Friday, November 30, 2007

Look What I Did!

I'm not a baker, but when faced with a cookie exchange I'm going to tomorrow that requires me to take 6 dozen cookies, I accepted that I couldn't just buy a tube of cookie dough and spoon it onto a cookie sheet.

And look what I came up with! Looky! Looky! Peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies! I made delicious looking cookies! Looky!


Jack obviously thought so too. And now I can use this photo to determine how many went missing between the time I finished baking them at 9, and when I returned to the scene a while later.

I found Jack in the kitchen, covered in chocolate. "Did you eat a cookie?" I asked.

He thought for a while, clearly weighing his options, then he nodded.

"How many did you eat?" I asked.

Another long pause. "A lot."

Apparently he'd eaten so many that he didn't want any more. He turned down the cookie I offered him as a reward for being honest. Sam, on the other hand, sitting obediently on his bunk bed, happily took it and gobbled it.

Uncluttering at Last!

So many fun things to write about:

Sam made the Wall of Fame again!

Adorable Jack-Mouse spent part of his morning very carefully laying out a trail of cheese bits for a mouse to follow. And then he dutifully acted the mouse by moving along the line, consuming each piece.

Quinn has started to spontaneously burst into song: Twinkle Twinkle, the ABC song, the Wonder Pets theme. And he adorably adjusts some of the words when he can't remember how it's supposed to go.

My death house claimed its latest victim: Widget, who banged his head first on the metal support pole in my basement, and second, on Quinn, who was, oddly, completely unaffected. (Okay, this one isn't fun, but really just so typical of my life.

But what I'm really excited by is the fact that I finally started my winter uncluttering project, beginning with that most cluttered of spots: my kitchen.

First, I bought and mounted a wonderful coat hook, thus solving our problem of coats left on the floor, hanging on dining room chairs, and thrown on counters. We did have a hook-board that held backpacks and such, but it was just not effective for backpacks and coats. So this new strip of six hooks (each of which actually is two hooks) is destined to improve my quality of life immensely.

I redistributed my cabinet items to better places, moving frequently used pots from under the counter to an above-counter cabinet, with a dedicated shelf specifically for lids.

I cleaned everything off my counter space except for the things that I actually want to have there. I consolidated some drawers and made the extra drawers homes for some of those hard-to-find-a-place-for things that generally get left on counters.

I removed a slew of items completely that haven't been used in years—or ever. That specialized cake pan I won in a raffle? It has a new home in the garage.

I used to have an entire cabinet filled with fancy glassware, fancy tablecloths, and special placemats. I reorganized all of those on upper shelves of other cabinets, so now I'm using those shelves for things I use on a more daily basis.

I had two locations for spoons, spatulas, ice cream scoops and all of that kind of thing. Most of those things don't get used very often. So I emptied a drawer of never-used mixing bowls and made that my occasional-use items drawer. And now my other two spots are much easier to use. I also threw away old incomplete sets of measuring cups and spoons that had been replaced months ago.

But the best? The cabinet into which is thrown all of our party supplies, candles, vases, plastic utensils, paper plates, and liquor. (Because, really, shouldn't kids party hats live right next to scotch?) I tossed cake decorating goods that I used part of for Sam's second (!) birthday, organized and stacked the paper plates, and generally completely improved the efficiency of that space. Oh, and by the way, remind me never to buy any more plastic forks or spoons because I have about a thousand and six of each. Let me know if you need to borrow any.

And while I did all of this, Scooba cleaned my floors.

What a great start for my weekend. (I'm going to be super bummed when it's all dirty and cluttered by Monday.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Mysterious Benefactor

I've been a little tired lately. And a little worried about Jack. And lacking in downtime. And living in a house that constantly needs to be cleaned.

So imagine my joy and surprise when I came home today and found a plate of assorted cookies on my doorstep. Somebody loves me! (Or somebody put a plate of cookies intended for someone else on my doorstep by mistake, but I prefer to think that somebody loves me.)

If you're out there, mysterious benefactor, know that you totally made my day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Best. Field. Trip. Ever.

You may know how I feel about field trips. I don't like 'em. Last year Sam's preschool class went on a field trip to the recycling center, an excursion that ranks right up there in the top five worst preschool days ever. So now that Jack is in that class, and we were scheduled to go back, I was nervous.

First of all, Jack has been in a spectacularly bad mood all week, and this morning was no exception. It didn't seem like the right time to drag him and Quinn around the grounds of the recycling center, up four flights of stairs to watch garbage trucks from a glassed-in observation deck, and then walk back to the car, which is what we did last year.

It turns out, however, that we got totally screwed last year, and that there is a far better tour of the the Recycling Center. And this one was awesome.

This trip was in a whole other location that the other, and despite unfriendly warnings such as "Stay in your cars until exactly the time that the tour starts," and "There are no public bathrooms," this excursion rocked my world.

A recycling center employee read the kids a story, taught them a song and dance about recycling, and gave them (and us parents) helpful tips about what can and can't be recycled, complete with hands-on demonstrations. When she had the kids each select an item to put in a recycling bin, I was sure Jack was going to pick up a glass bottle and hurl it into the bin, thus spraying himself, the employee, and at least a couple other kids with shards of glass. I was happily surprised when, although he did choose a glass bottle, he gently placed it into the bin just like the rest of the kids.

The kids had good answers for the lady when she asked them about how to recycle and what they put in their bins at home. I particularly liked when one of the little girls raised her hand and said, "I give my cardboard to gerbils." Alex had made the very same observation not a week before. Yay for our little recycling rat-buddies!

Quinn was less enamored with this part of the presentation. I had to sacrifice my camera to him in order to keep him from making too much noise, and ended up with more than 50 pictures on my memory card. Pictures like these:


After all of this, the lady showed the kids pictures of what to expect when they went to see the recycling machines and gave a couple little demos about how the machines work. Then she pulled out a bunch of earplugs. (Ironically packaged individually, although she did have us give her the plastic wrappers so she could take them to the grocery store to recycle them. I guess it's true that the grocery store is the only place you can recycle plastic bags.)

The earplugs were not met with joy by all. Jack was delighted by them:


Quinn was not:


One mom, whose daughter refused to wear earplugs, generously agreed to stay behind with the no-foreign-objects-in-MY-ears group, and the rest of us headed up one tiny flight of stairs to see shit get recycled from an open observation deck:


It was soooooo cool. Jack, who had been a little fidgety during the presentation, was fascinated by the big machines and all the workers who were handsorting the items. We got to see the broken glass sorter, the bulldozers moving giant piles of cardboard, the finished bales of recycled product, and the conveyor belt at the beginning with all the recyclables jumbled together.

I was absolutely spellbound. I almost forget Jack was with me. And while it seemed like one of the worse places to actually work, I could have stayed there to watch for quite a bit longer than the 15 or so minutes we had.

I highly recommend this field trip. And that's high praise from me, She Who Cannot Stand Transporting a Group of Preschool Kids Out of Their Contained Room for Any Length of Time.

Stimey has posted another version of this post, with some of the interesting recycling facts she learned today, at DC Metro Moms. If it's not up already, it will be posted soon! Check it out to find out what happens to the stuff in your blue bins after the big recycling truck picks it up!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blech.

I had one of those days today. You know what I'm talking about, the kind when voluntary commitment to a psychiatric unit sounds like a good idea because at least they'd probably give you sedatives and a bed and no one under five feet tall would demand anything of you. And if there were crazy people around you, it at least wouldn't be your job to take care of them.

