Saturday, December 31, 2011

Team Stimey's Year in Review

It's New Year's Eve. You are probably out partying. I am sitting home alone. Well, my children are here, in their beds. NOT asleep.* Alex is in New York at a Phish show. As I do not care much for New Year's Eve (I will be awake until midnight, but only because I am ALWAYS awake until midnight), I will spend this time looking back at last year instead of drinking heavily to obliterate it.

In January, I started my year with a dramatic social anxiety attack on my first trip to the National Press Club for a book launch. Maybe the best part of that whole scene was when I panicked after seeing a line of people waiting for a bus. Anxiety is a powerful foe. I did, however, also demonstrate when I don't have anxiety, and that is when I am at home alone competing against people who don't know I exist. January closed with one of the worst dental appointments in the history of time. At least up to then.

In February, I headed off to the National Gallery of Art when my mom came to town to visit. I was only reprimanded once by a guard. I also had to participate in some (wild, but invasive) mouse killin'.

I started March by freaking out about not being able to figure out how to get Jack to do...ANYTHING that he doesn't want to.  This was the beginning of brainstorming a solution, which resulted in a system where Jack's cooperation at school earned him tallies, which in turn, earned him video game time at after school. We still use that system. I also cooked Brussels sprouts.

April was eventful. It began with a trip to Seattle to visit Nintendo headquarters to celebrate the launch of the Nintendo 3DS. It was all kinds of awesome. Because of the ads I was running at the time, my post ended up on my review blog. I also launched Stimeyland's Facebook page. Feel free to join us over there to chat!

Jack's hockey tournament in Boston took place at the end of April and counts as one of the high points of my year. It's possible that Jack feels differently. The four days Jack and I spent away for the tournament were profoundly moving, from the opening ceremonies to our return home.

Looking back on May, it seems that not a whole lot of groundbreaking things happened. Although both Jack and Quinn had birthdays and Sam tasted his first margarita.

June brought about the conclusion of dental hell. I also gave you the back story of the dental nightmare that had taken place since that January appointment mentioned above. We also bought a "Ready for Use" pool that was anything but.

In June and July I continued to pretend that I run Camp Stimey even though I don't really do it very well anymore. Nonetheless, I summarized many of the Camp Stimey activities that I'd planned for my kids since Camp Stimey started way back in the day.

I spent July driving Jack back and forth to summer camp, while I whiled away the days with Quinn and Sam. We did things like causing a commotion in front of Eric Holder and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and doing the same all by ourselves at home.

We lost our first mice, Scabbers and Poseidon, in early August. That month, Team Stimey also went on vacation in Colorado and New Mexico and puked our way across the country. This was also about the time that people started to email me every time someone in their family horked in a location that was not a toilet or a dedicated barf bowl. I take a strange satisfaction in the knowledge that for a certain group of you, whenever your well laid plans go to shit, I am the first person you think of.  Our reputation is not undeserved.

That August vacation also brought Algernon to Team Stimey. I introduced him to you in September. And don't forget that day that Alex didn't run over a squirrel.

October Sucktober destroyed us. We just fixed the car heater that broke back then a couple of weeks ago. And we never did find those shoes that Jack hid.

In November, I wrote one of my top-five favorite Stimeyland posts ever, Not Even Wrong. That month also saw the end of Whiskers the mouse, may she rest in peace.

This December saw my first ever trip to  Disney World, which I consistently mis-grammaticized as "Disneyworld" every time I wrote it. Once I discovered that I had done this, the copy editor inside me (who wanted to go back and change my errors) went to war with the anti-revisionist inside me (who refuses to make after-the-fact changes). I eventually decided to call attention to my mistake in my year-in-review post. Also, Algernon went to Disney. Oh, and there was some sort of holiday event.

So, there are my highlights from the past year. There are probably more, but it is 11:50 p.m. on New Year's Eve and I'm tired and out of time. I also wrote a lot on other non-Stimeyland sites, but I don't have the energy to recap any of that.

Happy New Year, my friends. I know that 2011 was so hard for so many of you. To you, I wish you a much better 2012. You are in my thoughts.

For Team Stimey, 2011 was its usual mix of ups and downs. I made a lot of new friends this year and deepened friendships with others. I saw my children become even more amazing people than they were last year, and Alex and I settled even deeper into the realization that no one else on Earth would put up with being married to either one of us.

