Friday, August 31, 2007

Great (?) Minds Think Alike

You know how they say that after a while you start to look like your pet?

Well, apparently Alex and I have been together far too long because we wore the exact same outfit today.

Let me repeat that: My MALE husband and I wore The. Exact. Same. Outfit.

It's marginally better than looking like this:


But I don't want to be the girl that looks like this either:


He dressed first and went downstairs before I was conscious, so imagine my surprise when I walked downstairs wearing charcoal gray pants and a red polo-style shirt to find Alex standing in the kitchen. Wearing charcoal gray pants and a red polo-style shirt. I felt so feminine.

I think I have to go shopping for some new clothes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Kind of School Has Ice Cream For a Snack?

Sam: "Mom, guess what we had for snack today? Ice cream. On cones. Have you ever had a chocolate cone? Have you ever had a strawberry cone? Have you ever had strawberry ice cream? I had strawberry ice cream on a strawberry cone today.

"It kind of tasted like bones."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kindergarten Update

1. Sam made a friend on the bus. He doesn't know his name.

2. Sam made a friend in his class. They played on the playground together. He doesn't know his name.

3. Sam had a substitute teacher yesterday, the second day of school. His name was Mr. A. "Well, actually, it was something else, but he said it was harder, so we just called him Mr. A." Or, as he referred to him later, "the guy."

4. Sam has voraciously eaten every bite of every food that we have put in front of him since he started kindergarten. And then he asks for seconds.

5. Oddly, he has not seemed to be more tired than usual. Which is what everyone told me to expect. And was what I was hoping for.

6. The bus that usually comes at 3:30 came at 3:20 today.

7. I am curiously dependent on Sam. As are Jack and Quinn.

8. Our house has gotten very quiet between the hours of 9 and 3:30.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oh, Thank Heaven...For Cheap Diet Coke

One of the places that I go almost every day, though I'm not proud of it, is 7-11. See, I'm addicted to Diet Coke. I know lots of you are too. For me, it started when I had braces and my mom let me drink soda, but nothing with sugar in it. At first I thought Diet Coke was the grossest thing I'd ever tasted. Days later I was mainlining it. Those of you who who are not addicted may be of the opinion that drinking a six-pack of soda a day is weird. To you, I say that I think drinking a pot of coffee a day is weird. So there.

There are differences in Diet Coke based on the type of container it is in. Aluminum can is better than glass. Glass is better than a 20-oz plastic bottle, and they're all better than a 2-liter bottle, which although perhaps the most economical way to procure Diet Coke, is also the worst.

I believe that the fountain drink is the best way to drink a soda. Clearly McDonald's has the best Diet Coke. AND they have a drive-thru. But their soda costs $1.57 for a large, and comes in a brand new plastic cup every time.

If you go to 7-11, a Super Big Gulp (my preferred size; it's embarrassing, I know) costs a mere $1.25. AND if you bring in your old cup and just get a refill, not only are you keeping one more plastic cup (or can or bottle) out of the landfills, but it only costs, with tax, $.83.

But they don't have a drive-thru and I am rarely without children. I used to refuse to go there with three kids. I'd drive through a fast food place instead. I'd only hit 7-11 if I had two or less children with me, and preferably only one. But at some point I decided to suck it up and just go buy the cheap, more environmentally friendly version.

Which brings up a whole slew of other problems.

The bastards marketers at the 7-11 corporation have taught their franchises well. Sugar cookies dotted with M & M's in packs of three (count my children) sitting in little baggies at the counter? Done. Doughnuts in a transparent case between the door and the soda fountain? Done. A display full of chocolate candy in bright, attractive wrapping directly in front of the door? Done, and done.

My two-year-old knows what "7-11" means and when we pull in to the parking lot starts yelling, "I come! I come!" because I let him push the button to dispense the soda. And I can't help but think what a bad example I'm setting, buying soda in front of them. I mean, it's not like I'm buying crack or anything, but I drink it like it is.

And whereas they might be daydreaming away in the car if I pass through a drive-thru, our trips to 7-11 (or "Sev," as we used to call it when I was growing up) are such a production that it MUST stick in their minds.

How, you may ask, are they a production? Well, aside from the begging for candy and pastries, Jack requires that we walk up the wheelchair ramp, often dangerously crossing half the parking lot to do so. Quinn always demands change from the cashier or me because he likes to play with coins. And someone almost always tries to hold the door for us, but because it takes us fifteen minutes to navigate a door, s/he ends up standing there for a substantial amount of time while no one walks through. Add to this the occassional tantrum and you'll see why I'm sure the staff at my 7-11, where I'm a regular, must wonder what craziness I'll bring to their store that day.

You try wrangling three kids while holding a giant cup of soda and a bag of cookies.

I haven't dropped a full cup yet, but if I keep going there every day with my kids, it's inevitable. It's kind of embarrassing, but one of the things I'm going to look forward to doing when the kids are in school is buying my daily soda in peace.

This post is cross-posted at DC Metro Moms.

My Man of Mixed Signals

Jack, totally outraged, to the little girl who has taken the fact that he is wearing a swimsuit as a sign that he may be okay with being sprinkled with water from a watering can: "I'm not a flower! Don't water me!"

Well. Excuse the hell out of her.

DCMM: Oh, Thank Heaven...For Cheap Diet Coke

One of the places that I go almost every day, though I'm not proud of it, is 7-11. See, I'm addicted to Diet Coke. I know lots of you are too. For me, it started when I had braces and my mom let me drink soda, but nothing with sugar in it. At first I thought Diet Coke was the grossest thing I'd ever tasted. Days later I was mainlining it. Those of you who who are not addicted may be of the opinion that drinking a six-pack of soda a day is weird. To you, I say that I think drinking a pot of coffee a day is weird. So there.

There are differences in Diet Coke based on the type of container it is in. Aluminum can is better than glass. Glass is better than a 20-oz plastic bottle, and they're all better than a 2-liter bottle, which although perhaps the most economical way to procure Diet Coke, is also the worst.

I believe that the fountain drink is the best way to drink a soda. Clearly McDonald's has the best Diet Coke. AND they have a drive-thru. But their soda costs $1.57 for a large, and comes in a brand new plastic cup every time.

If you go to 7-11, a Super Big Gulp (my preferred size; it's embarrassing, I know) costs a mere $1.25. AND if you bring in your old cup and just get a refill, not only are you keeping one more plastic cup (or can or bottle) out of the landfills, but it only costs, with tax, $.83.

But they don't have a drive-thru and I am rarely without children. I used to refuse to go there with three kids. I'd drive through a fast food place instead. I'd only hit 7-11 if I had two or less children with me, and preferably only one. But at some point I decided to suck it up and just go buy the cheap, more environmentally friendly version.

Which brings up a whole slew of other problems.

The jerks marketers at the 7-11 corporation have taught their franchises well. Sugar cookies dotted with M & M's in packs of three (count my children) sitting in little baggies at the counter? Done. Doughnuts in a transparent case between the door and the soda fountain? Done. A display full of chocolate candy in bright, attractive wrapping directly in front of the door? Done, and done.

My two-year-old knows what "7-11" means and when we pull in to the parking lot starts yelling, "I come! I come!" because I let him push the button to dispense the soda. And I can't help but think what a bad example I'm setting, buying soda in front of them. I mean, it's not like I'm buying crack or anything, but I drink it like it is.

