Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In a Parental State of Mind

Well, the kiddo and I just got back from a talent show overseen by my brother's girlfriend, who teaches music at a local Catholic school. I'm just gonna say it -- there sure were a lot of budding bosoms and booties being shaken in a provocative manner, especially for a Catholic school. Doesn't anyone teach little girls how to dance (and dress) without looking like little hookers? (And no, my brother's girlfriend was not responsible for the jiggling.)

One little boy (and I mean little) wore a suit and stood in front of a microphone to tell jokes. He was awesome -- he remembered all but one. ;^) Some kids sang, others "danced," some played musical instruments, two kids did some creative version of Stomp with broomsticks and paint buckets, and a coupla kids did some kind of mariachi dancing that was a very nice change of pace from the overwhelming amount of hip-hop boobie-booty shaking (and more bare midriffs than you could shake a stick at).

I'm feeling old. I'm also thinking maybe some kids didn't get their costumes approved by "Sister Principal."

Oh, and the volume of the recorded music was deafening. What? I didn't hear what you said -- I was DEAFENED by the MUSIC. *ears ringing* The kiddo was so bothered by the music that he at first kept his hands over his ears and eventually refused to sit in the auditorium, opting to sit outside on the ground, playing his Game Boy.

Overall, though, the kids were very cute, and very proud of themselves, and I was all misty-eyed at their cuteness. When I wasn't disturbed by all the shimmying and microphone feedback, that is.

My son was somewhat intrigued by the talent show concept, though, and wondered aloud on the way home what his talent should be when he's old enough to participate in a school talent show.

Ah, just a couple more years... ;^)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Perfectly Imperfect Suits Me Just Fine

This morning my big five-year-old came home and we meandered down to Starbucks for a little catch-up. I bought him a milk and let him order my usual, a chai tea latte (which sounds cute when he says it, because he doesn't really say his L's), and we sat down so he could show me how to play his new Game Boy game that Daddy got him for the trip. The kiddo wanted to sit on my lap the whole time, and I let him.

Later, when we arrived home, he discovered a plastic car that I'd (gasp!) removed from a cereal box in his absence, and he was inexplicably ticked off. Like, so annoyed that I wound up giving him a time-out for sassing me. More than once. After some tears (on his part) and hugs (mutual), we were finally ready to run a few errands. I swear, we were out for about three hours and he did not stop talking once. Really, he was in a fabulous mood the whole time, telling me about a movie he was making up and insisting that I watch it sometime. (It's pretend, people!) I was worn out from listening and mm-hmm-ing, but also quite amused by my little chatterbox. He definitely gets that from me.

Right now we're enjoying a quiet break, but he came upstairs a few minutes ago to pick up the plastic car that triggered his earlier upset. As he casually headed downstairs, car in hand, I said fondly, "You're a happy boy this afternoon, eh?"

His matter-of-fact reply: "Oh, yes. I'm not having that taking-the-car-out-of-the-box issue any more."

I'm glad he's back.

Grow It, Show It

So the kiddo is coming back in about 40 minutes and I'm excited. I'm already planning an outing to the park to climb around and play soccer. Is it my imagination or is the weather just more beautiful today? ;^)

In other news, I am so sick of my hair. It's very long (about to the small of my back), mainly because I've been too cheap to get my hair cut. Hey, if I'm not going to spend money on my son's hair, you know I'm not going to spend it on mine when it's content to just hang there. The thing is, it's naturally gray and it's very difficult to color because of the length. In fact, I've had to resort to buying two boxes of color every month and something in me just can't accept that. The other thing about having such long hair is that it's heavy. And sweaty (at this time of year). And hard to detangle. And flat. Okay, so I mentioned more than one thing. Nevertheless, just when I resolve to get a haircut, I run into my next-door neighbor, who had a weave in order to wear long hair, and she tells me my hair looks pretty. I'll admit I'm enough of a ninny that this stalls my haircut plans. Hey, I love compliments, and my hair is the one thing about my appearance that I'm actually still relatively happy about at the moment. (More on that some other time.)

