Saturday, August 30, 2008

Here We Go Again

We in Louisiana have been tracking Hurricane Gustav for days now. It seemed for quite a while that the storm would reach landfall at the southcentral part of the state. The most recent hurricane models indicate that it's not as far west of New Orleans as we in the N.O. area would like.

It's so disheartening because there are so many areas in New Orleans - and probably on the Gulf Coast in general - that have not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina 3 years and 1 day ago. Locally we see it in the papers and on the news "so and so is finally moving back in to their newly renovated home following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina." Let's hope that welcome mat isn't temporary.

My area is ordering a mandatory evacutation tomorrow morning and "contraflow" will start at 4:00 a.m. Do you know what contraflow is? It's the opening both sides of the interstate but with traffic flowing in only one direction. Have you ever driven on the "wrong" side of the interstate? Okay, have you ever tried it sober? (Just kidding. I haven't either, but it has to be a strange sensation which is why we're hoping to avoid it by leaving at 2:30 a.m....driving on the "right" side of the road.)

We took the middle seat out of the minivan (hubby says it would only cost "a couple hundred dollars" to replace said seat if it's destroy at our home - yeah, right.) This will allow us more room for our treasures and our pets. I don't really think of myself as a materialistic person. Sure, I like my stuff, but there aren't many things that I consider truly important. Still, it's hard to condense the personal treasures of a family of five into a minivan.

Still, I remind my kids that we're so blessed that this is a hurricane. We have forecast models and tracking. We have advance notice. Something that victims of tornadoes or fires don't have. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad about the things I'm leaving behind. Somewhere in this house is a locked wooden box (key long misplaced) with love letters written by Dear Hubby when were first dating. I left the collage my mother sent me a few years back of my family - photos of my grandparents on both sides, me, my sister and my folks, a photo of my side of the family at my wedding, baby photos of the kids. If the worst case scenario happens, I hope she'll be able to create another.

So what did I take? Hmmm. My treasures? My fine jewelry (it doesn't take up much space), the jewelry I sell in my Etsy shop (in the off chance I sell something, I can ship it from Tennessee), the calendar, which includes important phones numbers. My bill paying stuff, including check book, and account numbers for nearly everything. A few irreplaceable photos. Several CD-roms of my digital photos and other files that are stored on my computer. Medications for Dear Hubby and Son #1 (fortunately, we're up to date on the prescription refills).

Oh, and heart worm/flea preventative for the dogs - because it cost more than most of Dear Hubby's meds combined. I brought 3 precious toys (a teddy bear that I ordered from Avon a few years back with a clear pocket for a photo - the boys when Son #3 was a baby, "Sheila" a stuffed dog I got for my very first Christmas, and "Spot" another stuffed dog that my sister and I bickered about for 20 years - he was my wedding gift from my sister. He's butt-ugly, but I treasure him. Because I WON!!! hee hee!).

The kids packed a few stuffed animals each, Son #1 packed several thick books (um, they sell books in Tennessee, y'know). We did let them take their video game systems. I don't know whether we'll let them plug it in at the hotel, but it's important to them and comforting to know they have it (even thought those things can be easily replaced)

We removed all moveable , potentially projectile objects from the yard and put them in the garage. Earlier today, Dear Hubby saw a couple that used to live down the street from us. They were nightmare neighbors (I don't have the energy to find the original blog posts now, but if you want to learn more about them check my posts from 2005).

Long story short: mom bought the house, listed daughter and son-in-law as 1% owners. Deal was daughter, son-in-law and kids would live in house and pay rent to the mom. They reneged. Daughter ran off with another man, briefly brought the boyfriend home (one big happy family - not!). Eventually daughter moved out and mother sued to buy out their share of the house and have them removed from the title and evicted (mom ended up with the two youngest grandkids). Mom has been renting the house to a nice family for the past 8 mos.

Well, today, daughter and son-in-law were seen walking up and down the street. They stopped in front of their old house, then the cop's house next door, then our house. Dear Hubby was in the back yard, but made it a point of waving to them over the gate so they'd know they were seen. I don't want to falsely point the finger at anyone, but Dear Hubby (former cop) got the sense that they may have been 'casing the neighborhood' to see who was still here and who evacuated. The cop next door will obviously be deployed for emergency service and therefore away from his house for several days (his house was mysteriously broken in to a few years ago, too). The son-in-law has two arrests for breaking and entering.

Maybe they were just being nostalgic for the good old days when they lived in our neighborhood, but it's annoying enough to leave your home because of a dangerous hurricane. Now we have to worry about our house being looted while we're gone. Sheesh. Fortunately I believe in karma.

So what have I learned since last time I evacuated (for Katrina)? Here are some tips:

  • Take all of the stuff in your freezer and place it in a trash bag. Twist it closed, then place it in another trash bag and seal. Place this back into the freezer.
  • Do the same thing for the contents of the refrigerator.
  • Fill a pitcher with ice cubes and put it in the freezer.
  • Leave and don't look back.

When you return home, check the freezer first. If the pitcher contains ice cubes, congratulations! Your electricity wasn't out very long, if at all. The contents of your fridge/freezer are safe.

If the pitcher contains a since pitcher-shaped chunk of ice (or worse, water), then simply take the pre-bagged contents of the fridge/freezer, place them in the trash can, put it out by the curb. And hope the streets are clear enough that the garbage guy can pick it up within the next month.

