Sunday, September 30, 2007

Alpheus in the news...

Our company made headlines in Paris today! Paris, Texas that is. Article can be found here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Long time no post

Wow, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Fortunately, my parents came to town this weekend to babysit the boys so we could have a little bit of freedom to do our own thing for a few days. Today, we took the day off work and went to IKEA for the first time. That place is HUGE! At some point I was reminded of that scene in Idiocracy where they're walking through a giant COSTCO in the year 2505 and one of the characters explains that the aisle they're trying to get to is only about another hour up ahead. It was fun, though, and we went to El Chile for lunch - yum.

This evening my mom cooked my favorite meal, and then we went to see 3:10 to Yuma with our friends Thomas and Doreen. The movie was awesome! Highly recommend it. It was cool to hang out and talk after the movie, too. Usually when we have a regular babysitter and go to the movies we race home afterwards because I start hearing that cash register sound effect in my head over and over. Cha-ching!

Tomorrow they are going to watch the boys in the morning while we clean out the garage. I have to admit that I'm having a little anxiety about our upcoming garage sale that we're having at our house with our church friends. The thought of Beth Fuston (a professional organizer) spending the morning in our garage is a little unsettling. :-) I've got two weeks to get it fixed up.

That's all for now...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Few Pics for the Aunts

By special request...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Michigan Makes You Smart

It may also give you a rash, as evidenced from Luke's chin in this video clip. But if you can get past that, you can clearly hear him saying "cracker." He only had one official word before we left for our trip and that was "hi." While we were there, though, he picked up a couple more: "uh-oh" and "cracker."

Here are a few last pictures from our trip for the g-parents.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Goodlands

Our friend, Joel, wrote this and emailed it out to a few friends. I really liked it, and asked him if I could post it here. He said yes. He titled the email: "The Goodlands."


I remember several friends claiming years ago that I could develop a taste for Diet Coke if I would quit drinking all soft drinks for a while and then return with Diet Coke. They held that the time off would make it easier to like Diet, and after drinking that a while, regular Coke would not taste good anymore. Sure enough – it worked.

As recent proof, a couple days ago I accidentally sipped Coke at a restaurant, and it's no good – way too sugary and syrupy. I have long since made that transition. (I should go ahead and move to juice and water, but that's another story.)

Similarly, I recently gave up all cable and broadcast TV. The web, podcasts, and the occasional rental provide my info and entertainment. I also watch much less across the board. I've even let go of Netflix / Blockbuster memberships. I don't need them; I don't want them.

Nowadays, just as Coke became unpalatable after some time off, I can no longer relate to TV when I am at a friend's or my folks' place. It's obnoxious. I always knew it was bad, but I did not know how bad until I removed myself from it for a while. I was not aware of how far its subtleties had encroached into my consciousness.

I still follow certain sports, though that, too, has waned a lot, and I find it a chore to watch them on TV due to the ridiculous commercials and the loudness of the whole thing. Watching TV for a while feels like engorging on a double with cheese, a giant Coke, fries, and shake. I can't get through the burger or make it to commercial without regretting having started.

Last weekend in Nebraska strikes me as also somehow similar. A longtime friend named Fred and I drove there and back to catch USC against Nebraska Saturday night. We stayed Friday evening through Sunday morning.

That part of the country really is mile after mile after mile after mile of cornfields as far as the eye can see. The entire state holds 1.7 million people. According to Wikipedia, eighty-nine percent of Nebraska's cities have fewer than 3,000 people. 225,000 live in Lincoln, and 25,000 attend the University of Nebraska there.

We stayed 45 minutes west of Lincoln in York, population 8,000, in a Super 8 at a small highway-junction of motels, fast food, convenience stores, and the only Starbucks for hundreds of miles. Fortunately, the hotel's little Xerox-copy "guide book" let us know that a downtown existed off this commercial strip. We enjoyed an excellent dinner in a family-run steakhouse that has been there since the 30's. Many tables had eight to twelve folks spanning three and four generations. The pace was different. The atmosphere was different. Familiar, but different.

