New Euphemism

Charlie, big man that he is, now refers to the toilet as 'Free Parking' and, yes, he does have a Monopoly on it at times.



In an interesting and only somewhat unexpected turn of events, Charlie is being tested tomorrow for the gifted and talented program.

As an educator, I know that gifted education falls under the umbrella of Special Ed and, with kids on the Asperger's end of the autism spectrum, it does happen that they fall into both categories.

It will be interesting to see the results. If he qualifies, this will add to the placement options we'll discuss for next fall:
  • Contained Special Ed Kindergarten
  • Contained Special Ed 1st Grade
  • Regular Ed Kindergarten with modifications and supports
  • Regular Ed 1st Grade with modifications and supports
  • Mainstream Kindergarten
  • Mainstream 1st Grade
  • GT Kindergarten (either full time or one day a week)
  • GT 1st Grade (either full time or one day a week)
  • GT Kindergarten with Special Ed modifications and supports
  • GT 1st Grade with Special Ed modifications and supports
At the rate he's progressing, I really think we can knock a lot of those options off the list. Still, it's a lot of choices for one little guy.  Thankfully, the people on Team Charlie rock.


It's not my fault.

First, there were 17 people here for Thanksgiving.

Then, I had to restore order and normalcy around here.

Next, the household interwebz died and it was a week before they resurrected it.

As a corollary to that, my school laptop is dead and my StupidPhone internet is wonky at best.

Last, my sinuses are angry again.



Tomorrow, I meet with Team Charlie. Sure, it has an official name, ARD Committee, but I like my name better. As I was prepping sub plans (movies, movies and more movies) for tomorrow, something hit me. For nearly 3 years, I've been having meetings with different school personnel about Charlie. This is the first one I'm going into unprepared.

I don't have the giant file folder of evaluations from the neurologist, geneticist, pediatrician, occupational therapist, speech therapist and physical therapist. I don't have pamphlets and notes on the education rights of children with special needs. There is no legal representative with me. I have not spent weeks stressing over it.

I'm just showing up, empty-handed. This has never happened.

After struggling and fighting for so long to get him help, he is being helped. He is getting the help he needs and, gee, it is helping. The environment he is in works for him. His teacher works hard to get the best out of him. The speech and occupational therapists he sees at school collaborate with the speech and occupational therapists he sees after school.

In fact, the rehab center called today to say that he's met or exceeded all his OT goals. They reevaluated him and don't see a need to continue services at this time. They'll call back in three months to evaluate and see if he needs to start up again. In the meantime, he'll still receive his OT at school.

He's reading about 50 sight words, can name his letters and is wicked with numbers. He can relate a story plot and asks good questions. He finally is engaged enough with the world around him to want to know how it works. He's finally curious enough about the people around him to want to be friends with them.

I know this doesn't sound like much to parents of regular ed kids, but when he comes home from school he talks about the kids in his class. He knows their names. This from the kid who didn't know his own sisters' names until about a year ago.

I'm not worried that they'll kick him out of the program or give me more parenting suggestions. I'm not worried that I'll sit in a meeting and wonder what child they're talking about because it sounds nothing like mine. I'm not worried that I'll argue and argue only be to patted on the head and sent away.

For once, I'm not worried about Charlie. What a new and amazing feeling that is.

Go Team Charlie!


The things that boy says

The other day, I'm puttering around the house while the kids play in the playroom. I hear Charlie singing, "Let's get it on! Let's get it on!" to some random tune. Concerned, I walk in to catch him in the act of placing one object atop another object. Literally, getting it on.


The kids, for some unfathomable reason, are obsessed with Princess Leia Slave. If you recall, that's what both Dixie and Charlie wanted to be for Halloween. Then Charlie decided it wasn't manly enough and begged to be Han Solo Slave. On Lego Star Wars for the Wii, he likes to custom make a Yoda Slave for use on levels. When any character wearing the Funky Underwear, as I once made the mistake of calling it, instead of smacking someone close by, they put their hands behind their head and shake it, belly dance style.

Thursday, Charlie was on the subject of Legos and Christmas.
You can take the bag wif Darf Vadew on it to da store, but you can only use it for Legos. If you put gwocerwies in it, dat will make me angwee. But you can fill it wif Legos and give dem to me fo Chwistmas, if you want to. You can fill it wif Legos and give dem to me, but don't fill them with any girl Legos. If you do dat, I will leave dem in da bag for a few days and will not play wif dem. But if you fill it wif udder Legos, I will play wif dem for all of da days. I will play wif dem for da rest of my life, but if dey are girl Legos, den I will just leave dem dere and I will not play wif dem and dey will stay dere for evah and evah.

"Charlie," I ask. "What if the Lego is a Princess Leia Slave Lego? Will you play with it then?"

He mulls it over before responding, "No, because she is a giwl. Because she is a giwl, I only want her for her body."

Fortunately for the other drivers on the road, he adds, "I can put a smiley face head on her dat is fo Hans Solo and we can have Hans Solo Slave and I can put keep her head in a bag fo all of da rest of da days of my life."

That's my boy. Only wants her for her body. Keeping her head in a bag. So proud.


The Wrath of Charlie (and more chicken stories)

When we bought the giant chicken, there were two of them. I had left the girls with the task of choosing the best one for Sandy, but we all felt a little guilty for the last rooster standing. When we went back to that grocery store a few weeks later, we had to swoop by the henhouse to check on his general welfare. We were surprised to find him anything but lonely.


Apparently, our roosters are proud fathers, as many hatched in our absence. We decided we should now feel guilty for leaving him a single father with his partner many hundreds of miles away.

In the grocery store, Charlie has this obnoxious way of amusing himself by turning around, grabbing some food item, pretending to gobble it up, then dropping it behind him, unconcerned with the squishability of it or anything it may land on. The only way to get him to stop is to let him out of the cart, which is far more hazardous.

This week, it was particularly dangerous.


I don't know how it got there. I swear it just jumped in and wasn't carefully selected and loaded with gentility and love. (I will add that it was substantially easier to load than it's father, but that is no admission of culpability.)

Unwilling to endure Round 28 of the Food Drop Game, I warned him, "Charlie, anything you pick up and drop will be immediately put back on the shelf."

He laughed, turned, picked up the most sacred item in the cart, pretended to eat it, then dropped it on the chick's face.

A short walk later, the variety pack of 12 Pop Tarts was back on the shelf.

Charlie's entire face turned red with rage. His veins popped on his forehead and neck. He cried, hiccuped, and cried some more. In an attempt to express the depths of his anger, the following monologue, or as much of it as I can remember, followed:

Dat is it. I will make you sad dat you did dat. I will make you vewwy sowwy. I will make you so sad dat you put dose poptawts back on da shelf. I will leave you house and not live in it anymow and you will be sad. I will not be you boy anymore and you will cwy. I will live somewhew else and dere will be no one to sweep in my bed owr eat my food owr play wif my toys and you will haf to pway wif dem all by yousewf and you will be so sad. You will cwy and you will be sowwy about dem poptawts.

You hawt will bweak when I am gone and you cannot pway Lego Stawwaws [StarWars] wif me because I am gone. And dere will be no one to be you wittle boy anymow.

I calmly go up and down the aisles, making eye contact with no one and filling the cart. After all, Dixie's gymnastics class only lasts so long. At some point, he forgets that he no longer lives in our house in this revenge scenario, because he shifts to the following rant:

And you will not get to eat da foods you love. You can only eat da fishfood. And it is yucky to you. You will not wuv it. You will eat da fish food and you will say, "blach" because fishfood is not a food you wuv. And da fish will not have dere food and dey will be sad and you will be sad because you food is yucky and you fish is sad. And you will get to eat catfood and it is yucky and Schwodingah [Schrodinger] will scwatch you because it is his food and he will be sad and you will be sad and you will say, "Dis is yucky" because you do not wuv it.

And you will get to eat only the catfood and da fishfood and da . . .

as we approach the dairy case, Charlie has run out of foods that I don't love, so Melody supplies him with some ideas. I think she started with liver. After a good thirty seconds dedicated to that, he paused while she supplied peanuts. Once that tirade was over, she offered up sticks of butter. Then raw meat. Rant. Then celery. Rant. Then pizza. Rant. Then ice cream. Rant. Then chocolate.

