12/31/08

1 year, 364 days

Since Dixie became My Girl. It doesn't seem possible that she was ever NOT mine.

When we first brought her home I talked to a friend of mine who has worked with children placed into foster care or adopted post-babyhood or even uprooted and replanted by a parent re-marrying and blending a family. She told me that it really takes two years before the kids really believe that this is their home forever and forget that it ever really was any other way. It seemed like such a long time when she said that, but she was completely right. Dixie's defenses are finally down and she really sees me as her mother.

She'll never forget her birthmother completely or her home at grandma's, nor do I want her to. Sometimes it seems as though it would all be simpler if she would just never look back. Instead, I try to help her remember the good things, enjoy having a grandmother-grandchild relationship with Gma instead of a parent-child one and remind her constantly of how loved that little girl is.

We call it Sister Day--the day that everyone got a sister. Melody and Charlie would be so lost without that sister. So would I.

***

We're at the in-laws' house and everyone went off to look at Christmas lights. It feels funny being in a very quiet house that, minutes ago, was a very noisy house.

While here, I get to meetup with Mamalicious and some other imaginary friends of mine. I can't hardly wait.

12/26/08

Dixie is hysterical with sorrow

I just told her The Truth. She is inconsolable with her grief and mourning. I didn't mean to break it to her, but she had to know, at some point, that all the dinosaurs died a very long time ago and that she will never, ever see one in a zoo.

12/23/08

Charlie's campaign to spend holidays in the hospital

is gaining speed. He has been in the ER or hospital on Juneteenth, July Fourth, Halloween/All Saints' Day and now he is pulling for Christmas.

Baby boy has pneumonia, but not yet badly enough for the doc to want to keep him, so we're heading out of town as planned with a mountain o' meds.

12/22/08

Sleep in Heavenly peace

With everything going on, it hasn't felt like Christmas yet. Our worries have been outweighed by the kindness of those around us, but they still weigh there. It has been six months since Dowlan's last paycheck and unemployment payments don't always come when they should come or go as far as they should go. We are blessed--we have no needs unmet, no bills unpaid and no sacrifices yet called for, but the weight of it all has made this season less merry.

My mother-in-law made a Christmas songbook for Melody a few years ago. It is one of those pre-printed fabric books with stuffed pages. One of the girls chose it for a bedtime story. But before they got in bed for stories, they wanted to check the advent calendar to see how many doors are left. When they realized there were only two, Melody jumped at least a foot in the air and squealed, "Christmas is really going to come!" and then two ecstatic girls hugged each other.

Earlier, the girls eyes widened as they saw wrapped package after package be loaded into the van, followed by bag after bag of baked goods, shoes, jammies and fluffy dresses. They have renamed PennyVann, with her back seat removed and crammed full of gifts. She is now Santa's Sleigh.

Now Dowlan's voice is joined with two tiny voices, singing Silent Night. You just can't beat that song for sweetness. It really does feel like Christmas is here.

The perfect morning

I didn't realize how frustrating it has been to get Dixie to school every morning until I woke up this morning. I was instantly happy when I woke up and realized that no body had to go anywhere--no school, church, early morning chiro appts, classes at the gym or work. We could just stay in our warmed pajama-ed haven from the cold.

Dowlan got up and fed the kids breakfast while I clutched my pillow. He sat next to me and asked which I'd prefer: a pile of bacon, french toast and coffee or more sleep. I told him 'you' and we snuggled for an hour, half-asleep. Every now and then a kid or a cat would hop in and cuddle, then get bored with our inertness.

It is 10:30 and nothing has been done. No one is dressed. Nothing is cleaned. No errands run or phonecalls made. Life is so good.


edited to add: I just saw that the high today is 36ºF. I think we'll maintain this status as long as possible.

12/20/08

I have nothing to say, really

Charlie is sick. Feverish and wheezing. Melody has a sinus/ear infection. Dixie is perfectly healthy and annoyed that no one wants to play. My back hurts. Dowlan's in fine health, but really annoying.

Getting ready to go to my mom's for Christmas reminded me of this classic tale of sisterly woe.

12/18/08

One of the hardest things to accept about adult-hood? filling my own stocking.

2003
We got married in March and pregnant in April. On Christmas Eve, I was 9 months pregnant. my family had come in the weekend before to celebrate with us, but they were long gone.

We went to Christmas Eve service, which was lovely and amazing. I was struck by the thought that, while I may be very pregnant and miserable, at least I didn't have to go anywhere on a donkey. We went to a friend's house and had dinner and enjoyed their traditions (including the neighbor who gets drunk, dresses up like Santa and goes to visit all the neighborhood kids). The next day, we had another church family to go visit.

But that night, I just felt alone. It wasn't right to not be at my mom's house for Christmas, especially in our empty house that didn't have any children in it yet. I woke up at three a.m. to the sound of the door closing and my husband leaving. I somehow got the idea in my head that he was leaving me and our unborn child, and on Christmas Eve, and began sobbing.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized he had realized that there was nothing to put in our stockings, so he ran to the only open store: 7-11. That year, we had the finest stocking stuffers they had to offer. Thank Heaven for Seven-Eleven!

12/15/08

Wrong white oblong liquid receptacle, Charlie

Charlie has, for months now, sat on the potty every day and said, "Psssss! Pssssss!" and is proud to do so. He stands up, claps and cheers for himself, grabs toilet paper, sits on the toilet, drops the paper in the toilet, stands up and flushes. He runs over and says 'washands!' in one word, hands reaching towards the sink.

Only problem? He never actually produces anything.

On more than one occasion, his potty-sitting has coincidentally coincided with an actual need to use the facilities. When this happens, he hops up off the bathroom, crouches down and uses the tile floor. Immediately, he hops back to the toilet and resumes his "Pssss!"ing.

Last night, it finally happend. He peed in the actual potty. The entire family cheered on his behalf. He was rewarded with new Handy Manny jammies (you know, the ones I was about to put on him either way) and the adoration of parents and siblings alike.

Tonight, Dowlan is changing his diaper when he asks Charlie if he wants to pee-pee in the potty. Charlie, excited, hops up, runs into bathroom, scales the tub wall, crouches down and lets it loose.

12/13/08

Well, we thought he had a job

but he doesn't.

sigh.

12/12/08

Last night I dreamt

that I woke up and tiny squiggles of red sharpie covered every inch of the living room.

12/10/08

Ha-bee Birf DAEEEE!

Is how Charlie heralded the morning. This is me, on my 30th birf-daeeee:

Warning--this is me, straight out of bed, unbrushed, unkempt and jammied. But I do have a cute prop on my shoulder.

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12/8/08

For all my fellow former Abilenians

Melody: Mommy, what do you call people who are from the town your mom and dad live in?
G: Abilenians.
M: Abilens?
G: Abilenians.
M: So you used to be an Abilenian, but now you're a Christian?
G: Something like that.

12/7/08

. . . kill . . . kill . . . kill . . .

Dowlan turned on the wrong burner.

The burner he turned on was NOT the burner under the kettle. The burner he turned on was the one under the chocolate cake I'd JUST taken out of the oven and was still sitting, in it's Pyrex dish, on the stove top to cool.

Then he leaves to go take out the trash. I guess he subconsciously knew that the earning of points was going to be vital to his existence.

I am on the other side of the kitchen, working on the second of the three cakes, carefully destroying it and mashing it, forming it into balls.

I smell burning chocolate cake. I turn to see smoke rising. I grab mitts, pick it up, set it on the burner on the other side of the stove top because it is so hot that I can't get it any farther and I am afraid that it will harm my countertop.

I stick them the mitts back in the drawer and turn to walk back to my cake balling when I hear a POP.

I turn to find that the pyrex has exploded. Shards of broken glass litter the stovetop, the floor and the eighty tiny and perfectly-formed spheres of cake-y goodness that were awaiting dipping.

Barter FAIL

I know a lady who cleans houses. She knows that I tutor. She asked if I would help her son in math in exchange for her doing some housework for me. I told her that, now that I'm working, I really can't keep up and Dowlan just can't handle the kids AND dinner AND the house, and that this seemed like a great idea.

My main issue is laundry. We average nine loads a week. It never ends. I used to have a really good rhythm going, but going to work every afternoon and then coming home to un-do the damage done in my absence is taking all my efforts right now.

So laundry for homework help. Homework help for for laundry. Beautiful plan, right?

Tonight, I go over to her house for my first hour and I realize, after seeing this woman's pristine living conditions that I can NEVER allow her in my home.

12/4/08

Melody is NOT tired.

