Birthday Morning

Trying to explain to Charlie that his party is today but his birthday is next Tuesday was too much, so, for all intents and purposes, he is five!

When he got his half of 4 1/2, he resisted for months. Only embraced that addition to his name a few weeks ago when Melody explained to him, "But Charlie! You can't get to five unless you have your 4.5 first! If you don't take your half, you'll never have a birthday again!"

This morning he declared himself to be "Five and a half, little" (which takes too much time to type, so I'm designating it 5.5L) and analyzed his 5.5L quite thoroughly with statements like, "I'm 5.5L and STILL FIT IN FOOTED JAMMIES!"

All morning long, he has been ready for his party. He keeps asking, "Will all the people in all the houses and all the stores come to my birfday party? Can I open my presents at my party? Can I open some now? What are my presents?"

The boy is on to this whole birthday gig.

He has afforded himself quite a few rights that I was not previously aware came with the 5.5L age status.

"Now dat I'm 5.5L, I get to steal a car. I get to steal da caw wif da gwown ups in it and dwive it to my birfday party. I have my imbisible license. It is wight here in my pocket, see? No, not dat pocket. It is folded in da udder pocket. Do you know what my license is made of? MARSHMALLOWS!"

I was not aware that marshmallows folded.

He's decided that his birthday means that he will get more Hot Wheels. I told him he is probably right about that, but we can't know until his party. He brought a Green Hot Wheels up to me and said, "I need to get more Hot Wheels at my birfday party because dis Hot Wheels needs a nudder Hot Wheels. It needs a Red Hot Wheels to love and to love him back."

If only love could be guaranteed for 97¢ at Wal*Mart.

He also informed me, "I hafta call Oma and tell her dat it is my birfday so she can be happy! I can dwive her car today!" Good choice, Charlie. Oma's classic Firebird is going to be a sweeter ride than PennyVann.

I gave him his birthday spankings this morning and his analysis was this, "Dat was okay, because it did not make me want to close my eyes and cwy. It made me giggle. But why can you touch my boo-tah-day on my birfday? Dat is where my poop is."

He shivers before pronouncing that to be "Yucky" then thinks a moment before asking, "You don't have to do dat next to my penis, right? Dat would not be good."

No, Charlie. We can add the car stealing and calling people to wish them a happy-my-birthday to the tradition list, but will let that one slide.


Early this morning

About 6:30 I had three snugglers in my bed and was immediately conflicted--I really, really needed to run to the bathroom, but I also really, really, really needed them to all stay in horizontal positions for at least another hour. I feared getting up and moving lest they follow me and discover their energy for the day.

About 6:40, it was time to risk it. "Stay RIGHT here. I am just going to the bathroom. Nothing interesting will happen. There is nothing you could possibly need to say to me in the next two minutes that you can't wait and tell me in, oh, two minutes. Don't move."

They didn't!

At least not out of the bed. I returned 00:01:48 later to find my mattress perimeter manned--one side by wall and the other three by child. In the moment I contemplated reentry or retreat, Charlie popped up his head and said, "I will move to make woom for you, mi'lady."

What a gentleman. He sits up, I crawl in, he lays back down.

I find myself in the center, stretching out when Charlie voices a pressing complaint. "Dere is a giwl in my stretching-out space." When you share the bed with two sisters and a mommy, that's a real concern.

Thirty more minutes of horizontal peace were afforded to all.



Yesterday, I drag the menagerie to the post office with clear directions: no singing, no touching other people, no running, only whisper. Be as quiet as you would in the grown-up portion of the library.

All the children agree to this, but because I did not specify, Charlie brings in his three-foot-long sword composed of foam insulation tubes and duct tape.

Despite instructions ad nauseum about appropriate venues for swordplay and repeated reminders that you only attack someone if they, too, have a sword, the boy child sees fit to, well, go postal.

There's a back-up plan for swords in non-sword places and that is his scabbard, or shoved down the back of his shirt. He wears it this way so frequently that he can put it down the neckhole of his shirt himself and will walk around that way completely unaware of his presence.

