Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sleep Study

A while back I had talked to Carter's doctor about how he often snores when he sleeps.  It's not like he's hardcore sawing logs, but he breathes through his nose very deeply, and it sounds very congested and labored at times.  It's hard to tell if he has pauses in his breathing, but sometimes he does do a snort that sounds a lot like sleep apnea.  Full disclosure: My last boyfriend before Craig had really bad apnea, to the extent that he had his tonsils, adenoids, and even his uvula removed (in his 30s!) to fix it.  It helped considerably (though not entirely), but I still got a very good education about what sleep apnea sounds like.  Preferably from a different room.  It was awful.

Anyway, I didn't like the way Carter's sounded and how often it happened--every night at times.  So, we got referred to a sleep clinic, the doctor found reason to send him for a sleep study, and we got scheduled for late November (!).  They told me when it got scheduled that there's a cancellation waiting list, but I've heard that before from other doctors, to no avail, so I didn't hold my breath.  But a week or two later we started getting frequent calls with cancellations.  None of them fit our schedule particularly well, but then we got a call a week ago offering up Sunday night.  I was hesitant at first because I knew we had a Buffalo trip on tap on Saturday (our nephew's birthday party), but the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to risk doing it after school started.  I also wanted to avoid a day we could otherwise sleep in since those are so few and far between already.  I had an early meeting on Monday morning so I figured it might work okay since we would be out of the clinic by 6:30am.  So, I took the appointment.

I packed up Sunday afternoon--pajamas and extra pajamas, some clothes for me to sleep in, Carter's stuffed animals and blankets, some books, Carter's nightlight, a movie, a snack, our water bottles, my (work) computer, my phone charger, and some toiletries.  It seemed like a lot for less than 12 hours, but I wanted to be prepared for everything and ensure Carter would be as comfortable as possible. 

We arrived at 7pm and there were two other kids there for studies, too.  One was around Carter's age, and one was a bit older.  All three were "C" names, which was funny, and I felt better that one of the other parents looked as much like a pack mule as I did!  We were shown right to our room, which I think was the same room we saw the doctor in during our first visit.  The room is equipped with two murphy beds and a bathroom.  Carter jumped right on his bed and we waited for the next set of instructions. 
I had been telling him he was going to turn into a robot, and he was in really good spirits when we got there!
We found out what time Carter was going to get hooked up, and we had some time to watch Lego Batman before he got in his jammies.  He was still in a really good mood, as I'm sure in his mind it felt pretty much like a sleepover or a hotel night alone with mama!

Near the end of the movie, around 8:30, the tech came in and started hooking Carter up to all of the monitors.  He had stuff everywhere--all over his face, glued to his head, and stuck to his neck, chest, and legs, plus a monitor clipped on his finger.  He had something in his nose and near his mouth, probably checking how he was breathing.  It was a little jarring to see, to be honest.

At first he bought into the robot thing and kept smiling, but then started realizing he was missing some essential robot characteristics...at which point the novelty wore off.  He was uncomfortable as he laid down and asked when he could take the stuff off.  I told him that the sooner he went to sleep, the sooner it would be morning and he'd be done.  He was chatty and seemed to have a hard time getting comfortable, so I was worried he might never fall asleep.  I had been working on a couple things for work while he was watching the movie and getting hooked up, and I hoped to do more after he was asleep, but I decided to cut it off early in case me being on my computer was keeping him up.  But minutes after I shut down, I started to hear rhythmic breathing and tiny little snores from the next bed.  Even still, I figured I should probably just go to bed, too, given the early wake-up call.  Carter was asleep by 9:30, and I was probably out by a little after 10:15 or so.

It was a pretty restless night, mostly for me.  The bed wasn't very comfortable and the pillow was really flat.  I know I tossed and turned a number of times and slept very lightly overall.  I think Carter slept pretty well, though at one point I looked over and he was facing the opposite way in bed, which was a feat considering all of the cords!  The tech had to come in a couple times to reattach things, as they tended to come off if he moved too much.

At 5:30, Carter woke up and said he had to go to the bathroom.  I reminded him that he had to say that directly to the camera so the tech could come in and unhook him from all the machines.  I had to carry a handful of cords into the bathroom behind him and hold them while he went.  Once he was done, he got hooked back up, but unfortunately did not go back to sleep.  So, it ended up being an even earlier wake-up call than we anticipated.  They officially finished things off at 6am, and we were home a little after 6:30, despite the fact Carter was demanding we stick around and watch another movie!  When we got home, I had to put Carter right into the bathtub to rinse the glue out of his hair and more easily take off a few of the sensor stickers that were a bit more stubborn.  I tried scrubbing him all over since I wasn't sure at that point where all of the stickers had been, but by the end of the day it was clear I missed a few stubborn areas of sticker residue, as any that was left had visibly picked up fuzz and dirt over the course of the day.  He also had a pinkish spot on his face where some tape had been, and he'd said "Ouch!" when the tech took it off.  I tried to use rubbing alcohol to remove the rest with less pain, but I think a couple spots were already a little raw as he said that hurt, too.  Poor kid. 

But all things considered, he did well.  He had been so uncomfortable and hung in there all night without pulling anything off.  He was a trooper and I'm so proud of him.  I still have to reschedule our appointment to get our results since our original one isn't until December, so I still don't know when we'll find out how he did or what might be in store.  It could be tonsils and adenoids, it could be a nose spray, or maybe it's nothing.  We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess.  I'm just glad this part is over!

Monday, August 14, 2017

What's Normal?

One of the challenges of having two completely different kids is not knowing what is "normal".  Sometimes I think it would have been interesting to have a third, if only to "break the tie" and see which characteristics win out, at least in our gene pool.  Blond or brunette?  Tall or short?  Sports obsessed or well-rounded?  Of course, with our luck we'd end up with door #3 and a whole new set of different characteristics, leaving us completely confused.  I think the differences would be less pronounced if we had a girl, as we'd simply expect that to be the case.  But with two boys you tend to assume things will be at least slightly similar...but no, we've ended up with two totally different little people in our house, which is why having them together is a recipe for disaster.

