Monday, December 19, 2016

Pre-Christmas Update

Ho ho ho!  We're npot exactly sure how much Raylan understands about Christmas, but he's definitely learned to yell, "Ho ho ho!" while pointing at Santa decorations and the Christmas tree.  After this weekend, I think he is beginning to associate the idea of "loot" with Christmas as well.
We've had a good, but busy week and weekend.
On Wednesday night my parents took care of Raylan.  They were nice enough to get us tickets to see A Christmas Carol at Zach Theatre, so we had a date night on Wednesday, going out for Thai food and then going to see a musical at Zach.  The play was fun!  There was a lot of singing and dancing. Very festive, lively, and jolly.  We had a good time.
Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Amy and I doing grown up couple stuff!
During the day on Thursday we had our annual office holiday luncheon.  On Thursday night I had Veterans Court, and then afterward Amy was kind enough to watch Raylan so I could swing by my office holiday party at El Mercado.  It was fun.  I had a drink or two and got caught up with some friends.  It's good to occasionally see people from work outside of the courthouse.
As my first boss, Pat, used to say, the holiday parties sort of help grease the wheels of justice,
You know what really lends gravitas to an office discussion about trial
strategy and tactics?  Tiny hats and antlers.
On Thursday my parents also were at our house when their Christmas present for Raylan was delivered- a fort/playscape.
The thing is pretty awesome.
When I was a kid my dad built us a fort by hand that was really cool.  It had a rope ladder, a swing, a sliding pole, and a wooden ladder.  It was the bees knees.
But nowadays there are these companies that build playscapes professionally.  And they're crazy.
Growing up, I wouldn't have imagined such a thing outside of a neighborhood park.
Fort Raylan
Due to work schedules, we didn't really get to take Raylan out to play on it until we got off work on Friday, but when we did, he seemed to really take to it right away.
He declared it his "house", spent a lot of time climbing around on it, and immediately demanded some swing time.
He got to play on it on Saturday morning as well, and each time he went out to play on it he got a little more adventurous with climbing up and down on the thing.

"Dad, can you believe this?"
Mom, Dad, and Ryan all stopped by on Saturday afternoon, and by then Raylan was pretty comfortable climbing all the way up the ladder into the top part himself (although we stood close behind him to catch him in case his confidence outpaced his ability).

"You're mostly  doing it right, Uncle Ryan."
It was really nice to have the family stop by on Saturday.  Sadly, Jamie was feeling a little under the weather.  Mom and Dad stayed for dinner (Amy made some delicious tortilla soup), but Ryan just hung out for a little bit before heading home to spend time with Jamie.
Raylan got to open some presents from our family, and he seemed really excited about the whole Christmas thing.  He got books, cars, a basketball goal, and some cool plush butterflies that are now hanging from the ceiling in his room ("Buttahflies!  In da sky!!"- thanks Uncle Ryan and Aunt Jamie!)

Yup.  Shorts!  December 17th and about 80 degrees.
But still merry and bright...

"You mean to tell me that all these wrapped boxes contain PRESENTS?!?!"

"You can't put me to bed as long as I'm sitting on Poppa!!!"
So we had a really nice time doing a little pre-Christmas with Raylan and my family.  We'll be in town for actual Christmas, so it was really fun to have a small little get-together beforehand (which wasn't really formally planned, actually- it all just sort of fell nicely into place).
So it was like 80 degrees and humid on Saturday.
On Sunday we woke up and it was about 28 degrees.
Being the intrepid weekenders that we are, we bundled up, anyway, and went to Kerbey Lane for breakfast.

That hat may be designed for a toddler, but Amy makes it work.
Despite the literally freezing temperatures on Sunday, we still managed to get Raylan outside to play on his new fort.
We also went to Target and ran some other errands.

"As soon as I can find my hands I'm gonna try that swing..."
There was exercise, a family shopping trip walking down to Central Market, and various odds, ends, and chores.

Eventually on a cold, winter day, one of your inside activities
is gonna end up being a game of
"Silly face- silly noise".
The rules are incredibly complex.

And that was our weekend!  Hope everyone had a good one!
Stay warm (or stay cool if it's 80 outside).  Stay festive!
Ho ho ho!!!

