Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekend of Firsts!

We had a good weekend!  Of course, it started out by finding out on Thursday that my Great-Aunt Lois had passed away.  She was my mom's aunt, the last of her generation, and she was 90.  She'd fallen last week, and she was ready to go to heaven.  So while it was sad, it was a blessing.  With that in mind, I needed to work on finishing my work on Friday so I could take off today for the funeral.  And with a ton of stuff on my list for the weekend, I had to try to cram in as much as I could so I could leave Sunday and make it in for the viewing. 

I started checking off my list Friday night by sorting through Carter's artwork and taking pictures.  I snagged this mask because I realized I never had him model it for me, and this picture cracked me up!

When I put him to bed that night, we had two "lasts"...last time reading in the chair in his room, and last time going to bed in a crib!  Saturday was going to be the big day of moving his bed into his room!  But first, we had Jacob's first lacrosse tournament!  His team has gone to "Lax at the Lake" for the last two years, but because of schedules I would have had to do it alone and I just couldn't fathom it.  But this year things were looking good.  The weather all week looked good, and then suddenly when I checked it on Friday, that area--which is quite a bit southeast of us--was set to have cooler, rainy weather.  Noooo.  We also went back and forth all week about getting a hotel, as it's a 90 minute drive and we had to be there at 7:30am.  But the rooms were expensive and some not that close anyway, so we just sucked it up and woke up at the crack of dawn.  I was up at 5am, Craig at 5:15, Jacob by 5:30, and Carter at 5:45.  We dragged ourselves out the door a little after 6am and started the drive.  It was a little highway driving and a lot of country roads, out into the middle of the Finger Lakes. 

It was cool and damp when we got there, but we settled in and tried to keep warm.  It wasn't awful, but it wasn't pleasant either.  At least the view was nice...
Green hills
Jacob scored the tying goal in game #1, which was nice to see.  After the first game, we headed up to the snack tent to fuel up for game #2.  Luckily I thought ahead and brought gluten-free donuts becaue I saw that donuts were one of the snacks teammates were bringing. 

A teammate's parents own a fabulous donut place, and this is what they brought for the rest of the kids!
Lacrosse donuts!
Game two marked the team's first win of the year!  Also, my mom game to see that game.  She happened to be in Rochester for a weekend reunion with her college dorm mates, and she and her good friend (often referred to as Colin's grandma in this blog a while back) made the hour drive to come watch.  By then the cold had dissipated a bit, which took the edge off.  The rain held off and it started to get a little brighter.  During break #2, we took a team picture...
Jacob is right in front of the coach on the right
By game #3 we were a little disappointed in his playing time overall, but he seemed to be putting in a good effort.  We're wondering if he's just not listening to the coach, or what. 

Digging for the ball...he has a black helmet with red straps
His team tied another game and it was finally time to head out.  Overall it wasn't a bad day!  I wouldn't want to do it in really cold or really hot weather, but it was fun!  We drove to a Pizza Hut in town where we knew we could get gluten-free pizza, had lunch, and headed home.  Clearly it was a busy start to the day!


When we got home, I had a hard time dragging myself out of my chair.  I wasn't feeling great (not sure if it was exhaustion or what), but eventually I dragged myself up and we all went out for frozen yogurt for dinner.  It was part of a week-long fundraiser for school and $5 maximum night.  When we got home, I started working on the big boy bed.  I disassembled the crib, moved all of the pieces to the basement, and then Craig and I started bringing up the pieces for the bed--a basic bed frame, a box spring, the new mattress, and a bed rail.  Plus I had to make the bed.  It was pretty tiring, but eventually it was ready!  The room was super cramped and needed a complete overhaul Sunday, but at least Carter got to sleep in it!  The giggle he put out when he saw the finished product was super cute!

Well, he went down fine, but when I went in to check on him for the second time right before I went to bed, I was stunned when he was nowhere to be found!  It took me a few seconds to realize he was curled up in the tiny space you see on the bottom right of the picture above.  His feet were against the wall, he was all curled up, and he was halfway under the bed!  I have no idea how he got there.  He was sleeping in bed last time I checked him, and then he was on the floor.  The bed rail was pretty high up, but there was still a good for or so of space (about equal to the pillow's width) at the top of the bed, and all I can figure is that he tried to snuggle up on the pillow, rolled off, and somehow slipped past the bar to the floor.  There was only a small space, though, so he could have bumped into the side of the bookshelf...but we didn't hear any cries and he didn't seem injured, so we're just not sure.  We moved the bed rail up further on the bed, and he's been fine since.  Crazy.

I had Carter nap in the Pack 'n' Play in our room on Sunday so I could work in his room.  He was resistant but eventually fell asleep.  I spent a couple hours just rearranging his room.  I moved the bookshelf across the room under the window, moved out our reading chair, its footrest, and a small rocking chair (it used to be mine!), moved a small table from under the window to next to the bed, and moved the soccer ball bean bag chair from Jacob's room to Carter's, since Jacob indicated he was ready to give it up.  So now Carter has a reading corner and a lot more floor space to play.  It'll work for now.  I'm still thinking about moving his bed under the window to open up more wall space for the dresser.  There's not much room regardless, but it's so much better.  I also cleared out a ton of baby stuff and took down the bumper I was using as a wall decoration.  Most of it is sitting in a couple piles to clear out/put away, but it's a start.  I still need to decide on furniture and big boy decorations.  I did find a new quilt for Jacob's bed (plain stripes) so Carter is getting the sports bedding.  He's also getting some sweet Spider-man sheets, so I think his d├ęcor might be eclectic!

