Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!

My family sitting on the curb at a parade.

Gosh, you guys, it’s been a while. I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now and I keep getting hung up on trying to recap stuff I haven’t told you. So how about I don’t do that and just plow on ahead?

Now that my kids are back in school and I don’t have to deal with (as much) working mom guilt and marathon-training mom guilt, I’m hoping to have time to write a little more. (Ha! You’ve heard that before, haven’t you?)

Anywho, things are going well. Alex and the munchkins are good, we went to see the total eclipse, we destroyed the lives of another group of ants in an ant farm, and I’ve been enjoying the golden age of television. Maybe I’ll write about some of that soon. Hopefully not the television part.

Mostly it feels like I’ve been running all the time. I only have about a month until my marathon and then I might take up another sport. Like competitive potato chip eating. If I suggest that I run another marathon in the near future, you have my full permission to hold some type of intervention. This intervention would probably have to include Alex, who is tired of coming to pick me up after I run 15 miles in one direction and then call him for help because I’m too sweaty to get into an Uber.

That said, Alex has been kind of killing it in terms of his own running goals. I had a 20-mile race that I wanted to run last weekend and they have a 10-mile one at the same time, so I talked him into doing the ten-miler. He did a great job training for it, although when I reminded him the night before the race that in 12 hours we’d be setting off from the start line, he gave me the angriest look I’d ever seen him give me. It looked like he wanted to punch me. You know how Past Jean always screws Present Jean? Well this time she also screwed Present Alex.

Although she was also the impetus for Alex’s triumphant finish of a ten-mile race as well. So, kudos, Past Jean. Also, kudos to Rock Star Alex. He really did an amazing job. I’m super proud of him.

Alex and I pre-race. We're both wearing black.

This was pre-race. It amused us that we both looked as if we’d dressed for a running funeral. We considered going up to the other runners dressed in all black and asking them if they were there for the funeral too, but we didn’t want people to think we were weird or something.

I also triumphantly finished my 20-miler by running my last mile faster than any of the prior six or so because I so desperately wanted to get to the finish line and sit down. I accomplished my goal though, which was to run the whole thing (except for water stops, which I always walk through), so I feel good about that. This course gave me a good idea of what to expect out of myself under race conditions. For example, I learned that for my marathon, I am not setting any time goals other than to go faster than the race cutoff. My sole goal is to grind through 26.2 miles without walk breaks. (I’m not against walk breaks, but I want to prove to myself that I can run the whole thing.)

I did take one, brief unscheduled break during my run to witness the brutality of nature. I almost never stop to take photos during races, but this one demanded it. Squeamish people who love deer, look away.

Photo of a dead, partially flayed deer by the side of a canal. There are two vultures sitting on him.

These vultures were, like, lifting flaps of hide offa this guy. It was a trip.

I also ran a half marathon the week prior to the 20-miler. I signed my entire family up to volunteer at the 9-mile water stop, so they were forced to be there to encourage me. I liked that. I should sign them up to volunteer at all my races. Perhaps their radiant love gave me a speed boost because I beat my best half marathon time by 21 seconds. That’s right—twenty. one. (<— I’m mocking myself here, but I’m still putting a little star by my results in my races list.)

Photo of me nearing the finish line of my half marathon.

Of course, my PR is many runners’ worst case scenario, but I race against me, not them, so it’s okay.

Alrighty, then. Here’s hoping I’ll be back before too much time elapses. I hope you all are doing well.

Run the Hill You’re In

I ran Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon last Sunday. I registered for it in a bout of optimism last March after successfully running a long, hilly race. I read, “Do you love running hills? Do you love running in summer heat? Does the DC area humidity inspire you to get out and sweat it out?” on the race description page and was all, “THIS IS THE RACE FOR ME!”

Just as a point of order, I don’t love hills, summer heat, OR humidity. But I guess Past Jean thought I did.

See, I am running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall and I figured that if I couldn’t do a tough half marathon in July, I had no business running MCM in October.

I ended up running just about 12 minute miles (I actually finished with the 12 minute pace group) at two hours and 39 minutes.

Me in a tank and shorts, running on a sidwalk

This is me at about mile 12.8. I had aaaaalmost reached the end of the hills. There was a gentle upslope almost to the finish line.

I was pretty happy with my time, especially considering the elevation, which consisted of more than 700 feet of elevation gain and nearly that same number of feet of elevation loss. I will run a flatter half marathon in September that will probably give me a better idea about my MCM pace estimate.

Photo of jagged up and downs on an elevation map

Yeah, I’m the dipshit who photographs a computer screen. In my defense, I was texting it to someone and the photo was easier than a screenshot.

I don’t think there was any flat ground. You might notice that long climb right at the end of the race. You might assume that it sucked. You’d be right.

I actually kinda really enjoyed this race. Maybe I DO like running hills. See, with uphills come downhills. Not to mention that it is more interesting to run rolling terrain than flat. And the course was really gorgeous. Also, due to Apple’s decision to make their new iPhone headphone jack-less and my absentmindedness regarding remembering to bring my adapter, I ran completely without music other than birdsong.

