Wednesday, March 30, 2011

International Night is For Suckers (Of Which I Am One)

Oh, you guys, I just remembered that I totally forgot to tell you about International Night at my kids elementary school. We have been at that school for four years and had never been because it is one of those evening activities that seem like a nightmare for any kids, let alone MY three kids.

For weeks now, fliers have been coming home asking if we want to participate by bringing a food dish or set up a table celebrating our origins, but I was all, fuuuuuuuccckkk that, because in my head I was already plotting ways to get out of going.

(I did briefly consider bringing green jello with shredded carrots in it to signify that I grew up in Utah, but then I figured that only people who live in Utah would get the joke, so why bother.)

Anyway, Sam destroyed my avoidance policy by being all gung ho about going this year and showing me the poster he worked on about India, so last Friday evening I packed up the munchkins, took a deep breath, talked to my kids about FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY WITH THE GROUP! and we headed off for International Night.

The first thing we did was see Jack's poster about South Africa, where they play golf.

Jack made the golf ball and the cartoon.

Then we wandered down the hall where we passed Quinn's class project.

He says he did the top row of hand prints.

It was here that I lost my head for a minute and told Sam he could go hang out with his friends. We did not see him again for a long, long time. What we DID see was this:


Nobody told me that anything this crazy awesome happened at International Night. If I'd known about this, I would have shown up years ago. Especially after seeing these faces react to it:


Then one of the dragons tried to eat Quinn and it was all he could talk about.

This dragon.

Unfortunately, we then ran across a woman who was using wax, fire and dye to paint eggs and then THAT was all Quinn could talk about. Also unfortunately, the woman said, "Sure you can make one, little boy, but it will take an hour and a half," which naturally led to a lot of, "But she saaaaiiiidddd!" and "I waaaaaant to make one!" and "Can I do it at hooooooome?"

Then he made this face, which sucked.

Sam was still missing at this point, but I had a theory that he was probably in the by-now dark school courtyard, which had pretty much turned into Thunderdome with balls being hurled about and children careening everywhere.

With my finely honed herding skills, I managed to extract all three children and we wandered to the other end of the school where we finally saw Sam's poster.

He wrote the section on the right about curry.
My favorite sentence: "Indians are thought to eat curry."

I could tell that we were nearly at the end of our ropes at this point and knew that we would soon have to flee from the building.

But not before some spinning in the gym.
Overwhelmed much? I almost joined them.

I'm not going to say that International Night was awesome, but dammit, we survived, and I managed to leave with the same number of children that I arrived with, which I always consider to be a victory.

Stimey, 1; Forces of Entropy, 0

Friday, March 25, 2011

They're Cute, But They're Teeerrrrible.

This is a post about Brussels sprouts. Yeah, now you're glad you showed up here today.

No one in my family had ever eaten a Brussels sprout. Then this happened...


...and people started tweeting me recipes for absolutely scrumptious ways to cook Brussels sprouts and I decided that I believed these liars friends of mine and I would cook Brussels sprouts!

SPOILER ALERT: Brussels sprouts are disgusting.

Also, it's annoying to have to capitalize the name of a vegetable every time you use it. I object!

So one day last week, I went to the grocery store and bought a little bucket of Brussels sprouts. I brought them home and showed them to Quinn, who immediately grabbed one and started eating it raw.

I know. I know. He's a lunatic.

He actually ate the entire thing. I was all, "Hey, Quinn, you know I'm supposed to cook those right?" and he gave me this kind of guilty look like he'd done something wrong and told me that he was sorry and he didn't know. And frankly, I don't either. I mean, I'd never heard of anyone eating Brussels sprouts raw before, but honestly, I'd never really heard of anyone eating them before.

I mostly thought they were used to represent adorable little heads of lettuce in dioramas of gardens and as projectiles in food fights because they're easy to throw. That's all I've used them for—and I've never made a diorama of a garden.

Quinn said he only liked them "medium" when they were raw and that he was looking forward to trying them after I cooked them, which I eventually did, using the olive oil, salt and pepper option that so many of you suggested.

Quinn took one look at the cooked Brussels sprouts and said, "They kind of look like boogers."

He was right.

