Thursday, November 30, 2006

Let it...

... snow, let it snow, let it snow. Yep, white stuff is actually falling from the sky as I type, although the quality and quantity pales in comparison to a decent Chicago snow. Still, the sight of our mupper trio standing shoulder to shoulder before the windowpaned door, watching in quiet awe as tiny white specks drifted down to earth, was a moment to treasure.

Until someone was suddenly standing too close to someone else, a shoving match ensued and many tears were shed. Now they're over that whole *snow* thing and have returned their focus to bouncing off the walls, fraying nerves (mine) and providing a shrill and disruptive soundtrack to fairly important business calls (Trey's).

Is it naptime yet?


Now showing at a red brick house in a neighborhood near you, it's Cabin Fever: The Fussiness. Hour one of this 15-hour action-packed sci-fi Kevin Smith-inspired dramedy is highlighted by a very special guest star: none other than Trey, in the star-making role of Daddy, who is working from home today because... well, it is cold outside.

(Just kidding, of course: it's more than cold. It's VERY cold. As in, the air temp dropped 30 degrees while I was frantically grabbing emergency rations at Central Market last night. Then it began to rain by the buckets. We're assured that precipitation of a seriously wintry sort will be falling by lunchtime, which will render the evening commute an impossibility.)

And now, back to the show. Cabin Fever: The Fussiness follows the trials and misadventures of three small, highly energetic children who will be forced to spend the day cooped inside their boring house, instead of at the park. Spoiler alert: cabin fever sets in, followed closely by fussiness.

The soundtrack for Cabin Fever is a running broadcast of our local news station, which has suspended its regular programming to bring us the latest breaking developments on today's weather crisis. So far, the latest development from the field is: it's VERY cold. And now, back to the studio.

Courtesy of the studio, we're able to watch a continuously updated scrolling list of school closings. Carter doesn't even have school today, and still we find ourselves watching the list with growing anticipation as it nears its alphabetical end.

C'mon, Westwood. C'mon, Westwood! AAAWWW: no Westwood!

So, no, the show's not very scintillating yet. But stay tuned for these potentially thriling plot twists:

How quickly and soundly will my resolve against children's television be beaten down?
Who'll draw the first reservation in the time-out chair?
Will we actually bake cupcakes, or just eat the raw batter for lunch?
At what point, if ever, will I change out of the oh-so-stylish maternity pajamas I'm currently wearing?
How long will Trey be able to stay holed up in his remote office (i.e., our bedroom) before the children remember that he's here and unceremoniously flush him out?

Don't touch that dial.

P.S. I was so touched by last night's emotionally moving missive from D Magazine's executive editor re: Arctic Blast 2006 that I just had to share it here. Get your tissues ready...

If someone reads this message, please tell my wife and children that I love them. The wintry mix is nigh upon us! Surely if I'm fortunate enough to wake on the morrow, the byways of this fair city shall be so covered with the frozen ice cold water stuff that I shant be able to venture out. I fear I've not procured enough potable water nor foodstuffs to survive the chill. This may very well be my last blog post. Pray for me.
Tim Rogers · 09:52 PM

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


We've got it so easy, in so many ways. I do know this, and am ever grateful. But sometimes, it's just hard.

For example:

It's hard to be 22 months old, to know exactly what you want, to have the burgeoning ability to verbalize your wants and needs... and to have your mother incorrectly and persistently assume that you're asking for a second helping of lunch when you are so clearly trying to discuss your fascination with dump trucks.

It's hard to get a head start on world domination when at every turn, you are rebuked for ripping toys (toys that, it should be noted, are just as equally yours) from your sister's hands. Surely the Donald never had to put up with such nonsense.

It's hard to retain your perspective, sanity, humor and hearing after a full day of mothering someone whose initial response to any altercation, misunderstanding, misappropriation or petty frustration is to scream at such a high pitch and consistent vibration that she regularly trips the glass break alarm.

It's hard to stay on your best behavior and follow someone else's rules when, after five straight hours of doing the same, every fiber of your being commands you to run down the long school hallway in a crazy zig-zag, throwing papers into the air and sharing your loudest and most realistic monkey impersonation with all passers-by.

It's hard to be 36 years old but feel like an eight-year-old with your nose pressed against the window, waiting in vain for a visit from your daddy, because he promised he'd come.

It's hard to tie up the loose ends of a mentally and emotionally taxing workday with one eye on the ticking clock, then beat your way through a haze of red tail-lights and stop-lights to your casa de crazy, where the inhabitants greet you with pent-up energy and demands, and give you stink-eye when you ask for a moment of privacy in the loo.

It's hard to get ten preschoolers to don their soccer jerseys and smile simultaneously for a photographic souvenir of their first-ever soccer team, when all they want to do is dash across the room and tinker with every one of the super-cool video games that are blinking and beckoning them from the arcade.

It's hard to drag three tired, underfed and overstimulated children from said arcade, buckle them into car seats against their will, take them home and fling them into their respective beds amid howls of protest.

Ten seconds later, when they are snoozing happily and peacefully, it's really, really hard to fight the urge to tiptoe into their rooms and pepper their sweet, sleepy cheeks with kisses and tears of mommy love, guilt, love, hope, love and more love.

P.S. It's not even remotely easy to be voted Favorite Family Photographer by a majority of mommies across the Metroplex, but Jen has done it. Bravo!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Ketchup? No, I'm not talking about the condiment; I'm talking about feeling woefully behind on everybigandlittlething, not excluding this sad, neglected cyberjournal. I'm talking about the punchline to the joke that Mia eventually spilled to Vincent in Pulp Fiction. Here's how she told it:

"So there's Papa Tomato, Mama Tomato and Baby Tomato walking along the street. Baby Tomato starts lagging behind, and Papa Tomato starts getting really angry. So, he turns around and squishes Baby Tomato and says, 'Ketchup.'"

