Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Best Things About the Second Time Around

On Sunday at church Carter was starting to get fussy, so I stood up and rocked him a bit.  Like clockwork, a few minutes in he fell asleep.  On the way out after the service was over, one of the other moms in the room said to me, "That age is so nice when they'll fall asleep in your arms like that...especially with boys!"  I agreed and said that I am definitely appreciating this stage much more the second time around!  There are a lot of things that fall into that category this time, in fact.  Having been there and done that, it's easier to NOT take for granted the bliss that comes with having a baby instead of a big kid...

1) Good sleep - Carter has been a fantastic sleeper.  Even now, in the throes of teething, he's been sleeping through the night.  I know not all people have that, and I remember all too well how miserable Jacob was during teething, waking up at all hours screaming inconsolably.  While I don't take advantage of the good sleep quite enough (because inevitably I'm up late catching up on things and enjoying a little downtime), I do appreciate that I could.  And while his naps aren't great, once in a while they are hugely helpful.  I am looking forward to Carter getting in a better groove with his naps so I can plan activities more effectively around them, but for now I'm enjoying being able to go out whenever and know he could just sleep right through it!

2) Dressing - This summer Jacob has been impossible to dress.  He refuses to wear the handsome plaid shorts in his drawer, or even the khaki cargos like Daddy wears.  I don't know what prompted that bit of stubbornness, but I guess I have no choice but to put my cute dressing urges into Carter's wardrobe.  I don't want to buy a lot for him since we won't get the benefit of hand-me-downs for another kid, but the four-month gap is creating some awkward holes in his wardrobe, so I have to buy some things.  And let me tell you, I have been loving the plaid shorts, adorable t-shirts, and the cute rompers.  I need to enjoy it now before I have another kid who cares.

3) Eating - The simplicity of having a kid who eats only one thing and blissfully eats it each time is so lovely.  Carter is not really taking to baby food particularly well, at the moment.  He'll eat it if I can get it into his mouth, but he gets bored or tired a lot of the time so getting him to open up has been challenging.  Things only get more complicated from here, from toting around baby food to starting in on finger foods, to navigating how to incorporate our normal dinners into his diet, all while teaching him table manners.  I'm already missing our milk-only existence.

4) Public places - Going out in public with a baby can be a daunting experience.  The risk of a random meltdown or diaper blowout is a tad scary, but when you avoid those things, it's downright pleasant compared to outings with toddlers. Babies can sleep, and they're often content to just look around, be it from a stroller, shopping cart, or the carrier/wrap of your choice.  People love seeing babies, too.  We all know how toddlers and preschoolers can be, and I'm dreading the public meltdowns and the sideways glances from fellow shoppers.  Wegmans is generally my friend again, for now, but I remember all too clearly the many times I nearly left my cart to drag Jacob out.

5) Snuggles - Oh, the snuggles. Carter has a reputation as a good snuggler, as did Jacob.  I love having a baby to snuggle again.  It's so peaceful when he falls asleep in my arms.  I hoped to still be able to cuddle Jacob, even at this age--particularly once he got his big boy bed--but let's just say he hasn't been the best snuggler with me lately.  My hope is that as Carter gets older he will flail less in his sleep than Jacob always did, because it got to a point where I could not sleep (not even nap) with Jacob because he was constantly moving and kicking.  But it is nice once the baby is old enough that you no longer fear suffocation and you can snuggle up for a nap, even if there's no sleep to be had.

6) Tiny parts - It's so easy to forget how tiny new babies are.  It absolutely blew my mind when Carter was born, even though I'd been eyeing up his clothes and diapers for weeks.  And it really blew my mind, after spending so much time with him, when I spent some time with Jacob and realized how giant he seemed in comparison.  Suddenly his hands felt huge, his skin felt rough, and his arms and legs seemed so long!  And somehow, in the few months when I was pregnant where I had to stop picking him up, he got too big for me to do it once I wasn't pregnant anymore!  I mean, I can, but it's a struggle.  But knowing how fast those tiny parts grow into less-than-delicate big boy parts, I'm savoring every second with Carter's tiny hands, chubby wrists, squishy thighs, little feet, soft hair, kissable cheeks, and a belly just waiting to be tickled.  It's so great when you can still snuggle all of them in one armful.   

7) Peace and quiet - I'm pretty sure Jacob hasn't stopped talking since he learned to start.  Between the constant stream of questions, random noises, and more recently, the incessant backtalk and potty talk, I'm even more appreciative of Carter's relative quiet.  Yes, he cries.  But it doesn't happen a lot, particularly without reason.  He babbles, but most of that is completely adorable right now.  Sometimes he comes out with a crazy noise that I'd rather not have happen in, say, church, but for the most part he's in a good spot right now for good, non-annoying noises.  I do look forward to hearing first words from him, but I know what follows after that so I'm in no rush!

8) Lack of toys - I remember that during the first six months of Jacob's life I was all proud that our house hadn't been taken over by baby stuff.  Aside from a pack-and-play in the corner of the living room, a blanket on the floor, and the swing in the dining room, you'd have hardly known at a glance that a baby lived there.  And then came the high chair...and the Jumperoo...and Christmas.  And that first Christmas he got a few toys--toys with lights and noise, no less--and it all started to crumble.  And by the time his first birthday hit, we officially had a crapload of toys in the living room, and the baby stuff was taking over.  Jacob's stuff grew to an entire eight-sectioned shelf in the living room at our new house, though some of that is slowly but surely finding it's way up to his room or down to the basement (either due to punishments or in preparation for Carter starting to crawl in the next few months), and now some of it is being replaced with baby toys.  Until now we'd had one play mat and one bin of toys, but I just brought up some of those same Christmas and birthday toys that Jacob had, so the takeover is beginning once again!  But for a while, it was nice.

9) Reuse of items - I grew up in a very frugal household, so I always try to get the best bang for my buck.  Well, being able to utilize Jacob's old clothes (including hand-me-downs from other people) again has been great!  Not only is it economical and good for the environment and all that, but seeing all those clothes again brings back some fond memories.  I get sentimental when I see some of them, and marvel at how time flies.  And, you know, it's nice to have a whole portion of his wardrobe free of charge because I feel less guilty sprinkling in a few new things when I want to or need to.  Between the old stuff and new stuff, it makes for a perfect assortment with plenty of options.  And besides clothes, it's nice to be able to reuse baby gear and toys since most of that stuff didn't get used enough the first time around. 

10) General appreciation for the process - Having gone through babyhood once already, I just have so much more of an appreciation for the experience.  I know how fast it goes, how things change, and how this strange little human grows up and becomes a unique and amazing person.  I'm trying to take things more in stride and be a little less crazy about the little things.  After all, if we survived them once, we will again.  All bets are off with Jacob's happenings, since everything there is still a first (and some very trying ones, at that), but hopefully Carter will have the benefit of our enhanced wisdom and an ability to not sweat the small stuff.  Each day is a challenge, but I'm trying to enjoy the ride because I know how fast it goes.  I may never have a tiny baby again, so this is my shot to love every minute now that I'm not second-guessing every little thing.  As much as Jacob's five years have flown (or in some cases, feel every bit of their length), looking back through photos I realize just how much we've crammed into this time.  And I am looking forward to doing so much of it all over again with a new excited little guy. 

