Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Laugh or Cry, People. Laugh or Cry.

I volunteer in Jack's class every Tuesday. I love going into his classroom and seeing his wonderful teacher work with him. I also like seeing how the other kids are so nice to him. This year's class has been really good for Jack. And for me.

Today, however, was not my best visit. It started out well enough with Jack copying a poem he'd written about my iPhone. But then I discovered that we somehow missed news of not one, but two of his assignments, one of which was due today. I'd like to blame Jack for this, due to his spotty track record of bringing home some of his assignments, but I do admit that I probably didn't read a teacher note or homework packet closely enough.

Nicely done, Stimey.

Then there was Jack's complete refusal to do his work, which I see ALL THE TIME, but for some reason today reduced me to "No, no, those aren't tears, not at all, I think I might just grab this tissue and then go get a drink of water, dear lord, please don't be nice to me right now or I am going to look like the biggest nutcase in the history of sobbing school volunteers, oh that water was delicious, I think I might have to go back over there, and is it sunny in here, because I might just need my sunglasses."

Again, nicely done, Stimey. There's gotta be a way to get those tear ducts cauterized closed once and for all.

I think instead of dwelling on that, I am going to pass on this email I got from my friend/the para in Quinn's class. She emailed this to me several weeks ago and I have been saving this paragraph for just such an occasion as this.

I give you Quinn, who is just exactly as insane in school as he is at home:

"Yesterday, while the class was sitting on the rug going over the agenda for the day, Q-ball got on his hands and knees, smooshed his face into the rug so as to get his rear-end pointed as high as possible, then said "I have flames shooting out of my butt."  Then got up and smiled at Mr. H and me and shouted, "Burn, baby, Buurrn!"

Fortunately, this para and his teacher think Quinn is as funny as I do. Or so I hope.

The Birthday Soiree, Delayed

I realized a couple of days ago that Jack and Quinn's birthday party was a loooong time ago, but I didn't blog about it, which is an inexcusable offense here in Stimeyland. Seeing as how I haven't yet had my kiddos write thank you notes for the party, I'm guessing it is still bloggable. What is the statue of limitations on blogging a birthday party anyway?

At this point, all I remember are bits and pieces of the party. I vaguely remember a period of calm and then there were a gajillion little kids running around wrecking my house and then it was calm again.

Because I'm the meanest mom in the world and didn't plan ahead, I forced Jack and Quinn to share a party because that way I only had to bullshit my way through one event instead of two. Their birthdays are only ten days apart and this is only the second time that I've made them share a party, so I don't feel too bad.

So, without further ado, I present to you Jack's 8th and Quinn's 6th Fantastic Birthday Soiree! 


The Theme: Okay, so I feel a little bit like a shill admitting this, but we had a Mario theme for this party. That said, there is a reason I am Nintendo Brand Ambassador and it is because my family is full of Nintendo nerds, Jack and Quinn in particular. (Also, full disclosure: I came up with the idea for and paid for the party myself.)

Also, when I say "theme," I mean "random string of cohesive elements in an otherwise completely uncoordinated party." Basically, I throw the same party every time (arrival chaos —> pin the [blank] on the [blank] —> activity —> pizza —> cake —> piñata —> get the hell out) with slight variations. I really shook things up this time because we didn't pin anything on anything (tail on donkey, light saber on Darth Vader, fish on penguin, magnet on another magnet).

The Decor: With my theme, the decorations were easy. I had recently gone through a huge stack of papers that I had amassed from Jack's backpack. I just taped these up on our cabinets and our decorations were done. Jack draws A LOT of pictures of scenes from video games. Did I mention that he is a Nintendo nerd?

*click to embiggen*

The Cake: The cake was also pretty easy. I'd recently been to a party where the mom made this great cake involving fondant and had created a Mario cake. It was gorgeous. Naturally, I did no such thing.

I went to the grocery store and ordered a blank cake with my kids' names on it. When the bakery worker stared at me expectantly when I said "blank," I folded under the pressure of her eyes and told her that she could put balloons on it. When I picked the cake up, the balloons looked a little odd, but once I added my own little decorations, it ended up looking like I'd meant for the balloons to be there.

The bows were a little weird though.

Edited to add: I juuuuust realized that the bows are holding the strings of the balloons. They seem less weird now. I still maintain that those balloons include an awful lot of frosting though.

