Sunday, September 15, 2019

(Exhausting) Week in Review

I was looking forward to this weekend far more than usual, particularly considering we didn't have any good plans.  Apparently the early wake-ups have taken more of a toll than I thought, because it felt like forever since I could sleep in--so much more than a usual week!  We just had a really busy week!

Last weekend we just stayed close to home.  We did head out shopping for a few things, and we got Icees at Target as a reward for keeping our sanity!

Monday night was a big deal--it was the season kick-off for Craig at work.  We had to drive to Buffalo for it (and rush around to leave soon enough), but it was worth it.  There were games, rides, and food, along with some friend and celebrity sightings!  It was all free, and it was really cool.  Employees from the entire organization were invited with their families, so there were lots of kid-friendly things.  We ran into Craig's boss and his family pretty quickly, and then spotted one current, rather famous Buffalo Sabre, as well as a retired one (who Craig actually knows from way back).  We saw the guy who was the Amerks' equipment manager when I worked there, as well as a former salesman, both of whom work for the organization in Buffalo now.  I ran into a high school friend (one of the ones I saw at the Mixtape concert in June), and there were a couple more people we saw across the way but never got to talk to.   

The food was pretty neat, in all sorts of different stations.  There were burgers and hot dogs, BBQ chicken, carved turkey and brisket, salad, a bunch of different types of potato foods, pastas, mac & cheese, beans, and so much more.  While I was grabbing my food, I momentarily made eye contact with the wife half of the couple that owns the organization.  She looks so much like Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper, and has that same impressive, elegant air about her.  Anyway...for dessert there was an ice cream truck, kettle corn, cotton candy, and fried dough.  Again, all free!  The kids were in heaven!

We checked out some of the games--there were a few amusement park style games (the one where you roll the golf ball into holes to race, the one where you squirt the water gun to pop the balloon, and a whack-a-mole), as well as some inflatables--including a basketball one that Jacob got pretty excited about (and I was pretty good at, actually!).  We did some races on one of those giant carnival slides, and played a few games.  The boys enjoyed their snacks, and I got some ice cream.  While we were waiting and eating, we happened upon two Buffalo Bills.  Craig had to look at his phone to figure out who they were, but it was pretty cool.  My 16-year-old self would have been in awe, but 41-year-old me who barely knows who any of the players are (and could be their mom anyway) was just sort of happy to be there--and maybe a bit in awe of being near such talented millionaires in the same free ice cream line--hahaha!

I didn't take a lot of pictures because I didn't want to look weird, but it was a lovely night and I wanted to remember it a bit!

Ice cream truck to the right, game straight ahead

Food stations in the tents

More rides

Playing the squirt gun game--no wins, though!

On our way out, the sunset was pretty.

One last look as we left!
Oh, and there was a photo booth.  Most of our pictures were ridiculous, but we did get a great family picture out of the deal!

On our way out was also a table full of candy--Twizzlers, Laffy Taffy, Pixie Sticks, suckers, Bottle Caps, Sweet Tarts, candy necklaces, and more.  Most of us took a handful, and Carter filled up a little paper bag!  It was such a fun night, though the later arrival home definitely made Tuesday a bit harder!

Tuesday and Thursday nights we had basketball.  Same facility as last month, but a new team!

Yellow team!

His team didn't seem to gel as quickly as his last one, but he's playing with some kids who will be on his travel team in the spring.  It was weird cheering against some of his old teammates (one of whom is now a school friend, too).  They lost, but he scored a three-pointer in the first game.  At least they didn't lose by about 60 points like in the game prior to theirs, but they had to play that big winner on Thursday.  They only ended up losing by around 30, but at least Jacob got another three!  On Friday Craig went to a parents meeting for his new travel basketball team, so we got a slightly better idea of what that will look like.  But for now, Jacob's very happy to be playing again, even if his team is struggling a bit!

Speaking of basketball, most of our afternoon on Saturday was spent fixing Jacob's hoop.  After it blew over in the spring due to a freak gust of wind (had to be 50+ mph despite the breeze being barely 20 mph), it had a dented pole and bent bolt that made it hard to adjust the height.  It took me forever to get around to ordering the parts we needed, and then once they arrived, I was dreading trying to fix it because I knew it would be nearly as hard as putting it together in the first place.  Jacob was complaining about it again yesterday morning, and I took stock of a few things: we had nothing planned, Craig was in town, the weather was sunny and warm but not too warm, but it was also too windy for Jacob to want to be playing on it all day.  In the end it became clear that we had to get it done before the weather got cold or any other excuses came up.  So after lunch and a stop at the library, we started.  It took about four hours, all of it pretty miserable.  The top pole had to be replaced, and in order to work on that we had to disconnect the rim from the backboard, remove the backboard, and eventually remove the entire pole from the base because the only way to separate the pole sections involved slamming them on the grass (as recommended by the company and the internet, for good reason--it worked quickly after nothing else did).  From there we had to basically do a complete reassembly aside from some of the backboard supports.  It was difficult in spots to get the right angle, and Craig basically had to sacrifice his body to hold it up for lengthy periods of time while things were disassembled and reassembled.  Once it was almost together, I went to reattach the rim, and I realized that two of the bolts had damaged threads, so they could not screw tightly.  I think that when we originally attached the rim, the alignment wasn't quite right, so we left them as tight as they would go.  But over time, the constant wiggling on that part of the rim caused friction that wore the threads away or distorted them.  So, when we went out for a frozen yogurt dinner (you do what you have to do sometimes), we stopped at Lowe's and luckily found perfect replacements.  Oddly, when I started to tighten them, the alignment still wasn't right, but as I finished one, something adjusted and suddenly I could tighten everything completely.  Jacob noticed the difference right away this morning and was thrilled!  Thank goodness that is done.  It better not blow over again.  Two afternoons lost to that hoop is two too many!

