Thursday, July 30, 2009

History

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Too Fucking Cute For Words

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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

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.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Say Hello to My Leetle Friends

Look who's back!


I get to pet sit my favorite gerbils, Robert and Noki this week. And the really totally super duper extra awesome part is that they'll be here while I'm at BlogHer, so Alex will get to pet sit them. Which irks him no end.

He had several questions: Do I have to feed them? Do I have to do anything with them? Do I have to TOUCH them?!

My fingers are crossed that they will still be alive when I get home on Sunday.

Their owner suggested that they should come to BlogHer with me, like real live mascots. Of course, then I took that thought to its natural conclusion, which was bulk buying hundreds of gerbils, shaving "Stimeyland" into their backs, and passing them out as swag.

But evidently organizations such as PETA and the ASPCA and the Chicago Sheraton have pretty strong opinions about giving away gerbils as conference freebies.*

See how cute they are, all cuddled together in a big gerbil ball?


Although I have to tell you that if one gerbil is lying on his back with his eyes closed and the other one is standing over him chewing off nits, or whatever they're infested with, it looks an awful lot like the grooming gerbil has murdered the groomee and is now feasting on his flesh.

In which case I would have to find a place to live in Chicago, because I couldn't face my friend to tell her about the gerbilcide that had taken place on my watch.

* Or maybe they don't. I didn't actually check with them. I do think that my roommates might have a problem with it though.

Sports Week Addendum

When I was a kid, my mom used to take my sister and I to basketball games. We grew up in Utah, and would go to the Salt Palace to watch the Utah Jazz play. Back then, tickets cost something like $5 and the Jazz never won.

I adored going to basketball games. Live basketball is so exciting. I don't care to watch basketball on TV, but when it's on a court in front of me, it's more fun than I can describe.

The only sport that I can watch on TV is football, which is exciting no matter how you watch it. Alex and I used to have season tickets to the Oakland Raiders. (Raaaaaaiiiiiiddddderrrrrs!) Our seats were on the 50-yard line right over the players' tunnel. Prior to going to those games, I had no interest in football. But I quickly learned, oh dear lord, that game is fun to watch.

Although, come to think of it, the Raiders never win anymore either.

Head on over to things. and stuff. to see the story of my family's trip to a WNBA game. It's basically a Stimeyland post, but we got tickets for free, so I can't write about it here. (Have y'all noticed I carry ads now? I hope they don't offend.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CSCA*: Week 5—Boot Camp Week!

* Camp Stimey Coming Attractions!

When I mentioned that this week would be Boot Camp Week, Sam asked, "Is that where we learn about boots?"

Yes, Sam. That is where we learn about boots.

While I love the idea of a whole week dedicated to dragging my kids along while I shop for boots, I don't think they'd go for it. Plus, I can't afford it. So instead, boot camp week will consist of me forcing my kids to do all sorts of calisthenics while I sit in a chair and yell things like, "That's not fast enough, maggot!"

Or, you know, something to that effect.

And really, we may not even get that far. I only have three days, because I'm leaving town on Thursday morning. And it turns out that our entire party is not old enough for the field trip I was going to plan, which was to play laser tag.

I think I'll end up teaching my kids a little bit about different branches of the military and we'll run some drills. Maybe I'll set up an obstacle course for them. I'm not really sure how complete Boot Camp Week will be.

But I will make them call me "sir" for as long as I'm in town.

Edited to add: Idea! Water gun fights! We're totally going to have water gun fights!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

CSSS*: Week 4—Sports Week

* Camp Stimey Saturday Summary!

Sports week was a lot of fun. Sam has been really into sports recently. We got a huge batch of sports chapter books awhile back from Cluttercast and Sam has been racing through them. He's even picked up some fun lingo from them, which I find endlessly entertaining.

Since he's been reading them, he's been insisting on playing a lot of baseball in the backyard and basketball in the driveway. Whenever we go to the library, he says that he will read anything about sports that I can find.

"Sports are my main hobby," he says.

So it was a natural that this week would be Sports Week.

Day 1—Golf Day!

We have done a lot of miniature golfing in the past year or so. So much golf that my kids are kind of tiring of it, so we've taken a little break from it. But there is one place we mini golf that has a driving range too, and that has caught their attention. Sam really badly wanted to go "real golfing."