Pause. He looks up at our faces to see that we are both choking back laughter.

No! Chocowate is not a good one because she wuvs dat and it is not yucky fo hewr!

In the frozen food section, I pause to ask him if he remembers why he is mad. Nothing. I ask him what he did to be in trouble. Nothing. I remind him that he cannot throw the food in the cart because something will get broken. If he can stop playing that unsafe game while we finish up, we can swing back by for Pop Tarts. But only if he stops trying to make mommy feel sad.

Hug. Wipe away little Charlie tears.

We finish the $209 trip in peace before leaving, Pop Tarts in bag. (Bonus: in addition to fabulous entertainment and no more food thrown, the rant gave me the opportunity to sneak some Christmas gifts in the cart because he had lost all concept of where he was and what we were doing around him.)

Because Dixie's gymnastics is now 90 minutes, we had time to swing by the house so that Dixie would find a surprise waiting when we get home.


Mail! And a three foot chicken!


Which actually looks quite in place at our house.




The Friday before last, the back of my leg itched like a bug bite exacerbated by my pants rubbing on it as I walked.

Saturday and Sunday, I bummed around the house in yoga pants, as it was really irritating.

Monday, I went to work, feeling like I was being stabbed in the back of the leg with every step. Halfway through the day, I left to go to the doctor. The doctor drained it, swabbed it, gave me a tetanus shot in the arm, an antibiotic shot in the butt and two oral antibiotics to knock it out. I'd already had an allergy shot in the other arm and my extremities were feeling picked on.

When I took my antibiotics that evening, I got flushed, ran a slight fever and felt nauseated.

Tuesday I was feeling great--the spot on the leg had gone down, I had energy again and life was beautiful, until I took those silly meds. Then I was miserable for about two hours. Knowing they were pretty powerful stuff, I didn't think too much of it.

Wednesday was a beautiful morning until I took the meds. Then I had a horrible pain in my side that would not go away. I ate some yogurt laced with probiotics to no avail. Between classes I called into my doctor, who told me to go to the ER.

A few hours after getting the privilege of being some student nurse's first IV recipient, I call the church for a ride home. Driving on morphine = bad idea it seems. They can't really tell what's wrong without an abdominal sonogram and can't do that because I ate four ounces of yogurt that morning.

I call Dowlan to pick the kids up from Mindy's.

Thursday morning I wake up with a hangover from the morphine, which ended up causing far more pain than it ever took away. We get the kids to school then go in for the sonogram

I have lovely organs.

I get home to a message left on the machine. I call in for the results of the swab and it is the MRSA strain of staph. Lovely. 7 hours later I hear back from the ER doc. The antibiotic duo gave me an ulcer, but I can't just stop because, hey, it's MRSA. But I can stop taking one of them and he gave me a game plan for the other.

I was supposed to be directing a musical program that night, by the way. My principal and assistant principal stepped in. I'm curious to see what they thought of that adventure. My personal theory is that, by the end of my Christmas program, I will be a God to them.

So now I take a Nexxium with lots of fluids and foods. Then, thirty minutes later, I take the bactrim with a little more food on top. Then I'm only mildly miserable for the next hour instead of doubled over in misery.

There's a lot of bactrim left in the bottle. And Dowlan returned to the town where he lives and works. Fun week ahead!


Thus Ends The Saga . . .

The morning after the state fair, my brother and SIL came to have breakfast with us in the crummy motel. Afterwards, they helped us reload.


Then, we went to pick up Dixie's great-grandmother and take her to lunch. Fern had not seen Dixie since before we adopted her, which meant I had never met this woman and I was going to pick her up in my minivan that was full of children, luggage and had a six-foot metal chicken strapped to the roof. Concerned, I had this conversation with Dixie's grandmother along the way.

Me: Um, just how much dignity does Granny Fern have, exactly?
Gma Jane: None, none at all. She will find it hysterical.
Me: Whew.

Halfway through eating butterburgers and cheese curds at Culver's, I look out the window to see about ten people gathered around my van, animatedly discussing the contents of my cargo.

Jealous. They are laughing, staring and pointing from jealously and naught else.

After returning Granny Fern to her home (and hearing her tell her caregiver, "Dixie just has the nicest family. Such cute kids!" but leaving out the chicken aspect) we haul off to Sandy's swanky, suburban neighborhood.




Matt calls out, "Honey, it's for you!" as he retreats into his homestead.


After a great deal of laughing and wiping away tears, we hang out a few minutes before saying our goodbyes. Matt, ever the optimist, says, "Here, let me help you load your chicken."

Matt, you mean YOUR chicken. I have no desire for a chicken. (Who would, really?)

Sandy, in love with her chicken, keeps him busy 'discussing' their new family member while we make a clean getaway.

Britney, as is now the rooster's drag name, has, despite Matt's opposition, positively impacted their children's well being. S/he has become the inspiration for great artwork:


Britney helps to keep the bugs out of their backyard garden in his/her prominent roosting spot--just outside the living room window and visible from the master bedroom, of course.


And thus concludes the saga of the might chicken, or does it?? [cue: cliffhanger music]


My Excuses

Saturday, I went on an impromptu trip to Plainview, TX to my Great Uncle Joe's art exhibit.

This was followed by an impromptu sleepover at my mother's, where I got to sleep in my jeans on a lumpy mattress.

That was followed by a Sunday morning Kmart shopping spree, where I was quite disappointed to not find a replacement for the rug I'd recently (and accidentally) dyed pink.

Then a drive home.

Then cleaning. Lots of cleaning. Followed by lots of napping. Then a party. Because, as one might imagine, lots of housework and sleep were neglected in the time it took me to do all this:


(Better pictures of Melody are pending. And I didn't quite make it all--Charlie's Yoda hat was purchased and my bonnet was made by my grandmother many years ago. The rest is all me, baby. Oh, except for the sand timer that Charlie picked up at the party and decided to use as a lightsaber since I made him wait until actual Halloween to crack a glow in his.)

I was also thwarted by projects for Red Ribbon Week. See, when you have 4 people at 3 elementary schools who have drastically different themes for how to dress up for 5 consecutive days, it gives mommy 15 separate headaches that have to be solved through efforts such as this:


(What do breast cancer and illegal/illicit drug use have in common? October. But now an entire elementary school of children think that getting high causes breast cancer. Yeah.)

Kmarting/Traveling/Cleaning/Napping/Partying Sunday was followed by Puking Monday. I am greatly thankful that a) no one else got sick, and b) if I had to do that with no husband nearby, at least they had 8+ hours out of the house that day.

Today has been a day of work, homework, gymnastics and, I kid you not, 3 weeks' worth of laundry. Because Sewing always supercedes Laundry.

Unfortunately, Laundry had to supercede Chicken Story because I got a new principal today, we have administrator walking through our classrooms tomorrow, a cold front is coming through tonight and, for all these reasons and many more, I should not go to school in the morning buck naked.

Here are adorable pictures of my kids at the Texas State Fair to tide you over:







Did you know they made four-horned sheep?

(By 'they' I mean 'Almighty God' of course.)

Can't you just see this camel smoking a cigarette? I kind of see where the "Joe Camel" idea came into play. His lips just beg for it.

Oh, and kangaroo with joey was adorable.

Shortly after this photo, this Texas Longhorn attacked me with it's horn, trying to nudge me out of it's way.

Melody's response, "Maybe it thought you were an Aggie."



Pix of Chix

First of all, a different kind of Chick.



Someone is ready for Halloween! Melody's and Charlie's are also ready, but have no pics yet. Mine is two sleeves, one zipper and an apron short, but I don't need it for 12 hours, so I'm good, right?

Okay, onto that other chick.

This is PennyVann, cocked and loaded:


The view inside our Cheep Motel:


Crossing the road can be a struggle, even for chickens.



Chapter 2: A Chicken's Tail

At the end of the day Thursday, children in bed, chicken on porch, I realize that cannot load this chicken by myself, so I find myself texting coach something along the lines of, "Hey, can you follow me home from school tomorrow and help me load a six foot metal chicken onto the roof of my van?"

