Charlie and The Fat Man

Charlie is a fan of Santa. A BIG fan of Santa.

We go to see him a few weeks ago. The three kids are supposed to be posing on his lap for a picture, but Charlie can't be bothered with that nostalgic nonsense. He gets right down to work.

"I like gween," he tells him.

Santa says, "Oh, I like green, too. I also like red."

"I WEALLY like gween. I like gween a LOT."

Santa, not getting the hint, replies with, "Green is a Christmas color and Christmas is my favorite time of year."

Charlie goes for the direct hit. "I like gween Hot Wheels."

"Oh! Do you want some Hot Wheels for Christmas?"

"I want ALL de Hot Wheels. All de gween Hot Wheels and all de udder Hot Wheels. You bwing me all de Hot Wheels?" Charlie searches the bearded face for signs that the deal was struck.

"What else would you like for Christmas?"

"Da Hot Wheels."

Santa moves on to Melody with his questions, who answers, "A horse." Dixie concurs.

I somehow don't think they prepare them for that in Santa School.

After they move along, we go outside to where they have phone booths set up. See, the indoor Santa was really just there for the photo op. At $5 a photo, time is too valuable to spend in chit chat.

Melody picks up the phone and repeats to the person, "A horse." There's a minute or so of silence, then she says, "I already have one of those. I'm ready for a real one now."

No plying rocking horses on my kid. Too smart for that.

Well, Santa came through for the boy. Between Santa, Aunt Jackee, Aunt Bethie and Melody, he is now richer by at least forty Hot Wheels that he carries territorially in a baseball backpack given by Aunt Joanne. You've never seen such a happy boy.


I do not know what this means

Charlie and Aunt Joanne are flying around the downstairs of Oma's house with their LarryBoys and LarryMobiles. Only they are not flying around Oma's house. They are flying around Buttland.

I don't know much about Buttland, only that you do crash often in Buttland. And, according to Charlie, "It is not a gooey place."

Also, "You do not get lost in Buttland."


Be prepared for cuteness!





See, I've had three kids for nearly four years now. The last good pic of all three of them is, well, three and a half years old. Some of them are still odd


but there's a lot of cuteness here. I think of this one as 'Charlie's in Charge'


The individual girl shots were sassy, sweet and splendid.



And, frankly, we were happy to get Charlie facing in the right direction.


If this hand were anywhere else, this pic would be great


Or, if he were wearing socks.


But then there are the sisters . . .



Those perfect, perfect sisters!



Melody blogged.

I swear it's her idea and I barely help her. She knows when she sees a squiggle under a word that something is wrong and can figure out how to fix it herself 90% of the time. I only help with spelling here and there.



Charlie and the ladies

Today Charlie narrowly avoided a second expulsion of the year.

One of my recent concerns has been that Charlie does not identify male and female correctly. He uses gender pronouns interchangably and does not seem to correctly identify the difference between boy and girl.

Well, I wish I still had that problem.

Charlie has discovered the ladies. More specifically, he has discovered a startling anatomical difference and spent a few days wanting 'to check for penis.'

Oh, boy. Boy, oh, boy.

Fortunately, by the time we made it back to school after the weekend, he had figured out that this was explicitly not allowable and had modified his approach and became rather curious about little girls' bottoms. This became particularly problematic in his classroom, where the little girls' pants stick out in the back as they sit in their chairs.

Yesterday, he put his hand down the back of one girl's pants at least twice. The mother and grandmother are not particularly happy about this, as one might imagine.

Although we got the point across that his hands absolutely do not go down their pants, he found a loophole and today was poking his finger on their butts through their pants. To him, that is completely different from what he was told not to do and he is indignant that he is being punished.

In the principal's office, we asked him several questions, including if he's touched any boy butts.  He replied, "I did not touch boy butts. I have a boy butt. I only touched little girl's on dere bottom.'

His teacher is none too happy, and I completely understand. Those girls need to feel safe in their classroom environment. However, since he is only there for eight more half-days, the principal did not feel that he was quite ready to be shown the door just yet.


Now, can we please find some other criterion on which to base our gender determination? Pretty please?


Holiday at Home

When I called my family to say, "Hey, I know we were having Thanksgiving here and all, but I have mono," they decided that the groceries and motel rooms and yardwork they'd planned to do were all here, so they were coming anyways.

I love my family.

From the Wednesday the week before til Thanksgiving Day, I basically slept all day, every day. I worked some half days and halfway worked some full days and ate a few meals here and there, but I basically just slept. I even slept through most of my doctor's appointment. I gotta say, if I had to have this stupid mono, I picked a good time. I managed to have eight sick days with only missing two days of school.

Thursday morning, I woke up as people arrived, grunted at them and went back to sleep. I woke up long enough to eat and watch football, then went back to sleep. Friday, I was actually feeling well enough to stand up and tell people where to move my furniture. They swapped out what was supposed to be the dining room with what was supposed to be the living room. It's a lot cozier and roomier in here now, especially once we got the decorating for Christmas done. I got out of the house to do a bit of shopping and inspected the yardwork. Saturday I actually stayed awake all day, but I spent Sunday recovering.

I did manage to work a full week, but I kept my plans light and came home to go straight to bed most days.

This weekend, my in-laws came down for a few days and Dixie's grandma and uncle came to watch the girls perform with their cheerleading group yesterday. I overdid it again and spent most of today asleep, and I'm getting the idea that I might be this way for a few weeks to come as my body kicks this virus.

Now that all three groups of family have been through, it really feels like home.



The frequent and delightful updates that normally appear on this blog have been interrupted by a charming case of mono.


Charlie's getting help

We haven't had his ARD yet, but they finished his evaluations today. One of the members of the team stopped by my classroom to tell me

*Charlie is adorable and she wishes she could take him home
*Charlie is very busy and must be exhausting
*She saw several indicators of autism and, while it's not official, will agree with the neurologist's diagnosis.
*She definitely sees clear areas of work to be done
*He will need a new placement and agrees with me that it should be PPCD. His teacher is not going to be able to meet his needs and he needs a different environment.
*He's very teachable and we've clearly taught him a lot.
*We cannot know his IQ until his behaviors and focus interfere less with his academics, but she does not have any indication that it will be low.
*That we have done an incredible job working with him. It is rare that she sees a child on the spectrum who does as well as he does, and she is impressed both that we've known what to do with him and that we've done it so well.
*That he definitely needs work on social skills. Its the area in which he's furthest behind. Of course it is--it's the one we simply can't teach at home and couldn't work on when preschools wouldn't take him as a student. 

I mentioned that what I would like to see is him finishing this year out in PPCD and then having a second year. My other August born child didn't start school at five, and waiting until six has made all the difference. Since Charlie tends to be about a year and a half to two years behind, waiting that year will compensate for some of those differences. She said that is a possibility, also that they have done half PPCD/half kindergarten years for students that often work well.

They still have a lot of paperwork to do to get it in motion. Their reports are generally 20+ pages long and must be completed before the ARD meeting. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be solidified at this meeting. From what she said, they will have it all ready for him to start in his new placement in January.

I cannot tell you how relieved I am. It's not all up to me anymore.


For the records

On Monday, Charlie said his entire ABCs. He swaps out S and Z and is infuriated if you try to sing along, but we'll take it.

Today, he actually smiled and posed for the camera! I never knew a school yearbook photo could make me so happy!


stealthy and naked

Yesterday, Charlie was sneaking about the house, buck-naked. I told him to go get some clothes on. He said, "But I'm inbisible."

"Charlie, you're naked. Go get clothes on," I repeat

"You tan't see me, Im inbisible," he insists.

I counter that with, "But I can see your skin."

"My tin is inbisible," he counters. "Clothes is not inbisible."

Tan I do dat?

Charlie has discovered a new dimension: time.

It started while I was making Halloween costumes. I was working on Larry Boy and he asked me, "Tan you make me a cat costume for da next Halloween?"

Finally an indication that, in Charlie's mind, not all events occur in real-time. He understands that there will be another Halloween.

He's also started asking, "Tan you save dis for later?" when he doesn't want to eat something at just that moment. I've saved away the last half ounce of something that he will never again return to, just because it thrills me to no end that he gets that there will be a later.

He had a little fun-sized package of M&Ms left after Halloween. With two little candies left in the grubby yellow bag, he handed them over to me. "Tan you put dis away? I need it to be way up high so Schrodinger don't get it. He likes dat."

I hide my candy from the cat all the time, buddy. I know what you mean.

The word CAN has opened up so many things for him. Instead of insisting that, THAT VERY MOMENT, whatever he wants must happen, he has started asking, "Tan I do dat?" If we respond with a no, he has even begun asking if he can do it, 'da next dey.'

