Lake Madness

I know that this, the last installment in Team Stimey’s whirlwind trip around all of Wisconsin, is super late and that seven million things have happened between our last installment and now, but I am a completist (it is too a thing), so I now present to you our last vacation destination from our summer vacation waaaaay back in mid-August.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lake Van Vliet.

It's even prettier in person.

It’s even prettier in person.

After the chaos of the Wisconsin Dells, it was really nice to go to the peace and absolute quiet of Alex’s family cabin on this gorgeous lake. It is this amazingly quiet place where the big activity is driving into town to get ice cream or to go fishing in the lake or—and this is sort of the climax of our trip every time we come here—rowing to a little island in the next lake over to have a picnic.

We had this great little walk on our first morning there on which I took what is probably my favorite photo in the history of photos. Now, I know I say that a lot, but seriously, people, this photo cracks me up every time I look at it.

Confused kids are confused.

I am not sure if they are all confused by different things or the same thing in different directions.

I am not sure if they are all confused by different things or the same thing in different directions, but I think we can all agree that Team Stimey Junior is confused.

To give you an idea of the kind of things we did at the lake, there was that afternoon we spent stalking a blue heron from a rowboat.

Actual quote from Alex as we tried to row close to said blue heron: “Will everybody SHUT UP? We are trying to sneak up on a bird.”

You'll notice that we weren't super successful in sneaking up close to the bird. My kids are loud, y'all.

You’ll notice that we weren’t super successful in sneaking up close to the bird. My kids are loud, y’all.

Things got louder still after Quinn started asking if he could jump out of the boat. This was our third time visiting this cabin with our kids and none of us has put more than a foot or a hand in this lake, mostly because it is FREEZING COLD.

I don’t think we completely believed that he would actually jump out of the boat when we gave him permission.

Quinn in the water

How could we have been so naive?

For the record, the water really was frigid. We asked Quinn if he was cold and through shaking lips and chattering teeth, he was all, “n-n-n-ooo.” He was so delighted that he was doing something that his brothers never had.

Qunn swimming behind the rowboat

The little dude actually swam quite a ways. He laughed the entire damn time.

Quinn in lily pads

He even swam through seaweed (lakeweed?) under the surface of the lake and lily pads on top. This surprised me. Lake swimming trumps sensory nightmare.

Quinn making victory sign on the dock.

Quinn got to the dock ahead of us. He spent the rest of our vacation reliving his victory in said “race” to the dock.

Alex, being Alex, then told Quinn that he hoped that Quinn hadn’t contracted Lake Madness, to which Quinn replied, “You’re kidding, right?” Alex, again, being Alex, then said, “That is exactly what someone with Lake Madness would say.”

I don’t know that I have ever seen Quinn speechless before, but that did it.

We did let Quinn know that Lake Madness was made up, but that didn’t stop us from repeatedly bringing it up for the rest of our vacation. We are not nice people.

In fact, if you know Quinn in real life and you’re hanging out with him and he does something weird, it would be awesome if you were to say, “Quinn. Have you been swimming in a lake lately? Because what you just did is exactly what my cousin did when he had Lake Madness.”

His head would quite likely explode right off of his head.

You should know though, that if you do that, you will also be a Not Nice Person and will probably also (1) go to hell and (2) contribute to Quinn’s nervous breakdown. On second thought, just think about saying that to him, but don’t actually do it.

My other kids got Lake Madness on our last trip out in the rowboat when they followed Quinn’s lead and all jumped in the lake.

Team Stimey Junior in the lake

Laaaaake Maaadddneeeessss!

They were all under our oars and hanging on the edge of the rowboat and generally causing a ruckus. It was de-fucking-lightful. I like my kids a lot.

Algernon came close to getting Lake Madness too, but I saved him before he fell in.

Algernon on a lily pad

It is remarkable how quickly a small stuffed mouse will sink a lily pad. This shot was harder to get than it looks.

Fortunately, we had access to an Algernon dryer right next to where Alex and I were sleeping.

Algernon in front of the fire

I badly want a fireplace next to my bed now. That was the greatest thing ever.

Of course, it was not all rowboats and nature walks. There were also go karts (Quinn was tall enough to drive his own kart here; he is a terrible driver) and mini golf and fishing (have you ever seen live bait dispensed from a vending machine? I have) and all kinds of quirky restaurants, including Paul Bunyan’s, where you don’t even get to order food—they just bring you plates and piles of food for the table and you choose what you want.

