Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buh-Bye Knoxville!

Okay, first I need to take a moment to say a HUGE Thank you to everyone who has donated to Boog's service dog, shared our story or sent us any manner of prayers, positive thoughts or happy hippie energy. We are currently at $9,370 which is over 85% of our $11,000 goal! I am still completely floored by the insane outpouring of generosity! Thank you, so much Megcentrists!!!!

And now, to catch blog readers who aren't hip to my outside life (you know, on Facebook, hehe) up on what's been going on with the Dittrich-Reeds. A little over a month ago we got the absolutely effing awesome news that Dylan was offered an assistant professor position in the Biology dept. at Clemson University. It's pretty much his dream job that he never thought he'd get (take that, impostor syndrome!) and it's located in the most adorable little wooded college town in western South Carolina.

We immediately dumped the children on my parents and ran out there into the pretty pretty money-colored sunset yelling, "Buh-bye suckas!" Okay, not exactly, but my parents did watch them and we drove out there, Dylan went to a lot of boring meetings, I took a very long walk around campus in ridiculous heels a size and a half too small for my feet because I was trying to pretend I was a real live grown-up and not a stay-at-home schlump who alternates between Chucks and flip flops only the last time I was a real live grown-up who wore real live grown-up shoes was 2 kids and a shoe size and a half ago. Anyway, blisters. Blisters is what I'm saying. My heels are still peeling.

Dyl got all the formalities settled (he even bargained. It was adorable! I'm so proud of my little introvert!) and we found a house to rent! It's huge and beautiful and really close to the university and Ry's elementary school. I'm currently in the mystifyingly interminable process of trying to get Ry signed up for school. It's very confusing for folks, apparently, because he's not old enough for kindergarten so the regular schoolfolks don't want him but he's already in a special ed program so the ChildFind folks don't need to "find" him as he's already been found. I think I've gotten it sorted out, but we'll see.

We are having to scramble to get our house fixed up and on the market. Luckily it was such a shithole steal that our mortgage is really low and we can afford to float it for a couple of months if necessary. We're almost done righting all the redneckery and I'm kinda miffed that someone else gets to live in our unredneckified house, but then I look at the boring, boring old-people neutral paint colors I put on the previously interesting walls and I change my mind. I am never painting anything again. Ever.

Anyway, so we are leaving Knoxville and I'm actually starting to get a bit sentimental. It's no secret that Rocky Top and I got off to a rocky start. We left an adorable, safe little liberal college town 2500 miles away to move here and I experienced major culture shock (what do you mean there are people here who don't believe in global warming?! And where the heck are all the cute little locally-owned fair-trade boutiques with all the knickknacks from Africa and South America I can't afford?!). It took a couple of long, painful years for us to carve out our niche here. But it's been carved and in no particular order, I want to list the top 6 things (because I had more than 5 but couldn't come up with 10) I'm going to miss most when we move on:

1. Three Rivers Market - AKA Mecca AKA the place I visit sometimes an embarrassing 3 times a day because I forgot something or I just have to have those g-d Nectar Nugget peanut butter cups at 10 p.m. Three Rivers is cool with that, they don't judge me for my scatterbrained nature or peanut butter cup addiction. For those who don't live in Knoxville, Three Rivers is a food co-op and they have saved our weird little food-allergic family's butts many times.

We found them back when we first discovered Ry was allergic to dairy and I was nursing him and living on baby carrots and air because I didn't know how to cook and eat real food and everything processed was chock-full of cow-y goodness (er badness in this case). Suddenly there were things I could eat! And when things got weirder when we put him on the Specific Carbohydrate diet, Three Rivers had all the crazy out-there grain-free flours and seeds and organic chicken livers and whatnot we needed. Everyone who works there is so nice and laid-back and the new store (it used to be in this tiny rickety old house) is gorgeous and man am I going to miss them!

2. MagPies Bakery - I came here intending to go to culinary school, become a pastry chef and open my own bakery. Oh tiny little 24 year old Meg, you were so adorably young. Through some inexplicable stroke of luck I got a job at MagPies, the best bakery in Knoxville (just ask Metro Pulse a bajillion years running). This job was instrumental in convincing me that opening a bakery was NOT what I wanted to do, but I don't mean that as an insult. Peggy and her crew work HARD. They work late into the night and they come to work eaaaarly in the morning.

