The Funny Papers

There are a lot of cool things about Jack. I think we all know that. He also has certain…issues. We all know that too. One place where the cool and the issues collide is right smack in the middle of the skill of handwriting.

Jack produces a lot of illegible handwriting. The fine motor skills are there—you’ll see them in a minute—but he has some problems. I think to Jack, handwriting is either totally utilitarian, difficult, and a pain in the ass (hence, rushed and unreadable writing) or a work of art.

I’m here to tell you about the work of art aspect of his handwriting.

When something is important to Jack, he takes the time to make it just what he wants it to be. Words for example. Sometimes words shouldn’t be just letters, but they should show you what the core of the thought means. Jack is around to show you what those thoughts are in the form of tiny little pictures imbedded in his letters.

Moon, for instance.

I especially like that the picture needed a label…of the word.

And has anyone ever told you that the sun is hot? Like really, really hot? Like fiery, burning hot? Well, if no one else ever has, Jack will.

In case you were wondering, those are fiery letters.*

If you are going to, say, write the word “cute” to describe something, maybe you should really hammer home the idea that the thing really is cute.

How better to do that than to turn the word “cute” into a kitten?

In addition to having trouble with handwriting, it is sometimes hard for Jack to use words to describe things. An easier way for him to communicate what he means sometimes is through pictures. I love that he’s figured out this way to get his point across. I’m just concerned that the state assessment tests may not accept awesome drawings as proof that Jack is as smart as he is.

If I were grading this answer, however, I would give it an A.

I would also label his snake picture as “cute”—and
I would draw a kitten in the word.

I include this next picture, because it is so expertly damn drawn, even if I don’t approve of the sentiment, which I’m pretty sure is that he thinks his teacher is being irrationally strict. (Because I know her and she’s not.)

I don’t think I could put that much emotion into stick figures though.

Sometimes Jack doesn’t need to use pictures to get his point across. His word play on this next math assignment shows so clearly how smart Jack is and on how many levels his brain is working at all times. That kid blows me away Every. Single. Day.

Paranthe C’s = parenthesis
X. Pression = expression

This kind of stuff is exactly what I am talking about when I say that I love the way autism makes Jack’s brain work. I don’t know other kids who do this. I mean, I’m sure there are, but to me, Jack is such a unique and precious mind.

I’m a lucky mom to be kept so amused and amazed by my incredible child.

* For the record, I had a hard time figuring out how to spell “fiery” too.

*****

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to try to photograph my three kids all at once, head over to Patch.com to find out.

My Epic Nintendo Post

So, you may know that I am a Nintendo Brand Ambassador and they keep sending me all of these awesome things that I have been woefully remiss in telling you about. I had the best of intentions to write about them as they came in, but then everything in my life imploded in October and November. So I’ve decided to do it all here in one post, which I will call my Nintendo Shopping Guide of New and Awesome Things in the Nintendo World That I Have Recently Acquired.

1. Let’s talk about the 3DS. First off, I know a lot of people have reservations about the 3DS, but we LOVE ours. And now that it is not much more expensive than the regular DSi, I think it is the perfect time to think about buying one for your kids. There is a ton that this thing can do. It’s really cool. Plus you can buy it in red. Hit me with your concerns in the comments and I’ll let you know based on my experience what I think about it.

2. Did someone say Star Fox 64 3D? Yes. Yes, someone did. Waaaay back in, like, 1998, Alex and I used to spend a LOT of time playing Nintendo 64. We had epic Mario Kart tournaments, but one of our favorites was Star Fox 64. Now, Star Fox is available for the 3DS, with gyroscope controls (steer by moving the whole 3DS—it’s kinda badass) and super awesome cartoon animal action!

Although either the game has gotten harder or my reflexes have gotten slower in the past 13 years.

You wanna know something else cool? When my Star Fox 64 3D came in the mail, it came with this awesome flight bag, which is maybe my favorite thing ever.

Oh, hi, Algernon.

