Thursday, July 31, 2008

Picking Winners

Last night after I was already in bed, I remembered that I hadn't selected any winners for my luggage tag giveaway. So first thing this morning I enlisted my little dudes to help me out.

It's kind of funny how little kids will just do what you tell them to do without questions. Pick one piece of paper out of a hat? Sure, why not?

In keeping with the theme of the giveaway, I put the little pieces of paper with your names on them in Quinn's free hat.

Jack chose first.

Before you ask about the nipple band aid, just let me tell you the story. I came home from BlogHer wearing one of the mood rings featured in this post. The day after my return, Jack jumped on top of my hand just as I moved it, he got caught on the ring, and I practically ripped his nipple off. (And by "practically ripped his nipple off," I mean, "scratched him.") He was really upset and so I gave him a band aid and he calmed down. But you don't take band aids off of Jack. You wait for them to fall off. And this one has been particularly tenacious.

Anyway, he picked The Perks of Being Me. Perfect! She works with autistic kids and seems like a really cool chick.

Next it was Quinn's turn.

Quinn chose Niksmom. And then he said, "I don't want this one. I want to choose a different one." And then he threw a tantrum. And then I emailed Niksmom to tell her that she won.

Sucks to be three.

Sam mixed the names in the hat for something akin to a million years before he picked a name. You know, so he couldn't cheat.

He chose BetteJo.

He was not happy with his choice either. I did not care. I was happy with his choice.

If you won and have not already done so (I'm looking at you, BetteJo), email me your address and I'll drop the luggage tag in the mail right away! If you did not win, do not despair. (It will be difficult, I know, but hang in there.) I'm sure there will be more luggage tag giveaways to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Save Up For Your Vacation

Alternatively titled: "How Can a Post About Money be So Graphic About Poop?" or "Who's the Idiot Taking All the Photos at the Bank?"

1. Create a Middle of the Night Fund. This is a box made up of money taken out of your pockets before you go to bed at night. You will use it on the occasion that you need to bail from your home like RIGHT NOW and it's helpful to have some cash with you.

Like when you find out your husband is actually a serial killer and has dismembered his prior families and left them strewn all over the Midwest, and this news comes to you in the form of an anonymous phone call at midnight just before you discover some corroborating evidence and so have to grab your kids, your keys, and your Middle of the Night Fund and run for your lives. That's what a Middle of the Night Fund is.

2. Put another box next to your Middle of the Night Fund in which to put your spare change at night. If When you have to flee your home, you can grab this too if you want. You know, in case you have to park at a meter.

3. Give your husband a giant piggy bank.

4. Commence to saving.

5. Shortly before vacation, dump all of your coins on the floor and watch your husband get up close and personal with his pig to dig his coins and bills out. Roll in the money.

6. Watch as your five-year-old swallows a coin. Demand advice from Twitter. Call (closed) pediatrician's office. Then call poison control. Please note the order of those steps. God forbid a real emergency ever occurred. Imagine that tweet: "Husband is serial killer. Is midnight. What to do?"

7. Learn that as long as your five-year-old is not exhibiting certain signs, that he will probably be okay. But you should watch his "stool" to wait for the coin to emerge. Parent Center recommends scooping up his poop with a strainer and running hot water over it. Torture your Twitter buddies (and later your blog readers) with that information. (Days later poison control will call back, looking for, I swear to God: "closure." Unfortunately, having not strained your child's poop, you will not have "closure.")

8. Take coins to the bank and make a scene because you and your three kids are so excited about the coin sorting machine.

9. Make more of a scene trying to keep three small children interested in standing in line. When standing at the counter, elicit laughs from onlookers by making up contest of "Who Can Keep Their Hands on the Counter the Longest?" Watch Quinn lose almost immediately.

10. Stop giving a crap what anyone thinks after the teller gives you $202.59 for your 601 quarters, 215 nickels, 109 pennies, 300 dimes, one fifty-cent piece, and four dollar coins.

11. Use fund to buy one tank of gas. And a Big Gulp.

12. Hope no Middle of the Night Emergency befalls you before you build up your fund again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

For Evan Kamida

Because to lose a child must be the hardest hurt. Because The Mother at the Swings says so much. Because we can't be there in person to say, "I'm so sorry," whether we know Vicki in the flesh or solely through her words. Whether we've known Vicki and Evan for years or only for days. Because we want Vicki and her family to know we care and that she and Evan have made a difference.

