A Visual Tour of Summer Thus Far

I haven’t been around here much this summer, but we have been very busy, nonetheless. I haven’t written about it as we’ve lived it, but I want to share some of my favorite photos from the summer—so far.

Let’s start with the face I found in the wall of the bathroom at work.

Photo of a white wall. There are cracks and bubbles in it that make it look like a face.

He looks sad, doesn’t he? I suppose that’s because he has to live in the bathroom.

Okay, that one was a little weird, I know. This next one is better. We took Jack and Quinn to Medieval Times for their birthdays, but for various reasons, we had to do it in June instead of in May, their birthday month. So shortly after school let out, we collected one close friend for each of them and took them to the castle.

Photo of five boys walking along a sidewalk. The photo is taken from the back.

I only wish Medieval Times didn’t cost a million dollars, so we could have added a couple more cute backs of heads.

We also found more cut-rate ways to enjoy summer.

Photo of Quinn in a swimsuit and goggles. He is sitting in a large blue bucket full of water, holding a water gun.

It’s the world’s worst swimming pool.

We should remember that this is also the summer of new white kittens. I have several billion photos of them. This one includes Sam.

Photo of a small white cat sitting in front of Sam.

This is Pickles. Pickles is ridiculously cute. Sam is okay.

We went to the Baltimore Aquarium one day. Jack’s favorite part may have been the one part that had no animals.

Photo of a darkish room featuring tall columns of water, within which are bubbles. Jack is crouched down by one, looking up at one.

I love it too.

We colored Sam’s hair now and again with varying degrees of success.

Photo of Sam with his hair combed over his face. He is wearing sunglasses over the hair. There are streaks of faded blue, green, purple, and orange in it.

He did, however, successfully spend the summer growing his hair.

As always, we had a lot of interspecies interaction.

Photo of the inside of the gerbil tank. A brown gerbil is standing on a gerbil house peeking through the mesh lid of the cage, on which a kitten is standing.

This went better than either the gerbil fight that resulted in chaos and a tetanus shot OR the gerbil escape that resulted in chaos and cat vs. gerbil vs. human shenanigans.

The fourth of July was fun. We used to walk down the street to the park to watch local fireworks, but since we moved, we couldn’t do that this year. So instead, we spent it on the roof of Alex’s office building. It was cool.

Photo of Jack standing in front of a view that includes the Washington Monument. He is wearing sunglasses and looking awesome.

But not as cool as Jack in this photo.

Photo of me and Sam.

And here is Sam looking patriotic and handsome.

Photo of me and Quinn. Quinn is holding a hot dog aloft.

And here is Quinn celebrating hot dogs.

Photo of Jack holding a plate full of crackers.

Jack didn’t care for most of the food, so he ate a lot of plates like this, leading me to make multiple jokes about Cracker Jacks.

Photo of a flag waving in front of fireworks in the dark sky.

It was a really cool night. Furthermore, there was a strategically placed flag that made the fireworks even better.

We also went to a little zoo where you can feed animals.

Photo of Quinn holding out one piece of food to a goat.

I think Quinn dropped this particular pellet, resulting in one very disappointed goat.

There was, however, at this same zoo, an aviary where you could feed budgies. Everyone REALLY enjoyed this area.

Photo of a popsicle stick with seeds on the end. A small bird with wings spread is landing on it to eat.

This budgie, for example. His enjoyment was palpable.

Photo of Jack holding out his arm with a bird sitting on it.

Jack got pooped on a little. He was all, “What do I do?” and I was all, “Wipe it on my shirt,” because that’s what moms do.

Quinn holding a popsicle stick in each hand. There is a bird on each.

This was Quinn’s favorite part of the zoo day.

Photo of Sam holding out a popsicle stick. There are five birds trying to eat off of it.

Sam loved the bird fight over his bird food.

In case we ever need to suddenly flee the country, we got passports for the group of us. In some sort of miracle, all three of my kids cooperated for their official photos. I’m thinking of asking the post office to take our Christmas card photo.

A photo of my, Sam, Jack, and Quinn's passport photos.

Alex already has a passport, but he’s definitely part of the fleeing the country plans.

We went to a concert where the National Symphony Orchestra played music from Pokemon video games while they showed Pokemon footage. Shortly before intermission, Quinn had to urgently go to the bathroom. Then he had to urgently eat a soft pretzel.

