Team Stimey Classic

Well, friends, the sickness I skated around the edge of for the past two weeks finally got me. I have a cold. It’s kind of a perfect time for me to be sick, so, yay, I guess, but I’m going to bed early, so my Pittsburgh race report is going to have to wait. In lieu of that however, I will tell you about the Cheetah-thon.

Remember a few years ago when every time Team Stimey left the house, we had some sort of disaster? Well, this year’s Cheetah-thon was kind of a throwback to the good ol’ days.

First of all, I would like to state that the event was fantastic. The organizers did an amazing job. It was really nice to see everyone. The Cheetahs raised a lot of money. (And thank you so much to my mom for her donation. You are awesome.)

All that said, the Cheetah-thon did not go as planned for Team Stimey. To begin with, Quinn was adamantly against attending, so that was fun. (<—sarcasm) Then, disastrously, when we got there, I got Jack rental figure skates instead of rental hockey skates.

To make a long, really sad story short, the toe picks took Jack out. Twice.

The first fall took out his major joints and after he pulled it together and went back out, his second fall left him with a tiny but painful cut on the middle finger of his right hand. (Jack: “How am I going to show disrespect now?”)

That’s when it occurred to me that he was wearing the wrong type of skates. Sadly, he was Done with a capital “d.”

We did get to catch up with some of his coaches and friends though, so it wasn’t all bad.

Selfie of Jack and I smiling. Sam is hiding behind a pretzel behind us.

Joy between falls.

Quinn, on the other hand, was having the time of his life.

See, while I was trying to stem the flow of tears, Alex and Quinn had been winning everything the Cheetah-thon raffle had to offer. Suffice it to say, Quinn will never argue against attending a Cheetah-thon ever again.

Photo of Quinn holding a huge basket of Girl Scout cookies.

Things turned around for him once he won the GIANT BASKET OF COOKIES.

Even though this much-looked-forward-to event didn’t go quite as hoped, we did walk out of there with a basket of wine that we won in the raffle, so, you know, silver linings.

Much as with our past outings that didn’t go as planned though, Team Stimey doesn’t give up. We’ll be back to the Cheetah-thon next year and maybe we’ll even hit an open skate (in HOCKEY skates this time) before then.

Cheetah-thons Aren’t Just For Cheetahs!

The Montgomery Cheetahs logo

Remember the Cheetahs? Remember how Jack played on the team for years? Remember the magic of special hockey? Remember how your baby is my baby?

Jack didn’t play for the Cheetahs this year, but we still have a deep love for them and want to support them. Their big annual fundraising event is this Saturday and I would like you to take part.

First, I would like to invite you to skate with the Cheetahs at their Cheetah-thon this Saturday from 6:15 to 8:15 pm at the Rockville Ice Arena. Team Stimey will be there and we’d love to see you. Even those who don’t have a connection to the Cheetahs are welcome. Your family can skate for free—don’t forget to bring a helmet! (Bike helmets are good if you don’t have a hockey helmet.)

There are raffles with great prizes and you are encouraged but not required to donate when you are there. It is all around a really fun event. I hope if you can come that you will. It’s all kinds of fun.

But! If you can’t come to the actual Cheetah-thon, you can donate online like I did. I know the people who run this organization and they are really good people working hard solely for the benefit of the athletes on the team.

I hope to see you at the Cheetah-thon!


p.s. My half marathon was GREAT! Trust me, you’ll hear lots more about it later this week.

Once a Cheetah, Always a Cheetah

Photo of a hockey helmet on top of a hockey bag. There is masking tape on the helmet with the name "Jack" written on it.I had to send a really sad email today. Jack has decided to take a break from hockey this year. After much (much) inner-family discussion on the topic, it was time to tell his coaches.

They were wonderful. Once a Cheetah, always a Cheetah, one said. Jack has been a central part of the Cheetahs, another said.

Jack is welcome back anytime, both of them declared.

I am going to miss that team, I tell you. I’m hoping that Jack will change his mind and want to go back next year or the year after. I told him about what his coaches had said and I swear I saw his eyes get a little watery. When I asked him if he might want to go back in a year or two, he said he might and he looked happy at the thought.