It was really sort of delightful. The race was on small roads surrounded by greenery, the sound of birds, and other interesting runners to eavesdrop on. Often on long runs, I am super focused on the distance that I’ve run, but at this race I just relaxed into it and kept on keepin’ on.

See how beautiful?

Me running up a road with green trees in the background. I am wearing shorts.

I just started wearing running shorts instead of capris this summer. That’s a whole other post. I have body image issues.

Riley’s Rumble provides sport popsicles at mid-race. That was awesome. Although I created a whole thing because I skipped the first few people and then when I demanded a cherry popsicle from the guy on the end, he only had other flavors and there was much flapping around (by me) and rushing for a cherry popsicle (by him) and I forgot to say thank you, so let’s consider this my heartfelt thank you because that popsicle was Good.

Speaking of popsicles, this race takes place at the end of July in the DC area, so it is generally super hot and humid. This year, however, the weather was gorgeous. It could not have been more suited for running. Also, much of the course was shady. (See above.) Humidity could have been a killer though. We got lucky.

I felt pretty good throughout the race, although I was definitely aware of how hard my legs were working. I’m trying to do less shuffling through races and more pushing myself during them, so I tried to keep attention on how I was running and how much energy I could expend.

At one point, on a kinda sucky uphill prior to the big one at 11 miles, I modified the running adage “run the mile you’re in” to “run the hill you’re in,” in an effort to focus on doing my best without despairing over the elevation to come. I gotta say, it worked.

I hadn’t managed to convince any of my running friends to run the half marathon with me, but there was an 8K race as well and my friends Lyda and Bob signed up for that one. The distance was shorter, but they still got to run the really crappy hills at the beginning and end, so you can feel reassured that they got their workouts in.

After their races, they stuck around for, like, an hour and a half to cheer me in. They even made a sign for me. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to see them. I was even inspired enough to ramp it up and pass two more runners between seeing them and the finish line. I wasn’t quite able to pass the 12-minute mile pace team (who had obviously trained together), but because I finished with them, I get to be the interloper in all their triumphant finish line photos.

Had you asked me at mile 12 if I was interested in running this thing again, I might have looked at you askance as I muttered “you can do it you can do it you can do it” to myself. In the afterglow of success, however, I could be talked into it.

I just hope Future Jean remembers that the Riley’s Rumble course is no joke if she decides to sign up. Fun, challenging, beautiful, popsicle-filled…but no joke.

Jean, Lyda, and Bob after the race. I'm holding a Riley's Rumble magnet.

My apologies to Bob and Lyda for making them stand next to the smelliest half-marathoner in the world to get this photo.

On to the next one.

John, Grover, and a Tangerine

On days when I work and my kids are home, I give them a schedule with little assignments. Mainstays of the assignments are a daily sports and art task. I’m here to tell you about today’s art, but I feel like I should also mention brag that today was a free choice sports day and they chose, “clean the TV room and office” as their sports activity.

My kids totally won today.

(Alex was home for part of the day, so he might have encouraged that particular endeavor, but still.)

Okay. For art today, on my way out the door, I scribbled “draw a president” on their schedule because I was (a) out of ideas, and (b) I was curious what such an open-ended assignment would lead to.

I’m not going to show you the one obscene Trump picture that one of my kids drew—suffice it to say that it featured an orange toupee on a part of the anatomy that doesn’t normally sport toupees. I laughed hard.

That aside, here are my kids’ president drawings in descending order of the artist’s age:

Pencil drawing of John Adams wearing a wig

By Katie

Katie was all, “Do you see the curls on his wig?” and I told her I did and asked why she chose John Adams and she said it was because he was the only president she could think of with the curls. Then I noted that he looks very sad and she said that it’s because he was a crappy president. I think she’s been listening to too much Hamilton.

Pencil drawing of Grover Cleveland, labeled with his name and "22nd and 24th president of the United States"

By Jack

Me = blown away. I had no idea that Grover Cleveland was crawling around in Jack’s brain. I asked him why he chose Cleveland and he said, “Because he was the 22nd and 24th president,” as if that answered all of my questions. (It did not.)

pencil drawing of flowers with a red ball that has an orange flame/toupee coming off the side

By Quinn

That is a tangerine with an orange toupee. Three guesses which president he chose. Although we watched The Lego Movie later today and he expressed regret that he hadn’t drawn President Business, and I mentally expressed regret that the country didn’t vote for President Business, Kraggle and all.

My kids. They’re hilarious. Their brains are these wonderful little mazes of creativity. I highly recommend assigning your kids weird art projects. You never know what they’re going to come up with.

I’d Like to Introduce You to My Mailbox

We got a new mailbox. It took us a long time. We first started thinking about getting a new mailbox last December, but we only just put it up because we have had a hell of a time with it.

I know that right about now you’re all, “Dear lord, I think Stimey has officially run out of things to blog about because mailboxes are not a topic of conversation.”

To this I would say that you are wrong. Soooooooo wrong.

Please to meet our new mailbox, Claude:

Photo of a 6-foot-tall carved black bear holding a mailbox.

*jumps up and down and flaps hands*

OMG OMG OMG OMG I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.

