Friday, January 29, 2010

DCMM: Beneath This Doughy Exterior is a Lean Running Machine

Way back in high school physics, I learned that a body at rest will remain at rest. Over the past several years as I've tried to return to a regular exercise regimen, I have been reminded of that over and over.

Until my mid to late 20s, I didn't exercise much at all, and certainly not on purpose. But then came several years of rigorous, regular exercise. I would run or work out at the gym nearly every day. When pregnant with my first and second kids, I exercised to within a week of giving birth.

But then, somehow, somewhere, somewhen between my second and third child, I lost my way. I stopped exercising and I started gaining weight.

My New Year's Resolution—and I don't always make these, so this one is kind of a big deal—is to exercise more. Bottom line, I want to lose weight this year, but I want to do it by becoming a healthy, active person.

And, yes, I'm cutting down on my brownie consumption as well.

All of this is to say that I recently started an exercise regimen. I am now on week three of the Couch to 5K program and I've been alternating my running workouts with fun exercise using the Wii.

(Side note: It just took me five tries to correctly spell "exercise." I think that is a bad omen.)

This is the longest I've kept at exercise since I lost my fitness mojo four-plus years ago, and I think it's because I rediscovered an exercise that I love. Strength training is fine, and the elliptical is not so hard on your joints, but my body just really likes to run.

Whereas when I was on the elliptical, I felt like I was suffering through a workout, when I run, I feel like my body is doing what it wants to do. It feels like it is stretching and and feeding on the energy of the run. When I'm running, I feel good not just when I'm done, but while I'm doing it.

I used to run miles and miles every week. I would run laps around Lake Merritt back when I lived in Oakland, California. As there is no similarly scenic, round-trip route near me where I now live, I run on the treadmill.

The treadmill is not quite as awesome, but I can feel the running feeding my body. Which is preferable to feeding my body with M&Ms.

Still, there are days that I don't want to run, days that I am just not motivated. But I've been pushing through and trying to get those workouts in. Because I also learned in high school physics that a body in motion stays in motion.


Jean blogs at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website serving Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. She runs at home.

Tidbits from a Tired Brain

Look what I have:

Sam

Jack

Quinn

It's a digital frame. From the big, dumbass store. I looooove it.

*****

I've been here and there about the blogosphere. Here for instance:

I wrote about running over at DC Metro Moms.

Check out the giveaway I have for a copy of Chynna T. Laird's parenting memoir about sensory processing disorder (SPD) at Things. And Stuff.

I also have a review up of a great magazine for the 2-6 year old set, The Tessy & Tab Reading Club Magazine. They're really more like little books that come in the mail every two weeks.

*****

Hmmm...what else? I spent two hours today at Sam and Jack's school at two separate Wall of Fame ceremonies. It was a long afternoon. Quinn was a champ. Also? Thank the lord for the iPhone. It can singlehandedly keep the Q-Ball happy for, oh, say, two hours.

*****

I got nothin' else. Except for that I'm really glad it's Friday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My First BlogHer Post of the Year: Big News!

You guys, I am so excited I almost can't contain myself. In a fit of paranoia back in December I bought my BlogHer '10 ticket to make sure I didn't miss out on registration. I secured roommates on New Year's Eve. One of said roommates reserved us a hotel room in early January. I don't know how I'm getting to New York, but I live in DC, so I could practically walk there if I had to.

Let me amend that: I could easily catch a bus there.

You'll remember that BlogHer is in August.

Wait, wait, wait! It's gets better. So much better. After a gang of us special needs parents decided at last year's BlogHer that we badly needed a special needs panel this coming year, several (many?) of us submitted ideas for such a panel.

And there is such a panel!! Right there, first panel of the conference Friday morning:
Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes and Finding Your Tribe Autism is both more out in the open than it has ever been before and more shrouded in myths and mystery. Come learn and share your stories about how blogging contributes to the autism community as a source of support and outlet for parents, as a way for those not dealing directly with autism to gain more insight and sensitivity and as a tool for advocacy and activism.
The phenomenal panel will be led by the lovely, charismatic, inspirational, and oh-so-smart Shannon Des Roches Rosa (you know, Squid), who will be moderating. I know, right? Awesome. I don't know who most of the other people on the panel are, but I do know one: ME!

I'm kinda both excited out of my mind and freaking out beyond belief. Also? I'm relatively sure that I will burst into tears at some point.

I AM pretty excited about getting up there and accidentally spewing out something wildly inappropriate. For instance, introducing myself as, "Hey, motherfuckers! I'm Stimey!" Because now that the phrase is in my head, it's going to be really hard to keep it inside there, where it belongs.

