Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Which I Pass the Buck to YOU!

I had plans this weekend...oh, I had plans. I was going to be a writing machine. I was going to tell you all about Jack's end of camp performance and the end of All About Me Week and the beginning of Art Week. I also have a column I'm writing for Autism Unexpected that I am pretty excited about and was going to write over the weekend.

But then I got my ague and now I have TWO mice with tumors and I had to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding and my computer was whirring loudly and so I spent my first day of full uprightness fretting about when to call the vet and then going to the mall to shop (not terribly scarring, but not my favorite thing) and fight the throngs at the Apple Store (never go there on a weekend, by the way).

My fingers are super-crossed that I will be motivated and have time tomorrow to do some of this stuff I have to do. I have the greatest of hope that I will be funny and/or interesting again someday soon.

Instead, I challenge YOU to be funny and/or interesting in my comments.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I spent the day today wearing a sweatshirt, which is not that big a deal until you realize that the temperature gauge on my car read 103 degrees the last time I checked it.

Welcome back, ague, I've missed you.

Thank God my kids are the kind of children that will let me rest on the couch while they play video game after video game and watch TV all day. Also, did you know that Thundercats is back on TV? Because it is.

Yesterday, I think I was awake for about four hours of my day, 90 minutes of which were spent entertaining Jack and Quinn at a McDonald's play place while Sam was at a birthday party. Also, I forgot to take my sweatshirt there and it was COLD. I almost cried.

In related news, me = wuss.

I have a bunch of blogworthy stuff to tell you, but for now, I am going to curl up in the fetal position on my couch and pretend that I am made of tougher stuff than I am.

FYI, if you have called or emailed me of late, this is why I haven't gotten back to you. Not just because I want to sleep, but also because the lightheadedness and fever is giving me a distinctly drunken feeling. And not the good "I love you, man" kind, but the "I need to reach my bed before I fall over and/or do/say something embarrassing" kind. (Like write this whiny blog post kinda thing.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quinn vs. Sam

All About Me Week is proving to be very illuminating, particularly in the "who is willing to follow directions and who is the most Hatey McAngrypants" department.

Our activity today was to draw outlines of Sam and Quinn's bodies and then have them color them to look like themselves. I had originally planned to have them also write their physical traits on the paper as well, but after the disaster that was, ahem, half of the project, I decided to scrap that part.

Can you guess who was eager to draw and who pouted in the corner? This photo might give you a hint.

Quinn is drawing a rainbow around himself. Sam is surly.

Quinn also did a nice job with his face.

Can you tell which one is real?

Sam was really angry that I was asking him to color in his outline. In fact, he is pretty much upset at doing anything having to do with Camp Stimey. He might be aging out of the program. Or I need to up my game. Or trade him in for another six-year-old, because I like Rainbow Brite Quinn.

Sam finally realized that I wasn't letting him out of the kitchen without him putting clothes on his outline, so he escaped for a second and came back with...

I give him points for creativity.

He then went to get a marker and set to work on the face. I was excited. Things were looking up!

Thanks for the commentary, Sam.

Also, is it just me, or does Sam's interpretation of himself look a whole lot like Lord Voldemort?

Never one to let an opportunity to show up a brother slide, Quinn made one last addition to his picture before he called it quits.

"I am good."

I wonder if Sam felt the shiv go into his back.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hope and Statuary

The end of last week was kind of a bummer for me for a variety of reasons, but I'm looking forward to next week with hopes that things can only get better. I'm also hopeful that the temperature will not hold at a billion degrees. I just went outside (it's midnight now), and started sweating. It's not awesome.

Next week is Jack's last week at Camp Awesome. I'm sad that it is ending, but I'm excited that there is some sort of celebration planned for the last day. I'm not sure what that will include, but I have heard the phrase "cha cha slide," which makes me practically jump up and down with anticipation.

We will also be kicking of All About Me Week at Camp Stimey. When I told Sam about the theme, he gave me a strange look until I realized that it sounded like we were going to learn all about ME next week—not that each of us would explore our own selves. We're going to start tomorrow by making life-sized posters of ourselves.

Besides hope for a better week, I do have something else to share with you that has brought me no end of amusement these past four weeks en route to Jack's camp.

Across the street from the camp there is a brick mailbox stand with an eagle statue on it. It's right there and it's, you know, eagle statuary, so I watched it every time I drove past.

