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MIT and the admissions office will be closed November 24–25 for Thanksgiving break, and will open on November 28.

MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Holiday Stories by Ben Jones

Here's mine. What are some of yours?

My holiday story:

At the end of December my son’s preschool decided to have an after-work event at which parents would construct gingerbread houses for their children to decorate in school the following day.

My wife and two of her close friends whose children are in my son’s class decided this would be a fun event for the dads, and that’s how this whole thing got started.

Laird, Tim, and I found ourselves in a room full of moms, trying to follow instructions from Miss Stacy and Miss April. (Mind you, I’d recently taught my son to say “Miss April, you are so pretty!” and then ask for an extra cookie. My wife told Miss April of this and thus I had to avoid Miss April that night. But that’s a different story.)

Everything went smoothly at first – Laird, Tim and I built our prefab houses and held our own against the moms.

But then Tim had to go and build a chimney.

Not to be outdone, I landscaped my house’s yard with graham cracker dust (dirt) and broccoli (trees). It looked pretty good.

Meanwhile Laird had built an entire deck, complete with ramp.

Seeing this, I decided to scrap my entire house and start over.

1/2 hour later found three dudes trying desperately to complete a 2-story octagonal masterpiece while the moms pointed and laughed (at us, not with us) and Miss Stacy stared with a look that said “all I wanted was an hour away from 2-year olds but apparently that was too much to ask.”

Our house kicked butt though, really.

What are your holiday stories?

(P.S. All questions to date have been answered in the last entry.)

46 responses to “Holiday Stories”

  1. luke says:

    I’d just gotten off work @ 9:30pm and was heading over to a friends house to watch a movie with two girls. Seeing as how I’d only had my license for two months and didn’t know the way to the girls house, I decided to rely on google maps for directions. While there was nothing wrong with the directions google provided, I ended up finding what looked to be a quicker route (confirmed by the girl) and decided to go that way. Thirty minutes into the journey that google estimated would take 25 I was driving through hale in pitch black weather. Also, because she lived out in the country I was having to pull slightly into each driveway and use my headlights to read the addresses on the mailboxes. At about 35 minutes into the trip I realize I’d skipped a house and gone to far, so, instinctively I tried to correct my error by doing a uturn. Big mistake. The country road was narrower than I thought and I ended up with the front half of my car in a ditch. After coming to the conclusion that I couldn’t get out by putting the car in reverse I got out and assed the situation. I sure as hell was not going to call my parents or the girls and tell them that I had gotten stuck in a ditch. I wait a few minutes, and just before I’m about to pull slightly farther into the ditch and try to gain enough momentum to get out, two guys drive by and offer to help me out. By the time I finally make it to the girls house it’s 10:30 and I’ve got about as much adrenaline going through my body as someone was has just been attacked by a bear. After assuring them that I’m alright, one, in reference to my license, asks “Don’t you have a curfew?” Oh crap! Luckily, I made it home at about 1:40am without further incident, but you can bet that I didn’t go to sleep for a while.

  2. Laura says:

    Haha Ben that’s an awesome story. =)

  3. Arturo says:

    Man that’s awsome! You gotta have a picture of that house, right? If you could post it, that would make writing this message at 4 am worth it, hehe. Cheers!

  4. MITmom says:

    Great Christmas story, Ben. Do you have a picture of the house?

  5. Oh man, Ben, that is such a GUY story, LOL! The real question is, what did your kids decorate the next day in preschool? Did all 3 two-year-olds actually COOPERATE together on a single masterpiece octagonal hotel? Mind you, I’ve *had* two-year-olds, and it’s, um, a little hard to imagine… wink

    Welcome to a new year! Tons of energy and excitement to you all as you head into your next reading and selection period!

  6. lol, I liked your story.

    By the way, I was reading the entry before this one (the question answering one) and I really liked this answer:

    “I attended a “supposedly lesser institution” and would argue to the teeth that I got a better education than I could have at any Ivy – it was a perfect match for me and none of the Ivies would have been. As I’ve said before, don’t get caught up in the names, folks – you’ll sacrifice options that you shouldn’t be sacrificing.”

    That was great!

    Thanks wink

  7. Annon says:

    My son was accepted EA to both MIT & Caltech. I favor MIT, but he’s leaning toward Caltech. It seems like every conversation we have about Caltech I slip and say MIT when I mean to be saying Caltech. I decided we should make our reservations for the prefrosh weekend at Caltech(he’ll be learning to snowboard during the MIT preview weekend..). Not having Caltech’s address in front of me at the computer I used Orbitz to search for a hotel “near an attraction” and typed in California Institute of Technology. What did Orbitz return? Hotels near MIT!

