We got home from visiting family yesterday and finally got the Wii out of the box. I have made my Mii cry on more than one occasion from my terriblocityness, but, DANG, it is fun!

Perfect for a dreary, rainy, cold day.



I keep thinking about December 27th. It's a pretty important day. And I'm sitting in my mom's kitchen, thinking about it and my mom's kitchen is a pretty important place to be thinking about this pretty important day today.

Three years ago today, at about 9 or 10 o'clock in the evening, I was standing about three feet to my right and Dowlan and Melody were playing under the kitchen table that was here before this kitchen table and my friend Billy was sitting exactly where I'm sitting now and Doug was standing over by the window. Tiny five-month-old Charlie was sleeping off his first Christmas in the room upstairs. My parents had already gone up as well.

We stood and sat here when Billy looks over and said, "So, do you still want Dixie?"

I said "YES!" right away and began excitedly planning to bring home the little girl that, for two years, I'd been praying to adopt. A few minutes into this, I realized that I had not actually checked in with Dowlan on the matter. I asked him what he thought of all this and he reached his hand out from under the table to squeeze mine and said, "YES!" before going back to the under-table tea party with tiny Melody.

That's how it all started. That's how we got a spare girl. The next day, we left for Oklahoma to see in-laws and came home a day early, passing through my hometown to pick up a little girl and bring her home.

Today Charlie is the exact age, to the day, that Dixie was when we brought her home.

I have no doubt that we would do it again, but every time I stop to think about it, I think about how completely insane we were to think nothing of it. It has been such an incredibly hard journey.

What's that poem? Christina Rossetti, I think. The road winds uphill all the way, yes to the very end.

At that point, Charlie was a tiny little thing. Hadn't developed his asthma yet, didn't know about the autism, didn't know how hard it was going to be to be Charlie's mom and dad. Melody was a few weeks shy of three years old and had just barely wrapped her mind around the idea of having a new baby brother and being home with mommy while daddy went to work. And daddy had work--we had not yet seen this current (and long-lasting) crisis coming.

All I know is that the next day a little girl came into the house and asked me, "Will you be my mommy?" then turned to Melody and said, "Will you share your mommy with me? I need one." Melody, of course, said yes. I have often wondered, in fits of sibling rivalry and rage, if she ever regrets that.

Today, at church, my lap was covered in corduroy-jumper clad little girls. One looks just like me, and so does the other one. Snuggled up, snuggled in. When Dixie first came to our home, she didn't fit right, she didn't snuggle in like a missing piece of the jigsaw. Over the last three years, she has somehow grown just right to fit in that snuggly space.

Today, she fits.


Shopping, empty-handed

After the ballgame Saturday, my girls headed off with Grandpa for the week. Dowlan, Charlie and I aren't heading that way until tomorrow.

The first day they were gone was spent sleeping. The second day was spent cleaning. The third, cleaning some more. Today was spent shopping.

My friend April and I went to Costco, then I hit GameStop, Barnes & Noble, browsed Restoration Hardware, Whole Foods and a few other places that all have one thing in common: going there with kids makes me insane.

Without kids, shopping is such a surreal experience. Even the act of getting in the car without anyone else's socks or shoes or coat or diaper to concern myself with is an incredibly liberating act. While driving, I can listen to whatever I wish to hear, however loudly I wish to hear it. And, while parking, if I need to mutter some harsh or threatening words, no one is around to hear them.

Then the truly amazing part begins: I unbuckle my seat belt, open a single door, lock it, close it and go into the store. That is all. There is no stroller, no bag, no unclicking of carseats, no screaming STOP at the short person meandering into traffic, no stubborn refusal to go into THAT store. No one is bickering. I don't have to review rules of civil behavior first--I can just walk.

Inside, I can go down any aisle I wish. I don't have to avoid aisles involving toys, candy or breakable things. I took the shortcut through the wine section and nothing was destroyed. There was no one to influence my purchasing decisions--nothing snuck into my cart as my attention was elsewhere.

Charlie is enjoying having all the toys to himself but did find one major downside to having the girls gone--when he tried to blame Dixie for something he did, there was no Dixie nearby.


The Christmas Eve Story

Dowlan and I married in March of 2003 and took exactly five weeks to get pregnant with Melody, despite swallowing those little pills every morning at 7 a.m. before heading out the door to work.

By Halloween, I was 7 months pregnant and wore a black dress with a pumpkin (still on the vine) over my belly. Thanksgiving, I was 8 months pregnant and the turkey got fried at our house for the first time that year. And on Christmas Eve, I hit exactly 9 months pregnant.

