Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sweet Freedom

For quite a few years, Craig has had this random fascination with Michael McDonald.  Who?  Yeah, the singer...the guy who was part of the Doobie Brothers, then had a pretty solid solo career in the 80s.  He's got that really unique and very soulful voice, and even if you don't know who he is, you've probably heard him and marveled a bit that that voice can come from a white guy.  Two years ago we went to Pittsburgh with Craig's dad for a baseball game, and in looking through stuff at the hotel, I discovered that Michael McDonald was in Pittsburgh that night performing at a casino.  I guess prior to that I never really realized he was still actively touring, so from that moment on I kept my eyes and ears open in case he came nearby.

Earlier this year he came to Rochester as part of our jazz festival, but the minimum $60/ticket price tag seemed a little steep for a random fascination.  Fortunately, not long after I saw that he was coming to Artpark in Lewiston (near Niagara Falls) for their summer concert series, and the tickets were only $12!  Jackpot!  I hatched a plan to take two half days off of work, leave in the afternoon, drop the kids at my parents', go to the concert, and get an overnight date out of the deal.  And guess what?  It actually happened.

This past Tuesday was the day.  We've been on the road for various things so many weekends in a row, and the suitcases have barely been put away over the past month, but we had to do it again.  We haven't had a night away in ages (possibly as far back as May 2013), so it had to happen.  It took me until the night before to find a hotel room I was satisfied with, but it was worth it to have a night away and a morning without pint-sized human alarm clocks.  We picked up the kids early and headed off to Buffalo, stopping only briefly at my parents' to drop them off and give a few instructions.  We had to get there as soon as we could to claim our general admission seats.

I haven't been to Artpark since my high school graduation, and probably at least half a dozen years before that for their summer activities for kids.  It used to be a favorite summer spot for my grandma, aunts, cousins, and me, as we'd go there once in a while with a picnic lunch, then head off to watch the performers, paint pictures, and do crafts.  They had pottery wheels and clay, random craft projects, and a line of boards to put up paper and paint.  It was glorious.  I graduated in the indoor theater there, and nowadays the giant wooden decks where most of the crafts were are gone and in that area is a giant outdoor amphitheater, home of their Tuesday concert series.  It was cool to go back, but I wish we would have had more time to wander to see the random pieces of art scattered around the grounds.  We found a good spot for our lawn chairs, and headed off to find dinner from the many vendors.  Among all of the cooler days we've had, that night happened to be a hot one.  We sweated through our dinners (cheeseburger for Craig, pork noodles for me), and tried to appreciate the fact that it wasn't raining or cold.

The opening act was Toto, a band from the 70s and 80s that you may remember for hits like "Africa", "Rosanna", "Hold the Line", and "I'll Be Over You".  Considering they're aging 60-something rockers, we weren't sure what to expect, but they were awesome!  There were at least four old guys with some newer folks sprinkled in, but the old guys could still rock and it was great!  I loved hearing the classics live!

During the intermission, we wandered over to the far side of the amphitheater to look out at the Niagara Gorge...

Not a bad view, eh?  The bridge in the distance is the Lewiston-Queenston bridge to Canada.  It looks so impressive from down here!
 This view looks a little the left from there, back toward the stage and the crowd.  We were sitting at the far side of this crowd, right about in the middle, not far from that large illuminated screen.

It was such a nice evening.  It never got very cool, but I never needed a sweater, either.

Michael McDonald's voice hasn't preserved quite as well as the Toto guys, but it was still a great show.  I loved hearing his classics live, too.
The video screens were helpful!
We loved hearing "Takin' it to the Streets", "Minute by Minute", and the song the title of this post is based on, among others.  He looks sort of like an overweight old dude in a black t-shirt these days, but he's still got a ton of soul in that voice and it was nice to hear him live.  We just enjoyed the evening and appreciated not having to attend to every little thing that the kids need.  When you're so preoccupied with getting them to eat or sleep or just stop invading your personal space, it's nice to get a break.  We enjoyed every second.

We headed out from the concert and crossed over the border in Niagara Falls pretty easily before heading to our hotel.  The nightly fireworks started just as we hit the customs booth, so we missed that show, but once we dropped off our stuff, we headed out to Clifton Hill.  We stopped at DQ for Blizzards and wandered down and up, stopping a few stores and looking at all of the other parents dealing with their overtired, out-too-late, over-sugared kids.  As much as I wanted to kiss our kids good night, at that moment I was relieved they were not with us!

