shower cake for a coworker

They wanted it to replicate her dress. It's pretty close!




Shameless brags

Dixie cartwheels so well that her instructor stopped the rest of the class to watch her and see how it's done.

Charlie can spell butt. Also mommy, but mostly butt.

Melody was chosen to speak at the K-2 assembly this morning. It was stuff she'd written about Texas and she was one of five children chosen out of all three grades.

We get her up, dressed a little less scraggly than usually and make sure her hair gets brushed. We get to school a few minutes early and sit through the usual perfect attendance and most improved before she gets with the other four children to speak. This is when I realize that one of the other children is, in fact, Dixie.

Melody's covered facts about Texas' statehood and government. I'd tried to change the wording a bit, but she steadfastly refused to say, "The Governor of Texas is Governor Goodhair," and instead chose the original wording, "The Governor of Texas is Rick Perry."

Dixie's contained the sentence, "The state tree of Texas is the pecan tree." Which, I'm surprised to say, was not followed with the sentence, "And my mommy's very allergic to pecans."


the promised cake pics






For seven springs in our old house, we attempted vegetable gardens. Some years it was a monumental undertaking, some years we briefly stabbed at it, but there were seven gardens planted there.

When we first moved, in there was no yard, no driveway and no paved road. We spent many an evening of our young married life chucking large rocks across the street to the empty field. What we didn't chuck, we used to make perimeters around our intended gardens. We'd lived there about eight months before they laid sod and they just plopped it down on top of a layer of weeds gracing the top of the poo-brown clay that smelled about like it looked. Needless to say, it was not successful.

In trying to grow something in that yard, we soon discovered that the rocks were not only on the ground. An inch or two under the ground was a solid layer of limestone. Dowlan took a steel bar and jammed it into the earth to break it up, then we dug it out in giant chunks. More layers to the perimeter, more rocks chucked across the road. We'd then lay good dirt on top of the clay and try to mix them together.

When we planted trees, it would take several hours to get a hole deep enough plant the tree. We'd buy one per weekend.

So, when we first looked at this house, one of the many wondrous appeals was the fenced off 40x50 foot garden area on the southwest corner of the yard. The woman we bought the house from told me that this had been her grandfather's garden and his father's before that. Over seventy years of gardens were planted in this plot. The soil is fertile and can grow pretty near anything.

Over the weekend, we grabbed the shovels and gloves and all five of us got to work. I'm in love with this dirt. Even the girls can use a shovel in it. Getting the grass and weeds of it has proven simple. Such a different experience than our last garden.

We had a good time out there, all five of us.  Even before the chainsaw.


Next time you're navel gazing, contemplate this:

Melody asked me last week, "If my bellybutton had a baby, would the baby bellybutton have a bellybutton?"


Amazing friends have I

For those of you not hip to the ways of the elementary crowd, please know that American Girl Dolls are a Big Deal. They're well-made dolls that are 18" high and can stand independently. They are girls, not babies, and their hair does not crap out on you like most doll hair is wont to do. Each doll is from a different time and place in American history and has a book (or books) to go with it. There are also custom dolls available.

They are also crazy expensive and the expense of the doll itself pales in comparison to the cost of the accessories. It would be easy to blow a few hundred dollars in their catalog or store. Part of the idea is that you buy a doll that looks like you, then get matching outfits.

Fortunately, Target has a knockoff version called Our Generation. And fortunately for Melody, they were on clearance in mid-January. Even better, they have a horseback-rider faux-AG doll named Lily Anna for $17.44.

Happy Birthday, Mel! She even looks a little like you!


And her house is 75% off! less than $15! (The stock photo is tiny. The house is about two feet tall, three feet wide and two feet deep. It's big enough for Lilly Anna to stand in and we have a little bed for her in there.)


Melody opened them up and went cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Now, part of having like-twins is having like-wants and like-needs and you can't go overboard on one girl's birthday present like that, especially since nearly every toy in our house is a Sharing Toy and Lilly Anna is distinctly NOT a Sharing Toy. Normally I spend about $15 on a kid for a birthday and this, at full price, would have been closer to a hundred dollars. And Dixie's August birthday is a long ways away.

As Melody is opening this up, Dixie is trying to figure out how to react. I take her aside and explain that I have already planned to get her a doll, but will need her help picking it. I can see her still struggling with jealousy and anger, but she pulls it together well.

So, the next afternoon, we go to Target to find a very empty shelf. We go online to find two dolls that look rather like Dixie and appeal to her. Out of Stock.

So I mention on facebook that Dixie would like one of these two dolls, but that we cannot find them anywhere. Does anyone have one? Several friends respond that their Targets claim to have them in stock, and would I like them to go look.

My friend April in Idaho is the first to respond and I am in awe of her kindness as I take her up on the offer. Within a day, Victoria Marie is headed our way.


But that's not the best part. The best part is the little book that was taped to the box. See, Victoria Marie was not in the full accessorized set like Lily Anna was, and has no book to tell her story.

So April MADE one for her. She took her out of the box, took pictures of her on the couch in this family full of boys and out in the Idaho snow and made them into this sweet little story book. In the tale, she's looking for someplace warmer and less boy-trapped, so she decides to hop into a box and go live with the most perfect little girl . . . Dixie!

Pure awesomeness that only another mommy could ever understand . . . I have amazing friends!


Mel's seven!

Melody's birthday party was a few weekends ago. If anyone who was there would email me cake pics (dad!!) I'd happily post them. It was pretty spectacular.