Wednesday night I went to the parent meeting for Jacob's confirmation and other youth activities at church.  He is very grumpy about confirmation, which I realize is not ideal.  But if he doesn't do it now, he'll be out of sync with other kids his age and as a result might never do it.  He insists he has no friends at church, which I'm convinced is just him not trying.  Maybe they're not his type of people, but they at least have church and age in common, so it's not a stretch.  Interestingly, he's now getting religious instruction at school, so this may seem like overload to him.  But it's important, and as his parents I think we need to encourage this.  I hope the concept will grow on him as we go, especially if being there on the same night as youth open gym activities is a draw!  If he's not feeling it after the second year, I guess we'll have to think long and hard about whether he should actually make his confirmation, but I'm hoping by then he'll understand why it's important and will have embraced a stronger faith after all of this instruction from two different sources.  We may have to work around sports schedules a bit since we don't know what his basketball schedule will look like for a team he hasn't even tried out for yet, but there are two nights every week and if he misses one he should be able to make the other.  It will be a challenge, but it's one we have to push.  That starts this week already!

So, anyway, it was a busy week.  After the hoop debacle yesterday and with rain in the forecast today, we just went to see a movie this afternoon (Toy Story 4 - and now I'm bitter about the ending).  Tomorrow Craig is off to Philadelphia for a couple days for work.  That may involve a 6:30 bus run for a day or two, but we'll see how it goes.  It'll be another busy week--and pretty much all of them will be for at least a month until basketball wraps up again.  At this rate, Christmas will be here before we know it!  Yikes.  One day at a usual.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Progress Report

A week in and we're hanging in there.  By a thread, maybe, but hanging nonetheless.

As a whole, I think things have honestly gone better than I expected.  Of course, homework hasn't really kicked in yet, and we're just settling into the new commute situation, so I guess that's not saying much.  But if I'm not fielding complaints left and right and I'm not falling asleep at my desk, I'm going to count that as a win.

Carter is pretty much a non-event right now, all things considered.  Craig mostly handles him in the morning since he's not getting up until right before Jacob and I walk out the door.  I pack his lunch and lay out his clothes, and other than that, it's Craig's job to get him to the bus stop by 8:09am.  Craig has done well getting up on time, which may be partly because I've already had the lights on for an hour at that point, but so far so good.  Carter has a happy crew of kids to meet down at the bus stop, and his first order of business when he gets home most days is to run across the street to play with two of them.  He's been spending a lot of time there lately, playing with Nerf guns 😬 and Power Wheels, to the point that sometimes we'll stop for a second and be like, "Where's Carter?", before remembering where he went.  Neighborhood friends are a new thing for us, so we're still adjusting a bit.  Today I got some positive teacher feedback through the app, but he doesn't really seem to have opinions either way on school so far, which is honestly fine because normally he's got a bunch of negative ones!  Having only a handful of kids he knows doesn't seem to be an issue, either.  I know nightly reading will be coming soon, which might be challenging, but he's already writing his name better on his papers, so again, I'll count it as a win.

As for Jacob, things are going fine.  He's not a fan of the school's locker rooms or the logistics of changing for gym class, but other than that, so far he seems happy.  The uniform situation has been smoother than expected, for the most part.  We're in the process of getting more ties, and we took it down to the wire buying the jeans and a shirt he was insisting he needed for his first dress-down day tomorrow.  He hasn't worn jeans since he was six, so this is a big deal!  What he'll do to dress down, I guess!  He seems to like his house and hasn't complained about a lack of friends, so that's good.  Our biggest challenge has probably been getting to school on time.  It worked fine for a couple days, and then traffic became more of an issue.  Then he had a morning where he forgot to pack his gym stuff and couldn't find his house key.  So, both of our alarms got set a few minutes earlier today to give us those much needed emergency minutes back.  We ended up more than 10 minutes early.  Now if we can keep that up, we should be fine.  And if not, I guess we'll readjust again.  I will say that it's impressive to me that we're out of the house a full hour earlier and it doesn't really feel like it.  I need to be vigilant about bedtimes for all of us for that to continue, though.  I'm just hoping that the slight lag I feel now will eventually go away as my body adjusts to being active earlier, since I'm not getting any less sleep (and might even be getting more some nights).  The one thing I'm not sure of is if the slightly shorter evening time (post-kid-bedtime and prior to mine) will become an issue.  At the holidays, it definitely will, but we haven't done it long enough yet to see if too many regular things start backing up (beyond our DVR, anyway), or if I was just wasting time then anyway.

As for the commute, I suppose in some ways it's been better than expected.  The leg from home to school has been a non-event, which surprised me, since it used to seem so far.  But traffic has been manageable and I suppose it's good to have that time with Jacob.  As he gets older, that may become sacred conversation time to keep the dialog open with him.  But for now, it's sort of like a continuation of our summer commutes--although I do appreciate that I have a leg to myself, as I missed rocking out to my music solo!  That solo second half has been challenging since it's a traffic jam for the first part.  I apparently got lucky my first couple times, because it's been pretty awful all week.  Usually it's just volume, but accidents seem frequent and they definitely make it worse.  I'm still getting to work between 8:20-8:45 depending on the rest of our timing, and the earlier I get there, the earlier I can leave to get home to Jacob at the end of the day.  He's still nervous about being home alone, and I have the phone calls and text messages to prove it! 