My morning involved tantrums (Jack) and tears (me). The afternoon included a one-hour respite (thank you, L, for my one peaceful period of the day) followed by dumb decisions by me to drag three kids to karate and then math night at the elementary school. Needless to say, there was more craziness, tantrums, and at bedtime, tears (this time by the kids). And I just realized that I don't think I've eaten a bite of anything all day.

I've decided not to crush you all with the details, but I just needed to do some venting.

Thank you. And now I'm going to go track down some food. Hopefully chocolate.

Assorted Reasons Why Quinn is a Wee Bit of a Psychopath.

1. We all know that Quinn takes a plethora of balls to bed with him every night, but tonight he insisted on taking a rolling pin to bed.

2. The other week he carried a pre-packaged salad with him to the bus stop to pick up Sam. He proceeded to demand to carry a salad with him on several occasions over the next several weeks.

3. The child used to be able to not poop for two weeks or more. Now we Miralax the hell out of him, so he has no choice. He still tries though. When we started him on it, he was still able to hold it in for several days.

4. Even if it's 40 degrees outside, he refuses to wear a coat. It wasn't until I found him a coat that looked "exactly like Sam's" that he became willing to wear a coat to pick Sam up at the bus stop. In the rain. If any of you dare to tell him that the inside of his coat is black and not brown and that it's not reversible like Sam's, I'll kill you. I mean it. Don't test me. (He also made me buy him a backpack that is just like Sam's, but I think that has more to do with idol-worship than psychosis.)

5. He hates everything about getting dressed and screams and fights wildly the entire time we're trying to smash him into his clothes. Then he's totally fine. Until he gets a drop of water on himself and he demands new clothes, only to scream and freak out while we're trying to re-dress him.

6. The be all, end all reason why Quinn is weird? He doesn't make tears. You heard me. The boy has never, in his entire life created a tear. Don't get me wrong, he cries. He cries all the time, but the crying is the dry sort of scream/sobbing that lacks the sympathy-inducing side effect of tears rolling down his face. I spent the first couple months of his life eagerly awaiting the tears. Now I've given up. Even when he was a baby and we thought he had a tumor and the people at Children's Hospital put a tube up his nose and into his stomach for contrast for a CT scan, he didn't cry. He came close; his eyes watered the smallest amount, but nothing fell out. His doctor doesn't seem to be as weirded out about it as I am. Evidently he thinks Quinn has enough moisture to keep his eyes healthy, but no more. I think it's closer to the truth to say he just might be a robot.

I tried to stop writing this, but things kept popping into my mind. Fortunately, I think most of them can be summed up with this sentence: He's two years old. But the medical oddity inherent in item 6 makes him entirely unique in my mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gerbil Watch: A Farewell to Gerbils

The gerbils go home tomorrow, and I think you'll believe me when I tell you that they will be sorely missed. Wouldn't you miss the little guy there at the left? Look at his cute little paws with his dagger-sharp adorable black nails.

Not all is lost though. They are due to come back at Christmas time. Unless, that is, I've totally freaked my friend out by Gerbil Watch '07, leading her to not trust me with the little dudes again.

But if they do come back, rest assured that I will not, however, subject you to another week of photos of gerbils that only I and my friend and her daughter think are cute.

You would be surprised how many photos you have to take of gerbils before you get a good one. My iPhoto library is now chock full of gerbil shots. I could publish a calendar.

I think they're ready to go home. I sensed this after I saw that they had trashed their hotel room last night.

Maybe you don't remember or can't tell, but their cage used to be neater.

Fare thee well, Robert and Gnocchi. Fare thee well.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gerbil Watch: Day Five

Finally! Evidence that they are drinking!


I was worried because in the email about gerbil care from my friend, the water bottle took a whole paragraph. And two in-person demonstrations. Apparently there's an air bubble danger.

I've been checking to make sure the water level in the bottle has been going down, and it has, but just a teeny bit. Maybe gerbils just don't drink very much. So I'm very happy that at least one of them is staying hydrated.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gerbil Watch: Day Four

Today, a Gerbil-Eye View:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Great Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving dinner is over. The kids are in bed. Food is digesting. The pie is yet to be cut. Time for some blogging.

Thanksgiving afternoon was unseasonably warm. The entire neighborhood was out without coats on, everyone doing some raking. And then after the raking, the wind blew a whole bunch and the ground was entirely covered again with leaves.





So we watched some football. And played in the basement. And cooked. And did some more cooking. We basically just took a whole day to veg out. I haven't worked since Tuesday night, and I feel great! Quinn too, obviously.


A few days ago I made some predictions about what my kids would eat for dinner. Let's see how I did.



I predicted that Quinn would win the Best Little Thanksgiving Piggy award. He did pretty well. He ate a lot of turkey. And, holding up the drumstick, said, "I want to take this to karate." He tried sweet potatoes, spit them out, and then demanded some more of the "orange potatoes." With a similar result. But he tried almost everything on his plate. So: Stimey=1/1.


I predicted that Sam would demand a drumstick and eat at least two bites. Yes and yes. He ate even more than two bites. He freaked out until we took all the stuffing off his plate because he refused to try it and he wanted to have a plate that was clean but for crumbs. Well, that makes Stimey 2 for 2.


I predicted that Jack would eat his weight in mashed potatoes. Check. (I was a little worried because Alex left the skins on, but even this didn't deter him.) He also ate a roll and a half, but really what he ate most of was plain ol' butter. That kid loves him some butter. Awesome. Stimey scores 100%! Who knows her kids?


I didn't make any predictions about the dog, but I think everyone can guess that she totally lucked out. She got to eat the turkey neck earlier in the day. And because she positioned herself squarely under Quinn's chair, she totally cleaned up. (Figuratively and literally.) Then she took matters into her own hands paws, and finished Jack's dinner.


And what are we thankful for? A lot, but here's what we said when we went around the table at dinner:
Alex: "For my family."
Stimey: "That everyone here is healthy."
Jack: "Mom."
Sam: "God." (One of his little friends at school has been brainwashing him. Apologies to the religious among you for calling religious thinking brainwashing.)
Quinn: "Quinn."

Then Sam asked Alex what he was thankful for, and when Alex repeated that he was thankful for his family, Sam said, "No, something cooler." (For the record, Alex couldn't come up with anything cooler.)

So aside from a little hunger-induced screaming (by the kids) because dinner was a little later than expected, and a little cursing (by me) because of an enormous spilled drink (also by me), this was one of the better Thanksgivings in recent memories. It's nice to have a chill, relaxed day with no expectations of activity other than some major eating. We should have one of these kinds of days at least once a month.

Gerbil Watch: Thanksgiving Edition

Mmmmm...a feast of cardboard box. Yummy.


Alex did sneak an apple piece in for them, but there hasn't been much interest thus far. Apparently gerbils don't care for apple pie.

Thanksgiving Blessings

Because you haven't had a poop story from me in a long time.

Our kids all came upstairs this morning to greet us after letting us sleep in late. We had company last night, so Sam and Jack were also up a little late running in and out and being generally obnoxious, so they had slept in too. Quinn, who went to sleep at the normal time, apparently woke up at the normal time and had an opportunity to do some tinkering.

When Sam helped lift Quinn onto our bed this morning he yelled, "Ewww! Poop!"

