Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sweet Baby [Samuel] James

Goodnight you moon light ladies / rock-a-bye sweet baby James.

Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose / won't you let me go down in my dreams?
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James

We celebrated the Second Birthday of young Samuel James this weekend, and what a festive occasion it was!

At Hardee's waiting on his Birthday Biscuit
This was the third "Second Birthday" celebration we've had in the last 3 years - Jack in Jan 2011, Caroline in 2012, Sam in 2014. You could almost say that we are "old hands" at this point, and the phrase "they just grow up so fast" must have been originated specifically in reference to third children. Sam just seems to be growing up faster than the other tow by a fair margin, like he's trying to catch up with the ones that had a head start. It just seems like he talks more and sees more than I remember the others doing at that age - he certainly is more opinionated. 

And I have never seen a child relish so deeply being a "big kid" - running around screaming "get out of the way.. coming through," playing rough-and-tumble with his big siblings, pushing his Dad and his Bud around with a half-grin, half-growl - and at the very same time cherish being the baby of the family - knowing that at every turn, mom or dad or bro or sis or Bud or Nana will scoop him up in a hug and baby the pants off of him. Sam is the epitome of the one that somehow manages to "have his cake and eat it too."

We descended on Bud and Nana's for the weekend, with Nana's kitchen table decked out with trains galore, Thomas and Percy and especially James. In the finest of Shaw family traditions, we dined on Weber-brand grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, with yellow cake and chocolate icing (of course). Nana ably decorated the cake with the likeness of Thomas the Train, and Sam even managed to blow out one of the candles by himself (despite fearsome competition from a helpful older brother.

Sammy especially enjoyed playing with his new soccer goals, which he got to watch Bud and Nana break in amidst several glasses of wine. Eventually, even Sam got to play with it once or twice.

 This little rugrat is really something else. It seems to me, amazingly enough, that he somehow falls right in the middle of the spectrum of the other two children. Which is good, since he has both of them to deal with on a regular basis. He is tough as can be - he was running so fast at the HogFest BBQ Festival that he fell down and smacked his face on the ground. All he said to me when I walked over to him was "Brush me off," presumably so he could back to running around trying to catch up with Jack and Caroline. And at the same time, he is caring and perceptive enough to come over and ask "You ok, Daddy?" when Sandy-dog- nipped my finger during a hotdog grabbing contest. He is independent and dependent in an endearingly funny way - we were headed out to eat with the Beans and Sam was snuggled up with cousin Lois on the couch - when I leaned over he dutifully kissed me goodbye, and then said "Go daddy - go away." Probably so he could go back to sucking his thumb and cozying up to the babysitter. That little rascal.

So many great memories from this weekend, and so much promise in this young man of just two years old. Sam loved the rides around the block with Bud in the little red car or in the back yard in the wheelbarrow, reading books with Nana, chasing Sandy-dog around on all fours and growling with a crazy smile on his face.

Keep going and slow down at the same time, young fella. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Good Times

We had a great time at Monkey Joe's on Saturday, celebrating our good friend Silas' fifth birthday:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Family Traditions

Some things are worth changing, and some things aren't. As Hank Jr. once sang, sometimes you just need to do things the way your daddy always did.


We celebrated Jack's 5th birthday this past week. He is such a pleasure to raise, so inquisitive and caring
and genuinely sweet-hearted and doe-eyed and amazed by the blossoming world around him. He's really been looking forward to this birthday for a while, more acutely aware than ever before of the passage of time, of fellow classmate's birthdays coming and going, and the prospect of the coming celebrations, presents, and cake.We planned to have a big party at school this year, and a smaller celebration for family at home the weekend prior. Not only would Jack get to pick out the decorations an cupcakes an favors for his school party over the weekend, he would get to help bake his own cake for Saturday (the kid _loves_ to cook, and particularly desserts).


I admit I beamed with no small measure of familial pride when Doc posed the important question: "Jack, what kind of birthday cake do you want?" Jack's rejoinder was prompt and unhesitating: "Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing," said he, "And Vanilla Ice Cream."


