Playing Can Be Hard Work For Some

Today was the first day of gymnastics camp for Sam and Jack. And it was like sending them off to school for the first time all over again. Well, not for Sam. Sam’s Mr. Adaptable. But for Jack. Because I haven’t left Jack for a substantial amount of time anywhere other than preschool or with babysitters who he knows well.

I signed them up for this camp for several reasons: First, a mom from Jack’s class was looking for someone to be in the class with her son. And since I have caught Jack on one or two occasions interacting with this child, I thought this might work out. Second, Jack apparently has low muscle tone, and the doctor keeps suggesting gymnastics. Third, the class is for 3-5 year olds, so Sam and Jack can be together. And last, Jack and Sam love jumping on trampolines, playing in moon bounces, and doing all the other things that happen at this camp.

I wasn’t quite sure what to tell the teachers when I dropped them off. For Jack to get the most out of this class, I knew I needed to warn the instructors that he may need some extra encouragement, or that he might have some trouble transitioning. But I didn’t really want to put a label on him, nor do I have a label even if I wanted to. So I ended up calling him quirky, gave them some tips, requested that he and Sam not be split up, and left shortly after watching two of the teachers working together to try to get him to participate.

I thought it might be best if I just didn’t watch.

When I came back nearly three hours later, Jack was hanging out with the others, happily waiting his turn. At some point when they were walking from point A to point B, I saw him try to veer off, but Sam collared him and brought him back. (Have I ever mentioned that Sam is about the best big brother that Jack could ever hope to have?) Quinn and I spent some time watching the older gymnasts while we waited. He thought they were hilarious: “Flip! Fell down!” When we went to go get Sam and Jack, the teacher said that Sam was great and that Jack didn’t want to do everything. Which is pretty much what I expected.

When they released them, Jack ran up to me to tell me that he loved me and then ran off to get his shoes and the picture that he had colored (yay, he participated in coloring!), and Sam ran up to me to tell me that he wanted a popsicle. (Why do gymnastics places for kids ALWAYS have a cooler full of popsicles for sale? Basically I get to be the bitchy mom all week or I get to spend $3 a day to buy popsicles that are just going to drip all over my car. Today I chose to be a bitch. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with that tomorrow. I was able to put Sam off for a day, but he can out-bitch me almost every time.)

Jack seemed physically unable to speak about it all the way home so after a few questions I didn’t push him. I figure that he needs some time to process it. At least I have my little Sam-spy to help me out. Apparently Jack didn’t use the rope to swing into the foam blocks, but he did dive into them. And they both went into the moon bounce, but they hit heads. And Sam? Sam did everything.

I worry that sometimes I’m just stressing Jack out by signing him up for things like this. But a week of gymnastics won’t kill him. At the very least, based on his thoughtful silence on the way home, it’s giving him something to think about. They did both say that they want to go back tomorrow, so I hope that means that they had fun. I know Sam did, but I hope Jack liked it too. Maybe once he has a day under his belt and knows what to expect, he’ll want to do more of the activities. Because, really, these activities are the kinds of things I would expect them to have to drag him away from.

And in lieu of accurate reporting from busy teachers and a snarky Sam, maybe I’ll do a bit more secret observation tomorrow.

10 Ways Jack and I Are the Same

I’m an Autism Hub lurker and really enjoy reading the posts there. I particularly enjoy AutismVox where Kristina Chew posts thoughtful and lovely items about autism and her son Charlie. She put up a post recently about how she and her son are alike, and invited others to do the same.

As my mother has claimed for quite a while that Jack reminds her of how I was as a child, and as I see much in him that I also see in me, I have decided to do what I do, which is put it on the Internet for everyone to see.

1. We both adore french fries and ice cream.

2. We’re detail people. Jack likes to study large drawings to find the details within, and I have similar tendencies. (I used to be a copy editor, for instance.)

3. Neither of us likes being told what to do, especially if it involves us not getting our way.

4. Neither of us does well with being yelled at or criticized. It can feel like a physical assault to me that I run over and over in my head. And I can see the same thing on his face.

5. We LOVE to cuddle with each other.

6. We both have a focus that can drown out everything around us.

7. Neither of us follow directions very well.

8. We both love to laugh. Oh dear God, that boy’s giggle could keep the world turning.

9. From Alex: “You’re both shy and sweet, but a little prickly. Well, Jack’s not prickly.”

10. We’re both very stubborn.

11. (see #7) We’re both scared of bugs.

And now I could (but I won’t) list 600 ways that we are different (#1 being that he loves any tactile sensation, but that I can’t stand lotions, playdough, dirt, or even the feel of water on my hands). How are you and your kids (or spouse or parent) the same?

Poop Poop Poop A Doop

I believe that I may have singlehandedly solved Quinn’s constipation problem with a song. That’s right, with a song.

