Monday, March 24, 2014

Exercise and Win

I write a lot about Jack's hockey team and how much it means to me. As part of that, I also write about what I think it means to him as well. I talk to him about it and I watch him both struggle and triumph at practices and games, but sometimes it is hard to know what he really thinks about his team.

That's why I was happy to see the paper that he brought home with him from school today. His school is doing its "family life" (read: they're teaching the kiddos about puberty and adolescence) lessons this week and, as part of that, they apparently had to fill out a worksheet about social groups in their lives. Jack chose his hockey team.

Actually, the Cheetahs were originally created as a bar mitzvah project. The story of this team’s evolution from its small start to what it is today is a pretty incredible one.

Among Jack's answers about how much time he spends with his group each week and so on, were some pretty telling thoughts.

When asked what the purpose of the social group was, he didn't write that it was to learn how to play hockey. He didn't write that it was to win championships. He wrote that the purpose of the Cheetahs is to, "work as a team, cooperate with others."

I think that's pretty cool and says a lot about the coaches of the Cheetahs that this is what 10-year-olds learn from them.

Asked to answer what contributions he makes to the group, Jack wrote, "Everyone gets to play, score—and win." The kid has been paying attention.

But my favorite answer was to the question, "How does this group benefit you?" to which he wrote, "I get to exercise and win."

I find my kid so charming.

Jack's charm aside, though, he's totally right. That team is full of exercise and win.

See, I believe in inclusion. I would love it if every kid could find a way to meaningfully participate in their community and school sports teams. Some Cheetahs do. We have players who play on those teams in addition to the Cheetahs. But there are some players, including Jack, for whom a typical hockey team as they now exist just would not work.

Aside from the opportunity, I love the role models Jack gets built into the Cheetahs that he wouldn't get if he were playing on a typical team. I love that he has role models who were kids just like him, but who are now a few years older. Having those older teammates with similar neurology is of tremendous benefit to the younger kids on the team. I hope to see Jack grow into the same leadership roles that I see some of his older peers taking.

A few weeks ago, Jack was having a tough time at practice. He had a mentor (a teenage boy) working with him, trying to keep him engaged and happy on the ice. It was a little bit of a losing battle. For whatever reason, Jack just wasn't into it that day. No matter what his coach and mentor did, Jack didn't want to participate in the drills and he was surly as hell. I was pretty sure he would end up coming off the ice early that morning.

Then this older player who was helping out that morning saw what was happening and skated over to the two of them. That player and the mentor came up with their own little drill just for Jack. Within minutes, Jack was laughing and skating and participating and being all-around awesome.

That few minutes really cemented what I love about the Cheetahs. See, the Cheetahs aren't just about typical teens and coaches helping the players. It is about self-leadership and teamwork and peer mentoring and cooperation and self-direction and learning all of that while getting a great workout. It is about that older player seeing a younger player struggle and stepping up to lead and teach and connect.

In other words, it is about exercise and win.


Thank you so much to Barbara and my mom for donating to this year's Cheetah-thon! The whole team appreciates it so much. We still welcome donations for this year's big fundraiser through May. Thank you for thinking of our team!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Today was Jack's dentist appointment to have his baby tooth extracted. Or at least that's what I think happened. It's hard to tell, because no one at the dental office actually used the word "extraction."

When I walked in, the receptionist confirmed what Jack was having done by saying, "The tooth fairy is coming tonight then?" Everyone else at the practice seemed to call extractions "wiggles," as in, "We're just doing the one wiggle today?"

I might have gone with, "We're just ripping out the one tooth today?" but I guess that's why I don't work at a pediatric dental office. It also might be why Jack started crying when I told him what was happening this morning.

Oh, I kid.

Jack did really well. The hygienist gave him gas, which was delivered via a bright pink plastic nose that sat atop his real nose. This only became a problem when they gave him fancy glasses in which he could watch the movie he'd picked out and there were so many things on his face that whenever the hygienist tried to do something to his mouth, she jiggled his glasses, resulting in his crying out, "I can't see the movie!"

I was pleased that he seemed more concerned about the movie viewing than any discomfort. That said, it wasn't easy peasy for him. It was hard for him to tolerate the things they wanted to put in his mouth and he sure didn't care for the numbing needle. (I didn't either; it was HUGE.)

It also took him some time to adjust to the gas, although once he did, he was doing aaaaall right. He got all floppy like and at one point he got the hygienist's attention to say, "Do you feel your bones vibrating?"

Evidently he was on the good stuff.