Photo in the dark of me and Quinn smiling and he's eating a soft pretzel.

Pretty sneaky way to trick him into a symphony concert—that he actually enjoyed!

We also went tubing on a river, which each of my children enjoyed in a different manner.

Photo of Sam on his back in an inner tube. He couldn't be more relaxed.

Sam took the mellow approach.

Jack peeking out of an inner tube.

Jack preferred an in-river experience.

Photo of Quinn as he falls out of his inner tube.

And Quinn was FULL immersion.

You may have noticed that my kids like water. So we got on the wait list for our neighborhood pool and got a half-summer guest membership. We are working hard to get our money’s worth.

Photo of my three kids sitting by the side of the pool.

See how hard they’re working?

I’ve still been struggling to run, but I’m working my way back—and I even ran a race that I had to get up at the crack of dawn for.

Selfie of me at the finish line.

I almost skipped this race because I was tired and didn’t want to run, but I made myself do it and it felt great. I’m trying to remember that feeling.

This has also been the summer of music for Sam. I feel as if I’ve been spending all of my free time driving him and his bassoon places.

Photo of Sam walking down an aisle after his quintet performance.

He had a camp where he performed in his very first woodwind quintet. I don’t have a photo of that to share here though because the nature of a quintet means there were four other people in the photo.

Did I mention the kittens?

Photo of two white kittens sleeping cuddled together.

These two kittens are like magic. They are so sweet, with each other and with us.

And with that, I leave you with one last photo, taken today. Hopefully the rest of summer will provide just as many good memories.

Photo of Sam and Quinn jumping off of diving boards right next to each other.

Happy Summer!


Disaster Struck! Running Edition

Photo of me running to the finish line in a pink shirt with a race bib attached to it. It is NOT an attractive photo of me.

It can’t all be smiles and PRs and flattering race photos. (Photo by Ken Trombatore)

This photo was taken at a 10K race I ran in April. I did not share this photo then for obvious reasons. I share it now because I am kind of delighted by its awfulness and also because it sort of eloquently makes the point that sometimes in a fitness journey, you biff it.

Over the past several months, I have very much biffed it.

I went from running 4-5 times a week to running once every couple of weeks. I lost a huge chunk of my fitness base. I got so bogged down by pace and distance that I had to entirely ditch tracking my runs and wearing my Garmin for the indefinite future.

It’s been ugly.

I lost motivation and then I got sick and then I was out of the habit and then I got sick again and I got busy and then I just didn’t feel like running and then I developed this cough that came with decreased lung capacity and all of a sudden, I wasn’t a runner anymore.

I’m clawing my way back though. I’ve been making an effort to get on the road or the treadmill every day and not feel bad if I walk instead of run. I’ve made peace with shorter mileage. I’m postponing the Big Running Goals I wanted to accomplish this fall and not beating myself up about it.

But I went on a run today that felt incredible. (Hooray for increased lung capacity again.)

My new mileage goal for the year is just to keep running. I’m going to finish out the year with no races longer than a 10K. I’m going to aim for a spring half marathon if I can find a good one. I’m going to sign up early for those big fall running events that I originally intended to do this year.

I’m finally feeling inspired to be a runner again and I’m realizing that inspiration is what I was missing. I hope it is here to stay.


* Disaster Strikes! Soda Edition: As long as I’m coming clean about my inactivity, I should let you know that even though I haven’t mentioned it, I am a soda drinker again and have been for months and months. I know. It’s shameful.

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.

Disaster Strikes! Gerbil Edition

Yesterday got away from me. I had a lot scheduled in the morning, but wanted to take my kids out somewhere to do something fun in the afternoon. I thought I might take them to a movie or maybe on a hike. At the very least we were going to go out to a park.

After my morning and early afternoon appointments, I walked into my office, which is where the gerbils live, and I found two of the girls, Scissorpaws and Jefferie, scuffling and covered in blood. COVERED in blood. Because I’m smart, I broke up their fight with my hand.

That wasn’t the bite that caused all my bleeding though.

I knew I had to separate the two fighters, so I tried to pick up Scissorpaws to put her in my gerbil travel cage and that is when I got the bite that caused all my bleeding.