Monday, December 12, 2016


Ho ho ho!  Well, it seem like we're sort of in the full swing of the Christmas season.
On Friday night we didn't do a whole lot, I guess.
I ended up working sort of late for a Friday night.
Then Amy and I both exercised that night.
Not too much to report.

"Dad, either this is a tiny front loader, or these are giant cheerios.  I
haven't decided."

On Saturday Amy got up and went to a hair appointment, and I got up and took Raylan to the mall to have his picture taken with Santa.  We had a scheduled time to see Santa, so that was awesome. Getting Raylan into the right clothes and getting out the door in time to meet the jolly old elf was a bit of a challenge, but we pulled it off.
Mom and Dad called and wanted to come meet us at the mall to see Raylan get his picture taken.

"What are you doing there, buddy?"
"Uh, no, that's not hugging.  Let's go see Santa"

"So much help, Dad.
So.  Much.  Help."
And so the big meet up with Santa took place.
It went swimmingly.
Surely if Dad joins in the picture, that'll calm everything right down...

So that was my first Santa picture experience with Raylan.  By the way, he was laughing and happy from up to 10 seconds before we tried to take the pictures and immediately happy again and asking for a snack about 5 seconds after we took the pictures.  
He might be a wee bit dramatic.
No idea where he gets that.

Thanks to Mom and Dad for coming out for the pictures!

In the afternoon we went to the park.

Saturday night we went to Sophia's Austin Supper Club for dinner with the family.  We got a babysitter and went out for our yearly Italian meal before Christmas with Ryan, Jamie, Mom, and Dad.
It was fun!  The food was really good, and it was nice to hang out with our family.
Amy and I definitely appreciated a chance to have a grown-up evening with our family without having to wrangle a toddler while trying to visit with everyone.

On Sunday we went out for breakfast, ran some errands, and in the afternoon we went to a Christmas party thrown by Amy's co-worker, Tony.
It was a fun event.
Good food and fun people.

Logan, Raylan, and Truett enjoy the party.

Raylan squeezed himself in between some ladies and refused to come out.
The boy is a prodigy when it comes to understanding party dynamics.

Sunday night I had band practice.

And that was it!  Nice weekend!

Monday, December 05, 2016


So, our weekend was pretty good, if a little rainy.
On Friday night we just sort of hung out at the house.  Amy took Raylan for a little bit of outside play time while I watched from the front and back porches (apparently he walked all the way around the block while holding her hand, so that's progress).
Amy and I watched some of Captain America: Civil War. 

"Dad, Mom tells me it's fun to be outside in the cold and rain.  It's fun,
right, Dad?  Where are you going?" 
On Saturday morning we went out for breakfast at Kerbey Lane and ran some errands.

"Where'd that waitress, go?  I think I'm gonna order myself some
On Saturday afternoon Mom and Dad picked up Raylan to keep him over night.
On Saturday night we went out to Austin Karoke for some singing and socializing.
Shelly, Kit, Emily, Joe, Ruben, Miguel, Rosa, and Josh all came out to karaoke.  We had a really good time!
Ruben and Rosa were probably the best singers, but the rest of us killed it with our showmanship!

Amy and Ruben performing "Love is an Open Door".
Without end.

Amy caught between two PERFORMAHS!!

On Sunday we got up sort of late.  I ate Mexican food and Amy worked out.  We went to the grocery store and ran some other errands.
Then Mom and Dad brought Raylan back.  
"I heard you went out singing without me!"
I had band practice Sunday night.  Amy was kind enough to let me sneak out while she was getting Raylan to bed.
Everyone made it to rehearsal.  It was fun!
When I got home we ate some lasagna and watched the season finale of Westworld.
It was good.  That show has a lot of violence and nudity, but it's really thought provoking.  We're both enjoying it.  I hope it continues to be as good during season 2.
And that was the weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2016


Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!  Ours was pretty nice.
On Wednesday Travis County shut down a little early, so I got to come home and hang out with Amy and Raylan.  We got to play around a bit and then Amy made a pecan pie with chocolate and bourbon in it.

Whole lotta turkeys in this picture!
On Thanksgiving Day we got up and watched a bit of the parade.  Amy made us breakfast while I played with Raylan.  I think we also went to the park for a little bit.
Amy made a green bean casserole.
In the afternoon we got cleaned up and rode out to Steiner Ranch for a nice Thanksgiving Dinner at Mom and Dad's house.

