Dinner, Team Stimey Junior Style

Although this looks like a pretty ordinary photo, there is not a single thing that I don’t love about it:

Photo of my three kids at the dinner table. The situation will be described in the post below.

(Click to embiggen.)

It so perfectly describes my family. Now I’ll use a thousand words* to tell you exactly how it describes my family.

First of all, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there on the left sits Starfire in a chair. She sat there nearly completely still for a solid 15 minutes all like, “What in the actual fuck? Where is MY plate of spaghetti?”)

I don’t know that we need to go too deeply into our food choices, but there IS a green salad on the table, so maybe that makes up for the canned crescent rolls there on the lazy Susan.

Speaking of that green salad, you might notice that Sam and Jack each have ONE piece of lettuce on their plates. Neither of them was able to finish it. In his defense, however, Jack did lick his. Barely.

You might notice that Sam is ingesting nourishment when I took this photo. That is because he never stops putting food in his mouth. He ate four helpings of the spaghetti. (And then said he was too full to eat his tiny scrap of lettuce.)

You should now move your attention over to Quinn, who looks completely disgruntled. Let the record show that he, in fact, was completely disgruntled. His reasons were twofold: (1) Quinn does not care for spaghetti. Or apparently salad with “cream,” a.k.a. salad dressing. (2) Jack was eating his spaghetti with his fingers, which makes Quinn gag—and scream, apparently.

My house is a riot of conflicting access needs.

Jack tried really hard to eat his spaghetti with his fork, but, c’mon, it’s spaghetti.

Also, you can rest assured that I didn’t actually give Jack poison to drink for dinner.

All in all, a pretty accurate representation of our family dinners. At least no one burst into tears when they arrived at the table and saw what I was serving. That has happened in the past. Often.

Lest you think Team Stimey dinners are all screaming fights and food refusal, I offer the next two photos, which show the end of dinner when Jack spent a good five minutes scripting a joke that *I* didn’t get, but that Sam and Quinn found HILARIOUS.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn has his head back and is laughing uproariously.

You can’t tell, but Sam was laughing too.

Photo of Quinn and Jack. There eyes are locked and they are both smiling. There is a box of double chocolate Krave cereal on the counter behind them.

Jack and Quinn have a really tight connection. This photo totally captures that. I love it.

Also, please don’t judge me for my terribly sugary and non-nutritious cereal choice visible in the background.

* Actual word count: 387

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

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.

A Poetry Interlude, Illustrated

Quinn doesn’t like to speak in front of people, especially in class at school. So when I found out that every other month he would have to memorize and perform a poem in front of his reading class, I had one of those die-a-little-inside moments.

I knew that Quinn often freezes then meltdowns if asked to do so much as read in front of the class, so I knew the fastest way to send him into a panic was to make him perform—with props and emotion—something he’d memorized.

I contacted his teacher, asking for an accommodation. I suggested that he be able to do it just for her and not in front of the class. She came back with a suggestion that he do it at home and I videotape it.

Boom. That is how you teach kids who learn differently.

I was thrilled. Quinn was relieved, but still worried. He didn’t think he could memorize a whole poem. We worked on two lines a night and by the end of the month, he (and the rest of the family) had his whole poem memorized. We taped it and he got the highest score possible. He was so damn proud.

That was October. This month he had to do another one. All of the poems to choose from were either longer or more complicated than the one he’d picked for October. I was worried. Quinn ended up picking “The Lion” by Roald Dahl.

I felt good about his choice because it’s a funny little poem that I thought would make Quinn laugh. Unfortunately I didn’t think about the fact that there is basically a complicated list within the poem that made it tough for him to keep things in the right order.

To help him, I suggested that he draw some pictures of the subject of that list so he could keep the order straight while he was trying to memorize. Then he could use the pictures as props when performing the poem for the camera.

Quinn doesn’t want me to post the video on the internet, but he told me I could post his pictures. So. Without further ado, I present to you “The Lion” by Roald Dahl as illustrated by Quinn.

Screen capture of Quinn in his YouTube video holding up a picture he drew of "roasted lamb."

This screen capture is the closest I can ethically come to posting Quinn’s video. Isn’t he cute?

The lion just adores to eat
A lot of red and tender meat
And if you ask the lion what
Is much the tenderest of the lot,
He will not say a roast of lamb

A pencil drawing of a lamb face inside a flame.

See how the lamb is on fire? He’s roasting. (Oh yeah. It’s about to get intense up in here.)

Or curried beef

Pencil drawing of a cow with the words "curried beef" above it.

I didn’t really know how to advise Quinn to draw curried beef so he just drew a really cute cow.

or devilled ham

Pencil drawing of a pig head with devil horns.

