If you are of the praying type

Today, I learned that a friend's 3-year-old Tatum has leukemia, a different friend's sister has breast cancer and that my Aunt Pat is facing her third round of cancer, this time it is squamish cell carcinoma.

Please hold them in your thoughts and keep them in your prayers.

Melody is worried

that I haven't been married enough times.

M: How many times have you married, mommy?
G: Just the one.
M: That's all?
G: Yup. It seems to be sticking.
M: But that's no fun. Only a bride one time?
G: I always get to be daddy's bride.
M: Then why don't you wear the dress more?
G: Eh, it is hard to clean the kitchen in.
M: Why did you only marry Daddy one time?
G: It's all we needed.
M: Hmph.


Thank you for allowing me this brief moment of wallowing

So. Much. To. Do.
So very, very, very much.
And I don't want to do any of it.
Not now, not ever.
Eight house guests.
Two birthday parties.
New cat.
Two camps I'm helping at.
And extra hours at work.
I am afflicted with General Laziness.
Laziness and Rampant Sneezing.


Many Mini Manis

The girls have been begging me to do a french manicure on their tiny, chewed up fingernails. Since we didn't make it to church this morning and had some time with the boys off running an errand, I figured it was as good a time as any.


There you have it. Thirty nails, all polished.


We have a new euphemism

In CharlieSpeak, 'open' now means naked. The boy is clearly a fan of 'open'.

The other day, after an attempt at going potty, he was lolling on the couch buck-open,alternating between waggling his heinie all around in the air and sitting with his head hanging off the bottom of the couch and his feet sticking up from the top. I went to dress him and he protested, saying, "No! I open!"

He gets very angry when asked to wear clothes, especially when he loses access to his 'button'. If my navel were that cute, I would probably feel the same.

I'm getting him into jammies last night and he keeps pointing to his shirt, saying, "OPEN!" When realize what he wants and ask, "Do you want me to take your shirt off?" he responds with, "Yes. I open. I sleep like man."

Today's Recipe: Cat Food On Rice

Take turkey or chicken breast and cook in crock pot with mushrooms, diced onion, water, Mrs. Dash and brown gravy mix. Once cooked, chop into bite-size pieces and pour over rice.


Scott made me do it.

I have a friend who posts writing exercises where you free write on a topic for ten minutes, then post. He has been encouraging me to write fiction, but I am terrible with fiction. I get stuck on insignificant details, or shift my character too much.

This week's topic was Photos and this is what I wrote:

I look at your photograph, with it's worn and tattered edges and wonder where in the universe you are right now. I wonder about all the days that have passed since I last saw you and where your footsteps have led you in this time. I wonder if I saw you now if your eyes would be the same or if they would see me the same--or would they harden instead of twinkle if they saw me again?

I find it in the back of my wallet, where it's silent presence has held it's careful vigil for all these years. The wallets have changed over time, but your picture has always stayed in that same spot, behind the money on the right. Sometimes, the money was so crammed in there that there was hardly room for you. Other times, I'd go to buy milk (or a bottle of something else) and you'd be the only thing staring back at me when I went to open that worn leather pouch. Over time, you and the smell of leather and old money became synonymous in my mind and I forgot the smell you actually smell like.

I like to think that, somewhere, you have a photograph of me that is equally careworn. Or that, in whatever space you call home, there is a box somewhere with all my letters and maybe a dried petal of a flower picked as we walked. I like to think that, at night while he sleeps, you creak open the closet door and, when your movement does nothing to interrupt the in and out of his sleeping breath, you slip it down from the top of your closet or dig it out from under your shoes and old purses, take it into another room, and stare at me like I stare at you.

Having you in my pocket reminds me that I once had a different life, a different plan. That I once was a different person with a different heart. That there were other lives ahead of me down different paths.

If I walked down a crowded street in a city somewhere, would my elbow brush yours? Would I pause to mutter sorries and would our eyes meet? Would they be the same eyes I've held in the back of my mind all these years or would I even know you? Or would my hardened life lead me to soldier on down the road, never even pausing or looking back?

Making Progress

We started playing with conversations between Baby Dragon and Mommy Dragon. We soon realized that, whatever we teach baby dragon, Charlie learns as well. We worked with Baby Dragon learning to say 'hello' and 'goodbye' and hugging and kissing his Mommy and Daddy Dragon and Charlie was doing those things within a few days. Now we're practicing having baby dragon make friends. Charlie went up to a kid on the playground this weekend (for the first time!) and engaged them in play. Now, it was by handing him Baby Dragon's friend and asking the kid to make the friend talk to Baby Dragon, but it felt huge. He rarely acknowledges the existence of other people. He didn't even seem to 'notice' his sisters until the last few months. (I've tried ignoring his sisters. It's impossible!)