Raylan shows off his new Turkey Day duds while
pondering the fact that his guitar has no strings
In attendance were Susan, Uncle Donald, Mom, Dad, Ryan, Jamie, Doug, Kristen, and Dick.
The food was excellent!  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, brussel sprouts, rolls, other vegetables, and certainly stuff I'm not thinking of (fruit salad?).
There were also appetizers and wine and lots of good conversation and company.

And here we are!

Raylan has taken to squiring a lot during photos,
so this picture represents something of a victory
We had a really nice Thanksgiving Dinner.  Big thanks to Mom and Dad for doing the work to host it. It was a really nice day.  Raylan started out kind of shy, but eventually he warmed up to all of the people and switched into "Raylan the Entertainer" mode.  That kid loves an audience.  He sorta worked himself into a tizzy and ran around showing off all his words and stuff.  Then he crashed and got tired, so we had to take him home.  Good day for him, too, though!

On Friday we got up and ran a few errands.  I also hung up the Christmas tree lights that day.  Raylan got a haircut, and a trip to the park.

Keeping it Festive!
On Saturday we went out for breakfast and did some team grocery shopping.  We set up the Christmas tree and decorated inside the house.  We also drove out near Steiner to look at some possible playground equipment for Raylan.  Afterward we hung out at Mom and Dad's house for a little while.

Raylan works up a thirst by steering the race car shopping cart
with his feet
Amy made a sort of slow cooker tamale pie recipe on Saturday that was muy bueno!  Unfortunately, Saturday night Amy got sort of sick.  Seems like it might have been food poisoning from some ice cream, maybe.  It wasn't from the tamale dish, because I had it and I was fine.
Anyway, she was sick pretty much all of Sunday.
I took Raylan with me to Central Market for breakfast, but then after that he went to Mom and Dad's house so Amy could get some rest without Raylan trying to barge into our bedroom or yelling at our bedroom door.  (such a quiet, meek child!)
Anyway, it seems like Amy is feeling better now, but Sunday was rough.
She was mostly in bed, but then did emerge long enough to watch Westworld with me before disappearing again.
I went to the gym, played guitar, and watched Batman v. Superman (not a great film, by any means, but not quite the total disaster that I had been anticipating).
So that was our holiday weekend!

We have a lot to be thankful for this year.  I have a lot to be thankful for.
I've got a job that I find fulfilling, a wonderful wife and an amazing son, a great family, and good friends.  
Life is good.
I've said this before- I'm not super religious, but I feel blessed.
My job has me working with a population of people who struggle to find food, housing, and relationships.  I work with people who have a hard time connecting with others without getting abused or exploited.  I work with people who have mental illness, addiction issues, and who struggle to just get through life.  For a lot of these people, life is pretty painful, and where respite is to be found from suffering, it often comes in the form of drugs and alcohol.
Sometimes that pain comes from making bad choices, but oftentimes it really is just a direct result of the circumstances into which people were born (and sometimes a person's background or mental functioning makes it extremely difficult for them to even realize what a good choice looks like).
Anyway, I don't take anything that I have for granted, because I regularly see the reality of how difficult life can be every day for many, many people.
So I look at my life, and I feel blessed.  I'm thankful to God, the universe, and everyone who makes a positive contribution to not only my life and my family, but the world in general.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 21, 2016


Hi!  Hope everyone had a good weekend.
We're really enjoying the cool, clear whether here in Austin.
Our weekend was sort of low key, but good.
Friday night we just were hanging out at the house.  We ate some Chinese food, and we started to watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica, but Amy fell asleep.
Saturday we got up, bundled up a bit, and walked up to Central Market for some breakfast.  It was fun.  Raylan was in a good mood and ate a lot.
Afterward we all went to the grocery store together and did some shopping.  Failing as a parent, I was unable to find a race car shopping cart this weekend for Raylan to sit in.
He didn't seem to mind too much.  He sat in a regular cart and pointed at things and shouted out names for them (correct, incorrect, and nonsensical).
Afterwards we took him to Joslin to play on the playground.

