Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Night of Firsts

Tonight Carter had three firsts!  Of course, none of them were the ones we're really waiting for, first words or first steps, but one was still pretty significant--his first haircut!

The first "first" of the night was his first McDonald's burger.  We don't go out to eat much, and certainly not to well-tested gluten-free-friendly places.  Well, getting Carter's haircut done necessitated fast food out (because we tried to do it after a quick at-home dinner on Monday and it did not work), and McDonald's was the closest place.  They CAN do gluten-free, though it's always a bit of a risk...and confuses the heck out of them in the process.  But they do it and so far it's seemed to go well.  So, it's not a perfect option, but it works.  Jacob gets a cheeseburger with no bun, plus the fries and apples in the Happy Meal.  Tonight's "toy" was a Lego Movie cup...cool!  Carter didn't eat a ton (as has been the trend the last few days), but he did seem to like the burger.  I think everything else was just too distracting!

After dinner we headed to the barber, which is the same place we got Jacob's first haircut done.  It's sports themed so we hoped there would be enough distractions to get us through a five minute haircut.  The first haircut always seems like a bit of a waste, but the old man look is brutal.  Jacob had it, too, and the thick, fly-away hair on the bottom looks so odd compared to the thin hair up top.  I don't have a really good picture of the ridiculousness, but the extra unfortunate placement of this picture gives you an idea of the problem.

This one shows it a bit, too...after she started wetting it down to cut.
Look behind his ear in particular...
He did great!  He was a little squirmy and moved his head from side to side a lot, but he didn't cry!  I will take it!

 
Handsome boy all done!  It changes the shape of his head and makes him look a little more polished, if you can say that about a baby!

Notice he's holding the comb.  She gave that to him as a last-ditch effort to distract him :)
It was quick and painless, and I'm so relieved to have it done.  An envelope with a few pieces of soft hair is sitting on his baby book right now :)

After that, the bribe to get Jacob to deal with going was to take his free yogurt certificate to a local yogurt place.  I'll admit they make me a little nervous with cross contamination and all that, but we avoided the yogurts with gluten and tried to work around the toppings.  They weren't labeled but we know more or less what works.  Cross contamination is always a worry, but sometimes you just have to cross your fingers and hope things are as they're supposed to be.  We couldn't have that ability if this were a peanut allergy, for example, but right now he doesn't seem that impacted by cross contamination, so I think in some cases it's worth the minor risk.  We all enjoyed our yogurt, and even Carter got to enjoy some!  He wasn't too sure when that cold stuff first hit his lips, but he decided pretty quickly it was yummy and was shrieking a bit at me to keep it coming.  Of course, I forgot I should have left some yogurt untouched by toppings because I had to avoid the nut-based toppings as I gave him bites.  Oops.  I mean, he's probably safe-ish at this point, but his intolerance issues and eczema make me nervous nonetheless.  Jacob didn't have peanuts until he was, what, three?  I don't know if I plan to wait that long now, but it's still scary.  We don't need anymore food issues, let alone one that serious.

Anyway, it was fun.  So fun that both boys took little cat naps on the way home.  They still went down okay, thankfully.  Jacob is back to his difficult self again and I am trying so hard to figure out what made the difference.  He's back to being selfish, purposely annoying, loud, full of potty talk, prone to hitting, and generally challenging over the most random stuff.  It's so frustrating.  We're managing, but after such a good week last week, it really makes you wonder.  It doesn't seem like anything he ate could have made a difference, but I guess you never know.  Still no word back on the blood work, though.

Carter is as playful and goofy as ever.  He loves being chased (oh boy) and he really likes climbing stairs.  Thankfully he's pretty good at it when he stays focused, but obviously we don't want him doing it without us there.  I'd rather he learn and get good at it, but it's nerve wracking.  I need to get video of him playing in his little tunnel (that was converted from his playmat), because he is so hilarious when he's in there.  His laugh just cracks me up.  What a ham!

So, not a bad night as a whole...I'll take it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

News & Notes, Is it Spring Yet? Edition

It was snowing here again this morning, which was sort of mean considering we'd had temps in the mid-40s over the weekend.  Of course, the winds were also in the mid-40s, as well, so it was a little hard to enjoy the warmer weather.  The sun helped, though, and it felt good for a couple days.  But now we're heading back into another freeze and more snow and I think the general public is about to lose it.  We've had a couple easy winters here lately, and I think everyone got a little spoiled and forgot what real winter is like.  It's annoying.  And while I'd say that we all just need a real break in the weather--you know, a few sunny days in the 50s--I think that might just make everyone crazier when the weather goes back to normal...or below normal, as the case might be.  I keep trying to tell myself that March starts this weekend and that even though it will still threaten to snow for another month or two after that, the weather HAS to get better soon, right?  God knows that Jacob is craving outside time, and I think he'd actually take flight in jubilation if we actually told him it was nice enough to play outside.  The good news is that the days are getting longer, and one of these days we'll actually come home in honest to goodness daylight.  We're so close!

