Friday, March 30, 2012

Odds and Ends, Hockey and Letters

I am tremendously moved by how many of you have been motivated to help Jack and his Cheetahs team, either through donating money to the Cheetah-Thon (thank you, Kate, Michal, Paula, Susan, and my MOM!), leaving comments of love and support (too many to mention), or stepping up in other, also incredible ways (I'm looking at you, Pucks and Puzzle Pieces), I have been humbled and made so grateful.

Thank you to everyone who shared links and spread our message farther (up to and including Puck Daddy and the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association). Also, thanks to all of you who Facebook shared and tweeted and generally made me a very happy person. You are rock stars, all of you.

*****

I am so sorry Congratulations to Neala, who won my 8-session UXF class giveaway at Washington Sports Clubs! It is going to be AWESOME! Please, please let me know how it goes!

*****

Here is the part of the post where I give you NEW! FRESH! EXCITING! content.

I am so amused when my kids in different grades are working on the same thing at the same time. Last week, both Quinn and Jack were finding adjectives in reading passages, albeit of slightly different levels of difficulty.

I won't subject you to grammar homework (although as a former copy editor, *I* find it fascinating), but I will give you the friendly letters to characters in books that both Quinn and Sam had to write. I LOVE this stuff.

First up is exhibit A in "If Sam is ever a judge and you are ever on trial for stealing a loaf of bread, you want this bleeding heart motherfucker on your side."

Click to embiggen; text below.

[Text: Dear Phillip and Hannah Hoose, My name is Sam and I just finished reading Hey, Little Ant and think the ant shouldn't be squashed. I say this because if the kid were the ant, he wouldn't want to be squashed. Other ants need him because he brings food for baby ants. Also ants have to eat. They can't grow vegetables or fruit or kill animals so they aren't crooks. As a result they have to steal food. Ants have lives and it's not nice to squish them. Ants also have feelings, like people. This is why the ant shouldn't be squished. Sincerely, Sam.]

As far as I can tell from the story, someone squished ants. And Sam wrote a one-page essay on why those assholes shouldn't have done so. WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE BABY ANTS?! Come on, people, ants can't farm. What are they supposed to do? (Hey, remember the ant farm?)

I also enjoy that the teacher wrote, "Stealing food really is a reason to squish the ant, but you do a good job of explaining why." Trust me, you don't want that lady to be your judge.

I'm so happy. I'm raising a liberal!

Quinn's letter is more of an advice-bearing missive that ends with a sentence I think we can ALL agree on, regardless of our political leanings.

Click to embiggen; text below.
 
[Text: Dear Peter, You must listen to your mom. Do not make mischief. Do not go to Mr. McGregor's garden. Do not take the trail that leads to Mr. McGregor's house. Next time pick berries with your sisters. We don't want to be a pie like your dad. Sincerely, Quinn]

Poor Peter's dad.

I am imagining Quinn reading the story of Peter Rabbit, eyes widening larger and larger in horror as Peter hops down the bunny trail to pie-dom. Quinn leads an emotional inner life. I'm sure he was very relieved when Peter returned safely home.

*****

It is Day One of spring break, so I am off to figure out exactly what I am going to do with these kids for the next week and a half. You may see us at the American History Museum today. Cross your fingers that we don't end up in a pie.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

And Then Quinn Destroyed My Self Esteem

I put on eye makeup this evening. I was headed out to a rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother and it seemed like a nice idea to look pretty for my friends and also to follow up on a plan I have to actually look like I give a shit about myself. Hooray!

I'm trying to ease into the whole thing because I fear attention and I worry that people will notice my attempt to gussy up and have things to say about it. It didn't help much that I walked out of the bathroom today and Sam took one look at my face and FREAKED OUT.

"You look like an entirely different person!" he yelled. Then he called Jack and Quinn to come look. "Jack! Quinn! Come here! Mom looks totally different!"

He wasn't helping.

Jack and Quinn came into the room. Jack looked with interest at my face, but Quinn? Well, Quinn started to scream.

"You look like a zombie! Take it off! Take it off!" he shrieked.

Huh. Ouch.


At least I know that any subsequent reactions couldn't possibly go worse than this one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cheetah Links

I am so blown away and humbled by how many of you have responded, commented, and shared about the Cheetahs, the tournament, and their upcoming Cheetah-thon fundraiser. Thank you so much.

I would also like to thank those of you who have already donated to the Cheetahs. Huge thanks to Laura, Kathryn, Tracy, Sue, Angela, Elaine, Joanne, Maggie, Aimee, Lisa, Neil, Mir, Amie, Margret, Other Sue, and Jan. (I'm going to make it onto that list eventually too.) You should know how much your help matters to Jack and me and to all of the other players who will benefit from your kindness. Thank you.

I thought I would put all of my 2012 tournament links together in one place for easy reference. You can always find all of my hockey posts, however, by clicking on the hockey category down there in the list on the right sidebar. There are a couple of new, non-Stimeyland links in this post as well, so be sure to check them out.

White Knuckle Parenting: The Magic of Special Hockey

Special hockey for autistic youth is therapy on skates (I have been trying to write about the Cheetahs over at Autism Unexpected for the past two years and haven't managed to write anything that satisfies me. This will have to do.)

This is the fundraising site where you can donate money. But be sure to watch this video about the Cheetahs first.



 Find information about the Cheetah-thon on its event page or check out information about the Cheetahs on their website and Facebook page. If you are looking for special hockey in your area, check the American Special Hockey Association website under "member programs."

Now my most recent posts about the Cheetahs:

Puck You! (I wrote this before we left for the tournament. It includes links from last year's tournament as well.)

The EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA, Day One (I managed to squeeze a whole blog post out of sitting on a bus for seven hours. You are welcome.)

The Magic of Special Hockey, Social Media Edition (A timeline of tournament events as seen through my Facebook and Twitter posts.)

Your Baby is My Baby (What special hockey means to me. Hint: Everything.)

Now I can't write a darn thing more. Tomorrow I will remind you that I have two entirely non-hockey-playing children that deserve some blog time.