But mostly because Evan loved to swing.

Add your support by posting your photo of flowers at a swing to the Flickr pool here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sponsors, Commercialism, and Swag, Oh My!

Although I don't generally do product reviews here, I am going to take these moments to discuss some of the free goods I acquired last week at BlogHer. I felt a little cheap wandering around with my bags of free stuff, but whaddya gonna do? Refuse the free stuff? Not if you're me.

I only kept the things I really wanted. And the things I didn't like, I won't write about. And the products and companies I do like? I will use them to make wordless jokes on my blog.

For example:


I've already written at The Junk Pyramid about some of the swag I gave away, both to the Zwaggle recycle room in San Francisco, and swag that I hauled all the damn way home before giving it away. Because I only have four readers over there, the comments that I do get mean a lot. And there has been some controversy over whether recycling (heretofore known as "Zwaggling") swag before it comes home should count as decluttering. I steadfastly believe it does. Some of you believe that it doesn't. Discuss.

Well, back to the things I kept. Did I mention that my suitcase weighed 68 pounds on the way home? It might have had something to do with the free books I took from the lovely women at MotherTalk and Mom Central. (I'm a little hoggy if there is a table of FREE books in front of me.) I also purchased some books as well. (In my defense, I only bought three, and they were paperback.)

To be perfectly honest, I gave some of the above away too. But not the pens. I'm keeping the pens. There is a pen that Sprout gave out that was particularly awesome. I am also quite fond of the several USB flash drives I picked up. And the Snapfish gift cards. Oh, and I must shut up now before I sell my soul.

But some swag of special interest were these things:

So, really and honestly, I adore the Internet Password Organizer most of all. My current system is a three-column unalphabetized list of websites, usernames, and passwords stored on my computer that I occasionally print out. Unfortunately, my computer seems to have eaten my password column, which is going to be a problem. But not after I have this little baby filled out.

I thought that the peanut butter and honey peanut butter was going to solve all my problems. My kids love peanut butter and honey sandwiches, but lunchtime always ends up very, very sticky. So I brought two jars of this peanut butter home packed in my boots inside my suitcase. Unfortunately, it mostly tastes like peanut butter. Note to Jif: add more honey.

The Boogie Wipes cracked me up because I have Boogie Wipes at home, but they're called tissues. And if I need a little extra moisture, I have diaper wipes. These have saline in them though, so maybe they're better than wipes. I don't know because for the first time in six and a half years, no one has had a cold for an entire week.

The Michelin Man is a tire pressure gauge, which I didn't have. Free stuff that fulfills a need I was going to have to pay to fill? That's the best kind of free stuff.

I put that iRobot flash drive in the picture because I'm mad at iRobot and I told the iRobot PR people standing in the iRobot lounge that I was mad at them, and they couldn't have cared less. So I took this flash drive off the table. Although I'm not sure taking a freebie qualifies as revenge. I should have taken six freebies. Yeah, that would have shown them.

The Yahoo flash drive picture above has many strange and some quite lovely headshots of yours truly. This makeover/photography session was set up by the lovely ladies of Silicon Valley Moms Group. I love them for setting this up. You've seen the best photo from this shoot. Here's another one that I like:

I'm also a big fan of this free hat I picked up for Quinn. And in an unbelievable stroke of serendipity, he likes it too. I finally have a solution to my problem of how to take a fair-haired child outside. I tell him, "It's to protect your yellow hair from the sun, so I don't have to spray sunscreen on your head."

My other kids benefited from SwagFest '08 too:

Jack really loves the flashing rubber necklace from The Karianna Spectrum. Sam wasn't quite sure what to do with the re-headed doll from Headless Mom. "Does she make noise?" he asked. I found her later. Without any legs.

In the spirit of the swag (and to reward those of you who read this far), I am going to be giving away a couple of my leftover luggage tags. If you didn't get a luggage tag at BlogHer, or weren't there, leave a comment telling me what your favorite piece of my swag from this post is. I won't give that item to you, but I will randomly pick a couple of you to receive luggage tags. You have until July 30 to comment.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fame and Fortune, Here I Come

That's right. That's me in the New York Motherfucking Times.

I'm sitting next to Tech Savvy Mama and WhyMommy.

Oh, hell yes.