It was great.

I have never experienced a sporting-event crowd like the one we saw watch the USC Trojans trounce the home-team Cornhuskers. At one hour before kickoff, fans occupied 85% of the seats. I bet they reached 99% full with about a half hour to go before kick. That's unusual.

The Nebraska squad held tough for a quarter and a half, then got walloped by a superior team. The majority of the fans remained in their seats till the end of the game. These folks know their football and love their team. When everyone cheered, it was just awesomely loud – a classic place to see a game.

I never heard one snide remark. We experienced no belligerence. In fact, folks struck up conversations, reached out, were kind, even polite.

In addition, when the announcer and the big-screens brought attention to soldiers being honored down on the field, everyone shut up and listened and then applauded. It was simple, and it was right.

We sat across the aisle from two older women, one of them elderly. They of course sported bright red sweaters. On the way to their seats, one of them good-naturedly chided Fred with a wink as she said, "Oh, I hope you don't have the best time tonight." He was wearing USC stuff. During the game, Fred would ask the younger woman questions about the stadium, cheers, and things like that. We engaged the men around us in conversation about players, other games and teams, the history of the sport. It's an old stadium, so you're packed in like sardines, but everyone was cool. On their way out, one of the women across from us tapped Fred several times on his shoulders with both hands and said, "Enjoy the rest of your stay. And have a safe trip home." There was no trace of football or rivalry in that moment -- only a nice woman expressing kindness to a stranger.

It was just great.

I am not saying Austin is a terrible big city or that America is screwed. I am saying, though, that the culture now feels a lot like bad TV and syrupy gunk. I hadn't appreciated how immersed I've become in this junk until I got out and away from it, even for a short time and to see a place like that.

The entire sports world is imploding non-stop in scandals of every kind. The political environment is a travesty. The currency is being flushed down the drain. The US economy has a major reckoning coming.

Springsteen has that great, stark, eerie title track "Nebraska" that begins in Lincoln and follows a blank-minded murderer through the Wyoming badlands, ten killings, and the chair. I suddenly find the song and much of the whole record quite ironic.

Nebraska isn't empty. Those aren't the badlands.

I am grateful for that road trip. It will likely take a while for the effects to roll all the way through me. I know I now want to give up my next Coke, my next TV. I guess let patience have her perfect work.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Enchanted Mitten, Part Two

Jenny and Steve made reservations for all of us to spend the weekend in Traverse City, Michigan at this place called Great Wolf Lodge. It's designed like a mountain lodge theme throughout, kind of like a mini-Disney resort. The main attraction is this indoor water park.

We spent the day there on Saturday, and needless to say, all the kids (and parents) had a blast swimming and going down all the fun water slides. Since we had the two babies, we rented a "cabana" for the day which was a really great idea. It's a private area that has a table and chairs, a little fridge, and even a TV. Here's Megan hanging out in the cabana.

This morning all the boys and I loaded into the car and drove west to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This is Ben and Steve looking at Lake Michigan.

The park ranger warned us as we entered the park not to go out too far on the dunes because it was dangerous and also because it causes erosion. She said a lot of people do it anyway (as you can see from the picture), and they have to do a rescue at least once a week. We asked why and her response was funny. "Well, it's not just heart attacks. It's also broken limbs, dislocated joints, exhaustion..." The "it's not just heart attacks" thing cracked us up. We decided to heed the warnings and stay up at the top.

The boys played in the sand.

Trying to get pictures of Luke and Jackson was making me nervous because of the drop off (and because of the hyper-ness).

We even got to see a guy parasailing.

Now we're all napping and we're going to see some of the other sites in Traverse City this evening.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Enchanted Mitten

We are in Midland, Michigan this week visiting our brand new niece, Megan Lynn Frame.

Here's a picture from the airport yesterday. Can you tell that Jackson is a little bit excited? If you have talked to me in the last couple of weeks, you probably know how nervous I was about getting to the airport in time for our 7:15am flight. We didn't get much sleep the night before and the boys went in their pajamas, but we made it.

