Saturday, December 3, 2016

Where We Go From Here

In addition to the beginning of the Christmas season, we had a few other things going on this week with Jacob in particular.  It was parent-teacher conference week, so his conference was on Wednesday, then he had a half day Thursday and a full day off on Friday. 

The conference was probably the hardest since Kindergarten, as he's having a tough time right now.  His report card had a few more than the usual two "I"s, and his Math grade wasn't quite up to par.  That's the first we've seen of any academic struggles, and knowing how smart he actually is, it's clear something is up.  Whether it's just not wanting to make the effort, or a complete inability to focus, I'm not completely sure, but the focus is a significant issue right now.  It was disheartening to talk with his teacher, even though there was nothing I was unaware of.  At least I didn't cry! 

Thursday I was off with him.  We had a really nice lunch at Chipotle, just the two of us.
We went to Barnes and Noble near my work because I was trying to buy something for a work project, and he was picking out Under Armour gear with the University's logo on it!  He also enjoyed looking at books while I shopped for a couple toddler books to donate at my work Christmas party.  We then stopped in my office so I could visit a holiday bazaar they were putting on (both years it's been on the day I was off with Jacob!).  We stopped in at my desk so he could meet some co-workers, and he loved raiding my candy bowl.  We had a pretty good day, at least until we picked up Carter and the usual ridiculousness started up again.
At the end of that day we had a follow-up appointment with one of his behavioral doctors, and after years of angst and discussion, we finally walked out with a prescription for ADHD medication.  It's not a decision we made easily, but it seems that the time has come.  Now that it's impacting his progress in school, I feel like we don't have a choice but to give it a try.  It might take time to find the right medication and dose, so our journey is far from over.  And the toughest part is that this probably won't fix our issues at home, as his dose will be winding down by then and his issues are more directly with Carter anyway.  He's not thrilled at the thought of taking a pill, though his issues appear to be as much with the action of having to swallow it as it is with how it might affect him.  He doesn't think he needs help, which makes this so much harder.
We still haven't figured out the timing for starting it, and we still need to work out the details with school, as he will need to take a dose there for now.  It's scary, but it's something that needs to be tried.  I had someone tell me once that they would not be where they were without their Adderall, so I'm hopeful medicine can help him, too.  We don't want to change him completely.  We just want enough of a dose that he can be functional.  I liked how the doctor put it--he basically said it gives him a level playing field.  Some kids don't need a lot of effort to showcase their intelligence, but for a kid like Jacob, his is hidden behind his inattention and impulsivity.  The medicine will get him to that same point as his peers.  It just makes it fair for him. 
So, we move forward.  We have no way of knowing where we go from here, but we just have to take a giant step of faith and hope this is the right move--for all of us.  I am simultaneously scared and hopeful.  More than anything I'm sad we're in this spot in the first place, and wish beyond words that I could fix this myself.  But I guess we just have to be thankful we don't have to do it ourselves and that God gave doctors the intelligence to create medicine that can help him.  We just have to have faith we can find the right fix for him and see how it goes.  The next few weeks are crucial.  And of course it's these few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Please pray for us, now more than ever.

And so it begins...

I realized yesterday that I never got back around to talking about our Thanksgiving weekend.  I guess it's been that kind of week.  The Christmas season is upon us and for the next three weeks there will not be a dull moment.

So, anyway, last Wednesday when we got to my parents' house, we dropped off the boys and went right to a bar in Buffalo to celebrate the life of Craig's Uncle Mike who died two years ago that week.  It was nice to see some of his extended family and have a night out for a change.  It's also been a while since I watched a Buffalo sports team in a Buffalo bar!  When we got back to the house (right around bedtime), I was greeted by another box of "attic treasures" from my parents' attic, including my other two Wish World Kids, to go with the one I brought home a year ago.  They're tiny little dolls with furniture that transformed into fun little workplaces--a TV into a game show set, a dresser into a salon, and a refrigerator into a sweet shoppe.  There was also a Fisher-Price musical instrument maker that has joined the ranks of Carter's toys.  It's always fun to reminisce!

Thanksgiving was nice.  We survived church (barely) and then enjoyed a relatively pleasant lunch at my parents' house, along with my Uncle Ron.  The boys were pretty well behaved and we had some great conversations.  After a little clean-up we were on the road to see Craig's family.  Dinner was a little rougher this time around, as Carter got in a mood and refused to say anything he was thankful for.  He also pretty much refused to eat at the table, and when he went to lay down, I caught him stuffing his face with chips, crackers, and cheese.  Arg.  But Jacob's thankful speech was nice, though I think hearing his cousins probably encouraged him to up his game a bit! 

