Saturday, January 19, 2019

Not Again.

So, in the wake of the one year anniversary of my uncle's passing on Tuesday, I woke up Wednesday thinking about how challenging that week was last year, not just emotionally, but practically, given that I'd had off work on Monday for a holiday and then had to be off for a couple days at the end of the week (and I'm sure in between was no picnic, either).  Then I thought about how much I have going on at work right now and how I was hopeful that Carter's illness last week took care of my crazy week quota for a while.  And then, a few hours later, my phone rang at work. 

Usually when my mom calls me at work it's something of a somewhat urgent nature--not bad, necessarily, but maybe just something that needs to be worked out quickly.  While I had that momentary surge of panic I get every time I get an unexpected call from my parents number, I never dreamed my mom would tell me what she did--that my Uncle Dave had passed away.  Literally a year and a day after Uncle Cliff, now it was the husband of my dad's other sister.  Noooo.  Not again.

Uncle Dave had been having a lot of health issues lately.  He'd had concerning heart problems a few years back that seemed to have stabilized, but just recently he was having trouble again.  At Christmas we knew things weren't good, but they were looking into options.  But apparently none worked out and unbeknownst to me, he had been in the hospital for a week.  Things went downhill rather quickly, and here we are.

I'm heartbroken, obviously, for so many reasons.  I can't quite fathom how my aunt, as independent as she can be, will process this after 40+ years of marriage.  I feel terrible for my cousins, one of whom lives across the country and is probably regretting not having more time with his dad in the time he's been away.  The other was one of my best family buds growing up, and he just got engaged to a wonderful woman.  So, even without having seen them yet, I can only imagine the range of emotions they're all dealing with.

On a broader level, our family will certainly never be the same without him.  He was definitely a different sort of character--an outdoorsman, sports lover, a little rougher around the edges than some, or at least of the no-frills variety.  He was never afraid to speak his mind, though sometimes at family events he tended to quietly stick along the fringes.  I think he liked to observe the rest of us crazy people and interject when he felt it was necessary.  You never quite knew what he might say.  I would say that as I got older, I feel like most conversations with him ended with him encouraging me in some way--either supporting me in parenting or very simply complimenting my appearance.  It was all very subtle--to the extent that I didn't really realize that tendency until now, thinking back on what I remember about him.  He probably knew I was stressed and just wanted to give me that little boost.

He loved his family fiercely, and his boys' pursuits were always at the forefront.  He loved sports, especially baseball, and could frequently be found umpiring back in the day.  He was a teacher by trade and very much enjoyed his retirement by taking on a much more "relaxed" look once he was free of Catholic high school standards!  The flannels and ponytail he sported in later years were an interesting look, but hey, past a certain point whatever works for you!

One thing I will remember most, though, is how he was with Carter.  I remember numerous times when Carter was little, when he was being a little fussy or needed some attention, and Uncle Dave would swoop in and grab him.  Sometimes I think Carter initially wasn't too sure what was happening, but inevitably he was oddly cool with it.  I say oddly because out of all of the warm, sweet-talking folks in the room that he could have cozied up to, he was so content in the arms of the bearded, rougher-voiced guy that scooped him up without a word.  And interestingly, my cousin Brian (his son) had much the same effect in those days.  Must have been a family thing.  But I always remember being grateful for the diversion and amazed at how Carter took to him, especially given he didn't see him as much.  There must have just been something about him that clicked.  I feel so much sadness in thinking about those times now because with the recent engagement he was likely a mere couple years away from grandparenthood, and I know he would have loved it so much.  It's a tragedy he never got the opportunity, but I hope any moments he had with Carter gave him a little bit of that joy.

On Wednesday I spent my lunch hour looking through my parents' scanned photos to find some classics to send to Brian.  It was once again a bittersweet process, much like it was to scan them in the wake of Uncle Cliff's passing.  To see a young, cool dude and a new father, and then think about today's reality...well, it stinks.

Just a couple kids...

This one with baby Brian on Christmas melted my heart.  That chair was my grandpa's chair for so many years.  Ahhh, memories.

Spoon hanging was a family pastime at weddings!  On the far left is my Uncle Bink, my dad's oldest brother, who we lost in 1997. 💔

I loved this one because big smiles were rare from him and I see both his boys in his face.

50th Birthday - closer to his look in later years

With a snowstorm coming through this weekend, we have to wait until Monday to start our official goodbyes.  As usual, I'm not looking forward to facing the sadness and finality, but I love my family and always appreciate time spent with them.  Heck, the funeral home run by family friends, we probably feel far more comfortable there than we should.  Regardless, I still can't believe he's gone.  I'm thankful he's no longer in pain or dealing with chronic health issues, but I'm so sad about the good stuff ahead that he'll miss.  Life just isn't fair sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times.  Rest in peace, Uncle Dave.  We'll miss you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Eviction Notice

Yesterday Carter's tonsils and adenoids officially got their eviction notice!  In just over a month, they will come out, and hopefully our sweet little boy will finally be able to sleep soundly!

