Monday, December 31, 2012

I Hate New Year’s Eve

I feel like I should write something for New Year’s Eve because everyone is all over Facebook and stuff being all, “Grateful for family and friends! I hope 2013 is awesome for everyone!” and I’m like, “That is nice and all, but I just really need this night to be over so everyone can just chill the fuck out and stop being loud and obnoxious.”

See, I’m in New York, which is maybe the dumbest place to spend New Year’s Eve if you hate people and hate noise because you have to accept that people are going to be loud and you’re the asshole if you call the front desk over and over to complain about noise on the biggest party night of the year. Even I get that.

Alex is at a concert and I am tapping my foot impatiently waiting for the movie my kids are watching on TV to be over so I can make them go to bed and I can put on headphones and a movie and block out all the noise of younger, more fun people.

I figure that I’ll at least have a few hours of quiet when everyone is out partying, right?

New York is nice and all, but I don’t know how people live here. I would be the biggest ball of stress you ever saw. We’ve had a really fun vacation, but I am rapidly losing my ability to cope. I can’t wait to be back in my house, where I control who shares walls with me and the most obnoxious thing I have to contend with is Alex’s continued insistence on breathing when he sleeps.

Have a wonderful New Year! I am very grateful for all of my friends and family and I hope that 2013 is the best year yet for all of you.

But, fuck, let’s just get this night over with, okay?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stimey on Top!

We made it to the top of the Empire State Building today and it was clear and beautiful and amazing.

And windy. It was also windy.

This is the only photographic evidence that I was actually in New York with my family this weekend.
I put my hair in a bun while in the midst of the windiness and then left it that way for the next several hours because I forgot that I did that. You would think Alex would have been kind enough to mention the rat’s nest at some point. This is why you should always travel with at least one girl.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Look Out, New York! It’s Team Stimey!

Team Stimey is in New York this weekend because Phish is playing here and I think Alex finally felt guilty for leaving us every New Year’s to see shows, so this time he made us come with him.

We drove up yesterday—and thanks for that two hours spent getting to the Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey—and abandoned our kids with a stranger half an hour after arriving. I think it worked out because all of our valuables, including the three children, were still in our hotel room when we got back, and Sam had asked the babysitter for her phone number.

(“You should ask girls your own age for their phone numbers,” is what he says she told him. This is good advice I should have given him two weeks ago.)

Some friends of ours last night at the show asked us what we were going to do with the kids today and we were all, “EVERYTHING.” It turns out that EVERYTHING turns quickly into JUST THE ZOO after you stand in line at the Empire State Building to find out that snow has made it so there is no visibility on the observation deck, so why don’t you just come back tomorrow, m’kay?

Also, it may seem strange that we considered riding an elevator and going to the zoo to be EVERYTHING, but if you consider we ended the day with Quinn standing in the middle of the children’s zoo flapping his hands (water flying off of his soaked gloves) screaming, “I want to go home!” then, yeah, two destinations is EVERYTHING.

Also part of that EVERYTHING were cab rides and long walks through the city streets and life as SUPER TOURISTS. If you are in New York this weekend and you see five people being the motherfucking dorkiest five people on the planet, look closer. It’s probably us.

What? Us? Tourists?
It would be untrue to say that our first tourist site was the Empire State Building though. Because before that, there was this:

Of course this photograph of a cat asking for money is better than all of New York City put together.
Then Quinn spilled chocolate milk at a restaurant for the second time in three days, but at least this time he spilled it on himself instead of me and it was at a diner with bare tables instead of a lovely adult Italian restaurant with white tablecloths.
We made the kiddos walk to the Empire State Building, stopping along the way to take delightful photos that we’ll be sharing with family for years to come to show them how lovely and wonderful we are on vacation.
Or not.