Coach, who began teaching at this school the year before I was born and was probably thinking, "This is the weirdest music teacher yet," is a man of few words who replied merely, "Sure."

I call Kevin, dad of the family we stayed with last year, to ask if he can be my Plan B in chicken loading. He is agreeable.


The next morning, as I drive my family to school in the pre-dawn moments, I find myself seriously wishing I had the chicken already strapped on. Belly down, beak over the windshield, tail held high. A racing chicken. Alas, it was not to be, so I merely went to work.

At some point during the day, Coach did turn to me to ask me just what it was I needed help with, but to his credit, said not a word. Followed me home, loaded up the chicken, strapped 'em down. Mid-hoist, his cell phone rings. He tells his wife, "Uh, I'm helping the music teacher with something. I'll, er, explain it later."

No you won't, Coach. This defies explanation.

Chicken strapped into place, we head down the road. At a light, I text Kevin's wife Mindy, "Tell Kevin 'The Chicken has landed. The Agency thanks for your willingness to participate, but your assistance will not be needed at this time.' "

Mindy, not hip to the mission, wondered why delivering this message through the bathroom door inspired such fits of laughter.

When we stop for gas halfway to grandma's, I check out the straps to make sure, well, that my chicken is choked. Then, about ten miles down the road, the steady rapping of the flapping tarp is suddenly louder. I look out the side window to see the shadow of PennyVann on the shoulder of the road and notice the distinct shape of a flapping tail in the shadows.

I wish I had a video. (Shoot, I wish I had pictures of any of this right now. They're on my phone and HYSTERICAL but technology currently hates me. I happy I can type right now.)

I pull over to the side of the road, unload my foot stool and, there on the side of the lonely West Texas two-lane highway, I use my remaining ratcheting tie-down to batten down the hatchling. As pickup trucks drove by, nobody stopped to help. This in itself is unprecedented.

With no further ado, we arrive at Grandma's to gather her and daddy, who are probably rather glad my monstrosity is not currently occupying their seats.

Four hours later, we arrive at the hotel.


The Great Chickening; Chapter 1

Now that you've all done your homework, let me give you some more backstory.

At the beginning of the summer, I walked up to my local grocery store to find six-foot tall metal chickens available for sale. I thought, "Who the hell wants a six-foot tall metal chicken?" completely innocent of the epic journey ahead.

See, I have a small group of Mommy Friends that is sprawled over two continents. (If you've been around long enough to remember the time I was stranded in California, know that this is the same group of friends. Not that stranded me--that put up with me a few extra days while I meandered my way across the state before heading home.) Earlier this year, we read the chicken story from the Bloggess and found it hysterical. Sandy and Tracy were particularly enamored with the tale.

This summer, when our third annual meetup met at Sandy's house, Tracy and I had a conversation that went something like this:

You know what Sandy needs?
A six foot metal chicken?

Since Sandy blogs about green living, simplicity and is perpetually encouraging us to declutter our houses and our lives, it is particularly amusing.

Over the long weekend (we like our weekends to begin on Wednesday night and end on Tuesday morning,) we kept disappearing on urgent side trips of a mysterious nature, but, alas, the North Dallas runs distinctly classier than West Texas, and no spray-painted rebar-and-oil-drum avian structure was to be found.

Never give up. A plan was hatched that, next time I found myself up hoity-toity way, I'd take her a chicken from West Redneck. Her Home Owner's Association needs that kind of pluck introduced.

After quite a bit of comparison shopping, I found this chicken for the bargain price of $99. For those of you gasping, know that identical chickens at other locations were double the price. How could I, a bargain shopper, turn down $100 of free chicken? At half price, it's an absolute steal.


(For the record, it did not cross the road.)

I go in and tell the cashier, "I want to buy one of the chickens outside."

"Really? You want to BUY one of those chickens?"
"Yes. But there's no sticker or sign. How do I get someone to ring it up? I'm not carrying it in."
"NO! Don't try that. Let me call someone." He calls, then curiosity gets the better of him, "What do you plan to DO with the chicken."
"Drive to Dallas, put it on my friend's porch, ring the doorbell and run."

I've never been on the receiving end of such a look of awe. Especially not from a cashier. He has a manager look it up so that he can ring it up. The chicken is all mine.

The only problem is that I now own a 6-foot-chicken and a five-foot wide minivan. Jeremy, from the pharmacy department, spent a good twenty minutes stuffing that bird in Penny only to discover that the sliding door could not be closed. Jeremy was full of helpful pointers like, "You know, with the money you're saving from buying this bargain-priced chicken, you could buy the other bird left in stock." I paused from my wing wrangling to tell him, "Why in the world would I want two chickens?"

Assuming I was not willing to drive 300+ miles with this added 'feature' we aborted the mission. I told him, "I need to get my son from therapy. I'll be back."

"Don't worry. We won't sell this to anyone else," he says, probably thinking he knows exactly why a son of mine would need therapy.

"I wasn't overly worried. Nobody wants this chicken."

After getting Charlie from OT and speech, I return for the bird. Jeremy is on his dinner break but his supervisor has a plan. Once back, Jeremy will load the chicken into his own truck and deliver it to my front porch. While on the clock.

"You must really want to sell this chicken." I comment, knowing it has been there for roughly 5 months.

"You have no idea."

And that is how it came to pass that, at 10:00 on a Thursday night, Jeremy AND his manager unload it on my porch, quite careful to secret into the shadows.

"It might get stolen," they theorize.

"Trust me. No one wants this chicken."



for the next few blog entries to make sense, you need to have read The Bloggess' post on And That's Why You Should Learn To Pick Your Battles.

Well, 'make sense' may not be the correct term. An be warned that her language is in the PG-13 range.

But the weekend was Epic and Glorious.

Read that, and I'll get Chapter 1 up tomorrow.


I was asking for it, really

Today was picture day at the girls' school. Adding hairstyles and proper attire into our already stressful morning routine was not something I was looking forward to, but their increased cooperation helped a great deal.

Having not really planned out any outfits for this event (and knowing the pictures will be adequate at best) I hadn't put a whole lot of thought into what they were going to wear. As an added bonus, it recently got chilly and their warm clothes are out of reach in the attic. I did find two pretty sweaters in the top of their closet that had matching scarves and paired them with jeans.

Here's where it got dangerous.

Dixie's bright red sweater looked great with a pair of dark denim jeans, but none of Melody's jeans really worked with the colors in her sweater. Feeling brave, I busted out the rhinestone-studded white jeans purchased from Gymboree in a clearance+coupon+5%offwithcard fit of madness.

This morning, as I roused the Melody child (naturally, in my bed, where she had found her way in the night) I tossed her the sweater, scarf and white jeans. She sits up, puts her clothes in her lap, takes off her pajama top and yells, "NOSEBLEED!"

Oh, great.

I follow her to the bathroom to help her get it cleaned up. She informs me, "I aimed away from the white jeans, so they didn't get a drop on them."

Oooh, good girl!

That evening, as we're getting out of PennyVann at home, once again, she shouts, "NOSEBLEED!"

This time, there is no aiming. It is everywhere. Gushing. Of course, I'd just cleaned out my van and had no napkins or other random paper products. I grab the sock off Charlie's foot and hand it to her to use until we get inside.

Thank God he wasn't wearing his Imbisible Stink Shoes.


Halloween time!

Having firmly denied the requests for Leia in her funky underwear and Hans Solo in his funky underwear, I needed a trump. I needed something to offer Dixie that would toss Slave Leia from her thoughts.

One morning, while braiding her hair, I was inspired.

"Do you want to be Laura Ingalls Wilder for Halloween?" I asked her. Her eyes sparkled as her face grew into a grin. She bounced on her toes twice before saying, "Yes!"


Charlie pondered being Indian Of Jones (Indiana Jones) but didn't really seem too inspired by it. We tossed around the idea of several Star Wars characters to pair thematically with Melody's Leia aspirations, but nothing clicked until Dixie proposed that he be 'Master Yota'.

