Merry Solsmastivus

The magic of the holidays this year has been transposed from one child to another. The feelings of anticipation and wonder and joy have now infused a younger heart. Lil Miss Austin is well aware of who Santa is and that he brings presents. It'll be a while before she understands the meaning of Christmas, whether they be pagan, christian or commercial reasons. At this point all she knows is that she has presents to open and toys to play with.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The holiday actually started before December 25th. LMA's school had an International Night. Not to be seen as Scrooges for avoiding any kind of holiday party, but being comprised of children from nationalities that may not recognize Christmas, the school did a very interesting thing and put together an International Holiday Night. The children were encouraged, but not required, to come representing a country. Being the 1/8th Italian that I am, I decided Italy would be a safe bet. I wanted to do Canada, dress her up in a little hockey outfit, but you also had to bring a dish and I didn't think LeBats Blue would have been wise at a school function. So we went with Italy. You can't really tell from the photo, but she's supposed to be a gondola pilot.

And let me tell you, these school functions are just a MAD house. First off, the herding of the kittens began shortly after we arrived as the teachers attempted to coral the kids onto the stage so they could sing...maybe shout...the three songs they had to push through. The microphone was given to a couple of the older students to "lead" the children in song. Most of the kids were just flapping their sandwich board flag signs around, or hitting each other with their hats. One little gentlemen with the microphone was obviously destined to be the next Rage Against the Machine lead singer. The whole night was a bit unnerving and eventually Mrs. Austin requested we leave before she take a life.

With any family that has new children, there are also grandparnets. With every marriage, there are also in laws and parents. With every Christmas, there is always a visit. With us it's either a drive to Conroe, Texas or a flight up to Colorado. This year we stayed in town because of Mrs. Austin being pregnant and we had gone to CO last year. A quick 3 hour drive later and we're in Conroe. All the family is there and this time we were the last to arrive. We got there just in time to see the Santa on the JetSki, apparently an East Texas tradition. I have no idea. We hung out for a bit, crashed at the hotel and returned the next day well rested and ready to start ripping into the presents. (I'm not overly sentimental or religious, can you tell?) Mrs. Austin's family and mine differ usually, but I can pin point one aspect for you today. There will be crying on Christmas! It happens every year. One person gives someone or a group of people a gift and the tears flow like Niagara. I was guilty of it one year; Mrs. Austin got me a playstation when I first moved here and the thought alone made me weepy. I knew she hated video games, so it meant a lot. But these people are just masochists. They're purposefully out to make someone cry and it's usually family oriented, meaning the two of us that married into the family are left looking at each other and saying, "So, uh. Wanna go smoke?"

But it was a good trip and after a fine dinner the three of us headed home. Christmas Eve arrives (keep in mind, Solstice was on the 22nd, so the rest of this is for the Catholics) and we find Mr. Austin working a half day at his lovely job. The market was open on both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. The reason for the day after is the market can't be closed for 4 days in a row. See, you learned something today, good for you. So after my token appearance at work during which I got real good at Diamond Mine, I came home to find Mrs. Austin geared up for a new holiday tradition. This was something I'd heard about, but had never been involved in, unless I was 3 and my parents did it that one time and I just don't remember, that doesn't count. She wanted to make a gingerbread house. Yeah, that's what I said. A what? You mean, to eat or just make? (I'm clueless.) So we did our best, she made the structural parts and I assembled the candy. We got some frosting and graham crackers and went to it. Well, while it was a complete hoot to do, I'm just glad we don't work for HUD or something because we suck at building stuff. Unless it comes with little interlocking pieces and instructions, I'm in a fog. After a good bit of eating candy and frosting, the house just caved in on itself. We put it outside for whatever birds or cats wanted it. Good foundation of knowledge for next year.

The big day was at hand. This year I could feel the roles reversing from child to parent. I was no longer welcoming the sweet glow of the Christmas tree as I crept into the living room to see what Santa had left. This year was mostly about LMA, but a good deal was to see if Mrs. Austin liked the gifts I got her. So we stayed up late putting LMA's new bed together and moving gifts under the tree. The next morning LMA slept unusually late, but seeing as she's not quite 3 years old, I don't think the anticipation has worked its way into her system yet. She's been thinking Santa had been to our house for about 2 weeks, so she still has that temporal thing to work on. So just like my dad before me, I put on a bathrobe, made some coffee and started looking under the tree for things to hand out to people. It was a good time. Mrs. Austin started to feel a little under the weather so the rest of the day was kinda dark and medicated, but it was still jolly.