But, really, thank you for caring about this. Thank you for caring about Jack and his fellow athletes. Thank you for reminding me that you are my village too. After a pretty stormy 2012 thus far, these past five days have been a ray of sunshine.

Your Baby is My Baby

I know that I've been going on and on about Jack's hockey tournament, but it has been really hard for me to think about anything else. I've been perseverating on it, if you will. I've really just been trying to communicate how intensely amazing this team is and our trip was. I've had a hard time even being able to fully express to Alex how powerful these tournaments are.

I mean, it's not just joy in watching your child play as part of a team. My kids have done other sports and Sam has played on other teams. Those experiences are awesome, but they are not the same. There is something vastly different and profound about special hockey.


Maybe it's that these tournaments give the players the ultimate safe space in which to be themselves. They can spin, stim, script, meltdown, or whatever else comes naturally to them. Not only will the other kids not stare at them like they're crazy, but they might just join in. All different levels of development are present and welcomed in this space.

As for the experience of being a parent at a tournament like this, I can really just touch the surface. A friend and fellow mom really got to the heart of it though on Friday morning when a bunch of the kids were at the pool. Five or six of us parents were watching about 15 kids. We made sure they got along and we made sure they were safe and we were happy to do it.

"Your baby is my baby here," my friend said.

Your baby is my baby.

That's it. That is the heart. The Cheetahs are the ultimate community. There is no judgment from other parents, no explanation is necessary. We get it. We all get it.

Saturday afternoon when I wanted that goal for Jack so badly? The other parents wanted it that badly for Jack too. They might have even cheered him on louder than I could. When other kids scored in front of Jack, I was so happy for them too, because every goal means that much for each of those kids too.


I give a lot of credit for this spirit of cooperation to the team leadership. All of the coaches give so much of themselves to the athletes. I have nothing but admiration for them. It is almost as much fun to watch them interacting on the ice with the players because they obviously get so much joy from it. I don't know if I've ever seen the head coach without a smile on his face. It is phenomenal to see the way he interacts with these kids. That smile of his speaks volumes. There is nothing false about the look on his face when he is coaching.

Later, on the team bus on the way home, he spoke to the parents. "I wish you could be out there with me on the ice to see the kids' smiles as they play," he told us. That coach skated eight games with the Cheetahs over the course of two days: four with Jack's squad and four with the more advanced team. That smile never left his face.

Then there is the coach who helped Jack with his goal. Immediately afterward in the locker room, with tears in my eyes, I told him thank you and that the million dollars was his.

"Are you kidding?" he said. "I have so much fun out there!" For him, being with those kids is enough. He has a kid who plays too and he understands.


I am in love with the players on this team. I love their honesty and their quirkiness and how hard they work to be part of this world. It feels good to be able to give them four days where they can be entirely and truly themselves.

I have to tell you something else. Do you remember last year's tournament? Jack played three games, but he didn't finish any of them. I had to actually remove him from the bench for the last one. What's more, Jack barely spoke to anyone but me on that whole trip.

He was a different kid this year. It was amazing.

He played every one of his rotations in all four of his games. Sure, he still has to learn some of the sportsmanship lessons that the older kids know, but he's getting there. (I told one of the dads about something Jack had done in one of the games and the dude was all, "There's a name for that in hockey. It's called cross-checking and you get a penalty for it." Yep. My kid. Niiiice.)

What's more, Jack actually noticed the other players this year. I was forced to actually socialize with other parents because Jack wasn't glued to my side like last year. He talked to other kids and sought out contact with them. Honestly, he was more social than he ever is at home. It's as if he knew these were his people.


Last year, I cried so much, both for the same profound reasons that made me cry this year, but also for the difficulty Jack had in being part of the team, both on and off the ice. Parents who had been in my shoes talked me down. They told me about their own kids or other kids who had the same kind of trouble in previous years, but were now happily playing and integrated in the team. This year, Jack got to be a success story.

He has made so much progress. I really hope he truly feels pride in himself, because I could not be more proud of that kid for moving forward on his own terms. (I'm less proud of the cross-checking, but that's another conversation entirely.)


I also truly love the coaches. Thank you, Coach Dave and Sean. You are the heart of this team. I know how much time and effort you put into our kids. I hope you know how much it means to us. Thanks also to Coach Kyran who stayed at home with the Cheetahs who didn't go on the trip. Thank you for reaching Jack by talking to him about Plants vs. Zombies. You have earned your bond with this boy. Lastly, big thanks to trip organizers David (extra thanks for the Shakira dancing) and Andy. I'm sure it takes a lot of work to put together all the pieces for our tournament.

I hate naming names because I know there are others who put so much into the team. Everyone does a piece and it all comes together in an amazing whole. Thank you to all of you.

I am so grateful for this team that it is almost ridiculous.

So, now is the time when I capitalize on the gooey feelings I've hopefully shared with you and beg you for money. The Cheetahs have a lot of expenses, including $20,000 a year for ice time alone. Everyone involved with this organization is a volunteer. No one is paid. Every donation given to the Cheetahs gets put 100% into the athletes and their ice time.

The Cheetahs are having their first annual Cheetah-thon skating event to raise money for the team. The event will be held May 12 from 5-7 p.m. at the Rockville Ice Rink. You are invited. Please come. That day is Jack's birthday as well. We would love to have you come spend a couple of hours with us.

Whether you can go or not (and, really, please come), you can donate to the Cheetahs on their fundraising site. Every $5 or $10 makes a difference. If you donate $50, you get a t-shirt. If you donate $1000, I'll give you my dog. If you know of any companies or organizations looking to make charitable donations, you should know that this is a non-profit organization that changes lives every single week. You can donate online or get in touch with me if you would like to send a check.

This organization has given and continues to give so much to my family. Both Jack and I have made friends and gained self esteem because of this team. I was talking to a Cheetah dad whose son is going to college next year. "I don't know that he could have done it without this team," he said.

This team matters—in a big way. After all, there are not that many places where your baby can be my baby. Where my baby can be your baby. And where my baby and your baby can truly, honestly be themselves.


