Disaster Strikes! Rain/Snake Edition

I, sir, have had enough.

It all started about a week and a half ago with this:

Screenshot of a Facebok status that reads "Should we discuss the rain? Or the window in my basement that blew out because of the water? Or the GIANT BLACK SNAKE that was apparently living there that I saw retreating into the ground after the window broke? Or the fact that Alex took a 45-minute conference call before leaving work after my panicked call? We can discuss any of those things."It was a bad couple of hours.

I texted my friend, explained the situation, and said, “THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” and she texted back to say, “I think this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.”

In his defense, Alex did come home before he had planned to so he could help me. This was fortunate considering where once there had been a window, there was now a gaping below-ground hole. Once he arrived home, he took over the wetvac job from me. He even duct taped the hole that the snake disappeared into.

Photo taken of an underground window well taken from inside the house. A screen is jammed into the hole where a window should have gone. There is duct tape on the metal well sides.

See the ripped screen I jammed in the window hole to keep wildlife out?

But prior to his arrival home, I’d been wetvaccing like it was my job while ready to jump into defensive posture if I found a nest of snake babies that had gushed into the basement along with my window and a significant number of leaves, because, and let’s be honest here, if anyone were to find a nest of snake babies in her house, it would be me.

I’m still not quite comfortable with the knowledge that they live just outside my home. Also, a tip: If you’re afraid there might be a snake in your basement, don’t Google “can snakes climb stairs?” because they can and there are lots of photos—and even some video.

I then had to make an emergency phone call to an emergency window guy without consulting with Mr. Conference Calls Are My Life. I understand that this might not sound like a big deal to a lot of you, but to me it was. Finding and calling a brand-new vendor without discussing it with Alex first? That was all kinds of anxiety for me.

I mean, sure, it’s a week and a half later and we still have a board nailed across the hole instead of a new window, so the jury is still out on how well I chose a window repairman, but at least there is a board there. And the guy came by at 10:30 pm on a Thursday to put it there. And he swears he’s coming back on Monday with a brand new window, so I’ll give you our final opinion then.

Of course, the past week and a half have been incredibly rainy and we did a LOT of wetvac work before really coming to grips with the fact that the exploded window was not a cause of our water problem, but rather another innocent victim. The problem is a window well with rain/snake access points.

Alex has done some temporary patching of said window well, which seems to be helping (knockonwood knockonwood knockonwood), so our panic attacks when it starts to rain are lessening.

The exterminator (to eliminate any mice that might be attracting snakes) has already come. The window guy (as previously discussed) is coming back Monday. And the landscapers (who will fix our window wells and improve our yard drainage) start Wednesday.

I’m pretty sure it will never rain again. You’re welcome.

That said, if any of you ever tell my kids about the snake, they will never go in the yard again and whoever told them will be dead to me.

And the Happy Dance Was Danced All Around

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

*cue happy dance*

*cue more happy dance*

*stand still for a second*

*launch back into happy dance*

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

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

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

Happy kids are happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to summer.

*continue happy dance*

Some of You Will Mock Me. Some of You Will Be Jealous. You Know Who You Are.

Remember nearly two years ago when we headed out one Saturday morning and returned as cat owners to three kittens, one for each of the kids? We had been worried about acquiring three kittens, because, well, that’s a lot of kittens and it seemed like a lot could go wrong.

Sure enough, Alex and I still have lingering regrets over that day.

We regret that we only got kittens for the kids and not for ourselves. As lovely as three kittens are and as wonderful as the three cats they grew into make our lives, not a week goes by when Alex and I don’t speculate on how much better our lives would be if we had five cats instead of three.

Speculate no longer, friendo.

Photo of Alex on a bench inside a room. He is holding a small white kitten who is sniffing another small white kitten standing on the bench next to him.

Because today at the cat rescue facility, we met our fourth and fifth.

I know. I know you have questions. I have prepared some answers for you.

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE??

That one is an actual question my friend asked on Facebook. It seems valid. I reply with my own questions: How many members of Team Stimey are there? How many cats did we have previously? How are we supposed to live with such an imbalance in those answers?