I know that a lot of you special needs friends out there are going to BlogHer this year. I am so excited to meet/re-meet/jump all over you. It is an honor beyond words that I get to sit up there in front of you.

Now I just have to think of something worthwhile to say.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Am an Asshole

Hey! Does anyone remember yesterday when I was all, "My kids are fakers and liars! No one is sick!" and I wrote a whole post about it?

Turns out they're sick.


Sam appears to be fine, but last night after I'd gone to bed, but before Alex went to bed, Jack evidently threw up copious amounts of vomit all over his bed.

Then, this morning, minutes before putting Jack and Quinn in the car to drop Quinn off at school, Quinn started sobbing and saying his head hurt and that he was sick. I had to believe him because, well, because of yesterday, but also because he was supposed to go on a field trip to the bread store today and have lunch bunch after school, both of which are things he'd been looking forward to.

It's quite possible I made the right decision as both of them have been quietly laying on the couch in a different room than me for a half hour.

So, to repeat: I am an asshole for not only not believing my kids when they said they were sick, but for accusing them all over the internet of faking. Did you miss that the first time? I am an asshole.

As Alex pointed out, even the boy who cried wolf ended up being eaten by a wolf, right? (Or maybe his sheep did, but regardless, at some point there was a wolf, and I bet that kid's mom felt like a real jerk for ignoring his screams for help.)

This post is dedicated to Alex, who was practically rubbing his hands together this morning in glee and anticipation of my mea culpa post. "What are the chances that the day you write an entire post about them faking being sick that Jack would throw up all over?!" he asked delightedly. I suppose I'll give him his delight as he was the one who had to clean up all the barf last night.

Edited to Add: It IS possible that Quinn is faking. He's remarkably perky for someone who was laying on the floor whining an hour ago.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

My kids are very good at claiming sickness to get out of things. Sam gets mysterious "headaches" on mornings he doesn't want to school. Occasionally I will get Quinn to preschool and he will start crying and saying he is sick.

They are liars.

(And, yeah, anxiety, why don't they want to go school, blah, blah, blah. I know. I'm working on it.)

I can generally tell when one of them is really sick and when they are faking. Trust me, they don't get away with staying home very often. Although I will grant them mental health days occasionally.

For Jack, his telltale sign is that he sits in front of the toilet and rests his head on the seat. Pretty standard, really. But today he exhibited a different sign.

I'd volunteered in Jack's classroom, where his teacher had said he'd been claiming to be sick and was much quieter than usual. After more than an hour of helping out, I was getting ready to go, when...

Why, yes, he DID write "I'm sick" in a word bubble and then hold it over his head.

How am I supposed to fight against that?

He came home with me where he spent the afternoon losing at Stratego, doing his homework, and hearing vigorous retellings of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Aggravating? Yes. Super cute? Also yes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Birth of a Scientist?

I am always amused by what words or situations will grab Jack's attention. You just never know.

Jack has a minuscule scrape on his knee. It's a little red, which is a trigger for him. He does not care to see blood come from his body. Generally if he's hurt and there's no blood, he'll cry a little, then be fine. He's a tough kid.

But if there's blood, he gets upset and will sometimes start shrieking, "BLOOD! BLOOD!" band-aids are often the cure for such a thing. Once he can no longer see the blood, the injury has generally been cured.

Anywho, he has this scrape on his knee. Last night after he was supposed to be in bed, he came out of his room demanding a band-aid. Alex gave him one, but first put some antibiotic ointment on it, while explaining that antibiotics help kill bacteria, which live in scrapes.

Jack was happy, cured, and toodled off to bed, only to return about four seconds later asking, "How do you spell 'antibiotic'?"

Alex told him and he left, only to return a few moments later to ask again, "How do you spell 'antibiotic'?"

Again, Alex spelled it for him. Jack grinned happily and left. Then he returned.

"How do you spell 'bacteria'?"

Alex told him, Jack giggled, and ran off only to return a few moments later to ask for a repeat spelling of both 'antibiotic' and 'bacteria'. Alex obliged him.

Satisfied, Jack finally left for bed.

This morning Jack greeted me by saying, "You don't want antibiotics to live in your scrapes. I'm going to tell my teacher."

When he got home, I asked if he'd told his teacher. He said he had and that her response was, "All right." So funny. I know exactly what her expression was when she said it too. Hysterical.

I've just printed out an image of a bacterium for him. I'm trying to figure out if continuing down this road will turn him into a scientist or germophobe. Maybe if I'm really lucky it'll be both.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homework Help

Well, homework has gotten better this week.