We headed back to our room, which was a giant suite-type room that I got for the same price as a normal one.  There was a cute couch, a tiny kitchen space, and just a lot of space in general.  We weren't there for long, but it was really nice.  I slept pretty good considering we were in a hotel room, and while we couldn't sleep too late because we had to make it back to Rochester by lunch time, it was nice to wake up on my own and not have to get up and attend to the kids.  It was a nice change of pace, for sure!

We headed back to reality, grabbed a quick breakfast, and picked up the kids before heading back to Rochester.  I fed the kids lunch and dropped them at daycare, then went back to work, which has been non-stop craziness since I got back from vacation.  I'm still buried by a mountain of work--some of which came in while I was gone, some of which involved time-consuming urgent projects, and some of which piled up while I was stuck doing those time-consuming urgent projects.  It's been exhausting and seems like a hole I will never climb out of, but I have no choice but to keep chipping away.  It's not easy...and it's part of the reason this blog has been pretty quiet lately.

So, another weekend is upon us.  A baseball game in Rochester with Craig's family, complete with a bobblehead giveaway, ushered in the weekend.  As of today a new digital camera has been purchased, and three parties and one fun outing (and a work thing for Craig in Canada) have lured us back to Western New York for yet another weekend.  Next weekend we WILL stay home...but we have a guest!  And the weekend after that I'm in Syracuse (alone!).  The fun never stops...which is bad for my productivity, but good for our fun level!  School starts late this week, Carter moves up at daycare, and I officially enter my mid-to-late thirties in approximately 45 minutes.  Whew.  Time to get a good night's sleep to prepare for all of this stuff!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Picnic!

This summer we've had an endless streak of events on weekends that started pretty much back in June and will go right through Labor Day.  It's been fun and crazy, but it's winding down.  This weekend we had Craig's family picnic.  It took a year off last year, but was back this year and Jacob was excited.  The big event at this picnic has always been the softball game.  In recent years it's been more of a free-for-all baseball-ish game for all ages, but he enjoys it.  And he's finally old enough to really play! 

Before we could get to the game, we had to do the picnic part...hang out, eat food, and find ways to keep the kids occupied.  The park it's in has plenty of areas to wander, and Jacob kept himself occupied by playing a lot of wall ball--throwing the ball off the wall and trying to catch it.  Carter liked watching Jacob, but he also kept trying to join other parties and wander into the parking lot.  UGH.  He's a very determined little boy!  This picnic always seems to take forever to get to the food, and finally we did.  By that point Craig had been gone for a while to take care of an event for work (good thing he was already in Buffalo!) and made it back shortly after the meal, just as the game was getting organized. 

True to form, Jacob was a little annoyed about the loosey-goosey rules of the game, and that it only ended up being three innings, but he had fun nonetheless.  He played catcher when he was in the field and did pretty well hitting. 

In the meantime, Carter was having a blast making a new friend, one of his distant cousins.  Cousin Teddy is headed to college and is--get this--6'7" tall!  He loves kids, and Carter loved it when he picked him up and held him over his head!  God knows it's rare I get up that high, let alone Carter!  The giggles were so great!

Here's an assortment of pictures from the day...
It's rare to get a picture of the two of them together, so when they were just sort of accidentally sitting together, I had to take my shot...

He was sort of doing "cheese" in this picture, and I couldn't resist!

Gosh, he's handsome!

Jacob gets a hit! (and Daddy's playing third!)

Carter liked the game but he was also enjoying the equipment!

Had to get a picture of my boys in their Polska shirts, but Carter wasn't being very cooperative by then!
 
The end of the game marked the end of the picnic as we had to head back to Craig's parents' house to spend the evening with some friends of theirs who were in from out of town.  We had a late-ish night but Jacob played nicely with his cousins in the pool and Carter charmed everyone as usual.  Today we all slept in a bit and then headed out to the outlet mall in Niagara Falls to hit up the Nike store, among other stores (found a great pair of sneaks for Carter with Aunt Kristin's employee discount and some pants  for Jacob at The Children's Place).  Of course, the rest of Western New York and Southern Ontario was there, as well, and with a ton of construction there was nearly no parking.  Still, we survived and got on the road to finish off the weekend at home this evening. 
 