We were all pretty stuffed, though of course we all made room for dessert!  The kids kept themselves occupied, and I thought it was cute that Carter's big cousin made him this little car setup, complete with gear shifter, pedals, and a steering wheel.  He was having a blast!
The next day we went to our oldest nephew's hockey game.  It was at RiverWorks, which is just on the edge of downtown Buffalo.  We'd never been there, but were really impressed.  It was a huge indoor facility with space for performances, boxing matches, and roller derby, flanked by a restaurant.  The kids actually spent most of the game inside playing bubble hockey.  Back outside under the cover, we watched the game in slightly chilly (but tolerable) weather.
The view from above was pretty.  I think that's the Buffalo River in the background.

Right next door is a six-pack of grain elevators decorated like Labatt Blue cans.  Only in Buffalo!

Downtown Buffalo is in the background, though in this shot it's only easy to see the tallest building in Buffalo.  Too bad it's empty right now :(
Carter just fit under the ledge on the viewing platform, and he liked his vantage point.
After the game we had Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and got back on the road.  I was eager to start some Christmas decorating before the weekend really got going.  I also ended up making a crustless crumb-top apple pie (gluten-free adaptation of my mom's recipe), and that was a nice dessert to look forward to all week.  
That first day I got the Thanksgiving/fall decorations down and the tree up, but without ornaments.  I pulled up bins and started some decorating, but I rapidly realized I had some issues I wanted to fix.  As a result, I only got so far along.  I try very hard to not buy new Christmas decorations as we have plenty.  But a couple years ago Craig won a wooden reindeer decoration with two candles in a raffle, and it was super tacky (but one of the best things left when he got to pick).  It said on the front, "On Dasher, on Dancer, on MasterCard and Visa!"  After thinking about it for a while, a couple months ago I finally fixed it.  I painted over the message with brown paint, doing my best to leave the darker edges.  I finished it with a quick spray of gold spray paint that just left some flecks.  It turned out really well.  However, it had some rather ugly brownish-green and white striped candles that clashed with the brown, so I bought two dollar store off-white flameless pillar candles to replace them.  I was pleased with that upgrade, for sure. 
My other problem was my narrow mantel.  Every year I want to put pine garland up behind whatever I put on the mantel with our stocking holders.  The problem is that the mantel is narrow and trying to get the garland and the other stuff up there without breaking anything was a challenge.  The garland was wired and a bit unruly and I've had a lot of close calls where it moved and almost knocked something breakable off the other end.  It drove me nuts.  So this year I put up that garland in the kitchen above the window where the last owners left nails, and went on a search for softer or skinnier unwired garland.  It took a couple tries, but I finally found some that is made like tinsel garland but looks like pine needles.  It also had a little silver tinsel in it, which I loved even more!  And I also got a string of battery operated red LED lights to wrap around it, and now my mantel is safer and just how I wanted it.  Oh, and I also had to do some glue gun repairs that I've put off a couple years to my grandma's wooden nativity scene and the wreath on my door that I put together many years ago.
So between all of these issues, it was taking a while to get the decorations up.  In the meantime, Carter took advantage of the bin space and made himself a little fort!
He brought in his pillow pet, blankets, and books, all on his own!
Eventually I got through the decorations, and then I finally got back around to the tree.  It took a couple days to get the ornaments on the tree, and I finally moved those bins downstairs yesterday.  I finally remembered to put the Stickees up on the windows this morning.  In case you're unaware, Stickees are holiday-themed window clings.  They have been around my family since I was about 12-13 years old, when my school did a fundraiser and my family bought them up.  I have a few hand-me-downs from my mom and grandmas, so I have a spring flowers/Easter set, fall leaves, jack o'lanterns, ornaments, and a set of Christmas shapes (Santa, a tree, sleigh) and a ton of snowflakes.  I always put up the ornaments, but some years I'm less motivated to do the rest of the Christmas stuff.  This year I did a full display and it felt good to finally finish up the decorating today. 

Now if I could just get around to that shopping...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Is Alive Enough?