And whereas they might be daydreaming away in the car if I pass through a drive-thru, our trips to 7-11 (or "Sev," as we used to call it when I was growing up) are such a production that it MUST stick in their minds.

How, you may ask, are they a production? Well, aside from the begging for candy and pastries, Jack requires that we walk up the wheelchair ramp, often dangerously crossing half the parking lot to do so. Quinn always demands change from the cashier or me because he likes to play with coins. And someone almost always tries to hold the door for us, but because it takes us fifteen minutes to navigate a door, s/he ends up standing there for a substantial amount of time while no one walks through. Add to this the occassional tantrum and you'll see why I'm sure the staff at my 7-11, where I'm a regular, must wonder what craziness I'll bring to their store that day.

You try wrangling three kids while holding a giant cup of soda and a bag of cookies.

I haven't dropped a full cup yet, but if I keep going there every day with my kids, it's inevitable. It's kind of embarrassing, but one of the things I'm going to look forward to doing when the kids are in school is buying my daily soda in peace.

This post is also cross-posted at Jean's blog, Stimeyland.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today Was The Day

My brave little guy.

Sam was so excited for kindergarten. Before bed last night he told me be sure to wake him up at 6 o'clock so that he would be on time for school.

This morning the whole family drove to the school together. While Alex circled in the car, I walked Sam to the kindergarten playground where the classes were lining up. And there he had his first moment of hesitation.

"I want you to come with me," he said when I told him to go play on the playground.

But his class was already lining up, so I gave him a hug and a kiss and told him to go stand behind the girl in the green shirt. Seconds later as his class filed by and I took a picture, he didn't even see me, so hard was he concentrating on staying in his line.

And that was it.

We drove home to drop Alex off. Even though I had a nagging feeling that I should be at home waiting by the phone in case something should go wrong, I took the kids to the mall to pick up a couple things I needed at Target and for a little bit of play at the mall's PlayTown.

Jack easily fell into Sam's void and took his place racing ahead while Quinn took Jack's old spot meandering behind me.

At home, the phone rang at 10:35. The caller ID read, "MONTGOMERY CNTY." Oh no, I thought, he only made it two hours. But it was just Jack's teacher calling to schedule a home visit. Jack and Quinn, seemingly lost without their leader, milled around me like baby birds desperate for sustenance from an elder.

I spent the second half of the school day waiting around to pick up Sam. His bus leaves school at 3:12. By 2:35 I was compulsively checking the clock every four minutes. I didn't want to leave too early and have to mill around the school bus stop for 15 minutes with my other two small children, but I was so excited to see my kindergartener.

So at 3:15 we went down to the school bus stop and milled around for 15 minutes. When the bus finally came, Sam leapt off of it into my arms.



He was ecstatic and ran home at the speed of sound. Because a friend of mine had suggested that I have something nice waiting for him when he got home from school, I had whipped together a pan of brownies (from a box, don't get any ideas about my domesticity here) and we sat around the table eating brownies and drinking milk while I tried to pry information out of him.

I didn't get much other than, "I didn't wear a seatbelt on the bus," and, "I have to take my art back to school tomorrow because it's on that side of the folder," and "We had Oreos for snack." He couldn't remember anyone's name (except his teacher).

He colored an incredibly beautiful teddy bear at school. According to the paper, the skill he learned from that was "self-esteem."


Tomorrow I'll chill out a little more. And the day after that I'll get used to him being gone all day. Then next week I'll go through the same thing with Jack (and to a lesser extent, Quinn), and before you know it, I'll be surly when there's a school holiday and I have to take care of all three of them all day again.

And so it begins...

DCMM: Home Sweet Home

I am very particular about where I live. My biggest deal-breaker is noise. Moving traffic is fine. Kids playing is fine. Even the occasional dog barking is fine. It's people's personal noise that bothers me. It's the one thing that I am the most uptight about. I have a very physical reaction to certain types of noise. Such as:

When I lived in Oakland, Calif., I lived in a neighborhood that a lot of cars with deep bass thumping on their stereos drove through. And I lived near a stop sign, so the cars would idle there for a few minutes before moving on. Lots of people had loud, late parties in my neighborhood. And there were people diagonally across the street who stood on the corner and played their car stereos for hours on end. And I could hear it all in EVERY room in my house. Clearly I have issues, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. There are other things that make a house unpleasant to live in.

This morning on the local news I heard about a block in DC that has suddenly become an undesirable place to live. You can read about it here. Basically a giant flock of starlings has chosen this particular block to function as their home: their living room, their kitchen, their BATHROOM.

Bird droppings everywhere. They are coating the street, sidewalks, and cars. Apparently it's so bad that the postal service won't even deliver there some days. Yeah, that's right, the "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet..." people.

Glad I don't live there.

Between Oakland and Maryland, I lived in Alaska. In an above/below duplex. On the top. With a toddler. Over a guy who worked nights and slept days. Thank God he was the coolest guy in Alaska. We didn't see him much (for obvious reasons), but he always claimed that we were really quiet and he couldn't hear us at all. Yeah, right. He couldn't hear our one-year-old running his plastic dumptruck in circles around the living room and over the kitchen linoleum? When his seasonal work ended and he left, our new neighbor told us she could tell we weren't native Alaskans because we wore our shoes in the house.

Okaaaaaay. But we get your point. We'll tiptoe from now on. Barefoot.

Ever since then, I have sworn to never share a wall, floor, or ceiling with anyone again. And I am fortunate to not have to. We live in a nice neighborhood here in Maryland with lots of kids and very little ambient noise. Every time a house goes up for sale, I get nervous that the new owner will be loud. I couldn't care less if they're housing a meth lab in there; I just don't want them to have parties that I can hear in my house. Knock on wood: so far, so good.

The worst thing that has befallen us since we moved here was the 17-year cicada plague of aught-four. Click here. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh! I know. Freaky, huh? 2004 was my first summer here, so when I heard people talking about waiting for the cicadas, I just assumed that they came every year. Not so. I am someone who generally runs screaming from bugs, but it was sort of impossible to sustain that for the whole cicada season. These insects were so numerous and dumb that they would do things like fly into my head. A lot. You get used to it.

I guess there are challenges to living anywhere. I've loved things about every place I've lived, but I tell ya', I'm happy to be living here in my quiet, starling-free, mostly cicada-free, no-shared walls home.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shine On, You Crazy Kindergartener

Sam's backpack is packed. His first-day-of-school clothes are laid out. And he's boasting a shiner on his left eye.


Nothing like a visit from social services to start off the school year.

Sam and Quinn were playing and Quinn wonked his head on Sam's cheek. I can tell you from experience that that hurts. And Sam let us know in no uncertain terms that it did.

At least it doesn't look too bad though. The first black eye Sam ever got was way worse. Ironically enough, he acquired that one in the pediatrician's office. He tripped and fell into a chair. Oh, it was dramatic and terrible, but we got very quick medical care.

So my tiny, little baby boy is going to kindergarten tomorrow. I hope I remember to pack him a lunch. I'll let you know how it goes. He gets home at 3:30.

********

Today was also "Hose Off the Sand Table and Toys and Get Them the Hell Off My Deck" Day. Please notice our impressive selection of plastic buckets.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Open House

Today was the day we got to visit Sam and Jack's new schools. As you may know, Sam is starting kindergarten on Monday and Jack, in addition to his regular preschool, will be attending county-run special ed school starting after Labor Day.

Both of those schools held their open houses today, a time for kids and parents to go in, meet the teachers, and see the classrooms. Fortunately the two open houses (at different schools) followed each other, rather than being scheduled at the same time.