I really wanted to get Carter's hair cut this weekend, but it was the one thing that got cut due to time and schedules.  I wanted to do it yesterday afternoon, but Carter's nap ran long and Jacob and I were engrossed in his 100th Day of School project, a "100 Mobile", to bother waking Carter up early to head out before the haircut place closed.  I promised Jacob that we could go to the frozen yogurt place that's on the drive back from the haircut place as his reward for sitting through the haircut, particularly since he's got a free coupon from his teacher from Valentine's Day, but we'll just have to either do it in the evening this week or use it next weekend.  Carter's hair is making me a little crazy, and I let that crazy go on too long when Jacob was his age and had the same unfortunate issue--the old man 'do.  It's super short on top and long in the back.  It gets food in it, it stands up funny after sleeping, and it flops over his ears.  I remember after Jacob's first haircut that I realized I should have done it so much sooner!  Turns out based on the blog that Jacob's haircut was only a couple weeks later than this, but that's two weeks less of frustration, right?

As I was looking to see when Jacob's haircut actually took place, I started reading about the weaning process we went through last time.  I've been thinking about that stuff a lot lately with Carter, too, though in a totally different way.   The differences are amazing and I will try to do a post specifically about that soon.  It just blew my mind reading the posts, though!

Predictably, the past couple days with Jacob have been a little challenging.  I knew my blog post would jinx us!  He hasn't been awful, but it's been back to a lot of the defiance and crankiness.  I think some of it may have to do with school being back in session, unfortunately, but we'll just have to see how things go.

I had a last-minute scramble tonight because Jacob's teacher notified us at 5pm tonight that they're doing a food activity for their 100th day of school tomorrow (side note: when did they start celebrating that?  We never did that.), and a few of the foods they're using have gluten.  They're counting out 10 each of 10 different foods, including pretzels, two cereals, and goldfish.  I had to scramble to replace those with what we had on hand--gluten-free pretzels, Kix, Chex, and Skittles.  I also tracked down an old placemat to send with him to cover the table surface he'll be counting on, just in case there was gluten there previously.  I wish I would have had a little more notice, but at least I got it done.  I never realized what a pain food-related things are at school.  Allergy parents have it worse because it's a life and death thing, but geez...this stuff is frustrating.

And now, a few pictures...

Here's Jacob at Glow Golf...blurry, yes, but a cool picture anyway.  I love how the ball glows in his hand.

A close-up of my Valentine's roses.  They were this two-tone pink and a coral color.  Really pretty.

 Here's Jacob with his 100 Day mobile.  He put 100 stick-on stars on 10 ribbons, which we hung on a hanger.  I had to help him with some of the construction, but he did all the counting and stuck on all of the stars in patterns.  He did great!

More soon...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Joy

This blog has had its fair share of bummer posts over the past year or so, but thankfully, this will not be one of them.  I am hesitant to post it for fear I will jinx things, but I have to do it because it has been such a relief.

I think I've mentioned that Jacob's behavior has been better for the past week.  We'd had a really bad run prior to that, for no apparent reason, but since last Friday, things have evened off again.  It's hard to explain what that means, exactly, but all I can say is that I think that our moments in between meltdowns are what "normal" people live like.  To be clear, this is still not a normal life, but there have been far more normal moments in the past week than I can remember in a long time. 

We still have meltdowns and moments where things are far more difficult than they should be.  He will still argue about clothes for far too long, he will give us a hard time about eating certain foods, and something like getting bloodwork done this morning can throw him off-kilter for an extra long time.  But if we can weather those storms, the time in between can be lovely.  And it's been a long time since I've been able to say that.  At times we couldn't say anything to Jacob without it turning into an argument, and something as simple as a request to come to dinner would turn into a major battle.  We may still have to push him a bit now, but it's not like it was.  He'll play nicely alone, but will ask nicely to have you join him.  We can have actual conversations.  He can be so funny, so insightful, so charming...and for a while that was all hidden behind a brooding, mouthy fa├žade. 

For so long it was so hard to bond with him.  He wouldn't let me near him for as much as a hug.  He didn't want to talk to me.  Every interaction turned into such a battle that, honestly, it wasn't worth it.  I eventually became more nervous about making things worse that taking the chance of making things better seemed too risky.  As a mom, it was absolutely heartbreaking.  I'd look back at pictures of my sweet baby boy and think back to how inseparable we used to be.  That image became even more vivid once Carter came back into the picture and I relived a lot of my experiences with Jacob.  The contrast was shocking and sad.  To know things could go so downhill made me worry about my future with Carter.  Obviously everything was complicated further by having to spend a lot of time with Carter, between the limits on my time to Jacob's jealousy (even if he'd never admit it).  The connection I had with him felt so broken.  And when his behavior went downhill badly at the end of the summer, things got even harder.  While I will always love him, liking spending time with him was such a challenge. 

