Saturday, July 07, 2007

In inches

The distance from Spencer's head, as he stood in his carseat, to the pavement below: about sixty inches.

The location of the gash that resulted when he fell to the pavement below: six inches above his right eye and four inches above his ear.

The length of said gash: barely a half-inch, but oh my word, the bloodshed.

The distance I was standing from him when it happened: maybe twenty inches. With my back turned to him.

The long and short of it: he's absolutely fine, and within ten minutes, was cheerfully singing the alphabet song with his siblings, oblivious to the blood spattered across his shirt. I, on the other hand, will feel like absolute crap for some time to come.

Because I was right there. With (did I mention this already?) my back turned to him as he climbed into his car seat. And it took a full second after hearing the sickening thump for me to realize that, no, the stroller hadn't fallen out of the minivan; my son had.

I scooped him up and forced myself to breathe and stay calm while soothing him and inspecting every inch of his sweet noggin. Within a minute, I guessed that we probably wouldn't be dashing to the nearest hospital, but I called the after-hours pediatric hotline for a medical opinion.

Query: in the entire history of parenthood, has an accident like this ever occurred during regular office hours?

By the time the nurse called back, Spencer was singing and laughing, with just a few tears still perched precipitously on his cheeks. After patiently listening to me replay the entire awful scene for her benefit, the nurse assured me that he'd be just fine. To cover her bases, she reminded me of the warning signs for concussion, then said good-bye.

Then, and only then, did I allow myself to cry. Once I was all cried out, I stared glassy-eyed and vacant into space, terrified at the realization that if anything had moved one inch more, further or nearer, we might not have been as lucky.

Thank goodness, it didn't. We were. We are. And hopefully, will always be.

On a totally different note: it's often the case that a race is won by inches. Last month, Trey and his dad journeyed to Indy to watch a bunch of cars drive really, really fast.

If you want more technical details than that, you'd best read this. And if you'd like to see a small, carefully edited sampling of the nearly one thousand, four hundred pictures that Trey snapped over the course of the weekend, by all means click here.

None for me, thanks. I get my adrenaline rush just by running errands.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Slow food

As a sweet but pudgy kid in the mid-1970s, one of my least favorite recess activities was Tag.

In my memory, at least, I was consistently the easiest target in the school playground, so incurring the designation of "It" meant that I'd spend the entire outdoor period desperately trying to grab a stray flailing limb from one of my classmates.

Ah, mem'ries. They light the corners of my mind.

Mercifully, in the 21st-century blogosphere, I am not forced to eat dust under a blazing Mississippi sun.

However, I am still the slowest pudgy kid when it comes to a rousing game of Tag. Because Jenny nabbed me nearly one full month ago with a request to itemize my five favorite local restaurants... and still I sit, stewing in front of my keyboard, anxious to shed the mantle of "It."

Now, after hours pondering the many scrumptious menus that Dallas, Texas, has to offer, I've at last narrowed the list to five fine contenders.

I tried, I did, to keep my choices representative of the Big D by discarding all chain eateries, but as I'm fond of reminding Shigeta: I HAVE THREE CHILDREN. Precious few of my meals these days aren't accompanied by a thick stack of thin paper napkins.

Having said that, I offer this:

1. Surprising no one who knows me, Chuy's takes top billing in my book.

Six years ago, when we learned we'd be leaving Chicagoland for J.R. Ewing's hometown, my sweet Midwestern friends threw me a "Well, it was nice knowing you" party. (What can I say? My correspondence skills leave much to be desired.)

The highlight of the evening was when I was presented with a neat pile of gift certificates from Chuy's. Never in my life have I felt so wealthy.

Minutes after Trey and I crossed the Texas state line, we started peeling through those suckers. Sure enough, the stacked enchiladas were just as delicious as when I'd regularly savored them as a freshman Longhorn. The Chuychanga tasted even better than when I'd first consumed it as a young married in Houston.

