Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Be a part of the change.

Money doesn't automatically equal better schools. 76% of our voters realize that. You can sit around griping about the election results and insulting the vast majority of voters (very productive option, might I say), or you can be a part of the change. Realize that the more than 12,000 residents who voted this measure down were not doing so because we don't care about schools or because we are more concerned about our bottom line than anything else. Realize that it was, rather, such a drastic increase without a detailed business plan indicating specifically how this money will actually improve our district's education. And no, we are not asking for the color the walls will be painted and the size shoe of the delivery man for the carpeting. What we want in a plan, for example, is to demonstrate a true need for ALL the schools to be completely remodeled or rebuilt and to tell us what "arts in the elementary schools" means.

I'll say it again. Money doesn't automatically equal better schools. You don't just throw money at a problem and hope it gets fixed. I absolutely think the teachers in this district need more money. I absolutely think some of the schools need repairs. But I also absolutely think that those two things on their own will not magically give us the "A+" schools we all would like for the children of our parish. And I, for one, was not about to let them make one increase, realize their "plan" wasn't effecting the change they were hoping for, and then face another increase in 5 or 10 years.

Catholic high schools in the area get approximately $6,000 per student. That’s at least $2,000 less than Terrebonne Parish spends per student. They do, in fact, have lower teacher salaries than public schools, but their graduation rates, ACT scores, and college attendance rates are leaps and bounds higher than those of the public schools. To me, that proves that better facilities and higher salaries aren’t a sure-fire fix to the problems in this school district. There is another factor that the district is missing. They need to figure out what it is and make a plan to fix it.

Over the past few days while proponents of this tax increase have gone on a rampage insulting those who voted it down, blaming us for the failings in the school system, and all around being “disappointed” with me as a resident, I have been thinking about how I would have done it differently. I am by no means an expert, so please keep that in mind as you read on. I approached this problem with the research skills I learned in graduate school and with the financial understanding I gained from my experiences running certain college organizations and my own household.

This is how I see it.

With regard to teacher salaries, I absolutely agree that we are not competitive in the area. Instead of a $4,000 increase, however, I propose a $3,000 increase for instructional employees. This increase will put us above the state average starting salary, bringing us from #47 to #21 (out of 70) for starting salaries with a bachelor’s degree, and we would be at a comparable salary to neighboring parishes.* This does not taking into account our generous benefits package, which bumps us up even further.  Accounting for 2,384 employees, approximately 75% of whom are instructional, a $3,000 pay increase for the instructional employees (≈1788) would require $5,364,000 in funds. The remaining 25% are non-instructional, and a $2,000 pay increase for those (≈596) would cost $1,192,000. That’s a total of $6,556,000. A 1/3 cent sales tax increase, which would directly be paid for by all consumers in the area rather than just property owners, would cover this cost and leave almost $1 million to hire additional teachers to lower the teacher-student ratio and rehire those positions that have been lost the past several years due to cuts. [In the form of property tax, approximately 11 mills would generate the same revenue.]**

With regard to the proposed drastic facility overhaul, what I don’t understand is the need for a complete remodeling and renovation of ALL schools in addition to new structures in at least 2 locations. My polling place is Broadmoor Elementary School. From my understanding, there is nothing devastatingly dangerous about the school that would require a complete renovation of the building. I will not pretend to be an expert about the state of our school buildings, but I do know that a building being old is not a reason to completely remodel or rebuild. Furthermore since 2008, our school district’s debt has increased exponentially, from $487,012 in the 2008-2009 school year to $21,648,087 in the 2012-2013 school year.** That is a more than 4000% increase in debt! This is due to three separate bonds that were issued for the specific purpose of school construction. In addition to that, a 8.5% portion of the One Cent Sales Tax (a portion of our sales tax that is dedicated to our school district) is dedicated exclusively to replacement, repair, and maintenance of roofs and mechanical equipment. That tax provides almost $2 million a year.** We are already making a significant investment in our school properties. Rather than vaguely demand another $9 million a year for renovating, remodeling, and rebuilding “all schools”, let’s concretely figure out what we need to do.

