Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cousin J!

Because I'm loser-ing it up here this week, I'm going to confess that I forgot my nephew's birthday.

I know. I'm awesome. Cringe.

My apologies to his moms, who already know what a dipshit I am.

If it makes you feel any better, here's a photo of Quinn feverishly working on J's birthday picture.


You guys know I love you and your kids more than anything. Happy Birthday to your beautiful J.

Much love from the lamest sister/sister-in-law/aunt who ever existed.

J, your gift is in the mail. I love you! Happy 3rd Birthday!

I suck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Snippets

It's funny (in a "she may have serious mental health problems" kind of way) that my blog is so up and down. If you see one or two of those posts like yesterday's or the day before's, you will almost certainly find a much happier one following almost immediately on their heels.

Maybe it's not that I'm crazy, but maybe life is cyclical like that.

Or maybe I'm just crazy. Quinn has to get it from somewhere.

So, without further ado, my Subsequently Happy Post:

*****

Jack did so much better at school that I can't quite contain my happiness. He lasted all day. At pick up, both his teacher and his aide told me what a good day he had. Then the principal left me a message on my cell phone tonight to let me know how well he did.

I feel really lucky to have what seems to be really good staff around Jack.

*****

Oddly though, his lunch came home entirely untouched. And there was a little cake in there. He never would have passed that up.

His lunchbox didn't come home yesterday, so I'm wondering if he got sent to lunch with yesterday's empty or much-depleted lunchbox. I can't quite figure it out, and he's absolutely no help. He agreed with everything I asked him.

All I know is that he inhaled the pizza I pulled out of the fridge for him after school.

*****

Unfortunately, because Jack has been identified as a "runner," he is not trusted to go on the regular bus yet. This means that instead of walking a block from my house at 3:15 every day to wait for the bus, now I have to drive near the school, park, then walk to the kindergarten pick-up zone by 3 p.m. every day.

Happily, the school says they're willing to revisit the issue before too long.

Interestingly, I think the bus is the place he would be happiest. I know they are afraid that he would get off at the wrong stop, but Sam would be sitting right next to him.

("I want to sit next to Jack on the bus every day," Sam said before school started. "Jack, you can decide where on the bus we sit, okay?")

*****

Jack had his first occupational therapy session this evening. And because professionals are apparently not allowed to work with my kids unless they are the cutest women to walk the earth, Jack's OT is a beautiful young woman with light red hair, gorgeous green eyes, and a nose ring.

I looooooooooooovvveee her.

She seems to be on top of her game too. I really liked the information she gave me, how she worked with Jack, and what she noticed about him.

*****

Sam was less thrilled that Jack got to go into the fairy tale land of OT. He just got a peek at one of the therapy rooms from the waiting area, but that was enough for him. He is intensely jealous.

In a pique of frustration he muttered, "I wish I was...autism."

Hilarious. I was speechless.

*****

A literal and metaphorical snapshot of my kids:


Jack has his fingers in his ears to block out the tantrum that is occurring adjacent to him. Sam is absolutely devastated that he is not autistic and therefore does not get occupational therapy Jack gets something he doesn't get. Quinn seizes the opportunity to suck up by chiming in, "I'm happy! See? I'm happy!"

*****

Welcome to Stimeyland. It might be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DCMM: The Clothes That Shall Not Be Worn

My oldest son started attending preschool six years ago. He's now in first grade. I have two other sons following in his footsteps. Over the course of those six years, there are many things I have had to send in to school.

I've sent lunches, backpacks, boxes of tissues, snacks, crayons, and pretty much any other consumable a child under the age of seven could possibly need. Including about seven thousand glue sticks.

But to me, the saddest thing I get asked to send in is the bag of Clothes That Shall Not Be Worn.

These are the "in case of emergency" clothes that you have to send in on the first day of class. On that day, the Ziploc bags full of labeled clothes will be put in a box in the classroom. And there they will sit. Until, on the last day of school, they are sent home again—usually unworn.

Deciding which clothes to doom to The Bag is a tough decision. They obviously must be from the B-team, because you don't want to waste A-list clothing. But they cannot be so downtrodden that your child is embarrassed in the event that he has to wear them.

Because, frankly, if your child is forced to wear something from The Bag, an already embarrassing event has likely occurred and you don't want to compound it by forcing your child to wear the neon purple logo-tee and orange shorts you sent in.

But these clothes cannot be super nice, because there is nothing sadder than getting The Bag back to find that your child has outgrown the adorable jeans and polo shirt Grandma sent them for Christmas.

Weather is a concern too. I'm sure some parents remember to change the clothes from shorts to pants and back to shorts as the seasons change, but I am not one of these people. I tend to go for a loose sweatpant/t-shirt combo.

But those sweatpants? They are almost always the reject sweatpants whose pockets pop inside out no matter what I do. That's sure-fire B-team clothing right there.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

See photos of Jean's kids in their A-list clothing at Stimeyland. And go to her decluttering blog, The Junk Pyramid, to see the B-team clothes that get thrown out.

Not the First Day I Was Hoping For

Yeah, I was worried about Jack's first day of school. I was worried that he'd be nervous. I'd was worried that he wouldn't listen to his teacher. I was even a little worried that he'd tell his class, "Shut up, you fucking monkeys."

But I still thought he'd make it through the day.

Originally I didn't want to send him to kindergarten this year. I was afraid he wouldn't be able to hack it. I wondered if he shouldn't be placed in a general education classroom, even with supports.

I tortured myself over whether to send him or keep him in preschool for an extra year. Virtually every single person in a position of authority told me he'd do great. Virtually every single person in a position of authority questioned me for questioning whether to send him. Virtually every single person in a position of authority didn't understand why I said he needed as many supports as he did. Virtually every single person in a position of authority has been telling me I'm wrong about how much help he needs.

But they convinced me—or I convinced myself—that he would be okay. That he was ready for kindergarten. That he would struggle, but that he wouldn't fail.

