Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Me Time

Ok, so the trip is back on and I will be by myself starting tomorrow night through sometime Monday.  I'm having mixed feelings all around, to be honest.  I mean, I want them to go.  It'll be a fun trip for both of them, I think, and it'll give Jacob some good quality time with family he doesn't see as much as would be ideal.  You may be wondering why I'm not going, and it's mostly because I am way behind at work (thanks to vacation, funeral time, and more vacation) and I really can't fathom another 7+ hour car ride each way in the same general direction we just traveled on our vacation.  But I like new adventures, so not being part of this one will be a little hard.  Still, there's going to be some fun stops for them along the way and Jacob's a good traveler, so hopefully they'll have an awesome time. 

I'm a little sad I'll be missing a bunch of (exciting) days of Jacob's life, as that's something I'm not accustomed to.  I've been there for the vast majority of his life--particularly the exciting stuff--so this will definitely be a change of pace.  I've offered up the camera for Craig to take along, which is a big thing for me.  Generally I'm the camera keeper and take all of the pictures (hence why I'm in so few), and I'm just a little nervous about it getting broken or lost or whatever.  Not because I don't trust Craig, particularly, but just because it's not in my possession.  Heck, I didn't even let him take it to Prague.  To be fair, he could borrow a camera from work and I didn't want to be without a camera for any adventures Jacob and I would go on while he was gone.  I've got all of our current pictures saved, though, and it will be fine.  I just want to have a chance to see everything they did, so this is the best way.  And if something happens to the camera, it'll be a good excuse to go out and find a new one that's even better. ;-)

I'll admit I'm also nervous about being away from both of them.  Craig hasn't had extended periods solo with Jacob--evenings, maybe a day here or there, but not 5-1/2 days.  There's a lot of stuff that I just do and don't think about, little nuances of parenting that I may have never imparted to him.  He'll be the one responsible for Jacob's medicines, for remembering to bathe him and brush his teeth, to remind him to go potty (or at least change him before the pull-up fails).  He'll be the main one doling out the discipline, managing bedtime, and holding his hand tightly near traffic.  He's fully capable, of course, but while I'm used to long spans alone with him, Craig is not.  On the bright side, he'll have lots of help from family and plenty of possible distractions.

I won't lie...I worry about something happening while they're gone, to one or both of them.  I think about the guilt I would feel for not being there to help or protect or even go through it with them.  The two biggest chunks of my world are going to be on the road, far away, in an area that just went through a hurricane and could have unstable roads or tipsy trees or distracted drivers.  I've seen too many news reports of vacation car accidents and entire families wiped out in one vehicle to assume that we're immune to something like that.  It can happen to anyone and it only takes a second.  It's one thing to be involved in it, and another to be left behind, powerless.  I can't even fathom.  And of course, I hope I don't have to...but it's there in the back of my mind, regardless.

Finally, the added bummer of it all is the timing.  Tomorrow is my birthday and they're leaving right after work, so I'll be solo for what would have been my birthday dinner.  I'm a big girl and I'll survive, but it's sort of anti-climactic, isn't it?  Also, it's Labor Day weekend, which would have been our last big chance to do any summery stuff that we didn't get to...like another round of mini-golf, the drive-in, the zoo, or one last baseball game, among other things.  Hopefully the weather will hold up and we'll still have some time in September, but it's sort of like having Craig gone for most of Memorial Day...it's a holiday you rely on for fun summer activities, and once again it'll be pretty quiet.  And in general, I will just miss them.  It was hard having Craig gone all last weekend, and now here we go again...except that I won't have Jacob to help me pass the time.

But all that said, part of me is very excited.  Parts of six days alone, free to do what I want, is unheard of in Mommy-land.  Heck, even pre-Jacob I rarely had that much time alone.  Yes, I will be working for two of the days, but I will have at least two days and part of a third completely to myself, plus three evenings.  That's crazy.  I have a feeling only a parent can fully grasp the enormity of it all.  It just doesn't happen.  Ever.  When you're a parent you're on call 24/7.  There's always something holding you accountable--be it work or your spouse or the many needs of your child, physically and emotionally.  The concept of having no one waking me up in the middle of the night or at 7am on a Saturday is nearly unfathomable.  I know I'll probably end up wide awake anyway, but still...I won't have to get out of bed if I don't want to. 

My mornings will be considerably quicker, I can work out when I want, eat what I want, and shop by myself without guilt.  I'd say that I don't even know what to do with myself, but that's not the case.  I already have a list of things that I need to do, either because I haven't taken the time or haven't had uninterrupted time when I was energetic enough to get them done.  I need to balance my checkbook, caulk the tub, clean the house, file paperwork, change a faulty door knob, and organize photos and MP3s.  I sort of feel like these days are my opportunity to catch up on the million things that I never take the time to do...and hopefully relaxing is on that list, too. 

To be honest, the break couldn't come at a better time.  I need to catch up on so many things for the sake of my mental health, and Jacob is driving me nuts, too.  He's been difficult for a while, but I feel like the last few weeks especially have been a constant barrage of the word "no" and any other sort of defiance Jacob can churn up.  You can ask him to do one simple task, like pick up his stuffed animals and put them on his bed, and by the second animal (of 30) he's screwing around and doing something else.  Getting pajamas on is a major process with multiple interruptions.  Trying to get him to do anything--go upstairs, go potty, eat dinner--is met with serious resistance.  All the time.  Then came today.  Yesterday I was a little surprised because Jacob had a little poop in his underwear.  He's had track marks before, but this was a little bit of actual poop, for the first time ever.  But when I got to daycare today, he was wearing a different pair of shorts and his hoodie, with no shirt.  Turns out he went through two other pairs of shorts, two shirts, and two pairs of underwear...complete with one massive poop.  When I got home and went downstairs to wash it out, I was stunned.  There was a ton in there.  Ridiculous.  Thankfully I am a master poop remover with OxiClean and hot water, so I think I salvaged the undies, but man, was I ever angry.  Then Jacob proceeded to be difficult enough that I got more upset and we ended up not going out for a birthday dinner.  I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I'm seriously starting to wonder if he is showing early signs of ADHD.  I've read a couple things about it in the past couple days that sound all too familiar.  He's still young, but it feels like things are getting extreme.  I hope not, for his sake, but for ours it would be helpful to know why he's being so difficult and how we can manage it.  Withholding things, spankings, lectures, counting...nothing seems to work. 

So while I'm worried about how nuts he might make Craig, God knows I need this break more than ever.  I feel guilty about not being there, but I also feel guilty about being happy they're going and grateful to have the time to regroup.  I just can't win...mommy guilt gets me every time.  Give me a few days and we'll see how it goes...  

Monday, August 29, 2011

College...

Ok, so even though college seems light years away right now for Jacob, I have no doubt that the time will come in the blink of an eye.  In 15 years from right about now, we'll hopefully be sending Jacob off to college for the first time.  Scary.  As it is I remembered last Tuesday morning as I was driving home from Buffalo that I had taken that same path 15 years earlier to the day, as a passenger stuffed in my parents' backseat with all of my stuff, on my way to Geneseo for the first time.  As vividly as I remember that time, and as quickly as those years have gone, I can only imagine how quickly Jacob's entrance into the college world will arrive.