This has been a long time coming, although we didn't necessarily think we'd end up here.  We noticed a couple years ago that Carter seemed to snore more than would be expected, especially since he's such a skinny kid.  He does tend to be congested more than I'd like, but then again, so am I, so maybe it's genetic or an unfortunate allergy thing (I'm on allergy shots and medicine and my nose still trickles constantly).  Sometimes I've wondered if it had anything to do with how deformed his nose was when he was born.  It was smooshed to the side a bit, probably because he came out sunny side up and possibly could have gotten it caught up on my pubic bone or something.  Perhaps his septum is super deviated as a result?

We did the sleep study over a year ago, and at that time he was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea.  I noticed him snoring a little that night, but the bigger issue ended up being that he moved around a lot.  He was basically slightly rousing himself constantly, which meant his sleep was not good.  They thought it might be a restless leg thing, which was potentially validated when his ferritin levels came back low, since low iron can contribute to restless leg.  No one has really explained why his ferritin levels might be low, though friends of ours had the same issue with their son, so maybe it's more common than you'd think?  On a related note, I'm getting concerned about Carter's lack of weight gain even though he's continuing to get taller, so that will probably be the next thing we chat with the doctor about.  Is he just skinny, or is his body not absorbing what it needs for some reason, ferritin included?

Anyway, it's hard to say if the constant motion has gotten better since we've been supplementing for the past year, but I do think the apnea has gotten worse.  The snoring happens every night for at least a few hours, and is terrible when he's on his back.  He can't seem to breathe through his mouth despite his nose being stuffy, so he's constantly struggling to breathe properly.  He tries to inhale so hard that his whole body is jarred, and if he can't get the air in, his body will wake him up just enough to roll over and take a breath through his mouth in the process.  It's painful to watch and impossible to sleep through.  When I was in a hotel bed next to him I constantly rolled him on his side, as it seems to get better that way.  That's what makes me think it's not just congestion, but something internal that moves out of the way when he's on his side.

His tonsils traditionally haven't been huge, but when he got his strep diagnosis last week they were large, and the ENT seemed to indicate they were still big yesterday.  I think his issue is more the adenoids, since they would seem to impact the nose more, and that's where he's breathing.  It's been worse since around Thanksgiving, culminating in the return of nighttime wetting accidents, which hadn't been an issue in years.  Everyone seems to be in agreement that this is the cause, and that surgery will help.  Originally with the "mild apnea" diagnosis and the unremarkable tonsil size, we were given the option to do the surgery, and for a while it didn't seem necessary.  Now we think it is.

I can't help but wonder how noticeable the improvement will be.  Lots of friends insist their kids are so much better.  But, I mean, I know he should sleep more quietly, and I assume it will be higher quality sleep.  Will it change when he needs to wake up?  Will it change his behavior?  Will he learn better at school?  I read somewhere once that interrupted sleep like that can basically make you have that awful, overtired, almost drunk feeling, so I can see how that would be a bit distracting and disorienting.  Carter seems to have great long term memory, but sometimes his short term is lacking, and I can't help but wonder if this could be part of the problem.  Someone even mentioned their kid could hear better, so maybe that's an issue, too, as his speech probably isn't as clear as I feel like it should be right now.  Heck, maybe his lack of weight gain could be aided too, if this makes him feel better, burn less calories overnight, and just generally helps his body properly recharge.  Who knows?

My biggest fear, of course, is that we'll go through this whole process and it will be for nothing.  Well, my real biggest fear is that something goes wrong, but my second biggest fear is that we'll go through all of this and find out later that it was, in fact, a deviated septum or something like that.  This is going to be a lengthy recovery--two weeks out of school and another week with very limited physical activity, and soft foods throughout.  You'd think in the 35 years since I had my tonsils removed that they'd have improved this process, but it sounds every bit as miserable, lengthy, and painful as it was then.  I'm dreading having to feed him such a limited menu, and figuring out the work-life balance to be home with him will be a challenge (though my job is very understanding and supportive).  We managed to schedule it during winter break, which means he'll miss less school, but it's only four days after his birthday, so that will be a bit of a bummer--though at least he'll be home for two weeks with new toys!  I really would have liked to do it sooner, but between the school issue and Craig's schedule and Jacob's sports, this really ended up being the best option.  But another month of anxiety and bad sleep isn't ideal either.  I worry that some sort of permanent damage is being done while he sleeps like this, but I'm just not sure there was a better way to get it done without turning all of our lives upside-down.

Committing to send your kid into surgery really sucks.  Jacob's been put under three times (and it's never easy), but this will be Carter's first time so you just never know how he'll respond.  Craig and Jacob both take extra long to come out of anesthesia, and it always makes me extra nervous.  As much as I know this is a routine surgery, I can't shake my worry.  And the aftermath can be a little crazy with the bleeding risk, so the whole thing just has me anxious.  It's always been tough with Jacob, but there's something about Carter--he's always been my peanut, and he has this sweet, innocent personality--that makes it harder to know we're actively doing something (somewhat voluntarily) that's going to cause him pain.  A couple weeks of it, in fact.  It makes my heart hurt, but I know--based on all the info we currently have in front of us--that this is important.  I want him to sleep well, breathe easily, and grow up big and strong.  This is a necessary step to that.  It still stinks.  We have a month to prepare and pray, and I just hope we're timing it out well and everything will go smoothly.  To be continued in 35 days...

