You Could Be Anywhere in the World Tonight…

Last we checked in, I was on my way to go see Hamilton in New York. Well, that happened and it was ridiculously good and now I have nothing left in this world to live for because I will never get to go to New York to see Hamilton again.

I think instead of crumbling into ennui due to my bleak Hamilton-less future, I shall instead regale you with the story of my trip.

A few months ago, Alex told me he wanted to get me and a friend tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for my birthday because I love Hamilton so much. He told me he’d use his hotel points to get us a hotel and that I should proceed with making plans.

I told him that I never wanted him to tell me how much he spent on the tickets and got in touch with my friend Jen, who lives in Minnesota and talks ALL THE TIME on Facebook about how much she loves Hamilton. For those of you sad that I didn’t take you on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, let this be a lesson to you that you should be fanatical to the point of annoyance in any interest you share with me because apparently that is how I select companions for fun things.

Jen and I had tickets for Wednesday June 21, but headed up that Tuesday because you don’t want to have a travel delay and not make it to the show. That’s why I built in a 36-hour cushion for just such travel emergencies. You can’t take chances, you know.

I took the train and Jen took a plane and a train and we planned to meet at Penn Station at 11 am. I can’t speak to Jen’s long odyssey to get there, but I made Alex give me step by step instructions on how to arrive at the train, board the train, stash my luggage on the train, sit on the train, give my ticket to the train guy, not get off at any of the other two Penn Stations we passed prior to the correct one, how to identify the proper Penn Station, and how to detrain.

It’s hard to travel alone.

Fortunately, everything was as described and I successfully managed to get on the train and snag a window seat.

Photo of me in the window seat

Although I was not clever enough to get a non-sun side of the train. That wasn’t in Alex’s Power Point presentation.

Jen had an arduous trip, involving a 3 am wake-up, an airplane, Newark airport, and NJ train transit. I took a nap in my seat.

Photo of a train inside a station.

I’m autistic, so here’s a photo of a train I took as we pulled into the train station.

Jen was already there and we sent a series of texts saying things like, “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts,” and “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts too,” and then I twirled in confused circles for a while and finally we spotted each other and exchanged sweaty hugs and jumped up and down a little and then we went outside to get a cab to our hotel and I decided that New York is terrifying and I am a rube.

I wasn’t quite ready to start embarrassing Jen in public yet, so I don’t have any photos of this part of our trip. Instead I will insert this photo from slightly later in the day so you can get a mental picture of us.

Photo of me and Jen.

I’m lucky that Jen is a really easy person to hang out with because I am terrible at people-ing. She seems to be much better at it than I.

We checked into our hotel room, de-sweated a little, then headed out to what Jen described as “the best place on Earth,” aka Chelsea Market, land of any kind of food you want. It turns out that the kind of food WE wanted was pasta served IN A BOWL MADE OUT OF CHEESE.

Pasta in, well, a bowl made out of cheese.

I didn’t understand most of the menu but I knew almost all of the words in the description for the above dish, so I ordered it and the waiter was all, “That comes in a cheese basket,” and Jen was all, “Imma need a cheese basket too,” and it turns out that cheese baskets are delicious but incredibly filling and I still rue the fact that my basket defeated me and I couldn’t finish it.

Before we did that though, we wandered the entire Chelsea Market, including the best store, The Filling Station, that sold many flavors of, among other things, salt and vinegar. The last time Jen and I had been together in person, we had established that salt was a waaaay more valuable mineral than fancy gemstones, so she insisted we go there and taste all the salt.

It was amazing. I got a little overexcited and ended up with four containers of different flavored salt, a little salt spoon, and some pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Jen ended up with a burned tongue because I told her she should taste the spicy salt and she accidentally ate two grains instead of one, like the sign suggested she do, and thus began a string of questionable actions taken by Jen just because I told her to.

A wooden box with a Hamilton scene woodburned into it. There are four salt jars in it.

At the hotel, I put the salt in a little Hamilton-themed wooden crate that Jen had asked her dad to woodburn for me. The Schuyler sisters are on the other side. It is AMAZING. I think he could make a gajillion dollars selling them to the public.

I’d purchased the vinegar because Quinn has recently discovered balsamic vinegar. I told him over the phone that I’d bought it and he asked me to locate and buy “a salad kit” for him before I came home. I did not.

We were near the High Line, so we decided to go there. We walked to one end, then we turned around and walked all the way to the other end, with a middle stop to sit on a bench and people watch for a long time.

For those of you that don’t know, the High Line is an old elevated rail line that has been turned into green space full of people, kinda warm water fountains, vendors, and questionable art. Or at least art that is smarter than Jen and me combined.

Photo of a train track surrounded by plants.

People, water fountains, vendors, and art not pictured.

We also spent some time walking along the Hudson River, where we were reprimanded by a random lady for standing too close to the railing and scaring the seagulls away. Although I have a feeling that Hudson Bay seagulls aren’t afraid of a lot of things and certainly not me.

Tuesday was mostly a day that involved eating, resting, eating, resting, and then more eating. We rested at our hotel for a while before we headed out to the East Village to eat risotto for dinner because we apparently will travel long distances for delicious food, especially if it is risotto. And delicious it was, although instead of putting a bread basket on the table, the restaurant we went to put out a basket full of rice cakes. It was a little weird. I mean, I get that their thing was rice, what with the risotto and all, but still.

We were finishing our risotto and talking about how neither of us are night owl/party people so we were contemplating going back to the hotel when I said, “Or we could go find a place to eat dessert.” Well. It turns out that Jen and I agree on the need for dessert in our lives. I Yelped dessert bars and there were TWO within 0.2 miles of us. New York, man.

We chose the dessert tapas place where they recommended the three-tapas selection for two people. That’s obviously what we did because who are we to argue with a menu?

Three photos: 1. A little pan with a marshmallow cookie topped with pretzels, ice cream, and fudge; 2. a little pot filled with what looks like dirt and a little plant sprig next to a tiny pitcher of sauce and some red sorbet; 3. four squares of white dessert with chocolate crust next to strawberries and chocolate crumbles

I can’t even tell you how good this was. Each one was so creative and so delicious and I think I’m still full from eating all of it.

After that, we were done for the evening. We slept in the next morning, which was great and because it was Hamilton day, we didn’t want to do anything that would take too much time, so we decided to go to the Nintendo store and Rockefeller Center because our kids are nerds and we wanted to get them souvenirs.

First, however, we obviously needed to eat. It seems like everyone in New York is all, “Ramen is the greatest; you’ve gotta eat ramen,” so even though I was nervous about it, I agreed when Jen suggested we eat that for lunch. (We slept reeeeeaaaaaalllllly late.)

I could have told you it was not going to go great when we started eating and Jen immediately started talking about worms and then when I told her that I have a thing about worms and it was not helping with my noodle consumption, she made a smooth segue into talking about her dog’s “exploded anal gland” and I did a real-life, actual spit take.

It turns out that ramen, which is basically a big bowl of surprising ingredients all mixed in together in broth, is not really my thing. I was, however, glad that I tried it and comforted by the fact that we were following up by sharing a giant doughnut. Also the wall next to me was covered in a chain curtain and it was really fun to touch and stroke as I tried to not think I was eating worms.

We walked through Times Square first, stopping briefly at the Disney Store, where I encouraged Jen to make bad shopping decisions that I am sure made her daughter very happy. Then we went to the Nintendo store where we both made bad shopping decisions that made our children very happy.

2 photos: 1. Me standing next to a giant Donkey Kong statue 2. me croching next to a Pikachu sitting on a pokeball statue

Also both Jen and I did all kinds of embarrassing things at the Nintendo store, but only I have photographic evidence of it.

We wandered around Rockefeller Center after that. Jen was on the lookout for Rachel Maddow and I was trying to take a good photograph of a pigeon.

four photos of pigeons, none of which has the entire pigeon in frame.

Neither of us were successful.

We ended up sitting outside and talking for a really long time and doing some more people watching. It was really nice. Also, eventually I got the money shot of a pigeon.

Photo of a pigeon.

STRUT!

We browsed around some more and happened by the Swarovski crystal store where I found the nicest, most glittery place I’ve ever been and I made Jen sit there for a while so I could pet the crystal drape and sit in rainbows.

A couch covered in crystals in front of strings of large crystals.

Now I just have to convince Alex to build me a nook like this for my next birthday.

We decided to walk past the Richard Rogers Theatre on our way back to the hotel so we would know where it was. Obviously we walked down the street juuuuuuust as all the Wednesday matinees were letting out, so it was a total mob scene. Regardless, battling crowds did not dim our excitement.

Selfie of me in front of the theatre with Hamilton signs. I look excited.

I like that if you look closely at my sunglasses lens, you can see Jen.

Ticket time was 8 pm, so naturally Jen and I returned and were in line at 6:50. Because that’s how we roll.

