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It started innocently enough on the way to dropping off Lucas to his first (half) day of kindergarten.

“I want to go fishing.”

Pause.

“Because I want to try raw fish.”

Pause.

“It’s called sushi.”

I like to expose the kids to things outside of their ever-shrinking-as-they-age comfort zones, and sushi had been on my list. Probably wouldn’t have started with Junior #2 on this one (#3 is actually the braver soul – you should see him tear up some Pad Thai swimming in Sriracha), but he brought it up and I decided to commit a crime of opportunity.

I picked him up from his half day, and we headed straight to Crazy Sushi and ordered, well, pretty much everything. I’m not that familiar with sushi (I started with it a few years ago but don’t eat it very often), but I knew that we wanted some raw stuff AND some backups for when he wouldn’t eat it. So I got a St. Louis roll (tuna, avocado, takuan, green onion), some mixed raw stuff (and some of the cold shrimps), and some tempura. Yes, I spent way too much money, but I wanted to make sure he left having eaten something that he really liked. And since I refuse to ever order anything that I won’t eat, I knew nothing would go to waste.

To my boy’s credit, he tried everything. His favorite things were the miso soup, the tempura shrimp, and the hamachi (yellow tail) and the only thing he didn’t like was the roll and the ginger salad dressing. Everything else fell somewhere in between those categories. Which I’m actually pretty thrilled with.

The St. Louis roll did not go over well.

 

He actually asked if he could take the bowl home.

Because only barbarians eat the rice at the same time as the sushi.

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I am supposed to be writing a blog entry for the Monday release of the SFA. Its a good one. Its on my picks of the top 5 rappers of all time. However, I can’t write it right now. My creative juices have been stymied by a 3 & 5 year old and their unwillingness to be unconscious. A while ago we reviewed the book “Go the F**k to Sleep.” I wasn’t terribly impressed with it. The first 2 pages or so are pretty funny the first time you read it and then well its a list of words that just rhyme with sleep and some cuss words thrown in between. Tonight, though I can’t get the book’s title out of my head.

We have a cornucopia of messed up stuff going on in our house right now. We have an unfinished kitchen, I sleep with a pregnant gal, my 3 year old has moved out of her own room & crib into a room with the 5 year old and big girl bed, and the 5 year old is started kindergarten on Tuesday. Crap, I guess I know why they can’t sleep… But can kids really get as stressed as adults? Stress is something I am very aware of and feel that it is the cause to a multitude of health issues. Well there’s also doctors and studies that say the same thing but I’d still like some part of that theory. Now taking a step back at our family life and how “unconvential” my kids have been acting as of late, I wonder if stress plays a major role in their life like it does in adults. Typically kids feel no pain. They can run forever and pretty much bounce back from a fall quicker than anyone. You distract them, they go about their merry way as if it never happened. Problem over right? Wrong. At least I think its a bad conclusion. Here’s the funny thing, if you google Stress in Children you get all kinds of articles on the symptoms of stress in kids, but when it comes to treating it, there’s not much out there.

I deal with some social anxiety issues but I am happily medicated and I think I am as under control as the next person, but my kids are too young to be medicated and I don’t want to go down that road if I doon’t have to. So, how does a parent get their kids to calm down without dipping the binky in whiskey? My answer right now, is that I have no idea. This is one of those things that I guess I’ll learn about and take in stride but I feel bad for my kids. Change isn’t always good in their structured lives.

So here’s my plan of attack to help my kids and their stress.

  • Use diversion more frequently and effectively – Like Cypress Hill said “When the $&!* goes down, you better be ready.” Hopefully these diversions can take their minds off what’s bothering them
  • Try to think before I act/speak – No I don’t hit my kids but physical reactions to situation can be as powerful as verbal reactions. so If I get all slouchy and huffy with them, they won’t react well to that.
  • Play with them more – If I can get down on their level and play a bit more I think it will help relax them and hopefully wear them out so they can sleep easier.

