A Beautiful Birthday Brunch and Bad Attitudes

My girlfriends threw me a surprise birthday party! Andy was in on it, but Henry and George and I were not, so when I walked in and my friends yelled Surprise! I jumped out of my skin. Henry too- he clung to my leg, whether out of embarrassment at having been startled or because he didn’t get to stay at the party, I don’t know. Helen gave each of the kids a fat wad of cash and Andy took them to Gattitown, their favorite place in the world (the kids’ not Andy’s), and I got to stay in the company of other adults, adults I love, and eat beautiful food from a beautiful table and do art projects and it was the greatest. I felt embarrassed and enraptured in equal measure that these women had gone to so much trouble for me. I’ll never forget it.

Here’s what we ate this week.

 

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In the course of putting a party together, Helen and I often obnoxiously chime, “love is in the details!” Which is a quotation we always attributed to Martha Stewart, but she didn’t say that. Anyway, there was so much love in this party. Amanda grew, gathered, and arranged these flowers- aren’t they spectacular? I think she is astoundingly talented. Helen made me a beautiful cheesecake with a gorgeous cake topper and decorated the space, Joanna and Christy brought food and the most wonderful craft projects, and Molly made the most lavish and delicious feast of all time, in addition to being the world’s best hostess, and making beautiful name cards and fans and paper flowers and a fancy hipster cinnamon toast crunch cocktail(!).

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Another table shot because I think it’s so pretty.

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Another Amanda arrangement, before it was surrounded by rich eggy delights.

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You’re officially an adult when you receive a throw pillow as a birthday present.

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Molly! Everybody needs a Molly. She is brilliant and fiery, hilarious and charming, and above all, loyal. We’ve been best friends since we were five- the two outspoken bitches of Hays county. I stayed at her house for whole weeks at a time during the summers of our adolescence. We’d play cards, eat ice on the porch, and watch untold hours of Jerry Springer and Ricky Lake in the afternoons and that crazy Christian show with the lady with big hair and lots of makeup that came on after midnight. Was this the 700 Club? I have no idea. We were in it for the hair. I’d do anything for Molly and she’d do anything for me and I know how truly lucky I am to have a friend like that. I love you, Molly. Thank you for my beautiful party.

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I’m looking rather dour here, but had to share this picture anyway because everything else is so good. Look at that spread! And at Molly’s good morning asshole mug!

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Helen took all these pictures for me so I could just sit in a chair and eat a lot of food. Molly made gingerbread waffles with berries, two quiches, candied bacon, and some cheddar green onion grits I have been dreaming about ever since. Also the perfect brunch cocktail, which I think was like the linked recipe except with cinnamon toast crunch soaking in the milk instead of honey smacks. A good change! I always hated that frog on the smacks box, and also the cereal sucks. Christy brought a big beautiful salad and the loveliest brie en croute with honey and almonds, Amanda brought one of my favorite things- bacon-wrapped dates, Joanna brought a delicious bacon-y quiche, and Helen made me a showstopping birthday cheesecake with A LAYER OF FUDGE INSTEAD OF CRUST and an almond whipped cream and a honey caramel sauce. I loved all of it, every bite, all the more so because of the people who cooked it for me.

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Fudgie the Cheesecake in all its glory. Or most of its glory, because it doesn’t have its whipped cream or caramel sauce yet. I love that Helen chose to depict me as a bunny-holding flower child. This is the embodiment of me in my every day life, yes it is.

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The sister-of-my-life! And my big toothy grin.

After eating for a long time, we decorated wooden Day of the Dead skulls that Joanna brought and everyone sewed bats for a bat mobile (the other kind) that Christy thought of and that I got to take home. I had been talking to Christy about remembering the Halloween decorations that my mom would hang up every year- a paper skeleton with brads in its knees and elbows on the door, and a black witch on a broom that hung from the light near the front window-  and I wanted to have a few decorations that I could bring out every year. Now I do, in addition to a feathery black wreath that Christy made for my front door, and I’ll have the additional joy of remembering making them with my friends when I take them out every year.

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I’m the luckiest. I love you all.

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Leftover Brie en Croute with Honey and Almonds, Meats and Stuff. I got to take home the rest of the brie and bread, and thus it was the gift that kept on giving, because it meant I could just throw some meat and apple slices on a board and call it dinner.

