Friday, April 30, 2010

Bun

I took Quinn back to the Playseum today to see the bunnies. You might remember the cute from the last time we went there.

Only one of the baby bunnies was still there. The others had all been adopted. Yet the cute was still in full force.


This bunny doesn't have a name. Quinn called him "Bun." He's been talking about Bun all day.


That's all I have. No Dipshit Friday this week, because I was a very chill and excellent mom today. Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Autism Path

I feel that when I got my son Jack's autism diagnosis, it was as if I had been given directions to a trail head that started us down a path. The path was different than the one I'd planned on and this path was rockier than the one I left behind, but still, it was a path. Walking along this autism path was better than milling around aimlessly in a meadow, unable to find a trail head of any sort.

When I think of Jack's autism and where it takes us, I can actually see this path in my mind. It is made up of dirt and rocks and it winds through and up a mountain pass. I'm walking it with Jack, and my other children walk on either side of me. Sometimes the rocks in our path cause only Jack to stumble, but sometimes they are spread out so all of us trip and struggle.

Here's the thing about this difficult autism path though: It's beautiful. There are trees and ponds to the side, and every once in a while we see a deer or a squirrel. Yes, the terrain is bumpy, but the setting is gorgeous. This is how I see my life with Jack. Parenting a special needs child brings so much love, joy, learning, and amazement. Some days, when we trip and fall, we see a beautiful flower under a rock that we wouldn't have seen had we not stumbled.

Often times our children with autism forge straight ahead through the hardest section of the trail, but sometimes they notice that there is an easier way around. Every time they take that easier way, every time they learn that they should look for the possibility of an easier way, the sky seems to get a little brighter.

We're not alone on our path either. There are special needs families strewn all over this trail, walking with us. Sometimes we hold hands as we struggle up a steep incline and sometimes we catch each other as we slide down a scree-littered down-slope.

No matter where our paths are taking us—and they stretch all over the mountain—we all started from the same trail head, more or less. We all saw that signpost with the words, "Diagnosis: Autism" on it.

Some of us set off with purpose in our hearts and our heads held high. Some of us feared the heavy trees and that initial almost-vertical climb. Some of us tried to turn around to find a different trail. Many of us had hope. And we needed it too, because that first couple of miles? They are a bitch. The terrain is unpleasant and the overhanging trees block the view. There is so much to learn about how to climb and we often forget to look for the bright spots hidden among the boulders.

But we keep going because someone a little bit ahead holds out a hand, or we see a beautiful rock that a previous passer by dropped for us on the ground. We keep going, because our child keeps going, and he needs us to keep up. He needs us to remember that even when he is struggling up that path on unsteady legs, he is still the same child who days ago was frolicking in the meadow before someone said "autism" and pointed him toward this trail.

There are people who are much farther ahead of us on this path. Through the special needs parenting grapevine, word comes back that there is a really steep hike coming up. The word warns us to work hard and keep trying but don't despair, because there is a lovely flat section after you reach the top, and oh my God, you won't believe the view from up there.

These paths wind all over the mountain of autism, intersecting, diverging, and running parallel to each other. There are times when I am on my path, picking my way around trees when I can see my special needs friends on their paths below and above me. Some of them are struggling, some of them are running, and, look, that guy there is sitting down nursing a bruised knee.

But we all get up and we keep walking.

Sometimes the path is dark and scary. And sometimes its beauty takes our breath away. Sometimes we gaze at the path of neurotypicality on the valley floor and wish for those easy slopes and the way all of those paths run close together, providing easy company. There are some beautiful plants and geographic formations down there, that's for sure. We forget that there are hazards down there as well, that they are merely different from our own.

There are days that we don't envy those valley-floor paths, however. Those days we realize that those trails don't wind around high-altitude lakes, stunning in their beauty. Those paths don't force their walkers to fight through a bramble of thorns, which means their travelers don't get to feel the surge of pride and victory when they emerge back into the sunlight. We don't get to experience the same beauty as those walking on the valley floor, but our scenery is gorgeous in its own right.

Everyone's path is hard. Everyone has to struggle up and down the trail on which we have embarked. We struggle over the uneven ground and hope that around the bend there is a nice flat section or a tree stump, upon which we can take a rest and enjoy being with our fellow travelers.

But after we sit, after we rest, we stand up and we keep walking. We continue to find ways to help our kids avoid the most difficult pitfalls and we keep on in our search for that small, beautiful flower or the overwhelming gorgeous view.