He tried one, but he wasn't very happy about it.

He didn't like them.

Quinn informed me that I had ruined the Brussels sprouts by cooking them. I tasted them too, and at this point in my life, I am pretty sure that no one can ruin a Brussels sprout, because they start out horrible. Never having tasted a raw one, you might think that I am making assumptions, but I had assumed that cooked Brussels sprouts were disgusting and I was right and could have avoided the whole debacle by trusting my insticts, so instead of making that mistake again and actually tasting a raw one, I'm just going to declare that those things are gross across the board.

Obviously, I forced Alex to try one as well. Based on the expression on his face when he first saw the sprouts, I was pretty sure I should have my camera ready.

He did not disappoint.






The sprouts made my adorable husband very, very sad. The fourth photo is my favorite. (This photo montage = one more reason you're glad you're not married to me. That's #836, in case you're counting.)

Also, here is this awesome photo from a field trip we went on a long time ago when Quinn saw Brussels sprouts on their stem and was completely amazed.


*****

Want something more substantial than Brussels sprouts? Check out the what I wrote about what some members of the autism community had to say about Parents magazine's lack of autism coverage for Autism Awareness Month.

Also, did you see my post about graphic novels for young/reluctant/autistic readers?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teamwork

It says in Jack's IEP that he is allowed to have a scribe sometimes, which means he can dictate his answers to someone and have them write it down.

Nowhere in that IEP does it say that his scribe can't be his little brother, Quinn.


Jack gets his homework done and Quinn gets practice writing. Win, win.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nobody Understands Me/Everybody Hates Me

When I was a kid, I remember saying, "Nobody understands me." I remember saying, "Everybody hates me." I said it a lot. I said it so much, in fact, that for one of my birthdays, my mom got me a little plaque with a picture of a sad basset hound on it underneath the words "Nobody Understands Me."

As a young child, I didn't have close friends. And as an even younger child, I was the girl standing awkwardly by herself not really knowing how to not look so obviously friendless. I was the kid that the teachers would make small talk with so I wasn't just standing by myself. When I was in elementary school, I remember my mother asking my older sister to include me at recess so I wouldn't be all alone.

I know that there were kids I hung out with (or around) through elementary school, but I also have vivid flashes of more incidents than I care to enumerate of times where I felt painfully alone in a group of people or on a playdate.

*****

Today, Jack's teacher emailed to tell me that Jack had been repeatedly saying "Everybody hates me." This isn't the first time I've heard that phrase come from Jack either. He's saying it more and more often.

As he gets more interested in other kids, I think he sees more how difficult it is for him to join them. I'm not even going to go into detail about the health room pass that he brought home, on which he'd written his name and, in the blank for "complaint," wrote, "nobody loves him. everyone hates him."

Today I caught myself telling Sam that he should compliment Jack every once in a while to make him feel better about himself.

I've been Jack, but I don't know how to make it better for him.

*****

There was a perfect storm of angst, teacher notes, piles of homework and sibling drama this afternoon that pretty effectively destroyed the entire family's day within a half hour of everyone arriving home.

The only awesome thing was that juuuust when I was about to snap, the phone rang, and because some things in the world are still good, the person on the other end of the line was some sort of political telemarketer who wanted to tell me about the governor of Wisconsin and how the unions and the teachers were keeping schools closed.

It was sort of awesome to be presented with such a great target at which to vent my anger. I started with, "No, no, no, no, no! You don't call my house and start bashing teachers," followed by a few other things, and then I ended, somewhat inexplicably, with, "So, why don't you call back some other time and talk to someone who agrees with you!"

Later, much later, when Alex and I were able to laugh again, I asked him, "Did I really tell that guy to call back?" Don't worry though, I don't think he will.

*****

Laugh or cry, people. Laugh or fucking cry.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

For the Love of All That is Good in the World, Let There Be Spring

Every single year I get really excited in March and write some sort of post about spring arriving. Most years I probably use one of the following words in the post title: spring, fling, sprung, sprang, SPROING!

These tend to be followed by April entries that use the following words: fuck, you, snow.

Okay, that thing about March and spring words turns out not to be true. I just searched through all of my March entries and it turns out that I only did this in 2007 and last year. It is, however, EXCEPTIONALLY easy to find entries where I make things up.