But over the past week or so, things have been so much better.  He'll let me hug him, we can have normal conversations, and he can be really reasonable and cooperative at times.  He can be so sweet and charming when he wants to be.  He'll tell me things about his day.  He's even acknowledged Carter.  I still can't say he's accepted him, but he has moments where it looks like he can almost see a future where things could be okay.  We can go on outings without expecting a full-on tantrum about something, and I'm less scared of our weekends without Craig because so far they've been perfectly manageable. 

I don't know what caused the change, but it could be a lot of things.  Perhaps his week off of school let him relax a bit.  Maybe Carter's birthday helped him realize that not only isn't Carter going anywhere, but he's getting older and will get more fun.  Maybe because Carter's getting older and Craig has been on the road a lot, I'm slowly but surely getting more opportunities to spend one-on-one time with him again, and he realizes that I do still love him and want to be with him.  Or maybe after nearly four months, the Celiac disease is getting a little more under control and the effects of the gluten are wearing off.  People have said that the behavior issues can take six months to ease up, so maybe we just got to a better point.  Who knows, but I don't care what it is as long as it continues!

Don't get me wrong, we still have a long road ahead of us.  It's still clear that he's got some things going on.  His obsession with certain things is undeniable.  His inability to focus in a classroom setting is problematic.  He's still prone to acting out physically when he gets upset, and he gets upset probably more than most, in a way that's usually disproportionate to the problem.  But to see him be able to act normal more often than not gives me hope that we can crack the code and find ways to help him.  It gives us a little mental break and gives us a chance to show him what we've been telling him for so long--that the better his behavior, the easier things are and the more fun we can have.

But the overwhelming sense of joy that I feel when I can finally bond with him again is the big story of this post.  I can't describe how happy it makes my heart that I can give him a peck on the cheek again, or hold his hand, or give him a hug.  I can cuddle with him, talk with him, and do everything in my power to remind him how loved he is, without getting the immediate resistance that used to bog us down.  To be able to spend time with both of my boys (sort of--it's still limited but there are glimpses) is exciting, and I hope this trend continues.  All of the prayers must be working, so please keep them up.  But throw in a "thank you", too, because this week has been darn-near a dream come true!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Weekend Odds and Ends

As I mentioned in my last post, Jacob was really great over the weekend.  I have a feeling that's what a weekend with a "normal" five-year-old should feel like--a couple unfortunate moments but very functional in general.  I'm not sure what happened to do that, but getting his Valentine's Day gifts definitely perked him up a bit.

He helped me try to make Carter smile for his pictures, and even almost seemed like he was interacting with him a bit.  I mentioned how he seemed very interested by Carter's hockey stick birthday gift (in a non-jealous way), and he just seemed more willing to help out with retrieving toys and things like that.  He just didn't argue as much and was really delightful to chat with.  There was still some potty talk but it was limited, and the hitting was nearly non-existent.  It all sounds really normal to most people, but to us it's definitely a change.  It was so ridiculously nice, especially considering all of the stuff that was going on all weekend. 

His good behavior lasted right into Monday, where we sent Carter to daycare and spent the day with Jacob.  I almost wrecked it because I had a couple hours where I literally could not pull myself out of bed.  I don't know if my body gave up after a busy week, or what.  Eventually I did get moving and we went out for a quick lunch followed by a couple rounds of Glow Golf (yes, glow in the dark mini golf) as his reward for getting the top color on his classroom's behavior scale a couple weeks ago.  We finished it off with Frosties at Wendy's.

Monday night got a little more challenging and he keeps saying that he doesn't feel great, so I'm thinking of asking the doctor if we can get some bloodwork done on him, both to see if there's any sort of status report we can get now that he's been gluten-free for about four months, or if anything else seems amiss.  It's just random stuff--he says he's tired, complains of random aches and pains, and still seems to have some stomach aches and nausea that never amount to anything.  Half the time he's complaining he still seems like his normal, active self five minutes later, so it's hard to tell if he's making excuses, or making small things seem worse than they are, or if something's really bothering him and he's just sort of battling through it.  With two friends with kids with cancer, I guess you can never be too sure, right?  In the meantime, there's a delicate balance between being sensitive to whatever might be bothering him, but not buying in so completely that he thinks he can pull the sick card whenever he wants to skip school or other events.  My mom used to have a fever/vomiting rule about staying home from school, and while I know there are some other things that might warrant a day off, I'm not in a position to be able to stay home just in case something is up.  It stinks, but that's how it goes.

