#TheStimeysGoToWisconsin

Team Stimey is on vacation right now. Today was our first full non-travel day and it has been lovely. The last week, however, was HECTIC. Sam had camp that required, like, two hours of driving each day, Alex and I both had to fit in work, we all had various appointments, we couldn’t depart for vacation until after Sam’s 6pm on Friday concert…it was a rough week.

All of that resulted in us cramming the entirety of our vacation prep into Thursday evening and then two hours on Friday afternoon. We had most of our stuff packed by 2:30 or so on Friday. I left to drop Ruby off at her vacation spa (still can’t leave her unattended with the kittens—Ruby wants to DESTROY the kittens), which was a full half-goddamn-hour away. Alex used the time to frantically bake cookies.

Because we’re Team Stimey and we needs us some cookies.

Quinn sharpened lots of pencils for his drawing, I stacked rows of cat food and bowls for our housesitter, and Jack ate some cookies. We all did our part. Then we hit the road.

Photo taken of the interior of our car and showing Jack, Quinn, me, and also Alex with a goofy smile on his face.

We were ready for vacation! (As soon as we drove an hour to Sam’s camp. And then spent an hour listening to his concert. And then attending the post-concert reception. And then dropping off his bassoon with a friend to keep it safe.)

Sam kinda won the vacation prep lottery in that he had a really good excuse to not participate in any of it. But he did have to learn to play several songs on his bassoon, so he’s excused.

Sam behind a music stand poised to play his bassoon.

He was really good. One of his pieces moved Alex so much that he cried tears. Real tears.

Then we started the long, hard slog that is driving from Maryland to Wisconsin, by way of a stopover in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Do you know how long it takes you to get from Maryland to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio when you leave at 8pm on a Friday night?

Photo of the interior of my car. All three of my kids are flopped over asleep.

This long.

Alex drove the whole way. I defensively fell asleep for about an hour, not necessarily because I was tired, but because I didn’t want to be awake in the world anymore.

We pulled into our hotel at 1:18 in the morning, which is when I took the above photo. Not ten minutes later, Jack was in the hotel lobby leading a conversation about the original NES versus modern video game systems with the two desk clerks and the cop who was stationed in the lobby for some troubling reason. I really do enjoy that kid.

We all fell into bed, which felt really good. When we work up the next morning, we realized that we had the most scenic hotel in the entire world, what with this view out our window:

Photo of a river and a small waterfall.

It was hard to take a decent photo through the glass. Sorry.

I wanted to go on a run and the kiddos wanted to go swimming, which worked out well. I asked the waiter at breakfast if there was a walking or running path along the river and he told me there was a boardwalk just out the front door and to the right.

I headed out, found the boardwalk, and ran 0.12 miles until it ended. I’m not entirely sure the waiter understood what I wanted out of said path.

I continued running along the river, first on a sidewalk, then through a parking lot, and suddenly into a tire yard with no exit. Troubling.

I turned back the way I’d come and ran back past the hotel. At just about two miles I ran out of sidewalk and was going to go back to the hotel when I saw a trail and decided to run down it. I am so glad I did.

That trail was so quiet and pretty. It ran along the river, but above it atop a steep embankment. There were rock walls and trees and small waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to run far longer than I had time for, so I really tried to take it all in during the short time I had.

Two photos: 1)  a selfie of me on the ttrail 2) the trail with a rock wall on one side.

It was so pretty.

And then I tripped on a rock and took three or four giant steps to save myself from falling and almost flew right off the trail and down the slope. Which is why I don’t trail run in my normal life. I am a danger to myself and those around me.

Eventually I turned around and during my run back to the hotel on a flat, well-maintained sidewalk, I took a huge fall smack onto the sidewalk and the dirt beside it.

I am so embarrassing.

The rest of the day is a haze of bathroom stops and gazing out the car window. At one point Alex was all, “I forget how far away Wisconsin is.”

Ya think?

We didn’t arrive until almost 9 at night and it is a huge credit to my kiddos that they were such troopers and did so well. We are staying at a relative’s house on the shore of Lake Michigan, which is so wonderful. We took a quick trip down to the beach and then tossed everyone into bed. Although because Jack and Quinn had to share a bed, measures had to be taken.

