Can’t Talk. Watching Olympics.

I love the Olympics so much. I know I’m not supposed to love these Olympics because there are lots of concerns about Russia and gay rights and human rights and the killing of stray dogs in the street and I share those concerns, I really, really do.

But then I watch the opening ceremony and I look at every single athlete who marches past the television camera and I think of their love for sport and how it must feel to compete for your country at something that you have given your life and your sweat and your body to and I start cheering like a complete goofball.

I don’t care what the sport is; after I put my kids to bed, I turn on the TV and I sit and marvel at the competitors and also what an expert I have suddenly turned into on any given sport. (“Ooooh, little bit of a bobble on the snowslope rail there.)

I think about what it must feel like to stand at the top of a hill of moguls and look at the bottom and prepare for the 25 seconds that lie between.

I wonder what it was like the first time a now-seasoned skier flew off of a jump. (I stood at the top of an Olympic ski jump in Lake Placid once and it looked scary as hell.)

I imagine how tired a figure skater’s legs must be after a four-minute program that she makes look effortless. I marvel at the athletes who compete in multiple events and imagine how exhausted they must be.

I think about the athletes who know they won’t win anything but who are proud just to be there. (Damn, I would be too.)

I listen to the commentators and how excited they are and think about the fact that there are many experienced judges for every single idiosyncratic event (even curling). I also watch the status of Bob Costas’ eye and wonder when he’s going to appear with an eye patch.

I watch the faces of the athletes who lose the gold medal in speed skating by some infinitesimal amount of time and think about the capriciousness of any given race.

I remember how tired my body is after a five or six or seven mile slow run and wonder what it must be like to be as fit as any one of the athletes who walked in that opening ceremony.

I watch the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat. I chew up the human interest stories that NBC churns out. (Alex hates them so much.) I cheer every athlete and every sport and every event—qualifiers, finals, whatever. I know that sports that seem so simple as I watch them really involve unimagined quantities of focus and strategy and training and strength—physical and mental.

I love every second.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. I have some cheering to do.

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.

Let’s Not Have a Party—Let’s Have a Melee!

Imagine you got really lazy about planning your oldest son’s 11th birthday party and two weeks before the date, you realized that you had to GET ON THAT, STAT?! I imagine that being the smart person that you are, you would probably decide to invite a class of 26 students into your home in mid-October—a day that could be gorgeous or could be rainy—and you would plan activities like dodgeball, because WHAT COULD GO WRONG WITH THAT?

Well, YOU might not do that, but clearly *I* would.

I bought a bunch of small rubber balls and Alex picked the dog up and put her away so she wouldn’t steal all the Oreos and that’s what we did.

Cassidy was mightily put out.

The dog was all, “But I WANT Oreos!”

I would like to report that only one head injury was sustained.

That didn’t happen during dodgeball though. The head injury happened during the full-fledged melee that occurred when said class (about 15, plus my three, came) discovered our cache of Nerf weapons and assorted short swords. It was honestly like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was kind of like that scene at the very beginning of Fellowship of the Rings that explains about the Rings of Power and how that one ring ruled them all, except instead of Sauron and that king who didn’t want to throw the ring away, you had Sam and a bunch of his little cohorts fighting over nothing.

It was AWESOME.

Warrior Sam

I actually took this photo much later in the day, shortly after the kids found the costume chest.

After the head injury (he’s okay), I wanted to calm the party guests down, so I put down a little line of cones, divided them into two teams and started up a few rounds of dodgeball. As you do.

No one got hurt or terribly upset during that whole thing, so I decided to move them on to Red Rover. Remember Red Rover? It wasn’t until kids started wringing their hands, loudly ranking their peers in order of weakness, and a couple of them got clotheslined that I remembered that I totally hated that game when I was a kid.

Regardless, it’s been passed on to a new generation that wasn’t aware of it before. Yay, me!

Fortunately, before I was able to introduce something else brilliant, like throwing knives, the pizza arrived and everyone chilled out and ate some food. Yet, as Red Rover follows dodgeball, cake follows pizza and the chill diminished. It has never happened to me before that I wasn’t able to clear a path to the table for the birthday kid to blow out his candles, but this time I was swarmed, so we had an impromptu standing ceremony.

cake

Sure, we can do it here.

I think that the cake bottleneck happened partly because several kids were watching Mr. Free-fall From Space on the computer between our kitchen and dining room. Don’t forget that this was a party made up of Sam’s overachieving buddies from school. (It seems rude to call children that aren’t mine “nerdlingers.”)