The weekend prior, my parents, aunt and brother's family had come up to have a little celebration with big meals, presents and all that. It was fun, but not quite right. Home for Christmas means caroling through the neighborhood I grew up in, the stockings I made in the 8th grade hanging over the fireplace in the room with the grand piano and 9 foot Christmas tree. Being in our little house, so far from being settled in, with just the two of us just seemed so wrong.

On Christmas Eve, we went to candlelight service at our church and that part was fantastic. The singing was beautiful around me and I joined in as much as I could, unable to get a deep breath. During a reading I reflected on the idea that, while I may be uncomfortable and huge, at least I don't have to go anywhere on a donkey. I pondered that in my heart, pondered the baby in my belly and thought about Mary for the first time.

It felt too weird to go home and dear friends invited us over, so we went and watched their kids do their Christmas Eve traditions. My favorite was the neighbor who, every year, drinks until you can smell the Christmas spirits on him, dresses up as Santa and goes to visit his neighbors.

We had plans to go to another family's house the next day, but it still just felt so weird to go sleep home and sleep on the couch, the only place I could sleep those days. It was Christmas Eve and I realize that there was absolutely nothing to surprise me in the morning. Anything I was getting, I had got. Anything in my stocking, I had bought. It had all been done a few days before and there was nothing left.

I don't remember if I shared any of these thoughts with Dowlan before drifting off, but I was pretty bummed about the whole thing as I snuggled into my blankets for the night. Around two in the morning, I remember hearing the door slam shut, the engine start and the sounds of Dowlan backing out of the driveway.

Being the extremely rational extremely pregnant extremely hormonal extremely sleepy and lonely woman that I was at that moment, I began sobbing. All I could think of was that he had left me and the baby on Christmas Eve and was never, ever coming back. I have no idea why I thought this, just that I was devastated. I cried myself back to sleep.

The next morning, when I awoke, the two small stockings on the entertainment center were full. Dowlan had left to find things to fill them after realizing last-moment that they would be empty come morning. Giving his timing, however, he had found only Exxon to be open and so I had the best stocking stuffers a convenience store could offer: chocolate, some veggie chips, a piece of suspiciously old fruit, beef jerky and a lime green stuffed bear that, while ugly beyond description, is hanging on our tree this very day.

What a guy.

Hey, mom!

Want to see what you got me for my birthday?


Don't you have great taste?


It goes so perfectly with the room.




Saturday Night Lights

The high school I attended had the football team of the century. More wins, more titles, more records than any other 5A school in Texas. In West Texas, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't love Jesus, mama and high school football. Unfortunately, the years I attended were not their golden years.

This has changed.

My senior year, we finally had a winning season and things have steadily improved since. Last night, I got to take my girls to San Antonio to watch them win the state championship in a game they dominated from the kickoff.

We started out going to the Children's Museum, then the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? Yeah, they didn't.


We spent some time walking over the Riverwalk and looking down, but didn't make it down there. We've done the boats and walking a couple times before, though. I was really proud of Dixie--she can be extremely afraid of heights and looked over the railings and walked on the bridges with only a little hesitation.


Then we hit the Alamodome. (For the record: what you consider 'shaggy' I consider 'growing out her bangs')



The first quarter was thrilling, with back-to-back touchdowns for the warbirds. But the reality of the eternal nature of football set in and the girls started to lose their excitement by the end of the half.


Fortunately, there are marching bands and dancing girls to perk you back up a bit.


Binoculars make a game more interesting. Not that you really see it all that much better, but that it gives a girl something to play with.


It isn't that the game was a nail-biter; that was merely another past time.


And, as the song goes, three cheers for Grand Old Abilene High!




Name change

Effective forthwith the kitten previously known as Schrodinger will be officially known as Angelina Schrodinger.

Dixie has declared this, thus, it is so.


Good News . . . ish

Charlie has been on the waiting list for speech therapy for *ahem* seven months. They called today with an opening and will get him in for an evaluation in January.

Yeah, not so sure he needs it anymore. He now uses language to communicate a wide variety of needs, wants, emotions, thoughts, etc. Through all our repetitive play therapies at home, he's figured out how to use language for basic conversation and knows more words than I could begin to count. Unless they want to work with him on some of his phonetic blends so that the rest of the world will understand him proudly announce, 'Tawie mates bad toices!'

That one could use a bit of work. Apparently, so can Charlie, as he rather enjoys all those bad choices.

Speaking of Tawie and his bad toices, Dowlan was playing a little game with him the other day and asking him what sounds things make. He answered as follows:

Ghost says: Boo!
Pumpkin says: Twick-oh-twee!
Bad Pumpkin says: Boo-twick-oh-twee!
Mommy says: Good toices!
Melody says: Bad Tawie! Stop Tawie!
Dixie says: Stop that!

