Go!

School went very well today. I am super proud of all three of my kids.

Here is where I would normally post photos of them on the first day, but I forgot (FORGOT!) to take photos, so instead I’m going to give you some drawings. I gave my kids a daily schedule when I worked this summer—a schedule that included art time. I have a whole series of blog posts planned featuring the art created then, and today I will start with what I had them draw the last day Sam babysat for me over the summer.

I told them to draw pictures of themselves at school.

The fact that they’d been doing art all summer and were tired of it may have something to do with the haphazard writing and drawing, but they still pretty accurately capture what my kids think of school.

For example, Sam considers school to be little other than a venue to create music.

A drawing labeled "practice room." It is a crudely drawn stick figure playing a bassoon that is taller than himself.

I like that the bassoon is 18 feet tall.

Quinn, quite obviously, was in denial about the whole thing,

Photo of a giant cat head next to a small stick figure labeled "me." The caption says "cat school.'

Welcome to the terrifying school of enormous cats. Quinn is apparently the dean.

My kids evidently have some difficulty with drawing to scale.

Aaaand then there is Jack. Jack’s art made me worried that he is planning some sort of shenanigans at his school.

Photo of a school building. A boot is sticking out of the door, kicking a person, presumably Jack, out of the door.

Let’s hope that Jack’s vision of being kicked out of school is aspirational rather than prophetic.

Reality may be nothing like their drawings (except in Sam’s case), but so far, so good.

(KNOCK ON WOOD.)

Ready…Set…

Photo of Sam standing in the school supplies section of Target. There is a pencil-shaped sign above his head that says "school shop."I am writing this the day before I send my kids back to school. We just put them in bed. Alex literally just said to Sam, “You can read 30 minutes of Euclid before you have to turn out your light.” I don’t understand either of those gentlemen. The other two are discussing Super Mario. Them, I get.

So, school. On the one hand, I am going to miss my kids when they’re at school. We had a lot of fun this summer and I’ve really enjoyed getting mass quantities of time with them. On the other, more important hand, I am going to have two days at home every single week without ANYONE to ask me for stuff, to drag along on errands, or to break up fights between.

I was a little worried about the start of school, especially for Quinn, because about halfway through summer he started dropping to the ground and erupting in sobs anytime I mentioned it, but I spent a couple of weeks supersaturating him in the idea of school in an effort to desensitize him to his distress. It seems to be working. KNOCK ON WOOD.

We did the bulk of our school shopping last week, when I dragged the munchkins to the mall for shoes, pants, and school supplies shopping. In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to try to do everything in one trip.

Photo of my three kids at the casheir in Target. Sam, in the background, looks pained. Jack is staring off into space. Qunn is in the foreground, collapsed onto the counter.

I posted this photo on Facebook and it turns out that we weren’t the only family to be entirely undone by back-to-school shopping.

Since then, we’ve been doing things to prepare for tomorrow, but it all really kicked into gear today because we are nothing if not procrastinators. I spent some time with each kid today setting up their binders for school.

Photo of Sam drawing a cat on the outside of his binder.

Part of this was the important task of decorating said binders, mostly with photos and drawings of cats.

Did I mention that we are procrastinators? We also spent part of the day finishing up summer homework packets.

Photo of Jack writing on a worksheet.

This is Jack writing about what her learned from his 300-page, adult-level chapter book that he finished last week. Like a boss.

Sharky helped us with our work.

Photo of Sharky the cat sitting on the table in a pile of school supply packaging. He's chewing on some paper.

And by “helped,” I mean, “caused as much trouble as possible.”

I also had to complete a project for Quinn. Quinn and I went to visit his school last Thursday to meet his teachers before open house. (We also went back on Friday for open house. See: supersaturation) When we were there, we discovered that both of his teachers are cat people. One of them showed us a photo of her late cat, which she’d made into a magnet.

*bing!* *lightbulb!*

As you may have noticed, Quinn’s cats are very comforting to him. Last year I put photos of his cats in his binder. But, for some bizarre reason, Quinn has a locker this year (he’s in 5th grade). After seeing his teacher’s cat magnet and the metal lockers, one of which he will be assigned, Quinn and I agreed that we’d make magnets of his cats.

Thus began the search for suitable photos, followed by printing, cutting, laminating, cutting, gluing, cutting, and eventually showing Quinn the finished product, which, if I do say so myself, is fucking amazing.

Photo of magnets on a fridge. Five are of cats and one is of Quinn.

I made a Quinn magnet, so he could be surrounded by his furry buddies.

We’ve bought lunch food and written down bus route numbers, we’ve attached emergency house keys to backpacks, and I have bravery M&Ms on standby in case Quinn needs some encouragement to get on the bus.