Parenthood is exhausting, and there are plenty of things that are harder about this experience the second time around, as well...and maybe they'll got a post of their own one of these days.  But in the end we obviously weren't scarred enough by the experience the first time around to prevent us from doing it again, so I guess that says something.  I can't say that I'm particularly positive these days about the parenting experience as a whole, given what we've been going through with Jacob, but all I can do is pray it will get better.  If there's anything I've learned from parenting, it's that things change and evolve, and just when you think you can't stand it another moment, it finally changes.  Or, if nothing else, something happens that reminds you that this experience is worth it and you just grind it out for another day.  One way or another, we'll get through, and hopefully we won't take this second chance for granted.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blessing and a Curse (and more thoughts on Jacob)

Internet access is one of the many things that makes modern parenting so different than what our parents faced.  I'll admit, it's both a blessing and a curse.  While it's nice to have medical information at your fingertips, what you find can make you crazy.  While parenting blogs and social media can remind you that you're not alone in your current kid issue, I think a lot of it creates a false sense of connectedness and we're less likely to actually connect with real people.  Back in the day, I assume my parents first talked to their parents, doctors, and friends.  And now, I'd have to think most of us hop online to make sure we're not nuts prior to even contacting a doctor, let alone bugging our parents, who probably can't remember mundane details about childhood illnesses anyway.

I have a couple prime examples from this weekend of how the internet can really mess with our heads sometimes.  Saturday night I saw that my co-worker whose son was diagnosed with leukemia had made their Caring Bridge page available for viewing.  I read through a couple weeks' worth of updates to find out the full story on her son, and then stayed up way too late Googling the type of leukemia he has to find out the long term prognosis for that specific type.  Let's just say that the info I was finding was not good.  Granted, many of the studies were a little older, and survival rates for leukemia in general have increased significantly over the past few years, so what I was seeing may not accurately reflect the current state of things.  However, the type he has is very rare.  The main type is seen more often in adults than kids, and the subtype is especially rare.  It's more likely to befall kids with Down Syndrome, and treatment for those kids actually works better than for non-Down Syndrome kids.  Her son does not have Down Syndrome, nor does he have the gene associated with it.  As such, the treatments for this type for "normal" kids generally don't work as well.  They don't seem to know why.  I couldn't find too many real statistics for that group, but one site (again, with older data), referred to the survival rate simply as "dismal".  Ugh.  So, while the internet was helpful in understanding more of what they're up against, seeing those statistics in black and white was horrible.  Lots of prayers are needed for that little boy, no doubt.

The other example has to do with Jacob.  I know I've been talking a lot on here about our struggles with him, and while I don't want to bum everyone out, it's definitely a big part of what's weighing on our minds these days.  I had another episode with him on Saturday morning.  They always start simply enough--often when he's looking for a toy or needing help with something.  And when I can't do it right that second or help him with what he needs, he instantly flies off the handle.  He accuses me of moving whatever he's looking for or purposely not helping him, and immediately flies into a rage.  Name calling, kicking, hitting, door name it.  No matter how calmly I try to talk to him, he still loses his temper...and inevitably he will do or say something horrible and (unfortunately) I will end up losing mine, as well.  Saturday's outburst ended up with me physically holding him down so he would stop trying to hit or kick me or destroy his room, which started when I was taking the Legos out of his room after he repeatedly slammed his door.  It did not go well, particularly because I was home alone with him and had no one else to step in as the calmer head.  Luckily Carter was sleeping, but I'm really starting to wonder how much all of this is going to affect him, particularly now that he watches Jacob like a hawk. 

Anyway, after the outburst I needed some time to calm down, and ended up Googling some things online, including bipolar disorder.  I know, it seems crazy.  I used to Google things like ADHD when Jacob first started being a little difficult, and that seemed a little crazy at the time, too...but now his daycare assistant director (who has it herself) has said that she sees some things in him that seem familiar.  And based on other things we see, it wouldn't surprise me.  I don't think he necessarily fits perfectly into all the criteria, but there are definitely some things he does that seem right in line...hence my concern for when school starts next week.  Anyway, I was shocked to go through the list of bipolar symptoms and see a lot of things that sounded very familiar.  Now, understand that I don't think he has the depression side of it, just the manic side, so it's probably not true bipolar behavior.  But like I said, there were some symptoms that I'd never seen come up with anything else that totally fit.  For example, one of them is grandiosity.  It's basically a feeling of invincibility and superiority.  Some people practically think they can fly, for example.  But in Jacob's case, he just thinks he's above the rules, that we are not authorities over him, and that despite what we say, he can do whatever he wants (even though, repeatedly, we win out in the end).  No matter how many times we tried to emphasize the danger of what happened to him with that pane of glass at daycare, he never seemed phased by it...and in fact, we've repeatedly had to remind him not to pound on the glass window of our storm door.  He doesn't care and pretty much insists nothing will happen to him.  Same for playing around on the stairs or paying attention during baseball games.  I know to some degree this is normal behavior at this age, but he seems to take it to a whole different level with his defiance. 

Another symptom referred to inappropriate, ill-timed giddiness.  And, in fact, in the middle of many of our arguments (including Saturday's), no matter how angry or sad I am, he will start laughing hysterically (maniacally?) in the middle of it.  He's completely lacking empathy in that regard.  I've ended up a tearful mess after a few of these run-ins, and he just doesn't seem to care. 

The physical nature of things has really escalated, as well.  He'll hit and kick for no apparent reason, unprovoked and with no real reason.  He thinks it's for fun, but no matter how many times we tell him no, he continues.  I think that may be a part of ADHD, too, in that he needs to be doing something with his body and that's how it comes out.  Interestingly, something I Googled earlier today led me to a link on Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which I remember reading about a while back when I was concerned with his behavior, and now I think it really might apply.  ODD includes a lot of things we've been experiencing with him--the lack of respect for authority, the defiance, and the tendency to want to annoy people for no apparent reason--so who knows...that could be part of the mix, too.

He also has moments that seem a little OCD.  For example, he will freak out completely if he messes up while coloring.  He will insist we need to erase it or get him a new one.  He's also a little weird about cleanliness, which is actually a trait directly from Craig.  When Craig was a kid he freaked out about his hands being dirty.  Jacob freaks out about dirt, and perceived dirt.  He will insist his hands still have dried pee on them, even if he washed them.  He gets an idea in his head and will convince himself that there is no other way.  He must set things up a certain way and has a hard time transitioning if things aren't exactly as he wants them.

The odd part is that he's not always like this.  While he does do this stuff more than the average kid, he's not like this 24/7.  He certainly has moments at daycare, but the violent outbursts haven't really started happening there.  He has more OCD moments there than anything.  And even at home, he can have periods where he is totally fine, including within five minutes of an outburst.  He's fine playing sports, and sometimes he plays so nicely with his toys.  Sometimes he's a good snuggler (more with Daddy than me these days), and sometimes he can be the coolest kid.  But inevitably the evil comes back. 

