Friday, June 24, 2016

News & Notes, TGIF Edition

It's been a long week.  Well, it's been a fast one, but I am TIRED.  And that's even without having to cook a proper dinner all week!  Craig and Jacob were gone Monday, we had baseball Tuesday and Thursday, and Wednesday I worked the concession stand at baseball.  That meant a lot of snacky evenings with very little real cooking.  It had been so long since I cooked that I didn't have to do dishes, so I ran out of the cereal bowls that I take to work, as well as Carter's little snack cups that he usually takes in the car in the mornings to eat cereal on the way to daycare.  Since he's been staying up so late recently, he's been sleeping in and that's about all we have time for once he wakes up.  I can't remember the last time I ran out of either of those things, so it's definitely been an odd week.  Plus we were gone for most of last weekend, so I'm feeling all sorts of disconnected from home life.  On top of it, work life has been crazy.  We're in the last week of our fiscal year now, with looming goals to be met and lots of work to do to achieve them, and everyone's exhausted and stressed out, despite lots of fun diversions to keep us motivated.  Next Thursday we're celebrating with four food trucks (including my favorite) coming to the office for a (free) lunch, and then we get a bonus day off Friday.  That can't come soon enough at this point.

Yesterday we had Jacob's first appointment with the new behavioral specialist.  I think it went well.  I had a massive scantron (you know, those test things where you have to fill in the circles) that needed filling out, and I immediately became thankful for my relatively short name as a kid.  Not only did I have to do a couple names, but a few pages worth of behaviors and their frequencies.  It will provide them good information and give us some direction, but it was a lot to process!  But the woman we worked with was good.  She asked good questions and related to Jacob pretty well.  He was actually pretty good, all things considered.  He answered most questions clearly, and he sat normally for a good portion of it.  He was vague on some questions, such as what I do that makes me mean (sorry, Jacob, making you go to bed at 9pm is not mean).  But as a whole I think it was pretty pleasant.

We had baseball last night, and at the end there was a pizza party courtesy of the coach for the kids meeting some goals this year, and the kids were having a blast running around after.  Carter got in on the action, too! 
They look like they're having a meeting at the mound, don't they?

Very long shadows that time of night, as you can see!  The kids were running the bases and Carter was having a blast doing it with them.  And unlike his brother, some of the other kids were including him and cheering him on!

Craig took this one, and it's really a sweet picture!  Such a cutie.
Yesterday was also Jacob's first day at camp.  He complained about a couple things when I picked him up, but when I asked if it was okay and he had fun, he said yes.  But of course this morning he was griping about it and saying he didn't want to go back.  However, he also screamed and growled at me for the first half hour he was awake because I was mean enough to wake him up.  He slept later than usual but we had his physical this morning, and he was mad at me for waking him up because, according to him, he was already waking up himself.  Sure.  Anyway, I think the camp will at least be tolerable, and I think once the field trips start and he bonds with the other kids through that, it will be better.  Of course, he's off most of next week because of lacrosse camp, and now Friday is in question.  I already paid for him, unaware that Craig was considering keeping him home since he was off anyway.  But now I'm off, too, and I would really like to have a belated anniversary day with Craig, during which we can finally go looking at new vehicles (minivans...yikes!).  But now Jacob will blame me if he's not off that day, which will only compound his anger with me, and I'm not sure what to do. 

A few days ago I had the realization that last week I forgot to acknowledge the anniversary of the culmination of the minor fertility treatments I had to get pregnant with Carter.  That was right around this time of year, and four years ago right now I was in that awful two week waiting game to see if it worked.  The thing that struck me, though, was that it was four years ago already.  That doesn't seem possible on its own, but when you realize it also means that Jacob has doubled his age since then, it is truly unbelievable.  He was turning four at the time, less than a year older than Carter is now!  We've covered so much ground since then--three grades of real school, four years of sports, and more than three years with two kids.  I can barely remember what it was like to just have one.  But I just can't believe that the time between Jacob's birth and fourth birthday has equaled the time between Carter's conception and today.  Doesn't seem possible, but it is!

As I mentioned, Carter is still staying up too late.  It seems that it's really starting to impact his behavior, as he's gotten bad reports two out of three days at daycare, which has never happened before.  I just don't know what to do.  This week hasn't helped with all of our late nights, but even if I put him to bed early it seems like he's still going to be awake for far too long.  Most nights he's in bed around 9, but he'll be awake until at least 10, if not 10:30-10:45.  He's gotten better about getting up and bugging us, but he's still awake.  Short of getting rid of his nap, which seems counterproductive in its own way, I don't know what to do.  I will try an earlier bedtime, but I'm not confident.  I tried laying with him tonight (since I hadn't tried that yet) and I thought it might be working since he seemed to be trying to sleep, but he was still tossing and turning and eventually started talking and playing again.  I hate that it seems to be impacting his behavior, and now I wonder if Jacob's problems were all based on chronic overtiredness, since he's never gone to bed particularly early either.  Crap.