For so long, everything has been that instant and that moment. It's such a relief that there's a future in his mind now.


Would you like to come stare at my children?

This week, Dixie's teachers filled out questionnaires for her ADD/ADHD evaluation.

On Tuesday, Melody left campus for a few hours to do the first half of her gifted and talented testing.

On Thursday, the special ed team came by to watch Charlie in his classroom as part of his autism evaluation.

Perhaps, if you don't want to stare at them, you could come stare at me a bit? If the exterior view is not enough, I have an entire complement of X-rays of my neck and spine following last week's minor car accident. 

Come to think of it, no one has given Dowlan the once-over. For anyone interested, we'll be home all day tomorrow, unpacking. Come view the native male in his unnatural and chaotic habitat.

I have leftover lasagna for afterwards.


Ghost Bride and an Angel


halloween 2010

Up close:

halloween 2010

Ghost Bride:

halloween 2010


halloween 2010


halloween 2010

Trying to decide on wings. May skip them--easier to party that way.

halloween 2010


Betcha didn't think I'd get it done this year

Anyone who has been around awhile knows that there are certain aspects of mommyhood that I relish. Things that I enjoy so much that they make it worth putting up with the actual kids.

Halloween tops that list. I love the challenge of sewing their wildest dreams.

I wasn't entirely certain it was going to happen this time 'round. Especially since it was about two weeks ago that I looked at the calendar and swore a bit.

Friday after Dowlan left town, I braved small town Wal*Mart at 5 p.m. only to discover that they have no fabric section. *gasp* So we bought our rake and groceries and spent the next grueling hour in Hobby Lobby.

The ever prepared Melody has known exactly what she wanted to be: an angel. Her dress is made and awaiting a halo and wings.

The never prepared Dixie changed her mind as the fabric was being selected. She'd planned on a traditional ghost costume--the sheet with the two holes in it--but saw some sparkly fabric and went for a ghost bride instead. So Sunday, between long stretches of sleep, I made a wedding dress in two hours. It's still awaiting the ghastly part, however.

And today I broke a personal rule to avoid bweaking his heart: I made Charlie the same costume as last year. I was never completely satisfied with last year's LarryBoy. The eyes weren't right, the neck hole too big. Frankly, the whole thing was too big. A refresher pic:


Or two:


Also, it's current location can only be described as, "in a box in the room with the blue carpet." Yes, it is quicker to sew a new costume than to unpack.

So here's LarryBoy deux:

halloween 10

And, because someone said, "Get a pictuwe of my boo-tah-day!"


I'll get more pics later (when I find my camera). The phone does a decent job, but the colors are off. The purple looks blue. Also, I gotta stiffen up those super suction ears a bit. Still, not bad for two hours' work.

Bonus pic~Two Super Cool Guys:

dowlan charlie


Charlie thinks it through

At the convenience store, by the corndogs

I want a hot dog. A hot dog, hidden in bread. 

As he leaves:
It's a hot dog. It's hidden in bread. The bread is corn. It's cornbread. It's a corndog!



To my Dearest Husband,
While I appreciate the great faith you have in our children, first grade is entirely too young to be in charge of one's own homework and folder. Saying, "Sit down and do your homework, Dixie" then going into another room and never checking back is simply unacceptable, especially when the child is often in the backyard as you say this. Homework done in the backyard is rarely done well.

Also at issue is a matter of spelling homework. Spelling homework is not designed to be done independently. One cannot give one's self a practice spelling test. The logistics simply do not work out.

Also, the parent page at the back of the folder is to be initialed by the parent, not forged by the seven-year-old in question. Although you may not recognize the difference between my handwriting and hers, that she was penciling in her own smiley faces instead of having them rubber stamped by the teacher should have been a clue. Yet another clue that things were amiss might be that her folder was filled entirely with drawing paper, half of it blank.

I realize that having children in school is a new concept, as we've only had school 5 days a week, 36 weeks a year for the past two years and that we all know she can be completely entrusted with all other tasks required of her, except, of course, those complicated ones like remembering to wipe her own butt. Still, please know that she requires more guidance in this area. 

In the future, when I come home from work each day and ask, "Have the girls done their homework?" please do not answer, "Yes!" unless you have made visual confirmation of that. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Your Loving Wife


My first weekend to relax in my new home

So today was a long and awful day.

Dowlan left yesterday afternoon to hand keys over to the renter, sign contracts and get the rest of the stuff in the shed loaded. Since it was a Saturday morning and the morning person was two hundred miles away, of course the kids were all awake by 6:30. Considering they've been dragged out of bed at increasingly late intervals this week, it was all the more irksome that their eyes popped cheerfully open before the dawnzer-lee light.

Fortunately for me, there were cartoons on the Tivo and I just had to stir long enough to push the button every 14 minutes or so.

At about 9, I realize that it is raining and call the woman in charge of the homecoming parade to see if it is delayed or canceled, as the girls were supposed to be there at 10:30 and ride on a float.

She's quite adamant, "Don't come out in this weather! I don't have any word, but, whatever you do, do not come out! I have no way to shelter the children out there."

I only have a few moments to consider this overkill before I hear the tornado siren. Oops. Turn on the local news to find that there was a tornado spotted south of town and that the flash flooding is considered serious. I send the kids into the most secure spot in the house, happy that it's made of stone and not going anywhere, and begin to shut doors, turn off lights and unplug things before joining them.

Oh, dear. That is one wild Charlie.

I turn off the lights in the room we are in, thinking that flickering and going out is going to scare the kids, and am immediately grateful that I did, as they stop running off and snuggle in once it is dark. To alleviate the boredom, I tell them a few scary stories. The golden arm, the viper, etc. every tiny noise they make brings sharp pain to my head, so I will do anything to keep them quiet. Even the sound of the rain hurts.

By 10 o'clock, the tornado watch has ended, but it is still flash flooding outside. I let them go back into the rest of the house to play for a bit and go sleep on the couch. I don't know that I have ever slept while alone with awake children, but I could do nothing else. I kept waking up to seek out things to blow my nose on, as there were no kleenex in the house. The wipes were too soggy, the tissue too harsh. The tortillas seemed like they might be cool and soft, but I grabbed an outgrown pajama shirt of Charlie's instead.

(At Wal-Mart last night, I got so desperate that, after eliminating my shirt sleeve as a possibility because it didn't reach, I dug into my pockets. The receipt was too short and the wrong texture. Muttering my apologies to George, I opted for the $1 instead of the $10 and blew away. Still, I did not think to actually PURCHASE any Kleenex, as they weren't on the list.)

At about 11, I realized that I was not ever going to get better. Monday seemed far to long away and, since I have no doctor here, I knew it was doubtful that I could get an appointment then, even if I did live that long. So I had the children get shoes on and went to urgent care.

At urgent care, there is no children's area in the waiting room. Not even a highlight's magazine. Just sixteen chairs in odd arrangements, a TV showing football and about 30 magazines. To one side of the television is an odd sunken area about 5x5 feet, enclosed by walls on three sides and with a 9 inch carpeted rise the width of a balance beam along the perimeter.

An hour into the wait, the kids discovered the area and used it as an imaginary hot tub. That lasted for twenty minutes, and then they were officially out of ideas. I mean, they'd been pretty good, considering I was wholly unable to do anything beyond keeping them from running out the door, a trick that had been tried more than once. As we waited, I noticed that the office was the opposite of the Hotel California . . . in the first 90 minutes, about a dozen people left the back area, but only one person was ever called back.

Having noticed large signs announcing, "You may not leave once you are registered without losing your place in line!" I felt fairly stuck. Since the office staff was back from the pizza break in the back (the delivery guy arrived about half an hour after I did) and now at the important task of gathering around one woman's iPhone to look at her pictures, I braved it and asked how much longer my wait would be. "Oh, at least an hour."

"Can I please take my children to go eat?" I implored. Two of them opened their mouths, clearly about to iterate policy, hesitated, looked at one another and said, "Yes."


We went to McDonald's and got happy meals, hoping for the double whammy of food AND toys but the current toy is a trick or treat pail. Having exhausted the waiting room's supply of Kleenex, I went to Walgreen's for another box and grabbed a 9.99 farm toy set as well before heading back.

Once in, I sent them to the 'hot tub' area and told them the toys had to stay in there.

About thirty minutes later, they came out and called a name. And again. And again. No dice. They called the next name three times. The nurse disappeared into the back for a minute, before she returned to call me back. We picked up toys and went back. After being weighed, I realized I was short one boy, so I went back front for him. The nurse seemed a bit alarmed that I'd forgotten a child.

She gets me in the patient room and asks me questions that I am coughing too hard to answer. The doc comes back and looks me over. Gives me an air flow meter to huff and puff pathetically into.