Yeah, it's better on the screen than the page. What? You don't know this scene? Go find the movie right now and check it out for yourself. Unless you're my mother, in which case you should definitely NOT. Please, please trust me on this one.

Anyway: other than the giant hovering foot, all is well. Kids happy and healthy. Trey busy at work. Me busy here, there and everywhere. And, lo, a wintry mix looming on the horizon.

Tonight was all about fun, though: we had the Weintraubs over for dinner. Nanny would be disappointed to hear that I didn't cook for our guests; she'd be utterly appalled if she knew that said guests were actually called upon to retrieve dinner from P.F. Chang's. (Cringe.)

There's just no telling what she would think about our five funny urchins running wild 'round the house and creating noise at decibels that might well shatter glass.

To me, it was music. Happy, healthy kids, having a fabulous time. Eating a little, instigating an occasional skirmish, laughing a lot. Shrieking with delight when Trey walked in the door and knocking him off-balance with one massive group hug. Bidding each other good-bye long past the point of reason.

Now, they're tucked into their beds and sleeping soundly. As far as they're concerned, they're all caught up for the day. Think I'll take my cue from them and give my worries and coulda-shoulda-haftas a break for the night.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Oh, yeah: there was good food. There was good meat. And good God, we had a lot to eat. Thanks be for...

Two different stuffings; two choices of cranberry sauce, too. The turkey, the ham, the mashed potatoes and gravy. Green beans draped with caramelized onions, and candied yams, happily devoid of marshmallows. Deviled eggs, because they're always a good idea.

And then there was this year's surprise entry: thick triangles of polenta, smothered in cream and parmagiano-reggiano and kissed with garlic. I'll be fantasizing about this dish for at least another year.

The shame, number one: Ellie, who tirelessly and lovingly prepared all of this fine food, could barely taste a morsel because she was so congested.

The shame, number two: the minute that everyone had taken their seats, S began to shriek, "DaDO! DaDO!" Translation: "All done! ALL DONE! Release me from my booster seat at once or prepare to face my wrath!"

I described in detail the scrumptious feast that had been laid before him. He turned up his nose. I turned a deaf ear to his pleas. He shrieked louder. I began to shriek back, then recognized that it was to no one's benefit. So with a defeated sigh, I asked Trey to turn him loose, at which point he scrambled up into his father's lap and began happily squishing mashed potatoes between his fingers.

Let it be known that K is no fool: when she saw what an easy escape her brother had forged, she quickly pulled the same lever and received the same reward.

Meanwhile C, to my horror, kicked his feet up onto the tablecloth and proudly showed me every single mouthful of food he had chewed and not yet swallowed.

Trey's sister Lainie, who just KNOWS, thank God, shot me an encouraging smile and a hang-in-there wink when she overheard me mumbling, "I AM thankful for my children. I AM thankful for my children... "

Because needless to say, I am: no matter what they do or say or eat or how they behave. I'm thankful beyond words to be their mother. I'm overcome with gratitude for their father, my husband, who makes my heart skip a beat even as I feel like pulling out my own hair.

I'm thankful for the family he brought with him when we met, who loved me well before I deserved their love. I'm thankful for my brother-in-law and two gorgeous nieces who made complete the circle around our dinner table tonight.

I'm thankful for the family that birthed and shaped me; those who gathered today in San Antonio, Georgia and Alabama, and those who float freely through our memories.

Tomorrow, if all goes well and I actually heed the alarm clock, Trey and I will sneak out of the house before anyone else awakens, and we'll drive that familiar road to Austin. Bearing tickets to the rivalry we've never actually witnessed, we'll make our way to the football stadium for the last home game of the season.

We'll hope for a Longhorn victory. We'll hope to grab a copy of this year's KGSR compilation at our favorite record store on our way out of town. We'll hope that the muppers have given their grandparents an easy afternoon in exchange for their generosity.

But whatever happens, we'll continue to give thanks on this Thanksgiving weekend.

'Tis the season

Three things that make my grinchy heart grow at least three sizes too large:

1. I can no longer recall a time when I was able to watch any portion of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade without a catch in my throat. But this morning's broadcast? Augmented by the squeals and cheers of my three wee ones, who were utterly smitten with the giant floats, the intermittent musical acts and whatnot? Please.

2. Driving through the dark Texas night on some lonely back road as we made our way to Houston, I commandeered the radio and began gleefully flipping through the XM lineup. Came across two different channels for Christmas music, both of which offered halfway decent songs. Just when I thought that nothing could top Dean Martin's "Let it Snow," there it was: Vince Guaraldi keeping tune as the Peanuts gang sang "Christmas Time is Here." Perfection.

3. It is a crying, weeping shame that you're not here to breathe in the smells wafting from my mother-in-law's kitchen. Finely diced celery and onion dancing in a deep pool of hot melted butter. Some mystery blend of herbs and spices liberally sprinkled over a ridiculously large turkey that awaits its turn in the oven. Two pumpkin pies, cooling off on the kitchen table, and one pecan pie, baking to a golden brown.

All the while, she bustles and chops and stirs and whirls 'round the kitchen like a cooking machine, despite feeling several shades of crappy from some deviant cold bug that the muppers probably gave her last week. Truly, we are not worthy.

Off to make myself useful, I hope...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pack 'em up, move 'em out

The lights are dim, the TV is on and my contact lenses are in as I wake up on the couch, fuzzy-headed and frizzy-haired. My better half, who lulled me to slumber in the first place, has wisely relocated to bed. I glance at the clock: sweet Jesus, it's 3:00 a.m. All I need to do is remove my contacts, now adhered to my eyeballs, and I can drift back to sleep.

And then I remember: we are leaving for Houston in a few hours. I have to pack. With that last word, I am wide awake.

I love to travel, near or far. Just give me a destination (this is crucial: my sense of direction is worthless) and I'm on my way. Oh, sure; the pull of the road is loosened somewhat when the trio of howler monkeys in the row behind us becomes unglued, but that hasn't put a damper on my wanderlust. Let's go! Or, au francais: allons-y!