He's still completely oblivious to implicit social cues, but modeling things between the dragons, giving him explicit cues and teaching him things as a kitty has helped a ton. And I love to hear him talk! It's so nice to finally have an insight as to what is going on behind those gorgeous blue eyes.

Baby Dragon's next job is an important one. I told you guys about Charlie's love for standing in the street, right? I bought one of those rugs that has roads printed on it. We're going to get out the cars and such and Baby Dragon will learn how dangerous it is to stand in the street. He'll get by a car and have an ouchie and Mommy Dragon will be all worried and Baby Dragon will learn that we don't stand in the road.



Dowlan has a job interview tommorrow to be a Geek for Best Buy.

Charlie obsession with the color green has led to a deep attachment to a particular green spoon.

Melody told me, "I tried and tried to go to sleep, but my brain wouldn't stop and it's just hard."

I missed the exact context, but in a recent tantrum, Dixie declared that, "I feel like a part of me is missing!" I think it had something to do with standing in an ant bed.

I had a weird week at work and my throat hurts.

Schrodinger is perfect in every way. If I could find a camera, I'd show him to you.


Suck up.

Charlie found a package in the back of the pantry. It was some stickers, those dye tablets for Easter eggs and the little octagonal wire dipper that you get in the little Paas kits.

Charlie loves octagons. His love for octagons is as fierce and irrational as his love for the color green and for Larry Boy.

He had to have the octagon. He starts demanding scissors. I tell him that he cannot have scissors and that the octagon needs to go back in the pantry. He changes his approach. He grabs my finger, pulls me to the desk and then pulls on the drawer, just in case I have forgotten where scissors can be found.

I once again tell him that i will not get him scissors.

He then bends one arm under his waist, holds the other to his side and says, "I need scissors please, Your Highness," as he bows.



We have a new cat.

I will give you the story as well as I can, based on the wildly inconsistent storytellers we have around here.

Saturday, I worked a few hours, helped a friend unpack, went to a meeting, then went back to work for a meeting. All told, I was gone nine hours. At some point in the middle of the day, I got a phone call from my reluctant husband. He inquired about my feelings regarding small grey kittens.

As it is, we have two-and-a-half cats, one of whom is on the verge of mental breakdown. Her fragile state has grown increasingly neurotic with the addition of each child into this household. Her current activities include sleeping in the sill of the kitchen window all day and staring out it between naps. My primary concern is that we will finally push her over the edge.

Our orange boy kitty is an in-and-out cat who pays little attention to the goings on of the bipeds in the household, except when his personal safety is of concern or those occasions in which the food bowl is *gasp* found to be empty.

And our half-kitty is an odd story, as any half-kitty story would be imagined to be. When we were newlyweds, free and yet unfettered by the shorties, a feral cat gave birth to a litter of ill-fated kittens under our house. Being sympathetic creatures, we put out a bowl of food for her. At some point, I finagled her into a kennel and took her to get her 'special surgery'. This is the one and only time I've ever laid hands on her. Dowlan will squeeze some flea medicine on the nape of her neck periodically. She is allowed her space, rent-free, in exchange for keeping the rodent population at bay. She's actually quite adept at this. But, she is emphatically NOT MY CAT.

Now that you've all been brought up to speed of personality defects of our existing feline population, it is time for Saturday's tale.

We have a neighborhood boy who is about eight and, well, not entirely versed in the skills of logical and rational thinking. He somehow came upon a cat (the details are hazy) and was not allowed to keep the cat. So he made a home for it out of a plastic tub, closed the lid on it, and tried to offer it up to another family in the neighborhood. Because they were out of town, he left the cat/box on his porch in the July Texas sun. Mind you, Saturday was the first day in weeks to *only* get up to 95 degrees, but this veritable blizzard was still not comfortable enough for a cat in a sealed plastic container.

Yet another neighbor saw him doing this and told him that he was not to do this, that the cat would die. He made the pretense that he was taking the cat home, but then circled back and left it there. My girls went over to see if they could play with the boy-who-is-out-of-town-who-unknowingly-had-a-cat-in-a-box-on-his-porch and found the woman removing the cat from the box after the extremely bright boy had left. The cat was a bit worse for the wear, but is thriving under the care of Doctor Dixie.

