Monthly Archives: January 2009

I Guess We’re Stealthy Like That.

Tonight Greg and I went to Tucker’s Place, which is our sort-of-go-to place for steaks if we’re not grilling our own.

And for the 2nd and 3rd time in our lives (which is 2 times too many), the hostess just SKIPPED our name in the wait list. The first time was in Springfield, IL, at D’Arcy’s Pint (which, by the way, has good horseshoe sandwiches. Look them up).

First of all, understand that I will not wait for food.  I hate waiting for food.  With all the places to go to eat in St. Louis, I am morally opposed to waiting for food.  That is, for longer than, say, 15 minutes.

But Tucker’s has a bar, and we had made a decision, and we sat in the bar waiting for our name to be called for a good 45 minutes, when we finally thought, ‘Hmm, there’s something fishy here….lots of folks are being called, but we’re not, and we’d better check this out.”

Sure enough, they skipped us.  Again. And so we approached the hostess, she put us at the top of the list, then in the span of 2 minutes, forgot us AGAIN, called someone ELSE, and then finally called us. 

“Well,” I said, within earshot of the hostess, “I guess I can see how we got skipped. Twice.”

Then our little dude led us to the station and said, “Are you not able to hear the names in the bar?”

“No, we heard them just fine,” I responded, “It’s just that our name was NEVER CALLED.”

I wasn’t feeling that friendly.

After that, we suffered from the following:

1.  A server who couldn’t open our bottle of wine (Greg did it for her);

2.  A server who didn’t bring us more napkins until I asked her twice;

3. My salad was swimming in dressing after I asked for it on the side; and

4. Our steaks were overdone.

Sigh.

This is why we don’t often go out. We can guarantee the quality of our service when we do it ourselves. It’s not that we’re snotty.  I’ve worked in food service, I know that mistakes happen. In fact, we’re actually pretty easygoing — but COME ON, how do you screw up this much? 

Snow + Childhood = Bliss.

A week or two ago, Greg expressed his fervent desire for snow. A big, blanketing snow like the one we had last year.  Yesterday that wish was granted. Today marks Day Two of No School for the kids. We’ve had two sledding sessions so far.  One last night, and one this afternoon.

Last night’s session was particularly unpleasant because it was sleeting the entire time. I’m talking about full-on, skin-pelting sleet. That got old quickly for me, so we didn’t stay long. Ethan freaked out the first time down the hill anyway because he got hit in the face with snow. On my first trip, Laurel threw a handful of snow right in my face and it went down my neck.  It wasn’t a fun evening for me, but here are the photos anyway:

Formulating our Plan of Attack Greg and Ethan

kids Laurel action shot

Laurel hauling Ethan up the hill Trudging up the hill

You can sort of see the sleet in contrast with the truck in this photo.

Today was much better.  It was warmer, it was sunny, there was no infernal sleet pound-pound-pounding on my face, and we just stayed around our house instead of traveling to play. I shoveled the driveway while Ethan helped by trying in vain to ride his trike in the snow and losing his Lightning McQueen car in a pile of shoveled snow (though he really DID help by throwing away some old empty boxes). We won’t talk about how he left his tricycle behind the truck and I backed over it, HORRORS, TRAGEDY, OHMYGOD MY TRIKE THE SNOW THE TIRES!  Don’t worry, the trike is fine — it was knocked over and went under the truck undamaged — that part didn’t faze Ethan at all. What got him bent out of shape was that I angrily wrenched the trike out from under the pickup then threw it into a snowbank. That’s what led to the screaming fit worthy of a horror film, but we’re all fine now.

Whew.

Anyway, once that was over, we moved to the back yard where I took the following photos:

back yard blanket Ethan sledding

kids in back yard laurel sledding front view

ethan sledding front view

But this is probably my favorite shot, taken just before we came in for milk and biscotti. I carefully negotiated the steps up onto the deck and captured this photo of childhood seen from above:

Childhood as seen from above

And that about covers it, doesn’t it?

Cold Again.

After a brief reprieve from winter weather this week, which we celebrated by grilling burgers, we’re back in the teens and twenties for our high temps today. I knew I couldn’t handle being indoors all weekend, growing stale, so we packed up the kids and our nerves, added a side dose of patience, and headed to the city to burn off some of that restless energy kids hold in bottomless canteens.

I love the city, and the City Museum is the embodiment of everything St. Louis. It’s gritty, it’s industrial, it’s creative, it’s hardcore. It’s also a whole heap of fun. The City Museum is the brainchild of Bob Cassilly. Using recycled materials and old, repurposed architecture, Bob has created a wonderland fit for children and adults alike. If you think the admission price is steep, think again. You can get lost in there for a full day for $12 per person (Friday nights are cheaper) and although you can add on the aquarium exhibit, we didn’t. We’d all been before, but this is the first time we were all there together. 

