Thursday, September 18, 2014

One Year Later

A year ago yesterday we took our dysfunctional existence on an airplane and headed to Florida.  Part of me was excited.  After all, Disney is the happiest place on earth...so if you're going to be miserable, it might as well be there.  I was hopeful that Jacob would snap out of his disastrous behavior for a few days and soak up all of the amazingness that Disney had to offer, though I knew it was unlikely.  The change of scenery sounded like a good idea, at the very least, but I knew that came with a downside, as well.  Traveling with kids is always a challenge--overtired, out of their routine--and given that normal life was already a major challenge, I wasn't sure we'd actually make it out of this trip alive...or at the very least, sane.  We were taking Jacob out of school, too, which was a major concern.  I misspoke in a previous post when I said he'd only had a few days of school before we left.  He'd actually been there for eight days--two days, a full week, and one more day--but still, it wasn't much...and the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that time away gave him a very rocky start.  We had a boatload of homework to complete while we were gone, and it made a lot of our downtime miserable because we were constantly pushing him to do the work while we had the time.

I talked a few posts back about my memories of that trip, that I'm thankful we had the opportunity to go and grateful that the good moments have floated to the top, via all of the pictures I took.  Disney is a magical place, and despite all of the stress on that trip, there were many little moments where I could take a step back and soak in the good.  I changed the wallpaper on my work computer yesterday morning to the view from our Disney bus stop--palm trees, the lighthouse near the pool, and distant glimpses of the main building and the bridge we walked across every morning to grab breakfast.  I keep reminding myself that it was 90 degrees and humid, so I don't really want to be back there right now, but that view was almost surreal to me at the time because it was just so pretty and so unlike my daily life at home.  Even if he didn't appreciate it, I enjoyed showing Jacob how many cool things there are to see in the world, and I loved watching Carter charm everyone, no matter where we went.  It's hard to believe he was so much littler then.  It's hard to believe that was a year ago at all...even though I feel like I've aged about five years since then.

One year ago today is the day we first found out Jacob could have Celiac disease.  That's probably a more significant anniversary than the trip itself, but we didn't start the full-on diet until a month later after the intestinal biopsy confirmed it.  Still, it's been a year since it became a part of our consciousness.  Some days I feel like we've settled in pretty well.  I've been good about reading labels and I have a decent supply of foods that work for us.  I've gotten pretty good at having backups for parties.  Other days I still feel lost and frustrated.  I feel like our dinner options are so limited.  I get annoyed that quick options, particularly outside the house, are hard to come by.  I miss eating out wherever we want.  I cringe every time I grab that $4.79 loaf of bread or the granola bars that work out to about $1 each.  I feel sad that Jacob won't ever get to participate in "normal" things without some sort of workaround.  I wonder how he'll survive when he's out in the world on his own.  My alma mater, Geneseo, has done great things with gluten-free offerings, but I wonder how other schools might do.  And how will he make it through the midnight pizza runs without being tempted?!

I just don't know what his future holds, and as a parent, that is scary.  Still, we've made it through a year, and it's just one step, one day at a time.  I'll find more recipes, finally buy all of the different flours to bake properly, and hope that the restaurant world and the medical community come up with better options before he has to be off on his own. 

A year after these major events we're definitely in better shape than we were then.  Our existence around the time of the trip was not sustainable.  We were all miserable.  Jacob had meltdown after meltdown, Craig and I were so tired of the constant discipline, and we were all just exhausted because everything was a struggle.  These days things still aren't easy, but I will say that we're in a pretty livable patch right now.  Jacob is doing well at school so far, and while he still isn't a very good listener and has trouble with transitions, eventually we get there.  We threaten to take things away, he gets angry, but eventually he comes around.  We've learned to table certain things in the moment and come back to them later when cooler heads prevail.  We've learned to be a little less flexible in some cases, so he knows there's only one way to go.  However, we do pick our battles very carefully and know a little better when something needs to be let go.  It's a process, but we've gotten much better at it.  Do I want to live this way forever?  No, but this sure as heck beats the way things were a year ago.  I feel a tiny bit more in control, a bit more empowered.  I'm hoping that age and maturity will help Jacob identify when he's having an issue and find his own ways to deal, that he'll understand when something isn't worth battling us on, that certain things are as they are and it's not our fault (i.e., homework).  But for now, we're better.  Not perfect, but better.

