THE MARIAH NETWORK

Love, Actually

'They' said it wouldn't last, but Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey are proving everyone wrong with their devotion and boundless success.

On a Sunday evening, when most American families are sitting around the dinner table talking about the upcoming week's to-do list, Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey are laughing their way through an almost nightly ritual: phone tag. One of the best- selling female recording artists of all time is enjoying a bath at home in Manhattan. Meanwhile, some 3,000 miles away in Hollywood, Nick is hosting his TeenNick HALO Awards. After three phone attempts and a series of rapid-fire text messages, the two manage to eke out a few minutes together for this interview.

"Hey, babe," says Mariah.

With screaming fans in the background, Nick says, "What's up, my love?"

"You're in the middle of work now, right?"

Even with all the distractions around him, Nick's response is attentive and warm: "Yes, but carry on. I'll just chime in. If you need me, I'm here."

"I know you too well to go carry on and just go. Text me back." Jokingly, Mariah adds, "I want lots of hearts and kisses in the reply, please."

Nick chuckles and replies, "With a lot of LYMYs [Love You, Miss You] and KKOBs [for which, there is no explanation] and all of that stuff ..." he says trailing off into a slew of texting acronyms, some real and some made up, all denoting his love. The playful banter continues even as he is moments away from going on live TV. She wraps up, "Bye, Nick. I love you."

It's a typical phone call — brief, albeit blissful — for the multitasking moguls.With the release of The Art of Letting Go, her 14th studio album; her appearance in Lee Daniels' The Butler (in awards contention this season); a collection of top-selling fragrances; and last year's drama-filled American Idol judging gig, not to mention his hosting duties on NBC's America's Got Talent (AGT); a myriad of other NCredible Entertainment (his production company) television and film deals (including Real Husbands of Hollywood and Wild 'N Out) — whew! — they are the entertainment industry's hardest-working couple. And that's just on the business side of things.

"The bicoastal relationship works for us; it keeps things fresh," says Mariah, 43, who frequently records at home but will drop everything when Nick is there. "When we're travelling and then come back, we focus on each other," adds Nick, 33, who flies between Los Angeles and New York City, where he hosts AGT, up to three times a week.

The couple has perfected the art of juggling love, twin toddlers and megawatt empires, skills that have been honed by a healthy dose of humor and overcoming more challenges than many couples face in a lifetime.

After a six-week whirlwind romance, Mariah and Nick surprised the naysayers with an oceanfront Bahamian wedding in 2008. Like most celebs, their honeymoon year was full of joy and jet-setting. "Then we went through a lot of different hardships," she says.

After facing fertility issues, Mariah suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage, which forced the singer to set aside work and focus on her health. Despite a painful pregnancy, Mariah successfully gave birth to fraternal twins Moroccan Scott and Monroe, now nearly 3, on April 30, 2011, the couple's third wedding anniversary.

The new foursome was faced with another obstacle, however, when Nick suffered kidney failure and then was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2012. Just one year later, in July, he was playing nurse to Mariah after she fell on the set of her music video for "#Beautiful," which resulted in a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs and nerve damage.

Through it all, Nick says Mariah taught him "unconditional love." Making it through the tough times boiled down to one thing, he says. "It was about just trusting our love; our connection."

With the most challenging days hopefully behind them, Nick and Mariah are back on their "love spree," never missing a moment to send inspirational texts or her famous sexy Twit pics and keeping one thing at the forefront: each other.

"She's the most thoughtful when it comes to setting up family time," says Nick of how his Type-A wife will orchestrate holiday gatherings and their annual vow renewals, which, last year, included 250 guests plus Mickey and Minnie at the happiest place on earth: Disneyland in California. Mariah can also be found in the kitchen whipping up Nick's favorite: smothered pork chops and a dessert of pecan pie topped with homemade cinnamon whipped cream.

That's right, Mimi can throw down!

"I love taking care of him," she says beaming, knowing full well that "most people don't buy it." After all, it's hard to imagine the perfectly coifed songstress up to her elbows in flour and cooking oil. Nevertheless, cooking is a skill she picked up while pregnant.

Truthfully, Nick — the prankster in the family — and Mariah — the sly jokester — admit to being more alike than the public may know. In addition to loving roller coasters, old-school R&B slow jams and laughing until it hurts, Nick says he and Mariah share the same core values. That's how he knew she was the one. "It was early on when I found out how spiritual she was, and we had conversations about kids and how to live life. For her to share these values, it instantly let me know this is the person I've always wanted."

Oh, and their physical chemistry instantly sealed the deal, too. Hectic schedules or not, these two are serious about keeping things spicy in the bedroom — and on their private jet. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. C. are proud members of the married couples' Mile High Club! "We are very playful," says Nick coyly, before getting real. "I don't want to hold back." And Mariah one-ups his raciness with a closet full of sultry lingerie and Agent Provocateur fur pumps, admitting, "It's not like we're [a pair of] Goody Two-shoes."

When they're not being frisky, Nick and Mariah are simply known as Mommy and Daddy to the twins. Monroe is a mini-Mariah, possessing her mom's sweetness and eye for the finer things. "The other night I had on a ruby and diamond necklace and earrings," recalls the singer/actress. "Ms. Monroe looked at me and said, 'Where's my necklace?'" Meanwhile, Roc is quite scrappy in play fights with his dad before giving in to his softer side and snuggling in bed with mom.

"Having babies definitely strengthened our bond because all the love that you have for each other is manifested into these two incredible beings," says Mariah.

Her love for their children is put on full display on her upcoming album, out this spring, on which the twins make their singing debut. On one song, the title of which Mariah is keeping under wraps, Monroe sings with Roc and Nick joins in as well. "It's so sweet; [they will] have this for the rest of their lives," she says. Determined to make more memories, she hopes the twins and Nick will be able to join her on tour to perform the track. Even for a 20-plus-year veteran with hundreds of accolades, sharing the stage with her babies, she says, "would mean so much."

At the end of the day, no matter how many frequent flier miles they rack up, these two have learned that home is most certainly wherever they are together. "It has gone by so fast, but then at the same time, it feels like you've been spending your whole life with this person," says Nick as they approach their six-year anniversary. "Time doesn't even really matter. This is now forever a part of my life, and I love every minute of it."

5 Questions for Nick & Mariah

1 What's the best piece of advice you received on your wedding day?
Mariah: The main thing is to be able to shrug things off and just get past it, but never go to bed upset. Nick: Embrace it; don't allow it to be stressful. Embrace the celebration, and everything else will fall in line.

2 What's your favorite part of Nick's body?
Mariah: He has a gorgeous face when he's not making silly faces. I always thought he had a beautiful face; he's just a beautiful man. And I love the shoulders, of course, and the upper back. [Ironically, that's where he has a large tattoo of Mariah's name.]

3 What's an argument like at your house?
Nick: My wife would probably say I'm passive-aggressive. I don't raise my voice. I kind of laugh stuff off too much, which to be honest, probably gets under her skin the most.

4 What's the most romantic thing you have ever done for your wife?
Nick: When we were dating, all the way up to our first year of marriage, I would write her inspirational messages, emails and personal notes. On our one-year anniversary, I compiled them all and turned them into a book [called Mariah's Daily Inspiration]. Now I do them once a week.

5 What's her sexiest body part?
Nick: I would definitely say the legs. From the toes all the way up.