Jack watches a free-fall from space

Don’t get any Xtreme Stuntz ideas, nerdlinger Jack.

I’m not kidding when I say the chill diminished. One girl was actually walking around saying, “Buzz, buzz! I’m buzzing! Buzz, buzz!” It looked a little bit like a spontaneous water fight was going to break out, so I quickly organized the troublemakers into teams for kickball. Not all the kids wanted to play, so Alex had to fill in at second base at one point. Dude. That guy can NOT catch a kickball.

It was embarrassing, really.

(I’m just trying to get you your loveable oaf credibility back, sweetie.)

Things were going pretty well. Sam was super happy, Quinn had run away to sneak time with his DSi…

I SEE YOU, QUINN.

I SEE YOU, QUINN.

…and Jack had departed to his sensory happy place…

Happy, happy, sand, sand, hammer, hammer, rock...

Happy, happy, sand, sand, hammer, hammer, rock…

…when Alex interrupted the kickball game practically mid-pitch to shriek, “HE’S GETTING READY TO JUMP! HE’S GETTING READY TO JUMP!” and 15 scientists-in-training went thundering into the house to watch a guy sit in a capsule for the next 15 minutes. Parents started arriving and I was all, “I swear we haven’t been making them watch this for the full two hours,” but I don’t know how convincing I was considering some of the kids really didn’t want to leave before the dude exited his capsule.

Alex is the HEAD nerdlinger.

Alex is the HEAD nerdlinger.

Oh, and I sent each kid home with his or her very own megaphone. Because I like to SHARE.

SHOUT!

I’m the head jerk.

No matter how hastily tossed together, this party was a blast. Sam has such a good group of kids in his class. And the party was perfectly him. We all had such a great time. Happy birthday, Sam! Thanks for making life so fun!

birthday cat

Glitter cat makes everything awesome.

But Sam makes it awesomer.

Progress—or, There IS Spinning in Baseball

Two years ago I took Jack to our first Montgomery Cheetahs practice. It wasn’t hockey practice though, it was an unofficial baseball practice put together by some of the Cheetahs dads. We didn’t know anyone. Jack didn’t like baseball. It was hot.

It didn’t go super well. (<—That link is well worth reading.) I didn’t beat myself up over the experience, but we haven’t been back to any of the baseball gatherings either.

Until today.

Just like two years ago, Alex was out of town, so it was my three kiddos and me. And just like two years ago, I got lost on the way to the field. (Directions: the field is on the right side of the road just past the one-lane bridge and sixteen meters to the left of the magical elephant.)

It is rare to have such a perfect mirror, with images two years apart, to be able to see the progress your child has made.

And progress—he has made it.

We had a GREAT time this morning. All three of my kids played for the whole practice. Sam has been wanting to play baseball recently, so he was beyond excited to be there. Sam is a good kid. Like, a really good kid. I love how much he loves to play sports and that he’s thrilled to be an honorary Cheetah for baseball.

He found his baseball hat from the team he was on two years ago.

Quinn initially looked like he might be some trouble (he was the only one resistant to going this morning), but once he he realized that there is running in baseball, he turned into the most eager fielder I have seen. He was all, “I have it!” and “Outta my way!”

I call this photo “Wind Tunnel Quinn.”

He was an eager batter too.

And Jack? Every time his bat hit the ball, even when it was his turn to hit multiple balls in a row, he insisted on running the bases. Every ball he hit was a home run, according to him. Jack knows how to make his own joy, that is for sure. He was a happy little fielder too, although he did more spinning than running after balls, which is fine by me.

Quinn was there to get the balls after all.

What’s more, all three of them are excited about baseball now. They are excited to go back next week. It is quite a change from the last time we were here. They have all grown and matured. It is amazing what a couple of years can do.

Remember that. It is amazing what a couple of years can do.

Whether you have a typical child or a special needs kiddo, IT IS AMAZING WHAT A COUPLE OF YEARS CAN DO. Hang in there.

Over the course of the past two years, Jack has grown more interested in sports, has gotten better at waiting turns and being patient, and has started to understand how it feels to be part of a team. He is able to take what he has learned at hockey and apply it to baseball. He is more invested in life outside himself than he was then.

