Friday, October 31, 2008

DCMM: A Long Trip For a Short Marriage?

This past week I endured 4 a.m. wakeup calls, grumpy children, and some serious plane vomiting to drag my family of five from DC to San Francisco for my sister's wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, attended by my sister's two children and eight other guests. The couple is very much in love...and the marriage may well end next Tuesday.

Last Tuesday my sister married her same-sex partner. Next Tuesday is the day California votes on Proposition 8. Prop 8 is a proposed amendment to the California constitution that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, something that is currently allowed in California.

I don't know how that will turn out; it is definitely one of the highest profile propositions I've heard about. All I know for sure is that I spent an afternoon at San Francisco's City Hall on Tuesday, and all I saw was a lot of happy families.

I wondered if my kids would ask why Aunt Ann and Aunt Stephanie were getting married. My oldest had asked a couple of years ago about why they were two girls, and we had another brief chat before we left for California, but none of my three kids even batted an eye.

There was a lot of sitting around and waiting while my sister and her partner got their license, took photographs, and then had their ceremony, so we got to watch a lot of other couples and families, some of whom were getting married in the rotunda, some of whom were taking photos, one of which had brought their dogs to be part of their ceremony.

In fact, my kids had more questions about the dogs and their flamboyant, sparkly neckwear, than they did about why those two men were kissing.

It was a fun place to hang out for a few hours.

It was also really wonderful to see my sister get to marry her partner. They had their own private ceremony nearly three years ago, but it meant a lot to them to be able to do it legally. They weren't making a political statement either. They were making a family.

Legally their marriage may only last a few more days. I hope not, but it might. I do know that their marriage will last forever where it really matters—in their hearts and family.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean also writes at Stimeyland and The Junk Pyramid.

Monday, October 27, 2008

San Francisco or Bust

Alternatively titled: "Team Stimey Doesn't Do Anything Quietly. Or Without Puking."

My whole family is here in San Francisco for my sister's wedding to her partner on Tuesday. We are so happy to be here and have already had a chance to catch up with many good friends in the day and a half that we have been here. We're only here for a couple days, so our schedule is packed full of social visits.

I'm sure you'll hear more about that in the future (although I'm not guaranteeing anything), but right now I really have to get something off my chest. That something is cross-country travel with Team Stimey.

Prepare yourself.

Things that happened before we boarded our flight out of Baltimore at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday:

• Alex dropped me, the little dudes, and a hell of a lot of bags and car seats at the terminal while he parked the car. Sam almost immediately puked into a garbage can.

• While crossing the road, our luggage fell off the cart. Luggage and kids were everywhere. No one helped. I mentally cursed out Alex. (Totally unjustifiably, but it made me feel better.)

• We checked in and were standing in the security line, a little worried about the time, when a guy in an airport shirt walked up to us and says, "These kids can't fly..." at which point I just about started sobbing, when the guy finished up with, "without these," and handed us coloring books and crayons. We laughed and thanked him, but I'm still a little bitter about the psychological damage.

• Because Quinn was still wearing his pajamas (and mad about it), Alex pulled out his clothes to take him to the bathroom to change him. Quinn whipped off his clothes in about 14 seconds flat and exposed his bare ass to our fellow Baltimore to Cleveland traveling companions.

• Sam was still not feeling well, so Alex took him to the bathroom. Unable to abandon Quinn and our carry-ons, I watched helplessly as Jack started to puke bile all over the floor of the gate area. I semi-futilely tried to catch the bile in a handful of wipes as our fellow passengers started trying to book flights to Florida instead of Cleveland.

• I fed the kids Doritos for breakfast.

Things that happened on our first flight:

Plane karma hit Alex hard. I'll set the scene for you:

I don't know when the vomiting started because I was busy chatting with Quinn about Thomas the Tank Engine, but start it did. At some point, Alex ran out of airsickness bags and had to borrow one of mine. Both Sam and Jack puked. I think Jack may only have puked once, but Sam puked over and over.

And Sam's vomit looked suspiciously like Doritos.

I got a good look at it, because a fair amount hit the backpack and the sandal-clad foot of the lady sitting behind him. At first she didn't know what had happened. I think she thought Sam spilled a drink or something. But sometime after Alex frantically made me give him my wipes to start cleaning her up, she realized what had really transpired.

I have to say, she was remarkably cool about the whole thing.