"Mom, when we really get going, I want you to launch me
into the air, okay?"
On Saturday afternoon we worked out while Raylan napped.  Then I snuck in part of the Longhorns game.
We lost in overtime to Kansas.  Kansas!  They were 1 and 9!
Adios, Charlie Strong.  I still like you, but you're not even giving your defenders anything to work with.
I wish you the best of luck at your next job.

So I watched the game while playing with Raylan while Amy made soup.
We also played in the yard.
Cassidy still loves a good sunbeam
Later we went to Garrison Park.  We played on the playground and wandered around.  Raylan was amazed by the tractors that they use to cut the grass.
He also just loves running around and exploring.  It's nice to have such a big park so close to the house.

Intrepid Adventurers

Raylan loves the park.

After the park we went home and just played a little more until Raylan had dinner and a bath and went to bed.

"Do I always have to cheer for the Longhorns, Dad?"
"Sadly, yes, son.  Yes, you do."
Saturday night we ate pizza.  We watched an episode of Battlestar, and this time Amy made it through.
On Sunday we got up and ate breakfast and then went to go visit our friends Jordan and Libby, and their new son, Rowan.
Rowan was awfully cute, and Raylan was pretty well behaved while over at their house.  It was really good to see them.  It was nice to be invited.
We went back to Joslin park later in the morning.  Raylan loves not only the playground equipment, but also running around Joslin Elementary, next to the playground.  While running up and down one of the ramps by the portable buildings (one of his favorite activities), he fell and faceplanted on the ramp.  In classic Steans family style, he did this just as we were leaving.
Never miss an opportunity to put a weird bump on your head before a family holiday, right, Raylan?

"Check it out, Dad!  I'm a Klingon!!"
Anyway, in the afternoon we did a little bit of shopping/errands and played at our house some more.
Then I went to band practice (which was good).

"So this little fat dude in the front yard says that
all life is interconnected?  Weird..."

Amy made spaghetti, which was really good.  Then we watched Westworld.  I continue to be impressed by that show.  We're enjoying it.

So that was our weekend!
Hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving this week!

Monday, November 14, 2016


Howdy!  Hope everyone had a nice weekend.  After about 9 or 10 days of cloud cover and rain, we finally got some sunshine this weekend in Austin, and not a moment too soon!
Amy and I had a three day weekend due to the Veterans Day holiday on Friday.
Amy flew out for Arizona early on Friday morning to visit her family for the weekend.  My Mom and Dad took Raylan on Thursday and Friday (so I could get Amy to the airport, take care of a few errands, and see a few friends).
On Thursday night Amy and I got to go out for dinner before she went on her trip.  We went to Curra's and had some Mexican food.  We also watched The Warriors, which, surprisingly, Amy both suggested and enjoyed (she had never seen it and was intrigued by some clips she saw online).  It was a nice evening.
Nothing makes your husband miss you like having a nice date night right before you jet out of town!  ;-)
Anyway, I took Amy to the airport early on Friday morning.  Then I went and and ate migas at La Posada. It was early, and the place was mostly empty, so I watched the news with the waitstaff and spent some time talking with them about the Trump win.  Judging from what I heard, they were pretty freaked out.  I'm guessing that not all of the people who work there are documented, so there's the specter of deportation hanging over the place (along with tons of other Texas businesses that rely on undocumented workers).  I've been going to that place for over 10 years.  Sad to see them all so down.
I've been trying to avoid the internet and the news ever since the election.  But at some point you just can't avoid it, I guess.
I spent Friday, Veterans Day. shopping for a couple of new suits.  I got a haircut.  I went to see The Arrival while they were working on my suits.