So, we're all back to the grind now.  Work for Craig and me, daycare for Carter, and a lacrosse clinic and the school district's February break version of the afterschool program for Jacob.  We'll see how that goes.  Carter's one-year well visit is on Friday, and I'm hoping to get some insight into transitioning him off of his fancy formula now that it seems he can tolerate at least some dairy.  I just don't want to overwhelm his system, so I am pondering switching to sensitive formula for a bit then working up to real milk, or just very slowly adding milk, though it would sort of defeat the purpose of the pricey formula.  We'll see what she has to say.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here is the official set of pictures from Carter's first 12 months.  I can't believe this project is over already, as it doesn't seem like it could have been started 11 months ago!  The progression is amazing because you just don't see the day-to-day changes, but what a difference a month can make!  I'm definitely thinking back these days to the beginning of my maternity leave a year ago.  Oh, what I wouldn't give for more dedicated time like that again!













Amazing!  What a year it has been...and I can't believe how much he's going to change in the next year based on what I see looking back on pictures of Jacob.  This parenthood thing is quite the trip, and I love my front row seat!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Birthday Boy!

Fun fact: Jacob and Carter were both born on Friday, which meant that their first birthdays fell on a Saturday.  It worked out perfectly with Jacob where we could have his first birthday party on his actual birthday, which felt just right.  Ever since it's always felt weird when we can't have his birthday on the actual day.  I was happy when I realized that Carter's first birthday would fall on a Saturday as well...that is, until I saw the Knighthawks schedule and saw a road game on Carter's birthday.  So, we had to wait an extra day for his party, which was just fine because it gave me an extra day to plan!

Carter's actual birthday was pretty low key.  Craig left late the night before for his roadtrip, so it was just the kids and me on Saturday morning trying to pack up and get on the road at a reasonable time.  The actual packing went well and Jacob was extra well behaved.  The biggest problem of the morning was that we needed to take Carter's 12 month picture and he was not being cooperative.  He kept trying to crawl away or grab the 12 sign, or he just wouldn't smile.  I was feeling pretty frustrated and even Jacob tried helping me distract him long enough to get a smile or two.  We tried at least twice, hoping the break would help, but in the end we only got a couple decent ones and none that were perfect both with their smile and with the continuity with the other months' angles, coloring, etc.  Oh, well.  At least that's done! 

We got on the road around 11:30 and headed to my parents' house for the weekend.  The drive was fine and we just spent the day hanging out.  Jacob was great and Carter was trying to get into everything!  I had to spend some time baking during the afternoon, including figuring out how to bake the big cupcake for the main cake.  All things considered it went relatively well, and I pretty much left it all for the night and would figure out the construction next morning.  I worked on a couple of the major elements of the decorations, though, afterward.  I did capture this cute shot of Carter before we headed out to another birthday party in the evening, this one for his second cousin (on my side), whose 10th birthday was early last week. 


Carter had a few moments of desperately needing to be with his mama, but what else is new?  Still, both kids were really good and went down pretty well at bedtime.  I had to stay up to meet Craig nearby on his way back from Toronto, so my night was a little later.  Carter woke up a couple times whining, and I ended up cuddling him for a while just so he didn't wake up Jacob.  Needless to say, I was really tired when it was time to get up.  I also panicked that I wouldn't have enough time to get everything done for the 1pm party, so we stayed home from church and I got working on the cake situation.  It took some maneuvering, but in the end it went relatively well.  And the end result of the main cake was absolutely lovely.  I was thrilled with how it turned out!
Take that Pinterest fails!!
The top decoration was inspired by Pinterest, and I learned that you could use the cake mold (thank goodness I got the silicone one!) to coat with candy melts and make a molded shell for the bottom of the cupcake.  It makes it look so much more finished and polished than leaving it bare or trying to frost it.  I was thrilled with the look, though I did get nervous when it was a bit of a squeeze to get it in.  In the end everything looked so pretty and picture perfect!

In the midst of my decorating, all of a sudden the party was starting!  Carter was still in his jammies since I wanted to save the birthday outfit for the party and a lot of things were still in progress.  My parents and Craig were also working away right up until the start.  My parents were hugely helpful and I am so grateful for all they did to help with the party.  The house was full of people, but everyone had plenty to eat and seemed to have a great time, including all of those mingling between sides of the family!

Carter had taken an early nap that morning which threw off my ideal schedule for the day, and by the time the party started and he was finishing his lunch, I knew a nap would be hard to come by.  I learned a hard lesson during Jacob's party when he was so cranky during the end of presents and for his cake, and I had so hoped to avoid that this time.  Carter was still having a lot of mommy moments during the party, which had me nervous, but by the time people were finishing eating he seemed to be in a decent mood so we moved on to the presents. 