(I'm always amazed how my kids can watch a movie, read a book, play a game AND reenact with Legos and still don't have a firm grasp of the character names.)

Yoda is little. He carries a lightsabre. But, best of all, he is gween.

Over the last few weeks, I started on the prairie dress. Yesterday, I finished it off and had time for a matching apron and bonnet.

This morning, I made Yoda's robe. After heavily contemplating how the heck to make Yoda ears, I decided to simply buy a knit yoda cap off ebay.

As soon as I'm motivated to put actual clothes on, I'm off to the fabric store for Melody's cloth and notions.

I love this time of year!


I knew he was feeling better

The day after the all-night wheeze-a-thon was a long one, made longer by the fact that we couldn't just sleep. The two doctor's appointments, three trips to the pharmacy and three scheduled relocations of girls were all too spaced out for us to be at home for even two hours at a stretch. By the last trip of the day, picking Melody up from gymnastics, we were all running ragged.

With the aid of Albuterol and steroids, Charlie had started to come around. He wanted to play with Legos and had started to chatter a bit. That last trip out to the car he walked on his own two feet instead of being scooped up, lugged out and poured into his carseat.

Halfway home, Charlie takes off his shoes and the cloud of toxic stench instantly fills the van.

Dixie: Charlie, put your shoes back on!
Charlie: I can't.
Dixie: But the smell is awful! Your feet stink!
Melody: Charlie, PLEASE put your shoes on!
Charlie: I can't put on shoes, I am wearing shoes.
Dixie: Charlie, your feet are bare. And they stink.
Charlie: I am wearing my Imbisible Stink Shoes. I cannot put other shoes on top of them because my Imbisbile Stink Shoes are in the way.

Yeah, that kid feels just fine.


I'm going to have to be a bit more picky

I firmly believe that, when you borrow something from someone, you should do all that you can to return that item in the condition it was when you got it. If you have my book, it shouldn't come back all dog-eared and water-stained. I can understand if the spine is a bit more ragged, but the book returned should resemble the book lent.

I think I get this from years of camping at sites that instructed you to 'take only pictures, leave only footprints' and the whole mantra of 'leave it better than you found it.'

So, when I left three children in the capable hands of two grandmothers, a grandfather, a father and a great-grandmother for three days, I assumed I would be returned three children.

Instead, I got two lovely daughters and a small puddle of boy.

At first, he was complaining, 'Dis is not my voice. I would wewwy wike my weal voice back' as he draped himself across my person. He went to bed without protest and I assumed he'd been thoroughly played out over the preceding three days.

Oh, so very wrong.

About one this morning, a small rasping flame burrowed its way under my covers. I keep hearing this choking sound and sitting him over the trashcan only to realize that he was not going to be 'all fwow-uppy'again. This was the best cough he could muster, given how restricted his airways were.

I dig around in the linen closet then the 'cabinet o'kitchen randomness' before finding the nebulizer and Albuterol under the window seat. I about thirty minutes into what should be a fifteen minute breathing treatment, I realize that nothing is coming out.

This equipment hasn't been used in about a year.

The third set of tubing and dragon mask later, he's finally puffing the magic dragon. But there's not improvement in his breathing. Nor does our medicine cabinet contain the much-needed Tylenol and Mucinex (as his fever is 103ºF). I'm up much of the rest of the night, watching him breathe and contemplating waking all three of them up for a middle-of-the-night pharmacy run.

I nod off for a bit, then wake up panicked and checking. His little belly muscles are having to force every breath in and out and the sound is gruesome. About five, he gets his second breathing treatment and his breathing finally soothes a bit. At six, I get up the girls and get everyone in the van to head to meet the buses at quarter til 7.

Dixie is adamant that I cannot possibly make Charlie go along. I am equally adamant that I cannot simply leave him here and we go back and forth until it dawns on me that she thinks I'm going to make him go to school. Once I explain that we are getting the girls on their bus, getting things ready for my sub, then coming home to let him sleep until the pediatrician can see him, she happily hops into her booster.

As I head home, I call my mother to inform her that this is simply not acceptable. I sent her a boy in 'like new' condition and was returned a one in 'poor' condition. If we were on amazon or ebay, her feedback ratings would not be so hot.

The pediatrician prescribes steroids, runs flu and strep tests (both negative) and rules out meningitis. We go home for a brief nap (and more meds) before heading to my allergist appointment. Then home for a brief nap before going to school to get the girls.

After retrieving the girls, I once again call my mother to say that she is clearly not alone in returning my children all willy-nilly in a haphazard state. There is apparently a grand conspiracy, or perhaps an epidemic of poor supervision.

Because Dixie had more teeth than that when she went to school today. I can't believe public schools are content to send children home missing body parts with no notice save the little necklace that dangles around their necks, containing the missing bits.

The nerve.

I think I need better help.


. . . and some days it doesn't

(click, that is)

This morning I woke up and reluctantly stumbled through the house to get to the bathroom. On the way, I saw the incredible (as in 'not believable') sight of the microwave clock reading 6:46. I assume it got stopped in the middle of a timer function, so I look at the stove.

The stove agrees with the microwave.

I tell myself it must be wrong--it can't possibly be time to leave in four minutes, I never heard an alarm--and stumble the rest of the way to the bathroom. There, thankfully, I wake up enough to be alarmed.

I shake both girls and let them know we're leaving in five minutes. Fortunately, they'd gotten cool new Halloween clothes yesterday and had asked to sleep in them, so they just had to put on shoes, glasses and brush their hair.

I throw some clothes on, brush my hair and put my shoes on. No glasses in sight. This is particularly amusing because yesterday, as I opened up the box of Halloween decorations, I found the pair of glasses I'd lost in July. How my glasses, in July, had gotten into a box of Halloween things in the attic, I have no idea. But I amuse myself for a moment with the idea that yesterday I had two pairs of glasses and today I have none.

I go the the room of the limp rag doll and dress his reluctant form as it makes every attempt to burrow itself further under the covers. Relenting, he plods sulkily into the dining room.

Three backpacks, three Poptarts and one dose of medicine later, we head out to PennyVann and begin the prayer to Mister Bus Driver. It goes something like this:

Slow down, Mister Bus Driver.
Don't leave, Mister Bus Driver.
Wait for us, Mister Bus Driver.

Two blocks from the school, I see that the girls' bus is pulling up to the school. A sigh of relief.

Somedays, like yesterday, I have this gig down to a science. This morning, I did not. But we made it nonetheless.


Somedays, it all clicks

And today is one of those supermom days.

Over the weekend, Dowlan came home. On the first anniversary of home-ownership, we tackle the final pile--the sewing and craft area. With about six hours of work, it is transfigured from a 6'X6'X10' pile of boxes, piles and miscellany to an organized workspace. We had some delightfully fun moments as well, like a civilized meal out as a family, nighttime trampolining with glow sticks and spare children, dancing in the sprinklers with the monarch butterflies as they pass through town.

As far as Monday mornings go, this one went delightfully well.

We made it to school early, with everything we needed. After school, the kids got to play with the instruments in my classroom a bit while I wrapped it up. We head home and Charlie's bus-induced motion-sickness finally gets the better of him right as we're pulling into the driveway.

No big deal. The girls grab backpacks and head in. I get Charlie out of his carseat, his carseat out of the car and proceed to the porch where I strip them both down. Charlie into the bath, the covers into their own bath.

He instantly feels better and is ready to bound and play. They have a snack and do homework while I get dishes done and things tidied away. Dowlan brought all the boxes of Halloween things down before he left town this morning, so I decorate a bit and give the girls their halloween clothes from the 90% clearance rack at Target two years ago. I hang the carseat covers out to dry and get rugs and sheets into the wash.

Then I surprise the girls with good news--tonight we're going to our first Girl Scout meeting!

It's a quarter of a mile away, if that, so Charlie hops in the stroller and the girls walk alongside. The autumn air is perfectly warm and breezy. After signing them up, we head home to play with Legos and hang the first washed rugs out to dry.

