Day One

Back to school went well today. I’ll just put that out there so you know that all the worry and stress I had about this day was for naught. Of course, who knows what Day Two and Three and Fifty-Six and Ninety-Eight will bring, but Day One went well and I’m happy.

I’m actually a little worried because Jodi, Mel, and I were joking on twitter about how we were going to buy a pony for our kids to share if they all made it through the first week of school and now I’m afraid that I’m actually going to have to buy half of a pony.

I already called the left half. His name is Sparkles.

But back to the first day of school. We had two minor debacles this morning.

Debacle the first is that Quinn woke up with, and I kid you not, a zit in the middle of his chin.

What? Really. What? He’s five and it was his first day of kindergarten. Shouldn’t the zit have waited until his first day of junior high?

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you to hear that I held him down and squeezed it. He was slightly put out, but not too upset.

He recovered and was fully dapper by bus time.

For some reason, Alex had convinced all of them to wear Cal shirts so they matched. Also, just in case Sam and Jack weren’t identical enough before…

Orchestrating this photo was like herding grasshoppers.

Sam and Quinn’s bus departs from the bus stop around the corner before Jack’s bus picks him up at our house, so I left Jack with Alex and took the other two up to the bus stop.

He looks so little. Sam watched out for him though.

Then I headed back home to help put Jack on his bus.

See how the dog is concerned that Sam and Quinn didn’t come home with me?

Of course both buses were late, it being the first day of school. Unfortunately, Jack’s bus had less time padding, seeing as how he is supposed to be picked up eight minutes before school starts, which led to debacle the second.

As the school start time approached and there was still no sign of the bus, I had a little mental fight with myself about what to do—enforce the routine of the bus or get him to school so he could start in his class at the same time as the rest of the kids.

I waited until school start time and then threw Jack in the car and sped him to school, getting there fast enough that I doubt he missed anything. Fortunately, Jack is usually pretty mellow about that kind of thing. Alex stayed and talked to the bus driver who assured him that the bus will be on time tomorrow.

After I returned home, I futzed around on the computer for a while and then realized that I had no idea what to do. Eventually I decided to take a nap. I’m not going to tell you how long I slept, but suffice it to say, I am WIDE awake now.

Jack’s teacher sent me an encouraging email mid-day, which was awesome, and in a subsequent email told me that she was an after-school one-to-one for a kid with autism for two years when she was getting her master’s degree.

Boo. Yah.

All three kids were happy and calm when they got home and played quietly for about an hour while I waited until they were ready for me to take them out for ice cream.

I consider Day One to be kind of a honeymoon. The reality of school sets in heavier as the days carry on. Jack will inevitably have some problems—as will my other kids. I’m not going to be able to nap all of my days away, what with actual work and real life to contend with.

But Day One? It was good.

Here We Go Again: Back to School 2010

I don’t know if I’m ready to dance a jig or throw up out of nervousness.

I might do both.

I have been waiting for this day for so long. Do you want to know what is on my calendar this coming week? Almost entirely big blank squares just waiting for me to fill them with the work I usually do at night after my kids go to bed. And naps. Honestly, it seems unreal.

My work load and list of things to do has been piling up faster than I can do them. I haven’t had more than a couple of hours to myself during daylight time for close to nine years now. The thought of six uninterrupted hours five days in a row to do things is mind boggling to me. I almost can’t wrap my mind around it.

Last spring I wrote about all the ways my life would change once my kids go to school, and I am so excited to start living that way, but first I’m going to have just a tiny little FREAK OUT because as the start of school gets closer and closer (and dear lord, it’s TOMORROW by now), the more I start to worry.

You’d think I’d be worried about Quinn, the kindergartener, but I’m pretty sure he’ll do fine. He knows a bunch of the kids going into kindergarten at his school and two of his good friends will be in his class. Plus he’s really excited. He’s watched his brothers go to elementary school for so long, I think he’s really ready.

Quinn at Open House.

As for Sam, well, Sam will be fine. He has some anxiety about school, but for the most part he does great. I mean, he is going to school in a trailer (called a “portable” around these parts) instead of actually in the school building, but he’ll do well.

Too cool for mom to take a photo.

Which leaves us with Jack. I’m worried about Jack. Sometimes school seems a little bit like a torture chamber for him. I’ve been trying to prepare him by teaching him to tell his teachers when he needs a break or if it’s too noisy, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to do that when he’s in the middle of it.

