A Holiday in Photos (and Also Some Words)

Team Stimey had a lovely Christmas. It was one of the most relaxed days we’ve had in a long time. Much of my family didn’t even get out of their pajamas all day, which usually is upsetting to me, but today seemed just about right.

What seemed right to us, however, seemed exceedingly strange to some members of Team Stimey.

Photo of my black cat with a slightly alarmed look on her face.

“What…in…the FUCK…is happening here?”

I’m going to cut the suspense right here and let you know that Santa came and all of my children were very happy.

Photo of Quinn, Jack, and Sam sitting on the couch together. Quinn is reading, Jack is playing with a little robot, and Sam is also playing with a little robot.

It’s funny because Santa brought these weird tiny robots in boxes with Japanese writing on them. Frankly, just looking at them, I wasn’t sure what was in the boxes. They were Jack’s favorite present of the whole day. See above.

Santa also gave the kids a bucket of snowballs, which was a huge mistake, especially considering the laser-sharp aim Sam has developed.

The cats got a crinkly tunnel as a present later in the day, but until then, they had to make do with the watching the local wildlife.

Photo of my two black cats crouched by the a sliding glass door. There is a squirrel on the other side of it.

Starfire almost bolted through the window after that squirrel.

We had gift successes, like this beanbag:

Photo of Quinn standing by an open box with a green beanbag inside. He has a huge grin on his face.

It was exactly what he wanted!

The box no longer holds a beanbag. Instead, Quinn lies inside with a huge grin.

Oh. Wait. Maybe he just wanted the box.

Photo of Quinn's closet. He is inside it, sitting on a beanbag and peering out of the door.

Okay. Maybe he does like the beanbag. (He’s making a cozy nook in his closet. He also got a lamp for it today.)

We also had gift failures, like the video game that we couldn’t get to install correctly.

Photo of Alex grimacing in front of a computer while holding an Xbox controller. My hand is in the front of the photo, holding a little figurine of a bomb with an "f" attached to it.

I let Alex borrow the “f-bomb” I got. He needed it.

At some point, I forced Alex to leave the house and go for a quick run, which was sorely needed. The only snag was that we had gone running while a pie was in the oven and we ran slower than we usually do (maybe because caramel corn and coffee cake aren’t conducive to speed work). We were probably 3/4 of a mile from home when I looked at my watch and mentioned that we were usually a lot farther along by the time 27 minutes had passed.

Then Alex got a startled look on his face and he was all, “THE PIE! WE HAVE TO SAVE THE PIE!” and he took off running, I swear, faster than I am capable of moving, yelling, “THE PIE! THE PIE!”

The fact that I was trying really hard not to pee myself laughing made it difficult for me to chase after him. The fact that his arms were flailing and he was hurtling along at lightspeed did not help me either.

When we run together, we usually walk up the last steep half mile to our house. Today, Alex kept encouraging me to run it, shouting, “LEAVE ME! SAVE THE PIE!”

Photo of Alex and I outside laughing. We are both wearing aqua blue shirts.

The fact that we were dressed identically only made us more ridiculous.

(We saved the pie.)

Imagine some Minecraft playing, some ham eating, and some Lord of the Rings watching and you pretty much have the rest of our day. It was fantastic. I hope your day was as chill as ours. Know that we spent time thinking of our friends and family and wishing you all a Merry Christmas as well.

Sending love and wishes for a lovely end of 2014 to all of you from Team Stimey.

Photo of five LEGO minifigures, each one personalized to look like a member of my family. There are also three LEGO cats.

Are you ever pissed when someone gives you a gift that is so perfect you wish YOU’D been the one to think of it? Yeah.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quinn has a new guru. It is Grumpy Cat. If you’re familiar with Quinn’s work, this totally makes sense.

I tell you this because when Quinn thought he had to make a sign to carry at his school’s Turkey Trot activity, he wanted to incorporate Grumpy Cat. Because what says happy thanksgiving, like a cat in a terrible mood? More on this later.

The Turkey Trot was supposed to be a mile-long walk through the neighborhood around the school with parents invited to join in, followed by hot chocolate. Unfortunately the weather today was a heavy mix of rain and snow and hail, so instead of cruising through the neighborhood, the kiddos tried to run as many of the 24.1 laps around the gym that makes up a mile.