Hello, mighty eagle!

That was the first week. During week two, something else caught my eye. Something that was so much smaller that I hadn't even noticed it at first, but it lived on the brick mailbox stand right next door to the Eagle House. The juxtaposition of the majestic eagle with its next door neighbor has since made me laugh every single time I drive past them.

Greetings, tiny squirrel!

Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder about the relationship of the people in these two houses? Do you think the squirrel was an intentional joke? I mean, the eagle had to come first, right? Did they come from the same store? How long before the eagle eats the squirrel? If it is a joke, do you think Squirrel House will eventually place their statue in the talons of the eagle?

I have so many questions. So many.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Current Senses

So we're mid Five+ Senses Week and I've already decided to scrap anything having to do with the + because I'm having enough trouble forcing my kids to think about their ears, let alone their vestibular system, so now we're just at Five Senses Week.

I have more great ideas for this week than actual follow through, but my intentions have been nothing but good.

Here are some of the things I am sensing in Stimeyland this week:

The Sense of Worlds Colliding: Alex started his new job at a law firm this week and called me his first day to let me know that someone I went to high school with works just down the hall from him. Happily, she is a person I have only positive feelings for.

The Sense of Sadness: I think that Poseidon the mouse has a tumor. (And seriously, the first person to say in the comments, "It's nawt a tu-mowr" in a Schwarzenegger voice gets smacked down.) I kind of don't know what to do. Euthanasia? Wait, then euthanasia? Natural death at home in an episode sure to scar not just the remaining mice, but my children as well?

The Sense of Wonder: I just discovered that spellcheck recognizes "Schwarzenegger," but not actual words, such as "Asperger's." Or "spellcheck."

The Sense of Sickness: Jack stayed home from Camp Awesome on Monday because of a nagging cough. Poor munchkin. This is him during our Monday Five Senses Lesson:

I excused him early.

Don't even get me started on the amount of money in missed camp fees that his cough cost me.

The Actual Five Senses: We actually sat around the dining room table on Monday and did a run through of all the senses. You've already seen what Jack looked like during that lesson. Now you can see what Sam looked like:

He was NOT excused early. 
Although it would have been more pleasant if he had been.

Quinn, on the other hand, grabbed a writing implement and set right to work.

He was my favorite for the day.

Because Sam was so surly, I launched into a project that I thought he would really like. My kids are always harassing me to help them make masks, so when I made my original Camp Stimey trip to the craft store, I picked up a package of blank face masks, thinking everyone would be really excited.

Well, at least Quinn was.

That boy has all kinds of great enthusiasm.

The results were a little...creepy.

My intent was that my kids would point out the five senses as they relate to the face, but since Quinn's mask doesn't even include a nose, I think the lesson might have been lost on them.

Sam's mask actually looks a little like him, except his mask is smiling and I'm pretty sure that the kid under the mask was not. It's difficult to convey a sense of strong annoyance with a flat piece of paper and an orange marker.

After having tortured Sam through the forced coloring of a mask and the filling out of three simple worksheets, I released him. Quinn was still eager, so we filled out a Five Senses Journal that I found on the intertubes. (Download PDF by clicking here.)

Did I mention that he was my Monday Favorite?

Quinn can smell cake.

Quinn can taste mint cake, ribs, and an ice cream pool.

Quinn can hear an attacking cat.

Quinn can touch treasure (and spell it in HUgE letters).

Quinn can see...something Pokemon related. I just don't get Pokemon.

The Sense of Hearing: Yesterday I made Quinn and Sam do some listening and draw pictures of things they heard. Because it was a million degrees outside and the news kept calling the air "orange" or something equally ominous sounding, I had them listen to background noises on their Animal Crossing video game. They came up with footsteps and river sounds and doorbells, among other things. It was actually kind of fun. It wasn't quite as awesome as the Outdoor Sound Walk I had planned, but it sufficed.

The Sense of "Oh, Man, I am Fucked": Although I tell my kids about my blog, Sam found it open on the computer this morning and spent about 45 minutes reading all about his life and then telling his brothers what I think of them. I've always assumed that my kids would eventually read my blog, but I didn't expect, you know, today. We had a little chat about sarcasm and hyperbole and how often it can be used to express affection. Then Sam pointed an accusing finger at me and called me Ms. Sarcasm.

