Friday, November 30, 2007

Five

In two weeks, Carter will be five years old. Five. And I realize that I'm one of maybe three people on the planet who find this statement amazing and astounding, impossible and incredible, but such is a mother's privilege.

So, fair warning: there may be much navel-gazing and teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing as the big day draws near.

Oh, what? You think that just because NaBloPoMo is drawing to an unceremonious close, I'll allow the blog to fall back into disrepair and neglect?

Well, it's possible, yes, and at the moment, marginally tempting: this nightly game of Beat the Clock feels like a bit of a grind on Day 30. But no: it's been good for me, on several levels, to chronicle current events and ponderings.

Sleep, however, it is also good for me, so I may take five on the blogging gig this weekend and attempt to reclaim a few zzz's.

Because mercy, I am tired. And I suspect my almost-birthday-boy is, too, because today was his first-ever five-day week of school.

When Carter started preschool last year, he made the large leap from two days to three. All went well. So well that, by the middle of the year, he'd started making noise about attending school five! whole! days! like some of his friends did.

I wasn't ready, and I wasn't convinced that he was, so we put the conversation on the table. And there it sat, gathering dust and becoming irretrievably commingled with the stacks of catalogs and mailers that are pushed aside to be read and processed, which never happens.

But this week, Carter took it upon himself to clear the table.

After school on Monday, he came home with woeful tales of Things He Had Missed while we were criscrossing Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. His class Thanksgiving Feast, for starters. Storytime. The Hundred Board. Snacks.

I listened and commiserated and gently reminded him of all the fun things we'd been able to see and do while we were away. Nanny's party. Our family's Thanksgiving Feast. The space museum. Playtime with cousins. Lots and lots and lots of television.

Yeah: not so much. So at bedtime, he told Trey that he really wished he could go to school every day. FIVE days.

And so it was that Carter went to school Monday through Wednesday, as usual, then yesterday, and yet again today. When he woke up this morning and realized it was a school day, he giggled maniacally and got to work, prepping for the day.

Naturally, I'm over-the-moon thrilled that he's so enthusiastic about school in general, and this school in particular. And I'm bursting with pride to see him growing up so well and so eager to do, see, learn more, more, more.

But I'll confess: my warm and fuzzies are tinged with melancholy. I'll miss our pancake mornings. I'll miss our intermittent Friday playdates. I'll miss having two days a week with no real obligations, two days when the four of us could hang out in our jammies if we pleased.

Oh, can I just say it? I miss my baby boy. I know, I know: he'll always be my baby. When he's five, twenty-five, thirty-five, forty.

But it's not the same as it was, and it never will be again, and while I know that's exactly the way it's supposed to be, it still stings just a little.

And he doesn't get this at all, nor should he, but I know that there will probably be a time in his life when he chafes against the demand of going to school five days a week, and working five days a week. At least.

So I want to remember this time, this day, when five days was a treat, a privilege, a gift so thrilling that he giggled before he even got out of bed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I do.

Yesterday, mi hermana loca, otherwise known as Sarah, e-mailed me this must-see video clip. Young, blushing newlyweds take to the floor for their first dance as husband and wife: truly, it's a tender moment captured in time for their children and grandchildren, not to mention 1,242,000 complete and total strangers.

Please, count yourself among the masses:


Now, I may be a tree-hugging, heart-bleeding, bed-wetting liberal when it comes to politics, but where matters of matrimony are concerned, I'm actually a pretty traditional girl.

Yes, Trey and I were betrothed in a garden, and it's true that our vows were partially plagiarized, but our wedding day was otherwise a blissful if basic affair. We were in no way striving to be unique or creative; we were much more concerned with making things, you know, legal. And, because we were fresh out of college, affordable.

Anyhoo. My point, and I do have one, is that I tend to be a bit prim and staid in my expectations of what constitutes a wedding celebration.

Verily, I say: to each her own, but I fail to fully grasp the whole cake-smashing concept. Ditto the trash-the-dress phenomenon, although I have to admit that the results can be lovely.

And wedding pranks? I still wince when I recall the time a college friend kneeled for prayer next to his blushing bride, unwittingly revealing to the gathered congregation the words, painted in fuschia nail polish on the soles of his shoes, HELP ME.

Having said all of this, I'll tell you that when I saw the video above, I laughed myself nearly out of my chair and into a large heap on the floor. I laughed until I cried. And not just a little cry, mind you; it was a messy, mascara-running-down-cheeks, gasping-for-breath cry of the very happiest sort.

Why? Two reasons.

First, because it was such a fabulous reminder that my narrow views of what a wedding should or shouldn't include were only relevant on one day: March 20, 1994. I was the bride, he was the groom, and together, for better and for worse, we called the shots and created a day that was a reflection of us. And so should it be for every marrying couple.

You want to dress up in full Star Wars regalia for your wedding day? Best wishes, and may the force be with you. Because if you've dreamed your entire life of being married by Chewbacca and a squadron of Jedi knights, and you were blessed to find another like-minded soul in the world, then what anyone else wishes or thinks should matter not one whit.

And the second reason I cried big fat tears of joy at the Brubakers' first dance? Because... well, the thing is, it's not my news to share, so I really shouldn't open my big mouth, but I'm just so happy that I'm quite literally about to pop, and you wouldn't tell anybody, would you? You'll just keep it between us? Promise?

Okay. C'mere, and I'll whisper it quietly: my sister Sarah? The one who sent me the video? My very first best friend, war buddy, maid of honor and traveling companion from the time we were in car seats, to the time we bussed across Europe? She's freshly engaged, as of this weekend.

And I'm so ridiculously over-the-moon happy for her and fiance extraordinaire Carl, who already feels like a full-fledged member of the family, that I get weepy every. single. time. I think about the two of them tying the knot and embarking on a shiny new life together. And I absolutely cannot wait for the day they take to the floor for their first dance as mister and missus.

Cake-smashed face and trashed dress optional. Congratulations, y'all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Garnered

Because I really have nothing of consequence to say tonight, but am still compelled to post.

Because apparently, and unwittingly, I touched a nerve or two last night.

Because, whatever your thoughts on the man, then or now, this is hands-down the coolest theme song ever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book 'em, Danno.

It was one of those unfortunate but inevitable glitches in the life of a modern family: tonight, we were double-booked.

On my calendar? An evening meeting with my book club. On Trey's, an all-day meeting with some muckety-muck corporate-type people in Manhattan.

I know: tough call, right? Nearly as tricky as the judgment of Solomon.

In the end, we arm-wrestled for the kitchen pass; Trey won, of course, but I suspect that he cheated somehow.

Anyhoo. I gnashed my teeth for a bit, then remembered the lovely and talented Courtney, who carefully tends a super-secret list of the very best nannies in the metroplex.

