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May 2015

Really. You Must Remember The Alamo

My mother and I never went to the Alamo. I know, I know. What can I say?

We took a river taxi (the only one that ever appeared within forty-five minutes of our desiring one - I add, darkly)


We admired the abundant and beautiful plant life



We reflected upon the many happy times that generations of San Antonian trolls have no doubt celebrated at this bar-under-a-bridge  


We went to the Japanese Tea Garden (meh, by the way. the plants were lovely and I liked the quarry walls but it seems to be under renovation so the koi ponds were koi-less)


We looked at every single piece in the small but interestingly eclectic collection of the SA Museum of Art and the building itself is terrific - a converted brewery with great stonework and wonderful empty spaces. I particularly liked the elevated walkway


And we ate excellent food: Boudro's, Acenar and La Frite being particular favorites (thank you for the recommendations)

So with one thing and another it wasn't until we were packing to leave that I said, "Oh my god, Mom, we forgot the Alamo!"

We looked at each other.

She said, "Can we admit to people that we went to San Antonio but skipped the Alamo?"

I said, "I don't think we can."

She nodded, "It'll be our secret" and I agreed that no one would ever know what lame tourists we are: I mean, it's The Alamo and it was right there

Fifty minutes later we were bowling along toward the airport with our San Antonio born and bred cab driver, chatting away about the food we ate and the things we did.

"You ladies went to the Alamo, of course," he said with only the slightest upward inflection to indicate that it was still a question.

My mother and I slid a surreptitious glance at each other out of the corner of our eyes.

I said, stoutly, "Of course! Most interesting."

My mother murmured something unintelligible.

"Right, right," he said, "so let me ask you this. What was the single-most important thing you learned at the Alamo?"




Less than an hour into our great lie and we went down in flames. A pop quiz! We ummm'd and urrrrrr'd and writhed in our shame.

[Note: The answer he was looking for was that Texas is the only state that is allowed to fly its flag at the same height as the US flag due to its status as a former independent republic. This is actually not true but it makes a nice story.] 


As if having the world's worst internet connection is not enough of a burden (we have a neighbor who travels to remote parts of the world for his job and he assured us that he gets better wi-fi in Antarctica than on our street. Ant-freaking-penguin-arc-ti-ca) our router has started disconnecting itself with the petulant irrationality of a toddler throwing toys.

I brought it into our Mac repair shop and the guy said, "Ah, need a new one, do you?"

"Do I? I was sort of hoping you could fix it."

"Fix? It?"

[Slight aside but my beloved seven (eight? ten?) year old camera has been acting arthritic lately. When I take a picture there is a long, long, LONG pause between my pressing down and the shutter snapping into action; during which time my subjects tend to stop whatever they were doing that needed to be preserved for posterity and wander off. I've been taking a lot of pictures of empty spaces as a result, so I called my local camera repair place and asked if I could bring the camera into them.

"Well you could," the guy said hesitantly, "but chances are we'll have to send it to the manufacturer at which point it is just cheaper to buy a new one."

Camera. Repair. Shop.

Insert my muttering about modern production standards and the culture of wastefulness and how one used to be able to get a camera repaired good as new for a dime and still have enough left over to go the cinema and get a bite to eat afterwards. Mutter mutter mutter.]

All of which is to say that I left the time capsule with the guy but I am not remotely sanguine that we will have internet again by tonight. So I am writing this in the carpool line (Patrick's school - now THAT'S a wi-fi connection) to let you know I won't be writing today and...

and here's Patrick now.



Giving The Gift Of Giving

Edward was almost entirely submerged in the bathtub with only his eyes and his nose above the water.

"Edward, get out," I said.

"No," he mouthed and bubbles rose to the surface.

"Edward, seriously, your bath is over. Time to get out."

Bubble, bubble.

"Do you think as a special mother's day thing you could just do what I ask the first time without going all baby hippopotamus doesn't want to leave the river on me?"

Edward's head popped up.

"Wait," he said. "What? Is today mother's day?"

"Yes, so get out and get your pajamas on."

"Awwww, I didn't get you anything."

"It's ok. I had a very nice trip with Nana and now I am very happy to be home with you."

"But I should give you something. Um, how about a foot rub?"

A foot rub? What on earth has he been reading? Still, it sounded kinda nice, "OK. Sure. Get out, dry off, get dressed and I'll see you on the couch."

Five minutes later a slightly pink, slightly damp Edward pattered into the living room.

"Ready for the foot rub?" he asked.


So he hopped up next to me on the couch and proceeded to lay each of his feet - plonk, plonk - in my lap before laying back against the cushions, his fingers laced behind his neck.

I stared at the feet that were now gently nudging my hands.

"There you go," he said encouragingly. "Foot rub! Enjoy."

PS After our dramatic reunion Caroline said, "You'll never guess what Dad got for me at Gander Mountain!"

"A gallon of bug spray for the farm?" I guessed, hopefully.

"No! A Swiss Army knife!"

She's right. I never would have guessed.

