Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Good Day

With all of our challenges, it isn't often that I can get to the end of a full day with the kids--alone, no less--and call it a good day.  It's even rarer on a day when we don't even leave the house.  But today all of the stars aligned and I can officially call it a good day.  So, of course, I must blog about it.

We slept in until 8am.  Carter and I snuggled while he watched a couple shows and Jacob kept himself occupied for a bit, until he came looking for breakfast.  He ate, Carter and I ate later--complete with smoothies, which probably came about because we had such a spring-like week.  I got dressed and started gathering up all of the remaining Valentine's and winter decorations to get them put away.  I'm not quite ready for the spring stuff, but I had some general stuff that will work for a couple weeks until the spring décor seems more appropriate!  The boys were actually pretty good about keeping themselves occupied, Jacob with video games and Carter with his toys.  By the time the décor was all organized, it was time for lunch.

Lunch went smoothly, and then it was time for Jacob and me to make a cake!  I had some extra frosting left over from Carter's birthday, and knowing we had a weekend without Craig and with questionable weather (it was warmish this morning, but it was rainy, got windy, then it got very cold and snowed tonight), I bought a couple baking mixes to have on hand.  I figured I'd finally let Jacob help me with baking since I'm usually too neurotic about it when it's for a birthday.  He picked the chocolate cake over brownies, dumped stuff into the bowl, and held the mixer--and he really seemed to enjoy it.  He was eager to decorate it, but we had to wait until it cooled. 

In the meantime, we FaceTimed with my parents who are leaving on a very long trip this coming week, since I hadn't talked to them since they got back from watching my niece and nephew last weekend.  Sounds like it was good practice for dealing with my kids in many ways, which will hopefully serve them well in another month!  After that, I played with Carter and his Hot Wheels cars for a bit.  We enjoyed his Sto 'n' Go playset that he got for Christmas and I built him a new track setup.  It's embarrassing how often I want to do something like that with him and don't.  So many times I have every intention of it, but things happen--he wants to watch a show instead, I putter around the house getting things done, we run an errand, etc.--and suddenly the day is gone and we never played.  I feel awful about it.  So when it does happen, it's great.

Eventually it was time to decorate the cake.  Jacob was all in!  He helped me spread the frosting, then gave me suggestions for the rest of the decorating.  He picked colors, the theme, and most of the details.  I used it as an opportunity to test and practice a few things, from adding an extra egg (per the advice of a random pastry chef we met at Disney right after Jacob got the initial diagnosis) to a Pinterest idea to use a cookie cutter to add sprinkles to the top of the cake.  I practiced writing (which I admittedly stink at), and played with a couple decorating tips I rarely use (for good reason, apparently).  This was the final result:
 
It is not nearly up to my usual standards, but it wasn't supposed to be...it was all for fun.  And it was!  From the random dot placement to the partial flag (how 'bout that maple leaf, eh?) to the sprinkle moose, it was all just random fun as directed by Jacob.  He wanted the leaf, which turned into a flag.  He wanted "Canada" in cursive.  He picked the moose cookie cutter over the rest in my collection.  The sprinkle part was my idea because I'd been wanting to try it.  But he picked red for the sides and black for along the bottom.  He told me where I needed more dots on the top.  And he was super excited to eat it!

Sprinkle moose!
 
Even the experiment with the extra egg seemed to go well.  The cake was fluffier and more moist than I remember that mix being.  Overall, we were really happy with how it went and Jacob seemed to really enjoy being part of it.  And it made for a wonderful dessert after a dinner that neither kid really complained about, despite it including vegetables as one of the main elements (sweet potato fries for Carter and zucchini fries for Jacob).
 
After dinner Jacob immersed himself in a tablet and Carter watched a couple shows while I cuddled him.  Bedtime was uneventful, and I even got some time do to this while catching up on shows and listening to Craig's late west coast broadcast.  Overall, there were a few times today where I had to break up the kids and raise my voice, but things were less eventful than usual and I don't feel completely spent.  I'll call that a win.
 
I think the only other notable thing from this week was that we moved a desk into Jacob's room.  We talked about doing it when we did all of the furniture switching last month, but he initially said no.  Well, lately he's been doing a bunch of drawing, and when I brought it up again, he said yes.  It took a few days to get the mess in that area of his room managed so we could shift his bookshelf and move in the desk, but we finally got it done.  The desk was Craig's old one that lived in the corner of our basement in the old house but has been in the crawl space since we got here.  It seems to be working well so far and definitely finishes off the big kid room feel, minus a few decorations.  Those are still a work in progress, I guess.
 
I'll leave you with a little bit of spring.  The boys gave me flowers for Valentine's Day, and there was one stubborn lily that had not bloomed.  Other parts of the bouquet were dying off, and yet this one lily had done nothing.  I thought it might be a dud.  Then all of a sudden on Thursday I looked at it, and there it was!
It's nearly as big as my hand!
Appropriately, we had a nice little preview of spring this week with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, but now it looks like we're back to winter for the foreseeable future, with the exception of a scattered day or two.  Weird weather, but at least spring is only three weeks away and we're almost to March...which would probably sound more promising if I didn't remember a handful of major storms in March over the years.  But we're getting there...spring is in view, even if it never feels like spring when it gets here.  Hang in there, kids, outside time is almost in sight!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Well-Rounded Weekend

