We got home from visiting family yesterday and finally got the Wii out of the box. I have made my Mii cry on more than one occasion from my terriblocityness, but, DANG, it is fun!

Perfect for a dreary, rainy, cold day.



I keep thinking about December 27th. It's a pretty important day. And I'm sitting in my mom's kitchen, thinking about it and my mom's kitchen is a pretty important place to be thinking about this pretty important day today.

Three years ago today, at about 9 or 10 o'clock in the evening, I was standing about three feet to my right and Dowlan and Melody were playing under the kitchen table that was here before this kitchen table and my friend Billy was sitting exactly where I'm sitting now and Doug was standing over by the window. Tiny five-month-old Charlie was sleeping off his first Christmas in the room upstairs. My parents had already gone up as well.

We stood and sat here when Billy looks over and said, "So, do you still want Dixie?"

I said "YES!" right away and began excitedly planning to bring home the little girl that, for two years, I'd been praying to adopt. A few minutes into this, I realized that I had not actually checked in with Dowlan on the matter. I asked him what he thought of all this and he reached his hand out from under the table to squeeze mine and said, "YES!" before going back to the under-table tea party with tiny Melody.

That's how it all started. That's how we got a spare girl. The next day, we left for Oklahoma to see in-laws and came home a day early, passing through my hometown to pick up a little girl and bring her home.

Today Charlie is the exact age, to the day, that Dixie was when we brought her home.

I have no doubt that we would do it again, but every time I stop to think about it, I think about how completely insane we were to think nothing of it. It has been such an incredibly hard journey.

What's that poem? Christina Rossetti, I think. The road winds uphill all the way, yes to the very end.

At that point, Charlie was a tiny little thing. Hadn't developed his asthma yet, didn't know about the autism, didn't know how hard it was going to be to be Charlie's mom and dad. Melody was a few weeks shy of three years old and had just barely wrapped her mind around the idea of having a new baby brother and being home with mommy while daddy went to work. And daddy had work--we had not yet seen this current (and long-lasting) crisis coming.

All I know is that the next day a little girl came into the house and asked me, "Will you be my mommy?" then turned to Melody and said, "Will you share your mommy with me? I need one." Melody, of course, said yes. I have often wondered, in fits of sibling rivalry and rage, if she ever regrets that.

Today, at church, my lap was covered in corduroy-jumper clad little girls. One looks just like me, and so does the other one. Snuggled up, snuggled in. When Dixie first came to our home, she didn't fit right, she didn't snuggle in like a missing piece of the jigsaw. Over the last three years, she has somehow grown just right to fit in that snuggly space.

Today, she fits.


Shopping, empty-handed

After the ballgame Saturday, my girls headed off with Grandpa for the week. Dowlan, Charlie and I aren't heading that way until tomorrow.

The first day they were gone was spent sleeping. The second day was spent cleaning. The third, cleaning some more. Today was spent shopping.

My friend April and I went to Costco, then I hit GameStop, Barnes & Noble, browsed Restoration Hardware, Whole Foods and a few other places that all have one thing in common: going there with kids makes me insane.

Without kids, shopping is such a surreal experience. Even the act of getting in the car without anyone else's socks or shoes or coat or diaper to concern myself with is an incredibly liberating act. While driving, I can listen to whatever I wish to hear, however loudly I wish to hear it. And, while parking, if I need to mutter some harsh or threatening words, no one is around to hear them.

Then the truly amazing part begins: I unbuckle my seat belt, open a single door, lock it, close it and go into the store. That is all. There is no stroller, no bag, no unclicking of carseats, no screaming STOP at the short person meandering into traffic, no stubborn refusal to go into THAT store. No one is bickering. I don't have to review rules of civil behavior first--I can just walk.

Inside, I can go down any aisle I wish. I don't have to avoid aisles involving toys, candy or breakable things. I took the shortcut through the wine section and nothing was destroyed. There was no one to influence my purchasing decisions--nothing snuck into my cart as my attention was elsewhere.

Charlie is enjoying having all the toys to himself but did find one major downside to having the girls gone--when he tried to blame Dixie for something he did, there was no Dixie nearby.


The Christmas Eve Story

Dowlan and I married in March of 2003 and took exactly five weeks to get pregnant with Melody, despite swallowing those little pills every morning at 7 a.m. before heading out the door to work.

