Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Not Get Hired as My Nanny

Our delightful, creative, beautiful soul of a nanny recently got an opportunity for a part-time job in the art world, which is supreme for her career as an artist, bad news for us. The good news is she will still be working with us three days a week, but now I have to find a Tuesday/Thursday nanny. Oof.

Notice we are not looking to hire a "sitter." To me, there is a big difference between a nanny and a babysitter. A babysitter is a responsible, kind, mature person who will keep your children alive and relatively unharmed for 3-4 hours once in a while while you go have dinner with your husband. Or run errands. Or clean out your garage. Or whatever, but a sitter is not the same thing as a nanny to me.

A nanny (or a "manny," hey, I'm open-minded) is someone who is a true collaborator in helping you raise your children. A nanny is a professional who brings ideas to the table. A nanny knows, supports and works to help implement your family's philosophy about such things as diet, media consumption, discipline, and sleep. A nanny is engaged in your children's lives and contributes positively to their development as little emerging people. And she/he has fun while doing so. Basically, Mary Poppins without the priss-pot attitude. We've been lucky. The three women who have been our children's nannies over the last 5 years have been all of these things and more.

I'm now in the throes of trying to hire someone for this Tue/Thur position, and I've been amazed at the cluelessness of some applicants. If you happen to be reading this post and you are looking for a nanny job, try to not do any of the following:

1. Cancel your interview 30 minutes beforehand because you are "too tired from working six days this week." You think you're tired? Try on my life for a few days. If you are too tired even to sit down over coffee and talk to us, there is no way you are going be able to handle our active 3 year old rascal and her 5 year old drama queen sister. Fail.

2. After cancelling your interview, attempt to reschedule it during the workday. Um, hey there, the reason I need a nanny is because I WORK DURING THE DAY. No, I will not be scheduling an interview with you "mid morning" after you have presumably had your beauty rest because that is more convenient for you. Double Fail.

3. Repeatedly misspell basic words in your resume. Anyone who has graduated from middle school should know how to use word processing tools. I know I'm not hiring a schoolteacher or a copy editor, but come on, use the grammar and spell checks! They're free! It takes 2 minutes! I can forgive a "it's" for an "its" every once in a while, but five misspelled words, three misused words (e.g., "where" for "were" - really?) and countless punctuation errors in a short two-pager of a resume = not detail-oriented enough to keep up with two preschoolers.

4. Have a blog that reminds me of that chick who was my buddy's psycho ex-girlfriend. I can probably find your blog/twitter account in less than 5 minutes on Google. If it's public, it's fair game. I know blogs often serve as expressions of a person's deepest feelings and perhaps we shouldn't judge people based on their scary blogged thoughts, given that darkness is in all of us. However, when the actual facts of your life that you choose to highlight and make public to the world on your blog make you look like a tragedy magnet, you are likely not getting hired to take care of our precious children.

5. Engage in Facebook Foolishness. Even with limited privacy settings, I can still usually find your profile picture. I can usually also see your "likes" and other things that give me clues as to who you are. I would not refuse to hire someone because they are drinking beer or acting goofy in a FB picture (because that would be a total double standard given my own behavior). But if you appear unhinged, I'm not taking any chances.

6. Make ugly remarks about your current/past charges or their families. Gossipy, rude comments do not endear you to me, especially if you are trying to buddy up by contrasting us or our choices in comparison. If I specifically ask you "what is something that has bothered you in past jobs?" or something like that, by all means answer honestly, but you can do that diplomatically without slamming a mom or calling a kid a brat. Actually, never refer to a child as a "brat." It's a sign that you come to snap conclusions about a child's character based on exhibited behavior. To be clear, this is a bad thing. Caregivers should judge a behavior and have or develop an intention about how to address it, not judge the child. All kids can act up from time to time, and all "brats" have a nugget of goodness in there somewhere. It's your job to help bring out that goodness and work cooperatively with the parents to change the undesirable behavior, not place a label on a child.

7. Have a photo on your resume that screams "I've got a 'tude". You need to appear cheerful, loving, honest - the epitome of a shiny happy person. If you are throwing a Snooki pout in a photo on a nanny resume (I swear, I actually got one of these), I am not going to even call you.

8. Lie. I will probably catch you, and even if I don't, some instinctual warning bell will go off in my head about you and I'll know something is wrong.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ACL on the horizon. And the kids are going to be alright.