(I should mention that I know I should just be grateful for my hair and stop whining about it. Please know that I'm not whining, though. It's just a slow blogging day around here.) ;^)

Regardless, the hair inconvenience remains, and I long to grab a scissors and chop it off myself. The other day, however, I revisited Locks of Love to see what the minimum donation length is. Can you guess? Ten inches. I pulled out my trusty ruler and measured my hair, and I have maybe twice that. Not that I'm going to cut it all off. Rather, what I'm going to do is grow my hair until the end of summer and then have about a foot cut off. (Locks of Love does take colored hair in good condition -- I checked.) After all, I'm so close to having more than enough hair to spare. Why waste it now? Cutting off twelve inches at summer's end will leave me with a nice, shoulder-length 'do, which is what I wanted in the first place, and will make someone else happy. Go to the site and see the photos. They made me cry.

Anyway, now that I see myself as kind of a temporary surrogate hair-grower, I feel much better about dealing with this mop. to wait for my son, who's now due in 20 minutes!

Yay! :-)

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Bunny Landed This Morning

Well, this morning I got a phone call from my son's dad right after they landed. My bunny is back in town! We agreed that the kiddo could stay at his dad's house tonight and return home tomorrow morning, but I did get a chance to talk to the little guy on the phone. I asked him how the trip was; his reply: "Fine, fine, it was fine," with a little grownup inflection. I've missed that sweet voice.

I think a play day is in order for tomorrow. :-)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Waiting for the Kiddo

My bunny is flying back tomorrow, but may return home on Tuesday. I miss him a bunch, and made sure to call the airline Saturday afternoon to verify that his flight to St. Louis had landed safely, since my son's dad wasn't likely to phone with the information. Of course, it had landed just fine, but you know how a mom can feel about her kiddo's traveling without her. *sigh*

I was thinking about a recent time when I was playing with the kiddo and we were bouncing all over my bed, giggling like a couple of fools. I launched a sneak tickle attack on the boy and crowed, "How do you like me now?" to which my son, suddenly serious, replied, "I like you very much." He kills me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well, Maybe Just One

My boy is going to Missouri with his dad (and dad's girlfriend) over Memorial Day weekend (sniff, sob, don't get me started) to celebrate his other grandma's eightieth birthday. Apparently there's going to be a big birthday bash in the tiny town of ________. I kinda miss these family gatherings; my son's dad's side of the family was always pretty interesting, and I mean that in the best way. I always enjoyed our time spent visiting them; I doubt my son's dad really understands this, as he's said on several occasions that he can't believe he came from such stock. But they're good people, struggling to find their way, as we all are, and they were nice to me. Most importantly, they have a sense of family history, which I find inspiring. I miss them.

Anyway, in preparation for my son's big trip, we went to the store last night and picked up a few items to keep him busy on the plane: an activity book (mazes and connect-the-dots, in addition to coloring), travel-size Play-Doh, a deck of cards (Crazy Eights, anyone?) and a few other things. Today I told the kiddo I wanted to trim a couple of spots on his hair so he'd look nice and fresh for his grandma. "But why?" he asked, "Everyone says my hair looks so nice." Funny boy.

I insisted, and he balked again. "Why can't we just get it done at the shop?" he wanted to know. Because shop haircuts cost about $15, I told him. "That's not that much!" he said.

We'd already had a similar conversation last night, and I'd resorted to telling him how many grocery items we'd be able to buy for $15. For instance, I said, we could buy about 45 boxes of macaroni and cheese at Wal-Mart for $15. Or at least 15 loaves of bread. I picked foods he could relate to. "Mommy," he finally said, "now you're just starting to freak me out."

Today when he once more told me $15 isn't a lot of money, I tried a different approach. Would you rather I step on your toe zero times, or fifteen times, I asked. "Zero," he answered. See? I said. Fifteen is a big number when you think about it that way. I persisted: Would you rather have zero spiders crawling on you, or fifteen? "Zero," he said again. I pointed out that Mommy would rather spend zero dollars on a haircut, instead of fifteen. I couldn't just stop there, though, so to be funny, I asked: Would you rather have zero boogers flicked on you, or fifteen? (Seeing as little boys are all about boogers. Seriously, do not ask. Lately the kiddo has begun ambushing me with super-fun [not] games of "wipe a booger on Mommy." I'm doomed.)

His answer: "Um, one?"