We don't have any games this weekend for the first time in months, but we do have Jacob's baseball picnic.  It's going to be a hot weekend, but hopefully we can squeeze in some fun, some pool time, and maybe even some productivity....

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Throwback Thursday, Father's Day Style

Yes, it's time for a throwback, but we're not going too far...just back to before Jacob turned eight, back to Father's Day weekend and beyond!

Let's start with last Tuesday  Jacob had a baseball game, and I remembered to take some pictures when he pitched!


The pitching is definitely a work in progress (as it is with everyone), but he's thrown some good ones!

After Jacob's game on Saturday, we loaded into the car and headed to Buffalo.  Somewhere along the way Craig took a selfie...

...so I got in on the action and took one on the other side of the car!

We spent time with Craig's family, had a nice Father's Day meal, then headed to our niece's softball game.  Oh, and speaking of Father's Day, here are the kids' gifts for Craig. 

Carter made a faux rock that says, "My Dad Rocks"

And the inside of the card includes some artwork :)
 And Jacob made a cool card and something out of foam...
The Canada tie is top notch!  Under the tie it says "Best dad 3ver!"  The other thing appears to have a Canadian flag with lacrosse sticks and a heart.  The corners say, "Likes Canada", "Likes Lacrosse", and "Likes Baseball".

The inside of the card is hard to read, but it says, "Dear Dad, You're the best dad in the world.  Here are some of the reasons why.  The first reason is you play lacrosse with me.  You get me stuff.  The second reason is you cook cheese for me.  The third reason is you let me be a car rider.  You let me go to Canada.  Those are the reasons why you are the best dad.  Love, Jake"
 His handwriting was actually very good!  And in case you're wondering I think the cheese reference is that Craig has made him grilled cheese before, and the car rider thing is that Craig picked him up before the afterschool program a lot near the end of the year, mostly because Jacob was having a hard time with some of the kids, and the teachers weren't really cooperative with a couple things in regards to going outside to play.  Anyway...

On the way to the softball game, Craig took the newest installment of his series of pictures of Carter eating...
Mmmmm....licorice!
On the way home, we stopped at Cabela's.  It's an outdoors store, so we pretty much need nothing there, but we'd heard it was cool (and got shut out when we got there at closing time once) so we figured it would add a little fun to our trip home.  Conveniently, the kids had to use the bathroom, so it was an above-average potty stop! 
Lots of taxidermy all over the store!  There was a waterfall with an aquarium just around the corner from this.
Jacob found a new use for a fishing net, too...

The trip to the store went down the tubes pretty quickly since the kids wouldn't listen, and were--as usual--asking for stuff.  We shuffled everyone out, and it was good to get home in daylight.  We started off a crazy busy week--Jacob's birthday, the end of school, two baseball games, two doctor's appointments, baseball concession duty, summer camp starting, and stuff I'm probably forgetting.  We were back at the ball diamond Tuesday night, and I couldn't help but grab pictures of Jacob catching...


And I'm a sucker for these father-son shots :)

Jacob got a game ball, probably because he worked his butt off pitching again!  It is not easy at this level because the kids can barely pitch, there are tons of balls and stolen bases, and it's just hard to get into any sort of groove.

Now that the season is almost over, Jacob is talking about playing baseball again in the spring.  We thought this would be it because he was so hesitant to play this year.  He's always willing in October and hesitant by April, but this year he was so into lacrosse that it was more challenging than usual.  He's also been less inclined to play catch in the yard, so it's clearer which sport is winning out.  With the overlapping schedules and this terrible setup for kids pitching, it wouldn't have been the worst thing, even though we love our core of players who have been together for years in a row.  But we'll have to see.

In any event, it's a busy week that will probably give me plenty of fodder for more blog posts!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Brief Birthday

So...Jacob is eight!  I can't believe how fast eight years have gone, but here we are!  Jacob's birthday on Monday was quite the day.  Not only was it his big day, but it was also his last day of school! 

Craig also had big plans for their day after school, which meant I would only see Jacob for a very short time on his actual birthday.  That was definitely a new one for me, and it was definitely a bit strange.  We had his birthday dinner late last week because we had such a busy weekend ahead, and his party is on hold at the moment because another family party got scheduled the same weekend as I was going to do his, so I have no idea what we're going to do now.  We just ended up opening presents in the morning before school, which was really all he cared about anyway, I think!
Revolutionary War army guys he's been eyeing up for a few months!

Lots of Under Armour clothing, as that is his new favorite.  He's currently making me crazy because his sneakers are Under Armour and he refuses to mix companies and wear the plethora of Adidas clothes we've accumulated over the past year.  UGH.  But if we get him Adidas sneakers, he will wear the other stuff.  Blackmail.

More clothes.  But at least he was excited about them.  Note the new hat, too!

His gift from Carter, a set of lacrosse sticks made for the pool!
Once he'd opened everything, he decided he needed to change his clothes for the day.  Notice how he totally doesn't match, but he was super excited about all of it.  I'm glad I got the last day of school picture ahead of time!

