So Long, 2013!

I say. 2013. Lots went down this year—both on and off my blog. I’m sitting here in the last hours of 2013, thinking back on this year and regretting my decision to let my kids try to stay up until midnight. Right now they’re doing the conga.

Sam and Jack congaAlex is in New York at a Phish show, but it’s okay because while I was in warm places all day today, he was sitting in line on a sidewalk so he could get a good place in front of the band at MSG. I’d try to make him feel bad for missing my three kids at 10pm on New Year’s, but I think he’s suffered enough.

Trey Anastasio playing the guitar on stage

Although based on this photo he texted me, it looks like he got the spot he wanted.

I think it is traditional to start end-of-year retrospectives with a look at your last new year’s resolutions. My resolution last year was all about Project Stimey, which could be summed up with this quote from my first post of 2013:

My goal this year is to improve my overall physical health. By the end of 2013, I want to weigh less, I want to be fitter, I want to be a water drinker instead of a soda drinker, and I want to be altogether more awesome.

I’m not where I want to be, but I have achieved every one of those goals. Especially the part about being altogether more awesome. Ha, ha, ha. :) I’ll write more about this and my 2014 resolutions soon.

One of the coolest things I did last year was go to President Obama’s inauguration with Jess from Diary of a Mom. I had never been to an inauguration before and I was so thrilled to be able to watch this president, whom I still stand solidly behind, sworn into his second term in office. Then Jess and I spent something like sixteen years trying to find our way off of the National Mall. That part was a little more harrowing.

February brought the one year anniversary of Susan’s death. I find myself thinking of her often. Every time I see a full moon, I think of her. Buying gloves makes me think of her because of the year I bought gloves for both of our kids and totally got the wrong kind. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were driving past her street and Jack mentioned that we hadn’t been to play in her backyard for a long time. There are so many things that remind me of her and I hope that will never stop happening.

In March I took my kids to the Disability Day of Mourning to honor and remember disabled people killed by their parents or caregivers. I was excited to take Jack to meet some autistic adults, but what I didn’t expect was Sam’s incredible reaction and my understanding that I’m not just raising a strong autistic man in Jack, but strong allies in my other kids.

Immediately thereafter, I put one of my gerbils in a hat.

Karma took care of me less than two weeks later, when my two “boy” gerbils had a whole pile of babies. You remember this post. My post where I FREAKED OUT about said gerblets got me more traffic than I have ever gotten for anything I’ve ever written. I do think that traffic was mostly due to the greatest Facebook thread in the history of Facebook threads, wherein you all mocked my pain and gave me helpful suggestions such as, “Quick! Put tiny hats on them!”

You all are assholes. Lovable, wonderful assholes.

March was a big month for the circle of life, because shortly after our gerbil births and subsequent gender-based separation of what turned out to be a total of seven gerbils, we lost our beloved dog, Cassidy, after a long life full of patience, kid cuddles, and peeing on everything we owned.

We closed out March with a snowy spring break trip to Luray caverns, which was notable for the swimming pool at our hotel, hedge maze outside the caverns, and the most epic snowball fight Team Stimey Junior has ever had.

In April we went to the White House Easter Egg Roll and Jack chatted up Michelle Obama.

Then Jack and I went to Lake Placid, New York, with the Montgomery Cheetahs for a special hockey tournament and I made 75 million Miracle on Ice jokes. But honestly, how could I not? My baby skated on Olympic Ice, had a blast with his teammates, went dog sledding, and bobsledded on an Olympic track. Also other stuff. I love special hockey tournaments.

Also, in April (although I wrote about it in May), my internet soul sister came to visit me and I got to meet her in person for the first time. It was one of the best weekends of my entire year. In related news, she didn’t kill us.

Damn if we didn’t travel a lot this year. May brought a trip to Hersheypark, where we discovered that if you kick Quinn down onto the asphalt in the parking lot and scrape up his face first thing in the morning, it will be difficult to get him to enjoy the rest of his day.

After that, it was just a matter of finishing out the school year, playing around in the summer, and hanging out with fun friends who came into town and let me play with them. Before that though, Jack kicked ass at his school’s Geo Bowl, Sam graduated from elementary school, and once again, we threw Quinn to the ground and scarred his beautiful, beautiful face.

July brought BlogHer and a much needed weekend filled with laughter and release and inspiration and exactly the people I needed to be with to put me at peace. You know who you are. And you should know that I still think about those days often and with joy.

