Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I've never reviewed a movie here, mostly because I think seeing art is such a subjective experience, and I don't take my opinion that seriously so why should anyone else.

Well, I'm making an exception for UP. Because I think it is the best movie of all time. It is certainly the best Disney/Pixar film ever, and that's saying something. It seems that with each film, they just get better and better and better, and with Up, they have exceeded all expectation.

When I saw the previews, I thought it was cute and visually appealing. The previews will draw people in, no doubt. The idea of a house being carried aloft by thousands of helium balloons is so whimsical, so much fun to think about, you have to go see it just for that. And the visuals don't disappoint. It's eye candy from beginning to end.

But the thing that Disney/Pixar excels at, though, in my humble opinion, is the heart of the story. Remember Jessie's musical montage in Toy Story 2? The basic human story line of The Incredibles? Wall*E when he first sees Eve? Somehow they take animated characters, most not even human, and hook us in the heart and make us cheer and cry and RELATE in ways that so many other films just can't.

"Up" does all of that to the nth degree. First of all, it's one of the few films of theirs that has humans as the central characters (the only other being "The Incredibles" and they were superheroes). As adorable and irascible as Carl seems in the previews, it truly doesn't do justice to the character. What you don't see in the previews is the backstory. It feels ridiculous calling it that, because it never feels like it's "back". It is ever present in every moment of the film - the REASON this person does what he does. It is so rich and so full and so beautifully told, that you by the end of the film it is so hard to say goodbye to these characters, these people you've come to know. You want to hug them, congratulate them for a job well done, and wish them well. And make them promise to send you a postcard the next time they go on an adventure.

I need to say one last thing: This is not a film you need be a parent to see. If you must, take some kiddos if you feel it's the only thing that legitimates your attending an "animated" film. But if you're a parent and your children are tinys? And you will spend a lot of time shhhshing and going to the bathroom and explaining? Give yourself this treat: see it with your honey first. Go on a date. Hold hands. Snuggle up. Or go with your best friend. Or by yourself. Just GO!

And take some tissues.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by anniemcq
Last night, laying on JH's bed, talking about his day, when we looked out the window and caught this magnificent streak in the sky. By the time I grabbed my camera ("what are you waiting for, Mom?!"), a tiny jet had joined it in making a pretty show.


Goodnight, goodnight,
Sweet baby
The world has more for you
Than it seems
Goodnight, goodnight
Let the moonlight take the lid
Off your dreams
We took a small flight
in the middle of the night
From one tiny place
To another
And my parents they remain
At the shack with Lorraine
And my aunt and my grandpa
And brother

We walked past the tarmac
And boarded the craft
The rain had me chilled to the bones
Just the three of us
Took flight that night
Uncle Richard, me,
And James Earl Jones

And the pilot
He gave me a blanket
And the tall dark man
Sang to me in deep rich tones

Goodnight, goodnight
Sweet baby
The world has more for you
Than it seems
Goodnight, goodnight
Let the moonlight take the lid
Off your dreams

Ben Folds

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Family Gatherings & Falling On My Head

Two things that don't have anything to do with one another. Luckily. Because had I fallen on my head at a family gathering, as much as they love me, I'm sure it would be hard to live down!

Actually, the family that gathered on Saturday was not even my own family! I was honored by my friend Shannon to take pictures of her family gathering. She and her siblings threw a surprise birthday party for her fabulous mom, and it was one of those events that you just pinch yourself because you can't believe you get to hang with these people. So much talent, so much love and in such a gorgeous location. The birthday guest of honor was feted in song and poetry, toasted and only slightly roasted, because she is completely beloved. Family came from all over the country to surprise her, and I got the feeling that she was more than just a bit surprised. There was fantastic food and a live marimba band and a view of the lake. Sigh. Perfection. Here are just a few of the bazillion photos that I took.