The Food: We always order pizza from the same pizzeria for parties. I decided that since I had planned the ENTIRE party that I would put Alex in charge of the pizza. I told him that the pizza should arrive at 5:15, gave him the phone number, and left him to his devices.

Big mistake.

This is Alex at 4:55, after he called the pizzeria to hear them say, "Dude, our pizza oven juuust broke. Sorry, man."

High five, Alex! Nice job!

Alex eventually got pizza to our house, but it was a little late, so we had to switch our activity schedule around a little bit.

The Activities: Our first activity was my favorite. I like to have an art project out when the guests arrive so that if kids want something structured, they can do that, but if they just want to run around and be insane, they can do that too. This art project was, if I do say so myself, way inspired.

I took a long piece of paper and drew the basic elements of a side-scrolling Mario game on it. Then I put a bunch of markers out and waited to see what would happen.

I draw a nice Princess Peach castle, eh?

What happened was that Jack and Quinn's eyes got really wide and then they set to work.

I'm not entirely sure they noticed when their guests arrived.

Jack and Quinn and a few of the guests went to town on the thing. They created the most excellent drawing I think that I have ever seen.

They have since gone on to create many more similar works of art.

Our mid-party activity was a painting thing that was sort of lukewarmly received. Some kids loved it; other kids couldn't be bothered to leave the basement. The piñata on the other hand, was well-attended. It was kind of perfect because each kid got one turn to beat the crap out of Mario and then Sam rang the final death knell on the thing.




The Rest: Perhaps my favorite part of this party is that I served margaritas to the grown ups. My one flaw was that I forgot that because I was in charge of a bunch of other people's kids, I couldn't drink until the party was over.

I take that back. That was one flaw. The other flaw is that not every kid felt that a grown-up only beverage was fair. I didn't really understand this because I put a cartoon sign in front of the appetizing green, frosty drink.

What about this says, "Sam, go ahead and pour yourself a glass"?

At some point during the party, Sam came up to me and asked, "What is the green drink?" After explaining the concept of "margarita" to him, Sam replied with, "Oh. I thought it was lemonade. But it was gross."

Yep. Sam thought that the adults were keeping the delicious lemonade all for ourselves. I think he thought it might be along the lines of Alex and my secret candy stashes.

Alex just about laughed himself to death while still managing to say, "Really nicely done, Jean!" Fortunately, although Sam had poured an entirely full cup of margarita complete with cocktail straw, he'd only taken a tiny sip. Thank God tequila doesn't taste very good to kids.

Oh, yes. I am an excellent mother. And party host. And baby sitter. Oy.

Well, that's about it. Happy late birthday to my Jack and my Quinn!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Organization

At Jack's very first pediatrician appointment as a newborn, the doctor put him on the table, scrunched all his limbs together and then let go. Jack startled, then calmed.

"That's good," she said, "He can organize himself."

*****

Eight years later, Jack is trying to do a math worksheet. He has every bit of intelligence needed to complete the work, but each question requires multiple steps and multiple answers. Jack is smart, but his executive function deficits are keeping him from being able to do the work. Jack and I work on it for 30 minutes, me deliberately not feeding him the questions and steps. I want to see if he can do it.

He can't.

Executive dysfunction defeats intelligence.

*****

Inside my chest things get tight and yet fluttery and jumpy. I know this feeling well. It is the way I feel when I have a sensory problem and it is also the way I feel when I can't make Jack's natural smarts and logical mind defeat the so, so simple organizational quandry he is faced with when asked to complete a math worksheet made up of one long story problem broken into three parts.

I have a flash of clarity about why he is having so much trouble and it occurs to me that I wouldn't want to do it either. But then I am left with the question: If I help him, am I feeding him the answers? Or am I giving him tools with which he can learn to organize the problem himself?

I don't know what they do at school. Is the para organizing for him or does he do it himself when he is there? Who is helping him with his math at school and how much? Is he learning the math or is he learning how to get us to give him the answers

My patience at Jack is waning but that knot in my chest is still there. My own body organization is failing.

*****

I wish it were simple. I wish it were only a matter of realizing that we are not falling. I wish it were easier again to organize ourselves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mother of the Year, Part V

A couple of weeks ago when Sam was home sick I decided to show him an episode of Doctor Who. I figured he was old enough and Doctor Who is campy enough that it wouldn't be scary and that he would really enjoy it. I thought it would be something we could enjoy together.

