Surviving Winter Break

You’re probably reading this in 2016. If so, let me get this out of the way first: Happy New Year! May your 2016 be your best year! We’ll talk about resolutions and goals and what not, but that will come another day. Today we’re looking back. Specifically, we’re looking back at the last week and how Team Stimey made it through without just flat out giving up and letting our kids play video games 24/7 for all of winter break.

Let’s start with Alex. Alex went to New York for concerts. Lucky him. Fini.

Now for the rest of us.

My sister (Ann) brought one of her kids (Jacob) to come visit for the week after Christmas. They’re actually still here, so they’re helping us get through the rest of the week.

Unfortunately, Alex and I introduced Ann to The Walking Dead shortly after she arrived so now I not only have to try to keep my kids off video games 24/7, I have to try to keep Ann off of Netflix 24/7 AND break up fistfights between her and my kids as they fight over the television. It’s a whole thing.

So, if ever you are stuck in a house with four boys, a sister, five cats, four gerbils, and no school, here are some suggestions on how to pass the time.

First, that five cats thing is essential. Because there is nothing like kittens to kill a few hours.

Photo of a 10-year-old (Jacob) sitting on the floor playing with two white kittens.

That is Jacob. He likes cats. My sister’s wife is deathly allergic to cats, so this is really his only chance to hang out with them. The cats, fortunately, are happy to oblige.

It is also important to note that just because Christmas is over, that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing Christmas things. For example, I dragged everyone to the local nature center for the Christmas light show.

Photo of me sitting next to my sister, Ann.

This is Ann. She’s a doctor. Do you know how annoying it is to watch The Walking Dead with a doctor?

The lights were fun. Quinn and Jack particularly enjoyed the caterpillar tunnel in which they spun and spun and spun. I tried one rotation and almost fell over.

Quinn and Jack with arms out, caught mid-spin, in a tunnel created by multicolored lights forming a long archway.

As Kang says, “We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

I discovered that telling four young boys to sit in a row and smile is nearly as futile as asking three of them to do it.

Jack, Jacob, Quinn, and Sam sitting on a bench in front of colored lights sorta kinda trying to smile at the camera.But if you ask them for “now a silly one,” they will comply almost instantly.

The same photo as the last one except they're all making silly faces and poses.The next day we went to the American History Museum, which I called the American History Fun Zone because Quinn has a nearly anaphylactic reaction to the word “museum.”

He wasn’t fooled.

I took a photo to remember where we parked the car.

Photo of part of my car in a parking space labeled "227."Then I took a photo to remember where the munchkins were.

Sam, Jacob, and Jack standing in front of a wall on which is etched "United States of America"

Quinn declined to participate.

Fortunately I’m not an idiot and this isn’t my first rodeo, so I knew what I needed to do to make Quinn let go of some of his anxiety and let himself start to have fun.

Unsurprisingly, it involved spinning something.

Photo of both Jack and Quinn standing at a musuem exhibit where they are pretending to scratch at a turntable.

Interactive exhibit? Check! Something that spins? Check! Sneaking him a piece of chocolate that no one else sees? Double check!

Not everyone was so enamored with the interactive play area.

Photo of Sam with his head down on a table and his hair over his face. Ann is in the background not looking too much more excited.

Stupid Sam, outgrowing stuff. Ann too.

Jack and Quinn, however, were delighted. They kept us in the interactive exhibit for quite a while as they made up stories of their “inventions.” The American History Museum is dumb enough to allow just anyone to write just anything and have it displayed on a touch screen for anyone to discover. Sorry, American History Museum patrons.

Photo of Quinn in front of a touch screen displaying his story.

In case you can’t read it: “Invention of a Golden Coooooooow: A cow jumped over the moon and into a dude who was trying to throw up in space. The cow hit him, rebounded off him, and flew into a volcano and became gold. The end.” This story was way less offensive than the one he wrote about the invention of fart gas.

Photo of Jack in front of a touch screen displaying his story.

And Jack’s: “Aperiture Science Panels: As people know, our walls don’t move, but panels make it a reality. Also if spikes are welded to it, it is a crusher. We sell them too.” At least Jack put the word “science” in there.

Our success in the interactive area carried over into a successful visit to a couple of other exhibits.

Photo of Sam, Jack, and Jacob standing in front of a vault door. Jacob is standing politely and smiling while Sam is holding Jack around the neck and Jack has his arms in the air.