Monday, January 14, 2019

Une autre anniversaire...

After all of the anniversaries yesterday, I realized there was one more fun one I didn't mention.  Twenty-three years ago right now, I was in Quebec City on a trip that was literally a dream come true.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with French Canada.  It was mostly a hockey thing, but I loved speaking French and wanted nothing more than to go to Quebec.  During my senior year of high school, the National Honor Society was trying to think of a trip to take (after a New York City trip a couple years earlier that caused some problems), and a French teacher shared that they were looking for more people for that year's trip for the advanced level French classes.  Here was the opportunity I was waiting for--I was going to get to go to Quebec!

We left on the Friday before MLK Day, and drove overnight.  It was one of the worst nights of my life, between kids wanting to watch movies until 3am and not being able to sleep in a bus seat.  When I finally grabbed a couple hours of sleep, I woke up to the scene of early morning Montreal passing me by.  It was so cool to see French everywhere and see the beautiful city skyline.  I was in awe!

When we got to Quebec City a couple hours later, we immediately went on a walking tour of Old Quebec.  It was freezing!  But the city was completely enchanting!
A lot of pictures ended up with fluffy gloves blocking the lens!

Part of the walled section of the city
The view from the Plains of Abraham was gorgeous. There was once a battle here in the French and Indian War.


We got to walk through the Chateau Frontenac, and it was gorgeous.  I wish I had pictures, but I seem to have missed a lot on this trip!

In this row of shops was an "adult" shop, and it got quite the bunch of giggles from a crew of high school kids!

The city was on two levels, and you had two options to make the shift.  Either take the Funiculaire...

...or L'Escalier Casse Cou (Breakneck Steps)...

The streets were so cute.  We stopped in little shops and ate chocolate croissants at a café.

It's sort of fuzzy now, but I think that was the night we went to an Italian restaurant in the city that let us grill our own garlic bread, and then we went to an Imax movie.  It got a little crazy because one kid fell asleep and had his face painted with makeup.  He had no idea and ended up totally embarrassed.  It led to some unfortunate shenanigans later in the trip when he tried to save face by going out and getting drunk, but it was funny at the time.  That night I enjoyed watching my favorite player, Pierre Turgeon, playing for the Montreal Canadiens on the French Canadian version of Hockey Night in Canada...and then I fell dead asleep after a crazy day!

On Sunday we stopped at the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre shrine, which was so beautiful.  I wish the inside pics would have turned out, because there were mosaics everywhere.

We also stopped a little sugar shack, and I was obsessed with this hockey wall!

We spent most of the day at an amazing snow park going tubing.  It was below zero cold, and with multiple layers to keep warm, it was so much fun!  I'd never seen a place that tows you up the hill, and the runs were huge and exhilarating!  We even went on a tube the size of a white water raft, and it was amazing!

That night we went to a wonderful dinner at a sugar shack that based most of the dinner on maple syrup!  We were encouraged to put it on everything!  After dinner we went on a sleigh ride and ate maple taffy fresh out of a trough of snow.  It was so good!

I loved Quebec so much and hated to leave.  But Monday morning, it was time to go.  This was a view from our hotel that morning.

We stopped at a mall on our way out of town, and my favorite memories from there were getting another chocolate croissant, buying a stuffed Kermit from McDonald's, which was selling NHL-themed Muppets at the time, and finding a La Presse newspaper in the stairway with an article about one of my favorite hockey players at the time--and being able to read it!  It was a very long trip home, but it was the trip of a lifetime for 17-year-old me.  It took me three years to get back, that time to Montreal during spring break, and 13 years after that to go back as a family of three.  I still love it there and am sort of hoping we can make a trip there when we travel to Watertown this summer.  Time to make more Quebec memories, I think!

I got nostalgic this morning because the CD in my car was the Canadian techno CD I listened to non-stop at the time, including on those very long bus rides.  And now that all my photos have been scanned, I figured it might be fun to share.  Thanks for bearing with me on a little trip down memory lane!  See, January isn't all bad!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

News and Notes, Anniversary Edition

Another weekend, down, but at least it was relatively productive.  Craig was on the road so it was just me and the boys.  We had lacrosse on Friday night, a quiet day on Saturday with just a trip to Walmart, and church, Aldi, Hot Wheels track building, and lacrosse practice today.  I even made some homemade chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot (although how does Carter not like chicken noodle soup?!).  The time in between was spent finally taking down the Christmas tree, rearranging furniture, and getting some final homes for the toys that had been sorted a couple weeks ago.  It felt good to get the house back into some sort of decent shape.  I mean, it could still use some tweaking, but just getting a third TV-facing chair back in the living room felt good.  The slightly pared down toys seem to be good enough for now.  I think I still have a few things to bring back up from the basement, but so far so good right now.