I'm trying to create the perfect super nerd in at least one of my children.

It's not even like I showed him one of the scary episodes. Weeping angels? *shudder*

Well, naturally, I've scarred him for life.

He was fine when we were watching it, but if you were to ask him today what his very worst sick day was, he will tell you that it was the day I made him watch Doctor Who.

Now he has some sort of PTSD reaction to the sounds of the theme music if Alex and I are trying to watch it in another room after he goes to bed. Consequently, on those nights he cannot go to sleep at night anymore. I am a really good mom.

Of course, the other night, Jack spent 40 minutes lurking unseen in the hallway and watched an entire episode. HE loved it. I guess I'm trying to nerdify the wrong kid.

Lesson learned.

*****

Mother of the Year, Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Is "Esoteric" Another Word for "Quirky"?

Yesterday the school nurse called me half an hour before school let out because Sam was complaining that his ear hurt. If you're keeping track, this is Painful Left Ear, Episode III (Revenge of the Inner Ear) for the month. By the time I got to the school, Sam was collapsed on a chair in the front office. He shuffled out of the school, tears falling down his face, lower lip trembling, shivering, and complaining of thirst.

I guess I should have believed him that morning when he said he was sick. The school nurse stepped up the stink eye element by asking me on the phone, "Didn't I call you about this yesterday?"

For the record, it was at least a week and a half ago. It was pretty much irrelevant whether he was sick today. There was no way I was sending him to school and risk another phone call from the nurse. It turns out, however, that it was a good thing I kept him home because when I took him to the doctor, she took one look at his left ear and said, "Oh yeah, that's infected."

She prescribed an antibiotic and told me to give him 9 mL once a day for ten days. Sam then immediately said, "If I took another 991 mL, then I would have taken a liter."

The doctor, who is one we've never seen before, laughed, told Sam he was right, and then cocked her head to the side. I believe I could actually see a gear kicking into motion in her head.

There was a longish pause as she clearly rewound through our entire conversation (which included Sam telling her that his ear had started hurting at 6:07 a.m. yesterday) and then she asked, "Does he have a lot of esoteric interests?"

I had a little internal laugh because I knew exactly what she was getting at. She might not know my family, but trust me, we are not in need of any more developmental evaluations, thankyouverymuch.

"Um, yeah," I said. "Our whole family is kind of quirky. His little brother has autism."

This was obviously where she was headed, because once she seemed assured that I was on top of the quirkiness—or esotericness*—of my family, she dropped the subject except to imply that my kids were a lot smarter than I am, which is true, but still, ouch.

I'm pleased that in a quick exam for a routine sick visit, this doctor cared enough to start a line of inquiry. It amused also that I am so used to my kids and their quirkiness




* Shut up. It is so a word. Also, I just drank a really strong margarita, so I'm not entirely sure that I've written any real words at all. Fibbertyjib.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The End of the School Year Is Kicking My Ass

Oh my. You would not believe my May. Well, maybe you would. You are all probably in about the same end-of-the-school-year panic as me. I'm not even worried yet about the crushing weight of three children home with me all summer because I'm not quite sure that I'm going to make it until school lets out in mid-June.

I actually have my fingers crossed for the rapture on Saturday. I imagine that such an event could only do good things for my to-do list, which could then be consolidated down to one item: Go looting.

I'm not hopeful though. And even if does happen, it's not going to get me out of chaperoning Jack's 2nd grade field trip to the Natural History Museum tomorrow. Although I'm sure that trip will be fun...unless Jack knocks down a dinosaur or something. I'll be sure to take a photo if he does.

I have been doing a lot of writing over the past few days for other, non-Stimeyland venues, so I didn't quite realize that I haven't written here for more than a week. I do assure you, however, that I have been compiling lists of topics to write about over the course of the next few days, rapture notwithstanding.

Here are your options/topics I will foist upon you/reasons why I didn't write last week:

• It was Jack's birthday last week. He's eight now. That's all I have to say about that.

• We are still mid-dental nightmare for Jack. At this point, he is scheduled for complete sedation in a dental office in another state. I have a lot more to say about this.

• You wanna know what I did on Tuesday? I took my cat to the vet in the morning, went home to discover that my dog had ripped her nail to pieces, and went back to drop a whole other sackload of cash at the vet in the afternoon. I am currently dispensing nine medications to four species every morning and a similar, if not larger number, in the evening.