Alex bought Sam a kid's golf set and they've been practicing in the backyard, but on Monday when Jack was at school, Sam, Quinn, and I headed out to the driving range.

It went better than I could ever have expected.


We got a jumbo basket of balls, and it was almost too many. Fortunately, it was enough to keep Quinn busy while Sam hit balls. He really liked the tees.


When Sam got tired, I took a turn while he played with my camera. Please note my excellent grip on the tiny golf club.


Sam was actually kind of good at hitting the ball. He even had some of them roll out to the 75 yard sign post. See that one I circled? That one is in midair after he hit it. Of course, not all of the balls made it that far.


We did go on a Monday morning. I'm not sure we're ready to go on a weekend, when there might be more people there. We had a couple of pretty erratic shots that had there been any "real" golfers nearby, they might have had a problem with them.

Day 2—Field Hockey Day!

I have a mother's helper that comes twice a week to play with my kids while I work. (Or twitter, but don't tell her that.) She called me Monday night to ask if she could bring her field hockey gear over on Tuesday to teach my guys how to play.

How totally cool is that?

Jack didn't really have a whole lot of interest in field hockey, but Sam and Quinn did. I took a break from industriously working twittering to take some photos. Look how awesome!


Quinn was a little small for the gear, especially the gloves, but he put his game face on and went for it.


I really enjoyed Guest Camp Counselor Day. Particularly because I could watch from inside my air conditioned house as they played in the hot backyard.

Day 3—TV and Vomit Day!

We didn't do sports on Wednesday because Jack came home early from school after throwing up on the bus. I didn't know if he was sick or not, so I canceled all our appointments and let my guys watch TV and play video games for much of the day. Plus, we had a dryer repair guy come by between eight and noon at 1:30, so we just hung out and chilled.

Day 4—Soccer Day!

We went to our regular Thursday morning soccer game on, well, on Thursday. Per usual, we had a lot of fun, half on the playground, half on the soccer field.


Quinn tends to do things like wander off into the shrubbery when we're at soccer. A few weeks ago when he did that, he found a baseball, which was pretty much the highlight of his life. Well, this week, he found another, different baseball.

"I am the baseball king!" he proclaimed.


Now I just have to teach him to fine tune his baseball-finding mojo so he can find precious metals or something.

Day 5—Football and Baseball and Basketball and Stimey is About to Pass Out From Exhaustion Day!

Evidently my kids don't know how to play football.


And they're a little haphazard about baseball too.


I forced my friend to go to the park to play baseball with us Friday morning. It was sweltering. And there seven thousand gnats that really enjoyed my face lotion. It was a little miserable. But the munchkins had fun.

Although our outfielders left a little something to be desired.


We came home and recovered and then set out in the afternoon for our Camp Stimey Meet-Up. Threat of rain and tired toddlers kept almost everybody home. Which gave us an opportunity to play a little basketball.


Sam made his first two shots. It was cool. Then my friend Heather and her kids showed up and my kids promptly forgot about the basketball court. Fortunately there was a playground right next door. And even though it drizzled on and off, we still had a great time.

Not one to let a Camp Stimey Meet-Up pass by without some sort of inadvisable high place behavior, Jack decided to corrupt younger minds as well.


Things went along swimmingly until Sam started asking when we were going to have our playdate. When I informed him that we were AT our playdate, he spent a little bit of time sulking. But he eventually pulled his shit together and had more fun.


Jack and Quinn, who hadn't been on the basketball court at all, made their way over there and did some weird stuff.


The two of them have developed this really cool relationship. They play really well together and talk and laugh and have a great time. Sam used to be the glue that held these two together, but now they're creating their own intimate relationship independent of him. It's really cool to see.

Unless their own intimate relationship involves playing fun games they both enjoy, such as Let's Fill Jack's Socks With Sand. That's less cool to see.


I'm sure Sports Camp will continue for the rest of the summer in a less formalized way. But I consider this week to be a smashing success. Or, better yet, a bouncing success.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Barf.

Jack's bus driver hates us.

I've tried so hard to endear myself to her. We wait on the porch in the morning so Jack is all ready to get on the bus as soon as it turns the corner. I sit in the living room and listen for the bus to come in the afternoon. I'm always on my way out to the curb by the time it pulls up. I'm always very friendly and say hi, and have Jack wave at them as they pull away.