We were going to name him Beauregard, but too many people asked if he was named after the attorney general and that was not okay with me, so we renamed him Claude, because he looks like a dignified French bear and also because you can humorously imagine that his name is Clawed.

I should back up because Claude’s journey to us began three years ago when Alex and I went to Key West. If you live in/visit Florida, you know this, but if you don’t frequent the Sunshine State, you may not know that something like fifty percent of the mailboxes there are in manatee form.

Light gray manatee standing up holding a mailbox.

Seriously. Like, at least half of them.

They make for very cute street-adjacent art and I think that if we lived in Florida, Alex would have okayed the installation of one of our own. As we live in Maryland, Alex was less excited about the idea of sticking a manatee statue at the end of our driveway.

He also won’t let me put gargoyles on the roof or lion statues on either side of our driveway. It’s like he’s completely against whimsy.

I accepted his no, but sporadically brought it up for the ensuing two years and occasionally bad talked him to friends for being the absolute worst joykiller in the world.

Cut to last summer when we vacationed in Wisconsin where there are chainsaw carvers galore with showlots on the sides of roads. A few years ago, I had seen a small (maybe two feet tall) carved bear with a “welcome” sign at one of those lots and I thought I might be able to talk Alex into letting me put that outside our door.

We couldn’t find the welcome bear, but suddenly Alex was ALL ABOUT finding a bear mailbox, which, in retrospect, would have made the two-day drive home uncomfortable/impossible.

Once we got back, we did a little half-hearted searching for someone who could carve and ship such a mailbox to us, but we realized how prohibitively expensive that would be so we kind of trailed off.

Until one day it occurred to me that chainsaw bear carvers probably live in places other than Wisconsin and I looked up Maryland carvers and voila! there was one an hour’s drive away from me.

It turns out this guy is awesome at carving but a little less good at organizing, so while I heartily recommend him for all of your chainsaw carving needs, I recommend that you also give him a little extra time for responding to emails, etc.

Joe—awesome chainsaw carver is Joe—cheerfully accepted my commission for an entirely reasonable price and asked us to select a mailbox. It was at this point that Señor No Manatee was all, “Can we get this fish mailbox?” and I was all, “Who are you?”

Photo of a hideously ugly green fish-shaped mailbox.

It seemed a little over the top. Because if you’re going with a six-foot-tall bear mailbox, you have to know when to show restraint.

We purchased the normal mailbox I insisted on and had it delivered to Joe while we commenced to waiting, anxiously tapping our feet and wondering exactly how much our neighbors were going to hate us.

Finally the day came for me to drive up to meet Claude. I was nervous. What if I didn’t like him? What if he wasn’t what I imagined? What if he didn’t fit in my car?

None of those things happened except that he wasn’t what I had imagined—he was far cuter and more awesome that I’d imagined. The guy helped me put Claude in my van and then I drove off down the road with the most fun cargo that I’d ever cargoed.

Photo of the back of my car where Claude is lying down with mailbox facing up.

Also, Claude is really heavy, which I discovered when trying to remove him from my car.

Alex and I then spent weeks thinking about how to attach Claude to our property because the last thing we want is for someone to walk off with the greatest thing we own. We debated screwing him into our asphalt driveway…We considered cementing him into a hole we’d dig in the grass at the side of the driveway…We…actually, that’s all we came up with, but we’re indecisive and lazy people, which is not a good combination. In fact, we couldn’t even decide on where exactly we wanted him, because there are a surprising number of places you can put a tall bear mailbox on our property.

Meanwhile, he languished in our garage, where I would nod solemnly and say his name every time I passed him and the kids did degrading things to him.

Claude in our garage wearing a helmet.

Just wait until Claude hears about our Halloween plans for him.

But before we were able to come to a decision/overcome inertia, something terrible happened. Claude…got sick.

Close up of Claude's head, with a big crack down the side.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Evidently sometimes wood settles and cracks and it’s a thing that happens but OH MY POOR DEAR BABY BEAR CLAUDE!!!

It was at this point that Alex and my indecisiveness paid off because we didn’t have to uninstall Claude to take him back to Joe, who calmly assured us that wood is easy to fix. I trucked Claude back up to Joe and shortly thereafter he was fixed and back in my arms.

Now we really had to decide where to put Claude. Most of those deliberations involved Alex and I deciding how much we wanted to be The Bear House and how obtrusive Claude would be to our neighborhood aesthetic environment.

We eventually picked the spot you see in the first photo because (1) he’s not too obvious from the street there, but (2) everyone who comes to our door gets to see him, and (3) we were able to see an easy Claude-securing method in that spot.

We decided to chain Claude to some stuff. You can see his little leg shackles in the first photo, which is a little sad, but let’s try to not focus on that, okay?

Alex and I headed down to Home Depot where our chain acquisition turned into a whole thing because Alex and I are Alex and I and we turn everything into a thing. We went down the chain aisle where I was hoping to find a nice solid black chain, but weirdly enough, the chain I was seeing in my brain didn’t exist.