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Two great meals under our belts (literally) and some nice family time with both sides.  I'm currently staring at my living room and dreading the process of starting the Christmas decorating.  Don't get me wrong--I love it when it's done and really enjoy the month and a half I have the decorations up.  But it's a monumental task and it seems to get harder every year.  I adore my decorations and the memories attached to them, but it's a lot, particularly when it involves moving furniture and thinning out the toys to make room.  I'm already overwhelmed with Christmas shopping, as well, as Jacob's list has one thing on it, and of course it's something I'm not interested in getting him.  We have enough stuff so the gifts seem like overkill, but I still appreciate the magic of Christmas morning.  I'd love to do experiences instead of things, but with the boys being so difficult out in public at times, it's hard to think of things that are doable and that they'd appreciate.  Mentally I'm just tired out and the Christmas season has barely begun. 

Thanksgiving was a tough one this year.  I mean, the holiday itself was fine.  The food was great, the family time was pleasant (aside from the usual issues with the kids), and as a whole things went smoothly.  But internally, I felt like my thankfulness was lacking.  Obviously I know I have a blessed life in a million different ways.  I have a loving husband, two kids, an awesome family, a beautiful house, a great job, and all of the creature comforts I need.  We are okay financially (always could be more comfortable, but we're definitely in more-than-acceptable shape), and health-wise we're hanging in there.  My recent issues seem to be fine at the moment and Craig's ulcers are slowly healing.  He is still having trouble with his knees and I really need to start working on my allergies and taste/smell problem, but all things considered we're fine.

But despite knowing how blessed I am and being thankful for all of that, I found myself struggling to come up with a good mini-speech for when we went around the table at Craig's family feast.  It's easy to spout off the usual stuff--the stuff I mentioned above--but usually there's something that stands out as extra special.  Four years ago it was being spared injury when I had a pre-Thanksgiving car accident while pregnant with Carter.  Three years ago it was my healthy baby boy and Craig's Nana being there and having had the chance to meet her great-grandson.  Last year I think it was my new job and Craig's successful surgery.  But this year...nothing stood out.  Let's face it, it's been a rough one.  Three funerals, one for my far-too-young cousin.  Lots of health question marks all year long.  The first sign of behavior issues with Carter.  And, most overwhelmingly, Jacob's leg and his plethora of behavior issues.  Our house has been anything but peaceful and relaxing since Jacob healed up, and I am just mentally and physically exhausted of the constant stress this has caused.  Part of it is the ongoing battles between the kids, which necessitate being a full-time referee and yelling far more than is healthy for anyone.  The other part is my constant worrying about Jacob's complete inability to monitor his behavior and his lack of desire to improve it.  I have to remind him daily (literally) to clean up his breakfast cereal bowl and to brush his teeth.  He seems unable to control himself near his brother, and his inattentiveness is finally starting to impact his schoolwork.  He does not like me at all, he is completely inconsiderate despite continuous efforts to fix it, and he simply cannot regulate himself in any aspect of his life.  The short term issues are annoying, but the long term implications are frightening.  And despite countless prayers, we're struggling more and more every day.

On top of that, my taste and smell issues are another long-unanswered prayer, and I suppose that's starting to get me down, too.  I feel like I'm missing out on tasting amazing things, not being able to make or relive any smell or taste-based memories, and unable to be the kind of wife and mother I should be, since I can't properly protect my kids from hazards or ensure that they're fed tasty food or not giving off any off-putting smells.  There are worse physical problems, obviously--of all the senses I suppose they're the best ones to lose--but having only three of the five means that a big chunk of my life isn't being experienced to the fullest. 

I know that I'm lucky--I've had friends whose little kids have passed away, and I've seen my aunt go through the worst grief imaginable for more than seven months.  And yet our life is relatively stable all things considered, so it makes me angry that I'm letting these two things get in my way.  I mean, geez, Jacob is alive and well, right?  Sort of, anyway.  I know many people who would give anything for their kids to be here in the flesh.  But he wants nothing to do with me and some days we're practically non-functional as a family.  Yes, I get to watch him grow and play lacrosse, which is something, but when I can't truly enjoy it with him, it all feels so empty.  So is being alive enough?  I don't know.  I know it's something, but it's so hard to feel joy when such a big chunk of my life is so heartbreaking. 