Now to lighten up this post and reward those who got through it, here are some unposted photos of Florida.  I guess the posts were long enough last year that I felt bad adding more, so here are some unseen highlights...
This was taken from the bridge on our walk from our villa to the main building.  Across the lake is a golf green for the course that's alongside the resort.

This is the outside of our villa.  Our door was on the 1st floor around the corner from the stairs.

This was at the entrance to Hollywood Studios, all set up for Monsters University :)

On the street where we ran into a bunch of characters, Jacob was so cute about getting his picture with Chip...

And Dale!

This was taken outside Toy Story Mania, the ride we waited the longest for.  Gotta love the army guys and the giant Scrabble board.  I think this was right around the time we got the Celiac news...

This was in Magic Kingdom.  Jacob wanted to throw a penny into the fountain, and Craig called it right away that he was going to aim for the cup that the guy under Gaston is holding...sure enough, he did :)

I was surprised I didn't add this one, because Jacob really liked the Haunted Mansion.  Here he's playing the organ (yes, it played) that was keeping us occupied in line.

I did include a selfie of Jacob and me on this ride at Animal Kingdom, but he was such a good sport for this picture in the dinosaur car on the Dumbo-esque ride that I wanted to include it here.

I took this while we were headed to the bus on the way from Animal Kingdom to EPCOT.  It was just in a wooded area near the stop, not really an official flower bed, but it was so perfectly gorgeous.


This was in a tank at The Seas in EPCOT.  Pretty sure those are some sort of eel, just snaking in and out of the rocks.  Ewwww...but cool.

This is how we ended the trip, pretty much.  The rain forced us inside one of the Innoventions pavilions at EPCOT, and the boys did some father-son video gaming while I fed Carter.  Notice Jacob's pirate bandanna that he got from the resort pool.  What you can't see is that we were all so wet from the miserable rain, and the ponchos couldn't even save us!
Always nice to look back, but I guess I should be thankful that I'm happy to leave that particular vacation in the past!  What a year...

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Leaning Tower of Artwork

In the corner of our basement office lived my dirty little secret.  There was a giant pile of Jacob's artwork, dating back to when he was six months old.  Mixed in were cards from birthdays and other various keepsakes that I didn't have a spot for yet.  Once Carter was born, some of his keepsakes ended up there, as well, and then his artwork started rolling in, too!  Before I knew it, it was out of control.

More than three years ago I started trying to sort through it.  When Craig went to the Czech Republic for 10 days, I had evenings to play with and I gave it a shot.  My plan was to take pictures of everything, ditch the easy stuff, and keep anything (for now) that I thought was cool.  Well...I only got through 32 pictures or so (probably averaging about four pieces each) before I ran out of time, and there everything sat for three more years, with the pile getting bigger and toppling over from time to time.  And it drove me nuts.

But I needed time to work on it, and it never happened when I wanted it to a couple times earlier this year.  But yesterday when I was home alone I got going.  It took me most of the day, and some time tonight, but I have finally conquered the giant pile.  All of Carter's stuff is set aside in a bin for him.  I do still need to sort through it and start photographing his stuff, but there's less of that so I know I can manage it.  Jacob's stuff was intimidating, but I got through it, one piece at a time.  It was fun to relive the journey through daycare and his first year of school through his artwork.  I wish I would have been better about documenting what was from when, but I can sort of guess based on stuff that was grouped together or what he was drawing at the time, or even by the handwriting from his teachers.  His skill level picked up considerably when he was four, so that cleared some things up, too.