After the cleanup, I noticed that she still had a little chunk on her foot, but I didn't know what to say. When is "Excuse me, but some of my son's Doritos and innards are still on your foot," appropriate?

And then the layover...

We were walking up the jetway when Sam started clutching at his mouth. I missed the drama because I was dragging Jack, Quinn, and our luggage as I chased Alex through the terminal. I lost sight of him and was wondering what to do when he came bursting out of the men's bathroom and said, "Go buy Sam a shirt!"

So then I dragged Jack, Quinn, and our luggage to a little shop where I bought Sam an expensive brown tee-shirt that said something about rock music. Quinn took advantage of me by grabbing a king-size Twix bar and asking if he could have it. Seriously, I probably would have bought him an iPod at that point.

Jack, Quinn, our luggage, and I walked back to the bathroom to find Sam and Alex. Quinn held up his Twix bar to every passerby he could find, asking, "Is this your favorite?"

Things that happened on our second, last, and very long flight to San Francisco:

• Sam puked.

• Jack puked.

• Quinn and I played and napped.

• Quinn did spend several minutes crying and beating the shit out of me when I was trying to force him to go to sleep.

• Once Quinn did fall asleep, I tried to move over to the window seat to give the woman next to me some space. Unfortunately the kid seated behind us was vigorously kicking the seat over and over. I did not feel I had a leg to stand on to ask his mother to control him, so I spent Quinn's nap shifting from one seat to another.

• When Quinn woke up and I put him back in his seat, he noticed the kicking. And he did not care for it. "He's kicking my seat!" he exclaimed several times. "EXCUSE ME! You're kicking my seat!" he also exclaimed.

• Sam threw up again.

San Francisco. Oh, thank God, San Francisco. Or Millbrae. That's Close Enough.

We finally landed, got off the plane, and miraculously bumped into my mom (whose plane landed a half hour before ours) at baggage claim.

Then we drove 0.1 miles from the airport to Millbrae, where our moderately priced (but very nice) hotel is located. According to the hotel's sign, they are the closest lodging and parking to the airport.

I believe them because this is the view from our room window:

The great thing about being so close to the airport is that on Wednesday morning, we can look out our window, see if our plane is at the gate, and then saunter on over to board. The other great thing about it is that I can make fun of Alex for the rest of his life about booking this hotel.

And that is the end of the first half of the first day of our trip to California.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wall of Fame, Take Two

Alternately titled: "For Reals This Time"

So we went back to the school today for the Wall of Fame ceremony. And this time, we weren't the only ones there.

Mmmmmm! Re-heated, day-old pizza!

Per usual, I made an ass out of myself by doing things like taking photos of photos. The photos the school took for the Wall are so indicative of Sam and Jack's personalities.

Sam = kind of anxious, eager to please,
smiling his "I'm supposed to be smiling" smile.

Jack = Casual, relaxed, and quirky.

Quinn was not overly impressed with the ceremony. But last year he was so disruptive. This time, he was absolutely silent and compliant. I love VTech.

Ceremony Scheremony

It was really cool to see my two guys get their certificates. Jack behaved so well and sat so quietly during the ceremony. And then he did some crazy, gyrating handshake with the principal when his name was called. I think he was excited.

Both guys had fun at the pizza party that ensued. I got many kudos for my two smart little boys. I think they're pretty cool too.

True to form, after eating pizza, Jack chose to come home with me and Sam went back to class without even saying goodbye.

They're such good teammates, but they are so different. All I know is that I'm lucky to have these guys.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wall of Dumb = Me

I had my day planned around three things:

1) I wanted to make some good headway in cleaning my house. Mission accomplished.

2) We had speech therapy for Jack at 5:30. Mission accomplished.

3) Jack and Sam had a Wall of Fame ceremony at 1:30. I'm a dumbass.

The Wall of Fame at our school honors all the kids who are in the top 10% of their grade. Last year I joked that Sam was one of the best kids in his class at coloring, but it turns out that coloring does not enter into the equation, because Jack made the Wall of Fame this month, and he does not much care to color. Honestly, I don't think he sees the point.

But because Jack is reading at level 9, which they tell me is where he should be when he leaves first grade, and he scored well on the tests they gave to all the kindergarteners, he is a Wall of Famer.

Sam is a Wall of Famer because he is a fucking superstar. He is really good at school.