Alex spent the morning prepping Sam to meet his teacher. He told him to extend his right hand, shake hers, and tell her his name. He told him this five or six times.

"Are you convinced that if Open House doesn't go well, he'll end up a convict?" I asked.

"That's right."

Well he needn't have worried. Sam was totally well-behaved and mannerly. This is him working on the classroom scavenger hunt the teacher had set up:

It was actually pretty humorous because we had jazzed them up so much to go see their new schools that when Sam's teacher was giving instructions for the scavenger hunt, Jack stood right in front of her and kept edging forward. And because he kept edging forward, all the other kids kept edging forward too, so as not to be left in the back. I think the teacher had to step back from them at one point.

Oh, and we were smart and took the big parts of Sam's school supply list so he doesn't have to take a wheeled suitcase on Monday.

After the classroom, we wandered around the school to see the cafeteria, the gym, the music room, and the cutest art teacher known to humankind. (Quinn took the art room as an opportunity to attack a temporarily off-guard Sam with safety scissors.) We even spent a few minutes playing on the playground, which is adjacent to a large soccer field on which some kind soul had left a soccer ball:


GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAL!

Then on to Jack's school. We haven't even had our intake meeting for this class, so I was totally unsure of what to expect. It turns out that I should have expected total awesomeness.

The classroom was really nice. Jack's teacher and the assisstant were very nice and seemed extremely competent. Jack, who will only have 35 minutes between the time his morning class ends and this class begins, will be able to eat lunch in the afternoon class. And weirdly enough, that was the thing that had been nagging at me the most (other than how to pick him and Sam up FROM DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AT THE EXACT SAME TIME). Autism schmautism, when is the boy going to be able to eat his peanut butter sandwich?

And the best thing about Jack's trip to his class? Jack actually, honest to god TALKED with another little kid that will be in his class. Although it turns out that Jack is convinced that this child is Little Bill, or, as he says it: Little Biddle. When we were leaving, he called out—totally unprompted—"Bye, Little Biddle!"

(I don't think we've ever watched Little Bill, although I guess they play computer games on Nick, Jr.'s site that feature him. And I'm not sure I approve of him referring to all black kids as "Little Bill," but kudos to him for making a friend.)

I'm just glad neither of my kids are in this class:


Seriously. Wouldn't you change your name?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Name is Stimey, and I'm a Timeaholic

I am a compulsively early person. If I'm supposed to be somewhere at 10:00 and it's 9:58 and I'm five minutes away, I get sort of panicky. People have anxiety about different things; (one of) mine is that I get completely stressed out if it looks like I might not get somewhere by my assigned time.

I know why and it's totally my mom's fault. [Hi, mom!]

When I was a kid and I'd go to movies with my mom, we would take books to read while we sat in the movie theater waiting for the movie to start. Apparently they spaced movie times farther apart when I was a kid, because we would regularly sit in those theaters for at least half an hour.

I remember one of the first times I went to the movies with a friend and her family. We got there maybe two or three minutes before the movie started and the only seats left were right in the front. When I told my mom this, she said, "That's why I like to go early." As if, The Horror!, terrible things (neck cricks?) await those who are not clever enough to get one of the theater's other 196 seats taken by the early arrivers. Picture me twirling my finger around my ear in the "she's crazy" gesture. You really don't want to know how early this woman gets to the airport.

I guess in the long run it has served me well, except for the fact that almost no one else is punctual. I grew up in Utah where the phrase "Mormon Standard Time" meant that if you were ten minutes late, you were on time. Imagine my pain. Will no one think of the children?!

Alex does not come from a punctual family. One time his mom was five hours late picking us up from the airport. [Hi, Mom-in-law!]

This caused all sorts of problems when we started dating. I can't count the number of times he was supposed to be at my apartment at, say, 2:00 and I would call him at 2:05 to hear him say, "I'm just leaving now." Imagine how badly my sensibilities were offended by the fact that he would LEAVE AFTER HE WAS SUPPOSED TO ARRIVE. It's taken 13 years, but I think I may have nagged it out of him by now. He's almost always on time now. Almost.

I won't mention the time I had to drag 3 kids (including an at-the-time baby) across a busy street to wait 30 minutes at the bus stop to take a completely full standing-room-only bus (in which there was a man who admonished everyone over and over, "Won't somebody stand up for her?") to a spot 1 mile from where I needed to be and then had to coax/carry everyone UP THE ONE-MILE HILL because he was three hours late getting home. Oh, wait, I just did mention it. [Hi, Alex!]

I'm not saying that early is better, and honestly, on-time is often considered early. We are almost always the first ones to parties and often the hosts aren't quite ready setting up. Although I will often drive or walk around a block multiple times so that I don't get there too early. I do that quite a lot, actually. Even when I try to be late, I end up getting there on time.

See, I back-time things. I have to be there at 10. It will take me 11 minutes to get shoes on everyone, get them to the potty, and put them in the car. It will take me 12 minutes to get there. You always have to build in time for traffic, unplanned potty emergencies, or a flat tire (thanks, Mom), so I'll leave at 9:30. It gets even more exciting if I try to run an errand before I have to be somewhere. I could back-time a whole day if need be.

I've gotten pretty good at this. Although if Alex ever leaves me, it may because of my frequent time freak-outs. I'll be freaking out and yelling because "We're late, we're late," when we're actually just running 3 minutes behind on my imaginary back-timing plan. I imagine it must be immensely satisfying for him when we get someplace on time or early after I've spent a half-hour yelling about how late we are.

I may need help.

DCMM: ABC: Always Be Closing

When my family went to the Montgomery County Fair last week, I never imagined the effects would be so long lasting. I left my husband, Alex, alone for about 4 minutes while I cleaned ice cream off my toddler's face. And in that 4 minutes, he filled out a lead for a basement refinishing company.

I don't know what he was thinking. I don't think we're planning on refinishing our basement (unless it's going to be a kick-ass Christmas present to me, hint, hint). The company wasn't giving anything away and it's not like there were fancy balloons or anything to entice him and my other two kids over there. He apparently just saw a box with some empty forms next to it and decided it might be a good idea to give all our pertinent information to a man standing in a trailer hawking basements.

And frankly this man wasn't even wearing shoes. And his socks were starting to pull off his feet. I think Alex might have been able to find someone more reputable to give our phone number to.

Then the calls started. The same woman called twice a day, even after I told her Alex would call if he was interested, he's not home anyway, and I don't care that you're open until 9 pm, thank you very much. I started recognizing their 800-number on the caller ID. And everytime I saw it, I imagined some sad lady-version of Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross sadly clutching our lead. And in my imagination, some slick corporate type (who for sure isn't the man at the fair) is standing in the background yelling, "Fried dough is for closers!"

I finally answered the phone with, "Is this the basement people?" to which the woman replied, "Oh, have I called too much?"

Ya think?

And although I'm entirely sure that they will be selling our lead elsewhere and we'll be hearing from the attic refinishers next, a few stern words put the kibosh on further calls from this particular saleslady. And hopefully on Alex's desire to fill out leads in the future.

Jean also blogs at Stimeyland.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Me, Only Different

I'm very excited to tell everyone that I am a contributing writer over at the new DC Metro Moms blog. Come on over and check us out!

How Do You Spell...

At my house, from Jack, I don't get questions that start with "why." I don't get many "when" questions. I absolutely don't get "who." What I get are "what" questions, and increasingly "how" questions.