He really liked that card, for some reason!

Lori did a great job of catching him smiling when I handed the camera over






!
He was probably even less into unwrapping than he was at Christmas, but I'm sure he was thrown off by the chaos and being the center of attention.  Still, he did great.  First gift up was his own set of mini hockey sticks with a soft ball and puck! 
Sticks!  And paper!
Very appropriate since he's been stealing Jacob's whenever he gets the chance!  I actually think Jacob was possibly more excited about it than Carter, almost like it dawned on him that, "Wait, he WILL actually be able to play with me someday!"  Of course, when Jacob saw on the back of the packaging that there's a full ice rink mat that you can buy, that became his new future gift of choice!

Uncle Brad and the rest of the fam got him a Mercyhurst teddy bear (Daddy's alma mater!), and it looks like he liked it!

His Bacie (Craig's mom) has added to the collection of sports-themed clothes floating around our house with this cute onesie (with orange shorts to match--so cute!)...

He did open his gifts from us since we ran out of time on Saturday.  We gave him a shape sorter (Jacob never had a good one and I think they're one of those staple learning toys--anything without batteries these days is music to my ears!) and a Mega Bloks dump truck that I had won a couple years ago in a blog giveaway.  I won three items, one of which I gave as a gift, one of which Jacob got (a big bag of Mega Bloks), and one that I stashed away for the future.  Carter doesn't have any specific interests, though sports and cars are slowly climbing the charts, and he's shown some interest in the Mega Bloks so I figured he might enjoy the truck.

There was one intriguing large gift in the pile which I later figured out was a joint present from Lori and her parents, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a ride-on toy, which was a new one for us.  While big toys can be a challenge to store, after two boys it's hard to find toy categories that you don't already have, so that was a nice surprise. 
He can sit on the car and pull the gear shift, which makes balls pop out the front.  The balls can go back in via the hood or through a hole in the steering wheel.  It's really cute!
Since his mood was hanging in there and he showed no signs of being able to nap, we rushed right into the cake.  In addition to the giant cupcake, I did a set of gluten-free chocolate cupcakes for Jacob, a smash cake for Carter, and a few more cupcakes with the remaining batter.  It was a lot, but it went very smoothly.  Here's the finished smash cake, which was the same size as Jacob's (it was a last-minute afterthought sort of decision when I did it for Jacob...I think I had batter left over there, too, and didn't even realize until I did it that it could be a smash cake!).  I just adorned it with a simple star and left it at that.  I did accessorize with the same candle we used for Jacob (upper right corner), but we didn't bother lighting it since babies and fire don't really mix.

Waiting to be sung to...with the cake at a safe distance since he almost dug in early when I accidentally got it too close!  He's also wearing the same "1" bib as Jacob wore.
He was very tentative about digging in initially and almost needed to be shown that he could touch it.  We then tried with a spoon.  When he finally got it up to his mouth he seemed intrigued and went back for more. 

In this picture he's almost saying, "Why is everyone looking at me?"

Eventually it was time to cut into my masterpiece, which always breaks my heart a little bit.  But good cake makes a lot of things better...

In the meantime, Carter was making a pretty good mess, per the teaser picture in my last post.  These were taken shortly before I scooped him up and took him up for a bath.  He literally had frosting from head to toe!

I salvaged one side of the cake to add to our leftovers and snuck him a bit after he ate his dinner last night.  He earned it, right? 
After his bath we went back down to the party, and after a few minutes in my arms he conked right out and slept for at least a couple hours.  We headed home after his nap and dinner (none of the rest of us were hungry!), and I felt bad because he was bored and whiny during the drive and eventually fell back to sleep, only to get home, have a bottle, and go back to bed.  I guess the sleep was good, though, because he slept through the night as usual.  Birthdays are tiring!

All in all, it was a pretty crazy weekend but it went well.  Carter did well, the party was great, the cake was perfect, and Jacob was amazingly good.  More on that in another post!  But suffice it to say, I was so pleased with how the weekend went...despite the fact that I'd really just like to go back to bed right now!  Happy Birthday Carter!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekend of One

I will have a full birthday post as soon as I can, but it just can't be tonight because I am exhausted.  It was a great weekend, though, and pretty much everything went at least as well as expected, if not better.  Carter's party was great, the cake turned out awesome, and Jacob was really, really great.  And the best part?  Tomorrow is a day off!  We're probably actually going to send Carter to daycare (sorry, buddy) and give Jacob a day alone with us.  We have a couple potential activities to fill the day, and I think Carter will have more fun with his friends than he would have during some of these activities.  Jacob will appreciate the time alone with us, and once Carter can do it, too, we'll work him into the mix.  Maybe by then we can do things with both kids and have it be just as special as a day alone.  Maybe.