One of my favorite spring posts of all time is one about Jack and Quinn becoming friends. I wrote it less than a month after I started blogging and it remains one of my favorites. They were/are so cute.

The point of all this is that the past three days have been remarkably spring-like and wonderful and although Alex and I have been huddled up and destroyed by clouds of sickness for the last several days, we both presume that the children have been out and about enjoying themselves in the spring weather.

Well, really what they've been doing is play video games as Alex and I fight over whose turn it is to nap. Today I told them that if they wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl that they had to go outside first and play Super Stimey Bros. Brawl. Which they did.

See Quinn. See Quinn punch Sam.
See Sam. See Sam retaliate with a stick club.

Speaking of sticks, thank goodness for all the snow, wind and rain that knocked all of the branches off of our trees this winter because now my kids have plenty of ammunition with which to bash each other. Next Christmas I'm going to give them bundles of sticks, because that's all they want to play with anyway.

Also, can anyone tell me how all the giant branches fall out of the trees but I can still see bird nests, evidently attached with epoxy, up in the still-attached limbs?

Being Stimeys, we naturally plan to pick up those fallen tree limbs sometime in 2013. By that time we'll have enough to make it worth our while.

Plus, if we move them, what will the munchkins climb on and stab with?

They had the world's shortest picnic too, at which they consumed goldfish crackers, pretzels and Calvin & Hobbes. (By "consume," I mean "read." I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea here.)

Note the scavenger dog acting all cool as she lays in wait.

If it snows again, I don't know what I'm going to do, but I imagine it will involve loud sobbing. I am SO ready for spring and summer. I have plans to shove my kids outdoors for the first hour after they get off their bus from now until the end of school, so I will not tolerate rain nor sleet nor snow NOR dark of night.

Huh. Look at that. Jack is outside on the slide playing with a plastic hammer that a baby left here last summer and an empty can of pineapple chunks. That's weird. Also? Why do I buy toys?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Semi-Typical Morning in Stimeyland*

* The phrase "semi-typical" is used with the greatest of glee and irony.

6:15 a.m.: Stimey's alarm beeps

6:15, 6:22, 6:29, 6:36, 6:43, and 6:50 a.m.: Stimey slaps at the snooze button. (This happens every single Saturday, by the way. Some of you would just change your alarm to go off at 6:57, but (a) I fear that I would sleep through it/snooze again, and (b) I don't know how to change the alarm.

6:57 a.m.: Stimey gets out of bed. Stimey also considers jabbing Alex in the ribs just because, but takes pity because he is sick. Alex is extremely lucky this morning.

7:00 a.m.: Stimey tries to make Jack jump up happily so we can leave for hockey at 7:20 and be on the ice by 8.

7:02 a.m.: It becomes clear that this won't happen.

As I proofread this, I see that I switched from third to first person here. I'm asking you to just roll with this.

7:05 a.m.: I hand Jack clothes and tell him that if he gets dressed and ready to go that we can stop for hashbrowns for him at McDonald's on the way to practice. Jack tells me he wants doughnuts instead. I tell him that doughnuts come after practice because they are a treat and that hashbrowns come before practice because they are a food (only marginally so, if they come from McDonald's).

7:08 a.m.: We have our first tears of the day.

7:09-7:23 a.m.: I somehow manage to get Jack dressed; find him socks, then find him the socks he wants to wear; brush his teeth; give him some food; and get him to walk to the car.

7:23-7:28 a.m.: We argue over the definition of the words "food" and "treat."

7:28 a.m.: We stop at McDonald's for hashbrowns. Jack screams a lot. Jack claims he will NEVER EAT A HASHBROWN!

7:29 a.m.: Jack begins to eat his hashbrown.

7:34 a.m.: I consider scrapping the whole idea of hockey practice and going home. I then remember that if I go home, all that is waiting for me is sick Alex, who won't get up if I'm home; surly Sam and Quinn, who will demand breakfast, video games and other unreasonable things of me if I were to show up; a dirty house, which I do not want to clean; and, right, Jack will still be there and will still be mad at me. I decide to soldier on and pretend that I'm teaching a lesson on "following through with commitments" and "supporting your team" and "being the best that you can be."

