All Around the Internet and Maryland

Today I have links for you instead of a post. You probably know that this month is Autism Acceptance Month. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is featuring stories about autistic people this month and today it was my and Jack’s turn. Check out how awesome the Jackster is over there.

I am also being featured as a Mom’s Life Uncensored Blogger on the Stir this month and the other day they reposted one of my stories from a little more than a year ago. It is about the day I took my kids to ASAN’s Day of Mourning and Sam’s incredible reaction to it. Check out how awesome the Samster is over there.

I wish now that I had a link to something about how awesome the Q-ball is, but I don’t. Rest assured, however, that he is. Awesome, that is.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that Listen to Your Mother shows are coming up over the next weeks. Find one in your area. I, personally, am going to see friends in both the DC (May 4) and Baltimore (April 26) shows. I can’t wait! Why don’t you join me?

It Was EXACTLY Like the National Treasure Movies Except Not at All

A few weeks ago, I got an email inviting my family to the National Archives for a family day event and a pre-opening coffee with a curator to celebrate their “Making Their Mark: Stories through Signatures” exhibit.

Immediately upon receipt of said email, I realized that (a) I had never dragged my kids through that particular institution and (b) I should rectify that immediately. Also, (c) I’d never been and I really wanted to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights in person.

Our morning at the Archives came around this past Saturday and I was prepared. Museum-type spaces can be tough for my kiddos, particularly Quinn, so I made sure to not use the m-word and I pulled out the other heavy gun I had in my arsenal: I reminded them about the National Archives scenes from the National Treasure movies.

That did the trick.

We arrived to find juice and pastries as well as curator Jennifer Johnson, who gave us a personal tour through the Making Their Mark exhibit, which she had curated. It was really cool. The exhibit is all about signatures, from athletes signing sports memorabilia to Benedict Arnold’s oath of allegiance to a display of pens used by presidents to sign bills into law.

It was even more interesting than I thought it would be. There was a patent application filed by Michael Jackson, a letter from Johnny Cash to Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon’s FBI application, and any number of other fascinating documents and items. All three of my kids were also really interested, which is notable because there are not a lot of things that my three kids are all into.

The backs of my three kids looking at a display of 50 pens in a frame.

One of my favorites was this display of pens that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used to sign bills into law.

One of the exhibits was a full-size door that members of a home builders association sent to President Reagan to draw attention to their economic troubles. Jack took a look at the door, listened to the curator explain that it featured signatures on one side and the address on the other, and said, “Excuse me? Excuse me? I think the president was all, ‘What the bleep is this door doing in my mailbox!’”

Yep. That’s Team Stimey, keeping it classy across the generations.

In my defense, at least Jack says “bleep” instead of actual curse words.

The part of the exhibit that might have captured my kids’ attention more than any other was the auto-signing machine that was set up near the exit. This particular machine auto-signed John Hancock’s signature.

Jack carefully watching the mechanism of an auto-signing machine. There is a pen attached via a mechanism that follows the grooves in a disc that guides the signature.

Jack might have been more interested in the mechanics of the machine than the result.

We still had a few minutes before the Archives opened to the public so the curator took us to the Rotunda where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed. I may have majorly geeked out there. This may also be the place where I was reprimanded by a guard.

There are no photos allowed in the Archives (barring special permission on a private tour in certain areas), so I’ll give you this image provided to me.

Photo of the Rotunda where there are murals of the founding fathers on the walls and six pages of documents, each in their own case: the Declaration, the Constitution (4 pages), and the Bill of Rights.

It was incredibly cool to see these documents close up. The Bill of Rights is my favorite.

I asked the curator how accurate the National Treasure depiction of the National Archives was and she told me that even though none of the filming was done there, it was actually pretty close. It is here that I might have to admit to you that my kids love those films and that we own DVD copies of both of them.

I am so ashamed.

Anywho, from there, we headed to the public Family Day activities that were taking place adjacent to the Making Their Mark exhibit. There were all kinds of good activities for all ages.