Usually the last day of school is a half day, but because they cut out days since we had no snow days, the last day was a full day.  Craig met him at school for a Burger King lunch, and as soon as school was over for the day, Craig picked him up and they went to Oakville, Ontario for a lacrosse game.  Craig had been meaning to go up there for a couple weeks and his plans kept falling through, so Jacob's birthday became the day!  I was a little bummed to not be present for most of his birthday, but I know he was much happier doing stuff with Daddy.  Just look at these smiles...
He's in heaven right here...one of his favorite gluten-free pizzas and his beloved Canada Dry, in his cool new clothes, in his favorite country on the way to watch his favorite sport, all on his birthday.  Wow.

Ready for the game!  Who IS that big kid, anyway?

Oh, and he got called into action as a ball boy and he got this little surprise in the Brampton Excelsiors' locker room...


So, yeah, I think it ended up being a pretty good day for him.  I don't think he minded mine or Carter's absence one bit.  Sigh.   Back at home, Carter and I had a pretty low-key evening in comparison.  We went to the library, where I picked out a bunch of books and Carter sampled all of the toys and iPad apps.  We stopped at Aldi to pick up a couple things, then ate dinner at McDonald's (his choice).  We got home in time to watch a show and then he was off to bed.  I caught up on some TV, blogged, and went to bed later than I should have.  I didn't even hear the boys get home.  I feel a little bad that I couldn't be more involved, both with this day or the last two days when Craig has been home with him (camp starts tomorrow!), but this is my busiest time of the year at work as we close out our fiscal year, and it's generally frowned upon to take much time off right now.  The half day I took on Friday for the moving up ceremony and the appointment that got canceled felt iffy enough.  And there are four doctor's appointments coming up in the next two weeks (two for Jacob, one for Carter, and one for me), so I'm trying to be careful. 

Per my birthday letter, I'm still pretty sad at the state of our relationship right now, so this birthday is definitely a bit bittersweet.  Eight years ago I would have never dreamed this would be where we are, and it breaks my heart.  Heck, when he was little I used to think about this age and how he'd probably be a mostly self-sufficient, cool hang-out buddy by now.  I may have been partially right--for Craig, anyway--but for me...well, let's just say this isn't the relationship I was dreaming of as I cuddled my newborn.  And I just don't know how to fix it.  I've apologized for anything I've done to hurt him, I've explained my role as a parent, I've tried to demonstrate my love for him, I've tried having conversations with him so he could express his feelings, but none of it is making things any better.  Hence the new doctor.  It's discouraging, but as a parent you're not really allowed to give up.  Or at least, if you love your child and have a conscience, you just know you can't.  But it's hard. 

Even though I didn't get to spend much of his birthday with him, I look forward to more celebrations as we make up for his absence on the actual day.  We have a party to plan, a cake to create, and possibly some breakfast cinnamon rolls to top it all off.  It's just a day, right?  We can celebrate whenever, however we want!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Eight

Dear Jacob,

Oh, where do I begin?  It's been a weird year.  On one hand, I feel like you've outgrown some of the difficult behaviors that made us so crazy for the past few years, but on the other I feel like you've picked up some others that make me worry about how we will both survive the tween and teen years.  The meltdowns have taken a back seat to super rude behavior.  You still ignore us and dislike your brother, but we can no longer chalk it up to straight-up immaturity because we're starting to see a more mature kid who can be serious about certain things--sports, accounts of your day, and elaborate Minecraft creations, among others.  That juxtaposition (I know, big word) is confusing, and probably frustrates me even more because I know you're capable of better.  I know you have the potential to be an amazing big kid, but we're so busy digging through the impulsive, thoughtless behavior that we just can't quite get to it. 

This past year has been full of surprises and changes.  Your leg surgery obviously wasn't in our plans, and I still can't quite believe it all happened.  Luckily those many months in the boot and the cast are starting to fade, but that was quite a crazy winter for all of us!  We definitely had some not-great moments along the way, but you handled it with a lot more grace than I think I expected.  Yes, you made us crazy with your scampering around the house on all fours, the last-second bathroom runs, and constant requests, but I expected you to nearly lose your mind with boredom, especially since you were missing almost an entire lacrosse season, and that never really happened.  You handled it with a lot more maturity than I expected most of the time.

Despite the injury you've really grown as a lacrosse player.  I'm amazed when I see you running around with your stick and trying trick shots.  You have something special, but we definitely need to keep channeling that passion and energy when it comes to your play on the field.  No trick shots unless you have no other option, and remember to stay with your man when you have to play defense.  Take care of your own end and the goals and the wins will come along with it.  Keep working hard and the sky's the limit for how far you can go.