Jen and I outside the theater in front of a Schuyler sisters mural

Look how bored and unexcited we look.

What time is it?

Screenshot of my Facebook post when I checked in to the theater and it says I am attending Hamilton. I've written "Fuck yeah, I am."

SHOWTIME!

They let us in the theater at 7:30 and told us to take an immediate right turn. Then the next usher we met said, “Oh let me take you down here,” and then there we were. At our seats. In the fifth row.

Jen and I in front of the stage in our seats

You know, NBD.

It was ridiculous. We spent some time texting Alex all-caps notes of excitement and thanks, including the following photo, which pretty much sums up how both of us were feeling.

Jen holding up her playbill. She looks delighted.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

The seats around us started filling in and I breathed a sigh of relief as someone short sat in front of me. Shortly after Jen did the same. I’d been worrying about the person who was going to sit in front of me ever since Alex had bought the tickets. I was less worried about the person who was going to sit in front of Jen, but it’s nice that it worked out for her too.

The stage

I know everyone says it, but I think you’re required to say it if you go to the show, so here it is—the room where it happens.

Then we watched Hamilton.

As Gina said on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Hamilton. Was. Amazing! How is no one talking about this musical? It’s so good.”

The show was phenomenal, you guys. It really was. I know there is so much hype around it, but I had absolutely no disappointment. I thought all the actors did wonderful jobs and I liked how they put their spin on the roles. I was rapt the entire time. It was hilarious and inspirational and heartbreaking and I know just how lucky I am that I was able to go see it. This was my very first Broadway show and it was amazing. I have a million thoughts about the show and my poor family heard them all, but I don’t know that I can communicate how much I loved it in written words.

When we were walking out, Jen and I both agreed that we could sit down right there and then and watch it again without being the slightest bit bored. Both of us had apparently gotten a little sad a few songs from the end because we knew it was almost over. It was really incredible.

I didn’t imagine myself to be a “hang by the stage door” kind of gal, but it turns out that I am. On our way out, we passed the door and were all, well, me might as well wait. Then we made an immediate transition into ridiculous squealing fangirls. We saw a couple of the ensemble cast and then the actors who played Laurens/Phillip (below in the P. Ham hat OMG) and Lafayette/Jefferson. They were both so nice and wonderful and didn’t even make fun of us for our ridiculous squealy, grinning selves.

two photos: 1. Me and Jen with the actor who plays Laurens/Phillip 2. Me with the actor who plays Lafayette/Jefferson

How adorable are they? (Answer: super adorable)

Josh Groban was performing in something next door and came out of an adjacent door while we were waiting. There was lots of screaming from that crowd, but we just couldn’t be bothered, except for me to note that Groban likes his ladies to pop. (Bonus points if you get that.)

We wandered/floated back toward our hotel and we decided to stop to get some food and when we passed a 24-hour diner with giant cupcakes in the window, we made our decision. After all, we were only about 15 minutes away from my birthday.

A cupcake with rainbow sprinkles next to a diet coke

The fact that this is my ideal late-night snack should tell you everything about me that you need to know.

We woke up the next morning full of statements like, “Hey, remember that time we saw Hamilton?” and “Life is pointless now that we don’t have Hamilton to look forward to,” and “OMG, remember that part when [insert minute but oh so meaningful observation here] happened and it was fucking brilliant?!”

Then we went to breakfast and ate cheese and ham on toasted bread and life began to have meaning again. We were going to MOMA that day because we wanted to make fun of art that we didn’t understand. I have been to New York several times but I have never taken the subway because no one has ever given me step-by-step instructions on how to do so, so Jen declared that we were going to do it and I became the coolest, most casual New York City subway rider ever.

Four photos: 1. Me making an excited face at the entrance to a subway station; 2. Me giving the dorkiest thumbs up in the world in the subway station; 3. a selfie of me and Jen on the subway; 4. me on the subway

See also: I was no longer reluctant to embarrass Jen in public. I AM THE WORST.

I might write an insightful piece about the art we saw at MOMA later, so I’m not going to go too deeply into our visit here other than to say it took me about 45 seconds from entering the museum to be reprimanded by security for getting too close to the art. This reprimand is a thing that happens often to me, but even so, this one happened faster than usual.

I also want to post this photo of Jen contemplating modern art because it is maybe my favorite photo of all goddamn time.

Jen looking at a weird statue in a box. She looks quizzical.

This photo is fucking everything to me. It really sums up our afternoon at the museum. Look how hard she is trying to understand. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

I also saw my favorite painting of all time, which was really exciting and also made me wonder how MOMA defines “modern” art, seeing as how this was painted in the 19th century.

Me next to Van Gogh's The Starry Night

Although I guess if your museum can acquire this Van Gogh, you take it whether it fits into your mission statement or not.

I also found my favorite wall curtain at this museum. Fortunately no one reprimanded me for getting too close to it because I stroked it like it was my cat.

Photo of a curtain made of strings of metal beads.

Sooooo pleasing.

I think those three photos really sum up our museum trip well. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Hamilton store across the street from the Richard Rogers Theatre because it was closed by the time we finished jumping up and down at the stage door the night before. It was there that Jen took her turn at encouraging me to make bad purchasing decisions, none of which I regret at all.

Photo of Quinn lying on my floor covered in a Hamilton-themed blanket.

After this happened within minutes of my arriving at home, I had to take steps to ensure that it never happened again because Hamilton blanket is MINE.

I also really enjoyed the Hamilton in-joke on the door of the store.

Sign taped to a door that reads "Thanks for visiting...We will see you again soon! You'll be back...Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da de da dat dat da...etc."

I am thoroughly amused by you and your overpriced products, Hamilton store. Let me throw my money at you!

We spent that evening having dinner with one of the families that Jen had provided surrogate services for seven years ago. No photos or long stories here because not my family/not my place to do so, but I’m just sayin’ if they ever wanted to adopt me, I’m available because they were delightful. Great couple, great kids, AND once they found out it was my birthday, they busted out candles and sang to me. My only regret is that Jen almost tricked me into eating octopus. Fortunately, I was able to pawn it off on the 7-year-old sitting next to me.

Friday dawned with the knowledge that we were going home in just a couple of hours and we hadn’t eaten any bagels yet. We rectified that with a jaunt to a delicious deli and I utilized my newfound skills at blending in as a New Yorker by taking photos of tall buildings…

Photo of the New York Times building with a red and white streetlamp in front of it.

I mean, was I NOT going to take this photo of the pokeball streetlamp?

politicized rats…

Photo of me in front of a truck on which is a giant inflated rat.

You guys! It’s Scabby!

and the sidewalk.

Photo of a stencil on the sidealk of a cat head.

I am almost ridiculously embarrassing to walk around with, but it was a cat on the sidewalk—you KNOW my kids were going to want to see that.

It took Jen and I a really long time to find the actual Penn Station we were looking for because there is a building across the street from the actual Penn Station that is labeled as Penn Station, but is really a post office and home to the Long Island Rail Road. We were wandering through the post office and I was texting Alex to ask him how to find the trains at Penn Station and he was all, “Um…follow the signs? What the fuck is wrong with you?” and I was all, “I NEVER GOT MY RETURN TO DC ON THE TRAIN STEP-BY-STEP POWER POINT I AM LOST AND WILL HAVE TO LIVE IN NEW YORK FOREVER AND EVERY TIME I TAKE A PHOTO POINTED UP SOMEONE TRIES TO SELL ME A BUS TOUR AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE I AM PICKED OFF AS A RUBE AND MY BODY SHOWS UP IN THE HUDSON.”

Or something along those lines.

No thanks to Alex, we eventually found our way to the right place. Jen set off on her way back to the airport and eventually home. I bought a slice of pizza, because I was in New York and needed to do so and I dropped an entire piece of pepperoni down my shirt because I am the most embarrassing person in the history of people.

It also turns out that to get on a train from New York to DC, you really have to throw some elbows and jockey for space. Because I’m an asshole, if I get on a crowded train and there are empty aisle seats, but one of those empty aisle seats has a purse on it because someone is obviously trying to not have to sit next to someone, I will insist on sitting there. I bet you didn’t know exactly how passive aggressive I am, didja?

I’m a good seat mate because I hate people though, so I think it all balances out.

Big thanks to Alex. Big thanks to Jen. Big thanks to the cast and creators of Hamilton.

Photo of a building with an eagle in front of it, two American flags, and a pride flag.

Big thanks, New York. You were good to us.

There Are Lots of Things to Do During a 36-Hour Stay in Ohio

Continuing our Team Stimey tradition of splitting into various non-total family groups for vacations, Katie and I headed to Ohio last weekend. We left on Friday afternoon and returned on Sunday morning. It takes 6-7 hours to drive each way. Do that math. Still. We had all kinds of fun. Plus, I had Katie trapped in a car with me and my music playlist for multiple hours. Oh, the songs that we sang.