Add in the fact that Jacob is probably farther up the unique scale than most, and it really leaves you wondering what's normal and what's not, and what we should be expecting from Carter as he grows up.  I know there are certain things that Jacob was really good at when he was younger, and in many cases I'm guessing he was probably a bit ahead of the curve for his age.  I mean, at age 4, he was asking us to spell words so he could write them out.  At the same age, Carter can barely recognize some letters, let alone write them.  He's having a hard time gripping writing utensils properly, and even tracing is a challenge for him at the moment.  But I honestly don't know if he's behind or just average, as Jacob was certainly not a good measure of "average".  He definitely has a long way to go before Kindergarten a year from now, but I'm hoping one day it will just click with him.  But then I worry, what if it doesn't?  We've never really had to think in those terms with Jacob, at least not academically, so it's hard to know at what point we need to take action.  His stuttering has improved-- though he does still have a tendency to repeat phrases sometimes--but I'm still thinking that some speech therapy might be in his future as he's not as clear as I think he probably should be at this age.

Then there's sports.  Jacob had a near-perfect t-ball stance at age two, and Carter still needs a lot of coaching.  In fact, he actually reminds me of most of the kids Jacob played with during his first couple years of Little League, which makes me think he's totally normal in this realm.  But when you're used to a kid where things came naturally, it's just different.  We also try to keep in mind that Jacob had Craig all to himself back then and they spent a ton of time out in the yard one-on-one.  Carter definitely hasn't had that same experience, partly because Craig is split between them, and partly because he's just not as into it.  He's happier running around the yard with his bubble gun!  But lest you think he's not athletic, he's definitely a runner.  His stride seems more natural than Jacob's ever did, and he also mastered pedals far earlier than Jacob did.  He's a speed demon on his big wheel and tricycle, whereas Jacob only really got used to pedals a couple years ago and still can't ride a two-wheeler.  Again, it's all about focus and priorities, and that has never been one for him.  We keep talking about just taking off the training wheels and going over to the school parking lot until he figures it out, but he's nervous and we just haven't pushed it.  One day, I hope.

Carter definitely has more of a tendency to want to sit and watch something on TV than Jacob ever did.  Jacob liked having shows on but tended to play while it was on and only pay half attention to the show.  When it comes to actual playing, though, both kids have been pretty good about picking an activity and spending a decent amount of time playing independently.  That's a newer skill for Carter.  Jacob did it with a few specific activities--Lego, Playmobil, setting up elaborate games on his little hockey rink, or playing real sports--and Carter is actually better at random imaginative play.  The other day he was playing with some stacking cups and a few other things for a half hour, with some sort of actual storyline in his head.  He did it again the other day with some other random toys while I half-napped.  Sometimes he can do it with his superheroes or his cars, but I won't lie--electronics are probably still his favorite.  Hmmm.  Oh, and despite the fact that Jacob can kill an impressive amount of time on a phone or his Xbox, Carter's preference for screens makes him nuts, apparently because he thinks Carter should be playing other stuff with him.

I keep hoping that Carter will be my reader, because Jacob definitely is not.  Carter loves books, and everyone at daycare remarks to me what a bookworm he is.  He loves bedtime books, too.  Strangely, though, it's less likely that you'll see him reading books on his own, so it may just be that he likes spending time with whoever is reading to him.  Or maybe it's that it's hard to get him to remember that his books and toys are there when he's in a screen-time mood, but I'm hopeful that he will take to reading much more than Jacob did.  Jacob liked books when he was younger, but I swear that the nightly reading homework he had for his first three years of school wore on him.  It stopped being fun and turned into a chore.  It's been a bit of a challenge to rectify that, but he did discover his love for writing this spring thanks to a school project.  That seems to be more of a computer-based thing than sitting down with pen and paper, however, so it's not like I'm seeing him sitting at his desk writing his next novel, but someday I'm sure he'll get his own Chromebook or something and maybe then he will learn that reading can only make his writing better.  In the meantime, hopefully we'll get back on track this fall with me reading to him at night, as I think it helps him see that there are cool books out there to read.  And like I said, getting Carter into letter recognition and writing is our next priority--starting tomorrow when I give him a half-birthday present (4-1/2!  What?!) of a dry-erase Paw Patrol-themed writing book. 

One of the last big differences between the kids is that Carter tends to be Mr. Helpful whereas Jacob...is not.  I think it's definitely more in Carter's nature to be thoughtful and helpful, as Jacob's personality has always been a bit more "me-focused".  All kids are self-centered, but I feel like Jacob takes that to new heights most of the time.  But again, who am I to say what's normal?  Still, he pretty much acts like the world does or should revolve around him, and it's exhausting.  It took me years to get him to clean up his breakfast dishes, and sometimes we still have to remind him to put his clothes in the hamper or to even pick up his stuff from right in front of the front door.  Carter, on the other hand, is happy to comply when asked to clean up his dishes and is already pretty good about putting away dirty clothes.  Granted, Jacob's disdain for the whole process probably made me start it earlier and be more intentional about it with Carter, but I think Carter's personality has definitely made him more accepting of it overall.  He wants to be a helper, he wants to do things himself, and he says "I love you" and willingly gives hugs and kisses all the time.  We didn't see a lot of that with Jacob, ever, despite showering him with affection constantly.  However, he was always the snuggler and loved to take naps on us or with us, so perhaps he just showed affection differently.  Carter doesn't mind snuggling while watching a show and sometimes doesn't mind having company at bedtime, but he doesn't usually want to have your arm around him or have you at all in his space.  Sometimes he'll even tell you when he wants you to leave.  I guess he just likes physical contact on his own terms!  Jacob, on the other hand, may not love hugs and kisses anymore, but he still sometimes ignores personal space norms and will be all up in your space in a restaurant booth or on the couch, or even sitting at the kitchen table.  I guess my kids are just weird walking contradictions in the personal space/snuggling realm. 