But the packing's another story. In theory, I like the order of it all: miniature bottles of goo and potions, hermetically sealed into ziploc bags; underwear in one pocket, shoes in another and coordinated outfits in orderly stacks. Pulling it all together, however, makes me want to fling myself dramatically onto the bed and beg or bribe Trey to take care of it for me.

At certain points in our relationship, I'm ashamed to admit, I used to do just that. Every so often, he would actually indulge me, usually when the stakes were high. Example: the driver is downstairs and the plane will leave for Rome without us if our bags are not filled and sealed, pronto. This scenario played out more than once.

Now, the stakes are still present (if we don't coordinate our departure with naptime, the muppers will revolt, and we'll be forced to eat dinner at some icky sticky roadside Dairy Queen) but are far less pressing. And even an indulgent man has his limits.

So I'm on my own. Hunting and gathering clothes large and small, which necessitates multiple loads of laundry, matching socks to shoes, picking out toys that might briefly stem a wailing jag or interrupt a backseat dispute, and setting aside sippy cups and snacks for the same reasons.

Or I could write this instead and then be a super-efficient, non-procrastinating one-woman packing machine in the morning.

That's the ticket.

Wherever you go, even if it's just to the grocery store for the eleventh time in 72 hours, I wish you safe travels on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Much love, F5

Thursday, November 16, 2006


She was born on this day in 1917. Here, 17 other things I know about Nanny.

1. She has no fear of food that’s clearly past its expiration date: she will ferret it from the furthest reaches of the freezer or pantry and consume it without compunction, claiming that she is merely "cleaning up a bit."

2. To everyone’s madness, she refuses to subscribe to call waiting. Her legion of chatty friends ensures that her phone is frequently busy.

3. She and her little brother Milt, who lives in Skokie, watch CNBC and competitively track the stock market together. In another time and place, she used to hold his hand and walk him to Wrigley Field so they could sit in the stands, watch the Cubbies and keep score together.

4. Until he wandered off to dog heaven, she would often inquire about Muddy’s well-being before asking about her great-grandchildren.

5. A little plaque hanging in her bathroom reads: Use what talents you possess. The woods would be silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.

6. At the age of 16, she was named valedictorian of her Chicago high school. This earned her a scholarship, but her father maintained that only boys went to college. So she went to secretarial school, and her brother went to Northwestern.

7. In 1977, she and my grandfather were driving home from a Shriner convention (yes, red fez and all) when their car was struck by a drunk driver. She was left a widow, with broken legs, arms and ribs. After some time in the hospital, she briefly lived with us. Sarah and I conducted puppet shows (for her amusement) and played card games (for ours) on her massive stretcher-wheelchair-bed.

8. Every Christmas, even now, she bakes a dazzling array of cookies for friends and family. She knows that my favorites are rum balls, so she made a special off-season batch for my birthday this year.

9. I’ve never known her to watch a soap opera, but she does enjoy a good Masterpiece Theater. She also adores the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

10. She’s survived one bout each of endometrial cancer and lung cancer, despite having never smoked. Shortly after her diagnosis of lung cancer, Trey and I went to Rome, where I prayed for her at the Vatican. Thankfully, the cancer was contained, and removed, along with half a lung.

11. She’s a Lutheran and is an active participant in her church’s prayer chain. In addition to praying for the problems, real and imagined, of countless others, she has called on the chain to pray for things like my missing contact case. (And my wandering sanity.)

12. As I’m sure every grandmother does, she has a very specific yet indefinable smell that’s sweet but clean with a touch of dusting powder. On special occasions, when she sends packages to the house, I bury my nose in the envelope and greedily breathe it all in.

13. When I was growing up, we would await Nanny’s visits with a heaping basket of clothes that needed mending. If I was lucky, she might also weave my hair into two very long braids. One year I was unlucky, and she sewed little matching jumpsuits for Sarah and me. Bright orange terry-cloth jumpsuits. (Incriminating photos can be made available to the highest bidder.)

14. In the aftermath of some childhood Christmas long ago, I sent her an obligatory thank-you note. She edited it in red ink and returned it to me. (She claims this never happened, but whenever I tell the story, I credit her for making me a more conscientious writer.)

15. While living on base in the Philippines in the late ‘60s, she befriended neighbor Marilyn Leibovitz, who went on to be known as Annie’s mother. In a neatly labeled box among stacks and stacks of neatly labeled boxes are 30 years of Leibovitz family newsletters and holiday cards, most featuring Annie’s photographs.

16. For a while, she enjoyed taking the Sunday New York Times because she could keep up with both the crossword puzzles and the Broadway shows. But recently, she’s fallen in with a bad crowd. Now she votes Republican and receives The Wall Street Journal Weekend. My mother and I are no longer allowed to discuss politics with her.

17. When she was 22, she moved from Chicago to D.C., practically on a dare. She took a job for the government and was in the center of everything when the United States declared war on Japan. After a few years and various roommates, she sought more adventure and a pay raise, so she accepted a job that took her to the Yukon Territory. There, she lived in Watson Lake, an isolated outpost that hosted occasional visits from Mounties. She remembers seeing the Northern Lights and trying her hand (or feet) at snow-shoeing, skiing and ice-skating. At some point, she moved to Whitehorse and met my grandfather, who had been in the Yukon to help build the Al-Can Highway. They ultimately married and became proud parents to my mother, their only child.

Happy birthday, Nanny. Here's to more adventure, more madness, more cookies and more love.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sweet home

Twenty-four hours ahead of schedule, and fifty-five years after its front door first opened, the house next to ours was reduced to a pile of rubble today. In about fifteen minutes, give or take a few.