By Halloween, I was 7 months pregnant and wore a black dress with a pumpkin (still on the vine) over my belly. Thanksgiving, I was 8 months pregnant and the turkey got fried at our house for the first time that year. And on Christmas Eve, I hit exactly 9 months pregnant.

The weekend prior, my parents, aunt and brother's family had come up to have a little celebration with big meals, presents and all that. It was fun, but not quite right. Home for Christmas means caroling through the neighborhood I grew up in, the stockings I made in the 8th grade hanging over the fireplace in the room with the grand piano and 9 foot Christmas tree. Being in our little house, so far from being settled in, with just the two of us just seemed so wrong.

On Christmas Eve, we went to candlelight service at our church and that part was fantastic. The singing was beautiful around me and I joined in as much as I could, unable to get a deep breath. During a reading I reflected on the idea that, while I may be uncomfortable and huge, at least I don't have to go anywhere on a donkey. I pondered that in my heart, pondered the baby in my belly and thought about Mary for the first time.

It felt too weird to go home and dear friends invited us over, so we went and watched their kids do their Christmas Eve traditions. My favorite was the neighbor who, every year, drinks until you can smell the Christmas spirits on him, dresses up as Santa and goes to visit his neighbors.

We had plans to go to another family's house the next day, but it still just felt so weird to go sleep home and sleep on the couch, the only place I could sleep those days. It was Christmas Eve and I realize that there was absolutely nothing to surprise me in the morning. Anything I was getting, I had got. Anything in my stocking, I had bought. It had all been done a few days before and there was nothing left.

I don't remember if I shared any of these thoughts with Dowlan before drifting off, but I was pretty bummed about the whole thing as I snuggled into my blankets for the night. Around two in the morning, I remember hearing the door slam shut, the engine start and the sounds of Dowlan backing out of the driveway.

Being the extremely rational extremely pregnant extremely hormonal extremely sleepy and lonely woman that I was at that moment, I began sobbing. All I could think of was that he had left me and the baby on Christmas Eve and was never, ever coming back. I have no idea why I thought this, just that I was devastated. I cried myself back to sleep.

The next morning, when I awoke, the two small stockings on the entertainment center were full. Dowlan had left to find things to fill them after realizing last-moment that they would be empty come morning. Giving his timing, however, he had found only Exxon to be open and so I had the best stocking stuffers a convenience store could offer: chocolate, some veggie chips, a piece of suspiciously old fruit, beef jerky and a lime green stuffed bear that, while ugly beyond description, is hanging on our tree this very day.

What a guy.

Hey, mom!

Want to see what you got me for my birthday?


Don't you have great taste?


It goes so perfectly with the room.




Saturday Night Lights

The high school I attended had the football team of the century. More wins, more titles, more records than any other 5A school in Texas. In West Texas, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't love Jesus, mama and high school football. Unfortunately, the years I attended were not their golden years.

This has changed.

My senior year, we finally had a winning season and things have steadily improved since. Last night, I got to take my girls to San Antonio to watch them win the state championship in a game they dominated from the kickoff.

We started out going to the Children's Museum, then the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? Yeah, they didn't.


We spent some time walking over the Riverwalk and looking down, but didn't make it down there. We've done the boats and walking a couple times before, though. I was really proud of Dixie--she can be extremely afraid of heights and looked over the railings and walked on the bridges with only a little hesitation.


Then we hit the Alamodome. (For the record: what you consider 'shaggy' I consider 'growing out her bangs')



The first quarter was thrilling, with back-to-back touchdowns for the warbirds. But the reality of the eternal nature of football set in and the girls started to lose their excitement by the end of the half.


Fortunately, there are marching bands and dancing girls to perk you back up a bit.


Binoculars make a game more interesting. Not that you really see it all that much better, but that it gives a girl something to play with.


It isn't that the game was a nail-biter; that was merely another past time.


And, as the song goes, three cheers for Grand Old Abilene High!




Name change

Effective forthwith the kitten previously known as Schrodinger will be officially known as Angelina Schrodinger.

Dixie has declared this, thus, it is so.


Good News . . . ish

Charlie has been on the waiting list for speech therapy for *ahem* seven months. They called today with an opening and will get him in for an evaluation in January.

Yeah, not so sure he needs it anymore. He now uses language to communicate a wide variety of needs, wants, emotions, thoughts, etc. Through all our repetitive play therapies at home, he's figured out how to use language for basic conversation and knows more words than I could begin to count. Unless they want to work with him on some of his phonetic blends so that the rest of the world will understand him proudly announce, 'Tawie mates bad toices!'

