It Was EXACTLY Like the National Treasure Movies Except Not at All

A few weeks ago, I got an email inviting my family to the National Archives for a family day event and a pre-opening coffee with a curator to celebrate their “Making Their Mark: Stories through Signatures” exhibit.

Immediately upon receipt of said email, I realized that (a) I had never dragged my kids through that particular institution and (b) I should rectify that immediately. Also, (c) I’d never been and I really wanted to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights in person.

Our morning at the Archives came around this past Saturday and I was prepared. Museum-type spaces can be tough for my kiddos, particularly Quinn, so I made sure to not use the m-word and I pulled out the other heavy gun I had in my arsenal: I reminded them about the National Archives scenes from the National Treasure movies.

That did the trick.

We arrived to find juice and pastries as well as curator Jennifer Johnson, who gave us a personal tour through the Making Their Mark exhibit, which she had curated. It was really cool. The exhibit is all about signatures, from athletes signing sports memorabilia to Benedict Arnold’s oath of allegiance to a display of pens used by presidents to sign bills into law.

It was even more interesting than I thought it would be. There was a patent application filed by Michael Jackson, a letter from Johnny Cash to Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon’s FBI application, and any number of other fascinating documents and items. All three of my kids were also really interested, which is notable because there are not a lot of things that my three kids are all into.

The backs of my three kids looking at a display of 50 pens in a frame.

One of my favorites was this display of pens that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used to sign bills into law.

One of the exhibits was a full-size door that members of a home builders association sent to President Reagan to draw attention to their economic troubles. Jack took a look at the door, listened to the curator explain that it featured signatures on one side and the address on the other, and said, “Excuse me? Excuse me? I think the president was all, ‘What the bleep is this door doing in my mailbox!’”

Yep. That’s Team Stimey, keeping it classy across the generations.

In my defense, at least Jack says “bleep” instead of actual curse words.

The part of the exhibit that might have captured my kids’ attention more than any other was the auto-signing machine that was set up near the exit. This particular machine auto-signed John Hancock’s signature.

Jack carefully watching the mechanism of an auto-signing machine. There is a pen attached via a mechanism that follows the grooves in a disc that guides the signature.

Jack might have been more interested in the mechanics of the machine than the result.

We still had a few minutes before the Archives opened to the public so the curator took us to the Rotunda where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed. I may have majorly geeked out there. This may also be the place where I was reprimanded by a guard.

There are no photos allowed in the Archives (barring special permission on a private tour in certain areas), so I’ll give you this image provided to me.

Photo of the Rotunda where there are murals of the founding fathers on the walls and six pages of documents, each in their own case: the Declaration, the Constitution (4 pages), and the Bill of Rights.

It was incredibly cool to see these documents close up. The Bill of Rights is my favorite.

I asked the curator how accurate the National Treasure depiction of the National Archives was and she told me that even though none of the filming was done there, it was actually pretty close. It is here that I might have to admit to you that my kids love those films and that we own DVD copies of both of them.

I am so ashamed.

Anywho, from there, we headed to the public Family Day activities that were taking place adjacent to the Making Their Mark exhibit. There were all kinds of good activities for all ages.

Jack standing at a white board where he is matching photos of and quotes by presidents to their pictures.

Jack matched presidential photos to their quotes and names. He may have needed some help to complete said process.

Sam using a template of John Adams' signature to make his own version.

Sam recreated John Adams’ signature.

Quinn slumped in a chair with a grumpy look on his face.

And Quinn sighed loudly and often.

There were crafts in another room, but the real treasure was the room set up with fountain and quill pens where my kids all learned how to write and draw using a pot of ink. Sam took approximately sixteen years to write a letter to each member of the family and Quinn and Jack drew their cats.

Quinn smiling and holding up an ink drawing of his cat Oreo.

This is a remarkably accurate representation of Oreo. I certainly wasn’t that good with the quill pen.