  8. Ben says:

    I’m an idiot and didn’t take pictures. Grrrrrrr. I really wish I’d remembered my camera.

    The kids each had their own house (no need to cooperate!), and the octagonal materpiece was decorated by the adults, from what I understand. grin

  9. SpeckJr says:

    now…define masterpiece..

  10. Catherine says:

    Aww, I miss making gingerbread houses. =)

  11. LOL! that’s great!

    my christmas wqas grandfather overdosed on quinine (sp?), but it wore off and life went on…gave us a scare though when he woke up w/ cold sweats and he couldn’t hear much…

    but, hey, christmases w/ my family is always like that…one year my dear cousin decided to be born…another year my brother spent the day in the hospital, another year we were stuck in traffic the whole day trying to drive to FL…yup, over all overdosing on quinine was quite quiet (for us at least)

  12. s says:

    Rephrase Alex’s question. How YOUNG are you?


  13. Mike says:


    That is pretty interesting. Especially if you know that Orbitz uses a system provided by ITA Software, a company founded by MIT grads who wanted to see cool functional programming solve air fare problems.

    It looks like someone made some tweaking wink.

  14. Arka says:


    You sound very young!!!!LOL…grin

    The same question….we are inquisitive…how young are you

  15. thekeri says:

    I’ve never made a gingerbread house before.

    This makes me sad.

    But that was still a great story!

  16. Smiles says:

    Holiday stories…hmmm…well, my mom spilled jello-juice all over the floor while trying to make jello salad because the lid wasn’t on all the way. Oh yeah, and I was in New York for New Years’. I did not wait for eight hours in snow and sleet to watch the ball drop, but it was pretty crazy in Times Square. And since I’m from Florida, seeing snow was totally awesome.

    Gingerbread is sweet! Now, you know Ben, that it really is the wife’s job to remember the camera. lol just kidding. smile

  17. I’ve never made a gingerbread house either. I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten gingerbread. However, I do make a tasty fruitcake. No snide remarks, please.

    Holiday stories… Well, my home school district is very strange, and has a tendency to give us the shortest possible vacations ever. Every year, our last day before the holidays (excepting when it’s on a weekend) is ALWAYS the 23rd, and our first day back (except under the previously-described circumstances) is the 2nd. This year, what with waiting for MIT’s letter, I got a bit behind on my other college apps, so I didn’t get the counselor forms to the notoriously incompetant guidance office until about the Tuesday before break, and when I went home on Thursday, as far as I knew, nothing had been sent out and I was still missing a set of teacher recs (there were difficulties in locating the teacher). Friday the 23rd came, and school was cancelled, the superintendent having decided to be kind. Naturally, I was quite furious, because in addition to all the previously-mentioned problems, I had a 10+-page paper due that day that would, no doubt, eat at me over break.

    Anyway, I was stressed the whole day, but while I was out shopping for Christmas gifts (not procrastination–honestly), I ran into the teacher whose recs I was missing, and all became well on that front.

    As for the counselor-based items, I discovered yeasterday that the (competant) guidance secretary had come in over break to finish up what she hadn’t beforehand, so my stuff went out.

    That’s my story. Other than that, there was a lot of Star Wars over break.

  18. Alex says:

    Hey Ben- How old are you? seriously :p

  19. MikeyYang says:

    Happy birthday Ben! Yeah you got it right “s”. Interesting that people are asking how “young” Ben is right before his birthday. I suppose this holiday story is a way for Ben to maintain his youth. haha, just playin – much love Benny!


  20. Smiles says:


    May the celebration of your day of birth be filled with joy and relaxation.


  21. Rafael says:

    Happy Birthday!! I hope you get some nice presents and have a good time wink

    Wish you all the best!!

  22. Whoa, how cool would it be if Baby Nance is born today?!

  23. Emi says:

    Cool story!

    Do you have a picture of the gingerbread construction?


    Holiday stories…well, the senior class at my high school has this community service project which involves helping a NGO make “Cajas del Amor” which are big cardboard boxes full of basic-need foods like rice, flour and stuff like that plus anything the person who makes the box wants to give (old clothes, presents, toys, new clothes, candy…literally, whatever you want to give). This year we managed to make about 100-200. Those included boxes for the cleaning staff at school (who are people who have a relatively low income and large families to feed…). We were divided into 3 groups to deliver the boxes in 3 different parts of the city. I got to stay in school and deliver them to the cleaning people and their families. We had a really nice time; we played musical chairs and had the children sing christmas carols and gave them cake and coke and chips as a snack. We even had a santa. That was the funny part, because the original santa bailed out on us so we were stuck with the suit. A guy named Gabriel decided to be santa, but he’s really tall and lanky and always wears sunglasses and chuck taylors. So as “santa” made his rounds, we seniors laughed our heads off as he bewildered the children with his sheepish ho-ho-ho and sunglasses.