One of the cool things about being a parent is getting to experience everything again as a "first" through your child's eyes. Imagine being 3 years old and seeing this for the first time. Pretty amazing...

Mat's sister's family (Jenny, Steve, Megan, and Ben) live here. Jenny works for Dow Chemical. This morning they took us to Dow Gardens which is a beautiful park. Here are some pictures of the kids exploring the vegetable garden.

The grounds of this place are very beautiful, and it was nice to get outside in this cool weather.

Jackson and his cousin Ben are almost exactly the same age. They always have so much fun together. We're so happy to finally come visit their home in Michigan.

More pics to come!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Confession

I had to share what just happened to me because it's just so absurd as to be unbelievable. I'm always complaining about how these boys are in the middle of a long process of trashing our house. We're planning to live here until it's completely ruined, and then sell it to a nice family of raccoons or something. Anyway, more often that not it is the adults in the house who are busy trashing it. Every time I see the stain where I spilled black shoe polish I think about how much cheaper and more fun it would've been to just buy new black shoes than have to replace the stupid carpet!

So tonight...I got the boys in bed and decided to indulge myself by eating the last piece of chocolate cake. I felt like this piece of cake would be even more enjoyable if it had chocolate syrup drizzled all over it. And wouldn't it be great to have a small glass of milk with it? Oh you know that sounds good. I also thought it might be nice to sit upstairs, fire up the DVR, and watch the season premier of a show that I'm too embarassed to name (starts with O and ends with H).

As I was taking my treat up the stairs it occurred to me that there really wasn't enough to share, and Jackson's teeth had already been brushed. I knew he'd see me with it, so rather than tempt him with the cake I tried to hide the plate behind my back on the way up. Almost instantly, I knew this was a big mistake. I felt something wet on my hand and then heard thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump as the cake rolled off the plate and bounced on every lower step stamping the carpet with chocolate syrup all the way down.

I set the milk down at the top of the stairs and ran down to the kitchen to get a towel. Luckily the chocolate came up, but my internal voice was very angry about having to spot clean the stairs since I have been working and cooking and cleaning all day. This was supposed to be my time to relax. Now considering it was the last piece of cake and the carpet had just recently been vacuumed and the 3 second rule was in effect, I did retrieve the cake and made my way back upstairs. Whereupon I knocked over the cup of milk spilling it all over the upper steps. Nice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Knight in Shining Armor

Well, it's now official. My husband really and truly is my knight in shining armor. Okay, there's no armor, but he really is a knight. As of March 7, 2007, he is a knight in Belgium. This is probably going to require a little bit of explanation. As most of you know Mat directed a documentary called Last Best Hope about the heroic actions of members of the Belgian Resistance during World War II. We went to Brussels in 2005 to screen the movie there for an audience of big-shots like Prince Phillippe and other dignitaries. Well, they all loved the movie of course because these resistance fighters were portrayed as heroes. The Belgian Resistance has never really gotten much attention in books or movies. Usually you hear about the American and the British soldiers and the Dutch and French Resistance movements. So anyway, several people in the government wanted to honor the filmmakers for telling the story, and it was mentioned that they might be knighted. We had a screening in DC last year that was hosted by the Belgian Embassy and it wasn't mentioned, so we kind of forgot about it. Walter Verstraeten (one of our producers who is Belgian) was knighted, and we were all so happy for him. Being Belgian and extremely patriotic, this was a REALLY big deal for him.

So today he gets this email from Walter. I'm just going to include the whole thing because I love the way Walter writes. (All of his emails are like this whether he's talking about what he ate for lunch or announcing that you've just been made a knight.) Today Mat asked me if I intentionally set out to marry nobility. We were joking that we're probably the poorest European nobility on the planet. It's all hilarious really. Obviously the Belgian military doesn't have much going on during peace-time. I should add, though, that while we are getting a chuckle out of this, it really is a big honor. We are so grateful to Walter and all the Belgians who have kindly helped all along the way as Ramona, David, Mat, and Wilson tried to get this film made. I guess there's going to be a ceremony at some point where he and the others get presented with their medals. I'm sure that will make the blog...

