Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt!

Last weekend we went to an Easter Egg Hunt a couple towns over.  We'd never done a larger scale one like this.  We had the time and the weather was pleasant, so off we went.  I had no idea how it would be but figured it was worth a try. 

It took us a while to get out of the house but we got there just in time.  However, the hunt area was on a bit of a hill and a huge crowd was lined up at the bottom of the hill.  We saw some people lined up further up on the hill, so we headed there to get a bird's eye view.  It just seemed like everyone was waiting, so we stayed there, tried to listen to someone on a megaphone giving a few instructions, and waited for the signal. 

Ready to go!
I gave Jacob a few instructions to be nice to other kids and that was about it.  He was in a good mood and was very cooperative, so I was hopeful he wouldn't end up discouraged by something.  I remember plenty of Easter Egg hunts that didn't go the way I wanted when I was a kid, so I was nervous.

When the horn blew, it took a couple extra prods to get Jacob out on the hunt...but because of our place, he got a head start on a the mass of kids at the bottom of the hill.  I felt a little bad about that, but that's just how it worked out.  In the end the whole thing was over in less than two minutes, I think!
Right at the beginning...he's right in the middle

Now you can see the mass of kids heading up the hill from the left...
He ended up with maybe 10 eggs.  I felt a little bad for the little kids that only had a couple.  I asked Jacob if he would be okay with giving eggs to any kids that looked extra sad, and he said yes, but in the end we didn't see any kids that were miserable, so he kept his eggs. 

Before we headed out, we went to get a picture with the Easter Bunny.  Jacob, by the way, knows that these kinds of bunnies are just like mascots--costumes with people inside.  Feels a little sad that there isn't more mystery, but he still does believe in the "real" Easter Bunny, so that's cool.
He was surprisingly cooperative smiling for this picture!
On the way down to the bunny, we walked past signs that weren't visible among the throngs of people when we got there....signs with age groupings.  And no, Jacob was not in the right age grouping.  Darn it.  Maybe he could pass for a tall four year old?  Ugh.  I felt really bad about that, but I blame that on bad setup by the planners.  They should have had greeters or something, or shooed us out of our spot, or moved him over when they saw him.  Something!  I'm sure we weren't the only ones, but I felt bad anyway.

Of course, when we got to the car and Jacob opened his eggs, I didn't feel as bad.  He ended up with a few googly eye stickers, one jelly bracelet, a little top, one random piece of candy and three Now and Laters.  Those little kids could not have eaten those Now and Laters anyway, so they weren't missing much with those.  Jacob was a little disappointed with the haul, even though it was all gluten-free, which had been our initial worry. 

Still, he seemed to have fun and I'm glad we gave it a shot.  It was a nice excuse to enjoy some pleasant weather, anyway.  At least we know better in case we ever go back! 

Tomorrow we're going to try to go to the SEAster Egg Hunt at the Niagara Falls Aquarium, where we're members (for the next month or so, thanks to a Groupon from last year).  Apparently the eggs are in the exhibits and you have to mark them off.  They're doing prizes and stuff, so I'm not entirely sure how it's all going to work, but it sounds like it might be fun and it's a good excuse to use our membership (which was mostly purchased for the reciprocal with our zoo).  It's just one more activity in the midst of a busy week, but we might as well cram them in while we can!  Sports start up again this week and all the fun will be over, so to speak.

I probably won't get a chance to post before Sunday, so best wishes for a Happy Easter!  Hopefully I'll have a few cute pictures to share soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Week Update

So, we're in the midst of a bit of a crazy week.  I guess that's part of the reason why I haven't posted much, but really, I've had other things to keep me occupied in the evenings that just sound easier or more productive than pulling pictures off my camera or trying to think about what I could share.  I do have a post or two in mind for one of these days.  I'm hoping I'll have some quiet moments over the weekend where I can sneak in a post or two.  I guess it's good that nothing is driving me so nuts that I feel the need to vent here, right?

I think we're finally getting back into the time of year where things start becoming a little more photogenic, or at least where our activity level goes up a bit just by virtue of the outside not being off-limits.  We had a lovely weekend last weekend and Monday (up to 80 degrees!) before it SNOWED on Tuesday and stayed cold yesterday (though it was gloriously sunny, so I can cut it some slack there).  But Tuesday was totally gross and cold 24 hours after the most lovely weather of the year so far!

