Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whose kid is this?

Yesterday was a good day.  Yes, it was a Monday and it was day one of Craig's work trip to Las Vegas (jealous!).  It was raining, I was tired, and a post-work trip to the grocery store awaited, but it was a good day.  Why, you ask?  Because Jacob was an angel.  Seriously.  Awesome.

For all my complaining, he can be a good kid.  Like the other day when he played nicely with his Legos for a couple hours while Craig and I lounged nearby.  He can play independently, and he can be really sweet and loving when he tries.  But man, most times he opens his mouth lately, I don't like what's coming out of it.  I decided the other day that I'm very excited for school to start because the older kids in Jacob's class will be off to Kindergarten and his exposure to smart-mouthed five-year-olds will be minimal.  I do think that's where a lot of it has come from, though knowing he wasn't exactly a saint for the last couple years I guess this is just the four-year-old version of bad behavior.  From what I can tell, for the most part he's a good boy at daycare (or maybe he just blends in with the rest), so the misbehaving is apparently something special he saves just for us.  Lovely.

Well, yesterday I was bracing myself for a long evening without Craig.  I knew we needed to stop at the grocery store, and I was already yawning painfully on my way to pick up Jacob.  I was greeted with a joyful, "Mommy!" when I got to daycare (much better than when he runs and hides instead), and he was still talking about the "dance party" that we had briefly discussed that morning, that he wanted to have at home in the evening.  It was so cute to see him so excited about something, because it doesn't really happen all that often. 

At Wegmans, I decided to let him sit in one of the car carts.  We had talked about it last time we were there, and admittedly it's getting harder to fit him in the seat in the cart...and no, I don't trust him to walk yet.  Of course, I discovered that those car carts are a bear to steer and push, particularly once they're loaded with groceries.  But the joy on his face when he got in and I started pushing was pretty darn priceless.  He loved beeping the horns and steering the wheels, and he was very well-behaved most of the time.  He did get out a couple times, but got back in without much prodding.  And the happiness on his face each time I bent down and checked in on him was adorable. 

We got home and I made dinner, and he ate his dinner promptly and without complaint.  Normally all of these post-daycare activities would have been interspersed with some sort of smart talk, complaining, squirming, and flat-out refusals, but none of that happened.  It was heavenly.  After dinner he played around and changed his clothes a few times in preparation for our dance party--he felt that he needed to wear nice pants, a belt, dressy socks, and dress shoes--though he was disappointed to discover that his dress shoes from last year had been packed away because he outgrew them.  I'm still not clear on why he felt it was important to dress up, but it was cute nonetheless (unlike a lot of his other costume changes on any given evening).

A little while before bedtime we officially got the dance party going.  We danced to music on my computer.  His moves were, ummm, unique...but adorable and funny.  He also created some odd little game involving his mini-hockey nets and rolling golf balls into them.  In the midst of the dancing, I did take a little break to sort through his toy bins and reorganize a bit.  I had been meaning to do it for a while, but I finally had a chance.  It's futile to hope they'll stay that way, but it's nice to know things are somewhat organized for now. 

He got ready for bed with very little drama, but we did have a few issues before he went to sleep--the usual random requests and an extra trip to the potty.  But all things considered everything went amazingly well.  And thank goodness, since I didn't have any backup.  That's always my worst fear, that I will be worked down to my last nerve when Craig is out of town, and have no choice but to literally lock him in his room and walk away.  But not last night.  Today is another day, of course.  We had a couple hiccups this morning but in the end he was mostly delightful.  And he's looking forward to another dance party tonight!

Part of me wants to analyze this whole situation to death, and part of me knows I should just enjoy it while it lasts.  But when it's this good, I'd be crazy to not want to figure out why it's so good and how we can continue this behavior forever--or at least more often than not.  I don't think it's directly tied to Craig's absence--after all, Jacob loves him to death and I'd be more likely to think he'd act out while he's gone.  I do think that my "we're in this together" team-oriented talk that I get into when Craig is gone for a few days in a row helps, like it gives him extra purpose or something.  I'm sure the novelty would wear off quickly on a long-term basis, so maybe this is only meant to be a special thing for a precious few days, and then he'll be back to normal.  It does definitely make me ponder the attention he receives (or doesn't) on a daily basis and wonder how to connect this scenario to the norm. 

One thing it does tell me, however, is that we've got to be doing something right.  It proves he can act like a normal, lovely child.  It shows that he can be sweet, fun-loving, and downright pleasant.  It's annoying, however, that there's something out there that throws him off that track all too easily and all too often.  And, oh, if I could figure that out, life would be so much more pleasant.  But in the meantime, if it doesn't last, I have a new trick up my sleeve courtesy of another blogger.  I'll keep you posted on that one...

But pardon me now while I go bask in the joy of yesterday for the last few hours of my workday, until I pick up Jacob and see which child I bring home today...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Baseball Weekend

The past few weekends have been busy.  Heck, pretty much every summer weekend has been busy.  It seems like we've been on the road most of the summer.  Sometimes I wonder why we bother keeping our pool.  I can't remember the last time we were in it for fun.  Part of that is laziness and the shorter days, not to mention Jacob's desire to play sports after dinner, but add in Craig being on the road most weekends for work and us being in Buffalo or elsewhere much of the time, there just isn't a lot of downtime.  Even the staycation I was pondering most of the summer never happened, partly because of work schedules and partly because there just wasn't a major motivator.  It's been a weird summer, to say the least. 