Quinn: “Imma stand waaaay over here.”
Sam: “Brrrr.”
Jack: “Bunny ears for Sam!!”
Alex: “I don’t think I’m in this picture, so I’ll check my phone and drink whatever is in this brown paper bag.”
Stimey: “I’m going to take a picture of this sign instead of the interesting building itself.”
That brown-bag beverage was actually orange juice that Sam wanted to take with him after breakfast. Alex carried it ten blocks, into the Empire State Building, and through the security line before Sam decided he might not want it. It might even be in the souvenir photo that gets taken of all visitors. We didn’t buy that photo, mostly because Quinn was freaking out about the fact that, “WAIT JUST A GODDAMN MINUTE. HOW MANY FLOORS UP?” and we were all, “Huh, maybe we should have asked the kids if they were afraid of heights before we embarked on this journey, but it is MILES too late now.”
Some families put together social stories to prepare their kids for things like this. We are more of a Surprise/Immersion Therapy sort of family. Although I’m starting to rethink that.
Anywho, after we went up the escalators and went through security and got our souvenir photo taken and then it started to snow, we bailed and went to the zoo. There my kids behaved like animals.
Oh, wait. Those ARE the animals.
Do you ever just kind of wish you could be a sea lion? ‘Cause I do.
The zoo was perfect for us. It was small and had good animals, including those fabulous sea lions above. If I had one complaint, it would be that the polar bears, snow monkeys, and snow leopard were way less excited about the snow than I would have expected. In fact, all of those animals were curled up hiding from said snow.
Puh. Lease. If you are going to have “polar” or “snow” in your name, the least you could do is some frolicking for us.
My kids were super delighted though, because they are HUGE Madagascar fans, so seeing that the Central Park Zoo really exists and features some of the things from the movie/TV show blew their little minds.

We even got to this clock right on the hour when it played music and moved. Good karma, right there.*
* If you have any comments about bad karma and our timing at the Empire State Building, you can just keep them to yourself, thankyouverymuch.
Then we went to the children’s zoo and there was the hand flapping (we kept telling the kiddos that if they stopped picking up snow, their hands wouldn’t be as cold, but they wouldn’t listen), so we scrapped our subway plan and went with the cab plan and then dropped by the CVS right next to our hotel to buy the munchkins the ice cream they wanted.

I know. Children are inexplicable. It was freezing, THEY were freezing, and all they wanted was ice cream.
Then I think they did stuff in the hotel room, but I was napping, so I don’t know what it was. Go ask Alex.
The kiddos are all asleep in their beds now and because Alex doesn’t get home until late, I get to choose which bed I want. (I will choose the one full of just Jack instead of the one full of Sam and Quinn.) Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get to post some photo of the spectacular view from the top of the Empire State Building (also hopefully with a calmer Quinn—I social storied the shit out of him this afternoon).
Wish us luck!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

And to All a Good Night…

Christmas Eve can be touch or go. You know, you have kids who are really jacked up and looking forward to Christmas and Christmas Eve promises excitement, but it’s not quite the main event, so there is disappointment built in, not to mention two or three or…six hours of yelling things like “IF YOU DON’T GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW, YOU WILL KILL SANTA WITH YOUR BAD BEHAVIOR! SANTA WILL NEVER COME NOW! ARE YOU HAPPY? ARE YOU FUCKING HAPPY?”

Although that last little bit usually only happens in parents’ heads.

This year for Team Stimey though, shit came together and we had such a fantastic day.

We started by heading out to IHOP because we drove past there last week and Jack was all, “I wanna go to IHOOOOOPPPP!” and I figured that it would kill some Christmas Eve morning time, so why don’t we go then?

They put us in a back corner. It was a good decision on their part.
My kids were in enormously good form what with Sam asking the waitress for her phone number, Quinn having many questions about menu items, and Jack, well, Jack was pretty chill actually. I’m not even going to discuss Alex’s behavior. We spent longer eating breakfast than we have in a long time. Usually restaurant meals are a pretty quick affair for us, on the assumption that shorter means less chance of a freakout, but everybody was happy to just sit and eat today. It was great.

I mean, we even started breakfast with hot chocolate that came topped with whipped cream and chocolate chips, so it’s not like we even made an effort to keep them from getting hepped up on sugar or anything. Quinn doesn’t like whipped cream, so his hot chocolate was plain, but the waitress brought him chocolate chips anyway.

This is when the waitress cemented her giant tip.
After IHOP, it was off to the dry cleaner, as you do on Christmas Eve.

We spent the next couple of hours at home teetering dangerously on Too Much Togetherness when a goddamn Christmas miracle happened. It started to snow.

It took him a surprisingly long time to catch a snowflake in his mouth.
It turns out that my children are unable to walk into my backyard without Nerf battlegear, so they suited up and headed out.

Our own version of Bad Piggies.
They were so happy that even Alex and I went out with them and ran around.