You can see we're very genteel people. ;^)

Five Whole Smackeroonies

We're a Nielsen family this week, which means we (I) have to write down every TV show we watch in a TV diary. That's right; the Nielsen folks don't hook up a little black box to the TV. You gotta write everything yourself, or scream it out to your mother so she can write it down. I'm just sayin'. They sent us five whole dollars for our trouble, in the form of five crisp singles, which we promptly spent on fish tacos. There's nothing like having to be accountable for every show I choose. I've actually found myself choosing not to watch a particular program because I don't want to write it down. I'm just that honest about it all. Ahem.

With that in mind, one burning question remains: What do I do about the time the TV stays on long after I've zonked out on the couch? ;^)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Birdies Are Back

Update: The guy from the Adubon Society called me yesterday and we had a nice chat in which he confirmed that the birds are indeed cliff swallows. I feel strangely proud of myself for identifying them online (pictures and birdsongs and behavior -- woo-hoo!)...and also quite nerdy. ;^) Of course, a few years ago I did date a rather nice man who was into birding. Hmm. Maybe I should take the Audubon guy up on his invitation to check out the Web site and maybe write for them.

Oh, and the birdies are still attempting to build nests on the side of the building behind me, and two neighbors are periodically rinsing the eaves with the hose. I wonder who'll win. Ah, swallows, I hardly knew ye.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In the Spring a Young Bird's Fancy Lightly Turns
to Thoughts of Species Propagation

So far I haven't been able to get a picture of the mysterious birds because they absolutely do not stand still or even slow down, except when they disappear under the eaves next door, then suddenly reappear en masse, swooping down in one big movement. As I write, it's 6:30 a.m. here and the birds are back. I'm watching them and looking up birds for the San Diego area. So far, based on pictures I've seen online, as well as songbird files I've listened to, I suspect we have a flock of cliff swallows.

Just the same, I've also got the phone number for the San Diego Audubon Society and will be calling them around 9:00. The woman who answered the phone at the police department yesterday (I was calling for Animal Control [for information -- not to get rid of the birds] and the calls go through the same person) said she thought they sounded like parrots, but I don't believe that's right.

The sound is really something, especially in the early morning hours (the birds have been back several times since yesterday, the latest being their reappearance around 5:30 a.m. today) when everything else is quiet. The fast, constant buzzing/chittering and chirping is punctuated by the occasional mourning dove cry. In fact, the doves are scattered on the power lines, just kind of noting all the hullabaloo below. This amuses me.

As I've mentioned before, I live literally yards from a lake/reservoir, with a large field/easement directly next door (at the end of summer we'll see prisoners cutting down dry brush there) and a lot of birds come through on a year-round basis. We have the usual crows, sparrows, mockingbirds and mourning doves (which I think of as "wakey birds" because I hear them cry outside my window in the wee hours of my insomnia), as well as ducks, geese, coots, pelicans, swans, hawks and turkey vultures. And that's just naming a few.

We also have plenty of mice, squirrels, rabbits and snakes (and fish in the lake) to keep the predatory birds busy and well fed. At night, I can occasionally hear cicadas (?), and the rest of the insect population is surely kept on their toes (toes?) by the critters who snack on them.

Seriously, the birds are still buzzing and chirping, and it's been about 75 minutes so far. It's amazing. I guess I might not think it so amazing if they were nesting/mating under the eaves of my building. In fact, the man across the way just came out and yelled at the birds, stomped his feet, and sprayed them with the hose. Either he's just annoyed, or he knows (?) they'll set up shop for a long time if they're not discouraged...?

If it's the noise that's the issue, the irony is that this man constantly works on his cars with noisy equipment in his garage, and also rides a loud motorcycle with his radio turned up full volume, and never bothers to shut off the radio when he pulls into our complex and lets the engine idle while he fiddles with his gear. So, um, I can see why he's bothered by the sounds of birds. Ahem.

Of course, I do recall being exasperated with a mockingbird at 4:30 a.m. when I lived with my son's dad, and tossing and turning so much that he finally went outside and tried to discourage it with the hose. ;^)

Now the swallows (?) have dispersed for the time being, and all I can hear are the doves and mockingbirds. Oh, wait, they're back.