Last year all of the Wall of Fame ceremonies, where parents bring pizzas to share with the other parents, were on Thursdays. I knew the ceremony was this week, so I prepped Quinn, ordered a pizza, went to pick it up, drove to the school, and...saw that no one else was there.

I called the school from the car and it turns out that the ceremony is tomorrow. It took everything I had to not scarf that pizza down right then and there.

So tomorrow I'll have to plan my day again around the Wall of Fame. I'm obviously pretty excited and proud. Clearly, however, Sam and Jack didn't get their smarts (or ability to read things like dates) from me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good on So Many Levels

I used to think this was the best kiddie tee-shirt ever:

Spelling deeds, done dirt cheap.

But now I think I found one that's even better:

Toga! Toga!

In other news, Quinn is willing to wear the long-sleeved shirts I bought him yesterday to replace his stained yellow short-sleeved shirts.

Edited to add: I bought the black tee-shirt at Target.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comments Welcome

Blog comments. If you're anything like me you love them. They're feedback, they're advice, they're signs of the community I am a part of.

Some days, on some posts, they make me so grateful for all of you.

My way of responding to comments has evolved since I started this blog. At first I would respond in the comments section. But then I realized that most of you probably don't check back. So now if I get a comment that asks a question, gives me something to riff off of, or is something that gives me something to say, then I will try to email the commenter with a response.

Some of your email addresses come through with your comments. Some of you I track down through your blogs and find your email addresses. Some of you I cannot find an email address for to save my life. (You people either get answered in the comments section or in my heart.)

Know that if you don't hear back from me, it's not because I didn't read your comment. It's not because I didn't think your comment was important. Depending on my mood and the subject matter, your comments have often made me laugh out loud or burst into tears. Sometimes I just hold comments for myself.

There are some comments that mean a lot to me, that speak to me, that give me something to think about. I may not ever respond to these comments, but at any given time I have several old comments in my inbox that I reread several times before I delete them.

Sometimes I keep these comments because they make me laugh. Usually I keep them because they give me helpful advice and moral support that I really need more than once.

I don't respond to all my comments, nor do I comment on every blog I visit (and I try to visit the blogs of all my commenters), but I value every single comment and reader I get here, and I just want to let you (Yes. You.) know how much your support means to me.

Thank you.


Today went much better than yesterday. Jack wasn't even remotely upset about going to school. According to his communication notebook, he still had a pretty rough day, but we're both hanging in there. Again: thank you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Is Likely To Be Quite a Scene

I've been waiting for this day, this morning, for a long time. I haven't been waiting in an anticipatory I-can't-wait sort of way, but rather more of a the-other-shoe-has-to-drop-sometime sort of way.

See, even though Jack has been struggling, struggling, struggling at school, and often says he doesn't like school, he has remained pretty compliant about going. This morning that changed. He was in a bad mood to begin with and balked at the clothes on his shelf and the breakfast in his bowl.

But the worst he saved for leaving the house. He started sobbing and refused to walk. True to form, he couldn't articulate why he didn't want to go to school. When I asked, all he could come up with was, "You!" But it was clear he didn't want to go.

Usually when I drop the guys off at school, I pull up, push the button to open the van door and they get out. Today I didn't even bother trying that. When I pulled up, I put the car in park, put on the emergency brake, got out of the car and walked around to the side door. The principal happened to be standing there.

"This is likely to be quite a scene," I said.

I dragged Jack out of the car, flashing back to the solid month or two last year that Jack screamed and cried and went limp twice a day when I dropped him off at his two different schools. The principal offered to take Jack to his class, and I drove off, my free hand at my temples.

The rest of Jack's morning was hard. Both the principal and his aide took him on separate walks to calm him down. He still had a hard time. When I stopped by to drop off his backpack, which I'd forgotten to pass to the principal, the school secretary, who I've barely spoken to, but who apparently knows Jack well, told me to hide in the office while she took the pack to Jack—something that doesn't usually happen. (Trust me, I'm a backpack forgetter.) The assistant principal stopped me to tell me that he'd had a rough morning. The principal stopped me to offer words of encouragement.

Here's my thing: if it's this hard for me to hear about it, how hard must it be for Jack?

Friday, October 17, 2008

What I Imagined Parenting in DC To Be Like

Five and half years ago when I found out that we were going to be moving to the DC area for Alex's job, I was kinda sad. In my mind DC was gray and dirty and unfriendly. And on the East Coast, which is obviously NOT the Left Coast, therefore inherently inferior.