There is one thing I would love if someone could interpret for me, however. About three hundred times on an average day, I find myself repeating, "Yes, we can go on the waseway," while playing with his toys. Only I have no idea what in the heck that means. It isn't the racetrack, it isn't the roadway, it isn't anything I can think of and that mystery is about to drive me over the edge.


The Toothless Wonder

My pics finally appeared!


It's a good thing they did, because another one popped out tonight as she was *ahem* trying to go to sleep.


P.S.-->I swear that we brush her hair and wash her face regularly. It just doesn't seem to last long.


Even a handful of sprinkles can't hide the fact

that my name isn't Grechen.


It's only been, what, ten years?

Other than that, though, it was a fantastic twenty-eleventh birthday. I came home to a living room draped in orange and yellow crepe paper and a dining room prepared for a queen:


I even had special decorations gracing my place at the table:


There was overflow seating for short guests at this table, whose centerpieces were chosen by Charlie.


And the guests were stunning in their high-fashion:



It was a great party. Grechen would have loved it.


As I started to load these pics, I snapped some great shots of Dixie's toothless self, but, when I tried to get them to load into photobucket, they weren't on the card. When I put the card back in the camera, however, I can see the pics. Perhaps the camera was so overwhelmed with the 145 pictures Dixie took that it decided to hold them hostage. (and, gee, I wonder why my camera batteries are always dead?)

But here's some of her best work, starting with the new Lite Brite and the wreath they made recently:



I was recently asked how Dixie got cat scratches on her face and answered, "She won't believe me that ballroom dancing with a cat is a bad idea." Here is another bad idea involving the cat:


Poor guy, can't get a moment's rest:


Wait. Can that really be this cat, less than six months later?


The other cat has better hiding skills:


While I am throwing random pics in, here they are at their Thanksgiving party, pilgrimified:


There were no fewer than fifteen self-portraits of her navel. Perhaps she is contemplating it?

Navel, plain:

Navel, with funky flash features:

She also appears to be perfecting her profile pic for some future MySpace account she won't be getting:


Saturday Morning Sillies

Dixie and Melody find themselves in a heated debate over if Dixie was born in 2003 or 3002. One of the ornaments is clear glass and has the year of Dixie's birth on it; they just aren't certain whether they should be reading it forwards or backwards.

Speaking of the tree, it took its first dive yesterday. Charlie was looking out the window behind it and backed into it. He's very polite in his destruction, however. He turned to it and apologized saying, "Towwy, Twismas Twee."

Other things he says in amazingly cute ways? I love to hear him say Schrodinger's name. I have spent way more time than one should trying to figure out how to write that out. The closest I've come is Schwone-jer. It's as cute as calling his sisters Ditsee and Meldee.

Melody is on the couch with a tablet of blank paper, reading it as a book. She just proclaimed the beginning of Chapter Three. I wish I could hear it well enough to hear the story, but, at the important parts, she gets very quiet and mysterious.

Speaking of life's mysteries, I tried to call and get some cheaper telecom services by canceling and downgrading and instead ended up with more reliable VOIP, faster internet and this pimped-out cable package with triple the number of channels, including all these shows available on-demand for slightly less than the price of the bare minimum of cable needed to have the basic internet we need to job hunt (and blog). As my Uncle Gary says: they make you buy it. You may not need it, you may not even want it, but they make you buy it.

As I was writing this, Charlie found half a bag of popcorn. It was left over from the movie and babysitting friends night he slept through, and declared it his. The girls were making a game of it--one would distract him and the other would reach in and grab a piece. I put a stop to it and had them apologize, explaining that, if they had only asked, he would have been made to share with them. Charlie is sitting on the couch, his little body wrapped protectively around the bag, shouting at anyone who dares approach. "You make Tchawie Twy! (cry) It is aaaaaawl Tchawie's popcown!"


The Santa Racket

It irks me, I must admit, that I have spent so much time in the last month reading toy reviews, ordering on amazon, squirreling away packages, ditching the kids long enough to spend some time browsing toy aisles, making sure child A gets no more than child B or C and keeping it all a secret. Every time some random adult sees my kids, they ask, "So, what is Santa Claus bringing you this year?" and every time, they receive a totally different answer and I make mental notes while wishing I could give a different answer.

Nothing, kid. Santa is bringing you not a dang thing.