Photo of a bed. There is a folded up blanket dividing it in two.

We had to establish a border. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

It was all pretty worth it though. Today was kind of a perfect day. I intend to tell you more about it, but for now, I’ll give you my kids when they first hit the beach in their swimsuits this morning. There was all kinds of joy and that kind of happiness out of my kids will always be worth the hassle of a long road trip.

Photo of a sandy path down to a beach where you can see three small silouhettes against the expanse of Lake Michigan behind them.

Pure happiness, Wisconsin-style.

Indulge Me

I promise to not do this every day, but today is my birthday so you’re going to have to let me post photos of the art I forced my kids to draw today.

Today’s assignment was, “It’s my birthday. Draw a picture of me running.”

Jack drew the most realistic picture, depicting an actual event that occurred in our lives last weekend. I was out running and Alex took Sam and Jack biking and we crossed paths going opposite directions. It was lovely. I like that in Jack’s imagination, I was more spritely and less trudgey. But otherwise, totally realistic.

Drawing of me running one direction with my arms in the air and Jack on a bike running the other direction. There is a little turtle floating in the air that says "mine turtle."

Except for the, you know, mine turtle floating in front of him.

Sam also drew a picture based in reality. Mostly.

Me: “I’m pretty sweaty in this picture.”

Sam: “It’s because you’re in first place.”

Okay, so maybe not TOTALLY based in reality.

Picture of me running toward a finish line. There are blue sweat drops dripping from me.

Poor Sam has evidently brushed up against me after hot runs one too many times.

Quinn, on the other hand, took a different artistic path.

This picture is labeled "Accurate representation of what mom thinks on a run." There is a cactus, a sun, a cow, a giant weird looking cat, and a giant water bottle.

Although he’s not really all that far off.

And that is how you trick your kids into giving you sweet little birthday presents.

Team ‘Emo

I regularly give my kids drawing assignments during the summer. I’ll tell them to draw each other or I’ll tell them to draw their cats or I’ll tell them to draw something they see in the backyard. It is so fun to see what they come up with. Their brains are hilarious and creative and delightful.

I gave them their first art assignment of this summer today, inspired by something Quinn said yesterday.

First, this is Sam as he is today.

Photo of Sam. He's all emo looking.

Mr. Emo

Sam being emo is a big topic of conversation in my family. Jack and Quinn like to tease him about it in a goodnatured way and he takes it in kind. As you can see from the photo above, Sam has recently discovered Hot Topic and the band merch therein.

Yesterday in the car, we were all talking and Quinn said, “Finding Nemo, but take off the ‘N.'”

Which brings me to today’s art assignment: Finding ‘Emo.

A drawing of a clown fish with long hair over one eye and cat ears on its head. Above it is written "FINDING NEMO" with the N in Nemo crossed out.

By Jack

I couldn’t have hoped for better results. That fish is the spitting image of Sam with his emo hair and attitude and wearing his jeweled cat ear headband. (By the way—or BTW—the “BVB” in the photo below refers to Black Veil Brides, one of Sam’s favorite bands.

Photo of Jack's entire drawing, which includes the fish from the photo above along with an ocean background and words reading "SRSLY?" and "BTW BVB Rocks"

I believe this drawing to be all kinds of brilliant.

Quinn also did a good job of capturing Finding ‘Emo.

Photo of Quinn's drawing. There are emo fish and the word "DIIE" and the number "666" etc.

Quinn has a more aggressive view of emo culture it seems.

Quinn’s overall picture is very nice, but there are some exquisite details.

A black and white clown fish with emo hair and a scar on its face.

See the emo hair and the badass scar? Hopefully Sam won’t get a face scar like that. He’s too preeeeeettty.

A square with a shark in it with the emo hair and scar and the letters "BVB"

I think this is a band poster. Seems that ‘Emo is emulating his BVB hero.

A cat head in the seascape.

I am, however, a little worried about this cat that has to live underwater. I think it might be my cat, Sharky, who maybe can breathe under there because he has an aquatic name?

But what of the man himself? What of Sam? Well. He was all kinds of indignant about the assignment at first, but he totally hopped on board in a fantastic way. In fact, he completed TWO versions of Finding ‘Emo.