Things are getting interesting.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Great Way to Freak Yourself Out... Googling symptoms of strange biological occurrences. We all know this. So why did I search on "swollen ankles" when I know I spent almost all of last night sitting at my desk, sans sleep, trying to sort out a panicked student's paper? Oh, and do ya think the fact that I've gained at least 30-35 pounds in the last five years has something to do with it, too?? But no, I had to Google and see all sorts of scary possible diagnoses, and now I'm on the verge of hyperventilating.

Off to freak out a bit more...then to take the kiddo for a walk...and later put my feet up.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


Polly Wanna Leave My Garage Alone?

Wow. Today a chirping, chittering (they really have an electrical crackling sound), swooping flock of birds set about diving between my building and the one behind it (and roosting under the eaves of the building behind me). They stayed for maybe 30 minutes or more, and there were at least 40 of them. And they were LOUD. I've never seen anything like it here before. They didn't look like parrots to me, but the woman at Animal Control said they probably were. What an event! The kiddo and I watched out the window for a few minutes before I got nervous about encouraging him to stand near the third-story windows. Then the birds finally swooped outta here and left things as quiet as they were before.

Now they're back. Really, it's like The Birds out there. Unbelievable.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The other night, the kiddo and I were at Wal-Mart, shoulder to shoulder with the bargain-seeking masses, letting their massive carts block the aisle and generally creating a fairly quiet traffic jam in the greeting card aisle. As I evaluated various cards (pretty enough? sappy enough?), my son examined the groceries scattered around him in the cart.

"I'm gonna eat this!" he announced, holding up a box of mac-n-cheese. "And, oh good, we got bread!" Squish. "Look, I can stack it right on top of the peanut butter!"

I'm very good at aha-ing and mmhmm-ing at my son's commentary while going about my business, so I practiced this a bit while nudging my way deeper into the card-seeking crowd.

"What's this?" my son asked. "I said, WHAT IS THIS?"

I turned around in time to see him hold a box of pantiliners over his head. "Are these the things that go RIGHT HERE on you?" he asked loudly as he poked his finger very deliberately into his crotch. "I said, ARE THESE THE THINGS THAT GO RIGHT HERE ON YOU?" Poke-poke-poke.

That's why yesterday my mom got a silly card with a mouse on it and some verbiage I can't remember.

And why I might start paying more attention to my son's shopping cart ramblings in the future.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

Carol's son wrote a Mother's Day card for her that was utterly adorable, so I thought I'd see how the kiddo would respond to the same items. Here's how it went:


Your age is: 39 (Bingo!)

Your weight is: 20 (Twenty what? Pounds? Sacks of potatoes? I'm not sure.)

You’re as tall as: Daddy (Thankfully no.)

I want to take you on a trip to: [laughing] Video Game World (I don't think this is a real place, but if it were, I'd go there!)

If I had a lot of money I’d buy you: a grown-up show (I hope he buys me something lucrative, like Lost. Oh, wait...maybe he means he'd buy me a DVD?)

Your favorite food is: salad (I can't even remember the last time I ate a salad, but it sounds good right now.)

I make you happy when: I laugh (How could I be otherwise?)

You are so: happy right now (Oh, if only he knew...)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

(But What Is It?)

Today the kiddo came back from his dad's house happy. Of course, he also brought the Gamecube (I really need to figure out how to spell these compound words -- Game Boy? GameCube?) with him, so he's merrily playing away for the moment while I make some work-related calls. I always feel off balance at the beginning of an assignment, then the client seems happy with the result. Funny how that works, and yet the feeling persists. I'm doing my best to notice it and let it go.

. . .

The kiddo's haircut looks better to me this morning. Of course, if I had my druthers, I'd work on it more, but I might just leave it for a few more days and let him settle into it. No sense in inflicting daily haircutting on the delicate soul... ;^)

. . .

I'm branching out into other areas of work. It's slow going, to be sure, and I'm still working out my pricing structure. I offer a valuable service, so I want to charge accordingly, but I also don't want to alienate clients. Hmm.

. . .