It isn't that I don't like the magical aspect, just that being Santa to three is a lot of work and, frankly, I like getting credit for doing a lot of work. It isn't like I'm hunting down rabid robotic rodents or anything; they fortunately have no idea what a Zhu Zhu Pet is. I haven't (yet) entered the rankings of crazy moms buying toys at 400% markup on ebay or assaulting people in malls, although finding the fourth Barbie and the Three Musketeers doll (yes, there are four of them) was making me a little twitchy.

I've decided to mix it up a little this year and make one aspect of it easier: buying for the girls. See, I have two girls who are the same age and, although they are not biologically twins, they are identical in their interests and share a room, so nearly everything they own is communal property.

This year, Santa will NOT be getting distinctive presents for Thing One and Thing Two. In the wee morning hours, she will be setting all the toys out on Oma's rug, ready to play with. No opening, no designating. Just open the door and enjoy without worrying if you got the purple one but your sister got the pink one and that's the one you really really wanted and why didn't santa know that?

There will still be stockings for each one, of course.

Which brings me to my other sore point. You know what really bites about being an adult? I now fill my own stocking. If I had the money to simply fill it with the things I really liked, it might be fun. As it is, it becomes yet another thing for mommy to do.

I do have a very sweet story I need to tell about our first married Christmas, but I'll get to that in a later post. For now, I just want credit.

Official Proclamation

Tomorrow, I will not be turning thirty-one. I will be turning twenty-eleven, as it sounds much more fun.


I started making 'cheater chili' for dinner tonight

and was cooking the ground beef when Dowlan came up and asked, "What's the plan for dinner?"

I answered, "Well, the plan is to brown and season the beef, then add the beans in, serve Melody's share, add the corn and tomato sauce in, serve Charlie's share, add the cheese, serve Dixie's share, add the ro-tel and call it chili."

"You're amazing."

Yes, yes I am.


Tchawie is NOT tacobell

I recently pointed out on facebook that the downside of using 'Charlie smells like Taco Bell' as a euphemistic request for a diaper change is that neither of my girls will eat there.

Yesterday, I smelled the boy (whose diapers I am NOT allowed to change because "Mommy's hands are too busy. Daddy change my diaper. My poopy all for Daddy.") and said, "Hey, Charlie Taco Bell! Ready for a change?"

His reply: Tchawie is NOT tacobell. Tchawie is smells-like-tacobell!

either way, I still wasn't allowed near his nethers. Oh, drat.


Stoopid allergies

In adulthood, I developed a ridiculously severe allergy to pecans. Not peanuts or dairy or eggs or anything people are used to people being allergic to. Pecans.

I live in the south, in a state where the pecan is the state tree, where pecan pie is a religious experience and where pecans get put into everything. My parents have six pecan trees in their yard, majestic allergen-filled beasts that are over a hundred years old. In the fall, I don't go outside at their house for longer than it takes to go to or from the car. My kids have to wash up after playing and I make certain to never touch their shoes.

It's not so bad, though, being on guard a few days of a few months of the year. What really kills me (or comes close) is potlucks.

Yesterday, going through the potluck line, I very carefully inspected any and all foods before putting them on my plate. I asked about ingredients in the one small bite of dessert I had. I avoided anything suspiciously nut-like.

Even though I ate no nuts, I began to wheeze and feel my throat tighten by the end of the meal. I am sure some spoon got moved from one bowl to another or that I breathed something in.

It has been almost 24 hours since my first dose of benadryl and I am still breathing a little rough, coughing when I talk and itchy. My gastrointestinal tract is likewise protesting.

I'm also realizing that I can never, as I had always hoped to, live in the home I grew up in after my parents decide that they need a smaller place with fewer stairs and less yard maintenance. Not without removing the trees, and that would be a criminal act.

Stoopid allergies.


Trust me, He says

It was a day of Found Things.

This morning, I took the girls to school. Dixie has learned some new information about her birthmother that I felt it was time for her to know and she has decided she wants to share this with her teacher. I was nervous, but it went well. It was helped that, right before we left, Dowlan found Baby Elephant. Baby Elephant used to be a very plush pink elephant but is now a very pilled and flat greyish elephant due to being very much loved and just happens to be one of the few special things from her infancy in her first home. We hadn't seen him in months and his presence made telling just a little easier.

After dropping them off, it was time to run errands. The post office no longer has their stamp machine, so there go my plans to use a $10 bill to buy a single stamp for the golden Sacagawea dollar coins that the tooth fairy needs to have on hand for when the wobbler finally pops

I go to the bank to put money in and realize that the pouch in my purse containing a few hundred dollars in cash and gift cards is no where to be found and, come to think of it, hasn't been seen since, errrrrr, Tuesday? I pull the cash out of my other wallet to put in the bank and am missing the $100 bill. Also, the lobby of the bank is closed and I can't go in there for fancy fairy funding.

