September

Gosh, look how time flies. You look up and all of a sudden three weeks have passed, summer has turned to fall, it’s October, and all your great intentions to write stuff last month have fallen to dust. Let’s catch up, shall we?

I spent most of last month withdrawing from drugs. I had an antidepressant medication change, which has led (happily!) to the removal of Lexapro from my daily regimen. Have any of you done that? Well, I can tell you that it is un-fucking-pleasant. Lots of lightheadedness, irritability, and—my favorite—face tingling. Urgh. I’m in the lucky segment whose symptoms have lasted for multiple weeks. It’s super great.

Now that you know that I’ve been off balance for the past month-plus, it seems like a good time to tell you that I bought a bike. You probably don’t need to feel stable for that, right?

I decided that it was time for me to add some sort of cross training to my workout schedule, partly because my physical therapist told me it would be good for me and partly because I saw the words “cross training” on my marathon training calendar and I was all, “Huh, maybe I should find a way to actually do this.” Also, I was worried about my hip injury and thinking that I should come up with another way to exercise if I could never run again.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to buy a bike. I had vivid images of me entering a bike shop, walking in confused circles for a few minutes, bursting into tears, and leaving—maybe after having fallen in an unbalanced heap onto the floor. Fortunately, my friend Sherry was passing through town and she had a few hours to spend with me. Seeing as how she is the person in the world who knows more about cycling than anyone I know (and probably anyone you know), I made her take me to a bike shop to help pick out a bike. For most people that might have been the most obnoxious thing to do to an out-of-town guest, but Sherry said that it seemed like the most fun thing to do and as it behooved me, I chose to believe her.

We spent a solid two hours at my local bike shop where I learned about everything from making sure your bike helmet has a hole for your ponytail to the difference in width of pelvic bones in men and women and how that relates to bike seats. Then we test rode a bunch of expensive bikes around the parking lot of a homeless shelter, which felt a little troubling, but that was the parking lot at hand.

They didn’t have the bike in stock that I ended up deciding on, so I left clutching a business card on which Sherry had written the specifications of the bike I wanted. I ordered it a couple of weeks later and kind of wish I still had Sherry with me because the questions the clerk heaved at me were hard: Do you want red or black? What kind of lock do you want? You should probably buy all these accessories; which accessories do you want? This little bell is really loud, but this one is shaped like a coffee cup; which do you choose?

(Red. The one the guy recommended. Just a water bottle cage. I don’t drink coffee, so the loud one.)

I was concerned when the guy asked me if I wanted matte red or black because I thought a red bike would be like a rolling invitation to steal. In fact, Sherry had schooled me on how to make a new, expensive bike look old and crappy so no one would take it. But red seemed sooooo much more fun than black. So I chose the red.

OMG YOU GUYS IT IS THE FLASHIEST, MOST FLAMBOYANT BIKE I COULD EVER HAVE CHOSEN. I can never lock this thing up out of my sight because it shines like the sun. I’ve been watching bike racks and there are NO bikes the color of mine locked up on them. Probably because they’ve already been jacked.

Me from the side riding a RED! bike.

It doesn’t look quite so shocking from this far away, but trust me, it is BRIGHT.

Although I am now a certified bike owner, I should admit that I am terrified of riding bikes. I haven’t regularly ridden a bike since I was a teenager—and even then I didn’t ride them all that much. Fortunately, there is someone in my family who is similarly nervous and new at cycling, so Quinn and I headed out to a parking lot near our house last weekend and rode in circles.

I didn’t fall once! Neither did Quinn!

Tomorrow (on my marathon training cross training day) I plan to do a two-mile loop that passes the market where I can buy a soft serve ice cream cone. (A suitable reward for taking my life into my hands, I’d say.) I’m going to have to go down a hill—with speedbumps. *nervous face* Then I’m going to have to push the bike back up the hill. *out-of-shape face*

Photo of me riding close to the camera.

Also, bike helmets are the WORST, but I like my brain, so I’ll wear one. Sherry always looks super cute in hers. I don’t know why I look like a blue ladybug.