I took the bag to a PTA meeting at some point and someone saw it and thought it was real and was really excited about it and my supposed military service and then I had to admit that Nintendo sent it to me in honor of a cartoon fox.

3. If you have a kid with a 3DS, buy him or her Super Mario 3D Land for the holidays. This game is all kinds of fun. The Super Mario type games are my favorites. I hoarded this game for myself for a while because I knew that once I let my kids see it, I wouldn’t get it back…ever. I was also afraid that seeing as how there are only three slots for games and there are three of THEM, that they would erase my game in favor of a Team Stimey Junior game.

Not to mention that once your kids have handed your ass to you by breezing by all your accomplishments, it gets a little less fun to play. It kind of reminds you how quickly you’re moving toward not knowing how to change the clock on the VCR. Or whatever the 2011 version of that is.

I would also like to share with you some of the really hilarious things that the Nintendo people sent me along with this game. If you’ve played the game, you know that Mario can wear a raccoon suit, which gives him all sorts of advantages. Naturally, my kids call the raccoon suit “the squirrel,” which is all I can remember anymore when I’m playing.

Wait. That’s not the only thing I can remember. I also remember this:

Problem Girl, this if for your file. (Alex, Embarrassing Photos of…)

If you prefer your Mario Squirrel with a mustache, well, here you go:

I was a little concerned that this would turn into DuckHead Part II,
but so far so good.

For those less inclined to wear the (faux) skin of a raccoon squirrel on their heads, there is this nifty mirror that does just about the same thing.

It was surprisingly difficult to get this photo.

And just because I didn’t want to leave Sam out, I bribed him with a dollar to wear this:

He was NOT happy.

4. I don’t know what Fortune Street is, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy it. Sam came home from school the other day with a folder featuring a Nintendo game I’d never heard of. He says that his teacher gave one to every student in the class. I actually have a number of questions to ask the teacher about this, but I will probably never do so.

“See, Mom! Fortune Street!”

Clearly Sam has been enjoying my Nintendo Ambassadorship because he was all, “Can we borrow this game, Mom? So we can advertise it? Like how you always want us to test games out for you?”

Did I mention that Sam no longer believes in Santa, but he evidently believes in the Nintendo Fairy?

Honestly, though, I kinda do too.

There you have it: Soul sold to Nintendo. I should DISCLOSE here that the games mentioned here, as well as the 3DS and fun accessories, were given to me at no charge. Including the raccoon head. Which is awesome. All opinions expressed here are my own. Especially the opinion about the raccoon head being awesome.

Also? This is awesome.

That poor dog.

I Was Trying to Think of a Funny Way to Say Happy Thanksgiving to All You Americans, Screw You Everyone Else, Without Sounding Like a Xenophopic Nutjob, But I Couldn’t Do it, So Happy Thanksgiving To All of You, Even if You Don’t Celebrate

But really. Sincere thanks to all of you. Not to be to cheeseball or anything, but you all really make a difference in my life. I am thankful for you today. (And most days, really. Don’t feel tooo special today, okay?)

I like to let my kids write my Thanksgiving Day post, but Sam’s teacher came up woefully short this year. I guess fourth graders are too old to be thankful in school.

I asked Sam if he did any Thanksgiving stuff at school. “You know, like ‘I am thankful for…'”

“No, we didn’t do any of that stuff,” he says.

“Well, what are you thankful for?” I asked.

Long pause. Then, “You?”

Thanks, Sam. You’ve learned to suck up well.

First graders, however, are right in the PRIME of creating these things. He came home with a whole book full of thanks and awesome.

I am thankful for first grade teachers who create this stuff.
By: Stimey

Page one: “I am thankful for food.”

Aren’t we all?

That is apparently me and Quinn. I am bald and he is a baby.

Page two: “I am thankful for everyone else in my family.”

 Although, honestly, this looks kind of like a horror movie to me.
I identified Jack on the left and Quinn second from left, but then it looks like Quinn ran out of coloring steam. The rest of us are colorless blobs with freaky smiles.