But suffice it to say that having two very different kids makes it hard to know what's normal.  There are so few areas in which they were similar, and without a ton of mom friends or close kid buddies, we don't have a whole lot of other insight into other people's experiences.  Blogs, articles, and Facebook posts might give a little more insight and help me feel a little less alone with some issues, but it's just amazed me to see that nature has won out so many times over nurture in our house, when I would have assumed pre-parenthood that it would be the opposite.  I know that a lot of parenthood is just figuring it out as you go along, but I sort of assumed I could figure it out once and be prepared for round two, but with so many things that has not been the case.  Even though I feel like I have evolved significantly since I became a parent nine years and two months ago, I still feel like I'm fumbling through most of the time--and not all of that is when it comes to Jacob.  Some of it is refining techniques and some is catering to a different personality type this time around, but more of it than expected is new territory.  "Normal" apparently just isn't a thing with us, and I guess I should just embrace it and be grateful for the broad array of life experiences my two very different children have each provided.  And I'm sure someday I'll be able to feel that way.  Right now in the trenches it's not easy, though, so I guess I'll just keep trudging forward and keep looking ahead knowing there will be a light at the end of the tunnel...someday.

Monday, August 7, 2017

End of an Era

Yesterday was the end of an era.  I shut down my old netbook for the last time, with no real intention of turning it back on again.  I got it in January 2011, so it survived 6-1/2 years.  It had screen issues for the last couple, but that computer and I had been through a lot!  It was my first-ever laptop, and I was so excited to get it at the time, right after we got WiFi in our house.  I loved my tiny little computer!  I probably had visions of whisking it off in my bag and holing up in a coffee shop somewhere, but in reality I probably only got to do that a couple times.  I did like that it was easy to throw in a bag, but the small screen size was always a bit of a challenge for certain tasks.  But I spent hours with that little computer, writing blog posts that span more than six years of parenthood.  That computer came to the hospital with me when Carter was born, came along on every vacation, and was my safe haven in the evenings to write through my thoughts.  Unfortunately, once the screen went on the fritz, it lost functionality for one of the things I used it for most--looking through all of my pictures.  Clearly I like to take pictures, and when it's hard to look at the pictures and see how they turned out, it gets a little frustrating.  So, after many months of frustration and a lot of looking around, I saw a deal I couldn't pass up, and here we are.  I'm typing this on a nice, big laptop with a gorgeous screen, plenty of memory, and a much faster processor than my old one.  It's heaven so far!  It took a bit to figure out how to transfer all of my files over--lots of music and tons of pictures--but one $12 32GB 3.0 USB flash drive and a handful of transfers later, we're all good!  It was a little sad to shut it down for the last time, but I'm thankful to have a new, functional computer to move forward with!

In other news, we had a pretty good weekend.  Carter and Craig started it early with a Carter-Daddy day on Friday.  Carter showed Craig the new playground we went to the previous weekend...

Seriously, how sweet is he here?
And Jacob was playing with Craig's phone after I finished the elliptical Friday night and took this one...

I guess now I know how I'd look bald :)
Saturday we went to Buffalo for another family reunion on my side.  Jacob was a little hesitant to go, but fortunately, my (third?) cousin was in town and had her step-kids there, including a boy who's just a little older than Jacob.  They had a blast together!  All things considered it was a good time and aside from me forgetting my purse and necessitating a 45 minute addition to the trip home, it wasn't a bad trip.  Sunday we went to church and then went to the park after lunch.  Carter and I started on the playground...

Top of the slide

Funny face is because he was making sound effects for his rocket...
Then we headed over to join Craig and Jacob on the baseball diamond.  Jacob started fall ball last week, a little bit of baseball after a summer off.  The weather has not been conducive, but he's been working hard to get his skills up to par.  Carter is still working on his stance.  He's not as much of a natural as his brother, but hopefully he'll get there by next year.

Touching home!
On the good news front, Jacob did make his travel lacrosse team for another year!  We're very excited for a new year of tournaments, starting with a couple this fall (one here, thankfully!).  There are a lot of returning players and a handful of new ones, but it looks like a good team.  Jacob is also switching up his indoor team for the winter, which was a tough decision but a good one in the long run, so it will be an interesting few months getting settled into new stuff on the lacrosse field.

Summer is flying by so fast and I can hardly believe we only have a few weeks left.  We have a few more things planned before we get back into school mode, but I always get to this point and panic that we haven't made the most of our time.  Hopefully by the time it's over I'll feel like we did all we could.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quality Time with Carter

This weekend I ended up having a lot of time alone with Carter.  Jacob had travel lacrosse tryouts on Saturday, and then the big boys opted to not join us for my family reunion on Sunday, so it just turned out that we were on our own...and it was lovely.  It was probably extra good timing as Jacob and I have not been seeing eye-to-eye lately, culminating in an extra tough Saturday morning.  After he and I battled for a while, I could not wait to get out of the house and off on a run.  I saw this right before I started:

I think the adrenaline was pumping, though, because I ran a pretty fast first couple miles and then immediately ran out of gas, to the point I had to stop and walk for most of the last mile or so to ensure I didn't pass out.  That set me up to be a little off for the rest of the day, but Carter and I still had fun.