I am well aware that the college experience I had is far different than anything Jacob will have.  Heck, the college experience of kids today is already far different, and in 15 more years I can't imagine how things will have evolved further, particularly as far as technology is concerned.  For example...

I didn't even use the internet until the summer before college when we got our first PC and did the slow, obnoxiously loud dialup logon to AOL.  My first college emailing was done on green screened terminals, and our email system was a DOS-based program the whole time I was there.  Not everyone had a computer, so computer labs were often full enough that you sometimes had to wait in line.  Instant messaging didn't become popular until sometime during college, though our primitive email system did have a way to do it with friends at some other colleges, and what a novelty that was!  It was great to talk to an old friend in real time, because, of course, none of us had cellphones and long distance calls cost money! 

I brought my old Apple II GS to college sometime during my freshman year to write primitive looking papers in the comfort of my own room.  I kept it until sometime during my junior year when my parents upgraded and gave me their old computer, a real PC that could produce papers according to professor specs.  Even then, of course, the computer had a massive tower, so it was a pain to cart there and back each year.  Now all incoming freshman must have a notebook PC.  As in mandatory.  Wow.

When I was in college, only a handful of people I knew actively used cell phones.  I only got one for emergency purposes when I got my car senior year.  It wasn't quite a Zack Morris phone, but it was a good three times larger and heavier than my current one.  Texting was unheard of, let alone having the internet on it!  MP3 players didn't exist, so most of us lugged a CD player (maybe with a cassette deck!) with us to school.  And anyone who brought a TV was bringing a clunky tube TV that weighed a ton.  Oh, and we weren't allowed to have microwaves in our rooms unless it was part of the micro-fridges that the college rented out.  Long live the hot pot (though I never had one)...

We had to resort to primitive means to feel out our assigned freshman roommate.  An awkward phone call was pretty much the standard.  We couldn't friend them on Facebook and stalk them carefully, nor could we email beforehand to work out little details.  I have a feeling most kids are already well aware of everything having to do with their roommate ahead of time now, between cell phone chats, Skype sessions, emails, texts, and Facebook.

When I went to college there wasn't this mass marketing attack of "must-haves" for college.  At best they pushed some bath totes, crates, and desk lamps.  Now there's oodles of bedding choices made for all your XL-Twin bed needs, in every pattern you could ask for.  They push furniture of all types (so you either better be living in an apartment or suite, because God knows the standard corridor-style dorm room will be lucky to fit the provided furniture).  There are thousands of accessories for your technology needs, and a vast assortment of anything else you might possibly need while away from the comfy confines of your parents' house--all color coordinated and extra modern, no doubt.  We also couldn't poke holes in our walls to decorate (asbestos and all--so we had to stick with the existing cork strips, or use tape or that blue putty), so what I wouldn't have given for today's assortment of lovely removable wall decals...even if I still look back fondly on the mishmash of stuff we had on our walls each year.

I saw something in the paper yesterday about Geneseo's tuition, and when I looked up the full cost of a year, including room and board, I almost choked.  I knew the cost had gone up, but I had no idea it had nearly doubled.  For a state school, no less.  And here I was feeling ever-so-slightly comfortable that our years of daycare spending were setting us up for an acceptable college-funding budget down the road.   Not anymore.  Room and board alone is twice the cost of tuition.  I guess Jacob will really have to work his butt off and find as many scholarships as possible--not that we wouldn't have expected that of him anyway, but there is no other option now.  Nothing like pressure to achieve starting at the ripe old age of three.

I know the Geneseo campus itself has changed a lot.  There's a Starbucks in the Union, a new food court in a formerly vacant dining hall, two new dorms, new townhouses, a new science building, frou-frou themes for certain dorms, and a bunch of reworked spaces.  Students now will never know what it was like to walk across the freezing tundra through horizontal rain and show (because townhouses are there now).  The trend now is toward suites or shared bathrooms, which means fewer students will get the uber-social experience of corridor-style dorming.  Geneseo itself has changed, with a new Super Walmart, an Applebee's, Tim Hortons, and quite a few more shopping options than we had.  More than anything, perhaps, there was a certain element of fear and excitement about the whole experience--being a bit more cut off from home and old friends and starting completely fresh--but now technology eliminates that almost completely. 

I know that you can't really stop technology, and colleges need to do what they can to keep up with trends and make things unique and exciting.  There's really no stopping any of this, and I feel a little fuddy-duddy as I talk about the "old days" and how students don't know how hard we had it back then (comparatively, I guess).  The funny thing is that despite all of the improvements and changes, college kids these days are probably still complaining about things just as much as we did--bad food, broken technology, boring professors, too much work, uncomfortable beds.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the whole experience is still just as overwhelming and scary, or maybe it's only that way because (as many articles out there will tell you) kids are generally coddled more nowadays.  Helicopter parenting, toned down playgrounds, trophies for winners and non-winners alike...the articles (like this one and this one) will tell you that kids aren't learning coping mechanisms, so despite all these additional luxuries, they may be no better off than we were. 

Getting back to Jacob, it's hard to imagine what the college world will be like with 15 more years of change before he heads in that direction.  If I'm this far out of touch now, it scares me to think how unqualified I will be then to give him college advice.  But I guess our job in the meantime is to guide him along and give him opportunties to grow into a kid who will adjust nicely, no matter what the future will bring.  Such a tall order...but we've got some time to figure it out, right? :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fading Fast...

I was all ready to blog about my simultaneous joy and angst about a potentially solo weekend coming up next weekend, but the weekend arrival of Hurricane Irene changed those plans.  Craig and Jacob were supposed to be going on a trip with most of Craig's family. However, their destination was in the Mid-Atlantic region, pretty much right in the path of Irene at this point.  Our nephew's baseball tournament that they were going to watch has been postponed, so the good news is that I won't be alone on my birthday, but the bad news is that I won't get to experience days of solo time for the first time in years.  So much for that to do list...for now, anyway. 
This weekend, Jacob and I have been on our own.  Craig is on the road again...but with an added twist this time.  He's at the Major League Lacrosse Championship weekend, and the team he works for (the Hamilton Nationals) won yesterday and are playing for the championship today.  What's the twist?  Well...the games are taking place in Annapolis, MD, which means he was right in the middle of the big red streak you've been seeing on your TV screen the last few days, the storm track for Hurricane Irene.  They were on the edge of the worst part of it, but Annapolis had a lot of the boarding up, taping windows, and sandbagging that you usually see with these storms.  The wind and rain were pretty awful for yesterday's games, but other than some residual wind, they should be fine for today's game.  Still, it was pretty nervewracking having him there, and we're still not sure how his flight home is going to go.  It was canceled, but now it's back on because it's late enough to be after the airport reopens.  We'll see.  Needless to say, it's been an eventful trip.