I saw a flash of bare Quinn-ass before I saw Sam wipe his hand on Alex's clean work shirts. Yep, Quinn was entirely naked from the waist down.

As Alex hauled his poopy ass downstairs, he proudly proclaimed: "I changed my diaper!"

Well, good for you, Quinn. Good for you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Feast!

My kids' preschool celebrates Thanksgiving with big Thanksgiving feasts during class every year. Quinn's class held its feast yesterday. This is my fourth year at this school, and this feast was the first time I went to a special function without a hanger-on child. I didn't have to chase another sibling around. I only had Quinn. It was so lovely and relaxing.


Do you see how one mom made cupcakes decorated like turkeys?


I brought cookies. And my cookies were the kind that come already shaped and ready to put on a cookie sheet. Quinn and I did add chocolate sprinkles though.

*****

I was really grateful for Jack's Thanksgiving feast today because I've been feeling a little bit sad about his vulnerability lately. A few days ago when I was co-oping, half the class was bowling with little plastic pins while the other half took a quick walk around the school in the wet weather. All the kids were cheering each other on and when Jack took his turn, one of the kids said, "Go, Jack!" and a little girl said, "Don't cheer for him."

That loud cracking? That's the sound of my heart breaking. The sound of my sadness over Jack having to bear the burden of being the slightly off kid that some of the other children don't like. The girl's mom (who I love) was the other co-oper and was properly horrified and told her daughter not to say things like that.

I know not everyone will love my child and that four year olds have a hard time embracing all kids. I also know that Jack does have allies in the class. And I know that all kids suffer slights from their peers. But I know that kids with autism can regularly get made fun of, especially as they get older, and it makes me sad. Not just for Jack, but for all the kids that are a little different and get bad-talked because of it.

Another tough thing for me was when Jack accidentally turned on the window air conditioning unit in the indoor playroom before school this morning, and where I think most kids would not have blinked, Jack was devastated. I told him it was no big deal and turned it back off, but he was still upset. "I made a bad accident," he said. Again, my heart broke a little. Visibly, to at least one of the parents in the room, who stopped me after drop-off to give me some verbal comfort.

So it was good to see him in the line with the rest of the kids when they sang their Thanksgiving songs. To see him doing the hand claps and foot stomps that the songs required. To see him smiling and enjoying the chicken nuggets that were put out. To see that the sad pumpkin, sad pilgrim, and sad scarecrow that he has recently made in class are not indicative of the only emotions he feels. To see him listen to me read some books to him and a friend. To see that even if he didn't interact with her, he played in a similarly appropriate way as her, and still had fun doing so.

He looks happy here, right? (I love this little dude so damn much.)


*****

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Gerbil Watch: Day Two

Oh, they're being watched:


You better believe they're being watched:



They're doing some watching of their own too:

DCMM: My Manifesto: Why Trees Are Lame

1. Trees have lots of leaves. Gajillions. And they drop them all. And then they re-grow them the next year. And then they drop them again.

2. Trees don't care if everyone in your house will happily ignore dropped leaves until you have to rake them yourself or risk the neighbors whispering about you all winter long.

3. Trees don't care if you dragged your two year old out in the cold yesterday afternoon to rake a giant pile of leaves. They will drop a brand new blanket of leaves overnight making it look as if you never raked at all.

4. The piles of leaves are never as soft and fun to jump in as they look.

5. Even if you live somewhere where a big truck comes along and sucks up all the piles of leaves from the curb, the trees will still drop their leaves waaaaaaaay in the back of the yard so you have to drag them all the way up to the street.

6. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a climatic vortex of your neighborhood, your trees will remain green well into November, thus causing you to miss the leaf pick-up day.

7. Some trees have tiny, tiny little leaves that are too small for rakes to efficiently collect. Little-kid rakes will pick these leaves up, but little kids tend to rake away from the pile. And grownups who try to use the tiny rakes end up with bad backs.

8. Trees drop their leaves near house entrances, causing even freshly vacuumed and mopped floors to look dirty because of all the little crumbs of leaves that get tracked in.

Addendum—Why People With Super Clean Lawns Are Lame: No matter how I try, I can't manage to rid even a small area of my yard completely of leaves. I'm basically waging a battle of percentages. (If fifty percent of the leaves end up in a pile, that's a success.) Yet somehow there are people who can eradicate every trace of autumn from their yards. I hate them just as much as I hate the trees.

Jean avoids doing chores like raking by blogging at Stimeyland.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gerbil Watch: Day One

We have some Thanksgiving houseguests:

You can only see one of them here, but there are in fact two gerbils. We get to keep them for the whole weekend. They belong to my friend H's daughter A. When H asked me to keep them, I think she thought I was doing her a favor. Oh no. It is she who is doing us the favor. All the fun of gerbils? Without the long-term responsibility? Awesome!

We took care of a gerbil one other time, and even considering the risk from our pets, she made it back alive. So I'm relatively sure that I'll be able to do that this time.

There was a very sad scene when we took the little dudes at the end of school today. A was heartbroken and started crying when she left because she's going to miss them so much. Jack was delighted, especially when he got to put his show and tell in the cage for them to eat.

(I am such an awesome mom that I sent him to school with an empty toilet paper roll for show and tell. When he got out of the car holding it and using it as a telescope and I realized that I'd forgotten about show and tell, he was good enough to accept it as a good item to take. Later when I asked him what he'd told the class about it he said, "I said, 'I don't know.'" Best Mom Ever. Yet again.)

The kid I babysit a couple times a week—well, it's more of a chauffering position as I mostly just drive him from my house to school and then on to his mom's work—took the opportunity to tell me that he'd had gerbils for dessert last night. He told me that there is a kind of candy called gerbils. Yeah, there's an entree called "squirrel" too, but not at my house.

I was planning on bringing the gerbils home and putting my OED on top of the cage to prevent little hands and/or paws from opening it, but it turns out that my kitchen was built exactly for this type of animal enclosure. The space from my counter to my cabinets is about a half inch taller than the cage. We were clearly meant to take care of these little guys

Of course the uneven space at the top of the cage leads me to believe that either my counter or the cabinets are not straight as they should be. (That half inch is an average.)

So, A, the gerbils are safe and happy. And protected from cat, dog, and Jack harm.

8

So picture me sitting here in front of my computer thinking about things I can blog about. Then picture me dismissing each of my ideas while coming to terms with the fact that today would be a day without a post. But, lo! Kelley at Magneto Bold Too tagged me for a meme. So without further ado: The Big Eight!

8 Things I Am Passionate About:
1. My family.
2. Being Kind.
3. Living and letting live.
4. How much awesomer Macs are than PCs.
5. Protecting and teaching my kids.
6. Bob Dylan (The Mighty Quinn, anyone?)
7. Zombies. It's embarrassing, I know, but I love me a good zombie movie.
8. My armchair mountain climbing.

It turns out that I am, in fact, not very passionate.


8 Things I Say Often:
1. Fuck
2. Motherfuck
3. Goddammit
4. God-motherfucking-dammit
5. Sam, that's a bad word; you shouldn't say that.
6. Dude
7. It's all good.
8. One...two...three! Time out!

I am clearly a stunning conversationalist.


8 Books I Have Read Recently:
1. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
4. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by She-Who-Owns-All-The-Money-In-The-World
6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
7. World War Z by Max Brooks
8. The Colony by John Tayman (I devoured the first half of this book about the leper colony on Molokai and then took a year and a half long break from it. I do intend to go back to it someday. Hopefully soon.)