GG came up for the weekend along with Aunt Debbie, and we commenced to baking and all other sorts of carrying on. I am sure nealya  quarter of the cake batter was consumed uncooked and against physician's order. While the cake was in the oven, Doc and Jack went out to the party store to get all of the necessary appurtenances to a proper celebration. When they got back, we broke out the chocolate icing and made the cake masterpiece into its proper and united whole. We grilled out hot dogs and hamburgers and talked about whether it would snow on Jack's birthday again (it did). Everyone dug in to their ABC Burgers (Avocado Bacon Cheddar) like there was no tomorrow. Then came the cake, covered stem to stern in fudge icing and adorned with 5 blazing birthday candles. The kid blew out every single candle in one breath, on the first try.


For as long as I can remember, Shaw men have been eating Yellow Cake with Chocolate Icing and Vanilla Ice Cream for their birthday celebrations. As far as I know, my grandfather consumed 70 consecutive iterations of this same cake over the seven decades of his life. From my own recollection, with the exception of an Ernie cake and one 9x13 sheet cake that sank in the middle that my mom turned into a "Swimming Pool Cake," I have followed largely the same course, as has my father before me (we even shared one this year).


Jack opened his presents like a machine, a new sleeping bag and new clothes and bigger underwear and a hybrid soccer ball / air hockey puck and his first bicycle, electric blue with orange stripes. He promptly rode it a few laps around the house, and then got off to share with Sam who was chasing him and bellowing "MYCICLE." It amazes me just how much Jack is a caring and loving kid. He has his jealous moments just like everyone else, but he is constantly looking out for how to share things with Caroline, or to watch out for Sam to make sure he has the same opportunity to participate in mischief as do the older kids. He lines all of his 72 stuffed animals up into a "Zoo" everyone aligned so that no one animal is blocking another's view of whatever activity is going on. When they wrestle he always looks out for Sammy's head and cradles him to the ground before turning to jump on Caroline, and he is so quick to dole out exactly one half of the rocks from his own pocket (collected surreptitiously from the playground under the unsuspecting gaze of preschool teachers, like some mini version of the Shawshank Redemption) with Caroline so that she can have her own "collection."


Tradition holds that the very last piece of cake is to be eaten by the patriarch, preferably using only his hands as intruments of honor, a ritual conducted without fail over the kitchen sink. I upheld my end of the bargain, and as is bound to happen from time to time I was caught in the act by my young acolyte, Jack.

Happy Birthday, son. I look forward to many many more years of your wonderful smile, your sweet hugs, and teaching you how to Eat Cake Over the Sink.

Monday, December 9, 2013


My children all have some wonderful attributes. Sam is the eternal snuggler. Caroline has a silent strength that can make seasoned crusty Marines tremble.  But I think one of my favorite things in the entire world is the way my eldest greets me.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Jackson doesn't have a filter.  Nary a wisp of a sieve exists between the thought in his brain and the look on his face.  Since the moment his prefrontal cortex had its first thought, the real-time pop-up video took the guess work out of whether he was happy, upset, scared, worried, etc.  Unlike his siblings who would contemplate their situation (i.e. an atrociously dirty diaper) prior to voicing concern, Jack would only need to get the idea that a poop might be imminent and the kid was whaling to rival a 4 alarm fire.  And heaven forbid you woke him from sleep.  That split second of total disillusion that most of us sit calmly through plays out in 3D right in front of us.  Fortunately, every yin has a yang.

He has been in daycare since he was 8 weeks old.  So for almost 5 years now, I have had the utter joy of picking him up after work more days than not.  At first, I would sneak quietly into the infant room so I could see his face before he heard my voice.  One little word from me and he would flail around in an almost-painfully happy snow-angel dance until I would pick him up.  Once he was mobile, I would stand in the doorway and call his name, marveling at the lightning speed he would gimp-crawl to me.  As a toddler, he would very literally push other children out of his way, lean his head into the wind, arms back like a tail, and run at breakneck speed all the while screaming "Mommy!!!" as if he hadn't seen me in years.