Melody will NOT go to bed. She will play The Very Hungry Caterpillar game ALL night long. And if no one will play with her, she will just SIT. In this chair. And NOT move. EVER. She will sit in this chair for the REST OF HER LIFE if that is what it takes. Because she did NOT win the last game. She only won two games. That is NOT making her happy.

Twenty minutes later:
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It is so tempting to just leave her there.

12/2/08

Nicknaming gone wrong

Melody: I bought you a surprise while you were at school.
Dixie: Really? What did you get?
M: They are magnets that you paint. And when the paint is dry, you put them on the refrigerator.
D: Oh, wow! What is on the magnets?
M: I started to think you would really like a shark and a fish and an octopus, but then thought, "Dixie doesn't LOVE sharks like she loves octopusses. I will get her a fish and two octopusses."
D: Thank you, Melody! I don't like sharkies, but I love pussies!

12/1/08

Errr . . .

Dixie: Guess what, Daddy? I'm running super fast! And I have scissors. I bet you can't ca--OUCH!

Since I got no pics

Here's the boy-in-a-box.

http://frozenblackbananas.blogspot.com/2008/11/cats-arent-only-ones.html

With bonus shot of teenage-niece-in-a-box

11/29/08

The best part about two new carseats for the recently taller girl?

Two very large boxes have now entered our living room. We could get rid of all the toys and they wouldn't notice for a week.

11/25/08

I can now say with fair certainty that stupidity is a disease

While I haven't thrown up in 40 hours, I am far from hearty, hale and healthy. Far.

My head and my stomach and my eyes and my face and my teeth and my back and my neck and my arms and my muscles in my chest and even my bowl full of jelly--they all hurt. I am mentally operating (ha!) in super slow-mo. That's right, kids--my brain is one big long scene from The Matrix.

I just took a hot bath. Bubble baths are one of the sustaining gifts of life, in my (somewhat) humble opinion. As it came time to get out, I started to wash my hair. I pick up the first bottle: conditioner. The second: conditioner. Number three? Bubble bath. Conditioner. Bubble bath. Shower gel.

No shampoo to be found within arm's reach.

I start looking at the bottles, my mind racing at it's rapid turtle's pace. I think, "Shower gel is soap. Shampoo is soap. Therefore, Shower gel = Shampoo."

I open up the bottle and the scented stench overwhelms me. Gagging, I snap it shut. I sink back into the water for another ten minutes.

I remember having put bubble bath in the water. So that must mean that it has some surfactant qualities to it, right? If I swish my head under the water long enough, something will come out of it. Enough to condition my hair and end this mental torture that my bath has become.

So I swish. Swish. But the movement is getting to me. So I give up and decide to just condition my hair. I'm only going to get back in my jammies and relocate to my couch, right? Does the condition of my hair really matter?

So I apply some conditioner, only it won't spread through my nasty swished hair. Like any rational person, I decide to just add more. I rinse. The sensation of water moving over my head is overwhelming.

I stand in the tub, grab a towel, lean down and wrap it over my hair. Then I flip my head up. HUGE mistake.

I stand there, trying to figure out how to get out of the tub. I feel unbalanced. I take two steps, then notice the shampoo sitting on the bathroom counter, realizing that it had not once occurred to me to expand my search area to include the Greater Bathroom Regions.

11/24/08

Anatomy Class

Dixie: Where is the bone in your belly?
Melody: There isn't one.
Dixie: But there has to be a belly bone.
Melody: You have bones up here (pointing to ribs) and bones back here (pointing to spine) but there is no room in your belly for a bone. If you had a bone here (patting belly), you wouldn't have room for your bowl full of jelly.

11/23/08

Stats

From the all-night yak-fest:

Charlie: 2
Dixie: 3
Dowlan: 2
Melody: 8

I'm still holding at zero. This is not a contest I intend to win.

Update! Melody is at 14. No other changes to report, other than I feel doom impending within me.

11/20/08

If you have a minute . . .

I know this isnt the kind of thing i normally do, but if you would click on this link and place two votes, one for Kathi Fischbach and the other for Chelsie Butts, I'd appreciate it

http://www.classymommy.com/wii_giveaway/vote_view.php?name=&sorted=byvotes&contest=wii

11/18/08

I'm gunna kill him

I come home tonight at 7:25--a bit later than I've been getting home lately because I had an extra hour. I'd left chicken defrosting for him to make dinner with, but no explicit instructions. What does he decide to do with it? Wake fried chicken tenders for dinner. With the kids. I come home to Dixie cutting the chicken into small pieces with a large knife and dropping it into the raw egg and Melody flouring everything. Of course they're wearing new velvet dresses with no aprons and standing on upholstered chairs. Charlie is screaming at Dowlan's feet while he mans the stove.

So I come in, take over, get the kids decontaminated and Charlie calmed. I see that Dowlan has microwaved some frozen broccoli and think 'Ooh, he remembered a vegetable. Points for Dowlan.'

Then Dowlan drops the broccoli in the left over hot oil from the chicken and fries it up a bit, then covers it in a sauce. Yes, you read that right: the man fried the broccoli.

We sit down to dinner and the kids tell me about their project. Melody drew up some plans to make stilts, so they went outside and made them. Hmmmm--small, clumsy children with power tools making stilts out of metal and splintery wood.

Could someone please find this man a job so that I can go back to caring for the children?

I would love to spend a day inside Melody's head

She just comes up with the strangest stuff and, if I think long enough, I sometimes figure out what in the world she is talking about.

On the way home from picking Dixie up from school today, she was talking about how Grandma Jane died once, but came back to life in Jesus so she's not really dead. On and on about it, she went, upsetting Dixie quite deeply and instigating a shouting match that woke the sleeping boy between them.

I try to settle matters by calling Gma and having her tell the girls herself that she's not dead yet. Not trying to make any direct equestrian comparisons to the fine woman, let's just say I was letting her get it from the horse's mouth.

It didn't work.

Gma tried to explain that she was not dead, has never been dead and will hopefully have a few good days, weeks and years before she is finally done in, but Melody would not have it. She began to remind her of 'the time a few days ago when were were on the playground in A---- and you said you were dead.'

Melody, sweetheart: the dead rarely live to proclaim their status.

11/16/08

Don't look at me.

Melody: Hey, you know what rhymes? Spinster and lover.

11/14/08

Melody has a PBS obsession

Before we get started: last night, we were shopping at a thrift store. Dixie is standing behind me and I hear her exclaim, "Oh, Jesus! My Lord!" and I turn to get onto her for saying that when I see that she is indeed referring to Jesus, her Lord. He is very large and displayed on black velvet.

On with the tale . . .


Now that the kids are waking up routinely before 6 a.m, my standards of "No TV before school" can just bite me. I tell them to get dressed and I will throw some food in their general direction as they absorb the nourishment that is public television. In the last day or two, we've switched our morning breakfast station from Disney to PBS because Melody has discovered that she can watch TV and Learn. Melody loves nothing more than To Learn. She even says it to where you can hear the capital letters.

So this morning we turn on the TV and have the following conversation:

Mommy: Oh, no! Mister Rogers Neighborhood is ending. I loved that show when I was a kid.
Dixie: He is such a bad man. I don't want to watch his show.
Melody: Oh, no. We cannot watch a show about a Roger. And a whole neighborhood of Rogers? *shudder*
Dixie: It is a good thing we don't allow Rogers in Texas.
Mommy: Robbers are bad people. Rogers are just overly friendly guys with a fondness for sweater vests.
Dixie: Oh.
Melody: Oh.

Yeah.

So now Curious George is on. Not exactly sharpening the mind, but I did catch this fantastic quote: George tried to show Hundley how his bones were healing, but dogs don't read x-rays.

11/12/08

Random bits

Dixie would like to know, "What happens if I sneeze out my soul?"

Melody would like to know, "What happens if a seed from a daddy elephant walks into your tummy and you have a baby elephant grow in your tummy?"

We have subsequently banned the phrase 'What happens if?" from PennyVann. Gotta quash those young minds and stop them from thinking so dang much.

On the Charlie front? His new favorite thing is to follow me into the bathroom so that he can use my legs as racetracks for his cars while I'm otherwise occupied. In fact, the only way I'm getting the free time to write this is because Tow Mater is doing doughnuts around my ankle.

11/9/08

The new place I have D-I-X-I-E written?

On the arm of my couch. In red Sharpie. And now she's going for the last name, too.

Also, you know those ribbon dancers in the olympics? Melody was trying that this morning, only with her panties.

Charlie's grubby fist clutches a ball at all times. It makes it rather hard to dress him.

