Dixie, what am I going to do with you?

Get ready for some shocking news . . . my five-year-old now has her very own cell phone.

Sure, it isn't activated (or even charged) but it resides in her purse and her purse now goes everywhere. We were at the dinner table last Tuesday when she stops conversation to say, "Oh, just a minute. I'm getting a call." She dug out the phone, flipped it open, said, "I'm in the middle of something, I'll have to take a message." and then continued on with her meal.

I warned her that phone calls at the table mean being grounded.

On Thursday, I called home to see why Dixie wasn't at the chiropractor. Dixie answers the phone and starts chattering about her day. I have to interrupt to ask to speak to Daddy. She says, "Mom, I'll have to take a message and let him get back to you. I'm not sure where he is."

Wha . . . ? You're five. How far away can Daddy be? I insist that she find him and hear the sounds of her going around inside the house and then the slamming door and wind as she goes outside. After one more, "Are you sure I can't just take a message?" she says, "Okay, here's daddy! I'm going to put him on now."

Thanks, personal secretary. When did she get so fond of taking messages? And how, exactly, is she going to write this message down? She's lacking a bit on the shorthand skills.

Later, I talk to her grandma, who has a phone story of her own. While talking to her granddaughter, she was hearing funny background noises, so she asked Dixie what she was doing. "Oh, I'm riding my bike." Wait! Don't you need two hands to do that? No worries, Grandma. Dixie reassures her that, "I have the phone in my basket. I put you on speaker."

(My mother can't figure out what button to push for call waiting, but my kid can put grandma on speaker.)

Grandma says, "But don't you need to pay attention to where you're going?"

"Nah, that's what Daddy's for."


My plan is working

Right now, I am working 13 hour days, Monday through Thursday, and 8 hour days on Friday and Saturday. Dowlan is completely in charge of housework and stuff involving the kids. I leave before the kids are completely awake and come home in time for bedtime. Dowlan's pretty amazing with the kids and the housework is getting mostly done. He's even taken on things like shampooing couches and carpets, but the laundry is completely overwhelming him.

So we had dinner with some of my new coworkers last night. Dowlan walks in and Scott goes up, introduces himself and shakes his hand. He asks something along the lines of, "How is the life of housedad going?"

With a wide-eyed and blank face, Dowlan said only, "I need a job." and the conversation ended.


Hunting Eggs Indoors

really takes some of the fun out of it. But here's a pic-overload to brighten your day (or at least pastel it)

Good stuff--but I need to remember to get them in better jammies when I'm going to be taking pics the next morning:

Hunting in the dining room:

I couldn't bring myself to fix the red-eye. She looks too much like Golem in LOTR. "My precious . . . they took my precious!"

Almost ready to go:

A little softshoe number on the changing table:

At the church:

Cute enough to eat:

Ready for the hunt:

Off they go:

Daddy's a good helper:

Charlie's a bit off course:

Dixie took what I'm thinking could be a MySpace avatar of me:

And Charlie won't put down the airplane Aunt Joanne gave him. Ever.

Hunt is over:


Sometimes Dixie is just too pretty for words:

Not quite as poetic as "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep"

Tonight, I was getting Charlie to bed. Because he is so young, his nightly prayers are a fill-in-the-blank. The parent says "Thank you God for . . . " and Charlie supplies the answer. It usually includes parents, sisters, the cats, etc.

Tonight's went like this:

Mommy: Thank you God for . . .
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: Thank you God for . . .
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: That's right. Thank you God for all the Tiggers in the world. And thank you God for . . .
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: Thank you God for . . .
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: Thank you God for . . .
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: In Jesus' name, Amen!
Charlie: No, Amen! Thank God Tigger!
Mommy: Thank you God for Tigger!
Charlie: Tigger!
Mommy: Amen.
Charlie: Amen, Tigger!

Also, Charlie's cat voice is expanding it's vocabulary. When the kitty sleeps, it snores with a "Meaowshooooo . . . . Meaowshoooooo . . . ." He also asks for Meaowfood and Meaowdietcoke. Kitty's voice is rather more high-pitched than Charlie's regular voice and the question, "What's your name?" is always answered "Kitty" when he's in cat-mode.