So that is where I am. Clearly have a pretty shaky understanding of the senses. There is a reason I'm not a teacher. Tomorrow is Touch and Sight Day, as in "Feel the TOUCH of your ass on your car seat as you get dragged along to Jack's appointment at Kennedy Krieger," and "LOOK at the colors in these awesome tie-dye shirts we're going to make."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yep. They're My Kids.

So, you're aware we have a pool, right?

Well, having an above ground pool in our yard has brought us much joy. My kids LOVE to swim in it and I love being able to let one or two of them swim even if the third doesn't want to. I ADORE having this pool in the backyard, even if I did recently learn that they are evidently one of the signs of trashiness.

Cars on blocks in the front yard and having a house entirely shrouded by weeds might be other signs.

Along with the joy of the pool, however, comes the fear of accidental drowning. In fact, that is one of my biggest rationales for never having joined a pool before. I have three kids and only two eyes, so I am terribly afraid to take all of them to the pool by myself. Alex, on the other hand, does it all the time. He's a rock star. Also, evidently all of my kids can swim, so there's that.

Nonetheless, I am extremely vigilant about our pool. County code states that to have an above ground pool, there are several conditions you have to abide by. The one we fall under is that we have an entirely fenced yard and the doors leading to the pool have alarms.

Let me tell you, if I'm somewhere in my house and hear the little "ping!" that lets me know that an outside door has opened, I am all over it. In fact, our alarm system has always been more about not letting anyone get out of our house than preventing people from getting in.

As long as that pool is out there, there will not be a child in my backyard without a supervising adult present. 

Along with that precaution is my vigilant removal of the pool ladder every time my kids get out of the pool. Furthermore, we lock the ladder to our deck with a combination lock to keep our kids from setting up the pool without us.

All three children are OUTRAGED that I will not tell them the combination. Each of them has come to me privately and asked me to just tell them. They don't seem to grasp that, Hello! Your not knowing the code is the whole damn point.

And, no, I'm not going to tell YOU the code either because loose lips sink ships.

Naturally, when I got the lock, the first thing I did was try to make dirty words out of the letters. That's when I took this photo for you:

It can also say "POOP." But it won't say "FUCK." I tried.

I let Jack play with the lock one day, although part of me was a little worried that he would use his brain to crack the code. (He didn't.) Not long after I handed him the lock, he came over to show me what he had discovered.

Yep. "BUTT."

That's my boy. I'm so proud. I swear I didn't show that to him.

Normally I would close this post with that, but I have one more ladder-related thing to share with you. (Man, this blog is full of intelligent discourse, isn't it?)

This morning, as I was locking up the ladder, Quinn, who clearly has his priorities straight, said to me, "I don't know the code. Can you tell me the code right before you die? Because I might want to go swimming."

Kids' brains are wacky little places, aren't they? Fortunately, Alex knows the code too, but if, God forbid, something were to happen to both of us, we'd have to rely on Jack's code-breaking skills. Unfortunately, I think we all know what words he would try first.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Water Week Round Up!

There's a dolphin up there if you look hard.
Ah, Water Week. this week was a little tougher than I expected, partly because there are SO MANY things to do and learn about that have to do with water. Then again, pretty much anything we did could be linked to Water Week somehow or another.

An easier option might have been Oceans Week. Or Lakes and Streams Week. Or I Vow to Give My Kids a Bath EVERY NIGHT Week.

We did none of those weeks.

Rather, we explored bridges (with no water underneath), streams, water from the tap, and the National Aquarium.

Usually for Camp Stimey, I try to hold a circle time each day to actually, you know, teach my kids something. I didn't do that this week. Instead, we learned by doing.

We started Monday by walking across a bridge that spanned a road we often drive on. See, we drive under this bridge every day to take Jack to (and from and to and from) camp every day. We also drive under it to get to speech therapy every week. AND we watched the thing be built from scratch last year as Quinn and I drove to and from his preschool every day.

You can't tell from the back, but Quinn was really whiny because it was hot.

After that, we headed to a park to meet some friends and explore a stream.

You can't tell from the back, but Alex was really whiny because it was hot.

This next photo is specifically for Missy, who has apparently been hoping for an Ultimate Frisbee Day as part of a Sports Week. Well, Missy, we didn't have an ultimate frisbee, but we did toss the fris around a little.