Thank you to all of you who were part of our 2011. Here is hoping that 2012 is interesting and fun. Happy New Year!

* I wrote that sentence at noon, but I am POSITIVE it is true at 10 p.m. (Editor's note: It was.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Cheetah Nation

Warning: I got sidetracked several times while writing this post. The narrative is not what you would call "smooth." Hang in there. Good luck and Godspeed!

The DC area is really lucky in that we have three special needs hockey teams really close by. Four, if you count Baltimore. Whereas a lot of special hockey teams don't have opportunities to play games very often, we are able to meet and compete on a regular basis.

Yesterday (and the day before), Jack's team and the other two area special hockey teams had a little mini-tournament. Team Stimey missed the first day because we were enjoying the air and space museum and the dentist. But we were able to see how it went, because the Cheetahs were on the news! See the story here! So very cool.

We did, however, attend yesterday, and Jack played in both games that his squad played. It was tiring. For Jack too.

You know what is adorable? Jack. You know what's even more adorable? Jack on ice skates in his Montgomery Cheetahs game uniform. I show you a lot of grainy, poorly lit photos of the back of Jack's jersey or pictures of him on the bench because I rarely manage to get a picture of his face while he's on the ice. I am a terrible photographer. If someone wants to teach me some sports photography, both me and the Cheetah Nation that has to look at my photos would be grateful.

I also, incidentally, really enjoy that the team director calls the team families the Cheetah Nation because every single time it makes me think of the Raider Nation and I imagine some crazy dude in cheetah facepaint and spikes on his jersey making a scene in the front row of the local ice rink. The imagery pleases me.

Anywho. I finally got this photo:

We can't seem to convince him to skate with his stick on the ice.

It's a little blurry. I don't know what setting I had my camera on. Maybe the little running guy one? I would think that would be the right one, but it doesn't seem to be. Anyway, Jack is still adorable, even if he's a little fuzzy.

The rink where we had the tournament was extremely cold, even for an ice rink. Fortunately, we'd been warned by the Tournament Day One-ers, so we'd brought blankets. If not for his blanket and one of the coaches who got off of the ice to hide under the blanket with him, Jack might not have made it through the first game. Do you see why I love this team? There aren't even words.

He's cute here too.

Funny story about that blanket. My really wonderful friend Joeymom made—MADE—blankets for my kids with thought and love tied into them. I sent her kids a bag of stuffed rats. I should repeat that: I SENT HER A BAG OF RATS. I am so much the friend you wish you had. To her credit, she loves me anyway.

Let's back away slowly from the topic of my inability to properly maintain my side of a relationship and return to hockey.

Someday Jack is going to learn the love of the game as worth working past his (dis)comfort level—or he'll score a goal—and his motivation will increase until he can make it through a whole game without freaking out and collapsing onto the ice in a Gandhian show of nonviolent resistance. Until then, he will entertain the spectator bench with episodes such as this:

Face down. Thank God for his face guard.

He laid there for a really long time. Eventually some coaches came by and poked him with their sticks.

No response.

The game went on around Jack. Although, honestly, Jack wasn't the only kid to lie down on the ice during that game. Apparently Jack and his coach had a whole conversation down there on the ice. It consisted partly of Jack saying, "I wish hockey had never been invented," and the coach telling Jack, "The zombies are coming!"

The zombie thing worked. He sped off down
the rink with a huge smile on his face.

In the coach's defense, Jack spent weeks at the beginning of the season telling him all about Plants vs. Zombies after every practice. Whereas so many adults don't listen when kids go off on stuff like that, this coach really does. He asks questions about the game. He uses it to connect with Jack. It is soul-filling to watch.

(Of course, when Jack abruptly changed obsessions from the zombie game to Kirby's Return to Dreamland, it caused some confusion.)

In all seriousness, Jack is getting so good at skating. Every game, he gets closer and closer to skating in proximity to the puck. Every game, he manages to hit the puck a few more times. Every game, his meltdown comes later in the game. And every game he gets more connected to his team.

I feel like I've been pretty lucky in my life, but whatever course that brought Jack and me to these people and this team? Well, that is extraordinary luck.