We walk to get the girls, his Pediasure in hand. By the time we get home, they've all had a half-mile walk and I've had a mile-walk. Just about right for the evening. While I make beds, they get their vitamins, brush their teeth, pick out clothes for the next day, dress for bed and climb into their clean sheets, ready for bedtime stories.

One Lego Star Wars book and one chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder later, I have three children asleep in a completely clean house, completely unpacked, completely settled, completely complete. (Minus the Daddy, but that can't be helped right now.)

I've got a carseat to reassemble and reinstall before I sit down in my newly-organized sewing room to work on the hem ruffle for Dixie's Laura Ingalls Wilder dress for Halloween and go to bed on clean sheets of my own.

Sometimes, I've got this motherhood thing down.


200k page loads of drivel

Watching my statcounter rollover is even more exciting than the time my high school boyfriend and I drove slowly down the residential street, camera in hand, watching the odometer roll over in his 25-year-old pickup.

Thanks for reading!

So Monday, as we were once again leaving for school in the dark, the girls argued over who got to hold Charlie's hand and safely escort him to PennyVann.

You know those signs they have in warehouses and other workspaces that read "This company has been accident-free for ____ days" and they fill-in-the-blank?

This household has been 911-call free for 5 days.

Part of this is because I've kept them busy with fun and riveting activities. Over the weekend we did absolutely nothing except play with Legos, play the Wii, go to the park, get new library books and order pizza. Now that Dixie's in advanced gymnastics, we get to spend even more time at the gym and that has occupied a good deal of our afterschool time this week.

But today they were getting restless, so I broke out the big guns. I packed a snack, loaded up PennyVann and headed off to the Shell station where we unbuckled everybody and piled in the front seat to enjoy our snack during the riveting entertainment of the automatic car wash.

At six bucks, it gets the pecan sap off and provides more suspense than most kid movies. So much cheaper, and no guilt about sneaking in popcorn.


Lost and Found Boy

Oh, what a day.

No one wanted to get up this morning. No one. Sometimes I think it's a gift that my first thought each morning is, "Man, I gotta pee." Otherwise, I'd never leave the sanctity of my Sleep Number bed and enter the cold, cruel world. (The only thing I have to look forward to, really, is hitting the ON switch of my already set-up coffeemaker on my way to the bathroom and having it mostly ready by the time I pass back by.)

Even Melody, whose habit of waking up cheerfully in the pre-dawn minutes has finally come in handy, is feeling it this Friday morning. Our usual routine where I get dressed, hand the girls clothes, put breakfast on the table, dress Charlie, leave them to eat while I put makeup on, then pour another cup of coffee and then hustle everyone out the door was stalled at a crucial step: the one where they all wake up.

If we aren't to my campus by the 7 o'clock bus pickup, we're in huge trouble.

The girls are finally dressed and moving, I skip the makeup step to carry Charlie to the window seat and dress him like a rag doll. I hand him a granola bar and put on his shoes, pausing only to hold the straw of his PediaSure to his lips.

I deposit him by the front door where the dressed, shod and backpacked Melody stands, then reenter the kitchen for the detoured Dixie. The impasse is the remaining six Frosted Mini-Wheats that grace her bowl.

Normally it's not a big deal for one or two to go get in PennyVann while I hustle out the dawdler, but this time Charlie was mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore. The source of injustice? There are no Legos at school, rendering it boring. And I didn't feed him nuffin (that he remembers, as he was apparently sleep-eating.) And school is so long dis year. And Daddy is not here.

Three or four minutes after depositing him in the doorway, Dixie and I depart. I set my things in the van and go to buckle Charlie's carseat, finding it empty. Melody, taking advantage of the reading light provided by the open van door, has no idea where he is. Dixie didn't see him. I go sweep through the house again, before returning to unbuckle the girls' carseat and booster, recruiting them for the hunt.

Every room. Every closet. Every bed. Surely, he just burrowed under covers and went back to sleep. Melody remembers his 'thinking rock' on the side of the house and we run out to find it empty. Trampoline. Playscape. Garden. Barn. Shed. Front yard. Back yard. Back back yard.


The sky is just beginning to lighten as I call 911. I call into work, letting them know of my delay. Look, look, look. I keep looking at the time, irate that the police surely taking their time, only to realize that time has frozen. Each time I certain that ten or fifteen more minutes have passed it's one or two. There's no where else to look, so I recheck the front yard. Both porches. Green cave. Side yard. Back of the van. Under the van. Along the fence line. Every shadowy corner.


They finally pull up and start with rechecking the house. Certain he cannot be there, two cars begin slowly cruising the neighborhood. Two men start sweeping neighboring backyards. Two more scour our enormous backyard and one stays in the house just in case.

Policeman number eight is asking questions. I am shocked to realize that I know the answers. For once, I can tell you exactly what he has on, how much he weighs and what his height is.

After a forty-five minute search, they start widening the area. A detective is on his way to collect information for the Amber Alert and the discussion of 'people you may have pissed off' begins.

A policeman walks up to the yard from a slightly different angle and sees one small leg in the beam of his headlights. The boy-in-a-ball is no longer concealed by the shadows of the tire, dumpster and crepe myrtle triangle.

Hugs. Real kisses. Protests of only loving imbisible kisses that are silenced by more hugs and real kisses.

At first, I assumed he'd found him in a neighbor's yard and brought him back, but this afternoon's re-enactment places him by PennyVann. The officer thought he may have been laying under the vehicle, but he wasn't dirty. I know I looked under that van. I know I looked along the side. I just don't know.

And at one point I almost asked the officer if I should leave to take the girls to school so that they'd be out of the way if this became a longer ordeal. Which would have rendered him either found or flattened as I left the driveway.

The thing that gets to me is that Charlie was perfectly still and silent for almost an hour. I would never have thought that possible. When we called his name, he did not say anything. He was too angry at the terrible mother who was taking him from a Lego Place to a non-Lego Place.

I tell you, it's been a week. This was the biggest of five big things Charlie did that were completely out of his character. Each time, his response was always 'I didn't know I wasn't supposed to' or 'but I didn't want to do' whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. He knew. He completely knew. And yet, he still did.

And all I could think was that I'd already been to one child's funeral this week. A friend from childhood lost her fourteen-year-old to juvenile diabetes. I kept looping through the thought that I can't go through what Marlo is going through. I just can't.

Because I just knew he'd rekindled his three-year-old fondness for standing in the middle of the street and that, in the black pre-dawn, this time they wouldn't stop.

Fortunately, later in the day, the car backing up in the Target parking lot heard my hawk-like screech and stopped as Melody jumped out of the way. And, even more fortunately, no attempt was made on Dixie's life.

Oh, what a day.


Megaphone of Mystical Milk

We went to Austin this weekend to see friends and hit up the Lego store. Our friend Aunt Jackee came along, bearing luggage, and I was taking 4 garbage bags of toys from the playroom to my friend who works at a women and children's shelter.

PennyVann was quite full. Still, Melody was adamant that she bring along her pillow pets.

For those not hip to the ways of modern stuffed animals, a pillow pet is a large stuffed pillow with a head, tail, hooves and a velcro attachment in the middle. Velcroed, it is a pet. Un-velcroed, it is a soft, fluffy pillow. There are large and small versions. The visual:


Each of my kids got a large one for Christmas from grandma and got a smaller one some time this summer in a moment of weakness at Walgreens. Charlie and Dixie have different animals for large and small, but both of Melody's are unicorns, like the one in the picture.

Back to the story.

Since the large pillow pet is the size of a sofa cushion, I told the kids they were limited to bringing their smaller companion. Melody was distraught at this news. Naturally, being of the same species, her pets are a mother and daughter pair. How dare we separate them, even for a day?

She worries for a moment about the injustice of this familial segregation before her eyes pop open and index finger points straight up in the air. She grabs the cheer leading mini-megaphone and runs into her room.

Now Charlie is very specific about when his needs to be a pillow and when it needs to be a pet. He interacts with it differently based on the Velcro status. I'd never noticed Melody being all that particular before this moment. Apparently, for Melody, undoing the tab not only changes their status from pet to pillow, it also interrupts their conscious awareness. Because, after confirming the length of our trip, she returned to explain her solution:

"I had her put enough milk in here to last until we get back and then made her a pillow so she wouldn't know her baby was gone and would not miss her or worry or be too sad."