It's sort of a weird start to the week already.  I have piles of work waiting for me tomorrow, and while I don't really want to finish the weekend, I do want to get back to chipping away at the mountain.  At the same time, I know it's only for a day and a half, as I'm off Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning for a special date night with Craig, so at least I know I have a little reprieve--though the resulting stress at work may not be worth it, but I am NOT giving up this date that I've been planning for months!  Next weekend is my birthday, which I was hoping to spend as a quiet weekend at home (finally), but alas...it doesn't appear that will be the case.  It's also Craig's dad's birthday weekend and I'm assuming there will be something for that, and my parents are throwing a picnic.  I've also been desperate to get back to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo (haven't been since college) because some of their best known works are back for a bit after a traveling exhibition.  I know some of them are ones I remember from many a field trip in my youth, and I'd like to see those old favorites before they go back on the road.  So my goal if I'm giving up my weekend at home is to sneak away for a few hours to go enjoy some art.  We'll see how that goes.  Oh, and we have to do some school shopping this week, too, so it looks like there won't be any dull moments for a bit yet.  Yay for summer!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reflections on "Vacation"

Well, we're back to our usual existence--kids at daycare, parents at work--and so far the transition back has been OK.  I'll admit that I pretty much reached my limit on togetherness by Sunday afternoon.  There were a lot of things that made Sunday tough, including a scheduling glitch that caused me to miss an event I had been looking forward to--a party to celebrate the 3rd birthday and remission from leukemia for my friend's son.  I was so upset about that, for many reasons, and it sort of took the wind out of my sails for the rest of the day.  To the point that when we got home from our weekend in Buffalo I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and stayed there for a couple hours until I had the composure to function.  Of course, Jacob still tried my patience every chance he got, and Carter is such a handful that it takes a lot of energy and patience to keep him out of trouble, and by last night I was definitely lacking in that department.  Being with both of them all week definitely took a toll on both of us.  I know that sounds terrible, but it's true.  Being on duty 24/7 can be very challenging.  With Jacob everything is a battle, and with Carter, you're always having to be aware.  That much time together means that there are many more instances in an uninterrupted span of time where you have to do the disciplining.  Normally they get some disciplining from teachers at daycare/school for part of the day, and us at home for part of the day.  But without that change of scenery, it's all us, all the time, and that's not really fun for anyone...they don't want to get it, and we get sick of dishing it out.  When we're all having a good time together, the time together great...but when we're not, it's that much worse because we don't get a break.

Jacob had his good moments during the week--a very good first day on our trip, lots of time spent playing Legos by himself without being asked--but spending the week with him really brought to light a lot of his challenges right now.  It reminded me that we still have major battles ahead of us, particularly as first grade looms.  His attention span is zero.  You can tell him to put on his shoes or change his shorts 10 times in a row and he still won't be able to focus long enough to do it.  He says a blatant "no", or worse, makes some sort of smart remark when even the simplest direction is given to him.  Bedtime has been painful.  I have no idea where that awful disrespect came from.  We certainly have never let it pass here, so why he keeps it up, we have no idea.  He rambles endlessly and usually throws out random potty talk at any given moment.  Craig and I have likened it to being with someone with Tourette Syndrome.  I know that's terrible and someone out there would probably be mad about that statement, but seriously--how many people do you know that just randomly talk about smacking their butt in the middle of a conversation about something totally different?  Or accuse people (jokingly, but still) of pooping their pants?  Craig did this exaggerated but not entirely inaccurate example of what it's like living with Jacob ("Pee!  Poop!  Butt!") that had Jacob and me rolling, but I did try to explain to Jacob afterward that he probably shouldn't be laughing because it's sort of making fun of his tendency to say potty words randomly.  We figure there's just so much going through his head and he's unable to censor it.  We're continuing to see his therapist and may get another opinion from another specialist.  It could be a long year.