This represents about eight months of reading. Hey! That's like this meme! Although, honestly, I have been able to read a little bit more than this.

8 Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. See my three little dudes grow up to be happy.
2. Finish writing this long-ass meme. I'm going to bed. I'll finish tomorrow.
3. Climb Mount Everest. Or K2. Or Denali. Or the hill at the park.
4. Sleep a lot.
5. Run a marathon.
6. Learn to eat healthy.
7. Wean myself from Diet Coke. (But not for many, many long years.)
8. Become a hot mom.

Do you see how shallow I am?

8 Songs I Could Listen To Over And Over:
1. "Me and Bobby McGee" sung by Janis Joplin
2. "Mad World" from the Donnie Darko soundtrack.
3. "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls
4. "Smile Smile Smile" by Dan Zanes
5. "End of the Line" by the Traveling Wilburys
6. "Tangled Up in Blue" or "Abandoned Love" by Bob Dylan. Or "He Was a Friend of Mine" or... forget it, I can't choose just one.
7. "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night
8. "I Like to Move It" from the Madagascar soundtrack. It's not that I want to listen to it over and over, it's that my kids make me listen to it over and over.


8 Things That Attract Me To My Best Friends:
1. Humor
2. Loyalty
3. Their willingness to be friends with me.
4. Niceness
5. Common interests
6. Their appearance. (Just checking to see if you were still reading.)
7. Their ability to read long lists...
8. ...and lists of lists.


8 People Who Should Totally Do This Meme:
You, you, you, you, you, you, you. Oh, and you. You know who you are.

See how sneaky I am?

DCMM: Thanksgiving Dinner for Two (Out of Five)

I love Thanksgiving dinner. We do pretty typical fare, and it's always delicious. This is thanks largely to my husband, who does most of the cooking. Before we moved to DC and left all our then-single and/or childless friends behind in California, we used to host giant Thanksgiving dinners at which everyone made a pig of him or herself.

Since moving to DC, we've had less success. All of our friends have their own Thanksgiving scene, so it often ends up being just our immediate family eating dinner. And I use that term loosely, because my family doesn't really "eat" dinner. They look at it and then demand that it be taken off their plates and put on the tablecloth on the other side of the table.

Why would I expect Thanksgiving to be any different? And frankly, what's the point in cooking a giant Thanksgiving meal if no one's going to eat it?

I mean, I have three kids that won't try raspberry Jell-O with fruit cocktail in it. (I know, it's super classy, but I believe that you CANNOT have Thanksgiving without this particular dish.) They won't eat pie either. Who doesn't eat pie?

But this year I have hope. See that little dude brandishing the broccoli up there? I believe that he's going to get the Best Little Thanksgiving Piggy award. If he'll eat broccoli in spinach dip, he'll probably eat stuffing, right? And maybe peas? And if he eats peas, who's to say that he won't eat turkey and gravy?

My six-year-old claims to be excited to eat turkey this year. And I believe him. I predict that he will seize the drumstick caveman-style and eat off of that. It remains to be seen if he'll get more than two bites in, but even that would be an improvement. When he was two and we'd just moved here, our next-door neighbors invited us to Thanksgiving and this guy refused to eat a single bite. Literally not a single bite. So two bites? That's like a 200% increase in four years.

So that's two kids that might actually eat something. I don't have a lot of expectations for my four year old. I do believe that he'll probably eat his weight in mashed potatoes though, so he won't go completely hungry.

To find out if Jean's predictions were right, check out Stimeyland after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

...aaaand Rising.

I am feeling better. Except for a couple of minor tweaks, that troublesome videography project is done. And I feel good enough about it that I would happily take another similar project. My other jobs/duties are going okay, and I even had time to rearrange my bedroom today.

Thank you for your kind words, internet friends. I know that if any of you were to list all your responsibilities, the list would be no less impressive. So thanks for indulging me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sloooooowly Sinking...

I've been exhausted for a long time now. I take care of my kids all day every day and then work on the computer after I put them to bed. Then on weekends, when I should be enjoying the days of co-parenting with Alex, I work and he takes all the kid-work. I've counted my hours and I'm working almost full time on top of staying home with my kids.

When I tell people that midnight is an early bedtime for me, they are generally surprised.

I have had many well-meaning people tell me that I need to cut something out so I'm not working all the time. But I honestly don't know what I can get rid of. Maybe you have suggestions.

The SAHM gig. I'm pretty sure people with court orders would come take my kids away if I gave up on this part of my life. Plus, I love my kids more that I love the other jobs I have, so this one is a keeper.

The part-time data entry and Internet research job. What began as a "Hooray! Found money!" sort of thing has turned into a "They cut your check two days ago; why isn't it here yet?" kind of thing. This probably takes the bulk of my evening time, but for the most part, it's mindless and easy and actually kind of relaxing. There are a couple aspects of it I'd rather not do, but I've never been very good at telling employers that I can't do something. Not to mention that I will NEVER find another part-time, work from home, work whenever the hell I want to, with mellow bosses job.

Blogging. Oh, hell no, you're not taking my blogosphere away. I feel like I just found you. And, honestly, writing every day, in the style that has always come easier to me than any other kind of writing? And with the added benefit of new and fun interactions? Plus the benefit of "meeting" a whole slew of other smart women out there writing for themselves too? Nope. Not giving that up. I've already cut down on the time I spend on this (mostly apparent in shoddily written posts), but it's one of the things I enjoy more than anything else. And my point was not to cut down on my fun time, but to cut down on my stress time.

Volunteer positions. I totally got saved from a PTA job I volunteered for. Somehow by offering to help stuff the teachers' mailboxes with copies of the PTA newsletter, I was awarded the job of being entirely in charge of the printing/copying and distribution of the newsletter. In a twist of sublime fate, the newsletter editor's son got a spot at one of the spanish immersion schools, requiring her resignation as editor of the newsletter. I was at the PTA meeting when the president announced this and shrank in my seat, afraid that she would point at me to take over. Instead, two other people raised their hands and said they could edit and distribute it. Ah, sweet ex-newsletter editor, friend though you might have become, thank God you're no longer at this school.

I have a position on my MOMS Club board, and I do five minutes of work every three months, whether I need to or not, so I think this is something I don't have to cut out.

I am the Membership VP for my kids' preschool. I think I may have mentioned this before. This takes a fair amount of work, including checking the voicemail every single day, giving tours of the school, talking to every. single. person. who wants to go there, and generally making sure that the school is full every year. I can't quit this job mid-year, but I'm resigning at the end of the year and making my friend H do the job. Thank God! I mean, you'll love it, H. (On a related note, if you live in my area and are looking for a kick-ass school, let me know.)

Continuing my admittedly half-assed job of being a wife. I probably shouldn't give this up, because Alex is a good guy. And he does the laundry and feeds the kids breakfast. And, in fact, the whole point of this plan to reclaim some time is to give some to me, but also to give some to Alex. So it would sort of defeat the whole purpose if I slashed this area of my life.