Jack goring Alex.

They also had these fabulous ox horns that Jack used to gore Alex.

One of my very favorite things that we did was take the munchkins horseback riding. They’ve been on ponies that go in those sad little circles before, but never on actual horses. I remember riding semi-regularly when I was kid and I LOVED it, so it was cool to see my kiddos do it for the first time.

Quinn was really nervous at first and almost refused to get on his horse. The guides were really nice though and told him they’d just walk his horse in a couple little circles and he could get off if it was too scary. After about three minutes, he was sold.

Quinn on his horse

This is Quinn on A3, which is a weird name for a horse, but reportedly he was “the best horse” they had.

Jack got to ride the tallest horse in the world. We always joke that Jack is the honey badger (“He’s pretty badass. Jack don’t care. Jack don’t give a shit. He just takes what he wants.”) Well, Jack got his comemuffins* by getting the honey badger horse. His horse kept stopping to munch on trail-side greenery, requiring Jack to guide him back onto the path. He did a pretty good job of it, but that horse worked him. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Comemuffins.*

Jack on his horse.

Jack on his horse, Kessler. You can’t tell here, but that horse was taller than a fucking tree. HUGE.

Sam’s and his horse rode directly in front of me. Sam’s horse audibly farted for the entire 45-minute ride. It was astounding that one animal could have that much gas inside him.

Sam on his horse.

Sam on his black and white horse, Oreo. It is quite possible that this horse is the direct reason we have a black and white cat named Oreo.

Quinn rode in the front, right behind the guide and he talked to her for 45 minutes straight. It was hilarious. I meandered along in the back, bothered only by the flatulence of the horse in front of me.

At one point, a deer spooked both Sam and Jack’s horses, causing them to take off running. Both of them managed to pull back on the reins and not get violently thrown to the ground. I was tremendously proud. They were rock stars. All three kiddos did a great job.

Even Algernon did all right.

Algernon on a pony.

He was too small to ride a real horse though so he was stuck with a pony.

I have to say, I think that this section of our vacation might have been my favorite. It was so chill. I got a ton of running in as well, on roads that ran alongside scenes like this:


The only negative about running past this was worrying that a bear or mountain lion would come lumbering out of it.

All of our vacation was fun, but there is nothing like Lake Van Vliet for some forced relaxation. Team Stimey is really lucky to have the opportunity to vacation here. And I am very lucky to have Team Stimey.

My kids

I’m so lucky to have these three munchkins in my life.

(End vacation.)

* This is how we say “comeuppance” in my family. And, no, it’s not because one of our kids adorably mispronounced the word. Alex mispronounced it until he was midway through law school and I finally corrected him. I decided that it would be against our best interests for him to bust out with, “Then the defendant got his comemuffins…” in front of a judge.

Firsts From the First Day of Travel

Team Stimey headed to Wisconsin this week for family vacation. I am counting the day and a half it took us to drive here as our first day because if I believed that I spent TWO days of my vacation trapped in a car with these people (aka, my family) I would feel more tired than if I had just spent one day in that situation.

They are Nintendo (semi) enthused.

They were Nintendo (semi) enthused.

Also, we left Maryland at 6:45 pm yesterday, so that barely counts as a day. Which brings me to our….

First fuck-up: We stop at a McDonald’s a half mile from our house to buy dinner for our children. Alex announces that he has forgotten his wallet and we return home to look for it. Turns out that it was in the car all along.

First night: We spend our first night on the road in a hotel sandwiched between the Cleveland airport and a building that is actively being bulldozed at one in the morning.

First blood: We made it until a french fry stop at noon today before anyone emitted unexpected bodily fluids. Jack cut his knee on a “HOME OF THE WHOPPER” sign in front of the Burger King at a rest stop in Ohio. We still don’t know which letter on the sign was the offender. My money is on the “W.”

First kerfuffle: Despite having been a couple for nearly 20 years, Alex and I didn’t discover until this morning that our rules for playing the Alphabet Game are radically different. I’m not going to tell you which one of us has the ridiculous rule that you can’t use more than one letter from the same sign and that you can’t use letters off of trucks. I will, however, tell you that that person was WRONG.

