Sunday, March 30, 2008


To begin with: I'm fine. Honestly.

Touched by your concern, eager to hear your very own favorite weeper songs and films, and utterly amazed that anyone, up to and including my mother, read that whole long post.

I am, to quote Mary J., just fine.

Interesting side note: although I amuse myself with the notion that I share with my better half the things that are on my mind and (awww... ) in my heart, I'm never really sure how much of my blah blah blah actually penetrates his consciousness.

He is, after all, from Mars, whereas I hail from Venus.

Still, I was surprised to awaken Saturday to the realization that a large chunk of the morning had easily come and gone without my involvement.

The kids were fed and dressed; the kitchen was sparkling clean. And I got the sense that everyone was, I don't know, tip-toeing around so that I could sleep even longer, if I so desired.

"Wow," I yawned and stretched as I shuffled out of the bedroom. "What's going on here?"

"Oh, I just figured you needed your sleep," Trey said. (Awww... )

"Also," he added, a little hesitantly, "I read your blog this morning, and now... well, I'm a little worried about you. Are you okay?"

Fine. I really, truly, honestly am just fine.

However, I may be blogging about depression again pretty soon. Like, next Saturday. Because sleeping in? Is probably my favorite activity on the planet.

So that's how the weekend began. And get this: it ended on an even better note.

Because today, we all piled into the car, and we drove north. Oh, so far north. I mean, we could not have been more northerly if we'd had a sleigh and eight reindeer.

That's how much we've missed our wonderful, irreplaceable, formerly across-the-street neighbors: so much that we were willing to drive halfway to Kansas just to see them again.

Yes, I exaggerate. But at one point, Carter did actually pipe up with the observation, "Mom, we've been driving so long that it feels like we're on vacation!"

And you know, it was a vacation to see our friends again.

Kirsten, who kept me from falling apart that infamous day Spencer decided to take an unchaperoned tour of the Arboretum, and kept me in the loop on all the neighborhood gossip.

Rod, who brought over a tray of Kirsten's famous banana cake on the day we moved in, and who made a mean platter of ribs for us tonight.

And their two sweet, handsome, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys, both of whom I utterly adore. Even if they have this odd notion that burnt orange is the world's ugliest color.

It was such good, relaxed fun, seeing them again. Laughing and swapping stories. Bickering about politics. Watching the kids play together, just like they used to in our back yard.

And although I've finally stopped clutching my chest every time I see the strange brick building that stands where their sweet house used to be, I still miss them all the time.

Here's the thing: you fall in love with a house for its floor plan, back yard or school zone. But you don't always get terrific neighbors as part of the deal.

We did. We know how lucky we were.

So if Kirsten calls tomorrow with news that the house across the street from them is absolutely perfect for us, and it's just been listed at a Franklin-friendly price... well, then: halfway to Kansas, here we come.

And now that I've got Jen all riled up, I'll end with one last happy house note: this one.

It's not halfway to Kansas, but it is the perfect place for one weekend, twelve adults and (seriously?) fifteen children.

Cannot wait.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lighten up

Did you know that it's physiologically impossible to cry while listening to this song?

Did you know that Jeff Lynne is not directing his diatribe toward a woman named Bruce?

Did you know that in 1980, when I was ten years old, I wore out the ELO side of my Xanadu LP?

True. All true.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Post-trip blues. First-of-spring funk.

Body dysmorphia. Escalating social anxiety.

Monthly hormonal fluctuations. Run-of-the-mill stress and strain.

An unexpected barrage of heartbreaking news from friends near and far.

Whatever the root cause or diagnosis, I've been beset by a deep and abiding funk lately, one that's left me feeling as fragile, raw, ragged and thin-skinned as my chin after a hateful and incredibly ill-advised chemical peel.

And while I'm well aware that a dizzying array of mood-balancing medications and remedies are available for the asking, I'm absolutely convinced that the only cure for me is a good, cleansing cry.

You know the kind: a full box of Kleenex, get-it-all-out cry. A no-holds-barred, unabashedly ugly cry.

But suddenly it's like I forgot to pay the water bill: I can't seem to squeeze out one salty, therapeutic drop.

I used to be able to cry on cue. And off cue. Truthfully, I cried pretty much anytime, and, to Trey's horror, with stunning regularity. But now, for reasons I can't quite explain, crying seems like a luxury I can't afford.

Maybe it's because I feel guilty: why would I willingly wallow in sadness when I have so much happiness in my life?

Maybe it's because I usually have an audience of three adorable muppers who, I suspect, might be a wee bit traumatized if Mommy curled up in a little ball on the floor and began weeping and wailing.

Maybe I'd simply cried myself out by my thirtieth birthday.