I think so little of seeing a hilt behind his head these days that I do not realize it is there until 7/8 of the trip home, when he informs me that, "This sword makes my car seat not so cozy."

No wonder those straps seemed more snug than usual.


My Kids Rock

Thursday morning, I woke up with a pending migraine but did not let this distant and dim view of the world keep me from packing up (x4) and heading out of town.

After a brief visit with Daddy at Granny's, the kids went to Oma's for the weekend and I hit the Metroplex with seven of my favorite imaginary friends. (I have a lot of favorite imaginary friends from which to choose, you understand.)

We arrived home this weekend, 1254.8 miles later. All but 91 of them were driven by me, most of them on unfamiliar, heavily-trafficked and construction-plagued roads. The kids were only dragged along for 179.2 of those.

To complicate an already long and complicated trip, I had a funeral to hurry home to. A coworker of mine, a woman I only worked with one school year but already tremendously respected, was laid to rest at 10:00 this morning.

After several days of eating Chuy's and In-and-Out, shopping, playing board games til the wee hours, and throwing in a late-staying visit to my 40-week-pregnant cousin last night, I went to sleep a little after midnight. At 3:30 I awoke and deposited an imaginary friend at Love Field at 4:30 before driving directly to the funeral. Despite leaving my cell phone (and therefore my directions) at the hostessing imaginary friend's house, I arrived only ten minutes late.

I paid my respects, ate lunch with coworkers at one of her favorite spots and dragged a friend back to mom's to pick up the kids. Spent an hour with daddy, got their little gifts of hair clips and Hot Wheels and headed home.

I am so tired. Also, my back did not love this trip.

As we arrived home, the girls sprang to action. While I cleaned out the litter box and made Charlie a sandwich, they brought in every single piece of luggage, bag, pillow and toy from PennyVann, neatly deposited them in the dining room, got jammies on, poured themselves milk, curled up on the couch and turned on Charlie's favorite show for him.

Charlie did come over long enough for this exchange:

Charlie: Why did you buy me da Hot Wheels?
Me: I know you love them. Do you love them?
Charlie: Yes. I do love dem. If you want to, you can buy me Hot Wheels all da time. Anytime you want to buy me a Hot Wheels, I will take a Hot Wheels for you. I can do dat.

Sure thing, kid. Right after this nap.


Today's News

No job.

At least we know. And Granny needs him now. (Did I tell you she has a collapsed vertebrae now? He took her to urgent care earlier in the week in pain.)

No career, but there is work.


Remember when I was stuck in California for three days?

I'm hanging out with those friends again, only this time we're in the Great State of Texas so I don't have to hang out at any airports.

not like this trip.

But since I'm one of the people with a car, I get to spend my time picking people up from airports and getting rather lost.

But I have no kids. And I get to tour HQ of woot.com today. And stay up late giggling with friends.

After nine straight days doing the solo parenting thing with the kids, I may try to figure out a way to get stranded in a different part of Texas for three days. Since Dowlan never reads my blog, he won't catch on.

But mom does. Dang . . . *waves*
I'll be picking them up on Monday, as planned.


Back with the Daddy again

I've had a solo road trip planned for months, so I brought the kids to my mom's for the weekend. It's the same town Dowlan's been working at and, after nine long days, we are reunited for a bit.

Charlie said, "Now my heart can be happy again."

In further news, Dowlan got an email following up from Monday's job interview. It included a long-form application for the job, which he's got filled out and submitted already.

Ooooh, I want this to work out.


Charlie has lost his GWEEN light sabre from his happy meal

And nothing could be more urgent.

He gave me 100 minutes to look for it before 'dere is an emergency' and is counting backwards. It goes something like this:

One hundred
no, dat is not it.
One hundred
one hundred . . . .


A Very Urgent Conversation

While driving home from the library yesterday, I was talking to Dowlan on the phone. This, naturally, meant that Charlie must speak to me about a pressing matter that could only be discussed at that moment, without delay.