In the meantime, I'm going to bemoan the end of summer.  It wasn't that long ago that I was concerned about how long it was taking for summer to get going, and now here it is, the second to last weekend of summer.  If I look at my pictures I'm surprised at how much we did.  But there were so many things on the list that we didn't do, or didn't do enough of.  We went on vacation, we went to baseball games, we played outside, we kept our pool clear, and we went to all sorts of picnics and parties.  But we didn't do nearly enough mini-golfing or zoo visiting, we didn't make it to the drive-in, we didn't go to a Rhinos game (but we did see one game for the WNY Flash women's team, which won the league championship yesterday), and we didn't spend nearly enough time in the pool (heck, Jacob never went in!), on our patio, or enjoying our new porch furniture.  The weather was lovely (albeit HOT), but the bugs were brutal making evenings tough.  I finally got around to riding my bike, but not as much as I would have liked. 

At the end of day (or perhaps, the summer), I don't think I'll ever feel like we squeezed all we could out of our summer until one or both of us doesn't spend all day every summer weekday sitting in an office.  That's such a huge chunk of time that could have been spent doing all that other stuff.  I know it's impossible, but still...there will only be so many summers when Jacob is young, and it's a bummer to know we're missing out.  It's hard, though, because I often wonder if we should have better use of our time...but I also know that Jacob's interests aren't that broad and he's happiest just playing baseball in the front yard.  Tough balance between fulfilling his wishes and pushing him to try new things (and getting done what we have to do, too).  Not enough hours, that's for sure.

I know that it's only the end of August and we still have at least a month of decent temperatures and pleasant weather.  The risk of crappy weather increases, of course, but my hope is that we can fill some weekends coming up with a few of the items above now that Craig's work will be slowing back down again.  And beyond that are the crisp, cool weekends of October, the pumpkin patch, fall leaves, and the start of hockey season--but without the hardcore work schedule that has always been a part of that time in our life together.  Ramping down the pressure to always be doing something fun and enjoy the weather isn't such a bad thing sometimes.

Even still, the loss of pristine warm weather and the full time fun that comes with summer is a bit of a bummer.  I don't like knowing the weather will only get colder and the days will only get shorter.  Crisp, warmish fall days are always a little bittersweet...beautiful weather and blue skies are great, but knowing that it's the beginning of the end is a little sad.  I always associate those kind of days with going back to school (which I don't miss), those first few weeks back at college (which I do miss), and the kind of day it was on the September 11th, ten years ago. 

I know we need to maximize the rest of summer (it does go a few weeks into September, after all), but I'll be sad to see it go.  If all goes well, our entire world could be changed up by next summer, so I guess it's hard to see this one go knowing that it might be a while before things are back to some semblance of normal during this sort of summer weather.  Crazy. 

Well, since it's not that nice today (thanks Irene), I'm off to take a bit of a nap.  Much needed...as always.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Full House

As I mentioned last week, I was super excited for the arrival of my brother's family in town last Thursday.  Once John, Kristin, and Kate had touched down in Buffalo, I just had to survive some work craziness before we'd be poised for another round of the fun and controlled chaos that comes with having six adults and two kids staying in one moderately-sized house.  We had a lot of fun at Christmas watching the kids interact, and I couldn't wait to see how it would go this time around with wider vocabularies and more developed personalities. 

In the end I had to work a half day on Friday and we didn't get on the road until 3ish, after I could finish packing and after Jacob's nap at daycare.  Once we arrived we got ready for a casual, open house-type evening for anyone to drop by and see the Portland crew.  It was a lovely evening and after most of the visiting was over, eventually we headed outside to play.
(Ok, so she actually threw the ball up into the net, not down through the hoop, but it sure looks good, doesn't it?)
Taking a break in little chairs...

The next day the kids and the men got to go visit my mom's cousin's house, which is full of trains and baseball cards, among other things.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that, but the kids seemed to have fun.  The women stayed home.  I took a run while my mom and Kristin worked on food for the family reunion that afternoon, and then after lunch the kids went down for a nap and I worked on my contribution to the picnic.  As soon as our respective children were up, we were off to East Aurora, to my dad's cousin's house.  The house has a huge yard and the kids (particularly Jacob but also Kate, and my cousin Todd's kids, Jaxon and Jordan) made good use of it for various sporting endeavors--baseball, soccer, volleyball, track ball, badminton, etc.
Kate learning to play baseball

My little baseball player

Silly girl holding on to her daddy

Isn't she just the sweetest thing?

Probably one of my favorite pictures of the entire weekend...but I'll give credit to Grandma for making her smile, because she was crouched there to "get" her every time Kate swung close...
The picnic was great, though by the end the kids were happily playing inside with a bunch of Legos.  Craig even made an awesome Zamboni!  Somehow Jacob stayed awake the entire ride home despite my best laid plans to have him fall asleep in the car, but fortunately he went down pretty well.  Every bedtime over the course of the weekend was fraught with issues--mostly that Jacob didn't want to sleep in the computer room, at least not alone.  Granted, it was a different place than he usually sleeps, in a pack-n-play that's getting too small for him, with an elliptical machine towering over him in the dark.  He wanted someone to sleep on the floor, called to us constantly, woke up multiple times in the middle of the night, and made me extra crazy since I didn't want him waking up Kate in the next room.  Plus we were sleeping downstairs so it was a long, tired sprint each time.  Yuck.  Somehow we survived without any major incidents, but suffice it to say that both Craig and I are tired after some iffy sleep for a few nights.

Sunday we got up for church, where my dad sang a lovely duet, then rushed over to my parents' old church in time for a ceremony dedicating the church office to my Aunt Karen's memory.  It was funny being back there for the first time in a long time.  We saw a lot of familiar faces, some looking much older than the last time I had seen them.  I told Jacob that this is where Mommy and Daddy got married, and my mom showed him around when he desperately wanted to see the church.  Both kids got to enjoy some post-ceremony cake, though Jacob must have really enjoyed it because he had a total meltdown asking for more.  Ugh.  It made for a long morning for both kids, and we were quite relieved when lunch was over and naptime commenced.  John and I spent a little time over at my grandma's looking around (I brought back another bag of stuff), and by the time the kids woke up, it was almost time for my parents to head out to a family party for the older generation, a fancy shindig thrown by my dad's relatives.  We'd gone to a similar one over four years ago at the holidays.  That left us on our own for dinner, and my cousin Todd, his wife Cathy, and their kids (the aforementioned Jaxon and Jordan) came over for pizza and wings.  The four kids had fun.  The boys played knee hockey with Jaxon's little nets.  They also created a Hot Wheels track and had a great time with that.  After my parents got home and the kids were in bed, we headed over to Todd & Cathy's for some beverages and conversation.

Monday morning, my parents, John, and Jaxon went golfing and Kristin, Kate, Craig, Jacob and I met Cathy and Jordan at a park in town.  It was a cool morning, partly cloudy and with a cool breeze when the sun went under.  Cathy came prepared with bubbles and kites, and Jacob had the usual sporting equipment.  He spent a lot of time kicking around his soccer ball and football while the girls tried to fly kites (some success!) and blow bubbles...
Such a sweet girl, happily blowing bubbles...

Big girl!
The kids swung together (momentarily)...