Perhaps because of the venue change, I was the only parent from Quinn’s class who showed up to watch the kiddos run, walk, skip, dance, and otherwise ambulate around the gym.

I only went because Quinn was expecting me and I wasn’t about to change the script on him because of the rain. I’m so glad I did. I got to watch him smile and laugh and talk and play with his new good friend in the classroom. I got to see him talk to a kid I’ve never even heard of before. I got to talk to a lot of teachers and paraeducators who work with Quinn that I hadn’t met. I got to see him show his sign to all the staff, who told him how great it was.

I got to see him be happy and comfortable at school. Even knowing that he still struggles there, that means so much to me.

So even though Grumpy Cat might not approve of a happy thanksgiving, I sure do.

Photo of Quinn holding a sign. The sign has a picture of a turkey he drew under the words "happy thanksgiving." Then there is a photo of Grumpy Cat, with a line indicating that he is saying NO.

May all of you, American celebrators or not, have a wonderful day full of love and joy and smiles. And hopefully cats, grumpy or otherwise.

Heroes of the Watershed

Team Stimey always celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Ever since 2009 when Jack fell madly in love with Martin after learning about him in school, we’ve religiously observed the day by watching the iconic I Have a Dream speech and eating birthday cake. Sometimes there is other civil rights education that goes on as well. It all kind of depends.

The cake and speech are non-negotiable, however.

We all know, of course, that MLK Day is supposed to be a National Day of Service as well. Alex has taken the kiddos on walks to clean up trash now and again on the day, but we’ve never participated in an organized service project.

Until today.


We joined Hiking Along in their quest to clean up Sligo Creek, a creek that runs through my area. Somehow telling my kids to “put on shoes because we’re going to go pick up trash by Sligo Creek!” actually resulted in all three of my kids putting on shoes and happily piling into our car, which was EXACTLY the opposite of what I expected would happen.

Huh. Who would have guessed?

We arrived on site to find a sign suggesting that each of us “Be a watershed hero!”

Challenge. Accepted.

We also arrived to find one of Sam’s buddies from school there with his family, which was great because that was like instant buy-in for Sam.

We set about collecting plastic bags and gloves (oh thank the good lord they were not latex gloves) and then I looked up to find that Jack had made a new friend.

Jack holding the leash of a medium-sized black dog.

Jack! We are supposed to be collecting TRASH, not DOGS.

Honestly, I can’t take my eyes off of him for a second.

We set off along the creek to pick up some trash although some of us (Quinn) didn’t bother to get gloves because some of us (Quinn) seemed to know ahead of time that some of us (Quinn) were completely uninterested in picking up trash.

(Later in the day, Quinn asked if I was going to write about our outing. I said, “Yes. You’re not going to come off well.”)

Photo of all three of my kids in a leafy, wooded area.

Sam was earning student service hours for the event, so it was most important that he be involved. Meaning he had to pick up the grossest garbage.

Other members of our party got to focus on other things. Like running. And spinning.

Quinn and Jack in the distance down a wooden path.

Although to be fair, Jack did take spinning breaks to pick up the occasional piece of trash.

At first Sam was all, “What the—?”

Sam standing on same wooden sidewalk, holding a picker-upper tool with a perturbed look on his face.

But then he realized that if he did most of the trash picking up, he got to have solo control of the little grabby thing we’d brought with us.

It took us a little while to find our rhythm because some members of our party kept running off. Jack, being autistic, was naturally drawn to the water. (Joke.)

Jack standing on the edge of a creek.

Although, honestly, he kinda was.

Still, it was Quinn who was the first to actually go wading in the creek. Normally, I tend to expect this. My kids seem to be physically incapable of standing near water without walking in it. This would be no big deal, but for the fact that it was 40 degrees this morning.

Quinn standing riiight next to the creek, holding his pant legs up.

I didn’t get the photo of him actually IN the water because I was too busy shouting at him to get out.

Whilst those shenanigans were going on, Sam and I continued on our treasure hunt for garbage creekside. I only lost him when he had the gall to try to do some learning on our service outing.

