Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Tripwire Was Anti-Climactic

Some of you—and I'm looking at you here, Jen—have asked what happened with the tripwire. See, I forgot to tell you because the actual tripwire turned out to be way less interesting than Alex's response to Jack's initial query. But while I knew how it turned out, somehow I forgot that I don't actually have a Jack-cam running in the sidebar to alert you to his doings.

That might be extreme. Even for me.

So here's the end of the story. Well, to begin with, it turned out that Jack wasn't really trying to kill me. In fact, he even made a warning sign.

Because, while he IS a terrorist, he is a RESPONSIBLE terrorist.

Here is a photo of the actual jump rope tripwire:

Let's just pretend that Jack's face isn't some weird, horrible, Jacob's Ladder-type blurry and that I didn't have to Photoshop pants onto Quinn to hide his nakedness and the fact that he had his hand down his underpants.

I figured that someone should trip over the thing, so when I went to bed about 30 seconds before Alex, I turned out all the lights and hid in the hallway to survey the situation. I'm sorry to report that he didn't fall (see what I did there?) for it.

So, altogether, sort of a disappointing/no-catch trap.


Unless...that was the decoy tripwire and there is another one hidden elsewhere.


Really, you can never be too careful around these people.

Monday, December 28, 2009

I Think the Gerbils Are Pissed at Me

But first, this:

That there is gerbil photography at its finest. Or its Stimeyest. Whichever.

So, Heather, you should stop reading now. Your gerbils are fine and all, and Alex is being disciplined, but the following images may be disturbing to you.

Is she gone?

Okay, good.

I have strict rules against picking up the gerbils, but I'm not against petting them now and again. I do try to limit petting to short sessions and only one child at a time because I'm terrified of scaring them (the gerbils, not the children) into heart attacks, and I don't want to have to explain that to the gerbils' mom, Heather.

She's standing right behind me isn't she?


Anyway, I'm very caring to the gerbils and very concerned about their heart health, so don't think I condoned what happened shortly after this morning's gerbil feeding/paper towel tube giving/short petting session.

It all started after Sam petted a gerbil and then Jack wanted to and Alex said, "But his arms are too short." (They aren't, by the way.)

Hmmm...I wonder what Jack is so happy about here:

Maybe it's the same un-condoned activity that is happening here:

And don't for one second think that my paparazzi-like behavior implies approval of Alex's actions. Because it doesn't. Between shots I did a lot of jumping up and down and yelling, "Put him back, RIGHT NOW!!" Which, now that I come to think of it, was probably not very calming for the gerbils and their pea-sized hearts.

I'm guessing you all fall into two—no three—camps on this. Camp 1: No big deal. I'd take my gerbils out of their biosphere all the time. Camp 2: This is shockingly inappropriate treatment of gerbils. Camp 3: Heather.

Next—an elaboration of the situation:

A) Super fast, squirmy rodent. Think of his little heart and its tiny arrythmia.

B) I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that THIS IS NOT ME.

C) Joyous, but careless child, who is not even looking at the damn gerbil.

D) Predator.

E) Safety.

And now a completely discombobulated gerbil.

Gerbil says, "You guys are assholes."

You can come back now, Heather. I'm thinking about torturing the tadpoles next, so you can stick around for that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Jack comes out from his bedroom where he's supposed to be asleep.

Jack: "I need to make a tripwire."

Alex: "Okay. Where do you need to make it?"

Really, Alex? Of the dozens of possible responses to that statement, that's what you're going with?

Then, a few minutes later, Alex came in to see me and say, "Just to let you know, the children have set a tripwire to capture you." Then he wandered off with a shrug, remarking casually as he walked out of the room, "You should go check it out."

Like I'm falling for that.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you're having a lovely day. And I hope that even though I used my bad scanner, you can see that I chose a photo for our holiday card that includes three children in dirty shirts, one child who isn't looking at the camera, and one kid with a black eye.

It kind of seemed like us though.

Much love and happiness sent to you from Team Stimey today.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Semi-Long Post With Photographic Details of How We Spent the Day

Note: I'm kinda phoning this post in. Feel free to skip it if you're not my mom. It's like Christmas is making me soft or something.