That one could use a bit of work. Apparently, so can Charlie, as he rather enjoys all those bad choices.

Speaking of Tawie and his bad toices, Dowlan was playing a little game with him the other day and asking him what sounds things make. He answered as follows:

Ghost says: Boo!
Pumpkin says: Twick-oh-twee!
Bad Pumpkin says: Boo-twick-oh-twee!
Mommy says: Good toices!
Melody says: Bad Tawie! Stop Tawie!
Dixie says: Stop that!

There is one thing I would love if someone could interpret for me, however. About three hundred times on an average day, I find myself repeating, "Yes, we can go on the waseway," while playing with his toys. Only I have no idea what in the heck that means. It isn't the racetrack, it isn't the roadway, it isn't anything I can think of and that mystery is about to drive me over the edge.


The Toothless Wonder

My pics finally appeared!


It's a good thing they did, because another one popped out tonight as she was *ahem* trying to go to sleep.


P.S.-->I swear that we brush her hair and wash her face regularly. It just doesn't seem to last long.


Even a handful of sprinkles can't hide the fact

that my name isn't Grechen.


It's only been, what, ten years?

Other than that, though, it was a fantastic twenty-eleventh birthday. I came home to a living room draped in orange and yellow crepe paper and a dining room prepared for a queen:


I even had special decorations gracing my place at the table:


There was overflow seating for short guests at this table, whose centerpieces were chosen by Charlie.


And the guests were stunning in their high-fashion:



It was a great party. Grechen would have loved it.


As I started to load these pics, I snapped some great shots of Dixie's toothless self, but, when I tried to get them to load into photobucket, they weren't on the card. When I put the card back in the camera, however, I can see the pics. Perhaps the camera was so overwhelmed with the 145 pictures Dixie took that it decided to hold them hostage. (and, gee, I wonder why my camera batteries are always dead?)

But here's some of her best work, starting with the new Lite Brite and the wreath they made recently:



I was recently asked how Dixie got cat scratches on her face and answered, "She won't believe me that ballroom dancing with a cat is a bad idea." Here is another bad idea involving the cat:


Poor guy, can't get a moment's rest:


Wait. Can that really be this cat, less than six months later?


The other cat has better hiding skills:


While I am throwing random pics in, here they are at their Thanksgiving party, pilgrimified:


There were no fewer than fifteen self-portraits of her navel. Perhaps she is contemplating it?

Navel, plain:

Navel, with funky flash features:

She also appears to be perfecting her profile pic for some future MySpace account she won't be getting:


Saturday Morning Sillies

Dixie and Melody find themselves in a heated debate over if Dixie was born in 2003 or 3002. One of the ornaments is clear glass and has the year of Dixie's birth on it; they just aren't certain whether they should be reading it forwards or backwards.

Speaking of the tree, it took its first dive yesterday. Charlie was looking out the window behind it and backed into it. He's very polite in his destruction, however. He turned to it and apologized saying, "Towwy, Twismas Twee."

Other things he says in amazingly cute ways? I love to hear him say Schrodinger's name. I have spent way more time than one should trying to figure out how to write that out. The closest I've come is Schwone-jer. It's as cute as calling his sisters Ditsee and Meldee.

Melody is on the couch with a tablet of blank paper, reading it as a book. She just proclaimed the beginning of Chapter Three. I wish I could hear it well enough to hear the story, but, at the important parts, she gets very quiet and mysterious.

Speaking of life's mysteries, I tried to call and get some cheaper telecom services by canceling and downgrading and instead ended up with more reliable VOIP, faster internet and this pimped-out cable package with triple the number of channels, including all these shows available on-demand for slightly less than the price of the bare minimum of cable needed to have the basic internet we need to job hunt (and blog). As my Uncle Gary says: they make you buy it. You may not need it, you may not even want it, but they make you buy it.

As I was writing this, Charlie found half a bag of popcorn. It was left over from the movie and babysitting friends night he slept through, and declared it his. The girls were making a game of it--one would distract him and the other would reach in and grab a piece. I put a stop to it and had them apologize, explaining that, if they had only asked, he would have been made to share with them. Charlie is sitting on the couch, his little body wrapped protectively around the bag, shouting at anyone who dares approach. "You make Tchawie Twy! (cry) It is aaaaaawl Tchawie's popcown!"