For some reason, we settled on a giant, bright silver chain that we had to have custom cut for us. Because it was so thick, it took the poor Home Depot employee quite a bit of time to cut it. Meanwhile I went to find a padlock and came upon what I felt was a better solution for the chain, giving up a little security for better aesthetics.

Unfortunately, Home Depot guy was mid cut, so I waited until he was done and then showed Alex, who agreed with me. He wanted to just drop the chain in the brick section, but I thought that would make our non-purchase even more obvious and I thought we needed to put it back in the chain bucket because it was a nice long length of chain that someone else could use and maybe the Home Depot guy would never even know we didn’t buy it.

But the Home Depot guy continued to stand in the aisle for a really long time. Alex and I circled and circled, waiting for the guy to move on. We could not have looked more suspicious if we’d tried.

Alex pushing a cart of bricks and chains.

Alex: “Maybe we can just buy the chain and return it?” (We will do anything in our power to avoid confrontation.)

We finally saw the guy had left the aisle, but by the time we’d circled back around, he was at the end of the aisle, looked at us, looked at the chain in our cart, and asked if he could help us with anything else, so we had to do more aimless circling before we were FINALLY able to dump the chain and get the hell out of there.

It’s possible we may have overthought the whole thing.

After our Home Depot ordeal, it was a simple matter to lay down some sand (for leveling), some bricks (for drainage), and twist Claude’s tether around several items/trees (to prevent escape).

I lurked around for the mail carrier on the next mail day and watched from my window as he nonchalantly dropped our mail in the box with only the slightest perceptible interest in the giant bear holding it. It was extremely disappointing. See, I figure that mail carriers see a bazillion boring mailboxes every day. I feel like Claude could be a bright point in their day if only they would give him a chance. I might have to start putting hats on him.

Selfie of my and Claude's heads.

*solemn nod*      “Claude.”

You Could Be Anywhere in the World Tonight…

Last we checked in, I was on my way to go see Hamilton in New York. Well, that happened and it was ridiculously good and now I have nothing left in this world to live for because I will never get to go to New York to see Hamilton again.

I think instead of crumbling into ennui due to my bleak Hamilton-less future, I shall instead regale you with the story of my trip.

A few months ago, Alex told me he wanted to get me and a friend tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for my birthday because I love Hamilton so much. He told me he’d use his hotel points to get us a hotel and that I should proceed with making plans.

I told him that I never wanted him to tell me how much he spent on the tickets and got in touch with my friend Jen, who lives in Minnesota and talks ALL THE TIME on Facebook about how much she loves Hamilton. For those of you sad that I didn’t take you on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, let this be a lesson to you that you should be fanatical to the point of annoyance in any interest you share with me because apparently that is how I select companions for fun things.

Jen and I had tickets for Wednesday June 21, but headed up that Tuesday because you don’t want to have a travel delay and not make it to the show. That’s why I built in a 36-hour cushion for just such travel emergencies. You can’t take chances, you know.

I took the train and Jen took a plane and a train and we planned to meet at Penn Station at 11 am. I can’t speak to Jen’s long odyssey to get there, but I made Alex give me step by step instructions on how to arrive at the train, board the train, stash my luggage on the train, sit on the train, give my ticket to the train guy, not get off at any of the other two Penn Stations we passed prior to the correct one, how to identify the proper Penn Station, and how to detrain.

It’s hard to travel alone.

Fortunately, everything was as described and I successfully managed to get on the train and snag a window seat.

Photo of me in the window seat

Although I was not clever enough to get a non-sun side of the train. That wasn’t in Alex’s Power Point presentation.

Jen had an arduous trip, involving a 3 am wake-up, an airplane, Newark airport, and NJ train transit. I took a nap in my seat.

Photo of a train inside a station.

I’m autistic, so here’s a photo of a train I took as we pulled into the train station.

Jen was already there and we sent a series of texts saying things like, “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts,” and “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts too,” and then I twirled in confused circles for a while and finally we spotted each other and exchanged sweaty hugs and jumped up and down a little and then we went outside to get a cab to our hotel and I decided that New York is terrifying and I am a rube.

I wasn’t quite ready to start embarrassing Jen in public yet, so I don’t have any photos of this part of our trip. Instead I will insert this photo from slightly later in the day so you can get a mental picture of us.

Photo of me and Jen.

I’m lucky that Jen is a really easy person to hang out with because I am terrible at people-ing. She seems to be much better at it than I.

We checked into our hotel room, de-sweated a little, then headed out to what Jen described as “the best place on Earth,” aka Chelsea Market, land of any kind of food you want. It turns out that the kind of food WE wanted was pasta served IN A BOWL MADE OUT OF CHEESE.

Pasta in, well, a bowl made out of cheese.

I didn’t understand most of the menu but I knew almost all of the words in the description for the above dish, so I ordered it and the waiter was all, “That comes in a cheese basket,” and Jen was all, “Imma need a cheese basket too,” and it turns out that cheese baskets are delicious but incredibly filling and I still rue the fact that my basket defeated me and I couldn’t finish it.