I don't know. But I do know that if I can somehow flip that stubborn release switch, I'll feel so much better.

And so I'm assembling a mercilessly masochistic list of sure-fire tear triggers. Truthfully, any one of these items could make me more than misty, but as a group, I think they'll set off the cascade of catharsis I so desire.

I'll begin with the obvious, the low-hanging fruit; then I'll work my way up (down?) to the inexplicable, absurd and enigmatic.

1. A wedding is proposed; vows are exchanged. A baby is born, or maybe two. A family is made complete when a child is adopted.

Thank you, The Learning Channel, for your sensitive selection of daytime programming, which consistently makes my nose run.

2. And while I'm thinking about the award-winning, amazing Jennifer Weintraub: her pictures alone move me to wordlessness (which is, I assure you, no small feat), but when she puts them in motion and sets them to music, I just... I can't... I wish... oh, see for yourself.

Note: if you quickly, but quickly (do not tarry, do not pass GO, do not collect $200) click this link right now, you'll find an insanely beautiful slideshow of our wee family.

Which is perfect, because the profusely wordy post I've been working on since, oh, December, about that session (Miracle on Elm Street: In Which the Franklins Are Uncharacteristically Cooperative Before a Camera) is still firmly embedded in my cavernous Blogger draft folder and may never find its way to publication.

But for the record, it's not just Jen's photographs of my very own offspring that make me cry. Friends, distant acquaintances, local celebrities, complete and total strangers: if she shares a link to any Sugar slideshow, I will watch it and weep. Repeatedly.

3. Oh, Mr. Jones: I owe you a sincere apology. All through my youth, I rolled my eyes whenever your song was played, and folks both old and young instinctively reached for their threadbare hankies.

I hope you'll forgive me when I confess that I failed to comprehend the weight, much less the meaning, of the line, "they placed a ring upon his daughter."

But now that I know he stopped loving her because, in fact, they placed a wreath upon his door... well, sir, I've discovered that one hanky is woefully insufficient. Well done, you.

4. Sticking with the genre, but giving it a good tweak, I will tell you that the Dixie Chicks can, nearly without fail, get my tear ducts working overtime.

Sure, there are obvious weepers like Cowboy Take Me Away or the achingly beautiful Lullaby. But magically and mysteriously, even their toe-tappers and knee-slappers Goodbye Earl and The Long Way Around take my breath away and temporarily blur my field of vision.

5. I fully intend to write a strongly worded letter of protest to the station managers of XM Kids for their newfound crush on the song The Babysitter's Here.

No, it's not because it contains the words "guts" and, I cringe to report, "butt." It's not because I have a fundamental opposition to hippies or tie-dye; I rather like both, as it happens.

It's that, seriously? Every single morning without fail? I'm driving the kids to school, we're late and I'm pissy... but once Dar starts in on her clear-as-a-bell warbling, I've got to fake-cough to muffle the sounds of sniffling and snuffling from the front seat.

6. The last five minutes of The Way We Were. Ditto Gone With the Wind.

From opening scene to final credit of Out of Africa.

Because I am a card-carrying member of GRITS: Steel Magnolias. Because I am, well, breathing: Terms of Endearment. Because I am warped: Little Miss Sunshine.

7. There's a reason, you know, that if Miss America were granted only one wish, she'd gladly exchange it for world peace. (What? You don't believe her?)

The reason is: war. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again, y'all.

Due in part, I suppose, to my career as a military brat, I am almost always overcome by any images, moving or still, of soldiers.

Soldiers, freshly enlisted. Soldiers, being deployed. Soldiers in the field. Soldiers who come home. And (I can barely see to type the words) soldiers who don't. Ever.

So when my sweet and brave friend Mandy sent me this link, I'll be honest: I put it aside. I knew I couldn't go there lightly. I knew it would shake me to my core, and leave me shaken for a long, long time.

I was right. And then some.

WHOO. Deep breath. Lots of them, actually.

I feel sadistic, pressing on after that, but I'm a woman on a mission to create the longest, most depressing post in the whole history of the blogosphere, and I cannot, I will not, be stopped.

8. Ultrasounds. Ultrasounds make me cry. Blurry, maddeningly indecipherable black-and-white images of blobs printed on shiny, curly paper: they get me every time. Especially this one.

9. The day after we brought those babies home from the hospital, in bundles so tiny we weren't even sure how to hold them properly, Carter woke up in the morning, with the sun... and began to cry. For six hours. Without stopping. Without saying one. single. word.

He cried through breakfast; lunch, too. Wouldn't eat a bite. Cried when Granddaddy took him to the park. Cried when we cried as we begged him, Carter, sweetie, please, tell us: what's wrong? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you hurt?