Just after getting back from Chicago, I headed back out on vacation, this time with Team Stimey. We went to the Lake Michigan beach, Wisconsin Dells, and the middle of nowhere, where Quinn contracted Lake Madness. It was fantastic.

My family had a really wonderful summer, so the kiddos were none too excited to head back to school in August. We made it so much more palatable though, by acquiring three kittens just prior to sending them back. I highly recommend doing the same. It is much easier to send your kids off to school if you can promise them cuddles with a small cat when they return home. In fact, I think we should get three kittens every August. Common sense might prevail on that one though.

I spent much of the middle of the year worrying about Reach the Beach, a 12-person/200-mile relay race that I’d committed to run in September. Much as I tried to freeze time with my mind, the days marched on and eventually I actually had to lace up my shoes, get in a van, and race that bitch. It turned out to be such an awesome experience that I am quickly selling out Future Jean by committing her to another fall relay race. (Am moron.)

The last of our big pet news happened in October, when we had to put our elderly and wonderful cat, Denali, to sleep. She was cantankerous and pointy and we miss her a whole lot.

It turns out that I didn’t write about it, but November brought a DC gathering of mid-Atlantic and Australian autism bloggers and all-around great people. It was another of my favorite weekends of the year and completely soul filling.

Then…disaster. My car window was smashed and my purse was grabbed from within. It was a huge, expensive, pain-in-the-ass bummer. The worst thing is that Algernon was in my purse when it was stolen. Poor Algernon, off on his own. But then…love and friendship. You guys lifted me up with your notes, love, and a generous helping of stuffed rodents from all around the world. Seriously, they keep coming—and they make my kids and I smile every day.

Algernon's Army wearing paper party hatsThat is pretty much everything that happened to us this year. You know, except for all the other stuff—both stuff I wrote about but didn’t recap here and stuff that I didn’t write about. When I look back at all of this, I realize that I am a very lucky person who has a wonderful family and some fantastic friends.

I wish all of you a very wonderful new year. I hope that 2014 is the best for you.

With love, gratitude, and friendship,
Stimey

Quinn, Stimey, Sam, Starfire & Jack celebrating New Year's

Happy New Year from Team Stimey!

 

Aaaaand Awkward Segue Here…

I keep trying to think of a good way to transition from my Merry Christmas post back into real life, which is difficult considering I’ve barely left my house and I think my kids might still be wearing the pajamas they wore on Christmas Eve. No matter than I can’t think of a single thing to write about, I need to get that Christmas card off the top of my page.

Maybe I’ll do it with this photo of Quinn and his new stuffed cat, Balls.

Quinn with gray stuffed catI could also tell you that Jack got a music player for Christmas and wore it out this morning when he and Alex went to Dunkin Donuts where he apparently bonded with a young woman over their shared love of Taylor Swift.

Jack wearing headphonesOr maybe this cat in a pile of wrapping paper will do it.

IMG_2192That’ll do. Now we can move on.

Merry Christmas 2013

Team Stimey Christmas CardAs I type, my kids lie in their beds, luxuriating in the glow of one of our best Christmas Eves ever. They’ve left notes for Santa and cans of cat food with a request that he put one in each of the kitten’s socks that hang by the fireplace.

"Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack."

“Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack.”

"You're like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]"

From Quinn: “You’re like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]”

Sam wrote one too, but he didn’t want it photographed. Sam is not earnestly trying to fall asleep, as the other two are. Sam is lying awake, excited to be Santa’s helper once his brothers are down for the count.

Team Stimey in pajamas reading The Night Before Christmas

Also, hours later, this happened:

Facebook post: "Poor Quinn has the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas Eve so I sometimes lie with him and tell him stories about cats until he drifts off. Just now he said, "This is the best kind of present." I love this kid. // He also cried  a little because he thought he could only snuggle with me until he's 18, which means only ten more years. I told him I'd snuggle with him until he was 60 if he'd let me."

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, but have a hard time with the holiday, know that I am sending my love to you and hoping that it goes as well as it can today.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy your movie. We went to see The Hobbit twice already. It’s awesome and I suggest you go see it. You might want to close your eyes when the dwarves travel through Mirkwood though.

Thank you for the gift of your support and friendship this year. I hope I give it back to you in as much quantity as you give it to me.

I love you all.

