Kitten #3

You will all be happy to know that the acquisition of Quinn’s kitten went smoothly today. THANK GOD. He was ecstatic when he found her after school. It was probably the peak of my parenting career. After all, how many opportunities do you have to present your child with a beloved and adorable baby animal?

There have been many names floated about for this animal: Fluffy, Mittens, Mustachio (yes, really; you’ll see why in a minute), and Fireball, but it looks as if Oreo is the name that might stick. Quinn has to make a final decision by tomorrow morning.

What do you think?

This cat is also ridiculously hard to photograph. Why couldn't someone pick out an orange cat for the love of God?

This cat is also ridiculously hard to photograph. Why couldn’t someone just pick out an orange cat?

And, yes, the mustache. Oh, God, the mustache. I die of cuteness a little each time I see it.

Back to School Photos, Now With 30% More Cats

My kids all had good first days of school. It all went so much more smoothly than I could ever have possibly hoped.

I have spent the entire evening filling out emergency contact forms for three children, at least one of which I’m sure I’m sending back to the wrong school (the form, not the child), so I’m done writing for the evening. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be a good parent blogger unless I posted these photos of my children.

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Kittens make getting up at 6:30 to get to middle school tolerable.

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Quinn was totally chill about going to school, which was a huge relief. He even came home happy, which was a huger relief. His only eccentricities today were that he insisted on wearing his backpack as a shield and wouldn’t let me take a picture.

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Jack and I get a lot of morning time together because his bus comes way after everyone else’s. I really like that time.

I love it when I hope for the best and prepare for the worst and I never have to use my preparations. Day One down. Onward to Day Two.

Do You Know What Is Cuter Than a Kitten?

Answer: THREE kittens.

We’ve been talking about getting some kittens for a while now. Our population of live-outside-a-tank pets has been dwindling and our kids are obsessed with cats, so we’ve been sort of waiting for the right time to go cat shopping.

We decided that Saturday was the day. The Washington Animal Rescue League was having an adoption event and they had kittens available, so we headed over there first thing.

We were looking for three kittens, so I made sure to tell the munchkins that we were probably coming home without cats because I was worried that we wouldn’t find the right cats or enough of them or the shelter staff would sniff out how…excitable we are and then all three of my kids would start sobbing in the shelter parking lot right there because of dashed expectations. Regardless, we were super hoping that we’d be coming home with some youngish cats.

Fortunately, we found three kittens that were the right kittens for us.

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Quinn is all, “You shall be mine!”

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Jack and his cat got lost in each other’s eyes.

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Sam bonded quickly with his kitty.

So, we were there, at the shelter, having promised our children their kittens, and the adoption counselor says that they normally only adopt out two cats at a time and is there a reason we need three? Then I had a minor stroke and managed to point at my kids and say, “Because there are three of them,” because oh my God, CAN YOU IMAGINE IF ONLY TWO OF THEM GOT CATS?

It would be like, “Sorry, Quinn, I know every other word out of your mouth for the past year has been meow, but we’ve decided, ‘NO CAT FOR YOU!'”

Like the Cat Nazi.

Fortunately, we were allowed our three kittens. We could only bring the two black ones home that day because the black and white one still has to be spayed. She should be coming home Tuesday.

I’ve been having nightmares that there is going to be some sort of fuck up and somehow we are going to end up without that cat. If that happens, I’m leaving for Mexico. I can’t possibly face Quinn after school on Tuesday unless I’m holding a small black and white kitten. Cross your fingers for us.

Awesomely, our cats were on sale. In terms of enjoyment time as it relates to money spent, these cats are probably the best deal I will ever get in my life. They were six dollars for one, two for ten. I am not kidding. My gerbils practically cost more than that.

I am well aware that most of these details are completely irrelevant to you because what you really want are photographs of kittens. Because, well, KITTENS.

Here I have to pause, bow my head apologetically, and tell you that black kittens are crazy hard to take pictures of, but I was vigilant and I finally got this one:

I have no idea which one is which in this photo, but OMG, look! Aren't they adorable?

I have no idea which one is which in this photo, but OMG, look! Aren’t they adorable?

