Superstars

I don’t even know what to say about what has occurred over the past two days. My last post seems to have hit a nerve.

I want to thank you for your support. Knowing that Jack and I have you in my corner makes me feel so very good. Thank you for commenting on that last post and sharing it and reminding me that it is important to tell these stories so more people hopefully hear, really hear, how important it is to include all students.

The thing that kills me is that, as a result of that post, I have been hearing story after story of similar exclusions happening to special education students all over the country. Every time someone sent a mean comment or told me that what happened wasn’t a big deal, someone else sent me a story of a brokenhearted kid who had been left out of something as simple but important to them as a photo.

There were the kids who were left out of their school yearbooks. There were the kids whose school forgot to read their names at their elementary school graduation.There were the kids who didn’t get included in the second grade end-of-year activities. There was the kiddo who was excluded from his first grade class photo. There were more stories, but you get the idea.

I sent Jack’s principal an email on Friday morning. It seemed like the right thing to do. In the email, I told her why I wrote the post, my intention being to highlight how much it matters to include every student in all aspects of student life. I told her how, in her position at a school that houses an autism program, she had a very powerful opportunity to not just make sure that all students are included, but to make sure that the typical students know that all students are valued and counted as well.

She responded to my email with a phone call and we talked, not just about the bulletin board, but about the atmosphere of inclusion and whether or not special education students and parents feel it at Sligo Creek. I can’t speak for everyone. I’m sure some do. I can speak for some. Even though they love the Asperger’s program, they don’t feel like a part of the school community.

The principal disputes the timeline as I laid it out in my post. She says the the photos were up before my friend posted the photo she took. My friend remains adamant that the photos were not up at that time. I know my friend and I know she was looking for her daughter’s photo. I believe my friend. Her daughter stood with her as she posted the photo. I imagine that if her photo were already up, that bright, strong-minded fifth grader would have mentioned it to her mom. Some of you will believe the principal. That’s fine. There’s some fuzzy blame about not getting messages and front office staff. I can’t know for sure what happened, but my friend is not a person who just makes things up. I trust her account.

The principal told me how our kids were left out in the first place. The photos were taken at lunchtime in the cafeteria, a time when my son and his classmates are in their classroom. Their photos weren’t taken because they weren’t there. Innocent oversight, sure.

But, I would posit that when you forget a classroom of kids just because they are not in the room, you are not fostering that atmosphere of inclusion.

To her credit, the principal sounded horrified about the whole situation. Part of that horror could be that everyone from the superintendent on down has evidently been in contact with her about this. To her credit, she apologized to me. Not to her credit, as of Friday night, she had not contacted my friend to apologize.

The principal told me stories of helping and standing up for the students in the autism program individually that I hope are accurate, because they are lovely. They are also the right thing to do and in most cases, legally required of a principal. She told me about her own disabled daughter and how it hurts her that people would think she doesn’t support students with disabilities. I didn’t mention this on the phone, but I have written here about some of the wonderful school-wide inclusion that I have seen at Sligo Creek.

She was very nice on the phone. She sounded very genuine. I don’t think she’s a bad person. Being a principal must be a very difficult job and I’m sure it’s frustrating to be called out so publicly for one thing. I understood her position. But then I thought about how I had felt at the school for the past two years.

I really do love Jack’s program. I feel very at home and welcomed by the Asperger’s program staff and the school paraeducators and one of the general education teachers. But I haven’t felt like a full, participating member of the school community

I needed to tell her that.

I hate phones. I hate confrontation. I was shaking as I spoke to the her. But I knew that I had to speak up. I am so glad that you are doing these things, I told her. (I am.) I hope that the students in the Asperger’s program don’t feel the lack of inclusion that some of the parents feel, because that is what matters, I told her. But, I said, I am not the only parent who feels this way. There are a bunch of us who feel as if we don’t quite belong and aren’t welcomed the way the rest of the school families are.