Considering my college roommate and I were nearly inseparable during four years of college, some might find it surprising that there have been times where we've gone a year or more between visits.  That's certainly not our ideal, for sure, but God knows kids and jobs and life in general can get in the way sometimes.  In fact, our "third"--our friend who ended up making us a trio more than a duo for the last year and a half or so of school--hasn't been part of our get-togethers in years.  I've seen her once since her wedding, for her baby shower, and in the five years since, we haven't seen each other at all.  It's not for lack of trying, at least the first few years, and I honestly worried that something like that might happen to Mary and me, as well.  After all, it is hard for me to get a weekend alone, particularly during lacrosse season, and she spends many weekends traveling to ride her horse hours away.  Add in that we live almost two hours apart anyway, and it gets complicated.  But the one thing we've been able to do is keep an eye on concert schedules, and when someone comes to one of our respective towns (my territory includes Buffalo), we make it a priority to make it happen.  And lately, we've hit the jackpot!

Back in November Mary came in to see Plumb, who I've been dying to see again in concert for nearly 20 years, and Big Daddy Weave.  As we waited for the show to start, we were bemoaning the fact (again) that a couple good tours weren't coming to our area at all.  One was Mary's absolute favorite, NEEDTOBREATHE, and the other involved Switchfoot, a band we saw in Syracuse a few years ago, and Relient K, who I've loved for years but never seen live.  To open the show, a couple radio guys from a station sponsoring the show came up to talk and started naming off a couple artists who were coming to town soon.  And then they asked if people liked Switchfoot and Relient K...and then they mentioned the date February 18 and hinted that an announcement was imminent!  So, basically, one of the exact shows we were complaining about added another tour leg, and voila--they were coming to Rochester.  Suddenly our next weekend together was only three months away!

Fast-forward to this past weekend.  It had obviously been a busy couple weeks with Carter's party, his actual birthday, and Valentine's Day thrown in for good measure.  Fortunately, the party meant that the house only needed some minor sprucing up instead of another full-on cleaning, but despite that I still had a bunch of random crap to do, like clean the shower, file a ton of paperwork, and catalog some donations that were living in our guest room/office so I could bag them up and get them out of the house.  I also had a few things I wanted to get done that never happened, like hanging up my wall collage of pictures in that room, but hopefully I can do that soon and not add it to the last-minute crush next time.

Fortunately, Jacob was able to spend Saturday with Craig at work.  He enjoys his ball boy duties and is actually pretty good about sitting quietly next to Craig when he is broadcasting.  As for Carter, I found out the day of his party that my cousin, who had said she'd watch Carter during the concert, had accidentally made other plans.  She bought a ticket to a different concert, and I hated the thought of her having to sell it.  Luckily, her mom (my aunt) said she was happy to watch Carter.  Since she was at the party and he could see her and get to know her a little, I figured that visiting a week later wouldn't be a big deal.  And thankfully, it wasn't.

Mary arrived just before noon on Saturday and after some debating (we cannot make decisions) we drove down to Geneseo for the day.  The weather, by the way, was amazing.  It was in the 60s (yes, this is February) and it made for a pleasant walk around campus (or run around campus, if you're Carter).  We ate Mama Mia's pizza for lunch (much better than the last time we took Carter there) and picked up Aunt Cookie's subs for dinner.  We stopped at Kohl's on the way home, as I was determined to get a pair of Converse sneakers during their sale and was having a heck of a time figuring out what I should get.  That stop didn't help much but I did decide on a tweed (!) pair that night online!  Fingers crossed I actually like them in person!

We got home with just enough time to eat our subs and pack up a dinner and some toys for Carter.  We dropped him off without incident and headed off to the show.  This was a no-seat show, which we feel like we're getting a little old for, but it was really an awesome show.  Relient K made great choices for their set list, digging deep into their old albums and picking most of the best. 

I was intrigued by the giant white buffalo that was part of the stage setup...

And it was even funnier when it took a few crowdsurfing shifts!
 
Switchfoot was amazing as well.  Maybe not quite up to the level of the last time we saw them, at which time they pretty much picked every single one of my favorite songs, but this time they played most of my favorites from their new album and a number of other awesome songs...but with the noticeable absence of two of them.  But still, the show was so great!

The whole band singing an acoustic version of a song

Confetti!
Aside from burning out the insides of my cheeks with a bag of Sour Skittles (seriously, today I think they're finally normal), it was a great night.  We went to pick up Carter, and despite it being 10:30, he was still wide awake and sending cars down a 10-foot-long Hot Wheels track!  He had a great night, too!  He went right to bed when we got home, and Craig and Jacob made it home about a half hour later.  After some online shopping, it was off to bed for most of us...except Craig who was still working until 1:30am.  And, of course, he was the one that had to be at the airport at 4am for a roadtrip. 

The rest of us were up and off to church at 9:30.  Usually we try to go to Geneseo for church when Mary is here, but with both kids in tow, I knew that would be an issue.  That's why we got Geneseo out of the way on Saturday, and went to our church as usual on Sunday.  Both kids could go to Sunday School and we could enjoy church in peace.  It would have been a perfect plan had the sermon not been about marriage (Mary is very single), but I did find the pastor's perspective interesting.  He talked about how people think it's archaic that scripture says that women should submit to their husbands, but when you look at the verse in context--that men should love their wives like Christ loves the church--indicates that men need to sacrifice themselves for their wives, not lord over them.

