Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Wisconsin Edition, Part II

You guys, school has already started and I just realized that I never finished my What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay.

When last you saw us, we were departing the hectic pace of hanging out by the big lake to discover the peaceful pace of hanging out by a little lake in northern Wisconsin. Alex’s mom’s house is between those two lakes, so on our drive past, we stopped by to say hello, eat all of her food, and play with objects that were thirty years old or older.

Photo of Sam and Jack playing with old plastic soldiers, cars, and airplanes.

Sam and Jack don’t normally do a lot of creating epic battles with toy soldiers, but they enthusiastically did so with Alex’s old toys.

Photo of Jack holding the spaceman LEGO guy.


Jack pretending to talk on an old-fashioned rotary phone.

Jack also traveled into the past via his grandma’s old-fashioned phone. (Don’t worry, she has a regular phone AND a cell phone as well.)

From there, we continued our drive north until we reached the shores of Van Vliet Lake, otherwise known as The Most Peaceful Place on All of Earth.

Jack and Quinn sitting on a small wooden boat dock on a lake.

You know, until we arrived.

Van Vliet Lake is about 20 miles away from a small town where you can get ice cream and about 40 minutes away from a bigger town where you can get doughnuts. (This is how my family thinks about places.) The morning after we arrived, we headed to the bigger town for breakfast and to visit the local wildlife park/petting zoo, because if there is anything Team Stimey likes better than water play, it is animals.

Certain members of Team Stimey were irate about being forced to participate in an away-from-the-cabin activity (*cough*Quinn*cough*), but once we got there and discovered baby goats, everybody got on board.

Alex was still paying our entry fee when the rest of us wandered through the door into the goat yard where Jack was immediately and viciously attacked by a goat.

Jack in a crab position on the ground with a small goat standing on top of him.

Seriously, that goat targeted Jack instantly upon his arrival. It tried to eat his shirt. Please note Quinn’s hand reaching in to pet the aggressor.

Those goats were probably the greatest things to ever exist. I actually think it would really behoove Team Stimey to acquire a pack (a herd? a swarm? a nibble?) of goats all for ourselves. Our grass would always be short and we could feed them our tin cans. Win win.

Photo of Quinn sitting on a rock wall. A goat is crawling on him. He looks ecstatic.

We could also have this ALL THE TIME.

I wanted to start our herd by smuggling this particular guy into my bag. He got all up in my space. I love him.

Photo of a goat center frame. I am smiling in the background.

I believe I mentioned this on Facebook, but this goat was a total attention hog.

I don’t know what this next animal is, but Jack walked up to it and said, “Hey look, Mom, it’s you!”

Photo of some sort of furry animal lying listlessly on a bench in a cage.

Evidently I should take fewer naps around my kids. They’re starting to notice my habits.

This wildlife park/zoo had lots of really fun animals to pet. We petted pigs and skunks and opossums. Jack and Quinn also went into the bunny hutch where we discovered that some of my kids have better bunny-holding skills than other someones.

Photo of Jack and Quinn each holding bunnies. Jack is supporting all of his bunny's body. Quinn has somehow folded his bunny in half.

I don’t think bunnies are supposed to fold like that, Quinn.

Two photos: 1) Jack properly holding a bunny by supporting its legs and butt 2) Quinn improperly holding a bunny by supporting everything other than its legs and butt.

Which rabbit would you rather be?

Next it was off to the deer enclosure where we competed with toddlers to attract some seriously overfed deer.

Sam feeding a deer with antlers pellets from his hand.

These deer get fed all day every day so they had little interest in us.

The deer thing was okay though because this particular place also had a budgie feeding barn. If you’ve never been to a budgie feeding barn (and you don’t find birds weird and scary what with their calm, evaluating eyes, sharp beaks, and cryptic head bobs), you should go to a budgie feeding barn. Now. Like today.

Unlike the deer, the budgies are always hungry.

Photo of Sam holding a popsicle stick with seeds stuck to it. There are four birds on the stick and in his hands. Jack is in the background with one bird on a stick. He is petting the bird.

I’d like you to notice Jack there in the background petting his bird. He seemed to go for quality over quantity. Sam was the opposite.

I had one little guy stay with me the whole time we were there. He was determined to get every last seed.

Photo of me holding my stick with a bird on it and two others on my arm.

I wanted to stuff them in my bag with the goat. That might not have turned out well for anyone.

When we first walked in and purchased our budgie feeding sticks, Alex was all, “Pshaw, budgie feeding…pfft,” and he didn’t get a stick like he was too good for the fucking budgies in his top hat and monocle and snooty attitude.

But then a budgie landed on his shoulder and, much like his children before him, he was one hundred percent on board.

Alex with a bird on his shoulder and a huge grin on his face.