But even all of that can't lessen the reality that Jack is the bus barfer.

It happened first this Wednesday. I put Jack on the bus feeling fine, but got a call 35 minutes later from his ESY teacher telling me that I should pick him up because he threw up on the bus.

Of course when I got to the school, what should be out front, but the bus...with the bus driver and the aide inside cleaning up Jack's vomit. They were practically all decked out in biohazard gear with rubber gloves and all.

I asked if I could help, but they said no. I apologized profusely and went inside to get Jack, who was drenched down to his shoes from his weirdly watery vomit.

Thankfully when I came back out, the bus was gone.

I spent Thursday apologizing profusely to the bus drivers at pick up and drop off.

Then today I got home from a playdate to find a message from the bus driver. She sounded less nice than she has sounded in person in the past.

"Jack threw up on the bus again this morning," she said, "so you might want to pick him up from school."

Then I noticed a message on my cell phone. It was the site coordinator for Jack's school.

"Jack threw up on the bus again this morning," she said. "He seems fine now, so maybe he was just carsick. But be on notice that if he starts to look bad you'll have to come get him."

I ended up calling the site coordinator, because that seemed the responsible thing to do. I told her that Jack does get carsick. I asked if I should bring in new clothes for Jack. She said that I didn't have to because evidently he didn't throw up on himself.

He threw up on someone else's backpack instead.

Oh dear lord.

I asked if maybe I should start driving him to school instead as the bus seems to be hard on his stomach. She told me that I should give it a few more days and then if he continues to have problems, we can take him off the bus then. She was all nice and friendly about it.

The bus driver and aide were less pleased to hear our "Let's give it another chance" option. They didn't even seem all that grateful for my "I'll send a towel on the bus with him" plan.

"There's a lot of liquid in his vomit," the aide said, pantomiming his vomit running onto the floor and down the bus steps.

"I think the bus is just too hot for him in the morning," the driver said, with a meaningful look at me.

I guess this means that my planned thank you baggies of cookies for the bus drivers at the end of ESY have just turned into gift cards.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Coming Clean

I've been getting a lot of kudos from all y'all for my super awesome parenting skills as they pertain to Camp Stimey. And, I know, I do totally rock and am the best mom in the whole world.

(HA!)

But for those of you who look at what I've been doing and feel angst, rest assured, I am not the supermom that I make myself out to be on Camp Stimey Saturday Summaries. My favorite comment came from Papa Echo (one of my old college pals, who happened to marry my best friend from high school, Mama Echo) on my last Saturday Summary. It said, in part:
"I've been instructed to "one-up" you, since you're pretty much ruining everyone else's summer. You and your second-rate YMCA camp... [insert description of super awesome science-y fun here] Take that, Camp Stimey (whose acronym looks somehow suspiciously like some Russian corporate oligarchy). But have a good summer."
Touché, Papa Echo. Touché.

I'll have you know that even though I've been following through on my Camp Stimey theme weeks and having a great time with my kids this summer, that the rest of my life is pretty much falling apart.

My house is a sty. I haven't cooked a nutritious dinner for my children for five weeks. Today, after I took my kids out for soccer fun, we came home and watched Kung Fu Panda because, "Martial arts are a sport."

It's true. I said that.

Then I sent one of my kids to someone else's house, entrusted the other two to my mother's helper, and then after all that was done, they played video games and I took a nap.

My friend ALW said that it's totally okay that my house stuff is not going great because I'm using all of my energy actively parenting my children. But she told me that I had to come clean.

So now I feel clean.

Phew.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Gerbils?

In the wake of formalizing the tagline of Stimeyland to be "life. autism. gerbils." by having it printed on 300 pens, some of you have asked, "Why gerbils?"

I know. It's confusing. Because, really, what the fuck do gerbils have to do with anything?

Let me explain.

(1) Life. I write about my life. Pretty self-explanatory.

(2) Autism. I have an autistic child. Hence, autism is a pretty big part of my life right now. I write about autism.

(3) Gerbils. Somehow I started writing about gerbils a lot. I'm not quite sure how it happened. One of our preschool teachers had a class gerbil and then my friend got a couple of gerbils and then I pet sat her gerbils and before you know it, I was writing a damned gerbil blog.

