Algernon’s Army: New Recruits

You guys. You guys. I have no words for you all. You are SOUL FILLING. My mail is such a happy part of my day nowadays. Would you like some examples as to why I love my mail so much? It’s because my mailbox overfloweth with love. And rodents. And other small furry things that are almost rodents.

photos of a stuffed squirrel, otter and round hamster

From my friends Katie, Sherry, and Michal. Thank you. So much.

That first little guy there? She’s a squirrel who came from my 7-year-old friend Katie, who made sure she was all decked out enough to join the rodent brigade. Even better than the squirrel was the note that came with her:

note in child's handwriting on orange paper: "From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy."

“From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy.” (And, yes, she did use a sad-girl emoticon instead of a period to end that middle sentence there.)

Is that not the nicest ever? I love that kid.

That otter in the middle comes from my old college chum. She sent this amazing note with it telling the story of the debate amongst strangers that took place in the store as to what animal exactly this was and whether it was, in fact, a rodent. Answers: otter and no.

Nonetheless, otters are one of my favorite animals and he is small and brown and fits in perfectly as a conscientious objector to Algernon’s Army.

Then there is Speedy at the end, who is really not very speedy because he is chubby and round and can’t actually move very fast. He’s like the rodent version of me. He is hilarious. Jack almost passed out laughing when he saw him.

Then there was the very wonderful card from my mother-in-law wherein she posited that Algernon had fallen in love and was off on new adventures elsewhere. Oh, and she wrote that inside a greeting card that had this on the front:

Cartoon drawing of Noah's Ark (with two Algernons pasted on it). There are two dinosaurs sitting on a nearby island saying, "Oh, crap! Was that TODAY?"

I think she is subtly referencing Algernon’s resiliency here.

Do you want to know what else came in the mail today? A photo book about Algernon from my beautiful friend Bec. The book includes the very first post about Algernon that I ever wrote and then photo highlights of his adventures from the past two years.

Cover of a book showing a photo of a small white mouse peeking out of a swimming pool and the word "Algernon."

It is amazing.

Algernon’s Army is so large that I had to dedicate a shelf to it. Because I don’t have a single unused shelf in my house, I had to buy and install a shelf just for my new little friends.

White shelf with all my stuffed rodents and my Algernon book on it.

I think you’ll agree that it was worth the effort.

The shelf is appropriately situated over one of the gerbil tanks.

Algernon's Army shelf over a gerbil tank.

I like how Jetpack and Jefferie are standing at attention here.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look over my left shoulder and see my shelf-o-love-and-rodents. You guys are amazing.

I think that is probably all of my Algernon-related news. Thank you all for continuing to be so awesome. I love you guys.

Algernon’s Army

You guys have no idea what is going on around here.

I cannot even tell you how much love you have sent me. All of you…in so many ways. Every comment, every email, every tweet, every message, every photo…

But there is also this:

give Algernons

Meet Algernon’s Army: Minnie the Island Mouse, Baggins, Reginald, Demetrius, and Algernon Too.

Every single person who sent me a mouse (thank you so much, Kim, Mir, Thien-Kim, Ann (aka my sister), and the sender of the last guy who came without a note—updated to add: it was Joeymom! Thank you!) told me, “I know Algernon can’t be replaced, but maybe this guy can help.”

Seriously. How awesome? And this doesn’t even include all the others of you who emailed me to tell me that you wanted to send me a mouse—and those offers mean just as much as an in-the-flesh mouse.

I could never have gone out and bought a new Algernon, but getting them from you guys? It feels good. It feels right. And, holy hell, it made my kids so ridiculously happy that I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for you. The munchkins are reluctant to refer to one of these critters as anything other than Algernon, so Algernon Too might have to be the mouse who heads out on adventures first. Trust me though, the rest of them are going to hang out in a place of honor on my desk, because they are not made of stuffing. They are made of love.

Look how cute they are! (And so clean! Damn, Algernon was grubbier than I thought he was.)

Oh, and there is another little guy who will be coming later. Sunday got me a mouse too, but he is currently being needed to cheer up her son Sam, who had a tough doctor visit today.

Algernon and (Sunday's) Sam

Sunday’s kiddo, getting support. Algernon and his army are good that way. Shared with permission.

I cannot even tell you how much I loved seeing this photo on Facebook this morning. ALGERNON HELPS PEOPLE, YOU GUYS. Or rather, Scout, as this mouse is named, because this mouse? Well this mouse is literary, y’all.

Oh, and just in case things were getting too uniform for you all, Quinn’s occupational therapist worked with Quinn in a session to make a new mousy friend for us, getting his opinion on choices of eyes (NO BUTTONS! NO BUTTONS!) and enlisting his sewing expertise.

