Bambi Meets Snowzilla

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

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

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

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

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

I made a hill.

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

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

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

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

And the treehouse is still standing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was the first to battle my way out.

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

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

We made our pile bigger.

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

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

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

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

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

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

For the record, I don’t want to.

Something TERRIBLE Has Happened

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

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

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

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

I swear to God, I thought someone had died.

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, I am devastated.

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

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

I wrote an email to his teachers, excerpted here:

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

BOOM! BLAM! KAPOW!

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

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

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

(Sam: “I’m so glad I didn’t go.”)

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

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

Surviving Winter Break

You’re probably reading this in 2016. If so, let me get this out of the way first: Happy New Year! May your 2016 be your best year! We’ll talk about resolutions and goals and what not, but that will come another day. Today we’re looking back. Specifically, we’re looking back at the last week and how Team Stimey made it through without just flat out giving up and letting our kids play video games 24/7 for all of winter break.

Let’s start with Alex. Alex went to New York for concerts. Lucky him. Fini.

Now for the rest of us.

My sister (Ann) brought one of her kids (Jacob) to come visit for the week after Christmas. They’re actually still here, so they’re helping us get through the rest of the week.

Unfortunately, Alex and I introduced Ann to The Walking Dead shortly after she arrived so now I not only have to try to keep my kids off video games 24/7, I have to try to keep Ann off of Netflix 24/7 AND break up fistfights between her and my kids as they fight over the television. It’s a whole thing.

So, if ever you are stuck in a house with four boys, a sister, five cats, four gerbils, and no school, here are some suggestions on how to pass the time.

First, that five cats thing is essential. Because there is nothing like kittens to kill a few hours.

Photo of a 10-year-old (Jacob) sitting on the floor playing with two white kittens.

That is Jacob. He likes cats. My sister’s wife is deathly allergic to cats, so this is really his only chance to hang out with them. The cats, fortunately, are happy to oblige.

It is also important to note that just because Christmas is over, that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing Christmas things. For example, I dragged everyone to the local nature center for the Christmas light show.

Photo of me sitting next to my sister, Ann.

This is Ann. She’s a doctor. Do you know how annoying it is to watch The Walking Dead with a doctor?

The lights were fun. Quinn and Jack particularly enjoyed the caterpillar tunnel in which they spun and spun and spun. I tried one rotation and almost fell over.

Quinn and Jack with arms out, caught mid-spin, in a tunnel created by multicolored lights forming a long archway.

As Kang says, “We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

I discovered that telling four young boys to sit in a row and smile is nearly as futile as asking three of them to do it.

Jack, Jacob, Quinn, and Sam sitting on a bench in front of colored lights sorta kinda trying to smile at the camera.But if you ask them for “now a silly one,” they will comply almost instantly.

The same photo as the last one except they're all making silly faces and poses.The next day we went to the American History Museum, which I called the American History Fun Zone because Quinn has a nearly anaphylactic reaction to the word “museum.”

He wasn’t fooled.

I took a photo to remember where we parked the car.

Photo of part of my car in a parking space labeled "227."Then I took a photo to remember where the munchkins were.

Sam, Jacob, and Jack standing in front of a wall on which is etched "United States of America"

Quinn declined to participate.

Fortunately I’m not an idiot and this isn’t my first rodeo, so I knew what I needed to do to make Quinn let go of some of his anxiety and let himself start to have fun.

Unsurprisingly, it involved spinning something.

Photo of both Jack and Quinn standing at a musuem exhibit where they are pretending to scratch at a turntable.

Interactive exhibit? Check! Something that spins? Check! Sneaking him a piece of chocolate that no one else sees? Double check!

Not everyone was so enamored with the interactive play area.

Photo of Sam with his head down on a table and his hair over his face. Ann is in the background not looking too much more excited.

Stupid Sam, outgrowing stuff. Ann too.

