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Bottlecaps & Wingnuts

Published: 2008-07-28T12:22:57-06:00


The last B&W blog


Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. It has been a fun 502 blogs and an interesting run.


We’ll see you down the road.

Dave, Shannon and the boy

The (almost) last B&W blog


After more than three-and-a-half years, 501 blogs and 514 comments … it’s time for this blog to come to an end.

I know, despite planning this for about half a year now, I’m a bit sad myself.

Since the boy was born, this blog has been about him, my reactions to being a father and the occasional looks back at wilder times. But it didn’t start that way. Back in the early months of 2005, I volunteered to be a sort of John Kelso Jr.

You know, the everyday guy who eats hamburgers and drinks cheap beer and watches football on TV. I was supposed to offer my would-be (but not quite) blue-collar take on culture to help balance out the, uh, embrace of things trendy you’ll find elsewhere on this site.

But the blog morphed as I did. There were music reviews. A stretch of mountain biking commentary (with endless gushing over the Barton Creek Greenbelt). Then triathlon training. There was bar commentary, high school football poetry and more blathering about Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic than anyone but me cares to read. There was a bit of travel, but not enough.

I found a core group of readers, and then another when I started blogging about my son. I appreciate all four or five of you — even those whose constant suggestions and advice I found to be sometimes overbearing.

In the past year, this blog has offered no real value to Austin readers — at least not what you’d expect from a staff blog on No, it’s simply been a personal blog of sorts, and that’s not a role I’m really comfortable with.

So, I move on.

There’s a few loose ends:

I never did get back to you on Joe Nick Patoski’s Willie Nelson biography … because I’m still reading it. But it’s excellent once the history hits Austin, full of little details to enthrall the most dedicated fan: Did you know that it was artist Jim Franklin who introduced Willie and Leon Russell?

The boy walks the walk, but talking the talk? Not so much. He’s getting there.

Did I lose the 45 pounds I gained since spring 2005 and return triumphantly to triathlons? No. But I’ve lost 15 and did manage to jog nearly a mile this morning (a far cry from the 7 miles I could jog two years ago … but, it’s a start).

And, finally, a not-forgotten request from a longtime friend. Back in August 2006, my buddy Scott asked me to write a blog about the Nutty Brown Cafe, heading out toward Dripping Springs. He had grown up just a mile or so from there, back when that area was “in the middle of nowhere.”

I said sure, I’d go there and write a blog about it. But pregnancy (Shannon’s … not mine) and fatherhood distracted me. Next thing you know, two years have passed.

There’s something in there about not going home again, life moving quickly and the increasing difficulty of slowing down enough to look back. Or maybe it’s just that I’m lazy, I don’t know.

Either way, we’re moving forward.

Here we go …

Wobble the line


When I asked the pediatrician why the boy wasn’t walking yet, he did not say “come on, look at the size of that boy’s head!”

But he pretty much said that between his noggin and belly, it was harder for him to balance on his own than it was for slimmer kids without a bowling ball for a head.

The boy didn’t like that answer, I guess. Within a week of that 15-month appointment he was walking all over the house, wobbling like a tiny drunken fratboy (if that’s not redundant).

He also likes to climb on top of the coffee table when I have my back turned, thrusting his arms triumphantly after reaching the summit. Pretty soon he’s going to learn some hard lessons about gravity. We already have had a wee busted lip.

Sorry about leaving that self-indulgent birthday blog up all last week. Things got complex around here and I couldn’t return to the blog. I can already see that I’ve only a few weeks before the boy starts running and chasing him will become my full-time fitness routine.


The boy examines dad’s new running shoes to see if they are up to the challenge.

And, hey, this is Blog No. 500. Thanks for reading all the way through.

Today I am 37


Happy birthday to me, I’m officially in my “upper 30s.”

Here it is, 37 years old, and A) the Belgians just purchased Anheuser-Busch and B) Brett Favre can’t leave well enough alone and stay retired.

From what I understand, Belgium has excellent beer. Why do they have to mess with my beer? Why do I fear a “New Coke” moment is on its way?

And Favre is on the road from transitioning from someone I would tell my son about in reverent tones to “Daddy, why is that old man wearing a football helmet?”

That’s what’s troubling me today, a welcome break from war, politics and people doing bad things to kids.

Today I’m back on the job after about two weeks of vacation and I feel all right, I guess. The boy is doing well — his most recent discovery is that if he brings me a book, I will read it to him — but that wasn’t the most exciting thing of the past week.

No, I sold something on eBay. Not something valuable. Not something useful. No, I sold a dancing Coke can from nearly 20 years ago … that does not work. And I said so on my listing.

I basically said “this is a piece of junk, but you might be drunk enough to buy it anyway.”

And someone did.

Very exciting. What else can I sell?