I wrote up a Who is Jack? paper to give to his teachers and aides and maybe the lunch lady/crossing guard/random stranger in the hall if I happened to run across them, and Jack found a draft that I’d left sitting in the TV room. I found him Friday morning reading it.

Weirdly, I felt kind of caught red-handed.

“Jack, does that sound okay?” I asked, to which he responded with a thumbs up. He’s never seen my little fact sheets about him before, but since one of the points on the sheet is that I am trying to teach him to advocate for himself, it seems reasonable that he read it.

Open House didn’t really help with my nerves. We walked in the door and Jack started ping ponging around and humming. It was really overwhelming in a lot of ways and reminded me how hard school, with all of its stimuli, is for Jack.

His teacher was really nice and when the principal asked how I was doing and I said, “Nervous,” his response was, “We’ll take good care of him.” And I know they will, but, oy. I’m worried.

I’ll let you know tomorrow how things went. If you don’t follow me on twitter yet, it might be a good time to start. I almost guarantee you that I will be swinging all over the place and spewing a lot of untethered emotions around there tomorrow.

Wish us luck. (Also, good luck to all of you. I know a bunch of you will be sending your kids in tomorrow—or already have, or will soon. My good wishes are with you as well.)

*****

I wrote a piece for Laura Shumaker’s SF Gate column about this very thing. Check it out: Back to School: Autism Style.

Jack’s Spelling Sentences

My skin is glossy when it has lotion on it.

The zombies won’t come to MY house.

I usually wear formal clothes at night.

I only have one chance to
finish my homework.

I’m not chubby, I’m adorable.

Did anyone order a knuckle sandwich?

I never ever disagree.

Never ever ever ever disobey.

I am NEVER dishonest!

I cuddle with my mom.

I trust my mom. I love her too.

My mom has beauty and I love her.

Please guess my name if you must.

Mocking machines copy your evry move.

My phone rang so many times it disconnected.

I never ever disagree.

Never ever ever ever disobey.

I need a LONG vacation. [techer answered "me too!"]

I hate subtraction so much.

I LOVE addition so much.

Transportation is worst for me.

I realize whiteout is near—it erases pen writing.

When Quinn is sick I sympathize with him.

I like drinking popsicle juice

You will get a sunburn if you don’t bring sunscreen.

Don’t play with fireworks or you will lose fingers.

Do not play with sparklers or you will get burned.

Mercy Watson is a porcine wonder.

Argh. I am totaly traumatized.

Hotel Stimey: Spreading the Disease (Part IV)

I know, based on the sheer number of blog inches used in describing our camping adventure, that it sounds like we were in the wild for 30 days, Survivor-style. In fact, it was four (ish) days and three nights. The morning of Day Five, we packed up, showered, and headed off for adventures in cleaner, quieter living.

That is, we made hotel reservations for our last night.

Before that though, we headed out to see some friends who were staying with their kids and a parent in the Hamptons.  They had also been to the Phish show, but their experience involved swanky living and a babysitter.

I hate them.*

* Okay. Not really.

Anyway, I guess I always thought that The Hamptons was a town. Turns out that it’s a bunch of towns known collectively as “The Hamptons.” Hence the plural. Duh. I clued into this when we passed Westhampton then Southampton then Bridgehampton and so on.

Am not smart.

Also, I am not sophisticated or fabulous enough to be in the Hamptons. Fortunately, our friends—who are sophisticated and fabulous enough to be there—are kind enough to not point out my constant buffoonery—or, let’s face it, Alex’s constant buffoonery as well.

We spent several hours in the backyard swimming in the pool. This pool:

Our little inflatable backyard…thing seems less awesome now.

Our friends were celebrating their kids’ birthdays, so not only did they win our kids’ hearts with swimming, but also with cupcakes. Their kids, not pictured here, are super cool. Although I had forgotten how bossy three-year-olds are. Thank goodness they are also adorable.

We had the best time. It was exactly what we needed.

Best. Day. Ever.

I think we might have stayed about a half hour too long. It was just too hard to leave. Our friends live in California, so we rarely see them. The sun and the water took its toll in late day crankypants behavior, however. Plus Jack nearly drowned shortly before we left.

See, there was this awesome wearable floatie, and in retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good idea to let him jump into the water wearing it.

Not actually a photo of the drowning incident.

His last time in the pool, Jack jumped in wearing this, flipped over, and was stuck upside down, legs sticking out of the water, head under water. It’s kinda funny if it weren’t scary. He lived, so you can laugh a little. But just a little.