We're tired, but we keep going, because we get to be with our children and they make the walk oh so worthwhile.

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Museum of Modern Sam, Part Deux

Sam is only eight years old and he has just had his second art showing. Back when he was in kindergarten, one of his (yes, I'm going to call them) pieces was chosen to be put on display in a county-wide display of students' art at a local mall.

This year, another of his pieces was chosen. This one:

It's pretty, huh?

Sam also wrote a little something to go along with it. He wrote: "I created a seascape. The mood of my seascape is calm and breezy. I showed this by making the waves wiggly. I used several techniques in my painting. (Masking; crayon resist; wet on wet and salting.) I showed depth in my painting by overlapping my boats. The smallest boat in the background does not have any details."

I'm so proud I could just about bust. I'm also a little jealous. I don't think any of my art even made it up onto a refrigerator.

From the looks of it, Sam is pretty proud too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kindergarten, Ho!

Dude looks little, doesn't he?

Oh my God, the cheeks.

He's not little anymore though. He'll be five in a month. He'll be going to kindergarten in four months. He's a big kid. (But he's so little.)

I took Quinn to kindergarten orientation today. He was really excited. But he was also very nervous. He was absolutely uninterested in going anywhere without me. He was also uninterested in wearing a name tag, so I had to sneak it onto his back. He almost caught me.

When the people running orientation wanted to take his mug shot, he was displeased and made me sit with him. Yet he was okay posing for me.

Turn to the left please.
Also, please take that thing out of your mouth. Geesh.

I've been in those kindergarten classrooms so many times. But it's kinda crazy that this time it's Quinn sitting in those chairs. I've been waiting for him to go to kindergarten for so long, but I can't quite believe he's going to go.

If kindergarten requires a pointer, he is super prepared.

He chilled out a little by the time a teacher took him to do their little let's-figure-out-where-this-kid-belongs quick assessment. I was completely ready for him to refuse to do anything. I was happily surprised when he was compliant.

Well, now he looks so big in this photo.

I was hanging out, you know, not hovering. Although I was the idiot parent with the fancy camera, per usual. In fact, I was the only parent taking pictures. Come to think of it, I guess I was hovering. (See how selfless I am in being a dork so that you can see these very important photos of Quinn getting schooled?)

Of course, my fancy camera's battery went dead partway through,
making me the idiot parent with the non-working fancy camera.


Where was I? Oh, right. NOT hovering. I saw Quinn misidentify a lowercase "j" by calling it an "i", but while going over numbers, he mentioned pi, so I'm pretty sure he's going in the super-advanced class. But then again, when the teacher asked if he knew what pi meant, Quinn mumbled something about a "cooked pie." So maybe he'll go into the super-poseur class.

However, now that I think about it, the teacher then went off on a tangent about one being the loneliest number and how two can be as bad as one, but one is really the loneliest number—to which Quinn responded with a blank stare and I responded with my characteristic guffawing idiot laughter—so it's entirely possible that we won't even be allowed to enter school at all.

I have an ace in my pocket though in the case that the school decides I am too big of a dork to allow me to send a third child there. I'm pretty sure this pumpkin seed rhyme constitutes a legal contract.

Take that, public school! I'll be as big of a dipshit* as I want.

Can you believe it though? My baby's going to go to kindergarten. Be prepared for wildly vacillating mood swings from hysterical joy to maudlin retrospectivity. (It is too a word.)

* For you Dipshit Friday lovers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Holy Crow, What the Hell Just Happened?

It's Thursday, which means that Jack and Sam's friend E comes over to play with her little brother P. Today, our other first grade neighbor, V, and her babysitter, S, came too. (Do you have that straight? )

Anywho.

Things were going well until E mentioned that she wanted to marry Jack. Which I love because I love anyone who loves Jack. E had even found a couple of costume jewelry rings for them to wear. Well, Sam was not okay with this because evidently at the beginning of the year, E had promised Sam that she would marry him.

Five minutes later Sam was upstairs sobbing, E was confused, and Jack was oblivious to the whole thing. In fact, after the nuptials, Jack passed his ring over to V's babysitter. I'm not sure if that makes Jack and the babysitter married or E and the babysitter married. Either way, it didn't matter to Sam.