I will say that getting out earlier has been nice.  I can get started on dinner sooner and we're not rushing as much on nights with activities, which has been every night this week.  It's a relief to finish dinner clean-up and have it only be 7pm, give or take 15 minutes.  Most recently it was pushing 8pm, and I know I'd never get to bed by 10:30-11 if that was the case.  I'm not sure what happens on days when I need to grocery shop or run errands.  I guess Jacob will just have to wait.  Craig also needs to get to the gym sometimes, so I'll be on Carter pick-up duty and that will set me back a bit.  But I'll take whatever head start I can get!

It's actually been sort of nice to get out of our old routine and get into a new one.  Just trying to manage schedules and time things out has been entertaining and distracting enough that it hasn't bothered me yet.  I'm sure that will change, but I'm pleasantly happy with how we've managed so far.  Of course, next week brings some new challenges.  Craig is out of town for a couple days, and Jacob is currently insisting he'll get the bus--probably only because it ensures I can still leave work a bit early.  He'll need to be up at 5:30, and I'll probably be up by 6am to pack his lunch and ensure I can drive him to the stop at 6:30.  Then I'll go back home and start my morning routine with Carter.  Yikes.  We'll try one morning, and if we survive we'll try again the next day.  Early bedtimes for all, I guess.

Ultimately, we're just taking it one day at a time.  But ::knock on wood:: no disaster days yet...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Looking Back...Again

Today is September 11th.  I've talked about this day a few times here previously, though not for a while other than briefly mentioning it last year because I was physically on a plane on September 11th at the same time of day as the everything happened that day.  Previously I had documented my experience of the original day here, and two years after that post I discussed our early attempts of telling Jacob a little bit about it.  Today marks 18 years since that fateful day, and for some reason it's really bothering me today.  It does every year, I guess, but it's really been on my mind a lot for some reason, to the point of significantly distracting me at work this morning.  I'm not sure why today, of all years, but I have a few theories:

  1. We've had so many years to reflect on it, and it's becoming ever-clearer how pivotal that day was, in so many ways.  From our national sense of security, to patriotism, to racism against Muslims, to the hoops we jump through in the airport security line, it changed America as a whole.  And in many ways, I feel like it planted a lot of seeds for the divisions that separate us now, including the extreme division among political parties that seemed to escalate first when Democrats began to turn on George Bush after we went back into the Middle East, and then later when Republicans were angered over Barack Obama seemingly defending Muslims.  I wondered the other day how our world might be different had Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden never been eliminated.  Would we have ended up in this exact same place, or would we have yet another tragedy like this one to mourn?  Sadly, for all of those who lost their lives or loved ones in the process of eliminating those threats, the price seems high.  But maybe that changed history yet again and saved other lives.  Either way, all these years later, it feels like we should have some perspective on whether the road we took was the right one, but it's all so convoluted now that it's hard to tell.
  2. We're now getting so far out from when it happened that there are 18 years' worth of kids who were not alive for it.  Colleges and universities are fully stocked with young adults who have no memory of the day, so perhaps it's starting to feel like it's our job to educate them and make sure the world never forgets.  I'm sure it's the same feeling our grandparents had about wanting us to understand Pearl Harbor.  But let's face it--it's one thing to have an educated understanding of what happened, and another to have lived it and know precisely how everything changed in that moment.  We were talking about it with Jacob the other day, trying to explain how helpless and chaotic everything felt.  It's not something he'll ever truly understand, but we'll sure try to help both kids grasp how the world changed, in an age-appropriate manner as they're old enough to hear about all that happened that day.  So, as I see so many people sharing images, articles, and memories today, I can't help but wonder if it's with a bit of desperation to make sure history documents how unfathomable that day actually was, before we all die off or lose sight of its importance.
  3. In the last couple years there have been a lot of stories about all of the sicknesses that have continued to plague those who helped at Ground Zero in the days after the attacks.  It's been news for a while, but the stories continue to pop up, and with every passing year, the death toll climbs.  I've been seeing all the "established" death counts today--from the planes, the buildings, on the ground--but those seem hollow now that we know how many more people have died from related illnesses like lung diseases and cancer.  There are certainly countless more that have lost their lives, their sanity, or their loved ones, directly and indirectly, because of what happened.  I'm sure there are many suicides, drug addictions, or other things that can be directly traced back to that time.  Or what about the people who had to move or change jobs to escape their emotional trauma brought on by that physical place, or because their office building literally no longer existed?  Or the kids who were short a parent growing up?  All of it impacts every moment of their lives moving forward, so there's almost no escape.  In short, the ripple effect is still so clear so many years later, and if it's depressing to me, I can't even imagine the pain for the people who were directly impacted.
  4. The night of September 11th, Craig and I--newly dating at the time--were so exhausted by the events of the day that all we could muster was dinner out.  We went to a nearby Ruby Tuesday, which had just opened up the day before.  We spent our meal watching the news coverage on TV, so I'm almost not sure how we even ate.  Well, fast forward 17 years and about 50 weeks later, and that Ruby Tuesday closed for business.  Not surprising, I guess, given that it was the last one in this market.  We haven't even been there in years--maybe only once or twice since Jacob went gluten-free, as there weren't a lot of options for him there.  I will always remember the salad bar, as well as the blizzardy night we went there because it was the closest restaurant to where we lived, and my commute probably exhausted me too much to cook.  I had the most fattening meal ever, but boy, was it ever good.  But my clearest memory from that restaurant will always be my first one, eating there on that horrible day.  And for some reason knowing that restaurant is now closed adds a weird sting to today.  In a similar vein, I happened to see a photo today of the outside of the Brooks Brothers store near Ground Zero that was famously damaged that day.  It's closed, too, and that felt a little sad.  Maybe both closings just serve as reminders that life keeps moving on, even though a part of us will always be frozen in time on that day.
  5. Maybe I'm just tired.  It's been three days of getting up extra early to get Jacob to school, and the last two nights' bedtimes haven't been as early as I'd have liked.  I'm managing (blog post to come) but perhaps that extra layer of sleep deprivation is just making everything more emotional.  I learned once I had kids how deeply sleep deprivation impacted everything--my mood, my patience, my appetite--and how the littlest thing became a big thing when I was tired.  And maybe that's part of my struggle today.
No one who was alive that day will ever forget.  Each anniversary brings with it different emotions as life changes around us and we gain new perspectives.  My perspective as a parent is different than it was when it happened, no doubt.  As my anxiety has gotten worse over the past few years, my ability to watch footage has decreased.  The world is scary enough without reliving that day, honestly.  And while we can't change what happened and should never shut it out to the point that we lose sight of its significance, knowing your limits is important, too.  This year I can't really take in too much, but maybe another year I will.  It still makes me desperately sad, though, and this year was an especially tough one.  Eighteen years...and it still doesn't seem possible.  I just pray my kids never have anything like that in their lifetime.  Once in ours was enough.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Little Things

