Thursday, May 31, 2007

Seesaw

One day he's "normal." One day he's "on the spectrum." Then he's normal again. The next day he's "stubborn."

One of the ladies from ChildFind came to observe Jack in the classroom yesterday, and although he was typical Jack, preliminary reports from unamed sources suggest that he probably won't qualify for services. Apparently, according to this source, ChildFind only cares about cognitive ability until the child is in the public school system. Then they will address social problems. And Jack has passed all the cognitive tests with flying colors. And the observer thinks that Jack may just be "stubborn," which seems to me like a specious diagnosis.

So no matter that he won't talk to another child, unless it happens to be his brother, and that that will almost certainly affect his schooling, and no matter that these exact same ChildFind people seemed genuinely concerned about him not too long ago at his assessment, and no matter that his pediatrician told me two days ago that he will need services to teach him about social integration...

Granted, I haven't gotten their report yet nor have we had our IEP meeting, which I am really starting to get nervous about and it hasn't even been scheduled yet, so who knows what's going to happen.

For the most part Jack does all right and I have caught him a few times lately getting pulled into play or conversation with another child, so I'm not as freaked out as I was a month or two ago, but I'm still worried about making sure he gets what he needs. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Autism and Constipation. They Could Be a Band.

Today was well-child doctor's visit day for Jack and Quinn. A cool mom from my preschool took Sam home with her after school for a playdate so that I wouldn't have to deal with him at the appointment, which was awesome, because we were there for two hours, and I can't quite imagine how antsy Sam would have gotten. Jack and Quinn were bad enough. By the time the doctor was done with us, Jack went running out of the office looking for a sticker and Quinn took that opportunity to try to escape wearing only a diaper and sandals.

I really like my pediatrician, but I pretty much assume that if my appointment is at 2:15, the doctor won't roll in until 3:15. Which was the case today. But that gave us plenty of time to read and re-read and re-read the three books in the tiny exam room. And it also gave my children time to briefly wear the paper gowns the nurse offered them before discarding them after about four minutes.


The doctor and I chatted about Jack and his issues, as I call them. I like his attitude about it, and I really feel like he will help me figure out what I need to do to help Jack, no matter what the ChildFind people have to say. His take was that it is possible that Jack is on the spectrum, even after I told him that the ChildFind psychologist said that he wasn't. He also mentioned (for the third time in as many conversations) that many people say that Bill Gates has Asperger's and that he seems to have done well for himself. And, nerd-factor aside, that's not an upsetting comparison. Hopefully Jack will grow up to have a better haircut though.

Anyway, the doctor had lots of positive things to say about Jack and the way he dealt with different situations at the appointment, which led him to believe that he's doing all right, but will still need therapy and help dealing with social situations. But I felt better walking out of that room than walking out of the ChildFind evaluation.

Quinn is fine too. Except for... Any guesses? Yep, except for his poop issues. Long story short: The boy has to poop more often. So I dragged all of my kids to the store to buy a mountain of suppositories, enemas, fiber wafers, Fiber One cereal and fiberous cereal bars.

At home, the daunting-looking liquid glycerin suppository worked in about six minutes, much to Quinn's chagrin. After his diaper change, he laid on my lap for probably ten minutes with a dazed expression on his face. I could only imagine all the little endorphins running through his system.

Oh, today was also my anniversary, which both my loving husband and my mom remembered. And which I did not. I had an idea that it was at some nebulous time in the future. I knew it was coming, I just didn't expect it to show up so soon. I'm sorry, my love. Happy Anniversary.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tales From the Road, Epilogue

Sunday

I wake up this morning to 86 personal emails, 33 work emails, and a stack of papers on my desk to go through. (Not to mention some serious blogging to do.) Alex has 115 emails from work.

Quinn spends the morning running in little circles in the living room saying, “Back! Back! Back!”

Tales From the Road, Chapter Four

Saturday

Saturday morning we packed the car, and took care of things regarding Alex’s grandfather’s estate, including packing up sentimental items as well as papers and documents to bring home.

We decide to take the guys back to the mall play area so they can get some energy out of their system before we drag them back on the road. They play happily until a boy in an orange shirt pulls Sam’s hair. Instead of physically retaliating (good boy, Sam!) he comes to talk to Alex. Sam says he wants to tell the boy that he won’t play with him anymore. We say that sounds like a good way to deal with the situation, but he doesn’t get a chance. That chance does come, however, about fifteen minutes later when we’re walking out of the mall and Quinn loses one of his giant Crocs. Orange-shirt is walking with his parents, who I believe to be unaware of the whole hair-pulling incident. The boy’s mother stops us to tell us that Quinn lost his shoe, after which Sam chases them down and announces, “I don’t like you!” A flabbergasted Alex is not given a chance to explain as the family walks off, no doubt amazed by what they must imagine to be our incredibly rude little boy.

Jack, our child prodigy, counts to 100 on the way back to the house. Okay, maybe not a prodigy. He did leave out 80 to 89,

At 5 p.m. we hit the road, one hour later than intended, and with a lot more stuff than we came with. Cassidy’s personal space is severely hampered.

Shortly thereafter I discover on my ankle my first mosquito bite of the season. “That’s the itchiest,” Alex comments.

Both of us at the end of our collective rope by this time, our good-natured bickering culminates in Alex comparing being married to me with being married to a porcupine for the second time in as many days.

At an evening rest stop, I ironically am forced to bum a penny from a strange man at a truck stop after my order comes to $4.01.

At precisely 8:18 p.m. the car hits 30,000 miles. Alex is almost embarrassingly excited about this.

At 10 p.m. Alex takes something close to sixteen years to get coffee and go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Quinn sobs hysterically the whole time. When he gets back, he leans on the car and starts to do some stretches. I honk. Twice.

All told, I spend about five hours sitting in the passenger seat holding Quinn’s hand in the seat directly behind me. See, on long drives, Quinn cries if someone I don’t hold his hand every second that he is awake.

