All the Fun Things, Wisconsin Version, Part I

Now that we’ve been home for a month, I think I’m just about ready to write about it. Finally. I am mostly doing this because the last time I told Alex I’d written a post he looked so hopeful and said, “About vacation?” so now I HAVE to write about it, but if you are interested in hearing aaaaaalllllllll about our vacation, please do follow along.

When last we left our intrepid vacationers, Team Stimey had arrived at the shore of the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Alex has a wonderful and generous aunt and uncle who have a home on the beach there and they were lovely enough to let us stay there. And when I say right on the beach, I mean Right On The Beach.

Photo of a sandy path leading down to an expanse of water. You can see three tiny shapes in the water.

I was right next to the porch when I took this photo of my munchkins in their happy place—a freshwater beach.

Alex and I were pretty happy there too.

Photo of Alex and I sitting on the beach smiling.

We were slightly more afraid of the freezing cold water than our children were.

Both of us did work our way up to swimming with the kiddos. I have to say that they’re a little more aggressive with their splashing and shoving around of my inner tube (with me in it) while humming Ride of the Valkyries than I would care for.

Photo of my feet hanging over the edge of my inner tube. All that is visible in the photo other than my fee it water aand sky.

I still got my chill on though.

We didn’t just do that though. We did everything that was fun. Really. Everything. See below.

Inner Tubes!

I mentioned that my children used me as a battering ram while I was trying to float around in my inner tube, but they were used for lots of other things as well. In an example of perfect synchronicity, our hosts had exactly three inner tubes, giving us plenty of opportunity to do tricks…

Photo of Alex holding an inner tube with Jack jumping through it.

Just like a porpoise!

lounge…

Photo of Jack wrapped in a towel and sitting in an inner tube on the beach.

Cozy.

carry them around…

Photo of Jack walking down the beach carrying an inner tube.

It was really nice of our hosts to have only photogenic water toys.

and be a vehicle for the Elusive Meowmere.

Photo of Jack lying stomach-down in an inner tube.

Or at least that is what Jack called himself. I’m not entirely sure what a Meowmere is, but apparently it is rare.

Cats!

Because we didn’t want to travel in a minivan full of five cats, three of whom don’t get along in an incredibly violent way, we had to leave our cats at home (and one at a boarding facility—see above about violence). Fortunately, our first destination came with a cat, because you really don’t want to go cold turkey on something like that.

Photo of a gray cat sitting next to Quinn's stuffed cat. Sam's head is poking in from the side.

Said cat did NOT care for Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo. Said cat hissed loudly at Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo and then didn’t go near it again.

Strawberry picking!

We headed to a pick-your-own strawberry field shortly after arriving, mostly as a cautionary tale for all the families with younger kids that were there.

Photo of Sam standing in a strawberry field.

Sam picked one strawberry at a time and then tossed them carelessly toward our collection box.

To the other families, we were all, “Here’s a grim vision of your future,” as Sam loudly told us how if he’d planned our vacation, we would have toured a series of Hot Topic stores in the northern Midwest instead of doing something ridiculous like picking fruit that he doesn’t even want to eat in the hot sun gawd mom you’re the worst.

And then Jack, in a move that really pleased every one of the young children quietly picking strawberries as well as their parents, put a strawberry in Alex’s pants and then announced loudly, “Dad! I put a strawberry in your pants!”

Photo of Quinn, Sam, Jack, and Alex in the field. Jack and Alex are squatting next to each other, but Alex is facing away from Jack.

See Jack eyeing Alex’s butt there? He had an agenda.

And then Alex took the strawberry out of his pants and put it in our collection box.

A grim, grim vision.

Quinn, the only one of our children who actually eats strawberries, worked hard to collect fruit.

Photo of a strawberry field with Quinn crouched in it.

He clearly sensed an opportunity to be “the good one.”

Assault!

Regardless of opportunities to humiliate their parents in front of their peers, the munchkins enjoyed their time at the beach more than anything—and not just for the swimming opportunities. It also gave them the opportunity to beat the shit out of each other.

Well. It gave Sam the opportunity to beat the shit out of Quinn’s head.

Seven different photos of Sam beating Quinn with an inner tube.

