I found the greatest product and thought some of you might be interested in it. It is a lycra bed sheet, but my family calls it a burrito. Quinn’s OT sent me a link to it because he loves OT swings and tools made out of similar materials and thought he might like it.

She. Was. Right.

Photo of Quinn in bed. He is under a sheet that is wrapped around his mattress. There is a cat on the floor by the side of his bed.

Quinn gave me the okay to post this photo because he thinks this might help other people. Also because you can see his cat who sleeps with him every night.

Basically, the sheet is a tube top for your mattress. When no one is under it, it lies completely flat, so when there is someone in it, it gives constant pressure, but it isn’t too hot or too heavy. It is a brilliant product.

Jack was immediately jealous so I got one for him too.

Jack under his black burrito sheet, pulled up to his chin. He has a huge grin on his face.

Jack looks a tiny bit happy, doesn’t he?

I love these. My kids love these. It totally fills a space in our home that was much needed. They come in lots of colors and, at $25 for twin size, it’s totally reasonable. I do have to say that when Jack’s came, it reeked of cigarette smoke, which makes me think that someone makes these in a smoking house. It was kinda gross. I just washed it before I put it on his bed and it’s 100% fine, but, still, kinda ick. You can always Google “lycra bed sheets” and find other places that sell them.

Sweet dreams!

Everyone Learned Something

School starts in less than two weeks, so it seemed like it was time to start work on my kiddos’ summer work packets. We are aaaaaalmost done with Jack’s math assessment test that he is supposed to do before he continues on to complete an hour of math each week during the summer through his school’s online math service.

God, we are losers.

Quinn is done. He didn’t have a lot. Or I didn’t see that he had a lot. Either way, really done or not, he is done done.

I think Sam is done with his math. Frankly, I’m too dumb to help him with it, so you’d have to ask Alex about that. I do know that he is still working on his reading stuff. He has to read two books and write about one of them. I know he’s still working on it because for the first book, he read the same book I just finished. Now, I’m reading a young adult book and he’s reading The Iliad for his second one. Showoff.

Jack had to read a fiction and a nonfiction book this summer. This posed a challenge. He enjoys reading, but he’s never been a chapter book reader, preferring comic books and other books with lots of graphics. I’ve spent the past four years buying every Diary of a Wimpy Kid-esque book I could find because he would deign to read (some of) them.

I’ve been working on coming to terms with him not being a voracious reader like his brothers. Books are a big deal in my life, so it is weird to me that there are people who just don’t love to read. I’m married to one, so I know you can grow up to be a happy, successful, non-pleasure reading person, but c’mon, books are our friends.

I can’t even count the number of books I’ve put in front of Jack, hoping that he’d love to read it only to have him get through one chapter and say, “But I don’t want to read Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/Danny, Champion of the World/The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Finding books for Jack’s summer reading seemed daunting. He and I did a lot of negotiating before he agreed to read the first Warriors book for his fiction book. Each day, I made him sit down and read a couple of chapters. He absolutely loved it—although when I asked him if he wanted to read the next one in the series, he was all, “no thanks!”

Getting him through that book wasn’t easy though. I’d have to remind him to read it and he’d ask for a break after every chapter. Considering this was a fiction book about cats, I was worried that he’d balk at the biography of John Adams I’d picked out as his nonfiction book.

I kid. But really I had no idea what to suggest. He doesn’t read nonfiction books.

But then I remembered. I remembered that he does read nonfiction. He reads it on the internet every single day when he pores over wikis about Mario and Luigi and various other Nintendo things. I searched online for books about video game history and found some. After consulting with him, I got him an adult-level chapter book and, without consulting with him, I also got him an illustrated history of video games.

I figured if he couldn’t hack the first book, I’d let him read the second book. If he liked the first book, I’d give him the second for Christmas. When Jack finished his fiction book, I almost didn’t even ask him to read the chapter book, considering jumping straight to the illustrated history.

But Jack remembered me asking him about the chapter book and when I told him he needed to start the nonfiction book, he said, “The Mario one? Can— I mean, do I have to read now?”

Then he sat down and read happily an for a long time.

Photo of Jack curled up in an armchair, reading a book.He’s been reading that book for three days and he’s on page 140. This is unprecedented.

