Yesterday, Dixie came home

with college brochures in her backpack. I guess she really wants those panties.


Well, a girl can dream

Melody, worried that daddy doesn't do laundry often enough, wanted to conserve her clean panties.

Mommy: Remember that I just bought 19 pairs of panties? You already had about 10 pairs in that size, so it give each girl 14 or 15 pairs of panties, which is enough to last two weeks. That's plenty to get you through, even when the laundry gets piled up.
Melody: Two weeks?
Mommy: Yes. Two weeks. You'll be fine.
Dixie: Wouldn't it be great if we had three months' worth of panties?
Mommy: Daddy's not THAT slow with the laundry. You don't need that many.
Dixie: But it's not fair! I WANT enough panties to last three months. When can I have lots and lots of panties?
Mommy: When you're in college.
Dixie: Really?
Mommy: Yes. When I was in college, I remember going weeks without doing laundry. I knew guys who went months.
Dixie: Wow! I can't wait to go to college so I can have all the panties I want!
Mommy: Kid, whatever motivates you to go to college.

He's kept me busy

When I'm not spending hours on the phone with different offices, agencies and idiots, I've either been at an appointment, meeting or at work or been on the floor with LarryBoy and Alfred (his asparagus sidekick). Or throwing a birthday party or cleaning up from that party.

Yesterday was a particularly tough day. We had an 8:30 appointment with MHMR's autism unit. They have several services, some we need, some we don't need yet, some that are beyond my wildest dreams and some we hope to never need. We got on about a half-dozen wait lists, anything from 2-3 months for respite care to 18-24 months for ABA therapies to 10 years for job skills and career services. Also got information on music and horseback riding therapy and (how cool is this?) a person that will come in and help your child with autism get bathed, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, etc in the mornings so that you can attend to your other children. This sounds like overkill, but since it has taken as long as 45 minutes to change a diaper while Charlie punches, bites, claws and kicks me, I must admit to being tempted.

I also got information on Medicaid waivers, how to choose what help we need and how to pay for our copays for what we do use, once our name comes up on the waiting list.

Fabulous, right? She was sweet, eager and informative--completely unlike every other experience I've had with a government agency. There was no waiting room, no taking a number and waiting three hours. There was even a Charlie-proof place for him to play while we talked.

Problem? While I intellectually know that MHMR stands for Mental-Health Mental-Retardation and even worked for one in college, gathering data on community services, it never once occurred to me that autism falls under the umbrella of mental retardation. It kind of hit my like a brick that we say 'developmental disabilities' to be polite and politically correct, but that also meets the definition of some not-so-nice words and it was really hard to sign my son up for services under that umbrella, no matter how rationally I know it isn't that.

After some volunteer work at church followed by cleaning house and watching a friend's kid for a few hours, I went to tour a preschool. This school follows the Montessori model, which is supposed to be fantastic for kids on the autism spectrum and I'm not entirely trusting that the school district will do what they are supposed to do in providing him developmental preschool.

Despite being told on the phone that they had experience with autism, even had another student with it, that they were fine with him not being potty trained, that they had openings (including part time) and that they had classrooms that should be suitable for Charlie, it was made clear when I met with the director that Charlie was not welcome in her school. It was also pretty clear from the large rooms containing 30 kids and 3 teachers that Charlie was not going to love that place.

Leaving work, I checked my voice mail to learn that the blood they'd drawn last week was not enough and that I need to take him in to do another draw.

Did I mention that Dixie had a turtle habitat project due today? Oh, and Melody had a birthday?


Blame it on the Girl Scouts and their evil ways

I have figured out why Americans are fat and it isn't what you think. It isn't our fast food and fructose syrup laden diet, it isn't our preference to remain inert by any means necessary, it is the fault of those danged Brownies and their vast conspiracy.

Even their name is a food.

Every October 31st, the gauntlet of gluttony begins as women all over our nation stay up past their children's bedtimes, digging through candy-packed plastic pumpkins, gleaning out the good stuff.

