If cleanliness is next to Godliness,

then I am on a mission from God.

Now that the girls are in school, housework seems to stick longer. Charlie really only plays with the same few things over and over again, so I feel like I actually make progress while he's the only one home.

My back is hurting again, but I can break things down into short enough spurts that I can get it all done, if I really focus my energy on it. So your job as my faithful reader this week is to badger me relentlessly on the state of my house until I can show my face in public again.

Here is our current status:
  • kitchen: a few dishes from clean--DONE
  • dining room: two clutter spots from clean
  • master bedroom: robot is the last step, and he's working hard--DONE
  • living room: pick up toys and it is fine
  • laundry room: existence of the floor is mere rumor
  • girls' bathroom: ew.--DONE
  • master bathroom: DONE
  • girls' room: awaiting the FEMA ruling--MINOR IMPROVEMENT
  • Charlie's room: needs some reorganization
  • sewing room: in need of archeological excavation

this week, they will all be clean. The phrase, "Come hell or high water" comes to mind.

Feel free to place bets in the comments section. I'm not sure if NCAA rules apply here. At the end of the week, we can either celebrate with a laundry party or a pity party


Thankfully, tonight has been a more peaceful night

We had a terrifying storm last night. Lightning that resembled a strobe light outside our window, pounding hail, crazy noises from the wind, electricity flickering on and off. We all curled up in the guest bed that's in Charlie's room and I sang and talked until the kids felt safe enough to sleep. I'm a tummy sleeper and Charlie would only lay down between my legs, using my butt as a pillow, so now my back hurts!

About 3:30, Melody woke me up, saying she had a bad dream and asking to go to my room to snuggle. We go in there and she tells me that she dreamt she did something bad and her punishment was that she lost her name. It was deeply upsetting to her--poor baby girl just thinks too much sometimes. So I reminded her that I know what her name is and that she does and that, most importantly, God knows which name he will call her by when He says her name to summon her to heaven someday. I sang her the songs with her name in them that we sang to her as a baby and held her til she went back to sleep.

We woke up this morning to grumpy girls who did not want to go to school. My back aching and Dowlan dragging them through the morning routine, about to get them out the door, only to look over and find all the fish dead. Ugh. Apparently, Charlie dumped a ton of fish food in yesterday. Dowlan scooped most of the food out, but with the power out and the filter not running for so much of the night, I think the water simply didn't get clean fast enough.

Dowlan consoled them by telling them that they would only be getting up and going to school everyday for the next sixteen years or so. After they were off to school, we gave the fish a burial at sea and Charlie went around all morning talking about how the fish are dead, fish go in the potty, and, charmingly, that we pee-pee on the fish.



I'm not sure what to update, really. The evaluation went a little too well--Charlie was the best-behaved I've ever seen him and even whipped out a few new developmental tricks on the way there this morning. They saw both strengths and deficits in what they observed and we are scheduled for another observation in two weeks when there will be other children present to see how he interacts (or doesn't).

I'm exhausted.

I think we made so much progress with him in the last few months that he won't be accepted. I'm not sure what to think. I am hoping that them scheduling a second observation means they could see what I see, even if he was having a particularly good day.


Ten Hours . . .

until Charlie's evaluation for the preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD) through the school district. We'll drop the girls off at school at 8:15 and then drive the six blocks to the other school where the meeting will happen.

From what I understand, this is the next step in getting him the help he needs for his possible autism/asperger's. It is supposed to take 60-90 minutes and they will talk to us, interact with him and watch him play. If he does fit within their guidelines, there will be more testing to get a diagnosis and therapy plan. It can take up to two months from tomorrow's meeting before he actually gets to start in the program, but everyone tells me they try to get it done much more quickly than that.

If this doesn't work out, I am not sure what happens next. Because of all the temp work, Medicaid shifted the kids over to CHIP and they haven't finished paperwork yet to cover them. We'll likely be taking him to weekly occupational and speech therapies at the minimum.

If it does work out, he will have therapies as part of his program and Dowlan and I will have more support in learning how Charlie learns so that we can teach him to overcome the social and developmental delays he struggles with.

I will update when we can tomorrow. I am glad I had the girls' first day of K to distract me from this because I have been on edge for weeks and all this not knowing is about to kill me.

Big Kindergarten Girls

This morning could not go by quickly enough. Melody came out of her room before the sun rose and had already stripped of her jammies and began searching for her first day of school clothes. I informed her that she must eat breakfast before getting dressed, so my panty-clad five-year-old ate her Froot Loops as Dixie fussed over Melody taking the last of the Froot Loops.

