Friday, May 18, 2018

News and Notes, Mother's Day Edition

It's been a busy week or so around our house.  Jacob's twice-a-week lacrosse practices, combined with doctor appointments and Craig's work schedule (not to mention my job being rather high-stress these days) has left us in a bit of a tizzy.  Let's see what I can cover.

Jacob's lacrosse practices have been tough.  He's not that happy about playing on the team in the first place, and practices have been twice a week for an hour and a half.  That means we're eating dinner late and everyone's a bit grumpier when bedtime rolls around.  I can't fit in a good workout to save my life right now, it seems.  When Jacob has had Wednesday practice, Craig is usually in Canada, so Carter and I have had a lot of playground time.  I suppose that counts for exercise for me, because I am endlessly climbing and sliding and following Carter.  I've made it my goal this summer to more easily do a set of monkey bars.  It's really hard as a grown-up, if you didn't know, as your body grows disproportionately to your strength compared to how they compared when you were a kid.  But slowly but surely I'm getting better with all of this practice!

Carter loves this little climbing tunnel on one of the playgrounds by the lacrosse fields.  He climbs up it constantly, as it seems to fit well with his Star Wars/chased by zombies-themed storylines he does when we're there.

The other playground at the school has this little blue tunnel (FYI, tunnels are harder on adult knees, too), and I cracked up when I saw that he looked blue.  He could be Violet's brother in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!

We had to pause for a selfie at one point, because Mama needed a break!

Craig spent last Friday and Saturday in near Atlanta for the Knighthawks' second playoff game, and while the good news is that they won and will be playing in the championship, the bad news is that he now has one week off due to a scheduling conflict, and two or three more weeks of games still to come.  If it goes three weeks, he'll be in Saskatchewan when we're going to Jacob's first two tournaments in Syracuse.  Yuck.  So we just have to hope the Knighthawks win it in two, since they'd be at home and be done earlier!  We'll see.  Jacob had a rainy couple games on Saturday morning, but his team was actually competitive in one of them and he scored four goals and one assist on the day--including three goals in one game!  It was nice to see him do that since it had been a pretty quiet season so far.  Carter and I napped a good chunk of Saturday afternoon to offset the early morning (and I think he was still kicking the strep, or maybe dealing with a new virus that now has him coughing again).  We ventured out to get some Chick-fil-A for dinner, and despite the long wait (still), the boys were good and we were all happy!

The boys and I were off to church on Sunday morning and Craig got home not long after we did.  After I mildly panicked about what we were bringing to a family party, we got on the road and the rest of the day was lovely.  For a change we were just hanging out with my side of the family because Craig's parents were in Florida, and my cousin and his wife planned a nice get-together at their house.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  And the highlight of the day?  I got to hold this little ball of sweetness!

She's my cousin Jamie's baby girl Emmy, and she just made my day.  There is nothing like a tiny baby sleeping on you, with their noises and faces.  She's just a couple weeks old and it was so relaxing and wonderful.  It's been the full five years, I think, since I've held a newborn.  Absolutely heavenly, and of course a little heartbreaking/relieving that we're done with that stage.

As far as the rest of Mother's Day goes, I got these pretty flowers from Craig...

Carter painted a flower pot and planted these pretty flowers...

Jacob wrote this lovely top ten list, though he seemed to embellish a bit--not just with his adjectives, but with some of the things he gives me credit for.  I don't actually clean that much, for example, but hey, "A" for effort!

It was a nice Mother's Day, though I'm sure Craig wished we could have spent time with his family.  We'll have to make it up at some point!  Like all weekends, though, it was much too short.  It was back to the grind Monday and Carter had some library books due so we stopped there in the evening and were greeted with these gorgeous tulips!

We tried a selfie but the portrait was easier!

We had some quality playground time that night and Wednesday, Tuesday was grocery shopping, and last night was the new study with Jacob and yard work.  It's been a busy week!

What else is new?  Well, Jacob's been driving us nuts with his demands for a basketball hoop, and we were just about to order it (as an early birthday gift) when the price jacked up.  So, we've been spending the week trying to figure out how to make it work, only to be subjected to more incessant complaining about it.  Jacob is dead set that the only thing that will make him happy right now is a hoop.  He doesn't want to play lacrosse outside, just basketball.  And he doesn't want to do anything in the house besides play on the little hoop in his room or to play his NBA game on the Xbox.  So he insists he's bored without it and there's nothing to do.  As many times as we've been through Jacob's fixations, it never seems to get easier to manage.  He just gets so stuck that nothing else will appease him and life is terrible until the situation is to his liking.  I hope someday he learns how to manage this a bit, because I fear he will never be content with anything.

We started our new family therapy group last night, and while I obviously can't get into much because of confidentiality stuff, I will say that it was an interesting mix of families.  While the family types varied quite a bit, I did get the sense that we're among people with very similar issues to ours, which is sort of a new feeling.  I think we'll cover some good topics together, and hopefully it helps.