I worked there for 2 1/2 years transitioning from customer service and general all-around gofer girl (which I was terrible at) to icing queen (which I was less terrible at) to middle-o'-the-night baker girl (which, as there were no people to awkwardly interact with and I set my own daily schedule I was much better at) and while it was very, very hard work I loved it. But then I became a mom. To a very special Boog. His therapy schedule started to come together in all its time-sucking intricacies and his (lack of) sleep schedule wasn't jiving with the fact that Mommy only had the hours between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. to sleep. Eventually, it was either quit or fall asleep driving the kid to PT or ST or OT or FT or GT and die in a horrible fiery car crash.

I still miss it! I made some amazing lifelong friends there and I was proud to work for an organization that believed so deeply in the quality of its products. MagPies cupcakes are still the very best thing I've ever put in my mouth and it was awesome to get to be a part of that for a little while.

3. The Sunspot - Yes, the first 3 items on my list are about food. So what? The Sunspot is the first restaurant we ever ate at in Knoxville and it will probably be the last (even though they took my beloved Granny Smith steak salad off the menu. I forgive you, Sunspot...sort of...). Their motto is "Where Tie-Dyes and Neckties Unite" and while I'm not sure I've seen many folks sporting either there, the point is that it's a slightly hippie establishment that fancy grown-up folk can go to in K-town to eat something other than pulled pork and grits (although those occasionally make appearances on the menu, too).

To me, it's the closest I've come to "California food" in the South and they have a very large selection of teh alcohols. They've also moved from a rickety ol' shithole building (after a car crashed in through the window while Dylan was drinking at the bar. True story) to a nice, light, airy, hipstery repurposedy looking space a little further down the road. I'm going to miss the food and the booze and the general ambiance.

4. Knoxville Center for Autism - A couple of years ago, right after Boog got his PDD diagnosis, I learned about this magical type of therapy called "Applied Behavioral Analysis" at the exact same time that we switched insurance companies to one that would actually cover aforementioned therapy. Miraculously, there was even one BCBA in town who took this insurance! When we started in 2011, KCA was just one awesome lady, Sara Gilbert, and an assistant in 2 tiny rooms in an old house in West Knoxville. Today Sara employs several other therapists and has moved into 2 suites in an office complex nearby where they offer not only private ABA but social skills groups, special summer programs in sensory integration, math, reading, and social skills and parent training programs.

KCA has been miraculous for Boog. He's made such strides across the board since he started ABA and he loves going there. To him, his therapists are his friends and he's always happy to greet them with a smile and some strange form of physical contact that they tolerate because they're awesome. They've advocated for us with our insurance company when his hours got cut and they created an entirely new protocol for Boog when he was so sick this winter to try to keep him from being exposed to germs. We're currently on the waiting list for an ABA practice near Clemson but we're going to miss KCA very, very much.

5. Knoxville Holistic Moms - Sadly I am such an introverty hermit that I didn't discover the Holistic Moms Network until last summer. What I found was a cool bunch of ladies who are all different but who share a common goal to live a bit more in tune with nature. So, basically, I found my hippies. I also found my neighbor Jenny who, despite living down the street from us for several months didn't know we existed. I knew she existed because she had a drying rack full of cloth diapers out front and a Coexist sticker on her car and every time I drove by her house, I thought, "Man, I should really meet her!" but then it's kinda weird and creepy to go up and knock on someone's door and say, "Hey, I dig your bumper sticker! Let's be friends!"

But I went to that first HMN meeting and saw her car out front and finally got the balls to say, "Um, you live 50 feet from me. Wanna hang?" And now we're great friends.

I'm incredibly bummed that there's no HMN chapter in Clemson. In fact there are no chapters in the entire state of South Carolina! Maybe I'll start my free time.

6. Lisa Ross Birth and Women's Center - I had RyRy the mainstream way - by scheduled "post-date" induction in a hospital. The nurses were attentive and kind and I liked my obstetrician, but the experience itself was terrible. When I became pregnant with Pippa, I knew I wanted to go a different route. I wasn't quite brave enough to attempt a home birth, but there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell I was stepping foot in a hospital again. Enter Lisa Ross: the only free-standing midwife-run birth center around. And 5 minutes from my house!

While I had a bit of a disagreement with one of the midwives over my weight gain (there's an earlier blog to this effect), the rest of them were very chill and knowledgeable and generally just checked me and baby out and then let me be, which is exactly what I wanted. During Pippa's birth, the attending midwife was fantastic. When in pain, I'm like an injured animal. When giving birth, I'm like an injured animal with big, sharp pointy teeth. In other words I just wanted to be left alone in the dark to pace and I didn't want anyone to so much as whisper to me. The midwife came in at first, tried to rub my back and drew me a bath. I growled. She retreated. She spent most of my labor sitting in the hallway so I could be alone. It. Rocked. She came and checked on baby every 30 minutes and between times I was left alone to drink coconut water, eat Larabars and growl at Dylan to leave me alone. And I got to go home 6 hours after Pippa's birth to be left alone to snuggle my baby and nurse. It was exactly what I wanted.