Another thing that has happened in September is that school started. Sam is in high school now and seems to be doing all right. He’s doing stuff like learning to speak Chinese and doing math that is far beyond my abilities. Jack and Quinn are also doing math that is far beyond my abilities. (I’m not very good at math. My skills lie elsewhere.)

Jack and Quinn are in the same schools they were in last year, so there has been no major upheaval for either of them, which is great, because next year both of them will be upheaved and in two entirely new schools, both to them and to me.

Speaking of which, I swear to God, being a parent and having to learn a new school is awful. Really, really awful. I kind of took the last couple of years off from being super involved in my kids’ schools, but I decided that high school is the time to get back into it. One music boosters meeting at Sam’s school and I remember why I’m not really a “joiner.”

I’m sticking it out though. I am going to Be Involved if it kills me. (It might.)

I also have a new Homework Check-in System™ for my kids. It’s an upgrade from me asking them when they get home if they have homework and them lying to my face and saying no only to freak out at bedtime or the next morning before school when they remember that they lied to me and they have to do ALL THEIR HOMEWORK RIGHT NOW OMIGOD!

This being the beginning of the school year, I am all motivated and determined that this? This is the year we’re going to do it right! Seriously though, we’re maybe five weeks into the school year and Homework Check-in is officially the worst.

I’m chugging away at it though. Every stupid night I sit at the table and make my kids bring me their binders and we check their grades and email and Google Classroom and I help them study and I sit there while they do their homework and my hope is that eventually this will become habit and what they are used to doing all the time and thus Homework Check-in will have taught them to be effective and productive students.

I had a similar program I instituted at the end of last year that I called Executive Function Friday (also ™) that I started after hearing a story on NPR about executive function coaches who helped students organize and prioritize their homework and after having an immediate reaction of I SHOULD SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A COACH FOR MY KIDS, I realized that this is something I could do sorta easily myself and for free.

I know you all are like, “Oh, you are now reminding your kids to do their homework and making sure they do it and you somehow think this is revolutionary?”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Quinn and Jack at a kitchen table. They are both looking at computers.

Two of my subjects diligently trying to convince me their homework is complete. They are lying.

I can’t even tell you the executive functioning skills required for this. My kids have 27 classes amongst them. Twenty-seven.* It is awful. I have been coloring to keep myself busy without doing something that takes too much of my attention like reading or crushing candy while they work. I mean, that candy isn’t going to crush itself, but that’s what I do instead of blogging now, so it will still get done. Promise.

I think we’re largely caught up on September now. Oh, except for now that I have a high schooler, I have to go to things like the teen drinking town hall I attended last night. It was terrifying. I walked out of there having learned three things: (1) It is a miracle I survived college mostly unscathed what with my unhealthy drinking habits, (2) All the teenagers are in extremely imminent danger, and (3) I have to buy locks for all my liquor storage areas immediately! Like yesterday.

I was in a golden period of parenting for a while where all my kids were old enough to dress themselves and buckle their own seatbelts, but they were still under my control and/or supervision at all times. That’s starting to change what with Sam off riding the public transportation system with his friends and going to movies with them and going places where I am not. And—if the professionals from this town hall meeting are to be believed—evidently buying and using cocaine and Red Bull. It’s scary. There is a lot to shepherd kids through during their teenage years. There is so much they have to deal with. And it’s a lot of hard work. I mean, it’s worth it and all because my kids are the best and all, but geez.

So that’s it. I am off to crush some candy now while I let the computer and television parent my children. That isn’t counterintuitive to everything I’ve just said at all, is it? I have some posts percolating in my head, so hopefully it won’t be another month before I show up again. ‘Til then, Happy October!

 

* I was proofreading this post and I had to get out a piece of paper and scribble some figures on it and count on my fingers and then pull out a calculator, but I discovered that three kids times seven classes each equals twenty-one. So my problems are nowhere near as bad as I thought they were. Except I turn out to be perilously unqualified to perform even the most basic of calculations.

One Week

I don’t know if I have let a week pass between posts on Stimeyland EVER, but I see that this is what I have done.