I expected to walk to the bus stop today at 3:15 and pick Jack and Sam up. I expected to not get much information about what their days were like. I expected to hear yes and no answers to my eager questions as they ate the chocolate chip cookies Quinn and I made for them.

I didn't expect to get a phone call from the principal forty-five minutes before school dismissed.

"Jack's had ups and downs today," he said, in the kindest of tones. "He's taking a little break with me in the office right now, but he's had some problems. He also tried to run a couple of times. We're a little worried about putting him on the bus."

He continued; he told me that everything was fine. He told me that there are always a couple of runners. He told me Jack was okay. He suggested that I come get Jack and that we could talk while I was there. He was beyond nice.

I was beyond upset. I was completely heartbroken.

Jack was fine when I picked him up. The principal suggested that we switch things around and leave him in his general ed class in the morning and put him in the special education learning center in the afternoon. He gave me tissues to wipe my tears.

*****

I know this was only the first day and that all kids have trouble adjusting to kindergarten. I know that it will probably get easier for him. I know that it will probably get easier for me.

I know that even if it turns out that he can't do it, that we will find somewhere for him to be. We'll find a program that will work for Jack, be it the one he's in now or a different one.

I know the principal and the staff at his school are willing to work with us and are nicer than I could have hoped for.

I know it's a long road and that this is just one step.

But it's just that this is my Jack. And I'm protective of my Jack. And I'm a little raw today.

Cross your fingers (and toes) for him for tomorrow.

*****

Thank you so much to all of you who extended your kindness to me this afternoon. Thank you to H & S, whom I abandoned at playgroup. Thank you to L, for your kind phone call and email. Thank you to my sister, for your thoughtful virtual flowers. Thank you to Alex, for not listening to me when I said you didn't have to come home early. Thank you to everyone who tweeted back to me. Thank you in advance to you, my community, for the support I know you will give me. All of you mean a lot.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Have Butterflies

I've been sort of avoiding worrying about my guys starting school tomorrow. And by "my guys," I mostly mean Jack. I'm sure we'll have some bumps with Sam, but I'm not too worried.

I'm scared shitless about Jack.

Today was their school's open house. All the kids found out who their teachers are and visited their classrooms. Everyone was so nice. Both Sam and Jack's teachers are so adorable it almost hurts, and Jack's support team came by to introduce themselves and to ask how they can best help him.

Jack did great, although he got a little overwhelmed after being dragged around the chaotic school for a couple hours. And he panicked a little bit when he thought I was leaving him.

But he says he's excited for tomorrow. And he explored his classroom and knows his teacher's name, and knows what bus he's supposed to come home on.


He says when he sees kids in his class that he'll say, "Hi. I'm Jack. Wanna play?"

And his support team knows he's sneaky and a wanderer. I made sure to tell them that because I don't want to find the kid wandering around on the main street as I drive by.

I packed their backpacks and lunches tonight. I've never done this before, but I wrote cheesy notes and put them on sticky notes in their lunch boxes.

Tomorrow morning we'll all get in the car and drive the mile and a half to school. I'll help Jack to his line-up area and Alex will walk Sam and his giant bags of school supplies to his line-up area. I'll take photos and watch Jack and Sam disappear into the school year.

And then I'll go home and wait. My heart will be vulnerable.

And I'll hope that when the bus comes at 3:30, that both Sam and Jack will be on it. And that they'll be happy. And that they'll want to go back for 179 more days.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sins of My Children

I think it was about 5:10 when I called Alex at work.

"Alex, I just wanted to let you know that I'm not making dinner for your kids. If you'd like them to eat, I suggest that you come home early enough to make something for them."

I was at the end of my rope. I'd been whined at, ignored by, and forced to clean their hidden, petrified, under-bed banana peels one too many times. I was done for the day.

Some of their sins were due to exhaustion. Quinn fell down and hurt himself then alternated between yelling at me and hugging me for 15 minutes. ("You're mean; I don't like you! I love you! You're the meanest!" [kiss!])

Some of their sins were due to them (at least one of them) being six and apparently going through practice for puberty. Sam is working on a mean scowl and cannot go along with any plan without throwing a fit in the process. And God forbid I change the plan in the middle. That is grounds for up to an hour of tantrums. (If any of you have six-year-olds, I'd like to hear from you that they're all kind of jerks. Please? I'm really hoping it's a phase that he'll grow out of. Immediately.)

Some of their sins I can blame on myself and the movie Madagascar. Just like the lemur king, Jack has starting saying, "Shut up." Today (in front of company), he followed "shut up" with: "you fucking monkey." Nice. I did some work convincing him that, "Shush, you silly monkey," was a better solution. I hope it sticks.

Some of their sins were cumulative. I did a deep clean of their room today. You should be able to see some of the fruits of my labor over the next few days at The Junk Pyramid. The more annoyed I am, the more things I get rid of, it seems. I say this was cumulative, because I hadn't made Sam crawl under the bed to clean it out for quite some time. All I'm going to say is, if you think American cheese is gross when it's fresh, wait until it's been under a bed for a couple of weeks.

I think it's about time for school to start. We're all going a little stir crazy. Fortunately, I only have to wait three more days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DCMM: Summer, I Hardly Knew Thee...

Way back in April, I wrote about how I knew summer was coming (ice cream trucks). Since I wrote that post, school ended, children graduated from various classes, four weeks of preschool camp flashed by, I semi-successfully ran my own camp at my house, went to BlogHer, and went to Wisconsin for two weeks with my family.

That all happened in, like, a second.

And now I think summer is coming to a close. Following are some of the clues that have led me to that conclusion.

* Whereas in May I loved our sand table, now I loathe it. I can't wait to put it back in the garage. In May, June, and July, you could hear me chastising my children to "Keep the sand in the sand table! Don't pour that sand out! STOP that IMMEDIATELY! WE'RE GOING INSIDE IF YOU DON'T STOP THAT RIGHT! NOW!" Now I secretly hope that they'll toss bucketfuls of sand on the ground because once that sand is gone, I can put the sand table away. After all, it's too late in the season to start a new bag.