Sometimes when you're having a crazy week, you need a few of those little moments that keep you smiling.  Here were mine this week...

On Thursday, I finally got to celebrate my birthday at work.  With so many people on vacation and an unclear schedule this week on my part, the co-worker responsible for my celebration (the last one to have a birthday) and I decided that it would be safe to do it on Thursday once the kids were back in school.  Normally work birthday celebrations involve a box of bagels or donuts, or store-bought cupcakes or cookies.  Once in a while it's something from a nice bakery, or we even had ice cream pops once this summer.  The birthday person gets a card signed by everyone, and we stand around and chat for 20 minutes.  My birthday planner was the department admin, and she's a fun cougar-ish type woman infamous for not liking hugs.  She's great, but just sort of matter-of-fact-ish, which we all love about her.  So imagine my surprise when she baked actual homemade cupcakes for me, complete with homemade buttercream frosting!

They were so good!  In fact, I had two!

On Friday morning, Carter and I went out to walk to the bus stop, and I notice that my coneflowers were now full of goldfinches.  They must like the flowers now that they've gone to seed.  Well, they all flew away as Carter and I walked down the driveway--all except this guy.

I didn't bring my phone with me so I couldn't take a picture as we walked.  But guess who was still sitting in the same spot when we came back?  I double checked to make sure it was still alive, because I'm not sure I've ever seen a bird sit somewhere that long.  I could see it moving, so it was fine, although I'm convinced something is wrong with it.  Maybe fat finch disease, but hopefully not.  I even got about six feet away to take this picture, and it still didn't move, which is a possible symptom.  Anyway, I pulled out of the driveway with it still sitting there.  Funny little bird.  Goldfinches always make me think of my grandma, because she loved birds and goldfinches were one of the first I could identify at her birdfeeders because of their color.  They might also have been one of her favorites, if I recall correctly.

That night, I got stuck in traffic for extra long, which completely threw off my dinner plans.  We ended up going out to Chick-fil-A, and despite some on-and-off drizzle, went downtown to High Falls.  There was a ROC the Falls Summer Sendoff with food trucks and music overlooking the falls, followed by fireworks.  Since we hadn't seen fireworks on the 4th of July or at any baseball games this summer, I thought it might be fun.  Free parking and a nice walk across the Pont de Rennes Bridge sounded easy enough to me.  Jacob, however, was not thrilled.  In fact, he spent the entire time, literally every 30 seconds for the entire hour or so that we were there, either asking when we could leave or complaining that we were still there.  It was SO obnoxious.  I know he was annoyed because it was day one of his new NBA 2K20 game on Xbox, and after a long week he probably just wanted to sit there all night and play.  And apparently he still doesn't like fireworks, though he's been seemingly fine with them for years, so who knows if that was legit or not.  But he was super annoying the entire time we were there.  Tween snark at its worst.  Regardless, we wandered around.  The falls looked pretty with their city backdrop and the cloudy night.  I played around with my phone camera and real camera settings a bit, and with the lights on the falls and the change in angles as we walked, they constantly looked different.

Carter wanted ice cream and Craig found a food truck selling Nutty Buddies, which Carter ended up loving.  We checked out the store at the Genesee Brewery and looked at some of the historical exhibits they had throughout.

As we were finishing up in the store, we heard the first couple booms.  Once again I played with settings, and this was on my fireworks setting (which actually didn't work with the falls).  But I liked how it captured the trail of the firework shooting up...

It certainly wasn't the best fireworks show ever, and nothing will ever beat when they used to project a laser show on the gorge walls here on weekends, but it was cool anyway.

Jacob was still annoyed and was practically dragging us out of there, as it was dripping rain again and he was insisting the fireworks were too loud and, yes, too bright.  O-Kay.  So we watched the last bit walking back across the bridge, barely able to keep up with him.  Ugh.  But at least I got some pretty pictures.  Again, it's the little things!  I may have been defeated on this round of forced family fun, but hey, at least we tried.

It's a cool, cloudy, not particularly exciting weekend, but hopefully we can make the best of it.  Better than last night, anyway!

Friday, September 6, 2019

First Day, Day by Day

The start of school was a four-day process for us.  Rather than blog about each separately, I figured I'd just do a day-by-day diary of the highlights...

Day 1, Tuesday: 

Jacob had his first official half day of school.  It was an orientation day for new students to school, of all grades.  Due to our work schedules, we decided to split Jacob's two half days, since Carter was off for those same two days before the start of school in our district on Thursday.  I was going to drop Jacob off on my way to work on Tuesday and Craig would pick him up at 11am before heading into work, where I would then pick up both kids and head home for the afternoon.

I was very nervous about getting us up and out on time.  I was worried that Jacob would have his version of an anxiety attack--where he basically shuts down and stonewalls about something random.  I do the same thing (hence my funk on Friday), and I was fully expecting something that morning, be it with getting out of bed, his uniform, or something else.  I surprised myself by getting up immediately with my alarm, which I almost never do.  But with having to get out the door by 7:30, I didn't have the luxury of snoozing unless I wanted to set my alarm for 5:30, which would be crazy.  I'm hoping it wasn't just adrenaline, because I need to keep that up.  Maybe if I can do it for a month it will become a habit?  I was nearly dressed and made up by the time Jacob's alarm went off.  He slept through the first few minutes but woke up pretty quickly to shower once I went into his room.  He ate breakfast and got dressed without incident (yay for a polo shirt and pants he likes), although I could have done without the random mindless dawdling (like staring at his toothpaste or aimlessly looking in the mirror) that had the potential to make us late.  

Moments before we walked out the door, Carter was having some sort of difficulty in the bathroom, and when I walked in, I was speechless.  Carter had somehow managed to get poop all over the bathroom.  He was having some soft BMs, and apparently had a gas bubble while standing up trying to wipe, and the result was spots of poop sprayed all over the place.  Then I think he stepped in some, and basically it was all over the rugs, and almost everything else in some manner.  I had to wake up Craig and leave him to clean up the mess without me.  There was no choice.  I took Jacob's picture quickly (although the white board on the reverse of the chalkboard we always use didn't work too well):

We jumped in the car about seven minutes later than I wanted to, but only two minutes later than we needed to.  We made very good time and we walked in the front door shortly before 8am.  

We met some faculty, checked in, and sat in the auditorium.  Some parents were there, but I was noticing most were not, so when they had the kids move down in the seats, I took my chance to go.  Jacob seemed fine with it, so I figured I'd give him some independence on this big first day.  I wandered down to the parent room, which was basically a donut bribe to find out about the parent group.  I met a couple very nice parents and chatted about the commute from Greece.  Then the VP of Advancement, who is recognizable as she's a former news anchor in town, came in.  We talked to her for a while, and then I happened to mention that I work in advancement as well, and that set off a fun little conversation.  She said we should have coffee so she can pick my brain.  I did leave her my card, so we'll see if that happens.  But it was nice to get on someone's radar there, anyway!  I walked out of the building feeling a little guilty about leaving Jacob there alone, but I knew he'd be fine.  

My commute into work was actually much easier than expected, and between catching up with my boss on the loss of her sister's companion and trying to catch up on my work, the morning went quickly.  Before I knew it Craig called me to say he was on his way to get Jacob.  There was a little chaos with pickup, but by all accounts, Jacob's day was fine.  He didn't seem to love it, but he didn't say he didn't want to go back, so I'll take it.  He was actually more obsessed with everyone else's shoes, because a lot of kids had casual shoes on.  A lot were Sperrys, which are not his style, but he noticed some Vans, too, which he insists he'd wear.  I think most of them were students volunteering, but it's possible some new students had different interpretations of the dress shoe rule.  I told Jacob to give it a couple weeks before we assume something like Vans are okay, because between the volunteers and those who might get notified of dress code non-compliance, I think we need to wait and see.  

The boys and I had a quiet afternoon at home, mostly because I was exhausted (darn it).  But just as we were about to go to a park, Carter decided to act like a crazy person and needed to be disciplined for a while.  By that time Craig was nearly on his way home.  The boys did get some good outside time before dinner, though, so not all was lost.  

All in all, day one was fine.  As good as could be expected, anyway.

Day 2, Wednesday:

It was Craig's turn to take Jacob in and mine to stay home with Carter in the morning.  Jacob took a bit to respond to his alarm again, and once he got up he wanted to take a shower...again.  Previously he'd been showering every other day, but apparently now that school has started he wants it to be daily.  Yay.  He was shockingly okay with wearing an oxford shirt and tie, so that was a pleasant surprise.  We need to get him more ties, which is tough because he's getting taller--almost too tall for his kid ties--but isn't quite tall enough for adult ties.  We'll make the ones he has work until we figure out an ideal length for now.  I read an interesting suggestion online about cutting a few inches out of the middle of an adult tie (so as to not worry about the ends) and sewing it back together in a spot that will be hidden under the collar.  Not sure I'm there, but it's interesting, particularly if I ever get around to going to a tailor for a couple other items.  Anyway, we had joked previously that the short-sleeve oxfords might look a bit like Dwight Schrute from The Office, but Jacob totally made it work.  He looked very handsome.  He ended up a bit more rushed as a result of the tie situation, but they got out the door about the same time we did the previous day. 

In the meantime, I was fully awake from trying to help pack his bag with supplies and gelling his hair, so after a bit of relaxing, I did a half hour on the elliptical.  After adding in some weights and abs, I came upstairs at 9am and had to wake up Carter!  He was up a little late the previous night but not a lot, so it left me a bit concerned we would have a monster on our hands the next day when he had to be up bright and early to catch an 8:09am bus!  Perhaps an earlier bedtime should be in order--which would actually be better so Jacob's earlier bedtime has one less reason to be contested!  He has not been appreciating his 9pm bedtime after stretching it to 10pm all summer.  I've been aiming for 10:30 myself, so the earlier we eat and the earlier the kids are in bed, the more doable that timing is.  Anyway, Carter and I had a lazy morning because I knew our 11am departure would come quickly!  I did get a text from Jacob mid-morning that he had spotted one of his basketball teammates at school, which was a pleasant surprise.  He's a couple years older, but it's nice to know he could have a friend, particularly if they end up assigned to the same "house" group, which he'll find out on Thursday.  He seems most concerned about lunch, as he's nervous most kids will be buying lunch and he's worried that he won't have anyone to sit with.  He'll be eating with his house, as opposed to his class, so I'm sure the unknown has been extra challenging there.