Sound like a good plan? Have any other suggestions? We’d like to hear them.

I think you all remember my old post on how family-oriented restaurants should handle families based on a non-stellar visit to a Red Robin. I’m happy to report that we’ve had a couple of visits there since then, and they’ve all been fantastic. Yesterday was especially awesome. Our server, we’ll call him “James F.”, because that’s what was on his nametag, was super attentive but not overly in-our-faces, kept our waters full, showed us some menu shortcuts, dropped napkins by the gross on our table, and had us checked out an on our way in record time. Just an awesome, awesome experience.

The manager, (Mike, I think), was also great, swinging by the table to check on us, then going out of his way to hook the wee ones with balloons on our way out the door.

Our kids were actually not great (even by their standards), but because the service was so impeccable my wife and I had an enjoyable and largely stress-free lunch. Thanks, Red Robin!

Really wanted to find a Robin giving the Buddy Jesus, but alas.

Dear Qdoba,

I’ve been a big fan of yours ever since I was first handed a burrito the size of my face and told that it constituted a “serving.” Sure, there are those on Team Chipotle, but I’m fairly certain all of those people liked the Twilight movies (personally I gave up when I realized this was a satire and not a trailer) so I don’t care. I’ve been down with you since day one.

That’s what made it so exciting when I got this in my email.

Free guac is just another word for nothing left to lose.

After talking my work lunch crew into walking over we waited in line for a solid five minutes while the person who appeared to be in charge aggravated her entire team whilst in the midst of preparing some enormous faxed-in order. Eventually (and professionally) I was built a pork-filled, aluminum-wrapped happiness torpedo and at the end of the line I produced my coupon, my Club Card, and my cash.

Things quickly went south when I was told that the coupon wouldn’t ring up. The person who appeared to be in charge descended on the helplessly polite cashier, looked at it for a minute, told her there wasn’t anything she could do about it, gave the cashier a dirty look, looked up at me and said “Yeah, this promotion is all screwed up. You’ll have to call the helpline.” and then immediately went back to being an a-hole to her subordinates.

 The cashier to her credit (who was VERY obviously not allowed to, you know, not charge me for the buttery green ambrosia that I was supposed to be getting for free, was super nice about charging me for it but went out of her way to print an extra receipt and get my phone number so SHE could call the helpline on my behalf. She (and everyone but the person who appeared to be in charge) were super nice and professional during my whole visit.
 
I guess what I really want to get at, though, is what the f’ was that? I’m sure you guys lose the avocado-equivalent of the Greek national debt every day in people stealing flatware and picante sauce from over near the soda fountain, but would it seriously cause investors to start shuttering locations if you had some sort of policy where you accept the coupons you send to people? Could we just make that money up by only offering lemons or limes when I grab my napkins?
 
I’m definitely still not into Chipotle (they’re a little too pretentious about only using organic tin foil to wrap up their burritos), but this did shake my commitment to Team Qdoba. Can you work on this? I don’t want to have to use the nuclear option and start going to Moe’s.
 
Fajita vegetably yours,
Jamie Oswald

With very little ballyhoo and even less fanfare I deleted my Tumblr account last week. I actually deleted both of them. Bet you didn’t even know that I had one.

And how would you? I never really talked it up. And why didn’t I talk it up? Because I didn’t have time.

Between updating my status on Facebook and Twitter and Google+, checking in on Foursquare and Yelp, putting pictures up on Flickr and videos on YouTube, logging what will no doubt eventually become admissible evidence on Untappd, keeping my resume semi-up-to-date on LinkedIn, blogging for work on the SAP Community Network and ASUG (login required)  and my work intranet site (and don’t forget my work-related podcast), I found a lot of my evenings gone. My wife and I agreed that I should probably spend the rest of my non-work time on things like writing this blog and mowing the lawn and making sure my kids can recognize me when I pick them up from daycare. So my Tumblr account(s) had fallen by the wayside, and I decided to kill it off.