At 11:45 p.m. we finally get back home. We’re all relieved, but the dog seems happier than anyone.

Tales From the Road, Chapter Three

Friday

Alex’s mom reports that at about 7 a.m. a sound-asleep Sam shouts “Pirates!” from his slumber. I told you there were stories about pirates in there.

Because Quinn still doesn’t feel well, I stay home with him to let him sleep and the rest of the family goes to breakfast. Alex neglects to bring me home anything to eat, so I have to resort to leftover spinach ravioli for breakfast.

While watching TV, a car commercial comes on (no TiVo at grandpa’s house) and Sam says, “The news is on; I don’t want to watch the news.” Because in Sam’s head there are two kinds of TV: stuff that he likes and the news.

We decide to go out for ice cream because Quinn is feeling better. The ice cream shack has soft serve ice cream and outside seating in the warm sun. Not a good combo if you’re Jack and your ice cream is melting faster that you can eat it. Compounded by the fact that there are sprinkles on it and he is trying desperately to eat the sprinkles off of his hand, the table, and (dear God, Alex and I are awesome parents) the ground before they get away. At some point he drops his entire cone on the ground. Without a word, Alex gives it back to him. (Like I said: awesome!) Then he starts eating it from the bottom of the cone.

Sam does a little better, and when he has eaten all he wants, Quinn trades his almost-finished vanilla cone for Sam’s larger vanilla and chocolate cone with sprinkles. Good trade, little man, good trade.

Later, after a trip to the estate lawyer, dinner, and dropping Grandma at the airport, Sam tries to figure out the differences in age, height, and speed between Alex and his mom, who recently had hip surgery. After figuring out that Grandma is older than Dad, but Dad is taller, Sam decides that speed can be the tiebreaker: “Someday, when Grandma’s hip is better, I want to see you guys race.”

On the way back to the house, after a lot of screaming in the backseat (Sam) and a little screaming from the front seat (Alex), I put the DVD player down again. I have some major philosophical issues with DVD players in cars, but oh dear God, I have some even more major practical reasons to love it. We watch Baby Einstein while Sam admonishes Jack, “I told you to laugh in your head.”

The evening winds to a close as Sam and Jack find some strange objects in the bedroom. (No, not that, you dirty mind.) Sam picks up two paddles apparently used for some terrible 20th-century hazing rituals and asks what they’re for. My list of acceptable answers would have included, “They’re miniature oars,” or “They’re decorations,” or even, “I don’t know.” Alex’s answer? “They’re from my dad’s fraternity to hit people in the butt.” About five minutes later, Sam emerges from the room to ask, “Dad, someday can we hit people in the butt with these?”

Tales From the Road, Chapter Two

Thursday

After a somewhat difficult bedtime late the night before, at which time we’d given up on making Quinn sleep in the playpen and let him sleep with us, we wake up to find Sam sleeping contentedly in said crib.

We decided to go out for breakfast, and when Jack grimaced and whimpered when we tried to force his tiny shoes onto his giant feet, we decided that we’d go buy him some shoes too. We found a Target only to have Jack find the only pair of shoes he wanted. In a size 11 and a half. And although that would have given us a good couple of years before we had to buy him more shoes, we decided it would work out better if we got the nine or nine and a half he really needed. Of course, he didn’t like any of those shoes. And when you try to force something Jack doesn’t like onto Jack… Well, the whole store heard about it. We finally found a nice pair of all black sneakers that he decided was adequate.

Onward to the next shoe debacle. For his birthday, my mom had given Quinn a pair of Crocs that were, unfortunately, a size too small. We had brought them with us in hopes of finding a Hallmark store at which we could exchange them for the right size. While the mall in Sandusky, Ohio, does have a play area for the kids to play in, the Hallmark store does not carry Crocs. But the Macy’s there does. A short walk and a tiny bit of fraud later and Quinn’s red size 6-7s were exchanged for a navy blue pair of 7-8s. Or so I thought. When I got back to the play area, I discovered that the shoes were size 8-9 and HUGE. So I went back. Fortunately, this time I had a receipt! Unfortunately it seems that size 7-8 Crocs don’t exist. So I exchanged the navy blue ones for some bright orange 8-9s. And then I finally left the nicest clerk at the Sandusky Macy’s in peace. (No matter the size, Quinn adores the shoes, telling strangers, “Orange ones! Orange ones!”)

Alex’s mom, who missed her flight to Cleveland, called us at 11:15 a.m. to tell us that she had just arrived at the Chicago airport. Unfortunately, her flight from Chicago had landed in Cleveland 45 minutes earlier at 10:30. We were, however, able to collect her in time for the 3 p.m. memorial service.

We got to the funeral home just after 2 p.m. When he walked in, an awed Jack looked at the grandiose setting and the flower-patterned carpet and exclaimed, “It’s Mystery Manor!” All semblance of decorum fell to the wayside as Sam and Jack (and copycat Quinn) set about wrestling in and running around what they saw as The Backyardigans’ haunt.

The service itself was really nice with many of the people there standing up to say nice things about Alex’s grandfather. Alex talked about what his grandfather had meant to him, and after her last-second arrival, Alex’s mom read a very touching speech about him that she had written. His nephew spoke, friends spoke, former co-workers spoke, even his former real estate agent had cared enough to come and speak. This man was definitely someone who knew how to make friends, something Alex pointed out in his talk.

The children were not super well-behaved, but a very nice woman who worked at the funeral home took care of them for much of the service, and several people commented on how it was nice to see them there regardless. Because if there was one thing Alex’s grandfather loved, it was his family: Alex, Sam, Jack, Quinn; his nephew and his wife, who lived nearby and spent a lot of time with him; and his brother, who lives in Virginia.

