Thursday, January 25, 2007


It's not that I've run out of words. Trey would, I believe, be more than willing to testify to the contrary.

It's not that I've run out of material. The muppers ensure that, for better or worse (or, more likely, for better and worse) every day is a blogworthy day.

I just can't seem to conjure the effort, the attention span and the coherent thought to share any of it with anyone. I've started four separate posts since last week, but haven't gotten around to finishing a one of them. So they marinate in my blog log with three dozen other musings and platitudes that will probably never see the light of day. My mom suggested tonight that I just start a new blog with all of those sentence fragments and notes and old pictures. It's a good idea, actually.

Another good idea: after much hand-wringing, brainstorming and procrastinating, I've finally come up with a theme for S and K's second birthday party. Oh, it's this Saturday; did you not get your invitation? Of course you didn't, silly! There IS no invitation, because I never got around to mailing any. However, this ties in perfectly with the party's theme, which is: What a Mess. We've gone to great lengths to reflect the theme in our decor, menu and schedule of party activities. I love it when a plan comes together.

Our first party guests, Grandmommy and Granddaddy, arrive in a few hours, so I'd better shut down and get some shut-eye. More later, I promise.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Once more, with feeling

We just tucked our one-year-old twins into bed for the very last time. When the sun comes up, they'll be two-year-old twins.

Why do I feel so verklempt about this? It was understood, after all, that to keep them going from one birthday to the next was a mark of success. We survived another year, against the typical odds, and for that I'm extraordinarily grateful.

But my babies... well, they're not babies anymore. I knew this; I'm the one who banished the term "the babies" exactly one year ago. I even overheard Carter correcting someone who said it the other day. (What he actually said, with a bit of a four-year-old condescending sniff, was, "They're not twins; they're toddlers." Allrighty then.)

They still sleep in cribs in a pastel-hued nursery, and they still wear diapers. They still drink whole milk from brightly colored sippy cups. They're still home with me every day.

But in just one year, they've gone from crawling to walking to running at full throttle. Katie had not one tooth at her first birthday party; now she has a half-mouthful of sparkling chompers. They've graduated from baby food to miniscule mushy flecks of "real" food to... well, mostly crackers and cheese and ketchup, although they're offered everything we eat, and more.

They don't have any memories of how I nursed them to sleep every night for seventeen months; now, they climb squealing into that same rocking chair to read a bedtime story before being plunked into bed with a wide assortment of fuzzy friends who keep them company after the lights are turned off.

One year ago, a trek to the Fort Worth Zoo was deemed a logistical impossibility. Now, we look back at our Christmas road trip and think, well, that wasn't so bad. One year ago, we were navigating the difficult transition from having a full-time nanny to making do with only one day a week of help. Now, it's been six months since we've had anyone in our regular employ.

When they turned one, they didn't have anything to say about anything. Now, they have strong (and frequently opposing) opinions about absolutely everything. If they lack the words to express themselves properly, which is happening less and less, they still manage to get their points across. And they surprise and delight us daily with their growing voices.

To wit: after dinner tonight, they were allowed to unwrap one birthday present apiece. (Sorry, Opa and YaYa: Carter saw the package arrive and was unwavering in his insistence that we dig out the contents.) Inside the brightly colored boxes were a book and a toy for each thrilled tot.

Katie immediately sat down to ponder her book, page by page, carefully and thoughtfully naming the objects she recognized. "Mommy doggie. Spoon! Star ball." Spencer flipped through his book in five seconds flat, pronouncing "End," as he slammed it shut.

Then my strong and silent boy pointed to the cover and confidently said, "H." What's that, Spence? "H," he said again, pointing to an H in the book's title.

Wow! Lucky guess, I thought, but said, "Yes, Spencer! H." He stubbed his finger toward the next letter. "Oh," he said. Then "Dubba," "Em," "You," "See," and "H." Well, shut my mouth.

This is the kid who couldn't (or wouldn't) say horse last week, who regularly has me scurrying to the Internet for reassurance or horror when I research developmental delays. But now he's two.

What a difference a year makes. What will the next one hold for us?

P.S. It's snowing here and we all got to play outside for a little while today. Lesson for the day: some snow tastes yummy and some tastes yucky....

