Laugh or Cry, People. Laugh or Cry.

I volunteer in Jack’s class every Tuesday. I love going into his classroom and seeing his wonderful teacher work with him. I also like seeing how the other kids are so nice to him. This year’s class has been really good for Jack. And for me.

Today, however, was not my best visit. It started out well enough with Jack copying a poem he’d written about my iPhone. But then I discovered that we somehow missed news of not one, but two of his assignments, one of which was due today. I’d like to blame Jack for this, due to his spotty track record of bringing home some of his assignments, but I do admit that I probably didn’t read a teacher note or homework packet closely enough.

Nicely done, Stimey.

Then there was Jack’s complete refusal to do his work, which I see ALL THE TIME, but for some reason today reduced me to “No, no, those aren’t tears, not at all, I think I might just grab this tissue and then go get a drink of water, dear lord, please don’t be nice to me right now or I am going to look like the biggest nutcase in the history of sobbing school volunteers, oh that water was delicious, I think I might have to go back over there, and is it sunny in here, because I might just need my sunglasses.”

Again, nicely done, Stimey. There’s gotta be a way to get those tear ducts cauterized closed once and for all.

I think instead of dwelling on that, I am going to pass on this email I got from my friend/the para in Quinn’s class. She emailed this to me several weeks ago and I have been saving this paragraph for just such an occasion as this.

I give you Quinn, who is just exactly as insane in school as he is at home:

“Yesterday, while the class was sitting on the rug going over the agenda for the day, Q-ball got on his hands and knees, smooshed his face into the rug so as to get his rear-end pointed as high as possible, then said “I have flames shooting out of my butt.”  Then got up and smiled at Mr. H and me and shouted, “Burn, baby, Buurrn!”

Fortunately, this para and his teacher think Quinn is as funny as I do. Or so I hope.

The Birthday Soiree, Delayed

I realized a couple of days ago that Jack and Quinn’s birthday party was a loooong time ago, but I didn’t blog about it, which is an inexcusable offense here in Stimeyland. Seeing as how I haven’t yet had my kiddos write thank you notes for the party, I’m guessing it is still bloggable. What is the statue of limitations on blogging a birthday party anyway?

At this point, all I remember are bits and pieces of the party. I vaguely remember a period of calm and then there were a gajillion little kids running around wrecking my house and then it was calm again.

Because I’m the meanest mom in the world and didn’t plan ahead, I forced Jack and Quinn to share a party because that way I only had to bullshit my way through one event instead of two. Their birthdays are only ten days apart and this is only the second time that I’ve made them share a party, so I don’t feel too bad.

So, without further ado, I present to you Jack’s 8th and Quinn’s 6th Fantastic Birthday Soiree! 

The Theme: Okay, so I feel a little bit like a shill admitting this, but we had a Mario theme for this party. That said, there is a reason I am Nintendo Brand Ambassador and it is because my family is full of Nintendo nerds, Jack and Quinn in particular. (Also, full disclosure: I came up with the idea for and paid for the party myself.)

Also, when I say “theme,” I mean “random string of cohesive elements in an otherwise completely uncoordinated party.” Basically, I throw the same party every time (arrival chaos —> pin the [blank] on the [blank] —> activity —> pizza —> cake —> piñata —> get the hell out) with slight variations. I really shook things up this time because we didn’t pin anything on anything (tail on donkey, light saber on Darth Vader, fish on penguin, magnet on another magnet).

The Decor: With my theme, the decorations were easy. I had recently gone through a huge stack of papers that I had amassed from Jack’s backpack. I just taped these up on our cabinets and our decorations were done. Jack draws A LOT of pictures of scenes from video games. Did I mention that he is a Nintendo nerd?

*click to embiggen*

The Cake: The cake was also pretty easy. I’d recently been to a party where the mom made this great cake involving fondant and had created a Mario cake. It was gorgeous. Naturally, I did no such thing.