No answer.

We were gobsmacked. Our sweet, bright, two-year-old chatterbox had never really shed tears of any quantity before. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I hysterically called the pediatrician, convinced that he'd developed some horrible form of overnight autism.

The nurse who had the misfortune to take my call said, well, you never know how a child will react when first he meets his sibling. SibLINGS, I spat into the phone. He has siblings. And now he's broken! I have ruined my son!!

I hung up on her and called my mom, mother of four and fountain of wisdom. "Honey, Carter's so bright," she said. "He has so many words at such a young age. But how could he possibly find the words to describe what he's feeling about this enormous change in his life?"

I hardly ever think about that day now. Now, when I see the three of them running around like wild monkeys and digging up the backyard and reading books together.

But when I remember that day, it brings me to my knees.

I'm drained. I'm weak. I'm burned out on tears. But weirdly, I feel better.

Maybe I backburned my blues: you know how firefighters will purposely torch a ring around a raging wildfire? The hope is that it'll act as a control line.

With that theory in mind, allow me to add one last item to my abominable list of That Which Makes Me Weep:

10. Laughter. Laughing so hard your sides hurt and your eyes involuntarily well up. Giggling right past the point of tears. Belly-shaking, bigtime guffawing at something that you know is so utterly ridiculous, but you just. can't. stop. laughing about it.

Submitted for your approval: best laugh ever. Bonus points, I think, for the German dub:

Thursday, March 27, 2008


It absolutely never fails.

You've been avoiding a sticky conversation with someone, because you know it's probably going to open up a whole series of awkward questions and comments that you're simply not prepared to field.

So you keep your head down. You hope for the best. And you're stunned to realize that your luck actually seems to be holding until...

The two of you are in a car together.

Oh, yeah. Now there's nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. Time to face the music, my friend.

"Mommy. Emma told me today that she went to a place called Disney World, and Sponge Bob Squarepants had lunch with her in a restaurant. And I said, you're being silly, Emma. Stop teasing me. But she said, no, she wasn't teasing me. There really is a place called Disney World. (Indignantly.) Did you know about this, Mom?"

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Well. We're home.

And it's good, no: wonderful to be home. To blink at the familiar with renewed eyes.

We've tossed aside suitcases, to be unpacked in approximately nine days, when we finally become sick of digging through a tangled mess of clothes and souvenirs.

We've thanked the grandparents and delivered a brief, slightly brain-dead summary of what we saw, experienced and ate.

Trey has, of course, begun downloading nearly seven hundred pictures of same.

Most importantly, we've tiptoed into dark and quiet rooms to gaze, smiling and shiny-eyed, at our slumbering muppers.

We've tempted fate by kissing their cheeks and damp foreheads, breathing in their sweet smells, and murmuring in their ears, "We're home. Mommy and Daddy are home."

We're home. And it's all good. No: wonderful.

But could I be forgiven for confessing that, given the option, I probably wouldn't refuse just one more night beneath the California stars?

Thursday, March 20, 2008


In just a few hours, Trey and I will kiss our sweet, sleepy muppers and remind them how very much they are loved.

We will shower my mother and brother with platitudes of gratitude and a final word of warning (e.g., should you leave the house for any reason or length of time, promise us that Spencer's Green Dog never, but never leaves your sight).

Armed with suitcases (Trey) and a box of Kleenex (me), we'll pile into the car and try to beat the morning rush to the airport.

We'll find a parking space. Lug our bags (Trey) and tear-stained tissues (me) into the proper terminal. Check in.

We'll make our way through the security checkpoint, and make haste to a newsstand to load up on periodicals and Twizzlers.

And then, Jen promises with the voice of wisdom, THEN: we'll relax. Because then, we'll officially be on vacation.

Just the two of us. For the first time in a long time. And fourteen years to the day after we said, "I do."

It's just a few hours away. I can't believe it.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Peanut gallery

No need to check the thermometer: we've got a raging case of cabin fever, en masse.

For a while we were sick and couldn't do much of anything. Then we were sick and tired and didn't want to do anything. Then we were just plain tired of anything and everything.

And today, when we'd decided that we were going to get back into the swing of things, by golly, the skies quite literally opened up and rained out our grand plans.

It's really thrown the muppers for a loop, stuck in the same house with the same few people, day after day after day.

The silver lining is that, in the midst of all this quality time together, I've picked up a few mupper quips worth sharing. To wit:

1. Spencer is granted the rare treat of a big-as-his-face glazed doughnut. Wary of any new food, even one that smells like deep-fried heaven, he tastes it with the very tip of his tongue. Immediately, he beams a sunshine smile at me and chirps, "Oh! It's very licky."