I hope he does. After Jack’s diagnosis, the Cheetahs were our first real-life safe space among other families who understood us. The kindness of the coaches, the support of the other parents, and the leadership of Jack’s older teammates meant the world to us at a time when we needed it so very badly.

Those of you who have been here for a while know how much the Cheetahs mean to us. The tournament trips Jack and I took with the team were like nothing else I’ve experienced. The friends I’ve made rink-side and in the locker rooms are very dear to me. Watching Jack connect with his coaches and teammates and loving to skate has been priceless.

No matter what happens in the future, I am so grateful for this team and all the people involved in it—athletes, coaches, parents, mentors, everyone. Thank you. We love you.

Loving the Cheetah Nation

Every year I kinda forget how much Jack loves the Cheetah-thon. Part of it is that he just loves skating without having to wear all of his gear or being asked to do drills. But the thing I am reminded of, year after year, is how much Jack loves his coaches.

Yeah, he spends a lot of his time at the Cheetah-thon literally skating circles around his brothers, but he also makes sure to spend time skating and hanging out with his coaches, often hand-in-hand.

Jack skating holding hands with his coach.This year, Jack headed out on the ice while I was doing other stuff. When I finally got rinkside and spotted Jack, he was in the middle of the ice with three of his coaches doing a little dance.

“It’s really hard to not love that kid,” one of them told me later.

(I agree.)

Photo of Jack after he artfully slid to a stop on one knee on the ice. He has one hand on his hip and the other above his head in a peace sign.Sam and Quinn did less on-ice boogie dancing, but they had fun too.

Photo of Sam and Quinn clinging to the side of the rink. Quinn's back is to the camera.Even Quinn is warming up to his once yearly skating adventure. You might not be able to see it in this photo, but he’s smiling and joyful here.

Photo I took of Quinn from outside the rink. He's trying to duck down to hide from the camera.

I really want to thank all of you who donated to the Cheetah-thon. This truly is an amazing team made up of incredible athletes and supporters. Thank you to Sarah, Kelly, Barbara, and Grandma for donating. If you donated and I missed you, please let me know because I would like to know and be able to thank you. It is really meaningful to my family that you contribute to the Cheetahs in Jack’s honor. I also want to thank Heather and her family for coming to the Cheetah-thon.

Photo of Jack, just after he's skated away from one of his coaches.We’re going to enjoy our summer without early-morning Saturday practices, but come fall, Jack will be back on the ice.

Thank you.

Thank You, Cheetah Extended Family!

Thank you to those of you who donated to Jack’s hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs in Jack’s honor.

Jack wearing a black jacket that says "Jackson 42" on it.

Jack says thank you. Or something snarkily charming.

Thank you to Stacy and to Laura and to Heather & family and to Lyda & family and to Nana & Grandpa Richard. We are so very grateful to each of you.

The Cheetah-thon is May 2 from 5-7 pm at Rockville Ice Arena. We’ll be there and we’d love to see any of you there. Jack will be the one wearing shin guards and a huge smile.

There’s still time to donate as well. Put a shout-out to Jack in the comments on the donation site if you do, so I can be sure to thank you!

The Cheetah Family

I have been extremely remiss.

The year’s big fundraiser for Jack’s hockey team, the 2015 Cheetah-thon is coming up in two weeks and I haven’t written anything about it. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve written anything about the Cheetahs all year.

That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t still love our Cheetah Nation. ‘Cause we do.

Photo of Jack wearing a black jacket with the Montgomery Cheetahs logo on the back.

Unrelated: Look at his hair. I wish he hadn’t wanted to cut it. Oh, I miss it sooo much.

I’ve been a little checked out from the team this year. It used to always be me who took Jack to practice on Saturdays, but Alex has taken him at least half the time this season. We also didn’t go on the tournament trip for the first time since Jack joined the team. There’s been a lot of Cheetahs hockey without my participation over the past few months.

Jack has had a few really rough practices this year, mostly because he doesn’t always want to do the drills or stay on the ice for the whole practice. (And once because he just flat-out got pissed at another kid and wanted to brawl, hockey-style—that was a hard week.) He gets tired, he says, and it’s cold.