I went to the grocery store and ordered a blank cake with my kids’ names on it. When the bakery worker stared at me expectantly when I said “blank,” I folded under the pressure of her eyes and told her that she could put balloons on it. When I picked the cake up, the balloons looked a little odd, but once I added my own little decorations, it ended up looking like I’d meant for the balloons to be there.

The bows were a little weird though.

Edited to add: I juuuuust realized that the bows are holding the strings of the balloons. They seem less weird now. I still maintain that those balloons include an awful lot of frosting though.

The Food: We always order pizza from the same pizzeria for parties. I decided that since I had planned the ENTIRE party that I would put Alex in charge of the pizza. I told him that the pizza should arrive at 5:15, gave him the phone number, and left him to his devices.

Big mistake.

This is Alex at 4:55, after he called the pizzeria to hear them say, “Dude, our pizza oven juuust broke. Sorry, man.”

High five, Alex! Nice job!

Alex eventually got pizza to our house, but it was a little late, so we had to switch our activity schedule around a little bit.

The Activities: Our first activity was my favorite. I like to have an art project out when the guests arrive so that if kids want something structured, they can do that, but if they just want to run around and be insane, they can do that too. This art project was, if I do say so myself, way inspired.

I took a long piece of paper and drew the basic elements of a side-scrolling Mario game on it. Then I put a bunch of markers out and waited to see what would happen.

I draw a nice Princess Peach castle, eh?

What happened was that Jack and Quinn’s eyes got really wide and then they set to work.

I’m not entirely sure they noticed when their guests arrived.

Jack and Quinn and a few of the guests went to town on the thing. They created the most excellent drawing I think that I have ever seen.

They have since gone on to create many more similar works of art.

Our mid-party activity was a painting thing that was sort of lukewarmly received. Some kids loved it; other kids couldn’t be bothered to leave the basement. The piñata on the other hand, was well-attended. It was kind of perfect because each kid got one turn to beat the crap out of Mario and then Sam rang the final death knell on the thing.

The Rest: Perhaps my favorite part of this party is that I served margaritas to the grown ups. My one flaw was that I forgot that because I was in charge of a bunch of other people’s kids, I couldn’t drink until the party was over.

I take that back. That was one flaw. The other flaw is that not every kid felt that a grown-up only beverage was fair. I didn’t really understand this because I put a cartoon sign in front of the appetizing green, frosty drink.

What about this says, “Sam, go ahead and pour yourself a glass”?

At some point during the party, Sam came up to me and asked, “What is the green drink?” After explaining the concept of “margarita” to him, Sam replied with, “Oh. I thought it was lemonade. But it was gross.”

Yep. Sam thought that the adults were keeping the delicious lemonade all for ourselves. I think he thought it might be along the lines of Alex and my secret candy stashes.

Alex just about laughed himself to death while still managing to say, “Really nicely done, Jean!” Fortunately, although Sam had poured an entirely full cup of margarita complete with cocktail straw, he’d only taken a tiny sip. Thank God tequila doesn’t taste very good to kids.

Oh, yes. I am an excellent mother. And party host. And baby sitter. Oy.

Well, that’s about it. Happy late birthday to my Jack and my Quinn!

Organization

At Jack’s very first pediatrician appointment as a newborn, the doctor put him on the table, scrunched all his limbs together and then let go. Jack startled, then calmed.

“That’s good,” she said, “He can organize himself.”

*****

Eight years later, Jack is trying to do a math worksheet. He has every bit of intelligence needed to complete the work, but each question requires multiple steps and multiple answers. Jack is smart, but his executive function deficits are keeping him from being able to do the work. Jack and I work on it for 30 minutes, me deliberately not feeding him the questions and steps. I want to see if he can do it.

He can’t.

Executive dysfunction defeats intelligence.

*****

Inside my chest things get tight and yet fluttery and jumpy. I know this feeling well. It is the way I feel when I have a sensory problem and it is also the way I feel when I can’t make Jack’s natural smarts and logical mind defeat the so, so simple organizational quandry he is faced with when asked to complete a math worksheet made up of one long story problem broken into three parts.