I called to Sam to bring me the phone and a towel for my finger and I was covered in blood and the gerbils were covered in blood and I did a really goddamn good job of traumatizing my first born, so let’s just call that a win, okay?

Then I had to make an emergency call to the vet. Ironically, when the vet receptionist asked, “Is this an emergency or can I ask you to hold?” I told her I could hold because I evidently am not willing to admit I am making an emergency call even if I am making an emergency call.

I panicked a little when I was trying to figure out how to get both animals to the vet without creating a tiny cage match in my car because I only have one travel cage. Sam is the brilliant one who suggested I put one of them in Tupperware. He’s smart. And level-headed.

I used scissors to stab air holes in the lid though—AND I did it BEFORE I put the gerbil in it—so I’m not completely useless.

Photo of Jefferie in a small travel cage for rodents. Next to her is a small plastic container, in which you can see the shadow of a gerbil.

This is after they came home from the vet. There was a lot less blood by this point.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the vet hospital when it occurred to me that a gerbil bite might be, you know, bad for me as well as the gerbils. I texted my sister the doctor to ask her how likely it was that I would die from a gerbil bite and she told me that it was likely and I should get treated.

I found this upsetting, but reasonable.

I left the gerbils with the vet, who was giving them fluids and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics and pain medicine because those poor little guys were ripped up. They really did a number on each other. Also, If we were to determine how much money I spent per ounce of gerbil on this visit, well, let’s just say I was already depressed enough and also unable to count that high in my semi-agitated state.

Happily, all the treatment those little guys needed gave me ample time to, you know, get a tetanus shot.

Before I was able to go to a human doctor though, I had to go to the pet store to get new gerbil cages because clearly these two gerbils will never be able to live together again and also I can’t trust them with Jetpack, who remained unscathed through the great Gerbil Fiasco of 2015.

Then I waited at an urgent care clinic for an hour and a half for a doctor to confirm that I had, in fact, been bitten by a gerbil and should get a tetanus shot. It then took six minutes for a nurse to give me said tetanus shot and put a bandaid on my finger.

The gerbils still weren’t ready, even though they’d been at the vet for three hours, so I drove home and assembled my new gerbil cages. Then I went to the vet to trade a million dollars for my damaged gerbils and their medicines, which need to be administered via teensy syringes twice a day for ten days.

I very carefully put the gerbils in their new cages, which turned out to be veeeeeery interesting to the cats.

Photo of a small plastic and metal cage with a gerbil inside it. Starfire the cat is right next to it. It is crammed into the back of a bookshelf.

I put them way back on a shelf, surrounded by books so the cats couldn’t push them off of the shelf.

Guess what happened right after I did this?

It turns out when you purchase cheap less expensive cages, they are much lighter than glass tanks and cats have the ability to maneuver them around.

I heard a crash and ran into the office to find that the cats had knocked Jefferie’s cage to the ground and the poor gerbil, although still safely in the cage, thank God, was presumably not very happy, so I moved the new cages with their new residents to my bedroom behind a now permanently closed door so the cats don’t use them as maracas.

Thus far I’ve administered medicine to them twice and no one has been bitten, which, yay! I also haven’t developed tetanus, so I feel pretty good about that, even if my arm hurts where I got the shot.

Both Jefferie and Scissorpaws seem to be doing okay, although they are pretty beat up. Poor kiddos. I have no idea what set them off. But silver lining, at least now we get to hear the scribble scrabble of gerbil paws on plastic all night long, so there’s that.

Fingers crossed for a quick and pain-free recovery for them. I think this incident may have scared me straight from getting new rodents for a while.

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*

Spike, We Will Miss You

Back when Stimeyland experienced its gerbil population explosion, I noticed within the first few days that one of them had an arm disability. One of the little girls had a twisted hand so I made sure to give her a super tough name and I sent her out into the gerbil world.

Delightfully, she always looked like she was waving.

Photo of a small white gerbil standing on her hind legs. Her front paws are in front of her, one of which is twisted up so it looks like she's waving.


Spike did great in life, foraging for seeds and chewing up cardboard with her sisters and her mom, but sadly, she is the first of the babies to leave us, a little more than two years after her most exciting debut.

You were a very good and very tough gerbil, Spike. You will be missed.