One quick call to Courtney, and presto: a younger, blonder, cuter Mary Poppins landed on my doorstep, ready and willing to watch the muppers while I ventured out to discuss a book I'd only partially read, eat, rehash for the kabillionth time the challenges of finding the perfect preschool, eat some more, dish some gossip of both the local and celebrity variety and, yes, eat even more.

After all of that strenuous activity, I returned home to Ms. Poppins' cheerful recap of the evening's activities, a sparkling-clean kitchen and three gorgeous, dozing, happy children. Oh, LIFE.

The only thing left to do, then, was to aimlessly surf the web in my ongoing quest to read every last page. I was making decent progress until I stopped short at this article on msnbc.com.

Read at will, but the gist is thus: the government filed a subpoena demanding that personal information about thousands of amazon.com book buyers be released. You can probably guess what happened next: first-amendment privileges were invoked and successfully used to stand ground against the subpoena, which was, in fact, dropped today.

And so a small victory for the right to privacy is won. But it's not hard to see the writing on the wall, which is why I'd like to preemptively explain some of my more curious recent purchases.

To begin with: I only ordered the Bobby McFerrin CD last week for my grandmother, who wanted to know all of the words to Don't Worry Be Happy. I did not, I repeat: I did not order this item for myself.

And if by some chance that's because I already own said CD, there's only a small likelihood that I actually play its peppy tunes on the rare occasion that I'm feeling blue. Whilst, yes, dancing about the house.

Next item in my order history: a DVD of The Notebook. Again, and I'm not trying to frame a sweet and innocent nonagenarian, but this was also a gift for my grandmother, and is in no way a reflection of my own personal opinions about the delicious hunk of manliness that is James Garner.

Ahem.

Moving quickly if awkwardly along to books: I did buy P.S., I Love You, and in hardback, to boot. And no, it wasn't for my grandmother this time; it was for myself. However, the purchase was made under duress, as it was a book club selection, and I loathed every word of it. Gave it a large thumbs down. Didn't even cry at the weepy parts; nope, not me.

Hmmm: another selection for the book club. Recall, please, that part of the book-club experience is permitting someone to choose a book that, left to your own free will, you might never have given a second glance.

But in my defense, it wasn't until after I'd recommended it to the group that I realized that the book's title, The Best Awful, was in no way a misleading review of the book's content.

Why, no; my book purchases aren't strictly limited to fiction. As you look over my order history, you'll note that a disproportionate number of titles are instructional guides on how to parent: with love and logic, with a nifty zen approach or per the recollections of a beloved childhood hero.

And you want a handle on Montessori? Oh, I've got you covered. Anything you want to know, please, just ask. Just don't ask me, because I've yet to crack a single one of the books open. They're almost entirely decorative.

So there you have it. It's not criminal, my order history; just criminally embarrassing. But if it's all the same to you, unspecified governmental entity, I'd still like to keep it private. Thanks ever so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Unrest

Trouble, it is brewing.

Spencer woke up in a sweaty, screaming fit about twenty minutes ago. Trey settled him down pretty easily, but just as he was coming back to bed, Carter came stumbling into our room, rubbing his eyes and mumbling incoherently. He's curled up in a sweet little ball next to me.

But wait. What's that I hear? Why, I believe... yes, we are three for three: Katiebird is shrieking and crying my name. Gonna be a long night, I'm afeared.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm a little teapot

Cannot tell you how much I'm loving your comments, discussion and general support re: my Neti situation. Literally cannot tell you, because I'm too engrossed by the surprisingly wide selection of YouTube clips demonstrating the proper use of a Neti pot. And also, a few demonstrating incorrect use, theoretically to humorous effect, but I'm too repulsed to laugh.

Thanks, Jen, for pointing this out to me. No, really: thanks heaps.

Also, my mother called me tonight to remind me that, honestly, the best way to ease the pain of sinus congestion? High kicks. Interesting. And oddly effective.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Snot funny

Unpleasant experience today. Far more stressful, even, then taking three high-strung children under the age of five to the mall on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. For lunch. With no real game plan, or even a restraining device.

No: that was leisurely when compared to my first attempt with a Neti pot.

Over an uninterrupted four-year span of either gestating, birthing or nursing babies, I developed this weird quirk: I eschew medication whenever possible.

Drives my mother bonkers. But that's not why I do it. No, that's just a fringe benefit.

I just figured, with my own warped logic, if it's of questionable risk to take these compounds and pills when I'm growing a kiddo, then how safe is it when it's just... me?

Now, I'm not completely consistent about this philosophy: when Trey came down with strep last year, I took note of what a miserable lump he was, and went running to my doctor the instant my throat felt a little scratchy. I knew he'd toss a z-pack my way without blinking, and he didn't disappoint.

A pretty hypocritical act from the same person who rages against the overuse of antibiotics, but there you have it.

And I do recognize the blessing, the luxury I have, of being able to forego medication most of the time. Because most of the time, I'm pretty healthy. [Knock on wood.] So most of the time [knock on wood], if I come down with a little bug [knock on wood], it's nothing that some extra sleep, better hydration and steamy showers can't cure. [Knock on wood.]

So that's my feeling about this current ick, which is why I spent most of Turkey Day thudded over, under the covers. And I do feel better, much better. But my sinuses: well, I'm really sick and tired of my sinuses, and I suspect they're not too happy with me.

I can breathe, but only from one nostril, and only when I'm hopping on my left foot. Or: I'm totally congested no matter what I do or say or think. Or: I sneeze once, then spend the next half-hour camped out with a box of kleenex. And always, always, my nose is noisy. Blech.

So today seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the nifty Neti pot I saw at Whole Foods a few weeks ago. My friend trabilcobb had given the practice rave reviews, and I'd read the testimonies of total strangers: sold, I was sold. Excited, even.

Trey eyed the whole business with skepticism and a note of anxiety tinged with humor. What if you die? he asked. I seriously doubt this will kill me, I said, but why don't you stay close, just in case?

So I read the directions for the dozenth time, warmed up the water, stirred in the non-iodized salt, poured it into the small ceramic pot and... stared at it, a little petrified.

Oh, go on, said Trey. Nothing to be scared about. Look at the picture on the box: she's smiling. She's happy! This will be fun.

Fine. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. I took a deep breath, leaned over the sink, tilted my head, gently poured warm salty water into my right nostril, and immediately began hacking and coughing and gasping for air. Aw, this sucks, I said. I can't do it.

Sure, you can, Trey said. You just have to tilt your head a little more. See? See the picture? And it says you have to put your forehead in line with your chin. Are you putting your forehead in line with your chin? Although, really, isn't your forehead naturally in line with your chin? What the heck are they driving at here?

Of course, this gave me a case of the giggles, but I decided to give it another try while Trey offered support and advice.