It looked for a while as if we weren't going to get any help with our nightly homework nightmare. I wrote a note into the school in Jack's communication notebook asking for a brainstorming session to come up with a better plan. This was met with initial resistance by Jack's special education teacher. I followed that resistance up with another note, this one a little more desperate than the last, and including the information that Jack came home from school, played for half an hour, did homework for 2-3 hours, ate dinner, and went to bed.

Jack's teacher, whom I now refer to as my savior, then called me with some suggestions. She's sending home his homework packets on Friday, so he can get some of the harder stuff done on the weekend, when he can fit in both homework and playtime. She also made a couple of the more rote worksheets optional.

After the teacher came up with this wonderful plan, the special ed teacher got on board and everyone is happy that things are going better.

This week and last week are like night and day. It still takes a long time—a really long time—for Jack to do his homework, but there's a lot less crying, both from him and me. Jack is on track to finish almost all of his worksheets, even the optional ones, and I feel like he's had time to relax this week—at least a little bit.

Now, I'm sure that because I wrote this down, that next week will be Homework Disaster Week, because that seems to be how things go around here. Life rarely mirrors the blog for long.

But frankly, it is amazing what a huge difference a tiny, tiny change made in Jack's life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Company: 0; Stimey: $225

There is a Big Company out there that I consider myself to be at war with. They screwed me over with an order I placed a few months back. I placed a "same day" order for something only to discover four days and two trips to the store later that, huh, "someone must have deleted your order."

When, out of necessity, I resubmitted my $45 order, I received my same-day order the next day, but they were not the quality I was expecting. I was sorely disappointed in the company and the service, and wrote them to tell them so.

They didn't contact me for a long time until I finally got an email from them claiming that we had come to some sort of agreement over the phone (I had never spoken to them) and here's your store coupon for $25 that we said we'd send you. Oh, and by the way, it expires on January 19.

I was surly about the whole thing, but figured I would spend the $25 and then never go to the store again. And I told everyone I met that I was at war with the company, which is maybe a little dramatic, but, hey, have you ever listened to me?

But then I won a $200 gift card to the store from a blog contest.* See? Karma. Take that, Big Company!

But then I lost my $25 coupon. Part of me was devastated, because twenty-five dollars! And part of me was okay, because two hundred dollars! one hundred seventy-five dollars!

I used part of the gift card to buy a gift for Sam for Christmas as well as some batteries. Exciting, I know. But then I decided to use the bulk of it to buy me a digital frame to put on my desk. I kept meaning to buy it and meaning to buy it and forgetting.

Well, today, I bought myself a new wallet (trust me, it's relevant), and while I was going through my bag to transfer things into it, I found the coupon from the Big Company. Fucking A, right?

No.

It's January 20. If you recall, the coupon expired, oh, you're fucking kidding me, yesterday.

I figured that maybe the company's website was as dumb as the company itself, however, so decided to try to make my frame purchase online and apply the coupon. I found a frame that originally cost $169. It was marked down to $149. For some strange reason, when I put it in my online shopping cart, it gave me a $20 coupon, so it was $129. Then I put in my coupon code, crossed my fingers, and hit "Apply."

Bam.

$104. For a $169 frame. But lest you think that's where the story ends, you shouldn't underestimate the idiocy of Big Company. Big Company doesn't let you pay for things online with gift cards. I repeat: you can't use gift cards to buy items from bigcompany.com.

You see my dilemma, right? I didn't want to lose my $45 in coupons by buying the thing in the store, but I couldn't pay for it online. Not to mention, Really? Really, Big Company? What is this? 2005?

A short chat with customer service later, I saved my online shopping cart, gathered my documents, and drove down to the stupid store, after telling Quinn I'd buy him candy if he agreed to go. (And, no. I'm not proud.)

We got there, I pulled up my order on their little kiosk, and had to convince the guy that the address of the store on the screen was, in fact, the address of the store we were standing in. A few minutes and one corroboration from a different employee later, I was standing in line with my gift card and my stack of papers, ready to pay for the thing.

Does this seem overly complicated to anyone else? Oh, but we're not done. See, then the gift card wouldn't work.

"How much do you have on the card?" the guy (an entirely different employee) asked.

"About $160," I said.

"No, I need to know exactly how much is on it," he said.

Excuse me. I may need a moment. whatthehelliswrongwiththiscompany youareinsaneiamgoingtofreak outandhavetobeforciblyremovedfromthestore!!!!!

