To Bassoon or Not To Bassoon?

Sam plays the flute. I think I’ve been pretty open about that. Well, recently he came home from school saying that his advanced band at school (in which, in case I’ve been unclear, he plays the flute) doesn’t have a bassoon player and they need a bassoon player and, hey, maybe he could be the bassoon player.

Cue me going to the internet to look up what a bassoon looks like.

photo of two bassoonsOkay.

That looks…complicated.

So now Alex and I have to make a decision as to whether we should let Sam play the bassoon in his band. We do not agree. One of us is right and Alex is wrong.

However. On the tiny, tiny chance that maybe I’m wrong, I’m going to let all y’all weigh in on this. Per usual in internet he says/she says, I’m not going to tell you which one of us thinks what.

THE FACTS, UNDISPUTED:

1. Regardless, Sam will continue to take flute lessons.

2. Regardless, Sam will play the flute in jazz band.

3. Sam has agreed to practice both instruments.

4. We can rent the bassoon for $40 a year so only have to pay for reeds and instruction books.

5. Sam’s music teacher is very happy with the idea that Sam might play bassoon in advanced band.

6. Sam has aspirations of being a professional musician and hopes to play in a band or symphony for a living, thus making his parents extremely proud and also condemning them to years upon years of sitting quietly in stuffy concert halls listening to classical music. And the occasional jazz concert.

THE ARGUMENTS, BITTERLY DISPUTED:

Sam plays the flute. He has invested 3+ years in flute playing. He takes flute lessons that we pay for AND drive him to and from every week. We recently bought him a fancy-ass flute. He is very proud of being a flute player. Sam should continue to play the motherfucking flute.

OR

If we let Sam learn to play the bassoon, we will be expanding his ability to enjoy playing music and, hey, learning a new skill is never a bad thing, right? Furthermore, if there are ten million flutists in every band and zero to one bassoonists, mayhap we are making him more marketable and likely to attain gainful musical employment by letting him learn the bassoon. We should just let Sam play the stupid bassoon already.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

Will we be diluting his musicianship by letting him play a second instrument before he has mastered the first?

If we let him learn the bassoon, how long before he insists we purchase a bassoon for him?

How loud is a bassoon and how miserable will it make our lives at home when he is practicing, particularly in the early days when he is not very good?

If Sam helps out his band by taking up the bassoon, how grateful will his music teacher be and how many A’s will she give him?

If it turns out that Alex is right and I am wrong, will I have to divorce him or the internet?

Thoughts?

A Word About the Albatross

I have an old college chum that I love dearly. For reasons that will become clear later, I will refer to her as The Albatross. The Albatross is a Badass. Please take note of the capital “B” on that word.

Photo of a large white bird swimming in water.

This is an actual albatross, not my friend The Albatross.

The Albatross is hardcore. At some point she discovered cycling and she fell in love with it, going on cycling adventure after cycling adventure, as well as any number of non-cycling escapades. My favorite is the solo cycling trip she took from coast to coast of Australia.

Yeah. Badass.

Her badassery is not the only fabulous thing about her. She is an all-around really cool person too, but that’s not what this is about.

I had the good fortune of getting to crew for The Albatross more than once for what used to be called the Furnace Creek 508 (and now seems to be called just the 508). That race was a 508-mile bike race through Death Valley. Apparently the course has changed a little since the era my friend raced it, but it continues to run 508 miles through the desert each year.

The 508 is where The Albatross became The Albatross. See, the 508 doesn’t assign numbers to racers, but instead gives them animal totems. I think my friend got the best one.

The Albatross killed her previous races, regardless of result, especially considering how punk rock her approach to them was—and trust me, it was. She also put up with preeettty unknowledgeable and haphazard crews with very little complaint. That is where the hardcore part comes in.

The reason I bring all of this up now is because The Albatross is flying again. She’s racing the 508 this weekend, presumably with a crew who knows something about bike racing and bike repair. I don’t know if she’ll see this before she races, but I hope she knows how many happy, fast, flying thoughts I am sending her way.

Friend, you are amazing. Go get that 508. Fly, Albatross. I love you.