I was even retweeted by the @USNatArchives, which was also a kind of geeky high for me.

Screenshot of a tweet from the National Archives. The photo is of Jack looking sort of exhausted, patiently filling in his drawing of a cat with blank ink from a quill pen. The tweet says, "RT @Stimey: Drawing a picture of a black cat with a quill pen is hard work. #signatures @USNatArchives"

My kids are adept at cat drawings.

I feel very lucky that my family was invited to this event. As I say, I’ve been wanting to take my kids to the National Archives for a long time and this was the best possible way to have a first visit.

That said, your family can visit this exhibit too. The Making Their Mark exhibit is open through January 5, 2015.There will be more Making Their Mark Family Days on July 18 and December 30. There will be Constitution-in-Action Family Learning Labs on April 15, July 10, July 23, and July 29. For more information about these events, as well as others, go to archivesfoundation.org.

*****

In other news, Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. Thank you so much to Sarah Elizabeth, Laura, my friend Heather and her family, and my young friends Katie and Brooke (and their terrific parents) for their donations. You can make your own donation online.

Heroes of the Watershed

Team Stimey always celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Ever since 2009 when Jack fell madly in love with Martin after learning about him in school, we’ve religiously observed the day by watching the iconic I Have a Dream speech and eating birthday cake. Sometimes there is other civil rights education that goes on as well. It all kind of depends.

The cake and speech are non-negotiable, however.

We all know, of course, that MLK Day is supposed to be a National Day of Service as well. Alex has taken the kiddos on walks to clean up trash now and again on the day, but we’ve never participated in an organized service project.

Until today.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!

We joined Hiking Along in their quest to clean up Sligo Creek, a creek that runs through my area. Somehow telling my kids to “put on shoes because we’re going to go pick up trash by Sligo Creek!” actually resulted in all three of my kids putting on shoes and happily piling into our car, which was EXACTLY the opposite of what I expected would happen.

Huh. Who would have guessed?

We arrived on site to find a sign suggesting that each of us “Be a watershed hero!”

Challenge. Accepted.

We also arrived to find one of Sam’s buddies from school there with his family, which was great because that was like instant buy-in for Sam.

We set about collecting plastic bags and gloves (oh thank the good lord they were not latex gloves) and then I looked up to find that Jack had made a new friend.

Jack holding the leash of a medium-sized black dog.

Jack! We are supposed to be collecting TRASH, not DOGS.

Honestly, I can’t take my eyes off of him for a second.

We set off along the creek to pick up some trash although some of us (Quinn) didn’t bother to get gloves because some of us (Quinn) seemed to know ahead of time that some of us (Quinn) were completely uninterested in picking up trash.

(Later in the day, Quinn asked if I was going to write about our outing. I said, “Yes. You’re not going to come off well.”)

Photo of all three of my kids in a leafy, wooded area.

Sam was earning student service hours for the event, so it was most important that he be involved. Meaning he had to pick up the grossest garbage.

Other members of our party got to focus on other things. Like running. And spinning.

Quinn and Jack in the distance down a wooden path.

Although to be fair, Jack did take spinning breaks to pick up the occasional piece of trash.

At first Sam was all, “What the—?”

Sam standing on same wooden sidewalk, holding a picker-upper tool with a perturbed look on his face.

But then he realized that if he did most of the trash picking up, he got to have solo control of the little grabby thing we’d brought with us.

It took us a little while to find our rhythm because some members of our party kept running off. Jack, being autistic, was naturally drawn to the water. (Joke.)

Jack standing on the edge of a creek.

Although, honestly, he kinda was.

Still, it was Quinn who was the first to actually go wading in the creek. Normally, I tend to expect this. My kids seem to be physically incapable of standing near water without walking in it. This would be no big deal, but for the fact that it was 40 degrees this morning.

Quinn standing riiight next to the creek, holding his pant legs up.

I didn’t get the photo of him actually IN the water because I was too busy shouting at him to get out.