My most recent freak-out is when I realized that the date Carter's daycare changed graduation to a date we're supposed to be out of town for one of Jacob's tournaments.  Carter's been working so hard on songs they're performing that it would be tough to have him miss it, so we're currently reviewing options.  That trip was one of the prime options to add on to with family vacation stuff, since the following week is a quiet one at work, but clearly that won't work if half of us aren't there!  Among the options: 1) One of us will hitch a ride with Jacob along with one of his teammates, and then the other parent and Carter will arrive late Friday night with the van; 2) My parents offered to come to the graduation and drive Carter and the stay-behind parent (probably me in this scenario) to Saratoga.  They'd watch a little lacrosse then continue on somewhere else; 3) Just have Jacob miss Friday's games and go as a family.  It's a three-day tournament so missing one day isn't a big deal, but I know it would be for Jacob so we're trying to do what we can to accommodate both boys.  I know that we're going to start running into more conflicts like this as Carter gets more going on--which is probably why I've slacked on trying to sign him up for karate or soccer.  He hasn't pushed, though, as he's sort of focused on Star Wars right now, but I know the time is coming.

Well, it's time to enjoy our last low-key family weekend for a bit.  Between Knighthawks games and tournaments, we may not be slowing down together until about mid-July (yikes), so we'll have to enjoy it while we can--although the weather doesn't look cooperative so we'll see how this goes...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mind Games

The other day I had to go to a pediatric behavioral health office to get us signed up for a new study.  It's a family group study, something that's based on a process that's been successful in a intensive format.  This version seeks to distill it down to fewer, shorter sessions and see if it's equally successful.  It'll be in a group setting with other families, and will hopefully give us some new methods to manage some of Jacob's challenging behavior.  I'll try anything, honestly.

Not everything is bad these days, mind you.  I think lately we've had fewer really challenging moments, but the ones we do have are rough.  I feel like if we could tweak a handful of situations (and Jacob's and our responses to them) we'd probably solve 90% of our problems.  Lately I've felt a genuine love from Jacob--even if at other times he flat-out tells me he hates me--which is something that was missing for a long time.  He'll even spontaneously hug me, or respond when I tell him I love him, or seek me out to hang out.  Fridady morning was his Muffins with Mom thing at school, and he was very excited for it the prior night.  He even hugged me when I woke him up that morning.  Of course, then we had a falling-out because we were rushing and he couldn't find something to wear as a jacket (once I told him the one in his lacrosse bag would stink), and that almost blew it.  But we recovered and had a nice time.  His newfound affection is sweet, and it's a start.  I remember a while back hearing or reading something about how you need to build that trust relationship with your child if you expect them to respect you and turn to you when the going gets tough as a teenager.  I realized we were definitely lacking that, and little by little I've been trying to rebuild that part of our relationship.  It's still not easy, but it's something I try to keep in mind when I can.

Anyway, as I sat in the waiting room at the doctor's office for a very short few minutes, I saw a lot.  I saw a small group of boys with some subtle social awkwardness going off to a group session.  I saw a presumably autistic boy yell his way through the waiting room.  I saw parents who are clearly a little burned out.  Being in any sort of pediatric psychiatry office is by definition a little tough.  It's not like a regular doctor's office where there are well visits.  Everyone that's there has something going on, and I find myself wondering what everyone's story is.  Are they victims of abuse?  Are they struggling with a divorce?  Do they have some sort of disorder or disability?  Are they sort of like us, or is their battle significantly harder?  I see teenagers that look like they might be struggling with gender issues...but then again maybe they're just finding their way through depression by expressing their creativity through their appearance.  I see parents--or maybe foster parents--who you know have had to struggle themselves.  You almost wish it was like Humans of New York, where you know everyone has a story and you wish you could hear it.  It's not just a nosy thing, either, I swear.  It's a compassion thing, or a quest for understanding, or maybe just a desire to bond over a shared challenge.  It's hard to know everyone is struggling with something, and no doubt many of their stories are tragic.  These days in the office we're in we see mostly teens and tweens, but seeing a bunch of kids today was equally heartbreaking and curiosity-inducing.

Part of the sign-up process included a baseline survey.  It was mostly like everything else I've filled out over the years--what does your child struggle with and how do you feel about it, as asked in about 50 questions.  As I filled it out, I started feeling like I did when we did the brain study in December.  Some of the questions referenced very specific serious situations (like poverty or abuse) or things that may apply to older or more serious cases (like kids leaving home unattended), and I found myself unsure about how to answer them.  The thing is, when you're in the moment in our house, it seems horrible.  Sometimes it just seems like the end of the world, or maybe some very bold first steps to a really painful future with an uncontrollable teenager or an aimless adult.  Our current problems seem like a a microcosm of the challenges that await us when testosterone and teenage drama magnify them into something out of our control.  And, honestly, that's a big reason why we're trying to do something about it now.  If we tackle it when it's easier, will it eliminate the worst of the problems we'd have had if we didn't do anything?  We have no idea, but I guess I'd rather try now and hope it works than regret later that we did nothing.  But my point is that the problems seem huge in the moment.