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Scary Witch. I’ve been wanting a real witch costume for years, and every year I intend to sew myself one, and every year I end up cobbling it together at the last minute, with lackluster results. Last year I took out the black material I’d purchased eight or more years earlier for a witch costume and thought that I could at least sew a simple black skirt. I couldn’t. Turns out I can’t eyeball how to sew a simple skirt- it was lopsided and too tight and unwearable. But not this year! My parents bought me a witch costume and witch shoes and it even comes with black press-on nails. I just gotta work on my scary witch face.

Andy took the day off for my birthday, and he and the kids went out and bought me Valentina’s breakfast tacos and gave me presents and homemade cards. Andy got me a camping trip! Which he hates and I love, so it’s a really selfless gift. Then I got to go to the West Elm outlet store with Helen and Amanda and they helped me pick out two beautiful and very cheap arm chairs for our house. One doesn’t have legs, which is why it was cheap, and I had to sort out what to do about that, but still! New chairs! Anyway, then I came home and had the shittiest birthday. The boys were awful. I think Henry was mad that I had abandoned him two days in a row, but he slammed his body around in my new chair and did his best to try to knock it over, and then grabbed at my ankles and almost tripped me and George just screamed and screamed about I don’t remember what. I went into the backyard to sit by myself and wondered what to do. It seemed stupid to spend an hour making the falafel dinner I had planned to cook when the boys were being so rude and probably wouldn’t eat it anyway, so I thought, I’ll just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and Andy and buttered noodles for the kids and we’ll do an early bedtime and then Andy and I can come out in the backyard and build a fire after they’re asleep. But I’d forgotten that an appraiser was coming to our house the next day (in hopes that it would appraise high enough for us to stop paying private mortgage insurance) which meant we had to spend the whole evening cleaning up. I know it sounds unbelievably lame and bratty but I was so desperately unhappy at the evening- the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the hours of cleaning and not liking my children that I sat on the bench in front of our house and cried.  I spent the night and most of the next day feeling sorry for myself.

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Falafel and Funky Olives. Here’s my would-be birthday dinner, one day late. Those olives were terrible but the falafel is perfect. I did what I could to make a plan to feel happier. I talked to Henry about how much I do for him to make his birthday special, and said that I had hoped he could have been nice to me on my birthday. He seemed to understand. Then I asked Grandma Mary if she could babysit so Andy and I could go out on a date. We hadn’t been out on a date since July and we’d gotten into a pattern of doing stuff for the kids and then doing what needed to be done around the house, or contract work, or any number of things that made us more and more distant.

The next night, we went to Lenoir, a semi-fancy restaurant just up the street from us. It was so wonderful to sit and just enjoy being with Andy. And to eat a beautiful meal. I had a summer bean chaat, a sea bass poke salad with fried okra, grilled quail with papaya salad, and a smoked apple creme caramel. We made a plan to make our relationship a priority, and to do something fun together every night, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. There was a recent meme on Facebook where people listed their 7 favorite movies. I had seen very few of the ones people listed, and many of them showed up on lots of people’s lists. So we went to Vulcan Video (which relocated and is now just about 5 minutes away from our house) and Andy and I have been watching movies together all week. Almost Famous was one of the ones that people listed in their top 7 over and over again, so we watched that. Spy (with Melissa McCarthy) and Wild (with Reese Witherspoon) showed up on no ones list, but we watched those too, and loved all three. And I loved spending that time with Andy. I feel a lot better.

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Sopita, Beans in a Tortilla. My parents gave us the opportunity to buy their old car, which is in great shape and has an unbelievable 14,000 miles on it. We figured we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass because we’d never be able to find a car with that mileage for that price, but wondered if it was the right call, because the car Andy drives is old, but worked fine and is completely paid off. The day after we decided to buy my parents car, Andy’s wouldn’t start. And it’s not the battery. So, we need no longer doubt our decision to buy the new car. The kids and I drove Andy to work, then went on a nature hike over the mosquito-infested creek at Windmill Run park, then drove way up north for a science class for Henry. The science class is for homeschoolers, and takes place in a real science lab with real equipment and Henry loved it. He got to put his hand in a blubber-like glove to see how it insulated him from cold water and make fake snow and learn about what happens to our bodies when they get too cold. George and I played with toys nearby and I listened to the instructor and liked learning about frostbite too. We had to go pick up Andy from work when I would normally be cooking dinner, so we had a quick garbage dinner but I liked that too.