(Although I wasn't aware that BlogHer was about Fashion or Style.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

With Love

I briefly met Vicki Forman at BlogHer this weekend. She spoke at the blogging about special needs children panel.

She is beautiful and smart and friendly.

Her nearly eight-year-old son, Evan, unexpectedly passed away this week.

Please keep Vicki and her family in your thoughts.

Information about services and donations is here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

There's No Whining in Baseball...

...unless you're attending a game as part of Camp Stimey, that is. In that case, feel free to be as much of a jackass as you would like.

A while back the cop who lives across the street drove Sam to school one day because both Alex and I were too lazy to figure out when the bus arrives in the morning at an IEP meeting or some such thing. Like any good citizen, Sam put on his seat belt when put in the back of the police car.

(Shut up, I'm getting to the baseball.)

Later that night, the cop/dad came over and gave Sam a voucher for up to six free tickets to go see the local minor league baseball team, the Bowie Baysox, for doing, as the voucher said, "something right."

After calling the Baysox the Bosox (I'm well aware that Bowie Bosox makes no sense, thank you very much) for several months, we finally went to a game.

We cheerfully sat on a giant baseball:

We spent $9.75 on two hotdogs, french fries, and a bottle of water:

We rode the merry-go-round:

Wait. We rode the what now? Merry-go-round? Whose brilliant idea was it to put a goddamn "Kid Zone" at the ball park?

I mean the little dudes had a good time and all. In fact, the moonbounce attendant had to pull Jack out by his ankles. But what is the best way you can think of to ensure that my kids won't want to watch baseball?

Show 'em a Kid Zone.

They used up the four tickets each I bought them. Then I asked them, "Do you guys want to go watch more baseball?!"

Guess what they said?

We did eventually watch some of the game and even though they quite snottily claimed to not have had any fun at all (now is the time you all reassure me that all kids are assholes, and not just mine), I think they did.

They even played some baseball on the concrete diamond on the way back to the car.

Although when it was Jack's turn to "bat" he took off running for a tree instead of the painted base, so I'm thinking he didn't pay too much attention to the rules of baseball.

Come to think of it, I didn't pay too much attention to the game either. I don't know who won, I don't know what inning it was when we left, and frankly I don't even know what team the Bosox Baysox were playing. I did notice that they were wearing black uniforms. Or dark blue. Or purple.

Shit. Well they were for sure NOT naked, at least. And our team wore orange. And was named the Baysox.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Left a Teensy Chunk of One of the Ventricles of My Heart in San Francisco

I like to pretend that I am from California. If people ask me where I am from, I will generally word my response so that I don't actually state that I am from California, but I will imply such a thing.

I think that is fair, considering that I lived there for 11 years.

The reason I do this is partly because I grew up in coughUtahcough and I don't like the inherent questions, assumptions, or biases that come with that. (No, I'm not Mormon. Although I have lots of good friends who are. Yes, Utah is a gorgeous state. No, it is not awesome to have a friend send a missionary to your house in the 10th grade because she is concerned about your soul.)

The other reason I imply that I am from California is because I really like California. I lived in Berkeley, then Oakland, then L.A., then Oakland again, and I loved almost every minute of it. (I did not care for the booming car stereo that idled across from my last home in Oakland for much of each day.)

My trip to BlogHer was the first time I had seen San Francisco in five years. And yeah, I mostly saw a very specific two square blocks of it on this trip, but it was cool to get back. I don't know that I'd want to live in the Bay Area again, but it is one kick-ass place to be.

San Francisco, I'll be back.


Oh! And did you hear?! BART goes all the way to SFO now! Good times.


Plus, in more traveling news, I would like to tell you how relaxing my flight to SF was. I sat in my little seat for five or so hours all by myself and loved every second of it. I read a trashy magazine. I took a nap. I woke up and ate a sandwich. Then I finished the book I've been reading in three-page increments for the past month.

Why did I ever complain about airplanes before I had kids?


Oh, this is why:

I was originally supposed to fly Southwest airlines from SF to Las Vegas, then board another flight to Baltimore, arriving at 11:30 p.m.

However, my first flight was delayed for an hour, so they put me on another flight, a flight that was also delayed but would get me to Baltimore on the same plane I left San Francisco on, thus eliminating the chance that I would miss a connecting flight. (And the remainder of this story aside, I am really very grateful to Southwest for re-routing me.)