Photo of Katie and I in the car. She is making duck face and putting her fingers in a "v."

Do they teach this pose in homeroom on the first day of high school? Seriously. ALL teenagers do it.

The reason we went is because Katie’s girlfriend lives there (stupid internet, allowing people from far away to meet) and they wanted to go to an anime convention together. So that’s what they did all day Saturday, leaving me all kinds of Stimey-alone-in-Ohio time, which I took full advantage of, doing many fun things, including napping. But napping wasn’t the only great thing we did. There were many other things.

We stayed in a hotel a half hour away from both Kat’s friend and the anime convention.

We decided to go less than a week before we went. It turns out that all the cheap hotels nearby were filled up by better planners than us. At first, I was all, why the fuck is everyone in the world staying in this tiny Ohio town this weekend? When I woke up on Saturday and looked outside my window to see a school bus with an “ANIME CONVENTION SHUTTLE” sign on it, I realized why. It turns out that Katie and friend were not the only people attending the convention. I know. Weird.

We didn’t cosplay.

I mean, I didn’t go to the convention, but Katie didn’t dress up. She did not get her shit together quickly enough to cosplay for the convention. (She is bad and should feel bad.)

Katie looking cute.

She looked super cute though and the blue hair helped her fit in.

We arrived way early and found fun things to stand next to.

Kat’s friend was late or we were early and either way we had some time to hang out and do fun things.

Giant lion statue head. I am standing next to it looking delighted.

Presented without comment. Okay, one comment: How awesome is this? I wanted to hug it. But that would have been weird.

I was THAT mom.

Photo of me and Katie standing next to the lion.

“KAT! KAAAAAAAAT!!!! COME STAND NEXT TO THIS LION WITH ME!”

I am so goddamn embarrassing.

Kat with her hand over half her face in a "you're so embarrassing" way.

Picture Kat making this face a lot.

In my defense, I asked her several times if she wanted me to leave her alone to wait and she said no.

Katie leaning against a smaller lion statue.

You feel for her, don’t you? I am the WORST.

There were two of these lions. I leaned on one of them and it moved, which either means that I am waaaay heavier than I thought I was or they weren’t attached to the ground. Assuming the latter, I hatched a plan to come back in the dead of night to stuff them into my car and then post them on either side of the end of my driveway to create a sort of regal, Welcome to Stimeyland feel to my house. Said plan didn’t come to fruition. I am bad at follow through.

We people watched cosplayers. (They are good and should feel good.)

Seriously. These people. They gave me life. It is so damn cool when people are passionate about something. It is doubly cool when they are among their people and are clearly happy and free. People are so creative.

Katie sat picturesquely on a rock.

Katie sitting on a rock.

I think I stopped taking photos after this. Well, after the photo I took immediately after this one in which she was sticking out her tongue at me.

Then I was abandoned.

Kat’s girlfriend showed up and I walked over to say hi to her mom and the two of them ran into the convention without even saying goodbye. I didn’t even get a chance to yell any of my favorite parting lines like, “Don’t get kidnapped!” or “Don’t take drugs!

So I went running.

I had the rest of my day to fill so I did what I do when I have lots of hours: I went running. That morning I had found an app that showed me local trails. This was great because I was able to run on a wooded bike/running path instead of 7-1/2 miles down a sidewalk and then back on the other side of the street, which was what I assumed I would have to do.

I planned to run 15 miles, but only ran about 12-1/2 because it turned out that the trail wasn’t quite as long as it claimed. It was also really, really hot and big chunks of the trail had no tree cover.

It was really pretty though and I got to run over bridges and past a river…and under a freeway overpass. All very scenic.

Selfie during my run overlooking a river.

This super long bridge (I’m standing on it and you can see it in the background) was said to be the “highlight” of the trail. I think they were right. I don’t know why it is fun to run over bridges, but it is. My route had four or five of them.

I rued my lack of planning.

I forgot sunscreen on my run. I regretted this almost instantly. I was maybe a mile in when I realized what a terrible mistake this would be. I didn’t know what effect the sunglasses would have on the overall effect though.

Me with a red sunburned face and light circles around my eyes.

Look! I’m a reverse raccoon/trash panda.

Then I napped. And ate. And consumed media. And generally slugged about.

I also almost got run over on my way across the street to get to a Chipotle. Some guy had pulled out too far into the intersection, but didn’t make it across when the light turned red. He SAW me and didn’t back up his car. Then I walked behind his car and he immediately started backing up. I jumped out of the way. Some guy in a different car laughed really hard.

I realized how old and feeble I am.

Do you know what happens at one in the morning? I do now because that’s how late I had to stay up to chaperone Kat and friend. ONE IN THE A. M. Seriously. I’m 43, people. I don’t do 1 a.m. anymore and I don’t even feel bad saying that.

Kat ate all the food and I felt grateful for my cool kid.

Our hotel was right next door to a Denny’s. We headed over there before we set off back home. I hadn’t been to a Denny’s in years. It turns out that they’ve been keeping all of the food there!

Photo of Kat behind two plates of food and a plastic cup shaped like voltron.

They also had kids’ cups that look like Voltron, who, I am led to believe, is an anime character. Naturally, we insisted on purchasing one.

The trip was a little bit of a hassle what with all the driving and almost getting run over and stuff, but I am so glad that I could do it for Kat. And I am especially glad that she wanted to do it with me—that she talked to me in the car and sang the entire soundtrack to Hamilton (once each direction) and gave me hugs and was grateful and didn’t even spend the whole time texting with her friends. She’s the best.

Not Running Around Houston

We all know (because I won’t stop fucking talking about it) that I went to Houston to run a marathon. That said, I only spent six hours of my time there running the race. What else happened in Houston, you ask? Well. We all know that what happens in Houston does not stay in Houston, so I am here to tell you about the great fun of a visit to my mom without my kids for several days. (Spoiler alert: It was awesome.)

I flew out on the Wednesday before the marathon because I wanted some time to get used to the climate and also because do you have any idea how many kids I have? Sometimes it’s nice to get away. (Just kidding, Alex!) I also, without going into too much detail, wanted to give my gastrointestinal system time to…let’s call it “normalize” prior to the race.

Check, check, and check!

I headed to the airport after work, where I was informed by the TSA that their little scanner had registered a “chest and groin anomaly,” which seems problematic, but could apparently be fixed by having every part of my body touched by a gloved TSA agent.

Then I went and ate a delicious hamburger for lunch at the terminal gate where I learned that my plane was being delayed because something about a cargo maintenance inspection and there was some placard that needed to be displayed and there was some confusion as to whether that placard was actually there and they needed to have someone drive over from another area airport to check on it. In my mind I was all, “I would be happy to give you a visual yay or nay on that placard,” but this was probably not what they needed. It turns out that my plane was one of four with this issue that day and at least two of the others had to cancel flights because of it, so I’m going to count myself lucky.

Then once we were on the plane and getting ready to taxi away, a flight attendant asked for two volunteers to go sit at the back of the plane just during takeoff for “weight and balance issues” and I immediately had some questions like, What happens if the weight and balance is off—like, is that a crashable offense? and Shouldn’t that cargo maintenance inspection placard have taken care of this issue? and lastly, Is this plane’s design so precarious that its ability to become airborne is dependent on the weight of two individuals and where they sit?

Why must there always be a problem, right? Anyway, I napped for a long time and then woke up to really pretty clouds, of which I took many photos, and all of which look exactly the goddamn same.

Photo of clouds and part of an airplane wing.

Also, none of my identical photos really capture how pretty it was, so altogether a worthwhile enterprise.

All in all, it was quite an eventful afternoon.

My mom and stepdad (Richard, remember?) picked me up, took me to dinner, then drove me to their home, which they had designed and had built themselves a year ago. Let me tell you, if you ever want to feel bad about your house, go visit someone who basically built their dream house. It is beautiful.

The next day we drove into Houston. My mom and Richard offered to drive me along the marathon route so I could get an idea of what it was like. I thought that was really nice of them because the only thing that sounds worse than running a marathon is driving the course in late afternoon traffic.

Incidentally, slowly driving a marathon route in a big city is a fantastic way to accumulate Pokemon.

Photo taken by me from the backseat of a car. I'm holding a paper with the race route on it. Richard is driving. My mom is in the front seat.

Additionally, it is a great way to see every part of the city!

I am actually really happy that they did this for me. We didn’t drive the entire route, but it was nice to know what was coming and how far I was when I got to certain landmarks in the race. It was more helpful that I realized it would be to know what was coming up. Also, I was able to truly, truly understand that the course was flat—like really flat.

Furthermore, we drove past this most awesome sculpture in the entire goddamn world.