11/7/08

list of things i need to do today, but probably wont:

  1. empty dishwasher
  2. fill dishwasher
  3. run dishwasher
  4. re-empty
  5. re-fill
  6. re-run
  7. re-peat
  8. (yeah, it's that bad)
  9. Fold laundry. Lots of it. For hours. Then put it away. OR leave it out so i can fold it again tomorrow.
  10. pick up all the damn toys. This could take weeks.
  11. Throw some attention in the direction of my children. And some food.
  12. Clean the floors. sweep, mop, vacuum, de-tox, cleanse, whatever
  13. wash my nasty hair. only, it's too cold. so wait for it to warm up, then wash my nasty hair.
  14. locate the pile that my desk is located under, then begin the archeological dig needed to find said desk. Catalog each item discovered, as it is apparently a rare treasure, which is why we've allowed it to pile for so long.
  15. put clothes on. well, maybe not clothes. at least a bra.
  16. cut charlie's hair. it's getting a little too shaggy. between the long hair, the princess jammies and the painted toenails it is getting easy to make the wrong assumptions about that kid

11/5/08

. . . . Rocket Boy!

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In his ghostie jammies, shielding the paparrazi from recording the fact that he is using the same hand to both hold his sucker and pick his nose. And they say men can't multitask:

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Papa loves his girls:
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And the best part about the zoo? the giraffe bridge:
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From that bridge you can feed the giraffes crackers and their long, slimy, grey tongues come out and lick up the crackers and you can touch their tongues and muzzles. It's incredibly cool.

Mein Kopf

My head--it hurts. hurts. I can't sleep because it hurts to close my eyes. i cant keep my eyes open because light hurts. The chiropractor did magical things this morning that took it all away for a bit. i need more magic

11/4/08

I want to know who invented Daylight Savings Time

so that I can punch them for the havoc they wreak on my children and my body. Then we finally get adjusted and it is time to mess it up again. We live in a 24-hour society--we aren't saving a thing.

Instead of waking up at 6:30, the kids are now up at 5:30. By 10:00 this morning, I had cleaned the house, unpacked from our trip, fed them breakfast and a snack, loaded the fourth load of laundry and was ready for bed.

11/2/08

Her eyes are playing tricks on her

Melody, waking up from a nap: My eyes were sleepy, but I wasn't sleepy, but they made me go to sleep anyway. My eyes tricked me.

11/1/08

A terrible anniversary

All day I keep thinking about where we were November 1st last year. We came to my hometown because my father-in-law's best friend of more than fifty years died and his funeral was on this date. Even though my in-laws live five hundred miles north of here, their best friends just happened to live less than three miles from my parents.

We came on Halloween so that my kids would have a chance to go to Dixie's Grandma's church's Trunk-or-Treat, bug my aunt a bit and then go trick-or-treat in the neighborhood I grew up in. My mom was leaving town, but I would be at her house and my in-laws would stay there. Dowlan was grieving the man he'd known his entire life.

We woke up the next morning and Charlie was gasping for every breath. I called the pediatrician I'd seen as a child and the receptionist kept trying to put me off, saying, "We're not taking new patients right now." I kept trying to explain that I didn't want to be a new patient. I wanted one appointment. Ever. Finally, I told her, "You go tell Dr. M-- my maiden name and that my 15-month-old is retracting with every breath and see what he says."

She came back within moments, asking how fast I could get there.

I expected an albuterol treatment. We'd been down that road before. Instead we got this:

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He was in the hospital for five days with croup and reactive airway disease. Meanwhile, Dowlan goes to the funeral and spends time with his family. My mom is out out town and my aunt, father and Dixie's grandma are trading off the girls. I have no idea where they are or what they are doing for most of the time. In the hospital with Charlie, time stands still as I try to keep my newly-walking boy entertained in his oxygen tent. We've packed for a weekend, we're here for a week. I try to shop for a few more things at Wal*Mart and find myself staring at packages of toddler girl panties, trying to figure out what size which girl wears and how many pairs she'll need and which character she prefers and the cost per pair and I almost start crying because I am overwhelmed.

About the time that Charlie is getting better, when I've stopped watching every breath, he gets rotavirus. A friend of mine calls to say that a group of cyber bullies have hacked into my photo account and are posting pictures of my family on the internet and saying horrible things about me in a public forum that I've been a part of for awhile. I have no strength to care--I just give her my passwords to change them and go back to the florescent world of the hospital room. Nothing matters but breathing in and out.

I do get out to go eat dinner with Dowlan one night while my dad spells us at the hospital. We go to the steakhouse I worked at in high school and it is a time machine. The menu board, the carpet, the salad bar, the paint are the same. The owner remembers me. He is the same. The smell is the same.

Charlie has one more night in the hospital and Dowlan is going to spend it up there with me. Until this fifth day, it has been just me and Charlie most of the time while other people care for the grieving family and the nomadic girls. Grandma calls the hospital: Melody has thrown up and is crying for Daddy. Daddy goes to the rescue and ends up sick as well before the night is over.

Charlie is discharged and we depart and I can't remember how to do anything. I go to the pharmacy for medicine and am befuddled by the credit card machine and the options it gives. The fog of the hospital still hangs over me. We load up the children and drive home, praying that the vomiting and diarrhea are over. The nebulizer treatments are ongoing, every four hours, so the four hour trip home has to be perfectly timed.

I hadn't realized how haunted by this I still was until, a year later, I found myself once again heading home on Halloween.

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street

Yesterday, I had the unique privilege of driving 220 miles in PennyVann with three children. I thought I'd timed things well--I took the younger two to a Halloween party and wore them out, picked Dixie up from school and headed out of town at 1:30, a.k.a. Nap Time. Added bonus? Dixie's school is a half-mile off of the tollway to get out of town. A glorious plan, all in all.

We've almost made it a quarter mile when Dixie's pressing need to pee is proclaimed from the back seat. Problem? Charlie's already asleep. Gah. I promise a potty in a few minutes. I start thinking of the route we're taking and if I know ANYBODY who lives along the way, who I could call on my cell phone and ask to drop by and shove a little girl through their cat door in search of a potty. No one comes to mind.

The problem of traveling alone with three children is always the potty problem. Inevitably, someone will have a pressing need every forty-five minutes and someone else will have *just* gotten to sleep. I make it to the first town out and stop at the tiniest gas station I can find. I park in front, make sure I can see the bathroom door from the parking lot, then send Dixie in so that I can stay in the parking lot with a sleeping boy. Dixie comes out, Melody decides she needs to go, but doesn't want to go alone. I send Dixie in with her.

Oh, did I mention I was already in costume? After dressing as a distressed fairy, I decided I resembled more closely a depressed fairy. My hair was unwashed and unbrushed, my eyeliner smeared, my glitter globbed. I kept my scraggly tutu in the hopes that people would at least know that I intentionally looked as I did, though I did leave my mangled wings and battered wand in PennyVann.

I just about decided to grab Charlie and run in when they come out. Apparently, they'd knocked the soap dispenser off it's pedestal on the wall and were fixing it. Deciding I didn't want to know the details, we left. Melody decides that Charlie needs to be big like she is and go potty. Ignoring my many protests, she tries to get him out of his car seat. Charlie wakes up because the girls are squabbling over whose turn it is to sing.

We're about fifteen miles down the road when I remember the box. My sister-in-law had sent a Halloween package to the kids, but we hadn't gotten it until that day due to a series of amusing events that I'll skip over to save time. I pull over, open the box and it is like the heavens opened up their glory and presented the most perfect gifts before us.

They buy us enough time to get the girls lulled to sleep. Sweet. Only Charlie is NOT asleep, and very insulted to find himself flanked by sleeping sisters. He decides to liven things up by alternately pinching them to see who wakes up first.

Then I start seeing the most bizarre things along the way. The first is a prosthetic arm in the middle of the highway. I really, really hope that it was a mannequin or a halloween prop and not someone's medical device they paid a few grand for and were going to show up at their destination only to find themselves, well, one-handed.

Further down the road I see a hermaphrodite bovine. I kid you not. I look over and see what is clearly a bull, only he (she?) has a sagging 'cutter' (as Melody calls them) that is almost dragging the ground. My curiosity almost gets the best of me, but I decide to travel onward.

Girls wake up. The need to pee is once again pressing upon us. We are almost to Brownwood and I promise the girls a potty in the near future. This promise is delayed by a traffic jam.

Those of you who have never been to Brownwood, TX probably read that sentence without falling out your chair in hysterical laughter. It's a shame, really, that you cannot possibly understand the irony of that. It takes me twenty minutes to go three miles. In Brownwood. Apparently, the 3:50 Friday rush is a complete bear during construction. I can only surmise that High School Fut-bol must have something to do with this. It is, after all, a Friday night in October in small-town Texas.

