Monday, June 29, 2009

DCMM: I Didn't Know My French Fries Were a Metaphor

My husband, Alex, and I were sitting in a booth at Gordon Biersch the other night when he asked if I wanted to share some garlic fries. I said no, because my sandwich was going to come with fries. Then Alex asked if he could share my fries.

Obviously I said no.

Well, what I said was that he could have a couple of them. So he got all huffy, and when the waiter came by he ordered a salad with a side of garlic fries. Then the waiter piped up with, "She won't share her fries with you, huh?" When my husband agreed, the waiter looked at me, shook his head, cast his eyes down, said, "Selfish," and wandered off.

It was hilarious, but I was a little bit flabbergasted.

Alex and the waiter carried on with their mocking of me throughout dinner. At one point, the waiter walked by, grabbed my plate of french fries and pretended to walk off with it. I kind of can't believe how far he took it.

He finally stopped to chat with us about how eating is more than "chewing, digesting, and excreting." Seriously. He said that. At dinner. His theory is that the way people eat can tell you a lot about the kind of person they are.


At least when I asked him if this meal indicated that I was greedy, he was clever enough to tell me that it indicated that I was a good sport. He then went on about how everybody is always trying to get more, more, more even when they don't need it or really want it.

Then he told me I couldn't have dessert.

Does anyone else think this is weird? And I didn't even tell you everything. I mean, he eventually let (!) me get a mini carrot cake, and the whole thing really was funny, but I was feeling incredibly self-conscious by the end of the meal.

Needless to say, Alex thought it was hilarious.

I used to be a waitress and I never would have been bold enough to interact that way with a customer. I'm not sure I'm totally prepared for that level of intimacy with a waiter. I kind of prefer cordiality, maybe a joke or two, hot food, and steady soda refills. I don't know that I need philosophy with my garlic fries.

What I do know is that the waiter was lucky that my husband was in charge of tipping that night.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean writes more about her life at Stimeyland.

Preparation, Schmeparation

Jack is going to special education summer school (ESY), and it starts July 7. As in Tuesday. I kept waiting and waiting for information to come in the mail detailing what would happen at ESY and when our meet-the-teacher day would be.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!

Last week the letter came, as well a letter from the transportation department. The sum total of information I got? Pick-up and drop-off times for the bus and an emergency information sheet that gets sent in on the first day of school. Oh, and this:
"If your child does not communicate well, please include a visible name tag and 3 x 5 card in his back pack with name, address, and relevant phone numbers at home and at work as well as a number for a responsible adult selected by you, to take charge of your child if you are not available."
I'm sure this will go well.

These people have never seen my child before. I have my fingers crossed that he doesn't hide his 3 x 5 card, claim to be Anita from the 30 Day Shred DVD (his new alter-ego, FYI), end up in the wrong classroom, and get sent home to somebody else's house.

They didn't even tell me if I should pack him a lunch.

Above and beyond all of THAT, which I'm just trying to not think about right now, there's the issue of preparing my special needs child for school. He won't know his teacher's name, he will never have seen his classroom before, he won't know where the bathroom is. He will be put on a bus and then have entirely new people introduce him to an entirely new atmosphere.

I might reiterate at this point that these are special needs children, many of whom don't adjust to new things very well. Fortunately Jack is fairly adaptable, but not all special needs or typical kids are. And Jack is not always adaptable. Which is why I try to prepare him for things like this.

Fortunately in the letter, the site coordinator wrote that we could contact her at a certain phone number. So I called her to see if I could get a teacher's name to give to Jack or maybe even get a tour of the classroom on a day when they were setting up.

Of course, the number was for the school, and the school told me that the site coordinator wouldn't be in until July 7. Which, if you remember from the top of this post, is the first day of ESY.

Are you kidding me?

We ended up stopping by the school today to wander the halls and peek in the classroom windows and play on the playground a little so Jack at least has some idea of what to expect. At least when he gets off the bus on Tuesday, it won't be the first time he sees the place.

Jack on the ESY school's playground, all wrapped
up in a blanket on a 90-degree day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CSCA*: Week 2—Government & History Week

* Camp Stimey Coming Attractions!

Please keep in mind that all Camp Stimey Coming Attractions are subject to the whims of Stimey. You just never know when I'm going to decide to trash Constitution Day and decide to make it Nail Cutting Day instead.

It's been known to happen.