Willie Picnic '08: Report 2


Perhaps I was a little too quick to dismiss the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic in Selma as something short of a real Picnic. Given how it has evolved over the years, it fits right in. Besides, who am I to judge? A veteran of the Picnics in Dripping Springs or College Station or Gonzales might look at my beloved Luckenbach Picnics and say “Where’s the drugs? Where’s the nudity? Where’s the wildness? That’s not a real Picnic.” So, sure. We’ll count it as a traditional Willie Picnic. Even though we were missing Leon Russell … where were you Leon? My personal distaste for this year’s picnic was no doubt amplified by the fact that I was still sick from the whatever-it-was gastrointestinal bug that had struck me down last Tuesday. My Picnic partner was also ill, so I had to sit there by myself, feeling ill-at-ease with a stomach too rumbly to have any beer or enjoy the bad food. Oh, I tried to have some beer. I was provided with several options for Bud Light: the 16-ounce draft beer for $7, the 16-ounce bottle beer for $8, the 24-ounce draft beer for $9, or the 24-ounce can for $10. Premium beer (or, beer snobs take note, what Verizon Wireless Amphitheater deemed to be premium beer) cost even more. Mysteriously, they seemed to immediately run out of 16-ounce cups for the draft beer. So I forked over $9 for a 24-ounce cup of beer that I in no way could finish before it got warm. “This is the most I have ever paid for a beer,” I told the guy. He was not impressed. I mean, seriously. Nine dollars for a beer? This wasn’t peanuts. No they were $4, same as a bottle of water. And there were people who seemed to have brought the whole family, multiple kids included, to this event. How on earth could anyone afford this? I did notice that Verizon provided a “family zone” in the lawn seating area. A roped-off smoke- and alcohol-free area. It was largely empty throughout the day. I do want to call out Event Staff No. 139. In the half-hour between musical acts, I had plenty of time to observe what was going on around me. Now Mr. 139 had been vigorously enforcing the no-smoking rule in the seating area through mean faces and violent hand gestures and fiercely guarding the gate leading to the higher-dollar seating area. At one point, an older woman and her younger escort — we’ll assume it was her daughter — had to get up, I assume to use the restroom. She was seated at the front end of the upper-tier section that I was in, about 20 rows in front of me, and just next to the gate that led to a walkway between our section and the higher-priced sections. If she could go through that gate, she would have a straight shot to the bathooms. Now let me point out that this was no slightly older woman. Nor was she just lazy. No, she was hunched over with age, walking in tiny steps leaning on her daughter. This was a woman who had probably seen the Depression. Would Mr. 139 let her through the gate? No. He did not budge. Instead, this woman had to walk back up the slick concrete ramp to the top of the amphitheater and shuffle all the way around to bathrooms. An hour or so later, I saw the older lady and her daughter seated in padded folding chairs in the VIP section, directly in front of Mr. 139. She must have found the right person to complain to. Good. And Mr. 139, I hope it ate you up. The house music provided what little entertainment we had between sets. The crowd sang along with Robert Earl Keen and “The Road Goes on Forever.” The crowd was puzzled by Bon Jovi and “Bad Medicine.” The crowd was insulted (well, at least I was) by Alan Jackson’s “Where I Come From.” Let me share one of David Allan Coe’s quotes of the day: “… songwriters … songwriters … songwriters … there’s a lot of great songwriters here today and I’m one[...]

Willie Picnic '08: Report 1


When the rain poured down at 1:15 p.m., just as Pat Green was beginning his set, it blew nearly halfway into the amphitheater, soaking many of us who thought we were in the “sheltered” seats. The illusion of protection was enough for many wandering the grounds, though. They overwhelmed the staff and surged down the rain-slicked ramp between the seating sections. Those of us in the seats had to stand to see … and there we all were: Standing, wet, dancing and dripping, shoulder-to shoulder. I was writing between the raindrops in my notebook. For a moment, it felt like a real Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic. After that, it was just a concert. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine concert. In every shady spot with a seat, there was a senior citizen waiting it out to Ray Price and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Underfoot there was no shortage of children enjoying the day. Everywhere else, there were music fans of all sorts waving their ($7, $8, $9 or more) beers in the air and having a good time. I arrived as Del Castillo was finishing up just before noon and settled into my seat for what was going to be several interminable waits in between sets. There was a full 5 minutes of silence before someone thought to turn on a little house music. There were no emcees of any sort beyond the occasional appearance by a local disc jockey. The 30-minute delays between sets were, simply put, the most exhausting part of the day. It’s just not fun looking at your watch at 5:05 and knowing that it’s not only more than 4 hours until Willie’s set, but that half of that time is going to down time, with nothing to do but buy $40 T-shirts, $9 cheeseburgers or a $4 bottle of water. Asleep at the Wheel has gotten little respect in my past reporting on the picnics, typically because they take the stage at the beginning of the show, but after watching Friday’s show, I have to hand it to them. Ray Benson and Co. played all out — from “Miles and Miles of Texas” to “Happy Trails” — for a pretty sparse early afternoon crowd. Johnny Bush took the stage at 2:15 with no introduction at all (this was typical) and seemed a little bitter at his hometown: “During our portion of the show what you hear is traditional country music,” Bush said. “It’s something you don’t hear much in this town anymore.” That’s not overboard, but when he pulled out his fiddle and presented it to the crowd — “This is a fiddle” — there seemed to be little humor in his voice. It was Ray Wylie Hubbard, who took the stage with son Lucas, harmonica guru Mickey Raphael and a drummer whose name I didn’t catch, who stole the show. “Snake Farm” sounded fantastic, but was quickly blown away by a bluesy instrumental that was essentially a jam-off between Lucas and Raphael. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” was a stunner, as well. When Hubbard left the stage, he hadn’t played “Redneck Mother” and there had been no shouts for it. Good for Ray Wylie. It was a great set. Next up, Billy Joe Shaver was at his animated best, shadow boxing and throwing verbal jabs at his stand-up bass player until … he wrapped up “That’s What She Said Last Night.” “Worst song I ever wrote,” Shaver had said when he started the song. Toward the end of the song — the part where a cell phone is a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for the male sexual organ — Billy Joe is describing how next time he’s going to get a bigger model, one that vibrates, talking about how women like them “bigger and better.” Then he steps in it: “Some of ‘em like the black model — bigger and better,” he said. There was a deathly pause in the crowd. “Like Cowboy Troy,” Shaver quickly added, referring to the black c[...]