Before we did that though, we wandered the entire Chelsea Market, including the best store, The Filling Station, that sold many flavors of, among other things, salt and vinegar. The last time Jen and I had been together in person, we had established that salt was a waaaay more valuable mineral than fancy gemstones, so she insisted we go there and taste all the salt.

It was amazing. I got a little overexcited and ended up with four containers of different flavored salt, a little salt spoon, and some pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Jen ended up with a burned tongue because I told her she should taste the spicy salt and she accidentally ate two grains instead of one, like the sign suggested she do, and thus began a string of questionable actions taken by Jen just because I told her to.

A wooden box with a Hamilton scene woodburned into it. There are four salt jars in it.

At the hotel, I put the salt in a little Hamilton-themed wooden crate that Jen had asked her dad to woodburn for me. The Schuyler sisters are on the other side. It is AMAZING. I think he could make a gajillion dollars selling them to the public.

I’d purchased the vinegar because Quinn has recently discovered balsamic vinegar. I told him over the phone that I’d bought it and he asked me to locate and buy “a salad kit” for him before I came home. I did not.

We were near the High Line, so we decided to go there. We walked to one end, then we turned around and walked all the way to the other end, with a middle stop to sit on a bench and people watch for a long time.

For those of you that don’t know, the High Line is an old elevated rail line that has been turned into green space full of people, kinda warm water fountains, vendors, and questionable art. Or at least art that is smarter than Jen and me combined.

Photo of a train track surrounded by plants.

People, water fountains, vendors, and art not pictured.

We also spent some time walking along the Hudson River, where we were reprimanded by a random lady for standing too close to the railing and scaring the seagulls away. Although I have a feeling that Hudson Bay seagulls aren’t afraid of a lot of things and certainly not me.

Tuesday was mostly a day that involved eating, resting, eating, resting, and then more eating. We rested at our hotel for a while before we headed out to the East Village to eat risotto for dinner because we apparently will travel long distances for delicious food, especially if it is risotto. And delicious it was, although instead of putting a bread basket on the table, the restaurant we went to put out a basket full of rice cakes. It was a little weird. I mean, I get that their thing was rice, what with the risotto and all, but still.

We were finishing our risotto and talking about how neither of us are night owl/party people so we were contemplating going back to the hotel when I said, “Or we could go find a place to eat dessert.” Well. It turns out that Jen and I agree on the need for dessert in our lives. I Yelped dessert bars and there were TWO within 0.2 miles of us. New York, man.

We chose the dessert tapas place where they recommended the three-tapas selection for two people. That’s obviously what we did because who are we to argue with a menu?

Three photos: 1. A little pan with a marshmallow cookie topped with pretzels, ice cream, and fudge; 2. a little pot filled with what looks like dirt and a little plant sprig next to a tiny pitcher of sauce and some red sorbet; 3. four squares of white dessert with chocolate crust next to strawberries and chocolate crumbles

I can’t even tell you how good this was. Each one was so creative and so delicious and I think I’m still full from eating all of it.

After that, we were done for the evening. We slept in the next morning, which was great and because it was Hamilton day, we didn’t want to do anything that would take too much time, so we decided to go to the Nintendo store and Rockefeller Center because our kids are nerds and we wanted to get them souvenirs.

First, however, we obviously needed to eat. It seems like everyone in New York is all, “Ramen is the greatest; you’ve gotta eat ramen,” so even though I was nervous about it, I agreed when Jen suggested we eat that for lunch. (We slept reeeeeaaaaaalllllly late.)

I could have told you it was not going to go great when we started eating and Jen immediately started talking about worms and then when I told her that I have a thing about worms and it was not helping with my noodle consumption, she made a smooth segue into talking about her dog’s “exploded anal gland” and I did a real-life, actual spit take.

It turns out that ramen, which is basically a big bowl of surprising ingredients all mixed in together in broth, is not really my thing. I was, however, glad that I tried it and comforted by the fact that we were following up by sharing a giant doughnut. Also the wall next to me was covered in a chain curtain and it was really fun to touch and stroke as I tried to not think I was eating worms.

We walked through Times Square first, stopping briefly at the Disney Store, where I encouraged Jen to make bad shopping decisions that I am sure made her daughter very happy. Then we went to the Nintendo store where we both made bad shopping decisions that made our children very happy.

2 photos: 1. Me standing next to a giant Donkey Kong statue 2. me croching next to a Pikachu sitting on a pokeball statue

Also both Jen and I did all kinds of embarrassing things at the Nintendo store, but only I have photographic evidence of it.

We wandered around Rockefeller Center after that. Jen was on the lookout for Rachel Maddow and I was trying to take a good photograph of a pigeon.

four photos of pigeons, none of which has the entire pigeon in frame.

Neither of us were successful.

We ended up sitting outside and talking for a really long time and doing some more people watching. It was really nice. Also, eventually I got the money shot of a pigeon.

Photo of a pigeon.

STRUT!

We browsed around some more and happened by the Swarovski crystal store where I found the nicest, most glittery place I’ve ever been and I made Jen sit there for a while so I could pet the crystal drape and sit in rainbows.

A couch covered in crystals in front of strings of large crystals.

Now I just have to convince Alex to build me a nook like this for my next birthday.