I kept trying to defend Quinn, but Quinn kept laughing and saying it was okay, so I was reduced to trying to tell Sam to just not whack him TOO hard in the head.

Fire!

Team Stimey doesn’t do vacations without fires, so it was fortunate for our hosts that they had a firepit so we didn’t have to burn their home down to make our s’mores.

Because we love fires so much, we make sure to practice vigilant fire safety.

Photo of Quinn by a metal-ringed firepit. He is very close to said firepit and is poking at the fire with a stick.

Like we didn’t let Quinn actually climb INTO the firepit.

Our first fire of vacation resulted in like, a hundred and eighteen photographs, including maybe the most emo photo I have ever taken or will ever take of Sam.

Photo of Sam with his hair over his half of his face ans looking sideways at the camera in a fire-glowing light.

Emo Sam says, “I feeeeeeeeeel things.”

Sometimes when you’re on vacation, you get sooooo relaxed that it is hard to maintain verticality.

Photo of Jack lying on his side wrapped in a blanket in the sand and the glow of the fire.

Can’t…muster…will…to…do….anything…but…eat…s’mores…please…prepare…one…for…me…

Grandma!

One of the benefits of vacationing in Wisconsin is that the kiddos get to spend a few days with their grandma, whom they adore.

Quinn sitting by the fire with Alex's mom.

Super cozy!

Mockery!

My little punk asshole of a kid not only took my spot and refused to get up, but he also made fun of me as he did it. Jerk.

Photo of Quinn sitting in a chair under a blanket, holding a book, and drinking a soda.

He was all, “Can you bring me another Diet Coke?” Jackass.

And the rest of the jerks in my family laughed and laughed and laughed.

Independence Day!

I know it doesn’t seem like we should have been on vacation on July 4th what with me just writing my recap now, but it’s true. The great thing about being on a vacation in a small town on the 4th is that you get to experience a Small Town Fourth™. We headed down to downtown Sheboygan to eat dinner by the waterfront where there were to be fireworks later that evening. In a happy cowinkydink, there was also a little carnival right there as well.

Photo of Sam and I. His head is on my shoulder.

You can’t tell from this photo, but this is Sam and I on a Tilt-a-Whirl before it started. I used to LOVE the Tilt-a-Whirl. Now it turns out that Tilt-a-Whirls nauseate me. Ask me how I know.

The kiddos really enjoy the carnival games where the carnies basically steal your money in exchange for letting you throw a projectile of some sort at a target. Sam and Quinn worked together to earn enough tickets to buy a gift for me just in case I was missing my cat Sharky.

Photo of Quinn holding a stuffed shark.

Finn spent the rest of vacation as our car dashboard lookout

Quinn had gotten a giant glow stick on the last day of school from a teacher and he carefully saved it for July 4th. Through some miracle, we remembered to take it on vacation and to the fireworks. The thing had a $1 price tag on it. Jack and Quinn played with it joyously, running around a field for a really long time. I need to buy more of those.

Photo of Quinn and Jack against a dark sky. They each have a hand on a large green glowstick raised above their head.

In rod we trust!

Sam also really loved the lead-up to the fireworks, actively participating in family activities and enthusiastically joining us in conversation—oh, wait.

Photo of Sam sitting in a dark field looking at his phone. The glow is lighting up his face.

Evidently this is the teenager version of a glow stick.

Cattails! Cows! Dead birds in the road!

The day after the fourth, our little cottage was a swirling sea of conflicting access needs, wherein Jack and Quinn were coming close to blows and Alex, who was trying to take a conference call, had that air about him that led me to believe if I didn’t take action that he would get in the car and drive away, abandoning his family for good.

Not wanting this to happen, I grabbed Quinn and headed out on a walk to see a pasture of cows I’d noticed on a run the day before. En route to said cows, we experienced ALL of rural Wisconsin.

We had a slow race with a tractor.

Photo of Quinn walking on the side of a road holding a cattail. In the background you can see a tractor.

It never caught us. But we didn’t catch it either.

We discovered what is inside cattails.

Photo of Quinn holding a cattail that he has broken open.

Regular ol’ plant innards.

We found a dead pigeon.