It appears I have two infected ears, a sinus infection, bronchitis and have developed asthma from having such horrible allergies. A nurse comes in to give me a shot in the but, much to my children's amusement, and we head out the door to return to Walgreens. On the way, Charlie was shouting, "I shoot you in da butt!"

We get to the pharmacy drive-thru to learn that we have beat my prescription there. Glad I didn't get out of the car for this, I head home. By God's infinite mercy, Charlie has fallen asleep and stays that way for the next four hours. No more piercing screams or fear that he will decide to go play in traffic while I am incapacitated.

Still, that leaves a problem: I still have low blood oxygen and no medication.

After about an hour's nap, I call my only friend here to come watch the girls while I go to the pharmacy. (After, naturally, she chides me a bit for not calling sooner.) I grab toilet paper, Kleenex, chocolate, milk, Advil Cold and Sinus and head back for my meds. While she is ringing me up, I raccoon my way into the package containing the inhaler and use it while she bags things up. Then, I go to the other window, where the pharmacist explains to me how to use it and gives me the run down on the antibiotics.

I come home only to sleep for a few more hours. Dowlan calls, he is on his way home. I am feeling much better, save for the intense pain in my face from my stupid sinuses.

Tomorrow, he gets up with the kids.


Some progress

 Remember this room?




And this room?

new house

Well, now we have this room.


When I asked the girls how they wanted their new room, they said, "Just like our old one."

I can live with that. It was a great room, and they didn't get to enjoy it quite long enough.


Same trim, different city. We put plain white chair rail up at the old place. Should make it easier to rent out.


We did, however, convince them to go purple instead of pink. It was just too pink, and I'm hoping purple will take longer to outgrow.


Clearly, we haven't moved it all in there yet, nor have we changed the lightbulb. But it's a start!



The one flaw

of the new house is a lack of bathtub. There is one bathroom and it has one heavily tiled shower.

I hate taking showers.

I hate water dripping in my face, I hate trying to keep the wet shower curtain from touching me while shaving the backs of my calves, I hate the steamy feeling. I hate water in my ears. Add in that we now have well water, and it's doubly insulting to be subjected to a shower.

It smells oddly and does strange things to my hair. One time, my hair dries just fine. It's clean and fantastic. The next, it feels coated and as if I never washed it. Forget styling it--I just try to minimize the oddness of it.

Melody is with me on this one.

In fact, the first Thursday night after getting into the house, I was trying to get kids ready for bed and asked her when her last shower was. Her answer? "There wasn't one."

We'd been in the house since the Friday before.

Dixie, ever the opposite, begs daily for showers. On church nights, when there is no time, she pouts and stomps. At 4 in the afternoon, she will start asking, "Is it bedtime yet? Can I get ready for bed now?"

Dowlan's brilliant solution to Mel's refusal is a large orange washtub in the floor of the shower, that he fills for her to bathe in.

Unfortunately, I don't fit.


Oh, and

Last night, I was convinced I had strep, so I typed in for a sub. (Thanks to the interwebz, no calling is left in calling in sick.)

Then, I slept for fifteen hours. When I awoke, I realized I didn't have strep. Just no more energy or voice yet.

Oh, and, this evening, Dowlan got a really lovely rejection letter from the university. Of the forty people they considered, he was in the top, but not their ultimate choice.


That's okay. The thought of having two full-time working parents and an un-unpacked house and having to find childcare for Charlie was practically giving me palpitations. A job will be fantastic, but not quite yet.

The heartbreak continues

Yesterday, while taking Charlie to pick the girls up from school, I saw a huge, pus-filled wasp bite on his knee, complete with intact stinger. Taking advantage of this five-point-harnessed self, I removed the sting and oozed the ooze out of it.

Ooh, he was mad.

Charlie: You make my owie ouched! You bweak my heart! My heart don love you ennnymore!
Me: I'm sorry, honey. I had to get the stinger out.
Charlie: Dat bug put it dere. It wanted it to stay dere.
Me: Yes, but I had to get it out so it would heal. I had to get the stinger out and the pus out.
Charlie: My heart loved it. My heart loved dat pus.


Charlie the territorial eater

Charlie has always been a fan of his food. During the baby food stage, he'd down ten jars a day, plus nursing, bottles and rice cereal. As a toddler, he reminded me of a dog guarding it's bone--too close, and he'd give you a look that says, 'I'm growling at you on the inside.'

His food allergies give him great cause for anguish, especially the strawberry allergy. Heck, I can sympathize with that one. Strawberries are pretty amazing.

He'll tell you, "I not 'lergic to dat. You 'lergic to dat. I gotta eat dat." At his birthday party, there was a bunch of fresh fruit out and he'd tell anyone who would listen, "I can have stwawbewwies. I have one in my tummy wight now and it is yummy."

No such luck, kid. Not going to bite.

Being on a gluten free diet adds yet another compounding level of frustration. "I love gwooten. I eat it. You eat da gwooten fwee stuff. I no eat dat no more."

Dowlan has found that dying some of it green solves that problem.

Now he has started moving in on our food. I had a drink the other day and he said, "Dat is mine now. See? I dwink it. You dwink dat, I bweak you heart." Later, when he saw me near it, he repeated, "I gonna be bweakin' you heart now, you dwink my dwink."


Guess where I am?

I'm on my couch, in my living room. MY living room. Doing very, very little. I breathe in, I breathe out. I occasionally forward through a commercial.

It would be bliss if I didn't have so much to do.

On Friday, we closed on the house. The couple selling it surprised us by arriving no longer pregnant. Baby girl was so new, she hadn't unfolded from that tight little newborn ball yet. I asked when the baby had come, and was told, "This morning."

Now, kids, that's dedication.

We spent the weekend cleaning things up on the outside and painting on the inside, with the help of my parents. Charlie's room is done and the girls' room is about 2/3 done. Quite a few things are unpacked. Most of the new appliances are in and running and all we're waiting on now is a dishwasher.

It has felt really good to come home after work each day. To come *home*. Even as piecemeal and piled up as it is, even though we're sleeping in the dining room, it's home.

Problem is, I'm exhausted. The perpetual motion and superhuman strength that have gotten me through these crazy two months is all gone. I keep getting not *quite* sick. For the past two days, I have come home and crashed.

I'm hoping that my magical energy boost will reappear on Friday, when we drop the kids off at school and leave town. (Don't worry--mom's going to come pick them up!) Friday, we finish packing. Saturday morning, we load up the big truck, clean up a bit, then head home. Sunday, we unload the truck. Then the true unpacking fun begins.

If I can stay awake that long.


Charlie and school

Having Charlie in daily preschool is going about as well as one might expect. He's less resistant to go every day, now that it has been several weeks, but he still finds it to be a miserable experience and doesn't understand why he has to spend three hours a day with this teacher who thinks he should do things like sit down, listen and share.

She has been incredibly patient and is trying hard to work with Charlie, but did say at our last talk that she could spend every moment of every day with just Charlie. He requires so much attention. He needs more than what one teacher in with a classroom full of kids can do.

We had started SpEd paperwork at the end of the second week of school, but it got kicked back because it apparently cannot be submitted until AFTER vision and hearing screening are completed. Yesterday, we redid the paperwork and they have 60 calendar days to evaluate him and then 30 days after that to have an ARD meeting to go over their findings and create his education plan.

The counselor at my campus has a child on the spectrum and has been quite useful in all of this. She sees Charlie's need and supports the idea of getting him into special ed.

It feels so good to have people around who see his needs and are willing to help. Now let's just hope this doesn't really take three months. December is a long time away and we're losing time.


My Kids, Watching Laundry Dry

new house

Well, let me back this story up. On Friday, we officially close on the house. But, for the last three weeks, we've been steadily moving things in. Each weekend, we head home to the old house to pack up more and bring a small trailer load each time. The plan is to have everything packed before we rent the big truck and do the major move about ten days from now.

We started doing comparison shopping on the things we'd need for the new house and came across a killer deal on a front loading, high-efficiency washer/dryer. $950 instead of $1400, but it was the last one. So we sprung for it and they delivered it today.

I have this philosophy that, when you move into a house, you pick the smallest room and get it done start-to-finish, right off the bat. That way you feel like you've accomplished something. When everything else is chaos, you can go into that guest bathroom or office closet and see proof that it will, eventually, all look like that.

Hence, the redoing of the laundry room before moving in. It didn't make sense to get the w/d installed, then take them out to do flooring. And, if you're going to do flooring, you might as well paint first, right?