Well, first, I took a nap at like, ten o'clock.

Then we went sledding. This next picture shows literally ALL of the sledding that we did.

We seem to have miscalculated the snow depth/child weight sledding differential.

But the slide still worked.

But then there was a lot of foot dragging and yelling and complaining about walking in the snow. Not by me this time. (It was Quinn.) For the record, we are a five-minute walk from the park. So it's not like we were walking the Iditarod or anything.

Then we made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Santa. And for us.

Jack licked the bowl I used to melt the butter in. That kid loves him some butter.

Then I took another nap.

And then a lot of time passed and we did some stuff and we ate dinner. Then Jack jumped up and moved the screen in front of the fireplace so Santa would be able to get through. And then Alex and I both died of cuteness right there.

I bribed the children into sitting in front of the tree to get a cute photo.

This isn't the worst one or the best one, but it was the funniest one.

So I took this glamour shot of my dog in front of the tree.

Take THAT, human children!

Of course, you can't forget the reindeer dust. (Oatmeal to feed the reindeer and sprinkles so the reindeer will see the sparkles from the air and know where to land.)

I think that makes us all ready. Sam moved the Lego table with all the advent calendar stuff into the living room so Santa could see it. We made chocolate milk. We laid out cookies.

We Alex read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the munchkins.

Then we sat up for the next sixteen hours waiting for our kids to fall asleep.

You know why I have all this time to blog? It's because they refuse to sleep. In fact, Sam is in the TV room right now complaining about how it's hard to fall asleep.

Alex: "Pretend you're in a field with a big fence. And on one side of the fence are a thousand dogs. Picture them jumping them over the fence."

Sam: "I only see one dog."

Alex: "Then picture him jumping over the fence a thousand times."

Well. You can imagine where this went from there.

Wish me luck. I may be up late.

Also, Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/Enjoy Your Friday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Alternatively Titled: "You Have To Try to Pass Along the Crazy When Your Kids Are Young, Or You Run the Risk That It's Not Going to Stick."

Are you talking to me? 'Cause I'm the only one here.

Seriously, isn't that just about the surliest motherfucking gerbil you've ever seen?

My friend Heather
lent me her gerbils for a few days. She brought them over today, along with some cookies. It's like she thinks I'm doing her a favor by petsitting. I'm not sure she understands quite how pathological I am in my adoration of these little guys. If you haven't noticed, I am highly amused by them.

Screw you, tadpoles! I have cuter animals to take care of!

As soon as Heather left my house, I took out my camera to document the gerbils' arrival. I really don't know what's wrong with me. It's like a sickness. It's just so much fun to take their photos. Does it make me sound crazier if I tell you that I think they like it? Because I think they do.

They especially seem to like flash photography. They're media whores.

But here's the thing. Guess who asked to get out his DSi to take a photo of the gerbils so he could have one for himself?

Yes. My first born.

And do you see how that gerbil is posing? I am NOT making this shit up.

Furthermore, Sam made a Christmas tree for them so that they could celebrate the season.

Oh, crap. I hope they're not Jewish.

Sam was inspired by the other art taped to the back of their cage. Heather's daughters made the three pictures there. They, in turn, seem to have been inspired by Jack's "Home Sweet Home" sign that he made for the gerbils the last time they were here.

To her credit, Heather has left the little sign up.

Probably mostly because she knows that you don't fuck around with a crazy person, but still, I think it's nice.

So does whatever this guy's name is:

Hi! My name's Robert! Or Noki! Who the hell knows?

I can't tell them apart. Is that bad? I do know one is fatter than the other, but I don't remember which. I think that the surly one up top is the fat one. Which seems weird, because I know fat people are jolly, so don't you think fat gerbils would be as well?

Anyway. Strap in. I've got these guys until 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How I'm Using My Snow Days

My school district just started this alert system you can sign up for where you will get text messages if school is closed, or kids are unexpectedly being let out early, or any other sort of thing a parent might want to know when they're out and about. Great idea! I signed up immediately even though I don't have a texting plan because I figured I could swing the 20 cents every month or so.

Since I signed up last week, we've had crazy amounts of snow and tomorrow is our third no-school snow day in a row, which means that I've already had to pay for nearly two dollars worth of text messages since Sunday.

