Friday, May 29, 2009

Ten Years


Almost nothing is the same as when this photo was taken. But it's almost all better.

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Alex.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aaaaaaaiiiiiiggghhhhh!

Do you ever forget to upload the digital photos from your camera to your computer for a few weeks and then when you finally do, you have forgotten what photos you took and so are wholly unprepared when this pops up on your screen?


In case you're wondering, I found this semi-horrifying example of taxidermy on a preschool field trip to the nature center. There is Quinn, all blissfully unaware in the background.

I'm not sure, but I think that might be blood on the side of the squirrel's mouth.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Killing the Forest One Note at a Time

For the past few weeks, Jack has been a one-man writing machine. He is regularly seen wandering the house with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Often he will ask me or Alex to write or draw something for him, but many times he will just go ahead and do it himself.

He writes stories, letters, books, lists, and occasional random proclamations. For example, chicks are apparently allowed in his room, but rabbits are not.

Fabulous chick artwork by Stimey.
That's chick-fuzz, not stubble.

Even better rabbit artwork by Jack.

I've had to start hiding my favorite pens from Jack so he doesn't wander off with them. And I had to teach him NOT to push "start copy" on my printer/copier in order to get a blank piece of paper to come out.

He regularly will be sitting somewhere then get a glint in his eye and sprint off to find a piece of paper and a pen.

The only irritating part about this whole thing is that he steadfastly refuses to use scratch paper, meaning that if something is written or printed on the other side, that piece of paper has been Ruined. So my deep drawer of one-side-empty paper? Totally useless.

Fortunately we have friends looking out for us. Friends who do things like buy and wrap a ream of fresh clean paper for Jack for his birthday. I put it in our kid-paper drawer for him to work his way through, but evidently that doesn't provide easy enough access. Just minutes ago when I wandered past his room, I found this:


That's about half a ream of paper sitting there just waiting for a middle of the night note. And you'd better believe that he will eventually write on each of those pieces of paper.

Now if I could just get someone to write on the other side.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Good, The Bad & The Whiny

Today was the first time in a looooong time that was able to spend an entire day with my whole family and not have to be attached to my computer. Hooray! Alex and the little dudes spend a lot of weekends doing fun things while I work. I just finished a big project and am caught up on my other work, so I happily took advantage of Alex's Memorial Day day off.

When we were trying to decide what to do, I remembered that they all went on a particular hike one time that seemed like a lot of fun. So I suggested a hike. Everyone was excited, except for Sam who said that he was sooooooooo tired that he couldn't even contemplate thinking about doing anything as strenuous as (gasp!) walking.

To which we said: Tough damn luck, kid.


Needless to say, after we forced him into shoes and stuffed him into the car, he had quite a lovely time. I mean, granted, I did have to say, "Shhhhhh! People don't come here to hear you whine, Sam!" a couple of times, but for the most part he had a good time.

Right to left: Jack, Sam, Mr. I-Don't-Want-To-Pose-With-My-Brothers.

Disregarding the "thunderstorms probable in the afternoon" warnings as weatherperson paranoia, we then headed over to mini golf. Can you guess who didn't want to go? Can you guess who whined, "Can we find a place that doesn't have 18 hoooooooles? I don't waaaaaaant to golf 18 hoooooooles."?

Can you guess who nearly turned the car around (Hint: his name starts with "a" and ends with "x".) in a classic I-Will-Turn-This-Car-Around-Right-Now!!! moment, and then who talked him down off that metaphorical ledge?

Can you guess who ended up being forced to play mini golf? Can you guess who had to be threatened into being pleasant? (And if that's not a paradox, or ironic, or whatever, I don't know what is.)

Can you guess who got the last laugh when it started to thunder and lightning at hole number seven and we were forced to leave the golf course?

But then it got way better. It's amazing how a sudden change in plans can sometimes make all the difference in mood. It started when we all laughed together at the people fleeing the adjacent pool who had towels over their heads so they wouldn't get wet.

Then we had a whole science conversation about rain and lightning and lightning rods and houses catching on fire and how if you're in the desert and there's a lightning storm you should lay flat on the sand so you're not the tallest thing around and then Sam said, "Yeah, so you're shorter than a cactus," and then he asked about different kinds of clouds and we talked about evaporation and there was some talk about Benjamin Franklin and it was awesome. And somewhere in there it stopped raining.

Then, we wrecked it by dragging them to the grocery store.

There was a minute when I thought Alex had Quinn and Alex thought I had Quinn and we had just started to panic when I looked over at the doughnut case and saw a little blond head near a closing doughnut case door and a grubby little three four-year-old hand clutching a doughnut.

