Standard Transition Home Post

Team Stimey has arrived back home from vacation. Well, actually, we got back last weekend, but I’ve been a little discombobulated what with reentry to life and all, so I haven’t had a chance to write yet.

Two photos (1) Alex pushing a hotel luggage cart packed full of bags, pillows, sweatshirts, and backpacks (2) Jack carrying two empty soda cups and Quinn carrying his stuffed cat.

Checking out on our final day of vacation. I like this juxtaposition of what Alex had to drag to the car and what the younger children dragged to the car. Me, I carried my camera.

I have so many things to say about our vacation, but you know me and you know that it will take me some significant time to get a post together about it. That said, it’s always kind of weird to just transition from Vacation Posts to Home Posts without a transitional We Got Home Post, so this is that.

Our Wisconsin trip was really as close to perfect as you can get. We had lots of time to relax, but found enough fun things to do to keep us busy. We had enough cellphone reception and occasional wifi to keep us connected, but not enough to keep us from spending our evenings reading and at campfires.

It was warm enough to swim every day and not rainy enough to keep us from doing things, but it wasn’t this HOLY HELL WHAT TEMPERATURE IS THIS?! that Washington, DC evidently suffered through at the same time. We had plenty of family time and togetherness and bonding, but our kids are old enough that we didn’t have to spend every second on top of them.

We really couldn’t have asked for anything better. I mean, except for the fact that Alex started an affair with a cartoon on this trip.

Two photos: (1) Pokemon Go camera shot of Alex in bed with his arm around Pidgey (2) Pokemon Go camera shot of Alex at a bar with a margarita and Pidgey with a daiquiri

Every time I turned around, that fucking Pidgey was there.

The great thing about arriving home to Casa Stimey is that there were so many welcoming faces there to greet us. On our way home we picked up Ruby the cat at her boarding facility for furious felines and then drove home to hug our less angry cats there. There is also one remaining gerbil that I’d stashed at a friend’s house because I didn’t want him to die on my house sitter’s watch. I figured my friend was more emotionally prepared to deal with the death of an elderly gerbil, so I saddled her with that responsibility.

Photo of a white gerbil lying on his side looking dead.

He survived, although you wouldn’t know it from this photo.

Thanks to all of you for following along on my Facebook page. It was really fun to share our vacation with you. I fully understand how lucky I am to be able to take such a cool vacation with such a kickass family and I appreciate you sort of coming along with us.

#TheStimeysGoToWisconsin

Team Stimey is on vacation right now. Today was our first full non-travel day and it has been lovely. The last week, however, was HECTIC. Sam had camp that required, like, two hours of driving each day, Alex and I both had to fit in work, we all had various appointments, we couldn’t depart for vacation until after Sam’s 6pm on Friday concert…it was a rough week.

All of that resulted in us cramming the entirety of our vacation prep into Thursday evening and then two hours on Friday afternoon. We had most of our stuff packed by 2:30 or so on Friday. I left to drop Ruby off at her vacation spa (still can’t leave her unattended with the kittens—Ruby wants to DESTROY the kittens), which was a full half-goddamn-hour away. Alex used the time to frantically bake cookies.

Because we’re Team Stimey and we needs us some cookies.

Quinn sharpened lots of pencils for his drawing, I stacked rows of cat food and bowls for our housesitter, and Jack ate some cookies. We all did our part. Then we hit the road.

Photo taken of the interior of our car and showing Jack, Quinn, me, and also Alex with a goofy smile on his face.

We were ready for vacation! (As soon as we drove an hour to Sam’s camp. And then spent an hour listening to his concert. And then attending the post-concert reception. And then dropping off his bassoon with a friend to keep it safe.)

Sam kinda won the vacation prep lottery in that he had a really good excuse to not participate in any of it. But he did have to learn to play several songs on his bassoon, so he’s excused.

Sam behind a music stand poised to play his bassoon.