And all was right with the world.
It didn’t snow a lot and it didn’t stick to the ground, but it got Team Stimey out of the house and happy. You can see falling snow in the above photos is you squint reeeallly hard, but it’s easier to see on a dark canvas.

This is why we only have dark-furred dogs.
We futzed around for a while, watched a movie together, played some video games, and had our traditional steak and spinach Christmas Eve dinner.

Everyone gets to open a gift on Christmas Eve and Jack had been asking all day to do so. Team Stimey Junior even had a bonus Christmas Eve gift because my mom sent them one.

Look at them working together to unwrap that gift. They are so motherfucking civilized.
The gift was Just Dance for the Wii. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Jack dance to Gangnam Style, by the way. I wish I’d gotten THAT on film.

Sam had a gift for Alex and I too and he was super insistent that we open it on Christmas Eve, so we decided that was okay. The gift was cool, but the best part was the stack of cards that came with it. Seriously, a stack. Some of those cards contained alliteration, like this: “Marvelous mom manages maidenhood majestically moving minds.”

Then, oh my God, then he had Alex and I follow him to the computer where he presented us with the Power Point presentation he had created about us. I have literally never gotten a better gift. Here are two of the slides. Judge for yourself.

“Mom has loved mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs forever practically. Rodents Rock!”
“Dad has loved the band Phish for a long time. #1 band baby!”
I have no idea where he got all those photos or when he put this thing together, but even Alex almost started crying because it was so damn sweet.

We had a few other traditions to get to, but Quinn had to squeeze in some letter writing first.

Quinn has been planning this note for a looong time.
“To: Santa, Does Rudolf’s nose really flash? Pleas wrigt yes or no under with the pen. from Quinn.”

What do you think, internets? Does Rudolph’s nose really flash?

The last hour or so of Christmas Eve before bedtime is very busy in Stimeyland. We have to mix oatmeal and glitter to make the reindeer dust.

The glitter attracts the reindeer and the oatmeal gives them something to snack on while Santa fills stockings.
There was a lot of complaining about cold feet on the porch. So they all went to get shoes while I stood on the cold lawn waiting.

You can use edible sprinkles instead of glitter, but it doesn’t photograph as well.
I let Quinn choose how many cookies to leave out for Santa, a task he took VERY seriously.

Evidently cookie placement is crucial.
Then it was off to the living room for the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas.

Jack had little smart ass comments for each line, Quinn scoured each page looking for pictures of cats, and Sam pretended to play the flute. Alex gamely carried on with the story.
We put the kiddos to bed and I gave the gerbils their Christmas seed cube and then we began to wait for them to fall asleep.

Merry Christmas, Gerbils of Power!
I’m sitting here waiting for Quinn to fall asleep. That poor kid. He wants to fall asleep so desperately, but he can’t. He’s pretty sad about it.

So. I just wrote THAT ^^^^ and then Quinn came out of his room SOBBING. He was afraid he would never fall asleep and Santa wouldn’t come and oh dear lord, I have never seen anyone quite so sad in my life. It took me an HOUR to get him to sleep. Please, Quinn, don’t wake up again.

Now I’m off to be Santa, if I can wrest my elves away from the Transformers show they’re watching on TV.

This photo is only here because I didn’t post one of our tree yet and my mom always wants to see one. Guess who decorated it?
 I hope you had a really merry Christmas Eve and that your kids fall asleep quickly!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Autism is Shining

Last week was hard, wasn’t it? There was so much ugly and sad and angry and heartbroken. It was a terrible week. Weeks will continue to be terrible for 27 families and those that loved them in Newtown. Like you, I have been trying to send my love to them and wishing them peace.

Yet during all of this, there has been a terrible undercurrent in the autism community. After Newtown, Asperger’s and autism hasn’t just been misunderstood, it has been vilified. People in the community are afraid. Parents are afraid that friends, family, classmates, teachers, and strangers will fear and hate their autistic children, just because they are autistic. Adults are afraid that neighbors, coworkers, friends, and employers will fear and hate them just because they are autistic. Allies are afraid that their efforts to share awareness and acceptance will be overshadowed by this very fear and hate.

There are examples of this already happening that have been circulating through the autism and autistic communities. When people with autism, their parents, and their allies just want to mourn Newtown with the rest of the country, we have been left having to defend ourselves instead.

