Happy New Year!

Well, I had a very successful last day of 2014. I finished cleaning my whole house (except for that one room that we won’t speak of; everyone has that one room, right?) so we can at least start the new year not living in filth.

I also managed to wear a white sweater all damn day long without spilling anything on it. It’s like I’m a fucking magician or something.

I was printing out my blog yesterday as I do at the end of every year (it took less paper than ever before) and realized that Team Stimey may have had a more epic year than we have had in a long, long time. And the funny thing is that almost none of it was planned prior to 2014.

Probably the biggest thing that happened to us is that we bought a new house, moved, and sold our old house all within three months, when we hadn’t been planning to do any of that for at least another year. During that period of time, I touched every single thing we owned twice, once to pack them and once to unpack them, yet I still never found the brown clogs that I KNOW were somewhere in the house we moved out of.

WHERE THE FUCK DID THE BROWN CLOGS GO?

This will probably be the only year that the car we bought isn’t the biggest purchase we made. We weren’t planning on buying a new car either, except our mechanic told us that our old car was likely to kill us (and soon!), so we got to hemorrhage money on wheels in addition to a house. Per usual, the process was soul-destroying.

The last major thing that happened to Team Stimey this year that we had not planned on, was my joining the staff of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network as office manager. I was completely terrified to take that job. I’d worked in the recent past, but it was out of my home and I only had to see my boss once a year at a holiday party. This job involved riding Metro into DC multiple days a week to wear business clothes, procure summer childcare, interact with actual people, and generally be a professional person.

None of these things come easily to me, but taking that job is one of the best things that I’ve done in recent memory. I love working for an organization that I feel so proud of and I feel as if my particular skill set is very helpful there. I really like my co-workers and have liked getting to know them. I enjoy my new-found sense of purpose and I am so grateful for the structure and routine that working has brought to my life. Also, very importantly, I am so happy to experience autistic space, something I haven’t had before.

So those are the really big, full-year impacting changes for Team Stimey, but there was also a lot of other stuff that happened as well. I’ve selected one post from each month to give you a little tour of Team Stimey’s year.

We started January with Jack’s early-2014 bout of rogue eyelashes. I’m happy to report that they didn’t come back.

I did a lot of running in 2014. In February I told you all about how I’m the best runner ever. In case you don’t bother to click that link, you should know that I’m being sarcastic there.

March brought us more Jack, specifically his special hockey tournament that made me truly remember the joy of travel tournaments with his team.

2014—April, specifically—brought us Chester, a small brown mouse who tried to fill Algernon’s paw prints.

May. Oh, lord. May. May was the month that we gave our pool to some friends of ours, along with a free extra gift of wild rat babies. Yet one more reason you might not want to know me in real life.

June was an intense month for Stimeyland. That was the month that my post about Jack and his autistic classmates’ photos being left off of a display of all his school’s graduating fifth graders went as viral as I ever hope to have a post of mine go. The attention from that post, even though it was mostly positive, was enough to convince me that I am completely happy staying a small blogger. I have no idea how some people deal with the intensity of that much attention all the time. That post actually inspired real change though, with the formation of a committee at that school to work on ideas for better inclusion. Jack is no longer at that school, but I attended the first committee meeting and am hopeful that it continues and is making positive change.

Alex and I actually went on our first kid-free vacation since…ever in June, but I wrote about it in July.

My kids went back to school in August. Sam started 7th grade at the same middle school he went to last year. Jack started 6th grade at a new school—and proceeded to be super successful there. Quinn started 4th grade at a new school, which was pretty tough on him. He’s doing better though. Also, I wrote about the bus stop.

I ran my first half marathon in September. Because I’m me, I fell flat on my face twice during the running of said half marathon.

I wrote about a bunch of fun things in October, including my trip to Disney World as well as the Bourbon Chase, but I choose to highlight Sam’s decision to start playing the bassoon because (1) I haven’t highlighted anything about Sam yet, (2) you guys left some awesome comments on that post, and (3) Alex was definitively told he was wrong, which I always enjoy. It turns out that, although he gets better every week, learning to play the bassoon is hard and I’m not convinced that Sam doesn’t wish he’d never started.