Let’s hope things go well and that the three munchkins have a good start to the school year.

And the Happy Dance Was Danced All Around

Today was my kids’ last day of school for the year.

*cue happy dance*

*cue more happy dance*

*stand still for a second*

*launch back into happy dance*

Dude. It has been QUITE a school year. Some of it has been pretty rough. Some of it has been fantastic. All of it is now behind us and I can’t say that I’m sorry. I feel very happy about facing down 62 days (Quinn tells me it is 62 days and if anyone knows that particular statistic, it’s him) of summer.

We celebrated by visiting our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream joint.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn is looking at the camera. Sam is reflected in a mirror behind Quinn, Jack is sitting nexdt to Quinn with his back to the camera, but you can see his face in the mirror.

Happy kids are happy.

This particular ice cream place is weird and hardly ever has customers and feels kinda grungy, but several years ago we went there on the last day and now we go every single year. It works out because none of us ever want to go there any other day of the year, so it’s kind of a disgusting little treat that makes all of us happy.

Sam had a pretty good year this year. He was in 7th grade and has really started to become his own person. I know I always say this, but it’s very cool to watch your kid learn who they are. I am really proud of him as a young man. He’s a good kid.

He’s also super into music. He’s been playing both flute and bassoon in jazz band and advanced band, respectively, and he’s also picking up piano from his general music class. He has all kinds of pretentious ideas about who on the radio is a real musician and who is just in it for the money. (Coldplay and Taylor Swift, for example. Guess who falls into which category.)

When I went to pick Sam up from his bus stop today, I found him running joyfully down the street with his arms flailing about in the air. It was his version of the happy dance.

Jack has also had a good year. He started middle school (6th grade) this year and adjusted to it admirably. I think it helped that his two best friends are in the same program at the same school as him. He also met some new friends who are wonderful. Jack is a very popular and lucky boy.

Jack isn’t particularly verbally expressive, but it is easy to see how grown up he is getting too. I love watching him soak up what is going on around him. I sometimes feel like I can see his brain processing things. There is a lot going on inside that boy’s head.

In addition to his deep thoughts, much of what is going on inside his head is probably a constant cataloging and re-cataloging of information about Mario and Luigi. I had absolutely no idea that there was so much written information about that pair and their friends on the internet as there is. Jack could probably write a three-volume biography of them at this point.
Quietly sidling up to the computer to review said information after his bus dropped him at home was his version of a happy dance.
Quinn has had the rockiest year. It was hard for him because he had to start 4th grade at an entirely new school where he didn’t know a single person. I think about the terror that I feel in certain situations and I am awed by how brave Quinn was to walk into that school.
I talked to him about that today. I reminded him of his first day, when we missed the morning bus and he was crying (and understandably so) when I dropped him off in the morning and how in the afternoon he forgot what bus stop to get off at and ended up in the wrong place and how hard it was for him. Then I reminded him about all the friends he’s made and how he is comfortable with the school and its rules and how much he’s learned. I told him how proud of him I am.
He tried not to smile. He wasn’t about to let on that he is proud of himself too. But I know he is. That kid is a superhero. He did a great job this year. He has had a momentous year in terms of school supports and figuring out what works and so on, but that’s his story to tell. All I’m going to say is that he is learning about himself and he has a team that wants him to self-advocate and he is definitely in the right school, surrounded by the right people.
He was the last of my three kids to arrive home today. I was standing on the porch doing my happy dance, which he greeted with a huge smile. That kid works SO hard to get through his day. I could almost see the weight rolling off his shoulders as he walked away from his bus.
All in all, it was a good school year, but I’m still glad it’s over.
Screenshot of my status update from the Stimeyland Facebook page: "For those of you who have kids who struggle in school, who work SO goddamn hard to get through each day, and who do so with strength, resolve, the skin of their teeth, or just plain sticktoitiveness, please join me in celebrating the last motherfucking day of school! Hells yeah."

Also, for those of you who have kids who don’t struggle and also teachers. Maybe especially teachers.

Here’s to summer.

*continue happy dance*

Making Quinn Miserable

First thing this morning, Quinn told me he didn’t feel well and that he didn’t think he should go to school. I didn’t think he was really all that sick. I didn’t think he was sick at all. This led me to assess my options:

(1) Keep Quinn home.
(2) Send Quinn to school only to hear from the nurse 45 minutes later that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to come home. At this point, I would again assess my options:
     (a) Go get Quinn and bring him home.
     (b) Ask the nurse to send him back to his classroom, only to get another
     call a half hour later when Quinn did one of two things:
          (i) Was disruptive and complainy enough to be sent back to the nurse’s
          office.
          (ii) Wanted to come home so desperately that he convinced his brain
          he needed to throw up, which would lead to his throwing up on a desk
          in the classroom and being sent home.