All in all it took 95 pictures to capture all of the artwork.  Two garbage bags' worth of that has been dispatched.  I kept a small pile of his work, as well as another pile of abstract art that I want for our easy-change picture frames in the living room.  The pieces I kept of Jacob's ranged from early finger paints to random projects that turned out cute, and on to some typical drawings of sports fields that became the norm in the past couple years.  I also kept a lot of his Kindergarten writing--little books and his classroom journals.  Someday maybe those will go, but I can't go through them just yet.

Here's a sampling...





It's nice to have it documented, and even nicer to have it sorted and most of it on its way out of the house.  It's wonderful to think of how Jacob has progressed over the years and see all of the things he's learned about and illustrated in his crafts, but I know there's much more to come.  And we'll get to go through it all again with Carter, too.  Let's just hope I can keep up with it better this time around!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Forever Friends

I've been lucky enough the past two weekends to spend time with two of the best friends I have ever had.  In fact, two weekends in a row I got to spend time with my friend Heather, who I've known since Kindergarten.  We went to the art gallery together on my birthday, and then last weekend she came to stay here for about 24 hours from Friday to Saturday.  We spent a lot of time chatting and reminiscing about our lives now and the 30+ years of friendship under our belts.  I didn't get a chance to post this earlier, but here's a picture from when Heather took Jacob on the carousel at the mall...
In case it's hard to see, Heather is peeking between Jacob and the horse's head.  And yes, Jacob is wearing the hat he got for this birthday...
This weekend I got to see my college roommate Mary.  We've now officially known each other for half our lives, which is crazy, since for so long, we were such good friends despite only having known each other for a short period of time.  Now it's been 18 years, four of which included a lot of togetherness in a 10'x12' (-ish, or less) dorm room.  Being together at such a pivotal time in our lives definitely accelerated the friendship, and in each other we found our other half...or, as we chose to call it, our shared "third brain".  Because, after all, we were each too smart to share a single one!  We had so much in common, found a mutual love of nail polish, and ventured together into the world of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which changed our college experience completely.  Over the course of college, we became rather inseparable, to the point that people were surprised when they'd see one and not the other.  I always felt like, from high school on, that the people I considered my best friends never really considered me their best friend back.  Other people always seemed to have someone else who was their go-to person.  Even early on in college Mary had two very good friends at home, and it took a while before it was clear that we were really each other's best friend...but finally reaching that point was so enjoyable.  We were so fortunate to have been placed together by Residence Life (or, rather, GOD), and it's clear to both of us how unique this relationship truly is, all these years later.  We know that no matter how long we're apart, even when communication is minimal, when we get back together, we're right back in the groove.  Being with Heather is much the same, and I feel blessed to have two friendships like that...and to have two weekends in a row to enjoy that. 

Anyway...back to the recap.  I worked a half day on Friday and had a short detour for a (routine) doctor's appointment.  Once I was done there I made a quick stop at the mall on the east side of town and then headed toward Syracuse.  I got there around 4pm, and after settling in a bit at Mary's apartment, we headed out for dinner--yummy 2-for-1 chicken parm that we'd both been looking forward to all week!  I'll admit I was pretty excited to eat whatever I wanted without worrying about gluten.  I appreciate that opportunity to eat almost anywhere without worrying about what they have or how they prepare their food.  We manage pretty well most of the time, but I won't lie--it's tiring sometimes and getting a break from that was really nice.

After dinner we headed downtown to the concert that prompted the visit. 

The theater is a classic old theater full of gilding.  Gold everywhere!  It reminds me of pictures I've seen of a couple long-gone theaters in Rochester.  One of them was a Loews theater, just like this one appeared to be, based on some lettering over one entrance.  I was excited to see it and hoped that my new camera could do it justice.  The front lobby didn't go particularly well, but I wanted to include this here to try to show the grandness of it...