I think you have your answer, my friend.

Also, keep in mind that I’ve watched said friend share a glass of water with one of my original cats, so I know that she is pro feline—or at least pro-original cats.

Can I see a better photo? What are their names?

Two photos: On the left, a white kitten with one tabby spot above its right ear. The second photo is also of a white cat, but this one has a butterfly-shaped tabby patch on his forehead.

Please meet Sharky on the left and Pickles on the right.

Sharky is my cat and Pickles belongs to Alex.

Are they girls like all your other cats?

No, we had to go with boys this time because they were who we fell in love with, even though we intended to get girl cats. Hey, love is love, right?

I will probably call them “she” seven billion times before I get used to the fact that I have boy cats.

So, how do these two cats know each other anyway?

They’re brothers. They’re two months old. Their mom is still up for adoption at the cat shelter if you’re looking for a cat to be your only pet.

Photo of an adoption flyer for a cat named Jazzy.

Check her out at the Washington Animal Rescue League. If you adopted her, it would be like we were related. (It’s not as bad as it sounds.)

What did these delightful animals do at the cat shelter to make you pick them?

Alex went into a little room with them first while I talked to a volunteer. By the time I got in there, he was completely enamored with Pickles, who was cavorting all over in the goofiest way possible. Sharky was far shyer, but then I picked him up and he instantly started to purr and it was all over.

Also:

Two photos. (1) Sharky is standing in the corner of a small room looking startled. There is one cat paw completely outstretched aimed at her. (2) a blurry photo of Sharky with ears back cowering in a corner. Pickles is in a hilarious posture attacking her.

I love that in the first photo all you see is the paw getting ready to strike. That second photo is everything good about kittens, from the awkward attack pose to the fact that Sharky clonked into the glass wall.

Don’t you worry though. Once we got them home, Sharky totally stepped up and is being as big of a jerk as Pickles.

But seriously. Five cats? FIVE? Really?

I figure as long as the pet shelter is still willing to give us cats, we don’t have too many. However, I am afraid that the receptionist at my vet hospital is going to make fun of me. Maybe he’ll be on vacation when I take them in—you know, every time I take them in.

Is Pickles named after the firefighter cat Pickles in the Jenny and the Cat Club series?

Sadly, no. The name just came to Alex at some point and that was it. The name idea is probably older than the cat actually. Naturally I was okay with the name because of the firefighter cat. Also because Pickles is one of the best cat names in the history of cat names.

Okay, Pickles. I get that. Cute. And there is a cat precedent. But Sharky? That seems weird, even for you, Stimey.

I’ve just started watching House of Cards and I watched the first episode where Frank is all, “I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood,” and I was all-in on sharks, blood, House of Cards, and vague television-related allusions in pet names. I am also terrified of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright on that series, but that is neither here nor there.

So, yeah, Sharky.

Also, he has a fin-shaped spot on his forehead.

Also, he’s a super badass.

Photo of Sharky curled in a small ball, fast asleep on a stack of papers.

See? Super badass.

How are they settling in?

Really well. I mean, they really did not care for the trip home in the car, but once we got them out of the carrier in Alex and my bedroom, they got all confident and goofy and hilarious.

Photo of Pickles and Sharky lying next to each other on a brown striped blanket.

I didn’t get any photos of that, but here they are pre-nap.

How are the other cats taking it? Were they all, “Really? Five cats? FIVE?!?”

We have a whole process planned to introduce the cats to each other. See, we have a really good cat ecosystem here and we are concerned about throwing the whole thing sideways so we want to make sure all parties get along. The kittens are sequestered in one room for a couple of days and the cats are all sniffing each other from under the door while we throw treats at them.

Photo of Pickles standing in a hallway in front of a door. There is a large gap between the door and the floor. In the gap is visible the mustache of Oreo.

See, here’s Pickles acclimating…and what is that over by the door?

Closeup of the mustache of Oreo under the door gap.