I *could* show you numerous videos of the kittens, but they are all extremely long and a little shaky due to the multitasking of the cameraman.

Also, I didn't know it was possible to take an unflattering photo of a kitten, but damn if this goofy shot doesn't qualify.

Also, I didn’t know it was possible to take an unflattering photo of a kitten, but damn if this goofy shot doesn’t qualify.

Allow me to embiggen:

I cannot stop laughing.

I cannot stop laughing.

It seems unfair to introduce a kitten with that photo though, so I present to you the formal adoption photos of our two newest pets, brought to you by enduring patience and painstaking work lying on the floor and perched atop an armchair:

This is Jack's kitten, Starfire. She is all black but for that little white spot on her chest.

This is Jack’s kitten, Starfire. She is all black but for that little white spot on her chest.

This is Ruby, Sam's cat.

This is Ruby, Sam’s cat. This is also probably the cutest photo I will ever take.

Sam named his cat Ruby because he claimed she had red eyes. I am an excellent mother for agreeing to adopt what I just assumed was a demon red-eyed cat. Turns out she is just adorable.

My kiddos have been wonderful with the kittens. They’ve been so good about giving the cats their space and being gentle. Jack has even been carrying Starfire around the house explaining things to her. Alex overheard him talking to his cat when he was standing in front of the guinea pigs that we are pet-sitting right now.

Jack: “No, Starfire, these are not treats. These are guests.”

I wish I were as awesome as Jack.

I would also like to assure all of you that the gerbil tanks have lids that are tightly clamped down. We’re not going to have any gerbil treats either.

I can’t wait until all my kids head off to the first day of school tomorrow so that I can have the kittens all to myself. Nobody try to reach me. I’ll be petting cats.

Elementary School Open House and Why It Makes Me Hyperventilate

Yesterday, as this post title would lead you to believe, was open house at Jack and Quinn’s schools. It was, as this post title would also lead you to believe, hectic. Yeah, let’s go with hectic.

Here’s why:

1. Awesomely, both Jack and Quinn’s schools schedule their open houses for the EXACT SAME TIME. God, that’s so great.

2. Quinn is panicked—panicked—about going back to school. Like, sobbing meltdown panicked. You might be able to imagine how happy he was to go to open house today. I feel so bad for that kid. He is so freaked out. None of his good buddies are in his class, but the one kid he gets stressed out by will sit at his table. Good times. I cannot even imagine what Monday morning’s scene at the bus stop is going to be like and I have no idea how to make it better for him. I’m considering buying him a kitten. You think I’m kidding. I am not.

3. After we left Quinn’s school to drive to Jack’s school, Quinn was more relaxed. Sam and Jack, who were trapped in the back seat together, were not. It probably took 20 minutes to drive to Jack’s school, which, it turns out, is plenty of time for the two of them to bicker endlessly, each “accidentally” scratch the other one, and for both of them to shriek shrilly at each other for sustained periods of time. I could have dealt with the situation better than I did, but pulling the car over dramatically and gesticulating wildly at my kids had an effect.

4. Jack’s bag of school supplies exploded, leaving me to leak a trail of glue sticks and highlighters as we trudged into his school.

5. Jack’s school visit went pretty well. He got to see his good friend who is in his class and he seems so at home in his classroom, which is the same as last year. We did lose one of our favorite paraeducators to another classroom (boo!) and her replacement hasn’t been hired yet, which seems problematic considering school starts Monday.

6. This one requires a back story: Sam was considering taking a language this year and was going to choose French. I thought he should take Spanish because so many people in our area and worldwide speak that language. I may or may not have uttered the phrase, “French is useless,” meaning there are are many fewer countries where French is the language of record. (Apologies to Francophiles; I am prone to hyperbole.)

Jack’s school has a French immersion program. We were walking down the hallway after talking to a couple of French teachers who will teach (in English) a couple of Jack’s inclusion subjects. A school staff member was just ahead of us as Sam busted out with, “MOM!”—and yes, he spoke that loudly—”MOM, REMEMBER WHEN YOU TOLD ME FRENCH WAS USELESS?”