Jack standing at a white board where he is matching photos of and quotes by presidents to their pictures.

Jack matched presidential photos to their quotes and names. He may have needed some help to complete said process.

Sam using a template of John Adams' signature to make his own version.

Sam recreated John Adams’ signature.

Quinn slumped in a chair with a grumpy look on his face.

And Quinn sighed loudly and often.

There were crafts in another room, but the real treasure was the room set up with fountain and quill pens where my kids all learned how to write and draw using a pot of ink. Sam took approximately sixteen years to write a letter to each member of the family and Quinn and Jack drew their cats.

Quinn smiling and holding up an ink drawing of his cat Oreo.

This is a remarkably accurate representation of Oreo. I certainly wasn’t that good with the quill pen.

I was even retweeted by the @USNatArchives, which was also a kind of geeky high for me.

Screenshot of a tweet from the National Archives. The photo is of Jack looking sort of exhausted, patiently filling in his drawing of a cat with blank ink from a quill pen. The tweet says, "RT @Stimey: Drawing a picture of a black cat with a quill pen is hard work. #signatures @USNatArchives"

My kids are adept at cat drawings.

I feel very lucky that my family was invited to this event. As I say, I’ve been wanting to take my kids to the National Archives for a long time and this was the best possible way to have a first visit.

That said, your family can visit this exhibit too. The Making Their Mark exhibit is open through January 5, 2015.There will be more Making Their Mark Family Days on July 18 and December 30. There will be Constitution-in-Action Family Learning Labs on April 15, July 10, July 23, and July 29. For more information about these events, as well as others, go to archivesfoundation.org.

*****

In other news, Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. Thank you so much to Sarah Elizabeth, Laura, my friend Heather and her family, and my young friends Katie and Brooke (and their terrific parents) for their donations. You can make your own donation online.

The Magic of (Local) Special Hockey

It strikes me suddenly that it has been a week—more even—since Jack’s tournament and I have barely written about it. Well. That should change if only because anything that makes my kid smile like this needs to be written about.

Jack in his hockey uniform and helmet, with a big smile on his face.Although to be honest, that photo just reflects that he was smiling about a video Quinn had made about his nose, which resulted in Jack asking me to make a video about his nose, which led to this, which I share because I think my guy is just so goldarn cute.

 See? Cute.

Um. Oh, right. Hockey.

So, the UCT Winter Hockey Festival took place about 20 minutes from my house a little more than a week ago and it was GREAT. The Cheetahs had four teams playing in the tournament, which hosted more than a dozen teams from around the Northeast.

Jack’s first game was in the afternoon on Saturday, which was a lovely change from our normal Saturday morning routine, wherein we have to have Jack at the rink and all suited up for practice by 7:45 am.

Team Stimey accidentally sat in the bleachers with the opposing team’s families for that first game, which mostly only got awkward when some folks commented on the kid who was lying down on the ice in a big X shape. I think you know whose kid that was.

Regardless, the game was fun, my friend/one of Jack’s former teachers came to watch, and someone won. Or didn’t. Honestly, at Jack’s level of special hockey, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Hey, we’re all winners! Even if we lie down on the ice during the game.

We were thinking about sticking around after Jack’s game to watch some of the other Cheetah teams play (those games do have winners), but Team Stimey (read: Alex) was a little antsy, so we decided to head home until the opening ceremony a few hours later. (The magic of local special hockey.)

We did stop at the playground outside the arena to have a little subzero climbing time, because WHY WOULDN’T WE?! (Because it was subzero.)

Quinn on a playground climbing structure in a hat—smiling.

Even Quinn, who can barely handle the cold of rink-side benches, happily cavorted.

We returned later that afternoon for the opening ceremonies at which each athlete got to walk across the ice and get a medal.

Jack killed time before he got his medal by hanging out with Slapshot, the Washington Capitals’ mascot.

Photo of Jack and his team standing rinkside as a man dressed at a giant eagle in a hockey uniform skates on the rink in front of them.

Okay, maybe not just Jack.

