Last Sunday, my family and close friends gathered at Max’s Wine Dive to celebrate my 38th birthday. I had gone there with Layne and Crystal a few weeks back for drinks and for an informal book-group-type thing and really liked it (the cheese toast is full of YUM and of course, when I tried to make cheese toast at home, it came nowhere near the perfection at Max’s).

They actually opened the restaurant 15 minutes early for us, since we had 10 adults and 7 children ages 5 and under, which was a smart move on their part since wee ones can be a bit disruptive. As a side note, Matt and I were thrilled with how well our children behaved, especially Harrison, who was met with great temptation to act up and chose the high road.

Our service was pretty efficient; while the waitron wasn’t particularly warm or chatty, she did a great job of meeting our needs and making our mimosas bottomless. (How do you figure the Weight Watchers points of a mimosa that keeps refilling itself?)

I had the SXSW, jalapeno cheese grits topped with pulled pork. Very tasty and filling. I probably took a bit more than half of it home:

The SXSW, mimosa, Amber

Crystal and Cynthia had the deep fried eggs Benedict (!). I think they liked it, although the yolk looked pretty hard cooked, which I believe was a disappointment to those wanting a really good money shot of breaking into the egg:

Deep Fried Eggs Benedict

Abby had the Bananas Foster French Toast. I didn’t ask her how it was, but it looks tasty!

Bananas Foster French Toast

Amber had the breakfast burrito, which she described as “a brick.”

The breakfast burrito brick

Laurel and Lucinda split the yogurt and fruit plate. The vanilla mint yogurt was flecked with vanilla bean and was DELISH. I also ordered a red velvet pancake for Laurel; naturally, I stole a few bites and found it to be deep and chocolatey, if not a bit overcooked. Matt had the fried egg sandwich and said it was tasty, but could have used a lighter touch with the truffle oil. Layne had the house specialty, the fried chicken and waffles, and said it was pretty good. (I didn’t get any pictures of her sweet face, boo!)

The mimosas were just what the birthday fairy ordered.

But really, this post is not about the food we ate at Max’s that day. It’s about how lucky I feel to have been surrounded by all of these wonderful people at my birthday celebration. I complain a lot about being stuck at the kids’ table that is graduate school, about how little money I make, about how my writing career has stalled out due to the economy, about my attempts to control my weight, about many of life’s annoyances. But then I look at these pictures and see the faces of the people that I love and think about the people I love who weren’t able to be there that day and I think, I’m so glad I’m exactly where I am.

The Crestview Crew

Crystal, Cynthia, Lucinda

Laurel not loving the flash

The Miculeks, Matt and Harry

Crystal and Me

I’m so happy. I’m so grateful.

The things we talk about

We’re back from Paris, busy as hell and dealing with a very cranky toddler who seems to be combating some sort of tummy bug. Photos to come. But for now, please do enjoy this exchange between me and Matt as we discuss potential plans for the weekend:

Matt: I was looking forward to seeing L. Ron Man: Super-Scientologist, but the movie is not out yet.  Dang!

Me: L. Ron Man would be a good movie, as long as the movie theatre also served pints of the weird Scientologist baby formula on special.

Matt: Maybe we could go see the new movie, The Polk.  It’s about a guy who is exposed to gamma radiation and transforms into U.S. President James K. Polk whenever he drinks iced tea.  I heard it was pretty bad, though.

Me: Is that sweet or unsweet?

Matt: Sweet.  During a key scene in the movie, the pre-Polk says, “Don’t give me sweet tea.  You wouldn’t like it if I had sweet tea.  Hey, this is sweet tea!  Aaaaargh!  Manifest destiny!!!!!”

Me: I just made a very unflattering sound with my nose.

Flying solo

Matt left early this morning to visit his paternal relatives in Rhode Island. It’s his grandmother’s 93rd (?) birthday, and he feels that perhaps his chances to visit her may be dwindling. So, he left for four days, with my blessings, to go eat lobster and surround himself with a whole host of people with his surname.