“Oh my God, Sam, I didn’t say that,” I responded lied, noting that the staff member was totally listening.

“YES YOU DID,” he said, even louder. “REMEMBER WHEN YOU TOLD ME THAT FRENCH IS USELESS?”

“SAM, don’t say that here IN FRONT OF PEOPLE,” I hissed.

At this point the woman turned around and was all, “I hear you,” and then joined in with Sam in mocking me and I probably turned bright red and kept insisting that that IS NOT WHAT I SAID, STOP IT, SAM, STOP IT RIGHT NOW, and then I punched him in the arm to get him to shut up, but that didn’t work and instead he started yelling that I’d hit him and I looked even worse.

If that was even possible.

Sam was completely delighted by the situation.

7. My own damn mother, who is in town for a brief visit, was all, “Huh. I thought I had an idea of what it’s like to do these things with your kids, but when I’m with you, I see how really difficult it is.” I’m not sure how to take that.

And those are only the highlights. See? Hectic. How was your open house?

Wisconsin Dells, a.k.a. The Weirdest Place in Wisconsin

After Team Stimey relaxed on the beach, we headed to the least relaxing place in the state of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Dells.

I had no idea what to expect when Alex suggested we go to Wisconsin Dells. Now that I’ve been there and gone, I still don’t really know how to describe it.

It's...TOP SECRET. (Or an excuse to post a cute photo of Jack.)

It’s…TOP SECRET. (Or an excuse to post a cute photo of Jack.)

I guess it’s like a little resort town with a lot of waterparks and some amusement parks and then every little money-grubbing business (think t-shirt shops, go-karts, haunted houses) you could possibly think of—all housed in a series of increasingly bizarrely themed buildings.

weird buildings

My favorite is the Trojan Horse. You could drive go-karts between the legs.

We got to the Dells in the evening, so our first night we just drove through town and gawked at all the weirdness. I’m not going to lie; it stressed me out a little. Then, the next morning, we walked past two different rude people who stared blankly at Jack after he asked them a question and then we wandered into the horribly packed breakfast buffet line at our resort and I started to freak out.

I did not like the Dells in those moments. I started to panic a little. I was trying to figure out how to ask Alex if we could check out a day early and head to our next, quiet, isolated destination early. We hadn’t even been to a waterpark yet and I was already trying to find a way to get out of dodge. That town was every kind of stimulating—and not in a charming way.

It was raining our first morning there, so we headed out into the town instead of the waterpark. We started by going through a couple of those weird little tour buildings you see in the photo above. Quinn agreed to go through the first one with us, only to PANIC and refuse to walk once we were deep inside the building, leaving he and I separated from our group in the dark. I’m sure that the group knew where we were though. You know. Because of the screaming.

Once we (finally) made it outside, we didn’t force Quinn to go through any more of those buildings. We did make things better by riding some go-karts and getting some ice cream. Those things almost always make things better. We had plans to go to our hotel’s indoor waterpark in the afternoon but we decided to go on a tour of the actual dells of the Wisconsin Dells first.

See, the Dells are (is?) “a scenic glacially formed gorge that features striking sandstone formations along the banks of the Wisconsin River.” At least that is what Wikipedia tells me.

In other words, this.

In other words, this.

We decided that the best way to see the Dells would be by boat. Then we decided that the best way to see the Dells by boat would be in a JET BOAT.

(We were right.)

Quinn, who fears the unknown, was surly during the waiting at the boat depot, the shuttle bus ride to the dock, the waiting on the boat for the tour to start, and the first couple of minutes of the tour.

That kid always let you know exactly how he feels.

That kid always let you know exactly how he feels.

Then, a couple minutes after leaving the dock, the boat driver cranked some Flo Rida, shouted, “Hang on, hang on, hang on!” and gunned the boat, sending us flying down the river and ending with a huge splash and a spin.

Quinn spent about 30 seconds trying to retain his Grumpy Face until he just gave into the fun.

This is his Not Grumpy Face.

This is his Not Grumpy Face.

That Jet Boat ride was worth every single damn penny that we spent on it. All five of us ended up soaking wet, disheveled, and completely happy. To this day, Alex and I will randomly exclaim, “Jet Boat!” just because it was the awesomest of the awesome.