School is coming along.  Once you got on the extra behavior chart this year, things seemed to go much better...and your army guy population grew by a ton as a result!  I know you still don't love reading, but with how much you love to learn new things, I hope you learn to embrace it sooner or later.  Believe it or not, school stuff actually comes easy for you and I really wish you'd appreciate it more.  I'm not sure I did when I was your age, but having been through it myself, I can tell that your brain just gets that stuff more easily than some kids'.  It's your job to not be complacent about continuing to learn.  Don't take the lazy way out, because your mind can take you far if you try.  There is so much potential there, and I can't wait for you to find your niche, because world, watch out! :)

Watching you create Minecraft worlds in the past five months has been amazing.  I was hesitant to let you start, because I knew it would probably be a perfect fit for you--and therefore you'd be obsessed.  And I was right...but the flip side of it is that you are so creative and full of big ideas!  Your imagination is awesome and I hope you never lose that.  I do hope you learn a little better to live in reality along the way, as I think sometimes you rely on the big dreams a little too much, but keeping that creativity as you get older might be what gets you through the stressful times.  Everyone needs an outlet like that.

But what stands out to me most from this year is how our relationship has deteriorated so badly.  I hope that years from now we'll look back on this time and chalk it up to youthful rebellion.  But I worry so much because you want nothing to do with me right now.  You really just want to hang out with Daddy all the time anyway, but add in that you're convinced I'm just a "mean mom", and you mostly can't get far enough away from me.  No hugs, no kisses, no gentle guiding touches.  You'd sooner jump in front of a car than let me guide you out of the way, I swear.  I can barely have a civil conversation with you without the conversation dissolving into nonsense or you changing the subject to whatever completely unrelated topic pops into your head.  I know you're convinced I'm a terrible mom because I discipline you.  I know that part of the reason you avoid my grasp is because I used to have to grab you a lot when you didn't listen.  It hurts my heart to know it impacted you like that, but like I told you last night, you need to meet me in the middle.  If I tell you numerous times to stop doing something and you continue to ignore me, I need some way to get through to you.  I'd rather not have it be a grab, but you leave me with no choice but to do the one thing that I know will physically stop you.  I learned long ago that spankings don't work on you, and clearly yelling does nothing.  So when I have to physically restrain you or redirect you, I'm doing the only thing I can that makes an impact.  I know you hate it and I don't want to have to do it because I know how much you hate me for it, but it's not fair to leave me defenseless.  If you listen the first time, I don't have to yell.  If you choose not to listen the first few times but listen later, I'll yell but you'll avoid getting grabbed.  But if you refuse to listen at all, I can't just let it go.  We've talked about what happens to kids who don't get disciplined, and I refuse to let that happen to you.  You have to take some responsibility and either learn to listen or give me some leeway to discipline you without you instantly thinking I'm just trying to make your life miserable.  I know it doesn't always feel good and I know it doesn't always seem fair, but you have to trust that we know what's best for you. 

The other thing I wish for you is to learn to live with your brother.  You've been miserable in his presence for over three years.  That is far too long to live with a grudge.  I just wish you could learn that he's a pretty cool kid.  He's not full of cooties (or poop or whatever makes you avoid touching him (or whatever he's touched) like the plague), and he's not nearly as destructive as you seem to think he is.  He's funny, he's sweet, and he's completely obsessed with his big brother.  He wants to be where you are, do what you do, and make you laugh...and you want nothing to do with him.  Once in a while there's a momentary glimpse of how things should be--where you include him or teach him or try to talk to him like a normal person.  But inevitably you set him up to answer a question so you can belittle him or so he will break the rules, and we're right back to square one.  I wish you'd play with him, or at least admit he can be a pretty funny kid.  You're missing out on so much fun, and you're making things so much more difficult for the rest of us. 

In general we just want more love and thoughtfulness.  I know there's so much in that mind that it's hard to always be polite or think of others...or even remember to not eat like a caveman.  But you're eight now, and you're no longer young enough to use your age as an excuse.  You've had eight years to learn this stuff and it's time for it all to start sticking in that head of yours.  I know that you don't like that Carter has some different rules than you, but rest assured those rules applied to you at that age and you've had almost five extra years to practice the big kid versions.  It's not all about you.  We make the rules, and while we may consider your feelings on the subject, sometimes you simply won't get a say.  That's what it's like to be a kid.  Sorry, bud.  Get used to it. 

We love you so much.  I wish it was that simple and you could take that at face value.  But I know we have a lot of work to do.  I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust.  But I need you to try to believe that I have your best interests in mind and that I do what I do out of love.  I don't enjoy yelling or punishing or disciplining.  But it's part of my job, and someday I hope you understand that.  I know you're not always going to like the decisions we make, but I hope you can at least try to respect them.  You mean the world to both of us.  You have no idea how my heart aches thinking about how I felt about you eight years ago tonight, and how broken I feel right now.  I'd say that I'd do anything to make our relationship better, but I can't do it at the expense of helping you to be a better human being.  Or should I?  I honestly don't know what's going to fix this, but I hope our new doctor, our summer commute together, and some very small baby steps will be a good start.  Love may not be enough, but it's something.