Charlie: Mommy, are dere imbisible tigers?
Mommy: I'm talking to Daddy right now, can one of your sisters talk to you about this?
C: Dey do not know about imbisible tigers. I dest need to know if dere are tigers dat are imbisible.
M: Not that I've ever seen.

Back to Daddy, if just for a moment.

C: But are dere imbisible tigers dat you've never seen?
M: If they're there, I haven't seen them. They are invisible.

Back to Daddy.

C: Mommy, do imbisible tigers scratch with dere huge, imbisible claws?
M: No, they only tickle bellybuttons.
C: Do imbisible bite with dere sharp, imbisible teef?
M: No, they do not bite little boys named Charlie. They lick you with their big sloppy tongues and give invisible kisses. You might like that about them, really. All their kisses are invisible, not real.
C: But what if one of dem ate me all up?
M: Well, you'd never know, would you? If one of them swallowed you whole, you'd be in their invisible tummy. But you'd still see around and be able to walk and talk . . . hey, you could be inside an invisible tiger's tummy right now and not even notice.

He ponders this. I talk to Daddy.

C: Mommy, dat is dest too silly. Dere is not an imbisible tiger's tummy dat I am in.

Oh, you may think that. But how would you know???

Technology attempted to defeat him

but he got through his interview nonetheless.

For some bizarro reason, his phone went straight to voicemail when they called this morning. He tried calling the number back, but it was not a direct line to anything. There was a helpful recording suggesting check his voicemail but no voicemail was left.

He called back the person he'd spoken with last week to set up the interview. She couldn't get through either, so she did the interview herself.

90% of the way through, his phone battery died.

When he called back he did include something about how you sometimes have to be persistent to get technology to work for you. I'm hoping she bought it.

He'd gone through the job listing the night before, taking notes on how he was qualified to do the things listed. Jotted down what experiences he'd had and how they prepared him for this job. Said he felt it went okay.

She said to check his email over the next few days for the next step.


finger-crossing time, again

I keep staring at a wall, thinking that I don't know what I'm going to do if this one doesn't work out either, but I do. I'll keep going. It's what I do.

He has another job interview in the morning--a phone interview at 8 a.m. for a job that would be an excellent fit for his skills and areas of interest.

It's a job involving lab work, which would finally put that engineering physics degree to use. It would tweak his inner geek. It's not exclusively lab work, which means he'll still get to interact with other human beings and perhaps witness the sun shining from time to time.

It's a solid starting salary for this area, which would mean we can once again put money into savings, get (back) out of debt and focus on retirement. It would mean gymnastics and ballet lessons, co-pays and therapies. It would mean affording gluten-free again. It would mean my stomach could stop hurting and I could sleep at night.

It's nearby, which means he could come home again. It's 158 hours since he left and, as Charlie put it, "How can we be Team Smif if we're not all togedder?"

But it's a phone interview, which is not in his favor. As much as he struggles to present himself as the intelligent and competent human being in person, he is at an even greater disadvantage over the phone. It's not his strong suit.

They're looking for long-term and committed? He's their guy.
They're looking for a scientific thinker with acute attention to detail? He's their guy.
They're looking for someone dedicated and friendly to work with vendors? He's their guy.
He's their guy.
He's their guy.
He's their guy.


My favorite restaurant in our new town is the gas station.

There's a local chain called Stripes that was bought out buy a guy who owns the Laredo Taco Company. Each store contains a short order grill for burgers and also has a window with about 2 dozen items under heat lamps.

It started with the jalapeno corn dogs that are 2 for 99¢. They are just the right amount of spicy. Then I started going there for a burger at lunch, as my school is far from any fast food establishments. They butter their buns and put them on the grill while the meat sizzles. Mmmmmm . . .

As their menu expanded, so did I. You can get any entree and two sides for 3.99. A 32 oz Diet Coke is 99¢ and brings my lunch total to $5.32. It's usually enough for two or three days.

