Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.

Something TERRIBLE Has Happened

Alex let me sleep in on Sunday morning. He had plans to take Jack and Quinn to get hair trims. Their hair was getting a little shaggy, so we thought it would be a good idea to neaten things up by having the barber cut a couple inches off the ends for each of them.

Jack was down with the plan. Quinn, who hates haircuts and also hates the aftermath of haircuts when everyone notices and talks about his haircut, had grudgingly agreed.

That was the plan when I went to bed Saturday night.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Alex shaking me and frantically waving his hands around and asking me if I’d gotten the texts he’d sent. “Something went seriously wrong,” he was saying. “It’s not okay. Things went badly.”

I swear to God, I thought someone had died.

Alex was finally able to communicate that the disaster was haircut related and I picked up my phone and read my texts.

Screen capture of a text exchange between Alex and I: Me: "Did you get brownie mix? If not, I'll stop at the grocery store. (Read Yesterday); Alex: No (Today 9:47am) Alex: Quinn's haircut has gone a little sideways. It is important for you to not mention it when we get home. Alex: Spiro cut off too much hair. Even I'm annoyed.

I know. And he didn’t get the fucking brownie mix either.

Sideways?! SIDEWAYS?! ALEX, YOU HAD ONE JOB.

You guys. Jack and Quinn both have short, boy haircuts now.

Clearly, I am devastated.

They both still look cute, but…omg their beautiful hair. Jack likes his haircut because it is easier to comb, but I miss his gorgeous long, thick hair. Still, I suppose it is HIS hair and he gets control over it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pout about it.

Quinn, on the other hand…well, Quinn was a serious problem. He didn’t even let me see his hair until five or six that night. He wore his coat over his head for a couple of hours and then switched to a hat once I found one for him. I had a feeling that his first day back at school would be less than ideal.

I wrote an email to his teachers, excerpted here:

Something terrible has happened. I let my husband take Quinn for a haircut this weekend, where he was supposed to get a neat little trim that no one at school would notice.

BOOM! BLAM! KAPOW!

Things went poorly. Evidently the husband read a magazine like it was his first day parenting Quinn and the barber went unsupervised and things spiraled out of control and now Quinn has short hair.

So. The reason I tell you is not just because my baby’s beautiful golden hair is gone. But because he is going to be very sensitive about it on Tuesday.

It turns out that Quinn did very well today. His wonderful teachers let him wear a hat all day and Quinn says his hair is growing back already, so it looks like things are going to work out okay. Also, we shouldn’t be too hard on Alex. He did tell and show the barber what Quinn wanted done. We can’t blame a rogue barber’s actions on Alex.

(Sam: “I’m so glad I didn’t go.”)

Poor kiddo though. Our two outcomes are (1) I am now in charge of boy haircuts and (2) Quinn never goes back to Spiro the barber again.

And now we begin the long process of sitting back and watching hair grow. I just thought I should let you know so you wouldn’t be surprised in case Quinn ever lets me take and post another photo of him. Chances of that are about 50/50.

Christmas Prep, 14 Years Later

Fourteen years ago, Sam was two months old and Alex and I were looking to do Santa right. We spent significant brain power making sure that he had the best first visit with Santa possible. We checked with all the parents we knew to find out which Santa was The Best Santa and we ended up driving, like, an hour away to a mall where we had heard that The Best Santa worked.

We dressed Sam in a powder blue one-piece sweater and coordinated our visit with his naptime to ensure the best possible photo.

I wish I had the photo handy. It was adorable.

Also, that visit was pretty much meaningless to Sam.

This past weekend, we stopped our three visibly dirty children in the middle of a front-lawn wrestle match to stuff them in the car and take them to Santa, complete with dirt stains and twigs in their hair.

Things change.

Photo of my three kids sitting on Santa's lap. It's an okay photo.

It’s cute, but not powder blue sweater onesie cute.

It’s a trip to think of everything that has changed over the past fourteen years. One of those changes is definitely a willingness to let little things like perfection in Santa photos go.

In addition to our annual visit to Santa last weekend, we also made our annual visit to the local rescue squad that sells us our Christmas tree. Because we like to do things wrong, we arrived at the tree lot well before they opened for the day.

Fortunately, there was an EMT there who was more than happy to give us a tour of their trucks and explain all of the gear and medicines and also how drug dealers really don’t care about their customers.

It was totally awesome.

Photo of the interior of an ambulance. All three of my kids sit inside, focused on someone talking outside of the frame. Jack is buckled into one of the seats.

Jack explored every part of that ambulance that he was allowed to.

The kiddos also killed some time by hiding in the trees, which they tend to do every year.

Photo of Christmas tree greenery. Quinn's face is partially obscured behind a lot of it.

I swear that I take this same photo every year. I guess some things don’t change.