We go into The Wal*Mart. Remember my costume? I find myself hoping that I am not the ONLY one in costume. Many of the men I see have clearly been working on that particular facial growth pattern for weeks in anticipation of 'The Big Day'--and I really hope that is the case. Judging from the amount of camo in sight, I remember that The Wal*Mart is doubly packed--not only is Friday Halloween, but Saturday is a far more sacred day--the opening of Deer Season.

Sigh.

We travel onward, only to come to a complete stop in the middle of the highway for a good five minutes while a one-year-old scraggly black kitten meanders its way across the five lanes. I sit there with my flashers on. I briefly consider hopping out to rescue this creature, only to decide that I really don't need another passenger.

Then I come across the largest single piece of road kill I've ever seen. I swear it had to be a bear. Laying on it's wooly black side it rose at least three feet high. Large black bears are not indigenous to west Texas.

We did finally make it to my parents' house but it was the strangest assortment of roadside entertainment I'd ever encountered. Dr. Suess couldn't have found anything stranger, not even on Mulberry Street.

10/30/08

I think I might be ready for tomorrow.

I love Halloween. If you couldn't tell by the completely insane amount of work that goes into the costumes, let me make that clear now. We have been to four parties, had stuff at school, went in costumes to gymnastics and have one more party tomorrow morning before I drag the kids to visit my my mom and party, yet again. We are just party people.

I showed you pictures of the costumes after the first party. What I have neglected to tell you is about all the dang costume drama since. Last Friday night, I start getting things together for the parties the next day and Charlie's costume is nowhere to be found. Fine. I wasn't crazy about Charlie's Scary Monster costume anyways. So I go to work Saturday morning and volunteer to be the person cut early so that I can go buy fabric and come home and make another Charlie costume.

I am almost done making Rocket Boy (I'll have to get pics to you later) when Scary Monster is found. No problem, I'm almost done and I really love the costume and a spare might be good, as filthy as boy child can get. Considering we have back-to-back-to-back parties, we might just need that spare. Great. Okay, but where is Dixie's tutu? Ack!

So we go to Hobby Lobby on the way to the first party. Tulle is NOT on sale this week. So I spend $11 to buy stuff to replace a skirt that cost me $6 the first time and that I get to make in the car while Dowlan drives. Only, wait! Dowlan didn't get his wallet, so he has no license so he gets to make a skirt while I drive. Okay. All is good.

Get to the party, remember that Dixie's peacock had torn from the shirt last week and I'd forgotten to fix it. Fine. Hey, April, I know you're very pregnant, catered a huge party last night and are now in the midst of your son's party and all, but can I borrow a needle and thread?

***

Now that you're caught up . . . Dixie's class had Farm Day and they were encouraged to dress appropriately. So I made her a horse costume, and, of course, had to make Melody one, too. Fine, because they're apparently having Farm Day, too. Except that, wait! They're having it a different day, so I didn't need two after all. Oh, and Melody's is getting moved to Mondays, which are Chapel Days and the school uniform is required. Soooo, now they can bring an animal t-shirt to change into or just bring a stuffed farm animal to school.

NOT a chance. I made the horse costume, she's wearing it. So she goes to school with her school shirt on with 'khaki' pants that are dark brown and happen to have a tail. She is warmed by her hoodie, which happens to match the pants, mane and all.

So both Farm Days go well, only I don't get to go to either, so I have no pictures. I do have Pumpkin Patch pics, though. Just one teensy problem--my camera shutter didn't really open all the way, so there are black shadows in them that I couldn't always crop out.

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Tomorrow is the big day. I have cakes ready:

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We also made sugar cookies, but they're too boring to take pics of. I have everything packed and loaded and ready to go in the morning because I'm not sure if we'll come home before we leave town. Did I mention the *best* part? Dowlan isn't going. He's going to be holding down the fort and doing some contract work for his old boss. So I get to drive four hours with three children in PennyVann for four hours, staring at her glowing orange 'check transmission' light the whole lovely way.

It's a good thing, too, that tomorrow's parties are costumed affairs, because someone has GOT to talk to Charlie about his clothing choices. He loves jammie pants and has become rather attached to this pink bike helmet. Melody, however, prefers to wear nothing at all:

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The pink helmet is worn quite often:

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He has also developed a deep fondness for toenail polish:

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Sigh.

10/29/08

The campaign propaganda is very effective

in the 'five and under' category.

Dixie: Mommy, who is Barack Obama?
Mommy: He's a man who wants to be president of our country.
Dixie: Why do they talk about him on the radio?
Mommy: Because picking the next president is a very important decision and you really need to think about it before you vote. The people on the radio are telling everyone what they think to try to get us to vote for the person they like. (Followed by basic explanation about voting.)
Dixie: So who else wants to be president?
Mommy: John McCain.
Dixie: But you're voting for Barack Obama, right? He's the best one.
Mommy: How did you decide that? Have you heard someone talk about him?
Dixie: No. I just heard him talk and I know in my heart that he wants to help people.

Yeah, I don't even know how to respond to that.

10/27/08

It shines like the top of the Chrystler Building

In the last forty-five minutes I have started a load of laundry, put up dishes, loaded the dishwasher, cleaned off counters, wiped down counters, swept three rooms, mopped those same rooms, tidied living room, moved the laundry to the dryer, and started the robot.

All while being mowed down by a stroller pushed by a persistent and strong two-year-old boy.

10/26/08

I just woke up

from my Sunday afternoon nap. My entire house is clean. Charlie is still asleep. The girls are playing nicely. Dowlan is off to the nursing home to take care of the little old ladies.

All is right in my world.

***

At church this morning, Melody heard the prayers and got this surprised look on her face. "People prayed for me when I was in the hospital?"

"Of course they did, Melody. People love you and want you healthy and safe," we responded.

"Then I am going to pray for other people in the hospital to make sure they are healthy and safe," she decided.

Man, I love that kid.

10/23/08

I think he's trying to tell me something

When I wash Charlie's face, he now screams, "Die! Die!"

I have no idea what he's really trying to say. But it sure makes a mommy feel good!

10/21/08

A brief Post-Op report

Melody is feeling great. When we were at the Halloween party on Saturday, I was watching her frolicking with merriment and sighed, thinking, "I have my Melody back." It was a great feeling.

The one downside? Her voice is sooooooooo high pitched and whiny. And loud. And my head is congested and her Sarah Palin voice echoes in my head and makes me want to scream.

Grrr.

I am filling out more Medicaid forms. Apparently, you have to do this every three months. Three months, apparently, begins from the date you started applying the first time and they conveniently ignore the fact that, although it was July when we began applying, we didn't actually have the ability make a doctor's appointment until October.

These forms ask for way more than the last round. They're confusing. They ask for pieces of paper that we don't have on hand. And they make me feel really stupid.

I hate this. I hate, hate, hate this.

On the plus side, Dowlan has a second interview on Thursday. After the interview Monday, it is clear that this is not his next major career move. But it will pay the bills in the interim.

10/20/08

I would like to report a strudel-napping

This morning, Charlie gets up and eats First Breakfast with the girls. Applesauce and something else, I don't really remember. He goes off to play.

After I take the girls to school, Charlie is back in the kitchen. Pointing at the refrigerator and saying, "Door. Open."

Dowlan opens the fridge. Charlie says, "No. Up." so Dowlan opens the freezer. It becomes clear that Charlie is after ice cream.

Daddy, being a sucker for a cute grin, gives him a tiny bowl. Second Breakfast

I do the dishes, get the toys picked up and realize that I am starving. So I make myself a Toaster Strudel.

Charlie's cat-like hearing detects the sound of the freezer opening. He insists on sitting on the counter, monitoring the toaster. He waves his hands over it, saying, "Hot!", turns the knob and pushes the button. "Button!" he announces.

He claps when I get it out. I am applying the icing and his finger keeps dipping in. I get him down and he runs to the table, pulls out a chair and climbs in. He points to the spot on the table where he wishes me to set the food.

I try to eat. "NO! Here!" he insists, so I get out a second plate and apportion four bites of my 1.9 ounce breakfast. He finishes his Mid-Morning Snack off quickly, then signs More! More!

There are no more. I show him the empty box. He makes a sad face, then tries to stick his head inside. He goes back to the table, sits at his chair and patiently awaits the food that he just knows will appear.

Inspired, I make a piece of white toast, smear jam on one half, fold it over and trickle the remaining strudel icing on top. He eats his Elevensies with an hour to spare.

Then he grabs my finger and points to the ground. I don't see anything. He drops to all fours and does his puppy impression. Then he hops up, grabs my finger and points to the ground. I begrudgingly drop to my knees and am suddenly reminded that my left knee is missing much of its skin. He gets down and crawls after his small plastic basketball. When I don't immediately follow, he turns around with this, "I'm waiting!" look. I follow.

