Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reasons Why Quinn Will Be a Jock:

1. Our neighbors claim they would not recognize him if he weren't carrying some sort of ball.

2. He sleeps with three basketballs every night, sometimes up to five. And two footballs. And if they're not there when you put him in his crib, he starts yelling, "I want my basketball!"

3. He regularly clutches a ball to his chest in the car. Sometimes he insists on taking it into stores or to school.

4. He's two years old and he can catch a ball. With precision.

5. He spent over an hour today providing color commentary on the NFL game we were watching.

6. His two big brothers have spent so much time inspiring him to follow in their footsteps that he is already a total bruiser.

EDITED TO ADD this picture...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do I Have to Know How To Play DVDs in Order to Make Them?

So here's some irony for you. I make DVDs for a living. Well, I guess for that to be true I'd actually have to make enough money off of it to live. Or at least to be in the black. But I do produce DVDs. If only, apparently, as a really expensive and stressful hobby. The irony? I can't make a DVD player in my house last longer than six months.

Like five years ago I gave my sister her very first DVD player. And she still has it and it still works. Since that time, I can't even count the number of DVD players I've gone through.

Some of them flat out stop working altogether.

Some of them play some discs perfectly while they refuse to even load others.

And the newest one? The one we bought about two months ago? It plays the discs perfectly, but it won't play the sound.

I have hope for this one. I think that mayhap we accidentally hit a key combination that turns off the sound. Although why a DVD player would have this option is beyond me. Or maybe we had a cable come loose.

Regardless, we have tremendously bad luck with the stupid things.

I did, however, have tremendously good luck at a shoot I did today for a workout video I'm putting together. In June I originally shot some tape for these lovely women, only to find out that I had an inadequate microphone, a bit of bad luck, and some resultingly unusable audio. So today we re-shot. (Who are the nicest clients in the world? The Fit and Fun Fitness Twins!)

This time I had a kick-ass microphone, better luck, and though I haven't looked at the footage yet, I'm thinking it's going to be great. I did have one panicky moment when Alex, who was my assistant for the day, noticed that one of the lights was buzzing. Thank God he noticed, because frankly I might have killed myself if I'd come out of the day with more bad audio.

We smartly decided NOT to just forge ahead with crossed fingers, and instead tried unscrewing a couple of light bulbs to see what happened. And what happened was success. The buzzing went away, our light was still great, and our audio seems clean. I'll be importing my footage onto my computer tomorrow.

Keep those fingers (and toes) crossed for me that I have better luck with my DVD production than my DVD players.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Just Never Know What's Going on in There...

Jack and Quinn and I went on a field trip to an apple orchard today.

Much fun, sweat, and apples was had.

When we were on the hay straw ride to go pick apples, I noticed Jack had a GIANT smile on his face as he gazed at the tractor pulling us. I assumed it was because of the ride, the tractor, the farm, the pond we were passing, any of a number of wholesome, outdoorsy things.

I leaned down and asked, "What are you thinking about?"

To which he replied: "Tom and Jerry."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Devastating

I went to a lecture on social challenges tonight. It was for parents of kids enrolled in the county special ed preschools and it seemed like it might be worthwhile, so I went. And it was worthwhile. I learned some strategies and games I'm going to start using with Jack. But the thing that really got me thinking was my post-lecture interaction with one of the moms from Jack's class.

Within five minutes of meeting her she was telling me intimate details about her child and her feelings about autism. She used words and phrases such as "cure" and "recovered from." She told me she hadn't spoken to a close friend of hers for two years after her friend suggested her son might be autistic. And this got me thinking about the different ways parents look at autism.

I recently picked up a People magazine with a cover story about Jenny McCarthy and her autistic son. Part of the cover's tagline was: "the star describes Evan's devastating diagnosis..." All of this made me wonder: Am I wrong not to be more upset by my son's probable autism diagnosis?

Don't get me wrong, autism can be a very scary word. And I'm not saying that it's wrong to be devastated by such a diagnosis. In fact, when Sam, my oldest, was young he used to line trains up obsessively. And he would layer them in his toy dump truck and rant and rage when one wouldn't fit right. And I was terrified that he might be autistic. All I'd ever heard was horror stories about autism.

Fast forward three or so years to when we made Jack's first appointment to see a developmental specialist. I distinctly remember my sister's blunt question: "For autism?" In my mind, autism was there. It was a big, looming cloud in my imagination, but still her words hit me like a slap. I'm sure she has no recollection of this conversation, and I honestly bear her no ill will. She's a med student and I think she was looking at it as a medical situation. For me, it was my child. My small, vulnerable child. And at the time I don't think I had accepted the fact that he might be autistic.

But then I watched him with other kids. Or, rather, not with other kids. And I read about autism. And I talked to his doctors. And I talked to specialists that I hired to observe him in school. And although he still hasn't been diagnosed, his doctor agrees with me that he is probably on the spectrum. And when it became real for me, when I understood that I have an autistic child, my reaction was not, "Oh my God, what am I going to do now?" It was, "Aha! So much makes sense."

I'm not looking for a cure for my son. I don't need him to recover from his autism. I do need him to learn how to work with it. I need to help him develop skills to compensate for those that don't come naturally to him. I do need him to know that I love him more than he could possibly imagine, just as he is. His autism, his "quirks," are a big part of what makes him the amazing, wonderful, sweet boy that he is. And I am so proud of who he is.