Tonight we had quite the outburst because he didn't want to finish his dinner (which he always likes) and wouldn't get off the floor.  Craig sent him to bed, and he had a meltdown and had to be restrained again.  That rarely happens when he deals with Craig.  He eventually started calling for me (ha, that's a switch), and eventually chilled out and collapsed into my arms.  It felt so good to get a real hug for a change.  Shortly after, though, he was still cranky about the early bedtime and slammed his door a couple times.  Craig ran upstairs and did what any good dad would do.  He calmly and rationally took the door off the hinges.  He also removed a lightbulb to prevent Jacob from messing with the light.

So, we're going to get help.  We got a recommendation from the pediatrician today.  We're going to set up an appointment and get us some help...all of us.  Jacob may need some diagnosing, and he will definitely need some training to cope with the demons he's fighting.  We need training to manage his tantrums and prevent them.  One way or another we have to work through this.  And while it might be helpful to put a label to Jacob's issues, it's not even about the label at this point.  Yes, if there's something seriously wrong with him, we want to get him help.  I don't want to wake up one day and find out he's turned into these crazy people that snap and go shoot up public places (and believe me, the lack of control I feel right now has given me new empathy for a lot of parents of those criminals, because I truly feel like we're trying everything and there are bigger powers at work here that I don't know how to control).  I'd rather fix it now and teach him how to manage things.  But a label isn't going to change his issues so I'd rather just go to the heart of it and fix the behaviors we're experiencing.  We're worried, however, about labeling him just as he's starting school.  We don't want him automatically labeled and written off.  But if it's mostly a home thing and he's mostly functional at daycare, why should a label follow him to school and relegate him to the crazy kid group?  Those kids get ignored, and I know that Jacob is too smart for that. 

Long story short, I am convinced more than ever that bigger things are at play here.  All these years where I've sworn it was more than just age-appropriate behavior...I am now convinced.  I've never seen a kid that will battle so fiercely, and I don't know what to do when we've exhausted punishments and need to stop short of beating some sense into him.  It seems like we've tried everything.  But when it comes to your kid, there is no giving up.  We simply need to learn how to manage this, one way or another.  In the long run, his life literally depends on it. 

It brings to mind a quote from one of my favorite movies, "The Cutting Edge".  The coach of disgruntled, partner-less figure skater Kate says, in his thick Russian accent, "I am at bottom of barrel."  And Kate's dad responds, "Then you find another barrel."  Off we go to find another barrel.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Growing Up and Moving Forward

It's been a big week around this house.  Last Sunday, I was feeling around in Carter's mouth and holy cow--there was a tooth!  He's been drooling and chewing on everything, so I guess it's not a surprise, but Jacob didn't get his teeth until he was over seven months old!  The good news so far is that teething has not destroyed Carter's good sleeping habits.  Jacob was a horrible sleeper when he was teething, but so far Carter has just been a little more unsettled when he goes down and waking up a little earlier, but as a whole he's been fine.  I'd also say he's a little less patient when left alone, but he's still mostly his smiley self!  We're doubly lucky, too, since he got a cold this week.  He came home on Tuesday with watering eyes and congestion, and Wednesday morning when I walked into daycare, his whole room was staring back at me with familiar red, watery eyes and a runny nose.  It was sad and adorable at the same time.  I guess they all share at least one thing well!

Then yesterday I was feeling in there again and felt a second!  It looks like those first two teeth are coming in a little crooked, which I think Jacob's did too!  They're just a little bit through right now, though I haven't been able to get a good picture.  He's still chewing and drooling up a storm, and of course, this is just the beginning!  Solids are going so-so.  We've tried them once or twice each day, and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't.  It's hard to find a good time to do it where he's hungry enough (without spoiling his next meal) but where he's not tired or losing patience sitting in his seat.  He doesn't love it yet, but we've also just been trying out cereal and veggies (squash and green beans, so far).  Of course, right now he probably can't even taste it since he's so congested.  We'll keep working on it.  No rush, obviously, since Jacob didn't get a hang of it until he was at least seven months old.  He was sick and teething at the time, too, and then he used the Jumperoo a little too soon after eating one time and that did NOT go well.  He had a tough time all around.  Hopefully we can improve this time.  I do have meats ready to go as well, but I don't know if I'm courageous enough to try those anytime soon.

Jacob finished off his first year of t-ball this week.  It was definitely an interesting season.  I think the kids learned a lot, but whether or not they actually remember to apply it is the question!  I have a hard time picturing a lot of them moving up to Rookies next year.  Even Jacob, sometimes.  He may be a fantastic hitter, but he still has a hard time playing defense or, really, paying attention!  I think he'll get there, but it will be interesting seeing how many kids stick around for another year.  He fell into a great coach this year, though, so we'll try to get back with him next year.  We went to the season ending party at his house yesterday, and all I can really say is WOW.  More on that in a bit.  Beyond that, I think we'll be taking a little break from organized sports before ramping up for lacrosse in November.

Jacob is less than two weeks away from Kindergarten now.  I can hardly believe it!  We finally got his packets of information this week.  We have a bunch of supplies to shop for and a little project to complete.  It all has to be done this week because we're going to run out of time with a busy weekend next weekend.  Part of me is terrified about him going to Kindergarten.  I'm worried about his ability to be independent with things like eating lunch and pooping, and concerned about him following directions and staying focused.  I'm still torn on him riding the bus, and I just don't know if the change is going to have a positive or negative effect on him.  He's smart and I can't imagine him spending another year in Pre-K, but this might be a shock to his system or a rude awakening for us when we start getting calls about his behavior.  We still have a lot of preparing to do, and not a lot of time to do it.  No lie, this summer has gone quicker than expected and suddenly we're down to our last real week.

Overall, I'm just really seeing how much both boys are growing up.  Jacob is such a big boy all of a sudden (despite his behavior issues), and Carter is growing and changing so fast!  I pulled out the 6-9 month winter clothes today, just so they're ready when the cooler weather starts, and it boggles my mind that he's already there.  It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that Jacob wore that stuff!  Time is just going so quickly!

Just a few pictures from the weekend...
Hard to see, but that's Jacob taking a shot on his coach's basketball court.  Ummm...yeah, that's in his coach's backyard.  Apparently health insurance consulting is a good business.  And yes, that's a Boston Red Sox "B" in the key!

This is the cake with all of the kids' names and numbers.  It was a fun season :)

 I took about five other pics of Jacob trying to get a smile, but all I got was his "evil" face, which I see far too often lately when he's being cranky with me.  However, he finally softened so I could get this one...handsome boy when he lets himself be!
So, it's been an interesting week.  And we have another ahead with lots to do before a long weekend. September is going to be pretty much non-stop crazy, so I'm buckling myself in for the ride!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Out of my Hands

From the moment I saw that first positive pregnancy test, I knew my life would never be the same.  Even if that pregnancy didn't last, I knew that I would carry it with me forever.  The fear of something going wrong even then was a first taste of the helpless feeling that comes with parenthood.  No matter how much you do, no matter how many things you try to make perfect, only so much is within your control.  And the parts that aren't are terrifying.  You can't protect your kids from everything, no matter how hard you try. 