The extraction itself was quick, involved lasers, and wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened to Jack.

Even though the appointment obviously wasn't his favorite hour of his life, he did a great job and he was totally unfazed afterward. He seems to have recognized that this appointment was something that had to be done and that sucked but that he could get through, which, incidentally, is exactly the same way I look at dental appointments.

I ended up keeping him home from school all day so that he could sit on the couch and staunch the bleeding of his gum. He very happily complied.


We came home and I let him watch a movie—the very movie he'd chosen to watch at the dentist's office. He made me start it over from the beginning, presumably so he could watch it without having to fight his nose gas for face position.

I'm so happy that's over. I'm sure Jack is too. I had been nervous about it. Now I'll have to find something else to be nervous about. As long as the tooth fairy remembers to come, this dental adventure will be all happily wrapped up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zoom Out

Aw! Look at my happy, peaceful little gerbil friend. He is so relaxed and calm and sleepy.


Double aw! That calm happy gerbil is sleeping with his buddy.


Make that ON his buddy.


While those two gerbils safely slumber, another happy, secure gerbil lazily chews on cardboard under his water bottle. They have not a care in the world...


...except for the giant predator smashed between the gerbil tank and the window.


It must be unsettling to always have a giant cat on one side of your tank and a giant human on the other. It's a miracle these gerbils aren't stampy* little stressballs all the time.

Meanwhile, our predator finds time to pose, secure in the knowledge that no human or rodent will be able to pry her out of her exactly Oreo-sized stronghold wedged between the window and the gerbil tank.

And there you have a photo tour of two feet of my desk. And a good idea of exactly how much time I have on my hands.

* Gerbils do an excellent double stamp move to alert each other of danger. It is très adorable.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Old Schooling

Both Anna and Kendra did this and they are old school bloggers. So I decided to be an old school blogger too and join in. Link up at Miss Elaine's place.


Continuity note: I answered some of these Friday afternoon and some Sunday evening. In addition to being an old-school blogger, I am also an extremely lazy and procrastinating blogger.

What is the last thing you watched on TV? Vikings. Some of us aren't allowed to watch girly shows like Grey's Anatomy on Thursdays anymore. We have to watch dudes with funny haircuts hack each other up with axes. I do really love when someone yells, "Shield wall!" and they all make, well, a shield wall to protect themselves from an arrow onslaught. I feel as if I should have some similarly useful phrase I could yell to protect me from the onslaught of my children. Like, they would all start harassing me for screen time or ice cream sandwiches and I could be all, "Blanket wall!" and be impervious.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing? I left my house at 9:45 this morning to meet my friend for a walk. We try to meet every week to walk around a local nature center. Often I will run there and we'll walk three miles and she'll drive me home. It's a 3-5 mile run there depending on what route I take. Today I took the 3-mile route, but walked for part of it because I was tired. Also, it was really cold out there.

What is on the walls of the room you are in? Everything. We have several vintage music posters. I have a Bob Dylan Think Different poster—my first ebay purchase ever back in the early aughts. We have a vintage movie poster from The Godfather, a self-portrait of Sam playing his flute, a Harvey Birdman graphic, and original Jerry Garcia art.

The Jerry art.
I also have handprints from all three of my kids that Alex had made for me a few years ago.

I love this so much.

One of my other favorite things on the wall is my race bib holder.

This makes me happy every time I look at it.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?  A new house, immediately. Maybe 16 or 17 new cats. Possibly a bread maker—like a person, not a machine.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know. I think you guys know everything by now. Hmmmmm. Okay, here's something: Once a food becomes a "kid food" in my house, I can't eat it anymore. I used to eat peas, but after my kids were little and I fed them a lot of peas, I can't eat them anymore. I love goldfish crackers, but I rarely eat them because they are kid food. My kids eat about a million chocolate chip Fiber One granola bars a week, but I would have to be close to starving to eat one. If my weird little brain decides something is solely a kid food, I won't be eating it again. I don't know why.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?  On my cell phone, my mom. On my home phone, three spam calls and then my mom. I try to discourage phone calls from pretty much everyone but my mom, my sister, and Alex, so it seems that my plan is working.

If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do? Burn it to the ground.

I’m ready.

Oh, wait, did that question say "without worry about expense, mess, or criminal prosecution"? No? Never mind then.

What was the last thing you bought? I am organizing Quinn's school's movie night, which is tonight. I have three giant bags of donated popcorn in my car. This morning I went to the grocery store to buy paper sacks to serve it in. Related, my car smells like popcorn.