It was still kind of rainy, so we headed to our resort’s indoor waterpark, which was exactly the circle of hell that you would imagine it to be. Our kids had a fantastic time but I just about had an aneurysm trying to make sure everybody was safe. That lazy river just about killed me. Jack jogged around the thing looking for a tube to sit in and I chased him, but he is smaller, nimbler, and more fleet of foot than I am, so while he sprinted around the river, I got bumped and shoved and my feet torn up.

I was really happy to go to the outside waterpark the next day for the mere fact that it wasn’t steamy and echo-y there. All of our kids swam in the pool and went on some of the slides, but Jack was a monster. He loved the slides—the scarier the better.

Trust me, nothing will make you feel like a wuss faster than watching your 10-year-old plummet down a slide and then realize you want desperately to back out, but you will not just have to take the reverse stair climb of shame if you wimp out, but you will also lose said brave child when he runs off to find some other dare devil activity.

Wanna see brave? Rumors were circulating that riders went 40mph on this slide. And when you’re sitting at the top with your arms and ankles crossed, it looks like it goes almost straight down. It was terrifying.

There was also this other slide that was shaped like a half-pipe. This one was also nearly straight down but you went on a tube. Jack loved this one too, but I took video of Sam and Quinn on a double tube.

Alex went down this twice. The second time, he almost fell off the tube. It was hilarious. Quinn was watching and said, “Dad is steering his tube!” and I was all, “That man is NOT in control of his tube.” He almost fell off the tube on his way back down the other side of the pipe too.

Did I mention? Hilarious.

After all of the danger, Algernon had to relax with a well deserved daiquiri.

He spends a lot of time at the bottom of my bag, but when I pull him out, I treat him right.

He spends a lot of time at the bottom of my bag, but when I pull him out, I treat him right.

The problem with having a kid (Jack) who has a terrific memory is that he’ll see a storefront and then remember for the rest of time that he wanted to go there. That is how we ended up at a “mining” company after we checked out of our hotel the following day.

They call it mining, but it was really more like rinsing.

They call it mining, but it was really more like rinsing.

The munchkins were pretty happy about this whole stop. Next time they’re bored, I might put all their finds in a bucket of dirt and tell them to sift it out again. They were super excited when the gem expert told them what gems they had found. Then they bought glass gems and other rocks that were really shiny. Because…shiny.

The munchkins thank you, C. This is what they bought with their souvenir money. They are delighted.

The munchkins thank you, C. This is what they bought with their souvenir money. They are delighted.

Our last stop before hitting the road was this place called Wizard Quest. All of the kiddos are nerdlingers and love wizards and such, so this place where you tried to figure out clues and stuff to solve a quest seemed right up their alley.

Plus, how could we resist this animatronic dragon outside?

Plus, how could we resist this animatronic dragon outside?

I had done a little research online and knew that there were two quests, one substantially harder than the other. I tried to convince Alex that we should do the easier one, but he was all, “That’s stupid. We should do the hard quest. How hard could it be?”

I think we all know the answer to that.

This is back near the beginning when we'd only been there a few minutes and we didn't want to kill ourselves.

This is back near the beginning when we’d only been there a few minutes and we didn’t want to kill ourselves.

The quest was pretty fun. We were supposed to find answers to questions hidden in the tunnels and mazes and nooks and crannies all over the building. My favorite part was the mirror maze, not because I kept saying excuse me to the jerk in the orange shirt who wouldn’t get out of my way only to discover that she was me, but because I got to watch both Jack and Quinn separately run full-speed into mirrors.

The problem is that Alex was actually trying to solve the quest, which had a 90-minute time limit. We did not make the time limit. To his credit, Alex neither shouted at nor jumped over the counter at the unconcerned teenager behind the front desk at minute 92 after he’d been kicked off of the quest computer more than once, but he has said things that included phrases like, “burn the whole place to the ground” and “worst place in the world.”

I’m pretty sure he was kidding. He seemed to be having a good time for most some of the quest.

Fresh from the outrage of the difficulty of the Wizard Quest and with my “I told you so”s ringing in everyone’s ears, we headed off to our final vacation destination, which I will probably tell you about later.