We went to lunch at Red Robin after church as it was one of the only non-fast food places where Jacob can eat and Mary could get her beloved grilled chicken sandwich.  The kids were absolutely brutal by that point, to the point that Mary and I could barely talk at lunch.  Carter talked her ear off, Jacob was ridiculous, and it was pretty awful all around.  Carter refused to eat most of his lunch, and by the time we grabbed balloons on the way out I had had it with both of them.  Mary took off pretty quickly after that, partly because she was driving a bunch of hours to her parents' the next morning...but I'm sure the kids didn't give her any reason to hang around.  Carter really liked Mary a lot, and he's still talking about her and when she's coming back.  He wants her to live in our basement, and he asked for the password to bring her back.  So, yeah, he's pretty into her. 

But it was moments like lunch (and getting ready for church, among other things) where it becomes readily apparent how different our lives are.  We can spend time together and you'd almost never know it's been over 16 years since we lived together.  But then you think about how I'm married with two kids, with three different careers under my belt, and it's clear there has been a lot of change...and yes, sometimes I wonder how that might impact things.  She's mentioned before that because she's single and basically living the same life she's had since graduation, the passage of time isn't as obvious.  But for me, I have a dozen significant milestones by which to measure time so it's a very different perspective.  This weekend was the first time I felt our differences more clearly.  Maybe it was when I was getting three people ready for church, or ordering three lunches, or just trying to keep my kids from maiming each other that it was obvious how many things we no longer have in common.  We did fine nonetheless, but hopefully less time with the kids next time around will be better.

I spent the rest of the day trying to keep the kids apart, then took Jacob to lacrosse training.  The highlight of the day was no doubt the trip through the car wash on the way home--the kids loved it!  We had dinner, listened to the Knighthawks game, and soon it was off to bed.

Luckily, I was off on Monday since Jacob didn't have school and Craig was still on the road, so at least I had one more day to recover from the weekend.  Because Carter usually begs to stay home every morning, I figured I'd keep him home too.  Jacob had a lacrosse clinic first thing in the morning, so I figured the morning wouldn't be that bad anyway.  We stopped back at Kohl's after we dropped him off (30% off coupon!) and ended up killing time there until it was time to pick Jacob up.  Craig was home when we got there, and after lunch we were off to see the Lego Batman Movie.  We don't usually go to the theater, but now that our dollar theater is closed, we can at least try to hit a matinee.  And when both kids want to see the same movie, you give it a shot.  The movie was pretty funny and Carter loved it.  I think Jacob thought it was pretty good.  We even ran into a lacrosse buddy of his.  But the good vibes ended when Carter ran down the hall at the theater, Jacob chased him, and Jacob sort of tackled him and Carter came up crying.  It turned into another major battle with Jacob about his behavior and lack of respect for others, which sort of wrecked the rest of the day.  Despite going to bed at a reasonable time, I was in a fog half of the day on Tuesday, which I think is my sign that it was a bit of a crazy weekend.  But a little friend time and a little family time is really all you can ask for, right?

Oh, and that NEEDTOBREATHE tour?  They announced a few weeks ago that they're coming to Niagara Falls in May, so we already know our next date!  Carter is officially counting down, and I'm trying to figure out how to make the most of the weekend when the concert is the day before Mother's Day. But it will be a great show and I'm sure Carter will be as excited about Mary's return as I will be. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

If Only I'd Known...

Four years ago yesterday, Jacob met his baby brother.  From the beginning, it didn't go particularly well.  He kept his distance and seemed generally uninterested.  Everyone insisted it would get better.  Instead, we've ended up with this situation of two extremes--sometimes Jacob seems nearly obsessed with getting his brother's attention, and sometimes he hates him with a passion.  It is a serious challenge managing both of them together.  We've been going through this messed up family chemistry for four years now, and it's such a shame that this is the only reality Carter knows.  Things weren't perfect before he arrived, but they've been rockier ever since, and I second-guess our past decisions all the time.  How could we have avoided the place we're at?  Or was all of this just bound to happen no matter what?  After reading tons of blogs and talking to other moms over these four years, I feel like there were so many things we could have done to transition Jacob into the big brother role better. Here are just a few, with some thoughts on why it never happened:

1) Talking more about the baby - I don't really remember asking Jacob to feel the baby kick or making a major effort to help him understand that there was a real baby in my belly.  I'm sure we did some of that, but he seemed pretty uninterested and we didn't want to push it (remember, challenging personality), so we just mentioned it here and there when it felt natural.  We really should have pushed it a bit more to make sure it was clear what was coming and that it was a normal thing that people go through.  We definitely should have warned him that my attention in particular would be divided.  Maybe that one section of books in the kids' section of the library with all of the kid books about baby siblings would have been helpful.  We totally dropped the ball here, it seems.
   *Why we didn't do it - Jacob was already a bit volatile at the time--nothing like he was six months into it, but difficult--and we were worried we'd ramp up his anxiety more and make him automatically resent the baby.  We barely knew what to expect ourselves, so I think it was just hard to properly prepare him without blowing it out of proportion in his little mind.

2) Sibling classes - Some hospitals offer classes for siblings.  I assume they teach them baby care stuff like changing diapers and holding a bottle, and I'm guessing they probably help the siblings to understand how their parents might change, too.  I probably would have thought Jacob was a bit young for this, but looking back it probably would have been fun and possibly helpful.
  *Why we didn't do it - I honestly don't remember this coming up at all.  Again, I probably would have thought Jacob was too young, but I feel like I would have given it some consideration nonetheless.  I'm thinking maybe we just didn't come across it.  Obviously we weren't seeking out childbirth class (or the weird baby care class we took the first time), so maybe we just missed it or someone didn't think we needed that stack of literature the second time around.