I put in the money I have, realize my balance is no where near enough to cover the bills that need paying, and hear God's voice telling me, "Trust me. Just trust me."

Fighting the urge to begin ransacking my house in panic, I ask Dowlan, who is preternaturally calm in all things, to look for it while I sit still for a minute and try to stop the spinning in my head. He says, "Let me finish this thing in the kitchen and I'll get right on it."

While putting up some random toy food in the kitchen, he opens a door to the girls' play kitchen and finds my little pouch. No idea how that got there, but I have three small culprits in mind.

Moving some things between that and my regular wallet, I find the $100 crumpled in the bottom, where I know I had looked several times.

Thing found, trust worked.

Dowlan called about a letter he'd gotten in the mail from the unemployment office and, while he was on hold, the person noticed that his next extension hadn't been activated. We thought he was out of extensions. Unexpected money should show up Wednesday.

I also made it through the grocery store alive, combining sales, coupons and gift cards to bring $112 down to $27 and got a new cell phone.

All that before lunch time.


Post-Holiday Humor Syndrome

In case you're wondering what that slightly-off cackling sound you hear in the general direction of Texas is, it's me. Yesterday, a single and childless relative told me, "Oh, really? I never thought doing laundry was all that bad. In fact, it seems a bit relaxing," and I still have not stopped howling. Nothing against her--I probably wouldn't mind doing her laundry, either.

The holiday went well. I made it through four days of cooking, cleaning and chatting relatively unscathed, save for a minor resurgence in back pain that at least had the added benefit of four hours at home alone this morning while Dowlan took the kids to church, lunch and a playground. Yeah, I owe him big-time.

On the Friday before the holiday, Melody and Dixie's school had a little program before their Thanksgiving Feast. The songs featured the Reluctant Turkey, who, among other things, claimed to be allergic to cranberry sauce and was making plans to break free before T-Day.

A few days later, on Wednesday, I picked her up from a lesson and took her to go grocery shopping with me. The baking was all done, the produce all bought and prepped, but I was saving buying the turkey until last because space in my fridge is always at a premium. When I told her we were buying a turkey, she was quite excited. "Can we buy a turkey that is still alive and have Daddy and Papa shoot it and then we can eat it?"

(See, when I married Dowlan, I was a bit concerned about marrying someone Not From Here. Not that I am opposed to mixed marriages for other people, I was concerned that marrying someone from Oklahoma might damage my native-born Texans in some form. Turns out he contributes just as much redneck DNA as I do.)

Disappointed that this was not my plan, she continued to devise ways to kill a turkey, my favorite of which was, "We could give it some cranberry sauce and tell the turkey it's corn and that way it will eat it and have an allergic reaction and die and then we can cook it up for supper."

I attempted to explain that your average Tom has no known anaphalactic reaction to berries and that this was meant to be funny. She didn't get the joke.

Still, she did not seem disappointed when her plate was filled with the deep-fried goodness that is turkey leg. Dinner went well, until I presented my father with the shocking news: our television had broken the night before. With every electronic store in range closed for the holiday, there was no venue for watching the Longhorns destroy those silly Aggies. Armed with beer, my uncle saved the day with his swanky hotel.

The next morning my father, still shocked by the announcement and nervous that this would become a recurring issue, knowing there were mere hours before LSU would take down the Piggies, he awoke in the donzer-lee-light (think Star Spangled Banner) and set off to find a new 32" LCD haven to meet his footballing needs.

When the children awoke to find an all-new television gracing their living room, there was much rejoicing. Dixie peeled herself away from it later that day to ask me, as I was scrubbing something down, "Mommy, why don't you clean when we don't have people here?"

Ah, you silly, silly girl. Would you like to do some laundry?


Chimneys aren't just blowing smoke

In preparation for the holiday season, the International Guild of Chimneys makes a simple request: lose the gut or find a new way in this year.

Sookie Smokehouse adds, "It isn't as though we're asking him to have the svelte figure of Dick Van Dyke when he played chimney sweep Bert in Marry Poppins. Twenty pounds before C-Day is not unreasonable."

As a gesture of goodwill, the IGC has prepared a gift to send St. Nick: Jenny Craig.

"We aren't trying to be Scrooges, here," Puff N Blowster said, "But the harsh reality is this: modern chimneys were simply not designed for such rotundity. Sure, it only happens twice a year, but our mortar is not immortal and simply cannot be expected to handle the strain."

Annual damage estimates from chimney strain are estimated to be $30-$50 million, not taking into account the cost of chimneys seeking help from mental-health professionals.