As for Carter...well, Jacob was never the type to dig in cabinets or hang out in the bathroom, but Carter will frequent every dangerous household spot he can find.  Ugh.  He was constantly running off to Jacob's room, trying to tackle him, pulling out countless toys, and running off with Jacob's lacrosse sticks.  He'd frequently be found wandering into the bathroom (and try getting a six year old to remember to put the seat down...) or climbing up and down the stairs.  He was such a handful.  His naps were blissful and allowed me to get a lot done, but bedtime was a welcome relief, even if putting that smiling face to bed did melt your heart a bit.  He's got such an amazing little personality and I love how happy he makes people when we're out in public.  We'd barely made it through the produce section yesterday at Wegmans and we'd already had a three people remarking how cute he is.  He's just so social!  He will wave and say hi to anyone, and I'm pretty sure he says, "Bye-bye" to everyone was pass on our way out...including every car.  He just loves making people smile.  He's finally growing in some hair (he needed his third haircut last week and he looks so adorable!) and he officially hit 18 months on Friday.  It is so hard to believe he's getting to be such a big boy!

Once we were done with our trip, my goal for the days we were home was to tackle a serious to do list I have accrued over the past few months.  I literally have a list on my iPod with all of the random projects that need doing.  I needed to log the Goodwill donations that have been sitting in a corner of our bedroom for months, so we had a list for tax purposes.  I needed to sort through the hand-me-downs to get the next round of clothes ready for Carter.  I had to soak and scrub Jacob's backpack to make sure it was salvageable for this year (it is!).  I had to scrub my kitchen floor on hands and knees, because nothing cleans it well and it was gross (though I did just buy a mop with a scrub brush that I think might work for next time!).  There were about 10 other things on the list but I'm not sure I got to any of them.

Then I had my unofficial list, which included a couple "fun" things.  I wanted to clean up the old Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine that I inherited from my parents' house years ago and actually make sno-cones.  I decided mid-week that I should make the gluten-free cinnamon rolls that Jacob always begs for when we pass by them in the store.  I did that for breakfast one day, and while they were good, I now have it on my list to try a recipe using gluten-free Bisquick, because I think they'll be better!

During the course of going through my to do list, I ended up adding a few things that had been bugging me.  I cleaned out my desk because I was having trouble closing the drawers and I knew it could be better.  I cleaned out an entire small bin of miscellaneous technology items (cords, cables, old cameras and music devices) and added to my donation pile, then moved half of my overflowing craft bin into the spare one.  I switched around all of the kids toys, so a lot of Jacob's toys moved into his room, some of Carter's toys moved into the shelves that Jacob's toys vacated, and a few more of Carter's toys moved into his room, so he has a few things to keep him occupied there.  With the room that created, I was able to bring up a couple more of Jacob's old toys that had been relegated to the crawl space until Carter was older.  They were all little things that make a major impact on quality of life, but I normally just don't take the time--mostly because, as I experienced, one project leads to another, and normally I don't have time to risk creating more projects for myself!

The big project, though, was the hand-me-downs.  That was the ultimate "one thing leads to another" project.  I initially pulled out three bins that I thought might have the next set of clothes for Carter.  I had an inkling there were still some 18 month clothes packed away somewhere, even though I had pulled out a ton quite a while ago and thought I got them all then.  But as we got into the summer I realized a couple things were still missing, so I knew I had to start digging in.  I went through the first three bins and realized that there were probably a lot of clothes that were packed away out of sequence.  So, rather than miss out on time with certain clothes a year from now, I decided I needed to pull out every single bin from the crawl space, sort them all by size and season, and have them ready to go.  And, in theory, now when Jacob grows out of stuff, I can even sort those items into the appropriate bins.  It was a huge project that took many days' worth of Carter's naps, but it's done.  Now I have the challenge of figuring out how to fit a ton of 18 and 24 month clothes into Carter's closet and dresser.  It was an interesting exercise going through the past four-plus years of clothes, reliving moments and rediscovering my favorite outfits.  Sometimes it shocked me how recent certain items seemed, and other times it seemed so long ago.  But it was a pretty clear reminder of how quickly time goes.

I'll admit that after our week at home I'd like a vacation from my vacation.  It would be nice to have a few days without the kids to keep chipping away at my list, but judging by the amount of work on my desk at the office, I couldn't be away from there any longer.  But it was good getting a few things checked off at home, and it was nice to have some time with the kids where we weren't rushing out the door or having to run errands, rush through dinner, and cram some playtime into a couple hours in the evening.  While it wasn't perfect, it was a nice change of pace for a week.  Bookended by weddings where Craig and I had time to ourselves, it really wasn't half bad as a whole.  I love my kids, I love my husband, and I wish like crazy that my priorities could be different so the time I spend reflects those things.  But this is it for now. 