Black, white & red giraffe-print homemade mouse

I love him so much. I will be calling him Giraffey. For obvious reasons.

But, you guys, it’s not even my new mousy friends that cheered me up. There was the story one of you told me about losing your own stuffed mouse and finding her under your mom’s porch ten years later. There are, as I think I mentioned, those of you who shared awesome stories of losing your own things, some of which I probably shouldn’t detail here. (You know who you are.) There is the friend who sent a gift card for caffeine, which was much appreciated. There is my sister-in-law, who was going to give me a winter hat for Christmas, but told me she’ll be moving up that gift hat to replace the one lost and to keep my head warm. There were all of your nice words—and trust me when I say that every one of those words mattered.

There is also the knowledge that Algernon will live on in memory, say whenever one wonderful person goes to her London grocery store past Algernon Road:

Algernon Road - London

Algernon had international influence, see.

None of this, however, can replace Algernon, which you all know, no matter how you responded to his loss. Many of you suggested that Algernon might have a wonderful second life with a new friend.

Some of you worked very hard (and successfully) to make me laugh, like one of my very best friends, whom I’ve known since college, who suggested that maybe Algernon’s new life would be a faster one, posed at scenes of his crimes with his new friend, the thief.

Maybe, she suggested, Algernon broke bad.

In fact, she claims that he’s already been involved in some jewelry store heists.

Algernon wearing gaudy jewelry

He gots some bling, baby. Whereabouts unknown.

You guys, I don’t think Algernon is coming back. He’s got a new adventure ahead of him. This whole episode has really sucked, but I learned something really important. I learned that I have a tremendous number of people who really, really care about me. I learned that love comes in many forms and that I got to experience many of them this past week.

I learned that my car thief may have my stuff, but his life is probably not very awesome. I would choose all of you over my stuff any day of the week. That thief brought a black cloud with him, but you all made up a silver lining so thick that it’s hard to even see the storm anymore. Thank you for that.

And thank you for my new mice. You made my kids so happy by sending them, which means so much to me. You made me so happy by sending them. I can’t wait to see what adventures my new mouse friends have.

Thank you for Algernon’s Army. Thank YOU for BEING Algernon’s army.

In Case You Were Wondering Where I’ve Been

I’m at BlogHer. (Hi, Melisa. BlogHer. BlogHer. BLOGHER.)

I have had some incredibly soul satisfying laughter with the right people. I have felt inspired to work harder on my writing goals. I have felt off kilter and not able to get in my groove. But there are some people here, and you probably know who you are, who are feeding me exactly what I need.

Everything has been happening on my Facebook page because I’ve had no time to write, so if you haven’t been there, I’ll bring it here for you. Mostly it’s Algernon being an attention hog, but there is also a sad little story about how the airline lost my luggage and then called me in the middle of the night to tell me they were bringing it to me in the morning and then how I French kissed the front desk guy when he wheeled it out to me.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.07 AMAnd then we went to Healthminder Day.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.01 AMAnd then we admired the decor.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.58 AMAnd then we enjoyed the Cracker Jacks that they had for snacks.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.55 AMAnd then we went to a lot of sessions and keynotes.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.51 AMAnd then we went to Voices of the Year.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.45 AMAnd then we drank and laughed and drank and laughed some more and some of us may have shouted some Janis Joplin songs loudly.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.19 AMAnd…scene. I wonder what adventures he will have today?

Proud

I’ve been pretty excited about January 21st for a long time. My family always celebrates MLK Day with a big todo and when it fell on the same day as President Obama’s inauguration? Well, I was ready to celebrate.

We were going to watch the inauguration on TV and then MLK’s I Have a Dream speech on YouTube and then we were going to have cake and it was going to be great.

Things changed though, when Jess from Diary of a Mom, who does so much fantastic advocacy work, ended up with an extra ticket to the inauguration, and I jumped on her coattails and rode them all the way to DC.

Algernon rode her coattails too.

Algernon rode her coattails too.

I have a lot to say about our amazing day in (and eventual escape from) DC, but you know what is exhausting? Inauguration Day. Or more specifically, getting away from Inauguration Day. I will tell you all about it tomorrow.

Before I go to bed though, I will let you know that after I got home, we very happily watched Dr. King’s speech, complete with lively commentary from my three kiddos.

Then we sang happy birthday to Martin and had our cake, which was delightful.

Sam insisted on chocolate. Because, you know.

Sam insisted on chocolate. Because, you know.

In sum, today is a day that I was proud to be an American and proud of the leaders and heroes we get to learn from. It was exciting to be able to listen to the president and his terrific speech that was so much about equality and fair chances and then come home to kids who are so very interested in figuring that whole thing out for themselves.