Sam reading a creekside sign about "Aquatic Habitats."

The nerve of some people.

We actually had a really nice time. We had an hour and a half time block, so there was plenty of time to wander around and collect a pretty impressive amount of trash. We saw some deer and also watched some ducks, which were an excellent example of Creatures in the Watershed That We Were Currently Helping. Even though the temperature was low, unless you were wading in the creek, the air was actually quite comfortable.

We even got a little ambitious and climbed over thorny bushes and navigated precarious sandy shores to get to some of the more challenging trash.

Jack proved himself to be a real Hero of the Watershed by collecting the most challenging piece of trash on our whole route.

Jack wading up to his mid-calves in the creek and picking up a plastic trash bag from the water.

And I proved myself to be, at best, a Questionable Parent.

The only reason I asked him to do this was because he already had wet shoes and pants from his voluntary foray into the creek moments earlier.

All things considered, I am really impressed with my kiddos for being such good sports and working so hard at the creek this morning. Even Quinn, although he didn’t pick up much trash, was good-natured and fun, which isn’t always easy for him in less than desirable conditions. (Cold. Gross. Etc.)

(Quinn did ask me to exaggerate how much trash he picked up, so if he asks, tell him that I told you that he picked up a HUGE amount.)

My kids standing near our collected bags of trash giving thumbs up.

Heroes of the Watershed.

Then we returned to our start point, where they had hot chocolate for the volunteers. We might just have to add this to our MLK Day routine. It was fun, we did a good thing, everyone got a lot of fresh air, no one lost a toe to frostbite, and we all really earned our birthday cake.

Merry Christmas 2013

Team Stimey Christmas CardAs I type, my kids lie in their beds, luxuriating in the glow of one of our best Christmas Eves ever. They’ve left notes for Santa and cans of cat food with a request that he put one in each of the kitten’s socks that hang by the fireplace.

"Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack."

“Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack.”

"You're like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]"

From Quinn: “You’re like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]”

Sam wrote one too, but he didn’t want it photographed. Sam is not earnestly trying to fall asleep, as the other two are. Sam is lying awake, excited to be Santa’s helper once his brothers are down for the count.

Team Stimey in pajamas reading The Night Before Christmas

Also, hours later, this happened:

Facebook post: "Poor Quinn has the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas Eve so I sometimes lie with him and tell him stories about cats until he drifts off. Just now he said, "This is the best kind of present." I love this kid. // He also cried  a little because he thought he could only snuggle with me until he's 18, which means only ten more years. I told him I'd snuggle with him until he was 60 if he'd let me."

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, but have a hard time with the holiday, know that I am sending my love to you and hoping that it goes as well as it can today.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy your movie. We went to see The Hobbit twice already. It’s awesome and I suggest you go see it. You might want to close your eyes when the dwarves travel through Mirkwood though.

Thank you for the gift of your support and friendship this year. I hope I give it back to you in as much quantity as you give it to me.

I love you all.

Love from behind

The Pertinent Information

•My kids spilled a metric shit-ton of goldfish crackers in my car the other day. I decided that the squirrels in my backyard would like them. I had visions of squadrons of squirrels sitting on my back porch and clutching crackers in their adorable little paws as they gratefully nodded their furry heads at me. Instead, it rained and now I have a vomit-resembling pile of ex-goldfish slurry in my backyard. This makes me feel sad.

• Jack won’t eat crusts on his peanut butter sandwiches. There is, however, a raccoon who has been knocking over our garbage cans to get to them who really appreciates them. Alex and Sam found him solemnly consuming one (in much the way that I imagined the grateful squirrels) the other morning when Sam was headed to school. That old saying, “It’s more afraid of you than you are of it”? Not true vis-a-vis Sam and the raccoon. Although I think the fact that Alex implied that the raccoon could be rabid contributed to his fear.

The rock that my car thief gave me is extremely good at holding our garbage cans closed to keep raccoons out.

• My neighbor has been bringing Quinn a home-baked coffee cake every Christmas for years now. It is ridiculous how much Quinn loves that coffee cake. Also, the rest of the family is grateful that he is young and cute enough to ask for it every year so we don’t have to. It is already in our fridge for this year, but Quinn doesn’t know that, so he keeps asking about it. I will present it to him tomorrow for Christmas Eve. It will make his entire day.