3) Better introduction - When Jacob walked in my hospital room the morning after Carter was born, I swear I literally saw him change.  He came in, saw me and smiled, then looked down to the baby in my arms and his face changed.  I think at that moment the guard went up.  He pretty much wouldn't come near me or Carter after that, unless Carter wasn't around.  If I could have done it differently, I would have made sure that Carter was not in my arms and that the first thing I did was give Jacob a monster hug.
  *Why we didn't do it - I didn't know exactly the moment my parents and Jacob were arriving, and I was probably either trying to soothe him or feed him right around that time anyway, so chances are he needed to be in my arms at any given moment.  I just wasn't thinking that deeply at that point, thanks to sleep deprivation and exhaustion, and all I could do when Jacob came in was to greet him excitedly and hold his brother so he could see him better.  Clearly that didn't work.

4) Better gift - Last week at my moms' group at church, someone mentioned the big gift their older child got when his brother was born, one that they told him was from his brother.  Granted, that kid was a little younger than Jacob at the time so he believed it completely...but still, years later, he legitimately believes his baby brother gave it to him.  Jacob was a little more suspicious, even with the smaller gift he got...which I cannot really remember right now.  But maybe if there would have been something awesome and we could have sold it properly, Jacob would still be eternally grateful for the awesome gift.
  *Why we didn't do it - We probably figured Jacob was spoiled enough from Christmas and already had enough stuff around the house.  Aside from an epic Lego set (again, he had a lot of those), I'm not even sure what we would have picked.  It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, so a token gift seemed fine (Jacob got Carter the tiny bear in the picture I took on his birthday).  But it turns out any sort of goodwill might have been helpful.

5) Big brother party - I had never really thought about something like this until the same mom friend as above mentioned it.  It's sort of brilliant, actually.  You make a huge deal out of it--the excitement, the responsibility--and then maybe they feel at least a tiny bit of guilt/pressure/sense of duty to live up to it.  It's like the kid version of a promotion at work, without the added paycheck.  Imagine...dinner out, balloons, some select family members, the aforementioned big gift, a couple well-intentioned speeches...I think it could have been pretty cool.  I'm sure Pinterest or the internet as a whole has some wonderful suggestions to make it big without it being really big.  Kids aren't too hard to impress when they're the center of attention to begin with.  That could have been awesome.
  *Why we didn't do it - Again, I didn't even think about it.  But let's be real.  Right around the time Carter was born, I could barely walk through Wegmans.  I had a baby room to set up, Craig was in mid-season form, and I was completely overwhelmed with just functioning on a daily basis.  I have no idea when I would have planned anything.  And after the baby was born--ha!  I was definitely not in a place to make that happen since I was exhausted, sore, and unable to drive for a couple weeks.  As it was, Carter came three weeks early so any plans we had probably would have gotten messed up anyway.

6) Better division of labor - Admittedly, probably our biggest misstep was that once Carter was born, immediately it was "divide and conquer" in our house.  And usually, because newborn babies eat all the time, and I was the source of nourishment, I usually had Carter and Craig usually had Jacob.  And in general that probably would have been his preference anyway.  But it's become clear in the last year or so that Jacob really felt a bit abandoned by me, that Carter took his place.  I hate that he feels that way.  And I do think I've done many things to assure him that I love him, but for all of the toys I've fixed, or gluten-free foods I've made or bought, or the praise I've given when something goes well, or the times I have specifically tried to reach out to him, very little seems to resonate with him as expressions of love.  Part of that is his general, inherent selfishness--which is common to all kids, but his usually goes a step above--but maybe I'm just not taking an extra step to make that clear.  It's hard to say.  But looking back I'd definitely try to find more opportunities to have special time with him and make sure he felt comfortable with my dedication to him.
  *Why we didn't do it - Like I said, much of the time Carter was nursing and it wasn't really possible to get away.  Inevitably this happened during bedtime, so that made it hard to keep that bedtime bond with him that I used to have.  And I suppose most of the time I was content just sitting and holding a baby, partly because I was so sore for a while and partly because babies are awesome.  I also usually figured Jacob was totally cool being with Daddy all the time because that was usually his choice anyway.  I never really thought that from his perspective it might seem like I was not "fighting" for time with him enough.  If I could do it over again, I would specifically find nights to do bedtime with him or take him out to dinner or hand the baby over for a bit and just play.  Easier said than done, but clearly I was a little lax about it and I should have done better.

In case you're wondering what we DID do...let's see.  We took him out for ice cream to tell him he was getting a sibling.  I made him a "Big Brother" shirt, which is what he wore when we did the Facebook-official announcement.  He got an all-new, bigger room.  He got new furniture, including a big boy bed.  I know he got some sort of gift from Carter, but again, I can't remember what it was.  I'm guessing it was either a stuffed animal or some sort of Lego or Playmobil set he'd been eyeing up.  I'm sure he got some special time with Daddy at times when I was stuck at home, and I'm pretty sure I recall a night where just he and I went to dinner and a Knighthawks game alone within those first couple months.  And we definitely tried to encourage him to hold his brother, or give him a bottle, or help us out in little ways, but we were turned down across the board aside from the couple times we forced him to hold him for a picture.  We tried, I swear.  And clearly, we failed.  And ever since we've been trying other things and not much has worked.  But we'll still keep trying, as long as it takes for peace to reign in our house and for peace to reign in Jacob's heart and mind. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Celebrating the Birthday Boy

Yesterday was Carter's official 4th birthday!  It is so hard to believe.  I definitely spent the day thinking back to all of the craziness that ensued the day he was born.  It's just mind-blowing that the tiny, scrawny, hairy baby they handed to me that night is now this running, jumping, constantly talking kid who's really not a baby anymore.  Time is going so fast.