Ah, the Austin City Limits festival!

I am particularly excited about this year's ACL because (1) I am not pregnant, (2) it's in mid-October so maybe it won't be over 100 degrees, (3) I have new sassy rain boots and a bright orange poncho to wear in case it rains, (4) I have access to one of the backstage VIP areas (free drinks and snacks! clean porta-potties!), and (5) both of my kids are finally old enough to go for at least a few hours.

ACL being much on my mind at the moment, here are some bossy and somewhat judgmental observations about attending ACL with young kids (under 6, in my case):

1. Know and respect your family's limits. Do you really think your 3-year-old can handle the full 11 a.m. -10 p.m. day at ACL? In the heat/rain/noise? Getting stepped on by staggering college kids in the dark? I think you know the answer. Consider this schedule: get there right when the gates open, early in the day for some non-crowded fun. Start out in the covered CLEAR4G tent (i.e., what used to be called the gospel tent - I don't know if people still refer to it that way) for some rousing gospel tunes and then go a couple of hours at the Austin Kiddie Limits area. Kiddie Limits is awesome. Last year I actually had more fun there than anywhere and not just because E got to go on stage with Lulu from Thievery Corporation (see photo below). It's nice and shady, the bands are fun, there are all kinds of art and other activities for the kids, and it's next to the volleyball sand pits. Which they turn into a "beach" and which are also shaded. Walk around a bit to hear parts of some non-kid bands, have some late lunch, maybe head back to the "beach."

Then right as they are about to get to their grumpy place, which is sometime in the mid-afternoon for us, take them the heck home (or better yet, have them retrieved at Shady Grove or somewhere), leave them with a family member or sitter, and go back out to have grown up throw down time. OR, if the back and forth travel isn't an option (i.e., you bought two one-day passes instead of a wristband, SUCKAH!), consider having one day be "for the kids' sake" only, design that day totally from their perspective, and then go on the other day with just adults.

While I am generally of the "just try it!" mentality when it comes to adventures with kids like dining out in nice restaurants, camping, airline travel, or sitting through a full-length church service, I also believe you have to know when it's time to throw in the burp rag. If your monkey has completely lost it and is showing signs of dehydration, I don't care how much you paid for that ticket or how bad you want to see The Black Keys, pack it up and get her home asap. Sheesh. You're just making her, yourself, and everyone around you miserable.

2. Hydration, shade and sunscreen. Duh. Obvious, but had to mention it. I've seen some bad deals in past years. As in I-should-probably-have-called-CPS level bad.

3. Respect other festival goers. I know this sounds preachy, but . . .please don't make all the other parents look bad by, for example, wheeling your massive double-BOB up and parking it where you know darn well the dance pit is going to be. Please do not change poopy diapers right there in front of everyone! I know you are tired and you worked hard to position your blanket just so, but go over near the porta potties or behind a tree to do that. Don't let your kids run madly around and bother people who are there without kids - either because they don't have them or because they are paying someone $150 to keep them all day so they can by gosh enjoy the festival. Common sense, parents, common sense.

4. Food. Food at ACL is generally pretty fantastic for festival food, but it's expensive and they don't always like it, which can make the $7.50 per sandwich investment painful. Feed them a HUGE breakfast and last minute snack and then it won't be such an issue. Oh, and the sauce on those yummy Hudson's chicken cones is spicy - watch out for that.

5. Don't be confined to the kids area. Maybe a bit contrary to #1 above, let them try enjoying some "grown up" bands if things are going well. Just don't be a jerk (see #3 above) and don't try to force them to tolerate wall-to-wall sweaty stranger bodies or standing in front of a blaring speaker because you want to be close to the action. We tend to hover around the edges of the crowd. Dance, world music, gospel (the clapping! the swaying!), and hip-hop were all generally popular choices for my preschooler even if she wasn't familiar with the act. Oh, and if there is a Jack Johnson sound-alike playing this year, I guarantee they will love that dude. My girls think Jack Johnson is a kids' musician. And. . .they kind of have a point there, don't they?

6. Be prepared, but don't load yourself down with too much crap. I have seen some families make a Beverly Hillbillies thing of it and have one parent camp out at the "kids beach" with loads of supplies and sand toys and chairs and whatnot, and they use that area as a home base for their festival exploration operations. I think this might work okay if you have a group of several parents and slightly older kids than mine (mine are 3 and 5), but I like being mobile.