Yesterday we had a bit of an unscheduled trip to Buffalo (trip one of three this week!) because Craig's great aunt passed away early Monday morning.  She was 89 and had been ill for a while, so we knew it might be coming soon.  Because it was an afternoon funeral (Holy Week activities in the morning?), we had no choice but to bring the kids with us to Buffalo and leave them at my parents'.  It turned out to be a pretty good day, all things considered.  The kids were well-behaved and ate a ton, and Craig and I got to have some time alone together.  We got to see his family, have a delicious meal, and even sneak in a quick trip to the Broadway Market for their big Easter market.  I have been wanting to go for a few years now (I think Jacob was probably two the last time we went), and every year things have just been too crazy.  It's a madhouse during Easter week so it's always a little intimidating to go even when we are in town and have time, but thankfully we were there at the end of the day before the crush of Easter preparations really got going, so it was a pleasant experience to just walk around and browse a bit.

We didn't buy much, but it was fun nonetheless.  The market definitely skews Polish, and Craig got a couple Poland shirts--one for him and one for Jacob.  My target was the Polish painted eggs that many of the vendors sell.  They're so beautifully colored and for whatever reason they just suck me in every time.  I took a lovely picture a few years ago at Craig's aunt's house, as her collection is impressive:
She had given me one last year (I think), and I really wanted to give it some friends.  I found four that I really liked.
The blue one was one that Aunt Marie gave me, and the red, orange, yellow, and black are the new ones.  I just think they're so pretty.  Honorable mention to the martini glass style candy dish they're sitting in, courtesy of my grandma's collection.

We browsed the food, as well, as there is every type of delicious Easter snack you could ask for--molded chocolate, chocolate dipped everything, fried waffles (think fried dough but crispier), breads, cookies, etc.  The problem was that a lot of it is more-than-one-sitting/person big, and there's not a lot of allergy-type labeling or guarantees that work surfaces haven't been in contact with gluten.  Picking something we could eat on the spot (while already stuffed!) or that was Jacob-friendly to bring home proved to be difficult.  We skipped the snacks and headed back to two boys who'd had a great day but were very excited to see us!

It was a very long day and both boys conked out in the car (though Carter woke up just long enough for a night time bottle), and we actually went to bed nearly on time, as well!  Tonight involved a lot of preparations for the coming days--shopping for items I need for food I'm bringing to various get-togethers, washing bottles and sippy cups, and packing up for about 28 hours in Buffalo before returning home for a day...and then going BACK to Buffalo for Sunday.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly how we're going to pull it all off, but we'll see.  I'm excited for the boys to get their Easter baskets, and I need to find time to sneak in egg dyeing with Jacob (pray for my kitchen and our clothes, please).  I'm hoping to do an Easter egg hunt on Saturday (on top of one we did last weekend--I still need to post those pictures), and Jacob plays during halftime at the Knighthawks game Saturday.  So, needless to say, we have a very busy few days ahead of us.  Still, this is one of my favorite holidays (spring, bright colors, less chaos than Christmas, joyful religious significance) and I'm all about spending time with family, so it's all worth it in the end.  Oh, and Jacob is off school on Monday and I'm taking off to take him to Strong Museum in hopes that not all school districts are off that day and it will be a little less crazy than it is this week.

So, yeah, crazy.  Hopefully more soon...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Handful

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen, but Carter is officially a handful.  I know that it tends to happen as kids get older and more mobile, but ever since he had the back-to-back viruses (stomach and fever), he's developed quite the attitude.  Sometimes I wonder if that triggered something, or if he's just had a prolonged bout of teething discomfort, or if there's something else that just has him on edge.  Don't get me wrong--he can still be a happy, smiley, sweet baby.  But in between he seems fussy and very impatient a lot of the time. 

He battles me on the changing table constantly, screaming and flipping over the whole time he's up there.  He screeches if I'm too slow getting food in front of him or don't get his bottle open fast enough.  He's not having the epic bedtime sessions he was having a few weeks ago, but he still doesn't settle down quite like he used to.  He doesn't like having to sit still, even if I'm holding him, and he gets very offended if you re-route him from danger or take something out of his hands.  He has countless toys, but he is constantly getting into whatever else he can.  Anything on the coffee table is a goner--ripped, thrown on the floor, tipped over, put in the mouth--and anything that happens to be on the floor is fair game to be eaten--crumbs, fuzz, leaves on the ground.  Lately he's been using Jacob's kitchen chair as a walker, pushing it all the way through the kitchen and practically out into the dining room. 