• I chaperoned Quinn's kindergarten field trip to the zoo last Friday. As mentioned, I'm chaperoning Jack's field trip to the Natural History Museum this Friday. Next Friday? I chaperone Sam's field trip to the National Building Museum. It might be worth it to get a daytime job so I'm not available during the day anymore.

• Jack and Quinn shared a birthday party on a rainy day last weekend. It was a blast. I served margaritas. Not to the kids. Well, not to most of the kids.

• I haven't returned an email for, like, three weeks. I am so behind on, well, on everything. Bear with me, okay? Until I return, I offer you the post I wrote for the Wheaton Patch about how I have never correctly determined if my kids are sick or not when they ask to stay home from school.

Okay then. Barring rapture, we'll chat again soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Special, Hockey

In the couple of weeks since Jack and I have been back from his special hockey tournament, I've been doing a good amount of thinking about why it was so meaningful for me. There are a lot of reasons. It was great fun, it was amazing to see some exciting hockey, there was amazing sportsmanship on display, and it was incredible to watch all these athletes be celebrated for something most people probably assume they couldn't do.

But I think the biggest reason that four days resounded with me was because of the community I felt on the trip.

I wrote yesterday at Hopeful Parents about this very thing: A Place Without Edges

I also wrote this morning about Jack's team at Autism Unexpected.

If you're new here and are interested in reading more about Jack's hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, following are links to what I've written about them.

Officially a Hockey/Soccer Mom The story of Jack's first hockey practice. And Sam's first soccer game.

Play Ball! Wait, No. That Doesn't Work. Play...Puck? Jack's first hockey game and a lesson in binary counting.

Finding His Place A month into hockey season, I started to see how important it was to Jack.

Hockey, Autism, and a Shameless Plea Wherein I asked you to donate money to the Cheetahs. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, the information in this post is still valid. :)


Here We Go, Cheetahs, Here We Go! Oh crap. I committed Jack and I to a bus trip to Boston.

A Part of Something The first day of Jack and my trip to his special hockey tournament was profoundly moving for me.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times The whole story of our trip to the Special Hockey International Tournament in Boston.

Things I Learned in Boston Observations from a four-day road trip with Jack.

Family Skate Night, a.k.a. Thunderdome This is the night all the families of the Cheetah players try to pretend that they can skate too.

More information about the Montgomery Cheetahs, the American Special Hockey Association, and Special Hockey International.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Okay. I Know This Looks Bad.

"Write About It: How did you decide your answer for Problem 7?"

"Mom told me the answer."

Dammit, Jack! That little jerk totally ratted me out to his teacher, but IN MY DEFENSE, I did NOT tell him the answer. He was going to pick "moon" as the answer and that wasn't right, so I asked him if there might be another answer that might fit better.

Jack already dictates the answers to a lot of his math problems, so I'm afraid that with this new evidence, the teacher is now going to think that I sit down in the evening with a freshly sharpened pencil and a can of beer and do subtraction regrouping while Jack eats candy and rips up fraction bars.

I'm just going to keep my big mouth shut from now on. Enjoy your morning sunset, Jack.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Family Skate Night, a.k.a. Thunderdome

Are y'all sick of hockey yet?

No problem, I'll write about something else. How about ice skating? Jack's hockey team had a family skate night where all of the team's players and their families could come out and skate for an hour, followed by a medal ceremony for all the kids who went to the tournament in Boston.

Probably the best part of family skate night for me was watching Jack take enormous glee in being soooo much better at skating than any of the rest of us. He cruised around the rink over and over again, challenging Alex and I to races and generally showing off what a badass he is.

Quinn was quite the trooper and worked super hard to skate. Sam, nursing a fluid-filled ear and exhibiting early signs of surly tweendom, refused to skate, but did take my camera and prove he is a blogger's kid by taking photo after photo.

For example, this photo, which is possibly the best photo of Alex I've ever seen in my life.


The evening was kind of brutal, with children and adults crashing everywhere and clinging to walls and other people. Even Jack took a couple of bad spills, causing some sort of screw in his knee to break. At least that is what he told me. When presented with an opportunity to show off, however, that screw magically fixed itself. I think we've discovered the reasoning behind shin guards.

