Go!

School went very well today. I am super proud of all three of my kids.

Here is where I would normally post photos of them on the first day, but I forgot (FORGOT!) to take photos, so instead I’m going to give you some drawings. I gave my kids a daily schedule when I worked this summer—a schedule that included art time. I have a whole series of blog posts planned featuring the art created then, and today I will start with what I had them draw the last day Sam babysat for me over the summer.

I told them to draw pictures of themselves at school.

The fact that they’d been doing art all summer and were tired of it may have something to do with the haphazard writing and drawing, but they still pretty accurately capture what my kids think of school.

For example, Sam considers school to be little other than a venue to create music.

A drawing labeled "practice room." It is a crudely drawn stick figure playing a bassoon that is taller than himself.

I like that the bassoon is 18 feet tall.

Quinn, quite obviously, was in denial about the whole thing,

Photo of a giant cat head next to a small stick figure labeled "me." The caption says "cat school.'

Welcome to the terrifying school of enormous cats. Quinn is apparently the dean.

My kids evidently have some difficulty with drawing to scale.

Aaaand then there is Jack. Jack’s art made me worried that he is planning some sort of shenanigans at his school.

Photo of a school building. A boot is sticking out of the door, kicking a person, presumably Jack, out of the door.

Let’s hope that Jack’s vision of being kicked out of school is aspirational rather than prophetic.

Reality may be nothing like their drawings (except in Sam’s case), but so far, so good.

(KNOCK ON WOOD.)

Ready…Set…

Photo of Sam standing in the school supplies section of Target. There is a pencil-shaped sign above his head that says "school shop."I am writing this the day before I send my kids back to school. We just put them in bed. Alex literally just said to Sam, “You can read 30 minutes of Euclid before you have to turn out your light.” I don’t understand either of those gentlemen. The other two are discussing Super Mario. Them, I get.

So, school. On the one hand, I am going to miss my kids when they’re at school. We had a lot of fun this summer and I’ve really enjoyed getting mass quantities of time with them. On the other, more important hand, I am going to have two days at home every single week without ANYONE to ask me for stuff, to drag along on errands, or to break up fights between.

I was a little worried about the start of school, especially for Quinn, because about halfway through summer he started dropping to the ground and erupting in sobs anytime I mentioned it, but I spent a couple of weeks supersaturating him in the idea of school in an effort to desensitize him to his distress. It seems to be working. KNOCK ON WOOD.

We did the bulk of our school shopping last week, when I dragged the munchkins to the mall for shoes, pants, and school supplies shopping. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to try to do everything in one trip.

Photo of my three kids at the casheir in Target. Sam, in the background, looks pained. Jack is staring off into space. Qunn is in the foreground, collapsed onto the counter.

I posted this photo on Facebook and it turns out that we weren’t the only family to be entirely undone by back-to-school shopping.

Since then, we’ve been doing things to prepare for tomorrow, but it all really kicked into gear today because we are nothing if not procrastinators. I spent some time with each kid today setting up their binders for school.

Photo of Sam drawing a cat on the outside of his binder.

Part of this was the important task of decorating said binders, mostly with photos and drawings of cats.

Did I mention that we are procrastinators? We also spent part of the day finishing up summer homework packets.

Photo of Jack writing on a worksheet.

This is Jack writing about what her learned from his 300-page, adult-level chapter book that he finished last week. Like a boss.

Sharky helped us with our work.

Photo of Sharky the cat sitting on the table in a pile of school supply packaging. He's chewing on some paper.

And by “helped,” I mean, “caused as much trouble as possible.”

I also had to complete a project for Quinn. Quinn and I went to visit his school last Thursday to meet his teachers before open house. (We also went back on Friday for open house. See: supersaturation) When we were there, we discovered that both of his teachers are cat people. One of them showed us a photo of her late cat, which she’d made into a magnet.

*bing!* *lightbulb!*

As you may have noticed, Quinn’s cats are very comforting to him. Last year I put photos of his cats in his binder. But, for some bizarre reason, Quinn has a locker this year (he’s in 5th grade). After seeing his teacher’s cat magnet and the metal lockers, one of which he will be assigned, Quinn and I agreed that we’d make magnets of his cats.

