Help a girl out

For Christmas, Melody wanted one thing and one thing only: a baby reindeer that is light brown and so little that it still has the white spots and no antlers because then it would be a mommy, not a baby and it needs to be small.

She has been going on and on (and on and on) about this since August. Mid-September I bought her one. As we were leaving the store, she caught a glimpse of it. When we got home I secreted it away.

Apparently, I am quite good at hiding things.

You see where this is going, right? I have been through every closet in our home. Every box, every drawer, every hiding spot. It is nearing February and she is still miffed that the baby deer is all alone in the house and crying for her mommy but she's so small that her crying can't be heard and she is all alone very scared. She even has a mommy picked out, courtesy of Goodwill. Every day, Dash can be heard crying for her babe.

Please tell me that someone out there has both a small deer and a soft spot for my family. The deer I had bought her was a Webkins, but any small deer will do. It just has to have spots and no antlers. Please, oh please, oh please.


I'm amazing

I know this is true because Tracy said so.


Well, I got most of what I wished for

There was no snow and very little ice. I made it to go visit the man I adore who makes me feel good with every touch. After the chiropractor, Charlie and I went to visit the empty church parking lot, where there apparently will NOT be a ladies' Bible class today. So we ran two errands and came home. He is asleep on the couch, weary from his wild day in the car seat.

A few funnies from the girls:

I was running late for work because I could not find a bra. This shouldn't be all that complicated--those things are the size of swaddling blankets--but my desperate searches were repeatedly futile. Dixie, who knows all about bras thanks to The Little Mermaid, made me one out of Play-Doh. Opting to use the one Dowlan found instead, I thanked her and went to work.

When I came home, I was greeted with happy daughters who had spent much of the last two hours making bras for me. I had Play-Doh bras in purple, pink and teal, notebook paper bras carefully crafted with crayon and scissors and a wad of yarn from an underwire-gone-awry.

Sadly, none of them fit.

When it came to be bedtime, Melody made an important announcement: Mommy and Daddy, I'm going to tell you something. Every time you need to spank Dixie, just tell her you're going to tickle her back. Then say 'oops, i tricked you' and spank her. That's a good way to get her to not move.

Sure thing, Melody. Can I try it on you, first?

Then this morning, Melody was worried about going to school because she had the hiccups. She insisted that, "I can't go to school with the hiccups because, if I touch someone else, they will get my hiccups."


Please don't snow

No ice, no snow. I need clear roads in the morning. Clear and ice free and NO canceled or delayed school or church.

I need the girls to go away for a few hours. NEED. And I need to go to the chiropractor and have him undo the damage the bouncy castles and Sam's parking lot hath wrought. I NEED to go to the store with just Charlie, who is nicely opinion-free. I need to go to Ladies Bible Class and then have lunch with grownups who speak in complete sentences about complex subjects.

I need.
I need.
No snow.


Happy birthday (x6)

cake #1 was a batch of ice cream cone cupcakes my friend laura brought to play group

cake #2 was supposed to be for her class on monday, but we ended up needing it at the party

cake #3
fell over and completely died

cake #4 was a remake of cake #3

cake #4 after it fell over and got fixed

cake #5 to take to her class instead of cake #2

cake #6 was because i had random stuff left over from cake #5. We'll eat it tomorrow night with dinner.


It was about this time

on a Friday night five years ago, when you finally started to really be born.

For three weeks, I'd gone around dilating, contracting and all sorts of fun things. Two different times I'd thought it was really labor this time, but the first round stopped after five hours and the second after eight. That January, I had been to three weddings, each time more embarrassingly dressed then the last because I refused to buy more maternity clothes and I had expanded far beyond what I ever imagined. Each individual toe was swollen so badly that I wore a pair of dirty yellow flip flops (previously saved for gardening) that entire month.

I had just finished my long last day of teaching before letting my sub take over. We were leaving Z Tejas grill after Jana *r's birthday party when I felt my first contraction. (This was especially fitting, since my first contraction of the round that went eight-hours began on the walk into her wedding.) My due date was the next day and all I had planned was to go buy new tires because I knew this baby was never, ever going to come and that I should just wait it out until my Wednesday induction date.

You still took your sweet time. Although this moment marks the beginning of that sweet and blessed final journey into becoming a mommy, it began the longest fifty-two hours of my life: the span from that first contraction to when I held you in my arms.

Happy start to your birthday, Melody Anne

Now, for the answers.

Since Melody's birthday cake just decided to fall over, I'll sit down and do something else for a minute.

