Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another Weekend In Austin

It was a cold and windy night. The scent of joint liniment, Just for Men hair dye, and Geritol wafted in the air. It was my birthday. 33 years ago in a humble log cabin or Birmingham hospital, I was born into this world.

Birthdays used to be about having a cartoon-themed party or maybe a sleepover. Action figures and cap guns would be gifted, and one kid would always throw up. In mellow old age, the party shifts. It is less about awkwardly cementing friendships with classmates and accumulating the latest GI Joe figure and more about just having a great time with friends and family.

So that's just what we did this weekend in Austin. We started with a laid back family celebration at home on Thursday night. Michael was afflicted with another accursed cold, but he was still able to run and play with his little role model, Uncle J.J. We dined upon the reformulated Domino-s pizza. Apparently, the old stuff was cardboard and ketchup, but this pizza rocked the house. Three words for you: bacon, glorious bacon.

We tapped a couple of fantastic red wines. The first was a Spanish Red, Ludovicus. This was an excellent and intriguing wine especially for the $9 price tag. The attractive, modernistic orange label looks good enough to bring to classy parties. The second bottle was another fantastic Spanish garnacha, Mas Donis Barrica. This one featured smooth delicious dark fruit and complexity way beyond the $9 price tag. My apologies for this vino diversion if wine is not your thing. For those who do like wine, check these two out.

For birthday loot, I was the lucky recipient of a pair of ridiculously awesome Shure SE210 Headphones. Thanks, mom and Carl!

The celebration continued Friday night. With Mikey kicking it with grandma, Shannon and I joined friends for dinner at Sazon, a fantastic interior Mexican restaurant. Holy mackerel, the Cochinita Pibil hit the spot. We had a great time with Rob, Andrea, Chris, Steph, Squish, and Carl.

We closed out the night at uber doughnut trailer, Gourdough's. The tagline is "Big.Fat.Donuts" and boy are they. Just browsing the menu raises your cholesterol by 15 points, but it is so worth it.

It was a perfect birthday weekend: the perfect antidote for feeling old and decrepit. Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes and celebrated with us.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Food Detritus

The toddler sits in the wooden high chair, as his parents fuss over him. They offer morsels of food, sippy cups, and pacifiers. Maybe he smiles, and maybe he screams. Diners seated nearby curse their luck, as the table adjoining "the baby table" is certainly not the best seat in the house.

The meal ends, and the baby and his entourage pack up for the road. It is the wreckage they leave behind that this blog posting is concerned with.

We've all seen it. The table is covered with torn and shredded bits of food. Shattered teething biscuits lay scattered. The floor is even worse. There's a 4 foot blast radius littered with food detritus and crumpled napkins.

I pity the bussers and wait staff who must contend with this mess. In the years before Michael, I remember looking on such scenes with disgust and anger toward the parents. How dare they inconsiderately leave such a mess behind.

Now I know better. The food disaster zone just goes with the territory. We try to clean up as much as possible, but the food on the floor lingers like pants on the ground.

At home, we just rely on the Corgi food-a-matic to gobble everything up. She usually gets it before it even hits the ground. Dogs are great with babies. It's like having a Roomba that never needs charging.

There should be a new class of service dogs for parents dining at restaurants. Our specially trained "Eating Pie Dog" could join us in restaurants proudly wearing a working vest emblazoned with a knife and fork emblem. She would sit at the foot of the restaurant high chair to intercept and dispose of any food thrown, dropped, or otherwise ejected from the dining toddler. The dog gets a meal, the floor stays clean, and the restaurant staff doesn't have to deal with the disgusting baby food blast radius. Just an idea.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Parenting in Graphical Format

I made this graph to explain some of our experiences with Mikey

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winchell Cuts the Cheese

We are doing our level best to raise a cultured young man who will appreciate language, art, food, and literature. We've researched an international preschool that teaches curriculum in Spanish, French, and English. Children graduate to Kindergarten speaking three languages and wearing little berets while listening to (and appreciating) jazz.
We've already discussed which instrument that Michael should play. The violin leads the pack because that's the instrument that the super brains of my school years all seemed to play. It might be ok for Michael to play the saxophone like his daddy did, but what if he turned out like Bill Clinton? Grampy would never stand for such a thing.