Thus began the search for suitable photos, followed by printing, cutting, laminating, cutting, gluing, cutting, and eventually showing Quinn the finished product, which, if I do say so myself, is fucking amazing.

Photo of magnets on a fridge. Five are of cats and one is of Quinn.

I made a Quinn magnet, so he could be surrounded by his furry buddies.

We’ve bought lunch food and written down bus route numbers, we’ve attached emergency house keys to backpacks, and I have bravery M&Ms on standby in case Quinn needs some encouragement to get on the bus.

Let’s hope things go well and that the three munchkins have a good start to the school year.

Once a Cheetah, Always a Cheetah

Photo of a hockey helmet on top of a hockey bag. There is masking tape on the helmet with the name "Jack" written on it.I had to send a really sad email today. Jack has decided to take a break from hockey this year. After much (much) inner-family discussion on the topic, it was time to tell his coaches.

They were wonderful. Once a Cheetah, always a Cheetah, one said. Jack has been a central part of the Cheetahs, another said.

Jack is welcome back anytime, both of them declared.

I am going to miss that team, I tell you. I’m hoping that Jack will change his mind and want to go back next year or the year after. I told him about what his coaches had said and I swear I saw his eyes get a little watery. When I asked him if he might want to go back in a year or two, he said he might and he looked happy at the thought.

I hope he does. After Jack’s diagnosis, the Cheetahs were our first real-life safe space among other families who understood us. The kindness of the coaches, the support of the other parents, and the leadership of Jack’s older teammates meant the world to us at a time when we needed it so very badly.

Those of you who have been here for a while know how much the Cheetahs mean to us. The tournament trips Jack and I took with the team were like nothing else I’ve experienced. The friends I’ve made rink-side and in the locker rooms are very dear to me. Watching Jack connect with his coaches and teammates and loving to skate has been priceless.

No matter what happens in the future, I am so grateful for this team and all the people involved in it—athletes, coaches, parents, mentors, everyone. Thank you. We love you.

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.

A Visual Tour of Summer Thus Far

I haven’t been around here much this summer, but we have been very busy, nonetheless. I haven’t written about it as we’ve lived it, but I want to share some of my favorite photos from the summer—so far.

Let’s start with the face I found in the wall of the bathroom at work.

Photo of a white wall. There are cracks and bubbles in it that make it look like a face.

He looks sad, doesn’t he? I suppose that’s because he has to live in the bathroom.

Okay, that one was a little weird, I know. This next one is better. We took Jack and Quinn to Medieval Times for their birthdays, but for various reasons, we had to do it in June instead of in May, their birthday month. So shortly after school let out, we collected one close friend for each of them and took them to the castle.

Photo of five boys walking along a sidewalk. The photo is taken from the back.

I only wish Medieval Times didn’t cost a million dollars, so we could have added a couple more cute backs of heads.

We also found more cut-rate ways to enjoy summer.

Photo of Quinn in a swimsuit and goggles. He is sitting in a large blue bucket full of water, holding a water gun.

It’s the world’s worst swimming pool.

We should remember that this is also the summer of new white kittens. I have several billion photos of them. This one includes Sam.

Photo of a small white cat sitting in front of Sam.

This is Pickles. Pickles is ridiculously cute. Sam is okay.

We went to the Baltimore Aquarium one day. Jack’s favorite part may have been the one part that had no animals.

Photo of a darkish room featuring tall columns of water, within which are bubbles. Jack is crouched down by one, looking up at one.

I love it too.

We colored Sam’s hair now and again with varying degrees of success.

Photo of Sam with his hair combed over his face. He is wearing sunglasses over the hair. There are streaks of faded blue, green, purple, and orange in it.

He did, however, successfully spend the summer growing his hair.

As always, we had a lot of interspecies interaction.

Photo of the inside of the gerbil tank. A brown gerbil is standing on a gerbil house peeking through the mesh lid of the cage, on which a kitten is standing.

This went better than either the gerbil fight that resulted in chaos and a tetanus shot OR the gerbil escape that resulted in chaos and cat vs. gerbil vs. human shenanigans.