Sam killed time by pretending to be Jack.

Two photos, side by side, the first of Jack in a green coat and hat, the second of Sam wearing the same coat and hat.

Jack on left. Sam on right, thinking he is hilarious.

Quinn killed time by reading a Garfield book. I won’t bore you with that photo.

After the opening ceremony, we followed Slapshot out to the parking lot…

Jack greeting Slapshot in a hallway. Slapshot's back is to the camera and his wing is on Jack's shoulder.

I’m kidding. We just ran after him to say hello in person.

Now, the thing about hockey tournaments is that the games are great and the cheering is fun and the opening ceremony and the medals are a blast, but the real magic of special hockey comes in watching the players be with the other players and their coaches. They find common ground. They laugh. They joke. They spin. They play video games together. And if they are Montgomery Cheetahs at this particular tournament, they DANCE.

The Cheetahs had a party after the ceremony for the athletes and their families. Let me tell you, it got raucous.

Blurry photo of Jack and other kids dancing. A man is standing behind Jack, preparing to lift him onto his shoulders.

I know it’s blurry. But it gets the point across. That is one of Jack’s coaches standing behind him. Shortly thereafter, Jack was up on his shoulders. The Cheetah Nation knows how to party.

Watching all those players connecting with each other and finding their community among themselves? I can’t even tell you how good that feels to watch. Also, if someone organizes all the kiddos into the front of the room and has them sing “We Are the Champions,” well, that will feel pretty good too.

Sadly, there is a harsh alarm after every excellent party and mine went off at the crack of dawn because Jack had an 8 am game on Sunday. We got to the rink on time and settled ourselves (on the correct cheering side) in the bleachers and then Alex demonstrated for all of you exactly how we all felt at that moment.

Alex with the grumpiest look possible on his face.

Grumpy man is grumpy.

It was early, y’all.

Jack, in uniform and on the ice, pressed up against the rink glass with his stick in his hands.

Although to be fair, I’m not sure why we did all the complaining when Jack was the one who had to actually compete in an athletic event at that ungodly hour.

Soon enough though, Alex’s face unscrunched as he watched Jack skate and play. Then we watched Jack hit the puck between the goalie’s legs and score a goal. A GOAL. Those aren’t easy to come by for the more cheerfully lackadaisical players, of which Jack is one.

You should have seen Alex’s face. I was too busy smiling and clapping to take that photo.

Then my longtime commenter/new friend Karen showed up to watch the game. She is a Stimeyland reader and, according to WordPress, was my top commenter last year. It was wonderful to put her face to her words and even better to find out that she is a really lovely person. Big thanks to you, Karen, for putting yourself out there and coming by. It was an absolute joy to hang out with you.

Jack and I didn’t take all his gear off between games, because his next one was at 11 am, so he sat in the cafe and played on an iPad wearing everything but his helmet, gloves, and skates.

Naturally, after wearing them for three hours, he determined right before his next game that THESE ELBOW PADS ARE ITCHY AND TERRIBLE AND I ABSOLUTELY CAN’T TAKE THEM ANOTHER MINUTE ELBOWS ARE OVERRATED ANYWAY!!!

I managed to scratch his elbows until he was okay and he marched off to the outside rink, which was where his last game of the tournament was. Honestly, it didn’t feel TOO cold out there.

Quinn wearing a coat, wrapped in a blanket, and wearing his big hat sitting on a bench.

Although some people vehemently disagreed with that claim.

The outside rink is a very tiny rink, which made for some highly entertaining hockey, full of collisions and spills and lots of action. Plus, the players’ bench was right in there with the spectators so we could cheer on and support our kiddos from close up.

Jack and Alex fistbumping, rinkside.

(That’s a fist bump happening, not a beating.)

Tired as he was, Jack stayed motivated and played all of his shifts. This kid is so amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Jack in uniform on the ice, holding his stick parallel to the ice.

Now we just have to teach Jack to keep his stick on the ice so he can get more puck time.