But despite the craziness of preparing for the party and taking the whole show on the road, it was a pretty great couple days.  And I am exhausted.  So no blog post beyond this one because I want to be awake enough to do it justice.  But suffice it to say all went well and I'm still trying to process the fact that Carter is, indeed, a year old.

It hit me tonight that a year ago today marked one of my favorite moments of Carter's early days, and tonight marked one of my hardest.  A year ago this evening was when Carter and I watched the Knighthawks game online, listening to Craig's broadcast that we were afraid might be in jeopardy if Carter came at an inopportune time.  It was Craig's 200th straight broadcast, so it was a big one, and we were lucky it was a home game!  I remember just relaxing that night with my computer and a sleeping baby, enjoying Craig's play-by-play and taking in sweet newborn bliss.  But later that night when I tried to go to sleep, Carter was hungry and insatiable.  I was exhausted after not sleeping much the night before or that day (it's so hard between the baby's needs and the constant vitals checks), and not only was every part of my body (including the source of nourishment) was terribly sore, but I was so tired that I was worried about dropping him or falling asleep with him in my arms.  I was getting desperate and Craig was sleeping at home that night, so I made the tough decision to call in the nurse to take Carter to the nursery.  I just couldn't do it anymore and took the risk that he might have to be supplemented with formula (which was a big deal for me with Jacob--fortunately that didn't end up happening), but I know it was best for both of us.  Once I calmed down and stopped beating myself up, I slept like a rock...so deeply, in fact, that when I woke up I had to seriously think about where I was and what I had to do.  Yup, exhausted.  Quite the start, for sure!

Until I get a new post up, enjoy this one random shot from today.  Just a preview of the fun...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ONE

My sweet Carter,

I can't believe you turn one today.  I keep telling myself that since you weren't born until 10:32 pm, you're technically not one yet!  I'll hold on to these last official baby moments while I can!  But the truth is, you've been with us for a year now and it was the fastest year of my life!  I seriously can't wrap my brain around the fact that you're a year old because it seems like not that long ago that I was lumbering around this house pregnant and pained.  Deep down I knew you'd come early but I never thought you'd be three weeks ahead of schedule...well, at least, not until those last couple days when I felt so awful that I figured my body couldn't hold up much longer.  I think it's sort of ironic that Valentine's Day will always remind me of last year, when I was so uncomfortable that I could barely sit up, yet I had to make it through a day of work, Jacob's last night of soccer, and dinner out.  I thought by the end of the day that you'd be making an early appearance, but when I woke up the next morning feeling much better, I thought maybe I was wrong.  And then a few hours later you got things moving, and the rest is history.  Less than 12 hours later you were in my arms. 

You have been the best baby I could have asked for.  Given the year we've had with your brother (more on that later), we needed an easy baby and you definitely fit the bill.  As much as I wanted a girl, I couldn't have asked for anything more with you...so as usual, it's clear that God knew what he was doing!  Aside from a couple rough nights early on, I can probably count the times I've had to rock you for an extreme amount of time on a hand and a half, if that.  You've even made it through teething like a champ.  You're a great sleeper and a great eater, and while recently you've gotten a little more demanding, you've almost always been good when I need you to be.  I just can't get over how chill you've been over this past year.

My maternity leave with you was so blissful.  Yes, I was tired, but I made it a point to hold you a lot and take in every moment of your sweet little self.  You were so tiny and I spent so many moments marveling at your long fingers, little feet, soft skin and abundant hair!  You had so much hair, everywhere, which is rare for babies in my family, at least.  Eventually you got rid of most of it, and now you're sporting a bit of a baby mullet because you lost a bunch on the top of your head but the back's been growing in all along.  You're still so much darker in general than Jacob was, which never ceases to amaze us. 

You and your brother are so different.  You don't look very much alike, and your personalities are pretty different as well.  Still, sometimes I marvel as I read this blog at how you've both done the same things at the same time.  And yet, he had more hair at this point but you've doubled him in teeth.  I think you're probably going to walk before he did, too, because you're already able to stand up for a few seconds at a time.  You think Jacob is the most amazing person in the world, even though he won't give you the time of day.  In fact, lately he's been yelling at you and trying to intimidate you, but you just sit there and smile at him.  If I wasn't so ticked at him, I'd be extra amused by your response.  Hopefully someday he'll come around, but I'm sorry in the meantime that you're missing out on the love and entertainment that older brothers are supposed to provide.

I do apologize that you had to join our family at this particular time, because you're really not seeing the best of us.  You've heard so much yelling and I wonder how much of what you see sinks in.  Don't get any ideas from watching your brother beat on us or tell us "no".  That is not how you want to do things.  I hate that you've had to be around all of this insanity and have a crazy mommy for your first year, but you know what?  You have been the bright shining light of this tough year and I don't know how I would have made it through without your smiling face and sweet baby snuggles.  You made me love being a mommy again, and brought me little bits of joy in the midst of so much stress and sadness.  No pressure or anything, but the longer you can keep that up, the better.

You love people so much and they are instantly drawn to you.  I've never seen a baby get so many comments or give confidence boosts to so many random strangers everywhere we go.  There is just a light in your eyes that draws people in, and those chubby cheeks are irresistible.  Even at Disney where there are more kids than you can count, so many people were drawn right to you.  Everyone at daycare loves you so much, and every picture I post of you on Facebook gets so many "likes"!

You haven't been completely drama-free, of course.  The decision to stop nursing you when you were six weeks old was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.  I had to put my sanity and the normalcy of our household at the top of the priority list because I knew that formula could still give you what you needed while keeping my stress level lower.  In the end I'm sort of grateful, because I think I was a much more relaxed mom because your survival did not depend entirely on my body.  I wouldn't change how I did things with Jacob, but I'm at peace with how our journey went, too, because I wasn't battling my body or blaming myself if things went wrong with you.  Of course, once we were used to formula, solids came along and messed everything up again, especially when we figured out you couldn't tolerate rice.  That was a complication I never expected, and it became even more challenging when your brother went gluten-free and everything we were eating included some sort of rice flour.  I'm still working through that balance, but I think we're doing okay.  You're eating a bunch and I haven't contaminated either one of you yet, that I can tell.

As we reach a year, we're eager for a few more milestones.  Your first haircut (see the mullet reference above) will be first, and hopefully your first word will be next.  You babble "mama" and "dada", but you don't seem to connect it to us yet.  Hopefully soon.  I'm not sure what other words might come next, but I can't wait to start hearing what's going on in that head.  Walking should be coming soon, too, and then we all have to watch out because you are one determined, curious little boy.  After that I think sports will only be a matter of time, though it remains to be seen if you'll be as into them as your brother.  Right now you seem to like cars and sporting equipment equally. 

I feel like there are so many more things I wanted to tell you, but all I can really say is that I feel so blessed to be your mommy.  You have been the perfect addition to our family and I just marvel at you every single day.  Watching you grow up has been so enjoyable, in part because I'm not as nervous about the parenting fundamentals this time around and can simply focus on how great you are.  I can't wait to see you grow and have loved spending this past year with you!  I know you won't remember this birthday (or this year), but I can't wait to make memories with you for many, many more!  Happy Birthday Carter!

Love,
Mommy

Friday, February 14, 2014

Same Old, Same Old

So yesterday was another meeting about Jacob, this time with the school psychologist, the school counselor, and Jacob's teacher.  We had to go over their evaluation of him.  As usual, no one is giving us a diagnosis, but every one of these meetings is, in theory, another step closer to answers...be it a diagnosis, a path to follow, or another idea to try to focus him in the classroom. 

The meeting was pretty much the same as what we've heard so much of over the past few months.  Jacob is soooo smart, but he just can't focus or follow directions.  He's in his own little world a lot of the time, and gets stuck on certain topics quite frequently. No surprises, nothing we haven't already heard or seen plenty of ourselves.  The good news is that he was in the 99th percentile for a lot of the tests they administered, and the areas where he did struggle were usually not too bad, aside from one test that he failed miserably.  He couldn't focus and it was only a 30-second duration, so not a lot of room for error.  Everyone says how much they enjoy him, but it's obvious that his inability to follow directions has made each of them nuts in one way or another.

As usual, I got all teary by the end of it.  I just can't seem to get through one of those meetings without crying.  I don't know exactly what it is, but I think it's just this awful frustration of not knowing how to help him.  We know there's so much potential there.  He's smart, he's engaging, he's talented...but he can't get out of his own way to really showcase what he can do.  He gets bogged down by his lack of focus, he rattles on about things that no one else really cares about, and he just can't seem to control any of it.  Which, of course, is why we're working on going to the behavioral specialist, who can hopefully give him tactics for recognizing those moments and managing them as he gets older.  I mentioned his similarities to Max Braverman on Parenthood a few posts ago, and that's all I can picture--him sitting in class driving people nuts with random facts and getting lots of eyerolls from his fellow students. 

I also feel this profound sense of sadness when I think about how all of this has put a giant wedge between Jacob and me.  He's been a daddy's boy for a long time, mostly thanks to sports, but for a long time before that he and I were nearly inseparable.  I was the only one feeding him most of the time for over a year, we spent the weekends together when Craig was gone, and the mere sight of me could elicit an automatic smile.  Carter's arrival obviously complicated things a bit.  Jacob wouldn't come near Carter, and I had to be with Carter a good portion of the time.  Despite my best efforts to spend time with Jacob, most of the time they'd be met with resistance.  He wanted to be with Daddy, or he'd act out so badly that I had no choice but to cut the time short (like at bedtime when he'd lose books for not getting ready like he was supposed to).  Nowadays Jacob just considers us "bad" parents, though he still likes to spend time playing sports with Daddy and can be almost his normal self with me when Craig is working and he has no choice.