It's been a little bit of a long weekend since I was off with Carter on Friday.  Craig left mid-morning for San Diego, so I had no choice but to stay home with a still-feverish Carter.  After the stomach bug on Tuesday night, he had a solid 101 fever until midday Friday.  I got him into the doctor on Thursday morning because I had a sneaking suspicion that he might have strep throat.  Jacob has had vomiting as a symptom of strep before, and when the fever stuck around, it got me wondering.  The doctor said his tonsils were really swollen and red, and sure enough, strep it is!  The fever stuck around through three rounds of antibiotics, so that left us home on Friday.  He was actually feeling pretty good by then, and by early afternoon I could tell his fever was done.  Thankfully now he's doing well.

Today is the four-year anniversary of losing my job.  That was such a difficult day--pure shock and fear of the future.  Clearly I shouldn't have worried, but for a while it was very scary.  In the end I look back on that time fondly, as I enjoyed having some time at home--both with Carter and to have time for myself.  I could work out, run errands, and get all of my house work done during the day, which made dinner and evenings far less stressful.  It was nice while it lasted, even though it was really important to get back to a paycheck by the time I actually did.  Four years later, I'm happy where I am.  Even though I don't always love the thought of going into work, it's a good fit for me and I feel thankful to have ended up where I did.

Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of Jacob's leg surgery.  What a time that was.  It was such a crazy few months of limbo--waiting to see what would need to be done, then waiting for the surgery, and then working our way through the stages of recovery--weeks in a cast, and then the steady progress of getting back to normal life and eventually sports.  We still wonder what the long-term impact of the surgery was on his lacrosse career, as he was really starting to come into his own when it happened, and it took him a while to get back up to speed.  Sometimes I feel like everyone else grew by leaps and bounds during that time, and maybe he got left behind a bit.  But he's had a lot of ups and downs since so it's hard to tell where he stands now.  Still, I'm so grateful he came through it okay and it wasn't more serious in the long term.

On a related note, we've continued having trouble with lacrosse lately.  Jacob is just sort of over it.  After being stuck on a terrible team with younger kids in the spring and not winning a game, he ended up on the lesser of two teams this fall and once again did not win a game.  We heard that the teams were getting reorganized for the winter season that starts this week, but once again it seems he ended up on the short end, so it could be a challenging couple months ahead.  He's also grumpy about his travel team practice, and I can't really blame him on that either.  It's months of practice (right through the dinner hours every Sunday) for literally two days of games in the spring.  It's far from ideal for any of us.  

On the bright side, he started basketball this week.  He had practice on Thursday and seemed to enjoy it.  His first game is next weekend, and it should be really interesting to see how he does.  For a kid who has big NBA dreams, it could be the first game of a long career.  I do worry that it won't go as well as he thinks, and potentially he could end up going down the same road he has with lacrosse, where he loses interest when things start getting harder.  But I know he has talent so hopefully it comes through and he can be a good teammate on top of it.  Stay tuned!

Also, I wanted to share this funny picture of Jacob from my phone.  Last week before the Strong Museum visit, we went to Burger King for dinner and Jacob got a black cherry Icee.  It was actually black in color, and he was pretty amused by how his mouth looked afterward.  I let him use my phone so he could see himself, and this is what happened... 

As I mentioned, today Carter and I took advantage of a less cluttered living room to set up a pretty fun Hot Wheels track with a few obstacles.  He started narrating it so cutely...


And take 2...


It was fun to have some playtime with him again after a couple months of holiday planning and a full living room and every other excuse in the book.  He can be really fun to play with, and I told him today when the tablet wasn't an option (I was saving the time for Jacob's practice) that it's so nice to watch him play like that because he's so creative!  He can be so silly and so imaginative, and if I have to put up with his funny little "office" under the dining room table to keep it going, so be it!

Tomorrow is Carter's follow-up with the ENT to start the process on the tonsils and adenoids.  I'm looking forward to getting their thoughts on where we go from here.  I have the video I took in Niagara Falls of his snoring, which is so much worse than it was when he did the sleep study.  He struggles every night and I know this is getting damaging for him with the lack of quality sleep.  I wonder if he should have a C-Pap in the meantime, so either way I'm hoping we can get this show on the road soon.  Last time they told us it could be a three-month wait, but maybe the video will convince them otherwise?  We have a lot of stuff to figure out in the coming months with school, breaks, work, grandparent availability, etc., so I'd like to get this scheduled so we can plan around it.  The thought of a healthy, well-rested, easy-breathing Carter is so appealing that surgery seems like a mere speed bump, but don't hold me to that the morning of surgery!  I just hope great things are in store for him once he recovers.