I reminded her about how last year a general education parent and I had tried for months to get a meeting with her to discuss doing some autism education for the general education kids who go to school alongside our autistic kiddos. I reminded her that the other parent works in autism research and that I have done autism education with kids—and have Asperger’s myself. I reminded her that we emailed over and over and when that didn’t work, when a meeting had been scheduled and then canceled just an hour beforehand, we submitted a written proposal that she never commented on. I told her how we eventually just gave up.

I told her about how my family had tried to attend the end-of-the-year social just last week, which was completely unstructured and held in a parking lot. I told her that my son couldn’t participate without a common activity, even playground equipment, to start an interaction. I told her how my son, who has been at the school for two years, ended up just walking in circles. I didn’t see a single student come up to him to say hi. No one was mean. No one objected to his presence. But no one welcomed him either.

There are more examples. I gave some to the principal. Some I did not. I don’t need to go into them now. Probably any parent of a child with a disability has similar experiences. Probably any person with a disability has similar examples.

I am school volunteer person. This year I co-chaired large events at each of my other sons’ schools. At my youngest son’s elementary school, people used to ask if I worked there because I was there so often. I served on the PTA board there for the past three years and for the past two, have had weekly or near weekly volunteer jobs there. I volunteered last year at Jack’s school for a couple of class parties and with some wall decorations for a big 4th grade project. The parents were nice. But I could never quite shake the feeling of “other.” I know that’s not all the school’s fault. Part of it is my own baggage. But there are definitely ways to be more inclusive of our families, many of whom come in to the school in 3rd or 4th or 5th grade, after most of the families have been together since kindergarten.

It sounds like the principal will be making an effort at more inclusion. She contacted a family who had had some inclusion concerns of their own and suggested that they meet over the summer to discuss how to make the school more inclusive. She has told me that she’d like to schedule a meeting with me and the other mom who wanted to speak to her about autism education. I’m thrilled to hear these things. I hope they really do come to fruition. I am sad that it took a firestorm of controversy to make it happen.

At the end of the day, however, we have to remember that our kids weren’t included because they weren’t in the room when the camera showed up. We have to remember that my friend went to the office multiple times and was put off, fuzzy blame about who knew what and who was told when be damned. My friend followed the chain of command in informing the secretary and had extremely valid reasons for not contacting the principal about this particular issue (those reasons being not mine to share). The school was informed of their mistake and it took them weeks to fix it. That matters to the kids who walked by the bulletin board every day.

You should know that my friend works so hard at that school. The reason she knows the photo situation was going on for so long was because she was at the school regularly. She’s a squeaky wheel, my friend, always speaking up for our kids. Part of speaking up as a parent of a special education child includes fear of reprisals—not for us, but for our kids. That is the culture of special education in this county, in this country. I panicked a little when this post started making the rounds, for that very reason. My friend is extremely brave to speak her mind the way she does and I am so glad that I could amplify her voice this one time.

I have hope that maybe this will start a conversation at Sligo Creek. I hope that the principal can put aside feeling hurt and listen to the kids and parents who are at the school now and in the future. I hope that the angry parents who responded on my last post telling me this was no big deal can look past their anger and understand that this isn’t about parent egos—it’s about young kids and their self esteem. I hope that all the parents at the school can continue to help their kids grow into people who include all people every time. I hope that I can put aside my own hurt and anger and meaningfully contribute my voice to the conversation.

I hope that this fundamental message can spread: Every person has intrinsic value and deserves to be included as a human right. Remember what my son wrote in his essay: “I would not be forgotten.” No child should have to feel that they could be forgotten at their school.

To each of your kids who has had this happen to them, tell them that that they are important. Tell them that they are valued. Tell them that they are not less than or an afterthought. Tell them that they should be included because they are worth including, not just because it’s the right thing to do. Tell them that we love them and that we SEE them. 

Tell them that they are superstars.

Literally Every 5th Grader

I don’t know exactly when the bulletin board went up, but it was probably in January or February. I didn’t have a chance to go in to Jack’s school very often, so I wasn’t aware of it at all until a friend of mine—the mom of one of Jack’s classmates—posted about it on Facebook in March.

See, this was a bulletin board about the “Superstars” of Jack’s school—the class of 2014.

