you want to think of sin as scary and ugly, but it's not."

"Yeah, it's true." her friend replied. "But think about it; we don't have to live under sin. Christ has conquered it. We don't have to be ruled by it."
Margot is one of the young ladies who's conversation I
happened to overhear. She's here with Ianna and
Isaac, my nephew. 

Now, these girls weren't tying to impress me with their deep observations or spiritual jargon. They weren't giving me a "I'm a Christian-ballerina-who-has-sound-theology" bit to convince me to send my kid to study there. They were just talking, And in case you were wondering, no,  that's not the kind of thing you usually just happen to hear around a ballet studio.

When you are talking about something irritating, you say "to add insult to injury", but what do you say when it's something impressive?

 "To add better to good?"

I guess I'll go with that.

To add better to good,  they are all nice. Seriously. Dancers can be seriously snooty. World-class ballerinas aren't just lining up to have conversations with a five-year-old about her new baby brother like Kathy Thibodeaux, the founder and artistic director, did with  my my little one.

But for all that, every once and a while I need an extra dose of perspective. Tonight was a great one. We took the girls to see Ballet Magnificat! perform here in Natchez. The show was beautiful, fun and engaging, and it ended with remarkably clear gospel presentation. Stunning dance, seeped and surrounded with a passion for the glory of God.

We had to have pictures with a few ballerinas 
And that's why I make the haul. So that my kids will be surrounded by people with a passion for the gospel. So that their perception of art won't be the skewed, self-glorifying, cut-throat affair that it can so easily become. So that the will see dancers who are worthy role models, not just because they have good turnout or they can do a dizzying number of pirouettes, but primarily because they love and serve the Lord.
And, did I mention that they are stunningly beautiful?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baby Boy

Yes, it's about 6 months late, but seriously, have you ever had a newborn? No time, people. I haven't mastered art of typing and nursing at the same time. Also, I've been putting off editing these pictures, and have thus been putting off posting them. I'm a pretty modest girl, and birth pictures can be less than. So, now I've finally got some G-rated birth pictures, and some commentary to go along with them.  

I had been feeling a little different all day, and about 9pm on April 3rd I started noticing that the discomfort that is ever present during pregnancy was kind of coming and going. "Patterning," they call it. So I called the midwife and my sister. Andrew went to get groceries, because we seriously had nothing in the house, and Robin and Mom helped me with a last-ditch house clean. The midwife told me to rest while I was waiting. That didn't happen. I was too hyped. I guess it's good I labor pretty quickly, because I never rest in early labor. 
I had little gifts for my "birth team." Hey, birth is stressful for everyone. Moms and babies get lots of stuff, but what about all the people that cope with the crazy women and don't sleep all night? I think they deserve some thanks too.

I carefully timed my contractions 'till the midwife got there. Gotta love smart phones.

 I was pretty far along by the time I settled into the bed room. Andrew was pretty nervous about the whole "have a baby at home" thing,  but he was pretty great once it came down to it.
I've read alot about "counter pressure" during labor, but never really liked it. I did this time.
Mom got the honor of dealing with me while Andrew blew up the pool.
 I didn't really want the tub, but Alina, the midwife, talked me into having them set it up, in case I changed my mind.

 I did. I'm pretty sure I made someone go to Robin's house to get me a swimsuit to borrow. I couldn't find mine. It turned up about a month later in a random box.
This was probably about midnight. I was in serious labor at this point, and obviously don't care about the rather uncomfortable positions my helpers adopted.

 Little man was a little bit blue. His Aunt Robin caught him. Andrew held my hands while I screamed in his face. That's love, folks. I'm a little surprised I didn't bust his eardrums.

 Momin, as my kids call her, held baby boy while I took a moment to cope. Alina had discussed something they are calling a "birth pause" with us during the pregnancy, and I found it very freeing to not feel like a bad mom the need a moment to come to terms with myself before I turned my attentions to the baby. Having a baby is seriously intense.

He was pretty much perfect. Fat and happy. 
Still is :-)

 The sisters like the baby. They can't keep their little hands off him. It's pretty cute.
 My kids still have all their great-grandparents, and most of them were able to come see the new addition. These are my grandparents. Grammy had called early Thursday to see if I wanted the girls to some stay there for a few days so I could get some rest. Turns out I had a baby that night.

 This is Andrew's Grandpa Gore
 And this is Pa, Andrew's grandfather Gavin.

She loves her baby.

Daddy and his boy. Elijah ADORES Andrew. Every time he sees him the smiles and laughs and is generally super happy. He likes to be held by the milk machine, though.