And then we bought doughnuts for everyone and things were good again. Right up until we were leaving the store and saw the torrential rain that had started. I drew the short straw and ran to get the car. I was outside for about a minute and was soaked to the skin. But on the plus side, I was driving, so I got to drive through puddles and create waves of water. I always like that.

All in all, there was more good than bad whiny. It was a pretty good day.


I'm hoping to get more of these days soon.

Edited To Add: For those who asked, this trail is located in Rock Creek Park just off the parking lot at the end of Beach Drive in Chevy Chase. The parking lot is to the left where they close Beach Drive on weekends.

*****

A post on Quinn's birthday/birthday party is (probably) coming up soon, but I wanted to direct you to the blog of one of our guests, who made the most adorable card for Quinn that I have ever seen. She has an etsy shop, and does fantastic custom work. You should all buy your cards from her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Piñata Update, Jack's Party, and the Longest Well-Child Visit Ever

Oh, hi! How are you doing? It's been a while. Have you lost weight?

I've spent the past several days attached to my computer and Final Cut, putting a DVD project together for a client. I haven't responded to email, I haven't read ANY of your insightful, hilarious, and heartfelt blog posts, nor have I done a very good job of parenting my children. But I'm back! And I have all kinds of news. Let's see...

OH! Remember how I sent a super snarky email about my paper-stuffed piñata to the people at Oriental Trading and I was all, "What I'm gong to get with that email is ignored."?

What it actually got me was a first-thing Monday morning call from a super nice lady named Andrea. She works for Oriental Trading and saw my media campaign against them and their paper-stuffed piñatas. She was kind enough to say nice things about my blog and to explain that most piñatas that come from Oriental Trading are not, in fact, stuffed with paper. She also took the charge for the piñata off of my credit card and told me that Oriental Trading very much cares about what its customers think and if people like their products.

And after their super fast response and my FREE! piñata, I believe them. Andrea told me that although she had seen my blog post, my email to customer service would have gotten attention too. Then she mentioned Big Brother and how they're not really stalking me.

But then I got nervous and looked outside and there was a big, bright blue car parked behind a bush on my street, and I can't be sure that it was the Oriental Trading Customer Service Team, but there were tufts of paper sticking out of the windows, so I'm pretty sure it was.

So I've started carrying a bat around with me.

*****

Jack's party was a smashing success.

Alex thought he was acting out the printer scene from Office Space.
I saw more of a Rodney King thing.


Get it? Smashing? Like with the piñata? Ha, ha, ha, ha! I know. This is exactly the kind of thing you miss when I don't write for a few days.

We were all about Frog and Toad at this party. Sam created all the decorations.

Yeah. That was ALL the decorations. We're not extravagant.
Oh, we had a balloon too. That's right: one balloon.
Don't judge me.

But we did have these too:

They're from this little company called Oriental Trading. Have you heard of them?

I had a whole bunch of activities planned. Of course what I didn't have planned was when Jack's friend found a KidzBop CD (the horror!) that McDonald's snuck into or food bag the other day and she insisted that we play it. So...DANCE PARTY!

I know it looks like they're trying to kill each other, but they're actually dancing.

After I was able to restore order, we played a rousing game of Toad, Toad, Frog. (I wanted to play Frog, Frog, Toad, but Jack insisted on changing things up.) And then we used my awesome homemade lily pads to play Musical Lily Pads.

Then there was some more chaos and then we got out my craft activity that sounded like a way better idea when I thought it wasn't going to be cold and rainy on party day. I'll give you a hint: it involved kindergarteners and dirt. Which might have been better outside instead of on my dining room table, but whatever.

Jack really likes yellow dandelions and calls them Mary-golds, or Mary. So Quinn and I found marigolds that looked as much like dandelions as possible and we had the kids plant them in little pots they could decorate.

Sam is indicating he's ready for a plant.

Jack is indicating that he likes glue.
We get lots of notes from the school about "inappropriate use of glue" and such.
Also, notice that horrible megaphone in the background.


What's a party without cake? And, yes, I know there's not a frog or a toad on there, but you try finding a Frog and Toad cake in the cake decor book at Giant. Because that's the only place I get cake.

If you suggested that I bake something, you must be new here.


I know that you all just really want to know how the piñata went. It was a huge hit. (Oh, damn, I'm funny.)


It withstood a lot of beating too. After Alex went all crazy on it and the munchkins picked up every single item that had been inside, one kid made us tie it back up by its neck and then he beat it until the body dropped off.