Naturally our tree was far too big for our limited corner space, but oh so very beautiful.

Photo of a decorated Christmas tree. Alex is holding Jack up in his arms so he can put the star on top of the tree.

My kids outdo themselves decorating it every year.

Things change, yes, but I think they’re getting ever better.

Jack’s Debut

Jack’s school play was this past weekend. After hours and hours and weeks of rehearsals, he performed Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening. He was triumphant and delightful and hilarious and wonderful and totally Jack.

It’s not easy to cram all of that into a small role that mostly involves standing in one spot and not speaking, but he totally did it.

However, the experience as a whole wasn’t perfect. In fact, I just wrote and deleted seven long paragraphs about the issues I have with the way everything went down for Jack. What it boils down to is that often inclusion isn’t what we want it to be, especially in after-school activities. But then I decided that I didn’t want this post to be about all of that. I want it to be about my awesome kid.

It would be easy to look at his struggles and feel as if he was less than successful, but instead I choose to look at how tremendously kickass my kid is.

Without even telling me, he created a monologue and auditioned for a play. He didn’t know anyone in the cast and he sat through hour after hour of rehearsal where he was required to mostly sit on a gym floor and watch other people rehearse. He was brave enough to get up on a stage to perform in front of a crowd. He was willing to do all of this for a very small role. He did all of this while autistic. Any way you look at it, Jack did a great job.

He is so brave. I don’t think he is even aware of how brave he is. I tried to let him know that by buying a “shout out” in the play program.

Photo of an advertisement in the play program that says, "Congratulations, Jack! You are braver than you know. Team [Stimey] loves you!"

I hope he really understands this as truth.

Every performance that I watched—and I watched all three of them—left me grinning from ear to ear. I love my kid so much. And I am so damn proud of him.

Whenever I asked him if he’d enjoyed being in the play, he said he did. Honestly, that’s all that matters to me.

Photo of four kids dressed as security guards with linked, raised arms taking their bow on stage.

You deserved your applause, Jack. Every bit of it.

 

Still Alive!

Who is the motherfucking managing editor around here? Whoever it is has fallen down on the job, that’s all I have to say. November 4th? The last post was November 4th?

Shocking.

I don’t like that it has been so long. I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule. I think it is mostly a matter of getting back in the habit and also figuring out how to use my laptop on my actual lap instead of at a desk, which is where I’ve always written before but where I spend far less time than I used to.

Anywho. I figured that since I’ve been away so long, I’d catch you up on stuff. Let’s see… Well, it’s December; how did that sneak up on us? We spent the Thanksgiving weekend decorating the outside of our house for Christmas because Alex says it’s less depressing to come home from work late at night when there is a festive deer and candy canes outside. I’m not sure what that says about his attitude about seeing us after a long day, but I’m not going to look at that too hard.

Photo of the outside of my house at night. there are lit up icicles, candy canes, a deer, and multi colored lights.

Look how preeeetttty!

As for Thanksgiving itself, we had a lovely day. We hung out and ate and we had a five-legged turkey.

Photo of a turkey that has five legs.

Did you know that you can buy EXTRA turkey legs? You should do it.

We call it a beetle turkey. It eliminates a lot of screaming at the Thanksgiving dinner table due to the traditional 3:2 children:turkey legs ratio.

Alex’s mom visited that weekend. Check out what she brought with her:

Five small cat figurines painted to look exactly like our cats.

THEY ARE OUR CATS!

These are amazing. She totally nailed all of their markings. Incredible.

So that’s Thanksgiving. What else?

Jack’s play is this weekend. I am so proud of him. He originally had two nonspeaking parts in the play, but at some point, the teacher eliminated the scene in which he had his bigger part, so now he has a veeeerrry small part somewhere in act two. But you know what Jack has done? He has spent HOURS at rehearsal. He has done so with good cheer and enthusiasm. He is ready to perform and I could not be more proud of him.

He has definitely struggled a little and I’m actually more than a little bit annoyed about some of the ways things have gone down over the past couple of months, but none of it is on Jack. He is a motherfucking champion. I’m so lucky he’s my kid. I’ll let you know how the play goes. I haven’t decided if I want to or should write about the stuff that’s pissed me off—most of it is how non-inclusive after school activities really are in practice—but I will absolutely come back and post photos of how awesome my kid is.

Sam is busy preparing for a test he has to take to get into the high school program he wants to attend. He’s also preparing for the three band concerts he has next week. The next seven or eight days are going to be pretty intense.

Quinn is doing pretty well. He has his ups and downs, but he is producing art like this:

A drawing of a cat wearing a black body suit, I think. There is a sash with a mustache on it and the cat seems to be wearing a fez.

Quinn’s imagination kinda rocks.

So, all in all, pretty all right.