This wasn’t my first rodeo. No matter what, Quinn was hanging out with me at home today. I decided to just start with him there.

I’m not stupid though. I knew what he wanted. He wanted a fun day, full of cats and cuddling and board games and maybe once I got tired of actively making his day the best it could be, I would send him off to play video games with a smile on my face.

Nice try, little man. Quinn expressed his belief that “taking care of him” was the same thing as “entertaining him.” Thus began my campaign to make Quinn’s day as boring and miserable as humanly possible.

I started by making him nap. Unfortunately, as he was not actually sick and it was 8:45 in the morning, he was unable to fall asleep. Happily, he had a cat to amuse him.

Quinn lying on the couch with a small black cat.

I spend most of my life trying to get the cats to sit with me and they steadfastly refuse, but Quinn stays home once and they decide that the couch is the most comfortable place in the world to sit.

Unfortunately, cats aren’t very good at holding conversations, so I was the recipient of Quinn’s non-stop chatter until I forced him to read. Funnily enough, this didn’t stop his chatter, but just focused it to the topic of cats, which was the subject of each of the three library books he had checked out last week.

Quinn would intermittently say things like, “I’m going to play video games at one! I have a quest to complete!” and “Can I play video games now?” I alternated answering every one of his questions with either “no” or “Do you want me to drive you to school?”

During hour two, I realized that we were out of milk and bacon, so we went to the grocery store. This provided many opportunities to make Quinn miserable by doing things as simple as pushing the cart slowly past the bakery department without stopping.

Quinn sitting in a cart, pointing.

In this photo, Quinn is pointing at cookies. Shortly thereafter, he started heaving his body back and forth, trying to move the cart from within. He failed.

I’m not made of stone though. Per his request, I bought him chocolate chip toaster waffles, causing Quinn to smile slyly and say, “Your no-spoiling plan has backfired.”

After the grocery store, we spent the rest of the day at home, reading, eating waffles, and bickering like an old married couple.

Sample conversation:

Me: “You are an obstinate little man, Quinn.”
Quinn: “What does ‘obstinate’ mean?”
Me: “It means stubborn.”
Quinn: “I think it means epic.”

The low point of the afternoon was our ten-minute fight over what to do with the little bits of soap stuck to the bottom of the bathtub, which were evidently interfering with Quinn’s ability to take an afternoon soak. I was of the opinion that it was soap and the problem would resolve itself as soon as there was water in the tub. Quinn, on the other hand, believed that I should scrub the tub immediately and, upon his arrival home, Jack—who left the soap bits in the tub yesterday—should be promptly and severely punished.

I’m happy to say that I prevailed—in both the bathtub fight and the longer term struggle to keep Quinn mostly happy, slightly bored, and away from any and all screens for the whole day.

He may not know it yet, but Quinn will be headed back to school tomorrow. Fortunately, I think he’s ready.

And if he’s not? Well, today’s chocolate chip waffle mistake won’t happen again.

Halloween Hoops

We should talk about Halloween. Mostly because I have the cat for it.

Black cat Ruby in front of a pumpkin

Actually, I have two Halloween cats, but only Ruby was interested in the pumpkins.

God, Halloween. I have grown to hate Halloween. It used to be awesome because my sister’s birthday is on Halloween, but ever since I don’t live in the same place as her, it is less fun. Now it is just this whole stressful, expensive, sugar-filled, sensory nightmare.

I was talking to a friend of mine and we decided it would just be so much easier if we let our kids go on a candy-buying spree and then locked the doors and stayed home and ate candy all day on Halloween.

But no, you’re not allowed to do that. There are all these little hoops that you have to jump through, some of which Team Stimey accomplishes better than others.

Hoop one: Pumpkins

Pumpkin carving is awesome, right? Except every kid has to have their own pumpkin, but they are too young to go about whacking at a pumpkin with a butcher knife, so what really happens is that Alex and I end up taking orders from our kids about how exactly they want a perfect six-point star for a left eye and a square for the right. And this comes after we have to scoop out the insides because…ick, pumpkins are slimy and smelly and the children couldn’t possibly be asked to put their delicate little hands inside there.

Sam carving a pumpkin while holding his nose closed.

Honestly, it was kind of impressive that Sam even agreed to be in the same room with the pumpkins.

Sam holding his jack o' lantern.