Okay. Better. The cashier had to call another employee over (that's four, if you're counting) to make my card work. "Hey, you're right! There's about $160 on it," he said. Then he tried to hand me the paper that said "CASHIER COPY" in giant, bold letters on the top, saying, "Here is your copy."

Well, needless to say, I left the store not entirely confident that my order had been placed correctly. But—and that's a big but—if it did get placed, I think that means I won this war. Take that Big Company.


* This is why I am not identifying the company. Not because I don't want to badmouth them on my blog (because I kinda really do), but because I don't want to disrespect the people I won the card from, who probably have a relationship with the company.

Stories From the Bus Stop

I hate going to the bus stop. It is probably 0.05 miles from my front door, but it seems like an ordeal on many of the days I have to walk down my street, around the corner, and up the hill to the T-intersection where I wait for my kids.

See, I drop Sam and Jack off at school in the morning, but they take buses home. And I say buses, plural, because Jack takes a special ed bus. Technically Jack's bus driver is supposed to drop him off in front of my house, but as his bus arrives at about the same time as Sam's, she is kind enough to check for me at the regular stop to see if I am

first, i'm not good at small talk

second, it's a weird stratification with different languages, etc.

ellie always wants to come over

jack breaks into vanessa's gated yard

sam whines at me when he gets off the bus

jack lollygags on the way home

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stimeyland! New! And Improved! Now With Rainbows!

It's been about a year that I've had my same ol' blog header and layout. I get bored easily, so I decided I was ready to change things up around here. In case you're wondering, I regularly move furniture around in my house as well.

Things aren't all that much different here in Stimeyland. I got rid of some of my sidebar clutter and added a pretty rainbow in the header. Plus I have links to all the places I write in the sidebar now because if I can't keep track of my blogs, how can you all? I had to make a list for myself and put it on my desk so I wouldn't fuck up by forgetting where I write.

"My name is Stimey and I'm a blogoholic."
"Hi, Stimey!"

In other new design news, I embiggened my Pontificating Gerbil.

Alex thinks I'm alienating the normies by being so crazy (read: rodent-centric) all the time. I say that I don't think there are many normies that show up here. Except for you, of course.

So, poke around and enjoy yourself. I do all my design and layout myself and I am FAR from a professional—or frankly even a qualified amateur—but I have fun with it. I hope you do too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Post Would Be Funnier If I Hadn't Taken Out the Paragraph That Alex Called "Borderline, at Best." And, No, I Won't Email You the Paragraph.

Today was lovely. No school...no work...the promise of Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday cake after dinner.

Why? How do you celebrate?

Oh, right. That whole National Day of Service thing. Don't worry, I did that too. Well. My kids did. And Alex. They cleaned up litter from our neighborhood. But I did suggest it.

Quinn came home with a piece of trash that he refused to give up. It was a page from a book that proceeded to live on my desk all afternoon. It was kind of lame because we have plenty of trash in this house without bringing in outside garbage.

I think that kid gets weirder and weirder by the minute. He goes through our recycling bin every day to find treasures. He was really stoked to find a phone book a couple of weeks ago. And he made us buy him new shoes because he says his old ones made his feet itch. See? Weird.

Huh. Wandered off there for a minute. Where was I?

Oh, right. We did some learning about MLK today, just like last year. Jack and I watched the I Have a Dream speech. I printed out a photo of MLK at Jack's request. Jack then wandered around the house claiming to have drawn it. We talked about King, Rosa Parks, and civil rights a little throughout the course of the day. And when we were at the grocery store, we bought Martin's birthday cake.

I'm not sure how much of our civil rights discussion made it into Quinn's head, because while Alex was cooking dinner, Quinn asked, "When is that guy coming over?"

He meant Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think we confused Quinn a little bit this year. But there is always next year, right?

Updated to add: Okay, fine. The paragraph was about the mice at the pet store that we went to and the content of their character. That character? "Aimless." The original paragraph was funnier.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another Team Stimey Outing

My mother is in town visiting and she mentioned offhandedly the other day that she'd never been to the Jefferson Memorial. So being the accommodating host that I am, I forced everyone to pile into the car this afternoon and head into DC.

I don't fuck around. If you're around me, you probably shouldn't say something that you don't plan on following through on.

See Mr. Jefferson up there?

Going to a memorial is pretty innocuous though, especially if you're in DC, although Alex got a little huffy when we had to park three blocks, two freeway underpasses, and one homeless encampment away.

Shortly after we got there, this helicopter flew overhead. It was a United States of America helicopter. You can call me a liar, but I will swear to my dying day that President Obama was in that helicopter.