I was actually really proud of Jack. I had my cover-up and shoes stripped off in nanoseconds and was just about to jump in to save him when I saw that he had managed to bring his head out of the water and was doggy paddling the couple of feet to the side of the pool, fighting against the floatie that was trying to push him back under. I was really impressed at how well he kept his head. The survival instincts are strong in that one.

From there, we bade our friends goodbye and headed off on our journey to the hotel, which was in some town that started with an H, but which I could not pronounce. After we got there we checked in and went across the street to eat dinner at a restaurant. We’d promised our kids that they could swim in the hotel pool, so even though Quinn wasn’t feeling great after a day in the sun, we went to the pool anyway.

That may have been a mistake.

That’s right.

Fortunately, we were alone in the pool when it happened and we were able to find a housekeeper right outside, so, other than her, no one ever knew it was us that did it and we were able to slink out of there with our dignity only half destroyed. It was totally dramatic.

The hotel beds were really nice though. Although I kinda got the short end of the stick—or the tiny corner of the bed. Somehow, Alex and I ended up in different beds. He slept with Sam and I slept (if, by “slept,” you mean “crammed into a bed with”) with Jack and Quinn.

First of all, that means I had far more people in my bed (the jump from two to three = “far more”) AND one of those people really, really likes me. In the morning Alex said he woke up at one point in the middle of the night and it looked like I had a Jack-growth stuck on to me.

It’s kind of a miracle I didn’t fall wasn’t pushed out of bed.

Regardless, morning dawned and we embarked on our last day of activities before we came home.

For realsies.

One of Alex’s friends is part of the team that brings select parts of the country Sixpoint Craft Ales, so we headed into Brooklyn to check out their operation. It was actually really fun, although our kids missed the best part, which was the beer samples.

There were, however, chickens.

We were all, “Why chickens?” and Alex’s friend was all, “We like eggs.”

There was also a rooftop garden including hops in their natural state. I thought that was pretty cool.

Alex and his friend also forced me to eat a hot pepper that was growing up there.
As far as I know, they don’t put those in the beer.

Just before touring the actual brewery, we got our delicious beer.

Seriously? It’s really good. Even at 11 a.m.
Hell, especially at 11 a.m.

The brewery process was cool.

Here are Jack and Alex “listening to yeast.” Don’t ask me.

The munchkins were less excited about the brewery than Alex and I. According to them, it was loud and smelly.

And non-alcoholic for them.

We had planned to go on a boat tour around New York City after the brewery, but Alex’s friend informed us that there was a water taxi two blocks away from Sixpoint and that it cost $5.

Let’s see. It’s a boat. It passes the Statue of Liberty. It goes to New York. Why the hell do we need a tour?

Here we are seeing the Statue of Liberty close up.

I swear it looked bigger from the boat.

Here is Sam eating his weight in sugar.

AND with a genuine smile. THAT is a big deal.

Plus, my little sensory kids got to experience the wind!

And no one got seasick and barfed FTW!

I was only worried a little bit that our return taxi ride would not feature all three children. After all, New York City doesn’t seem too big. I’m sure kids rarely get lost there.

Spoiler alert: All three kids made it home.

We decreased our chances of losing anyone by experiencing the city just from the water taxi area. We didn’t have time to do any city exploring anyway. We fed the kids NYC hot dog cart food—and I embarrassed Alex by taking a photo of Sam with the hot dog vendor. Seriously, I’m no treat to travel with if you like to maintain any modicum of cool.

 Yum. Under-overpass eating.

After buying all that overpriced food, we fed most of it to the pigeons. Remember how we’re the assholes who do that? Remember that modicum of cool? Any that was left disappeared once we had attracted a flock of competing pigeons, Jack kept chasing them, and I took photos of the whole thing.

The trick is to give into the silly.

Jack is actually something of a pigeon whisperer. He lured them in really close aaaaaand then…

Also, he ate some pretzel after he dropped it on the ground.

The pigeon in question.

Shortly thereafter, we grabbed our water taxi back to Brooklyn, then fought our way through New York and New Jersey traffic to finally arrive home Friday evening.

Despite the mass twitter complaining I did—and really, I did—I had a (mostly) good time. If I’m still making jokes on twitter, it means things are still fun. You should only worry when I fall quiet. I hate to be all cheesy and loving to close out #campstimey, but my family makes pretty much anything fun. They’re good people.