First near-death experience: There was torrential rain all throughout our drive today—like, vision-eradicating torrential. It was quite a thing.

Algernon got the best seat in the house.

Algernon got the best seat in the house.

First miracle: NO ONE PUKED IN THE CAR.

First destination: Milwaukee! We are tired. We are grumpy. We are ready to be farther than four feet away from each other. We can’t wait to get started on our vacation!

Midsummer Efforts to Parent My Particular Children Without Making Them Cry and/or Scream at Me

Hello! What have you all been up to?

Hello! What have you all been up to? I’ve just been hanging out here, in my tank.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I made a point to take my kids to every fun thing that existed in Maryland? And how it made at least one kid cry every time? Well, July started, Jack started his month-long stint at Camp Awesome and time stopped moving. The crying didn’t stop, however.

It’s a lot harder to go do fun-slash-traumatic things when one of your people can’t go with you. Still, however, you don’t want to just sit home and play video games. Or you might want to, but your mean, mean mom won’t let you.

So, what is there to do?

Well. Sam found this chicken nugget that looks like a Hershey Kiss and made me take a photo of it.

It was the highlight of our day.

Honestly, it was the highlight of our day.

Hmmmm. What else? Oh, I signed Sam up for chess camp this week. It was supposed to start Monday. He’s been asking how long until chess camp since school let out. We showed up to find out that it had been canceled and no one had told us. So, that was great. Crying may or may not have occurred in the parking lot.

I came thiiiis close to having to play a game of consolation chess with him.

Ooooh! We did have the Fourth of July (just like everyone else), which at least meant that Alex was home for the day and we had an evening activity to keep us busy. Alex took the opportunity to bust out his new power washer to super clean our deck—or half of it at least. He also cleaned some other stuff:

The grill...his feet...the weird metal monkey who lives on our deck

The grill…his feet…the weird metal monkey who lives on our deck

...Quinn's ass.

…Quinn’s ass.

I consider the Fourth to be a little bit of a personal victory. You know, because of the glow sticks. I found three packs of them that we’d never used, because you have to remember to pull them out at the right time—early enough in the evening that you get your full use out of them, but not too early in the day, when their glowiness is wasted. I remembered ours at 8:30—just in time to take them to evening fireworks.

They made us very popular with the young folk.

Occasionally I get it right.

Occasionally I get it right.

That’s right, people. We had a no-tears Fourth.

There may even have been a smile or two.

There may even have been a smile or two.

Let’s see. We’ve done a lot of playing of the board game Sorry. This has actually also been a no-tears activity, but it has still been full of tension and recriminations and Sam and Quinn angrily battling each other as I quietly march on to victory. That has happened at least twice this week alone. So far no fist fights at least.

What else? Well, we’re also battling over conflicting auditory needs. Our car is like a war zone these days because either Quinn wants to listen to a song that Jack hates or Jack is singing to a song that makes Quinn shriek or I try to listen to NPR, which makes everyone yell at me or—the very worst possible thing—that Progressive auto insurance ad where Flo sings comes on and everyone cries.

It’s too bad that we only get to spend two hours in the car every day, driving Jack back and forth to camp. I’ve only had to pull the car over to the side of the road to yell once though. That’s kind of a victory, right?

The gerbils have had quite a week. I got the boys this new horizontal wheel, which I thought would be great for them. It is unfortunate that they don’t know how to use it correctly.

They never use anything right. It is extremely frustrating.

They never use anything right. It is extremely frustrating.

They either sit in the middle of it and scratch at it or stand outside of it and nibble on the edges. Once or twice they accidentally made it spin, but they learned pretty quickly to avoid that. Those goddamn gerballs make me so mad.

I noticed something else this week too.

How do you think Mouse got SO FAT just eating gerbil pellets? Does he eat five or six a day? What the hell is going on here?

How do you think Mouse got SO FAT? He’s like a big ol’ fuzzy softball.

All he eats are lab blocks, which are the food for the well-bred gerbil. He must be eating A LOT of them.

In other animal-related news, we’ve been borrowing a dog this week. My friend from down the street was all, “I need to ask a favor. I’m taking care of this toy poodle and—” and I was all, “YES, I’LL TAKE HIM.”

(I’m lying. This actually happened over email, so I wasn’t able to rudely interrupt her, but if I’d been in a position to cut her off and steal the dog, I would have.)