Photo of Quinn standing on a road looking at a dead bird.

Yep. Dead.

And then…the coup de grace…the cows.

Two photos 1) Quinn smiling happily 2)Quinn looking at a few cows.

I wish anything made me as happy as looking at cows makes Quinn.

On the way back, all we did was hitchhike.

Photo of Quinn with his thumb out next to a maroon van.

Fortunately it was our car.

German food!

Okay, so eating the German food was not super fun. I don’t know that eating German food is something I would want to do regularly. But! The waitress was telling us about some of the appetizers and she mentioned a giant pretzel and held her hands about a foot apart and Alex was all, “I don’t think we need that,” and I said, “No, no, no, we will be purchasing the giant pretzel,” and so we did and if you ask Jack what his favorite part of vacation was, he will say, “The giant pretzel.”

Giant pretzels!

Photo of a big pretzel with bowls of sauce on it.

Okay, it looks kinda big…

Photo of the pretzel. This photo includes Quinn in the frame, which shows how big the pretzel really is.

…okay, once you add Quinn for scale, THAT’S A GIANT PRETZEL!

It was super goddamn delicious too.

Concert/Embarrassing your first born!

I may have mentioned once or twice that Sam is super into music. One of his favorite bands is All Time Low and they happened to be opening for Blink-182 in Milwaukee when we were in Wisconsin. Sam convinced us to let him go and he decided that I should be the parent who took him.

Big mistake. Huge.

What’s worse than your mom going to a concert with you?

Photo of Sam and I in front of the venue. I have a big smile on my face and am giving an obnoxious thumbs up. Sam looks like he'd like to die.

This mom going to a concert with you.

I managed to calm down a little bit after that and worked hard on not embarrassing him too much. We ended up having a lot of fun at the concert, but I think I might have successfully gotten myself out of being the concert-attending parent.

Booze!

We drank all kinds of fun drinks on vacation. I’ve just really started to enjoy beer flights, partly because if you don’t like a particular beer, you can make your husband drink it and move on to another one and partly because you get to feel like a giant while you drink it.

Three photos 1) a beer flight 2) a fancy bloody mary 3) my beer and legs on the beach

I always really want to like Bloody Marys and I always end up disappointed. This one here was without a doubt the most beautiful drink I’ve ever had though.

Regarding that giant thing:

Photo of Alex drinking a beer from a big ceramic mug.

Normal-sized beer, normal-sized Alex.

But then…

Photo of Alex drinking a tiny glass of beer from a beer flight. Quinn is giving him bunny ears.

Tiny-sized beer, giant-sized Alex.

Goofing off!

IMG_6395

What? Were we supposed to abandon the leftover whipped cream just because we ran out of strawberry shortcake?

Family time!

IMG_6391

I guarantee you, there ain’t no five of us sitting around playing Yahtzee in Maryland.

Did I mention the beach?

My kids love the beach. My kids LOVE the beach. They played on the sand and in the water for hours and hours and hours. They were so purely happy that it made me so very happy just to watch them be happy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in the water right at the edge of the beach.

Quinn loves the water more than anyone.

Photo of Jack, Alex, and Sam building sand castles.

I don’t know what they like more—building sand structures or crushing sand structures.

Photo of my three kids running in the water.

I love how they all get along in the water. No bickering, just joy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in an inner tube and Jack standing behind it.

I don’t even know what they do out there. Sometimes Quinn just jumps up and down in the water. It’s weird and charming and totally happy.

Quinn drawing in the sand with a stick. He has written "save me."

Quinn brought home the stick he used to write this. It was one of his souvenirs. It’s in his room right now.

Photo of Jack in sun speckled water.

I just can’t get enough of photographing my kids in the water because they are so happy and beautiful.

These goofballs!

Selfie of all five of us in the water.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a selfie of five people while you’re floating in an inner tube in the bright bright sun? (Answer: hard.)

I’m going to stop here and continue the rest of our vacation tale in a subsequent post. I predict that will happen prior to Labor Day. Maybe.

Politicats

Today’s drawing assignment:

“Five cats are running for president of our house. Draw campaign posters for them.”