We decided to walk past the Richard Rogers Theatre on our way back to the hotel so we would know where it was. Obviously we walked down the street juuuuuuust as all the Wednesday matinees were letting out, so it was a total mob scene. Regardless, battling crowds did not dim our excitement.

Selfie of me in front of the theatre with Hamilton signs. I look excited.

I like that if you look closely at my sunglasses lens, you can see Jen.

Ticket time was 8 pm, so naturally Jen and I returned and were in line at 6:50. Because that’s how we roll.

Jen and I outside the theater in front of a Schuyler sisters mural

Look how bored and unexcited we look.

What time is it?

Screenshot of my Facebook post when I checked in to the theater and it says I am attending Hamilton. I've written "Fuck yeah, I am."

SHOWTIME!

They let us in the theater at 7:30 and told us to take an immediate right turn. Then the next usher we met said, “Oh let me take you down here,” and then there we were. At our seats. In the fifth row.

Jen and I in front of the stage in our seats

You know, NBD.

It was ridiculous. We spent some time texting Alex all-caps notes of excitement and thanks, including the following photo, which pretty much sums up how both of us were feeling.

Jen holding up her playbill. She looks delighted.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

The seats around us started filling in and I breathed a sigh of relief as someone short sat in front of me. Shortly after Jen did the same. I’d been worrying about the person who was going to sit in front of me ever since Alex had bought the tickets. I was less worried about the person who was going to sit in front of Jen, but it’s nice that it worked out for her too.

The stage

I know everyone says it, but I think you’re required to say it if you go to the show, so here it is—the room where it happens.

Then we watched Hamilton.

As Gina said on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Hamilton. Was. Amazing! How is no one talking about this musical? It’s so good.”

The show was phenomenal, you guys. It really was. I know there is so much hype around it, but I had absolutely no disappointment. I thought all the actors did wonderful jobs and I liked how they put their spin on the roles. I was rapt the entire time. It was hilarious and inspirational and heartbreaking and I know just how lucky I am that I was able to go see it. This was my very first Broadway show and it was amazing. I have a million thoughts about the show and my poor family heard them all, but I don’t know that I can communicate how much I loved it in written words.

When we were walking out, Jen and I both agreed that we could sit down right there and then and watch it again without being the slightest bit bored. Both of us had apparently gotten a little sad a few songs from the end because we knew it was almost over. It was really incredible.

I didn’t imagine myself to be a “hang by the stage door” kind of gal, but it turns out that I am. On our way out, we passed the door and were all, well, me might as well wait. Then we made an immediate transition into ridiculous squealing fangirls. We saw a couple of the ensemble cast and then the actors who played Laurens/Phillip (below in the P. Ham hat OMG) and Lafayette/Jefferson. They were both so nice and wonderful and didn’t even make fun of us for our ridiculous squealy, grinning selves.

two photos: 1. Me and Jen with the actor who plays Laurens/Phillip 2. Me with the actor who plays Lafayette/Jefferson

How adorable are they? (Answer: super adorable)

Josh Groban was performing in something next door and came out of an adjacent door while we were waiting. There was lots of screaming from that crowd, but we just couldn’t be bothered, except for me to note that Groban likes his ladies to pop. (Bonus points if you get that.)

We wandered/floated back toward our hotel and we decided to stop to get some food and when we passed a 24-hour diner with giant cupcakes in the window, we made our decision. After all, we were only about 15 minutes away from my birthday.

A cupcake with rainbow sprinkles next to a diet coke

The fact that this is my ideal late-night snack should tell you everything about me that you need to know.

We woke up the next morning full of statements like, “Hey, remember that time we saw Hamilton?” and “Life is pointless now that we don’t have Hamilton to look forward to,” and “OMG, remember that part when [insert minute but oh so meaningful observation here] happened and it was fucking brilliant?!”

Then we went to breakfast and ate cheese and ham on toasted bread and life began to have meaning again. We were going to MOMA that day because we wanted to make fun of art that we didn’t understand. I have been to New York several times but I have never taken the subway because no one has ever given me step-by-step instructions on how to do so, so Jen declared that we were going to do it and I became the coolest, most casual New York City subway rider ever.

Four photos: 1. Me making an excited face at the entrance to a subway station; 2. Me giving the dorkiest thumbs up in the world in the subway station; 3. a selfie of me and Jen on the subway; 4. me on the subway

See also: I was no longer reluctant to embarrass Jen in public. I AM THE WORST.

I might write an insightful piece about the art we saw at MOMA later, so I’m not going to go too deeply into our visit here other than to say it took me about 45 seconds from entering the museum to be reprimanded by security for getting too close to the art. This reprimand is a thing that happens often to me, but even so, this one happened faster than usual.

I also want to post this photo of Jen contemplating modern art because it is maybe my favorite photo of all goddamn time.

Jen looking at a weird statue in a box. She looks quizzical.

This photo is fucking everything to me. It really sums up our afternoon at the museum. Look how hard she is trying to understand. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

I also saw my favorite painting of all time, which was really exciting and also made me wonder how MOMA defines “modern” art, seeing as how this was painted in the 19th century.