Alex just informed me that my small children won't enjoy the National Archives, so I guess I don't get to see the Constitution this week. Stupid young kids.

Jack has a playdate (yay!) on Monday, so we're going to drop him off (fingers crossed!) and head out to the library to find some books on the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the three branches of government. And, knowing Quinn, some books about puppies.

I've printed out a bunch of pages from the internet ("the tubes") for my little dudes to work on over the course of the week. There are some good places if you google things like "bill of rights kids" or "branches of government kids" and whatnot. I've already forgotten from where I printed my worksheets or I would link to them. (Sorry.)

The rest of Monday and Tuesday are looking kind of busy for us, so we might stick to doing some learning about history without field trips. Maybe we'll put out our baby pool in the backyard.

Wednesday is going to be See Real Live Government Buildings in DC Day. I actually have us scheduled to go on a tour of the US Capitol. I can't believe how dumb I am. As I was clicking the "Reserve Tickets Now" button, I was like, "Oh dear lord, at least one of my kids is going to cause a national security breach and we're going to end up on the news." And then I clicked on it anyway.

Free tour. The US Capitol. Team Stimey. What could possibly go wrong?

I think that's about all we're going to be able to handle on Wednesday. We might drive by the White House and the Supreme Court building. If, that is, we're not in some sort of Capitol Holding Cell.

Thursday we're going to try to visit Alex downtown for lunch and might try to hit the American History Museum.

Here's a tip for any of you who visit museums or other attractions. Before you go, always check their websites to see if there are activities to do at home or at the museum with your kids. I find that almost every museum has these. And if they don't, that might be a red flag that the museum is not "child friendly."

Interestingly, there were no such pages for the US Capitol Tour.

Alex has Friday off of work, so we might just hang out that day and maybe learn about the American Revolution in preparation for the fourth.

I was trying to think of a place to have a Camp Stimey meet-up for my internet buddies ("tubes friends"), but couldn't find a good time or place to fit it in. I think if I try to do it in a place like a museum, I'll just spend the whole time chasing my kids. We might do better in a fenced location. (Hey! Maybe at the Capitol Holding Cell!) I'll try next week, when we have more than four days.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

CSSS*: Week 1—Transportation Week

* Camp Stimey Saturday Summary!!

We had an unbelievably successful first week of Camp Stimey. It was amazing to me to see how adding some structured activities to the day resulted in so much less whining and so much more happy, quiet, cooperative playing when there was free time.

Wow. Active parenting. Who would have guessed it works?

See how happy they were on Day One?

Of course, this being Transportation Week, it was pretty easy to come up with fun activities (followed by much ice cream). Next week is Government/History Week. Submit your ideas now—I'm going to need them!

Here's the quick version; more dedicated readers can read the details at the bottom of the post:

Train Day:

Aviation Day:

Personal Grooming and House Kids' Bedroom Cleaning Day:

Boat Day:

Bus Day:

I won't be offended if you stop reading right here. This might be a long, photo-heavy post. (As if it's not already.)

Every camp day we start out with a circle time. I write out our agenda for the day so the little dudes know what to expect. Sometimes circle time involves reading stories and doing handwriting practice. Sometimes it is just a quick rundown of what we'll be doing that day.

Often times I save book work for our end of the day "Table Activities," the most important of which is writing about our favorite part of the day in our journals. (Quinn dictates to me and then scribbles while the others write and draw.)

Now for a quick (ha!) rundown of each day.

Day 1: Train Day!

We started with Train Day because who doesn't love trains? I read them books about trains and then we practiced writing the letter "T" and drawing trains. Even Quinn could draw a "T".

Our outing on Train Day was a trip to Wheaton Regional Park, where there is a miniature train ride and a carousel. Team Junior Stimey was suitably excited.

After the train we went on the carousel because a carousel transports people, even if only for short distances and in tiny circles.

Well, actually we went on it because, really? Was I going to tell my kids no? And I think you can look at Jack's face and tell me that I made the right decision.

We then went to the giant playground against all of my better judgment. There I turned into a stressed-out, yelling, hissing, overprotective mother. That playground is huge, spread-out, and has really bad sightlines so if one or, say, two of your children are unreliable wanderers, chances are really good that you might lose them periodically and freak out.

Or at least that is the case with me. We didn't stay long.

Day Two: Aviation Day!

Circle time on Aviation Day involved learning a little bit about airplanes using materials I found at the College Park Aviation Museum website. They have several kid-friendly activities available for free download. The best was paper airplanes.