Version one is an adorable fishy version of Sam himself wearing his headphones.

A drawing of a clown fish with long red hair, a grim expression, and headphones. He is saying, "I need to go to Hot Topic."

Why are emos always so grim?

I hope that underwater Hot Topic he needs to get to has a little waterproof bag for his iPod.

Last, I have for you Sam’s “artistic rendition” of Finding Emo.

A printed-out picture of Nemo with a printed out picture of Sam's face pasted on top of it.

For being so sassy and grim, he actually has a pretty good sense of humor. Just don’t tell the other emos.

Thus ends today’s gallery showing. Hopefully our featured artists and their clever minds will gift us with some more good stuff soon.

 

Cake: Point and Counterpoint

Two of my kids have May birthdays, which is great because we get to eat a lot of cake. Jack comes first and he’s easy. This year he said, “I want a chocolate cake with white frosting.” Perfect. I went to the party store, bought some Mario decorations, went to the grocery store to place an order, and we had a cake!

Photo of Jack taking decorations off of a colorful birthday cake.

The grocery store makes delicious cakes with lots of frosting. Jack was delighted.

Quinn though. Quinn was all, “Will you make me a cake?” and how could I say no? (Side note: By “making a cake,” I mean, “purchase boxes of cake mix and cans of frosting and assemble them according to instructions.”) So I said yes and then one night he came downstairs after we’d put him to bed and he gave me these elaborate blueprints for the cake he wanted.

Pencil drawing of a cake with detailed instructions, listed below.

There is so much amazeballs in this diagram. I can’t even.

Let’s get to work dissecting this.

Point: He has VERY specific measurement requirements. Unfortunately, I don’t have a round 12-inch cake pan. I’m not sure anyone does.

Counterpoint: I can make either two normal size round layers that might not be big enough to decorate properly or I can make two rectangular layers that will basically be two cakes, one stacked on top of the other.

Conclusion: Two cakes it is! Quinn quickly agreed.

****

Point: Quinn doesn’t know that the cake part of cake is called cake.

Counterpoint: Aw.

Conclusion: He is adorable.

****

Point: Quinn wants white not brown “bread.”

Counterpoint: I want both, especially if there are two cakes.

Conclusion: Quinn agrees rapidly to brown AND white bread, although I actually bought yellow cake instead of white cake because it tastes better and it was unlikely that Quinn would catch me in that little white (or yellow) lie.

Photo of two uncooked cakes, one yellow, one chocolate, with frosting supplies behind them.

I also bought extra supplies because I thought it was likely that I would fuck up at least one of Quinn’s details. I did not.

****

Point: The layers should be stacked on top of each other.

Counterpoint: What? Was I going to lay them out horizontally?

Conclusion: Agreement on vertical stacking.

****

Point: The white frosting from between the layers should jut out “from that crack in between.”

Counterpoint: That seems difficult.

Conclusion: I will put white frosting between the layers and then I will frost the entire cake in chocolate then I will improvise a piping bag with a Ziploc and draw a white line around the cake where that crack would be.

Photo of a chocolate-frosted cake with my hand beginning to pipe a white line around the middle.

Okay, so it’s a little haphazard—but it was still delicious.

****

Point: The cake should say “Happy 11th Quinn!!”

Counterpoint: That is waaaaaaaaay too hard to do with my fine motor skills and a Ziploc bag, so instead I will draw a shaky “Q” and two straight lines that can be interpreted as an “11.”

Writing on the cake as described above.

I am almost stupid good at decorating cakes, aren’t I?

Conclusion: I don’t tell Quinn about this part before he sees the cake so there is no opportunity for prior restraint.

****

Point: There is some sort of question about…an arrow? Or…something else?

Detail from Quinn's plans that shows an arrow with a question mark next to it.

?????

Counterpoint: I don’t want to ask because I am concerned that the answer will just mean more work for me.

Conclusion: Let’s just ignore that.

****

Point: Quinn wants a plastic cow on top.

Counterpoint: Let’s see how many different kinds of plastic cows that Target sells.

Conclusion: Imma put SIX plastic cows on top.

Photo of six different plastic cows.

Target sold a surprising number of plastic cows.