And the way I tell the story, he will have waved to me from the window.

While we had such a lovely backdrop, my mother insisted on getting a picture of the whole family. It turned out to be a pretty typical Team Stimey photo.

We're like the Five Dwarves: Loony, Smiley, Goofy, Angry, and Serene.

We were welcomed into the memorial by a sign reading, "QUIET RESPECT PLEASE"

Oh dear.

The fact that Jack is hiding from me behind the pillar may give you an indication of how good we are at being QUIET and RESPECTFUL and GOOD AT LISTENING TO OUR MOTHERS.

Also, doesn't the sign know that when you use all caps, it means you're yelling?

We ended up having a really nice time. And we were adequately quiet and respectful. Or at least as adequately quiet and respectful as everyone else. I was able to take some cool photos. It made me wish that I actually really knew how to use my camera.

For instance, here's a photo of Jack and Alex.


Isn't it sweet? They're cuddled together discussing something. So cute. I wonder what they—

AIIGGGGHHHH!!!! WHAAAAAATTTT the FUCK is THAT?!?

Oh, hello, Mr. Squirrel.


See, Alex had a piece of popcorn in his pocket (don't ask) and fed it to the squirrel, who then proceeded to become very chummy with my family, even going so far as to put his little paw on Quinn's hand. Quinn then proceeded to try to pick up the squirrel, causing Alex to freak out, which resulted in the squirrel running off with Jack in hot pursuit. Jack then tried to chase the squirrel into the memorial, failing only because the squirrel found a roped off area off to the side into which he could escape.

So that blew the adequately quiet part. And try as I might, I can't think of anything respectful about chasing a squirrel full speed around the Jefferson Memorial.

I choose to blame the squirrel.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sometimes Words are Small

I've been trying to write something for an hour or so. But nothing is really working, because my words aren't big enough to convey what I want them to.

Yesterday when I walked to the bus stop, one of the parents, a man whose name I do not know, but with whom I've chatted here and there, walked up to me and started talking about Haiti and the terrible earthquake there. He has family—close family—there and he hasn't been able to get in touch with them. Same thing today. And what this guy is going through, tens of thousands of others are also going through.

This and much worse.

I haven't watched much coverage of the earthquake. But I know it's bad. And I know it's going to get worse. There are little kids there just like my Sam and my Jack and my Quinn who are scared and hungry and in pain. And there are parents who don't have their children anymore. It's heartbreaking.

There aren't a lot of things I can do to help these children and these parents. I talked about it with Sam. I told him that we should try to help when terrible things happen to people. I told him we couldn't go to Haiti to help. He suggested that Alex and I take turns traveling there. I don't think he quite gets where Haiti is.

What I can do is donate a few dollars. I gave mine to Doctors Without Borders, but there are many good people and good organizations who are trying to do what I cannot. All I can do is my tiny, tiny part.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roll on the Floor Laughing. For Real This Time.

Remember how I spilled soda on my laptop? Remember how the gods of jackassery made sure that the laptop still worked except for four keys? And remember how those keys were "R-O-F-L"?

Well. There have been further developments.

First, I discovered that the "4" and the "9" keys also didn't work.

Then I discovered that my whole "let's just leave the computer alone for many hours and hope that it magically starts working again approach" didn't. Work, that is.

Then the more logical "take out the battery and swab the keys with rubbing alcohol approach" also didn't work. Plus it ended with me ripping the "O" key right off of my keyboard.

So I packed up my laptop and put the "O" in an envelope and carted half my family to the Genius Bar.

When they called my name I walked up and began my explanation with, "Feel free to judge me..." and ended with, "...and here is the "O" key."

The dude took the battery out, looked underneath it, and then said he had to take it into the back to "get a decision." Which of course led me to wonder who exactly was in the back? The super geniuses? Steve Jobs? A panel of oracles? Trolls?

Well, whoever they were, they deemed my laptop eligible for a keyboard replacement instead of the liquid damage fix (more on that later). Cost? Sixty-six dollars plus tax.

If you'd told me a week ago that I should give you $70 to keep my laptop running exactly the way it already did, I probably would have said rude things to you. Today I did a little happy dance as I passed my debit card over to the Apple people.

It came back an hour after I turned it in. And check this out: ROFLROFL494949! They even cleaned the screen.

But it gets better. I'm standing there, gleefully paying, when a guy walks up for his Genius Bar appointment. The Genius asks him how he was doing and the guy says, "I've been better. I spilled water on my laptop." So the Genius opens it up and tells him that the water got into the hard drive. Then he drops the information that Apple charges a flat rate of $750 to fix liquid damage on computers.