On Sunday, I had some of my own lovely family over for a barbecue, and there was much playing of hoops. A couple days before, Charley had picked up a full-sized hoop that we'd gotten on Craigslist. Many games of horse, and just shooting and dribbling seemed to keep the party hopping. I was too busy running the grill, because Charley had to work, so I just got to hear the happy shouts from the driveway whilst I turned the chicken. It was so lovely to just hang in the back yard. The weather was gorgeously perfect, with enough breeze to keep it cool.

On Tuesday evening, after piano lessons, after dinner, we were hanging out in the back yard, and Charley & I were entertaining JH with our hoops prowess, when I tripped over the base of the hoop and fell with such force it's a wonder I'm able to write this. I have NEVER fallen like that, and I never want to again. I braced myself by putting my hands out, landing on my left knee, my hands sending a shock up my arms and cracking my neck so loudly in my head I saw stars, with my head following through and planting itself fully on our cedar fence. I didn't move, or rather I couldn't move for a good 20 seconds. I could see JH's ashen face from my spot on the ground, and for a moment I thought: I'm paralyzed. This is it. But then my hands started to tingle and I could move my legs, so with Charley's help, I twisted my body back into alignment and slowly got up. My hands were the only thing to hurt for two days. They tingled, like tiny needles were sticking into the tops of my hands and under my fingernails. I've been icing and dosing up on ibuprofen for a couple days, and I'm happy to report that I finally hurt in the places I'm supposed to. My knee aches, my neck is tender, my head is sore (and sporting a really cool scab on my forehead) and the only thing hurting on my hands are my thumbs. Oh, and my dignity is a little ouchie as well. But my nerves are sort of back to normal. For at least a day I was worried that if I turned my head the wrong way I would fall down.

I didn't make it to the doctors office, but I did call a good friend who is a nurse. She's been checking up on my the last day or two, and I think honestly that I'm fine now.

But that row along the fence where I was going to plant tomatoes? I'm planting pillows instead.

OH! And I completely forgot to tell you: I'm meeting the first grade floozy that has been trying to talk my son into kissing. Tomorrow at 3:30 at the park. Both Charley and I are going. All I can say is she better not try any funny business with me around!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast. But This is Ridiculous.

I was planning on writing this blog post, in say, four years. When I'm ready for it. But my boy is not going by my timetable, and I am having to bring my A game way early, and I'M NOT READY FOR IT.

It's been happening in fits and starts this year: "A. was kissing M. in the boy's bathroom". "A" is the delinquent that lives down the street that JH occasionally played with until I decided he wasn't the kind of kid I want him hanging around with and I'm the mom so there. So we talked about how inappropriate it is to kiss a) at school, and b) in second grade and c) the bathroom is just tacky. I didn't say anything to the teacher at the time, because "A" is full of baloney and I didn't really believe it.

Then JH developed a huge crush on a girl in his class. I know her mom (he goes to their house once a week after school while I work late), and they're pretty straight arrows, so I just sort of listened while he pined about how pretty she was and how she didn't like him and bossed him around. He said he really wanted to kiss her and marry her someday. I said "well, someday, when you're older..." and left it at that.

A few weeks ago, he started talking about a little girl in first grade. She was new to the school, and took a shine to Joe-Henry. She followed him around every recess, and he talks about her all the time now. Today when I picked him up after my late work day, as soon as I started the car and pulled away from the curb, he declared from the backseat, "Mom, "J" says she wants to be my girlfriend, and that I am her boyfriend. I really want to kiss her, so I'm going to, I don't care what you say!"


And, I'm breathing, innnnnn annnnnd ooouuuuttt, slowly, evenly, while my eyes get all blurry and I struggle to keep looking straight ahead with my hands on the steering wheel.

"No, that's not okay, Joe-Henry. You are both too young. Kissing is not okay in second grade. She can be your friend, you can play with her, but no boyfriend-girlfriend stuff until you're older."

A tantrum ensues, and I wait to re-engage until we get home, and I can sit calmly and look him in the eye. So I encourage him to tell me exactly why he wants to be able to kiss her and this is what he says.