The thing that Super Sucked, with two capital S's, was that this plane went from San Francisco to San Diego to Phoenix to Baltimore, landing at 1:30 in the morning. So I spent ELEVEN HOURS on that airplane.

I was smart enough to move to the exit row for the third and longest leg ("Ah, the poor man's first class," said the man who sat down next to me.) so at least I had some decent legroom, but by about hour nine of that flight, I was this close to banging my head on the window. Or opening the emergency door just to see what would happen.


To sum up:

San Francisco rocks.
Utah is slightly less awesome, but all right. (Especially if you have cool Utah friends&#8212not the kind that sic missionaries on you.)

BARTing directly from SFO rocks.
BARTing directly to SFO is slightly less awesome when your bag suddenly weighs 68 pounds—and that doesn't include your two carry-ons.

Traveling without kids rocks.
Traveling for 11 hours without kids to get from San Francisco to Baltimore is slightly less awesome. But still way better than traveling for 11 hours with kids to get from San Francisco to Baltimore.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DCMM: Autistic Children Are Not Brats

In the slightly more than five years of my son Jack's life I've called him a lot of things. I've called him a trouble-maker. I've called him adorable. I've called him loveable, joyful, and charismatic. I've also called him solitary, difficult, and autistic.

I have not, to my recollection, called him a brat.

Brat is a negative term that goes past discussing mere behavior all the way down to a child's core. And it is a hurtful term. Not as hurtful as some, but call any mother's child a brat, and that mother will be upset.

Enter radio talk show host Michael Savage. Last week he called autistic children brats on-air, saying, "In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."

Savage, who has more than 8 million listeners a week, according to MSNBC, told his audience that these kids "don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron.'" He has also not issued an apology in a message posted on his website. The message states only that he meant to "boldly awaken" parents and children to an overdiagnosis of autism by a "cartel of doctors and drug companies."

As a mom of an autistic child (with a father who is just as strict with him as with our typical children), this kind of disinformation makes it that much harder for my autistic child to live in this world. It makes it harder for him to get the accommodations he needs. It makes it harder for him to achieve friendships. It makes it harder for him to gain respect, which he absolutely deserves.

I've never been a fan of Savage, but I am a fan of free speech. Should he be fired? Probably not. Should he be forced to put forth an apology? Not if he doesn't mean it.

Should the rest of us raise our voices to counteract the vitriol that people who don't understand put forth about our beautiful children? Should we work for more autism awareness? Should we take advantage of every opportunity to teach people what autism is—and what it isn't?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

It's as if Savage called quadriplegics lazy. It is just a blatantly false statement. Just because a disability is sometimes invisible does not mean it does not exist.

My son is autistic. My son is handsome, sweet, smart, cuddly, and sometimes misbehaved—just like any other five-year-old.

He is not a brat.

He is autistic.

And I love him exactly the way he is.

Original DC Metro Moms post.

Jean writes about the many other wonderful things that come from having an autistic child at Stimeyland.

We Get More Done by 10 a.m. Than Most People Do All Day

I kind of took yesterday off. I was glad to see my kids, they were glad to see me, but after only five hours of sleep (on my part), and general immaturity (on their part) we were content to just hang out and put Camp Stimey on hold.

See, this week is supposed to be sports week, and I have a list of no less than five different sports we were going to explore. And then I woke up this morning, realized I was still tired, and decided that instead of Camp Sports, I was going to run Camp Lazy.

And then my perky friend L, she who inspired Camp Stimey, called me at 8:20. She'd already been on a walk and done some gardening. And she wanted to meet me at the park at 9 to play soccer with our kids.

Well, fuck.

So I put the kids in sneakers, hunted down a couple of soccer balls and a bottle of water and we plodded out the door. (Okay, I plodded. The kids ran. Stupid energy of youth.)

Our plan was to put the kids through soccer drills and be organized and coach-like and stuff, but Sam posted himself at one goal and Jack started walking aaaaallllllllll the way down the regulation soccer field to the other goal to begin his offensive.

So we gave up and just chased balls around.

And then I witnessed one of the ways Jack and I are really, really different. I would honestly do just about anything to keep dry dirt off of my hands. It's one of my sensory things. Jack on the other hand...

By 9:30 even perky friend L was tired and hot. So we went to her house to play in the sprinkler/wash off our dirty children. And then the temperature immediately dropped ten degrees and it started to rain.

And thus ended Camp Soccer.