2. Brother turns against brother a hundred times a day around here, but it's highly unusual for Katie to land in the middle of a skirmish. So everyone's surprised when Carter loses his patience and shoves his sister... including Carter. She starts to cry; he's instantly contrite.

"I'm sorry, Katie," he says, tenderly wrapping his arms around her. "S'okay," she mumbles unconvincingly into his shoulder.

He looks worried. "Will you still marry me?" he asks. She nods her assent. "Can we still get the Barbie Jeep?" "Sure," she says, and they skip off together as Trey and I exchange glances in equal doses of shock and amusement.

3. Our walls are covered in crayon-imprinted manila paper. Katie draws smiles, Spencer scribbles, and Carter creates his very own Spiderman comic strips. With aliens.

Spiderman confronts a pair of aliens with glowing green eyes. Spiderman casts a web at a ne'er-do-well alien invader. Spiderman sternly commands an alien to "FET," which of course means "fight."

You get the picture. Like, two dozen of them.

So it's a nice change of pace when Carter presents me with a non-Spiderman illustration of a girl with a huge grin. "Oh, Carter," I say, "I love this happy face. Thank you so much!"

"You're welcome," he says. "It's you."

"Me? Really? You drew a picture of me?" I'm gushing.

"Wow! I can see it now, with the blue eyes, and the... short arms. It's wonderful, sweetie; thank you so much. And can I just tell you? I am loving the curly red hair."

"Well," he explains, "before I was born, I thought you had red hair."

"Really?" I ask, barely containing the giggles. "Yeah," he says, "but then I was born, and I saw that your hair was brown."

For the record, I think I prefer the red. Although I like my arms just the way they are.

Nutty kids. Love 'em.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dooby-doo down down

If I had to describe the past week in one word, that word would be: craptastic.

And yes, I realize that such a sophomoric, scatalogical sentiment is probably more approprate for an
emo adolescent boy than a thirtysomething mother of three, but guess what?

It just so happens that I'm a slob with acne who thought that
Jonah Hill totally rocked the house on SNL the other night. So, you know, suck it.

Anyhoo. Back to the craptacularium.

While I'm indescribably relieved to report that the muppers seem none the worse for the
bug that settled in for a spell last week, I have, despite testing negative for the flu (oh, yes: twice), felt like utter poo.

I've had no energy at all, of any kind.

I've abandoned almost all pretense of personal hygiene.

I've been exceptionally thin-skinned and short-tempered.

And I don't think I've yelled at my children this much since they were, I'm sorry to say, coming out of my body.

In short, I've been a crappy (there's that word again) mom, sister, daughter and friend.

And wife. The fact that my husband hasn't served me with divorce papers after this week gives me reason to hope that we'll make it to our fourteenth wedding anniversary after all.

Which is such a relief, because it's this Thursday. So I'm trying like heck to shake these blues before then.

As I attempt to adjust the dial on my mood-o-meter, a quote keeps bobbing about my head:

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

I've done a pretty crappy job with this concept lately. Got nowhere to go but up, though... so here I go.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

En plein air

And so this is Texas in March: one morning, it's snowing; less than a week later, it's beginning to look a lot like spring.

Ah, spring. When historically, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

And a suburban housewife says: for heaven's sake, let's throw open the doors and windows and get some fresh air moving around this joint.

Because with two boys and one generally-potty-trained-but-hey-nobody's-perfect girl under our roof, I'm sorry to report that my nose is frequently assaulted by eau de pee-pee.


Happily, we now have a nice infusion of cool breeze, lightly scented with notes of new green grass from our backyard, and pear blossoms from our neighbor's.

Unhappily, said neighbor's backyard also plays host to a beagle.

A beagle who spends the vast majority of his waking hours (which, it should be noted, often conflict with our nonwaking hours) outside, and unhappy about it.

And if you have any experience with the breed, you know: when a beagle is unhappy, every living creature in a three-mile radius shares the sentiment.

We don't know why the beagle's people turn a deaf ear to his unerringly consistent howls of righteous indignation, although Trey has been driven to seek them out and ask them this very question.

Would you believe? Their phone number is unlisted. Go figure.

Me, I'm not a huge fan of confrontations. I don't know; maybe it's that whole child-of-divorce thing.

No, I like to take the indirect route and, whenever possible, keep things light.

So I wrote them a letter. In the form of a poem. That rhymes!

"Dear Neighbor:

We once owned a beagle, so we feel your pain.
But your dog is driving us insane.
Whatever the hour, day or night,
He barks and he bays: it’s just not right.
We lack helpful suggestions, but we’re begging you: please
Try bark training him, or we’ll call the police.