I’m also proud of Quinn for making it through the entire game, even if he did hog much of the players’ bench in a profound expression of his freezing-cold misery.

Quinn, lying down in his blanket and hat on a green bench.

Alex DID offer to take him inside, but Quinn refused.

After Jack’s game, we headed home, which was a nice little aspect of not traveling for this tournament. (Also nice, running into my friend Andrea, whose son plays for another local special hockey team, but whom I NEVER see.) This tournament was really well put together and a lot of fun. Watching these teams play never ceases to make me extremely happy.

Jack at the outside rink, standing next to a man in a Montgomery Cheetahs jacket as the game goes on on the ice.The real question, however, isn’t about whether the tournament makes me happy. It’s about whether it makes Jack happy. Sometimes he grumbles about going to practice and sometimes he gets grumpy out on the ice, but he loves his team too. He is so proud to tell people that he plays hockey with the Montgomery Cheetahs. Anytime there is a “wear your favorite team’s jersey” day at school, he wears HIS Cheetahs jersey. He is a Cheetah through and through, and we are so happy that he is.

The best testament though, is that when I asked him just a few days after this tournament if he wanted to go to the travel tournament in New York again this year, he thought for maybe three seconds, popped his thumb in the air, and said, “Bingo!”

Jack wearing his tournament medal on his face. :)

Cheetah Pride.

Heroes of the Watershed

Team Stimey always celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Ever since 2009 when Jack fell madly in love with Martin after learning about him in school, we’ve religiously observed the day by watching the iconic I Have a Dream speech and eating birthday cake. Sometimes there is other civil rights education that goes on as well. It all kind of depends.

The cake and speech are non-negotiable, however.

We all know, of course, that MLK Day is supposed to be a National Day of Service as well. Alex has taken the kiddos on walks to clean up trash now and again on the day, but we’ve never participated in an organized service project.

Until today.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!

We joined Hiking Along in their quest to clean up Sligo Creek, a creek that runs through my area. Somehow telling my kids to “put on shoes because we’re going to go pick up trash by Sligo Creek!” actually resulted in all three of my kids putting on shoes and happily piling into our car, which was EXACTLY the opposite of what I expected would happen.

Huh. Who would have guessed?

We arrived on site to find a sign suggesting that each of us “Be a watershed hero!”

Challenge. Accepted.

We also arrived to find one of Sam’s buddies from school there with his family, which was great because that was like instant buy-in for Sam.

We set about collecting plastic bags and gloves (oh thank the good lord they were not latex gloves) and then I looked up to find that Jack had made a new friend.

Jack holding the leash of a medium-sized black dog.

Jack! We are supposed to be collecting TRASH, not DOGS.

Honestly, I can’t take my eyes off of him for a second.

We set off along the creek to pick up some trash although some of us (Quinn) didn’t bother to get gloves because some of us (Quinn) seemed to know ahead of time that some of us (Quinn) were completely uninterested in picking up trash.

(Later in the day, Quinn asked if I was going to write about our outing. I said, “Yes. You’re not going to come off well.”)

Photo of all three of my kids in a leafy, wooded area.

Sam was earning student service hours for the event, so it was most important that he be involved. Meaning he had to pick up the grossest garbage.

Other members of our party got to focus on other things. Like running. And spinning.

Quinn and Jack in the distance down a wooden path.

Although to be fair, Jack did take spinning breaks to pick up the occasional piece of trash.

At first Sam was all, “What the—?”

Sam standing on same wooden sidewalk, holding a picker-upper tool with a perturbed look on his face.

But then he realized that if he did most of the trash picking up, he got to have solo control of the little grabby thing we’d brought with us.

It took us a little while to find our rhythm because some members of our party kept running off. Jack, being autistic, was naturally drawn to the water. (Joke.)

Jack standing on the edge of a creek.

Although, honestly, he kinda was.

Still, it was Quinn who was the first to actually go wading in the creek. Normally, I tend to expect this. My kids seem to be physically incapable of standing near water without walking in it. This would be no big deal, but for the fact that it was 40 degrees this morning.