"Why is "Dixie" written so many places?"
Dixie loves nothing more than a Sharpie and a blank surface. I think it might have some psychological significance--that she is trying to make sure that she has a spot in our home as permanent as a Sharpie.

What is your favorite classic novel?
Reading, these days, is a very novel idea. I did just finish the last Artemis Fowl book today, but I don't think that this is what you had in mind.

As far as the classics go, hmmm . . . . I adore A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I feel like I know Francie and grow up with her. It is something I can read again and again and again. I know it isn't exactly serious literature, but it should be. I love a lot of books about that era--The Jungle and Angela's Ashes come to mind.

As a kid, I loved the Little House series and read all of them, in order, over a dozen times between fourth and seventh grades.

Other novel?
Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Huey P. Long is my favorite person in American history and this is basically the Primary Colors version of his story.

Has Dowlan heard anything about the job mentioned a few posts back?
My brother called to day to say that he didn't think his boss was wowed by him and made a few suggestions. We're working on a Plan, I dunno, H? J? W? which is for me to go back to teaching this fall when the girls start Kindergarten and have Dowlan have a bit of time at the stay-at-home-parent gig while doing some kind of on-line or distance learning degree program to get into some other field because this is not a good time to be a software guy.

Do you believe that Sylvan learning centers really make a great improvement- difference for children who struggle?
I don't know about all Sylvans, but I have been really impressed with how well children do at our center. A huge part of it has to do with the individually prescribed curriculum--if a kid understands something, we don't waste time on it. If a kid doesn't understand something, they don't do an entire page of it, turn it in, and wait a week to get it back to find out that they were doing it wrong all along.

Another main part of it is the confidence building--we get kids who are in 6th grade who read and comprehend at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. Often they missed some very basic concepts and so nothing makes sense. As a result, school has confused and frustrated them for a really long time and we give them what they need to succeed.

The guarantee they make is that, in the first 36 hours of instruction at Sylvan, they will make a year's progress in both comprehension and vocabulary. From what I've seen, that is a bare minimum. Some of our kids will make 3-4 years' progress because reading and math finally make sense to them. I've been there about seven months and I've only come across two kids that I felt really had learning difficulties and might have some areas in which they needed some special ed services. For the most part, they are kids that just needed to back up and start over on a few things.

What's the most embarrassing thing you did in college?
Well, breaking my leg reading would have been the clincher, had anyone been around to see it. The problem, dear college roommate, with this question is that you are asking it of a person with no proper sense of shame.

What is one trait you hope your girls learn from you and one they don't?
I hope they learn my confidence--I know I am capable of doing anything. Changing majors my senior year and taking 21-24 hours at a time plus community college classes to get it all done in 2 years? Bah! Quilting? Not a problem. Building a closet or cabinet from my own plans with no training? Easy-peasy. Bringing a 3.5 year old into a home with a 5 month old and almost-three year old and no extra money or space? Not a problem. Five people and no income? Even that is working out mighty fine. There has never been anything I wanted to do that I couldn't find a way to do it.

What I hope they can avoid is my impulsive and critical nature.

What is one thing you hope Charlie picks up from Dowlan and one he does not?
Dowlan is the most gentle, kind and loving person I've ever known. I hope he learns how to truly care for other people, even people he doesn't know. He is a complete optimist and nothing ever gets him down.

I hope he doesn't pick up Dowlan's complete inability to be anywhere on time.


Let's try something new

I can't think of anything to write today. Charlie has been adorable, fun, and we have a new game called No Doughnut, Dixie has a haircut and Melody is sooooo excited to be having a birthday party in two days, but none of these really make a story to tell.

So you get to ask me a question. I will sit down tomorrow afternoon and answer them all.


That actually worked

Church nights are rough. We don't get home until almost nine and rarely get in bed before ten. Then everyone drags through Thursday and it is really hard for Dixie to have a good day at school.

Tonight, at 5:00 the kids took baths while I made dinner. After they ate, I took three children to church in zip-up footed pajamas. No one fell asleep on the way home like I hoped, but they did come home, brushed teeth and picked out books straightaway without a fuss.

We may do this again.


Charlie has joined the Dark Side

Charlie: Nahk-nak.
Mommy: Who's there?
Charlie: Who dere?
Mommy: Knock knock
Charlie: Nana
Mommy: Banana who?
Charlie: Nahk-nak.