Willie July 4 picnic lineup


Here it is, 2 days until my big event of the year, and I’m struck down by gastrointestinal distress — I’m thinking it was the migas at one of Austin’s finer breakfast establishments.

God willing, should I recover in time, you’ll be able to find a review of the July 4 picnic in Selma right here, on this blog, the day after the show. And probably the day after that and the day after that, too.

Until then, here’s how Friday looks, according to the folks at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater:

Del Castillo opens the show at 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes after the gates open.

Asleep at the Wheel is next, followed by a Pat Green set. After that, Johnny Bush, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver and David Allan Coe have 20-minute sets.

Los Lonely Boys and Ray Price begin the evening, followed by Merle Haggard.

A 1 hour and 45-minute show by Willie and Family closes out the show, ending at 11 p.m.

Seem like a small lineup for a 11.5-hour show? Well, the folks at Verizon have built in a 30-minute delay between each set. I know this offers some leeway in case a set runs long or Willie wants to jam, but it still seems like a lot.

And who’s missing? Well, to begin with, all the smaller acts that typically hold the early afternoon hours at the picnic. There’s no Pauline Reese, no Geezinslaws, no up-and-comers like Shooter Jennings.

But there’s somebody else who is missing: Leon Russell.

It’s hard to be definitive, but I don’t think he’s ever missed a traditional (outside, on the Fourth, in Texas) Willie Picnic.

I’m not sure how traditional this picnic will be, but it’s not going to be the same without Leon. Now I wonder why he’s not playing this year?

Bigfoot sighting


It’s been since late May that we last posted a photo of the boy.

Just shy of 15 months now, he has been on the cusp of walking for 3 months now.


But can you blame him when he lugs these feets around?

Yes, there is a little perspective at work, but I have seen the bigfoot and I know the future.

(But if he grows into them, I’m getting my shoe investment back after the NFL Draft in April 2029.)


Might be close to time for haircut No. 3 …

Ready for a Family Picnic?


Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic is a little more than a week away, and we’ve hardly talked about it all.

(Not including, of course, the 200 inches I wrote on the history of the picnic back in April.)

This year, Willie’s continuing his recent pre-Fourth tradition of a 3rd of July concert at Carl’s Corner, the truckstop-turned-tourist stop just north of Hillsboro. Merle Haggard and Ray Price will be joining him.

On the Fourth, Willie ventures down to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Selma (where Willie hosted a “Family Picnic” — not a Fourth of July Picnic — in August 2001).

Guests then included Dennis Quaid and Hayseed Dixie — the bluegrass AC/DC tribute band. This year, they include picnic regulars Price, David Allan Coe, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Bush and Asleep at the Wheel. Also: Haggard, Pat Green and Los Lonely Boys.

I had tried to get information on the “and more” artists who will be playing and what the schedule might be like, but when the promoter is a huge corporation — Live Nation — they don’t really feel like they have to promote.

On July Fifth, Willie and Co. (minus, apparently, Pat Green) take the same show to The Showgrounds at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. This marks the first time since 2003 that there has been a “picnic” on two days and the first time since 1983 that there’s been a picnic in two different cities on consecutive days … if you’re counting. (And I am.)

Oddly, the Live Nation site refers to both the Selma and Houston shows as “Willie Nelson’s Family Picnic” — a term that has been previously reserved for big shows not on or immediately adjacent to the Fourth of July.

It’s enough to drive a picnic purist crazy, but then, the picnic has re-engineered itself and re-imagined its legend at a pretty consistent clip.