So, not just proud to be an American, but proud to be a parent of such great little kids. (And proud to be a friend to the wonderful Jess. Thank you so much for taking me with you. You are a blast and a half to hang out with.)

Happy Inauguration Day, America. And Happy Birthday, Martin!

Disconnected and Random Stuff from BlogHer

Aw, friends. You all are my favorites. All of you make being me so easy. I’m sure I will have more to say on the subject, but I want to tell you more about BlogHer and New York.

Algernon tore that town up.

Those are his drink tickets.

There is absolutely no way to fully explain what BlogHer conferences mean to me. I could try. I could try to tell you about the people and the joy. I could try to tell you how I was inspired by speakers and panelists. I could try to tell you how I met some new favorite people. I could try to tell you all the practical information I picked up in some of the sessions. I could try to tell you how I missed Susan. I could try to tell you about some of the very valid criticism of the conference that I heard and how most of it didn’t matter all that much to me. I could try to tell you about how much fun I had.

I could try to tell you all that, or I could just tell you about some of the silly things that stick out in my head, because it is way easier that way and the post will be only a million years long instead of six million years long. Also, maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you how Algernon got along in New York.

I got to New York on Wednesday evening because even though the conference officially started on Friday, they had a HealthMinder Day on Thursday that had a special needs track full of my people.

But before Thursday, I had to get to my hotel. I walked out of Penn Station only to find a horrifically long taxi line. And it was raining. And I was all, “There has to be a better way,” but I didn’t know how to use the subway, and I was afraid that I would annoy New Yorkers if I tried to walk down rush hour sidewalks with a suitcase, and I worried that if I walked a block away to try to get a cab, that I would self-destruct and spend the weekend curled in a ball in a doorway under my suitcase instead of at the conference.

So instead, I stood in line for an hour, which gave me a lot of time to practice saying, “I am going to 6th and 53rd. I am going to 6th and 53rd. I am going to 6th and 53rd.” Which I did. And it worked! I made it to the hotel, just in time to meet part of my gang of autism moms (and we ARE a gang) and go out to dinner at John’s Pizzeria—NO SLICES!

Eventually I ran into my roommate, Annette, and we had security called on us because we were apparently talking too loud in our room. I’m going to put that on third roommate, Algernon.

He’s a loudmouth.

HealthMinder Day was wonderful, mostly because I got to hang out with my special needs blogging friends, who mean so very much to me.

From there I headed with some friends to the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. I hadn’t known about this facility before, but the Lodge is a place for cancer patients who are being treated in Manhattan to stay free of charge. It is beautiful and such a wonderful resource.

We were there to remember Susan by painting tiles for her that will be put together in a larger art piece in her honor.

She is so beautiful in that photo.

That is also where I got to start hanging out with Susan’s best friend, and one of my personal favorite people, Marty, a.k.a. Canape. I adore that woman. She’s fun.

And preeeettttyy.

I didn’t go to any fancy parties this year, but I did get out of the hotel to go to restaurants and to see some of the city with friends. It was perfect and relaxed and fun.

One of my high points was the Nintendo World Store, which I went to because I got a gift card to spend there because I am a Nintendo Brand Ambassador. More on that and the joy it brought my kids later. For now, this:

And, yes, this DOES make me the coolest mom.

Also, I might have gone to the Nintendo store and bought a chess set for my kids, but Bowser is the king, so I think it’s still okay.

The Voices of the Year reading is always one of the best events of the conference, and this year was no different. We listened to 15 amazing bloggers read their work and then there was a reception to honor them and the other hundred or so bloggers whose work was being honored.

Hmmm. I wonder who those hundred bloggers might be?

Why, look! One of them is me!

The expo hall was huge this year and I definitely made my way through it, although it was Algernon who made the most of the exhibits. I don’t do much work with brands anymore, so it’s not all that relevant to me. There was one piece of swag though that I walked all over the hotel to find.

It’s okay to scream in terror.

I love my stuffed Hot Pocket with sunglasses, arms, and tennis shoes. I will call him Percival.

There is one more place in the expo hall where I caused a HUGE scene and that was at the Jimmy Dean booth. I don’t know if you remember two years ago when I ran into the Jimmy Dean sun in a 29th-floor hallway at BlogHer, but it was a big deal to me.

So, when I rounded a corner in the expo hall and saw him again, I may have shrieked a little bit. I reminded him of our meeting in 2010, but I don’t think he remembered. Then I made him take his photo with me again.

YOU GUYS, IT IS THE SUN!!!!

And then I made him take his photo with Algernon.

It gets even more degrading from here.

I think the Jimmy Dean people loved it. It was like there were paparazzi, all for Algernon and the sun. I may have done some extensive jumping up and down and clapping.