And thus began Camp Dancing in the Rain.

Which my children did all the way home, naked but for their swimsuits. I finally convinced them to come inside once branches started dropping off my trees into the driveway.

And then I commenced Camp Kill the Next Nine Hours Until Daddy Comes Home Because We Did Too Much Too Early.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Awesomely Awesome Awesomeness

I'm not quite sure how to process the awesomeness that was BlogHer 08 to write about it. But I'm going to give it a go anyhow. I'm sure there will be posts to follow.

Specifically, there will probably be a post about travel (because you don't spend 11 hours on one plane to travel from San Francisco to Baltimore without whining about it), definitely a post about swag (because you don't acquire 30 pounds of free goods without gushing about it), surely a post about certain panels (such as the blogging about children with special needs panel and the blogging as a healing force panel), and probably a post about the emotions of BlogHer (because you don't spend three days with 1000 women and not have emotions). And don't forget the parties.

Basically, I'll be milking this weekend for the next year or so. Sorry, Jodifur.

But for now, you're going to get the nuts and bolts of BlogHer 08 and what it was for me. And mostly? It was the people.

Which means I have to start with Plain Jane Mom, because I met her in the check-in line, and holy shit, thank God I met her, because she was friendly and amazing and beautiful, and set a positive tone for me for the whole weekend. Although she did take a photo of my sweaty self mere minutes after I'd hauled all my crap from SFO and up Powell Street to the Westin.

My roommate, WhyMommy (who should have done a triumphant victory lap around the conference based on the tremendous things she's accomplished this year), had already checked in, but the lady at the front desk gave me a key and a room number. Unfortunately she gave me the wrong room number, and after much door rattling and cursing on the ninth floor, a trip back down to the front desk, a run-in with Kristen from Baby Brewing (I may have shrieked, "Dude! Mommy NEEDS a cocktail!" at her while she was waiting for the elevator), and a trip back up the hotel, all the while dragging my luggage, I was finally in my room.

And then I didn't know what to do.

I futzed around for awhile and then harrassed some of my local babes until they let me come play with them. Once I found them, I got into the swing of things and remained giddily happy for almost the entire time until I saw the line at the airport on my way home.

Much of the giddy happiness had to do with spending so much time with WhyMommy. She is a tremendous woman, a true-blue friend, and, I'm happy to report, NOT a snorer. She was integral to my decision to come to BlogHer, and I can't thank her enough for convincing me to convince myself and for agreeing to be my roommate. I couldn't be luckier to have her as a friend.

I met some amazing bloggers over the weekend. A lot of amazing bloggers. These are just the ones I traded business cards with:

Oh, and the luggage tags? They were happily received by many a blogger. And some PR folk. And some PR bloggers.

I can't even start to list all the amazing women (and some men) that I met. And if I do start to list, I will leave someone off and will feel horrible. (Know that if I don't list you here, it's not because I don't remember meeting you or that I don't think you're amazing. I am planning on visiting the blog of every single person whose card I acquired this weekend, so you'll be seeing me around.) Okay, I'm going to start to list them:

The second person I met was Jess from Oh, The Joys. (She was actually one of the last people I saw too.) And she was lovely. Good thing, because I sort of launched myself at her in the lobby. Other people I'd never met and also sort of hurled myself at? ShallowGal, The Bloggess, Motherbumper, and Playgroupie Jennifer.

I met terrific from-the-teen's-point-of-view blogger Vanessa, the fantastic Don Mills Diva, Flutter, Maggie, Slouching Mom (!), Missy, Velma, and Amalah (who I'd met once before and sort of attacked after one of the panels). Plus I got to finally meet WhyMommy's so damn cool best friend, Canape.

I was happy to finally meet Jill, Beth, and Tekla, the women behind the Silicon Valley Mom Blogs Group, which includes the DC Metro Moms Blog.

I semi-stalked This Military Mama, proclaimed myself Lesbian Dad's new number one fan to her face (can you say, "Stimey is a psycho!"), and was so excited to meet and hang out with Nina and Debbie.

I met some cool women who know about children with special needs, including panelists Kristina Chew, Susan Etlinger, Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Graf Groneberg, and Vicki Forman. I also met the lovely Karianna, TLC, the Mom to the Screaming Masses, the Weird Girl, Lori from Spinning Yellow, and Christina from A Mommy Story. Plus, I got to finally meet Kristen from From Here to There and Back.

