Spectacularly Good or Spectacularly Bad? Welcome to Hersheypark.

Remember back the night before my family headed into Hersheypark and I was all:

“This will be my kids’ first time at an amusement park. I imagine that is will go spectacularly.

Spectacularly good or spectacularly bad, that remains to be seen.”

Well. Done and done.

Also, you should note that I managed to spell “it” wrong in the second sentence of that quote that I copy and pasted from its original post. That seems about right.

So. Here’s the backstory: I didn’t want to throw any birthday parties this year, so I talked Jack and Quinn into foregoing theirs and going to Hersheypark and Chocolate World instead.

In my defense, it sounded like a great plan.

Our itinerary was to drive up Friday night, go to Hersheypark on Saturday, go to Chocolate World on Sunday, and then drive home that evening, full of joy and happy memories. Friday went just as planned, complete with a heated pool to swim in at the hotel.

Jack choked on bacon at breakfast on Saturday, but that isn’t even the worst thing that happened that morning.

Here’s how it all went to hell, like, two minutes after our arrival at Hersheypark:

We drove into the parking lot, got out of the car, walked about 20 feet, and then Quinn turfed it. It was like slow fucking motion. I saw him go down on his knee, then his shoulder, then it looked like he was going to stop there, but he didn’t and then he tipped down onto his nose and his forehead.

I jumped to the ground next to him and hugged him as he started screaming, “We have to go home! We have to go home! We have to go home!” It took a good several minutes before he’d even let me look at his face. When he finally did, this is what I saw:

I don't know that I have to tell you that I took this photo much, MUCH later. Even then, several hours after the fall, it's somewhat of a miracle that he was willing to smile for me.

I don’t know that I have to tell you that I took this photo much, MUCH later. Even then, several hours after the fall, it’s somewhat of a miracle that he was willing to smile for me.

It was brutal. I had to pick Quinn up and carry him the rest of the looooooong way into the park. It was either that or turn around and take the 30-second walk back to the car and call it a day.

Side note: Quinn is ridiculously heavy. He’s loud too.

I don’t know if you’ve been to Hersheypark, but I swear to God that the entrance was, like, three miles away from the parking lot. We did stop at one point to measure ourselves according to Hershey’s height standards.

Sam was a Jolly Rancher. Jack was a Twizzler. Quinn was...reluctant to be measured. (a.k.a. a Hershey bar)

Sam was a Jolly Rancher. Jack was a Twizzler. Quinn was…reluctant to be measured. (a.k.a. a Hershey bar)

We had decided to get disability passes for Jack for his autism and Quinn for his SPD and body regulation issues. Standing in long lines is especially tough on Quinn and Jack gets dysregulated in line situations. I won’t go into all the reasons I felt my kids needed the disability pass, but I knew that we did need them—for Quinn more than anyone else.

Our visit to the Hospitality Office to get those passes was a source of stress for me. I was worried that they would turn us down and then my kids wouldn’t be able to handle the park. I was worried that they wouldn’t be nice. I was worried that they were going to try to make Jack and Quinn wear wristbands around the park and I knew that would be worse than not having a pass at all.

Here’s something though: If you are standing in the ADA compliance line and one parent is holding a sobbing 8-year-old while the other parent is clutching the hand of a 10-year-old so he doesn’t take off in excitement and then that parent bursts into stress tears because she has been worrying for weeks about how her kids would be able to handle an amusement park and it turns out that it doesn’t look like any of them are going to be able to handle it all that damn well because they are 15 feet into the park and it’s already Hersheygeddon, well, the staff there will be really nice to you.

The woman there took one look at me and my entourage, accepted my paperwork, said, “Do you think they’ll need cards instead of wristbands?” and then told me we could stand in a quieter spot while she got all of our paperwork ready.

Thank you, Hersheypark.

(In truth, we didn’t actually use the passes all that much. Quinn didn’t go on many rides and we stood in line for most of them. Despite it being Memorial Day weekend, it was really cold, so the lines weren’t too long. I do have to say though, that when we did need those passes, we were so grateful for them. I do know that our day was much easier because of them.)

We headed out from the Hospitality office and Quinn and I took a little break while Sam, Jack, and Alex ran off to play on a ride. I finally convinced Quinn to try the carousel. I got my first inkling that things might turn out okay when I saw him trying to suppress the tiniest of smiles on the ride.

This was not that smile.

This was not that smile.

Jack and Sam, on the other hand, couldn’t have been happier.

The dude in the Hershey bar suit was probably less happy when my kids pretended to eat his arms. I bet that happens to him a lot.

The dude in the Hershey bar suit was probably less happy when my kids pretended to eat his arms. I bet that happens to him a lot.

So, they liked the characters, but what about the rides? I bet Sam and Jack hated the rides, didn’t they?

They totally did.

They totally did.

We went on a series of rides after that. Two of us on this one, three on that, and things started to look up. After riding the bumper cars, even Quinn busted out a smile. We worked our way through some of the kiddie rides on the way to the Minetown section of the park, which I think Jack imagined was just like Minecraft. (It wasn’t.)