When we picked up Jacob, the first thing he said was, "I love this school!"  I was very happy to hear that, but of course his reason was typical Jacob!  He found out he can wear sneakers on Thursday, apparently because they'll have time in the gym (possibly as part of their house assignments) and dress shoes would ruin the floor.  He's still having issues with other kids wearing casual shoes, but I guess someone did ask about Vans today and a teacher indicated that they're sneakers--essentially insinuating sneakers aren't allowed.  So, I'm sticking by my "give it a couple weeks and we'll talk" statement.  But he seemed in good spirits, and my hunch was that a lot would get settled on Thursday when he gets more significant time with his class and finds out his house.  He seems to be getting to a point where the little details, like what to do with his backpack or where he needs to go first thing, ae bugging him a bit.  He seems to feel like he doesn't have any friends or anyone to ask, but I keep trying to tell him it will take time.  I remember those feelings from when I went to public high school after nine years in a smaller private school--trying to figure out lockers, feeling alone in home room (and every other class), the panic of the lunch room before you find your crew, figuring out how to change classes, etc.  It's a lot.  He'll get there, but it's a process.

Two days in, the transition has been sort of odd for me, too.  I realized on Wednesday how out of the groove I felt.  With Jacob done with camp last week and only a couple days of work, followed by a long weekend and two half days, I've felt totally out of sync.  Work felt a bit discombobulated, grocery shopping/dinner felt foreign, and the thought of packing lunches was overwhelming.  I've been afraid to get too comfortable because we aren't running on all cylinders yet.  Carter hasn't started school yet, there's no homework or paperwork coming home yet, and we won't even settle into our usual routine until next week for various reasons.  We're just feeling things out all around and it remains to be seen if it will all work.

Day 3, Thursday:

Because I'm the pro at the first day of school photos, we decided that Craig would take Jacob again and I would handle Carter, whose bus wasn't until 8:09am.  It's still making me a little crazy that I still have to wait until next week to see what our real morning routine will look like, since I have allergy shots on Friday that will force me into Carter duty again.  So far the earlier bedtimes are going relatively well (complaints and melatonin aside), but I want to be sure that the early wake-ups are sustainable and that the time I've allotted will be enough to pack lunches and ensure everyone is in a good place before Jacob and I need to leave at 7:30.  It's making me a little nuts, but much like Jacob and his settling in process, I just have to be patient.

Even though I didn't have to take Jacob, I got up rather early to ensure everything was covered.  Jacob was excited to wear sneakers, but still needed a recommendation on his outfit to coordinate.  Carter was sound asleep when I went in to lay out his clothes, so that was a bit of a process to get him up and moving.  Then I had to pack three lunches for the first time in months.  The previous night I had to pack up the rest of Jacob's school supplies and print out his summer reading project, but that made adding his lunch bag to his backpack in the morning a bit of a challenge.  Luckily everything else went pretty smoothly, and Craig and Jacob were out the door on time.  Carter and I headed down to the bus stop a few minutes early, after pictures, of course!

Our across the street neighbors, who Carter has been playing with a ton, were both there.  The oldest is going into second grade, and his younger sister is a Kindergartner.  As we waited, the house where the stop is opened up and three more kids came out--a third grade girl, a second grade boy, and a Kindergarten boy.  The two Kindergartners were happy to find out they're in the same class, and the second grader has Jacob's second grade teacher, so I told him she's great!  Oddly, while the second grader was at the stop last year, I don't ever remember seeing the girl, so I'm not sure if she's a friend who happened to be hanging out there, or what.  They took pictures together, but the girl didn't have the same type of biblically-inspired name the boys did, so I'm still not sure what's up there.  But it was fun having a whole crew out there--so much so that the next door neighbor even came out to enjoy it!  The bus ended up being more than 10 minutes late, and it seemed like perhaps we were one of the first stops because it wasn't that full.  We used to be one of the last before it stopped at Jacob's school.  I drove by one of Carter's soccer teammates who lives around the corner, maybe 10-15 minutes after pickup, and he was still waiting.  So who knows what the route is like now?  But there were no tears at our stop, and Carter didn't even look back!

Blue backpack, fancy red shoes!  And yes, it was cool enough for the hoodie!
My "out of sync" feeling continued today, since I was looking forward to taking my regular route to work, but then got rerouted because of crazy traffic.  Nothing can be quite normal this week, apparently!

It was a blissfully ignorant day at work until about mid-afternoon.  I noticed Jacob's school posted pictures of the house ceremony, and when I saw that it looked like each kid sat on a throne on stage and was crowned, I figured Jacob pretty much died from mortification right then and there.  Attention is SO not his thing, unless it's sports.  That made me a bit nervous!  A little after that, I saw Carter's teacher had posted a couple pictures of his class in the app she's using.  He looked happy and like he was fitting in just fine!  Then Jacob texted me asking where his key was.  I answered and asked him about his house assignment, which he answered back positively (more in a second on that).  Around 3:30 I went into a meeting and didn't take my phone.  Around 4pm, my cube neighbor knocked on my boss' door and said that my phone was blowing up so I might want to check it.  Jacob had called me 10 (!) times, left one message, and texted me.  Laughably, he mostly just wanted to tell me a little about his day, although he was also having trouble getting his key into the door lock to get him in the house.  That happens to me, too, though.  He did eventually get in.  Of course, because Craig went to the gym and I got in later taking Carter, I couldn't yet get home early like we're planning for most days--hence his urgency.  However, he had a great day!  He ended up in House O'Dea.  Their color is green, and he was extra excited because both his first friend and his basketball teammate are in that house.  It sounded like they were inclusive at lunch and he even got a little attention from a couple girls in the house!  Haha!  Overall, so far that part of school seems to be going well.