Even if my tiny player wishes the game had never been invented. Go, Cheetah Nation!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"I Hated it Googleplex."

You know how sometimes you have a great idea for a place to take your kids that you know they will LOVE and so you drag your whole damn family there and at the end of the trip, your six-year-old busts out with the most creative way he could possibly say, "Why, Mom? Why did you drag us here?"

Yep. Today. Quinn hated it Googleplex.

Although to be fair, he was just trying to outdo Jack, who said, "I hated it 100 percent. I loved it zero percent."

I should back up.

Today Jack had a dentist appointment. You may remember our dental horror from earlier this year. I was pretty sure that this trip for a routine cleaning was going to involve a toothbrush, some shrieking (Jack), and some gentle sobbing (me). Instead, Jack let the most awesome hygienist in the world fully clean his teeth with her tools.

It was kind of a big deal, guys.

It was an amazing and wonderful visit and began with the lady at the front desk asking me if Jack would like a private room because he has autism and ended with Jack reluctantly letting the dentist put her sharp little pokey stick on his teeth. It was more than I could have hoped for. Especially since his teeth still look good.

But, since the dental office is an hour away from my house, I thought we should take advantage of the trip by doing something waaaay out in Virginia. Hence our trip to hell, otherwise known as the National Air and Space Musuem Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

I'd dragged the whole family out to Virginia to go to the museum, although the trip to the dentist office waiting room with its giant TV and air hockey table probably would have been enough for Sam and Quinn. (Seriously, if you need a dentist recommendation, email me. If you need museum recommendations, maybe ask someone else.)

In defense of the aerospace industry, Udvar-Hazy is cool. My kids were just not ready for most of it.

If you have an airplane kid, they will freak the hell out though.

The real reason I wanted to go to Udvar-Hazy, however, is because they have a real-life space shuttle there. The shuttle that is there now is Enterprise, which never went into space. It will be replaced, I believe, with the space shuttle Discovery, which DID go to space, at which point I will drag my family back and we will have the exact same experience, just with more forewarning this time.

Seriously, people. It's cool, right?

We did have points of fun and interest dotted around the museum, including this model of the Mars Rover. Jack looked at it for a while and was all, "I WANT IT."

We all love that little rover.

Seriously, ever since the days when we watched Roving Mars over and over and over, we have all loved the Mars Rover. If you haven't seen Roving Mars, watch it immediately. The bigger the screen the better. That way you will really get to see the expressions on the NASA nerds' faces when they get their first images from Mars and erupt into cheers. (My nerds and I also erupted into cheers every single day when we watched it happen on our television.)

Anywho, there was some whining and some lying on the floor and some "Mom, I don't want to disappoint you, but I really hate this place." (Jack and Quinn, Jack, Quinn, respectively.)

Then, on the way home, the little gas gauge that says, "238 miles to empty," went all the way down to "0 miles to empty," which fortunately didn't mean "your car will now stop on the beltway," but I was afraid that was what was going to happen.

Suffice it to say, once we got home, I took a really long nap. I have no idea what the rest of my family did.

Now it is 11:30 and my eyes are all, "BING! WE'RE AWAKE!!" This is a problem because Alex is hogging the TV playing Skyrim, which, incidentally, involves no aliens and doesn't take place on the rim of the sky, which is a HUGE disappointment to me. I suppose I'm going to have to go, sigh, read until I fall asleep.

Or I can use my time to think of other ways to torture my kids over winter break. Maybe I'll do that instead.


So, you know how today went. Do you want to know how Team Stimey is planning on surviving the rest of winter "break"? Check today's White Knuckle Parenting at the Wheaton Patch.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Holiday

It seems important that I post some sort of follow-up post to let you all know how Christmas went. I think it is in the blogging contract somewhere. Our Christmas was lovely. Although Quinn was an teensy bit upset that we never lighted a menorah like we did last year.

Otherwise, it was all lovely.

Sam got to be one of Santa's elves this year, which was really cool. I was not completely pleased with his stocking stuffing technique, but he made up for it with enthusiasm. He was just about the cutest elf I could have hoped for. He refused to go to bed until after he helped, which was a problem, because Jack took a loooooong time to fall asleep.

He still managed to wake up early though!