I don't begrudge devastation in others. And I don't mean to imply that I have it more together than anyone else. I don't. And I'm sure there will be many devastating moments in Jack's life. But there have been in mine also. And yours. And we all learn to work with what we have.

I just wish that the word "autism" didn't carry so much fear. I wish that other mothers entering this world didn't have to be so scared.

I think there needs to be more voices out there saying that autism is not the end of the world. It can make it harder, and there are things to be compensated for, but autistic children (and adults) are valuable, vibrant, exciting members of our world. In my mind, an autism diagnosis for my son doesn't signify a dead end, but rather the beginning of a different path.

This is cross-posted at DC Metro Moms Blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Update

Because I haven't been able to keep you current on the minutiae of life in Stimeyland lately, I've decided to publish this highly entertaining and informative update. (Why are you smirking?)

Without further ado...

Amazing things that have happened in Stimeyland lately:

1. Jack welcomed a child into our house with the child's name. Highly uncommon. Then he looked the kid in the face and said, "Do you want to play hide and seek?" Unheard of. And so Jack, the kid, and Sam and Quinn all played a giddy, satisfying game of hide and seek.

2. Quinn has started napping again. But he's incredibly discriminating in deciding where he sleeps.


3. My computer was able to recover from this:


And that's when the screen was still legible enough to type panicky emails to my boss. It deteriorated from there.

4. Jack, heretofore resistant to so much as touching a crayon, sat down the other day after asserting, "I want to draw an apple tree. And, by God, the boy drew an apple tree:


This may not seem like a big deal to you if you have a non-delayed four-year-old, but I almost baked him a cake for doing this. He put stems on the apples, see? And he wrote (!!) "5-4-3-2-1-0." And see that "1"? That's not just a line; he made a fancy one. Who is this kid, and why does he look so much like Jack?

5. Sam entered and then concluded a prolific "Teddy Bear Phase" of his art. This phase culminated in a series of "Teddy Bear in Forest" drawings created after coming home from school the day they held a Teddy Bear Picnic.


(If I may refer back to amazing item number 4, please notice how intense Jack's concentration is. LOOOOOVE it!)

6. I organized my work space:


See those two white sets of drawers? They've changed my life. Do you see the giant pile of crap on the desk? You don't? That's because it's all neatly organized in my new drawers. Ha ha!

7. I somehow ended up living with this incredible group of guys:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm a C Student

Actually a C- student. Don't tell my mom.

There are all kinds of quizzes out there on the internet that you can take to find out how geeky you are or what book you most resemble, etc. etc. etc. But I just followed this link to here where you can take a quiz that will actually make you think.

I got 70% of the answers right. I guess I'm not as smart as I thought I was. Alex is going to kick my ass on this one.

EDITED TO ADD: Alex scored 96.67%. He only missed two of the answers. I am married to a total civics nerd.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Praise Steve Jobs, I'm Back!

I'm back!

As you may have heard (read), my trusty (???) Mac let me down last week. After four wonderful years together, my video card departed for the great video-card graveyard at the dump. That was Sunday night. It is now Saturday mornin afternoon (how did that happen so fast?) and I'm just now re-entering the world of the computer.

Thank God!

My week-long forced withdrawal from the computer was tough. Not only do I blog (and am, it turns out, highly addicted to reading about all of your lives), but I have two jobs that I am physically incapable of doing without my computer. I also am on the board of my kids' preschool and need my computer to do that job.

And don't even get me started on email, which is apparently my primary form of communication.

Don't freak out, but I actually had to use my telephone to pass on a message to someone the other day. The. Telephone. I mean really. Are we living in the 1800s here?

When I dropped off my computer at the Apple store on Monday afternoon they told me it would take one to five days. Always hopeful, I waited patiently. For a day and a half. Then I started to panic.

I had deadlines looming. (Even now, as I write, I'm scanning photos for a DVD slideshow I am creating for a client.) My supervisor took to calling me periodically to see if my computer was back. I could feel my emails piling up. I could sense that all of you had continued living your lives (incredible, I know) without me knowing what was going on with you. My mom kept harassing me to post here.

Meanwhile the big, soulless blank, black eye of my monitor mocked me from its cozy spot on the desk. "I'm here, but I'm not here," it said to me, as I longingly stared at the button in its face that usually powers up my Mac.

And the worst part? Now that I had all of this free time in the evening because I was computerless, my husband had to work late almost every night last week. So I had to sit at home alone and watch bad end-of-summer TV. I was reduced to watching The Singing Bee one night, for Christ's sake. I did get some time to read though. That was nice.

And you know what? The Apple store doesn't answer their phone. I called at least twice a day for three days before I finally got someone to answer my call. (Bastards.) And then my computer wasn't ready. (Double-bastards.) Then I got the magical call that I could pick it up Saturday morning. (Best friends.) I was never so happy to fork over so much money for a big metal box.

Then I got it home and started plugging stuff in to the back of it when I noticed that they hadn't returned the power cord I'd left with the computer. (Super, triple, %&@!* bastards.) See, I don't know if you're as versed in computer engineering as I am, but the power cord is an essential component. Arguably the most important component.