Sometimes I get to this point of the summer and feel like we "failed" summer.  The summer bucket list is still heavily populated and Labor Day is right around the corner.  Yet I look at my photo folder and see hundreds of pictures, so I know we did something this summer.  But something doesn't necessarily mean that we accomplished a lot of what we originally wanted to do.  Usually baseball is a big part of our summer, and we'd only been to a few games this summer.  I think the boys went to one or two games without me, mostly for Craig's player appearances for work.  Beyond that, we went to one baseball game here in town (not even the Red Wings, but the Yankees' affiliate, who played a bunch of games here this summer due to stadium renovations at their home park), and one game in Cooperstown. 

A few weeks ago my office decided to ditch our annual picnic and opt for a Red Wings game instead, complete with a picnic spread pregame.  At least I knew that meant we'd get to one game this summer.  Then a couple weeks ago, Craig was scouting out Buffalo Bisons games, since we'd been trying to get to a game there for the last few years.  We hadn't been to a game there since Jacob was two, but it seems like longer than that.  He found out that Saturday's game was a big night celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Bisons' stadium.  Tickets were only $5, so it seemed like a good choice.  In the end I agreed to make yet another trip to Buffalo to go to the game, if we came home early-ish on Sunday.  I just haven't had much weekend time at home to get things done (yardwork, for one...but the flurry of tasks on a Sunday night after a trip to Buffalo--laundry, newspaper reading, etc.--always sets me behind for the rest of the week), and I needed a little time to handle all of that for a change. 

Friday night we headed out to the ballpark here in town to watch the Red Wings take on the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, whose stadium we visited last summer on our big vacation.  It was a beautiful night, the picnic food was great, and it was fun to see some of my co-workers' families.  The Red Wings were terrible, but we still had a nice time.  The funny part of the night was that Jacob told us that afternoon after daycare that one of his daycare buddies would be at the game, too.  While we were there, Jacob kept asking to go find him.  There were thousands of people there, so we kept pushing the request off a bit.  At one point I was saying, "Jacob, there's a lot of people here and the odds of finding him are slim..." and before I could even finish my sentence I looked over, and said, "Oh, wait, there they are."  Sure enough, they were sitting a couple sections over from us.  We ended up almost missing them since they left just as we were heading over, but we caught them in the tunnel heading out of the stadium.  The boys were shy, but it was nice to chat briefly with Jacob's buddy's parents (his mom was the one I chatted with a bit at the birthday party a few weeks back). 

I only took one picture at the game, one of Jacob with this new statue in the stadium...
It was nice to sleep in our own beds again on a Friday night, and we slept in and had a relaxing start to the morning...until we realized we really needed to get packed up quickly so we could make it to Buffalo on time.  We were planning on meeting up with Craig's whole family and checking out the Naval park in downtown Buffalo.  They've done a ton of work there and we hadn't seen it all, so it sounded like a fun pregame activity. 

There were a ton of military pieces there--planes, tanks, giant ships, and even a submarine.  We didn't have time to go to the museum or go aboard the ships, so we just walked around to look at everything and pay our respects at the various memorial monuments.
Here's Jacob touching part of what we think was a submarine...
And here's a look down the line at some of the ships...

It was a warm 90 degree day, so we took a bit of a detour down the way to grab some beverages and snacks.  Jacob opted for some chocolate soft serve and ended up adorably messy (well, until it got really messy and then I got a little extra annoyed, but I blame the heat!).   
He thought it was hilarious that he had a "goatee", and thought he looked like General Custer from Night at the Museum 2.  He's been talking about being him for Halloween, so I guess he thought it was extra funny...hence the big smile!
We eventually got to the game and settled in.  We had great seats, and the kids took advantage by running down to the backstop and trying to high five the mascots.  Jacob's on the right with the red hat and shirt.
Gotta love Buster and Chip!
At one point I got up to go get my fried bologna (a Buffalo specialty) and snapped this picture on my way out.  I love this stadium dearly because I spent one of my best summers ever there (1999) as a Bisons intern.  It was the internship that gave me an extra leg up on getting my Amerks internship (as hired by Craig), and I had a blast and made a couple good friends.  It was a fantastic summer, and being back at the ballpark definitely made me reminisce about the good ol' days.  It didn't hurt, of course, that it was the ballpark's 25th anniversary celebration so there were plenty of references to the past...
Another gorgeous night full of many good memories...
After our enjoyment of the pierogy race in Pittsburgh, we were happy to see that Buffalo has a race of its own--the Wing, Cheese & Celery Race!  It's a chicken wing, atomic wing, cup of bleu cheese, and a stalk of celery racing against each other.  The celery has never won.  Ever.  The celery was winning for part of our race, but the atomic wing cheated and knocked him down.  Here's a shot from right before the takedown...

While I enjoyed the night as a whole, I won't lie--Jacob was an absolute pain.  He didn't want real food for dinner after his ice cream, just snacks (not really my choice to get the ice cream, by the way--peer pressure!).  He kept asking for souvenirs, constantly asked for water, and was rather difficult during a trip to the bathroom.  He just tends to wander off and want to do something pointless and generally on the stupid side (sorry, I'm at a loss to think of a more diplomatic term...he just always wants to fiddle with something or dig in the dirt or touch something that's most definitely germy and gross, and it gets old fast.  He almost kicked a woman in the bathroom doing random high kicks.  Ugh!).  I was completely out of patience by the end of the night.

He did seem to chill out a bit by the end of the game, thankfully.  Of course, fireworks loomed.  All weekend (and, really, all summer) he'd been talking about avoiding fireworks after the game.  He's got this random phobia of fireworks, mostly because of the noise.  No matter how many times we told him we could cover his ears and keep him safe, he remained unconvinced.  However, we were all staying for the postgame fireworks, so he had no choice.  The fireworks were awesome, and for the most part they weren't that loud.  He really ended up liking them, and I only covered his ears once during the display when a series of big booms started.  The fact that he did so well was pretty awesome, and once again, Mommy and Daddy were right--give them a chance and you might actually like them!  I even had a chance to snap a few firework pictures, and I like this one...