I have no idea where Jack gets that need to show off, but I will tell you that I am awesome at skating and took the opportunity to literally skate in rings around Alex a couple of times. (By "awesome," I mean "not completely embarrassing.") Alex didn't care much for that, by the way.

Quinn was awesome. He even managed to figure out how to reach down and grab some snow off of the ice to eat without falling down. And, yeah, I know. Here's my question though. Is eating shaved ice off of an ice skating rink the same as, say, eating a Cheerio off of a store floor? It seems cleaner on the ice. It's not like people walk around outside on their skate blades.

And, yes, I stopped him.

I don't know what I'm doing to him here, though.


Maybe raising him to the glass by his cheeks?

After all the dust settled, the coach gave medals to all of the tournament players. Jack was really proud and deigned to stop skating laps for a millisecond to accept his. It's his first medal ever and, trust me, that kid earned it.

Evidentally, the medal ceremony took place in a dark cave.

And just to make sure that we don't leave Mr. Surly McDeadpan out, here is the photo he allowed me to take of him.


It was a good night for Team Stimey. I'm glad that Jack felt pride in his skating abilities and I'm glad that Jack's brothers got a chance to see him do something that he is good at and for which he was honored. I like to make sure that each of my kids gets to be the star every once in a while. Family skate night was definitely Jack's night to shine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Kids Win Mother's Day

From Jack

My family woke me up at 10:30 this morning with flowers, lemon-filled doughnuts and handmade cards. Best mother's day ever, frankly. For a gift, I asked that they super-clean the inside of our car. That has yet to happen.

From Quinn

Quinn's card involved rocket ships. But it also says "I•Love•you" on the front, in Quinn's adorable handwriting, including dots between words to denote spaces.

From Sam

Sam wrote me a poem:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I love you so
Happy mother's day too

Jack again

Jack brought home a mother's day poem that he wrote at school. The poem is so awesome that I am willing to overlook the fact that he mentioned our Nintendo 3DS before he mentioned me. (In his defense, the way the poem worksheet was structured, he didn't have a "who" blank until the bottom.)

"I Come From"

I come from Alaska
where there are cities.
I come from Maryland
where there are campsites.
I come from a 3DS game
that is called Face Raiders.
I come from a blanket
that is blue.
I come from my mom
who hugs me.
I come from Izzy (cat)
who meows and makes me happy.

Aren't they the cutest? I'm going to be honest here and say that I generally don't read poetry, even if it is written by someone I like. I cannot stand poetry. I don't know what it is, but the form just upsets me. The poet laureate of the United States could write a poem about ME and I would probably skim it. It is a testament to how much I kinda like these little kiddos that I will read their poetry. Still, they're on thin ice. They're lucky they brought doughnuts.

To all of you mothers out there, in whatever form you may come, I hope your day is lovely and involves doughnuts and readable kid-poetry.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Things I Learned in Boston

• Jack is really fluffy if he doesn't go to bed right after his shower.


• Even if you have the very best intentions of interviewing players, parents and coaches from all over the world in order to write a well researched and poignant column about the SHI Tournament, 84 hours of togetherness with your autistic kid and a lot of shouting of "STOP! The bus will run you over!" and "HERE! Eat more junk food!" and "NO! Don't throw mud at the arena!" will make you forget to do everything except thank the gods of hockey for the 10 minutes your kid will sit quietly on the floor, allowing you to stare at the wall and rock every so slightly.

• Jack's helmet has a joke to make.

Jack Bauer ain't tough enough to be a Cheetah.

• Even from across an arena, it is easy to tell when Jack is very angry. Signs include, but are not limited to, furious pacing, discarding of equipment, refusal to enter or leave the ice, ignoring all attempts at reason.


• When even a very tiny hockey player steps on your sandaled foot in sharp ice skates, it will hurt like a motherfucker. And bleed.

• When Jack skates with his stick on the ice instead of up in the air, he is far more likely to hit the puck.


But he looks cute either way.


• There are some things that will make me laugh harder than I probably should, like the sign on the side of the rink that read, "Watch out for flying water bottles."

• Even though a year ago I had never even watched a hockey game, I now think it is one of the most badass sports out there.

• Every single time we drove past the sign for the Assabet River, I would read it as "Asshat River."

• Jack has not yet learned the societally understood correct distance to stand from a street performer.