He was really good. One of his pieces moved Alex so much that he cried tears. Real tears.

Then we started the long, hard slog that is driving from Maryland to Wisconsin, by way of a stopover in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Do you know how long it takes you to get from Maryland to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio when you leave at 8pm on a Friday night?

Photo of the interior of my car. All three of my kids are flopped over asleep.

This long.

Alex drove the whole way. I defensively fell asleep for about an hour, not necessarily because I was tired, but because I didn’t want to be awake in the world anymore.

We pulled into our hotel at 1:18 in the morning, which is when I took the above photo. Not ten minutes later, Jack was in the hotel lobby leading a conversation about the original NES versus modern video game systems with the two desk clerks and the cop who was stationed in the lobby for some troubling reason. I really do enjoy that kid.

We all fell into bed, which felt really good. When we work up the next morning, we realized that we had the most scenic hotel in the entire world, what with this view out our window:

Photo of a river and a small waterfall.

It was hard to take a decent photo through the glass. Sorry.

I wanted to go on a run and the kiddos wanted to go swimming, which worked out well. I asked the waiter at breakfast if there was a walking or running path along the river and he told me there was a boardwalk just out the front door and to the right.

I headed out, found the boardwalk, and ran 0.12 miles until it ended. I’m not entirely sure the waiter understood what I wanted out of said path.

I continued running along the river, first on a sidewalk, then through a parking lot, and suddenly into a tire yard with no exit. Troubling.

I turned back the way I’d come and ran back past the hotel. At just about two miles I ran out of sidewalk and was going to go back to the hotel when I saw a trail and decided to run down it. I am so glad I did.

That trail was so quiet and pretty. It ran along the river, but above it atop a steep embankment. There were rock walls and trees and small waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to run far longer than I had time for, so I really tried to take it all in during the short time I had.

Two photos: 1)  a selfie of me on the ttrail 2) the trail with a rock wall on one side.

It was so pretty.

And then I tripped on a rock and took three or four giant steps to save myself from falling and almost flew right off the trail and down the slope. Which is why I don’t trail run in my normal life. I am a danger to myself and those around me.

Eventually I turned around and during my run back to the hotel on a flat, well-maintained sidewalk, I took a huge fall smack onto the sidewalk and the dirt beside it.

I am so embarrassing.

The rest of the day is a haze of bathroom stops and gazing out the car window. At one point Alex was all, “I forget how far away Wisconsin is.”

Ya think?

We didn’t arrive until almost 9 at night and it is a huge credit to my kiddos that they were such troopers and did so well. We are staying at a relative’s house on the shore of Lake Michigan, which is so wonderful. We took a quick trip down to the beach and then tossed everyone into bed. Although because Jack and Quinn had to share a bed, measures had to be taken.

Photo of a bed. There is a folded up blanket dividing it in two.

We had to establish a border. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

It was all pretty worth it though. Today was kind of a perfect day. I intend to tell you more about it, but for now, I’ll give you my kids when they first hit the beach in their swimsuits this morning. There was all kinds of joy and that kind of happiness out of my kids will always be worth the hassle of a long road trip.

Photo of a sandy path down to a beach where you can see three small silouhettes against the expanse of Lake Michigan behind them.

Pure happiness, Wisconsin-style.

You Might Not Want to Come to My House For a While

About four years ago, I purchased a praying mantis egg sac for my family. Things went well. They hatched, we released them into our backyard, and we even saw grown up manti* in our garden, like a year later. Success!

But then we moved and our new home had no mantids.

*sad face*

Alex asked me to procure another egg sac so we could populate our new garden with mantises and only remembering the cute little babies from last time, I eagerly looked up Insect Lore and made my second lifetime purchase of an egg sac.

We put the egg sac in its little net and hung it from a window. Then, much like last time, the egg sac just sat there until I became convinced it was a dead sac. It had been hanging below the window and I thought that maybe if it were in the sun, it might hatch better. For reasons that were logical at the time but disastrous in hindsight, I ended up turning the little habitat upside down in the windowsill.