As Alex is the executor of the estate and had to deal with a lot of the difficult logistical things, the memorial service was a really nice time for him to be able to put all that aside and remember his grandfather, whom he loved very much.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and letting the kids enjoy their grandma, who had brought cake and toys. Perhaps most excitingly, she had brought toy tongs with little lights in them that were meant to pick up gummy caterpillars and make them glow. The kids LOVED them, but I’m afraid the people who buy that condo next will be finding little yellow and red gummies for months.

Oh, and the heretofore unobjectionable dog? Yeah, she escaped. Seeing as how we were in Ohio, I was convinced that we would never see her again. Yet somehow she made her way back all by herself. Then all I had to do was track Alex down and relieve him of his dog-hunting duties.

Shortly thereafter, Quinn started to puke and laundry ensued.

Tales From the Road, Chapter One

Wednesday

After a flurry of activity, and a morning of school for Sam and Jack, we piled into the car at 1:42 pm to leave for Ohio direct from picking the kids up from class. Some highlights:

12:45 p.m. Mere seconds after putting Quinn and Cassidy (the dog) in the car to pick up the bigger kids, Quinn, who rarely sees the dog in the car, comments, “Cassidy funny.” He repeats this ad nauseum for the next hour.

3:14 p.m. Our first rest stop. Jack walks directly up to a strange man sitting by himself at a rest stop and engages him in conversation. That’s my little Jack. He’s been doing this since he could walk. No ideas of stranger danger there.

3:17 p.m. Sam sees a tattooed man in a straw western hat at the same rest stop and asks, “Does that cowboy have a gun?”

3:39 p.m. Sam announces, with great certainty, “Russia is the largest state. I am correct.”

4:00 p.m. I put my pillow up against the window and try to take a nap.

4:01 p.m. Quinn starts repeating, “Wake up, Mama. Wake up. Mama. Wake up, Mama.” I wake up.

4:24 p.m. I see a billboard that says, “Hire me! I will work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.” I comment that it is a weird thing for somebody to put on a billboard. Alex points out that the billboard company wants people to put their signs up there. “It’s called advertising.” All I can come back with is, “My business is not doing well.”

5:53 p.m. Jack wants Sam’s help with something and I ask him to assist. Sam says, “But he has to learn.” Jack replies, “But I doesn’t want to learn.”

6:32 p.m. While Quinn douses broccoli in sour cream to eat it at our dinner stop, Sam inspects an elderly man with sunglasses, jeans, longish white hair, and a red bandanna. “I think I see a pirate,” he comments.

7:00 p.m. We use our minivan’s built-in DVD player to turn on the copy of Happy Feet that Alex bought at 7-11 right before we left Maryland.

7:30 p.m. Sam SCREAMS and jumps as high as his seat belt will allow when a seal jumps out of the onscreen water in an attempt to eat the penguin hero, Mumble.

8:43 p.m. Sam and Jack beg for pennies from a stranger at a truck stop. After the man in front of us in line drops a penny, Jack says, “I need a coin.” The man kindly gives it to him only to be rewarded with Sam insisting that he needs money too. The man graciously digs a cent out of his pocket to give to my greedy children.

Tales From the Road, Prologue

Hello, blogosphere, I’ve missed you.

We got back from a whirlwind trip to the Cleveland area last night. We were able to see family, take care of some things, and, most importantly, Alex and his family were able to say goodbye to his grandfather.

You’ll see a lot of posts go up today. If you don’t care about the minutiae of traveling by car from Maryland to Ohio with three kids and a dog, feel free to skip them. I do tell you though, this trip may have changed our minds about driving to Wisconsin for vacation this year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Dirtier the Better

Today was Quinn's birthday. He had a really fun day. He liked opening his presents and he LOVED his cake. Although it turns out I really didn't have to buy him any more presents than the full size football I bought him at Target for $3.49.

Look at this guy:


Doesn't he look like he had a good day? And this was before waffles for dinner and electric pink cake. It was definitely a bath night. I dont' know about y'all, but I just feel like a better parent if my kids are dirty at the end of the day. I feel like it means that they played hard, they got some exercise and some fresh air, and spent more time outside than in front of a screen somewhere.

If you go by that, I definitely did my job as a parent today.

A Resounding No

Today was Jack's ChildFind evaluation. He and I met with three therapists of various ilks and one psychologist. The three therapists played different games with Jack and asked him to complete various tasks, while the psychologist watched. At first we just played in the lobby while Jack got used to their presence and then we moved into the room where the testing was to take place.

For various reasons I had brought a stroller with me, and as it is a novelty for him (rather than Quinn) to be in a stroller, Jack insisted on sitting in it for the 15-foot ride from the lobby to the testing room. When we got to the room and I took him out, he was pissed. I managed to calm him down some and he sort of half-heartedly participated in the games and tests, with a lot of refusals to follow the rules or complete his tasks. He has a little "buzzer" noise (think of the noise the game Operation makes if you connect with the metal) he makes when things happen that he doesn't like. For instance, if I tell him no, or to share, or to eat a vegetable, etc. He made a lot of those.

His testers were obviously getting frustrated and suggested that he take a little walk—largely, I think, so they could strategize amongst themselves on how to work with my recalcitrant child. I took Jack to the bathroom, let him play in the water fountain, and then led him back to the room hippity-hop style.

Testing recommenced and went much better. When we were nearing the end of the two-hour session, the psychologist even asked, "Who did you bring back from the bathroom?" because his behavior had so improved.

They are going to put together a report and then we will have a real IEP meeting to see what Jack needs. But when they were summing up, the psychologist noted that I had put on one of Jack's papers that I was concerned about autism. Does Jack have autism, according to her? "A resounding no."

Yay!...Maybe.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled if he does not have autism, but he definitely has something, and I just hope he doesn't get cut off from services because they don't apply a word to him. Or, what if he really does have autism and they, for whatever reason, just looked at him wrong and he doesn't get the help he needs? But I'll wait before I start borrowing trouble.