Annoying. And also kind of ironic considering I've been pretty much home-bound and really not in need of text messages.

Regardless of the ease with which I've learned about the snow days, I'm becoming increasingly more annoyed with the school closings. Monday I was completely stoked that everything was closed. Today I was okay with it, especially because I planned all kinds of fun snow-day stuff to do. Wednesday? Come on already. I had plans! There was supposed to be a Wall of Fame ceremony! What the fuck am I going to do with all these gift cards burning a hole in my pocket that I can't give to teachers until January 4th?!

See, Monday I ran a bunch of errands. I bought all those gift cards. I acquired Sam's pencil sharpener. I took Jack to speech therapy because their weather policy says they're open unless they notify you that they're closed. I left a kinda upset message on my speech therapy office's voice mail because it took Jack and I an hour to get there to find a locked door.

I was ready to make Tuesday fun day. On the way back from "speech therapy" on Monday, Jack and I created a list of things to do today: (1) bake sugar cookies, (2) build a snowman, (3) play Wii Fit Plus, (4) decorate sugar cookies.

The baking of the sugar cookies went fine except for the fact that I couldn't find my Christmas cookie cutters, so we had to make dinosaurs and flowers.

The snowman went well except for the fact that the snow was too powdery to roll into snowman form, so we had to create a little mountain for his bottom part. But he still turned out kinda super duper awesome.

Except his head was too small to put a hat on him.

After the snowman, we played Wii Fit Plus. (Sigh. Disclosure: Nintendo gave us Wii Fit Plus for free. Do I really have to do this every time I mention this game? Because it could get tiresome. We play it a lot. It's apt to be mentioned often.)

Art imitated life except for the fact that Cassidy is a lot lazier in real life than when she's on TV.

We decorated our sugar cookies next. Quinn decorated (and ate) three. Jack decorated three (and drank a bottle of sprinkles and licked the frosting off one cookie). Sam decorated like a machine. A very sticky machine.

Afterward, Quinn was oddly excitable. If only I could piece together cause and effect.

Shortly after Quinn started using the couch as a trampoline, I left the house for three hours to get my hair done. (Alex was home sick, so I was able to go.) I really hate getting my hair done. It's like a multi-hour forced socialization with someone I see twice a year. It totally freaks me out.

But I'm happy about my hair.

Let's see. That wraps up Tuesday. What's on tap for Wednesday? I got nothin'. Except my buddies the gerbils are coming back for a pet-sitting stay. So that will take up 45 seconds or so.

I'm off to go wrack my brain to figure out what to do with my kiddies tomorrow. I may try to make it involve actual trampolines.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The guy on the news referred to the snowstorm as "snowpocalypse," while on Twitter, people were referring to it as "#snOMG." In Stimeyland we referred to it mostly as, "Holy Christ, is it still snowing out there?"

That's Jack. I'm 93...94% sure of it.

So, yeah, it snowed this weekend. Like, a lot. I'm not going to quote you inches or anything, but all I know is that this morning, the day after the snow, when Alex was suffering from a Man Cold and I had to go shovel the driveway, it seemed like a lot.

Here's Alex yesterday, when his illness seemed less severe, in his ridiculous winter hat.

I will post a photo of this every year because I think it's such a humorous hat.
Except for the beaver that was skinned for it. (I know, I know.)

You know how there's that story about the people who have heart attacks when they shovel their driveways because they're so out of shape and the snow is so very heavy and their husbands are too busy lying on the couch to help? That was almost me this year.

I have a long driveway. No, it's not like a mile long or anything, but when you pile more than a foot of snow on it, it seems really long. Sam was going to help me shovel the sidewalk, but he couldn't find it, so he gave up.

So I was out there in my hat, gloves, and t-shirt (shoveling snow is hot work, people!) shoveling away while every single person in the neighborhood commented on the fact that I was shoveling and not Alex.

Later, Alex told me he'd go to the store if I'd clean off the car.
I told him he could just go ahead and drive the car with its little snowhat
and fuck you very much, by the way.

To his credit, Sam did help by shoveling off the picnic table and the iron monkey that stands on it.