Me next to Van Gogh's The Starry Night

Although I guess if your museum can acquire this Van Gogh, you take it whether it fits into your mission statement or not.

I also found my favorite wall curtain at this museum. Fortunately no one reprimanded me for getting too close to it because I stroked it like it was my cat.

Photo of a curtain made of strings of metal beads.

Sooooo pleasing.

I think those three photos really sum up our museum trip well. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Hamilton store across the street from the Richard Rogers Theatre because it was closed by the time we finished jumping up and down at the stage door the night before. It was there that Jen took her turn at encouraging me to make bad purchasing decisions, none of which I regret at all.

Photo of Quinn lying on my floor covered in a Hamilton-themed blanket.

After this happened within minutes of my arriving at home, I had to take steps to ensure that it never happened again because Hamilton blanket is MINE.

I also really enjoyed the Hamilton in-joke on the door of the store.

Sign taped to a door that reads "Thanks for visiting...We will see you again soon! You'll be back...Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da de da dat dat da...etc."

I am thoroughly amused by you and your overpriced products, Hamilton store. Let me throw my money at you!

We spent that evening having dinner with one of the families that Jen had provided surrogate services for seven years ago. No photos or long stories here because not my family/not my place to do so, but I’m just sayin’ if they ever wanted to adopt me, I’m available because they were delightful. Great couple, great kids, AND once they found out it was my birthday, they busted out candles and sang to me. My only regret is that Jen almost tricked me into eating octopus. Fortunately, I was able to pawn it off on the 7-year-old sitting next to me.

Friday dawned with the knowledge that we were going home in just a couple of hours and we hadn’t eaten any bagels yet. We rectified that with a jaunt to a delicious deli and I utilized my newfound skills at blending in as a New Yorker by taking photos of tall buildings…

Photo of the New York Times building with a red and white streetlamp in front of it.

I mean, was I NOT going to take this photo of the pokeball streetlamp?

politicized rats…

Photo of me in front of a truck on which is a giant inflated rat.

You guys! It’s Scabby!

and the sidewalk.

Photo of a stencil on the sidealk of a cat head.

I am almost ridiculously embarrassing to walk around with, but it was a cat on the sidewalk—you KNOW my kids were going to want to see that.

It took Jen and I a really long time to find the actual Penn Station we were looking for because there is a building across the street from the actual Penn Station that is labeled as Penn Station, but is really a post office and home to the Long Island Rail Road. We were wandering through the post office and I was texting Alex to ask him how to find the trains at Penn Station and he was all, “Um…follow the signs? What the fuck is wrong with you?” and I was all, “I NEVER GOT MY RETURN TO DC ON THE TRAIN STEP-BY-STEP POWER POINT I AM LOST AND WILL HAVE TO LIVE IN NEW YORK FOREVER AND EVERY TIME I TAKE A PHOTO POINTED UP SOMEONE TRIES TO SELL ME A BUS TOUR AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE I AM PICKED OFF AS A RUBE AND MY BODY SHOWS UP IN THE HUDSON.”

Or something along those lines.

No thanks to Alex, we eventually found our way to the right place. Jen set off on her way back to the airport and eventually home. I bought a slice of pizza, because I was in New York and needed to do so and I dropped an entire piece of pepperoni down my shirt because I am the most embarrassing person in the history of people.

It also turns out that to get on a train from New York to DC, you really have to throw some elbows and jockey for space. Because I’m an asshole, if I get on a crowded train and there are empty aisle seats, but one of those empty aisle seats has a purse on it because someone is obviously trying to not have to sit next to someone, I will insist on sitting there. I bet you didn’t know exactly how passive aggressive I am, didja?

I’m a good seat mate because I hate people though, so I think it all balances out.

Big thanks to Alex. Big thanks to Jen. Big thanks to the cast and creators of Hamilton.

Photo of a building with an eagle in front of it, two American flags, and a pride flag.

Big thanks, New York. You were good to us.

JackRocks

I’m off to New York on Tuesday to go see Hamilton. Yes. Hamilton. I am very excited. But! There is another performance that I am very excited about and it is Jack’s public debut on the piano at a local celebration called ArtRocks.

Without further ado:

I know. Hamilton has some big shoes to fill.

There Are Lots of Things to Do During a 36-Hour Stay in Ohio

Continuing our Team Stimey tradition of splitting into various non-total family groups for vacations, Katie and I headed to Ohio last weekend. We left on Friday afternoon and returned on Sunday morning. It takes 6-7 hours to drive each way. Do that math. Still. We had all kinds of fun. Plus, I had Katie trapped in a car with me and my music playlist for multiple hours. Oh, the songs that we sang.

Photo of Katie and I in the car. She is making duck face and putting her fingers in a "v."

Do they teach this pose in homeroom on the first day of high school? Seriously. ALL teenagers do it.

The reason we went is because Katie’s girlfriend lives there (stupid internet, allowing people from far away to meet) and they wanted to go to an anime convention together. So that’s what they did all day Saturday, leaving me all kinds of Stimey-alone-in-Ohio time, which I took full advantage of, doing many fun things, including napping. But napping wasn’t the only great thing we did. There were many other things.