All in all, it was not a bad morning. We'll wait and see what happens next. Maybe Jack's diagnosis can be "quirky" or "eccentric." The psychologist seemed to agree with me that Jack marched to his own beat and said she was going to try to figure it out. I wished her luck. She may need it.

Ah, Jack. My enigma. (Wrapped in a riddle, covered in mystery, and pierced with a toothpick of oddity.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kudos

After my recent diatribe about Montgomery County's poor tree-cutting abilities, I felt I needed to send a shout-out to the kick-ass garbage collection folks.

After our yard sale, we left a few items on the sidewalk hoping passers-by would take them. They did not. These items were a couch, a queen-size mattress, and a toilet. I know, I know, classy. The class factor was only upped by the three disheveled children using said items as a makeshift trampoline. We were planning to try to get them to the dump by Tuesday or so, before our neighbors started leaving angry notes on our door.

But we didn't have to because our garbage people rock the free world. They took all three giant items. How awesome are they? I know I just complimented the county on their free dump as compared to Oakland, California, but really, O-Town should send some sanitation officials out this way to do some learnin'. Because there, if your flattened, bound cardboard is an inch or two bigger than the size they allow, they won't take it AND they'll leave you a note telling you why.

So, really, kudos on a job well done.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Junk, Empathy, and Sadness

There were big happenin's this weekend in Stimeyland. Some good, one sad, some trivial, all of them exhausting.

Jack and His Desire to Write on Everything But Paper: We'll start with the trivial. Jack can make letters on paper, but trying to get him to do it is like pushing a rhinoceros through a cat door. He doesn't like to hold a pen or pencil or marker the way you have to to make it easy to write, so, consequently, writing is really hard for him. He likes to paint letters sometimes. And sometimes he'll write in unexpected places. Please notice that if his leg is straight, the "A" is no longer an "A".

Yard Sales—Or, Watching Strangers Rifle Through Your Stuff: We had our very first yard sale this weekend in Stimeyland. Our whole neighborhood participated, but honestly we could have stocked each neighbor with a good-size sale and still have had enough left for us. We, the Stimeys, own a surprising amount of crap. (Or not so surprising, if you know us.)

We did well, but at the end of the day, we had enough stuff left over to start anew with another large yard sale. By two o'clock I was practically flagging people down on the street to see if they wanted a free couch. My goal with this sale was not so much to make money, but to get shit out of our garage and home. I wish I'd thought to take a before and after picture of said garage, because, my God, it would have been impressive. Everything that wasn't sold either is going to charity or the dump. I am SO thrilled.

The Less Profitable Way to Get Rid of Your Crap: I'm not going to go into the difficulties in actually transporting the stuff there, but quite a few of our former possessions made their way to the dump today. We may not have made money on the stuff I threw away there, but at least they don't charge you to throw things away, like the Oakland, Calif., dump does. They weigh your car on the way in and weigh your car on the way out and make you pay for the difference. Alex and I had many fun experiences there. Hey, Alex, remember the time I was, like, six months pregnant and you made me help you toss a U-haul full of cinderblocks and bricks into the trash pile, making me late for my late shift at work, and thus eliminating time for me to eat dinner before I had to spend four hours taking care of 60 dogs?

Anywho.

I expected to feel a lot of satisfaction by throwing all of this stuff away, but mostly I felt sort of wasteful and ashamed that we had all of this trash that we were just tossing away. I've been working on buying fewer things (for lots of reasons), but this weekend made me really feel the need to step away from the consumer cycle for awhile.

The Sad: Alex's grandfather died this weekend after long illness, and long life. He had loved ones in the room with him, and had just seen Alex, who I believe was one of his greatest sources of joy, a couple weeks prior. When Alex got the news, Jack was in the room with him. And Jack, he who doesn't seem to react much to others' feelings, noticed Alex's sadness and gave him a bear hug, telling him not to be sad.

Alex had a lot of good memories of his grandfather, and I know he will miss him. I also know that he is glad he is no longer in pain, and that he is at peace.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We May Have Had the Wrong Number.

Yesterday I was sitting in my living room and Quinn was buzzing around my legs doing his little Quinn thing when he found my cell phone in the pocket of my cargo pants. Since the keys were locked and I figured it would keep him busy, I let him play with it. Then I totally forgot that I'd let him have it.

I never really believed in mommy-brain, but lately it seems that if I don't write something down, it falls out of my head immediately. I'll try to remember something on a short walk from my computer to my kitchen and then stand in the dining room, not only having forgotten my purpose, but also my destination.

Well, anyway, it's somewhat of a miracle that I remembered that I forgot to get the phone back mere hours after having lost it. It's lucky I didn't forget until several days later when, not only would I have potentially missed a bunch of work calls, but the battery would have run out and we couldn't have called it to locate it. Which is what I tried to do without much success. I vaguely heard a beep in the vicinity of the rocking chair, but it wasn't a ring so I sort of dismissed it.

Apparently my version of mommy-brain doesn't just include forgetfulness, but stupidity.

So later that night I enlisted Alex's help to find it, which he couldn't do. Then he used his cell phone to speed dial my phone and then hung up, exclaiming, "Someone answered your phone!" At this point, I was reallly starting to question my sanity wondering how in the hell the phone could have gotten into someone else's hands. After a lot of "you talk to them," "no, you talk to them," Alex finally re-speed dialed. When the woman answered again he fairly accusatorily said, "Yeah, I think you have my wife's cell phone."

The woman on the other end of the line disagreed.

After a little bit of back and forth between them—and I can't imagine what she thought about our call—she gave Alex her number, which is the same as mine, but for the area code. As Alex had dialed from his speed dial, we were certain that it must be my cell phone, so Alex tried again, and this time he heard the beeping in the living room.

His daddy-brain symptoms do not include quite as much stupidity as my mommy-brain, as he recognized it as an SOS from my phone, which was hiding under the chair cushion. Near as we can figure out about the speed dial, the lines must have gotten crossed or something. Can you imagine if your phone rang and someone randomly accused you of having stolen it? Hopefully, at the very least, we gave her a good story to tell.