No, he said, you're not forming a seal. You need to form a seal! A SEAL. You know: ark ark ark. At which point he began clapping his hands together.

That did it. Now I was laughing AND drowning in lukewarm salty water of my own making. Which is, really, more fun than should be allowed on a Saturday morning while the muppers sit in the happy thrall of another episode of Max & Ruby.

I gave it a few more attempts, but they only left me with burning nostrils and a deep-seated loathing of the happy woman on the Neti pot box. Dejected, I e-mailed trabilcobb and told her of my failure. Totally without her permission, I'm copying her reply here:

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. The Neti pot, she is tricky even without laughing. But saltwater in the nose and giggling definitely do not mix. In fact, you are not supposed to make a seal (or to be one. I can't imagine a seal would need a pot to flush its sinuses.), at least if my yoga teacher was showing us right. I think if you do it right it is supposed to go in one nostril and out the other. (I just realized I don't think I ever in my life written out the word nostril.) I pour it in and try to swish it around the sinuses while leaving the whole facial cavity open. The more I type, the more I realize I will just have to bring mine when we come up to Dallas for a visit.

I just love her. How many friends do you have who will offer a demonstration of sinus irrigation for your illumination? Not many, I'll bet.

But just between you and me, I'm seriously considering a late-night run to Walgreens.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rewind

Ladies and gentlemen, please do not adjust your televisions. We are, in fact, broadcasting live and uninterrupted from the Dallas studio.

Yes, that's right: we voluntarily packed up the car and hit the road yet again today, this time for home.

We tackled the final leg of our journey a day earlier than anticipated, which was a bummer for all involved. But: a second member of our crew woke up with the crud this morning, and someone else was suffering back spasms from the latest round of musical beds, and a quick check of the weather let us know that, if we were planning to beat the rain home, today was our day.

So, we enjoyed a last lunch at one of our favorite H-town spots, said good-bye to the grandparents and headed north.

Along the way, we listened to a rerun of last year's Lone Star Showdown. That is, we assumed it was a rerun, until we tumbled through our front door and turned on the television, only to discover that our brother-in-law's Aggies were, in fact, beating our beloved Longhorns.

Oh, well. At least said brother-in-law was, for the second year running, a good sport about the whole thing. That profane text message is something we'll treasure for some time to come. Thanks, big guy.

Anyhoo.

A much happier rerun occurred at the dinner table; my mother-in-law took the time to pack every. single. fixin' from yesterday's Thanksgiving feast, and can I just say? Even better the second time around.

Then we decided to kick off a new tradition for our little gang: movie night.

On nearly every road trip we've taken over the past six months, the muppers have requested a showing of Toy Story. And every time, Trey and I have listened intently from the front seat, wondering aloud just what it must be like to actually see the darned thing.

So after we'd consumed the last crumbs of turkey and stuffing, we all changed into jammies, curled up with quilts, sipped (and slurped and spilled) hot chocolate and marshmallows, and watched the flick together.

And after the big finale ("Mommy, Daddy! Mommy, Daddy! LOOK! Buzz Lightyear is FLYING!"), we put our happy, sleepy, chocolate-crusted muppers to bed, and then we did something we hardly ever do anymore: we crawled back onto the couch and watched a decidedly non-G-rated movie.

Now, at last, the television's off and we're tucked into our own beds for the night. We're grateful for the wonderful week we've had, which we hope to revisit tomorrow by going through pictures and unpacking various souvenirs.

But as the credits roll on this adventure, we're oh, so happy to be home. Because really, there's no place quite like it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Full

It's pretty much a spot-on description of the day's events.

The Houston clan, gathered 'round? Check.
A sumptuous, scrumptious feast, prepared with love? Check.
Gleefully disobedient muppers? Check, check, check.

The only real difference is that this year, I have some variation of the upper-respiratory ick my mother-in-law had last year. But instead of soldiering through and preparing a fabulous meal like she did, I slept through most of the day, rousing only occasionally to eat gorgeous food that I couldn't completely taste: a cruel punishment, indeed.

Tomorrow, then, I'll be thankful for an abundance of leftover food. Tonight, I'm thankful for this post from last year, which does a much better job than this stuffy head could of capturing the day and my many blessings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Car tunes

First, as we all know, there was Dallas.

This was followed by a night at my sister's house in Mississippi before steering east.

A few days in Alabama: everyone made merry, then we piled back into the minivan and returned to the city by the river, where I graduated from high school nearly two decades ago.

You think I exaggerate? Sorry: no.

After a lengthy day on the road with much whining by all (including, yes, me), interrupted only by repeated airings of The Jungle Book, we limped into Houston, where we're assured of a restorative meal and festive day with the kinfolk here.

All of this to say: after traversing more than 1,550 miles in five days, I have nothing especially worthwhile to blog about tonight.

But really, who would have guessed I'd still be hanging onto my NaBloPoMo pledge (albeit by the skin of my teeth) three weeks into the month? Certainly not me. So blog I must, despite the obvious lack of content.

Which is why I'm turning to my iPod for tonight's post. What, pray tell, will a random shuffle of ten songs get me? Let's find out, shall we?

1. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye: David Gray. Murmur. Wasn't expecting to kick things off on such a mellow note; frankly, I was pulling for KC and The Sunshine Band. But this song is lovely and slightly more poetic than I'm Your Boogie Man, so, you know, all is well.

2. I Feel Lucky: Mary Chapin Carpenter. Okay, now we're vaguely rocking. I'm not an especially large fan of the c-and-w genre, but it's a catchy ditty that gets props for invoking one of my favorite musicians on the planet, Lyle Lovett. Also? Makes me want to run out and buy a lottery ticket.

3. King of the Road: Roger Miller. An odd choice, yes, but who am I to argue with the iPod? This comes to us courtesy of the Swingers soundtrack, and reminds me fondly of a time and place when Vince Vaughn was less... well, fluffy. As was I.

4. The Ark: Gerry Rafferty. Seriously? Could this list please be any less impressive? Could we not see one tiny example of how deeply eclectic and funky and soulful my true musical inclinations lie? Oh, no: instead we get a song that makes me cry every. single. time. I hear it. Curse you, Gerry Rafferty, for your melancholy melodies from the 1970s.

5. Piranhas Are A Very Tricky Species: Mark Mothersbaugh. Indeed. It's a truism, it's a twee tune by one of the founding members of Devo, it's a throwaway line from my most favoritest movie ever and yes, by gum, it's eclectic. Well played, iPod.

6. Arizona: Alejandro Escovedo. Meh. I'd probably have chosen another Alejandro tune, but this does serve as a pertinent reminder to order this year's KGSR compilation when it hits the stores on Friday. You have been warned.