This is why a few wonderful people, people I am lucky to call friends, have started Autism Shines. Hundreds of people have shared photos of themselves and their children to tell the world what autism really is. It is a page FULL of love. I have seen some of you and your kids there. Every photo I’ve seen has made me so very happy, which is a wonderful thing to be this week.



Jack looked at his photo just now and asked me to put it on the internet. Then he asked me to print it out. We just went and taped the photo over his bed. He is proud of who he is. PROUD. He shines. I want him to grow up in a world where he can stay that way—and where other people see that shine too.

Thank you to the people behind Autism Shines. Thank you for putting that good into the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lesson One: Don’t Leave Jack Alone With Scissors and a Cardboard Box

It all started with my running headphones.

I had misplaced my favorite headphones, which are quite possibly my most important bit of running gear. I moved them a week ago from a place where I was afraid they would fall behind furniture and I put them someplace safe. Then I couldn’t find that someplace safe to save my life. Yesterday at about 5:30, I was digging through all of my desk drawers looking for them when suddenly there was screaming.

It wasn’t the “I’m just trying to get my brother in trouble,” screaming either, but rather the “I have made a gross error in judgment as pertains to my skill level with grown-up scissors” screaming.

Which leads us to Lesson One: I should never have left Jack alone with those scissors and that cardboard box.

Lesson Two: Pediatrician sisters are awesome—and calming. There was a lot of blood. Dripping blood and flapping skin. I applied pressure and hugs and immediately texted blurry photos of the finger to my pediatrician sister asking for validation in the fact that a finger might bleed a lot and maybe I didn’t need to take him to the ER because how important is a fingertip really?
Don’t worry. I won’t post that photo here.

I’ll show you this one instead, which might be worse—or at least sadder.
Lesson Three: Never mention stitches in front of Quinn. My sister said that if I were able to get Jack to a doctor, that stitches might be in order. There was more screaming when Quinn heard me discussing the possibility of such a thing. Quinn is highly suggestible.

Lesson Four: FINGERS BLEED A LOT. Or maybe it’s just Jack’s finger. Regardless, we went through a lot of gauze before I had to leave for my therapy appointment, which Quinn and Jack were required to come along for.

Lesson Five: Always check Jack’s feet before he leaves the house to make sure he followed through on your request to put shoes on. Corollary to Lesson Five: Always check Quinn’s body to make sure he followed through on your request to put a coat on.

Lesson Six: There is no better way to make a good impression on a therapist than to show up with one kid with no shoes, one kid with no coat, and one kid with a finger wrapped in a bloody washcloth. Well, actually, it might be even more awesome if one of those kids is carrying the milkshake you bought him for dinner to get him to shut the fuck up about the fact that you forgot his DSi because you were too busy trying to get out of the house and drive to therapy while still applying pressure to your bleeding child’s pointy finger.

Lesson Seven: If, after two and a half hours, a cut is still bleeding, maybe go see a doctor in person instead of via text message. After the appointment, I unwrapped the finger and saw that, while it was bleeding much less, it was still seeping blood a little. Even I know that’s too long, so I walked my socked-footed kiddo back to the car to take him to the urgent care clinic.

Lesson Eight: Never mention stitches in front of Quinn. Really. Alex had met us, so he was able to drive Quinn home. When I left them, Quinn was still freaking out about the possibility of stitches. In Jack’s hand. For which he wouldn’t even be around to see the stitching.

Lesson Nine: Immediately after you sign in and pay your copay at the urgent care clinic, your kid’s injury will immediately stop bleeding. 
Thank God it wasn’t his iPad tapping finger.

That washcloth, incidentally, was the replacement for the really bloody washcloth.

Lesson Ten: People are either not very observant or are way too polite to mention that your child is not wearing shoes. Seriously. No one mentioned it. Where were all the assholes of the world who are usually present and ready to criticize everything children do? Maybe the fact that he was wearing thick black socks helped.

Lesson Eleven: Once the wound stops bleeding, Jack will lose his aversion to looking at it and will instead begin to closely examine and poke at it. Jack, with interest: “You can see all the layers of skin!” (He was right.)

The Constant Lesson: Jack is super brave.
Lesson Twelve: Doctors can glue wounds shut instead of stitching them. HOORAY! Because I wasn’t looking forward to THAT scene.

Lesson Thirteen: Never mention stitches in front of Quinn. He waited up until we got home to see if there were stitches that he would then need to avoid.