The fourth of July was fun. We used to walk down the street to the park to watch local fireworks, but since we moved, we couldn’t do that this year. So instead, we spent it on the roof of Alex’s office building. It was cool.

Photo of Jack standing in front of a view that includes the Washington Monument. He is wearing sunglasses and looking awesome.

But not as cool as Jack in this photo.

Photo of me and Sam.

And here is Sam looking patriotic and handsome.

Photo of me and Quinn. Quinn is holding a hot dog aloft.

And here is Quinn celebrating hot dogs.

Photo of Jack holding a plate full of crackers.

Jack didn’t care for most of the food, so he ate a lot of plates like this, leading me to make multiple jokes about Cracker Jacks.

Photo of a flag waving in front of fireworks in the dark sky.

It was a really cool night. Furthermore, there was a strategically placed flag that made the fireworks even better.

We also went to a little zoo where you can feed animals.

Photo of Quinn holding out one piece of food to a goat.

I think Quinn dropped this particular pellet, resulting in one very disappointed goat.

There was, however, at this same zoo, an aviary where you could feed budgies. Everyone REALLY enjoyed this area.

Photo of a popsicle stick with seeds on the end. A small bird with wings spread is landing on it to eat.

This budgie, for example. His enjoyment was palpable.

Photo of Jack holding out his arm with a bird sitting on it.

Jack got pooped on a little. He was all, “What do I do?” and I was all, “Wipe it on my shirt,” because that’s what moms do.

Quinn holding a popsicle stick in each hand. There is a bird on each.

This was Quinn’s favorite part of the zoo day.

Photo of Sam holding out a popsicle stick. There are five birds trying to eat off of it.

Sam loved the bird fight over his bird food.

In case we ever need to suddenly flee the country, we got passports for the group of us. In some sort of miracle, all three of my kids cooperated for their official photos. I’m thinking of asking the post office to take our Christmas card photo.

A photo of my, Sam, Jack, and Quinn's passport photos.

Alex already has a passport, but he’s definitely part of the fleeing the country plans.

We went to a concert where the National Symphony Orchestra played music from Pokemon video games while they showed Pokemon footage. Shortly before intermission, Quinn had to urgently go to the bathroom. Then he had to urgently eat a soft pretzel.

Photo in the dark of me and Quinn smiling and he's eating a soft pretzel.

Pretty sneaky way to trick him into a symphony concert—that he actually enjoyed!

We also went tubing on a river, which each of my children enjoyed in a different manner.

Photo of Sam on his back in an inner tube. He couldn't be more relaxed.

Sam took the mellow approach.

Jack peeking out of an inner tube.

Jack preferred an in-river experience.

Photo of Quinn as he falls out of his inner tube.

And Quinn was FULL immersion.

You may have noticed that my kids like water. So we got on the wait list for our neighborhood pool and got a half-summer guest membership. We are working hard to get our money’s worth.

Photo of my three kids sitting by the side of the pool.

See how hard they’re working?

I’ve still been struggling to run, but I’m working my way back—and I even ran a race that I had to get up at the crack of dawn for.

Selfie of me at the finish line.

I almost skipped this race because I was tired and didn’t want to run, but I made myself do it and it felt great. I’m trying to remember that feeling.

This has also been the summer of music for Sam. I feel as if I’ve been spending all of my free time driving him and his bassoon places.

Photo of Sam walking down an aisle after his quintet performance.

He had a camp where he performed in his very first woodwind quintet. I don’t have a photo of that to share here though because the nature of a quintet means there were four other people in the photo.

Did I mention the kittens?

Photo of two white kittens sleeping cuddled together.

These two kittens are like magic. They are so sweet, with each other and with us.

And with that, I leave you with one last photo, taken today. Hopefully the rest of summer will provide just as many good memories.

Photo of Sam and Quinn jumping off of diving boards right next to each other.

Happy Summer!

 

And the Happy Dance Was Danced All Around

Today was my kids’ last day of school for the year.

*cue happy dance*

*cue more happy dance*

*stand still for a second*

*launch back into happy dance*

Dude. It has been QUITE a school year. Some of it has been pretty rough. Some of it has been fantastic. All of it is now behind us and I can’t say that I’m sorry. I feel very happy about facing down 62 days (Quinn tells me it is 62 days and if anyone knows that particular statistic, it’s him) of summer.