And their quirky parents can be as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Magic of Special Hockey, Social Media Edition

As I write this, Jack's hockey tournament is over, all except for the bus ride home. It has been an amazing three days with this group. I have some profound thoughts to share with you and a lot of stories of good and happy and joyful and so very much more.

I spent some time this weekend trying to find a word for what I feel when I am with these people, when I am watching these games, when I am feeling a part of this community, and I can't quite find it. I know that the emotion is physical, because I can feel it in my chest. It is heavily joyful and yearning and grateful and amazed and really, just plain indescribable.

It is good.

I will work on sorting out those feelings so I can write something coherent, but thought tonight I would tell you the story of the hockey tournament as seen through my Facebook and Twitter posts. They don't tell the whole story, but they hit some of the high points.

Probably one of the top ten cutest hockey players ever.

After I posted this photo everywhere I had a social media account, a lot of you commented on the hat. You all loved the hat. Jack loves that hat too. You know where it came from? The head coach had one made for his son and a parent of one of the mentors (who skate with the Cheetahs every week when they are at practice) raised enough money to get a hat for every single member of the team. Phenomenal. If those kind people who raised that money ever read this, you should know how amazing your gift was to these children and young adults. Thank you. Truly.

Jack's team had two games on Friday and two games on Saturday. I was in the stands at the second game on Friday night and there was just too much amazing in the air and I had to get it out somewhere.

And that is what Twitter is for.

There is no part of this team that I don't love. I love the camaraderie of the parents. I love the joy and exercise that the players get. I love to see the amazing sportsmanship that these athletes and their coaches display. I love that both sides cheer for every goal, no matter who scored it. I love that some kids play hockey like they've been doing it for years and some kids barely pay attention to the puck, but they all get something out of it and they are all incredible and important players.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to do this again: I FREAKING LOVE SPECIAL HOCKEY!

After that game, I got some food to take back to the hotel for Jack and I. He played some iPad while I waited for our food and reflected on how hard Jack worked that day.

I don't know how he hadn't collapsed from exhaustion.

And there you have the first day of the tournament. It was good stuff. The second day got off to a little bit of a rougher start.

This is putting it mildly.

Our first game was at 10 a.m., so we had to get up and eat breakfast early enough to walk to the rink and get Jack geared up. We ate breakfast at the hotel with some friends, including Jack's best friend and his dad, T.

You guys, I almost can't tell you this. It was so horrible.

Jack was eating bacon and he started to choke. He was across the table and past his best friend from me and he seemed really far away. I didn't know what to do. T, who works in the medical field, saw what was happening and yanked Jack over his own kid. He checked to see if he was breathing and then he had to give him the Heimlich.

He had to squeeze him four times before Jack started making noise and was able to throw up the biggest wad of bacon you have ever seen.

He saved Jack. He is my hero.

I am signing up to take a first aid class as soon as I get home. I think you should too.

All that happened at something like 8:30 in the morning. I had a good 13 hours to go until bedtime and I was already emotionally destroyed.

We headed over to the rink and got ready for the first game. Jack was a little bit belligerent at this game. It was shades of last year when he yelled at all the dads who were helping on the bench. I don't really blame him. I'm sure he was exhausted, he was probably stressed out from what happened that morning, and there had been a lot of stimulation. But you know what? He played all his rotations for the game. He finished. I was really proud.

Needless to say, I sobbed.

After the game, Jack ate some lunch and played some more iPad (the kid earned it) until his next and final game of the tournament.

The coaches had really tried to help Jack score a goal in the third game, but it just didn't come together, as sometimes it doesn't. I was hopeful that he might get another chance in this last game. Jack had never scored a goal in a game in the whole two years that he's been playing hockey, and I knew that a goal would mean a lot to him.

Unfortunately, being an asshole and hitting the opposing team members with your stick doesn't get you a goal.

I actually wrote this tweet in the day's first game, but it didn't
get sent until the second game. It was apropos either way.

But then...you guys, it was amazing. One of the coaches positioned Jack. The others got the puck to him. There were less than two minutes left in Jack's final game of the tournament. He shot and the goalie blocked, but the coaches got the puck back to Jack and kept the other players off of him. There was a whole little kerfluffle at the goal and then all of the Cheetahs' arms went up in celebration.

Jack scored his first goal.

The other parents, who knew where I was emotionally and how much that meant to me, because, Christ, it means that much to them too, well, we all erupted in cheers. I, naturally, burst into tears. It was one of the most magical moments of my whole life. I'm not kidding.

Thank you to all of YOU who were so happy for him too.

My friend took a photo of me with the team in the background. You can probably still see tears in my eyes.

This is what happy looks like.

When I got down to the locker room, Jack was sitting calmly on a bench. I hugged him and told him how excited I was about his goal and I said, "I am so proud of you, Jack!"

And he said...

"I am proud of myself."

And then I sobbed a lot more and I may have agreed to really pay the coaches the million dollars I offered them for the goal because those five words—and he put that emphasis on "myself," by the way—are worth a billion dollars.

We watched the team's other squad play a game and then we went back to the hotel where Jack swam in the pool for nearly two hours and I talked and laughed with the other parents. Then we hung out in the room with Jack's buddy and his dad and then we went downstairs to the lobby to wait for the bus to take us to the end of the tournament banquet and I turned away from Jack for about a minute, at which point he disappeared.

Come. On.

My Hero, the Second found him in the luggage rack closet.

It was at this point that I resolved to never let him out of my sight again. And I haven't yet since then. Except when he almost finagled his way off of the bus by himself when we arrived at the banquet.

He is a sneaky, agile little dude.

He put me through the wringer on Saturday.

You know what was fantastic about the place where the banquet was held? Just out the double doors and around the corner, there was an honest-to-God bar.

I think the bartender sensed my desperation and made it extra strong.

The evening ended with a band and a dance party. It was a little too much for Jack, who retreated to a back corner, hid behind some plants and started playing with random wires, so I spent an hour or so distracting him and a couple of other kids by chasing them in circles. We had a blast. It was a great end to a day that held some of the most extreme emotions I have had in a while.