We had another nice sleep-in this morning and headed back home around lunch time today.  We had some quiet downtime this afternoon.  To his credit, Jacob played nicely with Legos for a good couple hours!  After a low-key dinner I headed out for some much-needed hedge trimming (yuck) and the boys played some baseball.  I got a couple loads of laundry done, along with some dishes, plus I caught up on mail and newspapers.  Not a bad list for the day.  Finally.  Of course, it's a good thing I got a lot done, because I'm flying solo this week.  Craig is leaving tomorrow for a few days in Vegas for work, so it'll just be me and Jacob until Thursday evening.  The good news is that I have a couple four-day work weeks in a row, bookending a four-day weekend.  I'm taking off my birthday on Friday, then have Labor Day off on Monday.  That will be nice, but I have a busy week to get through before that.  But at least we had a fun weekend to start us out on a good note...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reunion Weekend

Last weekend we had two family reunions.  We had one with my family on Saturday and another with Craig's family on Sunday.  Both were in Buffalo, so for what seemed like the umpteenth weekend this summer, we were headed out of town.  This time we actually stuck around on Friday night and enjoyed some ice cream, then slept in our own beds and moseyed out on Saturday after lunch.  That was a nice change of pace, at least.

We enjoyed fantastic weather for both picnics.  Jacob kept Craig busy wanting to play sports all the time.  Jacob's tendency to wear numerous layers of clothing while playing sports was a novelty at both picnics.  Thankfully, the good weather meant that the odds of him overheating were less than usual.  No matter how much we try to convince him he doesn't need more than two, he just won't listen.  Tonight he took off at least five shirts at bedtime.  ::rolling eyes::  Anyway, the boys played a lot of sports and I had a little time to relax and catch up with family.  I didn't bring out the camera nearly as much as I should have.  I think sometimes it feels like every picture I have of Jacob is him playing sports, and how many of those can I actually take?  Craig actually caught this picture on Saturday...
 
Sunday Jacob was excited to play with his cousins.  So excited he played himself out in the morning (while Mommy and Daddy both periodically snoozed--I was just plain tired and Craig was sleeping off the results of a late evening out), and then fell asleep in the car on the way to the picnic--glove and hat in hand...
 
Here he is batting, while his cousin Luke plays catcher and Craig pitches.  He can really hit a pitched ball (tee ball should be interesting next year, since he's getting used to pitches now), and he did the cutest run around the bases when he got a hit.


At the end of the day we had a random little treat--a free concert at the bandshell next to our shelter.  The concert was Terry Buchwald, an Elvis impersonator.  We stuck around long enough to see the beginning of the show, just to have the experience.  He wasn't bad! 

It was a busy weekend as usual, but at least I got a little downtime (sorry, Craig...you wanted a boy that loved sports!).  We have another busy weekend coming up, but hopefully this one will have some fun and a little rest time, too.  The yard is screaming for some sprucing up, so I guess that comes first.  Summer is winding down so I know the craziness will only last a little bit longer before the schedule eases up and restful weekends become a little more frequent.  Nice to know Craig will be home most of the time for the next few months, aside from an upcoming trip to Vegas for work (ugh, yeah, I know).  Fall is coming, and while I'll regret it in a few weeks, for the first time I'm almost looking forward to it... 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Parenting is Hard. (Part 2)

The other big issue we've had with Jacob is the same old listening problem.  Well, actually, it's more about what's going into his ears and coming out of his mouth.  Not only is he not listening, but he's really getting quite the attitude when he speaks.  I don't know if he's picking up something from how we talk sometimes (I hope not, but kids catch everything), or if it's all literally coming from daycare--either other kids, or maybe even a little attitude from the teachers.  God knows I'd probably have an attitude once in a while if I had to listen to a dozen kids all day. 

The problem is that we ask him to do something, and he cops an attitude.  He says no, or says something about doing bodily harm to us if we force him to do something, or says something just generally potty-mouth-ish (generally about body parts or bodily functions).  We punish him for being disobedient, he gets angrier, and it's a nasty, vicious circle.  We're doing our best to be consistent and trying to focus on removing privileges rather than use any physical punishment--though I won't lie, a well-placed spanking sometimes gets the message across.  But I don't think it does enough and don't want to set a physical example for him since he already hits and kicks a lot, so making a conscious effort to lay off it seems like a good idea. 

So, we take away things.  The other morning when Jacob refused to put on his sneakers, I took away a Lego guy in a car that was distracting him.  He asked me to get it back the whole way to daycare, the whole way home, and all night.  He's asked every day since.  He still hasn't gotten it back.  He put on another tantrum when we went to the grocery store that same day and he refused to get out of the car.  He finally got out when a bee flew in, but not before he lost his stuffed animals for the night.  I did compromise a little and let him have a select few for cooperating later on, but 95% of them were taken away.  After he got over the initial shock of having them taken out in the middle of yet another tantrum, he did calm down, thoughtfully picked his few, and chilled out.  Hmmm.  He just isn't really understanding cause and effect, though.  No matter how many times we try to tell him that he needs to do "a" in order to do "b" (or not do something in order to do keep a privilege), he still keeps thinking he can have it both ways.