More specifically, I'm getting a lot of, "How do you spell [insert pretty much anything here]. After watching Roving Mars every day for the past four days, Jack has been very interested in Mars.

"How do you spell 'Mars?'"

"M-A-R-S."

"How do you spell 'Mars Rover?'"

"M-A-R-S R-O-V-E-R"

"How do you spell 'mission to Mars?'"

And so forth.

I really wish I knew what these strings of letters looked like in his head. He can recognize and read certain words (Mars is among those. And now, NASA.), but I can't imagine him mentally putting together letters to make them mean anything. That's even hard for adults to do. (At least it's hard for me. Sometimes when Alex spells something so the kids won't know what we're talking about, I have to make him do it several times.)

But it must be meaningful in some way for him to be so interested. He does like repitition, so maybe it's calming to him in some way. Today he asked me, "How do you spell 'little cat A?'" followed by little cat B, little cat C, and so forth, all the way up to J. And then I think he got distracted and had some trouble remembering what letter came next.

So he paused and then he said, "How do you spell 'is coming up next?'" Yeah, we watch TV at my house.

I spelled for him for 10 straight minutes in the car this afternoon before he said, "How do you spell..." and then made a noise that sounded a lot like "blah," only louder and with more syllables. Then he and Quinn yelled, "Blah!" "Bleh!" "Bleah!" at each other for several minutes and spelling time was over.

DCMM: The Lowest Common Denominator

Before I moved to the DC area four years ago I bought a bunch of books to ensure my success. Books with titles like Washington D.C. With Kids or Around Washington D.C. With Kids or Fodor's Washington D.C. With Kids. You get the picture. (And see how truly original the travel guide industry is.)

Then I moved here with my 21-month-old son and my 2-month-old son, and less than two years later, had a third son, and those books are gathering dust on my shelf. Because while DC may have amazing places to take kids, I am deathly afraid to take my ill-mannered brood anywhere.

And it's not really because they're soooo badly behaved. They're three kids under six years old and subject to the Lowest Common Denominator Rule (each child's behavior will drop down to the same level as that of the child who is misbehaving the most). I mostly don't take them to busy places like the Smithsonian museums because I'm slightly afraid that I'd come home with fewer kids than I set out with.

I went to a farmers' market a couple weeks ago, and while we all made it out together, rest assured that my family will be eating factory-farm produce until the youngest is at least five.

One of the biggest problems (other than the LCD Rule) is that one of my kids is a fast walker, one of my kids is a slow walker, and one of my kids is a do-my-legs-work?-I'd-much-prefer-to-be-carried walker. So I do a lot of yelling, "Slow down, Sam! Catch up, Jack! Put your feet on the ground, Quinn!" This is why we don't do things like take the Metro very often. Sam would jump on a train, Quinn and I would be running for the platform, and Jack would still be back inspecting the ticket machine.

I'll be posting here now and again as a contributing writer. Keep your eye out for me around town, because I'm quite a scene. I'm loud, often gesticulating wildly, and usually swearing under my breath.

Jean also blogs at Stimeyland.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's a Girl!

I'm not the girliest of girls.

I'm not a total tomboy, but I don't do a lot of things that are typically "girlie." So it won't surprise you that I had my first pedicure today. Well, it may surprise you, but the surprise is that I actually got a pedicure, not that it was my first.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went with a girlfriend who gently walked me through losing my pedicure virginity. Her pedicurist used some sharp tool to dig at the corners of her nails, so I was a little nervous when I looked over to see her jaw dropped and a pained look on her face. Things went better for her after she told the lady that it was okay to leave a little dirt in the corners of her toenails.

I, however, got the most awesome dude ever. My feet are so soft and relaxed now. And what with my not having had pedicures in the past, he had a lot of dead skin to sand off. (Rest assured, I'll not subject you to photographs of my feet.)

Of course, as I was leaving, they asked me if I needed to have my eyebrows waxed. In a way that leads me to believe that they all thought I needed to have my eyebrows waxed.

Oh well, I'll settle for being partly girlie.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Date Night

I had a date last night with the attractive gentleman to the left. We went to Le Target to buy the list of school supplies he needs to go to kindergarten. (Well, we didn't buy the list, we bought the things on the list.)

And just let me get off my chest that a bottle of pump soap, a large box of Kleenex, and sandwich and gallon-size Ziploc bags were never on MY school supply list as a child. I find it a little weird that we're supplying basic classroom things for the PUBLIC school. (Taxes, anyone?) Although I guess I would prefer that they spend my taxes on textbooks for bigger kids. And I guess that Jack is going to be getting free special ed preschool. So I guess I can buy a couple boxes of plastic bags. But I rebelled against their naming of a specific brand and bought Glad plastic bags instead.

All right, I did that because all the together moms who did their shopping last week had already bought all the Ziploc bags. I'm just a loser conformist who didn't get there in time.

Regardless, Sam and I had a fun time out. I get all giddy and ridiculous when confronted with office supplies. Especially when said office supplies are two-packs of glue sticks for 20 cents. Or 10-packs of markers for 88 cents. The Target brand glue sticks were labled as 15 cents per two-pack, but they rang up for 18 cents. Had there not been a hell of a line I would have made a stink just for the fun of it. (Okay, I probably wouldn't have, but wouldn't that have been fun?)

I got Sam a first day of school outfit and he got to pick out a new lunchbox (Spiderman). And we also picked out a birthday gift or two for my nephew [It'll be comin' in the mail, Dos Mamas. I hope to get it there on time!]

Then we went to the Target snack shop for a soda (me) and some chocolate milk (Sam). When I asked for the milk, I was met with the explanation that, well, the only milk we have is organic and we can't ring it up on this register, so you can't buy it.

Good thing it's sitting in their fridge slowly expiring instead.

So Sam got a sugar cookie instead. Lucky him. And we got mired in a conversation with one of the weirdos that hangs out at the Target snack shop. (I'm a weirdo-magnet. Don't even get me started on the weirdos I used to attract on Sproul Plaza at Berkeley.)

I think this expedition helped Sam get excited for school, which is good. I'm just concerned how he's going to carry all this crap to school on the first day. Suggestions?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nothin' Itsy Bitsy About It

Thursday night after the kids were in bed and the night was dark, Alex decided to venture out our back, sliding glass door. Why, I don't remember. He didn't make it out though, because just prior to running into it headfirst, Alex saw a giant spider building a web about three inches from the door.

After he'd shrieked like a little girl (or boy, if you're a Stimey) and recoiled, he remembered that he was safe behind the glass and invited me over. So we sat and watched nature for awhile.

So. Fucking. Cool.

Spiders, of which I have an intense fear, are badass little creatures. We had the perfect vantage point from which to watch this thing spin its web. I think it defied the laws of physics, I really do. If one of the laws of physics is that spiders can't walk on air. It was amazing to see his (her?) little legs moving so fast and so adeptly to build this incredible structure.

How do they know how to do that? Humans are so screwed in the instinctual knowledge category when we stack ourselves up against animals that can stand minutes after they are born, lost dogs who can walk hundreds of miles to find their people, and spiders that can spin webs without four years of architecture school.

Of course Alex decided to help. At some point I went back to my computer and Alex disappeared outside. I didn't put much thought into it until I heard more screaming. I ran up to the window and asked, "What's out there?" Alex said, "Something that makes a lot of noise; I’m coming back in!"

