Who Thought Trees Were Such a Good Idea Anyway?

Team Stimey spent a chunk of the weekend raking leaves. And by “Team Stimey,” I mean Alex, Sam, and I. The other two showed themselves to be far too unmotivated to participate so they escaped this particular fate.

My family operates on a “prove yourself to be incompetent and you no longer have to do the chore” system. It is inefficient.

Selfie of me, Alex and Sam in front of a pile of leaves. Sam is wearing his black fedora.

Team Stimey: Leaf Raking Edition

You may notice that Sam’s jazz band hat is also a leaf raking hat.

I bring up the leaf raking for a couple of reasons. First of all, there were some fun things that happened during said leaf raking and I thought I would share them with you. Also, we won our street’s leaf raking and I wanted to brag about it.

Photo of Sam and Alex dumping a tarp load of leaves onto a GIANT PILE.

Our neighbors didn’t know that they were involved in a Leaf Off, but we did and that is what matters.

I don’t know why we moved into a house with so many stupid trees in the yard, but we did, and now we are paying the price. So. Many. Leaves.

Photo of Alex and Sam dragging a tarp full of leaves past the back of our house where there is a tree, full of red leaves.

DROP YOUR STUPID LEAVES ALREADY, TREE!

I’m looking forward to all of the tracking in of leaves once that tree up there finally drops its leaves right next to our back door in, you know, December. Or January. ENOUGH ALREADY, TREE. WHY ARE YOU HOLDING ON SO HARD?

I tried to avoid leaf raking and hang inside with Quinn and Jack, but Alex used his patented mix of guilt, exasperation, and annoyance to get me outside with a rake in my hands. He then spent a lot of time telling me about how his way to rake and transport leaves was correct and mine was not and, “Let’s just do it right the first time and then we don’t have to re-rake up all the leaves.” It was très annoying—especially when he was right.

On the plus side, I got to see this awesome visitor to our yard:

Photo of a giant antlered stag in profile. He just started loping away from our yard.

I watched one of our cats see this guy the last time he was in our yard. Her little cat eyeballs almost popped out of her head.

I also got to do things like distract Sam and generally be a nuisance while Alex steadfastly did things.

Sam in his hat holding a rake and posing for my photo while Alex rakes in the background.

At least he could take comfort in the knowledge that he was doing it right.

At some point—because Alex had to be somewhere, not because we ran out of leaves, we’ll never run out of leaves—we made a decision to be done.

Then I shoved Alex in the pile of leaves.

You can see a pile of leaves with the bottom half of Alex's body sticking out. His head and shoulders are completely buried.

It was HILARIOUS.

Then Sam and Alex got this…look in their eyes and I started running and screaming because I know it is funny to throw people into a pile of leaves, but it is NOT funny to be thrown in a pile of leaves because DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY SPIDERS ARE PROBABLY IN THERE?! so I tried to sprint through the garage door into the house, but they caught me and they didn’t listen when I told them, “No. Really. I’m serious about this. I don’t want to be thrown into the pile of leaves. I really, really don’t,” but this came out sounding more like a high-pitched screech that turned out to be surprisingly ineffectual.

And then they threw me in a pile of leaves.

Me in a pile of leaves. I don't look happy.

I’m pretty sure the spiders laid their eggs in my hair.

Now we’re looking into a tree slaughter, under the assumption that if we cut down all of our trees, we won’t have to rake any leaves next year.*

* Kidding. But wouldn’t that have its charms?

Alex Is Furious With Each and Every One of You

Photo of Sam holding a package of reeds and an instuction book that says "Bassoon" on the front.Well. I don’t know that I have ever gotten so many comments that ALL agreed with each other. And for the record, I agree with you all too. And we all agreed soooooo vehemently that I almost feel bad for Alex and his pro-flute position. So let’s all give Alex a big virtual hug and a sympathetic head bob and then we can move on to celebrating how awesome *I* am for having had the right answer. Also, Sam. Sam gets some kudos for being all right too.

p.s. Thank you all for every single one of your very thoughtful comments. I so appreciate every one of them!

Electric Fun

I regularly ask my kids if they want to go running with me. They very rarely do.

See, I remember how much I hated running when I was a kid and how I never really participated in sports until I started running in my late 20s—and then took a decade-long break from even that after Jack was born. I would love to get my kids past the hating running stage into the tolerating or even loving running stages well before that.

