Sliding Doors

An insane thing happened to Alex and me today. INSANE. Well, it happened mostly to Alex, but I was along for the ride. I’m writing this in a lighthearted manner, but it was pretty awful as it was happening. Laugh or cry, right? I will preface this story with the information that no Alexes were harmed in the making of this story and everyone is 100 percent A-okay. That said, let me start from the beginning.

Alex went to see the doctor for a routine travel checkup this week because he is going to the Dominican Republic next month. After that appointment they took his blood because he has a physical coming up. NBD. Last night they left a message on our answering machine asking him to call today for his results.

After leaving for work this morning, Alex texted that apparently he was anemic. Then he texted again to say that the doctor wanted him to go back today and then I heard nothing else. Assuming all was well, I drove in to work (I usually take Metro, but I had something heavy with me today) and was there for about ten or fifteen minutes (maybe) when I got the following text:

“I need to talk to you. Can I call you in a few minutes?”

I should maybe tell you now that Alex and I don’t talk on the phone. We almost entirely communicate through texts, sometimes even when we’re in the same building. This seemed ominous.

His follow up to my asking if he was okay was:

“Dr. XXX needs me to go to the emergency room for some tests. Will you go with me?”

Well. That seems even more ominous.

I set out for the hospital and asked if I could call him from my car, but he was unavailable because HE STOPPED TO GO TO A MEETING BEFORE GOING TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. Once he got out of the meeting he called to let me know that the doctor wanted him to go to the emergency room because his blood test results were bad in that every one of the counts you want to be high was low. And his platelet count, which should be 150,000 to 450,000 was three.

We named them later: Hildegarde, Barry, and Red.

It turns out that the count was actually 3,000, but that’s still not good. And it presents a less satisfying image than the one I was imagining in which his three platelets were huddled together, looking around worriedly, and asking, “Where’d everybody go?”

I got to the ER first because I had no meetings to attend. Once Alex got there, I tried to keep him entertained and told him it could be nothing—maybe they mixed up blood samples and some really sick guy had Alex’s good results. Maybe he had thrombosis that is, according to my fifteen seconds of web research, sometimes treatable with medication. I very specifically didn’t mention leukemia.

Alex, whose doctor on the phone that morning had told him that he needed to “reorient your thinking,” was also pointedly not mentioning leukemia. Although when I sat in a chair across from him instead of next to him, he did remark, “I see. You don’t want to sit next to your dying husband.” We are the worst kind of people.

They took us into triage, where they tried and failed to get Alex’s blood, which wasn’t a good sign. Then they took us to a double room where they gave Alex a hospital gown. Alex, ever compliant, put it on OVER as much of his clothing as possible and sat down in the bed.

Shortly thereafter, a nurse came by and stood in the doorway. “I’m not coming in because I don’t have a mask on,” he said. ” But we’re going to move you to a more isolated room because of the situation.”

Again, ominous.

Their thinking was obviously that Alex was severely immuno-compromised and should not be around other people. Alex looked like he was going to FREAK OUT. I internally freaked out by starting to plan his funeral and speculating about whether I’d be able to donate his organs. Because I’m not a monster, I didn’t say any of this out loud.

Seriously. WHAT WAS THE FUCKING SITUATION?!

They wanted to try again to get more blood to retest Alex’s counts, so they sent in a tech who worked diligently and with vigor on getting a sample out of first this arm and then that arm as Alex, the dingbat, tried to write a work email with the other hand. I have seen that man do work from his phone in some very inappropriate places, but I think this one took the cake.

Alex in a hospital bed working on a phone.

I took this photo with his permission AFTER we knew everything was okay. Again: NOT a monster.

The lab tech was successful in getting Alex’s blood right when the doctor came in to ask a bunch of questions and tell him about the plan. I had a notebook and pen ready because I was going to be Alex’s Advocate and take records and otherwise do everything right, but I didn’t because I left it in my purse and I only remember the doctor saying that they were going to admit Alex overnight and go from there.

Shortly thereafter, more techs wheeled a portable x-ray machine into the room to do a chest x-ray. We live in a miraculous age.