UPDATED: She did it!!!!!!!!!!!!! She crossed the finish line in 41 hours and 48 minutes. That is a hell of a lot of bike riding. You rock so hard, friend!!!

Long Form Exposition: Scenes From Disney World

Photo of a sign painted on a wall. It is a blue arrow pointing to the right with the words "Fun this way!" painted in white over it.

Pretend the arrow is pointing down.

Remember when Chester and I went to Disney World with our friend Heather like a month ago? Well, I’m finally here to tell you aaaaaaall about it. And when I say aaaaaaaall about it, I kinda mean it. This could be a long post, so if you’re not into Disney or Chester or awesome trips, you’re free to skip it.

I’ll start with the snacks we ate on the airplane ride down. (I repeat: aaaaaall about it.)

Photo of stuffed mouse Chester, wearing Mickey Mouse ears, sitting on an airplane tray table. He's sitting next to a package of airplane pretzels and is holding one, which happens to be just the perfect tiny size for his hand.

Isn’t it nice that Southwest makes Chester-size snacks?

We arrived in Florida in the early afternoon, checked into our hotel, and went straight to the Magic Kingdom, because when you go to Disney World with Heather, you don’t fuck around and you certainly don’t mill about in a hotel room during open park hours.

We arrived at the park and took an immediate right turn into the line to meet Tinkerbell because it’s nice to be greeted at the beginning of your vacation by a friendly Disney character. Unfortunately, I came bearing a confusing mouse in a hat and with only marginal knowledge of the Tinkerbell multiverse.

Photo of me, Tinkerbell, and Heather. I am holding Chester in front of me and Tinkerbell is looking at him with a bewildered and amused look on her face.

This photo was taken shortly before things spiraled out of control.

My memory is a little fuzzy about the whole thing, but evidently Tinkerbell knows a mouse named Cheese and asked if Chester was like Cheese and I mouthed/whispered, “Is Cheese a mouse?” to Heather, at which point Tinkerbell started sassing me about, “Of course Cheese is a mouse. Why would I say that if Cheese wasn’t a mouse?” and I didn’t have a good answer and Tinkerbell kept shouting questions at me and then Heather’s phone started ringing in her backpack and Tinkerbell started yelling “HELLO?! HELLO?!” into Heather’s back and eventually we wandered off, befuddled about the fact that we’d just been yelled at by Tinkerbell.

It was AWESOME.

Then we walked outside and it started to pour rain.

Photo of a lamp post decorated with a Disney-themed Halloween decoration in the foreground. Behind it is Disney World's City Hall. It is pouring rain in the photo.

Let’s not even go into the fact that they put up their Halloween decorations in early September. We don’t want to get me riled up about that again.

We spent some time standing under an overhang, convinced that the rainy season in Florida wasn’t really a thing, then we accepted reality and pulled out our ponchos and umbrellas and got down to business.

Fortunately the rain stopped in time for Heather’s first Disney happy freakout: The Appearance of Rabbit.

For those of you like me who might have watched the happy freakout with a blank face, I’m talking about the yellow rabbit from Winnie the Pooh. ( IMG_3242) Rabbit was meeting people for, like, 20 minutes at a time and then he’d go away and Tigger would come for the next 20 minutes and so on.

Heather—who couldn’t have cared less about Tigger—and I spent a tense half hour in line worried that the line was going to move too fast and we’d have to meet Tigger because we got to the front of the line too fast. Then we started to worry that the line was going to move too slow and Rabbit would be gone when we got there. There was MUCH drama, too much to go into, but the end result was this:

Photo of Rabbit, Heather, me, and Winnie the Pooh

We were the last people to see Rabbit before his handlers whisked him away. The Magic of Disney (and sucking up to said handlers), y’all.

The Magic Kingdom on a Thursday evening about a week after school started and shortly after a rain storm is a great place to be. It’s not hot, there aren’t a lot of lines, and the clouds make fantastic backgrounds for photos.

Photo of Cinderella's castle with dark clouds in the background.

Oooooooh. Aaaaaaah.

The nice weather and short lines actually created quite a problem for Heather because we not only did all the things on her itinerary for that evening, but also many of the items slated for the next morning, throwing everything into chaos and uncertainty.