****

Point:

Pencil drawing of a cake with detailed instructions, listed below.

The plans

Counterpoint:

Photo of a cake with chocolate frosting. There is white frosting around the middle of the sides and a white frosting Q 11 on top. There is green frosting with sugar flowers on top. There are four plastic cows on top and three standing next to it.

Boo. Ya.

Conclusion:

Photo of Quinn with a huge grin on his face. He's also wearing a green hat.

This is him seeing the cake for the first time. He’s also wearing the green fedora he asked for for his birthday.

Quinn says the cake was the best cake he’d ever tasted. The only mistake I made was doing a good job and now he keeps telling me that he wants me to make a cake for him every year. Rookie mistake.

Team Stimey Classic

Well, friends, the sickness I skated around the edge of for the past two weeks finally got me. I have a cold. It’s kind of a perfect time for me to be sick, so, yay, I guess, but I’m going to bed early, so my Pittsburgh race report is going to have to wait. In lieu of that however, I will tell you about the Cheetah-thon.

Remember a few years ago when every time Team Stimey left the house, we had some sort of disaster? Well, this year’s Cheetah-thon was kind of a throwback to the good ol’ days.

First of all, I would like to state that the event was fantastic. The organizers did an amazing job. It was really nice to see everyone. The Cheetahs raised a lot of money. (And thank you so much to my mom for her donation. You are awesome.)

All that said, the Cheetah-thon did not go as planned for Team Stimey. To begin with, Quinn was adamantly against attending, so that was fun. (<—sarcasm) Then, disastrously, when we got there, I got Jack rental figure skates instead of rental hockey skates.

To make a long, really sad story short, the toe picks took Jack out. Twice.

The first fall took out his major joints and after he pulled it together and went back out, his second fall left him with a tiny but painful cut on the middle finger of his right hand. (Jack: “How am I going to show disrespect now?”)

That’s when it occurred to me that he was wearing the wrong type of skates. Sadly, he was Done with a capital “d.”

We did get to catch up with some of his coaches and friends though, so it wasn’t all bad.

Selfie of Jack and I smiling. Sam is hiding behind a pretzel behind us.

Joy between falls.

Quinn, on the other hand, was having the time of his life.

See, while I was trying to stem the flow of tears, Alex and Quinn had been winning everything the Cheetah-thon raffle had to offer. Suffice it to say, Quinn will never argue against attending a Cheetah-thon ever again.

Photo of Quinn holding a huge basket of Girl Scout cookies.

Things turned around for him once he won the GIANT BASKET OF COOKIES.

Even though this much-looked-forward-to event didn’t go quite as hoped, we did walk out of there with a basket of wine that we won in the raffle, so, you know, silver linings.

Much as with our past outings that didn’t go as planned though, Team Stimey doesn’t give up. We’ll be back to the Cheetah-thon next year and maybe we’ll even hit an open skate (in HOCKEY skates this time) before then.

Oreo’s Demands

I am endlessly entertained by my children, so when Quinn directed me to check the mailbox before we walked to the school bus stop earlier this week, I was delighted to find a letter.

A demand letter.

A demand letter from Oreo.

This is Oreo:

Photo of Oreo the cat.

How did I know it was from Oreo?

Well, it had her photograph on it and it was FULL of telltale LOL cat misspellings.

Photo of an envelope. On the left is says, "Quan da swan Maze:" with a straight line for a maze. In the middle is a picture of Oreo taped to the envelope. On the right it says, "What am I: I make milk and chew cud" In the very bottom right it says "Oreo"

If you don’t live with Quinn, you might not know that “Quan da swan” refers to Quinn.

She did try to throw me off by pretending to be a cow that makes milk and chews cud. Really, though, she mostly just makes easy mazes.

There were two papers inside. The first established the origin of the letter.

A drawing of Jupiter, labelled as "Joopitor." There is an arrow pointing to it with the words, "I live here:"

And the thing got here without even a stamp.

The second paper finally got to the point and outlined Oreo’s demands.

Letter that says, ""Quinn is pawesome. give him all da chocol8 so he can eet it. Can u ples do dis one thing? —Ananymous —Oreo"

How could I refuse?