We celebrated by visiting our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream joint.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn is looking at the camera. Sam is reflected in a mirror behind Quinn, Jack is sitting nexdt to Quinn with his back to the camera, but you can see his face in the mirror.

Happy kids are happy.

This particular ice cream place is weird and hardly ever has customers and feels kinda grungy, but several years ago we went there on the last day and now we go every single year. It works out because none of us ever want to go there any other day of the year, so it’s kind of a disgusting little treat that makes all of us happy.

Sam had a pretty good year this year. He was in 7th grade and has really started to become his own person. I know I always say this, but it’s very cool to watch your kid learn who they are. I am really proud of him as a young man. He’s a good kid.

He’s also super into music. He’s been playing both flute and bassoon in jazz band and advanced band, respectively, and he’s also picking up piano from his general music class. He has all kinds of pretentious ideas about who on the radio is a real musician and who is just in it for the money. (Coldplay and Taylor Swift, for example. Guess who falls into which category.)

When I went to pick Sam up from his bus stop today, I found him running joyfully down the street with his arms flailing about in the air. It was his version of the happy dance.

Jack has also had a good year. He started middle school (6th grade) this year and adjusted to it admirably. I think it helped that his two best friends are in the same program at the same school as him. He also met some new friends who are wonderful. Jack is a very popular and lucky boy.

Jack isn’t particularly verbally expressive, but it is easy to see how grown up he is getting too. I love watching him soak up what is going on around him. I sometimes feel like I can see his brain processing things. There is a lot going on inside that boy’s head.

In addition to his deep thoughts, much of what is going on inside his head is probably a constant cataloging and re-cataloging of information about Mario and Luigi. I had absolutely no idea that there was so much written information about that pair and their friends on the internet as there is. Jack could probably write a three-volume biography of them at this point.
Quietly sidling up to the computer to review said information after his bus dropped him at home was his version of a happy dance.
Quinn has had the rockiest year. It was hard for him because he had to start 4th grade at an entirely new school where he didn’t know a single person. I think about the terror that I feel in certain situations and I am awed by how brave Quinn was to walk into that school.
I talked to him about that today. I reminded him of his first day, when we missed the morning bus and he was crying (and understandably so) when I dropped him off in the morning and how in the afternoon he forgot what bus stop to get off at and ended up in the wrong place and how hard it was for him. Then I reminded him about all the friends he’s made and how he is comfortable with the school and its rules and how much he’s learned. I told him how proud of him I am.
He tried not to smile. He wasn’t about to let on that he is proud of himself too. But I know he is. That kid is a superhero. He did a great job this year. He has had a momentous year in terms of school supports and figuring out what works and so on, but that’s his story to tell. All I’m going to say is that he is learning about himself and he has a team that wants him to self-advocate and he is definitely in the right school, surrounded by the right people.
He was the last of my three kids to arrive home today. I was standing on the porch doing my happy dance, which he greeted with a huge smile. That kid works SO hard to get through his day. I could almost see the weight rolling off his shoulders as he walked away from his bus.
All in all, it was a good school year, but I’m still glad it’s over.
Screenshot of my status update from the Stimeyland Facebook page: "For those of you who have kids who struggle in school, who work SO goddamn hard to get through each day, and who do so with strength, resolve, the skin of their teeth, or just plain sticktoitiveness, please join me in celebrating the last motherfucking day of school! Hells yeah."

Also, for those of you who have kids who don’t struggle and also teachers. Maybe especially teachers.

Here’s to summer.

*continue happy dance*

Houston, We Have a Long Overdue Vacation Recap

My kids’ spring break was about two months ago. (When I started writing this post, it was only a month.) My family took the opportunity to visit my mom and stepfather in Houston. This is the story of that trip. It’s going to be really long. It’s mostly for my mom. Settle in.