We went back to the Magic Kingdom the next morning, even though it meant we had to re-ride rides (the horror!) and re-look at cool stuff (even more the horror!).

We met a lot of characters on this trip to Disney. I don’t know what it is about them, but every time I met one of these people inside what is probably a germ-covered fur suit, I reacted in a manner similar to this:

Photo of Goofy standing next to me. My arms are up in the air and I have an open-mouthed happy expression on my face. Heather is in the background smiling.

And I don’t even like Goofy. I find him vaguely threatening.

I think it might have something to do with how hard the characters work to entertain visitors. I’m dying to know what the people who wear these costumes really think of their jobs, but they are all endlessly entertaining.

Photo of Heather with Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He has her pressed up against his chest and is showing off his (fake) pecs and biceps. She has a hilariously trapped and amused expression on her face.

Like Gaston. Gaston was SUPER entertaining. This photo cracks me up every time I look at it.

It rained every evening we were in Florida for at least a little while, but every morning and most afternoons were absolutely beautiful, as you can see from this photo of Rapunzel’s tower, which as far as I could tell served as decor surrounding a bathroom.

Photo of a beautiful blue sky with wispy clouds behind Rapunzel's tower.

Best. Bathroom. Ever.

We had lunch at the Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant, Be Our Guest, which was really cool. Heather and I both ate some sort of delicious slab of beef and potatoes that was delivered to us by waiters who found our table through the Magic of Disney, also known as the use of surveillance and tracking through our Magic Bands. It was both exciting and creepy at the same time.

Photo of Heather's chocolate cupcake and my strawberry cupcake.

But it came with cupcakes, so I let it slide.

Although there seem to be approximately 85 parades daily in the Magic Kingdom, we only watched one. It was cool. I know it has some specific name/time designation that is important to Disneyphiles in understanding exactly which parade it is that we saw, but all I can tell you is that it took place in the middle of the day and we sat near slightly upsetting white birds who were semi-cannibalistically trolling for turkey leg scraps.

Photo of a white bird eating a discarded turkey leg.

I feel bad even showing this to you.

If that photo makes you as sad as it makes me, here is this way nicer photograph of a white bird posing in front of a boat.

Photo of a lovely white bird on a post in front of a large boat on a small lake.

Consider your palate cleansed.

Where was I? Oh, right. The parade. It was totally cool and had all of the best characters up to and including Anna and Elsa from Frozen, who seem to be the talk of the Disney universe these days. We didn’t meet Anna and Elsa because I think you had to be willing to stand in line for longer than Heather and I were willing to stand in line to do so, but I did get this photo of them in the parade, which I think is just as good.

Photo of a Frozen float in the parade with Anna and Elsa standing next to a statue of Olaf.

Or, you know, nowhere near as good, but good damn enough.

It was fun to see all the characters in the parade, each one more charming than the—AAAAAAIIIIIGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Photo of a mime character from Tangled. He's kinda freaky looking.

Except for that guy. That guy is fucking terrifying.

During our wanderings around the Magic Kingdom, I came across many lovely scenes into which it was almost mandatory that I insert Chester.

Photo of Chester in his Mickey Mouse hat. He is sitting on a statue of Cinderella. At the base of the statue are several statue mice also wearing hats and exactly the same size as Chester.

Chester was happy to find his place among other like-sized mice in hats.

Unfortunately, when you take a mouse like Chester to Disney World, sometimes terrible things happen.

Photo of Chester wearing his Mickey Mouse hat on which one ear has broken off.

DISASTER.

Do you want to know something bizarre though? Just a couple of hours after Chester’s hat broke, Heather and I were headed to Hoop-Dee-Doo, dinner theater that is based out of the campground on Disney property. We got there early so we wandered through the gift shop there where we found a key chain featuring the very same hat that had just broken.