I still can't believe you're eight!  We've been on one heck of a roller coaster ride these last eight years.  So many ups and downs, so many changes.  That tiny little baby in the special care nursery has become this big kid.  And as much as I love this big kid, I miss that baby because that love was simple and perfect.  I miss those snuggles, I miss the adoring gazes, and I miss the smiles every time I walked in the room.  I know things have to change, but oh how I wish I could recapture even a tiny bit of what we used to have.  I miss you so much, even though you sleep just down the hall and sit right across the kitchen table.  I miss what we used to have and I hope we can find our way back there by the time I write another one of these birthday letters.  You mean everything to me and I pray that someday you understand that.  But in the meantime I hope you had a very happy birthday and that this year is better than ever!  You're an amazing kid.  Eight is your number in lacrosse and I hope it's lucky for you in life, too.  I love you so much.

Love,
Mom

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Movin' On Up...

Friday was Jacob's moving up day ceremony at school.  His school is only Pre-K through second grade, so he'll be going to a new school next year.  Fortunately, it's the school right around the corner from us, so that will be nice.  We'll actually still be picking him up at his old school every day because the afterschool program is there, but it'll be nice to have a quick drop-off in the morning if we have to drive him!  But since he's leaving the old school, they make a bit of a big deal about finishing second grade! 

We had to get to the school mid-afternoon, and thankfully the weather was gorgeous so they could do the ceremony outside.  It's amazing how much space five classes of second graders' families can take up!  The principal spoke to start the ceremony...
Hard to see, but she's at a podium in the shade to the right of center.

The kids sang some of their favorite songs, and in between they'd announce another class of kids one by one, and give them a certificate.  Here is Jacob's class singing...
Orange shorts, off to the left

They were the last class to be announced.  It was interesting to hear all the other names, as a lot of those kids were Jacob's classmates in previous years.  But there were a lot of names I didn't recognize, either, which means there were still a lot of kids that weren't ever in his class or never made an impact on him.  Jacob was near the end of the list alphabetically for his group.  He hugged his teacher...

And then he hugged the principal and got his certificate...

Here he is going back to his spot after being announced...
Again, the orange shorts...
 We signed him out for the day and I got a smile for this shot...

He still has one more day tomorrow, his 8th birthday.  Normally the last day is a half day, but because we had no snow days they moved the last day up a couple days and made the last day a full day.  Craig is going to meet him for lunch and pick him up on time so they can go up to Canada for a lacrosse game.  We'll do presents in the morning, and that's all I'll really see of him.  Sad, huh?  He'll have a couple days home with Craig after that, before starting his summer camp on Thursday.  Since he's going to camp at the U of R (on campus, away from my office), he'll be coming to work with me every day for the summer.  He's not thrilled about it, but he'll deal.  I'm hoping it'll help us bond a little.  We are not in a good place right now, so we need it.  We were supposed to have our first appointment with another behavioral specialist on Friday, but she called in sick that day so we'll be going Thursday.  I hope they can help us with his ability to follow directions, love his brother, allow me to hug him, and think of others before acting.  The impulsive, entitled, and downright rude behavior is really wearing on me.  Tonight I tried to remind him that eight years ago at that moment I was in severe pain trying to bring him into this world, and tonight my heart is broken because he wants nothing to do with me.  In true Jacob fashion he avoided my questions and changed the subject.  That is the stuff we need to work on.

Eight years, though.  Wow.  Moving up, indeed.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Too Much

I've talked about it here before, but parenthood profoundly changed how I respond to the news.  Once you have a child, it is almost impossible to watch the news without putting yourself or your child in the place of those suffering.  What if it was your child that went missing?  What if it was you that got killed in a car accident?  What if your child was being bullied...or was one of the bullies?  In this day and age of social media, there is a news overload.  We see and hear so many stories, and between the links and the social media shares and comments, it's hard to escape them sometimes.  It makes a lot of us paranoid and scared.  But it also makes us more aware and enabled.  But let's face it...it's exhausting.  My heart is so heavy right now.

It has not been a good couple weeks for news, particularly from a parent perspective.  Obviously there was the gorilla thing.  A child got into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, got dragged around by the gorilla, and the gorilla had to be shot.  People got all up in arms about shooting an endangered gorilla, let alone one that never asked to be stuck in a zoo in the first place.  But parents are sitting there like, "Hey, if it was my kid, kill anything you need to to save them."  Of course, there was that other faction of parents saying, "That would never happen to my kid," which as any logical parent knows is a bunch of crap because it only takes a second.  If you have another kid to attend to, or take a second to watch the animals when your kid wiggles their hand out of yours, anything can go wrong very fast.  Heck, last weekend when we were at the zoo, I was happy we had four adults for two kids, because both kids were a little hard to handle.  There were a lot of barriers that seemed awfully low and easy for anyone to climb over.  It's not that hard.  We can do everything in our power to prevent it, yes, but things happen. Those parents could have had perfect attention for the rest of that trip, but the one second one looked away, the worst can happen and no one cares that 99.9% of the other seconds were 100% under control.  Life stinks like that.

