Amazing Deals

Today I went to Walgreen's a few times. In seven transactions, I spent $22, got $85 worth of stuff and have $19 in register rewards to use at future trips. I'd take the time to explain it all, but my friend Christi at www.almoststealing.blogspot.com explains it sooooo much better than I could.

I got: 4 boxes of theraflu, 2 bottles of lotion, 3 tooth brushes, 2 chapsticks, some immunity booster thingy, and a razor with better technology that the early space shuttles. These are the things I got my money back on (or more). Thrown in there were some flower seeds for the garden, a gallon of milk and these mini toothbrushes that were making Charlie happy and quiet.

I'm going back for more later. This is like methadone treatment for the bargain shopper who is broke.


Staggeringly long list of things to do today:

[s]1. make list
2. post list[/s]
3. add to list
4. dishes away
5. dishes reloaded
6. mark that off the list in hopes that it looks like i accomplished something
7. shower
8. towel off
9. get dressed
10. hang up towel
11. tidy up random clutter in bathroom
12. impressively mark off list through item 12
13. feed the boy something.
14. feed the husband something
15. feed the mommy something
16. clean up after all those somethings
17. update list
18. feed the fish.
19. feed the cats
20. dont feed the fish to the cats
21. take meds
22. give charlie his vitamin
23. marvel at how, even though ive been working steadily on my list, it feels like i've accomplished nothing.
24. painfully acknowledge that this is because i have not
25. pick up junk in living room floor
26. put away shoes in entryway
27. grumble about back pain
28. start the roomba
29. play on the internet while my robot does my housework.
30. do something with my hair.
31. start dinner in the crock pot.
32. pick up girls
33. bring them home
34. do the afterschool routine.
35. nag husband about gymnastics tonight, needing to pay, etc.
36. ignore children to quickly do all the things I didn't do in the rest of my day.
37. go to work, arriving barely on time
38. look over my list of kids to tutor today
39. groan inwardly
40. make it up from there



back from our trip to the Texas State Fair, complete with detour to go see the live musical version of Mary Poppins. I am happy to report that no one bled, vomited or wandered too far astray during this trip, which makes it a roaring success by our ever-lowering standards. Even the tantrums were pretty minimal.

We went with Dixie's grandma and uncle and had three walking adults, a wheelchair and a double stroller, and the kidlets. Getting from one thing to the next took up way too much time, but we still had a great deal of fun watching the kids on their first little roller coasters and eating turkey legs, nachos, cotton candy, funnel cakes and hot dogs. We managed to pass up the newest fair food of the year: fried butter.

The petting zoo featured not only the usual pigs, goats, cows, llamas, emu and ostriches, but also some really nifty things like a giraffe, zebra, camels, cebu, giant tortoise and kangaroo. Almost all the animals there were mamas and their babies--the goats still had their umbilical cord stumps attached, the piglets were nursing like crazy and you could see the joey's ears sticking out of the kangaroo's pouch!

Having tickets to a 2 pm matinee was just about perfect. We got in some rides, petting zoo time and lunch before sitting down in a cool and cozy place for a couple hours, then were well rested to hit the asphalt pushing again. The girls rode the carousel and Charlie was a farm helper, we went through the animal pens and some of the booths. The kids played in a giant sandbox for awhile and Charlie became well acquainted with the guy running the jacuzzi booth.

When we wheeled and walked our way out at almost 8 that evening, we caught the tail end of the parade along our way. We stopped as it went by, then it stopped at the end of it's route and we took a turn walking past the parade. I'm glad we grabbed dinner at the nearest McD's because all backseat passengers were quickly asleep. Jane and Dixie were in the middle and Uncle Billy and I were in the front. The four of us were all chatting and Dixie suddenly asked, "Mommy, when we get to the hotel, who is going to carry Daddy in?"

Fortunately, he woke up. Only Melody and Charlie were carried to their beds.