Another recent introduction to his repetoire is Lion. Lion's voice is low and gravelly. He has the most adorable RAWR. I like to think that "RAWR" means "I love you."


FMIPW: It started with applesauce

My friend Deanna had directions for homemade applesauce on her blog. Since Deanna is *ahem* slightly more organized than I am, I figured it was one of those things that was out of my league.

One day, I found myself in possession of fifteen pounds of apples and decided to give it a whirl, only to discover that it is astoundingly easy.

You peel and core apples, chop them up, put them in a pan with about 1 oz water per medium apple and boil them for a few minutes. Then you throw them in the food processor and press the button. The hardest part is that no one wants to wait for it to cool off before eating it.

I also, about that time, discovered how easy it is to make jam in small quantities and realized that there must be a lot of things out there that are simple that clever marketing departments have made me think I must pay someone else to do.

Applesauce doesn't come out much cheaper when homemade, and I can't really tell a difference in taste, but it does solve a problem in our house: what to do with half-eaten apples. Now, instead of fussing at the kids and following them around with apples, tossing them or finding them in random spots around the house weeks later and in a less-than-pleasant state, i have a spot in the fridge where unfinished apples gather until I can get to them.

As I started making applesauce and jam, however, I was frustrated with all the parts of organic material I still was not using, especially since it coincided with time that I was going out to buy a lot of fertilizer and dirt for our garden. I was trying to figure out what fertilizer to use that wasn't going to kill us all but that would give our dirt an edge up.

I decided to enter the world of composting. Dowlan attempted to build a composter, but the time constraints he experienced were making me twitchy, so I bought one at Sam's Club for $39.00. In about six weeks, it is already half full. Multiplying that out in my head, I imagined the bulk all the completely useful food scraps I'd thrown in the landfill in the last few years and cringed a bit. Then I thought about all the mulch, dirt and fertilizer purchased and $39 started sounding like a serious bargain.

Our bottom layer of compost is just about ready to be used and, if it ever quits raining, I have the perfect occasion for use--my herb garden is still not planted.

And, by the way, the teeth are shiny and the hair is getting more manageable. I did follow a blog commenter and skip the baking soda on the toothbrush and find it much more pleasant. I'm now looking into making laundry soap and replacing lotion, but I haven't run out of those things yet. As soon as I do, I'll tell you the next step in Finding My Inner Prairie Woman.


Doctor Melody

For the past few weeks, Dixie has just been an one big foul mood. At the slightest provocation, she is either enraged or hysterical. She isn't sleeping well and often turns her head from side to side, complaining that it aches.

Two weeks ago, we were sitting in church and she was snuggled up in my lap. I started rubbing on the back of her neck. She sighed, declaring, "That feels good" and so I continued to rub her neck until she fell asleep in my lap.

Dixie NEVER naps. It's been at least 18 months.

While rubbing her tiny neck, I noticed that her bones are not remotely in a straight line, but figured that it was likely due to the position she was lying in. After she awoke, I had her stand straight and felt again. Still curved. I checked again the next day, then mentioned it to my chiropractor.

Until I started working the second job, the girls often took turns going to the chiropractor with me in the morning. They loved it. They knew where the small toy basket was, where the coloring supplies were and enjoyed pretending to fix my back while I awaited my turn.

When I brought her in, she was already at home. The x-rays made her pause, but her nerves were eased as soon as she realized that the first one didn't hurt. We waited for the results and they confirmed that I was not imagining things--the top of her spine curved to the right and the bottom curved to the left.

My chiropractor has kids my kids' age and is great with the little ones. She laid down on the table and he started the adjustment and I could tell that she was so excited to be so grown-up and like Mommy. He started off very gently, then did something a bit stronger. Her eyes brightened and she exclaimed, "I heard popcorn in my neck!" So now, he looks for more popcorn each time that she goes.

With a five-year-old, it is really hard to tell if something is helping because she'll answer what she thinks you want to hear. She is sleeping longer and more deeply, though, and the hair trigger has been tamed. After four adjustments, there are no more headaches.

He's supposed to see her six more times, then take x-rays. If things are back, then we're good to go. If not, it may be a sign of something structurally wrong that he can't fix and it will be time to go see her pediatrician. Either way, I'm really glad I caught it.