And then, of course, we had the three stories right in a row out of Orlando over the last week.  First, the singer that got shot by a crazed ex-boyfriend, then the horrible mass shooting at the club, and then a few nights ago the awful news of the two-year-old snatched by an alligator at Disney.  The first shooting was senseless and sad.  The second shooting was horrific.  I don't care what your thoughts are on gays or Muslims or anything else.  It was an absolutely tragic moment for humanity.  That anyone can think that it's okay for there to be 49 less gay people (minus the shooter) in this world (which has happened, sadly) is an abomination.  Any intelligent Christian should know that we all sin, and even if their sin seems a bit more complicated than, say, gossiping with your neighbor, they are still PEOPLE.  People God loves.  Maybe they make him sad at times, but so do the rest of us.  ALL of us.  And if one of those kids was your kid, nothing else would matter.  It's tragic and terrible and as a parent it makes me sick to think there are people in this world that think it's okay to deal with your anger in that manner.  I pray no one I love ever crosses paths with someone like that.

And then, the other night, the horrible finish to the threesome of sad stories, the little boy snatched by an alligator from a Disney beach.  Initially people were quick to lay down blame (more on that in a bit), but it became clear (if nothing else by the social media pictures numerous friends of mine posted of their kids playing on the same exact beach in the same exact shallow water) that the signs only warned against swimming, not playing or wading...and definitely not alligators.  It's simply a horrific tragedy that leaves any parent sick to their stomach.  You're at the happiest place on earth, and your kid ends up getting carried off and drowned by an alligator.  It's surreal and awful and one of the worst things I can think of.  I can only look at my sweet Carter, who is only a year older, and I can't imagine my horror watching him get carried off by an alligator...or anything else for that matter.  Same for Jacob, obviously, but the age thing makes the image so much more real.  And anyway, we had a tragedy closer to home this week that struck two kids closer to Jacob's age so I've been picturing enough with him already.

Over the weekend, an extended family was hiking in Letchworth State Park, the same place we went for some low-key hiking last fall.  I mentioned in that post that there were so many people going into areas they weren't supposed to, and it scared me.  Well, this family went off a trail and ended up in shallow water near the top of the Lower Falls.  A little boy slipped on an algae-covered rock and fell in, and in an attempt to help him, six other people fell in after him.  All of them went over the Lower Falls.  Two brothers, ages 6 and 9, died.  The rest of the family had injuries but survived.  They found the first boy's body rather quickly, but it took a couple days to find the other.  It's so tragic, and the worst part is, it could have been prevented by staying out of an area they shouldn't have been in.  But again, placing blame doesn't help matters and all it takes is a second.  It is so incredibly sad that two little boys ended up dead as a result of some bad judgment and even worse luck.  Hundreds of other people could make the same bad decision and end up fine, so why did they have to die?

Accidents happen.  Split-second bad decisions are made.  Horrible luck can hit at any time.  Yes, there are steps we can take to prevent these things, but not everything will work all the time.  We can do everything right, have one slip-up, and it just happens to be the time that things align to do the worst damage.  For example, there have been a couple times where one of our kids wasn't buckled in their car seat due to a miscommunication, and we simply didn't know until we went to get them out.  God forbid that would have been the time we got in an accident.  Recently in Batavia, halfway between here and Buffalo, two little twin boys (again, right around Carter's age) died in a house fire.  They're still trying to figure out the cause, but they do know that the boys were home alone.  Clearly that did not help matters and there was some majorly bad judgment happening there, but they also know the fire started in the boys' bedroom, so even if someone was home, who's to say they could have had enough time to get them out?  Blame aside, it's such a terrible tragedy and while it could have possibly been prevented, it just happened to be the worst possible scenario.

As I said, social media and the constant barrage of news makes all of these stories so much more intense and top-of-mind than they would have been years ago.  Every time one of them comes up in my newsfeed, it's practically the equivalent of the scab getting ripped off and starting the healing process all over again.  One of my Facebook friends posted a status that got controversial, about how no one seems to think rules apply to them these days.  While she later admitted the gator situation didn't really apply, there was a conversation about how rules do tend to be ignored now.  Why does everyone think they know better?  I chimed in and said that no one ever thinks it will happen to them.  Another mom said she's constantly worrying about things, and I responded that I do too, but I think there's a difference between thinking you'll be the unfortunate exception, and living your life as if you expect something to happen.  You can worry like crazy, but let's be real--it's rare that one of these tragedies would happen to you and you seriously wouldn't be surprised.  If we all acted on our worry, we'd never leave the house.

