here's the first pumpkin i ever carved:



the two side views



Charlie is holding his own

While this year's adventure home for Halloween couldn't possibly top last year's, what with its prosthetic arm in the road, trip to a small-town Wal*Mart and dead bear, but it was pretty fun.

I need to back up a week before I start, though.

Charlie has been easing into the gluten-free/casein-free diet for over a month now, and the jury has been out as to whether or not it is working. Yeah, he's making progress, but he's been making pretty steady progress since May, so I hate to just assume that something is working when there are too many factors to isolate.

After last Saturday, I can say with fair certainty that it is working.

Saturday was the day of many halloween parties. While we did our best to carry foods that were acceptable for him and heavily edit anything that made it into his bucket, we clearly failed, as Sunday was the most horrible day we've had in months. He couldnt stop jumping, throwing things, screaming, attempting to kill household pets, biting, shaking--it was like Charlie of six months ago had suddenly reappeared to hit us over the head and show us just how far he'd come.

Monday, Charlie had what I can only describe as a hangover. As the week progressed and the stuff got out of his system, it was like watching in one week what we've been watching over the last half year.

This week, I have been working crazy amounts. When I come home at night, Charlie runs to hug me, yelling, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" He has never done that.

Thursday night, I tried on my ball gown to wear to work the next day and he saw me and bowed, saying, "You're a princess!" He asked where my castle was and took me into the kitchen to dance. Captivated by mommy in purple satin, we spun around and around until he stopped, grabbed daddy's hand and said, 'You dance with the princess!"

On the trip to my parents' last night, he sang a song, all by himself. He sang 3 or 4 verses of The Wheels on the Bus, screaming STOP anytime a sister tried to chime in. It was like having a normal kid in the back seat for the first time I can remember.


I cant remember if i told you guys this

but Charlie has renamed the kids in the family. Dixie is That One, as in, "That One took my toy" or "I hit That One." Melody is This One. "This One in my chair" and "This One need give it to me!" can frequently be heard.

As for Charlie, he is no longer Thawie. He is The Other One. I was closing the door too quickly recently and he ran alng behind, announcing, "No, no! Here comes De Udder One!"


I forgot to include the part where I tell you

how I pimped my laptop.

My friend Sandy is a consultant for Uppercase Living. They do nifty vinyl words and embellishments anywhere from an inch to several feet tall. I keep wanting to be at a place in life where I can place large orders with her and bling-out everything in my life, but I'm not there yet.

I think I may have to place another order, though, because I really NEED flames on my KitchenAid mixer.

She also runs a blog, which you should go check out.

I pimped my laptop




Let the partying commence!

We came across this random duck, so we invited it to go trick or treating


Larryboy was not happy about waking up from his nap to go, though we did learn that birds of a feather do in fact flock together


A Musketeer named Viveca made frequent costume changes into her ballgown. See how the cape becomes a skirt and the mask a tiara?


She brought along her trusty steed

and Larryboy was there to Save The Day


She has no future as a detective

Melody woke me up this morning, panicked because she couldnt find Dixie. I looked at all the places she normally ends up: on the floor next to our bed and both couches. I thought I better check her room before Charlie's because I didn't want to wake The Grump.

I walk into her room and look on her bed, where Dixie is sound asleep


I learned this morning that a former student of mine died from H1N1 at age 14. He was a really sweet kid. i had him for 4 years and his dad lived in my neighborhood. he and his sister would come over and play with melody when she was about 2, back in the only-child/little-red-wagon days





Did I scare you? I hope I don't scare the fish.


We're getting ready for autumn:


I love the word autumn. So much richer than fall.


Orange is my favorite color.


Yellow and rich reds and bronze browns . . .


What's not to love?


And the best part?


Making Halloween costumes for the Larryboy in my life and turning my Melody into a duck.


This one doesn't photograph too well without a body in it.


While waiting for Dixie to make up her mind already, I got a couple other projects done.