Sam was able to make his own, Jack used my prototype, and Quinn got really, really angry that I was trying to force some crazy "working" airplane on him. Then he got crazy angry that his wadded up piece of paper self-made airplane wouldn't fly.

The frustration of not understanding proper aerodynamics was quickly forgotten once we got to the College Park Aviation Museum, which was our outing for the day. I don't think we have ever had a museum experience that went this smoothly.

It's one big room with good sightlines (Pay attention, Wheaton Regional!) so my guys could be in different places and I didn't lose anyone. There is so much for kids to do, and there are even goody bags when they leave.

There is a real airplane they can play in, there are pilot clothes to get dressed up in. There is a flight simulator for them to crash airplanes on....

Seriously. Happiness all around.

I'd brought a lunch to eat on the museum's outdoor eating balcony and then we played on the little wooden airplanes they have in the courtyard.

Day Three: Personal Grooming/House Cleaning Day!

Um. I took Sam to get his hair cut. I cut everyone's finger and toe nails. I groomed the dog. I cleaned my kids' room.


Day Four: Boat Day!

You want to know what is an awesome resource? Twitter. Wednesday night I asked Twitter where a good place to take my kids on a boat where they wouldn't drown was. And Twitter answered with a bunch of great suggestions. The winner came from @delowe who suggested Lake Needwood.

Lake Needwood is this huge lake in Rockville (Who knew?!) that has tons of fun activities. They have pedal boats, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, a boat tour on weekends, fishing, and probably more.

Seeing as how my kids aren't always the calmest, we chose the pedal boats. (Good decision too; Jack kept insisting on trying to stand up: "No! I can balance!!!") We also dragged my Friend L along, sending her anxiety about her kids, a large body of water, and a small flotation device into high gear.

But it was a lot of fun.

They even have a scavenger hunt so your kids can be on the lookout for geese, frogs, turtles, snakes (scanning....scanning...), and more.

Sam, scavenging.

Here's a tip though: don't necessarily pick the hottest, uncloudiest day yet of the summer to go boating on a lake.

Day Five: Bus Day!

The whole point of making this week Transportation Week was because I knew we were going to have to go on a bus on Friday. I'm going to take pity on any of you who have read this far and not write anymore. I'll just point you to yesterday's post about about our bus trip.

And that was Camp Stimey Week One. Whew! Did it take you a whole week to read that? I apologize for always being so verbose. I'm aware that it's a problem I have. Sorry.

Friday, June 26, 2009


There is nothing like an hour-long bus journey to make you happy that you have a car.

Our car had to go back to the dealership today to get its seatbelt fixed. Lest you're worried that this is our last Team Stimey Goes to the Chrysler Dealership story, don't fret. They ordered the wrong seatbelt so we're going back next week.


Fortunately, we still had much that needed to be taken care of on the car, so leaving it there all day was not a waste. I may have mentioned to you that I was planning on throwing the munchkins on a bus to get them to the dealership when the car was ready. Well, that was an awesome idea. Especially on a million-degree day.

Bright side: it wasn't raining.

So here's what happened:

4 p.m.: I got the call that the car would be ready soon. They told me they would call me back when the paperwork was ready so I wouldn't get there too early. Needless to say, I left immediately.

4:12 p.m.: And by "immediately" I mean "after several minutes of forcing kids to pee, put on shoes, and stop dicking around."

4:14 p.m.: Our bus departs the bus stop.

4:15 p.m.: Team Stimey arrives at the bus stop and looks sadly at our bus driving away.

We learned several things while we waited in the hot sun on the side of the road looking wistfully at the cars driving by, the most important of which is that waiting for buses in the hot sun is NOT fun.

We also learned that traffic seems to go a lot faster if you're trying to keep three kids safely away from it on the side of the road that if you are safely seat belted (grrr...) in a car.

We learned that Sam can complain A LOT.

And we learned that complaining doesn't make the bus come any faster.

Eventually the bus came and we piled on. The bus was packed, so we all stood. Of course Jack almost instantly charmed a guy into giving him his seat. Jack had a little group of four adults that he chatted with, although the guy he took the seat from was his primary target. I have to say, all that therapy we drag Jack too has made a huge difference in him. He didn't stop talking for the entire bus ride, which was 20 or 30 minutes. And he had his new buddy laughing and giving him high fives and chatting.


