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.


See what I did

So I started with a spool of tulle, four spools of ribbon, fabric, two glue guns and a foam cut in the shape of a blouse.


I cut the tulle and ribbons into two foot strips and glued them between layers on what would be the hem of the foam tshirt.


I used one pattern at a time, largest to smallest and tried to space them out.


Including a row of looped pink pearls.


Then I put the whole thing face down on the back side of the fabric and cut scraps to fill in the corners so that there wouldn't be foam showing through.


Then I pulled the fabric around and glued, cutting as necessary.


Along the hemline, I folded it under, flush with the ribbons.


So here's what the front looks like when the fabric is wrapped and glued


And here's about what the back looks back after I throw a little extra glue on the corners and glue on a hanging ribbon.


Add a few embellishments around the beltline and hang.


Nothing elaborate, just a bow made with scraps.


Oh, what's it for?


To organize the girliness. A bit.



Project Week

The kids are dividing the week between various grandmothers and aunties, and Dowlan and I were happy to be able to get in a lot of hours of work without having to tag-team the child care. This plan isn't going so well-- I'm working fewer hours this week (only 48) and the census seems to be out of work right now.

As much as we could have used the $900 he would have made, I am content with getting some manual labor out of him.

Sunday was catchup day on housework. Fortunately, I'd only been back at work a week, so there wasn't so much to do.

Yesterday was Grinch Day--we cleared out toys while the children were gone. Two laundry baskets for the domestic violence shelter and a trashcan of bits and pieces are gone. We could probably use a second round before the week is over. Also took the car in to the shop and started clearing some of the junk behind the shed that has piled up over the years.

Today was bike shed day--taking a little corner under the porch, putting gravel under it, a rack in it and a roof over it. I'm a bit impressed with my idea, so I'll take pics when it's daylight (and finished).

Tomorrow is job coach day--the church has hired someone to do ten sessions with him. Hopefully, he'll learn some skills that will help him out. During the afternoon, he gets to spend some quality time in the living room with the carpet shampooer.

I also have big plans for yardwork, bathroom cabinets, closets, the shed and the crawlspace under the house. I love issuing decrees, then heading off for work. Tee-hee!


Prairie Girls

Twenty-two years ago, my grandmother sent for my Christmas gift a boxed set of nine yellow books. I had an excessive fondness for books, as evidenced by the fact that I spent the entire rest of my vacation reading them. When I finished the ninth, I sobbed all night, then started at the beginning the next day. Over and over and over again. That summer, we went on vacation to Nebraska and I barely got my nose out of the books long enough to acknowledge my relatives.

A few years ago, someone at church passed along three very old fashioned dresses in size six. Even though the girls were wearing sizes 2 and 3 at the time, I had a feeling they'd come in handy some day and put them in the closet.

A year or so ago, headed out on a car trip, I pulled out those books, careworn and missing covers. I began Little House In The Big Woods to read to the girls on our journey. I'd planned on saving them for car trips--to add a special treat to something otherwise misery-ridden--but six-year-old girls cannot wait to know what the next chapter brings any more than I could at ten.

We're halfway through the fourth book, now. The girls have started playing prairie girl, asking me to cook the foods Laura ate, drawing pictures of Indians on ponies passing by a little log cabin. They are especially fascinated by the Christmases--those stockings filled with a tin cup, two pieces of candy and a penny that overwhelm their little recipients with joy.

Yesterday, I remembered those dresses and pulled them out of the bin. My girls' eyes popped open like Laura's must have when she got her very own doll that Christmas in the big woods of Wisconsin.

Tomorrow, they get to go see the live musical version, featuring Melissa Gilbert as Ma. They have never watched the show to know just how cool that is.

I know that my little proper blondie who stays tidy and thinks of appropriate ways to play and my sparkling-eyed brown haired girl who wears her clothes "Dixie-Dirty" and can find a little trouble in anything will, in their dresses, be more like Mary and Laura than any girls they could put on that stage.



Two years ago today, Dowlan got up, got dressed and went to his last day of work.

Two years ago tomorrow, he began an unemployment longer than we ever imagined.

Two years ago the day after tomorrow, Dixie became finally, formally ours.