It was totally worth it though, because he took knife in hand and carved his pumpkin entirely by himself for the first time. I LOVE it.

Hoop two: Getting the costume to school

This only applies if your costume is bulky.

Quinn in a Minecraft Steve head.

Quinn’s was bulky, but hilarious, so it was okay. I laughed every time I saw him. Also, it is apparently difficult to walk with a box on your head.

Jack’s school makes their costumes in the classroom, so I didn’t have to lift a finger for him. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Hoop three: School parties

Ugh. I think the only people who have a harder time than parents with school Halloween parties are the poor teachers who have to supervise them. Of course, kids love them.

Well. Most kids.

Sam is in middle school now, so he didn’t have a Halloween party at school, but Jack and Quinn both had theirs at exactly the same time. I wanted to go to both, but that ended up not working out, what with my not actually being two people.

My wonderful friend who has a daughter in Jack’s class took photos of him, so I can show you his costume before I launch into the story of Quinn’s party.

Jack hamming it up in his Halloween parade

Jack has enough joy to spread around. I like that about him.

Then there is Quinn. Quinn is afraid of many things. Halloween is a really tough time of year for him. He so badly wanted to go to his class party and get all the treats there, but he was absolutely terrified at the idea of walking in the costume parade—even with a box on his head to obscure his vision.

Quinn and I hung out in his classroom while the rest of the school marched around the halls. We spent our time drawing cats.

Quinn holding a drawing of a cat.

For example…

I gotta tell you, Quinn has a tough life. I’m not being sarcastic. I have a ton of sensory issues, so I understand a lot of what he goes through, but he is really intense. He must be on edge all day long waiting for the next assault.

Quinn peeking in the classroom window from the hall.

A kid at a different table opened up a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, sending Quinn running out to the hall, where he stayed until I made him come back inside. He was uncomfortable even being around that student after he was done eating the chips. It was as if he sensed little chip-dust particles floating around him.

Quinn must be on guard at all times—for sensory stressors, for things that scare him, for things that make him gag and throw up (e.g. chip dust). It makes sense that he can be so irritable. I’d be irate too if I had to be so entirely vigilant all the time.

Hoop four: Costumes

I usually try to not spend too much money on costumes. Sometimes we make them, sometimes we cobble them together out of stuff we have, sometimes I buy them, one memorable year I had someone sew one, and this year I threw a million dollars at Amazon and had them send me two insanely expensive boxes for Quinn and Jack to wear.

Quinn as Steve, Jack as a creeper.

They were both extremely happy and extremely cute about the whole thing.

Hoop five: Handing out candy

Here’s something: Phish always plays a much-anticipated show on Halloween, which means that Alex is always gone. This means that I get to take my kids trick or treating by myself at the same time as I hand out candy at home. This usually entails me putting out a bowl of candy and hoping teenagers don’t take it all before we get home. (See above comment about not actually being two people.)

This year, Sam stayed home and gave out candy. He was so adorable about it. He took his responsibility very seriously. He also totally channeled me later in the evening when we still had a ton of candy left and he started shoveling handfuls of it in trick-or-treater’s bags.

Sam handing out Halloween candy

And he didn’t even get kidnapped from our house, which was my primary concern in letting him stay home and answer the door at night—something I expressly refuse to let him do when he stays home alone.

Hoop the last: Trick or treating, a.k.a. Kill me now

I can’t even. I mean…I just can’t.

Usually trick or treating is exhausting. My kids all run in a million directions and I end up shouting at them to stick together and they don’t and it is a whole thing, but they usually have a really good time. Except when they don’t. Like when Quinn sees a costume that scares him and he can’t relax because he is working so hard to avoid seeing it again.

This year was a perfect storm of nightmare. My kids and I were heading out of the house to meet our neighbors who we were going to trick or treat with when my cell phone rang. It was my insurance people looking to take a statement on my car break-in. I was all, “I can talk to you and walk my kids up the street,” because, yeah, evidently I’ve never met my kids before.

I was almost done talking to the woman on the phone when we ran into our neighbors. Jack ran up to his friend and hugged her. Quinn’s friend, who, incidentally, was wearing a mask that Quinn found terrifying, came up behind him and said, “Boo!” (He didn’t know Quinn was scared of the mask and was just trying to hang out with his pal.)

Quinn lost it.

He shrieked, turned around and ran home.

I made a quick Sophie’s Choice, decided Jack would be fine with his friend, and ran home after Quinn, hanging up on a disoriented insurance agent as I searched for Quinn, whom I eventually found trembling under his bed.