Photo of a bulletin board covered in yellow paper with a border of paper flowers. Letters spelling out "Our Superstars" and "Class of 2014" are stapled to the board along with photos of the school's fifth graders. I've blurred out the photos for privacy reasons.

I took this photo last Friday, months after it was originally put up.

Jack is part of the class of 2014, so I imagine he was excited to be called a superstar. Except…well, except for the fact that this bulletin board—which was posted within 30 feet of his classroom, insuring that he saw it every single day—included photos of all the fifth graders except for the three fifth graders in Jack’s Asperger’s classroom.

Evidently if you are in an autism classroom, you aren’t a superstar at Sligo Creek Elementary School.

My friend, who is the hero of this story, wrote on Facebook about how she saw this bulletin board often, as she visited the class regularly.

“Each visit is the same: I approach the poster with a mixture of dread and anger at what I know I will see, yet again. And then I turn around, go to the office, and politely inform the secretary that the poster that my daughter and her classmates walk past every day *still* does not include them, and maybe this whole thing started out as just an oversight but it’s been weeks now and could someone *please* add our children’s pictures to the poster so they don’t have to be reminded every single day, as they walk to their special education classroom, that their school’s administration has overlooked them and their achievements?”

She did this for weeks. She would see that the poster didn’t include our kids and she would tell the secretary and she would be ignored. When she finally told the secretary that she was going to fix the poster herself by adding a photo of our kids, she was told that she couldn’t do that because it would be defacing school property.

As you might imagine, that didn’t go over well with my friend. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that if the kids from the autism program weren’t added to the poster by the administration, she would do it herself, and if someone had a problem with that, well, that problem would become public fast.

It was early March when my friend’s daughter reported that the principal had come to the classroom to take photos of the three fifth grade students in Jack’s class.

Except…

Except again.

The photos still didn’t go up. It was mid-March when those three fifth grade students attended a birthday party together. My friend put our kids together and took a photo. On March 18th [date corrected from earlier version], she took that photo and four thumbtacks to the school and she DEFACED THAT BULLETIN BOARD.

Photo of Jack and his two 5th-grade classmatess. I've put bright colored circles over their faces, with smiley faces drawn on them because they're not my kids and I don't want to post their photos here.

Their real faces are even cuter.

*standing ovation*

This was nine weeks after she first mentioned this to the secretary. NINE WEEKS.

At some point the school went ahead and posted individual photos of each of the three fifth graders in the autism classroom, but it wasn’t done until my friend had spoken up multiple times over the course of weeks and then posted her own photo.

Photo of Jack stapled to the yellow bulletin board next to a white paper star.

I think this photo adds a lot to the superstar collage.

As far as I know, my friend and her daughter haven’t gotten an apology from the principal. I know that Jack and I sure haven’t.

I really like Jack’s program. He has done really well there. He has gone from being miserable about school and himself to being happy and full of self esteem. He has a safe place to be when school gets too overwhelming, but he spends much of his day in inclusion classes. His teachers are wonderful. His paras have been good to him. His IEP team is delightful. The other kids in his class are phenomenal. I’m very happy that he is in this program. He is very happy that he is in this program.

But damn.

I wish that my school district was able to serve my kid in his home school in an inclusion classroom. But they couldn’t. They couldn’t or wouldn’t give him the support he needed, so we found another option, one that seemed to work. The thing is, segregation of students has limitations. Even though my kid has been well served in his program, he is obviously seen as less than in the eyes of the administration. These kids do not seem to be the principal’s priority.

If you read here, I’m sure you know why it matters that all kids are included in all parts of school life. It seems so obvious to me, yet it is clearly not obvious to the people who kept moving “post photos from the Asperger’s class” to the bottom of their to-do list.

Every child has an intrinsic worth. Every child has a right to belong. Every child has a right to be treated with respect. Every child has a right to be included, not just by peers and teachers, but by the people who lead the school and set the tone for everyone in the building.

I was furious when I heard about this bulletin board from my friend. I am still furious as I write this. It breaks my heart that people who work with students with disabilities day in and day out still forget that they matter and that they have thoughts and feelings and desires and complex inner lives.