After this, it was waiting time. I pulled my chair next to the hospital bed, took away Alex’s phone, and we waited for whatever was to come next.

What came next was that the doctor eventually came back in to tell Alex that they had the results from the CBC and his counts were entirely normal. I said loudly and inappropriately, “Fuck yes!” as Alex started to repeatedly ask if the doctor was making a joke.

Confidential to Alex: I don’t think doctors are allowed to joke like that—”It turns out that everything is fine. You’re totally healthy!…Just kidding! You will likely die this week.”

Alex literally asked the doctor three times if he was serious. Turns out he was. Then the doctor said, “Maybe the blood samples got mixed up and someone else out there got your results,” which, if you remember from three hours and thirteen paragraphs ago, I HAD ALREADY SAID.

It’s almost like I’m a doctor myself.

We still had to wait for more results, so the doctor left and we finally said leukemia, in the “thank God you don’t have leukemia” sense and generally reinforced how happy we both were that our lives hadn’t changed irrevocably that day.

Our nurse came back in to check Alex’s chest with a stethoscope, but he hadn’t heard the good news that it was probably a lab mistake, so we told him that. He very solemnly lowered his mask, said “probably,” and re-raised it. Alex and I were all, what the fuck?

But then he took off the mask and told us that this happens regularly, blah, blah, blah. Alex joked that some elderly and very, very sick man was all, “I’m totally healthy; I have the blood of a 40-year-old!” and the guy’s face got serious and he said, “You should probably follow up with your doctor about that.”

Half an hour and a sheaf of forms later, we were enthusiastically and with much relief out of there. We went to lunch and Alex drove back in to work.

Life is weird, isn’t it? This story could have ended up much differently. Now, a few hours removed, it feels like I made it up. It was exhausting to go through it for just half a day. But people get sick all the time. One day someone is fine, then there’s a bad test, and then everything changes. It’s awful and it’s unfair and I am so very grateful that it wasn’t us this time.

Driving in to the parking garage that morning at a hospital I had never been to, I wondered if this was the first of many trips here. I wondered if I was going to become a regular at this place. I wondered of what this was the first day.

Life is precarious. Every day is a gift. I’m glad that we have at least one more.

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.

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.”

Too Many Ideas to Fill Up a Weekend

You know how sometimes you have weekends when you have nothing to do and you kinda sit around and stare at your family and no one can think of fun things to do and the only options you have are to go grocery shopping and think about how you should probably consider vacuuming?

Well, if you ever have one of those weekends, I have some suggestions for you based on what I did last weekend—a weekend during which I went everywhere and did everything.

Friday night: Realize Your Baby Is No Longer a Baby

Friday night, I gave Quinn snack money and dropped him off at a party for sixth graders going into his middle school next year. You should be aware that he is my wee little baby and I just dropped him off and watched him run into the building all by himself. I didn’t even remember to shout, “Don’t get kidnapped!” at him.

I arrived two hours later to see him “playing basketball” with a couple of his friends. This involved a lot of hurling the ball at each other and not a lot of actual playing of basketball. Once he spotted me, he briefly ran into the dance part of the party to spend the last of his money on snacks before I could demand it back and then returned to the gym.

Photo taken through a window of Quinn throwing a basketball.

Quinn is sportsing!

He bought a cookie for me though, so I have forgiven him for growing into a large, independent person.

Saturday morning: Run a Trail Race for the First Time

I have run races put on by many different organizations and therefore I get emails from all of them suggesting that I register for more races. One came across my inbox a couple of months ago that seemed all kinds of fun. It was called the Nanty Narking Nearly 9K and that alone seemed like a reason to run it. It also described the course as running past historic sites and the Underground Railroad Experience Trail and I was all, “sign me up!” before it even occurred to me that running past historic sites means you don’t get to actually look at them for more than about 30 seconds.

But that is okay because this race was, in fact, nanty narking (the race description claims that is a Victorian expression meaning “great fun”). It was a trail race, which I’d never done before. You know what? Trail races are fantastic. It had rained heavily the day before so there was all kinds of mud and there were hills to climb and rocks to step around and piles of horse shit to avoid and just a crapton of fun. Seriously.