First, let’s look at possible income. There are multiple schools that currently remain empty in the district. The Andrew Price School has been sitting empty as has Little Caillou Elementary School. If we do not need these school buildings because students have been relocated or new buildings have been built, then let’s sell or lease them. If the buildings themselves are extreme safety hazards, let’s knock them down and at least sell or lease the property. I don’t know what amount we could realistically get for these properties, but these buildings gathering dust is not helping the community in the least. There has to be something we can do with them! Use funds from these ventures to finance necessary improvements at other locations.

To determine which would qualify as necessary improvements, let’s look at this facility plan I have been hearing that the school board spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop. Pick the most necessary items that need to be fixed, come up with an estimated cost, and figure out how much we would need either from a property tax, a sales tax, or some other form of income to support this. But let’s not focus our plan to improve this district’s education primarily on facilities. Let’s not aim for luxury and new buildings. Let’s make the focus of our plan about the kids and about the programs.

With regard to these instructional programs, first we must have principals and curriculum specialists make a priority list that would include the programs that they have seen positive results from that need to stay or programs that have nationally shown positive results that they would like to implement and the costs of these programs. Next, look at successful schools in the area and successful areas in the state. What programs do they use? How do they prioritize within their budget?

One of the most important parts of this is to look for SUCCESSFUL programs. What the Terrebonne Parish voters want to see is a plan with tangible results and measurable outcomes. Tell us first how you know that these programs and improvements will directly improve the education of our children, and then we will consider a tax increase to support them.

It is imperative to remember, though, that increasing taxes isn’t necessarily the only form of fundraising the schools can turn to. For example, our area has numerous consistently successful fundraising events throughout the year (e.g. Thibodaux Fireman’s Fair, Relay for Life) that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their respective organizations. Let’s have a committee come up with alternative income opportunities such as these. It won’t give them the millions of dollars they are looking for, but every little bit counts, and it would increase safe, family-friendly events in the parish, which are always a good thing.

So, as a recap, here is the plan:

- Prepare a 1/3 cent sales tax proposition for the next ballot for an increase in employee salaries, $3,000 for instructional and $2,000 for non-instructional.

- Develop a plan to generate income from the empty school properties in the district. These funds would then be allocated to repairs on current school properties.

- Consulting any previously compiled facility plans, administrators, and maintenance officials, come up with a list of NECESSARY repairs and costs to aid in the future proposals for other income strategies.

- Compile a list of instructional programs that need funding. Include in this list research-based proof that the programs achieve the goals they set out to reach and measurable outcomes that we can expect to see as a result of these plans. Project costs for these programs to aid in proposals for other income strategies.

- Look into other fundraising ideas to develop additional means of income besides taxing parish residents. After all other resources are exhausted, come up with a reasonable tax increase, if it is deemed necessary.

I came up with this plan over the course of a couple of days after doing minimal research into current spending and state trends for teacher salaries. With the insight and knowledge of the administrators and school board members in the area, a plan such as this one could easily be developed and implemented prior to levying a tax on parish property owners.

*The salary rankings are based on the Annual Teacher Salary Schedule report for 2011-2012 as published by the Louisiana Department of Education. http://www.louisianaschools.net/lde/uploads/17776.pdf

**Information regarding the budget comes from the Annual Operating Budget of the Terrebonne Parish School Board for the 2012-2013 school year. http://www.tpsd.org/home/files/Budget_FY13.pdf

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's what's inside that counts...

Note: This is a letter to the editor that I submitted to a local newspaper. It may or may not be published, but I wanted to share it either way.

I am an educator, and I believe that our schools need more money to be rigorous, effective, and more successful. However, I will NOT be voting in favor of the increased millage for school funding.

I am not generally one to project my political opinions, [and that is certainly not what I intend the purpose of this blog to be,] but I thought it important for it to be known that not all educators are in favor of this tax increase.