Love from behind

The Pertinent Information

•My kids spilled a metric shit-ton of goldfish crackers in my car the other day. I decided that the squirrels in my backyard would like them. I had visions of squadrons of squirrels sitting on my back porch and clutching crackers in their adorable little paws as they gratefully nodded their furry heads at me. Instead, it rained and now I have a vomit-resembling pile of ex-goldfish slurry in my backyard. This makes me feel sad.

• Jack won’t eat crusts on his peanut butter sandwiches. There is, however, a raccoon who has been knocking over our garbage cans to get to them who really appreciates them. Alex and Sam found him solemnly consuming one (in much the way that I imagined the grateful squirrels) the other morning when Sam was headed to school. That old saying, “It’s more afraid of you than you are of it”? Not true vis-a-vis Sam and the raccoon. Although I think the fact that Alex implied that the raccoon could be rabid contributed to his fear.

The rock that my car thief gave me is extremely good at holding our garbage cans closed to keep raccoons out.

• My neighbor has been bringing Quinn a home-baked coffee cake every Christmas for years now. It is ridiculous how much Quinn loves that coffee cake. Also, the rest of the family is grateful that he is young and cute enough to ask for it every year so we don’t have to. It is already in our fridge for this year, but Quinn doesn’t know that, so he keeps asking about it. I will present it to him tomorrow for Christmas Eve. It will make his entire day.

• I have three kids, but turkey wishbones only have space for two wish rivals to yank on it. We normally have turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to take care of this problem. This year we are having ham for Christmas. I wonder what hell will rain down upon us because of this decision.

The cats are still very interested in the Christmas tree. Oreo in particular is a problem. She spends most of her time sitting happily underneath it and Alex found her beheading a bird ornament this morning. Literally beheading it. I wonder how her little brain will deal with it when we remove the tree later this week. She might implode.

• Alex, who hates scary TV and movies, is watching The Walking Dead with me on Netflix from the beginning. He reports that he wakes up in a panic at least once every night.

• Alex is terrified by even the idea of scary movies. One time I was watching Paranormal Activity and I paused it to get something from the kitchen and when I came back, Alex was taking advantage of it being paused to sit in a chair with his cup of water so he could say good night to me. Because I’m an asshole, I snuck up on him and scared him so badly that he threw the cup of water across the room. It is one of my favorite memories.

• Sam performed in his winter band concert earlier this month. He was adorbs. Also, I had to buy him every piece of his required concert outfit, down to his socks, because he doesn’t own anything more formal than Crocs and track pants. I decided to not put him in his formal Pokemon shirt for the concert.

Sam playing the flute

Sam loves playing the flute. He’s so awesome.

• The band program said Sam is a “section leader.” I don’t know what that means and Sam refused to give me anything but a smart-ass answer when I asked him.

Jack wore his new, bigger helmet at hockey practice this week.

Smiling Jack in hockey gear

Look! It almost looks as if he doesn’t have a headache!

• Santa came to hockey practice this week. He always uses some of the Cheetahs as reindeer to pull him around the rink. That is one brave Santa right there.

hockey players pulling Santa on a sled

That is Jack in the very back of the reindeer line.

• Quinn made an extremely joyous discovery worthy of Twitter the other day when we were eating lunch:

My 8-year-old just now: "I have feet." I guess it's good to check in with your appendages now and again."Then, after further questioning:

Re: Quinn's "I have feet" comment from earlier, he explains, "I forgot I had them for a minute" & "sometimes people forget they have stuff."• And now  you have all the pertinent information.

10 Ways to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

or Why Did You Hang Cat Toys All Over This Brand New Climbing Structure and Then Yell at Us When We Play on It?

or, simply, CATNANIGANS.

Black and white cat in front of a Christmas treeThis year I decided to decorate my Christmas tree with kittens.

I knew that having three six-month-old kittens would create a whole new set of issues pertaining to things like ribbon, poinsettias, and structural integrity of any trees we brought into our living room. In case you are in the same boat, I present to you Stimey’s Guide to Cat-Proofing Your Christmas!

1. If you have kittens and think that they will probably not care at all about your bringing a tree—for the love of God, an actual tree—into your living room, check yo’self.

It is likely that my cats have never actually experienced a tree up close. They are enjoying the experience.

It is likely that my cats have never actually experienced a tree up close. They are enjoying the experience.