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? Hells yeah.

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be? I don't think I would want to do this. I think it would stress me out. I don't like eating lunch with one person, period. Too much pressure. (Unless I know you well.)

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? All of them.

Is the glass half empty or half full?  My glass is currently completely empty and it makes me sad because I'm going to have to walk all the way to the kitchen to fill it up again.

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been? Norway. My mom lived there for several years when I was in college and I visited her a couple times. It's a really beautiful country.

What’s under your bed? Probably a cat.

What is your favorite time of the day?  Not morning, that is for sure. I don't think I have a favorite time of day, but I know that I really enjoy my late nights when everyone else in my house is asleep. They are my calming hours.

What Inspires you? Adult autistic advocates. I wish I were as brave as many of them are. I get stressed and tired and overwhelmed and instead of staying in the game, I withdraw to safety. I am in awe of how consistently these men and women put themselves out there even though it can be so hard. I don't always agree with what they say (although often I do), but even when I don't, I admire their tenacity.

I'd love to hear your answers to some of these questions in the comments. You be old school too!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tournament of Smiles

Special hockey tournaments are great. I've never been to a bad one and I've been to quite a few. Some, however, stand out as exceptional. The tournament in Jamestown, NY, that Jack and I went to last weekend was exceptional.

Talk about the magic of special hockey. Watching Jack's team skate, I felt that "my heart is growing in size and capacity for love right now" feeling that I love so much and feel at those most exceptional of tournaments.

I love the intensity of travel tournaments where it is me and Jack pinging from the hotel to the rink and back. The immersion of the experience makes it that much more amazing. Add in the group of players and parents that came along and all was good.

This particular tournament was also fantastic because of the way the coaches divided up our players. The Cheetahs took three teams: an advanced team, an intermediate team, and Jack's team. Jack's team—the C Team—featured a lot of newer and younger players, while many of the more advanced kids who had been on the C Team before moved up to the intermediate team.

I missed watching those kids play and missed hanging out with their parents in the stands, but that change made a huge difference for everyone. It let those kids move up and stretch and it gave the kids still on the C Team way more of an opportunity to get their sticks on the puck and really be involved in the games. It was so fun to watch these kids really open up and get into the game. Not to mention that the parents of the C Team are, without exception, phenomenal, fun, supportive, awesome people.

The stands during the C Team games were a heart expanding place to be. It was all about your baby is my baby and the magic of special hockey. Like you wouldn't believe.

Our trip started out auspiciously enough. One reason Jack loves going on these trips is because he gets to skip school. This trip he even got to skip a standardized testing day. Even better, he got to skip school and go on a trip with his best friend, who was sitting on the bus in the seat right behind him. All was well.

See? All. Well.

Hey, here's something. Remember way back when Jack went on his very first tournament and I was worried about what the bus was going to be like? I was concerned that he might barf and then we'd be trapped on a bus with his puke for an extended amount of time? Remember that?

I briefly remembered that fear a couple of hours before we boarded the bus for this tournament. Then I discarded it because we have taken the bus to and from, what, five tournaments over the past four years and he hasn't horked on the bus even once.

Do you wonder why I bring this up?

You don't. I need say no more.

All I'm going to add is that the road through the Allegheny National Forest is not one that should be taken on a bus. That's all I'm going to say.

Also that Jack recovered very quickly and happily bopped along to his iPod for the rest of the ride while I babysat his vomit. Good times.

Music soothes everything about Jack.

I did a lot of thinking at this tournament about how far Jack has come since that first tournament, and not just in terms of carsickness.

That first tournament I was stuck to Jack like glue. I didn't dare let him out of my sight because he was young and prone to wandering. I worried if he was out of my sight for more than a few seconds. He was overwhelmed and overstimulated and even though I think he appreciated the trip, he didn't manage to make it all the way through any of the games he was supposed to play at that tournament. He ended his last game midway through by throwing his gloves at the dad by the bench. I'm not sure he spoke to anyone but me for the entire four days. That tournament was magical for a lot of reasons, but it was also super hard.

This year Jack was relaxed and happy. I stayed with him all weekend, but we are at the point where I am comfortable letting him roam away from me. ("You can trust me, Mom," he even told me at one point. "I know I can," I responded.) He has friends on the team now and will even talk and play with kids he doesn't know. (He spent part of an afternoon playing a cannonball-into-the-pool game with a kid on his team he'd never interacted with before. I got splashed.) He not only played all four of his games, but he put energy into them and looked like he really wanted to be there playing.  We were able to collaborate on our schedule instead of one of us being in charge. He was calm and happy. I was calm and happy.