The part of the lobby leading to the seats was a little brighter, so I think this worked a little better...

It was breathtaking, even though it's apparent that it's not what it used to be.  We found out the place is in some pretty serious debt, so hopefully they'll be able to turn it around because it's too cool to lose.

The concert was fantastic.  We were mostly there to see a band called Switchfoot.  They're a Christian rock band that has seen some decent mainstream success.  You've probably heard their music as bumper music during televised sporting events, or maybe even on the radio.  I actually saw them way back in college as an opening act when they were only a couple albums into their career, and I loved them back then.  Still, I could never decide on which CD to buy first, and it wasn't until a handful of years ago that I got one of their later CDs as a gift and fell back in love with them.  I've wanted to see them in concert ever since, and they finally came close enough!  On a weekend!  In Mary's hometown!  Yay! 

The opening act was another interesting band called Gungor.  They're a very unique Christian group that doesn't sound like most Christian musicians.  They've got a little electronica, awesome voices, and a unique presentation.  I had a couple of their songs for free through a site I frequent, and while the songs didn't wow me initially, I did enjoy their concert and look forward to listening to them again. 

When the main act came on, it was awesome to hear their songs in person.  They're such a fantastic rock band and I knew they'd be great live.  The lead singer has such a unique voice and I wasn't sure about how it would sound live, but it was identical.  Perfection.  They even played my favorite song! 

Out in the crowd!


On our way out of the theater, I took a couple more shots of the classic features...
Stained glass exit sign

Amazing light fixture!
We finished the night at Starbucks with a couple of Mary's friends (and who knew, they have packaged gluten-free treats there, including their awesome flourless chocolate cookies!  Good to know!), and stayed up late watching reality TV and chatting. 

Saturday I slept in a bit (no kids, after all!) and then we just hung out all morning until we could decide on somewhere to go for lunch.  We have always been terrible decision-makers, and some things never change!  She wanted me to be able to pick the ideal gluten-filled foods of my choice, and I was just so excited to eat at different places that I had a hard time figuring out the best of the best.  We settled on Tully's, a local chain that has expanded to Rochester and Buffalo.  Their food is awesome, though, and we ended up sitting there for more than two hours, just watching the end of the Syracuse University football game and chatting. 

Eventually we headed back and I did some research for my stop at the outlets on my way home.  It was hard to leave, but I was looking forward to doing a little shopping on my way (unsuccessful) and getting back to a quiet house (more on that in a bit).  Along the way I decided to do a random, quick stop at somewhere I've always wanted to go.  There's a spot here in Rochester, Cobb's Hill, that offers a great view of the city.  I'd never been up there.  The sky was cool on my way back, lots of clouds with fiery orange peeking out behind them, and I decided to try to capture the remains of the cool sky with the city lights.  I wasn't sure what the lookout point would be like and I wanted to be safe since it was dark, so I drove up to the reservoir and eventually drove past a break in the trees.  I'm not even sure that's the normal spot that people take pictures from, but I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and took a few shots using some of the different settings on my camera.  Here are the results...


Farther view with the sky in the background

Closer view...my building is the white one in the middle.  Xerox is to the left (black), Bausch & Lomb to the left of that (pointy top).  To the right of my building is the rebuild of Midtown Plaza and the HSBC Building.

I came back home to a 65 degree, empty house.  It's been cool for the last couple days and the house is cold!  I'm waiting to turn on the heat until there are more people here than just me.  Where are they?  Well, Craig took the boys to Buffalo today for his brother's birthday, and they'll be back sometime on Sunday.  I'm missing them a lot, especially all the little things Carter does that perk up my day.  I miss them all, obviously, but so much of what Carter does is so cute and so uplifting, and it's weird not having that to cheer me up at any given moment.  I don't miss all the yelling and constant cleaning up and infinite mom checklist in my head, but life is definitely not the same without them.  I don't like missing things, especially on weekends when I usually make up for not seeing them all week, but I know this is a unique situation so I'm just trying to appreciate it while it lasts.  It's not often that I get time like this, so I'll make the most of it and hopefully be a more chilled out mom by the time they get back.  It was definitely strange being gone, though, and strange coming home to a quiet house.  As I typed this, a couple times the TV got loud and I momentarily felt compelled to turn it down so the kids didn't wake up.  But of course, they're not here.  Weird.