Thanks for humoring me, friends at Jimmy Dean.

Then, they wanted to interview me because I probably looked like someone who ate a lot of Jimmy Dean and they were all, “How does Jimmy Dean fit into your life?” and I had to say, “Um. We don’t eat Jimmy Dean products, but I really love your commercials.”

By the time I left on Sunday, I was ready to go home and see Alex and my munchkins. I successfully navigated getting to Penn Station with Annette and got on my train and found a seat all by myself. And then at some point, I got off the train with my luggage at the wrong station and had to re-board in shame.

It was awesome. (<—sarcasm) And a very Stimey thing to do.

But at the end were these little dudes, which made the re-boarding instead of living in God Knows Where, Baltimore worth it all.

Now do something funny for blog fodder, mmmkay, kiddos?

*****

I wrote about what it is like to be away from my kids at White Knuckle Parenting this week. And last week I think I forgot to link to my column there in which I wondered if my kids would have survived in Olden Times.

You All Are the BEST.

Aw, you guys. Thank you.

I’m usually pretty chill about publishing stuff here, but I was a little freaked out about my last post. Usually I write, revise, edit, reread, and publish, all in short order. That last post stayed in my drafts folder for quite a while as I tried to find the right words.

Late last night, I clicked publish, pushed the link out on Facebook and Twitter and went to bed before feedback could come back in. I was nervous. But you guys were so great to me. Thank you.

I feel like I’m always saying that to you guys. You all are so good to me. I appreciate you so much.

I read every comment, email, Facebook message, and tweet at least twice, from both some of my oldest friends and from some people who are new to me as of today—and many folks in between. I love you/it is a pleasure to meet you and thank you so much for your support. I haven’t had a chance to respond to all of you, but I will. Until I do, you should know that every word you wrote to me was meaningful.

*****

I seems a little gauche to thank you and then advertise a link, but as long as I have you here, I might as well send you over to Autism Unexpected, where I wrote about taking Jack to his school’s end-of-the-year carnival. Just don’t look too much at the photo that accompanies it. I didn’t choose that photo and, in fact, it kind of stresses me out to look at it. Just scroll right down to the words.

I’ll probably write more often over there now considering that I’m not writing my White Knuckle Parenting column anymore due to budgetary reasons. (Theirs, not mine.) They were lovely to me over there at the Wheaton Patch. I miss them.

A Brief History of the Weekend

This was a big weekend for Team Stimey. Saturday was not just Jack’s birthday, but also the Cheetah-thon. Sam had a soccer game. My mother-in-law was in town visiting. Sunday, of course, was mother’s day, so I was busy sleeping in and going to the park with my kids and having friends over for dinner.

I have lots of thoughts about these things and even more photos. The only problem is that I am too exhausted to do any of these topics justice right now. So what Imma do is give you this photo of Jack on his 9th birthday.

Such a rock star.

Yeah, it’s a little weird to get your 9-year-old son a pashmina for his birthday, but it’s a sensory thing for him. One of his teachers lets him borrow her scarf at school, but he needs his own now that he’ll be going to another school. Also, last week he asked for “a shirt with flowers on it that will make me look like a Hawaiian.”

Done.

I’m also going to give you this photo of Jack and his coach at the Cheetah-thon.

This photo gives me the warm fuzzies.

Jack was so happy during that skating session. He was grinning and laughing and skating with his coach and skating with his best friend and just so…happy. This is why I write so much about the Cheetahs. This is why special hockey means so much. This is also why I want you to pay attention to the next paragraph.

The Cheetah-thon was a rousing success. Do you want to know one of the reasons why the Cheetah-thon was a rousing success? YOU. YOU helped do this. YOU donated $10 or $50 or $200 or you tweeted about the Cheetah-thon, blogged about it, shared a post about it on Facebook, or commented on one of my posts about the Cheetahs. You let the Cheetah Nation know how much you care about them. Trust me, they noticed.

At the Cheetah-thon, the coach stood in front of the attendees and told the players, “If you’ve ever wondered if you were special, just look around you. All of these people are here for you.”

YOU were there for the Cheetahs. Thank you.

Speaking of which, thank you to Jessica and Stephanie and their families for being the most recent Cheetah donors for Jack. Also, a huge thank you to Sandie and her family (and everyone else who showed up) for coming to the event. A very special thanks to Justine for helping too. You know why.

I promise to tell you more about the Cheetah-thon. Mostly because I can’t damn shut up about it.

Before I go to bed and put a close on this weekend, however, here is one last photo of my birthday boy.

That cake is kind of the perfect metaphor for Team Stimey: sort of weird looking, a little quirky, but delicious and full of love.

(Seriously. Take a bite out of Quinn some time. He’s the tastiest of all. Kinda minty.)