We had a very mellow day. We didn't go anywhere. No one visited. We barely even talked to anyone on the phone. We cozied up, the five of us, and played and ate and napped and had a lovely, chill Christmas.

Our Christmas was all about video games and board games. So many games. So much fun!

Also Legos, in the form of a Millennium Falcon.

Oh, right. And weapons.

I love that photo of my tiny assassin. I'm not going to name names, but Quinn wasn't the person who accidentally shot the dog between the eyes with that dart gun. I'm not going to name names, but his has an "x" in it and it rhymes with Schmalex.

The only disappointment of Christmas is that we weren't able to take down our tree today as I'd hoped, which means I have to suffer one more day of Christmas spirit, which I am officially done with.

I hope you all had a wonderful day as well! Now, onward to other things! Like all the dentist appointments I scheduled for this week! Yay! (Not.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

You should all know how much you mean to me. I am so very grateful for you every day. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting and emailing. Thank you for letting me talk at you. Thank you for everything. I am so thankful for my Stimeyland community. May you have the happiest of holidays.

Friday, December 23, 2011

For Anna and Tim and Margaret, But Especially for Jack

You probably remember Anna, who lost her son, Jack, in September. I think about them every single day. I can't imagine how painful this Christmas will be for them.

Anna has written that she is lifted by seeing blue ribbons around her neighborhood that people have put up for Jack. Others have photographed their blue ribbons for the family. It's not a lot, but this is what I can do.

Anna, Tim, Margaret, this tree is for you. I tied each of those ribbons with love and remembrance. We are not forgetting Jack.

I am sending all my love to your whole family this holiday season.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Notes and Autism Links

Tomorrow is gift card day for my kids' teachers, bus drivers, paras, and random folks they pass in the hall. Both Sam and Quinn wanted to write their own cards for their teachers, which was awesome.

Sam...I'm so proud I almost can't say it...Sam made a pun in his.

My boy.

Quinn went the more obvious route of totally sucking up.

So sweet.


You guys. No really. YOU GUYS. Guess what? THIS is here:

You can buy this most excellent book about autism at Amazon. Mine just came yesterday and I am blown away by the essays in it. There are some phenomenal contributors to this book, and I have to say that I am super proud to be counted among them. I am in some incredible company.

Along those same lines, I wrote about some great autism books at Autism Unexpected.

Furthermore, in my effort to write as many lists as humanly possible this week, I also wrote "Top Ten: Joys of parenting an autistic child" for the Washington Times Communities. That one is in a different location than my normal columns, so it won't pop up in your reader even if you subscribe to Autism Unexpected.


I can't think of a good way to end this sort of all-over-the-place post. Ooooh, wait! I know! I'll end with the greatest picture ever of Alex and I, courtesy of Quinn.

I look crazy, but Alex is spot on. Okay. I'm spot on too.

Aaaaaaaaand good night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Algernon Does Disney

I'm pretty sure at least some of you have been waiting for this. (Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now.) Go get some coffee (or soda, in honor of me) while the photos load and then come back and read about Algernon's epic trip to Disneyworld.

Several of you have expressed interest in where exactly Algernon's little Disney hat came from. Yeah, you and everybody he ran into at Disney. Honestly, that little hat made me look even crazier than usual. But, to be fair, it also made me look way awesomer than usual.

You've probably already guessed that the hat came from Heather. She claims that it came from a Christmas tree ornament and was not, in fact, sewn from scratch by her loving but slightly deranged hands.

Algernon was just happy that it fit PERFECTLY.

Algernon was really excited for his trip to Disneyworld, but he was kinda pissed that we made him sit in the middle seat on the plane.

He complained A LOT about the lack of leg room.
We were all, "SHUT UP, ALGERNON!"

Nevertheless, he was determined to save us lest the plane go down.

"Okay. Oxygen mask on me first, THEN help Stimey and Heather."

It was way past Algernon's bedtime by the time we landed in Florida, but he wasn't so tired that he neglected to check his bed for snakes.

Nope, not there.

We woke up at the crack of early the next day to find Algernon already dressed and ready for us. He was excited.


We were, naturally, at the Magic Kingdom before it opened, where Algernon was totally obnoxious about having his photo taken.

"CHEESE!" (Get it? 'Cause he's a mouse?)

Unfortunately, Algernon was no better at deciphering the map than I was. We decided it would be better to stick together than to split up.