Today, we had a lazy morning in the hotel, then said good-bye to them and headed just up the road to my brother's house. Their street is having some work done, so we moved some sawhorses around to drive on a partially finished road and parked behind construction vehicles. Punctured the back of my van on some kind of machine trying to get out. Can't decide if I want to leave it looking like I have a bullet hole in my minivan to build some street cred or if my concern for rain leakage will have me shopping for a well-placed bumper sticker to act as an automotive condom.

Either way, we are home and our stuff is put away and I am trying to get motivated to start laundry.


Sheer Genius, I tell ya!

Woot.com is one of my favorite sites. They sell one deal a day and when it's gone, it's gone. A few times a year, they make an exception and have a Woot-Off, where they sell products in succession until they get bored, offer a flying screaming monkey, and end it.

Today is a Woot-off.

Through Woot, I have gotten many fabulous and unusual things, ranging from my Roomba and MP-3 players to shirts for the kids that say "Yay! It's Broccoli!" and a solar panel for my PennyVann. Many offerings are useful electronics that are generally refurbs, overstock or last season's model, some are toys and gadgets that appeal to geeks, some to make shopping easier for dorks (they'll include product descriptions that inform you that it's almost Mother's Day, so buy this now so you don't forget) and then some things that are just bizarre, like the USB powered pole dancer that gyrates to your tunes.

This came up today during the Woot-Off:


For the mere price of 14.99 + $5 shipping (and tax for us Texans) you can have your very own snack-delivering robotic device. Intrigued by their brilliance, and always desiring to one-up them, I decided that I could use the remote-control feature of my Roomba, accessorize with a clever tray complete with cupholder and community snack bowl and have this built in bonus feature: it would clean up the crumbs from your last bite while delivering your next.

Top that!


You know it's been too long

between grocery store trips when your kids come home from school, open the fridge and squeal with excitement, "Mommy! Thank you! We have food again!"


I never thought it was fair, either,

that boys could go without shirts and girls couldn't. I remember fishing as a kid and being so annoyed that I was sweating more than the guys wearing shorts and nothing else.

This morning, Melody also voiced this injustice.

Melody: Why do boys not need shirts?
Gretchen: They don't have real chi-chis.
M: Then why do they have little ones? To show off their manliness?
G: Precisely.
M: I'm glad I'm not a boy. I'm glad God made me a girly, girly, girly girl with yellow hair and chichis that will grow someday, even if I will never have babies to need them. I'm going to adopt, because having babies is a pain.
G: Agreed.

My Worlds

I came home late from a movie last night and entered a quiet house with a sleeping family. I went to bed where my place is these days. I fell asleep in Charlie's room on one half of the trundle bed while my husband and son slept in a play tent perched atop the other half. My Dowlan's long legs were poking out the doorway and on to the rest of the bed and I reached my arm through the canvas window opening to hold his hand for the night.

That's how life is as Charlie's mom--I live half in one world, but with one arm and one heart reaching into another.

The movie I watched was the documentary The Horse Boy, about a family whose child Rowan has autism. They live out in a small town near here, neighboring farm homes with horses. It was on the neighbor's horse Betsy that he first calmed down, first spoke, first started to make a connection between his world and ours. His dad's work had brought him to defend shamans of African tribes who were fighting to keep their homes from becoming diamond mines, and they found that being near the shamans impacted him in ways similar to riding the horse Betsy.

Frustrated by the lack of progress through conventional means, the Isaacson family flew halfway around the world with their tantruming, barely-verbal child to take him on a journey to Mongolia--where horses were first domesticated and where Shamanism is the state religion. They rode horses up mountains to visit shamans and reconcile with the spirit world. They went to visit a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders in Siberia. And, along the way, Rowan was transformed.

I choose transformed instead of cured because Rowan is still a child with autism. But he made great strides like making his first friend and playing with other children, finally embracing using the toilet and becoming substantially more verbal and functional. In the years since this breakthrough, he has continued to progress.