"The expectation that, in the twinkle of an eye and wiggle of a nose-like-a-cherry, a 350-pound man could make it through a brick or metal tube that is 18"x24" and upwards of 15 feet in length, " spoke a stack, on terms of anonymity. "Add in the expectation that pristine image limits his suit of red and white fur to being merely 'tarnished with ashes and soot' and you have an entire population of household features that has suffered in silence for generations."

The North Pole could not be reached for comment. A letter has been sent to request a press release on the matter, but is likely to be lost among the poorly-spelled letters requesting bicycles and Zhu Zhu pets from children declaring themselves to be 'good.'

"If I could send a letter to Santa, it would say one thing," Blowster said. "Slim down or open a window."


It is well past midnight-and-a-half

and I can't sleep. I don't want to.

Charlie is asleep. Dowlan is asleep. Melody and Dixie are asleep and are even asleep somewhere else.

The cat has finished his pouncing, the washer and dishwasher's gentle sloshes have ceased. The movie I was watching ended and the blue screen stares back at me.

It is so quiet that I can hear the hum of the refrigerator. The aquarium gurgles nearby. The smoke alarm just chirped . . . yeah, it isn't supposed to do that . . . and an airplane flew nearby yet far away.

It is interesting to be in a house quiet enough that I can hear the difference in key clicks between the fingers with long nails and the fingers with stubby, broken-off ones. A few blocks away, I hear the train's movements before I hear it's whistle.

The grandmother clock begins it's sequence, reminding me that this happy solitude is not without cost. Tomorrow there are dental appointments to be kept, floors to be swept and mopped, cornbread to be baked, laundry to be put away and children to . . . I have no idea what I'm actually supposed to be doing with the children, I admit.

When there was just a Melody girl, there were still silences and stillness throughout the day, but that is far behind us. Sometimes I miss how simple life was when we still not outnumbered the kids.

We're a good ways away from any road that might have traffic this time of night, but still I heard a motorcycle off in the distance just now.


Dixie has justified her existence

She found my engagement ring that I haven't seen in about a year! I had forgotten how beautiful it is!

We're getting ready to leave the house so we can flea bomb. It has not been a great day, so this cheered me up!


Today while I was at work

Dixie decided to buy a kitten. There were two problems with this: buy and kitten. When Dowlan told her no, she shook her sorrow-filled head and turned to the neighbor boy, handing him $1.10 in change and saying, "Well, I guess you better buy him, then."


As for this little piggy . . .

On the way home from Wal*Mart today, the girls and I were singing This Little Piggy, as modified by Joe Scruggs:

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef,
and this little piggy, well, he had none.
And the last little piggy, our favorite little piggy, the one that we all know . . .
Said, "Hey, it's no biggie, but I don't play a piggy, I'm just a little baby toe!"

and the second and third verse only get better.

After a couple of rounds, Dixie said, "Hey, wait a minute. My piggy is talking to me." She takes off her shoe and listens to the bottom of her stockinged foot.

Remember, the girl is in a car seat with a five-point harness, so this takes talent.

"My foot says it's ready for a different song," she says, then pauses to listen, "It is ready for the ABC song."

"Okay," I say, and start to sing.

"WAIT!" she interjects. "My foot wasn't done talking . . . it wants me to sing by myself!"


I haven't forgotten about you

It's just been crazy. I've been working a lot of hours at a lot of jobs, since Dowlan's unemployment has run out and the economy still, well, sucks.

My temp project that was consuming most of my time ended yesterday and I have spent today recovering from those long days (and working the other two jobs, of course). Tomorrow I will start cleaning and baking for Thanksgiving, at least that's what I'm telling myself. Dowlan's really tried to keep up with the house and has done a decent job, but the deep cleaning things need doing.

We spent the weekend working on Charlie's room and it now looks like an actual little boy's room and not The Room of Doom. He's been so content to play in there for the last few days. It helps that we moved out everything he doesn't play with. Now that we're down to Little People, cars/airplanes/trains, Veggie Tales and balls, he isn't as overwhelmed in that room. (And if you're buying Charlie a Christmas present, please note the categories--it's all he will play with at this point.)

He's also started occupational therapy, finally. It will be interesting to see how it helps.

Dixie is getting in less trouble at school and just seems so content these days. Melody, just like her mommy, had a perfect report card except for that pesky area known as penmanship. That one always got me, too.