Anyway, everything about gerbils cracks me up, from the way they look to their absolutely ridiculous name. Gerrrr-bbilll. Ger-bil. Gerbil. It's funny, right? I am assuming that everyone thinks gerbils are as amusing as I do and therefore sees the "gerbils" part of my tagline the way I do: as a signpost that I write a humorous blog.

So, to recap: Life implies that I write a memoir-style blog, Autism implies that one of my main topics is autism, and Gerbils implies that I am hilariously funny. Perhaps erroneously. Maybe it just implies that I'm kind of random. That works too.

And "life. autism. gerbils." is a lot shorter than the paragraph above.

Although when I showed Alex my new Stimeyland pens, with the pontificating gerbil and the tagline, he gave me a weird look and said, "You are a strange woman." And then when I copied the pontificating gerbil pose in the kitchen, he started laughing. So clearly I've proven my point.

So if my six-word memoir is "Always chasing three boys; usually laughing," my three-word memoir can be "life. autism. gerbils." I could do worse for a couple of credos.

Wordless Wednesday: Gerbil Farming?


Okay, no, I have words.

I don't know what the hell this book is about, although I suspect is about gerbil farming. My mom bought it for me without telling me and it just showed up on my porch one night. And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Speeee-LUNK!

I know that some of you (Hi, Mom!) have been waiting for a Luray Caverns post. Never one to let down my readers, I will present to you The Tale of the Way Coolest Adventure in the Way Coolest and Most Bad Ass Place Ever!

Notice how eager and excited Team Stimey—or Team Surly, as I sometimes call them—looks in this photo. Please take note of my vise-like grip on two of them. Don't we look happy and relaxed?


We were Alex was smart enough to pack us a picnic lunch before our million-hour drive to the caverns. Unfortunately, we sat down to have our picnic near some Boy Scouts. I'm treading on thin ice even bringing this up here because Alex and I have a very serious issue when it comes to the Boy Scouts. This is not something you want to mention to him if you are a visitor to my home.

I wish this photo more adequately captured the look on his face. Surly indeed.


I think part of the surly was also because Alex was convinced that we were embarking on a super-lame trip. He thought the caverns were going to be dumb and, I quote, "Fifty dollars we'll never see again." He changed his tune almost immediately once we went down in the caverns.

I took about a million photos, but they all kind of look like this:


But that's pretty cool, don't you think?

If you haven't scrolled down to the next photo yet, wait a minute. Let me ask you a question first. If you had a child who tends to wander away from you and you were going into a dank underground cave, what would you dress him in?

Would it be camouflage?


I think that just may be my favorite photo of all time. What on earth was I thinking, buying Jack, of all people, a camouflage sweatshirt?

You don't have to make reservations to go to Luray Caverns, and kids five and under are free. Plus, if you take your Giant card, your second adult ticket is half price. There are signs posted that say that tours happen every five to 20 minutes, but there were no guide-led tours when we were there. Everyone who paid for a ticket gets a self-guided audio tour.

And if your child, who didn't pay for a ticket, looks hopeful enough and you kinda beg, they will give you an audio player for him too.


He wore it for about three minutes. Eventually Alex and I both had extra audio players around our necks. Alex listened to the adult version of the tour. Sam and I listened to the kid version. It was fascinating.

But mostly we just looked around in awe.


There were many, many people in the caverns the day we went, but sometimes we were almost alone in a corridor or a room. The place is HUGE. It takes about an hour to walk through the caverns.

Of course, one of the things the kid audio tour tells you about is the "ghost" of Luray Caverns. That ghost is a white column. But Sam didn't know that when he told Quinn about it. Quinn immediately decided he wanted to go home.

"Is there a ghost? Is there a ghost?" he kept asking.

"No, sweetie, there's not," I would say.

"But, Mom! The thing says there's a ghost!" Sam would insist.

And then we were right back to, "Is there a ghost? Is there a ghost? I wanna go home."

And so on.

I have to say, Luray Caverns was way cool. Alex agrees that it was way cool. Other than a little nervousness about there maybe being a ghost, my kids thought it was way cool. You should go.

It's kind of a trip to think about caverns like that just existing under the ground. The formations that water and rock can create are phenomenal. The natural world is pretty incredible.