He gets the ball in his mouth and then makes it clear that he would like me to bite it as well. Tug-of-war commences. He starts giggling so hard that he forgets to chomp and I claim a small victory. He decides that game is over and stands. I stand and he points me back to the ground. He picks up the ball and throws it, commanding me to "FETCH!" I comply.

My knee is killing me at this point, so I try to crawl on hands and feet. No dice. I try to slide and scoot. He's not having it. I turn on the Roomba in hopes that he will adopt it as an alternate pet. No way. (Have I mentioned the clear differences in his imitations of dogs and cats? It isn't just the noises--he has the demeanor of each down pat.)

I fetch. Then I fetch some more. Finally, he is distracted by The Disney Channel. God bless television.

At long last, Daddy comes home from his job interview. Charlie, inspired, grabs Dowlan's finger and leads him to the fridge, pointing. It is, after all, 11:15.

10/19/08

We have actual communication

This morning, Charlie tugged on my fingers and said, "Come here." He led me through the house, saying "Help!" and stopped at the bathroom door, where he pointed and said, "Bathtub."

I had to say, "No, Charlie. We can't take a bath right now. Daddy is in the shower." Charlie scrunched up his face, started to hit me with his Barbie phone, but had another idea. He led me through the house to the front door, "Walk!" He pointed.

"I'm sorry, Charlie, but I'm in my jammies. I can't go on a walk with you right now."

So he made a third attempt and dragged me to the kitchen, where he pointed at the box of Kix. I poured him a bowl of cereal and made me a cup of coffee. I then came here to write this and he brought me a princess cup, complaining, "All gone." I gave him seven drops of my coffee.

"Yum!" he exclaimed, slurping it up. Then he handed the princess cup back to me and brought me a castle, saying "Up." I sat it up on the desk and then he grabbed my finger and said, "Walk," again.

I guess he missed that I'm still in my jammies.

10/18/08

Just in case Joe The Plumber isn't the pic you were hoping to see . . .

Let me first explain something. I love my husband. But he is not skilled in photo composition. I have mad skillz. That is why the Joe The Plumber I made looks ten times better than any of the pics of our children.

I actually have two weeks' worth of pics to show. I will start with Miss Mel in the hospital.

Pre-op:
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Post-op, with the first of many popsicles:
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Encaged:
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Vaguely awake:
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Telling Oma all about it:
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Then there are the pics of our zoo trip. Unfortunately, there are very few that do not have pics of other people's children. Since I would like to remain friends with my friends, I will not be posting their children.

I will, however, have this random child in the upper-right-hand corner. His mother will never come after me, I am quite certain:
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Some cool animal shots:
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Dixie as SuperPrincess (for school):
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We had our first Halloween party today. It was a blast. Our camera batteries, however, did not meet the challenge before them. I have some very crummy pics of the costumes. I promise better costume pics to come.

Charlie the Scary Monster:
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I warned the pics were horrible, right? His costume is made out of a pillowcase from Target, btw. I got home from a friend's 40 birthday party last night and made it in the ten minutes it took Dowlan to bring the sleeping children in from the van and settle them down for the night:
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Melody the Mermaid:
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Mermaid Butt and Peacock Front:
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She was biting into some kind of chocolate. I swear these are not her teeth:
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And a couple of close-ups on the peacock fan that took 15 hours, 70 different fabric pieces and 4 spools of thread:
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10/17/08

Monday!

Dowlan has a job interview Monday!

Peacock Status

100%.

Now for those other children.

10/16/08

Basic Math

eating rice + coughing = rice up the back of the nose
= really freaking painful
= gross


In response to comments: I need a little more time to get the floor saga organized in my head. I have to write things mentally before I can write things here. Which is why, I think, the Charlie story escaped my brain entirely. I didn't have the mental reworking of words to keep it in there.

Peacock Status: 78%

10/15/08

Charlie did something

And it just popped into my mind to come blog about it. Then I sat down, opened up the browser, clicked 'Create Post' and whatever he did has now promptly left my mind.

I think I am tired. You know why? This was supposed to be today:

7:30 chiro--with all three kids--then run by the bank
7:45 Muffins With Mom at the girls' school
8:15 drop off girls
8:30-9:30 class at gym
9:30 shower
10:00 class at church
11:30 lunch
1:00 pick up charlie
1:30 pick up girls
2:00 sew like crazy
3-6 work
6:15 dinner
7:00 church
8:30 kids to bed and sew like crazy

If only it worked that way. Right now, it is 9:10 p.m. and the girls are sitting at the dining room table, eating breakfast. Charlie just got up, said, "I'm done" and is now walking in a circle in the kitchen. Sadly, this is probably the least off schedule I've been all day.

I realized last night that our first Halloween party is on Saturday. My progress bar on the peacock costume was at 14% when I made that realization. I think it is up to 47% by now and I am taking a break from the machine because my eyes kept involuntarily crossing. I am discovering that they aren't crossing any less, sitting at the computer.

Off to go make more feathers. And wonder what it is Charlie did that brought me here in the first place.

10/14/08

Miss Dixie

can do a handstand! Without a wall!

10/12/08

There are a lot of cool things about being a mom

but this one is definitely the coolest.

This morning, Melody and I skipped church because we'd seriously overdone it Friday and Saturday and baby girl was just hurting and worn out. I figured we'd snuggle up and have a quiet morning watching a movie and snoozing, but she clearly had other plans. She wanted 'to learn.'

See, on Friday, we went to Chick-Fil-aA with her favorite friend in the world James and his cousin Collin. James and Collin are 7 and they were reading their bags. Melody just stared at hers, looking sad. Collin said, "Can't you read?" and Melody looked distraught. She said, "I can kind of read, but the things I can't, I can get my mommy to teach me to read." I didn't think much of it at the time, just felt a little sad for my girl.

So this morning, she started begging for 'learning time' so we did some words on the magna-doodle. After getting into an argument about 'silent e' we had to watch the Leapfrog "Complex Words Complex" DVD again. Then play the letter game from "The Letter Factory" and then use the Word Whammer. That was NOT enough. We played six games of The Very Hungry Catterpillar card game and 2 of Cinderella's Glass Slipper game. Then she still was not satisfied. She wanted to LEARN. She wanted to do "Knick knack phonics" and I could not figure out wth that meant. Finally, it clicked. I got out Hooked On Phonics and she quickly read through the first four books. The second two slowed her down, but she got through them. Then she promptly rolled over and went to sleep.

It clicked later that she had finally found her motivation: wanting to be big like James and Collin. I'd known for weeks that she was on the verge of figuring it out, but didn't see the need to push her until she was ready.

It was just amazing, watching my child's brain work that way. Seeing her look at the page and understand what is on it. Thinking of all the things I have taught her and explained to her and worked with her on over the last four years and how learning to read is a huge life event. There's very little you can accomplish in the adult world without understanding that basic concept.

I was a little worried about how Dixie would take all this. After all, Dixie is five months older and, well, knows it. She takes it personally when Melody is better at her in anything, and I understand why. Hers is not the easiest position to be in. Dixie would be perfectly capable of learning to read any time she wants to--she just hasn't seemed to want to yet. Sitting still is simply not her style.

When Melody told Dixie, Dixie just got that beaming goofy Dixie grin on her face and said, "Great! Now you can read me my bedtime stories!" She ran and grabbed a book off the shelf and made Melody read it to her. Melody struggled through it, but did her best. It was a lot harder than the Hooked on Phonics books. When she was done, Dixie just laughed and said, "Cool! We don't need Daddy anymore!"

Charlie's finally decided it's time to say something

I should have known by now to never worry about Charlie. You know how there's a range of normal for every baby milestone? It seems like that, with every new baby skill, he puts it off until the very last possible moment. Clearly, Charlie is not in a hurry.

We had his 2 year checkup a few days back. It was two months late because of all the Medicaid drama. As of that day, Charlie said ten words, and that's only if you count 'uh-oh!' as a word. Sure, he'd mimic just about anything if the mood struck him right, but he only used ten words independently.

The doctor said not to worry, that sometimes it took a little past the second birthday to really pick up. He said a lot of mothers come in at the 24-month mark concerned and that, by the 26-month mark, they're wondering when the kid is ever going to stop talking. I pointed out that he was nearly 27 months old and the doctor decided to check his hearing.

Having his hearing checked was really creepy. First of all, the guy who was running the test reminded me of the weirdo detective on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The guy played by Victor D'Onforljoisxjzo. He has me sit in a little booth with Charlie on my lap, trying to get him to pay attention to this bug-eyed turtle. Odd Guy goes out of the booth and stares at us through the booth with headphones on. He makes little white noise fuzzy sounds happen at speakers in the right and left corners. When Charlie looks at one, the guy pushes a button that makes a little stuffed animal play a drum set while a light blinks. It's really freaky.