And then we tried to get a cute picture of the two of them...
Sadly, this is as good as it got!
After a fun and entertaining lunch at Burger King (across from the park), we headed back to my parents' house with all three kids to meet the rest of the crew.  We tried for more pictures and this is again as good as it got...
Notice the matching Kids' Meal toys in their hands--little keyboards, big hit!
We enjoyed some time outside before dinner.  Around that time Craig left to go work a lacrosse game in Canada (sort of a last minute thing, and it turned out it was easier for all of us to stay over one more night so Craig could drive my car up and back--so one last night and an early morning).  While we were outside, Kate discovered the joy of picking vegetables out of the garden.  Here she is showing off a cherry tomato she picked all by herself!

She also got in on the action when the boys were playing baseball...
I think the look on Grandpa's face shows how into it he gets with his grandkids!
I kept trying to get a good picture of either kid, and I got this interesting one of Jacob.  Keep in mind he never stops moving, so it's a tough prospect.  What makes this one weird is that the background is moving (not just out of focus) and yet Jacob is clear.  All I can figure is that we were moving at the same exact speed...

We tried yet another attempt at getting a good pic of the cousins together, and this is the best I got.  It's amazing how two children can't seem to smile and look in the right place at the right time, together.  Multiple attempts, multiple cameras...and wow, not a perfect one in the bunch!

Finally the golf clubs came out, and I just love this picture of Kate looking through the golf bag pocket...

We did more bubbles and then some chalk, and finally it was dinnertime...one last crazy meal!  Later in the evening my Uncle Ron came to visit, and before it got too late, we brought out my s'mores maker (basically a little setup using cooking fuel (for chafing dishes) and metal skewers on a turntable) and did some s'mores for everyone.  YUM.  After that it was Kate's bedtime.  It was time for one last round of hugs, and I managed to get this picture of the kids hugging goodbye...and it may be my favorite of the bunch!

After bedtime John and Kristin ended up going back to Todd and Cathy's for one last evening.  I stayed with my parents and relaxed a bit, and the evening ended quietly since I had to be up crazy early.  And that was that.

It was a fun visit and the kids were very entertaining.  They imitated each other, talked to each other, and played together a little less than last time but still got along beautifully.  Jacob was definitely difficult, though, which stunk.  Seeing Kate definitely solidified how much I want a girl...because seeing a little girl prance around and do things so sweet and girly provided a sharp contrast to my rough-and-tumble little boy.  I love Jacob beyond words, but oh, how nice it would be to relate to a girl as well.  She was so cute, and it's still mind-blowing how much she looks like my mom (and John, too) when she was little.  I've never felt like the genes were that strong in our family (I look nothing like John and only vaguely like my parents), but wow, is she ever an Ellman...with big eyes courtesy of Kristin.  I can't wait until my new little nephew is born in November, and even more to be able to visit him.  The visits to my parents' are always fun, but admittedly it's a bit chaotic...busy mealtimes, bedtime struggles, jockeying for seats in the family room, trying to keep things relatively neat, etc...it's not always easy, but in the end it is so worth it.  Of course, we're the ones who get to drive in.  I can't imagine flying.  I spent so much time with my cousins growing up and it's a little sad that Jacob doesn't see his as much...once a month, if that, on one side of the family, and a couple times a year, if that, on the other side.  We do what we can, I guess.  But it was great to see everyone and I wish we could have spent a little more time together.  I guess it's never enough...but it was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Update

I really wanted to do a real post tonight, but between grocery shopping, a late dinner, lots of unpacking, cleaning up, laundry, and other random web surfing that distracted me, it's not happening.  I'm exhausted and can't wait to get to bed.  We ended up staying at my parents' an extra night because Craig had to go to a lacrosse game in Canada and staying over was the best way to do it.  We got up at 6am and drove back to Rochester bright and early.  Needless to say, it's been a long day.  And add that on to a busy end of last week (working through my office picnic, working an unplanned half day Friday, driving to Buffalo after lunch), a busy weekend (which I will report on soon), and generally iffy sleeping (late nights, air mattress discomfort, lots of Jacob wakeups), and it's amazing I'm still awake right now!

Still, we had a lovely time and it was great seeing John, Kristin and Kate.  Kate is beyond adorable, and I have the pictures to prove it!  The kids probably didn't interact as much as they seemed to last time, but they didn't fight or anything either, so all in all I think it was a success.  I'll have the full rundown soon.

For the record, I did not feel the earthquake today.  Neither did Craig.  Apparently the whole other half of my office did, but there's something funny about my side apparently, as the only two people on my side did not feel it.  I was nicely caffeinated today in hopes I'd stay awake and get my work done effectively.  It seemed to work.  Still three more days to go...but you know, I really need to stop doing that because summer is just fading away.  My birthday is in a week, and that's never a good sign for anything except a day off.  Fall is far too close.  Craig is on the road this weekend and I have yet to decide if Jacob and I are staying here or heading out to Craig's family picnic.  I feel like we've done nothing but travel, but I don't like missing family events I physically can make.  We'll see how the rest of the week goes.  We all need sleep.  First things first...and speaking of which, I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Good night...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bad Day

Today was not a good day.  Today was one of those days where I just wanted to walk out of work and never go back, a day where stay-at-home mom-dom sounded far better than what I was doing.  I don't have a lot of those days, at least not if I think long, hard and logically about it.  It's one thing to have a bad day and another to think about my frustrations with Jacob increased to every hour of every day.  I've discussed the topic here many times, and there are pros and cons to all of it.  More time to get everything done--house stuff, Jacob stuff, etc.--but more time to spend trapped in the house with him when he's not in a good mood or begging for attention or wanting to play sports with someone every hour of every day.  I'm not sure which one truly wins out, though that's why I've said that in a perfect world I'd like to work part time...just enough time for both.  However, it's all for naught as I can't leave my job anyway, for financial reasons.  And truly, most days I'm not dying to quit.  My job has some great elements and the pay is among them.  While it's not crazy high, it's significantly higher than it was when I started and it feels like a respectable salary for the position, which is not something I had in my old job.  But over the past couple years the job has certainly changed to something I'm not entirely comfortable with, and it leads to a few more of those days where it almost doesn't seem worth it. 

Today was our office picnic, and when everyone else was heading out to eat Dinosaur BBQ and drink beer, I was stuck at my desk in tears because I have a project that needs finishing by tomorrow and I'm supposed to be taking a vacation day.  It's a brutal project, one I'm not well-versed in.  With a different timeline (one I'm partially at fault for--bad time management, but I'm so busy that it doesn't matter anyway because something's got to give), it might not be so bad, but the time crunch is brutal.  I ended up working a full day today and I still have to go in tomorrow, on my vacation day.  I'm hoping to just work a half day, but if it's not done, I can't leave. 

This is all extra stressful because, as I mentioned previously, my brother and his family are coming in...and they should actually be at my parents' house as I type.  We only have a few days to spend with them and I want to maximize that time for the kids' (and grandparents') sake.  It was great watching the kids together at Christmas, and I want to savor every moment again this time around.  But my job could get in the way, and it's killing me.  If it was a project I had a good handle on, it might not be so bad.  But because it's something I don't do often (I'm mostly doing it because someone else is busy, even though they want me to do more of this type of thing), I'm having a hard time with it and it's making me crazy. 