(I still believe that last part, by the way.)

Even though I was worried about what DC might be like, I was always happy that "there'll be a lot to do with my kids at least." Because the Smithsonian! And the seat of government! And Metro trains!

But then I moved here and realized that there is no way in hell I am willing to take three kids on the metro and into the city by myself. I realized that if I did such a thing, I would probably lose at least one of my kids (Jack), maybe two (Jack and Quinn). I would also listen to a lot of whining (Sam...okay, and me.) Plus I would have to carry someone a long distance (Quinn).

But, check it: I have one kid now. Well, one kid and a nasty cell phone habit, but on any given day, it is likely that I will have one (or less) kid until 3:15. So when my ambitious friend Miss L suggested we take advantage of my reduced numbers of children yesterday and go to the Air and Space Museum, I uncharacteristically said yes.

Throwing aside any vestiges of dignity, we blew our "local mom" disguises by taking photos on the Metro. I think if you do that, it doesn't matter where you live, you automatically qualify as "tourist mom."

Turns out I was right about the gray and dirty though.

We had a lot of fun, although it turns out that three-year-olds are apparently incapable of using their legs to walk. I don't know what museum is right outside the Metro stop, but next time we're going to that one. It seems like it took us six years to get the museum and even then we had to bribe the munchkins with overpriced ice cream.

Science, schmience. This was Quinn's high point.

You may notice I haven't mentioned the actual substance of the museum. That's because although I remember being there, I don't remember much actual learning or noticing of exhibits going on. I do know that we visited way more than one bathroom and that we bought a fair amount of expensive food and that the word "behind" said over and over to Quinn on the ride home made him laugh hysterically, but I don't remember a hell of a lot interest in such things as "exhibits."

But it was good. I feel a little bad that I've given up entirely on teaching culture to my older children, but after this mostly successful trip to The Big City, Quinn is going to start experiencing a crapload of culture.

Obi Wan Quinnobi, patrolling the Mall.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This Post Embiggens Us All

So there is a word that I use on a fairly regular basis. I don't use it more only because it is a made up word and many people won't know what I'm saying. I would like to change that so I can feel free to use it whenever I want.

The word is "cromulent."

If you are a Simpsons fan, you know what I am talking about. I will use it to semi-ironically mean that something is acceptable.

As in, "This is a perfectly cromulent blog post."

Now that you know what I mean by it, I will feel free to add it to my blog-cabulary.*

Consider yourself notified.

* Also a perfectly cromulent word.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Year of the IEP: Meeting One

It looks like we're going to be attending several IEP meetings this school year.

Basically at today's meeting, we didn't get what we wanted most, which is a one to one aide for Jack. But we get another shot at it because we're also asking for more speech and occupational therapy. So they're reviewing our independent evaluations and we will have another IEP meeting to determine if he gets those services.

They are bringing in some other people to consult with for ideas of how to help Jack, which is great. And maybe by the time the next meeting rolls around, Jack will have improved enough to not need a one to one aide. I don't think that will happen, but if it does, great. If it doesn't, and we still think he needs one to one support, I think we're going to take our lawyer.

So while they didn't really say yes to anything, they also didn't close any doors. Yet. But this meeting was still valuable. I learned a lot about what Jack's team thinks about him. I learned who the players are and what their arguments against us are. I also learned that we're probably going to have to take it to the next level if we want that individual aide.

There's a lot more running through my head right now, and a lot more nuance that happened at the meeting, but there's my in-a-nutshell summary for all you nice people who have been wondering. Thank you for your thoughts and support!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting a Glimpse

I always envisioned myself as one of those volunteer in the classroom parents. But last year, Sam's kindergarten teacher clearly did not want classroom volunteers (or at least not me), because she put me off every time I asked. This year, I haven't gotten around to talking to Sam's teacher about it, and I figure that walking into Jack's classroom would be somewhat of a disaster.

Now I'm one of the parents who rarely sets foot in the school during school hours. Unless someone tells me, or it's in Jack's communication notebook, I don't know what happens during the day.

So I'm always excited to go to open house days at the school. Yesterday was one of those days.

I went by Jack's class first, where it was snack time. I lurked in the back until Jack noticed me. When he saw me, his face burst into a giant smile and he shouted, "Hi, Mom!" Then he said, "Hey, everybody! That's my mom!" And then chaos ensued.