The blanket wasn't supposed to be for Charlie, but he claimed it pretty quickly. The book is his Christmas present. (shh!)


Dixie has finally decided to be Viveca, the purple Barbie and the Three Musketeers character. All I have so far is the detachable ballgown skirt that becomes a cape for fighting in.


And even that needs a bit of work. But I have some fantastic fabrics to work with.H



Dixie: Melody! what if I was you and you were me?
Melody: Then I would be in trouble a lot more and you would love mommy a lot more.


Melody: Fruit flies are mean!
Mommy: No, they aren't! They don't scratch the paint on your car or call you 'Meanie, meanie! Hot dog weenie!" They don't kick your dog.
Melody: Well, they might kick your dog, but their little legs are so tiny that you'd never know.''

Dixie just announced to a friend, "Come in! We're watching Snow White and the Seven Dorks!"

There's a problem with my new bed

I know I mentioned getting a new mattress, but I didn't give you the lowdown on it. We didn't just get a mattress, we got the most spectacular somnambulatory surface in human history.

I was starting to develop mattress-testing fatigue after laying on dozens of mattresses in a half dozen stores. After awhile, my notetaking became meaningless and they seemed to simply fall into three categories: yeouch, meh and ahhhh. But with so many factors to compare and so many discrepancies between my preferences and Dowlan's, this was not going so well. Anything we both liked was crazy expensive. Our mattress budget of $600 wasn't exactly cheaping out, either.

I stopped into a Mattress Firm I found in the parking lot between JC Penny's and IKEA on a whim. I tested their affordable mattresses and found them mostly meh, then saw a queen-sized showroom model Sleep Number bed 70% off by the front door.

Those puppies are expensive, just in case you'd wondered, and even at that steep a discount it was over our budget by more than $200. Since we'd budgeted about that much to buy a new bed when we decided to go up a size, a quick cellphone call home to Dolie brought us to the determination that, for this good a deal, that sucker can go on the floor.

The kid (and husband) love having a bed with remotes. I love having the ability to adjust my half to whatever pain levels and locations I'm dealing with that day. The first two nights on it, I slept close to 12 hours. I haven't felt this good in a long time. I'm actually having a lot of dreams now that I'm not as interrupted in my sleep.

The only problem? Neither of us wants to get out of bed anymore. It's making it really hard to get to school and church on time. It feels that good.


Halloween time!

We have a finished duck, materials for a Larry Boy and a princess request. Princess Dixie changes her mind every third day, so I'm holding off purchasing until we absolutely have to.

First Halloween party is next Saturday. We're only hitting 3 this year, so we're slowing down substantially. Since I have a cold and four jobs in the next two weeks (tutoring, catsitting, afterschool care and scoring) this could get interesting.


He at least has wonderful manners

This morning, Charlie had the hiccups. And after ever single 'hyup!' he said, "Excuse me!"


Charlie: I am a doctor. You need a bandaid.
Melody: See that brown thing? It's a scab. It's a Bandaid God gives you


Offending my friends, one status at a time

After reading several articles and threads on what type of Facebook Friend to NOT become, I was inspired.

I had no idea people were so annoyed by their 'friends' but did not let this deter me and made it my mission in life to commit every possible offense today. Obviously, there were a few limitations. Always aware of my audience, I was not going to do anything wholly offensive like discuss sexual experiences, go overboard with profanity, make racial comments or talk about anything as controversial as if I think Obama should have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I started off with a everyone's favorite: body functions. I warned my friends as to what was in their future, as I am a good friend.

Post #1: Gretchen just read a lengthy list of things people find annoying in a Facebook Status. My goal in life today is to violate every guideline given. I'll start with, "Last night's high fiber snack left me feeling cleansed and refreshed this morning!"

Then I tried my hand at FaceBoasting with Post #2: Back from a morning of serving God! It's a shame you couldn't all be there! Then had a lunch date with my perfect in every way husband and went organic grocery shopping so that I might nourish my brilliant children as superiorly as possible after I pick them up from private school!

