I Will Celebrate My Triumphant and Exhausted Return From Disney World With a Gerbil Video

I have returned from Disney World. We had a blast. I took a million photos. I will be blogging nonstop about it once I am able to sit down and catch my breath. This will be sometime after I run my first half marathon tomorrow. God only knows how long after.

I do have something fun for you today though. A while ago I had mentioned the stamping that my gerbils do to warn each other of danger and how adorable it is. Several of you expressed interest in seeing a video of said stamping. Since then I have spent countless hours sitting quietly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone ready to record whenever they became alarmed.

They never became alarmed.

So then I sat loudly in front of my gerbil tanks holding up my phone and making large arm gestures and startling whooping noises.

I think they rolled their eyes at me.

I did, however, finally manage to capture some stamping a couple of weeks ago. It’s not the best stamping, because the best stamping happens when a gerbil stands on two legs to stamp and the guy in this video was far too lazy to do that, BUT it is also extremely awesome because you get to see exactly what was alarming to the gerbil.

It’s 17 seconds long and there is sound, but it is almost entirely the soft sounds of a stamping gerbil followed by the creak of my chair.

In case you chose not to watch it, the alarming thing was a cat, who just happened to be licking her lips when I caught her on camera.

I’ll see you later; I’ve got some hydrating and sleeping to do. And carb loading. Lots and lots (and lots) of carb loading.

Guess What Time It Is?

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

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

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

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

Electric Fun

I regularly ask my kids if they want to go running with me. They very rarely do.

See, I remember how much I hated running when I was a kid and how I never really participated in sports until I started running in my late 20s—and then took a decade-long break from even that after Jack was born. I would love to get my kids past the hating running stage into the tolerating or even loving running stages well before that.

Every once in a while I can get someone to run along with me, motivated by the challenge of being able to run soooo much faster than I can. I’ve been working on Sam lately, with little success, but when Certifikid offered me a couple free tickets to last weekend’s Electric Run (think glow sticks, illuminated course decorations, and lots of peppy music on a night course), I thought that I might just be able to convince him to take on three point one miles with me.

He totally fell for it.

Photo of Sam and I. We are both wearing glow sticks in the shape of glasses and Sam has a glowing green bracelet.

I chose Sam for this run because I decided that he was the kid most likely to (a) be able to finish the race and (b) not disappear into the darkness of the crowd.

I love to run races, although I prefer to run straight-up timed events rather than the more gimmicky 5Ks that you see all over these days. When Certifikid (a fantastic deals site with family-friendly offers) offered me those tickets though, I flashed back to the Color Run I did where I’d wished that I had one of my kids with me to make the experience more fun.

See, these races aren’t timed and aren’t about getting a PR. They’re about going out with your family or friends and having a good time while getting some exercise in. I’ve done a few of them and even though my love is a regular, timed race, every once in a while it is fun to join in on a silly, themed race.

Especially, I found out last weekend, if you’re running with your kid.

Quick disclosure aside, followed by promotional stuff: Certifikid gave Sam and me free entry into the Electric Run. If you’re looking to do a fun, easy race with your kids (or even without!), check out Certifikid. They have a bunch of race deals coming up (the Graffiti Run, the Rock N’ Stroller, and the Blood and Guts Run, all in October) and they add deals on races all the time. If those three don’t sound like the run for you, check back later because chances are they’ll have a deal on one that is more your speed. Sign up to get their emails for your city or keep checking their site and you can get a great deal on a fun run.

So, the race. You know when you have a 12-almost-13-year-old and they’re the most fun in the world except when they flip a switch and become cranky tween/teens and you never know which one of those kids is going to show up? Well. It turns out that Racing Sam is Super Delightful Sam.

Blurry photo of Sam bathed in green light. He has a silly look on his face.

This is his patient and blurry “I’m putting up with my mom face.”

We had so much fun. We got to the race site and picked up our packets, then festooned ourselves with various glowy things and headed off to the start line where I embarrassed Sam by taking lots of photos of MY BABY AT HIS FIRST RACE!

Sam next to an inflated blue tube that says "start."

It is hard to take decent photos in the dark.

The thing is, I don’t even think I embarrassed him that much because everyone else was just as goofy as we were. There was so much fun to look at and we didn’t even have to wait too long because for once in my life, I timed our arrival almost exactly right.

When it was our turn to go, it took us a while to break out of the crowd enough to actually run, but when we did, Sam delighted in sprinting ahead of me, then walking until I caught up, then sprinting ahead of me again, shouting back, “THAT is how fast you run?”

Don’t worry. Revenge was mine in terms of stamina. I can outrun the kid. It just takes me a while.

Eventually Sam sort of tired out and it occurred to me that it was kind of mean to drag the kid to a race without having him train at all. (Although he ran longer than he ever has before. Go, Sam!) Regardless, it was still fun because there was a lot to look at and enjoy as we strolled the rest of the course. Plus—bonus!—if your kid has nowhere to go because he has to walk a mile and a half with you, he’s going to have to talk to you.

So awesome.

Plus…giant gummy bears.

Silhouette of Sam in front of a giant, green inflated gummy bear.

I kind of want one of these for my back yard.