So, back to the Apple store. And even though they couldn't find my cord and they claim that they don't take power cords with repairs (They did. I swear they did.), they gave me a brand new free power cord. And that's why I &#9829 Apple.

So, my To Do List:
1. Read my emails (All 181 of 'em.)
2. Read my work emails (All 4 Outlook pages of 'em.)
3. Ignore those emails.
4. Weep hysterically at the sheer amount of work I have ahead of me. (I think I'll learn to hate my computer in the next couple of days. Ironic, eh?)
5. Check Toddler Planet to see how WhyMommy is doing. (All seems well.)
6. Write self-indulgent blog post about how I missed my plugged-in life.
7. Curse my plugged-in life as I set off to work.

You may not see me for a couple more days as I try to keep from getting fired.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm addicted to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PLEASE STAND BY

Stimeyland is experiencing technical difficulties.

Stimey's computer is temporarily living at the Apple store. Stimey is very sad. Stimey misses you.

Stimey will be back soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

He's Worse Than My Kids

Try not to picture this, but this morning I was in the shower when I heard a knock on the bathroom door. Alex walks in with the telephone and says, "It's your mom." I slide the shower door open a few inches to show him that, even though he has apparently not felt the steam or heard the water running, I actually AM IN THE SHOWER.

He blankly held the phone out to me and said, "Take the phone."

I was so flabbergasted that I took the phone. And then I was so flummoxed that I turned off the shower and then couldn't remember if I'd rinsed all the conditioner out of my hair.

Tuns out I hadn't. I had to put my head upside down in the kitchen sink when I discovered the big slick of goo still in my hair fifteen minutes later.

I sort of understand it when my kids do it because they're, you know, small children, but my husband? I think I'm going to have to arrange to lead some sort of etiquette seminar for the four (big and little) men in my home so I don't lose EVERY semblance of civilization.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Brilliant Ideas

We had a particularly offensive trip to the local Outback Steakhouse with three starving kids tonight, but it gave me some ideas (as well as an almost free meal—kudos to the manager who realized the travesty that was their service) My ideas are for kid-friendly businesses that I would freqent Every. Single. Day.

My first idea: An honest-to-God kid-friendly restaurant. One with good food for adults. I'm imagining a central play area where kids can eat their nasty french fries and chicken strips and yell and play, while parents can sit at the tables ringing the chaos and eat delicious, grown-up food. This central area would be gated so that the kids couldn't wander off. And all the adults there could realize that dinner will be loud, but relaxed—and the food would be better than that served at the local fast food joint with a playland.

My second, oh-so-briliant idea: Drive through grocery store. I would have the big grocery stores have an online site where you could print out an order form with basics like milk, bananas, ground beef. Maybe ice cream. Definitely ice cream. Then you could take your list to the drive through window and the clerks could collect your food, pass it through the window, and you would pay them. No waiting in line. No forcing unwilling kids into shopping carts. And there is the added bonus that you could have some extra time waiting while your kids are strapped down into their car seats. Which is really the best part of some of my days.

This would be good for parents, but not so much for the busybodies in the grocery store who like to regale parents of screaming children with stories of how THEIR children NEVER misbehaved in public.

Idea Three: Another drive through, but this one for a fast food restaurant that serves food you don't feel bad feeding to your kids. I'd totally pay three bucks to buy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my kids when I don't have the time to make lunch at home, but I don't want to stuff them full of Chicken McNuggets for the third time in a week. They could sell bananas and apples and ham sandwiches. Maybe yogurt too. I'd totally go there.

My final idea: An indoor playground. When I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, there was a place referred to as an indoor playground that cost $5 a visit. Basically it had some climbing equipment and toys and you could go there if it was raining or too hot or too cold. There are places like this, but usually they have open play time or open gym for only an hour a day and it always seems to be during lunch time. This is the only time parents are unwilling to sign their children up for the classes these places offer. There needs to be a place dedicated solely to open play.

There is a place like this in Montgomery County, Maryland, the Parent Resource Center, which is set up like a preschool with circle time, art, and toys, but it is only open during the school year. There also used to be a place called TimberTown, which was a playground equipment store that was open all day for kids to come and play. I LOVED this place. Right up until they closed their doors and left town shortly after I bought a 20-visit pass card. That's eighty bucks I'll never see again.

Do you know any places like this? And what are your great ideas?

Stimey's brilliant ideas are cross-posted at DC Metro Moms.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fear & Loathing in Stimeyland

Why is it that standing farther away from the TV makes something less scary? Quinn seems to think this is the case. If he finds something scary (and keep in mind that his fears include octopi and pieces falling off of spaceships flying to Mars), he'll get off his chair and walk away from the TV.

If it's only moderately scary (octopus), he'll go stand against the wall of the TV room. If it's very scary (space ship shedding parts), he'll walk down the hall and peek around the corner. If it's VERY scary (spider), he'll launch himself into my lap.

When the scary part is over, he'll happily return to his lounging posture in his ass-groove in his chair.

Jack, on the other hand, uses a more classic approach. He covers his eyes with his hands and peeks through his fingers. There is a grumpy squirrel on Jack's Big Music Show that he does NOT care for.