Once Charlie looks and the bear plays it's beat, I'm supposed to get Charlie to look at the turtle again. Then the guy plays the noise on the other side and this time a different stuffed animal in a glass-enclosed box comes to life, playing a miniature drum set. After about five minutes of this, Charlie is pointing at the animals, commanding "DRUM!" and so the guy gets the puppy in the box in front of us to bark.

The only directions the guy had given me were, "Keep him focused on the turtle. Ignore the puppy. Do NOT draw his attention to the puppy."

I have read quite a bit of horror in my life. I usually avoid the movies because they're insanely cheesy, but there are few Stephen King books that I haven't read. Some of them I've worn to pieces. When the dog barked and Charlie looked at it, the man's warning started going through my head and I began feeling very paranoid because my back was to the door of this sound-proof room.

When no Psycho shower scene ensued, Charlie's focus went back to the googly-eyed turtle.

Then I began thinking back to my psychology class in college and how we had to volunteer to be a subject in 2-3 experiments a semester. I started wondering if there was a second person out there watching the guy watch us in the box. Or if they were really watching me to see how long I would sit on a stool with a two-year-old in my lap, getting excited over this damn turtle and trying to avoid the puppy and cheering every time the animatronic bear clanged its high-hat cymbal.

Then Charlie got REALLY distracted, so Odd Guy started whispering through the mic. "Char-leeee. Charl-ie. Look over here Charlie."

I just knew we were going to be eaten.

Within a few minutes, however, we were out of the box and I was told, as I suspected, that Charlie's hearing is Just Fine. The doctor said that he would refer us to ECI for speech testing if we wanted. I said it was best to go ahead and check it out, as he is getting very frustrated and angry with his lack of communication skills. Still, I figured it best that that we get through Melody's surgery first, then call them.

I'm glad we waited. In the past week, he has exploded with all the things he had to say. He's finally starting to put two words together and communicate his needs without tantrums. His favorite new phrase? No way. Endearing, isn't it? Being told "NO WAY" by a 23-lb child that you still-somewhat-recently gave birth to? Still, it's better than throwing everything in sight, and biting and hitting when you can't explain what you want.

It's amazing how you want them to walk and talk, then, as soon as they do, you just want them to sit down and shut up.

10/9/08

Zzzzz . . . .

Giving meds 'round the clock is about to do us all in. In fact, poor Mistress Fluff N Stuff fell asleep in the car yesterday and, when I went to get her out, she opened her eyes just long enough to say, "I don't want anything. Please don't make me take anything."

I have a hysterically funny saga about my floor that I will try to get up later. I am just too tired to organize my thoughts.

10/7/08

We're home!

Melody's home and safe and sound, although she is missing a few body parts. They cauterized her bleeding nose vessels and removed her tonsils, adenoids, earrings and all the bad words. This last part became necessary when, right before she went into surgery, she told me, "Mommy, this is the worst day of my whole damn life."

She was in a horrific mood when we got there because I made the mistake of waking her up at 3 a.m. to eat her last meal before surgery and she decided that she didn't really need to go back to bed. By the time we got to the surgical center at 11, she was one miserable bunny.

Everything went well, though. When the doctor came out gave us the rundown and then said, "Those were really big tonsils." Uh, yeah. That was kind of my point. She woke up a bit later, ate a popsicle and promptly passed out again.

The surgical center we were at is across the parking lot from the new children's hospital and you get to go through this huge underground tunnel from one place to the other. Along the way they have hidden fairies and dinosaurs to look for.

Staying overnight was a good call because it meant that other people got to do all the nasty stuff to her and clean up all the nasty stuff that came out of her. She was just about to be sent home when she threw up. I was thinking to myself how glad I was that this wasn't my carpet.

She was pretty good through it all, but then freaked out when it was time for the IV to come out. I think she'd just been messed with one too many times that day.

10/6/08

When I get back from the hospital tommorrow

I expect to see the comments FULL of notes to my girl!

10/5/08

The Reassuring Words of Melody

Daddy is very silly. But don't worry, Mommy--not all daddies are silly. Maybe you can find a better husband someday.

10/4/08

Well, that was rather surreal

Tonight, we went to a very swanky wedding. It was held at the church we attend, the place where we met and got married. The reception was at the new University hotel and conference center.

When we got married, there were approximately 275 people in attendance and it was the most full I'd ever seen that church for a wedding. Tonight's crowd topped Easter Sunday for pew-cramming. Guests from all over the place were in attendance and I'm sure that many of them make in an hour what I make in a month. There was a Senator there. Not shabby company, right?

We drop the kids off with Sheri, long-time friend and faithful reader. She and her husband are considering a second child, so I offered my brood up for rehearsal. Unfortunately, I think the evening went a bit too well, so I think it may have encouraged them to think that classic logical downfall that brings second children to the world: Hey, this isn't so bad. This logical thinking is responsible for siblings only slightly less often than the train of thought that starts with: hm. When was my last period, again?

If any of this stops making sense, please remember that there was an open bar. I stopped drinking only when I ran out of fingers to count drinks on. (I did limit myself to one hand, however. I'm not a total lush.)

So, I'm at the reception and there are hundreds of people there, quite a few of whom are people we go to church with and have known for a decade or the growing crowd that I have come to think of as "UA Expatriates." It's like a family reunion, only featuring people you (generally) like.

Here's where the weird part. I found myself having two repeated conversations. One, I fully expected. The answers included, "Melody's surgery is scheduled for Monday" and "The job hunt is, well, going. Not sure if I'd classify it as well." The other oft-repeated dialogue? Discovering covert blog fans, then having them introduce me to the people nearby with hearty blog recommendations.

This is happening more and more often, and it always unnerves me a bit. The first time it happened was with another good friend, Deanna. Deanna I have known for eleven years. She is the epitome of class and good taste. Think Martha Stewart with substantially better hair, facial expressions that involve parts of her face actually moving and no prison record (to date.) She is, among other things, our church event planner. She is the upper-middle-class suburban mommy dream.

Yet, she has a gloriously biting sense of humor. I think it helps her get along with the mere mortals surrounding her.

After Deanna confessed her deep fondness for this silly thing I have going here, I could not write a post for a week. I kept thinking, "Will Deanna find this funny? Will it meet her standards? Or will she erase her bookmark and never look back?" I developed a minor complex.

A few weeks later, the same thing happened at a different church we attend with someone I do not know all that well. I froze at the thought, and wondered what extremely inappropriate musings I had most recently put forth.

See, I got into this for one reason, and one reason only: I am lazy. Extremely lazy. I have brought it to an artform, really. Other people make parenting decisions based on What Is Best For My Child. I think about what gets the most return for the least effort and will encourage them to, well, just leave me alone. Part of this lifestyle I have chosen means that I will NOT be making hand-crafted scrapbooks with the precious memories of their magical and whimsical childhoods. (In fact, I have been oft-tempted, while blogging, tell them to, "Shut up so I can record the precious memories of your magical Goddamn childhood.)

I will have a cold and impersonal electronic record that has been read by everyone else on earth before they get a peek. If they are lucky, I will someday get it bound into a book and hope that my cheapness disease does not prevent me making them each a copy.

It also has the bonus effect of allowing the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and honorary relatives to have a glimpse into the life, development and general well-being of my children's lives with no real effort on my part. I just didn't expect it to expand so much.

I have one regular reader who is the wife of one of the elders at our church. After I learned this, I found that I was self-censoring. As I told stories, especially about the girls' inexplicable fascination with Charlie's penis, I would think, "Is this too shocking for Ann to read? What about the grandparents. If I tell too many Melody stories, what will Dixie's Grandma think? (especially if all the Dixie stories are centered around her exploits with sharpies and scissors)."

Recently, my mother introduced several of her friends to my antics here. These are people who have known me since I was a mere babe in arms. Some of their children were schoolmates of mine, so other high school friends have discovered me as a result. It is very strange. As evident by my "Girl Most Changed" award at last year's high school reunion, I live an entirely different life than I did back then. It is weird having all my worlds collide.

I always knew my imaginary friends from the world of mommy message boards would be here, but the persona here is much similar to there and, heck, they were the ones who encouraged me to start this silly thing in the first place.

Don't mistake me--I love having readers. I love to read comments and to check the stats and see how many hits I have. I love to go to the hit analysis and see the world map with little arrows sprinkling the continent and expanding the globe. It is just odd for real life and internet live to intersect.

So back to the wedding.

I had no fewer than five conversations about my blog. Having fans is a bit odd, but I secretly love that there really are people reading all this. I drank no fewer than five alcoholic beverages. Good night . . .