My ACL bag will have water, one snack per kid (shhhhh!), sunscreen, lip balm, sani-wipes, hand sanitizer, a fully charged cell phone, maybe a small camera, cash/cards/id, bandaids, a copy of the schedule and one insect wipe towelette (OFF makes them - yes, I know they are not natural, plant-based repellents in the OFF. Sometimes you have to go with the chemicals to get the convenience). Maybe some rain gear if that looks to be necessary. No blanket, no chairs. I even go stroller-free, but I am that way.

7. Safety first. See March 16 post below on crowd/festival safety. The "Tag a Kid" thing is key.
8. Relax some limits and get a little goofy. Let them get really dirty, let them have the extra sugar and the lemonade, let them get inappropriate temporary tattoos. Let them see you cut loose and dance wildly in the rain. It's just one weekend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Come and Take It. . . 2010 version

Reeling from the mainstream media bandwagon surrounding various greening efforts, and feeling near constant societal pressure to "reduce, reuse, recycle!," including listening to First E sing the Jack Johnson song of that name over and over, the grump in me has had enough. I am just going to go ahead and say it - sometimes I NEED plastic bags.

These thin, rustling symbols of environmental irresponsibility have an important place in family life, especially when you have very young children. I am tired of not having one around when I need it, and of getting the stinkeye from a checker for purposefully not using my own bag because I need to replenish my diminishing home stash. We do lots of nice green things, what with the green products, the shopping locally, fixing leaky faucets, turning off of lights, waste-free lunches for the girls, unplugging of things and such, and yes, we do have our own reusable bags. Which we use most of the time, I swear, with all the smug self-satisfaction I can muster at the checkout stand.

But dang, y'all, do I have to give up plastic bags entirely. . . really?If plastic bags are eliminated, what will I use to . . . clean out the cat box? Cart home baby and toddler clothes soaked with fluids (and sometimes solids, let's be honest) I don't want seeping around in my bag? How to . . . wrap up a diaper on the go, especially if it happens to be a cloth one? Pick up after the dog on a walk? Pick up dead birds, snakes or cucarachas, or the cat's vomit after she eats a bird/snake/cucaracha?

I supposed I am expected to come up with some washable, reusable option for each of these messy little chores, or purchase a compostable item made from corn or something to fill the gap left when plastic bags finally disappear. In addition to the fact that I have neither the time nor the organizational skills to sketch out a specialized enviroplan for grody everyday situations, buying things leads to another source of guilt - excessive consumerism.

A few weeks ago I bought some adorable "non paper towels" and wipes as well as some reusable snack bags from the darling ladies at Curly Cupcakes, so I'm really trying here. But I spent over $30 on this stuff, and that was with the discount I got from a listserv. What of people who cannot afford to purchase a cute little resuable dirty diaper tote (aka a "wet bag") or biodegradable doggy do bag made from corn (assuming this product even exists)? Is the elimination of plastic shopping bags further proof of the clueless snootytude of the green movement? Are poor people just supposed to use their hands to scoop the poop? Not have a dog? There is a lot to think on here.

God Bless Target. It's a safe bet that Texas will go blue before Target stops offering those lovely, commodious, red and white plastic bags. Thank you, Target, for everything you have given to me and my family. Not the least of which is an unending source of cat box sanitation tools.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Dude, I thought YOU were watching her!?. . . "

It's March in Austin, when there are daily opportunities for free fun involving crowds, much of it kid-friendly. The Zilker Kite Festival, SXSW, the Rodeo, St. Patrick's Day festival . . .with a crowd comes the opportunity to lose your kids. Or to think you lost them. Or to blame your spouse for losing them.

I speak from experience. Last year at SXSW's family showcase at Auditorium Shores, we were enjoying a blissful sunny day of watching E dance in the kiddie mosh pit and chasing 1-yr-0ld S around. I went off to play with S in a non-crowded area, leaving JP in charge of E. When I came back, he was engaged in talking with a friend at the edge of the pit. I waited a respectful 20 seconds and then said, "where's E?" Actually, I think I might have said "WHERE THE F@#$ IS E, G-D IT?!!!" To which he responds "right over there" and points casually at the seething nest of wildly dancing children. I squint and scan. NO E. Freakout ensues, police are consulted, friends go flying in all directions on the grounds. . . E is located about 7 minutes later, crying in the lap of a wise mom who told her to stay put and that her parents would find her eventually. Turns out she'd gone off looking for me in the opposite direction and walked all the way over to the fence line. Jeez. Pretty much the worst parenting moment to date.