Whilst those shenanigans were going on, Sam and I continued on our treasure hunt for garbage creekside. I only lost him when he had the gall to try to do some learning on our service outing.

Sam reading a creekside sign about "Aquatic Habitats."

The nerve of some people.

We actually had a really nice time. We had an hour and a half time block, so there was plenty of time to wander around and collect a pretty impressive amount of trash. We saw some deer and also watched some ducks, which were an excellent example of Creatures in the Watershed That We Were Currently Helping. Even though the temperature was low, unless you were wading in the creek, the air was actually quite comfortable.

We even got a little ambitious and climbed over thorny bushes and navigated precarious sandy shores to get to some of the more challenging trash.

Jack proved himself to be a real Hero of the Watershed by collecting the most challenging piece of trash on our whole route.

Jack wading up to his mid-calves in the creek and picking up a plastic trash bag from the water.

And I proved myself to be, at best, a Questionable Parent.

The only reason I asked him to do this was because he already had wet shoes and pants from his voluntary foray into the creek moments earlier.

All things considered, I am really impressed with my kiddos for being such good sports and working so hard at the creek this morning. Even Quinn, although he didn’t pick up much trash, was good-natured and fun, which isn’t always easy for him in less than desirable conditions. (Cold. Gross. Etc.)

(Quinn did ask me to exaggerate how much trash he picked up, so if he asks, tell him that I told you that he picked up a HUGE amount.)

My kids standing near our collected bags of trash giving thumbs up.

Heroes of the Watershed.

Then we returned to our start point, where they had hot chocolate for the volunteers. We might just have to add this to our MLK Day routine. It was fun, we did a good thing, everyone got a lot of fresh air, no one lost a toe to frostbite, and we all really earned our birthday cake.

Zoo Lights, Team Stimey, and the Sacrifices of Motherhood

Every year the National Zoo holds Zoo Lights, when they open the zoo at night and put up all kinds of Christmas light displays and over the course of the month before Christmas, everyone in the DC area goes to see it. Everyone except us, that is.

It has always seemed logistically difficult to go to Zoo Lights, so this year, we surprised ourselves into going by waking up on Friday and saying, “Let’s go to Zoo Lights tonight!” and nothing we did or said could convince us otherwise.

(Surprising myself into things is one of my most effective techniques for getting shit done.)

We always go to a smaller light show in December, so we had an idea of what to expect. The difference between the two light shows is that the one at the zoo is all in the shapes of animals and you have to walk two miles to see it instead of less than a mile.

Regardless, we busted out our hats, gloves, and winter coats and headed down to the zoo.

Jack, Stimey, Sam & Quinn in front of polar-bear shaped lights.

I know it looks as if Jack and Quinn have been rolling around in coal in their coats. I swear that I wash those things and they look exactly the same.

Things started out well. There was a slide set up right at the entrance for kids to ride down on tubes, so that put my kids is a good mood right off the bat.

Giant slide.

That’s Jack on his way down.

I decided to capitalize on slide happiness and ask my kids to stand together and smile for one photo right at the beginning, with a promise that I would not ask them to do it again for the rest of the night.

Sam, Quinn & Jack standing in front of a tree with multicolored lights wrapped around it.

And it actually WORKED.

Zoo Lights is cool, but don’t go for the wildlife. Animals were scarce. Evidently they sleep at night. We saw a duck and a miniature horse and some big apes. The only animal visible in the small mammal house was a disgruntled-looking hyrax who was frozen in one position looking as if he were trying to blend in with the rocks. I imagine that it is confusing to the animals to have the night be dark per usual, but filled with loud people aiming brightly-lit cell phones at them.

I would say that things started going downhill after the small mammal house when Quinn became aware that it was extremely cold out. At the same time, Alex became disgruntled after he stood in line for five whole minutes for kettle corn and not a single person was actually served. Then Sam initiated a game of predator with Jack, claiming to be a leopard seal or some such and implying that Jack was a tiny fish.