On trips past, our day of travel has often been full of drama (and barf) and trauma (and barf) and stress (and still more barf). This time, there was one tension-filled moment after Sam bolted from the cab that took us to the airport to stand queasily over a garbage can, but after we filled him with lunch food and Dramamine, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

(We’ve learned some lessons about air travel with Team Stimey since our first expeditions. You can read about one such nightmarish expedition by clicking this here link or by Googling “stimeyland plane doritos barf.”)

I mean, sure, Quinn ripped a piece off of the airplane almost instantly upon sitting in his seat, but it didn’t seem totally necessary to the safe operation of the plane, plus we were able to reattach it pretty quickly.

Photo of Quinn reaching up to the air vent from his airplane seat.

I became aware that the plane was at risk when Quinn held up the ring that adjusts the air vent and said, “What do I do with this?”

Quinn didn’t remember flying on an airplane before. His palpable excitement and joy in taking off was super fun and infectious. When that kid is happy, he can light up a good three rows of airplane seats.

I don’t think there is anything quite as good as seeing your own kid be incredibly delighted by something. This plane flight was one of those things for Quinn.  Then we landed and it was my mom’s turn to be incredibly delighted by her grandchildren.

Photo taken of the back rwo rows of a minivan. In the center row sit my mom and I. In the back seat are Jack, Quinn, and Sam.

Smiles all around. (That’s my mom on the right.)

We flew into Houston the day before Easter and although we’re not big Easter celebrators, we *do* color eggs and eat chocolate, so there were some things we had to take care of instantly upon arrival.

Close up of Jack leaning on his elbows over a little cup in which a blue dye tablet is dissolving into vinegar.

The best part of dying eggs is obviously watching the dye tablets dissolve into vinegar. I think Jack agrees. He watched this for a long time.

We usually just color the eggs, each of us in our own way.

Three photos: 1. Jack staring deeply into a dye cup in which a dark blue egg sits 2. Quinn holding out a yellow egg. 3. Sam wearing a shirt with a big star on it staring at the camera.

1. Jack spent a reeeeaaaally long time on one egg. 2. Quinn worked hard on creating the special GOLDEN egg. 3. Sam whisked through his eggs, then stared at me derisively.

We experimented with actually eating and/or poking at the eggs as well this year.

Three photos: 1. Jack is exploring a couple of broken, smashed up hard-boiled eggs on a paper towel. 2. Alex's hands hold out an egg, broken in half. Jack is poking at it with his fingertip. 3. Close up of Quinn taking the tiniest bite ever of a hard boiled egg.

A couple of the eggs didn’t make it due to issues with their structural integrity. We may not have eaten them, but we definitely got our money’s worth through tactile exploration.

Also, there is actual proof of my being on this vacation because my stepfather (Richard) takes photos like I take photos, in that just like I take a lot of pictures, he does too, but his are high quality and well composed whereas mine are like this:

Photo of my stepfather holding a camera to his eye, mid photo-taking.

If you are impressed with a photo in this post, he probably took it. If it is merely functional, chances are it is mine.

This pretty much wrapped up our first day in Houston, except for a debacle involving a jacuzzi tub and waaaaay too much bubble bath. I would like to state for the record that said debacle was not my fault.

Easter morning brought many fun activities:

Photo of Sam, Jack and Quinn hunting for eggs in a backyard.

The customary egg hunt wherein at least one egg gets left behind to rot.

Candy eating.

[Photo not available, but trust me, it happened. Aaaall week.]

Photo of Quinn walking on a rectangle area rug.

Walking in circles on this most excellent rug that was placed as if it were meant just for walking in circles on it.

Sam and Jack peeling hard boiled eggs.

Fine-motor activities in the form of peeling eggs for egg salad. These eggs were extraordinarily difficult to peel.

Photo of Sam sitting on the floor in front of a giant gong.

Gonging. My mom had a whole story about how she acquired this gong in Indonesia, but I couldn’t hear it because, you know, Sam was hitting a fucking gong.

Before I carry on to the rest of our day, I need to tell you about this place that my mom and Richard go to ALL THE TIME. There is a state park near them where there are wild alligators and birds and other animals. They go there to walk and take photos a lot. Frankly, the possibility of seeing this place in person instead of just in photos posted on Facebook was probably 60-65% of the reason we chose to travel to Houston in the first place.