This is the hall to the backdoor/pantry that is next to the little laundry room.

new house


new house

Did I mention the fantastic pantry? It is only two cans deep, so you can't lose anything, but so tall and wide that it holds a ton.

new house

Didn't get a good before on the laundry room itself:

new house

But this shows you the original green (on the door) and the new green. Ignore the green masking tape. It throws it all off:

new house

Same color, softer version. Fewer gouges out of it and no caked-on filth. Scrubbing took longer than painting.We have a rule in our family that kids get to help paint rooms when we are changing out flooring. So here's the first coat they put on one wall:

new house

See the hearts and stuff?

We've still got to move the deep freeze in by the washer/dryer, but here they are, in all their energy-efficient glory:

new house

So just add some clothes . . .

new house

And sit back to enjoy the show! It kind of helps you forget that the rest of the house doesn't look this good yet.

new house


Countdown to house . . . 5 days to go.


I can't get my brain organized enough to write much, but I do have a painted laundry room with some of the flooring installed. Dowlan has a job interview tomorrow. The house closing is October 1st at 4 pm.


An Up-And-Down Day

The local university here called my cell phone while I was at lunch today, looking for Dowlan. I didn't think much about it, other than to give them his local cell number and continue with my chewing.

Wait, why would they be calling him?

Because he has a preliminary phone interview on Friday for a tech support job. Suh-weet.

Then, this afternoon, I drive over to the stone house. (Since we currently somewhat live in three places we have had to name them. The new house is the stone house, the old one is called by the town's name and the place we're staying is Miss Mindy's.)

On the way, I return a call from someone whose name I didn't quite catch. We have this conversation:

Lady: Has your husband ever lived outside of the state?
Me: Uh, he grew up in Oklahoma, but hasn't lived there in, oh, fifteen years? I think I lived one or two summers in New Mexico at some point, but I'm not too sure about that.
Lady: Does he do much traveling outside the state?
Me: Not in the thirteen years I've known him. We've been to Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Oregon. Oh, and he went to California with his buddies about 8 years ago.
Lady: Did you know about the warrant out for his arrest?
Me: WHAT? You're kidding.
Lady: There's a warrant out on him in Pittsburgh for making terroristic threats. Oh, I can't remember who they were against. John. John something. Hm, I can't find the last name . . . does he know anyone named John in Pittsburgh?
Me: Uh, no. I don't think he's ever been to Pennsylvania. The only person I even know who has ever lived in the state is my college roommate, but that was during grad school and I think she's still in Greece now. What year was this?
Lady: 2009.
Me: I can tell you with certainty that he was not in Pittsburgh in 2009. (I see Dowlan.) Dowlan, ever been to Pittsburgh?
Dowlan: Nah.
Lady: It didn't have to be in person. It could have been over the phone or by internet. And terroristic threats could mean a lot of things. It could be a simple threat of violence or death. So you're saying you deny knowledge of this?
Me: Yes. Could it have been a mistake? We have a pretty common last name.
Lady: How tall is your husband?
Me: 6'3"
Lady: Well, what we have is that a tall man with a Texas driver's license, born the same year, with the same middle initial and last name made a terroristic threat against a man named John in Pittsburgh last year. The record has the name spelled a little differently. It has Donal, not Dowlan.
Me: That is not him. Sounds like someone wrote Donald down wrong.
Lady: Excuse me?
Me: Well, it sounds like they were . . . you know what? Nevermind.
Lady: So I'll just put down that you deny knowledge of this.
Me: How about you put down that this is the wrong person entirely?
Lady: I can't do that. Thank you, goodbye.
Me: Bye.
Dowlan: Hey, honey? Let's hurry and go to the hardware store. I want to get back in time for Chuck.
Me: Sure, anything you say. Just don't threaten me, you terrorist.

Okay, onto the hardware store.
We're looking at several things: paint colors for 4 rooms, new vinyl peel-and-stick flooring for the laundry room, flooring options for two rooms and a washer/dryer. I have my handy dandy notebook to write prices and options into.

We get paint samples, start to look at tile, but get distracted by all the shiny new appliances, especially this one washer/dryer set that seems rather cheap, considering. It's front-loading, stackable, high-efficient, energy star, a good brand, large capacity, etc. So why is only $150 more than the absolute cheapest basic model on the floor?

Clearance is my favorite nine-letter word.

Oops. Because it is on clearance, they don't have a stacking kit that they can sell me, but the sweet and incredibly useful salesperson will call up the manufacturer on the spot so that I can order one straight from the company. I can handle that. Especially since stacking it means that I have room for the deep freeze in the utility room and do not have to find room for it in the dining room.

Ooh, and I get the extra 10% off any energy-star appliance, even though it is on clearance. Score!

We pick out new peel-and-stick to replace the 40-something year old vinyl tiles that are currently crumbling in the utility room, get the right cords and dryer vents and head back to the stone house to watch the season premiere of Chuck (a.k.a. The Super Spy Guy).

Alas, the viewing of the super spy is delayed by one more awkward conversation:

Gretchen: Is Charlie wearing panties?
Dowlan: Yes. I couldn't find any clean underwear for him this morning.
Gretchen: You know, right, that there will never BE any clean underwear until you do some laundry?
(Didn't a near-identical conversation take place between Hugh Grant and his creepy roommate in the movie Notting Hill?)



One of the first purchases we made when we learned about the move was a dolly. This has caused much controversy in our household.

First off, Dixie and Melody do not acknowledge that it is a dolly. It does not have a head. You cannot snuggle with it. It cannot be a dolly. It is a mover.

Charlie calls it a changer and uses it as Superman would use a phone booth. He stands on it, arms crossed, and you lean him all the way down and then back up. Voila! He's suddenly a different superhero.

It was not long before the girls realized that they could wheel Charlie about the house that way. Mommy did not approve.

Then, two weeks ago, we were at the old house to pack it up some more and I snuck away for an hour long full-body massage. I came home to find that I no longer had a son, but was now the proud owner of a dog named Cardutoo.

Cardutoo has gone many places with us in the past week. We were heading somewhere the other day, when the puppy would not put his shoes on. I told him they were special puppy shoes, so he put them on his hands, calling them handshoes. I only confused him by informing him that gloves, in German, are called Handschuh. He then asked for two more for his feet.

Today was a long, long day and I escaped for two hours to the new house to hide from my family. Dowlan called to tell me it was safe to come home, as the two children and Bad Kitty Named Chihuahua was asleep.

Not a bad chihuahua, no, but a Bad Kitty that was named Chihuahua. This was a very sticky point, apparently. He used this as an excuse to run through the house, but Mindy set him straight. "Bad Chihuahua can't run through the house, either."



The tooth fairy can't keep up!

Melody lost her first tooth yesterday! She woke up, sat up in bed, moved her tongue and it just plopped right out. I took a picture, but don't have a way to get it up in our current state of chaos.

Then, today, Dixie lost a tooth. It is the second one since school started. It is, what, the fourth week of school?

All the extra cash came in handy at the book fair, however, Dixie wishes to only use hers to help buy our house. Such a sweetie, that girl.

Tonight we got to go to meet the teacher night. We were over at the new house doing a few things, so we got to walk the two blocks right over and it was sweet to do it as a family. We talked to the teachers, saw the lovely work they had displayed for us and admired it accordingly before going to the hot, unairconditioned gym where they were shilling books.

The girls both picked books fairly well, but the line was long, the tummies were empty and that place was hot. Fortunately, Dowlan and I could trade off on the meltdowns.

Walking home, Dixie began to sing about her nipples, so she and I had this conversation:

Dixie: They look like eyes when I squeeze them hard.
Mommy: Why would you squeeze them hard?
Dixie: To see if they are producing milk yet.
Mommy: But they only produce milk when you are a grown up and have a baby.
Dixie: Mo-om, don't you remember anything? I think I'm pregnant.

Oh, that.


"Moving is a difficult process. It is hard on your mind, heavy on your heart and makes your outsides tired."



How was your day at school with Mrs. Clark, Charlie?
-It was really nice.
Oh, good.
-She still said things like sit down and be quiet.

but he did not say that she was bad to him, so maybe she is catching on.


Before i forget,

I have to tell you about charlie's new worry. . . Getting married.

See, he says that he has to get married so he can 'get big and go to kindergarten.'

Yeah, all the cool five-year-olds do it, mom.

He isn't yet convinced that he doesn't get to marry mommy or daddy, but seems to be finally moving away from that idea, as evidenced by last night's conversation.

'Mommy loves Charlie and daddy loves Charlie. Charlie needs to get big and find him a nice boy to get married to. Still mommy and daddy will love Charlie, though.

Yes, Charlie. Yes we will.


