testing, testing, 1-2-3 . . . is this thing on?

I haven't had a comment in DAYS. Don't you people have anything to say to me? or is it not working?

Am I so boring? or did all the talk of Dirty Alfreds stun you into silence??

In other news, the plumber only cost us $177. Whew. Now to figure out the insulation and carpet messes.


Soggy House

Dowlan found the leak under the house today. It is not pretty. At least one of the connectors in the plumbing running from room to room under the house is rusted.

It's a water pipe. You'd think they'd make it out of something that doesn't rust.

So the insulation under the house is a sopping, ruined mess and the black plastic sheeting holding it up. So far, only about 8 sq ft of subfloor is messed up and one section of carpet and padding are gross. The rest of the area has tile on top, though, so it's hard to know what to think about that.

We called the homeowner's insurance peeps and someone is supposed to get over here within 24 hours to check it all out. We have to hire a licensed plumber to fix it, so no fun with plumbing for us. It looks like more flooring may be in our future.

This one is officially Dowlan's to deal with--my brain is full.


In more fun news, Melody has made up a word. Attackle. It's when Charlie jumps on you with his entire body in a surprising and overtaking move.


Dirty Alfreds

For those only familiar with VeggieTales through Charlie's obsession with Larry Boy and the LarryMobile, let me introduce you to another character: Alfred the Asparagus. Alfred wears a tux and a monocle, speaks with a pretentious British sidekick and is LarryBoy's rational counterpart in saving the day.

The benefit to Charlie's love of all things green is that he will eat any green food. What mother wouldn't love this, right? He eats lettuce, avocado, zucchini, asparagus, peas, green beans, etc. Asparagus is one of his favorite and he calls them Alfreds.

Thursday night, I come home from work and Dowlan has prepared pork chops, but no sides to go with them. So I prepare rice, salad, Alfreds, green beans, noodles and something I'm now forgetting. I arrange each of the five plates with whichever meal components each family member will consume.

Charlie, seeing the broiled asparagus, is FURIOUS. I had left it in a minute too long and it had gone from bright green to a little too dark.

"You made Dirty Alfreds! Me no want Dirty Alfreds! Me want only Clean Alfreds! Me no like you! You made my Alfreds Dirty!"

He was hysterical for oven an hour. The next day, I'd stopped on the way home from work to replace my vacuum and bought New Alfreds while at Wal*Mart. He was happy, yet unforgiving.

Three days later, he is still angry. For a kid who can't remember what he did ten minutes ago, he sure can hold a grudge.



The school district's assessment team had me in for a meeting today. Charlie will attend the preschool for children with developmental disabilities (PPCD) for two weeks starting after Easter. By having him in there two hours a day, they feel they can fully evaluate him and will be able to write a thorough IEP.

Or they will have plenty of basis to say, "We observed him thoroughly and know he does not qualify for SpEd."

I have started the test scoring job again, this time as a scoring supervisor. The projects bump into each other through the end of June and then pick back up for the month of August.

This is particularly good news since Dowlan did NOT get the job we were fairly certain he would get.


Somebody Missed Mama

I went to go pick the girls up from school on Monday. Having not seen them in nine days, I decided that parking the car and walking up to get them was the wiser choice, as we were likely to hold up the carpool line.

I got there a few minutes early and was waiting for them. Melody's class walked right past me and she was chattering away with the kid next to her. I was standing right there when she sat down with her backpack. The teacher called her name and she stood up, leisurely getting ready to go. When she'd taken them off, she'd done it in one fell swoop and the sleeves were still protruding through the straps of the bag. To put it back on, she placed the hood on her head, allowing the bag and coat to swing freely behind her as she slid her first arm in. The brilliant simplicity of this plan failed, however, when the left arm, waving awkwardly behind her back, could not make contact with its intended destination.

Frustrated and rotating in lurching backward circles, she finally looks up and spies me waiting for her. Everything drops back off and she runs and attaches herself to me. Come to think of it, she's been pretty attached ever since.

A minute or two later, Dixie appears and makes a beeline for me. It was about ten minutes before we were ready to head towards the PennyVann on our journey home.

Unfortunately, we did not have just a whole lot of time together this week. I worked three hours Tuesday evening, but did have a bit before and after. Wednesday I let before they did, going from one job to the next and getting home right before they returned from church.

When they came in the door, Melody affixed herself to me. She barely let go long enough to brush her teeth and fell asleep that night clinging to me. Dixie snuggled in extra long and Charlie, well, Charlie was Charlie.

I was not allowed to leave for work in the morning before promising to come home straight after and not go to Sylvan. This stretch is going to be rough.