We’ve had Charlie the Toy Poodle over twice this week for a couple hours and we’re going to take him tomorrow afternoon as well. This poor dog. I don’t think he’s used to this much attention. Sam and Quinn spent our first day with him arguing with each other about which one of them he loved more. (Answer: It’s a trick question; he loves me most because I harass him the least.)

It looked for a little while like he was going to like Sam the most.

But then Sam didn't share his crackers, so Charlie lost interest.

But then Sam didn’t share his crackers, so Charlie lost interest.

The next photo is really a much better interpretation of how Charlie seems to feel about Sam:

I don't know Charlie well enough to know if that is really panic on his face or just confusion about where he's going next, but he looked slightly concerned most of the time he was at our house.

I don’t know Charlie well enough to know if that is really panic on his face or just confusion about where he’s going next, but he looked slightly concerned most of the time he was at our house.

I also don't know Charlie well enough to know if he's allowed on the furniture, but we worked hard to corrupt him.

I also don’t know Charlie well enough to know if he’s allowed on the furniture, but he seemed pretty comfortable up there.

I’ve never spent a lot of time around small dogs, so I found it endlessly amusing to watch him trip over twigs in our back yard. It was less fun when he wiggled through our fence, but I caught him, so no harm no foul, right?

I am such a good petsitter.

Quinn is even better though. Here he is playing Nintendogs + Cats while he ignores the actual dog sitting next to him.

It's not the first time this has happened.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

Quinn is spending an hour a day seeing an occupational therapist for a couple of weeks this summer. They’re hoping to push him to his vestibular threshold to help him with his proprioceptive blah blah blah. This involves a lot of spinning. Evidently there is some sort of neurological response that the eyes of typical people have after spinning ten times.

Quinn has gone 600 times without that response.

He fucking loves going there. I take him to an amusement park and he screams at me, but send him to occupational therapy and he wants to go all day every day.

I had my own little sad news sandwiched in this week. I won’t be writing White Knuckle Parenting for the Patch anymore. I had a really fun time writing that column. I’ll definitely miss it. But you should definitely still get your news from them because my editor over there is a rockstar young journalist who is going places.

I think the thing that has been the best for Team Stimey, however, is the same thing that was the best for Team Stimey last year and the year before: the Intex pool that kills 13 square feet of our lawn every summer.

This photo may be blurry, but damn if it doesn't catch the joy that my kiddos have in this pool.

This photo may be blurry, but damn if it doesn’t catch the joy that my kiddos have in this pool.

That pool is probably the very best purchase ever made.

All in all, we’ve actually done pretty well this past couple of weeks. I wouldn’t say we’ve had a productive July, but it’s been pretty chill and, frankly, I think that is pretty much what July calls for.

Don’t you worry about any lack of tears though. I’m taking all three kids (by myself) to Wolf Trap on Saturday to see Video Games Live. Rain is probable. Tears are almost guaranteed. It is going to be a fucking nightmare. I have no idea why I was so struck with optimism the day I bought the tickets to this thing.

So, my midsummer efforts to parent my particular children without making them cry and/or scream at me? Partially successful. I figure that all we need is more non-rain pool time, a couple more petsitting gigs, and for me to stop having dumb ideas that force my kids to go places they don’t want to go.

Also spinning. Definitely more spinning.

How to Make Quinn Happy. Or Sad. Or Angry? Honestly, It’s Hard To Tell.

After making Wednesday so traumatic for Quinn, what with the mini golf and all, I decided that we would do something on Thursday that would make him happy. That took the form of taking him to an open gym where he jumped on a trampoline pretty much for a solid hour.

Quinn jumping on a trampoline.

From now on I will refer to this as Quinn’s Happy Place.

We followed that up with a trip to the pet store for gerbil supplies and to visit the adoptable cats there. In a nice change of pace, Sam was the one who ended up outraged at me, this time for not adopting the cat he fell in love with.

We also went to the grocery store after that, where we ran into a friend. I have run into different friends with their kids every time I’ve been to the grocery store this year. Every time, that friend’s kids are delightful and mine are whirling dervishes. Grocery stores are the worst.

The next day I took the munchkins to drive Go Karts. I knew that Jack and Sam would like the Go Karts and I was pretty sure that Quinn would love them too. Unfortunately, Quinn has become this kid that seems determined to hate everything. Even if he is laughing joyously, he will go out of his way to tell me that he’s miserable.