There are a few amazing things about this. Chester’s original hat came from a Christmas ornament, making the acquisition of an exact replica of the hat in another form surprising. Furthermore, this one gift shop that we happened upon at this exact time is the ONLY one in all of Disney World that had this hat. (Really. We went to all of them.) Thirdly, we happened to be at that gift shop at the EXACT time that we needed a Chester-sized hat. Fourthly, the keychain part of the hat fit perfectly around Chester’s neck, securing the hat to his body AND giving him that punk rock look that is so popular these days among jet-setting stuffed mice.

Spooky.

In news of other small things in hats to drag around Disney World, I give you this photo taken the next morning in line for Epcot that made me extremely happy.

Photo of Chester in his hat next to a small Beaker (from the Muppets) also in a Mickey Mouse hat.

I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE.

Epcot is Chester’s favorite park because of all the photo ops. Belt in for a series of Chester pics in no particular order. Maybe grab a beer.

Photo of Chester holding a small beer stein that says "Germany" on it.

After all the photos I’ve posted of Chester (and Algernon) with giant alcoholic beverages, it was refreshing to see him holding a mouse-sized drink.

I like France at Epcot because they have delicious warm ham and cheese sandwiches. Chester likes France because of all the similarly eared friends.

Photo of Chester on a shelf with several identical stuffed animals. They are the rat from Ratatouille.

One of these things is not like the other.

Spread throughout Epcot, there are also any number of creatures for Chester to ride.

Chester riding a camel sculpture

A camel…

Chester riding a horse sculpture

…a horse…

Chester riding a burro statue

…a burro…

Chester riding a Chinese dragon

…a dragon…

Chester riding a stuffed caribou

…a caribou…

Chester riding a blue snake that looks like a cartoon sperm

…a sperm.

There are also a surprising number of Chester-sized props, many in the form of hats. Seriously, if you go to Disney, take a small stuffed animal with you and look for funny photo ops. It will make your trip infinity times better.

Chester in a small silver Viking hat.

It’s Viking Chester!

Chester wearing a giant Chester-sized cowboy hat and sitting next to another one that says I <3 Mexico on it.

It’s Mexican cowboy Chester!

Chester holding a Chester-sized bongo drum.

It’s Drum Circle Chester!

It did pour pretty hard around lunchtime on the day we spent at Epcot. We had walked dryly into Mexico and were left staring wistfully through the rain towards the restaurant we wanted to eat lunch at in Morocco. Eventually we poncho-ed up and scurried through the rain only to arrive at our hummus-filled destination juuuuust as the rain stopped.

Epcot was also the location of the weirdest character interaction I had. We were wandering past England and there was Alice, you know, from the Wonderland, just standing there. So I jumped up and down a lot and then Chester and I went up to talk to her and in her adorable British accent she said Chester was super cute and then she asked if Chester was the Dormouse and I was all, “Uhhhhhhhhh…” and she was all, “Do you put jam on his nose?” and I said again, “Uhhhhhhhhh…” and she said, “Mustard! Do you put mustard on his nose?” and to stop what was looking to be a really long, repetitive conversation, I said, “YES!” and then she said, “One minute!” and she went running across the walkway to grab a bunch of mustard packs from the pretzel stand across the way and then she brought them back and handed them to me and then we posed for a photo. It was kind of confusing. I spent the rest of the night thinking about it.

Three photos (1) I am facing Alice. Chester is on my finger and Alice is touching him. (2) I look confused as hell and my mouth is hanging open and Alice looks intrigued. (3) Alice and I am smiling at the camera. I am holding Chester and several mustard packets.

This is a totally accurate representation of our meeting, especially the photo in the middle.

To prepare for each morning with Heather, Chester needed some caffeine. This seems as good a time as any to admit to you all that I relapsed back onto Diet Coke a couple of months ago.

Photo of Chester sitting on a reusable mug full of soda. There is a straw near his mouth.

Chester did too.

I’ll be sure to let you know how the November re-quitting goes.

Where was I? Oh, right, the next day was Hollywood Studios Day. Now, in front of Hollywood Studios is a topiary scene from Fantasia. I always refer to Fantasia as “That horror movie Mickey Mouse starred in” because the first time I saw that movie it scared the crap out of me and I’ve never been able to watch it all the way through since. No one ever quite understands what I mean when I call it a horror movie though.

Until now.

I spent something like 15 minutes explaining this to Heather though so now at least one person understands.