It turns out that he had been out there trying to catch bugs to throw into the spider's web and had come across a giant cicada. At this point, Alex's attention shifted from the spider to the cicada. "What does he want, do you think?" he asked. Then he proceeded to answer with his totally sane opinion: "He wants to eat us, that's what."

Scared off, we left the bug watching to the cats and hand out for awhile. Not fifteen minutes later when Alex checked back, the spider web was entirely gone. We think the cicada flew into it and took it out.

Alex's response? “Dude, nature’s a hideous bitch goddess, huh?”

Friday, August 17, 2007

Before & After

At the fair today, we saw this:


And across the aisle, we saw this:


You know, a little reading material for the cows.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Q-Ball's A-Goin to School

After five years, nine months, and 22 days (more or less) of solid kiddie time, I am going to have a regular chunk of time every single week when I won't have any children with me. Yep, Quinn is going to preschool. He starts the day after Labor Day and will go two days a week.

I am thrilled.

Quinn is not.

If I tell him that he is going to school, he says, "NOOOOOOOO!" If I introduce him to a child who will be in his class, he says, "NOOOOOOOO!" If I talk about his teacher, he says, "NOOOOOOOO!" Needless to say, I'm a little concerned. He has not heard one sentence that includes both "Quinn" and "school" without the same reaction. ("NOOOOOOOO!")

Until today. We were headed out to a playdate in his classroom where he could hang out with his teacher and the other kids and their families. As I was strapping him into his carseat, I told him we were going to his school to see his class. He quietly, and nicely, said, "Mine school?"

The room was hot. The room was humid. The room had way too many people in it. The room was really pretty unpleasant.

And Quinn loved it. He played with toys, he wandered around. He DIDN'T CARE OR NOTICE when I would walk out of the room to chat with the other parents in the relative pleasantness of the hall. When the teacher took a photo of him and me to hang on her wall, he grinned at her and said, "Cheese!"

When it was time to leave, I prompted him to say goodbye to his teacher, Mrs. Bea. He ran up to her with a giant smile on his face, HUGGED HER, and said, "Bye, bye, Mrs. Bea!"

Things are looking up.

Tough Guys

I don't know where he got the idea, but Sam has found a way to wear his shirt that he says makes him tough. And now he's brainwashed his brothers into thinking this too. As I type, they're in the other room, all in "tough shirt" mode battling away. (Don't ask.) Even sweet (ha!) little Quinn is wandering around saying, "Tough shirt! Tough shirt!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Tale of Two Stores

I have two tales of shopping to relate here. Though they occurred within an hour of each other, they couldn't have been more different. I suppose it comes as no surprise that the better experience came first.

I to the K to the E to the A! IKEA knows how to do it. The first thing we did was go to the family bathroom where they were restocking the free diapers. Really, you can't beat that. I almost wished I had a need for them. And then Sam announced that he wanted to go to the babysitting area instead of coming through the store with me. We'd tried this once before, a couple of years ago, and he refused to go in. So naturally we never tried it again. But this time Sam and Jack went.

Quinn and I did all our shopping in about 10 minutes.

Now, I have to confess that the whole reason I went to IKEA today was for a stuffed crocodile. We have assigned a mascot to each of our children, decided on before birth. Sam is the frog, Jack is the turtle, and Quinn is the crocodile. They each wore an outfit with their mascot on it home from the hospital and we occasionally get excited when we find a T-shirt or art or something with the appropriate animal.

Anywho, IKEA had a frog beanbag around the time Sam was born and they have a turtle inflatable thingy that we bought a few months ago for Jack. Well, when the IKEA catalog came in the mail the other day, I was pleased to see that they were reading our minds by offering a giant crocodile for a mere $9.99:



Oh course Quinn wanted nothing to do with this, instead preferring to play with the plush soccer ball they had roughly thirty thousand of. And since it cost only FOUR DOLLARS, I bought him one. (I'm powerless against IKEA. At least I didn't come home with any new furniture.)

And guess what else I found for FOUR DOLLARS? Yes, the store that used to sell stuffed animal rats now sells stuffed animal bats:

Please notice his deadly, deadly claws.

Alex's first comment upon seeing this was to ask if he had feasted on anyone yet. Sadly, no.

Once I collected Sam and him from Smalland, or whatever the hell they call it, Jack fell in love with the bat, seeing as how his favorite book is Bats at the Beach and all. He made him fly through the store. And then I got them mini ice cream cones. Perfect, no?

The only disappointment is that I couldn't leave Sam and Jack in IKEA jail for longer. See, Quinn and I were going to go play in the blueberry basket ballpit all by ourselves (those of you who visit the College Park, Maryland, IKEA know what I'm talking about), only to find that it had been removed. There was a dining room set up where the giant basket used to be. Thank God Sam wasn't with us because he would have thrown a total hissy. Quinn could not have cared less.

Seeing as how this store went so well, I should probably decide to stay ahead of the game and go home, right? Nope, not if you're dumbass Stimey.

Boo to the B to the N! I had another book I had to return to Barnes & Noble. Please don't ask why I had to go two different times in the same week to return books, but all I have to say is, yay to Barnes and Noble for letting you return Internet purchases in the store.

Since I was there and I have all this great Barnes & Noble credit now, I decided to go the children's section and get a couple of books, including the aforementioned Bats at the Beach, which had previously just come from the library. Here's where it all started to fall apart. All three kids headed to different parts of the children's area: Quinn went to the train table where he yelled, "NOOOOOO!" at the top of his lungs whenever another child got within two feet of him. Sam went to to the pricey book section and immediately fell in love with a $25 book about Tinkerbell. (Didn't buy that one.) Jack sort of bounced hither and thither.

I found a book for Quinn about starting school and a couple bargain books about space, all the while trying to find this goddamn bat book, which was not where it was supposed to be. But you never know where a book is going to be at Barnes and Noble. Once when I was looking for Richard Scarry books there, they told me they weren't shelved under his name, but rather by topic. So I was about 50 percent convinced that I would eventually find this book in the "Bats and Other Nocturnal Creatures" section, wherever the hell that is. Eventually I found it in the "Notice Me! Notice Me!" part in the middle front of the section. (Not all of our snafus are my kids' fault.)

So I finally had all my books, and my kids were all sort of together, and then we had to go to the bathroom again. And it was there that Quinn shimmied under the stall door to roam around the room. I caught him trying to hide in another stall.

Now at Barnes and Noble, the check-out line is the worst for us. (Which is why most of my books come from the Internet.) They put all their gift cards and tiny little gift books there. Anything shiny and with little beads on it ends up right where you have to stand in line. So there I am, trying to return a book, buy some others, keep all the gift books on the tables, ignore the STANK that is emanating from Quinn's pants, manage to pay for Bats on the Beach without making Jack let go of it, and wrestle an angry Quinn off the floor.

All of this to a chorus of "You've-sure-got-your-hands-full"s. Which, although it is the sentence I hear the most out of strangers' mouths, it is probably the one I like the least. By the time I got to the car to change that fragrant diaper, my shoulder was all out of whack and aching from the way I'd been forced to hold Quinn (and his stuffed soccer ball). Imperfect, yes?

Nonetheless, you can't beat a day where 2/3 of your kids get to play instead of shop, you find your child's favorite book, you get to complete your weird child-mascot trio, AND you get to take home a kick-ass bat.

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's Always Something

Just as every black cloud has a silver lining, every white, fluffy, puppy-shaped cloud has a black clap of thunder hidden behind it. I don't know if this is true with every family, but it really seems to be the case for Team Stimey.