I know that Cliff Huxtable would have handled this in a very after-school special sort of way, so I headed up the stairs to have a heart to heart conversation with Sam about love. Unfortunately, Sam isn't Theo Huxtable. Sam reacts to disappointment by withdrawing and screaming about wanting to be alone. He won't even let me hug him to comfort him.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that adding E to the situation was the way to handle it. But after Sam yelled at her for breaking her promise, she started sobbing. Nicely done, Stimey. Now, not only was Sam heartbroken and angry, but E was convinced that Sam would never talk to her again.

I am an excellent playdate facilitator.

More drama ensued with E swearing that original promise took place in kindergarten and that it didn't count, because, you know, kindergarten, c'mon. Then there was some passing of notes written in marker on Kleenex and some more crying, and then E's dad showed up and everyone went home, but not before E very dramatically removed her ring and handed it to me.

If this is age 8, what the hell is age 16 going to be like?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shannon Des Roches Rosa Interviewed Me at BlogHer.com!

Recently, the fabulous Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Squidalicious interviewed me for her BlogHer.com column. The posts she puts up there are incredible and thought provoking. It's an honor to have her interview me.

Head on over there to read what I told her about being an autism mom and what I hope to do at this summer's autism panel at BlogHer '10.

And because that interview is a lot about the loveliness and quirk of Jack, I thought I'd illustrate this go-read-elsewhere post with that clay sculpture to the left that Jack brought home from school today.

Confused, I asked Jack to tell me about it. "It's me and Izzy," he said. See, Izzy is our cat, and that flat thing with the wiggly eyes on top is Jack. So cute. And it's even more awesome in person. He made clay whiskers. That's hard to do. I assume.

Also cute was that after he heard Jack tell me it was him and Izzy, Quinn cooed, "Awwww, can I hug it?"

Monday, April 19, 2010

And You Thought It Couldn't Be Done

Alternatively Titled: "Team Stimey Went to the White House and No One Got Arrested. Or Shot."

The White House opened up its gardens for tours over the weekend and Alex has a friend who works at the White House and scored us a spot. I asked Alex about a billion times, "He knows we're bringing our kids, right?" The day of the tour I noticed that my children do not have any White House friendly clothing. Fortunately, our "nice" clothes were good enough for the outside of the building.

I like that I'm not the only one wrestling my kids into photo position.
Note the lady behind me to my right.

It's kinda badass to be in a place where there are dudes walking around with machine guns and to know that they are not afraid to use them.

I kept my kids close.

I wanted to take a photo of one of the machine gun guys, but I was afraid to do so. We've finally found another place where Stimey is afraid to take a photo. That makes (1) in the face of huge guns, and (2) a public bus.

Look how close I was! I could totally have bum rushed that place.


This is the president's view of the fountain and Washington Monument.


This would be the president's view of the fountain if he adopted us.

Needless to say, I threatened my kids within an inch of their lives if they misbehaved. Well, I threatened to take away video games for an entire week, which is a pretty big deal to Team Stimey Junior. They were good. We only got yelled at once. And it was because of this:

I tried to get Jack to turn around, but he was locked onto the swingset.

I imagine that Sasha and Malia's swingset was pretty appealing. I imagine that Jack wondered why no one in the vast, noisy crowd was playing on it. I imagine he thought that he had a great idea.

"PLEASE STEP OFF THE GRASS!! PLEASE STEP OFF THE GRASS!!"

I have no way to defend my actions in taking this photo before making Jack get off the grass. Fortunately, the guard shouting was not (visibly) armed.

Jack was pretty forlorn at not getting to play.

It was really cool to be there. We saw the Rose Garden and the South Lawn and the tennis/basketball courts and the Children's Garden, which was slightly disappointing to Sam. ("That wasn't really a children's garden," he bitterly complained afterwards.) I think he was expecting animal-shaped topiary or roller coasters or at least ducks.

Instead there was a koi pond and Jebby Bush's hand prints in the ground.


Jack more than measures up.

I think the kids had fun. They were pretty excited to be at the White House, although the walking around exhausted them.

Thankfully, there was a people-moving machine around.


Sam got some meditation in.


And Jack tried to take a nap on the street after we left.

Since we were at the White House Gardens, I figured I should show you a photo of flowers, even though I kinda don't get the point of photos of flowers.


I'm all buoyed up and confident now. Maybe I'll take my kids back to the Capitol.*

* Not in a million years.

