A Celebration With Some Unexpected Surprises

This past weekend we spent celebrating Emma’s birthday.  For the past few months we have been planning Emma’s birthday with her.  Emma was very specific.  She asked that we spend the night in a hotel that had a swimming pool followed by a party at the same place she takes gymnastics with her brother every weekend.  We visited the hotel with Emma before booking it.  The pool was on the roof and when we visited, the saline water was at a lovely 94 degrees.  We booked the place where she wanted her party and sent out invitations.  We called the hotel ahead of time to confirm they had wi-fi and a DVD player as Em wanted to bring her favorite Charlie Brown video.  Saturday afternoon we piled into a taxi, arrived at the hotel, settled into our room, donned our bathing suits and made our way to the roof where it was windy and quite cold, but looked forward to the lovely warm water awaiting us.

Emma jumped into the water without hesitation, with Richard following.  I turned as Richard gasped in surprise.  It was the sound someone makes when the wind’s been knocked out of them.  I stared at him.  “It’s really, really cold!” Richard said in answer to my confused look.


“Uh.  Yeah.  Feel it.”

Tentatively I dipped a hand into the water.  It was not a lovely 94 degrees, it wasn’t even a tolerable 84, in fact, it seemed unlikely that it was anywhere close to being “warm”.  The outside temperature had barely climbed above 35 degrees and the wind was brisk.  Nic took one look at my face and voiced what I was thinking, “There’s no way I’m getting into that water.”  Richard, being the champ that he is, hung in there for another ten minutes before getting out, his lips having turned blue and his teeth chattering, while Emma, being impervious to cold of any kind lasted another half an hour.

It's Cold!

The beauty of Manhattan awash in the afternoon light. Taken from the hotel roof’s pool.


Framed Sky – Taken from the hotel’s roof while Em and Richard swam

Framed Sky

The hotel assured us the pool would be warmer by the following day, so we promised to come back the next morning for a longer swim.  Our evening was lovely, the children had a blast, and the next morning, after a wonderful breakfast we headed back up to the pool.  This time Emma did not immediately jump in, but felt the water with her toe.  It was a little warmer, though not much, but despite its cold temperature we resolved to bite the bullet and swim anyway if Emma chose to jump in.  Eventually she did and was delighted when the rest of us followed her.  It was cold, very, very cold, but it was also beautiful up on that roof, with the sun shining and the gorgeous view of Manhattan spread out before us.  We swam laps and splashed and played and Emma had a wonderful time.  When we finally got out of the water, dried off and put on our fluffy robes, we snuggled together on an enormous wicker chair, Richard called “the egg”.

Nic and I in the “egg”

In the egg

Later that afternoon we went to the gym where we celebrated Emma’s birthday with half a dozen other children whom she’d specifically asked to have invited.

Over the years we have learned to involve Emma in every aspect of planning her birthday, doing what she requests as much as possible.  Despite some unexpected surprises we have gotten better and better at giving her what she wants rather than what we think she might want.  And over the years we get it right more and more.

Em with her string and her new book – Landon Bryce’s “I Love Being My Own Autistic Self!”



34 responses to “A Celebration With Some Unexpected Surprises

  1. Chou Chou Scantlin

    Brrrrrr! Happy fun. Sweetest family, and, yes…❤

  2. I’m still shivering…with delight! What a great birthday weekend for Emma! That cold water will always be etched into my brain so with my extra faulty memory it will end up being a huge plus in the log run…as in unforgettable!

  3. I was hoping that Emma had a good time celebrating her 11th birthday! So happy that she was happy….that pool does sound awfully cold. Thumbs down on that hotel.

    Lots of love to all of you for braving the temperatures, and love to Chou Chou who has become one of my “angels” together with you, Emma, Richard and Amanda Boxtel.

    xxoo Mom/Granma

  4. A very familiar scene…we joke that our son should pursue underwater archaeology as a career.

  5. Yes brrrr, and I am glad Emma had a wonderful birthday weekend. You guys are awesome parents.

  6. Soooooooooo happy 4 u allll………:))

  7. Thanks for sharing your joys, and triumphs over adversity!

  8. How does one swim in such warm water! 21 degrees is fine!

  9. Well you do have that thick coat of fur to insulate you…💕

  10. The nice thing about the pool being so cold is that you didn’t have to cope with crowds of people in it!! Always a plus!

    • Also cold water etched it into our minds as unforgettable AND we actually had a lot of fun. At one point Nic was miserable and said, “Mom I can’t get warm.” So I said, “Come on! We have to keep our bodies moving!” So we did and that was kind of funny. Emma thought it was fabulous and then, once we were out and snuggled up in the “egg” it was gorgeous and I took photos and then Em said, “time to go into the hotel now.” So we did! Awesome!! 😀

  11. That sounds like an unforgettable birthday weekend!

    I’m with Emma on jumping right in, even if it’s a little chilly. This past fall I swam in the outdoor pool at the swim center until they closed it. On the last day, the air temp was 49 and the water was a brisk 72 and it was still dark out when I jumped in. 🙂

  12. Sounds like a good time was had by all. Glad Emma had such a great birthday!!

  13. Glad to see Em rocking that fab black dress. Does she get a kick out of the 1-1 digits in this year? Also, you look so relaxed in the pic with Nic. Very nice.

  14. Happy Birthday, Emma!! That sounds just wonderful. Though cold water swimming is definitely something Emma and I differ on – I turn blue almost instantly, and HATE cold water… I wouldn’t have been able to get in!

  15. I’m sitting here smiling at the gains Emma is fast forwarding through and taking you and Rich along for the ride! Our kids are wonderful teachers and we are going to learn what they are instructing us to do, like it or not! They are on a mission and we are with them, grasping onto their coat-tails as they proceed through each day. So grateful for and to Jenn!

  16. What an awesome birthday outing! Happy belated Birthday sweet Emma! 🙂

  17. Glad you guys had a great time despite the water temperature 🙂

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s