He's picked up some annoying habits, too.  If he's near a basket or container full of things, he will tip the whole thing over and scatter the contents as far as he can.  He will pull whatever he can off shelves.  He likes to throw balls, but he does it with a lot of other less throwable things, too, like blocks or his sippy cups.  If he's done drinking, it is not set down...it is thrown or swept off.  He's been dropping food off of his tray lately, as well.  He will pick it up and casually reach his hand back and open it.  He does it even if he's not done eating, so I'm not sure if he understands that once it's gone, it's gone. 

In general he's lacking gentleness.  If he touches your face, he smacks it.  If he grabs your hair, he pulls it.  If he grabs your hand, he claws it.  He tackles Jacob to try to play with him.  He bashes his push toys into anything in their path, or goes all monster truck and runs over Jacob's toys.  He screams and cries if I leave him alone or pass him off to Craig.

I know all of these behaviors are pretty normal for the age.  I'm sure Jacob did a lot of them.  But it's a bit of an adjustment after having the most patient, sweet baby for over a year.  He's exhausting and demanding so much of the time, which is such a change from how he was.  I find myself raising my voice with a firm "No" far more than I'd like, but I'm not sure what else to do.  He needs to know that something is not acceptable, but I also don't want him to enjoy getting a rise.  It's exhausting trying to manage him.  I'm definitely tired of being yelled at about everything, and when Jacob starts whining at the same time, it is maddening.

I know that part of his issue is the inability to communicate.  He's still not talking, aside from the word "ba" which can stand for "ball" and "bottle".  He's got opinions but can't communicate them.  I've tried teaching him signs ("more" and "all done" specifically) but he hasn't quite grasped it yet.  I use so many words with him, but none of them have stuck.  I know they'll come in time, but in the meantime the wait is killing me.  Sometimes it seems like he doesn't even know what he wants.  He wants to be held but struggles out of my arms.  I put him down and he doesn't want to stay there.  I look forward to when he can walk and I don't have to carry him all the time, but I know he'll still want to sit on the floor! 

All of this has definitely taken a little fun out of things, since I feel like I'm constantly disciplining and redirecting, half the time to make sure Jacob doesn't lose his temper with him.  It is simply exhausting. 

On a lighter note, he almost took real steps today!  I've been encouraging him a bunch, and he's finally back to standing as much as he was before he got sick.  He's getting sturdier, though he's still very clumsy in general.  Today he actually took a couple steps forward and I wouldn't even consider it half-lunge because he seemed to stay upright for most of it.  It was pretty great to see and I made sure to get excited!  Fingers crossed he gets it soon, because he is getting so heavy to carry around in the Bjorn during games! 

Well, time to recharge my batteries for another day of corralling tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Zoo

Over the weekend I wanted to take advantage of the decent weather and go to the zoo.  Our one-year Niagara Falls Aquarium membership (brought for half price via Groupon, mostly because of its reciprocal agreement with our zoo) is up next month and I wanted to make sure we got our value out of it.  I'm hoping to get to the aquarium for their "SEAster Egg Hunt" the day before Easter, but I really do want to enjoy our zoo while we can.  Only...once we got there I discovered that they've now set all of their reciprocal agreements at a 50% discount :(  The good news is that I only had to pay for myself.  The bad news is that I really wanted us to go as a family, but Jacob had a major meltdown (gluten exposure, maybe?  Hard to tell.) and it was better to let him chill at home.  But with the good weather I needed to get out of the house, and so did Carter, who is constantly getting into trouble around Jacob's toys.  Had I known I'd have to pay (only $5.50, but still), I might have just opted to take a walk for free, but still...I'm glad we did it.
 
It's been a while since we've been to the zoo, and I was interested to see how Carter reacted now that he's a little older.  I felt like it was around this age when Jacob started enjoying it a little more, so I was interested to see how it went.  One thing I love about zoos is that they're always different.  If you go to a museum or something like that, most of the time 95% of it is the same as it was the last time.  But with a zoo, you never know what the animals are going to be doing.  This day had a few bright spots, besides the lovely (though still cool) weather.  It's amazing how a very cold winter changes your perspective on things!  Sunny and 50 degrees can feel amazing when it was in the teens for months!
 
Anyway, one of the first cool things was that the snowy owls were both hanging out.  Owls are cool but they also sort of creep me out.  These two, however, looked so majestic!