Friday, April 16, 2010

DCMM: I'm So Close to the Dream

We are getting close to the end of the school year here in Maryland. And, yes, I KNOW it's still only April, but that just leaves May and then a couple weeks of June, which barely counts, and if you subtract lunch time, recess, and standing in line time, it's really more like three or four days.

Anyway, the end of the school year is making me think about the beginning of next school year. Next school year starts August 30 in Montgomery County. I've been waiting for that day for a long time. It's so close I can almost touch it. That day? That day is the beginning of a better life for me because all three of my kids will be in school all day long. This long-coming day makes me think of the research study I remember hearing about a few years back that stated that parents' happiness peaks when their kids are in elementary school. I'm waiting patiently for that. And I've compiled a list of ways my life will be substantially better come August 30th.

• Naturally, August 30 itself will be better because I plan on napping that whole day. Just because I can. Maybe I'll nap near a bucket of bonbons, just for effect.

• I work from home in the evenings after my kids go to bed and on weekends. I am really, really looking forward to shifting that work time to the day. The result of this shift change will mean that not only will I have free time—ohmigod free time!—but that I will be able to maybe chat with my husband now and again. I'm going to enjoy that. I wonder what that guy has been up to.

• I am going to save GOBS of gas money. I currently drive back and forth to my youngest son's preschool twice a day. Plus I drive the older guys to school in the morning. Now that they'll all be going to the same place at the same time, I think I'm just going to put them on the bus. Which leads me to...

• ...the time I'm going to save. My current drop off duties (elementary and pre-school) takes me an hour and a half. When all three of them get on the bus, I'm going to cut that hour and a half down to FIVE MINUTES.

• Do you know what I'm going to do with that hour and twenty-five minutes I save? I'm going to exercise. Every. Day. With Added Daily Bonus Shower!!

• After I clean myself, then I will clean my house. That act alone, done consistently, will likely save my marriage.

• But volunteering in three kids' classes. Oy, right? Wrong! These days volunteering in two different kids' classes requires two days because of the short amount of time my youngest is in preschool. Once I don't have that limitation, I can consolidate all three classrooms into the same day. Yes, I'll be at the school for four or five hours, but then I will have four full days of freedom!

• Those extended periods of child-free time also means that I will be able to do things like schedule appointments without worrying about missing preschool pick up. Or making my husband take sick days to watch the kids when I go to the dentist. Imagine how both my teeth and his career will flourish!

• All of those projects, you know the ones you're going to do...later? I'm going to do them. I'm going to organize my photos. I'm going to organize my kids' school scrapbooks. I'm going to start reading the stacks of books that have been patiently waiting. I'm going to make all the blog improvements on my Blog To Do list. I'm going to do the research on all the things on my Research To Do list. I'm going to do all the things on my regular To Do list.

I don't know what's going to happen when August 30 passes and I am not instantly happy, thin, clean, and organized. But I'm sure that won't happen. Right? RIGHT??

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post. You can read about how Jean fills the days until August 30 at her personal blog, Stimeyland.

Dipshit Friday: The Twitter-IS-Useful Edition

I've noticed that when I post things on Friday that I typically get about one comment. Which leads me to believe that no one reads me on Friday and that I am free to reveal my most nerdy sides. Maybe that will be a regular feature here: Dipshit Friday.

My nerdy tidbit for today is that I am a huge Survivor fan. I never miss it. I didn't Tivo season three because Sam had just been born and I figured that I wouldn't have time to watch it. Or something dumb like that. I've regretted it ever since. Stupid newborn.

For those of you who also religiously watch Survivor (both of you), you know exactly who Coach is. Now, I'm not going to say that I've ever rooted for Coach to win, but I AM always endlessly entertained by him.

I remembered this after I saw Nicole's tweet roll by on Tweetdeck yesterday.


Ever the asshole, I immediately responded.


Before too long, Nicole tweeted again.


And, voila!

The Dragonslayer!

I love me some Twitter.

******

Also, I wrote a post I'm pretty proud of over at Autism Unexpected: How to prepare for an IEP meeting.

If you're so inclined, you can also head over to Hopeful Parents to find out what Quinn is up to or go over to DC Metro Moms to find out why I'm looking forward to August 30. (Three guesses, first two don't count.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Re-entry

Our re-entry into school after spring break has not been awesome in the Stimey household—or Stimeyhold, as I like to call it. By my count, Jack has been back in school for seven days. And we have gotten six calls/negative reports from the school.