After a really tough year at school, it was really nice to see that he really isn’t in stasis. I can see that maybe he went backward in some ways, but in other very important ways, he is moving forward.

Naturally, next week when no one wants to play baseball and all three of them are assholes, I’ll be all, “Why can’t they be cooperative like all the other kids?!” and you will say, “Two steps forward, one step back is still progress,” and I will be like, “I guess. Thanks.”

Or maybe we’ll take three steps forward in a row. Sometimes that happens. If anyone can do it, it is this guy.

Play ball!

Family Skate Night, a.k.a. Thunderdome

Are y’all sick of hockey yet?

No problem, I’ll write about something else. How about ice skating? Jack’s hockey team had a family skate night where all of the team’s players and their families could come out and skate for an hour, followed by a medal ceremony for all the kids who went to the tournament in Boston.

Probably the best part of family skate night for me was watching Jack take enormous glee in being soooo much better at skating than any of the rest of us. He cruised around the rink over and over again, challenging Alex and I to races and generally showing off what a badass he is.

Quinn was quite the trooper and worked super hard to skate. Sam, nursing a fluid-filled ear and exhibiting early signs of surly tweendom, refused to skate, but did take my camera and prove he is a blogger’s kid by taking photo after photo.

For example, this photo, which is possibly the best photo of Alex I’ve ever seen in my life.

The evening was kind of brutal, with children and adults crashing everywhere and clinging to walls and other people. Even Jack took a couple of bad spills, causing some sort of screw in his knee to break. At least that is what he told me. When presented with an opportunity to show off, however, that screw magically fixed itself. I think we’ve discovered the reasoning behind shin guards.

I have no idea where Jack gets that need to show off, but I will tell you that I am awesome at skating and took the opportunity to literally skate in rings around Alex a couple of times. (By “awesome,” I mean “not completely embarrassing.”) Alex didn’t care much for that, by the way.

Quinn was awesome. He even managed to figure out how to reach down and grab some snow off of the ice to eat without falling down. And, yeah, I know. Here’s my question though. Is eating shaved ice off of an ice skating rink the same as, say, eating a Cheerio off of a store floor? It seems cleaner on the ice. It’s not like people walk around outside on their skate blades.

And, yes, I stopped him.

I don’t know what I’m doing to him here, though.

Maybe raising him to the glass by his cheeks?

After all the dust settled, the coach gave medals to all of the tournament players. Jack was really proud and deigned to stop skating laps for a millisecond to accept his. It’s his first medal ever and, trust me, that kid earned it.

Evidentally, the medal ceremony took place in a dark cave.

And just to make sure that we don’t leave Mr. Surly McDeadpan out, here is the photo he allowed me to take of him.

It was a good night for Team Stimey. I’m glad that Jack felt pride in his skating abilities and I’m glad that Jack’s brothers got a chance to see him do something that he is good at and for which he was honored. I like to make sure that each of my kids gets to be the star every once in a while. Family skate night was definitely Jack’s night to shine.

Things I Learned in Boston

• Jack is really fluffy if he doesn’t go to bed right after his shower.

• Even if you have the very best intentions of interviewing players, parents and coaches from all over the world in order to write a well researched and poignant column about the SHI Tournament, 84 hours of togetherness with your autistic kid and a lot of shouting of “STOP! The bus will run you over!” and “HERE! Eat more junk food!” and “NO! Don’t throw mud at the arena!” will make you forget to do everything except thank the gods of hockey for the 10 minutes your kid will sit quietly on the floor, allowing you to stare at the wall and rock every so slightly.

• Jack’s helmet has a joke to make.

Jack Bauer ain’t tough enough to be a Cheetah.

• Even from across an arena, it is easy to tell when Jack is very angry. Signs include, but are not limited to, furious pacing, discarding of equipment, refusal to enter or leave the ice, ignoring all attempts at reason.

• When even a very tiny hockey player steps on your sandaled foot in sharp ice skates, it will hurt like a motherfucker. And bleed.

• When Jack skates with his stick on the ice instead of up in the air, he is far more likely to hit the puck.

But he looks cute either way.

• There are some things that will make me laugh harder than I probably should, like the sign on the side of the rink that read, “Watch out for flying water bottles.”

• Even though a year ago I had never even watched a hockey game, I now think it is one of the most badass sports out there.

• Every single time we drove past the sign for the Assabet River, I would read it as “Asshat River.”

• Jack has not yet learned the societally understood correct distance to stand from a street performer.