We continue this slow expansion for the next two months, aided by seven types of pie at Thanksgiving and the urge we all have to bake something and share it at Christmas.

Then New Year's hits, we hit the scale and vow to hit the gym. January 1st our budgets and our bellies go on diets as the bills and bellies are shocking to us all that time of year.

About three weeks into the new year, right as we've had time to get good and hungry, these appear:


Yeah. They cost a little too much, are sold by people a little too cute and taste a little too good to ever resist. Their smear campaign derails our every effort and we fail, destined to be fat for another year.


I have been a mommy for six years now

It's a little hard to believe, but this one is now six:

This morning, we had a Princesses in Pajamas eating Pancakes and getting Pedicures party.

With some help, I painted ten little girls' worth of toe-piggies:

They were too tiny for most of the little nail decals:

I'm not entirely sure I have an attractive side, but I am pretty sure this is not it:

By the time this picture was taken, she was a little tired of standing and grinning for the paparazzi.

I would like to point out that this picture features all three of my children, close to each other, looking the same direction with no one crying. If we ignore for a moment that my red-eye feature doesn't seem to be working on my photo editing software, I think we can all appreciate the wonder that is this photo:

Speaking of appreciating wonders, I would like to pause and brag about the cake I made:

I made some gluten-free, casein-free cupcakes for Charlie and one of the mamas there.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!


13 hours til the birthday party

The cake is made, the stuff is bought. Yeah, that's about it. My back and head hurt, Dowlan's knee hurts and my house is not ready.

Did I mention the Christmas tree is still up?


It's just a cookie

Dixie hands Daddy the paper out of her fortune cookie and asks him to read it . . .

Daddy: It says, "Get ready to have fun! Panda Express."
Dixie: How did it know I'm ready to have fun?
Melody: It doesn't know. It's just a cookie.

Maybe we need a fortune cookie that reads, "You will do all your work at school today. Panda Express."

Dixie's latest trick is turning in a blank page at school. She writes her name on the top, pretends like she's working, then turns it in, undone.

Her teacher, having caught on to this, checks to see that a paper is done before accepting it. Dixie, having caught onto that, has started to fill in, circle and write things at random before turning them in.

Her teacher mentioned to her that you have to finish kindergarten work to get to go to first grade. This widened her eyes and got her cracking. Unfortunately, that lasted only two days. Late this morning, as I was zoned out, trying to sort out the next steps for Charlie, the phone rang and I heard a teeny voice saying, "Mommy? I made some bad choices," coming from the other end of the phone.


This parenting thing is exhausting. It's always something. Where's my cookie reading, "Enjoy your weekend at the luxury spa while a team of experts clean and reorganize your home. Panda Express."?

It's official

The neurologist was fabulous. How he listened, how he interacted with Charlie, the questions he asked, help he offered and everything he said was just what we needed. When he asked if Charlie has a sense of humor it clicked in my head that this guy knows exactly what to look for.

He did some bloodwork to rule out lead poisoning and fragile x syndrome, but said it is pretty clear he is on the autism spectrum. He affirmed my thoughts--that it was likely the mild end, that there is no reason to think Charlie doesn't have a great life ahead of him. The therapies and approaches we are taking are good and he said he'd do paperwork to help us get him into developmental preschool and on the ABA therapy waiting list at Bluebonnet Trails.

He said there were other tests we could do to try and find a cause, but we both agreed that cause really didn't matter. He is how he is and our energy is better spent on treatments. There is no medication, just therapies and the earlier they are done, the better for him.

There have been moments where Charlie was having a particularly good day where I wondered if this was all in my head. There are so many things Charlie can do and does well. But those moments were always followed by the particularly bad days where I wondered if we would survive his childhood.

Having a diagnosis means a few things: that a doctor sees what I see in Charlie, that I have his reports and records to back us up when we go through various avenues seeking help for him.

I'm so happy to have completed this important step, but it's a little hard on mama.


forget Good News/Bad News, it is time for Great News!