You'd think I could let my toddler play with my cell phone, without it becoming a multi-family incident. Apparently not.

Erroneous Thinking

Sam, after he and I finish a floor puzzle today:

"Whenever I finish a puzzle all by myself I need you to give me some money."

Who does he think he is? The king of Puzzledonia?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Turnaround

Ever since Jack has had a playgroup, Sam has co-opted it.

Jack and I joined a MOMS Club playgroup soon after Jack turned one. Since Sam was 2 1/2 at the time, he obviously came with us. None of the other moms had older kids and Sam, at his giant toddler age, seemed loud and boisterous and a wee bit insane. At first I tried to bring activities for him that would keep him busy while the babies played, but that didn't work very well. Fortunately Sam enjoyed playing with the toys that the younger kids had.

Aside from my anxiety about Sam's (very normal) two-year-old behavior and the disruption it caused, things went well. The other moms were really nice about Sam's presence and, ahem, enthusiasm, and although I felt a little like they must have thought, "Oh my God, that kid is out of control!" eventually time caught up, their kids turned 2 1/2, and their munchkins did the same things Sam had done. Of course by that time Sam was four and had entered a whole new level of craziness, but you can't win 'em all.

Anyway, Jack never really graduated past parallel play with these kids. And I am lucky to get that. Most of the time he'll play quietly by himself and the rest of the kids will play something else. And Sam? Sam is kind of like their ringleader. He has all kinds of ideas and plans, and seems to think that Jack's friends are his minions. And most of the time they seem happy to follow his lead.

We still refer to it as Jack's playgroup and I, very intentionally, call them Jack's friends. We invite them to Jack's parties, but not Sam's, although in all reality they are as much, if not more, Sam's friends.

Today Sam got his comeuppance. We brought one of Sam's friends home with us from school today for a playdate. When we do this, sometimes Jack will try to play near them and be rebuffed, sometimes he plays near them and is ignored, and sometimes he ignores them.

Today he played.

We were downstairs and Sam's friend, Jack, and Quinn were in the ball pit while Sam happily built a Tinkertoy machine. At some point I started to hear Jack giggling hysterically. I took note of what was happening and found Jack fully engaged in play with Sam's friend. Granted, Sam's friend was hurling ball pit balls at Jack's face, but Jack was throwing back, grinning, and laughing. And when one of them really hurt, Jack said, "Say you're sorry."

!

That is me being speechless.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Too True.

Something triggered my memory today and brought back this exchange between Sam and me a few months ago:

Sam: What's a woman? [We usually refer to people as "boy" or "girl".]

Me: It's a grown-up girl. I'm a woman.

Sam: No you're not, you're just a mom.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jack.

Jack's birthday was this weekend. We celebrated with all kinds of fun activities. A couple of months ago we were trying to decide if we should have a party for our little introvert, when he announced that he wanted a Beach Party. So we decided to have a Beach Party.

We decided to only invite a couple of Jack's neighbor friends and his playgroup of three kids. For a split second I considered inviting his whole class and more of our friends from our MOMS Club, but in the end I decided that six kids was just right. Jack doesn't interact much with kids anyway, and with attention centered on him, I didn't want him to be overwhelmed. And I don't think he was. Though he was definitely at least whelmed.

What a Beach Party means for us is that we pulled the sand table out. And let me tell you, it was a little bit of a challenge not to pull it out weeks earlier so they could occupy themselves with it. But I didn't want them to be bored with it by the time the party rolled around.

And they weren't. For at least a half hour.

I'd planned sand play from 10am to 10:45am, but there was a bit of a mutiny at 10:30 so we had to move on to limbo. Sticking to our simple party plan, limbo consisted of a jumprope held at increasingly lower heights. When the kids got bored with that, we played jump, which consisted of a jumprope held at increasingly higher heights.

And then, the best part of the whole party. Even better than the cake. The night before the party Alex and I had sat in our dark backyard at 11pm filling up 100-plus water balloons. It took nearly an hour. We were going to be sorely disappointed if the kids didn't love it. Fortunately, they LOVED it. It was so much fun just to watch them throw the balloons at the target I had painted that I actually caught myself jumping up and down. Of course, it took something like 4 minutes for the kids to toss all of them.

We had some quiet time and then opened up Jack's presents. Jack was totally pleased with all of his gifts. We are so lucky to know such wonderful and generous people. It's too bad that someone gave Jack three small plastic swords though.

Of course, that person was me. I saw these swords for $1.99 at Target and knew that if I only got one or two that my life would be a living hell. So instead of doing the smart thing and not getting any, I got three of them. Dumbass.

And here's how we know Quinn is a third child and not a first child: Sam, at two, would never have brandished a sword while yelling, "Fight! Fight!"

Jack chose to go to Macaroni Grill for dinner. And by "Jack choose," I mean, "Sam coerced Jack into choosing." We had an easier experience than last time, but Macaroni Grill in Silver Spring is really not the best place to go with three little kids. Except for the fact that it is located right next to a super awesome fountain that kids can run through.

We managed to keep them out of it before dinner, but while Alex and Quinn were waiting 20 minutes (!) for the check, I went outside with the two bigger guys. You're not allowed to wear shoes in the fountain, and Jack kept putting his feet on the border, so I told him that if he wanted to stand there he had to take his shoes off. So he did. And then Sam did. And then they inched closer and closer in to the fountain.

And then they got a little splashed. And they inched farther in. And then I noticed that the front of their clothes was wet. And they inched farther in. And then their hair got a little wet. And finally I gave up and told 'em to go right ahead and do whatever they wanted to. And then they freely cavorted in the fountain.

And they got wet.

Which led to this:

Then home, bath, a little more cake (Because what's a four-year-old birthday if not a reason to binge on cake?), and then bed. Perfection.