I wonder if I will ever be able to think of one without the other. The anger and fear, mixed with the joy and relief--they go on and on. After that court date, I no longer worried that something was going to pull the rug out from under us, that someone would decide she wasn't our girl. And, while I was looking down, guarding my rug, the ceiling fell in.

I'm still not certain how we've made it, but we have. Each time unemployment compensation would start to run out, the air would go out of the room, replaced by foreboding until the letter came in the mail, an extension had come. Until the time it didn't. Slowly, somehow, the air returned into the room and the paychecks continued to trickle in, matching pace with the bills. Every time the latter pulled ahead, serendipity arrived to pull us ahead. The blessings of friends and church--checks in Christmas cards and  anonymous grocery cards arriving steadily in the mail.

Two is the number of jobs I work each day.

Two is the number of hours, on average, that I see my children each day.

To steal a line from a poet, 'The road winds uphill all the way, yes to the very end.' How do you climb a hill? One foot in front of the other. And I keep picking them up and putting them down, not in hopes of reaching some lofty apex, but in hopes of reaching something.

There's a new career path we're quite hopeful of him starting. I haven't mentioned much, because I'm tired of being disappointed. I'm reluctant to even mention it now. It's the kind of thing I wish I could whisper into an empty room, type in white font, write in water and watch it evaporate away.

Let's not forget Charlie's two therapies, his two diagnoses, his two-year-old ways in his almost-four body . . . The two battles--economy and autism--they wear me down. But, like the ants remembered in song, we go marching two by two . . .



Charlie logic

While in the pool, Charlie got water splashed in his eyes. Once he got them dried out, he wanted to know what color the water made his blue eyes. I told him his eyes were already water blue.

All afternoon, he talked about his water blue eyes. He talked about mommy's water blue eyes, daddy's water blue eyes and Melody's water blue eyes.

Problem? Dixie doesn't have water blue eyes. She has brown eyes, something she's already sensitive about. Actually, she has gorgeous green-brown-gold hazel eyes, but all she sees is that she has different eyes from the rest of the family.

Charlie told her, "You no water blue eyes. You eyes brown. Dirt is brown. You eyes have dirt in it?" That went over about as well as one might expect.

Charlie decided it was time to expand his logic to the next degree. "Tchawie's hair is lellow. It has pee in it. Dixie's hair is pooped in."


I'm not ready for this

Charlie is on the verge of giving up naps. He's almost four, so we've held out a good long time, but I'm just not ready to have him awake fourteen hours a day, all summer long. I need those two hours. That's the time I get the girls' homeschooling done, or get the kitchen actually clean, or simply do nothing at all. When Charlie is awake, there is no downtime.

He is not falling asleep in the car as often and only lays down in his room if he's particularly angry and cries himself into exhaustion. (With some of his sensory issues, this happens more often than one might think.) What does seem to work is laying down in front of the television watching WonderPets for about an hour before he nods off.

This is sewious.

Not so silly after all

So the more I got to thinking about it, the more I liked the idea of Melody having her own blog. I mean, part of homeschooling the girls this summer is trying to get them to write their thoughts down and learn spelling, right? And, someday, it might be kind of fun to look back at all her six-year-old thoughts.


And, to be fair . . .


Dixie wants to sit down and blog every time she has a thought, Melody wants to make it part of her bedtime routine and use it to reflect on her day. I'm hoping to, before too long, get them to write some little stories to liven it up a bit. It may fizzle out once the novelty wears off, but I'm okay with that. I'm a little leery of having them so comfortable on the internet, so young.

They do not know how to get to their blogs without parental help. Frankly, they can't do a whole lot on there without some grown up around to ask about spelling.

Melody has already asked for her own computer, so that she can keep up with her blog. Daddy pointed out that he still has never owned a computer and I pointed out that I got my first when I was 22 and paid for it. Still, I promised her a computer when she went to college.


Six year checkup, five months late

Today the pediatrician pronounced Melody, "Perfectly healthy and clearly smart." She weighs 38 lb and is 44 inches tall, which puts her at 5%ile for weight and 25%ile for height. She answered most of the questions the doctor asked me, and the doctor concluded, "I assume you're not worried about her ability to handle social situations."

Dixie, at 6 years 10 months, is 47 inches tall and 50 pounds. Charlie, at 3 years 10 months, is 38 inches tall and weighs 34 pounds.