Someone sounds like his Oma

My brother Trey was at mom's when my kids were there last week. At mealtime, he was eating a salad and Charlie commented, "You eat salad? You need roughage?"


I'm Home.

I skipped over the husband to kiss the forehead of my little sleeping-in-his-carseat boy today when I saw him in the backseat of the SUV as it paused at the airport today. It has been a long nine days since I saw him last.

After Dowlan chucked some very heavy bags into the back, I did kiss him, too. But it was Charlie I missed down to my toes. I have never been this long without him.

On the toll road home, I kept looking back at his sweet little face, admiring the little bits of baby left in his cheek and blond wisps. At one point he had a tickle in his nose and thrashed around long enough to rub it with both fists before dropping his head down the other way. I said, "Hi, Charlie!" and got back a quick "Hi." before he was once again unconscious. I don't think he even opened his eyes.

Twenty minutes later, I hear, "Hi, Mommy! Mommy! You not at the airport! You in the car. You with daddy? Daddy, Mommy not at airport, Mommy in the car!"

In my sleep-deprived state I can't tell you the rest, but promise more to come . . .


ahhhhh . . .

In this week, I've used up several of the gift cards I've been carrying around for a long time. Ive had 4 meals out with my husband, had an hour long massage, 30 minutes of reflexology and a really swanky haircut. Even the hour at the dentist was pretty relaxing.

Yesterday I flew into Chicago and caught the bus to Indiana. Now I'm hanging out in a friends' kitchen a few miles outside of Indianapolis, surrounded by some of the tallest trees I've ever seen.

Life is good. So, so good.


Day 3 of R&R

So for today's span of rest & relaxation while the kids were away, we at least managed to not rip out any existing components of our home. That's about as vacation-like as I can manage to make this sound.

This morning, I awoke with a nasty headache at 8:38 and the nasty realization that I had an 8:45 meeting. I was only six minutes late.

When I got home around 11:30, I was too tired to do much, so I let Dowlan put in two of the threshold moldings while I moved more furniture around. (Please do not point this out to me in a few days when I am complaining of back pain.) We got the room finished off and began on the living room.

Two years ago, when we remodeled the girls' room, we had a large piece of green carpet in relatively good shape. Being the ghetto-fabulous repurposers that we are, we moved furniture out of the way and sat that piece of green carpet on top of the worn and stained carpet that covers our living room floor. It was a shame to throw out perfectly good carpet when we had perfectly not-good carpet still in use, right?

Well, two years later, that carpet is fairly covered in Kool-Aid and grape juice stains. (And I think it's worth pointing out that, in all this time, only two people have noticed the carpet-on-a-carpet scam we had going there.)

So we are going to use the piece of carpet from our room to do that again. We began to move stuff around, realized we were tired and hungry, and went to Lowe's to return stuff, then ate pizza in the front of Sam's Club. (Don't knock it as a date option--it's great pizza and our total for two people was just under five bucks.)

Then I came home and crashed for about an hour before going to work.

At 8:30 this evening, I got home from work. After a two-hour nap, we got to work moving everything out of the living room so that we could remove the top layer, steam clean the bottom layer, let it dry out overnight, lay down the next layer in the morning, steam clean it, let it dry all day while I pack and move stuff back in to the living room before I head to the airport.

Yeah. That would have worked if our steam cleaner were, say, at our house instead of, say, in the back of Laura's car.

Plan B--vacuum it really, really well--would work if, say, our vacuum didn't smell like burning rubber when turned on.

So we used my hardwood floor cleaner to at least work it over a bit. Once that was done, I had it in hand, plugged in and filled with water, so I might as well keep going. I did the entryway and the kitchen, going so far as to remove the drawer underneath the stove and clean under there. Then, of course, I had to clean out the inside of the drawer and get on my knees and scrub that little crack where base molding meets flooring that nothing can quite clean, which leads to cleaning that two inches you can reach in under the stove, dishwasher and fridge and, might as well, the refrigerator door (inside and out).

It's a disease.

Dowlan has given up on me. He has made a sandwich and pulled the desk chair into the living room to watch on tv whatever comes after Letterman, hoping no more orders come his way. His normal offer of help with the dishes is nowhere to be found and he suggests it would be better to put up the last of the tools tomorrow in daylight.


Remembering that I have another 8:45 appointment tomorrow, I wonder if he might be right . . . and head to bed, not to sleep, but to blog.

But I have to get to bed soon to be ready for day 4 of R&R . . . .


There's a cello in my bathroom

Sunday afternoon, Dowlan and I returned home around 2 p.m. from taking the kids to my mom's. Like any married couple finally free of the children, we headed to the bedroom first thing.