* It's not always warm enough anymore to pull out the wading pool. Which I am also itching to put back in the garage, by the way. (I crave change.)

* We ran out of mosquito repellent.

* Even though I am still probably the only person who wears long pants every day, I feel slightly less ridiculous for doing so. (I wear long pants most days due to psoriasis and pudgy thighs.)

* I'm starting to think I might have delayed too long in using the gift certificate for a pedicure my husband bought for me for Mothers Day. September is still sandal weather, right?

* I'm soon going to have to face the fact that my children don't have any shoes other than sandals that fit their feet.

* I had to go to two stores,  with two lists totaling 39 items, and spend $80 yesterday to buy school supplies (Clorox wipes? Really?) so my two older sons can attend public school.

* I can almost taste the time to myself that I'm going to get once my kids are in school again.

* I'm feeling like a jerk for telling what feels like dozens of people that we would totally hang out and have a ton of playdates and wading pool parties this summer. Sorry guys. But I swear, we'll have a ton of fall playdates. (Hangs head in shame.)

* I have found myself saying, "Summer went by really fast this year!" over and over.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Feel free to browse through Jean's archives at Stimeyland to see what she really spent her summer doing.

I'm Not Sure How This Turned Into a Review Blog

We found mecca today. And its name is Kidville.


As far as I can tell, Kidville seems to be a New York company that just opened a location near me. They have classes, birthday party space, open gym, a hair salon, a store, and Kidville University, which they call a "pre-school alternative program."

I would never have known much about Kidville were it not for a newsletter I get that tells me all about events in the area. A few weeks ago they offered free tickets for a two-hour open house extravaganza there. Knowing that every single class, gym, haircut, or "University" semester would be too expensive for me ever to actually pay for, I decided to take advantage of their free day. That free day was today.

I feel a little bad (but not too bad) going for free when I have no intention of ever setting foot there again. (Sam begs to differ.) I will pay them back by telling all y'all, if you live in the area and have a bunch of disposable income, you should definitely go there.

It was awesome. Probably mostly because it was all brand new. We spent most of our time in the two gym rooms. Every bit of equipment was sparkly clean and bright. There were no rips, weird stains, or bored employees (yet). I kind of wanted to move in, and not just because the walls were padded. Although, frankly, padded walls? Sign me up. Especially if they're orange, like at Kidville.


We didn't take advantage of the art rooms, because my kids are more fartsy, less artsy, but we did take advantage of the snack they provided.


Altogether, it was one of the least stressful outings with my three kids that I've had in a long time. Even though the place was packed, it was big enough, there was enough to keep the munchkins busy, and each room only had one exit, so it was easy to keep tabs on everyone. And miraculously, all of my kids behaved extremely well.

The only time it got a little dicey was when Jack tried to evict a little girl from the hiding place he wanted to nest in. ("How old is he?" the mom asked, a little snottily.) Being the oh-so-perceptive parent I am, I realized that he was getting a little overwhelmed.

Ya think?

So we left the gym area and moved to one of the art rooms, which was quieter and had blocks and baby toys. Sam and Jack built with blocks while Jack lazily spun the balls around a baby toy.

He mellowed out pretty fast, then we returned to the gym room. Because most people don't have the staying power for these places that Team Stimey has (we would have stayed all day if they would have let us), there was less commotion and it was easier to play.

Jack even burrowed into a foam tunnel with a little girl.

Sam was almost (but not quite) visibly grateful that I took him to Kidville. (This is rare. These days Sam often goes out of his way to seem ungrateful for everything.)

Quinn only screamed rudely at another child once.

Perfection.

End of unintentional commercial for Kidville.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Price of Literacy

This:

is what you have to buy if you want to send two children to the public school my sons attend.

We don't have any backpacks big enough for all that stuff.

I accept that I have a big ol' list of things to buy for my kids' school that I wouldn't anticipate having to supply (lunch bags, Ziploc bags, paper plates, composition notebooks), but some of the items were amusing to me:

* A pack of addition and subtraction flashcards. (Isn't this precisely what teachers are for?)
* Two bottles of hand sanitizer. (Isn't that what sinks are for?)
* Five portfolio folders with 2 pockets inside ("2 blue, 2 yellow, and 1 additional color").
* One ruler with inches and centimeters. (What? As opposed to hectares?)
* Two large boxes of tissues.

That's all from the first grade supply list. Kindergartners only have to take in one large box of tissues. And no hand sanitizer. Apparently, they don't have to be as clean. They also don't have to supply the Clorox wipes that the first graders have to.

Oddly, even though the kindergartners don't have to take in paper plates, they have to take in snack to share. The first graders take in paper plates, but no snack.

I would have been slightly less irritated by this list if Target hadn't been out of crayons. And pencils.

Fortunately I happened to have the 22 required glue sticks at home because Target was out of those too. (I got a little overexcited about the cheap glue last year during school supply shopping.)

Nonetheless, I had to drag my now-irritated group of young men to Office Depot to spend $30 on top of the $50 I'd spent at Target. (Hand sanitizer is surprisingly expensive.)

All I have to say is that after sending 200 lunch-size brown paper bags into that school, I'd better see a whole hell of a lot of paper bag puppets coming home.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vacationing by the Numbers

Days away from home: 15

Number of false starts from our house: 1 (We had to return to the house for Alex to pick tomatoes from our garden to take with us. Yes. He's just that crazy.)

Total miles driven: 2840.1

Hours it took us to drive the first 93 miles: 4 1/4 (How much Alex's blood pressure rose during that time? A lot.)

Number of children's books on tape I checked out from the library: 8

Number of children's books on tape that went unused after we discovered that our car's tape deck is jammed: 8

Number of times we watched Madagascar on the car DVD player: 10...maybe 11. Or 12.

Number of movies Alex and I saw in a real-live movie theater: 2 (The Dark Knight and Pineapple Express. Both highly (no pun intended) recommended. Thanks for the babysitting, Grandma.)

Traumatic head injuries: 1 (Suffered by Jack after he spun off of one of those metal merry-go-rounds they have at playgrounds. No worries. He's fine. And because the blood was on the back of his head, he couldn't see it, and therefore didn't freak out.)