You can tell from the front that Sam was really whiny because it was hot.

Whining lessened when we headed down to the stream. We had come prepared with buckets and nets and set about catching some small swimming things. There was some dispute over whether they were tadpoles or baby fish.

What say you?

Sam, Alex, and I came down on the side of tadpoles. We do have some experience with the subject, you may remember. The other family was convinced that they were fish.

Quinn was more interested in rocks.

Eventually, however, all the kids came to an agreement that wading in the murky water trumped all else, thereby ensuring that none of us could ever visit that particular park again unless we were prepared to get all wet.

That water doesn't look gross at all.

We turned to cleaner water on Tuesday. Remember how all of you were like, "Hey! Water balloons would be a GREAT idea for Water Week!"? Where were all of you when I was sadly filling 175 water balloons from the hose Tuesday morning?

We waited patiently until Jack got home from camp to have our balloon fight, because how sad would it have been to have Jack discover hundreds of tiny bits of broken balloons on the grass and then burst into tears? (Which, incidentally, is a whole other kind of water.)

Sam was ready and eager to go!

The dog probably should be more concerned than she looks.

Alex didn't agree that I was off limits.

Balloon filling aside, water balloons were a brilliant idea.

Wednesday, we had a whole little series of water activities, starting with watercolor painting. We usually paint with some other kind of paint (Tempura, maybe? All I know is that it smells bad.), so the watercolors were a nice change of pace.

Sam didn't just paint a picture, but also parts of the floor.

Jack's art is always amusing to me. That kid has such a cool little brain in him.

That's a straw, and the guy is saying, "Thirsty."

Quinn went for more of a multi-media approach.

After we painted, we did some experiments with glasses of water. We started by dying the water with food coloring. Then we made music by banging spoons on the glasses, each of which had a different amount of water in it.

Sam was hopeful that he could make music by blowing across the top of the glass, like you can with bottles of water.

He was not successful.

Jack, tired after a full day of camp, bailed after that, but Sam and Quinn stuck around to see what happened when you mixed the different colored waters together.

Turns out that they all turned black. Who would've thunk it?

This next part may not be for the easily queasy. Now, intellectually, I know that water turned black by food coloring is just like any other water. But there is no way on earth that I would drink any of it. Quinn, however, the kid who is sooo particular that he would only wear yellow t-shirts for two years of his life, was not so timid.

He sampled all of them. Then his teeth turned black.

I'm pretty excited about our Friday activity. We made giant fish. To do this, you cut out two identical giant shapes of fish for each child and then have them color them. Make sure they color on the correct two sides, otherwise their artwork may end up on the inside of the fish.

Cutting out realistic looking fish shapes is a whole other story.

After your kid has finished coloring the fish, staple around part of the edge and stuff it with crumpled up newspaper—or, the edges of the paper from which you originally cut the fish. You have to have a working stapler in order to make this happen. If you are me, you will cycle through all three of your house staplers before you find one appropriate for the task.

Then, hang the fish and have a fist fight under them!

Only Sam and Quinn were around to do this, but I don't know that Jack has even noticed these hanging over the back door, so no harm, no foul.

The reason we made these fish is because I have fond memories of them. When I was in grade school, I did this very same craft in some class. I remember that not all the kids wanted to take their finished projects home, so I walked home from school one day with, like, 17 fish dangling from my hand. I hung them up all over my room. My mom hated them. She kept trying to get me to get rid of them by telling me that spiders were probably building nests inside them.

That last part may not be true (and it will almost certainly make my mother aghast), but that is what my very reliable memory tells me.

Okay, the last thing we did (I promise! Also, jeez, I promise to not do any more all-one-day recap posts.) was go to the aquarium on Sunday. We used to have a membership to the National Aquarium in Baltimore because I liked going someplace that would keep my kids forcibly strapped into car seats for an hour each way. The aquarium also costs a million dollars, so if you go more than twice, you have paid for your membership.

What I am saying here, is that although we used to go to the aquarium a lot, we haven't been at all for the past probably three years. We were supposed to be meeting Joeymom there, but she and her family actually arrived at the agreed upon time, whereas I arrived terribly, unfashionably late. I had assumed that we would be able to pretty quickly catch up with her on one of the upper levels, but I hadn't taken into account the fact that, holy frijoles, my kids love fish.