This last photo isn't tied to any social media, but I just loved it. Jack and I shared something big this weekend—with each other and with many of the other families on this trip. It has been an incredible experience.

Cheetah Pride, baby. Jack Pride. SELF Pride.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA, Day One

Today is the part of the special hockey EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA when fifty-something people pile on a bus first thing in the morning only to sit and sit and sit and eat lunch at a truck stop and then sit and sit and sit some more until finally they get out of the bus at a hotel in Jamestown, New York, where they then stand and stand and stand in line until fifty-something people get their room keys.


That said, there were some things of note that occurred today and, as I am currently sitting in a dark hotel room using all the powers of my mind to WILL Jack to go to sleep, I have some time to tell you about those things.

The first of those things is if you are very, very sore from a strenuous workout, you should not then sit in one spot for seven hours because the inactivity will cause your muscles to tighten up until they are so sore that you can barely wrestle the iPad out of your 8-year-old's hands after he has been playing on it for seven hours.

Seriously. I hopped on the bus all jaunty-like this morning, experiencing mild soreness. I hobbled off the bus all painful-like after dinner this evening, experiencing extreme stiffness. Every time my nose itches, I have to evaluate whether it is worth the tricep pain to lift my arm and scratch. Evidently I need to work out more.

Jack was so excited to get on the road today. He usually drags around in the morning, but he was hopping around and kept trying to leave the house and get in the car before it was time to go. I dropped both Sam and Quinn off at their schools before heading to the bus rendezvous point. Let me tell you, Quinn was properly irate that Jack got to miss school and he didn't.

It's funny, actually, because in the time it took Jack and I to slowly make our way to New York state, Alex got on an airplane, flew to New York City, had a meeting, and flew back. I was pretty worried for much of the day that Quinn would puke at school and the nurse would call to have me pick him up and I would have to tell her that Alex and I both abandoned our children for separate trips to another state. Many thanks to our friends and neighbors who helped us with school bus pickup. We're so happy to have these people in our village.

Speaking of metaphorical villages, Jack's hockey team is such a great little community. Jack and I have gotten to know many of the players and their families better since last year. Today was a wonderful exercise in remembering how much I like all these people. It doesn't hurt that Jack's best friend is also playing in the EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA.

One of the things I like very much about this team is being around the older kids. There is a group of older teenagers on this team who are such incredible people. I watch the way they look after the younger kids and are so caring and kind to them, and I have hope for this generation. These kids? They are Such Good Kids. Such good young men, really. I am so thrilled to have them around as examples and hopefully inspirations to my Jack. These young men usually skate at a different practice than Jack's squad, so we don't get to spend a lot of time with them, but it is a privilege to do so when we get a chance.

Jack seems to have fallen asleep and I want to go rest in my bed and let my sad, sad, weak muscles recover, so I'll just share one last thing with you. Jack today, when he wasn't sitting quietly playing his iPad, was a stimmy, spinny, dysregulated little dude. But he was also a happy little dude. He is excited to be on this trip. He is proud to be a Montgomery Cheetah. He wants to play in the EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA.

He is happy. And that is everything to me.


Puck You!

Alternatively titled: I was trying to think of a fun title for this post, but realized that I haven't read my Hockey for Dummies book, nor have I, you know, watched any hockey since I decided that I was going to be a hockey aficionado, so I didn't have any fun hockey-themed phrases in my working memory with which to name my post, so I resorted to something close to an obscenity—which is a strength of mine.

So, the reason I am talking about hockey, other than I want an excuse to post more photos taken by the lovely Katie Dance for her photo story, is that Jack and his team are headed on the road again for this year's hockey tournament.

I have taken hundreds of hockey photos, and NEVER one this good.

As you read this, Jack and I are on a bus headed to Jamestown, New York for the JSBIA Special Hockey Extravaganza. Incidentally, every single part of me loves the American Special Hockey Association for calling their tournament an extravaganza.

When you say "extravaganza," you should be saying it in a totally drawn out and dramatic fashion with a fake hoity-toity accent as well, like this: EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA. At least that is how I will be saying it.

Oh, and yes, we will be taking barf bags on the bus, just in case.

Last year's tournament, you may remember, was a very intense, profound, amazing experience for me. I assume Jack got something out of it as well. Oh, I kid. Jack still talks about last year's tournament. He does it in his Jack/autistic way: rarely, out of the blue, not entirely accurate, and in a manner that makes you realize that this team is a big deal to him.

For example, we'll be talking about sports in general and he will quietly say, "I won a hockey tournament."

Also, he's really excited to skip two days of school.

I am looking forward to spending the next four days with Jack, but also know that it will be exhausting, dysregulating, and possibly emotionally wrenching in many ways (when it's just you and your kiddo, you spend 24 hours a day with him), but I can't wait to see how it goes this year.

Side note to the coaches of Jack's team: If you facilitate his scoring a goal, I will give you A MILLION DOLLARS.*

It will be a tiring weekend for Jack as well, but he manages to find time to relax pretty much wherever he is.

What? You needed this space in front of the goal?

Jack works his mentors hard.

I plan to blog the hell out of this tournament (and probably Facebook and tweet** as well), but if you want some reading material to remind you of last year's tournament, here are all the posts I wrote when Jack's team went to Boston last year:

Here We Go, Cheetahs, Here We Go! (the pre-tourney post)

Part of Something (the profound, I cried a lot post)

1000 Words (the short photo post)

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times (the recap post)

Things I Learned in Boston (the last post, heavy on the photos)

Cheetah pride, baby. I gots it.

I have the DSi and iPad charged, I've bought a bunch of snacks, and we've sharpened Jack's skates. Let's go, Cheetah Nation!

* Offer not valid anywhere.

** Suggestions are now open for Twitter hashtags. It'll be hard to beat last year's #cheetahSHIT, but I'd like you to try.***

*** If you can't come up with anything, I'm going to have to go with #puckyou.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UXF at Washington Sports Club: Love or Hate? Or Maybe Both? (with GIVEAWAY!)