I have a flash of clarity about why he is having so much trouble and it occurs to me that I wouldn’t want to do it either. But then I am left with the question: If I help him, am I feeding him the answers? Or am I giving him tools with which he can learn to organize the problem himself?

I don’t know what they do at school. Is the para organizing for him or does he do it himself when he is there? Who is helping him with his math at school and how much? Is he learning the math or is he learning how to get us to give him the answers

My patience at Jack is waning but that knot in my chest is still there. My own body organization is failing.

*****

I wish it were simple. I wish it were only a matter of realizing that we are not falling. I wish it were easier again to organize ourselves.

Mother of the Year, Part V

A couple of weeks ago when Sam was home sick I decided to show him an episode of Doctor Who. I figured he was old enough and Doctor Who is campy enough that it wouldn’t be scary and that he would really enjoy it. I thought it would be something we could enjoy together.

I’m trying to create the perfect super nerd in at least one of my children.

It’s not even like I showed him one of the scary episodes. Weeping angels? *shudder*

Well, naturally, I’ve scarred him for life.

He was fine when we were watching it, but if you were to ask him today what his very worst sick day was, he will tell you that it was the day I made him watch Doctor Who.

Now he has some sort of PTSD reaction to the sounds of the theme music if Alex and I are trying to watch it in another room after he goes to bed. Consequently, on those nights he cannot go to sleep at night anymore. I am a really good mom.

Of course, the other night, Jack spent 40 minutes lurking unseen in the hallway and watched an entire episode. HE loved it. I guess I’m trying to nerdify the wrong kid.

Lesson learned.

*****

Mother of the Year, Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Is “Esoteric” Another Word for “Quirky”?

Yesterday the school nurse called me half an hour before school let out because Sam was complaining that his ear hurt. If you’re keeping track, this is Painful Left Ear, Episode III (Revenge of the Inner Ear) for the month. By the time I got to the school, Sam was collapsed on a chair in the front office. He shuffled out of the school, tears falling down his face, lower lip trembling, shivering, and complaining of thirst.

I guess I should have believed him that morning when he said he was sick. The school nurse stepped up the stink eye element by asking me on the phone, “Didn’t I call you about this yesterday?”

For the record, it was at least a week and a half ago. It was pretty much irrelevant whether he was sick today. There was no way I was sending him to school and risk another phone call from the nurse. It turns out, however, that it was a good thing I kept him home because when I took him to the doctor, she took one look at his left ear and said, “Oh yeah, that’s infected.”

She prescribed an antibiotic and told me to give him 9 mL once a day for ten days. Sam then immediately said, “If I took another 991 mL, then I would have taken a liter.”

The doctor, who is one we’ve never seen before, laughed, told Sam he was right, and then cocked her head to the side. I believe I could actually see a gear kicking into motion in her head.

There was a longish pause as she clearly rewound through our entire conversation (which included Sam telling her that his ear had started hurting at 6:07 a.m. yesterday) and then she asked, “Does he have a lot of esoteric interests?”

I had a little internal laugh because I knew exactly what she was getting at. She might not know my family, but trust me, we are not in need of any more developmental evaluations, thankyouverymuch.

“Um, yeah,” I said. “Our whole family is kind of quirky. His little brother has autism.”

This was obviously where she was headed, because once she seemed assured that I was on top of the quirkiness—or esotericness*—of my family, she dropped the subject except to imply that my kids were a lot smarter than I am, which is true, but still, ouch.

I’m pleased that in a quick exam for a routine sick visit, this doctor cared enough to start a line of inquiry. It amused also that I am so used to my kids and their quirkiness

* Shut up. It is so a word. Also, I just drank a really strong margarita, so I’m not entirely sure that I’ve written any real words at all. Fibbertyjib.