I worry about that sort of stuff a lot, to the point that sometimes I wonder at what point the worrying goes beyond normal and into unhealthy.  It's especially hard with Carter, because he's still so fragile and uncoordinated.  It's scary when you hold him with one arm and he suddenly throws himself back, or when he unexpectedly shifts or rolls from a spot where he's never done that before.  I worry about carrying him around a lot, because I'm clumsy enough myself.  A couple weeks ago I caught my heel on the door frame as I was walking out of the house with Carter in his seat.  I had absolutely no way to break my fall, and the car seat slammed onto the ground pretty hard.  Carter was scared, but he was strapped in tightly so he was ultimately fine.  But that could have been really scary.  Every once in a while I put Carter into his car seat without strapping him in.  Usually it's when he's been in his stroller but he's been fussing, and for whatever reason I need to put him back down.  I worry about forgetting to strap him in and then moving him.  I worry about accidentally not strapping either kid into their seats (it's happened a couple times with Jacob, but he's pretty well-trained to let us know), or God forbid, getting into an accident with the kids in the car.  It's bad enough I got into accidents while pregnant with each of them.  I still worry about SIDS with Carter, and that Jacob will pick the absolute worst possible moment to not listen to our warnings.  He's done some pretty dumb stuff lately that has left him with a few boo-boos, and they could have been worse.  I just had a Facebook friend post a picture of her nearly-two-year-old daughter who made herself dizzy and fell, only to break two bones in her wrist!  How many times has Jacob fallen without broken bones?  Of course, he's got his scar on his cheek from the nightstand incident a couple years back while he was on vacation with Craig and his family, and he had that very close call with the broken window at daycare a couple months ago.  All of these things are split-second occurrences, either because they happened too quick to do anything about, or because one split-second bad decision led to them.  And that is the stuff that scares me on a day-to-day basis because you just can't do much to prevent it. 

On a larger scale, I worry about big, life-changing issues.  I worry about something happening to our home, or to any one of us.  Carter has been such a perfect baby that part of me is almost waiting for the other shoe to drop--that somehow there will be cosmic payback for the bliss we've had for these past six months.  How horrible is that?  I know it's all a little irrational, but I'm sure no one else who has gone through stuff like that thought it would ever happen to them either. 

Last week, a co-worker of mine was planning on heading back to work after a couple months on disability as a result of hyperemesis during pregnancy.  She had been so sick, in and out of the hospital, getting IVs at home...all for weeks on end.  She was finally feeling better, but ended up having to take her almost-two-year-old son to the doctor for a rash on his legs.  Initially they thought he had ITP, which is a platelet condition that's usually temporary.  He didn't respond to the treatment, however, and upon further examination, he was diagnosed with leukemia.  Her adorable son, who hasn't even had his second birthday yet, is very sick and facing months of treatments.  This all came out of nowhere--a week ago they never would have dreamed this would be their situation.  I don't even know the full story at this point, like what the prognosis is, but my heart is breaking for her.  As it is I already have one set of friends whose four-year-old daughter is going through cancer, so watching this happen to someone else is simply gut-wrenching. 

I love my kids so much, and I can't even imagine how I would even function if something like that happened to them.  I can't even really let myself go there, because my whole body just wants to collapse at the thought of it.  I would just want to crawl in a hole and die.  I know that it doesn't work that way, that you have to be strong and battle through it, but the thought of possibly losing my child is more than I can bear.  I simply cannot fathom the helplessness my friends must feel watching their kids go through painful procedures and knowing that it may all be for naught.  It's not supposed to be that way, you know?  Stuff like that absolutely terrifies me.  I know there's nothing we can do, but it still weighs heavily on my mind.

I know that as helpless as I feel, there's still one thing that can keep me sane.  I know that prayer is so important, not just in cases like the ones above, but in all circumstances.  I don't do it enough, mostly because my brain is full of other things for most of the day and I end up too tired at night.  I try, but inevitably I fall asleep before I get through everything I need to.  I know that prayer can change things, and I know that it can bring me peace about all of these things I can't control.  While I know it can work miracles, I also know it's not a perfect science and not everything I ask for is going to happen.  But it's something, right?  And some days it's all we have. 

Do me a favor and throw up a couple prayers for my friends and their kids.  They need it more than anyone right now. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Saddest Part

Oh, Jacob...why?  Why, why, why?  For a change it's not him asking that's me.  Specifically, why does he make it his mission to make things so stinkin' hard?  I know that five year olds have their particular because all of the t-ball moms were commiserating the other night.  But I'm pretty solidly convinced now that Jacob's issues go far beyond the norm.  I'm not entirely sure what to do about it, but one step may be to get him evaluated by the school district, and the other may be to find a good family therapist.  I know that sounds drastic, but we're getting desperate.  He defies us with everything--getting dressed, leaving the house, eating dinner, cleaning up, getting ready for bed, staying in bed, you name it.  We've tried stern voices, we've tried staying calm, we've tried yelling, forcing, spanking, whatever.  We've taken away everything.  Nothing helps.  We need someone neutral but in authority to remind him that he needs to listen to his parents, and also give us some tips to deal with his defiance.  I just can't even begin to explain how frustrating it is to have the same argument for 20 minutes every morning about clothes, particularly when he insists that he doesn't like clothes that he wore a week ago...and is slowly but surely eliminating his entire wardrobe from consideration.  To have to battle over everything is so hard.  It takes forever, it raises my blood pressure, and it makes eveything so much harder than it has to be.  And the saddest part (per the title of this post)?  We're all missing out on so much. 

Jacob's behavior has gotten to the point where it's directly impacting the activities we choose to do.  Whether it's simply that we take away a fun activity as a punishment, or choose not to do something for fear of the repercussions, we've definitely begun to pick and choose a bit more.  Just this past weekend we had considered going to the drive-in.  Craig and I used to go once or twice a summer, even when Jacob was little, but the late nights are tough on all of us, and we've stayed away the last couple years.  But we were tempted to try again this summer, and this weekend in particular when Craig was home, but in the end we didn't because we just didn't want to deal with whatever ridiculousness Jacob would inevitably throw at us.  Whether it would be from sleep deprivation from a late night, or not wanting to stay in his seat, or waking up Carter...we just couldn't go there.  We've definitely skipped activities like going out for ice cream as a result of his behavior.  I was *thisclose* to telling Lori to forget it when we scheduled a shopping trip for Jacob to spend the birthday money she gave him because he'd been so bad that he didn't deserve new toys.  I relented only because I wanted to get it over with before it got lost in the shuffle and because it gave us a couple other things to take away if he misbehaved.  But there are so many things--possible roadtrips with Craig, in particular--that he's missing out on because he is simply unable to behave or follow directions at the most inopportune times.

I marvel every day at how he doesn't make the connection that his defiance costs him valuable playtime.  He complains a lot that he doesn't have a lot of time to play.  And he's right.  Between getting out of the house in the morning, spending the day at day care, coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed, there's not a lot of time.  He usually has some time in the evenings, but we've had baseball two nights per week for the last six weeks or so, and between wanting to practice baseball and play inside with his toys, it's a tough balance.  But he'd have so much more time to play if he didn't battle us on everything.  He'd probably pick up a good 20 minutes in the morning, a good 10 minutes at dinner time, 15 minutes at playtime (usually because he's obsessing over what he's going to wear outside), and possibly as much as a half hour at bedtime, since we probably wouldn't have to send him to bed as early if he just went to sleep at bedtime instead of coming out half a dozen times about ridiculous little issues.  Bedtime has been a little better since we got rid of the nap, but he has a hard time staying awake around dinner time these days, which presents problems of its own.  But if he'd just stop battling us and do what we say when we say, I bet he'd pick up at least an hour of playtime each day. 