One last anniversary is coming up Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of my Uncle Cliff's passing.  It's definitely a sad milestone.  I miss his booming voice and his laugh.  I know the loss is still felt so strongly by his family and beyond, and some days I still can't believe he's gone.  On a better note, his death sort of spurred on my picture scanning project, which I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to do, and in the process I gained a whole new appreciation for the younger him.  Life just isn't fair, but I hope his heavenly birthday party is awesome.

I'm actually finding myself thankful for the slightly slower, less complicated pace of the January doldrums.  The cold weather still sucks, but our busy-enough schedule keeps things moving while the absence of the holiday chaos is a nice relief.  January is almost half over and it actually hasn't been too bad.  It also hasn't snowed massive amounts and this week's cold is really the first bad stretch we've had, so I suppose that helps, but whatever gets you through, right?  One day at a time.

So, it's definitely an odd time of year with all of the anniversaries (not to mention the constant stream of sicknesses that pop up in my Facebook memories at this time of year), so I'm always a little on edge during this month.  Even still, I'm hopeful for positive things ahead! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Strong...Part 2

Back in October we went to the Strong National Museum of Play for our annual free night through a company that handles an investment my grandma set up for me.  It went so fast and it felt like we barely had time to do anything that night.  I told Carter we'd have to come back another day and try to hit up the rest.  Turns out we didn't have to wait long, or figure out how to do it on a day that wouldn't be completely overrun with kids.  We got another opportunity for a free night through the national brain study that Jacob participates in!

My first priority this time was to get in to see the butterflies, since we didn't get to in October and there was a special event happening with extra blue morpho butterflies and some Christmas decorations.  I was skittish as usual as the butterflies flew by my head, but I soldiered on tried to get some good pictures!

This butterfly wouldn't stop moving, but you get the idea...

This one was on an ornament...

These butterflies loved the white orchids.  There were a few of them in this area.

We also saw a toucan-type bird...

Sort of hard to pick out the butterfly in this one, but it's clinging to the twine-looking stuff.

There were a bunch of these birds there, too.  I believe they're some sort of quail.  They were little and made me nervous as they darted across the walkways!

Still bugs, but cool ones...

More ornament fans...


I chased this one down for a while until it finally landed...

We liked watching the chameleon, too.  Those eyes are shifty!

This flower made me wish I could go somewhere tropical.

Note the blue body on the underside of this one...

These are the blue morphos.  There were a bunch around, though they mostly liked to sit and eat here.  They're probably my least favorite when they sit like this, but when they open their wings, the iridescent blue inside is so gorgeous.  Of course, none of them would do it for me.  Carter was delighting in telling everyone that the "black thing in the middle" (among the legs and antennae) was the tongue.  According to him, it's really long and they use it like a straw.

It was time to go back out into the museum, so I grabbed a couple last pics before we left...


I took one last picture of Carter in front of the little waterfall, where he loved looking at the turtles.  Ignore his hair--it just got cut a month ago but we're having a heck of a time getting it to stay in place!

Carter's first priority was to go to Wegmans.  He did a round of shopping and scanning, and then wanted to serve me in the prepared foods section.

Then he wanted me to serve him!  Check out his steak!

Next up was one of the newer features.  We looked at it a little last time but spent a bit more time this time.  First he crawled into a nearby tunnel (and later on, so did I) to see some live cockroaches (ewwww), and then we worked on creating a long tunnel of PVC pipe for balls to roll through.  Someone else gave us a great head start, and we worked on perfecting it to go the entire length of the magnetic panels, and addng another section that fed into it halfway down.

Did it work?  See for yourself (sort of)…




It did!  Next it was up to the space ship.  Carter was so cute (and comically serious) about flying it, and I couldn't resist capturing it!




Then we decided to go into a room we visited last on our last visit and didn't have much time to explore.  We played a little with the kinetic sand that we found so cool last time, but on the other side of the room was Carter's absolute favorite part of this trip.  There was a crooked room that made you completely dizzy.  It was tipped at a very sharp angle, so it took some effort just to walk into.  Then walking across it was very disorienting--hard to keep your balance (notice the mats to the left) and very quickly makes you dizzy.  I don't even know if it explained the science behind it, but it was crazy!


This is a little hard to make out, but I tried to take video and of course a bunch of kids ran through.




After making a quick trip upstairs to wander through the video games, we tracked down the Slinky stairs that Carter wanted to find (where you can make a Slinky go down stairs) and ended up hanging out there when Craig and Jacob came back from their stint in the pinball room.  We got into watching people play this interactive motion game, and I couldn't help but snap a picture when Jacob had to do the hula with G.I. Joe!


It honestly seemed like we didn't get to do that much on this visit either, but the boys were satisfied so we comfortably headed out just as the museum was closing.  It was nice to have the chance to check out a few things we didn't see last time.  I swear you could spend days there, and yet now they're building an expansion!  They'll need multi-day passes now, I think!  We're so lucky to have this here in town.