While we were watching the owls, I gave Carter his sippy cup of milk, and for some reason I loved the look of it...maybe just how his eyes sparkled from behind it!

We headed over to Africa, and when we got there, there were a lot of people gathered around the normally very boring goats.  Two of them were sort of battling it out.  I tried to get a picture (should have done video!), but this was the best I got...
The one on the left is rearing up.  Notice the one in the back standing on the stump.

The lions weren't really in view and the baboon enclosure was being cleaned (boo), so we moved along to the elephants.  Normally they're pretty boring, but this time we caught one reaching his trunk up to the hanging bucket.  She even hit the bucket with her trunk once, sending it flying!
Stretch!

On our way back up to the rest of the zoo, we noticed that there was one lion hanging out at a close vantage point for us to see.  It was one of the lion cubs born last spring, and they're not so small anymore!  This was the first animal that Carter really seemed to notice.  I pointed out the "big kitty", and he smiled and pointed!
So pretty!  Love the spots on the fur!
Here's Carter checking the "kitty" out...
Hard to see, but the lion is back there somewhere...
We visited the sea lions (who Carter didn't quite seem to get--they're a little tough to comprehend when they swim by so fast), the polar bears (hiding), and the penguins (our zoo's penguins are seriously the most boring ever).  He seemed a little interested in the rhinos, too.

We went into the main building, and there was a meerkat standing right by the glass.  Carter was interested in him, too.  I tried to get a selfie of the three of us, but it didn't really work.

We peeked quickly at the orangutans, and it may be hard to see in this picture, but the baby girl is there somewhere.  She's definitely getting better at moving on her own, but she never stays far from mama.

The last animal that he liked was the golden lion tamarin.  It was right up near the glass, and he loved the tiny little monkey!  It scampered around the enclosure, and Carter really enjoyed watching it!

It was a nice way to enjoy the weather, though I wish Craig and Jacob could have been there, too.  They had fun playing sports outside while we were gone, and when I got home with a sleeping baby, I ran out to get a haircut and decided that Shouty Mommy, as I had become that day, needed a little more of a break so I went clearance shopping at Kohl's.  I'm trying to revamp my wardrobe with clothes that avoid my post-baby bulges and reflect who I am now, not who I was when I bought half the stuff in my closet 5-10 years ago.  I got a few tops and enjoyed my solo time.

It's been another busy week and we're all looking forward to next week when Jacob is off school (we compromised and let him have one day at daycare and three at the afterschool program) and we'll start gearing up for Easter.  That will be a busy weekend, for sure.  Still, hopefully we can have lots of fun!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Compare and Contrast

Having a second child is fascinating, because it gives you great insight into your first child.  You see the things you got off easy on, or the things you never knew were way harder than they had to be.  You see which genes remained strong for round two and which ones got to mix things up a bit.  You start to get a little more context into the experience you had the first time around, and I definitely appreciated the experience way more this time.

When it comes to similarities, there are a select few.  They both have dark brown eyes like me.  They're both super skinny, but thanks to Carter's challenges since he's started solid food, he's just a little smaller than Jacob was at this age.  They both dealt with reflux at a young age, though Jacob's issues manifested more in a nasty cough after bronchiolitis, whereas Carter was a hardcore spitter-upper with a nasty milk intolerance.  At this age they were both very smiley with a determined, mischievous side.  They both have a way of enchanting people with just a smile.  Carter is gravitating toward "ball" as one of his first words, just like Jacob.  While there's a very slight resemblance in some of their pictures, that's about where the similarities end.

Eating is one of the biggest differences.  Jacob fought me on food from the get-go.  He was a pretty good nurser, but even with that he was a little hot and cold.  Solid foods were a nightmare, and to this day he's a challenge at the dinner table.  Carter, on the other hand, has been far more consistent.  He is beyond excited every time he sees a bottle.  He was on formula since he was six weeks old, and for the most part he's loved his bottles.  Despite the rice intolerance and concerns with dairy, he has been a champ with table foods since he got past the puree stage.  He loves most of what I give him and lately he's been a bottomless pit.  I can't get certain things (meats, grapes, yogurt melts) on his tray fast enough.  It's almost like, "Oh, so this is what it's like to have a kid that likes to eat!"  Ultimately I do hope that Carter avoids the Celiac diagnosis and his rice intolerance wraps up soon.  I would appreciate, though, if they could have the no-allergy thing in common.