But then I sit in a waiting room with kids and parents who struggle through every moment of every day.  They deal with hardcore, serious issues--learning disabilities, disappearing kids, verbal and physical attacks, self-harm--and I find myself wondering why I'm sitting there.  Our problems aren't that big--at least in comparison.  Our lives have been impacted by Jacob's issues, but contrary to what it seems like sometimes, they have not been completely destroyed.  At least, not at this point--which first makes me thank God we've made it this far, then stops me in my tracks as I ponder what might lie ahead.  We don't know what the future holds.  While I want to have faith that we'll be fine and Jacob will turn into a quirky but amazing adult, there is still a chance that our future will be far more challenging than any of us could imagine.  I sincerely hope not, of course, but none of us parents planned to be in that waiting room the day we saw the positive pregnancy test, and none of our stories have had a predictable storyline to the present.  I can have faith that God will carry us through, one way or another, but there are no guarantees about what that might involve.  So while my first instinct might be pity, it comes back around to compassion, admiration, and a straight-up broken heart that any of us need to go through this at all.  It's hard to describe the rush of emotions.

My first moment of hesitation on this particular day was as we reviewed the study parameters.  There was a section that talked about the study subjects having Oppositional Defiant Disorder and/or Conduct Disorder.  I've seen ODD in Jacob's paperwork (and I even thought it sounded right when we were first trying to figure out what was up with him when he was five), but there's never been a full-on diagnosis.  It was more like it was suspected or among the options.  If he has it I suspect it's a mild case.  Our challenge, I think, is that he can manage his behavior at school--he doesn't generally have behavior issues with teachers--but at home he's a challenge.  So clearly his issue is more with us and it's controllable to some degree.  So does he really have it, then?  Who knows.  Anyway, my questioning continued as I went through the questions.  Most of my answers were more in the middle ground, maybe admitting things were an issue but not a severe issue.  It was rare that I was selecting something on either end of the spectrum, other than behaviors he definitely doesn't exhibit at this point.  On the scales measuring severity, I felt challenged to really think about what I should say.  Like I said, in the moment (or as I apply these behaviors to the future), they seem serious.  But compared to the kid who's currently running away, following through on violence, or setting his house on fire, do we really have a problem?  Do we really belong here?  I thought about other people we might encounter in this group, people who might be dealing with those exact issues, and might they laugh at us and our seemingly simplistic challenges?

The thing is, when you grow up in an abnormally normal home, anything beyond that seems extreme.  After years of what I suspect is my parents thinking that we weren't doing a very good job with Jacob, they now admit that they dodged a bullet and know they got off easy.  They've seen us try to parent him through these challenges, and heard enough from friends of theirs to know that this isn't out of the ordinary.  For the most part my brother and I were very well-behaved (not always with each other, but we survived without the emergency room), so with that as their "baseline", I can understand why they'd question what we were doing.  Now they're realizing that despite our best efforts, we're still struggling.  And clearly I never expected our lives to be like this because my childhood was never like this.  I didn't even really know anyone whose childhood was like this.  Maybe if I'd been exposed to something like this as a kid I'd have some perspective on how all of this should go.  But when you live a very normal existence, anything can put you into a panicked tailspin.  Is this normal or is this something we need to do something about?  Is it normal that he will only wear one brand of clothing, or is that a sign of autism?  Are these tantrums normal, or should we have him evaluated?  We've asked those questions for years, and still do.  We've had a little more perspective since Carter was born and has been slightly closer to "normal" with most things, and even proved to me at times that I'm not a terrible mom.  Even still, you find yourself questioning everything, even about your own experiences as a child.  You think about your own struggles and wonder if they were more or less serious than you thought.  Were we only that normal because we pushed something down or didn't make a big deal of it?  Did I pass something down that I never knew was there?  Going through something like this just makes you question everything you thought you knew.

In the end I just tried to answer the questions as best I could from our perspective, keeping in mind that our "serious" may not match others' "serious".  That's probably why I never picked the option at the most severe end of the spectrum.  I'll be interested to see what kind of group we're with and how it changes our perspective on our own situation.  We can't really compare our challenges to others, and we shouldn't--because better or worse, if it's something that concerns us, we need to do something about it.  But sometimes hearing others' stories is a good reminder that it could be worse and we should still have hope...even if it's all we have.  And perhaps that's what this group represents--hope.  Most of all, I just hope it works.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Shirt

Back when Jacob was a baby, we were flat-out obsessed with moose.  I mean, they're cute, they're Canadian, and it was the mascot of the hockey team that brought us together.  So why not?  It really started when we'd been dating just over a year, around the time we got engaged, and Craig bought me this adorable floppy moose when I got my wisdom teeth out.  From that point on, on any trip we took, we always checked the shops for a moose.  It only got worse after Jacob was born, but once the stuffed animals and other toys started to take over the house, the obsession waned a bit.  But I still cherish the ones I have for the memories they represent.