Unfortunately, I think Carter brought home a souvenir - a nasty virus that brought on a stomach bug last night and a 101 fever and sore throat today.  I feel so bad for him because it's sad to see our happy boy so wiped out.  The puking episodes were rough because it's been so long since his last bug and he had some relearning to do.  He actually first did it in the van on the way back from Jacob's lacrosse practice, and he initially just thought he was hungry.  Luckily the damage was minimal--mostly on his coat and pants, and just a little on his seat--and not much overall as it was.  We got lucky.  It took a while for rounds 2 and 3 to hit--he napped right after he got home, and a couple sips of water got the ball rolling again--but it was all over by 11:30.  Thank goodness, because he was so pathetically miserable in the middle of it.  If it's not better tomorrow morning, we might take him into the doctor for a strep test because our kids seem to have odd symptoms most of the time.  Hopefully it passes soon and no one else gets it.  Between Jacob's first basketball practice, Craig's roadtrip, two doctor appointments, and a lacrosse game and practice, we have just a few things going on over the next four days.  But for now, it looks like the curse of early January has hit us again!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Short Hair, Don't Care (or do I?)

Hair.  My hair has pretty much been the bane of my existence forever.  Early on I remember the pain of pigtails and barrettes, even though I think I liked them.  Then when I was about five, my mom cut my hair really short.  I think you'd call it a pixie, but I look back and all I see is "boy".

My best friend happened to have really pretty long hair (and those barrettes with the very thin, colorful braided ribbons that cascaded down) and I was so jealous, so I started growing my hair out.  By third grade I got some length, but somehow it ended up as a very bad mullet.  Finally by fourth grade it was better but not great and I had no idea how to do anything with it so I spent the next 4+ years in an array of colorful headbands to keep my stringy long hair under some sort of control.  But looking back, it was not good.

By sometime in eighth grade, after much teasing at school, the headbands had to go.  My mom did my hair every day, as my fine, thin hair was prone to every sort of bump and lump as you tried to put it up, and I just couldn't do it.  So it was either a ponytail, half ponytail, or a French braid.  Better, but a full set of bangs remained and were constantly split down the middle.  But, ahhhh, it was 1992 and guess what was in style?  So, after a bit of experimenting I wore the puffy, hairsprayed bangs for a handful of months, and almost felt normal for a while.  But then, on my last day of summer camp early in the summer of '92, our entire cabin woke up late and no one had time to shower.  I was forced to leave my hair as it was when I brushed it out the night before--side part, bangs swept to the side.  And it was almost like I realized instantly that it looked fine and was so much easier...because I never went back.  And, for better or worse, that's been my hairdo ever since.  The length has changed, from the middle of my back to nearly shaved up the back; from curled ends to pin straight; once-upon-a-time highlights and later some bangs.  But for 27 years the core of it hasn't changed--the side part remains.  You'd think by now I'd know what works and what doesn't, what makes me feel good and what makes me feel frumpy.  And yet, Thursday night I couldn't decide how to get my hair cut until I'd already been in the chair for about 20 minutes.  Sigh.

Normally I'd just blame my usual indecisiveness.  But I feel like this time it's something bigger.  I'm having a hair identity crisis, and I think I'm actually blaming 40 for it.  I feel like I've handled 40 really well until now.  I felt pretty good right around my birthday, having worked out a lot the prior month, and no one could believe I was 40, so clearly I was doing something right.  But since then I've thought a lot about appropriateness and what my age might mean about my hair, wardrobe, etc.  I mean, we all want to be the cool old lady, but there's a point where cool gets too cool for a certain age, and I just don't want to go there.  So I critically look at clothes and think about whether it skews too junior, or even if it ages me prematurely.  At what age is it weird to have long hair?  Does short hair aging me prematurely (i.e., mom hair), or conversely, making me too cute to command the respect my age should have earned me?  I'm trying not to overthink it, mind you, but my complete inability to choose a hair length made me realize I'm just not sure who this newly-40 version of me actually is.

It's been so long since my hair was short that I'm not sure if it still fits me and my personality.  Will short hair look sleek and spunky?  Or will it be mom hair?  Is my long hair as feminine as I imagine, or is it just a feeble attempt at staying young?  Over the last year I just sort of adapted to where my hair was.  I don't know if that was just a natural flow or if it was simply laziness/busyness, but I guess it worked.  It was actually going very well until about a month ago when I started feeling like it just suddenly got long and I wasn't sure what to do with it.  I honestly forgot I could even put it up for something other than working out--hence why long hair is probably not the best idea for me.  I don't do anything with it anyway, so there's probably little point in growing it long.

In a panic, while I waited for the stylist, I looked through all the pictures of me in Facebook.  I was shocked at just how much my hair length varied.  It moved back and forth through high school and college...
The long...

...the short...

...and the in between!

It was long before I got married...

...then short, and really short by the time Jacob was born.


Then it went longer again pretty much through when Carter was born...