Half the time when he talks, it's either nonsense or nastiness coming out of his mouth.  Any request from us is immediately met with a "no".  I'm trying to figure out some sort of consistent punishment for that--that for every "no" we get in a day, we keep track and he loses a couple stuffed animals at bedtime for each one.  We might have to add into that incidences of potty talk or other unfriendly talk.  He often tells me what a nasty mommy I am (because, of course, I'm just trying to get him to follow the rules).  Admittedly, though, I have some less than ideal moments as well because his behavior really gets me angry.  There just doesn't seem to be a way to get him to obey without physically forcing it, and it's insanely frustrating. 

I think what kills me most in these moments of anger is that the sweet, little, perfect baby that I fawned over four years ago has the ability to make me so angry now.  It scares me that he's gotten this nasty all of a sudden, and I'm not sure how to fix it and prevent it from getting even worse as he gets older.  He's always been such a determined, head-strong kid, and this is no exception.  I wish I could end this post with some sort of great solution, but so far there isn't one.  We're trying to be consistent and take away privileges, but so far it's not enough.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parenting is Hard. (Part 1)

Yes, Captain Obvious wrote that blog title, but you know, it can't really be said enough.  For every fantastic, warm-fuzzy moment of parenting, there are inevitably at least three more moments where you're just left stymied by frustration, anger, or flat-out shock that your kid just _(fill in the blank)_.  Somehow that one warm-fuzzy tends to push us through the not-so-great moments, but you know, some days it just doesn't feel like enough.
Just this week we've had two issues with Jacob that we've tried to solve, and the results have been decidedly mixed.  Closer to not good, probably, but there are moments where I win (sort of) and I feel like maybe someday it'll all sink in for real and Jacob will turn into a fantastic kid.  In the meantime, he's a challenge.

One of the issues I looked into this week was doing something about Jacob's night time potty training.  He's nearly perfect during the day.  It's rare for him to have an accident, and when he does, it's usually during naptime.  But that maybe happens once every few weeks, and almost always at daycare (probably after seconds on lunchtime milk) or when he's out of his normal routine.  But overnight?  Ugh.  When we went to the doctor back in June, she said it's normal for kids to not have nighttime bladder control until the age of six!  Obviously most do by then, but it's not officially considered a "problem" until then.  I don't really like that answer because I really wanted to be done buying diapers before we have another baby to buy for, and it doesn't look like we'll be off the hook for a while.  He's not even close.   I can count dry nights on one hand.  And while it doesn't really seem to bother him right now, the sleepover era is probably just around the corner.  But if I've learned anything with Jacob over the past 4+ years, it's that he does things in his own way, at his own speed.

We bought a potty a little before Jacob turned two, but we didn't see much success until at least few months later.  Still, I wouldn't say he was fully potty trained until about 3-1/2, or maybe a little before.  So that whole time in between was a lot of very slow progress.  I don't know if boot camp would have worked with him because he's so stubborn and until he's mentally (and physically) ready for something, there's just no sense pushing hard.  Pushing a little is good, I think, because sometimes kids need the reminder and you don't want them getting too set in their ways, but past a certain point it becomes a power struggle and it's useless. 

Something that bugged me earlier this week is that Jacob woke up one morning and was hanging out quietly in his room, then suddenly said he wet the bed (or, in his case, the blankets and the floor).  What ticked me off about that is that there are times when it seems like he's just lazy about things and decides to pee in the pull-up instead of getting out of bed and going to the bathroom.  It's happened right at bedtime, too.  I don't know for sure when he pees overnight (more on that in a minute) but if he waits until the morning and is just too lazy, that is not okay.

We stuck with diapers for a long time because, quite frankly, they're cheaper.  However, he was peeing out of them a lot and they're not ideal for when he decides he has to pee 10 minutes after bedtime.  So a month or two ago we officially switched over to nighttime-strength pull-ups.  Admittedly, at this point I think it's worth the money because they work better and are much easier to wrangle.  I have to spend about $8-10 every three weeks.  Not bad.  But earlier this week we ran out and I didn't have a chance to get more.  I did have some free samples of the bigger kid version of pull-ups (Good Nights, I think?), and I'll admit that the thought of having a kid on the larger end of that size range wearing a glorified diaper made me cringe a bit.  Four is bad enough, let alone school-age.  Anyway...I decided to try something new, since the sample was a little bigger.  I let Jacob wear underwear underneath.  I figured maybe he'd feel the wetness better and respond quicker, and perhaps we'd get a clue as to when he has to pee.  The first night he woke up at 6:30am complaining he was wet.  I have no idea if that was just when he noticed it or if that was the first time he peed.  The second night he didn't wake up at all, and I was hopeful when I went to wake him up...until I realized when we headed to the bathroom that his undies were soaked.  It apparently didn't even phase him.  Seriously?!  How am I supposed to train a kid who's not bothered by wet cotton against his skin, since that's what usually motivates a lot of other kids? 

I gave up last night and went back to straight pull-ups, but now I'm left with a dilemma.  Is he really unable to hold it and there's no sense pushing it?  Is he able to hold it but the pull-ups are encouraging laziness?  Do I risk putting him in undies and spending half the night cleaning up messes?  I have no idea.  He's a deep sleeper, which doesn't help, and the fact that he sleeps on the floor seems to complicate things.  I feel like it's almost better to try things and hope something will work, rather than just keep the status quo, but then again I don't want to damage his self-esteem if he's really, truly, not physically able. 

I just don't know. 

More on our other issue of the week coming up soon...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One of those moments...