If you doubt that, check out this essay that Jack brought home last week about 5th grade photo day. The 5th grade all wore their special “class of 2014″ shirts on the same day and sat for a photo of the whole grade. Jack remembered all by himself what day he was to wear the shirt and excitedly sat for the photo.

Photo of a small section of Jack's essay titled "2014 School Picture." The full text is below.

Jack wrote about the day. Full text is below.

“2014 School Picture: On June 3rd, I was so excited for the 5th grade picture. I couldn’t wait for it. All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture. It was so awesome, I could not wait for it. I was in the 3rd row closest to the camera, very close to the flash, so it could get a good angle of me. I couldn’t be forgotten in Sligo Creek Elementary pictures with me in one, especially this one and the graduating class of 2014. [Classmate one] and [classmate two] were close to me, and they were good friends. Lots of people I knew were there, some were close to me and some weren’t. Everyone else seemed to be prepared, as I was thoroughly prepared. That was the best day of my life!”

Read that and tell me that it doesn’t matter if Jack’s photo wasn’t on the superstar board. Read that and tell me that putting my kid’s photo up was “defacing” the bulletin board. Read that and tell me that the principal was doing her best by my kid and those in his class. Read that and tell me that Jack doesn’t understand inclusion.

“I couldn’t be forgotten.”

“All the 5th grade, LITERALLY ALL OF THEM, were in the picture.”

“That was the best day of my life!”

In terms of injustice toward disabled people, this is probably not that big a deal. But to my kid and to the kids in his class, it is a huge deal. Remember that. Even the little things matter.

End Game

It has been a challenging week. I’m not going to go into it all (what do you think this is—a blog or something?), but there have been a number of fabulous things (so many good parts of my new house) and a number of things that have been kind of a drag (it was a mistake to get on the Metro going the WRONG DIRECTION today after work making me late for Quinn pickup), but all of it has been a lot of work, full of changes, and super stressful.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Alex and I are going to Key West in one week and five days. Our 15-year anniversary was last month and we are celebrating by going away alone together for the first time since I was pregnant with Sam. You know, thirteen years ago.

If I can make it until our departure date, once I get on that airplane, no one can make me do anything. No one will be able to make me unpack any boxes or move things from one room to another. No one will be able to make me paint or clean or epoxy a house that I am no longer living in. No one will be able to force me to do anything but go swimming and maybe visit Ernest Hemmingway’s cats.

I might even go running. Imagine that. Also, I’m going to look for crocodiles.

I can’t wait.

Twelve more days. Twelve more days. I can get there. Even if I get there by starting out going the opposite direction and have to get off my train, run across the platform, and finally get on the right train going in the correct direction.

Adventures in Packing, Part Two

Photo of black cat sitting on top of a large box on which is printed "I was handled with care."We successfully transferred houses, so obviously that means that we successfully packed all our shit. Even though it is in my past and was successful, I still feel as if I have some things I have to work through in regards to it.

I mean, really. Packing an entire house worth of stuff is like a whole THING. When you touch every object in your house, you learn some stuff.

Like even just the shelf in my kitchen that held bottles of vinegar. I had three bottles of balsamic vinegar that expired in 2009. THREE. When you pour out those bottles, your kitchen will smell strongly. In addition to the balsamic vinegar, there was sherry cooking wine that expired in 2007. There was rice vinegar that expired in 2008. There was malt vinegar that was older than one of my kids. Also, it’s weird, because I don’t know what you do with malt vinegar.

WHY SO MUCH VINEGAR, JEAN? WHY SO MUCH VINEGAR?

I learned a lot about labeling boxes during this move as well. Unfortunately, I plan on never moving again, so this knowledge will be wasted. If you ever move, let me know and I will come by with a handful of markers and some brilliant ideas. These ideas include:

1. The crucial information to put on the outside of the box is the destination room of the new house. It doesn’t matter what room it came from in your old home. It barely matters what is inside the box—although it might be helpful to put that information in one spot on the box. For example, writing “purses” on every side of a carton doesn’t give the movers any information about that box. It also creates the impression that you have too many purses.