Say what you will, but it seemed to have worked. The next day, Alex and I came home from a trip to the farmers’ market to find a net full of manti.

Photo of a net enclosure with a solid green top filled with with many small praying mantises.

Us: Oh cool! The mantes hatched!

But then we saw what was behind the little habitat.

Photo of a window sill covered in baby praying mantises.

Us: Oh shit! The mantids escaped!

I think you can picture what happened next. Whatever you are imagining though, you should add Alex loudly blaming me and me quietly coming to the realization that *I* had released dozens of tiny, vicious insects into my home.

See, when I turned the habitat upside down, I neglected to notice that the bottom, where the egg sac was supposed to sit, was solid. And the top, where the egg sac had come to rest when I turned it upside down, was mesh.

I had only one question, which was, “Why would you make and sell a praying mantis egg sac container THAT ALLOWS PRAYING MANTIS BABIES TO ESCAPE WHEN A DIPSHIT TAKES CARE OF THEM?” I mean, really. I can’t be the first person to turn that fucker upside down.

Alex, on the other hand, was FULL of questions, but they all sounded like, “WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY?! WHY?! JEAN, WHY?!”

There were so many manti. So, so many.

And they were EVERYWHERE.

We freaked out for a little while about how to get them back into their net without releasing the other billion mantis that had compliantly stayed in their intended home. Fortunately, we’re also raising butterflies and our caterpillars hadn’t yet moved to their larger net, so we put the mantes’ net inside the butterfly net and Alex set to work catching the baby manti one by one with an index card and carefully placing them in the butterfly net.

Photo of Alex trying to pick up mantises with his index card.

In case you’re wondering why we didn’t just open the window and shove them out, (a) it was supposed to freeze that night and Alex was all, “If we put them outside, they’ll diiiiiiiieeeee and (b) that window apparently doesn’t open.

Alex sucked at that, by the way.

I stood nearby taking photos and telling Alex what a terrible mantis catcher he was as he continued to say, “WHY, JEAN?! WHY?!”

I tried to point out the silver lining that since we now had praying mantes living in the house, we would never have spiders again and Alex was all, “Yeah, we’ll have far more terrifying insects living here.”

Photo of two praying mantis babies. The one on the window is not in praying posture.

Until they become terrifying, they’re super cute though. Just look at them. Although when I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend pointed out that the one on the window is an athiest.

Eventually I took over mantis duty and, caring slightly less than Alex about their little lives, was far more efficient in escorting them to their new habitat.

For the rest of the day I felt like they were on me. And, different than most every other time I have screamed, “ARE THEY ON ME?! I THINK THEY’RE ON ME!” they probably fucking were.

After we had everyone with six legs (or at least most of them) contained, we showed the children the miracle of mantis birth. Or tried to. Some of our kids wanted nothing to do with them. Alex started telling them about the great escape before I shushed him. He then altered course.

“Quinn, if the manti had escaped in the house, would you want to know about it?” he asked. Quinn’s response was swift and vociferous: “NO.”

I guess he wants to be surprised in a few months when a fully grown praying mantis jumps out at him from our coat closet. More power to him.

 

* There seem to be several ways to pluralize “mantis.” I prefer “manti,” because it’s fun. My editor friend swears it is “mantids,” which is also great. I found a website that listed the plural form from different dictionaries that also suggested “mantises,” “mantes,” or even “mantis,” which is the exact same word as the singular. I have decided to use all these terms completely interchangeable because that amuses me.

Grand Theft Grocery

It’s possible you don’t fully understand Alex and my grocery store thing. We may not go to a lot of fancy dinners or movie dates, but every single weekend, the two of us go to at least one grocery store together and make assholes out of ourselves. It’s kind of like our weekly date.