Now I have to work on thank you cards and shopping for some more stuff. One bit of the holiday I like is that immediately after December 25th, you have a guilt free day of going and buying anything you want, even if you got all you wanted for Christmas.

Yeah I'm a merchandise whore, I love having things. So what.


May Your Holidays Be Filled With Magic.


Cruisers Unite

Before I get into the recap of the cruise I'd like to throw out some old pics for our viewers and some side stories.

As you know, LMA had some weird thing with her leg. She's fine now, mysterious ailment that it was, was probably nothing more than a muscle pull. However, she did feel pain and had enough toddler sense to figure that stickers made her feel good, so they should make her leg feel good. We left out all thought of a bath, seeing as she'd had a traumatic day as it was, so we let her fall asleep on the couch and moved her to her bed later, leaving her "sticker-cast" in place.

We can rebuild her, we have the stickers.

Next on the agenda is the Moon Tower Christmas Tree in Zilker Park. At one point, in the late 1800's, there were several dozen of these Moon Towers; over sized street lights about 5 stories tall. There are only a few left standing in Austin. To commemorate the holiday season, the Zilker Park Moon Tower is strung with lights like a big tree and people gather around and under the lights and have a little party. Nearby, but not open when we went, is the Zilker Park Trail of Lights. It's a big deal and having been here just over 3 years we've only now decided to go. We probably won't hit the trail of lights again this year, we gave it the one shot and they had the nerve not to be open. Well, we'll show 'em.

A Rave does not seperate generations.
The experience was one of medium size city trying to be a small town. There was funnel cake and hot chocolate and some music. There were your token christian school kids singing all the carols that had God and Jesus and Angels in them, which was nice background music. There were a lot of little kids and young at hearts looking up at the spiral of lights from under the "tree" and spinning around making the spiral optical illusion complete, then falling on their butts. LMA made a friend in a little girl and her unusually young mom and they did several rounds of Ring Around the Rosie. A short carraige rider later and we were off.

And finally, LMA has figured out how to take pictures. She can also take them of herself. Yes, we take so many pictures of her and the family that you only have to point a camera at her to get a well rehearsed "Cheese!" The fact that she's taken several pictures that have turned out is shocking and frightening and a little hilarious. As an experiment we gave her a camera and told her to take a picture of the Christmas tree, which she did, after a few dozen takes. Turns out, the self portrait on your right must have been a fluke, but how amazing that she was able to recognize a camera, know where the shutter button was and have the vainity of a supermodel to be drawn to it in the first place. Did I mention she did this when we were sleeping? I'm glad she didn't have the camera pointed elsewhere, morning dude issues and all. Yoiks!


Okay, don't forget where we parked.

Now onto the reason why you're all here. To find out how soused I got on our cruise to lovely Cozumel. That is why you're all here right? Ok, well for those who haven't left already after your weekly LMA fix, Mrs. A and I dropped Mrs. Squiggles off at Grandma's house and hit the Gulf. We left Galveston at 5pm Thursday and we in open waters by that evening. The ship was the M/S Celebration on the Carnival cruise lines. M/S stands for Mother Ship, apparently. I would have preferred Flag Ship or The Honorable Vessel or Dingy Extraordinare, actually. Anything but Mother Ship. Trust me, once you see some of the fine folks partaking in this activity, you'll understand why a cultish icon generally uttered in the same breath as Heaven's Gate is not far off.

I digress. The trip was amazing and expected at the same time. There was very little glamour involved, as I thought there might be. I mean, it's a cruise for Pete's Sake, aren't they supposed to be fabulous and full of intrigue and midnight rendevous and tuxes and ball gowns? Ours had some of that. We looked pretty fabulous going to dinner one night, I was intrigued at the amount of liquor I drank, there was a midnight buffet and I do believe the maitre di wore a tux. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time, but it wasn't the cream of the crop that I was bumping elbows with as the sea cast us fore and aft, it was the people I just left at HEB.

So with our expectations dropped from Breakfast at Tiffany's to Slingblade, we proceded to go with the flow and mix it up with the rest of the cruisers. We learned the Cha Cha, played trivia, bought Carnival imprinted souveniers that labeled us severe tools and ate as much buffet as possible. The 24 hour pizza stand was top notch to have around after a day of slamming Long Island Iced Teas. We did get to dress to the 9's and attend an evening dinner. Our waiter was outstanding, even while he and the other staff of varied nations did their best show routine in the middle of the dining hall. At our table was a couple from Oklahoma (boo hiss) and a family from about 10 minutes from our house. No fooling. We're 400 miles in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and we're sitting with basically neighbors.