After the room redo I had to quickly pack a bag and change my clothes so I could head to Buffalo for my great-aunt's funeral.  It was a nice opportunity to see family I haven't seen in a while, including my aunt and uncle from Wisconsin, who are still struggling with their grief after their daughter's sudden death last month.  Obviously it was for a tough reason (again), but family time is so important.  I spent the night at my parents', and the funeral was this morning.  I ran a couple errands on my way home, and we had a pleasant evening at home.  We have another busy week on deck--my race tomorrow (finally), lacrosse Wednesday, baseball game or lacrosse practice Thursday, baseball Saturday, family picnic Sunday.  So much to do!  

Which means it is definitely time for bed!  More soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Big Boys


I'm going through one of those phases where every time I look at my boys, I'm marveling at how big they're getting.  Time is flying, for sure.  I freaked out last week when I realized that Jacob's birthday is only a little more than a month away.  I think I've been in denial or something so I haven't even started thinking about a party or gifts.  And as for the cake, he changes his mind every other week, so I have some time there!  Carter hit the 3-1/4 mark the other day, and sometimes with the things he says and does, I can't believe this is the same human being who was a tiny, scrawny baby that lived in newborn clothes for what seemed like ages.  How did this happen?!

I submit as evidence of their big boyhood:

On Saturday morning Jacob had a lacrosse game.  It was one of his few road games of the season, not far from my office, actually.  The weather was cool and cloudy, with a bit of drizzle and some wind.  Not ideal, but it was downright tropical compared to the 40s we had on Sunday!  Yuck.  Thank goodness warmer weather looks to officially be on its way!  Anyway, the good news about the park we were at was that they had a playground within sight of the field.  I could take Carter to play for part of the game and still keep an eye on Jacob as he played.  Carter loves playgrounds, and this one was a great size for him!
I love this picture!  Oh, and the first time he climbed on this structure and tried to get back down, he caught one of the climbing knobs under the front of hoodie and was kind of hanging there.  Not gonna lie, it was funny...but I wasn't fast enough to snap a picture before he got himself unstuck! 

He was very careful crossing the bridge!

I surprised him to get this smile!  He was calling these little corners of this wall "houses" and made me go to my "house" at the other end until "morning" :)

See, such a big kid!

Oh, that face.  I feel like the grown-up version of this one is going to be pretty swoon-worthy for the ladies!
Jacob's game was OK.  We mostly avoided the rain and while his team lost (again) they actually held their own against a very good team.  No points for Jacob, but he was playing on defense for part of the game and he's still learning his way as a midfielder.  Every game is a learning experience!

Because of the weather we had a pretty low key day.  I grocery shopped, but that was about as exciting as it got.  Real strawberries to enjoy during breakfast for dinner, maybe?  Oh, and we did get a special delivery, but more on that in a minute!

Sunday's weather was even worse.  Definitely an indoor day, though Jacob kept trying to go outside to play lacrosse anyway.  We went to church, stopped at Aldi on the way home, had some lunch, and I got in a run (on the treadmill at the gym--my best time yet!).  Pretty much the rest of the day was spent hanging around.   Craig did catch this picture on our way out the door for church.  It was even funnier when Carter was just chillin' on the steps in his church clothes, his winter coat, and his Spider-man mask, like nothing was going on!  This was a couple seconds later...

The other exciting thing from the weekend was the arrival of Carter's new twin mattress!  After lots of back and forth in my head, I settled on ordering a mattress from Amazon that had amazing reviews and free delivery.  That eliminated the issue of getting it to our house, and while the price was at the top end of my ideal range, it was still reasonable.  And when I happened to catch it on sale one night while checking my wish list, I bought it on the spot.  It arrived in a box that was about four feet tall by about a foot wide.  The contents looked like this:

Good thing I had read the reviews or I'd never believe this would turn into a real, normal mattress!  It was completely compressed and rolled up.  We got it Saturday but waited until Sunday to unroll it, for a couple reasons.  The thickness of the mattress when I unrolled it was no more than a couple inches!  But as I started removing the plastic, it began hissing, like it had a slow leak.  But it was the opposite, where the small holes I created as I pulled tape off the plastic were letting air in to the vacuum-sealed package.  Within a minute of removing the plastic, the mattress was eight inches thick and gloriously comfortable.  And this happened about 10 seconds after that:
He jumped right on!
He made himself at home for the rest of the day, watching shows and movies, reading books, and playing with toys.  Carter instantly fell in love with that bed.  And as a result, he was very unhappy Monday morning when he found we had moved it down to the basement to off-gas or settle or whatever, per the manufacturer's recommendation.  It'll come back up this week or this weekend, whenever we can find enough time to take apart the crib, move up the box spring and a basic frame from the crawl space, buy a mattress pad and protector (I actually did that tonight, but I should also get a couple new pillows), wash the new bedding, and get it all put together.  We might also have to move some furniture and toys around in his room, so this could be a process.  But he's excited and I hope that will encourage him to follow the rules and listen when he's told to stay in it!  Jacob said I could take his color-changing alarm clock for Carter's room, too (and replace it with something better, I suppose), so hopefully Carter can learn when it's OK to get up.  Now if he'd just be able to sleep through the night without having to pee at 4am, we'd all be happier.  

And then there's this big kid...
Seriously, how did he get this grown up?
Last night was his second grade concert.  I remember last year when I went to pick him up from school and all of the second grade families were coming in, thinking, "Holy cow, next year that's going to be us, and Jacob will be a month away from being done at this school."  And now here we are.  Wow.

