Emma’s First Birthday

It hardly seems like there’s been enough time for it, but our dear Mrs. Peel is already one year old. Well, she will be on the 11th.

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I was able to arrange travel to Boise for the weekend before, and so we had a birthday party for Emma on Saturday.

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The first birthday is a special celebration, and so we got a special cake.

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And the Birthday girl wore a special dress.

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I prepared a taco bar, and all the neighborhood kids showed up for cake and screaming.

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Emma got her first taste of cake and seemed to enjoy the experience.

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It snowed that night and most of the morning, so before the party kicked off, the kids and I went and did some sledding in the front yard and street.

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Everyone had a good time, and the kids even sang happy birthday to Emma. I have a video of that I’ll share later.

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Glenn R. Nelson

The first Christmas that Cameron’s father spent with us (it could have been the second time, I’m not great with chronology) he suggested we go out for dinner. Glenn’s business was food, he owned a catering company in the Bay area, but he said he wanted to go someplace nice for the holiday meal. Someplace where he didn’t have to spend all day cooking, something he already did every other day. And, I suspect, since Glenn was visiting from California, he didn’t relish the idea of trying to assemble a holiday meal in an unfamiliar kitchen.

The Nelsons and Hawkins

I don’t even recall if he had access to a kitchen. Glenn and Cora had been divorced for a long time, and while he frequently stayed with her when he visited, I don’t recall if he had this time. In fact, I don’t even really recall if Cora came to dinner with us that night, or if Cameron’s brother was with us either. My memory on some of the details are spotty, but I remember where we ate and the meal we had.

Grandpa cooks Thanksgiving dinner

I was dubious that we could even find a restaurant that would be open and serving dinner on Christmas weekend, but I should have known better. Everything’s open in Vegas, even during the holidays. Once I started calling around, I was surprised at just how many restaurants were open, and pleasantly surprised that the ones I fantasized about dining in were among those willing to accommodate holiday diners.

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I chose Gallagher’s in the New York, New York because at that time in my life it seemed like the kind of place I’d never be able to eat at. It was a fancy place with cotton table clothes, and expensive aged steaks that were well out of my budget. When Cameron and I had walked through the casino after its opening, Gallagher’s had caught my eye because they had a cooler on visible display full of aged steaks. Signage spoke about the special aging process they employed, so many weeks wet, so many weeks dry, and what kind of benefit that provided the steaks. This wasn’t just any old beef, this was haute couture beef.

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We arrived early, just as the opened the doors at 5:30, and were alone in the restaurant for almost an hour. The wait staff was on point, calling everyone (even me!) Sir and Ma’am. They made suggestions, swept away crumbs, and dashed over with a lighter when Glenn pulled out a post meal cigarette. It was the kind of dining experience I’d never been exposed to before, and I loved it. I’m pretty sure Glenn loved revealing it to me.

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I was a wide eyed and naive about the entire ordeal. A fine dining virgin with an appetite for the theater of the restaurant. Yes I would like the house special bone in aged rib-eye. Yes, I’d like some wine. Why not some whiskey as well. The creamed spinach seems lovely. Thank you for folding my napkin when I got up to use the restroom. Naturally I’d like some bĂ©arnaise sauce. When the meal was over, and the plates cleared, the waiter came by with the desert menus and asked “Would you care for some after dinner pork sir?”

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After dinner pork! Of course I would like some after dinner pork! This was the classy kind of restaurant where the waiter didn’t chuckle at the diner, not even politely, but everyone else at the table indulged. Glenn explained, “Not pork. Port. It’s a drink, a fortified wine.” My dreams of some kind of desert pork chop were dashed, but here was something new, something interesting. We ordered port. Glenn explained what it was, how it was made. I let the syrupy booze float around my mouth, and reveled in all this new information.

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And that’s the kind of relationship I had with Glenn. We both loved food. Eating it, cooking it, and even buying it. Years later when we took a cruise in the Mediterranean, we visited the local market in every town, investigating the fresh produce and local meats. We sampled Iberian ham, and purchased expensive balsamic vinegar. We asked the locals for restaurant advice, and then ordered things off the menu we’d never heard of. We ate a terrible cold seafood platter and got sick. We frustrated the (non English speaking) staff at a Sicilian bistro by requesting pizza at lunch time. We had extraordinary pasta in the shadow of the Colosseum. Lori and Cameron stopped at McDonald’s for french fries in Tours, and Glenn and I shook our heads and screwed up our brows in disapproval.

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When we would visit Glenn, I’d help him with dinner. When he visited us, he’d provide me his advice and assistance. Glenn and I would sit and watch the Food Network for hours, talking about what we saw on the screen. Had I tried caramelizing brussels sprouts in butter? Had he ever experiment with white sauces? Do you poach eggs in a cup, or with a flourish of the spoon in a vinegared water bath? Add some cinnamon to Indian dishes, tarragon is great with beef, broil flank steak hot and quick, put some horseradish in your mashed potatoes.