Jack’s poster:

Drawing of Sharky with red and blue writing that says, VOTE SHARKIE! followed by other printing that says, "You won't regret it! Not a lie, not a scam.

Seems legit.

Sam’s poster:

Picture of Ruby and some pyramids and lettering that says, "Ruby 2016 Vote Ruby for Dictator

This pretty much captures how Ruby would govern.

Quinn’s poster:

Drawing of a flag with a drawing of Oreo cat standing in front of it wearing a suit and featuring an orange combover. Text says, "vote Republicat Oreo Troomp. Make Ameowica great again."

Make Ameowica great again.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but Jack came up with it. He and Quinn made some campaign commercials as well. Those poor cats.

Landmines

Telling medical professionals that I am autistic is always really hard for me. Because I am so used to passing, it is something that not a lot of people would suspect about me and it is also something that some people downright disbelieve.

I started physical therapy for a running injury at the end of June and I was nervous about telling my physical therapist, but it seemed important to do so because the way I feel pain and sensation is directly related to my being autistic. I was super relieved when I told him and he said, “I wouldn’t have guessed that,” but then respectfully listened to my sensory perceptions. I was really happy.

Then that PT left for a different practice and I was transferred to a different PT and I was nervous all over again, but I told her and not only was she very respectful about it, she asked a lot of questions and seems to have kept it in mind in terms of her treatment.

Then I had an injury that required me to go see an orthopedist (or, as my sister likes to call them, an orthopod) and because I mostly wanted to (a) make sure I didn’t have a dire injury and (b) get a cortisone shot, I didn’t bother mentioning my autism because (1) it didn’t seem important and (2) I didn’t really want to dive into that particular minefield this morning, especially considering going to doctors is hard enough for a plethora of reasons.

But then he looked at my paperwork, which includes my place of employment and was all, “The Autistic Self Advocacy Network? I’ve never heard of them,” so I gave him my elevator speech about ASAN, including the information that I am autistic and he said…

“If you are autistic, you are very high functioning. I have a nephew who [does this negative thing and then these other negative things].”

*all the sads*

I don’t have a script to reply to that although I really should get one. If I’m autistic? Very high functioning with the implicit dismissal of my struggles and accommodations? A nephew whose frustrated actions are either this man’s vision of him or a conversational weapon to disprove me being autistic enough?

*ouch*

Fortunately that conversation was at the very end of the appointment because all of the emotions that hit me as I walked back to my car were crushing.

I was hurt by his flippant dismissal of me—really hurt.

I was upset that his reaction to my autism was to provide a counterpoint of “there are so many who are really affected.”

I was saddened that his nephew is having a hard time.

I resented the power differential that forces me to be deferential regarding my own lived experience with him because he is in charge of my medical care.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I hear this type of response all. the. time. This isn’t even the first time this has happened to me with a medical professional in the two and half years I’ve worked for ASAN. And I don’t go to doctors all that often.

To be clear, I know that there are many autistic people with many more support needs than me. I absolutely understand that I don’t understand fully what they are going through. I also know that I have a lot of things in common with them that may not be apparent to people who don’t know me well.

I just hate being so dismissed from my very real experience of autism because a doctor who has spent ten minutes with me has a different vision.

I walk through this minefield all the time.

Every time I tell someone I’m autistic I wait to see whether I will get hit with shrapnel. I have been lucky with a lot of people—and with the most important people, but that doesn’t make the explosion hurt any less when it does happen. Even small landmines are landmines.

WaaahunghblechWORST :)

I have all the depression about my running injury. I had been working hard in physical therapy and was slowly bringing my running up to a level where I was starting to do the long runs necessary to run my 20-mile race next month.

Then WHAM! BIFF! KABLOOEY!

Suddenly I have this sharp pain like someone is jabbing me in the upper hip every time my heel strikes the ground when I run. Literally nothing else I do creates that delightful jabbing, stabbing sensation—just the one thing I want to do.

I am super agitated about the whole thing.

I am continuing with PT and seeing my orthopedist on Tuesday. I’m hoping he’ll give me a cortisone shot—and, yes, I know that pain signifies something wrong and blah, blah, blah, but I just want the stabbing jabbing to cease so I can fucking run again and I am hoping that the doctor agrees with me that a big ol’ shot to the hip is the way to go.