I think I've mentioned before how I tend to over-control certain areas of my life when other areas are out of control.  I'll try to control my appearance or de-clutter my house or do a Pinterest craft.  And while you'd think the picture-perfect Christmas house would play right into that, I suppose maybe I'm self-aware enough to know that none of those decorations will actually make our house any happier, and it seems like a whole lot of effort for nothing.  I need to keep trying, I know.  But I try to keep it real here, and rather than spout a bunch of platitudes on the one day of the year we're supposed focus on being thankful, I'll share that while I am incredibly thankful for all of these blessed elements of my life, it's surprising to even me how this challenge has begun to permeate everything.  I feel like life is passing us by and we're losing out on all of these moments to enjoy because of a problem we just can't seem to fix.  We only have so many Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters and birthdays and summer vacations with little kids, and so many have been spent stressed out and sad that we've yelled through it or dealt with super cranky, ungrateful kids.  We're never going to get those moments back and I'm so sad that I don't know how to fix it...or to look past the hardship and see the good.  Maybe over time it eases up a bit, but in the moment it's just not great and that's what stinks. 

Please understand that I am truly grateful for what we have.  I prefer to live my life in bright, shiny color, and right now it's a muted shade of pale.  I'm thankful for the beautiful landscape but the dark clouds are blocking out its vibrancy.  I'm longing to see this life it as it was intended to be, and right now, this just doesn't feel like this is it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

News & Notes, Manic Monday Edition

Just another manic Monday, wish it were Sunday...well, actually, I wish it was Friday night.  Sundays are not my favorite these days.  Too much weekend crankiness from being off-schedule, and too much dread of Monday.  But anyway...

Today we got our first real dose of winter.  We'd had one minor dusting of snow in October, but between yesterday and today we got a legit few inches.  It also came with 30 mph winds, which haven't been pleasant, but the other side of Rochester got hammered with over a foot, so I guess we're lucky.  Lake effect is funny like that.  It reminded me of Buffalo during Snowvember, when part of the city got hammered under seven feet of snow, and the other part had barely a dusting.  This was a fraction of that, but it's weird to think that the other half of the county is nearly paralyzed and we're all good here.  No snow day for Jacob, though since tomorrow is his only other day of school this week, I think that's a good thing.

Speaking of Jacob, we're still in our bizarre holding pattern right now where some moments are fine and some are just disastrous.  There are times where he is totally calm, almost sweet.  Sometimes he will even try to engage Carter in a sport or game.  Lately he's even been getting into tickle fights with him.  And then it all usually goes horribly downhill after someone accidentally gets hurt, and then Jacob stomps around the house because Carter won't play with him.  He'll snap and act out his rage without actually following through on it.  It's exhausting. 

Lately my bigger concern has been with his schoolwork.  I've seen a decent number of subpar tests and worksheets.  That is a new thing for him.  Usually his work was fine, or maybe with one or two really small mistakes, but lately he's had a lot of incorrect answers, or even blank ones.  I can't quite figure out what's happening.  I don't know if he's not reading directions properly, or rushing through it, or simply doesn't understand what he's learning.  His teacher has expressed a lot of frustration with his attention and his ability to listen to directions, so I'm finally wondering if ADHD is officially starting to show itself as disrupting his learning experience.  We have a follow-up meeting with the doctor who could prescribe him medication in a couple weeks, and we could have some very tough decisions to make. 

It's not like him to be so down on himself and his ability to do the work.  He can barely stand having me carefully go over the issues with him.  I'm trying to be gentle and patient, but he just doesn't want to do it.  I know he's smart, so what's up?  Just the attention?  Is he having trouble seeing clearly?  Is he just down on himself because he doesn't have a teacher that can see his good side?  His parent-teacher conference is next week, so I'm sure that will be a tough one, but maybe we can work toward something better like we did last year.

In other news, he played his first indoor lacrosse game of the season this past weekend.  It was good to see him out there for the first time since last December, before his leg injury ever happened.  He missed most of last season and only got to play once the games were outside.  He missed the first game of the season while he was at his tournament (which reminds me--I was going to have Craig do a guest post...), but his first game back wasn't particularly great because they played a completely dominant team and got killed.  Maybe their next game will be a little better and he will get more in the groove.  