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We would drink whisk(e)y (he drank scotch, I drank bourbon) and talk about where we had been, and where we could go. Both in terms of physical places, as well as spiritual places.

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Before we had children Glenn coached me to just get another dog. After we had children, he told me how I was a great father and how much he loved his grandson and granddaughter. You could see that love in his eyes.

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Glenn was my wife’s father, my kid’s grandfather, and he was my friend. I loved him, and I miss him.

Healping Grandma with her iPhone

Last month Glenn lost his battle with cancer.

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Today is Emma’s seven month birthday. I can’t be with her today. I haven’t actually been able to be with her for several of her monthly birthdays, and that sucks. She’s a beautiful little girl. She’s sitting up by herself now, and she will happily play with her toys, mostly chewing on them. When she sits in the bath, she splashes and cackles with glee. She’s started to try and crawl with some deliberation, and I’m sure that she’ll figure it out any day now. I probably won’t be able to be there for that either. I miss my daughter, even though she takes every opportunity to spit cheese curds into my beard, or down the back of my shirt.

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I was in Boise last week for the 4th of July, and it was good to spend some time with the kids. The whole neighborhood turned out to have a party on our driveway, and when the late summer sun finally set, we lit off fireworks that everyone had brought. I can’t tell you how happy I am about the neighborhood we landed in. All the neighborhood kids play together, the parents talk and help each other, it’s a community. It’s kind of like we bought a house using a time machine, and somehow ended up in the 1970s.

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Good girl.

Cutest Dog in the world?

It’s been a really hard year so far. Between the move to Idaho, Cameron starting her new job, my frequent travel back and forth between Boise and Las Vegas, the same kind of breast feeding problems that Logan experienced, both of our fathers going through chemotherapy, and probably a number of other stressful things we’ve had to deal with, we’ve had our plate full. Throughout all of that, our beloved Puddles has been a trooper.

Puddles remains very interested in Logan.

When Logan was born, she didn’t really seem that excited about him, but eventually grew attached to the new baby.

She didn’t seem particularly happy that we’d made another baby, but she came to terms with it, and would frequently follow us around to make sure Emma was okay. She liked to sleep at Cameron’s feet while Emma fed. She endured a 12 hour trip to Boise in an RV with the kind of terrified reservation that dogs reserve for things they don’t want to do.She endured it because she’s a good girl.

Hanging out with Puddles

For nearly 13 years Puddles has been our more or less constant companion. Before the kids were born, she was our child surrogate. We adopted her from the Henderson pound when she was just 6 weeks old. She was tiny, scared, and had a funny name that we ended up keeping.

Puddles.jpg When she was a puppy, she couldn’t stay still long enough for us to take clear pictures of her. She was constantly moving around and always blurry in photos.

Puddles_blurry.jpg As she’s gotten older she’s slowed down, preferring to take naps more than chase balls, something she more or less non stop when she was younger. I took her to the dog park last week, and she was only chased the ball once before bringing it only half way back to me. She was more interested sniffing the ground and laying in the sun.

Puddles

Puddles was a good girl. She was my baby.

Soon to be best friends Puddles passed away this morning following a rapid onset of liver failure. It’s been a rough weekend for all of us. Puddles was a hug part of our life, and her loss is leaving a gaping hole. She was a good girl.

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t

We’re in our third week in Boise, and Emma would like to update you on our status.

On the 18th, the moving truck came by our house in Vegas, and some very nice men spent two long days putting everything that wasn’t nailed down into boxes, and then loading those boxes into a large truck. They were even kind enough to pack things I asked them not to pack, just in cases I needed them when I got where I was going. Thank god I have all those empty tissue boxes here.

Our moving truck arrives.

Logan did his best to be on his good behavior and not help too much. As a reward for his Herculean effort, we let him sit in the cab of the truck and pretend to drive it. He even got to honk the horn, which was an anemic little squeak instead of the throaty baritone that I had come to expect from films like Smokey and the Bandit. Frankly, I think the driver found it kind of embarrassing.

Logan wanted to drive the moving truck.

For the road trip to Boise I rented an RV. The goal was to provide a larger and more comfortable ride for all involved as well as providing a way for Cameron to breast feed Emma without us having to stop the car every 2 hours. An unexpected bonus that I hadn’t even considered was the on board toilet.

The RV we rented for the drive from Vegas.

Naturally, because he had “driven” the moving truck, Logan wanted to “drive” the RV as well.

Logan wanted to drive the RV

If you rent an RV, remember to buckler in your monkey.

Please fasten your seatbelts and return your monkeys to their full upright position.