Yeah, it's weird. Alex has a thing about monkeys.

I gotta tell you, the snow kinda wrecked my weekend. I had a whole list of things I was going to do, starting with an early-morning haircut on Saturday, which I had to cancel. If you've seen me in person with my hair down in the past couple months, you would probably agree that I sorely need that haircut.

Plus, I had some last minute shopping to do—teacher gifts and whatnot. Also I have to buy an electric pencil sharpener for Sam because he has one fewer gift than everyone else. And I know an electric pencil sharpener might not seem like the most exciting gift in the world, especially when you consider that Quinn's comparable present is The Legendary Sword of Heroes (with authentic battle damage), but I think he's going to like it. But it's still living at the office supply store and now I can't even go get it tomorrow, because school is canceled and my kids will be with me and so, yeah, snowpocalypse indeed.

But the kids had fun.

In this next photo there are a few things you should notice. Thing the First: Quinn is standing on snow behind a chair. And his feet are at the same level as the chair seat. There's that much snow. Thing the Second: Jack is making a snowball. Thing the Third: That is Cassidy, a.k.a., The Target's, tail there in the photo.

Thing the Fourth: I took all these photos through a
glass door from inside the house.

Here is Cassidy wistfully looking at the door to the house after she's been used for target practice.

Because I am benevolent and kind, I let her in.

Sam continued his house maintenance by knocking "the hugest icicle in the world" off of the rain gutters.

Now if I could only get him to clean inside the rain gutters.

If only he'd seen the icicle on our balcony when we lived in Alaska. That thing was huge. And it formed a stalagmite underneath it, until it became an entire column of ice connecting the balcony to the roof. It was badass.

Meanwhile, Quinn and Jack traversed the yard making and retracing paths with their footsteps.

Eventually Sam and Quinn came inside, but Jack stayed in the yard, marching back and forth and punching through the snow with the handle of his shovel. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking for treasure. I don't think he found it. But he had a good time.

And when he was done, he had hot chocolate. Which is kind of like treasure if you're six, don't you think?

Late Breaking News: Alex just walked in the room and told me that his work seems to be canceled tomorrow, along with the kids' school. So I can go buy that pencil sharpener tomorrow after all! Well, hallelujah! Let the sun shine!!

Have a Happy Snowpocalypse!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


You all know that I volunteer in Jack's class every week. Well, maybe you do. Anyway, I volunteer in Jack's class every week. About a month ago, his teacher started asking me if I could maybe come in on December 18th for the Holiday Rotation.

Now, I didn't know what exactly a Holiday Rotation was, but she seemed a little desperate and it involved making latkes from scratch and she was all, "You have your little one too that day? I don't care, bring him in."

So Quinn and I arrived at the school on Friday morning ready to volunteer.

If you look closely at that photo, you will notice that Quinn's sticker says "Volunteer," complete with quotation marks and everything. Normally I think the quotation marks are a little weird, but in this case they were very accurate. Because Quinn? Didn't really do much volunteering. He really did much more "Tagging Along" and "Being a Problem."*

Jack's teacher had warned me that whatever I wore would end up smelling like Fried. Fortunately I remembered to leave my couture at home.

Now what, you may ask, is a Holiday Rotation? Well, it involved the six first grade classes moving from station to station to do three different holiday activities.

Station One: Latkes

Jack's teacher straight up made potato pancakes from scratch in the classroom. They were really good. Watching her fry them up in hot oil brought back a memory from my first grade year when my teacher was frying something up and a kid knocked the pan over and he ended up in the hospital. So I was ready to form a human chain in front of the frying table to prevent such a thing from happening again.

Fortunately, the teachers are smart, which is maybe why they're teachers. One teacher read, like, the longest book in the damn world about Hanukkah while Jack's teacher cooked.

Quinn actually sat in a chair and listened to the whole story. If I could just get that patience to transfer to his preschool circle time. In that class, the teacher has had to put little pieces of tape on the floor to "remind" the boys where they are supposed to sit.

Maybe they should give him a rocking chair there.

Jack liked his latke. Quinn did not. But, *I* liked Quinn's latke.