My latest kitchen concoction

I boiled down what was left of a rotisserie chicken for broth and chopped up the meat that was left (about 1 cup, white and dark, no skin). Stuck that in the fridge. Then:

1 butternut squash, peeled and chunked (and straight out of our garden!)
1 pie pumpkin (small), peeled and chunked
broth from the chicken
kernels from 2 ears of corn

boiled for an hour or so, until the squash was soft. Added in the chicken and pureed in my food processor. Added a tiny bit of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

It is sooooooo good. Really rich and smooth flavor that could benefit from being thinned out with milk, but Charlie can't have milk and he's my pumpkin-eater. From my rough calculations, the whole pot is only about 900 calories, so there's an added bonus.

Hm. I bet I could do this with leftover thanksgiving turkey!


It's been more than a little crazy

I'm skipping the morning at work because Charlie has a reevaluation for occupational therapy this morning and, even though it's not til ten, I'm tired and happy to have any excuse to not be at work right now.

I had a day off my tutoring job so after scoring tests and providing afterschool care and cooking dinner and cleaning and and and . . . my friend came over with ingredients for me to make and decorate six dozen cupcakes for a carnival this weekend at a school neither of us teach at anymore.

It was really, really fun, though.

I woke up this morning with Melody just snuggled into me, asleep. I snuck out of bed and, not wanting to leave it a mess, made it with her in it, just like I used to do to my mom's cats. She's so tiny that she made no lump under the covers and it looked like I had this porcelain face of contentment laying on a bed of wild hair on my pillow.

Dixie's tooth hasn't gone anywhere, btw.



Charlie talked to Dowlan today! He came and sat on the park bench and said "Let's talk." Dowlan started talking toy-to-toy and Charlie said, "No! Daddy talk to Tchawhie!" While the conversation was not reported to be all that impressive in content, the fact that it happened at all has me ecstatic!

Later today, Charlie had a glass of water and was running towards the cat saying, "The cat is on fire!" but Dowlan, to the relief of the cat, intercepted him. His imagination clearly works.


Now it's Dixie's turn to grow up a little bit

I came home for a few minutes between jobs today and she about knocked the door down trying to come tell me the coolest news from Kindergarten--she has a loose tooth!

She wobbled and wiggled it, asked for apples and crunchy foods and her tongue worked overtime all evening. When she grew wiggle-weary, she requested that I take a shift shifting her tooth.

It's still holding strong, but I'll make sure and get a pic once it is gone.


Gretchen: How was school today?
Dixie: Thumb's up!
Melody: Thumb's u--well, I had to write my name in the book in P.E. today.
G: What happened?
M: Eh, I don't want to talk about it right now.
G: Fair enough.

Later that day . . .
G: Are you ready to talk about what happened in P.E. today?
M: No. I really do not want to talk about it.
D: But you HAVE to talk about it. I HAVE to know what you did.
M: I just really don't want to.
G: Did you learn the lesson you were supposed to learn?
M: Yup.
G: Fair enough, then.

It is KILLING me to not know what happened in P.E, but I am resisting the urge to email the coach or call the teacher. Knowing Melody's personality, whatever happened will never happen again, she will give her actions and choices the weight of thought and consideration necessary. She already figured it out, the teacher handled it, why do I need to get involved?

It's strange having the girls in Kindergarten so many hours of so many days. It is odd seeing them do things and having them know things that I did not teach them. I think the hardest part is knowing that there are entire friendships I do not know about, feelings I am not privy to and thoughts that I do not know the origin of. They have experiences that I do not share in and it is so strange to me.

I am pretty sure I did the right thing, not pressing the issue. Not circumventing her decision to not tell me by asking the teacher, not nagging her or forcing the issue. She's such an autonomous creature, that girl.


Charlie's thinking this through

We were coming back from Target tonight and he gestured to the girls, saying, "Hey, Kids! It's time to come inside!" As I was turning off lights at bedtime, he insisted, "Don't need more dark. I need more light."

He says more and more these days, occasionally original in construct, but more often a direct quote or filling in the blank on a pre-fab sentence. I can completely hear Dowlan telling them the first quote and the second follows one of his common speech patterns, of "Don't need ____. Need _____." He also will exert "I'm ready to _____." or that "I do not like to ________."

It's amazing how well he communicates within these constraints, and we practice new phrases quite often.

Today, the girl we watch after school had changed into dress-up clothes when my girls did and I had sent her into their room to change back into her regular clothes. I could see Charlie looking at her, head cocked, thinking about how to put his thoughts together. He looked up with me, amazed, saying, "She has a button! She has a bee-button!"

It just seemed like it had never occurred to him that humans all have the same basic construct.

She thought it was silly that he seemed so impressed by her navel, answering, "Yeah, most people do."

I'm not around much right now, with all these crazy jobs, but I think the distance is giving me a different perspective on the boy chick.

Best part about it? I think he's starting to appreciate me in my absence. I have gotten two hugs this week, initiated by him.