After hitting the multi-story slides, we journeyed upstairs through all manner of rebar tunnels to the Skateless Park, a collection of wooden and cement ramps, bowls, and half-pipes set up for those who don’t have skateboards but just want to run back and forth, up and down, and make fools of themselves:

Bowl Slides Laurel and Ethan at the bowls action shot

Laurel sliding in the bowls Just after sliding in the bowls

Skateless Park

Skateless Park also has rope swings and, yes, benches for those who don’t feel like participating in the fun.

Afterward, we ended up in the art area, where Laurel played with clay while Ethan played next door in Toddler Town, a collection of slides made from conveyor belts and a ball pit.

Ethan on a conveyor slide

The art area was very near the minitrain, and while Laurel and I made snowflakes with the Snowflake Lady, Ethan rode the train. The Snowflake Lady was entertaining, and said she had child cutouts and adult cutouts, and Laurel had to do a child cutout. Laurel chose the first one below (see if you can guess what it is, then mouse over for the answer). After the Snowflake Lady saw how she did, she allowed her to try a harder one (the second picture). After THAT one, the Snowflake Lady told Laurel she could just come on back and try anything she wanted, regardless of difficulty. Laurel loves art and is quite adept at it, so she took to this like a fly to manure. Or something:

otters by Laurel

Fairies by Laurel

Kangaroos by Michelle

Meanwhile, as I said, Ethan rode the train. Twice. At least:

minitrain

Finally, we went and watched the circus, free with admission (though Ethan was dragged kicking and screaming away from the trains — his fit was so acute a cart vendor gave him a clown nose to play with). It was a cute performance, and although Ethan’s lack of napping was beginning to rise to the level of a minor terrorist attack, the dancing sandwich held his attention. Alas, I have no photo of the dancing sandwich, but I did have the presence of mind to snap a photo of the acrobats:

Circus

At intermission we left — Ethan’s daily excitement meter had reached critical mass. On the way out he was momentarily taken with turtles basking beneath a heat lamp and by the belly of the City Museum ‘whale.’  We left tired and happy, and on the way home Ethan declared…are you ready for this?…that he was TIRED.

So here’s to Bob Cassilly, and his little energy burning retreat in the city — the perfect medicine for a dreary winter day. Thanks, Bob. You’re a boon to the city.

Not Quite the Shower He Expected.

I really don’t know exactly how he did it.

A few days ago, I was working (which means I was surfing the internet) on the computer while Greg was on the telephone with his sister when Ethan hollered, “I need to go poo-poo!” Next came his signature uncomfortable dance around the immediate area which serves to confirm his declaration.

He danced into the bathroom and I helped him get situated on the toilet.  Knowing he’d be there a few minutes, I went back to what I was doing.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, DADDY! OH NO!” Ethan exclaimed.  The horror and revulsion in Ethan’s voice told me it must be serious.  Greg was occupied, so I ran into the bathroom and found Ethan wiping his face. So upset was he that he didn’t even protest my arrival (he typically will have a fit if he asks for one of us and the other shows up).

Then it dawned on me.

“What happened,” I asked, “Did you…oh my…did…did you pee in your face?”

“Uh-huh, YES,” he cried. The poor kid was devastated.

But I couldn’t help myself.  I laughed and laughed and cleaned him up and laughed some more, even though there was not only pee on his face, but also on his underwear, his pants, all over his sneakers, and a big puddle in the floor.

Methinks this was the universe’s karmic retaliation for all the times he peed on us when he was little. It’s nice that karma has a sense of humor.

Yes, I’m Really That Fortunate.

Happy Birthday to me.

I’m so fortunate to have a husband who loves me, who provides for me day in and day out, and does whatever he can to make my birthday special (including a hand-drawn card, shrimp/chorizo fajitas, blondies with ice cream, and taking care of the kids). Plus, there is yet to be anything I’ve asked for that he hasn’t given.

I’m fortunate to have kids who are smart as whips and — more importantly — healthy and happy.

I’m fortunate to have my health and to be without the fear others are facing in these harsh economic times.  Yes, I bitch about the prices of groceries every week, but at the end of the day we are lucky to be able to afford them anyway.

I’m fortunate in that I may not have many friends, but the ones I do have are good ones.

And nobody needs more gifts than those I already have.

"I’ve Always Been Crazy…

…and the trouble that it’s put me through.” — Waylon Jennings

I’ve had it up to here (here!) with the mandatory character education malarkey in our public schools. Why does my district (or anyone, for that matter) think it is within their rights to tell my kid (or anyone, for that matter) how to react to a given situation?