One motto I live by is "Motherhood: it's a competition!" and I incorporated that into Post #3: back from picking up my precious daughters. The private school day is over, now time for unschooling--where the real learning happens! Today, we'll study appropriate interactions with peoples with differences and the literary concept of anthropomorphism.

Yeah, we watched Snow White.

Vaguely passive/aggressive status updates make everyone crazy, right? Post #4: can't believe how people conduct themselves. Why would anyone say that?

Even better are the vaguely passive/aggressive status updates that are clearly pointed toward one's spouse and make it really awkward when you see them at social gatherings. In the interest of keeping it clean, I limited the parameters of Post #5 to say: I thought being married would mean I was never lonely again . . .

That one doubles up as a pathetic cry for help, designed to get your friends to all sit around and support you while spouse-bashing, even though they have absolutely no idea what is going on in your marriage.

You know when you need your friends most in life? When making the simplest of life choices, inspiring Post #6: wonders what she could make for dinner. Also whether she should begin her next series of steps with her left foot or her right. Or if breathing out every time you breathe in is overrated.

How did I ever handle life decisions before I had Facebook friends?

So far, they're just annoying. On the brink of offensive, but mostly just uncomfortable. I decided to kick it up a notch with Post #7: Gretchen xxxx is driving and Post #8: Gretchen xxxx is off to church to worship God. He loves to see me there . . . He loves you, too . . . and forgives you.

Then there are Friends With A Cause (and without a concept of basic grammar) who inspired Post #9: WANTZ TO DEDICATE HER STATUS 2 THE ENVINROMNNETAL MOVEMENT. IF YOU AREE, COPY AND PASTE THIS N2 UR STATUS 2DAY. u can make a differenece! even the little things help . . . Y use 6 squares of TP when 4 will do?

Because no True Believer would ever limit their pushiness to a single status, I followed through with Post #10: I DONT THINK U GUYS ARE GETTING IT. AMERICAN TOILET PAPER IS DRAINING THE WORLD'S RESOURCES. DON;T SQUEEZE THE CHARMIN, YALL.

Then I crammed in a wee bit more TMI with Post #11: My armpits stink. I mean, really, REEEEALLY stink. If you were thinking of dropping by my house tonight . . . don't. Post #12 also gave people something to think about that they did NOT want to think about: Kids are asleep. Time for the grownups to play!

I then took a stab at being the Town Herald. Post #13: OMG BREAKING NEWS! that wrestler guy that always wore the hawaiian shirts. Lou something. You know, the one with the facial hair in that video by tina turner. or was it cyndi lauper. wll, you know who i mean. HE'S DEAD. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? rmemebr you, read it hear frst@!

I realize that this is getting long, so I'll try to sum up Posts #14-#20. I briefly considered joining every mafia and/or farm game to provide updates on every square of corn planted, chicken milked and hit made, but decided instead to completely fill anyone's home page with the results of games (11 million on Chain Rxn) and quizzes (I had a 69% accuracy on naming venomous snakes). I also learned that my Japanese name means 'kind blessing' while my Korean name means 'brave one' and which Spice Girl I am. Yup, you guessed it: Scary Spice. Fine, as long as I'm not Old Spice. The Super Mario Brothers powerup I need is Fire Power and choosing the third option on every question brought someone to the conclusion that Autumn is my season.

No internet interaction can be complete without a chain letter/death threat. Post #21: Hello my name is Louie Byer.Now that you have read my name yo cannot get out.In school i was the misfit.Everyone would beat me up or make fun of me.I died from somebody beating me up a little to hard. Now i seek revenge. Send this post to 5 others or... i willshow up at your house at 3:00 am to kill you...i will come out of the closest mirror tonite.Don't believe me? Well to bad for you you may be the first to die.