So, after missing my whole picnic today and giving up at least part of my vacation day tomorrow, I'm not too happy.  I went to the gym tonight to run out my frustrations, and ran my first mile in 8:34.  I took a walking break but still ran three miles in 30 minutes, which I hadn't done in a long time, at least since my knee issues back in June, just after my great run in the Corporate Challenge.  It felt great to run it out and I wasn't on the verge of tears anymore like I had been most of the day.  But tomorrow looms and I'm worried.  I don't want to stay any later than necessary.  This weekend is supposed to be family time, and it's time I can't get back.  It kills me that I even need to be in a situation like this, because it's just another example of how I feel stretched and like there aren't enough hours in the day.  It's getting more and more frustrating, but right now I don't have a choice.  Wish me luck...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Randoms of the Day...

Nothing major to report on currently...just hoping to get through this week and enjoy some great family time this weekend when the Portland contingent comes in.  Can't wait.  In the meantime...
Here's a picture of Jacob when he fell asleep for the last visitation for my grandma...such an angel. 
If only they knew...
Here's Jacob and a couple of his (second?) cousins at the top of the "stairs to nowhere" at the banquet hall that hosted the funeral luncheon...ironically the same place where we had our wedding reception (different room, thankfully).  I hadn't been in that building since, and it was funny to walk in eight years later and reminisce.  I realized that I finally got to see the bathroom, which I never used on my wedding day...as I never had to pee from the time I put on my wedding dress until I took it off.  I have no idea how, as I felt well-hydrated the entire day.  Crazy.

And here's Jacob checking out the little fountain below the stairs.  Perhaps he thought it was like the one at the Philadelphia Zoo.  No wet clothes this time around, though!

And this really has nothing to do with Jacob, but this blog is about me as much as him, I suppose...so here's a picture I took of the flower I picked from the arrangement on top of the casket at the cemetery.  It may not dry as well as a rose or a carnation, but I will always have this lovely picture to remember that flower by.  I just love how it came out.

Finally, here's one from Craig's phone on the beach in Atlantic City.  Jacob really wanted to play beach lacrosse, but I ended up vetoing it after balls got thrown a little to far for my liking (both for others' safety's sake and for my lack of desire to chase it down every 15 seconds on burning hot sand).
And no, I have no idea how Jacob is standing there on burning hot sand.
Other than that, not much to report.  Jacob seemed to make up for our crazy week by napping fantastically this weekend...three hours Saturday and a solid 2-1/2 yesterday.  I enjoyed every minute of it, doing yard work and taking a cleansing dip in the pool on Saturday (and if I would have known he'd go that long, I would have vacuumed the pool, too), and finally catching up on the royal wedding (3-1/2 months late) on the DVR yesterday while uploading pictures to Facebook.  It was funny to have a weekend day where we had to be inside, courtesy of the crazy thunderstorms that came through this weekend.  We had another one Saturday that trapped us inside Wegmans a bit, but in the end Jacob enjoyed running through the rain to the car...more than I did, I'm sure.

If you want to see the full batch of pictures from our trip, click here and here.

Otherwise, we're working on getting back to normal.  Jacob is pretty much back to where he was pre-vacation with potty training.  He wears big boy undies to daycare, usually makes it home dry, but seems to have a penchant for dribbling a bit.  The plastic pants make that not an issue, but I don't know if he's dribbling because his body isn't ready yet or if he just doesn't get it.  But it's manageable, if only because he's pooping in the potty 99% of the time. 

The good news is that this week and next week are four-day weeks.  Once we're past that, we'll be nearly at the end of the month, my birthday and labor day will come and go, and suddenly it'll be the end of summer.  How is that possible?  Insane.  Until that happens, I'm going to go work on making work days speed by but evenings and weekends go nice and slow.  Wish me luck...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So many thoughts...

Wow, what a week this has been.  We've come back from vacation, settled back in at home, experienced the passing of my grandmother, had one nearly normal day of work/daycare, and then got back on the road for for two-plus days of family time.  I barely had time to process our trip before we were on to another big thing, and now we have about a week to get back into our routines before throwing them off again for the best reason possible--my brother and his family are coming back east and we'll be giving the kids plenty of time to enjoy each others' presence (and us plenty of time to enjoy watching it). 

As a whole, our trip was a tough one.  It had its moments, for sure, and those will probably be the things that make us want to do it again.  It's always fun seeing Jacob experience new things, and it's fun to get out of the norm and do some new things ourselves (or maybe just appreciate the absence of certain other elements of daily life).  But getting to that point was often a challenge.  Jacob spent a good portion of our trip whining about one thing or another.  We'd be playing with one toy and he'd be crying for a toy at home.  We'd put on one cool shirt and he'd be begging for something we didn't pack.  We went to play a cool mini-golf course, and he was melting down about wanting to go to our mini-golf at home.  He wouldn't smile for pictures, wouldn't stand still, wouldn't listen, and would have been completely content staying in the hotel room and throwing, batting and catching baseballs.  I guess we should remember that for next time and save our money, but there's a fine line between having a content child and having one that doesn't go out of his comfort zone to appreciate new things.  Maybe he wasn't ready for the changes, maybe we pushed it on him when he doesn't get enough time at home with us as it is, or maybe we filled the days simply so we weren't exhausted by chasing after him all day, rotating among the same handful of sports.  But we truly thought that the trip would be fun for him--two baseball games, the zoo, beach time, and lots of fun food and new sights.  And while he will probably be talking about certain things for months, it's hard to tell if he truly enjoyed the trip or just tolerated it.

I'll admit that it was hard to do certain things while keeping his needs in mind.  His limited palette made food selections difficult, and working around his naptimes/bedtimes was no small task.  In some cases we didn't do the best job of making sure he was put first--naps were short or non-existent, meals less than healthy or far overdue--but I guess that just goes hand-in-hand with vacations and at least he's old enough to withstand situations like that without any dire consequences.  Most of the time we were crankier about late food or crazy sleep schedules than he was.

The frustrations definitely got to me, and there was a point at which I was convinced that 90% of what was coming out of my mouth was a frustrated statement toward Jacob--telling him to do one thing or stop doing another.  Listen, stay with us, stop hitting, don't step on my foot, smile for the picture, don't throw that, don't swing your bat inside, lay down and sleep, eat this, don't touch that, go on the potty, don't kick sand, we're not buying that, sit in the stroller, sit nice at the table, etc.  Maybe that's bad, but so many of those had a purpose, be it safety-related or just for our convenience...and when combined with some iffy timing on various things throughout the trip, it just made the trip a little more difficult than I had imagined.  I was relieved to come home, for sure.

It was on the way home, however, that we found out my grandma was going downhill, so while we had no idea how quickly she'd go, we did have an inkling that it wouldn't be a normal week one way or another.  I was relieved that we had a few days to decompress, though--time to unpack, do laundry, restock the fridge, and just rest up.  There are few things worse than coming home from vacation and immediately having to jump back into your usual routine.  I didn't really have the "I need a vacation from my vacation" feeling this time around, and I think that buffer time was the reason.  Yes, vacation was stressful and I wouldn't have wanted to be gone any longer or to get back to work any sooner...but I didn't have that crazy exhaustion that normally comes with travel like that.