On a totally unrelated note, I'm sure teachers love open house day.

I got to meet all of Jack's table-mates, one of whom lives around the corner from us, but who doesn't really know us because her parents both work full time and she's not home when we're out and about. I think I freaked her out by telling her what her little brother's name is. Then another little girl at the table asked if I knew what her little sister's name was. And then more chaos ensued.

We discussed snack thievery, because Jack does that. And we discussed snack giving, which I tried to encourage.

Jack in the midst of snack thievery.

And then Jack showed me his cubby.

And then the little girl from around the corner followed Jack around the room giving him hugs. And then I adopted her and we lived happily ever after.

Shortly after that, we went to art class where the kids learned about texture and made rubbings of bumpy things.

I was a little nervous about how Jack would react to my leaving, but I explained that I was leaving to go see Sam's class and I would see him when he got off the bus, and he was completely fine.

I was so proud.

I headed down to Sam's classroom, where he is apparently the king of the first grade. All the kids were loving on him and saying, "You're my best friend," and whatnot. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he'd brought cupcakes for his birthday.

There was one little girl who kept hugging Sam and saying, "He's the best boy." I remember being that girl. When I was in first grade my friends and I made lists of the boys we would chase at recess. Evidently Sam is on this girl's list.

By the way, the only other parent there was the parent of the kid who is allergic to the cupckes I brought. Hi there, I'm the mom who's excluding your child! Nice to meet you!

I guess something magical happens between kindergarten and first grade, because after the kindergartners had their snack, they milled aimlessly and asked classroom visitors bizarre questions about their relatives. The first graders all went to the book case, picked books, and started reading.

I used my time to poke inside Sam's desk, which brought back very strong memories of the desks I had in elementary school.

Then Sam's class went to art. Which I was totally happy about because the art room was a thousand degrees and I had to wear my sweatshirt because I had a big stain on my shirt that I had only noticed after I left the house.

But I did get to see Sam put crazy hair on his scary mask.

It was really cool to see Jack and Sam doing what they do all day. And seeing Jack was sort of encouraging. It's obvious that he's not like the other kids, but it's also obvious that he has some similarities.

Maybe I'll pursue that volunteering thing after all.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

All Spider-Man, All the Time

Sam's birthday party day brought a happy almost-seven-year-old...

...dramatic feats of architecture...

...a great deal of chaos (and swordplay)...

...precision artwork by Jack...

...some substantial over-eating...

...a bigger smile on Sam than I have seen in a while...

...politics (and Grandma)...


...the realization that it is "Spider-Man," not "Spiderman." ('Cause it's not his last name)...

...and all around awesomeness.


See more Spiderman Spider-Man over on my review site where I review Kideo personalized DVDs.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gifted and Talented

My school district has this great program that puts on workshops over the course of the year about things ranging from special education to healthy meals to how to "take the hassle out of homework." I've been to them before, but the other night I went to one about the district's gifted and talented program.

I wasn't sure that I really wanted to be in a room full of people who self-identified as parents of gifted and talented children, but who the hell am I to throw stones, because I was sitting in the front row.

I'm hoping not to push my kids too hard, but I have a feeling that some—or all—of them might be the smartest kids in the school district.

Mainly I wanted a general overview of the program so I know what to expect and what my kids' options are if they do well in school and want to go into one of the many programs my school district offers. We're pretty lucky in that sense.

But it was kinda funny.

Turns out that in Montgomery County, Maryland, it's not enough to be gifted and talented. There is an even better program for elementary school children: Highly Gifted.

I'm hoping that by the time Quinn gets to elementary school that they have a "My Kid Looks Down on Your Measly Highly Gifted Kid, Because My Kid Is Superlatively Gifted" program. Because Quinn will want to make friends with those kids so they can do his homework for him.

The program was actually really informative. Mostly I wanted to know in what grade these programs started. And what exactly is this IB program that my babysitters were part of that helped them get into such great colleges?

(Answers: All students are tested at the end of 2nd grade, and I'm still not quite sure, but here.)

I also wanted to know if my county had a "twice exceptional" program for special ed children, and what that might be, how many kids it involves, and if the district recognizes that there are very smart special education children out there.

When I asked, the guy started throwing acronyms at me, like GTLD.

I wish someone had told the district that those letters were already taken, because all I could think was why do gay, lesbian, and transgender children have their very own gifted and talented program. And did the guy misunderstand my question?