Finally enough people got off the extremely hot bus that we Sam and Quinn got to sit down. I stood in front of them and noticed that Quinn's sweaty head kept banging on my leg. It was because Mr. I Don't Nap at Home had fallen asleep on a crowded, noisy city bus.

I wish I could show you a photo of how hilarious he looked, but even I, who will take photos almost anywhere, was too intimidated to do so on a bus.

Naturally I made us get off the bus one stop too early, which resulted in making Sam extremely angry (and whiny) at me. Then he spent the next four blocks we had to walk whining about how hot is was and how tired he was and how he was going to just sit down where he was.

And even though before I had kids, I swore I would never tell them, "Okay, we'll go without you!" I went ahead and told him, "Okay, we'll go without you! I think you might be sad and hot here on this corner." (I was a waaaaaay better mom before I actually had kids.)

It was kind of a hilarious journey. And for all the complaining, it really wasn't all that bad. But the best part was when we walked into the service department and my cell phone rang. It was the dealership calling me to tell me my car was ready. And that incredible timing kind of made the whole thing worth while.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm Tired and My Thighs Hurt

So I keep hearing about how all y'all are going to be Hot by BlogHer or Shredded, or Half as Small as You (HASAY) and it makes me think that now that all of y'all are super healthy and svelte, I'm going to look even more NOT by BlogHer, Puffed, or (eek) Twice as Big as You (TABAY).

You know what I say to that?

I was going to write something like, "Oh, hell no!" but what I would really (politely) say is, "Oh, good for you!" and then go mutter in the corner about cellulite and muffin tops.

With this in mind, I've decided to suck it up and do the 30 Day Shred. I started two days ago and, yes, Sarah, I hurt too. Although I think my situation was exacerbated by my 45-minute bout with pedal boating this afternoon. It turns out that a 4-, 6-, and 7-year-old aren't terribly effective at assisting in the pedaling of a pedal boat. My legs don't work very well anymore.

Anyway, the best thing (sarcasm) about doing the 30 Day Shred here in Stimeyland is the peanut gallery that gathers to watch me. Yesterday it took my kids about 10 minutes to find me. Today they were all assembled on the couches to watch before I was done with my warm up.

They had all kinds of questions ("Why aren't you doing Level Two too?") and demands ("Come on, Mom! Do it!"). And Jack stole my water bottle during my first abs section.

I had to explain to said peanut gallery that Level One helps me get stronger and once I'm good at it that I'll move on to Level Two. To which Jack replied, "You are really good at Level One. You did the same thing as the sisters," referring to Jillian Michaels and her irritatingly taut sidekicks. I found this extremely sweet and highly entertaining, due to obvious physical differences in Jillian's henchwomen.

There are a couple of things that I like about the Shred. (1) It's only 20 minutes a day, and (2) I appreciate the fact that Jillian wears sweats instead of spandex.

There are many things that I find horrible about the Shred, but you probably could have guessed that.

It's possible that I won't be HOT by BlogHer, but I intend to be HOTTER by BlogHer. But my exercise program combined with my Weight Watchering is going to make me for damn sure Hot by BlogHer 2010.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Now That I Know You Like Camp Stimey, I'm Going to Talk About Brushing My Dog.

Yay! Guess what? Y'all like Camp Stimey! I'm totally delighted to hear that. That means that I now feel empowered to blog ad nauseum about silly details of our summer.

I'm also pleased that those of you that followed along last year tell me that I came across as a competent and creative mom. I'm happy to hear that competence/creativity is what comes through instead of buffoonery and dingbattiness.

(Although I have a feeling that some of that comes through too.)

Now that you're all excited about Camp Stimey though, I have to tell you that we didn't do camp at all today. When I said yesterday that today was going to be Personal Grooming and House Cleaning day, I wasn't kidding.

I took Sam to get his hair cut (Jack and Quinn politely declined). I cut everyone's finger AND TOE nails. (Thanks for pointing out that my three kids can't have 60 fingernails, Magpie.) I Furminated the dog. I even did Day One of the fucking 30-Day Shred. Which is not technically grooming, but somewhat related.

I got stopped in my little dudes' bedroom on the house cleaning. After three weeks of house guests, that place was a disaster. I made Sam go under the bed to bring out all the crap that gets dropped down there. Evidently he found some ants and I suggested that this might mean that he's been sneaking food into his room and he claimed that they were non-food eating ants and there has never ever been a Gogurt or a [petrified] cheese stick in there. Ever.