Sam favors the attention-grabbing technique of gluing his eyes to the TV and shrieking, "Turn it off! I'm scared! Turn it off!" This has regularly been the case with an episode of Dora the Explorer featuring a witch. You may know which one I'm talking about. I can't be more specific because I've never seen it all the way through. This was also the case with a particularly unfortunate minivan-viewing of Happy Feet.

Apparently, to Sam, singing and dancing penguins are the ninth circle of hell.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Friends

Today after Jack's morning preschool (non-special ed), his teacher told me that she had given the other kids a little tutorial on how to talk to Jack. Like, if they want to play with him, walk up to him and say, "Jack, do you want to play?" Because he doesn't just pick up on the regular social cues.

Great!

And then, apparently, they all wanted to do it. They all wanted to talk to Jack and ask him if he wanted to play.

Great!

Of course Jack, in his Jack way, said no to most/all of them.

Not so great, but I'll live with it.

And when they were outside and playing in the sandbox and he was throwing sand that they should talk to Jack and say, "Jack, don't throw sand," instead of just running to the teacher.

Great!

When the parents were there picking up their kids, a friend of mine, H, whose daughter is in Jack's class, spotted the kids getting upset at Jack because he was knocking over their sand castles. So she stepped in to tell him not to do it. (Great!)

And then all the kids turned on her. They all defended Jack, telling H that Jack was their friend.

GREAT!

(Apologies to H.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Epiphany!

I've spent the past three or so weeks killing myself trying to think what the bad guy's name from The Smurfs was. It hasn't been killing me so much that I actually put time into seeking out the answer, but it was kind of bugging me on a regular basis.

Today I was talking to a friend on the phone and my mouth opened up and I shouted, "Gargamel!"

As if I wasn't already enough of a psycho.

Fortunately my friend is as well, and knew exactly what I was talking about.

"But what," she asked, "is the name of his cat?"

Well, shit.

So I actually looked it up on the Internet. And it's Azrael. Isn't modern life amazing? One minute I didn't know their names and the next I was looking at a photograph of a small plastic wizard and cat for sale on eBay.

*****

The reason I was trying to remember his name in the first place, if you're wondering, is because every once in a while I think about a story a friend of ours told us about taking his mom to see The Lord of the Rings. She was not a fanboy in a theater full of them, and when Gandalf came on screen, she asked loudly, "Is that Gargamel?"

If that story's not worth remembering the names of a couple of literary/cartoon wizards whose names start with "G", I don't know what is.

DCMM: Sad

I'm one of the lucky ones. I wasn't in danger on 9/11. I didn't have friends or relatives in the danger area. I didn't have to make frantic calls. I lived in California, and woke up after we knew it was terror and not accident.

But I remain affected by that day. When I read about that day, or hear stories about that day, or watch images from that day, I am filled with a deep sadness that is mostly unlike any other emotion attached to my life. I know I should probably be angry, but mostly I'm sad.

Sad that so many lost loved ones. Sad that people we don't know hate us SO MUCH that they could do this. Sad that America has lost some of its innocence. Sad that Muslims and Arab-Americans sometimes have to face (more) descrimination and anger from people whose fear and confusion mutated into bigotry. Sad that we are so divided even among ourselves. Sad that we have squandered the world's good will and sympathy toward us.

But mostly sad because of the mothers...the fathers...the children...the friends... Sad because so many people important to us are gone because of this senseless act.

I live with a man whose father was killed by terrorists in a suicide attack in Beirut. I have seen first-hand how that loss has changed his life. I have seen how angry it has made him. I have seen how hurt it has made him.

And the whole thing just makes me sad.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Much Delayed Jack & Quinn's First Day of School Post

I would have written about this last week, when it actually happened, if not for more pressing issues. At this point, no one cares about this but me and my mom, but we care, and it's my blog, so here you go.

Last Tuesday was the first day of school ever for Quinn. And it was Jack's first day in his 4s class at the preschool he'd already gone to for two years. AND it was Jack's first day at his special ed public preschool. Big happenin's, for sure.


We dropped Sam off for his boring old second week of kindergarten. Old news, I know. He's practically running the place by now. Then it was off to the preschool. Good thing we had 45 minutes between Sam's drop off and Jack and Quinn's school starting because we had about zero gas. Here's Jack helping me get gas.


(I'm not quite sure what to do with that 45 minutes every day. It's not quite enough time to run an errand, but it's just too much time to go back home. I think we'll be getting a lot of extra playtime on the playground.)

Anyway, can you see the big ol' goose egg on Jack's forehead? Just another step in my quest to send each of my kids to their first day of school with a disfiguring injury. The other night Jack came out from his bedroom to tell us, "I smashed my head into the wall." We kissed him and sent him back to bed without realizing the severity of the bump. I know, Mother of the Year. I'll have to wait and get Quinn next year.

I was co-oping in Jack's classroom so we hung out in there while we waited for school to start. Jack's new classroom had been Sam's room last year, so Jack knows it well. And he immediately made himself comfortable.


When it was time to take Quinn to his room, he was pretty mellow about it. I was actually a little bit surprised that he barely seemed to notice when I left. Maybe it was because there was rampant opportunity to paint.