Don’t mess with Devil Pig.

Or crispy pork

Pencil drawing of a pig head with an exclamation point over his head. He is also inside a flame.

I think—THINK—that the pig is alarmed to be on fire.

or corned beef hash

Drawing of a cow with a corn cob body. Quinn has labeled the body with "corn" just in case there is any doubt.

This is another one of those hard-to-draw ones. I think Quinn came up with an excellent idea of how to illustrate it.

Or sausages

Drawing of a conveyor belt with a machine in the middle. Visible in front of the machine is half a pig. Sausages are coming out the back.

And that’s how sausages are made out of pigs.

or mutton mash.

Drawing of a lamb being crushed (or mashed if you prefer) by a mallet from the ceiling.

This one took me a minute to get, but I think it’s one of my favorites. (See that lamb getting mashed?)

Then could it be a big plump hen?

Drawing of a hen.

I don’t think I need to explain this one.

He answers no. What is it, then?
Oh, lion dear, could I not make
You happy with a lovely steak?

Drawing of a steak with the words "lovely steak" written above it. There is a heart floating above the steak.

I like the simplicity of this one.

Could I entice you from your lair
With rabbit pie or roasted hare?

Both rabbit pie and roasted hare are on this one. The roasted hare is on fire on a spit. For the pie, well, there is a rabbit sticking out of a pie.

I think Quinn got tired of drawing here at the end. I even had to remind him to put long ears on his bunnies.

The lion smiled and shook his head.
He came up very close and said,
‘The meat I am about to chew
Is neither steak nor chops. IT’S YOU.’

I feel as if Mr. Dahl would be proud. I hope his teacher likes it as much as I do.

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.

Every Day a Little Easier

I realized the other day that I haven’t updated you on the Quinn vs. School situation lately and that the last you heard, things were rough. While Quinn is still emphatic about not being the kind of kid who enjoys school, every day is better than the last and he is, if not super incredibly happy to be going to school every day, at least not madder about going to his new school than he was about going to his old school.

This year, all students in our district ended up with email addresses, something that came as a surprise when one evening Quinn was laughing hysterically about the emails he and Sam were sending each other. I took a look at his account and noticed that he had been sending emails to a kid from his school, some kid I’d never heard of.

QUINN HAS A FRIEND!!!

I mean, yeah, the email was something along the lines of “poooo00000ppp ha ha %^*^%#*@&#( meow meow cat,” but he was communicating with a peer from his school so, you know, rock on wit yo bad self, Q-ball.

Fast forward to last week when Quinn was all excited to go to his new school’s back to school picnic. Grabbing on to the fact that Quinn was excited about something about school, we ditched Sam’s soccer practice, Alex came home from work early, and we all headed over to the picnic.

We weren’t social butterflies or anything at the picnic, with my kids playing almost entirely with just each other, but they were happy. They played in the dirt and ran on the playground and found sticks.

Photo of Quinn standing on a path holding a stick. He looks distinctly NOT miserable.

“Take a picture of this stick, Mom. This is a good stick.”

They made Alex pull a hula hoop out of a tree near the playground and then Quinn hunted down the principal and gave it to her because “it belongs to the school.” Then the principal had to carry the dirty hula hoop around all night. Good times.

Also, Quinn’s reading teacher brought her dog, which, regardless of whether he can define any of this week’s vocabulary words, he could write an essay on this dog and his quirks. So at least I know he’s been paying attention to something in class.

So anyway, we know one family at the school and we were standing there talking to them when this other mom came up. Somehow it came up that her son was in fourth grade and then she mentioned his name and it was EMAIL KID!!!

Then Alex and I kind of made asses of ourselves, being all, “You’re Email Kid’s mom?! Is Email Kid here?! We’re sooooo excited about Email Kid!” Then I made her give me her phone number.

I think we might have come across as desperate and a little overbearing.

But Quinn was all, “Email Kid is here? Where is he?” and then he ran off to see him and later he asked if he could have a playdate with him, so I’m okay with being overbearing and desperate because Quinn has a friend—or at least someone he talks to—at his new school and that’s awesome.

We also have an EMT meeting (the meeting to decide if he is eligible for evaluation for an IEP or 504 plan) set up for the end of this month, at the school’s instigation. Quinn is back to trying to be the first kid on the school bus instead of me having to shove him on board. And the other day I watched him walk down the street after bus drop off with another kid who lives down the street.

So we’re feeling all right over here. I’m not saying that Quinn isn’t ridiculously brave to set off every day in a world full of sensory assault—he most definitely is—but he keeps getting happier, and I will take that.