It was an interesting week.  Now to replace that camera... 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Syracuse, The Worse Part

After our fun dinner with Mary, we headed to the Syracuse Chiefs' stadium.  It was a nice night and we were looking forward to another game.  I hadn't been to this stadium since 1999 when I interned for the Buffalo Bisons and another intern and I chaperoned a booster club trip there, and Craig had never been there.  It all started simply enough.  We parked and I got this picture on the way in...


After we took that picture and started walking toward the box office, a guy stopped me and asked if we needed tickets.  He had free tickets as part of being a shareholder or something, and offered them to us.  So, of the six tickets in two days that we would have had to buy, we only paid for one!  Nice people are still out there!

The stadium looks pretty impressive from the outside, with a full blown upper deck and this tower...
 
But honestly, that's about where it ends.  There is no fancy signage outside, and the inside is just lacking pizazz and decent amenities.  It's fine, but it pales in comparison to Rochester and Buffalo. 
 
Once we got in, we wandered through the concourse and headed into the store.  We looked around and while we were there, one of their mascots, Scooch, walked in.  Carter was checking him out, as usual, and as I pulled out my camera and turned it on to try to capture his face, the camera whipped out of my hand and landed on the carpet-covered concrete floor.  That's happened a couple times, but this time something went horribly wrong because the pieces covering the lens were messed up.  The lens wouldn't retract, and as I tried to unjam it, some of the pieces came off.  So...my camera is officially dead.  It was only 2-1/2 years old.  The whole thing just makes me sad.  And in the middle of a vacation, I was extra upset, because I sort of feel like if it's not on camera, it almost didn't happen, you know?  I was heartbroken.  And cranky.  And as we sat there in our seats, Craig checked his phone and saw the news about Robin Williams.  Not a good night at all. 
 
The only good news in the mess was that Craig keeps our old digital camera in his car for work, and once we got through that game, I'd be able to use that for the rest of the trip.  Small consolation, but better than nothing.  So, the next few pictures are from Craig's phone.  Here was our view from our first set of seats (we had to move around, which I'll talk about in a bit)...

Here's a rare sighting of me, sitting with a cookie-eating Carter...

We had to get up and walk around because Jacob wanted to get down to their kids' area, which was free but total chaos!  He wanted to do the pitching thing, and then we did an inflatable version of skee ball. 
We wandered back up to the concourse, but by that point all Carter wanted to do was wander off.  We tried to sit but he refused.  He was a major handful.  By the 7th inning stretch I took him to the bathroom to get him changed and in his jammies so we could leave and plop him in bed right when we got back.  Jacob was unhappy we were leaving, but it was the best thing for all of us.  And Carter actually did stay asleep (which is nothing short of a miracle, seriously--that kid never stays asleep getting out of the car!) and we were all in bed before 10pm. 

I slept pretty lightly since Carter was still a little restless.  The next morning I woke up to the sound of rain.  The forecast was terrible and we had planned around it.  We were going to go back to the SU campus and visit Manley Fieldhouse, which has a lot of Syracuse's sports hardware.  It's an unassuming round building flanked by some office wings, but inside was pretty cool.

Right inside were displays with equipment and memorabilia of the various SU sports teams...

...and beyond that some selected trophies were featured on pedestals.  In case you're wondering, there was a giant trophy case with the rest!

Here's a closer view of the lacrosse team displays...

One of the more impressive features of the building is the Carmelo Anthony wing...
 
The wing highlights all of the successes of the men's and women's basketball teams...

 
Notice the championship trophy below...and interestingly it's in a display case that's visible in the practice gym, too.  Talk about motivation... 

The practice gym was set up for volleyball.  Nice facility.

The visit wouldn't have been complete without a photo with the giant "S".

We also saw this cool sculpture featuring Gary Gait, one of the great SU lacrosse players and a former Knighthawk.  It's him scoring a goal from behind the net, which was almost unheard of back in the day.