Huh. I guess this is his way of telling me that he doesn’t want to read the stack of books *I* think he should read, but he would like to read something he’s actually fucking interested in, thank you very much, and I should (a) stop underestimating him and (b) offer him books of interest to him.

Well. It looks like I got my summer learning as well.

Jack’s Culture

Jack had an assignment for world studies to write three sentences about his culture. I don’t have to tell you that we are cultureless buffoons. We also don’t have a religious or ethnic or pretty much any other identity that counts as a “culture.”

I offered some suggestions for what he could write about and he settled on autistic culture. (It was either that or “cat-loving culture.”)

We talked a little bit about autistic culture and he started furiously typing. At some point he stopped and said, “That was inspiring, Mom.”

That kid.

Read on for his take on autistic culture (quoted verbatim and with permission):

“I believe that I have an autistic culture because I am autistic. Part of it is that some autistic people like to work together to make an autistic world better and they share their own unique history. They made this culture so that autistic people would feel safe. The most important part is that they feel accepted and awesome no matter what. Written by Jack on 5/14/15 for 5th period world studies.”

Photo of Jack

Every Day Is An Autistic Day

Even though Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day has been a thing for a long time, I’ve never been able to participate, what with my not having an out-of-the-house job for most of my kids’ lives.

Finally, though, I have the perfect job to take my kids to. All three of them were interested in having me take them to my job at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network for the day, but I knew that it was Jack whom I wanted to take first.

Jack owns being autistic like no one else and I wanted him to be able to see an office full of autistic people working for autistic people. I made sure it was okay with the folks I work with and then I asked Jack if he wanted to go.

He was all in.

So last Thursday we sent Sam and Quinn off to school and Jack and I headed off to work. And I gotta say, commuting is waaaaay more fun when Jack is with me.

Jack staring out the window of a Metro train.

It turns out that there are aaaaaaaall kinds of things to look at from the Metro train window.

Jack riding an escalator up from the Metro. He's looking behind him.

Look at him standing to the right like a proper commuter.

The first thing I do when I arrive in DC is pick up ASAN’s mail. I figured that taking your kid to work day pretty much meant that I could make Jack do all my work for me.

Jack opening a PO box and peeking inside.

He was a natural.

I thought it might be fun for Jack to see Alex in his office, so even though the traffic lights didn’t send us that way, we headed past his building. Jack was delighted.

Photo of Jack on one side of a street. There is a big arrow pointing to a small, shadowing figure in a window across the street. It is Alex.

There was lots of thumbs upping and waving. It was adorbs.

Eventually we made our way to my office where Jack discovered that an office full of autistic people is home to a large number of stim toys. Jack had found his happy place.

Jack playing with an office toy. There is a magnetic base with lots of metal balls stacked on top.

This little magnet toy was one of his favorites. Mine too.

As my coworkers came in, I introduced them to Jack. One of the first things he said to one of them was, “Every day is an autistic day for me.”

“For me too,” they responded.

Yeah. I brought him to the right place. I sure do love both my job and my kid.

The day Jack was in the office was the day a bunch of us were doing #AcceptanceIs and #ILikeBeingAutisticBecause photos for social media. I told Jack that he could do it if he wanted to. He did.

Jack leaning over a conference table. He is writing on a piece of paper. Printed on the paper is: "I Like Being Autistic Because:" Jack is writing "I am unique."

Jack wrote “#ILikeBeingAutisticBecause I am unique.” Did I mention that I love this kid?

Eventually, however, we ran out of things to do that were interesting to an 11-year-old.

Jack playing on an iPad.

Jack was willing to make a sacrifice and goof around on the iPad for long stretches of time.

After work, we walked back via a different route, which opened up a whole new set of things to experience.

Jack standing in front of a wall. There is a thin sheet of water running down it. Jack is touching it with one finger.

Like this water wall.

Jack standing in front of a fountain with streams of water runnin in arcs. Jack has his finger in it.

And this fountain.

Our journey to and from work took longer than it normally does because of said water features as well as jumping on every manhole cover we saw and checking out all the sidewalk grates.

Jack on a DC street. He is stopped and looking down through big panels of street vents.

