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!

Halloween and PokitDok

I had been dreading October 31 for weeks because I was sure I was going to have to figure out how to be at three different schools in three different areas of town all at the same time for Halloween parties. Someone was going to end up disappointed and someone was going to end up being yelled at and we were all going to end up crying.

Then I remembered (actually, Sam told me) that Sam’s class doesn’t have a party. They had a read-a-thon in their class today with snacks and an hour and a half of reading time. I love his nerd class.

Team Stimey Halloween

Sam was fine with no Halloween party. His party is the post-trick-or-treating candy binge.

Jack also didn’t have a Halloween party. Instead, his school does a Fall Festival, which happened today. It was kinda super awesome. The kids make their costumes at school and each class has a theme. Like, a bunch of the kindergarteners were rainbow fish and there were Arthurs and Angelina ballerinas and all kinds of other stuff. Because the school has a French immersion program, some of the kids had signs explaining their costumes in French, so I didn’t know what they were.

Jack’s class had each chosen a hero and created a sandwich board with a picture of their person on the front and some character traits of the person on the back. Frankly, it was one of my favorite things I have seen Jack do at school.

If you’ve been following Stimeyland for a while, you might be able to guess who Jack chose as his hero. Jack has been obsessed with this guy for a LONG time—Martin Luther King, Jr. Jack’s drawing was amazing. He is kind of clicking over from “let’s just get this project done!” to “let’s do this project well,” which I like seeing.

MLK Jr. by Jack

Best ever, right? RIGHT?!

The kids did a little parade and then had a party in one of the mainstream classrooms, which was both good and bad, but I’m reserving public judgment on that situation for a while. Here is Jack during the parade:

Jack in the parade

It was an awesome parade.

Quinn turned out to be the only one with a Halloween party, which was awesome. Schools refusing to have fun anymore really worked out in my favor this time. Quinn was nervous about the costume parade, so we skipped that then rejoined the class for his party. He ended up having a really good time. I was really proud of him for working so hard to overcome his fears.

I’m not going to lie though—the promise of frosted cookies helped.

Devil reader

Quinn might be destined for the nerd class.

All in all, a pretty decent (but short) school week.

*****

I have started writing over at PokitDok, a great site full of health information. I’ll be writing about autism every couple of weeks and will be sure to let you know when my posts go up. You are welcome to join the site over there or follow PokitDok on Twitter or Facebook.

This week I tried to answer the question, What Is Autism? I hope you check it out!

Also, just in case you’re like me and are imagining polka dots when you see PokitDok, you should maybe realize that PokitDok is probably supposed to be pronounced “pocket doc.” Thanks, Jim, for pointing that out to me. My brain even went so far as to imagine polka dots on the website, of which there are NONE. Well done, brain.

This Post Would Be Funnier If I Hadn’t Taken Out the Paragraph That Alex Called “Borderline, at Best.” And, No, I Won’t Email You the Paragraph.

Today was lovely. No school…no work…the promise of Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday cake after dinner.

Why? How do you celebrate?

Oh, right. That whole National Day of Service thing. Don’t worry, I did that too. Well. My kids did. And Alex. They cleaned up litter from our neighborhood. But I did suggest it.

Quinn came home with a piece of trash that he refused to give up. It was a page from a book that proceeded to live on my desk all afternoon. It was kind of lame because we have plenty of trash in this house without bringing in outside garbage.

I think that kid gets weirder and weirder by the minute. He goes through our recycling bin every day to find treasures. He was really stoked to find a phone book a couple of weeks ago. And he made us buy him new shoes because he says his old ones made his feet itch. See? Weird.

Huh. Wandered off there for a minute. Where was I?

Oh, right. We did some learning about MLK today, just like last year. Jack and I watched the I Have a Dream speech. I printed out a photo of MLK at Jack’s request. Jack then wandered around the house claiming to have drawn it. We talked about King, Rosa Parks, and civil rights a little throughout the course of the day. And when we were at the grocery store, we bought Martin’s birthday cake.

I’m not sure how much of our civil rights discussion made it into Quinn’s head, because while Alex was cooking dinner, Quinn asked, “When is that guy coming over?”

He meant Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think we confused Quinn a little bit this year. But there is always next year, right?

Updated to add: Okay, fine. The paragraph was about the mice at the pet store that we went to and the content of their character. That character? “Aimless.” The original paragraph was funnier.