First, the puppy-shaped cloud:

We went to lunch with my friend and her two kids and had a great time. My kids, who have been known to misbehave in restaurants from time to time, were pretty good. Except for Quinn, who tested his shrieking skills (really for no reason other than to make sure that we knew that he was there) and lightly shoved two children. He seems to have a keen sense of competition with children his age.

We were at a pizza place with an all-you-can-eat buffet of pizza, noodles, cheesy bread, brownies, and cinammon rolls. And for mom, an unlimited supply of Diet Coke. And since my back was to the majority of the room, I didn't notice that the place had filled up since we'd walked in to the empty restaurant when it opened. So I was not too concerned about the mild shrieking (if there is such a thing).

And since there was a little game room, and since young children are mesmerized by video games even if they have no money to play them, all of the kids were kept happy and contained while the my friend and I actually got to chat a little.

Puppy-shaped indeed.

Then we walked across the street to the Barnes & Noble so I could return a book and look for a book that would have all the answers for how to raise a happy and healthy Jack.

And then the thunder struck:



Whilst attempting to open the door and then trying to move out of the way for the guy patiently waiting behind us to get into the store, Sam didn't move quite fast enough and got his toe crunched when the guy opened the door a little too fast. Poor Sam. Had this happened to me, I probably would have been a sobbing puddle on the floor. Which, actually, is exactly what he turned into. I dismissed the horrified-looking man who'd accidentally done this to Sam, and set about trying to get Sam to stop crying. Because, injury or not, I wasn't about to turn around without returning this book now that we'd come this far.

Fortunately we had a stroller with us, so I evicted Quinn ("Mine stroller! Mine stroller!") and let Sam recuperate in there. Then we made our way to the parenting books to find what I was looking for.

I spent a long time standing in front of the special needs parenting display, totally overwhelmed by my choices. I didn't want to pick the wrong book. What if I chose an autism book that claimed that it was really all just mercury poisoning? What if I got a social skills book that gave me bad advice? What if Jack is not Out of Sync, but something else entirely? I ended up not buying anything. Any suggestions on good books from y'all would be welcome. But here's the silver lining for that black cloud: there was a games display right next to the bookshelf I was sort of semi-blankly staring at. And this display kept all three of my children happy and in one place for the entire time. Sam sat in the stroller and ordered the other children to bring him things.

We successfully returned the book. Quinn, still apparently angry about his unceremonious removal from the stroller, threw some cards on the floor, but at least I came away with a $38 store credit. That I will eventually spend on the perfect books recommended by you, the blogosphere.

Then when we got home I ambushed Sam's toe with Bactine, put on an episode of Zoboomafoo, and all was well. We're going to try to stay white and fluffy for the rest of the day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Soooo...cold.

My marriage is one of opposites. Alex is conservative; I am liberal. Alex is a jackass; I am super nice. Alex is always hot; I am always cold.

Alex knows how to program the thermostat, something I don't know how to do, so consequently, he has programmed it so that the average temperature in the house is somewhere in the vicinity of absolute zero. I keep pushing the up-arrow button until the display says 83, but before I know it, I'm wearing a sweatshirt and shivering under a blanket. And now that we have our new, super efficient air conditioner, the problem has gotten even worse.

This evening I'm working at the computer wearing long pants, a t-shirt, and a hoodie sweatshirt. I have a blanket over the lower half of my body. I turned around to give Alex a pointed look as I pulled my sweatshirt hood onto my head and made sure it was zipped all the way up.

"What are you aiming for?" he asked. "Best actress in a situational comedy-slash-drama?"

There is a tense pause as I continue to stare at him before he swallows and continues:

"Slash-murder mystery."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

At Least He's Given Up Sleeping With a Regulation Basketball

At about 10:30 tonight, Alex alerted me to something of the highest level of cuteness:

When I took this picture, he had woken up a little bit and was muttering something about pancakes.

You may notice that he is surrounded by a fair number of stuffed friends. And you can't even see all of them that are in his crib. About 90% of them are dogs, each of which he refers to as, "Mine Woof."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hell Sandwich: The Outsides are Yummy, But the Middle is Pure Gooey Trouble

Most of my day today was great. After a grumpy start (why are my eyes always so red and bloodshot I can't even read the date square on my watch in the morning?), we headed out to a playdate. And thank God, because I really needed some fun and laughter. My kids were almost entirely well-behaved (except when I tried to extricate them from the house, which involved walking past a playroom we hadn't been in) and I got to talk with a good friend. I had a very happy feeling after the morning.

Then things turned ugly.

I don't know exactly how it happened, but all three of my children were screaming at the same time, but about different things. First I promised them chocolate milk only to discover that we had about 2/3 of a cup of milk. So Quinn and Sam shared that. Jack, who was quietly laying on a couch elsewhere, missed out, but he doesn't like chocolate milk anyway. (I know. Psycho.) Then after Quinn finished his milk, Sam offered him some of his, only to drink it when Q didn't move fast enough. More screaming—some by me. My blog name may have to be changed to "Screamyland."

Then I finally got the mac n' cheese ready and served, so I went to get Jack. Jack wanted me to carry him to the table. For some reason I can't quite remember (something about him not always getting his way), I refused. And then I sort of drag/coaxed him to the table, where Quinn was still screaming (because he wanted more mac n' cheese&#8212not that he'd eaten any yet), Sam had started yelling (I have no idea about what), and Jack, already screaming, fit right in.

Then the phone rang. It was Alex calling from work. "Hell on Earth, how can I help you?" I asked over the cacophony. I swear he paused to consider just hanging up the phone, but to his credit he remained on the line and even tried to talk Jack down. Jack, who will someday earn many Oscars for his ability to cry buckets on demand, sobbed.

Sam piped in to let me know that, "This apple juice tastes poisonous." All right then, on to drink number 3: orange juice. At this point the only liquids left in my house are tapwater and the Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke stashed in my fridge.

One by one the little dudes "finished" their lunch and departed the table. And by "finished," I mean "ignored." Out of the whole box, the three of them consumed maybe ten bites. That's 89 cents I'll never see again. Although in their defense, it was generic mac and cheese made with water instead of milk. I sure as hell didn't eat any.

We had another playdate in the afternoon, this one at my house. It was with my "blind playdate" that I met at the park last week. This was also a fantastic time. All the kids got along really well. In fact, there was a bit of a to-do at the end of the playdate because the other kids wanted us to come to their house for dinner. Tonight. And if not for dinner, then Sam was to come over for a sleepover. Again, tonight.

They were lured away with promises of grilled cheese for dinner. The idea of which I promptly stole and made for us. Understandably hungry, they chowed down. And Quinn fell asleep on my lap watching The Backyardigans.

And there's the Hell Sandwich of my day. At least the middle was easy to pick out so I could just enjoy the bread.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Abnormal Cuddling

This is why I like having more than one child:


Seconds later, all three of them were trying to kill each other.

Thanks, Mac!

Last week when I thought I learned something at the Apple Store, it was really far less helpful than I'd hoped. So I used my One to One membership to go to a different store to try to learn more about audio, particularly how it pertains to removing microphone feedback from an audio track.

And there, at the Besthesda Row store, I found my new best friend.

I swear he introduced himself to me as Mac, but that couldn't possibly be the case. And this guy, who'll I continue to call Mac because it's just way too good not to, actually helped me. Whereas the guy at the last store seemed to have been trained with the same book I was, this guy appeared to have knowledge that passed beyond what I knew.