And if you've read this far, you're clearly related to Jack. Rest assured, he had a lovely day.

Meet Dolphin "Hoppy" Grassy

Here's a cool craft idea via Sam's super smart and creative teacher: homemade Chia Pets. This is the first year Super Teacher has attempted this, so it was with fingers crossed that she had the kids wrap dirt and seeds up in a fine mesh. An overnight trip to Super Teacher's house and some superglue, felt, and wobbly eyes later, fifteen bald pets were lined up on the classroom windowsill.

A month later, and voila! Chia Pets to take home and give haircuts to. Sam told me that his pet's name is Dolphin Grassy. Nickname? Hoppy.


Amuck.



And coiffed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mommy Guilt Beats Terror

I killed Sam's captive caterpillar today. Or maybe yesterday. I'm not really sure when the actually death occurred, but now that I think about it, Sam had been mentioning, "My caterpillar's not moving," repeatedly and with increasing urgency since last night.

See, I didn't know that caterpillars in jars don't need water. I assumed that they would enjoy a nice little drink after a hearty meal of leaf. So, yeah, Stimey—Mother of the Year, by the way—drowned the little dude. And because I'm paralyzed with fear at the thought of touching a caterpillar, I couldn't just dump it out and find him a new one. So I 'fessed up.

He was sad. He didn't insist on a funeral, but I think that's only because he doesn't know that they exist. He was going to put the small corpse under a tree, but then worried that a bird would get him. (Did I mention that this little incident totally qualifies me for Mother of the Year?) He finally laid him to rest in some tall grass under our slide.

After school today we were playing on the playground and Sam found a new caterpillar in the woodchips. He instantly bonded with the creepy-crawly and asked if he could bring it home. The only problem is that we didn't have a jar to put him in. And all I could think was that Sam was gonna drop this furry worm in the car, not be able to find him, and I would locate him later that day in my hair.

I'd like to share that although I really enjoy the word "caterpillar", especially the way I say it in my mind: cat-er-pill-ar, I am totally freaked out by them. One time Alex and I almost crashed a car after we found one on his leg. When Sam sat down next to me to show him Caterpillar II, I almost fell off the end of the bench trying to get away from it.

But I'd killed Caterpillar I so I was going to seem doubly mean if I said no. So I sucked it up. I found him a cereal bar box and made him promise to hold it closed. I told him that if the caterpillar got out of the box, then he wasn't allowed out of the car until he found it. I nearly lost it when Sam left the box unattended for 15 seconds to put on his seat belt. (Mother of the Year, right? Maybe he shouldn't have buckled up.)

But we all made it home, Caterpillar II is in his jar (alive), I know not to water the thing, and I am: Mother of the Year!

It's Tough to be a Mom

Today was one of those days. Everyone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I had a million and six things to do today, and none of my kids could spend five minutes with each other without having some sort of freakout. The hitting, whining, and bickering was rampant. I was so happy to drop Jack *ff at school so I just had two to deal with, but even those two couldn't get along.

And we're having a birthday party tomorrow so I have to do a lot of cleaning, organizing, and getting ready. And the kids just would not cooperate. And that was before the dog launched herself at the door to bark at the mailman. Did I mention she used my back as her springboard, leaving a giant, painful gash running down my back? Yeah, she did that.

On the up side, Jack's class had its Mother's Day Tea and I got my beautiful necklace that Jack made, featuring the imprint of the sole of his shoe. He picked out the colors.

And as for what Jack thinks of me: One thing he likes to do with me is "play with her at my room with cars and Lightning McQueen." And do you know what I look like? "She's Jean. She looks like me." And he finished the phrase, "My Mom is very good at," with, "ummmm....watching TV." And you know what? He's right. I am very good at watching TV. I can do it with practically no effort at all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's Good to be a Mom

I know Sam is probably not THE cutest 5-year-old in the whole world, but some days I think he is. Today was the Mother's Day Tea in Sam's class at school. Sam's teacher is amazing and does these wonderful things like teach them to stand in line and sing complimentary songs about their mothers. So cute.

After the three-song revue, the kids gave us all our presents, which were brooches (I called it a pin, but Sam insisted it was a brooch) that they had decorated and put their photos on. I got to wear it for almost a whole half hour before it was taken from me:


Along with the brooch came a card that included the following tidbits about me from Sam's perspective (as answers to questions such as "My Mom's color of eyes are:)": My eyes are orange. My hair is "kind of a ponytail." My favorite food is "healthy food." (Really, Sam? Have you met me?) I'm happy when Sam is happy. I am sad when Sam is sad.

I am 33 inches tall.

My favorite hobby is to "make dinner." Which is correct if, by "make dinner," Sam meant, "eat dinner." My favorite movie is Peter Pan. And Sam loves me because "she sends me to bed after bath a lot." If I'd known that all I had to do to get him to love me is to send him to bed, well, his bedtime would be 3:30 p.m.

Sam also drew this lovely picture of me in a polka dot dress:

Either I have some kind of horrible skin disease, or a beautiful veil because those polka dots extend to my face. Please notice the pony tail. That's right. Sticking straight up.

I LOVE Mother's Day. Tomorrow I get to go to Jack's class' tea. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Toddler as Zombie: A Theory

This morning I was standing in the kitchen when I had a revelation. Maybe the reason I like all things zombie is because I live the toddler/young child version of it every day. Sam and Quinn were both sort of mindlessly clawing at me as if they were trying to get to living meat locked inside a mall somewhere. And I realized that I am constantly trying to evade and outwit (and snuggle) a relentlessly advancing horde (of three).

Then Alex asked Quinn, "Do you want to eat brains?" to which he replied, "Yeah."

Take that, George A. Romero.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

You Mean He Knows What He's Doing?