The first call came last Wednesday, about ten minutes after I dropped Jack off for his first day back after spring break. It was pancake day at school and Jack was going to buy lunch. Unfortunately, in his distress over being forced to, oh dear lord, attend school, he had been unable to communicate to me that morning that he would have much preferred for me to pack his lunch. He was, however, able to communicate that to his teacher, who was forced to call me to ask me to bring him a lunch.

The next day was Thursday (as Thursday tends to follow Wednesday). I was playing in the front yard, sans cell phone, waiting for Sam and Jack's buses to bring them home. Sam's bus came first, which is unusual. Jack's bus never came. When we went back into the house, there several increasingly frantic phone messages from the school, telling me that Jack wasn't on his bus because of an "incident" at the end of the day and could you call us? Make that, I hope you get this message and call us soon. Update that to, Pleeeaassseeee call us NOW!

Turns out that Jack had gotten upset in his music class over not getting a reward, freaked out in the hallway full of students being dismissed for the day, and the teacher had to call the Green Team to deal with him. The Green Team? Not as fun and environmentally friendly as it sounds. It's the restraint team. Oy. The assistant principal was quick to reassure me that Jack was not physically restrained and that they were able to chill him out with words, but that he was too upset for them to put him on the bus. So, off to the school to pick him up we went, where I mentioned two (or seventy) times that I am extremely leery of restraint and that is not something I want to happen to Jack. I think they got the message.

I think Friday went okay. But his homework packet didn't come home. It also didn't come home on Monday.

That particular mystery was solved when I went in to volunteer on Tuesday and the teacher told me that the packet had been in Jack's folder both days, but that he had snuck it out before going home. Is it wrong that I'm a little proud of him for being so independent and creative to think of that? Oh, sorry. I mean, Bad Jack! Bad!

On Tuesday I also found out that Jack had greeted an overweight intern in the classroom with an exclamation of, "She is fat!" As a not exactly svelte person myself (hell, as a person myself), I was horrified. Another conversation to put on my list.

Don't even ask me about homework that night. It went poorly. Nothing got done. Nothing.

Okay, so we're back at another Wednesday. Another phone call from the school about a minor but significant behavior that I agree is inappropriate. I talk to Jack on the phone, who is sobbing about not liking first grade and how he wants to go back to kindergarten. The assistant principal tells me she'll send Jack back to his class in a few minutes. Meanwhile my heart is breaking into a gillion pieces. On the upside, Jack rocked his homework that night.

Day seven. Thursday again. Jack's case manager called me shortly after noon. Unfortunately I didn't get her message until after school let out and she was gone for the day. I was completely freaked out because she sounded super serious. Based on what I saw in his communication notebook, she wanted to talk about Wednesday's incident. That made me kind of happy that I missed her call. I had no desire to deal again with that incident, which Jack and I had already discussed and will continue to do so. [Edited to Add: Turns out that this was about an entirely different episode and a call was actually warranted. Oy.]

And again, Jack refused to do any homework. They're going to love me when Jack shows up at school tomorrow with one day of homework complete.

None of the school's calls and concerns were overkill (except maybe today's call [ETA: Again, not actually overkill. Again, oy.])—and, in fact, much of it was helpful and very appreciated by me—but when you stuff it all into the space of one week, it kinda sucks.

I'm thinking that we're going to write off this week and last week and start fresh on Monday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What is Your Favorite Book About Autism?

I had a new teacher ask me today to suggest a book about autism to her. "If I'm going to [teach]," she said, "I figure I should know about it."

How great is that?

Now I want to recommend a great book to her. Any suggestions? Also, if you have books about autism that you love, but that wouldn't necessarily be for a teacher, can you also let me know what they are?

Thank you!!

They're Alllliiiiiivvvvvveeeee!!!!

I still have my Ladybug Corpse Hut on my desk because I'm lazy that way. I was trying to decide how I was going to get all the dead ladybugs through the tiny hole in the top. Originally I had considered flooding it, shaking it vigorously and then emptying it out. What I finally settled on was prying the ladybug husks of the side with the water dropper, turning it upside down, and then shaking it until everything came out.

Thank goodness I'm lazy though, because look what I spied out of the corner of my eye this afternoon:

Huh. That yellow guy is new.

Shortly after I noticed that guy, and while I was frantically soaking a raisin in order to feed him, I saw this guy:

That one looks like a real ladybug!