"Because Mom, she's really nice to me, and she accepts me, and I want to be able to express myself." Then he started to cry.

That answer, in and of itself is brilliant, and I'm grateful for my son's soul and intelligence. But second grade is still too young. While he was doing his homework, I said "We'll talk to dad about this later and see what his take on it is." Not to pawn the issue off on Charley, but I know JH is doing a better job of listening to his dad right now. And this is something that we need to take on as a team. He finally said "so how old do I have to be to kiss a girl?" "At least 13 or 14" is what my lips said, but my brain is thinking even two years older than that, but I'm just trying to put out this immediate fire, so there you go.

I told him he could give this girl his phone number and she could call and we could set up a playdate at the park.

But there will be no kissing.

And I'm emailing the teacher tonight.

5/21/09 UPDATE: Charley came home last night in time to tuck him in with me. They chatted, Charley listened and when he spoke he was brilliant and sweet and perfect. He handled it so well, and gave me the backup I needed, but in a way that made JH feel validated. I love this man of mine. I love these men of mine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

raindrops & spider threads II

my garden has been calling me out with my camera first thing the last two mornings. My neighbors think I'm a little off. This was taken while wearing blue polka dot pjs, sitting on the rain wet ground with my camera.

It feels so good to start the day this way.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What Happens In Dallas, Stays In Dallas

I kid. Of course I'm going to tell you all about it.

I had some anxiety last week before going, but not enough to keep me home. I hadn't given going there a second thought. I knew I would have fun, I knew these women would be amazing, and I knew that for me, the joy was in the adventure itself. I was just nervous.

First of all, "The Posse" is just an incredible group of women, who are as lovely and complex as they seem to be. They are all deep wells of goodness, and together they are a force. And many of them: much taller than I am. Except for Debbie. Who I think might be taller than she was this weekend, but she was just so gracious that she stayed lower to the ground for me.

I hadn't even taken off before Charley called and told me that I had left the iPhone charger and my stash of Excedrin Migraine, tylenol, vitamins and my "medicine" on the bed. They must have fallen out of my bag when I was packing the last bit.

No problem, I wouldn't need them, right? I could probably borrow a charger from Amy, and I wouldn't need the pills. I'd be just fine. Right?

The first thing we did was go to the home of the lovely Jennie, who welcomed me so sweetly, and showed me her home, pictures of her sweet angel Allie and introduced me to her adorable little sprite Maggie, as well as most of the rest of the gang. Plus husbands. Plus kids. It was love at first sight - here were all these women that I had "known" from their blogs, and we picked up pretty easily. We had burgers and beer, and Debbie's husband Brandon fixed us some sort of crazy concoction called a chocolate covered cherry. After that some of us went to a place called "Happy Feet", where we met up withTracey, Jen & Megan, who couldn't come to Jennie's. This place is sort of the stuff of legends. And maybe some happy endings, if you play your cards right. Which I didn't. They just beat the shit out of my feet and my back (apparently the reason your feet are so happy is because after your alloted time is up, they stop.) It did feel good, in a masochistic sort of way. And I'm sure the giant bruise on my lower back will go away eventually.

We headed home soon after that, and I guess I didn't drink enough water, because I woke up with a migraine. Amy's husband Trey, who might now be one of my favorite people ever, went, with three kids in pjs to get coffee and muffins before I rolled out of bed. I had a few sips of coffee, then wrangled an advil from Trey. Five minutes later, I horked. And do you know the best thing about that? I didn't even for a second feel awkward about throwing up in the bathroom of someone's house that I'd met less than twentyfour hours before. After I woke up, I got to spend some time with Amy's kids, all three of them just scrumptious little people.

There was a Mother Daughter tea benefiting Jennie's Heroes For Children that afternoon, but I needed a little alone time. And I didn't have anything to wear.