The concert was about what you would expect from a couple classes' worth of second graders, but it was nice.  Some of the songs are a little odd, but I guess when you spent your childhood learning nothing but songs about Jesus, other stuff seems a little...surfacy?  I mean, a couple of them were nice songs about cultural harmony and the joy of music, but a couple others seemed a little less inspiring, at least for second graders, perhaps?  But they did a lot of sign language and instrument playing, which made it clear they've been working hard.

Jacob did well--no potty dance this time, thankfully--and I saw a lot of smiles.  Hard to see, but here he's playing the tambourine...

And here he's playing the glockenspiel...

And here he's singing and signing...
Thumbs up!
And here are a couple videos...the first during one of the first songs... 


And here is his glockenspiel performance...


It's always intriguing to see things that give us insight into what he does at school all day.  We often don't get much back when we ask questions about his day, so seeing something like this provides good reassurance that he's learning something!  We still have a few events coming up as the school year winds down and we finish up his time at this particular school.  It's so hard to believe we're at this point already.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was sitting in that same room for his Kindergarten orientation! 

So, yes, we have two growing boys who boggle my mind on a daily basis with their big boy-ness.  The things they say and do make me marvel at how far we've come...and often make it clear how much farther we have to go.  But I love them both and I know how much I will miss this someday. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Mother's Day

So...getting back to Mother's Day...five days later.  Sorry.  It's been a busy week and I've either been busy or too tired in the evening to finish this off.  Anyway, this year's Mother's Day was pretty good.  Nothing outstanding, but generally fine.  I know that doesn't sound great, but since I know that our actual Mother's Day is so busy and usually spent honoring our moms, I know that it's not really going to be "my" day, and accepting that helps considerably. 

So, knowing that, this year I squeaked out some alone time on Saturday.  Getting that chance definitely helped my attitude going into Sunday.  As a whole, Saturday was pretty darn good.  In the morning I saw Jacob score two goals in lacrosse, which obviously felt like a great step forward in his comeback.  After lunch I got in a 3.5 mile run, my second run of my three-week, six-run preparation for the Corporate Challenge.  It was a tough run in warmer temperatures than I'm used to, but I did it.  However, my calves decided to tighten up pretty badly once I was home and cleaned up.  If I sat for any amount of time they were really tight when I went to move, which meant I needed to keep them active.  Carter had woken up early from his nap, but I still decided to go ahead with my plans and run out to the mall for a little bit.  I was there for about an hour and a half, which helped keep my legs moving and my calves relaxed.  So, between that and the two $10 coupons I had to spend, it was a very nice break.  And I found a dress--bonus!  After that, we went out to our favorite gluten-free pizza place for dinner and stopped at the mall on the way home to see Jacob's artwork in the district art show. 

His piece is a clay Picasso-inspired face.  It's the one touching his shoulder on the right side of the picture.

However, he informed us that they hung it wrong.  As much as I liked it where the red piece was the mouth, it's actually grown on me (and looks more like a Picasso) the way it was supposed to be hung, as shown below.
The eye on the right is actually a bit hidden between the two orange pieces, and the pink circle below is the mouth.

We did a little shopping after that and had a relatively peaceful bedtime once we got home.  All in all, it was a good day.

Sunday we had to stop and get flowers for my mom on our way out of town (we already had a gift for Craig's mom that I was fortunate to stumble upon a couple weeks earlier), and I couldn't decide between two different options so we got both.  I knew that one was a little more finicky than the other, so I figured she had a backup if one didn't do well.  But look how pretty this yellow orchid is!
 

I also couldn't resist the colorful hydrangea, and hopefully this one can be planted outside at some point. 

We had a nice lunch at my parents' house (Carter was a machine downing the pork tenderloin), and once Carter was down for his nap, my mom and I snuck out to get our free Mother's Day sundaes at Anderson's.  Anderson's is famous for their frozen custard, but they also serve up a pretty outstanding roast beef sandwich!  They actually have some gluten-free options so we may have to try it sometime when we're in town.  The sundae had just enough custard, hot fudge, and whipped cream for a nice little dessert, and the time alone with my mom was probably the highlight of the day, just because it's pretty rare these days!  Usually at least one kid or another is around to interrupt conversations or complicate outings, so it was nice to have a quiet 45 minutes or so to talk and enjoy our custard!

We headed off after that to visit Craig's family, and as usual we ate and hung out and the kids played.  One of the highlights was that the bunnies that our niece and nephews got for Christmas turned out to not be two females, but but one male and one female...so guess what?  They now have eight baby bunnies!  They are absurdly cute and it brought back memories of the six baby bunnies I had in my fifth grade classroom when our teacher brought in her pregnant rabbit as our class pet.  They were so much fun!
Mama's on top of the little house, and all of the babies are below.  I love how different they are!  A couple look a bit like the mom with white fur and brown spots, but some are half and half, one is all brown (he does a great chocolate bunny impersonation!), and another is brown and black.  I'm sure a biology class would have a field day with figuring out those dominant and recessive genes!
Even though we left close enough to bedtime, both boys stayed awake the whole way home.  I had forgotten how exhausting two chatty boys can be during a long car ride at the end of the day!

As far as gifts, the boys gave me a magnet that says "Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids!"  True.  Add in clutter everywhere, toys underfoot, and dust so thick you can draw on every surface, and it's even more true.  It actually took me a couple days to get Jacob's gifts, since he was out sick on Friday and forgot to bring them home Monday.  That's part of what postponed this post originally, but the week did the rest.  Here are Jacob's gifts:

I guess this is the card :)

"Dear Mom, You are the best mom.  Here are the reasons why.  You make the best pancakes.  You are awsome.  You take good care of me.  You let me go with my dad.  You take me to cool places like Montreal and Toronto.  You let me ball boy.  You are a great mom!  Love, Jake"

He painted this tiny pot with ladybugs.  So cute!  But it's so small I may have to replant the flower soon!