Well, when Jacob was a baby, I gladly snapped up every moose-related outfit I could find.  We had quite a few over the years.  Even now we have a shirt that Carter was gifted that says, "I Moose Give You a Hug."  But one of my favorites was this sweet outfit.
Jacob, around three months old
Oh, that picture just gives me all the feels.  Where did that baby go?  How is he almost 10, and how have we spent all these years struggling so much?'s a lot to take in.  Anyway, I loved that outfit.  And his little beanie pierogy, too :)

At some point when Jacob was around two, I happened to find the same shirt, minus the matching pants, on a clearance rack at Babies 'R' Us in a "48 months" size.  At the time I never imagined how "cool" of a four-year-old we'd have, so clearly it wasn't Jacob's style by the time he hit that age!  I'd also hoped we'd have a newish baby when Jacob was four, and at that point he'd been true to size, so I bought it just in case!

Well, when Carter was born, of course I couldn't wait for him to fit into this outfit!  In the meantime, I almost forgot about the other shirt and then suddenly realized one day when I was home with both boys that Jacob would be outgrowing it rather quickly by then.  Carter was only a couple months old, but the outfit just fit, so we did a photo shoot just like Jacob's!

He was a little younger, but the thought is there!  Then I decided we needed to attempt a brother shot, but of course that was hard when Jacob didn't even want to be near Carter.  But he still put on the shirt and briefly humored me...

And then we recreated his original shot...haha!

Fast-forward five years, and the shirt had been hanging in Carter's closet for a while, always with the thought that I'd take his picture someday, too.  Well, a couple weekends ago when I was making room for his summer clothes and knew this one would be packed away for good, I realized we never took a picture.  Now it was borderline too small on him, but back to the blanket we went!

Carter is actually quite a bit older here than Jacob was in the picture above.  Jacob was still a couple months shy of five, and Carter is about six months older than that here.  It's funny, though, that because they are just so completely different in looks and personality, it's nearly impossible for me to reconcile that they could be similar in age in these pictures.

The shirt is now packed away and someday I'll need to decide if it's worth keeping the baby one as a memory, and the big one just in case.  Probably not, but you never know.  It was cute while it lasted, though!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Spring has Sprung!

Ahhh, spring finally seems to be here...for keeps!  At least for the most is Rochester, after all.  The forecast looks pretty good aside from a couple cooler days, but it looks like spring might actually, really be here!  It was a lovely week, aside from some crazy winds on Friday.  It was hard to enjoy, though, as I had a heck of a week at work thanks to our biggest day of the year, and all that really means is I get more of my co-workers' mental capacity back to help with the two big projects I've been trying to keep moving all along.

Anyway, we've been trying to get ourselves back into spring mode after an extra long winter inside.  It hasn't been easy!  After Carter had a fever last weekend, it was a slow start to the week since he was still a little more tired than usual.  I took advantage of his snuggly mood and snapped a couch selfie...

On Wednesday Jacob and Craig were at practice pretty late and Carter and I took advantage of a gorgeous day to go to the playground at Jacob's school around the corner.  Carter had a whole Star Wars theme going on (he's been really into it lately--from the movies to the Lego Star Wars app), so we were constantly on the run escaping attacks!

An escape route!

He knew I was taking his picture but he slid before I could get it!

Top of the slide!
On the walk back I captured this flower in the same spot where the frozen crocuses were a couple weeks earlier...

And back at home, my own little hyacinth was blooming.  Carter called the little shoot in the back the "kid" :)

On Friday we had some crazy winds.  It was nothing like we had last year or even a month or so ago, but gusts were up over 50mph and the way the winds were blowing it sounded awful outside and in the house.  I was nervous even sitting near the kitchen windows.  The Knighthawks' first round playoff game was that night, and while the kids didn't want to go, I was having some anxiety issues at the thought of listening to the wind howl all night, so I dragged the kids to the game since I knew the winds would be better by the time we got home.  And you know, once we were there the kids were pretty decent.  And the Knighthawks won!  Aside from a couple hiccups when we got home, it was a good night.  The good news is that the Knighthawks move on.  The bad news is that Craig will be leaving Friday for Atlanta and coming home on Mothers' Day.  And if they win that one, it will be at least a couple more weeks of him being busy.  Now, if there's a championship on the end of that, not a bad deal!

Saturday morning we were up bright and early to go to Jacob's lacrosse game.  The good news is that after last week's cold and torrential downpours during his games, this week it was glorious!  Not only was it sunny and warm-ish (it was actually pretty warm but there was a decent breeze that kept me under the blanket for a while), it was just a picture perfect day with spring coming out all over!  Just in the last week almost every tree started shooting out leaves, and both the tulips and flowering trees opened up.  Suddenly everything is green and colorful, and it's such a relief after our extended winter weather.

Now that flower season is here, this is what my sweet little boy does for me :)
These sadly didn't survive the trip home, but he replenished them today!

This week was also a nice change of pace from last week's lacrosse debacle.  Jacob and his team started out pretty rough again, but they seemed to improve as the game went on.  Jacob not only picked up a couple of assists, but played physical, which is something we haven't seen much from him.  It's a fine line in this league, but he did pretty well.  The team still lost, but I think they can hold their heads high with their effort.