"We're here. Which means Mickey is where now?"

I took this next photo at lunchtime, shortly before I took a photo of a small salamander that hung out with us. And before Heather gets all eye-rolly about my photos of, you know, ACTUAL nature (ducks and squirrels are awesome, by the way), I should point out that little salamanders don't hang out near me that often in Maryland.

Algernon is looking at the giant sandwich made with
waffles instead of bread that I was eating.

Algernon waited patiently until late afternoon to meet Mickey. I do believe that I have beat you over the head enough with the photos of Algernon and Mickey, so I will just share with you this last one.

Even Minnie was jealous after this.

When we went to watch the Beauty and the Beast stage show, Algernon jumped in to help at the sound board.

He wrecked the whole show.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Disneyworld was the hats. People—who probably don't normally wear silly things on their persons—put some way crazy shit on their heads. Comparatively, Heather and Algernon were pretty tame.

But super adorable.

Hey, remember when Team Stimey went to the ice show and Quinn put his Shrek ears on his butt?

It's almost like my parenting is to blame.

At some point over the weekend, we decided to go to some of the resorts to look at the Christmas decorations. Our first stop was the Grand Floridian, which is the fancy schmancy resort. They had a lot of beautiful decorations, including this awesome person-sized gingerbread house.

See Algernon on the gold post base?

This is the first place that anyone gave me the side-eye for taking a photo of Algernon. Rich people are less fun. Stupid 1%. #occupythegingerbreadhouse

Or it could be because Algernon went past the velvet rope.

We headed upstairs for a better view and, seriously, it's almost like the Grand Floridian ENTRAPPED ME.

This time it was Heather who gave me the side eye.

Eventually Algernon ended up in more approved photo-taking locales.

You can't tell, but he's fake screaming in there.

Heather was even willing to get in on some of the action.

They're so cute.

We had a close call in the gift shop when Algernon fell in with a bad crowd, who tried to jump him in to their gang.

Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

Fortunately, we were able to find an appropriately sized drink to calm Algernon's nerves after his harrowing experience.

Of course it was banana-flavored and from Pakistan, but...

He was happier at lunch with a more sizable vat of caffeine.

Those vats of caffeine were also saviors for me more than once.

On our last day, we visited all the country showcases at Epcot. Algernon, being Algernon, demanded that we take his photo in every single showcase.


Croissant! Oui, oui!


"Oh, 'ello, old chap."


Algernon: Lumberjack


It was while taking this photo that someone was all, "There has to be a story behind this," and all I could think is, "Yeah, it's that I'm an idiot."

See what I mean about weird headwear?


I don't know why, but I love those cats.

And this was for my munchkins.

The United States:

It's a metaphor.


Seriously. I keep running into those terrifying stone angels from Doctor Who. They are EVERYWHERE. I texted Alex a photo of this one with the message, "Don't blink." His response? "Not cool."

Algernon backed away from this angel very, very slowly.

In happier news, Algernon found someone else to pose with as well.

Heather wore mouse ears in every country that had them.


It had never occurred to me that Snow White is from Germany, but it makes sense when I think about it. I had my photo taken with her and I'm a little pissed at how much more put together she was than me. I also didn't mean for Algernon to be the centerpiece of our conversation, but I guess when you're wearing a stuffed mouse with Mickey ears on your finger, Snow White is going to ask you about him.

She asked me his name and then she asked me what his nickname was and I couldn't think of anything, but it seemed like she needed an answer, so I said "Algie," which in my mind then became "Algae." I'm so sorry, Algae.

I think the expression on her face says it all.


Algernon wanted to pose with another warrior in China.

I just now figured out that this was a dragon and not a lion.

And still another warrior.

Mouse friends!!


You've seen me in front of the troll, now see Algernon!

Algernon also spent some time in the troll's mouth. He's a weirdo.


Mexico was our last stop. We'd actually been to Mexico before and made this stop solely to get a photo of Algernon. It's nice to travel with like-minded people.


After all three days full of Disney fun, some of which I didn't even show you (you are welcome), Algernon was exhausted. Exhausted. (He wasn't the only one.)

Sleep well, sweet mouse.

I now promise that Stimeyland will be Disney-free for at least several months. Promise.