I wish I could commute with him every day.

It also took a little extra time because we passed a Dunkin’ Donuts and I couldn’t say no to his excitement over a doughnut shop in a different location than our normal doughnut shop!

He chose a double chocolate doughnut. He even shared a little piece with me.

Selfie of me and Jack in DC.

I don’t usually make this expression whilst commuting.

As we were going down the escalator to the Metro, I stopped and looked at Jack. “I feel  like this was a really fun, special day with you,” I said.

“Yeah,” he responded. “I feel like it too.”

I swear I could almost see his brain processing the day. I think it’s going to stick with him for a long time. It was a meaningful day for both of us.

Later on the train, we were talking a little about autism and he said a variation of something I tell my kids all the time: “Mom, I think you’re perfect just the way you are.”

That kid. I feel so lucky to be able to expose him to such positive influences. I feel so lucky to be able to teach him. What’s more, I feel so lucky to be able to learn from him.

I don’t know what he’s going to do with his life, but I know it will be full of pride in himself. And that is enough.

Me Too, Jack

It’s April, which means it’s Autism Acceptance Month.

If you want to know why I celebrate Autism Acceptance Month instead of Autism Awareness Month, check out the spring issue of Zoom Autism. I have an essay in there on this very topic. (There is also a lot of other great stuff in it.)

A lot of places, especially schools, tend to celebrate Autism Awareness Day on April 2. A few days ago Jack told me that his school would be celebrating Autism Appreciation Day instead.

First: Awesome.

Second: Yep, still awesome.

Photo of Jack. He's working on a magnetic puzzle ball.

My Jacksy. Also awesome.

I tell you this to preface a story that one of Jack’s teachers emailed to me on the first day of April. She explained that they are celebrating diversity of learning and other abilities in addition to autism.

There is an “I am” wall in the cafeteria to involve students in “the differences and similarities that contribute to each of our unique personalities.”

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Wait until you hear the next part of the teacher’s email:

“Yesterday, we kicked off the activity by introducing it in 6th grade lunch,” she wrote. “I walked through the cafeteria and had kids give some examples into the microphone. Some were ‘I am creative,’ ‘I am kind,’ ‘I am funny.’

“I felt a little tug on my sleeve, and it was Jack. He gently pulled the microphone to himself and spoke into it. ‘I am Jack, I am autistic and I am proud.’ There was applause from the entire 6th grade.”

You guys. This is what it’s about. This is everything.

Jack’s teacher told me that students approached Jack after he said that to tell him they were proud of him too and they shared their own experiences with autistic friends and family.

Jack has known about his autism since pretty close to the time he was diagnosed. He has been leading me in understanding autistic pride for years. I am grateful to be able to follow his example. You’re proud of you, Jack? Me too.

This is why autism acceptance matters so much to me. I need my kid to hear this message. I want to protect him from people who say something is wrong with him and needs to be fixed.

Lest anyone worry that he might be getting that message at his school, let me put your mind at ease. The teacher who sent me this email is Jack’s case manager and teaches him multiple times a day and took home a sweatshirt that had ripped to try to fix it and is generally The Right Person For Jack At The Right Time. This is how she ended her email about this lunchtime experience:

“So you can tell Jack that I think he is courageous and different and wonderful.”

Me too, Jack. Me too.

The Future of Stimeyland. Let’s Discuss.

I started blogging in March 2007. I was so happy to have found this medium. I’d been writing for years, but had never found a style that suited me until I discovered what became Stimeyland. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing this for eight years. Yet while Stimeyland is still my home, it isn’t the consuming passion it once was.

I write here—and anywhere, really—so much less than I used to. Sometimes it feels as if I might just trail off and never come back. But I still really do love this space, the creativity it lets me express, and the people it puts me in touch with.

Considering how different things are here now, I thought I’d answer some questions that I imagine my invisible reader to have.

Wait. You think you still have readers? There are a couple of you out there and I loooove you. Also, I’m pretty sure my mom still reads here.

How has your approach to blogging changed over the past eight years? While I’ve always considered my primary motivation to be creating a record for my kids and also doing my bit for autism acceptance (and rodent joy), I started years ago with a bigger focus on reaching a lot of people. At this point, I mostly just care that my writing amuses me and satisfies my need to express myself. In fact, I kind of actively don’t want more readers right now. You guys are enough for me.