AND, I'd like to thank the Academy. (And again, if I forgot you, it's because I love you the most and you know that I love you.)

That's it for now. If you don't know those bloggers, click away at their names. There is an amazing woman behind each hyperlink. Apologies to any Bay Area friends who read this. I didn't get more than two blocks away from the hotel. I'm sorry. I wish I had had the time and transportation to visit you.

I also want to say to all the women who wanted to attend this conference and couldn't, for whatever reason. I missed you. I thought about you. I hope to see you at the next one. This photo is for you.

If you're wondering if Kelley had a good time too: Yes. Yes, she did. She had her eyes on you the whole time:


Also, just to let all y'all know, my husband is the best husband. You may think differently, but you'd be wrong. Alex not only found a babysitter and came to pick me up at the airport (which is nearly an hour away from our house) at 1:30 in the morning, he took care of all three kids while I was gone, cleaned the whole house and the car, and had a fresh Diet Coke from a fountain waiting for me in the car. Thanks, Alex. I appreciate you being so cool about me flying across the country to geek out and distribute luggage tags.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Best. Photo. Ever.

Wanna see what happens when you give Stimey a professional makeup artist, a professional photographer, and then WhyMommy makes some comment about how the photographer across the way is making Goon Squad Sarah take off her clothes?*

This is what happens:

* It's not as scandalous as it sounds. The photographer just wanted Sarah to take off her top layer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Story of the Splashpark

When my friend emailed me and asked if I wanted to meet her at a (sort of) local splash park this week, it sounded like a great idea. I really like this woman, and don't end up seeing her very often. Plus, our kids get along really well. Plus, a splashpark!

Doesn't it look awesomely awesome?

It so didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped.

We got there before our friends. (Apparently she'd has some sort of disaster with an ill-fitting swimsuit for her daughter that needed to be replaced ONLY with a High School Musical suit available ONLY at Macy's, where she had to go as soon as they opened. At least I didn't have that problem.)

At first everything went great. My kids were ecstatic. There were waterfalls, geysers, showers, water mazes, everything a child could want. See how fun?

Then ten thousand day campers descended on the splashpark and all hell broke loose.

Jack scraped his foot, which may not seem like a big deal, but he's suddenly really freaked out by blood. Wait. Let me clarify: He's suddenly really freaked out by his blood.

So, I'd calmed Jack down a little and he was sitting at a table eating a graham cracker when I watched a camper collide with Quinn and knock him to the cement. All I could do was gasp as I watched his head clonk on the ground. It was worrisome enough that a splashpark staffer came over to see if we needed help.

Fortunately he's okay. He sulked and yelled for a while and then I convinced him to go play. Meanwhile, Sam was moping because his friend hadn't arrived yet.

But when she did arrive, he displayed little to no interest in playing. And then Quinn fell again. And Jack tried to play, but a couple bigger kids edged him out of what he was trying to do.

So, then they did this:

They did that for the remaining hour and a half that we were there. Oh, except for the time Quinn ventured out again and was having fun, only to be pushed down by another camper.

He's sort of one big contusion at this point.

I mean, it could have been worse. I had a fun time chatting with my friend. And my kids were pretty compliant because they were sulking. Although we could have done the same thing for free in my backyard splashpark.

But eventually it became clear that my kids weren't going to play, so I dressed Quinn and myself only to see Jack get up and go into the water. After he came back after a (short) stint playing, I was trying to get him to tell me if he wanted to stay or leave when fully-clothed Quinn said, "I want to play in the water."

It was the best of both worlds: I got to fight them to try to get them to play and I got to fight them to try to get them to leave.

So I had a little internal back-and-forth with myself and then put him back in his swimsuit.

And he played for about four seconds.

And that was the end of that.

I forced everyone to get dressed and pee and we left. Quinn was asleep before we hit the main road. And Sam followed suit shortly thereafter.

And that is the entire story of the splashpark. Except for when we were walking to the car and I fell down and sprained my ankle.

Oh well, at least it's not like I am going to be on my feet walking around a convention and a hilly city all weekend.

Oh. Wait. I am.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DCMM: Sometimes Failure Begets Success

Sometimes something that seems like a failure turns out to be a success, just depending on the way you look at it. And when you have a child with autism, as I do, even little successes see big.