Jack and Quinn, however, were delighted. They kept us in the interactive exhibit for quite a while as they made up stories of their “inventions.” The American History Museum is dumb enough to allow just anyone to write just anything and have it displayed on a touch screen for anyone to discover. Sorry, American History Museum patrons.

Photo of Quinn in front of a touch screen displaying his story.

In case you can’t read it: “Invention of a Golden Coooooooow: A cow jumped over the moon and into a dude who was trying to throw up in space. The cow hit him, rebounded off him, and flew into a volcano and became gold. The end.” This story was way less offensive than the one he wrote about the invention of fart gas.

Photo of Jack in front of a touch screen displaying his story.

And Jack’s: “Aperiture Science Panels: As people know, our walls don’t move, but panels make it a reality. Also if spikes are welded to it, it is a crusher. We sell them too.” At least Jack put the word “science” in there.

Our success in the interactive area carried over into a successful visit to a couple of other exhibits.

Photo of Sam, Jack, and Jacob standing in front of a vault door. Jacob is standing politely and smiling while Sam is holding Jack around the neck and Jack has his arms in the air.

Dammit, Jacob. Way to make us look bad.

Photo of a statue seated on a bench. Quinn and Jacob are standing on either side of it, each with a finger up the statue's nose.

Uh oh. I think we’re starting to rub off on my sister’s kid.

Every single thing we’ve done with all four kids has had a big element of sitting down to eat food. It turns out that if you feed children, they are happier. And it turns out that if you promise kids imminent food, they will continue to walk through an exhibit instead of dropping to the ground in panic.

Who fucking knew?

Photo of Ann and Jacob smiling at the camera.

I include this photo of Ann and Jacob at lunch, simply because it is super cute.

Every single thing we’ve done with my sister has also had a big element of finding coffee as well. It turns out that if you feed her caffeine in the form of a latte, she is much happier.

Who fucking knew? (Well, all of us knew this one.)

Photo of four boys on a concrete ledge. They all look exhausted in their own way.

I am highly entertained by this post-museum photo of all four kids waiting for Ann, who is in Starbucks.

But, if not for Ann’s incapacitating coffee habit, I wouldn’t have captured in a photo this easy love, comfort, and joy in each other that Jack and Quinn share.

Two photos side by side, each of Jack and Quinn with their arms wrapped around each other, caught in an intimate moment of hugging and just being together.

These two.

Then there were naps. Lots of naps.

In a fit of surprising craftiness, we also made chocolate chess pieces, something Quinn has wanted to make for Sam for a long time.

Photo of a plate full of milk chocolate molded chess pieces.

We had plans to create a whole set out of white and milk chocolate, but before he left for New York, Alex washed the thin plastic mold in the dishwasher so we can never make them again.

I also made Ann fix my bathroom door jamb.

Photo of my sister in a bathroom doorway with a screwdriver, fixing a doorjamb.

She’s older than me. I think her determination to prove she could fix it is an eldest sibling thing. Cool by me. I’m pretty lazy. I think that’s a youngest sibling thing.

It wasn’t all handywomaning and chess pieces though. There were some vigorous games of Exploding Kittens and Twister and that trip to the gymnastics place and lots of other fun stuff. But mixed in with all the fun, there must come the non-fun.

Dum dum dum…

The zoo.

Ask Quinn. He’s not a fan of anyplace where he has to walk around and look at things. At first things were okay. Quinn and Jack went on the carousel. We discovered that the zoo has five lions JUST LIKE we have five cats. We determined that I might not fare well in the wild.

Photo of Sam standing by a spinny thing that reveals the saying in the caption.

Sam spun a little thing to find out what he said was his fortune. He came up with, “Our mother is gored by a wild pig. She dies.” Dammit.

Then it got uphill and hungry and the reptile house was too hot and the outside was too cold and I had to give Quinn my coat to put on top of his own coat and he insisted on hot food and we waited in an outdoors line for food for like 45 minutes and finally we ate and everyone was happy and we set off to see the pandas and discovered that the pandas weren’t on display. It was a rough day at the zoo.