Our first stop after lunch was to take back the wall decoration I bought on a whim at Goodwill last week.  I've been trying forever to find something to put over our bed, as our bedroom is really lacking in the decor.  When I went to Goodwill last week to look for a khaki skirt (apparently they are out of style, but seriously--it's such a basic piece!), I saw this gold metal oblong chain link wall hanging, still in the packaging from Kohl's.  It was marked $30 but on their color tag half off sale for the week, and I just couldn't pass it up.  I liked it, but I know Craig wasn't convinced either way, and in the end I figured I'd take it back and leave myself the flexibility to do something that felt more "us".  I only got store credit back (ugh), but it's fine.  In the same plaza I went to the Christian bookstore to use a great one-day coupon to buy a CD by one of my favorite artists, Nichole Nordeman.  She's the one that did that awesome "Slow Down" song that went viral last year, the one about kids growing up too fast.  I was thrilled to get her new album, and so cheaply!

Carter was very patient throughout, and our next stop was the library.  We hadn't been there in a while and we were due, so we picked up some books and then headed across the town hall parking lot to the new playground they just put in this spring.  The old one wasn't bad--I actually liked it a lot--but they decided to do something that was ADA-compliant and totally new.  The new space is cool--rubberized surface and artificial turf with a canyon theme.  Instead of the traditional equipment, there are lots of things to climb on and through--rocks, bears, a canoe, a few ropes, etc. 

There are a couple double slides--one bigger, one smaller--and one bank of swings, but other than that, it's all of the woodsy stuff.  It's definitely better for creative play (although I know we found many ways to be creative on old equipment), but I do miss some of the more adventurous pieces of traditional equipment.  I also heard from a friend that his girls weren't that impressed, which I can see happening if they're girly.  But it was cool and Carter loved running around and climbing and hiding in the rock structures. 

Spider web climb


Big slide

BIG bear!


We even had a chance to go on a cool swing that is a bit like what we called a teeter-totter on our old swing set as a kid, but that I could ride on with Carter.  It was a large molded plastic swing, with one side shaped like a baby swing, with a sunken seat and two leg holes.  The other side was a t-shaped seat for an adult, so I could ride with him!  We had a blast on that!

While we were there, we also got to eye up the spray park next to it.  Now that Carter is getting more used to the water, I think that could be in our future.  It still may not be his thing, but it might be worth trying.  We just hadn't even considered it until now because even getting wet at his water table used to bug him.  His new pool alligator has helped that immensely, and then he learned to use a kickboard in the pool, and now judging by our time at the beach Sunday, I think he's getting over his water phobia nicely!  We'll see!

After the playground we did a quick pitstop at Tim Hortons and took advantage of their happy hour to enjoy some cool drinks and donuts before finishing up with a trip to Wegmans.  Then we were back home to check in with the boys.  Jacob seemed to do well at tryouts, but it's still nervewracking until you hear for sure if he's in.  I mean, for any other kid I'd say, "You win some, you lose some," but for Jacob I know that not making it would be devastating.  He really identifies with this team, and I LOVE their character/faith stuff so much that it would kill me to see him not make it this year.  I know that odds are he will, as his coach saw so much growth from him this year and he did contribute quite a bit.  They also lost a few kids at his position as the year-younger kids get their own team this year, but a couple others did come in from outside and looked good.  But in theory the numbers should be in his favor, and I think the fact that we were supportive parents and that it's clear he's passionate about it should be enough to finish things off.  But you just never know when numbers will be an issue, and until you get the call, it's scary.  And like I said, it would kill him not to make it.  He's already planning out his pro career, for pete's sake, so this would be a bit of a letdown on that path.  Only a couple other travel teams still have tryouts to come, and Craig's not convinced he'd be a shoo-in for those, either.  The fear is that if he doesn't make it, how will he up his game in the next year to ensure he is strong enough to do it then?  I mean, his best teacher is competitive play, and without that high level like he had this year, what would do it?  So we're nervously waiting for that news, but hopeful we have a fun year ahead.

Other than that, I spent a good chunk of Saturday just trying to get life in order.  My house is a bit of a mess, but part of that is knowing that Jacob's birthday party is a few weeks away and I don't want to do a deep cleaning now only to do it again in a couple weeks.  So in the meantime it's just trying to maintain order and spot clean when needed.  I did a lot of going through piles earlier in the weekend, and then Saturday night, in addition to preparing for my reunion Sunday (beach packing, food prep), I managed to sort through all of Jacob's end-of-school stuff (finally--all that lacrosse travel got me off track) and photograph the giant pile of both kids' artwork, as is my custom.  As you may recall, I started photographing things a few years back so I could throw things away without guilt.  Group them up, snap a photo, keep the sentimental stuff or what I want for my changeable frames, then toss everything else.  Jacob's stuff was mostly from Mother's Day, Father's Day, and his school art folder.  I also kept a handful of his best writing from the year, including his book, "Rich" that he was SO excited about at the end of the year.  He loved writing on the computer, and for a while it was all he could talk about.  That will all go in his memory box.  When it came to Carter's stuff, I had a giant pile.  But I didn't realize until I got to the bottom that it had been building up since February!  There was Valentine's stuff there, so clearly I had been neglecting that more than usual.  Oops.  But, the good news is that I got through all of it within an hour or two, and now my dining room and living room have considerably fewer piles!  I also managed to catch up on newspapers and all that over the last week, so I am finally feeling less like a hoarder in my own house.  Slowly but surely!