One of the biggest arguments that I've seen against this increase is that the funds are being requested without a plan in place for how they will be used. There is, in fact, a plan for the funds on the school district’s Web site. It is rather vague, listing items such as "all schools--renovate/remodel" and "expand the arts in elementary schools". More than that, I just don't think the plan has proper priorities.

The plan seems to focus on remodeling current school buildings as well as building at least two new schools entirely. My first concern is this: I already see empty school buildings across Terrebonne Parish. I have no idea what the building is now used for, but I drive past the empty Andrew Price Alternative School daily. Building new schools and leaving old ones vacant does not seem like the most efficient way to improve our community. Certainly a pristine new building would be easier on the eyes and the maintenance staff, but isn't it what is inside these buildings that truly affect our children? Some of the most successful and rigorous schools I have worked in and visited across the state have also been some of the oldest buildings with less than current architecture and decor. We should be focusing on our programs, our resources and our technology before we pull out the wrecking balls and wallpaper.

For example, why does our district, so rich in French culture, not consistently offer French in its elementary and middle schools? Why don't we take one of the several empty school buildings and implement a French immersion program? This idea has been recurring in this parish for years, consistently brought up by people who realize the importance of second-language acquisition and  the continuation of French in an area where it is steadily fading away and consistently ignored by our school board and leaders.

Furthermore, how many of our schools have classrooms with one-to-one technology, ensuring that our children are prepared to enter into a world where technology is no longer an option but a necessity for survival and success?

Sure, we need the brick and mortar to keep the rain off our children's heads, but their heads are dry now. We have schools for them to learn in. Before I will agree to drastically increase a tax on our property-owners, let’s see a plan for improvement inside our schools, not just the buildings themselves. This is what will make our schools rival others schools in the state and the country. This is what will make our students stand out. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sophie, swaddling, and sundry stuff

Sometimes choosing a gift for new parents is so hard. With such bountiful options out there, it really is so hard to narrow things down. Even choosing gifts for yourself by registering is a daunting task. I remember spending days with suggested lists of products from Babies R Us, Target, and Walmart. I made an Excel spreadsheet with columns for items I’d chosen, different patterns for the linens, a column to categorize according to level of need, and one for what store they come from. I called family and friends to ask for suggestions as to products that they love, wish they’d gotten, or bought and never used. It was traumatizing. What if I didn’t get the right swing? Should I get a walker, a stationary activity station, an activity mat? All three? None? I think it took me half an hour to decide which pacifiers to register for.

Sometimes I wish I were more like my husband. His “hey, this one looks good” method is too quick and easy for me. Too stress-less. Every time I try to follow is quick pick lead, an endless stream of questions come to mind: “Do I really need this? Do I need more than one? Is this too expensive? Is it too cheap? Does this have the best color design? Will the baby like it?”

Will the baby care what design it on her bib? Absolutely not. Does that stop me from spending longer than I’m comfortable admitting picking them out? You know it doesn’t.

Now that I’ve been through it, buying gifts for our friends who are new parents has become a whole different experience. Now that I’m a mother, I have experienced a sampling of the plethora of products out there; I should just give them my favorite, the one I couldn’t live without, the one I never would have thought to buy had it not been gifted to me. There are still too many to choose!

Do I go with Sophie, la giraffe? Arguably the best baby teether out there. She was one of the first toys Lily could hold on to herself. She has lasted the test of baby chewing, pulling, throwing, and squeezing. To top it all off, she’s French! What more could this maman ask for? We actually have two: one that still squeaks, and one that I accidentally messed up by submerging with water and ruined her squeaker. (This is now our church Sophie.)

What about the washable liners that lay out on the changing table? On those days when we had 3 blowout diapers, and my washing machine just couldn’t keep up, these pads could easily be tossed in the laundry basket and changed out without having to replace the cover for the changing pad and without breaking the bank. You could have a pack of three of these changing pad liners for less than the price of one extra changing pad cover. A definite necessity.