Since that horrible day, we've implemented a few checks and balances that not only have prevented either of our little adventurers from disappearing again, but have made us calm and happy in crowds and while traveling. Here's my list, particularly targeted for the preschool set:

1. Adult Accountability. At all times, whichever adult is "in charge" of whichever kid needs to be clear that he/she is in fact in charge and that this assignment doesn't change unless you say some magic words, even if three other people, one of which is the other parent, are standing there with you. Crowds, especially parties, tend to create a false sense of security in that everyone thinks "someone must be watching them." This is especially important when managing more than one critter. And this seems obvious, but. . .at least one of you has to stay completely bone dry sober. Relaxed inhibitions + slower reaction time = well, you know.

2. Mobile Phone Photo. Before you head out, take a full-length photo of your child using your phone in whatever he/she is wearing that day. If it's cold, take one with coat/hat and one without. Have them stand next to something for scale. This way if they get lost, you can instantly email that photo to everyone and anyone who might be able to help you search, and you have an up-to-date picture with exactly how your child looks on that day. Hey, it worked on that commercial with the college kids and the little lost dog, right?

3. Take advantage of "Tag a Kid" or similar festival resources. At the Austin City Limits music festival, the grounds incorporate a booth where you can sign up your child for a security band. Before we had children, we used to joke and say this would be better as "Tag A Drunk" in order to keep track of loser roommates and boyfriends with a predisposition for passing out, but now I totally get it.

4. Make your own ID. In the wake of the SXSW 2009 debacle, I spent about $50 on some custom-printed wristbands with child's first name and both of our cell phone numbers. You could also just write a cell phone number on a plain band, or with a Sharpie on their arm, and if you are worried about chestermolester types establishing rapport by reading your kid's name off of her wrist you could leave off the name. I have never tried those electronic kid-locator devices, because they seem lame and are expensive, and most of the places where we are in crowds are too noisy for them to work anyway. You can also write names and your contact info on their shoes, in their pockets, backpacks, etc., but I like the wristband because not only is it easy to see, it kind of reminds the kiddo about why it's there.

5. Teach kids the rules. Even a 3-year-old can understand: (1) stay close to mama and daddy, (2) don't run off, and (3) if you do get lost, find a mama with kids or a police officer and tell them "I am lost. Please call my mama." We play games with this now, and I take every opportunity to reinforce the three main rules. For example, when we are out and see an officer or security guard, I point him/her out and tell them that is what you look for if you get lost. We ask questions like "How can you tell if someone is a police officer?" "What does a police officer wear?"

6. Get involved. Meet your "neighbors." If you are at an event with lots of kids and parents, chat up the people around you and by gosh do not feel bad about saying, "hey, uh, your little dude is way over there by that tree." Also, attending events with friends who have kids of the same age is great for keeping them in check. I have found that E is much less wander-prone if she is with a little buddy.

7. Give clear boundaries within which they have freedom to roam. This worked great with E and her little friend W last weekend at Jo's. Jo's is a crowded outdoor coffee shop/venue with a big parking lot, cars coming and going, right off a busy street. Right when we got there, we showed them where they could and couldn't get to and can you believe it, they listened. We were there for at least an hour and they only needed a couple of reminders.

8. Bright clothing. Seems obvious, never thought of it until I almost went crazy searching that outdoor crowd for my little E dressed in her hipster muted browns and greens.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Yes, this is a gross post. Sorry. Just remember it's here so when you get that dreaded email from the school nurse about lice in your kids' class, you can come back to this.

We learned all about lice a couple of summers ago when E came home from a day camp with some critters. To be fair to the camp, it was a very lovely dance and theater camp, but they tried on/exchanged costumes and hats all day. Recipe for licedisaster right there. I spent a lot of time researching and trying out different things, even paying $10 for some Australian lady's online handbook about "Living Lice Free." I'm grossed out just typing that.

Anyway, here's my magic list on prevention and treatment. Since that awful experience a couple of years ago, we've dodged the cootie bullet everytime it's come up at school. And lest you think it's only my kids' hippie school that has a lice issue, last year Eanes (the fancy Austin district) had a rampant lice EPIDEMIC.