After that game was over, Jacob ran over to the adjacent field and joined up with the 5/6 team!  They were shorthanded and our friends from church have a son on that team.  The dad's a coach and figured Jacob was the best option to give them at least another body...and he held his own!  They were really happy with his play.

Jacob's on the right, his friend Evan is on the left

The rest of Saturday was pretty good.  We grabbed fast food for lunch (except for Jacob--but he accepted a Frosty as the equalizer) and once that digested Jacob and I tried another mile run.  He crapped out after half a mile and I kept going for a couple more--albeit with a walk in the middle.  Craig was tired from his late work night and Carter was low-key so they pretty much stayed in and watched Star Wars before napping for a while.  I did some yard work and we all had a little outside time, but by dinner time Craig left because he was going to see Kevin Hart (the comedian) with his co-workers.  I could have gone, but seeing as we have given up on finding a babysitter who can deal with the kids, that wasn't happening.  Good thing, too, since Carter ended up with a fever for the second weekend in a row.  He had complained of head/face pain a couple times that evening, which had us concerned.  I ended up sleeping (well, not-sleeping) next to him until about 3am because his breathing was really worrying me.  Since last weekend's fever/virus, he's been very congested at night and yet still can't seem to breathe through his mouth.  He snorts through breaths through his nose and it ends up sounding like an epic case of sleep apnea.  At one point I was listening to his heart and it was beating so fast and all I could think was that his heart was trying to keep up the oxygen supply that his lungs could not.  It was really scaring me for some reason that night (hello, anxiety), until he woke up with foot pain (again--that is still worrying me a lot, particularly because he had a sore toe last night and even limped on it--we're keeping a close eye now) and I gave him Tylenol, at which point he seemed to relax a bit more and I finally tried to get some sleep in my own bed.  I realized during that time, though, that if he was on his left side he breathed more clearly, so that was the bulk of my purpose there--to keep shifting him back to that side as much as I could.  But eventually I was exhausted and he wouldn't stay in that position anyway, so when the Tylenol seemed to help a bit, I knew it was time to go.

The next morning, Jacob and Craig were out bright and early for a lacrosse tournament.  It was a small local one and Jacob only had a couple games, and since it was the week of my monthly mom group at church, I had planned on skipping it and taking Carter with me.  Well, with the fever the previous night, I decided we didn't need to expose Sunday School kids to whatever Carter had, and it was probably time to head to the doctor.  So off we went.  And would you believe was strep!  It never seems like it's going to be strep, but there was a very faint positive.  So, off to Wegmans for antibiotics, and a very low-key day was in order.  Meanwhile, Jacob ended up playing goal for the first time at his tournament (nope, not really his position!) and he got recruited for the 5/6's two games, so he ended up having quite a day!

It was cloudy but pleasant out, and after a lazy afternoon and a well-planned dinner (yay for pulled pork in the crock pot), I set us up for a nice, all-American family evening.  Not only did we have a tasty dinner, but we had brownies (ala mode, if desired) waiting for us at home after we went for a family walk over to Jacob's school.  Carter got playground time with Daddy, and I hung out and shot some hoops with Jacob. 

This was his "pose".  I have no idea what player he's ever seen pose like that, but OK... :)
Soon it was getting cool and late, so it was time to walk home for brownies!  Carter called Daddy his "tauntaun" (it's a Star Wars thing) and opted to hitch a ride home.

It all felt like a very normal, functional family night.  We don't get a lot of those--between Craig's job and the kids' bickering and my less-than-optimal homemaker skills, but for once it all fell into place.  On the surface, anyway.  Now, it's onward to another week!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Losing Lacrosse

Lately we've had a rather odd turn of events.  Jacob no longer loves lacrosse.  He's okay with it, I guess, but for the most part he's just sort of over it.  I never thought I'd see the day.  I think a lot is playing into it, and I think it's mostly just temporary, but to some degree, I guess I get it.

First, he's a bit burned out.  Fall lacrosse started in November and he's been playing games and going to practices almost every weekend since.  He may have even had travel practice before that because of his fall tournament in Maryland.  He switched to a different house team this year, and for the most part it was fine, but there have been moments where I could tell he was frustrated with lack of playing time or opportunities.  He's never loved practices, and now they're up to twice per week for his house team.  He still likes his travel team, but again, practices are not his favorite--particularly because they fall on Sunday afternoons and like the rest of us, he'd rather just be home enjoying himself.  Luckily we're done with those for a bit before his training camp the first weekend of June, then tournaments for all but one weekend for the month that follows. I should also mention that he's also spent a lot of Saturdays doing ball boy duty for the Knighthawks, which only added to the overload.  It got to the point where he didn't even want to go to games at the end of the regular season.  It's been a long stretch, no doubt.