Everyone reacts differently to different stimuli.  Who is to say one reaction is more appropriate than another?  My kid gets upset with criticism and stomps off?  Yeah, so do I, if you catch me on a bad day.  You don’t know what to expect when criticizing my daughter’s schoolwork?  Well, can you say that you always act ‘rationally’ and ‘reasonably’ to someone’s criticism of yours?  I dare say not — in fact, my experiences with some teachers have soundly negated the idea that they respond well to criticism, no matter how tactfully worded. My child is outspoken in her disagreement with your views? She doesn’t allow her fellow students to say snarky things to her without responding in kind?  I applaud that, I don’t condemn it.

So. I am mounting a campaign, as much for myself as others.  My daughter has good grades on her report card.  That is what school is for.  I’ll handle the character education at home, as I see fit.  The school district should not require teachers to impose its subjective standards upon my student, so long as my student is not out of control. Meanwhile, so long as the district continues to impose its idea of character upon my children, I will continue to take its opinion of her character with a grain (or two) of salt. Personally, I think mandatory character education in which children are taught how to think and react to stimuli smacks noisily of A Brave New World.  As for preparing her for junior high and high school, I like to focus more on college, where the best professors were the ones who accepted and welcomed challenges to their own thinking.

And therefore (much redacted, sorry, you get the gist)….

report card redacted

Harsh?  You betcha. But I’ve always been crazy, just like I said.

P.S.:  Report card posted with permission of the student.  😉

Eagle Watching, 2009.

Each year for the past 3 years, we have gone to see the eagles.

This year was not much different, but we decided on Saturday — in a test of true grit — to confine ourselves in the truck with the children for 4 straight hours. This, we thought, would be a good test of how things will go when we head to Yellowstone this summer.

And as it turned out, it wasn’t so bad.

The day dawned dreary, unlike last year when it was bright and sunny. We went, as usual, to that area of the Great River Road around Alton and Godfrey. We have a lot of luck viewing eagles up there, particularly at the migratory bird refuge just west of the Alton bridge. Normally, we would plan to stop for pie and coffee in Alton; this year, I made a pie the night before to enjoy when we returned home, and we took a Thermos of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows with us. Ethan enjoyed it so much he had a hot chocolate mustache, and Laurel is enough of a ‘tween’ that she was bored after the first few minutes in the parking lot watching the birds…

hot chocolate mustache Laurel Reading

…but I think she was just pretending.

Knowing Ethan has a ‘thing’ for different modes of transport, we headed up to Brussels and took the free ferry across the Illinois River…

Brussels Ferry over the Illinois River Brussels Ferry over the Illinois River 2

We drove around the countryside a little, drove through Brussels and up near Winfield only to find the Winfield ferry inexplicably closed.  We turned back and headed to the tiny hamlet of Golden Eagle, where we crossed the Mississippi on the Golden Eagle ferry.

In Line for the Golden Eagle Ferry over the Mississippi Mississippi River from the Ferry

After disembarking from the Golden Eagle ferry, we rolled up on a railroad crossing occupied by a train hauling car after car of coal. Ethan was thrilled — I know this because his leg was kickingkickingkickingkicking like it does anytime he’s enthusiastic about something but forced by restraints to remain seated.

The train finally ended so we could proceed, and we ended up in St. Charles, marveling at the monstrosity that is ‘New Town.’  We hastened away as quickly as possible, returning home for lunch followed by pie and coffee. As we pulled into the driveway, the kids noted with excitement the snow flurries that had descended upon us.

I always have a good time watching the eagles.  There’s just something about them that captures the imagination — and I can’t wait to go again next year.

Homebrew.

For Christmas this year, I bought Greg a book about homebrewing beer. We’ve been looking for something we enjoy that we can do together.  It hit me — we enjoy beer.  We can make beer!

Well, plus Greg likes chemistry, and brewing beer uses chemistry.  Great!

So after Greg pored over his book about brewing beer, and lamented the fact that the book contradicts itself (to say nothing of its contradictions with other sources), we sallied forth and drank as much beer as we could to get enough bottles for bottling time.  We didn’t make it, so we had to buy more bottles. Maybe next time, huh?

Anyway, on New Year’s Eve, we brewed our beer:

This canning vessel has come in so handy -- first for figgy pudding, now for beer. Oh, and of course -- canning in the summer.

It made the house smell like toasted cereal, just like when I used to drive by Anheuser-Busch every morning on my way to work.  Mmmmm.

Then the beer sat for a week and a half or so in the bunker, while the yeast did their fermenting thing:

Yeast causes this to bubble -- when there's no more bubbling, the beer is ready!

And then yesterday we sanitized bottles.

One plate and many, many bottles.

Next we took the beer out of the bunker, brought it upstairs, and opened it. And it smelled GOOD. And it wasn’t nearly as gross-looking as we thought it would be.  We siphoned it off into the bottling bucket, then tasted it. And it tasted GOOD, too!

unveiling

Beer.

siphoning into the bottling bucket

Then we bottled.  Greg filled the bottles, I capped them. Final product:

Final product

2-3 weeks until we crack the first of these.