Friday, January 12, 2007

Going steady

Y'ALL. You are never gonna believe this, not in a million kabillion years, but if I'm lying, I'm dying. I had *~*another*~* date with <3 TooCuTe <3 tonight!!!! I know: that's, like, TWO (2) DATES in ONE (1) WEEK!!!! Y'all, I totally think he likes me. And I so totally KNOW that I like him! Shrieeeeeeek!!!! Ohmigod!!!! :D :D :D

So it's official: I am old, because typing out that snippet of teenspeak literally made my head hurt. But yes, we did in fact have yet another date night tonight, which does in fact have me giggling like a schoolgirl. This reaction is entirely appropriate, because our date was straight out of a scene from Pleasantville: we went to church. To hear music. And hold hands.

Makes Tuesday night's date at the elementary school seem positively torrid by comparison, doesn't it?

Those who know me well may be confused: I sought out music in church? On purpose? It's true that I break out in little itchy hives whenever any song not included in the traditional bright-red United Methodist Hymnal is performed in a place of worship, and it's my very personal opinion that accompaniment should be strictly limited to a large pipe organ. Percussion of any kind, including applause, causes sweat to bead on my brow.

Exhibit A: we babymooned in France when I was pregnant with C, and happened to stroll past the open doors of Notre Dame just as a service was beginning, so we ducked into a back row. Nevermind my limited comprehension of French: I was feeling emotionally and spiritually moved by the whole experience... until the congregation began clapping along with the musical selection. Trey took one look at me, I nodded, and we quietly left the hallowed space. I can't explain why it bothers me, but it just does. C'est moi.

But I digress. Back to the show.

See, last month's Dixie Chicks concert, while fun, was an aberration for us. When we seek out live music (which, I'll grant you, doesn't happen often these days), we tend to go for small singer-songwriter acts in eclectic spaces. Sara Hickman at Poor David's Pub was a great example; traveling to see her again at Crossroads was another. I heard word of Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse when we moved to Dallas, but wasn't familiar with its location until just a few months ago. It's not a pub or a bar, and it's not even really a coffeehouse: it's the fellowship hall of a church that's barely a mile north of us, turned into a music venue one night a week.

Hmmm. My interest was piqued. I took a glance at the calendar and one act caught my eye: some band called Wheatfield. You know: Wheatfield! That '70s band from Houston. The one that inspired a young Lyle Lovett with their Austin City Limits performance in 1976. The one that wrote such hits as "Cruzan Time" and "Waxahachie Woman." Yeah, Wheatfield!

Oh, fine: I'd never heard of them, either. But apparently, one of the founding members of the band went on to form another band called Trout Fishing in America. That band, I had heard of. Trout Fishing ultimately established itself as a family music band, kids took to the goofy tunes, and Wheatville became a long-lost memory.

Until very recently, when, I suppose, someone got nostalgic for the good old days and suggested a one-week-a-year Wheatfield reunion tour. Enter us.

Now the sole reason that any of this held any appeal for me at all is that I've heard Trey mention once or twice or three hundred times over the past 18 years that when he was a kid growing up in Houston, the hot spot for dining out en famille was Steak and Ale. (In my mind, Steak and Ale looks just like the interior of the Regal Beagle.) The regular entertainment was a band called (wait for it) Trout Fishing in America. Trey remembers hanging out at the lounge, playing Pac-Man with his sister (who, it should be noted, is now officially a birthday girl), and chatting with the band.

Well, if this doesn't win me Wonderful Wife of the Week award, I don't know what will. I will buy two tickets to see his old friends making music, I will hire a sitter and we will enjoy a just-us evening of listening to live tunes, a favorite pre-parent past-time. Ta-da!

Except: there is no wine or alcohol of any kind, and the coffee urns, staffed by church volunteers, are tapped by intermission. Dinner consists of, I kid you not, a small dish of Pepperidge Farm goldfish. Save for a few bored-looking junior high-schoolers tagging along with their parents, we are easily the youngest people in the room, and among a very small minority not wearing Clarks shoes. And when one of the Wheatfielders begins jamming out with his tasty flute, Trey entertains thoughts of jumping out of his own skin.

Other than THAT, Mrs. Lincoln, the play was just fine. We honestly, and oh so earnestly, enjoyed ourselves. A husband-and-wife duo from Austin called The Flyin' A's opened: she was a mix of Kelly Willis and Trey's cousin Cathy (a musician in her own right), and he bore a resemblance to John Gorka and, oddly, Tom Wopat. The tunes were good, and, when we bumped into Mrs. Flyin' A during the intermission, she was chatty and funny and even offered to share her babysitter's name with me should we ever need child care in Austin.