I decided that it was time to give it a rest, signing off with Post #22: and thus concludes my attempt to commit every conceivable facebook status offense (that doesn't involve joining a Mafia) with the exception of lurking and never posting, so I'll try that one out tomorrow. I hope you are all inspired, or at least amused enough to not de-friend me.


Holed up sick: day 3

With everyone sick, I have no hope of getting this place clean. To help matters, we didnt get the dumpster out last week and the trash is taking over the kitchen. At least it is now in large black bags, but it is drizzling outside so we cannot take them out to the porch. Instead, I'll collect random conversations to share:

Dowlan: Do we have any money in the bank? I want to buy a nut milk bag.

Dixie: I do a LOT of Satan things.

Melody: thumbs give out germs, so never eat a thumb.

Dixie: I'm having Schrodinger practice to take care of an egg for when his wife has an egg he can help.
Me: Honey, kittens don't lay eggs.
Melody: Yeah! they lay kittens.

At one point, the girls were having a contest to see who can hold their breath the longest. I'm encouraging this, if only because they can't speak while holding their breath.

I told the girls, "For the love of Jesus Christ and all that is holy, stop jumping on me!"
They told me I was being rude to Jesus.

Later, Dixie came out of time out, sad that she did not have a puppy to toss.

There were highlights of the day, though. Like candy-corn manicures:

Tomorrow is a school holiday. I hope we make it that long.


Deleted Scenes from the Sermon on the Mount

And if any woman thinketh that her way is straight and her dominion a tidy one, let her enter her master bedroom, remove her bed and behold the great filth that lies before her. Let her take out her mattress and box springs, whisk away the ineffective dust ruffle, take out the slats and dismantle the frame. Let her then vacuum forward and backward until her back acheth as her children clamor to rescue their abandoned treasures located therein. Let her shampoo her carpets, remove the disgust from her baseboards, assemble her new bed, lay in her new comfort and forget the misery that once dwelled there.

We woke up to a chilly willy home this morning

and I sent the girls to go put on a few layers of warmer clothes. Melody emerged from her room still wearing her sleeveless gingham sundress. She hadn't disobeyed, however, she was wearing at least 20 pairs of panties. Somehow, I don't think it will do the trick


One of *those* days

I just lost my very long and very whiny post about today. It's probably good that I didn't impose that upon you.

It has been a hard day. Up til 5:30 with Charlie, woken by Melody just before 7. Dowlan, Charlie and I went mattress shopping and it was one of those days where he didn't look like a slightly immature three-year-old. He looked like a kid with autism. I'm getting used to Charlie being Charlie. What I can't seem to get used to is handling how strangers deal with Charlie.

Instead of repeating my ramblings, I am going to share something I wrote in May, when we were very new to this idea. I didn't share it here then because I wasn't ready yet for this audience to see into that part of my life. Please remember that it was written months ago, so the details of our family life have changed. Don't let it confuse you.

This is one of those things I feel naked after I post. So I'll quit rambling and hit the orange POST button.

Creating an Alter-Ego to See If I Can Handle My Self, My Son

As someone who has never been overly girly or all that well put-together, a manicure seems against my nature. It seems too fluffy and indulgent for someone so focused on practical side of life. I intentionally live a environmentally low-impact lifestyle that includes things like canning my own jams and applesauce, composting, organic gardening, cloth diapering my children and eschewing commercial beauty products. I may not have used shampoo or toothpaste in seven weeks because of the chemicals, but when it comes to a good french manicure, I lose all logic.

Bring on the chemicals, the stinkier the better.

One of my few escapes from my pressure-cooker of a world is going for somewhat-monthly manicures. While I would prefer the luxury of a pedicure, the $12 is a lot easier to come up with than the $35, so I go for the cheaper, if less relaxing option.