So last night while we were getting ready for bed, Jacob started yammering on about wanting to snuggle with me.  Usually he likes nothing more than snuggling with Daddy.  Those boys will make up any excuse to have a "slumber party".  It's not that I don't like snuggling with Jacob--in theory, I would--but he kicks and flails and flips so it's hard to sleep anywhere near him.  Craig sleeps deeper than I do, so he often takes one for the team when the opportunity arises because he gets at least some sleep, whereas I get none.  But someday, if Jacob ever flails less, I'd love to catch a weekend nap on the couch with him.  Anyway, as much as he enjoys snoozing with Daddy, lately he's been talking about sleeping with me (and yes, I cringe a bit when he uses that phrasing, but he's obviously talking innocently here so I'm not going to overthink it).  I keep telling him that when he's older and he doesn't kick me in his sleep, we can snuggle like he does with Daddy. 

Once he got through saying that, he referred to himself as my boyfriend, and yes...the moment every mom waits for...he said he wanted to marry me.  Awwww.  I tried to explain to him that I can't marry him because I was already married to Daddy, but he saw nothing wrong with me having two boyfriends.  Hmmm.  We'll have to work on that.  But it was a sweet sentiment nonetheless.

It's one of those moments that every mom talks about, but to be honest I don't think I ever thought I'd hear it from Jacob.  He's just not mushy like that.  Getting an "I love you" from him is almost impossible, no matter how many times a day we tell him that we love him.  Getting real hugs from him is sometimes a challenge as he often doesn't stand still long enough, but in the past few days it seems like he's been a little more loving.  In the midst of the marriage conversation he was giving me the best hugs ever, and he's been more willing to snuggle here and there.  Maybe he's turning over a new leaf...

...Or maybe not, since five minutes later he was telling me he didn't like me because I had to raise my voice and tell him for the 20th time to get out of his soccer clothes and get into his pajamas.  He did take it back when I called him on it and reminded him that he wanted to marry me a couple minutes earlier, but he probably just wanted his bedtime stories.  But at least for one split second he liked me...he really liked me!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Family Fun Weekend

Craig has worked for a lacrosse team in Hamilton for at least two seasons now.  Might be more, but I think it's only been two.  The Hamilton Nationals are owned by the Knighthawks' owner, and they play in the same league as the Rochester Rattlers, who Craig (and I) worked for a few years back.  In fact, he won a championship with the Rattlers back in 2008, a couple months after Jacob was born.  After that season, the team moved to Toronto (we went to a game there in 2009), and after a season or two there it moved to Hamilton.  In the meantime another franchise moved to Rochester and picked up the Rattlers name, so now both teams are in the league and it's a little odd going to a Rattlers game and cheering against the hometown team!  I have more Rattlers gear in my wardrobe than Nationals!  Jacob is well-stocked, though!

The downside of the setup is that every weekend is a road game for him.  He's either in Hamilton or he's off to another city for an actual road game.  That means that most weekends from May through mid-August involve a game somewhere else.  Since Hamilton isn't a long drive, it usually means that we can squeak out a decent Sunday most of the time, even though Craig will usually have gotten in sometime after 1am.  A few weekends this summer we've been in Buffalo for the weekend so he'll usually have a midnight arrival there.  Not bad.  Not ideal, but it could be worse.  He has a job, after all.

Anyway, in the two years Craig has worked there, we'd never been to a game.  I had always planned on going at some point, but it never happened...and suddenly this weekend posed the last chance, at least until next year.  And in this league, I never really trust next year!  So, off we went.

We drove to my parents' on Friday night to make our Saturday trip shorter.  Overnight Friday I came down with some sort of digestive issue, leading to quite a few middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.  I managed to only get a little bit of sleep and spent most of the morning eating toast and drinking water, trying to gauge if I could physically manage the trip.  Everything seemed to be working okay, even if I didn't feel fantastic, so I decided to chance it.  Thank goodness things really were getting better, because we had an extra long wait at the border and an emergency bathroom trip would have been problematic in the middle of the bridge!

Once we got up to Hamilton, we checked into our hotel room so Craig could get ready for the game and I could get a little cat nap.  Jacob and I dropped Craig off at the stadium on the campus of McMaster University, and then headed off on our own little adventure--a trip to IKEA!  I had originally planned on sticking Jacob in the kids' play area, but they were full and he was suddenly showing some resistance anyway, so off we went into the store.  He was actually very well behaved considering the fact that the store is a total sensory-overload type of place.  Fortunately he was allowed to touch most things, sit on chairs and beds, and hug stuffed animals to his heart's content, so he did a lot of that and I only had to rein him in a couple of times.  We were running short on time by the time we finished walking around (I didn't end up buying anything but had a handful of things I wanted to look at), so we stayed and ate at the restaurant.  It was very busy so we had to wait a while, but the food was good and cheap.  He took forever to eat as usual, so we were a little late getting to the game (as usual).  This was the view of the stadium as we were walking around to the entrance.
Sadly, the game had already started, yet the crowd is pretty sparse...hence why I said I never trust "next season"!
And once we were inside, this was the view from one of our seats...since we moved around a lot...
It's a really nice stadium, though I couldn't help but smirk when I noticed that the football yardage and goalposts were set up for Canadian football.  Notice midfield is the 55 yard line!
It ended up being a slightly chilly evening (haven't had many of those this summer, that's for sure!), but the team won (an essentially meaningless game, of course) and all in all it was a good night.  Even better, Jacob fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep getting into the hotel room, so we managed to avoid our usual problems with getting him to fall asleep in a hotel room.  Of course, it didn't do me any good this time around since I was far too tired to stay up and play on my computer like I normally would.  We were all in bed by a little after 11, I think, and Jacob slept until 8:30!  Hallelujah!  Oh, and he slept in his own big bed, which doesn't happen often in hotel rooms since he usually manages to convince Daddy to join him.  So it was a double win for us! 