We're all about the gentle here.

Jack was ecstatic. So I consider the party a huge success.

*****

But what's a birthday without an accompanying well-child doctor visit? Maybe the best part of the doctor's appointment was when Jack got out of the car and barfed all over the parking lot. So much for well child. (Although I think he was just car sick.)

The second best part was when Quinn was in the middle of his four (!) immunizations and he sobbed out, "What's taking so long?!" Poor guy.

I think we win for most epic appointment though. We were there for more than two hours. (Which is almost longer than this post. Almost.) Most of it wasn't waiting time either. We got a lot of personalized attention. And we got the comfy chair room again.

You better believe they got a hefty ice cream reward after all that though.

*****

Don't you kind of wish that I'd been writing all week instead of saving it all up for today? I'm done. I promise.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why I Was Forced to Eviscerate a Frog Today

I'd like to state up front that I am referring to a frog piñata. Back off, PETA.

It's May in Stimeyland, which means both Jack and Quinn have birthdays, and this year it means they each get a party, albeit smallish ones. Regardless, both this weekend and next I'm cleaning my house top to bottom, ordering some pizza and a cake, and stringing up a piñata for some kids to beat the shit out of.

(I did save some time by planning virtually the exact same party for both of them. With slight variations. Apologies to the one family that has been invited to both parties.)

Jack's party is tomorrow, so this afternoon I was putting together goody bags and trying to think of games I could force our guests to play. I also decided that I would go ahead and stuff Jack's piñata. The theme for this party being Frog and Toad, his piñata is an almost obscenely happy frog.


I was considerably less happy when I opened up the frog's candy hole to find this:


In case you can't tell, what you see there is paper. My piñata arrived stuffed full of paper. Which was going to make it extremely difficult to stuff with candy.

After spending some time trying to pry the paper out of the tiny, inappropriately placed hole...


...I used my cramping fingers to ask Twitter what to do. I'd like to thank @goodfountain for her brilliant advice: "Pull the paper out."

Well, damn. Wish I'd thought of that.

What were inside the piñata were entire smashed up newsprint-size sheets of paper. They weren't coming out of the little hole. Frankly I can't quite figure out how they got in there in the first place. I ended up having to cut the frog's, ahem, candy hole bigger. A frog episiotomy, if you will.


And even being able to cram my entire hand in there, it was tough to pull out these giant crumpled, packed-in sheets of paper.

Mid-birth

Many, many minutes later, this is what I ended up with.


But I was finally happy. Others, not so much.


I took advantage of the gaping hole in the piñata to fill it, then taped it back up.

Seriously. I should be a plastic surgeon.

Or a professional complainer. I sat down at my computer and typed up an email to send to Oriental Trading from whence my piñata had come.

Dear Oriental Trading,

My order arrived quickly and was exactly what I ordered.

I do take exception with the condition of the Frog Piñata that I ordered. When I opened up the tiny "Fill Me Here" tab, I found that the piñata was entirely stuffed full of sheets of paper. Which made it difficult to fill with candy. (Although the extra interior packing did help ensure that it came in perfect condition.)

I ended up having to cut the frog's entire backside open in order to remove all of the paper. Then I had to tape him back up. Not exactly as fast and easy as I'd hoped. Nor as aesthetically pleasing.

I order nearly all of my party favors and most of my party supplies from you. After this experience, I may be less likely to order piñatas from you in the future.

However, if I ever want a bright blue frog centerpiece, I will definitely come straight to you.

Sincerely,
[Stimey]
I'm hoping for some sort of frog piñata credit. I think what I'm going to get with that email is ignored. But at least the frog is all sutured up.


Now I'm off to do the zillion things I have to do to get ready for Jack's party. My to-do list is long. Oh! I just remembered something I have to add to my list:

Find a bat.


EDITED TO ADD: Read my update about how Oriental Trading is now stalking me and refunded my piñata money. Yay!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate...

I'm featured in JuiceBoxJungle's newest episode about vaccines. You can watch it right here:

More parenting videos on JuiceBoxJungle


I'm a little nervous about this whole subject, because it is so charged. Know that if you disagree with me that I understand that you are doing what you think is best for your child, just as I am doing what I think is best for my child. With that, this is what I believe.

I have vivid memories of sitting in my first pediatrician's waiting room after having my first child, Sam, and looking at posters on his bulletin board about the MMR vaccine and autism. Those posters said vaccines were safe—and important. I also vividly remember a year or so later when Sam spent a lot of time lining up his trains. It made me cold just to think about what it could mean.