See, I'm too lazy for a baby book, so it all goes here. Speaking of this blog, we were on the way home from the doctor and she said, "Why don't I have a website? Everyone else has a website."

"Good point," I replied. "You do have my blog."

"That doesn't count. It isn't mine," she countered.

"Do you want your own blog?" I asked.

"No, that would be silly," she said. "I'm only a child."


Watching TV with Melody

I love that my kids watch Doctor Who with me. I really do. But Melody has been driving me nuts lately in the following ways:

• She wants to know, from title sequence on, who everyone is, what is going to happen to them, if anyone will die and how it will end.

• Every time it is scary, she leaves the room, screaming, to hide. Then she shouts, "Can I come back yet? How about now?" until I give her the all-clear.

• If my laziness takes over and I tell her to come back too soon, she clings to my body, burying her head in whatever squishy part she can access at the moment.

• Once the scary part is over, she comes in upset that she missed what was happening and asks over and over again, "Where are they? Who is that guy? Where did Rose/Amelia Pond/Dr. Martha Jones/Donna Noble go?"

• She chooses pivotal moments in the episode to ask if this is reality or fantasy. Then she wants to know if the people exist but are just pretending to be someone else and if Time Lords really exist. If he is the last of the Time Lords, what happened to all the other Time Lords. Don't forget the theological discussion: if Doctor Who dies, does he go to heaven?

• Once the alien evil du jour is established, she must quantify exactly how scary the threat is. The Weeping Angels rank number one, followed by the Satan-like beast in the middle of the planet in the black hole. Daleks and Cybermen swap off third and fourth, depending on the particulars of that episode. Then the Slyvine. She's not sure what to think of the cat-nurses and is pretty sure the Face of Bo should be on the list. She loves anything involving the fat globules from Adipose industries or Cassandra, the trampoline-human.

In establishing today's ranking, I made the mistake of mentioning the episodes too scary for them to watch, which includes the original Weeping Angels episode and The Empty Child. Silly me. I was treated to a ten-minute interrogation of exactly how a child could be empty.

A lesser mother would stick to Max and Ruby.



and the living is definitely easy. I love not having to get them up, dressed, fed and out the door each morning and they love it as well. I love having lazy, snuggle-in kinds of days. I know I won't love it as much when I have to go back to full-time work next week, but it's golden right now.

The girls have made so much progress this year with their schoolwork that I am reticent to just let it all go for a few months. Especially Dixie, as her social life seems to interfere a good bit with her academic one and the first two months in each new classroom are spent establishing a good pecking order.

So each day, we sit at the table for 90 minutes and have school. We read, we write, we spell, we do math. They love it, and have even started telling random children in parks, "We're homeschooled now."

With Charlie, I keep having this feeling that time is slipping away. He is making developmental progress more rapidly, but you remember from algebra the train that left the station two hours later going ten m.p.h. more slowly--the longer it runs, the further behind it gets.

We've been doing a lot of reading with Charlie and a lot of talking about the books he reads. Tonight, he "read" The Big Barn (Margaret Wise Brown) to me by naming every single animal in it as he flipped page-by-page. Halfway through, though, boredom kicked in and each page suddenly had a lot of horses. Horse, horse, horse, horse, horse--forget the picture.

Today, for the first time, Charlie requested a book by it's title.

He's really focused on names right now. He wants to know what everything's name is. He asks, about everything, "What is his name? What is his color? What is his head? What is his feet?"

This works with animals and bugs, but was pretty awkward with the African-American boy at the playground.

I've also been playing quite a lot of board games. For me, actually, they are bored games, but the kids are happy. I always play the game once with just Charlie and me, going by whatever set of rules exist in his head. Then round two is when Charlie plays elsewhere and I play with the girls.

His favorite part of the game Sorry is finding the label on the side with a baby head with the little red circle/slash NO sign over it and saying, "NO babies play this game. This game is not for babies."

He then tells us that he is big and gets bigger so he can go to Kindergarten.

He's noticing the NO sign in a lot of places and will now inform us that there is NO SMOKING in the grocery store. He also screams out THAT IS A STOP SIGN anytime one is in his view. I'm thinking of darkening his windows in PennyVann--all that shouting is startling.

I'm also getting caught up and cleaned out while trying to enjoy every one of my ten lazy days before I start my next scoring project.