Or maybe I should give the swaddler? I was always a terrible swaddler. When I was post-C-section and relying on my husband to change diapers and even after we’d come home and I was moving around a little more, I was never very good at wrapping Lily in a blanket and getting it to stay wrapped. He was a master. The nurse showed him how she did it, and he could always get it to stay wrapped nice and comfily. I, on the other hand, relied on the swaddler – the one baby product that we made fun of during the registering process. “How silly looking! It makes the baby look like she’s in a cocoon.” For a parent of an infant who won’t sleep unless tightly swaddled, the swaddler was one of the best gifts I received! Swaddling is also the safety way to keep babies warm while sleeping as it’s not recommended to leave them with loose blankets in the cribs as infants.
(This is Lily in her swaddler and her way too big hat at about 5 days old.)

Decisions decisions…

One really cool thing that we did at school for a coworker who had a baby this month is a dinner calendar. Everyone took a day (or two) and signed up a certain meal to provide for dinner for their family for the last two months of school. New parents have SO much to worry about; the last thing a mother needs to spend time thinking about is what she and her husband will eat for dinner. Cooking for me was one of the BEST ways my family and friends supported me in the weeks after Lily was born. So we all signed up, and 4 days after his baby girl was born when our colleague returned to work, he was greeted with a calendar and the following poem:

Congratulations to your family
on your beautiful baby girl!
No doubt she will be the center
of your forever-changed world.

So you can focus on sweet ________,
your adorable beginner,
and to make your lives a little easier,
we are preparing several dinners.

We send you lots of love,
and we wish you little fatigue.
We hope you’ll enjoy these meals
prepared by your friends and colleagues.

Much love,
your friends at _______

What is your favorite thing to give as a baby gift? Or what was your favorite gift someone gave you when you became a parent?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Plus! (a bilingual baby update)

It has been almost 9 months since I’ve last checked in with you. It was shortly before the start of the school year, and – as all my teacher friends know – all free time flies out the window when August comes rolling around. Of course I had a plan to write weekly posts updating you of my cooking, my crafts, and my communication with Lily girl; however, I rarely had time to actually do crafts or cooking let alone write about it. It has been a hamburger helper and “my husband the chef” kind of culinary year for us.

As I re-read my first (and only) post about bilingualism and Lily, I can feel my trepidation and uncertainty. I felt like a fool: a silly American girl trying to speak French to her American daughter. Half of me wondered if people thought I was strange, and the other half worried that there were Francophiles everywhere judging my incorrect French grammar and lacking vocabulary. I realize now that most of my fears came from my insecurity of being a mother at all, not necessarily the language aspect.  I still don’t know much. I still call my mother at the first sniffle or cough, and I have become a Google queen, but I have become much more confident in speaking to Lily in French.

I think the biggest bit of encouragement is her comprehension. When she was a two-month-old, her smile was less of a reaction to anything I said and more of an alert to something new in her diaper. Now she smiles and laughs when we talk. She seems to understand some of what I say. In fact, if I ask her where her tête or her bouche is she will gladly show me, smiling to show off her 5 teeth and counting. She loves to blow des bisous, and she waves bonjour and au revoir. My biggest fear initially was that I was doing more harm than good, stunting her English by clouding it with my haphazard French. My education and research told me otherwise, and now I’ve seen it for myself.

When she was 5 or 6 months old, we started trying to teach her some baby signs. I know. It’s crazy. English and French aren’t enough? You want to teach her sign language too? And it did turn out to be too much for me. Stopping to look up the word for something in French and its sign was just too time-consuming, so I dropped the signing and stuck with the French. Only two of our signs lasted: the sign for plus (which Lily changed and doesn’t even resemble the actual sign for more) and the sign for fini.

My next step is to teach her some songs with hand motions: Itsy Bitsy Spider-esque, but French. I have yet to learn any, but we’ll learn together. I hope to continue posting a little more frequently, but we’ll see what life has in store for us as summer approaches. I see trips to French story time at the library in our future… I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A healthy spin on two comfort food favorites

For those of you who don’t know, ever since Russell and I got married (so for approximately the past two years), Sunday nights have been dedicated to culinary adventures with my family. My mother and I (and my grandmother, when she isn’t traveling) take turns cooking meals that are entirely new to us.