At that time in my life, with a very young child and absolutely no knowledge of autism other than Rain Man, autism seemed like a death sentence for a family. I thought that all children with autism could not communicate and would never live independently.

But I gave Sam the MMR. And I gave him the polio vaccine. And I gave him the chicken pox vaccine and the flu shot, and whatever else the pediatricians said were on the schedule.

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that Sam did not turn out to be autistic. But Jack, my second son, did. And I saw absolutely no correlation between vaccinations and Jack's autism. I truly do not believe that vaccines have done any harm to my children. (Quite the opposite, in fact.) I continued vaccinating my children, including my third, completely neurotypical son.

What I do see is that my children don't have to worry about measles, chicken pox, mumps, polio, or any other of the many terrible diseases that have been almost entirely eradicated in the United States because of widespread vaccinations.

Obviously every family needs to make the decision about vaccines for themselves. But in a society where we are all so connected, every decision affects my community. What if someone doesn't vaccinate his or her child and there is a measles outbreak? And then that child carries it to school, where she infects a newborn sibling of a classmate? Not to mention that no vaccine can protect everyone one hundred percent. I am counting on all of us to protect our children together. And, frankly, I don't want any child to suffer through a preventable disease.

I believe that people who do not vaccinate their children are letting the rest of us protect their children for them.

I think we have forgotten what it is like to live in a world without vaccines. People died all the time from what are now preventable diseases. I don't want to go back to that time.

In the video above I say that autism can't threaten my family, but that measles can. Even if vaccines caused autism (and the studies linking them have been shown to be not just bad science, but dishonest science as well), autism isn't fatal. Measles can be. I would much rather have an autistic child than a dead one.

I almost hesitate to write about autism in the same post as vaccines, because I don't see them as being related. But that is sort of the topic here, so that's what I've done. I've come a long way in these past few years, since I read that sign in my pediatrician's office. I've learned a lot about autism, and how it is not the end of a family, but just the beginning of a different path for that family. I've learned more about immunizations and I've learned more about autism and I have no qualms about vaccinating my children.

And this autistic guy?


I wouldn't give him up for anything. He's perfect exactly the way he is.

I can only speak for my family. Every family is different. Every autistic person is different. What holds true for my family does not hold true for everyone. I very much believe that we should live and let live. Along those lines, if you are new here, please try to be civil in the comments.

Because He Wasn't Loud Enough Before

A Quiz:

At what point do you think I regretted buying this particular item for Quinn?


(a) At our next stop: the bank

(b) At the following stop: the grocery store

(c) At home

(d) All of the above

Answer: It's a trick question! I regretted it even before I paid for the damn thing at the party store.

Actual quote from Quinn: "This way everyone can hear from me."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers Rock! (You Know You Do.)

I may be scarce for the next few weeks. I have two birthdays, two birthday parties, two videography projects, my regular job, the end of school, and three or four panic attacks to plan.

Blogging just may get pushed to the bottom of my list.

But first I want to show you my eyebrows:


I was lucky enough to be invited by Jessica Knows and Whrrl to take part in a Mother's Day pampering event the day before Mother's Day. I joined Jessica, @twincident, @1momof5, @chictots, @meglyn, and @shortpumppreppy for manicures, pedicures, and my first ever eyebrow waxing.

For comparison purposes:

Jack has super cute eyebrows, huh?

It was a lot of fun. And now I look way girlier than I did before. Can you guess which toes are mine?

(I'm the orange pants on the left.)

It was a lot of fun. I'd like to thank Whrrl, which is a cool social network that lets you share "stories" online. It was a great way to start my weekend. Thanks also to Joey Totes, who sent us home with some of their reusable grocery bags. Their bags are totally cool. If you are inclined to buy any, use the coupon code "JTs ROCK" to get 10% off your next purchase.

Mother's Day itself was really nice too. My family let me sleep in until they couldn't take it any longer and had to wake me up to give me gifts. They've been sneaking around for the past couple of weeks doing things, and I was curious to see what they had come up with. Among other things, I was presented with these:


Aren't they the best? Nice job, Alex! I'm trying to decide where I want to put these. I think they might look really nice over my desk where I can look at them every night.

I also wanted to show you this photo from Quinn's preschool Mother's Day Tea. Just because it's cute.


Also because I needed a reason to tell you that on the card the teacher puts together for the moms, when she asked him what I looked like, he said I was blue. But with brown hair. I know I haven't said it here for a while, but that kid is crazy.

But we weren't the only ones celebrating Mother's Day today. Our porch bird's eggs hatched!