Ironically, the one thing I didn't do this weekend was open up my brand new computer.  My laptop has been on fritz for a while.  A few years back the screen went a little funky.  It was mostly fine but some of the true black started showing up as red.  I could sometimes get it back to normal or close to it by changing the screen angle or pressing in certain spots, but eventually the issues became a bit more permanent.  Then about a number of months back the whole thing became permanently tinted pink.  Not helpful for looking at pictures, if nothing else.  Add in that the touchpad buttons were funky for a while (though fixed themselves at somepoint) and that it's a tiny netbook and the small screen isn't always helpful for certain tasks, I knew I needed to be on the hunt.  Then last week I happened to see the Office Max/Office Depot ad had one of the ones I'd had my eye on for months far cheaper than I'd ever seen it.  Then I was back and forth about which processor speed to get, then I wondered if it was too big, or did I really need it, or...or...or...but eventually decided it was a good enough deal to get it online (with a cashback site) and pick it up at the store Friday afternoon.  But with everything else I wanted to do this weekend, the last thing I needed to do was get sucked into hours of transferring files or getting it set up just right.  So it's still sitting in the box three days later.  Funny how that works sometimes.  I do need to get on it, though, as I have an Amazon order to place very soon and if I find out I need some sort of additional cable or something to properly transfer files, I'd like to include it on that (us poor non-Prime people must plan accordingly!).

Sunday was my annual family reunion at the beach.  We didn't go last year, and there's a chance it won't be at this spot much longer, so this year I really wanted to go.  Carter has also been wanting to go to the beach, and with our beaches in shambles this year because of Lake Ontario flooding, this was really our best bet.  However, Jacob is not into the beach right now, and between his food issues and incompatibility with Carter, I just didn't feel like fighting anymore battles so Craig and Jacob stayed behind.  They played a lot of baseball in preparation for Jacob's re-entry into the Little League world this week for the "fall ball" season.  I think that keeping the kids separate for a couple days was probably better for everyone anyway.  A lot less yelling for us, at the very least.  But Carter and I had to be up and out early as I wanted to make it to the site by 10am for their outdoor church service.  The weather was supposed to be perfect, and I figured that the outside service might be just distracting enough to keep Carter content.  And it was wonderful.  Perfect breeze, gorgeous views of the lake, some old-school favorite song choices, and a very well-behaved little boy. 
View during church

The lake was also in view during church...plus this handsome kid!

We breezed through church and then wandered the camp a bit so I could show Carter where I stayed when I went there for a week at 13, and again for a few weekends in college. 
Schroter Circle - the cabins I always stayed in

We stopped at a playground for a while before heading back to the car to grab our stuff...

I couldn't resist a picture of these hydrangeas, with Carter for scale!

We met up with some family in the shelter then ran into my parents, and Carter ran off with my mom pretty quickly after that to go back to the playground.  It was good to see family, and after a delicious lunch and a bit of a lengthy meeting discussing the future location of the reunion (long story, but there are some issues with keeping it there, despite a more than 50 year history), we finally headed down to the beach!  For not liking the water for most of his life, Carter has been a pretty big fan of the beach.  He had a blast last year when I took him to the beach, and even before that when we stopped at one in Erie he seemed to enjoy himself.  He just loves digging and pouring and imagining!  We settled in on a spot next to some family, and while everyone else just sort of lounged, I was back and forth to the shore getting him bucketfuls of water.  We made castles with the buckets, and Carter buried things, destroyed things, and experimented with his "potions".  He was completely content, and I was having fun, too! 
Complete with sailboat in the background


With Grandma!

A fun mess!

Eventually I convinced him to walk down to the water with me, and we let the waves hit our feet and legs for a bit.  I was keeping an eye out for beach glass, which I used to collect in pocketfuls on this beach.  Of course now it's a "thing" and every craft show has a half dozen artists that specialize in beach glass, so it's much harder to find.  It's nowhere to be found on the beach itself, and I discovered it took a keen eye as the waves rolled in and refreshed the rocky strip on the shore, one that is generally always covered with water.  I found one large white piece literally floating as the waves came in and snagged it, and then managed to find a few other tiny pieces during subsequent trips back down to the water.  The water temperature was perfect for letting the waves splash my legs, and Carter had fun filling up his bucket and rinsing the sand back out.  We played and went back and forth for a few hours, long after the rest of the family had headed back up to the shelter. 

Unfortunately, I hadn't done a very good job with my sunscreen and my skin currently bears the hot pink result (one thigh and two strips down my back and shoulders), but it was worth it for such a fun time with Carter.  It took a little convincing to get him out of there, but overall he was amazing.  Before we left I also gathered up about 18 large flat gray rocks to take home with us to hopefully fix up our flower bed a bit.  We need some sort of edging, and what's better than free?  I put some in our beach bag and some in our blanket and hauled them back up to our wagon.  Fingers crossed they work like I want them to!

After a few more snacks from the dessert table and some cleaning up, we headed back to the car and Carter was asleep within a few minutes, and didn't wake up until we were home.  Fortunately, the drive was surprisingly easy.  I mean, I had the familiar feeling that only a trip back from that reunion brings--dry, tight skin yet still greasy from sunscreen; the familiar itch of the seatbelt on sunburn; feeling a little too full of sweets; generally wiped out but happy--and there's an odd contentment in that nowadays.  But despite the early morning and long day, I was wide awake and quite content as I drove, which almost never happens at that time of day!  I was also in a really good mood on Monday morning, and I decided that it must be that a weekend as well spent as that--quality time with my sweet boy and some life organization, too--must be the ticket to a good start to the week!  Unfortunately I've still been struggling with holdout symptoms from the prednisone this week, so it's been a bit of a rough one.  I finally did dig into my new computer, but haven't figured out a good way to transfer everything over.  Still no word on Jacob's lacrosse tryouts, either.  So as a whole it hasn't been the best week, but thankfully we're now on the downside.  C'mon weekend...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

News and Notes, Dry Mouth Edition

So, it's been a weird week.  I've finally started taking the prednisone that I was prescribed as yet another last-ditch effort to work on my smell/taste issues.  Instead of the rage I've had in the past, this time I've picked up half a dozen other symptoms, like a foggy brain, horrible dry mouth, desensitized taste buds (who knew it could get worse?), sleep issues, weird dreams, and even less motivation than usual.  I'm also hungrier than usual, which is annoying when I'm trying to not gain weight.  And of course, no surprise--no change in the issue that we're trying to fix.  I'm at my max dose for allergy shots and now get to start going less often, and despite a couple nose sprays and now the prednisone, nothing is really changing.  My nose is still a little stuffy but I suppose compared to some people I'm doing pretty well this time of year...but ragweed season is coming.  So, not sure what's next, but this ain't it.