I had to cut it when I realized Carter had a death grip, at which point it stayed pretty in between for a while until this last round of long hair again.  And by long I mean maybe an inch past my collarbone.  All of those lengths have their pros and cons.  Any time there was a picture I liked, there was another at the same length that I wasn't thrilled with.  If my hair is too long, it just hangs there and can look stringy.  Sometimes I think I'm having negative flashbacks to the awkward long hair of my youth.  If it's too short, it can look weird from certain angles.  Being short also brings with it the risk it won't be cut quite right or lay quite right.  But when it looks good at that length, it's great.  Clearly I'm pretty comfortable at almost any length, but I had a heck of a time deciding what to do this time.

Another issue was that my hair hadn't been cut in a year, so I figured it needed some cleaning up at the very least.  In the end I asked the stylist to take off a couple inches and then I'd get a better idea of what I wanted.  When she got to that point, I decided to go all the way.  I asked for up to my shoulders, but it actually ended up a bit above.

The end result - if only my skin was as great as selfies make it look!

I actually think it's a tiny bit shorter than I'd prefer, but considering how quickly my hair can grow, I think it will grow into a good in between spot pretty quickly.  It seems to be laying ok, though I'm not sure it's the best I've had.  It might need more shaping or something, but it'll do for now.  Everyone likes it and it feels really healthy.  So, as far as everyone else is concerned (well, except Jacob, who never likes my hair short), it's great.

As for me, I'm still not sure who I am with this hair.  It surprises me every time I see myself in the mirror, and even Craig looks at me funny when he sees me.  He insists he likes it but it's just so different, and I guess I can't deny that because I have the same reaction.  Maybe he sees a younger version of me and it doesn't quite compute yet.  I do think it looks more polished at any given moment, and if anything it makes me look younger (which is odd because I feel like long hair is a younger thing), but it's still going to take some getting used to.  Will it change how I see myself?  Will a different length jump out to me as "the one", or will I slowly but surely revert to where it was, either from laziness or a continued inability to find a length that feels like "me"?  The jury's out, but it's definitely been an odd little journey.  I never thought my self-image was so tied up in my hair, but apparently it is!  I guess even at 40 you can learn new things about yourself.  #thisis40hairedition

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Old Stuff, New Year

In a perfect world, we'd have spent our Christmas break having precious moments as a family--playing with the Christmas toys, having long conversations about Christmas memories, and snuggling together on the couch watching movies.  In reality, there was a lot of sleeping, a lot of electronics, and a lot of me trying to check off a to do list.  Not ideal, but in many cases I feel like my sanity depended on it.

We did have some fun.  Yesterday we went out to see "Ralph Wrecks the Internet", which was really fun.  We had a somewhat entertaining trip through Target and its demolished Christmas clearance section (but hey, I got a string of red beaded garland to extend a single strand I use on our fake ficus tree, for just 20 cents!).  We ordered our dinners of choice for New Year's Eve--Chinese for Craig and me, Outback steak for Jacob, and Wendy's for Carter (honestly, that's what he wanted!).  All of us stayed up until midnight, and then slept in this morning.  And thanks to earplugs, I even slept through 60mph winds last night!  We've had a very lazy day, which wasn't a bad way to finish things off.  I don't think anyone even opened the front door.

But the vast majority of our time at home was not exactly ideal.  We had our fair share of the kids driving each other nuts, but that's just par for the course around here.  The bigger problem was that I had a list of stuff I needed to get done, and between Craig working and being overly tired as a result of work, I was flying solo a bit more than anticipated.  He had to work Wednesday when we got back from Buffalo and then took the kids into work with him when I had to work on Thursday.  Thank goodness for a Wii in the office!  Jacob and I had his annual brain study appointment on Friday morning (and Carter came along), and then it was back home for the rest of the day, most of which was alone with the boys because Craig had to work in the evening, given that it was the night before the Knighthawks season opener.  Saturday he was at work all day, and he napped literally almost all day Sunday because he'd worked so late on Saturday and really for most of the week prior.  So, while I was trying to get things done, for the most part the kids were defaulting to electronics (NBA 2K18 for Jacob and anything on the phone or tablet for Carter).

I know that conventional mom wisdom is that I should let the household tasks go and just focus on the kids, but that's easier said than done.  For one, most of our living room is taken over by a massive "stadium" setup that Jacob has been creating with Legos, Playmobil, magnetic tiles, Lincoln Logs, and almost anything else we had floating around.  Add in the new Lego police station and some of Carter's stuff, plus other Christmas remnants, and there isn't a lot of space to get down and play.  Could we?  Yes, but the lack of space just doesn't inspire creativity.  It's almost like I mentally can't bring myself to add to the mess.

The other problem is that we just have too much stuff in this house.  I've mentioned before that "stuff" tends to give me anxiety, and it had just gotten to the point where it needed tending to.  This had to be the time to do it.  I just can't bring myself to dive into that stuff in the evenings, or really even on weekends.  It's just too difficult, and tends to lead to random rabbit holes that tend to take even more time. Having multiple days off at home is really the best way to do it.