As for Carter, he is just as changeable as his big brother.  Sometimes he is completely delightful and sweet, and sometimes he is even more stubborn than Jacob.  When he gets mad he defaults to punches and kicks.  Whether it's his parents, his brother, his friends, or his teachers, the wrath comes out.  We're working on it.  In the meantime, it infuriates Jacob and frustrates everyone else.  Sometimes he loves playing with Jacob, and sometimes he wants nothing to do with it.  He can't keep himself away from him most of the time, and that gets downright dangerous as Jacob doesn't understand his limits.  It's hard to referee them, but we're trying to let the relationship develop when the good moments happen.

Carter says the cutest things sometimes, and he can be a snuggly, sweet kid.  But lately I just can't seem to figure him out.  If we let him nap at daycare, he's up late.  If we don't, sometimes it's hard to keep him awake until bedtime.  When he's tired he gets irrationally cranky.  If he's too awake he won't go to sleep and the next day is challenging.  Sometimes he sleeps in really late, sometimes he's up bright and early (usually on a Saturday).  Weekends throw him off completely, no matter how normal bedtimes stay.  For some reason I can't figure out how to keep him more even keeled.  On top of that, I'm having a heck of a time getting him to dress himself.  He refuses to do it.  He can, though usually it takes him forever and he gets distracted at every step.  I try to lay out his clothes to make it easier, but it is exhausting just trying to get him to do it.  One of his teachers mentioned that she noticed that some of his fine motor skills might be lacking, which I hadn't really noticed, but maybe she was right--that would explain why he doesn't want to do it.  And let's not even get into how he can't sit still in his chair at dinner these days.  I can't even.  I was going to try to get a cushion for Jacob that helps get the wiggles out, but now I'm thinking I need one for Carter too.  Ugh.

I'm already starting to stress out about Christmas.  I'm not sure what to give the kids, as they just don't need more toys, but they don't seem to appreciate experiences either, as they're too busy making each other nuts.  I've got the usual long list of other people to buy for, and I am sorely lacking for ideas.  I can barely wrap my brain around decorating this coming weekend, let alone four weeks of shopping and buying presents, making cookies, coordinating schedules, and staying up late to accomplish the endless to do list before Christmas Eve.  As much as I love Christmas, part of me is exhausted just thinking about it. 

I feel like there was more that I was going to talk about here, but as usual, my brain is too clogged up to remember.  Maybe another day...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Weekend #2!

Carter and I tend to spend a lot of time together.  I think that all started when Carter was a baby and I was on nursing duty, which meant that Craig often ended up with Jacob by default.  Prior to Carter being born, I think Jacob spent a good amount of time with both of us--I had him exclusively on weekends when Craig was working, and Craig would squeeze in whatever time he could with Jacob when he wasn't working.  But the tide shifted when Carter came around and I was the one who needed to attend to most of his needs...and honestly, we've never really recovered from that.  It seems a lot of Jacob's issues stem from that, and despite assuring him that I've always been available to him and explaining that he's pulled away from me more than anything, it's been a tough rift to heal.  So, our motto these days--for better or for worse--seems to be "divide and conquer".  It's often too hard to keep the kids together because they inevitably cause trouble, so much of the time it's one of us taking one kid to run an errand, or splitting up pick-up duties in the evening.  Not ideal, but it's how we survive right now. 

But much of the time now it's lacrosse that keeps Craig and Jacob busy together, between Jacob's playing schedule and his wanting to be around the team as much as possible.  This weekend was no exception, as Jacob had his first real travel tournament to attend.  Craig and Jacob made the long trip to Maryland for the weekend, once again leaving Carter and I together.  In theory, we could have gone--and probably will in the future--but given the difficulty of having them together, it probably wouldn't have been ideal right now.  On top of that, I already had plans for the weekend!  My college roommate Mary was coming into town because we had a concert to attend!  That's usually what gets us to settle on a date to get together, and sure enough, a great show was coming here that we couldn't pass up!  It had been a while since our last weekend together, so we were both really looking forward to it.

It turned out that Mary had a retirement party to attend on Friday night, and Carter's daycare was closed all day Friday, so I had an entire day with him.  The big boys left that morning, and I unfortunately spent much of the day cleaning the house--it desperately needed it.  Not just because someone was coming to visit, but because things go south quicker than I can keep up.  Anyway, I got things completed to my satisfaction, and then Carter and I had to go out and do some running around.  We stopped at the craft store (didn't get what I wanted but found a cool metal "R" (for our last name) in the perfect color for use in decorating around the house, for only $3) and Target (I got a bra for $5!), and then headed off to dinner.  Even though I knew we'd be eating out most of the weekend, I wanted to take Carter to Friendly's.  It's such a kid rite of passage and he's never been there because it is not gluten-free-friendly for our family.  He might have been there once before he was old enough to eat, but the only time I know he was there was in my belly the night before he was born.  We went there on the infamous worst Valentine's Day ever, when I felt horrible all day, and had to drag myself to Jacob's soccer session and the Friendly's dinner we promised.  I could barely eat and saw a little spot of blood when I visited the restroom, but I didn't go into labor until more than 12 hours later.  My uneaten sundae was still waiting for me in the freezer at home three days later! 