Best wishes,
Your Neighbor"

I hate to brag, but I consider this a crowning achievement in prose. I believe I've struck a near-perfect balance of sympathy and smackdown: that's no small feat, friends.

However: this letter will, despite Trey's protests, go undelivered.

Why? Three reasons: the past. The present. And the future.

1. The past: I wasn't exercising poetic license in my opening line. Trey and I are, in fact, reformed beagle people.

For nine long and trying years, we owned a beagle named Boo who, for so many reasons, deserves (and, had she possessed verbal skills, would have demanded) a blog post of her very own.

Whilst in our care, Boo was always an inside dog. With her own couch.

But occasionally, and often against her will, she did spend time in the great outdoors. And on those occasions, she might have barked once or twice or three trillion times.

Mercifully, our neighbors never taped a note of complaint on our front door. Because I'm sure that would have stung. Even if it had rhymed.

2. Currently, we are not only beagle-free, but altogether pet-free. However, I assure you: wherever we go with three muppers in tow, we generate our fair share of noise pollution.

But other than the occasional surly comment slung our way in the dairy aisle at Whole Foods (correct me if I'm wrong, Trey, but I believe the exact rebuke was, "You should really learn to control your children."), people seem surprisingly good-natured about our varying decibel levels.

I don't always succeed, but I do try to find my own measure of gratitude, humility and tolerance in others' gestures of grace.

3. Last but not least, I worry that if I share that gem of a poem with my neighbors, they of the noisy beagle, I might somehow find it smeared across the blogosphere.

And I can't say for sure, but I'll bet that passive-aggressive notes are only hysterically funny when you're not the author.

So: our doors and windows will stay open for a few more weeks, until the temperature goes hot and stuffy on us and we're forced to turn on the air conditioner.

The beagle will continue to bark. Because that's what beagles do.

But we'll try a little harder to find a happy medium. Or maybe I'll just try my hand at more epic poetry. Who knows?

Note: although he may never read it, I'd like to dedicate this post to my father. Not only because he's survived a few beagles of his own and lived to tell the tale, but because today is his birthday.

Happy birthday, Daddy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cold comfort

Comfortable. Being comfortable was our primary goal today at House of Flu.

So we stayed in our jammies all day. Became one with the couch, watching the best stories ever come to life on the television screen.

And at lunchtime, we ate our favorite sandwiches: ham for Carter. PB-and-J for S and K.

For me? Avocado something-or-other.

Allow me to explain.

My sister Mary is one of those special people who always seems to leave a place better than she found it. It's just one of her many endearing qualities.

So when she comes for a visit, whether it's for a few days or a few months, she brings with her a mental to-do list. She's kind of like Santa Claus, channeling Martha Stewart.

Maybe she'll attack my kitchen pantry, which is, on any given day, so disheveled and disorganized that the sight of it would easily bring the Queen of Clutter to her knees.

She might order me to pitch six-foot stacks of unread magazines into the recycling bin.

"You cannot convince me that you need this Southern Living from two years ago," she'll say. "If you ever actually get around to making Florentine Potato Gratin, which is doubtful, I promise you can find the recipe on-line."

And she's right, of course.

Occasionally, she attempts to improve the children, using techniques she has gathered from watching episodes of Supernanny and Dog Whisperer. These efforts are usually short-lived.

When Mary drove up to Dallas a few weeks ago, we had big plans for how productively we would employ her brief two-day stay. We were gonna whip this house into shape, by cracky, one room at a time.

And then we learned that her visit coincided perfectly with that of another v.i.p.

So instead of digging out my walk-in closet, we spent the better part of our time together standing shoulder-to-shoulder with 17,000 new friends, all eager to see and hear some guy from Chicago.

We weren't disappointed.

In true Mary style, however, she refused to leave town until we'd made two surprisingly efficient runs to The Container Store, delivered one hefty donation of gently used clothes and toys to Goodwill, and totally reorganized one bathroom cabinet.

As a final gesture, she also left me with the recipe for avocado something-or-other sandwich.

Or, as I now call it, A No-Fail Plan for Gaining Fifteen Pounds in Three Weeks.

Here's the blueprint:

Two pieces of multigrain bread, slightly toasted and thinly smeared with mayonnaise. On one side, layer cheddar cheese and half of a medium, al dente avocado, neatly sliced.

The other side gets a thick coating of alfalfa (not brussels) sprouts, sprinkled liberally with sunflower seeds.

Smush together. And savor.

Sounds like a strange combination, I know. But it's seriously delicious. Absolutely satisfying. And definitely comforting.