Guess what? There were FIVE ladybugs alive and waltzing around in there. Well, they weren't waltzing until I reinvigorated them with water and soggy raisins, but before I knew it, they were charging all over the habitat. As I type, three of them are dining on delicious raisins.


The lesson here? Don't count your ladybug corpses before they mature.

Or something.

Also? I've raised Zombie Ladybugs.

Disclosure: This habitat was sent to me free for review purposes by Insect Lore. However, the new set of larvae that I ordered after I thought I committed ladybugicide, I paid for myself.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Typhoid Stimey Strikes Again

Alternatively titled: "The Eradication of the Ladybugs," "Stimey Continues to Cut a Swath of Death Through Hordes of Tiny Animals Everywhere," OR "Oh. I Was Supposed to FEED Them?"

Well, it's happened. The ladybugs are dead.


Evidently, this was not unexpected news.

I figure that this puts me in serial killer range. Not to mention that—and I'm not entirely sure about this but I think it's highly likely—killing masses of ladybugs increases the likelihood that I'm going to hell. Or at least earning myself a decade of bad luck or something.

They started out so well. They bustled around in their little larval state, eating the food that came in the tube with them. They were fun to watch. I even put their little habitat on my desk because they were so cool.

However by the time I did that, they were probably already dead. I'm tres observant.

There was one little guy who never made it out of larva stage that had been stuck to the side of the habitat since we first got it. I was going to make a joke about Corpsey McLarvaBug as a grotesque reminder of the grim specter of death to the other ladybugs. Unfortunately, the adult ladybugs were facing an even grimmer specter.

Look at my cool ladybug!!


Look at me watering my cool ladybug the next day!!

Huh. That's weird. He hasn't moved.

After poking at the semi-mummified body with the water dropper, I realized that no one in the habitat had moved for quite a while. Even when being poked with a water dropper.

Here's what I think happened. And by "here's what I think happened," I mean, "Here's what happened."

I was so excited watching the larvae turn into ladybugs that I totally failed to notice that they had turned into ladybugs and could no longer eat their larvae food. For want of one softened raisin, the colony was lost.

Here is Jack jabbing at the dead bugs.

I want another chance. I know I can do it this time. I've learned. I'll remember to feed my pets this time. I swear. I ordered another tube of larvae. (Right now you should imagine dozens of ladybug larvae visibly shuddering and then fighting their way to the back of their holding enclosure.)

As long as the kind people at Insect Lore don't regularly read my blog, my order will be filled and arrive shortly. I'll keep you posted. Rest assured that I have a stock of raisins on hand waiting for the metamorphosis.

Disclosure: The ladybug habitat was provided to me free for review purposes by Insect Lore. I'll be posting my review after my second batch of victims ladybugs grows to a ripe old age and flourishes as I release them into the spring sky.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oh, You Guys. Y'all Are AWESOME!

I cannot thank all of you enough for your participation in Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair. It worked out better than I ever could have dreamed and all of the credit goes to you—the nearly SIXTY people who did science in honor of Susan. You. Are. Incredible.

I just got off the phone with Susan. She sounds great. She sounded happy. She was pleased that the cancer is out of her body. But she was also happy about the idea of all of her friends doing science with their kids or by themselves. She told me that she's been walking the aisles of the science fair and reading. She may not be able to comment for a while (I don't know, something about Vicodin), but she is reading and loving it.

She asked how I pulled it off and I told her the truth. I told her it was a piece of cake because of all of you. Seriously, all I had to do was send out a couple of emails. You all did the rest. I'm blown away and honored to know all of you. I know she is too.

So here's a little something for you. You've earned it. Susan gets the Blue Ribbon First Prize for kicking the shit out of cancer, but you all get this super awesome Participant Award.

I know that I have had a blast visiting all of your sites. You've given me a gajillion fun new ideas of things to do with my kids this summer when we're languishing in the long summer no-school days. It was so cool to see how each of you interpreted the science fair in your own way. So completely amazing.

I would like to thank Joeymom, who responded to my first email with a suggestion for the name: The Team WhyMommy Virtual Science Fair. I would also like to thank Kate who responded to my (second to) last email with the information that I misspelled "blogosphere" in my image. In my defense, (a) it's a hard word to spell, and (b) it's not a real word.

But mostly, I want to thank all of you. Thank you for helping to bring a little extra light into Susan's life. And mine. You are fantastic. Each and every one of you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair

There are a lot of people out there who know and love Susan, a.k.a. WhyMommy. She is beloved by many people, both in real life and in the blogosphere. There is a reason for that. She is an amazing person. She is smart, she is kind, she is probably the most conscious parent I know.

