This Should Surprise No One

This morning it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried on my Halloween costume, so I decided I should check to make sure it fit.

Phew!

Jack was delighted with my costume and cuddled up next to me to be part of the experience.

My sweet guy.

Sam then showed up, but not to cuddle. He wanted to feed the mouse and jammed a chunk of honeydew melon in my face.

He’s slightly less sweet, but he’ll do.

“Gnaw on it, mom! Gnaw on it!”

Fine.

Then Jack stole my costume, which is a total bummer because there is NO WAY I am going to fit into his evil robot jumpsuit.

But isn’t he cute?

Happy Halloween to all of you! Happy birthday to my sister! Stay safe tonight!

(1) The Great Flooring Fiasco of 2011 (2) Yay! (3) OMG

It is time to tell you the story of the floors. This whole saga really starts with our dog, Cassidy. Cassidy has started having some incontinence issues, which makes our house really smelly and unpleasant to live in. She, however, only pees in certain carpeted areas of our house, which are impossible at this point to get fully clean and deodorized.

In lieu of murdering the dog, which, honestly, is starting to look more and more attractive, Alex and I decided to pull up the carpet in our TV room and put in hardwood floors. This was at the beginning of Sucktober. We have a friend whose husband works for a flooring company, so we decided to have his company do the work. We hired them and they showed up to pull up our carpet and put in the floors. I showed them the room and then departed to the living room.

About 15 minutes later, one of them called, “Ma’am? Can we show you something?”

That something was this:

Oh. Look. Hardwood floors.

Cut to Facebook:

Is it Dipshit Friday yet?

On one hand, yay, right? We saved a crapload of money that we were then able to use to re-tile the kitchen. (Which we did with the same company and they did a fabulous job. Let me know if you have flooring needs and need a referral.)

On the other hand:

(a) We are morons.
(b) How did no one check to see if there was hardwood flooring underneath? I’m looking at you, Alex.
(c) Who builds an addition onto a house (which this room is), then puts in hardwood flooring only to cover it with carpet?
(d) Way to make your friend, the flooring salesman, look like an asshole to his company. Nice going, Team Stimey.
(e-z) We are morons.

Anyway, at this point in the process, the flooring people told us that we could cancel the job and get all of our money back, deposit included. No penalty for the time and effort they put into coming out. I was astounded. And grateful.

Our order canceled, the installers left and I was left staring at our half-ripped up floor, which now required that we (1) move all the furniture out of the room, (2) take up carpet, floor staples, and tack strips, (3) refinish the floors, and (4) kind of wish that there had just been subfloor under the stupid carpet.

To make it worse, we decided that we should rip up the carpet in Sam’s room as well, because it (i) has hardwood floors as well, (ii) the dog pees in there too, and (iii) it is a small room between two rooms that would (now) have hardwood floors.

We found someone who could come in to refinish the floors over the weekend. Originally, Alex was going to do it, but he walked into the room after work, got a really sad look on his face, and said that he didn’t care if he COULD do it, he really didn’t WANT to do it. Fair enough.

This was all on a Thursday and the refinishing people were coming Saturday and Sunday, so I spent my Friday crawling around on the floor with a crowbar and a screwdriver to get the floors ready.

Fortunately I had help.

Not only did I have to pry everything off of the floors, but whereas you can install floors without taking all of the really heavy furniture out of the room, you can’t really refinish floors without doing the same. Happily, I then got to dismantle some furniture that wouldn’t fit through doorways.

Again, Algernon tried to help, but he was less effective here.

Put some shoulder into it, dude.

Once we I moved everything out of those two rooms, we ended up with two entirely empty rooms and the rest of our house PACKED FULL of stuff. It turns out that if a room has a lot of (*) closets, (#) drawers, (^) books, and (%) assorted crap, when unorganized, its contents will take over three entire other rooms.

We literally had about 20 square feet of space left in which to live on the main floor of our house. We made do.

It’s sad how deprived my kids are.

With so little room for the human occupants of our home, other members of Team Stimey were forced to hang out elsewhere. I’m not naming names, but it was someone who kinda started this whole thing.

Yeah. Pee on it out there, jerk.

Once the refinishing guys showed up with their sanders and their oils and their finishes and whatnot, we mostly bailed for the weekend and let them do their magic all ensconced in their little plastic prison.

Dexter?

Awesomely, they were done in two days, which is a substantial improvement over the, you know, nine-day process it would have probably been for Alex. (Because he has a job and all.) I sort of half-heartedly suggested that I could redo the floors myself but was really happy when Alex told me that I was insane.