2. If you just mark the destination room instead of the contents on the box, there are certain items that you might want to make a note of on the outside of the box so you can have a chance in hell of finding them again. These things include your social security card if you are starting a new job, the end-of-year gift cards you so efficiently bought early for teacher gifts, and your antidepressants.

3. As the day of your move gets closer, you will give way fewer fucks about box organization and labeling. This is a mistake. Although frankly, unless you wrote “DELIVER TO KANSAS” on the box, it will probably make it to your new home and you’ll find it again. You know, eventually.

4. The things that you waited to pack until the morning of the move should probably go in a box labeled “OPEN ME FIRST!”

Some of the things I learned from packing were less upsetting than the above. For example, when I reached the top shelf of my corner kitchen cabinet, I realized that the taco chihuahua is still one of the best purchases I have ever made.

Photo of ceramic chihuahua. There are three taco-sized spaces in his back for holding tacos.

See? Super fabulous. He holds tacos while you put your fixins in it.

The taco chihuahua definitely made the trip to the new house. There were, however, things that didn’t make the cut. Like this Valentine’s Day cookie I found in my cabinet.

Photo of a shortbread cookie with red filling in the shape of a heart.

I didn’t taste it, but I’m pretty sure it would have killed me if I had. Do you know how long ago Valentine’s Day was?

In addition to my vinegar shelf, I also went through my spice racks. I went through a phase a few years ago where I cooked adventurous recipes that asked for lots of spices. Consequently, I have (had) a large number of herb and spice bottles with, say, a tablespoon gone from the top.

Nearly all of it was expired.

Also, remember how all that balsamic vinegar was smelly? Ten years of spices in your trash can is also a powerful smell. And it makes you sneeze. It will, however, attract cats.

Photo of empty spice jars on a counter. The top of the garbage can into which I have emptied the spices is also visible, with a at sniffing at it.

She didn’t get a lot closer than this.

It turns out that empty glass spice jars are a hot commodity on Freecycle. Especially if you have 26 of them. I had five people begging for them within ten minutes of posting.

Let’s see, what else did I learn? Oh, yeah, I learned that you’re going to need more packing tape than you have. Seriously. You didn’t buy enough.

Sadly, you might also learn that some possessions are fleeting.

Photo of a ceramic light switch wall plate decorated with Peter Rabbit. It is broken into five pieces.

***sob***

We bought that before Sam was born. His first room was decorated with Peter Rabbit stuff. This was on the wall in one of my kids’ rooms from that time until I unscrewed it and promptly dropped it on the floor last week.

In another blast from the past, we rehung a closet door that we had taken off of Sam’s closet several years ago. I asked Alex if he was sure we had the right door as there were three of in them in the basement. He turned it around to face me and said, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Photo of a wooden door with many small cards taped to it. The cards all feature either Thomas the Tank Engine or Bob the Builder machines.

Ah, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Those two were a big hit in my house for a long time.

I’m a little bit of a control freak, so I didn’t let Alex pack very much. (He also doesn’t get to unpack very much.) The exception to this is his closet. I required him to pack that himself. Unfortunately, this very competent and successful attorney turned out to be UTTERLY INCAPABLE of doing things like taping a box shut and walking across the room to pick up a flat box and turn it in to a cube.

In related news, when someone proves themselves incompetent and unwilling to learn the simplest of tasks, unsolicited advice from him will riiiilly, riiiilly made a person mad.

I had a moment when I was packing my basement when I stopped to think about all the afternoons I spent down there with Susan and her kids. I felt sad to leave the only house I’d known her in. Then, a couple weeks after that day, I found, covered in spider webs, a little vase she had given me with a flower bulb in it. I, of course, had killed the flower immediately, but I kept the vase. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it is going to hold something special in my new house.

Photo of a small green vase, still covered in the spider webs I found it in.

I’m bringing her love to my new home.

There were probably more lessons that I learned from packing, but I guess the most important is that what really matters is that you take the love and laughter and joy of your family and your friends and bring it with you from your old house to your new house. Because without all of that, you just have walls and a door.