My very favorite thing on the way home from church is to stop for the half rotisserie chicken, wedge fries and mashed potatoes. We come home, add some green beans and salad and split it five ways. During the school year, I'd go for a half chicken for lunch on Monday. Eat the thigh and one of the sides. Debone the rest and stick it in the lounge fridge. Tuesday, I'd eat the breast and the other side. Wednesday, I'd bring a tortilla, salsa and beans and have a chicken fajita. (It always comes with a little bell pepper and onion that are grilled to perfection!) and Thursday I'd bring a bowl of greens and cover it with whatever chicken was left.

No matter what I ate on Friday, it was always a disappointment.

So I just ran Dixie over to a friend's to play and went in for some enchiladas. I was thrilled to discover they have branched out and now have both red AND green enchiladas. I'm a bit disappointed at the first bite when I realize they use tomatillos instead of chiles verdes for the sauce, but they are worthy of culinary respect and will easily last me three meals.

You wish you had my gas station, don't you?

I just woke up

to the words, "No fair, Charlie! I can't spit that far!"

Then Charlie responded, "Miss me, miss me, now you gotta kiss me!"

Before he knew it, I ran in and gave him a kiss. He has now revised his taunting to, "Miss me, miss me, now you gotta imbisibile kiss me!"

Dang. He's on to me.


If you need a bathroom coach

Charlie is your man. Not only is his bathroom time a constant monologue, he is willing to accompany you to the bathroom and offer advice. Examples include:

"Pee is easy. It's just pee. It's not hard."

"Dat poop is being tricky, but I know it can make it out."

"Dest stand dere and hold it. Da pee knows where it's supposed to go and it will go dere if you just stand dere for a little while."

I wish he'd been there coaching me on this morning. Instead, he was out back in the sand box with Dixie, where the following occurred:

Dixie was building a sand church.
Charlie wanted to put toys in the church.
Dixie said he couldn't.
Charlie said, "You're not part of this family," (because that's what she always yells when she's mad at me).
Dixie told him he could 'build his own damn castle'.
Charlie spit on her.
Dixie threw sand in his eyes and mouth.
Melody looked up from her chapter book long enough to observe, "I don't think Charlie wanted that sand in his eyes."

It was a lovely, long morning.


So far, so good. Even with a wedding thrown in.

No one has been discovered roaming through traffic; I haven't left anyone at the grocery store. Every appointment has been kept and I even successfully navigated a wedding this evening with three kids in tow.

In the years he's been unemployed, I'd gotten quite spoiled. I haven't mowed the lawn, taken out trash, emptied the litter box. I've been able to go out with friends on a whim, run out for a diet coke or grocery shop alone. Having them all along, everywhere I go has been the hardest part.

Yet I once had 3 kids, 3 and under by myself for 13 hours a day and never let that slow me down. We've just gotten out of practice.

Melody had gymnastics day camp 8-5 all week, so that helped. Tuesday we went to the library, took a friend to the park, had lunch out and went to a petting zoo thing they had at the mall that turned out lame and so we shopped instead. On the way home, we got Melody, got Sonic drinks, took the friend home and then I couldn't collapse and let daddy take over. I made dinner, mediated disputes, did dishes, got everyone to bed, folded laundry, mopped floors.

Wednesday I was slightly less ambitious, still, by the time I took them to church for me to teach Charlie's class I was not in the volunteering mood. Thursday was the hardest, because I had several things I needed to return to several stores and Charlie had therapy. I also took Charlie and Dixie to get their eyes checked. Dixie needs reading glasses and, praise God, we do not need to try to keep glasses on Charlie's little head.

Friday would have gone far more smoothly had Melody, Charlie and I felt well. I warned Dixie that she either needed to get sick or prepare to be in charge. She gave me the strangest look.

Today I awoke with a sense of dread: Wedding Day. And Room Cleaning Day. After a morning of scrubbing and scolding, their rooms were tidy and shiny just in time to get them tidy and shiny. Melody screamed through the entire hair washing and Charlie kept spraying me with the shower head while I was scrubbing his noggin.

By the time I got them primped I looked like I'd just gotten home from a wild after party. I put makeup on and got dressed quickly, afraid they would undo while I was trying to updo, and headed to the convenience store.