Anyway, it was a great couple days and now I need to be productive until the boys get back!  I feel so lucky to have had so much friend time lately.  It makes up for not having friends like that here in town, but definitely makes me wish for more!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

News & Notes, Sick Watch Edition

So...everyone's healthy right now.  Knock on wood.  Jacob was back to normal after a day of rest yesterday (and no more puking), and as of now, no one else is sick.  Yesterday I was concerned about all of us at one point or another, but we've come through unscathed so far.  Carter was cranky last night so I was concerned about him, I had a terrible headache that was probably allergy-driven, and Craig was a bit of a tired mess, but part of that was his late night Saturday (working in Canada) and then being up a couple times for Jacob overnight.  I think today everyone seemed better, but if this is a virus, who knows what the incubation period might be.  In a perfect world I'm hoping it was a virus the rest of us avoided, but it still could have been a gluten exposure...which is fine for the rest of us but sad for Jacob and a bummer for eating out in general.  It's scary to think that any eating out experience could knock your kid down for a couple days.  There's no way to know for sure unless one of us gets it, but as the week goes on, that gets scarier because we need to all be healthy by Friday.  Stay tuned.

I mentioned that Carter was cranky.  Oh, that kid.  He's getting to be a bit Jekyll & Hyde on us.  Not in an entirely bad way, but geez.  Don't get me wrong...he is still the sweetest, smiley child who gives great hugs and never stops moving.  He loves doggies (he will look outside as much as he can for them) and is getting really good at identifying body parts (thanks daycare!) and mimicking animal sounds (that's all me!).  He finally has an all-around solid head of hair, which makes him look so much older and provides that extra shot of personality when it's standing straight up at his cowlick.  (Side note: Of all of the things our two boys could share, did it have to be the crazy evil cowlick on the back of their heads?)  Anyway...he's developed a bit of a stubborn streak and a bit of a temper.  Part of the problem is that his internal clock is a bit off from our daily lives.  For example, by the time we get home he's hungry, so he's constantly grumping around at dinner time, trying to scavenge pretzels from the snack cupboard and whine for me to pick him up, only to beg to get down a few seconds later.  He will stand by his high chair waiting to be seated, regardless of how much time it'll take for dinner to be ready.  Last night I had to appease him with a few pretzels, but then he decided he didn't want his dinner and threw a good portion of it...which landed both on me and the floor.  Did I mention it was spaghetti?  I took away his bowl, but eventually seemed to want more (he was eating every stray piece off his tray and bib) so I dumped some out of his bowl and ate it, but I have no idea why the throwing.  He throws his cup on the floor almost every single meal.  I don't know why he does it.  If we yell at him for grabbing something he's not supposed to have, he either runs away with it or throws it down...hard!  He will often struggle when we try to get him to go somewhere he doesn't want to be, and getting him to hold my hand is a challenge when he's determined!  Still, he usually likes going to bed (per my comment earlier on his internal clock, I think he'd go to bed at 7pm if he could!) and he's generally happy in the morning.  He's adjusting to the new setup at daycare and is pretty good about leaving me...always with the sweetest possible "Bye-bye!"  I could just squish him.

Jacob's first few days at school seem to be going really well.  His teacher says he's been a good listener and did well on the activities they've done so far.  The afterschool folks said he's like a totally different kid.  I'm not sure if it's just the newness, or if this teacher just manages him better, or if things will get harder when the work starts.  We've also been trying to get him to bed earlier, so maybe that's helping, too.  Either way, it's really good news so far, and for that I'm grateful.  My hope is that his teacher sees the good side of him enough to know what she'll be fighting for later when things get hard. 