I knew it was coming; the builder's sign has been planted in the front yard for a few weeks now. And it's the sixth house on our block that's been leveled since we moved into the neighborhood three short years ago. So I was surprised by the emotions that rocked me as I watched the front-end loader churn its massive tracks back and forth, back and forth, methodically striking the house down.

I'm sad that our neighbors are officially gone. Guess some part of my brain was still expecting them to pull back into the driveway and begin unloading grocery bags from the trunk. I wish them well.

I'm disappointed that Carter was at school and missed the whole shebang which, I have to admit, was fascinating.

I'm shocked that Spencer and Katie somehow slept through the entire deafening mess, even as weighty chunks o' house landed just steps away from their bedroom window. This bodes well for us: construction workers, noise and organized chaos will be our daytime neighbors for approximately eight months.

I'm agog at the idea that after those eight months are over, a hulking Mediterranean villa will stand where a humble white-brick dwelling stood just yesterday, simple black shutters framing its windows. Its entire footprint was about 1900 square feet. The new house will boast over 6500 square feet.

I know it's inevitable and I don't blame anyone for making the choice that I'm sure we'll eventually be forced to make, but I just hate to see these sweet houses reduced to piles of rubble. How much history was in those bricks? How many families before ours marked their children's heights on door frames? Now, how will anyone ever know?

After the dust had settled, I awoke the muppers so we could fetch Carter from school. As I was carrying them outside to load them into waiting car seats, four sleepy eyes were blinking away the bright afternoon when they spied the impressive transformation that had been wrought during their naptime.

I stopped and we looked and I explained that the big yellow truck was making room for a new home and new neighbors. My eloquent Katie said, "House gone. Bye-bye." Love her. Even when she makes me cry.

So, one door has closed. And in an unbelievably fortuitous coincidence, another one has opened about 280 miles south of ours.

My baby sister, Mary, officially became a homeowner this evening. I lack the words to say how proud, happy, relieved, moved and thrilled I am for her and her partner in crime, Albert. They've promised to launch their own blog about this 85-year-old house and the work they plan to do to make it their dream home, so I'll let them reveal the details and the backstory in their own sweet time.

I wish I were there, you two. To see the house, yes; I'm sorry about that. But more importantly, to give you both big bear hugs and wish you endless love and happiness in your new home.

xox Amy

She get a...

... blog of her very own, after ceaseless nagging and whining on my part. Run, don't walk here.

(And yeah, Ms. S: I know that you're peeved with me for funnin' on your name, but now you've got an open forum to get me back. So, c'mon. Make a pun with "Amy." I double-dog dare you.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Say what?

Do I stutter?

Do I mumble or garble or just talktoofasttobecomprehended? Or are those around me going deaf? Lately, I'm not sure. Two recent examples follow.

Mom, I said I was thinking about going to a therapist. Not, in fact, joining the circus.

And Kirsten: I said that Trey and I were planning to go on a date over the weekend. Not, I'm so sorry to say, to Spain.

On second thought... let’s go with your versions, which sound like much more fun.

Something else that sounds like fun? Chicken-fried-steak ice cream. Yes, I said ice cream. Here's the link, courtesy of D Magazine's FrontBurner. Makes Amy's Guinness Stout ice cream seem unbearably pedestrian by comparison, huh?

Monday, November 13, 2006


Okay, I'm bitter. I'll admit it. Under the guise of ensuring that we have a constant supply of laundry cleaners and boosters and protectors and whiteners, I made a late-night run to SuperTarget last week.

My real mission? To buy half-price Halloween candy. (Did I mention that we only hit six houses? This yielded more than enough loot for the boy, with an occasional morsel tossed to the siblings; not nearly enough for the chocaholic mother.)

Imagine my disappointment: where there had been orange and black was now a field of red and green. And the vast majority of the goods and sundries was picked over, as if holiday vultures had swarmed the store and had their way with the place.

A quick glance of the paper (is there any other kind these days?) informs me that Santa’s either at our nearest mall or on his way. I'm so proud of the Arboretum: they're waiting until a few hours after Thanksgiving before subjecting the reindeer to the 80-degree temps.

Meanwhile, storefronts are apparently sprouting beribboned garlands and lights while we sleep. And I saw a shocking number of illuminated Christmas trees peeking past curtains while driving through the neighborhood last night.

So, humbug. (Mmm... humbugs!)

Yes, it's a grumpy Monday. After an activity-filled weekend, we were gathered 'round the dinner table last night when Carter sneezed. Then again. And again. I could see his sweet face cloud over as he said, "Bobby, I cad't sbell."

Much croupy coughing during the night. Much improved by sunrise, but by then we were all sleep-deprived, so I cleared our morning schedule and proclaimed it an early Jammie Day.

It was the right thing to do, but they were terrors today. Invigorated by the weekend, they ran rampant around the house and gleefully made a show of turning off their Listening Ears.

Spencer was feeling musical, so his preferred diversion was to turn on the CD player, wait a nanosecond until the carousel opened and began to spin, then DRUM with both hands. Run squealing when nabbed, then repeat as able.

Katie wanted to spend the day catching up on correspondence, so she discovered my secret stash of stationery and carefully papered the floor with brown and red tiles of cards and envelopes.

Carter craved creative expression, so I gave him markers and paper so he could doodle to his heart's content while I surveyed the damage wrought by his siblings. All was well until he needed a potty break. At some point, I realized that he'd been in the bathroom for a while. And was one of the markers missing?

Indeed, when he emerged a minute later, it was with a proud expression and a blue nose, chin and jaw. Toddling behind him was Spencer, similarly marked.

For the record, I didn't make a show of calling Santa to inform him that coal and switches would be perfectly appropriate stocking stuffers. But anything can happen in forty-one days...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Good fences

Okay, people: settle down now. We are back up and running on Blogger, or so it tentatively seems. Methinks the problem started with a hitch in Blogger's giddy-up, which caught almost everyone, including Mrs. NaBloPoMo, with their knickers around their knees.