• Even though my dog has giant, fluorescent stickers that say “CAUTION WILL BITE” on her vet chart, it could always be worse.

The Scarlet Letter: Equine Edition

• Jack will watch sea lions smoosh themselves up against a glass window for as long as I am willing to let him. Incidentally, the sea lions will watch Jack smoosh up against a glass window for a long time too.

• Just because Jack doesn’t know the code to get through the gates leading to the piers won’t stop him from trying every single one we walk past.

• It is a miracle that Jack continues to exist, what with his consumption of NO food. This meal consisted of six corn chips and four pepperoni slices. And a bite of cheese. He’s turning concave.

• The one item of food he will request, however, is an ice cream cone, which turns out to cost SEVEN DOLLARS. In defense of the seven dollars, it was the healthiest food he ate all weekend.

• Buses don’t make Jack car sick.

We’re #1! We’re #1!

Evidently something Quinn drank one day went down the wrong way and the resulting coughing ended in vomiting, so Team Stimey at Home didn’t fare so well.

• Even when Jack is being bad and hiding from me and refusing to listen, he’s pretty goddamn cute.

• I am way proud of Jack.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…

So, this weekend. I’ve been searching for a word to describe Jack and my trip to Boston for his hockey tournament and the best I can come up with is “intense.”

My emotions were so close to the surface for all four days and culminated in my telling Alex through tears last night, “It was this amazing weekend full of incredibly amazing things and some really, really hard things, but it all took place in this soft nest of people who embraced us.”

It was staggering, really.

Also, except for the time that Jack was on the ice, he was glued to my side for 84 hours straight. Like, he didn’t even use the second bed in the hotel room because he wanted to be close to me. That kind of glued to my side. Oh, except for when he was trying to flee from me in crowded places and I had to chase him down and hold him with a vise grip on the back of his shirt. That adds a special element to the togetherness.

I laughed a lot on this the trip. It wasn’t all THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY and WHY WON’T MY KID PARTICIPATE IN THE FUCKING MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY, OH CRAP HE’S THROWING HIS GLOVES AT ONE OF THE DADS this weekend. I have seen these parents and these kids for an hour every week for the entire school year, but this weekend is maybe the first time that I was able to get to know them a little better. There are some amazing—and really fun—families that are part of Jack’s team.

There are a couple of those families that read this blog, including the director of the team, and I just need to take a minute to say from the bottom of my heart: thank you. I can’t imagine how much work went into planning this weekend and keeping this team afloat, all while taking care of your own children. So thank you. Just thinking of how grateful I am to you brings tears to my eyes. The director, the coaches, the mentors, the other parents, the folks who planned the trip from finding a tournament that our team could reasonably do to ferrying 24 special needs families to and from the arena several times a day…thank you. I can never know how hard you worked to make this happen, but you will never know just how grateful I am.

My friend Sue, whose son helps mentor a different special hockey team, suggested a twitter hashtag (which creates a common term for people to search tweets about a specific topic or event—or, if you’re a smartass, to make a joke) for me to use for Jack’s team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, on their trip to the Special Hockey International Tournament. My use of her hashtag in the following tweet kind of sums up my tournament experience. Laughter and tears this time, people.

This weekend was incredibly overwhelming and complicated for me. It was also a hell of a lot of fun. And it was really hard. I have a mish mosh of emotions about it. I kind of have to get some of them out of me, so here goes.

I know that some of you are wondering if we made a scene by throwing up all over the bus. I am happy to report that neither Jack nor I barfed all weekend! I was prepared with bags and wipes and all, but they were unneeded. In fact, the bus was kind of awesome. I was prepared for chaos, but it was actually kind of fun. Jack was a champ, although he did play a lot of Nintendo DSi. And if you’re looking for a group of young people who are steadfast Nintendo fans, well…

Hint, hint.

I do have to say, thank GOD for Jack’s DSi (and my DSi and the Nintendo 3DS—I am nothing if not prepared), because Jack was incredibly out of his routine this weekend and that little game system saved my ass more times that I can mention. (Full disclosure: I am a Nintendo brand ambassador.)

We got to the hotel Thursday afternoon and had about an hour to check in and relax before we headed to the arena. Sadly, Jack’s equipment bag had accidentally been offloaded at the hotel so he couldn’t play in the game that was scheduled for his team that night. I think this actually turned out to be a good thing because, as it turned out, the three games he was scheduled for on Friday and Saturday were plenty of hockey for him.