Alex bonded quickly and completely with that budgie.

Which made it even worse when Quinn stole Alex’s bird and put it on his own shoulder.

A series of four photos wherein Quinn is putting the bird from the previous photo with Alex onto his shoulder and looking pretty fucking pleased with himself.

Look at Quinn’s smug little face. Needless to say, Alex was devastated.

Alex got his revenge though by paying five bucks for a giraffe-feeding experience that resulted in Quinn’s entire face getting mopped by a giraffe tongue.

Photo of Quinn with a carrot sticking out of his teeth. A giraffe has its tongue out and is grabbing the carrot with the tongue.

I think moments like this are why people have kids.

Not all members of Team Stimey chose to feed the giraffes via the mouth to mouth option.

Photo of my three kids with carrots next to giraffe heads. Jack is handing a carrot to a giraffe.

Who’s a good giraffe?

From there, we fed some more goats and some giant fish and then headed back to our cabin, where we took the first of very many boat rides we would take over the next few days. There is both a rowboat and a canoe at the cabin. For our first outing, we all piled into the rowboat.

Two photos: 1) Alex from behind rowing with Jack and Sam sitting in the back of the boat 2) selfie of Quinn and I at the other end of the boat.

One of these photos represents the end of the boat that never even thought about helping to row. Guess which one.

We came up to this lake for several years before any of our kids asked to go swimming in it. Last time we were here, that all changed. This year, Jack and Quinn were ready on Day One.

Quinn swimming.

I didn’t join them because, you know, lakes. God only knows what is living down there…algae…turtles…lake monsters.

Jack upped the ante by being the first member of Team Stimey to go skinny dipping. Here is a photo of Jack in the water and Alex wringing out his swimsuit on the boat.

Jack hanging off the side of the boat. Only his head is visible.

If lake swimming seemed unwise to me, naked lake swimming seemed worse, but who am I to stop him? (If you say “his mom,” well, you might be right.)

Sam was not interested in lake swimming, naked or otherwise, but he was super interested in rowing boats, something that I think Alex, a.k.a. the Designated Rower, has been waiting for for a decade.

Sam (from behind) rowing the boat. Alex is looking at him proudly.

You can almost read Alex’s thought bubble: “Aw, Sam is so grown up. Where did the time go?”

But the rowboat wasn’t enough. After Jack and Alex tired of boating, Sam, Quinn, and I headed back out, this time in the canoe.

Photo taken from the back of the canoe of Sam in front with a paddle and Quinn sitting in the middle.

I had a paddle too, but I sat in the back so Sam wouldn’t know when I was slacking. Quinn didn’t even pretend to help.

The three of us had a very good time and many adventures whilst canoeing about the lake, but the most photogenic one was when we accidentally paddled too close to a family of loons and seriously pissed off one of them. Once I saw what was happening, I made Sam row away. And I took photos while the loon strutted about back and forth in front of us.

Five photos: 1. Photo from in the canoe of Sam and Quinn; in front of us is a family of three loons 2. Close up of family of loons--2 adults one baby 3. one loon swimming away from the other two 4. That loon spreading his wings and making a big ol' fuss in the water 5. Same loon puffing out his chese and sticking up out of the water.

All right, all right, we get the message, Mr. Loon.

Eventually we returned to the cabin but Sam hadn’t had enough. He dropped us off and headed out by himself, which went against every overprotective parenting instinct I have, but because he’s a teenager, he took his phone with him, so we were still able to contact him if necessary.

Photo taken from land of Sam in a canoe rowing away from land.

In retrospect, maybe it was less about getting out to canoe and more about getting away from his overprotective mom.

The next day we headed out in the boats again, but this time we took both boats out at the same time, Sam and I in the canoe and the other three in the rowboat. They were doin’ some fishin’. We were avoiding worms.

Photo taken from the back of a canoe. Sam is paddling in front and in the distance are the other three in the rowboat.

We were speedier than them too, which was fun.

While we started out in that configuration, only Sam and Alex remained in their respective boats. Eventually Jack and Quinn bailed from their boat to swim and I was transferred from the canoe to the rowboat for some reason that I don’t remember.

Selfie of Alex and I on the rowboat.

Maybe it was to spend time with Alex.

It sure wasn’t for the fish.

Photo of Alex fishing in the rowboat. On his hook is a big bunch of seaweed.

Nice catch, Alex!

The cabin we stay at when we visit here is one that Alex’s grandfather built a looooong time ago. It’s an A-frame house right on the shore of the lake and comes with the added bonus of a nearby aunt that we were able to visit.

We had a picnic with said aunt (and her husband) at an entirely different lake. She brought Yahtzee and watercolor paint and paper and…my kids set about painting their arms. Because we’re us. And we’re problematic.