Jack's class went smoothly. He got to do the calendar job which mainly meant he had to write a "4" on an apple cut-out and then count to four. He spent class as he did last year. He didn't really talk to any of the other kids and was unwilling to draw a picture of himself, like the teacher wanted him to. He did agree to outline his hand on a piece of paper, which, frankly, is good enough for me.

Quinn's class was excused early, as the teacher likes to ease them into the full two and a half hours. I went to get him on the playgound where he was just standing around. When he saw me he gave me just about the biggest hug I've ever gotten, pointed at the gate, and said, "Let's go out of here." His teacher said he did great and only asked for me once.

We headed back to Jack's class, where Quinn was more than happy to share in the four-year-olds' snack. Then the 4s went out to the playground. Always before when I'd walked out to the playground with Jack's class, I would automatically scan the playground for Sam. It was a little bit of a jolt to me to realize that he wasn't there. It stopped me cold for a few seconds.

We spent the rest of the morning playing mostly in the sandbox. Jack watched a couple of his classmates play on tricycles and ignored them when they tried to talk to him. Quinn took only a brief respite from the sand to play on a metal horse, which for some reason he is convinced is a camel.


Then when it felt like the end of the school day, it was time to take Jack for more school. He was really excited for his afternoon class. I had expected him to be confused by this extra school, but he was prepped, excited, and ready to go. There were two driveways to the school and I couldn't find the drop off. Jack got upset at me every time I drove off school grounds as I drove in multiple figure eights through the driveways trying to spot his teacher. He didn't want to leave without getting to go to his school. I think because it is in an elementary school that he sees it as a big-boy school, like the one Sam gets to go to.

I finally parked and we all walked in where we ran into his teacher and the aide who were on their way out to get the kids.


That's a pretty typical posture for Jack: finger in nose. He was so stoked to get to carry a backpack and insisted that I put his lunch box inside it, just like Sam. This turned out to be a mistake as his teacher forgot that he will be eating his lunch at school and, hence, forgot to give it to him. (A mistake they rectified the next day.) They did give him a snack, and he was even able later to tell me what it was. (Pretzels and milk.) Or he could have just made it up, but I choose to believe that he told me what really happened. Which is a big deal for Jack.

The lack of a lunch wasn't that big of a deal. Or it wouldn't have been had Jack's bus arrived home prior to 5:45pm. That subject has been covered ad nauseum, so I won't go into it again here. When he (finally) got off the bus he was hungry, thirsty, and looked sort of dazed but he softly answered in the affirmative every time I asked if he had a good day. And he even said he had friends on the bus: "My school friends."

It was a giant day for everyone. And we did it for the rest of last week as well. I co-oped again in Jack's class on Thursday and had to hold back tears as he played dollhouse mostly parallel to but a little bit with two girls.

I have a lot of hope for Jack this year.

I'm About to Launch Those Tinkertoys Into Outer Space

Last Friday the lovely WhyMommy brought the equally lovely Widget and Little Bear over for a really nice playdate filled with conversations about Mars and much building of rocket ships and Mars Rovers out of Tinkertoys. These Tinkertoys live in my basement, but the rocket ships came upstairs with Jack and Quinn after the playdate.

See, Jack is obsessed with space and the planets and Roving Mars. Consequently, as Quinn is obsessed with Jack and all things Jack, Quinn is also obsessed with space and the planets and Roving Mars.

Adorable, right? And how cool that they're so into rockets and planets and the solar system, right? How educational, not to mention endearing, right?

Wrong. At least in this case.

I've learned my lesson about why those Tinkertoys live their sad, chilly lives in the basement. Because no matter how cool that rocket ship is when it's originally carried up the stairs, said rocket will soon break into a million pieces and those pieces will litter your house and deck, and cause your toddler to scream maniacally every time another chunk falls away.

After I've heard Quinn yell, "Mine Rocket! Mine Rocket!" one hundred times because someone else has taken the particular stick that he believes is his, I am less inclined to love this particular pursuit.

After I've heard Quinn yell, "Fix it! Fix it!" one thousand times because a small—but apparently crucial—piece has fallen to the ground and his chubby, uncoordinated hands can't stab it back into the right hole, I start to hate the whole concept of building.

After I've heard Quinn yell, "Get it! Mine rocket! Get it! Mine rocket!" one million times because he's dropped a tiny piece of his Tinkertoy rocket onto the car floor and I can't get it because I'm trying to keep everyone alive on the Beltway, I'm tempted to drive my car into an abutment.

On the one hand, I would much rather have Quinn care about space than, say, Hot Wheels, and I'm really happy that he wants to build and chat and be creative.

But on the other hand, I'd just really like him to shut his little yap about it already.

DCMM: Under Qualified

I went to my very first ever Back to School night last week. My oldest son, Sam, has just started kindergarten and it turns out that, guess what? I'm a parent.

And you know what brought that home to me? If my son is absent from school, I get to write him an excuse note. Really? Since when am I responsible enough to write notes like that to the school? It seems like I was just taking in notes from MY mom to excuse me for being absent or late. How did that authority get passed to me? I mean, I'm likely to have my son skip school because I want to sleep in late. I am obviously way too capricious to be given this task.

