R.I.P. Gerbil

Sad news, friends.

I walked past Mouse Town this evening and glanced down at Squeaky picking through the food dish. Then I saw Gerbil. She was on her side and she was dead. She was almost exactly two years old. She was the mouse I picked out. I liked her a lot. I’ll miss her.

May, 2010 — May, 2012

Alex was kind enough to take care of the funeral services, meaning he put her inside a toilet paper tube and buried her near the other mouse corpses. He did dig her shallow grave with a spoon, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to have to dig her up tomorrow when it’s not pouring rain and re-inter her. Because I’m not going to do it.

This only leaves Squeaky. Remember Squeaky? She is the mouse with skin problems. She is missing probably half of her fur. I have no idea how that mouse is still alive. She looks like Mousenstein. And I bet she’s lonely now.

Snakes in the Grass

I feel like we celebrate birthdays all month in May. Quinn turned seven last week, so we had his birthday party this weekend. Before we go into what happens when you bring a gang of first graders and their siblings to your house and arm them with Nerf guns, let us first discuss that my youngest kiddo is seven years old.

Seven! (And insubordinate.)

I don’t have babies anymore. I don’t have toddlers. I don’t even have little kids. I have big kids. Thank God Quinn still can’t say his “R”s, which makes him sound younger than he is. I’m holding on to that.

Also, he’s still enough of a little kid to dress up in a homemade costume for his party.

He saw The Avengers recently. I think it had an effect on him.

We scheduled a company called Reptiles Alive to bring creepy crawlies to our house, but prior to that, we gave our guests a half hour to arrive and arm themselves. At one point, I walked down into the basement to make sure everyone was okay, only to be greeted by this:

They were okay. What’s more, they were ORGANIZING.

Clearly this insurrection had to be put down and put down fast, so I gathered them all up and told them the reptile show was about to begin. Now, you should understand that this reptile show came with all kinds of instructions about where to hold the show and how warm it had to be to have the show outside and why everyone had to sit in a single straight line and if there isn’t a close parking space, they WILL NOT do the show.

I was suitably nervous. I was also pretty sure I was going to fuck it all up somehow, resulting in the reptile guy packing up his lizards and going home.

They even sent a diagram:

Fortunately, Tony, the reptile guy, was cool. This is what OUR show looked more like:

And even this is probably idealized.

The show was super fun, even if Sam claimed to have Reptileaphobia and bailed, as did a couple other kids, but for the most part, they were RAPT. Tony was awesome. He let Quinn be his helper, a job that Quinn took SUPER seriously.

He very carefully let everyone touch the items he was put in charge of.

He did take a short break to see if he was taller than the snake.

He wasn’t.

The reason we hired Reptiles Alive is because they did an assembly at Quinn’s school and Quinn was in LOVE. He made us go to the library and check out books about reptiles and he scoured the Reptiles Alive website for videos and information. During the party, Tony brought out some obscure lizard and Quinn was all, “It’s a Blue Tongue Skink!”

We were all suitably impressed.

Tony brought lizards and turtles and one non-reptile—this here toad:

He is poisonous, so the kids didn’t pet him.

Tony also brought snakes. Because EVERYONE likes snakes. Okay, not EVERYONE likes snakes, but everyone under the age of ten at this party likes snakes.

QUINN likes snakes.

Probably our mice don’t like snakes. Especially after Alex kept making jokes about feeding our remaining two little friends to the snakes on hand. They would be pleased to know that the boa constrictor seemed to have similar plans for Alex.

Seriously. That thing was aimed at Alex and kept trying to get there.

 Fortunately, our friend Tony had a firm hold him. And soon enough, Quinn did as well.

I should have asked if I could have a photo with the
snake wrapped around his shoulders.

From there, it was a short jump to beating the hell out of a paper turtle lying helplessly upside down on our lawn.

I aim for irony in my piñatas.

Also, we ended the party scouring the ground outside for a tooth that someone lost. It’s not a party until someone loses a body part.

Happy 7th birthday to my baby boy.

And Then Quinn Devoured All of Us

So, Team Stimey is in family therapy because….obviously.

There are reasons, reasons that mostly have to do with being a neurodiverse family in a world that isn’t always friendly to neurodiverse peoples and a desire to have happy kids who grow into happy teens who grow into happy adults.

Step one: family therapy.

Well, step one is actually creating a happy home environment, but family therapy comes somewhere between steps six and twelve.

Anywho.

Thus far, Jack has been doing most of the therapy, but our therapist wanted all of Team Stimey to come in this week. So we did. And we participated in a puppet show. And said puppet show was so illustrative of Team Stimey’s family dynamic that it was almost embarrassing.