Every once in a while I can get someone to run along with me, motivated by the challenge of being able to run soooo much faster than I can. I’ve been working on Sam lately, with little success, but when Certifikid offered me a couple free tickets to last weekend’s Electric Run (think glow sticks, illuminated course decorations, and lots of peppy music on a night course), I thought that I might just be able to convince him to take on three point one miles with me.

He totally fell for it.

Photo of Sam and I. We are both wearing glow sticks in the shape of glasses and Sam has a glowing green bracelet.

I chose Sam for this run because I decided that he was the kid most likely to (a) be able to finish the race and (b) not disappear into the darkness of the crowd.

I love to run races, although I prefer to run straight-up timed events rather than the more gimmicky 5Ks that you see all over these days. When Certifikid (a fantastic deals site with family-friendly offers) offered me those tickets though, I flashed back to the Color Run I did where I’d wished that I had one of my kids with me to make the experience more fun.

See, these races aren’t timed and aren’t about getting a PR. They’re about going out with your family or friends and having a good time while getting some exercise in. I’ve done a few of them and even though my love is a regular, timed race, every once in a while it is fun to join in on a silly, themed race.

Especially, I found out last weekend, if you’re running with your kid.

Quick disclosure aside, followed by promotional stuff: Certifikid gave Sam and me free entry into the Electric Run. If you’re looking to do a fun, easy race with your kids (or even without!), check out Certifikid. They have a bunch of race deals coming up (the Graffiti Run, the Rock N’ Stroller, and the Blood and Guts Run, all in October) and they add deals on races all the time. If those three don’t sound like the run for you, check back later because chances are they’ll have a deal on one that is more your speed. Sign up to get their emails for your city or keep checking their site and you can get a great deal on a fun run.

So, the race. You know when you have a 12-almost-13-year-old and they’re the most fun in the world except when they flip a switch and become cranky tween/teens and you never know which one of those kids is going to show up? Well. It turns out that Racing Sam is Super Delightful Sam.

Blurry photo of Sam bathed in green light. He has a silly look on his face.

This is his patient and blurry “I’m putting up with my mom face.”

We had so much fun. We got to the race site and picked up our packets, then festooned ourselves with various glowy things and headed off to the start line where I embarrassed Sam by taking lots of photos of MY BABY AT HIS FIRST RACE!

Sam next to an inflated blue tube that says "start."

It is hard to take decent photos in the dark.

The thing is, I don’t even think I embarrassed him that much because everyone else was just as goofy as we were. There was so much fun to look at and we didn’t even have to wait too long because for once in my life, I timed our arrival almost exactly right.

When it was our turn to go, it took us a while to break out of the crowd enough to actually run, but when we did, Sam delighted in sprinting ahead of me, then walking until I caught up, then sprinting ahead of me again, shouting back, “THAT is how fast you run?”

Don’t worry. Revenge was mine in terms of stamina. I can outrun the kid. It just takes me a while.

Eventually Sam sort of tired out and it occurred to me that it was kind of mean to drag the kid to a race without having him train at all. (Although he ran longer than he ever has before. Go, Sam!) Regardless, it was still fun because there was a lot to look at and enjoy as we strolled the rest of the course. Plus—bonus!—if your kid has nowhere to go because he has to walk a mile and a half with you, he’s going to have to talk to you.

So awesome.

Plus…giant gummy bears.

Silhouette of Sam in front of a giant, green inflated gummy bear.

I kind of want one of these for my back yard.

Sam was a champ. He ran or walked the whole course and when we got to the finish line, he pointed to my right, yelled, “Look! A cat!” and when I looked, he sprinted off to cross the finish line first. Jerk. :)

During the run, he was a little jealous of people who had these big foam glow sticks, so I was going to buy him one for being such a good sport about the whole thing. But then—and here is where you see that cheapness is apparently more important to me than hygiene—I looked into a trash can as we walked by and saw two glowing sticks just sitting there on top.

Score.

Sam holding two foam glow sticks.

I was even honest with Sam about where I got them and he was okay with it. Dumpster diving can be a family activity too.

Gimmick or not, race as cash cow or not, Sam and I had a blast and I am so happy we did this together. I totally recommend you do one of these races with your kids. They definitely can be pricey, so finding a deal (Certifikid, anyone?) is a great idea. There are any number of themed races to choose from, depending on what you and your kids are into and like.