We had a heck of a time finding a nearby Tim Hortons for breakfast (ironic considering they're everywhere in Canada), and discovered that Canadian malls don't open until noon on Sunday (boo!), so we hit Timmy's up at a rest area on the way back.  The day just sort of evolved from there.  We decided to stop in Niagara Falls, Canada, to walk Clifton Hill and grab some lunch.  I feel like we've taken Jacob there once before but haven't yet found photo proof, so maybe I imagined it.  We've been there a few times by ourselves since he was born, but it's been a while again so it seemed like we were due.  It was a pleasant day (at the time) so we thought it would be fun.

We tried to get some good photo ops at one of the stores... 
Lots of attempts, but this was the best we got!

Again, lots of attempts...at least he was smiling.  Notice his hat...
...And again outside the dinosaur-themed mini golf.  Jacob really wanted to play a round, but we didn't really have time.  We did stop for this photo op, though...
A little hard to see, but Jacob is looking up at the dinosaurs...because a couple seconds before I snapped the picture, there was this dinosaur-screech sound effect that made him jump for a second, like, "Where'd that come from?!"  It was cute.
And here's one with me...in front of a moose that has seen many Rybczynski photo ops over the years...
We did get a decent one after this, but the frog one was funnier.
Jacob liked this hat...along with the rest of the Sesame Street-themed ones at this particular store.  I, however, did not like the $30 price tag!  Cute, but CRAZY.

We had lunch at Pizza Pizza (my favorite!) on our way back up the hill, then stopped briefly outside "Brick City", a Lego-based attraction that we will no doubt have to visit for real one of these days, so Jacob could check out this crazy sculpture.  Maybe next time we'll head in to see the Lego version of Niagara Falls...

Having Jacob at Clifton Hill brought back some interesting memories, since it was the first place we went to spend an overnight without him.  We've done more since that first one, but we laughed as we walked by the souvenir shop that sold the "Mommy only wanted a backrub" onesies that we laughed at and briefly considered buying for Jacob at the time.  It was fun sharing the place with him because it is the ultimate family fun spot and I have great memories of visiting there when I was a kid.  Usually we'd have one afternoon each summer where we'd head up to Canada, walk Clifton Hill and get some ice cream, then check out the Falls.  And way back when, we'd also go to Maple Leaf Village, the amusement park and mall that used to be where Casino Niagara and its parking lot sit now.  Those were the days.  How I loved the fudge shop, the cheesy tourist photo ops (antique photos, barrel-over-the-falls pics, etc.), the water wheel outside the Japanese restaurant, and the "That's Incredible" museum, complete with a "genie" type woman who would magically talk to you from her little bottle.  Oh, and there was always a family ride on the giant ferris wheel.  I loved those trips and look forward to sharing parts of that with Jacob now that he's older.

When we were still in Toronto I had suggested that a stop on our way home could be the Niagara Falls Aquarium.  I hadn't been there since I was a kid--probably a school field trip--and I knew that we could go there for free thanks to our membership at the zoo here in Rochester.  I love those reciprocals.  It's gotten us into the Pittsburgh Zoo free a couple times, and saved us a boatload of cash in Philly last year.  One of these days we'll go to the Buffalo Zoo, which we'll have to pay 50% admission for (like Philly), but it's better than nothing.  It makes every visit to a new city exciting because we always have to check and see if we get a discount or freebie at the local zoo.  It's a nice perk.  Anyway, you can't beat free and I'd been waiting for a rainy day (literally) to take Jacob there.  Turned out a dark cloud was rolling in as we left Clifton Hill anyway, and by the time we got over the bridge the drops were falling.  Of course, Jacob had also fallen asleep by that point, so once we made it to the aquarium, we sat in the car for a bit to dodge the worst of the rain and let Jacob get in a few more minutes of rest.

I don't have much of a recollection of the aquarium back in the day other than the central tank which used to hold dolphins.  Now it has sea lions.  There are seals in an outdoor pool, and some small penguins inside.  There are sharks and various fish, along with some fun theming and decent displays.  The place isn't quite full of the bells and whistles that most modern ones have--like no touch tank, for example, and not too many exotic creatures outside of one octopus--but it was still enjoyable nonetheless.  I'm now hoping that some rich person will come in and dump some money on their laps so they can improve or even expand.  Good bones, all things considered, but it could use some sprucing up.

Here are the boys after walking through the shark cage...

And here's one of my favorite pics of the day, this crazy turtle on top of another one...

And here are Jacob and me doing our best penguin impersonations...

Jacob was obsessed with this little stingray guy because the verbiage near his tank talked about him being "flat as a pancake".  We saw him floating around looking like this...

And then a minute later he looked like this...
 I guess he wanted some privacy!  Not sure how he did that, but it was fast and very impressive camouflage!
The highlight of the visit was probably watching the sea lion show, which we just happened to catch  as we were leaving.  We actually watched it from the gift shop, which has windows into the tank (which the entire aquarium is based around).  We could have watched it from upstairs or other windows on the main floor, but by the time we realized it was happening the good spots were snatched up.  The windows were water-spotted so my pictures didn't really turn out, but suffice it to say that these sea lions were a far cry from the ones at our zoo.  Ours swim a lot and put on a good show for feeding time, but these ones were hardcore.  They'd clap, jump into the pool on command, swim with the trainer, balance on their flippers to kick up their tail, give kisses, jump out of the water to touch hanging targets, jump through hoops, make themselves into a living ring toss, and balance a ball on their nose.  It was really impressive.  That alone makes me want to go back and watch the show from up above so I can get some better pictures.