As per Jenn's request (plus way more information than she ever wanted)

Why Melody needs surgery:

She has always been very susceptible to strep and, the last time she had it, her tonsils never went back down. She tested negative for strep, though, so they tried different approaches and nothing worked. They even did a round of 'just in case' antibiotics and they went down by about half, then grew and flamed again. (I wasn't crazy about bonus antibiotics, but we had to try.)

In June, the pediatrician's opinion was that we'd been trying since April and nothing worked, so it was time to go see an ENT. The ENT heard the background and said it was time to yank. He asked how she slept, and I answered that she hadn't slept through the night since she was nine months old and that she has always snored. He said that was probably sleep apnea, so the adenoids needed to go as well. Meanwhile, she has averaged 4-5 nosebleeds a week, sometimes several in the same day, so he was going to cauterize her veins in her nose.

Unfortunately, Dowlan had just lost his job and we had four days of health insurance left. He offered to squeeze it in, but I was reticent to rack up at least $1500 in copays when I knew we'd be getting the kids on state insurance as soon as ours ran out. I figured it was better to wait a week or two and not have that money come out of our savings.

It was a good call and a bad one. Good because he has now been unemployed for four months and we would have been seriously hurting without that money in the bank or if we had one more medical bill to pay off. Bad because getting insurance through the government turned out to be a complete and utter nightmare.

First, we had to apply for CHIP. But I couldn't apply for CHIP until I had my first paystub from Sylvan. That took two weeks. Then I had to send in an enormous amount of paperwork that was complicated by the fact that Dixie was still on Medicaid from before the adoption was final. (We couldn't put her on our insurance until we adopted her. Dowlan's job ended June 12th and the adoption was June 13th.) Also, we didn't have formal paperwork with her name change on it. (Come to think of it, we still don't.)

So, in mid-July, shortly after charlie nearly bit through his tongue and got to get it sewn together, I send in this inch-thick envelope with paperwork. Three weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, I get a letter back saying that they need more information and that it must be received in ten days or we have to re-apply. We had sent in the only piece of paper the unemployment office ever sent us that showed what his weekly amount would be. This was not the correct piece of paper.

He spent, I kid you not, from Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon calling the Texas Workforce Commission every 15-20 minutes. About every 10th call would not be a busy signal and he would get one of those automated systems that would give 10 options. None of the options were what he needed. So he started systematically going through the options. Most of them resulted in a menu with more options that resulted in automated messages that gave information and then hung up. Going into the office did not work. If he did hit upon a combination that got him sent to a human being, it would ring a few times, then go to a busy signal or it would simply hang up.

Wednesday afternoon, he finally gets through to someone who sends him the paper. Of course, they can't send it til Thursday or Friday. Then we have to wait for it to come in the mail and then mail it and hope CHIP receives it in their magic time window. Fortunately, they do.

A few weeks later, I get a packet in the mail saying that we've been denied CHIP coverage, as we were below their income threshold, and our application is being forwarded to Children's Medicaid. I call to check on three things: 1. that I don't have to do anything else, 2. to make sure that Charlie's tongue ER visit will be covered, and 3. to make sure that they actually got the paperwork.

I talk to four different people. All of them are very courteous and professional and want to make sure that I get the correct answers, so they send me to other people with my questions, as they have no clue themselves. Turns out, had we got on CHIP, they would NOT have covered Charlie's tongue, but Medicaid will. As I'm talking to the last lady, she says that we are in queue to be processed, but that they are still working on the referrals from April and May. She knows my daughter needs surgery, so she decides to skip us ahead and process us over the phone.

I think, "Sweet! We're in the clear!"

Nope. I get to the surgeon's office and it turns out that he could have taken us on CHIP, but that he can't on Medicaid. He is so concerned that he offers to do the surgery for free. He calls to schedule it and the hospital will not allow it. I find out that I have to start over. Our pediatrician also does not take Medicaid.

At this point, both my parents and our church offer to pay for the surgery outright. That, apparently, is not allowed. I try to just pay for the pediatrician appointment and they won't let me. It is apparently considered fraud on their part to charge for services that insurance should cover.

Then I learn that there are three types of Medicaid and that we were automatically enrolled in Traditional. As I start calling pediatricians, it becomes clear that only clinics take Traditional. I call to get the kids put on Amerigroup, as that is what the practice I want to take her to will take. The lady processes our information right away, but then tells me that it takes 15-45 business days to go into effect.

I call clinics. Openings are not available for weeks, except for the clinic that takes only same-day appointments. Phones turn on at 8:00 a.m. every day and getting an appt is akin to winning the lotto. After several days' trying, she got one. I was very impressed with the quality of the care she got there, I must say. The pediatrician was a little odd, but good with kids and very thorough. She agrees that it's time for them to come out and says to call back in a few days for the referral.

I call back several times before I get an answer and the lady in referrals can't find her paperwork. She takes my name and says that she'll get one done, then we'll get something in the mail. After a week of nothing, I call back. Turns out, I was calling the wrong clinic. I was calling the City Name Health Clinic, not the City Name Community Health Clinic. I would also like to point out that their addresses are nearly identical--the same four numbers in a slightly different order and that they are on streets that are a block apart with nearly-identical sounding names.

I call the correct clinic. They tell me to call for an appointment at any ENT listed in the Medicaid book. There are five names, but four are in the same practice and only make an appointment if the pediatrician's office calls them. The other does not take Traditional Medicaid, but will take us when we are on Amerigroup.

I try to call the correct clinic, but they aren't answering the phones. So I go check the mail and find our Amerigroup stuff in the mail. So I call the other ENT and get a same-day appointment. I go to register and realize that the appointment is for September 29th and that our Amerigroup kicks in on October 1st. I call to switch the appointment and get in for Friday at 1:15 p.m.

While I'm at it, I schedule the well-child checks for Dixie and Charlie that were due in August and get Charlie's audiologist appointment in.

Once I finally got an ENT to look at her, the process was quick. We saw him yesterday, the surgery is day-after-tomorrow. But getting to this point has been an arduous process and, frankly, a completely ridiculous one.

In the time it has taken to get this all worked out, my child has suffered. She isn't sleeping well or eating well. She has always been at the very bottom of the weight charts and has lost several pounds that she didn't have to lose. She has been grumpy and unable to handle her emotions because she gets so overwhelmed. Had I intentionally allowed this to happen, I would be in jail, and deservedly so. It's neglect to have a 4.5 year old drop to 29 pounds and go months without needed medical care.

This system is so broken. But the thought of the government stepping in to 'fix' it terrifies me. After all, it is the government that came up with Medicaid.

10/3/08

Finally!

Melody's surgery is scheduled for Monday. They plan to keep her overnight.

Also, Dixie and Charlie had their well-child checks. Dixie is perfect in every way, as the doctor pronounced between her screaming bouts. My ears are still ringing. I'm so glad she's done with her shots for a long time. Charlie is as defective as ever, but he passed his hearing screening and this cold managed to pass without turning into something nasty.

I'm really, really tired. Four appointments with three kids in two days.

10/1/08

Disease, Plague and Mayhem

Charlie and I are sick. This leaves Daddy and the girls in charge. I would share pics of what the girls' room looks like right now, except that someone would come take my children away.

Charlie is trying to see just how many body fluids a small child can manufacture in a 24-hour period. Ironically, he has his Well Child visit at the pediatrician tomorrow. Uh-huh. Between the sudden resurgence of cradle cap and all the snot, they may decide to take him away.

My throat hurts so badly that I can't turn my head or move my jaw or swallow or breathe cool air in through my mouth. The pressure in my sinuses is so great that I am contemplating removing my eyeballs and teeth. Or maybe sterilizing the drill and going for it.

I am sitting up right now to let all the mucous drain and settle a bit so I can breathe. Then I will resume horizontal status.

Thank God the girls are at school. I did go to work yesterday, but only so I didn't have to hear the shrillness of the girl-children for a little while. My plan did not work as well as I'd hoped--they sent me home early.

I am concerned that I will pass this nonsense along to Melody, who really doesn't need anything to aggravate her oral anatomy further. Or Charlie. I just got his medical bills taken care of from his last hospital trip. With his history of Reactive Airway Disease and love for the ER, I get very nervous when that boy baby sniffles. Or to Dixie. It isn't that she has any preexisting condition to exacerbate--just that she's so grumpy when she's sick and I don't feel up to comforting anyone right now.

Good news is that Melody has an ENT appointment on Friday. Hopefully, we'll have surgery booked very soon.

9/29/08

It's still less work than the wedding dress

I made this no-sew tutu:

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I googled directions. The whole in the middle? Imagine The Dixie standing there.