I think one of our challenges is that I don't want to waste things.  Where other parents might just do a sweep and give stuff away or throw it out, I want to honor the thought that went into the gift or honor the urge the kid had to ask for that gift.  And when you have two boys who are loved by a lot of people, it all tends to add up.  Carter is a very imaginative player, too, so things that you wouldn't think would still be useful or worth keeping somehow get worked into his crazy little play scenarios.  I also think I did a decent job of storing stuff over the years, so it was either "out of sight, out of mind" or it had space to build up for so long and finally just hit capacity.  We also hadn't done a purge/organization in a while, so there was stuff everywhere--this piece here, another piece there.  My kids have a tendency to use something, lose interest, and leave it in some random spot in the house.  When I finally get sick of it and do a sweep, there tend to be a few "dumping grounds" where they go for lack of a specific home.  There were a couple bins in the living room, a couple bins in Jacob's room, and a large cabinet in Carter's room.  There were parts and pieces everywhere, and it was finally time to get things sorted out.

I first did a sweep through the bigger toys to see if there were any that had been outgrown.  There wasn't much that Carter was willing to give up...yet.  I figured if we really needed space I'd push it later.  I also knew that no matter what we did during this round, we'd reorganize again once the Christmas stuff gets put away, so there were still opportunities to switch storage spots and make things more accessible.  Anyway, the next step was sorting through the dress-up stuff.  I knew Carter wouldn't want the superhero stuff, and would have mostly outgrown it anyway.  So a lot of that went.  I also had more blankets and crib sheets to clear out of a basket in his closet.  We narrowed the dress-up stuff to part of one drawer under his bed.  Then we went through his books.  We cleared out some baby books as well as some where his interests have changed.  Those will go through my Aunt Lynne who runs a free book program at my church's food pantry program.  Then I went through his drawer of Imaginext and superhero figures and sorted everything--all Imaginext in one bin, random superheroes in another, and everything else in another pile.  That led into the big sort--the cabinet in his bookshelf.  It was full of random toys and mostly giant bins full of Happy Meal toys and prize box trinkets.  It took forever (literally hours), but we finally got through all of it.  I also pulled more stuff out of bins in the living room, and in the end there was a full Wegmans bag of little stuff he was ready to part with.  We still kept quite a bit, which was fair, and since we had cleared out a drawer of his bed, that became the new home for all of that stuff, so it would be easier for him to see all of it there than if it were in a bin.  Some other toys (dinosaur figures and some trucks) went in the third drawer, and the bottom of the bookshelf became home for a bin of Imaginext figures and all of the random vehicles to go with them.  It felt good to match up pieces and clear out so much stuff.

Next up were the bins in Jacob's room.  I cleared out a couple Halloween costumes he'd kept around, and then went through his random bin of Happy Meal toys.  I had to upsize the bag of stuff we're ditching.  Then I made Jacob and Craig go through three more bins of mostly Playmobil and random sports figures, and those got sorted into sports and "other" figures.  We added a bunch more to the big bag, and after a little polling on Facebook, I asked Carter's teacher if she would like to go through it for a prize box or anything like that.  When she said yes, I had to go through everything again to pull out stuff that wasn't matched up or no longer made noise or didn't seem appropriate.  I still ended up with about 10-15 pounds of stuff to give up!  I threw other stuff in a bin for when I'm ready to donate, and tried to find homes for any leftovers.

Anyway...we still have a lot of work to do, but it was a good start.  It was just enough to make things tolerable again and free up a little space.  Everything just feels a little less disorganized and jam packed.  We'll go through things again after the Christmas décor comes down, and I still have a couple trouble spots to hit, like our overflowing craft corner that probably has a dozen coloring books we could donate to Carter's class.  We'll get there.

I also went through all of Carter's school papers and crafts, and cleared out most of the newspapers I'd let pile up.  We're slowly but surely working through Christmas snacks and a fridge full of random leftovers.  My dining room table is only a little messy, and all of my bills got paid.  Many of the Christmas gifts have been dispatched to their homes, and next weekend I'll get going on putting Christmas away.  It seems like I just put it up, but I'm oddly ready to take it down.  I like my downgrade to snowmen and silver and white and blue.  It feels fresher and cleaner after a month of excess.

The thing is, I don't have anything against stuff.  In fact, I like stuff and tend to keep a lot of it.  What I don't like is when stuff just sits around and doesn't get used.  That's why I want a second Christmas tree--so ornaments don't go unused.  That's why I don't mind keeping toys if they're in a spot to be seen and used.  And if stuff isn't going to get used, I'd prefer to have it put away neatly where it's not in the way, which is why I keep memory bins for myself and the kids.  Sometimes it's clearing out, sometimes it's new habits, but it's always good to be reminded of what we have and be realistic about what we need and what we don't.  My goal is to take days in the summer to go through all of the kids stuff, and hopefully other stuff too, and either take it to the consignment store or donate it.  It's time.

So, a new year has started, and while I still feel a little weighed down by old stuff, hopefully this is the year I start getting it under control.  Maybe it's just one small spot for improvement, but it's something.  One step at a time...