Now, every time we go, she hops onto the table and lays face down. Doctor Melody treats her first. When the chiropractor is ready for Dixie, Melody comes to hold my hand while I lay on the spinal decompression table. The appointments come between my two jobs and I love that I get to see them at some point before bedtime, even if brief.


FMIPW: Small step #1

In my efforts to Find My Inner Prarie Woman, I've started with this small step.

The first is abandoning toothpaste. I find it ironic that the progression of dental hygiene goes about like this:
  • rub with sticks
  • rub with baking soda
  • rub with sticks with toothpaste on them
  • rub with sticks with toothpaste on them with baking soda in it
Last night, I used baking soda to brush my teeth. I wet my toothpaste, dipped it in the powder, and gagged as I brushed. Then I dealt with the nasty flavor all night and just brushed with water this morning. Tonight, I used a tiny amount of baking soda. My teeth feel clean and there's no funky taste. I miss the minty-fresh feeling, though.

I've also started researching Going No-Poo. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with Charlie's nasty diapers. Rather, it's giving up shampoo.

Sounds positively hideous, doesn't it?

Apparently, God designed the human head pretty well, at least the outside bit. The oils are designed to keep your hair soft, shiny and healthy and are produced in small quantities when not messed with by harsh oil-stripping chemicals. Rinsing in baking soda or vinegar every few days is supposedly enough to do the trick.

I'm not sure about this one, yet. I'm on day five and I'll let you know how it goes. I don't stink or look greasy, but I can't figure out how to style my hair and it just feels odd. I don't know that it's different enough for anyone else to notice.

So there's my start--two products tossed and replaced with two cheaper and more simple products. I promise to give public warning if I decide to chuck deodorant.


Apparently, they will remember this day for the rest of their lives

In scoring 10th grade papers these last two weeks, I have read about 3500 papers and at least 300 of them have been about learning to ride their bicycle. They go into elaborate detail about the surprise they felt when they got their bike, every nuance of it's paint and decorative finish, and the presence or absence of training wheels, baskets and streamers. Then they go on forever about how it felt the first time they sat on it, how nervous/confident they were when they got moving and their many, many falls.

But the thing that really sticks out to me is that, 10+ years later, they still remember their mom or dad being there and how important that memory was to their childhood.

Cue mommy guilt: my girls, at age 5, were still bicycle-free and this quintessential childhood memory had not yet been etched into their young brains.

So on Friday, I started looking around on Freecycle and Craigslist only to realize that the odds of finding what I needed were slim. I looked at prices online and realized that I had no chance of affording two bikes right now and so I loaded up the whole family to go to the Salvation Army.

Dowlan stayed in PennyVann with the girls while I peeked in to see if they had anything appropriate for two pink and fluffy little girls. Disappointed, I found only three bikes suited for 10 year old boys. But I did see this:


The $69 coffee table of my dreams. I sent Dowlan in to look at it. He came out, shrugging with his usual coffee table indifference. I went in and offered the guy $60 for it and mentioned that I was a bit bummed that there were no little girls bikes. He pointed me to the back of the store and I went outside to round up the troops. Before our very eyes, was little girl bicycle perfection:


Dixie's is purple with Disney princesses, a basket, streamers and training wheels. It is the perfect size for her 5.5-year-old body.


Melody's is pink and has angry monkeys on it. It is slightly smaller than Dixie's and fits her slightly smaller body perfectly. She expressed mild disappointment with the lack of basket, streamers and princesses, but was magnanimous in her acceptance of it, despite those flaws.


I understood completely. After all, Erin Hale's bicycle had a basket and mine did not. My mother had declared them a 'waste of money' and I am still bitter to this day.

The guy gave us a deal on the bikes at $25 each and we walked out with two bicycles and a coffee table for just north of $110.


Had I thought this through a bit more, I would not have gotten home from this endeavor as the sun went down.


I also realized that I had not seen their helmets in awhile and did not want to spend what little daylight we had left searching for them, especially since Melody's needed a bit of fixing:


The girls had about ten minutes to hear the many rules of riding their bicycles in the street (we have no sidewalks and a sloped driveway) and were off.




Even Charlie got a turn.


The coffee table found it's new home in our (unvacuumed) living room.