And, oh my God, they're freaky!! That's a really bad photo, because I couldn't get my camera up high enough because of the stupid roof. And then these birds started chirping really loudly at me, and then Alex started claiming that I was wrecking the bird's Mother's Day, and even though I'm pretty sure that birds don't celebrate Mother's Day, I started feeling bad, so I abandoned my attempts to capture Skeletor Birds on Film and retreated back into my house.


I know a lot of you are mothers. Pat yourself on the back for doing a really hard job. I wish you all a heartfelt Happy Mother's Day!

(Avian mothers included.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

DCMM: The Boy Scouts Are Dividing My Family

After fifteen years of dating, ten years of marriage, and nearly eight years of parenting, my husband and I have finally come upon something that we absolutely cannot agree on: The Boy Scouts of America.

He and I are generally pretty in sync in our parenting and lifestyles (if you set aside our political differences), which may explain how we have been married for ten years. Even with the things we disagree on, we can generally come to a compromise that satisfies both of us. Plus, we have an unspoken rule of veto power—if one of us really objects to a course of action, that person generally comes out on top.

But we're stuck on the Boy Scouts. I don't want to take part in, nor do I want my children to take part in, a group that refuses to accept gay people and athiests as part of their organization. Alex accepts both gay people and athiests, but he doesn't feel that this is a good enough reason to keep our three sons out of their group.

The Scouting bylaws maintain that "no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God," and believes that "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed."

I disagree. And I think it's wrong that they exclude non-believers and gay people. I recognize that they probably do have the right to exclude who they want to because they are a private organization (and more importantly, the Supreme Court also agrees), although I think it is ugly and discriminatory. And go ahead and replace "athiest" or "gay" with an ethnic, religious, or other group, and I think a lot more people wouldn't want their kids involved.

I knew that this showdown with my husband was coming, even if he didn't. I have been quietly researching alternatives to the Boy Scouts and waiting for one of my children to express an interest. Now that my oldest child has said that he wants to be a scout, the issue has come to a head.

I'm pretty sure my kids would love the Boy Scouts and I'm kind of torn up about not letting them participate. For the most part, I think they're a good organization. But I just can't ignore the fact that they wouldn't accept me (athiest) as a member or a leader, they wouldn't accept members of my immediate family (gay) as members or leaders, and I don't want my children to grow up thinking something is wrong with them if they turn out to be (gasp!) non-believers or gay themselves.

And I know it may sound odd, but I'm not looking for a group that will teach my kids morals. I want to be in charge of that. I want a scouting organization to teach them character and self-reliance and creativity and tolerance. I would rather they leave the more ambiguous morality issues to me.

For now I continue to look at alternatives, such as Camp Fire USA, 4-H, and...well, I'm still looking. There is a pagan organization called the SpiralScouts, but I think my husband would exercise his veto option on that one. Also, the Boy Scouts offer a program called Learning for Life, which doesn't discriminate in the same way as their parent organization. I'm still wrapping my head around that one.

I'm not sure how this dispute will play out as far as my family is concerned. This is the first time that my kids and my husband really want to do something that directly contradicts my principles. But because I want to teach my children to stand up for what they think is right instead of taking the easy way out, I'm going to stand up for this.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Jean also blogs at Stimeyland.

And Then We Drew on the Dog With a Sharpie...

Oy.

Do you ever invite three girlfriends over and notice at the end of the night that they shared a bottle of chardonnay, but that you drank three quarters of a bottle of red wine all by yourself?

Oy.

I invited My friends L, Heather, and Melissa over the other night. They've all started blogging in the past few months, and I told them that I would share the wealth of my blogging experience (HA!) if they would come over and drink wine with me. So they did. And I told them stuff, and I learned stuff from them, and we did a whole lot of chatting. It was awesome.

I did have to do a little prep work before they got there. My kids generally sleep in only their underwear. (I know. We Stimeys are a classy people.) But because I had a feeling that they might make an appearance over the course of the evening, I made sure to dress them in pajamas. (I know. I'm smart.)

They were all, "Why are we wearing pajamas?" And I was all, "'Cause we're not animals." And, yes, I know that animals don't wear underpants.

Usually.

I was right about them coming out to visit with their various excuses too. And trying to get a kid to go back to his room after he sees a tub of chocolate dipping sauce and strawberries is kind of like forcing a gerbil to do tricks.

Not impossible.

But really, really hard.

It was sometime after I'd sent my kids back to their rooms several times, and the clock had passed 10 p.m. that I bragged to my friends that "my kids go to bed at 7:30." It took me a minute to understand why they were laughing so hard.