I hate that I have been writing less, and there are a number of reasons why, some of which are interesting and probably worthy of their own posts and one of which is that my life with my kids in school is way less fun and Stimeylandish than it used to be when the munchkins were around all the time. Also, it feels weird and narcissistic to just write about myself, but this is a blog, so maybe I should just get over that and navel gaze all over myself already.

Even though I didn’t write about them, things continued to happen in Stimeyland. (I know. It surprised me too.) Here are some of them:

• Depression continues. I am trying to remember to choose laughing over crying. (See my philosophy under my photo up there ⤻)

• I am looking into Quinn’s…issues. We had a session with meanest neurologist ever. Quinn was unphased (thank God). I was near catatonic for the remainder of the day.

• My kids’ school district holds a multi-day cultural arts showcase where dozens of acts that want to perform at assemblies and the like give 15-minute performances for PTA representatives to watch in hopes that we will hire them for our schools. I attend for one of my kids’ schools. I gotta tell you, that mime I watched today totally cheered me up. I am not kidding. He was awesome. Changed my whole goddamn day. Who would’ve thunk it?

• “Thunk” is a spellcheck-approved word.

• I just realized that “thunk” is a spellcheck-approved word because it is a sound, not the colloquial past-tense of “think” like I want to imagine it.

• “Spellcheck” is not a spellcheck-approved word.

• The kittens are rapidly turning into cats, but are still über-adorable and wonderful. They are going to be good cats.

Small, black kitten cuddled in arms with one paw across her chest and one cupping her forehead.

This is Ruby. I think she was being cute on purpose. Kittens know how to do that, you know.

• I had some people invited to my house for an outdoor activity last weekend, but it was supposed to rain all day, so I canceled it, but then it didn’t rain specifically for the hours of said outdoor activity and I was mad, annoyed, and depressed for the whole day because of it. I would have felt a lot better had it rained.

• I haven’t gone running for weeks. I’m starting to suspect that this might be related to the crushing depression.

• We went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 last weekend. It was hilarious. You should go see it.

• Jack and I had a really amazing encounter in a Panera Bread the other day. Sometimes people are good. I Facebooked it:

Stimeyland Facebook status reading: "Dear ladies with the baby in Panera: Thank you for letting Jack hug your baby when he asked. Thank you for engaging—really engaging—in conversation with him. Thank you for your response when Jack put his arm around me and said, "My mom and I are both autistic." Thank you for not giving a sad head bob, but rather for saying, "I love the things that make us unique!" Just, thank you. For the whole thing. (Your baby is adorable.)"

Please just ignore that first, errant comma.

• Sam turned 12 over the weekend and we took him to Medieval Times to celebrate. Holy shit, you guys, Medieval Times with my kids was the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. I cannot properly express how much fun we had—although I will attempt to in a stand-alone post that I will hopefully write tomorrow.

Sam holding a green Medieval Times flag.

It was motherfucking delightful.

There. I wrote. I feel minorly better about myself now. Baby steps.

Deep Melancholy

I am entrenched in some deep melancholy these days. There are any number of reasons for this: post-adventure ennui, my elderly cat who is slowly getting sicker and sicker, the fact that for the first time in a long time, I don’t have anything professional going on and it is leaving me a little bit adrift in wondering how to deal with my life.

All of this results in writer’s block, me not cleaning my house, and a life dressed entirely in clothes that don’t feature zippers or buttons—none of which makes anything better.

Except for the sweatpants. That makes a lot of things better.

This is all to tell you why there are longer and longer spaces between posts here. I hate that because writing here and getting your feedback brings me a lot of joy. But it feels bad to put up posts that I don’t feel, you know? Regardless, I’ll be back. And I’m okay. Bummer though it might be, I have years of experience dealing with this kind of mood and I know I’ll come out the other side.

Plus, I have ALL OF THE KITTENS to cheer me up.

I hope you all are doing well. Fist bumps and cheery smiles to all of you.

Where I’ve Been and What Makes Me Happy

Hello, friends. I’ve been feeling a little down lately, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been writing very much here. I have lots of stuff swirling through my head that I can’t get out on paper (or blog) and it just keeps swirling. Things have been feeling kind of overwhelming. Also I’ve been trying to figure out my endgame, meaning if I want to write a book, I have to just write the damn book.