With it, you have a home.

Also, I never found my brown clogs. How did I pack my entire house and not find the pair of shoes I’ve been looking for for weeks? WHERE ARE MY BROWN CLOGS?

How to Move, Stimey Style

Team Stimey moved today. I’m still kind of in shock that the whole thing happened. I can’t quite believe that I packed my entire house and then some dudes stuffed it all in a couple of trucks and then deposited all of it into a new, awesome house.

We have a lot of work in front of us. We’re still prepping our old house for sale and I have six million boxes to unpack, but the moving of our stuff and our family was a huge hurdle and one that feels really good to check off of our list.

Because it was such a monumental day for Team Stimey, I will now recount it in minute detail for you.

6 am: My alarm goes off.

6:01 am: I briefly consider running away to Mexico with my belongings in a kerchief at the end of a stick, hobo style.

6:02 am: I try to go back to sleep. Avoidance is your friend!

6:22 am: Starfire jumps on the bed to greet the day—and us—by dragging her ass across the covers. Super. Thanks, Starfire. I guess I’m up.

6:34 am: I yank Alex’s pillow out from under his head and put it in a box.

6:59 am: Sam starts complaining about how there’s no spoon for cereal. Or containers for his lunch. Or…food for his lunch. Or…cereal.

7:33 am: I watch someone pick up the stack of old pots that Alex put out on our curb last night, against my protests. I was sure no one would want them. Alex is vindicated. I only see this happen because I am outside putting a heavy metal monkey into my car.

Photo of the interior of my car. There are four plastic storage bins stacked in the car. In front of them stands a metal monkey, about a foot long and several inches tall.

Please don’t look too closely at crumbville.

8 am: I made it all the way to 8 am before I had to open a packed box and dig something out (my cell phone charger).

8:02 am: After I take four giant plastic bins, a huge box, and two laundry hampers (and a metal monkey) to the car all by myself with no assistance, Alex makes me hold the door open for him as he carries a plush cat bed and bowl of food out of the house.

8:14 am: I watch the cutest little impromptu parade down my street as the cats go on a playdate while we move.

Photo of a green lawn and a street. Walking down the sidewalk are Alex and Jack carrying a cat carrier each, accompanied by two of our neighbors who took care of them for the day.

They were well loved and cared for, but I don’t think they want to go on another playdate anytime soon.

8:20 am: Gerbil panic ensues.

Photo taken from outside my car of a gerbil tank sitting on the front seat.

Alex and the gerbils then departed for the new house to wait for an inspector they were meeting there.

8:45 am: The movers arrive. I lead them on a quick tour of the house and they spring into action.

8:59 am: Dude. These guys are hard core.

9:07 am: The movers shrink wrap my couch. I regret not having asked them to shake it first to get all the crumbs out.

9:12 am: A mover looks at our pleather love seat that we have repaired with duct tape and asks if we’re moving it. (The answer is yes.)

9:18 am: Our realtor shows up at the house to pick up keys for the new house because Alex went to the new house without keys after swearing that he didn’t need them. Evidently Alex was going to use the force to unlock the doors. I ask the realtor to tell Alex that he’s a dumbass. The realtor does not pass on the message.

9:40 am: I’m sitting on the floor in a corner of the kitchen to try to stay out of the way of my movers. They are a force of fucking nature. They move boxes by holding them in stacks behind their backs instead of in front of them. I am blown away.

9:41 am: I think about the fact that my floor is fucking FILTHY. (And that’s saying a lot coming from me. My standards are low.)

11:09 am: The movers finally need me again! They ask me where a certain dresser goes. I take waaaaay too long to figure out the answer and then realize that I gave them the wrong information.

11:38 am: Alex come back to the house. I think about locking the door and asking if he brought keys.

12:20 pm: I lose Alex in our own house. The old one, in which I should know my way around.

12:22 pm: He was in the bathroom.

1:19 pm: The movers leave with everything I own.

Photo of a moving truck driving out of my driveway. In the foreground of the photo is a cardboard Minecraft creeper head  on its side.