I am honestly not sure if it is pathological or him just being 8 years old.

Aside: I’d really like to hear about it if some of you have kids who are as all over the place as he is. Like, I’d really like to believe that I’m a good mom and that I’m doing good things for him by taking him places, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe that what with him telling me how horrible I am whenever I make him leave the house. He would be happy all the time if I just let him stay at home and play video games, but it seems wrong to let him do that.

Aside to the aside: I know that taking him out into the world is the right thing to do. I just have to figure out how to make it easier for him. That’s the part I’m having trouble with. That and how to handle my emotions when he shouts at me for trying to give him fun experiences.

Anywho, back to more fun things. Like Go Karts. Before Friday, I had never driven a Go Kart. Have you? Because they are the most fun thing in the world. I originally paid for three laps and after we did those, I immediately went back and bought each of us three more. I really wanted to surrender my credit card and let my kids race for the rest of the afternoon, but that wasn’t financially feasible.

Suffice it to say, all three of my kids had a really wonderful time. Even Quinn had a hard time scowling when I asked him to smile for a photo after our drives.

Quinn standing next to a Go Kart.

I do believe that is something close to a smile…or at least not exactly a frown.

Quinn was too little to drive in his own kart, so he was a passenger in mine. I took a couple of photos as we started out.

Grumpy Quinn in a Go Kart.

He was working really hard to be miserable.

I couldn’t take a photo of him when he was smiling and laughing and telling me, “Faster! Faster!” because I imagine that “Don’t take photos and drive” applies to go karts as well as regular cars. I tried to Photoshop the above photo to reflect happy Quinn, but it turned out pretty gruesome, so just imagine him with eyes wide, a huge smile, and his golden hair blowing backwards in the wind. It was a sight to behold.

Likewise, I couldn’t get any photos of Sam, both because of that photography whilst driving thing and also because he was so speedy that I didn’t see him after he started out.

Sam in a go kart.

Here is his before shot though. I won’t show you his after shot in which he held his victory stance and shouted about how he’d smoked all of us.

I do have one photo of our party actually driving a go kart and it is because that member of our party is what you could call an extremely cautious motorist. I fully support this.

Jack finished each set of three laps about 3/4 of a lap behind the rest of us, which worked out perfectly for my photography purposes.

Jack driving a go kart.

Isn’t he just the cutest little moderate speed demon you’ve ever seen?

We picked the perfect time to go because, as you can see in that photo, there was almost no one on the track. We had such a blast. I’d say that all four of us had a great time and would happily go back again. Maybe next time we’ll take Alex, who, after hearing about our outing, sadly told us that he’d never driven a go kart. I felt kinda bad for him.

No one should live without go karting. No one.

We gave Quinn an at-home day on Saturday, which made him very happy. Sunday will make Quinn miserable again as we are going to force him to play some baseball.*

I predict screaming. It’s going to be a whole thing. Sigh.

* By “play some baseball,” I mean “exist on a baseball field.” I plan to play with Quinn in the outfield while his brothers and Alex play baseball. Every week, we’ll move in a little bit. By the end of the summer, I hope to have him holding a bat. My fingers are crossed that he won’t hit me with it.


In terms of other things that make Quinn both intensely angry and extremely happy, we went on a nature hike last week, which got me thinking about Team Stimey’s summer adventures. I wrote about it over at White Knuckle Parenting.

Holy God, It’s Still Week ONE.


Well, school let out finally and…well, it turns out that the days are really long.

Reeeeaalllly long.

But—and here is the great thing—they are also really awesome. I am loving hanging out with my kids. It’s just, damn, we do everything in our house and there’s still five hours until bedtime so we have to cycle through everything all over again.

I mean, I’ve been making every effort in the world to sleep in a little bit, which at least eliminates a couple hours from the day, but eventually the children need supervision. I have, however, come up with a really brilliant (if I do say so myself) way of ensuring that I get to sleep until at least 8 or 9 instead of getting up with my kids at 7.

I’m filing this under “teaching my kids independence” instead of “being a lazy mom” because I think that puts a better spin on it. I made this list of things for them to do in the morning and once they do them, they can play Minecraft.

morning chore list: "get dressed; eat breakfast; put dishes in sink; brush teeth; comb hair; tidy bedroom; Did you do everything? Then you can play videogames. I love you!"