Page three: “I am thankful for Izzy and Denali.”

His spelling of Denali’s name was, shall we say, creative.

Denali is really fat. Evidently, she is also “lazzy,” which, I believe translates to “lazy.” I just about died laughing when I saw this page and the fact that this particular character trait was important enough to be added as a label. Note the sleep Zzzzz’s.

It is important to note here that the dog did not make the book.

Page four: “I am thankful for mom.”

I win.

I got my own page, peoples. AND a heart. Some days being the mom is a sucky job. Some days it is the best. Today it is the best.

Jack’s class also made lists of things they are thankful for. Well, most of the kids made paragraphs from the lists, but Jack evidently refused and refused hard. I got this great note in Jack’s communication notebook from the teacher that was all, “Jack refused to do the paragraph, oh but now he sees me writing in the book, so he picked up his pencil…”

“I’m thankful for (1) food (2) video games (3) Famous Amos cookies 
(4) my mom, my dad, Samuel & Quinn (5) wall of fame (final) TV.”

Jack isn’t grateful for the dog either.

Me, I’m so thankful for those creative, funny, loving, wonderful kids.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And even if you don’t live in a Thanksgiving-celebrating locale, know that I’m thankful for you too. Have a wonderful day.

Next Week Absolutely MUST Be More Chill

I know it’s THIS week and all, but I just have to tell you about LAST week. Because last week was a doozy.

I’m a person who values her evenings at home. Frankly, I don’t really like to go places. I especially don’t like to go out every single weeknight in one week, but that is what I had to do last week. It was exhausting.

You know who earned rock star status last week though? Alex. He made it possible for me to go out all those nights after my intense days, because last week the days were pretty harrowing too, with drama at Jack’s school and conferences with teachers and angst, oh, so much goddamn angst. Don’t worry though. We’re fine.

Monday wasn’t too bad and wouldn’t have been any ol’ thang if it had been any other week. Tuesday was also pretty chill but for the fact that I had to conduct a telephone interview with someone. There is very little that throws me into more of a panic than having to do that. Especially when the person I’m talking to is really smart and talks faster than I can type.

That night I went to a meeting of a special education committee to hear the county’s new schools superintendent speak. It was interesting and encouraging to listen to him. He answered a lot of questions from the public and I had one, but I kinda lose speech at those things and couldn’t possibly raise my hand.

I wanted to say this: “My son is important. He could grow up to be a professor or to work in a pizza parlor. No matter what, he has an intrinsic human worth and deserves the education funding to give him the greatest possible opportunities in life. I know my son is valuable. I think most of the people in this room know that my son and their children are valuable. But there are a lot of people in this county who don’t know that, or worse, adamantly do not believe that. When those people tell you that you are wasting money educating special education students, I want to know that you have our back. I want to know that you will stand up and say, ‘Yes, these students are important and deserve their fair share of the education budget.’ Will you do that when the time comes?”

Even though I didn’t ask, I really hope that the answer is yes.

I was actually really looking forward to my Wednesday. I attended the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s 5-Year Anniversary Celebration. It was wonderful. It was also a little intense. Fortunately, I had a solid cover, which it helps to have at these sorts of things.

My cover? I was a journalist, covering the event for my Autism Unexpected column, which gave me license to walk up to people I didn’t know and ask them intrusive questions. A couple of people asked if they could give me their email addresses instead and I could follow up with them the next day, which was awesome, because hello? I’ve found my tribe.

You can see the photos I took at the event on my Flickr page. I was really happy to be able to find Corina Becker (founder of Autistics Speaking Day) right off, because she was a friendly face sitting at a table with an empty chair. It was quite relieving, honestly. And wonderful to meet her. I got to meet a whole slew of other people I’d been excited to meet as well, along with some entirely new people.

 

The beautiful Corina Becker and Kathryn Bjornstad, creators of ASDay.

I think one of my favorite parts of the evening was when the TV connection malfunctioned as they were trying to show a video. A whole gang of folks went up to figure it out and when it was all done, Ari Ne’eman said, “How many autistic people does it take to fix the TV connection? The answer is: five.” Good stuff right there, people.