PPS It's pink, it's two inches long, it has scissors, tweezers, a nail file and the the swiss army equivalent of a butter knife. A more ridiculous piece of equipment I have never seen but she assured me it was able to cut the morels just fine.

Time Seems Different

See: yesterday.

Add - Japanese Tea Garden (note: ambivalent; sidenote: two police officers arrived - I think - in response to a dog complaint and as they passed me the one muttered to the other, "We're going to come back to find our cars are gone." So there's that.) Cajun slash Tex-Mex is kinda brilliant; the river taxi never comes so don't bother; San Antonians are, universally, the nicest people in perhaps the entire world, seriously, I mean it; the King William neighborhood has a great Belgian restaurant but

again: prickly pear margaritas are my Waterloo


They taste like Tart Sweet Cold.

All Is Well

Apparently two prickly pear margaritas and a whole lot of walking render me virtually unconscious by 9:30 pm. Sorry. But: lovely river, Texas, brief but good lord BUCKETING rain, ducklings! art museum, everything should come with a variety of salsa always.

In the meantime, from Steve this afternoon, just beyond the farm, no bears in sight.



Howdy from Texas.

I don't really have much to report, yet. My mother and I met at the airport, took a cab to our hotel and then wandered out for a very nice lunch on the Riverwalk. Upon hearing that my mother had just come in from DC our waiter told us that he was thinking about going to Washington in July for a soccer game.

I am not ashamed to admit that I squealed. Then I checked, "Which one?"

"Barcelona is playing Chelsea... " and I almost invited him to take my mom's chair.

I asked if he favored Barcelona or Chelsea and he said he followed the Mexican league (ah, Liga MX, I nod, knowledgeably) but he just thinks it will be a great game. I lamented the fact that I was going to be in Canada at the time (as much as anyone can ever lament the fact that they are going to be in Canada - which is to say, not much) but just as I was about to expand on why I think the May Barcelona team would disembowel the May Chelsea team he was called to another table.   

Anyway. Another reason I like football. You can go almost anywhere and find common ground.

Oh! And I had the nicest thing happen to me on the flight out. When I went to check-in online I was given a boarding pass but no seat assignment. This happened to us the last time we flew with the family and it meant they had oversold the flight. When we boarded the five of us were scattered like the teeth of the Drakon of Ismene and we had to beg people to trade until we had gotten the children somewhat herded with at least one parent nearby.

This time, of course, it did not matter but I checked in with the gate agent when I got there and asked if he was able to assign me a seat yet.

He said, "I'm just working on seats right now, if you could give me a moment?"

I said, "Sure."

And he said, "Oh, is it alright if I seat you... "

I cut him off, "You can put me absolutely anywhere. I'm good. If you have a row of screaming babies and an extra seat in the middle? Feel free."

And I meant it because I was not traveling for business, needing to concentrate on getting work done; I was not traveling with children, responsible for keeping them civilized; I was not sick or particularly tired or depressed or any of those things that can make travel burdensome. I have been a high maintenance traveler before but now was not one of those times. I had my Kindle and short legs and I was on vacation. It's all good.

But he smiled and said, "I was just going to ask if you are OK with an exit row."

I said, "Yes! How nice! Exit row. Roomy" and went to pay $8 for a bottle of water before the flight.

Forty minutes later they called for my zone and I handed him my boarding pass when I reached the front of the line.

"Ah Ms Hippogriffs!" he said. "I found you a seat in that crying baby section after all" and he took away my ticket and handed me a new one.

I was halfway down the jetway before I realized he had put me in first class. It was the nicest thing that has happened to me since... well since that woman paid for my sausage biscuit in the McDonalds drive-through line.

People are really, really very kind. And for the second time in almost as many weeks I found myself being asked if I wanted anything from the bar, replying that it was ten o'clock in the morning and being offered a Bloody Mary in deference to the early hour.

It's really rather funny:

"Would you like a shot and a half of vodka?"

"Good Lord, no! It's 9:30 in the morning! What's wrong with you!"

"What if I put it into some tomato juice?"

"No! Of course not! Yuck."

"What if I added spices and maybe a pickle and some olives and a celery stick.. ?"

"Oh. Well, OK then. Thanks."

"You want a lemon slice, too? They're full of vitamin C."

And the next thing you know you feel like you're downing a kale smoothie.

PS Yeah. I had the Bloody Mary. But! I waited until 10:30.


I am going to Texas tomorrow to meet up with my mother for her birthday weekend and I am only partially convinced that I am going to perish and the children will be eaten by bears after Steve falls down a well. I am making progress with my anxieties, I think.

I haven't packed yet (I haven't even figured out what hot weather size I am) so I will just share two things that made me laugh today. 

1. Caroline threw her arms around me and said, "I love you so much! I love you more than anyone in the world... besides Daddy of course. And Edward."

Of course.

I decided not to remind her about Patrick since I wanted to maintain the illusion that I am in the top three quartiles.