By the time we got over to the little speedway where kids can pretend to drive cars (Jack, by the way, is the slowest damn driver ever. I know. I was in his car and witnessed the backup behind us), all three kids were having a good time.

When you ask Quinn if he had a good time at Hersheypark, he will tell you no and then he will tell you about how he fell on his face in the parking lot. He will claim to have hated everything and to have not had fun at all. But, trust me, he didn’t hate everything. I give you this photograph as proof:

Not only is he happy, but you can barely even see his facial scarring.

Not only is he happy, but you can barely even see his facial scarring.

You might also notice that he is wearing two jackets in that photo. That is because he was cold in just his jacket, so he stole my sweatshirt leaving me in short sleeves. By the time I got desperate enough to pay $50 for a sweatshirt that read “KISSES” across the front, there were no sweatshirt shops anywhere to be seen. It sucked.

If I had to describe motherhood in a sentence, it might be this: “No matter how cold it is, you will always give your coat to your child.” If I had to describe motherhood by Stimey, I would add, “and complain vociferously the whole time.”

After Jack’s Sunday driver training, we were walking to the log ride and Jack saw a roller coaster where people’s legs were dangling from the seats and he insisted he wanted to go on it. I should mention here that Jack had never been on a roller coaster at this point. Because I am me, I didn’t even bother to check the track layout before I agreed and got into line with him. I just figured, well, Jack is fearless, so what’s the worst that could happen?

You guys, this roller coaster had loops. It had corkscrews. It had a corkscrewing loop. Oh, it was quite the roller coaster. I think it surprised Jack a lot. I’ll say this for the kid though; he didn’t want to go back on that particular roller coaster, but he was game to go on any other ride or coaster for the rest of the day. Jack and his bravery astound me every single day. He is one of a kind, that kid.

We collected Alex, Sam, and Quinn from the nearby arcade and Sam, Jack, and I went on the log ride while Alex and Quinn headed back to the skee-ball lanes—Quinn because he wasn’t interested in scary rides and Alex because he wasn’t interested in watery rides. (Did I mention that it was really cold?)

The advantage of the cold day was that there was no line for the log ride, allowing the three of us to go on it twice in record time. Sam loved it. This pleased me because where Jack is fearless, Sam can be fearful. I was hoping to get him on a roller coaster at the park, so I was happy that Sam liked the thrill of going down the hill.

I was also happy that I was able to position my children to block me from getting too wet.

I was also happy that I was able to position my children to block me from getting too wet.

It’s actually too bad that Quinn started the day off in such a rough way. I think that he would have been way more willing to try some of the rides if his fall hadn’t convinced him that Hershey was out to kill him. His hair kept getting stuck to his wounds and hurting him, so it wasn’t like he could forget about it either.

Now, I know this may surprise you, but I am a little bit rigid in the ways that I do things and in my mind, when you go to an amusement park, you ride rides and that is what is fun and you don’t do the arcade games because they are a waste of money because they are rigged so no one wins.

I needed Alex to remind me that those arcade games aren’t just fun if you win. I needed to learn that there are ways other than mine to have fun at an amusement park. He and Quinn did a lot of arcade and boardwalk-style games while the rest of us went on rides. I am so grateful that Alex was flexible enough to see what Quinn needed and that the two of them had such a fun day together.

Quinn won these flowers and Alex won the ability to somehow make Quinn carry the family backpack. That achievement will probably never be repeated.

Quinn won these flowers and Alex won the ability to somehow make Quinn carry the family backpack. That achievement will probably never be repeated.

We headed out of the park shortly after I put Sam on the roller coaster I wanted him to try. I can tell you that he did not care for it and he is very angry at me for putting him on it when there was a tamer one somewhere in the park that no matter how hard we looked, we could not find. I thought it was a blast. He thought I was purposely trying to kill him.

On our way out, we passed a team of candy bars just hanging out by themselves. We caught sight of them from a distance and Jack shrieked and started running to them. The candy bars heard him and they all started waving. Jack leapt over a bench to dive into a hug with the Kit Kat. It was completely enchanting at the same time that it was totally absurd.

Then the candy bars' handlers had to physically pull him off of said KitKat.

Then the candy bars’ handlers had to physically pull him off of said Kit Kat.

From there, all that was left was finding our car. (Me: “Do you remember where we parked? Other than near the bloodstain?”)

Remember when I said that our day at Hersheypark would be either spectacularly good or spectacularly bad? Without question, we had both. All of us had some tough moments, but we got through it and I think we all learned something about ourselves and each other that day. Next time we go to an amusement park (you know, in ten or twelve years, once the memories fade), I’ll use those lessons to make our trip even better.

So, that was our day. I’ll save our day at Chocolate World for tomorrow because I think if I tried to add any more to this post, my blog would implode. For White Knuckle Parenting this week, I did write specifically about the lessons I learned at the amusement park. Definitely check it out.

The 5th Avenue bar strikes me a little bit as a Poochie the Rockin' Dog character.