It was a really small race too, so during the about five and a half miles, there was a lot of time when I was just out in the woods without any other people in sight. It was seriously the best. I think I understand why people like trail running.

Selfie of me and Lyda before the race.

My friend Lyda ran with me. Neither of us tripped and fell even once.

Saturday afternoon: Ice Skate for Special Hockey

Saturday afternoon was the Montgomery Cheetahs’ Cheetah-thon, which we happily attended. (Thank you to all of you who donated. You make Jack and me so happy.) Jack, of course, is a super rock star at the Cheetah-thon and had a blast skating in literal circles around his family.

Jack ice skating.

I cropped Sam out of this photo because the event was for Jack. Sorry, Sam.

Everyone else had a good time too. Sam did a great job skating and was actually the member of Team Stimey who stayed on the ice the longest. Quinn worked hard at skating and definitely made improvements over the course of the evening. I suppose he’d get even better if he skated more than once a year.

Jack and Sam standing face to face on the ice. Alex helping Quinn skate. The whole picture is reflected in the rink glass.

I ran around before we left making sure everyone had socks and helmets and long pants and sweatshirts so they could skate and I forgot my socks so I had to stay on the edge of the rink and heckle them.

The ice is not where Quinn shines though. The raffle is where Quinn shines. There are so many prizes up for grabs at the Cheetah-thon—and Quinn wants to win them all. Last year, in addition to some other stuff, he won a basket of Girl Scout cookies, which was like the greatest thing to ever happen to him in this lifetime. Wanna know what he won this year?

Quinn holding a basket of Girl Scout cookies.

A basket of Girl Scout cookies.

We also won some other stuff and Jack got to hang out with his people and I got to say hi to a lot of people and then I got to sit quietly on a bench and try to not get overwhelmed by all the people and we also bought all of the Cheetahs’ merchandise up for sale and the Cheetahs raised a ton of money and I’m pretty sure Team Stimey contributed about a third of it through raffle ticket purchases for that basket of cookies.

Me wearing a Cheetahs hat and Jack drinking out of a Cheetahs water bottle.

Jack and I showing off our Cheetah gear.

All worth it for the team though. So worth it.

Saturday evening: Chill Out After a Busy Day By Heading to Costco on a Weekend

We go to Costco pretty much every weekend for milk and lettuce and stuff, so Alex thought we could get it out of the way by stopping by after the Cheetah-thon and no one had the nerve to tell him no, plus there is a delicious chicken place for dinner next to the Costco, so that’s where we went after ice skating.

Well, Sam and I went to Target first to return some shorts, but then met up with everyone else at Costco. Side note: Do you realize how short girl shorts are? Because I am living in that world now and I don’t know when a 3-inch inseam started being classified as LONG shorts, but jeebus, there is sooooooo much leg for teenage girls to show these days. Consequently, whenever I see shorts that pass my Mom Length Test, I buy them. And then Sam doesn’t like them and we return them. It’s like a fun little game we play that involves a lot of eye rolling on both sides.

Also, do you know who else goes to Costco on a Saturday night half an hour before it closes? EVERYONE.

Sunday morning: Drive 45 Minutes Each Way For Your Kid’s Bassoon Lesson

When your kid plays bassoon, you take your private lessons where you can get them. For us, that is a solid 35-45 minutes away. Every Sunday between 9:45 and 12:15, Sam and I take the long trip to bassoon lessons. On our way there, Sam tries to read on her phone and I try to have deep, meaningful conversations with her because she’s my captive audience. Guess who wins.

I have to say though, even if someone offered us bassoon lessons next door, we’d still go to this teacher. She is awesome. She has really done a lot to push Sam and to help her play with groups she wouldn’t have otherwise. We like her a lot.

Sunday Mid-day Chicken Interlude:

Quinn eats very specific fried chicken legs for school lunch every day. Every weekend, we have to go buy at least five chicken legs from a specific grocery store. Sometimes they don’t have chicken legs when we’re there and we have to go back later. It is ridiculous. Every once in a while we try to sneak in a leg from a more reliable, closer store. He is never fooled.