I have heard at least five hundred knock knocks today. Actually, I have heard perhaps four knock knock jokes, each repeated a minimum of one hundred twenty-five times. At least Melody had one good one:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Doctor Who?
Just The Doctor.


How to keep the romance alive

It is a few weeks shy of 9 years since our first date. A few weeks after that, we will celebrate our sixth anniversary. The last year or two have gotten pretty tough, and I would like to show you how we keep the spark in our marriage.

Our bathroom can be a very serene and romantic place. There is a grape arbor over the garden tub, complete with vines, clusters of fruit and a chandelier hanging down. The floor is tile we laid a few years ago in an intricate pattern of colors and a style that was chosen to look like an outdoor patio. The cabinetry is rustic and I built it almost two years ago. When the candles are lit, the bath is drawn and everything is in it's place, it can be a lovely and quiet spot.

Today, the tub was full of squishy wet toys left over from the kids' baths and the surrounding area is covered in the second half of the Christmas stuff that is not yet squared away. There are dirty kids' clothes and different bottles and brushes everywhere.

I'm wearing an orange-and-white striped tank top with holes in it. I'm braless, and the boobs are flopping down to the waist of my paint-covered yoga pants. My hair is plastered to the top of my head, emanating the stench of at-home hair dye, my mustache is in the middle of its eight-minute bleaching. I wet an old cloth diaper down to hand to Dowlan so that he can get the drips of hair dye off the back of my neck and ask him, "Isn't this exactly the life you dreamt of when you married me?"

Update: I like my new hair color. My roots are gone and it is closer to my natural color. I got it cut over the weekend and it is really cute. My nails are done, my hair is styled, my mustache is bleached.

Off to go watch My Name Is Earl and fall asleep on the couch.

I'm in a funk

I keep sitting down to write--I even have things mapped out in my head--and I just can't get it together. It's a good thing I don't have an editor and deadline, or I'd be in trouble.

I went back and re-read the first few months of blog posts and realized that I don't put enough into my writing anymore. I have stopped storytelling.

Dowlan's been applying for jobs in different cities. It has been seven months of unemployment and three more major companies in the area announced layoffs this month. As logical and rational as it is to accept that we may have to move, I just can't warm up to the idea. I'm comfortable and cozy here. I have backup. And I just got the house how I want it.

He had an interview about ten days back with the company that my brother has worked at for about the last five years and they have been really good to him. Moving that direction would mean being substantially closer to my in-laws, in the same area as my brother and an hour closer to my parents. It would mean better schools and cheaper housing.

It would mean a job.

But I hate any and all change that wasn't completely my idea. I lived in the same town my entire childhood and only moved to go to college. I've been here since. Our church is family to us. And I'm a hard person to get to really know.

I hate waiting.


The decorations of Christmas passed

Are finally down. And I literally mean down. They are littered and stacked all over the bathroom floor, waiting to be up again.

The living room seems so funny. The girls walked in last night from church and looked around. They could tell something was funny, but couldn't quite place what had changed.

Melody seems content to let Christmas go, as she knows that birthday can't come until Christmas has gone. In fact, each day this week she has volunteered a little extra cleaning to be ready for her guests. Dixie is still holding out. She grabbed one fake poinsettia sprig and returned it to the centerpiece on the dining room table. It sits among the candles and yellow roses 'so that it can always be at least a little bit Christmas.'


Thank you, Backyardigans

For singing this morning about someone who is ugly, mean and doesn't change her underwear. That is EXACTLY the kind of positive influence my children need in their lives.

I expected slightly more of you than, say, Cartoon Network or the Disney shows on after noon. I was clearly asking to much. My 'No Nickelodeon' policy is now back in full-force.


Only two more pounds to lose

Until I'm down to the weight I was at when I started a diet this time last year. Encouraging, isn't it?


I have this neat Auntie

Who sends the kids birthday and Christmas money. I usually stick it away for their future, but the last two times it has come (the August birthdays and Christmas) I decided to use it for supercool stuff we don't ordinarily do.

So, in August, we went on a family adventure to Natural Bridge Caverns.

I thought I was the Coolest Mommy in the world for planning this adventure, until we actually got inside. Charlie likes to run and the path is slippery, wet, steep and can land you in some really fancy rocks that they don't want you touching. And I kind of forgot that Dixie is deathly afraid of heights. Except for the screeching, clinging big-child, and the tantrum-having, wild-running tiny-child, things were great up until the point where middle-child had a fit over a deer in a gift shop.