And, today, my sweet Jackson didn't let me down.  I've been away at a conference for 4 days.  The kids have been with some combination of Matilda, Gigi, Nana, and Bud having the time of their lives.  I happened to get back to the house before they arrived and watched through the window as Jack scurried out of the car like a spry geriatric man and shuffle to the front door with a look of absolute and total elation.  I opened the door and he literally jumped straight up into my arms, squeezed the stuffing out of me, and said "Mommy, I missed you so much! I have to tell you all about my breakfast with Santa!!"  If it wasn't just so adorably genuine, it could come across as a very cheesy 1980s movie scene.

One day, the way he wears his heart on his sleeve will very likely break mine.  But for now, having someone be so joyously excited to see me *every* *single* *day* is the best therapy money can't buy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Candy or Bust!

Today's festivities will commence at dawn and run well through sunset and into the wee hours of the evening.
The sugar high may last for days.

Tattooed on my Soul

Great song came on the rotation when I was pulling into work today. Had to just stop and sit and listen.


True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade

I wonder if there's no forever / No walking hand in hand
Down a yellow brick road / To never never land

These days I get to where I'm going / Make it there eventually
Follow the trail of breadcrumbs / To where I'm meant to be
To where I'm meant to be

I don't know what brought you to me / That was up to you
There's so many come to see me / Who want their own tattoo

I fixed a needle in a holder / Laid my hand upon your spine
And there upon your shoulder / I drew the picture as your sign

When I think about us / I see the picture that we made
The picture to remind us / True love will never fade

True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade

I worked the rowdies and day trippers / Now and then I think of you
Any which way we're all shufflin' / Forward in the queue

They like to move my operation / They like to get me off the pier
And I dream I'm on a steamer / Pullin' outta here

When I think about us / I see a picture that we made
The picture to remind us / True love will never fade

True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade
True love will never fade

--Mark Knopfler (2007)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Big Burger Daddy

I am what you would call a Burger Aficionado. I consider the cheeseburger to be America's finest culinary creation of all time - meat, bread, cheese, condiments, even some vegetables from time to time - all in one easy to hold, easy to eat package that when executed properly is the size of a small melon. I can recall a time in my life when I ate a cheeseburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner - all in the same day.

So I was unsurprisingly excited to hear through the grapevine that Greensboro's "Big Burger Spot" was in fact "the finest Burger in town." This was not rote advertising, but rather the considered opinion of several well-respected members of the Greensboro Burger Aficionado Underground.

Tucked away into the side of a gas station convenience store building, designated by unassuming signage and awning tastefully done up in a neon-green-and-hunter-safety-orange color scheme, this is truly an out of the way gem. The Big Burger Spot features, well, Burgers - but not just any burgers, grilled meat on bread with cheese executed to perfection. yes, you can get it medium rare (beef is never frozen); yes, you can get a bison burger (that's what I had); yes, they have a dog-friendly outside dining area that features murals of customer's favorite pooches (and some cats). The dogs with halos are off chasing the big beef bone in the sky. A mix of Michael Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Cher, and the Avett Bros. blares from the outdoor speakers, and the owner brought out  sample pouch of homemade organic dog biscuits for Dean-o. This is the essence of Am-bi-ance. The line stretches out the door from 11 in the morning to 2 in the day, and the food comes out on hammered aluminum plates - this is basically the Burger version of BBQ-heaven 12 Bones in Asheville.

This is just plain old good-eating. Doc's Pimento Cheese Burger disappeared in a flash, the kids all cleaned their tin plates, and Matilda's Classic Bison Burger had to be shared among several still-hungry mouths. The fries are good, the tea is good, the sun was shining. Life - and food - doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Many Faces of Sam

This guy cracks me up:

 Sam has recently taken a cue from Big Sister Honey Badger and has started throwing his "mean face" around to voice (silently) his displeasure at someone or something. This makes for a very comical transition from time to time, where he goes from jolly to "mad." The really funny thing is the last little tweak he does with his eyebrows, to really push it over the edge:

But then we get the old Sam back - mowhawk hair and yelling at the top of his lungs for Mom- My. Even though he's sitting in her lap. Because when he's not, he's running his little bow-legged stomp run to get there. 

Sometimes there is even room for Big Brother.