If you ever take three kids to a wedding, I highly recommend M&Ms.

The rest of the ride was filled with admonitions. Upon arrival, my date took my arm and I escorted him to our seats, sisters in tow. They all sat gracefully and with dignity in their seats as I prepared the M&Ms. For every minute that went by without a wiggle or a word, they got one tiny morsel of chocolate delight.

A bag and a half later, we'd reached the recessional with one minor deviation from the script. During the vows Charlie loudly asked, "Mommy? Do snakes like you?"

Yes. Yes, they do.


some odd changes

Dowlan has been deployed to distant lands for an undetermined amount of time.
Er, not quite.

Dowlan moved in with an older woman.
True, but not really it either.

Dowlan is off to save the day, leaving me to mop up the pee.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to explain this one, especially considering I'd like to respect the privacy of others.

See, we have a branch of the family that we're not related to, but have come to think of as our own. We have several, but one offshoot in particular that we're close to. The head of this family is an elderly woman with dementia, who has two disabled adult children.

For the last two-and-a-half years, 'Granny' has been assisted by live-in companions to help her pass the day, help with meds, make sure she eats, etc. Recently, she made a plan with her daughter to go halvsies on a new house in a retirement community and her caregivers responded to that plan by moving out without notice and taking what they wanted.

It is six+ months before the new house will be done. The daughter is not able to care for her; paying non-live-in caregivers round-the-clock would bankrupt anyone. So Dowlan has gone to stay with her for awhile.

At least the next ten days, perhaps the next ten months.

There are quite a few pluses to this plan: the pay is excellent, it's not a far drive, it's something he's well suited to do, he needs a job and she does make for good company. The kids are all in school full-time this year, I have another month before I have to show up to work and we can go visit at any time.

It's just going to be odd. And hard. But I remind myself that we can do hard things.

But I remind myself that daddies frequently go off to work--they travel for business, they work in another town for awhile, they go off to war. At least we have the benefit of it being nearby and, hey, he's not getting shot at. We can end it at any time, any reason, no hard feelings.

He left Monday morning and I must say we're holding up quite well. I've been trying to do silly, fun things to help them not notice that the silly, fun parent is away for a bit. This morning I jumped on the trampoline with the kids and this evening I made Peace & Carrots, fondue-style for dinner.

Other than the parts of yesterday where Dixie dislodged her orthodontia and Charlie peed on the carpet, things are going well. I steam-cleaned the carpet yesterday, took her to the dentist this morning . . . we march on.


Peace and Carrots: I took small glass bowls and put dipping sauces in them--fruit dip, alfredo, marinara, ranch--had a larger plate of Things On Sticks to dip in them. I used baby carrots to make the shape of a peace sign on the plate to section off the meatballs, fruits, cheese cubes, etc.

It was silly and required little effort.


Passive Aggressive Prayer Time

Charlie: Tank you God for everyting dat I love. And I don't love Real Kisses.

Dixie: Thank you God for all the people that love me and that I love them. And thank you for their hugs and kisses because their Real Kisses show me that they love me.

Melody: Dear God, thank you for this beautiful day and that I got to go to church with my family. Thank you for this meal and for the time we have to spend together. Be with us all as we learn to love you more and love each other more. (slipping into Charlie voice) Tank you God for everting dat I love. And I love Real Kisses. Help Charlie to learn to love Real Kisses. It's the only thing I ask from You.


Really, Mel?

We got home from getting our new glasses about five hours before bedtime. In that span of time, she lost them at least ten times.

She keeps wearing them upside down, claiming that the entire world appears upside down when she does this. Dixie wants to try and Melody says, 'Oh, it won't look that way for you. They're not yours. If you had glasses for your eyes, they would do it, but they have to be made special for your eyes."

Dixie is not sure if she should believe this.

Now Dowlan has the kids at the park. I hope the glasses return in one piece. I am doing absolutely nothing. Having 'all summer long' to get things brings out the procrastinator in me in the worst way possible.