I got some foam to cover in green fabric with peacock feathers appliqued on it. I have a single feather made:

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Throw in some solid leggings, a bright shirt, slap together a headpiece and paint her little 'beak' orange, and we have a bird.

9/28/08

Oh, thank God.

Dixie suddenly remembered that she wanted to be a peacock for Halloween. That is SO much easier to make than another freaking wedding dress.

9/27/08

Oh, no. Not again.

Halloween.

Did it have to come so quickly? I love the day, I love the candy, the parties, the proliferation of orange. But costumes?

Last year, if you recall, Dixie was Dorothy and Dowlan was the Scarecrow. I was Ursula the Sea Witch, Charlie was Sebastian the Crab and Melody was Ariel, but not Mermaid Ariel. She was Ariel In Her Marryin' Dress. I made Dixie's little frock with ease, my Ursula tentacles were a bit of a pain, but not too bad, Dowlan's was thrown together well and Charlie's was ordered from Disney.com. But sewing a wedding dress using seven-and-a-half yards of fabric for a (then) 27-pound three-and-a-half-year-old? Nightmare. And the fabric kept fraying and the whole dang think kept falling apart because the skirt was too heavy for the bodice and it was all too long and she kept stepping on the hem as she walked and pulling it apart and the outerlayment and pepulum did NOT wash well.

So guess what Dixie wants to be this year? You got it: Ariel In Her Marryin' Dress. Melody wants to be 'Ariel-when-she's-a-mermaid-with-a-fin-and-wears-purple-bras.' It's a good thing I have two red Ariel wigs. So I guess I can recycle my Ursula and Charlie's Sebastian. Dowlan's on his own--he doesn't have the pecs or white beard to be King Triton and I am NOT sewing him an Eric costume. He's simply not dashing enough.

You know what else?

I STILL have Dixie's skirt to make to even things up from making Melody a skirt to even things up because Dixie had a uniform skirt and Melody only had pants and shorts (and princesses do not wear pants and shorts, only skirts.)

This week is spirit week and Dixie is supposed to dress like a superhero on Thursday. I guess I'll make a cape. Little girls don't typically have superhero costumes in abundance, kwim?

And then, in two weeks, it is Farm Day. Dixie is supposed to dress like a farm animal. So I got stuff at Wal*Mart to add a brown hood with horse ears and a mane to a brown shirt and enough stuff for a tail. Only Melody is going to the party as well, and wants to be a horse, too. I don't have a brown shirt and pants for her. I do have a white one, so we will have one brown and one white horse.

Then there's my ginormous mending pile.

Oh, and all my Halloween bow orders.

My job.

I'm hostessing bunco.

Several large duties at church.

Kids. Yeah, them.

Housework.

Sigh.

9/24/08

Melody's gems for today:

To the coach at her school:
I have a brother Charlie. He's two. Charlie used to be really cute, until he got a number.
Aren't most kids cute until they get a number? After you turn one, it's all downhill, baby.

She randomly tossed this one over her shoulder:
Tractors pull machines so that horses don't have to. I guess we don't really need horses much then, do we?
Hear that horses? You're fired.

9/23/08

I'm a derelict!

There is a woman that I have attended church with for 11 years now. She is in her seventies and, well, has opinions. They are not well concealed opinions. She also quilts, so we talk quilting a lot. We often share things we're working on.

Today, we were discussing sewing and fabrics and she mentioned the many projects that her quilter's guild has taken on and how she often takes scraps or random leftover fabrics for them to pick through for the 'grab table.' She mentioned that they like children's prints because, and I quote:

"We make blankets for the derelicts at the WIC program, for when they've passed their courses for prenatal and post-havin'-their-babies nutrition and such. They have to get their card punched ten times and they really want the quilts, so it gets them to come. You know WIC, the place where the women go who can't take care of their children and feed their babies and keep having them anyways?"

I simply nodded, although I was most tempted to say, "Yes, I know WIC. I have an appointment there tomorrow." just to see what her response would be.

Truth is, I do have an appointment there tomorrow. Three months ago, my husband lost his job and I knew that we would need all the help we could get to make it through a hard time with three children. If I have learned anything from adopting Dixie it is this: when help is available and you truly need it, take it. There is no shame in being helped when you need help. You can swallow your pride, but you can't eat it.

The more I thought about the conversation at church, the harder I was laughing. As soon as I got out of the church, I had to immediately call my mom and announce proudly, "I'm a derelict!" I know most people would be offended, insulted or feel that they'd been negligent towards their families, but I think it is absolutely hysterical and proves that you NEVER know who you're talking to or their experience in the matter being discussed.

The truly sad part? She has spent decades of her life helping others. She goes to the food pantry and hands out thousands of pounds of food. She has made quilts and blankets for the babies and families of children in need. Yet she STILL doesn't get. She never will. To spend so much of your life helping people and to not be able to see them as people? It breaks my heart for her.

9/21/08

To keep the children out of my new sewing room,

Dowlan installed a little lock at the top, even higher-up than they could reach on a chair, stool, or anything else they could drag over.

He considered one of those latches that automatically latches every time a door is shut. I asked him, "So how do I get back out when I'm done?" To which he replied, "Oh, yeah."

He installed it while the kids were sleeping. So the first time the girls try to open it, they get indignant. "Mommeeee! The door to the room that we aren't supposed to be in won't open!"

And you're telling me this because . . . ?

They conceded defeat in their epic struggle of knob vs girl and have moved on to destroying other portions of the house. Until they discovered the great flaw with the manual latch: that the man will never latch it when he's done in the room.

9/19/08

Charlie's new word:

Chandelier.

Top that, sanctimommies!

We've gone a little Japanese

Lately, mopping my floor twice a day isn't enough. And it isn't the normal sticky kitchen grime, it's this oily black stuff that is impossible to get off. Then we shampooed the carpets last weekend and found that they had been extremely blackened.

I finally realized that it is the weather's fault. All summer, it was too hot for Dowlan and the kids to go on their long walks through the neighborhood, which has very few sidewalks. Since the hobby of walking in the middle of the street barefoot has re-commenced, the blackening of the homestead has gone right along with it.

So Mommy made new rules. No barefoot walks. Take off your shoes the INSTANT you walk indoors. Then we rearranged some furniture to accommodate the proclamation.

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So far, kids and husband are going along with the new system, but it's been roughly 28 hours.

9/18/08

Accidental Decorating

I know I have spent way more time and energy and money decorating (and fretting over decorating) than any other double-wide dweller in human history, but I love having little places in the house where I can look and see beauty, take a deep breath, and feel calmer about my hectic life.

As I was looking at this little nook in my dining room and having a little sigh, I realized that nothing there was intended for that space.

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The mirror was a birthday gift from my good friend (and faithful reader) April. I tried a couple of spots, but none of them really worked. So I stuck it on this wall and left it there. That was three birthdays ago.

The cabinet was purchased on clearance at Kmart for $16. I bought four cabinet pieces with no idea of what I wanted to do with them--only this vague idea that they could go in my closet when it became a craft room. Then I assembled them and found them to be quite lovely--too lovely for a closet. Two pieces got stacked and became a corner hutch. The other two pieces did not look good stacked, so one got put in the corner under the mirror because I didn't know what else to do with it. I looked at it one day and thought, "Hey, the mirror finally fits!

The fourth is about to become a shoe rack. I had the idea last night and I'll share pics when I get it figured out.

The fruit bowl was a wedding gift from one of my students. When we got married, it was a free-for-all. Everyone was invited, including my students and one of them actually came and gave me this lovely dish. I kept it on the counter for awhile, but had most recently used it on the dining room table, where it served a lovely purpose until the children discovered fruit juggling. I set it on the cabinet one day while cleaning the table off and liked having it there so much that I left it.

The vase is a wine cask. The flowers are from Melody. She insisted on buying me orange roses while her sister was in gymnastics Tuesday night and Dowlan went along with her plan. The apples, well, just haven't been eaten yet.

I just love the balance of the fruit and the flowers and the way the orangey-peachy colors are in both. And the way the two clear glass items flow together. And the white framed mirror with white cabinet with similar trim details.

So after the fruit bowl got moved from the table, it was bare. I bought a iron and stone decorating shelf that was supposed to have a centerpiece on top and condiments underneath, or a centerpiece underneath and food set on top or a two-tiered centerpiece or a million other ideas. But it was too tall. So now it holds all the bread in the kitchen in one tidy spot. (Pardon the terrible pics!)

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It practically disappears in the kitchen:

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I had this other piece that was bought to go on a piece in the living room that never quite fit there. I sat it on the table one day to move it and loved it there. And I love that I can redecorate it for different seasons.

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For fall:
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And I really love the fact that it all got there on accident.