What’s to blame for your decrease in blogging? Is it because of your job? Is your new house sapping your motivation to write? Is it Alex? It’s probably because of Alex. It’s Alex’s fault, isn’t it? You’re right, it’s totally Alex’s fault. Actually it’s a combination of things. Part of it is that I’m busier now. Part of it is that my computer desk isn’t in front of the TV anymore, so I often sit on my couch all computerless in the evening and hang out with Alex. So, yeah, it’s his fault. But really, a lot of it has to do with a change in how I want to write about my kids.

Kids? Oh, right. I remember them. They’re still around? I don’t write a whole lot about my kids anymore, but I assure you that they are still here. There are all kinds of things I could write about them (and kinda want to), but they’re old enough now that their stories are theirs to tell, not mine. If I’m going to be completely honest, their stories have always been their own and if I were starting a blog now, I would do it very differently. I don’t regret what I’ve written in the past, but it’s not what I want to do going forward.

What’s that thing you used to write about? Autism? Is this still an autism blog? At one point, I felt very comfortable describing Stimeyland as an autism blog. While the fact that I and other members of my family are autistic means that this will always inherently be an autism blog, I don’t specifically write about that topic very much anymore. Part of it is because of that kid stuff up above. Part of it is that I’m still figuring out this stuff about myself and I’m preferring to read others’ insightful words than putting my half-baked thoughts out there.

So what will you write about? I’ll probably mostly torment Alex and tell you about it.

Screen shot of a text: Me: "hi, friend." Me: "I said, HI FRIEND." Me: "I SAID HI FRIEND." Me: "IIIIIIIIIIIII SAAAAAAIIIIIDDD HIIIIIII FRRRRIIIIEEENNNDDDD." Alex: "hi" Me: "What do you want?"I amuse myself soooooo much.

But for real, what will you write about? Myself.

Isn’t that kind of narcissistic? Yeah, totally.

So, really? All about Stimey? I’ll probably write about running and cats and maybe zombies and I still have six elderly gerbils so there are six memorial posts right there. I might toss up shorter posts or photo posts. Really, I’ll write about what amuses me or makes me feel something. Sometimes my family does some sort of activity that I want to write down and remember, so I’ll write about that. Sometimes I’ll write about my kids if it is something that I feel meets my criteria of okay things to write about.

How is this a change from what you’ve already been doing? In recent months, there have been times I’ve wanted to write about something like a fun outing my family has taken and I haven’t, because I’d think, “Who cares about that other than me?” I’m going to start writing about those things. Instead of thinking about my posts as little stand-alone articles, I’m going back to thinking of them as a family history.

So… So…pro: I might write more often; con: it will be stunningly uninteresting to everyone but me.

Ugh. Will you hate me if I unsubscribe? Absolutely not. I never feel bad if people don’t want to read my stuff. I am not everyone’s cup of tea (or tank of gerbils). In fact, we can be friends on Facebook instead of (or in addition). Find my personal page or my Stimeyland page. Or both!

I hate Facebook. I tweeted at you. Why are you ignoring me? I used to love Twitter. Now I check it once every three or four weeks. It is not the best way to reach me anymore. I’m a Facebook girl. I don’t even Instagram because it’s too many sites to check.

How long will you keep writing? Maybe forever. Maybe this post will languish here alone at the top of an abandoned Stimeyland. Who knows? I intend to keep writing, but I don’t want to make any promises. Every time I promise to write about something, I don’t and then I feel bad about myself.

Can I see a photo of a gerbil in an acorn cap? Yes. Yes, you may.

Photo of a white gerbil wearing the top part of an acorn as a hat.

Happy New Year!

Well, I had a very successful last day of 2014. I finished cleaning my whole house (except for that one room that we won’t speak of; everyone has that one room, right?) so we can at least start the new year not living in filth.

I also managed to wear a white sweater all damn day long without spilling anything on it. It’s like I’m a fucking magician or something.

I was printing out my blog yesterday as I do at the end of every year (it took less paper than ever before) and realized that Team Stimey may have had a more epic year than we have had in a long, long time. And the funny thing is that almost none of it was planned prior to 2014.