I feel a little bad for Carter right now, as he's sort of getting gypped on having a good big brother.  Jacob still mostly ignores him, at least when we're at home.  I'm sure there's some jealousy there, but at least he takes it out on us and not his little brother.  But where most people have adorable pictures of the older siblings holding and feeding the baby, we have only a couple awkward shots of them in the same picture.  Even though Carter smiles and laughs now (and stares intently at his big brother whenever they're in a room together--and he was seriously laughing just at the sight of Jacob the other day), Jacob hasn't gotten into attempting to entertain him.  I still maintain that he'll get into it eventually, particularly when Carter can learn how to play sports, but I sort of thought it would be better already, so I'm starting to get nervous.  Interestingly, Jacob does go visit Carter's room at day care, and lately he's been venturing down there when I drop Carter off.  He's also begun answering "no" (instead of the "yes" he gave for months) when people ask him if they can take his brother home with them, so there's at least something there.  I'm just not sure what it is--whether he really doesn't care or he's just playing it cool.  But in the meantime, we're all missing out on some great sibling interaction.  And on top of it, I am petrified that Carter will start picking up the bad stuff when he watches Jacob's antics, and I can't bear the thought of my sweet, easy-going, angel baby going down this same road.  One is enough.

Dealing with this stuff has made even the practical side of being a parent (let alone the emotional side) extremely difficult.  I'm hesitant to push him to try on his new school clothes, to learn how to spell his last name, to learn to tie his shoes, or to make sure his "J" is hooking the right way.  I know those things are important, yet no matter how normally and civilly those types of activities start, somehow I will get anger, resistance, or an argument.  I don't want him to rebel further, but I also want to actively help him learn, particularly as we head toward Kindergarten. 

I see people post pictures online of the cool things they get to do with their kids.  Their kids are smiling, no less, and they usually include some sort of status about how awesome it was to do that with their kid.  Jacob doesn't smile for pictures very much anymore, let alone stand still and pose for them.  Once in a while if it has to do with something he's totally into (like baseball, for example), I might have a shot.  But it's rare.  And most of the time anything we do is not going to leave us with a warm-fuzzy, happy-to-be-his-parent sort of feeling.  And it makes me sad because I feel like we're missing out on actually enjoying parenthood.  I'll be honest--having Carter has sort of "saved" parenthood for me at the moment because I know how it feels to enjoy it again and feel like it's worth the time and effort.  Most of the time with Jacob it's just drudgery.  I hate to say that, but when you're arguing about every little thing, something as simple as putting your kid to bed can be exhausting.  But Carter has reminded me of the good side, and I'm trying to take the spark from that and use it to deal a little more patiently with Jacob.  But eventually it wears thin.

I'm just sad that Jacob's defiance has caused so many issues.  I know parenthood isn't supposed to be easy, but we've definitely had our fair share of difficulties.  I just want to be able to enjoy this phase, which is supposed to be a fun one--after the needy phase but before the big-kid problems really get going.  We're supposed to treat our big boy like the big boy he can be, but for now we're lucky if we can get through without an argument.  And it's making our time with Jacob so much less than it should be. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Solid Food!

Now that Carter is six months, it's time to move along to the next big thing--solid foods!  I've been wondering if he wasn't ready for a while now, since he didn't want to drink as much milk in the mornings and he'd been eyeing up our food more recently.  We've had him sitting in a high chair with us at dinner for a while now since he didn't like being left alone while we ate.   I've been giving him a spoon, sippy cup, or pacifier to chew on while we sat there, and for the most part he's enjoyed it. 

Yesterday I put him in the chair, put up the tray, got out one of the washable bibs (those will be a godsend for the early feeding days this time around), and mixed up some whole grain brown rice cereal with some formula.  This was the result...

He was a little sleepy at the time, I think, so he didn't last too long, but he seemed to like it for a while despite his faces.  Here he is at the end with a couple classic looks.  He was making noise while he made these faces, which is probably why they look so funny...

I gave him another round of it, a little thicker, when we ate dinner out, and he finished all of that up!  So, all things considered it was a good start.  Today he seemed a little less eager to open his mouth, but he still ate everything.  I'll give it a few days, I guess, then start some veggies.  We'll see how he does.  Maybe we'll finally have one good eater around here!
Interestingly, I have absolutely no recollection of how we did much of anything last time around.  I remember bits and pieces, but I don't know when or how I introduced things.  I'll have to look back in the blog and just take things one food at a time.  Jacob didn't like solids for a long time--which could have had something to do with him being sick right around that time and maybe early teething--but maybe Carter will be different.  He's still such an insanely happy baby, though I'm pretty sure my experiment involving sensitive formula (instead of what he uses now) failed miserably and was what caused him to be extra cranky for a couple days.  Bummer.  This better go away before it's time for regular milk!
But for now we've had a good start.  We also have a new high chair to test out.  Our kitchen here is a little smaller than our eating area at our old house, and our old high chair is a little too big for the area.  I used a couple discounts to buy a space-saver high chair that just straps to our regular chairs.  I should be able to position him better and not make us feel so crunched in the corner.  Seems crazy, but I think it will be worth it.  More updates to come!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week in Photos

Sorry my posts have been limited lately.  I've been trying to get things done in the evenings, and half the time I've been falling asleep anyway.  Life is just exhausting right now, I guess.  We've had a busy week in general.  Evenings were crazy all week long. 

Speaking of tired...check out these pictures of my sleepy boys...
Carter actually fell asleep with the rattle like that.

The boys fell asleep like this last weekend.  Jacob jumped up on the couch and sat there, and shortly thereafter he was asleep.  I don't know how either of them were comfortable enough to sleep, but they did.
This one is of Carter at Jacob's baseball game.  Note that his fingers are intertwined with the rattle again.  Silly kid.
Now for a few other pics from the week...
Jacob on the bench waiting for his turn to hit.
Playing out in the field with Daddy coaching nearby...
We only have one game left, plus his picnic next weekend.  It's been fun, but I will gladly take two weeknights back, even if it means I actually have to cook. 

On Wednesday my office did our annual summer outing.  It was fun to be out for the day.  We went to lunch along the river downtown, then took a boat ride up the Genesee River to the Erie Canal.  It was a cool ride and it was fun to see things from that angle.  I've driven by so many places along the route before, but never seen it all from that vantage point.  The pictures I took of the city were all postcard-worthy.  It was a cool, breezy day, but once the sun came out it was perfect.
The city in all its glory...
After I got home, we all took off for Batavia to see a Muckdogs game on mascot night.  The Knighthawks mascot, R. Thunder, was there.  We met up with Craig's brother's family, and the kids had a blast with the mascots...
Jacob, Luke and Grant with Spikes, R. Thunder, and Finnley

The three boys sticking their heads in the shark's mouth
The game at dusk...I just liked how this one turned out.
On Friday my boss kidnapped our group and took us to lunch in Geneva, which is right on Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes).  The town was so cute, and with a little more time I'd probably have snapped a ton of pictures.  However, I only managed to grab this shot, which I love.  We ate at a little cafĂ© that's British-themed.  Their specialty is tea, but their food was fantastic.  I had two mini quiches and three fantastic little pastries.  But I loved the funky flowers on the tables, and I captured this one perfectly... 