So....other than that we're just moseying through the week.  Since I have something fun planned it will be the longest week ever, of course.  Of course, when I have to start packing for myself and Carter (since Daddy will be traveling a bit with the boys as well), then it'll go into fast-forward.  For now I'm just relieved that Jacob is doing better and the rest of us seem OK for now.  Knock on wood, say prayers, etc.  Mommy time alone is a BIG deal.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spoke too soon...

So...there goes Jacob's nice, uninterrupted start to the school year.  He was off all day today, and by 8pm, we figured out why.  Looks like some sort of stomach ailment has taken him down.  

This morning he seemed fine, even in a good mood.  He did well in his new Sunday School class and all seemed fine.  Then I suggested we stop at Aldi's to pick up some gluten-free stuff we usually get there.  He resisted.  He had a major meltdown in the store, freaking out and crying, even though we were only there a few minutes.  We rushed through and he still seemed a little off when we got home, but he seemed to recover.  

But as the day went on, he turned into a bit of a lump on the couch.  He seemed to have a fever and complained that his stomach hurt.  I'm still not sure if there's a chance it's a gluten exposure, as this is sort of how he was last time, but when he got sick, that went beyond last time.  He's also had the sniffles since yesterday and added a cough in after that, so that sounds more like a virus to me.

Now we're just waiting to see if any of the rest of us get it.  Carter's always in his space, and lately I've spent a lot of time with him.  Heck, I ate his pizza crust yesterday.  I'd prefer to get it out of the way ASAP so it doesn't interfere with my weekend fun...or, rather, avoid it altogether.  I hate the limbo and hate seeing my kid sick.  He took it like a champ, though, and only got sick once.  He kept a few sips of water down, too, so fingers crossed it's short-lived and we don't get a wake-up call tonight.

But, he'll be staying home tomorrow.  So much for his perfect adjustment period and not missing any bonding time.  Ugh. Wish us luck...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Day!

This is a couple days late, but here is the requisite first day of school post!  Jacob started first grade on Thursday.  He was clearly nervous but he was doing pretty well, all things considered.  We made it out the door with just enough time to snap a few of the usual pictures...
Showing us his wild side...

The "nice picture"

My Favorite :)
 We made a deal with his therapist to work on taking the bus most days.  We have the right to drive him when the weather's crappy and we don't want to stand at the bus stop, but we're going to make a concerted effort to take the bus because sometimes it works out better for our timing...assuming we can get ready in time.  So...down to the bus stop we went.

I took this picture of him, and he looks a little pained, no?
Really, he was OK!
We took a selfie that turned out to be one of the best pictures ever of the two of us together.


While we waited, Carter tried to perfect his climbing-up-people skills...here he is on his way down.

Finally the bus came, and Jacob seemed to hope that it wasn't his bus.  But it was.  And he climbed up without looking back...until the bus driver told him to wave...

So far so good.  We've had two days, two bus rides, and zero communication from the authorities, so that's a good start.  He likes his teacher, he seems good with the kids in his class, and the homework setup (a weekly set of work, rather than day-to-day assignments--aside from a nightly reading assignment) seems promising.  Of course, none of that homework has happened yet, so Jacob's been in pretty good spirits.  I know that will probably change, but I keep hoping this teacher will somehow connect with him better.