They will care. Trust me on this one.

2. Tie your tree to a wall. I know. How the hell are you supposed to tie your tree to the wall?

Figure it out.

Christmas tree tied to blinds mechanism.

We disassembled blinds in order to tie ours to the wall.

3. If at all possible, dangle the twine, creating an impromptu cat toy, thus kinda defeating the whole purpose.

cat playing with twine tying christmas tree to wall.

Thanks for finding the Achilles Heel there, Ruby.

4. Whereas a cat knocking over a tree would be a bummer, a cat eating a tree light and being electrocuted would pretty much wreck Christmas, so make your lights as unappealing as possible.

I have no idea how to do that.

I did, however, put our lights on the tree from the bottom up so that any extra dangling wires would be at the top instead of the bottom.

5. Your cats will drink the water in your tree stand. Don’t put poison in it.

cat drinking out of tree stand

Repeat: NO poison.

This goes for poisonous plants as well. Fortunately, I kill every plant I bring into my home, so I don’t bring in additional deadly flowers for the holidays.

6. You think they are ornaments. Your cats think they are sparkly, dangly cat toys that you’ve hung from the tree for their amusement.

I CAN HAZ ORNAMENTZBack when my kids were babies, I bought a lot of nonbreakable ornaments so they couldn’t hurt themselves on our tree. This year I found myself in the Christmas aisle at Target, once again looking for shatterproof blingies. Like then, I was not just looking for safe ornaments, but safe ways to hang them on my tree. For us, that meant tying little strings on about a billion new balls and icicles instead of using sharp, swallowable metal hooks.

silver ornament hung on tree with a silver string

It took a long time.

It took so long that at some point as I was tying all those stupid little strings on the balls, I started to wonder if this was really necessary. The cats would not be all that excited by the ornaments, I thought. They will probably not drop them on the ground and then eat the sharp little hooks, I surmised.

Then I looked down and watched my dumbass cat trying to play with some balls through the plastic box.

Oreo is cute, but she's not the smartest cat in the house.

Oreo is cute, but she’s not the smartest cat in the house.

7. After all of that, your cat will still climb into your tree and your only clue as to where she is will be by localizing the source of the most vigorous shaking of tree branches.

small black cat inside tree

Goddammit, Starfire.

It is, by the way, completely impossible to pull a cat out of a Christmas tree if she’s in by the trunk. Trust me on this one.

8. Give up and station a sentry next to the tree to prevent catastrophes. (CATastrophes. Ha, ha.)

Acknowledge that this still won't help. Please to note the small black cat sneaking under the tree right under the sentry's nose.

Acknowledge that this still won’t help. Please to note the small black cat sneaking under the tree right under the sentry’s nose.

9. Give up, buy a lot of bows (curling ribbon is dangerous for cats who eat it), and realize that your desires have become subordinate to that of three 7-pound cats wandering your house. Get used to picking up a lot of ornaments from your floor after your cats play with them. Try to notice which gifts the cats are chewing the paper off of and put them in the back. Get used to kittens that smell like pine tree. Remain vigilant.

10. Gleefully wait for Christmas morning, which you think is going to be fucking awesome because…kittens…and boxes…and wrapping paper. This makes up for the fact that the bottom quarter of your tree will be entirely trashed and bare of ornaments by the big day. There is always a silver lining.

Advocacy and the Hockey Helmet

Jack is skating for the Montgomery Cheetahs again this year, which is awesome. He’s had some really great practices and also some iffy practices and then there was that one really memorable practice that was going so terribly until one of the mentors and one of the older Cheetah players teamed up to create an individual little drill that made Jack laugh so much and skate so hard. That practice reminded me why I love this team so much. There was so much good in those moments—for all three of those kiddos.

Things like that are why I continue to get up at 6:30 am every Saturday morning to take Jack to practice. See, I am not a morning person and I would really like to sleep in until 8 on Saturdays. Even so, I like to watch Jack skate even more and (semi) happily pry my eyes open at the crack of dawn at the start of every weekend.

All of this is to let you know that me getting Jack to hockey on time on a Saturday is a whole thing in and of itself.

Last Saturday, I had Jack in the locker room, all suited up, which is no small feat considering the amount of padding that is required to play hockey. As I was tying his skates, I handed him his helmet and told him to put it on, which he did. Then he promptly started screaming and took it off.