I know, I know. I have three kids and I've been parenting for nearly six years now, but I sometimes I still feel like a fraud. I don't know what I'm doing half of the time and the half that I think I do know what I'm doing, I'm probably wrong. And frankly, I feel like I've been posing as an adult for the past fifteen or so years. If I'm just pretending to be an adult, how can I possibly be the one in charge of writing excuse notes?

I feel like I should have my mom fax me notes for Sam from where she lives in Texas so I can send in those obviously way more authoritative missives.

I did have to write a note to the teacher to okay Sam's afternoon trip on a different bus to go to a friend's house and was a little flummoxed by it. I was clever enough to disguise my lack of authority under a sheen of "Mom Handwriting." You know what I mean: correctly formed, neat, slanted cursive writing. My husband saw right through it, but the teacher fell for it.

There are moms I know who seem the part. They could write an absence note and I wouldn't blink an eye. And then there's me. Thirty-four years old, mom to three kids, and totally unprepared for this new aspect of my life. Which kind of mom are you?

Jean also pretends to be a parent at Stimeyland.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Nice.

I am happy to announce my very first award! Oh, The Joys listed me in an illustrious list of nice bloggers to get this lovely button.

As I understand it, I am now supposed to pass on the love and will happily do so. As this is an award for nice bloggers, I am going to single out all the lovely ladies who supported me via comments after Jack's Great Bus Fiasco of Aught-Seven.

Following is the list of folks whose nice comments I truly appreciated and needed:

Kelly at Life With 3 Boys. (Sound familiar?)
Angela at All Things Angela.
BetteJo at A Bead a Day.
KAL at Autism Twins. (Have you seen cuter kids than these? Ever?)
The Individual Voice (Good luck on all your reading.)
My friend C from Montana. (Get blogging already!)
WhyMommy from Toddler Planet.
Kristi who is Living Life in TX.
Joeymom at Life With Joy. (Let's do that playdate!)
Qutecowgirl at Adventures in Life and Knitting... (Last year her oldest also got off a bus at 5:45. And they live 3 BLOCKS from the school!)
Colleen at A Madison Mom.
Canape at Don't Take the Repeats.
Justice Fergie at MamaLaw.
T With Honey
Dawn at So a Blonde Walks into a Blog.
Nancy at Mom Ma'am Me.
Kelly at Kellyology. (Excellent blog name, by the way.)
Stephanie at Lawyer Mama.
Becky at Deep Muck Big Rake.
Jill, one of the amazing women behind Silicon Valley Moms Blog. And Chicago. And DC.
Stephanie at Adventures in Babywearing.
and
Catherine at Everyday Life as Lyric Poetry.

Wow, I didn't realize there were so many of you. I think I may have broken some rules by passing this on to too many people, but too many of you are too nice. So there.

And thank you. I needed your love when you were giving it.

The Boy Can Read!

Today we went to the Baltimore Aquarium all together as a family. I'll spare you the details of our wandering children, but will bore you with this:

When we were at the Dophin Show watching the dolphins play and looking at the jumbo TVs that illustrate how the trainers work with the animals. A caption came up that read, "Play Time."

And Sam said, "Play Time."

!!!

I have a feeling that life is about to change in Stimeyland.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

See Jack Get Interviewed

If you're in the DC area, keep your eye on the ABC 7 news for me. Although it'll totally blow any shred of semi-anonymity I have left. The quite beautiful Natasha Barrett interviewed me about the school bus snafu from the other day.

She found me on DC Metro Moms and wanted to talk about what happened. The power of the blogosphere, eh? I tried to put in some excellent props to all you brilliant DC Metro Moms that I somehow got mixed up with.

For those of you who haven't heard, the transportation department folks that I spoke to were wonderful. They all listened to my whole story, they agreed that the bus driver had used questionable judgment, and they put Jack on a bus that has gotten home at 3:55 for the last two days.

As for how the interview went, if you see it, you'll find me blushing and stumbling over my words. Unless they have a kick-ass editor. And they probably won't show all of Jack's count to 100 in the game of hide and seek we played for the camera. And they didn't get the extreme sadness and tears from Sam because they interviewed Jack and not him.

I think, to him, a two and a half hour bus ride would have been worth it if he could only have been interviewed because of it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Psychological Tactics

Sam is making a chart.

If you do something good he'll write your name on it. I'm guessing this might be something they do at his school.

He put my name on the chart last night.

Today he kicked me in the face by accident and I yelled at him. And I shouldn't have, but I did.

And even though I apologized to him almost immediately, he ran off, got his chart, and promptly erased my name.

He says that if I let him choose what TV show we watch next (so he doesn't have to watch Roving Mars for the 500th time), that he'll put my name back on the chart.

Twice.

I know why they must use this disciplinary tactic at his school: because it works. I'm totally going to let him choose the next TV show because I'll be damned if I'm the only member of Team Stimey who's not on that chart.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Shaking With Fury

I don't even know where to begin. Two of my sons started their school year at preschool today. One in a 2-year-old class, one in a 4-year-old class. My 4-year-old, Jack, also started an afternoon special ed pre-school program run through the Montgomery County school district.