I won’t be reporting from the picnic this year — I’m gonna be in the crowd, sipping beers of unimaginable cost and listening to the music rather than wrangling with security, chasing after artists and annoying fans.

I’m not going to say that I think this might be the last picnic or anything like that. In fact, I think it’ll be the first of a new era of completely corporate picnics. (I have reserved seats for this show. In the shade. Imagine that.)

But I will be taking notes. And blogging more than anyone wants to hear about it, once I return from San Antonio.

Hmm. As I finish typing this, the gates will open exactly 10 days and … 4 minutes from now.

Bits of pre-child life


Does becoming a parent necessitate a complete personality change?

Must one become uber-parent, never looking beyond the toy-strewn living room except when you’re taking your child to a child-centric location or event?

Or can you re-claim bits of your pre-child life, from time to time, in small sanity-saving snatches?

Yes, Steve, I know what you think.

And the rest of you know what I think.

Shannon and I went to the xxxxxx xxxx on Saturday night. No, I’m not going to name the place. Not because I think you’re gonna make a mad rush to the bar on the outskirts of San Antonio, just a few miles from my in-laws’ place.

No, I just fear that putting its name in print will be a beacon for developers who want nothing more than to mow it down and put up a Bed, Bath & Beyond in its place.

Regardless, the xxxxxx xxxx was a real bar. Complete with cigarette smoke to the ceiling, Willie on the jukebox, a band with a stand-up bass in the corner and a completely out-of-nowhere poster of some Minnesota Vikings football player whose name I can’t recall.

The boy, safely zonked out with grandma and grandpa, didn’t even completely dominate our conversation. We stayed late and drank deep (and, later, slept late). It was nice to be Dave and Shannon for a few hours after a long stretch of “Dad” and “Mom.”

For the faithful readers, a funny story about the boy:

Once a week, the boy and I have lunch with Shannon at the Capitol cafeteria. She works in the area and we meet her there and head into the Capitol Extension for some turkey sandwiches.

Yesterday, we had my father-in-law with us, so we took a detour up to the rotunda in the Capitol proper. On the way back, we passed by the brass busts of the lieutenant governors.

I patted Bob Bullock on the head and motioned to Shannon, who was carrying the boy. I thought he might like to check out the very lifelike brass head.

You might know where I’m going with this. The boy got up close to the bust of Bob Bullock and stared, stared, stared. Cautiously he reached out and touched it. Suddenly he had a very spooked expression, as in “What in the heck is WRONG with this man?”

He looked at me. “What did you do to this guy?” I couldn’t help but laugh. It just didn’t occur to me that to the boy, this life-size brass head was a very real person with something terribly wrong.

We retreated, though the boy kept staring until ol’ Bob was out of sight.

Forecast: Continued showers


I used a pair of pliers — needle-nose, even — to turn on the shower Tuesday morning. This is, Shannon would probably not want me to omit, not a permanent thing. No, as our house closes in on 20 years, we just had a small fixture foul-up. This close-up of the faucet handle shows how the interior plastic thingamajig broke, as well as the general state of crud on the interior of the faucet handle. This happened on Monday morning. As I turned off the shower, the faucet handle gave way, preventing me from fully stopping the flow of water. My FIRST thought was that if I had to call a plumber, I was going to have to clean the bathroom, because our master bathroom is, quite simply, the foulest place on earth. Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but having the kid means we have reduced our housecleaning procedures to only the most essential elements. When we have guests, they don’t see the master bedroom, so it doesn’t get cleaned. If we do manage to clean the master bedroom, we don’t quite make it to the master bath, because, well, who really wants to clean the bathroom? At this rate, I kind of look at it as we’re preparing a state-winning science fair project for a fifth-grade boy. I can hear the judges now … Why Jenkins, this lad has developed a culture of rainbow mold! But I quickly realized that a plumber was not necessary. I fetched the pliers to turn off the water and made plans to go to Home Depot that afternoon to fetch a replacement faucet handle. This is not the faucet handle I purchased on Monday afternoon. No, I bought the wrong size one, which I had to return on Tuesday afternoon. That I would buy the wrong faucet handle on Monday was a predictable development. I was in a hurry to get the repair done before I headed to work (so I would not have to arise at 6 a.m. and show Shannon how to turn on the shower with the pliers on Tuesday morning). It was predictable and, of course, fulfilled two of the requirements of any Thomas household repair: A) All jobs require at least 2 trips to Home Depot. B) Everything is harder than you think. On Tuesday, things worked a little better. We got the right size handle and I was able to prowl around Home Depot with the boy pointing out useful things such as pick axes and nail guns. (He was actually only impressed by the lighting aisle, which, come to think of it, would be stunning to a small child. Your typical room has one light fixture and this aisle has hundreds of them.) The new fixture has this intact plastic sleeve which fits around … … this brass doomahickey which serves as a valve for the water. This was simply a matter of sliding this over the brass valve and screwing it into place, although the instructions on the faucet handle packaging said I should turn off the water supply — for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. When installed, the new faucet handle was the cleanest thing in the bathroom by an order of magnitude. (Neat phrase, huh? I borrowed it from my friend Bret, who in turn borrowed it from Bill Bryson.) Kind of makes one want to clean the rest of the bathroom to match, right? No. Still, it sure beats showering with a pair of pliers. [...]