Such a cool flower!
Carter's stuff was equally sweet...
The card says, "Mom, I love you to pieces!"  The "I Love You" was set up for him to trace, and the heart was made up of pieces of paper.

I thought this bouquet of hand flowers was very sweet.

The picture frame was cute, and the picture was super cute in its own way with his little smirk :)
As I said, it's been a busy week so far.  Jacob finally played in his first baseball game Tuesday after missing one and choosing lacrosse over another.  It is pretty painfully slow with them learning how to pitch, but we survived.  He got a couple hits...

...and he pitched for an inning...

 
It's all definitely a work in progress, but we'll get there.  But for now let's just say I'm not too sad we'll be missing a few baseball games in favor of lacrosse for the next month or so.  Still, it's good to see a lot of the same parents and have a concession stand handy!  Beyond that, Jacob just wants to play lacrosse with Craig all the time, I am trying to fit in my runs, and Carter keeps us all laughing.  Never a dull moment, though the weather this weekend is supposed to be pretty crappy so we might be having a lot more downtime than usual for this time of year.  I guess spring could only stick around for a couple days...maybe next week... 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Free

I apologize--I usually bring this up on the blog every year or two, right around this time of year, so this might be repetitive, but perhaps its importance bears repeating.  Yesterday and today in particular are really memorable days for me because they mark the anniversary of the days I took a chance and hopped on a plane at the last minute to see the Knighthawks win a championship.  My trip to Phoenix was nine (!) years ago today, and my trip to Seattle/British Columbia was three years ago yesterday.  Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of the one championship, and today is the third anniversary of the other.  I am probably just a little too obsessed with those trips so many years later, but I feel like they're so emblematic of one thing I feel my life lacks since I had kids that I can't help but reminisce and try to recapture that feeling.  I miss that sense of adventure--of being able to go to new places, see new things, and explore them without having to plan extensively to ensure the kids are fed, rested, and happy.  That freedom is elusive when you're a parent.

I love my kids like crazy and wouldn't change a thing (well, maybe one or two little personality quirks might make things easier) but there is something special about taking a chance and going off on an unexpected adventure.  Doing that with kids is nearly impossible, and many times it's simply not wise.  Life these days revolves around careful decisions to ensure that my kids will be safe and comfortable, that I will be around to keep them safe and comfortable, and that our finances and general living situation will allow all of us to be safe and comfortable.  So hopping on a plane and leaving them behind isn't usually the best option.  However, I suppose in a very specific situation I'd still absolutely do it again.  Why?  Because these two trips were so memorable and so unique that all these years later I am still obsessing over them.  You can read about the Phoenix trip here and the Seattle trip here, here, here, and here.

Both trips were booked one day before I left, which is crazy.  I got lucky the first time and had a Priceline near-disaster the second time.  I knew at the time I took the Phoenix trip that if all went well, it would probably be one of the last times I got to do something so spontaneous and crazy, as we were planning on starting a family soon after.  By the time I flew to Seattle, we had two kids, but since Jacob wasn't yet in school, it was possible to whisk him off somewhere on a moment's notice.  Now, not so much.  Carter was still a tiny baby, but I wasn't nursing so it was just a matter of hoping he'd be so enamored with the attention from Grandma and Grandpa that he wouldn't notice I was missing.  All went well, but the mom guilt on that trip was pretty severe.  Still, I think it was a great refresher mentally after three months in the newborn fog.  Physically, I was exhausted, and that was definitely a challenge upon my return.

But while the circumstances surrounding each trip were a little different, the purpose was the same--to hopefully see the Knighthawks win a championship and to get a little adventure in on the side.  Those missions were definitely accomplished.  I loved seeing Phoenix, and getting to see the Chihuly pieces in Tacoma was amazing.  I felt a sense of freedom in both cases--in the first, the confidence to travel by myself and suddenly be in a new place; and in the second, a chance to rediscover myself and my passions (like picture taking, for example).  One was a last hurrah, and the other was a re-birth.  Overdramatic?  Maybe, but both trips were life-changing in their own way.  I called the first one a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to see the Knighthawks win, but it turns out that lightning struck twice...or rather four times, though two of those did not involve cross-country travel. 

Most of these I've posted before, but here's a sampling of my fun...

Outside the hotel in Phoenix.  Definitely not something you see back home!

Still in disbelief, but so happy!

The perfect evening at the hotel pool with the Cup

Some pretty unique baggage!

Part of the wall on the Glass Bridge in Tacoma

This is the glass ceiling on the bridge, and it's been the image on one of my credit cards for a couple years!

In Union Station...gorgeous!

A window in Union Station

Gorgeous color along the boardwalk in New Westminster, BC

Not sure I've ever seen one of these before!

This was our third picture with this cup, but still super happy!
Perhaps the decision to take these trips could be considered irresponsible, and I suppose they could have easily turned out badly.  But they didn't, and I am so happy I took the chance.  I don't do that often, to be honest, so that makes these trips even more special.  Three years after the last one, I'm definitely itching for a new adventure.  We'll see if we can plan one one of these days.  Despite the sacrifices and complications that adventures can involve, I think it's important as a parent to keep dreaming and keep adventuring, because it may be the best way to teach your kids to think bigger and look toward their own adventures.  There's a balance there somewhere between adventure and responsibility that I hope we can instill in them before they reach adulthood.  We'll take them on some little adventures now, but hopefully we've all got some great things ahead. 