Sam and Jack take swim lessons every week with Alex. And every week while they're at swim class Quinn and I go to the grocery store while they're swimming. And every week after swim class we drive by a playground just down the street from the swim center. And every week Sam asks if we can play there. And, because it's lunch time, every week we tell him that we're going to try to remember to bring him another day to play. And every week we forget.

Until this week.

My kids staged a mini-rebellion today and demanded that I take them to a park. Remembering (finally), I agreed and decided to take them to the much coveted park near the swim center. When I told Sam I expected his eyes to widen with joy and for him to say something along the lines of, "That's just the park I wanted to go to!"

But he didn't. In fact, he was remarkably unexcited considering that he's been wanting to go there for nearly two years. What I got instead of kudos, love, and joy, was questions. Lots and lots of questions. At first he thought we were going to the swim center. Then he thought we were going to the outdoor pool at the swim center. Then he asked about 15 times if we were driving past the swim center. And if it was the this. And if it was the that. And blah, de blah, de blah, de blah, blech.

And I am trying to hard to to explain that we are going to the park. The one near the swim center. The one we drive past every week. The one he wants to go to so badly. The park, Sam. The park, Sam. The. God. Damn. Park. Sam.

So we're driving and when I turn onto the road leading to the swim center, Sam suddenly exclaims, "Oh, I know what park we're going to. And I was all 'Are we going past the swim place? Are we going past the swim place? Are we going past the swim place?' and you kept saying, 'No, we're going to the park. No, we're going to the park. No, we're going to the park.'"

And all I could think was, "Seriously? You're aware that you've been asking the same question over and over? And you were aware that I was answering the question the same way every time, yet you continued?"

I wish I could live in his brain for just one day to see what it's like in there, because I'm pretty sure it's awesome, full of joy and confusion and curiosity and persistence. And stories about pirates. I'm certain there are a lot of stories about pirates in there.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ode on a Grecian Urn Alex

There has been some concern voiced about Alex's portrayal on Stimeyland. This concern has come mostly from Alex himself. "You blogged about me making fun of a little kid who likes math? A little girl?" "You blogged about me practically knocking Quinn out with a basketball?" "Your definition of me is a lawyer working for the forces of evil?" [I know, Alex, I have to stop being so redundant.]

Yes, Alex, yes I did. Oh, and so much more.

So I'm here to set the record straight. Alex, although practically a force of evil himself, is one of the most ethical, thoughtful, conscientious people I've ever known. I may not agree with his core beliefs (and by "may not", I mean "do not"), but I do believe that he will always try to do the right thing. I guess what I feel about Alex is that I probably (and I'm talking the social/political realm here) won't agree with most of what he has to say, but I will agree with the thought process that got him there.

As for the household? Well, stay at homers, prepare to be jealous, but I haven't done the dishes for a good three or four years. He is a fully equal partner in taking care of the house. He knows how to start Scooba; he recently came up with a plan for doing the laundry that involved...well frankly I didn't listen much past, "I'll start it in the morning," although I did hear him say, "and fold it at night." And even though—as he oftentimes points out—I haven't been pregnant for a good two years, he still cleans out the cat litter all by himself.

In fact, the last time he went out of town, I was totally at a loss for how to get the kids ready for school in the morning because by the time I roll my ass out of bed and get dressed with my teeth brushed at 8:30, Alex has the munchkins dressed, fed, and even though they often end up in color combinations that I wouldn't choose and their breakfasts are all over their faces, the only thing I really have to do is brush their teeth and get their shoes on. When Alex took off for a couple days last week, chaos reigned at breakfast. I used the wrong bowls for cereal. I tried to give Jack the purple vitamins when orange is obviously better. Quinn, for some reason I still haven't figured out, was totally inconsolable.

Which leads me to: Basically he's a good guy, a good provider, helpful in the house, and a great husband, but maybe the best thing about Alex is what a super dad he is. He plays with the guys, he reads to the guys, he loves the guys more than anything. He'll go places with all three of them that I don't dare to venture to. (Although some may argue that taking three kids under six to Chuck E. Cheese by yourself is stupidity, not qualified parenting.)

So next time I create a vivid, unflattering word picture of Alex, like when I make fun of him for, say, telling Sam that one day the Earth is going to die and all the people will float off into space or something, remember that underneath all the buffoonery and bad puns is a sweet, loving, smart, decent man and father.

I love you, Alex. Sorry for...well, publishing our life.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Skip This Post

Skip ahead and read the next post. No really, go on. I'll wait.

And here you go:


I'm sure this won't be a problem. Maybe I should look into gray gerbils and how much they cost. (The sad thing is: Look how oblivious little Daisy is. So unsuspecting.)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Daisies and Peanuts

Because I really need a stress headache this weekend I decided that we should bring Daisy, the gerbil from Jack's preschool class home for a sleepover. I'm a little nervous about this. You know I have three small boys, but I also have a dog and two cats, and I'm worried about Daisy's survival. And I don't want to be THAT family: you know, the one that killed the gerbil. See, I know that family. That family took Daisy's predecessor, Peanut, home last year. Peanut didn't make it back. Now, Peanut died of natural causes, but still. We have enough issues, we don't need to be gerbil-killers too. But I knew it would make Jack really happy:


so I had to do it.

I forgot to tell Alex about our miniature visitor, so he is going to come back from a trip late tonight to find our nocturnal buddy spinning in his wheel. I can't quite imagine what he is going to think, but I wish I could be there to see his face.

Alex is, if anything, even more skittish than me about other people's pets. I fish-sat a couple times in recent days and Alex spent most of the time worrying that we were going to kill the fish. Of course, I was reasonably sure that I could have replaced Ramone, the fish in question, with 29 cents and a quick trip to the pet store, but I guess that's beside the point.

But for now Daisy is sleeping happily in her cage, sated by the bowlful of Cheerios Junior-Team Stimey tossed in there earlier today. Cross your fingers for us!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Panic in Stimeyland

Oh, man. I'm in a semi-constant state of panic and cold sweat due to my fledgling videography business. I have the creativity, the drive, and the ability to put together great projects, but, fuck, the technology is killing me.