The Santa Racket

It irks me, I must admit, that I have spent so much time in the last month reading toy reviews, ordering on amazon, squirreling away packages, ditching the kids long enough to spend some time browsing toy aisles, making sure child A gets no more than child B or C and keeping it all a secret. Every time some random adult sees my kids, they ask, "So, what is Santa Claus bringing you this year?" and every time, they receive a totally different answer and I make mental notes while wishing I could give a different answer.

Nothing, kid. Santa is bringing you not a dang thing.

It isn't that I don't like the magical aspect, just that being Santa to three is a lot of work and, frankly, I like getting credit for doing a lot of work. It isn't like I'm hunting down rabid robotic rodents or anything; they fortunately have no idea what a Zhu Zhu Pet is. I haven't (yet) entered the rankings of crazy moms buying toys at 400% markup on ebay or assaulting people in malls, although finding the fourth Barbie and the Three Musketeers doll (yes, there are four of them) was making me a little twitchy.

I've decided to mix it up a little this year and make one aspect of it easier: buying for the girls. See, I have two girls who are the same age and, although they are not biologically twins, they are identical in their interests and share a room, so nearly everything they own is communal property.

This year, Santa will NOT be getting distinctive presents for Thing One and Thing Two. In the wee morning hours, she will be setting all the toys out on Oma's rug, ready to play with. No opening, no designating. Just open the door and enjoy without worrying if you got the purple one but your sister got the pink one and that's the one you really really wanted and why didn't santa know that?

There will still be stockings for each one, of course.

Which brings me to my other sore point. You know what really bites about being an adult? I now fill my own stocking. If I had the money to simply fill it with the things I really liked, it might be fun. As it is, it becomes yet another thing for mommy to do.

I do have a very sweet story I need to tell about our first married Christmas, but I'll get to that in a later post. For now, I just want credit.

Official Proclamation

Tomorrow, I will not be turning thirty-one. I will be turning twenty-eleven, as it sounds much more fun.


I started making 'cheater chili' for dinner tonight

and was cooking the ground beef when Dowlan came up and asked, "What's the plan for dinner?"

I answered, "Well, the plan is to brown and season the beef, then add the beans in, serve Melody's share, add the corn and tomato sauce in, serve Charlie's share, add the cheese, serve Dixie's share, add the ro-tel and call it chili."

"You're amazing."

Yes, yes I am.


Tchawie is NOT tacobell

I recently pointed out on facebook that the downside of using 'Charlie smells like Taco Bell' as a euphemistic request for a diaper change is that neither of my girls will eat there.

Yesterday, I smelled the boy (whose diapers I am NOT allowed to change because "Mommy's hands are too busy. Daddy change my diaper. My poopy all for Daddy.") and said, "Hey, Charlie Taco Bell! Ready for a change?"

His reply: Tchawie is NOT tacobell. Tchawie is smells-like-tacobell!

either way, I still wasn't allowed near his nethers. Oh, drat.


Stoopid allergies

In adulthood, I developed a ridiculously severe allergy to pecans. Not peanuts or dairy or eggs or anything people are used to people being allergic to. Pecans.

I live in the south, in a state where the pecan is the state tree, where pecan pie is a religious experience and where pecans get put into everything. My parents have six pecan trees in their yard, majestic allergen-filled beasts that are over a hundred years old. In the fall, I don't go outside at their house for longer than it takes to go to or from the car. My kids have to wash up after playing and I make certain to never touch their shoes.

It's not so bad, though, being on guard a few days of a few months of the year. What really kills me (or comes close) is potlucks.

Yesterday, going through the potluck line, I very carefully inspected any and all foods before putting them on my plate. I asked about ingredients in the one small bite of dessert I had. I avoided anything suspiciously nut-like.

Even though I ate no nuts, I began to wheeze and feel my throat tighten by the end of the meal. I am sure some spoon got moved from one bowl to another or that I breathed something in.

It has been almost 24 hours since my first dose of benadryl and I am still breathing a little rough, coughing when I talk and itchy. My gastrointestinal tract is likewise protesting.

I'm also realizing that I can never, as I had always hoped to, live in the home I grew up in after my parents decide that they need a smaller place with fewer stairs and less yard maintenance. Not without removing the trees, and that would be a criminal act.

Stoopid allergies.