I am in the process of having a bunch of old paper photos scanned and digitized, so I’ve spent the past few days going through my many old photos album to decide what photos I want to send in. Doing so brings up a lot of powerful things inside of me and my heart.

The thing that really trips me out about looking through old photos is looking at photos of my dad. He was killed in a car accident when I was seven, so I don’t have any really good memories of him. But thanks to my mom and my grandmothers, I have many photos of him. And it is magical to look at them. Especially the ones on which he made notes on the back. Each photo is like a little window into who he was.

He was a Marine (semper fi, motherfuckers!) and I have many photos of him in uniform and even some from his time in Vietnam. I have photos of him and my mother as a young couple playing in the yard with their puppy, the puppy that grew in into the crotchety old dog I knew as a child. I love all these photos. They give me a history. And when your father dies young—and when you’re young—a history is something you yearn for.

Honstly, this is one of the reasons why I have this little online space here. I feel like no matter what happens, it will give my children a history. And not just a history, but my voice. If all goes as I hope, and my children grow up knowing me and loving me, they will be able to read my history and their history and see who I was as a person, which is something I would dearly love to have from my father. (Or my mother, for that matter, and she’s only a phone call away.)

Even though I don’t have that kind of narrative about my dad, I do have incredible albums full of photos. My favorites are the ones of him with my sister and me.

In some of them he is gazing at us, his love evident in his eyes. Those photos mean so much to me. I can’t hear, nor can I remember, him saying he loved me. But I know he did. I can see it. In some he is laughing with us, his joy evident in his face. Again, I can’t remember these times, but the photos show me that they were there. They show me that I made him happy.

In at least one photo, he is sitting on a couch staring off into the distance and he is casually holding a baby me in the crook of his arm. I imagine that he was bored or watching TV and not really thinking of me. But that posture, that casualness, means almost more to me than the photos in which we are laughing together. His natural comfort and the way that I just fit in his arms speaks to me. It says that he isn’t just a mythical Father Who Died Too Young. He was a father who simply Was. He simply sat with his children. He lived with us.

I see the same posture in Alex, and in fact have photos that are remarkably similar to the one I described above. I know how Alex felt in those moments with his own kids, and I know how much he loves his children. And it comforts me.

I’m shaking a little as I write this, because I don’t talk about my father much. I was too young when he died, and because my parents divorced when I was four, I didn’t even live with him for the last few years of his life. I didn’t understand his death and it wasn’t until the death of a friend of mine years later in high school that the reality and finality of it all really hit me.

Even writing “Dad” as a name seems foreign to me. I can’t imagine talking to my mom or my sister and saying, “Dad did…” or “Was Dad…?” I rely on the “my” that prefaces “dad” to distance myself. And I can’t use that with my own family, so he is not something we talk about often. I don’t blame anyone or have any anger about this. It is just how it is. But sometimes it is difficult to not be able to talk about him and learn more about him because I don’t know how to talk about him.

So instead I occassionally go through my old photos and I study his face and his gestures and the smiles and the hairstyles and the clothes in the photos. And I study the sentences he wrote on the back and try to eke his personality from them.

I don’t know my father’s voice. I don’t have good memories of his face or of things we did together. But I have these photos. And they are my history.

Getting the Mail is My Favorite Part of the Day. Sometimes for Very Good Reason.

You may be aware that this week is Geography Week here in Stimeyland. You may not, because there’s been a bunch of other stuff that I’ve been blathering on (and on…and on…) about. Regardless, waaaaaaay back when I introduced Camp Stimey this summer, my friend Whirlwind suggested that maybe we could do a pen pal exchange to celebrate Geography Week.

And awesomely, today a package from her and her kids arrived in the mail today. Oh, man, were my kids excited!

Funny story about Whirlwind. I’d linked to her in a post about letterboxing and one of my readers clicked through on the link and found pictures of Whirlwind’s kids, who happened to be personal, in real life friends of hers.

Yes, I’m outing bloggers all over the place.

I tripped on this for days. And I still don’t know who Whirlwind’s friend is. Say hi, Whirlwind’s Friend!