Anyway, I had coupons and I decided that it was time.  He seemed to enjoy his hot dog, although he almost fell asleep for about five minutes in the middle of dinner before he snapped out of it.  He chose a conehead sundae (my favorite!) for his dessert.  He made a mess of himself with the cone (see below), but ended up just letting the ice cream melt.  He took a couple sips of it with a straw after that, but that was it.  I had to rescue the Reese's Pieces in the bottom because I couldn't let those go to waste!   

After that I took a risk and we went to Kohl's.  I had a couple good coupons to stack (plus an awesome one I got at the register!), so it was worth looking.  I figured I could keep him occupied with my phone if I needed to.  And aside from one moment when he threw his toys in the cart basket repeatedly, and then accidentally head-butted me in the mouth to the point that it still hurts now and felt vaguely numb at moments on Saturday, he did really well.  And so did I!  I got three shirts, a skirt, a necklace with four pendants, and a pair of Adidas shorts for Jacob, all for about $35.

Mary arrived late Saturday morning, and after Carter showed her all of his toys, we headed out for lunch and a trip to the zoo.  I figured we needed something to do that would keep Carter occupied, and since we hadn't been there in a while, I thought it might be fun.  It turned out to be a pleasant day despite being cool and breezy, but unfortunately the animals weren't the most visible or active this time around.  No polar bears, otters, or penguins, only one sea lion, and only a few baboons.  And even animals that were out and about weren't doing much.  But it was a nice excuse for a walk, I suppose!

We saw some birds...

...and some baby lemurs...

...and caught a glimpse of the elusive Canada lynx.

Carter loves these photo op boards wherever we go, but usually he's not quite tall enough for them!  Maybe next year...

The lions were sleepy...

...and by this point a squirrel on a bench almost counted as part of the show.

The elephants were inside, which didn't afford us the best entertainment, but we could get some pretty good up-close views of their amazing bodies, from their trunks to their ears to their giant feet and wrinkly skin.  The highlight, though, may have been when the little girl in the family next to us dropped her mom's cell phone through the bars and just inside the enclosure.  It wasn't near the elephants, but rather in the walkway between our viewing area and the cages themselves.  A zookeeper had to come get it, though!

The baboon enclosure was a lot quieter than usual, with only three of them hanging out in the visible area.  And those weren't very active, mostly just digging in the dirt for something to eat.  They are stern looking creatures, aren't they?

On the way back through, I peeked back into the bus that serves as a viewing area for the lions, and this pretty girl who was sleeping on the hood had woken up.

When we passed by the goats on the way into the Africa exhibit, the enclosure was empty.  When we came back through, we heard them before we even saw them.  It turns out they sometimes spend time elsewhere on the property (grazing, maybe?) and the little poops we saw on the walkway on our way back (almost thought someone dropped their milk duds!) came from one of them as they were being walked back.  As we walked up, the keepers were bringing them fresh hay, and they were mercilessly vocalizing to get their mouths on it!  As you can see, they were eager.

But look at that silly face!

The penguins were all in for the night, but Carter couldn't resist sticking his face through one more hole to be a penguin!

I caught a shot of this vibrant little guy in the otter building...

...and tried (and failed) to capture the beauty of the snow leopard.  Darn fence.

We left the zoo right around closing time and of course Carter fell asleep on the way home.  I let him rest a bit, but soon we had to go grab dinner.  We opted for Outback, and while it was a bit harrowing at times (Carter discovered at Friendly's that he can crawl under the table to the other side of the booth), Mary did an amazing job of tricking him into eating his dinner.  After 15+ years of preschool speech pathology work, she is the master.  You can tell she's spent a lot of time with kids that age, trying to get them to do things they don't want to do!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early to drive down to Geneseo for church.  Even though we figured we wouldn't see our old pastor, since he's retired and has grandkids to visit, we still like popping in there from time to time to get a little taste of "home". 