My videography business. I've put this last because it is something that gives me both tremendous joy and tremendous stress. I could link to all sorts of posts to prove that second assertion, but I feel far too lazy and am pressed for time because I have one particular project I just want to get done. And done tonight. Because if I get it done tonight, maybe the little ball of tight stress in my chest (just below and to the right of the heart) will go away. There are certain types of projects I love doing. But there is one particular type that, while professionally lucrative and potentially satisfying, causes me a great deal of grief. (Not due at all to my clients, who are possibly the most understanding people I have ever met in my entire life.) I just want to do a good job for them, and the job is at the very top of my comfort zone, so I am pushing all the time. I think maybe if I take some time off from big projects I might feel better. And honestly, because this is the work I mostly do during the days on weekends, eliminating this for a couple of months might really improve my state of mind. Of course, I've sunk so much damn money into this endeavor that I can't give it up before I get back in the black.

*****

Please don't construe this post as whining (although I am). I realize how lucky I am to have these sorts of opportunities, and I'm glad that these are my worst complaints. I just sort of want to get it out on paper (or computer) and see where it leads me. I'm also curious as to what you would all tell me to do. Honestly, my plan is probably to cut small chunks out of each of the above categories (except maybe the parenting and wifing ones) and see where it gets me. What do you do when you feel like your responsibilities are starting to suffocate you?

Sick as a Lighting Fixture

I've been sick for a couple of days, so I wasn't completely surprised to hear that I've been giving off one of those "sick" smells. (Although I have been showering regularly and brushing my teeth. In fact, I was a little chagrined to hear about the stench.) What surprised me was that it was Sam who picked up on it, not to mention his creative using of things in his sightline to describe smells:

Sam: "Ewww. Why do you smell like that?"

Me: "Oh, no! What do I smell like?"

Sam: [Looking about the living room wildly.] "A lamp."

Well, all right then. Back to the shower for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Good Kind of Downsizing

It's been kind of a goal of mine for a while to declutter my house, so it seems appropriate that my first ever Stimeyland review be for a book about simplifying one's posessions. That book: Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well in a Smaller Space by Lauri Ward.

Now first of all, I should tell you that because I am an idiot, I thought I was voluteering to review a book for MotherTalk that was about decluttering. Though there are elements of that in this book, it is in fact about adjusting your belongings when you move from a larger home to a smaller home.

While I was looking more for tips on how to get rid of some of my clutter, there was some good decorating advice in it. Ward includes tips on maximizing your space and how to adjust your own belongings to fit in smaller rooms. This is a book I would recommend for anyone moving from a house to an apartment.

For me the most valuable part of the book was the advice on what to pack and what to part with when you move. I'm not planning on moving anytime soon, but it is advice that can be put to use in your current home as well. Among other rules, she recommends getting rid of things if you haven't used them in years. This is a philosophy I plan to put to good use once I finally get around to doing some downsizing of my own. You'd be surprised how much stuff I have that hasn't been used since I've lived in this house. Good thing I paid to have them moved here, huh? That's exactly the kind of thing this book helps you to avoid.

Plus, I was able to read about all the design mistakes I'd made in my own home. Most of them involve window coverings. Apparently puddles of curtains on the floor are not the best way to maximize the visual space in your house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

J is for Jack

You know those horribly annoying foam letters? The ones that you try to stack up neatly with all the pieces together, and kids just want to take all the letters apart and throw them in a big pile on the floor? Don't get me started on the border pieces.

Sam wanted to get those out this afternoon while he had a friend over for a playdate. I had literally just cleaned the basement, including putting those goddamn letters in their bin. But it seemed cruel to invite a friend over and then not let them play with any of the toys, so I relented.

By the time they got to "D" I noticed what they were doing. They were putting them in alphabetical order and placing a toy that starts with that letter of the alphabet on each square. Toy airplane for A. Building toy for B. Car for C. Disembodied Duck head from Quinn's unworn halloween costume for D.

They put Jack on the J when they got there, and he happily agreed:


I forgot all about him because I was reading blogs. Downstairs in my basement. On my awesome new laptop. That doesn't need wires to get the Internet. It's like magic, people. Magic.

Somewhere in the Ms in my blogroll, I realized that Jack was still standing on the J. The kid stood there patiently waiting for a good fifteen minutes.

The only time he stepped off was when, in response to Sam and friend telling Quinn he could stand on the Q, Quinn ran directly to the B. An outraged Jack took the opportunity to shriek, "That's a B!" and shove him off of it.

And then he promptly returned to his designated square. You never know what will make the little guy happy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crime and Punishment

So if all three of my kids misbehave and I tell them they cannot have McDonald's for dinner as promised, and they cannot watch any TV today, am I punishing them or am I punishing me?

I think I'm punishing me.

Especially because when I presented them with their bowls of Cheerios for dinner, they were thrilled to eat it. Far more thrilled than if the chicken fried rice I started to cook had finished on time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Mom, Don't Say Anything to Embarrass Me."

I so vividly remember saying these words to my mom before she would go to parent-teacher conferences in high school. I wanted to keep her from disclosing personal things about me. Or statements that I gushed or admitted about teachers or classes when I was at home.

To her credit, she was pretty good about it.

Although there must have been something she said once or twice that made me feel the need to say this to her. I stand by this. I don't remember what she must have said, but I'm sure it was something horribly embarrassing to adolescent Stimey.

Today it was my turn.

I got to be the parent for the conferences today. Yay me!

I went to Jack's special ed class this morning, and found out that he is doing great. They say he is super smart and really good with the academic part of school. They act out stories, and his teacher says he is a terrific actor. He plays the little red hen and Mrs. Wishy Washy, whoever that is.

And it turns out that the names he's been giving me actually ARE kids in his class. Way to remember details from the past, Jack!

His reluctance to follow directions that his teacher pointed out earlier in the year is getting better, although she did note that when it's time to clean up, he tends to purposely step on the blocks rather than pick them up and put them on shelves, but I know all about that from home. If he did actually pick something up at school I think I'd have to move in there, because he doesn't do it anywhere else.

He's pretty up front with his disdain for cleaning. I like to think he gets it from me.

*****

Sam had a half-day at school and his conference was in the afternoon. To preface the following incident, I have to give you some background. The grading system at Sam's school (probably much like at many kindergartens) is as follows:

star = I did my best work.
smiley = I made some mistakes.
check = I did not do my best work.

Until a few days ago, Sam had never gotten anything other than a star. Then he brought home a couple of smiley faces with notes on the papers like, "More careful tracing," and "More careful coloring." And I was like, "Oh, ha, ha, my son is getting imperfect grades for coloring outside of the lines in kindergarten. I totally have to blog about this."

And then today he came home with three pieces of his work. One was a star (given by his regular teacher). Two were checks (given by the teacher from his english group. There was no note on the checks and, I swear to God, they looked identical to the star one. Maybe the coloring was a little sloppy, but I mean, really, he's six and he's coloring.

Then, when Sam started sobbing and telling us how he didn't have enough time to be careful, and, "please, please, don't tell Ms. S that I got a check," it stopped being funny. I told Sam that I wouldn't tell Ms. S, and then I promptly went in for my conference and told Ms. S. (Future Sam, if you ever read this, I'm sorry. I knew Ms. S wouldn't think badly of you.)

I felt kind of like an idiot bringing it up and showing her the checkmark, like, "Look at my precious son. Someone's gone and given him a check and I'm completely outraged!" But I don't care if he gets a check. (I mean, I do care if that's all he gets, but that's a whole other story.) I don't care that the teacher gave him the grade she thought was right. I do care that his work on the check paper and the star paper were virtually identical so he has no idea how to make changes and get a star. I do care that he was absolutely devastated by it. I do care that, in fact, that was his best work. Because we talked about it, and he told me he tried, he really tried, but he ran out of time.