Then it was time to get dressed. Melody could not find the mate to her socks, Dixie refused to wear the shoes that matched her clothes and kept insisting that she would tuck in her tunic-style shirt. They got Best Friend necklaces to wear so that they would feel close to each other and Melody's was lost in the disaster that is their room. At 8:00 I finally sent them out towards the van and told them I'd be there in just a few minutes when I finished getting ready. Perhaps eight minutes later I emerge to find that Dixie has lost her lunchbox.

I usher them to the van and begin scouring the yard for her Hello Kitty lunchbox, only it is nowhere to be found. I run in and throw another lunch together, then we begin the drive through the police-lined school zones towards school.

The girls had already decided that daddy simply could not take them to school because he is Mister Tardy. I informed Dixie that she could be Ms. Tardy because they were a well matched set. But we did get to school with our new clothes, new backpacks and fresh haircuts.

dixie melody school

dixie melody school

They couldn't understand why I wanted a picture of the back of them. I was tempted to tell them that this is how I wanted to remember this day--with them finally leaving me!

Before they parted ways, they had to put their necklaces together.

dixie melody school

best friends

Melody was ready to hop right in, but couldn't reach her backpack hook. Those girls are great at teamwork.

dixie melody school

Dixie was a bit more reluctant. When I say 'a bit' I really mean that she glued herself to the hallway wall and would not budge.

dixie melody school

After some intense nudging, she was ready to face her day.

dixie melody school

I spent the next hour and a half having coffee with the other mommies. After I get this posted, I will leisurely clean my house in the gleeful knowledge that, at least for a little while, it will stay that way.


I think I am the only sane mother in this country

I keep hearing my friends sniffle over their babies start school tomorrow. I, on the other hand, cannot wait! The backpacks are full of excessively-labeled supplies, the lunches are packed, the children are sleeping, the haircuts are adorable and new outfits await the occasion.

At 8:15 tomorrow morning I intend to take a few pictures before standing in the middle of the kindergarten hallway and pushing one girl in each direction before I go drink coffee with the other mommies. To steal a term from our minister, we'll call it a boo-hoo/woo-hoo! party . . .

Then I will come home and clean. AND it will stay that way for a few hours. Charlie, daddy and I will hang out and play and have lunch and begrudgingly go collect our wild girl chicks at 2:00.

Girliness day was a total blast. But hitting the optometrist, pretzel stand, eyeglass place, hair salon, Wal-Mart, Sam's and Kohl's in just under three hours was more than enough family togetherness for this mommy who so greatly anticipates the freedom that tomorrow brings!

Now with 68% more kewl!

The problem with playing online games is that your opponent is, well, someone from The Enterwebz. Sure, I occasionally end up Farkling with an Australian or Farming for someone I am amused to find lives only a few miles away, but the chat that accompanies such games is not always so stimulating. Take this Facebook Farkle conversation:

Shannon: u gud at dis?
Gretchen: some days.
Shannon: lol
Shannon: u gud at dis 2dai?
Gretchen: looks like it.
Gretchen: how about you?
Shannon: ye im ok some days
Shannon: ill win lol and ull lose lol
Gretchen: maybe
Shannon: oh
Gretchen: good game

I would like to point out two things. First, that "u gud at dis 2dai?" and "Are you good at this today?" are strikingly different in that the time saved in typing 13 letters versus 21 letters does save them approximately 1/3 of their keystroke power and provides them as much as 68% more cool. However, I am not sure this difference of 8 letters is enough to balance out the total IQ points lost in the transaction.

Another is that 'ill win lol and ull lose lol' was typed when I was 50 points behind her in a 10,000 point game. I have no idea where Cean'yn (as I have renamed her) lives, but she needs a class action lawsuit against her local school district. They are obviously failing her.


Apparently, the last rule list was not comprehensive enough

I forgot to include No Kittyback Riding. Thanks, Dixie. Simon really appreciated that.

Tomorrow, we're having Girl Day, courtesy of Wal-Mart. At 9:30, the girls are going with me to get my eyes checked for new glasses, then we're walking over to the pretzel place for a treat (because I have a coupon). The next stop is the hair salon at the front of the store, where the girls are getting 'real haircuts' like mommy got yesterday. Then we drive across the interstate to go to Sam's, where each girl can pick out their first day of school dress. We'll pick up a pizza from the deli, then come home to have lunch with the boys and make hair bows to match their dress selections.