So we make it to Cozumel, which is an island off the Yucitan Penninsula, near Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It's only 3% developed and that's almost entirely for tourism. There's a small bit that's an ecology park, but you can tour it so let's say it's ALL tourism. So a big ass boat full of drunk American's pulls up and it's go time for these purveyors of all things tour. First thing we do is find out that while you're pregnant, the only thing you can do on this island is shop and snorkle. Mrs. A was crushed that all the activities didn't have child carrying members in mind, and if you don't like haggling over jewelry and trinkets, you might as well stay on the ship and play Bingo. We did get to snorkle a lot and I did a Sea Trek Helmet Diving thing (which Mrs. A thinks sounds like a gay porn movie.) Afterwards we hit, of all things, a Carlos 'n' Charlies (yeah we have those in Austin) and I drank a YARD of Long Island Iced Tea. Man, after that Mrs. A could have bought the island and I wouldn't have cared.

Head back to the boat and the rest of the day and a half until returning home is a blur of buffet eating, semi interest in ship's events, being a little sea/home/child sick and having our day interrupted by the Saddam thing. Nothing brings you back into reality like a little news from the front. If it wasn't for the fact that the "local" stations were from Nashville and New York, I would have been able to believe I was truly out to sea.

Heck yeah I'd do this again. I'd like to do it when Mrs. A's not preggers so we can both drink and scuba and ride horses and drive jeeps and drink and play with dolphins and drink. Reason I mention drinking so much is that when you're sense are heighted due to child carrying, a sip of alcohol turns into "You're OOZING with BOOZE! Go take a shower!" But we got back safely. LMA missed us but had a good time with her cousins and Grandma.

She's not mad, that's her prepared face.

Had to keep the hat on.

We're both happy there were plenty of lifeboats...and booze.

Mrs. Onasis relaxes in the warm Caribbean winds.

First of many with me and a drink.

Mrs. Ausitn auditioning for the latest Gap ad. Her motivation, "THERE'S NO LAND OUT HERE!!"

Nothing says classy and sassy like a cruise ship robe.

And nothing says truly odd like a towel animal in your room.

"Take the red pill, and I show you just how deep the waters are out here."

We looked this good on The Chairman's birthday, only fitting.

New in time for Christmas from JC Penny.

Beach ball bingo, I lost.

They had vegetarian food on the swank menu. Mrs. A was all smiles.

The answer is 42. (Those of you who know may laugh now.)

Mr. Austin holding a...hmm...sea...thing. Looked like a mini german chocolate cake.

Holding a sea horse. Yes, the water level in my helmet was rising.

I think I saw this scene at the beginning of Perfect Strangers.

I'm tempted to put a shot of NYC in the background and photoshop out the bubbles and mask.

Mrs. Austin has found weapons of mass destruction.

She's got an anchor there, hopefully it wasn't to our ship.

Pancho suddenly realized the gringo sheriff was piss drunk.

Probably because I drank THIS!

Hello? (hello?) Echo! (echo!)

No Beard, the Terror of the Touristy Shops, and that pirate standing next to her.

New thing, pics of me with fruity drinks and that fly shirt. Line up ladies.


"The lo-ove boat. Soon we'll be making another run. The love boat..."

Yes, yes. Mrs. Austin and I are on a lovely cruise to the paradise island of Cozumel in the Mexican Caribbean. It's been quite a trip. As I type this we're heading back to Beautifully Mediocre Galveston to end the 4 day cruise. Lil Miss Austin is staying with Grandma and hopefully having tons of fun herself playing with her cousins.

Internet costs are huge on board a ship (all that wireless crap costing about as much per minute as the drinks, of which I've had mine AND Mrs. Austin's share) so I must cut this short.

Expect pictures and what not in a few days.



Next season's West Wing has Special Aid to the Democratic Minority Leader, Mrs. Austin, confronting the Republican lead Congress on the issue of Redistricting.


Rest assured, dear reader, LMA is doing fine. Sorry to keep you in the dark for days upon restless, eternal days, but physically there wasn't anything the medical professionals could pin point. The tried and true methodology that is Wait-n-See has proved again to be the mighty sword of ambiguity that has solved our pained questions with a definitive "Huh?"

The tests they took came back negative and after another day of favoring it, she was back to her old hyper jumpy self. The whole thing is a memory at this point. No body knows what it was either; pulled muscle, sprained/strained/twisted knee, end of a virus that caused some joint aching, who knows.