Carter got a little antsy near the end, and it was nearly impossible to get him to stop making a nuisance of himself.  I don't know what got into him, but whatever it was only got worse at lunch.  We went to our favorite pizza place, Mama Mia's, and when I tried to give Carter his pizza, he tried to throw it on the floor.  He was mad that I was trying to get him to sit still and eat, because he wanted to climb under the booth again, and even though I tried to compromise with him, he got pretty nasty and screamed quite a bit.  It was pretty miserable.  And was over.  I asked him for the umpteenth time to eat a few pieces of pizza and show me he could be a good boy so he could go sit with Mary, and after refusing before, suddenly he was like, "Okay," and he ate.  Seriously?  Ugh.  And yes, he was really into Mary.  She let him have her zoo map, and he carried it around for a couple days, even taking it to daycare yesterday.  Silly boy.

After lunch we wandered down to the campus and checked out the sights.  Some of the campus is nearly the same, some is completely different.  The upper quad has a new science building and a completely renovated one.  One side of the campus has two new dorms and a renovated dining hall, and the side we lived on has an entire block of townhouses that took over the torturous walkway we used to walk in horizontal rain and snow.  Our old dining hall is closed for renovations, no doubt to become one of those fancy multi-station dining facilities that I'm convinced would have made me gain 50 pounds if I'd had one in college.  But there's no doubt it's still a pretty campus and will always be another home to us.
Sturges Hall, one of the iconic spots on campus, along with the "Seuss Spruce"

Gorgeous ivy on Sturges

Looking up at the tower

Looking out over the Genesee Valley...the leaves were past peak, but this is the preferred sunset viewing spot on campus.  That's the same valley that played host to that amazing sunset I caught a few weeks ago.

Another new piece--a  stadium.  I would have had a view of it from one or two of my dorms.  I would have loved that!

Where it all began...our freshman dorm.

This was the newest building when we were on campus.  It's now over 20 years old...but still pretty.
As we walked back toward the car, we stopped in this new little spot that honors some major donors.  Carter took a liking to the bench.

He insisted I take his picture. 
During most visits, the Geneseo leg would mark the end and Mary would be heading back home.  This time, Sunday night held another round of fun--a concert!  We grabbed subs from Aunt Cookie's to eat for dinner and headed home to get ready for the evening.  Carter went to stay with my cousin Lori for the evening, and we went off to the concert.

One of the acts was called We Are Messengers, which is basically just an Irish guy.  He had some very interesting words to share in light of last week's election, from the perspective of an outsider. 

Next up was the entire reason I was there.  She may not have been the biggest name, but she was what made me want to go--Plumb.  I've been listening to her for about 19 years, and I saw her live once in 1998 and have been officially hooked ever since.  She is amazing.

I felt very emotional about seeing her, and it took me a bit to realize why.  Because I've been listening to her for 19 years, she has sung me through so many stages of my life.  From the early stages of my renewed faith, through college crushes and ill-advised relationships, on to marriage, motherhood, and all of the challenges that have come with it.  When she started playing the song "Need You Now", I was overcome by emotion.  That song was with me on the way to my dad's heart surgery, and for many commutes where I was overwhelmed by all we've gone through with Jacob.  Hearing it live was intense but wonderful.

The main act was Big Daddy Weave, who I've always enjoyed hearing in passing but never bought any of their stuff.  However, I was interested in hearing them live.  One interesting point of the show is when the lead singer's brother, who is also a member of the band, came out to play.  He had both of his feet amputated due to an infection a few months back and is lucky to be alive.  It was inspiring seeing him out there, wheelchair and all.

The show was different that any I've ever seen.  Each artist played a short set of a handful of songs, and then they all came out together to play an entire set of worship songs as a group.  It was pretty cool and we really enjoyed it.  And the best news of the night?  One concert we'd been disappointed bypassed our areas added a Rochester date!  So, with any luck, we'll get to do this all over again in three months!

It ended up being a late night all around--Carter was still awake when we picked him up, and Craig and Jacob didn't get home until after midnight.  Mary left first thing in the morning.  That evening we got to regroup as a family and the boys all showed off some souvenirs from their detour to Gettysburg...
Some of the props we already had...but Jacob insisted they all pose for a picture!
At least we only have to get through one full week before Thanksgiving week!  But these two weekends will be tough to beat!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Finishing off last weekend...