And then I realized it stood for "Gifted and Talented Learning Disabled." (I figured that out just now when I Googled the program.) In fact, there is a program.

My favorite part of the evening, however, came during the "Parental Support" slide on the power point. Along with such helpful suggestions such as following your children's interests and enter competitions, was: "Do Stuff."

That's totally the kind of specific advice I came to get.

I don't know if my kids will be "gifted and talented" (and I use those quotes completely consciously), but nonetheless, I think I'm going to do some stuff with them tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What To Be?

A summary of the (long) conversation in our car yesterday concerning what my children want to be when they grow up:

Sam, after nailing down exactly how old you have to be to be president (and being unable to contain his surprise that I was, in fact, that age, but NOT president), proclaimed that he wanted to be president when he grows up.

Hear that? My baby's going to be president!

Jack briefly considered being president as well. But then Sam spoke some wise words ("No one tells you want you can be. They don't decide for you. You decide."), and Jack decided he wants to be a chameleon.

Quinn is pretty sure he wants to be a train, but he can't decide if he's going to be Percy or Murdoch. What he is sure of is that whichever one he chooses not to be, his non-presidential mom will have to be.

To sum up:
Sam: President of these United States
Jack: A lizard that can change colors at will.
Quinn: Something even more insane than what Jack came up with.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

DCMM: A Burden to His Brothers?

When you have an autistic child, as I do, you hear lots of unsolicited opinions and advice from friends and strangers alike.  Most of it is well-meaning, so even if I don't agree with what someone says, I try to make something good out of it.

Sometimes that means I get to give someone some positive information about autism. Sometimes it means that I give the comment some thought and clarify what I think, if only to myself.

Still, sometimes it's hard to hear what people say. A few days ago someone was talking to me about my three sons and made the comment that in some ways Jack is a burden on his two brothers.

My first reaction was to inwardly cringe. Even though she meant that my other two sons have to work harder to get attention or that they copy some of the negative behaviors they see from Jack, my autistic child, it hurt that anyone would consider him to be a burden. He's beautiful, sweet, smart, loved, and wanted in every way.

When I thought about it more, I realized that having a brother with special needs definitely has an impact on my other sons' lives. But I think that most of these impacts will end up being benefits—especially in the long run.

I think one of the biggest benefits of having an autistic brother is that my other children will grow up around people with disabilities. I hope they will grow up without fear of people who are different than them. I hope they will grow up with compassion and empathy for all people.

When my kids play their hand-held electronic games in the waiting room at my oldest's karate class, typical children peek over their shoulder. When they play them in the waiting room at Jack's speech therapy, kids with Down syndrome peer at the games.  I like that. I appreciate that my children will see all of these kids as people with similar interests.

I know that some people would look at the extra help my other sons have to give Jack, and I know some people will see it as a burden. When Jack's older brother walks him from the car to his kindergarten classroom in the morning so he doesn't wander off, it's not a burden. It's a lesson in looking out for other people. When Jack's younger brother shouts, "Jack's running away," and chases after him, I see the same thing. I see how it makes them feel important and gives them some easy positive responsibility.

Sure, Jack's brothers have to sit around and wait while Jack has therapy appointments. But Jack sits around while his big brother takes karate. Jack's brothers are learning that different people do different things. And that's okay. In fact, my oldest son is even intensely jealous of Jack's occupational therapy.
I think having a brother with autism will help them grow up to be kind. It will teach them about acceptance. It will give them a different perspective on the world.

Having a brother with autism will also show them that autistic people can be just like them. I watch my three little dudes run around and play and dance and bond and I realize that no one who is that much a part of your team, who has so much loyalty and love for you, who is so happy to be with you, can be a burden.

I know that having an autistic child has changed me for the better. Jack has given me a deeper understanding of disability and a greater capacity for love of differences in people. He has helped me look at the world in a different way and increased my tolerance of others. Now when I see a misbehaving or differently acting child, I don't automatically think they're badly behaved. I consider that there might be something deeper at play. I recognize that there are deeply feeling and thinking people with disabilities, not just people with disabilities.

If Jack has given this to me in my 30s, imagine what he can give to his brothers, who have known him all of their lives. It's an incredible thought to me. And something that I can't believe will ever be a burden to them.

I think a burden implies that you want to put something down. There is no way on Earth that I want to put Jack down. And neither do his brothers.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Visit Jean's main blog, Stimeyland, to read more about the relationship between these three wonderful brothers.