But I really feel like that should just be the first step. I should be able to wittle it down to a handful of places that will let me update my status, check in to places, review things I like, and read the statuses, updates, and reviews of those people I like. The problem with that is coverage. I am on 25 different social sites because I HAVE 25 different social networks. Some people are my friend on Facebook but not on Twitter (it’s largely a work/personal line, but that line gets blurrier every day). Some people are on Google +, which I kind of like, but it isn’t like my Aunt Betty is gonna hop over there anytime soon. If I want to track certain people down, I need a specific checkin site — and God forbid they’d all use the same one.

The bottom line is that no one social network right now lets me do everything I need to do, and they definitely don’t let me do it with all of the people I need to do those things with. Facebook comes closest but has too much Farmville for me to take it seriously, and without hashtagging its too hard to keep up with certain things. Google + has a lot to offer, but its Circles concept is totally upside down right now, and very few people are on it. Twitter hasn’t developed anything new since it first came out (besides of course “the new twitter”, which is irrelevant since nobody actually uses the Twitter website), so it isn’t much of a threat to either Facebook or Google.

In the long run, I’d like to see one unified social messaging system developed, so that I create one message (it could be a blog, a tweet, a check-in, a review, and it could be tagged by me and others for context and relevancy) and have people subscribe to my notes (by tags) and view and interact with them wherever they want. Then I’d like to be able to see all of the engagement for my messages in one place, so that its one big conversation. Right now it’s really frustrating to see one message from one person on 5 different networks because they have to blast it out — worse yet is that any conversation the message starts is then spread out over 5 networks.

In the short run, you’ll still be able to find me everywhere. Except of course on Tumblr.

I don’t want to share with you the day-to-day, minute-by-minute, picture-by-picture account of our family vacation this year. That would be pretty boring for you the viewer/reader except for the part where we all agree that my kids are the coolest. No I won’t do that to you. However being that this was my family’s first real family vacation in 3 years, its worthy of writing a summary of the learning experience I’ve had over the past weekend. So here’s my list of crap to think about next time you are planning a family vacation. I am going to base this assessment with the disclaimer that my kids are younger and have the attention span of most 3 & 5 year olds. In other words they get bored with stuff fast. Also I am assuming you don’t have money you can burn on purpose.

  1. Go somewhere you can drive – Flying is expensive and while it can open endless possibilities to where you can go, I really don’t find the reward of any destination worth the cost and the stress of packing all the stuff in your house for a short period of time. Also in a car, its only you that have to deal with your kids. Its probably not worth angering strangers because your kid all of a sudden doesn’t like her headband.
  2. Go somewhere with water – A body of water to a kid is like a babysitter you don’t have to pay (assuming your kids can swim or have a flotation device – Safety First). This vacation we went down to Southern Missouri around a national hub of washed up Country & Western stars, Branson, MO. Around Branson however, there are several large lakes perfect for all ages. We opted for what is arguably the nicest of them all, Table Rock Lake. By nice I mean a couple things: Clear Water & not a lot of boaters. Is perfect for families who don’t want to be around a bunch hoosiers. We also visited White Water in Branson. This was probably the worst body(s) of water we visited. It was expensive and there were way to many people in bikini’s that should have been wearing camping tarps instead. The rides were fun but my kids just weren’t into them that much so we didn’t go on too many of them. Finally, the hidden gem of the water this weekend was the community pool we had access to in our rental house. If we got bored we just packed up the kids and went swimming.

    This is as good as it gets.

