Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seven Weeks

Today marks seven weeks that I have been off work.  Why is this significant?  Well, aside from the fact that my severance is dwindling and I really need to get a new job (next interview this Thursday and a follow-up next Thursday!), seven weeks is important because it marks the same period of time as both of my maternity leaves.  That means that as of tomorrow I will officially be away from work longer than I've ever been since I started my grown-up career life.  That's pretty significant.  And as much as I've enjoyed it, hopefully it will never happen again...unless it's on my own terms. 

I feel like I've definitely settled into this existence much easier than I thought I would.  I don't miss work as much as I thought I would, but in another couple weeks I'll definitely be missing the paycheck, and that's really the main reason I need to go back.  As I've said previously, this experience has taught me that checking things off a to do list for my family is much more fulfilling than doing it for "the man".  Maybe my next job will change my perspective on that a bit, but the reality of the way my last job ended might stick with me for a while, a stark reminder of how quickly dedication can feel pointless.  Still, my ongoing dream of working part time has been validated.  I would love to have the best of both worlds.  I love the thought of having spare time and brain power to dedicate to my family while still having something that's my own.  I realized the other day that when I "grow up" (haha) I really just want to be my mom :)  She worked part time for years and gave us a great mix of support and independence.  She was there to do fun stuff when we weren't in school and be involved when we were, but we also had a bit of the latch-key experience (which I think is important for learning to self-motivate on homework, for example).  If I could give my kids anything like that, I would be thrilled.  But for now full-time work is a must, so I'm going to have to make the best of it...assuming I can actually get a job.  I'm getting close on the one I really want, but there's still a few more steps to go, so no chicken-counting here.

In the meantime I still have at least another week or two of time at home.  I'm really trying to appreciate all of it, from the extra time with Carter to the extra hour of sleep, from the slower pace in the morning to the extra opportunity to do household chores.  I've enjoyed my bonus doses of 80s game shows, "What Not to Wear", and "Friends".  I just like having the bandwidth to think about things and the time to do the things I need to do.  It's nice to not panic about doctor's appointments or school events.  If I need to go to the store, I can.  It may take a day here or there, but fitting it in somehow isn't an issue right now. 

Lately I've actually been doing a lot of clothes shopping.  That probably seems ill-advised considering our income is a couple weeks from being cut pretty dramatically, but there are a couple reasons why I'm doing it.  First, my wardrobe has evolved the past few years.  My old job shifted to casual attire (i.e., jeans were OK every day), then I was pregnant for a while, and eventually my body changed.  Certain elements of my wardrobe no longer fit well or no longer felt like "me".  Some things have gotten a bit worn, too, and while those issues didn't feel like a big deal in my old job, it's a totally different ballgame when you're making first impressions again.  So, in anticipation of getting a job with more formal attire where I need to make a good first impression, I've been taking advantage of my abundance of time to rebuild my wardrobe.  I'd rather do it now while I have the time than try to cram it in once I'm working again.  There won't be many spare evenings or weekend days where Craig can keep the kids, and even when those happen, I would be rushing around and merely hoping to catch a good sale.  Right now I'm strategically trying to take advantage of coupons, sales, and clearance racks, but it still adds up.  Still, I think there's something to be said for heading into a new job with a wardrobe that inspires self-confidence.  Like I said, I've been watching a lot of "What Not to Wear" and it's very clear to me that the right look can change your entire perspective on yourself.  If nothing else, having a look you're comfortable with gives you one less thing to be distracted by, so you can focus on the important stuff instead.  I'm just trying to get enough new pieces to work with the rest, and hopefully it'll be enough. 

There's a lot about this time I will miss when it is finally over.  For now I'm doing my best to enjoy them.  I'm enjoying my lack of a commute and my added time to work out.  I'm trying to hit up things still on my to do list.  I'm hoping to exit this phase of my life with as few regrets as possible.  It's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I want to make the most of it...even if I'm still trying to figure out on a daily basis how to do that.  Seven weeks in there is still never a dull moment, and it makes me wonder how I functioned while working full time.  If I've had enough stuff to fill those eight hours a day (and then some) for this long, how many things were just sitting undone for infinite amounts of time?  It's a little scary thinking about going back to that life, but it's imperative that I do.  All I can do is use all of this as an opportunity for a fresh start all around.  If there's a better way to do things, I'm determined to use this experience to help me find it.  I will make the best of this time.  It would be a shame to let the dark side win, you know?  If my former employer didn't think I was worth keeping around (I was, by the way), then I'm going to make darn sure that the version of me that comes out of this experience is never going to be considered expendable again. 

Onward to discover what happens after seven weeks...

Monday, March 2, 2015

How Things Change...and How They Stay the Same...

This morning I was changing the sheets on Carter's bed, and for whatever reason it made me think back to when there was a tiny baby in that crib.  Two years ago right now I had a two-week-old baby and was probably exhausted but in love with that tiny little guy.  I dug back into my archives (both the blog and my photos), and realized that today was the anniversary of the day I took a size comparison photo of the boys (more on that in a bit).  My parents were in town so we were trying to get pictures of them together.  We got this painful little number that took way more forcing that I care to admit...

I also captured this sweet little picture of my tiny baby boy...
I thought he was so cute at the time, but that's nothing compared to the cuteness that would emerge later!  Looking back, he was still definitely in the frog-alien baby phase.  A cute frog-alien baby, of course...

Back then I wondered how much longer we'd have to deal with Jacob's dislike of his brother and the cranky attitude we were dealing with all the time.  Turns out, we've been dealing with it for two years.  Yuck.  I said to Jacob the other day, "Do you realize you've been angry about this for two whole years?"  I can't imagine living with a grudge like that for so long.  No wonder he's miserable a lot of the time.  I wish I could get him to let it go.  He'd be a much happier kid if he just embraced the brotherhood and stopped wishing his brother would disappear (and yes, he does still talk about that).  They have tiny little moments where it seems like something's clicking.  But then Carter touches Jacob's stuff or tackles him, and the moment is over.  We're hoping Jacob's therapist can help, and we do our best to referee fairly...but we still have such a challenge on our hands.  I so hoped it would be over by now--we've always had hope the next milestone would do the trick--but we'll just continue to pray and do what we can.

When I realized today was the anniversary of the size comparison, I couldn't help but grab the same blanket and take a picture of Carter two years later!
I still can't get over how much darker Carter's coloring was back then!  His skin compared to Jacob's is amazing.
Big boy!

Quite the difference two years makes!  Carter was less than half the length of the blanket and now he's almost the full length, and not that much shorter than Jacob was!  I know two years is a lot in baby time, but still...I remember so well taking that picture of the kids, and I can't believe two whole years have passed.

I thought back to those early days.  The many nights I spent playing Candy Crush during feedings and the early days of my Pinterest account.  The skinny, scrawny baby with a non-existent butt and the skinniest limbs I'd ever seen.  The teeny little newborn clothes.  The dark hair on every body part.  Being so tired but so happy to have a "normal" homecoming and first few weeks.  The stress of the beginnings of the reflux and milk intolerance.  So much to take in, but what a ride it was. 

Yesterday at church there were a couple small babies in the room where we sit.  I looked at them longingly, remembering those precious early days.  There is something so special about having a little baby, despite all of the stress.  That phase goes so fast and is such a sleep-deprived blur.  Maybe that's why it's such a special time...because none of us can remember much of it!  Still, as I looked at the sweet little babies and then back at my toddler with his evolving personality--the good and the bad--and I decided that no matter how amazing those early days are, none of it compares to seeing your kid turn into a real person.  I look at Carter's bright eyes and big smile, listen to the many words and even short sentences coming from his lips, and see the pride on his face when he builds something or makes his airplane fly, and I love every bit of it!  The tantrums and the defiance I could do without, but it's all part of a very special package.  Watching that develop is so incredible.

So would I go back?  For fleeting moments, maybe.  Would I do it again?  Possibly, if it made any logical sense at all for us.  But I am completely happy to be in this moment and enjoying my bonus time with this guy...
Love him. <3 em="">

Friday, February 27, 2015

Photo Friday!

Nothing better for a Friday than a few fun pictures from the last couple weeks...

The Thursday of winter break, Jacob's school had a fundraiser at Chuck E. Cheese.  Most of the time I prefer to avoid that place like the plague, but when we have a reason to go there (either a birthday party or an event like this), I consent to a couple hours there, particularly because they have gluten-free pizza.  It comes in a special bag, so I know it's safe.  Jacob seems to like it, too.  We actually had some tokens and tickets sitting around from our last trip there, so I was actually eager to get them out of the house!  So off we went!  Jacob ran right off to do the sports games, and I tried to get Carter to ride on some of the little cars and play the other little kid games.  He was petrified of the cars, but finally sat in one for a minute or two.  He ended up liking the one little kid football throwing game, which was fun.  However, we were all sort of thrown off by (yet again) having other kids randomly come up and horn in on the kids' games.  I know some kids have better parental guidance than others, but I just don't get how inserting yourself into a game someone else paid for and is actively playing is ever the logical choice.  Our meal was fine and we had a pretty good time.  The one exciting moment we had was that Jacob ended up with a ticket to go into the ticket blaster.  It's 30 seconds of craziness with tickets blowing all around!  You grab whatever you can and they're yours to keep.  Craig took this great shot of him in the middle of the windstorm!

Before we left, Carter made a stop at his favorite game, a racing game.  He can't reach the gas, but he loved it anyway.
(And yes, once a little girl tried to grab the wheel from him as he played!)
Wednesday night Carter had an early bath so he had some time to play after he was in his jammies.  We were watching Scooby-Doo as a family and the kids were snacking, and Carter added a special accessory...

Those glasses came out of a kid's meal from some fast food joint, and he loves them!  Silly kid even wore them to FaceTime with Grandpa and Grandma!

Yesterday morning was my first in-person interview, and it was for the job I really want.  I felt like the interview went well.  I have an "in" there, they like my resume a lot, and the job really utilizes Excel, which is my specialty.  So many things about it seem like a great fit and I'm really hopeful I'll make it to the next round.  It's nerve wracking, though, because if I don't get this one I feel like I'll be back to square one...without the leads I had the first time around.  I was definitely nervous for the interview but I felt like it went better than I could have imagined.  I decided the day before that I wanted to book up the rest of my day as "me time", to either distract myself from a rough interview, or to reward myself for a good one!  One of the items on my list for this time off was to go to the Memorial Art Gallery here.  I've never been, even though I love art.  I did have a little taste of it back in September when I stopped at the outdoor sculpture garden/walk in between events of our friend Dave's wedding.  I'm glad I did it that day, because yesterday was no day to walk around outside!  Most of the sculptures are buried under three feet of snow anyway!

Anyway, my plan was to run to the local library and check out a pass for 50% off admission, then grab some lunch and head to the gallery for the afternoon.  I can a minor hiccup with lunch because there was no parking at my lunch spot of choice and I tried to find somewhere else.  Eventually I just settled on a good, hearty sub and headed off to the gallery.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  After all, I grew up with the Albright-Knox in Buffalo (remember my birthday trip there?) and they'd always had a lot of awesome pieces by very famous artists.  I don't really feel like I've heard much about the MAG's collection over the years, so I was mostly just interested to see what was there.

I headed upstairs first because modern art is my favorite and more of that was downstairs.  The first few rooms had a lot of old portraits, a few artifacts, and some wooden furniture.  The one thing I do remember hearing about the MAG involved the room in the picture below.  At the far end is an organ, and in the center is a fountain.  What a pretty space!

In an adjacent room was a very pretty Monet.  I actually have a soft spot for Monets like this one because in 8th grade I had to recreate a work of art and chose a similarly colored Monet that looked at a church tower.  It really is breathtaking to see the work of a master.

Back downstairs there was a stained glass window that was saved from a local house when it was demolished.  The colors were gorgeous, and I couldn't help capturing this detail.
It's hard to tell, but the blue glass was sort of rough and chunky...and deeper blue than it looks here.
One of the more unique pieces was a recreation of the famous painting "American Gothic" made entirely out of spools of thread.  Interestingly, it was oriented upside down, and there were glass globes on sticks in a stand on the wall to hold up and view the art properly.  So cool!

I love this close-up of a Hans Hoffman painting.  The colors are so pretty!
I'm pretty sure that my old orthodontist had a bunch of framed Hans Hoffman posters in his office.  Most of them looked like this.
This next one appears to be one of the more popular works there, and definitely one of the most vibrant!  The 3-D quality of this one was great, and apparently the artist uses no black paint...so the dark parts are just really dark versions of color!

I didn't notice the beauty of this marble statue (I believe she's called "The West Wind" until I took this picture.  Just look at the perfect swish of the skirt...done in marble!

This work was really amazing.  The fruit looked like I could reach out and touch it, and the tears from her onion cutting had a perfect sparkle!  Hard to do it justice here, but it was pretty!

This is the main entry courtyard at the museum and holds some modern sculptures.  There's a fountain and the glass roof, and I liked this shot because it shows a peak of an adjacent building on the property.  So pretty and a nice oasis on such a cold day!

What a fun trip it was.  It definitely lacked some of the blockbusters of the Albright-Knox, but it was a very pleasant experience!

After a trip to the gym, it was home for an evening with the boys.  I have to share this video because it totally captures Carter right now.  Here is his version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"!  He's a little rough on actual lyrics, but he is just too stinkin' cute.  Note the hand motions, too...and excuse the sippy cup at the beginning :)

Seriously, he cracks me up.  So, that's what's been up here.  Another busy weekend ahead and hopefully some good news on the job front next week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Party Time!

One week after Carter's actual birthday, we were able to have his party.  Craig's work schedule this time of year makes party planning a little challenging!  I should feel lucky we managed to squeeze in Carter's actual birth without him being on the road or having to miss a game, but it's definitely a little tough to figure out how to work around his schedule every year now.  Add in weather, Valentine's Day, February break, and whatever else, and it's a very complicated process!  Luckily we only had to wait a week, and while I can't say I was fantastic at planning ahead with all of my current free time, I felt pretty good going into the weekend...even though I had a lot to do!

I baked two layers of cake on Saturday and made a list of tasks for Sunday.  The weather was pretty cruddy on Saturday, warmer than it had been (20s....oooo!) but cold and snowy.  We did some shoveling while Craig was at work and debating going to the Knighthawks game, but in the end I decided that with Jacob home for February break all week, we'd exhausted all of our easy food options and I wanted to go out for dinner anyway.  We ventured out and the roads were worse than I thought.  Still, I knew Jacob would be disappointed so we continued on.  We had a quick dinner at McDonald's (so nice when the boys will happily eat all of their food!) and ended up getting to the Knighthawks game late due to having to stop for gas, drive through the snow, and deal with some parking difficulties.  I'd wanted to leave the game early, which Jacob was not happy about, but with our late arrival I relented to staying longer, particularly if it was a good game.  It turned out that the Knighthawks came back from a big 4th quarter deficit and won the game in overtime, so it was a good game to stay for.  Of course, that meant a late night for me as I ran all over the house cleaning up piles and preparing for the party.

Sunday we all slept in and I opted to skip church rather than battle to get us all out of the house and then come home stressed and cranky with less time to prepare for the party.  I took the time to get a good start on the cake.  If you recall from past parties, I tend to focus on the cake more than anything.  I don't know why it worked out like that--maybe because Jacob's first few were not great and I felt bad about that.  I've made it my mission to never let that happen again.  Thank God for Pinterest :)  And for this year, for my sweet car-loving little boy, this was the result:

I'm not gonna lie, I was super happy with it.  It's simple and cute and exactly what I wanted!  I took inspiration from a few different Pinterest cakes and made it my own, right down to splitting M&M's in half to create his name.  My stress level was relatively low throughout, which was a nice bonus, too!

We kept the party simple because it wasn't going to be a huge group--my parents, Craig's parents and his brother's family, my cousin Lori and her mom.  We ordered pizza and wings since grilling up burgers and dogs isn't really an option with the cold and snow we've been having!  Add in some snacks and sides and it was plenty to keep us all full. 

Carter did well with presents.  He was very cute and sweet and seemed to love all of his presents.  He got a couple fun books, a bus, a Switch & Go Dino (sort of like he got at Christmas--this time a cute T-Rex!), a Duplo circus set, some Matchbox cars and track, some clothes, some new sippy cups, and some money!  He really seemed to love everything.

Checking out his dino!

Cutie with his bus and Legos!
We ate dinner and moved on to the cake.  He really seemed to like it and enjoyed being sung to!

Of course, when it came time to eat it, he preferred to stick with the M&M's...which was part of the reason I figured it might be a good move to include them in the decoration!
Cheek-full of M&Ms!
All in all, it was a great day.  The boys had fun with their cousins and it was great to have our families here.  Unfortunately, the day didn't end so well.  It started out with my mom getting an epic nosebleed just as they were ready to leave.  All of this cold, dry weather has wreaked havoc with her nasal passages.  They stayed for quite a while waiting for it to end, but it turned out that was just the beginning of the mess.  She ended up in the emergency room and then headed to the doctor in the morning when things didn't really get any better.  She should be fine now, but what a crazy thing that was.  A little while after my parents left, I realized that the full feeling in my stomach was transitioning to something very not-good.  Craig and I watched the movie "Miracle" to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice game, but by the end of the movie I was upstairs in some very bad GI distress.  I was up much of the night dealing with a double whammy of stomach distress, and most of yesterday was spent in bed.  Craig stayed home to take care of Carter, and I tried to keep my distance so this didn't spread.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for Craig and the kids for the next couple days.  Apparently this morning my mom wasn't feeling great, but we're hoping it's just a mental thing, because my parents have a trip planned for later this week.  If nothing else, hopefully it's quick!  But I'd hate for anyone else to have to deal with this.  I'm still trying to get my appetite and energy back...and I need it by Thursday when I have my interview!  In the meantime I'll be taking it easy, getting my stuff together, and mentally preparing!

I hate that my illness took away from a fantastic day for Carter, but I'm excited to play with him and his new toys tomorrow, and eventually dig back into that awesome cake!  Happy 2nd Birthday to my sweet boy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentines/Birthday/Snow Weekend in Review!

Arg, I meant to post this Tuesday but for some reason it never made it up.  Sorry!  

We have had a busy few days around these parts!  First and foremost, last week I got an email back regarding my application for one the jobs I wanted most, and today I actually had a quick phone interview that led to getting a real interview set up for next week!  Woohoo!  One step closer to a job!

Last Thursday Jacob was involved in something called the Orff Festival, a music festival put on by some of the elementary schools in town.  Jacob's class and another first grade class were the only two classes from his school involved, and they did a great job.  Not only did they do a performance, but they also "entertained" the crowd in between acts with a sing-along.  Here's a shot of Jacob in the full cast opening act, he's in the middle of the front row with his hands up by his face...

Here he is before their performance, where he played the glockenspiel!

Here's video of the performance...though unfortunately our view of Jacob was blocked by a teacher who was helping out...

It was an hour long and it was a great show.  The kids were awesome and it was obvious they worked really hard.  Carter was enthralled for most of it, too!  He danced on my lap, and at one point when a teacher was on the stage with a big drum, he started drumming on my legs with his hands!  Perhaps a future musician?

Friday was nearly a "cold day" at school because the wind chill was so cold.  Craig had to head out to Buffalo that night for the Knighthawks game the next day.  I kept myself occupied that day with baking cupcakes for Carter's birthday and getting the batter ready to do Valentine's Day morning cinnamon rolls.  I packed for our weekend trip to my parents' house, too, and in the evening we crammed in two errands--one to get Jacob's hair cut (see pictures above for the urgency), and to BJ's to buy a new toaster over (the toasting function of our old one stopped working and after much shopping I decided on a new one.  My BJ's membership was through work and expires at the end of the month).  I also needed gas and got a discount with my $50 purchase, so I wanted to get everything done and out of the way before the next round of snow.

Saturday morning we woke up to another few inches of snow and I was wondering how wise it was to head down the Thruway to Buffalo.  I really wanted to go and after double checking traffic cameras and the radar I decided it was doable.  First, though, we had to eat our cinnamon buns (Jacob hugged me when I told him what we were having for breakfast!) and open some presents!

Jacob got some Skittles, a giant Reeese's peanut butter heart, a bag of chocolate coins, and a little baggie of Legos.  Of course, he was not excited with the Legos because they were "girl" Legos.  I know, I know...but what I got him was a little vendor cart that sells fruit smoothies.  Why, you ask?  Well, he and Craig are constantly trying to build up a Lego stadium, and I figured it would be a fun addition to the stadium.  He wasn't convinced, but it was worth a shot.  I think he'll appreciate it later. 

Carter got Skittles and a pack of Fisher-Price Little Wheelies (basically Little People permanently embedded in little cars).  They were cool because they can hook together like a train or be used separately.

Once we did presents and I did my last weather checks, we packed up and headed out.  I think in the end it took us two hours to get there instead of a little less than an hour and a half, but it really wasn't bad.  It was a little iffy in town as we headed out, but the highway had good tracks to follow and the wind wasn't bad.  The Thruway was actually fine most of the way there (we traveled slower but it wasn't slippery), and then what's usually the last 20 minutes of the drive took a bit longer because there was more snow on the road.  Parts of the end got a little dicey, but my anti-lock brakes only had to kick in once so it couldn't have been that bad. 

Once we got there and the kids were able to eat some lunch and settle in, we ran out to the giant snow piles in the yard.  My dad (yes, the guy who had major heart surgery a few months ago!) was eager to get the kids out in the snow, which is in epically high piles around Western New York.  Seriously, the flower bed in my front yard is completely undetectable, the piles at the end of the driveway are as tall as me, and the park bench in our backyard is merely an unidentifiable lump.  My parents' house had the same sort of craziness going on.  You can see in this pile just how high the piles are next to their front walkway atop foot-high bushes.  My mom is 5'4" and those piles are at least to her chest.  Here she's helping Jacob up to the top. 

Carter wasn't as much of a fan of the snow as he had been at home.  Not sure if the piles are just too big, or if what we were doing was making him fearful of something, but he was not happy.

It took a lot trial and error in frigid weather, but finally we got this to work:

That noise you hear is Carter wailing because he was upset.  I think he was afraid Jacob might get swallowed up by the snow.  He was not very happy when I took a couple turns on the hill, either!

Sunday was Carter's birthday!  We had church first thing in the morning and the boys were a bit of a challenge, but we got through.  The high temperature for the day hovered around zero, so it wasn't exactly an outside kind of day.  Once we were home, we got Craig on Facetime.  He was in Connecticut for that night's Knighthawks game.  We let Carter open a few of his presents while Craig watched.
He got a small Duplo set with a dump truck!

He also got a couple books, including this one where the wheels on each vehicle get progressively smaller on each page. 

Loving his Duplos!
After an afternoon nap, we had some dinner and finished it off with "Happy Birthday" and cupcakes!

Craig got back to Buffalo (where Saturday's game was) early Monday, and he came to my parents' house at 6am.  The temperature was about -10 when we woke up for the day.  My mom and I headed out to a newly opened gym owned by a good friend of mine.  We dated back when I was in college but remained good friends afterward.  My mom got to know him better in recent years because he managed the gym she belongs to.  Things didn't work out there so he went for his dream and has now opened his own gym.  I'm super proud of him, though I worry because he's now got a wife, a daughter, and a son on the way, so it's definitely put a lot on the line.  But the place is beautiful and I wish him nothing but the best.  He worked us out good, and we headed back to make sure the kids hadn't driven my dad nuts.

After lunch, some playtime, and me checking some photo albums of myself when I was the kids' ages, we headed back home.  After dinner we did another round of  "Happy Birthday", this time with Craig around.

Then it was time for a couple more presents...

First Carter got an alphabet puzzle...
Full disclosure: I actually got this for Jacob when he was three, but I honestly never wanted to deal with 30 pieces all over the floor, and then I figured he might not like it, and then I just sort of forgot about it.  I'm not sure Carter is ready for it, but no time like the present, right?
His big present was additional track for the Duplo train he got at Christmas.  It got a little old with just a circle of track, so I figured more track would make it more fun.  We got to make a nice big track with switches and everything, and I hope he'll enjoy that for years to come.

So...the birthday festivities are done until Sunday when we have Carter's family party.  I have a lot of stuff to do this week--clean the house, figure out the menu, finalize my plan with the cake--and I need to time it out as well as I can, particularly considering Jacob is home this week on break.  Carter is still at daycare today and Thursday.  Tonight we're going back to Buffalo for Craig's mom's annual fundraiser (Mardi Gras!) that we almost never get to go to because it's a late night for all of us.  Should be fun (and tasty)!  Beyond that, I'm simply looking forward to Carter's party to give our little guy the celebration he deserves! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Just had to do an updated version of our monthly shots from his first year!

Dear Carter,

I can't believe you're already two!  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was very pregnant and very uncomfortable.  I could hardly do anything without thinking you were going to arrive any minute, but ultimately a fairly routine day at work turned into something crazy.  And as hard as bringing you into the world was (no offense, I swear it was worth it), going into labor was a welcome turn of events.  I was so ready, and apparently so were you! 

You've been the most amazing addition to our family and I feel so lucky every day that I get to be your mom.  Your "terrible twos" tantrums have already begun, but fortunately for you, I'm pretty experienced with that stuff these days so I'm probably far better suited to deal with them (and keep a healthy perspective) than I was with your brother!  But in between tantrums you are such a sweet boy.  You outgrew cuddling once it was no longer accompanied by a feeding, but you are the best hugger!  You've always projected such a joy, even from the time you were a tiny baby.  Your smile was contagious, and you still bring such happiness to everyone.  You smile at people wherever we go (though now you get a little shy when they smile back) and people are always saying how cute you are.  Don't let it go to your head, but they're right!  You are impossibly adorable.

In the past year you finally grew a nice head of hair, and it has only made you more adorable.  Your chubby cheeks are still hanging in there, thank goodness!  You also learned to walk and now choose to run as much as possible.  One of your favorite phrases, in fact, is "I run!"  You are talking up a storm these days. repeating as many words as possible and now using phrases.  It couldn't have come at a better time, since we're home together three days a week now (plus weekends, of course) and it's nice to have a little buddy that I can actually talk to!  You're a great shopping partner most of the time, so I don't hesitate to take you to Wegmans with me.  You're also still a very good napper so Mommy can keep her sanity pretty easily. 

I still marvel at how different you are from your brother.  You like sports, but you really love anything that has wheels.  Trucks, cars, buses, trains...they are your favorite.  You love pushing stuff around the house, including the lawnmower I made for you out of Tinkertoys since the bubble mower isn't too useful with three feet of snow on the ground!  You definitely find more dangerous trouble than your brother.  While he mostly whacked furniture with hockey or lacrosse sticks, you're more inclined to dig in cabinets and climb anything you can.   We call you "Hurricane Carter" because of how the living room looks after you've been playing.  Fortunately you love Duplos so we've had fun lately building with those.  But it's not uncommon for every bin to have been emptied and half the other toys pulled off the shelves by the end of a play session.

Your brother still doesn't like you all that much (sorry), but we're working on it.  Keep being your charming self and eventually he'll realize you're at least a good source of comedy.  You farted in your sleep last night when we were all in the same room and he thought that was pretty funny.  It would probably help if you stopped tackling him and invading his room, but I know you just do it because you think he's the coolest kid in the world.  I'm not sure why, since he barely gives you the time of day and doesn't treat you particularly well, but you love him so much.  You get nervous when he's not around and worry when you think something is hurting him.  You've called him "Brother" for months, but you're finally getting "Jacob" down pat.  It's sweet.  I hope someday you're best friends, but for now don't take him personally.

I have been lucky enough this past month to spend a lot of extra time with you, and it makes me so happy to have been able to do it now, when you're learning so much and haven't really learned how to complain.  Like I said, we do have some epic tantrums, but most of the time you're just happy to hang out and be included, so it's a pleasure to have you around.  There is never a dull moment with you.  Lately you constantly point to and name body parts (mine and yours), you're great with your colors, you love animals and their sounds, and watching you zoom cars and trucks around the house makes me smile.  Your bright eyes and big smile make every day better.  So many people love you and I feel so grateful to be at the top of that list.

Two years ago you were born as this tiny, hairy, skinny baby with a crooked little nose and coloring so much darker than I expected.  I fell in love with you instantly.  No matter how disappointed I was when I found out I wasn't going to get the daughter I so desperately wanted, I knew that the moment I saw you, none of that would matter.  Over these past two years, you've not only proven that theory correct, but you've made it clear to me that God knew exactly what he was doing when he made you my second child.  I couldn't have asked for a better kid to fill that role.  You are exactly what we needed in our lives.  Thank you for being such a cool kid.

We love you and look forward to many more years of fun with you.  Happy Birthday, baby boy!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Out of My Comfort Zone

I've decided that what bugs me most about this whole unemployment experience is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone and is forcing me to have to make decisions, which is one of my all-time least favorite things to do.  A month ago I was just working away, minding my own business, churning out a ton of work, and now I sit here a month into my forced "vacation" trying to figure out what my future holds.  I still find it ironic that when the new year started I noticed the distinct lack of "things on the horizon".  Many people state that this will be "their year", or are excited that something big is going to happen or a major change is going to be made.  I just didn't feel any of that.  We were fine in our jobs and the kids are moving along.  Now that they've both been born and learned to crawl and walk, most of the milestones in our future seem much more gradual.  For example, Jacob is constantly improving his reading and Carter is constantly learning to talk more.  Potty training might be the next big one, and even that one is a little gradual!  But anyway, it just seemed like this year didn't have any clearly positive changes ahead.  Little did I know that a couple weeks later, everything would change.

Now that it has, I hate that I'm having to tackle all of this "uncomfortable" stuff.  That may be what makes me most bitter at this point.  I hate having to sell myself, I hate having to do interviews and make first impressions, I hate having to start from zero and learn a whole new job.  I have no choice at this point but to do all of it to get back to where I was.  Of course, it's probably important that I do all of this stuff again.  It's been nine years and the farther you get out of the game, the harder it is to get back in.  So I know that in the long run, this is a growth experience.  Even when I changed jobs the last time, I was shocked at how amazing it was to learn new things and get a fresh start.  I truly hope that same feeling is in my future, so in the long run I probably will be thanking my old job for letting me go.  But in the meantime it's hard. 

One of the things I'm finding hardest about the job hunt itself is that I'm not sure where I truly belong.  My previous job title was a marketing analyst, but the two jobs that I've applied to with similar titles involve some skills that I don't have.  The other jobs that I've applied to utilize some skills from both of my old jobs.  When I bring up job sites, I don't really know what to search for.  The analyst jobs are a little different than what I was doing before, and I'm actually open to other things, but my other skills don't lend themselves to clear search keywords.  I wouldn't even have known to search for the other jobs if an old friend of mine didn't handpick them for me.   

There are moments when I wonder if I should be using this as the opportunity for a total switch.  Maybe it's time to do something totally different.  Of course, I don't really have the luxury to go back to school or learn a special skill.  I can't just pick up an entry level, run-of-the-mill job at this point if I expect to get back to what I was making before.  I need to build on the experience that I already have if I want to maintain our normal standard of living.  And, of course, as I've been home with Carter I have many moments where I've confirmed how much I would love to be home part time.  I love the extra time with him, I love having flexibility and time for both kids' schedules, I love being able to be a more available backup for Craig.  I really appreciate having more time to think and plan so I'm not so scatterbrained and last-minute.  Having the time at home has been a weight off my shoulders.  Again, I know that's not an option long-term.  As excited as I am to get a job, I will be sad to see my time end, if only because those little luxuries have been such a joy.

But even the mere fact that my mind even has a chance to wander to these impossible places is part of the frustration I've felt in the past month.  I was fine in my prior existence.  I never asked for any of this personal growth.  I don't want this opportunity to allow me to feel like I'm missing out or to make me feel like I need to make any difficult decisions that could impact my family.  I was fine in my old life and resent that this change makes me have to re-examine everything.  Could it make things better?  Maybe.  But none of the good stuff ever comes without discomfort, and that's what I hate.  Whether it's discomfort for me or the ones I love, none of it feels good...even though in the long run it could be so much better.

Part of me wishes I could go back in time and find a way to avoid this fate.  At the same time, another part of me knows that everything happens for a reason.  I wouldn't want to give back the time I've had this past month either, and I know this is a huge opportunity to better us overall.  I just hate the in-between.  I need to get brave...fast!