The neurologist's office called today to ask if he could come in tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. This is the step we need to get a diagnosis. Once he has a diagnosis, we have lots more options for therapies and support.



charlie tantrum + parking garage + mommy's mad swooping skills = back reinjury


time for a quick round

of Good News/Bad News

Good News: I figured out the odd smell in my minivan.
Bad News: There's ten dollars worth of raw chicken we don't get to eat.

Good News: When Melody told Dixie at the dinner table, "Stop dicking me!" she really thought she was saying, "Stop dissing me!"
Bad News: The words 'stop dissing me' have made it into my six year old's vernacular.

Good News: The girls' room is top-to-bottom reorganized and spotless.
Bad News: Everything in there that didn't belong on there is now wantonly strewn about the rest of the chaotic and disorganized house.


I'm glad to see this week ending

Things with Charlie have not improved. I spent a good chunk of yesterday calling around for appointments, evaluations, paperwork and to see if I could find some form of appropriate preschool for him.

Not much progress.

I did get a neurologist appointment for him in May. For so many of the things I've looked into, we need an official diagnosis, whatever it may be. Right now we have a working diagnosis from one clinic of Pervasive Developmental Disorder-unspecified.

As sure as I am that he is on the autism spectrum and has sensory issues in some form, I also dread having that official declaration to label my son. A friend of mine got her son's official declaration today: cerebral palsy. I found myself telling her, "A diagnosis is words. It can describe him, but will never define him. As you help him define himself, you help him overcome so much."

I've never needed words so much as I needed those words today.

I've noticed my page view stats have been going down lately. I know the voice and tone of the blog have changed lately. Thanks to those still here for sticking around when it isn't so lighthearted and funny. I see so little of the girls right now, and so much of Bad Mister Bad.

But I do have one good one for you.

I went to Gymboree today to spend some gymbucks and ran into a friend. In the back of the tiny boutique-arranged store there are three little chairs and a television set. In a store that small with closed doors that heavy and only a half-dozen mommies there to shop, I am fine with Charlie hanging out back in that area.

Today Charlie decided to shop, presumably to establish a defining look for Bad Mister Bad. Gymboree's clothing is all based on lines and there will be 25 or so mix-and-match pieces and accessories within each line.

He began by grabbing a pair of skull-and-crossbones swim trunks in grey and green, then sitting on the cross bar in the middle of a circular clothing rack, clutching his treasure. A few minutes later, he emerged just long enough accessorize and snagged the matching flip flops and sunglasses. The glasses rocked--they were a gunmetal grey with mirrored lenses with a superimposed skull in the middle of each lens. The flip-flops were just as badass.

After another ten minutes or so under the clothing rack he went back to complete his ensemble. Having rejected all the cutesy shirts and overalls adorned with pirate ships or little bearded and peg-legged mateys waving their hooks about, he came to me and said, "I need shirt. I can't find it."

Dismayed that nothing lived up to the coolness level of his intended wardrobe additions, he handed over his booty and sat down his other booty in the green chair to watch the kiddie shows with the other little kiddies.

The trunks that started it all:

Accessorizing at its finest:

Why would Bad Mister Bad wear something as wimpy as this:

when he could be a man and wear these?


I just don't know

Things with Charlie are getting better little by little, but we're not out the woods for this round of gluten-boy yet. I'm getting sick and it isn't helping that Dolie is now gone 6 hours a day. I'm happy to only have one job right now, at least until March 9th. This week has been a month long already and there's still so much of it left.

I have so many things I need to do, but none of them come anywhere near as important as getting Charlie through this. Still, they build in my mind and add so much stress. And some of them are pretty important--like getting this latest Medicaid snafu worked out so that he can resume therapies and get his speech testing done.

The girls have gotten back into the swing of school, but Dixie's happy face reports have turned to straight lines and are now starting to droop on the sides. I know she needs some more attention right now. I just can't seem to get it aimed her way.

Several classes and discussions I've had lately have me thinking about how to get through these times not just surviving but thriving. How to reflect God's grace and strength in all circumstances and not wallow and grumble.

I'm grumbly. I fully admit that one. But I keep picking up one foot to put it in front of the other.