And then he did a lot of complaining that I was making him go under the bed with the biting ants ("I think one of them was kind of red, Mom.") and how it was terrible and all. And then I told him that I couldn't care less, but when he was done I gave him a dollar and let him play video games.

So tomorrow is going to be Boat Day, with a side of Cleaning the Rest of the House. Cross your fingers that there is no more fossilized cheese and that we all return safely from whatever boat we end up on.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Camp Stimey Returns!

Well, school has let out and my houseguests have left, leaving me with three kids and many, many weeks of summer to fill. That can only mean one thing: Camp Stimey.

Last summer, in an effort to provide consistency and structure to our summer, I planned activities around a theme every week and called it camp. For example, for Cooking Camp we made playdough, decorated cookies, made macaroni pictures, and did other activities loosely associated with cooking.

It was great. It was enough that we weren't left with a bunch of "I'm bored!" "What do I do now?" moments. But it wasn't so much that my kids didn't have time to just play.

It works for my family because Sam craves these kinds of activities, Jack needs these kinds of activities, and Quinn will just sort of doo wop along with whatever his brothers are doing. Although after a couple of days last week when we did some activities, every time Sam is bored now he pleads, "Can we do camp? I want to do camp!" which sucks, because that means I have to participate in playing with my children instead of just forcing them out the back door.

My main goal for Sam this summer is to improve his handwriting. He's practically illegible at this point and if not for the pity taken on him by his teachers this year, his handwriting would have kept him off the honor roll. So, guess what? If you have fun notebooks, dry erase books, and call it camp, being nagged about handwriting is fun!!

For Jack, I'm just trying to keep him practicing writing and drawing. He has ESY (extended school year, for you non-special ed folks) in July, so that will help keep him in his school groove, but I think extra structure is really important for him. He seems happy about it and is enjoying writing in his daily journal, although he steadfastly refuses to write about "my favorite thing today" like I order him too.

Today he wrote about how he wants to play on my iPhone. But he drew an awesome picture, so I forgive him.

Not the iPhone page, but a wading in a creek page.

What you see to the left there is the crux of camp this summer. In there are art supplies, workbooks, journals, handwriting practice tablets, and the all-important clipboard. (Who doesn't love a clipboard?)

We have some fun themes planned this summer: Government & History Week, Geology & Science Week, Sports Week, Boot Camp Week, Geography Week, and Animal and Nature Week. Right now we're smack dab in the middle of Transportation Week, mainly because we're going to have to take the bus somewhere on Friday and this way I can tell the little dudes that it's a fun camp activity.

I'm not promising that I will follow through with Camp Stimey every week, but I'm going to try. So far the guys seem to like it. And since no one reads blogs on the weekends, I'm thinking about doing a Saturday Summary of our camp week and a Still to Come Sunday (or something) for upcoming camp activities. That way, those of you who couldn't care less about Camp Stimey won't be overwhelmed by my insanity.

So far, we're having a good time. Even having all my kids home all day, we've watched way less TV than we normally do. As I said, this week is Transportation Week. We've had Train Day and Airplane Day, and last week we did a SuperWhy and Educational Puzzles Day:

Good stuff, I tell ya'.

Although even though it's still technically Transportation Week, tomorrow may end up being Personal Grooming and House Cleaning Day. Because we are sorely in need of some of that. I have 60 tiny fingernails to cut.

Join us virtually for Camp Stimey if you'd like, or, if you're local, we might have some Camp Stimey meet-ups in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned for Still to Come Sunday.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Three Photos About Father's Day

This is the photo I was going to print out, frame, and give to Alex for Father's Day. But I forgot. In the two days since I took the damn thing. I suck.

The art project I successfully managed to get put together for Father's Day more than two months ago. I rock!

And the baseball game Alex suggested we spend the day at. Alex rocks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Image For My Guest Review on Another Site is Right Here

Hi everyone! I'm over at Momicillin today reviewing a Wii game that I bought Quinn for his birthday, Animal Crossing: City Folk. I'm thrilled to be part of the Momicillin team even if only as a guest reviewer. You can find my review here.

Of course, when I was approached to do a review at the excellent Momicillin, my first question was not "What should I review?" but rather "Do I get my very own glam sketch?" If you've been to Momicillin you know of what I speak.