Thanks, Mar. Love you, sweets.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The good news, first:

I am so pleased and relieved to announce that we are once again able to hear the entire Little Einsteins theme song, from stirring introduction to dramatic finish, on our family-room television set.

After yesterday's wailing had ceased, and after everyone's tears had dried, including mine, I sprawled onto the floor with a flashlight and double-checked every. single. cord. snaking into the cable box.

Then I yanked out the main power cord, counted to ten, plugged it in again, and said a silent prayer.

Fifteen minutes later, we were back in business. A few hours later, Trey was back from Boston. And for a while that was small, all was well.

Which brings me to, yes, the bad news.

During the night, Carter, who'd stayed home from school yesterday because, and I quote, his body told him to, spiked a fever. Couldn't really sleep. Tossed and turned and sweated and called out to people and things that weren't in the room.

In general, he scared the bejezus out of me, so I didn't really sleep, either. Just held him, when he'd let me. Administered Tylenol and Gatorade. Wiped his brow. Tried to calm him.

In an effort to calm myself sometime before sunrise, I finally called the night nurse, who said what I already knew: kids are dropping like flies all over town. It's just a virus, shouldn't last more than a day or two. Keep him hydrated and get some sleep.

Although they seemed clear-eyed and healthy, and, quite frankly, because I was too exhausted to get them dressed and out the door, Spencer and Katie stayed home from school today to hang out with their big brother.

And to enjoy, yet again, the happy rocket theme song.

Just as I started feeling foolish for keeping them home unnecessarily, and began mentally plotting an ambitious to-do list for my mupper-free hours tomorrow, I got a call from Jen.

Her kiddos had just tested positive for influenza B. And some of our other close friends and classmates weren't feeling so hot, either.

Now, even as I called the doctor's office to secure an afternoon appointment, I knew, just knew, I wasn't looking at a boy with the flu.

My bright-eyed boy, the one racing around the house on a scooter, wearing his superhero cape and firefighter hat, instructing his siblings on how best to rearrange the couch cushions to construct a spaceship? No way.

The doctor, when we saw her, was in total agreement. "I've heard this story a hundred times in the past few days," she said, smiling and nodding. "A kid's got a high fever and he's been exposed to flu. And I haven't had one positive test all week."

"I tell the parents: if your kid's head is off the table, he doesn't have the flu."

When she came back into the room to tell us that, well, actually, the test was positive, Carter was racing cars along the table. Head upright.

So now we're as fully armed as we know how to be. While we waited for our Tamiflu prescriptions to be filled, I dashed into the bookstore and grabbed a stack of parent-friendly magazines, and a few new-to-them mupper movies.

And yes, the shelves are well-stocked with Tylenol and Gatorade.

I'm sure we'll be absolutely fine. But there's a part of me that wishes I could just yank out the power code, count to ten, plug it back in, and wait for life to properly reset itself. In fifteen minutes or less.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Big audio dynamite

It struck me just a moment ago that, unless you have the singular joy of knowing me personally, you gentle readers have absolutely no idea what I sound like.

For the purpose of reading this post, you should imagine that my voice is exceptionally shrill, steeped in sarcasm, and tinged with notes of helium and a few shards of glass.

Got it? Okay.

Now: here's my side of the phone conversation I would be having with Trey right now, if only I could reach him.

Hey, it's me. Guess what?

No, "chickenbutt" is, as always, an incorrect answer.

Get this: Spencer mashed every button on the cable box all at the same time, and now the audio's gone!

No, I'm not exaggerating for humorous effect; there is no sound emanating from the television of any sort. Cable, DVR, DVD: all's quiet on the western front.

Which was perfect timing, really, because I'd just reached the frayed end of my daily rope and promised that each mupper could select, in birth order, an age-appropriate program of his or her choice, which would have bought me almost ninety blissful minutes of not worrying that my skull might literally implode.

Yeah, I already checked the toaster-sized television in our room: works like a charm. And to the best of my ability, I confirmed that the brain-shaped jumble of cords in the back are, for the most part, snugly connected to the cable box.

Sweetie, why are you asking me questions that you know I can't answer? All I can tell you with absolute faith is that your offspring are now rolling around on the floor, wailing that their lives have been ruined because they can't hear the Little Einsteins sing the happy rocket song.

So, to recap: pretty moving pictures, no sound.

Mmm-hmm. Yep.

So. How's Boston?

And... scene. (Optional: cue dirge.)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Blizzard of 2008

Hello, Mr. F5 here. As everyone knows, I am not the wordsmith; that title goes to my lovely bride. I do own a camera, however, and I am starting to get the hang of it.
Getting to the point: here are a few shots of the Blizzard of 2008.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


'Twas not a typical Wednesday night for the mister and missus.