A couple of weeks ago, someone from the Washington Sports Club got in touch with me to see if I'd like to try out their new UXF class and also give away an 8-class session. (Alllll the way at the bottom of the post if you just want to skip there.)

I checked around on the internet a little bit because I wasn't sure what UXF meant or exactly what kind of class it was. What I found concerned me. It looked a lot like "UXF" stood for "ultimate fitness experience" or something equally worrisome.

I emailed the lady from WSC to say, "Here's the thing: I poked around and saw that the UXF class seems pretty intense. Is it appropriate for someone whose fitness level (me) is currently pretty low (hangs head in shame)? I'm a little worried that I would pass out and then someone would drop a kettlebell on me, while someone else does jumping jacks on my limp body."

She wrote back to say that the class has different stations and you can work at your own level on each of them, so it can be as hard as you make it. She actually said, "It can be a tough class or not." Even though this is a straight up lie, I forgive her.

Today, I headed out for my demo class with a song in my heart and the knowledge that I could work at my own pace. I checked in at the front desk and walked up the stairs to the class.

"That sure is a lot of steps," I thought to myself. *cue ominous music*

As I am giving away an 8-session UXF class at the end of this post, I thought it might help you to have some visuals to help you decide if you want to participate in such an endeavor.

Here is me before the class, all happy and innocent:
Now, I'm going to be honest with you. While it was fun to draw Fat Jean, it is much easier to draw Skinny Jean. Ergo, just pretend when you see the picture below, that you are looking at the picture above.
Jean if she does eight sessions of UXF.

Aaaand if we're actually being honest, I'll tell you that when you see Skinny Jean, you should actually imagine her like this:
I call this one Heart Attack Jean.

I should have trusted my instincts when I saw the sign in the photo below in the UXF workout area and just turned around and walked out of the gym right there.

I'm not sure how it's The Big 10 if there are ELEVEN exercises.

Frankly, my brain doesn't actually process phrases that indicate things like 100 push-ups or 100 pull-ups. My brain skips right past things like that.

Before you read the rest of this post, I feel it is important to point out in my defense that this was week 3/workout 6 that I so haphazardly wandered into. If you started on Day One like the normal people, you would be eased in a little more than I was. Also, you might be a person who does more exercise than working through the first three days of the couch to 5K running program over and over every third week.

My trainer's name was Curt, and he was lovely. He was encouraging and nice and didn't once make fun of me for moving half as fast as everyone else. "I don't expect everyone to finish the whole workout," he said, pointedly not looking at me.

The only other two folks in the exercise class were a man and a woman. As we did our (100!) squats, I learned that the man works as a trainer at the gym and the woman is in the military.

"I'm a blogger," I offered. I think that pretty much speaks for itself in terms of my performance.

I used to work out all the time. I was sure I could pull off a hundred squats with little problem. Do you want to know something? A hundred squats is a lot of squats—especially when followed by a hundred push-ups. The nice thing about the workout is that it alternated from upper to lower body, so if you aren't completely out of shape, your muscles have some time to recover.

My legs were tired after the squats, but I moved on to the pushups. You go from exercise to exercise at your own pace in UXF, so needless to say, my two classmates finished before me. Wanna know something? Push-ups are hard. I was hoping to get the Blogger Writing a Review Discount on number of push-ups, but evidently Curt doesn't go by those rules. He made me do all one hundred.

He did allow me to move up and down much less than you do in a real push up though. Which is good, otherwise I would probably have spent the whole hour right there.

I say "girlie," even though Curt called them "modified." Frankly, there was
nothing girlie about the way the chick next to me was working through hers.

Running a mile came right after push-ups and I was all cocky and, "Running I can do!" (See: couch to 5K experience above) Running is my favorite exercise, but it's harder after squats and push-ups. Both of my classmates finished well ahead of my semi-pathetic walk/run and I didn't see them again until the end.


Spoiler alert: They both finished the whole workout.

Next there was some 10-rep exercise with a weight bar. Curt jogged over there ahead of me and I shuffled behind him. The other two were doing their pull-ups. I managed the weights all right and then I had to go to the stairs. Remember the stairs? Remember the ominous music?

Once down AND once up counted as one rep. There were probably about 35 to 40 steps (x2!), which isn't all that many, but my chubby little body was in full revolt by this time.

Ten years ago, I used to run stairs for fun. Today I plodded stairs.

After two and a half reps, I started to worry. I have some blood sugar issues and decided that I needed to address them prior to barfing all over everything (like that time at the allergist). Fortunately, I had brought an apple with me just in case of such a situation. Unfortunately, that apple was at the top of the stairs.

Happily, I made it and ate a few bites of the apple before venturing back to the stairs. Because I may be out of shape, but I can persevere. I do not quit. *cue ominous music*

After five reps, I think Curt started to worry. I kept comically checking my watch to see if it had stopped because, dear lord, wasn't this hour over yet? I'm pretty sure Curt thought I was going to keel over on the stairs and then he was going to be fired.

After six and a half reps, I said, "I'm done." But, again, DAMMIT, I was at the bottom of the stairs. We meandered back up the stairs probably five minutes before the end of class. My two classmates were competing with each other to see who could finish their hundred crunches with a giant medicine ball first.

I sat down and ate my apple. I was happy. And no longer felt like I was going to drop dead. As my classmates speed crunched to try to win, I crossed my legs and said, "Dude, I finished like, ten minutes ago." I'm not sure my wit was appreciated.

In reality, they were all really nice. And kinda bad ass.

But! I didn't puke, I didn't faint, I didn't fall down the stairs, and I worked out for almost the entire hour. Victory is mine! Kudos to Curt for not letting me take the easy way out earlier.

The Washington Sports Club is describing their UXF class as "Burn calories. Build strength. Big results fast." I believe them.

I know I've made this whole thing sound kind of horrible, but it really wasn't. I mean, it was, in the way that climbing Kilimanjaro sucks when you're doing it, but you feel really awesome afterward and are happy you did it. You know, I assume.

WSC offered me an 8-workout session and I'm working to see if I can fit it into my schedule, because I think it would be really good for me, and, even though it didn't feel that way at the time, you can absolutely tailor the workout to your skill level. Of course, you should check with your doctor prior to starting any new exercise regimen.