7. Drunken Angel: Lucinda Williams. Ah: Lucinda the divine. Pure poetry from an utterly flawless CD. Nice. Depressing as hell, but oh, so nice.

8. Long Tall Texan: Lyle Lovett. Love, love, love this man. Love, love, love this song and album. Cringe viscerally at the memory of thrice meeting him, and thrice stammering and shaking and nodding my head spasmodically whilst Trey stepped in to fill the awkward silence. Arrghh.

9. Fur Elise: Vince Guaraldi Trio. Some people have rules about wearing white shoes after Labor Day. I'm not sure white shoes are ever a great idea, but I do feel that Christmas music and decorations should be verboten before Thanksgiving. Notable exception: A Charlie Brown Christmas. That's good listening any day of the year.

10. Long Dead Gone: John Wesley Harding. Oh, I see how this works: we begin on a slow, sleepy tempo and end with something poppy and peppy. Now I'll be awake all night, with this college-days fave blaring through my brain. Fine.

Happy tunes to you... and, needless to say, feel free to add your own to the list.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Trouble brewing

Two entries today for Carter's nonexistent baby book:

1. This afternoon, for the first time in his young life, my sweet boy rolled his eyes at me. And sighed heavily and dramatically as if to say, How, exactly, did I manage to end up with the world's drippiest mother? I cannot wait to leave home.

And in an instant, my heart shattered into a kabillion tiny shards. Because what precipitated this wee snit was that I'd played for him the silly lullaby I've sung to him nearly every night since he was old enough to request it.

However, by the time he shot me his third eyeroll for some other petty aggravation, this one accompanied by a surly glare, I was pretty much over it.

2. Also, and I'm not implying there's a connection between the two events, just recording the facts: Carter committed his very first crime today. Yep, pocketed a piece of gum from a little gas station about a half-hour north of Birmingham.

It was pretty innocuous, really; he was milling around the place while Trey waited in line to buy a Diet Dr Pepper, and he grabbed a handful of candy, which he was promptly told to put right back, mister. And he did, except for that lone wrapped gumball, which he revealed to Trey in the parking lot.

Trey marched him back inside, of course, made him apologize to the cashier and pay for the gumball with a quarter he'd been saving. The cashier, who'd obviously played this role before, solemnly told him he'd done the right thing, as she made change for the quarter.

All's well now. No big deal. But this parenting stuff? Not for sissies.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Landmark

This is how it happens.

The strong, consistent pull of deja-vu and the crazy quilt of childhood memories give way, more or less, to actual bearings and a sense of place.

We know most of the hotel staff by name, both morning and evening crews, and Miss Karen remembers to put aside a bag of stale biscuits so we can feed the ducks and catfish out back.

After we've dispersed every last morsel, after we stroll back into the hotel and board the elevator, Spencer and Katie take their places at the handrail to watch as we magically levitate above the lobby. Carter needs no prompting to push the number for our floor.

We're slightly, irrationally miffed when someone takes "our" space in the parking lot.

Laundry has been done, groceries have been purchased. And everything we own is infused with the faint, sweet smell of Nanny's house.

The revelers have gone home. The cards have been opened, the presents unwrapped. The balloons have deflated. There's still cake, but we've quit craving it entirely, and now eat it only out of a vague sense of obligation.

We see a car with a Texas license plate, and it rings a distant bell. Yes, Texas: we remember something about that.

We can't quite recall a time when the morning sun didn't rise over the mountains. And the stars: well, they've always been this bright, haven't they?

We go out for barbecue and run into a former neighbor.

Everything that was strange and foreign just a few days ago now seems utterly normal.

There hasn't been enough time to visit. Not nearly enough. There never will be, of course, and that's why it hurts to leave.

But we know that it's time to move on. And we know that, when we return, we'll happily start all over again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Detour

So: the plan for tonight's blog was to explain why Lynyrd Skynyrd does, in fact, bring me back to my childhood (good guesswork, nodnarb) and how it is that we came to Alabama in force to officially celebrate my grandmother's big birthday in style.

But: well, it's late. I am oh, so weary, probably as a result of this marvelous, memorable, action-packed day, but possibly because I have a wee bug of some sort that I'm unwittingly sharing with the fam who've gathered 'round. Which means I'm getting stink eye every time one of my sisters sneezes.

And: to top things off, poor Spence is having a rough night, the likes of which can, apparently, only be smoothed by sleeping wedged between his parents. So I'm thinking that clacking away at the laptop? Perhaps not the most brilliant idea at the moment.

Ergo: I am safely steering the blog to the shoulder of the road for the evening. Tomorrow, I'll rev it back up. Keep your seatbelts fastened...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Turn it up

Big wheels keep on turning:
Carry me home to see my kin.
Singing songs about the Southland,
I miss Alabama once again.

And I think its a sin, yes.

Sweet home Alabama,
Where the skies are so blue.
Sweet home Alabama,
Lord, I'm coming home to you.

Here I come...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ninety

She doesn't have call waiting, much less a cell phone.

Her microwave oven predates my two youngest siblings.

And she doesn't have video games to entertain visiting great- and grandchildren; Nanny kicks it old-school-style with a seriously vintage Pachinko machine.

But it's never too late to embrace technology. So today, in honor of her ninetieth birthday, we're presenting my grandmother with a computer.

The learning curve, it may be steep. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb by predicting that she won't be Googling with confidence for at least a day or two.

So to make things a little easier on her (and yes, myself), I'm bumping a pair of Nanny-specific posts from last year.

Here's my recollection of the time we accidentally killed her. (I hasten to add that she recovered nicely. Honest.)

And here's my list of seventeen fascinating tidbits about this remarkable woman, born on this day in 1917.

Happy birthday, Nanny. I love you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

That's a peach, hon.

So, a personal creed: do you have one? It shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me that I don't, because this would imply a certain level of structure and purpose that's sorely lacking in my life. For heaven's sake, I still need to write a few outstanding thank-you notes for wedding gifts.

Why, yes, the wedding was in 1994. You're so kind to mention it.

I can't say that Trey's the type to put much stock in personal creeds, but if I could be so bold to select one for him, it would be: Work Hard, Play Hard.

This probably sounds more impressive in Latin, but the only thing I've retained after dedicating much of my adolescence to the study of maddening little words that end in the letter "a," is: Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. Which doesn't get me very far these days.

Anyhoo: Trey. Daily, he quests to strike the best possible balance between what he must do and what he wants to do.

For example, he must, on occasion, travel for work and, after the work part has concluded, he must eat in nice restaurants with wine lists and no high chairs. However, he really wants to bathe three shrieking, splashing, uncooperative muppers while I fall into a weeping heap on the couch.

I kid! I kid because I love. And also because I don't have the foggiest idea what Trey does for a living.

