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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.