In our case, things rapidly moved from bad to worse when our anti-virus software expired and we found ourselves locked out of any site that contained questionable content. (Oh, silly computer: always watching out for our best interests.)

Technical issues were exacerbated by bouts of Laziness and Procrastination, finally culminating in the Zone of Apathy.

Today Trey spent the better part of the afternoon smacking down error messages, persnickety servers and the like. (I was able to provide no assistance, as I'd been banished to the spa. Love. This. Man.) So hopefully these scintillating words will at last find their way to the blogosphere, and eventually I'll release the other entries I've been hoarding and back-dating. (It's not cheating if I openly admit that I'm cheating, is it?)


Lots to catch up on, but I'll stick to one snippet and then call it a night.

Mr. Rogers would be disappointed to know that ours is not the most neighborly block in town. Some people we've gotten to know well, but really like anyway. (Only kidding. Hey, wait! Please don't leave!) Many more folks we know only by a partial name and a drive-by wave, and a handful, we're sorry to say, we have never met and may never still.

But a surprisingly large percentage of said folks gathered this afternoon to fete our darling neighbor Felice. She's an original resident of the 'hood: moved in when her 54-year-old daughter was just six months old. After a few years of relying on friends and family for transportation and necessities, she's making the move to a nearby apartment.

Well, Felice is the queen of our block. She knows all and sees all, but never meddles. She tells uproarious stories and charms the children with small gifts that she keeps stashed away. She's just the most fun neighbor you could ever hope for, and while I know she'll be thrilled to have a new captive audience in addition to throngs of existing friends, a dedicated driver and three squares a day, I'm selfishly crushed that she's leaving us.

I just adore that she grew up across the river from the Mississippi town where my father was born, that she knew his next-door neighbors and that she surely must have crossed paths with my grandmother on some high holiday.

I will forever be indebted to her for watching the muppers once when poor old Muddy had wandered off in the direction of a busy intersection. Felice was on her daily walk when I realized what had happened, and she was willingly drafted as temporary babysitter. (Her daughter told me that she and her sister had been aghast when they heard the story afterward, but Felice was so proud of herself that it's now family legend.)

And I love that one fall afternoon while my sister Mary and I were chatting with her, Mary pointed out that a leaf had lodged itself in her hair. "Oh, honey," Felice said with a laugh, "it's not my hair!" And then tugged her wig so it was slightly askew.

So today was our last official hurrah with Felice. She promises to come back for visits, and I dearly hope she does. How else will we know what's going on around here?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Tonight I feel exactly like this:

Except... my hair is really more of a dark and dirty blonde than brunette. It's also much shorter, with no bangs.

And as long as we're getting technical, I'd like to note for the record, and to everyone's relief, that I am fully clothed.

Obviously, the cats in this picture should be replaced with small children.

Also, I am not hanging on a wall in Chicago.

But otherwise, it's like looking in a mirror.

Veni, vidi, voted

Yes, I voted. Yes, thanks to some apparent conspiracy brewing between Blogger and my computer, this is now ancient history. But I did it, dammit: dragged myself and my two uncooperative toddlers to the polls, and I didn't even get a little "I VOTED" sticker in return. I'm still bitter about this, so now you're gonna hear about it.

The first and most obvious bit of happiness is that for the first time in memory, I cast votes for people who ended the evening showered by balloons and deafened by jubilant cheers, instead of cloaked in humility and grace in the face of defeat. Confession: the winning thing is way more fun.

The other good news is that, even after putting the Randomizer to serious work, I can't find one single bloggy rant from the poor Dallas voter who accidentally said "aye" to a mess o' bonds she didn't support, simply because she had the misfortune to stand behind a frazzled, hysterical woman and her two snot-nosed, screeching children, whose yowls of protest prevented her from thinking clearly, or at all.

I am so terribly sorry, anonymous Dallas voter. If it makes you feel any better, I personally intended to vote a thoughtful, considerate ballot after independent review of the candidates and issues. But once the screaming began, it was straight-ticket city, baby. Apparently, I had good company.

But back to our scene at the polling place: S and K were indeed invited to participate in Mommy's civic duty, and they were in full agreement that this would be a fun morning activity... until I rolled their stroller into the high-school library.

Then Katie saw books. Lots and lots of books. She likes to read books, it's true, and for this I'm grateful. But before the actual reading, she really likes the unshelving. Sweeping tomes large and small from their neat rows with one fell swoop makes her heart skip a beat.

I surmised that this might be seen as inappropriate behavior in this large and quiet space filled with many elderly voters, all of whom had comments about how cute my little voters were and how they would soon be inheriting all of our world's current and future woes. (Happy voting to you, too, kind sir.)

The comments and aren't-they-precious looks stopped just as Katie realized that there would be no unshelving this morning. That's when the screaming began. In desperation, I gave her my purse, which placated her for just a second before Spencer snatched it from her clutches and set her to wailing again. I grabbed it back from him to return to her, and then he began to shriek. And so it went.

Hissing at them between clenched teeth, as I frantically colored in little circles next to bond propositions, accomplished nothing. The decibel levels were hitting a fever pitch as I tagged one last circle, then turned my tail and headed for the door. With ballots in hand. Oops.

Thankfully, a juror took pity on me and steered me toward the electronic ballot box, then covered my stunned muppers in official-looking stamps while I filed my vote. Whew.

Note to self: Book babysitter now for next year's Election Day.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Last thoughts before bedtime:

1. I'm still irked that my Friday night post vanished without warning. Not because it was anything resembling great prose or containing deep thoughts. (The synopsis: I'm getting older. As are we all. It stinks, but it beats the alternative. The end.)

And if you really, truly couldn't decipher the title, it was O-L H = old age. I'll grant you, an illustration and a smidge of context would have made your task much easier. But a better long-term solution would be for you to run like the wind to your nearest bookstore for your very own copy of C D B! by William Steig. You're most welcome.