We stayed in a hotel a half hour away from both Kat’s friend and the anime convention.

We decided to go less than a week before we went. It turns out that all the cheap hotels nearby were filled up by better planners than us. At first, I was all, why the fuck is everyone in the world staying in this tiny Ohio town this weekend? When I woke up on Saturday and looked outside my window to see a school bus with an “ANIME CONVENTION SHUTTLE” sign on it, I realized why. It turns out that Katie and friend were not the only people attending the convention. I know. Weird.

We didn’t cosplay.

I mean, I didn’t go to the convention, but Katie didn’t dress up. She did not get her shit together quickly enough to cosplay for the convention. (She is bad and should feel bad.)

Katie looking cute.

She looked super cute though and the blue hair helped her fit in.

We arrived way early and found fun things to stand next to.

Kat’s friend was late or we were early and either way we had some time to hang out and do fun things.

Giant lion statue head. I am standing next to it looking delighted.

Presented without comment. Okay, one comment: How awesome is this? I wanted to hug it. But that would have been weird.

I was THAT mom.

Photo of me and Katie standing next to the lion.

“KAT! KAAAAAAAAT!!!! COME STAND NEXT TO THIS LION WITH ME!”

I am so goddamn embarrassing.

Kat with her hand over half her face in a "you're so embarrassing" way.

Picture Kat making this face a lot.

In my defense, I asked her several times if she wanted me to leave her alone to wait and she said no.

Katie leaning against a smaller lion statue.

You feel for her, don’t you? I am the WORST.

There were two of these lions. I leaned on one of them and it moved, which either means that I am waaaay heavier than I thought I was or they weren’t attached to the ground. Assuming the latter, I hatched a plan to come back in the dead of night to stuff them into my car and then post them on either side of the end of my driveway to create a sort of regal, Welcome to Stimeyland feel to my house. Said plan didn’t come to fruition. I am bad at follow through.

We people watched cosplayers. (They are good and should feel good.)

Seriously. These people. They gave me life. It is so damn cool when people are passionate about something. It is doubly cool when they are among their people and are clearly happy and free. People are so creative.

Katie sat picturesquely on a rock.

Katie sitting on a rock.

I think I stopped taking photos after this. Well, after the photo I took immediately after this one in which she was sticking out her tongue at me.

Then I was abandoned.

Kat’s girlfriend showed up and I walked over to say hi to her mom and the two of them ran into the convention without even saying goodbye. I didn’t even get a chance to yell any of my favorite parting lines like, “Don’t get kidnapped!” or “Don’t take drugs!

So I went running.

I had the rest of my day to fill so I did what I do when I have lots of hours: I went running. That morning I had found an app that showed me local trails. This was great because I was able to run on a wooded bike/running path instead of 7-1/2 miles down a sidewalk and then back on the other side of the street, which was what I assumed I would have to do.

I planned to run 15 miles, but only ran about 12-1/2 because it turned out that the trail wasn’t quite as long as it claimed. It was also really, really hot and big chunks of the trail had no tree cover.

It was really pretty though and I got to run over bridges and past a river…and under a freeway overpass. All very scenic.

Selfie during my run overlooking a river.

This super long bridge (I’m standing on it and you can see it in the background) was said to be the “highlight” of the trail. I think they were right. I don’t know why it is fun to run over bridges, but it is. My route had four or five of them.

I rued my lack of planning.

I forgot sunscreen on my run. I regretted this almost instantly. I was maybe a mile in when I realized what a terrible mistake this would be. I didn’t know what effect the sunglasses would have on the overall effect though.

Me with a red sunburned face and light circles around my eyes.

Look! I’m a reverse raccoon/trash panda.

Then I napped. And ate. And consumed media. And generally slugged about.

I also almost got run over on my way across the street to get to a Chipotle. Some guy had pulled out too far into the intersection, but didn’t make it across when the light turned red. He SAW me and didn’t back up his car. Then I walked behind his car and he immediately started backing up. I jumped out of the way. Some guy in a different car laughed really hard.

I realized how old and feeble I am.

Do you know what happens at one in the morning? I do now because that’s how late I had to stay up to chaperone Kat and friend. ONE IN THE A. M. Seriously. I’m 43, people. I don’t do 1 a.m. anymore and I don’t even feel bad saying that.

Kat ate all the food and I felt grateful for my cool kid.

Our hotel was right next door to a Denny’s. We headed over there before we set off back home. I hadn’t been to a Denny’s in years. It turns out that they’ve been keeping all of the food there!

Photo of Kat behind two plates of food and a plastic cup shaped like voltron.

They also had kids’ cups that look like Voltron, who, I am led to believe, is an anime character. Naturally, we insisted on purchasing one.

The trip was a little bit of a hassle what with all the driving and almost getting run over and stuff, but I am so glad that I could do it for Kat. And I am especially glad that she wanted to do it with me—that she talked to me in the car and sang the entire soundtrack to Hamilton (once each direction) and gave me hugs and was grateful and didn’t even spend the whole time texting with her friends. She’s the best.