14-month update


OK, so we’re now a couple of months past the 1-year point. Let’s look at how the boy is doing:

Walking: No. He can stand on his own if he wants to and can scoot along furniture and walls upright, but has not begun to walk. Just this morning, though he sort of took a step from the couch to an upright toy just out of reach. I know I said this last month, but I bet he’s walking by the end of the month. And probably running a day after that.

Talking: His first distinctive word, appropriately used, was “kitty.” He’ll say “Da-Da” and “Ma-Ma” while looking at us, now, (as opposed to the wall, TV, cat, etc.) but I still don’t think he’s got it figured out. He seems to be a little behind on this to me, but maybe he just doesn’t have much to say.

Other: I’ve caught him reaching for doorknobs. He can’t reach ‘em, but there’s no doubt in my mind once he does, he’ll be able to open doors. He seems pretty smart, but in other cases he’s still trying to jam the square peg in the round hole.

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic: Less than a month away. No, the boy is not going.

Quick hits


The good: After much hand-wringing over moving the boy from day-care to an in-home sitter for the two hours of care we need each day, the day-care made a counteroffer that we couldn’t refuse. For his part, the boy suddenly is in love with day-care, smiling happily at me as I leave each day.

The bad: The boy broke his first dish on Monday and subsequently shed his first blood. Oh, it was all pretty innocent. He was “helping” me unload the dishwasher (after I had removed all the pointy things) because I thought it was a fairly harmless activity. But he managed to smash a small plate on the floor just out of determination, I guess.

About 5 minutes later, I noticed a small spot of blood on one of his toes. Now I don’t know if this is from the dish or from some bit of danger in the living room, but I’m expecting CPS to show up anytime now.

It was too small even for a Curious George band-aid and the boy never noticed. (Pretty tough.) But it’s always fun to call up Shannon and say: “OK, now everything is ALL RIGHT, but …”

The ugly: The coffee maker up and went yesterday. Its passing was confirmed (and loudly lamented) this morning. Cause of death, unknown. Alas, poor Mr. Coffee, I knew him well. Pray for me.

Cyborg monkeys vs. Chuck Norris


It all began with the story about monkeys who could control prosthetic limbs with their thoughts.

Naturally, I thought about a future of cyborg terminator monkeys, because in a world of deadly tornadoes, $4-a-gallon gas, global warming and exponentially growing reality TV shows, I figure that’s just the next natural step.

And if we have cyborg terminator monkeys, what does that do to children’s literature? “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Aieeeee!” Or perhaps Curious George is curious as to why you haven’t fetched him that banana yet, puny human?

Meanwhile, my co-workers were discussing “Mannequin.” They said it was a natural progression from a Kim Cattrall and “Sex and the City” discussion, but I’m not so sure about them.

Yes, once upon a time, kids, there was but one HBO, and “Mannequin” was on every afternoon.

I never watched it, I swear, but I’m no stranger to bad movies.

For instance, I recently re-watched “The Octagon,” a movie I had fondly remembered from my youth.

Turns out, it is terrible. I mean, come on, the grand finish features Chuck Norris, dressed all in black, fighting a ninja at NIGHT. All you can see is the bobbing white head of Chuck Norris.

And for the first 80 minutes of this 100-minute flick, it’s nothing but bad dialogue.

How did I watch this as a 12-year-old? Man, I would kill for a long, lazy summer now when I had nothing better to do than watch this on TV.

I mean, it’s no “Missing in Action II,” as far as Chuck Norris movies go.

Did you know this prequel was filmed along with “Missing in Action” and was supposed to be the first movie, but turns out “Missing in Action” was better, so it was released first? ( tells me this.)

So “Missing in Action II” was filmed prior to or about the same time as “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” It’s interesting to note the similarities between the two films. It’s as though “Rambo” is George Kennedy to “Missing in Action’s” Joe Don Baker.

Just thought I’d mention that.

Summer photos No. 1


We went to visit the grandparents near Starrville over the holiday weekend. It was a good visit, and I’d detail it, but right now the boy is standing in his crib hollering because he figures that nodding off in the stroller for 10 minutes is all the nap he needs.



My parents figured a little pool would be entertaining …


The boy was apprehensive about it, though.


Seriously. And the written instructions listed 5 rules for using the pool. The first of which was “for children 2 years or older” despite the fact that the brand name was “My First Summer.” And the last 2 rules both pointed out that you shouldn’t dive into about half a foot of water.