• Even though my dog has giant, fluorescent stickers that say "CAUTION WILL BITE" on her vet chart, it could always be worse.

The Scarlet Letter: Equine Edition

• Jack will watch sea lions smoosh themselves up against a glass window for as long as I am willing to let him. Incidentally, the sea lions will watch Jack smoosh up against a glass window for a long time too.


• Just because Jack doesn't know the code to get through the gates leading to the piers won't stop him from trying every single one we walk past.


• It is a miracle that Jack continues to exist, what with his consumption of NO food. This meal consisted of six corn chips and four pepperoni slices. And a bite of cheese. He's turning concave.


• The one item of food he will request, however, is an ice cream cone, which turns out to cost SEVEN DOLLARS. In defense of the seven dollars, it was the healthiest food he ate all weekend.


• Buses don't make Jack car sick.

We're #1! We're #1!

Evidently something Quinn drank one day went down the wrong way and the resulting coughing ended in vomiting, so Team Stimey at Home didn't fare so well.

• Even when Jack is being bad and hiding from me and refusing to listen, he's pretty goddamn cute.


• I am way proud of Jack.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times...

So, this weekend. I've been searching for a word to describe Jack and my trip to Boston for his hockey tournament and the best I can come up with is "intense."


My emotions were so close to the surface for all four days and culminated in my telling Alex through tears last night, "It was this amazing weekend full of incredibly amazing things and some really, really hard things, but it all took place in this soft nest of people who embraced us."

It was staggering, really.

Also, except for the time that Jack was on the ice, he was glued to my side for 84 hours straight. Like, he didn't even use the second bed in the hotel room because he wanted to be close to me. That kind of glued to my side. Oh, except for when he was trying to flee from me in crowded places and I had to chase him down and hold him with a vise grip on the back of his shirt. That adds a special element to the togetherness.

I laughed a lot on this the trip. It wasn't all THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY and WHY WON'T MY KID PARTICIPATE IN THE FUCKING MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY, OH CRAP HE'S THROWING HIS GLOVES AT ONE OF THE DADS this weekend. I have seen these parents and these kids for an hour every week for the entire school year, but this weekend is maybe the first time that I was able to get to know them a little better. There are some amazing—and really fun—families that are part of Jack's team.

There are a couple of those families that read this blog, including the director of the team, and I just need to take a minute to say from the bottom of my heart: thank you. I can't imagine how much work went into planning this weekend and keeping this team afloat, all while taking care of your own children. So thank you. Just thinking of how grateful I am to you brings tears to my eyes. The director, the coaches, the mentors, the other parents, the folks who planned the trip from finding a tournament that our team could reasonably do to ferrying 24 special needs families to and from the arena several times a day...thank you. I can never know how hard you worked to make this happen, but you will never know just how grateful I am.

My friend Sue, whose son helps mentor a different special hockey team, suggested a twitter hashtag (which creates a common term for people to search tweets about a specific topic or event—or, if you're a smartass, to make a joke) for me to use for Jack's team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, on their trip to the Special Hockey International Tournament. My use of her hashtag in the following tweet kind of sums up my tournament experience. Laughter and tears this time, people.


This weekend was incredibly overwhelming and complicated for me. It was also a hell of a lot of fun. And it was really hard. I have a mish mosh of emotions about it. I kind of have to get some of them out of me, so here goes.

I know that some of you are wondering if we made a scene by throwing up all over the bus. I am happy to report that neither Jack nor I barfed all weekend! I was prepared with bags and wipes and all, but they were unneeded. In fact, the bus was kind of awesome. I was prepared for chaos, but it was actually kind of fun. Jack was a champ, although he did play a lot of Nintendo DSi. And if you're looking for a group of young people who are steadfast Nintendo fans, well...

Hint, hint.

I do have to say, thank GOD for Jack's DSi (and my DSi and the Nintendo 3DS—I am nothing if not prepared), because Jack was incredibly out of his routine this weekend and that little game system saved my ass more times that I can mention. (Full disclosure: I am a Nintendo brand ambassador.)

We got to the hotel Thursday afternoon and had about an hour to check in and relax before we headed to the arena. Sadly, Jack's equipment bag had accidentally been offloaded at the hotel so he couldn't play in the game that was scheduled for his team that night. I think this actually turned out to be a good thing because, as it turned out, the three games he was scheduled for on Friday and Saturday were plenty of hockey for him.