The plot that the munchkins came up with was simple enough. Jack’s pirate attacked Alex’s monkey while Quinn’s dragon puppet set everything on fire. Sam had a police man puppet and did a great job trying to restore order—right up until the dragon ate him. Oh, and me? I was the firefighter running around ineffectually trying to put out fires.

In the end, I’m not sure if just Quinn survived or if Jack and Quinn survived, but I do know that the dragon ate most of us.

Frankly, the only thing that would have made this little metaphorical play more true to life is if my puppet had whipped out an iPhone and taken a picture—which I really badly wanted to do.

Afterward, the therapist interviewed the puppets. When she asked me how I felt when I was eaten by the dragon and I said, “At least it was over,” I knew almost immediately that my answer was wrong.  I mean, she claimed there were no wrong answers, but deep down I know that there were and I’m pretty sure that I gave one of them.

Regardless, at no point did the therapist’s eyes widen in horror, and we are still on her schedule, so evidently we are not outside the realm of help. Also, I’ll let you know when she finally tells us the secret to happiness, because I’m pretty sure that’s what happens in therapy, right?

*****

Also, be sure to check out White Knuckle Parenting this week. We took the kiddos out to a Chinese restaurant for the first time in their young lives and then I wrote about it.

Tips on How to Host an Awesome LEGO Robotics Birthday Party

We finally managed to get around to having Jack’s birthday party last weekend. I deviated a little from my traditional “run around —> pin the something on the something —> eat pizza —> eat cake —> bash a piñata —> go home” party. This time, instead of “pin the something on the something,” we did LEGO Robotics.

Sadly, that meant we couldn’t invite as many kids as we wanted to, especially considering that when you have three kids of your own, you fill up your guest list really fast.

Regardless, we had an awesome time (for the most part), and I have some common sense tips for hosting an awesome LEGO Robotics birthday party.

Tip 1: Buy a hammock. I cannot stress this one enough.

This photo taken before the party guests tested
the weight capacity of said hammock. I think our capacity
record was six kids. Maybe more.

The Hammock District should be sending me thanks for all the hammock sales we inspired that day.

Tip 2: Have awesome friends. This one is also important, because only awesome friends can cause anticipation such as this:

When did Jack get so tall?

Also, only awesome friends will hand-make cards like this one:

Yeah. I had to Google “Captain Sir Francis Haddock” too.

Tip 3: Purchase the proper snacks. I certainly hope you all know the Team Stimey party menu by now: Oreos, Doritos, potato chips, square pizza from the local pizzeria. Lately Jack has been obsessed with Chips Ahoy, so I bought a bag of them as well and put them in a bowl on the table.

I’m not entirely sure that Jack ate even one, because SOMEONE parked himself in a chair in front of the snack table with a book, put the bowl on his lap, and commenced to eating.

I’m pretty sure he ate the whole bag.

Round about 8:30 p.m., he was all, “I dooooon’t feeeeeeeel gooooood.” Yeah. It’s too bad you don’t have better parents, Quinn—responsible parents who would stop you after 15 cookies.

Tip 4: Hire Adventures with Robots (AWR). So, do you remember The Awesome? Remember when Jack took LEGO Robotics at school and he kept wanting to mail himself to the classroom where they held the class because he wanted to do LEGO Robotics ALL THE TIME? Yeah. That was this company.

One of the cool things about AWR is that when I emailed them about the party, I mentioned that Jack was autistic and that several of his guests were as well. They immediately suggested one particular party leader who is a special educator and they worked with me to find a time that he could be the one at the party.

Once he was there, the dude was really good about working with the kids, including Jack, who was all, “I do want I want. Even though I requested a spinning top robotics party, I will create something entirely different.”

Including this…shaver?

The guy in charge was all, “It’s his birthday; he can do whatever he wants.” Awesomesauce. It was chaotic and fun and wonderful.

If you’re wondering what the actual project was, here is Sam’s totally correct and on target version:

He was more interested than he looks here.

AWR requests that you have an adult helper available to assist with the building and programming. As it turned out, a lot of parents stayed and, quite honestly, seemed to enjoy building the spinning tops as much as the kids did. Regardless, Alex acted as that adult helper, aiding Quinn and his likewise-aged buddy in building their tops. Evidently he found it…frustrating. Alex will not be applying for an AWR job anytime soon.

This is not the face he was making before I pointed the camera at him.

We had the AWR guy for an hour and 15 minutes, but most of the kids wandered off after about 45 minutes. The lure of the hammock and the beautiful day outside was too big an enticement. Nonetheless, I consider the event a smashing success, mostly because of this:

Later, Alex asked Jack what his favorite part of the party was
and he said, “LEGO Robotics at my house.”

I was talking to the guy later, as he was packing up 16 million LEGOs and I made a comment about how there is always a lot of chaos at my house. He responded with, “Yeah, but I see a lot of smiles too, so that’s good.”