So. I’m writing this not to get sympathy and not to make excuses and most certainly not to get advice. I am writing it because every time I think about it (read: every time I take a step, ow, ow, ow) I get sad and even more depressed.

I decided that my kids should bear the responsibility for lifting me out of my doldrums, so when I left for work today, I gave them their drawing assignment: “Something happy. Draw good.”

I’m pleased to report that they did, in fact, draw good, and in case you are in your own personal small emotional divot, I would like to share them for you.

Jack went the obvious route and drew “The King of Happy.”

A drawing of a green hill with a blue sky and a sun. Behind the hill is an orange ball with spiky hair and a kinda manaical smile.

I really enjoy the inside of Jack’s brain.

Quinn drew—as he almost always does—his cat, Oreo, but this time he made Oreo play Pokemon Go.

Drawing of green grass and a blue sky with his cat Oreo drawn in pencil and holding a rectangle that says "Pokemon Go."

Cats and Pokemon make me happy too.

Sam went simple, but lovely.

Drawing of concentric hearts in rainbow colors.

I asked Sam what his picture was about and he said, “Love.”

Love makes me happy too, Sam.

So, yeah, I’m still bummed out, but I have a plan and, more importantly, I have three kids who help me keep my eye on the happy things.

Remedies

It’s been a little bit of a frustrating weekend. Our refrigerator is beeping for no discernible reason. I can’t get some of the photos from my phone to upload to my computer no matter what I do. My running injuries that have been getting so much better have resurfaced. No one in my family will watch the Olympics with me. I can’t get my two white cats to pose together nicely for a photo regardless of how many cans of cat food I hold above my head.

Really, I have no shortage of frustrations.

(Mostly it’s the running injury thing. I am more depressed about that than I can properly express, but I can’t go into that right now. I just can’t.)

Anywho, what with avalanche of tiny slights that has enveloped me this weekend, I made an effort to balance it out by having fun with these hooligans:

Photo of my three kids sitting on a pipe in a green setting.

I am always trying to get a perfect photo of all three of them. I don’t think this qualifies as perfect, but it’s happy and that might be better.

Team Stimey went blackberry picking today because I wanted to eat blackberry crisp. (Well, I wanted to run 14 miles and then eat blackberry crisp, but things don’t always go as we hope.)

Four photos: 1. Jack and Alex picking berries 2. Quinn holding out a handful of berries 3. Sam leaning on a fence 4. a bucket of blackberries.

The great thing is that just about half of my family won’t eat blackberries, so five people pick and two and a half people eat.*

* Quinn is the half person. He kept talking about how delicious the blackberries were and how he’d forgotten that he liked them, but I was so busy picking berries that I didn’t see what Alex did, which is that Quinn kept putting them in his mouth and spitting them out. I think he was confused by sweet and tart.

It turns out that the farm where we picked our berries also had a pick-your-own-potato section and, bizarrely, picking his own potatoes is something Quinn has really been wanting to do. What a happy cowinkydink!

We followed the signs from the blackberry fields to the potato fields until we knew we were in the right place because we came across this adorable little sign indicating that—

Photo of a sign. It is a painting of a potato with arms and a face. It is holding a potato peeler in one hand and peeling a chunk off of its forehead. It's grim.

WHAT THE CHRIST IS THAT POTATO DOING TO ITSELF?!

Leaving the grim cartoon sign behind us, Quinn and Alex headed out into the tuber fields to dig themselves some taters.

Four photos: 1. Alex holding a shovel and Quinn squatting down holding a potato 2. Alex and Quinn both squatting and inspecting potatoes 3. Quinn using a shovel to dig 4. Quinn holding a potato and the plant from whence it had come.

Shortly after I took that photo in the upper right, Quinn took a bite out of a raw, dirty potato. As with the blackberries, he spit it out.

I’m still frustrated about my refrigerator, etc., but outings with my family go a long way in making things better. Especially when they end with blackberry crisp and ice cream.

Photo of the blackberry crisp I made today and the ice cream I served it with.

I’m going to eat it for breakfast tomorrow too.