In short order, only one certificate remained. And Trey can vouch for me: I have it still, and although we dine at Chuy's with some regularity, I absolutely refuse to cash in my last chit. Part of my resistance is that I'm a sentimental fool, and looking at that lone, yellowing certificate always reminds me of that last Chicago night and those kind and generous friends.

Also? Like an old lady with money stuffed under the mattress, I sleep easier knowing that, if the sky were to fall tomorrow, I'd be able to enjoy one last bowl of Chuy's queso.

2. Moving along, and hopefully gaining a bit of speed in the process, I claim Ali Baba for slot number two.

I'm so sorry to report that their surprisingly kid-friendly far North Dallas location is now shuttered, but the brothers promise the same great Middle Eastern food in a revamped Richardson outpost soon. In the interim, we won't mind jostling for elbow room at their original Lowest Greenville spot in the interim.

You can go without me, of course, though I may hold it against you. Best to invite me along and permit me to order for the table. We'll take the mazza plate to start, with the creamiest hummos you've ever slathered on a wedge of pita. A bowl of favo modamos? Oh, why not? Shish tawook, an extra helping of rice and a platter of gyro meat with cucumber sauce on the side ought to round things out.

That should be enough for me. What would you like?

3. There's not one thing about S. & D. Oyster Company I don't purely adore. The sweet brick building that vibrates a bit when the trolley rumbles by. The genteel waitstaff in starched red aprons, who call even semi-regular patrons by their names and ask how the grandchildren are doing. Old John, who keeps an eye on your car in the parking lot, and doles out gifts to kids who take the time to say hello.

And have mercy: the food. Small melamine bowls of finely diced coleslaw. Frosted glasses of iced tea, served with sprigs of fresh mint. New Orleans Bar-B-Q shrimp, served with warm crusty bread to sop up the puddle of seasoned, melted butter. And a truly fine slice of homemade lemon pie, topped with a quiver of meringue.

Praise the Lord and pass the hush puppies. (Try 'em with a dollop of Matagorda sauce. Trust me.)

4. When my birthday rolls around and I get to choose a spot for lunch, everyone knows we're going to Cafe Lago. If we've got the kids in tow, we'll hope for a nice day so we can camp out on the patio and let them run semi-wild 'round the fountain.

But no matter where we sit and no matter how tempting the diverse, eclectic menu may be, I know what I'm ordering: Peruvian chicken, smothered in green cilantro sauce and served with a simple, delicious side salad. Perfection.

This meal saved me one dark and stormy night, when my friends Mimi and Karen saw that I was so overwhelmed by the demand of producing enough milk for two tiny, fussy babies that I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't form coherent sentences. They drove across town with a tray of Peruvian chicken and ordered me to eat. And... what was that I saw? Yep, light at the end of the tunnel.

5. I can't and won't wax rhapsodic about Chip's. It's the kind of sturdy, reliable neighborhood place any decent town should have, and I'm sure many Dallasites would argue that other spots are superior. (But for the life of me, I can't divine the appeal of Snuffer's.)

A mighty fine cheeseburger? Check. Above-average fries? You got 'em, buddy. A salad with a calorie count that should be illegal? Sure, if that's your cup of tea.

It's not EZ's and never will be (a pox upon you, 7-11), but the kiddos dine well here, and the menu offers a little something for everyone. Might I recommend the Big Pig (a shredded-pork sandwich resting beneath a dollop of barbeque sauce and a poppyseed bun) with crispy onion strings? As the name implies, it's a filling meal, but if you leave a little room for a fresh-banana milkshake, you won't be sorry.

And with that, this pudgy kid's work is done. This never works for me, but I'm going to tag my non-blogger friends and family next. Sister Sarah, Shigeta, TraBilCobb, Trey, Mom: tag, you're "It."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Past and the present and the future

On this, the third of July, we send out birthday wishes to two fabulous, high-spirited, big-hearted redheads... from the trio of muppers who utterly and unconditionally adore them.