There are a lot of natural prevention products out there (Fairy Tales is my favorite), but in addition to the obvious (don't share hats, jackets or combs), there are some simple and inexpensive options for prevention. I do some or all of these things when we get "The Email" as well as after a break (holidays, summer) at school when kids have been traveling, hosting relatives, etc.

* Use tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner. You can just add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your regular shampoo/conditioner. Lice also hate lavender and coconut.

* Use a leave in conditioner or hair gel. Coating the hair makes it hard for the critters to stick to the hair shaft. You can also put some tea tree oil in this.

* Don't wash hair every day. It is easier for lice to attach to squeaky clean hair. This is counterintuitive, I know. But true fact -super clean kids get lice easier than dirtier kids.

* Put long hair in a ponytail and braid it. Finish with a good spritz of hairspray.

* My coworker swears by this one: dab a bit of tea tree oil/lavender around the base of neck. Use caution as some kids are sensitive to direct essential oil application.

* Check hair every day after kids come home from school - if you can catch them before they have a chance to lay too many eggs, eradicating them will be a lot easier.

* DON'T use Nix or other poisonous treatments "just in case!" They kill only live bugs, and there is no point in using these highly toxic treatments if there is no evidence of lice. That would be like taking a massive course of antibiotics because you heard a kid at school maybe had strep. If you are just freaking out and need to do something, anything, cover hair in coconut oil, put a plastic cap on and leave it there for 3 hours. That will smother whatever live bugs might be in there and also act as a repellent. And make hair really soft and nice smelling!


* First, stop freaking out. Your kid is not dirty, you are not a bad parent. It's not the school's fault either. Now that you've got that out of the way, let's move on.

* Like the overuse of antibiotics, the overuse of lice poison (Nix, Rid, and prescription stuff) has resulted in ever more resistant critter strains. Not only are they harsh on hair, the environment, and little neurosystems, the chemical treatments just aren't working anymore. Same thing with the home sprays. Lice aren't like fleas or ticks. They can't live more than 24 hours without a host, so you can just wash bedding, car seat covers, and clothes in hot water, soak combs/brushes in alcohol, bag up stuffed animals and pillows for a few days, and vacuum the daylights out of your house. If you can't help yourself, just use the hair poison ONCE, and then rely on daily manual nit removal, or a follow up nontoxic treatment.

* Even CVS and other mainstream drugstores nowcarry nontoxic treatments that work better than the poison. Cool Cuts for Kids (on Bee Cave) carries the "Fairy Tales" line, which has a treatment mousse that is supposed to kill live bugs but also dissolve nits, making it easier to remove them. I have not had to use this yet, but I have heard it works great. We have a box in the cabinet just in case.

* Once lice hatch, the new bugs (called a "nymph") are not able to reproduce for 7 days, which means if you (a) initially kill the live ones using whatever method you prefer (and please consider NOT using the toxins), (b) remove nits and any nymphs that might hatch out every day for a week, (c) wash clothes and bedding every day in hot water, then (d) use a follow up nontoxic "smothering" (covering the hair in coconut or olive oil for 3 hours) or other method about 5 days after your first treatment, then you're probably good.

* What is a nit? It's a very tiny little egg that is stuck to the hair shaft with a powerful "glue." If it brushes out easily, it's just dirt or dandruff. If you have to use your fingernails, it's a nit. Google images to help you see what they look like before you get started.

* Have two different people help with nit removal and to do the hair in sections. It's really hard to see those tiny little things.

Good luck.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Scottish Rite Children's Theatre - GO!

The SRT Children's Theatre is something else. Affordable, non-scary, modern interpretations of classic children's stories. The 45-minute shows are paced just right for young attention spans and the actors are adept at involving the young audience without allowing a melee. SRT says their shows are best for ages 3-10 (I'd say more like 3-8. 10-year-olds these days are mighty sophisticated.).

The productions take place in the dark wood-paneled, windowless, kinda dusty, historic building used by the Scottish Rite Masons since the late 1800's. Using backdrop screens that are over 100 years old. How cool is that? The first time we came here when she was 3, E was all, "Uh-uh. I am NOT going in there. No way," but after a few minutes of sitting in the lobby allowing her eyes to adjust to 120 years of darkness and staring at paintings of long dead old white men, she was all over it. My little goth in training.