I’m just happy that Sam and I got to be together to engage in a non-stressful, totally fun athletic activity—one that I think he will definitely remember. I am so very proud of him for sticking out the whole 3.1 miles (and the endless walks to and from the car) and I’m so glad for the time I got to spend with him.

Selfie of Sam and I.

 

Cheetah Proud

I’m going to write about last weekend’s Cheetah-thon because it was fabulous and deserves to be written about, but in terms of getting my point across, if I wanted to, I could just decide that a picture is worth a thousand words and show you this one:

Jack and Alex are ice skating. Alex is in front of Jack and Jack is holding on to the back of Alex's jacket. Alex is smiling. Jack, however, is looking at the camera with an expression of pure, open-mouthed glee. There is so much joy in this photo.

I call this photo: Joy.

Jack loves the Cheetah-thon. Loves it. He is totally in his element there. It makes me so happy to see him so joyful and engaged and silly and relaxed. I think he really likes getting to skate without anyone telling him what to do.

He takes advantage of his freedom by demanding that all of his coaches pull him around the ice—which they do with big smiles on their faces.

Photo of Jack and one of his coaches on the ice. The coach has his hands behind him. Jack is holding those hands and being pulled along the ice.

You might remember similar photos from last year’s Cheetah-thon. And Jack had that same big-ass smile then too.

So, we know that Jack has a good time at the Cheetah-thon, and clearly Alex was having a good time in that photo above (although several days later, his body still hurts from the sudden trips to the ice he took a couple of times), but what about the rest of Team Stimey?

Sam had a really good time. One of my friends came and brought her kids, whom Sam really likes, so he got to play around with them. Plus, he was able to goof around with his brothers. Some days he is such a chill little dude. (Or, rather, a chill giant dude. Seriously, once he put his ice skates on, he was as tall as many of the adults.)

He does like to hassle me though. At least he does it in a sweet, exasperating manner.

Sam smiling with his hand up in an effort to block the camera.

Sam doing his best anti-paparazzi impression.

So Jack, Alex, and Quinn had fun. But what of Quinn? Quinn does not ice skate. Quinn doesn’t even like being inside ice rinks. Quinn and his brothers were invited to a friend’s ice skating party a few months ago and Quinn spent most of the party in tears because of the cold and the environment. I was worried that the Cheetah-thon would be the same way for him.

Fortunately, I am not above bribery, so I gave him money right off the bat to buy a giant pretzel and didn’t even bother asking him if he wanted to skate. In fact, I was so sure he wasn’t going to skate that I didn’t even bother bringing a helmet for him.

Quinn ran around for a while while everyone else skated and I took photos and chatted with my friends. Then…oh my god…you guys…QUINN ASKED IF HE COULD SKATE. I think the excitement and the fun of the event seeped into him and he couldn’t resist.

I hadn’t brought a helmet for him, but fortunately due to the helmet snafu of last winter, I had an extra one in the car—and it fit him perfectly. I couldn’t have been more pleased. In addition to being amazed that Quinn was willing to skate, I was also amazed that he was willing to wear a hockey helmet with a facemask and everything.

Quinn took exactly one lap around the rink. (It took him 20 minutes.) I couldn’t have been more proud of him. I would show you a photo of him looking adorable in his helmet or skating on the ice, but he forbade me from taking a picture and/or posting it on my blog. HUGE SAD FACE.

Instead, I’ll show you this photo of him smiling at his pretzel.

Quinn holding a paper plate on which is a giant, soft, salty pretzel. His eyes are looking at the pretzel and he has a huge smile on his face.

Seriously. It’s the only photo of Q from that night that I can publish without him getting mad at me.

I had a blast too. One of my good friends came with her family, including one of my relay race team members that I hadn’t seen for a long time and was stoked to hug. I ran around taking photos, handing out money to my kids (and Alex) for food (and raffle tickets). I talked to my friends. I goofed around. It was great.

It was a triumphant night for Team Stimey.

Oh, and the Cheetahs did a great job of fundraising and met our goal. That too.

It was fantastic all around. I love this team and our community. I am so grateful for their support and also for your support. Thank you to those of you who donated money to the team. Thank you to those of you who donated items for the raffle. Thank you for those of you who attended the event. Thank you to those of you who sent love and good wishes. Just thank you all. We feel your support and we are so grateful.

Thank you for supporting Jack and his wonderful team. We are so grateful for every single dollar. If you are still in the mood to donate, you can still do so online.