On Thursday, my event was reading night at Jack and Quinn’s school. I usually dread these things with the force of a thousand suns, but this event was great because some of the teachers had set up a room specifically for special education kids. We were actually the only family in that room, which was a shame, because I hope they keep doing it as my family is just not able to attend those things well without that type of accommodation.

They had great activities, complete with technology, coloring, games, story time, and manipulatives. I was really grateful to be there. Especially after I heard some of my friends talking about the regular classrooms and how they were set up. We would never have been able to hack it. As it was, my kids and I all had a great time and were able to relax and be ourselves. It was lovely.

I got to cap off my week on Friday with something really terrible and something really wonderful. In the afternoon, I took Whiskers to the vet to be euthanized. It’s so sad to do that. On the way there, it didn’t feel right to make Whiskers’ last ride be to the sound of NPR, so I put on some classical music and we rode in soothing music.

When I took Scabbers and Poseidon to be put to sleep, they both died almost immediately after the injection. Whiskers didn’t. She walked over straight to me and climbed into my hand, where she stayed, curled up until she died. It was both brutal and comforting at the same time.

Thankfully I had an event to go to that night thrown by Tech Savvy Mama (a.k.a. Leticia) and Tiny Prints. Mary Gardella of Love Life Images hosted the party at her studio and took complimentary head shots of everyone in attendance. She is amazing and did such a wonderful job. Also, I want to move into her studio and live there.

The focus of the night was on how to get great shots for holiday cards (and Tiny Prints is a fantastic place to get beautiful holiday cards, by the way), which was helpful because I was shooting my kids (just with a camera) on Saturday.

See how much the tips helped?

 

Coming to a mailbox near you in just a few weeks!

The best tips I picked up were on how to get a genuine smile out of your kids. Amie (a.k.a. Mamma Loves), also a photographer, suggested that you admonish your kids to NOT SMILE. DO NOT SMILE. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. NO SMILING. She also suggested that you have your kids tell you a joke. I tried both of those tactics and guess what? They worked!

I actually got much better shots than that one up there. Although that one has a certain charm to it.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people I chatted with Friday night. You made a tough week a lot better. I can’t properly express how much I love my DC Moms blogging community. There are some really good women living and writing around here.

Now that I have that all out of my system, I can move on to next week, which, as it turns out, is Thanksgiving week. Did you all know that? Because I don’t know how it is possible. But there you go.

Before that though, we have an IEP meeting for Jack set up for tomorrow morning. After that, you can color me done for the rest of November.

*****

I did, however, manage to write a column this weekend about Flummox and Friends, a really great new project in the works to teach kids social skills through a hilarious TV program. Please check out my column and if you have a couple of bucks to spare, kick them in to the project’s Kickstarter campaign. Even a dollar helps!

Algernon Goes to IKEA

Hi friends! I’m a little out of sorts today. I came home from dropping my kids off at school today and then sat forlornly at my desk for the next four hours without even bothering to take off my coat. I’m going to call it Winter Blues instead of Crushing Depression, because that sounds better.

At some point, I was all, “I should leave the house. That would help.”

But then, the only place I could think of going was to the vet to murder my mouse and then I didn’t feel better at all. So I just remained there…at my desk…in my coat…avoiding murdering my mouse.

We have an appointment tomorrow. I think I’ll feed Whiskers a lot of peanuts tonight.

I have a long list of actual work I should do, but instead of that, I’m going to change the subject and tell you about a trip Algernon took to IKEA a while back. We were looking for a rug for Sam’s room. Our mission was a little bit desperate, because Sam had objected to us removing the dog pee-stained carpet in his room and we told him we would put it back over the refinished hardwood floors if we didn’t find a better option. Needless to say, we were incredibly motivated.

Unfortunately, IKEA is inscrutable.

Algernon was all, “What the fuck? Where are the rugs?”