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Nutty Applesauce Squash Tea Cake. This was also the day of the autumnal equinox. I thought this would be the perfect cake for it because it combines zucchini (summer squash) with apples (a fall crop). Half summer, half fall, just like the equinox. I put down a beautiful new table runner Christy quilted for me for my birthday, we put the tapered candles Helen bought for me, because I never have them and always want to light some, in the candle holders, and Andy and I each found a poem to read for the start of the fall. It would have all been very charming, if the children gave two shits. George yelled and climbed all over me while I read my poem, which I tried to keep reading for a while before giving up, and then the kids left the table to go do a lightsaber fight (not very equinox-y) before Andy read his. He read it to me instead and I enjoyed it very much.Oh yeah, we also made sun prints using some special cyanotype paper I bought at the science lab store. So that’s sort of equinox-y.

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Spaghetti with Tomato, Onion, Butter Sauce. My sister is moving into her very first house this weekend! I helped her pack on Saturday and she had to politely tell me she had errands to run a few times before I could pull myself away from the box of brown paper and the pile of glasses that needed to be wrapped up in it. I hadn’t gone to the store so we had spaghetti for dinner.

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Frozen Chicken Strip Salad. The whole family got together to help Helen and Jordan move on Sunday. We did the whole thing- loading the truck, driving to the new house, unloading the truck, with breaks to stop and eat breakfast tacos and heaps of barbecue- in just about five hours. Pretty damn good! With kids to maneuver around too!

When we got back home, Andy took the kids to the grocery store so I could pack for our trip. The boys and I are visiting my parents in Portland for nine days. I’m nervous about flying on a plane with the kids without another adult to help, and about having to do bedtime by myself for over a week. And I’ll miss Andy. But otherwise, I’m excited. We get to go apple picking (it’s honeycrisp season!) and hang out with Cousin Jack and spend time somewhere with real fall temperatures (we’re bringing jackets!) and of course soak up time with my parents. Happy Fall, everyone!

Birthdays, Poke without a Diacritical on the E, and Righteous Indignation

I’m full of rage and have hated everyone for the past week, at least. When I say ‘everyone’ I mean my husband and children. I’m pretty sure the problem has been me, and not them. At least, that’s (again I say, probably) true with Andy. I’m not willing to give up that ‘probably.’ There’s still a chance I’m right about everything and right to be hateful. After we’ve hurtled through another day, after we’ve begged and pleaded for the kids to change into pajamas and brush their teeth and pee, I’ve felt like I just want to close myself into a dark box and be completely and blessedly alone. I finally deigned to share my feelings with Andy last night, and even though the kids were no less shitty today, I feel better. The internet, by way of some of my witchy/hippie friends, says that I have every right to blame this on the moon, and I feel like this is as good an excuse as any.

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a blog post, and more than that since I wrote a good one, but I just couldn’t do it until now. We have been busy, and I’ve got a whole slew of excuses for my absence, some of which you’ll see below and some you won’t. But on top of that, I’ve been tired and I just haven’t felt like doing the thing. I’m worried that my recent pattern of sporadic and delayed posting means that my blog is dying. I don’t want it to die, primarily because I think it’s good for me. It’s a time for forced self-reflection. Also I like attention. But it also feels overwhelming, to write an interesting paragraph for every day of our lives. Our days are so repetitive. Do an errand, read a million books, stop or don’t stop the kids from throwing things at one another’s heads, dinner, bedtime, exhaustion. I think the good solution to this is to be a better writer, and take notes about the novel things that happen during these days and then carefully shape those stories into something special and insightful. But that sounds hard, so I’m going to go for a different, worse solution, which is to only write what I feel like writing, and if I don’t have something to say about every dinner or day, so be it.

Here’s what we ate this week.

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Bo Bun Salad, minus the good stuff (grilled chicken and fried shallots), Strawberry Shortcakes. The shortcakes were a quid pro quo in exchange for serving my family a plate of zoodles.

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Pro Tip: If you take a picture of yourself making a funny face, and send it to people, there’s a good chance they’ll send you back pictures of their own funny face. I’ve got an impressive collection on my phone now, all inspired by George.

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Molly and I went out to eat poke! A delicious paper boatful of cultural appropriation that is also environmentally unsustainable. But damn if it’s not delicious. You have the option to add avocado or macadamia nuts to your order and I did both because I love fat. The scene is undeniably hipster. Everyone has interesting hats and takes pictures of their food before they eat it (myself included, of course, except for the interesting hat) and drinks warm cans of La Croix or tall bottles of Topo Chico.

We ate our fish piles and Molly told me tales from her jet-setting life as a savvy business lady and I read Molly notes from my 8 hour enneagram workshop. I’m super boring. Molly is an eight, like me, but she’s even eight-ier. I thought she would have loved Joey, the speaker’s daughter, who seemed so much like Molly and explained that the golden rule doesn’t apply to eights because eights treat other people exactly as they’d like to be treated (with bluntness and without regard to feelings) and people hate that. We’re supposed to instead treat other people as they would prefer to be treated. Which is a lot harder. Thanks a lot, Joey.