They take out the center section of seats and put down mats for the children to use, which leaves plenty of room for you to find a seat nearby and still be able to see your child ("You go sit over with the other kids, love. I'll be here texting Daddy a to-do list and Facebooking."). Rules are simple and appropriate for the age group: keep your seat, don't talk over the actors, and if you get shushed, shush. Totally doable, shared in a humorous way ("take out a big stick of Bottom Glue and rub it alllll over your bottom. . .") and they even do a rules session for parents (the usual, involving cell phones and flash photography), which the kids think is hilarious. One thing to note - they do charge for every body that comes in the door, even if it's a tiny body. So when you are deciding which family members to bring along, be aware that you have to pay $4 for your infant (under 1 year). Kids over 1 are $8, and adults are $10.

Yesterday E and I (S was home napping) saw the SRT's production of Alice in Wonderland, which was exciting and snappy, even enjoyable for parents. Tweedledum and Tweedledee were played as a Bill and Ted-ish duo of teen goofiness, which may have gone over the heads of some of the kids, but still they laughed. The costumes were vivid, with just the right amount of glitz (Mad Hatter looked a bit pimpy, but I liked it), and they kept intact the perplexing madness so central to the original story while managing to make the show accessible to younger children. The trial scene in particular was fabulous, although the Red Queen's accent was confusing at times (I think she was going for Shrill, Slightly Insane Bavarian, but slipped in and out a bit). Show runs through March 28. Get tickets in advance because they tend to sell out.

Where else but in a town that celebrates pure wackiness could you experience outstanding kids' programming in such an intensely creepy location and love it? Perhaps I've been reading a few too many books with Knights Templar plots or subplots, but say "Masonic Lodge" to me and I'm checking over my shoulder for guys with swords and chalices. If you haven't been to a performance at the SRT (kid or adult), you have to go. Last year JP and I saw the White Ghost Shivers, who are strange enough in a regular venue, here, and he, having never been inside the lodge, looked at me sideways with (I'd like to think) new respect for my ability to find odd things to do . . . or it might have been fear, cause that particular WGS show, which included dancers, was W-E-I-R-D. It felt like we were in an episode of that old HBO show "Carnivale" - I kept expecting someone pale and smudged wearing tattered clothing to jump out and start bleeding from their eye sockets. Eeeesh. Awesome.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Family Restaurant Practice

Some of you may be lucky enough to have children who were perfect restaurant diners from birth, but my two are . . .let's just say if you took a dozen Rhesus monkeys, hopped them up on a case of Red Bull and put them in a burlap sack, the result would still would not be as squirmy as my children. They don't act up, exactly - there's no throwing food, crawling under tables, screaming, or anything, it's just stressful trying to keep them still and seated.

Most other parents I've talked to who have my type of active kiddo either (1) have resolved to just eat at home until they turn 6, or (2) force the issue and create misery all around. I don't like either of those options, because while I do want them to become accustomed to eating in nice sit-down restaurants (visions of elegant dinners with my two young daughters, dressed to the nines, clinking glasses of juice, other diners smiling in admiration at their poise and maturity . . .) I am not willing to ruin other diners' experiences or spend a bunch of $ on a meal I end up hating because I'm spending the whole time keeping them in their seats. And it's completely unfair to the kids, too.

Hence. . .Official Family Restaurant Practice. Aha! We've started doing this at, of all places, the IHOP. In particular, the one at Bee Cave and Mopac. Hear me out. Do I like menus with pictures of the food? No. I am not a big fan of the food at IHOP in general - it's just unimaginative and standard and corporate and all those things people who live in South Austin are supposed to disdain. However: they are lightening fast, cheap, and if you go at 5:00 on a weekday to the one I'm talking about, empty. I think it's empty because it doesn't get truckers and travelers - it's not adjacent to a La Quinta. Bee Cave and Mopac is an odd location for an IHOP. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen one off of the highway before.

It's enough of a sit-down place that you can practice manners, but not much of an investment in time or money, and there will be no one there but a couple of tables of senior citizens to bother. We try to request tables a respectful distance away from those folks if they are available. We are very intentional about Restaurant Practice. We made a game out of it, and talked about . . . how to order, saying thank you to waitstaff, tipping, where the napkin goes, etc. I can't believe it took me this long to come up with this. The difference between being intentional about it and just practicing by going out to dinner with friends or on the fly is that when you give a name to something, ours take it seriously and enjoy it. And the food is all simple enough that they'll eat most anything on the menu.

School is closed tomorrow, so I think we'll try it out then. So stay out of the IHOP if you want peace and quiet tomorrow afternoon!