Except for that creeper head.

2:22 pm: The movers have been taking stuff off the truck at the house for a while. I start to feel bad that we bought a house with so many stairs.

Photo of Alex standing in the door of our new house. There are a bunch of stairs leading to the door.

These are just some of the stairs.

2:34 pm: I feel like an asshole for having so much stuff.

2:42 pm: I decide that I should start throwing money at the movers every time they walk past me carrying my shit. But I don’t.

2:43 pm: I do some calculations and decide that I’ve said, “Thank you; I’m sorry,” approximately 672 times today.

2:48 pm: I return to my old house to pick up my kids from school.

3:19 pm: Quinn arrives home, looks around at our empty house, and says, “This is awkward.”

4:22 pm: I return to the new house with my kids. Much to their delight, Alex has set up the Xbox and has made Minecraft available to them.

Photo of my kids sitting in a mostly empty room except for a TV on a TV stand. They are playing Minecraft.

Thank god he thought of a way to keep them out of the path of the movers.

4:25 pm: One and a half out of two trucks are unpacked. I resume saying, “Thank you; I’m sorry.”

4:49 pm: A mover finds a box labeled “Stimeyland,” which holds binders of printed out posts from this very blog. He says, “I know I’m going to butcher this word. Where do you want the box labeled stih ma land?”

5:01 pm: I start to worry about successfully tipping. I count and recount the bills in my pocket that I have earmarked for tips.

5:11 pm: A mover picks up a box labeled “Random” and looks at me quizzically. Alex is all, “Why write anything on the box at all?”

5:13 pm: Alex follows up by calling me Jean Stinkgardner.

5:15 pm: I continue to hear the movers say the words I have heard them repeat over and over all day, words such as trabajo and trabajando.

5:32 pm: After sitting outside to guide the movers all day, I wander inside and see the number of boxes in one room. I completely freak out. It will take me twenty-four years to unpack everything in my house.

Photo of stacks of boxes in a room.

Oh, good lord.

5:43 pm: Tipping turns out to be fun. People like taking money.

5:47 pm: We pay the movers an obscene amount of money and they leave. It turns out that this part of the day is less fun than the tipping part of the day.

And that was that. Eventually our cats were returned to us, we ate some food, and we sent our kids to bed. Watching my cats explore the house is one of my favorite things that has happened ever. I think they’ll like this house. You know, once they come to terms with the fact that we somehow magically changed the entire place while they were at the neighbors’.

I have unpacking to do, but I’m not doing it tonight. There is time for that tomorrow morning. And the next day. And the day after that.

How Does This Keep Happening To Me?

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, THIS WOULD ONLY HAPPEN TO ME.

Please to see the Facebook status I posted yesterday:

Screenshot of a Facebook status. It reads, "HOLEEEE SHIT, YOU GUYS. So. We're giving our pool to our friends because our new backyard isn't fully fenced. BECAUSE IT'S ME, the box of pool parts we took to their house didn't just contain pool parts, but also FOUR BABY FUCKING RODENTS. To do: 1. Send Alex to return babies to our shed in hopes their mom finds them again. (They'll convey with the house!) 2. Check my car for said mother rodent in case she made the ride over here with us. 3. Get to knitting tiny hats." Below the words is a photo of two tiny baby rodents in a cardboard box, surrounded by chewed up paper and assorted pool parts.Yeah. So that happened.

I was so happy to be able to give our pool to our friends so that someone else can get joy out of it and also because hopefully they’ll invite my kids over to swim. So yesterday afternoon I dragged the pool and all of its many parts and supplies out of my backyard shed, stuffed it in my car, and trundled it over to my friends’ house, where Alex and I helped them set it up.

At some point it became clear that mice or rats or, you know, a fucking woodchuck had been living in one of the boxes because it had very efficiently turned one of the pool manuals into a little nest of shredded paper. That’s cool though, because animals live in the outside and it’s not like we found a live opossum in there sitting next to the pool filter. I assumed the rodents had moved on.