This week was my turn. Since Lily was born, my dinners have been trimmed down from elaborate feasts that take most of the day to cook, including an appetizer, main dish, at least one side dish, and a dessert. Now I generally just cook and main dish and a side dish, and usually the selections are both quick recipes. I occasionally try a dessert, but as I am trying to lose my baby weight, we are unfortunately avoiding all things sweet. I have spent a lot of time trying recipes from my new favorite Pampered Chef cookbooks: 29 Minutes to Dinner (Volume 1 & Volume 2) and from my new favorite social media app, Pinterest.

Today’s menu included healthy spins on two traditionally carb-packed comfort foods.

Crawfish-Stuffed Bell Peppers

First was a recipe I found in a free Rouse’s magazine. The first thing, as usual, that attracted me to the recipe was the picture [shown to the right].

The crinkles in the skin of the bell pepper, the fact that it was a red bell pepper, and the cute presentation – with the top of the bell pepper placed back on like a little hat – were all very appealing to me. The large pink circle advertising that it is a “low-calorie dinner!” didn’t hurt its case either. When I went on to read the recipe, however, I realized that the picture was rather misleading. The recipe calls for green peppers to be cut in half and then stuffed and for no rice, contrary to the picture, but rather breadcrumbs are used. Because the idea of stuffed bell peppers was now firmly in my dieting appetite’s mind, I decided to go for it despite the discrepancies. I went ahead and used yellow, red, and orange bell peppers to stuff instead of the green anyway, as I prefer their slightly sweeter taste to the sometimes-bitter green bell pepper. I also like the pretty colors. (Who says I’m not mature?)
[Note: Sweet bell peppers are a little more expensive, so if you’re going for price-consciousness, stick to the green. They still make for a yummy stuffed pepper.]

One of the reasons that I never used to be a fan of the stuff bell pepper was the crunchiness of the bell pepper shell. I’m not a crunchy veggie person. Crunchy onions? No, siree. Give me soft caramelized onions any day. Crunchy carrots? Not a chance. Soft carrots in a stew or with a pot roast? Yum. Following that lead, I don’t particularly care for crunchy bell peppers, so I remedy that with one of my tools from The Pampered Chef. To prepare the bell peppers for stuffing, I first cut around the stem of the bell pepper, twist, and pull; this usually takes all the seeds and unwanted pieces with it. Then I cut the bell peppers in half, as the recipe indicates, and put them in our Large Micro-Cooker with about a half-inch of water. Stick them in the microwave for about 4 minutes, and there you go!

In the end, this recipe turned out rather tasty but with several stuffed peppers left over. Per my father-in-law’s suggestion from earlier in the day when he was reminiscing about his mother making stuffed peppers when he was younger, I individually wrapped the leftovers and stuck them in the freezer, making for a perfect frozen lunch that can be easily popped in the microwave (cling wrap and all) at a later date.

Crawfish-Stuffed Bell Peppers
[The original version of this recipe (before my adjustments) 
was published in Rouse’s weekly free magazine.]
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups Italian bread crumbs
1 lb crawfish tails, peeled and cleaned
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
6 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded and halved (any color pepper works)

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add, finely chopped bell pepper, onion, garlic and celery. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. [NOTE: I sauté until the pepper is soft enough to my liking. You know how I am about crunchy peppers.] Transfer to a large bowl and cool completely.
After mixture is cool, mix in bread crumbs and crawfish tails. Season stuffing with salt and pepper and add crushed red pepper.
Fill bottom portion of each pepper with a generous potion of crawfish stuffing. Place on a greased cookie sheet  [I used the Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan.] and bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes.

Spaghetti Squash au Gratin

I’ve always been one to like carbs. I’ll take a little rice to go with my potatoes. In fact, go ahead and throw in a side of bread. I remember once being fussed at my grandmother’s house because I fixed myself a plate of just rice with corn. [A meal I continued to fix for myself as recently as last year.] I can take or leave the protein of a meal, and I can easily leave the veggies, so when our “Bye Bye Baby Weight “ diet kicked off, my appetite frowned as my subconscious announced that the carbohydrates had left the building. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but at this point, I’m down for anything remotely resembling carbs. And that is how today’s side dish came about.