In my ordinary life, I find that I am perpetually repeating the same answers: I have three kids, the oldest is adopted. She has some significant special needs. The girls are five months apart. My middle feels squished by them both, is obnoxiously gifted and better than your child in every way. (Just kidding about sharing that last bit.) My youngest has breathing problems and food allergies. My husband has been unemployed for eleven months. Yes, the job market sucks. No, my economy doesn't feel all that stimulated, either. Well, I have two jobs and, yes, I am exhausted. I used to teach, but I've been home with the kids, so now I tutor and score tests. Yes, my hands are full. Yes, it is wonderful that he is a stay-at-home-dad (but only if you don't consider it from the housekeeping angle).

Same questions, same answers. Rinse, repeat.

So I play this little game. Every time I go to get my nails done, I make up a different life for myself. Sometimes I am single, sometimes we have no kids. Sometimes my kids are older, different in number or gender, or maybe I just found out I'm expecting my first. Sometimes I'm an attorney, sometimes a chemist, others a dentist. It isn't that I don't love my family and the life we have--just that it is nice to have a different answer for the same old questions.

Today, I tried out a new one. I tried out my family, exactly as they are, only that my son is on the autism spectrum. Because, well, I think he is. I've talked to my mom and a few good friends about this, but I needed to audition it on strangers. I needed to know just what combination of sympathetic looks and idiotic comments I was in for. I needed to know if I could even bring myself to utter the words, "Charlie's almost three. He has autism."

I am happy to report that it went better than I thought. I think the shield of testing out reality in the confines of my game helped significantly. It also helped that the proper Southern woman at the station next to me had a grandchild also on the spectrum and that the lady doing my nails had no idea what I was talking about because English is not her strong point.

But I said it out loud to a stranger and it didn't hurt as badly as I thought. I've handled a lot in my life. Maybe I can handle this, too.


This is what happens when your computer stops working for a day

Yesterday morning, I awoke to find my home decorated in the style of Early Fisher Price, as per our norm. Once the girls were shuffled off to school, it was time to settle in for my morning coffee and enterwebz time, only to discover that my laptop was a very sick little girl.

This left me no choice but to clean.

After hours of sorting through toys, taking bags to goodwill, and dumping anything she didn't think they would miss, I turned sights to the hamper and soon found myself going to bed with my home decorated in the style of Sloppily Folded Laundry.

If I could only work up the courage to face the laundry demon, my home would be truly clean.


Also last night:

Schrodinger had taken a little trip outdoors in the afternoon while the kids were playing in the yard, but I'd forgotten to get him back in before leaving for work. At bedtime, Dixie realized he was still outside and began to fuh-reak out. Melody was quite excited by the thought of Schrodinger having his First Big Adventure, but worried that he had forgot to come home after his adventuring.

Unwilling to take three kids outside in the dark to look for a grey cat in the grey shadows, I told them that we'd go look as soon as they were in bed. Dixie could not be placated, however, so Dowlan agreed to go look while they brushed their teeth.

He opened the front door and there the cat awaited him. He's no fool--he knows who feeds him. Melody was ecstatic that, "Schrodinger came back from his First Big Adventure into the Big, Wild World safely!"

Dixie immediately began to fuss over him as he darted for his food dish. I then overheard this conversation in my kitchen.

Melody: I am so glad our grey tabby is safe!
Dixie: Oh, yes. He is a brave hero. Just look at him! I think I see a bit of meat hanging from his mouth.
Melody: I see it! I see the meat! Schrodinger, you are a Great Hunter.
Dixie: He must have killed a deer while he was gone and eaten it! What a brave and strong kitty we have!
Melody: I am so proud of you for this!


Mommy does, in fact, think of everything

Yesterday, we cleaned out, scrubbed down and shampooed the interior of Dowlan's 00 Xterra so that we could drive it to my parents' house today. Dad's going to fix up a few of the most annoying problems so that we can sell it while it's still worth something.

The air-conditioner hasn't worked in a couple of years. I know that sounds wimpy, but we've had record heats all summer. Other things have started to go wrong--sensors and water pumps. The final straw is that the max speed is now 52 miles an hour--anything faster, and it shakes and sputters uncontrollably. At about 10 years old and nearing 140k miles, it just has that feeling of 'Everything is about to go very wrong, and expensively so.'