Later that night we go to their school to drop off their excessively-labeled supplies and let them meet their teachers before they start Kindergarten. Hopefully, this will all go charmingly as planned, and I won't have any lovely snares in my plan, such as getting caught shoplifting at Wal-Mart.

I realize this example sounds completely random, but I learned last week that going through the self-checkout while dead-on-your-feet tired can have very negative consequences. Fortunately, I was neither harassed nor arrested, and just allowed to go back and pay for the label maker that I still swear I heard beep before going home to label markers and their caps individually with small labels of Dixie and Melody.

I think I may have to rename my blog Misadventures With Gretchen.


Rules I Never Thought I'd Need

No dancing with the cat.
No licking your brother's feet.
One person on the potty at a time.
You are not allowed to stand on me.
No dressing the cat.
No helping the cat on his mission to enter the aquarium, no matter how badly he wants it.
Eat only your own food.
Keep your hotwheels out of your lemonade.
No eating while crawling on the table.
You're only allowed to talk about penises at home.
Meow is not an answer.
Only hit people with swords if they are also holding a sword.
I appreciate your attempts at decorating, but stickers only go on paper.


There's pancake syrup on my couch . . .

I woke up this morning trying to think of where to start. No, not with the housework. With the housework there's no good place to start and it's overwhelming whichever approach you take. Not which way to start my day, either, but where to start here.

A lot has happened in the last few days, none of it especially good or bad, just a lot. Lots of random little anecdotes, but nothing story-worthy.

I guess I'll start with my dreams. Three nights ago, I dreamt that our very peaceful and orderly church had a new music group that was going to perform as part of the service. The group of about eighteen black robe-clad performers featured two flautists and a small team of kazoo players (kazooists?). They sang, clapped, danced, blew and shook their tambourines to Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary. They got down and funky, as they were rollin' down the river.

Of course, the moment Charlie takes off down the aisle in my song, it is suddenly a quiet and somber place again. Fortunately for all involved, when Charlie actually took off down the long aisle during the very quiet and somber part of church yesterday, I was fully dressed, unlike in my dream. And the closing hymn, while I was not there to hear it, was presumably NOT Bad, Bad Leroy Brown like it was in that dream.

The next night's dream was also one of those exhausting, enduring, seemingly unending dreams, but I thankfully don't recall the details. During the real life waking hours, there were no calls from Best Buy and I realized that I never actually applied to the school district, so I finished that form out and Dowlan continued the feeble job hunt. I also wrapped up another scoring project and discussed Kindergarten with the girls.

Kindergarten begins in eight days. I cannot wait. Melody is ready to 'go to Kindergarten and learn my maths and the science and how to become what God wants me to be' while Dixie, in her baby voice, asserts that she will have 'NOOOOO Kindergarten. Only Pre-K. With Miss B forever!'

In eleven days, we have charlie's first evaluation with the school district for autism/asperger's. I've come to realize that a huge part of my overwhelming anxiety these days stems from my concern that they won't see what is going on with Charlie and that he won't get into the program. Because he really needs a lot of help and Dowlan and I are exhausting ourselves providing it.

Once he is in this program, Dowlan and I will have more opportunity to work at random and odd jobs while both searching for careers. It has occurred to me that Charlie won't do well in a regular preschool and that this is our only option for childcare for him, at least of the ones I can see.

So, back to my dreams . . .

Last night's dream involved us adopting two more children. One was a seven-year-old black boy named Terrence and the other, well, the other was my friend from childhood, Walter. Somehow, in my dream, I had adopted a thirty-year-old-man, who was apparently not missed by his wife and two children. And somehow acting six while in his thirty-year-old body.

Fortunately, our house miraculously expanded. The short purple hallway between the two kids' rooms stretched into a bunkhouse that housed the random extra family members. I somehow could never find clothes to fit Terrence. I'd go look in the box of clothes I've bought ahead for Charlie (somehow Terrence, although seven, wears a size 3T) but every time I'd get back to Terrence with the clothes, they were girl clothes or winter clothes or had simply shrunk.

Then it was time to do laundry for seven. I have often said that the reason we do not have more children is simply because I cannot do any more laundry than I already do. I was doing laundry and Dowlan's waffle-making morning ways had turned into something of industrial-kitchen proportions to accommodate our growing clan.