Last week Craig's great uncle passed away.  We had to spend a day in Buffalo for the funeral.  Jacob stayed with us since his cousins were going to be there, but we let Carter have a day with Grandma and Grandpa, because it would have been too long of a day for his energy level.  He did well, and even got to try out Jacob's old golf clubs!  And, before we left, he got a quick ride in Grandpa's car!

Last weekend Jacob played in a fun weekend event with some of his lacrosse buddies.  It's an annual event that is in memory of a player who was with FCA and died suddenly a few years back.  A few years' worth of players break up into teams and have a little tournament.  In between, they do a quick fiddlestick tournament (no equipment), have lunch and a little celebration of life ceremony, and then wrap up the main tournament.  Carter and I came for the second half and I took a couple pictures...
Fiddlestick tournament

Jacob taking a faceoff (on the right)!

Getting scrappy (still on the right)!
In the end, after some hard-fought battles, his team took the win in a shootout!  It was a fun little event and it was nice to see some familiar faces and meet some new people.

What else is new....?  Craig's phone took a swim, so he had to get a new one.  His old one, which Jacob was hoping to get, has not yet been resuscitated.  So we've been arguing with him a bit about that situation.  He still doesn't have the Bluetooth speaker he wanted for his birthday because we couldn't agree on a good one, and now he's insisting he wants Bluetooth headphones, misguidedly thinking that he can run around with them in while he plays lacrosse.  Not really.  We're at a bit of an impasse there. 

I am debating heavily about buying a new computer.  One of the ones I've been eyeing up for months is on sale this week, about $100 less than I've seen it elsewhere, but then I debate on which processor to get, and whether it's the right one for me, or what.  It's making me crazy, as big purchases always do.  My screen is permanently tinted pink, the buttons are sometimes screwy, and because I have a tiny one there are limitations with the screen size.  I love my little one for a lot of stuff, but the screen is annoying sometimes.  It also gets really slow at times.  But is it worth it?  Ugh.

Last Saturday Craig and I attacked some yard work, and I finally finished digging out the tree stump in our yard.  Craig hacked up the bushes that are too tall for me to trim, and I took a shovel all around and under the stump.  It wasn't deep but I did have to saw off a large side root.  I dumped some dirt in the hole and finally got some seed the other night to grow some grass there.  It felt pretty cool to pull the whole stump out myself, and I topped it off by trimming up the rest of the bushes in the yard.  Exhausting, but at least it's done.  Too bad it never stays done!

We have a few busy weekends ahead.  This weekend is Jacob's lacrosse tryouts and a family reunion at the beach.  Next weekend is another family reunion on my side, and after that we have our nephew's birthday, Jacob's party the weekend after that (finally), and Craig has something going on the weekend after that...and then it's Labor Day.  So that pretty much finishes out the rest of the summer.  We have a couple things to schedule somewhere in there still, like a trip to Seabreeze, the amusement park near us, but we're definitely already on the downswing of summer, which is a bit of a bummer.  It always goes so fast!  Hopefully we can cram a little more in before ::gasp:: school starts!

Sorry, I know this wasn't the most riveting update, but if I don't do it now, I won't remember what I forgot :)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Current State of (Sibling) Affairs

I tried not to harp on it in my trip posts, but we had a very hard time with the boys on our last trip.  All trips, really, but this last trip--given the duration and distance--was especially tough.  Last year I actually swore we would never do a family vacation again until the boys could get along, and this reminded me why.  And to be fair, from what I can recall, we haven't really done a full-on vacation that wasn't hooked up with some other event since.  We did an overnight in Toronto with a Knighthawks game and the rest of our travels have been with Jacob's lacrosse games.  We did add "vacation experiences" on in spots, but it seemed like the best bang for our buck once we've gone through the trouble to actually get to these places.

Sometimes it seems like the change of scenery might be helpful.  Until we're actually there and I realize it's less embarrassing (and much cheaper) to simply yell at my kids in the privacy of our own home.  It's the definition of insanity--doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome.  We have officially hit that point, mostly because I have some misguided shred of faith that perhaps this attempt at memory-making will finally be memorable for the right reasons.  I do want to expose my kids to new places and things, and trips are usually the best way to do that.  I guess teaching them some history, geography, and pop culture in between yelling is better than banging our heads on the same four walls at home.  So we keep trying.  I read this blog post recently (after I started this post, ironically) and I guess it's good to know I'm not alone.

The biggest challenge is that the boys can't leave each other alone.  There is some sort of weird compulsion that draws them to one another.  From Carter's perspective, I think it's just that natural draw that little kids have to big kids.  They're fascinated by them, and if one lives in your own house, even better!  However, after so many rough-and-tumble run-ins, he seems quick to rely on a punch or kick at the first sign of confrontation, which is not well-received by Jacob and is something we're working on stopping.  From Jacob's perspective, I'm not sure what the draw is.  There is probably a part of him that likes being a person of great interest to Carter, but at the same time he has this horrible, deep-seeded dislike of him, so I feel like most encounters turn into an opportunity to "get even" or prove his dominance. It either turns into a physical battle, an onslaught of insults or leading questions with the sole purpose of belittling Carter, or potty talk that he's trying to get Carter to repeat.  Being in a hotel room makes things extra impossible, as it's a small space without many options for punishment.  At home we send the kids to their rooms, but the best we can do in a hotel is send them to opposite sides.  And that only seems to last a moment before one or the other has somehow wandered back.  Sometimes it's a derailed trip to the bathroom, and sometimes it's just that inescapable lure.  Either way, it's impossible.  Add in a couple bouncy beds, lots of adjacent furniture, and generally being off their schedule, and it's a recipe for disaster.  Our hotel neighbors probably thought we were nuts.