On the way out I snapped this cute shot of one of the seals:

And that was it for our busy day, minus the drive home, some dinner and some playtime.  It was a full, fun weekend, and other than a handful of frustrating moments, Jacob was pretty good.  And there were some moments that could have been major disasters, like getting stuck in a long wait at customs, not being able to find a Tim Hortons, if my stomach issues would have resurfaced, or running around IKEA or Clifton Hill like crazy people, but they weren't.  We did have to tell him to be quiet a few times--he talks incessantly, often about the most random stuff--just so we could hear the GPS or just make a rational decision without constant background noise, but overall it went surprisingly well.  Nice change of pace from some of our other recent trips.

And the best news of all?  Craig doesn't have another road trip for months!  Woohoo!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

To Stop or Not To Stop, That is the Question...

Today I had a work-related errand to run in the middle of the day.  Coincidentally, my destination was right across the street from Jacob's daycare.  I had a moment while I was driving where I pondered stopping in quick and saying hi, but the moment was short-lived because I'm pretty sure that would cause more harm than good.  He'd think I was coming early to pick him up and be disappointed that I wasn't, and it would probably create a whole lot of crankiness for the afternoon.  So, I thought better of it.  But in the back of my mind I wondered, if he was still a baby (or, say, when we have a baby next time around), would I have done it then?  Babies obviously have far less concept of time and much shorter attention spans, so a quick visit from Mommy could potentially be a good thing on both sides.  I'm not really sure that's the case, but I think it would be a heck of a lot easier with a baby than with a big boy...and I think seeing a baby in the middle of the day would perk me up even more than seeing a big kid.  Potential for lots of smiles and less risk for drama, I guess.  That seems unfair, or like favoritism in the case of two kids, but hear me out.

Kids are definitely big on routine.  Jacob is no exception.  He's used to going to daycare, and he's totally cool with the routine there.  He's been doing some variation of this type of life since he was seven weeks old, so he's never known any different.  Over the years I've taken comfort in that fact.  Once he's there, he's off to play, hang out with friends, eat snacks and a good lunch, and do things we'd never do if he was home alone with me.  They're more intentional about teaching (mostly because they can, as authority and peer pressure can be great things), and he's had a lot of experiences he wouldn't have otherwise had.  He's a social kid, and he fits in pretty well these days, I think.  There are still moments where I feel terribly guilty about the fact that he spends the majority of his time away from both of us, but again, he's never known any different.  Not to mention that the way he's been acting lately, I'm not sure either of us could manage much more time with him without losing our minds.  Let's just say he's been difficult.

I have noticed lately, though, that he's starting to understand that there is an alternative to being at daycare all day.  He definitely knows the difference between a weekend day and a week day, and gives an extra cheer when he asks if it's a daycare day and I say no.  He's also aware that not every kid goes to daycare.  One little girl stopped coming to daycare a while back because her mom stopped working, and some kids have been out this summer while their teacher parents are off work.  Now that he knows it's possible to not be there, he's definitely been asking to not go more often.  That's a bit of a bummer because now I know he does know better, even if he hasn't even known anything different.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about having another baby and doing the daycare thing all over again.  Jacob's in a pretty good spot right now, and shockingly, he's only a year away from being done with daycare life as we know it.  In a year and a few weeks, he'll be off to kindergarten, though no doubt will be bussing back to daycare for the afterschool program, which is fine with me...again, because he's been there, he knows everyone, and doesn't know any different.  We've gotten pretty comfortable with things, which is a good spot to be in.  But starting all over again with another baby will be a whole new ballgame.  It'll be another round of taking my tiny little newborn somewhere away from me, for the whole day, to spend the day with people I may not know that well.  Ugh. 

I did realize, however, that we won't be starting from scratch quite like we did last time.  Last time around, we checked out the daycare once, visited again for some paperwork, then came back one more time for a run-through kind of day...where I saw how things would work, where his bottles would go each day, and how he would spend his time.  And then, just like that, it was time to drop him off for a long day away.  Oh, and to make things even more interesting, his teacher left after his first week or so, so there was a totally different person taking care of him than I had even seen those few times.  It was probably a good thing that maternity leave had been a tough go and I was ready to go back to work (well, sort of), because otherwise I think it would have been beyond difficult to leave him.  Instead, going to work was a bit of a break, a chance to feel like a grown-up again, to have normal conversations, and get a little distance and perspective from the tough newborn phase.  The time I had with him in the evenings was more precious and I enjoyed it more. 

The good news is that next time around we'll know the people we're dealing with.  While I haven't spent a lot of time with the infant teachers, I have seen them and interacted with them a few times.  I know the directors and most of the other teachers well, and they know us.  I think that gives them a little extra investment in us (subconsciously, anyway), and it's nice to have so many invested sets of eyes looking out for our best interests.  Even better, Jacob could be down the hall for part of the day to be a familiar face if needed.  All of those elements are a bit more of a comfort than last time around.  However, something tells me that when the time comes, it's not going to feel any easier.

So, in the end, of course, I did not stop.  Only time will tell if I ever do, but it was an interesting revelation when I realized that next time, things will be considerably different from last time.  Just one of many differences, I'm sure...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sunday with Chuck

As I mentioned a week or two ago, Jacob had a birthday party to attend this past weekend.  It was at Chuck E. Cheese for one of his daycare friends, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  I've heard random rumblings from Facebook about these parties, and we've been there before for things other than parties, but it's hard to tell how each visit is going to be.  Our first time there was crazy because there was a daycare fundraiser.  There were tons of people, and so many issues with the games--tickets not coming out, games not working, crazy unsupervised kids cutting in on games--and in the end I pretty much swore I'd never want to go there again.

Craig and Jacob went once a while back when I was out of town, but I hadn't been back since.  Sunday morning at 11am we headed out and I was pleased to see that the place wasn't that busy.  That's always a good sign.  Jacob got his tokens and was off playing his favorite games--namely the basketball and baseball games.  He was disappointed to see that the football game wasn't working.  Still, he had a blast running around and picking games.