Charlie's Edumacation

Each morning, Charlie and I head to school while Dowlan and the girls head the other direction. We go into my classroom for a few minutes while he finishes breakfast or plays with some of the toys in my room. At 7:30, we walk into the lounge to put my lunch into the fridge. Charlie has named this The Eating Office. Then, we go up to the main office to sign in and check my box. This is The Paper Office.

Then, we begin the reluctant walk into his classroom.

Pre-K is going far better than any other classroom he's ever been in, but that does not necessarily mean much. Today, two weeks into school, we had the This-Isn't-Going-So-Well chat and I began Special Ed paperwork for him. His teacher is very patient and willing to do what she needs to help him out, but has done this long enough to know when to call in the troops.

Wednesday, we were wandering through a herd of thirty or so kids as we left the gym. Charlie, ever chivalrous, kept saying, "Excuse my butt! Excuse my butt!"

I told him, "That is not nice. Butt is not a nice word."

"But everyone has a butt," he said. "People has butts."

An excellent point.

"You have a butt, Mommy," he says as the children snicker.

"Yes. I have a butt."

"And she has a butt," he says, pointing randomly.

"Charlie, everyone does have a butt, but there are nicer words we can use to say 'excuse me'."

He thinks for a moment, then begins to say, loudly, "Excuse my boo-tah-day!"

I'll never hear the end of that one.


houses and homes

Friday, we signed a contract on the house! Then, we headed home for a few days to continue packing and bring another load this way. It made for a long and exhausting weekend, but it was so good to be in familiar space again.

Well, except for that part about being in my house when it isn't really my home anymore. That part kept panicking me. I couldn't figure out where to start packing, so I ended up doing nothing for a good portion of the day except sit and stare.

Still, I got another 30 boxes packed, Dowlan got a trailer built and loaded up and the kids got to play with some of their best friends just a bit more. And church was Good. Once there, I felt settled and at home for the first time in weeks.

Today, Dowlan and I went to go to the title company to start that paperwork started. On the way there, I drove by the house again. Dowlan asked me if I was doing that on purpose and I geared myself up to explain that it was a through street and I don't know what all the through streets are and a lot of things randomly dead in, but I didn't have to say all that because he told me that he drives by it every day after taking the kids to school.

He's just as excited as I am!

Every house I looked at before this one was dreary and depressing. It was either tiny and well maintained or a large house with a large amount of work staring me in the face. I walked into this place and fell in love. What little work needs to be done is a matter of preference, not of necessity. We are buying it from the great-granddaughter of the man who built it and it has been lovingly and properly cared for in the 79 years since he laid the first stone.

As much as I hate to be moving, it feels really good to be moving TO something instead of just moving away because we ran out of other options, know what I mean?

The family we're staying with is amazing and we are more comfortable here than I ever could have imagined I'd be in someone else's home. We fit quite cozily into their playroom and things go rather smoothly around here.

But, still, I drive by each day, waiting for it to be mine.


Mommy: How was school today, Charlie?
Charlie: Bad. It was bad.
M: Why was it bad?
C: It was bad at me.
M: Did you make friends in your class?
C: I do not love dem yet.
M: What about Mrs. Clarke? Do you like Mrs. Clarke?
C: She is bad at me. She says bad words.
M: What words does she say?
C: Bad words. Like "Sit down".



Thus far, Dixie has had three perfect days of school. Melody has been described as 'a pleasure to have in class' and Charlie's teacher has described him as being 'like a four-year-old.'

I think that's as glowing as it gets.

My students seem to be within the realm of what I can handle. Having all 450 of them each day is mentally exhausting and I'm finding it hard to accomplish much in a 20 minute period. It isn't that the classes are too big, it's that the lines are too long and wiggly. Bringing 12 double classes in and then out each day means I spend over an hour each day telling people to turn their voices off and point their noses and toeses my way.
Still, we manage to get some actual music in. Today, we even played drums.

I am proud to say I know seven students by name.

The family we are staying with is fabulous. For those of you who knew me in middle school and high school, we are staying with Mindy the viola player from German class. She and her husband Kevin have an 8 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. The age difference is perfect and both us moms have detected a remarkable lack of in-fighting amongst the ranks.

Still, 9 people in one house is a bit much at times. Gryphon, unaccustomed to having a little guy attack him from behind, fell backwards onto the boy. As we were trying to determine the series of events that led to Charlie's wailing, Morgan succinctly explained it this way: Charlie broke Gryphon's fall, but Gryphon practically broke Charlie.


If all goes well

We'll do the paperwork to buy this house on Monday.

new house

The seller's great-grandfather built it in 1931. The stone walls are a foot thick.

Here is the backyard view:

new house

The wood floors are amazing:

new house

The dining and kitchen areas are lovely and large:

new house


Small Town Life

Yesterday, I was driving to work when I had to come to a complete stop to allow a chicken to cross the road before me.

Why? Why did the chicken cross the road?


Manna on the Ground

I'm going to go Old Testament on you for a minute here.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, they took the scenic route. They wandered through the wilderness for forty years, guided with a cloud by day and with fire by night. Each morning, they awoke to find manna and quail for their sustenance. They were instructed to gather just as much as they needed for that day, as it would spoil by the next dawn. Except for the day before the Sabbath--on those days they gathered two days' worth and, for those days, it did not spoil.

It was tasty at first, but soon grew boring. But each day, there was just what they needed, just for that time.

For twenty-six months, I've found myself wandering. I think of those mothers, shepherding their children while feeling lost themselves. I wonder how long it was before they trusted that the next day's manna really would be there for their children's bellies to be filled with. But each day, there it was. Each time, what they needed was there.

If you were to ask me how we've made it through this time, I don't think I could tell you anything, except that there was always manna on the ground. Each time things got to the point that I truly had no idea where the next month's living expenses were going to come from, it was there. Provisions came from places I never expected. H-E-B gift cards arrived regularly and mysteriously. Temp jobs came for just long enough before they went. Kindnesses I'd never imagined serendipitously appeared. Manna.

It has not been easy, no, but no need has gone unmet. No bills were paid late, no meals missed. We never even made it to the point of having to eat the strange things in the back of the cupboard coupled with whatever's in the bottom of the freezer.

This month was going to be the first time I really, truly ran out of money and ideas. I've had moments of panic, but always just enough lead time that I could plan out for the next month or two how it would all work. Never more than a day or two worth of manna, but always manna. Until August.

I had just enough for the mortgage, nothing else. I had no idea where the kids were going to school, still no idea how to get Charlie the help he needed. Music teacher jobs opened and closed all around me and I couldn't figure out why nothing worked. I interviewed for one teaching job in the area after three straight years of applying and then acted like a rambling airhead the whole time.

I just didn't get it. But I knew that the same God who led them through those years was leading me. All I could hope was that He knew where I was supposed to go.

Then, in rapid succession, a job, a place to stay, insurance and benefits, approval for a mortgage, closer to home. Grandmas to watch kids while Dowlan packs and I start work. The means to pay August bills arriving through acts of kindness. The ability to cover the old house and fund the move arriving seemingly out of nowhere.

Thank you, thank all of you.

It's all coming together so quickly that it is not quite real. But it seems we have arrived.



On Monday, I finished my last day of work at my tutoring job, then headed straight for the new town. (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague, this is the internet.) I got there around 4:30 and drove to the new school to see if I could see my new classroom. The principal introduced me to the AP and then gave me keys!

My new classroom is fantastically stocked. I have 11 xylophones, 27 glockenspiels, three 1/2-size guitars and an autoharp, for starters. It's a good-sized space with lots of storage for instruments, costumes, books and music. I have plenty of drums in several styles. I'll have just about anything I need.

Then I invaded my friend's home again. I ate her food and stole her away to go dig through the dusty-covered goodies in my new space. We could have gone on all night, but realized that it was nearly 11 and called it quits.

I started my new-teacher-to-the-district training the next morning. Found out that they hired just over half the number of positions that they normally hire and that there were more applicants than ever. Made me feel even better about being hired. During lunch time, I registered Charlie for pre-k, talked to someone about school for the girls, got more paperwork turned in and then went to my room to look through the curriculum and books there.

That evening, I looked at five houses and am already overwhelmed on that front. I found one I think will work, but it will take work and I'm not entirely sold yet.

Today, I got to meet the rest of the teachers on the campus. Had lunch with the coach and know I'll enjoy working with him. Got a few bulletin boards up then went to another training. Left when it was done to buy a few things for the room, then went to the bank.

I'd been really nervous about the bank thing, as I was rather afraid that they'd laugh at the very thought of giving us money for a house. We got preapproved for just about the right amount we need for the houses we're looking at. That took a load off. Then, I met with the district financial rep to sign up for life insurance, dental, disability insurance, etc.

It just doesn't seem real at all.