  24. Jane says:

    Happy Birthday Ben!

    Nice gingerbread house, but seriously, you had broccoli landscaping?

  25. Sid says:

    May you have a ROCKING B’day (pun intended).

  26. HI Ben!!

    Happy Birthday!!!

    Guess I am the first one to wish you!! Do I get a tube in return? raspberry

    Many Many Happy Returns of the day again.

  27. Anonymous says:

    My Holiday Story

    Sometime in mid-December I got a chance to work with in the tree section for my seasonal job. There was only one other person working with the Christmas trees that night, and the loading section/register were on opposite ends of the “enclosure”. So while the main

  28. s says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope the date is right. smile)

  29. Happy Birthday Ben! :D Have anything awesome planned?

  30. Jess says:

    Happy Birthday, Ben! (how can you have broccoli trees for a gingerbread house? gross.)

  31. Jenn says:

    Hey Ben-

    I’d like to say that since I applied I have been impressed beyond belief with the admissions committee. Since I’ve been accepted I’ve been equally blown away. This may seem like a silly question, but just to throw it out there, how would one go about working with admissions as a student? I think it would be a great opportunity and since I already can’t sing your praises enough, it would be one tht comes fairly easy. Maybe write a bit about work/study or students in admissions at some point when you aren’t so completely inundated. I’ll also mention it to the student bloggers. Thanks again for all your great work! Can’t wait to meet you in the spring.


  32. Wish says:

    Hi ! I’m an international student and I was just wondering if any of you guys know whether I can send my mid-year report ( since it’s good smile even though it says for US students only ? Thanks

  33. Happy B-Day Ben!

    So ben… was Miss April tipped off before your son managed to get another cookie ;P

  34. shikhar says:

    Hi Ben,

    Happy New Year to you and all the other bloggers and readers. I am a bit late..but work this time of year is crazy. I got my class 12 ISC exams coming up and the decisions to which I look forward to.

    I wanted to ask one thing though : can you please tell me about any summer programs which are like open to internationals also. I am looking for computer science mainly…also just so u know the thing I once talked abt taking a gap year if not MIT is confirmed. I am continuing with my research work and have left other applications so its pretty much MIT for me this year. Which is why I am also looking for good research opportunities to keep myself engaged somewhere.


  35. Neha says:

    I don’t have a story, but I wish there were pictures taken. It sounds priceless! lol

  36. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

    a day late smile

    oh well,

    hope you had a great one!

  37. Dapo says:

    E ku Ojo Ibi!!!

    Thats happy birthday in my native language-Yoruba, i know its late, but its the thought that counts.

    I must say the wait till March is painful, but i have waited 2 years to apply, the 2 months left is but a measley 1/12th the time already spent waiting, yet it feels like forever and a day.

    Oh well have a wonderful and prosperous year.

    God Bless

  38. anonymousmom says:

    I’m not sure why, but I’ve been under the impression that you were like… 20 years old. Crazy, I know, but happy belated birthday

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben

    Happy Birthday!

    I was just curious, how much does being a Siemens Westinghouse Semifinalist and Intel Semifinalist help in terms of MIT admissions? Thanks.

  40. Kristin says:

    Hey Ben,

    If I, say, took a Calculus II class at a community college, would I be able to get credit and/or placement? Thanks!

  41. M, both Caltech and MIT have EA programs: “Early Action”, in which accepted applicants learn their status in Dec. but are not required to decide until the national May 1 decision date. An “EA” program is not exclusive (unlike an “ED” program (Early Decision, where a student is obligated to cancel all other applications and matriculate if accepted) or “SCEA” (Single Choice Early Action, where a student may apply early only to that one school for EA consideration).) The EA programs which both MIT and Caltech offer are not exclusive and do not require a student to accept, so a student *could* be accepted at both, and a number are each year.

  42. M says:

    hi annon,

    I had a doubt how a student can be accepted for both mit and caltech in EA. can any one please clarify.

  43. Varuna says:


    I sat for the TOEFL on January 14th. The test got cancelled due to some problem with the cassette. I sent an e-mail to the MIT admission office explaining what happened.

    I expected to get a good score for the TOEFL.. I will take the SAT I on January 28th, but my SAT I score (critical reading and writing) is likely to be lower than what I expected for TOEFL.

    How will MIT consider this? Please tell me if there is anything I could do, because my entire future depends on this.

    Thank you very much

  44. M says:

    Thank You leftcoast mom for clarifing it.

    As I am an international applicant I am not familiar with these words and these terms.

  45. Minh says:

    That’s awe-some! =]

  46. nehalita says:

    please tell me you have pictures.