Lesson Fourteen: Jack will want to tell EVERYONE he knows about his harrowing experience. On the way home from the clinic, Jack was already telling me what he was going to tell his friends about his finger. It was a long story, detailed and graphic. I hope the kids in his class are as excited to hear it as Jack is going to be to tell it. As he got on the bus this morning, I saw him showing it to the bus aide and driver. It’s his moment to shine.

Lesson Fifteen: Jack is awesome. But you knew that.

Lesson Sixteen: The small box on my desk is the safe place where I will put small things. Like headphones.


I know that you know that autism doesn’t make people plan violent acts. But I needed to say it somewhere. I wrote about that and how I go on after horrible things happen in the wold over at White Knuckle Parenting: On Newtown. Love to all of you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Because It’s the Only Thing I Want To Share Right Now

There is nothing I can write right now. I know you probably don’t want to read anything right now. So if you need something sweet, here are my gerbils who like to drink from their water bottle at the same time.  Because they are in love.


Hug your babies tight. I love you all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Strangers and Santa, Unrelated

I have a post brewing in my head that might come out tonight or maybe tomorrow, but I thought I would just go ahead and share a couple of links to posts that I’ve written recently.

I wrote a post I really like about what to do when a stranger is rude to your child with autism at PokitDok. Please check it out!

I also wrote a post about, you know, that whole…thing…about Santa. I have some stress about it. Check out The Santa Lie over at White Knuckle Parenting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tying Up Loose Ends

Jack had an appointment at the big regional autism center in Baltimore today. He started seeing a developmental pediatrician up there when we started trying him on ADHD meds (they didn’t work; he hasn’t been on them for a long time now) a couple of years ago.

Today was his first checkup in six months. With travel and waiting time, it’s like a four and a half hour thing every time we go, so I don’t even bother trying to send him to school at all on Kennedy Krieger days.

Quinn got to go with us too because he had some issues today that precluded him from going to school even though he wasn’t sick. (Those issues start with a “p” and rhyme with “oops.”)

The trip was all kinds of fun. I got to explain socioeconomic principles as they relate to decaying townhouses in Baltimore and I also got to drive past my favorite pet shop, On a Wing. It’s my favorite pet shop because they have a picture of a pigeon on the door. A pigeon. On the door. Of their pet shop.

Once we got there, Jack spent most of his appointment being quietly brilliant, cheerful, and compliant. He was awesome.

For example, the doctor showed him a book called “Tuesday” that they were going to read together and then she asked him what book he’s reading right now, meaning at home, and he was all, “Tuesday,” because, well, obvs.

Then she showed him a cartoon map of the United States and they talked about some of the cartoon pictures and he talked about going to San Francisco last summer and she pointed at the picture of the bridge by the Bay Area, but it was white, not red, and she asked him what bridge it was and he said, “the Bay Bridge,” because, again, obvs. Then she tried to correct him to say that the Bay Bridge is in Maryland, because there’s one here too, and I had to step in and back him up because, damn, Jack is so clever.

She did a bunch of attentional stuff and agreed that we had made the right decision to keep him off meds and she talked about how much obviously happier he looked than when she had last seen him in June and I think he graduated because she said that unless he needs to come back for more testing or a new issue or whatever, he didn’t need to come back. (Which is great, because I was starting to wonder what the point of another visit would be.)

Through all of this, Quinn played quietly and happily. He tried to answer a question for Jack once but I told him not to and so he just sat on the floor and played and then when it was time to go and I asked him to clean up, he did and it was like I was in some parallel universe where my kids are the cooperative, polite, well-mannered ones.

But all of that wasn’t even the best. When we were seeing the nurse before the appointment, Jack had to take off his shoes so she could measure him (one inch taller!) and weigh him (three pounds heavier!) and then when it was time to put them back on, I told him to put them on and do the first part of the tie and I would finish, because we’ve been working on shoe tying. So he put on his first shoe and did the first tie and then I finished.


Then, he asked if he could tie the second one himself.

And he did.

He even did it with the wrap the bunny around the tree method instead of the easier two bunny ears method. I was so excited and started giving him high fives and the nurse was super excited after I told her this was the first time he’d done it and she wrote a happy message about it to the doctor and put it on the front of his file and Jack was all, “Ooookay, can I have the iPad again?”