And while he was not proficient enough in the software I need to use to solve my problem, he was proficient enough to help me discover that if I dig a little deeper, I can use it to solve my problem.

By the time I left that store I was positively giddy. Thanks, Mac. You rocked my world.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Orange Apple

Here's a quick rundown of what fruits and vegetables my kids eat:

Sam: Peas, corn, melons, apples.

Jack: Corn on the cob, and tomato sauce if he can't scrape it completely off the pasta before he has to eat it. (Jack, quite literally, has not voluntarily eaten a fruit or vegetable since before he turned one, other than the occassional bite of corn. I don't think people believe me, but it's&#8212sadly&#8212very true.)

Quinn: Pretty much anything he can get his hands on. Whereas I used to be able to eat a salad without anyone wanting a bite, now he mugs me on a daily basis.

All of which is a lead-in to a tale of Quinn's new favorite fruit: the orange apple. Known to most by its proper name: the orange.

Ever since I took him to the grocery store and let him carry an orange around to keep him busy, Quinn has been obsessed with them. On that particular trip he took several bites out of the peel, grimacing after each one, but then going back for more. Once we bought the thing and I showed him that there was delicious fruit inside the peel, he was hooked.

Now he's kind of a nightmare to take to the grocery store, or at least the produce section, because he screams at the top of his tiny (but quite effective) lungs about "Orange apple! Orange apple! Orange apple!" The last time we went, I spent a fair amount of time in front of the orange display trying to figure out what he meant by pointing urgently at the naval oranges and shouting, "The blue one! The blue one!" Sam and Jack kept trying to help: "He wants that one." Then I would ask, "This one, Quinn?" And then he would bellow, "The blue one! The blue one!" I never did quite figure out what he meant, but I did manage to finally find an acceptable orange.

The problem intensifies when we get home and he wants to play with the orange apples. I was forced to move our fruit bowl to a counter location he couldn't reach even if he pushed a chair up to it. Needless to say, he objected. Loudly.

The other day he was carrying three of them around. He would put them on a table in front of him and keep an eye on them, as he is too little to actually hold three oranges for a sustained period of time. Jack, for some reason (perhaps that it's fun to torture a little brother), kept taking them and giving them to me. And then, you guessed it, Quinn would start screaming.

I think the word that captures Quinn's personality is strident.

A couple days ago, I peeled one for him at his request. He then refused to eat it and started yelling, "'Nother orange apple! 'Nother orange apple!" When I said no he screamed at me in his little high-pitched voice for a good ten minutes. You can ask my mom; she was on the other end of the phone laughing. I thought it was less funny.

Seven and a half hours later when he agreed to eat the orange, which I'd put in the refrigerator, he took a couple bites and then put it on a table and wandered off. When Cassidy walked within five or six feet of it, Quinn ran faster than I have ever seen him run to protect it, yelling, "Cass, no orange!" And then about five minutes later he threw it at her. And she ate it. Which means she officially has eaten more fruit in her life than Jack has. Quinn happily watched her eat it and then sadly cried, "Mine food. Mine food."

At least it's fruit and not candy, right? But, still, Quinn and his goddamn orange apples have sort of become the bane of my existence.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Of Fish and Donkeys

Me: "Sam, you swim like a fish."

Sam: "Yeah, but I can get out of the water and run like a donkey."

Sicko

Because I have three kids, it seems like one of them is always sick. But really, maybe it just seems like one of them is always sick. Because I'm never quite sure. I'm the queen of: He's a little lethargic, but maybe he's just tired. Should we go to playgroup? Should we stay home from school? Should I cancel my plans for today and let them stay home to recuperate?

This is on my mind because I went through this exact thing yesterday. Sunday night Sam said he had a headache and threatened to throw up, but never did. Monday morning he said he still felt sick. So I canceled our lunch plans with old friends and our afternoon playdate with a new friend and her kids (We were set up on a "blind playdate" last week. It was fun.)

And then Sam got better. He was perky, he was happy, he didn't have a fever. In fact he felt well just long enough to play with his friend who stopped by with her mom to pick something up. Just long enough to breathe his germs all over her. Because he was feeling so good, after they left we went to the grocery store. And it went downhill from there. (I tell ya', nothing will motivate you to drive straight home faster than a five-year-old in your back seat saying, "Mom, can you hurry? I think I have to throw up.") He didn't throw up or anything, but he spent the rest of the day laying on couch looking sad.

So I don't know what to do today. He woke up chipper as can be. We already canceled one playdate today; I'm not sure if I should be safe and not attend the other. I'll probably stay home, although I really don't want to. But I also don't want to be the mom whose contagio-kids brought the plague to playgroup either.

At least Sam is clear on why he was sick yesterday: "Do you know why my forehead is sick? Because I haven't been in the snow for so long. The back-head needs heat and the front-head needs cold."

It's all so clear now. Thank you, Sam.

Monday, August 6, 2007

But Why'd They Only Take One?

I don't know if things routinely disappear around your house, but Jack has been missing his left sandal for a good month or so. When I asked him what he thinks happened to it, he told the hard, plain truth:

"The raccoons stole it."

Can't argue with that.

PMA

Back in the day, back before kids, back before the weight (literal and figurative) of three kids fell on us, Alex and I were regulars at an Oakland gym that was just starting out. We were a couple of their early clients. In fact, when we were there, there were so few of us clients that they put photos and information about each of us in our very own frame on the wall.

One of the bits of information under each photo was the person's "philosophy." I have no idea what I said, although I'm sure it was endlessly fascinating. What I do remember is most of what Alex said, partly because he used a dorky abbreviation and partly because it was so dorky.

He said (something to the effect of): "Have PMA and you will have success."

PMA stands for Positive Mental Attitude, and apparently Alex didn't just make this up. Other people are familiar with this abbreviation too. (Of course, some people think it stands for Paramethosyamphetamine or Pakistan Marine Academy also.) Did I make fun of Alex at the time for his Mr. Optimism persona? Hell yeah I did. Do I sort of agree with his philosophy now? Don't tell him, but, yeah, I sorta do.

What I believe is, while positivity may not make you happy, negativity will probably make you sad.

There are a lot of people out there who regularly can't see the good things if they are even in the same vicinity as a bad thing.

There are also a lot of people out there who seem to feel like if they are able to point out the faults with everything, it makes them smarter than everyone else. Did you like that big summer blockbuster? Yes? Then you are too dumb to see its great faults, but if I make fun of it all day long, I'm smart, see? (I'm not above criticism, but some people can't seem to just sit back and enjoy stuff.)

And while I try not to be overly negative about things, I do see in myself a tendency to focus on the negative. I'm consciously working against it, and am often successful, but the thing that worries me is that I see that same tendency in Sam.

This is possibly just a five-year-old thing to do, but he'll come out of things like three fun hours of gymnastics, crafts, and snacks at camp and the only think he can think of to say is, "I didn't get to be goose in Duck Duck Goose. I really wanted to be the goose. I'm really sad. I didn't get to be the goose."

Or after school in response to whether he had a good day: "Yeah, but I didn't get to do a job." Or after leaving a playground where all he did was run around, laugh, and play: "I want to give someone a hug goodbye. I don't want to leave until I give someone a hug goodbye." Well, Sam, everyone has left, but wasn't it fun to play here? "Noooooo! I want to give someone a hug goodbye! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

This is possibly because things that disappoint make a bigger impression than things that are fun (and it may be because he's tired, or it may be because five-year-olds are inherently jerks), but I would really rather it be the other way around for him. I often dwell on the negative and it's not a happy way to be. I don't want that for him. I just wish I knew a more, ahem, positive way of communicating that to him other than yelling at him, "Be positive! Be positive! Stop being so negative!"