So, no adventures with Christmas money. This time I thought I'd play it safe and do some shopping. I have this little spot in my kitchen that is supposed to be a tall counter that you stick bar stools under, but I have no desire to have my children drag bar stools around the house, climbing on them, falling over and getting into things. So I thought it would be the neatest place to put in a little play kitchen. That way they could play cook right next to me while I really cook and we could have this fabulous family togetherness thing going on. The play kitchen can fit right under the little countertop and have it's own cozy spot, out of the way of the real kitchen space and not invading the living room.

This was a fabulous idea with only one small problem. All toy kitchens I scoped out were either too tall or to wide for the space. I have looked for years, because I think I first had this idea when Melody was about eighteen months old. I did get some little wooden preschool kitchen pieces off ebay, but they became storage cabinets and junk holders because they didnt closely enough resemble actual kitchen components for the kids to figure out what to do with them.

I was again googling my little heart out, trying to find a kitchen when my imaginary friend Christi stumbled upon this:

It fits, perfectly. And it looks cool. And, despite being quite small, actually has enough components to it to be fun. Added bonus: imaginary friend's imaginary husband is a real-life Costco employee willing to buy it with his discount and free shipping.

I bought a huge set off food to go with it. I couldn't get a picture of the actual set, but it is something like this:
Step2 101-Piece Food Assortment
Melody is in heaven. Each night, she arranges all 120 pieces of her food, her dishes and utensils neatly in her kitchen before going to bed. She arranges each french fry so that the zig zags align.

And because Santa Claus is incredibly brilliant and brought them a tea cart and breakfast set, they like to play 'cooker.' One girl asks your order and writes it down, then tells it to the other girl. She is the cooker, wearing the apron. Then the waitress elaborately arranges it on the tea cart and wheels it to you. The tray is removable, so you can dine luxuriously on your plastic foods.

Tea cart (with tea set) and breakfast set:
Disney Princess Royal Breakfast Play Set

16-Pc. Deluxe Princess Tea Cart Play Set

As an added bonus, Charlie loves nothing more than to remove the removable tray and race the car around the house, making vrrooooming sounds and shrieking with maniacal laughter. The girls LOVE it when he does that.


Charlie Speaks

This morning, he requested his breakfast foods: Cheese! Mac! Diet Coke!

This afternoon, Melody got a new toy. It is a Sleeping Beauty royal bed that converts into a throne. Charlie finally got his turn with it and begins to examine it top to bottom, searching for the button. Disappointed, he asks Melody, "Button?" She tries to explain that their is none. Unsatisfied, he takes it to Dixie. "Button?" and finds himself no more satisfied with her answer. He picks it up again, takes it across the room, stomping. He is asserting, "Button! Dadd-e Fined!"

When not even his hero can find the button to the toy, his interest is lost and he goes back to his new favorite standby, the construction backhoe that an auntie got him for Christmas. It has six buttons and is therefore clearly superior.

Temporal Displacement

Dowlan left town Thursday to do a job interview in another city, so I sat the girls down that day to explain to them that Daddy would be gone before they went to bed, but would be back tomorrow. By Friday, Melody is sorely missing him.

Melody: I miss Daddy and it isn't fair that he won't be back until tomorrow.
Gretchen: He'll be back today! It won't be that long at all.
M: But you said he'd be back tomorrow.
G: But I said that yesterday. It IS tomorrow.
M: It is not Tomorrow. Today is Today.
G: True, but yesterday's tomorrow is today.
M: So you mean that Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow? That's Impossible! It doesn't make any sense! You can't change days like that!
G: Fine. I lied. Daddy won't be home tomorrow. He'll be home today.
M: You shouldn't lie to me. That is really mean.
G: Do you want me to call him to tell him to not come home until tomorrow?
M: But it IS tomorrow today from yesterday.
G: Now you're making sense!



Has finally decided that he has something to say. I was just about to start the process to have him evaluated when, on Saturday, he started talking. He has put together 3-5 word sentences, asked for things, and named things. He said at least a hundred words on Saturday that I never even knew he knew.

This is a blessing and a curse. He now makes food requests, has television preferences and insists on picking his own clothes. It has come in handy, though. This morning, I learned 1) Dowlan keeps a stash of doughnuts in the house, 2) where they are, and 3) Charlie knows where they are.

Oh, and my new scale has come in handy. I lost 120 pounds by buying it.


I had to go buy another scale

because my old one kept telling me I weighed too much.


Maybe it's something about the name?




A journey of a thousand miles ends in a very large pile of laundry.

We are home, eleven days after we left.