We raked a lot of leaves in November.

Quinn drew some excellent illustrations for an assignment in December.

All in all, it’s been a really wonderful year. Team Stimey is very lucky, mostly because we have each other as well as a strong support system who always steps up for us. Thank you for being here for this year. I hope you all have a 2015 full of love and joy and laughter. That’s what we’re hoping for.

As I watch my three kids play with each other as Alex and I sit on the couch together, I think, fate willing, there is a good chance that’s exactly what we’ll get in 2015.

Photo of my three kids

Where’s Chester?

Here’s Chester!

Photo of a metal monkey with Chester, my small brown stuffed mouse, sitting on top of him as if riding him like a horse.

This monkey is prominently placed in front of our new home. It’s like a sign post that says, “We’re whimsical!” or “These people are ridiculous; avoid them!”

We’re settling into our new house and loving it so very much. I mean, it’s not awesome that the air conditioner broke a week after we moved in and even though it is covered by our home warranty, that still doesn’t make the part get ordered any faster and it’s 80 million degrees in my bedroom right now and has been for the past five days, because OF COURSE THAT HAPPENED A WEEK AFTER WE MOVED IN.

But anywho.

I’m still unpacking, but I’ve prepared the house enough to introduce you all to the new location of Stimeyland. Naturally, it is way more fun to introduce you with a game involving Chester, the toy mouse.

Remember Waldo? Just as you used to try to find a drawing of Waldo in a much larger scene, you will try to find Chester in larger photos of some of the rooms in my new house. Unfortunately, it was not until this very moment that it occurred to me that I should have dressed him in a red and white striped shirt and hat.

Dammit. Opportunity missed.

We’ll start with an easy one. Here is the front of my house. Where’s Chester?

Photo of my front door taken from down some of the steps leading to the door. Chester is sitting on the brick ledge in front of the door.

As with all the photos in this post, you can click to embiggen for easier searching.

Oh, look! There he is!

Close up of Chester on the brick ledge.

I made a mistake and didn’t take this photo from the same vantage point as the bigger one. I’m sorry. I did better with the others.

That one was too easy, but you get the point, right? Okay, let’s play!

Here is the back yard of my house. We brought our bedraggled hammock all the way from our old house. Because we are klassy that way.

Photo of a hammock in a back yard. You can see the back of a house with grass and trees in front of it.

Where’s Chester?

Here’s Chester!

Close up of Chester on the hammock with his head on the hammock pillow.

The thing that makes this hammock even classier is that the hammock pillow there? It’s actually a seat cushion I tied to the hammock. Put that shit on Pinterest.

One fun thing about our new house is that it comes with its very own train. Beyond our back fence is a ravine with tracks at the bottom. Alex has had one question for anyone who will listen: “What’s the hobo situation?”

Photo of trees at the edge of a ravine, at the bottom of which you can see some train tracks.

I can see one tiny hobo in the photo. Can you?

Also, again I’m disappointed in myself for not making him a little stick with a kercheif packet at the end of it.

Close up of Chester on a tree trunk

Wouldn’t he look jauntier if he had a bindle?

In addition to a gate that gives us access to the tracks (and hobos), we have a Chester-sized hole so he has easy access as well. It’s like this house was built for us.

IMG_5567

Hopefully he won’t take off as soon as he finds the right sized stick.

I love our new living room. Please ignore the toys strewn all over the floor.

Photo of a living room with wood-looking floors, chairs, and couches. There is a blanket on the couch and some bookshelves.

Please, however, don’t ignore the awesome piggy bank, which is one of my favorite things in my house.

Ever since we moved, I haven’t had a good chance to nap, which is one of my favorite activities.

Close up of Chester with his head on a couch pillow and covered by a blue tardis blanket.

Chester, however, has not had a similar problem.