Mostly though, I just want to take naps. No one needs anything from me in my naps.

I also like running. Running has been making me happy. The problem is that it is really, really cold these days and it makes me not want to go outside. Also I have a really painful blister right now.

I know. My life. TRAGIC.

The things that make me not depressed though, are my kids. Today (yesterday by now?) was President’s Day, so my kids didn’t have school. Naturally this meant that I scheduled them all for dentist appointments.

I am the meanest mom in the world.

Fortunately, dentists nowadays are kind of awesome for my kiddos. Three kids, two dentists in two different states, dozens of teeth, and not a single cavity! Hooray!

Jack’s appointment was first. His dentist office always amuses me. Sam and Quinn are always excited to go because they have air hockey and movies in the waiting room. Jack is also happy to go because they let him choose from their giant selection of movies while he has his teeth worked on. He chooses Bolt every single time. It is hysterical. He has seen the first half hour of that movie a million times now.

So much better than back when the dentist was such a horror show for the poor kid.

So much better than back when the dentist was such a horror show for the poor kid.

We actually have that movie on DVD. Maybe I’ll show him the end of it some day. (He has actually seen the end before.)

After Jack’s appointment, we headed home for a while before we went to dentist #2, who told us that Sam needs to go to an orthodontist. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Maybe the best part of my day though, was listening to Quinn talk to the dentist and the hygienist. That kid is funnier than anyone I know and so casually in love with himself. (Sometimes he’ll just wander around saying, “I’m great! I’m awesome! I’m great!” No self-esteem issues there.)

The hygienist asked how old he was and Quinn started reciting facts: “I am in second grade. I am seven years old. I am awesome.”

That kid. I have to get some of what he has. But until he tells me his secret, I’ll just hang out near him and his brothers and hope that some of their awesomeness rubs off on me.

I actually feel kind of better just putting that little bit out on the page. Huh. Maybe writing really IS therapeutic.

Gala Blocked*

I was supposed to go to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network gala tonight. I tend to be a chronic panic canceler, so even though I had a lot of my usual anxiety about attending, I was determined to go.

SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t make it and I’m pretty upset about it.

I knew I was going to be late because I had an appointment that ended at 6 and the gala started at 6. I figured that I would be in DC, parked, and up at the gala by 7 though. I was okay with that. Fashionably late and all that, right?

SPOILER ALERT: Uggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!

I was not in the best mood to start off with because the appointment was with our family therapist and we were talking about some stuff that is not that big of a deal but that was emotional. Then I ran into a tremendous amount of traffic and I got angrier and more frustrated every time the same guy running on the sidewalk passed my car.

Regardless, I was still moving forward and by about 6:50 or so, I started to get confident that I would be at the gala by 7:15 or so. There was a fire engine approaching behind me, so I pulled over to let it pass because I am a good citizen.

It then stopped DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ME, disgorged its firefighters, and stopped in the middle of the street. As the minutes passed, I started to consider parking and walking.

SPOILER ALERT: I was still too far away so I tweeted this picture instead to complain about what was keeping me from the gala. Note the parked cars on the right and the iron railing on the left.

SPOILER ALERT TO THE SPOILER ALERT: I wasn’t tweeting while driving. My car was actually in park at the time.

Whyyyyyyyyy??????

No escape.

You may notice that the GPS in the bottom right claims that I would arrive at 7:08. LIES. It had already told me that I was going to be there at 6:34. The closest I got to the gala location happened at 7:38.

Once the fire engine finally pulled away I tried to keep going to the gala. Normally I would have thrown in the towel, but I knew that I was headed to a kind room, so I keep trying. But then there was more traffic and then I missed a turn, which left me in more traffic, and I was getting closer and closer to a total meltdown, so finally, after the gala was already more than half over and I hadn’t even reached the location, let alone found a place to park, I took a sharp right, set my GPS for home, and bailed.

Basically what I did was take a two and a half hour, incredibly frustrating trip downtown and back without getting out of my car.

I kind of feel that I should have kept going and gone in. I know the good people in the room would have made me feel better, but I just couldn’t.