Well, it seems to be a mustache, sniffing.

Fingers crossed, knock on wood, toss some salt, etc. We’ll let you know how it goes.

How is Team Stimey Jr. taking it?

About how you’d expect. Tears. Screaming. Rending of garments.

I kid. They’re clearly over the moon. Each of them asked to sleep on the floor in the room where the kittens are tonight. We refused, in an effort to (a) keep things normal for our original trio and (b) keep children out of our bedroom.

We didn’t tell the kids we were getting cats today because we weren’t 100% sure we were going to. So their little minds were blown by surprise kittens. What is better than surprise kittens?

(Answer: nothing.)

Jack crouching with Pickles on his knee.

Jack and Pickles

Photo of Sam lying on the ground with a sleeping Sharky in front of him.

Sam and Sharky

Pickles holding on to a foot with his paw and her mouth trying to bite the big toe.

Quinn’s toe and Pickles (Quinn was sort of “clothing optional” this afternoon, so you’ll have to settle for this photo of  his toe.)

But five cats? Who really needs five cats?

We do, all right? There are a lot of homeless pets in the world and these guys are getting a good home, so I’ll take all of your judging and raised eyebrows. (This is mostly directed at my mom, who is incredulous about our wanting so many cats, but takes full advantage of kitten love when she visits.)

Also, please look at these photos and then tell me we didn’t need so many cats.

Photo of Pickles standing on a blue carpet. He's super cute in it.

Pickles (Ooooooh…)

Photo of Sharky sitting down and gazing off camera.

Sharky (and ahhhhhhh.)

I know I sound a little defensive here, but that’s only because we have five cats. FIVE. I mean, really.

Did you intend to get color coordinated cats?

No, but what a happy cowinkydink, right?!?

Three photos. (1) Black cat Ruby (2) black and white cat Oreo (3) black cat with white spot Starfire

Are the cats in black and white or color? No one knows!

How is Quinn going to turn in his homework if the cats are sleeping on it all the time?

Photo of two packets of paper (Quinn's homework). Sharky is asleep on one and Pickles is lying on the other.

I don’t know. I just don’t know the answer to that one.

The Cheetah Family

I have been extremely remiss.

The year’s big fundraiser for Jack’s hockey team, the 2015 Cheetah-thon is coming up in two weeks and I haven’t written anything about it. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve written anything about the Cheetahs all year.

That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t still love our Cheetah Nation. ‘Cause we do.

Photo of Jack wearing a black jacket with the Montgomery Cheetahs logo on the back.

Unrelated: Look at his hair. I wish he hadn’t wanted to cut it. Oh, I miss it sooo much.

I’ve been a little checked out from the team this year. It used to always be me who took Jack to practice on Saturdays, but Alex has taken him at least half the time this season. We also didn’t go on the tournament trip for the first time since Jack joined the team. There’s been a lot of Cheetahs hockey without my participation over the past few months.

Jack has had a few really rough practices this year, mostly because he doesn’t always want to do the drills or stay on the ice for the whole practice. (And once because he just flat-out got pissed at another kid and wanted to brawl, hockey-style—that was a hard week.) He gets tired, he says, and it’s cold.

Even so, when I ask Jack if he still wants to be a Cheetah, he always says yes. We’ve talked about some of the things that are hard for him when he’s skating and we’ve been flexible in letting him take a week off here or there when he’s needed it.

Because the thing is, when he’s into it, when he’s happy to be with his team, the magic of special hockey appears.

Photo of Jack and another player in red jerseys skating across the ice.

I stole this photo from the Montgomery Cheetahs Facebook page. I love it.

Photo of Jack sliding to the ice during practice. He's smiling.

Jack often enjoys the drills where the entire point is to fall spectacularly. I love that grin.

Profile of Jack in his hockey helmet.

Taking a break during practice.

Photo of Jack from the back, skating away from the camera.

One thing Jack almost always enjoys is simply skating. It’s second nature to him now.

Jack in full gear on the opposite side of the plexiglass from me. His hands and helmet are pressed up against the glass.