Quinn tells me to expect ransom notes from the other cats soon. I wonder what it is like to be kidnapped by a cat. I bet it is delightful.

Kids’ Choice Day

This week is spring break for my kids, which leaves me in the position of finding things for them to do that don’t primarily involve sitting in front of some sort of electronic screen or beating the shit out of each other in the backyard under the guise of “outdoor play.”

On Monday when we were out and about, each of my kids mentioned something that they wanted to do and, happily, each thing was both reasonable and close to the other things. It was a Spring Break Miracle! So Tuesday became Stimeyland’s Spring Break Kids’ Choice Day.

It was DELIGHTFUL.

Jack was up first.

Jack’s choice: The park!

Jack had a specific park he wanted to go to—one that has been the scene of trauma for Team Stimey in the past, but was all kinds of fun this week.

Close-up photo of Jack on a climbing structure.

Jack. At the park.

All three kids had a fun time and there was only one major skirmish that took place after I encouraged Jack and Quinn to try to get Sam off of a climbing structure by poking him in the butt with a stick. I gave them the stick. In retrospect, it was a poor idea and an example of terrible parenting. Don’t try this at home, folks.

Photo of all three of my kids on a climbing structure. Sam is sitting on top of a web-like rope net.

Just before the skirmish.

My mom is in town for the week and she learned that she gets seasick on swings.

Photo of Quinn and my mom each on a swing on a swingset. Sam is standing nearby.

That’s her on the left, being seasick. Quinn there on the right continues to not be affected by dizziness.

At one point, I looked up and found Jack ringleading a group of small children in a variety of playground games. “Jack found friends,” I said to Quinn. “Jack always finds friends,” Quinn responded before heading off to spin in circles on some equipment. Sam waited out Jack’s playtime doing what he always does—listening to music and reading on his phone.

Sam sitting in a playground school bus looking at his phone.

Good job getting him away from a screen, Stimey.

Eventually we had to leave though, so Jack politely shook hands with all the younger kids, said, “nice to meet you,” and we departed. From there, we moved on to…

Quinn’s choice: Color Me Mine!

Quinn wanted to paint pottery, so I did something I swore I would never do—take all three of my children into a place where they had the opportunity to knock lots of breakable things off of shelves.

Quinn spongeing off a white cat sculpture.

We’d had vague plans to go there to paint pottery for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Quinn was so pleased to finally have pottery in his creative little hands.

Jack and Quinn instantly headed over to the cat section, where they both picked out their own cat to paint. Quinn got distracted pretty quickly and switched to a different item to paint, but Jack stuck to his cats, so to speak, and went to work on this adorable little guy:

Jack painting a cat figuring with yellow paint.

This cat’s name is either Flippy Paws or Snickerdoodle, I forget which. Don’t tell Jack that.

Sam chose to paint a castle and even took off his headphones for the whole time.

Photo of Sam sitting next to a small castle.

It’s a bank so he can save his pennies to buy Kindle books and music downloads.

My mom had a whole plan for what she was going to paint. It involved stencils and an octopus stamp and sounded like it was going to be GREAT.

It didn’t work out for her.

Photo of my mom holding up her painted pottery, but she's showing the camera the back of it, which is just painted gray.

Here she declines to share it with the world.

Quinn had moved on from his cat statue to a giant bowl. He got the idea from a display item and decided to paint it like a watermelon so he could eat watermelon out of it. It took a looooong time for him to paint three layers of paint on the inside and outside, but I think it was well worth it.

Quinn standing in front of a bowl painted like a watermelon.

I look forward to hand washing this bowl every day until the day he leaves for college.

After we were all done painting, we headed next door to…

Sam’s choice: Ice cream!

Because it was Sam’s choice, I had no option but to feed them massive amounts of ice cream before lunch. And, trust me, they ate massive amounts of ice cream. And brownies. And candy. And ice cream mixed with brownies and candy.

Photo featuring all three of my kids and my mom. The kiddos are eating ice cream.

There was even sharing. We came a long way from the butt poking stick incident from the morning.

I am the greatest mom in the history of moms.

And then we went to Einstein Bros. Bagels for lunch where I got a spinach chicken artichoke bagel sandwich because that was MY choice.