We haven’t had a formal dining room…ever, so we don’t have a lot of stuff to put in that room.

Photo of a dining room with a table in the middle of it and not much else. There is a vase of flowers on the table and a cat investigating said flowers.

That’s Ruby enjoying the flowers a wonderful friend brought to me.

Chester was pretty easy to spot, wasn’t he?

Close up of Chester sitting on the table near the vase and a piece of paper written on in crayon. There is a cat sitting over him sniffing the flowers.

There he is, sitting under the cat, reading a note my friend Kate‘s daughter left at our house.

Every house needs a kitchen, or so I hear.

Photo of a kitchen. It's shaped like the letter "u" and has some stuff on the counters.

We mostly use it as a repository for snacks and a place to cut fruit.

If you need a hint about where Chester is, just remember that our AC is broken and it was 99 degrees today.

Photo of a red portable ice maker with Chester's head sticking out of the top.

He’s in our new portable ice maker. (I’m reviewing the ice maker. Stay tuned for that this week.) I wish *I* could fit in an ice maker.

Maybe my favorite room in the whole house is our family room. We splurged on a new couch for this room. I love it so much. So do my kids, who have enjoyed the time I’ve spent unpacking because that means I let them play Xbox all day.

Photo of a room with a fireplace and a big brown couch. There are a couple of kids on the couch.

If you look closely, you can see a couple of the munchkins gorging on screen time in the couch.

You can also see someone else gorging on screentime.

Close up of Chester on the couch, sitting next to an Xbox controller.

He’s a big fan of Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare.

“But where are the gerbils, Stimey?” you ask.

That was a tough one. I wanted them somewhere that they would be near people a lot, but Alex didn’t want them in our family room because when they chew their cardboard, they’re pretty loud and make it hard to hear the TV.

Therefore, they went to live in the office.

Photo of my desk near a sun-filled window. Behind the chair are both gerbil tanks.

I cannot even tell you how nice it is to have my chair right next to that big ol’ window. The gerbils are nice too.

I like that the gerbils are so low so visiting children, cats, and other friends can stop by and say hi.

Close up of Chester on top of a gerbil tank. One of the gerbils is stretched up to sniff at him.

Chester and Jefferie took some time during our photo session to get acquainted.

Chester’s not in the next photo, but Starfire made a pretty good case for being a new Stimeyland cover photo with this next pose:

Photo of Starfire behind a sign that says "STIMEYLAND" in fancy lettering. There is a bamboo plant next to her.

She is also making a good case for why we don’t have live plants. That bamboo plant used to have shoots coming out the top before Starfy and her buddies waged war on it.

The biggest reason we moved to a new house was so all of our kids could have their own rooms. This one belongs to Quinn:

Photo of a room with a twin bed, green rug, hanging blue striped chair, and white shelves.

Quinn is so delighted with this room. It took close to a week before he let either of his brothers cross the threshold.

Chester on the other hand, well, he can come and go as he pleases.

Close up of Chester in the blue striped chair.

Chester can use some therapy swinging, just like Q-ball.

When we bought the house, Jack’s room was painted in bright yellow and pink vertical stripes. Take a moment to visualize that. Then look at how beautiful it is now.

Photo of a room with blue walls, a twin bed, a gray rug, a LEGO table, and a dresser with some stuff on it.

Some day we’ll put blinds on that window, but today is not that day.

I haven’t unpacked all of Jack’s things yet, but even so, he has managed to create delightful little scenes all over his shelves.

Close up of  a stack, from bottom to top: a Minecraft chest, Minecraft dirt block, Minecraft TNT, Minecraft grass block, Minecraft Steve, and then Chester on top.

He’s a daredevil, that Chester.

We haven’t put anything on any of the walls, with the exception of where there are already nails. Sam was lucky enough to have one of those spots in his room.

Photo of a room with a double bed, a colorful rug, a window with curtains, and a dreamcatcher and little yarn purse hanging on a nail over the bed.