A little dirt on the face, I think he’s ready for summer.

Babysitting blues


As a semi-stay-at-home dad, I’ve had a fondness for our daycare. The half-day option is a bit pricey, but I have the option of dropping the boy off as early as 1 p.m.

Typically, though, I’ve dropped him off about 3:30 p.m. and Shannon has picked him up about 5:30 p.m., leading us to refer to it as “baby happy hour.”

The boy comes in, has a few shots of milk, flirts with the ladies, and he’s out of there. Must be a good life.

I’ve liked the daycare because it offers socialization, helps build his immunity and offers an early education in diversity.

Shannon, who foots the bill for the daycare, hasn’t been quite as enamored with the place. And it does seem kind of wrong to pay for a half-day of daycare when often we only need 2-3 hours.

The place’s most recent price hike (let’s just the cost of part-time care jumped by the price of a decent night on the town with about half a week’s warning) forced us to realize that there was no way we could pay for two kids in daycare — and we weren’t going to let our daycare determine the size of our family.

So we started looking into in-home care. Not our home, but a stay-at-home mom looking to host a baby happy hour for a few extra bucks a day.

This is scary. We met with a few nice people, but all I could think about was all the horrible stories I’ve read during a 16-year career in the newspaper business. And I’ve read some pretty awful things.

The idea of entrusting your child to a person you just met for 30 minutes last week doesn’t come easy to someone like me.

But we’ve settled on a nice family in the next neighborhood to the east of us — they’re practically neighbors. They live in a nice house, have two well-behaved boys and volunteer at their church.

(She watches kids at the church. And she passed their background check. We talked with the church. I’m pretty paranoid.)

Basically, they’re more upstanding citizens than we are. And she’s reassured us over and over that she’s sure she wants to do this and won’t bail out two months in.

So why am I still nervous about this?

Mmmm, tatonka


So we hit the Farmer’s Market at Burger Center on Saturday morning to give the organic eating thing a better try.

We stocked up on organic squash, organic carrots, organic ‘shrooms, organic chicken, organic taters (or, perhaps, potatoes purchased at H-E-B and smeared with a little dirt for resale at twice the price … we’ll never know) and bison meat.

Yeah, it was buffalo burgers for Saturday night. They were pretty good. I’d say better than the last cheeseburger I had. At $7 a pound for ground meat, it’s not something we could afford every day, but for a Saturday-night-satisfy-your-craving-for-red-meat-thing, it’s better and cheaper than taking the family to Chili’s.

I suppose for most of the weekend, save breakfast, we ate organic foods. I don’t feel like Bugs Bunny or Patchouli Joe just yet, but I don’t feel bad either.

Shannon, going through the ads in the Sunday paper, did point out the World Market has organic beer, but I’m just not going there.



Among the stranger bits of advice I got when I revealed that Shannon was pregnant was this: “Get in shape.”

It seemed counterintuitive. This was my last chance to stay out late, sleep late, party like it was 2003. This was my last chance to spend money wildly at restaurants before I had to spend it on diapers.

Besides, I knew a woman carrying a 10-pound baby does not want to see her husband losing weight.

But it was good advice, though I didn’t follow it.

Why do I bring this up? Oh, you might have seen the new Jabba-esque mug shot over to your left. In retribution for my sins, I’m guessing, the officials here have decided to update the mug shots on all the blogs. Or, possibly, just mine. I haven’t checked yet.

I wasn’t happy about this. The previous mug shot was taken just as I was finishing my seventh month of Weight Watchers and three months after I had kicked off my train-for-a-triathlon program.


I was 212 pounds at the time and pretty happy about that. It was spring 2005.

To be fair, by the time we were telling people Shannon was pregnant in fall 2006, I weighed about 232 pounds.

The picture at left? Well, I guess if I’ve gone this far, I might as well admit it: 252 pounds, roughly.

It’s been my fault, I know. But it is hard to fit in exercise when you’re the stay-at-home dad of an infant. If the boy’s not sick, then I am. If we’re good, the weather’s bad. If the weather’s right, we haven’t gotten any sleep …

But Shannon’s determined (and when she gets that way, there’s no stopping her), to get us both in shape for Baby No. 2. She’s buying organic foods, cooking healthy, giving me the evil eye when I just want to have ONE cheeseburger, because hey it’s the WEEKEND…

It’s been several months now. I haven’t seen but one cheeseburger since February (it was good). I see Suzi’s sesame chicken plate in my sleep, but I have lost 10 pounds.

So, no, I won’t be vain. That’s me on the upper left.

But if I see the south side of 220 again, that updated mug shot is gonna be updated once more.

Hot times at the Farm


“Let’s go spend the night at the Farm,” Shannon said, “before it gets too hot.”

Seemed like a good plan to me. So, after about 6 hours of sleep on Friday night, we got up, packed and headed south.

Traveling with an infant, I’ve learned, is not hard. You just take everything you own.