Well, that immediately endeared her to me, even though she had just committed the unpardonable sin of ending their set with "At Last." It's not that she didn't have the pipes to carry it off; it's just that the only person on the entire planet who should be allowed to sing that song is Etta James. And me, when no one else is in the house. Because when no one else is in the house, I have the voice of an angel.

At last, Wheatfield began to play to the packed and eager fellowship hall. The opening song: "Seven Bridges Road." Oh, dear. But, you know, not too bad. Pretty good, actually. And the rest of the set was even better, especially after giving in to the realization that there was nothing remotely hip about anything happening around us, so you might as well have fun with it all.

So we did. We clapped and hooted, laughed at the on-stage patter, which was genuinely funny, and just marveled at these four old friends who graduated from Houston's Lamar High School in 1972 and were sharing their good times, well-worn stories and common musical experiences with a group of interested strangers.

There was homage paid to Joni Mitchell, a few odes to mid-life crises, a ditty about needing penicillin after a one-night stand with a hitchhiker (at which point I imagined Annelle from Steel Magnolias gasping, "We are IN the HOUSE of the LORD!") and an unfortunate revisitation of the rock ballet the band composed back in the day.

Up until that point, we'd been wowed by a wide assortment of instruments: banjo, mandolin, electric bass and various guitars, but when the tasty flute emerged, our hearts sank. No man can make playing the flute look cool. John Corbett tried in Serendipity, which is how I knew that his character wouldn't be around by the time the closing credits rolled. Alas.

Finally, after two standing ovations, the show was over. And so we drove through the not-yet-freezing rain to Wendy's, where Trey could get a proper dinner, went home and paid the sitter, and thus ended a date night to remember. For the record: even when he's kvetching about that blasted tasty flute, he still makes my heart skip a beat. Gosh and golly-gee.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Greedy gut

Stuffed. I am stuffed and happy, for I have supped and sipped at nice restaurants, with wine glasses on the table and not a high chair in sight, for two nights in a row. Tomorrow I'll return to my usual scene of macaroni-flinging muppers and crying over spilled milk, so indulge me as I savor the dining details here.

Last night, I did the previously unthinkable: booked a sitter on a weeknight for no particularly good reason. Oh, there was an open house at the neighborhood school, but that was just pretense for a low-key date night. We made the scene at the open house, which was a lot more fun after we ran into some friends and neighbors, then beat it out of there for a just-the-two-of-us dinner.

On a whim, we decided to try the nearby CHIC. The menu and interior were minimalist but cozy, and we revived some happy travel memories by kicking off the meal with a shot of gazpacho and grilled bread with manchego. Then Trey tucked into a near-perfect rotisserie chicken, while I savored some beef, served carpaccio-style. It was simple but good, and so satisfying that I didn't even want dessert afterward. (Insert gasp here.)

But on the way home, Trey stopped at Paciugo anyway. How can you say no to gelato?

That was date night. Tonight was girls' night. The incomparable Jen, upon hearing that one of our favorite Westwood mommies was feeling a bit blue about her birthday, effortlessly whipped together a gaggle of revelers and a chic table at Salum.

Now, I ask you: who else can rally eight busy women for a mid-week dinner in less than 24 hours? She also played chauffeur, was greeted at the front door of the restaurant by name, kept our wine glasses full and (perhaps most impressive of all) calculated the tab for everyone after dinner was over. And through it all, was cute and sweet and funny. You REALLY want to hate her, but it's just not possible.

Ditto our guest of honor, the unflaggingly cheerful, generous and kind Je-9-a. (I know: I'm sorry! I couldn't resist.) She and cute husband Chad were our personal welcoming committee when we joined the Westwood family, and we couldn't have been luckier. It's a tribute to her that our dinner crowd was so lively and fun. It would be hopelessly uncool for me to say that I felt like I was sitting at the cool girls' table, but so be it.

And because I am, after all, Nanny's granddaughter, I won't forget about the food. The menu boasted exotic and elegant offerings, but it was comfort food that called my name: Shiner Bock braised short ribs over cheddar grits, surrounded by a moat of reduction sauce and topped with some spicy fried onions. So. Yum.

Now I'm back in my quiet, sleeping house, which is a sharp contrast to the scene I left a few hours ago. Today was chock-full of tantrums and tears, primarily due to S's core philosophy: what's mine is mine. What's yours should be mine, too. This attitude meets with resistance from his siblings, which results in repeated meltdowns from all sides and at varying decibel levels. Here's a direct transcript of an exchange this afternoon:

K: Haddat?
S: Habit.
(A brief pause.)
K: Haddat now?
S: No. Habit. Mine.