This photo of Goode Company Barbeque is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Yes, that IS a giant fucking armadillo. It’s hard to see in the photo, but it also has steer horns. There’s a whole story behind said armadillo, but mostly it is just a tremendous sight to behold. It is really something. Weirdly, when I was running my race, I passed it without seeing it. I had actually considered stopping to take a selfie with it during the race because, well, c’mon, but somehow I ran past without seeing it. You wouldn’t think that is something you could miss when you’re traveling past at foot-speed but evidently it is.

We were all exhausted after our long drive so we pretty much went home after that.

Friday I had to run my last training run prior to my marathon. I was scheduled for 2 miles on Saturday but I didn’t want to run the day before the race so I went on Friday instead. I wore long tights even though it was hot to get an idea of how warm it was.

Me waving at the camera as I walk down a driveway.

My mom took photos of everything. It was adorable.

I discovered on this run that even though it wasn’t super hot, it was humid and that kinda sucked it all out of me. I decided then and there to not run with my Camelbak because I wanted to keep my back clear to be cooler. It ended up definitely being the right choice.

After that, I went to the backyard where Richard was busy with yard work, bird feeding, and pretending to chop my mom into tiny pieces.

Photo of Richard holding big clippers and my mom recoiling from him.

He isn’t, by the way, British, appearance to the contrary.

Richard was also cultivating some poison ivy under those gloves from his last gardening session, something that caused all kinds of distress for him and mostly resulted in my refusing to touch anything he had touched until after my marathon.

My mom and I went to see La La Land that afternoon. Guess who goes to the movies at 1 pm on a Friday? Lots of senior citizens. There was a preview of a movie with Morgan Freeman being rakishly adorable, which killed with that audience. There’s been a lot of hype about La La Land and I wanted to see it, but I was partly prepared to hate it. It was, however, completely charming.

The afternoon’s film led to a discussion of movie musicals wherein I learned that Richard loves the movie version of Les Miserables and my mom learned that I’d never seen the movie version of Les Miserables, something that Richard corrected that very evening. (No, you’re crying.)

The next day was Expo Day, which my mom kept referring to as, “Jean needs to check in.” I was all, “We call it packet pickup, Mom,” and rolled my eyes, but she kept calling it a check-in, so that’s what it was.

We went early in the day, which meant I was going to miss seeing Meb at noon. That’s probably for the best though because it is likely that I would have just stood in front of his little autograph signing table repeating “Meb Keflezighi, Meb Keflezighi” over and over because once I hear his name, I can’t stop saying it. I’m doing it right now.

The expo was fun. I picked up my packet checked in and then we did some wandering around the expo. I was mostly looking for some ostentatious gear that said HOUSTON MARATHON in big fluorescent letters, but they only had subtle, tasteful clothing. Very disappointing.

There was a shirt hanging on the wall that said “finisher” and had a map of the route on it and it was really fun and I wanted it but they didn’t have it on any of the racks, but the one on the wall was in my size so I climbed up and took it down with the intent to purchase it. I found a jacket to buy (“marathon” is in really tiny letters—why?) and my mom offered to buy the shirt for me. We went to different registers where I successfully purchased my jacket and the guy told my mom that the shirt wasn’t for sale because that is the shirt they give to finishers after they cross the finish line.

It looked really embarrassing. I pretended to not know her until we were away from the booth.

We took lots of photos at the expo. Let me explain.

Photo of me standing in front of a sign that says "Go run Houston."

Hey look! There is a backdrop of some sort! I should stand in front of it and have someone take my photo!

Photo of me standing in front of a sign that says "Go run Houston." My mom is taking a picture of me.

While that someone is taking a photo, someone else is taking a photo of her taking the photo.

Photo of my mom holding up her phone to take a photo. Richard is standing behind her taking a photo of her taking a photo.

Now I’ll take a photo of them taking photos.

Selfie of me, my mom, and Richard in front of the sign.

And finally, because no one is taking a photo of all three of us, Imma need a selfie.

We are super embarrassing to go anywhere with.

My nephew had a basketball game that afternoon, where he was similarly well documented.

Photo of a cute kiddo shooting a basketball.

Unfortunately, my phone camera is not so good at the zooming in, but you get the point.

We stopped by his house afterward where I met his rabbit and the rabbit GROWLED at me. I swear to God. I have never heard anything like it. I crouched in front of it where it was sitting on a chair and he was all “I DO NOT LIKE YOU GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!” I didn’t even know rabbits could growl. Or hate. Sniff.

After this terrible rebuke, we headed back into the city to check in to our hotel. I had been all prepared for post-race hygiene by buying baby wipes to clean myself with and towels to sit on so as not to offend my family in the car after for the hour-long ride back to their house.

But at the front desk when we checked in, my mom was all, “Hey, can we have a late check out?” and magically we had a room until 3 pm the next day so I was able to shower before climbing into their car after the marathon. It may have been simple self-preservation on her part, but it was brilliant and I am very grateful for it.

I then forced my mom to walk with me to where my corral was going to be the next morning so I could time how long it took to walk there and then I had a question about procedure the next day that I’d already asked two people but wasn’t confident of the answer, so I made her walk with me back to the expo where I asked two more people until I felt sure I had the right answer.

(The runner info made it look like you had to go through the convention center in the morning to get through a checkpoint before you could go to your corral, but that seemed ridiculous so I wanted to make sure I could go straight to the corral and get through security there. It turns out that for corral E there wasn’t even a checkpoint at all.)

After our long walk, we went to dinner and then I went back to the hotel, showered, and was in bed by 8:15 for my 5 am wake up.

Then the next day I ran a marathon.

Afterward I showered and we drove home with a quick stop at the CVS for more poison ivy cream and a sweet gift for me.

Photo of me in a car holding a bear holding a flower.

Thanks, Richard! Love Bear lives on my office shelf now.

When we got back, I got into bed for a nap. I set my alarm for an hour and was pretty sure I didn’t fall asleep, but suddenly my alarm was going off so I set it for another half hour and was pretty sure I didn’t fall asleep for another half hour, but I’m thinking I probably did. And deeply.

My stepsister (Sara) and nephew (Elliot) had come over to spend the night. Evidently Elliot thought I was napping too long and should have been woken up to play Uno with them. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. I did wake up in time for dinner though. And did I mention my mom has a hot tub? If you’re going to run a marathon, you should totally get a hot tub. Highly recommended.

I wasn’t flying home the day after the marathon because when I made the reservations, my long run was, like, 12 miles and I had no idea how my body was going to react to being forced to run 26, so I gave myself a day to hang out before I flew.

We hung out with Sara and Elliot that morning until they had to go do things. Left on our own, my mom and I made the day an exploration day, even if most of the exploration was mine because my mom apparently has already driven around the area where she lives.

First we went on a walk to the marina in her neighborhood. (She lives on a lake.)

Photo of me and my mom at a marina in front of boats.

Hey look, Mom! It’s that boat you love in the background! (Private joke.)

We then drove a few miles away where there is a left turn and a right turn. The left turn goes to a small town that my mom and Richard go to a lot. The right turn had a sign that gives the name of another small town 17 miles away. We had gone out to dinner in the first small town a couple of nights before and when we passed that sign, my mom had told Richard that she wanted to check out the other town some time. (Foreshadowing.)

We turned left and my mom gave me a driving tour of the town—the grocery store, the post office, the restaurants, the museum that looked exactly like a regular house. Then we found something she’d never seen before.

Photo of a well with a bucket. There is a statue of a white goat standing next to it.

Yep. That’s a statue of the town goat. I love small towns.

Apparently that goat showed up in the town in the early 1900s and learned that if he hung out by the well long enough, people would give him water. Then he learned that if he hung out at the bar long enough, people would give him beer. It is unknown if or what the townspeople named him. Repeat: I love small towns.

After the excitement of discovering the statue, my mom was ready to go home but I insisted on fulfilling her dreams and demanded that she drive me 17 miles each direction to the other town. If one town had a town goat, God only knows what the other town would have.

Turns out it had a very run down main street and a guy sitting by his driveway who eyed us suspiciously as we drove by.

Photo of several store fronts in rough condition.

No statues in sight.

There were also two different signs that promised historical markers four miles away, but they were both lies and we never found anything historical. Frankly, I don’t know why my mom insisted we take that drive all the way out there.

All was not lost though because there was a fudge shop near my mom’s house that she’d never been to and, because I’d mentioned it on our way out, she was determined to stop there on our way back. Unfortunately, she didn’t remember that until after we had passed the turn, so she had to back up in the turn lane so we could get our candy. Because fudge.

Photo of my mom driving and eating fudge.

It was worth it.

Altogether, it was a completely worthwhile adventure.

But we were not done with our day, oh no. We still had to go get me my sopapillas and margaritas, which I had insisted upon as a condition of running a marathon. Happily, my mom and Richard knew a place where I could get both.

A close up of a margarita and some sopapillas.

I think the waiter was taken aback when he took our order and I said, “We’re going to need some sopapillas for the table immediately,” but he brought them and they were plentiful and delicious.