Mostly I wanted to meet this guy and all of his friends.

Photo of an alligator just a few feet from me on the shore of a river.

This guy came walking up the shore as Alex and I were walking by. It was pretty cool.

He had a lot of friends.

We ended up taking about a five-mile out-and-back walk, which was all well and good until Quinn decided at the 2.5-mile mark that he was DONE. Part of that had to do with the heat and that he was tired. And part of it had to do with the fact that we wouldn’t let him rip a shell off a turtle and take it home. We’re extremely unreasonable.

It was about this time that Jack lost steam as well.

Photo of my mom and Jack on a bench. Jack is lying down and my mom is staring off into the distance.

Evidently we’re not “Texas heat” kind of people.

They pulled it together though, which I assume you know because you are aware that I didn’t leave them out there with the alligators at mile marker 2.5.

Photo taken over the wooden railing of an elevated observation deck. I'm looking down at Sam who is looking up at me.

Although I did spend some time in the relative peace and quiet of an observation deck. Most of them didn’t have the energy to chase me. (Hi, Sam!)

Naturally, you don’t go wading and pet wild alligators. You do, however, go to the visitor center and pet baby wild alligators though.

Photo of a man's hand holding a very small alligator.

Isn’t he cute? This makes two baby alligators I’ve petted.

Then we went and got ice cream because that is also what you do. We ate a LOT of ice cream while in Texas. I’m not saying we bribed our kids, but that is one reason why Quinn and Jack aren’t still living with the alligators.

Photo of my mom and four boys hanging all over her grinning.

That’s my mom with my kids and their cousin, who also lives in Texas. He’s a cool kid.

The next day was Travel to the Ocean in Galveston Day and also Alex’s birthday. That was a good day. My kids love them some beach time.

Photo of me sitting in a chair on the beach, smiling. Sam and Jack are behind me, burying Quinn in the sand.

It was also the day we re-established that my kids have exactly the opposite sensory reaction to sand as me.

Quinn also tried to sneak up on some birds.

Photo of Quinn army crawling across the sand toward a flock of seagulls.

It did not work.

Alex had a good birthday and was served a way fancier dinner than he ever would have gotten at my house.

Photo of Alex, Quinn, my mom, Richard, me, and Jack at a dining room table. Sam took the photo.

I think that everyone even kept their shirt on, which isn’t a guarantee with my crew, although most of them were wearing pajamas.

I even gave him a small version of sad cone.

Photo of a small orange rubber cone in a plastic box. On it I've drawn a frowny face and the words "I am sad cone."

It’s supposed to be an iPhone stand, but that is not its Team Stimey Approved Function.

One thing I find amusing about traveling to new places is that people often go to the zoo. I find that amusing because animals are the same no matter where you are, but you still go to see the new ones in the new city.

On Tuesday, we went to the zoo.

The Houston Zoo is delightful. I mean, it’s a hundred million degrees even in April, but it is absolutely lovely. We saw otters and elephants and cheetahs and all kinds of great animals, but the best thing we saw, in a sort of gift from the universe, was this squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Photo of a squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Then Quinn tried to steal the cookie from the squirrel and the squirrel ran away. This sounds like I’m making a joke, but it really happened.

Quinn also found a goat he wanted to bring home as a pet.

Photo of a goat facing Quinn. Quinn is squatting in front of him, staring intently at him.

This goat.

I was all, “You can’t take that goat home; he lives here,” and Quinn was like, “Can you at least ask the zookeeper?”

I did not ask the zookeeper. With my luck they would have given us the goat.

You can’t spend every day on vacation chasing squirrels and birds and…hey, wait a minute. Maybe I should take a closer look at how much of Quinn’s time he spends chasing animals.

Anywho, we did spend some time relaxing as well. We took in a movie, we ran some errands…

Photo of Jack at the self checkout at Home Depot. There is a video camera over the monitor. Jack is taking a closeup of his finger.

I have absolutely no recollection of why we were at Home Depot, but I do enjoy Jack’s use of the self-checkout monitoring system.

We tested out a hair-containment system for Jack…

Profile photo of Jack witha  headband holding his hair back.

I loved it. He found it onerous.