Throughout the film, I kept viewing scenes of our own life. Of the time Charlie made a friend on the McDonald's playground because Baby Dragon made a Frog friend and, after practicing Friends with Baby Dragon for quite some time, he finally thought to go up to another child and interact. The time Charlie first realized that he could use words to his benefit after playing Mama Kitty and Baby Kitty on the floor for weeks and seeing that Baby Kitty could use words as a means to an end.

I also saw the back-arching tantrums on the screen and remembered time after time of being whacked in the head trying to subdue an overstimulated boy. Seeing him play with toy animals through scared rituals brought to mind scenes of LarryBoy saving the day in what were supposed to be quiet moments in church. I saw the careworn faces of Charlie's parents reflected on the screen in Rowan's parents. Their joys, their griefs, their agonies were too familiar, but I saw that there is a way through this journey, one with their marriage and family intact. It just has to be a different journey than I ever imagined.

At the same time, I am trying to navigate Dixie's headstrong and oft-errant path and help her to accept that she is loved beyond measure in the home she belongs in. Sweet baby girl still has so much pain that I can't snuggle away. She tries to fill the hole in her heart left by her first mama in so many ways that only seem to make it bigger. She has come so very, very far in the two years and 9 months in our home, but still has quiet the journey ahead.

And Miss Melody, who is so precious, feisty and sweet that she could be my whole world. She is a novel unto herself.

I clearly have no intention of riding wild horses or visiting old feather-donned, drum-banging men in tents. But I do know that Charlie's journey to emerge from his world enough to function in this one is going to be an unconventional pathway that will be led by him, in his way. I know that my job as his mother is to sleep with one arm and one heart in the tent, waiting for him to be ready, and diving in to connect with him along the way.


Avast, ye mateys!

Once agin, it be nat'nal talk like a pirate day! Aaaargh!


Tonight is strawberry preserves. I'm going to try the freezer method instead of canning, as I only have two jars left and hate to go buy more when my mommy has a ton for the taking.

Melody and Charlie helped me get the greens off and the 4 lbs of berries in the pot. They loved pouring in the sugar and mashing. Dixie was too happy snuggling with Schrodinger to worry about anything else. I need to get the rest of the pears done tomorrow and attack the mountains of laundry that have built up this week.

I'm starting to job hunt out of the educational field and realize that every job I've had in the last 12 years has had something to do with education, except for that one miserable stint doing MHMR statistical research. I'm having trouble thinking of what other careers I have enough experience to land a job in and am not getting very far. Suggestions?


The prairie woman is not dead yet

Earlier this week, I sent my husband and kids over to my fruit-laden friend Emily's house to pick the unwanted pears from her backyard trees. The pears are quite small this year--the largest among them were baseball-sized--and hard as rocks.

I spent a good part of the day alternating between peeling, coring and chopping pears until I had knocked out the first 35 lbs. Let's just say that it's a good thing my manicure is not a primary concern in my life. Shortly before dinner time, the last of the 16 pints of canned diced pears were coming out of their bath of boiling water.

After getting the kids fed, bathed, wrangled, storied and shoved towards bed, I started tidying up around here and a second wave of insanity struck. Two pounds of grapes, some supplementary grape juice, sugar and pectin have been transformed into the grapiest grape jelly I've ever tasted.

Prairie Woman liveth!


more adoration for the crockpot

Pork loin and pork chops have been really cheap lately--roughly 1.40 a pound. so i got some gallon zip-lock bags and filled them full of meat, veggies and marinade. Each bag had either 4-6 chops or 2 smaller cuts of loin and one of the following:

  • green chiles, green salsa, chopped potatoes
  • barbecue sauce and sliced onion
  • Carribean jerk marinade
  • red, orange and yellow bell pepper slices, sliced onion, lime juice, garlic and cilantro
  • lemon juice, garlic, pepper and montreal steak seasoning
  • a tangy apricot sauce
If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have thrown more veggies in each of the bags.