Because Houston was experiencing some sort of weird fucking heatwave, we ate on the patio. I had to take off my jacket because it was so warm. Fucking Houston.

Selfie of my mom, Richard, and me.

I’m wearing the finisher shirt I got after the race. I hear someone tried to buy one at the expo.

And that was it. We got up early the next day so I could go to the airport. I considered wearing my medal, but settled on wearing the race shirt.

Photo of me at the airport curb wearing a shirt that says Chevron Houston Marathon.

The shirt isn’t that exciting, but at least the word “marathon” is in big letters.

You’ll be happy to hear that my chest anomaly had gone away by this time, but sadly my groin anomaly remained. Seriously. What is that about? I did some looking into it online and it sounds like these scanners are all kinds of problematic for trans people, which is really unfortunate. I’m not sure what happened with me though, especially twice on the same trip when it’s never happened before. Maybe I’ll wear different pants next time I fly.

Anywho, I returned home safely where I was immediately assaulted by the day to day realities of public transportation, responsibility, and parenting teenagers.

Thanks for the adventure, Mom and Richard!

Photo of Richard and my mom.

Next time I’ll bring the munchkins too.

Summer in December, Wisconsin Vacation Part III

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

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

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

The horror. The horror.

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

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

Photo of Jack in a double inner tube totally reclining.

This is one of his relaxo places.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly this was the right place to take my kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack in a go-kart

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

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

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

I’m guessing that raccoon is pretty well fed.

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

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

Look at everyone all dry and excited.

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

Then this happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Jack in a swimsuit holding a watersliding mat.

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

Alex and Jack on a roller coaster waterslide.

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

Sam at the bottom of a waterslide.

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

Jack and Quinn hugging in the lazy river.

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

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

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

Photo of a splash. No person is visible.

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

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

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

This blade outside the steakhouse wasn’t sharp enough.

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

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

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

That is a lot of steak.

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

Jack and Quinn, mouths full of bread.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of a brownie sundae in front of Alex

And then he shared a dessert with his brothers.

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

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

Plus, the restaurant gave him a t-shirt!

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

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

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

…and the kids did their part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it might be time to go on another vacation!

Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Wisconsin Edition, Part II

You guys, school has already started and I just realized that I never finished my What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay.

When last you saw us, we were departing the hectic pace of hanging out by the big lake to discover the peaceful pace of hanging out by a little lake in northern Wisconsin. Alex’s mom’s house is between those two lakes, so on our drive past, we stopped by to say hello, eat all of her food, and play with objects that were thirty years old or older.

Photo of Sam and Jack playing with old plastic soldiers, cars, and airplanes.

Sam and Jack don’t normally do a lot of creating epic battles with toy soldiers, but they enthusiastically did so with Alex’s old toys.

Photo of Jack holding the spaceman LEGO guy.

SPACESHIP!

Jack pretending to talk on an old-fashioned rotary phone.

Jack also traveled into the past via his grandma’s old-fashioned phone. (Don’t worry, she has a regular phone AND a cell phone as well.)

From there, we continued our drive north until we reached the shores of Van Vliet Lake, otherwise known as The Most Peaceful Place on All of Earth.

Jack and Quinn sitting on a small wooden boat dock on a lake.

You know, until we arrived.

Van Vliet Lake is about 20 miles away from a small town where you can get ice cream and about 40 minutes away from a bigger town where you can get doughnuts. (This is how my family thinks about places.) The morning after we arrived, we headed to the bigger town for breakfast and to visit the local wildlife park/petting zoo, because if there is anything Team Stimey likes better than water play, it is animals.

Certain members of Team Stimey were irate about being forced to participate in an away-from-the-cabin activity (*cough*Quinn*cough*), but once we got there and discovered baby goats, everybody got on board.

Alex was still paying our entry fee when the rest of us wandered through the door into the goat yard where Jack was immediately and viciously attacked by a goat.

Jack in a crab position on the ground with a small goat standing on top of him.

Seriously, that goat targeted Jack instantly upon his arrival. It tried to eat his shirt. Please note Quinn’s hand reaching in to pet the aggressor.

Those goats were probably the greatest things to ever exist. I actually think it would really behoove Team Stimey to acquire a pack (a herd? a swarm? a nibble?) of goats all for ourselves. Our grass would always be short and we could feed them our tin cans. Win win.

Photo of Quinn sitting on a rock wall. A goat is crawling on him. He looks ecstatic.

We could also have this ALL THE TIME.

I wanted to start our herd by smuggling this particular guy into my bag. He got all up in my space. I love him.

Photo of a goat center frame. I am smiling in the background.

I believe I mentioned this on Facebook, but this goat was a total attention hog.

I don’t know what this next animal is, but Jack walked up to it and said, “Hey look, Mom, it’s you!”

Photo of some sort of furry animal lying listlessly on a bench in a cage.

Evidently I should take fewer naps around my kids. They’re starting to notice my habits.

This wildlife park/zoo had lots of really fun animals to pet. We petted pigs and skunks and opossums. Jack and Quinn also went into the bunny hutch where we discovered that some of my kids have better bunny-holding skills than other someones.

Photo of Jack and Quinn each holding bunnies. Jack is supporting all of his bunny's body. Quinn has somehow folded his bunny in half.

I don’t think bunnies are supposed to fold like that, Quinn.

Two photos: 1) Jack properly holding a bunny by supporting its legs and butt 2) Quinn improperly holding a bunny by supporting everything other than its legs and butt.

Which rabbit would you rather be?

Next it was off to the deer enclosure where we competed with toddlers to attract some seriously overfed deer.

Sam feeding a deer with antlers pellets from his hand.

These deer get fed all day every day so they had little interest in us.

The deer thing was okay though because this particular place also had a budgie feeding barn. If you’ve never been to a budgie feeding barn (and you don’t find birds weird and scary what with their calm, evaluating eyes, sharp beaks, and cryptic head bobs), you should go to a budgie feeding barn. Now. Like today.

Unlike the deer, the budgies are always hungry.

Photo of Sam holding a popsicle stick with seeds stuck to it. There are four birds on the stick and in his hands. Jack is in the background with one bird on a stick. He is petting the bird.

I’d like you to notice Jack there in the background petting his bird. He seemed to go for quality over quantity. Sam was the opposite.

I had one little guy stay with me the whole time we were there. He was determined to get every last seed.

Photo of me holding my stick with a bird on it and two others on my arm.

I wanted to stuff them in my bag with the goat. That might not have turned out well for anyone.

When we first walked in and purchased our budgie feeding sticks, Alex was all, “Pshaw, budgie feeding…pfft,” and he didn’t get a stick like he was too good for the fucking budgies in his top hat and monocle and snooty attitude.

But then a budgie landed on his shoulder and, much like his children before him, he was one hundred percent on board.

Alex with a bird on his shoulder and a huge grin on his face.

Alex bonded quickly and completely with that budgie.

Which made it even worse when Quinn stole Alex’s bird and put it on his own shoulder.

A series of four photos wherein Quinn is putting the bird from the previous photo with Alex onto his shoulder and looking pretty fucking pleased with himself.

Look at Quinn’s smug little face. Needless to say, Alex was devastated.

Alex got his revenge though by paying five bucks for a giraffe-feeding experience that resulted in Quinn’s entire face getting mopped by a giraffe tongue.

Photo of Quinn with a carrot sticking out of his teeth. A giraffe has its tongue out and is grabbing the carrot with the tongue.

I think moments like this are why people have kids.

Not all members of Team Stimey chose to feed the giraffes via the mouth to mouth option.

Photo of my three kids with carrots next to giraffe heads. Jack is handing a carrot to a giraffe.

Who’s a good giraffe?

From there, we fed some more goats and some giant fish and then headed back to our cabin, where we took the first of very many boat rides we would take over the next few days. There is both a rowboat and a canoe at the cabin. For our first outing, we all piled into the rowboat.

Two photos: 1) Alex from behind rowing with Jack and Sam sitting in the back of the boat 2) selfie of Quinn and I at the other end of the boat.

One of these photos represents the end of the boat that never even thought about helping to row. Guess which one.

We came up to this lake for several years before any of our kids asked to go swimming in it. Last time we were here, that all changed. This year, Jack and Quinn were ready on Day One.

Quinn swimming.

I didn’t join them because, you know, lakes. God only knows what is living down there…algae…turtles…lake monsters.

Jack upped the ante by being the first member of Team Stimey to go skinny dipping. Here is a photo of Jack in the water and Alex wringing out his swimsuit on the boat.

Jack hanging off the side of the boat. Only his head is visible.

If lake swimming seemed unwise to me, naked lake swimming seemed worse, but who am I to stop him? (If you say “his mom,” well, you might be right.)