Dowlan and Charlie are back home, packing and unpacking, respectively. The girls are with grandma, wearing her out. We've never been in three places for this long. I feel odd, unsettled.

I've also never really up and moved. I mean, I went away to college. But everybody else did, too. Then I stuck around that town for the next thirteen years and figured I was good there for at least that much longer.

The weirdest part came when I was walking around Wal*Mart. You know how there are 3 basic Walmarts and they just repeat from town to town? This one is different. I couldn't find anything I was looking for. And the People of Walmart were not the same people I'm used to finding in my Walmart. These People of Walmart have more children and bigger hair.

And then I walked by the toy aisle and saw something Dixie would love, only there was no Dixie there to love it.

I would like my family back, and soon.


A Big Boy Named Tchawie

Charlie never really seemed to catch on to the concept that he was three years old, which is increasingly frustrating in polite society. Adults have a compulsion (I know, I share it) to ask kids their name and how old they are. When you have a kid who doesn't really know what to do with these questions, it creates frequent awkward moments. With his fourth birthday party this last Monday, we've been working on the idea that he's four.

How old are you, Charlie?
No, Charlie, how OLD are you?
I big.
Are you four?
Don't like nicknames. I dust a Big Boy Name Tchawie.

I finally had a breakthrough yesterday when I asked, "What's your number?" and he answered, "Four." After getting that one right a few times, he made the connection between that and the more typical way of asking it.

He quite often insists that he is Big Boy Name Tchawie. If you call him by his full name, he says, "I not dat name. I dust a Big Boy Name Tchawie." If you call him Mister Charlie Pants or Boofer or any of his usual names, you get, "Don't like nicknames. I dust a Big Boy Name Tchawie."

Okay, I get it. You're four. You're practically a man. But, for a few days, we couldn't even call him Charlie without getting the nickname lecture.

Wednesday, as we headed to our new town for me to sign paperwork and for them to scope out some houses, Melody said it all. In the middle of the 200 mile drive, she sighed, then said, "It will be nice when we go back to calling him just Charlie again."


Breakfast Chatter

Dixie: I think I'm pregnant.
Oma: *cough* Why do you think that?
Dixie: Because I hurt and feel sick.
Oma: Being pregnant doesn't hurt.
Dixie: I still think I might be pregnant.

(one week later, on a car trip)

Gretchen: Dixie thinks she's pregnant.
Dowlan: Oh, wow. Didn't see that one coming.
Gretchen: Yeah, but that's what she told Oma last week.
Dixie: I'm not kidding, you guys! I hurt and my tummy has grown a little. SEE?
Gretchen: Maybe you're just growing.
Dixie: I am growing. A baby. I'm growing a baby.
Gretchen: Well, don't expect me to raise it.


As we drove the 213 miles to sign new hire paperwork and get started with house hunting, I turned to ask Dowlan, "Does any of this seem real to you?" and he replied with, "It's so fast, it doesn't even seem possible."

We left the house at 5:15 and got to the admin building at 8:50 to get a badge and sign up for benefits. Benefits! Actual insurance! While I was in there, Dowlan and the kids went around with a realtor. We're not sure if we're buying or renting, but needed to get started. In what can only be described as a bizarre turn of events, the realtor they went around with today lost his wife on Monday. Despite that, he insisted that he was fine with the appointment.

After they picked me up, we went to my friend's house to leave the first PennyVann load full of stuff. We had just time enough to empty it all before heading home. We got into town at 5:35 and I was at work ten minutes later.

I am tired.

Oh! Two days ago, Charlie turned 4. Two days from now, Dixie turns 7. My babies are so big!


since last sunday, I

  • drove to my parents' house
  • switched dixie to a booster from a car seat
  • gave charlie an emergency haircut
  • drove 500 miles to new mexico with seven people in my seven passenger van
  • got to meet two family members i'd never met before
  • took charlie michael to meet the woman whose son is where the michael came from
  • rented a car
  • sent my family off into the mountains for 4 days
  • drove 450 miles to a small town on three hours' notice
  • spent the night of a friend i hadn't seen in 12ish years after finding her on facebook
  • went to wal*mart for a haircut and good shoes
  • toured a state university and drove around a small neighborhood
  • interviewed for an elementary music teaching job
  • drove home
  • slept for three days
  • made preliminary moving plans
  • and got a phone call today saying i got the job
 I'm really glad I got this job for many reasons, not the least of which that I was going to be really irked if I missed my camp out for this interview and didn't get the job. Steady income and health insurance are good too, I suppose.

I start work next tuesday and the girls will start school there two weeks later. the moving-on-short-notice bit could get interesting.


And this little piggy

is about to go Wii, Wii, Wii, all the way home.

My punching muscles ache. My hula hoop muscles are strained. My obstacling muscles have over come the obstacle course, but not without cost.

Having spent my time at Pearson regaining every single one of the 30 pounds I lost last year, none of my clothes fit. The kids had the Wii out last week and I remembered my plan to Wii Fit my butt out of Plus.

So my little Mii fussed at me, but I got back to work on Sunday. I've been doing about an hour a day and it is kicking my butt.

The kids love cheering me on and especially love finding their Miis on the screen during my workout. During a particularly treacherous tightroping escapade, Melody exclaimed, "Look! It's Melody the Seventh!"

Come to find out, she had a hard time choosing a shirt color for her Mii. "I like all the colors, so I had to do something about it," she said of her creating 10 little animated Melodies. And she remembers each and every one of them.

Charlie loves it when I box and do kung fu. He stands in front of me, dodging my punches and getting in a few good swings himself. During balance games, he hangs on to one of my legs in a squeeze-hug to see just how good I am.

Dixie likes to control the Wiimote. She pushes A for me between activities and will 'accidentally' start something WAY harder than what I intended to do. Tonight she chose activity after activity for over an hour, but she also is prompt to deliver water refills, so I can't complain.

I just wish they made an extended, full-game version of both the kung fu and the step aerobics. I know they make better fitness products incorporating the balance board concept, but I'm not ready for actual fitness, just yet.

Right now I'm content to continue losing footraces to Melody the Fourth.



Dixie said last night at bedtime, "Daddy better hurry up and get to work on that before the volcano erupts." Uncertain as to what in the world she could be talking about, I looked over. She was pointing at her laundry basket.

She made a point. A good point.

Charlie has been licking things lately. You'll be getting a sweet hug around the arm or leg, then suddenly realize your backside, neck or arm is being slobbered upon. Last night I was on the laptop and I look over and he is licking my laptop cord. I told him he was going to die, but he just grinned.

With the afternoons too hot to do much, we've been playing a lot of Wii, especially the Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resorts. I awoke this morning to find that my punching muscles are very sore.

Yesterday, Charlie insisted that he needed to play 'da wadder ball game' and we couldn't figure out what that was. His communication has gotten so much better. While he used to repeat the same words over and over with increasing volume, he can now find different words to try to get his thoughts across. He added, 'da wadder ball game wit da lava you go into and oooooooooh! die and den dey roll you over flat and you say aaaaaa!'

Oooh, the obstacle course.

It almost feels like parenting cheating, having them take turns on a 5 minute run, again and again until they're too tired to drive me crazy.

As little sleep as I get these days, I need every cheat I can get. I was up really late, anxious about the job interview I had. I didn't tell you about any job interview? Oh, that's because I had 3.75 hours of notice and was at work 3.25 of them.

My Tuesday morning: I play Wii fit games with the kids until it's time to leave for Sylvan and I throw on some clothes and head out the door. It wasn't even my shift--I was picking up for someone else-- and it's pretty casual in the summer. I have on slacks and a nice shirt, but no makeup, ponytail, etc.

On my way in the door, I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize. I almost ignore it, but decide I have an extra minute and should see who it is. It's a local elementary school, wondering if I can be there at 11:30 for an interview. My work shift ends at 12:30. They have spots at 11:30, 12, 12:30 and 1. I say that I'll be there at 1, but don't expect me to look fabulous.

I got there at 12:59 in my Birkenstocks with my purple toenail polish displayed for the world.

I know that I gave good answers to their questions, but there was an excessive amount of babble in between. Hopefully, they'll see through my nervous unpreparedness. They're hiring for 4th and 5th grade and I'll know Monday.

I about have myself convinced that there is absolutely no way on Earth that they are going to hire my rambling, scatterbrained self, but one can always hope.


"A tortilla is like a paper with freckles."


Dixie started seeing a counselor today. We'd seen one during the first year or so of her adoption, but had gotten the point where further sessions weren't favored by the cost-benefit analysis. She was in a really good place and sessions were really expensive, even with help paying for them.