As we headed down I-35, I looked up at the gray skies and said, “I sure hope the sun comes out.”

You know where this is going. The Weather Channel says it was 96 degrees in Pleasanton on Saturday. The thermometer at the Farm said it was 104 degrees at its peak. I’m willing to bet it was somewhere in the middle of those two readings.

It was a good time. We ate fried chicken and macaroni salad, I drank beer in the afternoon, took a break when the heat got to me, then tried to get geared up again in the evening.

But I have to admit, just short of 37 years old, the heat is starting to get to me. It’s been a lifelong silent point of pride that I could tolerate hot weather just like the old-timers. But I’m starting to get conditioned, I guess.

Can’t do nothing about the years. But I need to get outside more. Gotta retrain these old bones.

The boy, having recovered from his illness, was plenty happy through the 26 hours we were away from home, even though we pretty much failed to bring along anything for him to entertain himself with.

Finally, once it got dark, I managed to cool off enough to enjoy the evening, which was capped by Uncle Jimmy bringing out his guitar and telling me I was going to sing “Pancho and Lefty.”

I do know all the words, I promise. But I was flustered enough by my failure to keep pace with the music that I faltered a time or two. Trust me when I say I ain’t much of a singer.

Here’s a few pictures…


No, that’s not where I slept. But I would if I didn’t fear it would come crashing down on me in the middle of the night.


We found a friend. But the boy just wasn’t impressed.


It was too hot for close-up photos: The boy lunges for the camera.



Shall we test the limits of this family blog?

It has been a long, long week in the Thomas household, but the boy is feeling better. His coughing is less frequent and more productive. Yesterday afternoon, he had a spell where he felt so good that he rolled around the carpet and giggled and demanded we roughhouse it a bit.

Of course that tired him out for the rest of the day, but it’s good to see the gigglemonster return.

But the real difficulty this week has been the diet. The boy’s liquid diet. All week he has refused to eat anything very solid because, well, it hurt his throat. Who can blame him?

So it’s been yogurt and liquidy baby foods and milk, milk, milk. A little pudding or sherbet when Shannon spoils him…

And, well, the diapers have shown the effects. It has been ugly. But yesterday, right after lunch, he was sitting in the highchair when I hear the ugly sound of a napalm poop bomb.

This is going to be ugly, I thought. I cleared the countertop. I got a pair of diapers (just in case). I pulled out about 100 wipes. I got the surgeon’s mask (not really, but I wish I had). Then I retrieved the boy.

Nothing on the highchair. But when I placed him on the counter … OH MY GOD. Let’s just say it had shot up through the top of the diaper all the way to his armpits.

I got the shorts off. Then the diaper. I wiped and wiped and wiped and wiped and, good Lord, there’s still more. When I got the bottom pretty clear (all the while trying to keep the boy from reaching down anywhere below his shoulders), I took a look at the shirt.

Basically, there was no way I could get this shirt off him without dragging the extremely soiled portion of it over his oversized head and basically getting whatnot everywhere.

No time to think, I grabbed a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the shirt right off of him.

After another 50 or so baby wipes, I took the boy straight to the bathtub. He, of course, thought this was the best thing ever. A bath in the middle of the day!

Convincing Shannon, via cell phone, that cutting the shirt off was necessary wasn’t as easy. But, later, as we swapped the boy in the parking lot, I think I was able to make my point by re-enacting the detonation.

Gotta get that boy back on some solid foods.

Attitude? Teeth? No, sick!


The boy has been sick for awhile, though it took us some time to figure this out.

By last Thursday, Friday, he was refusing to eat solid foods, or anything he had to chew for that matter. Shannon had left for Dallas on Friday morning to visit her best friend and I had figured that the boy was finally rebelling against the baby food I was feeding him.

We battled it out for a day, him only eating certain things, me continuing to try and sneak some more substantive food in there. He was big on taking a mouthful and then spitting it out. It seemed the boy had an attitude and was testing me.

Via phone conference on Saturday afternoon, Shannon suggested he had some major teeth coming in and that was causing his lack of appetite. I couldn’t feel any teeth, but it seemed to make perfect sense. I thought back and realized that it was anything he had to chew that he was spitting out. Not just the chunky baby food that he tolerated, but even things I knew he liked (he would greedily reach for a cut-up grape, swish it around for a few moments, and then ptui! out it came).

That, combined with oceans of drool, seemed like a good answer.

By Sunday night, though, it seemed there was more to it than that. He was getting more sluggish, he was feeling a little hot. A complete lack of appetite for even soft foods by Monday morning indicated things weren’t good.

Late Monday afternoon he woke up from his nap with a 103-degree fever and a worrisome rasp / squeak when he tried to breathe. We, of course, called the doctor.

Tuesday morning: The doctor says he’s probably had a sore throat for about a week and it has peaked, causing a double ear infection to boot.