Jack has also been known to ham it up a little during practice.

Jack in a red jersey and his buddy in a blue jersey. They are on the opposite side of the rink, leaning against the side of the rink and looking totally relaxed.

Jack hanging with one of his two best friends, who is also on the team. (Obviously, I suppose.) They’re working hard. Can’t you tell?

Jack is resourceful. He’s always finding things to keep him entertained. There was one practice where I saw him skate over to the rink door and I thought he wanted to get off the ice. By the time I made my way over to see what was up, he was busy entertaining a group of parents by finding ways to ask for their drinks through the plexiglass.

Photo of Jack on the other side of the plexiglass. He's breathed on the glass to make a fog and has written the word "coffee" in it.

I was all, “If you caffeinate that kid, so help me God…”

This is one of the things I really enjoy about Jack. He looooves entertaining people. He is such a goofball.

And every once in a while, he grabs the camera and I get to see parts of the hockey experience from his point of view.

Photo of me sitting on the ground in a locker room. I'm untying his skate.

One day he will be able to tie his own skates and life will be sooooo good.

The Montgomery Cheetahs have given Jack so much.

He’s learned to do something that’s pretty hard and that a lot of kids his age can’t do. He has access to a large disability community. He gets good exercise and learns about teamwork.

More than that though, he is unconditionally accepted. Yes, he is asked to do things and demands are put on him, but if he can’t do it, if the drills or following directions or doing anything other than lying the ice is just not in the cards that day, it’s okay. He isn’t forced to perform. The coaches and I encourage him and try to get him excited, but if the answer is no, the answer is no. And even better, he’s not made to feel bad about it.

For kids like Jack who are pushed so hard so often to do things that are extremely difficult for them, it is nice when they have a place they can chill out and just belong.

This is never more evident than when the Cheetah Nation gets together off of the ice. The team held its yearly party last weekend and, as always, it was a joy to behold. There was food and booze and a DJ. Players of all ages and their parents danced or jumped or ran in circles or shared video games or did whatever made them happy.

Photo of chairs stacked against a wall. Jack is laying across a bunch of them.

Like hanging out on piles of chairs.

That’s what I love about the Cheetahs. No one is pressured to be anyone or anything other than who they are.

With the Cheetahs, Jack is accepted for being exactly who he is.

Photo of Jack in a large room, with tables and people behind him. He has a huge grin on his face.

Anything that makes Jack this happy makes me that happy.

If you are able, please consider donating to the Montgomery Cheetahs on their Cheetah-thon fundraiser page. It takes a lot of money to keep a team like this going. They work really hard to keep player costs to a minimum, so the team depends heavily on funds raised at the Cheetah-thon. If you donate in Jack’s honor, make a note of it during the donation process so I can be sure to thank you.

Whether you can donate or not, thanks for always being so supportive when I talk about Jack and the Cheetahs. It really is a fantastic community. In fact, it is far less of a Cheetah Nation and far more of a Cheetah Family.

 

The Rat Stands for Obviousness

On days that I work, I take the Metro train into DC and then walk about 15 minutes or so to my office. My route from the Metro to work is entirely dependent on the timing of the walk signals. If the walk sign is green, I go one direction. If it is red, I take a turn. This means I get to walk a different route almost every day.

That first walk signal though. I don’t know why, but it is almost always red, leaving me to make a right turn. Very rarely it is green, sending me on a route that, if the other signals cooperate, leads right past Alex’s office.

Today all the signals were in line and as I neared the corner by Alex’s office, I texted him to demand that he wave to me.

Closeup photo of the outside of a building. You can see three windows. Alex is visible in one of them, giving a thumbs up to the camera.

This photo wasn’t taken this morning, but you get the point.

I rounded the corner, focused on his building windows across the street and expecting only to see Alex. Instead, I saw this:

Photo of giant, really creepy inflatable rat on a sidewalk.

I know. I fucking know.

Alex, looking out of his window, must have seen my head explode right there.

