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.

The Ellebobarkianda

I would like to introduce you to Quinn’s newest creation, the ellebobarkianda:

Photo of a colorful painted picture that Quinn drew. It is an underwater scene featuring some very abstract things, like weird swimmy animals and a "cat submarine" and corals and on the surface, a boat with someone fishing.

Posted with the permission of the artist.

I should explain. I mean, obviously there is a Cat Submarine with Oreo inside. And that might be Quinn up there in the boat. That creature there in the middle is the ellebobarkianda.

See, it is part gazelle (“elle,” the horns), part bobcat (“bob,” the head), part shark (“ark,” the body), part scorpion (“ian”—misspelled, the stinger), and part red panda (“da,” the tail).

I’m not sure what the assignment was, but I’m pretty sure Quinn nailed it.

I asked Quinn if I could post his picture on my blog and he not only said yes, but insisted that I also post his cat gargoyle picture. So:

Black and white line drawing of, well, a cat gargoyle.

The cat gargoyle—or catgoyle.

He wanted me to have you rate his art on a scale of one to ten, but he agreed when I told him that it really probably isn’t a good idea to ask the internet to assign you a number for your worth, so mere exclamations of, “THAT IS THE BEST DRAWING OF AN ELLEBOBARKIANDA THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN!” will be fine.

Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.

Something TERRIBLE Has Happened

Alex let me sleep in on Sunday morning. He had plans to take Jack and Quinn to get hair trims. Their hair was getting a little shaggy, so we thought it would be a good idea to neaten things up by having the barber cut a couple inches off the ends for each of them.

Jack was down with the plan. Quinn, who hates haircuts and also hates the aftermath of haircuts when everyone notices and talks about his haircut, had grudgingly agreed.

That was the plan when I went to bed Saturday night.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Alex shaking me and frantically waving his hands around and asking me if I’d gotten the texts he’d sent. “Something went seriously wrong,” he was saying. “It’s not okay. Things went badly.”

I swear to God, I thought someone had died.

Alex was finally able to communicate that the disaster was haircut related and I picked up my phone and read my texts.

Screen capture of a text exchange between Alex and I: Me: "Did you get brownie mix? If not, I'll stop at the grocery store. (Read Yesterday); Alex: No (Today 9:47am) Alex: Quinn's haircut has gone a little sideways. It is important for you to not mention it when we get home. Alex: Spiro cut off too much hair. Even I'm annoyed.

I know. And he didn’t get the fucking brownie mix either.

Sideways?! SIDEWAYS?! ALEX, YOU HAD ONE JOB.

You guys. Jack and Quinn both have short, boy haircuts now.

Clearly, I am devastated.

They both still look cute, but…omg their beautiful hair. Jack likes his haircut because it is easier to comb, but I miss his gorgeous long, thick hair. Still, I suppose it is HIS hair and he gets control over it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pout about it.

Quinn, on the other hand…well, Quinn was a serious problem. He didn’t even let me see his hair until five or six that night. He wore his coat over his head for a couple of hours and then switched to a hat once I found one for him. I had a feeling that his first day back at school would be less than ideal.

I wrote an email to his teachers, excerpted here:

Something terrible has happened. I let my husband take Quinn for a haircut this weekend, where he was supposed to get a neat little trim that no one at school would notice.

BOOM! BLAM! KAPOW!

Things went poorly. Evidently the husband read a magazine like it was his first day parenting Quinn and the barber went unsupervised and things spiraled out of control and now Quinn has short hair.

So. The reason I tell you is not just because my baby’s beautiful golden hair is gone. But because he is going to be very sensitive about it on Tuesday.

It turns out that Quinn did very well today. His wonderful teachers let him wear a hat all day and Quinn says his hair is growing back already, so it looks like things are going to work out okay. Also, we shouldn’t be too hard on Alex. He did tell and show the barber what Quinn wanted done. We can’t blame a rogue barber’s actions on Alex.

(Sam: “I’m so glad I didn’t go.”)

Poor kiddo though. Our two outcomes are (1) I am now in charge of boy haircuts and (2) Quinn never goes back to Spiro the barber again.

And now we begin the long process of sitting back and watching hair grow. I just thought I should let you know so you wouldn’t be surprised in case Quinn ever lets me take and post another photo of him. Chances of that are about 50/50.

I Am the Greatest Parent in the History of Parents

I got Quinn the most amazing present for Christmas. It was so good that he didn’t even care that it didn’t arrive until today.

Quinn actually came up with the idea for the gift. He is so bonded to his cat, Oreo, that when we go on vacation he has a really hard time sleeping without her. (I suspect that she has her own problems sleeping without him as well. They are weirdly codependent.)

When faced with an overnight trip that his class takes in the spring, Quinn was worried that he would have trouble without Oreo. He suggested that a stuffed animal that looks like Oreo would help. That led us to start investigating the world of custom stuffed animals.

Enter Cuddle Clones.

Enter Fake Oreo.

Photo of Oreo the cat sitting next to a virtually identical stuffed animal replica of her.

I was nervous that she wouldn’t turn out right. I should not have had this worry.

I opened the box while Quinn was at school and spent the rest of the day tapping my foot waiting for the moment I could give her to him. He knew she was coming this week, so I had to hide her box until Alex got home because Alex wanted to see The Reveal.

Oh, it was worth it.

Photo of Quinn holding Fake Oreo. He has a huge grin on his face.

This was his first look at her.

I asked Quinn if he liked her. He said, “No.” <looooong pause> “I LOVE her!”

Fake Oreo spent the rest of the evening freaking us out by making us think Oreo was sitting in funny places around the house. This might be a huge problem.