It was a good end to Ology Week at Camp Stimey.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Obligatory Pre-BlogHer Post

I think it's a requirement that if you are going to BlogHer that you have to sit down and write a post about going to BlogHer before you actually go to BlogHer.

At least I'm pretty sure I remember signing something to that effect. Or maybe those were outraged and vaguely threatening letters to various companies and government officials, I don't rightly remember. I signed something.

Well, I am nothing if not a woman of my word (I'm not—I'm a complete flake), so here is my pre-BlogHer post.

(1) I'm going to start off with this:

You might want to click to enlarge so you can see all the beautiful ladies.

That is a photo of most of the women who showed up for the DC-area pre-BlogHer meet-up. Not shown are Kristen (and her adorable baby), Andrea, Jill, Wife & Mommy, JavaMom, Jen, Kim, Katherine, Zandria, and Examorata. (If you were there and I left you off this list, let me know, and please accept my apologies. I have three kids, three blogs, and, like, three part-time jobs—I can't even remember what I just walked into the living room for.)

That photo above shows CaraBee (whom I met for the first time last night), Teach Mama (who just got guinea pigs, so you know I looooove her even more now), Urban Mama (who is so cool she wore her sunglasses inside—although to be fair, it's because she forgot her regular glasses), Jessica (who is not going to BlogHer, which completely devastates me), Lumpyhead's Mom (who encouraged me to throw a grape at someone from across the room, and so I did, and I actually made the shot, and it was awesome!), Linda (who is your go-to source when you have borne many children in a short period of time), Tech Savvy Mama (whom I get to room with at BlogHer, although I'm worried now that she's threatened to take photos of me while I sleep), Susan (whom I also get to room with at BlogHer and who I am hoping will defend me against Tech Savvy Mama's nefarious plans), De in D.C. (who was the victim of my idiocy when she just needed someone to help her open a bottle of water and I refused to help and took a photo of her struggle instead), Laurie (who is tremendously cool and who takes even more photos than I do), Sarah (at whom I threw the grape), Kim (who is adorably pregnant and had a fabulous orange sash that I'm still jealous about), me (whom you already know waaaaaay too much about), Devra (who planned the whole damn thing and is just about the coolest person you would ever want to know), and last, but absolutely NOT least, Sue (who was fresh off of hosting three (3!) birthday parties at her house in one day).

Okay. I'm never linking to anything ever again. Plus, I think that's the longest paragraph I've ever written on this blog.

(2) I have swag for BlogHer. It's not as good as last year's swag, but it is pretty cool in its own right. I'm not supplying details yet, but I will tell you this: I'll be dragging around eight pounds of pens in Chicago. And it involves the following:


Hmmm... I guess I did just supply details.

(3) I don't yet have business cards. You know, in case I run out of my eight pounds of pens.

(4) Last year I wrote a pre-BlogHer post to let you know some things about me. They are all still true. Please review them.

(5) I'll be at Midway on the 23rd at about 10 a.m. If you're there and you see me, grab me! I can't wait to meet all of you!

(6) If you're not going to BlogHer, I will raise a drink in your honor while I'm there.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

CSCA*: Week 4—Sports Week!

* Camp Stimey Coming Attractions!

We're going old school this week and doing straight up sports at Camp Stimey.

So here's what we'll be doing this week: Jack will go to school, Quinn will play in the sandbox, and Sam will force me to play sports with him.

I'm entirely serious.

We have a bunch of errands to run this week, a lot of appointments, and not a lot of extra time.

I'm going to try to fit in a lot of sporty-type activities though. Sam's been dying to play "real golf" so maybe I'll try to take them to a driving range. (What could possibly go wrong?) We'll be doing our regular soccer playgroup that we do each week with WhyMommy, Tech Savvy Mama, and some other friends. We'll be waiting for the dryer repairman to come while we play baseball in the backyard. Maybe I'll force Sam to learn to ride his bike.


I may even attempt to teach Sam what the actual rules of some of the games are.