At least you'll have likely saved your appliances from the stench of rotting frozen pizza, frozen broccoli and the 29 lb turkey.

Sorry this post is so long and disjointed. Trying to get a lot of thoughts down before we hit the road in two hours or so. I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to post again. Keep us in your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go Away, Gustav!

For those of you wondering, I live in southeast Louisiana. Funny thing about wishing that a hurricane will head in some other direction: it's almost like wishing a disaster on someone else. Nevertheless, I'd be lying if I said southeast Louisiana is prepared for another hurricane.

August 29 is the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My immediate family was very fortunate. Negligible damage to our house. My father-in-law and his adult sons who lived with him lost their house and most of their possessions. I have to say this about my f-i-l, he has moxie for having to start over from scratch at age 73. He lives just a few blocks away now.

Katrina was different, though. We knew the storm was in the Gulf of Mexico, for days leading up to it, forecasters were predicting that it would hit landfall at the Alabama/Florida state line. Image our surprise when we woke Saturday, Aug. 27 to radio reports that the storm did not make the easterly turn as anticipated and instead will reach land between, New Orleans, LA and Gulfport, MS.

We grabbed our essentials and high tailed it pretty quickly to Uncle Harold's house in Lafayette, LA. We stayed thirteen days until power was restored in our area. The other difference about Katrina is that I remember incessantly watching the Weather Channel coverage on Monday, Aug. 29th and thinking, "oh, New Orleans didn't fare too badly." Then the levees broke.

As for Gustav, I'm obsessively watching the Weather Underground website for updates. It's too soon to tell whether we'll evacuate or to where. I'm also making a short list of essentials: a few family photos, my bill paying organizer/checkbook, back up CD-roms of some things on my computer (why, oh why didn't I just invest in a laptop), insurance info, my firebox containing important documents, and so forth.

I'm not sure how to end this post, so ...

Links to Katrina posts (if you're interested):

We Evacuated, Aug. 30, 2005
Hurricane Katrina Update, Aug. 31, 2005
I Can't Watch the News Anymore, Sept. 1, 2005

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

He's Probably Not Smiling Now...

Subtitled: Missing Max
Son #2 took this photo of Max. Looks like he's smiling, doesn't it? He's probably not too happy today. I took him to the animal hospital this morning for his canine vasectomy. I called a while ago, and the little patient is doing well. He'll stay overnight for observation.
I pick him after 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. Boy, is he going to be mad at me!

Friday, August 15, 2008

School - Week 1

The boys returned to school on August 8 - last Friday. I can't say I'm a fan of the Friday-as-a-first-day concept, but whatever. Today marks their first full week of school.

Son #1 is in 8th grade at Junior High. His school only has 7th and 8th grades so we went from being low guy on the totem pole last year to being top of the totem pole this year. It's a very short totem pole. He has seven classes with six different teachers. English and Language Arts are combined into one two-hour class with the same teacher.

He's taking Spanish again this year - same teacher as last year. She's his homeroom teacher, too, so that's nice. He was a bit dismayed to have Social Studies homework on the first day of school. On a Friday. The horror! It was a short, fun assignment, but still...

My only complaint: lockers were assigned yesterday. I personally think that they should have held off sending books home (unless needed for homework) until after the lockers were assigned. My 64 pound son was schlepping around an 32 pound bookbag.

Son #2 is in his last year at Middle School (which covers grades 4-6). He has two teachers this year. One for homeroom, science, math and social studies. Another for language arts, English. We've struggled in the past at this school. Son #2 has always gotten As and Bs, but he is forgetful at times.

He's always completed his assignments - I look over his homework when he's finished. However, he would sometimes forget to turn in the homework. The teacher seemed perfectly happy to give him a big fat zero. I do admit to pressing the issue and eventually the late policy would be modified. Don't get me wrong. I believe there should be consequences for not turning assignments in on time - but a zero? Why not accept it a day late and knock off a letter grade (or two)? I do admit to pressing the issue and eventually the late policy would be relaxed.

I've discussed the subject with Son #2's teacher, showed him the different methods we're trying so he can become better organized. She seems much more reasonable than teachers in the past couple of years. Son #2 is feeling good about it, so I think it's going to be a very good year.

Son #3 is in a program called Multi-Age at his elementary school. It's a great program - Son #2 went through it several years ago. Essentially, Son #3 is 1st grade level. They call them "novices." Half the class are novices. The other half are 2nd grade level, called "experts." They work at their own pace, collaborate with one another (no better way for a 2nd grader to improve reading skills than by reading a book to a 1st grader), and can advance through the curricula as quickly as their development allows.

Next year, he'll have the same teacher, same class room, although he'll be an "expert" (2nd grade) and there'll be new novices coming in. It's especially nice that he'll know what to expect, know the teacher, the layout of the room, and half the kids. For a kid who professes not to like school, he seems to be having a pretty good time.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Last Day of Summer Vacation

It's official: summer vacation is over. It seemed too short - to the kids, and to me. They returned to school today (Fri.). This past week, we've been cramming in all the little things we hoped to do but had not. Chuck E. Cheese on Tuesday, a trip to the trailhead park yesterday. There's a big concrete area near the bike trail that has water jets in the ground. The jets go on an off, some high, some low. It's a fun way to cool off from our 95+ degree days (but I'm still questioning the wisdom on concrete + water + kids).
In the photo above are (from left to right): Son #1 - age 13, Son #2, standing (age 11), and Son #3 (age 6).