Charlie's appointment

didn't go. Stupid insurance.


Charlie's Affinity for A's

So far, the boy has been diagnosed formally with Airway Disease, then Allergies, then Asthma. A diagnosis of Autism or Asperger's is in the works. You'd think he'd run out of ways to be defective that start with the letter A, but he's trying Amblyopia on for size.

His appointment is tomorrow morning. I'll let you know how it goes.


here's the first pumpkin i ever carved:



the two side views



Charlie is holding his own

While this year's adventure home for Halloween couldn't possibly top last year's, what with its prosthetic arm in the road, trip to a small-town Wal*Mart and dead bear, but it was pretty fun.

I need to back up a week before I start, though.

Charlie has been easing into the gluten-free/casein-free diet for over a month now, and the jury has been out as to whether or not it is working. Yeah, he's making progress, but he's been making pretty steady progress since May, so I hate to just assume that something is working when there are too many factors to isolate.

After last Saturday, I can say with fair certainty that it is working.

Saturday was the day of many halloween parties. While we did our best to carry foods that were acceptable for him and heavily edit anything that made it into his bucket, we clearly failed, as Sunday was the most horrible day we've had in months. He couldnt stop jumping, throwing things, screaming, attempting to kill household pets, biting, shaking--it was like Charlie of six months ago had suddenly reappeared to hit us over the head and show us just how far he'd come.

Monday, Charlie had what I can only describe as a hangover. As the week progressed and the stuff got out of his system, it was like watching in one week what we've been watching over the last half year.

This week, I have been working crazy amounts. When I come home at night, Charlie runs to hug me, yelling, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" He has never done that.

Thursday night, I tried on my ball gown to wear to work the next day and he saw me and bowed, saying, "You're a princess!" He asked where my castle was and took me into the kitchen to dance. Captivated by mommy in purple satin, we spun around and around until he stopped, grabbed daddy's hand and said, 'You dance with the princess!"

On the trip to my parents' last night, he sang a song, all by himself. He sang 3 or 4 verses of The Wheels on the Bus, screaming STOP anytime a sister tried to chime in. It was like having a normal kid in the back seat for the first time I can remember.


I cant remember if i told you guys this

but Charlie has renamed the kids in the family. Dixie is That One, as in, "That One took my toy" or "I hit That One." Melody is This One. "This One in my chair" and "This One need give it to me!" can frequently be heard.

As for Charlie, he is no longer Thawie. He is The Other One. I was closing the door too quickly recently and he ran alng behind, announcing, "No, no! Here comes De Udder One!"


I forgot to include the part where I tell you

how I pimped my laptop.

My friend Sandy is a consultant for Uppercase Living. They do nifty vinyl words and embellishments anywhere from an inch to several feet tall. I keep wanting to be at a place in life where I can place large orders with her and bling-out everything in my life, but I'm not there yet.

I think I may have to place another order, though, because I really NEED flames on my KitchenAid mixer.

She also runs a blog, which you should go check out.

I pimped my laptop




Let the partying commence!

We came across this random duck, so we invited it to go trick or treating


Larryboy was not happy about waking up from his nap to go, though we did learn that birds of a feather do in fact flock together


A Musketeer named Viveca made frequent costume changes into her ballgown. See how the cape becomes a skirt and the mask a tiara?


She brought along her trusty steed

and Larryboy was there to Save The Day


She has no future as a detective

Melody woke me up this morning, panicked because she couldnt find Dixie. I looked at all the places she normally ends up: on the floor next to our bed and both couches. I thought I better check her room before Charlie's because I didn't want to wake The Grump.

I walk into her room and look on her bed, where Dixie is sound asleep


I learned this morning that a former student of mine died from H1N1 at age 14. He was a really sweet kid. i had him for 4 years and his dad lived in my neighborhood. he and his sister would come over and play with melody when she was about 2, back in the only-child/little-red-wagon days





Did I scare you? I hope I don't scare the fish.


We're getting ready for autumn:


I love the word autumn. So much richer than fall.


Orange is my favorite color.


Yellow and rich reds and bronze browns . . .


What's not to love?


And the best part?


Making Halloween costumes for the Larryboy in my life and turning my Melody into a duck.


This one doesn't photograph too well without a body in it.


While waiting for Dixie to make up her mind already, I got a couple other projects done.


The blanket wasn't supposed to be for Charlie, but he claimed it pretty quickly. The book is his Christmas present. (shh!)


Dixie has finally decided to be Viveca, the purple Barbie and the Three Musketeers character. All I have so far is the detachable ballgown skirt that becomes a cape for fighting in.


And even that needs a bit of work. But I have some fantastic fabrics to work with.H