And all was well, until the next day when I went to buy Melody a basket. The only suitable basket I could find was in a set and set me back $14.97. Although it killed me that the accessories cost 60 of what the bike did, I remembered my bitterness towards Erin Hale's basket possession and plunked down the cash, errr . . . debit card.

The set included a basket, streamers and a bell, all with Disney Princesses on them. This made up for every flaw that Melody's bike possessed. Now both bikes are resplendent with princess heads, flowing streamers and adorned with straw baskets, but this acquisition introduced a new inequality: the bell.

Dixie, distraught by this, ran into her room to cry on her bed because Mommy clearly does not, nor will she ever, love her. And, as I learned from the scores of scored essays, she will remember this grievous slight for the rest of her waking days.


Discovering my Inner Prairie Woman

I've always been unconventional, but life as a suburban mommy has pushed me further into the consumerist world that I am comfortable being. A huge part of my job as Mommy is shopping. I know that sounds a little odd, but I have to make sure that 5 people have every shoe, sock, pant, shirt, undergarment, dress, skirt, jacket and hair accessory that they could ever need. The pets need fish food, algae drops, cat food, cat litter, flea medicine and things to scratch on. The house itself needs fourteen kinds of cleaner and a ready stash of medicines to cover anything that might possibly go wrong with the human body and for each age group. Then there are health and beauty products to maintain the exterior of those bodies as well as the safety gear associated with three small children. Don't forget to factor in that those bodies grow and at different rates that don't necessarily correlate to seasonal taste and/or personal preference. It's a lot of shopping and I didn't even begin to discuss food.

I was never all that concerned about global warming and impending doom, but it does bother me that every thing I purchase comes in no fewer than three layers of packaging that often outweigh the item itself. Not only do my crackers come in plastic sleeves, those are encased in a cardboard box and are shipped to the store in an even larger cardboard box. When I put them into my basket and go through checkout, they then put the crackers wrapped in plastic stashed in a box into a larger paper or plastic bag and then hand me a paper receipt to prove that I bought the box. I take them home and put them in my cupboard, then put them into snack sized plastic baggies to distribute to my children in their lunches.

And that is just one item.

I am also a huge fan of personal hygiene for myself and those around me, but I also gotta wonder just how much personal maintenance one body should require. There's the shampoo/conditioner/dye/styling product/moisturizer for my head, the mustache bleach/cleanser/moisturizer/eye moisturizer/foundation/powder/eyeliner/mascara/eyeshadow/blush/lip moisturizer/lip liner/lipstick/lip gloss combo for my face, the toothpaste/toothbrush/toothpick/floss/mouthwash for my teeth and I have only made it down to my chin.

Do we really need all this? Is body hair so offensive that we must spend that much money into products to get rid of it that take time to use and then either contaminate our water or fill our landfill? My legs are not attractive even when the hair is gone. I appreciate that others do not smell and find that to be a lovely aspect of our society, but can all those chemicals really be good for our bodies to absorb?

I'm feeling a little trapped by society's trappings here.

I've started to garden, to compost and did quite a bit of cloth diapering for Melody and Charlie. I'm not sure if I buy into the whole 'organics' movement, but I am starting to reach for food items that require less packaging and more cooking. I'm hoping to grow more and, once we have actual income, buy more local food at farmer's markets or find a community-supported agriculture group and subscribe for a share. I have started making our jam and our applesauce and miss the days when I baked bread twice a week with my own little sous-chefs on stools.

Now that I'm working two jobs it is really hard to make sure that our house has everything it needs (and two spares plus alternate items) and I'm just tired of it all. I keep reading about how people are cleaning their houses with vinegar and water, making their own laundry soap and using baking soda instead of shampoo and think that these things may be more time-intensive in some ways, but at least my kids would learn something by making laundry soap that they wouldn't learn being strapped into the stroller for a third trip to Target this week.


As reluctant as I am to send you away from my blog . . .

This is a blog by an American family living in Japan and it's just incredibly cool.



I'm so excited that I can't sleep!



We're ready for Easter!

We had an egg hunt at play group to get us warmed up yesterday. Charlie couldn't figure out how he was supposed to pick up eggs because that would involve putting down his airplane and that is simply not a possibility.


Oh, that's how. You just wait for the Dixie to come to the rescue.