When scrolling through Pinterest, this delicious au gratin dish popped up on my screen. After a little research [i.e. clicking once and then reading the 11 word description], I discovered that this was in fact not potatoes au gratin or baked cheesy spaghetti as I originally thought. Rather, it was Spaghetti Squash au Gratin, using the spaghetti-looking veggie in a casserole disguised as a carb-loaded dish. It was right up my alley. I healthified it further by using low-fat cheese and fat-free sour cream and was pleasantly surprised with the result. While I certainly wouldn’t have mistaken it for hash brown casserole in a blind taste test as one pinner’s description suggests, it was similar enough to these sides for this recipe to earn a permanent place in my recipe binder. And it was quick and easy to boot!

Side note: to slice the onions very thinly as per the recipe, I used the Simple Slicer. Here is a video to show how easy it is to use, and the onions came out perfectly thin!

Spaghetti Squash au Gratin
[The original version of this recipe (before my changes)
 was posted on Dandy Dishes.]
Serves 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like it spicy
½ teaspoon thyme
½ cup fat-free sour cream
1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds.  Place in a covered dish with a ½ inch of water and microwave for 10 minutes.  In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the butter, onions, red pepper and thyme and cook until the onions are slightly brown in color.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash and transfer to a small bowl.  Combine the squash, onions, sour cream and half the cheese together and mix well.  Transfer the mixture to a buttered baking dish and top with remaining cheese. [NOTE: At this point, I covered and put the dish in the fridge. I took it out about half an hour before I wanted to bake it. These days I’m looking for recipe that can be prepped early (like when Lily isn’t hungry, dirty, or crying) and cooked later.]

Place into a 375º for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown on top. [I cooked it for a little longer, about 30 minutes, because it came from the fridge.]

Overall, I was very pleased with my quick and healthy Sunday night newbie adventure. Try out the recipes, and let me know what you think!

P.S. I was so pleasantly surprised with texture of the spaghetti squash, I may try it with meatballs and marinara one day soon. Hmm… I’ll let you know how it is. Since I thought the spaghetti-esque quality of this vegetable was so interesting, I am posting a video of pulling the squash/spaghettiness out of the casing. [And yes, that is Lily "chatting" in the background. :) ]

If you’re interested in purchasing and of the Pampered Chef products mentioned here today, please visit my Web site to place an order. Contact me (by commenting here, e-mailing me at eliseleboeufTPC@gmail.com, or through my Web site) if you’d like to learn how you could get these products for FREE!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Franglais, anyone?

While I wish that I could stay at home with my Lily and be a full-time cook, crafter, and homemaker, I am about to return to my full-time job as a French teacher at an elementary school.
My students are always surprised to find out that I’m not from France or Belgium or another francophone country (as are the other French teachers at our school). I am often explaining to them that I learned French in school, just like them! OK, well not exactly like them, considering that I didn’t start learning French until high school and that the most concentrated period of language acquisition for me was probably a month spent at an immersion program in Nova Scotia, Canada.
I have, however, come very far in my fluency from high school me. I can understand nearly all speech by native speakers, but my grammar is by no means perfect, and my French vocabulary has much to be desired. I have, however, always dreamt in the back of my mind that I would speak only French to my at the time future children. Now that the time has come, I am finding it much more difficult that I imagined.


[Lily does love playing with (chewing on? Making out with?) Sophie la giraffe.]

Prior to Lily’s birth, I gathered French children’s books and a few DVDs, and I took note of songs I thought a baby would like. Now that she is here, I am making an attempt to speak to her only in French; however, there are no other adults in my life (aside from certain colleagues) who speak French fluently, and thus conversing with Lily in French is basically like having a conversation with myself.