• I have three kids, but turkey wishbones only have space for two wish rivals to yank on it. We normally have turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to take care of this problem. This year we are having ham for Christmas. I wonder what hell will rain down upon us because of this decision.

The cats are still very interested in the Christmas tree. Oreo in particular is a problem. She spends most of her time sitting happily underneath it and Alex found her beheading a bird ornament this morning. Literally beheading it. I wonder how her little brain will deal with it when we remove the tree later this week. She might implode.

• Alex, who hates scary TV and movies, is watching The Walking Dead with me on Netflix from the beginning. He reports that he wakes up in a panic at least once every night.

• Alex is terrified by even the idea of scary movies. One time I was watching Paranormal Activity and I paused it to get something from the kitchen and when I came back, Alex was taking advantage of it being paused to sit in a chair with his cup of water so he could say good night to me. Because I’m an asshole, I snuck up on him and scared him so badly that he threw the cup of water across the room. It is one of my favorite memories.

• Sam performed in his winter band concert earlier this month. He was adorbs. Also, I had to buy him every piece of his required concert outfit, down to his socks, because he doesn’t own anything more formal than Crocs and track pants. I decided to not put him in his formal Pokemon shirt for the concert.

Sam playing the flute

Sam loves playing the flute. He’s so awesome.

• The band program said Sam is a “section leader.” I don’t know what that means and Sam refused to give me anything but a smart-ass answer when I asked him.

Jack wore his new, bigger helmet at hockey practice this week.

Smiling Jack in hockey gear

Look! It almost looks as if he doesn’t have a headache!

• Santa came to hockey practice this week. He always uses some of the Cheetahs as reindeer to pull him around the rink. That is one brave Santa right there.

hockey players pulling Santa on a sled

That is Jack in the very back of the reindeer line.

• Quinn made an extremely joyous discovery worthy of Twitter the other day when we were eating lunch:

My 8-year-old just now: "I have feet." I guess it's good to check in with your appendages now and again."Then, after further questioning:

Re: Quinn's "I have feet" comment from earlier, he explains, "I forgot I had them for a minute" & "sometimes people forget they have stuff."• And now  you have all the pertinent information.

10 Ways to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

or Why Did You Hang Cat Toys All Over This Brand New Climbing Structure and Then Yell at Us When We Play on It?

or, simply, CATNANIGANS.

Black and white cat in front of a Christmas treeThis year I decided to decorate my Christmas tree with kittens.

I knew that having three six-month-old kittens would create a whole new set of issues pertaining to things like ribbon, poinsettias, and structural integrity of any trees we brought into our living room. In case you are in the same boat, I present to you Stimey’s Guide to Cat-Proofing Your Christmas!

1. If you have kittens and think that they will probably not care at all about your bringing a tree—for the love of God, an actual tree—into your living room, check yo’self.

It is likely that my cats have never actually experienced a tree up close. They are enjoying the experience.

It is likely that my cats have never actually experienced a tree up close. They are enjoying the experience.

They will care. Trust me on this one.

2. Tie your tree to a wall. I know. How the hell are you supposed to tie your tree to the wall?

Figure it out.

Christmas tree tied to blinds mechanism.

We disassembled blinds in order to tie ours to the wall.

3. If at all possible, dangle the twine, creating an impromptu cat toy, thus kinda defeating the whole purpose.

cat playing with twine tying christmas tree to wall.

Thanks for finding the Achilles Heel there, Ruby.

4. Whereas a cat knocking over a tree would be a bummer, a cat eating a tree light and being electrocuted would pretty much wreck Christmas, so make your lights as unappealing as possible.

I have no idea how to do that.

I did, however, put our lights on the tree from the bottom up so that any extra dangling wires would be at the top instead of the bottom.

5. Your cats will drink the water in your tree stand. Don’t put poison in it.

cat drinking out of tree stand

Repeat: NO poison.

This goes for poisonous plants as well. Fortunately, I kill every plant I bring into my home, so I don’t bring in additional deadly flowers for the holidays.