Even though it was a work/school day, we wanted to make the day special for him.  I decided to spread the presents out during the day as it would keep things more exciting and also minimize the chance we'd be dragging him out the door after he opened something he really wanted to play with.  So once he was dressed in the morning, he got to open one gift.
Excited to open gifts!  (And I swear, he's not sticking his hands in his pants--hes holding his shirt with his one hand up the sleeve.  His pants probably were not positioned well, however--waistbands are not his friend yet!)
I let him open a gift bag that had a Ryder Paw Patrol guy, a Batman shirt, and a really random pirate dress-up outfit I got super cheap (like a buck or two) a couple Halloweens ago.  It's the right size for him now so I figured we might as well get some use of it now that he has Jacob's pirate souvenirs from Disney World. 



Batman!  Shockingly, he did not ask to wear it!


Immediately trying to get Ryder out of the package!

Before we left the house, I wanted to take our annual picture before the day passed us by and I forgot.  I posted my favorite at the end of yesterday's post, but here's another version...

It's so funny to look back at his first year and see that the bear was almost as tall as him when he was just a month old and propped up in the corner of the chair!  And now look!

He got Happy Birthday greetings on his way into daycare, and his teacher even decorated the classroom door!  We brought donuts in to celebrate, and he seemed to have a fun day.  And then it was home to open more presents and get ready for his birthday dinner!  He opened up a Finding Dory nightlight (I got it free, but it's cool!) that projects Dory's silhouette on the ceiling, and also one of those magic marker coloring books that reveals colors with one clear marker.  He loved one that he got for Christmas and finished it last week.  Turns out this one is a little different--less vivid colors and pictures...it's actually like what I remember getting as a kid--but it's superheroes so I think he'll like that one, too.  After that, it was off to Chuck E. Cheese!

Now, anyone who's read here for a while knows I am not a fan of the place.  Yes, we go an average of once a year--usually for a fundraiser or a birthday party.  But usually other people don't watch their kids and they run around terrorizing the place.  Last night was no exception, though it wasn't as busy so at least there was less of it overall. The good news is that they have gluten-free pizza so it's an acceptable place for us to eat.  As always the kids had fun playing games.  Here's Jacob on a horse racing game...

And here's Carter and me trying out one that was supposed to be a bit like a roller coaster simulator.  I don't think the motion was working quite right, but he liked it anyway!

After dinner we tried another one--first Carter and me, then Jacob wanted to do it.  That one was much more action packed and the boys both enjoyed it!

Carter also tried a snowmobile ride...

In the end we had a bunch of tickets (some from a past visit) and all Jacob wanted were Tootsie Rolls, and Carter wanted a suction cup spider web (hmmm, wonder why...his shirt might be a hint!) which we had more than enough for.  Aside from a couple little behavior issues, we had a good time. 

Then it was back home for the last of the gifts.  He got two more Transformers Rescue Bots, which were what he really wanted most.  One is a dump truck and the other is a fire truck with a whole bunch of cool features.  He's still working on learning to transform them (yay, small motor skills!) but he definitely enjoyed them, along with the one he got on Sunday.

So, as a whole it was a fun birthday for him.  He still has a couple more gifts to come--one more from Uncle John and something when we see Craig's brother's family, which is still up in the air with all of Craig's busy weekends right now.  Probably in another month at worst...but nothing wrong with stretching out the celebration a bit! 

In other news, my college roommate, Mary, is coming to visit for another concert this weekend, and then Monday I will be off with both boys (against my better judgment, but Carter deserves a day off, too) for Presidents Day.  Jacob has the afterschool program the rest of the week, which he's not thrilled about, but it is what it is.  We're working our way through February pretty well right now, and spring will be just around the corner before we know it...assuming the snow ever stops falling (though, to be fair, it's also been melting pretty regularly this year, which is nice!).  And now we move forward with a four-year-old!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

FOUR!

Dear Carter,

How are we here?  How is it possible that my tiny little baby is now a real big kid?  I don't know where the time went, but it needs to slow down a little because you're my last little boy and I don't want your hugs and kisses and general cuteness to fade away anytime soon!

You're now officially as old as your brother was when I got pregnant with you, and that is blowing my mind.  It seems like Jacob had been around forever at that point.  We'd been considering another baby for a while, and even once we decided to go for it, it took an extra year or so for it to actually happen.  And by then it was Jacob's 4th birthday and I still didn't know for sure if you were going to be a reality.  A week later we got confirmation, and on we went.  I hope someday you take the time to read the letters I wrote to you back then, before we even knew you.  You can start here.  Anyway, I can't believe that if we had another baby now (we're not!) they'd be the same distance from you that you and Jacob are.  I do hope you'd respond to it better, but who knows?  You were asking the other day for a sister, though eventually you clarified that you wanted a big sister.  Can't really help you there, but I thought it was sweet.  I think you probably would have been a wonderful big brother, and I'm a little sad that the stars couldn't align to make that happen.  But you were the perfect way to finish off our family, and I can't believe you've been around four years now!