Lately, though, she is simply angry at everything. I know it is hard for her, it is hard for all of them, for us to flip flop so much in who is home and what is expected and how our time is spent. I'd hoped that, over time, her longing and pain from her adoption would abate and she would grow more secure, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As she gets older, she seems to have a harder time accepting things because she has a greater understanding of the world and can think about them more, deeper.

The counselor looks quite a lot like Jimmy Buffet but seems to have a good feel for how six-and-a-half-year-olds roll.


Well, today at playgroup, Charlie remained clothed. His pants stayed on, even while peeing.

Other random bits:
Dixie has a new wobbly tooth and Melody has her first adult tooth peeking out of her gums, despite all baby teeth remaining solidly intact. Miss Mel is the only child I've ever known to figure out the tooth fairy long before actually losing a tooth.

Charlie was reevaluated at OT and now presents with only a 7 month delay in overall skills tested. His speech will be reevaluated in about a month. We are determining what his gymnastics placement should be in the fall--he has come so far this year, but we're not sure if he's ready to not have a parent with him in class. We'll try out the regular preschool (non-parent/tot) class in the next few weeks.

Charlie's been talking about words lately, mainly to categorize good and bad words. He'll try out a new word then say, "Is dat a gud werd?" When he already knows (and likes) a word he says, "Dat iz a gud werd."

And then there's all those pesky bad words, the most problematic of which is knucklehead. He really, really wants knucklehead 'to be a gud werd' and simply cannot accept that he can't get it into that list somehow.

Charlie: Is marshmallow a gud werd?
Mom: Yes, marshmallow is a good word.
C: Is . . . knuckle head a gud werd?
M: No, knuckle is not a good word.
C: Is . . . Hot Wheels a gud werd?
M: Yes, Hot Wheels is a good word.

C: Is . . . mon-kee a gud werd?
M: Yes, monkey is a good word.
C: Is . . . head a gud werd?
M: Yes, head is a good word.
C: Is . . . cawseet a gud werd?
M: Yes, car seat is a good word.
C: Is . . . knuckle . . . arm a gud werd?
M: Knucklearm is not a word.
C: Knucklearm is a werd. a gud werd. A gud werd like knucklehead is a gud werd.
M: Sorry, but that was an excellent try.


It's just a little service I provide

 As a parenting blogger, part of my job is to make you feel better about your own parenting skills. Anyone skilled in competitive mothering will tell you that the best place to feel superior to others is a playgroup, especially one that involves going to a public playground. This is a fantastic source for children more ill-behaved, poorly supervised and clearly inferior to your own.

Add in the fast-food playground factor and it is pure parenting gold.

So last Friday, my playgroup meets at 10:30 at the newest Chick-Fil-A in the area. By 10:30, of course, I mean that one mother and chickadees actually arrives at that time, gives up, and leaves. I arrive second, at around 11:15 to find the playground deserted. I settle in the corner with my book and enjoy the smell of rubber matting while my children play. Children dressed like cattle begin to filter into the area, as it is dress like a cow and get free stuff day.

A friend arrives. As the shrieking of the bovines is becoming a bit overwhelming in that echoing cavern of a playground, we decide to move to the table nearest the door, still in full view, but outside the enclosed glass.

The population of the cattle pen has reached nearly thirty. There are still no other parents in sight.

A wobbling not-yet-two-year-old begins to wail and we look around in vain for a maternal source. After a few minutes, a brother emerges from the back of the eating area to shepherd him to his mother. Not two minutes latter, an even-younger toddler stretches his arms in the pick-me-up pose as his head turns red and his tears fly.

After a decent pause, I go pick the kid up to help him find mama. Before I get too far, she appears to rescue him from my kidnapping arms, glaring at me for daring to touch her precious offspring.

At this point I realize that there are at least fifty more junior bovines in the feeding trough section. Friend number three comes in, mentioning that three buses daycare buses just arrived.

We decide on a relocation plan: McDonald's it is. We get our food, we feed our children, we distribute plastic toys and then herd our little rodents out to the sweltering, unsheltered over-sized hamster tubes.

Ah, that's better.

After about an hour of refilling drinks and mopping off sweaty foreheads, consistently doing the 1-2-3 head checks, an employee rushes out to ask who the mom is of the little blond boy sitting in the tree. I claim him and wonder what the fuss is until I realize that my child has lost his pants. And underpants. And, oh yeah, shoes. He is sitting bare-penised on the playground.

As we scramble to find the boy's wayward garments, some kid declares that there is poop in the slide. Superior Mothers everywhere rush their precious and perfect non-pooping children out the door, pausing only to make certain I have seen the looks they give me. My saintly friend Laura climbs into the tube to declare that it is merely a skidmark from a dark-soled shoe that has gotten a bit gooey in the heat and is definitively NOT poop.

I head out to the parking lot for alternative pants, making sure to loudly tell the friend who is leaving, "It's not poop! It was just shoe goo," well within earshot of the other mothers. Armed with pants, I return to cover that boy up.

Another hour goes by and Meltdown Boy replaces Regular Charlie. We decide that, from the looks of what is on the horizon, it is high time we high-tailed it out of there. The first sprinkles hit the windshield right as I shut PennyVann's door.

I'm doing 65 on the tollway when the torrential downpour hits. My vehicle is wobbling side to side with the winds and the hurricane-sent storm drops grey water faster than I knew possible. I can barely see the black of my wipers moving back and forth, leaving no evidence that water was moved. I can't see the road ahead of me. I'm on one of those high up roadways with no idea where the other cars are, where the lane is, where the edge is. I don't dare stop completely, but slow to about 20 miles an hour.

It slows just enough for me to make out lanes and get off the roadway. At this point, I'm a half-mile from home, so I keep on truckin'. I get out of my car and am instantly as soaked as I would have been had I hopped, fully clothed, into a swimming pool. I go inside for a towel, then return for one girl. I wish we had a garage. I take her inside and get another towel for the other girl. Dixie, wearing shorts and weighing 12 pounds more, is hard to carry in. Her wet legs are slippery and I'm too wet to get a hold of.

After I half-carry, half-drag her in, I shut the door and begin to soak up the bucket of water that made it in the door with us. I change while the shivering girl children huddle under blankets on the couch. Since Charlie is asleep and exhausted, I leave him out until a pause in the storm allows me to go get him without having him wake up to a face full of spray.

All this to get back to my original point: whatever you did last Friday was better than this. However you spent those hours from 11 am to 2:30 pm, at least your child was not naked on a public playground. It almost makes this morning in the gymnastics waiting area when Dixie held up her middle finger and said, "Mama, does this really mean the same as 'f*ck'?" seem positively endearing.


Last night, Dixie sighed and then said, "I love Target."
I have no context for this, but I certainly agree.


I'd forgotten

it is to sleep with two adults, three kids and two cats all snuggled up in the same bed, but after having a few days with just me and the cats, I was glad to be reminded. It was so nice to wake up to snuggling, even if I had to hop out of bed first and disappear.

I only have 3 days of this Pearson project left and the extra Census project Dowlan was hoping for didn't pan out. We're down to just Sylvan for a few weeks, but I'm hoping we can both get in more job hunting time during those weeks.

But what I'm really hoping for is snuggling in the morning, followed by green waffles and silly games on the living room carpet between trips to the park and the splash pad. I'm looking forward to homeschooling and Pianto Lessons (yes, that's Pianto, clarte?)

It also gives me a chance to get started on Charlie's independent evaluation and continue my hunt for an acceptable preschool environment for him, since the last one only lasted four days before we got the daycare version of the, 'It's not you, it's me' speech.

Oh, well. She's documenting what all went wrong and we'll add it to his files.

Right now, Charlie's asleep--after a day at the splash pad, he couldn't make it til bedtime--and a little stream of light is turning his Lellow Hair into a golden halo. His cowlick is waving in the breeze of the fan and he's clutching his green sippy cup. Sweet boy.

The girls are on the other end of the couch, watching Snow White because I wasn't paying enough attention to the length of the movie when they picked it not-too-long-before-bedtime. Oh, well. It's fun to hear them laugh at Grumpy and it isn't like they have to get up for school. Melody doesn't like Snow White, but is tolerating it for her sister. And Dixie is eating fresh cherries, annoyed that they have pits.

I told her, "Instead of being unhappy that some roses have thorns, you should be happy that some thorns have roses." She told me, "Mom, these are plums, not roses."


He sings!

Charlie has never liked music, especially not being sung to. Now, being mama to a baby who doesn't want to be held, rocked or sung to is pretty devastating, especially when this mama is also a singer and music teacher. That's your first instinct when they're sad or tired or hurt, isn't it? To pick them up, sway them back and sing to them?