UXF classes are regularly $299 for the 8-workout session, but are currently being offered at an introductory rate of $149 for WSC members and $199 for non-members. Find a schedule of classes on the website.

Now, for THE GIVEAWAY!

WSC is offering one of YOU (DC-area folks) an 8-workout session. The next session starts April 2 and lasts for four weeks. You don't have to be a WSC member to win or to attend the class, but you do have to take the class in the DC-area. UXF classes are offered at each of WSC's locations, of which there are many in the DC-area.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment indicating that you want to be entered. (I assume not all commenters will want to enter due to everyone not living near me, although that would be AWESOME.) It's not required, but I would also be delighted if you told me either an embarrassing or inspiring workout story.

The giveaway will close at midnight on March 28. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner and I will post and contact the winner on the 29th. If the winner doesn't get in touch with me in 24 hours, I will then move on to the next person. Make sure I have a way to get in touch with you!

Okay. Now that I have thoroughly exhausted and embarrassed myself, I am going to go relax and prepare for the reality that I will probably not be able to move tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Bad, the Good, and the Sproingy

One.

I hate everything. *grumblegrumble*assholes*grumblegrumble*motherfuckersallofthem*grumble*

Two.

Except this. I don't hate this. Jack (and the rest of Team Stimey more peripherally) spent a couple weeks last month being photographed by a very talented photojournalism student from the Corcoran College of Art + Design for a photo story about autism. She was amazing and so professional and also crazy nice. Jack sort of fell in love with her. I think he wants her to live with us.

She came over last weekend and presented me with two flash drives full of hundreds of photographs of my family. What an amazing gift. As a side note, it takes a surprising amount of time to look through multiple thousands of photos. I did it once and I have to go through them again to pick out my favorites, which I'm sure I will be sharing here over the next few weeks, but for now, I will give you a few pictures that she emailed me separately.

Dragon Quinn and his Tinkertoys.

Alex is showing Jack the "Who's on First?" video.

Sam is actually becoming a remarkably good flautist.

Hmmm. Quinn in another funny hat.

Jack chilling on someone else's lawn.

If you want to see more of her work, you can check out her website, which is a work in progress but should be up and running presently.

You can also see the exhibit at the White Walls Corcoran Gallery at 500 17th Street NW in DC. Her exhibit is part of a larger exhibition called "Interactions" and will be up until March 31. There is a reception on Thursday, March 22, from 5-7 p.m.

Sadly, Jack and I will not be able to attend the reception because we will be out of town (more on that later this week!), but it is possible that Alex and the remainder of Team Stimey will be there. All are welcome to check out this exhibition of work by student photojournalists.

I think it'll be good. I wish I could be there.

Three.

Thank the good lord, it is spring. I couldn't resist writing about it over at White Knuckle Parenting this week, although I did refrain from using the term "tree sperm" to refer to all those annoying seeds that blanket the world for three weeks every March and April.

The column was originally titled When Spring Sproings, but evidently some copy editor objected to the fact that "sproing" isn't really a word. Pfft...copy editors. I say that with the greatest of love, considering that I used to be a copy editor. But let's be honest: copy editors are a strange and persnickety bunch.

Epilogue.

I am going to bed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kapow! Kaboom! Smash! Crash!

Jack's been having a rough year. He has fantastic teachers, but the environment isn't working for him any more. Today was a prime example of that. Maybe the primest.

I have long likened phone calls from the school and notes home to be like little grenades that get lobbed at you when you least expect them—usually when you're coasting along in a good mood. Today was a prime example of that. Maybe the primest.

I had a lovely afternoon. Then Jack got off his bus and I found his recorder in his backpack. I'd never heard him play, so I asked if he knew any songs. He took the recorder and played an excellent, recognizable rendition of Old MacDonald.

I had no idea he could do that.

I was happy, Jack was happy, we had a long Friday afternoon ahead of us to play in the yard and be happy people.

Then Quinn's bus pulled up. Quinn got off, along with several neighborhood kids, including Jack's friend E. E told me about a fifth grader at recess who was mean to Jack. E was outraged about the whole situation. I am so grateful for her. Jack wants to marry her. *I* want him to marry her. I filed this information about the fifth grader away so I could talk to Jack about it later. I didn't yet realize all the other things I was going to have to add to that list.

Just as we walked into the house, the phone rang. It was the school counselor. Right at the end of the day Jack had gotten in trouble because another kid told him to do something, which he did, and which is against the rules. Later, when we were talking about it, I told Jack that sometimes kids tell other kids to do things to get them in trouble because they're being mean. Tears welled up in Jack's eyes and he said, "I didn't know they were being mean."

Then I opened Jack's communication log and there was a note from one of his teachers about something Jack had done.

Then I checked my email and there was an email from one of his teachers about something that Jack was suspected of doing.

Four grenades, all in a row. Ouch. They knocked me down and they knocked me down hard. I'm sure it super sucked for Jack too. I've been waiting for bullying, subtle or otherwise. I guess I just didn't expect it to all start in one day. I also didn't expect it to all start on the day Jack also did unrelated, undesirable stuff.

I was so emotionally trashed, I almost canceled plans I had to go see friends for dinner. I'm glad I didn't. These four lovely ladies helped me forget temporarily about mean kids and inappropriate behavior.

Susan, Vickie, Algernon, Elaine, Ellen

Algernon was just happy to see something other than the inside of my bag. He hasn't been out since Disney World.

Now we just move onward as always. When you fight the good fight, it makes sense that you get hit with some grenades now and again. I just wish there were a way that I could take them instead of Jack.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything's blooming. All that crap.

I grabbed my camera today because Sam was in the backyard doing something funny...

Playing his flute for the neighbor with his sheet
music in a tree was the something funny.

...and I realized that I haven't taken photos for weeks. Being someone who comes home from a two-hour trip to the museum with 150 photos, this is out of character for me.