That window treatment was there when we moved in. Sam loves it. Awesome. One less thing to buy.

I’m not sure how Sam can make a mess of his room when we haven’t unpacked everything and he has, like, three belongings in there. It’s almost like someone else has been sneaking in and using the room in his absence.

Photo of Chester under the covers with a small stuffed blue bear.

Gasp! Scandal!

Alex and my room hasn’t been fully unpacked yet. The movers put a lot of boxes up there that don’t belong up there, so I’m currently sorting through them to figure out where they actually go.

Chester is tough to find in this photo, but see if you can spot all three cats.

Photo of part of a master bedroom littered with boxes—and three cats.

This room is huge. That is the corner of our bed in the bottom left. I love it so much. You can’t really tell in this photo, but it is really bright up there.

Oh, right. The cats. Ruby is up in the left window. Starfire is on the floor to the left of one of the boxes and Oreo is walking into the room from the right.

Chester is in the box of packing paper.

Close up of Oreo partially buried in a cardboard box full of packing paper.

Wait. That’s not Chester.

There’s Chester in the box of packing paper!

Close up of Chester in a cardboard box of packing paper.

Whereas Oreo hopped in the box herself and settled in for the duration, I think Chester was more concerned about being recycled.

Also, this photo of Ruby is super pretty, so I’m posting it as well.

Photo of Ruby sitting in a window. She is looking out at the trees beyond.

This house has lots of window sills for the cats. I think they like it here.

We also have a basement. I haven’t unpacked a damn thing down there. We have, however, made use of the Foosball table the previous owners left for us.

Photo of a basement room full of boxes and empty shelves. In the foreground is a wooden Foosball table.

It is apparently a “left handed Foosball table.” I have no idea what that means.

In the spirit of the World Cup, here is a closeup of the table—and its friendly and vigilant goalkeeper.

Close up of Chester standing in the Foosball table, directly in front of the goal.

I don’t think he knows how close he is to being knocked down into the bowels of the Foosball table. One fast moving ball is all it would take.

So there it is—a tour of much of my new house. I hoped you enjoyed it as much as Chester did. I love this house so much. I mean, once you get past that it is hot as hell inside. It is so beautiful and spacious and I feel so lucky to live in it.

One of these days—I’m guessing 2017 or so—I will be all done unpacking and I’ll get to actually relax in the house. That’s going to be a good year.

Until then, I will just keep enjoying the fiasco that is a partially unpacked house and the chaos that comes with it. Although actually, I might be sad when I’m done unpacking because the cats are enjoying the process so much and I am truly enjoying watching them enjoy it.

Another photo of Oreo in the cardbord box of packing paper.

Like this. I mean, really. Can you beat this?

Adventures in Packing, Part Two

Photo of black cat sitting on top of a large box on which is printed "I was handled with care."We successfully transferred houses, so obviously that means that we successfully packed all our shit. Even though it is in my past and was successful, I still feel as if I have some things I have to work through in regards to it.

I mean, really. Packing an entire house worth of stuff is like a whole THING. When you touch every object in your house, you learn some stuff.

Like even just the shelf in my kitchen that held bottles of vinegar. I had three bottles of balsamic vinegar that expired in 2009. THREE. When you pour out those bottles, your kitchen will smell strongly. In addition to the balsamic vinegar, there was sherry cooking wine that expired in 2007. There was rice vinegar that expired in 2008. There was malt vinegar that was older than one of my kids. Also, it’s weird, because I don’t know what you do with malt vinegar.

WHY SO MUCH VINEGAR, JEAN? WHY SO MUCH VINEGAR?

I learned a lot about labeling boxes during this move as well. Unfortunately, I plan on never moving again, so this knowledge will be wasted. If you ever move, let me know and I will come by with a handful of markers and some brilliant ideas. These ideas include:

1. The crucial information to put on the outside of the box is the destination room of the new house. It doesn’t matter what room it came from in your old home. It barely matters what is inside the box—although it might be helpful to put that information in one spot on the box. For example, writing “purses” on every side of a carton doesn’t give the movers any information about that box. It also creates the impression that you have too many purses.