Quinn standing riiight next to the creek, holding his pant legs up.

I didn’t get the photo of him actually IN the water because I was too busy shouting at him to get out.

Whilst those shenanigans were going on, Sam and I continued on our treasure hunt for garbage creekside. I only lost him when he had the gall to try to do some learning on our service outing.

Sam reading a creekside sign about "Aquatic Habitats."

The nerve of some people.

We actually had a really nice time. We had an hour and a half time block, so there was plenty of time to wander around and collect a pretty impressive amount of trash. We saw some deer and also watched some ducks, which were an excellent example of Creatures in the Watershed That We Were Currently Helping. Even though the temperature was low, unless you were wading in the creek, the air was actually quite comfortable.

We even got a little ambitious and climbed over thorny bushes and navigated precarious sandy shores to get to some of the more challenging trash.

Jack proved himself to be a real Hero of the Watershed by collecting the most challenging piece of trash on our whole route.

Jack wading up to his mid-calves in the creek and picking up a plastic trash bag from the water.

And I proved myself to be, at best, a Questionable Parent.

The only reason I asked him to do this was because he already had wet shoes and pants from his voluntary foray into the creek moments earlier.

All things considered, I am really impressed with my kiddos for being such good sports and working so hard at the creek this morning. Even Quinn, although he didn’t pick up much trash, was good-natured and fun, which isn’t always easy for him in less than desirable conditions. (Cold. Gross. Etc.)

(Quinn did ask me to exaggerate how much trash he picked up, so if he asks, tell him that I told you that he picked up a HUGE amount.)

My kids standing near our collected bags of trash giving thumbs up.

Heroes of the Watershed.

Then we returned to our start point, where they had hot chocolate for the volunteers. We might just have to add this to our MLK Day routine. It was fun, we did a good thing, everyone got a lot of fresh air, no one lost a toe to frostbite, and we all really earned our birthday cake.

Merry Christmas 2013

Team Stimey Christmas CardAs I type, my kids lie in their beds, luxuriating in the glow of one of our best Christmas Eves ever. They’ve left notes for Santa and cans of cat food with a request that he put one in each of the kitten’s socks that hang by the fireplace.

"Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack."

“Santa, Do you have a cat? What is its name? Is it naughty or nice? Jack.”

"You're like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]"

From Quinn: “You’re like a cat, fat and lounging. Cats do that on the mat to look at the cookies like their snoogies. Thanks for the presents. Happy cat-mouse! Sincerely, a poem by Meow [last name]“

Sam wrote one too, but he didn’t want it photographed. Sam is not earnestly trying to fall asleep, as the other two are. Sam is lying awake, excited to be Santa’s helper once his brothers are down for the count.

Team Stimey in pajamas reading The Night Before Christmas

Also, hours later, this happened:

Facebook post: "Poor Quinn has the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas Eve so I sometimes lie with him and tell him stories about cats until he drifts off. Just now he said, "This is the best kind of present." I love this kid. // He also cried  a little because he thought he could only snuggle with me until he's 18, which means only ten more years. I told him I'd snuggle with him until he was 60 if he'd let me."

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, but have a hard time with the holiday, know that I am sending my love to you and hoping that it goes as well as it can today.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy your movie. We went to see The Hobbit twice already. It’s awesome and I suggest you go see it. You might want to close your eyes when the dwarves travel through Mirkwood though.

Thank you for the gift of your support and friendship this year. I hope I give it back to you in as much quantity as you give it to me.

I love you all.

Love from behind

The Pertinent Information

•My kids spilled a metric shit-ton of goldfish crackers in my car the other day. I decided that the squirrels in my backyard would like them. I had visions of squadrons of squirrels sitting on my back porch and clutching crackers in their adorable little paws as they gratefully nodded their furry heads at me. Instead, it rained and now I have a vomit-resembling pile of ex-goldfish slurry in my backyard. This makes me feel sad.