Sleeping is another difference, although we're still pretty early on in this one.  Jacob definitely had more sleeping challenges early on.  Part of it was because he was sick a lot, but he also had a harder time at night while teething.  Carter has been such a good baby at bedtime for most of his life.  Both were very good about sleeping through the night, but I think Carter's been a little more consistent.  Jacob was a great sleeper for years and only recently has imploded into a kid who wakes up multiple times each night looking for company, so I guess the jury is still out on this one.

They've both had their fair share of issues with pooping.  Carter had worse diaper rash and more consistent constipation issues, but I'd venture that Jacob had more extremes--tons of blowouts, meatball-sized poops when he was most constipated, etc.  The one big difference is their personalities on the changing table.  Jacob was often at his happiest up there, but Carter is not a fan.  He was miserable for the first couple months of his life each and every time he was up there, chilled out for nine months or so, and then decided again that it was the worst thing ever.  To this day diaper changes are pretty miserable, be it because he's squirmy or just generally uncomfortable.  Not sure what's causing his current issues, but he definitely lets me know he's not happy.  He barely lets me wipe him most of the time, whereas Jacob was always relatively cooperative. 

Jacob was a serious snuggler for a long time.  As a baby he'd snuggle right into your shoulder and sleep there for hours.  For years he'd nap with Craig all the time, and loved to cuddle during movies.  Even now, despite our challenges with him, he can barely fall asleep without someone snuggling him, and when he wakes up multiple times each night, he's always looking for a snuggle buddy.  Early on, Carter wouldn't nap unless he was sleeping on someone, so I thought he was destined to be a snuggler.  And while he can snuggle, he's much more likely to look around or find something else to do.  He's busier during the day, and at night he's more eager to get into his crib than be rocked to sleep.  As much as he loves people, he seems to prefer to get into his bed and snuggle in there. 

Jacob was first to hold up his head when on his belly, but Carter crawled earlier.  I think Carter also pulled up earlier.  He seemed to be on track to walk first, too, but his recent illnesses seemed to derail that a bit.  He's almost back to where he was a few weeks ago, standing without holding on and trying to walk while holding hands, but I still think it may be a couple months before he walks on his own full time.  Jacob didn't walk regularly until about 16 months, which may put them nearly even.  Most of this stuff has yet to be seen, but based on what I've seen so far, I have a feeling they're going to excel at different skills in general.  Jacob is very smart and in the past year or so an artistic side has emerged.  It took years before his drawings looked like anything, and suddenly not only were they recognizable, they were great.  Carter doesn't seem to acknowledge talking quite as much as Jacob did at this stage.  We had Jacob holding up one finger on his first birthday when we asked him how old he was, but Carter doesn't quite seem to mimic as readily or understand certain instructions yet.  Jacob was probably advanced, but my guess is that Carter's strengths will be very different yet no less strong.

Jacob has been all sports, all the time, since he was a baby.  He liked puppies for a while, I suppose, but his first toy of choice was a ball, and pretty much after that it was any sort of stick, bat, or other sports-related equipment.  He was going to games from the time he was six months old, and he would sit and watch intently.  It took a long time before he would actually focus on the TV at home, but the main thing to catch his attention was sports.  He liked Elmo, but sports were definitely his thing.  Carter loves playing with balls, and he can even throw one now.  He also loves playing with mini hockey sticks and lightweight plastic golf clubs to hit those balls.  But he also loves trucks!  I'm convinced the kids in the same room with us at church got him going, because they'd push trucks around and he always wanted to play with them.  Now he will push trucks around the room at daycare, and he usually gravitates toward a certain musical firetruck at home.  He loves pushing the ride-on car he got for his birthday, too.  One of his other favorite pastimes is crawling into a little tunnel we have.  Our baby play mat/gym had a feature to convert it to a tunnel (about two feet long, at most), and he loves crawling in there and peeking out at us.  I think he's used the tunnel and firetruck far more already than Jacob ever did.  Oh, and Carter does not have the same attention span at sporting events that Jacob did.  He definitely gets a lot antsier, and I realize now how lucky I was to have Jacob be the kid that I took to countless hockey, lacrosse, and soccer games while Craig was working for multiple teams.  I'm actually a little relieved that Carter isn't SO into the sports thing.  I want him to like sports, for sure, but knowing all we've been through with Jacob, a casual enjoyment sounds like a pleasant change from full-time obsession.