Anyway, pain in the ass later, we went from (one):

Ew.

to (two):

Pretty!

That last photo was taken on October 10. I have ALMOST managed to put everything back in place. It will please you to know that I also got rid of a lot of stuff that was in both rooms. Honestly, that’s what has taken so long. I could have thrown it back willy nilly, but I didn’t want to recreate what was there before. Now I have empty shelves and drawers. Empty. This has never happened to me before.

The new floors did actually create one new problem. Ever since the time I spilled soda on my computer, I put my drink on the floor by my desk when I’m working. (You should too. Really. Trust me on this.) Well, now I have to worry about drink circles on the new floor. But when I went to IKEA yesterday for something completely unrelated, I found the perfect solution: a little round $10 rug that I can put next to my chair. A sort of über-coaster, if you will.

The unforeseen bonus of the über-coaster is that one of my cats really likes it. I find this adorable and it makes me really happy. Also, please notice how huge my cat is. And how she has, like, six extra toes.

It’s kind of like she’s a fat, hairy frog on a dead lily pad.
The whole process of the floors was a huge pain in the ass—because of Team Stimey, not because of Team Two Awesome Companies That Made Our Floors Pretty. We’ve finally recovered (mostly), and I’ve even learned some lessons from the experience:
(uno) Always, ALWAYS check to see what’s under the carpets. (subfloor…hardwood…bodies)
(dos) The dog is never allowed to be unattended inside the house ever again.
(tres) The probability that we will have to re-undertake this whole project for the three remaining carpeted rooms in my home makes me really, really tired.

Sucktober

Back when I was in college, I had a friend who claimed that October was the worst month and that bad things always happened then. I hadn’t had that experience, but he was adamant. Ever since, I’ve been suspicious of October and have kind of looked at it with the whale eye.

Splashy is giving you the whale eye.

Enter 2011.

It could be worse. I know. God, I know it could be worse. I would like to acknowledge that, knock on wood, and then carry on to complain without dignity about how terrible this October has been. (I know you’re not surprised. You know how whiny I am.)

My house is basically crumbling around me. And I say that with the greatest of hyperbole.

But, c’mon, people. Do you want to know what has gone wrong in rapid succession in my home this month? I don’t care. I am in Whine Mode; I’m telling you anyway. Seriously, people, this shit is unprecedented.

Here’s the list of Things That Are Terrible in Stimeyland These Days:

• My fridge, followed by…
• The replacement fridge. See, our original fridge stopped cooling things. Alex and I had a long dance of, “I think it’s okay,” followed by, “Huh, it might be getting warmer in here,” followed by, “Let’s turn it down all the way to ’1,’” followed by, “Maybe it goes the other way, let’s turn it all the way to ’10,’” followed by, “This fridge is broken.”

So we got a new fridge, which was a floor model that we got at an excellent price. Unfortunately that fridge (1) had a broken water pump, (2) turned out to be missing at least three pieces, (3) leaked air out the side, and (4) made everything in the fridge section freeze solid.

We returned it and purchased a new fridge, which we insisted come in a box, brand new. Success.

• Our wood floors. This saga will be relayed tomorrow. Rest assured though, it fits in here.

• The stove. Fingers crossed, this one looks like it might turn out okay. Although it WAS disconnected for more than a week during our re-tiling of the kitchen, which, had we known about the Great Financial Hemorrhaging that was about to happen, we might have put off. (But it’s SOOOO pretty!)
 
• My hard drive. You’ve already heard about this one. 

• Our alarm system. Technically, WE broke this because we had to cut the wires after we pulled up the carpet only to find that the wires ran diagonally across what would now be bare floor. This rewiring was a pretty easy fix, but annoying.

• The heater in my car. It still works, but only after it blows out freezing cold air for a good 10 to 15 minutes. I’m wondering how long we can put off this repair before it gets really troubling.

• Our house furnace. Today was SPECTACULAR in the sheer number of things that decided to go ahead and quit on Team Stimey. Our furnace hasn’t been working since Friday, and we’ve had two visits from the heater people, and today our part finally came in and the heater guy showed up unannounced at five minutes to eight, just when I was ready to take the munchkins to school. Then, when Alex was trying to let the guy in, the dog made a break for it and disappeared down the street. It was quite the scene.

The dog is back. Although I’m pretty sure a large part of Alex didn’t want to chase after her.

Well, the heater technician tried to fix the furnace, but was unsuccessful and unearthed this rusty piece that he was so impressed by that he took a photo of and kept saying that it looked like something one would find in an undersea shipwreck.