He took a ride on a truck...
I asked for a smile and this was the best I got.  Seriously.
And here he is in his favorite spot of the day, playing basketball.  He did pretty well, but the game was really stingy on tickets so he didn't get nearly the tickets most of his friends probably did.  Not a bad thing, though, since we just ended up with some candy instead of a bunch of plastic junk.

Eventually the kids sat down to lunch of pizza and fruit punch (score one for Mommy--I got stubborn fruit punch stains out of his shirt, by some miracle), and then got a visit from Chuck E. Cheese.  Here he is giving the birthday boy a crown...
Jacob is standing up closest to the camera, watching it all.
After cake and some playing in front of a "green screen" to be on TV, everyone was back off to play.  Here's Jacob and his good buddy Aaron playing one of those "shoot the stream of water into the hole" games.  They had a blast sharing tokens to play with each other, which was really cute.

Overall the experience was pretty good.  The pizza wasn't bad (I remember hearing they improved the recipe since the last time I was there), and I had a couple pleasant conversations with other parents, which is good.  Particularly since one was a mom I see all the time at pickup (one of her boys is just a bit younger than Jacob, the other just turned two), and now we know each other's name and had a nice little bonding chat about working downtown and how sucky it is to be among the last parents at pickup each day and how great it would be to work part time. 
Jacob was a good boy and seemed to play nicely with his friends.  That's a relief.  He did keep trying to climb up on the pedestal with the animatronic Chuck E., but if that's the worst thing he does at some other kid's party, that's not bad.  The one mom referred to him as outgoing, which is so ironic considering he comes from a couple introvert parents.  Craig always says that he prayed for Jacob to be more outgoing so he didn't suffer the downfalls of being a shy kid.  Sometimes I want to smack him upside the head for doing that, since we got this confident, headstrong child who is a challenge most of the time.  But on the other hand, after watching him run around yesterday, I know that it's good that he didn't need us around every second of the time we were there.  He's very independent, and later on that might not be such a bad thing.  We'll see. 

All of the kids were actually very well-behaved, which made the whole experience pretty great.  He did bring home a goodie bag today (not sure if he just missed out on getting it there or if it was meant to be an after-the-fact sort of thing), so we did end up with some plastic stuff and more candy, but overall it was a good enough experience that I actually looked on the website myself to see how much those things run.  The base package isn't that bad, actually--not cheap, of course, but the minimums are low so you could keep it pretty low key if needed--but when Jacob asked about it I told him maybe we'd do it in a couple years when he had a good group of friends to invite.  I'll know to do it early on a Sunday, if nothing else!

I'm still not sure I'm big on these fancy kid parties, but if we're going to get invited, it's nice of people to give us the opportunity to have a little fun.  Sometimes I need a little push to do stuff like that, so it's not always a bad thing.  It actually turned out to be a pretty good time.  Whew.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Playground Fun

Before the whole stomach bug debacle on Sunday, we did manage to sneak in some fun.  Actually, the best fun of the weekend was at the beach in between puke episodes, but I forgot to bring my camera down there, which is just as well since sand and cameras don't always mix well.  Jacob had fun filling pails of water with sand, and we made a couple feeble attempts at building, but mostly he was pretending to make me gross-sounding food and encouraging me to eat it. 

The night before, after the first time he told us his belly hurt (but nothing happened), we stopped at a playground near my parents' house that we'd never visited before.  The pictures aren't great because the sun was at a funny angle, but you get the idea.

Here he is on a space shuttle ride...

And I love this one with Jacob and Grandpa on a Yogi Bear teeter totter.  They were so funny to watch!

Darn shadows...
And then there was one of these...
Based on the ride on this that I took with Jacob, I'm not sure I'm cut out for spinning rides any longer. It's been a while since I've been to an amusement park (so sad!) but I may have officially lost my ability to spin! It could have been the big dinner I had just eaten, but still...boo.
He spent the rest of the time on the bigger playset you see in the background, including that tunnel slide.  He's become a master at slowing himself down on slides.  He no longer seems to have the fear he had at the top of slides, when he'd chicken out, but now he uses his feet as insurance that he won't go flying off.  He'll get into speed eventually and will be begging for waxed paper in no time.  Oh, wait...all the slides are plastic now...not sure that will still work!  He is, however, still afraid of playground bridges.  Definitely needs a lot of help to get across them.  Mommy is still scared of big drop offs on playground equipment (thanks to this experience), so I get a little concerned when Jacob ventures too close to any sort of open drop on those playsets.  He's pretty much an old pro thanks to lots of playground time at daycare, but he's still my clumsy little boy sometimes!

In other news, Jacob is good as new.  Monday when we stayed home he ate and drank just fine, so apparently it was just a 24 hour (or less) bug.  And even better, neither Craig nor I caught it.  Whew.  His car seat has been restored to functionality as well, which is good.  In the middle of the disaster I wasn't confident that would be the case....though the $150-200 price tag that goes with those bad boys was a pretty good motivator to make it work!

Now we're through another week of work/daycare, and the end of summer is drawing ever closer.  A couple weeks ago I was feeling some panic about cramming in some extra summer activities, and while I'm still hoping we can come up with some fun things to do with a couple spare vacation days I have to use, the panic has subsided a bit.  It's just been too darn hot to run out and do stuff, and Jacob is content playing in the yard or working on the massive Legoland that has cropped up in the middle of our living room.  Craig's busy weekends are slowly coming to an end, as well, so once lacrosse is done for the summer we might get a little more motivated.  We'll get there.