It was also somewhere around that time that L noticed my dog's face was swollen underneath her eye. And then a little later she noticed that the swelling had expanded. I was way too in the bag to even think about figuring out how to help her, so L took the situation into her own hands.

She determined that the swelling was probably a reaction to a bug bite and that it wasn't going to kill her immediately. Then she drew on the dog's face with a Sharpie.

You thought I was kidding about that, huh?

The theory was that if the swelling increased past the Sharpie line, we would know that the swelling had...increased.

First rule of Doggie Fight Club:
Don't talk about Doggie Fight Club.

You'll be happy to know that when I woke up this morning (and less hungover than I thought I would be!), her face was flat AND the Sharpie had faded to a dull pink.

I was excited to show my friends Twitter. I've been talking it up forever. I would like to thank all of you who responded to my plea to say hello to us. It would have been extremely embarrassing if no one had answered and I came off as a Twitter Loser after telling them how awesome Twitter is.

I was completely trashed by the time my friends left me with instructions to not blog drunk. And then I went to bed. This is, I believe, one of the best things about hosting—you don't need a designated driver to walk from your living room to your bed.

Good times.

And oy.

(I still have a quarter of a bottle of wine left. Anyone wanna share it?)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Will Almost Certainly Never Be This Busy Again

I'm a crotchety old lady, which means I’m old and sedentary, and like to stay at home as much as possible. I don't like people, I don't really like the telephone, and why can't we all just communicate via email?

For example, why would I go out to a movie when I could just watch it on DVD and not have to listen to people chatter, cell phones ring, and (as during one memorable showing of No Country For Old Men) someone snoring? Concerts are worth braving the outside world, but only if I really like the band because they last until the middle of damn night, there are always people standing in front of you, and I paid for my two square feet of space so why can't you dance in front of your own damn chair?

Also? You youngsters, can't you see the sidewalk there? Get the hell off-a my lawn.

For the most part, I just want to sit at home, drink a soda, eat some microwave popcorn, and watch Battlestar Galactica on DVD while I work on my computer.

So it’s a little surprising that I’ve been out and about as much as I have lately. Last week I went to see people to learn about the Speak Now For Kids campaign. (Have you entered your story yet?) Then I went to chat with people and eat food at the Good Stuff Eatery. This weekend I'm going to show my feet to new acquaintances and socialize while getting a pedicure. Who am I and what have you done with Stimey?

The last place I went this week was PBS HQ, which is just as exciting as it sounds. So picture the lobby of the place you work, or the last place you worked. Did it look like this?


Yeah, I didn't think so.

PBS brought a group of bloggers together to talk to us about the thought behind their children's programming and to hear what we had to say about it. I learned a lot of really interesting things and will be posting about that soon, either here or on my review blog.

But first I have to tell you a little bit about the event itself, because it was all packed full of blog fodder.

Blog fodder item #1: I drove Kim from Passion and Art and her gorgeous daughter. Instead of being able to follow the simple directions given us, we had to get lost, take some u-turns and enter the wrong parking garage. Then we got lost within that parking garage, made some u-turns, backed up the wrong way on some one-way paths, and finally emerged back onto the street. So then we found the "right" garage, tried to enter the permit parking area, backed up to enter the visitors parking area, then followed other cars through the packed garage straight to the exit where we were told to leave because the garage was full. Which leads us back to that first garage, which turns out to have been the right garage all along. We found a space, begged some strangers in an elevator for directions to PBS, and finally found our way to the elevators that led to the PBS lobby.

Blog fodder item #2: When the elevator doors opened, we could see into the PBS lobby where Clifford in all his big red dog glory was standing. Kim's daughter was so excited that she ran directly into the glass doors trying to get to him.

Blog fodder item #3: This:


Shortly thereafter Quinn the Little Blue Toddler knocked Clifford the Big Red Dog over whilst giving him an enthusiastic hug. Don't feel bad, Clifford, he does it to me all the time too.

Blog fodder item #4: Standing in the lobby was a woman who looked very familiar to me. I couldn't for the life of me figure out who she was, where I had met her, or why she looked familiar. Several hours later while sitting at home, it finally hit me. She is a parent at my kids' elementary school, which just happens to be the only place in the entire world that I am not out as a blogger. Nice.

Blog fodder item #5: I learned how Super Why taught Jack to read when he was 4. So did a large group of mom bloggers. Well, they didn't learn about Jack specifically, but they/we did learn how Super Why positively affects childhood literacy. I'm not going to list all the bloggers here, but they are all very smart, very opinionated (in a good way), and very influential.