Two photos 1. Jack holding out his arm on which he's written I [heart] job 2. Sam holding up his arm. On it is a rainbow and a heart.

I still don’t know what Jack intended, but Sam’s is his status quo art.

I did get this perfectly posed photo of my compliant children out of it though.

Photo of me and my kids standing in a line. No one is looking at the camera. Sam has Jack in a headlock, but Jack was making a face anyway. Quinn has his arms around me and i am looking down at him.

I still kinda love it though.

Another high point was visiting the town’s community garden, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Photo of my family and Alex's aunt looking at her garden plot.

I’m glad that our family doesn’t garden in a community setting, because our garden is not as pretty or tidy as the gardens there.

We continued our S’more in Every Hand and a Hand in Every S’more policy—wait, maybe not exactly that, but we continued to eat a lot of s’mores, these being the northern indoor s’mores.

Photo of Alex sitting next to an indoor fireplace cooking s'mores.

Wherever we make them though, it’s always Alex doing the work. Clearly he loves it.

We had big plans for the following day, so we made sure to eat a big breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s which is not only awesome because of its fun statuary, but is also a Pokestop with a perpetual lure.

Photo of my kids next to a big statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox.

We go there primarily for their sugar-covered doughnuts.

But what were our big plans, you ask? Well, Team Stimey was going to go river kayaking.

*ominous pause*

What could possibly go wrong?

*another ominous pause followed by raucous laughter*

We’d found this place that would drive us and our kayaks upriver to drop us off and we would then kayak back down until we got to their landing. Alex had looked at their offerings and was all, “Ooooh, this two and a half hour option looks fun,” and I was like, “We’ll be doing the one-hour trip, thank you very much.”

Thank the good lord and his sweet baby Jesus that Alex ended up agreeing with me.

The kayak dude put Sam and Quinn in the water first, which might have been a mistake, because they were not interested in waiting for the rest of us, but I was all, “Oh, well Sam will take care of Quinn. They’ll be fine.”

*ominous pause*

It was just before the guy shoved me in the water that one of us asked how many of us were likely to capsize and he was like, “Oh, you’d have to work pretty hard to turn one of these things over.”

*ominous pause*

While I trust in Sam, I’m not a total fool, so I quickly paddled down the river to make sure he and Quinn were okay.

The tip of my kayak, a river, and Quinn and Sam in their individual kayaks.

They were hunky dory, happy, and kayaking through a scenic vista.

Having made sure they were okay, I paddled a little bit back upriver to check on Jack and Alex. Jack was fine and paddling away although getting tired of working his arms so hard, which would become more of a problem the farther into our trip that we went.

Photo of Jack smiling in his kayak.

I got very used to saying, “You’re doing great! Keep paddling! I know it’s hard! You’re doing great! You have to paddle, Jack! You’re doing great! Unless you want to live in your kayak, keep paddling! You’re doing great!”

Alex, meanwhile, was busy taking on water after grounding himself on a mid-river rock and nearly tipping over, or, as the kayak guy would have said, “working hard to capsize.”

He didn’t capsize, but he did get to sit in water for the rest of the trip.

All of this in the first five minutes.

*ominous pause followed by ominous music*

Midway through, the river opened up into a small lake where I spent a fair amount of time shouting and herding my family so that I could get a shot of all five of us.

Selfie of me with the rest of my family in kayaks in the background.

The way I imagined this photo turning out was very different than the way it actually did. My imaginary photo involved a straight line of kayaks and a smiling family. I’m not sure why I thought we could accomplish this in tiny individual boats when we can’t even manage it standing on dry ground.

From here, Sam and Quinn took off again, but by this time I was sure they’d be fine as they had proven themselves to be excellent and responsible kayakers.

*ominous mus—oh never mind. You know.*

At some point Alex, Jack and I rounded a bend in the river to find both Sam and Quinn standing on a riverside dock with their kayaks floating nearby. Quinn was noticeably wet.

We would later find out that we were the first capsize of the season, so I guess that’s something. Evidently Sam had intentionally rammed Quinn repeatedly resulting in his overturning and proving that Sam is not to be fucking trusted. Fortunately the river wasn’t deep, they were both safe, and they had rescued the kayak. Unfortunately, the thing had filled with water and that was turning into a HUGE problem.

We spent a lot of time trying to empty the kayak, which is incredibly difficult to do, especially if you don’t want to get wet.

Four pictures 1. Sam and Quinn on the dock 2. Sam trying to lift up the kayak to dump out the water 3. sam on the dock and Alex in the kayak trying to help 4. drawing of Alex's head exploding.

I don’t have a photo of the moment that Alex’s head exploded, so I drew it for you.

Eventually Quinn had to get back into a kayak partially filled with water.