I think the reason is mostly because we haven't been doing much that is exciting. I mean, there are only so many photos you can take of your kids playing video games and doing homework. But this week it has been 80 degrees and there are new leaves on the trees and Jack doesn't have any homework because it is standardized testing week and the teacher is giving them a break in the evening, so we are full of time and new, vibrant places to play and take photographs.

(By new and vibrant, I mean "the backyard.")

It struck me today that spring might actually be here. Maybe we can shed coats and get a fresh start in the fresh air. You know, like George Costanza says, "Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything's blooming. All that crap."

Why play video games when you can beat the
hell out of each other in actual nature?

Sadly, Quinn didn't make it. Aside from a break between reading and math homework, he was stuck inside doing homework because he's not old enough for standardized tests.*

He was a wee bit put out about the whole thing.

Because I don't have any photos of Quinn doing adorable things in the backyard today, I decided to show you this picture he drew at school instead. In it, he details what he did this weekend, which was apparently some coal mining.

Quinn with his pickax.

Underneath the photo, Quinn wrote, "I cut plants with plant clippers. I dug with a pickax. I cut down trees."

What he really did was get chased around the yard by the neighbor's 50-pound Swiss Mountain puppy while Alex did all those things in Quinn's essay. Regardless, it's all good.

Bring it, spring. I'm ready.

* At first, I accidentally wrote "standardized testes" and then I laughed and laughed and laughed.

*****

Hey, if you are so inclined, some amazing ladies (Sue from Laundry for Six, Mir from Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and Leigh from Flappiness Is) and I are proposing a Room of Your Own panel for BlogHer this summer and would love your vote. It's called Telling Tales Out of School and it's all about what you should think about when you are blogging about your kids and their education. You have to log in to the site and then click on "I would attend this session," and hopefully we will end up being selected to speak at the conference in August.

Honestly, this is something I think about every single day, especially right now when there is a LOT going on with Jack and school—so much more than I can write about right now. I'd love to be able to explore this topic a little more with you guys in August.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Low Key and Loving It

I've had a pretty low key few days. Thank God for small favors, right?

I mean, I did buy new dressers for Jack and Quinn over the weekend. I'm actually pretty excited about them. We got them at a thrift store, and they are REAL furniture. They are not put-it-together-yourself dressers where the bottoms fall out of the drawers after three months.

Sure, they're not the prettiest dressers on the block, but they make me so happy that when I went to take a nap on Monday afternoon, I slept in Jack's bed so I could spend some time with the furniture.

This is what I've been reduced to, people.

In addition to reorganizing their clothes, I also cleaned their room, which is what I wrote about over at White Knuckle Parenting this week.

I'm so boring that I think it's possible that I'm unconscious. But for now, I'm okay with that.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jack's Autism Awareness

Photo by Katie Dance

Jack has known about his autism for years. I've always wanted it to be something that has sort of always been in his consciousness rather than sitting him down when he's older and laying such a big concept on him, as if it were a secret when he was younger.

I tell Jack and his brothers that everybody's brains work differently and it just so happens that the way Jack's brain works has a name, and that name is autism. Everyone has things they are good at and things they have trouble with. It's just that it is different for everyone.

Recently, however, Jack has really started to quietly investigate his autism. He's been telling people, "I have autism," or upon meeting new people, asking them, "Do you know that I have autism?" I see this as the first steps in figuring out for himself what autism means to him and how he is going to approach it in life.

Needless to say, I am watching with interest.

The other day, we were in the waiting room before Jack's OT session. There was another kid there, who is often there when we are. He has a visible disability and, although I get the impression that he does speak sometimes, he rarely does in the waiting room.

This child was trying to interact with Jack. The two of them weren't in sync. Jack was under a chair (he likes to be under things) watching this other child. After trying to get Jack's attention a couple of times, he walked over to a child gate in the hallway and started to play with the mechanism.

Jack started to get interested. "He must have autism," he said to me. He came out from under the chair and walked up to the other boy. "Do you have autism?" he asked.

The other boy didn't answer and then his therapist came out to take him to a room. Jack immediately stepped over to the gate and began to inspect the mechanism and investigate the way it worked until his own therapist came to take him to his session.

I was fascinated by this whole exchange. I wondered if Jack picked up on the difference in the other child and didn't have a word other than autism with which to describe that difference. After the session, when we were back in the car driving home, I decided to ask Jack about it, although I was unsure that I would get any sort of response.

"Jack, why did you think that other little boy had autism?" I asked.

Jack was quiet for a minute, then said, "Because he was curious."

Cool, huh?

I love that curiosity is the common bond that Jack picked up on. I love that although Jack is aware that his autism makes him different than most of the other kids he knows, he sees such a great quality as being curious as a defining characteristic. I love both the inquisitiveness and self awareness that he is starting to demonstrate.

Flat out, I just love that kid.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good News, Dammit. GOOD NEWS.

I am committed to good news today. GOOD NEWS, you hear that, universe?

I'll start with our IEP meeting. It went pretty well. I am cautiously optimistic. I will blog about it two months from now. It is probably unbloggable until then. Thanks to everyone who sent good wishes, virtual hugs, and caffeine.

Now, on to a wrap up of Quinn's strep. He stayed home with me today because his antibiotics hadn't kicked in yet. Oh! Speaking of antibiotics, remember last time Quinn was supposed to take antibiotics?

It didn't go well. There was a lot of barf involved and eventually we just gave up and waited for him to get better. He absolutely cannot take liquid antibiotics. This time I was smart and remembered to tell the doctor that he needed an alternate delivery method. This turned out to be a gigantic capsule that we can sprinkle in food.

But what food? We tried ice cream last night and it didn't go awesome. Evidently antibiotic powder isn't a good additive to a milkshake. But he drank it. Dose one of twenty. Hooray.

This morning I decided to try something different: antibiotic powder in a spoonful of peanut butter and honey.

Guess how that went.

Alex and Quinn ended up in a face off in the kitchen, with Quinn retching and gagging. It didn't look like dose two of twenty was going to get taken. But then, the clouds parted and an idea floated down. "Sugar," said Quinn. "Sugar."

Quinn regularly asks for sugar. It's not really a surprise that he would think of this.