But two hours later, the closet reorganization was nearly complete and we had this crazy idea. Remember the closet we built along one wall so that Charlie could use the walk-in as a nursery back in his baby days? We didn't want to put the walls on top of the carpet, so we'd ripped the carpet out of that section and laid down vinyl flooring that did an astounding imitation of wood.

Without thinking too much about it, I said, "Sure would be nice if we could finish out the room in that." Twenty minutes later, we were at Lowe's buying flooring that was now .78 a square foot, down from .98 cents. Before we fell asleep last night, the room was mostly emptied, the carpet rolled halfway up, the staples and tacks removed and the subfloor drying from a good mopping.

By 11 this morning, the room looked like this:

bedroom floor redo

bedroom floor redo

bedroom floor redo

The product we laid down is peel-and-stick vinyl, but the pieces were in planks instead of squares, see?

bedroom floor redo

Because we were in the middle of cleaning a closet when this began, we have no real 'before' picture but you can see the old carpeting here:

bedroom floor redo

If you pause the project clock for the 4.5 hours I went to work today, this is how it looks 24 hours after the idea first came up:

bedroom floor redo

bedroom floor redo

We're not completely done. The threshold moldings are not yet installed, the cello still sits in my bathroom, the little end table isn't yet relocated and the bookshelf is still missing from underneath the fan:

bedroom floor redo

All in all, still not bad for a day's work.


Gorgeous Sunny Day

and I mean gorgeous. Just enough breeze to keep it from getting too warm in the bright yellow sun. The girls had early release, so Charlie and I picked them up and took a picnic lunch to playgroup.

We came home, brought stuff in, then went right back out. Came in, had a snack, back out.

Tomorrow I work 6 hours and one of the girls has a birthday party. After that, we hop in PennyVann and head to Oma's to abandon the children for a week. Uncle Trey and Oma are taking them camping and Dowlan and I have a week to be footloose and fancyfree.

All I can think of is this: for five whole days, I can cook whatever I want for dinner.



Really the only problem I have with working at Sylvan is that I leave for work about an hour after the girls get home from school and don't get home until after dinner. I miss having meals together as a family. Breakfast is a hectic (and I don't eat it) and we can be in as many as four different locations for lunch, eating at 4 different times.

So tonight I made linner. Dowlan came home from his temp job a little more promptly than usual, and we brought the kids in from playing. I made steak, asparagus, broccoli, baked potatoes and a salad of field greens, avocado and berries.

We even ate the salad first. On a separate plate. We were fancy people.

The conversation mainly centered around answering, "Why are we doing this?" and the kids kept trying to wander off between bites. Dowlan even wandered off at one point, and I kept having to hop up for this and that. It's been so long since we actually ate a meal together that I forgot what all needs to be on the table.

I keep thinking that someday, somehow, he will get a job and this tag-team parenting style we have going for us can end. Then we can all get on the same page again. Or, at the very least, at the same table.


Start Over

Charlie's progress has been snowballing in a few areas in the past few months. He is starting to classify objects as he tries to understand the world around him a bit more.

It started with the first division: things we eat, things we don't eat. He'll say things like, "This is my shoe. I do not eat it." Or he'll see something for the first time and ask, "Do we eat this?" Considering the kid used to eat not out of the cat's bowl but out of the cat's box, I consider this major improvement.

The next classification of items is shape. He has to identify the wheels on the hotwheels cars as circles and the car itself as a rectangle. Then he can play. Things without a clear shape distinction frustrate him. Usually shape and color go hand-in-hand. Once the shape is named, the colors are identified.

Now that he's got those distinctions down, he is working on classifying living things based on behavior. "That is a baby. Babies cry. Babies cannot talk. Babies wear diapers," was his response to a baby he saw recently. He's confused by toddlers, but I think most children are.

Yesterday he was talking about Schrodinger, saying "Shron-jer is a cat. Cats do not talk. Cats meow. Cats on TV talk." Dowlan asked him if the cats on TV really talk or if it's just for fun. Charlie said, "They talk for fun."

Still, his ability to communicate abstract concepts or iterate his needs are still rather frustrating for everyone involved. We have hit upon something that helps with this. As he gets increasingly wound up and agitated, we ask him, "Do you want to start over? We can start over and you can show me how to do it."

About half the time, he'll say, "Start over," and we back up to step one, letting him guide us towards whatever he needs. It usually has to do with a specific food or drink he wants, but it happened today as we were leaving church. He has a series of things he likes to do when we're leaving the church and one of them got skipped. After starting over and letting him fill his internal need for protocol, the rest of the day was great.

It's frustrating and time-consuming but so much better than the days when he screams and throws things, hurting us and him.