The End of the School Year Is Kicking My Ass

Oh my. You would not believe my May. Well, maybe you would. You are all probably in about the same end-of-the-school-year panic as me. I’m not even worried yet about the crushing weight of three children home with me all summer because I’m not quite sure that I’m going to make it until school lets out in mid-June.

I actually have my fingers crossed for the rapture on Saturday. I imagine that such an event could only do good things for my to-do list, which could then be consolidated down to one item: Go looting.

I’m not hopeful though. And even if does happen, it’s not going to get me out of chaperoning Jack’s 2nd grade field trip to the Natural History Museum tomorrow. Although I’m sure that trip will be fun…unless Jack knocks down a dinosaur or something. I’ll be sure to take a photo if he does.

I have been doing a lot of writing over the past few days for other, non-Stimeyland venues, so I didn’t quite realize that I haven’t written here for more than a week. I do assure you, however, that I have been compiling lists of topics to write about over the course of the next few days, rapture notwithstanding.

Here are your options/topics I will foist upon you/reasons why I didn’t write last week:

• It was Jack’s birthday last week. He’s eight now. That’s all I have to say about that.

• We are still mid-dental nightmare for Jack. At this point, he is scheduled for complete sedation in a dental office in another state. I have a lot more to say about this.

• You wanna know what I did on Tuesday? I took my cat to the vet in the morning, went home to discover that my dog had ripped her nail to pieces, and went back to drop a whole other sackload of cash at the vet in the afternoon. I am currently dispensing nine medications to four species every morning and a similar, if not larger number, in the evening.

• I chaperoned Quinn’s kindergarten field trip to the zoo last Friday. As mentioned, I’m chaperoning Jack’s field trip to the Natural History Museum this Friday. Next Friday? I chaperone Sam’s field trip to the National Building Museum. It might be worth it to get a daytime job so I’m not available during the day anymore.

• Jack and Quinn shared a birthday party on a rainy day last weekend. It was a blast. I served margaritas. Not to the kids. Well, not to most of the kids.

• I haven’t returned an email for, like, three weeks. I am so behind on, well, on everything. Bear with me, okay? Until I return, I offer you the post I wrote for the Wheaton Patch about how I have never correctly determined if my kids are sick or not when they ask to stay home from school.

Okay then. Barring rapture, we’ll chat again soon!

Special, Hockey

In the couple of weeks since Jack and I have been back from his special hockey tournament, I’ve been doing a good amount of thinking about why it was so meaningful for me. There are a lot of reasons. It was great fun, it was amazing to see some exciting hockey, there was amazing sportsmanship on display, and it was incredible to watch all these athletes be celebrated for something most people probably assume they couldn’t do.

But I think the biggest reason that four days resounded with me was because of the community I felt on the trip.

I wrote yesterday at Hopeful Parents about this very thing: A Place Without Edges

I also wrote this morning about Jack’s team at Autism Unexpected.

If you’re new here and are interested in reading more about Jack’s hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, following are links to what I’ve written about them.

Officially a Hockey/Soccer Mom The story of Jack’s first hockey practice. And Sam’s first soccer game.

Play Ball! Wait, No. That Doesn’t Work. Play…Puck? Jack’s first hockey game and a lesson in binary counting.

Finding His Place A month into hockey season, I started to see how important it was to Jack.

Hockey, Autism, and a Shameless Plea Wherein I asked you to donate money to the Cheetahs. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, the information in this post is still valid. :)


Here We Go, Cheetahs, Here We Go! Oh crap. I committed Jack and I to a bus trip to Boston.

A Part of Something The first day of Jack and my trip to his special hockey tournament was profoundly moving for me.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times The whole story of our trip to the Special Hockey International Tournament in Boston.

Things I Learned in Boston Observations from a four-day road trip with Jack.

Family Skate Night, a.k.a. Thunderdome This is the night all the families of the Cheetah players try to pretend that they can skate too.

More information about the Montgomery Cheetahs, the American Special Hockey Association, and Special Hockey International.