Are we caught up? Am I properly chastised for my absence from this page? Are we all wishing Jack to break a leg this weekend? Okay then, I will see you soon!

Treehouse Master

I don’t know if it was four years ago or five that Jack first started asking for a treehouse in the backyard. To my surprise, Alex was all, “Sure, Jack! I can build one for you!” He also said a lot of things about getting it done in a weekend, but the fact that he agreed to make one at all was the truly astonishing thing.

Then we waited and waited and waited and Jack kept asking and Alex kept insisting that he was going to build one and then we moved and we were glad that we didn’t build one at the old house and then every time we drove past a treehouse, Jack would say, “Why do they get a treehouse and we don’t?” and then we waited a little more.

Finally, late this past summer, Alex announced that it was finally time. He made a shopping list, stuffed us all into our van, and dragged us out to the first of many trips to Home Depot to buy lumber.

Photo of Alex and Sam putting a long 4x4 piece of wood on a cart.

We had a very strict Home Depot separation of labor: Alex and Sam did most of the heavy lifting, Jack sat on the cart, Quinn laid on the floor, and I took photos. That’s me, always sacrificing for the greater good.

It was fun to get started buying our supplies as a family. There was a wrinkle though.

Guess how many people can fit in a Chrysler Town & Country filled with a bunch of six- to 12-foot pieces of lumber?

Answer: two.

Guess how many people are in my family?

Answer: three more than two.

Guess which of us had to sit in the nearby Five Guys and grumble at each other while the other two took the lumber home?

Answer: Those of us not involved in most of the heavy lifting.

Alex had a plan to build the treehouse and fasten it to the tree. He started by attaching a brace to the tree and constructing a base. I helped nail the base together. Then Alex took out my crooked nails and re-hammered them in correctly.

Photo of Alex standing next to a tree. There is a triangle of wood attached to the tree and the frame of a base on the ground next to him. He looks vaguely annoyed.

See that vaguely annoyed look on his face? He wore that for the next week, especially when I said things like, “Are you sure this is how we’re supposed to do it?” and “Maybe we should have used a different screw,” and “Are treehouses supposed to be that wobbly?”

Even though Alex had the worst, fair-weather assistants in me and the munchkins, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

Alex standing at the tree, using a measuring tape to measure from the ground to the top of the brace on the tree.

Alex, measuring what needs to be a pretty precise measurement: “This is a cubit.” Not everyone can build a treehouse using cubits and smidgens.

Building the base was all well and good, except you have to build it on the ground, then position it in its spot in the tree to figure out where to dig your post holes. That means you have to figure out a way to hold the base in the tree without posts while you’re figuring out where those posts go. And that base is heeeeaaaavy.

Our treehouse plans suggested you have three people hold up the base while another person figures out where the posts go. Looking at our little family, we just couldn’t make that math work. So Alex and I recruited a slightly too short ladder to act as one of our people, forced Sam to help, and tried to move as fast as possible.

Once we figured out where we wanted the post holes, we rested the base on the ladder as we used every tool we could find to dig in the hard, hard ground.

Photo of treehouse base propped in a tree by resting on a ladder. Alex is digging a post hole. Sam is walking underneath in a cringing fashion.

There was a lot of screeching of “DO NOT WALK UNDER THE TREEHOUSE!!!!!!!”

Once the base was attached to the posts, things got easier. I mean, not in terms of our marriage suffering from me insisting that the structure was too wobbly and him insisting that I just shut the fuck up already. (He turned out to be right. Go figure.)

The whole family helped build the treehouse. Some helped more than others.

Photo of Jack digging with a shovel and Quinn chipping at a rock with a pickaxe.

Good job digging random holes in the yard, Jack and Quinn.

Actually, Jack was really into the whole thing and helped quite a bit. Quinn, less so. He really enjoyed that pickax though.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our exact process and our million trips to Home Depot and all of the curse words we used, but suffice it to say, we eventually ended up with a house-shaped structure attached to a tree.

Alex standing in front of the frame of a treehouse in the tree.

It is just a skeleton, but it is a treehouse skeleton.

Not everyone in the house understood why we were doing what we were doing.

Photo from outside the house of two kittens inside a sliding glass door looking outside at the saws and wood on the back porch.

Kittens: “We have a perfectly cromulent house already standing. Why are you doing all this work to build that tiny house in a tree?”

It got a little sketchy when Alex had to climb to the very top of a tall ladder to hammer in some of the siding and to put the shingles on the roof.

Photo of Alex on a ladder using a hammer. He looks worried.

I took this photo from my safe vantage point in the treehouse. He was in a much sketchier position on a ladder fifteen feet in the air. That’s his “I don’t want to die” face.

Photo of Alex at the bottom of a tall ladder. He is making a grouchy face at me.