It’s just as if I were there, only I don’t have to yell each instruction 75 times and they do everything because they are motivated to play videogames.

So far I haven’t caught any of them in a lie, although they were all suspiciously hungry when I came downstairs this morning.

They play Minecraft for a while and then we launch into some sort of activity. This week we have mostly stuck close to home because I’ve been letting them decompress after a whole year of school. Next week we’ll start going on some adventures.

For real though, every day we have reading time, blogging time, pool time, post-pool bath time, lunch, more Minecraft time, forced outside time, more reading time, more Minecraft time, and then we still have ample hours left over for “stare angrily at each other” time.

It was Wednesday when I forced the kiddos outside where Sam found some sort of primitive tool to chip at a rock and Jack made a good effort to empty an entire bottle of sunscreen onto a drinking glass, which really didn’t need protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Quinn, meanwhile, shouted at me over and over, “No one out here is any fun!” This led me to shout back, “Then BE FUN!”

He was not amused.

He was even less amused when I accidentally locked the back door and then sat at the dining room table and watched him be not amused.

He was outraged! OUTRAGED, I tells you.

He was outraged! OUTRAGED, I tells you.

The reason that our outdoor time was so onerous on Wednesday is because it was too cold to go into our little pool, which I had been smart enough to rope Sam into helping me set up last week. I have to tell you, it went much more smoothly than it did the first time. Although I did notice today that it seems to be canting to one side.

I imagine will be dramatic and extremely bloggable when it bursts.

Until then, the kiddos are spending a chunk of every day trying to not get hypothermia in the thing.

This was the first day. I think it's warmed up ever so slightly since.

This was the first day. I think it’s warmed up ever so slightly since.

From a distance, it looks awesome.

See? Much warmer! (Ha.)

At least the freezing cold pool makes for good sunning afterward.

Jack is a champion sunner. He'd sit there forever if I'd let him.

Jack is a champion sunner. He’d sit there forever if I’d let him.

I haven’t yet started to force my kids to do their summer homework packets, although I imagine that will rival locking them outside on their list of Reasons to Hate Mom. For now, their more studious activities include learning how to take screenshots and writing their blog, which they continue to do on almost a daily basis.

They're my favorite.

They’re my favorite.

They’re even inspiring their friends to start their own blogs. It’s really adorable and inspiring and wonderful. They’re so creative. Also, I should let you know how much all of your comments and page views mean to them. They are not replying to all of your comments (and I’m not going to impose a requirement onto them that they do, even though the control freak part of me really, really wants to), but they are reading and ADORING each one. You guys rock.

Also, their blog currently has 528 pageviews. Do you have any idea how long it took me to get to 528 page views when I started blogging? (A LONG time.)

Eventually there comes a point in the day when I just give up and tell them to go play more Minecraft. And they do. Maybe I’ll try an experiment one day this summer and let them play and play and play until they stop. I wonder if they will. So far I haven’t found their Minecraft tolerance threshold. I’m starting to wonder if they have one.

I see A LOT of this.

I see A LOT of this.

I imagine that I will not be frustrated enough to try that particular experiment until much later in the summer.

So. Week One is over. There are 66 days left until the munchkins go back to school. I have a feeling we are going to be able to do a lot of really cool stuff between now and then. I’m looking forward to discovering what it is.

Coming soon: My Week Two post wherein I start to panic about there being 59 more days of summer to fill with “really cool stuff.”

Minecraft as Summer Learning

It is Day One of summer vacation. I figured that I could give my kiddos at least one gimme day of just hanging out and doing whatever they wanted to do, which pretty much means that they got to play a lot of Minecraft.

No worries though! It turns out that Minecraft is edu-ma-ca-tion-al.

In the three days since school has let out, I have witnessed my children use their obsessions with Minecraft to build on several very important academic subject areas:

Math: Sam and Quinn spent a substantial amount of time on Saturday doing extensive math problems to figure out how many…somethings they needed to…do something having to do with Minecraft.

See? Aaaallll kinds of math.

Reading: Quinn loves to read—as long as what he’s reading features big cartoon drawings. He briefly began a love affair with the Magic Treehouse Books, but then he discovered Captain Underpants and his non-cartoony chapter books phase ended.