So we’re buying a new furnace. Yay.

Not really yay.

You know those glowing heat lamps they have on outdoor patios at restaurants? I have one on an end table right now. It’s the only thing keeping us warm.

• Alex’s motorcycle. Alex used to have this cool old motorcycle with orange racing stripes. It could do anything. A car hit it once and dragged it for several blocks. (Alex was not on it at the time.) Alex chased it down and was able to ride it home. It was bad ass.

His current motorcycle gets tapped and says ouch. It’s had more than a few issues in the five years that Alex has had it. Sadly, it’s looking like it’s most recent trip to the mechanic will be its last. This news also came today. That poor wussy little bike.

• Oh, right, and the straw that broke the camel’s back. I showed up at speech therapy today with all three kids, one of whom had been whining for an hour about not wanting to be dragged to therapy any more and why does Jack need to go to therapy all the time and when will he not have to go to therapy anymore and EVERYTHING IS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD, which, honestly, I agree with, and then the receptionist told me that Jack’s therapy was no longer covered by our insurance and then I COMPLETELY LOST MY SHIT.

I (of course) started crying and was all, “BUT I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY FOR THERAPY OUT OF POCKET!” with the subtext of “BECAUSE EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE IMPLODED THIS MONTH!” I was not coherent enough to realize that something similar happened with Jack’s occupational therapist and that it could probably all be worked out if I just calmed down already, did the session, and then called the insurance company.

What I did instead was seize on the less-than-24-hours-notice cancellation fee. I pulled out my credit card and started blathering about paying that because I couldn’t stay for the session and, oh my lord, it was quite the scene. To make it even better, the waiting room was, like, packed. And suddenly eerily quiet.

That poor receptionist. Jack’s poor therapist, who had arrived at the front by this time. They looked a little shell shocked. They told me I didn’t have to pay the cancellation fee and I took a deep breath, wiped some tears and told Jack he wasn’t going to see his therapist today. He had been happily dismantling his therapy binder during this whole thing and was delighted to be able to go home. I think he might have exclaimed, “Yay!”

Don’t worry. I already emailed to apologize.

• Oh, and Jack decided he doesn’t like his only pair of sneakers, so he hid them. And we can’t find them. And he won’t tell us where they are.

I’m so over Sucktober. Bring on Bettervember.

It’s Kinda About Field Trips and Kinda About Parenting And a Little Bit About a Goober

I have a really long history of hating field trips. I have some really traumatic memories of preschool field trips with all three of my kids. As a matter of fact, one of my very worst, very visceral memories is of a field trip we took to the dump when Sam was in his 4s class and I had to bring Jack and Quinn with me.

Quinn wasn’t walking yet, so I had to carry him, and Jack freaked out, so I had to carry him too. We basically spent an hour or so wandering around a city dump, and the tour included a trip up and down a four-story, stairs-only observation deck. The blog post I wrote about it can in no way convey how terrible that day was for me. I am still not completely recovered from it.

Therefore, whenever I write a post about going on a field trip with my kids (and they ALWAYS ask me to chaperone), I feel like I need to be all, “Field trips are the worst! I hate field trips!” It’s kinda my schtick. (Well, one of them.)

With my hatred of field trips so ingrained in me, it took me a really long time to realize that field trips can actually be kind of fun. Although it helps if you go with this goober:

Goober.

There are several things that help me on these field trips:
(1) My kids are older. Thank the good lord, my kids have aged and are a little more stable.
(2) I no longer have to take younger siblings with me. Thank the good lord, that makes ME a little more stable.
(3) I have honed my skills when it comes to keeping track of the 3-6 kids I have been assigned to keep track of on any given trip. My “1-2-3-4-5-6″ counting skills are unmatched.
(4) I have learned that when kids start to wander off, that if you start playing Simon Says, they will stop and play.
(5) I’ve learned that as long as you bring back all the kids you’ve been charged with and don’t have a freakout in front of the teacher, you are considered a successful chaperone. Even I can do that.

Naturally, when I chaperone Sam’s upcoming field trip next week, something will go terribly wrong and I will kick myself for not knocking on some serious wood here. And I’m going to be honest here and say that field trips with your special needs kid are a little tougher. It’s not ALL smiles and sunshine. It’s more like grins and mostly sunny.

Last week, Quinn and his class went to a farm to pick pumpkins. My favorite was when the teacher told the kids to only pick out pumpkins they could carry by themselves and then she leaned over and told me that every year she has one kid who tries to take the biggest pumpkin in the patch. Then she mimed a kid stumbling around with an armful of giant pumpkin.