It was a busy week, with more busyness today.  I'll have an update on that soon, hopefully tomorrow.  One big milestone to report, if nothing else!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Six Months!

It's amazing to think about, but six months ago right now I was cradling my newborn baby boy.  And now he's a big six-month-old little boy--half a year old and half a year away from his first birthday!  I can't believe how fast these months have gone.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was pregnant.  Heck, even the fact that I was pregnant and feeling spectacularly crappy a year ago right now is pretty crazy to think about.  But here we are.

Six months brings solid foods, sunscreen, and stroller walks with the big kids at daycare.  Crawling and teeth are right around the corner, and maybe even a word or two.  Everybody loves his smiles and marvels at how happy he is.  He seems to be getting a little fussier and a little squirmier at times, so I can tell he's getting older and more aware of his surroundings, but I am soaking up every minute of this phase.  I love having a baby that's so happy to see me, who doesn't move much or talk back, and who can still be a sweet, cuddly kid.  Seeing Jacob as a very difficult big boy has made me so appreciative of this phase, even though I'd love to get real hugs, hear real words, and see him learn and experience a million new things.  I will gladly wait a bit if it means enjoying this sweet baby boy minus the normal pitfalls of parenthood.

He loves his toes, chews everything, and likes to sleep on his side.  He can roll to his belly and lift his head, but while he has rolled back before, it is still a challenge and he can get cranky and stuck...unlike his big brother who loved to sleep on his belly at this age.  He's working hard on sitting up and can lean on a toy for a bit before toppling over.  The jumperoo is his favorite, and he bounces like a mad man.

Seeing his smile every morning is the highlight of my day. His giggle is infectious.  His chubby thighs and cheeks are amazing, and his darker features still boggle my mind every day.  He is so happy, so handsome, and the best sleeper I could ask for.  He loves to be lifted high over my head and loves to be standing.  

I know that harder times will come, but for now I feel so blessed to be his mommy.  These first six months have been amazing, and I can only pray that the next six months and beyond are equally awesome.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

How Time Flies...

I can hardly believe that in just a few days, Carter will be six months old.  Halfway to a year.  How has half a year passed by since he surprised us three weeks early?  How have we had parts of three different seasons since his arrival?  How has he already outgrown two full sizes of clothes, and most of a third?  How is my tiny, scrawny little boy now a little chunk (in his legs and face, anyway) who's learning how to sit up on his own?  And how on earth are we starting solid foods in just a few days?

I've spent most of the last five years looking at pictures of Jacob and marveling at how he's grown and changed.  Even though the changes have been very subtle as they've happened, the end result is not.  It is quite clear how fast he's growing and how much he's changed.  The fact that we have this full-blown little boy who's starting Kindergarten in less than a month is nothing short of mind-blowing.  And having gone through this experience with one kid, I think it has taught me to be extra aware of it this time around.  So while I may have realized how fast Jacob was growing, I don't think I truly understood how crazy the changes become the older they get.

The changes from year to year can be subtle.  The first year of a baby's life might be the exception to that, since the changes are quite obvious, but beyond that it's sometimes hard to tell when and how things changed.  You can tell something is different, but as you look through a year's worth of photos, you can't tell when, exactly, the changes happened.  Even in Carter's monthly shots, I can tell there are differences, but it's hard to pinpoint what they actually are.  Is his face fuller?  Does he have more hair?  Is he just bigger?  More aware?  More smiley?  So even though you know they're changing every day, it's impossible to see it until you look back at old pictures and realize how far things have come...even if you can't quite tell what those "things" actually are. 

There are moments where there is a major disconnect between the kid in the tiny baby picture and the kid sitting in front of me.  I know it's the same kid, but it's so hard to believe.  It doesn't matter if it's Jacob or Carter...I am equally befuddled with each.  Even Carter's looks have already changed so much, and each new bit of personality makes those early days nothing but a hazy memory.  I almost can't remember him before that smile became our norm and all of his body hair finally disappeared.  I mean, I do, but it's so hard to picture how tiny he really was when he's such a big boy now.  And yet, he's so tiny compared to the real big boy in the next room, so it's a vivid reminder that this is just the beginning! 

I've decided there's a definite disconnect between newborn-hood and where we are now in the sweet spot (happy but immobile, not yet into the tough stuff like solid food or discipline).  There is a haze that descends over you when you have a baby, and it only lifts months down the road.  Perhaps it's sleep deprivation, and I think that's part of it, but I also think that throwing all of your energy into the care of a baby gives you some sort of tunnel vision where you can only focus on what's immediately in front of you.  So much of the context fades away and the details become fuzzy because you have to focus so much on what needs to happen right now.  The past, which was already so limited from this "tunnel vision", becomes even foggier as you focus on each new present.  I felt like I was fighting the haze pretty good this time, but no...that newborn phase seems so far away now and I can barely process how far we've come.

A week or so ago I looked at his newborn clothes.  They're so tiny!  He's rapidly approaching three times the weight he was when we brought him home (still a little bit to go, but we're far past double his birth weight!).  He's mostly out of 3-6 month clothes now, although his waist is so tiny that most pants still fit him in the waist.  His chicken legs have been replaced by strong, meaty thighs, and the non-existent, skin-on-bone butt that I literally laughed out loud at during his first diaper change is now the cutest little squishy tushy.  His face is full and everyone says how chubby he is...but in reality, it's just his face and the rest of him is very long and skinny.  Long story short, I know how much bigger he's obvious.  But when I look back at tiny baby pictures, I can barely wrap my head around how tiny he was and how much he's changed in these almost six months. 

Jacob is a whole other story, obviously.  His baby pictures barely seem possible.  I can hardly believe that baby and the little boy we know, love, and scream at now is the same human being.  His behavior is disappointing, obviously, and knowing that I may someday face the same issue with the sweet, happy baby I cuddle these days just breaks my heart.  As it would have broken my heart to know that future five years ago.  All through the years, though, I see so many sweet faces.  And I know that we had plenty of non-sweet faced moments at the time those shots were taken, so it's not like it was some magical, utopian time, but sometimes it's nice to pretend it was.  At least I could get pictures of him smiling and being sweet.  Nowadays that's a serious challenge.  And here I thought it would get easier to do as he got older.  I may be able to get a smile for a posed picture, but more likely I'll get a grumpy face, especially if he knows I'm floating around with the camera waiting for a good candid shot. 

I don't know if I've really communicated effectively what my brain marvels at every day, but for some visual support, check out these pictures...

Carter wasn't even 18 hours old here.  Even here I can barely picture how impossibly tiny he was.  But oh, those long fingers and funny frog legs! 