Last night I watched the "reunion" show of Top Chef, which was emotional as usual. One chef called cooking an art, which it is, but I hadn't thought of it that way in terms of the chefs' emotional approaches to cooking. Interesting. There was one segment in which the producers singled out various quotables and played the appropriate clips ("I'm not your bitch, bitch!" and "You're a tool and a douche bag!" are two [ahem] notable quotables). One thing, however, that was said by just about every chef at one point (backed up by many, many clips):

"It is what it is."

Ah, yes. :-)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Haircut Hell

You know what's fun? Trying to save a few bucks by cutting the kiddo's hair myself, only to have him become hysterical and decide halfway through that he's having no part of it. Except come to think of's not fun at all.

Guess he'll just have to look like something out of Oliver Twist. :-/

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weird? You Bet

Some time ago I was tagged by Mary at Mary's Owlhaven for the 6 Weird Things meme, and I had to think about it for a while -- not because I'm not weird, but because I had to limit myself to six items. ;^) Anyway, here goes:

1. I have to sit in a certain place at certain restaurants. When I was in college, my then-boyfriend and I went to the Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset Boulevard and were seated in a remote banquet room by ourselves, instead of in the main room (where all the action is!). I actually cried and we changed tables. Okay, so I was PMSing like crazy at the time, but I do have to sit where all the action is. ;^) (I should add that my then-bf was commendably tolerant of my behavior at the time.)

2. I have a weird fascination with rhythm and patterns. When I was in high school, I was on the drill team and we counted to eight over and over during every routine to keep us on the right step. As a result, I still occasionally catch myself counting to eight while walking or filling a water glass. Also, ever since I was a kid, whenever I play a game like Solitaire or Tetris for some length of time, I find myself relating to the world in terms of whatever patterns were in the game. Oh, and I often catch myself tapping out rhythms with my teeth. Very annoying, and probably makes me look like a crazy, teeth-clacking lady.

3. I have to lie in a very particular position in order to fall and stay asleep: waaay on my left side (like, practically on my belly), "flamingo legs" (right leg pulled way up and left leg down straight), left arm extended 45 degrees, and right arm clutching the blanket up to my chin. Oh, and I have to have my ear covered or I just don't feel right. If I'm really exhausted, I can fall asleep in some other position, but then I wake up a couple of hours later and have to assume the "correct" sleeping position in order to get back to sleep.

4. I will not wear yellow. In fact, yellow is my least favorite color (unless we're talking about yellow flowers). That said, I do like that really pale antique yellow that was used for cars in the fifties or so. I have a huge can of it in my garage, awaiting a project.

5. I hate having unexpected visitors so much that I will turn down my TV and hide if I hear the doorbell. I've been like this ever since I was a kid. I like to have a little (okay, a LOT) advance notice before having visitors. Yes, even when the house is clean. Which it rarely is.

6. I cry at everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I will cry at a high school basketball game, at a Hallmark commercial, when I hear a good song on the radio, while reading, you name it. And yes, some things that make me cry are genuinely tragic. Others are moving for other reasons. And the rest are a mystery to me. My son used to be a bit worried if he saw me cry (I used to tell him my "feelings [were] just leaking out"), but now he pretty much ignores it. I'm not sure how I feel about this. ;^)

I'm supposed to tag six people, but I think a lot of folks have done this one already. If you haven't already done it and want to be tagged, please let me know in the comments section or just go ahead and post your weird things on your site and let me know about it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Everyday Lessons

I had four boxes of men's hair dye (left over from my dad's hair-coloring phase, now abandoned) to give away, so I posted an ad on Craigslist, found a taker and made arrangements to meet him at a nearby Starbucks. The skies were cloudy, but the kiddo and I were due for a little walk.

Upon reaching the Starbucks patio, my son spotted a green parrot perched on the back of a chair. The parrot's owner was as colorful as her charge: strawberry blonde hair; ultra-tiny, twinkling facial piercings; gauzy, flowing turquoise skirt and tiny, black tank top; scrolling, thin-lined tattoo on the left side of her chest; and a smile that more than made up for the gray weather. How she wound up with the surly-looking guy seated nearby, I couldn't begin to figure.

We were early for our meeting, and I didn't see the blue car I'd been told to look for, so when the kiddo asked if we could talk to the parrot, I told him to ask the owner. I always tell my son that it's okay to say hello to strangers when he's with Mommy or Daddy, but not okay if he's by himself. So far he's never been by himself in public, so the latter is a non-issue at this point.