Number of fish caught: <10

Bunches of seaweed caught: >30

Number of boats we saw on the lake near our cabin: Many

Number of non-motorized boats we saw on the lake, with the exception of our literally leaky rowboat: 1 (And that was our canoe. Fortunately not leaky.)

Before we got into the canoe, I asked Alex what he thought was the likelihood that the five of us would capsize. His estimate: 35%

After we all got into the canoe, I asked him again. His estimate this time: 45%

Number of wild bald eagles that I saw: 3

Number of times Alex had to tell me I was embarrassing him in front of the eagle: 1 (I almost capsized the rowboat by running from a spider.)

Number of men overboard: 0 (Thank God.)

Number of women overboard: 0 (Also thank God.)

Number of watches destroyed: 2 (Both mine. Both succumbed to different ailments—only one of which was my stupidity.)

Number of times I was accused of being a lollygagger for trying to sleep in or take a nap: At least 20. (Fortunately these sorts of insults have little impact on my ability to sleep.)

Number of pillows reclaimed from prior vacations: 1 (Two years ago we spent a night with K & E, Alex's Big Brother/Big Sister, in his hometown. I accidentally left my pillow there. While visiting them this time, Alex mortified me by bringing it up. E was able to immediately locate the pillow and forced us to take it with us.)

Total number of photos taken: 1153 (Clearly I have a problem. I promise not to make you look at all of them. Many of them are of largely unidentifiable frogs. I need a better camera. And a better editorial sense, apparently.)

Number of diapers or pull ups Quinn used on vacation: 0 (He decided the first night away from home that he was no longer interested in wearing pull ups at night. In case you're keeping track, that means that all three of my children are completely potty trained. Woo to the hoo! Although, weirdly, Quinn refuses to put on a swimsuit without a swim diaper.)

Number of phone messages waiting for us at home: 12

Number of those phone messages that were from our security company because our house-sitters set off our alarm: 3 (Fortunately our cop house-sitter was able to talk down the police officers who arrived at our house to investigate.)

Number of seconds it took the kids to turn on the Xbox after we got home: 4

Number of days without internet access: 8 (Aaaaaahhhhhh!)

Number of posts in my reader after those 8 days: 522

Number of work emails in my inbox: 293 (Fortunately, I was able to immediately delete without reading about 200 of those. I'm not looking forward to the other 93 though.)

Number of times in the first two days of vacation in which Quinn chanted, "Home! Home! Home! Go home!": 4

Number of times on our last day before embarking on the drive back home that Quinn informed us that he wanted to go home: 8

Likelihood that Quinn is a homebody: 96%

Number of days it is going to take me to recover from 15 days of vacation: 16

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quinn in Maryland

Quinn was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2005 after six hours of active labor. He weighed...wait for it...9 lb, 11 oz. He was absolutely adorable. I thought I had the fingernail thing down by this time, but nope. I think it's just what you do the first time you cut a baby's fingernails: you take off the tip of one of their fingers. Alex had to change the diapers in the hospital because I was suffering after-effects from my epidural.

But all of that comes later.

I had some expectations for my third birth. It would be early. It would be fast. And then I would painlessly relax in the hospital for two days. None of this happened.

I mean, Quinn was early, but just not early enough. (He was also fast, but not as fast as I'd hoped.) He had some health issues that turned out to be nothing, but the doctors had considered inducing me early. So I had my hopes up for an 8-month pregnancy.

Fortunately, they didn't have to induce me, but that meant that I had to wait until I went into labor. If Alex and my mom thought I was surly the last time I was waiting to give birth, they were probably surprised to see the heights to which my surliness could rise.

Every morning when I came downstairs, my mom (who was nice enough to stay with us for a month to make sure she was there to take care of Sam and Jack when I went into labor) would ask, "Anything?"

Every morning I wanted to kill her.

In retrospect, I feel kinda bad about that. She was pretty heroic to put up with me as long as she did. Especially considering the surly.

I started having contractions at 7 a.m. one morning, three days before my due date. They became regular by 9, and by 10 a.m. Alex and I were on our way to the hospital.

After we checked in in the lobby, we got lost trying to find the labor and delivery department. We stood by an out of order elevator, me having strong contractions every three minutes, reading a sign that told us to use some other elevator, but that didn't give directions to the other elevator.

We stopped someone dressed in scrubs to ask them how to get there. She totally shrugged us off, which I thought was kind of uncool. Because, really, if you're only going to answer one question from a stranger in your life, it should probably be the one asked by the obviously super pregnant, sweaty lady asking for directions to the labor and delivery department.

We finally found the place—on our own, thank you very much— and were assigned to a room that was larger than my living room and kitchen combined. We had decided against a doula this time because we figured we knew the drill. And we did. But by now the drill totally sucked rocks.

The doctor came to check on me at noon. I expected her to tell me that I would have a baby any minute. She told me she would come back to check on me in an hour. That totally bummed me out. I didn't want to have contractions for another hour. Or maybe more.

So I asked for an epidural, and the nurses got really excited for me. I'm not sure what the anesthesiologist did the first time, but he gave me a mild dose because he expected me to give birth soon. I didn't.

But I did have almost immediate relief. I finally noticed that my nurse had a crazy strong Boston accent and that she herself was substantially pregnant. She told us later (after Quinn was born) that this was the first birth she had been in charge of all by herself. I think because it was her first, we were her only patients that day. She stayed in our room almost the whole time we were there. She was nice. I liked her.

Before too long, though, my contractions started getting stronger again and the anesthesiologist had to come back and up my dose. I immediately went numb from the waist down. And then the nurse needed me to turn onto my side so Quinn could get more oxygen. And I couldn't move. Alex and this poor pregnant nurse had to heave my giant, pregnant body onto its side. It was extremely funny, but also terribly humiliating. (But more funny.)

Quinn was having trouble getting enough oxygen, so they gave me a mask and were carefully monitoring him. I was aware that the nurse and Alex were concerned because of the extreme care they were taking to remain expressionless while they watched the monitors that were just out of my sight.