No, the two neurotic thoughts that plague me about my precious words being ripped from my bosom are: one, does a technological glitch beyond my control render me ineligible for the fabulous NaBloPoMo prizes? (Not that I would have won anyway; I'm consistently unlucky at contests of any sort, but that's beside the point.) And two, did my entry flutter through the blogosphere and land on someone else's web page? Will he or she understand the meaning of O-L H? Sigh.

It provides no answers to my fretful queries, but it does make hours of potentially productive free time zip by in what feel like seconds: it's the highly addictive NaBloPoMo Randomizer. Don't you dare say I didn't warn you.

2. Another bee in my bonnet: I cannot access my MSN e-mail account. I've tried repeatedly (okay, obsessively) over the past few days, and all I get is a Cannot Find Server error. Although I've received no noteworthy messages for weeks on end, I'm convinced that all sorts of treasures now lay beyond the locked door. Help! Help!

3. Hopefully there will be no technological glitches, bees or gremlins of any sort as Americans rock the vote tomorrow. If you neglected to vote early (and often, as we were instructed in Chicago), then get out there and make your voice heard. If you're in Dallas, you can click here for pertinent information and instuctions. For a national perspective, try MSNBC for a hodgepodge of articles and such. And if you're not registered, then for heaven's sake, click here and get yourself ready for the next Election Day.

Last, but not least: if you haven't checked Jen's blog lately, then you've no idea what gorgeous pictures and clever copy you're missing. Specifically, you should read this entry. Sweet Reid goes to school with Carter, and is undergoing surgery tomorrow to prepare him for a new and improved leg. If you're so inclined, Reid and his family could use your thoughts, prayers and positive energy in the days that follow. Thank you...


Double take

Friday morning, the boys got haircuts. I don't want to make this sound worse than it is (grandmothers, please remain calm), but Miss Lolly went a little crazy with the clippers. I suspect that she was exacting a spot of revenge for the fact that I have yet to permit her shears near poor Katie's straggly shag.

So Spencer's curls are now, shall we say, tamed. He looks adorable, of course, and will probably regain his good standing as a mullet-head by the beginning of next week. But he does seem a little older, wiser... and familiar, somehow.

Now it's Monday morning. III has taken IV to school on his way to work, and the terrible two are tearing around the house, powered by yogurt smoothies. Spencer comes dashing through the kitchen, looking for trouble (and, it should be noted, wearing hand-me-down pajamas). Then he turns his head to grin at me.

"Oh. My. God," I think in a nanosecond of panicked disorientation. "Trey has taken the WRONG CHILD to school."

Take a look and tell me what you think:
It would be helpful for comparison purposes if I could find a picture of Carter at this same age. But when Carter was just shy of 22 months old, we were apparently still recovering from the shock of our BOGO surprise. So the few pictures we have from this month prominently feature my distended, distorted belly button, and trust me: no one needs to see this on a Monday morning.

While perusing old pictures, though, I came across the following illustration of life with F5.

Here's what Trey looks like at the beginning of the weekend: weary from the workweek, but eager for quality time with the fam:

Now, observe the transformation wrought by sixtysomething straight hours of demands for Daddy's full and complete attention.

Shocking, isn't it?

Thanks for your hard work, big guy. Now have a good break... I mean, DAY at the office. Love you, hoosband.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


It's increasingly difficult to recall that childfree time in our lives when our most pressing weekend goal was to read the Sunday Trib and The NYT in just one day. (Oh, LIFE.) If it was a chilly, gloomy winter Saturday and we had hours to kill before the papers thumped in our driveway, we might have been hard-pressed to fend off boredom and seasonal depression.

And so it happened, once upon a time in our little yellow house in Elmhurst, that Trey stumbled upon my beloved collection of Willie Morris books and selected from the stack My Dog Skip. It seemed the perfect pick: a sweet memoir, a single-afternoon read, set in my home state. I gave him my blessing and sent him to a comfortable chair. And for a while, all was well.

After some time had passed, however, I began to fret. He was really enjoying the book, occasionally laughing out loud and reading excerpts to me. He seemed happy and carefree, as if he were channeling Willie at age 10. I could visualize him tromping through the streets of Yazoo with his own tail-wagging doggie pal by his side. Uh-oh, I thought. If he can't see what lies ahead, this could get ugly.

He didn't see it coming at all, of course. Gradually, the laughter died down. His forehead furrowed. And then (he's going to be furious with me for repeating this), the boom was lowered. He dropped his chin to his chest, covered his eyes and chunked the book across the room as if it were a live grenade. "Oh, sweetie," I said, wrapping my arms around him. "I'm so sorry. Didn't you know?

"There's no such thing as a happy ending to a dog story."

All my life, I've had dogs. The sole exceptions have been my first year in college, pre-Boo the evil beagle, and the past five months, post-Muddy the Wonder Mutt. And although neither scenario is a very smart idea right now, I have to say that any degree of babylust I occasionally feel is usually overshadowed by my yearning to bring another dog into our home.

The assurance that they will someday break your heart does not one thing to deter you from falling head over heels in love with their cold wet noses, expressive ears and furry paws that smell, inexplicably, of Fritos.

And really, why not? Who else adores you when you're cranky and in the throes of premenstrual syndrome? Who else leaps in the air with glee when you return to the house with nothing more exciting than a gallon of milk? Who else is capable of melting an angry, ice-cold heart (rendered thus by an afternoon snack of a library book that was, it should be noted, not even very tasty) by placing a chin on your knee and looking you straight in the eye until you are forced to acknowledge that perhaps the bookcase would be a better resting spot for future literary loans?

So we relent. We accept that there will be collateral damage. We open our hearts and our houses. We relinquish major pieces of furniture for the sake of their comfort, we stand out in the freezing rain whilst they search for the perfect spot to piddle, we seek out dog-friendly restaurants and parks. We love and are loved.