Photo of me standing in front of a topiary Mickey and statues of those terrifying brooms with buckets from Fantasia. I am biting my nails in an exaggerated scared posture.

And was willing to take this photo.

Hollywood Studios was all kinds of fun, but there are some things that stick out in my memory. Like this cupcake:

Photo of Chester next to a GIANT cupcake.

This cupcake was taller than Chester.

In case you’re wondering, that was a chocolate cupcake with chocolate filling, cream cheese frosting, and a thick coating of Butterfingers. It totally defeated me. I could only eat half of it—and I worked really hard. It was quite a cupcake.

Speaking of Chester, he found some rodent friends in the form of Chip & Dale on Hollywood Studios Day. We’d actually seen them several times since we’d been in Florida, but the line was always too long to meet them. (Why? Who knows.) Finally Chester got his chance.

Squirrel characters Chip and Dale flanking me and Heather. One of them is pointing at Chester, who is on my finger.

I have no idea which one of them is pointing at him. They look exactly the same. You would think they would have different colored hats or something. Even so, I’d probably still not know which one was pointing.

There were some other good characters there too. I don’t have a scrapbook. You’re going to have to put up with me showing you all of the photos.

Photo of me with Phineas and Ferb

Jack was totally starstruck when I told him I’d met Phineas and Ferb.

And you can’t beat Sully and Mike Wazowski. I think that the Monsters, Inc. stuff at Disney World is some of the most entertaining stuff there. (This might also be the time to share that Heather provided a joke used in the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Factory show. She glowed for, like, 48 hours.)

Three photos (1) Mike, me, Heather, Sully. Heather and I are making scary monster faces. (2) me hugging Sully (3) me hugging Mike

That photo of me with Mike is one of my favorite things ever. I couldn’t tell if he was ignoring my hug or just didn’t move because of his costume. I was privately amused for a long time over this.

There is a drawing class you can take at Hollywood Studios that was a lot of fun. Chester got really into it.

Photo of Chester holding a pencil poised over a drawing of Mickey Mouse.

It’s okay if you say that “Chester” didn’t do a very good job. Heather’s was better.

One of the things we decided to do that day was go on the backlot tour, partly because we had extra time and partly because the waiting area was covered and it was raining again. There was quite a wait before we finally boarded our bus just as lightning started to flash and an announcement came over the loudspeakers that they were closing the ride. But then our bus started off. Which was, you know, great, but made those of us on the bus wonder why we were expendable.

Sadly for us, we weren’t actually expendable and about five minutes into the tour, they returned us to the exit, which, yay! we get to live! but boo! we wanted to go on the tour!

Shortly thereafter we bailed from Hollywood Studios and headed to Epcot to eat a huge amount of German food. And a fair amount of beer.

Photo of Chester in front of a flight of four beers. His hat is askew.

Look how visibly drunk Chester is.

The next day was our last day (Thank God, right? I mean, how fucking long is this post going to be anyway?) and we were spending most of it at Animal Kingdom. I love this park so much.

Photo of Chester on the ground surrounded by feet.

Chester was excited too.

I took a lot of pictures at this park, but most of them are blurry photos of birds and rhino butts, so I won’t make you look at all of them. Especially since I’ve been writing this post for a stupid week now and I’m ready to just wrap it up already. I will, however, show you this awesome photo we have of Dug from Up and also the kid that was in the movie.

Photo of Russell (from Up), Heather, Jean, and Dug

When we walked in, I gave Dug a vigorous scratching behind his ears. Instead of pretending to bite me, as I probably would have done if I were in the suit, he bent down and wagged his body. It’s almost as if he were saying, “I was hiding under your porch because I looove you.”

Animal Kingdom day was super fun. We ended the day—our last night—at the Magic Kingdom. We ended up meeting Cinderella and Rapunzel shortly before we caught our bus back to our hotel. It was close to closing and I kinda got the feeling that the princesses didn’t want to spend too much time on the childless adults in line when there were scads of kids looking to meet them. I think that Rapunzel actually gave me a little shove after we had our photo taken.

It seemed that our time at Disney was over.