Once my grandma passed away early Saturday, I knew that it was going to be a crazy few days.  Fortunately I was able to head into work on Monday and get a boatload of catching up done.  Still, I felt bad being gone for two more days knowing the pile of work and even tighter deadlines I'd have waiting for me when I returned.  Of course, none of that mattered and I would never have been anywhere else these last few days, but I'm sure you know what I mean.  It's no fun when someone else's situation makes your life harder, and I hate doing it to other people, too.  Heck, I'm not even pregnant and I'm already stressing about what's going to happen when I go on maternity leave next time (because last time yielded a small miracle and that won't be happening again this time).  My boss's job is hard enough!

The funny thing is that I didn't really know what to expect from all of the funeral activities this time around.  I'm used to how things go with my dad's side of the family, as we've been through the process a few times.  Sad though the occasion might be, we usually find ourselves doing a good deal of smiling as we recall the good times.  The Binkleys are an easy-going bunch and we're good at going with the flow.  We've spent a lot of time together away from major family crises, so in the end funerals tend to be a slightly subdued reunion and we can at least enjoy the togetherness.  My mom's side of the family is a little more fragmented.  Two of her three siblings lived out of town for the majority of my life, so at best we usually had a week or two each year to enjoy their presence and get reacquainted.  Many of the grandkids live out of town as it is, and with not having seen so many in so long, I really had no idea what to expect as far as who would come in.  Additionally, I wasn't sure who we'd see at the funeral home or how the whole process would go in general.

I'm happy to report that things seemed to go very well.  While it was unfortunate my brother couldn't make it in (because of the aforementioned trip next week) and one of my cousins couldn't either (she was just in a week or so ago for her husband's class reunion), I did get to see cousins I hadn't seen in ages.  Regardless of why they hadn't been back in so long, I thought it was a great tribute to my grandma that they made it a priority to be there for this.  It was definitely funny to look around at all of us and realize that we're all grown up (even my youngest cousin).  Many of us have kids...and even some of those kids are darn near grown up, too.  The whole thing was a bit surreal, to be honest.  But it was so good to see everyone and have some time to catch up.  I truly hope that our next visit won't take so long to happen, and when it does, that it's for something positive.

Jacob presented a bit of a challenge this time around.  I had avoided having Jacob around during the funeral activities for my aunt in the spring, but this time I really didn't have a choice.  I knew he'd be a handful during three two-hour visitations, and I feared the actual funeral service because I know how he can be in church.  Turns out my worrying had some merit.  Jacob got in a cat nap right before we arrived for the evening session on Monday.  He was wired from the second we arrived and we spent the evening chasing him down, picking him up off the floor, catching the pillows he threw, and supervising his fascination with the organ in the lobby.  He was a little confused by the whole thing, at least as far as the fact that Great-Grandma was laying in a box in the front of the room, but he does seem to know that she's in heaven with Jesus so we'll leave it at that for now since that's the most important thing anyway. 

For the second viewing on Tuesday afternoon, we held off his nap hoping he'd drop off on the way there and sleep through the whole thing, but that didn't happen.  Fortunately my backup plan did work, which was bringing his hockey game and a slew of his hockey guys with us.  He played contentedly with them for the vast majority of the session, and it was an extra huge relief since Craig had a work thing and that left me as the main wrangler.  Of course, he fell asleep on the way to the evening session and slept through the entire thing.  It was nice to just let him sleep and have a little time to chat, and plenty of people stopped over to admire him, but we knew it might be a long night if he didn't stay asleep.  Sure enough, he woke up just as we were leaving and he didn't go down for good until about midnight.  He wasn't particularly vocal while he was awake, so that was good, but I was definitely concerned about Wednesday.

He slept in until after 8am, and I decided to bring a few of his hockey guys to church (no puck) as an added distraction for the funeral.  Well...he still wanted a puck, and when he got cranky about it, I put the hockey guys away....at which point he totally freaked.  He screamed "I want my hockey guys" about a dozen times before I finally got him out of the church and into a bathroom where we had a bit of a chat.  I was NOT happy about having to miss my grandmother's funeral (Craig couldn't take him because he was a pall bearer and wasn't sure how quick the service would end), and after a bit Jacob calmed down and we went back in.  Still, it was pretty horrible.  All that battling must have worn him out, because he fell asleep on the way to the cemetery and slept through that part.  Fortunately the short nap didn't make him a total maniac at the luncheon, but he didn't eat a whole lot either.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon at my grandma's house, going through some things to pick out a few mementos before the estate sale takes place.  I got some kitchen stuff (springform pan, mini muffin tins, portable 9x13 pan), found one more pair of earrings (to add to some lovely jewelry I chose the other night), some little knicknacks that would remind me of her, and a couple pieces of this deep red glassware that I thought might look nice in my dining room--also pieces that directly remind me of her.  And really, that's what it's all about.  I mentioned to my aunt and cousin that it felt a little funny going through her jewelry (and later the house) while in the midst of the funeral stuff, but then again, I'd tend to think that my grandma would rather we be the recipients of her stuff rather than having nameless, faceless estate sale buyers pawing through it all.  I wanted to make sure I picked out a few things I will treasure.  I know how much I appreciate the things I acquired when my other grandparents' house was getting cleaned out, and I know I'll feel the same way about this stuff.  I'll look at it, use it, and smile.

Jacob fell asleep shortly after we got on the road, around 7:30.  I braced myself for another night like Tuesday, but he barely woke up when we got home.  I quietly changed him into his pajamas, gave him the drink of water he was requesting, and that was it for the night.  We didn't hear from him again until after 7:30 this morning.  I guess he was tired.  So was I.  Today was tiring.  I felt like I emerged from a crazy deep sleep when the alarm went off this morning, and I've been in a similar fog for most of the day.  I think I must have gone through the past few days on adrenaline, and just now my body is telling me it's tired.  While I didn't get super emotional during the past few days (honestly, seeing how she had gone downhill and how much stress my parents were under, it was hard to be anything but relieved in the short term), my grandma is on my mind a lot and I do miss her...more a version of her from a couple years ago than the one from a couple weeks ago, but she will be missed and I have a feeling that the mourning will take place little by little over the weeks and months to come.  When her house sells and it's officially no longer "her house" sitting across the street from my parents, that will be a big one.  Little things will no doubt crop up for a while.

All in all, it's been a crazy couple weeks.  So much to process...and sleep is a good first step :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day Six - Heading Home

As much as it usually stinks to come home from vacation, I was pretty relieved on Thursday morning.  It had been a long week.  While we certainly had fun and saw a lot, there were a lot of elements of the trip that I was happy to leave behind--or at least deal with on our own turf.  Jacob had been quite difficult at times, we had some bad timing and frustrating moments, and everything was just starting to feel so darn expensive.  Routine can get old, but it can also be a lifesaver sometimes.