Sam was not interested in lake swimming, naked or otherwise, but he was super interested in rowing boats, something that I think Alex, a.k.a. the Designated Rower, has been waiting for for a decade.

Sam (from behind) rowing the boat. Alex is looking at him proudly.

You can almost read Alex’s thought bubble: “Aw, Sam is so grown up. Where did the time go?”

But the rowboat wasn’t enough. After Jack and Alex tired of boating, Sam, Quinn, and I headed back out, this time in the canoe.

Photo taken from the back of the canoe of Sam in front with a paddle and Quinn sitting in the middle.

I had a paddle too, but I sat in the back so Sam wouldn’t know when I was slacking. Quinn didn’t even pretend to help.

The three of us had a very good time and many adventures whilst canoeing about the lake, but the most photogenic one was when we accidentally paddled too close to a family of loons and seriously pissed off one of them. Once I saw what was happening, I made Sam row away. And I took photos while the loon strutted about back and forth in front of us.

Five photos: 1. Photo from in the canoe of Sam and Quinn; in front of us is a family of three loons 2. Close up of family of loons--2 adults one baby 3. one loon swimming away from the other two 4. That loon spreading his wings and making a big ol' fuss in the water 5. Same loon puffing out his chese and sticking up out of the water.

All right, all right, we get the message, Mr. Loon.

Eventually we returned to the cabin but Sam hadn’t had enough. He dropped us off and headed out by himself, which went against every overprotective parenting instinct I have, but because he’s a teenager, he took his phone with him, so we were still able to contact him if necessary.

Photo taken from land of Sam in a canoe rowing away from land.

In retrospect, maybe it was less about getting out to canoe and more about getting away from his overprotective mom.

The next day we headed out in the boats again, but this time we took both boats out at the same time, Sam and I in the canoe and the other three in the rowboat. They were doin’ some fishin’. We were avoiding worms.

Photo taken from the back of a canoe. Sam is paddling in front and in the distance are the other three in the rowboat.

We were speedier than them too, which was fun.

While we started out in that configuration, only Sam and Alex remained in their respective boats. Eventually Jack and Quinn bailed from their boat to swim and I was transferred from the canoe to the rowboat for some reason that I don’t remember.

Selfie of Alex and I on the rowboat.

Maybe it was to spend time with Alex.

It sure wasn’t for the fish.

Photo of Alex fishing in the rowboat. On his hook is a big bunch of seaweed.

Nice catch, Alex!

The cabin we stay at when we visit here is one that Alex’s grandfather built a looooong time ago. It’s an A-frame house right on the shore of the lake and comes with the added bonus of a nearby aunt that we were able to visit.

We had a picnic with said aunt (and her husband) at an entirely different lake. She brought Yahtzee and watercolor paint and paper and…my kids set about painting their arms. Because we’re us. And we’re problematic.

Two photos 1. Jack holding out his arm on which he's written I [heart] job 2. Sam holding up his arm. On it is a rainbow and a heart.

I still don’t know what Jack intended, but Sam’s is his status quo art.

I did get this perfectly posed photo of my compliant children out of it though.

Photo of me and my kids standing in a line. No one is looking at the camera. Sam has Jack in a headlock, but Jack was making a face anyway. Quinn has his arms around me and i am looking down at him.

I still kinda love it though.

Another high point was visiting the town’s community garden, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Photo of my family and Alex's aunt looking at her garden plot.

I’m glad that our family doesn’t garden in a community setting, because our garden is not as pretty or tidy as the gardens there.

We continued our S’more in Every Hand and a Hand in Every S’more policy—wait, maybe not exactly that, but we continued to eat a lot of s’mores, these being the northern indoor s’mores.

Photo of Alex sitting next to an indoor fireplace cooking s'mores.

Wherever we make them though, it’s always Alex doing the work. Clearly he loves it.

We had big plans for the following day, so we made sure to eat a big breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s which is not only awesome because of its fun statuary, but is also a Pokestop with a perpetual lure.

Photo of my kids next to a big statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox.

We go there primarily for their sugar-covered doughnuts.

But what were our big plans, you ask? Well, Team Stimey was going to go river kayaking.

*ominous pause*

What could possibly go wrong?

*another ominous pause followed by raucous laughter*

We’d found this place that would drive us and our kayaks upriver to drop us off and we would then kayak back down until we got to their landing. Alex had looked at their offerings and was all, “Ooooh, this two and a half hour option looks fun,” and I was like, “We’ll be doing the one-hour trip, thank you very much.”

Thank the good lord and his sweet baby Jesus that Alex ended up agreeing with me.

The kayak dude put Sam and Quinn in the water first, which might have been a mistake, because they were not interested in waiting for the rest of us, but I was all, “Oh, well Sam will take care of Quinn. They’ll be fine.”

*ominous pause*

It was just before the guy shoved me in the water that one of us asked how many of us were likely to capsize and he was like, “Oh, you’d have to work pretty hard to turn one of these things over.”

*ominous pause*

While I trust in Sam, I’m not a total fool, so I quickly paddled down the river to make sure he and Quinn were okay.

The tip of my kayak, a river, and Quinn and Sam in their individual kayaks.

They were hunky dory, happy, and kayaking through a scenic vista.

Having made sure they were okay, I paddled a little bit back upriver to check on Jack and Alex. Jack was fine and paddling away although getting tired of working his arms so hard, which would become more of a problem the farther into our trip that we went.

Photo of Jack smiling in his kayak.

I got very used to saying, “You’re doing great! Keep paddling! I know it’s hard! You’re doing great! You have to paddle, Jack! You’re doing great! Unless you want to live in your kayak, keep paddling! You’re doing great!”

Alex, meanwhile, was busy taking on water after grounding himself on a mid-river rock and nearly tipping over, or, as the kayak guy would have said, “working hard to capsize.”

He didn’t capsize, but he did get to sit in water for the rest of the trip.

All of this in the first five minutes.

*ominous pause followed by ominous music*

Midway through, the river opened up into a small lake where I spent a fair amount of time shouting and herding my family so that I could get a shot of all five of us.

Selfie of me with the rest of my family in kayaks in the background.

The way I imagined this photo turning out was very different than the way it actually did. My imaginary photo involved a straight line of kayaks and a smiling family. I’m not sure why I thought we could accomplish this in tiny individual boats when we can’t even manage it standing on dry ground.

From here, Sam and Quinn took off again, but by this time I was sure they’d be fine as they had proven themselves to be excellent and responsible kayakers.

*ominous mus—oh never mind. You know.*

At some point Alex, Jack and I rounded a bend in the river to find both Sam and Quinn standing on a riverside dock with their kayaks floating nearby. Quinn was noticeably wet.

We would later find out that we were the first capsize of the season, so I guess that’s something. Evidently Sam had intentionally rammed Quinn repeatedly resulting in his overturning and proving that Sam is not to be fucking trusted. Fortunately the river wasn’t deep, they were both safe, and they had rescued the kayak. Unfortunately, the thing had filled with water and that was turning into a HUGE problem.

We spent a lot of time trying to empty the kayak, which is incredibly difficult to do, especially if you don’t want to get wet.

Four pictures 1. Sam and Quinn on the dock 2. Sam trying to lift up the kayak to dump out the water 3. sam on the dock and Alex in the kayak trying to help 4. drawing of Alex's head exploding.

I don’t have a photo of the moment that Alex’s head exploded, so I drew it for you.

Eventually Quinn had to get back into a kayak partially filled with water.

Photo of Quinn and Sam in their kayaks. Quinn looks pissed.

In retrospect, we should have made Sam use that kayak.

Even Sam felt bad. At some point, Quinn refused to continue paddling, so Alex and I created a boat formation wherein Quinn didn’t have to paddle. We held on to each other so we were three across and we each paddled to only one side. It was onerous, but better than leaving Quinn behind and starting anew as a family of four.

Photo of me, Quinn, and Alex lined up in our boats. Downriver you can see Jack holding his paddle over his head.

Quinn wasn’t ready to admit for the record that it wasn’t the worst way to travel down a river. Also notice Jack downriver with his paddle over his head. He traveled much of the river that way.

I tell you, no five people have ever been so happy as we were to find our landing dock. We headed back to the cabin where the rest of the family decompressed and I departed for a 12-mile run into town.

Because reasons.

Said run was hot and exhausting and I ran out of water only to come upon a park with a drinking fountain at mile eleven. But it was this:

Photo of a metal pump action water fountain.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I have never been so sad in my life. This wasn’t even just a pumping water fountain. There was some sort of tank and some incredibly unclear instructions molded onto the thing and it took at least two hands to operate leaving no hands to hold my water bottle there and it was at about this point that I called Alex and asked him to pick me up.

We went out to dinner that night, which I mention only because we were sitting outside on the deck near yet another lake and I saw a shape bobbing in the water and I yelled really loudly, “HEY LOOK! A SEA LION!” and my family and every other family seated outside turned to look and because sea lions don’t live in lakes, we all realized that it was a dog playing fetch with a ball that his person kept throwing into the water.