Mostly though, I wanted to stay true to my original purpose: to see what it feels like to navigate in a new city all by myself. So I took myself to the Dallas Museum of Art, and my favorite - The Nasher Sculpture Center. It was soooo serene and lovely, and there were so many wonderful, interesting things to see there.

Then it was back to Amy's to get ready for a girl's night out with the Posse. We headed over to Jen's house, where the menfolk looked after what seemed like a hundred kids, all of whom were beautiful, and full of laughter and light. With most of the girls gathered, we headed out to... I don't even remember the name of the place we went, but I know it had the word "Cuba" in it, and the food was fantastic and the margarita I had was sooo yummy, and the giggles were plenty. After that, we went to another bar, and it became pretty clear to me that my years of partying this hard were behind me. And I had to be up at 5:00, and they were going dancing, and I was very, very short. If I tried to keep up with these girls, my neck would be killing me from looking up all night. Debbie & Deanna graciously drove me back to Amy's, where I packed my bag, and charged the iPhone on a borrowed charger, and got ready to turn around and come home.

I snuck out before daylight, missing these new friends before I had even pulled out of the driveway.

It was mostly an uneventful flight home, and with every minute that passed, I got more and more excited to see my sweet boys. They were there to meet me, Charley freshly shaved and kilted, and JH beaming from ear to ear as he hid the Mother's Day flowers behind his back. There was much kissing, and laughing and hugging.

It's true what they say about travelling. The best part is coming home again.

To my lovely new friends and their amazing families: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me have my adventure. I so loved meeting each and every one of you. I admire your friendship with one another, and think you are all heroes in your own right. Our door is open if you happen to be heading to the Northwest. Let me know. The coffee will be strong and hot, the beer will be cold, the food will be delish, and the laughs will, no doubt, be plentiful.

Until we meet again.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Am Game

When I started blogging, it was as a creative outlet, and also a way to connect. We had just moved to a new town, and the only people I knew were my family. I LOVE my family, but I really missed my mom friends. I missed connecting over coffee or a glass of wine, and sharing tales of woe (or joy) from the parenting trenches, comparing notes. I missed laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

The blog was pretty lonely at first. And even now, three years later, I'm lucky if I get a few comments on a post. I don't do it for money ("that's what SHE said" ba dump bump), but I feel rich anyway, because I've come to think of the few people who regularly comment here as friends.

This weekend I am going to meet a good portion of you in real life. I'm nervous and giddy and, well, nervous. What if, what if, what if? I'm about to find out, aren't I?

Mostly, I'm just thrilled for the adventure, thankful to my hubby for arranging it all behind my back, and so looking forward to a weekend spent hanging with the Posse, and going out solo on a little adventure of my own.

This is taken from Kari's blog, another friend I've never met, but surely will one day. It's been running through my head for the last two days, and I've come to think of it as my theme song for the upcoming weekend.

Here we go - I am game.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tough Kid

Joe-Henry has always been a bit of an old soul. He'll spout poetry at the drop of a hat. Not poetry he's learned (although he loves to read poetry), but stuff just comes out of his mouth that makes his Dad and I drop our jaws and rush to write it down. He used to do that with his music, too. He'd make up songs on the guitar with lyrics that went deep, deep, deep (and not just deep "for a kid"), but lately he refuses to pick up an instrument. Except the piano. I force him to practice. But I don't make him pick it up, because that would just be cruel.

Yesterday, we had a few errands to run. First stop was The Barber, because a) I needed a second opinion to find out if he just had crazy bad dandruff, or a fantastic colony of headlice, and b) he needed a cut anyway. On the way there, he BEGGED me for a mohawk. "PLEASE, Mom! I want to look tough! Your rules are stupid!" I told him to chillax, because until we found out if his head were home to the largest infestation of bugs since the dawn of time, his hair was going to stay longish. Luckily, the barber we had gave us the good news that he had cradle cap, and just needed some oil on his scalp, so a hair cut followed. He decided that throwing a big tantrum in front of all the hot ladies at The Barbers (this place deserves an entire post of it's own) was a bad idea, so he said nothing about a mohawk, and instead came out looking like the Joe-Henry I know and love. I realize that the time will come when I have no say about whether or not he gets a mohawk, or dyes his hair, or pierces and gauges every loose flap of flesh on his body, but until then.... Many parents will say that they let their kids do whatever they want to their hair, that it's a battle not worth fighting. I may change my mind at some point, but I don't think he's ready yet for the awesome responsibility of a shitty haircut.