I remember the doctor coming in at some point saying that the baby had to come out now. She was concerned that my epidural would make it so that I couldn't push. She was ready to pull out a vacuum to get the little guy out.

Fortunately I was given the exact right amount of epidural and was able to push without feeling any pain. (And the numbness went away almost immediately after birth. I could walk within minutes.)

Shortly thereafter, at 2:26 p.m., we had Quinn. The cord was wrapped around his neck, so they took him to the other side of the room to take care of him before I could see him. There was all kinds of murmuring about his intense blond hair and his size. When I finally saw him, I understood. His hair was white. When they weighed him and told me he was almost ten pounds, I actually said, "You're joking."

Even though I'd wanted to name a child Quinn since before I'd met Alex, I was a little nervous about actually using the name. But when I saw my little blond, blue-eyed baby, I knew it was right.

For my first two births, I made Alex stay overnights and sleep on the tiny, uncomfortable chairs they have for partners in the recovery rooms. This time, I not only didn't insist that Alex sleep at the hospital, I encouraged him to go home so I wouldn't have to throw things at him to stop him from snoring when I was up in the middle of the night taking care of the new little guy.

The only hitch with this birth (other than the oxygen and the cord thing) was that the day after I gave birth, I got a terrible headache. I was fine when I was lying down, but I absolutely could not sit up or stand for more than a couple of minutes.

This was apparently caused by my epidural. To treat this they did a blood patch, which was apparently interesting enough that three interns came to watch. What they did was draw blood from my arm and then insert it into my epidural spot. Kinda freaky.

It was worth it though. Because this time, I got this:


...this:


...and this:



Plus this:


There they are: my little family.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jack in Alaska

Jack was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2003 after seven hours of labor. He weighed 8 lb, 5 oz. As with Sam, he was also very cute. And as with Sam, I almost immediately made him bleed by trying to cut his finger nails. Diaper changes were no longer such a big deal, but I felt it was Alex's duty as the non-birthing partner to change the hospital diapers.

Again, I get ahead of myself.

Jack's due date was on a Wednesday. Because Sam had been a week early, I sort of expected Jack to be just as early. So every day that I got closer to my due date, I got a little bit surlier. Ask Alex or my mom. They were both there.

We went out to brunch on Sunday, which was Mothers Day. At 11 p.m. that night I felt my first contraction. Everyone else was already asleep, and I was feeling okay so I wandered around our apartment taking care of last minute details. I wrote a note to my mom to let her know what to do with Sam the next day. I packed some last minute things for the hospital. (Like a camera this time.)

By 2 a.m. I decided I needed help and woke Alex up. (He sure does get a lot of sleep when I'm in labor.) We called our doula at 3 a.m. Other than the fact that we woke her up in the middle of the night, she had a really easy job with us because we only had three more hours to go.

Plus she had broken her collarbone recently and so couldn't do massages with both hands. Interestingly, she had never given birth to a child herself. In case you were wondering, there were three doulas in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the time. As with all my births though, the people and events around me were exactly what I needed at the time. I can't ask for more than that.

We finally woke my mom up to tell her we were leaving and took off for the hospital at 4:50 in the morning, driving over every pothole Alex could find.

We checked in, and a doctor that was not mine came to check on me. (The doctor that was not mine was substantially less strange than my own doctor, so I was not disturbed.) He broke my water with that little crochet-hook thingy to prevent, I assume, what had befallen my poor doula the last time I gave birth.

While all this was going on, Alex was sitting across the room, filling out some forms. Forms that were apparently not specially produced for the maternity ward. Reading from the form, he asked, "Is there any chance you might be pregnant?"

Thank God for the 11th hour laugh. And it didn't even wreck anybody's clothes this time.

At this point, I was 8 to 9 cm dilated. Four pushes later at 6:04 a.m., I had a baby Jack.

I said hello to him, but he was cold so the nurses and Alex took him to the nursery for an hour.

And then the doula and I made awkward conversation for an hour. But I do have to give her credit for not abandoning me. It was a little anticlimactic. And lonely.

Alex's faux paus for this birth happened during our rehash later that morning. "I can't believe how easy that was," he said.

Dumbass. All you women out there—and probably most of the men—know that what he should have said is, "I can't believe how much easier that was." But because he is such a super supporter during labor, I forgave him.

FUN FACT: The pain of contractions is less easily forgotten the second time.

Although I have to say, I recovered really quickly. I changed out of my hospital clothes the first day and spent much of my time in a chair, as opposed to the hospital bed. One nurse came in on my second day at the hospital, saw me dressed in street clothes, sitting in a chair in the corner, and had to ask, "Are you the patient?"

But no matter how good I felt, I was staying my maximum allowed time. Because at home? There were two kids instead of one. And dishes. And vacuuming. And pets. And laundry. And you get the point. I treat trips to the hospital to give birth as a little bit of a spa vacation. You know, after the blood and the gore and the gut-wrenching pain.

I felt very lucky though because this time, not only did I get this:


I got this:


And a few weeks later, I got this:


Poor Jack didn't stand a chance with us. When he was three months old, we strapped him in his car seat and drove from Fairbanks to Oakland and then across the country to Maryland. It was a looong time after that before he could sit in his car seat without crying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sam in California

Sam was born in Oakland, California, (Go, Raaaaaaaiders!) in 2001 after 22 hours of labor. He weighed 9 lb, 2 oz. He was very cute. Almost immediately I made him bleed trying to cut his fingernails. And Alex and I almost got divorced while trying to deal with his first diaper change.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I woke up at 3:45 in the morning seven days before my due date. I was having minor contractions about five minutes apart. I let Alex sleep for a while before waking him up to tell him that we were actually, for real, having a baby.

We waited until 6 a.m. to call our doula, Erin. She asked us some questions, called in sick to work, and came over. She worked at a pizza place, which was awesome, because after Sam was born and she came by to visit, she brought pizza. Although it's a bit awkward to accept pizza from someone you've recently expelled many bodily fluids all over. More on that later.