Instrumentation overwhelms his senses. It's like he doesn't know what he's supposed to be listening to and the rapid succession of sounds overloads his sensory processors. He does okay in our church, where singing is a capella, but that has taken a long, long time and still doesn't go so well some days. I spend a lot of time in church with his little grubby sticky boy hands clamped over my mouth.

(Did I ever tell you that our fabulous church put video monitors in the lobbies? Now we can still know what is going on when we're sitting out with him.)

Another thing we've had to change is singing in the car. Dowlan and I used to sing on road trips, even before the kids. Can't do it any more, as it antagonizes him. We now listen to a lot of NPR and talk radio.

It's hard on the girls, too. Dixie and Melody would love nothing more than to take turns singing in the car, especially if it means arguing about whose turn it is. Melody used to have this alphabet toy with a button for each lettter. In one mode, it would say the letter name when it was pushed. In another mode, it gave you a word that begins with that letter. In the best mode, in her opinion, it plays a different song for each letter. Melody, at about 3.5 years old, had made up her own little song to go with the melody played, based on whatever word it said in word mode. She'd take this on road trips and be happy the whole way.

She also had her rocking horse song, that she would sing every time she was on her rocking horse. I think she got that horse for her second birthday.  Charlie has insisted that, "Horses do NOT sing."

On with the story . . .

Charlie and music had been doing incrementally better, but he still didn't like it. The fits where he'd be prostrate and screaming have abated. He'd jump and run in circles when other kids danced to music, happy to finally have the chance to be wild, but with no interest in the music itself.

A few weeks ago, he started singing a song in the car on the way home from Vacation Bible School. Dowlan and I looked at each other in amazement, awe.

Last weekend, on the way home from Abilene, he made up a song (about things that are green, of course) and it had a decent melody, rhythm and phrasing pattern.

Dowlan took the kids to Oklahoma this weekend while I stayed to work. He called last night to say they were coming home a day later than expected. Apparently, while driving from town to town in Oklahoma, he kept requesting the CD of music from VBS.

I miss music in my daily life and hope that, bit by bit, it can come back now. Perhaps this is a sign that he's better able to handle auditory input and that this processing ability will continue to improve. Maybe, someday, I can sing to my baby boy.


I love, love, love

 the way Charlie says Wat-ter, Dy-no-myte and Bo-nanner. And the way his little yellow hair shines like a halo, except where it sticks up a bit in the back. I love the way, when he's wearing his overalls over a striped shirt, he looks like Dennis the Menace. I want to teach him to say, "Halloooooo, Mister Wilson!!" and keep frogs in the overall bib.

Okay, maybe not the frogs.

I love that, when you push the coffee table back to vacuum, the children fill the space up like their own little gymnasium. And the way that, after all this Little House On the Prairie, they like to square dance.

I like that, when they play Hide and Go Seek, Charlie makes certain to tag me, whether or not I'm playing.

I like that Dixie's  hair is long enough to touch her shoulder blades and she likes to wear it in pony tails and promise to never, ever again cut it. I like that, when Melody reads to me, she really gets into it.

I like this mommy gig.


Contents of Today's Mail:

1 medical bill
1 credit card bill
2 identical catalogs
2 reminder cards from the girls' dentist
1 rejection letter from Dowlan's interview last week


Geneticist Appointment

Whew. That was a long two hours.

They started off with the his developmental history, then requested most thorough family history anyone's wanted to know. By the time I got through my children, my sibling, my parents, my parents' collective 12 siblings, my grandparents, my 7 first cousins and their respective progeny, the paper was already full. Then we began Dowlan's four siblings their assorted children and grandchildren (the number hovers in the two-dozen range), his parents, their collective 19 siblings and untold quantities of progeny and his grandparents, you could tell that they had not supplied enough room in the little box for our family trees. They got in all the people and had to make room for all their various medical maladies. They also weren't entirely certain as to how to notate Dixie, but she's on there somewhere.

Then the geneticist came in and checked out Charlie a bit. She was the sweetest medical professional I've ever encountered and her examination of him should have been videotaped and shared with all pediatric specialists of dubious bedside manner.

After running him up and down the hallway, measuring his cranium, inspecting the base of his spine and counting his testicles, it was time to hear the news.

Basically, there are three other children in the database with his particular microdeletion and, after hearing the brief rundown of their issues, we clearly got off lucky. One presents with mental retardation, one has neurological issues yet undiagnosed, and one has diagnoses such as austism, mental retardation, microencephaly, etc.

We are so very blessed.

From those whose parents were tested, they were passed from a neurotypical mother to an atypical son. Normally, with a microdeletion, the other chromosome in the pair will compensate, but the failsafe doesn't always work. While no one else in Dowlan's family has an autism diagnosis, there is a strong prevalence of remarkably intelligent and socially awkward males. (My apologies to anyone in Dowlan's family who is reading this--I love my nephews and find them all remarkable individuals, but you would be hard pressed to find any of them to be average.)

The working theory is that Charlie got a little from both sides, which turned in to a lot.

We were also told that the statistical likelihood of future children having the same deletion and problems arising from that deletion is 50/50. (I'm assuming that has to do with 50/50 being the odds of having a boy, but remember that we're working with an incredibly small statistical sampling here.) While we could do this same test prenatally on an already-conceived child and know before birth if we should expect similar issues, that's not all that helpful. I would not terminate a child for any reason, let alone the reason of 'being like Charlie'.

She also said that, by the time Melody goes to have kids, they will know so much more that it's no use worrying about it now. We're going to do some further testing on Charlie and see her back in six months. She sent in a social worker who had some leads on how to get help, with or without the school district. Since one of the papers that she's drawing information from was only published in the last few weeks, we'll likely know more in time. It's all so very new.

So, in a nutshell, Charlie has remarkably few problems considering and, as far as more kids goes, we should quit while we're ahead.

Not that we're planning more children . . . just that we didn't plan the three we have now (just like our mothers didn't plan for either of us) so it's hard to say that planning no more kids is going to do us any good. While now is clearly not the best time to bring any more children into the world, I don't intend our current poverty to become a permanent condition.

Just another reminder that God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought us our Dixie.


Dowlan's job interview was three hours, during which he answered some personality and personal history questions and talked to three different people. If he makes the cut, they will call next week to schedule a final interview.

When I went to pick Charlie up from his first day of school, his teacher seemed shell-shocked. Her first question was, "Does he like green?" Three different times today, he was hysterically sobbing over not getting the green cubby, then chair, then folder. She hoped that it was because she was not used to being away from home. She described him as 'very busy' and said she hoped he would calm down once he was used to things.

Yeah, lady. Good luck with that.

Oh, and I hugged him a bit before putting him in his carseat. He grabbed for his lunch bag to regain possession of his Chuck E Cheese green spoon and then informed me, "You love me, but I don't like you. I like and love only Daddy and Dowlan."

Punk. Glad I gave birth to you.

Tomorrow, Dowlan goes for more job coaching and Charlie has his second day of work. The girls get to go play at a friends for a bit and I get to work both jobs.

Don't forget--Thursday is when we meet with the geneticist. I spoke with a friend today whose daughter had seen her and she said that the doctor we're seeing is quite good. Had a lot of great information to share with her and that it was amazing how specifically she could pinpoint areas of concern.


They're home!

After work yesterday, we met dad halfway between here and there for the exchanging of the vans. He'd been working on getting my bench seats installed just so. Oh, and the children. Yeah, we got them back, too.

When we pulled under the awning of the closed down gas station in the tiny town, the girls ran to us, squealing. As I slid out, Dixie became airborne and clung to the upper part of my body. Dowlan was similarly attacked by a smaller, blonder version. After the air was removed from our lungs by their bear hugs, we swapped off attackers. They were the most cheerful ninjas I'd ever seen.

Charlie was asleep in the car, so I leaned in to stare at him a bit. He stirred a bit. Cracked open his water blue eye and was about to drop it again when he realized what he was seeing. His lids flew open and he said, "Take me to Daddy. I need to see Dowlan and Daddy." After he was safely being held by Dowlan and Daddy, he looked over at me, cocked his head and said, "You have lips?"

Thanks for the shout out, kid.

We got home in time to snuggle up for our Saturday night pajama party. All snuggled up on a couch, we heard their stories, watched a movie and popped popcorn til we pooped out. It's a good thing, as we have a busy week ahead.

VBS starts tonight and runs for four days. On Monday, Charlie starts Montessori school two days a week. Later tomorrow, Dowlan has a job interview to be a repair tech at Carmax. The kids all have gymnastics and I'm working a crazy amount, as usual. Thursday, we go to see the geneticist to find out the implications behind Charlie's missing chromosomal material. Friday, we go to my parents' house for a family reunion weekend.

I'll let you know how the job interview and doctor's appointment know.