The 5th Avenue bar strikes me a little bit as a Poochie the Rockin’ Dog character: all attitude, no substance.

Our Neurodiverse Thanksgiving

Team Stimey had a really nice weekend, full of pie (or, as I like to call it, “pah”), adorable gerbils (or, as Quinn likes to call them, “gerballs”), and a nice visit from my mother-in-law (or, as Alex likes to call her, “Mom”).

It was a nice few days, largely free of barfing or leaving the house, which means it was very nearly ideal.

I’ll be back to posting more regularly in the coming days, but I wanted to tell you one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.

We were all sitting at the table—some of us eating, some of us fidgeting, some of us demolishing pieces of bread, some of us manically drinking wine, when Sam busts out with the following question for my mother-in-law:

“Grandma, do you have autism or ADHD?”

I won’t tell you what she said, but I will tell you that Sam then proceeded to go around the table listing everybody’s disability/label/identification, including one with which he has evidently diagnosed Quinn. He called Alex “the only kinda normal one here,” leading me to explain neurodiversity, and then we went on with our decidedly quirky repast.

Just another Thanksgiving in Stimeyland.

(Also, I have some words to describe Alex—”kinda normal” ain’t among them.)

I hope your weekend was lovely too.

A Little Bit About Everyone

I’m kind of avoiding a lot of stuff right now, so I decided to tell you about a few things that have been happening around here, things that might not make their own successful post, but will do nicely when stacked together.

Hey, do you remember Quinn’s school photo? The one that was so bad that I had it retaken? The one wherein his eyes were closed? If you don’t remember, you should go look at it now before you continue on.

Well, I sent him in for his retake and told him to try to keep his eyes open. Then I sat back and waited for the arrival of a retake photo in which Quinn’s eyes were almost comically open.

It is even better than I had hoped.

I do believe someone combed his hair as well.

*****

The principal at Jack and Quinn’s school is leaving for another job. And since he was already gone on a short-term assignment, that means he is just GONE. He’s not coming back. I have feelings of distress about this for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggies is because I knew Jack was going to be sad.

See, for the first couple of years of elementary school, Jack was sent to the office on a regular basis, but the principal, you know, got it and managed to make Jack feel good about himself. Sometimes when Jack just needed to calm down a little lot, he would get sent to the principal to chill out. The dude was pretty much Jack’s best friend for a while.

I told Jack this morning and he started to cry. I felt like joining him.

*****

As for Sam, well, he gets cooler every single day. I had no idea how fun age ten was. I also had no idea how much better ADHD medicine could make Sam’s life. That dude has gotten so much more chill since starting his meds this fall. He’s happier, he’s less anxious, he talks more, he lets people do things like hug him. It’s really amazing. If you would have described current Sam to me four months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Honestly, on a day-to-day, practical, count-the-meltdowns basis, he used to be my hardest kid. Now he is an absolute delight. He smiles more too. I love that.

Love that kid.

*****

I got a haircut today, but because I live with four boys, no one really noticed. I mean, I cut off probably 8 inches and now I have bangs, but my kiddos still haven’t noticed. To his credit, Alex figured it out in under an hour.

I had to suffer through almost an hour of small talk for it (I think maybe that’s why I only get my hair cut once a year or so), but I’m happy with the results.

*****

Alex did some stuff too, but they were fancy lawyer things, so I don’t know what they were.

School Went GREA— Oh. Never Mind.

I didn’t have time to write it, but I had this very cute little post in my head yesterday about how all of you manage to post adorable photos of your well-behaved offspring standing obediently on your front stoops smiling at the camera on their first days of school, and I get this:

I mean, at least they’re all wearing shoes and stuff, but still.

Regardless of what this photo might suggest to you, the first morning of school went extremely well.

Okay, I did wake up to the smell of Sam’s EZ Mac that he made in the microwave for his lunch—without water. Let me tell you, that was not an awesome smell. I think I might still reek of waterless macaroni puck.

After that though, things went great. Everybody got up and out of the house on time. I dropped Sam at his school. I took Jack and Quinn to their school, and we got there on time. All was well.

This morning, however, was a different story. Remember Sam’s anxiety about his new school? It’s back and with a vengeance. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I have a lot of my own anxiety and stress and feelings about all of this, but I think it’s best that I don’t vomit all of THAT on you.

Through our whole Tuesday Morning Freak Out, Jack and Quinn babbled happily to each other about zombies and the plants that fight them. They both claim that school is boring, but neither of them tried to refuse to go today, so I’m counting it as a success.

Yesterday’s “homework” for Jack, which required him to write four words on a page and resulted in half an hour of refusals? That was not a success. (But, weirdly, after that, all three kids wanted to play school and then Jack insisted I create a homework sheet with math problems and reading questions on it and he did that immediately and perfectly. I DON’T UNDERSTAND LIFE.)

Remember all my excitement about how awesome life was going to be once I sent everyone back to school? Yeah. Not so much. I’m sure that once everything shakes out and we consult with lo the many professionals that I contacted this morning, we’ll be fine, but I just wish things were easier for my kids.

Big sigh…aaaaand onward.