Oh, My Day. Jeez. My Day.

Alternate Title: "Wherein Stimey Makes Her Life More Difficult Than it Has to Be. Per Usual." OR "Seriously, Who Is the Fucking Looney Taking Photos in the Apple Store?"

Also: "Post Thoughtfully Divided into Sections in Case You Hate Cats But Love Macs."

Are you guys the kind of people who have a list of things you have to schedule and then spread them out evenly throughout the week so you don't have some crazy psycho day where you only spend 45 minutes at home, 15 of which are spent in the bathroom yelling at your 3-year-old to "Poop! Poop already! Poop or I'll send the Constipation Monster to eat you in your sleep!"?*

'Cause I prefer the latter.

The part about the cats:

I started with routine vet appointments for my two cats. They were both lounging in my bedroom this morning, so I shut the door to keep them there, because the last thing I wanted to do at 9:15 was run around the house trying to find invisible cats.

But I couldn't put the cat carrier in the room with them, because then they would know something was up and then they would hide under the bed, and I'm too human-sized to squeeze under the bed. So I picked one up, carried her outside the bedroom, shut the door, and crammed her in the carrier. Then I ran back in to tackle the other cat who was just starting to realize that my plan was nefarious.

Then, because I was smashing them both into the same cat carrier, I had to open the door, whereupon the first cat tried to escape, giving the second cat a chance to get away. I managed to catch both of them, if by, "catch," you mean, "squished both of them to the ground with one hand each, thus ruling out the possibility of further constructive action."

Somehow I recovered from this rookie error of not using a small, bedless room to house the carrier and managed to squash both of them in. I picked up the carrier, and the handle popped off, dropping the now-traumatized kitties to the ground. Although really it's their own faults. If you've seen my giant cats in person, you understand how they might go over the weight capacity for a cat carrier handle.

Quinn and I got them to the vet where, in a fun turnaround, the vet tech had to pry them out of the cat carrier. After they were done, they had to endure the indignity of Quinn "keeping them warm" while I set up a second mortgage to pay for the appointment.

See the indignity?

Then, on the way out, their carrier nearly snapped in half, causing me to drop them again, but ending in my preventing the top from popping off, thus releasing two seriously pissed off cats into the wild.

The part about playgroup:

Then we headed to the playground for playgroup, where Surly McJerkerson spent the first twenty minutes or so refusing to acknowledge that it might be fun to look at other children. Oh, and he spent some more time berating me for not bringing him lunch or the correct type of cracker.

He donated the crackers I did bring to the squirrels. Which was actually his turning point, because when he saw a squirrel eating one of his crackers, he perked right up.

Well, that and the tennis rackets and balls Susan brought.

He's going pro after Christmas.

Then he remembered last time our playgroup met at this particular playground and two kids shared a baby swing. So he made every kid that was even close to willing share a swing with him.

Looks comfy, huh?

When he ran out of kids, other people had to cram their asses into baby whatever they could do to make him shut the hell in.

Looks even MORE comfy, huh?

I planned to take Quinn from playgroup to...

The part about the Apple Store

...the Apple Store after I bought him a Happy Meal for lunch. He started freaking out when I suggested that though. After I realized that I'd spent several minutes trying to convince my child to eat junk food when what he really wanted was a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread and organic chocolate milk, I made a quick stop at home to pick up a sandwich for him.

Then off to the computer store. But no! Quinn had to poop. So we had to stop at the closest bathroom, which happened to be in the back corner of a Toys R Us. So after I made him poop a little (Ooooh...spooky voice...ooooh....the Constipation Monster is coming...) we went to play with the trains for a millisecond, then got back in the car to drive to the Apple Store.

Whereas I thought we would be very early, we ended up being right on time for our appointment at the Genius Bar. My monitor had been acting up and because I didn't know if the problem was with the monitor or the computer, I took both.

The guy at the store told me my kid was a little big to be in the stroller.
I told him that he was too old and dusty too.

The geniuses were running behind, so we had to wait, but fortunately the Apple Store has kid workstations.

Shortly after this photo was taken, Quinn and I broke the store computer. Seriously. That thing froze up harder than the chicken I forgot to defrost for dinner. Then we walked away whistling casually.

Quinn then had a nice time trying to break a MacBook Air on which he was watching "the colors." Evidently Apple's marketing is working. Unfortunately, Quinn has no money.