We attended the opening ceremony right after the game, and a situation less ideally suited for a child with autism, you could not have created. Jack and the rest of his team had to stand in a group and wait for their turn to go on the ice and the place was PACKED. Jack did a lot of spinning to self-regulate. I got a little nauseated just watching him.

It was all worth it though, because watching Jack get to take part in a ceremony like that? I don't know that I ever imagined that happening for him. It was really phenomenal.

We got back to the hotel after Jack's normal bedtime and I made an executive decision that sleep was more important than food, so I gave him a package of snack food and sent him to bed.

 Over the next couple of days, the Cheetahs played seven more games. Jack's squad played two on Friday and one on Saturday. The B Team, the more skilled players, had three games Friday and one on Saturday. The coach skated every one of them. There was some incredible sportsmanship on display during these games and a couple of the match-ups, particularly those of the B Team, were awesome hockey.


Jack skated in all three games he was scheduled for, but he didn't finish any of them. During the first game, he tried to escape from the ice when he decided he was done. During the second game, he hung out on the bench and let himself be cheered up by one of the dads—after he hurled his stick on the ice. During the third game, he fucking lost it. I was called over shortly after I saw him heave his gloves at the dad trying to help him over on the bench.

It was a little tough to watch him so adamantly not participate. When he was on the ice, he did great. He even managed to hit the puck a couple of times. See, he likes hockey, but the problem is that he is slower than most of the other kids and can't really participate in the game like them. Plus, he's been playing almost every week since September and he's tired.

"I hate hockey!" he yelled just before I took him to the locker room during his third game. "It's too hard!"

I kept telling myself that most of these other kids have skated longer than him and had a lot more experience. I listened to the parents who told me to sit tight and let the dads on the bench take care of him. I heard them when they told me about their own or other kids who behaved similarly in the past, but who are now happy, energetic, skilled players. I told myself that Jack was getting the team experience and the pride, even if he wasn't playing like the rest of the kids.

I KNOW all these things, but it still felt like a stab in the heart when I watched him struggle. I felt, at the same time, both hopeful and terrible. And I was the idiot with tears in her eyes the whole weekend. Again. My emotions were so close to the surface the entire time.

Jack got a little break on Friday to swim in the hotel pool with a bunch of the other kids. I hope that moments like that let Jack see the faces of his teammates and get to know their names a little bit instead of just seeing them as padded-up skaters that share the ice with him on Saturday mornings.

CANNONBALL!!!

I also got a little break after that terrible third game on Saturday when Alysia of Try Defying Gravity, who is my three-quirky-boys twin in Boston, came to hang out with her oldest guy for about an hour.

Jack and Gerry.

That beautiful woman cheered me up more than almost anything could have. She and her kid are awesome. Jack barely managed to interact with her son at all, but I get that he was super overwhelmed. Without even knowing that she was doing it, Alysia basically talked me off of a ledge. I loved her before, but I love her even more now. Even if she arrived without any margaritas.

Some of the families decided to head into Boston that night to do some sightseeing and hang out. Jack was still pretty tightly wound, so we split off from the group and walked along the harbor for a couple of hours.


Jack so needed that time to decompress, I think. It was great for me too. We walked all the way down to where the Boston Tea Party boat was supposed to be but wasn't, encountering some disappointed British people at the supposed location.

Jack, who had spoken barely at all for three days, chatted the entire time we walked. He spent about an hour pretending to be from another planet and asking about all the things he saw.


We had a blast. I had thought about staying with Jack at the hotel instead and maybe taking him back to the pool. But it turns out that some fresh air, some exercise and some alone time with me was just what he needed.


So, yeah. It was a lot to take in—for both of us. I realize that this post is a little incomprehensible, but that's how it felt for me while I was there. It was an emotional, fantastic, heart-wrenching, tremendous weekend. I got to know a lot of the parents and kids better over the past few days and, as it is whenever you find a new group of people who gets it, it was eye-opening and unforgettable.

Here's the thing: I'm not about to lose this community. I will sign Jack up for hockey again next year. We will take it slow and see how he does. Hopefully as he improves, he'll get more excited again.

I'm letting him process this weekend himself for a little while before I try to talk to him a lot about it. When I do, I hope that his take away is similar to mine: It's complicated, but it's good to be part of a team.