Erin's big thing about advancing labor was that I should go on walks. Fortunately by the time she made me go on a walk, it was not the middle of the night or cold and rainy. But, to be honest, I may not have noticed any of those things. Because, guess what? Contractions hurt.

And when I have contractions I start four to five minutes apart. There is no every ten to 15 minutes for me.

So we wandered around our Oakland neighborhood. I remember three things from the two walks Erin made me go on:

1. There was a group of men sitting on a stoop across from the liquor store. They saw us walking for three minutes, stopping for two and quickly figured out what we were doing. I can still hear them good-naturedly shouting, "Walking the baby out, huh?"

2. Erin picked a large flower off of a tree and handed it to me. "Imagine your cervix opening like this flower," she said. When we got home, she put it in a bowl of water where it sat until after we brought Sam home.

3. We went on a second walk, just Erin and I, while Alex took a nap. Yes, a nap. Anywho. Yet another Oaklander wandering the streets saw me and said, "You're going to have that baby any day now!" Erin yelled back, "Probably today!" (She was wrong. Technically he was born the next day.)

When we got home, I threw up. And then spent a largely sucky afternoon in and out of the shower, on and off the birthing ball, and doing embarrassing naked things in front of Alex and a virtual stranger. Erin kept telling me to check to see how dilated I was. I kept telling her I had no idea how to do that.

I also kept waiting for her to tell me that it was time to go to the hospital. Over the phone my doctor had told me that there wasn't any big rush to get me there. I think it was 6 or 7 p.m. when I finally asked, "So when do you think we should go to the hospital?"

"When you get nervous and insist that it's time we go the hospital," Erin said. Well, I think that's what she said. I don't exactly remember because I was nervous and was thinking that we really needed to get to the hospital.

I vaguely remember Alex taking a wrong turn on the way to the hospital and me having to correct him. I don't remember much about getting to my room, but once I got there, I very clearly remember that we had the most awesome room in the entire Bay Area. It had a balcony and a jacuzzi bathtub. But the jacuzzi spouts on the bathtub didn't work. You can't have everything, right?

I think I might have been 7 centimeters dilated by the time I got there, although at this point I don't remember exactly. I do remember some guy coming to take blood from me, which seemed a little bit like adding insult to injury, and then I took to the bathtub.

I'm sure there was a lot going on around me, but I was in my own place and I was staying there. We had decided to try to do the birth naturally, but were prepared to be flexible if I just couldn't hack it. The nice thing about having Erin there was that the possibility of an epidural was never even brought up.

I don't think it's coincidence that the only time I had an epidural was the only time I didn't have a doula.

Finally the nurse and Erin both insisted that I get out of the tub because they didn't want me to overheat. Shortly thereafter they had me start pushing. It was not like I'd expected. I had assumed the doctor would be there and do her, you know, baby catching thing.

But it was just me and some assorted nurses, Alex, and Erin. Pushing was great for the first few minutes. It was fabulous to finally get to take some action. After the first couple of pushes, Erin hunkered down to see if she could see anything happening.

At that very moment, my water broke.

And by "broke," I mean, "exploded all over Erin."

She came up absolutely drenched. It was quite possibly the funniest and most disgusting thing I had ever seen happen all at once. I laughed hysterically for five minutes. That poor woman. She had to borrow scrubs from a nurse.

A scant 22 hours after my first contraction, 52 minutes after I started pushing, and probably five minutes after a doctor arrived, Sam was born. His tiny ears were the first thing I noticed about him. He was perfect. It was 1:38 in the morning.

I remember looking at my brand new 9-pounder and saying, "He's so tiny." Every medical professional in the room said, "Um. No, he's not." I maintain to this day that he was very tiny. You know, compared to, say, a Thanksgiving turkey.

I also have a very vivid (and much less cute) memory of the doctor showing me the other thing I delivered that day, which was my placenta.

For a first birth, for any birth, it was a good experience. I blocked out the pain of contractions almost immediately. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I felt great. I remembered my friend C telling me how giving birth made her proud of the female body and the powerful things it can do. I felt that way too.

Alex and I got through that first birth—and that first diaper change— together. He was a champ through the whole thing, except for when he took his nap, although I guess that was okay.

He also went home at lunch time the day Sam was born to pick up some things, like the camera we forgot. On his way back, he stopped for barbecue. For himself. That was his biggest mistake of this birth. Forget a push present, I would have settled for some beef with a side of soggy bread.

But I did get this:


And later, this:


What I wrote in Sam's baby book on the "Your Arrival" page, subheading "Distinguishing characteristics": Every single thing about you made you special, unique, and beautiful. You didn't seem to have any weird newborn blemishes, marks, or molding. Except your left nostril was squished mostly flat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Who Doesn't Love a Birth Story?!*

So here's something to bring joy to some of you and to scare others of you away for a few days. I've decided to write out my birth stories and post them here. We'll get started on that tomorrow. For today, some stats:

All three of my births have been very different.

* All three births took place in a hospital.
* None of my births were overseen by my primary OB.
* Two of my births were natural, one was with an epidural.
* Two of my births involved doulas.
* One doula had my water break all over her.
* That was the only time my water broke naturally.
* My combined laboring time for all three births was 34 hours.
* Two-thirds of that laboring time was for my first child.
* Each of my births took place in a different state.
* None of my births were overly dramatic with the exception of the fact they produced living, breathing, actual human beings.
* Each birth was exactly as it was supposed to be.


* Kelley doesn't. Sorry, Kelley.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Go Ahead, Make My Day

I was given this wonderful award by The Perks of Being Me. I feel honored that I am one of five blogs that make her day.


I am supposed to pass this award on to five more bloggers whom I like and find bold, edgy, modern, informative, unique, and/or humorous. Here are my picks. If you're below, don't feel obligated to participate in passing it on, but just know that I love your blog.

1. ShallowGal. Or as she is known these days, Le ShallowGal. You may be watching me get steadily weirder and more stalker-ish about her, but oh my God, this woman is hilarious. Please take it upon yourself to check her out. If you can hold it together without laughing loudly while reading her footnotes, you have a problem.