Sam was a champ. He ran or walked the whole course and when we got to the finish line, he pointed to my right, yelled, “Look! A cat!” and when I looked, he sprinted off to cross the finish line first. Jerk. :)

During the run, he was a little jealous of people who had these big foam glow sticks, so I was going to buy him one for being such a good sport about the whole thing. But then—and here is where you see that cheapness is apparently more important to me than hygiene—I looked into a trash can as we walked by and saw two glowing sticks just sitting there on top.

Score.

Sam holding two foam glow sticks.

I was even honest with Sam about where I got them and he was okay with it. Dumpster diving can be a family activity too.

Gimmick or not, race as cash cow or not, Sam and I had a blast and I am so happy we did this together. I totally recommend you do one of these races with your kids. They definitely can be pricey, so finding a deal (Certifikid, anyone?) is a great idea. There are any number of themed races to choose from, depending on what you and your kids are into and like.

I’m just happy that Sam and I got to be together to engage in a non-stressful, totally fun athletic activity—one that I think he will definitely remember. I am so very proud of him for sticking out the whole 3.1 miles (and the endless walks to and from the car) and I’m so glad for the time I got to spend with him.

Selfie of Sam and I.

 

Dipshit Friday: The Key Edition

Back in the day, there used to be a feature here on Stimeyland known as Dipshit Friday. I think it might be time to bring it back. In keeping with the theme, as long as this is posted at least 15 seconds before Friday ends, it still counts as Friday. You know, if you’re a dipshit.

Yellow square with the black silhouette of my pontificating gerbil wearing a big red dunce cap. Next to the gerbil in red letters, are the words "Dipshit Friday."I locked myself out of my house earlier this week.

I had all day free while my kids were in school, so I decided to go on a long run in training for my half marathon that is coming up next month. I walked out of my house wearing my Camelbak water backpack, locked the door, and put the key in a pocket of the Camelbak that I wasn’t planning on opening until I returned home.

Then I ran. And did some walking. And then ran some more. And then walked. And ran. And then wandered around a park for ten minutes, looking for a water fountain to refill my Camelbak, then ran some more and then finally stopped running and limped home. It was a rough run for me.

As I walked up my driveway, I took off my Camelbak and started rooting around for my key. I smelled so bad that even I was offended and all I could think about was drinking some cold water and showering.

That was when I discovered that my key was gone. I knew that it had to be in the Camelbak pocket. There was nowhere else it could be. I mean, I’d locked the door with it. I’d put it in the pocket. I’d returned and unzipped the pocket. Where was it?

I looked everywhere in the Camelbak. I doublechecked my work. I looked around on the ground in front of my door in case I’d just dropped it instead of putting it in the pocket. It was nowhere to be found.

The only thing I could figure out was that I’d accidentally put it in the wrong pocket and it had fallen out during my run when I was grabbing an energy chew or when I got that phone call and was afraid it was Quinn’s school and I panicked trying to get my phone out of the pocket. Or, I thought, maybe it was at mile eight when I got all tangled up in the Camelbak straps and my headphones cord and had to stop to figure out how not to strangle myself to death.

I’m extremely good at doing more than one thing at a time.

Anyway, I knew Jack would be home in a little over an hour and he has a key to the house just in case his bus ever drops him off when I’m not home. I sat down on the steps and called Alex to tell him what had happened somewhere over the course of the last 12ish miles.

“Are you going to retrace your steps to find it?” he asked.

He was extremely helpful. Jackass.

I went to the backyard to sit in our hammock. Our trusty hammock has been with us through thick and thin for two years. I knew it would provide me comfort until Jack arrived.

I sat on the hammock—and promptly fell to the ground as it disintegrated under me after having been outside in good and bad weather for two years.

Goddammit.

I sat there for a while…on the ground…partly held up by the broken hammock…because, you know…TIRED. I eventually moved to a chair on my back porch where I could watch my cat watch me.

Photo taken through glass of my cat staring at me.

WHY DON’T YOU STOP STARING AND HELP ME, CAT?

Eventually she got bored and fell asleep and I was all, SCREW YOU CAT.

After that, I headed back around to the front of the house and sat by the driveway to wait for Jack. When he arrived, he was absolutely delighted to be a hero and let me in.

Photo of Jack using his key to unlock the door.

Jack is NOT the dipshit in this story.

We went inside. I showered. Jack basked in being awesome. When it was time to get Quinn from the bus stop, I headed outside and ran into Sam in the driveway as he arrived home. We stopped and chatted for a minute and during the conversation, I looked at the ground.

Where I saw…

Photo of a silver key on my asphalt driveway.

Of course.

I must have sat right next to that key for like twenty minutes as I was waiting for Jack’s bus to arrive.

And that’s how you do Dipshit Friday.

The Bus Stop

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

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

It was a good bus stop.

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

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

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

You know what though? It is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-School

Well. It could have gone better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has to go better tomorrow, right?

I put this note in his lunch:

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

He is. So very brave.

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

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

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

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

Pre-School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am always amazed at how brave he is.

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

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

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

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

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

That leaves the Q-ball.

Dude. Quinn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Quinn standing outside on a sidewalk.

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

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

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