Sunday afternoon: Attend the Finale of Listen To Your Mother DC

This year was the last year for the fantastic Listen to Your Mother shows in DC. Having been in the first one, I absolutely wanted to be there at the end.

I’m so glad I was. Per usual, it was an amazing show full of laughs and heartwrenching stories and truth.

Sunday late afternoon: Run. Then When You Get Tired, Run More. Try To Run Through Three Jurisdictions.

I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Even though it is a loooong ways away, I am already doing some hard training to make sure I am able to run it the way I want to run it. That means that I am doing long runs every weekend (with mid-length runs every three or four weekends to rest).

Because my weekend was so busy, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get my long run in or that I was going to have to wake up early to do it. (Gasp! The horror!) Then I had a brilliant idea: I could run home from Listen to Your Mother!

The show was at a theater in northern Virginia near a Metro station, so I Metroed down there and plotted a route home that would take me from Virginia, all the way through DC, and then to my neighborhood in Maryland. (I wish DC was a state so I could say I’d run through three states.)

Regardless, it was a little more than a 12-mile run and because I was running north, it was all uphill. (Just like all rivers run south, right?)

Elevation graph. It shows the elevation getting higher as I go, then it decreases some.

My Garmin says that I actually gained 732 feet. Just in case you ever wanted to know whether it is uphill or downhill into DC.

Now I understand why I was so tired when I got home.

Sunday evening: Collapse

I arrived home and sat down. I ate some food. I had to decline an invitation to ride my bike with the family to get ice cream. I took a bath and tried not to sink under the water. I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. It was awesome.

So, now you have some ideas of how to fill a weekend. I think this coming weekend will be similarly packed so I should have more ideas for you after you do all of these. But whatever you do, don’t forget the collapsing part. That is very important.

Alex’s Triumphant Footrace Debut

As you know, Alex has been running lately. He has worked his way through both Couch to 5K and Couch to 10K apps. At this point, his regular run is probably about 5 miles. He’s doing SO well. It has been really cool to watch him turn from a reluctant fine-this-is-good-for-me-so-I’ll-do-it runner into a huh-running-is-super-fun runner.

He has long maintained that he’s not into races, but as his goal is a half marathon at some point, it seemed smart to get him used to the race environment. Also, he has been less scowly lately when I ask if he wants to sign up for races. In fact, he even said I could look for a 5K for him provided that he could be kinda surly throughout and wouldn’t have to talk to anyone he knows before or after the event.

Challenge accepted.

It was surprisingly difficult to find the right race for him, but I finally chose the GW Parkway Classic, largely because it was far enough away that my Maryland running friends would not be there and because it offered both a t-shirt AND a medal, which is not something most 5Ks do. (There was also a 10-miler version, hence the medals.)

Alex grew surlier and surlier as race day approached, especially when he learned that because it was a point-to-point race, we would have to park, take a shuttle to the start, run, then take a shuttle back to our parking place. He did a lot of dramatic sighing when he heard that.

Then, when I told him we would have to leave the house at 5:45 in the a.m. because we had to drive to Virginia AND take a shuttle bus, he expressed surprise and alarm about the fact that we had to get up that early. I guess he never noticed how early I sometimes leave for races because he is sleeping right through my departure.

So he was already in a bad state about the whole thing when I heard the weather forecast for race day. I was all, “Alex, you’re going to start hearing words like ‘soaking rain’ and ‘Sunday’ together. Don’t freak out.”

To his credit, he didn’t freak out. He did, however, give me one of the most effective stink eyes I’ve ever seen him give.

Fortunately, by the time race day arrived, the weather had calmed and it was clear and cool. THANK GOD. I would never have heard the end of it had Alex had to run through a monsoon.

Also fortunately, this race was super well run and offered copious amenities. Catching the shuttle bus was super easy. And they weren’t even awful school buses, like at many races; they were regular city buses. It was delightful. We really wanted to pull the cord to request stops at lots of places, but we managed to restrain ourselves.

The bus let us off near the start line, which was at a beautiful green area next to the Potomac.

Selfie of Alex and I in front of the Potomac river. There are even geese in the background.