Thank God the otters were out and adorable.

Photo of Jack, Quinn, and Jacob watching the otters play.

If those otters had been inside their otter house, I would have entirely lost my shit.

But you guys, even though the zoo was a little bit of an exercise in frustration, it all turned out okay because we discovered that one of the otters is named PICKLES. JUST LIKE OUR CAT PICKLES!

Two photos: One of our cat Pickles and one of Quinn pointing at a zoo sign listing the otter names, one of which is Pickles.

See?! (Jack says, “Illuminati confirmed.”)

So not the  most satisfying zoo day, but still all right because of these guys:

Photo of Jacob, Sam, Jack, and Quinn standing in front of a waterfall at the zoo.

What do you think is up with Sam restraining Jack in every photo? I’m going to have to start paying attention to that.

Now we’re hanging out all together (except for Jacob who went to bed at 8:30 when the rest of us snuck back downstairs to watch New Year’s Rockin’ Eve). And that’s where we are at 10:58 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Happy 2016, friends. I truly hope you have a wonderful new year, full of love and family and joy.

Fall Omnibus Race Report: Kensington 8K, Rock the Creek, Across the Bay 10K, Run Under the Lights, Turkey Chase, and the Snowflake 5K—Damn, That’s A Lot of Racing

I accidentally ran 6.3 miles yesterday.

My family had gone out to breakfast and since I’m doing a Thanksgiving to New Year’s run streak, I decided to get my daily run in by hoofing it home from the restaurant. I ended up taking a route I’d never run before, full of suddenly ending sidewalks, treacherous street crossings, and about three more miles than I had anticipated.

That 6.3 and my ability to do it is the result of a fall full of trying to get back on the running wagon. 2015 wasn’t the greatest of years for me in terms of consistent running. I lost some fitness, I lost some speed, I gained a couple pounds—it kinda sucked.

In fact, running in general was starting to suck and that’s not okay with me.

Happily, you can come back from that. Lately my runs, including yesterday’s, have felt really good. It looks like my fall running program has had a positive effect.

Part of that fall running program has been a whole bunch of races, none of which I have managed to write a race report for, much to the chagrin of Lyda, one of my running buddies, so I have decided to put them all here in one post and together we can track my journey back into runninghood.

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, LYDA?

Photo of a woman holding a cell phone to take a selfie of herself and me, who is standing behind her.

This is Lyda. I run a lot of races with her. You will see her again. Also, I love this photo.

You will also see some of the same people over and over in this post, as they are my race friends. (I can’t believe I have running race friends. Who am I?)

Photo of five people standing in a line.

This is them: Heather, me, Bob, Lyda, and Marc.

Now that you know the characters, on to the race reports.

The Kensington 8K in September

This race was not a lot of fun for me to run. It was particularly memorable both because I was sick for it and also because my family came out to cheer me on. Quinn ran alongside me for a few minutes, not for moral support, but to ask questions about whether he was allowed video game time. It was both hilarious and highly irritating.

Photo of me just after I crossed the finish line. I'm smiling. There is a clock behind me that reads 1:03:18.

Proof that I finished.

This race is five miles long and I felt every damn one of them. Even though it was a tough race to run, I was happy that I was still able to run five miles all in a row, considering I hadn’t done that for weeks.

Rock the Creek Relay in September

This was a six-person, nearly 30-mile relay that I ran with my normal racing buddies and a new teammate named Jenny.

Six people wearing blue shirts with flamingos on them after finishing the relay.

This is us.

Each of us had a leg that was about five miles long, which is why I was happy that the Kensington 8K had proven to me that after a long summer of barely running, I could still run that far.

This relay was super fun. It was like all of the fun of a two-day, 200-mile relay, with no sleeping in a van or staying awake for 30 hours. My teammates are so much fun and they all crushed their legs. Plus they brought Doritos with them.