They stopped at every single tank and inspected everything in each one. They were so excited. I didn't expect that. It was really lovely. That said, it was also really dark and there were a lot of people there, so I kept on with an internal and external little chant.

Internal: "One...two...where's Quinn?...three. One...two...where the hell did Sam go?...three. One...two..."

External: "Team Stimey, stick together! Don't get on that escalator until Jack catches up! Look! An octopus! Sam, come back here! Quinn, please, for the love of all that is good in the world, do not drop my iPhone into the bat ray tank!"

Why don't I remember to dress my kids in fluorescent orange at these places?

We finally met up with Joeymom and her family and stopped for lunch, which for Quinn mostly consisted of cookies and for Jack mostly consisted of air and watching the harbor below.

He sat like that for a good twenty minutes.

Quinn and cookies. See Joeymom back there?

After "lunch," we headed down the aquarium ramp past the giant tanks. We were lucky in that we got there as the divers were feeding the fish. We watched a diver hand feed shrimp to a ray and we watched them put heads of lettuce down for the fish and we watched them squirt some sort of chum out of little squeezy bottles for the non-lettuce eating fish.

We also watched one of them play patty-cake with Jack.

We ended our day by spending a long time watching dolphins and then going to check out the jellyfish exhibit, which was incredibly cool. Those are some nifty animals, those jellyfish. Sam doesn't care for them because he was stung by one once, but I think Jack could have studied the way they moved for hours.

"Without water there would be no..."
So there you have it: Water Week. When I put it all in one post, it looks like we did a lot. (When you were here at my house with me, it looked a lot more like my kids just went swimming a lot.)

This week we are going to learn about the Five+ (not to be confused with Google+) Senses. Stay tuned as we do such tangentially sensory-related things as go swimming for Touch Day and tie-dye shirts for Sight Day (which will double as Color Day)!

Have a great week!

See more about Camp Stimey here!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Worst. Day. Ever.

I have to tell you about Water Week, and I will, but first I want to tell you about Thursday. Remember that Thursday was the day that I canceled a Camp Stimey Meet-up so that my family could do something fun together? And I was sad that Jack couldn't participate?

Well, count Jack lucky.

Let me fill you in on the things I do not like about gardening: Dirt. Bugs. Sweat. Dirt. Also dirt.

If I had to list the things in this world that I do not like, gardening would be right at the top of the list, near Brussels sprouts.

Alex insisted that Sam, Quinn, and I help him clear out our front yard of weeds, which, yes, badly needed to be done, but when I arrived at the side of the house with a smile and a camera, Alex informed me in no uncertain terms that if all I was going to do was take photos then I was not welcome and that my not being welcome was NOT an option.

He's such a bully, that one.

I grudgingly picked up some clippers and went around to the side of the house that interested me and began to clip branches away from our DirecTV dish. But, nooooo, that vast improvement to our lives was not enough for Mr. I Don't Want To Be Embarrassed By My House.

I then clipped away the shrubs that hindered access to our front porch, thus letting us see when we pull into the driveway if we have mail sitting on our porch. Alex was still not impressed by my sense of priorities.

Worse still, he wanted me to pick up the clippings that I'd dropped on our front walk and even gave me his gloves so that I could pick up the prickly bits. I refer you to my Hate Gardening List before I tell you that he'd been sweating inside those gloves.

Meanwhile, Alex was forcing Quinn and Sam to bag up the sticks and leaves that he'd been clearing. They were similarly unhappy. I am a little ashamed to admit just how much I did NOT lead by example.

In fact, I may have been a bit of a rabble rouser.

No, I take that back. I am not ashamed at all. I thought we were going to maybe go for a hike or a picnic or something fun. Hating rain (Water Week!) for making our weeds grow was not on my agenda.

Not to mention that I did not care for the caliber of bugs that our weeding uncovered and which I am convinced are still nesting in my hair and ears.

Alex seems to think that doing the brunt of the hard labor excuses him from any guilt in this whole endeavor. HE seems to think that weeding once every three years is not enough.

This is AFTER we'd been weeding for a couple hours.

Thank God Jack had to be picked up from camp, so we had a solid end time. Our day was capped off when we headed out to dinner at a place we'd chosen because it was right next door to the pet store where they do shark feeding on Thursday nights only to see that the pet store had been replaced by some sort of medical clinic.

Gardening and no sharks. Why does everything terrible have to happen to me?