Many races start in a parking lot. Alex doesn’t know how good he has it.

There were also actual bathrooms there, which was nice not only because bathroom > porta potty, but because it was warm in there. Unfortunately, there were very much not enough bathrooms or porta potties for everyone at the start. That was my one complaint about the race.

After our stop at the bathroom, we took a trip down to the shore, where we were whale eyed by this guy:

Photo of a goose on the shore.

This goose has nothing to do with the race. I just like the photo.

We wandered over to the race area after freaking out the goose, where they had every amazing thing you could possibly want before a race (except a bathroom). They had space blankets to protect us from the cold wind coming off the river. They had giant blueberry muffins. They had bananas. They had hot coffee. It was unprecedented.

I took a space blanket, Alex took some coffee, then we wandered around, stretched, and Alex complained about the long wait until the start time and the fact that the DJ wasn’t playing his favorite music.

Goodness. All those paragraphs and we haven’t even run a step yet.

Start time finally arrived. We shuffled toward the start line together, crossed it, and Alex started putting distance between us. I had him in my sights for about a quarter of a mile and then he was gone.

It was a nice little course. Very pretty. Almost entirely flat. I was pushing my pace because of my goal this year of becoming speedier. I ran a speedy-for-me 34 minutes flat. Alex ran it in 31:26. Like a boss.

It’s been a week and the official race photos haven’t gone up yet, which is disappointing because I wanted mid-race photos to show you. You will have to make do with this one, which I forced Alex to pose for after we met up post-race.

Selfie of Alex and I post-race. He's holding up his medal.

Me: Hold your medal up.
Alex: *grimace*

I’m super proud of him. He totally killed it. I think he might have caught the race bug. While I was napping that afternoon, he was looking up his race results. Adorbs.

Way to go, Alex. I couldn’t be prouder of you.

A List of Things Alex Did

You know how at celebrity award shows there is always some doofus who wins an award and then thanks everyone from her makeup artist to her lawyer but forgets to mention her partner, arguably the most important person of all?

Well. When Alex read yesterday’s post where I thanked everyone under the sun including a stranger who handed me a banana, he was all, “Too bad Alex didn’t help at all.” Then he threatened me with bodily harm if I tried to change the post after the fact.

I AM SO SORRY, ALEX. YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS.

Let’s take this opportunity to pretend that I had planned this post all along and I will tell you all of the wonderful things that Alex did to help me prepare for my marathon because seriously guys, I couldn’t have done it without him.

Photo of alex in a suit giving a goofy thumbs up.

Look how cute he is!

• Whenever I had a long run and only ran one direction because routes away from my house are downhill and routes back to my house are uphill, he came to pick me up.

• Sometimes he came to pick me up in really unfortunate places, like Georgetown on a Saturday night or next to the zoo during Zoo Lights a week before Christmas.

• When he picked me up, he would suffer through the stinkification of the car when I jacked the heat way up and sat really close to the vent. Trust me, that’s award-worthy right there.

• He let me structure the entire family’s schedule around my training calendar.

• When a family-related activity conflicted with my training calendar, he stepped up to be the parent-on-call.

• He let me go on a long run every Saturday when I would be gone for hours, then he let me come back and take a nap.

• When I had to get in a run, but knew I wouldn’t have time after work, he let me run in the morning and he would get all three kids ready for school and get them on their buses.

• He was my best cheerleader, never doubting that I would be able to run a marathon and making sure he let me know that.

• He put a ton of extra effort into leading the family when I was training. In terms of putting in a lot of work for something that had no direct benefit for him, he really stepped up.

• All actions including but not limited to the above mentioned activities.

AND

• When I called him after I finished last week’s marathon and asked him if it would be okay if I ran another one this fall, without hesitation he said yes.

Thank you, Alex. I love you.

Summer in December, Wisconsin Vacation Part III

I know that it is December and we got back from summer vacation months and months ago, but I have to finally write this because Sam keeps asking for it. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, SAM?! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!

Remember how months ago we went to a cottage and then a cabin in Wisconsin? Well, after that we went to a resort town called Wisconsin Dells. We’d been there three years ago and Team Stimey was ready to go back.