So off we went to Austin with six people, four bags, three pillow pets and a cone full of mythical breastmilk. Whatever you did this weekend cannot possibly top that.


This Update

is 100% free of new information on Charlie's Failure To Thrive.

We saw the Pediatric Gastroenterologist yesterday. The problem with taking Charlie to a doctor's appointment is that you then have Charlie at that doctor's appointment. It's like holding a meeting in the center ring of a circus.

Factor in that I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be saying to him and that my sinuses were killing me. I have no idea what was actually accomplished. He has a brief overview of Charlie, got to see him in action and ordered some tests. We will see him again in two or three months, sooner if anything comes back on the tests.

Because he's an intinerant internist, he doesn't have privileges at the hospital or clinics here to order the tests himself. I took Charlie back to school, ran Melody's project to her school and dropped off a prescription before getting the paperwork to his pediatrician's office. They called back, naturally, while I was teaching today. We'll get them done Monday, it seems.

This doctor's objective is to rule out any internal reason he's not growing. Make sure his enzymes, absorbtion and output are all up to par. The gut feeling of the specialist and pediatrician is that this is one more side effect of his autism. He's so particular about his food and spends so much time on the move that he simply doesn't have any extra calories to grow with.

I'm not completely convinced--In the last year, he has gained only 4 oz. In the 5 weeks since he last saw his pediatrician, he has consumed 8-16 oz. of Pediasure a day. Even with a few hundred extra calories each day, he has not gained an ounce. Still, having spent Sunday not eating and Sunday night "fwow-uppy" ground may have been gained and then lost.


Mornings with the Evil Overlord

So Darth Vader came to me this morning for help getting dressed. His expression remained unflinchingly stern as I took off his monkey-playing-basketball cotton jammies and lobster underwear and replaced it with Go, Diego, Go underwear, a green polo with an alligator on it and blue cotton shorts. He reluctantly accepted his mommy kiss before heading off to face his day of tyrannical rule.

Monday morning, he had been in the bathroom awhile so I asked him if he needed anything. "Yes," he said. "You need to make anudder bafroom in dis house. We need two places for dis. Go make us anudder bafroom, mama!"

Yes, Dark Lord. Right away, Dark Lord. Just as soon as I catch some sleep and get all the bedding washed that you were sick on the night before.

Except, to hear him tell, "I am not sick. My tummy hurts and I am frow-uppy a lot, but dat is not sick."

He goes on to his business of collecting Legos into his bag. "But I do not kallekt da wed ones. Wed is not a color dat I love, so doze can dest stay dere. I just lefted dem on da floor!"

Besides, him being frow-uppy is all my fault. After all, I'm the one that deigned to bring him some Pediasure in the night. "I dest wanted wadder. You brought me dat shake. I asked for wadder." His agitation increases as he goes on to explain, "Dat shake is wat made me all frow-uppy and you da one dat made me dwink it, mama! Why you want me dat way all da night time?"

Perhaps it was an attempt to overthrow the Empire and return control to the Republic?


Chum Bucket of Love

Dixie's birthday, as you can surmise from the cake, had a peace sign theme. For the party favors, I ordered peace sign mugs to put the kids' goodies in. They looked like this:


You must certainly be shocked when I tell you that Charlie claimed a gween one as his own. Not the contents ("Yuk. Dey is stuff fo giwls. I do not need dat stuff.") but the mug.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, he declared it his Chum Bucket and promptly filled it with Lego bits. He walks around the house, mug in fist, asking people, "Do you want to see what is inside my Chum Bucket?"

He clearly does not know what a chum bucket really is. Thank you, SquarePants.

This morning, after a rather long night of him being 'frow-uppy' all over both of us and both of our beds, we are home sick and tired. That's the theory, at least. He is walking around playing and yammering on relentlessly while I try to keep my eyes open and work out the sharp pains in my neck and shoulder muscles that are a courtesy of the long and laundry-filled night.

Unrelenting in his request for me to find his Chum Bucket, devastated by it's lack of proximity to his Lego-clutching grubby fingers, he finally accepted an alternate vessel.


It looks like the largest of these and, due to it's shape and coloring, has been named Chum Bucket of Love.

He's as romantic as his father.


Dixie's Birthday Cake!

Her birthday was in August, but we waited until school started to have a party. I knew she was apprehensive about starting a new school and I felt it would give her a chance to make friends with the girls in her class.

Four of the girls came, along with two neighbor girls and some family members. It was a peace-sign theme. That was fun to work with.

The cake was not fun. It kept crumbling. But eventually, I had something decent to show for my efforts.





Additional Pet Request

Charlie would like a pet bumblebee, so he could swordfight with it. But not if it's going to bite him or give him a kiss.

I think I'm going to say no on this one.

All else is well. Going as smoothly as things could go having one parent home with three children and having to catch buses by the dawn's early light.


Halloween Costume Requests

Melody would like to be Princess Leia in her white robe and sticky bun hair.

Dixie would like to be Princess Leia in her slave getup that Jabba the Hut makes her wear.

Charlie would also like one of Dixie's costume, but with a slight twist. "I want to be Pwincess Leia in her funky underwear but for a man."



Nocturnal Nomads

I have often said that, if my house were ever to burn down, all the children would have to fend for themselves because no one could find them.

I swear that I put them to sleep in the same place in their own beds each night, but they can't seem to stay there.

While it has improved since the small piece of velcro days in that their midnight meanderings no longer involve them adhering to my person, I still wish that they would simply stay put.

Saturday morning, Charlie stumbles into my room at about four o'clock. I wake up enough to realize that I'm not making it til dawn without a trip to the bathroom, so I let him know that I'm going to the potty, but will be right back to snuggle.

"I can come wif you to da bafroom. Dat wey I can watch you, if you leave da lights off. I do not like da nighttime wif da lights on, but if you leave da lights off, I can come wif you to da bafroom. If da lights are off, I can come wif you and dat wey you are not alone in dere. But do not leave da lights on because den I don't like dat when da lights are on in da nighttime."

With the sprawling, tunnel-like layout of our house, all that can be said (with great pauses) in the time it takes two people to go from bedroom to playroom, through office through living room through kitchen, into hallway and into the bathroom. It's not even that large of a house--it's just very maze-like.

I always imagined that having children would mean never being alone. Apparently, it also means never peeing alone.

So I go pee in the dark with Charlie holding my hand. After a brief discussion on hand-washing technique, I begin to head back to my room. Charlie stops me and says, "Let's go sweep in my woom. My bed is by da window. Dat way da moon can see me frew da window. Da moon likes to watch me while I'm sleepin'."

After adjusting the body pillow, throw pillows, pillow and pillow pets, I climb into bed with Charlie, who, having the opposite sort of problem from Harold and the Purple Crayon, cannot find the moon outside his window.

I tell him every thing I can think of to possibly get him to lay down and go back to sleep. I think what finally worked was, "It may have gone looking for you. Lay right here so that, when it comes back to find you, you're there."

I may have slept almost forty minutes before the girl nomads began their pre-dawn treks. At one point, with three females and a feline taking up his mattress, Charlie got up and went to the couch.

Smart man.


Why Trees Are Dangerous

(according to Melody)

1. If it is a coconut tree, a coconut could just fall off at any minute and BOP you on the head and that would really hurt.

2. Even if it's not a coconut tree, say you were playing ball earlier and the ball was stuck in the tree and you forgot about it, but later you're playing under the tree and the wind blows and the branches move and BOP! there goes your head again!

3. If you're touching a tree and it starts to rain, lightning could get you.

She then moved to the perils of dirt.


I forgot to mention

When I took Dixie and Charlie to the pediatrician for their annual checkups, I was impressed at how much time she took with us. She was thorough and seemed to listen.

All is well with Dixie. She had lost some weight when we changed her meds earlier in the year, but she's gained some of it back. She's gotten taller as well.

Charlie is not growing quite so well. In the last year, he only gained four ounces and grown less than an inch. At 34 lbs, he weighs what an average two-and-a-half year old weighs. He wears 2T clothing, except for pants. I buy him 3T to be long enough, but sew darts in to keep them up.

