Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Rest of the Story

So, I mentioned in my last post that Jacob got sick.  He woke up Saturday morning complaining of light sensitivity, and then he had a headache.  At first I thought it was a migraine, but when Tylenol worked right away, I knew it probably wasn't.  But within a few hours he was laid out on the couch and the body aches were setting in.  When the low-grade fever and congestion set in, I figured he had exactly what I had over Christmas and what Craig got a few days later.  I cringed at the thought of dealing with two weeks of Jacob's misery (God knows we as adults were pretty unhappy that long), but I was thankful it wasn't a stomach bug.  And the other good news was that Monday was a holiday and he had an extra day to recover before school.  By midday Monday he had perked up considerably, enough that he and Craig went to see a movie and he was pretty active that night.

Craig and I went to bed a little before midnight on Monday.  I think I was still pretty awake because Carter was snoring enough that it was bothering me (both the noise itself and the agony of listening to his congested little body try to breathe through his nose--we will be chatting with the doctor late next month and I am fully expecting an ENT visit is in our future).  And as a result of being awake, I heard whimpers coming from Jacob's room.  Craig went to check it out and I followed shortly thereafter.  Jacob was crying, seemingly half asleep.  Strangely, he was responding to us but also talking nonsense.  He was saying some really funny stuff about hockey players (too much NHL17 on Xbox, perhaps?), but it was clear he was unhappy.  It was almost like a bad dream that he was half awake for.  But as he continued to whimper, I realized he might actually be in pain, so I asked him specifically what was hurting him.  He finally said that he felt like he was going to throw up, and instantly we managed to rouse him enough to get him into the bathroom.  We did our usual comforter on the floor thing and after a little waiting, sure enough, the stomach bug made its entrance. 

I tried to be the one to stay up because I didn't want Craig getting the bug before his roadtrip this weekend.  I alternated between hanging out with Jacob and climbing back into bed between episodes.  I never slept, though, and of course Jacob made sure of that.  Between yelling for me, asking for company, requesting water, whining, and opening and closing the cabinets to attract attention, sleep never came.  At one point he was complaining so much about how much his stomach hurt on his right side that I started Googling "appendicitis symptoms".  I did one easy test that appeared to be negative, though, so I tried to put that to rest.  He had a stretch of a couple hours without an episode, but at 4am one more came.  After that things settled down and I think I fell asleep around 4:30 or 5am.  I changed my alarms to the last possible wakeup time, and I figure I got a couple hours of sleep total.  It made Tuesday pretty painful at work, and by lunch time I was struggling.  I called once to check in, and Jacob was feeling a little better but his stomach was still sore.

When I called mid-afternoon, I could tell they were in the car and Craig nonchalantly said that they were on their way to Strong (the hospital).  That sure woke me up for the rest of the afternoon!  It turned out that when the stomach pain remained, they called the pediatrician and they felt there was enough reason to investigate further for an appendicitis.  So off they went.  I had visions of another surgery, another night on the convertible visitor bed, another year where my health care flex spending account was gone by the end of January, another hiatus from lacrosse.  Fortunately, some blood work and an ultrasound later, Jacob was deemed simply viral and sent home.  It was certainly a relief, but I just wish peace of mind was not so pricey!

He was better yesterday, finally eating a bit more and even requesting his homework so he could get a jump on it for his first day back.  Now I'm just nervous about one of those reoccurring bugs or that one of us will get it.  I can picture ways that any of us could have picked it up, but I have no idea what the hibernation time might be.  It's nervewracking, but at least I got through yesterday's rescheduled holiday party at work.  A lake effect snow storm before Christmas postponed it, and it was a bummer after being part of the planning committee.  But we tacked it on to a departmental retreat, and all went well.  Now I just have to worry about Craig's trip this weekend and some tight timelines at work...and another lost night of sleep.  Blah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slowly but Surely...

It's taken a while, but things are finally getting closer to tolerable around here, at least as far as the organization goes.  It has taken a lot of effort and patience, but we're close.  Of course, just when I was feeling better about things, Jacob woke up with a stomach bug Monday night (following a couple days of the general blahs) so now we're sort of waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop to see who else gets it.  I was running on two hours of sleep yesterday (and had to work), so it's been a bit rough around here the last few days.  Luckily, he only got sick three times over about four hours, so while it was awful for him, and awful to see, I know it could have been so much worse. More of that story to come, though...

Anyway, when I left off with the massive reorganizing project, I had just finished Jacob's bed but didn't bother photographing it because it was already a mess and I was waiting to fix the scratched dresser anyway.  The replacement drawer fronts came Thursday and I successfully installed them on Friday.  Here is the finished product...
Ignore the mess surrounding it...some things are still a work in progress!
And here is the bed...simple but effective!

It definitely changes the look in his room a bit!  In addition, we moved over Jacob's table and chairs to Carter's room, in hopes we could move Craig's old desk into Jacob's room.  He's giving us a very hard time about that, though, so most of the contents of his table are lined up against the wall in his room at the moment. But one or two underbed bins should alleviate that, at worst.  He seems to like the new look, though, and I think he's really enjoying the extra space to play lacrosse in his room.

Carter's room, in the meantime, is a little on the full side now that the table is there, but he already seems to like sitting at it so we'll keep it for now.  It's not too full, but let's just call it "at capacity".  At some point when the toys start getting weeded out for good, the table could move down to the living room and get replaced with one more shelf that fits a bit better.  But for now, we're fine and Carter loves his space.

Over the weekend, Carter and I went to visit my parents.  My dad had some minor surgery last week and there was a surprise joint 70th birthday party planned for my aunt and uncle.  Jacob and Craig were already planning on staying back because of lacrosse, but then Saturday morning Jacob woke up with a light sensitivity and a headache.  I thought it might be a migraine, but then the body aches and congestion started so I assumed it was the same thing Craig and I had around Christmas.  Until last night, that is.

Anyway, we left Saturday after lunch and had some time to hang out before the party.  Once we got there, Carter was happy to eat snacks!
Goofball!
The surprise went well--it was mostly a surprise from what we heard, with my uncle getting an inkling something was up.  But there was a bunch of out-of-town family on my uncle's side, so it was very exciting for them to have them there!  I love this picture I got of them while waiting to blow out their candles :)

We ate dinner and they opened their presents (lots of gift cards and a few sentimental gifts), and Carter was in his glory hanging out with my cousins' daughters and running around the gym where the party was held.  He had a blast and impressed everyone with his considerable energy!

On Sunday after church, Carter became interested in a toy stashed in my old room, a set of clear, colored plastic discs.  They are in the shape of octagons and have a number of slits that allow you to connect them to each other.  He brought them in to show Grandpa in his bed (he's feeling OK but still quite sore, so he was laying low).  At first they played around with shining a flashlight through them and looking at the colors, and then with Grandma's help they built a giant tower of them!
From Grandpa's belly up to the ceiling!

Such pretty colors!
We stuck around for lunch and then Carter had a major meltdown as we left because he was insisting he wanted to stay!  Had it not been for a busy week, my parents would have probably considered it, but we all guessed he'd probably change his mind really quickly once I walked out the door.  He continued to whine through the first part of the car ride, but he was asleep before I even hit the Thruway!

Back home, Jacob was feeling a little better (the calm before the storm, I guess), and I made some lasagna for dinner.  I used gluten-free noodles for the first time.  They were fine but the boys were not into it.  Sigh.  After that, I looked around my living room and started to lose it a bit.  I finished taking the Christmas tree down on Friday night, and vacuumed the area and rearranged furniture on Saturday morning.  So our full toy storage setup was back and I was suddenly determined to get things more organized.  I had made room in Carter's closet for "parking" for some of his larger vehicles, like his Mega Bloks dump truck and bus, as well as a few other ones.  Once I had those moved, that opened up space on our eight-cube shelf in the living room.  I rearranged things there a bit, then put a few things on the coffee table in the corner that makes for a nice play surface and some storage.  Puzzles and the little hockey rink on the shelf, and his Paw Patrol playset on top.  I selected one drawer under his bed for all of the superhero figures and vehicles, then picked another for a handful of dress-up clothes.  Hot Wheels tracks went into a big basket in the living room.  Finally, I emptied out every bin in our cube storage and every basket elsewhere, along with everything in the bookshelf cabinet in Carter's room, so I could group the toys better.  All of the random toys and Happy Meal toys have a bin in Carter's room, all of the Hot Wheels cars are in one bucket, all of the other medium-sized cars are in a basket in his closet, and there is a basket of random balls that still needs organizing as indoor and outdoor balls, because somehow we have a little of everything everywhere.  It was a ton of work but it went more smoothly than expected.  I did some editing Tuesday night to get all of the Little People back in the same area and shift a few more things, but for the most part things are good.  And inexplicably there is still space.  Not that we need anything else to fill it, but we do have a birthday coming.  I personally feel so much better now that it's like this, even though I know it won't last.  But in the meantime I hope that Carter is more motivated to put away toys now that there is a designated spot, as well as more motivated to play with things now that he knows where they are and all of the pieces are in the same spot.  I know it won't go as well as I'd like, but I'm hopeful it will be an improvement. 

Next step: Drag my butt on to the elliptical a few times a week.  Assuming I ever feel like I have the energy...or the idea of wearing a bathing suit in April is motivating enough....

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Musical Furniture

This weekend began the major challenge to revamp the boys' rooms and get our organization situation in check.  There is no doubt, we have WAY too much stuff in our house.  There are a few reasons why this is the case:

1) We are sentimental - Both Craig and I cherish memories, and many of those memories are held in material possessions.  Be it a stuffed animal or a stack of newspaper clippings or on a VHS tape, we have a lot of random stuff that we'd hate to get rid of.

2) I don't like to waste things - One of my weird fears is that we'll get rid of something and then suddenly find a use for it and have to go buy it new.  That's why we moved a bunch of extra stuff to our house almost seven years ago, and why most of it still sits in our crawl space to this day.  And, you know, once in a while something does make a return appearance.  For example, my old microwave cart from my second apartment reappeared in Jacob's closet a few years ago as an extra set of storage shelves and cabinets, and I think Craig's old desk will make an appearance for the first time since our old house very soon.  I come from a long line of folks like this--I think many of us with WWII generation grandparents do--though one was organized about it and the other had a few rooms that were borderline hoarder-ish (but oh, the treasures buried there!).  I try to be organized about it, but in the end it's still just a lot of stuff!

3) We take pretty good care of things - Related to #2, when things are in good shape, I hate to get rid of them for nothing as they probably have some value.  Yes, I could take the contents of a dozen bins of baby clothes to Goodwill, or even give them to someone having a baby, but that is a LOT of clothing and I feel like I should be getting more than a tax write-off back.  Same with all of the toys that are still in really good shape.

4) The baby thing - I always said I would keep the baby stuff around until I was past childbearing age, just in case something went awry, because I would freak out if I had to spend money on all new baby stuff after having kept it this long already.  Of course, I haven't thrown out the infant seat yet and that would definitely need to be replaced no matter what...so clearly there's still some sentimentality there.

5) We have two kids of the same gender - We had plenty of stuff when Jacob was little, and again, because I don't like to waste, Carter has gotten the hand-me-downs of everything.  On top of that, he has a birthday and Christmas to go through every year, so in essence he ends up with double the stuff that Jacob had.  It doesn't really seem to go to his head, thankfully, but it is a lot of stuff.  I thought by having two boys we'd have less than if we had one of each, but now I'm really not sure that is the case.

6) I'm lazy - Not in a terrible way, I guess, but just the way where it seems like a lot of work to take stuff to consignment or to put on a garage sale.  I'm not sure I have the bandwidth for either of those things.  I don't want to drag a bunch of stuff to the consignment place only to have them reject it because it's too old.  At least we have a van for that now, but still.  And for the longest time I couldn't picture us having enough stuff to even do a garage sale, but now I'm convinced we have plenty to have a decent one.  But the thought of figuring out how to load it all up into the garage, price it out, and sit there for a couple days does not thrill me.  I wouldn't even know where to begin with the baby clothes.  As it is I still need to go through bins and pick out favorites to set aside for each kid (tiny newborn clothes for Carter, favorite sports shirts for Jacob, the Christening outfit both boys wore).  For this I'd have to go through and group outfits and figure out what to charge for the rest of the single pieces.  There are SO many clothes across all of the sizes--no joke, probably a dozen bins at this point--so I can't even imagine.  And the baby stuff probably has yellow stains again, so I'd have to soak and wash those, too.  No matter which way I go about it, it all takes a lot of time and energy, and I don't really have that right now.

So, our house is super full of stuff.  We are not at hoarder level, to be fair, but I've definitely started getting creative with storage and trying to find better places for things.  Christmas really put the toy situation over the edge.  Most of it is good stuff and Carter uses a lot of it, but the storage situation is just not working.  We only have so much space in our living room and so much space in Carter's room.  So, I decided a long time ago that my best bet was to move Jacob's furniture into Carter's room, since that furniture was exactly what I would have wanted anyway--medium wood, six drawer dresser, and a bed with storage.  At the same time, Jacob is getting older and I figured he might appreciate the opportunity to pick out his own furniture.  So I pinpointed a dresser he would approve of after asking what color wood he wanted, and I narrowed down the bed options.  The dresser I settled on was actually very similar to his current one, but a slightly different medium brown (more chocolate than orange), a more mature style, and a different brand.  As for the bed, he wanted a metal one.  We had originally picked one out, but when I read some reviews, it appeared that the bed had some major structural issues so I made him pick another one.  The bed was supposed to arrive late last week, but apparently the storms down south slowed things down because it didn't arrive until today.  The dresser, however, arrived last Wednesday (thank you free Amazon Prime Trial), and the big box was taking up space in our dining room for days. 

The tricky part is that there isn't a lot of spare area in the boys' rooms, so we had to be strategic about moving out Carter's old stuff, moving in Jacob's old stuff, then bringing in the new stuff.  However, on Saturday I was more focused on taking down the Christmas decorations.  For some reason they were really bothering me this year, so it was time.  Strangely, though, the tree is still up and I don't mind it at the moment.  But its time is coming.  Anyway, once I got over that mental hurdle on Saturday (amidst making one exchange from Christmas, doing a quick Walmart run, going to Jacob's lacrosse game, and going to a Knighthawks game at night), Sunday was the big day.  We moved Carter's old dresser, the original changing table/dresser when Jacob was born (sob!), down to our office.  I moved the TV stand from my first apartment out of the office, and it will now be crawl space storage.  The old particle board dresser that's been holding a ton of Craig's memorabilia (it's a hand-me-down from a college friend of mine that did double duty in my studio apartment) is on its way out.  Craig spent a couple hours sorting through his stuff and moving it into the new drawers.  In the meantime, I took drawers out of Jacob's dresser, moved the frame into Carter's room, and made space to assemble the new dresser.

The new dresser went together pretty smoothly, even if it did take three hours.  The end result is nice, but unfortunately three drawer fronts had some damage.  Well, four actually, but one was a pretty quick and easy fix.  The other three have been reordered and while I'm a bit concerned about disassembling and reassembling, I'm pleased with the final look.  There are also some issues with how the drawers line up, but at a glance it looks nice.  The drawers also move easier than the other dresser, so that's helpful.  And yes, Jacob likes it.  Once that was together, I moved Jacob's clothes into the drawers, moved the empty drawers into Carter's room, and started filling them.  Now, I forgot to mention that at every step of this process there were numerous sub-steps.  Cleaning up clutter, vacuuming, and sorting through clothes made everything take so much longer.  Jacob had a pile of too-short pants sitting near his closet for a couple weeks, so I finally had to pull out his bin of outgrown clothes, add those, bring up a new bin, go through his closet and add more, and finally put the bins in the crawl space.  Then in Carter's room I needed to put away his too-small clothes, shift clothes and blankets around, and find a spot for a couple baskets of baby toiletry items that used to live in his dresser.  My goal was to clear one shelf in his closet for bigger stand-alone toys, like his trucks and buses.  It took a while, but I eventually succeeded. 

Last night I wanted to start switching up the beds so that all I'd have to do tonight is assemble Jacob's bed.  I moved Carter's basic bedframe (mine from when I first lived on my own) down to the crawl space.  I had his mattress and box spring propped up against the wall so we had enough space to bring in the new bed.  Then I had to move Jacob's mattress, shift his bed base just enough to move the headboard out from behind it, move that into Carter's room, and then start disassembling the bed base.  Given the slightly flimsy materials and the awkward structure, it became apparent that it was necessary.  The good news is that it only involved those round things you have to twist to lock, and not any screws.  So I carefully took it apart, moved each piece into the room, and started putting things back in place.  I was a bit concerned about how the bed might fit because of the additional length from the headboard and because there's a cold air return at the base of the wall, but in the end, it all fit really nice and it looks great.  And Carter was pretty excited about his new space, putting toys in the drawers and eagerly getting ready for bed!  Also of note is that we took off the bedrail since it doesn't work too well with the bedframe (we did it with Jacob, but the frame is four years older, so I don't want to stress it), but I stuffed a pool noodle under the fitted sheet.  He didn't fall out, so hopefully we're good there.

The box spring moved into Jacob's room, at least for the night, and Jacob's bed was on the floor, which he found entertaining.  We had thought about using the boxspring with it to make the bed higher, but in the end just the mattress was better.  Tonight I scrambled to iron the bedskirt and assemble the new bed.  It went pretty smoothly and it looks nice.  It's a bit of an adjustment since it's a totally different look, but I think it suits him.  I'll do pictures when the room isn't such a disaster, though! 

So now it's just a matter of tweaking everything to make good use of what we've got.  We need to figure out what goes in Carter's underbed storage and his closet vs. what stays in the living room or gets packed away.  We have a boatload of stuff in Jacob's room that needs a new home after all of these changes, and I need to decide on some sort of underbed storage for him.  I have two stuffed animal hammocks that can hold a bunch of his beloved animals, and those need to be set up.  I still need to take down the tree and get the living room back in order.  And then maybe I can relax a bit and try to enjoy all this newfound organization.  Or perhaps start planning Carter's birthday party...*sigh*...it never ends.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year, Same Stuff

Well, as predicted, the change in the calendar didn't really change anything else.  The colds are still hanging in there, Jacob is still as difficult as ever, and the week between Christmas and New Year's has officially become my nemesis.

Every year I look forward to time off between Christmas and New Year's.  At my old job we were closed the whole week, but at this job we actually have a lot going on so we all try to take shifts and work a couple days during the week to maintain coverage.  I worked Tuesday and Friday (which was a short day), which meant I was off on the 26th, made it through one day, then had two days off before another short day, which was followed by a three-day weekend.  I figured that at some point in there I could rest, play with the kids and their new stuff, and catch up on some things around the house.  I always think that will be the case, every single year.  And every single year, something pops up to screw it up.  Usually one kid or another is puking, or I get sick enough that any rest I get is just getting me through the illness, rather than catching up on what I lost all through December.  It seriously never fails.  Looking back at my Facebook "On This Day" posts last week, one of the big themes was sickness, from Jacob's emergency room visit caused by nervous parenting during his first stomach bug, to Carter being sick a couple years ago, to a nasty stomach issue I had a few years back in the wee hours of New Year's Day.  It seems like there's always something that messes with my sleep and prevents me from doing all of the things I want to do.

So, of course, this year I got this obnoxious cold a couple days before Christmas and it left me wanting to do little more than lay on the couch.  Yes, I did do a couple things around the house, and yes, I did do things with the boys, and yes, I did sleep in, but none of it was at the level I wanted it to be at.  Then Craig got a cold--possibly the same one since he lost his voice, too--and we spent our time at home trying to trade off referee responsibilities while the other rested.  I felt awful one day and Craig took the boys to Wegmans so I could nap.  He stayed in bed until noon another day and I wrangled the boys to eat breakfast and get our day moving.  Each day I would dutifully get dressed and put on some makeup in hopes I'd feel good enough to do something, but each time we got to the end of the day and I felt a little silly for looking so presentable for doing nothing but laying on the couch and watching TV all day.  Even New Year's Eve was pretty blah, even for our standards.  I forced myself to drink some wine (even my favorite wasn't really appealing) and Jacob made it his mission to stay up until midnight to drink sparkling grape juice.  He made it, and got quite the pop culture education as we watched a couple of the NYE shows.  And yes, we saw Mariah Carey and it was bad.   

We did finally get around to leaving the house on Monday.  I had snagged a really great Groupon deal for Glow Golf at our mall, and we all went to play a couple rounds.  Both kids eagerly put on clothes they hoped would glow in the blacklights (see the bottom of Jacob's pants and Carter's skeleton shirt, specifically), and we headed out.  The boys were a handful, as usual, but luckily it wasn't too busy so we didn't make anyone too nuts.  Jacob played a hole or two ahead of us the whole time, Carter was always on his tail, and half the time that became a problem.  But it was tolerable enough that we made it through 36 holes (we could have played 54, but we figured once through each course was enough!).  My game was completely off (I blame the cold and the distractions), and somehow Jacob beat us all.  But it wasn't a bad way to spend a couple hours on a cruddy winter day.

They're smiling, I swear!
My cold seems to be fading a bit, finally, two weeks later.  As of Monday morning I didn't feel the constant need to take Tylenol to manage my headache and general blahs.  I'm not 100%, as I'm still tired, my appetite is a little off, my throat is a bit sore, and I'm still dealing with periodic congestion, headaches, and throat-clearing.  Craig seems to be doing a bit better as well.  His voice is back, and while he's still coughing, he seems much more functional than he did a few days ago.  Carter has had a perma-cold for weeks on end, and I really need to get him into the doctor...although that involves exposing him to even more germs, which I don't love the thought of.  Jacob started a higher dose of his ADHD medicine yesterday, and while it seemed to work like a charm at school, it seemed to make his non-medicated times nearly unbearable, so I'm not sure what we're going to do there.  The mood swings were pretty rough and the usual disrespect was even worse.  I dread the thought of starting over with another drug, but we may have to.  I'm hoping it was a blip with it being the beginning of getting back into the school routine, but I don't have a particularly good feeling.  We have a fresh set of concerns to share with the therapist, as I really just feel like what we're doing is not enough.  Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a train speed down the tracks, clearly bound for a catastrophe, and yet I feel completely helpless to prevent it.  And in this case, maybe the most appropriate metaphor is that I'm able to call the engineer and tell him, but he's oblivious, thinks nothing is wrong, and simply will not listen.  I've heard far too many stories lately about troubled kids making bad decisions, and I desperately fear what will happen to Jacob when he's a few years older, more hormonal, and more equipped to act upon urges.  Soon I won't be able to physically stop him, and that scares me, too.  That's why it's all the more important to find solutions for him now, so we can get him leveled off, help him understand we're on his team, and hopefully help him get through those difficult years with support.  

The other thing occupying our time right now is a big reorganization in the boys' rooms.  Today Jacob's new dresser arrived.  It's in a very heavy box and will probably take me three hours to put together.  His bed should arrive Friday.  He's getting a big kid metal bed frame.  The dresser looks pretty much like his old one.  Carter is getting all of Jacob's old stuff because it has a lot of storage and that's exactly what we need in his tiny room.  I'm not sure it'll fit comfortably in his tiny room, mind you, but we're going to try.  Underbed storage and more dresser space will make room for some of his new toys, including in his closet, which has always been overwhelmed by clothes.  The challenge is going to be to manage the furniture moving, as we'll need to get the old stuff out before the new stuff can come in, particularly in Carter's room.  Their doors are at a 90 degree angle to one another, and the hallway is narrow, so we'll have our work cut out for us.  And we have to get Carter's old stuff (a changing table dresser and my old, basic bedframe and box spring) down two floors to the basement.  It's not going to be easy, and the limbo will probably make me nuts, but I think the end result will be nice.  One casualty from the early stages of this was a garbage bag full of Jacob's massive stuffed animal collection.  I almost never thought I'd see the day come, but a large bag full has exited his room.  The ones he kept are mostly sports-related ones or ones he got at zoos.  The rejects include a lot of our early moose collection, as well as some ones that were gifted to him as a baby.  Not sure what their fate is yet, but it's a big step.

So...it's a new year but it's still never a dull moment around here!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell, 2016...

It's the last half hour of 2016.  I don't quite know what to say about this year.  Of course, I'm still sick so pardon me if I don't wax poetic about this year.  As everyone knows, we lost a ton of celebrities this year, and the constant stream of terror attacks made this year a tough one.  Then we topped it off with a Trump win and we're all sitting on the edge of our seats as we approach a new year with a wild card big mouth poised to become our sitting president.  So...not the best year universally.

Personally it wasn't the best either.  We've been in a constant state of frustration with Jacob's behavior, and Carter's relatively newfound participation in the ridiculousness.  My family went through three funerals.  Jacob had major surgery and started on the medication journey.  We had a variety of random health stuff and a couple annoying house things.  Maybe it's just me, but not a whole lot of good jumps out.  We had fleeting moments, I guess, but most of them were firmly within a more challenging context.  I know that in the grand scheme of things, we are blessed, but it's really tough to feel upbeat most of the time.  So many people suffer around us, and in many cases our problems pale in comparison, but that doesn't change that what we're going through is tough.  And I definitely wish that a flip of the calendar would change everything.  But I know that's not the case.  Not for us and not for anyone else. 

We're blessed to be here, to have an almost intact extended family, jobs, a house, two functioning cars, a savings account and enough money to do many of the things we want to do.  We have two kids, that while they make us crazy, are here in the flesh.  My biggest first-world, nagging issue at the moment is that we have too much stuff.  But I'm tired and sad and wishing desperately that I could snap my fingers and make things better for Jacob--and in turn, the rest of us. 

But like it or not, here we go...onward to 2017...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holy Night, Silent Day

I forgot to mention in my last post one of the most important details of Friday night.  We went to church!  Usually we go to Craig's parents' church on Christmas Eve afternoon, but this year his mom was singing at the midnight mass instead, and we knew we couldn't pull that off.  So, we had a few options: go to their church earlier anyway (though it always interfered with his family's gathering somewhat), or go to either the Friday night or Saturday morning service at our church.  I decided the night one was actually our better bet, since the morning one would make us rush through presents and breakfast and we'd probably all end up cranky.  Night just seemed easier with me getting out of work early--eat an early (for us) dinner, get changed, and go.  And you know, it was really nice.  Carter fell asleep, which made bedtime a little more challenging, but it was a beautiful service with carols and beautiful lighting and everyone holding candles at the end, and it felt like a good place to start Christmas.


On Christmas Eve morning, Jacob was up pretty early and snooping around, but we made him go back to his room until Carter woke up, which wasn't until after 8am! But once he was up, it was time to open presents...but not before the traditional picture at the top of the stairs!

They started with stockings, which mostly had a lot of candy.  Carter got some fun bath foam and Jacob got a thing where you dig for a fancy rock.  It's basically compressed, hardened sand that you dig into until you find the rock.  One in 24 of the one like he had includes a real piece of silver!  His didn't--just a piece of obsidian.  After that, the boys each opened a present from the other,  Jacob gave Carter a Team Umizoomi game for his Leap Pad, and Carter gave Jacob a Scooby-Doo Meets Kiss DVD (Yes, that Kiss.  Jacob loves that one and I found it cheap enough that it was more economical than him renting it periodically.). 

As for the real presents, Jacob's main mission for Christmas was Game Stop gift cards.  He really wanted an Xbox One, but we were not going to spend that much on him alone at Christmas.  We told him that if he wanted to wait until Carter was older, it could be a joint gift some day, but otherwise, he could ask for gift cards.  If the cards fell short, he could take out a limited amount from his savings, and if it still wasn't enough, he could do chores.  He chose the immediate gratification option, of course, and we spent the weeks leading up to Christmas hearing him obsess over the math of how much he was going to get from everyone and how close that would get him.  He was particularly concerned with us and Santa.  And in the end, he got $50 from Santa and $25 from us.
Happy boy with one of the gift cards!
Jacob also got a mini Battleship game, a book he'd picked out from his book fair, some clothes he'd picked out, and a Scooby-Doo Mad Libs book (which he wasn't excited about but I think he will find it hilarious when we do it).  Other than a tiny disappointment when he was done opening and his much slower brother still had a small stack, he was a very good sport about the whole thing.

As for Carter, he received a Hot Wheels loop set, a small Hot Wheels stunt tower, one of those magic marker activity books, a couple little Batman figures and a Captain America figure (much like the Spider-Man one he envied), another Leap Pad game (love when I find them cheap at Five Below!), and a Duplo base that I hope will get him playing with those again.  His big gift, however, was a Hot Wheels Sto 'n' Go playset, which is a modern version of one my brother had 30+ years ago. 
Big box!

Happy boy!

In retrospect, I probably could have held off on one or two of Carter's things, especially with his birthday around the corner, but we do our best to keep the money even, particularly as they get older.  I got some great deals, too, and other things were a bit more strategic in wanting him to get them now so we knew better where his preferences stood by his birthday.  I really just need to get better with rotating toys, I think.

The boys jointly got a Laff-A-Lympics DVD, and we're all going to play Glow Golf soon (thank you Groupon for a steal!).  Oh, and we also got our annual tin of popcorn!

All things considered, the boys did well and we had a pleasant morning.  We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then Craig took the boys for haircuts while I finished packing up and making a snack to share at a couple of our stops.  We got on the road pretty much when I figured we would.  We had a couple last minute stops to make, and by the time we got to Craig's parents', we really had just enough time to freshen up and head off to his aunt's house for our usual Christmas Eve stop there.  We had a nice time as usual, eating and chatting with Craig's extended family, and giving and receiving a few gifts.  We received the game Twister, which should be interesting to attempt.  But hey, Jacob said he wants us to play more games as a family, so there you go!

Around that time I realized that my voice might be a goner.  It had been getting more hoarse all day, and by the time we were in a loud house talking for a few hours, I could tell it was definitely going.  A co-worker of mine had nasty laryngitis last week, and now apparently it was my turn!  Thankfully, the cold medicine was taking care of the rest of my symptoms.  I wasn't 100%, but the cold symptoms were under control and my energy level was fine.

After that it was back to Craig's brother's house for the big exchange with his parents and his brother's family.  It's usually the highlight for the kids since they get to do it with their cousins, and the youngest four in particular were very eager to get started!  Carter got some superhero toys that barely left his hands for the rest of the night, along with some superhero clothes and a couple cool bath towels (that I think will finally allow me to retire the hooded baby towels).  Jacob got another coveted gift card, a Lego-like NBA set to complement one he already has, and a Blue Jays t-shirt.



Eventually it was time to turn in and get some sleep before another busy day.  The boys slept in pretty well, and then we headed out to see my family.  My brother's family was already there when we arrived, and it was nice to spend our first Christmas with them since Jacob and Kate were both two!  One of the first orders of business was getting a family picture, as it's rare to have all of us there at the same time!


After a yummy ham dinner, it was time to open more presents!  Carter received more Hot Wheels cars and track from Uncle John's family, and a couple Paw Patrol presents--including a jungle playset--from Grandma and Grandpa. 

Jacob received some Raptors gear from Uncle John and Aunt Kristin, which was appropriate since Aunt Kristin works for the NBA now!  He also got some clothes and Minecraft books from Grandma and Grandpa, along with a little money to add to his Xbox savings.

It was fun to be there to see Kate and Max open presents.  Usually we just have the rush to get things shipped in time, but this time I got to pick them out, wrap them, and see they happily open them.  Kate got a nail art set and some American Girl clothes from us.

We gave Max a Sto 'n' Go set, too!  I was the one that originally saw it and passed it along so my brother could see the new generation.  Max added it to his Christmas list, but only Target had it and it was out of stock and unavailable online.  I forgot about it for a bit, but then my mom emailed me a couple weeks ago and said that my Target had limited quantities.  She asked me to get Max one, though she said that I could give it to him instead if she found some other things for him, which she did.  I didn't even know if they'd have any by the time I got there, but I went first thing in the morning, and sure enough, they had two!  I decided to get both and give the other one to Carter, which is how both boys ended up with the same gift!  And both loved it, of course!

My parents liked their presents--a pickle ball paddle for my mom, and a new L.L. Bean toiletry bag for my dad, which will replace the one he's had as long as I can remember!

After presents, my dad went out to build one of his signature snowmen on the deck with the little bit of snow that remained.  Max was his assistant. 

After a little playtime, it was time to go to my uncle's for our celebration with my dad's side of the family.  He lives in the house he grew up in, and we've been going to that house on Christmas my entire life.  Carter tried to kill time before presents by playing with his Spider-Man motorcycle on the tile floor in the hallway...

Santa came with gifts for the kids, and he got another Spider-Man set, complete with a bad guy.  It was funny watching him attack the bad guy!

Max loved his Santa present, too!

Jacob got another coveted gift card, and Kate got a travel Spirograph.  I couldn't help but smile at how the kids were squished together on the couch much of the night.  They may be totally different and into different stuff, but they still got along pretty well. 

Soon it was time for our traditional generation photos.  We've been doing this one for a number of years now, with all of the newest generation.
First appearances for Anna, my cousin Chris' daughter in the front, and Kate and Max
Last year we started the new tradition of taking pictures of the two older generations, as well, mostly because my cousin Kevin was in town.  With two different ones in town this year--John and my cousin Chris--we had to do it again.  We were missing Kevin and my oldest cousin Nicki this time, but still a big crew.  We barely fit!

And the older generation, same group as last year but forever down one, sitting on the same stairs they sat on years ago while waiting to open their Christmas presents.

Originally I was going to try to find a way for Carter and me to stick around an extra day.  Jacob and Craig had to be back for lacrosse camp the next morning, but it would have been nice to give the kids a little extra playtime.  In the end it made more sense to just come home that night.  With my cold, I knew it was better to prevent spreading it and to get home and take my time getting settled.  And it turned out to be a good idea because I was pretty beat the next day, but it still felt good to get things put away and start cleaning up all of the things I neglected through the Christmas rush. 

As a whole it was a pretty good Christmas.  We had lots of good presents, wonderful family time, and minimal hiccups.  My cold made things a little harder, but it could have been so much worse considering how terrible I felt a couple days earlier.  After a day off Monday, I worked Tuesday despite my absent voice.  Yesterday and today I've been home, which has been hugely helpful to get things cleaned up.  It's been fun playing with Carter's new toys, too!  Oh, and Jacob got his Xbox, which has been keeping him occupied.  My cold is still hanging in there but my voice is slowly coming back and I think I'm on the downside of it now.  Maybe.  Just one more day of work tomorrow, then onward to 2017 we go...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Before the Big Day

So...since Christmas prep sort of overtook things, let's rewind a bit and take a look at a few pre-holiday happenings...

I actually did pretty good and got a Christmas card picture taken relatively early.  Two weeks before Christmas, which is about where it should be but it rarely happens!  We just did it one Sunday after church, never mind that they're not wearing holiday colors!  We came up with the concept the night before, and thankfully it mostly worked out.  I couldn't get the lacrosse head and the bottom of the stockings in the shot, nor could I make Carter more prominent, but they're both smiling so we'll call it a win.

The following Friday we got hammered with a pretty significant snow storm, a good six inches overnight and about a foot for the storm officially, over a few days.  I caught this on the way to daycare/work, in my favorite spot of the drive on mornings like this.  The trees were coated, and it was so pretty!  The commute wasn't great, but it could have been a lot worse!

The next night, after Jacob's lacrosse game, Carter and I took a detour on the way home to go see a street nearby that's always very decorated.  We make it there every other year on average, and I thought he might be old enough to enjoy it more.  He was a little cranky when we got there, but I do think he liked this house...

The following Tuesday was Carter's little daycare Christmas event.  In past years (with the old regime) they did a full Christmas concert with each class singing two songs up in the church.  Santa visited during the day and brought each kid a gift.  Last year under the new regime they did a night with Santa--basically just some snacks and the visit from Santa.  It definitely didn't have the same charm as the concert, but being there for the visit from Santa was nice, even if Carter was scared out of his mind.  This year they had each group sing one song, offered up some snacks and crafts, and then Santa arrived.  Carter's class sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".  He did pretty good but some of his friends had a harder time...

He had fun having Mommy and Daddy all to himself!

When Santa came he was a little less excited.  Here you can see him reluctantly going up with Craig and completely hiding behind him!

But I think once he realized Santa had a present for him, he scooted right over to him and had a little chat.

He was very excited about his gift, a Scooby-Doo-themed Hot Wheels monster truck!

He had a blast showing his buddies and checking out their presents.  Of course, that night or the night after he was totally melting down about how he wanted Elias' present, a Spider-man action figure.  Sigh.

Tuesday night I had to bake up my monkey bread for my office grazing day on Wednesday, and Wednesday was a fun day snacking all day.  I had to head out early because Jacob had a therapy appointment.  Craig was in Canada for work, and Jacob and I actually had a very pleasant ride there and waiting time in the waiting room.  It probably helped that I let him add Minecraft to my iPod, but the peace was nice.  I met with the therapist first, and then he went in.  As he was in, I realized that my throat was starting to feel sore.  I'd had some congestion issues for a couple weeks, where once or twice a day I'd feel something rattling around in my sinuses and blow out a little bit of bright yellow yuckiness.  But there wasn't really anything else going on.  But of course, in the week or two leading up to Christmas, every night is a late night and I'm sure eventually my immunity must have given in.  By the time we left the office, picked up Carter, and made it home, the body aches, headache, and fuzzyheadedness had already started to kick in.  I dragged my way through dinner and bedtime, popped some zinc, and went to bed. 

Alas, when I woke up in the morning, I felt awful.  All of my symptoms from the previous night were as bad or worse, and I knew I couldn't go into work like that.  I didn't want to pass it along, either!  So I stayed home and rested as much as I could.  I dragged myself over to my wrapping table a couple times when the medicine was doing its job.  I also made gluten-free cutouts, which did not go well at all this year, but at least I had enough usable ones that Jacob could take some into school for cookie decorating the next day.  I wish I would have had more time to rest, but I was thankful for the extra time at home, even if I wasn't feeling particularly well.  I think I also started packing that night. But at the time I was a little nervous that if it got worse, we wouldn't be going anywhere for Christmas.  Or at least, I wouldn't. That was a little worrisome, but all I could do was rest and pray.

By Friday morning, the body aches were gone and despite some congestion, I was not a sniffly, sneezy mess.  As a result, and because I figured it would be a short day since we usually get out early before holidays, I decided to go into work so I could take care of a few things that needed wrapping up before Christmas.  I still didn't want to spread germs, but I figured that with a lot of handwashing and staying in my cube as much as possible, I could manage.  I was thrilled with what I was able to get done, and I didn't feel too bad while I was there.  After work I had to venture to Wegmans, which was pretty crazy but not as bad as I thought.  I also had a couple more gifts to get so I did that running around, too.  I did a rotisserie chicken for dinner, whipped up the dough for cinnamon rolls the next morning, did a little more packing, and finished my last batch of wrapping. 

Eventually everything was done and Santa came!

I took one last moment to admire my mantel, with the soft garland I searched high and low for, my grandma's nativity scene, glass pieces from both grandmas, and a couple of my own things.  Oh, and that green candle holder on the left came from a tacky gift party, and I still love it!

I had a couple minutes to sit and appreciate my hard work before I had to get to bed because we had a couple long days ahead!  Stay tuned...