I can't help but wonder how much impact our Disney trip had on him last year.  We were in a tough spot and the last thing I wanted to do was take him out of school so soon.  But after postponing the trip for Craig's mom's medical emergency, and then not going with the rest of his family (with our consent) because I was pregnant and we'd have a newborn for the foreseeable future, we had to get it scheduled within the original year window from the postponement.  We didn't want to go in the summer with the crazy heat and a new baby, so we had to go during school.  The first suggestion was the first week of school, which I immediately said no to.  But then the next week came up, we were low on options, and not wanting to be too picky about a trip we weren't paying for, I consented.  He went to school for two days, had a weekend, then went for one more day before we were gone for six school days.  Ouch.  Nothing like getting settled and then shaking things up.  He probably missed out on prime bonding time.  And with the Celiac diagnosis, things were definitely a little frantic when we came back.  Add in lots of late arrivals due to therapy and doctor visits, and I guess I can imagine it was hard to feel comfortable.  So maybe this was what he needed--a fresh start to truly get him off on the right foot.  Maybe he was just out of sync last year.  I know his issues probably go beyond that, but it can't hurt to have a better start.  And so far, it is a good start.

I should also mention that Carter started in a new room at daycare this week.  He's too old for the pre-toddler room, and they were finally able to re-open the toddler room that Jacob was in when he started at this daycare and the same age Carter is now.  Ironically, he's also got the same teacher, who has actually been the assistant director for the last couple years and just came back from maternity leave after having her first baby.  They're short on staff at the moment, so she's stepped in to handle the four kids in Carter's room.  He spends some of his time with the bigger kids (from about 20 months through the twos), which blows my mind a bit when I leave him there in the mornings.  Some of those kids use the potty, for pete's sake.  He's growing up so fast and I can't believe that this is the age Jacob was when we switched daycares.  Mind-boggling.  That kid cracks me up, though.  He's definitely got a temper and a determined streak, not to mention a penchant for drama, but oh, he's so funny sometimes.  I really need to take some videos now that I have my new camera.

So, it was a week of new beginnings around here.  I got to spend last night and earlier today with my oldest friend, Heather, who I've known since Kindergarten.  She hitched a ride to town with her father-in-law, who had some churchy meetings to attend.  We reminisced and she played lots of Legos with Jacob.  She even took Jacob on the carousel at the mall!  It was nice to have her here, as most of the time our interactions are for a few minutes after church on holidays when we're both in Buffalo!  And the fun doesn't stop for me...from one great friend to another on consecutive weekends!  Next weekend I go to Syracuse overnight for a concert with my college roommate Mary, my first trip to her turf since before Jacob was born.  The concert will be great and the time with her even better.  It will be nice to have a break from life at home, but I will definitely miss the kids and wonder how my boys are faring.  Carter misses me so much when I'm not around, and I do worry about that.  He'll survive, but I'll be thinking about all of them.  It'll still be awesome, though, no doubt...and hopefully I will come back refreshed.

Still a week of work (and school) to get through before that, though...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finally a September to Remember?

As we head into September, I find myself feeling a little apprehensive.  All my life I've had a bit of a birthday hangover to manage.  For most people they wake up the day after their birthday and it's just another day.  Maybe it's a bit of a letdown once the excitement is over, but for me, the day after also signifies SUMMER being over.  And when I was a kid, that also meant that school was generally less than a week away, which was a double bummer.  As I've grown up, things have been a little easier, but the last two autumns have brought many challenges, and I can't say that leaves me feeling any love for this one.

Two years ago I was still feeling pretty cruddy as I moved out of the first trimester into the second, and then had a bit of a funk in October when I found out that Carter was a boy.  Obviously he has more than made up for that by being his wonderful, charming self, but I'll admit it was a tough time there for a bit.  But last year?  All hell broke loose.