2. If you just mark the destination room instead of the contents on the box, there are certain items that you might want to make a note of on the outside of the box so you can have a chance in hell of finding them again. These things include your social security card if you are starting a new job, the end-of-year gift cards you so efficiently bought early for teacher gifts, and your antidepressants.

3. As the day of your move gets closer, you will give way fewer fucks about box organization and labeling. This is a mistake. Although frankly, unless you wrote “DELIVER TO KANSAS” on the box, it will probably make it to your new home and you’ll find it again. You know, eventually.

4. The things that you waited to pack until the morning of the move should probably go in a box labeled “OPEN ME FIRST!”

Some of the things I learned from packing were less upsetting than the above. For example, when I reached the top shelf of my corner kitchen cabinet, I realized that the taco chihuahua is still one of the best purchases I have ever made.

Photo of ceramic chihuahua. There are three taco-sized spaces in his back for holding tacos.

See? Super fabulous. He holds tacos while you put your fixins in it.

The taco chihuahua definitely made the trip to the new house. There were, however, things that didn’t make the cut. Like this Valentine’s Day cookie I found in my cabinet.

Photo of a shortbread cookie with red filling in the shape of a heart.

I didn’t taste it, but I’m pretty sure it would have killed me if I had. Do you know how long ago Valentine’s Day was?

In addition to my vinegar shelf, I also went through my spice racks. I went through a phase a few years ago where I cooked adventurous recipes that asked for lots of spices. Consequently, I have (had) a large number of herb and spice bottles with, say, a tablespoon gone from the top.

Nearly all of it was expired.

Also, remember how all that balsamic vinegar was smelly? Ten years of spices in your trash can is also a powerful smell. And it makes you sneeze. It will, however, attract cats.

Photo of empty spice jars on a counter. The top of the garbage can into which I have emptied the spices is also visible, with a at sniffing at it.

She didn’t get a lot closer than this.

It turns out that empty glass spice jars are a hot commodity on Freecycle. Especially if you have 26 of them. I had five people begging for them within ten minutes of posting.

Let’s see, what else did I learn? Oh, yeah, I learned that you’re going to need more packing tape than you have. Seriously. You didn’t buy enough.

Sadly, you might also learn that some possessions are fleeting.

Photo of a ceramic light switch wall plate decorated with Peter Rabbit. It is broken into five pieces.

***sob***

We bought that before Sam was born. His first room was decorated with Peter Rabbit stuff. This was on the wall in one of my kids’ rooms from that time until I unscrewed it and promptly dropped it on the floor last week.

In another blast from the past, we rehung a closet door that we had taken off of Sam’s closet several years ago. I asked Alex if he was sure we had the right door as there were three of in them in the basement. He turned it around to face me and said, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Photo of a wooden door with many small cards taped to it. The cards all feature either Thomas the Tank Engine or Bob the Builder machines.

Ah, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Those two were a big hit in my house for a long time.

I’m a little bit of a control freak, so I didn’t let Alex pack very much. (He also doesn’t get to unpack very much.) The exception to this is his closet. I required him to pack that himself. Unfortunately, this very competent and successful attorney turned out to be UTTERLY INCAPABLE of doing things like taping a box shut and walking across the room to pick up a flat box and turn it in to a cube.

In related news, when someone proves themselves incompetent and unwilling to learn the simplest of tasks, unsolicited advice from him will riiiilly, riiiilly made a person mad.

I had a moment when I was packing my basement when I stopped to think about all the afternoons I spent down there with Susan and her kids. I felt sad to leave the only house I’d known her in. Then, a couple weeks after that day, I found, covered in spider webs, a little vase she had given me with a flower bulb in it. I, of course, had killed the flower immediately, but I kept the vase. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it is going to hold something special in my new house.

Photo of a small green vase, still covered in the spider webs I found it in.