She has also done a lot to spread cancer awareness. After getting a rare type of breast cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, that presents without a lump, she courageously let us join her in her battle, teaching us what cancer treatment and recovery looks like.

Unfortunately, Susan recently had a recurrence and is going to go in for surgery today to restart her battle. I hope she knows that she is not alone. I hope she knows that even though we can't all be there in person, we are thinking of her, sending love, good wishes, and prayers.

That is what Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair is all about. We want her to know that she is loved and supported. But we also want her to know that our love and support is not all because of the cancer. We love and support her because of who she is, not just because of what she has. She is not just a cancer fighter, but an incredible person, one who is passionate about science and especially women who do science.

Bloggers from around the country and, dare I say, world, have spent some time over the past few days doing science. We've done science with our kids or with our friends or by ourselves. And we are writing about it today to show Susan how she inspires us. How she is truly making a difference in lives all over the world by encouraging all of us to believe that we can be scientists, whether it be on the smallest, let's-take-a-walk-in-the-park scale or the largest, I'm-going-to-get-a-degree-in-planetary-science scale.

All of the bloggers participating in Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair will be putting links to their posts here today. If you haven't done this yet, there's still time. Go do something science-y, write about it, then come back here and put your link in the Mr. Linky below. (Be sure to link specifically to your science fair post, not your blog in general.) If you're not a blogger, tell me what you did in my comment section. And don't forget to head over to Susan's site to give her some love, encouragement, and virtual hugs. She's going to beat this thing (again), and is going to go on to do even more incredible things.

Susan, we love you.

Team Stimey Does Science for Susan

I'm taking part in Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair today to show Susan of Toddler Planet that I love her and that she inspires me. And, Susan, it's true. You really do. I watch the way you love and parent your children so gently and so lovingly and am inspired. I see the way you care about women, women in science, and women with cancer, and am inspired. I see what a kind person you are and am inspired.

You inspired me this week to incorporate science into my kids' spring break. We did a lot of stuff this week, but made a point to notice the science-y stuff along the way.

Here's the thing about science, you can find it everywhere. Sometimes what you need is someone who cares about science to show you that. Whereas we used to, you know, go on walks, after reading Susan's posts about exploring trees and rocks and water, now we go on science expeditions.

When we went to a playground last week, Sam took a notebook and a pencil and made a list of all the nature that he saw.

I can't figure out what that thing under weeds is. Anyone?

When we made our Peeps dioramas and melted some Peeps in the microwave, we thought about why they explode.

Answer: I don't have a damn clue.

When we went to National Harbor last Monday, we made sure to stop by the Launch Zone to explore animal skeletons, rocks, and birds.

Et tu, Launch Zone?

When we introduced ladybug larvae into our new habitat, we started the process of learning how the larvae turns into ladybugs. And we learned that ladybug babies are gross.

Look how badass they're getting though.

When we colored our Easter eggs, we watched the chemical reaction of the dye tablets and the vinegar.

It's my favorite part.

When the Easter Bunny brought Jack a little model of the space shuttle, we built it and flew it all over the house.

Susan, remember how Jack coveted your little space shuttle toy?

When we went to the park yesterday and blew bubbles into the sky, we noticed how the soap solution stretches across the bubble wand and how the bubbles somehow float up, lighter than air and borne by breeze.

Photo not available.

Susan, I love you. My kids love you. People all over the world love you. We are here fighting alongside you even if you can't touch us or see us. Good luck today. You are going to kick this thing's ass.

Find more bloggers taking part in Team WhyMommy's Virtual Science Fair here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

We Do More To Embarrass Ourselves by 10 A.M. Than Most People Do All Day

Alternatively titled: "Well, We Can Never Go Back To THAT Doctor Now."

Sam had an appointment with an allergist this morning because he seems to have seasonal allergies that leave him kind of gaspy. Concerned that one day he would just drop dead on me, I've taken him to his pediatrician about it. They said that his oxygen levels are fine, but that he "looks" allergic and we should take him to the allergist.

Done and done.

We arrived at the basement level (this is important) of the building shortly before our 8:45 a.m. appointment. We walked past the stairs, which I briefly considered using before I remembered that the doctor's office was on the 5th floor, six flights of stairs above us. So we continued on to the elevator. Unfortunately, there was a sign taped to the elevator that said, "NO POWER."