After three absolutely sweet years, this past one was a little tough.  You gained a temper and a bit of an attitude.  Somehow my sweet baby boy ended up being the kid at daycare with the behavior chart.  At home, your brother finally decided maybe he wanted to play with you, but that led to you two battling more than playing, which led to you developing a bit of a rough style of play.  I'm sure that didn't help the daycare situation.  You definitely started to express your opinions and you gained a lot of independence, which hasn't always been easy when we're already balancing your brother's very specific preferences.  You have been a handful, but where your brother never responded to conventional advice on dealing with tantrums and attitude, you've been a lot more cooperative, even if it takes a little extra time and effort to get you there.  And eventually my sweet boy comes back and gives me hugs and kisses and an "I love you, Mommy."  I will never get enough of that.

Part of what makes you a handful these days is that you are always full speed ahead.  You love to run, every chance you get.  You can't wait for spring to get outside and run, and any wide open space inside is immediately utilized for a top speed run, even if you shouldn't!  You love to race, and it's often the only way to get you up the stairs at bedtime!  The one thing that can get you to slow down is the TV.  For better or worse, you love watching TV.  Team Umizoomi still seems to be your favorite, but you still enjoy old favorites like Paw Patrol, PJ Masks and Bubble Guppies.  In the last few months you've checked out almost every show on the Roku in Mommy and Daddy's room, and now you like the Justice League and Transformers Rescue Bots, along with Mike the Knight, Maya the Bee, Jungle Bunch, and the Floogals.  You love them all.  Apparently your apple didn't fall far from Mama's tree...sorry about that.  I want you to play more, but sometimes it's nice to shift your speed down to slow and snuggle up for a little bit.  You always want to watch a show in our room, and on Saturday mornings it's a welcome way to spend a little more time in bed.

You upgraded to a big boy bedroom this year--a big boy bed, new furniture, and new superhero decorations on your walls.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that we had the room painted blue and were setting up the crib, but here we are four years later with all of the baby equipment and decorations packed away for good.  Baby toys are slowly but surely following suit, and we've worked our way through most of the bins of clothes in the basement!  It's so hard to believe how far you've come.  Just yesterday morning your teacher was telling me how ready you are to move up to the four-year-old room at daycare.  You've made such progress on your numbers and letters, and you really seem to enjoy books, too.  You love to tell stories and use your imagination to tell us about monsters or animals or what your friends do at daycare.  Some of your stories are so silly, and most of the time you just want to make people laugh.  Your brother is often a willing participant, which usually sets both of you off on a quest to one-up each other.  It gets a little out of control at the dinner table sometimes, that's for sure.

I still marvel at the crazy day we had when you were born--my water breaking at work, our split second decision to skip the doctor and go right to the hospital, the random neighborhood incident that almost kept Grandma and Grandpa stuck at home when I called them, having to send Lori to our house to grab my half-packed suitcase and my camera and computer--because I wasn't going to miss documenting one moment of your first couple days of life.  I told you this morning how we weren't even sure of your name until right before you were born, and I explained that your middle name was in honor of Grandpa.  I left out that we settled on the middle name choice after a lacrosse player with the same name scored a ton of points that night.  We took it as a sign.  It was such a crazy day and exhausting night, but it was worth it all to have you here.  I had no idea what a joy you would truly be in our lives.

Last night I snuggled with you at bedtime, to savor the last time I'd put you to bed as a three-year-old.  Sometimes you say you want to be a baby again, and last night you tried laying on me after I said you used to sleep on my chest all the time.  You're a lot bigger now, and I could hardly believe that as you laid your head on my chest, your legs extended at least to the middle of my shins!  All curled up as a newborn you barely made it to my waist!  You have officially doubled in height since you were born, and I know it's only going to get crazier from here.  Heck, your brother will probably pass me within a few years, and you won't be that far behind!

I definitely get a little sad thinking about how fast you're growing, and how quickly you're going to outgrow this fun kid stage you're in now.  The baby stuff was hard, but the kid stuff feels worse because so much of it has been a part of watching you and your little personality develop.  When that stuff fades away, I worry I'll feel like I won't know you as well.  By then, so much of your "stuff" will be internalized and you'll be a bit more of a mystery to me, all over again.  I worry you won't want to hug or hang out with me anymore.  I know it's all a part of growing up and gaining independence, but I guess I'm not ready to feel like that phase is so close for my baby.  Kindergarten is only a year and a half away, and it seems like not that long ago we were sending your brother off.  Knowing how quickly that time has flown, I know now how quickly your time will come.  I'm so proud of the little boy you are and so look forward to seeing you grow and learn in the years to come.  But a little bit of me will always miss my baby with the chubby cheeks and the irresistible smile!

Happy Birthday Carter!  Keep smiling and learning and loving, and the rest will fall into place.

Love,
Mommy (and Daddy, too!) 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Party Time!