Photo of Chester sitting on top of a suitcase with a Stimeyland luggage tag. He seems to be putting his Mickey Mouse hat in the suitcase.

It was a little sad to pack up to go.

Our adventure started with a fairy yelling at us and ended with a princess pushing us out of line. It was perfection.

This trip to Disney World was such a blast. I feel so lucky that I was able to go and I feel so lucky that I have a good friend like Heather who worked so hard to plan everything and who was willing to put up with me for five days. She’s the greatest. Chester thinks she’s tops too.

Photo of me, Chester, Mickey Mouse, and Heather

Thank you, Heather. :)

Guess What Time It Is?

Photo of Chester, my stuffed mouse, wearing tiny Mickey Mouse ears.Algernon got to go to Disneyworld, so now Chester gets a turn.

Nobody tell my kids that they are in line behind two stuffed mice.

My friend Heather and I are going back to Disneyworld, no kids included. This is actually harder than it sounds because I not only had to get myself ready to go out of town, but I had to get my entire family ready to survive without me. Thank goodness Heather is around to plan everything for everybody. Seriously. If not for her, instead of planning a trip to Disney starting Thursday, I’d be planning a trip to the grocery store—and I’d be doing it badly too.

Wish my family luck. Wish Heather and me a good time. Keep an eye on Chester’s adventures on Stimeyland’s Facebook page. See you early next week.

The Bus Stop

It’s funny, I have started to write posts about the school bus stop near my old house countless times since we started waiting there eight years ago. It is possible that I might have published one or two of them, but I don’t think I did. Regardless, the bus stop was a big part of my life for a long time.

We spent a lot of time there and our experience evolved over the years. Our first year, it was just me and one kid waiting with his little brother. Then there was the year that there were so many kids coming from places not even in the bus stop area that the bus was too crowded and the principal had to ride the bus to make sure kids from outside the area weren’t riding. (Although, frankly, it seems like maybe they should have added a bus stop instead of making those kids walk to school.) Then we stabilized into a core group of neighborhood kids who all followed Quinn in rolling down a grassy hill and messing up their hair and getting grass stains all before the morning bus came to take them to school.

It was a good bus stop.

I have heard that since Quinn left, no one rolls down the hill anymore.

Now we have a new bus stop. Jack’s bus comes right to our house and Alex drives Sam to school, so, just like last year, only Quinn and I have a bus stop wait.

We only have to walk a few houses down the street to get to the stop this year. There were a bunch of moms and kids there today. Yesterday there were a bunch of dads and one mom. I haven’t met many of our neighbors yet, so I’ve been nervous too, just like Quinn. I figure the bus stop is the time to meet these people and force their kids to like mine. (Kidding. Kind of.)

You know what though? It is hard.

There is one super nice woman who introduced herself yesterday and chatted with me today too. Yesterday Quinn was too stressed for us to get anywhere near anyone else, so we were a little isolated and the nice lady (also known as my new neighborhood best friend) only had a chance to introduce herself after I shoved Quinn on the bus.

Yes, quite literally shoved him on the bus. May you never have to do that as you kiss the top of your child’s head and whisper “You are brave. You’ve got this.” It sucks.

After school yesterday, Quinn got off the bus smiling. “It’s only because I was happy that I was at the right stop,” he was sure to tell me, lest I jump to the conclusion that school made him happy. No worries, Quinn. Those conclusions are still far away.

This morning (Wednesday) at the bus stop, things were a little better. I had done some sensory work with him before we left the house and I also had some bravery M&Ms to give him. He was more relaxed and a little less stressed. Plus one of the moms at the bus stop brought a small dog with her, which was excellent.

I still had to shove Quinn on the bus but I totally didn’t have to push quite as hard as yesterday, so that’s something. I did still kiss him on the head and tell him that he was brave.

Then the bus pulled away and the dog lady walked away and the nice lady started chatting with the other two moms there and wasn’t that just the perfect time to introduce myself to these other women, but instead my feet started carrying me away and I walked home wondering why I hadn’t taken advantage of that perfect opportunity.

Spoiler alert: I know why I didn’t take advantage of it and it has a lot to do with the same reasons why my child had to get shoved on the bus: anxiety and some social ineptitude.