From the moment Carter was born, I knew that I wouldn't have much trouble telling the boys' baby pictures apart.  While certain expressions or angles may look similar, as a whole they don't look alike.  When Carter was born, he was so hairy and his complexion was so much darker.  His skin was dark (in retrospect, I think he was just really pink), and his hair was practically black.  Jacob was always very fair with lighter hair.  Both boys' hair has lightened as they've gotten older (Jacob's went from brown to blond, and Carter's has gone from very dark brown to medium brown), and Carter's complexion is plenty light now, but as a whole he's still a bit darker.  Jacob has his dimple, while Carter has those chubby cheeks that everyone loves.  Both boys are super skinny, but Carter seems to be a bit skinnier at this point, for whatever reason, even though his face always makes him look like a chub.  Still, face-wise Jacob is much more me, and Carter is Craig, based on Craig's baby picture, at least.  I don't see much resemblance among my immediate family (at least, not like some families), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they're different. 

I suppose this goes without saying based on everything else, but the two boys couldn't be more different personality-wise.  I guess it's hard to know for sure how Jacob compared to Carter at this same age.  I know that the happy-but-determined label fits both of them at a year old, but I do have to say that as a whole Carter has been far more "chill" for most of his life.  He's a huge people person who does everything in his power to catch people's eye when we're out in public.  He's gone to bed without a fuss, eaten most of what's on his plate, and sat calmly through countless events that most kids would have freaked out through.  Yes, he's getting considerably more impatient and is showing his defiant, troublemaking side more often, but as a whole there's still a sense of calm in him that I don't remember from Jacob.  Jacob was very social as a baby, and still can be despite his awkwardness.  But nowadays he's much more intense about things, which makes for a major contrast when he and his brother are in the same vicinity.  Carter just loves Jacob so much, even though Jacob is nothing but mean to him.  Jacob will yell at him and Carter will smile.  Jacob will stomp and Carter will laugh.  Carter just wants to play with him and have a good time, but Jacob wants nothing to do with him.  Of course, I worry that Carter's complete obliviousness to Jacob's anger is some small sign that he'll have similar issues to Jacob (who often doesn't flinch when we're angry with him), but then he'll do something completely differently than Jacob would have and I breathe a small, momentary sigh of relief.  I wish I could see both boys at this age side-by-side, but I know there are no guarantees anyway and comparing is just futile. 

They're both individuals, that's for sure.  Sometimes I wonder how we could have produced two such different kids with the same gene pool, but then I'll look back in the blog or have a deja vu moment where I realize they're not that different after all.  It's all relative, I guess.  It just depends on the moment, the context, and how much sleep I've had :) 

Parenthood is certainly a trip, but when you add another passenger, it definitely becomes more of an adventure.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Little Mirror

For most of Jacob's life, people have remarked how he looks just like me.  I definitely see the resemblance, but I do think there is some Craig mixed in there, too.  Carter, incidentally, is just the opposite.  He looks a lot like Craig's baby pictures, at the very least, but if I'm lucky once in a while I will see a face that vaguely resembles something on my side.  One of these days I hope to do a post on the differences and similarities between the boys, but for today I'm putting myself on the spot instead.

Whenever one of the boys has come up against some sort of challenge, be it the food sensitivities or Jacob's respiratory issues early on or his behavioral issues now, as a parent it's hard not to wonder why.  What caused it? 

Is it genetic?  From whose side?  

Is it something I did while I was pregnant?  Did I eat too much of something or not enough of something else?  Did I spend too much time near electronic devices or did the jostle during my car accidents actually do something?  Was it too much stress, too much movement, or not enough vitamins?

Was it just a random freak-of-nature thing?  An unlucky mutation?

Did we make parenting mistakes?  Did we start early enough teaching proper behaviors?  Or did we start too early?  Should we have spanked?  Have we yelled too much?  Was there a better way to do this?  Should we have pushed for screening earlier when some of his behavior problems first started?

I think in most cases there just isn't a good answer.  If it is something we did, there's probably something else we could have done that would have created a different but equally challenging situation.  But in most cases it just is what it is.  Most likely it's just how the genes fell in, with possibly a little assistance from each side and a bit of bad luck thrown in.  And, of course, for every bad gene/bad luck scenario, there are so many others that turned out fine...so there's that.  Ultimately I know that there's no reason to play the blame game (unless we were having a third and wanted to do things differently), because this is the hand we were dealt and we just have to deal with it, no matter how we got here. 