It's so hard to believe, but Carter's 4th birthday is rapidly approaching!  I don't know how it happened, but my little tiny baby is now a legit big kid.  Four years ago right now I was barely functional despite being more than three weeks from my due date, and I couldn't fathom how I'd make it through three more weeks of sciatica at my desk or feeling like I'd be birthing a baby in the middle of Wegmans every time I spent more than 10 minutes there.  And now, suddenly, the baby wreaking all of that havoc is as old as his brother was when I got pregnant...and that took forever to do in the first place, or so it seemed at the time.  So, in a couple days we'll be celebrating his big day.

But in the meantime I had to plan him a party, and with Craig's crazy work schedule this time of year, it was almost impossible to pick a date.  Add in a couple trips for my parents and Craig's brother's kids' busy sports schedules, and I basically raised the white flag and picked the only date where I knew Craig and my parents could be there.  The cousins had sports, unfortunately, but it's almost impossible to find an off-day for them and Craig's schedule had to be #1, and this was pretty much IT.  So Sunday afternoon it was!  It turned out that after a very uneventful weather forecast leading up to it, suddenly we had ice and sleet in the morning and snow in the forecast for the afternoon.  Ugh.  Good thing we scheduled it early to avoid Jacob's lacrosse schedule, because that allowed us to get everyone back out and on the road before things got too bad.  It ended up being a pretty small group but it was nice to have everyone at our house to celebrate our little man.

Of course, it wouldn't be a birthday party at my house without a cake of my child's choosing, and this year Carter was dead set on Spider-Man.  He settled on it months ago when I started asking, and every time I asked, he gave the same answer.  Until last week, of course.  But he was quickly swayed back once I got him imagining ways to make it cool.  But despite scanning Pinterest, I only had a basic idea of what I wanted to do and didn't come up with a final plan until the last minute.  And even then, it changed.

I had seen a cool cake on Pinterest, a very plain cake with a Spider-Man figure suspended from a string between two sticks.  That got me thinking of stealing one of Carter's guys, and the best one seemed to be one that is made to sit on a motorcycle.  But then we talked about having him climb a wall, but most of the things I thought of to build a wall were either filled with gluten (which would make the cake a no-go for Jacob) or just didn't seem feasible.  Another issue was that I wanted to frost it in red, but I couldn't find premade frosting that color and the last time I tried to make red (Jacob's second birthday), I used my entire bottle of food coloring and still only had a dark pink.  I read up on it a bit and decided to get something stronger from the craft store.  Finally, I was originally thinking of doing a round cake, but then I started thinking about it more, and I realized that if I made a square one, I could cut out one quarter of it, flip it up to the top, and create a wall for Spidey to climb that way.  I had never done anything like that, but that became my plan. 

I baked the cakes on Saturday afternoon and decided to do the crumb coat of frosting that night after the Knighthawks game.  The cutting actually went well and the structure seemed fine.  At first I was totally freaked out about the red frosting because it still looked dark pink.  But it seemed to get a little redder after a while, and even though it still looked pink, when I compared it to the figure, it actually looked fine.  Another element I thought about using was a candle shaped like a four.  I realized in looking at Jacob's old cakes that I had a four candle (I used it on his soccer ball cake) so I brought that out and thought about adding that.  As I was frosting, I got a little nervous about running out of red.  And that was when I had the thought of using some white to do what I called, "the front porch" of the cake.  I thought it was a nice contrast and it gave me a good spot for Carter's name and a four, particularly if I didn't use the candle.  I finished off the base coat and finally went to bed.

Sunday morning I finished up the frosting, added some webs (thanks Pinterest), and did the blue detailing around the bottom.  I decided to not use the candle after all, and did the finishing touches with the name, number, and our climbing Spidey!  And voila...


I have loved most of my cakes, but this one holds a special place because of the unique structure.  I have really been proud of my creations, even in their imperfections (and there were plenty here!), but this one made me smile!  And when I showed it to Carter, the giddy look on his face was priceless!

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon before the lunchtime party making food--Buffalo chicken dip, baked pasta (premade the night before), broccoli rice casserole, and salad.  My mom did a veggie tray for me when she arrived, and we finished it off with pizza and wings. 

When my Uncle Jeff arrived, he decided I needed a picture with my creation, and since the camera doesn't get turned on me too often, I obliged.  It turned out really well, actually...

Carter just had a couple gifts to open, plus a bunch of cards (with money and gift cards, which he's really excited about!).  But he did open this gift, a Sabres helmet and jersey, from Craig's aunt and uncle.  They actually sent the present back with us at Christmas just in case they couldn't make the party.  It survived until the party, and I didn't forget to pull it out, either!

Carter got this Batman movie, and he insisted on watching it during the party!

He was very excited to get a Transformer Rescue Bot from Uncle John's family...

Soon enough it was cake time, and by then he had changed into his new Batman shirt!

Everyone enjoyed their cake, and after a little more socializing, most of the attendees got on the road before the weather got too much worse.  Of course, after some cleaning up and relaxing, I headed back out into the snow to do some Valentine's shopping and wrap up Carter's birthday shopping.  We got a few more inches of snow overnight, which made for a messy commute this morning when I had to leave extra early for a work meeting.  But between the house cleaning, the cake, the food prep, and two lacrosse games, it was a very quick, very busy weekend.  And now I'm looking forward to a fun week of special stuff before another concert with my college roommate Mary this weekend!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

News & Notes, Absolutely Random Edition

I don't like going more than a week between posts, so I feel like I need to pop in here and spew about whatever's currently happening in our house.  So let's see...