Blog fodder item #6: PBS was kind enough to set up child care for those of us with children. Quinn had a wonderful time. When I left him, he was clutching a giant full bottle of apple juice. When I picked him up, he was still clutching the giant bottle of apple juice, but it was mostly empty. I think all he did was eat the snacks they had and consume juice. Needless to say, we hit the bathroom before we left.

Blog fodder item #7: Quinn's instincts for swag are strong. He walked out of the child care, saw a pile of backpacks, and somehow identified a PBS employee immediately to ask, "Can I have one of those?" As soon as she said yes, he grabbed one, spilled his juice on it, and bailed.


Blog fodder item #8: Kim and I found our way home, I dropped her and her daughter off, and I made it to the bus stop to pick up Sam and Jack with a good three minutes to spare. Awesome.

And then I never left the house again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

There Are Perks to This Blogging Gig: Friends and Food

Three days ago I didn't know who Spike from Top Chef was, but now we're totally best friends. Or at least we will be in the stories I tell to any friends I have who watch Top Chef. In reality, we spoke for 2.4 seconds and I watched while my friends chatted longer with him (and while Kim goaded him into nearly taking off his shirt, but that's a whole other story).

WhyMommy, TechSavvyMama, Spike, Kim, KC, and me waaaaaaay over on the right.

The whole reason I met him was that a whole bunch of very cool DC mom bloggers got together at Spike's restaurant, Good Stuff Eatery, to hang out and chat. Many thanks to Devra, who organized the gathering and to Quaker, who not only bought us dinner, but made a donation to the Capital Area Food Bank. (And they sent us home with cereal and granola bars, which...AWESOME!)

I can't even begin to mention everyone who was there and everyone I met, but I do know that I drove four of them and that the StimeymobileTM (term coined by TechSavvyMama) was full of some fabulous women: the aforementioned Kim, the aforementioned TechSavvyMama, and friends WhyMommy and KC, who, now that I think about it, were also aforementioned. I'm not going to say who got us lost on the way there, but his name starts with "Map" and ends with "Quest." But KC and my trusty iPhone teamed up to get us there.

Who else was there? Sarah, Laurie, Jodifur, Wife and Mommy, ShallowGal, Gayle, Amalah, Robin, Claire Jess, Amy, JavaMom, Jessica, Sandie, Smiling Mama, Mamma Loves, Diana, Lumpyhead's Mom, Justice Fergie, Nicole, Sue, De, and all the women down on the left of the table that I didn't get a chance to talk to. I know I left at least six of you out. I'm so sorry. So very sorry. Tell me if I did. Also, since when is everyone named either Amy or Jessica?

Hmmm. I'm not sure where to go from here, except to say the food was deee-licious—especially the Very Berry milkshake. But the company was even better.

Speak Now For Kids

Many of you, my readers, have kids. Not all, but many. Many of you also have kids with special needs. Every single one of you has a stake in upcoming health care reform legislation. Those of you with kids, or plans to have kids, or who care about kids has an interest in making sure that children and their particular needs are included in health care reform.

(I know. I'm being serious. Chill out. I'm allowed.)

Speak Now For Kids is a great new campaign aimed at getting your thoughts about health reform to legislators. They invited me to a lunch meeting with some other bloggers the other day to tell us about their campaign. Of course I arrived late and had to leave early because, um, DC traffic sucks, I had to drop Quinn off with Alex during the meeting, and did you know that if you try to loiter in your car near certain downtown buildings, security guards will insist you move? Yeah.

Anyway.

I'll go a little more into the campaign in a second, but for those of you getting bored and looking for Blue Bear Goes to Congress or something, I'll tell you what you can do to make your voice heard. Go to the Speak Now For Kids website, click on Speak Now, and enter your own testimonial about what you think is important concerning health care reform as it relates to kids. You can write something, submit a photo, or even submit a video. Speak Now For Kids will make sure that your information and your concerns get to Congress. Talk about an easy and fast way to get your voice heard.

I put in a testimonial. I have health coverage—good health coverage—and I still pay $70 a WEEK in co-pays for Jack's therapy and social skills group. And I have to compulsively count the number of sessions to make sure we don't go over our yearly limit and end up with hundreds of dollars in therapy bills. People without my type of coverage simply cannot afford to give their children therapy. And with a public school culture that you have to fight every step of the way to get adequate services at school, there aren't many options for low and middle income people. There is an autism waiver program in my state, but the wait list is months, if not years long.