But this morning, when it was the same kind of day it was nine years ago--mid-60s, sunny and perfect--I couldn't help but look back and be thankful for the opportunities I've had to step out, take a chance, and live life to the fullest.  Now if I can figure out how to do that at home in my daily life, that would be even better.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Other Side of Mother's Day

I know I sound like a party pooper, but most years Mother's Day hasn't exactly been my favorite day of the year.  I mean...I appreciate it and all, but so often the reality has not lived up to the hype.  Most of the time it feels like a Hallmark holiday, no matter how noble the purpose, so expectations (particularly in the social media age) always seem to rocket sky high.  With limited time, budgets, and little boy attention spans, it rarely turns out as lovely as the mental picture.

At this point in our lives we are thankful for the opportunity to still be able to defer to our own mothers, so the day inevitably ends up being busy and involving travel.  As anyone with kids will tell you, that is not a recipe for a relaxing, restful, reflective day.  I can look at every Facebook post in my feed showing fancy gifts and dinners, or some sort of blissful mom escape, and that is pretty much not going to be my life for the foreseeable future.  And while I have moments of frustration in regards to that, ultimately I am so thankful that we both have moms to go celebrate.  I know someday Mother's Day might revolve around me, but I also know what that would mean, so I am in no rush.  Additionally, I know that by the time that happens, life could be very different, and that rest and relaxation I often crave may not come in the form I anticipate.  So I choose to live in the moment, accept a busy day of travel, and pray the kid fallout isn't so bad that I can't count the day as "good".

My Mother's Day was fine, but I'll get into that in another post.  What I want to talk about has to do with a post I did on Facebook later in the day.  It said:
As I reflect on all my blessings today, I also think of all of the women for whom this day is torture--those who have lost their mom, those who no longer have all of their children with them, and those who long to be a mom but have not been able to fulfill their dream. Life truly isn't fair and I wish there were words to help you through this day. While I think it's great to take a day to honor moms' hard work, part of me would gladly give up my accolades if it made today easier for you. Thinking of you all...and definitely praying for a few in particular...


This post just felt like it needed to be said.  The universe seemed to be conspiring to bring me to this realization this year.  For all my frustration and complaining over the years, there are countless women suffering through a truly awful Mother's Day for any of the reasons above.  This year specifically, I seemed to be getting reminder after reminder of this fact, when previously I never gave it much thought aside from a random Facebook post here and there.  But this year, the reality kept hitting me in the face, to the point I told Craig that I sort of wished Mother's Day didn't even exist.  Like I said in the post, I do think it's important to honor moms, and I don't want to begrudge underappreciated moms of that opportunity.  But is it worth doing it at the expense of a significant population that is tortured by the day?

Obviously my thoughts have been with my aunt, who I knew would be spending her first Mother's Day without her daughter.  How can you look at Mother's Day the same when one of the reasons you became a mom is no longer on this earth?

Then of course, there are the women (and men, for that matter) who don't have a mom to honor anymore.  My own mother falls into that category, after all.  I had a friend post on Facebook late last week expressing her difficulty with the holiday, and she was far from alone.  There were enough random tributes and sad posts throughout my feed to make it clear that this is not an easy holiday, even for those who have kids of their own to celebrate with.

Perhaps the most visible group this year was those who want to be moms but whose bodies chose not to cooperate.  One of my oldest and dearest friends falls in that category and has been waiting to adopt for years.  While she has never directly expressed her feelings about the holiday, I've seen enough from others in her situation to know it can't be easy.  Over the last year and a half I've been following the blog of the Gardner quadruplets, who were born after eight years of infertility for their parents.  The mom has posted numerous times about how difficult Mother's Day was for her before she had her girls.  And a few weeks ago I read "Instant Mom", the autobiography of Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which told the story of her fertility struggles and detailed her extreme dislike of Mother's Day prior to adopting her daughter. 

I felt like I was hearing so much this year about all of these categories, from various sources, and I guess this year it just really bore its way into my soul.  It practically made me more disenchanted with the holiday--not in a complainy sort of way, but in a way where I just didn't want to focus on it as much for myself personally.  I am still happy to honor the mothers around me, but I refused to let the holiday let me down this year.  I am extraordinarily blessed to be a mom and have two crazy kids who made me that way.  I am so thankful for my own mom, and for both of my grandmas who lovingly mothered my parents so many years ago.  And while it's easy to let the stress of my own motherhood challenges get to me and ruin the day, I know I am fortunate to be where I am.  I don't fall into any of those categories above, and for that reason alone I should be grateful to be able to enjoy the day.  So, perhaps that helped me stay on a more even keel this year.  Hard to complain, for sure.

Today I stumbled across a blog post by a mom who has lost two children in which she discussed her challenges on Mother's Day.  She lost her first daughter (third child) in utero due to an umbilical cord issue at 5-1/2 months gestation.  Not too long after that, she lost her oldest son, who had already been through a lot, out of the blue.  She has since had a healthy little girl to go with her surviving son, but I was transfixed reading further into her blog.  The horrible losses she has suffered are completely heartbreaking, and as a parent of healthy-enough kids, I can't even fathom how she lives each day...and yet she does, with an amazing attitude that seems to outshine her grief in profound ways.  I had a hard time pulling myself away from reading to get back to my work, and even once I did was haunted by her story, despite how impressed I was by her positive attitude.  Watching my aunt recently suffer through the loss of a grown child has been difficult and has led to plenty of soul searching on my part.  As a general worrier myself, I've certainly thought about how I would survive if something happened to my kids, at any age.  I can't even imagine.  I can guess I'd be here spilling my guts, as that's always been the way I process parenthood, but with something that serious, all bets are off.  Who knows what I'd do?  But to read about a real, normal mom who had to mourn like that twice?  I'm basically lacking the words to describe it.  "Unfair" may be one..."tragic" may be another...but beyond that, all I can muster is "How...?"  I honestly hope I never have to learn, but when you see tragedy all around you, you know it doesn't discriminate.  All you can do in the meantime is hug your kids tight, teach them right, pray, and savor every minute you can with them.  And yesterday, even if I didn't always succeed, I certainly tried to keep it in mind.  My time to innocently enjoy Mother's Day will only last so long--guaranteed--so I really need to celebrate it while I can.  I may not want to shout it from the rooftops because of those who just can't celebrate, but I need to appreciate the chance to do so without the sting of loss, for as long as I can.  I owe it to the rest of the women out there who would give anything to be in my shoes.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Take on "Me-ternity Leave"

I hadn't really thought about blogging about this, as I was apparently just content with being annoyed on Facebook, but then there was another story about "Paw-Ternity Leave", and I think that might have put me over the top.  When I was thinking about it to myself in the car, I realized perhaps I needed to vent about this one here, as that's what usually allows things to process and leave my brain in peace.

So, in case you haven't heard, author Meghann Foye came out with the idea of "Me-ternity Leave", the childless equivalent of maternity leave.  After all, who doesn't want six or more weeks of job-approved time off?  Before you get as upset as I did when I first heard this idea, hold on.  If you read her essay for the New York Post, it is actually more balanced that you would think based on the media's coverage.  For example, one of her biggest beefs about parents in the workplace was that they have an excuse to leave the office on time because they have to get their kids.  She realized, after taking a "me-ternity leave" (a.k.a. sabbatical) of her own, that the pressure to stay and "pick up the slack" was self-inflicted.  If I've learned anything from nearly eight years as a parent, it's that most of the time, work will wait until tomorrow.  I get that there are deadlines and we need to do our fair share, but if we're honest, most of the time the work we're doing when we have to run out of the office for an urgent kid-related issue will be there for us in the morning...and it's the same for the day-to-day work.  And I think work-life balance is important to everyone, so why should other people have to stay late either?  I think a lot of corporate cultures know this goes on but don't comment either way.  Technically they'll say that the office closes at 5pm, and you're free to go if your work has been completed, but they'll never discourage you from putting in the extra time.  It would almost be nice if they kicked everyone out the door at 5pm and told them to go enjoy their lives until the next morning, so everyone is on equal footing!  But that doesn't happen, so those without that "legal" excuse feel compelled to stay.  And I know there are times when it is important and necessary to work late, but it would be nice if corporate culture was more outwardly supportive of a true work-life balance.  Luckily I have a fantastic boss who also has two little boys, so she is more than accommodating when it comes to working around schedules and sicknesses, but sometimes I wonder if the powers that be would frown upon that if they decided to scrutinize things.

So, my point here is that the entire attitude around work-life balance and parents in the workplace and the perceived burdens they leave behind is really the point of all of this.  And yes, I know that there are those parents who take full advantage of their situation and use every excuse in the book related to their kid to ditch work.  And yes, those people do leave an annoying burden on others.  In addition, having taken two seven-week maternity leaves myself (partial pay for most of it, plus one week of vacation), I know that maternity leave can completely suck for those who have to pick up the slack.  I felt super guilty about it both times, to the point that I (illegally) offered to help if they really needed it.  The first time we called someone who used to do my job who was in a position to help out and flew her in to retrain her on everything so she could do my work remotely.  It worked out pretty well, even though it was one heck of a process.  The second time I spent a couple months training my co-analyst on all of the stuff I did exclusively, which was pretty hellish for both of us.  It took a lot of time, a lot of brain power, and still didn't really cover everything.  And those seven weeks were pretty awful for my two department mates, which is why I felt horribly awful the day I got let go, as that bad temporary reality was now permanent.  I didn't enjoy putting that off on them at all, but obviously my family came first and I wasn't the first person ever to go on maternity leave.  Heck, the first time around there were three of us out of the office at once!

But what really gets me is that the surface concept that comes from this larger story plants the seed in the minds of the childless that they deserve time off to explore themselves, just because other people take off to care for their newborn child.  They are two totally different things, and people that have never had kids won't completely understand that.  I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of people who are well aware that maternity leave is not a vacation, but I feel like there are plenty who have no idea what caring for a child really entails, and they feel slighted by all of this.  That's what bugs me.  Even if the author knows the truth, it's starting this faulty thought process for the less enlightened.

As I said, maternity leave is not a vacation.  It is a time of physical healing, and it is a time for essential bonding with your newborn.  Whether the birth was vaginal or a C-section, both involve significant healing.  It's hard to walk around the house for days, if not weeks, and there are so many weird things that the body does that no one needs a front-row seat for back in the office.  The bleeding and the cramping alone are pretty awful.  I had a round of the worst cramping of my life a week or two after Carter was born, to the point I thought something was really wrong.  Thank goodness I wasn't back in the office for that!  And when you're dealing with a nursing mom, oh good Lord...there few things as bizarre and disorienting as what a pair of nursing boobs go through in those first weeks.  They are sore, they leak, they crack and bleed (thank God, mine never did that--but they sure hurt enough that it seemed like it), they become rock hard, and they can get infected or plugged.  I had a plugged duct once and it was horrible.  I can't even imagine having to navigate that while working.  Pumping two to three times a day seven weeks in was hard enough.  Add in the massive sleep deprivation and a hardy dose of hormones and you've got yourself one big mess.  A mushy, in-love, fulfilled mess, perhaps...but a mess.  You know what's harder than doing someone else's work?  Fixing someone else's mistakes.  And in that physical and emotional state, I can guarantee there would be a lot of mistakes being made by a mom forced back to work too soon.

And that's not even getting into the benefits for the baby.  That time to bond is so important.  The security, the ability to get into a groove/schedule, the chance to nurse, and the chance to become comfortable in their setting are all so helpful for having a happy and secure baby.  I can't imagine how many moms would give up nursing immediately if they had to go right back to work, or how disorienting it might be to have a baby moving between parents and daycare providers right away. Early on, at least, I can see it being very hard to give your baby a comfortable, secure world.  Without maternity leave, I feel like babies would have such a difficult time acclimating to their surroundings and bonding with their parents.

Of course, some people are probably thinking, if this is all about the physical, then why do dads deserve parental leave?  Well, in the beginning when moms are still so sore, it is immensely helpful to have another set of legs, arms, and hands to help.  When you're not used to the sleep deprivation, it's very nice to have someone who can take over when you're so exhausted you can barely hold the baby.  They're pretty tired themselves, no less, so that break from work and general adjustment time is helpful for them, too.  They really deserve a chance to bond with their baby for more than just an hour or two at night, so it's great if they can be there and comfort their baby within that home setting so the mom doesn't always become the go-to girl.  With nursing that's going to be the case anyway, but getting the baby used to Daddy, as well, is really smart.  I wish Craig would have had more time to be home after the boys were born, but he had to use vacation and the timing wasn't great in either case to be gone for an extended period.  As you may recall, Craig was broadcasting a game the night after Carter was born!

My maternity leaves were so different from one another.  I definitely enjoyed one more than the other.  Jacob's was hot, exhausting, and overwhelming.  Carter's was considerably more peaceful (possibly because the active four-year-old was at daycare), but I was still exhausted and at the end I was very emotional because I had to make the decision to stop nursing.  But either way, I can assure you that there was no glorious opportunity for self-reflection or acting upon my goals.  The author points out that she saw many women come back from maternity leave only to completely change their career or start moving toward another goal.  My guess is that in 95% of those cases, the catalyst for those changes was not maternity leave, but motherhood itself.  Once you become a mother, it puts your priorities in order very quickly.  Whether you don't want to spend hours commuting because you'd rather be with your baby, or you realize that you've achieved one life goal in being a mother and you need to start working on the next one, I truly think it's the act of motherhood and being responsible for another human life that makes you examine your life and move forward.  Keep in mind, of course, that those decisions are being made in a sleep-deprived, emotional state that's often compared to alcohol intoxication, so please make decisions at your own risk!  In those cases where maternity leave does play a role, it's probably more that it makes people realize that there is another life outside of the 9-5 (or worse) that they've been living for so long.  It's easy to forget that some people don't actually live like that, and maternity leave may provide that reminder even if it doesn't ultimately provide the means to get there.  And maybe, in all of those hours of baby holding and semi-conscious thought, there's a moment where you manage to ponder life with a moment of clarity.  Your brain may not be clear, but at least the career part of it isn't clouding the picture for a bit.  So, sure, it's possible that maternity leave changes people.  But I don't think it's anything you couldn't get from a glorious week or two away by using your vacation time.  I had about 12 weeks off last year, and I can tell you that was a completely different experience than maternity leave.  Sure, they had similarities (lots of TV, a kid companion, lots of worries), but I definitely did have time to think through my life, ponder my goals, and get my house back in order this time around.  And yes, it was lovely.  But add a baby into that mix and it would have been a totally different picture.

Ultimately it all comes down to priorities and choices.  You can choose to blow your vacation and alienate co-workers for an extended paid leave.  You can choose to dig into your back account and give up your security by quitting your job and chasing your dreams.  You can choose to go through nine months of bodily torture and get six weeks of partially paid time off as your door prize.  Of course, that last option involves giving up your money and independence and comes with a whole heck of a lot of lifelong baggage (of the best kind), but hey...if those six weeks mean that much to you, that's how many of us got them.  But we chose to welcome a baby into our lives forever, and those six weeks were necessary to start us all off on the right foot.  It was not a vacation, nor was it a time to think deeply about anything except my baby and how to get more than a couple hours of sleep at a time. 

I hope that those who think they're due their "me-ternity leave" do find a way to take the time to find whatever it is that they need to find.  But it is not something that life owes you.  Please consider it a sabbatical and don't compare it to maternity leave at all, because there is absolutely no comparison.  Becoming a mom is hands-down the most life-changing experience you can have, and it just happens to come with a few weeks off.  There are plenty of things you can do with a voluntary sabbatical that will be life-changing, but none will compare to making another person an inextricable part of your world.  Nothing will ever be the same.  Trust me, those six weeks were not worth all of the exhaustion and hard work that parenthood has brought.  But the joy and accomplishment of the many years since have made it all worthwhile. 

Pick your priorities and make your choices.  But remember that nothing about parenthood involves the word "me"...and neither should "maternity leave".  Just do me a favor and leave it alone, please.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Photo Monday

We had a super busy weekend, to the point that I literally only had a couple hours total to sit on the couch and chill...which is definitely NOT enough for a weekend.  However, we're officially entering the time of year where weekends are rarely relaxing, but in exchange we get lots of fun and family time.  Now, if good weather would join the party maybe I'd be a little more enthusiastic about getting off the couch and out of my house!