On our way out we snuck a peek at the field in the fieldhouse.  We saw some soccer players walking through the building and some cheerleaders practicing on the one side.  This picture is hard to see, but the low ceiling was just as you walked into the field area before you hit the track.  It looked really nice, though, with workout equipment on the far side. 

We finished up at SU and braved the rain back to the car.  We decided to go to Destiny USA, Syracuse's giant mall, to grab some lunch and run into a few stores.  It actually worked out well, as the Pizzeria Uno in the food court had a great deal on gluten-free pizzas through the quick service window.  Carter and I shared some Popeye's chicken.  We did a little shopping and I stopped into Best Buy to start my camera shopping.  The mall is huge and intimidating, so we didn't venture too far in.  We had to keep the time in mind as we had to get back to Rochester for my office's summer outing, a night at the Red Wings game.  And yes, that would make three games in three days.  And this one included free tickets, too.  So, three games, one ticket purchased.

The weather was iffy, but the rain stopped for most of the drive and cleared up through the beginning of the game.  We had a nice meal under a tent on the patio at the game, including gluten-free pizza for Jacob.  All was well until shortly after the game started, when the rain began.  We hung in there for a while, just hanging out under the tent and chatting with my co-workers and their families, but when the game went into a rain delay, we headed to the team store.  I looked at the radar and it looked bad, so we headed out into the rain and called it a night.  The game got called sometime later.  They only got a couple innings in, so the good news is that we get free tickets to another game.  The bad news is that just as we were getting Jacob into bed, the power went out.  And it stayed out, so we went to bed early...again. 

The rest of the week has mostly been time at home.  Lazy mornings, the kids tearing the house apart, and me digging into my to do list.  It's been quite the week of organizing hand-me-downs, logging donations, scrubbing the kitchen floor, and organizing as much as possible while my brain isn't cluttered and my energy isn't depleted.  I still have so many things I would have liked to get done, but alas, now it's off to Buffalo for a family wedding on my side.  The progress was good while it lasted!  Back to reality in a couple more days :(

Friday, August 15, 2014

Syracuse, The Better Part

We woke up on Monday, took some Chocolate Chex down to breakfast for Jacob while the rest of us squeezed into a table and sampled the continental breakfast, then headed out to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.  We'd never been there, which seems silly considering how much we enjoy zoos and how close this one is to home!  But then again, that was sort of the point of this trip.  Since Carter's not at a good place to tolerate long drives (he's too old to sleep through, but too young to enjoy a movie), we figured we'd just stay close to home this year and do something more exciting next year.  We'd talked about doing a couple things in Syracuse recently, so this trip just sort of fell into place once we confirmed that we could hit up a couple baseball games, too.

The entrance to the zoo was much grander than our zoo in Rochester, which sort of surprised me.  The first part of the zoo is inside, which was another surprise.  The first indoor section was a miniature aquarium, including an octopus.  I think they're so cool, and when we came back through on our way out, he was even moving a bit more.  They're so weird, but awesome.

I just love little poison dart frogs.  Their colors are so amazing.  I loved this shot with four different ones...yellow, orange, black and blue, and white, blue, and black. 

The second indoor section was an aviary.  I get nervous about exotic bird poop, but I love funky birds...

There was a set of nocturnal animals, including the most active sloth I've ever seen!  This picture does not do it justice (though I did take some video that I hope to upload one of these days), but you can see the sloth's arms and legs as he crawled down the branches.  I swear, I thought sloths were just a ball of fur for the first couple decades of my life.  I never saw them move!

One of my favorite parts of this trip was seeing Carter react to the animals.  He still doesn't entirely get it, but he genuinely responded and it was fun to see.  Here he is checking out the lions...

He also loved the meerkats and loved when one kept running toward us...

We saw some monkeys and finally headed outside to a giant monkey enclosure.  The best part was that one of the monkeys had a baby clinging to it!  Later on the baby popped off, which was pretty cute, too.

The whole first part of the zoo was spent listening to Jacob demand to see the penguins.  He loves his stuffed penguins, and a recent viewing of Mr. Popper's Penguins refreshed his interest.  When we got there, the penguins were swimming and looking cute.  We walked over to the dry land portion of the enclosure, and suddenly one penguin took an interest in us.  Then he was joined by two others, and the original one was totally digging me.
Never had a staring contest with a penguin, but this one was totally game!
And I don't think it gets any better than these penguins...