It was a really draining experience with the lesson that I should not be a good citizen ever again.

All of that is to say that I am really upset that I wasn’t able to go, and not in the mood to write a post (SPOILER ALERT: You actually did write a post, dumbass.) and I’m just going to give you links to other stuff I wrote.

If you’re in the mood for one of my PokitDok articles on autism, go check out After Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis.

If you’re in the mood for a White Knuckle Parenting column, read about my Clothes Conundrum and how my children are ridiculously hard to dress.

If you’re in the same mood as I am, go to bed and come back to check those links in the morning.

 * I’m not sure I used that correctly.

Dysthymia

Hey, I learned a new word last week! It is “dysthymia,” which is chronic low-level depression. And guess what, kids?  I haz it! Who knew? I’ve been calling it ennui.

This, in and of itself, is not surprising. I am well aware of my status as a depressed person. Being handed it as a diagnosis wasn’t particular awesome though. That particular diagnosis was part of a larger package, which I’ll go into another time.

For now, I’m swinging up from bottoming out. While where I am is not the most awesome place, it is better than where I was yesterday. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

In other news, I’m looking for a therapist. If anyone knows of the best ever therapist in the Silver Spring/Wheaton area and tells me his or her name, I’ll give you a free hug.

*****

Until then, here is what I’ve learned from hosting a bajillion kids’ birthday parties in my time: Birthday Party Hosting 101 at White Knuckle Parenting.

*****

Also, my Not Even Wrong post was chosen as a Voice of the Year selection for BlogHer ’12. I’m not one of those who are reading at the conference, but I am so honored to be among the phenomenal writers who are featured. Check out the list on the BlogHer website.

Things That Make We Want to Smash Other Things

Alternate title: FUCKING ENOUGH ALREADY

• I have had a kid home sick from school pretty much every third day for two weeks, up to and including yesterday.

• I finally got everyone to school at 9am this morning and came home only to have the school nurse call at 9:30 to tell me that I had to come in and bring lotion for Quinn because he was “itchy.”

• Yesterday evening I got an email from Jack’s teacher with the subject line, “escape plan.” It was exactly the email you imagine such a thing would be. It included the line, “After recess the recess monitor told me that Jack and [Jack’s BFF] came to her to tell her that their plan to escape didn’t work…” Well, thank goodness they were honest about it.

• Today’s post was going to be about stuff that was awesome, funny or, at the very least, autism related, but I am so annoyed at the world that I have to put it off until tomorrow.

• I miss Susan a whole lot.

• When I got to the school nurse’s office to oil Quinn up, I noticed the bumpy red rash all over his torso. Yay! Doctor appointment!

• I had to go pick up Jack’s melatonin, which I very intentionally buy from an independent pharmacy to support the little guy. But today “the little guy’s” stupid parking lot was so full that I had to park on the street around the corner. Then the guy at the cash register gave me the hard sell on four other supplements when all I wanted was to buy the melatonin, goddammit.

• I noticed that there was an awful lot of chit chat and not much scratching from Rash Boy in the back seat.

• We have kind of a heavy pressure IEP meeting for Jack tomorrow morning. ‘Nuff said.

• Except not really. Reading through progress reports and other such documentation is enough to push you into a full-fledged depression or rage, especially when one of your kid’s (very well meaning) specials teachers writes about Jack, “The only person he is inclined to play with is [his autistic BFF] and they try not to socialize with others.” Because that’s what kids with autism do—try not to socialize. It’s so much more complicated than that. I feel like many of these teachers want to help; there has to be a way to help them understand what autism is.

• When the nurse swabbed the back of his throat for a strep test, Quinn instinctively fought back and kicked the nurse in the stomach. Then he threw up on the floor.

• Quinn has strep.

• Quinn has to come to the IEP meeting tomorrow.

• After dragging three kids to Jack’s speech therapy, then rushing to the school for the PTA meeting which I am required to attend because I take the minutes, I headed over to the pharmacy to pick up Quinn’s special antibiotic capsules. I arrived home at 9pm to find two of my three kids sobbing because Alex showed them the volleyball-floating-away scene from Castaway.

Stimey smash.