Second, he's really into basketball right now.  The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA playoffs and he's desperate to get a hoop for his birthday.  I'm fine with getting him one, though we're sort of deadlocked about the type--in-ground (him) vs. portable (us) and how fancy it should be.  We'll see.  He really wants to play on a basketball team whenever we can find one, which may mean he no longer plays lacrosse in the fall.  You wouldn't think that liking basketball means he has to stop liking lacrosse, but Jacob is very black and white about a lot of things, and this is another one.  Apparently his passion has to focus in one spot, and in order to demonstrate that he must shun any competitors.  Think about his all-Under Armour wardrobe (or Adidas before that), or any other sports phase he's been in.  It's nothing new, but given his long-time dedication to lacrosse at this point, it's been a little shocking.

I still wonder if there's anything else playing into it.  Maybe he hit his high point with the trip to Calgary and he didn't know where to go from there.  Maybe it's a touch of depression in the midst of a tough year of school and the usual trials at home.  Maybe it's even just savoring spending a little more time with me, as our Trading Spaces viewings on Saturday evenings have been nice.  He's mentioned that his confidence is down (or, rather, blamed me), so maybe that's part of it, too.  To be fair, I've said things over the past months to try to keep him realistic, but maybe he didn't take it that way.  It's not that I want to crush his dreams, but he's often tended to move into a space where he practically assumes he'll play pro someday, and while that's certainly a possibility, he has a long way to go.  Sometimes he's deemed himself one of the best players on his teams, but in reality, most of the time he's probably teetering around the bottom third--maybe a little higher for his house team.  He's always had really good stick skills, but he's actually not as fast or agile on the field as would be ideal, so sometimes those skills don't translate as well.  So, I've said things in the past--most often when he was complaining about practice or another player--that the success he wants isn't going to magically happen because his natural talent just isn't that strong.  He has a great foundation, but he will need to work for everything he gets.  He needs to focus and embrace practice as an opportunity to improve.  And whether he just heard it differently or got intimidated, I don't know.  Clearly something is up.  So, come fall, we'll be looking into basketball leagues.  Of course, he'll be fresh off a summer of playing basketball every day at camp, so who knows if he'll reach burnout levels on that, too.

We were really pushing for him to play fall lacrosse because he'd be with a friend of his who's a year older, and we wondered how we'd fit two sports in at that time.  Well, over the weekend that problem may have solved itself.  We arrived to his first house game of the season on a cold, rainy morning.  We noticed that a bunch of players were missing, and by a few minutes into the game the wheels were turning and the pieces started falling into place.  First there was last week's practice.  Jacob ended up practicing with some younger kids, and he was pretty annoyed about it.  We thought it was just because some other players didn't show up and numbers were off.  But with the absence of teammates and a bunch of smaller-looking, unfamiliar kids on the team, we realized that the team he played with all winter must have split.  Then we heard some other parents talking about it, and the grim reality sank in as Jacob's old team--who we destroyed in the winter season--won by over 15 goals.  We figured out that most of the older players had gone to the other team, and there were only a handful of them left on this team, along with a bunch of 1/2 players--meaning that there were players as much as three years younger!  Not only is it dangerous for those little kids to play up, but their skills were definitely not up to the task.  They could barely pass and catch, and when you're in a league where you need to complete a pass before the ball is eligible to be scored, that makes scoring really tough.  And sure enough, they only scored a handful in their first game, and got shut out in the second game (which may have been because one of their best offensive players went in goal).  It didn't help it was rainy and miserable, but once we figured out what had happened, all hope was lost for a good day.  We later recalled that there was an email talking about the teams splitting, but it was vague and did not make it clear who was staying and going.  Since we never heard anything specific, we sort of forgot about it and never noticed that the roster changed.

The thing is, it's not about losing.  That's no fun, but losing that bad is even worse.  The bigger issue is that the younger kids can't even compete, and there is very little growth to be had for the older kids when they don't have anyone to finish their plays.  It's just not good for anyone.  Upon further investigation, the coach explained that some of the team decisions had to do with siblings and ride sharing.  He said that the team wasn't supposed to be significantly worse, but that he kept Jacob on that team because they needed a few good players.  We're not really buying it, but we're doing our best to remind him that he can prove he's better than this, and that he can mentor the younger kids and hopefully find a way to be helpful.  Heck, maybe he'll even play goal!  Luckily it's a short season so we won't have to dwell on this for too long.  Ironically, the other team lost both of their first games, too, so perhaps they're worse than we thought--but how does one really good team become two bad ones?

Anyway, that may have just made up our minds for the fall.  In the meantime, we've got another exciting travel season ahead, so hopefully Jacob will rediscover his love by then.  We've also got Knighthawks playoffs coming up, so maybe that will rekindle something too, even if it means losing Craig for a few more weeks.  I don't think lacrosse is gone for good, but perhaps a little break isn't the worst thing in the world.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What Happens When It Gets Warm

Sunday was a beautiful day.  One week earlier I was walking through the frozen leftovers of an ice storm, and a week later I was in short sleeves and capris.  Welcome to spring in Rochester...finally.