And when it's time, we grieve and mourn and weep until we reach that point when, incredibly, we can smile at the idea of them running through the wide open fields of dog heaven, chasing squirrels and barking to their hearts' content.

Dear sweet redheaded Edgar, we wish you safe passage to that big sofa in the sky. Boo, Muddy, Moose, Jeb, Guda, Heidi, Maggie and legions of other loyal pals are all waiting for you with a big biscuit jar at the ready. Heck, even ill-tempered Fred has promised to make you feel at home.

Go on, now... good dog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Game Day

Muppers are running wild and free as we watch the first half of the Texas game and impatiently await our Chinese food, so I'm going to filch a blogging opportunity. (And yes, I promise that I will go back and fix last night's post, as both the indecipherable title and aborted content seem to be troubling some of you.)

(Edit: said post has just *poof* mysteriously disappeared into the ether. Wretched Blogger! You have jeopardized my NaBloPoMo standing!)

This was day one of our first free weekend in a month (can I have an amen?) and we spent it accomplishing not one item on my fairly intimidating to-do list. The day got off to a rousing start: C had an 8:00 (yes, a.m.) soccer game. Yeesh.

Trey drew the short straw and got up with the dawn, roused our wee Pele from slumber and headed to the Y with fortifications. (This took the form of a coffee traveler and doughnuts, which endeared him to players and parents alike. One dad cheekily wondered why he hadn't also thought to bring mimosas; we thank him for the suggestion and will be better prepared next week.)

I'm sorry to report that despite the infusion of sugar and caffeine, the Dragonflies' losing streak remains unblemished. Of course, it's the parents who must shoulder the emotional burden, as the players are blissfully unaware that they have only scored one point the entire season.

Our fearless coaches have been wonderful at keeping the kids focused on the real goals of this season: fresh air, exercise, sportsmanship... and, of course, dashing to the playground en masse one second after the referee blows her final whistle. But before they're allowed to leave the soccer field, and after they've high-fived the opposing team, the coaches have them huddle up and do a little Dragonflies cheer.

In the huddle, they're asked the question that's tormented man for millennia, "Why are we here?" The answer is supposed to be an enthusiastic, "TO HAVE FUN!" But today, our child yelled, "To take pictures!"

What? Does no other father pace the sidelines with a D70 pressed to his forehead for the duration of the game?

At his leisure, I'll encourage the big guy to fill in this empty space with a photographic rendering of the day.


P.S. Texas won! And this was one of those great fall football days that lived up to the truism my father taught me as a youngster: "Any given team can beat any other team on any given day." Because today HIS team, Mississippi State, beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa! Go Dawgs!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


In what's shaping up to be an inadvertent weekly tradition, today was Jammie Day. A day to rest after a 24-hour sugar high, a day for runny-nosed ones to stay out of the germ pool and a day to tackle the standing number-one item on my to-do list: procure some form of child care.

This shouldn't be a difficult task: I am highly motivated and, thanks to friends who watch out for me, have a few solid leads to chase. Can't explain why I'm making so little progress. (I guess it could have something to do with the banshees who begin shrieking whenever I pick up the phone.) In any case, I did make a few baby steps today and hired babysitters for two can't-take-'em-with-us occasions. Yippee!

But tonight I'm not thinking about a nanny with a lower-case "n." Instead, I'm going to talk about someone who's been on my mind lately: Nanny, my maternal grandmother. I've been meaning to put this story down on paper for more than a year now; it won't be perfect, but here goes.


This particular Nanny story actually begins with her only child, my mother, who in the late 1970s found herself freshly divorced with two young daughters and a small but impressive collection of I-am-woman-hear-me-roar disco records. A few credits shy of a college degree, she enrolled in a local liberal arts school, where she had the great fortune of meeting another sweet young thing named Cindy.

Friendship struck, and carried them through marriages (one good, one bad), babies (four, all good), addresses (too numerous to count) and lifestages (ditto). Through ups and downs, Cindy was a constant. My siblings and I may have felt that she was our Aunt Cindy, but we knew that she really belonged to Mom.

A few years ago, we were shocked by the news that darling, irrepressible Cindy had been struck by a rare and impossible-to-pronounce cancer. For a while, things were bad. Really bad. Then she got a little better. But after a period of hope and optimism, things got much, much worse. And at last it became too awful to even think about.

Still, on March 22 of last year, we were all going about our lives in Texas without really knowing what was happening in Mississippi. I was housebound in Dallas with nine-week-old twins and a mighty unhappy two-year-old. My sister Mary, Lord love her, had put her life on hold to live with us and see us through those first surreal months.

Mary and Carter were battling cabin fever at the end of the day, so I sent them out to Target for some fresh air and a fresh supply of diapers. While they were out, Mom called from San Antonio. She told me that she was sitting in her second-grade classroom grading papers when her cell phone rang: it was a Mississippi friend calling with the sad news of Cindy’s passing. Mom and I cried together, shared some Cindy stories that made us laugh, cried some more and finally said good-bye.

Not one minute later, Mary called. When I saw her number on Caller ID, my heart sank: I knew she hadn’t yet heard the news about Aunt Cindy and I dreaded being the one to tell her. But when I answered the phone, she was already crying. My first thought was that she’d had a car accident. “Mary!” I said, with my heart in my throat. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, Amy,” she sobbed, “I have something terrible to tell you. Nanny died this morning.”

I was stunned. Yes, Nanny was 87 years old, but she hadn’t slowed down one bit. In fact, she’d just flown to Dallas from Alabama a few days earlier to see her new great-grandbabies. She may have been a touch more cantankerous than usual, but she seemed the picture of health and longevity.

Nanny! I couldn’t breathe for a second, and when I did exhale, it was in big choking sobs. (I should add that, at this point, I was nursing, so these two itty babies were latched onto my giant bosoms as I was shaking and crying.) Now Mary’s holed up in a Target dressing room with Carter, whose eyes are the size of saucers, and I’m pinned to the couch, and we’re both sobbing and wailing things like, “Why, Lord, why?” “She called me yesterday and I didn’t call her back! Now I’ll never talk to her again! Why, why didn’t I call her back?!” and so on.