Now, although almost all of Jack’s gear is hand-me-down donated gear from the Cheetah equipment locker, I decided this fall that his head was very important, so I actually took him to a hockey store in August and got him fitted for a helmet, which I bought at full price and which Jack has been wearing all season so far. But even though he had worn it for many weeks, this day it was not to be.

“IT HURRRRRTS!” he yelled.

“Just put it on, Jack, and it will be fine in a minute,” I told him. I figured that once he got it settled on and positioned his ears and stuff, he’d be okay. Because that helmet is fine. He’s worn it all season and it is fine.

The helmet was not fine.

I tried so hard to get him to wear that helmet. I took it off and put it back on, but once his big fat tears started rolling down his cheeks, I knew our morning was not going to go as well as it had started.

I sat there with Jack as 7:45 came and went. He had the helmet on. He was fully dressed for hockey. My mother was visiting and was excited to see him skate. I had managed to get all three of us up, dressed, and to the rink on time. The very last thing I wanted to do was take off Jack’s gear and take him home.

But.

But I am teaching Jack to stand up for himself. I am teaching him to advocate for himself. I want him to be able to tell people when something hurts. I want him to be able to look a tough situation in the face, say “this is not okay,” and make people listen to him.

I can’t do that if *I* don’t listen to him.

The fastest way to undermine that lesson I’m trying to teach would be to disregard it when it was inconvenient to adhere to it.

I took a couple of moments to sit and breathe and watch Jack. Then I took the helmet off of his head and, even though I was frustrated and annoyed and mad and I’m sure Jack could see or sense that, I hugged and kissed him and told him to take off his gear.

We left the rink and went straight to the equipment locker so we could find a bigger helmet. I was still annoyed as hell, but I wanted Jack to know that I was proud of him for sticking up for himself even if he had upset me, so as we were stopped at a red light, I turned around, held his hand, and I told him explicitly that I was glad that he had done what he had done. I told him that if someone is doing something that makes him hurt that he should say no and that is what he did and I was proud of him for it.

Then I turned around and quietly seethed in the front seat.

When we got to the equipment locker, we proceeded to take part in the three bears version of hockey helmet fitting: This one is too big. This one is too little. This one makes me scream in pain.

Then, after a few minutes of this, Jack said, “I don’t need a different helmet. My old helmet fits fine.” Then he let me put it on him and he was all, “See? Perfect.”

Cue outer calm face and interior freak out.

We eventually determined that the helmet is usually okay, but that today it wasn’t. I get that. I understand why one week he could wear it with no problem but the next week it could be intolerable. I know it is the same head and same helmet, but sometimes it is just not the same sensation.

I ended up picking up a larger helmet to bring home with us. When Jack objected, asking why I would get another helmet when his is already perfect, I told him that I would adjust them both to where we could find one that works for him. I told him that we could put both helmets in his bag so if he has another week where his original (safer, newer, better fitted) helmet is too much for him, we will have a backup.

You should have seen the look on his face when I said that. It was sweet and calm and happy. He looked like he felt understood. We fist bumped and I said, “We’re a team, right?” and he smiled as he nodded and said yes.

Then, suddenly, our morning was all right again.

Yeah, That Toy Doesn’t Exist

Thank you all for your efforts with the Elemental Guardian. I am now convinced that the toy does not exist and that Jack had some kind of elaborate hallucination last week wherein someone brought in a Barbie and Jack’s brain turned it into the ultimate Hero Factory toy.

I would, however, like to thank all of you for your amazing google skillz. Seriously. You are phenomenal. Jack is very lucky to have all of you on his side. I can’t quite believe all the awesome stuff you found. I have no idea how you found them.

As for the $119 Transformers toy that looked a lot like what Jack was describing, but that was NOT what he was describing, but now he wants said Transformers toy? Well, that one is on me for being dumb enough to show it to him. Also he’s not getting it.

To thank you for all your hard work typing and clicking, I will give you this photo of spooning kittens.

tuxedo cat with front paw around black cat

Awwwwww! Kittens make everything better.

And then I’ll give you this other photo of the cats and gerbils during gerbil tank cleaning time.

three cats clustered around a small, plastic box holding three gerbils

So close and yet still so far.

Let’s all try to not notice that our couch is patched with brown duct tape, okay? It’s embarrassing enough without you pointing and laughing.

I hope the cats make you happy. Let me know if I can ever google something for you.