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The Weekend of Andy was reduced to nothing more than a hot dog topped with a slick of canned chili. The beans are also from a can. The chips are crab flavored and disgusting.

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My parents came back to town for a double-birthday spectacular. My dad’s on the 8th, George’s on the 11th. It’s been really wonderful to see the bonds grow between my kids and my parents. Henry and George are skeptical of everyone, but they really love their grandparents. Henry kept a running countdown until the hour Gangie and Grandpa would show up at the house, and said how excited he was over and over again. When they finally got there he hid under a table and then gave a quiet ‘hi’ and went to his room and closed the door. I gave him some time alone and then went to check on him. He was thumbing through a chemistry textbook that I didn’t know we had. I said, “What’s up? I thought you were so excited for Gangie and Grandpa to get here, and now you’ve closed yourself in your room to read a book?” And Henry replied that he’d found something he wanted to read first, and he’d be out in a little bit. I don’t understand him at all. Anyway, he finished doing whatever it was he was doing with his book and then came out and had a wonderful time with my parents. At the end of my dad’s birthday dinner, Henry gave him a big hug and said “I wish every day was your birthday.” I loved that.

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Samosas with Cilantro Chutney,  Green Beans with Mustard Seeds and Ginger, Cauliflower, Cashew, Pea, and Coconut Curry, Rice and Naan. My dad loves vegetarian Indian food, so we had a Made in India feast for his birthday dinner. Not pictured: eight gallons of mango lassi.

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Helen decorated the table with beautiful colored scarves, she painted golden henna designs on candles, and she strung up colorful flowers on invisible thread and hung them from the ceiling.

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And she made this spectacular cake topper for the not-at-all-thematically-appropriate red velvet cake I made for dessert. You can also see the hideous remains of the eight gallons of mango lassi and the bottle of soy sauce Henry begged to put on his rice, which is also not thematically appropriate.

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Red Velvet Cake. You might have guessed that this was not dyed with beets. There’s a whole bottle of red food dye in this cake (2 tablespoons), which is insane. But my dad loves red velvet cake and I’m not going to serve him a murky brown not-red velvet birthday cake that tastes like beets just to rub my snotty food preferences in everyone’s face. The linked blog post compares four red velvet cake recipes, including ones from Smitten Kitchen, Cooks Country, and Saveur. The Saveur cake won, and is the one I made for this party.  It was spectacular. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a really red cake and don’t mind increasing your children’s chances of an ADHD diagnosis.

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Brisket Tacos from Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. We rolled up to Valentina’s on Friday at 11 and there was NO LINE and I got to put these brisket tacos in my face and it was pure magic. Getting two was a mistake because one by itself will make you full, but I ate both of them anyway.  I want another one right now and I just ate.

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And then it was George’s turn! Part of my ongoing exercise in giving up some of my control over every last detail of everything meant letting George have a hand in planning his birthday party. We sat down to talk about it a few weeks beforehand and I’ve gotta hand it to him, the kid’s a natural. What food should we serve? Apple juice cupcakes, blueberry cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, sausages, and tea. How should we decorate? With pictures of George! What favors should we give your friends? Shirts! With buttons! I didn’t do the shirt thing but we nailed the cupcake/sausage/tea/pictures of George parts.

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Another Helen cake topper! She beautifully encapsulated the theme of the party, as outlined by George, of cupcakes, apples, and pirate ships. The 16 candles were also George’s idea.

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I stuffed that pinata to the gills, and after a few meager swipes from tiny children, the thin piece of twine that held it up snapped and the pinata fell. Andy’s fixing it here, and I really love the polite concern on the children’s faces.

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Success! Sadly, I forgot to nab one of the York peppermint patties from the melee.

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Brotherly love.

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My mom got this shot of George hurling a water balloon into Josie. These balloons were too small to pop upon hitting your tender fleshy bits. The only hope you had of getting someone wet with them was to throw them at their feet or try to dump the cooler full of water on top of them, both of which were attempted with varying degrees of success.