Eh, I think I'm just cranky. Charlie has started wetting the bed again. About three o'clock this morning, I was up peeling wet footed jammies off his shivering, stinky form. He's also started waiting until the very last minute to go in the daytime and not always making it. I so thought I was done with other people's bodily fluids.


How do we look?

I lost my glasses last Wednesday. I know they're in the house, but a week's worth of searching has proved fruitless. Glassless. Whatever.

I know the surefire way to find them is to get new ones, so that's exactly what I did. And, while I was at it, I dragged Melody along for the ride.

Turns out her eyes are worse than mine. Ooops.

We'll get there. Getting ours done was work enough. It turns out that making an appointment means nothing if the doctor and staff would rather go to lunch than check your eyes. It also turns out that having insurance does you no good if the places listed on their site won't take it. Or if you call them to ask what to do and the person gives you the wrong advice.

So here are our lovely, unreimbursable glasses.


And now Dixie's green eyes of envy are demanding exams of their own. Sure thing, kid. Just give me time to recover from this weeks' nine medical appointments and copays.


This has the makings of a good conspiracy

My father is Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop. One of their fundraisers is a flag service--people in the community give some amount of money every year in exchange for an American flag being put up in their yard every official flag flying day of the year. (There are quite a few more than one might think.)

Yesterday, dressed in his Scout uniform, with other Boy Scouts and Dowlan in tow, they go from yard to yard, all over town, erecting flags. They notice an orange-bagged paper in each yard, near the curb. As they work, they move the bags up to the porches in order to make it easier for people to get what they assume is a newspaper.

It's a bit different than their regular newspaper, but it is a holiday and, presumably, is a free extra addition to drum up readership and celebrate the Fourth of July.

Nearing the end of their morning, they find one located in the center of the street. Unable to determine which yard it belongs to, they decide to open it up and see what is inside. On one side is facts about the Declaration of Independence.

On the other side? Promotional materials for the Ku Klux Klan.
The rest of the morning was spent un-doing their good turn for the day.


Here comes the Pizza Girl

We're all in a wedding tonight. Well, not Dowlan. He was going to officiate the ceremony, but we realized that, if I'm matron of honor and Dowlan's preaching, there's no one to chase after Charlie when he decides to run naked through the woods in the ceremony. Papa's in South Carolina and won't make it to the wedding. Oma and Grandma simply don't run.

Last night at the rehearsal, we tried to explain to Charlie that his job is to help Aunt Jackee get married and to practice so he can get married someday. He's very worried about 'gwowing up and gettin mawwied' and has expressed many times that he has to be 'big enuff. I got to be nine to be gwon up and get mawwied.'

Finally convinced that he cannot get married, he has a new goal in mind: to marry a Pizza Girl. 'Dat way, when I get hungwee, I can tell her and she can go make me a pizza in the oven.'

There are worse criteria.

Charlie's couture for the wedding is also a source of great amusement. He's wearing black slacks, a black vest, a gween shirt, a bolo tie and cowboy boots. Two weeks ago, the bride brought the boots over to make sure they fit and he was off and running. That night he wanted to sleep with them on; daddy's hard-won compromise was that he would sleep with them sitting six inches in front of his face, so that they would be the first thing seen in the morning.

His first words the next morning were "Can I wear my cowboy boots now?"

For two weeks, he has clomped and dragged around in them. They're so heavy that he fatigues from the effort and goes barefoot. I think he likes them because he can put them on by himself AND they make him taller. The sound effect helps as well.

Last weekend he tried on his clothes. Once buttoned, he kicked up his boot with a fist pump in the air, announcing, "I'm FANCY!!!"

Later in the week, he explained to my uncle Darrell Lee, "I'm a boy who likes to be fancy, but they won't let me have a dress."

Uncle replied, "Don't tell your mother, she has plenty to worry about as it is."

Fancy dress and wedding dreams aside, he's not too keen on the part of the wedding where he has to stand there looking pretty. But he's practicing for his Pizza Girl--hopefully that motivation will get us through this night. A boy's got to have a goal in life . . .