I left the six bags in the fridge for a day to let the flavors really get working before putting them in the freezer. Now, all I have to do is defrost enough to get them out of the bag and put it in the crock pot on high all day, then come home to ready-made dinner.

Well, that was frustrating

They see the social and verbal deficiencies and tendencies we see, but because what we are doing at home is meeting his educational needs, he does not qualify for additional educational support through the district. It is frustrating to know that, were I a less competent parent, they would help him.

Now to figure out what to do next.


Gotta see what tomorrow brings

Tomorrow is Charlie's next evaluation with the school district for the preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD). At this evaluation, they will watch him interact with other children.

I will update when I can.


In a previous posting, the author of this blog reported that the hold music for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services consisted of eight bars of a looping saxophone solo with questionable accompaniment. On further repeated exposure, it was realized that the hold music actually consists of 32 measures, featuring the same eight-measure melodic line played identically three times running, then a fourth eight-measure melodic line with a slightly different interlude completing the final two measures. Additionally, we would like to supply the following information: the accompanying instruments for this saxophone are as follows: keyboard, electronically-generated percussion and what may be an actual guitar.

We regret this error and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.


And suddenly, it clicked

Dowlan's shampooing the toothpaste out of the carpet, so I'm doing story time solo tonight. Because the noise is a bit much to go to sleep to, we keep reading book after book.

Charlie usually will either climb up and down the bunk, sit and play with Larry Boy or Eddie or, at the very most, sit in our lap while we read and either name things he sees or try to turn the pages faster. As the girls tend to pick the same book out two or three nights in a row before moving on, he'll usually latch on to one or two pictures in a book and only be excited when we're on those particular pages.

Tonight, we read one of my childhood favorites, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb and, for the first time, he really wanted to see each page and, when we were done with it, went back through the pages and repeated the 'dum ditty, dum ditty, dum dum dum' as he pointed to the monkeys and the drums.

I read another book to the girls while he went over and over the monkey book. Then, I started reading Sandra Boynton's Belly Button Book and really connected the words and pictures together for the first time. He asked the names of the characters and tried to identify their emotions. We learned from Charlie that wearing green sunglasses means you are sad while visiting the Belly Button Beach. He noticed when Bee Bo (the tiny hippo) lost his toy and found his daddy.

After the third reading of the book, I left Charlie alone with his book and listened from a few feet away as he talked to Bee Bo and his Daddy about their buttons and sunglasses.I didn't have the heart to turn off the light--it was the first time it clicked with him why we sit him down every day, a few times a day, and every night and talk to him in sily voices while looking at pictures on cardboard.

Maybe Baby Dragon and Mama Dragon need to have a literacy day.

Remember in Bambi how Thumper got all twitterpated?

Dixie: Mom, why did you twitterpate with dad?
Mommy: Because I like him!
Dixie: Oh, brother!
Mommy: Yup. That's how he happened.



never let my girls find out that such a thing exists as what you'll on the site I'm about to link to you.

I keep staring, alternating between awe that someone could do this and amazement that anyone would want this done to them.



While putting the girls to bed tonight, I discovered that their bed was pulled about four inches from the wall. My back is aching, so I didn't scoot it back, and I later discovered why it was this way when I went to check in on them.

They like to have that space so that Melody can reach all the way down and Dixie can reach all the way up and they can hold hands while going to sleep.


Dixie just came in sobbing. She fell off her bunk. I would be more sympathetic if, say, she slept on the top bunk. Or even if her mattress on the bottom bunk weren't sitting on the floor. She fell three inches.

Yesterday, Charlie, a WonderPets fan, wanted to celebrate with celery. Melody told him, "Celery is just a regular vegetable. It is nothing to get excited about. It isn't a kind of potato. What you want is a chopped up potato that's fried with salt over it to celebrate."