So, bye Knoxville! I'll miss your scruffiness and your tiny pockets of liberalism and your rolling, green hills! We both knew this wasn't a forever thing, but I will remember you fondly.

Photo from

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Oh my goodness. I am completely overwhelmed. You lovely, lovely, lovely people!

Okay, I'll try to summon some coherence. Remember that little Superdog blog I wrote yesterday telling y'all about fundraising efforts for Rylan's service dog? You crazy, wonderful people have really put the word out and we have raised $4500 in a little over 24 hours all from private donations! I've gone through and thanked each person individually through the fundraising site, but I want to send a BIG collective thank you to my lovely bigger-than-I-imagined social circle. THANK YOU!

I feel like George Bailey at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life". I had no earthly idea that the response would be like this. I assumed that my closest friends and family would probably chip in if they could, but I have complete strangers sending ridiculous amounts to me: $100, $200, $500 -- people I don't know from Adam. Our family has been set completely adrift on a sea of kindness.

We nearly have enough to make the first $5000 payment due August 1 already! Words are failing me right and left as I try to express how this makes me feel. Relieved. Excited. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

Thank you.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Well hello there, gentle readers! Long time no...type! I'm terribly sorry for the long hiatus. A lot of exciting things have happened to our little band of misfits over the past couple of months and I will be returning later this week to regale you with our hijinks (and a long-awaited update to the Righting the Redneckery series!).

Today, though, I'm coming to ask a big favor. I mentioned awhile back that we were looking into getting a service dog for the Boog to help with certain troubling symptoms of his autism and epilepsy. Well, we've done it! We don't have doggy in hand yet (well, in home, I'm guessing it'll be too big to fit in my hand, unless he gets some sort of genetically mutated mini-dog, which, while theoretically adorable, would probably not be terribly helpful for these usual, I digress), but the good folks over at Wilderwood Service Dogs in Maryville, TN are working on finding the right match for our Boog and training the dog to meet his particular needs.

I talked about this a bit in previous blogs, but this dog, once trained, will really be a superhero for our family. Superdog will be able to keep the Boog from wandering off and getting lost or hurt (this one is especially important to me. Do you know how many autistic children wander away from their homes and get hurt or killed? It's absolutely heartbreaking). Superdog will help him focus during therapy and "homework" sessions by interrupting his self-stimulatory patterns. Superdog will be an excellent social bridge through which Ry can begin to build relationships with others and just a good pal to cuddle with when he wants to be alone but still needs a little bit of company (currently my ancient and evil cat, Tobi is serving this purpose, but she is, as aforementioned, ancient and though I am thoroughly convinced her pure evilness will preserve her forever, still it's good to have a backup). But most importantly, Superdog will learn the signs the Boog exhibits when he's about to have a seizure and will be trained to alert us. This is huge, because, though he hasn't had one in a couple of months now (YAY!), his seizures can be very dangerous. He often vomits during them and he's usually laying down when they happen. If this happened in the middle of the night and we were asleep, he could choke, which is just the most terrible, terrible thing to think of. With Superdog in our house, we can rest a little easier knowing we will have an extra safety measure in place during Ry's seizure cycles.

And, of course, Superdog will be faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Just kidding. Wilderwood in no way promised us the dog will have actual superpowers. But s/he will do all that other stuff I mentioned.

So, where's the catch, Meg? Well, service dogs ain't cheap. Wilderwood is a non-profit and as such charges a heck of a lot less than for-profit service dog organizations, but we still need to come up with $12,000 and fast. We've put down $1000 deposit already, but we have $5000 due by September 1 and the remaining $6000 by December 1.

So we need a little help. If Boog's story has resonated with you and you have the means, please consider donating to his service dog fund. If you don't have the dough but would be willing to share this blog or his gofundme page (which I'll link below), we'd love it if you did that. Prayers, happy thoughts, white light, interpretive dance and anything else you want to send out into the Universe in his honor are also greatly appreciated. I can't wait to get Superdog home and post pictures of him/her and my SuperBoog in matching capes!

Thanks for reading, as always, and I'll be back to the blog later this week!

Here's my buddy in case you need a little cuteness in your day:

GoFundMe site: