Monday, November 24, 2014

Deconstructing the Work-Home Balance

I mentioned in my last post that there's not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and I've said plenty of other times before that it is a challenge to be the only person in my department with kids.  My one co-worker is just a few years out of college, and the other is a year older than me with a husband but no kids.  She knows a lot of people with kids, though, so she's aware of how it all goes, but I still get the feeling she doesn't fully comprehend what having kids does to your mindset when it comes to work.  I think on one level, sure, she gets it...kids are sick, you have to stay home.  Kids have something going on, you generally should be there for it.  On a practical level I know she gets it.  Heck, I know she feels strained enough in her daily life without having any kids at home to stretch her further.

But I still don't think anyone really realizes until they have kids that your entire biology changes when things impact your kids.  Immediately something else climbs to the top of your hierarchy and there's no stopping it.  You also know that you have to care for yourself enough to still take care of your family properly.  So while someone else might say, "Well, the job's gotta get done, so just get it done," it's harder for me to do that if it means giving up the time I need to care for my family or care for my own energy level or health.  It's one thing to do that for a one-time event, but another to be asked to do that consistently.  I don't mind putting in a couple hours once a week after the kids are in bed if it makes my life easier in the long run or makes a deadline, but I have too much that I'm behind on at home to give up significant time for work.  If that makes me a bad employee, I'm sorry, but my family comes first.  I simply don't have the option to stay up all night and wear myself down to nothing because I have two little people relying on me to be functional.  And while Craig is here and can hold up his end, it's not his entire job to be my backup.  He's got a lot on his plate, and a job that he can't let slip either.  Something has to give.

There's been a troubling trend at my job lately.  When I first started working there, it was generally a 9-to-5 job.  My job was, at least.  If you had to stay late here and there for certain projects, that was fine.  But most of the time I could leave work at work and my home time was mine.  But now I have a laptop, and so do a significant number of other people in the company.  And with a lot of people checking their mail constantly on their phones (I do not), there is a very clear indication that you're always somewhat on call. 

Our company is closed the week after Christmas.  We used to have to take vacation or make up three days ahead of time.  This year we heard that the policy was changing, but after much probing it came back that the company line was, "If the work is done, enjoy your time."  The flip side of that, of course, is that if the work isn't done, you need to do it.  But here's the thing--the bulk of my monthly deadlines fall within the last couple weeks of the month, which is when we're going to be off.  So in theory, there's no way my work will be done.  But that time is supposed to be reserved for my family (and I have the vacation days to back that up, actually), and if they're home, there's almost no way I can focus enough to get work done.  It's not as simple as sitting down and doing it--I need to work around kids and family commitments...and when it comes to that week, I'm just not motivated to give up that time I so desperately need because in the past it was "protected" time. 

I guess what bugs me is that it used to seem like if deadlines came calling, the company sort of had our backs to say, "Wait, this is the time we've set aside for our employees to be with their families and recharge.  It can wait."  But now that no longer seems to be the case.  My boss worked nearly her entire Christmas break last year because we had a ridiculously scheduled new business situation that needed immediate attention.  No one took a stand to try to alter the terrible scheduling, and therefore no one had her back to give her the rest she needed.  She's still upset about it, and she hasn't had a real break all year.  Now I'm seeing that mentality sneaking into how she deals with us, which was almost never the case before.  Or maybe she was just always able to deflect it for us, but she's so overloaded she no longer can.  The pressure is tremendous, and it's so damaging.  I can't help but wonder at what point she breaks and we're all left to pick up pieces that we can't put back together.  Everyone's replaceable, but it's at a major cost with people who are so good at what they do and that hold an immense amount of knowledge in their brain that can't be learned.

I think part of the problem, too, is that when it comes to your family, everything else pales in comparison.  Your perspective changes completely.  Work no longer seems as life and death as it used to.  Maybe it should in order to keep a job, but it's so sad that the mentality seems to have changed so much over the past few years.  I don't blame my boss--she has been put under tremendous, unfair pressure.  No one has her back (above her), and I think she's probably tired of feeling like the only martyr.  So while she's not going to try to push us specifically, she also won't be able to deflect things like she has in the past.  But it's so hard for me to get to a point where I'm okay with giving work priority.  My time with my family is limited enough, and letting work encroach on that is incredibly hard.  That said, I generally like my job and put in a solid effort every single day.  I have no intention of leaving.  But the recent shift in philosophy is definitely troubling, and this is the time of year when it usually becomes the biggest issue.  The end of the year crunch really stinks, and it's not going to get any easier.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Living in the Moment and Other Impossibilities

One of the biggest pieces of advice most people pass along to new parents is, "Enjoy it...it goes so fast!"  That is absolutely true, and before you know it, your tiny baby is running circles around you and won't stop talking.  And the next time I blink, so I'm told, they'll be heading off to college.  It is shocking how quickly time goes by.  I can barely believe that it's nearly the end of November and I'll be putting up Christmas decorations in a week for Carter's second Christmas.  Two years ago I was pregnant with Carter, and now he's running around the house and saying a bunch of words.  Seven years ago I was pregnant with Jacob, and now he's in first grade, playing his second year of competitive lacrosse, and reading actual books.  And I remember so much of it like it was yesterday.

I have thousands of great pictures and happy memories from the past seven years (and more before that when it was just Craig and me), but hidden in those pictures are a lot of tough moments and beyond them is a lot of the humdrum, everyday stuff I don't pull out the camera for.  I love looking back at those photo-friendly moments, though many times I know what was hiding in the background--the tantrums, the yelling, the multiple attempts at getting the perfect shot.  What's been haunting me lately is that the in-between times are not quality time, and just surviving them is making time go way too quickly. 

Everyday is the same thing, over and over.  Wake up, get ready, get the kids ready, get out of the house, go to work, come back, get the kids, rush through dinner, survive until bedtime, veg out in front of the TV until adult bedtime.  Lately I've been falling asleep early, so I'm clearly exhausted...or bored by my current to-do list.  The kids are a constant battle--getting Jacob to do anything without disrespecting us, getting Carter to stay away from Jacob and stop throwing food at dinner--and it's getting tiring to do it every single day.  Weekends are even tougher, because the kids are together pretty much all day and playing referee never stops.  Today was even worse, because Jacob's lacrosse game fell during Carter's naptime, so I had a doubly cranky kid to deal with for most of the day. 

I've said it repeatedly here, though, that my priorities have no choice but to be screwed up, and I'm overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done in a given day or week.  I need to work, even though I'd like to be focusing on making my family's life better.  I'm not sure that even if I didn't have to work that I'd be able to spend my whole day with my kids (see above), but I'd love to think I could spend that time doing things to better their lives (finding better things to cook, keeping a cleaner house, taking care of all the little things that never seem to get done), and putting myself in a better position to actually be fully present when I'm with them.  Right now I'm constantly distracted.  I spend most of the time post-dinner trying to check a couple things off of my to-do list before I get too tired to do anything.  Inevitably every night there's something that needs to get done--paying bills, online shopping, looking up recipes, cutting coupons, looking through paperwork--it never ends.  And inevitably, I forget things, or put them off...and suddenly it's been days, or a week, or worse, and the procrastination comes back to bite me.

My dishwasher is still broken, and oh, something is still leaking ever so slightly that will probably involve a plumber after all.  I've been having severe troubles filling up a weekly dinner menu, and I've been intending to look up new recipes or dig into old ones for weeks.  I've even had a heck of a time staying awake for a blog post here.  I can't even fathom how I'm going to fit Christmas into all of this.  I'm just tired.

The overriding issue I'm having is that I spend so much time getting through the tough stuff every day and holding out hope for the fun stuff, that time is just flying past and I feel like I'm just not enjoying it enough.  I'm waiting for those moments when we have peaceful family time and fun memories that aren't tainted by something.  I think, honestly, that I'm waiting for something to feel more like what I remember living as a kid.  Only...I've realized lately that it is probably impossible.  Perhaps this is a testament to my parents, or maybe I was just a naïve kid that floated through life, but things just seemed so much simpler.  Yet as a parent I'm all too aware of the lengthy to-do lists and all of the elements impacting the things we do each day.  Instead of just enjoying Christmas, for example, I'm thinking about all that has to be done and wondering how spoiled or disappointed the kids might be by the end of the day.  Instead of just soaking in every moment of kid cuteness, I'm thinking about what else needs to get done or whether their cuteness is a little too cute for their own good.  I just don't think the simplicity of a kid's mind is possible, and I think that is letting me down.  But it was all I know so I have to try to relearn how this is supposed to go, this time from the perspective of a parent.

I wish I had some great plan to solve this problem, but I don't.  I'm at a loss.  I'd like to use some of my five-day weekend next week to catch up on some things and start preparing for the holidays, but part of that time off is going to be focused on Thanksgiving, and I know that decorating for Christmas is a huge undertaking that will take up a large portion of the end of the weekend.  I have a couple vacation days I'd like to use to reduce my stress level over the next few weeks, but I know how that usually goes this time of year at work.  I just want to try to enjoy my kids, but they are like oil and water right now so it's hard to just appreciate them without having to constantly dole out the discipline.  I love them, but they are exhausting.  And on top of everything else, I'm just not having fun right now.  I know that's not what all of this is about, but I could use a little fun at the moment.  It might make everything else just a little bit easier.      

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Good as Gold

Over the weekend we took a little trip north of the border so Craig could get his fifth (!) championship ring.  It was the last official weekend of his offseason, and we loaded in the car on Saturday after Jacob's lacrosse game to get a little head start on the trip and spend the night in Buffalo.  We thought cutting an hour-plus off the driving on Sunday was a good plan, because it was a long round trip for two kids.  Of course, Carter was a bit thrown off by his nap on the drive, so we had a challenge getting him back to sleep...and in turn it made it harder to get Jacob to sleep.  Still, worth it!

We left mid-morning and headed across the border.  We stopped at a Pizza Pizza location off the exit to get Jacob's backup food for the event (and get a little snack ourselves!), then headed off to the reserve.  Carter napped a bit on the way there, but probably not enough.  Oh, and did I mention that he was getting sick?  He'd had some congestion for a couple days and had enough eye goop that morning that we worried that he was getting pinkeye.  But this was important and he seemed functional enough, so off we went.

The event was held at the ILA, an arena complex on the reserve that's the home base for all of the major lacrosse happenings there.  The room we were in overlooks the arena itself, and it was set up very nicely.


One of the most important elements of this event was the book that Craig has been working on non-stop for a couple months.  It's a compilation of stories about every player and coach, as well as a lot of other support staff and lacrosse operations executives.  He worked on it day and night, knowing that he had to get the content done in time to get it printed and ready for this event.  The night marked the book's big reveal, and he got a lot of props for the end product.  He did a great job and it was nice to see people flipping through it and enjoying it, knowing how much he put into it.

We had a delicious meal (and yes, Jacob enjoyed his pizza), and then the formal activities started. There were things said about every player, and then the owner came up and spoke for quite a while, leading up to the big ring reveal.  No one was allowed to look at their ring until the appointed time.  Of course, I didn't really get to enjoy any of this because Carter did not want to sit still and absolutely insisted on wandering around for a couple hours straight.  I, unfortunately, had heels on, so my feet were killing me by the end of the night.  We mostly wandered around the upper level of the arena, where he could climb stairs and wander and run to his heart's content.  I had to be there to keep him from taking a header, and try to keep him from sharing his germs with the other kids with the same idea. 

Luckily, there were windows back into the room so I could see when it was close to ring time.  I dragged Carter back in and whipped out the camera just in time to catch the boys opening the box...

And WOW, what a ring it was! 

They've gotten progressively larger, which you'll see in a minute.  It's always fun to see these guys checking the rings out for the first time, like kids on Christmas.  I caught a couple snapping pictures to tweet out and laughed at the site of all these guys wearing these ginormous rings like proud parents.

I missed the full explanation of all of the features on the ring and what they represent, though I do know that my birthstone is there, as are the kids'.  It's a gorgeous ring, though.

Jacob just really wanted to go play on the turf the whole time, and was actually really patient, all things considered.  Finally near the end of the event we started moving in that direction, but we still needed to kill a little time.  Carter played with part of the table decoration...

Jacob gave me this face when I wanted to give him equal camera time...
Notice him clutching his play clothes...
And I looked for Craig's face on the one wall decoration...

...and I found it!  Jacob actually found another later in the "D", too.

The one "glitch" with Jacob's desire to play on the turf was that the arena was actually dark...

Of course, it did not matter.  He had a blast for the few minutes we had.

Just as we were ready to leave, the owner indicated that he wanted to sit and chat with Craig for a bit, so I did my best to keep the kids occupied for a bit longer while cleanup was going on, and eventually it was time to go.  It had been snowing all day, though there wasn't much accumulation, but it made for a slower trip home than we would have liked.  It continued to snow just about until we got to Buffalo.  Jacob was awake for most of the trip (he fell asleep in the last few minutes) but Carter conked out almost immediately.  He had a few whiny wake-ups along the way, but slept pretty much the entire time.  We got home around 9:30 and had a tough time getting both kids to settle and get back to sleep.  It had been a LONG day.  Good, mostly, but long.

Anyway, just to finish this off, here's a closer look at the top of the ring...

There are some other elements on the side, including his name and the areas with the birthstones.  And here's a look at all three together.  I guess with each big win, a bigger ring is needed...

It's hard to do them justice, but definitely lots of bling going on here.  He's also got two more that I didn't have easy access to--his 2007 Knighthawks ring and his 2008 Rattlers ring.  He's now got a literal handful of rings, which barely seemed possible back in 2006 when I left the teams (ringless, of course) and we'd had a lot of great teams with nothing to show for it.  Perhaps I was the bad luck, but I'm just happy that he's gotten to experience all of this and I've been able to come along for the ride.  It's been fun to share the last few with the kids, too.  I have great memories from each one, from the adventures I've gone on to be there for the win, to watching the home crowd celebrate, to fantastic comebacks and seeing the looks on the kids' faces when they experience everything from the cup to the confetti!  It may get a little more "normal", but it never gets old.

Anyway, it's always fun to celebrate another championship.  And the road to another one starts this weekend with the opening of training camp.  I'm not sure I'm ready for all of the solo weekends again, but here goes nothing...

Friday, November 14, 2014

News & Notes, Frozen Edition

The weather has taken a sudden frigid turn.  It was nearly 70 on Tuesday, and the last couple days it has been freezing.  We woke up to snow on the roof tops this morning, and Jacob was thrilled!  I guess winter is here.  Carter is having a tough time with it.  He hates his winter coat, and refuses to wear mittens.  I need to find him mittens with a string so he can't lose them if he takes them off.  He refuses to keep them on, though, and I worry about his little fingers.  He doesn't seem that bothered by the cold itself, so how do I get him to be okay with mittens?

I was actually home sick the last couple days.  I finally went back to work today, still sporting a heck of a cough.  I started feeling cruddy on Tuesday night, getting the same muscle aches that Craig had when he got sick last week.  The chills and hot flashes arrived (though I never got a good fever reading), and I felt generally crappy by Wednesday morning.  I took some ibuprofen, pushed through half a work day from my couch, then rested the rest of the day.  Then I did the same thing yesterday.  I wanted to keep the work moving but keep the germs to myself and get as much rest as possible.  As crappy as I felt at times, I never got as bad as Craig, and ultimately it wasn't the worst way to spend a couple days.  The cough will be around for a while, but at least I'm functional.

Two years ago today was my nasty car accident.  It was such an awful experience, but two years later I'm extra grateful that it wasn't worse.  To think that anything could have happened to Carter, who was still pretty tiny in my belly at that point, is heartbreaking.  It made for a very tough month, that's for sure.  My car is almost two years old now, and while I love my Bluetooth, I still curse the non-automatic headlights every day.  I still think about the accident at least once a week when I drive through the area on my daily commute.  The only truly good thing that came out of it was that I allowed myself some retail therapy that night and I still LOVE the quilt I bought for our bed.  Now if I could just figure out how to decorate above the bed...

Tomorrow Carter is officially 75% of the way from one to two.  Twenty-one whole months!  Three more months until his second birthday...and it barely seems possible!  He's saying so many words now.  Not always clearly, mind you, but he recognizes so many and tries to say so many!  It's amazing to watch him!  I need to get video of it ASAP, because I need to remember this phase forever.  Have I mentioned that he calls Jacob "brother" instead of by his name?  So sweet.

Jacob is a giant handful right now.  Sometimes he can be so awesome, and other times he refuses to listen, completely ignores us, and has temper tantrums about almost anything.  It's pretty ridiculous and I'm not sure how to help him manage that anger.  But things are still going well at school, so I guess one out of two ain't bad.

But in general, things are fine. I'm definitely looking forward to a five-day weekend in a couple weeks, but for now we're all hanging in there.  More soon...

Monday, November 10, 2014

1200 Posts and Seven Years Ago...

Seven years ago today I was gallivanting around Pittsburgh with my aunt, uncle (siblings, not married), and cousin (not the child of either of them) checking out the Chihuly exhibit at the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden.  It was magical and amazing and seven years later it represents to me the last moments before I knew I was pregnant with my first child.

We had a blast that weekend, though I was exhausted after eating too much for dinner when we got into town and sleeping in a room with a snorer and a restless sleeper.  That crazy busy day was a Saturday, and I spent Sunday recovering, only to discover I didn't feel any better by Monday.  Around that time it occurred to me that I hadn't been feeling particularly fantastic for a couple weeks, and I was at the tail end of a round of clomid that was supposed to regulate my system and help me get pregnant.  What was supposed to happen didn't, and I was at the point of needing to call my doctor...or both doctors, actually--OB/GYN and my regular doctor, if I didn't get my energy back.  However, knowing that the first question most doctors asking women of childbearing age is, "Are you sure you're not pregnant?", I stopped on my way home and picked up a few dollar store pregnancy tests to take that evening.  After multiple failed tests in the prior months, I figured it was a slam dunk and I could call the next day with my "Totally sure" ready to go.

Only, I took the test and didn't even have to wait 30 seconds before I was staring at a big fat positive!  Craig wasn't even home yet and I was totally freaking out.  I didn't even really have time or the presence of mind to craft any sort of fantastic reveal for him.  I was in such shock that all I could do was tell him nearly the second he walked in the door so I had someone to talk it through with.  It had been such a process up until that point that it never even occurred to me not to share it with him immediately.  We were a team and that was the next logical step, I guess.

I was excited, for sure, but terror and panic were right up there, too, because I knew from that moment that nothing would ever be the same.  We'd either go along the normal path and have this baby, or something would go wrong and we'd carry that loss with us forever.  It got so real so quickly.  It consumed me for weeks as I lived that double life of not telling anyone, all while feeling spectacularly crappy all the time.  From that day after Veterans' Day when I found out why I felt so horrible until we left for our trip to Florida in mid-December, the funk, the fear, and the nervous excitement ruled my existence. 

What a crazy time it was.  I look back at that young woman, how she couldn't even fathom all that was to come.  So much has happened in those seven years, including this blog (which is still about six weeks shy of its 7th anniversary).  Two pregnancies, two deliveries, two energetic little boys, countless doctor visits, tons of sports equipment, and more fun and stress than I could have ever dreamed.  And that weekend seven years ago marked those last moments of blissful (and exhausted) ignorance. 

Here's a sampling of the best of the best from that weekend...












Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Day the House Broke

Sometime on Saturday I headed down to the basement and decided to put a bin of Carter's outgrown clothes into the crawl space.  I hauled the bin to the back where the baby stuff lives, and just as I was putting it into place, in the shadows I could just make out a dark patch on the floor.  I reached down and realized it was wet.  And then I realized that the top of one of the bins was very wet.  And eventually I realized that the water was dripping from up above.  Originally I thought it was under the sink, but I couldn't see anything upstairs.  Shortly thereafter I realized it was the dishwasher instead. 

I called a plumber who came and identified the leaky part as the valve that controls the water flow into the dishwasher.  We turned off the water to it and later in the day I started drying out the subfloor, which has curled a bit around the leak.  I don't think it's major damage, but it's definitely annoying.  Of course now I'm torn about what to do.  One appliance repair place quoted me $200 to fix both that and the handle that's been broken for a couple years.  Of course, the new one I'd probably get retails for $386  at Lowe's, minus 5% for their credit card, but plus $119 for installation and another $100 if we get extended coverage that everyone's insisting is important these days.  Seems like a no-brainer, but if something else goes wrong next week, the new one looks like the no-brainer, you know?  So in the meantime I'm washing dishes like a crazy person, trying to keep up.  It's a throwback to the days in our old house when I had to wash everything by hand...and I did not miss it.  I do like the feeling of cleaning out my sink and not having anything else waiting in the dishwasher, but it's a lot of work.  It's good motivation to make a decision--quick!

Halloween night as we came in from trick-or-treating, we heard a terrible bang in the garage just seconds after we walked in the door.  Craig went out to look, fearing the worst, but couldn't find anything out of place.  We shrugged it off and moved on.  Saturday afternoon, after the dishwasher debacle and once Carter was napping, I was going to run a couple errands.  As I opened the garage door, I heard another terrible noise...and suddenly noticed that the piece that connected the garage door to the opener was dangling from the opener track.  Oh, crap.

It turns out that the horrible noise we heard the night before was the high tension spring that helps the door open breaking.  We had no idea that can happen...like that, in particular.  And because the spring is the thing that makes the door seem so much lighter than it actually is, the door was very heavy.  The opener couldn't open it, and the center bracket that connects it to the opener ripped right off the door.  It caused a little damage and I was praying it wouldn't be enough to necessitate a new door.  Of course, because the door was now crazy heavy, we couldn't get it more than a couple inches off the ground.  I tried calling the company that installed it (for the old owners, though we used them at our old house, too), but we didn't get an answer since it was later in the day.  We were trapped at home!

Luckily we had enough food and didn't have anywhere we had to go.  Sunday morning we did have to skip church and we figured that we'd probably have to miss work Monday morning until someone could come out.  Sunday we decided that we had to get out, so even though it was very cold, we bundled up and took a walk in the sun (and wind) to get lunch and get a couple reinforcements.  We walked a little over a mile to a Wendy's along the main drag, had some lunch, then walked across the street to a Rite Aid.  Craig wanted chips and dip for the football games, and we grabbed a couple other things (including some cheap fall cookie cutters on clearance) before making the cold walk back home.  The wind was cold and Carter is refusing to wear gloves, but aside from that it wasn't too bad.  He rode nicely in the stroller, and Jacob walked without complaining.  The boys were pretty good at lunch, and as a whole it wasn't half bad!

We were, in fact, trapped on Monday morning, so while we could get Jacob on the bus, the rest of us were stuck at home.  The garage door guy came a little after lunch.  He went over how he was going to fix it, and suddenly I realized that he was going to do it right then and there!  We were going to be free!  He fixed the damage to the door and reattached a new arm.  He was done in less than a half hour, and we got off for less than $200, which was such a relief!  And we were free!  Craig went to work and I stayed home with Carter, who woke up right after Craig left.  Still, I got thanksgiving decorations up, and we ran a quick errand prior to picking up Jacob.  I bought frames to get a couple of Jacob's pictures up on the wall.  One was replacing a frame that Craig ran into and broke, and the other was to frame Jacob's gorgeous Asian-looking tree picture so I could free up one of the changeable frames.  It definitely made for a strange couple days, but we survived!

It wasn't any fun having two things break within a matter of hours, and I'm not looking forward to bill #2, but all things considered, we've been pretty lucky so far!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Awe

Lately I've been finding myself completely in awe of this crazy parenthood journey we're on.  I just can't get over the fact that Jacob is this big kid and my other tiny little baby is growing up too! 

The other day I was looking at a picture on my wall at work from last Christmas.  Carter was such a tiny little baby still, and when I compared that one to another picture from the spring where he was also sitting on my lap, even then he was so much bigger.  And now?  Well, there are moments now where it's challenging wrangling him because he's getting to be so long. 

He's got the full head of hair we waited so long for, and it's even starting to stand up around the cowlick.  He's got a mouth full of teeth and is looking more like a little boy every day.  He runs (and falls) constantly.  And as if all of that wasn't evidence enough, now he's talking.  The words were slow to come--heck, I think Jacob was practically talking in phrases by this point--but now the words are really coming fast and furious.  Not always clear and accurate, but they're there.  Last week he finally started saying "car", and from that I got him to say "Carter"!  Last weekend he finally figured out how to add the "s" sound to "bus".  He loves buses and it had been sounding a bit like "bye" for quite a while.  I was trying to teach him the "s" sound, and suddenly he started doing it.  Now it sounds more like it's rhyming with "hush", but it's adorable.  Then he started saying "truck", only it sounds like "duck"!  He can say and point to his eyes and nose, he's saying "done" and "no" a lot, and we're getting closer to him using "yes".  He says "tractor" because of the one outside daycare at the farm next door, and uses it for any sort of large equipment with wheels.  We had a digger outside our house working on the road, and that was a "tractor" too.  He's been trying to say "pumpkin" and "lawnmower" is still his most frequent request.  He says "book" and "tree", and is even saying the name (sort of) of one of his favorite teachers.  Oh, and he can also say his own name!

I marvel at how many stages we've already passed, all of the sections we can skip at stores, and all of the toys that are simply too young for him now.  He's got such a little personality and quite the independent streak, but he will sit nicely for books will laugh at whatever his big brother does.  He still does that happy run when we pick him up at daycare or walk in the front door.  Despite the challenges that come with this age, it is such an amazing age to watch.  To see how fast he learns words and figures out how to do things himself is just miraculous.  He's still got that baby-like sweetness, but has some of the perks of a big kid. 

I got to see a new baby on Friday--a little over a month old--and it was yet another reminder that my baby is so big now.  Those little noises and little faces are long gone, though I love the smiles and laughs and hugs of this age, too.  I'm well aware that this is it, that this is the last baby and there are a lot of "lasts" to come.  In some cases I hate seeing phases pass, but I'm more mindful of enjoying them while they last.  I hug and kiss Carter as much as possible because I'm well aware (especially now that Jacob is getting so big) that that phase only lasts so long. 

Speaking of Jacob, he's getting to be so big.  I look at his gangly limbs and the half of a hole in his mouth where a permanent tooth is growing in.  His attitude sometimes seems more like a teenager, some of his behaviors more like a two-year-old, but to hear him speak like a big kid and see him become a more graceful athlete is amazing.  When he reads and writes, it's awesome to see how far he's come.  He's making such progress, and while he still doesn't seem to take it seriously, I can tell he's learning so much.  There are moments where he lets down his obnoxious, too-cool façade and just acts like a cool kid, and those moments are so wonderful. 

I just can't believe how the boys are growing, how fast Carter is blowing past stages that I vividly remember with Jacob.  I can barely believe that by the time Thanksgiving hits, Carter will be older than Jacob was when we moved into our house.  Jacob already seemed like a big boy back then and Carter still seems like my baby--even though in the next moment he's such a big boy, too.  It's such a funny time.  I fear the end of this fun, lovey phase because I adore kissing Carter's smooshy cheeks and hearing him say new words for the first time.  I fear that one day we'll be facing off with him as much as we do with Jacob, and by then I won't have another baby to keep me sane like I do now. 

I love my boys so much.  They are so amazing to watch as they grow and I marvel at the changes.  I'm just in awe of them.  I don't know how else to say it.  It's an amazing mix of happiness, sadness, amazement, and absolute true love.  What a blessing and an experience this journey has been.