Tonight, while reading Charlie his bedtime story, Melody stopped to say, "I love who I am. I have the perfect mommy, the perfect daddy. I have the perfect brother and the perfect sister. I have the perfect me. And it's all for me and my good life."

Bad Mr. Bad

Charlie has nicknamed himself Bad Mr. Bad. This would be funny did he not think it true. Every time you say something positive about Charlie, he gets furious and shouts, "I'm a bad stupid kid!"

I don't know what to do with this one, guys. My instinct is to assure him that he is precious and loved, but it just makes him more and more angry.


Dante forgot the level of hell

where, all on one Saturday, you have 5.5 hours of work, have your electricity off for 4.5 hours on a morning with record cold temperatures, have three children, have two Chuck E Cheese birthday parties, and have one giant FAIL for the gluten-free casein-free diet that keeps your small autistic child from behaving like a psychotic, raving animal.

This is followed by a Sunday involving a small, unpotty-trained child suddenly dedicated to a clothing-free lifestyle on the coldest morning ever recorded for your city. As an added bonus, the older children look fashion-backwards at best and homeless at worst and, as you finally get out the door to church with them, one refuses shoes and the other refuses a coat on the coldest morning ever recorded for your city.

Did I mention it was cold? And that they were awful?

I am so tired. And my head hurts so badly. And Charlie is so naked. He is currently sleeping naked on a desk chair. I tucked a sham-wow underneath him and threw a blanket on top.

I have finally convinced the girls that this is not ideal snuggle with mommy time and they are playing Barbies in their room. So far, they are not fighting. This will not last.

Tomorrow, they will go to school. I keep telling myself this. And Dowlan is doing some temp work right now, so he will leave for a few hours, leaving Charlie and I to enjoy the peace of an almost-empty house. His body will work the glutens and caseins out and I will work the clothes on.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.


Did I tell you about the electric bill mess?

Over two months later, it is still a mess.

See, we were the first home on our street. Because our house is modular (built in sections and then moved in), it takes no time at all to go from open field to a place you can move into. As a result, we moved in before the street got named.

Disastrous. Did you know that you cannot get electricity or a phone without an address? Try getting mail.

There was an empty lot behind us that our neighborhood powers that be had us establish electric service through and use as a mailing address. The cable company was willing to run a line in and we could get VOIP phone through the high speed internet access through the cable.

It was all patched together, but it worked out. Sure calling 911 didn't work and we couldn't order a pizza, but we managed.

Until someone put a house on our address and moved in before the street name paperwork was straightened out. Then we had our power cut off (on a cold day in February when Melody was an infant) and had to straighten that out by having one meter for us at 1004 and one for them at 1004A. We got mail at the neighborhood office until the street was finally named, eighteen months after move in. (I also had the fun experience the day they finally paved the dirt road and I couldn't get out of my driveway to go to work because they started four hours earlier than they said they would.)

On to last October.

We needed proof of residency for something and they required a copy of our electric bill. I couldn't find one. We'd been on that plan where they average out your bills over the year to help with planning and budgeting and so I had been sending 182.08 every month but, with everything else going on, did not realize I had never gotten a bill.

For two days, Dowlan tries to get a copy of the bill and talks to several people about logging on their website, getting a fax, getting on in the mail, etc, but none of that seems to work. One guy finally says, "What do you mean by 'bill' exactly? Do you want a final statement?"

"No," Dowlan replies, worried that they are trying to cut off our power.

"But we haven't been your service provider since May. I do show, however, that you have a credit for $728.xx."

Okay, if they aren't our company, who is? I call around. I call the company that runs the lines and they don't have a current account in my name or with my social security number. I call around from one company to another and no one has an account for either myself or Dowlan.

This is bizarre. Who do I pay my electric bill to? It hasn't been cut off, there are no collections calls, I can't find anyone to give money to. Finally, two days before Christmas, Erica, who works in our neighborhood office, calls to say that they seem to have been paying our electric bill and that we, she is sorry to say, owe them a lot of money. $1628.84 to be exact.