The picture of the day was actually taken by Craig.  They had this photo op tiger, and Carter wouldn't go on it without me, so I had to be in the picture.  I didn't realize until after Craig took the picture that Jacob was pulling on the tiger's tail.  Awesome!

When we got to the wolves, we hoped Carter would like them because he loves dogs right now.  He did get a kick out of them, and apparently Jacob liked them enough to base his souvenir choice on them. 
Really pretty!  After this picture he walked over to another one and they both took a snooze in the sun.
They had this strange breed of deer.  They were huge, and there were two that liked the mud pit directly below us!  There was another one sitting in a different spot that had a giant antler.  I swear it was a good three feet high!  His other antler was broken off at less than a foot.  He looked like he had a tree branch growing out of his head.

They also had Asian elephants, and the trainers had this one walking back and forth across the enclosure for food.  So cool.  Carter liked him, especially when I reminded him of my elephant sound!

Here is Jacob with an elephant skull...

And here he is "milking a cow" in the farm section.  Craig has a hidden talent, by the way :)

It had been a hot morning and we were all ready for a break by the time we finished at the zoo.  Unfortunately, we couldn't eat there so we had to find somewhere else...only the kids fell asleep almost instantly in the car.  We ended up picking up some Arby's while the kids slept and eventually found a spot to eat it until the naps were sufficiently long enough.  Next on our agenda: the Syracuse University campus!

Craig went to SU for his master's degree, so it holds a special place in his heart, despite the fact that those years were pretty tough for him.  We've been to the campus before for lacrosse games, but we hadn't really had a chance to wander around.  We parked on Marshall Street just off the main part of the campus and found a spot for the boys to eat their lunches.  We walked back down Marshall St. and stopped in a couple SU apparel stores.  One store was buy one get one free on most stuff, so when Jacob got a pair of lacrosse shorts, I got a free long sleeved t-shirt, my first SU apparel!

The first building we saw was Newhouse, the Communications school that Craig graduated from.  He spent a lot of time in the brown building in the back, but the fancy modern part in the front is newer.

The architecture on the campus is really interesting.  Lots of different eras and styles, presumably from lots of different benefactors.  Here's a sampling...

 


 
In the one courtyard, there was a statue that I recognized right away.  There is a picture of Craig and his brother (I believe from Craig's graduation day) where Craig is next to it, Brad is up on Abraham Lincoln, and some random Chinese kid is sitting on the opposite side.  It's just a funny picture and I remember it sitting on Craig's desk for years.  The guys posed for their own version...

 
We were all pretty hot by this point, so we wandered back over to Marshall St. in search of some sort of slushie.  There were yogurt places and a cookie shop, but nothing that seemed safe for Jacob or appealing for what we really wanted.  We walked up to Starbucks at the far end of the view below, just to see if they had anything, but then gave up and headed back to the car. 
 
We made our way back to the hotel, and had an accidental, fortunate detour that dropped us off at a Taco Bell during their drink happy hour...so three slushies later (Dr Pepper Vanilla for the boys, Mountain Dew Baja Blast for me), we were back at our hotel to cool off and get ready for that night's baseball game.  We also had to figure out our dinner plans, which we were hoping would include my college roommate Mary.  We had to work around Jacob's issues, her work schedule, and trying to get to the stadium easily, but we finally worked out a plan--Jacob ate a peanut butter sandwich at the hotel (he was OK with it, I swear), and the rest of us ate at Quizno's, where he could also snack on some chips while we ate.  It actually turned out pretty good and it was great to see Mary.  She's so fun to hang out with, and it's so awesome to have a friend like her, where no matter how much time passes, we're still fine (I'm actually blessed to have two--my oldest friend Heather is the other, and I desperately owe her an email!!).  And...I get to see Mary again in a month!  For an entire 24 hours!  Without kids!  For a concert!  That is the only redeeming quality of September at this point, actually.
 