To explain: My oldest son, Sam, has been going to karate class twice a week since last October. On his very first day in class I came to the conclusion that karate just might be the thing for my then four-year-old autistic son, Jack. To Jack's delight, my husband and I decided that when Jack turned five, we would enroll him in karate.

Jack's 5th birthday was in May, and his first class was July 1. Unfortunately, no matter how many people agreed that it might be just the thing for him, Jack didn't take to the class. By halfway through his fourth class, he was done. He couldn't pay attention, he was crying, and he was claiming his stomach hurt.

I don't know if it wasn't as fun as he thought it would be or if he had trouble staying still and following directions. Maybe he only really wanted to do the parts when he could run around in circles and jump over and through things.

Maybe he just wanted the uniform.

Whatever it was, it just is not the place for him right now. He doesn't want to go back, and because we were taking advantage of a "siblings are free in July" offer, we're going to respect that. We'll let him stop going. We'll try again another time.

But today, our first day back since Jack started sobbing mid-class and insisted on leaving, something great happened.

This afternoon Jack made it clear that he didn't want to be in the class, but then he spent twenty minutes or so composing a note for Mr. RJ, his instructor. He typed it himself on the computer (using some creative spelling) and making sure it was printed out just right. And just so you know, Jack doesn't often make notes or pictures for people outside his immediate circle—and it's hard to get into that circle.

We walked into the karate studio for Sam's class and immediately saw another instructor, Mr. N. Mr. N held the door for us. Jack said, "Mr. RJ?" Mr. N pointed toward Mr. RJ. Jack walked up to another instructor, Mr. J, and said, "Mr. RJ?" Mr. J pointed to Mr. RJ.

(Apparently Jack has trouble distinguishing people from each other. This is not a total surprise to me, but: Hello! Wake up call!)

Anyway, after finally locating his target, Jack told Mr. RJ a meandering, convoluted joke without a punchline and then presented him with his typewritten story. Mr. RJ, who is an amazing young guy, gave Jack his full attention throughout and thanked him profusely for the story.

It was absolutely lovely to watch. Because Jack was totally outside his comfort zone doing that, and when he put himself out there, the object of his attention gave him attention back, which is often not the case.

Maybe Jack didn't learn karate. Maybe he didn't immediately take to it and find some of the structure and direction that he needs. But he did form a connection to a new person and to a place. And any connections that Jack builds are miraculous and wonderful.

So maybe Jack's brief foray into karate wasn't such a failure after all.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean documents many successes and failures daily at Stimeyland.

Why Does My Hair Look So Weird?

Next time you're sitting in a hair stylist's chair and her stylist friend starts talking with her about "try to look at the positive," and "come out drinking with me tonight to make it better," and your stylist responds with, "I can't, because I didn't sleep last night," just get up and walk away. Leave the salon immediately.

Or, if you stay and let the morose stylist give you some highlights, be sure to leave before she suddenly becomes maniacally cheerful and starts chopping at your hair.

Oh, well. At least it's not like I'm about to meet several hundred people for the first time.

Oh. Wait. I am.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Best Laid Plans

I had to pay someone $20 today to keep up a membership that, if I remember correctly, has been technically lapsed since November.

I knew I'd be seeing her at a meeting today, so I dropped my checkbook in my bag three days ago so I would be able to pay her.

Of course, I forgot about the payment completely until I saw her at the meeting. Oh, but I'd outsmarted myself! My checkbook was in my bag! I'm awesome!

Except when I opened the checkbook, there were no checks in it.

So then I remembered that I had cash in my wallet. So I dug in my bag under Quinn's extra pants and three pairs of underpants, as well as wipes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more, only to discover that I'd left my wallet at home.

The forces of chaos are strong here in Stimeyland.

(I did find a crumpled $20 bill in my pocket. But not a drivers license, which is what I would have preferred to have for my drive home.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Things You Should Know Before BlogHer

1. I'm a nervous laugher and may guffaw inappropriately. If you start telling a story and I laugh waaaaaay before the punchline, just assume that I can see the funny coming in advance. I may also laugh even if I don't get the joke, just so I can fit in.

2. I will say, "That's so funny," a lot. Every once in a while I will switch it up with, "That's hilarious."

3. I will blush a lot. Don't worry, you haven't embarrassed me. My body seems to think I am embarrassed more than I really am. So my rampant blushing means that my body thinks I should be embarrassed. I find that the blushing embarrasses me more than almost anything else in my life. In truth, I don't take myself very seriously, so it's difficult to cause shame or embarrassment in me.