Ms. S was similarly perplexed. Sam is her star pupil. His behavior is great. His work is great. She said she considers him her assistant. She said not to tell anyone (keep it under your hat, Internet), but that she feels like there's the class and then there's her and Sam. I'm not so naive as to believe she didn't say this to a few other parents as well, but her gist was that he is doing great. She was surprised because she's never given him anything but a star. She said that she would talk to his other teacher to make sure that she knows how sensitive he is. She also said she would ask the school counselor if she had any ideas on how to reduce the poor little dude's stress.

I've written before about Sam's kindergarten stress. I'm a little sad that he feels so much pressure so early. Make that a lot sad. I wish his kindergarten was like my kindergarten was: coloring without strict repercussions if you strayed outside the lines, free play, recess, running in circles.

He's two months in and they have him doing graphs, patterns, reading, dictation, counting by tens, and more. He can make a graph, but they're dinging him for coloring outside the lines or using the wrong colored crayon? I'm glad that they're preparing him academically, but at what expense? I don't want him to flame out because he's so stressed about getting something wrong.

So. I'm sorry, Sam, for saying things to your teacher that probably would have embarassed you. But you are great. You are smart. I love your coloring. And I don't give a shit if you get a check. I'm proud of you, no matter what.

Like Every Other Night

I was writing a post just now (you'll see it in a few minutes) and Jack came out of his bedroom (yes, it's 10 p.m.) to have the following interaction with me:

Jack: [Skip-hop, skip-hop around the corner, and then pointing at the bathroom] "Bleurg"

Me: "Okay, go to the bathroom." [patted him on the butt]

Sould of peeing coming from the open door, and then he disappeared back down the hallway toward his room (and the kitchen) for about 45 seconds and skip-hopped back.

Jack: "I want help getting the bread open."

[Pause] "And I want the peanut butter out."

[Pause] "And I want some honey"

[Longest pause yet] "And I want another piece of bread." [Big smile]

Me: "Sweetie, it's not time for a sandwich. I'll make you a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch tomorrow. Right now you have to go to bed." [Pause. No action from Jack.] "One...two..."

Jack: "Pfffft" [Skip-hop, skip-hop, down the hall and off to harrass the cat he went.]

Another typical night in Stimeyland.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My War on Toys

Not, in fact, a post about lead or otherwise tainted toys.

Sam and Jack share a room and, after we put them to bed, they stay up playing for a little while. They have an early bedtime, so we're okay with some play in their room at night. The biggest problem with this is their near-constant interruptions to our evening alone time. They find any excuse in existence to use their little ninja skills to sneak into our TV room/office.

Just tonight, after being sternly told to remain in his room, Jack sidled past the living room, through the kitchen, and down the hall to the desk where I was sitting. Staying as far away as he could, and without saying a word, he ssssttttrectched his little arm out to deposit the following onto the desk:


He then skip-hopped furtively out of the room as fast as he could go. At least as fast as you can go if you're skip-hopping.

Thank God he delivered this vitally crucial missive to me. I'm not sure what would have happened had I not gotten it until tomorrow, or—gasp!—never.

But anyway, that is not my point. My point is that the second biggest problem with Sam and Jack sharing a room is that they take the time to throw every toy they can find onto the floor, so no matter how clean I've left it the night before, it is a disaster every morning.

On a not obviously related note, I get bored with furniture configurations easily and like to rerarrange things on a regular basis. In the past year I have changed Sam and Jack's room so much that you might think I would have hit upon a toy/furniture pattern that was conducive to staying clean for more than four hours at a stretch. But you'd be wrong.

Here is what I have learned:

Buying toys for your kids, especially games, because it makes you happy results in lots of little pieces that can end up on the floor of a bedroom. Legos are also a bad idea. I used to buy toys for my guys because it's really fun to buy them. This sort of thinking has led to a situation where we have far too many toys. And far too many toys on a shelf will eventually lead to far too many toys on the floor.

If you've spent six years buying toys because you're bored or greedy, even a serious purge still leaves a plethora of toys with which to make a mess. Trust me. I'm, like, three or four purges in and it still looks like a preschool at my house.

An attempt to reclaim your living room by moving all the games and puzzles out of that room and into your kids' room makes it that much easier and gives them a far more private area in which to dump all the game and puzzle pieces on the floor. I love having all our kid stuff in the kids' rooms and our basement playroom, but when boredom strikes at night, the bedroom can become rather messy.

When you wise up and decide to move these items out of their room and into the basement, don't replace them with paper, coloring books, and markers. When Jack wrote on the couch with markers, we were understandably upset. When we discovered that if you use upholstery cleaner on the cushion covers, they get really, really clean, it turned out that he'd done us a bit of a favor. That notwithstanding, there were several days that Jack woke up covered in marker. He's not entirely to blame, as one of those mornings, the marker was scribbled on his back. And no matter how agile he is, he can't properly cover his entire back with red sharpie without the help of a big brother. At times it looked like he had a big ol' case of the measles. It attracted a bit of attention when it happened the night before swim class.

When you get tired of them writing on things with marker and take said markers away and leave them with just pencils and pencil sharpeners, you will find millions of tiny pencil shavings on the carpet. I've grown to hate those little shavings. And whereas toys on the floor only defeat prior tidying up, pencil shavings defeat prior vacuuming, resulting in a need to re-vacuum the next day.

These are the conclusions I've come to:

It might be a good idea to remove everything from their room except for books. I know if I do this I'm just asking for ripped up books, but I have my fingers crossed that they might have some respect for the written word and refrain from that. If the little shits push me too far, that's where we're going to go. Forced to read! Ha! Take that, hoodlums! (Quinn can keep his toys because he's still trapped in his crib.)

Or, in a worst case scenario, I can just oust them from their room and make it into a fitness center. It's not like they sleep in it anyway:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mother of the Year, Part II

(The second in what is sure to be a long series.)

I was tired today. The kind of tired that when you're driving your kids around, you realize you probably shouldn't be because you go into a trance-like state and don't quite remember how you got from point A to point B.

When I got home from dropping Jack off at his afternoon school, I made Quinn a peanut butter and honey sandwich and some chocolate milk in a straw cup and put him in front of the TV. I laid down next to him and went to sleep. I only woke up every 25 minutes or so to put a new Wonder Pets on. I slept for four episodes.

Quinn was in absolute heaven.

His favorite lunch? In front of the TV? Watching his favorite show? Without any brothers to try to put on something else?

I felt horrible for doing it, but I know that the Wonder Pets is like a magnet to him and that he wouldn't get up and wander. And he didn't.

At some point the dog ate the last of his sandwich, but he was okay with that. Other than the obvious negligence of the entire situation, the only downside was that at some point he smeared his honey-laden sandwich all over his head. I discovered this when we got ready to walk to the bus stop to pick up Sam and I touched Quinn's head only to find a hardened sheath of blond hair.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Best. Mom. Ever.

DCMM: Thinking Outside the Track

A few days ago a friend of mine called my attention to an article that had run in the Washington Post about "ability grouping" at the school that my oldest son, Sam, attends.

Ability grouping, as it operates in this school, means that students are tested and put together in ability-based groups for math and english. The kids are reevaluated over the course of the year and can be transferred to higher ability groups. It is the school's policy that children are never demoted to a lower ability group.