We just finished up a second consecutive fun weekend with Carter and me + a friend of mine, but I still haven't gotten back around to finishing up last weekend!  With all of the election stuff, and a busy end to the week, and who knows what else, it just hasn't happened.  Hopefully I'll have some breathing room this week!  Just in time to get a little caught up before Thanksgiving, and then obviously Christmas season will be on and all bets will be off.  I panicked a little bit this morning just thinking about the Christmas season being only about 10 days away.  I always hope to have a better head start, but alas, doesn't look like this will be the year, either.  On the bright side, having two fun weekends in early November has made the stretch from Halloween to Thanksgiving a little more tolerable. It seems like the anticipation leading up to Thanksgiving and what follows leaves me with some anxiety, and these weeks usually seem to drag enough to make things extra intolerable.  But with two fun weekends and enough stuff in the middle to keep things interesting, it hasn't been bad.  By next Monday I'll probably be itching to get the show on the road, but for now, I'm fine!

I left off with us having a fun but busy travel/museum day Friday.  On Saturday we had a lazy morning around the house, a quick lunch, and then Heather, Carter and I headed out to the Discovery Center, a kid-friendly museum that's a little like Strong Museum but on a smaller scale.  Heather has worked there in the summers, so she was a great tour guide!  We couldn't resist a photo op right inside the lobby, though!

Inside, the museum was in essence one big space that had been divided into various rooms and stations covering a variety of subjects.  In the middle was a giant climbing structure, an upstairs treehouse station with nature-related activities, and a crawl tunnel that connected opposite sides of the space.  I caught this shot of Carter through a little window as he began his way through the tunnel.

He sat in a pirate ship...

...and decided to play banker.  He loved being the bank teller, and Heather was making out quite well with her withdrawal!
There was a microphone speaker system to talk through the glass, an iPad with a money app, a security camera, a drawer full of play money, and a counter with deposit slips, withdrawal slips, and checks.
There was a whole section about bees, and Carter liked the bee puppets.  I know this picture is blurry, but I couldn't resist!

There was a fire truck to climb into...

and drive!

In a room with tools and a train track, among other creative building toys, Carter was fascinated with this setup where you could create ramps for a ball to roll down by sticking plastic slats into grooves.

Here's a look over part of the middle space, toward the mini-grocery store and pirate ship.

Another room had a fighter plane cockpit.  Carter had to wait patiently through a couple kids to get his turn, but he thought it was pretty cool!

That room also had a hot air balloon basket!

After wandering past a sports section with equipment to try on, a dental clinic, and the back end of an ambulance, we settled into an art area with spaces to draw and play with magnetic building tiles.

Up on the climbing structure, which Carter loved, I had a view of the bank, the puppet theater, and parts of the grocery store and fire station.

In another section, Heather and Carter tried to do the weather forecast!

Here's a view of the climbing structure (and the tunnel is in the base), as well as the Chinese restaurant that had a hearty supply of play food.

Carter popped into the puppet theater, and the shark and alligator show was pretty irresistible!

We visited the grocery store and did some shopping...

...then headed over to put Heather in a giant bubble!
 Carter played with the boats in the river and locks setup...

...and then we headed to the restaurant to get served some dinner.  Check out the mustard that pretended to squirt out!

We went back to the house (nap by Carter on the way), and had a nice evening at home.  Carter got a little antsy, so Heather brought up a bin of her old toys, and he loved looking through them.  There were lots of Fisher-Price classics, and Carter took a liking to this little wind-up music player.  He liked it so much that he fell asleep holding it.  After sleeping on the floor the previous night, I actually really enjoyed snuggling him in bed that night.  This time won't last much longer, you know.

The next morning we went to church, and then headed to a real Chinese restaurant (a buffet, this time) for lunch.  Carter stuck with the American foods, but it was a nice change of pace since Chinese buffets aren't usually on our radar these days.  Yum!  After that we packed up and headed out.  The drive home wasn't quite as scenic, partly because the leaves on our route had fallen and partly because it was dark about halfway through the trip thanks to the time change.  But we made it home for dinner and it was back to work for a second consecutive four-day work week...which if you ask me, is exactly what it should be!  And at the end of that week would be another fun weekend--this time with my college roommate, Geneseo, and a concert!  One lucky girl :)