So if so many of us are worried and practically sick with sympathy, why is it that so many other parents are so quick to judge and place blame?  I honestly think many people are attempting to steel themselves against the sad and scary reality.  They need to distance themselves from it, and the best ways to do that are to a) assure themselves that would never happen to them because they are a superior parent; or b) blame someone or something so even if it did happen to them, it would not be their fault.  The flaw, of course, is that regardless of who is at fault or how superior of a parent they are, if something happens, nothing can change that.  Once your child is hurt or gone, no amount of blaming or perfect parenting is going to fix that.  Those Disney parents can't do a darn thing to go back in time and bring their son back.  Had they known the water had gators they never would have let their son on that beach, but they didn't.  And despite their best intentions, they can't go back and fix it.  They can blame Disney, but it still won't bring their son back.  So as parents, can't we just feel sad for them, keep an extra eye on our surroundings, hug our kids again, and skip the blame game all together?
 
As a parent I'm just not sure how to process all of this.  I don't know how to protect my kids better.  I don't know how to stop fearing everything or feeling immense pain for the parents.  I worry about the future of society for my kids, and wonder what's going to stop us from imploding.  We can only keep living and praying and doing our best.  This was a tough week to work through, and my heart is sad.  The headlines will change, but reality will not for the people involved.  Let's keep their loss in mind and move forward by living life to the fullest.  Hug your kids, play with them, make memories.  It all goes way too fast, and we need to savor the time we have.  It's all we can do.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Finally!

Yes, we finally had a photo-worthy weekend!  It's nearly mid-June and I feel like we're usually so much deeper into the fun summer to-dos already, but this year with the weather and some different schedules, that just hasn't been the case.  Or maybe we're all just too tired.  Either way, it had gone on that way long enough and we finally had a weekend with some substance!

We were unceremoniously woken up around 6am on Saturday morning by a thunderstorm.  The thunderstorm was enough to cancel baseball that day, but we weren't planning on going anyway because it was Jacob's last lacrosse game of the season.  Fortunately the rain moved along pretty quickly, and by gametime at 11am, it was just super steamy.  The sun was trying to come out, which made the humidity almost unbearable despite cooler temperatures.  But the temps rose quite quickly and the sun came out, and fortunately, a breeze picked up which made things a bit more tolerable!  The game was good.  No points for Jacob and more time than he'd like on defense, but it was a hard-fought game despite the heat...



On our side of the field, we were managing the heat the best we could.  Carter was having fun making his cup spit out water.  By the end of the game he and Jacob got into a bit of a water war (Carter grabbed cooler ice, Jacob used his water bottle like a squirt gun), but anything to stay cool, I guess!


Here's Carter and Daddy having their fun...

...and here's Carter trying to avoid having me take his picture!

That night the weather shaped up beautifully for Little League Night at the Red Wings game.  We've done this before, but it's always fun to walk on the field and watch the game with Jacob's team.

Jacob is in the bright orange shorts, with his glove in the air.  He and his teammates were jumping against the outfield wall catching pretend pop flies!

I always take a pic of him on the field, and he gave me a great smile yet again!

Another picture in front of the dugout!
Back in the seats, we ate our dinner and got some cool refreshment! 
Carter shared his Icee with me :)

All my boys!
We were lucky enough to hit Zooperstars night again, and this time there was a new character--Kevin Duranteater!  Get it?!  Here he his trying to resuscitate Monkey Mantle, his deflated dancing buddy...

Later in the game we wandered over to the batting and pitching inflatables with a couple of Jacob's teammates and their brothers.  The boys all took their turn, including Carter...
He needs to work on his form a bit, and I don't think we'll be rushing into t-ball next year, but he will get there!
The boys all wanted to watch the game from the first baseline grassy area in hopes of getting a ball from an outfielder, which was probably a different view for Carter...

Have I mentioned that I love that Jacob smiles for the camera more now that he knows this blog exists?  And yes, he does pop on and scan it now and then.  I don't know how much he actually reads, but it's funny having him know this is all here...

We stayed for the fireworks, so it was a pretty late night, but aside from the normal craziness it wasn't too bad of a night.  The boys went down quickly, and good thing--we had another busy day ahead!

Back in February, a Groupon caught my eye.  It was a very discounted family pack to the Buffalo Zoo.  We hadn't been there in ages, so I thought we were overdue!  When a sale on local deals came up, I grabbed it.  And of course, despite my best efforts to find a decent weekend to go use it, we came down to the last few weeks before it expired and I decided this had to be the one!  My parents offered to meet us there, which was nice since they will be visiting my brother's family next weekend for Father's Day, so I got a little bonus time with my dad this weekend instead.

The weather was significantly cooler, but pleasant despite the stiff breeze.  One of the things I love about the Buffalo Zoo is that I spent my childhood going there, so I have many memories of that zoo and its spaces.  Some of the buildings are very old, and while much has changed around them and in them, those older buildings bring back memories.  I love the outside of the elephant house...
Note the elephant head above the arch!
We saw the sea lion exhibit, then moved along to the otters.  Our otters in Rochester are often in hiding or not that active, but the ones in Buffalo have been amazing every time we've seen them.  They play and swim and run, and they're so darn cute.  They played with a ball, swam through a floating log, dove to dig among rocks, and played with each other!