The parrot's owner was happy to bring the bird over to us, and invited us to pet it. "He's really, really tame," she said, "and he especially likes kids and women." I'd never touched a bird that size, and I was surprised by the almost waxy feel of its feathers; I'd expected them to feel fluffy and light, but they felt stiff and coated. Interesting. My son was a bit wary, especially when the bird inched over as though it wanted to climb onto his arm; the bird was about to use its beak to grasp my son's sweatshirt sleeve, and the kiddo recoiled. I explained that birds use their beaks sometimes to grab onto things, but I made sure the kiddo's face stayed away from that sharp, curved beak. The owner set the parrot on the back of a chair near us. As I leaned over to pet it, it started doing that thing large birds do, galumphing sideways, step by step. My hair, which is quite long these days (about to the small of my back) was hanging down near the bird, which dipped toward me as I flipped my hair out of the way. "He loves long hair," explained the owner. "He likes to hide in it."

"Wow, Mommy," said the kiddo, "seeing this parrot is making me think I would like to have a parrot for a pet." I told him he'd have to be a lot older, like maybe a grownup, before he could get a parrot, and he wanted to know why. "Because parrots need special care and live for a long, long time," I said. The owner agreed. "They're like two-year-olds, but with the right diet and care they can live up to seventy years," she said.

A man in a parked blue car glanced at me. "Are you ____?" I mouthed. He smiled, opened his door and approached the patio. As I handed him the bag of hair color, he smiled again and I noticed he was missing some teeth. He wore aviator-frame glasses and a baseball hat, and a small ponytail extended just past the back of his collar. "You can tell I really need this, right?" he asked, scratching playfully at his short, gray beard. I smiled and shrugged politely. "My dad used to color his hair, but he gave up on it," I said. "I'm just glad someone can use this stuff." He thanked me and, before leaving, squeezed my elbow gently and thanked me again. It wasn't a creepy gesture at all; rather, it was a handshake kind of thing -- a small moment of connection. I wondered why he wanted to color his hair. Maybe a job interview coming up? Maybe a date? I felt good about being able to give him something he could use.

We turned our attention back to the parrot, which eyed us steadily and responded to our repeated hellos with "Hi" or "Hello," much to our delight.

"He likes you!" the owner exclaimed. "Look at his eyes." Indeed, the bird's pupils were dilating and contracting somewhat rapidly. It was wild. I'd never seen anything like it. "Their eyes dilate when they like something," the owner said. "And look how he's fanning his tail. He really does like you." She seemed pleased, and for some strange reason, I enjoyed thinking the bird liked us, as if that said something meaningful about us as people. Silly, perhaps, but it's always nice to be liked, eh?

After buying an overpriced cup of plain milk for my son, who'd already had milk at home, but who seems to believe there's something special about Starbucks milk, we headed for home. On the way, I pointed out a clump of short, bright-orange flowers stubbornly growing next to the sidewalk. "Those are California poppies," I told the kiddo. "Aren't they pretty?" He agreed that they were indeed pretty, and we continued on. Something across the street caught my eye, and I dragged my son along to investigate. "Wow!" I exclaimed. "See these big flowers that look like fried eggs? These are my favorite -- Matilija poppies," I said. "Hey, today you've seen two kinds of poppies in our neighborhood: California poppies and Matilija poppies. Neat, huh?"

My son paused to consider this for a moment. "So is there a state called Matilija, too?" he finally asked. I grinned and tousled his hair. "Nope, but that's a very good question," I told him. And on we walked.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My son just told me yet again about some new Swiffer thingie that costs $9.99. "That's not that much, is it, Mommy?" he asked. He seems very interested in Swiffers. Should I be worried?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Purple Potatoes

Not a lot going on here, aside from the usual money angst. Oh, and my folks are getting old and starting to have health problems that really worry me. But I can't really go there right this minute.

On a lighter note, I made purple mashed potatoes for my son last night -- just made them the same as regular mashed potatoes, but I started with Delta Blues or whatever they're called. He declared them delicious, and the best potatoes he'd ever tasted.