So back to the package. Not only did it have very cool geography related items inside, but it had her return address on the label. Now, if that’s not an invitation to pack my clan in my car, drive them to her house, drop them off on her doorstep for Camp Stimey Abandonment Week, and then watch and laugh from my stalking spot in the bushes, I don’t know what is.

You should be careful when you send me things.

Anyway, not only were there awesome books in the box, which my kids thoroughly enjoyed and which are going to be my textbooks for the rest of the week, there were also other things.

That’s one of the books. And Jack.

There was a leash, which was promptly claimed by Quinn for his stuffed puppy, Poof.

Much happiness ensued.

There was also a set of Dr. Seuss badges. I don’t know how Whirlwind (I can’t stop typing “Whirldwind.” I have done it every single time in this post. It’s like when I try to type “Bethesda” and always type “Bethesday” instead. Sometimes my fingers can’t control themselves.)

Um. Where was I?

Oh, I don’t know how Whirldwind Whirlwind knew how much Jack likes badges, but he is always drawing them on paper, cutting them out, and taping them to his shirt in order to look more like a boy scout.

This was even better. He was thrilled.

Although the “I am Sam” button might have worked
better on a different one of my kids.

And (I know, awesome box of goodies, huh?) there was a packet of sponge animals in capsules. Sam was overjoyed. How is it possible that there was one thing that each of my kids fell in love with? I think Whirlwind is psychic.

Although most of my kitchen ended up wet after
they were done playing with these.

Whirlwind, you are awesome. Thank you! You have a package coming your way. I can only hope it brings your daughters as much joy as you brought to my kids.

And expect my kids anytime after Thursday.

My BlogHer Experience

If you’re tired of reading about BlogHer by now, you might want to skip this post. If you’re sort of blah about the whole thing, you’re welcome to skim. If you want to see if I mentioned you, look for the red or purple links. If you just can’t get enough, BRING IT ON! Read to the bottom.

The Elephant in the Room:

I think there is a lot of really ugly stuff going around the blogosphere right now. Yes, there was some bad behavior at BlogHer. And yes, I think some people got too swept up in the free stuff aspect. And, yes, part of me is a little ashamed of the collective bunch of us.

But I don’t think we have to keep tearing each other down. I don’t think we have to call people swaghags and swagwhores. I don’t think we have to assume that everyone who behaved badly was a mommy blogger. I don’t think we have to indict all of BlogHer and all of its attendees because there were sponsors, there were parties, there were freebies, and because you will never find a group of 1500 women who all agree on the correct behavior.

If you were there, think about how you behaved. If you are happy with it, then great. If you are not happy with it, then find your own personal way to atone for it and take advantage of the lesson that the experience has taught you. If you weren’t there, don’t believe that the swag hysteria is the only thing that BlogHer was about.

This is What I Think BlogHer Was About:

1. Hanging out with my friends. Some of these friends are old friends, whom I see all the time in my day to day life. Two of those friends are WhyMommy and Tech Savvy Mama, who were my uber-delightful roommates. It’s remarkable to me that three such different women can share the same tiny room for three days and get along so well. (Unless they had bitchfests about me that I wasn’t a party to, and I don’t think that’s the case.) This category also includes Sandie and her adorable appendage, whom I will henceforth refer to as Lord Poopington.

Some of these friends are people I don’t see all the time, but do see on occasion around the DC area and adore. Sarah, Devra, Laurie, Delora, KC, Jodi, Wife and Mommy, PunditMom, Kristen, ShallowGal, Victoria, and Teach Mama, I’m looking at you.

Some of these friends are new friends—people I’ve known online for some time and now am able to match real life personalities to their words. Each of these people was even nicer and more fun in person than they were on their blogs. Love them. Annette, Brittany, Selfish Mom, The New Girl, and Manic Mommy, I’m looking at you.

Some of these friends are people I met last year or have discovered in the past weeks and months and have read or followed since then. It was wonderful to deepen some of those relationships this year. A Mommy Story, Kari, Maggie, Marinka, Lori, The Weirdgirl, Velma, Motherbumper, Heather, and Kim, I’m looking at you.

Some of these friends are people I didn’t know about before, but have girl crushes on now. I’ll get to you later in what is sure to be an extensive post.