No loose ends here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sam As Sibling

There is one thing I forgot to tell you about my presentation at Sam’s school last week.

See, Sam is such a wonderful kid and I don’t know that he always believes that, so I took this opportunity to say some nice things about him in front of his class. The book the class had read, Rules, is specifically about a sibling of a kid with autism, so lobbing some nice words Sam’s way was well within the subject matter at hand.

It looked like I was talking to the class at large, but, in fact, I was talking to Sam.

I told them that Sam sometimes ends up with extra responsibility. That he sometimes has to take care of Quinn if I’m chasing Jack down. (For example, the other night at Quinn’s school’s reading night where I looked up and found Jack gone. When I found him two hallways away (kid is fast), he said he was going to the car. I’m guessing that the room was too much for him.)

I told them that Sam sometimes has to help with Jack as well—and that Jack looks up to Sam.

I told them that Sam has patiently spent a ton of time in waiting rooms and used to do his homework there more often than at home.

I said that it can be hard to have a sibling with autism because sometimes they do embarrassing things, and he nodded.

I told the class that Sam has been a wonderful leader and teacher to his brothers and that he has always gone out of his way to include his brothers and that he is wonderful for that. I talked about how Sam does a really lovely job explaining Jack to his friends.

I’m hoping that while I was telling his classmates these things, that Sam heard me telling him that I see him. That I really, really SEE how good he is. 

Because, oh lord, he is so good.



I also wrote about Sam at White Knuckle Parenting today, where I wonder if gifted programs are too much pressure or just right. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t have the answer.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Semi-Blurry Photographic Tour of ICE! at the Gaylord National

There are certain perks that come with this blogging gig, one of which is getting invited to events like blogger day at the Shrek the Halls ICE exhibit at the Gaylord National, which is in Maryland or DC or maybe just across a harbor from Virginia, but regardless is somewhere near me.

Team Stimey at Team Shrek!
We were lucky enough to go last year and had a really fun time, so when we got an invitation again this year, we jumped at the chance. I would like to thank the Gaylord National for hosting us (and disclose that we didn’t have to pay for any of the activities you’ll read about) so graciously. I had a really fun time, but more importantly, my kids had a really fun time, so thank you!

I’ve decided to show you how fun ICE! is by posting a pictorial time line of our afternoon there. It will show you both the joys and sorrows and also the potential sensory nightmare that you might walk into. Don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it. I apologize that some of the photos are blurry. One of my kids rubbed their fingers all over the lens to remove the condensation from it. It is not the fault of the Gaylord or their decidedly non-fuzzy reality.

We started at a cupcake reception, which was lovely. You won’t get that if you go to ICE! Sorry. You have to be part of a MEDIA EVENT for that.

Jack was the only one of my children willing to attempt to make an “event” next to the sign. Thank you, faithful Jack.
The Gaylord has events (at extra charge, see bottom) that go along with ICE! to make it a full-day experience, which is great. One of those is the scavenger hunt in which kids figure out clues to find things throughout the hotel.

My guys, Sam especially, remembered the scavenger hunt from last year and was totally stoked to go at it again. I don’t know if the hotel decided that last year’s scavenger hunt was too easy or what, but they upped their game this year and made the hunt decidedly more difficult.

Thinking…thinking…by Shrek, I think I’ve got it!
We figured that we’d be able to finish the hunt in the half hour or so before our ICE! tickets, but that was not to be. We went down an escalator and found a clue. Then we went down some stairs and across a room and found another clue. Then we went up some stairs and found another clue, at which time I took a photograph of my family figuring out said clue, when…PHOTOBOMB!

I know that I say this a lot, but I might really mean it this time: This could well be my favorite photo in the history of time.
After that clue, however, things fell apart a little bit. We went up and down and up two floors then back down, then we thought we figured it out, but then it turned out we didn’t, but then, ALEX FOUND IT!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what a hero looks like.
Then Sam and Alex figured out the clue while Quinn made his “cute” face and then we got reprimanded by an employee for playing on the shoe shine stand.

Then I started yelling, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?” and…
No, not really. I just said, “Yes, sir,” and dragged the munchkins out of the chairs.
From there, we walked over to the ICE! tent and got ready for the main event. They show you a little movie before you go in, which this year was all about the construction of the ice sculptures. They bring people over from China to build the exhibit. How cool is that? I mean, in a non-literal sense.