Because his afternoon class lets out at the exact same time as my kindergartener's school, both of them take the bus home. Jack, whose school lets out at 3:05 is supposed to be on a bus scheduled to reach my home at 4:14 p.m. This is a long time on the bus, but I figured that he would enjoy riding the bus, plus it would give him some time to zone out and process his day, plus maybe give him time for a little nap.

Today he could have taken a two and half hour nap.

That's right, my 4-year-old special ed child was on the bus until 5:45 p.m.

Here's how it went down: I was happily, eagerly waiting for the bus at 4:15. No bus. By 4:30 I was wondering where they were, but assumed that there might be some first day of school kinks to work through. It was 4:50 before someone from the transportation office called to see if Jack had made it home, because they'd gotten some calls from other parents, parents who were more in the know and knew to call the transportation department.

I was told that I could call the manager tomorrow after 5 p.m. to talk about it.

But that didn't help me because my kid still wasn't home. My very young, developmentally delayed child still wasn't home.

By 5:10, when he still wasn't home, I called back. Apparently there was a problem with a child in a wheelchair, which is why they were delayed. I found out what the problem was when the bus driver himself called a few minutes later. That kid's mom wasn't home when they got there to drop him off. And the bus driver didn't want to get too far away and have to drive all the way back, so he tried to go back FOUR times.

I sympathize with that kid. But I WAS home. I wanted my kid off the bus. I do believe that they should have taken care of that child. And I feel for that child's parents and understand that maybe sometimes things come up that are out of your control and you can't be where you need to be when you need to be. But that bus driver should have brought my child to me. And taken the other kids to their parents. And then taken the first kid home.

And the driver's explanation was that the kids needed name tags. (Which they do.) Apparently when they tried to ask the kids their names, they didn't all respond. My son was one of those that didn't respond. Which is part of the reason that he is in special ed. And did I mention that he's four years old?

At about 5:30 or so, someone, who I believe might have been the bus depot manager, called to apologize. Which was nice, but my son was still not home, so it didn't mean a lot.

Then the bus driver called again to tell me that he was in front of my house and asked where I was. So I stood in front of my house, with a full view of the empty street and told him he was mistaken. Then I had to argue with him. And the best part was that they had gone to my house number on another street and asked the occupants if he was their child.

And I thank God that they said that they don't have children because if they were bad people—and those people ARE out there—the bus driver would have given my child to them. And my child would probably have assumed that he was supposed to go with them and he would have obediently gone.

At 5:45 I flagged them down as they drove down the street. I was in tears as the bus driver tried to explain it away with words about name tags and non-responsive children.

Jack was on the bus for as long as he was at school.

When your child is on a bus, they are out in the ether. You can't go to rescue them. You can't know that they're okay. You have to trust that competent people are taking care of your child and will bring him or her home safely to you. I don't know what to do now because, for me, that trust has been shattered.

*****

Special thanks go out to my friend S, who extended our afternoon playdate to see me through my mental breakdown while I was waiting.

*****

This post is cross-posted at DC Metro Moms blog.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Maybe It's Because I Don't Have Eyes in the Back of My Head

I was at a neighborhood picnic this weekend where most of us there had kids. There is a new, young couple in the neighborhood that most of us had met before, but had not hung out with. They came and we got to know them a little.

Later in the evening and several drinks in, the woman of the couple started asking the moms there about being parents. She is a career-driven scientist and wants to have kids but is worried about being able to stay on her career path (that requires looooong days at work) and not feel guilty all the time about leaving her kids.

When I told her that I was a stay at home mom, she busted out with this: "You don't seem like a stay at home mom. At all."

I totally didn't know what to say to that. Thank you? Fuck you?

And what do stay at home moms seem like anyway?

I'm afraid I just gawked at her for awhile. Fortunately she was too tipsy to notice.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Tired.

I'm tired.

I have three children under 6 years old. Between the hours of 8:30 and 6:45 I take care of them by myself. Although we are rapidly approaching the day when two-thirds of them will be in school all day and that sentence will change to: Between the hours of 8:30 and 6:45 I drive them here and there by myself. But even after school starts for everybody, I'll have Quinn all day, every day except for five hours a week. My little dudes are so fun and I'm excited to spend time alone with Quinn, and we get to do fun things.

But I'm tired.

I have a whole house to try to keep clean, and 14 meals a week to prepare. (Alex makes breakfast, thank God.) I'm not very good at this part of my life.

And I'm tired.

I have a part-time job. I do data entry and internet research at night. Every night. From 7:30, when the kids go to bed, to whenever I go to bed. I could probably get away with doing less of this, but I'm incapable of saying no when a boss asks me to do something. And I get paid per-piece by what I enter, so the more I enter, the more I make. And now that I've set the precedent for working as much as I do, I would actually have to ask for less work, something I find difficult to do. And honestly, I couldn't ask for a better job right now. I get to work from home at whatever time of day I want to.

But I'm tired.

I'm the Membership V.P. at my kids' preschool. I get to deal with all the membership issues, including returning or passing on every single voice message left on the school's answering machine. It's a cooperative school and two of my kids go there so I'll be co-oping 3-4 times a month. (For perspective: Quinn will go to school 8 times a month.) And because I've been spoiled by this cooperative school and can't stand not knowing what Sam does all day, I'll probably start volunteering in his kindergarten classroom too. And I'm so fortunate that I have the time to do this.