If I left you out, it’s because I hate you.

Oh, god, I’m kidding. It’s because I have a brain like a fucking sieve.

2. Being with my people—other special needs parents. My whole blogging community means a great deal to me, but my special needs community is my lifeblood. There are so many of you that couldn’t be there this year, and I missed you. I really, really did. There was no special needs parenting panel this year, as there was last year, so we had a couple of get togethers and a Birds of a Feather lunch.

We took a moment at our first gathering on Friday to remember Vicki and her beautiful boy Evan. Because she is, and always will be, loved and part of our community.

The bloggers that were there at those gatherings, both familiar and new to me, are amazing. I was delighted to spend time with Lori, and to get some one on one time with her at breakfast on Sunday. Kari is always amazing, and never more so than when she is in her full Sparklecorn regalia. It was a joy to meet Janice and Jaelithe and Carissa and Ellen and Tina and CalifMom. I tried to chase Christina of Hopeful Parents down after a panel, but missed her, only to find her at the Birds of a Feather table ten minutes later. I had briefly met Carmen and the Weirdgirl last year, but was able to spend some good time with them this year, and was so excited to do so. I also got to meet Nancy Shute, who doesn’t have special needs kids, but writes about them for U.S. News & World Report. I mentioned Christina above, but I want to mention her again, because I adore her, and was thrilled to hang out with her.

3. Oh, right, the panels. I attended a panel in every time slot except for one. I learned something in every one. I was thrilled to be introduced to some terrific speakers who I will be sure to start reading. (Oh, my Google Reader protests!)

4. Overlapping blogging circles. I am endlessly entertained by different blogging circles. There are certain people whom everyone in my blogging circle reads. Then I find someone who travels in a different circle who has never heard of that blogger. And I’ll hear people talking about another woman who has a huge readership and tons of connections that I’ve never heard of. There are a lot of us out there and that is magical.

5. The community keynote. So I am terribly bitter that I wasn’t selected to read either last year or this year. Terribly bitter. Then I sat in the ballroom and listened to 21 phenomenal writers read amazing posts and I grew less and less bitter because, holy shit, these women are incredible.

6. Devastating gastric distress. Something about air travel destroys my digestive system. I’m not going to go into more detail because I’m sure some of you are already cringing, but let’s just say that I’m really glad that the hotel gift shop sold Pepto Bismol and that if you saw me chawing down on little pink tablets all day Saturday, it’s not because I’m a candy addict. Also, if you saw me grimacing or if I suddenly ran off from our conversation, it’s not because of something you said.

But I feel better now, thank you.

And that’s (hopefully) the last time I’ll share the story of my intestines with you.

7. Tipping bartenders. I somehow neglected to keep any $1 bills on hand for bartenders. Then I finally got some and I left my wallet in my room. Sorry, bartenders. And also, thanks to the adorable bartender in the Energizer bunny suite who made me an amazing drink and refused a tip. (From my friend Teach Mama, because my wallet was in my room.)

8. Throwing a grape at Teach Mama. Okay, I didn’t really throw it. But I’ve been known to do so in the past. And there was one particular grape that kept getting away from me and squirting across the room. It’s too bad that Lumpyhead’s Mom wasn’t there to see my Fruit Ninja skills in action.

9. The dinner I had with a bunch of friends on Saturday night. I didn’t attend any parties that night. I just hung out with my buddies, and it was grand.

10. Meeting some cool companies and finding some fun products to review. I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t take free stuff. I did, and I’m excited about a lot of it. I don’t think I particularly embarrassed myself getting it. I am very grateful for the generosity of the sponsors and I’m sure I will be posting about some of the products over on my review site in the coming weeks.

One standout was the smallish, casual party that Mom Central threw in the hotel lobby bar. CEO Stacy DeBroff was delightful, and I can’t wait to write about the games being promoted at the shindig. Because, frankly, anything that allows me to hang out and play with my family is cool in my book.