As a non-native speaker, I’m very self-conscious about my French. I often can’t think of words that I should know and have probably learned at one point, but even more often than that, I find myself struggling to use a great many of the words I never learned that are necessary involving baby care. For instance, while I could easily give directions from my house to school in French [which Lily would clearly benefit from…], I still haven’t quite figured out how to say, “Silly Lily, your poo leaked out all over your romper, and now Mommy has to clean you and the seat cover on your swing, but we've run out of wipes!”

Also, when I am alone with Lily – or even just with my husband – I can carry on lengthy monologues in French with near confidence. However, when other non-French speakers (i.e. everyone else we know) are around, I am much more hesitant. First of all because conversations with babies are more often actually conversations between adults [“That silly Daddy! He forgot to close the wipe warmer! Maybe he will hold you while I clean up the kitchen.” or “Nanny, thank you so much for the present! I know I’m going to look so cute in my seersucker dress!”]. And second of all, I just feel a little silly carrying on a “conversation” in French when no one around me understands a word I’m saying. And therein lies my biggest problem…

Recently, however, I came across a blog dedicated entirely to bringing up children bilingually. This woman started her journey with bilingual children with her nephew who she watched only one day a week and spoke to exclusively in French. She experienced many of the same things that have been discouraging me in the last several months, but – lucky for me – she learned from her setbacks and has more than six years of advice posted for me to take in as well as a multitude of other links and resources! I’ve also found lots of iPad apps for helping children learn French. These, of course, are aimed for older children, but Lily loves the bring colors, so occasionally we will play with the iPad together.

Well, folks, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet. So friends and family, you may (if I work up the nerve) begin hearing me speak more French when Lily and I are around. My one request: please don’t look at me like a crazy person. I’m just a mom hoping to help her child grow up speaking two languages. Is that so crazy?

As always, thanks for reading! And post a comment to let me know what you think of my speaking only French to Lily Robin.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bienvenue... again!

Hey, food-loving friends! So I know. It’s been a while – a looong while. I would blame my virtual absence from the blogosphere on my pregnancy and then newborn, but then again as I type this I can’t actually remember when I made my last post, so that may not be a fair placement of the blame. :) Regardless, I’m back! I know you’ve missed me. Even if you haven’t, I’ve missed me. I’ve missed my weekly cooking adventures, and reliving them here with you. But during the last six months or so, my life has taken on a whole new direction. I’ve joined that club called motherhood.

Yes, as most of you know my beautiful Lily Robin surprised us with an early arrival on Super Bowl Sunday – February 5. The morning after the Hercules Tableau and Ball, actually, but that’s another story entirely.

Recovering from the C-section and the reality shock that is motherhood, I have taken several steps back from the stove and shifted my cooking game plan. I still love cooking, make no mistake. And I’m getting to spend a little more time doing it now, but the cooking I do for my family consists more of freezer-friendly fare, make-ahead meals, and ready in 30 minutes repasts.

As our lives have not so subtly begun to revolve around Lily, my hobbies and interests have also expanded to include things more relevant to her, such as crafts and sewing [Check out this Easter basket that I made for her!] as well as the more long-term adventure we are embarking on together of bilingualism. [C’est vrai!]

So this blog will be shifting slightly, as I think is only appropriate considering the less-than-slight shift my life has taken in the last six months. I will still be sharing kitchen tips and tricks I have learned and fabulous new family- and budget-friendly recipes I come across. (Like this delicious Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova!) I would, however, also love to share with you other parts of the craziness that is my world.

I’m at a very unique crossroads in my life. I still see myself as the little girl who calls her mother every day to ask a question about how to cook something or just to see what she’s doing. [Hell, I am still that girl.] But now I am (hopefully) becoming that same maternal cornerstone to someone else.

I’ve been thinking for the last couple of months about how much I’ve missed writing here and how I’d like to start blogging again, but it always came down to one thing. Too much life, too little time. But my sister-in-law told me to make sure that I don’t get too wrapped up in everything else and lose myself and my happiness along the way. 

So… if you would do me [and Miss Lily Robin] the honors, stay tuned to what I’m sure will be quite an adventure of craftiness, cookery, and cross-cultural communication. I have a feeling it’s going to be the ride of a lifetime.

[Comment to let me know what you think!]