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And that’s a wrap on George’s third birthday. There are a lot of things that I love about George. He makes up rhymes and songs that are honestly fantastic. He tells us stories. He cannot let a stick pass through his line of vision without picking it up. Lately he has referred to said sticks as his ‘mega hammers.’ Every night before bed we read a book together in my room until George announces that he’s ready to sleep, at which point he says, “Henry, I’ve got a surprise for you.” And Henry says, “What is it?” And George says, “Open it up and see!” And Henry takes the imaginary thing from George’s hand and we all sit silently for a few moments while Henry thinks of what the surprise could be before saying, “Oh! It’s a lollipop! Thank you, George.” He’s a very small person and is so nice to hug. Happy Birthday, George❤

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We spent the day after the party sitting around in our underwear and eating steak.

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And baked potatoes, and a salad with a soy-balsamic dressing. The steak is from The Food Lab, and so is the salad dressing and both came out exactly perfect. This was the last night my parents were in town and we all lingered around the table, eating some novelty ice creams. And after that everyone went home and Helen and Jordan’s little dog, Bonbon, was hit and killed by a speeding car. It was a horrible thing. Please send my sister and her family some love, and give your own dog some extra love too, and a nibble of the fatty bits from your steak, if you make one.

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Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Szechuan-Style Green Beans. I don’t know how to write a smooth transition from losing your pet to a plate of turkey meatloaf. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Bonbon at all, except that it felt wrong to write about the food we ate the night she was killed and just say the steak was delicious and not acknowledge the awful thing that followed.

A lot of nice things happened on meatloaf day, though. My friend Amanda came over in the morning to look at my backyard. She’s a talented designer and gardener and she’s making me a plan for my backyard for my birthday. And then my neighbor Otto, a carpenter, came over and started working on a few changes to my kitchen. He knocked out a set of cabinets that hung over the sink and counter. They had started pulling away from the ceiling and every time I put a bowl or measuring cup away I imagined the thing crashing down on me and the children. My kitchen is tiny, and I thought it’d be tough to lose a third of my storage space, but it turned out it wasn’t a big deal at all. I gave away a lot of gadgets I don’t use and wine glasses I’ve never used and added a fourth shelf to my two remaining cabinets. And the room looks a whole lot better. And then I got to go to lunch with my food52 friends, and they surprised me with birthday presents and a cake and I got to eat fried green tomatillos that were delicious and a black bean dip that wasn’t and that filled my teeth with bean skins. And then we ate meatloaf, and I liked that a lot too.

Tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. Today, my best friend Molly, with the help of my friends and family, surprised me with the most beautiful and special birthday lunch of all time. I’m still feeling awash in the love they showed me today. So great is my feeling of love and peace that I thought about rewriting my bitter diatribe at the top of the post. I didn’t though. I’m so excited to share pictures of the lunch in my next blog post, which will be right on time. Yes it will, yes it will.

 

Fried Banana Splits, A Trip to San Antonio, and The Weekend of Andy (or not)

I’ve been doing some contract work for my friend (and former boss) that has taken up most of my free time. It’s boring, repetitive work that can’t have any errors which is the worst combination of things. But I’m going to be able to replace the horrifying carpet in our house with my earnings so it’s worth it. The few scraps of childless time left after that has been poured into finishing my witch and vampire book. Which I did last night. Now I’m waiting for my hold on the second book in the series to come in from the library. I have spent no time menu planning, and little time cooking. I’ve been wandering the grocery store with the kids every few days, grabbing things to make whatever meals I can remember the ingredients for without a cookbook. That means we’ve eaten a lot of quesadillas and sandwiches for dinner and it also means that I’m writing my blog post half a week late. We also spent two days last week thrilling at all the marvelous things San Antonio has to offer, namely the world’s greatest baseball mascots and rickety century-old miniature amusement parks. Along the way there are stories about moles (the skin kind, not the animal kind), children who have to go to the bathroom the instant your food is delivered at a restaurant, and children who have to pee when you’re stuck in rush hour freeway traffic. Basically, this week is gross, and I’m warning you now. Also I spent eight hours of my life in an enneagram workshop and spent almost a thousand words of this blog trying to work out what it was all for, so you might not like that. These are the reasons for you to not read this blog. In hindsight I shouldn’t have started the post this way. Here’s what we ate this week.

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Molletes, Mexican Street Corn Salad. When I find myself at HEB right before dinner with no menu plan, the 20 cent bolillos sing their siren song and I make molletes. I’m forever indebted to my friend Amanda for introducing me to the notion of toasted bread covered in refried beans, cheese, and chorizo.