• Jack won’t eat crusts on his peanut butter sandwiches. There is, however, a raccoon who has been knocking over our garbage cans to get to them who really appreciates them. Alex and Sam found him solemnly consuming one (in much the way that I imagined the grateful squirrels) the other morning when Sam was headed to school. That old saying, “It’s more afraid of you than you are of it”? Not true vis-a-vis Sam and the raccoon. Although I think the fact that Alex implied that the raccoon could be rabid contributed to his fear.

The rock that my car thief gave me is extremely good at holding our garbage cans closed to keep raccoons out.

• My neighbor has been bringing Quinn a home-baked coffee cake every Christmas for years now. It is ridiculous how much Quinn loves that coffee cake. Also, the rest of the family is grateful that he is young and cute enough to ask for it every year so we don’t have to. It is already in our fridge for this year, but Quinn doesn’t know that, so he keeps asking about it. I will present it to him tomorrow for Christmas Eve. It will make his entire day.

• I have three kids, but turkey wishbones only have space for two wish rivals to yank on it. We normally have turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to take care of this problem. This year we are having ham for Christmas. I wonder what hell will rain down upon us because of this decision.

The cats are still very interested in the Christmas tree. Oreo in particular is a problem. She spends most of her time sitting happily underneath it and Alex found her beheading a bird ornament this morning. Literally beheading it. I wonder how her little brain will deal with it when we remove the tree later this week. She might implode.

• Alex, who hates scary TV and movies, is watching The Walking Dead with me on Netflix from the beginning. He reports that he wakes up in a panic at least once every night.

• Alex is terrified by even the idea of scary movies. One time I was watching Paranormal Activity and I paused it to get something from the kitchen and when I came back, Alex was taking advantage of it being paused to sit in a chair with his cup of water so he could say good night to me. Because I’m an asshole, I snuck up on him and scared him so badly that he threw the cup of water across the room. It is one of my favorite memories.

• Sam performed in his winter band concert earlier this month. He was adorbs. Also, I had to buy him every piece of his required concert outfit, down to his socks, because he doesn’t own anything more formal than Crocs and track pants. I decided to not put him in his formal Pokemon shirt for the concert.

Sam playing the flute

Sam loves playing the flute. He’s so awesome.

• The band program said Sam is a “section leader.” I don’t know what that means and Sam refused to give me anything but a smart-ass answer when I asked him.

Jack wore his new, bigger helmet at hockey practice this week.

Smiling Jack in hockey gear

Look! It almost looks as if he doesn’t have a headache!

• Santa came to hockey practice this week. He always uses some of the Cheetahs as reindeer to pull him around the rink. That is one brave Santa right there.

hockey players pulling Santa on a sled

That is Jack in the very back of the reindeer line.

• Quinn made an extremely joyous discovery worthy of Twitter the other day when we were eating lunch:

My 8-year-old just now: "I have feet." I guess it's good to check in with your appendages now and again."Then, after further questioning:

Re: Quinn's "I have feet" comment from earlier, he explains, "I forgot I had them for a minute" & "sometimes people forget they have stuff."• And now  you have all the pertinent information.

Zoo Lights, Team Stimey, and the Sacrifices of Motherhood

Every year the National Zoo holds Zoo Lights, when they open the zoo at night and put up all kinds of Christmas light displays and over the course of the month before Christmas, everyone in the DC area goes to see it. Everyone except us, that is.

It has always seemed logistically difficult to go to Zoo Lights, so this year, we surprised ourselves into going by waking up on Friday and saying, “Let’s go to Zoo Lights tonight!” and nothing we did or said could convince us otherwise.

(Surprising myself into things is one of my most effective techniques for getting shit done.)

We always go to a smaller light show in December, so we had an idea of what to expect. The difference between the two light shows is that the one at the zoo is all in the shapes of animals and you have to walk two miles to see it instead of less than a mile.

Regardless, we busted out our hats, gloves, and winter coats and headed down to the zoo.

Jack, Stimey, Sam & Quinn in front of polar-bear shaped lights.