On the academic side, he brought home all of his syllabi for us to review and sign.  That made me a bit nervous because of all of the supplies he needs to remember for each class, and all of the assignments and late policies he'll have to keep track of.  He's not an organized kid, so this will be a challenge.  I assume other 6th graders will have a similar learning curve, but perhaps more motivation to learn and improve.  My inkling with Jacob is that he just can't be bothered because he has too many other things filling his mind.  He'll need to, though.  Just remembering folders/binders by color, pens, pencils, paper, notecards, books, etc., it'll be a lot.  I didn't have to master that until high school when I finally had a locker.  Until then, everything was in my desk and I sat in one room most of the day.  It'll be a lot.  But hey, at least summer reading is done--and believe it or not, apparently a few kids didn't have it to hand in!  Yikes.

As far as Carter, he had a good day, too.  He seemed to have a couple more kids than expected in his class that he knew, and he was very happy to see his best buddy at the afterschool program.  He likes his teacher so far, too.  He's rather stubborn so he doesn't have a lot of positive stuff to say, but hopefully we'll get there.  I think he was mostly just happy to get home and run across the street to play!

Day 4, Friday:

At long last, it was Jacob's first actual day of school.  After a considerably more relaxed atmosphere for the first three days, I was concerned about what "real school" might bring--hour-long class blocks, real homework, vivid reality of the next seven years of his life...?  I figured reality might hit a bit more for Carter, too, since two days of having to wake up early might be starting to compound his regular "tolerance" of school.  But both boys had decent days--nothing bad, nothing great--which I guess is as good as anything.

So, the dreaded first week is done.  Next week will obviously be a challenge, as we'll finally get on our regular schedule.  Five full days.  Three lunches to pack.  A daily 6am wake-up for me, and a shift in my work schedule.  Probably the first round of real homework.  I'm actually a little nervous about leaving the house so early compared to Craig and Carter, because I fear my brain won't be awake enough by then to remember random stuff Carter needs for the day, and then I'll have to make Craig scramble when I frantically call his cell.  I really need to get better at doing an inventory in the evening, for both kids, and I REALLY need to get better at making Jacob more responsible for his stuff.  I want to be gentle since sixth grade is a huge transition--particularly in the manner we're doing it--but I also don't want to fall into bad habits because he desperately needs to learn to pack his own bag and track his own homework.  It's definitely a process.  But at least we made it this far.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me!

Before I get into this post, I need to share for posterity the cutest thing going right now, before the phase ends and fades into our memories: Carter has "kids".  At first it was just Patrick the Hedgehog (from Christmas) and Colin the Bear (Jacob's gift to him when he was born).  But then a blue and white dog that was a hand-me-down from Jacob and a red dinosaur that I think was originally Craig's made it into the mix.  He puts them to bed each night, making sure they're covered and have a pillow.  It's so stinking cute.  Hopefully that means he's in training to be a great dad!  I just happened to catch them in my bed, where he tucked them in to watch TV on Saturday morning, and figured that cuteness needed to be shared.

Anyway, after freaking out about our weekend plans on Friday evening, I finally hatched a plan and we enjoyed some Friendly's Wattamelon Roll that Jacob insisted we get to celebrate my birthday early.  I woke up Saturday determined to have a good day.  We had a lazy-ish morning (well, if a run and some packing counts as lazy) and then went to lunch at Red Robin to get my birthday burger...finally.  Everything took longer than planned--getting packed, out the door, and having lunch--but luckily we weren't really tight on time and I was able to stay pretty chill about it.  We had a very nice lunch--so nice that the people next to us (probably in their 50s or 60s) complimented us on our well-behaved children!  Haha!  Admittedly, Jacob was pretty good that day and they probably didn't see Carter on a phone until after they spoke!  But we were having a particularly good family conversation, so I guess we looked good!  After lunch it was on to Minnehan's down near Geneseo to enjoy some mini golf on a beautiful day.

I did terrible, which I pretty much always do there since it's a really hard course and something about it makes my short game mysteriously awful.  Maybe how the cups are set into the green?  Carter even beat me--though of course we give him a few assists here and there--but Jacob killed us all.  He won by eight strokes!  It was also his day in the arcade, as he beat the basketball game high score twice!  First he hit 68, and then he got 73!

After golf, it was on to the main event--probably one I could only get family approval of on my birthday!  We headed to the New York Festival of Balloons in Dansville, which is about an hour from home but less than a half hour from Minnehan's.  I had never been before and really wanted to go last year, but with a family wedding on my birthday weekend, it didn't work out.  I almost forgot about it this year, but then a friend of mine went on Friday night.  It took a while for it to pop back into my head after our other plans fell apart, but then it all fell right into place once that became the centerpiece of the trip.  Even better, our route to Buffalo that night would go right through Geneseo, and was the same route I took home from school.  I'm always up for a little college nostalgia!

The balloon festival was fun!  In addition to the balloons, there were a bunch of food and craft vendors, so there was a lot to see while we were there.  The balloons were just starting to fill when we arrived, and we walked around a bit before launch.  At one point we found ourselves near the Nunda Mustard booth (selling all different mustards), and I did a double take because I know my boss moonlights as a booth attendant for them at events.  Sure enough, there she was!  However, it became apparent pretty quickly that she was having a tough time.  She'd been spending a lot of time lately helping her sister's companion (who Craig and I knew because he played for the Amerks decades ago and was a big part of their alumni association), as he'd been ill, and he had passed away that morning.  So she was clearly having a tough time, and was happy to see me and get some hug therapy.  She offered up awesome suckers to the boys while we chatted, and then eventually we had to let her go so we didn't miss all of the balloons.  I felt terrible for her to have to be there in the midst of all of that.