We took advantage of more than one swimming pool in my family’s fancy community…

Photo of my three kids walking away from the camera on a step in a swimming pool. In the background is a lake and large lawns.

And because Houston-area children were all in school during Team Stimey’s spring break, we had very little competition for the pool.

We learned new things…

Photo of Richard showing Jack how to play the banjo.

How lucky were we to find not just a banjo, but someone who knows how to use it?

We played spin the bottle…

Photo of my three kids sitting around a table. Quinn is holding an empty plastic bottle.

The bottle landed on me every time. It was delightful.

Some members of Team Stimey discovered sopapillas…

Photo of Quinn eating a sopapilla covered in honey.

I would travel almost anywhere for a good sopapilla.

And we waged silent wars with vaguely threatening birds…

Photo of Alex gazing suspiciously at a bird who seems to be looking back at him.

There’s always a shifty looking bird around, isn’t there?

My mom and Richard are building a new house and we got to go visit it, which was really cool because construction sites are super fun!

Photo of Jack sitting on dirt in front of an unfinished house. He is picking at a big rock.

I can’t tell you how much I love Jack and the way he finds interest in very specific things.

I loved being able to see my mom and Richard’s vision for their house. It’s going to be beautiful. There is a bathroom in that house that I would sell a child for once it’s done. Not my child, but a child.

For now, though, it’s merely a neutral backdrop for a stunningly attractive family.

Photo of Sam, Jack, my mom, me and Quinn standing in dirt in front of a partially built house.

Look at that wacky bunch. (Photo © Richard)

Our last big outing was to Johnson Space Center, which was totally cool. I highly recommend going if you get a chance. You can do all the things that we did. We went to Historic Mission Control, which was super, super cool.

Jack standing in front of a glass window in front of mission control.

Here, Jack, stand in front of historic mission control.

Sam standing in front of a sign for mission control.

Here, Sam, stand in front of the historic mission control sign.

We went to see the Saturn V rocket, which is bigger than you can possibly imagine. It was so cool.

Photo taken from the bottom of the horizontal Saturn V rocket.

It’s in a huge building and I imagined that the rocket would be in there with some other stuff, but the only thing that fits in there is the huge-ass rocket. It’s really cool.

Photo of tiny Quinn in front of a huge circular engine thingy.

Here, Quinn, stand in front of the rocket. This is only one of five engines that launch this thing.

After our tour to mission control and the rocket, we ate lunch, which included a moon pie. This space center is probably the last place where they sell moon pies. (It didn’t really taste very good.)

After moon pies, we wandered around the exhibits for a while. We briefly lost Jack, which was heart stopping and terrifying. That kid is quick and sneaky. Fortunately we found him and quickly switched from a zone defense to man-to-man and no one else got lost. Something terrible did happen to Quinn though.

Photo of a big fake snake head. The snake head mouth is open wide. Quinn is inside reaching out as if he were being swallowed whole.

We’re going to miss him.

I was on Quinn, so I got some excellent photos of him in a variety of locales, but interestingly enough with the exact same expression.

Two photos. One is of Quinn in a giant chair. One is of him inside a giant mastadon jaw. In both photos, he has the same blank face.

He was happier than he looked.

And, yes, those are weird exhibits for a space center. I didn’t get it either.

We had a really good trip. My mom has lived in Houston on and off for a long time now and it was really great to finally get to visit her there. Plus, we had bonus relatives we got to hang out with. I’m really lucky to have such a wonderful family.

Photo of my family, my mom, Richard, my stepsister and her son standing outside a restaurant.

Big love to a big, wonderful family.

Phew. Thanks for sticking around and reading. As a reward I give you this photo of me and Alex where Alex was afflicted by some sort of painful eye injury that left him with one eye swelled almost shut. He was also afflicted with kind of an asshole of a wife who makes fun of him and then posts photos of it on the internet.

Photo of me and Alex. Alex has a big grin on his face and one eye squinted shut due to injury. I have one eye squinted shut just because.

File under “Alex, being a good sport, photos of”

Thank you Nana and Grandpa Richard. We had such a blast visiting you. Thank you for everything.

Photo of my mom and Richard.

Thank you both. We love you!