Even so, when I ask Jack if he still wants to be a Cheetah, he always says yes. We’ve talked about some of the things that are hard for him when he’s skating and we’ve been flexible in letting him take a week off here or there when he’s needed it.

Because the thing is, when he’s into it, when he’s happy to be with his team, the magic of special hockey appears.

Photo of Jack and another player in red jerseys skating across the ice.

I stole this photo from the Montgomery Cheetahs Facebook page. I love it.

Photo of Jack sliding to the ice during practice. He's smiling.

Jack often enjoys the drills where the entire point is to fall spectacularly. I love that grin.

Profile of Jack in his hockey helmet.

Taking a break during practice.

Photo of Jack from the back, skating away from the camera.

One thing Jack almost always enjoys is simply skating. It’s second nature to him now.

Jack in full gear on the opposite side of the plexiglass from me. His hands and helmet are pressed up against the glass.

Jack has also been known to ham it up a little during practice.

Jack in a red jersey and his buddy in a blue jersey. They are on the opposite side of the rink, leaning against the side of the rink and looking totally relaxed.

Jack hanging with one of his two best friends, who is also on the team. (Obviously, I suppose.) They’re working hard. Can’t you tell?

Jack is resourceful. He’s always finding things to keep him entertained. There was one practice where I saw him skate over to the rink door and I thought he wanted to get off the ice. By the time I made my way over to see what was up, he was busy entertaining a group of parents by finding ways to ask for their drinks through the plexiglass.

Photo of Jack on the other side of the plexiglass. He's breathed on the glass to make a fog and has written the word "coffee" in it.

I was all, “If you caffeinate that kid, so help me God…”

This is one of the things I really enjoy about Jack. He looooves entertaining people. He is such a goofball.

And every once in a while, he grabs the camera and I get to see parts of the hockey experience from his point of view.

Photo of me sitting on the ground in a locker room. I'm untying his skate.

One day he will be able to tie his own skates and life will be sooooo good.

The Montgomery Cheetahs have given Jack so much.

He’s learned to do something that’s pretty hard and that a lot of kids his age can’t do. He has access to a large disability community. He gets good exercise and learns about teamwork.

More than that though, he is unconditionally accepted. Yes, he is asked to do things and demands are put on him, but if he can’t do it, if the drills or following directions or doing anything other than lying the ice is just not in the cards that day, it’s okay. He isn’t forced to perform. The coaches and I encourage him and try to get him excited, but if the answer is no, the answer is no. And even better, he’s not made to feel bad about it.

For kids like Jack who are pushed so hard so often to do things that are extremely difficult for them, it is nice when they have a place they can chill out and just belong.

This is never more evident than when the Cheetah Nation gets together off of the ice. The team held its yearly party last weekend and, as always, it was a joy to behold. There was food and booze and a DJ. Players of all ages and their parents danced or jumped or ran in circles or shared video games or did whatever made them happy.

Photo of chairs stacked against a wall. Jack is laying across a bunch of them.

Like hanging out on piles of chairs.

That’s what I love about the Cheetahs. No one is pressured to be anyone or anything other than who they are.

With the Cheetahs, Jack is accepted for being exactly who he is.

Photo of Jack in a large room, with tables and people behind him. He has a huge grin on his face.

Anything that makes Jack this happy makes me that happy.

If you are able, please consider donating to the Montgomery Cheetahs on their Cheetah-thon fundraiser page. It takes a lot of money to keep a team like this going. They work really hard to keep player costs to a minimum, so the team depends heavily on funds raised at the Cheetah-thon. If you donate in Jack’s honor, make a note of it during the donation process so I can be sure to thank you.

Whether you can donate or not, thanks for always being so supportive when I talk about Jack and the Cheetahs. It really is a fantastic community. In fact, it is far less of a Cheetah Nation and far more of a Cheetah Family.


Cheetah Proud

I’m going to write about last weekend’s Cheetah-thon because it was fabulous and deserves to be written about, but in terms of getting my point across, if I wanted to, I could just decide that a picture is worth a thousand words and show you this one:

Jack and Alex are ice skating. Alex is in front of Jack and Jack is holding on to the back of Alex's jacket. Alex is smiling. Jack, however, is looking at the camera with an expression of pure, open-mouthed glee. There is so much joy in this photo.