The Arrival was a pretty good movie, but it was a little onerously self important, in my opinion.  The movie clearly had a lot to say about the nature of "otherness" or the separation of the alien from the normal. (spoilers)  By learning to understand the language of an alien race, Louise learns to experience time itself in an utterly new and different way, thereby changing the entire way that she comprehends and appreciates in life.
What the movie either intentionally or unintentionally passes over, however, is the possibility that people may not possess the inherent ability to ever truly understand the alien.  Maybe the skills that understanding an alien mind are not something that we possess, as a consequence of our nature or our biology.  Seems like it something more truly alien would be a more interesting turn of events, and very few movies address it.  I guess that's more or less the theme of 2001, but it seems like there is still an awful lot of ground to cover in exploring that scenario.
For all of the talk of the utterly unfathomable natures of the aliens in the movie, ultimately we were given little evidence that their minds were all that different than our own- except with superpowers that let them see the future.
Furthermore, the movie conspicuously skips over the question of whether the ability to "see the future" means that humans are devoid of free will.  This question is presented in the starkest of terms by the plot, but then ultimately never discussed in any meaningful sense (which feels very artificial when dealing with a protagonist who has the ability to see the future, but then fails to act upon that knowledge in any number of possible ways, even to protect those closest to her).
I thought that The Arrival was a good film, but not as smart as it found itself.  For one thing, I think that, for a movie which seemed to be taking pride in presenting philosophical issues, it spent too much time on the very tired "will humanity irrationally destroy itself?" hand wringing.  I also found the film's metaphor to be stretched a little thin.  It's one thing to gain a different view of the world by learning to communicate in a different way.  It's probably another thing to gain a new sensory ability itself simply by learning a new language.
I thought that the best moment in the film came as Louise diagrammed a sentence on a white board, giving examples to her colleagues of all of the different ways that an alien intelligence might be different than our own (e.g., do they have a concept of individual identity? do they have a concept of intent as opposed to acting out of pure instinct? etc.)
This felt like a movie, in the end, with a relatively thin examination of philosophical question, albeit wrapped up in a very nice, glossy, heart-tugging, critic-friendly package.  (But it will probably end up receiving critical attention that would make it seem as thought none of these concepts had ever been asked before)
Anyway, in the end, The Arrival was worth seeing, and I'm probably being too hard on it.  It just glossed over too many interesting things, in my opinion, but maybe those are the constraints of making a two hour movie as opposed to a book or a series.

Here's how Dad spent his Veterans Day.
Thanks for your service, Dad!
(and the child care, too!)
Anyway, I had big plans to go for a bike ride on Friday, but I never made it.  The suit took a lot longer than I had hoped.  Got a haircut, though!
In the evening I went out to dinner with my friend, James, at Pinthouse Pizza.  Later our friend Robert joined us with his girlfriend, Laura.  We ate pizza and drank beer and ultimately shut the place down around midnight.  I rode my bike over there and back.  Because beer.

On Saturday I went over to my parents' house to watch UT lose to West Virginia.  It was a pretty good game, and, darn it, we were close.  But we lost.  Oh well.
I couldn't keep watching UT if I was gonna let their losses put me in a bad mood for very long.
Ryan and Jamie came over to watch the game, and it was good to see them.  Raylan and I stayed until around dinner time.  We went for a walk with Mom and talked to Dad and just sort of hung out.


On Sunday I got up and, after breakfast, took Raylan with me to run errands.  We went to the grocery store, and Raylan got to ride in the race car shopping cart.

"Hey!  Hey!  Trying merge, here, buddy!"
Later we went to the park.  There were a lot of other kids there (not pictured, so as not to freak out their parents), and Raylan had fun playing with them.  The weather was great,

Raylan not only enjoyed the park, but also running up and down the ramps at the portable buildings at Joslin Elementary.

We also went for some walks on Sunday.  We stopped by to visit Mandy and her doggies.  Raylan got to feed the fish in her pond.

"Mandy, I think this would work better if I could get in there to
pet the fish while I was feeding them."
Also, mixed in there, we played cars and read books and watched a video with garbage trucks on it.
Hot Wheels just don't go out of style
It was a nice day with Raylan.  He asked for his mom a few times, but he seemed pretty happy to hang out with me.  Which was nice.  I was, admittedly, a little nervous about Amy going out of town, but we managed to keep things going for a few days (with a lot of help from Mom and Dad) while she was gone.
It was also kind of good to just hang out with just the two of us for a little while.  When Amy and Mom and other people aren't around, Raylan is more likely to give me a little bit more of his attention.  He starts talking to me a lot more and bringing me his favorite toys and asking me for things that he wants and just sort of communicating with me a little differently.  We both had a little bit of good bonding time.
But we'll be really happy to have Amy back!
And that was the weekend.
Hope you have a good week!