2. Edward and Caroline bring home their reading packets on Mondays, which are then due three days later. At the beginning of the year they were sometimes rather lengthy but in the past several months the assignments have dwindled down to a single sheet of paper with two brief passages on each side, followed by either an activity (draw a picture and do a crossword puzzle based upon the text) or specific questions related to what they have read. 

Edward - who is certainly well enough to complete a ten minute assignment no matter what he might say - has made rather an art form of completing the work at the last possible second and using the fewest letters possible to form the least number of words that still convey his point.


Tonight one of the passages was about zoologists and the question was: what three questions would you like to ask a zoologist to learn more?

Edward wrote:

1. What is your name?

2. Do you like science?

3. How tall are you?

Zooooooooooooooom! The sound of the intention of the assignment going right over Edward's head or the sound of Edward coasting merrily under the bar of literal interpretation.

Dilemma, Horns Of

I took Edward back to the pediatrician this morning, mostly to confirm my belief that his health is on an upward trajectory. The doctor agreed with my assessment but added, after listening to his cough, "Wow he really does sound like a seventy year old smoker, doesn't he?"

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons why it is tough to be responsible for another living creature: how does one properly gauge when it is normal for a first grader to sound like a geriatic Joe Camel (and accordingly send them to school) and when it is not?


Latvijas Republikas Neatkarības Atjaunošanas Diena

Per your advice Patrick made piragi (aka Latvian Bacon Buns) to take to cooking club tomorrow. The recipe, no doubt, can vary but the one he consulted called for a pound of bacon, a pound of ham, an onion, a stick of butter, whole milk, three egg yolks, some caraway seeds so you know where you are relative to the Baltic and a ridiculous quantity of yeast.

So, two pounds of smoked pork wrapped in a brioche dough... what's not to love?

Patrick has learned something with each cooking project and this one was no different. Tonight he learned why your Latvian grandmother only made them for special occasions:

1. If you eat one pirags you will feel compelled to promptly eat ten more and if you do this on a regular basis you will have a heart attack and die


2. You need the scope of a holiday - a span of time devoted to selfless nurturing - to make piragi because no one in their right mind should do this on a Monday night. The chopping and the sauteing and the mixing and the kneading and the RISE and the second RISE and the rolling and the cutting and the filling and the crimping and the third RISE... I kept popping my head into the kitchen, looking at the clock, compressing my lips, shaking my head and then walking out again. If I had a hard time not whipping his egg whites for him during cake week it was nothing compared to the agony I experienced not managing his time for him tonight*. I had to stuff my head under the couch cushion.

That said, they turned out quite nicely and I cannot wait until, say, Latvian Independence Day

[Ha! I just looked it up and guess what? TODAY is Latvian (restoration of) Independence Day! What are the odds?]

So only 364 more days until Patrick takes over my kitchen again for five interminable floury hours.


Like I said, I can't wait.

*I never, ever realized the depth of my control issues until I had children. Just watching them put on their little socks so inefficiently... ugh.

Blues Exclamation Point

I don't mean to sound immodest but I am really good at this whole football fan thing. August 16th I pick a team; May 3rd they clinch the premier league title. Nothing to do now but figure out how to work my Chelsea scarf into summer ensembles (wrapped around the breasts as a daring bandeau perhaps.)

I am reminded of the Simpsons episode in which Homer denounces the local baseball team as a bunch of losers who lose only to walk into Moe's at the end of the season to discover that they are in the championship game. When they win Homer is interviewed as a superfan who never stopped believing in them and says something like, "Thank you Jesus! I'd like to say hi to my special lady, Marge: we did it baby! Go 'Topes!"

So, yeah, it's been a long road for me since last summer. There was, um, oh right, the time Tottenham scored five goals and there was that Bradford City debacle... but I never lost faith and now, praise Hazard, a ten point lead with only three games left to play. Picture me kissing my fingertips and pointing in the general direction of the UK.

To be honest with you, in retrospect I wish I had stayed closeted about my Chelsea passion. Sure, I still would have felt compelled to write about football but I could have been a little vague about where my interest lay. Had I known... well had I known more I might even have chosen a different team entirely but I liked the sound of the word and the brightness of the blue and the fact that Chelsea was where people kept their maiden aunts during the Regency...

You know, it's funny. Even at the Chelsea bar where Chelsea supporters are stacked ten feet high I noticed that everyone felt the need to justify their Chelsea fandom. There was the London transplant who kept saying (at increasing volume; I did mention the bar opened before nine am right?) "I have been A CHELSEA SUPPORTER since NINTEEN FIFTY-FOUR!" and there was the guy who diffidently explained that he did a semester abroad in London and although he could never afford to actually watch a game he rented a room close enough to Stamford Bridge that he could hear them. Obviously my Arsenal-Chelsea dinner companion origin story needs work. It's a pity that Frank Lampard never gave me a kidney... maybe I will just tell people that my grandmother was Peter Sillett. Eh, I have a few months now to work on it. In the meantime, we did it baby. Go Topes!

PS I am trying to imagine my bewildered hurt this time next year: But, but... my team wins the premier league! That's just what happens. You're saying that Leicester City... but how? The most points? I don't understand.