This is Alex’s “stop making jokes about my imminent death” face.

I gotta tell you, building a treehouse is a tremendous amount of work. And it turns out that all the lumber is super pricey. AND you might end up near divorce if you try to build one. But you just might make your inspiration for building the damn thing super happy.

Photo of Jack giving a thumbs up while standing inside the treehouse.

That thumbs up was five years in the making.

It turns out that even though I took seventeen million photos of the building of the treehouse, I neglected to take one from the outside once it was done and it’s dark right now and I don’t want to go outside to take one, so I have to use this one that my mom took as we were finishing up the roof.

Photo of the treehouse with railings and stairs. Alex is on the balcony on a ladder nailing shingles to the roof. I am sitting on the stairs looking at my phone.

And, yes, I do mean WE. Sure, Alex is doing the heavy lifting here, but I was making sure everyone on Facebook knew of our progress, which was almost as important.

We’re Team Stimey, so we had to christen the thing with doughnut breakfast.

Three photos of us in the treehouse eating doughnuts. One is of Sam in the doorway, one is a selfie of me and Jack, and one is a photo of Quinn.

Not only is the treehouse stable, but it can fit a surprising number of people.

Sadly, we had said christening while Alex was at work. Being the dad can be a thankless job. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank him.

Photo taken from the treehouse platform of Alex on the ground. He is waving. He looks adorable.

Thank you, Alex. You did SO much work. The treehouse is amazing. Our kids are so lucky. I hope they truly understand that. Excellent job, sir. Thank you.

Risk, Accomplishment, and One Total Badass

There is a certain terror to being a parent. You want to protect your kids from all the pains and embarrassments and dangers of being a person at the same time that you know you absolutely cannot. You wish you could bear the weight of their heartaches rather than making them go through it themselves at the same time that you know that weight is what makes them grow into the person they are meant to become. You want to hold them back from risk at the same time that you accept that it is only through risk that they have accomplishment.

*****

This afternoon I got a call from Jack’s teacher. Because he was staying after school for drama club, she said, she wanted to make sure he had a ride home.

That was the first I’d heard of drama club, but I was stoked because I love theater and I love acting and I love drama kids and I was super excited that Jack decided he wanted to do drama club as an extracurricular activity instead of his semi-disastrous foray into the Science Olympiad last year.

His teacher had told me the club would be over at 4:15, so I showed up then, but he was nowhere to be seen. I hung out for a while, reading papers on the bulletin boards. On one such bulletin board was a notice about auditions for the fall play and how they were TODAY and they were being held from 3 to 6 and how if you were going to audition, you needed to have a 1-2 minute memorized monologue prepared and I realized that this is where Jack was and I started to worry a little bit because, monologue? He hasn’t prepared a monologue. Oh shit.

I wandered down to the stage and opened a door that led to a hall backstage and heard Jack’s voice say, “Hi, Mom.”

He was sitting quietly by himself eating his lunch leftovers. After I had a little panic that he’d been ousted to the hallway, I realized that food wasn’t allowed in the auditorium and he was just taking a break. So I said hi and asked him if he’d auditioned yet and then I asked him what monologue he was doing and he was all, “One I made up myself,” and that terror that I talked about up above, that fear of risk, reared up inside me as I thought about all the other kids auditioning who had been preparing for the past two weeks.

Jack and I waited until the next audition was done, then he stood up and went into the auditorium and talked quietly to the teachers running the audition. There were probably about fifty kids sitting in groups around on the floor watching the stage. I could tell he was telling the teachers that his mom was here and could he audition soon. It was clear that they were adding him in even though he hadn’t signed up in advance, which was lovely of them.

During all this, my body got ice cold. My chest began to hollow out. I was sure he was in over his head. I had no idea what was going to happen when his name was called.

I didn’t have to wait long. They called his name and he went on stage. I was standing far away against the wall, so I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, but he introduced himself and then performed his monologue which he told me later was about “my character and his brother’s mysterious death.” He spoke smoothly, he emoted through body movement, he was very melancholy, and he was fucking beautiful on that stage.

Photo of Jack walking down a set of stairs from the stage after his performance.

After.

I am so proud of that kid. He is fearless. He made a decision that he wanted to try out and then he performed a monologue that he wrote himself in front of an audience like it was no big thing. I don’t know what the results of the audition will be, but what I do know is that Jack is a total badass.

*****

There is a certain state of amazement that comes with being a parent. When you get to watch your kid be brave, when you see him take a risk, when you see him look his nerves in the face and walk straight past them, well, that is something special. That’s when you pretend that those aren’t tears in your eyes. That is when you feel a joy and a pride and a love that is bigger than anything imaginable. Sometimes it’s a small thing that brings on that amazement.

Sometimes all it takes is 1-2 minutes.