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Coconut Curry Chicken. I woke up feeling like I had food poisoning, but no one else did so who knows what was going on. I had a dermatologist appointment in the afternoon, made three years after my midwife suggested that I have my numerous moles looked at. I know you want to read about my mole-riddled body in a paragraph under a picture of chicken curry, so you’re welcome. Anyway, the nurse asked me if I had a fever or any sort of health issues I wanted to disclose and my brain thought, this is where you should mention that you have some sort of food poisoning thing going on, but then I didn’t because I didn’t want to talk about it and because it wasn’t a fever. The doctor said my moles looked fine but I had one freckle that was darker than all the other freckles and she wanted to do a biopsy on it, and did that in about 90 seconds from shot to band-aid. It turned out, after I removed the band-aid, that she actually cut off the whole thing, plus a little divot of the flesh underneath it. I got the results yesterday, that it’s ‘atypical’ but they didn’t say cancer but they did say I have to go back in six months to see if any of the pigment is coming back. Anyway, this is boring. I’m happy I went after three years plus a lifetime of not going. This curry was not good, by the way, so don’t worry that all my mole talk has put you off wanting to make a good chicken curry. I sort of made it up and way overcooked the chicken and that was our day.

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Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad. Wednesday. I don’t know what happened on this day, other than making this pasta salad and a vague memory of a trip to Target. I wrote this post from the bottom up and I’m at 2997 words already so let’s just move on.

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The Spy Room at the DoSeum. We took a little road trip to San Antonio! The kids and I went with my sister-in-law Joanna and her kids and had two days of pure fun. And we got to stay with her parents-in-law in the kids’ first ever sleepover-sort-of-thing. The impetus for the trip was my desire to take the kids to a baseball game, and Joanna’s desire that that ball game be one of the San Antonio Missions’. I think her allegiance to them is based largely on their mascots, and no one could fault her for that because they fucking nailed it. The team has two (though they’re never seen at the same place at once, Joanna informed me!)- Henry the Puffy Taco(!!) and Ballapeño.  More on this later. We started our trip with a visit to DoSeum, which was blissfully empty owing to it being the second week of school for kids in San Antonio, and which was packed with the most wonderful exhibits. Joanna captured this image of the kids in front of the safe we unlocked in the spy room after following a series of clues and breaking a few secret codes. It was like a mini escape room for children and we all loved it so much.

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More DoSeum. We made movies in an animation studio, wandered through a bamboo maze, climbed to the top of a beautiful fairy-like tree house, played with scarves in a wind tunnel, and built cities in the geography room. It is such a neat place. Also, it made me really want to make a bamboo maze in our backyard.

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Fancy Cookies and Crusty Hummus at the DoSeum. I was desperate for a snack, so we bought everything they had at the cafe. Joanna surprised us with a beautiful box of gorgeous macarons. I got a salted caramel one and it was everything good in the world. The hummus was kind of weird and the nectarines in this fruit cup tasted odd, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. This fruit cup makes a surprise reappearance in a few paragraphs, so get excited for that.

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Hot Dogs and Fish Tacos at The Cove. Then we went to this laundromat/car wash/local/organic eatery for dinner. Henry’s food likes have narrowed significantly lately, and I didn’t know what I could get him for dinner. The kids menu was hot dogs and hamburgers with french fries. He doesn’t like cheese, he said he didn’t want a burger, he doesn’t like hot dogs, and he won’t eat potatoes in any form. He claims to like shrimp though, and I saw they had shrimp tacos, so I got him one. He devoured it, first the shrimp, then the tortilla, and said he wished he had a hundred more of them. I went back and bought him another one and he loved that one too, and talked about how incredible it was for the rest of the trip. I loved my fish tacos too, and George loved his hot dog. Also, this place has a big playground in the middle so the kids can play while you ignore them and eat more tacos. Highly recommended.

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Ballapeño, y’all. Joanna made it her personal mission to introduce the children to the man (or woman) himself (or herself). Clara and Henry both wanted to stay and watch the game. Really they wanted to watch the numbers on the scoreboard change and note when the At Bat, Ball, Strike, and Out numbers were the same. So I sat with them and Joanna took George and Lucy to explore the HEB fun zone, where she caught a glimpse of Ballapeño and chased him down for a picture. The kids made it through the sixth inning, and then they were losing their minds and climbing everywhere and screaming loudly (of course I’m referring to Henry and George- Lucy and Clara sat serenely in their places) and we decided to leave. Just before we stood up, we were blessed with an appearance from Henry the Puffy Taco. He was everything I’d hoped he’d be and more. It looked like the Missions were gonna lose their game against the Frisco Rough Riders, but I never looked it up afterward to check. Even so, it was really fun.