Photo of Quinn and Sam in their kayaks. Quinn looks pissed.

In retrospect, we should have made Sam use that kayak.

Even Sam felt bad. At some point, Quinn refused to continue paddling, so Alex and I created a boat formation wherein Quinn didn’t have to paddle. We held on to each other so we were three across and we each paddled to only one side. It was onerous, but better than leaving Quinn behind and starting anew as a family of four.

Photo of me, Quinn, and Alex lined up in our boats. Downriver you can see Jack holding his paddle over his head.

Quinn wasn’t ready to admit for the record that it wasn’t the worst way to travel down a river. Also notice Jack downriver with his paddle over his head. He traveled much of the river that way.

I tell you, no five people have ever been so happy as we were to find our landing dock. We headed back to the cabin where the rest of the family decompressed and I departed for a 12-mile run into town.

Because reasons.

Said run was hot and exhausting and I ran out of water only to come upon a park with a drinking fountain at mile eleven. But it was this:

Photo of a metal pump action water fountain.


I have never been so sad in my life. This wasn’t even just a pumping water fountain. There was some sort of tank and some incredibly unclear instructions molded onto the thing and it took at least two hands to operate leaving no hands to hold my water bottle there and it was at about this point that I called Alex and asked him to pick me up.

We went out to dinner that night, which I mention only because we were sitting outside on the deck near yet another lake and I saw a shape bobbing in the water and I yelled really loudly, “HEY LOOK! A SEA LION!” and my family and every other family seated outside turned to look and because sea lions don’t live in lakes, we all realized that it was a dog playing fetch with a ball that his person kept throwing into the water.

I am maybe the most embarrassing person in the world.

We were leaving the next day, but before we did, we wanted to have our traditional lunch on the little island that Alex used to row to when he was a kid. We gathered all the food we had left, creating an absolutely ridiculous picnic lunch, and set off to the island.

Even though both Sam and Quinn claimed they were done with watercraft after the prior day’s kayaking experience, they headed out together in the canoe while, Jack, Alex, and I departed in the rowboat.

Two photos: 1. Jack in the rowboat with Alex rowing 2. Quinn and Sam in the canoe.

We kept Sam and Quinn in our sight though. You know. Just in case.

It was a beautiful day and it took about 20 minutes to approach the small island.

A little island with tall trees on it. The canoe is off to the side.

Wisconsin is pretty.

We had a delightful lunch of leftover milk, pancakes, doughnuts, corn chips, carrots, and maybe a sandwich or two.

Selfie of the five of us at our picnic.

We guarantee our kids food. We don’t guarantee them tasty or edible food.

Sam wanted to canoe back by himself, which was cool with everyone. It was a long way, but we’d be nearby and we figured it wouldn’t be a problem. Sam paddled off, we loaded the rowboat, and we eventually found him texting from his canoe.

Sam in his canoe, looking at his phone.

All was well.

Alex was paddling the rowboat and we might have been chasing a bald eagle or something, so we ended up drifting off a ways. Jack and Quinn jumped in to swim and we were enjoying our leisurely return to shore.

Photo of Jack and Quinn in the water smiling happily at each other.

I love how much joy Jack and Quinn get from each other. (Also, see Sam waaaaaay in the distance.)

Selfie of me at the front of the boat. Jack is hanging from the front.

I also enjoy how much joy *I* get from them.

Unfortunately, while all this cavorting was going on, the wind was picking up. Also unfortunately, it was blowing against where we were rowing. I started to receive ever angrier texts from Sam complaining that he couldn’t row anywhere. We were watching him struggling and started to get a little concerned. I texted him to find his way to us and I would join him in the canoe and help him get back to the cabin.

Then I wrote, “Sam’s Epic Battle Against the Wind!” into a text and he flipped the fuck out. I thought we were being funny and amused by the pickle in which we found ourselves. He, on the other hand, was merely furious.

Nonetheless, he was able to get to us and I climbed into his canoe and the two of us together were able to fight our way to the dock. It was tough going though. I can understand why he was having such a hard time by himself.

Meanwhile, Jack and Quinn were swimming back but staying near Alex’s boat for safety and Alex was working really hard all by himself to return home. Sam and I, with the two of us on an aerodynamic boat, were able to make good time and we arrived well before Alex did.

Sam went inside to curse at the boat from a distance as I watched Alex’s slow progress.

Alex looking exhasted giving a thumbs up as he arrived at the dock.

I am happy to report that he eventually arrived back to the dock.

Then we packed our car and got the fuck out of dodge. Our next stop was the Wisconsin Dells, where we would join a million other tourists participating in many activities, none of which involved piloting a watercraft.

That post is coming soon. Before Thanksgiving at least.

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!


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


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.


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.”


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.


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.



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!


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.


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!


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

Family time!


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.