Odd awakenings

I awoke this morning to Melody's voice chanting, "Kick the moose! Kick the moose!" Within a few minutes, Charlie came in and told Dowlan, "I want to climb you foot."

Dowlan went to start breakfast and I went to get dressed and, as I emerged, the strangest smell permeated the kitchen. Apparently, Dixie had decided that the waffle maker needed a nice layer of jelly in it so that, once Daddy and Charlie were finished making the batter they could pour it on and make a jelly waffle. Daddy didn't realize it was jelly coated and plugged it in to get it nice and hot and the smell just got weirder and weirder.

Ah, so good to be back home.


I think that went well

Charlie and I were there for 2 hours. While one person asked me an extremely long list of questions, a team of three people did various activities with Charlie. Then they all came in the playroom and had three other cute and tiny children come play with him. They are all in the preschool and close to his age.

The difference between those kids and Charlie was stark. Because the children he's around routinely all have figured out a way to get along more or less with Charlie it was interesting watching him with kids who don't know him. Their verbal, pretend, and social skills were markedly different than his. They would have to be blind to not see it.

How they responded to me was completely different this time. The condescending tone was gone and they made no efforts to placate me. Last time they were so busy pointing out every thing he did well that I don't think they noticed the gaps in skills. They didn't engage in the back-and-forth stuff this time around and were very careful with what they said and what words they chose.

They want to watch him one more time in a setting he's familiar with so they'll probably come along to Ladies' Bible Class nursery to watch him. They'll generate their reports, have their discussion then get back to us with their results.


Friday morning, 9 a.m.

the advocate and I will attend Charlie's school district evaluation. This time, they must do a full evaluation and stop the 'screen and send home' thing they've had going for themselves up til now.

I have been preparing like a crazy woman. I have collected and delivered medical documents, reviewed his therapy evaluations and spent the last 24 hours reading the first 250 pages of a book on special ed laws.

His occupational therapist looked shocked today that they haven't accepted him yet. Anyone who routinely deals with him has the same response. In looking through the results of his speech and OT evals, I'm seeing that he is at the 19th percentile in receptive language skills and the 23rd percentile in expressive. And the day he had that test was one of the best days I've ever seen him have. On his visual-motor integration test, he was in the 9th percentile. Some of his skills were in the 15-16 month range.

We are at the ten-month mark from when we first began seeking help. It's only in the last three months that therapy has occurred regularly enough to be beneficial. We are on about ten different wait lists through one government entity that's supposed to provide help and about to have our fourth meeting with another government entity that is supposed to help.

I'm hoping having the advocate there will help; I'm hoping they'll see what I see. I'm secretly hoping that Charlie goes in tantruming and bites every single one of them while I sip coffee and take notes.

I'm so, so tired here, guys. I could use some comments of support and promise to update tomorrow, whatever the results.


The Electric Bill Mess

is still a mess.

I wrote in January about how our electric company had been switched without our knowledge and that we had a 1600+ bill to pay, remember?

Oops, they did it again.

On February 22nd, we were sent a bill for 202.93. I paid it later that day. On February 24th, they sent a bill out for 233.10, showing the previous charges and then a second meter reading with a four-day billing cycle.

huh? I know February is short, but that's redonkulous.

So I call today. The reason a bill had been sent out on that date is because that is the date service via that company was terminated and we were switched to another company. Only I didn't make that call and, once again, they aren't sure which company it was moved to.

I am pretty sure this means we are getting new neighbors in the house behind us and that this has something to do with that. I called and left a message with the neighborhood and gave my electric company authorization to become my electric company again.

And, while I was at it, made a doctor's appointment for Friday. I think going back to the ER is just going to be expensive and fruitless. And I needed one more thing to do Friday in between Charlie's evaluation, playgroup and ladies' retreat.

Of Course

Today is the day I'm supposed to go for a follow-up to my ER visit and also the first day in a month or so that it hasn't hurt. Doctor Dixie blames it on the Diet Coke and said I should stop drinking it and then I'd feel just fine.

It's also only two days until Charlie's evaluation and I'm realizing how far behind I got in these last few days. We hired an advocate and I spent a lot of Friday running around getting medical records and such. But I have a lot I need to read up on in order to prepare for this.

I really haven't been around the girls much lately to know what silliness they are up to. But I want to direct you to Becky's Fresh Catch, where her little girl is absolutely hysterical.



He has spent the entire morning puddled on one couch or the other. Any attempts to touch, interact or move the boy have resulted in being smacked around and called a "Stupid Knucklehead."

I am puddled on the other couch, faring little better. Being on painkillers leaves me little motivation to do much of anything.

Outside it is raining. Puddles are growing in our yard and street to match the Charlie Puddle and Mommy Puddle inside.