That’s just about right on target there, sir.

Tip 5: Have a quiet room. It seemed wise to designate a room as a quiet space for kids who needed a break from the action. I think it is possible that Alex is the only person who used it as intended.

I mean, Jack did play in there and at one point he went missing and, after a hard target search, I found him quietly reading by himself in Sam’s room.

This was during the middle, stressful part of the party.

Maybe he didn’t go to the designated quiet room because Quinn took a break from his Chips Ahoy station to sabotage my efforts at calm. (The forces of entropy are strong in our house.)

Very early in the party, Quinn came to me practically unable to contain his laughter and asked me for tape. He was “improving” the quiet room sign, he said.

“ruff house room”

Seriously, Quinn could not have been more pleased with himself. He almost couldn’t stand, he was laughing so hard. He was all, “I made the quiet room way more fun.”

Tip 6: Book proper musical accompaniment. In this case, a young male flautist.

Remind me sometime to tell you about Sam’s band concert.

He dragged his chair, stand, flute, and music all the way out to the backyard prior to finally settling on a spot in the living room.

Tip 7: Reserve the cake ceremony for the proper moment. In the case of this party, the cake brought Jack out of a funk brought on by something I am not entirely sure of, but ended in his dragging himself across the living room by his fists and claiming that his legs didn’t work because he was so angry.

I’m not sure what anger has to do with the muscles in his legs, but evidently they are related in Jack’s physiology.

Also, putting candles in a cake restores leg function, apparently.

That would also explain the caddywampus candles.

Tip 8: A piñata makes every party a smashing success. (Get it? Ha, ha.) Of course, there are some very specific steps you have to take to make the piñata the best it can be.

1. Find a super adorable personified robot and beat the crap out of it.

2. Desperately hope that every child gets a turn at whacking the piñata before it breaks apart.

3. Bring in your oldest, strongest kid to “Finish it, Sam! Finish it!”

4. Feel slightly sad for Corpsey McRobot.

5. Watch one of the children dress in the corpse’s skin.

6. Watch that child grin and eat candy while wearing his face.

And that is how you host an awesome LEGO Robotics Birthday Party.

My Kids Will Probably Never Go Into the Backyard Again

About a month ago, my friend Aimee wrote a post about her praying mantis egg case from which would eventually emerge 75-100 mosquito-eating manti.

Mostly what I heard was “mosquito-eating.”

Being highly suggestible, I succumbed to internet peer pressure and, after a vibrant Facebook discussion about the pros (mosquito-eating) and cons (they look like aliens) of 200 praying manti in your yard, temporary insanity won out and I impulse bought insects for my yard.

That bears repeating: I BOUGHT DOZENS OF GIANT INSECTS TO VOLUNTARILY PUT IN MY YARD.

Have I mentioned that I am terrified of insects, particularly manti?

Unfortunately, there is no buyer’s remorse clause over at Insect Lore, purveyor of live insects. Sure enough, as night follows day, sunrise follows sunset, and manti follow egg case, a package soon arrived bearing the fruits of my Facebook-fueled bug buying spree.

I had a moment of hope when it looked as if Insect Lore had sent me butterflies instead. Genuine butterflies.

And quality ones at that.

But when I opened the box, there was a mantis egg case in there. The egg case arrived on the day that Jack had come home “sick” because he was carsick and barfed in the school hallway. I decided that transferring the egg case from one container to another counted as science and meant that I was making good use of Jack’s time away from school.

Container one.

Container two.

Well done, Jack. Head on back to your Wii now.

And then the egg case sat there. It sat there for a few days and then it sat there for a few weeks and then I figured that maybe this time I’d managed to kill my pets even before they were born and the manti would never hatch. But then, a few days ago, I was wandering by and did a double take because what had spent three weeks being this:

had suddenly became this:

AAAAAIIIIIGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Part of me badly wanted to take it outside immediately, carry it to the waaay back of my yard, unzip it, and never think about it again, but I decided to wait until all of Team Stimey was assembled.

Until then, I practiced manti photography.

Some of Team Stimey was suitably impressed. Some of them refused to come near the manti, and some of them resented being forced by others of them to do the releasing because the latter someones were more afraid of the manti than the first someones.

Or something.

We spent some time arguing over the best place to release them. We didn’t want to step on them, but we wanted them to eat bugs in an advantageous spot. We also didn’t want them to get mowed or weeded away.

We selected a spot near the back of the yard, next to the garden, and probably too close to the neighbor’s fence. I hope they like manti too.

Then we released our little friends.

We’re coming to eat your faces!

I stopped by the next afternoon to check on them. I found a bunch of them tooling around where we had left them. I decided to recapture four of them to, I don’t know, have the opportunity to catch bugs to feed to other bugs.