Progress happens, people. It really does. Joy does too.

Jack's team played four games again this trip. Their first game was versus the Steel City Icebergs. The Icebergs only had three players at the tournament at game time.

Not a problem. This is special hockey.

Several Cheetahs put on their dark jerseys and jumped on the Steel City team. Jack was one of those. He was so into it. Maybe a little TOO into it. He played harder and with more engagement than I have ever seen on him. Instead of his usual lackadaisical skating pace, he chased the puck. He got in the mix with his stick. He paid a huge amount of attention to the game. He worked so hard.

It's almost like he had been waiting to play against his own team. I wonder if he has some sort of grudge against the Cheetahs. (Kidding.)

I’m pretty sure he probably did some trash talking down there on the ice.

The rest of the tournament was similarly awesome. Everywhere I looked were smiles. The Cheetahs' head coach was on the ice for every single Cheetahs game of the tournament. That is 12 games in two days. I didn't see him without a smile even once. I watched players create and deepen friendships and they wore beautiful smiles as they did it. I watched parents cheer on their kids—and everyone else's kids—and soaked in their smiles. There was so much good energy.

Naturally, there were some hard times. Like itchy toes—Jack's itchy toes. For some reason last weekend was the weekend of itchy toes, but they were only itchy once he'd put them in his skates and I had laced them up. One memorable game, I had to relace his skates FOUR TIMES.

Also, he made me scratch between his toes because, "Mom, I don't have long fingernails."

I forgot to take my camera to the tournament so I only have bad cell phone photos from the weekend, but even so, I managed to capture some of Jack and my idiosyncratic joy.

For example, we both laughed really hard when we saw that someone had drawn faces on all of the little pegs that decorated the top of the hotel elevator walls.

I like that Jack and I find the same things hilarious.

Then there is Jack's love of hotel breakfasts.

The waffle is really more because it is fun to make waffles at hotel breakfast buffets. Still, Jack would peel off about an eighth of the thing to eat.

Pool time is always an important part of hockey tournaments. Sometimes you'll find most of the Cheetah team packed into one square of water. Sometimes you will find only one player.

He’s like the cutest little bug ever in this photo.

We also spent some time cheering on the non-C Team Cheetahs. This is one of the reasons I like the travel tournaments. We always try to catch some games that Jack isn't playing in.

Sometimes it’s good to just be a fan.

Almost as fun as watching hockey is watching the Zamboni.

That never gets old.

There was also evidently some time spent rolling around in charcoal.

How, when this is only worn on ice, is it possible for a jersey to get this filthy?

Jack also always manages to find whatever mascot is available for hugging, in this case, the Baltimore Saints' Saint Bernard. (I just figured out why their mascot is a Saint Bernard. The "saints" refers to the dog breed. Duh. It only took me four years.)

After I took this photo, Jack turned to the dog and said, “You’re awesome!”

Jack also added to his medal collection. That boy has more hardware than the rest of Team Stimey combined.

To be fair, he totally earns them.

I look at these photos and I think about Jack's games and his friends this past weekend and at his first tournament four years ago.

Everything has changed, but still, not that much has. I still find myself stopped short by the realization of how much I love that boy. I am still brought to awe by how amazing my wonderful kid is. I still get so much joy out of the privilege of being able to spend four nonstop days with this terrific kiddo.

And still, four years later, I am so grateful to the people behind this wonderful team that creates these safe places for athletes like my son to be exactly who they are and experience a sport they might not otherwise be able to play. As always, thank you to those people—thank you to the coaches and the team leadership and the people who plan these tournaments. Thank you. I thank you and Jack thanks you.


The Cheetahs are kicking off their fundraising season. Our annual Cheetah-thon will be May 3rd this year. We would love to invite any locals to skate with us and our team that evening. We would also be honored if you would consider donating to the team. This fundraiser makes it possible for the team to practice every week for a nine-month season. It lets this all volunteer-run organization provide a wonderful team experience and the opportunity to attend tournaments like the one in this post at very small costs to special needs families.

You can find information about the Cheetah-thon at this link. You can also donate there. If you do so, please let me know that you have donated in Jack's name so I can be sure to thank you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

En Fuego

I disappeared over the past few days because Jack and I went to Jamestown, New York, for a hockey tournament. Those tournaments are always amazing and this one in particular was really magical for me. It was just so very good. I really, really felt the magic of special hockey last weekend.