Part I—Camp Stimey: Stay Alive…No Matter What Occurs!
Part II—Camp Stimey: Into the Wild
Part III—Camp Stimey: When Animals Attack

Camp Stimey: When Animals Attack (Part III)

Let’s see. Where did we leave off? Camping…cold, hard ground…spousal abandonment to attend a Phish concert…

Oh, right! Alex arrived home at about 1 a.m. and fell fast asleep. I spent some time stewing over the people chatting loudly the next campsite over and finally fell asleep only to be woken less than an hour later by a sound. It sounded an awful lot like someone was going through the stuff on our picnic table.

I tried to pretend that it wasn’t actually happening in an effort to make it actually not happen. Maybe it was Chatty Chatterson and his Chatty-ettes at the next campground banging pots or something.

But no. Right about the time I realized that I was going to have to sit up, Alex woke up too. I grabbed a flashlight as Alex started muttering some sort of gibberish. I think it was more the loud gibberish than the flashlight that scared off the intruder, but the flashlight did illuminate the GIANT RACCOON ASS that went scampering off.

Alex was reluctant to leave the relative safety of our tent to put our food in the car. “Will the raccoon hurt me?” he asked.

Yes, Alex. The mean, mean raccoon will probably come back and jump on you a la the squirrel in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Honestly, Alex was probably pretty safe. Based on the size of his butt (the raccoon’s), I don’t think that raccoon would move or jump all that fast.

 I think I know why he was so fat though. Bastard opened our cooler, took out all of our chocolate, unwrapped it, and ate it right there, leaving the wrappers behind.

Why, God? WHYYYYYYY????

Needless to say, every day of camping was getting better and better.

See how happy I am?
Also, the one piece of evidence that I was actually on this trip.

We decided to head off to a local McDonald’s to feed the children, what with our lack of food and chocolate due to RACCOON ATTACK 2010! We ended up loitering in the play place at that McDonald’s for probably an hour and half. (Also? Free wifi.)

It was too cold to go to the beach again, so we decided to take the kids to a movie, but not before an unfortunate series of events led to this:

And we didn’t remember about them for, like, an hour and a half.

That was pretty much our day. We played at the playground some more and Sam tied his brothers up with the clothesline for an hour or so. There were also airplanes of some sort, but I don’t really know anything about them because I fell asleep in the car on the way home from the movie.

Look, ma! I made it myself!

Back at the campground, Alex prepared to abandon us for another Phish concert and I fed the children with a pizza we bought down the road. What? Shut up. We’re not really “campers.” That’s why they have delis close to campsites.

Our night was pretty uneventful. I couldn’t put our leftover food and stuff in the car because Alex drove it to the concert. Instead, I wrapped our leftover pizza in tin foil and stashed it in the cooler.

That was some good thinking on my part. I protected our food from the raccoons by wrapping it in something shiny and then putting it in a container I knew for a fact the raccoon was capable of breaching.

Alex put the food in the car when he got home, but it was too late. No pizza breakfast for us.

We did get these dirty little raccoon paw prints all over our stuff, though.

The next morning we woke up early and got the hell out of Dodge.

I’m not sure why he’s wearing work gloves.

Tomorrow I bring you Team Stimey in the Hamptons. Surprisingly, no one made a total ass of themselves. Well, not until we left the Hamptons at least.

Part I—Camp Stimey: Stay Alive…No Matter What Occurs!
Part II—Camp Stimey: Into the Wild
Part IV—Hotel Stimey: Spreading the Disease (Coming Soon!)

Look How Many Kids I Took to the Museum Today!

We went to the National Geographic Museum today. One of the exhibits there was all about Leonardo da Vinci. It turns out that we have da Vinci to thank for the all-around mirror. Thanks a lot, dude.

I didn’t go in because all I would have done was look at how huge my ass looked in 700 different refelections. My kids and their two buddies, however, had a great time in it.

Thankfully, my friend let me publish this photo undoctored.
It would have been hard to blur all eight billion faces on those two kids.

I particularly like that the centerpiece of this photo is Jack and Sam pretending to punch each other. At first I thought it was Jack and one of the other kids punching each other, but when I looked at one of the other mirrors, there is Sam, clear as life, punching Jack.

I predict someone is expelled from school in the first week.

******

I’ll be back with more tales from camping later this week. In the meantime, feel free to enter my giveaway for a Tassimo Home Brewing System over at my review blog.

******

Also, much love to Robin, who was supposed to be at the museum today, but couldn’t make it because of an emergency. I’ve been thinking about you and your family all day.

Camp Stimey: Into the Wild (Part II)

Last we met, I was telling you about Day One of Camp Stimey’s camping trip to Long Island. Day Two dawned sunny, bright, and Jesus Damn Christ, how early do these kids wake up?