Here's Walter's email:


Dearest friends,

By Royal Decree of March 7, 2007 and upon instigation of André Flahaut,
Belgian Minister of Defense, the following lady and gentlemen have been
attributed the Order of Knight of the Crown (Chevalier de l’Ordre de la
Couronne, Ridder in de Kroonorde) and shall forthwith be allowed to add
the superlative “knight”, “chevalier” or “ridder” to their name:

Ramona chevalier Kelly
Robert David chevalier Grosvenor
Chevalier Hames
Wilson chevalier Waggoner

They shall forthwith be addressed as chevalier.

By the by, Ramona, there is no female version of chevalier. Ladies
therefore are also being addressed as “chevalier”.

If all this be true then why haven’t you guys heard about it? Don’t ask
me! I started my investigation by addressing myself to one
capitaine-commandant by the name of Prum, who at the time asked for your resumes to be sent to him. I inquired whom I should address at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out about the radio silence
surrounding the attribution of a Belgian medal to my four very special
friends. I thereupon wrote a nice letter with a lot of addenda to one Mr.
José Cleereman at the MFA, who called me this afternoon sounding utterly
surprised since the dossiers had been favorably concluded by him on April
16, 2007 and forwarded, medals and charters included, to Michel Jaupart at the Ministry of Defense. So I called Jaupart, who turned out to have
vanished from his former trusted position with Flahaut and who in the
meantime had been promoted to a new posting with the Institute of Veterans and moved to a new location. Jaupart told me to contact one
Capitaine-Commandant Marcia, which I promptly did and who told me that still in April he had forwarded the medals etc. to the Belgian Military
Attaché in Washington, one Rear-Admiral Willy Temmerman, who, if my
recollections are correct, was one of our guests at our Washington viewing
last November. So, my dear chevaliers, the medals are at your side of
the pond awaiting the proper moment to be attached to your dress and/or

I shall send an e-mail to Admiral Temmerman still today asking him about
the exact status and shall keep you informed of any new findings.

I humbly bow my head to the four new chevaliers de la Couronne and bid you welcome to the family of Belgian nobility.

Walter chevalier Verstraeten


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Labor Day at the Lakehouse

We spent Labor Day at Mat's Mom's lakehouse in East Texas. I think we took about 150 pictures or something crazy like that, so it was hard to narrow it down. Here's my favs plus a little video or two.

Sunset boatride on Friday night.

On Saturday morning Jackson would have no part of swimming in the lake. So we took a paddleboat ride and hung out in the boathouse.

Finally Mat coaxed him in, but he was holding on very tight. Within about 30 minutes, though, he was fearless. He had a lot of fun jumping off the dock and the boat.

In case you can't understand him, he's saying, "Daddy I've been dreaming about swimming in the lake all day and all night!" Hahaha. This was literally about five minutes after he was digging his claws into Mat's shoulders to make sure he didn't let go of him in the water.

Another boatride. I wonder why Mister Baby was so sleepy? Hmmm. Maybe because he didn't sleep the entire time we were gone except for the five seconds when I was taking this picture.

This is a beautiful new barn and vineyard on the lake. The property was so large that the house and the rest of the grounds wouldn't fit in the shot. It was gorgeous, though.

Sunday we went to church in Mt. Vernon and heard Nana sing in the choir, McCurdy's for lunch, then more swimming. We went over to Randy and Charlotte's cabin for BBQ, Star Wars, and poker on Sunday night.

We spent some more time in the lake on Monday morning.

And finally we stopped in Rockwall to see my parents on the way home. My brother and sister prepared a huge feast - yum! It was great to catch up with everyone and play with the cousins. I guess we were too worn out at that point to take anymore pictures, though. It was a great family weekend!

Location Scouting with the Boys

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