Like any January birthday girl, she wanted a beach party. Uh-huh. So I made little suitcase-shaped invitations. From one handle hung a luggage tag with the invitee's name. It opened to reveal party details and was jazzed up a bit with super fancy sea creature stickers. I threw this poem in for fun:

Melody thinks that cold weather's a bummer,
She looks out her window and longs for the summer.
She wishes her friends, on the day she turns seven,
Could splash in the ocean! It would be just like heaven!
But packing our bags isn't really in reach,
So head to our backyard--it will be like the beach!

Melody has magical weather predicting and altering skills, so the January weekend in question was 80 degrees and sunshiny. It had been so cold for so long that eighty degrees was sweltering and they kept running inside to cool off. I told them that life on the beach is supposed to be hot! By the next weekend it was bitter cold again. When it got down to 18 it was hard to believe a few days before had really been 80.

We had a mostly backyard party with the giant trampoline and scooters from Christmas for entertainment. There was some surfer girl dancing and a sand pit where they dug for buried treasure. (Or at least a kiddie pool filled with sand that had shells and chocolate inside). Oh, and a colorful seahorse pinata. The buckets they'd filled with sand treasures and leis got a nice layer of candy added on top. I threw in a few more party favors at the end and called it good.

Inside was a bowl of goldfish (the cracker) and juice boxes (the first grade set rose an eyebrow at juice boxes. Did they expect Mt. Dew and Red Bull?). The cake was four tiers with sand, starfish, seaweed and shells at the bottom; fish, a seahorse and a sea turtle in the middle two tiers and the top tier was a desert island with crumbly sand and a Polly Pocket in a bikini on a lawn chair, drinking something out of a coconut shell under an umbrella. All fondant, except Polly and her ecoutrements. Each layer was a different flavor cake.

There were three girls from school, a girl from church, one from the neighborhood and my friend Mindy's kids as well as a tag along little brother just right for Charlie. My friends Amanda and Fred came, along with my parents and Grandma Jane. I was not sure if the party would be drop-off or hang around, but all the moms stayed. It was nice to get to know them a bit.

I'll tell you tomorrow about what I got her. Promise!


My Nighttime Nomads

If all three of them ever once slept through the night, I'd probably wake up ten times thinking they'd been dragged off by wolves or flown off with Peter Pan. I realize that having three ups the odds of something going wrong on any one night, but they don't even have the decency to take turns.

Lately, Dixie's been getting up and not coming into our room, which I'm finding to be far worse than getting up and coming to our room. In the morning, we'll find little traces of her activity. It's really like being visited by fairies or something. There will be a half-empty cereal bowl in the kitchen, makeup redistributed in the bathroom or toys strewn about.

We've had to put passwords on everything because she passed the time one night by googling things for entertainment. This ended rather badly, as one might imagine. When she found she couldn't get onto the computers anymore, she passed time with my cell phone. I found all sorts of dimly lit pictures and my friend Mindy got a mumbled midnight message.

Our house is fairly spread out and our rooms are completely opposite ends. I guess it's time to break out baby monitors again, because there's no way we can hear her with a play room, dining room, kitchen and hallway between us.

It does come in handy. Charlie often has nightmares and, if we don't get to him quickly enough, he can be up for awhile. Sometimes Dixie gets there first or runs to get us if we don't hear him.

Two weeks ago, I run in there while he's screaming and hold him to calm him down. Part of what makes it hard for him to calm down is that he can't iterate what he just experienced. He cannot tell what his dream was and so we cannot really talk about it. He just knew that it was about a cat and that we need to go outside and cut grass with scissors. If we could cut all the grass with scissors, his bad dream would go away.

Yeah, no idea where that idea came from. Did I mention the blanket of snow covering the sheet of ice covering the grass?

I told him that I could not cut the grass, but that I was a Mommy and Bad Dreams do not like Mommies. As long as I was holding him, he'd be just fine. After many efforts to go outside and cut the grass with scissors, and many reminders that I was his talisman against whatever happens to cats in bad dreams, and promises to get up and cut grass with him first thing in the morning, we got to sleep. I never realized that Dixie was up this whole time, listening.

We were up for over an hour. He'd finally gone to sleep when the cat needed out. I'd almost drifted off when the storm began to howl and wail and dance against my windows. Fortunately, the next day was a late start day and I got to sleep in a bit.

When I woke up, Charlie was still asleep by my feet. Next to the couch was a small basket of freshly scissor-cut grass. Dixie had gone out as soon as the sun rose to cut the grass and keep her brother safe.


Siblings are Dangerous

Melody, after a scuffle with Charlie: Mom, how many layers of skin do we have?
Mommy: Seven.
Melody: Well, I think I'm down to six now in some places.
Mommy: Don't worry. They'll grow back in a few days.


really sick. again.

fortunately, as i am nearly out of sick days, one of the days was a weather day, one was a short day i could muster through and the other two are days with major scheduling interruptions.

i started allergy shots today. i get to self administer them, which i think i can handle. and, hopefully, they will restore my immune system and result in a healther, happier and, frankly, not cranky gretchen.

dixie is enjoying my  misery. she pointed out last night that my fever makes me a warmer snuggler. i breathed on her a bit, just to say thank you.

melody's very quiet. i asked, 'what are you reading?' and she answered 'greek mythlolo . . . greek mylthollo . . . i'm reading greek myths.' I told her auntie kelcy would be proud.

and this little gem is from last night:
charlie's running about the house, using his farts as jet engine power. with each burst of fuel, he is projected in a different direction with a spurt of energy that tapers off until the next arrives to send him in a different vector. with sound effects.