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A Taco Nazo from Taco House. Joanna’s mother and father in law are so cool. Their house is spectacular- the rooms are beautifully curated collections of vintage furniture and lovely and random objects collected over the years. I’m so happy my kids didn’t destroy them. We spent the morning walking through Jamie’s lush backyard garden, admiring the citrus trees and huge flowering ginger plants, and ate a pile of tacos from the place around the corner. John informed me that when you’re really doing something up big, like eating 40 tacos for breakfast, you put the word “nazo” after it. So this would be a taco nazo. I’m not sure I’ve gotten this quite right, and urban dictionary/the internet in general was no help, so please John, let me know if I’ve messed this up! These tacos were perfect. Homemade, griddled tortillas packed with good stuff, sold quickly and cheaply and without that whiff of hipster stank. You know I love Austin’s breakfast tacos, even the ones on cold mass-produced tortillas, but San Antonio wins, and it looks effortless doing it. Thank you for your hospitality and your tacos, John and Jamie!

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Cuban Sandwich from Bakery Lorraine. On the drive down to San Antonio, we stopped at Whole Foods to buy a thank you gift for Joanna’s parents-in-law for letting us stay in their house, and to eat lunch. We got through the line, I opened up everyone’s sushi trays, tore open the little soy sauce packets and squirted them into each tray, and took my first bite when George announced, as he does at the start of nearly every meal he is served, that he had to go to the bathroom. I looked down at the table, at all the open sushi trays, the bottles of vino verde and beer and gift wrap, and said that that would be impossible and he’d have to wait. George burst into tears and said he couldn’t. So I, angrily, I’m ashamed to say, grabbed his hand, told Henry he had to come with us, and pulled them both across the store to the bathroom, complaining the whole time about having to leave the sushi, that someone was probably going to throw it all away before we got back to it. The kids both peed (Henry said, “since we’re here…”) and we went back and the sushi was just as we’d left it and I felt like a horrible asshole for giving George a hard time about having to pee when he can’t help it. Well the same exact thing happened at Bakery Lorraine the next day. Our food came out and George announced he had to go to the bathroom, and it couldn’t wait. I got to practice being nicer about it, but I was still super annoyed. I told an employee that we had to go to the bathroom but that we would be back to eat our food but he didn’t do anything with this information because we got back to our table just as a lady was starting to clean up our (untouched!) plates of food. It’s hard to eat out with kids. I must remember to bring George to the bathroom before we order food next time.

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Hey kids! How do you feel about Kiddie Park?

They loved it, I think. They just didn’t care about posing for a picture. Or Henry didn’t. He really brings the energy down here, doesn’t he? I went to this place with my friend Amanda and her family when we were little kids, and it felt exactly the same. Turns out it is exactly the same, more or less, and has been since 1925. It’s America’s oldest children’s amusement park! That’s a fun fact for you. All the rides are tiny, like the little ferris wheel that’s probably around 15 feet tall, and the planes behind the boys in this picture, many of which have fake machine guns attached to them, and there’s a stand that sells every food a kid has ever dreamed of, from snow cones to funnel cakes to something called Hot Cheesy Cheetos, which I imagined to be a bag of Cheetos that had been torn open and sprayed with a squirt of warm nacho cheese.

Both kids fell asleep on the ride home from our big San Antonio adventure and I got to sing Hamilton loudly. Henry woke up as I pulled to a stop in a patch of non-moving I35 traffic and announced that he had to pee and couldn’t hold it. I couldn’t move the car to pull over to the shoulder, because all the cars were stopped, so I found the day-old fruit cup in my purse, leftover from our snack time at the DoSeum, and Henry peed on the grapes in it. Road trip!