For example:

Screenshot of Alex standing at a grocery store self checkout with the caption, "I just watched the most hilarious, frustration-fueled episode at the grocery self-checkout that I have ever seen. I took this photo after Alex froze the computer by vigorously stabbing the screen with his finger after repeatedly seeing the "unexpected item in the bagging area" message but before he knocked over the chip shelf to his left. Also before the cashier there was all, "I've never seen--" but stopped herself when she realized she was about to be insulting to a customer. I've never laughed so hard in a grocery store in my life. It would have been even better if I hadn't had ice cream at risk."

This particular date to the grocery store was epic, like attending a ball or something.

This weekend, however, I had plans that conflicted with grocery shopping. When I told Alex, he got a sort of panicked look on his face and said, “That means…I’m going to have to go to Whole Foods by myself.”

By all reports, it did not go well.

Evidently, Alex wandered away from his cart for a few moments to pick up some items, came back to his cart, and wheeled it away. He shopped for several more minutes, putting things into the cart until he looked down and realized…

It wasn’t his cart.

Goddamn, I love that guy.

So instead of taking the cart back to where he found it, he looked around furtively, carefully picked his stuff out of the cart and backed slowly away from it, returning to the scene of the crime, where he reclaimed his untouched cart, put his stuff in it, and carried on with his shopping.

He at least had the decency to feel bad about it.

Screen shot of text messages from Alex. They read: I stole someone's cart. I found my cart. I just abandoned the cart I found. It was full of stiff. I think I left stuff on the leer. I'm a bad person.

I still don’t know what that penultimate message was supposed to say. I think he was having a panic attack.

Therefore, even though the two of us are terrible at the store together, it turns out that we’re even worse alone. Or at least Alex is.

Captain Stimey: Lord of Boring

Hi, friends! I’ve been doing a terrible job of writing twice a week, but I have a perfectly cromulent reason and that is because I have not a lot going on.

Pretty much all I do these days other than parent and go to work is run. Based on the way Alex’s eyes glaze over when I detail my runs to him, mile by mile, I’m starting to think that juuuust maaaaybe the minutiae of my runs is less interesting to non-Stimey individuals. I’m really just looking out for you by not writing about it.

Buuut…I’m a runner and evidently it’s a rule of running that you have to write about your training or it didn’t happen. This was a tough week for it though. On Sunday, I ate a lot of cheese and then went running, which isn’t the greatest combination. The next day, Quinn informed me that I had been “crabby” after my run and that I had been suffering from “cheese fatigue,” and now that’s a Thing at my house. Also, I learned not to eat a lot of habanero colby cheese before lacing up.

I also took two runs in the rain, which was actually kind of refreshing. I took one of those rain runs around Jack’s school before I picked him up from an after-school activity. On the way home we saw this other guy out running. I was all, “Huh, Jack, I thought I was hardcore for running in the heavy rain until I saw that guy pushing a double stroller, running uphill.” Jack stopped, looked at the guy, checked my jacket and long pants, and agreed, “Yeah, and he’s only wearing shorts and a t-shirt.”

Nothing like kids to keep you humble.

Photo of me after a run. I'm wet and wearing a green visor from which you can see water dripping.

I took this picture on my less rainy run to show my mom how awesome I was for going running in the rain. I’m not sure she was totally as impressed as I’d hoped.

Then today I ran 9.17 miles and, yes, I’m going to be that precise because those last couple miles I fought for every one of those hundredths of a mile. Also, I live at the top of a hill, so every single run I take that ends at my house finishes with a half mile up a fucking hill. It sucks. But it’s making me tough, I guess.

^ And that was me NOT talking about running. Consider yourselves lucky.

Hmmm. What else? Oh! Oh! A while back I started reading the Game of Thrones series and I am happy to report that I finished the first book today. Do you know how long it takes to read an 807-page book in 25-minute increments on the Metro to and from work?