I am happy to report that after a lot of poking around, we were able to locate a shaggy red rug that Sam deemed appropriate. We were willing to spend one millllllion dollars to get rid of the gross carpet, but this one cost only $79. AND we had three individuals to help carry it.

Although two of them were less than helpful.
Also, what are those dirty towels hanging from the ceiling?

Naturally, we stopped at the IKEA cafeteria for a snack. As you do.

Algernon wanted Dryck Flader.

I would like to take a moment to discuss Dryck Flader. What? Why? And how many boxes of that do you think they’ve sold in the past few years?

I’m guessing zero.

The cafeteria is right next to the kids section where you can find all kinds of tiny, plastic furniture and inexpensive stuffed animals.

Wait…just…a…damn…minute…here…

“There are…so, so, so many of them.”

Point the first: I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that we already own many of these rats and their smaller mice friends.

Point the second: You know you’ve done some dumb things when creating mice scenes in IKEA and photographing them doesn’t embarrass you in the slightest.

Point the third: Algernon had to take a moment to tell an IKEA mouse that while life on the outside is infinitely dirtier, it is also far more awesome.

“And then, she carries me around in her purse and
sometimes takes me out in strange places!”

I’m thinking of making Algernon do all my holiday shopping this year. That would save me a lot of time. It would also free up a lot of time for me to sit at my desk by myself. I also imagine that he would have excellent taste in gifts. I don’t know why, but I think he would buy lot of tiaras.

Mice in Many Forms and Moods

The bad news is that after tomorrow, I will only have two mice.

Whiskers—you remember Whiskers, right?—she has a tumor. And it’s been getting bigger. And it’s time. I’m going to take her to the vet tomorrow. And I’m really sad about it.

From earlier, happier days, full of healthy mice and tiki huts.

Whiskers was one of the best mice. Whenever it was food time, she would come up to the side of the aquarium and put her little feet on the glass. She is a greedy little mouse. She has a fun little personality. I love her. I will miss her.

In other mouse-related news, the good news is that Squeaky is getting a lot better.

You might remember that Squeaky was scratching herself raw for a really long time. I have been giving her antibiotics and pain medication at least once a day for months now. This regimen was keeping her mostly okay, although sometimes she would rip open a new gash.

It was actually kind of horrible.

But now, she is regrowing fur on all her bald spots. I’m weaning her off of her pain medication, because I don’t know if it’s addictive and I’d hate to see her going through withdrawal. I think that makes me both compassionate and a little crazy.

You can see one of the last bald patches there.

 

Under her eye there used to be completely bald and gory.

Hmmm. When I set out to write this post, it was going to be a lot funnier than it ended up. But now all I feel is sad. I don’t even have anything funny to say about Gerbil the mouse. But she seems healthy, thank goodness/knock on wood.

Okay, OTHER news. I went to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network 5-Year Anniversary Celebration tonight and it was awesome. I got to meet some very cool people, and I got to hide behind a veneer of Serious Journalist. (You’ll read about the event at Autism Unexpected sometime next week.) I want to tell you about it, but I have to do some thought processing first. So until then, I will give you this photo of THE MOST AWESOME DESSERT EVER that they served at the event:

It’s like they knew I was coming and would 
soon-to-be mourning a black and white mouse.

I think that’s all my mouse news. Now I’m depressed.

Algernon would like to cheer you up by offering you a business card.

Go Away

Kinda. But come back, okay?

I don’t have time to write a real post right now, but what I can do is send you to a couple of other things I wrote. If you’re looking for special education Stimey, head over to Hopeful Parents for my thoughts on The LRE Question.

If you’re looking for (hopefully) funny Stimey, head over to the Wheaton Patch to find out what my morning routine is like in my White Knuckle Parenting column: Out of the House in 30 Minutes or Less.

If you’re looking for something you’ve already read here, head over to the awesome DC Moms site for Not Even Wrong—now with a new adorable photo of Jack taken by my sister in law!

Hopefully tomorrow I will be back with the promised mouse post.