Dinner was about $150. Plus tip, of course. (But scrumptious and hilarious and absolutely fabulous, even though the Robinsons were notably absent and missed.)

Child care ran just shy of $100. Worth every penny, too.

My best attempt at a party-perfect outfit set me back $250.

A cute pedicure was $45.

Shoes that not only covered, but marred, the cute pedicure? $100.

A donation to our charity of choice was $450, which will help purchase half of a laptop for a cancer-stricken child. (The Weintraubs generously footed the bill for the other half, plus some. Okay: a lot. Love them.)

We got into the party for free, because we have friends in high places, but even so, it was a pretty spendy evening for us non-socialite types.

However: we had a blast. It was for an indisputably wonderful cause. And the final tally, while impressive, doesn't even touch the one we incurred the last time we walked through those majestic doors.

Because the last time we were there, six years ago this month, we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. Such a good time was had that night that, nine months later, we were parents.

Tonight, however, I blog.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Here's the thing: to me, it's not just another stump speech, set to a wee rambling ditty sung by a handful of vaguely familiar faces.

Perhaps I am, despite my howls of protest, just being brainwashed by the cult of personality, but I honestly believe, deep in my soul, that it's bigger than one candidate. Or one party. Or one election.

I hear it as an irrationally exuberant call to action. A rousing reminder that one person can, actually, make a difference. That a few like-minded individuals can link arms and commit hearts and minds to creating positive change in the world.

That's my opinion, anyway. What do you think?

Yes, We Can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation. Yes, we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom. Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores, and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness. Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes, we can to justice and equality.
Yes, we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes, we can heal this nation.
Yes, we can repair this world.
Yes, we can.
Si, se puede.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. We want change!

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant.

We've been asked to pause for a reality check.

We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
We want change!
I want change.

The hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A.; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggest; that we are one people; we are one nation, and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea:


Monday, March 03, 2008

Tune in, turn on, drop out.

A few weeks ago, which in my pea-sized brain feels like yesterday, I was tagged by my virtual twin-by-another-mother, Annie McQ.

The assignment? Identify my most recent media selections.

Strictly speaking, I believe I'm supposed to report what I've seen, heard and read in the course of seven days, but in the interest of generating something snappy, I may have to get creative with those boundaries.

Let's begin with the written word, shall we?

Or, actually, not so much, because my reading list has been a bit on the puny side lately.

For example, I've been slowly but steadily making my way through a scintillating issue of Pottery Barn: March 2008, and the suspense is nearly killing me.

Is yellow, as the author boldly claims, honestly BRILLIANT IN EVERY WAY?

Don't let me spoil it for you, for heaven's sake; turn to page four to discover the answer for yourself.

Meanwhile, a short but stylish stack of books patiently awaits my attention atop my nightstand.

There's the generally entertaining Helping Me Help Myself, which I purchased in January in lieu of drafting any new year's resolutions of my own.

Just below that is Same Kind of Different As Me, which I'm not sure I would have chosen of my own free will, but, in a rare stroke of serendipity, is the selection for both of my book clubs this month. Two birds: one stone.

And last but not least, I have Loving Frank, which will receive only a cursory review in the car tomorrow morning, as it's expected to be returned to the library bright and early. Alas.

Now: to the screens we go.

On the big one, I watched Atonement tonight for, believe it or not, the second time.

It's rare that I see any movie in a theater, so setting aside ten bucks and two hours not once, but twice? Clearly, a ringing endorsement.

Prior to this feat, Trey and I saw Juno. Loved the quirky cast, dug the snappy dialogue, adored the soundtrack. Two enthusiastic thumbs up; can't wait to catch it on DVD.

The only other semi-current flick I've seen, which I've already documented, was the Veggie Tales pirate movie. And really, one showing of that was enough for me, thanks.

I've got less to say, if that's possible, about what captures my attention as of late on the small screen.

Five years ago, I was a thoroughly happy couch potato. And I still lurve me some serious slacking time, but it's usually spent staring at this computer screen, not the television.

On the rare occasion that Trey's not tuned in to a dry Canadian documentary about anything sold, bought or processed, I will gladly catch a rerun of Sex and the City. But you know, there are only so many times you can watch Carrie break Aidan's heart into a bazillion pieces before you become a little jaded.

So I made an attempt recently to bust out of my rut. I decided to really go out on a limb and watch something totally new and groundbreaking.

After careful consideration, however, I'm sorry to say that Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle have yet to rake any leaves, much less break any ground.

What? That idiom made no sense? Well, what can I say: I'm no Tina Fey. And must I seriously be forced to wait until April 10 for a new episode of 30 Rock? Grumble.