The end of summer was when the worst of Jacob's behavior started.  Those last few weeks of August nearly killed me.  We had no idea what was going on with Jacob, and it was so hard.  I was so sad, so heartbroken, so angry, and so confused.  Everything was overwhelming.  The start of Kindergarten was just plain scary as a result.  I looked back in the blog and was reminded of how the joy of that day was replaced by fear about everything--how he'd settle in, if he'd make friends, what would happen if he had a meltdown--and quite frankly, a lot of those fears weren't unfounded.  He had a tough year.  Yes, he learned a lot, but we had a lot of speed bumps along the way.  And let's face it, he didn't really make any solid friendships...unless you count those with the psychologist and the counselor.  My fear this year isn't any less.  The worries I had about him being in a new place have been replaced by fears about how he'll respond when the work gets harder.  His behavior in general is a little better--or at least, we know a little better how to manage it--but he is still terribly stubborn and almost never wants to listen to us.  Particularly when it's about something he doesn't want to do--go to bed, get ready for school, leave his toys/shows to come to dinner, do homework.  I am dreading getting back in the routine of getting home late, forcing him to do his homework, eating dinner, and battling him when we say it's time for bed right away.  I wish he'd do his work at the afterschool program, but he's a bit into instant gratification and can't quite comprehend that if he does the work now, he can play later at home when he'd most like to.  He just sees the opportunity to play and doesn't care about anything else.  We also know better now just how epic his attention span/distraction problems are.  Aside from hoping his teacher connects with him better, we have no illusions going into this year about the challenges we're facing.

In addition to all of the behavior issues last year, at this same time we were discovering that Carter had a rice intolerance.  By itself it might not have been such a blow, but on top of everything else it was devastating.  I felt like everything was spinning out of control.  Then Craig's dad needed open heart surgery.  Obviously we were crazy worried about his health first and foremost.  But beyond that, our trip with Craig's parents to Disney was a couple weeks away, and after already postponing it a couple times, this put it into limbo yet again.  It just seemed like no matter which way we turned there was something to worry about.

The trip to Disney itself was...interesting.  On one hand it was great to have a change of scenery, and no place is more magical than Disney.  On the other hand, it was hard enough to deal with our issues on our own turf, let alone on vacation where kids are always out of their routines and more prone to meltdowns.  On top of it all, our first full day there was the day we found out Jacob probably had Celiac disease, which was just another giant weight added to the burden we were carrying around.  Luckily we got to play around with Disney's ability to cater to those with food allergies, which felt like it gave us something constructive to do with the news, but yeah, it was tough.

Looking back on that trip, by some miracle the better memories have come to the top.  That hasn't always happened for me in the past, as often when I look at old pictures of Jacob I'm reminded of the trouble I had to go through to get that photo, or what he did to make that event particularly difficult.  Yes, I know that's sad.  But for some reason the Disney photos aren't like that.  I know how hard the trip was--the heat, overtired kids, the ill-timed lack of gluten-free foods, the cold I caught--but I remember the good stuff, too.  I think about how cute Carter was, how surreal it felt to walk around such a lovely resort, the times that Jacob was legitimately sweet, and the fun of riding the rides and gobbling down an ice cream treat shaped like Mickey's head.  There were good parts of the trip, and I think if we weren't so spent going in, maybe those would have been even clearer at the time.  I'm glad we got the chance to do it, but I won't lie--I don't need to do it again for a while...well, unless it's just Craig and me :)

Once we got back we were faced with the reality of Jacob's likely diagnosis.  We had to get back in the school groove, catch up on some homework, deal with doctor's appointments (the GI doc and his therapy appointments, not to mention Carter's allergist visit), find new foods to eat, and just survive Jacob's daily challenges.  I honestly felt like I was living in a fog for many months.  It was a combination of the weight of these challenges, the disbelief that we were dealing with such serious issues, and the exhaustion of having to deal with all of it.  I probably shed at least a couple tears daily for a couple months straight.  It was just SO HARD.

A year later things aren't quite as intense.  Carter's intolerance is gone, Craig's dad is doing well, and Jacob is still very difficult but we manage.  We're still working with a therapist, still trying everything we can to motivate him, and muddling through each day.  It's not ideal, but at least for now it feels functional.  It definitely didn't feel functional last year, so I guess that's progress.  It's been a long year.  Fall is slowly but surely making its way here, and I pray that this year makes up for the past two.