Anyway, we pushed through one more morning of hotel life, ate our continental breakfast (Jacob loved his Raisin Bran, muffin, and juice!), and packed up to leave.  Our first stop was a couple hours away, a little bit past Philly.  We visited the McDonoughs, who you may remember from numerous other occasions when we've gotten the boys together, either at our house or at Colin's grandparents' house on the other side of Rochester.  We finally had made our way down to them!  It was extra exciting because they just added a little girl, Kelly, to their family the day before Jacob's birthday!  In addition, we hadn't had a chance to visit in over a year, so the boys were considerably older and chattier this time around and we were looking forward to seeing them play together.

We really had a great time and I wish it could have been longer!  The boys played together very nicely, though with the usual kid accusations of toy stealing and deficient turn-taking.  But it all stayed very pleasant and we had a nice time catching up.  The boys talked a mile a minute about anything and everything, which was the biggest change from our last visit, when Jacob was just starting to talk.  They played trains, golf, swords (foam, of course), drew with chalk, and hid away in the laundry room.  And, of course, I got to hold Kelly for quite a while!  It's so amazing to hold a tiny baby.  I picked her up and it felt like picking up air!  So light, and yet she's somewhere around 8 lbs.  I guess that shows you what happens when you're picking up 30+ pounds all the time!  She was so sweet and hardly cried, and I marveled at her tiny feet (seriously--at birth they were a good half inch smaller than her big brother's were!)...so fun :)  We had a couple moderately successful attempts at getting a picture of the boys together...


And then I opted for easier subjects... :)

We stayed for lunch and then headed out, though we hated to leave so soon.  We'll hopefully have another visit to look forward to at some point soon, when they all get up the courage to make the long trip north to visit the grandparents!  Can't wait! 

After that we headed back to the baseball stadium in Allentown.  Craig had bought a shirt at the game and it turned out it didn't fit him, so since it was on our general path home, we stopped in so he could exchange it.  While we were there, we broke down and got a couple of the stuffed versions of the Pork Racers.  The plan was to give one to Jacob now and keep the other for a special occasion, but so far we haven't taken one back because he's been enjoying racing them against his pierogy guys :)  Here's the display, though, so you can see them...
We got the two on the right--one ham, one bacon.  The hot dog will have to wait.
After that, we got into the longest driving streak of the trip.  We did take one gas/snack break, and another bathroom break (me, not Jacob--though he did pee out of his pull-up twice that day, and maybe even a third time once we got home--we had so many incidents like that on this trip, they all tend to blur now), but the path from Allentown to Syracuse was a long one.  Along the way I happened to check Facebook and saw a post by my aunt saying that my grandma wasn't doing well and she was flying home the next day...so I called my mom to check in.  That's when I found out she was going downhill pretty quickly, having stopped eating and hardly responding at all.  It was sad to hear, even though she'd been ready to go for a long time.  I was relieved she made it through our trip, though, if only because I wanted to enjoy the week off and I didn't want to deal with trying to get refunds on hotels or anything else.  The trip was a significant time and money investment and I would have hated to see it go to waste.  Selfish, perhaps, but no doubt it would have been a tough situation had it come to that.

Knowing that the drive home would be long, I arranged for us to meet my college roommate, Mary, for dinner just outside of Syracuse.  It was really a perfect stopping point, and it was SO great to see her.  We marveled over the fact that it had been so long (since last fall) since we had seen each other.  Even though we don't see each other that often and would certainly like to more, we've got one of those friendships that just seems to pick up easily when we finally do get together.  I still thank God that he put us together our freshman year (15 years ago!!) because we really were a fantastic match and it made the transition to college so much easier to have a roommate that not only didn't drive me nuts, but was a pleasure to live with. 

Jacob fell asleep shortly before our arrival in Syracuse and woke up shortly before we arrived at the restaurant.  I don't know if it was the oddly timed nap, a burst of energy, or a whole lot of craziness pent up after a day in the car, but holy cow was he a pain in the neck at dinner.  He wouldn't let go of me, initially, and then didn't want to sit, was a little crazy while we were waiting for our food (long story, but it has to do with Ketchup Man, a tactic we relied on a lot on this trip--but Jacob's really getting into it and it's hard to dissuade him now when he gets a little overzealous), and then would hardly eat.  Eventually he chilled a little and had some cute moments, but it made for a bit of a disjointed meal.  Still, it was well worth the stop to chat with Mary, and the rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful. 

It felt so good to get home, but that feeling was shortlived as we had to get Jacob in bed and start unpacking.  So much to do after so many days away!  We ended up having a pretty laid back Friday, my grandma passed away early Saturday morning, and Craig headed out on a roadtrip Saturday afternoon.  Jacob and I didn't do much for the 24 hours that followed.  We played, went to church, ate...and that was about it.  I did some reorganizing during Saturday's nap, and vacuumed out my ridiculously dirty car during Sunday's nap.  Sunday evening we went to a memorial hockey game for our friend and former Amerk, Craig Charron, who died last October from stomach cancer.  We went to a similar event last year while Sharky was still alive, after which we went to a postgame reception and got to meet the Miracle on Ice hero, Mike Eruzione.  This year Craig didn't have to work it since he's no longer with the Amerks, but he did do some prep work for it early on.  The good news is that we got to watch it as a family.  Craig did take advantage of his connections and got down to the locker room, where he asked former Sabres' goalie Martin Biron (who he knows from his time with the Amerks) to sign one of Jacob's mini goalie sticks.  He did, but then grabbed his stick from the game and signed it directly to Jacob!  When Craig came up the steps with that stick, my jaw hit the ground.  So awesome.  What a great guy.

Monday it was back to reality, but we were quickly off again to head to NT for all of the funeral activities for my Grandma.  Two more days off and a continuation of our crazy schedule lately.  Should be an interesting challenge to get back to normal one of these days.

I still have some lingering thoughts on our trip, but I guess I'll save those for another day... 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day Five - Jersey Shore

The weather had been forecasted to be pretty crappy on Wednesday so anything we could do was a bonus. We wandered out in the morning to a humid and cloudy day, but no rain.  We walked down to the Korean War Memorial on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  We had seen it the night before but wanted to get a look in the daylight.  Turns out Jacob was fascinated by it.  It was pretty striking.
In the background is a waterfall with soldiers carrying a wounded soldier.  in the foreground is a soldier holding dog tags.

This was on the other side of the wall to the left of the previous picture (the names of New Jersey's Korean War victims was on that wall).  Another waterfall on this side, and another sculpture of a male and female soldier carrying a wounded soldier.
We wandered up a block to see some other angles of the casinos.  Here's the front of Caesar's...

And here's a co-mingling of Caesar's, Bally's, and the Wild Wild West Casino...

Back up on the boardwalk, we got a daylight view of Boardwalk Hall, a landmark and the original home of the Miss America pageant, as well as other sporting events.

We also checked our the Pier Shops at Caesar's, and pondered grabbing lunch.  However, it was hot and Jacob wasn't hungry so we decided to go back to our room and regroup.  Well, we got a little sleepy and all ended up taking a two-hour nap.  We slept through lunch and figured we'd grab a snack somewhere along the way to the aquarium.  We only ended up passing by one place right at the beginning, so we had to settle for a snack from the vending machine at the aquarium. 