7:44 a.m.: Jack somehow comes under the impression that he doesn't have to skate at hockey practice, but just cheer on his team. (I may be to blame with that whole "supporting your team" thing.) After being corrected, Jack starts trying to negotiate start and stop times for his practice: "I'll start skating at 8:30! I'll stop skating at 8:50!"

7:52 a.m.: Our appearance in the hockey locker room and Jack's subsequent tears as I veeeery sloooowly put on his gear takes our private spectacle and turns it into a public spectacle. Thankfully, every parent there has been through this, so they nod knowingly and carry on.

8:10 a.m.: Ten minutes after practice starts, I finally have all of Jack's gear on him, with the exception of his helmet and gloves. I am very intentionally moving extremely slowly, yet this is still not slow enough for him. I get him to the rink side by telling him we're going to see if his friend from school who recently joined the team is out there skating. Thank the good lord, he is.

8:17 a.m.: I repeatedly put Jack's gloves on his hands only to have him repeatedly hurl them to the ground.

8:19 a.m.: Jack follows his gloves to the ground in a dramatic exhibition of collapsing in tears.

8:22 a.m.: I tell Jack that we are going to go take his gear off and go straight home. Jack realizes that this means no post-practice doughnuts and starts to cry.

8:23 a.m.: I tell Jack that if he will skate for the rest of practice, we can stop for doughnuts on the way home.

8:26 a.m.: Jack gets on the ice. The team is a little bit short on mentors this week, which works out perfectly because Jack almost certainly would not respond well to following directions at this point. Instead of participating in any of the drills happening on the ice, Jack skates to the middle of the ice and begins skating around the marked circle at center ice. The other players drill around him.


8:49 a.m.: After skating in approximately 7000 small circles, Jack wants to get off the ice. I tell him to skate around the outside of the rink twice, then he can be done. Jack speed skates those two laps with a huge grin on his face and happily decamps to the locker room.

8:55 a.m.: While taking off Jack's gear, we overhear another parent talking to his son about him having earned a doughnut. This makes me feel substantially less bad about my own parenting choices.

9:08 a.m.: As we are walking to the car and I'm telling Jack how proud I am of him, I ask the question I am afraid to hear the answer to: "Did you have fun?" Jack cheerfully answers, "Yes!"

9:23 a.m.: Jack gets his TREAT of doughnuts in the form of a Hostess six-pack.



He's such a good kid. I'll do anything for that grin.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things Come Out of My Brain, Part II

It happens for real.

A couple of days ago, my supportive husband, Alex, said to me, "As a Stimeyland reader, I have been disappointed lately."

Thanks, Alex. But he's right. So I've decided to let Jack do some work for me, because none of the many drafts of posts that I've started in the past week are (a) funny, (b) inspired, (c) working in any way, shape or form, or (d) finished.

See, Jack brings it every week. He has to write sentences for his spelling words for homework and also a couple on a spelling test each Friday and no matter how surly he is or how much he swears he is "tooooooo tired to do homework," that kid can craft a phrase like nobody's business.

I did this once before—and will surely do it again because, hello, lazy! Also, I'm tooooooo tired to write a blog post.

Jack's sentences are below, with the spelling word (or my best guest at which word is the spelling word) in bold, with any comments by me in italics afterward.

*****

If I chewed longer, it would seem like I had more food.
From his lips to my hips.

A unicorn is NOT a horse.
Well, yes, but more importantly, I love that "unicorn" is a spelling word.

This homework is more than awful.
This work is TOO hard!
I will never smile. It has turned upside down.
This homework is terrible.
I am NOT glad.
These sentences came one after another. Nicely done, Jack. not everyone can make vocabulary words such as "smile" and "glad" so grim.

Ants are quiet.
This followed a previous sentence, "Ants are tiny." What up with all the ants?

My mom is VERY pretty.
I think my mom is pretty when I see her. 
The first sentence was from his homework. The second is from his test. Jack rocks.

I threw a pie in Alex's face.
Guess which one of us is Jack's favorite?

I don't know what a "pupil" is.
But he does know how to correctly use quotation marks.