It looked something like this:

Goober.

I kind of feel like I’m in a magic spot with my kids. Like, the first few years of their lives are so hard because you’re figuring them out and the learning curve on just, you know, keeping them fed and clothed is hard enough. When you add autism or a medical issue or any extraordinary life circumstances, it just makes it so much harder. Then, once puberty hits, I believe that the learning curve will turn into a sharp left turn, but for now, we’re at a little bit of a plateau.

I’m NOT saying that I have it all figured out, but I feel like even though I regularly heave a big sigh and say “Parenting is HARD,” in an attempt to encapsulate everything I know into three words, we’re in this spot where the hills and valleys are a little shallower.

Sometimes we even find time to stop and smell the (pumpkin) flowers.

Not a goober.

I wish I had something funny and pithy to say about this next photo, but I think it does that all by itself. I like how Quinn’s little sweatshirt-clad hands sticking out of the neckhole make it look like the Q-pig is wearing a bow tie.

TOTAL goober.

I don’t know how long this calm space will last. I see omens of both peace and upheaval in all my kids’ near future. Who knows what will come next. For now, I’m going to try to stop fighting my fear of the upheaval. I’m going to stop walking into field trips saying, “I hate these things.” I’m going to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And I’m going to try to go on as many field trips as my kids will let me, because, honestly, you can’t beat moments like this:

Two goobers.

Magic

Yesterday I was waiting for Jack’s bus at the regular time, but it didn’t come. So I walked up to Quinn’s bus stop and got him and we walked home. I assumed that Jack’s bus would show up at any time, but it didn’t. Quinn and I ended up in the front yard chatting with our neighbors and, again, I figured that his bus would appear at any time, but it didn’t.

Jack’s bus driver is extremely reliable and wonderful, so I wasn’t all that worried until his bus was more than a half hour late. I called the school and they said the bus had left exactly on time. So I called the bus depot and they put me on hold while they got in touch with the driver.

About two minutes later the lady came back on the line and said, “He’s at Lego Robotics.” Oh, right. The after-school program he does EVERY Monday. Dumbass. That was embarrassing.

I only have three kids. You’d think I could remember where they all are at any given time.

*****

It was Tuesday morning. (It was actually this morning, but speaking about it in the past tense makes me feel better because it seems more over.) Alex and I were snippy at each other. We’ve both been crazy overworked this month and we’ve both been sick this month and we’re both really tired and it came together in this perfect shitstorm of annoyance today Tuesday.

We were late getting out of the house, which is a big deal, because if we are a couple of minutes late leaving our driveway, our complicated commute to get everyone to school gets longer and everyone is late and angry. (I mean, angrier. Quinn, for instance, kicked my seat for all 50 minutes of our drive this morning and ended by standing outside the school when I tried to drop him off, crying and screaming, “I hate school!”)

I had just gotten everyone in the car, when the dog streaked by on her way to freedom.

Fortunately, she ran directly at a neighbor who was walking to the bus stop. Unfortunately, he did not respond to my shout to “Please grab my dog!” and in fact did everything but shriek and jump out of the way. I think he might be afraid of dogs.

So the dog is running away, I’m chasing her, Alex is meandering after us and cursing loudly, when a stranger in a car stops to give me bad advice on how to catch her, thereby giving her precious more seconds of her already vast lead. I stopped briefly and then was intentionally rude to the guy. Sorry, random guy. It was the wrong morning to run into me.

Alex eventually caught her. I hate that dog so much. Also, I hate Tuesdays.

This tweet got a surprising amount of love.
It seems that lots of people hate Tuesday.

*****

We have had a string of bad luck regarding house stuff lately. And, honestly, it will all turn out awesome in the long run, but it’s been a pain in the ass while it’s been happening.

Like, our fridge stopped working, so we got a new one, but a floor model. And that floor model turned out to have multiple issues, so we returned it and got a new fridge. All of which resulted in a lot of food transfer, a fair amount of food loss, and more than one looooong delivery window. Needless to say, we’ve just stopped buying food.

And we were putting in hardwood floor, but, huh, we already had hardwood floor, but the carpet was torn up by that point, so we had to refinish said floor. And if we were refinishing THAT room’s floors, then we should probably just go ahead and rip up the carpet in THIS room and refinish this floor too. Plus, now that there wasn’t carpet there anymore, we had to have the alarm company rewire the cords they had installed diagonally across the floor under the rug.

And then we decided to spend the money we were going to spend on the hardwood floors to replace the torn-up linoleum in the kitchen, and—actually that all went very smoothly.