After I read this article, things became much clearer for me about an interaction at back to school night. Before Sam started in public school this year, I wasn't in the loop at all about school policies in general. I didn't do a whole lot of research about Sam's school because, frankly, we live where we live and we can't afford private school, so this is where he's a-gonna go.

Ah, yes. Call me a model citizen and parent.

At back to school night the teachers started talking about testing the kids and putting them in groups and I, in my uninformed and self-righteously indignant manner, said, "Is this like tracking?"

You've never seen teachers fall all over themselves faster to assure me that no, this is not tracking; yes, the groupings change year to year and even during the year; and please don't worry, children aren't put in remedial classes for all of elementary school based on one test they took on a bad day.

Okay, they didn't actually say all of that, but that's the gist of it.

What the Washington Post article said was that these ability groups had raised test scores dramatically across the board, but that this practice was controversial and that the school district had even made the principal stop the program for a year, only to see test scores fall dramatically.

I don't know (I told you I was ill-informed) what the down side is—and there always seems to be one—but I'm happy that my son is going to benefit from this system. And, no matter what I feel about No Child Left Behind and "teaching to the test" and whatnot, I'm happy that more and more students are learning more. And I'm happy that my children will be getting their start at a school that is willing to try new things and that seems to have come up with a system that works.

Because my middle son, who goes to a special ed preschool program, is spending the year at a different elementary school in the same school district that doesn't seem to be faring quite as well. Their test scores, while not actually above the required proficiency levels for some groups, qualify as passing for some technical reason that has to do with the number of kids in a given group. I am so grateful that when he heads to kindergarten, he will be going to a school that will be able to give him a better start—to Sam's school, where the test scores are well above merely passing.

Because the more students who are doing well, the better all the students will do. And, honestly, if we expect our kids to learn to think innovatively and come up with new ideas, isn't it a good idea for parents and school administrators to do the same?

Jean is also ill-informed at Stimeyland.

Edu-ma-cation

Hi, everyone! DC Metro Moms is dedicating the day over at their site to posts about education. You can read my thoughts on this article from The Washington Post about Sam's elementary school. It'll be posted sometime today.

And there will be a multitude of far better reasoned, more informed posts by other, cleverer people there as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Girlfriends

A couple weeks ago we were driving down the street on the way to school and we drove past a family getting into a car. This family picks up their kids at the same bus stop where I pick up Sam. As we drove by, Sam spotted the 5th grade girl getting into the car and said, "Hey! There's my girlfriend!"

Apparently she and Sam had been assigned to each other for a book fair event and that made her Sam's girlfriend. A few days after this declaration of coupledom, Sam shouted goodbye to the girl at the bus stop before we walked home. He then explained to me that he had to say bye to his girlfriend.

And for the record, no, he doesn't know her name.

All kinds of cute, right?

This morning we were talking to Sam about his friends at school. He didn't want to play with J because J fights and Sam likes to follow the rules. D likes to play with J, so D isn't the guy to hang out with. I suggested he play with E.

To which Sam responded, "But E has a girlfriend and I don't like that scene very much."

That scene? Oh my God, I just about died. Where did he come up with this stuff?

But really it's a shame that he's not into the scene because what girl wouldn't want to be with this handsome white belt?

Finally Coming Around

A couple weeks ago when I talked to one of Jack's doctors about getting him diagnosed on the autism spectrum she asked that I get a quick statement from each of his teachers with what they thought about this.

One of his teachers wrote out an example of a typical day in her classroom with the way Jack typically responded to each activity. Great.

His special ed teacher responded to my inquiry with an email after checking with the school's team to see what they thought. These people (occupational therapist, speech pathologist, etc...), none of whom give Jack services, but who do see him in the classroom, said that they did not think Jack presented as autistic. They put forth that most of his problems were behavioral.

I didn't write about it at the time because it sort of upset me. First, right after his doctor had agreed with me that he seemed to be on the spectrum, a group of professionals was telling me that he wasn't.

Second, as I had thought a lot about Jack, I was sure that he did not just have behavioral problems, that something about him is fundamentally different from the neurotypicals. And it made me wonder what kind of support he would be getting there if they couldn't see him for who he is.

Third, by saying his problems were behavioral, they were kind of implying that we are bad parents and his issues are my and Alex's fault. Okay, maybe that's not what they were implying, but that is what I inferred.

Since I got that email, I have done a lot of close watching of Jack. And the kid is different. He's fucking awesome, but he's different. I could go into a lot of details here, details about how he can't/won't answer a question correctly about anything that happened in the past or that is slightly abstract, but that at age 4 he obsessively writes the letters of the alphabet and insists on spelling every word he can think of while reciting scripts of things that happen in his classroom, but I won't. I won't because this post would get far too long and I'd probably end up sad or angry.

What I will say is that Jack is an amazing little dude with different strengths and weaknesses, but his brain works differently than most kids his age, including his brothers, one of whom (Quinn) is surpassing him in social skills, while the other (Sam, very smart in his own right) is just keeping up with him academically.

Anyway, this is all a long preface to what I wanted to write about what Jack's special ed teacher said to me today. When I dropped Jack off, she waved me over to talk to me. She said that someone had spotted Jack stimming while he was eating lunch. This led she and I to have a conversation in which she said that, although she does not like to label kids early, she thought Jack could be PDD or Asperger's.

Thank! You!

Part of me didn't realize quite how much her email suggesting that he was not autistic bothered me until she said today she thought he was on the spectrum. My spirits were noticeable higher as I drove away from the school and I realized how upset I had felt that his teachers did not see such a fundamental thing about him. That they did not see something that was so obvious to me.

So now his teachers say they think he is autistic. His doctors say they think he is autistic. I say I think he is autistic.

'Nuff said. For today at least.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Spring Forward, Fall...Whatever.

So as the end of Daylight Savings Time descends upon us...or is it the beginning? I get confused.

Anyway, as the time change descends upon us, some of you might rely on the old adage, "Spring Forward, Fall Back" to remind you of how to adjust your clocks. I have a different way.

Shortly after beginning my freshman year of college, my bad-influence, but super-fun roommate told me that she loved the time change in the fall because she got an extra hour to party.

So that's how I remember about Daylight Savings Time. When I wonder whether to turn my clock forward or back, I think, "If I was freshly arrived at college after living a sheltered and quiet life for 18 years and at 3 am I wanted an extra hour in which to drink vodka shots and smoke cigarettes, would I change the clock to 2 am or 4 am?"

I think you have your answer.

The Chair

I'm not a particularly huge fan of getting my hair done. I know some people love going to the salon, sitting in the twirly chair, and getting fussed over while chatting with their hairdresser, but I always feel a little uncomfortable with the forced socialization of the whole thing. Unlike my husband who feels that it is his responsibility to schmooze with barbers, massage therapists, and so on in order to make them comfortable, I am perfectly happy to sit in silence for as long as I have to.

I recently started putting highlights in my hair, which not only makes for loooooong appointments at the salon, but unless I want to look like I have a dark brown bowl sitting atop my head, requires more frequent trips to get my hair done. And because, in my 34 and a half years of getting my hair cut, I have found precisely one person that makes me feel good about my hair, I have to go to the same lady each time.

Which makes for more forced socialization, as well as some pretending on her part that she remembers who the hell I am when I come in after five months away.

Today was my appointment for a cut and highlights. My stylist used to work at Hugo Salon, which is a super-trendy, loud, busy place. To give you an idea, each stylist has some sort of crazy hairstyle or haircolor, the floors are metal, hair cutting tools are kept in shiny toolboxes, and it is the only place I have heard L7 played over a sound system since the '90s.