(Pushing, scuffling, screeching ensue.)

Big sigh. But now, big belly. Big bed calling my name. Big birthday wishes to sweet Jenina. And finally: big bye.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jiminy Cricket

This morning, we finally took down our Christmas tree and accoutrements, sparse though they were. We'd put off the deed for a week, and for good reason: it's dangerous business to undecorate. Don't believe me? Well, ask my sister Sarah, who might be willing to share her tale of woe and warning as soon as her head stops spinning from her current dose of painkillers. It ain't pretty, people.

Although we were able to avoid any serious injuries at our house, we did sustain minor losses. To begin with, Carter was heartbroken when Trey announced his plans to denude our Charlie Brown tree, and begged for clemency. I had a momentary vision of him encouraging the wilted branches to bloom and flourish, a la Fern and Wilbur, but Trey wisely stepped in with some bit about preserving the specialness of Christmastime. I missed the finer talking points, but Carter was placated and the work continued.

Ornaments, stockings and such were finally boxed and stacked and ready to return to the black hole we call a garage, so we turned our attention to going out for lunch. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, when I heard an unusual sort of commotion. Lo and behold, Carter and Spencer had (collectively, it seems) pushed a side table from the front room to the door of Carter's room. An impressive feat, yes, but far from the most interesting activity in this milieu.

Beneath the table, they were crouched over a yellowed cardboard box of inexpensive glass ornaments that Trey and I have had for at least 15 years. Spencer was laughing as Carter, wielding a tiny toy hammer, gleefully SMASHED EACH ONE OF THE ORNAMENTS.

It took a full minute for me to rehinge my jaw so I could commence to yelling. In short order, Trey was by my side, equally stunned and noisy. Incredibly, the boys were even more amused at our red faces and raised voices. Trey corralled Spencer and the wide-eyed, innocent Katie away from the mess and, muttering under his breath, cranked up the vacuum as I escorted Carter to a quiet corner of the house so we could have a little chat.

Together, we reviewed the situation. He struggled to control his mirth as I explained the sentimental value of the ornaments, the potentially permanent relocation of his tiny hammer to Toy Siberia and the very serious dangers presented by broken glass.

Passing through the room, Trey said, "Tell him about your foot." So I showed Carter the Frankenstein-like scar on my right foot and told him that, when I was 17, a piece of glass had cut my foot so badly that I'd needed stitches and THREE shots. The mixture of disgust and awe on his face told me the story had worked its magic, so I filed it away for future use as a cautionary tale against teenage drinking.

A new thought came to me: this could be the perfect opportunity for me to teach him about conscience. "You know, Carter," I explained, "we all have a little voice inside that tries to stop us when we're doing something we shouldn't be doing. Do you know what I'm talking about?" I asked him. He nodded slightly, but looked uncertain. I tried again.

"When you were smashing those ornaments into broken bits, did you hear a little voice inside your tummy say, 'Carter, this is a bad choice?'"

He assumed a serious expression for just a second, then brightened immediately. "I do have a voice in my tummy! It says 'lion.'"

And so we save the discussion of moral precepts for another day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Adjusting to her new role as stay-at-home mother of two (no easy task, that one) and counting down hours until school doors reopen after this very long winter break (ditto), my friend Mimi was having a day of the Challenging sort.

Experienced mothers everywhere are nodding their heads and folding their hands: girl, we've all been there. It's how you respond to those days that makes life interesting. I tend to assume the shape of an ostrich, a possum or possibly a shrieking, hysterical hyena. Mimi, she's a social butterfly.

So she fluttered around and spread the word: I'm going to see a movie tonight. Who's in?

Well, I was. Jen was, too. And so after all of the kids were in bed, we met up and settled into a dark movie theater, armed with chocolate treats, for a late showing of Dreamgirls. My personal guarantee: if you are having a Challenging sort of day, this will cure you. Rousing, fun, moving... the music is amazing, the cast is impressive and the costumes are stunning.

Not even a dash through the cold rain to my car spoiled my good mood after we'd reluctantly left the theater. And when I cranked up the radio while waiting for the heater to warm me up, I was amazed to discover that I could belt out the tunes just like Chaka Khan: I'm every woman; it's all in meeeee....

Hey, a girl can dream.

(Thanks, Mimi. And thanks, Trey, not only for encouraging me to get out of the house, but for making the personal sacrifice to forego watching football so I could record some show on PBS. That's love.)