Do you want to know how to get him to read big chunks of text on a page though? Make it a wiki about Minecraft.

"Mom, please can I read?"

Collaboration and family bonding: My kids spend a fair amount of their time acting like they want to kill each other. Yet if you put something interesting about Minecraft on the computer, they will all cram into one chair to pore over it.

IMG_0067Chorus: I wandered past Quinn and Jack playing at a computer today. Quinn was playing Minecraft and Jack was humming the exact same song as was playing on the screen. He does that all the time. It is one of my favorite things about him. No worries that he doesn’t have a weekly music class anymore; Jack is keeping his vocal chords primed and ready.

Art: Every single ding dang day my kids use reams of paper making Minecraft-themed drawings. These are some of Jack’s. He actually drew them at school. I was too lazy to walk into the living room to take photos of today’s art that was on the coffee table.


Also, these are in color and today’s are black and white, so I thought you might like these more.

Writing: The real coup d’etat is ‘Til the End, a group blog written by all three of my kids that they started today.

'Til the EndA couple of weeks ago, Jack said he wanted to write a blog about Minecraft and even though part of me was all, “nooooooooo,” another part of me was all, “Dayum, this is a fantastic way to (a) encourage Jack to write, (b) teach Jack to type more fluently, and (c) entertain the hell out of me.”

It will not, however, serve as a lesson in grammar unless I decide that my editing their work for proper punctuation is more important than their artistic integrity. I’m stuck on that one.

I mean, the kid capitalized “Bloggers,” for the love of God. Clearly he needs to learn a little something about bloggers and how we are most definitely a lower-case “b” group of people.

Jack eventually let Sam take over the typing and he took on more of a "creative mastermind" role.

Jack eventually let Sam take over the typing and he took on more of a “creative mastermind” role.

I figure that by the end of the summer one of two things will have happened: They will have lost interest and abandoned their blog almost immediately or they will be fluent in HTML.

They are welcoming comments over there, so if you like Minecraft, you’re welcome to hop on over. They are also looking for topics that you’d like to hear about in their future blog posts.

In the meantime, I plan on not feeling the slight bit bad about letting my children play hours and hours of Minecraft this summer because of the, you know, LEARNING. You all have fun with your summer homework packets though.

Camp Awesome

Remember back when school was in session and I used to be sad every single day when I would get a note or an email from the teachers telling me what a bad day Jack had had? Because I remember it vividly.

Jack has been in full-day camp this summer—at the same camp he attended last summer—and every day for the past five weeks I have spoken to the teachers at the end of the day and they have told me, “Jack had a great day!” “Jack was super cooperative today!” “Jack did everything we asked him to!”

Sure, there have been a few scuffles here and there, but not even anything to stress out about. And, sure, it’s camp and not school, but a lot of the things he has to do are definitely non-preferred activities. Jack has even stepped up and above in helping plan the end-of-camp performance he’ll be a part of this Friday.

It’s like he’s a different kid.

But he’s not.

What’s different is the environment.

It’s a small class taught by therapists who know how to teach kids with developmental disabilities in a completely positive environment and who truly believe and take nothing but joy in Jack.

It gives me hope that he will do well in his smaller, special education class at school next year.

But why am I posting about this today? Well. To answer that, I have to go back four weeks, when one of the teachers pulled me aside at the end of the day to talk about Jack’s bike. See, they bike ride every day and I had sent in a bike with training wheels.

They thought Jack was ready to try riding a two-wheeler. Jack has always been hesitant on his bike. He has absolutely NOT been interested in taking those training wheels off. Too bad for him, he’s not in charge of the screwdrivers in the house.

He’s been working on this every day at camp. Last week, they had him ride his bike for me, which was so incredible. At that time, he still wasn’t starting by himself and could only go about ten feet.

Today after camp, they went out in the heat to set up safety cones in the parking lot just for him. (See: Camp Awesome) He showed me that he is COMPLETELY, INDEPENDENTLY RIDING HIS BIKE. He was able to start by himself, turn his bike during his three laps, and stop all by himself.

Starting by himself.
Turning during his three laps.
Stopping by himself.
Oh—and grinning like the proudest kid in the world.
Amazing, huh?

In case you’re wondering, I’ve already pretty much signed Jack up for a new, great program that Camp Awesome will be holding next summer for kids like Jack. Feel free to email me if you’re local and looking for something like this.