You may think I'm joking, but I've really done that. Effective, don't you think? I know, I'm a really good mom. But I have been working on modeling more positive behavior and pointing out positive things when I see them. And maybe, just maybe, if I succeed in making him a more positive person, I will have made myself a more positive person in the process.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

There's Always a Yang For the Yin.

Or is it the other way around?

I'm just going to put it right up at the top: Sam was stung by a jellyfish. (He's fine. More later.) That's the Yang. The rest of the day was pure Yin.

The whole group went down to visit my stepbrother and his family. My stepsister and her baby son were visiting them, so it was a good time to catch the whole gang at once. I don't get to spend much time with these guys, and haven't actually seen my stepbrother or his family for longer than I can remember. He has three kids, the oldest of which is 13 (I'm pretty sure that's how old she is). The last time I saw her, the oldest, she was 1 year old. That means I haven't seen them for more than a decade. (And I fully became the idiot older relative who says, "Last time I saw you, you were this [point to suitably aged child in the room] big." Yep, I said exactly that. I remember older, distant relatives saying that to me when I was younger and it meant absolutely nothing to me. I'm soooo old.)

My stepbrother, B, is in the navy and lives on a base and took us to go see military helicopters and airplanes. And my kids got to sit in them. And B officially became the coolest person I know. I thought it was about the awesomest thing ever. I can't even imagine what it must have seemed like to the little dudes. I'm pretty sure they're all going to dream about the military-industrial complex tonight.

And then, when fun with excellent relatives and cool machinery seemed like it couldn't get any better...we went to the beach. My family had put together a whole picnic lunch and was all prepared to grill at the beach. They'd made five pounds of potato salad. We found a picnic table next to the sandy river-side beach. It was perfect.

The water was even warmish. We saw a giant horseshoe crab toodling along on the sand at the edge of the water. Everyone plunged into the water, none more happily than Jack. He bobbed up and down, he sunk under the water, he exploded back up. He floated this way and that. He went out deeper that I would have thought he'd be willing to.

And the jellyfish infestation the signs were warning us about? Pffft. How many jellyfish could there be? Well, Sam will tell you that there was at least one. Poor guy. He was really upset. And I don't think he's ever going to voluntarily go to a beach again. I've never been stung by a jellyfish, but my Gulf Coast-dwelling relatives tell me that it really hurts. And, no, we didn't pee on him. Although it might have been very satisfying. Once Alex took him up the beach and showered him off he calmed down, and by the time B's 7-year-old son joined him, Sam was totally okay.

Dragging Jack and Quinn out of the water was difficult though. They didn't really understand the threat of the jellyfish. They mostly understood water = fun and why is my dumbass mom refusing to let me go past ankle-deep water now?

After the beach, we got back in our car to head home. I was sad to leave; this was a fun group to be around. And I wanted to play with my stepsister, S's, new(ish) baby more. Alex bid B's oldest daughter goodbye with a highly personal, "Goodbye, Girl!" and we were on our way.

Granted, B did insult me by telling me that I have to be 10% smarter that my tool when I was fumbling with a juice pouch straw. (Yep, he was saying that I'm dumber than a straw.) And, according to the signage, we did have to "Beware of Jet Blast" and "Yield to Taxiing and Landing Aircraft." And Sam did keep calling B's son "Jason." Which is not his name.

But I really enjoyed getting to hang out with B and S and their cool families. These are all wonderful, fun people. I carried a happiness away with me when we left, a happiness that comes from being with some very cool people. I really hope to be able to see both of them and their families waaaaay before another 12 years pass.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Your Audio Will Be Rendered in 5 to 7 Business Days

So a couple of months ago I decided to purchase the kick-ass editing software I need so that my computer doesn't keep freezing up on me and I can actually create a lovely piece of videography. And what's more, I mostly know how to use that awesome software—at least the basic functions.

The most recent thing I learned how to do is put audio filters on my project to do things like remove microphone hums and to equalize things, and I don't quite know what else the fuck they do, but they do something, and apparently it's something I need to do in order to create those aforementioned lovely pieces of videography. Please don't ask me what the equalizer is because I don't know, and neither does the "expert" at the Apple Store. So, consequently, I may never know. How important can audio really be, after all?

Well, one thing I learned at my recent One to One session at the Apple Store is that after I apply the filters I have to render them before I can listen to them. Now, if you have a lot of audio, it takes a while to render, so you're supposed to work on a little piece and then apply that to your larger project once it's the way you want it.

So I was working on my little piece today and rendering now and again to test the audio. And the little dialogue box would come up saying that it would be ready in "less than a minute," or whatever. Until I added one particular filter and the message came up to tell me that the amount of time to render would be: "3 days."

Not "72 hours." Not "less than a minute." Not "please wait." But, "You know, three days, more or less." I must have laughed for 3 days because it was done before I pulled myself together.

I think the lesson here is that my little dialogue boxes are lying to me. In fact, when actually rendering something that originally claimed to take 36 hours, I saw the number switch rapidly from "59 minutes" to "60 minutes" to "an hour" to "35 minutes," all while the progress bar stayed at 12%.

I do feel happy, however, to learn that my software seems to have a sense of humor.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Yet He Refuses to Nap

I was woken this morning by the sounds of shouting and slamming doors. Upon later inquiry, Alex told me the story. Apparently he walked past Sam's room and said, "Good morning, Sam."

Then all hell broke loose.

Sam started insisting that Alex apologize for waking him up. There was some demanding of pancakes. And there was much bedroom door slamming and screaming from said bedroom.

Hours (like, eleven hours) later Sam busts out with: "Dad, I have to give you some information about waking me up." Then he proceeded to systematically start listing his points: "First of all, don't wake me up. I'll wake up by myself. Second, I need to sleep a little later..."

He had a third item, but at this point Alex interrupted him to question why Sam could wake him up in the morning, yet Alex can't wake up Sam. And I think you can imagine how it went from there.

And Sam was a little dude who would wake up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. every morning for a good year, year and a half when he was younger. I used to yearn for the days when we would have to drag our children out of bed. And while those days are not so peaceful as I imagined them to be, they are still awesome. Before you know it, I'm going to have three teenage boys trying to sleep until noon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mother of the Year

Today, a quiz:

Which one of the following moms is the Best. Mom. Ever.?

a) The mom who didn't blink when her 2-year-old reclaimed leftover scrambled eggs from the dog bowl. Scrambled eggs that even the dog refused to eat. Scrambled eggs that he proclaimed "my eggs, my eggs," and then proceeded to scarf down.

b) The mom who impulse-bought three board games (Operation, Connect Four, Mousetrap) at Target because they were games that she either loved or loved and did not have as a child. Spoiled kids? Oh, never.

c) The mom whose child asked, "Mom, can I have a cookie if I finish my chips?"

d) Or the mom who ran over her 5-year-old's foot with a shopping cart at Target. A cart, by the way, that carried that 5-year-old's two younger brothers. And who then had to be asked, "Mom, please slow down, my foot hurts because you ran over it."

Guess what? No matter which answer you chose, I WIN! Who's totally awesome?

Some days you just have to revel in the absurdity of it all. And hope that your kids don't need too much therapy.