He was six days old here, in my feeble attempt to do something resembling the cool professional shots I couldn't stomach paying for.  Look at those giant feet, the chicken legs, and the extra skin wrinkled up on his arm!  That onesie was a 0-3 month size and it was huge.  He outgrew it rather quickly, though, considering how big it was here!  I'll laugh someday when I pull out that basket for something else! 
 And now fast-forward almost six months...
This happy kid LOVES to jump and can't help but smile when he's the center of attention.  He simply radiates joy when there's a smile on his face, which is quite often if someone is paying attention to him.  I laugh because eventually he'll stop jumping in the Jumperoo, but the second you look at him, he smiles and starts happily jumping away.  I secretly fear he won't be a good independent player like Jacob can be, but for now I'll just take it as a compliment that he enjoys my presence that much.

I took this picture over the weekend at my family reunion.  Jacob and I had a lot of fun playing badminton, of all things, but two pictures like this one were the only shots I took all day.  Carter just looked so cute and grown up in this chair, in his cute plaid shorts and his tiny little sneakers.  It was his first day in shoes :)  Such a big boy!
I just can't get over the changes in six months, and can't believe in six more months I'll have another birthday cake to stress over! ;-)  But I love this phase right now so I'm pretty content to just sort of hang out here for a while! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weekend Update

Craig was home this weekend, and we had nowhere to go.  I can't even tell you how rare that is, and as normal as it feels to have a weekend like that, it feels so strange when it actually happens.  Once we get past the next few weeks, we'll have a lot more of those until November or so, but then it's back to the solo parenting weekends.  I don't mind them, but there's a lot we don't get to do as a family without that free time, and a lot I don't get to tackle when I'm home alone.  And because those weekends are so rare, when we do finally have them, inevitably we do a lot of resting up.  We did have activities planned, but there was plenty of downtime, which was much needed.

We all slept in a bit on Saturday, and I got up with Carter around 8, I think.  After we all ate some breakfast, I popped him in the swing, site of many of his marathon naps, so I could shower and go out to do some yard work.  Without Jacob's afternoon naps and with a baby to take care of, our yard has definitely taken a bit of a beating.  Craig has done his best to keep up with mowing and trimming this summer, which has been great (after all, the boys use the yard a lot for baseball now), but the flower beds and bushes have definitely gotten overgrown.  I spent a good two hours out in the beautiful weather doing a little of everything--ripping out giant weeds, pulling smaller weeds, hacking away at some bushes, cutting down little baby trees, etc.  It was exhausting work, but I made a good dent.  I could use a couple more hours to do some weed killing and thin out some of the greenery in the way back of our yard, but it was a good start, at least.  I filled a couple large bags with stuff, and things look a lot better. 

While I was out there, I found out that our elderly neighbor had passed away.  He was about 90, and up until pancreatic cancer took him down he had been quite lively and active around his yard.  He was always very sweet to Jacob (though he called him David and I didn't have the heart to correct him).  He has a large garden and it was always fun to see him tooling around the neighborhood in his golf cart.  His wife has been in a nursing home for nearly two years with Alzheimer's.  I will be sad to see the house get sold to someone else, but as Jacob said, "Maybe they will have kids!"  I did check out his garden while I was out in the yard and picked a number of overgrown cucumbers.  There were also a couple dozen butternut squashes ripe for the picking, but I left them alone since I'm not entirely sure what the ideal size is for those.  I left what I picked on his patio table and hoped his family would find some use for them.  He actually gave us a couple of them probably a day or two before he died.  They were also overgrown, and we have some perfect ones from friends that I still need to use, but I can't bring myself to toss them now.

Jacob and I went in the pool for a bit in the afternoon, but it was awfully chilly.  It felt good after being so sweaty from the yard work, but I couldn't get over how cool it was despite it being August and us having left the pool cover on all this time.  The refreshment only lasted a little while before I got cold, so we headed back into the house to get ready for that night's Red Wings game.  It was Greece Little League night, which meant that Jacob got to go on the field before the game!  The showing was pretty poor, though, as there was maybe only a dozen kids or so.  Jacob was the only kid from his team there.  Still, it was fun to go out there.

Walking out!

Random pic I secretly took!

Testing his said 40, but we're pretty sure it was an error.  Mid-20s are more his speed!

We had a fun night overall.  The weather was nice, Carter was cooperative, and we headed out in the 8th inning before the kids got too cranky.  Of course, we missed a major comeback in the 10th inning and a big win in the 12th, but I would have been cursing the extra innings had we attempted to stick around for the postgame fireworks!

We got up for church the next morning, and then Craig and Jacob shuffled off to a birthday party for one of Jacob's friends.  It was at the same place where Jacob's soccer thing had been (remember, the one that ended on Valentine's Day, the night before Carter was born?), and he went prepared for anything--with his soccer stuff and his baseball stuff.  Only Jacob.  I don't have any pictures, though, because I stayed home with Carter. 

Carter and I ended up going out shopping to Kohl's for a few things.  I wanted to check on a couple things in general, and I really wanted to go look for some Spanx-type stuff to smooth me out for the dress I bought for my cousin's wedding (among other things).  It's official--I just don't get those things.  No matter what size I put on, they squeeze me way too much and I end up with bulges in the weirdest spots.  I've tried on a few here and there but I'm just not finding what I want.  I did find one pair that were a little less constricting, so there weren't any bulges, but I'm also not sure it makes the dress look any better so I'm not convinced I'm keeping it.  After feeding Carter and escaping the Intimates section, I ventured over to the kids' clothes.  I browsed for Carter, but he's now well stocked for the summer (thanks to some awesome online shopping from Kohl's and The Children's Place) after outgrowing nearly all of Jacob's hand-me-downs (since Jacob was only about three months old when summer ended).  I'm also not sure what to buy him for next year since I have all of those hand-me-downs waiting, but I can't remember how much I had for 12 months vs. 18 months.  It was way more fun when I knew I needed everything! 

Of course, I still need everything for Jacob, so when I wandered across the aisle to the boys section, I hit the jackpot.  I got him an orange Nike shirt (might be Dri-Fit...feels like it, anyway), two superhero t-shirts, a pair of reversible Nike sports shorts, a pair of pajama pants with MLB logos, and two double sets of pajamas, one in each of two different sizes, both with long pants and short sleeves.  One set is superheroes, and those will fit him for the fall.  The other set is Lego Star Wars, and those should fit him either next spring or the following fall.  Each double set was less than $12, making them less than $6 per set!  The rest of the stuff was cheap as well, though I haven't decided what is going to be a Christmas gift vs. regular clothes.  My policy on that, by the way, is that if it's something he needs, like PJs, I just give it to him, but if it's something extra cool (like the pajama pants), then it can be a gift.  Oh, and I also got him two of the $5 Curious George books they have right now--one for a Christmas gift, and one as a first day of school gift (because, of course, it's George's first day of school, too).

After all of that, I wandered over to my section to see if I could fill in any holes in my post-pregnancy wardrobe (i.e., something that doesn't cling to my belly).  There were racks upon racks of clearance clothes, and among them I managed to find four things--a dress, a 3/4 sleeve navy blue cardigan that will be good for spring/fall layering, a plain fuchsia modal long-sleeved t-shirt ($4), and a cute (and very different for me) orange shirt with a bit of a bohemian vibe.  The dress was the big splurge among them at just over $20 (down from $96), but it's super cute in a very flattering style and should translate to winter just fine.  All told, I spent $126 (and it might be down to just over $100 if I take back the shaper thing), but it was a total savings of over $300!  I know that's super-inflated because nothing ever sells there full price, but that was pretty darn impressive nonetheless, and everything will get solid use.  I'm still giddy about the PJs because I cringe every time I see a $15 pair of pajamas in the store.