At that point I turned away and kept my eyes straight ahead so as to not bad karma myself into an extra $680 charge. But in my head, I was sing-songing "Bruuuuu-tal!"

Consider me scared straight.

Now I just have to take my artifact from this little lesson and craft it into some sort of reminder to never put a drink on my desk again.


I'm thinking of encasing it in acrylic and making it into a coaster.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If My Kids Can Celebrate Their Birthdays All Week Long, So Can MLK

Now, I know Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday isn't until January 15th, and I know we aren't supposed to celebrate it until the following Monday, when his birthday is observed as a national holiday, but we just went ahead and started celebrating last Saturday.

If you're new around here, you might not know that Martin Luther King is one of Jack's heroes, and someone that he considers a close personal friend. Last year we celebrated King's birthday, complete with cake. This year, I hope to do the same.

So naturally when I saw that the Smithsonian Art Museum was having a family program celebrating Dr. King this past weekend, we packed up Team Stimey and Team Stimey Adjunct (my mom) and headed downtown.

Our first activity was to make "stained glass windows" (which were actually pieces of colored paper glued to white paper and put inside an opaque envelope—stained glass, my ass) with some of Martin's Big Words on the outside.

I think Quinn's Big Word was BORED.

Sam's Big Words were Courage and Great. Jack's was 0/1.000 ?. Yeah, I don't get it either. But at least Jack didn't spend the 25 minutes in the car on the way to the museum counting from one to infinity plus one hundred and two, like Quinn did.

After that, we watched a puppet show about the underground railroad. Jack deemed it sad. I agree. When the lady hosting the show asked what kids in the audience knew about Martin, Sam reminded us all that his birthday is a holiday. Way to represent, Sam.

I'd never been to this particular museum or its fantastic, warm, roofed courtyard before. We really enjoyed getting to run around sorta outside even though it was 30 degrees really outside.


We didn't even have to leave the courtyard to buy a delicious (incredibly overpriced) lunch. Including this delicious cookie.

Fortunately I just bought a purse that is big enough to carry a travel pack
of diaper wipes for crumb and chocolate clean up.


We made more crafts, including wreaths made of cut outs of hands. Although some of Team Stimey made a clock instead.

I'm looking at you, Jack and Alex.

We (and by "we," I mean "not me") also made quilt squares.

Jack made the "Shoofly" pattern, which he called "Shoot Fly."

We finished our crafts with a half hour before the last performance of the day, which, according to Sam, was going to be "singing and dancing." So we decided to actually, gasp! visit the museum. This turned out to be a mistake. It's not so much fun to chase three kids through a museum whilst carrying four coats and a lot of bulky, still wet art.

Finally the time came for the performers, who turned out to be the Washington Chorus Outreach Singers and not, in fact, dancing performers.

Everyone but Quinn enjoyed them, nonetheless.

"They are NOT good dancers," he told me, mid-performance.

But they did have a seeing eye dog on stage, who Jack and
Quinn tried to sidle up to after the performance.


Afterward, we walked five blocks in the freezing cold to buy ice cream. Alex offered to go get the car and pick us up, but he wanted to leave his milkshake with us so that it would melt a little. It was extremely obvious that he didn't trust me, however. He almost changed his mind and took the shake with him at the last minute.

Perhaps he should have trusted his instincts.

Hmmm. Wait. What was I talking about?

Oh, right. Happy early birthday, Martin.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

--ll -n the -l--- -aughing. Not.

The lamest thing happened to me this afternoon. I spilled soda into my laptop keyboard. I'm not sure yet how I can blame it on Alex, but I'm sure that eventually I will figure out a way.

It sucks. I'm on my secondary laptop right now. (BIG first world problems, I know.)

I only spilled a little soda, and it went into the keyboard, not the ports or anything, but I can sense the aspartame corroding the innards of my computer. It makes me kind of sick every time I think about it.

The computer seems to work fine (knock on wood, knock on wood, oh dear lord, knock on wood), but four of the keys don't work anymore. I was testing them one by one and writing down the ones that don't work:

R...O...F...L

I kid you not.

My computer is laughing at me.

Cruel irony aside, it turns out that they are important letters. Especially if you're trying to Google something like, "I spilled soda on my keyboard," or "how do you clean out a laptop keyboard after your husband tricks you into spilling soda on it."

What I've decided to do is power it down and walk away from it for 24 hours or so. I figure that if I ignore it for long enough, it'll start to work again. Right? Right? Please tell me I'm right.