Last but not least, for the two of you still reading this (hi, Mom, and greetings, hapless stranger): iTune. Tunes. Whatever.

Sadly, I lack Annie's technical prowess and have no idea how to share with you a snapshot of my current-favorite playlist.

So you'll have to take me at my word when I tell you that it channels my alter ego, my true inner self, which is that of sbg, or sassy black girl.

My sbg persona, who, by the way, can sing AND dance when no one's watching, is happiest with a streaming soundtrack of Jill. Angie. Mary J. D'Angelo.

For fun, I infuse a little Christina, Rihanna and, because I can, Mariah.

Then I take it old school with the Commodores, Cornelius Brothers and Carl Carlton.

And that, for this week or thereabouts, is how I roll. Et tu?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A thousand words

Well, there you have it. In an attempt to get back into the bloggy swing of things, I dashed off a succinct and, I hoped, dreamily poetic post last night.

You know what I made? Gobbledygook, that's what.

Brevity and mystery have never been my friends. And so I go running back into the warm and comforting arms of long-winded rambling. Ahh...

The target of my wordiness today? Pictures. I'll start with this one, taken two years ago:

In our vast virtual album of photographs snapped by the papparazzo-in-residence (that would be Trey) and Dallas' favorite family photographer (that would be Jen), this picture is noteworthy because it was taken by an outsider.

Two years ago, for two days, we took a leap of faith by volunteering to have our life, warts and all, recorded by a complete and total stranger: a budding wedding photographer from Pennsylvania named Nicole Polk.

Participating in a highly regarded photography seminar based 'round here, Nicole drew as her assignment: us. For forty-eight hours, she pointed her camera in our general direction while we went about our daily routine.

Changing a diaper: Nicole was there.

Playtime with the muppers: Nicole was there.

Enjoying an afternoon snack: Nicole was there.

Nursing twin toddlers: I'll spare you the photographic evidence, but trust me when I say that Nicole? Was there.

It was long. It was exhausting. At times, it was grueling and it was life-altering.

For Nicole, anyway. For us, it was just life, with a chaperone. And at the end of the experience, we got these amazing snapshots of utterly ordinary moments that we might have otherwise forgotten.

Like, for example, what it felt like five minutes before Trey got home from work.

Or why it was that toilet paper was always, always on my grocery list.

Nearly the best part of the whole experience was meeting Nicole, although I fretted for months afterward that we'd irrevocably scarred her impressions of parenthood.

So when I received a call last week from esteemed photographer and workshop organizer Huy Nguyen, asking if we'd be willing to volunteer again, I ever-so-coolly allowed that, sure, we'd be interested.

And then I did a happy dance of glee in the middle of IKEA.

Which was followed, ninety seconds later, by a rather prolonged anxiety attack.

Because the dig is this: unlike our talented friend Jen, who deserves a medal, a satin sash and a jewel-encrusted crown for using every trick in the book to try to make us look good when she photographs us, the workshop photographer is instructed to catch the nitty gritty.

The wrinkles. The sweat. The tears.

And oh my Lord, hold my hand: the clutter. I would somehow have to hide the clutter. Which, in this house, is not unlike trying to hide an enormous pink elephant wearing a party hat.

In addition to that exceptionally real concern, lurked the fear: what strange photographer would walk through our front door on Tuesday morning? We'd felt so fortunate to be matched with Nicole; surely, lightning wouldn't strike twice.

Enter Kerry Ryan. Who just happened to be the nicest guy, possibly ever.

Father of three. Seattlite. (Seattlist? Oh, fine: Washingtonian.) Seriously mellow adventure junkie.

Polite. Respectful. Professional. Genuine. Caring. And utterly unruffled by our shenanigans, even whilst running on three hours of sleep and indescribable peer pressure.

We put him through the paces and dragged him all over town; he didn't blink. Soccer practice. School. Starbucks. Lunch, the grocery store, even an audience with a former president. He snapped it all, or as much as he could.

It will be a little while before we're privy to the photographic results of his brief visit. But it will be a great deal longer before the kids stop asking, "Where's Kerry?" or before Trey and I forget his kindness.

He came into our house as a stranger. But by the time he said good-bye, a mere forty-eight hours later, he'd been made, totally without his permission, an honorary family member.

And for now, at least, I'm out of words.
Enjoy the silence. It's only temporary.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In like a lion?

So, um: this is me, tentatively emerging from the fog.

The happy fog of Mexico.
The not-so-happy fog of a faux flu.
The lingering fog of the election.
The leap-year fog of February.
Not to mention the photo fog.

Tonight, though, I'm just testing the waters. Clearing the mist. Tomorrow, I promise, I'll talk about more than just the weather.