I have known for awhile that&#8212beyond his physical issues&#8212he dislikes pooping. Which seems right, especially because he has been victim to some particularly vicious, and probably extremely painful, pooping episodes. It used to be that I would see him obviously trying to hold it back, and he would always say no when I asked if he wanted to poop, or if he would feel better if he pooped, and whatnot.

At his last constipation checkup (and how ridiculous that he has to have those) the doctor told me to be very positive when he pooped and that we didn’t want to make it into a control issue for him. Because, basically, if he can refuse to poop after I’ve plied him with Miralax, fiber wafers, and as much apple juice as he can drink, I should just cede defeat here, because this is not a battle I can win.

Unless you factor in the power of a good song about the act itself. For the past three weeks whenever I have caught him pooping or whenever I change his poopy diaper&#8212and only then&#8212I sing a song I made up: “Poop Poop Poop A Doop,” sung to the tune of “Duke of Earl.” (I’m sure you can recreate this song at home from just those hints.) “Poop Doop again,” he’ll say.

And?

And for the past two and a half weeks, he has pooped Every. Single. Day.

This is something he has not done since he was literally younger than 3 months old. Maybe he’s progressing past his physical issues and just has to overcome some psychological pooping issues (can’t wait to get the Google search on that one). I’m not saying that we’re going to stop hiding the Miralax in his chocolate millk, and I’m not saying that he’ll never again have a stool ball, but I’ve never been so happy to change diapers packed full of crap in my life.

Air Conditioning is for Wusses

Or so I used to think. Then our air conditioner broke.

I grew up in Utah, where the summers are very hot, but it’s a&#8212say it with me now&#8212dry heat. I’m sure some people in Utah (read: wusses) have air conditioners. [And I’d like to take a moment to apologize here to my friends who live in Utah, and who probably all have air conditioning. I don’t mean you. I mean all those other wusses with air conditioners.] But in my house we had a swamp cooler.

I assumed everyone knew what these were, but whilst chatting on the phone to a friend of mine who has spent the majority of her life in Maryland, she drew a total blank after I started prattling on about swamp coolers. (Really, I’m as fascinating in person as in my posts.)

Swamp coolers are loud, damp, cooling systems prevelant in dry areas, and while they may not really cool your house, per se, they make it slightly less horrible to live in said houses. Especially if you lay directly under them, as I remember doing as a teenager. I do know that they do not necessarily make a tremendously obvious difference in the indoor climate. If I remember correctly, my sister lived in a house with a broken swamp cooler, and neither she, her roommate, nor her landlord was able to tell the difference.

Then after thirty years of life as a Westerner/Left Coaster, I moved to Maryland and within three days I was a convert. And then I didn’t think about air conditioning much (unless I was yelling at the always-hot Alex to turn it down) until last week when ours broke. And then it was fixed and I didn’t think about it until Monday when it broke again.

Then I officially joined the Realm of Wussdom.

No reasonable person would want to live in Maryland without the glorious wonder that is the AC. My new favorite people in the whole world, the HVAC people, finished installing our new unit at about 2 pm today. By 3:30, it was amazing how much my mood had improved. Those poor men who installed it though, just when my sweatbox of a house started cooling down, they had to leave. And when my heater inevitably breaks in the middle of winter, they’ll have to leave just when my icebox turns back into a house. What a crappy job. But what lovely people they were considering they had to lug all sorts of heavy stuff around in ridiculous heat.

And now I’m going to go turn up the air conditioning so high that I have to wear a coat.

Reciprocity

Alex, seeing the paint-splotched hardwood floor we ripped the carpet off of (at my suggestion), and thinking about what he was going to do about it while I sit in front of the computer and let him do it: “That’s going to be a lot of work.”

Me: “I’m not that worried about it.”

*******

Alex (who works in a comfy, climate-controlled office downtown), after our air conditioner broke: “Maybe we should see if we can get through the rest of this year before we buy a new one.”

Me, fuming silently, thinking about the fact that the three guys and I would undoubtedly sweat through the rest of this week before Alex decided (probably at noon on Saturday), to go ahead and buy the new damn air conditioner: “!?@*&!”

*******

See how much we care about each other?

Belonging

Blogging. What a funny thing. I blab on and on about my family and expect YOU, potentially someone I don’t even know, to read it. And even if I do know you, I expect that you will care enough about my son’s poop to read about it on a practically daily basis? Weird.

I was inspired by this post at BlogRhet to opine for a while on my theory of blogging. I will not be particularly coherent, nor will I be able to make intelligent reference to the aforementioned piece because our air conditioning is broken and it is nearing 1500 degrees Farenheit (the temperature at which blogs burn) in my house.