Dixie asks:

Mommy, why do boogers tastest better than anything in the whole entire world?


Sunday is Funday!

My head hurts wit h a capital URTZ. I'm trying in vain to sleep it off in a house full of children. Melody, as sweet-spirited as ever, is tenderly kissing my temple in an effort to make the sinus misery subside, but I don't have the heart to tell her that all it's doing is making it harder for me to slip into the glorious state of unconciousness that is my only hope for healing.

I don't know why I could POSSIBLY have a headache, after all I only left church twice this morning with a screaming, raging boy child. The first time, he did not like that Daddy had left to go get something, and began shouting his NOs in rapid-fire succession long before the first song had ended.

I leave the kind person behind us with the girls and march him out. I trust her, her four children have made it through church alive for decades now, and the girls are happy to be with their grown-up friend.

Charlie and I sit in the chapel, hoping his sobs don't make it through the two layers of wall between us and the auditorium. He agrees to, 'be quiet, sit next to daddy' and we re-enter only ten minutes later.

All is well until the communion begins. Charlie, offended by the silly notion that he should not partake in the Bread and Body of Christ, lunges for the tray as it is whisked past them and begins to scream hysterically, 'I want it! I want it NOW!' Again, I usher him through the chapel before the stares of hundreds.

He soon is willing to be silent enough to go back to his place at daddy's side, but I ask him to wait a bit longer. I mentally calculate enough time for the Fruit of the Vine and the Plate of the Money to pass by our pew and am about to brave re-entry when I realize that he is snuggling in so deeply and limply that he must be nearly asleep.

For the second time in his life, I rock my baby boy to sleep and feel the twitches of surrender through his little body. The boy who resists touch is now draped over me.

Slowly, I rise, testing little movements one at a time. I reenter the church, but don't dare go sit by the girls who, inevitably, will do something to awaken the boy. For the first time in months, I know what the sermon was about. I heard ALL of it.


Mission (somewhat) accomplished

I no longer feel dizzy looking at the state of my home, but I didn't quite get through the list. The main living areas, bathrooms and our room are in great shape, the girls' room gets a Most Improved award and Charlie's room is still awaiting a major reorganization. The entryway got tackled more thoroughly than ever before, mainly because I couldn't find my wallet on the day I needed it to pay bills.

Losing something vitally important is the best motivation I've ever found for deep cleaning.

I have to get my sewing room cleaned out and reorganized before October, because it's almost that time of year again--when I take on excessive and bizarre projects to make my children happy in their halloween costumes.


This morning, Dixie woke up with something funky in her hair, possibly sunscreen. Poor child looked like she was trying to start a new punk fashion trend in the kindergarten set. So she hopped in the tub.

I think the girl is part mermaid.

When she first got in, she said, "I'm going to get a little wet first," and proceeded to lay back and rotate her body four or five times on an invisible rotisserie. I must confess it looked immensely fun and I then wished my body were still small enough to flail about in the garden tub.

My back groaned as I washed her hair, but she cooperates much better after having gone to get a recent 'real haircut' and I tried to just make it quick. Given our recent shockingly cold weather, I knew I couldn't send her to school with wet hair. It might only get up to 95 today, after all, so I had her climb up on the counter so I could blow dry it.

Using the blow dryer and the round brush, I got her hair all cute and flipped under, shiny and looking more blonde than it usually is. I put in a little mousse, which she was in awe of, and named 'the kangaroo stuff' based on the picture on the bottle. When Melody came in, she bragged to her, "I have a kangaroo mouse in my hair."

Like any good beautician, I learned all her secrets during this time. She told me a secret that I must not tell anyone--that when she wants to remember something very badly, her brain TALKS to her and tells it back to her. I didn't want to disappoint her by letting her know that this happens to most of us.

Since the girls get home from school a scarce 90 minutes before I leave for work and I get home in time to maybe tuck them in bed, I miss those silly, girly moments. But not enough to homeschool.