*searches Facebook to see how long ago she posted about starting to read the series*

Oh, God. It took four months. Well now I’m embarrassed.

Screenshot of my November 7 Facebook status. It is a photo of "A Game of Thrones." The text is "I've made the decision to start reading the Game of Thrones series. It feels like a big commitment--like, I chose to get married, I chose to have kids, I chose to commit myself to 5,000 pages of reading material. ‪#‎stillhaventwatchedthetvshow‬ ‪#‎iamonpage13‬ ‪#‎seeyouinsixmonths‬"

Guess I was overly optimistic.

I’m loving it though. I just need to figure out how to sit down with a book on my lap without falling asleep. It doesn’t matter what book it is, if I sit down and stare at a page, I fall asleep.

Oh! So, I know this is about a decade later than everyone else in America, but my family has started shopping at Whole Foods. See, I made the mistake of watching a documentary about the food production industry and I started feeling really bad about the farmers and the animals. It was like a repeat of when I read Fast Food Nation a decade ago, but now we can afford to buy meat from farmer’s markets and Whole Foods, so that’s what we started doing.

I mention this not to be all, “I AM A GOOD PERSON,” but instead to be like, “ALEX AND I ARE NOT GOOD AT CHANGE.”

On our first dual trip there, we seriously had a whisper-shouted fight between the dairy and meat sections because we were so overwhelmed by the unfamiliar foods and the packaging with its muted colors and the damn omelet bar in the deli section. If you were at the Rockville Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day, we were the couple that nearly had a fist fight and abandoned a cart next to the chicken refrigerator.

Well. This has turned into kind of an embarrassing post. And that’s without even mentioning my trip this morning to get my driver’s license renewed only to find out that said license is good until 2021 and it’s actually Alex that needs to renew his.

I think I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more or bore you more. Captain Stimey, signing off.

Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.

Christmas Prep, 14 Years Later

Fourteen years ago, Sam was two months old and Alex and I were looking to do Santa right. We spent significant brain power making sure that he had the best first visit with Santa possible. We checked with all the parents we knew to find out which Santa was The Best Santa and we ended up driving, like, an hour away to a mall where we had heard that The Best Santa worked.

We dressed Sam in a powder blue one-piece sweater and coordinated our visit with his naptime to ensure the best possible photo.

I wish I had the photo handy. It was adorable.

Also, that visit was pretty much meaningless to Sam.

This past weekend, we stopped our three visibly dirty children in the middle of a front-lawn wrestle match to stuff them in the car and take them to Santa, complete with dirt stains and twigs in their hair.

Things change.

Photo of my three kids sitting on Santa's lap. It's an okay photo.

It’s cute, but not powder blue sweater onesie cute.

It’s a trip to think of everything that has changed over the past fourteen years. One of those changes is definitely a willingness to let little things like perfection in Santa photos go.

In addition to our annual visit to Santa last weekend, we also made our annual visit to the local rescue squad that sells us our Christmas tree. Because we like to do things wrong, we arrived at the tree lot well before they opened for the day.

Fortunately, there was an EMT there who was more than happy to give us a tour of their trucks and explain all of the gear and medicines and also how drug dealers really don’t care about their customers.

It was totally awesome.

Photo of the interior of an ambulance. All three of my kids sit inside, focused on someone talking outside of the frame. Jack is buckled into one of the seats.

Jack explored every part of that ambulance that he was allowed to.

The kiddos also killed some time by hiding in the trees, which they tend to do every year.

Photo of Christmas tree greenery. Quinn's face is partially obscured behind a lot of it.

I swear that I take this same photo every year. I guess some things don’t change.

Naturally our tree was far too big for our limited corner space, but oh so very beautiful.

Photo of a decorated Christmas tree. Alex is holding Jack up in his arms so he can put the star on top of the tree.

My kids outdo themselves decorating it every year.

Things change, yes, but I think they’re getting ever better.