But the process of getting everything back into the proper place has been slow and laborious, and we had a really hard time finding a rug for the hardwood floor that really tied the room together.

Oh, and whenever we turn on the oven, it smells like gas. Needless to say, we’ve stopped turning it on. We should probably hire someone to look at it. Or maybe just get rid of the oven altogether.

Long story short: My house is going to be AWESOME in about a week. But it SUPER SUCKS right now. Also, I’m tired of waiting for delivery people and workers who will arrive “between 9 and 2.”

*****

We’ve discussed my computer issues.

*****

This past weekend I drove 20 hours to be with friends overnight. The time it took me to get there and back is longer than the amount of time I spent there. I missed my family while I was gone. There were a lot of things I could have gotten done if I had just stayed home. I could have slept in on Sunday and maybe relaxed a little bit over the weekend. I could have taken the burden of doing all the weekend happenings off of Alex. I could have gone to a professional soccer game with my family.

Those two days could easily fit into this storyline of the hectic month I’ve been wading through. But they don’t. The friends I went to see (and a couple of whom I got to pick up on my way there) are a lifeline to me. They are a group of autism moms from all over who have kids on all parts of the spectrum and of many ages.  We are an extremely diverse group of people. We disagree on all the things people in the autism community disagree about—and we agree about things as well. Regardless, we don’t judge each other. We are a group of people who would never have ended up in a room together if not for a mutual friend who brought us together in the first place, and the common bond of children with autism.

With all of our differences, there is one thing that is the same: We know we need support. We know we need community. We know we need a village. And we’ve all tacitly and explicitly agreed to be that for each other. It is a powerful thing.

It’s also a drunken, hilarious thing, which is something else that autism moms can use more of—if not the margaritas, at least the hysterical laughter that is so strong that it makes your body hurt, but in the best of all possible ways. I got that this weekend, and I am so grateful.

Algernon also enjoyed the journey.

 It is truly exceptional that this group of us managed to form. I don’t think that things like this happen very often. There is no way to do justice to such an experience, to such a group. I wrote a comment on someone else’s blog post yesterday about something else entirely, but it applies here too: I don’t believe in miracles, but I do believe in magic.

And this group? This group of women that has become a powerful soothing force for me and for each other? This group that doesn’t ask us to forget our hardships and all the foibles of life, but instead walks hand-in-hand with us through them? This group is magic.

*****

I wish for magic for all of you too. And to my magic, the magic that turns the dirge of everyday life and buses and forgotten appointments and waiting for the Sears guy for six hours and the calls from the school and the worry about the IEP meetings into something far softer than it used to be? Thank you.

Things Just Got More High Pitched Around Here

In fourth grade, kids in our school district get to decide if they want to play a musical instrument. Sam decided that he wanted to play either the flute or the trumpet.

I wanted him to play the trumpet because, you know, Miles Davis.

Alex wanted him to play the flute because, you know, Ron Burgundy.

I think you can probably guess what Sam chose.

Bringing You Up To Date

Things are still kind of a mess at my house.

But…this…

Angels singing.

My computer! She’s back! And, yes, it’s super annoying to have to re-establish everything I’ve done on it in the past two months, but I’m already re-establishing everything else in my horrible, horrible house, so I might as well do it for my computer too.

Now that I’m back and can function (honestly, I feel an almost literal weight coming off my shoulders sitting at MY desk typing on MY laptop), I’ll have the capacity to answer the hundreds of emails that have accumulated in my inbox, as well as write delightfully fanciful posts about Sam’s birthday (TEN!), my kids’ schools, a talk about autism I gave to Jack’s class, jury duty (weird: Algernon was called for jury duty THE VERY SAME DAY!), and that floor situation.

If you want proof of why I haven’t had time to write about any of those things yet, well, I present to you this photo of what my living room looked like two days ago:

It is *slightly* better now.

I also want to tell you about a new thing I’m doing over on my Facebook page. Every day that I don’t write something here, I’ll put up a link on the Stimeyland Facebook page to a post that I wrote on that date, but in a previous year. I am doing this mostly because it entertains me to read old posts, but maybe if you showed up more recently, you might like to read some older posts. Or not. Whatever. Yesterday I put up a link to a post about a birthday party I threw for Sam two years ago. It was a great party—including when Alex dropped Quinn with a well-aimed soccer ball to the shins.

Okay. I’m going to spend the next 45 minutes putting all the crap that I recently took out of my desk back into my desk. That sounds like so much fun.  >:-[