We arrived way after bedtime, so we checked in to our hotel and got ready for bed. I remembered something we had left in the car and went back out to be greeted by the dawning realization that very clearly there was a cheerleader camp taking place at the resort and ours was the only room on our entire floor that wasn’t full of teenage girls.

The horror. The horror.

I should take a moment here to pay homage to the hero of our vacation: my noise canceling headphones. Seriously. This would have been a very different vacation without them, especially in Cheerleaderville.

Jack in particular had been really excited to go back to the waterpark. He, along with Quinn, couldn’t wait to get in the wave pool and the lazy river and the waterslides.

Photo of Jack in a double inner tube totally reclining.

This is one of his relaxo places.

Photo of a double red waterslide with Jack going down it on the left and Quinn on the right.

And this is his excito place—Jack on the left, Quinn on the right.

Sam and Alex, however, were a little less excited by the whole deal.

Photo of pool-side chairs and tables. Alex and Sam are sitting at one reading books.

If you look closely, you can see Killjoy One and Killjoy Two reading books at a table.

Alex did eventually join the water people and Sam spent some time swimming, but I think he might have only gone on one waterslide total over the course of three days.

That’s okay though, because there are so many other things to do at Wisconsin Dells. I spearheaded one particularly successful outing to take advantage of these attractions early on in our stay.

I had seen a poster for something called Zombie Outbreak and it looked awesome. It’s like laser tag where you wind your way through a dark, twisty building and people dressed as zombies jump out at you and you have to shoot them in the head or else they tag you and you lose points.

Clearly this was the right place to take my kids.

I asked everyone in the family if they wanted to join me and even showed them a short video I found online so they could know what to expect. Turns out, the video didn’t fully capture the experience of Zombie Outbreak.

Selfie of me, Sam, and Jack in front of the Zombie Outbreak sign.

Quinn and Alex were smart enough to hear “zombie” and stay in the car. Sam and Jack were foolishly brave.

You guys, it was so much fun. Although when we were getting our training and Jack was all, “I don’t like jump scares,” I probably should have guessed that it wasn’t going to go well. At least I learned who I’d be able to count on in the zombie apocalypse. Answer: ME.

It went SO badly. Jack was devastated by the experience and ran out of the building crying once he was finally able to escape. Sam covered his dismay a little better.

In a desperate bid to make Jack love me again after I permanently scarred him, I suggested that we do some go-karting.

Mission success! Jack loved me again. Quinn, on the other hand, was collateral damage in a high speed go-kart wreck caused by reckless teenagers and bashed his head against the headrest, sending him to the car in tears, making that two of my kids I’d badly damaged in the span of an hour.

Jack in a go-kart

Jack took Quinn’s extra ticket after he was injured. As long as only one kid at a time is emotionally, psychologically, or physically hurt, I’m doing okay, right?

Knowing when we were beat, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and more swimming, which, thanks to poolside dining, took place at the same time. Dinner was made even better by the arrival of vermin looking for a handout.

Photo of Quinn eating a burger in the foreground, with a raccoon visible on the other side of a chainlink fence.

I’m guessing that raccoon is pretty well fed.

The last time we’d been to Wisconsin Dells, the standout event was JET BOAT! Naturally, we wanted to do it again. JET BOAT! is a tour of the area waterways on a speedboat that spins out and splashes the passengers and is generally awesome for the whole family. Not like a zombie apocalypse at all.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, Alex, and Sam on the boat before the tour.

Look at everyone all dry and excited.

Photo taken of the front of the boat entirely engulfed in splashing water

Then this happened.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, Alex, and Sam, now quite wet.

And we were left with this. If you look really closely, you can actually see water dripping from Jack’s nose.

Alex really wanted to go miniature golfing at this very cool course that we drove past and we were going to do it after JET BOAT! but for obvious reasons, we were unable to follow through on this and therefore Alex wasn’t able to do the ONE GODDAMN THING he wanted to do in all of Wisconsin Dells and we are MONSTERS.