Unfortunately their answers were "give us some ideas of things you want to review" and "No, you lunatic. You don't get a sketch." Or something to that effect. I'm not quite sure because I'm still a little bit bitter and hurt.

Regardless, read my review and gaze at my very own glam sketch that I have created and posted here.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Today Quinn, my mom, and I went to the nature center. But because I'm a fucking moron, I didn't bother to make sure the nature center was open. No problem, I said. We can go look at that there pond instead. Except the pond has a fence around it and the fence is closed when the nature center is closed.

Nice work there, Stimey.

Fortunately, the nature center staff does not have the ability to close Nature. So we went on a walk instead. We found benches, firepits, horseshoe tracks, horse poop, and an assortment of birds and small rodents.

Then we found a creek to throw rocks into and to explore. It was here that I found out that my mom, who has been afraid of snakes as long as I've known her (which is pretty much my whole life), had been constantly scanning the ground to look out for dangerous snakes. Or benign snakes. I don't think it would have mattered to her.

The creek threw her into a whole new level of stress because of WATER MOCCASINS! and COTTONMOUTHS! and probably ANACONDAS!

It was at this point that I started to make merciless fun of her and her phobias while Quinn played happily away in (snake-infested) waters. Whenever I saw her looking at the ground to scan for snakes, I would say, "scanning...scanning."

I tell you, it was abso-fucking-lutely hilarious.

You know, for me.

When Quinn wanted to walk down the creek a little bit, my mom abandoned the shore for safer territory.

Do you see her there? Scanning? Scanning?

Even Quinn picked up on it. He started saying, "Scanning...", "I'm scanning for you, Nana!", "Look! A twig!", and "Look! A water snake!"

True story. But he was lying. About the snake. Not about the twig.

I'm mildly surprised that my mom didn't drop dead from stress when I let Quinn wade in shin-deep water.

What Quinn and I Saw:

What My Mom Saw:

I'm happy to report that we didn't find a single snake, but we did locate two tiny fish. Although a snake would have been way more exciting. If you're disappointed that there are no dangerous animals in this story, feel free to insert your own story with a ferocious squirrel and a brave defense with nothing but a stick and a pine cone here.

But this is how our walk really ended. Which is okay, I guess.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Jack's attention is a coveted thing. Many people crave it, not a lot get it. I wouldn't say he is stingy with his attention, but often he doesn't really seem to notice people he doesn't know well. However, every once in a while he finds someone that he is instantly attracted to. Those people then have a little Jack-attachment for the rest of the day.

Jack found one of those people the other day when we went to visit my stepbrother and his family, whom we rarely see. I don't know what it was about her, but Jack instantly fell head over heels for one of his cousins.

1. Can you tell which cousin it was?
2. Could he look happier?

We went to lunch with them (and my mom, who is visiting) then walked down the mall to the movie theater. Jack happily rested in his cousin's arms the whole time. I have to say that she is an incredibly strong girl. Jack weighs at least 45 or 50 pounds. I find it difficult to carry him very far.

We went to see UP at the movies, complete with much uncontrolled sobbing (Quinn), some crawling into parental laps (Sam) and a side of anguished wailing of, "I am heartbroken!" (Jack). Maybe do a little extra thinking if you are planning on taking small children to see the movie. Although I thought it was a great movie, you know, trauma aside.

Jack continued to sit in his cousin's arms for the walk back to the car, but he was so emotionally wrung out that he was nearly completely limp. I've never seen anything like it. It was as if he were entirely empty.

Again, trauma aside, it was a wonderful afternoon. We're planning on seeing them again later this week. I'm interested to see if Jack gloms onto his new best friend again. I just hope she's been doing her bicep curls in preparation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

He Did It. He Really Did It.

Can you believe that it has been an entire school year since Jack was sent home early from his first day of kindergarten?

I can't.

In some ways it feels like that day just happened. And in some ways it feels like it happened a million years ago. So much has happened this year. It's incredible. I wrote about our kindergarten journey yesterday at DC Metro Moms so I won't go through the whole thing again today.

Because today I want to talk about Jack's kindergarten graduation.

It was awesome. He's been practicing the song and the poem that all the kindergarteners performed together. He enjoyed singing the song really, really loudly. I wasn't sure that he would actually sing it at the ceremony though.

But he did. And he did the actions. And he performed exactly as he was supposed to. I was so proud of him.

Quinn was not so interested in the ceremony. I'm not sure he even realized that we weren't sitting on our couch at home.