We will be having a basketball/playground Camp Stimey meet-up on Friday morning. Email if you're interested in coming (stimeyland at gmail dot com). Jack won't be there. (mommyguiltmommyguiltmommyguiltmommyguilt mommyguiltmommyguiltmommyguilt) Edited to Add: My Friday afternoon thing was switched to Monday, so I think our meet-up will be in the afternoon so Jack can come. (mommywinmommywinmommywin)

Also, we're hopefully going to a Washington Mystics game on Saturday. I can't wait to show my three little men that girls can play pro sports too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

CSSS*: Week 3—Ology Week

* Camp Stimey Saturday Summary

I have to tell you that straight fucking up, Jack's ESY is totally harshing my Camp Stimey groove. There are two reasons for this:

(1) We have to be at my house at 1 p.m. every single day to pick him up off of his bus or else I look like a really bad mom. You may not know this, but 1 p.m. is right in the middle of the day. Like, right in the middle. For reals.

(2) I feel really guilty if we do something fun without Jack in the morning. It's like we're cheating on him or something.

Due to that and my ineptitude at successfully completing a science experiment, Ology Week has been a little bit of a bummer. Although I would like to thank all of you who reminded me that a failed experiment still teaches my kids about science. That is totally true. Thank you. Unfortunately, it also teaches them about crushing disappointment.

Oh, I kid. (Kind of.)

Anywho...

Day 1—Entomology Day!

Monday was supposed to be errand-running and library day, and we did that. But it was obviously destined to be entomology day for two reasons (again with the two reasons!):

(1) I bought mason jars at the craft store for our experiments, but Quinn immediately requisitioned one as a bug jar, having been pining for such a jar since his July 4th firefly encounters. He spent much of the day searching for bugs. (And much of the night sobbing uncontrollably after we made him release his favorite bug because, "He's going to miiiiiisssss me!")


(2) My Friend L, hereafter known by her blog alias ALW (A Lettered Woman), somehow intuited that it was Impromptu Entomology Day and kicked the shit out of our tiny little jarred bugs by bringing over this monstrosity when she and her kids came by to play:


What do you say? You can't really see it in that photo? Well allow me to show you a better photo:


I didn't let her bring it inside my house. Nor did I let her throw the corpse away in my garden. I made her take it home to dispose of it. I know it's not rational, but this is why I don't plan things like Entomology Day.

Day 2—Letterboxing Day!

We were all ready to go! We had our clue! We were excited! We figured out which way to go on the path!


We were unable to find our treasure at the end of our hunt! Thankfully there was a playground to play on near our parking space. Plus we got a good walk out of it. So not a total loss.

Day 3—Letterboxing Day, Take Two! And Archaeology!

Quinn, Sam, and I had a much more satisfying Letterboxing expedition on Wednesday while Jack was in school (cue mommy guilt). We found the Letterbox!


Plus, we saw geese, had a duck follow us, found a mother deer with her two babies, and saw a beaver. (Cue double dose of mommy guilt.) It was like the best walk ever.

Here is the journal we created for our expeditions. And do you see how Sam's handwriting is responding to my nagging? Good stuff!


We let Jack help us decorate our title page with our Team Stimey stamp, which is, naturally, a gerbil.

Well, it's a mouse—or at least that's what the cat stamp set it came with claims—but we're I'm calling it a gerbil.


It being Archaeology Day, we learned the difference between fossils and artifacts and excavated the small toys I buried in clay on Monday.


Had those been actual artifacts, we would have learned nothing about Team Stimey, circa Monday. They were not very careful at their dig.


We also did a couple of other projects, such as going through a trash can to learn about what I throw away when I'm sitting at my desk (fudgesicle sticks and stray pieces of popcorn, apparently) and thinking about what someone excavating our house in a hundred years would learn about us (we like gadgets).

Day 4—Paleontology Day!

On Paleontology Day we made this foam dinosaur that I found in the clearance bin at the craft store.


That's it. I kind of ran out of steam.

Also, we dug in the sandbox with fresh sand originally destined to be dyed and used in sand art.


Silver linings, right?

Day 5—Spelunking Day, Trial Run!

Yesterday, as you may remember, we went to a nature center and played in (and on) a synthetic cave. And we saw animals and went on a walk and had most excellent guest campers. This was one of the high points of our week. It was a lot of fun.

Day 6—Spelunking Day, For Real This Time!

If all goes well, as this is being posted, we will be on our way to Luray Caverns, where we will get to go inside a real cave. I'm really excited!

And that was Ology Week. Not the most conventionally successful of weeks, but it'll do.