As we did each night at the Dells, we spent the evening at the indoor water park. Jack and Quinn spent hours in the lazy river and lured me in as well. I liked to float happily around and occasionally take photos of my kids with my phone safely encased in its waterproof pouch. Jack liked to direct my happy floating to spots underneath waterfalls.

Three photos of Jack and I 1. Us floating 2. Me under falling water, Jack laughing hysterically 3. Jack and I laughing.

This is probably the least flattering trio of photos of me ever, but it is unlikely you will even notice that what with Jack OMG JACK AND HIS FACE behind me.

We only had one day left, of which we took full advantage.

Photo of Jack in a swimsuit holding a watersliding mat.

Jack and I went on a bunch of waterslides together. He’s a fun companion.

Alex and Jack on a roller coaster waterslide.

This is Alex with Jack on the roller coaster waterslide. I never even knew such a thing existed. It was great fun.

Sam at the bottom of a waterslide.

This is the one slide Sam went on. I think he lost a bet and had to do it. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to photograph him.

Jack and Quinn hugging in the lazy river.

And I’ve probably said it 800 times, but Quinn and Jack together? They are the best. Here they are hugging and carrying each other in the lazy river. Just because.

“But wait, Stimey,” you may be thinking, “Did you go on any waterslides? Did anyone take a photo of you?”

Don’t worry. I left my phone with Alex when I went on a slide and he captured me at the bottom.

Photo of a splash. No person is visible.

I know it’s brave to put a swimsuit photo of me online.

Our very last night in Wisconsin Dells, we went to dinner at the hotel steakhouse. We’d gone to the same restaurant last time we’d been there. Their motto is “Where Size Matters.” The first time we’d gone, Alex and I had ordered a side dish of potatoes made up of probably five pounds of potatoes that made us feel bad for being Americans.

Photo of a giant cleaver. Quinn has his head on a block under its edge and Sam is pretending to hold the handle.

This blade outside the steakhouse wasn’t sharp enough.

But—and this is probably why Sam wants me to write this post so goldang bad—Sam remembered from the last time we were there that there is a 50-ounce steak on the menu and he had been talking for three years about how he was going to eat one.

But Alex and I are reasonable people—WE ARE—and no way were we going to buy him a 50-ounce steak. That said, we were happy to order the 50-ounce and two plating fees so all three kids could share it.

Sam sitting in front of a plate with a 50-ounce steak on it.

That is a lot of steak.

Unfortunately, both Quinn and Jack had filled up on bread and they each ate about a bite of it then returned their uneaten portions to Sam’s plate.

Jack and Quinn, mouths full of bread.

Based on this photo, I think Jack may just have been too tired to eat as well.

Alex and I consumed our reasonably sized dinners and watched Sam consume huge amounts of food in a short amount of time. One of the staff even came out from the kitchen under the pretense of removing something from our table to gawk.

Two photos of Sam gobbling a steak and one of him giving two thumbs up over a plate with just bones.

He even gnawed off the hard-to-get meat stuck to the bones.

It took him maybe ten minutes. It was, quite honestly, a feat.

Photo of a brownie sundae in front of Alex

And then he shared a dessert with his brothers.

He was a little hysterical for the rest of the night. I think he went into Meat Shock. I kept a close eye on him to make sure he wasn’t going to barf or die or something. He seemed to emerged unscathed.

Sam holding a t-shirt that says "Where Size Matters"

Plus, the restaurant gave him a t-shirt!

The next day we checked out early to start our long drive home. Alex took a bunch of our stuff to the car…

Photo of Alex pushing a luggage cart piled full of luggage.

It turns out that Team Stimey needs a lot of stuff to survive.

…and the kids did their part.

Jack and Quinn carrying two empty cups and a stuffed animal.

Thanks for carrying those two EMPTY cups and a stuffed cat, guys.

From there it was just a billion and six hours to drive home.

Alex driving holding a stuffed cat so it looks like the cat is driving.

This is how you amuse yourself on a billion and six hour drive.

This turned out to be one of the most fun and relaxing vacations that Team Stimey has been on for a long time. It was nothing like the long, stressful stretch of time that it took me to write about it on the interwebs.

Now it might be time to go on another vacation!