She seems comforted greatly that I knew this was coming and had saved money to pay for the electric bill, whenever it finally appeared. I go in after Christmas, write a check big enough to make a girl cry and then go home to try to establish service. She suggested that it was time to put the electricity on the meter that goes with our actual address and I thought that sounded like a good plan.

Unfortunately, there is no meter for our address and the meter sitting in my front yard that I gave them the number of and they started to switch us over to? Yeah, fortunately I realized in time that it belonged to another neighbor.

Fences would really come in handy here.

So today, after talking to 9 people at three companies with a substantial wait time between each one, I *think* we have electric service being established with a different company starting next week.

Because it had been switched over to the community's name, we had been switched to the commercial rate for power, which was four cents higher than the residential rate. I am trying to get TXU (the company that switched us without our permission) to adjust our bill to the rate that we should have been charged and remove the $18 activation fee. We will still need to pay for December and January bills when they come in and that difference would cover a lot of that cost.

And the added kicker? We also had to re-certify our Medicaid, but we can't because we need *guess what??* a copy of electric bill. So Charlie's therapy appointment for tomorrow and his speech evaluation next week are getting delayed.

It is wearing me down, dealing with all this.


Ever feel the world sneaking in?

You know, you have your babies and you raise them up in this little bubble you make to keep them safe and little as long as possible. Then you see these things sneak in and wonder where in the world they came from?

Charlie played with the neighbor boys a lot over vacation and learned the following words: dumb, stupid, butt, kick, kill. At a restaurant the other day, he turned to the kid behind us and shouted, "Stop that you stupid kid!" and we were all shocked. He has spent a lot of time over the last few days in time out for saying, "I kick your butt!" when he is angry.

Dixie was playing boxing on the Wii while I cleaned the kitchen tonight. Not realizing I was in earshot, she hollered out, "I'm going to kick you in the nuts!"

She learned that gem at kindergarten.

Because she was not entirely certain what nuts were, I explained that this meant, "Im going to kick you in the penis," and then asked "Do you really want to kick someone in the penis?"

From the grossed out look on her face, I could tell that is not what she had in mind. Small victory for mommy. Bigger problem: Charlie heard that lovely description and now says, "Do you want me to kick you in the penis?"


It is getting harder and harder to maintain



He still won't say, "I love you" but he will now, when we're snuggled up and happy, say, "Mommy loves Charlie."



Charlie goes through obsessions over toys and characters that rotate through periodically, but the one constant is LarryBoy. You might remember him from Halloween:


LarryBoy, for those of you un-hip to the ways of animated vegetation, is the superhero incarnation of Larry the Cucumber from VeggieTales. He doesn't have any actual powers, just his super suction ears and determination to rid the world of villians as vicious as rumor-spreading weeds and angry eyebrows.

Charlie has a two-inch tall plastic LarryBoy who goes everywhere he goes. In communication, we often speak only to LarryBoy, as it is much more productive than speaking to Charlie.

Today, we learned two key things about LarryBoy--that cucumbers do not make good hammers and that, if you cannot find your cucumber superhero, check the dishwasher first.


Today, part two

And today, three years ago, we stopped at Kmart to buy a car seat and install it before going over to Grandma's house and pick up a little girl, her suitcase and the things Santa had just brought her.

I promised her grandmother three things: that she would always be her grandmother, that she would be loved beyond measure and that she would be raised in church. So far, so good on all three.

A larger little girl is sitting in flannel kitty jammies, eating yogurt and watching the Doctor Who marathon on BBC America with me this morning as she rests her toes on my coffee table. I know she still feels that tug between homes, between loyalties and identifying who she is, exactly. Not too long ago I found myself holding my sweet girl and telling her, "I wish you didn't need to have a new home, but I am so glad that you are in my home. I am so lucky to be your mommy."

I can't stop thinking of how brave her grandmother was to place this precious and tiny heart in our care.


So these are my two resolutions for this year:
I ended 2009 twenty pounds less than I began it and I intend the same this year.
2010 won't suck.