Houston, We Have a Long Overdue Vacation Recap

My kids’ spring break was about two months ago. (When I started writing this post, it was only a month.) My family took the opportunity to visit my mom and stepfather in Houston. This is the story of that trip. It’s going to be really long. It’s mostly for my mom. Settle in.

On trips past, our day of travel has often been full of drama (and barf) and trauma (and barf) and stress (and still more barf). This time, there was one tension-filled moment after Sam bolted from the cab that took us to the airport to stand queasily over a garbage can, but after we filled him with lunch food and Dramamine, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

(We’ve learned some lessons about air travel with Team Stimey since our first expeditions. You can read about one such nightmarish expedition by clicking this here link or by Googling “stimeyland plane doritos barf.”)

I mean, sure, Quinn ripped a piece off of the airplane almost instantly upon sitting in his seat, but it didn’t seem totally necessary to the safe operation of the plane, plus we were able to reattach it pretty quickly.

Photo of Quinn reaching up to the air vent from his airplane seat.

I became aware that the plane was at risk when Quinn held up the ring that adjusts the air vent and said, “What do I do with this?”

Quinn didn’t remember flying on an airplane before. His palpable excitement and joy in taking off was super fun and infectious. When that kid is happy, he can light up a good three rows of airplane seats.

I don’t think there is anything quite as good as seeing your own kid be incredibly delighted by something. This plane flight was one of those things for Quinn.  Then we landed and it was my mom’s turn to be incredibly delighted by her grandchildren.

Photo taken of the back rwo rows of a minivan. In the center row sit my mom and I. In the back seat are Jack, Quinn, and Sam.

Smiles all around. (That’s my mom on the right.)

We flew into Houston the day before Easter and although we’re not big Easter celebrators, we *do* color eggs and eat chocolate, so there were some things we had to take care of instantly upon arrival.

Close up of Jack leaning on his elbows over a little cup in which a blue dye tablet is dissolving into vinegar.

The best part of dying eggs is obviously watching the dye tablets dissolve into vinegar. I think Jack agrees. He watched this for a long time.

We usually just color the eggs, each of us in our own way.

Three photos: 1. Jack staring deeply into a dye cup in which a dark blue egg sits 2. Quinn holding out a yellow egg. 3. Sam wearing a shirt with a big star on it staring at the camera.

1. Jack spent a reeeeaaaally long time on one egg. 2. Quinn worked hard on creating the special GOLDEN egg. 3. Sam whisked through his eggs, then stared at me derisively.

We experimented with actually eating and/or poking at the eggs as well this year.

Three photos: 1. Jack is exploring a couple of broken, smashed up hard-boiled eggs on a paper towel. 2. Alex's hands hold out an egg, broken in half. Jack is poking at it with his fingertip. 3. Close up of Quinn taking the tiniest bite ever of a hard boiled egg.

A couple of the eggs didn’t make it due to issues with their structural integrity. We may not have eaten them, but we definitely got our money’s worth through tactile exploration.

Also, there is actual proof of my being on this vacation because my stepfather (Richard) takes photos like I take photos, in that just like I take a lot of pictures, he does too, but his are high quality and well composed whereas mine are like this:

Photo of my stepfather holding a camera to his eye, mid photo-taking.

If you are impressed with a photo in this post, he probably took it. If it is merely functional, chances are it is mine.

This pretty much wrapped up our first day in Houston, except for a debacle involving a jacuzzi tub and waaaaay too much bubble bath. I would like to state for the record that said debacle was not my fault.

Easter morning brought many fun activities:

Photo of Sam, Jack and Quinn hunting for eggs in a backyard.

The customary egg hunt wherein at least one egg gets left behind to rot.

Candy eating.

[Photo not available, but trust me, it happened. Aaaall week.]

Photo of Quinn walking on a rectangle area rug.

Walking in circles on this most excellent rug that was placed as if it were meant just for walking in circles on it.

Sam and Jack peeling hard boiled eggs.

Fine-motor activities in the form of peeling eggs for egg salad. These eggs were extraordinarily difficult to peel.

Photo of Sam sitting on the floor in front of a giant gong.

Gonging. My mom had a whole story about how she acquired this gong in Indonesia, but I couldn’t hear it because, you know, Sam was hitting a fucking gong.