I've been so busy and tired over the past week that I didn't even bother getting pictures off my camera from last weekend, so I guess I'll start with those.  I took these when we came out of the Knighthawks game last week.
These are the "Wings of Progress" on the top of the Times Square Building downtown, across from the arena.  They're fully illuminated for the first time in a very long time (and I'm a big fan of building illumination), so I snapped a picture.  This is one of a few buildings that made me think Rochester looked like Gotham City the first time I saw it.  It was a dark, rainy night back in college when I attended my first Amerks' game, and in addition to this, there's a building that looks like there's a UFO on top and there's a statue of Mercury on another nearby building.  However, this building is extra cool since it is also where the Rochester falcons currently live :)

This is standing on the Broad St. bridge behind the arena looking over the Genesee River.  I couldn't pass up the bright moon, the blue lighting on the library, and how the blue and yellowish lights reflected on the water.
Fast forward to this weekend, which was non-stop.  We were up bright and early to be at Jacob's lacrosse game by 10am.  It was a cool but sunny morning.  There was a bit of a breeze, but the sun helped immensely.  Carter was silly and squirmy as usual, but he was so cute sitting on my lap at one point that I had to pull out the camera...

Daddy was nice enough to take a picture of both of us, although the two that followed this one made it look like Carter was trying to strangle me!  Carter also took a turn taking pictures of me, though I held the camera.  Those weren't the most flattering angle, but stay tuned...

Jacob got an assist in his game, which was a good start.  He's still laboring a bit on his leg, but we have some exercises and hopefully he cooperates in actually doing them.  He gave Craig a hard time when he tried to show him, of course.  Apparently walking in a figure-eight is too complicated.  Sigh.  But it was good to see him back out there, even if he does have some re-adjusting to do.
Lots of definition in that left calf, but it's still skinnier than the right from certain angles.

He had baseball practice at noon, and he had a very hard time getting convinced to participate.  He was tired, obviously, and told us his leg hurt.  While I don't doubt any of that, baseball practice is a heck of a lot different than a lacrosse game, and knowing his tendencies, we felt it was important to push him on this one.  It was the last practice before his first game Thursday, and if he gets the idea he can complain his way out of practice, it's a chore to get him to another one.  He was slow to start but eventually got his rhythm.  It was fun to see him pitch, and he made a lot of contact with the ball when batting.  He just needs to get some extra power behind it, which is tough when you can't keep any bulk on your body! 

Meanwhile, Craig had to go to work for the last Knighthawks' home game of the season, so I had to keep Carter occupied for two hours!  Luckily a picnic lunch killed a good half hour, and we spent much of the rest racing up and down the path and wandering around the concession building.  At one point I pulled out some Swedish Fish (left over from my trip) and he was showing them off while eating them...

He conked out on the way home, but he woke up a little too much when I tried to transfer him into the house, so his sleep was short-lived.  I left him in his room to rest for a bit anyway, to give myself a little time to rest, then gave up and let him watch a couple shows before we had an early dinner.  Craig had picked up Jacob mid-afternoon to do his ball boy duties at the game, and we had to get there early to retrieve him before Craig's big Hall of Fame ceremony pregame.  The boys were pretty well behaved during the game (which tells me just how tired Carter probably was, that he had no energy to be antsy!), and we stopped to see Craig quickly before heading home.  He was headed out that night with the team for one last road game the following night.  The Knighthawks missed the playoffs, which is a little sad, but the good news is that Craig's work commitments will die down for the next six months or so.

But since he had that one last game Sunday, it meant that I had to take the kids to Buffalo solo for two parties!  Our nephew's First Communion party was at 3pm, and earlier in the week we got an invite to my cousin's son's Confirmation party earlier in the afternoon.  We were able to stop in for that one briefly and see my family before hopping back in the car for 40 minutes to go to the other one.  The kids were partial to the second party because they always have a blast with their cousins.  The party was at a VFW post, which meant a bit more diligence with keeping an eye on the kids!  Not easy when you're flying solo and trying to be social with family you don't see often, too!

By halfway through the party, the kids had taken to rolling around the dance floor in the main bar area on wheeled chairs.  I definitely kept an eye out since Carter doesn't understand centrifugal force yet, but he had a blast spinning and being part of a "train"!



One of the cousins knew to bring out these little ride-on toys, and it added another layer of craziness to the dance floor.  Carter actually got going pretty good on it!


Now that he knows this website exists, Jacob complains once in a while that I don't have enough pictures of him on here.  So I asked, but then this is the face I get!
As I mentioned, Carter discovered he likes taking pictures of me!  I hold the camera (hello, I love this camera and dropping my old one was traumatic), turn it around, show him which button to press, and he pushes it.  After countless bad angles, I used my America's Next Top Model skills to get a good angle!
Hello, first new profile picture in ages!
After the wheelie chairs chilled out, the boys went back to the big boy games.  First shuffleboard...
Super-fun game if you never played!  Craig and I played it after his weekly softball games for a couple years.  Notice Jacob's jubilant pose after knocking his cousin's stone off the table!
...and they finished off with pool.  We were getting ready to go and they just had to sink the 8-ball to finish the game.  Jacob was on a team with his cousin Luke, and Grant, the boy of honor, was their competitor.  I'm pretty sure they went back and forth about a dozen times before Luke sunk it to give Jacob and him the win. 

By the end of the night Carter had taken to running up and down the ramp and the stairs to the back room, asking people to chase him and giggling with glee every time!  I would have been more into it had I not been exhausted and nursing sore feet.  He had a blast, though!  And some of the folks sitting at the bar found him pretty darn adorable, too. 

We got into the car at 7:45 and made it home by about 9:15.  Both boys fell asleep at some point during the ride, and the transfer into the house was smooth.  I had a little time to decompress, and then it was off to bed myself.  Craig returned home around 3:30am, and I dragged the kids out of the house myself this morning to let him sleep.  So begins another busy week.  Jacob's sports, a big day at work for me, a free Saturday for Craig, and a yet-unplanned Mother's Day are the highlights for the week at this point.  We'll just have to see what else we can cram in!