He's always been small, as has Melody, but he's always grown before. Melody grew on her own slower curve, but she grew every year except for during the waiting-for-a-tonsillectomy fiasco.

So his new diagnosis is Failure to Thrive. I've never known someone diagnosed FTT who was this old, so I really don't know what to think and have successfully avoided Dr. Google.

Mid-September, we get to go visit a pediatric gastroenterologist who, thankfully, comes to our small town two days a month for appointments.

His speech therapist is going to do some tests for sensitivities and mouth problems. I'll give him 2 cans of Pediasure a day. Depending on what the new specialist says, he may end up in eating therapy once a week at the same place he does speech and occupational therapy.

I'll keep you posted.


The Church Balcony

is sometimes not isolated enough.

During the opening hymn, Charlie attempted to drown out all that boring Jesus stuff with his well-choreographed and sound-effect-enhanced rendition of Everybody Was Kung Fu Fightin.

I know we are, during publicly led prayers, encouraged to add our own thoughts and pleas towards the Heavenly Father. God is now completely up-to-date on Charlie's deep and abiding thankfulness for chocolate, Hot Wheels, stickers and an entire host of specific candy varieties.

Then it was time to sing (and dance) to the Y.M.C.A. This, naturally, sparked Melody's long-standing diatribe on why it is still called the YMCA when both men and women now use it.

At least no one was punched, like in the first song.

Then Charlie begins what I like to refer to as Chocolate Bieber:
"Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, O!" instead of "Baby, baby, baby Oh!"
It's still an improvement over Baby Bieber, which goes something like "Diaper, diaper, diaper BUTT!"

Especially given the location.

At this point, I leave the girls sitting side-by-side on the pew, sharing a hymnal and working through the next few songs. I take Charlie to the aisle where i rock, squeeze, say, rub and, essentially, sensory-input the devil out of him.

He'd calmed back down just in time for the sermon, perfectly-timed, about Jesus calming the storm a and about what a hard day that had been for him. Finding out John the Baptist had been beheaded, trying to have some time alone only to be followed by 5000 men + women and children, preaching to them all and then feeding them fishes and loaves. Walking on water, then letting Peter take it out for a spin.

The whole time, Charlie sat perfectly upright and still next to me. The only motion was opening his mouth for the pinched-off bit of pink Starburst candy that was delivered approximately every two minutes. Two squares of candy lasted through all but the last two sermon points and a sheet of race car stickers covered the rest.

But then it was time to sing again. And, apparently, kung-fu fight some more. If only the calming would last. Jesus and I would have both had better days.


Next project

is Dixie's quilt. I bought her fabric for her birthday and got this far today:


It's going to be quite cute.

Here are some better windowseat pics:

My mom hosts a family reunion at the end of every June. People bring all sorts of interesting things to share like crafts and pics. This year, my Great-Uncle Gene had moved into a smaller house and brought several quilt tops and quilts of his mother's. He spread them out on the lawn for people to choose.

I got this fantastic queen-sized top, intending to finish it and use it in Charlie's room. It's 2" squares, completely hand pieced and then did a vibrant red stitching pattern between the pieces. All of the fabrics are double-knits, that I'm assuming were clothes from the 60s and 70s.


Even the heavy green fringe was made by hand.


When I started looking it over, I realized it was so heavy that, by the time I added batting and backing, it would be too warm to ever be used in west Texas. The top itself weight at least twenty pounds. I hated to think that it would sit in a linen closet, unused because it never got cold enough.

The project of cushions for the windowseat had been in the back of my mind since buying the house. After pricing out foams and not being able to agree on fabrics, we decided that this would be the perfect use for the quilt top. After all, Great-Great-Aunt Leona did not pour her time into this for it to sit in a closet, never used. This is a space the entire family uses, and on a daily basis.

And perhaps it's the old-fashioned girl in me, but this just looks a lot more home-like and cozy than it would with prissy decorator fabrics.



I finished something!

Don't seem so surprised.

Before I show off my work, I'd like to reminisce that it was one year ago today that I first showed up for work in our new town, 209 miles from home. When I am frustrated with myself that I am not further along in organizing the house, I remind myself of how crazy those days were. Get hired, show up 8 days later, find a house in five days and sign papers, bring the family to start school, stay in one room of a friend's for seven weeks, travel every weekend to pack and say goodbye, start a new job, get the new house in October, and come down with mono in November while hosting Thanksgiving.

I'm still tired from that mono, but even more tired thinking about it all.

About four months ago, the girls decided they wanted birds. We went through several ideas before settling on two parakeets. Charlie could choose the green one and the girls could choose the other one together. They would get a cage from their Oma.

They've done dishes, put away laundry, swept things, fetched things, cleaned up the yard, picked up sticks before mowing, even saved their spending money from camp. Dixie's birthday swag put them over the $45 goal by $14. A good thing, since we spent $57 and change today on food, gravel, water dish, food bowl and a cuttle bone.

Oh, and these guys.


Dot is female and blue and Perry is male and green. We think.

While the kids spent their afternoon sticking fingers in the cage, I sewed.


Because of the window in the background, I'm going to have to wait til dark for better pics.


In our house is this fabulous window seat, flanked by built-in bookshelves and overlooking the play area of the backyard. Underneath is Dowlan's technology storage chasm that I don't attempt to explore. Now on top are three cushions that I sewed using a quilt top I got this summer, two pillows I got cheap at Wal*Mart and two girls.


When it's dark outside and I can get a better picture, I'll tell you more about the quilt top.



Dixie is 8.

I'm not sure how that happened, exactly.

Charlie is 5.

Melody got her half. She is 7.5.

In two weeks, I will have three full-time school-aged kids. The girls are in 2nd grade. Charlie's in PPCD.

Every day, Melody empties the dishwasher and Dixie sweeps a porch. We have three porches, so she rotates through. Melody brings me the paper each morning and Dixie brings me the mail each afternoon.

All three of them are old enough to independently tidy a bed and clean a room.

Yesterday, the girls went to see the musical Hairspray with me and behaved. They understood enough to have philosophical discussion about it's central themes of racism and acceptance afterwards. There was that dicey moment where Mel, in the middle of an all-black dance number, burst out with, "She's right! They DO dance better than the white people!" Other than that, they made for good dates to the theatre.

Both girls are old enough to read chapter books in a waiting room or on a car trip. I frequently lose them in the house only to find them holed up somewhere with a library book.

It's just crazy.

Four years ago this month, when I started this blog, I had

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and a

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What I've been doing

It started yesterday when I got all of Dixie's clothes out to go through them and get rid of what is too stained, too out or too short for school, pass a few things on to Melody and reorganize things. Halfway through, Melody got a nosebleed that lasted a good ten minutes and part of that clean-up was starting a load of laundry.

I finished Dixie's clothes and had just gotten Melody's all brought into the living room when I realized it was time to make lunch. Not wanting to be overly interrupted by cooking, I went to the deep freeze for what should have been frozen fish sticks.


The deep freeze has needed defrosting for about a month and I was waiting for Dowlan to come home so that he could do the grunting and pushing part. Despite having knocked off some chunks of ice and giving the door a good shove, the ice had pushed the door open.

Fishsticks in oven, I lay down a towel, grab a laundry basket, fill it with all teh food, cram the ice cream into the other freezer and remove all the pet and laundry supplies from off the top of the freezer. I then realize that the last time Dowlan had to get to the hot water heater, he failed to move the stacked washer/dryer completely back into place.

(I tried to find a picture of the space, but this is the best I came up with)

new house

Apparently, I can shove two appliances eight inches if I really have to.

Washer/Dryer aside, I began to pull the upright deep freeze forward, only to realize the cord is preventing removal. I shimmy Melody back there, almost burning her on the coils, just to learn that she cannot pull the heavy-duty appliance plug out of the outlet. She can, however, gett it off the thing it's stuck on so that I can get back there.

Unplugged, I wiggle it outside while she turns on the hose. Once sprayed out, she turns off the water, then runs in for a towel. I leave it on the back porch to dry for a moment while I go in to clean the wet, gross floor and hey! There's my ironing board!