The result of all these situations were as follows: I, per fucking usual, gave Quinn my coat. MY COAT. In late November. At night. In DC. I am thinking about carrying an extra coat with me at all times to prevent frostbite on occasions such as these. Fortunately, I warmed up a little when I chased Jack down during his full-speed sprint away from Sam. Uphill. In heeled fucking boots.

These children are going to kill me.

Oh, also Alex remained disgruntled until I bought soft pretzels for everyone.

I remained true to my not asking the children to pose for any photos right up until I saw the tiger lights and I was all, “There are three of them and I have three kids! They are tigers and Quinn is wearing a tiger hat!” Then I said, “Hey guys, will you stand in front of the tigers?” and this happened:

Jack, Sam & Quinn in front of a display of lighted tigers.

Then I gave up and stopped taking photos.

See, that is why you take the posed photo first.

At this point, we turned around and started heading back toward the entrance. Sam was all, “You mean the zoo isn’t built in a circle? That’s stupid.” And I was all, “Yeah, you’re right.

There was a little train ride near the entrance (by the petting zoo, for you locals) that we had already bought tickets for, so we stopped there on our way out. While we waited in line, my kids played on the giant, pretend pizza that was just down the path.

Quinn, Sam, and Jack standing on a large pretend pizza.

I know. It’s fucking weird.

A side effect of carting ridiculously huge pretend mushrooms around was that Sam’s hands got cold and he started shouting about how he was dying or something.

So I gave him my mittens to put on over his gloves.

If we’d been there much longer, I would have walked out of that place barefoot.

Some of us enjoyed the train ride more than others.

Quinn and Alex on the train. Quinn looks concerned. Alex looks happy and slightly deranged.

Honestly, it was as if Alex had never been on a tiny train before.

After the train ride (which was actually kind of really super fun), Jack wanted to go look at the barn animals, so everyone who was wearing a coat and gloves went to the car immediately and Jack and I went to walk through the barn, where there were actually more animals on display at night than in the entire rest of the zoo.

donkey

Such as this adorable donkey.

We definitely had our ups and downs on this trip, but overall, I am super proud of my kiddos. Other than running away from us, Jack was a total rock star. Sam was great, with the exception that he seems to think he is allowed to parent and guide his brothers, forcing me to impose a strict NO TOUCHING rule onto him. Even Quinn, who got pretty whiny, was trying really, really hard. He asked me super nicely a couple times after I gave him my coat if I was cold. I really think he didn’t want his actions to hurt me. It was really sweet.

I did what any mom on the face of the planet would do—I put my blue fingers in my jeans pockets and told him I wasn’t.

Plus, if you are really, really cold, getting into a warm car is the happiest thing you can do. I think all of us agreed on that.

One Week

I don’t know if I have let a week pass between posts on Stimeyland EVER, but I see that this is what I have done.

I hate that I have been writing less, and there are a number of reasons why, some of which are interesting and probably worthy of their own posts and one of which is that my life with my kids in school is way less fun and Stimeylandish than it used to be when the munchkins were around all the time. Also, it feels weird and narcissistic to just write about myself, but this is a blog, so maybe I should just get over that and navel gaze all over myself already.

Even though I didn’t write about them, things continued to happen in Stimeyland. (I know. It surprised me too.) Here are some of them:

• Depression continues. I am trying to remember to choose laughing over crying. (See my philosophy under my photo up there ⤻)

• I am looking into Quinn’s…issues. We had a session with meanest neurologist ever. Quinn was unphased (thank God). I was near catatonic for the remainder of the day.

• My kids’ school district holds a multi-day cultural arts showcase where dozens of acts that want to perform at assemblies and the like give 15-minute performances for PTA representatives to watch in hopes that we will hire them for our schools. I attend for one of my kids’ schools. I gotta tell you, that mime I watched today totally cheered me up. I am not kidding. He was awesome. Changed my whole goddamn day. Who would’ve thunk it?