I captained the team because I’d been the first one to find the relay and harass my friends into running it with me. I got to assign everyone their legs and plan the menu for the van (water and Diet Coke, pretzels and peanut M&Ms). I also got to design the team t-shirts.

Photo of a blue t-shirt on which is a bright pink running flamingo. The text says, "Faster than a plastic lawn flamingo! More powerful than Kentucky bourbon! Able to leap tiny sticks with a single bound! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Team MLC! And they will Rock the Creek"

See, the race was flamingo themed for some reason, hence my choice of a concerned-looking flamingo.

In fact, that relay was such a blast—except for the five miles I had to run. Those were terrible.

It was flat, it wasn’t that long, but, lord, it was painful. It was during this race that I realized just how much speed I’d lost. It sucked to run what should have been an easy stretch and to struggle so much. That was when I realized how much of my running fitness I had lost and that I could no longer rely on past running ability to continue to race. I realized that I had to start training again in earnest.

So train again, I did. It certainly wasn’t every day, but it was enough so that my next race was not terrible and was, in fact, pretty awesome.

Across the Bay 10K in November

I love this race. The course crosses the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, heading up the span for about a mile, then down the other side for three, finishing with a couple miles on the other side of the bridge. I ran it last year by myself and had a great time. This year I convinced my friends that running across the bridge was way less scary than driving across it and they agreed to join me.

Photo of four runners posed in front of a bay at sunrise. There is a bridge stretching away in the distance.

Yes, that is the sunrise. Yes, it sucks that most races start in the early morning.

I expected to suffer on the first, uphill section of the course, but it turns out that training actually works and I was able to run without struggle. In fact, training actually makes running fun. The long, gradual downhill wasn’t just not a struggle, but it was fucking joyous. I hadn’t been that happy while running for a long time.

Selfie of me standing by the edge of the bridge. There is water with sunlight reflecting off of it behind me.

I even stopped and took this photo to remember it.

It was a gorgeous day. I felt bouncy, I felt happy, I remembered why it felt so good to run.

Official race photo of me running on the bridge. I'm smiling and waving at the camera.

This is me feeling good. Running.

Even the loooooong school bus ride back across the bridge in heavy traffic to our car was not that bad, even considering the bus driver had to ask the passengers for directions on how to get on the bridge. It was a little bit concerning. But, still, our enthusiasm couldn’t be diminished.

Photo of two rows of bus seats in which are me and my three friends. There is a photo bomber barely visible on the edge of the photo.

I really like this photo, from our happy expressions, to our awesome medals, to the photo bomber who got lost behind my giant head.

I’m already signed up for next year’s version of this race. Just watch it be sleeting and miserable.

Run Under the Lights in November

My next race was one that I wanted to run just for fun. There is a Christmas light display that people usually visit by driving through it in their cars. This race takes place before the display opens and entrants get to run the course. It is limited to not that many runners and sells out within hours.

There is a good reason for that. It was pure fun. Lyda and I were able to score entries and suited up in our warm clothes to run 5K the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Normally at races, I’m kind of an isolationist asshole and refuse to run with anyone. This time I asked Lyda to run with me. Turns out that it’s fun to run with people. Who knew?

Selfie of me and Lyda standing in front of a lit up outline of a Christmas tree.

This was definitely the way to see the lights. And evening races are the way to go.

Also, the after-race refreshments taught both Lyda and I that neither of us want to eat chili after running a race. Or smell it. We decided to skip that part of the race.

Turkey Chase 10K on Thanksgiving

Last year I did a running streak where I made myself run at least one mile each day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That resulted in a 5K PR on New Year’s, which taught me that building a solid base is a really good way to start a year’s worth of training.

I decided to do the same thing this year starting with this 10K. I intended to up the mileage a little bit from last year though. Last year, I ran between one and three miles most days of my streak. I didn’t do many long runs at all. Originally, I was going to make myself run at least 2 miles each day this year, but that ended the first day I was forced to run on my treadmill and got bored after one mile. So instead, I’m working on doing more longish runs, hence my accidental 6.3 yesterday.