Three weeks ago I'd given up on ever finding it again and bought one. Silly me, I didn't think to look for it behind the washer/dryer.

There, I am faced with a Jedi, compelling me to 'choose your weapon.'

I try to grab the pistol, but he really wants that one, so I opt for the green light sabre and start mopping. He won't let me set it down and I have no pocket, so it goes in my bra. This adds an extra element of fun that most housekeepers just don't get to have. Periodically, I pull it out, fend off an attack, then return to the floor.

I get it all cleaned up, dried off, back in place, food back in, stuff back on top, back to clothes, but first I have to knock the coffee filter out of the top of the trashcan, sprinkling wet grounds everywhere.

Bless you, Melody, for your willingness to vacuum things. Then back to laundry.

I learn that the state is asking residences to turn off all unneeded electrical draws from 3-7 to keep the grid from having blackouts. I stop running more laundry, turn off the computer and lights, then get a few more of Melody's things squared away before leaving to pick up Dixie, take the kids to Burger King and the library to use their air-conditioning and coming home to get them to bed and do more laundry.

I'd stayed up late to get things squared away and in decent shape. The last load was washed at about midnight. Sure enough, Dixie dropped her entire cereal bowl on me this morning, splashing it's milky way down all our clothing and onto the rug. I remember thinking 'and just when I ran out of things to wash with it' and took her to gymnastics camp.

I regret thinking that, as it is likely what triggered Charlie to wet the bed. My bed. Two loads of laundry later, I am 31 minutes from having every stitch of clothing and bedding in the house clean.

If only it would last.


Daddy's Brilliance

Last May, Charlie got to pick out his very own book at the school's Book Fair. It was a big deal to get to pick and an even bigger deal because he found the perfect book.

1. It is about Hot Wheels.
2. They race inside a volcano.
3. The green car wins.
4. The green car in the book is a car that he has.

Could it get any better?

Inside the front cover is a preprinted bookplate area that reads, "This book belongs to:"

Dowlan filled it out with his complete name, address and phone number. I teased him about this being excessive--I know it seems like the end of the world if he loses the book, but I doubt anyone will return it.

He said, "That's not why I wrote it. I wrote it because he makes me read this book to him ten times a day. Every single word. And if I read his full name, address and phone number to him often enough, he will learn them."


Months later, this book is still read at least two or three times a day and Charlie now reads along with the name and address. He's still not too sure about the phone number, but it's progress!


Good Newses

There are two of them, so I had to make News plural, of course. And both of them happened last Thursday.

Charlie's therapies (speech and OT) happen each week and the cost for each half-hour session is $90, of which our co-pay is $32.74.

It really adds up. Each month can cost us nearly $300 and he's been attending since January. When you add up all the other copays for dental, medical, prescriptions and counseling, we can easily spend half my monthly paycheck just keeping us all healthy and sane.

I was willing to do whatever it took to pay it, as the center is absolutely fantastic. His therapists keep up with advances and have an amazing way with children. It also happens to be a non-profit and we applied several months ago for some assistance and then promptly stopped paying our bills while we awaited a decision.

When we took him in last Thursday, I finally got there early enough to ask if they knew anything. Four people later, an irked-with-her-coworker administrative assistant came out to tell me that we were still missing a step.

Great. Having had Medicaid experiences with Melody, I was already prepared for another long haul.

Turns out the step was simple--I signed my name on a piece of paper. She started to walk away and I asked what percentage would be covered, thinking that a third or half of that would make my day.



Earlier that morning, I'd finally gotten organized enough to make a phone call. Since Dowlan left to work in another city, I'd been anxious about school transportation. Charlie is bussed to his school, but I was going to have to figure out how to be there to meet his buses, get the girls to their school (now 4 miles away instead of 2 blocks like their old one) and get to me at school by 7:20.

I could drop the girls off as early as 7, but the wild card was Charlie's bus schedule. If his pick up window was 6:40-7, this could perhaps work. If it was 7-7:20 it could not possibly work. If 7:20-7:40, I could take the girls, then have his bus get him from my campus. (Last year, they picked him up at our house and dropped him off, at the end of the day, by my classroom. They're a bit flexible with SpEd kids.)

If his bus were early or late, this would not work. The weeks I have 7 a.m. morning duty it would certainly not work.

Then there is the matter of afterschool care for the girls. No offense to anyone who works in one or whose children are in one, but I am not a fan of the ones I have seen. The environment is loud and chaotic, the children not well supervised.

But while having lunch with some coworkers on Monday, the counselor pointed out that the girls can be bussed, because they are at the magnet school.

I called The Bus Guy. He told me that the girls CAN be bussed, but that GT busing will not pick up at the home like SpEd busing. They will have to be picked up at their home campus and returned there.

I asked if it made a difference which campus--I mean, they are already picking a few kids up from the school I teach at, so it wouldn't add to their trip. He agreed that that would be fine.

So all I have to do now is get us all dressed and to my school in the morning (I say like it is so easy, right?) They can catch their buses outside my door, as my room is on the back edge of campus by where the buses go anyways. In the afternoons, they will be delivered to my door.



Mildy Embarassing Internet Fondness

I love woot.com and so do my imaginary friends.

See, I have a motherboard I belong to of other Sanctimommies and Lazymommies (and Everymommy in between). Many years ago, someone introduced us to Woot and got us all hooked.

Their business model is simple: sell one item a day. When it is gone, go home. You may order 1, 2, or 3 of that item and pay the same flat rate shipping of $5. A ball point pen or a washer and dryer set have the same shipping, as do three ball point pens or three washer dryer sets. In the last 4 years, I've bought 1,2, or 3 of 76 items. Some of them are vitally useful like bacon salt or flying screaming monkeys, some completely ridiculous like robot vacuum cleaners or Mp3 players.

Over the years they have expanded to include kids.woot, shirt.woot, sellout.woot and wine.woot. The shirts are geekishly fabulous and all the other stuff, like all wootables, is refurbs, overstock and things you didn't know you needed til you saw it there. (Like the universal remote with ten buttons to pre-program your favorite channels into with little labels to stick next to those buttons. Perfect for those of us with 100 channels, four of which we actually watch.)

When they get a miscellaneous pileup of junk, they have a woot-off. It is recognizable by its flashing yellow lights and volume bar. Once all of that item has sold, the next appears. These go for up to three days. During that time, we'd start a thread on our mommy message board and hang out on the thread, hitting F5 in anticipation of the next item.

A group of about of us bonded over these threads and splintered off. Fourteen of us still remain and meet up once a year. Through these women, I have gotten to go to places like California and Chicago, gotten really good parenting advice and, occasionally, been talked off the ledge.

I've developed deep and lasting friendships, but what I'm really after is crap. Random Bag of Crap, at $8.33 including tax and shipping, could be anything from a Roomba or a Wii to a bag of Genuine Texas Air.

Seven times have I gotten Crap and seven times has it pretty much been crap.

Well, while meeting up in the D-FW Metroplex this weekend, we went on a tour of the holy land.


Where This Woot Guy gave us a 45-minute tour.


He looked EXACTLY like I'd pictured A Woot Guy to look, except he wasn't wearing birkenstocks, citing 'hobbit feet' as his reason not to ever wear sandals anywhere. The printing press and shipping areas fascinated me, as well as the Woot Off room--where they pretty much camp out until they're out of stuff.

Eight of us were on the tour and he was not quite sure how to handle eight suburban mommy superfans of a site that essentially sells video cards to seventeen year olds buying them with mom's lifted credit card.

But he did give us free monkeys and misprint shirts. My monkey clung to the sign as it said goodbye.


We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, as he (rightfully) assumed they were going straight to the internet. I did sneak one picture in their bathroom where crap is apparently just as elusive as it is on their website.


See? The Genuine Woot HQ Toilet contains no crap.

At the end of the tour, we got monkey autographs from a famous Lemon


before eating In-and-Out.


While I'd half expected two guys in a garage who had trained kittens to apply duct tape to the server, it was everything I'd dreamed of.