I decided I needed to give running a shot since the Corporate Challenge registration ends this week, so I planned to go out Sunday.  Jacob has been wanting to run with me since last year, and although it was just a little while before his lacrosse practice, he insisted on coming with me.  We planned on running a mile.  We started off around the block and of course he had to stop and tie his shoes two or three times (because he's almost 10 and still can't tie a solid shoe knot).  But each time he would catch up, and I could tell he was relieved when my running app said we were halfway.  We continued to run, and I'll admit it was nice to chat with him while we ran.  Nothing deep, I suppose, but I think he appreciated the time alone.

As we turned the corner back toward home, he ran ahead of me.  I was definitely pacing myself, though I was really tired so while I could have sprinted and kept up with him, I chose to not kill myself on the first run of the year!  He seemed to like beating me, even though we never indicated it was a race. was fine.  Of course, he came in the house and collapsed on the chair, insisting he couldn't move.  He usually hates practice so perhaps that was part of his plan.

While he wallowed, Carter was ready to go outside.  Well, he was actually ready to go outside when Jacob and I left, and even started chasing us a minute into our run!  I had to yell to him to go home, because I knew he wouldn't make the mile and I didn't want Jacob mad when his mile got messed up.  I also needed to run the mile to see just how out of shape I was, so I promised to run with him later.  See, Carter has been wanting to race me all winter.  He loves running and he's pretty speedy.  For some reason he was sure that he could beat me.

We started running down the street.  About five houses down, he took a rest.  He sprinted again and took another rest.  He did that a couple more times and we finally made it down the street, probably a quarter mile.  It appears he's a sprinter rather than a distance runner, but we'll work on it.  I do want to keep an eye on him for asthma since Craig has it and he breathes pretty heavy when he runs, but so far so good.  We started back and took a couple breaks, but finally we headed back home to our finish line, made up by Craig and Jacob (who apparently made a miraculous recovery).  I guess we ended in a tie.  At least that ensured he wouldn't gloat or cry!

Once the big boys were off to practice, Carter jumped back into his favorites while I started some baby steps of winter yard cleanup, since I'm now playing catch-up with the late spring.  He was excited to get back to his bubble gun and bubble mower, and eagerly rode around on his big wheel.  One time he came running back to the driveway dragging a giant stick.  Then he brought back another and had a blast playing with them.  It was one of those simple moments of childhood where a huge stick is the coolest thing ever.

Creativity is one of his strong suits, and that continued into the back yard when I went back there and started cleaning up the monumental mess of a pile of sticks I accidentally left back there in the fall.  The ground in the way back is super muddy, so everything under the pile was even worse.  I spent more than an hour hacking away at baby trees that have sprouted and attempting yet again to clear out the crazy overgrowth of our awful blackberry vines.  We've lost about three feet of backyard to the blackberries and some ground cover with purple flowers (possibly vinca?).  There was a foot-high stone wall back there when we moved in, and the ground cover overgrew it on one end and the blackberries on the other.  I'm trying to figure out how to reclaim some of it, though Roundup is my last but best resort.  I would like grass to grow in those areas again, but it's going to be tough!  The vines are extra evil, though, and I have the many arm and leg scratches to prove it.  We'll see if I can keep it up and stop the spreading once things really start growing again. 

Carter spent the time making up something while playing around our sad but apparently still interesting playset.  Eventually I finished my work and it was time to head back into the house to cook dinner.  But the time outside was great!  Yesterday was gorgeous, too, though by the time Carter convinced me to take him to the playground after our stop at the library, it had actually gotten much cooler!  He wasn't cold in shorts and a t-shirt, of course, but I had a coat on and I was freezing!  Today Craig picked up him early, and even though it was cloudy, it was still warm enough to play outside...

I did another run tonight, 1.5 miles this time.  Super slow, but I did it.  Hopefully I can fight the soreness with more exercise, because it took until this afternoon to walk normally after Sunday's run.  I have a couple pounds to lose and I can tell I am dreadfully out of shape right now.  No Corporate Challenge for me this year, I don't think--with the earlier date and the late spring, I just don't have enough time to reasonably work up to it without making myself nuts.  I have three days to decide.  It's a nice goal, but do I want to make myself nuts to the point I hate running by the time it's over, like I do every year?  I do much better when I run for fun.  My shirt drawer is full anyway! :)

We go back to a couple days of blah weather and then it seems we go up and down for a while.  I'll take the ups, though--and even some of the downs are far better than what we've had so far.  Let's hope spring is mostly here to stay!

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Lost Art, A Lost Chance

Yesterday I happened two catch two of my all-time favorite movies on TV.  I only caught the end of the first one, actually, and then pieced together a viewing of the second through live watching and the DVR, but they were no less enjoyable.  The movies?  Three Men and a Baby and Three Men and a Little Lady.  I adore them.  They are a perfect 1980s throwback to the family-ish comedy, a time when not everything had to be vulgar or full of sexual innuendos just to attract adult viewers.  I actually just had a memory pop up on Facebook in the past couple weeks about when I happened to catch these same movies another time, and remarked how they just don't make them like that anymore.  Same for classic romantic comedies that seemed to trail off by somewhere in the mid-to-late 90s, stuff like Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail or anything else that had little-to-no swearing, sex, or violence, and you didn't cringe if your kid happened to walk in room while watching it.  Call me old-fashioned, but I really miss that genre.  A lot.  Not just because that's totally my jam, but because I now have kids that walk into the room and soak up every bit of what they see on TV.