Somehow, although we’re reduced to incoherent grunting and crying, it’s decided that as eldest child, it is my job to call Mom at school and tell her that her mother has died. I won’t recreate it for you, but rest assured that it was the worst moment of my entire life. She told me later that the school janitor subsequently burst into her classroom, thinking that she had been shot. Sitting in my living room in Dallas, I’m not in much better shape; the twins are now drenched in tears (but still suckling) and Trey is holding my hand and trying to soothe me.

Mary calls back; it’s revealed that our poor brother John, who’s only 14, is the one who discovered this news when he came home from school and checked the answering machine. Mary says that he’s in pretty bad shape; I can only imagine. I call Mom, who promises to rush home to be with him if I’ll call my sister Sarah. Then we’ll figure out travel arrangements. Not one of us can believe this is happening.

I’m dialing Sarah’s number when Trey, who has been providing quiet support until now, says, “John got this from a message on the answering machine?” “Yes, isn’t it awful?” I gasp, as Sarah answers her phone and I tell her about Nanny. She’s just about to walk into the gym for a workout when she hears what I have to say, and she instantly collapses on the sidewalk in a crying heap. Inside the gym, strangers see her fall and rush from their elliptical trainers to help her.

As we’re talking and crying, Trey asks, rather absurdly, “Has anyone actually called Nanny?” “Good Lord, Trey,” I’m spitting through my tears, “she has DIED. Of course we haven’t called her! We can’t ever call her again!” Fresh sobbing. Calls are bouncing back and forth between Mom, Mary, Sarah and me. Mary is trying to drive home with Carter, who’s now rocking and sucking his thumb, but she has to keep pulling over because she can’t see through her tears.

Meanwhile, Trey gets up and checks his cell phone. He doesn’t have Nanny’s home number programmed, but by coincidence, Nanny had used his phone to call a friend in Huntsville while she was visiting. So he hits “redial” and calls the friend, who is stunned to hear that Nanny is no longer with us. In fact, the friend just spoke with her a few hours ago. Hmm. Trey is telling me this as I’m on the phone with Sarah. For the first time in more than 15 minutes, I stop crying. Sarah asks, “What's happening?” I say something like, “I’m not sure. Nanny MAY have died. I’ll call you right back.”

Trey calls Nanny, but her phone just rings busy. (It’s amazing how quickly those octogenarian Lutheran ladies mobilize.) So he calls John to determine exactly what this answering-machine message said. Through tears, John says that it was a young woman who, also through tears, said, “Nancy, your mom died this morning.” At this moment, another call clicks in; Trey asks John to hold on. I can see his face across the room as he answers it:

“Hello? Nanny! Boy, am I glad to hear your voice!”

Nanny is delighted, not only to be alive, but also to hear that we all carried on so about her. She calls each one of us to hear in detail what we said and did when we heard the news. She’s especially touched that stoic teenager John shed tears about anything at all, especially her.

Standing in our kitchen, babies put to bed and a box of Kleenex between us, Trey proposes a toast to Nanny's good health, and we drink. But we’re all plunged back into grief when we realize that the message John heard was from Cindy's daughter Deenie, who had said, “Nancy, Mom died this morning.”

It was the strangest brew of relief and elation and grief and sorrow I’ve ever experienced. Even now, I don’t think we’ve fully recovered from the exhaustion of it all.


I've always wanted to share this story with Cindy's family, but it's never seemed appropriate. I'm not entirely sure that it's okay to type it all out now. But somehow… and I don’t really know how to word this… but somehow, I just love that when we remember Cindy, it’s with more laughter than tears. It seems so fitting.

And hopefully I'll have a much more fitting tribute to Nanny in two weeks, when she turns 89.

xox Amy

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Wednesday morning: the beginning of the end of our school week. I'm chirping to Carter about the month of November and the cool, crisp morning air while he's buckling himself into the car for the trek north. We drive away from the house and I offer up some tunes: the Curious George soundtrack, perhaps? This meets with his approval, and I start to wax rhapsodic about music and the way it makes us feel when, from the backseat comes the plea:

"Let's be quiet."

This is a frequent request, and I have to admit that it stings a little. No surprise to anyone reading this: I love to talk. I'll prattle on about anything to anyone who'll listen. Somewhere along the line my kid realized that he actually didn't have to listen. That if he asked (nicely: I did insist on that), then I would respect his need for silence and keep my mouth shut for at least 45 consecutive seconds, all the while wondering: what's he thinking? Am I making him crazy already? Should we start funneling his college savings into an account dedicated to the years of therapy he'll need as a result of my poor parenting?

So, my mind commences to running wild as I observe my forced vow of silence when I hear a big sigh, and then:

"Just breathe, Mommy."

"What's that, Carter?"

"Just take a deep breath."

So I do. And it feels good. And my mind quiets, if only for a minute. And I say, "Thank you, Carter. That was really nice."

"Now take three big breaths. Doesn't that feel better?"

And I do, and it does, and we're both laughing now.

Maybe he's a genius. Some wunderkind of intuition and perspective. Maybe that Yoga Kids DVD I bought over the summer really made an impression on him. Or maybe he just wanted to enjoy the lyrical musings of Jack Johnson without interruption or analysis.

Doesn't matter what he is, does or says: I love that little guy.

Post script: on the way home from school, my boy genius thought it would be funny to poke a large hole in the side of a styrofoam cup that had just been filled with strawberry smoothie. So I used my thumb to stem the tide of icy pink goo, like the little Dutch boy, whilst safely steering my Swedish wagon home.

As we pulled into the driveway, the cup collapsed and its melted contents gushed into my lap.

I love that little guy, even when he drives me up the wall.