I’m bringing her love to my new home.

There were probably more lessons that I learned from packing, but I guess the most important is that what really matters is that you take the love and laughter and joy of your family and your friends and bring it with you from your old house to your new house. Because without all of that, you just have walls and a door.

With it, you have a home.

Also, I never found my brown clogs. How did I pack my entire house and not find the pair of shoes I’ve been looking for for weeks? WHERE ARE MY BROWN CLOGS?

How Does This Keep Happening To Me?

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, THIS WOULD ONLY HAPPEN TO ME.

Please to see the Facebook status I posted yesterday:

Screenshot of a Facebook status. It reads, "HOLEEEE SHIT, YOU GUYS. So. We're giving our pool to our friends because our new backyard isn't fully fenced. BECAUSE IT'S ME, the box of pool parts we took to their house didn't just contain pool parts, but also FOUR BABY FUCKING RODENTS. To do: 1. Send Alex to return babies to our shed in hopes their mom finds them again. (They'll convey with the house!) 2. Check my car for said mother rodent in case she made the ride over here with us. 3. Get to knitting tiny hats." Below the words is a photo of two tiny baby rodents in a cardboard box, surrounded by chewed up paper and assorted pool parts.Yeah. So that happened.

I was so happy to be able to give our pool to our friends so that someone else can get joy out of it and also because hopefully they’ll invite my kids over to swim. So yesterday afternoon I dragged the pool and all of its many parts and supplies out of my backyard shed, stuffed it in my car, and trundled it over to my friends’ house, where Alex and I helped them set it up.

At some point it became clear that mice or rats or, you know, a fucking woodchuck had been living in one of the boxes because it had very efficiently turned one of the pool manuals into a little nest of shredded paper. That’s cool though, because animals live in the outside and it’s not like we found a live opossum in there sitting next to the pool filter. I assumed the rodents had moved on.

We set up the pool and I was fishing through the box to pull out the things my friends would need when I heard squeaking. “Ha,” I thought to myself, “that sounds like baby gerbils. I wonder… No, I’m sure it’s just crickets or something.”

Then I looked closer and I may or may not have cursed loudly and creatively in front of my friends’ kids.

I don’t even know what kind of rodent they are. I just know that we found four of them and transferred them to a box in an effort to return them to their mother. Because although I’m not a huge fan of wild rodents in and near my home, it seemed really mean to starve little blind babies to death. We figured that if we took them back to the shed that maybe their mom would be able to find them again. It was their best chance.

I know. I am a big fucking bleeding heart. I am well aware.

Then, because I do things like this to him all the time, I made Alex deliver the rodents to our house.

Photo of Alex walking away from the camera holding a cardboard box full of baby rodents. He looks highly annoyed.

He was totally delighted to get this assignment.

He returned a little while later with a six-pack of beer and news that he had made a cardboard bed and roof for the little guys under the shed.

Meanwhile, I was checking my car for rodents, just in case the mom had been in the box when I put it in the back seat only to abandon ship before I delivered it to my friends.

In my mind, all I can see is me driving along, singing along to some bad pop song or listening to some earnest NPR story about porches, only to look in my rearview mirror to find Rat Mom standing on the headrest directly behind my right ear. At that point my imagination pictures me screaming and veering off the road into a concrete wall.

While all this was going on, my friends continued to cook dinner for my family instead of kicking us out into the street and hurling pool salt at us.

They’re good people.

So that is the story of the day I gave my pool and a litter of wild rat babies to some close friends. As someone commented on that above Facebook status, you should remember to not take hand-me-downs from Stimeyland.

Epilogue: This evening, after torrential rain, Alex went back to check on the babies and to rebuild their little house. He was distressed because they looked as if they had been tossed around by the weather. He was able to find three of them and reports that they were still alive. I’m hopeful that this means their mom is nearby. The fact that Alex went by to check on the little guys says a lot about him. He tries to make us all think he’s disgruntled, but he has his very own bleeding heart.