So...after dinner we headed off to the Syracuse Chiefs game.  And it was right about then that things went downhill a bit.  We'd had a good, productive day without any major issues...but that was about to change...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Auburn

On Sunday we got up and went to church as usual.  We came home, had lunch, and then I ran around like a maniac trying to get packed.  In the meantime, Carter was overtired but I really wanted him to nap in the car.  We actually got going on time for a change, and off to Auburn we went.  Since they told me they didn't have any gluten-free dinner-type foods at their concession stand, we opted to stop at a nearby McDonald's to grab some dinner before the game.  It was actually a really cool McDonald's, with a fun 50s theme (a bunch of kids got to the fancy car booth just before we did--bummer) and a huge Playplace.
 
After Jacob finished up his food, he was eager to go play basketball.  It was free, so he played a ton!

Once Carter finished up his food, we headed in as well and he wandered around a giant Happy Meal box...

Eventually we headed off to the game.  The 5pm start was a little weird for dinner, but it was perfect for the rest of our schedule.  The game would get over early enough to get us back in the car and to our hotel at a reasonable time.  It cooled down a little from the heat of the day, but was warm enough to not need jackets.  It was just a beautiful night.  It was actually hot in the sun, but knowing the cooler weather that was coming later in the week, I tried not to complain. 

Auburn has a small stadium, much like Batavia, which we've been to a lot more.  In fact, they're nearly identical.  Perfect for small kids.  We ended up with general admission seats because someone gave us two free ones as we walked toward the box office!

We haven't been to Auburn since Jacob was two.  Batavia is so similar that he confused the two a lot when trying to remember, but the hat and shirt he had were both products of that trip that have been hanging out ever since.  Once we got there, Jacob wanted to spend a lot of time in the kids' zone, of course.  He loved doing the pitching...
Note the fake batter and catcher...and in case you're wondering, he threw around 20 mph!
 ...and he really liked that the batting was free and unlimited!
He had a heck of a time, though, because the ball was a little high and I think he's getting a little caught up in "style" instead of functionality.  He'd rather imitate other people right now than rely on the fundamentally sound practices he used in-season.  Oh, well.
As usual, Carter had his eye on the mascot, in this case a guy with a crazy mustache named Abner.  The Geico gecko was also there.  Carter spent a lot of time that night wanting to wander, and a few times he'd chase down Abner, only to turn and flee when he got too close.  He finally got to high five him when I was holding him. 

Eventually we gave up trying to sit in the seats because Jacob wanted to play and Carter wanted to walk.  We went back to the kids' zone, got a snack, filled up cups with water, and pretty much just wandered a lot.  We settled down under a tent to snack...

Thank goodness for naturally gluten-free peanuts!
Jacob was really good for most of the day, though he started to get a little annoyed about the big kid that kept running into this area for the half dozen-plus foul balls that fell there (again, small park!).  He camped himself out there for a while late in the game, but no luck...

The game finally ended and we made one last walk down to the kids' zone because that was the setup spot for kids to run the bases postgame.  We were standing near the opposing team's bullpen watching a guy work out, and just then an umpire walked by on his way off the field and handed me two game balls, one for each kid!
Both were excited, despite Carter's indifference in this picture!
After that it was off to run the bases!  Jacob is an old pro now...

And this was Carter's first time...with help from Daddy!

Whenever we do this, we can't help but reminisce about when Jacob ran the bases in Pittsburgh when he was two, and he committed the cardinal sin of running into the infield right before he hit home plate, and before Craig could grab him.  The workers nearly had a heart attack!  At least minor league parks are a little less crazy about that!

A successful night was had all around, and we loaded into the car to drive another half hour or so to Syracuse to find our hotel and settle in for the night.  Along the way, I somehow managed to capture this picture of the crazy moon from a moving car!  It was so pretty...and so big!

It was a fun little drive through a lot of countryside and our hotel was right off the Thruway.  We got settled in pretty well, though neither kid really wanted to go to sleep.  Carter had picked up a bit of a cold over the previous 24 hours, and he had a hard time settling into his pack-and-play.  Jacob is always beyond hyper in hotels, but at least now I'm prepared to just turn out the lights at 9pm and sneak in a few minutes on my iPod Touch under the covers if I can.  Hence why this blog post is many days later than I'd like it to be, but whatever keeps our sanity, right?  All in all it wasn't a bad start to the trip.  A couple moments, perhaps, but generally really good for being off our usual schedule. 

We got a good night's sleep in preparation for taking Syracuse by storm the next day...