I'm so screwed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Homework Hell

There are a lot of challenges that come with parenting a special needs child. There are the Big Worries about The Future as well as social problems, independence issues, and a plethora of other concerns. But day to day in the trenches, the struggle to get Jack to do homework often ranks highest on my list of Practical Difficulties with an Autistic Kid.

I have tried everything. I have tried sweet talk, praise, bribery, threats, ignoring, rewards, incentives, nonchalance, peer pressure, finger pointing, mini-trampoline jumping breaks, passing the buck to my husband, turning his math into a game, and making his reading questions tie into his obsessive scripting. Once I even constructed a homework coach out of Legos. There are times when these strategies work and there are times when they don't, but even when they do work, they only work for a few days and then I have to find something new.

Every afternoon after school I open Jack's backpack and take out his homework. On the occasional Monday when there is no weekly reading packet, I do a mental happy dance. When the math teacher doesn't send home a worksheet I send her a silent thank you. And when Jack didn't do all his work at school so it gets sent home for him to do on top of his every day math and reading? I cry a little inside.

Did I mention that he's in first grade? I can't even imagine what my and Jack's after-school lives will be like in middle school.

Jack's homework should take a half hour at most. It almost always takes us between one and two hours to finish. Some days—today for instance—the homework battle stretched to more than three hours.

The really frustrating thing for me, I think, is that Jack could do his homework standing on his head. The kid is so smart. This afternoon when I was quizzing him on his spelling words, which is the only part of his homework he seems to like, he made each of the words plural, including "penny," which he correctly changed to "P-E-N-N-I-E-S."

I have tried so many times to tell him that if he just sat down and did his work then he could play at whatever he wants for the rest of the day. But he either just doesn't get it or is incapable of making himself sit down and do the work.

Instead he hems and haws. He gets distracted by his brothers. He wants to draw a picture of whatever story he is obsessed with at the time. He squirms around on his seat until he falls off of his chair. He complains. He makes his angry face. He growls at me. And, often, in his sad little voice, he will say, "I'm tired of homework."

Me too, Jack. Me too.

Cross-posted at Stimey's Washington Times Communities column, Autism Unexpected.

Monday, January 4, 2010

They're Even Squirmier Than I Imagined

My gerbils are going back to their real family soon, so I've been trying to get in some quality time with them. Usually quality time means glancing at them as I walk by their box. But the other day, it meant something entirely different.

See, Heather left a comment on my last gerbil post about how Alex tried to terrify the gerbils to death. And I quote:
"The gerbils' mom here. I don't mind that you removed Noki from the cage. Don't worry about their little hearts. They get picked up and petted at home. HOWEVER, maybe next time you could remove Cassidy The Predator from the immediate vicinity.

Can you imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Noki had gotten away from Alex?!! That would have been a damn fine Stimeyland post. I would almost be willing to sacrifice one gerbil (probably Robert) just to read it."
Well, first I went and told Robert that I love him, but that his real mom doesn't and if he ever runs away from home that he has a safe place at my house. Or I might have told Noki. I still don't know which is which.

And then I put the dog outside.

And then I did this:


And this:


And now I feel happy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

DCMM: Ten Reasons Why it Sucks to Be the Parent

Being a parent is cool. There's a whole lot of love that you get to give and receive. You get to boss a group of small people around. There's always someone whom you can tell to bring you your shoes. Or a beer.
 
But there are downsides too. We all know it. I now present to you, in no particular order, ten reasons why it sucks to be the parent. 

1. When your kid accidentally clonks you in the bridge of your nose with the back of his head, you can't freak out and curse at him. You have to be understanding and say, "accidents happen," when really you want to cry and yell mean things and hold a grudge. 

2. Why, yes, I DO want to sit around and play video games all day. But I can't. I have to say no. I have to encourage things like sports, reading, and playing outside. 

3. I have to provide food three times a day for children who, honestly, most of the time refuse to eat it. And who sometimes cry when I put it in front of them. But if I didn't feed them, they would complain about being hungry. And then the neighbors would call child services. 

4. Sometimes you have to stack the deck so you lose Candy Land on purpose. And that doesn't even address the fact that you have to play Candy Land in the first place. Because Candy Land? Can suck it. 

5. Even if I didn't make the mess, I have to make sure it gets cleaned up. 

6. Homework. I believe that it is harder to MAKE a child do homework than it is for them to actually DO the homework. 

7. It is soul crushing to pour your lifeblood into your children only to have them turn around and say "You hate me!" because you make them go to school. Also unpleasant is hearing them say, "I hate you!" because you accidentally threw out the scrap of paper that had some very important doodle on it. 