We grilled up some chicken for dinner and did our best to get the kids in bed early.  Jacob had baseball tonight, and I'm currently freaking out about some blisters I ended up with on my hands and feet after my yard work on Saturday.  At first I thought they were just from weed pulling, and then I thought maybe some plant did it, even though those parts were covered, but now I'm worried that it might be related to an outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease at daycare.  I don't know if I had it as a kid, but even if I did I wonder if it's like chicken pox where you can get it again if it was a light case.  The tiny blisters on my hands and feet (about a dozen in all) hurt and definitely look a little like hand food and mouth, but it's hard to tell.  I'm worried about passing it along to Carter (even if he'll probably get it eventually anyway--Jacob had it around 18 months), because even though complications are rare, I can't imagine it's good for a 5-1/2 month old to get it.  But it may be too late.  Carter has been a little cranky and needy the last couple days, but it's hard to tell if he's teething, or if something else is bothering him.  We'll know in the next few days, I guess. 

Just a couple more things to reward you for getting through this post...
Grandma and Grandpa came to see Jacob play last Thursday.  He had a good game as usual and earned a game ball!

Look at that sweet face!

Such a smiley boy!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Jacob-Proof: Parenting Advice that Failed

As a parent, particularly a parent that reads parenting things on the internet, you get a ton of advice and suggestions on how to manage your kids.  Every parenting site or blog eventually posts some sort of list of suggestions for dealing with your unruly, difficult child when dealing with fill-in-the-blank parenting challenge.  I know that the advice is all supposed to be helpful and much of it is time-tested, but every child is different so there is never a one-size-fits-all solution for every problem.  Jacob is a prime example of that.  Here are just a few of the suggestions that Jacob has beaten into submission:

1) Give your kid two choices - The advice says that you need to give your kid choices so they feel a sense of control and contribution within a limited framework.  If you leave things open-ended, they might be overwhelmed, and if you demand a single option they will want to defy you.  So give them two choices and let them pick one.  Yeah, Jacob is inevitably unhappy with both choices, asks for another, or tries to create his own.  I read somewhere that the constant stream of choices is creating a generation of kids that don't know what it's like to not get your way.  At least Jacob might avoid that pitfall!

2) Keep offering foods - They say to keep offering foods as it can take a dozen times trying something to decide you like it.  Well...I have served many a dinner countless times, and still end up with a battle each time.  And trust me, this isn't about fancy foods that there's a chance he wouldn't like.  It's over pretty standard fare that he's eaten before or incorporates elements we know he likes.

3) Give warnings prior to changing activities - They always say that transitions are hard for kids, so give them a warning a couple minutes before changing an activity (i.e., getting ready for bed, having dinner, etc.).  I could give Jacob any number of warnings, any number of minutes ahead of time, and he still gets angry when he's involved in a project and it's time to change.  This makes bedtime particularly hard.

4) Sleep when the baby sleeps - This is a bit of a throwback, but with Jacob in particular, no matter how hard I tried to sleep when he did, inevitably I'd try napping during his nap that would last about 20 minutes.  Only when I decided to spend a nap getting things done around the house did he have a marathon nap.  Handy, yes...but sleep was probably far more important at that point!

5) Make a routine - They always say how helpful routines are for kids because it makes them feel secure when they know what's coming.  It helps with bedtime, morning, school, etc.  Well...let's just say we've done the same routines for YEARS, and yet every morning is met with resistance, every bedtime is absolute drudgery.  He may know what's coming, but that doesn't stop him from complaining about it and delaying it every step of the way.

6) Anything potty training related, including "Make sure they feel wetness" - Potty training has been a struggle for us for far too long.  As I've mentioned, Jacob is still not night trained, but at this point the doctor is convinced that it's simply a matter of his brain and his bladder catching up to each other.  I've mostly made peace with that, though there are times I swear it's out of pure laziness...but I can't prove it so there's no need to belabor it at this point.  Regardless...we bought our first potty when he was about 18 months old, just in case.  We had sporadic success starting when he was about two, but I don't think I'd consider him fully trained until he was close to 3-1/2.  Part of that might not have been within his control, but I know there were many times he just couldn't be bothered to go.  Heck, we still have close calls!  But we tried a little of everything--rewards, potty charts, wearing undies under plastic pants to make him feel wet--and yet it still took forever to get it all together. 

7) Whisper to get their attention - They say that when all of the yelling becomes too much, whisper and it will make your child pay attention.  Ha.  He'll just continue yelling right over me.

8) Lay out clothes the night before - Per #1 above, choices do not work for this child.  Picking out clothes every day is a chore.  Some people would say that we should pick out clothes the night before so we can avoid issues in the morning.  Well, sure...I guess it doesn't matter when we argue (which we will), but the bigger problem with doing it at night is that we could come to a decision the night before, only to have him wig out the next morning because he changed his mind.  No thanks.  This happens enough when we travel for a weekend and he decides that what we packed isn't good enough, so I don't need it during the week as well.

9) Involve the big sibling in caring for the baby - Jacob had one brief moment where he seemed interested in Carter...the moment he walked into the hospital room and saw me holding him.  And then reality set in and he has kept his distance ever since.  He has been getting better, as we at least have moments now where he acknowledges his brother's existence, but for the most part he still keeps his distance.  But no matter how much I've tried to get him to grab a diaper or come say hi, he still hasn't gained any interest in anything having to do with Carter.  He has mentioned couple times that he wants to help feed him, so we really do need to capitalize on that one of these days when the stars align and the timing works out, but no matter what we've tried so far, nothing has had a lasting impression.

10) Use a stern voice instead of yelling - A couple years ago when Jacob was in the throes of the terrible threes, I had asked the doctor about the possibility that some sort of food or drink (specifically cow's milk, but possibly food dyes or something else) might be contributing to his behavior issues.  The doctor, who was extra old-school, poo-pooed the idea completely and basically said all Jacob needed was some good, old-fashioned discipline.  "Use a firm voice," he said.  Ha.  We've used every manner of firm voice, but that doesn't work.  Neither does yelling, whispering (see above), spanking, taking away privileges, timeouts, reverse psychology, logic, positive reinforcement, or anything else we've tried.  At this point I'm hoping aging will do the trick. 

So, yeah, we haven't exactly been able to parent Jacob by the book, but there have been other things that have worked like a charm.  Maybe I'll post about those one of these days.  If I can think of enough for a reasonable post.  The successes tend to be a little harder to recall.  But Jacob definitely keeps us on our toes.  Carter is, so far, the perfect baby, and I'm sad to think that someday we may have these issues with him as well.  He's got a front-row seat for his brother's antics, but I'm hoping he learns that he'd rather not be yelled it, rather than simply deciding that he must follow in his brother's footsteps, despite the consequences.  Just don't watch too closely, Carter!  As I told Jacob last week, use your powers for good!