We set up the pool and I was fishing through the box to pull out the things my friends would need when I heard squeaking. “Ha,” I thought to myself, “that sounds like baby gerbils. I wonder… No, I’m sure it’s just crickets or something.”

Then I looked closer and I may or may not have cursed loudly and creatively in front of my friends’ kids.

I don’t even know what kind of rodent they are. I just know that we found four of them and transferred them to a box in an effort to return them to their mother. Because although I’m not a huge fan of wild rodents in and near my home, it seemed really mean to starve little blind babies to death. We figured that if we took them back to the shed that maybe their mom would be able to find them again. It was their best chance.

I know. I am a big fucking bleeding heart. I am well aware.

Then, because I do things like this to him all the time, I made Alex deliver the rodents to our house.

Photo of Alex walking away from the camera holding a cardboard box full of baby rodents. He looks highly annoyed.

He was totally delighted to get this assignment.

He returned a little while later with a six-pack of beer and news that he had made a cardboard bed and roof for the little guys under the shed.

Meanwhile, I was checking my car for rodents, just in case the mom had been in the box when I put it in the back seat only to abandon ship before I delivered it to my friends.

In my mind, all I can see is me driving along, singing along to some bad pop song or listening to some earnest NPR story about porches, only to look in my rearview mirror to find Rat Mom standing on the headrest directly behind my right ear. At that point my imagination pictures me screaming and veering off the road into a concrete wall.

While all this was going on, my friends continued to cook dinner for my family instead of kicking us out into the street and hurling pool salt at us.

They’re good people.

So that is the story of the day I gave my pool and a litter of wild rat babies to some close friends. As someone commented on that above Facebook status, you should remember to not take hand-me-downs from Stimeyland.

Epilogue: This evening, after torrential rain, Alex went back to check on the babies and to rebuild their little house. He was distressed because they looked as if they had been tossed around by the weather. He was able to find three of them and reports that they were still alive. I’m hopeful that this means their mom is nearby. The fact that Alex went by to check on the little guys says a lot about him. He tries to make us all think he’s disgruntled, but he has his very own bleeding heart.

If It Makes You Feel Better, I’m Not Running Either

Wait! Come back! I’m still alive, I promise!

I say. It has been quite a week and a half since I’ve last posted. I have so much going on right now—all good, but still overwhelming—but I wanted to stop in and let you know that even if I am only around sporadically in May, I will be back and writing again soon.

My job is going really well. I am really enjoying it. I’m even figuring out the commute. (Future post, right there, I tell you what.)

We close on our new house this Friday. We take possession of it next Monday. There will then be a flurry of painters and plumbers and the people who will change the carpet we don’t like into carpet we do like. We will move the following Friday. Every moment that I am not working or taking care of my kids between now and then will involve boxes and putting things in boxes.

…except for the moments that I am trying to ready our current home to put on the market, which will hopefully happen in mid-June. It turns out that putting a house on the market includes changing all the things you hate about your house all in the time-span of three weeks, making the house you are leaving kind of actually delightful to live in. I’m pretty sure that eventually Alex will no longer spend his entire weekend covered in paint, but I don’t know when that will be.

At least we managed to already successfully celebrate Jack’s birthday, including a Go To the Movies/Play Minecraft Extravaganza with his two best buddies. That said, Quinn’s birthday is this week, and we have not yet successfully celebrated it. Because of his love of meat, we’re taking him and his best friend to Benihana (a first for all of us; we’re excited!) and then hosting a sleepover. I think sleepover activities will include putting things in boxes and the party goodie bags will be trash bags full of crap we don’t want anymore.

All of this sits on top of the regular annual end-of-school-year activities complete with various concerts, parties, picnics, JACK’S 5TH GRADE PROMOTION ACTIVITES(!!!), and the three-day disability awareness event I’m co-planning for Quinn’s school.

There are two possible blog-related results to this barrage to my schedule: (1) I will disappear for three weeks only to re-emerge shaken, a little more gray haired, and living in a new house, or (2) I will post every day as a method of procrastination. Either way, there is a wealth of material here for excellent blog posts and you can be assured that I am taking copious notes to (eventually) share my misery/joy with you.