But the thing is, they do have moments.  Maybe it's Jacob giving up his Chick-Fil-A prize at the ballgame, or setting aside the gluten items in his summer camp "Halloween" bag for Carter, or teaching him how to play Xbox.  Or last weekend, as they played nicely with Carter's Hot Wheels track, or when Jacob cheered him on in the pool as Carter learned how to use a kick board (and took to it immediately), which taught him a swimming skill Jacob only picked up recently.  It can happen, but all too often it's followed by a moment of immediate, searing anger/jealousy that leaves both kids complaining about mutually caused injuries.  But here and there we've had moments that haven't ended disastrously, which gives me a tiny bit of hope that something in Jacob's mind is starting to click and realize this brother thing isn't all bad.  But as of now we're fighting impulse control on both sides and neither one usually wants to back down.

I've come to realize more and more that a lot of Jacob's behavior reflects back to his trust in us.  That trust was inadvertently shattered when Carter came along, and he didn't express until years later how hurt he was by how much time I was spending with Carter when he was a newborn.  Of course, he never TOLD me it bothered him and just generally kept his distance, so I tried not to push him.  Even then his behavior was a problem but it didn't seem directly tied to Carter, as we never saw a direct link, timing-wise.  But now I can clearly see that when Jacob feels attacked or like we're always taking Carter's side, his behavior gets more extreme.  Conversely, one of his best weeks was around Easter time, when Carter had a rather terrible run of bad behavior.  Seeing Carter get disciplined apparently made Jacob feel better, and he ended up being rather pleasant for a while.  It was a noticeable change and he admitted that Carter's downturn was part of it.  I feel like if he knows we've got his back and are giving him a fair shake, he's a little easier to work with.  But the second he feels like we've abandoned him emotionally (which isn't really true, but he's an extreme kid), he's ready to turn his back on us.  That's when we get the, "I'm leaving this family" statement, or worse.  Those are the moments that I look into our future and have the worst fear about where we're going if we can't get this figured out.  Part of it is Jacob's challenging personality and a higher-than-usual sensitivity, but I'm sure we could find ways to manage things better.  It's hard, though, when you know you have one kid whose impulse control is still pretty immature, and one whose should be better than it is, so you sort of default at coming down on the kid who should be able to do better.  But what if he can't?

I can't tell you how often I say or do something as a parent that I know immediately wasn't the right way to deal with the issue, but I am at such a loss that I do the only thing that comes into my head.  For example, when Carter gets mad and hits or kicks someone or something, I probably shouldn't resort to spanking him after my yelling has no effect.  Normally I reserve spanking for high level offenses when I feel like it's important to make a clear and immediate impact, but when nothing else has worked, I'm not sure what else to do.  But clearly doing the exact thing I'm telling him not to do (and modeling that anger = hit) is about as bad as it gets.  But when yelling and privileges and all of that doesn't work, then what?  No one can seem to give me that answer.  We have boundary pushers (each in their own distinct way), and it seems like we have no ammunition to push them back. So, honestly, our best bet is to attempt to avoid confrontations all together.  Whether it's doing our darnedest to keep the boys physically apart, pick our battles, or finding proactive ways to circumvent issues, that's what we have to do.  It's not 100% easy or effective, but it's a start.

I desperately wish we could get our boys to see the value in each other and learn to respect each other as a result.  Right now they just seem to see an adversary (most of the time), rather than a flash-and-blood human being who they're technically supposed to love unconditionally.  Someday perhaps they will see the value in having a brother, but there are days when I wonder if we'll all make it there intact.  Battles on the stairs, shoves across the room, full-body wrestling...you name it, they do it on a regular basis and constantly endanger each other.  Hence why we just prefer to keep them separate if we can. 

Needless to say, we're tired.  It's exhausting, frustrating, and very sad.  Craig and I have a hard time getting in a decent conversation, mostly because the kids are never quiet, but partly because we're so tired by the time the kids are in bed that we can barely think of what we wanted to talk about.  We don't always agree on how to handle the battles, either, so that's made things even harder.  We could probably use a long vacation, or even just a nice day date or fancy dinner.  We need a break from the arguments and decision-making.  And maybe someday it'll happen.  But for now we need to do more than just survive.  Better than nothing, I suppose, but we're trying.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Tournament-Plus Trip, Days 4 & 5

Because Jacob's team did so well on Saturday, we didn't start playing until 1pm on Sunday.  The good news is that we had a lazy morning.  The bad news was it would be hotter and it would make for a late day getting on the road afterward.  Well, for everyone except us, maybe.  We'd sort of built in an extra buffer on our trip to either come home late Sunday and just stay home on Monday, or to tack on one extra day and make the most of being six hours away from home.  Given how the boys had been acting, I wasn't confident we'd do the latter option, but I managed to find a nice but cheap hotel deal in Gettysburg so we decided--in the middle of Jacob's game--to stick it out for one more day.  It also broke up the drive a bit more, which is always helpful.

Anyway, Jacob and his team got back at it and won their semifinal game pretty handily.  That meant we'd play the host team in the championship.  We only beat them by a couple goals the previous day and it was a bit of a rough game.  That team had actually beaten the top team in their bracket in the semis, which surprised us a bit.  We just had to hope the kids kept their heads on straight even though they'd already beaten them once.
Look at that high-step!
It was a physical game, but in the end it was no contest--Jacob's team won 8-1!  This was the first time they won on the field (as opposed to their other championship, which was a mathematical calculation), so it was fun to capture their celebration!
Equipment was flying everywhere!
It was so great to see them finish off the season on a high note.  They really came together as a team over the course of the season, and everyone really did contribute.  So awesome!
Jacob is standing on the left near the edge of the banner.  He's a bit blocked here.