I am maybe the most embarrassing person in the world.

We were leaving the next day, but before we did, we wanted to have our traditional lunch on the little island that Alex used to row to when he was a kid. We gathered all the food we had left, creating an absolutely ridiculous picnic lunch, and set off to the island.

Even though both Sam and Quinn claimed they were done with watercraft after the prior day’s kayaking experience, they headed out together in the canoe while, Jack, Alex, and I departed in the rowboat.

Two photos: 1. Jack in the rowboat with Alex rowing 2. Quinn and Sam in the canoe.

We kept Sam and Quinn in our sight though. You know. Just in case.

It was a beautiful day and it took about 20 minutes to approach the small island.

A little island with tall trees on it. The canoe is off to the side.

Wisconsin is pretty.

We had a delightful lunch of leftover milk, pancakes, doughnuts, corn chips, carrots, and maybe a sandwich or two.

Selfie of the five of us at our picnic.

We guarantee our kids food. We don’t guarantee them tasty or edible food.

Sam wanted to canoe back by himself, which was cool with everyone. It was a long way, but we’d be nearby and we figured it wouldn’t be a problem. Sam paddled off, we loaded the rowboat, and we eventually found him texting from his canoe.

Sam in his canoe, looking at his phone.

All was well.

Alex was paddling the rowboat and we might have been chasing a bald eagle or something, so we ended up drifting off a ways. Jack and Quinn jumped in to swim and we were enjoying our leisurely return to shore.

Photo of Jack and Quinn in the water smiling happily at each other.

I love how much joy Jack and Quinn get from each other. (Also, see Sam waaaaaay in the distance.)

Selfie of me at the front of the boat. Jack is hanging from the front.

I also enjoy how much joy *I* get from them.

Unfortunately, while all this cavorting was going on, the wind was picking up. Also unfortunately, it was blowing against where we were rowing. I started to receive ever angrier texts from Sam complaining that he couldn’t row anywhere. We were watching him struggling and started to get a little concerned. I texted him to find his way to us and I would join him in the canoe and help him get back to the cabin.

Then I wrote, “Sam’s Epic Battle Against the Wind!” into a text and he flipped the fuck out. I thought we were being funny and amused by the pickle in which we found ourselves. He, on the other hand, was merely furious.

Nonetheless, he was able to get to us and I climbed into his canoe and the two of us together were able to fight our way to the dock. It was tough going though. I can understand why he was having such a hard time by himself.

Meanwhile, Jack and Quinn were swimming back but staying near Alex’s boat for safety and Alex was working really hard all by himself to return home. Sam and I, with the two of us on an aerodynamic boat, were able to make good time and we arrived well before Alex did.

Sam went inside to curse at the boat from a distance as I watched Alex’s slow progress.

Alex looking exhasted giving a thumbs up as he arrived at the dock.

I am happy to report that he eventually arrived back to the dock.

Then we packed our car and got the fuck out of dodge. Our next stop was the Wisconsin Dells, where we would join a million other tourists participating in many activities, none of which involved piloting a watercraft.

That post is coming soon. Before Thanksgiving at least.

All the Fun Things, Wisconsin Version, Part I

Now that we’ve been home for a month, I think I’m just about ready to write about it. Finally. I am mostly doing this because the last time I told Alex I’d written a post he looked so hopeful and said, “About vacation?” so now I HAVE to write about it, but if you are interested in hearing aaaaaalllllllll about our vacation, please do follow along.

When last we left our intrepid vacationers, Team Stimey had arrived at the shore of the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Alex has a wonderful and generous aunt and uncle who have a home on the beach there and they were lovely enough to let us stay there. And when I say right on the beach, I mean Right On The Beach.

Photo of a sandy path leading down to an expanse of water. You can see three tiny shapes in the water.

I was right next to the porch when I took this photo of my munchkins in their happy place—a freshwater beach.

Alex and I were pretty happy there too.

Photo of Alex and I sitting on the beach smiling.

We were slightly more afraid of the freezing cold water than our children were.

Both of us did work our way up to swimming with the kiddos. I have to say that they’re a little more aggressive with their splashing and shoving around of my inner tube (with me in it) while humming Ride of the Valkyries than I would care for.

Photo of my feet hanging over the edge of my inner tube. All that is visible in the photo other than my fee it water aand sky.

I still got my chill on though.

We didn’t just do that though. We did everything that was fun. Really. Everything. See below.

Inner Tubes!

I mentioned that my children used me as a battering ram while I was trying to float around in my inner tube, but they were used for lots of other things as well. In an example of perfect synchronicity, our hosts had exactly three inner tubes, giving us plenty of opportunity to do tricks…

Photo of Alex holding an inner tube with Jack jumping through it.

Just like a porpoise!

lounge…

Photo of Jack wrapped in a towel and sitting in an inner tube on the beach.

Cozy.

carry them around…

Photo of Jack walking down the beach carrying an inner tube.

It was really nice of our hosts to have only photogenic water toys.

and be a vehicle for the Elusive Meowmere.

Photo of Jack lying stomach-down in an inner tube.

Or at least that is what Jack called himself. I’m not entirely sure what a Meowmere is, but apparently it is rare.

Cats!

Because we didn’t want to travel in a minivan full of five cats, three of whom don’t get along in an incredibly violent way, we had to leave our cats at home (and one at a boarding facility—see above about violence). Fortunately, our first destination came with a cat, because you really don’t want to go cold turkey on something like that.

Photo of a gray cat sitting next to Quinn's stuffed cat. Sam's head is poking in from the side.

Said cat did NOT care for Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo. Said cat hissed loudly at Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo and then didn’t go near it again.

Strawberry picking!

We headed to a pick-your-own strawberry field shortly after arriving, mostly as a cautionary tale for all the families with younger kids that were there.

Photo of Sam standing in a strawberry field.

Sam picked one strawberry at a time and then tossed them carelessly toward our collection box.

To the other families, we were all, “Here’s a grim vision of your future,” as Sam loudly told us how if he’d planned our vacation, we would have toured a series of Hot Topic stores in the northern Midwest instead of doing something ridiculous like picking fruit that he doesn’t even want to eat in the hot sun gawd mom you’re the worst.

And then Jack, in a move that really pleased every one of the young children quietly picking strawberries as well as their parents, put a strawberry in Alex’s pants and then announced loudly, “Dad! I put a strawberry in your pants!”

Photo of Quinn, Sam, Jack, and Alex in the field. Jack and Alex are squatting next to each other, but Alex is facing away from Jack.

See Jack eyeing Alex’s butt there? He had an agenda.

And then Alex took the strawberry out of his pants and put it in our collection box.

A grim, grim vision.

Quinn, the only one of our children who actually eats strawberries, worked hard to collect fruit.

Photo of a strawberry field with Quinn crouched in it.

He clearly sensed an opportunity to be “the good one.”

Assault!

Regardless of opportunities to humiliate their parents in front of their peers, the munchkins enjoyed their time at the beach more than anything—and not just for the swimming opportunities. It also gave them the opportunity to beat the shit out of each other.

Well. It gave Sam the opportunity to beat the shit out of Quinn’s head.

Seven different photos of Sam beating Quinn with an inner tube.

I kept trying to defend Quinn, but Quinn kept laughing and saying it was okay, so I was reduced to trying to tell Sam to just not whack him TOO hard in the head.

Fire!

Team Stimey doesn’t do vacations without fires, so it was fortunate for our hosts that they had a firepit so we didn’t have to burn their home down to make our s’mores.

Because we love fires so much, we make sure to practice vigilant fire safety.

Photo of Quinn by a metal-ringed firepit. He is very close to said firepit and is poking at the fire with a stick.

Like we didn’t let Quinn actually climb INTO the firepit.

Our first fire of vacation resulted in like, a hundred and eighteen photographs, including maybe the most emo photo I have ever taken or will ever take of Sam.

Photo of Sam with his hair over his half of his face ans looking sideways at the camera in a fire-glowing light.

Emo Sam says, “I feeeeeeeeeel things.”

Sometimes when you’re on vacation, you get sooooo relaxed that it is hard to maintain verticality.

Photo of Jack lying on his side wrapped in a blanket in the sand and the glow of the fire.

Can’t…muster…will…to…do….anything…but…eat…s’mores…please…prepare…one…for…me…

Grandma!

One of the benefits of vacationing in Wisconsin is that the kiddos get to spend a few days with their grandma, whom they adore.

Quinn sitting by the fire with Alex's mom.

Super cozy!

Mockery!

My little punk asshole of a kid not only took my spot and refused to get up, but he also made fun of me as he did it. Jerk.

Photo of Quinn sitting in a chair under a blanket, holding a book, and drinking a soda.

He was all, “Can you bring me another Diet Coke?” Jackass.