Before I carry on to the rest of our day, I need to tell you about this place that my mom and Richard go to ALL THE TIME. There is a state park near them where there are wild alligators and birds and other animals. They go there to walk and take photos a lot. Frankly, the possibility of seeing this place in person instead of just in photos posted on Facebook was probably 60-65% of the reason we chose to travel to Houston in the first place.

Mostly I wanted to meet this guy and all of his friends.

Photo of an alligator just a few feet from me on the shore of a river.

This guy came walking up the shore as Alex and I were walking by. It was pretty cool.

He had a lot of friends.

We ended up taking about a five-mile out-and-back walk, which was all well and good until Quinn decided at the 2.5-mile mark that he was DONE. Part of that had to do with the heat and that he was tired. And part of it had to do with the fact that we wouldn’t let him rip a shell off a turtle and take it home. We’re extremely unreasonable.

It was about this time that Jack lost steam as well.

Photo of my mom and Jack on a bench. Jack is lying down and my mom is staring off into the distance.

Evidently we’re not “Texas heat” kind of people.

They pulled it together though, which I assume you know because you are aware that I didn’t leave them out there with the alligators at mile marker 2.5.

Photo taken over the wooden railing of an elevated observation deck. I'm looking down at Sam who is looking up at me.

Although I did spend some time in the relative peace and quiet of an observation deck. Most of them didn’t have the energy to chase me. (Hi, Sam!)

Naturally, you don’t go wading and pet wild alligators. You do, however, go to the visitor center and pet baby wild alligators though.

Photo of a man's hand holding a very small alligator.

Isn’t he cute? This makes two baby alligators I’ve petted.

Then we went and got ice cream because that is also what you do. We ate a LOT of ice cream while in Texas. I’m not saying we bribed our kids, but that is one reason why Quinn and Jack aren’t still living with the alligators.

Photo of my mom and four boys hanging all over her grinning.

That’s my mom with my kids and their cousin, who also lives in Texas. He’s a cool kid.

The next day was Travel to the Ocean in Galveston Day and also Alex’s birthday. That was a good day. My kids love them some beach time.

Photo of me sitting in a chair on the beach, smiling. Sam and Jack are behind me, burying Quinn in the sand.

It was also the day we re-established that my kids have exactly the opposite sensory reaction to sand as me.

Quinn also tried to sneak up on some birds.

Photo of Quinn army crawling across the sand toward a flock of seagulls.

It did not work.

Alex had a good birthday and was served a way fancier dinner than he ever would have gotten at my house.

Photo of Alex, Quinn, my mom, Richard, me, and Jack at a dining room table. Sam took the photo.

I think that everyone even kept their shirt on, which isn’t a guarantee with my crew, although most of them were wearing pajamas.

I even gave him a small version of sad cone.

Photo of a small orange rubber cone in a plastic box. On it I've drawn a frowny face and the words "I am sad cone."

It’s supposed to be an iPhone stand, but that is not its Team Stimey Approved Function.

One thing I find amusing about traveling to new places is that people often go to the zoo. I find that amusing because animals are the same no matter where you are, but you still go to see the new ones in the new city.

On Tuesday, we went to the zoo.

The Houston Zoo is delightful. I mean, it’s a hundred million degrees even in April, but it is absolutely lovely. We saw otters and elephants and cheetahs and all kinds of great animals, but the best thing we saw, in a sort of gift from the universe, was this squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Photo of a squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Then Quinn tried to steal the cookie from the squirrel and the squirrel ran away. This sounds like I’m making a joke, but it really happened.

Quinn also found a goat he wanted to bring home as a pet.

Photo of a goat facing Quinn. Quinn is squatting in front of him, staring intently at him.

This goat.

I was all, “You can’t take that goat home; he lives here,” and Quinn was like, “Can you at least ask the zookeeper?”

I did not ask the zookeeper. With my luck they would have given us the goat.

You can’t spend every day on vacation chasing squirrels and birds and…hey, wait a minute. Maybe I should take a closer look at how much of Quinn’s time he spends chasing animals.

Anywho, we did spend some time relaxing as well. We took in a movie, we ran some errands…

Photo of Jack at the self checkout at Home Depot. There is a video camera over the monitor. Jack is taking a closeup of his finger.

I have absolutely no recollection of why we were at Home Depot, but I do enjoy Jack’s use of the self-checkout monitoring system.