When we got to Boise, it was in the middle of the longest and coldest winter weather pattern that any of the locals could remember. Snow, which usually only last a day or two, stuck around for several weeks, and it even snowed a few more times before it turned warmer earlier this week. It was overcast and snowing and foggy so much that it wasn’t until we’d been in the house for two weeks that I realized we had a great view of the Boise foothills out our front window.

The view from our front window of the Boise foothills

Logan, for his part, has loved the snow. He has energetically taken to shoveling snow. Unfortunately, he tends to shovel it out of the yard and into the driveway.

Logan loves the snow.

Emma, is not really a fan of the snow or cold weather. I’m betting that will change as she gets older.

Emma doesn't appear to like the cold as much as her brother.

After a few days of eating off paper plates and sitting on folding chairs, the movers showed up and spent one cold day unloading everything. A great way to meet your new neighbors is to park an 18 wheeler in their yard for twelve hours.

Our household goods arrive during a cold snap.

The new house is a room smaller, and has a two car garage instead of a three car garage. Towards the end of the day it was getting challenging to found places for boxes. For over a week the house looked like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. As we’ve reached some livable truce with the packed boxes, and cleared enough space to sit by the fireplace, our momentum has dulled and the house now simply looks cluttered.

We're all okay here, how are you?

We’re hanging in there though.

Moving right along

Yesterday our house was full of stacked boxes and littered with unpacked miscellany. Today our house is full of stacked boxes, littered with a moving crew and my drive way is blocked by an Allied Moving truck.

In just a few short hours these guys have packed most of the kitchen and Logan’s room and only broken a single wine goblet.

Also, I found a shotgun in the kitchen slid between two bookcases. It’s not my shotgun. Who knows how long it’s been there? Exciting!

Bluehaus

If you weren’t aware, we’re moving to Boise next month. Cameron has accepted a lecture’s position at BSU in the Engineering department. It wouldn’t be an adventure if it was all easy, and so naturally we elected to move out of state, change careers, and have a second child all in the same relative time frame.

Bluehaus

This is a picture of the house we bought last week in Boise. We’re calling it Bluehaus for what should be some obvious reasons. I invite your debates on chromatic interpretation, but will likely ignore any contradicting opinions. The house sits at the end of a widened culdesac on the west side of town near the intersection of Fairview and Five Mile Road. It’s set far enough off the main streets that there’s no road noise and we’re removed from the commercial areas, but close enough to be convenient. We’re pretty pleased with it, and looking forward to living somewhere that has natural greenery, four seasons, and a summer that isn’t murderous.

Baby Emma Picture Blast

Here’s a full blast of Baby Emma pictures.

All bundled up for first trip

Emma napping

Nanna and Emma

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Lola and Emma

Emma and Auntie Liz and Cousin Samantha

Merry Christmas

The holiday passed us with as little drama as possible for a family trying to take care of a 2 week old baby, plan a move to another state in three weeks, start new jobs in a month, and help two Grandpas through chemo therapy. Everything went smoothly, and sleep deprivation is starting to wane, although Mommy still isn’t sleeping full nights. Unfortunately, that likely won’t change for a month or more.

Christmas Morning

We continued our holiday tradition of dinner at Lola’s house for Christmas Eve. I assumed the duties of chef this year, and cooked a nice Prime Rib Roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, and carrots and parsnips with an orange glaze. According to the immediate reviews from my wife and her mother, everything turned out well.

Christmas Dinner with Lola

This is how I looked after four hours in the kitchen.

Christmas dinner after a few hours of cooking

This is how I looked after four hours in the kitchen, several glasses of wine and a whiskey or two.

Christmas dinner after a few glasses of wine

With his treatment essentially over, we got a visit from Grandpa Glen and Grandma Lori. They got to spend a few days with Logan.

Logan with Grandpa Glen and Grandma Lori

And they got to spend some quality time with Emma.

Emma and Grandpa Glen

They even brought her a birthday cake to celebrate her null birthday.

Emma and Grandpa Glen

When you have a three year old in the house, you never get to open your own presents. Whether this is a positive or negative impact is up to interpretation. Logan has reached that age where he seems to get the most pleasure out of ripping the gift paper off the boxes, and then immediately discarding the unwrapped gift for the next. He seems less interested in the actual gift, than in the cathartic violence of dismembering gift wrapping.

Christmas Morning

Tango, for her part, seemed mostly nonplussed by the entire ordeal.

Emma

Logan took the entire holiday in stride, and capped it off by watching the classic Rankin Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer while clutching his stuffed Rudolph.

Watching Rudolph with Rudolph

He was very concerned about the Abominable Snowman.

Watching Rudolph with Rudolph

Need a name? We got a name.

After considerable debate, Baby Tango finally has a real name.

Emma Adelaide Hawkins

Emma Adelaide Hawkins. Say “hello.”