I mean, I know he markets... something. And meets about... things. And I'm absolutely certain that he has marketing meetings. But after that, it gets a little fuzzy for me. Does his company manufacture widgets? Does he worry about the WENUS? I can't be sure.

Whenever we're introduced to new people, and the question, "So, Trey, what do you do?" inevitably arises, I try very hard to focus on the words coming out of his mouth. But it's no use, because I'm listening, I'm listening, and then: look! A butterfly! Look at the butterfly! And so another learning opportunity passes me by.

Still, I have the distinct impression that Trey works extremely hard from nine to five. Or, more frequently, eight to six. Seven to seven? Sometimes, yes.

And it's not like his work is done when he metaphorically clocks out, because his offspring show him not one shred of mercy as he walks through the front door at the end of a long day.

So he'd more than earned an uninterrupted day of play today. And in keeping with his personal creed, he played really, really hard.

Specifically, Trey played golf today. FIFTY holes of the stuff. In ONE day. And here's the best part: it was for a totally awesome cause.

My friend Jenny, who just happens to be the most remarkable person I've ever known in real life, organized not one, but two golf tournaments in the span of one month for her organization, Heroes for Children, and invited Trey to participate in both.

So a few weeks ago, Trey played in the Heroes for Children Golf Classic, which was, as it turns out, a great warm-up for today's Golf-A-Thon. He also e-mailed friends, family and co-workers to ask for their support, and thanks to their astonishing generosity and great big warm and fuzzy hearts, he personally raised more than $1,700 for HFC.

For a glimpse at how that money will be used to help families in Texas whose children are battling cancer, read this. Pretty heady stuff, huh?

I'm so impressed with and so incredibly proud of Trey's part in helping HFC today, and I'm so grateful to everyone who supported him in the endeavor. He'd thank you himself, I'm sure, if he weren't crashed out on the couch, sawing logs, cheeks ever so slightly windburned. He's pretty darn cute, my hard-working man.

Sleep well, husband. And sweet dreams: you definitely earned 'em. Because tomorrow? It's back to work, buddy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Harmony

Because one of the singular joys of motherhood is seeing my children fall in love with the music that I adored a generation ago.

Because the catchy tune, the groovy threads and the seriously funky moves? Every bit as fresh today as they were then.

Because I'm not sure it's ever too early to begin the indoctrination, and that girl would never lead us astray.

Because lately, I feel as if I should be wearing a black-and-white striped shirt with a whistle dangling around my neck, as I clutch in my sweaty palms a book that I desperately need to read, because oh, my WORD, the daily angst and strife and conflict amongst the muppers. And maybe, just maybe, watching this video twelve times before breakfast will help enact some positive change, even if it's at the most molecular level.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quandary

I heard the wildest rumor on the radio today. Just completely unbelievable.

Naturally, I went running to Snopes to check its veracity, and I was stunned: stunned, I tell you, to learn that it was the straight dope. Apparently, we are halfway through November.

NOVEMBER, people. O, October: we hardly knew ye.

Let's briefly put aside the fact that we'll be saying good-bye to this whole year in a matter of weeks, because then I'll need to breathe into a paper bag to stave off a panic attack.

No, let's focus on a more pressing issue.

What, exactly, am I supposed to do with the small but adorable pile of ornamental gourds on my front doorstep?

A brief survey of the neighborhood reveals that mine are, in fact, the last pumpkins standing.

And I freely acknowledge that, even in its prime, this wasn't an especially impressive display. After all, it's de rigeur to hire professional crew to install Christmas lights 'round here, and I'm pretty sure that our house was one of the few without its very own pumpkin stylist.

I just know the neighbors shake their heads and tsk-tsk as they drive by.

So, fine: the gourds have to go. But it just seems cruel and heartless to toss them in the trash can along with the edamame shells and splintered chopsticks from tonight's dinner.

Especially the green curly-tailed watermelon-looking thing that looks as if it were designed by Dr. Seuss himself. I secretly wish I could give it a name and keep him as a pet.

Gourdo. Yes, that's it: I'll call him Gourdo.

Sigh. Perhaps I need a hobby. Or, more likely, a decent night's sleep. Off to bed I go...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Checking it twice.

I love paper. There: I said it.

I don't love paper in an unhealthy way; I've never been tempted to eat it, for example, but I do wince when I hear the phrase "paperless society." I'm sure that's all well and good for the trees of the world, but it's a terrible omen for paperphiles like me.

My heart skips a full beat when I come across an especially lovely journal, stationery set, notepad or sketchbook. I swoon at clean, white, unlined pages that swear to store whatever silly sentiment, botched poem or mission statement bobs into my head at any given time.

And once such thoughts are recorded, there's nothing more delicious than stumbling across them a few years down the road. That's why I've had such fun this week, paging through an old diary from my post-college years.

I confess that I'm sorely tempted to shred a few entries that seem too awkward and foolish and emotionally overwrought for posterity. But somehow I manage to resist the urge, and leave them be.

After all, I have to force myself to throw away grocery lists, so I could never truly part with the lunatic, rambling retelling of, and I quote, "the forcible, non-optional removal of my four wisdom teeth." I had never, but NEVER, known pain even remotely like this before.

Needless to say, I had never birthed a child before. Adorable naivete.

Because I was (yes: am) an intermittent diarist, this one slender book, featuring Matisse's silhouette of Icarus, encompasses nearly five years of scribbles and scrawls.

Among them, my favorites are the lists. I kept lists of things that made me happy, relevant quotes, itemized intentions, witty musings from co-workers and, of course, resolutions at the cusp of each new year. A snippet from the early hours of 1994:

Enjoy this wedding.
Watch my posture.
Find an apartment with a good, clean kitchen, and start cooking again.
Start an exercise routine, and keep a record of what I eat.
Buy a few good bras.
Smile more.
Either water my plants daily, or throw them away.

Lofty goals, indeed.

I haven't written out resolutions for a few years now, but it doesn't matter; I can borrow pretty freely from these lists gone by. I suspect I'll forever intend to start an exercise routine, for example, and maintaining a decent selection of bras is always a good idea.

If I ever tire of my own lists, I can even sneak a peek into the lives of others, thanks to a book I bought today. It's a compilation, with commentary, of the to-do lists of complete and total strangers. Such voyeuristic fun to read the pro v. con chart of someone else's job or boyfriend. Or both.

Also fun? Sarah Kate's challenge to list your childhood celebrity crushes. Join in the fun, check out the comments to find out what Trey and I had to say about such, or just enjoy the eye candy. You're welcome.

And that, for now, is all that's fit to print. THE END.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My little eye

Seen, in the crowd spilling out of Scholz's biergarten before yesterday's game: a frat brother Trey's hasn't talked to in years. "We used to go to the Broken Spoke," Trey says, adding quickly, "long before you came on the scene, find the two tallest girls in the place and dance with 'em all night long."