The balloons were so beautiful.  They took off one at a time over about a half hour span or so.  They were so colorful!

What started as just a few in the field suddenly turned into a colorful batch of bubbles popping up all over.

With the sky so clear and blue in places, they almost looked fake!

I loved how they just filled up and took off with barely a sound, aside from the cheering crowd, and just magically floated up in the air.  It was almost like when a bubble catches the wind and floats upward.  So serene and beautiful.

I loved the variety of colors and patterns.

This pig cracked me up and was the only oddly shaped one that actually flew.

It was so neat to see them all dotting the sky.  It almost looked like it should have been a mobile in a baby's nursery or something.  They seem to defy gravity when you don't see anything propelling them upward.

A couple vendors were selling fabric ones that hang and spin around on your porch, and seeing the real ones flying almost made me want to buy a bunch and recreate this view.

The sun behind them was so bright that I was surprised my pictures even turned out.  I liked the way it lit this one from behind.

After the launch, we grabbed the kids some snacks--lemonade and kettle corn for Jacob, and a hot dog and cotton candy for Carter.  Craig and I opted to grab a sub in Geneseo on our way through there later.  I grabbed a selfie with Jacob in line for kettle corn...

Photo credit to Craig on this one - he made the cotton candy look huge!

While we were getting food and looking at vendors, I saw some character balloons get inflated.  I could only get a sun glare picture of this one, as it was already starting to deflate by the time we walked back over to that side of the site.

I spotted this contraption flying high through the sky after all the balloons had passed.  Not sure you could convince me to do that!

Hard to see in this picture, but there is a plane towing a glider near the top of the glowing clouds.

There were more character balloons, too.  I missed the one that looked a little like Woody from Toy Story, but caught these...

The boys each wanted to do an inflatable--Carter picked an obstacle course and Jacob picked a basketball themed one, of course.  I guess they didn't take Carter's ticket on his, so he got to do a bonus slide.  I grabbed my selfie with him while we waited there.  And yes, it was getting cool out...darn you, ending summer.

This was Jacob's choice.  You can see him shooting...

This balloon was a tethered one.  It went up in the air a bit, then came back down.  A little higher and it might have been tempting!

I would love to ride in a balloon some day, but much like bungee jumping or skydiving, I'd really like a guarantee I won't die.  So many obstacles and not a lot of steering capability.  That makes me nervous!

We eventually got on the road to Geneseo, and I very much enjoyed my Aunt Cookie's sub.  They are just so good.  Turkey, mayo, lettuce, and banana peppers - simple yet perfect!  The ironic thing is that I ate too many subs in the dining hall at college (out of necessity since a lot of the other food was gross) so I almost never ate at Aunt Cookie's when I was a student.  But I feel I've made up for it since!

Geneseo truly is my happy place.  Had to say hi to Emmeline the Bear (on top of the fountain) as we passed by on the way back to the van...

I drove around campus a bit and pointed out a couple of my dorm rooms and some other landmarks.  I really do love it there.  Ironically, when we got to my in-laws the next night to celebrate Craig's dad's birthday, our niece was talking about Geneseo because her best friend just started there and she's considering going there.  She was even supposed to go with a friend on Saturday night to visit her best friend, who's a freshman, but that fell through.  She ended up getting a call while we were there to reschedule the trip for that night.  Hopefully she enjoyed her trip!  I would love to see her go there because it's a great school and just the right size for her.

I enjoyed taking my old route home through all the little towns en route to the Thruway in Batavia.  So many memories and mixed emotions of trips on that route--excitement to see my friends, dread of going back for another semester of classes or getting back in town for a Sunday night of questionable dinner and catching up on the studying I didn't do at home.  Still, I love it there.

On Sunday morning we got to go to the baptism of this sweet little nugget, Lucy.  

As usual it was a little odd being back at our old church, which is now just a shadow of its former self.  Just a small group of the remaining members, but nice to see familiar faces nonetheless.  I was disappointed that the hallway down to the gym was locked, as Jacob really wanted to see it.  The playground was looking a bit rough, too, but there aren't many kids (and no school) to use it anymore.  It always breaks my heart at how it has all gone downhill from the thriving, active church it once was.  Anyway, Lucy was an angel, and we had a very nice time at the party in the early afternoon.  I always love getting time with family.

After that we went to Craig's parents, which was surprisingly low key since his brother's crew (minus our niece) was at our sister-in-law's parents' place for the weekend.  We were also surprised to find a new little buddy there.  Say hi to Hank...

He was a rescue of sorts, and the absolute sweetest little guy.  Look at that tongue!  He seems to fit in perfectly with their other two dogs, and just made me smirk with his crooked teeth and expressive ears.

We had a lovely little mini-celebration there...

They sang to me, and then we sang to Craig's dad, and then we had a bonus visit from Craig's aunt and uncle.  Soon enough it was time to come home, but it was a very rainy drive.  We had a rather quiet day on Monday, our last day of freedom before Jacob's orientation days started.  We all started very slow in the morning, and then I finally worked out, did some laundry, washed Carter's backpack, blogged, and once again helped Jacob through editing his summer reading write-up.  I finally had to pass him off to Craig because I felt like Jacob was tuning me out after hearing the same thing over and over again.  I think he's pretty much done now, and thank goodness because it has been a bear.  They better teach him some critical thinking skills this year because I need this to be easier next year!

This morning began a new era in our house, but I'll save all that for one all-encompassing first day of school post, so you'll have to wait a couple days!