I ran the Turkey Chase with Bob and Lyda. Well, not with, because I was back to being an isolationist asshole, but we started together and met up again at the end. The turkey chase course is a tough one. There are lots of hills and also people who can run faster than me dressed as turkeys, but for me, it felt really good. It signaled to me that I am coming back, that my training is working. I still didn’t run fast, but I ran strong.

Photo of me, Bob, and Lyda before the race.

And I got to hang out with a couple of turkeys.

Oh. No. Wait.

Photo of me between two people dressed as turkeys.

I got to hang out with these turkeys.

Snowflake 5K in December

My last race for 2015 took place in mid-December. This race was tiny—like 25 people tiny. I was pretty sure that I was going to come in last.

So in an effort to come in 24th instead of 25th, I decided to push a little bit past my regular comfy training/racing pace.

Photo of me just before I crossed the finish line.

See how speedy I look?

It worked out really well. I didn’t beat my PR (set last New Year’s Day, remember?), but I did run faster than I have been. I came in before a few people and OH MY GOD HOLY SHIT I WON MY DIVISION.

First person who asks if I was the only person in my division gets kicked in the shins.

Also, there was one other woman between the ages of 40 and 49 and evidently I ran faster than she did. So there.

Photo of a group of people clapping for me. I am in the middle looking very happy and surprised.

This is me after my division award was announced. It was maybe the best moment of my entire life.

It turns out that it can work in your favor to run in tiny races. This was a pretty big deal for me. I spent the rest of the weekend reminding my family of my win whenever it seemed vaguely appropriate. Or even when it didn’t; give me this moment, folks, it is unlikely to happen again.

Heather, on the other hand, came in third of all the women. And, unlike me, this is a feat that could be repeated—she’s a great runner. It was an excellent morning.

And there you have my fall race omnibus report.

Hopefully those of you who enjoy running posts have enjoyed this. Those of you who are annoyed by running posts can take relief in the fact that there was only one post for all of these races.

Just wait until next year though. We’re going to be all about the running around here. I’m going to run a 5K on New Year’s Day, which will be the first of many races. I have some ambitious goals for the coming year, starting with the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May and hopefully culminating with a marathon early in 2017.

I have goals.

Stay tuned. :)

Treehouse Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer: two.

Guess how many people are in my family?

Answer: three more than two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That thumbs up was five years in the making.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk, Accomplishment, and One Total Badass

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After.

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

*****

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

Sometimes all it takes is 1-2 minutes.

Burritos

I found the greatest product and thought some of you might be interested in it. It is a lycra bed sheet, but my family calls it a burrito. Quinn’s OT sent me a link to it because he loves OT swings and tools made out of similar materials and thought he might like it.

She. Was. Right.

Photo of Quinn in bed. He is under a sheet that is wrapped around his mattress. There is a cat on the floor by the side of his bed.

Quinn gave me the okay to post this photo because he thinks this might help other people. Also because you can see his cat who sleeps with him every night.

Basically, the sheet is a tube top for your mattress. When no one is under it, it lies completely flat, so when there is someone in it, it gives constant pressure, but it isn’t too hot or too heavy. It is a brilliant product.

Jack was immediately jealous so I got one for him too.

Jack under his black burrito sheet, pulled up to his chin. He has a huge grin on his face.

Jack looks a tiny bit happy, doesn’t he?

I love these. My kids love these. It totally fills a space in our home that was much needed. They come in lots of colors and, at $25 for twin size, it’s totally reasonable. I do have to say that when Jack’s came, it reeked of cigarette smoke, which makes me think that someone makes these in a smoking house. It was kinda gross. I just washed it before I put it on his bed and it’s 100% fine, but, still, kinda ick. You can always Google “lycra bed sheets” and find other places that sell them.

Sweet dreams!