I'm working in software that I know how to use, but that keeps freezing up on me. The only reason I'm blogging tonight is because I can't get my software to work for more than five minutes at a time so it's tough to do any work. Clearly there's something wrong with something.

But here's the thing. I'm totally dependent on my computer for my other job, not to mention most of my personal life, so taking it in to be serviced is going to be a problem. And I don't know if it needs to be serviced or if I just need to be less of a dipshit.

And frankly, there's other software that I'd rather use, but it's pricey, I'm not absolutely sure it will do what I need it to do, and--little detail here--I have no idea how to use it. My hands are clammy, there's a giant pit in my stomach, and I think I might be having heart palpitations.

It's crazy how a little electronic box with a screen can have so much power. I'm definitely on the "have" side of the computer gap, but apparently there is still a knowledge gap that I need to leap. It's sad to realize that I'm on the "have-not" side of that gap.

I know I'll work it out, and I'm fortunate enough to have the resources to be able to eventually find a solution, but I'm going to be a jittery, slobbering puddle of goo by the time I do.

Maybe instead I'll find me some nice neo-Luddites to get in good with.

The Benefits of Actually Listening to My Children

So often I make plans for the family without consulting the kids. When Sam is in school, I decide if we're going to have a friend over to play with Jack, go to someone's house, or find an activity. Then, if Jack wants to do something else, I oftentimes have to say no because we're already booked.

Today while we were dropping Sam at school, Jack asked to go to the library. I'm ashamed to say we don't go to the library very often (we have something close to a million and six books at home, so we sort of function as our own little library) so I was surprised that Jack pulled that out of nowhere. Also, Jack doesn't ask for things very often, and, until recently, didn't ask at all. I don't think it was in his personality to ask for things, plus Sam is ALWAYS asking for something so I think he figured that the thing he wanted would eventually make its way to him regardless of whether he asked for it or not.

And although I may later regret encouraging Jack to ask for things, I'm trying to empower him as well as reinforce the concept that it's good to speak up for what you want and need. And no one was waiting for us anywhere, so off we went to the library.

And how totally awesome that we did. We spent an hour and a half at the one-room children's library near us reading books, playing trains, and putting little men in jail in the play castle there. Jack shared with other kids. Quinn shared with other kids. (Unheard of!) Jack made eye contact. Quinn giggled hysterically at every book he could find that had a dog in it. I checked out something like nine books, including one of my favorites from childhood: The Mouse and the Motorcycle. No one cried, no one was bored, we had some good, solid, quality time on the floor together.

Way to go, Jack.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Quinn's Day

I'm the first to admit that I'm weird about bananas. They can't be too ripe (or, really, ripe at all) and they can't have spots on them, and if they're mushy at all, I'm not a-gonna eat them. Quinn, however, seems to think that a banana is broken if its peel has been entirely removed. And God forbid you actually do break the banana. Well, you might as well be offering him arsenic.

This, apparently, is the correct format for a banana:


The incorrect way to present a banana to the young gentleman is in two pieces with no peel. It took me two bananas today to get it right. And then he ate half of one, accidentally snapped the bottom part off, and then discarded it as a poor excuse for food. Consequently my breakfast today was comprised of one and a half bananas.

That was breakfast. For lunch, Quinn showed off his love of basketball:


This was the first meal in a long time not marred by constant toddler jabbering of "Saskaball! Saskaball! Saskaball!" (If you can't tell from the picture, by the way, he's clutching it in one hand while making tracks in his peanut butter and honey with the other.

Afternoon was a playdate. At said playdate I spent some time holding Adorable Baby K. Quinn's response to this, instead of his usual "Baby!" was, "Nice." I responded with, "Nice baby." Quinn said, "Nice," then paused, clearly struggling to find the right noun, and then came up with, "Doggie!"

A day in the life...

On Relief...

You can't see me right now, but I'm doing my happy dance.

Have you ever lost something that wasn't yours? And when you notice that you lost it, you can't stop saying, "No. No. No, no, no, no," as if that will make the item magically reappear? Well, I've been collecting photos for a project I'm doing for Sam's class, and yesterday I lost one of them. And not just a snapshot either, I lost a beautiful 5x7 portrait of someone's daughter at 6 months old.

She handed it to me at the preschool when I was carrying a whole bunch of other stuff and I distinctly remember putting it in something to protect it. Later that night, of course, I couldn't remember where that safe place was. I looked through every bag and envelope I had had with me that day. I ripped the car apart looking for it under seats, under mats, everywhere. I looked through the recycling bin three times in case I'd tossed it in there by mistake. Nowhere.

So finally, not being able to face telling her in person, I sent her an email wherein I apologized about 50 times. I asked if she had another copy because I didn't want to be responsible for losing her only copy. She sent me back a really nice email saying that she probably has another copy somewhere, but she's not sure, which I took to be nice-speak for "That was my only copy, I took it out of its frame over the fireplace to loan to you, now I'm never going to remember what she looked like at six months. Fuck you and the careless horse you rode in on."

Then she wrote something to the effect of, "I'm sure it will turn up somewhere," which I didn't quite believe as I had retraced my steps so completely and not found it. In fact, I'd looked so thoroughly that I convinced myself that I must have dropped it at the school and I would surely find it this morning when I got there. So this morning I searched high and low--and a little bit in between--at the school, all to no avail. Still no beautiful picture. The only conclusion I could draw was that it had blown out of my hands or car when I wasn't looking. And it was gone forever.

Well, today after a playdate Quinn wanted a snack so I grabbed a cracker from my emergency box of graham crackers that I always keep in the car, and that I had with me at school yesterday. You guessed it: the photo was inside the box. Hence, the happy dance.

Have you ever lost something that wasn't yours and then found it? Then you know what I'm talking about.