2. KC at Where's My Cape? I like funny bloggers. And KC is hilarious. And smart. And she has a new blog all about Mothers in Medicine. Because she's a mother. And a doctor. And did I mention that she's hilarious?

3. Speaking of new blogs, I want to mention WhyMommy, not for her best known blog, but for her new collaborative blog, Mothers With Cancer. At BlogHer I watched her pass out business card after business card for this blog. And with each one she said, "I hope you never need this, but you might know someone who does." I'm lucky to know this woman.

4. This one is a blog that I just discovered. You all have probably known about Problem Girl forever, and were like, What the hell is wrong with Stimey that she doesn't know Problem Girl? I'm still catching up on her, poking through her archives and whatnot, but I'm finding her very compelling.

5. I also love Sue at My Party of 6, and not just because she is one kid more outnumbered than me. She's nice and funny, and I think she lives somewhere near me, so I'm going to start trying to stalk her in real life before too long.

And if I weren't in a rowboat on a lake in Wisconsin being forced to row to reach the comfort of a cabin and dinner right now, the five of you would be making my day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stimey in Pictures

In the days before I left on vacation, I was getting so desperate to find things to write about that I started stealing meme ideas for which I wasn't even tagged. I stole this idea from Whisks & Needles.

What you're supposed to do is go to Flickr and in the search box type in your answers to the 12 questions listed below. Using only the pictures on the first page of results, pick an image and copy the URL into the Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker.


Questions:
1. What is your first name? Stimey

2. What is your favorite food? French fries

3. What high school did you go to? Olympus

4. What is your favorite color? Orange

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Viggo

6. What is your favorite drink? Diet Coke

7. What is your dream vacation? Warm and quiet

8. What is your favorite dessert? Ice cream

9. What did you want to be when you grew up? Actress

10. What do you love most in life? My kids

11. What is one word that describes you? Caring

12. What is your Flickr name? Stimeyland

I only used Flickr photos available to borrow under Creative Commons (except for the last one, which is of me). Here are the photo credits:

1. Stimey, 2. Squirrel With French Fry, 3. Olympus XA TestRoll 7, 4. Orange Dunes, 5. Calm moment, 6. Diet Coke, 7. When the light comes in, 8. Cinnamon Ice Cream & Raspberry Sorbet, 9. Headshot: Rebecca De Mornay, Actress, 10. Me & my kids, 11. Care Bear Countdown, 12. Jean of Stimeyland braves the Slide

Formal Apology

A short break from our regularly scheduled posts...

I would like to put forth to our fabulous hosts who let us use their lakeside cottage unsupervised all week, that I am sorry. Wisconsin is, indeed, a land that has internet.

But for once, I don't feel the need to put my life on the page. I'm enjoying our vacation for what it is, a joyful time with my family. I'll be back to torture you with more Stimey-style minutiae soon.

If you want to know what we've been doing, look at the photo in my header. Add two years to that. Although Sam is still wearing the same swimsuit. That's where we are.

Now we're off for another few days to a land that really has no internet: northern Wisconsin.

(How long before Wisconsin really hates me? 'Cause I loooooove it.)

...and now back to our previously scheduled program, already in progress.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Quinn the Scout

A scene from the not-too-distant past:

Alex has been in the bathroom (door open; no dirty minds, please) with the water running for a long time. I assume he's shaving, but am curious, nonetheless. I ask, "What are you doing in there?"

Alex: "I'm doing whatever I want to do in there."

[Well, I never!]

A few minutes later I'm still curious and figure I should send a spy. I choose Quinn.

"Quinn, go ask daddy what he's doing in the bathroom." Of course, we're all about 4 feet from the bathroom this whole time.

Quinn runs off and I hear him repeat 4 or 5 times, "Dad, what are you doing?"

I can almost hear the wheels in Alex's head turning as he's trying to deny me my curiosity, but not ignore his youngest child. Finally he says, "What I want."

So Quinn returns and, like the world's worst scout, reports the news about what Alex is doing:

"Wumpy wump."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Because I Haven't Over-Shared Enough Already

Months, literally months, ago Whirlwind tagged me for a meme.

I've decided to finally get my act together and post my responses. I'm supposed to share five random or weird facts about me and then share the five top places on my "want to see or want to see again" list.

Be warned: It is quite possible that I am recycling random facts about myself from prior memes, because I can't remember my plans for the day without a list, let alone something I wrote months ago.

Random facts about me:

1. When I was in college, I acted in a student film. My costar in the film was Dylan Kussman who was the jerky redhead in Dead Poets Society. He was nice in person. And I got to grift him in the movie film.

2. Alex and I have to have separate comforters because I'm such a cover hog. Frankly, I'm lucky he lets me sleep in the same bed as him. Because we bought those comforters at different times, they don't match. They're not even the same color.

3. Eating bagels gives me hiccups.

4. This is going to sound strange, especially considering I'm the person who invited 20 biting ants into her home, but I spent a substantial portion of my childhood terrified of ants. Like, couldn't sleep because I was afraid of being eaten alive by ants. My older sister had been assigned to read a short story, which I now recognize as Leningen Versus the Ants. The story is all about a plantation owner doing battle against vicious army ants. I read the story after my sister did. For months I couldn't sleep unless I could see the carpet in the hallway to make sure it was clear of the ants that were surely coming for me.

5. At BlogHer, lots of people asked me where "Stimey" comes from and whether it is my last name. I think it's possible I addressed this a year or so ago when I had six readers, all of whom already knew the origin of Stimey. Perhaps it will be more useful now. I have the kind of name that does not lend itself to nicknames, so I never had one. When I was in grad school, a friend of mine was appalled that I'd never had a nickname, so he decided he would call me Stimey. And a name was born.

Places I want to see or want to see again:

1. Mount Everest. This armchair mountainclimber would love to get her eyes on this mountain.

2. Antarctica. What I wouldn't give to go there for a couple of weeks.

3. New Zealand. I want to know if it is as gorgeous and idyllic as it seems.

4. Alaska. There were lots of cool places I didn't see when I lived in Fairbanks for a year. I'd like to visit Alaska, tourist-style.