Station Two: Snowflakes

Mrs. Awesome Cook seemed to have everything under control in Latkeville, so when Jack's class headed to the next station, most of the other parents and I went with them. There, Quinn "Volunteered" by yelling about wanting to glue some sequins he found to a piece of paper.

Jack's super-adorable math teacher was heading up this class, which involved a story about SNOW, scissors, and glitter glue.

Even better than latkes...

Station Three: Candy Houses

...but not as good as a plateful of graham crackers, frosting, and candy. Quinn "Volunteered" to participate in this station.

Jack's little buddy T was really cute. He's a lot like Jack, and when the teacher told them to put their houses** in a plastic bag and put them in their cubbies, he was all, "But I want to eat it. But I want to eat it." I guess he forgot about the handfuls of candy that he, Jack, and Quinn ate out of the bowls on their table.

I do have to take this moment to give props to elementary school teachers, para educators, and anyone else who enthusiastically and happily works with six year olds all day every day, because I barely helped out and I was exhausted when I got home. Honestly, I did more chatting and laughing than helping.

I'm also really grateful to those teachers who obviously know that sometimes first graders just need to have some fun and take a half day to cut out snowflakes and have someone read to them.

* Okay, he wasn't really that much of a problem. But "Being a Problem" is funnier than "Sitting Quietly and Playing with My iPhone." Wait. That's actually kinda funny too.

** Now, I think this was a really great idea, but "Candy Houses"? Really? Although I guess "Candy Sidewalk" doesn't sound quite as good.

In Case You're Not Sick of Me Yet

Hey, did you know that I have a new column in the Washington Times Communities online? Check me out at Autism Unexpected, where I'll be writing all about a couple of my favorite subjects—Jack and autism. (Thanks to Jessica for hooking me up with this.)

You can also find me on the 15th of each month over at Hopeful Parents. Again, I'll be writing about Jack and autism.

Coming soon: individual blogs about my other kids. And one for each of my pets. And what the hell? One for each of your kids too. I'm just going to do all the writing in the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

DCMM: What's Happening to MCPS?

761298_93335176 My kids go to a very large elementary school. There are something like six kindergarten classrooms and nearly all of the third graders have class in "portables," which is misleading because they seem to be pretty permanent little additions to the outside of the school. I don't think this situation is uncommon in the Montgomery County Public School System.

What is uncommon is what is happening a couple of schools over from mine at Oakland Terrace Elementary School. There, the overcrowding is so bad that the county is looking for an interim place to stash incoming kindergartners for the next couple of years until they can build a new school, which evidently has been green lit and should be ready by 2012. No decisions have been made, but the county seems to be strongly considering putting those kindergartners into a nearby middle school

When I first heard about this, the first thing I thought was, "Oh, thank God it's not my school." And then I felt bad for all the little kindergartners going into Oakland Terrace. 

I think about my little incoming kindergartner, Quinn. I think of how heartbroken he would be if he had to attend a different school than his brothers. 

I think about my special needs son, Jack. I think of how much more difficult his kindergarten year would have been if the elementary school administrators, counselors, therapists, and other staff had been in a different building. 

I think about my oldest son, Sam. When he started kindergarten he had so much anxiety about school. I can only imagine the extra stress that being in a middle school would have created in him. 

Seriously, middle school is bad enough. Why make our kids go there twice? If I remember correctly from my own youth, those are the worst three years of a person's life. And the time when they are probably the biggest jerks. I don't know that I would want my kindergartner there. 

There are so many problems with a plan like this: how will the kindergartners get the specials (art, music, PE) that they would get otherwise? Will the lunchroom food be appropriate for five-year-olds? How will the little kids get copies of Henry & Mudge from the library? Will they be forced to read sixth-grade books? Will they have a playground to play on? Or should they just learn to go smoke with the big kids behind the gym? 

I wonder how this could have happened. I worry that the people who are responsible for educating our children weren't aware enough to see this coming. I worry about all my kids (and the other kids in the county). We're supposed to have this wonderful school system, but all I hear is that there is not any money for anything. There is a hiring freeze, teachers and staff didn't get a cost of living raise last year, and now they can't even fit all of the kids onto the school grounds. Montgomery County recently dropped out of US News & World Report's top 100 high schools in the country. And don't get me started on special education services. 