We tested out a hair-containment system for Jack…

Profile photo of Jack witha  headband holding his hair back.

I loved it. He found it onerous.

We took advantage of more than one swimming pool in my family’s fancy community…

Photo of my three kids walking away from the camera on a step in a swimming pool. In the background is a lake and large lawns.

And because Houston-area children were all in school during Team Stimey’s spring break, we had very little competition for the pool.

We learned new things…

Photo of Richard showing Jack how to play the banjo.

How lucky were we to find not just a banjo, but someone who knows how to use it?

We played spin the bottle…

Photo of my three kids sitting around a table. Quinn is holding an empty plastic bottle.

The bottle landed on me every time. It was delightful.

Some members of Team Stimey discovered sopapillas…

Photo of Quinn eating a sopapilla covered in honey.

I would travel almost anywhere for a good sopapilla.

And we waged silent wars with vaguely threatening birds…

Photo of Alex gazing suspiciously at a bird who seems to be looking back at him.

There’s always a shifty looking bird around, isn’t there?

My mom and Richard are building a new house and we got to go visit it, which was really cool because construction sites are super fun!

Photo of Jack sitting on dirt in front of an unfinished house. He is picking at a big rock.

I can’t tell you how much I love Jack and the way he finds interest in very specific things.

I loved being able to see my mom and Richard’s vision for their house. It’s going to be beautiful. There is a bathroom in that house that I would sell a child for once it’s done. Not my child, but a child.

For now, though, it’s merely a neutral backdrop for a stunningly attractive family.

Photo of Sam, Jack, my mom, me and Quinn standing in dirt in front of a partially built house.

Look at that wacky bunch. (Photo © Richard)

Our last big outing was to Johnson Space Center, which was totally cool. I highly recommend going if you get a chance. You can do all the things that we did. We went to Historic Mission Control, which was super, super cool.

Jack standing in front of a glass window in front of mission control.

Here, Jack, stand in front of historic mission control.

Sam standing in front of a sign for mission control.

Here, Sam, stand in front of the historic mission control sign.

We went to see the Saturn V rocket, which is bigger than you can possibly imagine. It was so cool.

Photo taken from the bottom of the horizontal Saturn V rocket.

It’s in a huge building and I imagined that the rocket would be in there with some other stuff, but the only thing that fits in there is the huge-ass rocket. It’s really cool.

Photo of tiny Quinn in front of a huge circular engine thingy.

Here, Quinn, stand in front of the rocket. This is only one of five engines that launch this thing.

After our tour to mission control and the rocket, we ate lunch, which included a moon pie. This space center is probably the last place where they sell moon pies. (It didn’t really taste very good.)

After moon pies, we wandered around the exhibits for a while. We briefly lost Jack, which was heart stopping and terrifying. That kid is quick and sneaky. Fortunately we found him and quickly switched from a zone defense to man-to-man and no one else got lost. Something terrible did happen to Quinn though.

Photo of a big fake snake head. The snake head mouth is open wide. Quinn is inside reaching out as if he were being swallowed whole.

We’re going to miss him.

I was on Quinn, so I got some excellent photos of him in a variety of locales, but interestingly enough with the exact same expression.

Two photos. One is of Quinn in a giant chair. One is of him inside a giant mastadon jaw. In both photos, he has the same blank face.

He was happier than he looked.

And, yes, those are weird exhibits for a space center. I didn’t get it either.

We had a really good trip. My mom has lived in Houston on and off for a long time now and it was really great to finally get to visit her there. Plus, we had bonus relatives we got to hang out with. I’m really lucky to have such a wonderful family.

Photo of my family, my mom, Richard, my stepsister and her son standing outside a restaurant.

Big love to a big, wonderful family.

Phew. Thanks for sticking around and reading. As a reward I give you this photo of me and Alex where Alex was afflicted by some sort of painful eye injury that left him with one eye swelled almost shut. He was also afflicted with kind of an asshole of a wife who makes fun of him and then posts photos of it on the internet.

Photo of me and Alex. Alex has a big grin on his face and one eye squinted shut due to injury. I have one eye squinted shut just because.

File under “Alex, being a good sport, photos of”

Thank you Nana and Grandpa Richard. We had such a blast visiting you. Thank you for everything.

Photo of my mom and Richard.

Thank you both. We love you!