Now, if you look at my archives, you’ll see that I am pretty new to this blogging business. I read my first blog in 2002 (shout-out to Lane who, unless I am mistaken, is no longer blogging at all&#8212please let me know if I’m wrong) because it was written by Alex’s co-worker (one of three law clerks in a particular judge’s office in Fairbanks, Alaska, and pretty much a third of our social circle) and it chronicled a lot of what we did up there. (We were about one-third of his social circle too. He and Sam were best friends for awhile.) Plus he’s a fun writer and I genuinely enjoyed what he wrote.

Then I left the blogosphere for awhile, only to return when I was desperately looking for something to read on the computer while The Wonder Pets saved the baby elephant for the 600th time.

After quickly tiring of Perez Hilton and TMZ (sue me, I like trashy pop culture), and having no interest in the blogs Alex had bookmarked (How Appealing and InstaPundit), I went looking for others. I found Dooce (who didn’t?), later started reading Toddler Planet, and browsed around from there.

One day I started my own. Just up and did it. Much to the chagrin of Alex, who was pulling extra parenting duty because of the extra work I was doing with starting my own business and whatnot. I believe his exact words were: “I’m not going to watch the kids while you BLOG!” (Insert disbelieving and insulted tone of voice.) He’s since come around and is now one of my biggest fans, but I’m not sure even he totally gets why I do this.

See, I’m not a journaler. I have scads of journals with the first three pages written in, an entry four years after that, and then nothing for the rest of the book. But when I’m writing online for an “audience” (my mom and Alex, pretty much), some days it’s hard for me to keep it to one post. For instance, today. And yesterday. (I’m endlessly fascinating to me.)

I’ve always been a writer. Memoir-style writing is the easiest and most fun for me, and something I think I do with some ability. (Some. Not great amounts. Some.) I also feel that this is a good way to keep my family and friends up to date with my doin’s. Perhaps too up to date for some tastes&#8212did I mention I often write about poop? And, in some ways, I’m a bit of an attention hog. (Those ways being a semi-anonymous, writing for strangers, so I’ll say whatever jerky thing pops into my head kind of way. See Ass Burger. Although technically that was Alex, not me.)

Anywho. Since starting Stimeyland up, I’ve been sort of blindly feeling around for the “rules” and “etiquette” of this place. And for the know-how. I don’t think I have an RSS feed, and even after Blogging Basics 101 told me why I need one, I’m still not quite sure if I do. I’ve been trying to figure out trackbacks, pinging, and how lame Blogger is at comments for several months now. I’ve wrestled with the fact that anyone who really wanted to figure out who I am, show up at my door, and bother my adorable children could, but that I decided to use (most of) our names anyway. I did learn that if I write about dropping my second child off at school that there may be some unsavory Googlers out there visiting Stimeyland. (Go ahead, put his name together with “off” and see where it gets you.)

Here are a couple of my big “I don’t knows”: First and foremost, I don’t know that I “belong” yet. I suppose once I have “2007 (300)” in my archives section and can start my second year, maybe I’ll feel I belong more. And what’s more, why do I care about belonging? I write almost entirely for myself, and a little bit for my friends and family, and I’m not looking for a book deal or advertisers, plus I can get the same enjoyment out of reading someone else’s blog whether they know I exist or not. Why do I have an unhealthy relationship with my sitemeter?

I guess what I may be looking for is community. Because who doesn’t love a community? I lived in co-op housing in college, I have belonged to a moms group in every city I’ve lived in since I had kids, my children go to a co-op preschool. I’m pretty much screaming out for a community, I suppose. And to really get what you need out of a community, you have to put in too. Because giving to others&#8212be it support, friendship, a blog comment, whatever&#8212is one of the best parts of community.

I’ve found my real-life community that I love. I have a village, I’m part of the village, and we’re all working together to keep each other sane, live happily, and raise lovely children. But I’m sort of still looking for the blog community I belong to. I’m a mommy blogger, that’s for sure, but I agree with Tere, who wrote that BlogRhet post that there are first, second, third generation mommy bloggers. I’m probably fourth-generation, if that. And I’m totally intimidated by the first-gens (and, honestly, the second and thirds). I’m exploring the autism blogging world, but, Jesus, that’s a whole other post, because that community is fractured, confusing, and sort of terrifying, although I have found several interesting sites that I visit regularly. Plus, since we don’t have a diagnosis for Jack yet (and who knows if we will), I feel like an imposter there sometimes. I’m a woman blogger. I (try to be) a humor blogger. I’m a working mother blogger and a stay at home mom blogger.

It’s an interesting subculture. I think once you delve under the surface of any subculture you find fascinating things about it. That’s what I love about subcultures. The blogosphere is no different. Here’s to exploration, my over-the-top self-analyzing, and getting it off your chest.

Thanks to both of you who finished reading this.