That always works.


Melody fared pretty well herself.


Today, we got all the eggs dyed.


It was made all the more interesting by the fact that I'd had an allergic reaction earlier that day. My tongue is swelled and my jaw is stiff. I took a benadryl and a nap and woke up feeling better but not able to talk too well. I know sign language, but that doesn't seem to help when no one else does. I grunted a lot.



I got the Amazing Cake made:


It has homemade berry jam between the layers and strawberries and blackberries pureed into the cream cheese icing.


Dixie, still upset that she can't call Luis, pretended to call James and tell him all about it. Doesn't she look fourteen?



Yes, I know they shouldn't run in parking lots, but . . .

Melody: I'm going to beat you to PennyVann!
Dixie: I'm walking. It is NOT a race.
Melody: It is a race when I'm winning.

I realized this morning

that i am officially a redneck, for the following reasons:
  • i live in a doublewide in texas across from an empty field with neighbors who use their trampoline as a clothesline
  • i keep tweezers in my minivan (should be pickup!) to pluck out my chin hairs at stoplights.
  • i keep needle-nose pliers in my bra drawer to re-shape my underwires and hooks
  • this morning, i couldnt flush the toilet because the handle couldnt work. my husband came in to fix it and realized that the paper clip he'd used to hold the parts together had rusted through so he decided to really fix it this time and used a safety pin instead.
  • i was scoring standardized tests yesterday and took issues with a kid's paper because he misused the word 'barbecue.' additionally, as I read these papers about learning to fish, hunt and fix cars I understand exactly how they feel about their lures, guns and engines.
(Sorry for the complete lack of grammatical conventions--I originally typed this somewhere else and I'm too lazy to fix it.)


I win a genius award for this one.

Since I started the scoring job, my face has hurt. My mouth hurts, my cheek hurts and my forehead hurts. I was trying to figure out if it was from stress and posted questions on an internet board.

I realized that I am mouthing the words as I read, eight hours a day. I am making facial expressions as if I am listening to their stories. I am reacting to their stories as if they are telling them to me face to face.

So I stopped doing that. My cheeks felt better, but then my jaw and teeth started hurting. I asked Dowlan if I'm grinding my teeth at night and had my chiropractor check my alignment. Nothing made sense.

Then I realized that, to keep myself from interacting so painfully with my monitor, I was resting my head on my hand all day, putting pressure on my chin.



Best Crap Ever

This site I frequent, woot.com, has the occasional offering of Random Crap. You spend $8, you get a box a few days later containing at least one vessel of some form (traditionally a bag) and a minimum of three random crappy items. This sounds simpler than it is, as they only offer 4500 of them, they sell out within minutes and their servers cannot take the pounding. Basically, it's a craps shoot.

I got one last week, knowing full well the stern lecture I'd have to endure from my mother. This is my 5th BOC (Bag of Crap) and the others, well, have lived up to their name.

This one rawked. It's like the Woot Givers knew exactly what my family needed. 'Two Yay! It's broccoli!' shirts in the perfect size for the girls, an MP3 player that is compatible with our MP3 alarm clock and that will both replace the one Dowlan lost and fill the thirty-minute silent void I experience at the chiropractor each day, 2 thumb drives that will help Dowlan run files from place to place and a galvanized tin pail that Charlie will enjoy hitting with hammers to make grand noises. There is also a Mobile Battery Powered Hub that we have no use for, but you'll hear no complaints here.


It completely made my day.


I do that sometimes, too

Daddy: Melody, why are you rubbing your eyes? Did you get soap in them?
Melody: No, I was just seeing what pictures I could make.


Straw meet camel

My long and hard week did not need to get anymore fun-filled, but Charlie managed to squeeze one more thing in.

Have you ever seen a happier kid en route to an emergency room?Photobucket

The three hours in the ER weren't quite as bad as when the insurance person informed us that the kids are mysteriously no longer covered under Medicaid. I think I would rather moonlight as a stripper to earn money to pay that bill than deal with that bureaucratic insanity yet again.

Charlie was greeted in the ER by the same doc who sewed his tongue back together just under a year ago. A different doc cleaned it, applied a numbing agent and superglued his left eyebrow back together. He was considerably calmer than Melody was when she had her right eyebrow done at a similar age.