6. You think they are ornaments. Your cats think they are sparkly, dangly cat toys that you’ve hung from the tree for their amusement.

I CAN HAZ ORNAMENTZBack when my kids were babies, I bought a lot of nonbreakable ornaments so they couldn’t hurt themselves on our tree. This year I found myself in the Christmas aisle at Target, once again looking for shatterproof blingies. Like then, I was not just looking for safe ornaments, but safe ways to hang them on my tree. For us, that meant tying little strings on about a billion new balls and icicles instead of using sharp, swallowable metal hooks.

silver ornament hung on tree with a silver string

It took a long time.

It took so long that at some point as I was tying all those stupid little strings on the balls, I started to wonder if this was really necessary. The cats would not be all that excited by the ornaments, I thought. They will probably not drop them on the ground and then eat the sharp little hooks, I surmised.

Then I looked down and watched my dumbass cat trying to play with some balls through the plastic box.

Oreo is cute, but she's not the smartest cat in the house.

Oreo is cute, but she’s not the smartest cat in the house.

7. After all of that, your cat will still climb into your tree and your only clue as to where she is will be by localizing the source of the most vigorous shaking of tree branches.

small black cat inside tree

Goddammit, Starfire.

It is, by the way, completely impossible to pull a cat out of a Christmas tree if she’s in by the trunk. Trust me on this one.

8. Give up and station a sentry next to the tree to prevent catastrophes. (CATastrophes. Ha, ha.)

Acknowledge that this still won't help. Please to note the small black cat sneaking under the tree right under the sentry's nose.

Acknowledge that this still won’t help. Please to note the small black cat sneaking under the tree right under the sentry’s nose.

9. Give up, buy a lot of bows (curling ribbon is dangerous for cats who eat it), and realize that your desires have become subordinate to that of three 7-pound cats wandering your house. Get used to picking up a lot of ornaments from your floor after your cats play with them. Try to notice which gifts the cats are chewing the paper off of and put them in the back. Get used to kittens that smell like pine tree. Remain vigilant.

10. Gleefully wait for Christmas morning, which you think is going to be fucking awesome because…kittens…and boxes…and wrapping paper. This makes up for the fact that the bottom quarter of your tree will be entirely trashed and bare of ornaments by the big day. There is always a silver lining.

ISO LEGO Hero Factory Elemental Guardian*

* which may or may not exist

So, yesterday I told you all about Quinn’s Christmas list and how he wants all of the things. Jack’s Christmas list is substantially more modest, but equally problematic. He has plans to ask Santa for a very specific toy, a toy that one of his classmates brought to school last week and called a “Hero Factory Elemental Guardian.” Jack was so enamored of it that he drew a picture of it.

Multi-colored crayon drawing of angry looking, four-armed robot type guy.

It was fortunate he did, because it is the only clue I have as to what the hell a Hero Factory Elemental Guardian is.

See, I googled this, assuming that it would be easy to find, only to discover that not only is this toy as described NOT available and does not seem to exist, it seems to have never existed.

As anyone does when stymied (see what I did there?), I posted a picture on Facebook and begged for help. Friends came back with idea after idea of what this toy could actually be and, under the guise of curiosity, I asked Jack about each one, showing him photos.

Is it a Gormiti Elemental Fusion Mini Guardian Creature? No.

Is is a different Hero Factory figure? No. (And we looked at a bajillion of them.)

Is it an Elemental Hero Clay Guardian? No.

Is it a Yu-Gi-Oh Elemental Hero Flame? No.


It turns out that crowdsourcing a nonexistent toy is futile. I ended up sending an email to the mother of the kid who brought the toy to school. My rambling, lunatic email was made better by the fact that I have never in my life spoken to or corresponded with this woman in my life. Also, I sent the photo you see above and ended with the sentence, “If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, that’s okay too.”

I am not very good at interacting with The People.

That was two days ago. So far there is no word.

I fully expect that if this woman decides to open the email from a stranger (me) with the subject heading “Question about one of [kid’s name] toys,” that I will either hear back that she has no idea what I am talking about or will receive a photo of some creature created from 16 separate Hero Factory kits.

Either way I’m screwed. I think it might be time to start talking up other toys—or massage chairs and cash.