When I got home and heard the full story on how the cat came to reside in our home, I told the girls that I reserved 24 hours to make my final decision, and it was this: the cat can stay, as long as it is named the only logical name for a cat found half-dead in a box: Schrodinger.


I made the mistake of leaving the house for eight hours today

It was clearly a mistake, because the family has grown by one small grey kitten in my absence. Yes, I needed one more high-maintenance living, breathing creature whose every bodily need depends on me.

Anyone local need an adorable kitten? Please, oh, please need this kitten!



I got a raise! 5% isn't much, but it made my day!

I am now

beginning hour number four on hold with Medicaid. After two hours on Friday, my phone battery died. After the first thirty minutes this morning, Melody accidentally hung up my phone. That it takes ten minutes to get through their phone system of pressing two and four and three before you even get the privilege of holding irks me.

I have memorized all eight lines of the bad looping saxophone piece. I could write it out on staff paper for you at this point.

On Friday, I took that opportunity to scrub my kitchen floor. With a wet rag, I got all the goo that collects just under the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. I cleaned the cabinet faces and the appliance doors. I washed all the magnetic letters of the Leapfrog Word Whammer and Fridge Phonics toys.

But today, I just sit, tethered to the charging phone. The phone is so hot I can barely touch it. And still I hold.

The person finally comes back to reject us. All those extra temp jobs I worked have put us over the income limit, so we're being bounced to the CHIP program. Which would be great--it is easier to get good medical care under that program, but it will be at least a three week wait time.

We've been waiting too long as it is. Charlie's therapies were supposed to start three weeks ago. I'd sent in these forms seven weeks ago and they're supposed to process it on their own within thirty days. The kids' dental appointments that were supposed to be today are being delayed for a month.

And I'm just so tired of it all. I'm tired of not being able to independently care for our family. Dowlan's been submitting job applications in a steady stream and hasn't gotten a nibble on anything since the job he didn't get in January.

I read articles like this one
and wonder if we're going to even have the unemployment we're supposed to have. My hours at work are being cut and the temp agency doesn't seem to have anything for either of us. The four school districts I've applied with are under hiring freezes.

We're hardworking, educated, capable people and we can't seem to accomplish anything.



I hate party favors. There, I said it.

It's a lovely idea, giving each child guest a small gift to say, 'Thank you for coming to my party.' It even serves the lovely function of making it easier for overstimulated sugared-up kids to leave your home or party venue. As a mom often trying to get reluctant kids to part company, it's a lovely incentive to dangle in front of their faces--an enticing little bag full of surprises that cannot even be peered into until the last car seat buckle is clicked.

The problem is that they're generally full of junk to eat, break or fight over. Oh, and lose. Can't forget lose.

The reason this comes up has little to do with any parties recently attended, but more because we are getting ready to run the birthday gauntlet that is early August, when we have three birthdays in ten days in this house. Between cleaning, baking, icing, shopping, wrapping and inviting, it is hard enough to get ready for one party in a weekend, let alone two, and, frankly, it's expensive.

With the possible exception of my mother, I am the cheapest person you will ever meet. I don't even go down the regular aisles in Target--I know where all the clearance endcaps and racks are and never stray from them. (Today I spent $31 for what was originally $185 worth of stuff!) At the grocery store, I will often save more than 50% of my original bill thanks to combining sales and coupon magic. Papergoods are always bought well in advance and for at least 75% off.

Same with gifts. I have a closet full of toys bought on after-Christmas clearance. Yesterday, my girls each took a really nice gift to the honoree at a birthday party for a combined total expense of 4.98. I bought a toaster oven on 90% off clearance and gave it as a wedding gift. I spent $2.50 on it. If that isn't love and generosity, what is?

But it is hard to cheap out on party favors. When you need twenty of something, with attention to gender and age appropriateness, it is hard to manage. Especially when you're trying to not fill the obligatory cellophane bag with plastic rings and jawbreakers at a cost of $3-4 per guest.

For Melody's birthday, I totally lucked out. Disney Princess sets of 7 Barbie-sized dolls were down from $60 to $15. I bought two sets, arranged them in a basket, threw in some clearance match box car sets and spent just over $2 per guest for something really cool that isn't going to break before you get home.

While in Target today, I found reusable vinyl lunch bags in cute patterns for 25 cents each. I bought a thick stack of them and plan to fill them with the 20 cent crayons and colored pencils that they have for back-to-school at Wal-Mart. I may come in at under $1 a guest for Dixie's party.