I have been feeling a bit glum and lonely today — I didn’t think that I’d miss him that much, especially after we just spent four days together in Seattle with no three-foot-high, “upupupupupupupupupupup!” preschooligan shenanigans. But I felt and feel his absence acutely, and did so the minute I came home from dropping off Harrison at Nana’s.

Harry and I have a busy weekend ahead of us: tonight we’re going out for dinner, maybe Thai (I dunno about that one; Harry is uber-picky and I need bland foods right now) or maybe something a little more playground-centric (a la Central Market). Tomorrow morning, breakfast tacos (hopefully en masse with other preschooligans and their mamas) at Torchy’s (my new addiction), then the sprinklers at Town Lake Park, then a meeting at Starbucks (unavoidable and definitely dreaded) about an essay and my other contributions to a book project-turned-albatross. Then lunch with Kyle at Phil’s/Amy’s, naptime, then a trip to Maker Faire with Molly. Then dinner and the arrival of the sitter (much trepidation on my part despite my adoration for sitter in question; all stemming from anxiety about possible anxiety on H’s part with Mommy abandoning him the day after Daddy left before the sun rose) so that Mariah and I can go bask in the awesomeness that is Anthony Bourdain (how tempted I have been to unload those tix for double what I paid in order to finance my latest knitting endeavor!).

Sunday is a trip to my folks’ place in Schertz and a visit to the SA Zoo, where they have “weel fah-mingos,” H’s latest animal-related obsession. Monday is school, then dinner at friends’. So, yes, we will stay busy, but the bed for the next few nights will feel very large and cold, and the creaky-creepy nighttime noises will sound that much louder. But, I will take this time to read ahead for my classes, get caught up on my knitting and movies, and generally, be at peace with my aloneness after the boy has gone to bed.


So, we got back from Seattle on Sunday night to learn that the shower and bathtub (two different bathrooms) were backing up and that my mother-in-law had been unable to bathe and was rapidly unraveling as a result. Poor thing! Plumber came on Monday, did some snaking and some other stuff, and now we are moving smoothly. That night, I stayed up laaaaate to grade papers, then was so delirious that I was convinced that the plumber was coming back to rob us. After all, he’d seen my laptop! and our two cheap TVs! and … my books! We are targets! I hid my laptop in my dresser and my purse in the closet when I finally went to bed, then lay in the dark, twitching at every creak and rustle. (I should also mention that I barely slept on Sunday night as well, due to jetlag — yes, totally lame to get jetlag going from PST to CST, but I somehow managed to do it.)

Finished grading last night — of my 20 students, 2 got Ds and 3 got Fs. I have second- and third-guessed myself on these grades, but every time I attempt to reconsider, I see all the glaring flaws all over again and can’t bring myself to change the grades. I know there will be tears in my office over these grades, and I am facing some really hard truths about my teaching. There is absolutely no reason why a full quarter of my students should be turning in below-average work. Obviously, mistakes have been made on both sides of the gradebook; it’s now up to me to do some re-tooling, pedagogically, and evaluate how I communicate expectations and ensure that I’m properly equipping my students with the tools they need to write successful papers in a lower-division undergraduate rhetoric course. (You might hear some eye-rolling in that last sentence.)

I am really behind on the reading for my Thursday-night class, called Rhetoric and Identification. I didn’t read any of the material for last week, as we were in Seattle, and now I realize that everything we’re reading from here on out is based in the Freud I didn’t read last week. Also, I have to revise my second paper for the class, which was handed back without a grade with the edict, “more, more, MORE!” Gah.

You can’t get blood from a turnip, is all I’m saying. But somehow, I will find that “MORE!” Who needs a life when you’ve got Kenneth Burke, Sigmund Freud, and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen to keep you company? I’m sure Matt won’t mind another night alone in the bed while I toil in the livingroom.