I am not quite hip enough to get my hair cut there.

But it is located very close to my house, so I was willing to suffer. Also, because I'm not cool enough to be there, my stylists would tend to pick up on the fact that I didn't want to chat with them and they would instead choose to talk to the other, cooler clients, or other hairdressers.

I was recovering from a really bad haircut given to me after donating a foot of my hair to Locks of Love when I found my current stylist. I sort of gave my head to her to do with what she wanted and she put in blonde highlights&#8212something I would never have thought of doing in a million years. (Although I'm not sure why they call them "highlights" and not "big, chunky stripes.") I was in love.

She recently moved to a new salon, and today I visited her on her third day of work there. And by "new," I mean not just new to her, but new to everyone. I was there for three hours today and was one of only four customers. This is quite a change from Hugo which was always hoppin'. The receptionist and other stylist, who may or may not have been the owner, spent most of the morning staring blankly out the big front windows.

On the other hand, I was definitely hip enough to get highlights there. The floor was wood, the cabinets were wood, they were playing Jack Johnson and Whitney Houston on the sound system. There was not a bright color to be seen. In fact, I may have been too cool to get my hair done there. Oh, who am I kidding? Athough I do have to say that I preferred the music at Hugo. I almost fell asleep today more than once.

Demonstrating my loyalty by following her to her new place of employment, not to mention the dead silence of the building, required a little extra chitchat. I mean, at least I am able to hide my social awkwardness under the sheath of hair combed over my face, but it's hard for me to make conversation for three hours with someone I see two or three times a year.

I'm supposed to go back in 8 weeks, but I don't think I've ever gone in for a follow-up haircut that soon. I tend to forget until I can no longer put my hair in a ponytail because of the roots line across my head. So in four or five months I'll head back there, sit in the chair, and have the exact same conversation wiith my stylist that I did today.

This is cross-posted at DC Metro Moms.

Friday, November 2, 2007

DCMM: House of Pain

Anyone want to have a playdate at my house? I do have to warn you though that there is a 75-85% chance that your child will come home with a goose egg the size of a ping pong ball on his forehead.

For some reason my home is this deadly house of horror where anyone under five is at risk for a serious injury. I consider my house fairly standard, but I don't know anyone else who hosts as many injuries as I do.

Some examples:

Traumatic Injury #1: So I was babysitting the small child of a neighbor. I think he was three at the time. I was standing about a foot away from him when he tripped on my rug and wonked his face on my coffee table.

The bruise started to form almost immediately, but it didn't realize its full grotesque potential until after his (incredibly gracious) mom took him home. Of course I never saw the full damage because his mom thought that I would be too traumatized if I saw it, so she kept me away from him for the next week.

Traumatic Injury #2: My friend was babysitting a small child at a playdate at my home. I think she might have been three at the time too. She tripped on the very same place on my rug and smacked her head on the very same coffee table. Blood, bruising, and sadness commenced. And the little girl was upset too.

About two weeks later I banished the coffee table to the garage and got myself a nice soft ottoman table instead. No injuries thus far. Knock on wood.

Traumatic Injury #3: The same girl as in #2 was over for a playdate, this time with her mom. In my basement she tripped and fell into a bed frame. More blood. More sadness. A hasty retreat was beat. At this point I started to develop a complex. And I started making plans to remove the bed. Which is, happily, now gone.

Traumatic Injury #4: The daughter of the babysitter in #2 was over and playing in my basement. She was happily bouncing in my inflatable ball pit when an exuberant bounce carried her forehead directly into my cinderblock wall. She developed an immediate purple goose egg. I tried to think of how to banish the basement to the garage and get myself a padded room instead, but wasn't able to figure anything out. The basement remains, in its original deadly form.

Traumatic Injury #5: My youngest son fell down my basement stairs. From top to bottom. I had my back turned and didn't realize the door was open. He got snagged on the carpet on the top of the steps and tumbled down. He was, thankfully, almost entirely unscathed. (The traumatic injury was to my psyche.) For the remainder of the day he would spontaneously state, "I fall down stairs." I started thinking about sealing off the basement completely and denying that we ever had a bottom level.

Traumatic Injuries #6 & 7: My oldest and middle child were both injured in my home and started their new schools with obvious facial injuries. The oldest had a black eye (caused by the youngest banging his head into him) and the middle had a goose egg (from a mysterious post-bedtime injury) on his forehead. If the public school system keeps a list of potential child abusers, I'm sure that I'm on it.

Traumatic Injury #8: Just today a four year old here for a playdate fell off a bed onto something and instantly developed one of those goose eggs. I want to die.

I think there are more, but I'm pretty sure I've blocked them out. And I'm not even including injuries accidentally caused by my children off-premises. I don't know why I still have friends. I think I should invest in a bulk-pack of icepacks. Or I should rid my house of its contents and pad my walls.

Every time this happens to me I feel an immense amount of guilt. Does this happen to other people or is it just me? Please tell me it's not just me.

Jean chronicles her childrens' injuries at Stimeyland. Go there if you want to feel like a better parent.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

He'll Be Teaching a Class at the Community College This Fall

To give you all an idea of just how good at getting candy Quinn is, I submit this example:

On our daily sojourn to 7-11 yesterday (Halloween morning), Quinn noticed the King Size Big Cup display (like this, only without the Elvis) conveniently located at toddler eye-level just inside the door. Despite my assurances that he would have scads of candy later that day so he didn't need that now, he continued to ask for it. The 7-11 clerk (and those clerks not necessarily known as a group for their generosity to small children) watched this and then told him he could have it. She said something to the cashier in another language and said to me, "It's okay, he can take it."

!!!!!

Random act of kindness and blatant undermining of my parenting aside, that kid is good at getting candy.

He put this skill to good use later that evening when he started to become clear on the concept that if you're adorable and say "More, please," in a cute enough tone of voice, you will get more candy than all other nine kids trick-or-treating with you combined.

One lady was giving away sealed packages of candy apples, which are clearly a one-a-kid type of item. Somehow Quinn walked away with two.

At our babysitters' house, the mom there eventually said, "I think I need to cut Quinn off," after he had talked her out of a substantial amount of candy.

There was another house where he had ended up in the back of the herd of kids. I watched him artfully weave his way to the front of the pack, politely saying, "Excuse me, excuse me," to position himself in the best candy-getting position.

I lost sight of him at another house, but only because he had barged through the doorway to stand as close to the candy bowl as humanly possible.

Really quite astounding skills for a two-year-old.


*****

Halloween was lovely at our house this year. Quinn, as I expected, did not really wear a costume, just a cape. But that's okay.

Sam was very happy to be Superman. In a burst of good timing, Quinn and I arrived at his school's costume parade literally 30 seconds before he walked by. He spotted us and looked thrilled. And we got to go to the Halloween "party" in his class afterward, which was really just a glorified snack. But it was so cool to see him in his school environment.

Jack came home from his afternoon school having learned the phrase, "Trick-or-treat! Give me something good to eat!" At least they didn't teach him the part about smelling feet.

Once we got home from trick or treating, the little men gorged themselves on candy and were sent to bed. Then Alex and I gorged ourselves on candy.

And! In a never-to-be-repeated act of perfection, I purchased exactly enough candy to give out. We were left with five pieces of candy at the end of the night. Can't be beat!

*****