I call this photo: Joy.

Jack loves the Cheetah-thon. Loves it. He is totally in his element there. It makes me so happy to see him so joyful and engaged and silly and relaxed. I think he really likes getting to skate without anyone telling him what to do.

He takes advantage of his freedom by demanding that all of his coaches pull him around the ice—which they do with big smiles on their faces.

Photo of Jack and one of his coaches on the ice. The coach has his hands behind him. Jack is holding those hands and being pulled along the ice.

You might remember similar photos from last year’s Cheetah-thon. And Jack had that same big-ass smile then too.

So, we know that Jack has a good time at the Cheetah-thon, and clearly Alex was having a good time in that photo above (although several days later, his body still hurts from the sudden trips to the ice he took a couple of times), but what about the rest of Team Stimey?

Sam had a really good time. One of my friends came and brought her kids, whom Sam really likes, so he got to play around with them. Plus, he was able to goof around with his brothers. Some days he is such a chill little dude. (Or, rather, a chill giant dude. Seriously, once he put his ice skates on, he was as tall as many of the adults.)

He does like to hassle me though. At least he does it in a sweet, exasperating manner.

Sam smiling with his hand up in an effort to block the camera.

Sam doing his best anti-paparazzi impression.

So Jack, Alex, and Quinn had fun. But what of Quinn? Quinn does not ice skate. Quinn doesn’t even like being inside ice rinks. Quinn and his brothers were invited to a friend’s ice skating party a few months ago and Quinn spent most of the party in tears because of the cold and the environment. I was worried that the Cheetah-thon would be the same way for him.

Fortunately, I am not above bribery, so I gave him money right off the bat to buy a giant pretzel and didn’t even bother asking him if he wanted to skate. In fact, I was so sure he wasn’t going to skate that I didn’t even bother bringing a helmet for him.

Quinn ran around for a while while everyone else skated and I took photos and chatted with my friends. Then…oh my god…you guys…QUINN ASKED IF HE COULD SKATE. I think the excitement and the fun of the event seeped into him and he couldn’t resist.

I hadn’t brought a helmet for him, but fortunately due to the helmet snafu of last winter, I had an extra one in the car—and it fit him perfectly. I couldn’t have been more pleased. In addition to being amazed that Quinn was willing to skate, I was also amazed that he was willing to wear a hockey helmet with a facemask and everything.

Quinn took exactly one lap around the rink. (It took him 20 minutes.) I couldn’t have been more proud of him. I would show you a photo of him looking adorable in his helmet or skating on the ice, but he forbade me from taking a picture and/or posting it on my blog. HUGE SAD FACE.

Instead, I’ll show you this photo of him smiling at his pretzel.

Quinn holding a paper plate on which is a giant, soft, salty pretzel. His eyes are looking at the pretzel and he has a huge smile on his face.

Seriously. It’s the only photo of Q from that night that I can publish without him getting mad at me.

I had a blast too. One of my good friends came with her family, including one of my relay race team members that I hadn’t seen for a long time and was stoked to hug. I ran around taking photos, handing out money to my kids (and Alex) for food (and raffle tickets). I talked to my friends. I goofed around. It was great.

It was a triumphant night for Team Stimey.

Oh, and the Cheetahs did a great job of fundraising and met our goal. That too.

It was fantastic all around. I love this team and our community. I am so grateful for their support and also for your support. Thank you to those of you who donated money to the team. Thank you to those of you who donated items for the raffle. Thank you for those of you who attended the event. Thank you to those of you who sent love and good wishes. Just thank you all. We feel your support and we are so grateful.

Thank you for supporting Jack and his wonderful team. We are so grateful for every single dollar. If you are still in the mood to donate, you can still do so online.

Hockey season is over for the summer. I have my Saturday mornings back so I can sleep in. But as always, I will miss both practice and the people it brings into my and Jack’s lives. Fortunately they aren’t really gone and, partially thanks to you, they’ll be back weekly come fall.

Photo of Jack skating straight toward the camera.