• “Thunk” is a spellcheck-approved word.

• I just realized that “thunk” is a spellcheck-approved word because it is a sound, not the colloquial past-tense of “think” like I want to imagine it.

• “Spellcheck” is not a spellcheck-approved word.

• The kittens are rapidly turning into cats, but are still über-adorable and wonderful. They are going to be good cats.

Small, black kitten cuddled in arms with one paw across her chest and one cupping her forehead.

This is Ruby. I think she was being cute on purpose. Kittens know how to do that, you know.

• I had some people invited to my house for an outdoor activity last weekend, but it was supposed to rain all day, so I canceled it, but then it didn’t rain specifically for the hours of said outdoor activity and I was mad, annoyed, and depressed for the whole day because of it. I would have felt a lot better had it rained.

• I haven’t gone running for weeks. I’m starting to suspect that this might be related to the crushing depression.

• We went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 last weekend. It was hilarious. You should go see it.

• Jack and I had a really amazing encounter in a Panera Bread the other day. Sometimes people are good. I Facebooked it:

Stimeyland Facebook status reading: "Dear ladies with the baby in Panera: Thank you for letting Jack hug your baby when he asked. Thank you for engaging—really engaging—in conversation with him. Thank you for your response when Jack put his arm around me and said, "My mom and I are both autistic." Thank you for not giving a sad head bob, but rather for saying, "I love the things that make us unique!" Just, thank you. For the whole thing. (Your baby is adorable.)"

Please just ignore that first, errant comma.

• Sam turned 12 over the weekend and we took him to Medieval Times to celebrate. Holy shit, you guys, Medieval Times with my kids was the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. I cannot properly express how much fun we had—although I will attempt to in a stand-alone post that I will hopefully write tomorrow.

Sam holding a green Medieval Times flag.

It was motherfucking delightful.

There. I wrote. I feel minorly better about myself now. Baby steps.

Mixed Heights

You know how you go to a fair or a carnival or whatever and there is a rock climbing wall and an extremely long line and you don’t want to stand in line for 16 hours so you tell your kids, “We’re not going to stand in line for this climbing wall, but there is a climbing gym in town and I promise I will take you there soon, okay?” And, then, for the next two years, they’re all, “When are we going to go rock climbing?” and you finally have to step up and actually take them?

^ That.

I found a local rock climbing gym called Earth Treks and discovered that they had a Friday night climbing class for kids. I was really glad to find this because it meant that I didn’t have to figure out how to help my kids climb myself, because that seemed like a lot of work that, frankly, I wasn’t capable of. Outsourcing the climbing instruction seemed like just the thing.

Our climbing date was this week and we headed out, two-thirds of my climbers excited to be going. It turns out that Quinn was worried about falling, so once I told him he’d be in a harness and totally safe, he felt a little better. Then, when we got to the gym and he saw all the climbing walls, he freaked out and started yelling about wanting to climb the really tall walls.

So then three out of three were excited.

This was shaping up to be a really positive thing. We found the right wall section and met our staffers. Early arriving kids got to traverse around the bottom section of the rock wall and all three of my kids were thrilled.

IMG_0559

Witness: An actual smile.

The problem—and you know there was one—is that the class wasn’t all that well organized. This particular class was over its limit also, meaning there were 12 kids, instead of ten. Plus, two out of the three instructors weren’t very organized with their lines, meaning pushy kids were allowed to cut.

This was problematic for Quinn, because even though he is pushy, he has a really hard time standing in line. Several kids had climbed twice by the time Quinn got his first climb. For some kids that might not have been a big deal, but Quinn totally fell apart. Before he even ended up at the front of a line, he was sobbing and whining and saying he didn’t want to climb anymore. For a kid who had been super excited to be there 20 minutes earlier, it was quite a change and it made me really sad for him.