Things were going so well at the ceremony and I was grinning from ear to ear. All the kindergarteners were so cute. The kids all got their certificates. Then the principal started talking. And I kinda fell apart.

The principal talked to the kids about their first day of kindergarten. He told them to remember back to how they felt that day. He told them that their first day of kindergarten was his first day as principal, so their class and that day would always be special to him.

I thought back to that day and how much time Jack had spent with the principal. I thought about how hopeful I'd been when I dropped Jack off that morning. I thought about how I was ushered into the principal's office near the end of the day just as I was bursting into tears. I thought about how scared and uncertain I felt when I had to bring him home early.

And then I brought the school year full circle by crying in my seat.

I can't even properly express how hard this year was on Jack and me. But I can express how gracefully and with what good nature Jack kept on keeping on. He struggled and he floundered and he got sad, but he came back every day and he kept trying. And he did it with charm and charisma and his little Jack way of being that is so incredible.

I am, I was, and I continue to be so proud of him.

*wipes eyes*

*deep breath*

Okay, so then we had a party. There was cake in the classroom. Quinn sort of woke up for that.

Me and my first grader.

And a hug from the very best kindergarten teacher in the history of kindergarten.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DCMM: School of Hard Knocks

I'm not quite sure how it got to be June already, but it seems like it was just August and I was sending my autistic middle son, Jack, off to his first day of kindergarten. That first day was a humdinger, with a call from the principal and an early pick up because Jack had such a tough day.

There's nothing like crying in the principal's office on the very first day of school after he calls you in to pick up your child because he had such a hard day and tried to escape from his class several times.

I called my husband in tears that afternoon. I cried because I didn't expect the bad day to happen. I cried because I'd been in the basement of someone's house and my cell phone didn't pick up the first call from the principal. I cried because I was worried that I would never be able to be farther than ten minutes away from Jack's school again. I cried because I'd hoped for better.

That day was undeniably my worst of the year, but we had a lot of close runners up. Jack had a really rough first year of elementary school. We have spent every single day this year adjusting to the difficulties of kindergarten.

Jack's autism manifests itself mostly in social and behavioral ways, and he had some really difficult days. As did I. I'm at the point that I cringe when I see the school's phone number on the caller ID (and am relieved when it is one of the automated calls telling me about a school event). Although now I am willing to venture far away during school hours and I'm not overly concerned if I'm out of cell phone range for a couple of hours.

In some ways it seems that the year flew by, but I cannot believe how much we packed into that year. In some ways, it seems impossible that it's only been ten months since that first day. We've learned so much about what Jack needs to be successful in school (and there is still so much to learn). We've done so much. Along the way, we've found new friends, therapists, specialists, and even a legal team.

Jack has worked so hard. So very hard.

And he has grown so much. So very much.

But it has been really hard on all of us. It has taken pretty much the whole school year for Jack to adjust to full-day kindergarten. And I'm not absolutely sure that he has finished that adjustment process. I worry what the disruption of summer will do to that process. I worry that first grade will be far harder on him than kindergarten ever was.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether to delay kindergarten a year for Jack. Ultimately we decided to send him, and I'm pretty sure it was the right decision. Even with all of his struggles, I don't know that if we had to do it all over again that we would do it differently. I think that every step we've taken has been necessary. At the very least, it's hard enough to deal with what is without dealing with what might have been.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a special needs child is hard. Sending a special needs child to school with the expectation (or hope) that he will behave enough like the other kids to be okay seems even harder on some days.

I feel like we've been on a journey this year. I feel like it's been even more of a journey than the year or so we spent discovering and diagnosing Jack's autism. I think we've all come into our own and have settled into our lives as an autistic family. We finally kind of know how this special needs thing works. At least for us. And at least for right this very minute—one of the things I've learned is that "this special needs thing" can change second by second.

Jack's kindergarten graduation is this Friday. When he is up on that stage singing "First Grade, First Grade" to the tune of "New York, New York," I will know that he earned that honor. He fought to get through kindergarten, and I am so damn proud of him. For him, the words he will sing—"if I can make it there, I can make it aaaaannnnnywheeeeeeeere..."—are more than just empty song lyrics.

And now I'm going to start crossing my fingers that he'll make it in first grade.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Jean blogs at Stimeyland.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Math (Well, For Some of Us)

Take a preschooler whose school ended two weeks before his big brothers. Add two cousins visiting from out of town. Subtract those two older brothers. Come up with the best week ever for a portion of my family and a whole slew of photos that I can never show to Sam and Jack.