I know the boy’s demeanor doesn’t help — he doesn’t act sick until he’s really sick — but, man, I’m terrible at diagnosing illnesses.

I’ll diagnose the Spurs’ illness: They’re old.

Is this it? Is the mighty run over? Well, at least I have that Game 1 double-OT victory over the Suns to remember it by. A mighty last stand before being overtaken by the irrepressible onslaught of time.

Go Spurs, go!



The first two pages of Joe Nick Patoski’s Willie biography are excellent. Will keep you updated.

Haven’t kept up with the Roger Clemens thing because, man I just don’t care. But the new accusation that he began an affair with Mindy McCready when she was 15 years old puts the Clemens mess on a whole new level.

Most people probably don’t know who McCready is — but they would had she been a little more famous before her fall. Don’t know about her legal/domestic/drug problems? Read about them right here. Her decline would be Mike Tyson-esque if she had made it another step or two up the fame ladder.

If I ran the universe, the following rules would be in order:

Every apple I picked up would be crisp.

I would decide what happens to people convicted of harming a child. Cruel and unusual would be a starting point.

A Comfort Inn on the outskirts of Fredericksburg would never, ever cost more than, say $70 a night. For other people. For me, it would be free.

Cab rides home from bars would be free. Cab drivers would be paid by the government based on how friendly they were.

I would get an extra hour a day to use at my leisure. Let’s make it two.

Spent Saturday in Fredericksburg with Shannon while the boy had some quality time in San Antonio. Yes, it was our fifth anniversary (seems like just yesterday I was wearing that black tuxedo and sporting a $70 haircut).

We spent hours at Hondo’s on Main talking to our old friend VelAnne. We spent just as long at the Fredericksburg Brewing Co. talking to each other. But the day, of course, included a side trip to Luckenbach.

I haven’t been out there in awhile. What’s changed?

Here in Austin, all the old regulars are still at the Showdown, but the bar is going away.

Out in Luckenbach, the bar is still the same as it ever was. But the people I knew are gone.

I told Shannon it would’ve been nice to see someone we knew who wasn’t memorialized on the wall.

The Willie archivist


If you ever wanted to hold a small plastic box with the remains of two (not just one, no sir) Willie Nelson joints enclosed, I’ve got just the place for you.

I spent last Thursday afternoon in quiet Willie Nelson research mode at the Southwestern Writers Collection in the Alkek Library on the campus of Texas State University.

Specifically, the Willie Nelson Collection — donated by Willie as well as Bill Wittliff and others. Much of the material in this collection is paperwork relating to the early Farm Aid concerts, but there’s enough cool stuff thrown in to make it worthwhile.

First, I had to find the place. I have to give UT props over Texas State for one thing: the Longhorns are pretty good at labeling buildings. But it only took two guesses to find the library, given the knowledge that the building I was looking for had at least seven floors.

As I walked across a common area that seemed to be a maze of stairs and an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen, I thought that in my jeans and maroon T-shirt, maybe I could even pass for a student.

Not a chance. As one courteous young fellow held open the library door, it was “after you, sir.”

The little office of the Southwestern Writers Collection was interesting enough to be sole reason for the visit: It was ringed by original posters including Jim Franklin’s posters for the opening of the Armadillo World Headquarters and Willie’s first Fourth Of July Picnic in Dripping Springs.

That was about as much information as I would find on the Picnic, though the files held enough promise for me to return for another round of research when I can find a free afternoon.

In addition to a few Willie personal items (roaches, sunglasses, belt buckle), there were official concert itineraries, correspondence to Willie and a treasure trove of concert memorabilia — mostly backstage passes and other official laminates.

The research provided at least one awkward moment: One box held a 1970s-era Playboy magazine with an article written by Larry L. King about the 1975 Picnic. Of course, I had to thumb through it to find the article — with a library (female) employee sitting at a desk about 5 feet away.

She immediately got up and ducked into a nearby room for a few moments. Coincidence? I don’t know. But I didn’t get a chance to look over and tell her I was only reading that Playboy for the article …



Shannon let me know that lack of bluebonnets was no excuse for failing to take the baby-in-the-bluebonnets picture this year.

But the only decent stands of bluebonnets I’ve seen were arms-length from passing traffic on MoPac Boulevard. I thought about hiking down the service road with the boy and letting Shannon drive by and snap photos …

But we settled for a small smattering of flowers in Mary Moore Searight Park.

What a difference a year makes.


Here’s a photo from last year. (No, I don’t know who that joker holding the boy is, but he sure needs a shave and a decent T-shirt.) It was probably a little early to take the boy out into the world. I’m sure his only thought at this point was “Bright light! Bright light!”


About a year later, and this is the official photo. (Yes, all the bluebonnets in the park can be seen in this frame.)

Happy spring, y’all.

Breakfast Haiku


In the spirit of “how fast can I write a blog entry?”, I give you …

Breakfast Haiku


I can feed myself.


But Dad is even better.


Hey! I hate turkey!