I disobey to kill.
Somewhat awesomely, Jack's teacher just wrote "?" after this sentence when she corrected his paper.

Hmmmm......I just lost something.
From the teacher: "This sentence does not have a spelling word in it." Maybe he lost the spelling word?

"Dislike" means to hate—witch [sic] I do to spiders!
I also to hate spiders.

Jack's unable to do his spelling words. —Alex
Nice try, Jack. Your handwriting gives you away.

I am NEVER unfair...or am I?
I'm on the edge of my seat!

Tiny mice have tiny teeth.
What? Like you don't know we're all mouse obsessed?

I am lovely with my mom.
Yes you are, Jack. You are also lovely with Stimeyland readers. Thanks, buddy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

But There IS Something To See THERE!

Because of the extreme unlikelihood that I will manage to post an amusing bon mot here in the next day (school meeting for Jack tomorrow, parenting class tonight, The Ennui...), I will point you to two places you can find me instead.

I am talking about Team Stimey's newest diagnosis over at Hopeful Parents today.

I also have a 10-minute podcast interview over at (well, near) my Washington Times Communities site. (Look in the bottom right of the main box under "audio clips.") I feel like maybe I didn't embarrass myself too badly or sound too squeaky as I talked about a recent book review I wrote, as well as autism on television, everything from Parenthood to American Idol.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nothing To See Here

My life is extremely dull these days. Well, not even that it's dull, but I have this terrible combination of being busy, having ennui, and being mired in writer's block. Also, no one in my family has done anything funny for, like, a week. Jerks.

All this leaves me with nothing to write about, no time to do it, and a complete lack of motivation. Yay, me!

Really, the best I could come up with is the following:

You know how some people see the Virgin Mary in their toast?

Alex found a bunny in his pudding cup lid.

Please don't bother to comment on this post. If you do, frankly, I'll be embarrassed for both of us.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It Might Behoove Us To Banish All Media From Our Home

I was cleaning off my desk tonight and found a napkin on which I'd scrawled something amusing that Jack said a few months ago—it might even have been at Christmas dinner, because I distinctly remember nearly spitting out my Jell-O, and we only eat that twice a year.

Jack, veteran of many a social skills group and therapy session, has evidently been taking friendship advice from the sociopathic zoo animals on The Penguins of Madagascar:

"Skipper says a friend is just an enemy who hasn't attacked you yet."

Of course. This is what he remembers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Well-Timed Good Day

You guys. Thank you so much for all your nice words and suggestions for Jack and I and for sharing stories of your own little mules. Your emails, tweets and comments made me cry happy tears of knowing Jack and I have great friends and a whole crew of people who have our backs. Thank you. Really.

Of course, today Jack had a wonderful day, his teacher sent an email telling us about ripples of goodness that are spreading around Jack, and our IEP meeting was canceled because one part of the team was sick. Also, Jack did his homework happily and quickly. So a mellow day all around. Thank God, because I needed a day like this today.

I should also mention that I found this in Jack's backpack this morning and I laughed and laughed and laughed.


 This is the kind of love I have for all of you. Thank you for not fleeing from me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Need To Know How To Make the Horse Drink

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

But what if you really, really need him to drink?

In case you're wondering, Jack is the horse and I'm the jerk that can't make him take a drink. And drinking isn't really drinking, it's getting him to do anything he doesn't want to. And as long as we're breaking down the metaphor, let's call Jack a mule, because that kid is the most stubborn motherfucker I have ever met.

Like, how do you MAKE a kid do a math problem if he doesn't want to? And how do you MAKE a kid write a sentence? And how do you MAKE a child do something at occupational therapy other than tell his wonderful therapist "I hate you," and then hide under a table?

That last little bit happened this afternoon at Jack's OT session (if you can call 12 minutes a session), resulting in us deciding to take a break for a few weeks while we I try to figure just what the hell to do to make my goddamn horse drink.

The OT session also caused me to cry in one of the last semi-public places I hadn't yet shed tears in Maryland. Of course, that's not all on Jack. Quinn scampered past me on all fours to join Jack under a table, which led me to make a joke about how maybe Jack won't do what he's asked to because I'm the worst mother in the world because obviously all three of my children are wackadoos and then I felt it coming, said, "I'm going to burst into tears," and then I burst into tears.