This year’s exhibit is based on Shrek the Halls and was very fun. My kids were looking forward to the ice slide, which they remembered from last year. What I remembered, however, was how cold it is in there (9 degrees), so I’d brought coats, hats, gloves, and scarves. Plus the staff gives every visitor a big blue parka to wear.

This, incidentally, is where it all went to hell.

I’m going to give you a tip: If you have a child with sensory issues, maybe consider getting him an adult coat instead of a kids’ coat, because the kids’ coat on top of his own coat may just be too intense.

Quinn started SCREAMING. SCREAMING. This was particularly awesome because they line you up right after you put on coats and take a photo in hopes that you will buy it later. They couldn’t find our photo when we came out, which is a shame, because oh lord, I bet it was a doozy. I might have bought it just as proof of how horrified Quinn was.

I was trying to help him adjust his coat and make it better and he just kept screaming, “IT’S TOO STRAIGHT! IT’S TOO STRAIGHT!” And Alex and Sam and Jack kept walking forward and I didn’t want to lose them because it is IMPOSSIBLE to find people once you’re inside because it is dark and everyone is dressed exactly the same, but people were staring and Quinn continued to shriek, “IT’S TOO STRAIGHT! IT’S TOO STRAIGHT! 

Oh, we were a scene and a half.

Finally I managed to get the rest of my family to stop and I realized that what Quinn meant was that with his coat and the blue coat, he couldn’t bend his arms—they were too straight.

So I did what you have to do when you’re the mom: I traded coats with him.

And by “traded,” I mean “he wore mine and I carried his.”

And all was right with the world. If a little cold.
The rest of the trip through the exhibit was awesome. Quinn went down the ice slide over and over and was happy as a clam. (Someone at the bottom of the slide was all, “His coat is too big for him,” and I almost decked him.)
I came to realization that cold-weather wear makes people look ridiculous:

Sam, Jack, Surly Alex
Alex was surly because I had just made him step out of my photo so I could get a good person-free shot. I may or may not have said, “You are ruining my picture!”

Add this to the list of reasons why you’re glad you’re not married to me.

Both photos are pretty cool, actually.
 Anywho, we enjoyed the rest of the exhibit and then headed back over to the Gaylord to make a gingerbread (actually, sugar cookie, but who really cares) Christmas tree. This was my kids’ favorite part of the day, I think.

They did an excellent job.
But better yet, Jack found his new best friend—Gingy. See, Jack had run into Gingy, the giant gingerbread man, at some point earlier in the day and had pretended to try to take one of his gumdrop buttons and Gingy had reacted in an extremely excellent way and Jack was just waiting to do it again.

He was not disappointed.

Sorry about the blur, but it all happened really fast.
Then, shortly thereafter…

Not creepy at all, Gingy. Not creepy at all.
Thumbs up, gumdrop friend.
Here’s the thing: Jack was just one kid wandering around the Gaylord that day. What that dude inside Gingy did to make him feel special and to laugh? That is the kind of thing that will make me go back to the Gaylord National and decorate gingerbread every single year, blogger event or not. Gingy made the day for me.

Thank you, Gingy. May your gumdrops remain stuck to your chest.

After that, it was a matter of heading back to the ICE! tent for the character meet and greet, which is always fun. As you might expect, Jack loves these. Quinn even went up to all of the characters, which is a first for him, I think.


After that, we finished the scavenger hunt and claimed our prize. We were going to wait for the free nightly tree lighting and indoor snow fall, but by this time my sensorily sensitive children were done.
Quinn was standing in the middle of the atrium shouting, “I want to go home! I want to go home!” and Sam was sulking because he evidently didn’t get ALL the credit for the scavenger hunt.
We hung out by the fountain for a minute and then left for home.

The fountain calmed them down considerably.
ICE! at the Gaylord National runs through January 6. You can find all the information and prices on the website at

You can go just to do ICE! or you can add the scavenger hunt and character meet and greet. The gingerbread decorating is separate as well. The tree lighting is free nightly. There is also a Santa there that you can have your photo taken with.

I know that, despite a couple of hiccups, my kids had a wonderful time and really enjoyed going. Thank you so much to the Gaylord National for treating us to such a lovely afternoon. Team Stimey truly appreciates it.

Thank you, ICE! at Gaylord National!