After that it was me (and the neighbors) juggling my sobbing kid and the neighbor’s sobbing kid and finding Jack and trying to convince Quinn that there weren’t terrible things around every corner, because he really did want to trick or treat and even if he didn’t I had to FIND JACK, and thank God for the people who had pets in their living rooms because petting animals finally made Quinn relax a little, but the neighbor kid never recovered and went home and never came back out and dear fucking God, I’m just glad that I have an entire year before Halloween comes again.

Also, it rained.

So. Happy birthday to my sister. Can’t wait until next year! The end.

Back to School Photos, Now With 30% More Cats

My kids all had good first days of school. It all went so much more smoothly than I could ever have possibly hoped.

I have spent the entire evening filling out emergency contact forms for three children, at least one of which I’m sure I’m sending back to the wrong school (the form, not the child), so I’m done writing for the evening. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be a good parent blogger unless I posted these photos of my children.

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Kittens make getting up at 6:30 to get to middle school tolerable.

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Quinn was totally chill about going to school, which was a huge relief. He even came home happy, which was a huger relief. His only eccentricities today were that he insisted on wearing his backpack as a shield and wouldn’t let me take a picture.

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Jack and I get a lot of morning time together because his bus comes way after everyone else’s. I really like that time.

I love it when I hope for the best and prepare for the worst and I never have to use my preparations. Day One down. Onward to Day Two.

Elementary School Open House and Why It Makes Me Hyperventilate

Yesterday, as this post title would lead you to believe, was open house at Jack and Quinn’s schools. It was, as this post title would also lead you to believe, hectic. Yeah, let’s go with hectic.

Here’s why:

1. Awesomely, both Jack and Quinn’s schools schedule their open houses for the EXACT SAME TIME. God, that’s so great.

2. Quinn is panicked—panicked—about going back to school. Like, sobbing meltdown panicked. You might be able to imagine how happy he was to go to open house today. I feel so bad for that kid. He is so freaked out. None of his good buddies are in his class, but the one kid he gets stressed out by will sit at his table. Good times. I cannot even imagine what Monday morning’s scene at the bus stop is going to be like and I have no idea how to make it better for him. I’m considering buying him a kitten. You think I’m kidding. I am not.

3. After we left Quinn’s school to drive to Jack’s school, Quinn was more relaxed. Sam and Jack, who were trapped in the back seat together, were not. It probably took 20 minutes to drive to Jack’s school, which, it turns out, is plenty of time for the two of them to bicker endlessly, each “accidentally” scratch the other one, and for both of them to shriek shrilly at each other for sustained periods of time. I could have dealt with the situation better than I did, but pulling the car over dramatically and gesticulating wildly at my kids had an effect.

4. Jack’s bag of school supplies exploded, leaving me to leak a trail of glue sticks and highlighters as we trudged into his school.

5. Jack’s school visit went pretty well. He got to see his good friend who is in his class and he seems so at home in his classroom, which is the same as last year. We did lose one of our favorite paraeducators to another classroom (boo!) and her replacement hasn’t been hired yet, which seems problematic considering school starts Monday.

6. This one requires a back story: Sam was considering taking a language this year and was going to choose French. I thought he should take Spanish because so many people in our area and worldwide speak that language. I may or may not have uttered the phrase, “French is useless,” meaning there are are many fewer countries where French is the language of record. (Apologies to Francophiles; I am prone to hyperbole.)

Jack’s school has a French immersion program. We were walking down the hallway after talking to a couple of French teachers who will teach (in English) a couple of Jack’s inclusion subjects. A school staff member was just ahead of us as Sam busted out with, “MOM!”—and yes, he spoke that loudly—”MOM, REMEMBER WHEN YOU TOLD ME FRENCH WAS USELESS?”

“Oh my God, Sam, I didn’t say that,” I responded lied, noting that the staff member was totally listening.

“YES YOU DID,” he said, even louder. “REMEMBER WHEN YOU TOLD ME THAT FRENCH IS USELESS?”

“SAM, don’t say that here IN FRONT OF PEOPLE,” I hissed.

At this point the woman turned around and was all, “I hear you,” and then joined in with Sam in mocking me and I probably turned bright red and kept insisting that that IS NOT WHAT I SAID, STOP IT, SAM, STOP IT RIGHT NOW, and then I punched him in the arm to get him to shut up, but that didn’t work and instead he started yelling that I’d hit him and I looked even worse.

If that was even possible.

Sam was completely delighted by the situation.

7. My own damn mother, who is in town for a brief visit, was all, “Huh. I thought I had an idea of what it’s like to do these things with your kids, but when I’m with you, I see how really difficult it is.” I’m not sure how to take that.

And those are only the highlights. See? Hectic. How was your open house?