8. Kids wake up before noon on Sundays. And they require adult supervision. 

 9. You have to teach kids everything. Weirdly, kids don't intuit what napkins are for. And have you ever tried teaching a child to jump? If you can explain that to me without using the words, "and then you jump," I will strongly consider giving you one of my children. 

10. You have to know the answer to everything. And if you don't know the answer, then you have to learn the phrase, "I don't know. Let's look that up." And then you have to know where to look it up. For instance, is infinity a number? Anyone? If you give me the answer to that, you'd really be helping me out. 

So there you have some reasons why it sucks to be the parent. And these are just the first ten things that popped into my head. I could have gone on all day. But I don't have time to because there are children milling around here that need me to explain to them that they can't possibly be bored in this house full of toys, books, and games. 

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. 

Jean blogs about all the sucky things involved in being a parent (and a lot of the good things too) at Stimeyland. She runs an autism-related events calendar for Montgomery County at AutMont.

Light

Every year my family goes to the local nature center's holiday light display. And every year it turns into a complete disaster. Sam always ends up bent out of shape about something. There was the year I dragged TEN people out of my house on Christmas Eve to go to the display only to find out that they were closed on Christmas Eve. And you can't forget last year when we lost Quinn's shoe in a bush.

But because we are gluttons for punishment—or creatures of habit—we go back every year.


This year was different. We set expectations ahead of time and we were there right when it opened, so it wasn't incredibly busy. We had enough cash to buy hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. And there was even a table with four (close enough) chairs for us to sit in and eat at. The planets aligned for us.

Sometimes it's nice to have an easy, non-dramatic Team Stimey outing. No humor here tonight, folks. Just pretty lights and cute children.



Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Saw A Lot of Posts With the Words "New" and "Year" in the Title, and I Thought Maybe I Should Bother to Post in 2010

We don't go out on New Year's Eve. Or rather we try not to. Every single year I look at Times Square on TV and try to think of somewhere I would want to be less on New Year's Eve. And I can never think of a place. Let me think. A place that's cold, crowded, loud, and doesn't have bathrooms? No thank you.

It's hard to go out to a place with grown ups because we have three kids. And although I've never tried to get a babysitter on New Year's Eve, I imagine it's difficult. And expensive.

Plus, I get tired way before midnight because I am apparently 800 years old. I remember going to see a band with Alex for New Year's one year and I actually nodded off in the club for a while. That's all kinds of embarrassing. I think that might be the last time I went out in public on New Year's Eve.

I also don't like to travel very far on that particular evening because of the traffic and potentially drunk drivers.

The past couple of years we've been fortunate to have friends invite us over for kid-friendly dinners that end at 8 or 9. This year we celebrated with the amazing, amazing Jessica, Leticia, Susan, and their families. It was wonderful and fun and easy. And the invitation said to wear funny hats.

Some hats were funnier than others.

Sam, who is one of the most social kids on the planet, spent most of the night reading a book.


See, it turns out that he loves the books he got me for Christmas. They are about the rainbow fairies. And there are several other series of fairy books. And we had just gotten a bunch of them from the library. I don't think he put them down all night.

Before we left, he pinned Leticia down and explained to her all about the fairy books and about how her daughter might enjoy them. He spent a lot of time making sure she knew the name of the author. (It's "Daisy Meadows," by the way, and a faker name I have never heard.)

He also spent some time letting her know where she could buy the books if she wanted to. "What's the name of that place we got ours, Mom?"

"Amazon.com."

It's always fun to introduce people to my secret shopping places.

At one point I looked around and saw that all of the parents were sitting at the table talking and eating while the kids were happily playing in the playroom. I don't know that I've ever seen that happen at a party before.

I think the high point for Quinn was dessert. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure of it.

I like that in this photo it almost looks as if he is coveting the beer.


He totally didn't have any fun at all.

Really, with Sam reading and Quinn obsessing on the food, I think Jack was the most social of all my kids. He spent the whole evening playing with Star Wars toys with other kids. Repeat: WITH other kids. (Although Susan and Leticia only parallel played in the playroom. Leticia with her blocks, Susan with her army men.)

I couldn't have asked for more wonderful behavior from all of my children. It was like we were in some magical space (that we will never be able to return to) where everyone was happy, polite, and appropriate. How often does that happen?

It was a wonderful evening, spent with good friends (and the three best BlogHer10 roomies ever!) Also, we were home by 9. Leaving time for this:

Champagne and Super Mario Bros. Good times.

It was a wonderful night. I hope that the rest of 2010 can live up to it.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(one or two days late)