Still, when I watch Jacob, in particular, there are moments where I see myself...and it isn't pretty.  I'll sit there thinking, "Why on earth is he doing that?" and then I'll think back to my own childhood or even look at myself now and go, "Oh.  Yeah.  That's why." 

For example, since his issues have gotten worse, he's had a terrible habit of sucking/chewing on his clothes.  He's done it to his winter coat for a couple years now, but his shirt is more of a recent thing.  Some days the neckband on his shirt is totally stretched out and water-stained.  It's gross.  As I was thinking to myself one day about why he does that, I remembered that when I was a kid I used to crew quite a bit on the drawstrings for my hood on at least one coat, and I also recall doing some damage to the vinyl seat trim in one of our cars.  Random, I know.  I have less of a memory of what age that was at, and no recollection about why I was doing it, but once I remembered those things, I guess I could relate a little more...even if it still drives me nuts that he does it.

I was on the phone with his teacher the other day because he'd come home saying that he got "red" on Friday (the lowest color on the behavior chart), which is usually accompanied by a note or call home.  We got neither, and he couldn't tell us why he'd ended up on red, so I emailed her Friday night to see what was up.  Incidentally, I don't think he was trying to be evasive when we asked.  I honestly think he just doesn't understand the consequences, or at least the direct correlation between the two.  He knows he's not supposed to be doing something, and I think that when he stops doing it once when he's asked, he thinks he did what he was supposed to.  But what I think he doesn't realize is that he does things over and over again, and each time he's expected to comply.  When he didn't consistently do what he was supposed to, he moved down.  I know we can't expect the teacher to constantly re-explain things to him, but it's hard when he doesn't seem to have the full picture in his head.  Sometimes he complains that he doesn't get a second chance before he gets moved down, but in reality his teacher definitely doesn't hold him to the same standard as the other kids.  She knows he's operating on a different set of parameters and tries to keep that in mind.  Some days he's done fantastically, and other days, not so much.  But what I think he doesn't realize is that she is giving him chances but that he's ignoring them--either he doesn't realize she's telling him something, or he blocks it out, or doesn't realize that not listening will involve a consequence.  By the time he understands, he's on his last chance and down he goes.  Of course, I'm not there to confirm this, but based on everything we've heard, that's what I'm gathering might be happening.

Anyway...she was going over how things had been more difficult recently, that his focus was terrible and his distracting behaviors were worse than usual.  It was pretty disheartening to hear, even though the issues in general are no surprise at this point.  But as I sat there trying to understand why he can't just pay attention even when they do everything they can to remove distractions, I realized that I myself was absentmindedly clicking between Facebook and my email as I sat at my desk with plenty of work to do.  I've noticed that a lot more in the past couple years, that I am very easily distracted.  I know there is such a thing as adult-onset ADD, but more likely I'm just a product sleep deprivation and of the short-attention-span, bits-of-media era we're in right now.  Even still, it gave me food for thought.

Watching Jacob do his school work also reminds me a little of me.  I always did very well in school, but I didn't really love school (at least not past a certain point) and as I got older I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do with my life.  Even though I was good at math, I didn't really like it.  Same with science.  I finally fell in love with languages in high school, but once that got to a point where it wasn't fun anymore, I was back to square one.  I ended up defaulting to the one thing that truly interested me, which was sports.  Fortunately that worked out for me.  Jacob is really good at math, and it amazes me to watch him do it.  But I know he's not really into it.  He'd rather play sports, or with Legos or Playmobil, or draw.  He loves to draw and does the most creative stuff.  I see in him that he will give up on something when it gets hard, and move on to something else.  Sounds familiar.  I also see that when he's really into something, he will pursue that passion wholeheartedly.  Again, sounds familiar.  He's obviously got some additional challenges facing him as he gets older and has to start focusing on a career, but at this point I'd really like him to get through Kindergarten first.  There are moments I worry that they'll want to keep him back because he's so unfocused and disruptive, but he's so smart that I think they know that's not an option. 

On a side note, we finally got to make a couple appointments with the behavioral specialist today.  All of the paperwork is in, so we make one appointment for the end of the month--two hours for all of us--and then another in May for just Craig and me.  I'm looking forward to working with people who specialize in this sort of stuff, and I'm hoping we can get some insight into how to help him embrace his strengths and work around the weaknesses.  I truly think he's a unique case, between his inconsistencies, attention issues, high intelligence, and slightly awkward but normal enough social interactions.