11. Getting my tiny baby fix by holding Kristen’s adorable offspring at her Mommy Needs a Cocktail party. I don’t know that she was super amused when I asked if I could take him home as swag, but part of me kind of wanted to. I think Kristen is a stand up gal and I was so happy to help her out by rocking her baby to sleep while she cleaned up after the party (which was great!). Plus, I got to chat with Jenny the Bloggess for a while as I did so. So, win win!

Oh, also, wanna see me nod a lot and talk with my hands? Check out the interview I did with Kristen for PBS Kids. And weirdly, even though we were two floors below the ground in a windowless expo hall, I’m wearing sunglasses on my head for some reason. I can’t explain it either.

12. Amys. I think the real post-BlogHer discourse should not be about disturbing amounts of swag, but rather the disturbing number of bloggers named Amy. And, sure, they all seem to be quite lovely, but am I the only person who thinks it’s odd that there are so many of them?

13. The wonderful memories that my photos will remind me of. I know I published this flickr link before, but I am so glad that I remembered to take these photos to remind me of all your lovely faces.

14. Meeting dozens of amazing women. This is where I talk endlessly about my favorite women from the weekend. It may bore some of you who don’t like lists. Some of these women I’ve read for years and some I will only now start reading. All of them have a story tell. This isn’t everyone I met and/or reconnected with, but these are some of them.

Don Mills Diva, with whom I had lunch with on Friday, and who rocked some incredible shoes and words later at the community keynote. Anissa, who I assaulted in the lobby at the last possible moment on Sunday. Maria, whom I’m a little bit afraid of, but who is amazing, mostly because of the very reasons that I’m so damn terrified of her. Then there is Jennifer, whom I love and only spoke to for a couple of minutes on Thursday because I was sure I would run into her again, but never did. But I’m so glad she came up to say hi to me.

I am thrilled that Amy of Occupation: Mommy introduced herself to me. She’s super cool, and I’ll be reading her blog from here on out. And then there’s Melanie, who I just now this very moment when I was looking for her link put her real face together with her avatar face and realized she won a giveaway I ran back in March. Dear lord, Melanie, I am so sorry I am such a dipshit idiot. This is why people should be required to have their avatars on their badges. I would have recognized you in a fucking heartbeat if you had. (I. Am. Such. A. Moron.)

I loved re-meeting Lady M and her sister, Fourth Breakfast, with whom I bonded over rodents. I love gerbils. She loves rats. Amanda, who works for Scholastic, is phenomenal and I wish I’d gotten to chat with her more. I’m glad I met Jenny on the Spot and am sorry I bailed, like, mid-sentence to get in an elevator (see #6 above). I follow Neil on Twitter and am always seeing him engaged in conversation with women I love. But I was always afraid to tweet to him because we didn’t know each other. Fair warning, Neil, now I know you.

Everyone knows Maggie. It was an honor to meet her. She does amazing things. Then there is Megan, whom I met on the shuttle to the airport. Small world. We have all kinds of weird, real world connections, including that Sam used to go to the same martial arts center as her family.

And, again, if I didn’t mention you…hate. Or an inability to face the Ziploc bag full of a two-inch thick stack of cards I’m getting ready to sort through. It was a pleasure to meet each and every one of you.

15. Returning to live gerbils.

16. Coming home to my guys. When people ask me what my inspiration is, I don’t have to look any farther than them (and their crazy exploits). Because those guys—Sam, Jack, Quinn, and Alex—are really why I blog.

My Very Quick BlogHer Recap

I just got back from BlogHer today. I had an amazing time and met a lot of amazing women (and some men). I can’t wait to go through all my business cards and visit the blogs of the people I met. It was wonderful. Plus I got to meet so many whom I already consider friends.

The two square blocks of Chicago that I saw were terrific. As was the incredible view from my room, which I was lucky enough to share with WhyMommy and Tech Savvy Mama.

I’m sure I’ll write more about BlogHer in the coming days. You know, probably. But until then, I present you with my Flickr set of photos that I took this weekend. I learned my lesson when I took three photos last year. This year I took more than 100.

Take a peek. Maybe you’ll find your favorite blogger. Or your favorite gadget. Or your favorite blogger with your favorite gadget.

Also, I can’t say this enough: if you weren’t there, I really did miss you.