I also felt the magic of catching my kid's barf in a bag on the team bus—twice—but that is a whole other story.

Regardless of being provided with so many wonderful things to write about, tournaments leave me wiped out and more likely to sit quietly and watch Netflix in my hotel room while Jack sleeps than actually write something. Hopefully that will be rectified by tomorrow evening when I try to put some of that magic into words.

Until then, I will put that magic into a photo of Jack, showing off the new hockey tape he insisted we buy out of the vending machine at the tournament rink that sells everything from skatelaces tape.


Jack says he's blazing.

He's right.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Race Report: The Reston 10-Miler

Remember all my PANIC TRAINING? Per usual, it turns out that Past Stimey is awesome and totally knew what she was doing. I ran all ten miles of the Reston 10-miler (minus 0.1-0.2 mile stretches at each of three water stations that I walked) and I did it in (just barely) under two hours and ten minutes, which is exactly what I'd hoped to do.

12883329444_5c74e37077_b-copyDon't I look all energetic and perky in that photo to the left? I should, because that was taken probably less than a quarter mile into the race.

Side note: It's funny that I call them "races," considering that they are much more like "running events," considering I ain't racing nobody.

Except for myself, of course. I race that bitch hard.

So anywho, I was sidelined in the last week before the race by a particularly virulent cold. It arrived on Tuesday and I spent the next five days trying to sit perfectly still and willing myself to get better.

I was really worried, because under the best of situations, I was concerned that I wasn't going to finish under the two-hour, fifteen-minute course limit. Inability to breathe or sneezing fits weren't going to help me finish with the slim cushion I had.

Fortunately, I felt a LOT better by race day and even though I wasn't at 100%, I probably ran at the same pace I would have if I hadn't been sick. See, I wasn't aiming for fast. I was aiming to finish.

(And I did. Woo!)

You know how some people run marathons and ultras and go for 15-mile runs like it ain't no thang? Those people be hard core. I have a secret to tell you: Ten miles is really far to run. When I caught myself thinking, "Well, no matter what, worst case scenario, in another hour and a half, this will all be over," it came home to me that ten miles is long.

I broke my run into little milestones, with the goal being to not think past the next one.

Said milestones:

3 miles: I made it to the first water station! Break time!

3.1 miles: I ran a 5k!

3.33 miles: I'm a third of the way done!

4 miles: Almost halfway there!

5 miles: Really halfway there!

5.5 miles: Only a half mile until the next water station. A half mile is nothing.

6 miles: Water station!

6.2 miles: I just ran a 10k!

6.9 miles: Only a 5k to run. I can run a 5k any day.

7.2 miles: I want to walk. I really want to walk. I am not going to walk.

7.5 miles: This (aka, Desperation Sets In):

1. The washcloth at my waist was for nose blowing. I used it a lot.
2. For anyone who thinks they can’t run, look at this photo and know that if *I* can run 10-miles, you can run too.
3. Even though both of my feet are touching the ground here, I assure you that I was actually running. Veeeeery slowly, but I was. 4. My face looks like it is actually going to explode.

8 miles: This is now officially the longest race I have ever run.

8.2 miles: Oh, thank God, the water stop that was supposed to be at mile 8.5 is early! THANK THE GOOD LORD! I will now take my short, sanctioned water-stop walk.

8.5 miles: According to the course elevation map, I just crested the last hill. Only one and a half miles to go—and they're all downhill! Piece of motherfucking cake!

9 miles: Not a piece of cake. But only one mile. On a good day, I could hop one mile if I wanted to. (It's no longer a good day.)

9.5 miles: This race is never going to end.

9.7ish miles: I can almost see the finish line, but the course takes a windy route down and around a turnaround and then back up a veeeery slight uphill that will almost kill me.

10 miles: I DID IT! Except that unless you run the very edge of a course, you are always going to run longer than the official distance. Only .2 miles to go. Not only can you do this, Stimey, but you should be able to speed up juuuust a smidge.

10.2 miles: FINISH LINE! I REALLY DID IT! VICTORY IS MINE! I AM AWESOME! Oh, shit. How far away is my car?

10.7 miles: I am at my car. It finally feels safe to stop moving.

Yeah, that was hard. I was just barely trained enough to run that. Also, why—when I did a lot of long runs with absolutely no foot pain—did I develop blisters at mile four during this race? I don't understand that.

All said, I'm proud of me. I pushed myself and I met my goal. Now I know I can do it—and knowing that is worth every tenth of a mile I ran.