Raising the trophy

Happy champ!
Of course, you can't have 20 boys win a championship without some shenanigans, and here you see a few kids (Jacob among them, no surprise) sizing up the Gatorade cooler to douse their coach!

Initially it didn't look possible since another set of teams was still playing and using it, but another one was found and the boys did the deed...
And thankfully we had an amazing coach who willingly went toward a bunch of smiling kids hanging out around a Gatorade cooler...Good thing it was HOT!

Another picture before loading up and heading out, this time with a proud dad!

It was sad to leave everyone, but tryouts are in a couple weeks and one family is trying to plan a pool party soon.  It was a great group and I'm really pleased with the experience and the organization as a whole this year.  It's not cheap, but I really do believe it's the best place for Jacob to be as he grows as a lacrosse player and as a person.  The values and inclusiveness of this team were really appreciated, especially as we encountered cheating opponents and mouthy opposing fans.  Having such a strong character focus is huge, particularly at such a formative age.

Since we had decided to extend our trip another day, we headed off to our next stop, Gettysburg.  Since our goal was to make it back to a lacrosse clinic for Jacob the following day at 5:30, we knew our time was limited, so we decided to see as much of Gettysburg as possible that night before it got dark.  We arrived around 6:30, stopped in a store that Jacob and Craig had stopped in before (partly to use the bathroom), then headed out to the battlefield area.

Gettysburg is full of battlefields and monuments.  Every roadside and every open field has some sort of marker.  This particular battlefield had a lot to see.

We walked around, read monuments, and let Carter run like a maniac before walking back toward downtown.  Gettysburg had a surprisingly adorable downtown.  Lots of Colonial-looking taverns, cute bed and breakfasts, and odd little shops.  We visited one such shop in a narrow house.  It had a little of everything, from keychains and magnets to Civil War artifacts and modern collectibles.  Everything was in different rooms and it was one of those old houses where the halls and stairways felt so tiny--I could practically hit my head as I came down the stairs!  On the porch was one of many advertisements for ghost tours around town.  I don't know what makes them "ghost-y", but there are guides in period costumes walking small groups all over town.  Maybe next time, but for now, we'll stick with our little ghost...

We wanted to maximize our time before sunset, but we stopped in an ice cream parlor and had an ice cream dinner first.  Carter had this amazing chocolate Oreo flavor, I had cherry vanilla, Craig had vanilla soft serve, and Jacob had strawberry Flavor Burst soft serve.  Once we were stuffed, we wandered back to the car and drove around a bit.  We noticed "Auto Tour" signs around the battlefields so we started following them, and then we found this... 

It was a massive monument to everyone from Pennsylvania who fought in the Civil War.  It was so beautiful, and we couldn't have asked for a prettier backdrop, either.  The detail on the monument was gorgeous.


Abraham Lincoln
As we were walking up to get a closer look, we noticed that there were people on top!  Sure enough, inside one leg of the monument there was a spiral staircase.  Up top, we got a great view of the surrounding area!

The room at the top of the staircase was cool.  It was all metal (maybe copper?) and had lots of texture and detail.  This picture is looking down the small staircase from the landing to the top of the spiral staircase.

The kids did a bit of a repeat of the CN Tower incident from last year, so back down on the ground we did some lecturing about running away and hiding from us while more than 50 feet up in the air.  
There's the stairway to the right, and the lecture to the left.
Here's another pretty monument nearby...

Eventually we made our way to our hotel, a really luxurious looking Wyndham.  The lobby was swanky and the room was big.  We were only missing free breakfast and a fridge in the room, but otherwise, it was a good deal.  And there was a real Civil War cannon in the lobby!
And yes, those are the kids underneath it.
After a bit of an adventure to figure out a Jacob-friendly breakfast, we got on the road to Hershey.  As much as I would have loved to do Hersheypark, I think we need to wait until the boys are older.  Carter seems to be my ride guy, but until he can ride the big ones, it's not worth paying to go there.  Jacob might ride some and Craig won't ride much of anything, so this time around it didn't seem worth the money.  But maybe someday.  In the meantime, we'll enjoy the street lights...

We stopped at Hershey's Chocolate World...

We did the fun little free "factory tour", which is done in a moving vehicle through simulated factory scenes.  It seemed to fill Carter's ride quota for the day.  We also got free chocolate!  Then we did a cheap but fun 4-D mystery movie featuring some of the candy characters.  It was cute and even Jacob enjoyed it!
3-D glasses on!
After that each kid shopped for a treat (though Carter ended up with a small treat and a Hershey's Hot Wheels car), and then it was back in the car to head home. 
Jacob with his giant Hershey Kiss!

We decided somewhere along the way (after a couple unplanned potty stops and driver changes) that we weren't going to make the lacrosse thing on time, so we turned our attention officially toward home.  We kept ourselves occupied with movies and travel bingo (where you look for the people, places, and things on your bingo card), and we arrived home around dinner time.  At least we had some time to get settled, but it didn't make Tuesday much easier.  I felt totally discombobulated, and if that wasn't enough, it was also the Corporate Challenge on Tuesday night!  It was a totally different setup this year, so that had me off my game, too.  I only managed to forget a hair tie, and despite serious heat and bashing my knee on a metal guardrail five minutes prior to the start, I didn't do half bad.  It was my longest time since I really started running, by maybe a minute, but because of the heat I specifically paced myself so I didn't pass out.  I'll call it a win and hope for better next year.

It was a busy week even after that and I'm still exhausted.  Thank goodness for a weekend without real plans!  Of course, we found plenty of ways to fill it up after so many weeks on the road, but it's nice to be able to not rush around or drive long distances for a change.  It's been a fun ride for the last month or so, and hopefully we'll have a little more to look forward to in the fall.  But for now we have the rest of our summer to enjoy!