Dammit, Jacob. Way to make us look bad.

Photo of a statue seated on a bench. Quinn and Jacob are standing on either side of it, each with a finger up the statue's nose.

Uh oh. I think we’re starting to rub off on my sister’s kid.

Every single thing we’ve done with all four kids has had a big element of sitting down to eat food. It turns out that if you feed children, they are happier. And it turns out that if you promise kids imminent food, they will continue to walk through an exhibit instead of dropping to the ground in panic.

Who fucking knew?

Photo of Ann and Jacob smiling at the camera.

I include this photo of Ann and Jacob at lunch, simply because it is super cute.

Every single thing we’ve done with my sister has also had a big element of finding coffee as well. It turns out that if you feed her caffeine in the form of a latte, she is much happier.

Who fucking knew? (Well, all of us knew this one.)

Photo of four boys on a concrete ledge. They all look exhausted in their own way.

I am highly entertained by this post-museum photo of all four kids waiting for Ann, who is in Starbucks.

But, if not for Ann’s incapacitating coffee habit, I wouldn’t have captured in a photo this easy love, comfort, and joy in each other that Jack and Quinn share.

Two photos side by side, each of Jack and Quinn with their arms wrapped around each other, caught in an intimate moment of hugging and just being together.

These two.

Then there were naps. Lots of naps.

In a fit of surprising craftiness, we also made chocolate chess pieces, something Quinn has wanted to make for Sam for a long time.

Photo of a plate full of milk chocolate molded chess pieces.

We had plans to create a whole set out of white and milk chocolate, but before he left for New York, Alex washed the thin plastic mold in the dishwasher so we can never make them again.

I also made Ann fix my bathroom door jamb.

Photo of my sister in a bathroom doorway with a screwdriver, fixing a doorjamb.

She’s older than me. I think her determination to prove she could fix it is an eldest sibling thing. Cool by me. I’m pretty lazy. I think that’s a youngest sibling thing.

It wasn’t all handywomaning and chess pieces though. There were some vigorous games of Exploding Kittens and Twister and that trip to the gymnastics place and lots of other fun stuff. But mixed in with all the fun, there must come the non-fun.

Dum dum dum…

The zoo.

Ask Quinn. He’s not a fan of anyplace where he has to walk around and look at things. At first things were okay. Quinn and Jack went on the carousel. We discovered that the zoo has five lions JUST LIKE we have five cats. We determined that I might not fare well in the wild.

Photo of Sam standing by a spinny thing that reveals the saying in the caption.

Sam spun a little thing to find out what he said was his fortune. He came up with, “Our mother is gored by a wild pig. She dies.” Dammit.

Then it got uphill and hungry and the reptile house was too hot and the outside was too cold and I had to give Quinn my coat to put on top of his own coat and he insisted on hot food and we waited in an outdoors line for food for like 45 minutes and finally we ate and everyone was happy and we set off to see the pandas and discovered that the pandas weren’t on display. It was a rough day at the zoo.

Thank God the otters were out and adorable.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, and Jacob watching the otters play.

If those otters had been inside their otter house, I would have entirely lost my shit.

But you guys, even though the zoo was a little bit of an exercise in frustration, it all turned out okay because we discovered that one of the otters is named PICKLES. JUST LIKE OUR CAT PICKLES!

Two photos: One of our cat Pickles and one of Quinn pointing at a zoo sign listing the otter names, one of which is Pickles.

See?! (Jack says, “Illuminati confirmed.”)

So not the  most satisfying zoo day, but still all right because of these guys:

Photo of Jacob, Sam, Jack, and Quinn standing in front of a waterfall at the zoo.

What do you think is up with Sam restraining Jack in every photo? I’m going to have to start paying attention to that.

Now we’re hanging out all together (except for Jacob who went to bed at 8:30 when the rest of us snuck back downstairs to watch New Year’s Rockin’ Eve). And that’s where we are at 10:58 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Happy 2016, friends. I truly hope you have a wonderful new year, full of love and family and joy.

3 thoughts on “Surviving Winter Break

  1. You guys definitely have made the most of your winter break! Will Sam ever stop growing? Are those his toes coming out of his shoes or is he wearing some sort of mesh shoe? Love the photos and that Quinn got your jacket again!

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