If you are so inclined to purchase an extravagant gift for the animal lover in your life, you should know that you can sign up for Cuddle Clones’ email list and take advantage of one of the many discounts they offer. It also takes a long time for them to make your clone. I think I ordered Fake Oreo in early November. And you will need to provide MANY photos, including one of the animal’s tail and butt area.

In return, you will get a stuffed animal that is a detailed replica of your animal, right down to the black spot on her left front wrist. Seriously. Amazing.

There is nowhere to go from here. I’ve done it. This was the gift to end all gifts…the coping tool to end all coping tools…the joy to end all joy. Job accomplished.

Close up of Quinn and Fake Oreo's face. He is so happy.

Christmas Prep, 14 Years Later

Fourteen years ago, Sam was two months old and Alex and I were looking to do Santa right. We spent significant brain power making sure that he had the best first visit with Santa possible. We checked with all the parents we knew to find out which Santa was The Best Santa and we ended up driving, like, an hour away to a mall where we had heard that The Best Santa worked.

We dressed Sam in a powder blue one-piece sweater and coordinated our visit with his naptime to ensure the best possible photo.

I wish I had the photo handy. It was adorable.

Also, that visit was pretty much meaningless to Sam.

This past weekend, we stopped our three visibly dirty children in the middle of a front-lawn wrestle match to stuff them in the car and take them to Santa, complete with dirt stains and twigs in their hair.

Things change.

Photo of my three kids sitting on Santa's lap. It's an okay photo.

It’s cute, but not powder blue sweater onesie cute.

It’s a trip to think of everything that has changed over the past fourteen years. One of those changes is definitely a willingness to let little things like perfection in Santa photos go.

In addition to our annual visit to Santa last weekend, we also made our annual visit to the local rescue squad that sells us our Christmas tree. Because we like to do things wrong, we arrived at the tree lot well before they opened for the day.

Fortunately, there was an EMT there who was more than happy to give us a tour of their trucks and explain all of the gear and medicines and also how drug dealers really don’t care about their customers.

It was totally awesome.

Photo of the interior of an ambulance. All three of my kids sit inside, focused on someone talking outside of the frame. Jack is buckled into one of the seats.

Jack explored every part of that ambulance that he was allowed to.

The kiddos also killed some time by hiding in the trees, which they tend to do every year.

Photo of Christmas tree greenery. Quinn's face is partially obscured behind a lot of it.

I swear that I take this same photo every year. I guess some things don’t change.

Naturally our tree was far too big for our limited corner space, but oh so very beautiful.

Photo of a decorated Christmas tree. Alex is holding Jack up in his arms so he can put the star on top of the tree.

My kids outdo themselves decorating it every year.

Things change, yes, but I think they’re getting ever better.

Still Alive!

Who is the motherfucking managing editor around here? Whoever it is has fallen down on the job, that’s all I have to say. November 4th? The last post was November 4th?

Shocking.

I don’t like that it has been so long. I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule. I think it is mostly a matter of getting back in the habit and also figuring out how to use my laptop on my actual lap instead of at a desk, which is where I’ve always written before but where I spend far less time than I used to.

Anywho. I figured that since I’ve been away so long, I’d catch you up on stuff. Let’s see… Well, it’s December; how did that sneak up on us? We spent the Thanksgiving weekend decorating the outside of our house for Christmas because Alex says it’s less depressing to come home from work late at night when there is a festive deer and candy canes outside. I’m not sure what that says about his attitude about seeing us after a long day, but I’m not going to look at that too hard.

Photo of the outside of my house at night. there are lit up icicles, candy canes, a deer, and multi colored lights.

Look how preeeetttty!

As for Thanksgiving itself, we had a lovely day. We hung out and ate and we had a five-legged turkey.

Photo of a turkey that has five legs.

Did you know that you can buy EXTRA turkey legs? You should do it.

We call it a beetle turkey. It eliminates a lot of screaming at the Thanksgiving dinner table due to the traditional 3:2 children:turkey legs ratio.

Alex’s mom visited that weekend. Check out what she brought with her:

Five small cat figurines painted to look exactly like our cats.

THEY ARE OUR CATS!

These are amazing. She totally nailed all of their markings. Incredible.

So that’s Thanksgiving. What else?

Jack’s play is this weekend. I am so proud of him. He originally had two nonspeaking parts in the play, but at some point, the teacher eliminated the scene in which he had his bigger part, so now he has a veeeerrry small part somewhere in act two. But you know what Jack has done? He has spent HOURS at rehearsal. He has done so with good cheer and enthusiasm. He is ready to perform and I could not be more proud of him.

He has definitely struggled a little and I’m actually more than a little bit annoyed about some of the ways things have gone down over the past couple of months, but none of it is on Jack. He is a motherfucking champion. I’m so lucky he’s my kid. I’ll let you know how the play goes. I haven’t decided if I want to or should write about the stuff that’s pissed me off—most of it is how non-inclusive after school activities really are in practice—but I will absolutely come back and post photos of how awesome my kid is.

Sam is busy preparing for a test he has to take to get into the high school program he wants to attend. He’s also preparing for the three band concerts he has next week. The next seven or eight days are going to be pretty intense.

Quinn is doing pretty well. He has his ups and downs, but he is producing art like this:

A drawing of a cat wearing a black body suit, I think. There is a sash with a mustache on it and the cat seems to be wearing a fez.

Quinn’s imagination kinda rocks.

So, all in all, pretty all right.

Are we caught up? Am I properly chastised for my absence from this page? Are we all wishing Jack to break a leg this weekend? Okay then, I will see you soon!