Later, we were at Fred Meyer, buying a few groceries and I was looking around for some pants for him because he's growing so fast his ankles are sticking out of his jeans so far that they could technically be capris. But while we were looking, he spotted some t-shirts with graffiti on them that came with, gulp, skateboards. Not full size skateboards, but big enough to do some damage. He begged, he pleaded, he threw a full size fit: "MOM! I WANT THAT! WHY WON'T YOU LET ME? YOUR RULES - AAAAAGH! I WANT TO BE A TOUGH KID!! TOUGH KIDS HAVE MOHAWKS AND RIDE SKATEBOARDS!" It was one of those tantrums that you realize that no matter what you say, it just needs to run it's course. The time to talk about how special he is? And how throwing a fit is the perfect way to lose privileges? That time is later. Now is the time to ignore him and let him exhaust himself. Which is great for two reasons: 1) it's the right thing to do, and 2) I could pretend he's someone else's kid. I stayed in the area, just to make sure no one would make off with him, because doesn't everyone want an ranting, flailing eight year old? A moment later, he brought the t-shirt with the skateboard to our cart. He had managed to get it down, although I'm not sure how - the display was almost too tall for me to reach. He threw it dramatically in the cart, and I calmly took it out and put it back. He had just about exhausted himself at this point, and he started to cry. In part, because in getting the t-shirt down, the skateboard had bonked him pretty hard on the head, but mostly because he wanted some control over his life.

Two things I've learned from yesterday: Never, ever take him to do errands without feeding him first. Big mistake. The second thing is much harder and more complex. My boy is really struggling with who he is. So much of his syndrome is benign. He is so much better off than others who have it. He's able to walk, he's mostly pain-free. But his feet are really large, he's self-conscious about his birthmark and his fingers, he can't run as fast as other kids in the class, although he tries so, so hard. More than being bothered by his syndrome, though is the fact that he's just incredibly smart and sort of beyond the other kids in his class. I don't say this as a competitive, doting mom. I don't. It's just a fact. He's a really deep well of complexity and he's beyond most of the kids in his class in that regard. And while I know that's a great thing, he can't see it that way. He just wants to be a tough, running, cussing kid who laughs in the face of danger. Or at least at Mom's rules.

I get it, because I wanted to be that way too. For most of my life, I wanted to be someone else. Someone sexier, smarter, taller, faster. Don't we all? But with age comes some kind of acceptance, and at this point in my life I really like who I am. The only thing I'd change is this:

I'd like to be better at helping my kid see what I see in him. Last night at bedtime, he apologized for throwing a tantrum, and when he was going to sleep, as we were talking and our heads were close on the pillow, he said this: "Mom, your sweet face is the home for all my kisses."

Tell me how to make him see the treasure in his good, sweet, brave heart.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

lilacs in the rain

lilacs in the rain
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
they smell so lush. the lilac bush grew them too high for me to cut this year, but the rain brought them down low enough to photograph!

Reminds me of the lyrics from a Tom Waits lullabye.

Bend Down The Branches

The sky's as deep as it can be
Bend down the branches
Close your eyes and you will see
Bend down the branches

You're like a willow
Once you were gold
We're made for bending
Even beauty gets old
Climb the stairs they're not so steep
Bend down the branches

Close your eyes and go to sleep
Bend down the branches

Which brings me to another Tom Waits lullaby Well, it's not technically a lullaby, but Charley used to sing it to JH when he was a baby. Without the megaphone. Or the flailing. Thank goodness.