Hockey season is over for the summer. I have my Saturday mornings back so I can sleep in. But as always, I will miss both practice and the people it brings into my and Jack’s lives. Fortunately they aren’t really gone and, partially thanks to you, they’ll be back weekly come fall.

Photo of Jack skating straight toward the camera.

Fun Run

Hey, guess what? You were right! I was sick! Hooray! I’ve never been so happy to have a cold! Especially because I’m already starting to feel better.

This is especially fortunate because I am running a 10K this weekend and I would rather not run every race I’m registered for this year whilst in the throes of the ague. I haven’t had much of a chance to run this week, what with my heavy time commitments in the areas of whining and complaining, so I decided to try to get a short run in this afternoon while Sam was at soccer practice.

Photo of Sam running backwards on a soccer field.

Sam. At soccer practice.

The only flaw in my plan was that I was in charge of Jack and Quinn as well. They were extremely happy on the swings that overlook the soccer field, so I tried to run back and forth on the path that snaked between them that allowed me to still watch my smaller munchkins and make sure they weren’t departing for more interesting pastures.

Sadly, it only took me a few minutes to realize that I would have to run something like 38 tiny laps to get any decent mileage.

I did not want to run 38 tiny laps.

Happily, when I said to Jack and Quinn, “Come on, guys; run with me!” they did! We departed down the path, leaving the soccer field behind us.

Photo of a paved trail through trees. Quinn and Jack are on the trail ahead of me, running away from the camera.

Jack and Quinn. Running.

It was, by far, the least productive run I’ve been on in a long time, but oh dear lord was it fun.

They actually did a really good job too. We would run for a little bit and then we would walk and if we saw a dog, we would stop to pet it. I kept track of our running (not the walking parts) on my Garmin and they ran for a little over a mile.

Like rock stars.

I think it might have been when my kids were marveling over the group of seven deer that we happened upon, followed by much excitement over a robin pecking around nearby that I realized how much fun running with my kids is.

Quinn would run up ahead and then jump out from behind a tree to ambush Jack and I and we would laugh. Jack and I would run really fast to catch up to Quinn and then he would scream and cry when we ambushed him. Both kiddos made serious but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to pet deer. We watched a creek. We had a heart-stopping lesson in remembering to stop at roads. Jack politely informed a smoker that he should quit for his health. Quinn hid from a peloton of bikers on a nearby road by crouching behind a bank of daffodils. Jack quite literally stopped to smell the flowers.

Jack walking throgh trees on a paved path while inspecting something he is holding in his hand.

Then Jack picked said flowers, told me he wanted me to help him make a dye out of them, and very carefully inspected them for suitability. It slowed us down considerably.

The whole damn thing was delightful as hell.

We got back in plenty of time for Jack to find more flowers and for Quinn to play on the swings and run into a friend from his class at school.

Photo of Quinn swinging.

Quinn has recently made great strides in his swinging ability. He gets JOY from swinging now. It’s awesome.

I run for a lot of reasons. I run to be healthy, to be fitter, to be faster, to train for races, to feel strong. Today I ran for fun. Just for fun. It was wonderful. I’ll have to remember to do that more often. And I need to remember to invite my new little running buddies to do it with me.

And then soccer practice ended and Quinn called Sam stupid and Sam threw a shoe that hit Quinn in the face and there was no more happy for anyone ever again. So, there’s that.

Wait. There actually is a little more happy. But just a little.

Photograph of a plant. Due to the position of its purple flowers and the shape of it's green leaves and the coloring of the purplish leaves at the very top, this plant looks just like a very silly bird.

“Hello! I’m a bird! I bring happy back!”

All Around the Internet and Maryland

Today I have links for you instead of a post. You probably know that this month is Autism Acceptance Month. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is featuring stories about autistic people this month and today it was my and Jack’s turn. Check out how awesome the Jackster is over there.

I am also being featured as a Mom’s Life Uncensored Blogger on the Stir this month and the other day they reposted one of my stories from a little more than a year ago. It is about the day I took my kids to ASAN’s Day of Mourning and Sam’s incredible reaction to it. Check out how awesome the Samster is over there.

I wish now that I had a link to something about how awesome the Q-ball is, but I don’t. Rest assured, however, that he is. Awesome, that is.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that Listen to Your Mother shows are coming up over the next weeks. Find one in your area. I, personally, am going to see friends in both the DC (May 4) and Baltimore (April 26) shows. I can’t wait! Why don’t you join me?