There are so many ways that children can benefit from real health care reform. The costs of autism coverage is just one of my personal concerns. I'm sure all of you have your own. This is an easy way for you to make sure your legislators know what you care about.

The Speak Now For Kids campaign wants to give a voice to children in the current Congressional health care debate. They are using social media and other innovative strategies to let people use their own voices and their own stories to show the importance of children and health care. The National Association of Children's Hospitals is sponsoring the campaign, and is partnered with the Children's Health Fund, the March of Dimes, First Focus, the Children's Defense Fund, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Obviously each of these groups has their own agenda and their own points that they want included in health reform. But they're asking for your opinion too. They want to know what is important to you. And I think that's pretty cool.

Take a couple minutes to write down your story today. Be sure to do it soon because Speak Now For Kids wants as many stories in the next couple of weeks as possible.

Do it, or the bear gets it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This One Time NPR Had, Like, a Four-Part Series on Porches, and Alex Almost Crashed the Car Every Time He Heard Them Say "Porches" *

Note: This post is about porches, as in stuck-on-to-houses porches, not Porsches, as in we'll-never-in-our-lives-own-a-Porsche car. Carry on.

My house has something like 16 porches on it. And by 16, I mean four, but still, that's a lot, right?

Only one of those porches has a roof, and it is the porch that we never use. And by never, I mean never. Which totally sucks because when it's pouring rain and I'm trying to get three kids and the groceries inside the house, it's totally lame to have to stand in the rain to unlock the door. It's also lame to have the mailpeople and UPS guys throw your mail on the front porch, only to have it get drenched immediately.

The fact that the rest of the porches don't have roofs makes me hate this roof, which is silly, because who hates a roof?

(Me.)

Anyway, someone finally found a use for the roof.


Doesn't that bird look a little bit like she has some attitude? Like she's all, "Get the fuck off my porch and away from my roof."? And doesn't it look a little like she should have built a bigger nest? She's a little crammed in there. Also, how funny would it be to put Clive in there when she's not looking?

The placement of the nest is perfect, because we have this weird door that opens onto our unused porch, so we can open the wood door and look through the glass door at the suspicious bird.

It's way better than my friend L, who last year had a bird build a nest in the decoration she had put on her front door, so that every time she entered or left her house, a seriously pissed off mother bird flew away. And then a predator ate the eggs and it was a bad scene all around. I'm hoping our bird fares better.

*****

Also, welcome, Magneto Bold Too Readers!

I'm so happy to welcome you to Stimeyland. Feel free to drop your coats on the floor and shove the books and toys off the couch so you can sit down. Squeeze right in and get comfy. Go ahead and shove aside my four regular readers; they're kind and will share cushions with you.

If you are more of a stalky-type visitor, you'll find some nice skulking spots behind the garbage cans that we always forget to bring in. If that spot is taken, I will direct you to any of a number of available spots on the lawn. Our un-mown grass and weeds will hide you.

Don't be surprised if you can't see me in the windows though. I have a lot of stalking of my own to do.

*****

* I realized this might need some explanation. Alex claims to hate NPR. Largely because they do things like spend an hour of airtime discussing porches.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chicken Conclusion

I know you all are on the edge of your seats. I bet you're dying to know what's been happening with Team Stimey and The Chicken Game.

Last we saw our intrepid chicken—Clive, to those of you on a first-name basis—he was spending time in the bottom of a bag of coffee:


Then he disappeared. Alex said he had hidden Clive somewhere and that he was surprised that I hadn't found him yet. I was about 95% convinced that he had hidden it near the mop and when I finally found it he was going to be all, "HA! You haven't mopped for the past six weeks!" or whatever.

And shut up. My floors are fine. Sort of.

Finally, one day on the way out to dinner, I opened the seldom-used coin pouch on my wallet and found not only my emergency $20 bill, but also this:


Attempted re-fluffification went poorly:


I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but the chicken didn't make it.


Since then, I've been playing a sad, not very successful, one-sided version of The Chicken Game. I put a chicken in my mom's Kindle case the day she flew away after a visit. It fell out into her purse, which was funny, but less funny than I intended. Then I hid a chicken in the lid of Alex's shaving cream. When he finally got around to opening that can, the chicken fell out, unseen.

I'm running out of chickens here, people. And ideas.

Clive may have to go into retirement. Or at least on vacation for a while.

*****

If this semi-coherent chicken story doesn't do it for you, why don't you head over to Magneto Bold Too, where I am semi-coherently guest posting for the fabulous Kelley. Topic: Quirky Animal Stories Weekly.