So we set off on our 200+ mile trip, never topping 52 miles an hour. We're only gone for a night and had packed pretty minimally. Combined with the thorough scrubbing from the day before. this meant we had no toys in a car with three children for close to six hours.

Realizing that this was about to be the case, but having no time to pack, I grabbed Little House In The Big Woods. Once we got settled in on the road, I began to read to the girls the story I loved so much as a child, of Laura, Mary, Carrie, Ma and Pa living in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods.

The girls were fascinated and Charlie went along with it, for the most part. When they got snuggled up in bed tonight, they asked to hear 'one more chapter of the big book'.

My grandmother on my dad's side wasn't the grandmotherly type, and one of the few things I remember fondly of her was receiving the complete Little House series for Christmas when I had just turned ten. I was mostly through the series before we went back to school and remember sobbing when I finished the last one because I was out of books. I read them over and over again, at least a dozen times and probably closer to two. I remember marking each page where Pa sang a song and going back through, making up my own tunes for each one and sometimes shocked later to hear the song and realize that it was not written the way I sang it in my head.

It was so exciting to revisit this world, and to sneak back glances of the girls, riveted by the idea of living in that house with that much snow and that much work. I had forgotten how vivid her language is and found myself thinking what life would have been like not as Laura this time, but as Ma. That many kids, that much work, that alone in the world--amazing, that prairie woman.


Charlie's new fixation

is being nakey. It takes two of us to wrestle clothes onto him and you have to really get it snapped on well, or it all comes right off. Yesterday, I caught him lying naked in front of the tv, using his (clean) diaper as a pillow.

He has started insisting that he must be nakey all the time and that he wants daddy to be like him. Nothing is funnier than the sight of Dowlan holding onto his shorts for dear life.

He refuses all shoes that actually fit him, and will only wear his sisters' shoes, which are naturally too big for him and, well, pink.

Now that we're providing afterschool care for a classmate of Dixie's, this is getting all very hard to explain. I never realized how bizarre the things that go on in our house must look to the innocent five-year-olds who come from more normal families.


I am a squirrel

preparing for winter. In the month of September, I have canned 16 pints of diced pears, 8 pints of pear jam, 10 containers of strawberry preserves, 3 pints of spinach, 2 pints of applesauce, and 2 pints of grape jelly. I have 18 pounds of pork in various loin and chop cuts in gallon bags in the freezer, coated in their marinades and veggies. I have 12 pounds of chicken divided into 1 and 2 lb bags and a few larger packages. I have 9 pounds of cooked italian sausage in small packets in the freezer. I have 6 pounds of asparagus, 10 bell peppers and 2 pounds of baby spinach in there as well.

I don't know if it's my way of handling the impending doom of Dowlan's unemployment ending in the next few months while we are both yet without new careers. Maybe it's just my way of nesting--making sure that, whatever else goes wrong, we will have no shortage of foods.

Maybe it isn't even that complex--I am controlling one of the few things in life that I have control over right now: my kitchen. I can't be there in the evenings while Dowlan and the kids eat their supper, but I can make sure they are well supplied.

Today, we're starting Charlie on a gluten-free/casein-free diet. We're easing into it, by starting the CF portion, which means absolutely no dairy in any of it's forms. After two weeks, we will also remove any wheat products (or any other grain containing gluten).

While there are a ton of products out there that we can buy to simply substitute and emulate the things he can't eat, I think it would be better to start off by just eating the things he can. A diet of fresh fruits and vegetables aside grilled meats couldn't hurt anyone, right?

Of course, this means changing the diet of the whole family. You can't simply eat things in front of a three-year-old that he cannot have. I suspect more protest from the girl chicks than from the boy.

Fortunately, everything I have squirreled away for the winter is Charlie-friendly.