We would also like to instill an appreciation for varying foods and textures. We hope not to raise a picky eater, one of those stereotypical little weasels who will only consider eating McDonalds Chicken McNuggets, pizza, or candy. Mikey eats what we eat, be it butternut squash, edamame, grilled chicken, or broccoli.

When it comes to books, it all falls apart. Michael's absolute favorite book is Winchell Cuts the Cheese. This contemporary fiction is a coming of age story about a young pig who learns valuable lessons about how his actions and odoriferous emanations affect the lives of his peers on the farm. It is the great American farting pig story. He begins the story unrepentant and dishonest about his gas to the great dismay of sheep, duck, mutt, and mouse. By the end, he realizes the error of his ways. While he does not give up his three bean salad or the eponymous cheese cutting, he does realize that an "Excuse Me." can soothe offended noses.
This is Michael's favorite book. He will find it in the other room and bring it to me. His insistent calls of "" are irresistable, so away we go. When Winchell cuts the cheese, the illustrations depict great green clouds billowing forth. On these pages, Michael dutifully narrates with loud raspberries, aka farting sounds. It gets me every time.
I suppose our violin-playing, foodie, francophile will just have to grow up appreciating a good fart joke and book. That might not be so bad after all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Little Mikey Report

  • Mad Dog continues his prodigious growth. He's holding steady at 95th percentile in height. He wears 2T clothes at 14 months. I eagerly await my chance to be an obnoxiously overbearing sports dad / coach.
  • The vocabulary increases daily. He's no Moose Collins, but Mikey is starting to banter a bit. Words in regular rotation in relative order of frequency used: 1. NANA (aka, give me another banana to stuff down my gullet in 12 seconds), bella, no, uh oh, dada, mama, ball, ba ba (bottle), apple, J.J. (pronounced Yay-Yay), Velcro (pronounced Go-Go), fish, night night, bye bye, yes, this, Jake, and finally, oh sh_t. Yes, he said the S word at day care after he dropped a toy. I think he probably picked it up from Shannon. It definitely wasn't from me, unless he watched the BCS national championship with me.
  • Mad Dog ate and passed a shiny quarter. This caused no ill effects to him, but it did embarass us parents.
  • The kid dances constantly. Songs with a strong drum beat get him going. The moves are unique. It's a kind of lurching, bouncing strut with some spins and shoulder mojo working. Videos of this will be posted soon.
  • Mikey loves older kids. He's obsessed with his 7 year-old uncle J.J. He copies anything that JJ does to the best of his 14 month old ability.
  • I'm running out of steam here, so here's a picture from the historic FIRST HAIRCUT.

2010 Chili Cookoff Update

We might have a crazed toddler in the house, but that will not stop us from having a marginally robust social life. So, this weekend we hosted the EIGHTH Austin food / cooking challenge party. We stuck with a winter classic this time with a good old fashioned chili cook-off.

This edition of the contest featured a family friendly vibe. Mad Dog was in the house. He spent the evening wandering around, pretending to play Wii with the older kids, and begging scraps of food from sympathetic bystanders. Based on the copious baby gaseous emanations later in the evening, he must have eaten all kind of interesting stuff.

The contest was fun and dramatic as always. There were 7 different interesting red chilis entered in the contest. We had unconventional experimental chilis like Chris's sweet "The Situation" chili squaring off against tried and true, mom-tested, kid-approved batches like Maura's and Dani's (nice job, Mom!). We even had a take on the ever-popular bread bowl gambit with Stephanie's chili in puff pastry entry.

After a long Rodney Dangerfield-esque run of close calls and utterly failed dishes, I'm happy to report that I've finally won the Golden Apron. My chili took the top prize based, I think, on the falling-apart tender beef short rib I used. Short rib is very popular among chefs and foodies, so I was excited to cook with it for the first time.

Congratulations to Maura and my mom for making the finals in their very first cooking challenge. Hopefully they'll be back for more. Congratulations also to my mom for taking home the Commissioner's Cup. This very special award honors someone who demonstrates great citizenship, generosity, poise, and many other extremely variable criteria. To those who couldn't make it this time, we're sorry we missed you. Another one will be coming around in the spring, and we're always open for thematic suggestions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back from Hiatus

Whoops! Please pardon the inactivity on this blog! To the faithful audience who has been left hanging for several months, please accept my apology. A lot of good stuff has happened over the last few months, so that should provide plenty of grist for the mill.

Stay tuned for some real content very soon!