I've been hearing all this news about MCPS and taking solace in the fact that my kids are lucky enough to go to a wonderful MCPS school with caring and attentive staff that is scheduled to begin construction on an addition next year instead of sending the kindergartners off to another campus. But I look at what's happening around the county and I'm starting to worry. 

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. 

Jean writes about counting the days until Quinn goes to kindergarten—at his brothers' school—at Stimeyland. She also runs an autism-related events website for Montgomery County at AutMont.

His "X Factor" is High

As if the Christmas tree lot wasn't exciting enough, Jack also made the front page of the local paper.

I picked up the paper just before going to get my guys from the bus stop yesterday and kind of made an ass of myself showing it to everyone up there. But Jack! In the paper! Even if it's just the back of his flat little head.

Jack's media appearance was made even better by the arrival of an email from a friend of mine this morning, which read in part:
"...guessing you're already aware of this but the current issue of [the local paper] prominently features a cover shot of the back of your middle child's head as he is, i think, about to get eaten by a bear. or possibly just made aware of fire prevention techniques."
Next up: Nightline. Seriously, Jack has gotten more press than the rest of Team Stimey put together.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

He's a Good Kid

A couple of weeks ago, Sam brought home some Scholastic book order forms from school. I looked through them, but there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to buy, so I put it in the recycling bin.

A couple of days after that, Sam asked where I'd put it. I assumed he just wanted to look through it and was going to ask for a book. I dug it out of the paper bin and gave it to him. Not too long after, he showed up with the order forms partially filled out and $49.

See, he'd been saving up his birthday money and allowance and now had more than $100. And he wanted to use a big chunk of it to buy books.

For Christmas presents for his family.

Of course, the first thing I did was melt, because, well, how amazing in so many ways was that?

Then I tried to convince him to save his money and that if he wanted to buy us gifts, I would take him to the dollar store so he wouldn't have to spend so much. That led to a long, emotional conversation during which he made the very astute point, "Why can't I do what I want to do with my money?"

I had no answer for that. So I helped him do a little bargain shopping and we found some better deals on some books on Amazon, but he still ended up spending nearly $50 on gifts for Jack, Quinn, Alex, and me. AND he insisted on going to the dollar store to buy additional gifts for all of us as well.

Through all of this, there was no, "Aren't I nice?" and no "Now Santa will see how good I am," or any other self-interested action.

Except for when I had to cut him off from reading the book he bought for Jack so he could wrap it.

Just a second, Mom.

And wrap it he did. He picked out the paper, he picked out the ribbons, he taped the packages all up. He carefully chose tags based on each person's personality. He broke my heart (in a good way) with all the joy he took in buying and presenting these gifts.

How unbelievably sweet is he? Every once in a while it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, Alex and I aren't totally fucking up our children.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Has Anyone Ever Had a Good Trip to the Post Office?

Pretty much every single person I buy holiday gifts for that doesn't live in my house lives far away across the country. Evidently the places they live are called "Zone 7" and "Zone 8," according to the post office. I don't know what that means, except that I should have mailed my packages weeks ago to save me a gajillion and six dollars on shipping.

Parcel post would have been the way to go.

Priority mail is what I had to do.

Next year, around November 1st, remind me to do my Christmas shopping and get it mailed before Thanksgiving. I might even send it by Pony Express.

Regardless, Team Stimey and I headed out on Saturday to the post office before we went to get our Christmas tree.

"Why," you may ask, "would the whole family head out to the post office two Saturdays before Christmas?"

"That," you might think, "is crazy. Even for Stimey."

Well, the truth of the matter is that I needed all of Team Stimey's help to carry all my boxes into the post office.

Alex was a big help, except for the fact that he put one of the
boxes on a newspaper stand outside and left it there.

When you look at size of person to size of boxes, Sam wins for most helpful.

Quinn? Not so much.

And poor Jack was immobilized because his pants kept
falling off because he's thin and malnourished.

But, happily, everything is now mailed, so the trip counts as a total success.

Except for the fact that Alex thought I put money in
the parking meter and I thought he did.

All in all, that was maybe the most expensive trip to the post office I've ever made.