So we set up the Christmas/Yule tree last night. Well, we partially set it up. We started around 6:30 and had to deal with a bath, a headache and dinner at the same time, so the tree with lights was done by about 9:00.

I'll tell you what, as much as I like the idea of setting up holiday decorations, the actual act of putting up the tree makes me crazy. I turn into everyone's dad. I get grumpy and short and loud. No one helps the way I want them to so they might as well not help, but you can bet your ass I'll make them feel guilty about not helping. "I had to set up this whole dang tree myself, thank you!" I'm such a Nazi when it comes to lights and stuff, but I'm seeing someone for help now. It's getting ok.

Seriously, it wasn't bad and the tree looks ok with the lights off. LMA calls it the Santa Tree, which is fine with Mrs. Austin and myself, avoids the Yule vs. Chirstmas debate. And MAN does her face light up when she sees it. She came out this morning and got all bent outta shape because Santa himself wasn't sitting on the couch waiting for us. "Ohhh, Santa's not here. Where's Santa?" Looks like our next purchase is a calendar.

Some killer news from Mrs. Austin. As you know she's been going to school to get her psych degree and her first class is Texas History. The professor has ties to the legislature in some capacity and is so impressed with Mrs. A's love for all things Texas and most things Governing, he suggested her for an internship with the next session of the Texas Congress in 2005. Pretty cool stuff. It's not the West Wing, but I'm sure she'll love it.

With this in mind, I'll be setting up a paypal account going to a donation site for when she runs for President. It'll be used to pay bills in the mean time, but consider it a political contribution. ;)

Yes, yes, need to get more pics up.


As most of you may have heard, LMA is having some issues. The little monster has a limp.

I picked her up from school Monday and as she ran towards me, like she usually does (one of the high points of my day) she came up short, her right leg gave out on her, she grabbed her knee and started to cry. It wasn't a full blown wailing cry, but enough that I knew something was wrong. LMA is such an active, playful, energetic kid that this was like TNT in my heart. Instantly I began to think about leg braces and years upon years of medications and treatments that would turn her into a walking zombie, the little fire that is her life force snuffed.

I'm sure I'm over reacting, but I'm not the only one.

So we iced her knee at home and she couched for the evening, standing and jumping long enough to show Mrs. Austin the problem. You could tell it wasn't just a bump as she would wince and her leg would give every time she tried to step up or push off with that right leg. We called the doctor and were told to make an appointment for the next day.

10:15 the next day we hit the sick kids wing of the Pediatrician's office. After almost a 90 minute wait, and a 5 min visit from the doctor, we walked across the way to get an x-ray of her little knee and lower leg. If you thought toddler's legs were small before, image them sitting on an x-ray table while you envision how small those bones inside must be. She suddenly became this creature made of blown glass and wishes. We also pushed for some blood work as well, not wanting to wait it out. Both the x-ray and blood work came back negative, but that doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet. The next step is Motrine off and on for pain for a week and see if it goes away. The doctor thinks it's the end of a virus, she had a fever a week ago and it may be that the bug is in it's final throws of life. After that, if it's still not better, they want to check for jeuvenille arthritis, but that's 3 month's worth of persistant symptoms before a diagnosis. Three months of little 14 inch legs limping around.

Of course the internet has been especially helpful and dreadful in its myriad sites of research on the subject of toddler limping and as you can see, we're all over the place with paranoia and fear. At this point I'm hoping for a hairline fracture that x-ray didn't pick up over, say, septic arthritis or an absess forming on the spince or Legg-Perthes-Calve disease.

One thing the doctors haven't done is say, "Well, it's not this or that or the other thing" which is what parents are looking for. Shoot, any patient wants to hear some things ruled out in their favor. To quote George Castanza, "Cancer? Get outta here!!" I know the medical professionals are just doing their job by running tests and eliminating things, but give the parents some update, some progress report. What are you looking for? What are some causes? What do you suspect?


Meanwhile LMA and Mrs. A are at home buidling blocks. She's been cleared to go back to school on a supervised basis. For a 2 year old, that's a rough deal. Not much more to life than running around the sand pit and playground. Take that away and you're left eating and trying not to wet yourself.

So we're in a wait and see mode now. We're scared of course. Both families have been real nice. Yesterday I made the comment to Mrs. Austin how I felt I was the only one not over reacting to the situation. It's ironic that I'm the one online most of the time looking to compare symptoms to bacterial meningitis.

Will keep you posted.