DCMM: Tough Decision: Sleep or My Child?

It was 2:30 in the morning when I was faced with one of life’s difficult parenting choices. My oldest had gone to bed feeling sick—no doubt due to the three hot dogs he’d consumed at a basketball game we’d gone to. Now he was crying out in distress.

I was tired. Very, very tired. Because, you know, it was two thirty in the morning. He let out a whiny cry once, then twice. Then he fell silent. And I was left with my decision: go back to sleep or go check on him.
The argument for sleep was strong. Mostly because I was really tired. Also, that child is a little bit of a drama king. He’s been known to whine loudly for no good reason. And he didn’t sound too upset. I had just decided that I would go back to sleep unless I heard him call out again when all the reasons for checking on him started to run through my head.

What if he felt really bad and was too weak to call out again or come to my bedroom? What if he’d thrown up and was choking to death on his vomit? What if he was sick and sad and needed some parental love?

Unfortunately, my husband could sleep through a nuclear strike, so waking him up wasn’t an option.

With a big sigh, I rolled out of bed and walked to my son’s room. When last I’d seen him, he was sleeping on the floor curled in a blanket. (Don’t judge me.) He wasn’t there, but his blanket was.

I checked the couch to see that he had moved there. He was curled up without his blanket.

I returned to his room, got his blanket, and put it over his chilled body. I gave him a kiss on his forehead, and he rolled over, already almost asleep again. I returned to my bed and tossed and turned for an hour, unable to fall asleep again—status quo for me when I’m woken up in the middle of the night.

I mean, I guess I’m glad I went to check on him. An hour of my life in the middle of the night is not a huge price to pay when it means a moment of comfort for my young son and his tummy ache. And no amount of sleep is worth having something avoidable happen to my son (you know, the vomit choking).

But, oy, do I miss that hour of sleep.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean writes more about the parenting choices she makes at Stimeyland.

Camp Stimey Mid-Week Report

You may be aware that I am bailing on Camp Stimey for the rest of the week, due to a small event with my 1399 closest blogging buddies. However, I prefer to think of it as not “bailing” but rather “expanding” Camp Stimey to include 1399 other people. There will, however, be a small offshoot, which I will call Camp Alex, a.k.a. Camp Video Games and Camp Possibly Forget to Feed the Cats.

Boot Camp Week didn’t go super well. Although I did teach my children about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Although the short one on the left is kind of half-assing it.

I had all kinds of plans to make them run drills and do obstacle courses and stuff, but my shortened week somehow filled up with appointments and playdates, which my kids enjoyed just as much.

On Monday I taught my kids about the branches of the military, which they suffered through with semi-glazed eyes. Then I pulled out the water guns.

They had a really fun time. Interestingly, they operated mainly as a unit and were not especially interested in shooting at each other, which I though was very cool. But whenever I ventured away from our “no shooting zone” (the refill bucket), suddenly they were very interested in shooting at people. Mainly me.

Thanks to Jen at Our Daily Big Top, who suggested a bucket of water for a refill station, which resulted in me not having to traipse back and forth to the hose over and over. Plus the dog had a place to drink.

Although after Jack used her as a target, she retreated back inside the house.

Unfortunately, the small water guns I’d bought at Target proved to be mostly defective, so they’re going back to the store. And I was forced to bring out our heavier artillery from the garage.

That pose is pretty indicative of Sam’s intentions all afternoon.

On Tuesday, my mother’s helper took the water-filled bullet and agreed to play water guns with them.

On Wednesday, I had all my ideas for obstacle courses collected from the internet. (Thanks for the tip, Kirsten!) But then I instead hosted a playdate with one of Jack’s friends, who is also special needs. That was a toughie. I think they played together for maybe 15 or 20 minutes out of two hours. But they both had fun. And I’m really proud of Jack for the effort he made.

Posting may be spotty for the next few days, due to BlogHer Week(end). Next week is going to be Geography Week. We’re going to have all kinds of (quiet) fun as I re-hydrate, sober up, and process information overload recover from my trip.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week. If I’m going to see you in Chicago, hooray! If I’m not going to see you there, I’ll miss you. I really will. You know who you are.