Seen, in the crowd spilling out of Memorial Stadium after the game: a friend of ours from the Houston years, and his daughter, now a junior at Texas. With some prompting, we remembered attending his wedding. We traded tales of old times, then exchanged contact information and promises to stay in touch.

Seen, below our hotel window this morning: the Veterans Day parade, streaming slowly down Congress Avenue. Included: flags of every size, many motorcycles, marching bands, a crew of Corvettes, a fire engine (preceded by a curious Dalmatian), bagpipers, and troops: soldiers, past and present, and scouts, all sorts.

Seen, outside our ground-level window at breakfast: much of the parade and its spectators, winding their way back home; the thrilled face of a valet, inspecting a ten-dollar tip; a surprising number of mixed marriages, with one spouse clad in red and black and the other still wearing last night's burnt orange. What's their breakfast conversation like, I wonder? Ours is happy and easy and quiet. Too quiet: it's time to fetch the muppers.

Seen, just before we leave town: all things musical at our favorite Austin outpost. We grab as much as we can carry before we hit the road in my mom's Jeep.

Seen, shortly after we arrive at our meeting point, halfway between us and them: the three most beautiful kiddos I've ever seen, with enormous grins on their faces and their arms outstretched. Also: their weary Nana and uncle.

Seen, rolling below our patio table at the Gristmill: the Guadalupe River.

Seen, after a large lunch: a brief but satisfying snippet of my first-ever show at Gruene Hall. The muppers refuse to comply with my request to dance, but that leaves the planked floor open for others to gracefully twirl and step in time to the music.

Seen, once we've said our good-byes and buckled the muppers into their seats: an enormous blue Texas sky stretching up and out and oh-so-wide.

Seen, shortly after that: the backs of my eyelids, for a little while.

Seen, just on the horizon, well after the sun has set and the muppers have been placated with their favorite movie and the final credits have run and they have just begin to completely lose their cool: the Bank of America building, glowing green, which means that Dallas is within reach.

Seen, after a few twists and turns: our house. In the middle of our street. Our house: it's our castle and our keep.

Goodnight, all...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Tis the season

Like children pining for Santa Claus, Trey and I eagerly await his arrival every year.

We know he'll darken our doorstep on some steamy summer day, bearing a special delivery, but we don't know exactly when. We have a pretty good idea of what's coming, but there's always the potential for surprise.

And then: oh, the joy. The doorbell rings. The package arrives. We squeal with glee, join hands and dance around the room while the muppers regard us with skepticism. They don't get it, and they won't for some time, but we know.

The season, it has begun.

It's college football season, and Dave, our mailman, capably plays the role of Santa in a faded blue suit.

In exchange for our signature and some polite banter about the weather, he hands us a large Priority Mail envelope containing about a half-dozen color-coded tickets to Texas Longhorn home games.

And it really is a bit like Christmas morning: we spend so much of the year in giddy anticipation... and then, before we know it, we're sitting in the middle of a room filled with crumpled wrapping paper, stunned that it's all over till next year.

Tonight, we opened the last present under the tree, and it was exactly what we wanted: a thrilling victory over our rivals from the west, Texas Tech.

It really couldn't have been more perfect: it was a gorgeous day, warm enough for shorts and t-shirts and sunscreen, but with a nice breeze blowing from the Hill Country. Texas in November, y'all.

Before the clock started ticking, we were treated to a flyover of Apache helicopters, a grateful Veterans Day nod to those who've served our country, and enthusiastic recognition of the seniors on and around the field.

And once the game began, there was lots of action and just enough suspense to keep things interesting until the very end.

But some of my favorite moments and memories happened, as they so often do, in the stands.

This is the sixth year Trey and I have held season tickets, with the last five years spent in the same seats. Our corner of Memorial Stadium is like a neighborhood in miniature. We might not have hand-picked the people around us, but for the most part, we respect and look out for each other.

We collectively roll our eyes at the guy who always seems to be looking for a fight. Or the two women who chatter from beginning to end about anything under the sun that's not related to football.

Or that loud-mouthed girl who yells and hoots and hollers and stands up when all around her are seated. (Hey: I am my father's daughter.)

We trade tickets to games we know we can't attend. We high-five after a big play. We ask after children and grandchildren, proudly displaying pictures when prompted. We celebrate birthdays. We share our peanuts.

And after Smokey the Cannon fires for the last time, and the Texas faithful join together to sing The Eyes of Texas, we pat each other on the back and say, "Next year. You take care, and we'll see you next year."

This year isn't really over, of course. We still have our final regularly scheduled game, and we certainly hope we'll have some postseason football to enjoy. But the last home game is always a bittersweet reflection of the year that was.

Football players linger on the field, high-fiving the fans before they finally make that walk through the tunnel and into the locker room. Cheerleaders gather on the fifty for group portraits and hugs all around. Band members hold their instruments aloft and savor their view of the stadium.

And we mentally begin the countdown till our blue-suited Santa rings the doorbell to kick off a brand-new season.

Hook 'em, Horns.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mixmaster

To the amusement or annoyance (or both) of family and friends, Trey and I still celebrate the anniversary of our first date.

Goofy? Yeah. But it's a fun and easy day (11.11.88)
to remember a fun and easy time. Although I do wince at the memory of the spiral perm, acid-washed jeans and bedazzled ankle boots I so proudly sported that night. Yeesh.

I should note that it's not always an elaborate observation; according to a 2005 calendar I recently unearthed, it appears that I marked the date with an eyebrow wax.

I feel certain that I was thinking of my beloved as each errant hair was torn from its follicle.

This year, we're taking the show on the road, back to where it all began.

In the morning, we'll kiss the muppers good-bye and leave them in the very capable hands of their Nana, Uncle John and Aunt Mar. Then we'll be free to spend twenty-four hours 'round our college stomping grounds, in Austin.

I think every one of the forty acres holds some memory of Trey and me, young and in love. The love, I'm happy to report, hasn't faded one iota with the passage of time, but some of the memories have gotten a little hazy.

Thank goodness I kept a journal. Too bad I don't have the foggiest idea where it is.

However: I was able to dig up and dust off a diary from 1993, in which I rather melodramatically recalled the events that had led to my happy status as FIANCEE, y'all.

Rereading it this afternoon, I was struck by a pair of revelations. First, at one point in my life, my writing was actually legible. Today, not so much.

And second, I dedicated less of my adorable twentysomething scrawl to the night of our first date, and much more to the night we met. Which was nineteen years ago this very evening.

Now, I'm no Ree; I lack the material, mad writing skillz and attention span to weave a breathtaking tale with more cliffhangers and hiney tingles than a Friday-afternoon episode of Days of Our Lives.

But I think our little story warrants one blog post, at least. So, with minor editing for only the most cringeworthy snippets, here's my account of how it all began.