And the rest of the jerks in my family laughed and laughed and laughed.

Independence Day!

I know it doesn’t seem like we should have been on vacation on July 4th what with me just writing my recap now, but it’s true. The great thing about being on a vacation in a small town on the 4th is that you get to experience a Small Town Fourth™. We headed down to downtown Sheboygan to eat dinner by the waterfront where there were to be fireworks later that evening. In a happy cowinkydink, there was also a little carnival right there as well.

Photo of Sam and I. His head is on my shoulder.

You can’t tell from this photo, but this is Sam and I on a Tilt-a-Whirl before it started. I used to LOVE the Tilt-a-Whirl. Now it turns out that Tilt-a-Whirls nauseate me. Ask me how I know.

The kiddos really enjoy the carnival games where the carnies basically steal your money in exchange for letting you throw a projectile of some sort at a target. Sam and Quinn worked together to earn enough tickets to buy a gift for me just in case I was missing my cat Sharky.

Photo of Quinn holding a stuffed shark.

Finn spent the rest of vacation as our car dashboard lookout

Quinn had gotten a giant glow stick on the last day of school from a teacher and he carefully saved it for July 4th. Through some miracle, we remembered to take it on vacation and to the fireworks. The thing had a $1 price tag on it. Jack and Quinn played with it joyously, running around a field for a really long time. I need to buy more of those.

Photo of Quinn and Jack against a dark sky. They each have a hand on a large green glowstick raised above their head.

In rod we trust!

Sam also really loved the lead-up to the fireworks, actively participating in family activities and enthusiastically joining us in conversation—oh, wait.

Photo of Sam sitting in a dark field looking at his phone. The glow is lighting up his face.

Evidently this is the teenager version of a glow stick.

Cattails! Cows! Dead birds in the road!

The day after the fourth, our little cottage was a swirling sea of conflicting access needs, wherein Jack and Quinn were coming close to blows and Alex, who was trying to take a conference call, had that air about him that led me to believe if I didn’t take action that he would get in the car and drive away, abandoning his family for good.

Not wanting this to happen, I grabbed Quinn and headed out on a walk to see a pasture of cows I’d noticed on a run the day before. En route to said cows, we experienced ALL of rural Wisconsin.

We had a slow race with a tractor.

Photo of Quinn walking on the side of a road holding a cattail. In the background you can see a tractor.

It never caught us. But we didn’t catch it either.

We discovered what is inside cattails.

Photo of Quinn holding a cattail that he has broken open.

Regular ol’ plant innards.

We found a dead pigeon.

Photo of Quinn standing on a road looking at a dead bird.

Yep. Dead.

And then…the coup de grace…the cows.

Two photos 1) Quinn smiling happily 2)Quinn looking at a few cows.

I wish anything made me as happy as looking at cows makes Quinn.

On the way back, all we did was hitchhike.

Photo of Quinn with his thumb out next to a maroon van.

Fortunately it was our car.

German food!

Okay, so eating the German food was not super fun. I don’t know that eating German food is something I would want to do regularly. But! The waitress was telling us about some of the appetizers and she mentioned a giant pretzel and held her hands about a foot apart and Alex was all, “I don’t think we need that,” and I said, “No, no, no, we will be purchasing the giant pretzel,” and so we did and if you ask Jack what his favorite part of vacation was, he will say, “The giant pretzel.”

Giant pretzels!

Photo of a big pretzel with bowls of sauce on it.

Okay, it looks kinda big…

Photo of the pretzel. This photo includes Quinn in the frame, which shows how big the pretzel really is.

…okay, once you add Quinn for scale, THAT’S A GIANT PRETZEL!

It was super goddamn delicious too.

Concert/Embarrassing your first born!

I may have mentioned once or twice that Sam is super into music. One of his favorite bands is All Time Low and they happened to be opening for Blink-182 in Milwaukee when we were in Wisconsin. Sam convinced us to let him go and he decided that I should be the parent who took him.

Big mistake. Huge.

What’s worse than your mom going to a concert with you?

Photo of Sam and I in front of the venue. I have a big smile on my face and am giving an obnoxious thumbs up. Sam looks like he'd like to die.

This mom going to a concert with you.

I managed to calm down a little bit after that and worked hard on not embarrassing him too much. We ended up having a lot of fun at the concert, but I think I might have successfully gotten myself out of being the concert-attending parent.

Booze!

We drank all kinds of fun drinks on vacation. I’ve just really started to enjoy beer flights, partly because if you don’t like a particular beer, you can make your husband drink it and move on to another one and partly because you get to feel like a giant while you drink it.

Three photos 1) a beer flight 2) a fancy bloody mary 3) my beer and legs on the beach

I always really want to like Bloody Marys and I always end up disappointed. This one here was without a doubt the most beautiful drink I’ve ever had though.

Regarding that giant thing:

Photo of Alex drinking a beer from a big ceramic mug.

Normal-sized beer, normal-sized Alex.

But then…

Photo of Alex drinking a tiny glass of beer from a beer flight. Quinn is giving him bunny ears.

Tiny-sized beer, giant-sized Alex.

Goofing off!

IMG_6395

What? Were we supposed to abandon the leftover whipped cream just because we ran out of strawberry shortcake?

Family time!

IMG_6391

I guarantee you, there ain’t no five of us sitting around playing Yahtzee in Maryland.

Did I mention the beach?

My kids love the beach. My kids LOVE the beach. They played on the sand and in the water for hours and hours and hours. They were so purely happy that it made me so very happy just to watch them be happy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in the water right at the edge of the beach.

Quinn loves the water more than anyone.

Photo of Jack, Alex, and Sam building sand castles.

I don’t know what they like more—building sand structures or crushing sand structures.

Photo of my three kids running in the water.

I love how they all get along in the water. No bickering, just joy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in an inner tube and Jack standing behind it.

I don’t even know what they do out there. Sometimes Quinn just jumps up and down in the water. It’s weird and charming and totally happy.

Quinn drawing in the sand with a stick. He has written "save me."

Quinn brought home the stick he used to write this. It was one of his souvenirs. It’s in his room right now.

Photo of Jack in sun speckled water.

I just can’t get enough of photographing my kids in the water because they are so happy and beautiful.

These goofballs!

Selfie of all five of us in the water.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a selfie of five people while you’re floating in an inner tube in the bright bright sun? (Answer: hard.)

I’m going to stop here and continue the rest of our vacation tale in a subsequent post. I predict that will happen prior to Labor Day. Maybe.

Standard Transition Home Post

Team Stimey has arrived back home from vacation. Well, actually, we got back last weekend, but I’ve been a little discombobulated what with reentry to life and all, so I haven’t had a chance to write yet.

Two photos (1) Alex pushing a hotel luggage cart packed full of bags, pillows, sweatshirts, and backpacks (2) Jack carrying two empty soda cups and Quinn carrying his stuffed cat.

Checking out on our final day of vacation. I like this juxtaposition of what Alex had to drag to the car and what the younger children dragged to the car. Me, I carried my camera.

I have so many things to say about our vacation, but you know me and you know that it will take me some significant time to get a post together about it. That said, it’s always kind of weird to just transition from Vacation Posts to Home Posts without a transitional We Got Home Post, so this is that.

Our Wisconsin trip was really as close to perfect as you can get. We had lots of time to relax, but found enough fun things to do to keep us busy. We had enough cellphone reception and occasional wifi to keep us connected, but not enough to keep us from spending our evenings reading and at campfires.

It was warm enough to swim every day and not rainy enough to keep us from doing things, but it wasn’t this HOLY HELL WHAT TEMPERATURE IS THIS?! that Washington, DC evidently suffered through at the same time. We had plenty of family time and togetherness and bonding, but our kids are old enough that we didn’t have to spend every second on top of them.

We really couldn’t have asked for anything better. I mean, except for the fact that Alex started an affair with a cartoon on this trip.

Two photos: (1) Pokemon Go camera shot of Alex in bed with his arm around Pidgey (2) Pokemon Go camera shot of Alex at a bar with a margarita and Pidgey with a daiquiri

Every time I turned around, that fucking Pidgey was there.

The great thing about arriving home to Casa Stimey is that there were so many welcoming faces there to greet us. On our way home we picked up Ruby the cat at her boarding facility for furious felines and then drove home to hug our less angry cats there. There is also one remaining gerbil that I’d stashed at a friend’s house because I didn’t want him to die on my house sitter’s watch. I figured my friend was more emotionally prepared to deal with the death of an elderly gerbil, so I saddled her with that responsibility.

Photo of a white gerbil lying on his side looking dead.

He survived, although you wouldn’t know it from this photo.

Thanks to all of you for following along on my Facebook page. It was really fun to share our vacation with you. I fully understand how lucky I am to be able to take such a cool vacation with such a kickass family and I appreciate you sort of coming along with us.