I made plans with myself to talk to the women tomorrow, but then I realized that I have to rush off to work tomorrow, so maybe Friday? But what if it’s a dad day on Friday? And then I realized that I have many days to meet these women (and, I suppose, even the dads) and if I lurk close enough and smile broadly enough (that is, in fact, my entire social plan for pretty much everything), eventually I will talk to them.

If, that is, I prep myself with some bravery M&Ms of my own.

Post-School

Well. It could have gone better.

For those of you who saw everyone’s smiley first day of school photos on Facebook and felt sad for your child because smiling was the last thing your kid wanted to do today, take solace in numbers. Trust me, y’all are not alone.

Both Sam and Jack say they had good days and managed their little commutes all right.

Three photos. There is one of each of my children. Sam is standing  inside in his photo in pants that are slightly too short for him. Quinn is wearing an entirely zipped up hoodie and walking down our outside stairs. Jack is smiling and has a goofy look on his face. He is eating some bacon.

1. Yes, I know Sam’s pants are too short. Shut up. I’m trying.
2. Yes, it was 80+ degrees today. That sweatshirt serves as Quinn’s shield.
3. Yes, Jack is eating bacon in that photo.

Quinn had a tougher time. He absolutely refused to tell me anything about his day other than, “I liked eating lunch,” but the logistics of the day didn’t go very well. To start, we missed his morning bus. We had a bad combination of a slightly early bus and my miscalculating what time the bus would arrive at our stop. God, that sucked.

Then, in the afternoon, Q got off his bus one stop too early and couldn’t find his way home and I think you can imagine how traumatic that was. That poor kid. Thank god for the nice neighbor lady who walked with him until he found me and thank god for the nice kids on the bus who told me where he’d gotten off. God, that sucked even more.

It has to go better tomorrow, right?

I put this note in his lunch:

A piece of paper held above a cookie. Written on it, I've drawn a picture of a cat and the words, "I love you. You are brave."

He is. So very brave.

Think about how much strength it took for that terrified kid to walk into a brand new school with all new people and new demands. I couldn’t have been prouder of him, even as he faltered.

I recently started a new job with all new people in an all new place with all new demands and an all new way of traveling there and I can tell you that even as an adult who has spent four decades working on controlling my anxiety and learning how to navigate the world and who knows where my house is and how to get there, that feeling of anxiety can be almost paralyzing. That Quinn was able to do it at nine years of age makes me very proud.

It also makes me very sad that he has to battle so much anxiety at nine.

I don’t know how tomorrow will go (although I do know that we will be at the bus stop on time), but I do know that I will continue to be so very proud of all three of my beautiful, brave boys.

Pre-School

The start of school kind of snuck up on me this year. All of a sudden it is the weekend before school starts and my kiddos are all in need of school shoes and information about their bus routes and very precisely sized binders.

Sam is in a good place this year because he is continuing on in the same school where he went last year. He’s all very casual and chill about the whole deal. I have been a little bit less chill because last May when Alex claimed that he walked into the school and changed our address, he actually did not, so I spent my summer worrying that the school mailed something that didn’t get forwarded and I would buy the wrong sort of graphing calculator, which, it turns out is kind of a big deal.

The big news in Samland is that he just found out that he made it into advanced (as opposed to intermediate) band. He couldn’t be happier. He wants to play in an orchestra for a living, so advanced band is clearly Step One for him. We’re all pretty delighted.

We’re also teaching Sam to ride a city bus in preparation for this school year. I took him on a bus the other day and totally fucked up on when to pull the cord to stop the bus. I pulled it something like four stops early and had to keep telling the bus driver that I’d made a mistake and Sam was all, “You’re not doing a very good job of teaching me to ride the bus.” A couple of days later, I dropped him off at the bus stop in the pouring rain with my cell phone, a bus pass, and a book. He refused the umbrella I offered. Upon his safe return home, he was absolutely delighted with the fact that he rode the bus by himself better than I had.

Because of this city bus riding, we got a cell phone for the kid. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the Costco wireless kiosk as a family of five for an hour the day before school starts.