+++

In my first three months as an Austinite, I occupied the world of a wide-eyed freshman: classes, dorm life, new friends, a vast dating pool and the demands of sorority.

Sorority meant near-constant meetings and regular mixers, all of which required my attendance. I chafed at the rules and regularly questioned my decision to go Greek, but I had a small, comfortable group of friends in my pledge class who made it easier for me to stick things out a while longer.

Said friends were excited when, at yet another meeting, it was announced that our next mixer would be with the Betas.

One friend bemoaned the fact that her ex-boyfriend would probably be in attendance. We repeated his name and solemnly agreed that, at the request of our sister, Trey Franklin would be declared off-limits.

I cared as little about the ex-boyfriend as about the mixer itself. I'd been invited to another party that sounded like more fun, but when my friends Bry and Jenn asked me for a ride to the mixer, I reluctantly made the commitment to attend.

So on Wednesday, the night after George Bush was elected president, I donned a cream turtleneck, a black argyle cardigan and a black miniskirt, and Bry, Jenn and I struck out for a bar called Sixth Street Live.

Downstairs, a guy was cranking out some sad country tunes. As we walked upstairs to join the mixer, I spied a group of unfamiliar faces sitting around a table. I guessed that they were Betas, but there was a girl in their midst, and they weren't making any efforts at mixing.

I remember feeling a little indignant: were they interlopers? Or did they think they were above this scene? And why was the best-looking guy in the room just sitting there, not smiling? Who did he think he was, anyway?

I shook it off and kept moving. But the crowd was lethargic, and in short order, I was ready to go somewhere else. Bry and Jenn seemed content to stay a while longer, so I put on my best party face and chatted with friends, biding my time.

Meanwhile, the best-looking guy in the room had decided to stretch his legs. I saw him maneuvering through the crowd and hoped he would come over to me. There was just something about him: he was tall, of course, and handsome, and I wondered what it would be like to talk to him.

But he didn't seem to notice me, so I talked to other people instead. In mid-sentence, I'd glance around the room to see where he was, who he was talking to. Occasionally, I thought he was looking my way, too, but he never acknowledged me.

Now I found myself forming an opinion of the guy with no name.

I know you, I thought. You're one of those cocky frat guys with not much going on upstairs, and a wallet in your pocket stuffed with your dad's credit cards. You're not gonna waste your time chatting up a freshman from some town in Mississippi that's so small, it's not even on the map.

This was the monologue playing in my head as I chatted idly with a gaggle of pledge sisters staged opposite a group of Betas, with Mr. Obnoxious front and center. My friend with the broken heart nodded toward the boys. "That's the guy I was telling y'all about."

As we all tried unsuccessfully to look without staring, I followed the direction of her nod, and my heart caught in my throat. "Which one is he?" Jenn asked. "The one in the striped shirt," came the answer.

I glanced again, praying that Mr. Obnoxious was wearing plaid. Nope: stripe city. In a desperate bid at subtlety, I gestured in his general direction, asking my friend, "Him? The tall one?"

"No," she said, "it's the guy standing next to him."

Why was I flooded with relief when he obviously wasn't interested enough to talk to me? This was getting ridiculous. It was definitely time for a change of scene, so I found Bry and Jenn and gave them a five-minute warning.

As they wandered back into the crowd to say their good-byes, I broke away from the pack and found where I'd left my purse. Feeling disgusted and dejected by this utter waste of time, I leaned over... and felt someone tap my shoulder.

Turning around, I looked up... and up, into the handsome face. It said, "Hi, my name is Trey Franklin." I smiled at the face, swallowed hard and tried to be cool.

And then we talked. We talked about Austin, about the South, about names, about our families. He was a history major working for a law firm, a junior from Houston with Georgia roots wearing, I noted, a triple-starched Brooks Brothers shirt.

Lo and behold, he actually seemed like a really nice guy, if a little too suave. God, that smile: my heart must have been beating double-time.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing when he told me that the Betas were having a burgers-and-beer casual at the house on Friday. Would I like to come? I said yes just as Bry and Jenn suddenly materialized, ready to go.

And then, feeling so giddy I was nearly reeling, I got in my car and left without giving him my phone number.

But you know what? He has it now.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vegetative state

Because I try not to make a habit of carefully inspecting the chompers of gift horses, I cannot explain to you why it is that Carter, one month shy of his fifth birthday, suddenly loves carrots.

Three weeks ago? A few tender baby carrots, surreptitiously nudged next to a stack of dinosaur bites, would have elicited howls of protest. Today, I've had to stop him from inhaling a family-size bag of the stuff, lest his skin take on an orange cast.

I can't account for the change, but I can and will confide that the discovery of this small but significant breakthrough has had me pirouetting 'round the kitchen with relief and joy.

Because it means, and I say this with all love and respect for my better half, that at least one kiddo of our three may have dodged their father's screwy eating gene.

I'm terribly sorry that I'm not at liberty to go into detail about this quirky gene, which mystifies me no less today than when I learned about it two decades ago, because it is, for Some People, a Sensitive Topic. And Some People, I have discovered, don't relish sharing All Personal Aspects of Their Lives with Complete and Total Strangers.

Personally, I can't begin to understand this odd philosophy, but I do try to respect it. Usually. Unless it's irresistibly blogworthy.

I will tell you that it's quite a sight to see a handsome, strapping six-foot-four-sized man shrink in fear at the notion of eating a lettuce leaf. Or a banana.

So: Carter chomping carrots was a very good thing indeed. So good, in fact, that I happily looked the other way as he methodically dunked each carrot into a little cup of ranch dressing, nullifying at least some of that fabulous nutritional goodness.

THE BOY IS EATING VEGETABLES, I rationalized. Ranch dressing, chocolate fondue fountain, a vat of melted butter served with a giant paintbrush: accompaniments can be phased out later, I figured.

It was a pleasant scene. Until Katie walked into the kitchen.

"Orange juice," she said, tossing her empty sippy cup in my general direction. Just as I began to launch into my kabillionth lecture of the morning about manners and magic words, Carter bounded toward his sister with a smile and a handful of bunny snacks.

"Katie, would you like a carrot?" he asked. "No," Katie said, with a bit of a snip to her voice. "I don't like carrots. Orange. Juice."

"You should really give it a try," Carter persisted. "Taste it with ranch sauce. It's so good!"

Katie softened her tone, but shook her head again. "Ranch sauce is spicy. I don't like ranch sauce."

Carter was only slightly deflated. "No, it's not spicy. Look at me! Mmmmm. It's yummy."

I admired Carter's attitude, but knew from first-hand experience that no way, no how, was Katie backing down from her stance. Sure enough, she held out her hands in the universal gesture of "back off, wise guy" and reiterated her opinion. Ranch? Spicy. Bad.