I know it looks as if Jack and Quinn have been rolling around in coal in their coats. I swear that I wash those things and they look exactly the same.

Things started out well. There was a slide set up right at the entrance for kids to ride down on tubes, so that put my kids is a good mood right off the bat.

Giant slide.

That’s Jack on his way down.

I decided to capitalize on slide happiness and ask my kids to stand together and smile for one photo right at the beginning, with a promise that I would not ask them to do it again for the rest of the night.

Sam, Quinn & Jack standing in front of a tree with multicolored lights wrapped around it.

And it actually WORKED.

Zoo Lights is cool, but don’t go for the wildlife. Animals were scarce. Evidently they sleep at night. We saw a duck and a miniature horse and some big apes. The only animal visible in the small mammal house was a disgruntled-looking hyrax who was frozen in one position looking as if he were trying to blend in with the rocks. I imagine that it is confusing to the animals to have the night be dark per usual, but filled with loud people aiming brightly-lit cell phones at them.

I would say that things started going downhill after the small mammal house when Quinn became aware that it was extremely cold out. At the same time, Alex became disgruntled after he stood in line for five whole minutes for kettle corn and not a single person was actually served. Then Sam initiated a game of predator with Jack, claiming to be a leopard seal or some such and implying that Jack was a tiny fish.

The result of all these situations were as follows: I, per fucking usual, gave Quinn my coat. MY COAT. In late November. At night. In DC. I am thinking about carrying an extra coat with me at all times to prevent frostbite on occasions such as these. Fortunately, I warmed up a little when I chased Jack down during his full-speed sprint away from Sam. Uphill. In heeled fucking boots.

These children are going to kill me.

Oh, also Alex remained disgruntled until I bought soft pretzels for everyone.

I remained true to my not asking the children to pose for any photos right up until I saw the tiger lights and I was all, “There are three of them and I have three kids! They are tigers and Quinn is wearing a tiger hat!” Then I said, “Hey guys, will you stand in front of the tigers?” and this happened:

Jack, Sam & Quinn in front of a display of lighted tigers.

Then I gave up and stopped taking photos.

See, that is why you take the posed photo first.

At this point, we turned around and started heading back toward the entrance. Sam was all, “You mean the zoo isn’t built in a circle? That’s stupid.” And I was all, “Yeah, you’re right.

There was a little train ride near the entrance (by the petting zoo, for you locals) that we had already bought tickets for, so we stopped there on our way out. While we waited in line, my kids played on the giant, pretend pizza that was just down the path.

Quinn, Sam, and Jack standing on a large pretend pizza.

I know. It’s fucking weird.

A side effect of carting ridiculously huge pretend mushrooms around was that Sam’s hands got cold and he started shouting about how he was dying or something.

So I gave him my mittens to put on over his gloves.

If we’d been there much longer, I would have walked out of that place barefoot.

Some of us enjoyed the train ride more than others.

Quinn and Alex on the train. Quinn looks concerned. Alex looks happy and slightly deranged.

Honestly, it was as if Alex had never been on a tiny train before.

After the train ride (which was actually kind of really super fun), Jack wanted to go look at the barn animals, so everyone who was wearing a coat and gloves went to the car immediately and Jack and I went to walk through the barn, where there were actually more animals on display at night than in the entire rest of the zoo.

donkey

Such as this adorable donkey.

We definitely had our ups and downs on this trip, but overall, I am super proud of my kiddos. Other than running away from us, Jack was a total rock star. Sam was great, with the exception that he seems to think he is allowed to parent and guide his brothers, forcing me to impose a strict NO TOUCHING rule onto him. Even Quinn, who got pretty whiny, was trying really, really hard. He asked me super nicely a couple times after I gave him my coat if I was cold. I really think he didn’t want his actions to hurt me. It was really sweet.

I did what any mom on the face of the planet would do—I put my blue fingers in my jeans pockets and told him I wasn’t.

Plus, if you are really, really cold, getting into a warm car is the happiest thing you can do. I think all of us agreed on that.