Alex was all, "Yeah, right, kid, I'm not going to feed you sugar," but I had no such high standards. I grabbed the sugar box and mixed a big ol' spoonful right into his peanut butter, honey, and antibiotic paste. I might have started to sing about a spoonful of sugar, which pissed Quinn off mightily, but he started to eat. The sugar trick worked for his evening antibiotic milkshake as well.

Mary Motherfucking Poppins. Who knew?

*****

In the category of not just good, but GREAT news, I was selected as a castmember for the DC version of Listen to Your Mother. I am SO excited about this. The show will be May 6 at 2pm at the Synetic Theater in Virginia. Find details on the LTYM website.

I think one of the best things about being in the show is that I get to read my work alongside some absolutely incredible DC area writers. I am so proud to be part of this group.

Many thanks to Kate and Stephanie for selecting my reading.

******

In other exciting news that I meant to tell you about ages ago, but keep forgetting to do so, I am featured in another book. I'm considered an EXPERT in this one.

Shut up. I am.

Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, which is a book about raising kids with invisible disabilities, features a Q&A with (expert) me about social media and autism.

The thing I have to say most about this book is if you ever feel alone, this book will show you that you are not. I promise.

******

The last thing I have for you in this post entirely bereft of bad news (as long as you don't consider the antibiotic paste to be bad news), is that I'm talking about sex education over at White Knuckle Parenting. Good times. Check it out.

Just a Test

Snafu with my commenting system. I got your comments even if they didn't show up on the last post. Thank you for all of them. I am hopeful that my commenting system will be back on this post.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Things That Make We Want to Smash Other Things

Alternate title: FUCKING ENOUGH ALREADY

• I have had a kid home sick from school pretty much every third day for two weeks, up to and including yesterday.

• I finally got everyone to school at 9am this morning and came home only to have the school nurse call at 9:30 to tell me that I had to come in and bring lotion for Quinn because he was "itchy."

• Yesterday evening I got an email from Jack's teacher with the subject line, "escape plan." It was exactly the email you imagine such a thing would be. It included the line, "After recess the recess monitor told me that Jack and [Jack's BFF] came to her to tell her that their plan to escape didn't work..." Well, thank goodness they were honest about it.

• Today's post was going to be about stuff that was awesome, funny or, at the very least, autism related, but I am so annoyed at the world that I have to put it off until tomorrow.

• I miss Susan a whole lot.

• When I got to the school nurse's office to oil Quinn up, I noticed the bumpy red rash all over his torso. Yay! Doctor appointment!

• I had to go pick up Jack's melatonin, which I very intentionally buy from an independent pharmacy to support the little guy. But today "the little guy's" stupid parking lot was so full that I had to park on the street around the corner. Then the guy at the cash register gave me the hard sell on four other supplements when all I wanted was to buy the melatonin, goddammit.

• I noticed that there was an awful lot of chit chat and not much scratching from Rash Boy in the back seat.

• We have kind of a heavy pressure IEP meeting for Jack tomorrow morning. 'Nuff said.

• Except not really. Reading through progress reports and other such documentation is enough to push you into a full-fledged depression or rage, especially when one of your kid's (very well meaning) specials teachers writes about Jack, "The only person he is inclined to play with is [his autistic BFF] and they try not to socialize with others." Because that's what kids with autism do—try not to socialize. It's so much more complicated than that. I feel like many of these teachers want to help; there has to be a way to help them understand what autism is.

• When the nurse swabbed the back of his throat for a strep test, Quinn instinctively fought back and kicked the nurse in the stomach. Then he threw up on the floor.

• Quinn has strep.

• Quinn has to come to the IEP meeting tomorrow.

• After dragging three kids to Jack's speech therapy, then rushing to the school for the PTA meeting which I am required to attend because I take the minutes, I headed over to the pharmacy to pick up Quinn's special antibiotic capsules. I arrived home at 9pm to find two of my three kids sobbing because Alex showed them the volleyball-floating-away scene from Castaway.

Stimey smash.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dishes and Ryan Gosling

I have no idea what my family has eaten for the past several days.

Alex has done our dishes for years. How awesome is that? You know how sometimes someone will be terribly bad at a chore and finally you snap and say, "Stop! I will just do this from now on!" Well, I was terrible at the dishes (and a number of other things, but this isn't about that), so he started doing them. But at some point in the last few months, I took them back over. It's not going too poorly. 

Tuesday morning when I was trying to get all my stuff (water, apple, crackers, telephone, Quinn) upstairs before Alex left the house, I remembered that the cleaning people were coming. (Cleaning: something else I am terrible at.)

I remembered the time that I left some dirty dishes in the sink on a cleaning people day and how they had put them in the dishwasher. The problem with this was twofold: (1) I felt bad because they shouldn't have to do my dishes, and (2) that particular load of dishes was clean and then I had to rewash them.

Not wanting a repeat, I stuffed the dishes in the dishwasher, stacked haphazardly in a pile, still bearing crusts from toast and uneaten eggs. Then I forgot about them.

I noticed the dishes piling up over the last two days since I've been vertical, but I've had a series of appointments on those days and have otherwise gone to bed at first opportunity, leaving those stacks of dishes to get taller. The fact that I couldn't find a single fork or spoon this morning should have tipped me off to a dishes emergency.

Today, when I finally got around to opening the dishwasher, I found that same stack of plates and toast right where I'd left them.

For the life of me, I can't quite fathom what has been happening around here nutritionally—and frankly, I don't give a damn.

Also, syrup that has congealed on a plate for four days? FASCINATING. You should try it.

Go to hell, Alex-like Ryan Gosling.

******

Some of you may recognize that photo from Sunday's Special Needs Ryan Gosling meme and see how I've bastardized what she's trying to do over there.

So, because I love Sunday and I love that so many people now know how funny she is, I give you my real entry into Special Needs Ryan Gosling.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should check out Sunday's blog, Adventures in Extreme Parenthood. She's hosting a Ryan Gosling thingy every Friday on her blog these days. Head over to collect a photo and make your own caption, then link up on her post.

That's more like it, Ryan.