Probably the biggest thing that happened to us is that we bought a new house, moved, and sold our old house all within three months, when we hadn’t been planning to do any of that for at least another year. During that period of time, I touched every single thing we owned twice, once to pack them and once to unpack them, yet I still never found the brown clogs that I KNOW were somewhere in the house we moved out of.


This will probably be the only year that the car we bought isn’t the biggest purchase we made. We weren’t planning on buying a new car either, except our mechanic told us that our old car was likely to kill us (and soon!), so we got to hemorrhage money on wheels in addition to a house. Per usual, the process was soul-destroying.

The last major thing that happened to Team Stimey this year that we had not planned on, was my joining the staff of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network as office manager. I was completely terrified to take that job. I’d worked in the recent past, but it was out of my home and I only had to see my boss once a year at a holiday party. This job involved riding Metro into DC multiple days a week to wear business clothes, procure summer childcare, interact with actual people, and generally be a professional person.

None of these things come easily to me, but taking that job is one of the best things that I’ve done in recent memory. I love working for an organization that I feel so proud of and I feel as if my particular skill set is very helpful there. I really like my co-workers and have liked getting to know them. I enjoy my new-found sense of purpose and I am so grateful for the structure and routine that working has brought to my life. Also, very importantly, I am so happy to experience autistic space, something I haven’t had before.

So those are the really big, full-year impacting changes for Team Stimey, but there was also a lot of other stuff that happened as well. I’ve selected one post from each month to give you a little tour of Team Stimey’s year.

We started January with Jack’s early-2014 bout of rogue eyelashes. I’m happy to report that they didn’t come back.

I did a lot of running in 2014. In February I told you all about how I’m the best runner ever. In case you don’t bother to click that link, you should know that I’m being sarcastic there.

March brought us more Jack, specifically his special hockey tournament that made me truly remember the joy of travel tournaments with his team.

2014—April, specifically—brought us Chester, a small brown mouse who tried to fill Algernon’s paw prints.

May. Oh, lord. May. May was the month that we gave our pool to some friends of ours, along with a free extra gift of wild rat babies. Yet one more reason you might not want to know me in real life.

June was an intense month for Stimeyland. That was the month that my post about Jack and his autistic classmates’ photos being left off of a display of all his school’s graduating fifth graders went as viral as I ever hope to have a post of mine go. The attention from that post, even though it was mostly positive, was enough to convince me that I am completely happy staying a small blogger. I have no idea how some people deal with the intensity of that much attention all the time. That post actually inspired real change though, with the formation of a committee at that school to work on ideas for better inclusion. Jack is no longer at that school, but I attended the first committee meeting and am hopeful that it continues and is making positive change.

Alex and I actually went on our first kid-free vacation since…ever in June, but I wrote about it in July.

My kids went back to school in August. Sam started 7th grade at the same middle school he went to last year. Jack started 6th grade at a new school—and proceeded to be super successful there. Quinn started 4th grade at a new school, which was pretty tough on him. He’s doing better though. Also, I wrote about the bus stop.

I ran my first half marathon in September. Because I’m me, I fell flat on my face twice during the running of said half marathon.

I wrote about a bunch of fun things in October, including my trip to Disney World as well as the Bourbon Chase, but I choose to highlight Sam’s decision to start playing the bassoon because (1) I haven’t highlighted anything about Sam yet, (2) you guys left some awesome comments on that post, and (3) Alex was definitively told he was wrong, which I always enjoy. It turns out that, although he gets better every week, learning to play the bassoon is hard and I’m not convinced that Sam doesn’t wish he’d never started.

We raked a lot of leaves in November.

Quinn drew some excellent illustrations for an assignment in December.

All in all, it’s been a really wonderful year. Team Stimey is very lucky, mostly because we have each other as well as a strong support system who always steps up for us. Thank you for being here for this year. I hope you all have a 2015 full of love and joy and laughter. That’s what we’re hoping for.

As I watch my three kids play with each other as Alex and I sit on the couch together, I think, fate willing, there is a good chance that’s exactly what we’ll get in 2015.

Photo of my three kids