Sam standing in the store looking down at his new phone.

It’s not a smartphone—more of a D-student phone, but it will text and let him take funny photos of the cats with it.

Jack is starting middle school this year, which is all very exciting. His bus drops him off right outside our house though, so he doesn’t get a phone, much to his chagrin. Seriously. He was really pissed during that Costco expedition, making the whole trip even more fun.

Jack seems to be pretty relaxed about going to a whole new school with a whole new system. Happily, both of his best friends are going to the same school, which is awesome for him.

All the middle schools here have a half day for 6th graders the week before school starts so they can experience the school before the big, scary kids get there. He did so well. He came home happy and ready to go back.

Photo of Jack standing in front of a wall next to some flowers. He has a big smile on his face.

I am always amazed at how brave he is.

We spent some time on Sunday putting Jack’s binder together with a tab for each of his classes. Being both a control and organizational neat freak, it was extremely difficult to let Jack write on his own binder dividers in his not super neat handwriting. (I have the same problem with Sam.) Once he got started though, I was glad I was able to stomp down my controlling tendencies because his binder dividers are better than any binder dividers I have ever seen.

Photo of Jack's binder dividers. He's drawn little pictures in each of his words. There is a "+" and "-" on  the math divider, the "i" in science is a beaker, the "o" in world studies is a globe, and the "o" in resource is a disco ball.

In case you don’t read Jack-writing, that “i” in “science” is a lab beaker, the “o” in “world studies” is a globe, and the “o” in “resource” is a disco ball, because of course it’s a disco ball. Why? What do you think happens in 7th period resource class?
(Disco.)

I don’t even care that he misspelled “resource.”

That’s a lie. I care a little bit. (Or a lot.)

That leaves the Q-ball.

Dude. Quinn.

That kid does NOT like school. Like, not even a little bit. Add in the fact that he’s going to an entirely new school where he doesn’t know anyone, has some severe sensory issues, and carries with him a healthy dose of anxiety and you can imagine how much he’s looking forward to Monday.

His new school has been under construction all summer, so it’s been hard to get in there to let him walk around and see the place. I had taken him to the playground before, but last week was the first time he’d been inside. I’d made an appointment for him to go in on Thursday afternoon and have the counselor show him around and introduce him to his teacher before the craziness of open house on Friday.

It was rough. He was in panic mode. He hid behind me and refused to look at or speak to anyone. However, I think it is good that we went in that day for several reasons even though it was so spectacularly difficult for him.

1. After seeing it Thursday, when we went in the next day for open house (with noise-canceling headphones on and an agreement about exactly what we were going to see, who we were going to talk to, how long we were going to stay, and what ice cream I was going to buy him afterward), he did a lot better and was significantly calmer and more able to interact with the world.

2. I was able to meet all of his teachers and pass out little one-sheet papers listing things about Quinn and how to help him.

3. I met a special educator who spent 15 minutes with Quinn and came to the conclusion that he needed a formal 504 or IEP, something I had tried to get for two years at his last school and had not been able to accomplish. (I’ve been meaning to write about this for a really long time. Often it seems that every blog writer gets the perfect IEP for their kid and that is really not the case. It was going to be titled, “Sometimes You Lose the IEP Fight.” Maybe someday I’ll actually manage to type it up.)

Regardless, I am hopeful for some real help for Quinn. His teachers have always worked hard to informally accommodate him, but I think we could have really stumbled into the right place (as far as local public school goes) for Quinn. This special educator is already talking about some significant accommodations. Who knows what will ultimately happen, but I am optimistic.

That said, I am not optimistic about how bummed out this poor kid is going to be for the school bus Monday morning. I wish I could make it better for him.

Photo of Quinn standing outside on a sidewalk.

I took this outside his school after his open house. He was a trooper. He always is.

So that is where we stand. Summer is over. It’s been a weird summer and even though it went really fast and I don’t feel as if I saw enough of my kids, I’m ready for them to go back so we can get back into a routine.

Wish them luck Monday. And if your kids are going back to school Monday as well, I hope they do as well as possible. Let’s send all of them wishes of bravery and kind teachers.