Satisfied with a fresh supply of o.j., she began to make her way out of the kitchen, but my born-again veggie fiend wasn't giving up that easily. He followed her, wielding a carrot and now openly begging her to try it. Please! Just a taste! You'll see! It's not spicy!

Katie broke into a run. Carter dashed after her. Somehow I became the center axis of the fray, so now they were whirling around me, with Katie screeching, "SPICY! NO!" and Carter yelling, "COME HERE! COME HERE AND EAT THE CARROT! STOP TEASING ME!"

And I thought: gosh, maybe that quirky gene isn't such a bad deal after all.

Eventually, an impasse was declared. Katie went skulking off to a corner to read a book and channel her inner moody thirteen-year-old.

Plucky Carter was down, but not out. So I wasn't especially surprised to hear him peddling his wares in the den.

"Hey, Spencer, do you want to try a carrot with ranch sauce? It's not spicy at all."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Framed

Set up, I tell you.

People, I have been set up, and I'll confess: I never even saw it coming.

The con artists? So clever and crafty that I had nary a clue they'd been quietly scheming against me, much less using me as an unwitting accomplice. Oh, the shame.

For two months, apparently, I've been oblivious to the whispers and handshakes and secret plots being hatched behind my back. But really, this story began unfolding two years ago this very week.

That's when, after months of deliberation, I bit the bullet and scheduled a session with Sugar Photography. Some girl named Jennifer Weintraub showed up at our front door and just... well, hung out with us for a little while.

With a camera at the ready, she immediately won over our wily mupper trio. Carter, not quite three, showed off his very best tricks for this cool new friend. Spencer and Katie, mostly bald and nearly toothless, smiled and drooled on cue.

Jennifer managed to put me at ease in front of the lens, an unprecedented feat, and indulged Trey with some photography talk. By the end of the afternoon, all five of us were thoroughly smitten with the lovely and talented Ms. Weintraub.

I knew I wanted pictures of our kiddos, a snapshot of our life in the autumn of 2005. I had no idea what we were in for.

The pictures? Quite literally, took our collective breath away. And that snapshot grows more valuable, more cherished and more breathtaking as time marches on.

Two years down the road, I'm so sorry to say, I've forgotten all about the sweet little notch at the top of Spencer's right ear... until I look at the photographic results of that afternoon. Then it all comes rushing back to me.

And as if all that weren't enough, we somehow scored this fabulous new friend out of the deal, who just happened to have adorable children the same ages as ours, and a husband who loved music and was a wine distributor.

We couldn't quite believe our luck. Still can't.

At roughly six-month increments since that first session, we've had the enormous privilege of being Sugar subjects. Sometimes, I like to think, we've been cooperative, but more often than not, we've been dificult. Obstinate. Royal pains in the arse.

Someone invariably has a secret double ear infection. Or runs away in the middle of an absolutely perfect photo op. Someone else steadfastly refuses to smile, even when promised lollipops.

Someone (and really, there's no need to name names) has an unfortunate attack of adult-onset acne. You get the picture.

Correction: we do. Doesn't really matter how it all goes down, we get these incredible photographs, these priceless treasures, on the other side of it.

The only problem is that we don't do anything with the pictures. Well, that's not really true: we put them out and prop them up and ooh and aah at them, and smile and nod and defer praise to Jen when we have visitors who invariably ooh and aah at them.

Even though the propped-up pictures are, I cringe at the confession, wrapped in cellophane.

It's not that I don't want to find frames for them. I don't for a minute believe that they're best showcased in plastic wrap. I know they deserve more.

It's just that I'm one of those nincompoops who becomes nearly debilitated by the question: "Ma'am, would you like paper or plastic today? Ma'am? Paper bags, or those of the plastic variety? No, really, either one is fine with me; it's your choice. Ma'am? Ma'am?"

So selecting frames for my gorgeous Sugar pictures? Would require heavy doses of medication. Sigh.

Last week, and I knew it was coming eventually, I got an angry call from Jen, demanding the immediate return of my still-naked portraits.

Oh, fine: I exaggerate for dramatic effect. C'est moi.

Actually, what she said was that she needed some examples to show a potential client. Huge favor. Just for a few days. Would I mind terribly?

I only lied a little when I said no, of course not, keep them as long as you need to. What? You're coming over now? Well, okay...

When Trey came home from work, he took note of the sad and empty spaces our cellophane-clad photos normally occupied, and asked just what in the sam hill had happened. I tried to keep my tone light as I told him that we were being punished for my inability to make decisions.

Jen had promised to return the pictures on Monday, but I hated to sound pushy, so I didn't bring it up when Monday was mostly over.

And anyway, we had a fun night on tap: a get-together with a group of mommy friends. I offered to drive Jen to the restaurant, and the husbands conspired to have dinner at our house and let the kids run amok while they talked of music and wine.

Good times were had by all. At the end of the evening, I dropped Jen off at her dark and quiet house, then made my way back to mine. The light in the muppers' room was off, so I tiptoed into the house, noting that the lamp I usually leave burning in the front room was dimmed, too.

I had nearly reached the kitchen when something inexplicably caught my eye. A flash of black over the mantle. A black corner connected to a... wait. Was that frame there when I left the house a few hours ago? And on the opposite wall...

Just then, Trey peeked 'round the corner, grinned at me and flipped on the lights.

The luminous photo of the muppers at the top of this blog? The one taken on a steamy day at the Arboretum last summer? Now in a gorgeous frame, hung above the fireplace. Ditto the how-did-she-do-that portrait of all five of us that Jen used for our 2006 holiday cards.

And on the opposite wall, a vibrant gallery of my three chickadees from this summer.

This snapshot truly doesn't do it justice, so please accept a standing invitation to come stand in my living room at your earliest convenience, and marvel with me.

And I did marvel, teary-eyed, at Trey's telling of how these stunning frames came to be ours: how he consulted with Jen and Deb on the sly to carefully select them, how Jen contrived that faux favor to get me to relinquish our prints just long enough to ferry them to the framer, and how they'd managed to sneak them back into the house so Trey could hang them before I arrived home.

I was nearly overcome by the Sugar showcase at the front of the house... and then Trey showed me a matched set of my favorite pictures from that very first session, now in beautiful twin frames and hanging over our bed.

That did it: I was a giant puddle. It's just... well, it's two years. The two of us. The two of them. (Don't fret; their big brother has been properly documented, too.)

But of the stacks and stacks of (predominantly unframed) photographs we've acquired in our nearly nineteen years together, I don't think there's ever been a more beautiful and organic illustration that captures how much Trey and I really, genuinely love each other.

How happy we are to be together.

How surprised and blessed and wildly entertained we are by our little family.

Truly, I've never been more grateful to be set up.