We were up, breakfasted, dressed, and ready for the beach at, like, 9 a.m. Okay, Alex and the munchkins were up, breakfasted, dressed, and ready for the beach at, like 7:30. I rolled out of the tent (where I was hiding) at about 8. We finally headed for the beach at 9.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that I’m the lazy one of the family.

Anyway, the beach was amazing. Day Two was a good day.

Sure, every single one of my kids suffered a bleeding injury on the rocks in the water, but other than that, we had a great time. Also, the beach was made up of a lot more rocks than sand, which made it intensely painful to walk anywhere, but that’s what sitting down was invented for. Am I right?

This is exactly what it felt like to walk on the beach.

The water was a teensy bit frigid too and the munchkins kept making me ferry them out to “that rock way out there that looks like a crocodile.” Alex was too wussy to go in above shin level. He decided to sit on the beach and feed our goldfish crackers to the seagulls.

Guess what? Seagulls really like goldfish. Also, much like our cats, they have a powerful desire for food, but a much stronger fear of my children. At some point they all (Alex and the kids—not the gulls) went to buy ice cream and the seagulls edged in closer and closer, obviously deemed me not a threat, then audaciously proceeded to wander about on the towels two feet away from me.

 Possibly my favorite photo from our vacation.

And in case you were wondering, yes, we are the assholes who always feed the birds. You will never find us in a bird-populated place without a large circle of fighting birds around us. We definitely interacted with more birds than humans.

See, it turns out that most people arrive at this particular beach at noon, just when we were leaving. Which was fortunate because a family of seven walked on to the nearly empty beach and set up their chairs literally right in front of our towels (on which we were sitting) at 11:45.

The people at the ice cream stand had told Alex that if we were looking for something to do, we should drive to Port Jefferson. Sixteen wrong turns later, we were in Port Jefferson…buying ice cream.

That’s kinda our thing on vacation. We go get ice cream. But, seriously, twice in, like, two hours? That might be a first for us.

There were also lots of precarious docks and piers for us to walk past. Even worse, there were ladders hanging off of said docks and piers and crabs and fish in the water.

It’s like the gods wanted Jack to fall into the ocean.

Only some of the ledges had rails.

I, however, learned a lot from Loon Day and kept an iron grip on Jack’s wrist. No one fell into the water.

We headed back to the campsite and Alex took the car and abandoned us, helpless and alone went to his Phish concert, while the munchkins and I started our evening activities.

We went to the playground…

Best. Slide. Ever.

…we took dirt baths…

He’s the littlest, so easiest to bury.

…then we headed back to the campsite where we had fun with the tools at our disposal.

Why didn’t I think of this?

Then, more s’mores.

I made an awesome fire, but started it with a Duraflame. Am smart.

Then, all three kids sat down in the near dark and played Legos together, which made me particularly happy because Alex gave me the stinkeye when he saw me putting the Lego box in the car. He was all, “You really want to take all those tiny pieces camping?” and I was all, “Why wouldn’t I want to take 85 million tiny Legos into the wilderness?”

Who’s laughing now?

After that, I dragged the little men to the bathroom, put Sam under strict instructions to not let anyone out of the bathroom without him, told Jack and Quinn that Sam was in charge and they had to listen to him. Then I sprinted to the women’s bathroom to speed-pee before running back to intercept my children before they ran away.

I forced them to brush their teeth at warp speed and then we raced back to the campsite, where I was sure we would find that our unattended fire had surely burned up our tent and our Legos. I tell you, that whole bedtime pee/tooth brushing thing was the most stressful part of camping for me.

Then I rewarded my children for not being kidnapped by letting them play DSi.

Hold on, little DSi batteries! Hold on!

Bedtime came with all three kids sprawled out across the tent and found me laying literally across the tent in front of the entrance for the specific purpose of serving as a tripping hazard if anyone *cough*Jack*cough* tried to leave the tent in the middle of the night.

Consequently, I also served as a tripping hazard for Alex when he showed up at 1 a.m. I don’t know how Alex found a spot in the tent, and, frankly, I don’t care. Bastard abandoned me. And stepped on my hair when he came back.

Join us tomorrow for what will hopefully be a shorter post detailing Day Three. Incidentally, Day Three started at 1:52 in the morning.

Part I—Camp Stimey: Stay Alive…No Matter What Occurs!
Part III—Camp Stimey: When Animals Attack (Coming Soon!)
Part IV—Hotel Stimey: Spreading the Disease (Coming Soon!)