A lot of people talk about how one of the foundations of a strong family is nightly family dinner time.  I agree that time like that is important, but lately I've been realizing that there's something else missing that was there when I was a kid, and the movies yesterday reminded me of it yet again.  I propose that another chink in the armor of the American family is the loss of the family sitcom.  When I was a kid, we'd eat dinner, I'd do some homework, and many nights my goal was to make it back downstairs by 8pm for an hour of sitcoms that the family would often watch together.  The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, Home Improvement, Growing Pains, even some of the TGIF lineup--though for the most part I think I was relegated to a different TV for that night.  But I know for a fact that there were shows we watched together, and while it was still time in front of a screen, back then we had time to talk during commercials so between discussing the show and anything that came up during breaks, inevitably there was some quality family bonding time.  And as I got older, that extended into the 9 o'clock hour with shows like Cheers and Night Court (and a few hours after I first typed this, I find out Harry Anderson from Night Court died today :( ), among others.  Those were clearly a bit more adult, but either it was written to go over my head or it didn't seem to bother me by that point.  But even still--for the most part things were pretty tame and I wouldn't hesitate to let my kids watch most of that with me now.  And the further back you go into history, the clearer it is that family TV time was important.  The Brady Bunch or Gilligan's Island, anyone?

Nowadays, most sitcoms aren't particularly kid-friendly.  Of the ones we watch, I think the only one I'd be OK with Jacob watching is Young Sheldon.  Maybe Speechless.  Of course, Jacob barely watches TV anyway.  He likes Dude Perfect, which is more of a reality show, but it's not bad for him since it's sports-oriented.  But most kids would rather go off on their electronic devices, or if the kids like TV, there are so many kids shows now that they have plenty of options to watch themselves at all times...multiple networks, in fact.  Also, DVRs make it easier to skip watching the shows until the kids are in bed anyway.  I'm sure the playtime gained from delayed viewing can be valuable in its own way, but it probably goes the electronic route more than I'd like. 

As a side note, I appreciate that kids movies have become a bit more adult-friendly with little jokes that go over kids' heads and keep the adults paying attention, but both on TV and in the movies, I think that the division between kids and adults has gotten wider.  I honestly think a lot of kids' content talks down to them and insults their intelligence, or maybe just doesn't challenge them or teach them those valuable life lessons we parents like to see crop up.  And because so much adult content is too adult, it leaves a no-man's land for kids like Jacob.  You have things like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants that correspond to things they may be reading, but even some of that stuff misses the mark on value.  Most tweens would probably rather move up a notch to their parents' programming anyway, and where that was once sort of doable, now it's a minefield of swear words, sex, and more. 

People always laugh about the "very special episode" of various 80s sitcoms, but let's face it--when a show talked about drugs or teen pregnancy or periods or something else that we don't rush to discuss in normal life, it definitely provided an approachable way to tackle tough subjects.  And back then you could trust that the topic would be handled delicately so it didn't run the risk of glorifying it or getting too graphic.  I still remember the pot and premarital sex episodes of Facts of Life, the teenage drinking and first period episodes of The Cosby Show, and even when they killed off the mom on The Hogan Family when the actress left.  Oh, and remember the "dope" episode of Saved by the Bell?  They all had a gentleness in how they handled delicate topics, and now it seems laughable how most of the topics were deemed controversial at the time.  Heck, I never watched it, but remember the controversy when Murphy Brown had a baby out of wedlock or the lesbian kiss happened on Roseanne?  Now there are entire shows based on those premises!  While the simplicity of old shows probably wouldn't hold up in our worldly modern society, there is something sweet and innocent about how they handled those problems and I wish it could be that simple again. 

Now it seems that the more extreme it is, the better.  Perhaps with so much "reality" TV we're more sensitive to stuff that's fake (ha, that's still a pretty ironic statement), and today's news seems so much darker, so happy-ending sitcoms probably seem even more trite.  So instead we rely on low-brow humor to keep us laughing.  Even the most tame sitcoms can have sexual innuendos or jokes about drug use.  In addition, it's hard to find a non-animated movie that's PG, and even those tend to push the envelope a bit.  I know it's up to parents to discuss those things with their kids and that's fine, but with a kid like Jacob who internalizes everything, or a kid like Carter who will say anything just to get a laugh, it can be a risk.  I never would have repeated a swear word in front of my parents, but I am sure there are things I was bothered by but didn't have the guts to talk out.  And now with things being even more extreme, I worry what Jacob might fixate on or what Carter might repeat.

But ultimately I feel like it's a bit of a lost opportunity for adults and kids to create a lasting bond over entertainment that resonates with them both.  It seems like almost everything is specifically geared toward one group or another, so those connections aren't quite as natural as they used to be.  There was nothing quite like knowing that the whole family would gather at 8pm to watch a show together, and I guess it's just a bit of a lost art these days. 

We still do dinner, though, so maybe we'll be okay.