I waved to Alex, I took a flier from the guy standing next to the rat, and I continued walking. And then I stopped because, dude. I’ve seen Scabby the Rat before, but never close up like this. I knew I couldn’t just walk away without, well, without doing this:

Selfie of me. There is a giant inflatable rat in the background.

My best celebrity sighting yet.

As a former union member myself, I felt a little bit bad being a big dork around this Very Serious Protest, so I made sure to read the ENTIRE flier that the guy gave me as penance.

There was an actual picture of a fat cat on the flier.

Photo of a corner of the flier. There are words and also a cartoon of a cat in a suit and top hat, smoking a cigar and holding a bucket of coins.

It’s like my morning was full of small presents, wrapped in awesomeness.

It turns out that Occidental Petroleum is using a contractor who uses a subcontractor who does not pay area-standard wages and benefits. The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters has a labor dispute with this subcontractor and wants you to call Occidental Petroleum to tell them that they should hire different contractors. *fist raised, solemn nod of solidarity*

Anywho, while this whole thing was going on, Alex was watching with his own special kind of joy. Evidently my backtracking for a photo and to get a better look did not go unnoticed by the guy handing out fliers. It turns out that I am neither subtle nor smooth.

But I was delighted. As you know, I’m a big fan of rodents, especially weird ones. Add in a good cause and a rare DC-sighting of Alex? Well, that was the best block in DC this morning.

******

* “The rat stands for obviousness” should actually be “the rat symbolizes obviousness,” but Alex and I always use it the first way, so that’s how it stands here. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, look up Ralph Wiggum and The Debarted/Departed.

Remind Me Never to Sign Up For a Spring Marathon

I’m in a bit of a pickle.

I’m running a 15K race on March 14th and I am seriously undertrained. I was doing really well on my training and then I got sick and then it started snowing all the time and then I lost motivation and then I got really busy and then it snowed some more and then I lost even more motivation and then I realized how totally screwed I am.

I keep trying to run, but all of my good running paths are either covered in snowy ice or feature invisible spots of the even better kind of ice that makes you fall down. Usually that’s not a big problem because I have a treadmill and can just run on it. But my treadmill is broken so I can’t run on that either.

I feel trapped.

Part of me is all, “Fuck it, I’m running through the ice.” I tried to do that yesterday. I got two houses down my block before I slipped on some of that invisible sidewalk ice and clonked my knee. I stood up, dusted myself off, turned around, and walked home.

Do you see how it is?

I did manage to go on an 8ish-mile run last weekend, which at least makes me believe that I can ambulate through 9.3 miles, but that doesn’t make me any less undertrained. I say 8″ish” because I had to walk sections of the route due to deep, crunchy, uneven snow.

Photo of my foot in a running shoe in ankle deep icy snow with frozen footprints that I am stepping in.

It was extremely frustrating.

Needless to say, I am devastated about my treadmill.

I believe it to be irreparable. It’s been weirdly bouncy for months. Then it got kinda bumpy. Then it felt as if a hole was forming in the deck. I checked under the belt and it is all kinds of cracked all over.

At first I was all, oh the shame of being a chubby runner who smashed through her treadmill deck, and then it occurred to me that the deck might have gotten cracked during our move last year and gotten worse over the months since due to, well, due to me being a chubby runner. But once I started thinking about when the weird bounciness started and flashed back to the shoving and pushing and pivoting the movers did to smash the treadmill around our basement corners and into position, it occurs to me that I may not be entirely at fault.

While it is too late to file a claim with the movers, all is not lost because yesterday I did run at least a tenth of a mile while doing reconnaissance at the treadmill store. If you add in the six laps I took around the running shoe store earlier in the day, it’s almost like I ran an ultramarathon.

I mean, I feel proud of myself that I can just go out and (mostly) run almost 8 miles after not doing any significant exercise for a while. I think that says good things about me. Crawling the last mile of my upcoming race will say fewer good things about me.

Even better? I’m flying to another state for this race, so I get to embarrass myself in front of a whole new crop of people. Wish me luck. Or at least wish me funny stories.