But I'm tired.

I'm starting to freelance as a videographer. And I'm still learning, so everything take three times as long to do as it should. And I don't have a lot of work, but I have enough that since I've started this work I've always had an open project. And I am so grateful that people are giving me jobs.

But I'm tired.

Most weekends Alex takes the kids and does with them what I do during the week so I can work. So I can have some quiet time to put on my headphones and work on the audio for my videography. So I can catch up on some of my data entry. And don't tell him, but so I can blog.

And it makes me tired.

I didn't work Friday night. I took a nap. I surfed the Internet. I caught up with my bloggy friends. I woke up Saturday morning in a kind of a panic because of the weight of the work I have to do that is piling up on me.

I wasn't tired, but I knew I had to work.

I have a good life. I'm healthy. I get to spend time with my kids. I have a husband who doesn't "help out," but rather takes on a lot of the work. I'm fortunate to be able to be fully involved in my children't lives. I get to make money working from my home at night so I don't have to be away from my kids or pay for child care. I get to work on a business that I truly enjoy working on. I get to explore my writing and meet people through my blogging, which amazes me every day.

But, oh dear God, I'm tired.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

DCMM: Mixed Emotions

We spent the middle part of our day today at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. You know the place: men strut around in brave knight regalia or feathered hats, women wear obscenely low-cut old-timey dresses ("Why is the Renaissance fair a license to let out your inner skank?" asked my husband), and everyone talks in fake hoity-toity accents.

Here are some words I'd use to describe the experience: Exhausting. Fun. Irritating. Infuriating. Contemplative.

Let's start with Exhausting: Three kids under six wandering in three different directions + two stollers (often empty of children) + two parents + hot sun = exhausting.  From the moment we arrived and middle-child Jack saw the castle entrance and said, "I want to be the queen!" to the brouhaha just before we left over plain vanilla ice cream versus vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, we were constantly herding and corralling, herding and corralling. Thankfully it was not too broiling hot, although it did get warm while we were waiting for the jousting to begin.

Which leads us to Fun: We got to see jousting. Real, honest-to-God horses-and-lances jousting. While we were waiting, Sam, our oldest, predicted, "I'm gonna love this!" while Jack said, "Let the fighting begin!" with full Renaissance Fest gusto. I don't know what team won (Sam claims both teams won, but ours won more), but we were treated to horseplay, hand-to-hand combat and fully armored men on horses. Can't beat that. The next best part was the playground in which there was a giant wooden pirate ship to play on. Other than the fact that 2-year-old Quinn tried to push a baby down the slide (and not in the nice way either), this was the most relaxed part of the day. (Maybe we should have stayed home, saved our money, and walked down the street to the playground instead.)

Which segues into Irritating: That playground and the performances were pretty much the only free things there (after admission, of course). Basically the Renaissance Fest is a big outdoor shopping mall with a theme. And street performers. Did you want to try to climb the swaying rope ladder? $1 for three tries. Do you want to go down a slide on a burlap sack? $1.00. Do you want to try to climb the Dragon Castle's rock wall? $5.00—and that's for the easy route. I understand they're a business, and in their defense, there were a lot of those free shows, but the consumerism gets wearying.

Hence, Infuriating: Lots of activities, games, and food stands that he wants to participate in minus permission/money to do so = an incredibly whiny Sam. "Moooooommmm, can I play this game? I totally know how to. Moooooooommmm! Please, Mooooommmmm! I really want to play this game." "Moooooooommmmm! Can we buy a sword? Moooooommmmm, please! I really want a sword. But it's totally different than the one I already have at home, Moooooommm." You get the idea. By the end of the day I wanted to wring his little neck.

And then on to Contemplative: There are some activities that we do as a family that end in me spending most of the time feeling semi-irritated while my husband asks me over and over what's wrong. (Which just makes me more irritated. Do you see the cycle here?) And I can never quite put my finger on why I'm so annoyed. There are always a million and six small things that I could name but none seem big enough to ruin my day. Yet, I still grump around. And it's not like I'm normally a grump either. Often I am embarrassing in my giddy enjoyment of things we do with our kids.

On the drive home from the Renaissance Fest today, I thought about why this might be, and I might have come up with an answer. I dislike the way my children act when they are somewhere that nickel and dimes them to death, and we don't give them all the nickels and dimes they want. I don't want to raise spoiled children and it's not like we have enough disposable income to buy ponies or anything, but we are fortunate to have enough money to do things like take our kids to Fests and fairs and other fun things. I just wish they would accept when we will not pay for something and show some gratitude when we do.

Not all of it is their fault. We do go places where all the little side attractions are free. Or we'll get them wristbands that give them admission to most of the extras. So it's not like I can expect them to somehow intuit that all these things cost money. I guess next time we'll have to do our homework so we know what to expect so we can tell the little dudes what to expect. Then maybe I won't be in such a pissy mood all day.

But some of it is their (our?) fault: When we were driving away, I told the guys, "For the most part you guys were very good. Thank you very much."

To which Sam instantly replied, "What do we get?"

Clearly I'm doing something wrong. I fumed silently to myself as I told him, "You get a good feeling knowing that you behaved well."

We're never leaving the house again.