When we got there, Jacob ran right up to this diving tank outside, and willingly smiled without us asking.  Where was that the rest of the trip?!

Once inside, Jacob enjoyed the touch tank with small sharks in it...

We saw a bunch of animals...fish, rays, reptiles, jellyfish, tropical fish, and more.  There was also a touch tank with stingrays, and one was apparently trying to escape.  Here he is trying to climb the wall...his entire snout (?) is out of the water!

Out on an observation deck, Jacob checked out a captain's wheel...

And refused to pose for a picture with the pirate...

But then he wanted a picture with the diver guy after checking out a collection of diving helmets upstairs...

After a short time at the aquarium (it wasn't that big), we decided to head to one of the casinos in the marina district to find a place to eat dinner.  Well, the family-friendly place we were looking for via the GPS was no longer there...so we hopped back in the car to visit the Borgata, the fanciest casino in town, because they had a fast food-filled food court.  However, when we got to the elevators in the parking ramp, there was a sign that no children under 18 that weren't registered guests were allowed in the building.  Seriously?!  So we piled back in the car, frustrated and hungry. 

We decided to head back to the boardwalk and try The Rainforest Cafe.  Once we got there, we discovered there was a two-hour wait!  Johnny Rockets wasn't much better, and we couldn't really do any of the outdoor stands because it was still drizzly--ok to walk in, but not eat in.  Dejected and starving, we decided to head back to our room and just order pizza.  Domino's, no less.  On the way, we stopped in the visitor's center and snapped this picture:


We ate our pizza and watched one of Jacob's movies.  I was pretty bummed about the way the whole day had gone.  We finished off the evening with another walk on the boardwalk, mostly in light rain, but we still got to check out Steel Pier, the Trump-owned amusement area.  No rides this time as the weather was bad, but at least we could say we'd been there.  We headed back and Jacob was wide awake...and he stayed that way for a while again.  Ugh.  So much for going out with a bang.

The next day we were heading back, but we still had a couple fun stops on the agenda...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day Four - Jersey Shore

Tuesday pretty much saved the whole trip for me.  Up until that point it had been full of things that didn't work out right and frustrating moments with Jacob.  I decided Tuesday had to be a BIG day for us because the weather was looking sketchy for Wednesday and I wanted to fit in as much of the good outside stuff as we possibly could.  Our first order of business was checking out of the hotel and getting on the road to the shore.  It was about an hour or so there, and it was a relatively easy trip.  I booked a room in Atlantic City, which wasn't really my first choice.  I really wanted to stay in Ocean City, where I had stayed nine years ago with my two best friends.  It's a lovely little town, very family friendly and perfectly pleasant.  However, hotel rates there are ridiculous.  It made more sense to stay in Atlantic City for over $100 cheaper and make the half hour drive to Ocean City when we wanted to visit.  I managed to get a hotel less than a block from the beach.  It was just a Days Inn and it paled in comparison to all of the casinos on the boardwalk, but it got the job done.  We even had a bigger room with a couch.  It wasn't fancy, but it had free internet, free breakfast, and a good location.  Just like in Philly, we parked in the lot for free and went off to kill time until check-in. 

We grabbed our sand toys and walked to the beach.  The heat was once again pretty awful, but the beach access was free (unlike Ocean City where it's $5/person) so we splurged on an umbrella rental to make the time more tolerable.  We had a very nice time there, mostly just playing in the sand.  I dipped my feet in the ocean a few times, and once got as deep as the top of my legs, but it was a bit chilly.  I did get Jacob to walk in a little on a run to fill our buckets with water, but I think he was a little thrown off by the waves. 

As usual, even sand play had a bit of a Jacob slant to it.  We used our turret-like sand molds to create "bowling pins", then used a lacrosse ball to bowl them down...

It took a while, but we eventually got Jacob to change into his bathing suit, and he even convinced us to stay on the beach a little longer.  He did get to play a little beach lacrosse, too.  But mostly it was digging and molding and pouring water.
 After we tired of the beach, we tried to figure out lunch.  Jacob conked out in his stroller before he could eat his corndog, but he got in a good nap while we waited to check in, and woke up unhappy once we got in the room.  However, once he calmed down he inhaled his food and we got ready to head out to Ocean City.

It was an amazing drive out there, as the GPS took us on a route through all the seaside towns and past some of the most gorgeous beach houses ever.  A-MAZING.  We're talking millions of dollars.  Once we got there and parked, Ocean City was as lovely as I remembered it.  The boardwalk was pleasant and full of great food, little shops, and fun amusements. 

We wandered up and down the boardwalk and stopped at Gillian's Wonderland Pier to let Jacob have his first ever ride.  He picked out a car ride that was a crack-the-whip type ride.  I rode with him just in case it freaked him out. 

He ended up loving it!  After the first whip, I looked at him to make sure he was okay, and all I saw was a big smile!  Craig got video but I'm not sure if I will be able to upload it.  Maybe later :)  Still, he did great!  There's hope for roller coaster riding yet!

After we grabbed a sweaty but delicious dinner at one of my favorite spots, Mack and Manco's Pizza, we carefully selected a site for a long-awaited game of mini golf.  There were a ton to choose from, but we picked one with a cool nautical theme.  There was a big boat (there were holes on the boat) and a giant shark!  The best part about it was that most holes had a potential hole-in-one option, making it the perfect course for Jacob.  He had a blast!

Once again, he beat us on a hole or two, and even got a couple holes-in-one in a row (never fear, at one point I had three!).  Here he is after one of them...
Notice the soccer ball golf ball!
Craig pulled out the win after I choked on the last couple holes, but the best part was on the 19th hole (yes, 19th), where you had to putt the ball on a 3 or 4 inch wide straightaway.  If it went in the hole at the end, a giant shark rose up out of the water in a cage.  Craig did it!  Very cool.

Our last stop in Ocean City was Shiver's, a candy shop that specializes in salt water taffy.  They have so many flavors and you can see right where they make it in the back of the shop.  On the way in, Jacob got his picture with Mr. Taffy...

After we bought a small assortment of taffy, we headed back to Atlantic City.  Since we'd had such trouble getting Jacob to sleep, we decided to go for a late-night walk on the boardwalk.  I figured that the stroller ride motion might do him in, and we'd get the benefit of seeing the boardwalk before the rain came in the next day.  We walked up and down the main section of the boardwalk, from Boardwalk Hall down to somewhere around the Resorts Hotel...maybe a mile at most?  It was a nice night and there was plenty to see.  Let's just say that both the boardwalk contents and the clientele in Atlantic City aren't nearly as idyllic as Ocean City.  While Ocean City has its share of cheesy stores, Atlantic City specializes in them and adds numerous massage parlors to the mix.  Yuck.  Ocean City is full of mid-to-upper class families, and Atlantic City has a little of everything.  But it was still fun to walk and see the casino lights.  And miracle of all miracles, Jacob fell asleep and stayed asleep when we transferred him into his bed.  Heavenly.

I went to bed that night feeling content that we'd seen all we needed to see before the rain would come in.  Anything the next day would be a bonus...