5. There are only a few states I haven't been to. I think they are Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota. I'd like to get those under my belt.

I was tagged for another meme a while back that I planned to do now as well, but I have lost the link and totally forgotten where it came from. Many, many apologies to whomever tagged me.

And there you have it. End over-sharing. (Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Dog in the Stroller

While in the post office the other day, there was a woman behind us in line with a dog. This dog, a pomeranian, was encased in a pink stroller.

Okay. First? Dogs can walk.

Although I guess dogs aren't allowed to walk into a bank. But apparently if your dog's feet aren't touching the ground, you're allowed to take your dog wherever you want.

Jack and Quinn were thrilled to see this little dog. They were quiet and gentle, but they got right up close to the stroller. The woman asked them to step away because the dog was nervous, which was a perfectly reasonable request, so I kept them away from the stroller.

Except when we were leaving, the woman held the door for us and Jack bolted ahead and crouched in front of the stroller to say hi to the dog again. The dog started barking and Jack backed off.

I was about to apologize when the woman started to lecture Jack. He was backed up against a wall and she was leaning into him saying, "You were smiling. Why would you do that?"

I assume she was trying to communicate that a dog might see a smile and interpret it as an enemy baring his teeth, but this is not the way to give this information to someone else's kid, let alone my Jack.

By this point, he had his hand over his eyes.

"Ma'am," I interjected, "I'm not going to let you discipline my child."

"But he needs to learn this," she insisted.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. But you cannot discipline my child," I repeated.

But she continued. "Why would you smile?"

Oh. My. God. She wouldn't stop. Every sentence I said, she clipped off and came back to the same point that she seemed to feel was imperative for him to learn. Right now. From her.

"Ma'am. He is autistic. Please stop."

I had to tell her several times to stop. She finally spit out, "Be that way!" and stalked off.

In all my years of parenting, in all my terrible public moments, I have never had another person get that in the face of one of my children. I absolutely accept that he had been asked not to get near the dog and shouldn't have. But it is not her place to discipline my child, especially if he is visibly upset by it and I am telling her to stop.

I feel bad that I invoked Jack's autism to make her stop, because his autism was really not the point. I think any kid would have covered his face. But Jack is absolutely not prepared to take in information in the way she was throwing it at him.

I do feel happy that I was extremely courteous. I'm glad that I kept my cool, even when the woman with the dog didn't. Because I'm likely to fly off the handle when upset. I'm pretty amazed and proud that I didn't throw the f-word at her.

Jack seemed to be okay after I chatted with him a little about what had happened. Quinn, however, was really mad that we couldn't bring the cute dog home with us.

But really, a dog-napping would have been a terribly bad idea at that point.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What's Going to Happen

Okay, people. I'm going on vacation to a land with no internet. Otherwise known as Wisconsin.

Now, don't get any ideas about breaking into my home and stealing my piles of papers and stacks of children's books because my house sitter is a cop. (For real. How cool is that?)

I just wanted to give you fair warning that at some point in the near future I will be burdening you with extremely long posts about DRIVING to WISCONSIN with THREE KIDS and HOW ALEX AND I ARE THE DUMBEST PEOPLE KNOWN TO HUMANKIND and whatnot.

But until then, I offer you these dregs from my "drafts" folder. As well as some memes that I've been tagged for, like, months ago and never did. And some posts that I wrote special for you.

This is going to be some good reading, folks.

'Cause you know if those drafts didn't make it past my Stimeyland editorial staff when I wrote it, it's probably really good now. (Didn't you know that, like fine wine, mediocre writing improves with age?)

I'll also be going through all my BlogHer business cards when I get back from vacation. I absolutely can't do it before I leave, because I know I'll add subscriptions and I'm already overwhelmed by the thought of how many posts will be in my Google Reader when I get home. I may have to do some skimming. So don't do anything too important while I'm gone!

Cheers, and happy reading!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Corn Dog, Corn Dog, Where Aaaaaarrrreee You?

Sam and Quinn met corn dogs today.

Yeah, Stimeyland is a land without corn dogs. I personally love corn dogs, but the little dudes have always refused to eat them, so, like, three years ago, I stopped offering them.

Today we went to the Maryland Science Center with lovely Vickie of La Vida Cochinillo and her adorable son, Teo. A lot of fun and wonderful things happened there, but I'm going to focus on the corn dogs.

Vickie bought Teo a corn dog for lunch. And some watermelon. I fed my poor kids the same horrible, boring sandwiches I feed them every day. So they did what any ill-mannered children would do. They begged for food.

Jack ate an entire order of fries that Vickie was kind enough to bring to my kids. Sam asked for a piece of watermelon and then proceeded to eat ten pieces of watermelon. And Quinn and Sam both begged for bite after bite after bite of Teo's corndog.

In desperation to let the poor kid eat his own lunch already, I promised them we'd go to the grocery store and get corn dogs for dinner. So we went to the grocery store.

Have you ever tried to find corn dogs at the grocery store? Did you find them? Where the hell are they? Because I couldn't find any corn dogs.

I wandered the store with my three kids stuffed into the cart and a bag of ice underneath the cart rapidly melting. In my head I was thinking about how to avert a freakout when the corn dogs I'd promised turned out not to exist.

We looked in the frozen section, the butcher section, and the hot dog section. These all seem like places where corn dogs might reside. But no.

I ended up telling them we would have pizza for dinner, and eat corn dogs on the vacation we're leaving for tomorrow.

This has rapidly become the high point of said vacation. At this point, we could see Bigfoot, but the vacation would be a complete waste if we don't find a Hot Dog on a Stick.

Wish us luck.

See them doing science?


*****

I am also thrilled to tell you that the one of my humor heroes, Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah, awarded me a Perfect Post award for my post on How to Save Up For Your Vacation.

Thank you, Sarah.

For more Perfect Posts, visit Kimberly or Lindsay.