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Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. I spent eight hours of my weekend in the basement of a Baptist Church. This is not the beginning of an abduction/forced conversion story. I was there to listen to Suzanne Stabile speak about the enneagram and boundaries. Calling it “the enneagram” makes it sound like a weird scientology-ish cult. It’s not though. That’s exactly what someone in an enneagram cult would say. I brought a whole cooler full of snacks, both because I like to eat and because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sit in a folding chair under florescent lights and listen to someone talk for eight hours without them. I was initially unsure about attending this workshop- I thought, if I get eight hours to do whatever I want, and $70 to spend too, is an enneagram lecture really what I’d choose? Helen talked me into it, very rightly explaining that it doesn’t have to be this OR that- I can do this and do something else if I want to. Also, I decided that learning how to be a better person is probably a sound investment. In the end, I’m glad I went, but I’m still trying to work through how the information I heard can be applied to my life. Stabile is an incredible woman, a great speaker, and has a lot of cool information to share. When a lady asked her how to parent a kid who’s a 5 on the enneagram (NB: Andy’s a 5- they’re the most cerebral number on the enneagram, deep thinkers, and usually quiet and private), Stabile recommended that the lady read Far from the Tree, a book that explores the idea of accepting your children as they are and added that “it is unjust and unloving to ask someone to give you something they don’t have.” She said that parents of 4s and 5s do this a lot. I inferred that that means a lot of 4s have parents who don’t encourage them to express their feelings, and that parents of 5s do the opposite- force them to share things and talk when they’d rather work things out on their own. Anyway, I thought Stabile gave a really cool answer, and she made me want to read that book. But there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know what to do with it. Eights, like me, are too controlling, so what I’m supposed to do (you ready for the big reveal?) is be *less* controlling. Uhhh, yeah. I don’t know how to do that. Also, I kind of don’t want to. In enneagram, they say that the worst part of you is also the best part of you. You’ve got to learn to use your gifts judiciously, in ways that build those around you up. So it’s good that I can assess a situation and say what should be done first and in what manner, but I can’t do this all the time, or use my aggressiveness to railroad other people. I definitely do this, most notably on weekends, when Andy is home and I have a clear agenda in my head of how the next 48 hours are going to go. The things on my list are for the house and family- food that needs to be purchased, home improvement projects that need to be done- and it’s easy to feel like I’m the only one making these things happen, and so I have to take charge. But I forget that my way isn’t the only way. Andy doesn’t care about the lawn, or about building some shelves, or about the rotating and varied dinners I research, shop for, and prepare (this week’s sandwiches and quesadillas notwithstanding). If it was up to him we’d still have the same IKEA furniture we bought when we moved back to Texas, we’d eat grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs for dinner, and we’d have a lot more money and a lot more time to spend on things he does care about. I feel like my way is a lot better. But Andy probably feels the same about his way and never gets to try it? I’ll ask him. Maybe we’ll make Labor Day weekend The Weekend of Andy and do things his way and see what that’s like.

Anyway, I was tired after the enneagram workshop and threw some tortillas and beans into a skillet and called it dinner.

UPDATE: I just filled Andy in on my plans to not make plans for the weekend and he said he didn’t want to be in charge of meals, and I was like, um, that’s a big part of how we spend our time so maybe think about it for a minute, and he said, okay, I will do as you say and think about it. I feel we’re off to a good start!

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A Ham Sandwich. I have nothing to say about it. What I’m feeling right now is that I wish I had the next book in the witchy vampire chronicles. Oh, but I do have something to say about chips. Central Market has a whole aisle of potato chip-like things and they’re ALL kettle chips! What is this? I hate those super thick euler discs of potato that don’t crunch properly and cut the roof of your mouth. I want a thin, ethereal, super salty sliver of potato. Before I got to the store, I organized my thoughts on the subject and decided I would examine every bag of chips offered at Central Market in search of one that might meet this criteria. I did it, and I found Utz potato chips on the top shelf of the far left side of the aisle and they were everything I was hoping for.  News you can use. If you also shop at Central Market and also do not like kettle chips.

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Roast Chicken, Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Sesame. Henry mentioned that he missed cooking from his cookbook- a project we began at the end of April and abandoned somewhere around late May- so I said he should look through his cookbook and we’d buy the stuff to make whatever he wanted to cook from it. He surprised the hell out of me by picking a quinoa and edamame salad. I said I’d roast a chicken to go with it, but that he didn’t have to eat it. Having his bird friends in the backyard has turned him off the stuff. Anyway, he made it, and ate big heaping servings of the stuff- it was delicious!- and then made us the delightful dessert below too.

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Fried Banana Split. A lot of the bananas  broke when Henry cut them in half and pulled the peels off, but a couple stayed intact. We fried the banana halves in butter and I asked him who would get the best (least broken) ones- he said he would get those, of course, and then Papa would have the next best and then I could have the other bits. George had decided that he only wanted ice cream, so he didn’t figure into this ranking system. None of this came as a surprise to me, though, because earlier in the day, after laughing at something George said, Henry told me George was his favorite person in the family, and then Papa, and then me. I said that it’s totally fine that he feels that way, but maybe he didn’t need to tell me that I was his least favorite member of the family, and he sat for a bit, looking pensive and said, “I don’t know what to say. Should I say that Adelaide is my least favorite (our dog)? Or that you’re tied with Papa?” I’m not too worried about it. I’ll be back in my rightful place at the top again sooner or later.

Happy Weekend of Andy, friends! I hope you have a relaxing one, full of hot dogs and free of yard maintenance.