This morning, when I awoke in my normal-sized house with it's five traditional occupants, was handed coffee by my husband who then went back into the kitchen to make green waffles for Charlie (and one with peanut butter and blueberries on it for me) I was already exhausted, but happy to find that my biggest worry of the morning is that, when I sat down to blog, the back of my thigh discovered the pancake syrup on my couch.



The reason I never got any calls from RRISD for any of their many open music positions?

I didn't fill out this one little form and click the box at the end.


I am such a great wife!

This morning, I sent Charlie in to wake Dowlan up by telling him it was Daddy's birthday. After sleeping only an hour late, he was assaulted by a small blond boy inarticulately demanding 'birfday cake' and pulling off his covers.

While the kids bathed, he got to clean the toilet, shower, mirrors and sinks before helping them wash their hair and get dried off. Then he made them breakfast and me more coffee.

See, I'm doing another scoring project, only I work at home for this one. So he's in charge of the kids, but has the benefit of having me around to remind him of all that needs to be cleaned and done.

A few minutes ago, I turned away from the monitor long enough to hand him a coupon, tell him that I never got his birthday present, check the bank balance and give him explicit instructions on which credit card to use to buy it with, complete with spending limit. I then encouraged him to dress the three naked, lolling children to take them with him to pick out his gift.

I'm not completely heartless--I told him he could take a bow to put on it if he liked. Also that he could pick me up a Diet Coke on the way home and that, if he wanted a special birthday lunch, he could either pick something up on the way home or buy groceries, as long as he kept it under $15.

Happy birthday, whateveryournameis. Love you!



I can't remember which morning it was, only that I did NOT want to wake up. As Melody squirmed her little body closer and closer to mine, my eyes refused to open and i squeezed my pillow tighter and tighter.

If you have ever tried to ignore my children, you know the futility of what I was doing. She kept talking and talking, and every now and then I would murmur some perfunctory response to put her off a few more minutes.

My eyes popped open, though, when I realized what I'd just said.

Melody: Mommy, I think that fairies are not really real.
Gretchen: Yup. You're right.
Melody: And if fairies are not really real, then that means that the tooth fairy is not really real.
Gretchen. Yup. You're right.
Melody: It's just grownups that like to play pretend to surprise kids, right?
Gretchen: Yup. Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa---wait! I'll wake up now!




Mommy: Last night I dreamed about bread. I was trying to make sandwiches for some big event at church and kept running out of bread. Daddy would run to the store for more, but each bag, once I opened it, only had two heels and one smushed piece inside.
Dixie: I dreamed I ate all the birthday cake.
Melody: I dreamed it was Charlie's birthday party again! We both dreamed about birthdays!
Dixie (picking up Schrodinger): I wonder what Schrodinger dreamed about? Did you dream about being in your mama kitty's tummy? I wish your mama kitty could live with us, too. Did you dream about snuggling up with her?

Sigh. What about you, Dixie? How much do you still dream about your first mommy?


Party Pics! (and other random bits)

First of all, I present Schrodinger!



When my parents arrived with a U-Haul right before the kids' parties, I was a bit concerned:


But Charlie fought them off with his Spoon-Sword:


Actually, it was just boxes of stuff from cleaning out my Aunt's condo the week before:


No worries though, Dixie had no shortage of birthday presents:


As for her cake? She wanted Una, her stuffed unicorn she's had since back in the day at grandma's house:


So I did my best:




Charlie also had a great party. His cake was his favorite little buddies, the Baby Dragon and his Sister Dragon:



He blew out his own candles for the first time!


And one random shot, thrown in. I don't know why, but I found this one interesting. I think Dixie took it, and the cloud is just strange:


Happy Birthday, Big Girl!

Mommy: Dixie! Do you know what today is?
Dixie: Nooooo.
M: It's your actual birthday!
D: Hooray! I'm seven!
M: No, you're six.
D: But I already turned six at my party last week. Now I'm seven.

A happy update

My niece had a biopsy on a growth removed from her foot last week. It came back clean.

Please keep praying and thinking about my aunt, my friend and the little girl who are all going through chemo.


Dowlan's Geek interview

was today at 2: 30. He said he felt like it went well, but that it was a group interview, so it was a bit hard to tell. We should know something next week.


Remember Dixie's sharpie fascination?

I now have D-I-X-I-E written in a new place:



Happy Birthday, Little Man!

I can't believe my boy is three! He was so grown up as he blew out his own candles and opened his own presents. It doesn't seem possible that it has been so long.

I will get pics up in the next few days of the birthday parties.