It was also problematic for Sam because he was polite and he got the shaft a couple of times until he finally gave up and didn’t climb any more. More on that later.

Let’s start with the great stuff though. Jack jumped in a line with a great staffer who was paying attention to her line. He climbed a couple times, making it to the top of the wall like a rock star.

He even took the time to learn some of the climbing terms from the placard on the wall. It was ADORBS.

He even took the time to learn some of the climbing terms from the placard on the wall. It was ADORBS.

Jack then took the opportunity to explore the climbing equipment and spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it work. His staffer was really cool about letting him figure it all out. She showed him knots and was altogether really cool with him.

I made him do this.

The carabiner was his gateway gadget.

I have no idea what this piece of equipment does, but I think that Jack does.

I have no idea what this piece of equipment does, but I think that Jack does.

Sam did a great job climbing, but he has a fear of heights. He has actually climbed a wall before and did great, but it was too much for him today. He came down after only going halfway up. He wanted to try again later, but he ended up getting cut in front of and by that time only one staffer was helping kids climb and the others were running a “game,” which really just involved swinging on a rope swing (which, honestly, we could have done pretty much anywhere), so when the kid who cut in front of him took an extremely long time to climb, Sam eventually gave up. It made me incredibly mad and was a big part of my feeling unsatisfied with the whole experience. Sam wanted to climb more, and probably could have done better and maybe conquered a fear, but he didn’t get to, even though that is what we signed up—and paid $29 a kid—for.

He looked awesome when he did climb, though.

He looked awesome when he did climb, though.

Quinn also only made it halfway up on his first climb. He got really scared and kind of froze. I told him that I was really proud of him (because I was—making the kind of effort he did was fantastic) and that he didn’t have to climb anymore. He managed to sort of calm himself down and decided he wanted to try again. Fortunately (?), he’s pushy, so he managed to get another half climb.

This was his first, scary climb. His technique was a little off.

This was his first climb. His technique was a little haphazard.

The whole set up was a little weird. The class was 2-1/2 hours, but after an hour and a half, they stopped climbing and started the rope swinging game. By this time, the instructors were also kind of drifting in and out, meaning there were only two instructors the 12 kids for a big chunk of time.

Sam liked swinging on the rope and did it a few times, but Jack and Quinn ended up just lying on the floor.

Something we could do almost anywhere.

Something we could do almost anywhere.

Something we could do literally anywhere.

Something we could do literally anywhere.

We were supposed to be there until 9, but all three of my kids were bored by 8:30, so we took off. Maybe they did something awesome after we left, but if something manages to bore ALL THREE OF MY CHILDREN at the same time? Well, that is quite a thing.

I guess I’m glad we went because my kiddos got a chance to try climbing and if they want to try it again, we can find another way to do it. I do feel a little bit like if it had been better organized though that they might have had a better chance at liking it.

I think the staffers were competent and kept everyone safe, but I seriously wanted to jump in and line kids up and keep everyone ordered. The addition of the extra kids made the wait lines so much longer as well. I bought our tickets for the class in June to get a night where there was room for all of us. I’m annoyed that it turns out that you can just show up and push your way to the front of the line.

Even though I’m glad I took my kids for the experience, I am really mad that I didn’t step up for my kids enough—especially Sam. I should have been pushy for him. Instead, I let him learn that if you are polite, you get the shaft. I’m also mad that I have to feel that way. The climbing gym should have done a better job with class organization. When we left early, one staffer said, “Oh, are you leaving?” and no one else said anything. I was angry all the way home.

I think my kids had a decent enough time, but I just ended up annoyed. I’m trying really hard to remember that I gave my kids an experience that they wanted and now that they know what it is like, if they express interest in doing it again, we can find a one-on-one way to do it next time.

Although to be honest, I doubt they’ll ask again.

If they never do ask to go climbing again, at least they’ll always have traversing.

IMG_0477

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.