We attended the opening ceremony right after the game, and a situation less ideally suited for a child with autism, you could not have created. Jack and the rest of his team had to stand in a group and wait for their turn to go on the ice and the place was PACKED. Jack did a lot of spinning to self-regulate. I got a little nauseated just watching him.

It was all worth it though, because watching Jack get to take part in a ceremony like that? I don’t know that I ever imagined that happening for him. It was really phenomenal.

We got back to the hotel after Jack’s normal bedtime and I made an executive decision that sleep was more important than food, so I gave him a package of snack food and sent him to bed.

 Over the next couple of days, the Cheetahs played seven more games. Jack’s squad played two on Friday and one on Saturday. The B Team, the more skilled players, had three games Friday and one on Saturday. The coach skated every one of them. There was some incredible sportsmanship on display during these games and a couple of the match-ups, particularly those of the B Team, were awesome hockey.

Jack skated in all three games he was scheduled for, but he didn’t finish any of them. During the first game, he tried to escape from the ice when he decided he was done. During the second game, he hung out on the bench and let himself be cheered up by one of the dads—after he hurled his stick on the ice. During the third game, he fucking lost it. I was called over shortly after I saw him heave his gloves at the dad trying to help him over on the bench.

It was a little tough to watch him so adamantly not participate. When he was on the ice, he did great. He even managed to hit the puck a couple of times. See, he likes hockey, but the problem is that he is slower than most of the other kids and can’t really participate in the game like them. Plus, he’s been playing almost every week since September and he’s tired.

“I hate hockey!” he yelled just before I took him to the locker room during his third game. “It’s too hard!”

I kept telling myself that most of these other kids have skated longer than him and had a lot more experience. I listened to the parents who told me to sit tight and let the dads on the bench take care of him. I heard them when they told me about their own or other kids who behaved similarly in the past, but who are now happy, energetic, skilled players. I told myself that Jack was getting the team experience and the pride, even if he wasn’t playing like the rest of the kids.

I KNOW all these things, but it still felt like a stab in the heart when I watched him struggle. I felt, at the same time, both hopeful and terrible. And I was the idiot with tears in her eyes the whole weekend. Again. My emotions were so close to the surface the entire time.

Jack got a little break on Friday to swim in the hotel pool with a bunch of the other kids. I hope that moments like that let Jack see the faces of his teammates and get to know their names a little bit instead of just seeing them as padded-up skaters that share the ice with him on Saturday mornings.

CANNONBALL!!!

I also got a little break after that terrible third game on Saturday when Alysia of Try Defying Gravity, who is my three-quirky-boys twin in Boston, came to hang out with her oldest guy for about an hour.

Jack and Gerry.

That beautiful woman cheered me up more than almost anything could have. She and her kid are awesome. Jack barely managed to interact with her son at all, but I get that he was super overwhelmed. Without even knowing that she was doing it, Alysia basically talked me off of a ledge. I loved her before, but I love her even more now. Even if she arrived without any margaritas.

Some of the families decided to head into Boston that night to do some sightseeing and hang out. Jack was still pretty tightly wound, so we split off from the group and walked along the harbor for a couple of hours.

Jack so needed that time to decompress, I think. It was great for me too. We walked all the way down to where the Boston Tea Party boat was supposed to be but wasn’t, encountering some disappointed British people at the supposed location.

Jack, who had spoken barely at all for three days, chatted the entire time we walked. He spent about an hour pretending to be from another planet and asking about all the things he saw.

We had a blast. I had thought about staying with Jack at the hotel instead and maybe taking him back to the pool. But it turns out that some fresh air, some exercise and some alone time with me was just what he needed.

So, yeah. It was a lot to take in—for both of us. I realize that this post is a little incomprehensible, but that’s how it felt for me while I was there. It was an emotional, fantastic, heart-wrenching, tremendous weekend. I got to know a lot of the parents and kids better over the past few days and, as it is whenever you find a new group of people who gets it, it was eye-opening and unforgettable.

Here’s the thing: I’m not about to lose this community. I will sign Jack up for hockey again next year. We will take it slow and see how he does. Hopefully as he improves, he’ll get more excited again.

I’m letting him process this weekend himself for a little while before I try to talk to him a lot about it. When I do, I hope that his take away is similar to mine: It’s complicated, but it’s good to be part of a team.