Oh, look at that face!
We aw an elephant, then caught a glimpse of a polar bear...

...and because the kids wouldn't stop chasing each other long enough to pose with the cute statue, Craig did it for me!

We loved watching the giraffes, with their long necks and long tongues.  They had a milk jug with a hole cut in it hanging just out of their reach with food in it, and they had to use their tongues to get it!  The size difference between all of them was amazing to see--some very tall, some smaller.  Their features are just so odd, but they are really amazing-looking creatures.  We agreed it definitely shows God's sense of humor!

We then said the same thing about the rhinos, because their armor-like skin is fascinating in its own right.  You can see some of it below, but their backsides were even more intricate.  I just liked this picture because this guy's horn was so much bigger than the stumps most of them had, and he was drinking out of a water fountain in that rock, which was cute.

When we got to the hyenas, they had both just been given giant bones to chew on.  They were still bloody, mostly stripped but with bits here and there for them to gnaw off.  It's more of an enrichment exercise than a feeding one, based on what I know from our zoo's blog and newsletter articles I've read over the years.  It was pretty gross, and a good reminder of why the get a bad rap in The Lion King and more recently The Lion Guard.  Ewww.

We saw zebras, bison, and other four-legged animals, along with lots of smaller monkeys.  Inside one of the buildings there was a little outback-style camping setup, and Jacob couldn't resist the cot...

I couldn't resist the coloring on these two birds in one of the exhibits across from it!


Further into the building was the gorilla habitat.  We were excited to see that the baby was out and active, and in fact hopped right up on the window ledge and paraded around with its hands in the air!  Of course, Carter chose that moment to freak out about wanting to find Daddy and Jacob, so I was unable to get out the camera and capture that moment without him running off and no doubt somehow ending up in the gorilla habitat (Sorry, perhaps that was in bad taste.  I'm kidding.  This habitat is pretty secure, I think, unlike the one in Cincinnati where a kid got in a couple weeks ago.  However, it is a bit ironic that THAT was the spot where I had to make the conscious decision to not get distracted at the risk of losing him.).  Anyway, this is all I got of the baby.  You can just see a larger one below, next to the rope and tarp. 

At one point one of the adults pounded the wall and they all scampered close to the door for a bit.  Big excitement!  For the record, last time we were here we brought Jacob's stuffed gorilla, and the baby then got all excited and was pointing to it!

On the way out of that building I snapped one of my favorite pictures of the day, almost an afterthought shot that I took because I noticed these fish were so perfectly lined up while hiding in their tank.  Their setup just cracked me up!

We headed over to the reptiles and Jacob and Carter posed on the turtle statues outside.  Carter didn't really smile (and there are already so many pictures!) so I'm skipping his here, but it makes me happy when Jacob smiles for me, so his is here.
Not shown: The crazy face he gave me first!
I'm not a big fan of the reptiles.  Not only are they just not my thing, but it's often hard to find them in the displays!  I did, however, capture this stunning picture of an iguana, through glass in a dark building, zoomed....and yet with stunning detail.  My dad was marveling at how his skin looked almost metallic, which is hard to see here, but the details are amazing.

We moved along to the rainforest, and I couldn't help but share one of these birds because their color is so gorgeous and so vivid!
 
 
We saw bats and little crocodile-type animals, some large rodent-ish animals swimming in the water that runs through the building, and eventually came around to the animal who was making his presence known.  The howler monkey was being obnoxious, and I was smart enough to capture this video...



You may have been able to hear some screeching in the background.  I decided later that the monkey was just telling this bird to be quiet!

As my mom and I checked out a second-story lookout, I realized that the anteater was awake.  He'd been sleeping when we first came through, and after seeing the Zooperstars' anteater last night, I really wanted to see this one!  I dragged Craig and the kids back in to see it, and we watched it pace through his pool...
This is through the crack in the protective netting.  It's hard to see because he was constantly moving, but his snout is closest to me, and his long skinny tail is near the top of the photo.
The boys both wanted to do the fossil dig, and actually worked together for a bit!

We wandered through the barn area and saw some farm animals.  Carter wanted to sit on this pig...

We were running out of time as we needed to finish up and meet my parents back at their house. but I couldn't resist letting Carter play on this pretend boat, which I remember Jacob playing on last time!
Steering the ship!
On the way out, Carter and I went through an enclosure with a wallaby and one of these ducks...

Again, God had some fun with this one!  The colors and feather types are so pretty and perfect.  I was never really a bird person, but I find myself marveling at some of the birds I see at zoos.  They're just so cool.

After Jacob had a tantrum because he really wanted to go in the store and buy something, we went back to my parents' for a quick dinner and then headed home.  Carter fell asleep on the way home, and it was lights out pretty quickly once we got home.  Carter came home from daycare tonight with a low fever, so I have no idea what this week has in store, but it was nice to finally get a weekend full of memories to get the summer rolling!