- Carter's birthday is in a week and his party is this weekend.  I feel horribly unprepared.  Fortunately, his party is usually way lower maintenance than Jacob's, since it's indoors and usually we just get pizza and wings.  I thought about doing more, but perhaps I just need to give myself a pass and be okay with it.  Craig's brother's family can't make it, which automatically drops the guest list by six (and Jacob is pretty unhappy about it--but honestly, between Craig's schedule and all of their sports, it's almost impossible).  Hardly anyone has RSVP'ed anyway, so I can basically assume the grandparents will make it along with a smattering of my side of the family.  Maybe 15 people total?  So pizza, wings, a few sides, some snacks, and cake and ice cream should be sufficient.  Right?  The good news is that Carter can get gifts from family and anything he doesn't get (or gets and loves) will help me shop accordingly for his actual birthday a few days later.  I have a couple things already, but rather than risk duplication I think I'm just going to run out early next week and make my final decisions.  He wants a few things and needs nothing, so I'm just trying to shop carefully so he has some things to open.  Oh, and that's not even taking into consideration Valentine's Day.  At least we have valentines for the kids, but beyond that...yeah, it's a Hallmark holiday.  Sigh.

- Speaking of the cake, for months Carter has been firm on his superhero-themed cake.  He didn't divert from the chosen character at all.  Well...yesterday he got all sad/mad and said he didn't want that cake.  He wanted a basketball cake with the (Toronto) Raptors playing.  Now, that sounds far more like Jacob than Carter, so I did more digging and from what I can tell, Carter is trying to change his interests to be more like Jacob.  I think he wants Jacob to like him (and his stuff), so he wants to shun superheroes and do more with sports.  On one hand it's sweet, and on the other it makes me a little crazy.  I like my very different children.  I like that Carter loves cars and superheroes and dinosaurs.  That's what makes him HIM.  I also don't want him to feel like he needs to conform to something to make his brother like him.  It bugs me that Jacob pooh-poohs so much of what Carter loves.  He tries to point out that superheroes don't exist, that Team Umizoomi is for babies, etc.  It's unfortunate and unfair to hold a three-year-old to eight-year-old coolness standards, but no matter how many times we intervene, Jacob continues...and apparently now it's being internalized and it makes me sad.  I think we're still going with the original cake plan, but for the first time he's wavering and it's a bummer.

- The situation with the boys is still really challenging.  Jacob's medicine got tweaked a bit again so we're just starting to see how that goes in the evenings.  Everything has been better at school--he even said he likes his teacher now that she's not yelling at him all the time--but once the medicine wears off our evenings are exhausting.  The boys simply cannot stay away from each other.  Jacob either can't help but bug Carter, or feels the need to get revenge for something Carter may have done.  Carter just wants to play, and thinks that the rough playing is how it has to be.  So we end up with them constantly wrestling or teasing each other or taking shots.  No matter how many times someone is sent to their room, moments later they're busting back out to get back into the fray.  It defies logic as they both make each other miserable most of the time, but they have some sort of magnetic attraction to the chaos.  I can barely get dinner made or leave them alone long enough to change my clothes or switch over the laundry, so it makes things a bit challenging.  On top of that, both boys are having troubles going to bed, often because they're both being loud enough to keep each other up.  Jacob's is probably medication related, but most nights he's still running back and forth to the bathroom or asking us random questions at 10pm, after going to bed around 9.  Some nights Carter is even worse, with the typical every-excuse-in-the-book bedtime right up through 10:30 or later.  Part of that is the ridiculous napping situation at daycare, where I prefer he doesn't nap but he often does.  They can't stop him if he gets tired, but I don't think they're encouraging him to stay awake by putting him at a table and giving him activities.  I'd fall asleep, too, if I was just left on my cot to hang out.  They know to limit him to an hour, but many nights that still translates into an extra late night, which only makes the cycle worse the next day.  And now Carter has been popping into our room around 5am some nights, which has been a tough one.  At first he was trying to bring toys, but I made it clear they were not welcome as it was time to sleep.  So he's been better about sleeping, but the problem is that he is a restless sleeper (more on that in a bit) so when he's sleeping next to me, I don't sleep.  Consequently, I have been mostly awake since 5am this morning.  Ugh.  That definitely needs to stop.

- Carter's well visit is coming up late this month, and I definitely want to see if the doctor thinks it's worth sending him to one or two specialists.  It seems like more specialists are the last thing we need, but Carter's sleep is concerning.  For one, he snores.  A lot.  And the restless sleep tells me he's not getting restful sleep.  He wasn't completely awful when I slept next to him last weekend, though he did have a number of moments where he was kicking me in the head or the back.  This morning I think he moved every 30-60 seconds on average, which is why I never went back to sleep.  My guess is that we'll end up at an ENT and/or a sleep clinic, and if I had to put money on it I would assume his adenoids at the very least will be on their way out.  He's had a constant cold for a couple months now, too, so perhaps the tonsils won't last long either.  That would stink, for sure, but we'll see where it goes.

- In other medical news, Jacob got a clean bill of health on his leg last week.  Everything is healing fine.  The most interesting part of the appointment was seeing his current x-ray compared to six months ago.  You could actually see how much he'd grown just based on the distance from his foot to the plate and screws!  The tumor was safely above the growth plate, and now we can clearly see that as it moves further and further up his leg!  So at least now we can take one specialist off our list.

Other than that we're just chugging along.  Winter, work, school, daycare, keeping us all alive...same old stuff.  Onward to the birthday countdown...