Happy Birthday, Martin!

As far as autism-inspired obsessions go, I suppose Martin Luther King is a good topic to love. You should have seen Jack’s face yesterday when he saw a commercial that featured a drawing of MLK. His face lit up and he shouted, “It’s Martin! I saw Martin!”

Martin is Jack’s new best friend.

Jack is really interested in King and his birthday, so we celebrated MLK Day today with cake and some activities.

We started by watching King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on CNN. I think it gets more incredible every time I watch it.

My kids were a little baffled, but we talked about why he was saying what he was saying and what it meant. I figure that as long as they are continually exposed to things like this, it doesn’t matter that they understand it all the first time.

Then Sam asked me if I was black.
We moved on to coloring the pictures I downloaded off the internet yesterday.

I was a little bit sad that no one wanted to color my favorite page:

Apparently my kids like their civil rights leaders less adorable than I do. Sam very patiently colored in every part of his non-adorable, but very stately picture.

Jack and Quinn worked equally hard, but in a different way. Jack’s is on the top, Quinn’s on the bottom:

Jack started coloring with his chosen black Sharpie, which is his writing implement of choice for everything. Sam took one look at what Jack was doing and said, “Jack! What they mean by ‘black’ is that they have brown skin!”

Following coloring, we sang happy birthday to Martin and ate some cake. All three kids helped blow out the candles.

I decided to see what my guys had absorbed from school, what I told them, CNN, and, you know, the coloring sheets.

Quinn was evidently at someone else’s party because his response was, “I don’t know. I like to draw one and two and three and four.” I’m letting him get away with it this year because he’s three, but next year he’d better have some wise words about racial equality.

Jack had paid attention. He told us that King “gave speeches with books and won a peace medal.” Nice work, Jack.

Sam wins the award for most complete summary: “He was a great man and he went all around the country doing speeches. And he had a hotel, but one time when he stepped out, he died, because someone shot him.”

Sam wants to know if we can have a Martin Luther King, Jr. party every year. I think we can. But I’m not sure I want to teach my kids about the concept of civil disobedience for a while. That would only lead to revolution in Stimeyland.

Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

Alex woke me up this morning with these words: “Kurt Vonnegut died.” When I checked my email before 8:30 this morning, my mom had sent an email with the news. Sad way to start the day.

 

I first read Vonnegut in high school because I had heard that Slaughterhouse Five was a classic and I felt that I should read it. Thank God. This man’s words had an amazing, calming effect on me, and even though he wrote about dark things with a dark sense of humor and a deep cynicism, I always felt joy when reading his words. I felt grateful that he had written them and saw beauty in them.

 

It was sometime in the early to mid ’90s when I met him briefly at a book signing at the now-gone bookstore institution Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. He was doing a reading on the second floor. The crowd was so big I had to stand on the first floor and couldn’t quite hear him. Then I stood in a long line to get my book signed. I swear to God, meeting him was like meeting a rock star.

 

He had deeply lined, leathery skin and a grim expression. I had the biggest grin I think I have ever had in my life. When he glanced up at me before signing my book, he gave me a small, brief, amused smile. A smile I interpreted as a nod at my obvious and ridiculous worship and goofy expression. Coming from this man, that smile meant so much.

 

I glowed for days.

 

To the right you’ll see my rendition of Rabo Karabekian’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony from Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Like Vonnegut’s drawing in the book (to paraphrase), mine is a miniature and not in color, but captures the picture’s form and the spirit too:

 

When called upon by a skeptical public to defend this painting that surely a 5-year-old could produce, Karabekian says:

 

“The painting did not exist until I made it. Now that it does exist, nothing would make me happier than to have it reproduced again and again, and vastly improved upon, by all the 5-year-olds in town. I would love for your children to find pleasantly and playfully what it took me many angry years to find.

 

“I now give you my work of honor,” he went on, “that the picture…shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal–the ‘I am’ to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us–in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.”

 

Kurt Vonnegut’s unwavering band of light may have fallen from the canvas, but it is still there in the painting in my heart. And readers of his books will see it there, glowing, in each and every one of his books. If you haven’t already, I urge you to pay homage to this brilliant man by reading one of books. You will receive wisdom, humor, questions, and careful thought.

 

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.