  3. Go with some other families in the same situation – Kids like to play with other kids and adults like to booze with other adults. As long as you can remotely stand the family and their kids, you are golden. The water will fill in the gaps. Luckily we went with 2 other families both with 2 children a piece. It worked out great. The adults we went with are normal people who don’t let their kids go bat crap everywhere and the kids are kids that are as socially normal as our kids. It was great. (if you are one of said families reading this, this is how I compliment people. Not the most flattering way I know, but hey be happy you were even mentioned).
  4. Stay in one house/condo/structure – This is mostly for the adults. With everyone under one roof, sure you have to live in everyone life, but the boozing when all the kids are asleep is worth it.

    Adult beverages rule!

That’s the down and dirty of how to have a fun family vacation. Now go get one in before Summer if over!!!! So like this weekend…

Sample Error

As you may have noticed, we here at the SFA are pretty big fans of beer. Oh sure, we’ll swig some wine on Wednesdays and punish the gin and tonics at a wedding (open bar of course), but when it comes right down to it we can’t get enough of the sweet brown nectar — even after a long weekend of fraternizing.

Because we love the beer, and we love variety, we like to try various types of beers. Many breweries try to make this easy on us by offering “sampler packs” which contain multiple types of beer in one box. Sometimes these are awesome, but more than not they miss the mark a little.  Here are the best and worst we’ve come across here in the St. Louis Market.

Best Sampler: Schlafly

I actually buy this particular twelve pack all of the time because it does give me a little flavor of everything, and I happen to like all three beers they pack in here. It brings the Pale Ale (a reliable beer that can go with anything), the Dry-hopped APA (for when you’re feeling hoppy) and a fantastic Kolsch (this is a great barbecue beer and WAY better than their Summer Lager which I don’t care for). Not only do I like the beer in here, I also believe strongly that 3 is the perfect number of beers to put into a sampler so you have the option to spread the 4-of-one-kind over a couple of meals or opt to sit down and have several in a row.

Schlafly also gets bonus points for swapping out their Hefeweizen (which was trendy but never really tickled my… fancy?) for the APA (which I adore). They get even more bonus points for having a very responsive social media team: I sent a friend to the Bottleworks for lunch and right after he checked in on Yelp, someone working there said “hey, thanks for checking in.”

Runner Up (in a good way): Great Divide

This is a pricier sampler than I usually pick up, but I had tried something of theirs before and was impressed. I think this sampler — containing four of their year-round brews — was the first one my wife could split evenly: she liked 2 and I liked 2. None of them are on our favorites board, but our tastes are so different we usually don’t even like the same breweries. Having someone in our house enjoy every beer out of a sample box is a pretty big win for our house.

Our common ground? Coors Light of all things.

Worst 12 Pack: Boulevard

The Boulevard 12-pack contains 6 different beers. That’s just too damned many in my book. Very few craft brewers can put together one sampler with 6 competently and not-completely-out-there beers. Boulevard is not one of those few. Their Pale Ale is fantastic, and their Unfiltered Wheat is the only wheat beer I actually enjoy.  From those two, his sampler goes downhill quickly.  The Lunar Ale stands out as being particularly awful, but rest assured that one dud is not what sinks this offering.

Runner-Up (not in a good way): Samuel Adams

I hate to pick on Sammy because they’ve obviously put in a lot of work to make sure all of these beers are available in grocery stores all the way out in my suburbs. However, their sampler pack suffers, much like Boulevard, from having too much of a good thing by offering 6 different beers in one 12 pack. The Boston Lager and Sam Adams Light are safe picks, but everything after that is sort of a crap shoot. This is, in fairness, a sampler in the truest sense in that they seem to rotate through the remaining flavors pretty frequently, but generally speaking, I don’t like many of them. If you are really into noticing the coriander in a given beer, this might be for you. I’m just personally not there yet.

Conclusion

Sampler packs are a great way to minimize risk when exploring new breweries: why risk it all on 6 bottles on one beer when you can have 12 beers that give several flavors. When picking out a sampler pack, I recommend going with one that has no more than four different brews in it (three is probably better), and I’d hold out until they go on sale.

I'd rather be fearless than beerless.

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