Awesome. Back to the stairs.

Hey! Guess what, guys? I'm really out of shape. Also, Sam can run up stairs really fast.

We arrived and were quickly ushered into an exam room. Interestingly, the office had power. The power outage seemed to have affected only the elevator. And the Diet Coke machine I tried to use later.

So we're sitting in the exam room and I start to feel...weird. The nurse took some vitals, including a breathing test for Sam, and then the doctor came in. It was probably the most efficient doctor's office I've ever been in.

The doctor commenced to asking me questions and I could tell that I was answering them with gaping pauses because mostly all I could think about was why the room was so fucking hot, why did my extremities feel all tingly, and whose great goddamn idea was it to put that giant window in the room to let in all that bright sun?

Being a Don't Rock the Boat-er, I carried on, pretending nothing was wrong and figuring that if I passed out from the heart attack I was clearly having that at least I was in a doctor's office. Although I'm not sure the allergist would be able to do a lot for me.

Fortunately, after a few minutes, the intense physical feelings I was having ebbed and I was able to focus a little better. They gave Sam a couple blasts from an inhaler and left us for ten minutes before they were to come back to give him a second breathing test.

I imagine that I was having a blood sugar reaction. I have hypoglycemia (and, yes, I know everyone has hypo-fucking-glycemia, but I was actually tested for and diagnosed with it) and hadn't eaten that morning. I think that combined with the unexpected stair climb and that horrible room that seemed to be situated INSIDE THE FUCKING SUN took me down.

Either that, or it was a panic attack. Is it possible to have a panic attack if you don't feel panicked during it?

About this time, Quinn says he has to go to the bathroom. We ask the receptionist for the key, leave the office, walk down the hall, unlock the door, and go into the bathroom (that looong sequence is important later). Quinn has to poop and says he can wipe himself. Normally I check him, but because I was still feeling unstable, I just leaned on a wall and let him do his thing. He washed his hands and we walked back to the exam room.

At which point I became aware of a terrible smell.

I took Quinn back to the bathroom, wiped him, threw away his underwear because, yeah, I'm not carrying THAT in my purse, and returned to the exam room. Quinn of course is screaming because, "I LOVED that underwear! I LOVED that underwear! Can we take it home?! I LOVED THAT UNDERWEEEEEAAAAAR!"

By this time, the doctor is back in the room and Jack is working hard to either discover all the features of the exam table, including the stirrups, or trying to disassemble the damn thing. I'm not sure which.

They lay Sam down on the exam table to put allergens on his back and leave us alone for another ten minutes with strict instructions to not let Sam touch his back or otherwise scratch it. Thank God for the iPhone and the games on it, is all I have to say.

By the time the doctor comes back in, I'm feeling better and feel like maybe we'll make it through this visit with only a few snafus (for those of you who don't know, Situation Normal All Fucked Up, and yes, that very much describes much of my life).

The doctor tells me that Sam is fortunately not allergic to dogs or cats, but is indeed very allergic to dust mites. Which, I gotta say, Good Luck to you, Sam, because you were born into the wrong house to be allergic to dust mites. Also, Good Luck to me trying to spray nose spray into him on a daily basis from now on. But I was learning what to do and the doctor was writing down various instructions and whatnot when HOLY CRAP, YOU KNOW THAT 30-SECOND WARNING FEELING YOU GET WHEN YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO THROW UP?

I flashed through the process that would be required for me to make it to the bathroom and then compared that with the possibility of the doctor finishing what she had to say before something bad happened.

Neither were a possibility.

I interrupted the doctor, who was telling me something about encasing mattresses—I honestly have no idea; I missed almost all of her instructions—to say, and this is some good stuff, "I'm sorry, but I'm feeling really nauseous and I think I'm going to have to throw up into your garbage can."

Yes. That's what I said. And I wasn't so far gone that I couldn't see the look on her face. Good fucking times.

The doctor was kind enough to leave the room. I hadn't eaten that day yet, so nothing really disgusting happened, but at that point it didn't really matter. And here's something else: I don't think my kids even noticed.

I almost immediately felt better and we bumbled our way out of the office, walked down six flights of stairs to the building cafe and sat there for a half hour while the kids ate M&Ms and I ate a banana.

Some days can only get better.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Colors and Smiles

Our rainbow of egg dyes.


Making the dye just might be more fun than coloring the eggs.