4. Speaking of my traitorous body, it has refused to shed the twenty fifty pounds I wanted to lose before the convention. Who knew that sitting in a chair and blogging while eating strawberry ice cream every night could cause so many problems?

5. Also, I have psoriasis. Feel free to stare at my knees, shins, elbows, ears, and scalp. And three spots on my left hand. It's not contagious. But it is one of the reasons you will rarely see me wearing shorts or a bathing suit.

6. If you're talking to me and want swag and I haven't offered you swag, just go ahead and ask for the swag.

7. I'm not as insane or as funny as I may seem on my blog. In fact, I'm kind of boring. Although I am wildly inconsistent, so sometimes that unintentionally comes across as insane or funny. If you don't find my blog funny, then I will be exactly as funny as I seem on my blog.

8. I may come up to you very excited to meet you and then not have a clue what to say. Feel free to step in and lead the conversation.

9. Guaranteed I will not recognize you or remember who you are for more than five minutes. I will have difficulty remembering your blog even if I read it every day. I may not remember Susan, and she will be my roommate.

10. If you are not going, I will miss you.

11. Basically, be prepared to see me acting like a complete (blushing) idiot—a completely happy (blushing) idiot.

Idea shamelessly stolen from Sparks and Butterflies. I would have stolen it from KC at Where's My Cape had I seen it there first.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The End of Animal Camp, in Pictures. And Words. (And Parenthetical Asides.)

See how happy Animal Camp made my kids?

This was during yesterday's animal races. ("You're a frog. Ready, set, go!") I think they might have been birds here. The races took place shortly after Animal Cracker Charades. In that game, you pick an animal cracker and act it out. Jack's giraffe was surprisingly illustrative.

The last day of Animal Camp today was exciting. We had mules! And Guest Teachers! And the return of this guy:

We did have to do a little quick renaming of our camp after Sam shared that he would like to take over teaching duties in the afternoon to engage in some planetary science.

Guess which item on that list didn't get done. Yep, my house is still a sty. Which, coincidentally, fits in with Animal Camp. (See how it all came full circle there?)

The thing that made today Animal Camp was that we went to the C & O Canal and rode on a boat pulled by mules. (We had more fun than it looks like Quinn is having in this photo.)

Although if you take such a boat ride with three children, it might behoove you to check ahead of time to see how long said boat ride is. This particular no-bathroom, must-stay-in-your-seat boat ride was nearly an hour. I almost jumped off the boat when the guide told us that. (FUN FACT: In the 1800s, both Sam and Jack would have been considered adults on the canal and would have had to work as adults. Why have I not created such a situation in my home?)

Here are the mules pulling the boat. Apparently it's not as cruel as it seems. The tour guide told us that most of us could pull the boat as well. (Maybe some short adults that were in my group? Eh? Eh?)

Jack was enamored with the mule. Here he is heading toward the back of the mule when the guy in charge expressly told him to stay in front. Not to worry though, Jack was only trying to stick his head through part of the bridle. (I think we're lucky no one was kicked. By a mule or a park ranger.)

I think the mule was concerned by Quinn's duck outfit.

A dog tried to eat Quinn's face while we were waiting in line for this ice cream. (Maybe he thought Q was a duck.) The dog's people didn't so much as acknowledge that it happened. I was irked. If your dog growls and lunges at a 3-year-old who didn't so much as touch the dog, you at least say, "I'm sorry." Right?

Then, on the way home, we discovered that it is Free Slurpee Day at 7-11. Quinn chose the nastiest green Slurpee you could possibly imagine. But he loved it.

(Don't worry, we're nearing the end of the day. Whew! We packed in a lot today.)

It was finally Sam's turn to teach. He wanted to read us some books about space.

Shortly after I took this photo, he turned the book around, curled up in the chair, and started mumbling the words to himself. Not unexpectedly, Jack and Quinn's attention wandered.

They were excited for the art project though. Although Sam took a little too long explaining it.

He rallied though, and got everyone working together to create a scale model of the solar system. I helped too, as I was one of the students. (Or as Sam called me, "My biggest child." Thanks, Sam.)

And here is teacher Sam standing in front of his final project.

And then I bribed my kids into silence by letting them watch TV. Thus ends Animal Nature Camp.

(Next week: Sports Camp!)