There are 121 minutes of this week left. I don't *think* anything else could go wrong, but keep your fingers crossed just in case.

I was about to hit "publish post" and realized that I never told you what happened. I guess the sleep deprivation is really not working for me here.

I was laying on the living room floor, working a puzzle and chatting with my in-laws when Charlie Pants O'Mister decided to climb Mount Mommy rather unsuccessfully. He flopped to the side and caught the train table on the way down. Melody once broke a coffee table with her head in a similar fashion without drawing a drop of blood, but Charlie managed to bleed spectacularly. I was scared by his complete lack of reaction--he laid in my lap without crying or struggling. He started swelling almost instantly around the 1-inch cut running along his brow.

It was rather convenient to have some spare adults to watch the girls. Dowlan and I have never gotten to go with Charlie to the ER together before and I must say that I found it rather refreshing. We played with finger rockets quite a bit until mommy's paper airplane won his heart.

Charlie's Laws of Aerodynamics

Things with things sticking out the sides can fly. This includes the Polly Pocket car when it's doors are open. When it lands, the wings must be closed so it can drive. Things in the air have different sound effects than things on the ground.

Things with no wings can fly if two of them are stuck together. Two matchbox cars can fly. Two books. Two fingers.

Nothing can fly unless it starts out between your feet while you crouch down and say, "Three! Two! One! Blast off!" Having a second person saying the words with you is required in nearly all situations.

Charlie's favorite rocket is formed by pinching his thumb and index finger tightly together while the other fingers curl into a fist. I have seen him entertain himself for as long as forty-five minutes by making his finger rocket fly. One day, he approached Daddy, broken-hearted. He held out his hand, making the sign language letter L, demanding, "Fix it!" It took Dowlan a bit before he realized that Charlie was asking for a rocket repair. He pushed the thumb and index finger back together and the rocket was again ready for launch.


Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Could not come fast enough. While I enjoy the individual essays and find some of their points interesting, humorous, touching or otherwise compelling and have some really interesting co-workers, I have never in my life been so happy to see the weekend come.


A day wasted

April 1st has come and gone and I did not get a single prank played. Sitting in solitude before a monitor doesn't lend itself to tomfoolery and I don't think the kids whose papers I was grading would find it all that funny.

My Sylvan kids were April Fooled out by the time I got them. Now that I work the last two hours of the day, I tend to get the high schoolers who are too cool for that sort of thing. And I did not even want to get the girls started.

I wish one thing had been a colossal joke, however. Our hot water heater is out and is inconveniently located behind a wall panel behind my scrapbooking/piecing table in my overstuffed crafting closet. Dowlan and I spent almost two hours last night getting stuff moved around, picked up, put away and tossed so we could get to the panel. Before I reveal the shocking secret, some backstory needs to come into play.

The year I started teaching, I had a huge classroom and a small budget. And let's not forget that, as an elementary music teacher, I did nine shows a year and all the backdrops, props and set pieces, while minimal, were still part of my job. Fortunately for me, one of my mom's friends retired that spring after teaching elementary music for something like thirty years. Mom brought me a van-load of her bulletin board and scenery pieces. Some of it was really funky vintage stuff. A lot of it was handmade.

I taught four years and quit when Charlie was born. Dowlan had just replaced our hot water heater with a tankless unit, so I filled the rest of the hot water heater closet floor to ceiling with large tubs of teaching materials, stacks upon stacks of laminated decorations and poster and bags containing fourteen years' worth of ballet, tap and jazz costumes. It has been in that closet for nearly three years now.

We opened the wall panel to discover all my teaching materials covered in rat crap. Covered. Giant flying cockroaches kept attacking as we tried to figure out how to handle the mess. (Yes, I know they're technically palmetto bugs. No, that doesn't make my irrational fear of them suddenly dissipate.)


We worked on it til after midnight then decontaminated ourselves, closed it back up with some killer in there and then watched reruns way into the night because there was just no sleeping that off. I left for work at 7:30 this morning and got home at 8:30 this evening to a trashed house and a tired husband who has finally made it to the hot water heater and is trying to now figure out what is wrong with it.

Oh, and did I mention that my in-laws are coming tomorrow night for an extended weekend stay?