Classic Stimey. 

While this last session pushed me over the edge, various permutations of it have been taking place for several weeks at OT and also at school. Speech therapy has been going great, mainly because our speech therapist is on maternity leave and we have a couple of months off.

I'm not quite sure what to do. I know I'm not the worst mom and I know that Jack rocks the free world, but sometimes I get really frustrated.

I have some thoughts rolling around inside my head, I have a couple of appointments set up, I am enrolled in a parenting class, but wouldn't it be nice if Jack could just understand that if he drank, he would be done drinking and wouldn't have to do it again for a long time, he could then go on to use his little mule-hooves to knock Legos around, and he might even find that drinking isn't the worst thing in the world.

(You may have gotten lost in that metaphor, but trust me, I know exactly where I am.)

It's been a little rough as of late.

I would stick around and torture you a little more with my mule imagery, but Jack's IEP meeting is in, eep!, 10 hours, and if I don't prepare for it, all I'll be able to do is walk in and say, "Okay. I see Jack as a mule..."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Time Management

Even though I spent a lot of time last year dreaming of how wonderful my days would be once all three of my kids were in full day school, I'm having a little bit of a tough time with it. Now, don't get me wrong, having all three of my children out of the house for six hours a day is more wonderful than I can possibly express, but figuring out those six hours has been a little bit of a challenge.
Requisite blah-blah-blah for any mom who says she delights in being without her children: I love my children dearly and truly enjoy spending time with them. I am happy every day when they come home. But day-um, it is nice to have time to get shit done when they aren't around.

Before all of my kids were in school, I had all these mental snapshots of me getting shit done. I would exercise every morning, followed by housecleaning and a daily shower. At that point I would do my part-time job and possibly market and do videography projects. With my leftover time, I would write and do all the the little home/me/blog/decluttering/career betterment tasks I had in mind.

I assumed that my to-do list would be nonexistent by this point in the year.

Well. Nuts to that. In addition to my two-page long, single spaced to-do list, I add the following:

You know what I've done? I made a daily schedule and then failed to follow through on it. I went to a weekly schedule, which also didn't work. I jealously guarded my time and resented things that took me away from the possibility of getting work done. Then I had weeks where it seemed like I had plans or appointments or sick kids four days out of five. Instead of going big with my videography business, I decided to go home, shutting it down instead.

I've also learned that you can dither away six entire hours trying to empty an email inbox, while getting lost in link trails that start with an innocent click on something that scrolls through my Tweetdeck.

I managed to start exercising daily. Twice daily even. Then I stopped. I managed to declutter a couple of things, but right now, even my desk is piled high with papers and lists and schedules. It's possible that I clean less than I used to because while I could turn cleaning and decluttering into an interactive activity with Quinn (not to mention that I wouldn't spend my days sitting at my computer), now it seems like a waste of time to do things like that when I could be working.

My dreams of not working at night or on weekends have not come to fruition.

The only thing I've been really successful at it is instituting a 2-3 p.m. daily nap.

Now, I know the nap thing kind of brands me as an asshole, but I've determined that I need more sleep than the six to seven hours I get at night (I know. Asshole.)  but that I won't get more then, so I supplement it during the day (Yes. Absolutely. I am a complete jackass.).

The nap thing has honestly really improved how things go after school. If I'm not tired, I'm not as cranky and I'm more patient with the munchkins. I'm more likely to cook dinner. (Oh, yeah. Dinner cooking. Another failure from this year that I was sure was going to improve after last September.) Homework goes more smoothly. Sometimes I'll even play with my kids. I know. PLAY with my kids. How's that for parenting? Mother of the year, right here.

I have to figure out another way. I've already curtailed my email interaction during the day and I shut down my Tweetdeck more and more often so that I don't get derailed by those links trails, but the fact of the matter is, I don't know how to organize my time.

I need to find a way to fit housecleaning, exercise, my job, writing, some relaxation time, and my nap all into one day. Or figure out a way to weave it through my week so I can get things done.

It's a lot to think about, and I would do so, but I really need to go take my nap now, so I'll have to revisit this tomorrow.