The genius finally got to us and determined that there was not a problem at all with my machine. He thinks the problem was a bad connection. And he didn't charge me. Which...GREAT!...FREE! and FUCK!...NOT FIXED! and OH NO!...TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE ARE GONE!

Since I brought the computer home I haven't plugged it back in. I'm hoping the problem isn't the Bad Mojo at the House of Stimey.

The rest:

We hurried home. I made Quinn poop. (Don't make me call the Constipation Monster!) and then we went to the bus stop. Then we went to speech therapy. Then I bought the munchkins Happy Meals. (Good thing I didn't get one for Quinn earlier, huh?)

When we got home, I threw their food at them, turned on the TV, and ran to the living room for a 30 minute power nap before my PTA meeting.

I know. I'm a really good mom.

And then I ignored my job so I could write the longest post in the history of Stimeyland.

The End.

* Do I have to say it? I promise that I don't threaten Quinn with the Constipation Monster. I learned my lesson after the "Monster That Lives in the Toilet" story backfired on me.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Am I Mad? And a Housewife? Or a Cellar?

First, a question: Which of the following do you think applies to me?

Yep, I drink well with others. I'm more of a social, happy drinker than a bitter, solo drunk. Not to imply that if you drink alone you're bitter. Or a drunk. Oh, man, I just lost half of my readership didn't I?

It's just that if I were to drink alone, I'd be bitter because then I would have missed out on the lovely ladies from the DC Metro Moms Blog—and some friends—who turned out for a wine party given by the wonderful Nicole and Mad Housewife Cellars.

Do you see what was waiting for us when we showed up at Nicole's house?

I was excited to see Nicole.
I was also excited to see the the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here is rocket scientist Whymommy explaining to Sue from My Party of 6 what magnets would do to the sulfites in the wine and how the whoseemawhatsis would turn this way and then the whatsamathingy would rotate end to end and...

...I took photos and drank wine.

Apparently being a rocket scientist pays off, because Whymommy used her mojo to win the door prize:

My door prize was that I got to hang out with these cool ladies: Sue, me (but I always hang out with me), Linda, KC, Susan, Claire Jess, Leticia (thanks for the ride!), Diana, and Nicole.

Photo taken by MamaBird.
Doesn't she seem even more mysterious and alluring because
she's behind the scenes? Trust me, she's very alluring.
And mysterious.

I hope to see all of these fabulous women more often. Especially if it involves delicious wine.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Doing His Best Work

Grades in kindergarten are kind of silly. Even the school sort of acknowledges this, what with their star-smiley face-check mark grading system:

☆ = I did my best work.
☺ = I made some mistakes.
✓ = I did not do my best work.

Back when Sam was in kindergarten, lo these many months ago, grades really mattered to him. Even though we tried not to make a big deal out of them, Sam would get really upset if he didn't get stars.

No matter how silly stars versus smiley faces for coloring are, grades for Jack in kindergarten are not just silly, but entirely irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. At this point in time, Jack has the academic knowledge he needs. That will change, but for now I'm just concerned with his adapting to school and learning to do his work. I really couldn't care less if he colors in the lines.

But the school does, and up to this week, probably 95% of Jack's work has come home with a check mark on it. I didn't know if Jack cared and I was not sure if I should even bring it up to him because I didn't want to make him feel bad about it. That kid doesn't need any more pressure.

But we were in the car the other day and he started talking about stars and smiley faces. I asked him if he wanted smiley faces and stars and he said yes. I asked if anyone told him what he has to do to get stars and smiley faces and he said no.

So since then, we've been working with him a little harder on strategies for staying in the lines, and for focusing on his work, and giving his best effort. This week he's brought home papers featuring not only check marks and the occasional smiley face, but a fair number of stars as well.

I can't tell the difference between his check mark work and his star work. But I'm sure it has something to do with whether he's using his whole or half-ass while he's working on it. I appreciate that his teachers notice that.

Today he came home with a half-finished paper from school with a note to complete it. I spent some time pinning him to the couch with a lap desk. Then before he started coloring, he said, "I'll make a few mistakes and then I'll get a smiley face."

He colored part of it and said, "I made a few mistakes." And he gave himself a smiley face. Then he colored the rest of it. And gave himself a star.

I'm curious to see what the teacher will give him. But for now, there's not a check mark to be seen.