Ultimately, even though my first instinct was to cut and run when we arrived at the Dells, we ended up having a really good time. That Jet Boat alone was worth the whole three days. Also, more importantly than pretty much anything, all three of my kiddos had a blast. They are going to remember this vacation for a long time.

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And, honestly, so will I.

(Jet Boat!)

Millie-wah-kay

Hello, friends! I do believe I am just baaaaarely recovered enough from my vacation to tell you about my vacation. Just have a seat and I will pull out my slide wheel.

We drove to Wisconsin for our vacation. That is where Alex hails from and he has family up there and memories and fun places to stay, so that is one of our regular vacation haunts. This year, our time in Wisconsin was split into three sections: a Lake Michigan beach stop, Wisconsin Dells, and a few days in a cabin on a small lake in the woods just south of Lake Superior. It’s a pretty cool trip.

We spent the days of our first third of vacation at Alex’s aunt and uncle’s house on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, which was close to our hotel in Milwaukee, or “Millie-wah-kay,” if you prefer.

I have lots of stories from vacation, but not a lot from this first stop because the whole time we were there, it was like this:

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IMG_0923Or this:

IMG_0890Which led to this:

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Quinn’s sensory needs are different than mine.

Even Algernon was pretty boring while we were there.

No worries. We covered him in sunscreen.

No worries. We covered him in sunscreen.

Not a lot went down other than relaxing on the beach.

We did take some time out to do things like roast s’mores. Alex even bought some fancy s’mores cooker in a gas station and spent a good chunk of time making fun of the directions attached to it.

Evidently the first thing you have to do to cook over a fire is start a fire. Who knew.

Evidently the first thing you have to do to cook over a fire is start a fire. Who knew?

Making fun of the directions was hilarious right up until it became evident that we might have needed to actually read them.

It turns out that you shouldn't place the marshmallows directly on the s'mores cage.

It turns out that you shouldn’t place the marshmallows directly on the s’mores cage.

Regardless, the s’mores were much appreciated.

IMG_0992There was also a flock of seagulls that patrolled the beach. We enjoyed them a whole lot because we are the kinds of people who feed wild birds.

IMG_1037We’re also the kind of people who eat the bread we buy to feed to the birds.

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At least some of us are.

We are also the kind of people who will find one bird in a group and assign it the title of “Jerkiest Bird on the Beach.”

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We were totally right about this guy though.

SEE?!

Attack from above!

Attack from above!

Even Alex managed to get some solid relaxation time in.

The man builds a hell of a sand castle city.

The man builds a hell of a sand castle city.

In my next post we will discuss Wisconsin Dells and the overstimulation that lay within. Until then, imagine us in Team Stimey’s collective happy place, which is this small but fantastic stretch of beach just outside Milwaukee.

Happy place.

Happy place.

* Thank you to C&D for letting us hang out. It was wonderful to see you! You too, other C! :) *

Team Stimey is Home From Vacation!

We had an amazing trip and I have many wonderful stories to tell you. (Prepare yourself for a 36-part series.) That said, my family spent the past two days in a minivan driving from northern Wisconsin to Maryland, so I’m not all that much in the mood for writing. Or, frankly, doing anything more than either staring blankly at a wall or sleeping.

Never fear though. I still have time to make fun of myself before I go hide in my bedroom.

We were out of town for almost two weeks. I took more than a thousand photos, including nearly fifty of a stuffed mouse. I even took a few self-portraits.

You might be able to guess how many photos of me taken by another person are in that mix. Let’s just say that if I ever have to prove to anyone that I was on this vacation, there are slim pickings.

Naturally, the first photo of me captures the *exact* moment that I inflicted pain on one of my children. Alex couldn’t have planned this photo if he’d wanted to.

He had a sunburn on that shoulder. I know. I let my kid get sunburned. I bear that shame too.

He had a sunburn on that shoulder. I know. I let my kid get sunburned. I bear that shame too.

Parenting is just one rewarding experience after another, isn’t it?

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that the other photo that Alex took of me is this one:

He had it coming.

He had it coming.