Alex was none too happy about that, let me tell you. He was all, “You want me to catch what and put them where?”

We’ve sacrificed a few bugs to the manti, but I think we’re going to release them tomorrow morning because even I recognize how absurd our bug hunting is.

At that point, I will eagerly and skittishly await the next time I meet a mantis, which will probably be when one of the full grown bugs jumps on my face. I’m looking forward to it.

Maybe this guy.

My Cheetah-thon Post, Full of Gooshy Love

Next Saturday is Jack’s last hockey practice of the season. This year of hockey has been an amazing one. I am so grateful for what the Cheetahs have given to Jack this year. I am so grateful for what they have given to me this year.

Being a part of the Cheetah Nation is one of the very best things I’ve ever been involved with in my life.

Which brings me to the Cheetah-thon, which took place last Saturday evening. We had a great turnout and we more than exceeded our fundraising goal. (Thank you, by the way, Annette for your donation!) In fact, I just read on Facebook that the event raised $25,000 total. AMAZING.

I already thanked you for all you did for the Cheetahs with your donations and your love, but I would like to reiterate it. It all meant so much to me and to Jack and to the rest of the Cheetahs. Thank you.

And now that all the gooshy love feelings are out of the way, here is the story of the Cheetah-thon as experienced by Team Stimey. (Featuring some (more) gooshy love feelings and some purloined pretzels.)

I’ll start with the gooshy love feelings, which can be summed up in this photo, which I stole from someone on Facebook:

I’m so glad someone caught this moment.

If that’s not gooshy and lovey enough for you, how about this photo of Jack and his coach?

That’s a coach who loves his players.

I found that detail in the background of another photo and I can’t get over it. I love it.

Of course Jack wasn’t the only member of Team Stimey that went skating. These two jokers gave it a shot too:

I love that Sam is trying to help Quinn and Quinn is having NONE OF IT.

All said, things went far better for them this time than the last time we went skating.

I didn’t skate this time, but I did wander around on the ice in my sandals to take photos. The arena people resurfaced the ice in the middle of our two-hour skate time and asked all of us to get off the ice for a few minutes. I was one of the last ones off because my shuffling was slower than skating and also because I was too busy taking photos to follow directions. This panicked Quinn, who is always looking out for me.

He started banging on the glass and pointing behind me to alert me of my imminent Flattening by Zamboni.

It just slowed me down because then I had to take a photo of him.

My kids had such a great time at the Cheetah-thon. Sam and Quinn were happy, but Jack was totally in his element. Like, smiling, joyous in his element. I’ve spoken before about the safe space that the Cheetahs create and I mean that in a literal sense in that other people will step up to keep my kid safe, but I also mean it in a another sense.

I can see Jack relax when he’s around these people. Jack is comfortable with the Cheetahs. He is at home. That means a lot to a kid like Jack. I know you get that. It also means a lot to me.

Anywho. After everyone was done skating, I asked them to smile nicely for me and this is what I got.

Hmmm. I’m starting to figure out why my kids are the way they are.
Thank you, MIL, for not being a jerk like everyone else.

My kids were done skating, so Alex helped them take their skates off, which reminded me of the reason that I take Jack to practice and help him put his gear on and take it off.

Some of us have a more delicate touch than others.

So, I was taking photos and everyone else was wandering around and I started thinking that I wanted to put eyes on Jack, even though I was pretty sure Alex or my MIL was watching him. I saw him just as he came around a corner with this:

He didn’t have money or an adult with him. How did he get the pretzel?

I was all, “Jack, did you just take that pretzel?!?!”

And he replied, “I said please.”

I made it to the snack bar counter just as my mother-in-law was paying the confused and amused looking teenagers behind the counter.

You have to love that Jack. I know I do. I also know you do. And I love all of you.

Fired

Jack, with tears rolling down his cheeks, fired me as his mother today.

It was that kind of day. I won’t go into the details and the steep downhill slide that comes with reading his school communication log and then trying to do homework with him every day. All I will really say is that the end of this school year cannot come fast enough. I will miss my mid-day alone time, but I know at least one kid who is badly in need of some time off from all responsibilities and stress.

Hint: It’s Jack.

Because I’m not going into all of that, I’ll just point you to my White Knuckle Parenting column wherein I wrote about letting your children fail.

That was a really bad segue. The post is actually about some stuff going on with Sam.

If you want something that is not all about failure, Team Stimey was featured in Autistic Globetrotting’s Mother’s Day Celebration. There are a lot of fantastic posts there about traveling with autistic kids, including my contribution about how I prepare my kiddos for outings.

Anywho. I’m hoping to be rehired tomorrow. We’ll see. The interviewer is erratic but seems to like me. Most of the time.