Ice cream INSIDE cookies.
Need I say more?

Quinn IS the man in the moon.

Moon rock = awesome.

Building at the, you know, Building Museum. (Really.)

There was ONE other family at this open gym session.

"Give me a head with hair, long, beautiful hair,
shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen..."

We did this during the five minutes it didn't rain last week.

Think he had a good week?


I'm going to be pretty scarce around here for the rest of the month. I've over-promised and under-delivered on a videography project that is due by the end of the month. I should probably get started on it, huh? I'll probably be scarce in my comments to all of you as well. Of course, y'all know that I just can't stop blathering about nothing, so I'm sure I'll be here more than I think.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

They Always Say That Eyewitnesses Are Unreliable

The other day Sam lost a tooth. Frankly, I'm not sure how he keeps losing them because I swear he's already lost 30...40 teeth by now. Seriously. You tap him on the chin and teeth fall out.

Anyway, the other day Sam lost yet another tooth. Per usual, he put it under his pillow and went to sleep. Not per usual, the tooth fairy completely forgot about the tooth only to remember when Sam woke the tooth fairy up the next morning with incredibly sad screaming.

And just so you know, I'm not the tooth fairy. Alex is.

Sam had left his tooth under his pillow, so Alex hatched a plan. It was still pretty early in the morning, so he took the tooth and replaced it with the dollar coin our tooth fairy leaves. Then he left the room just as Jack walked in. (This is important for later.)

Alex found Sam and told him that he should go get his tooth so we could put it somewhere for safekeeping until nighttime when we would put out the tooth again in hopes that the tooth fairy would be able to catch up on her backlog and get to Sam's tooth.

Of course, Sam found the tooth and was so excited. He ran in to tell Alex that the tooth fairy had come, that she just must have been a little late. Alex expressed proper excitement and asked Sam if he had seen the tooth fairy.

No, no, he hadn't.

Alex then turned to Jack for some reason and asked him if he had seen the tooth fairy. Surprisingly, Jack said that he had. Turns out that, according to Jack, the tooth fairy looks like a bright light.

At least he didn't rat Alex out. But I'm kind of wondering what exactly he was looking at.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What I Learned Today at the Zoo, Volume II*

Today Team Stimey added a couple of honorary (cousin-style) members and we headed out to the zoo. Meet Team Junior Stimey Plus.

As always, I learned a lot at the zoo. For instance, pandas are cute.

Really cute.

But nowhere near as interesting as fancy little displays with movable parts.

Please note the COMPLETE lack of interest Jack is displaying in the REAL LIVE PANDA
DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HIM! Because, look! Twirly things!

Also, not all zoo displays are exactly child-friendly. I didn't really want to explain about vaginal cells and panda sperm collection. At least not in public.

And how much do you think it would suck to have the panda sperm collection job?

If you are lucky enough to see an orangutan swinging from one enclosure to another using the overhead wires, enjoy it!

But be sure not to walk directly underneath the orangutan. I'm not going to go into specifics, but I will tell you that orangutans have a flair for the dramatic with their bodily functions and are not afraid to, say, hurl things that come out of their bodies.

I also learned that animals are far more interesting to young children if they have been featured in a Disney movie.

Also, if you stand next to the lemurs long enough, you will hear a lot of people singing, "I like to move it, move it!" (Enjoy your ear worm.)

I learned that tigers just might be cuter than pandas.


I always knew that ice cream was a good seventh-inning zoo activity. Today I learned that this type of icy treat not only makes Quinn really happy, but it also makes him kind of green.

But no matter how dirty ice cream makes Quinn, it doesn't compare to what it does to Mr. I Eat My Ice Cream Starting at the Bottom of the Cone.

Again, exhibits with movable parts are more interesting than actual animals. Especially if said exhibit involves the possibility of complete chaos.

And just when you think all is going smoothly, calmly, and easily, don't forget that Jack is very, very stealthy and just might be slowly and methodically emptying the soap dispenser of all of its soap right under your very nose.

I also learned that it is very cool to go to the zoo with Team Junior Stimey, but it is also very cool to go to the zoo with Team Junior Stimey Plus.

Although the walk back (uphill) to the car sucked some pretty serious shit.

* Volume I here.