For Charlie's party, I found Black & Decker tool sets on clearance for 50 cents each. They're adorable. They're cheap. They're hiding in my closet.

So for all my real-life friends, you now know my dirty secret. And remember this: don't ever try to return anything I give you. It was likely bought more than six months ago and I paid almost nothing for it.

At this rate, we're never making it to church again

Dixie was up in the night with a yucky tummy. Last weekend, I was sick. The weekend before that, we were out of town. Before that, it was something else. It has been forever and it's driving me nuts.


Charlie's new fixation

is standing in the middle of a road. There's this one spot in our neighborhood that he tries to escape to, every chance he gets. I find myself running down the middle of the street, screaming his name while he stands expressionless, watching all the cars stop for him.

Last night, we went to Central Market, where he expanded this fixation to include the parking lot. At dusk.

I don't know how we're both going to live through his childhood some days.


I am madly in love

with my crockpot.

It is so very hot outside. It has been over a hundred all week, and will be for several more days. The humidity is around 85%. It's just brutal. And the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven.

So it has been the week of the crockpot. I got some preseasoned fajita beef for 1.99 a pound at HEB and threw it in there, frozen solid, for 5 hours on high. Added a cup of water. Sliced it up and put on tortillas.

Today I put in 3 lbs of frozen chicken breasts, a cup of barbecue sauce and some water. Seven hours on low, shred, add more sauce and put on buns with mustard and pickles.

My favorite is to take a few pounds of chicken and put it in with diced onion, green chiles and a large can of cream of chicken soup. Some water for good measure. Tear up corn tortillas and stir in for the last hour and then sprinkle in cheese at the end. It's like chicken enchiladas, without the effort.

Another favorite is a package of pork chops with three or four sliced pears and a sliced onion and some water (and/or applejuice). Salt and pepper.

What I have truly discovered is that the crockpot is forgiving of all cooking sins. Except for crunchy beans the day I didn't add enough water, I have never had anything come out badly, and I have been known to throw some really random combinations of things in there.

The best part? It frees me up during the worst part of the day. That 4-6 o'clock stretch when the kids are whiny and awful. They're getting hungry and they're bored and it is too hot to go play. The last thing they need is mommy's attention diverted for an hour.

I'd been really sick for a week and the house had pretty much gone to seed. I've spent the last two days between work shifts and internet breaks cleaning up and it's amazing how good it is for my sense of well being. Last night, I walked in from work to a perfectly clean living/kitchen/dining room with the smell of fajita beef greeting my nose at the door. It was sheer bliss.

It's funny how I never imagined myself as a suburban housewife, but it sure does make me happy, this life.


Silly girls

Dixie is surprised to find that Daddy's muscles are bigger than hers.
Melody is sad that we are out of pipe cleaners.
Dixie + Fingerpaints = Disaster
Melody has announced that July needs to be over because it is too hot, and is taking too long.


Last night, Melody told the parachutist at the 4th of July event, "You had an awesome performance."

I'm guessing that was not the average review given by five-year-old girls.

Dixie told him, "That was cool, what you did in the air!"

Let's just hope it didn't give them any ideas about what to play next.


I angee black kitteee!

I remember reading articles when I was in high school about the Angry White Man. About how middle class white men were tired of every one of society's ills being blamed on them, or something like that.

Charlie is the quintessential Angry White Man. When he begins to stomp and bellow and shake his baby fist in fits of rage, he is the angriest blond-haired, blue-eyed white boy you've ever seen.

As Charlie gets more verbal, we try to get him to name his feelings. So Tuesday, he gets really mad at some great injustice and I ask him if he is angry. He says, "I'm Angee!"

It's progress. If he can identify his feelings and name them, then we can work on how to handle them, right? Ha! He continues to stamp about saying, "I'm Angee! I'm Angee! I'm Angee White Man!"

For the next day or so, the Angee White Man continues to terrorize the household, until we realize that his phrasing has switched up a bit and he is now claiming to be the Angee Black Man.

Yeah, that will go over well in preschool.

As of this morning, his identity has morphed again, as he was crawling forcefully on the ground, declaring, "Meow! I Angee Black Kitteeee!"


Hee hee hee

Lately, I've been telling the kids this:
Melody is my happy heart.
Dixie is my sparkling eyes.
Charlie is my busy hands.

Melody told me last night:
Mommy is my busy mouth. Because she just talks and talks and talks.