Anyway, as much as we know that a lot of Jacob's quirks follow right in line with Craig as a kid, it's apparent that the apple didn't fall too far on my side of the tree either.  Having kids can really make you stop and think about yourself as you see bits and pieces of yourself show up in your kids, for better or for worse.  You may not even see it at first, but when you put yourself in your child's shoes and think back to that same era in your own life, certain things come back to you...and can haunt you, too.  It's an experience, for sure, and it's one of the things that makes having biological children so fascinating.  The good news, I guess, is that if we survived ourselves, hopefully we have the experience to help him do the same.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Catching Up

Just wanted to catch up on some pictures and videos, since I haven't done that in a while.  I'm working on a couple other posts that I just haven't had the brainpower to really get into yet, so here's the easy and probably more enjoyable cop-out...

Carter is talking up a storm these days...in his own language, of course.  We do think he might be just starting to talk for real.  "Ball" and "more" seem to be the words right now, but it's hard to tell.  He says "Mama" and "Dada" too, but it's hard to tell if he's ever referring to us or just babbling.  Sometimes it seems like he says "Mama" when he's distressed, so I'd like to think he's calling me!  But he seemed to sign and say "more" the other day because he loves his yogurt melts and wanted more!  "Ball" seems to pop up a bit, too.  A couple times he's said "ball" (well, "ba") in the presence of a ball, but that's not too tough around here!  He's been talking a lot, though, with really interesting intonation, so I have to think real words aren't too far off. 

He's sort of cooled off on the standing and "walking" since he was sick, which is a bit of a bummer.  For a while I thought he'd beat Jacob by a long shot, but now I'm not so sure because he doesn't have much interest in standing or walking.  I keep hoping that since his two best buddies at daycare are walking (including an 11-month-old girl), he'll get the idea, but nothing yet.  Besides that he seems mostly recovered from his virus, though he does have a cold with a nasty cough right now.  Poor kid.  He's also had some trouble falling asleep (and staying asleep) this week, but I can't tell if it's just a phase where he's wide awake, or if he's not feeling well, or what.  It's unlike him, for sure, since he's always gone down without a fight.  Tonight was better, but we'll see. 

Jacob keeps us hopping, as usual.  I sat on the phone with his teacher yesterday, hearing about why he got the lowest color on their chart on Friday and hearing about how he's been worse than usual lately with distracting behaviors like playing with his shoes and chewing on his shirt.  He's been a challenge at home, too, so it doesn't surprise me, but he has gotten some good colors at school, too, and was named  "bucket filler" (something we've been waiting all year for!), so I was hoping maybe he was settling in a bit.  No such luck.  But he does amaze us with his mind and creativity, and he's been loving playing outside now that the weather is a bit better.  I'll have more on him in my next post.

Now here are a few pictures of the smilier of the two boys.  Despite all the illnesses lately, he'll still give me a few smiles...



And now, let's jump in the wayback machine.  I have lots of videos that I just got uploaded, going all the way back to January.  Here goes...

Here is video of Carter loving the Christmas tree (see, way back!).  He loved when I turned it on, and he loved checking out the ornaments...hence why I had that one at the bottom of the tree!


 Like Jacob, Carter has taken a liking to sports equipment.  He really likes his plastic golf clubs and mini hockey sticks.  Here he is, learning how a stick and a ball can interact...


The week before Carter's birthday I pulled out some of Jacob's old toys, including the ball popper.  Carter loved it immediately, and Jacob decided to enjoy it again, as well.  He ended up using it like an air-propelled baseball tee and was teaching Carter how to play.  It was one of the first times he actually interacted directly with Carter, even though he almost took his head off a couple times.  Carter loved it, though! 


Finally, here are two videos from Carter's birthday.  The first is when he was first confronted with his cake.  He took a while to figure out what to do with it, even though he nearly grabbed it once a few minutes earlier when I accidentally got too close! 


Once he got his first taste, he decided it was a pretty tasty treat, and a little while later he was covered head to toe with frosting. 


I apologize that there hasn't been much of this stuff on here of late.  With all of the sickness around here lately it hasn't been particularly photogenic.  I've been so busy with work and so tired at night that it's hard to get a good post out.  But I want to make sure I'm documenting things, so hang in there...I'll get to it eventually!  (Though if you knew how many other things in my life had that designation, and you knew how long they've had that designation...you might be worried!)

More soon...