I explained to everyone yesterday that while Jacob has always been a bit challenging, the worst of the behavior has only been in the past year, and the absolute worst in the last six months.  Thinking you have a "normal" child for four-plus years, only to find yourself suddenly mired in evaluations and therapist visits, is a little jarring.  You just can't believe this is your life.  I know it could be worse--we could be visiting oncologists (like my friends, who seem to be getting ever closer to a terminal diagnosis for their daughter--heartbreaking) or heart specialists, or dealing with a major traumatic injury--but this is challenging in its own way, because it affects the quality of life for all of us.  And it's certainly never somewhere we thought we'd be.

I'll be honest--my fear of having to deal with life-altering, difficult medical challenges was almost enough to make me think I shouldn't have kids.  I wasn't sure how I would deal with a child who was profoundly disabled or very sick.  I'm still not, I suppose.  I guess you just deal because you have to, but I always feared that I would either shut down completely or have so much bitterness for not being able to be "normal".  I was afraid I wouldn't have the patience, that I would resent not being able to do things everyone else does, that I would feel trapped to not have the freedoms I once had.  I do have little moments where I feel that way, even now, so I can't even imagine how I'd feel if we had an even bigger challenge.  I'd like to think that given a worse situation I'd just have to put all of my energy into getting through it and wouldn't have time for the sour grapes, but I don't know.  Regardless, you love your child and that doesn't change for anything, but it still doesn't mean it's easy.  I keep hoping that Carter is as normal as can be, partly because I just want to see how easy it is to raise a kid that isn't a serious challenge at every turn.  I know every kid has their challenges, but to anyone out there thinking that, feel free to come to my house and watch the madness unfold every day, then tell me if you have challenges like that.  Seriously, I'm curious.

Do you know what a mom's kryptonite is?  Simply interfere with the bond between a mother and her child.  That is all it really takes to bring a mom to her knees.  It is such a natural instinct in mothers to protect and be close to their children, and when that bond is broken, it is heart wrenching.  And I think that is part of what is leaving me in tears at every one of these meetings, that I feel so distant from Jacob, for so many reasons.  He doesn't want to spend time with me.  When we do spend time together, part of the time he's difficult to manage, part of the time he's hard to understand, and the rest of the time I get a tiny glimpse into the kid that he used to be, but with the twist that he doesn't like a lot of affection so I'm mostly watching from afar.  There's a sad realization that the moments where he seems normal are so few and another battle is likely around the corner.  It's such a far cry from the kid he was, and that contrast breaks my heart every time. 

The fact that he won't willingly get near his brother complicates matters further.  One of the people in the meeting yesterday had talked to the therapist that Jacob sees now, and the therapist made a comment that she doesn't see us looking like a family very much.  I've been there a handful of times when she has specifically wanted our input together, but yes, Craig takes Jacob to his appointments because he has more job flexibility.  I have to make up every minute that I'm not at my desk, so it's harder for me to take off for appointments.  I'd obviously be there if I was specifically needed, but she usually doesn't talk to us much so it would literally be both of us sitting in the waiting room for an hour for no apparent reason.  It's not that I don't care, it's just that it only takes one parent to drive to a doctor's appointment, and in those cases, it's not me.  That same therapist has always harped on how I need to spend time alone with Jacob, which I get, but that is easier said than done when normally he wants nothing to do with me and Carter is just the opposite.  I'd really love her to instead encourage Jacob to accept his brother (which he does not--he still seems to think Carter will go away at some point) so we can all spend time together.  Maybe someday.

I apologized to Jacob tonight as I was cuddling him in bed that the last year has been such a crazy one.  I don't know if it meant anything to him, but hopefully he'll come to understand that we still love him so much, no matter how much our time may be divided these days.  He appreciated his Valentine's Day gifts, a stuffed penguin he loved when we were in Pittsburgh last summer (though because he was misbehaving, we bought him secretly and held him for this long), a DVD of some of his favorite Scooby-Doo episodes (Harlem Globetrotters and Batman), and one of his favorite candies, gold coins.  He had a good night, and it's things like that that we want to build on.  It never lasts, but we'll savor it while we can and hope that kid is in there somewhere, waiting to come back out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Reason to Celebrate

This week I'm trying to stay focused on planning Carter's party.  It's going to be a generally low-key affair, and it's not even at my house, but it's a party nonetheless and it takes some organizing.  Winter birthdays are just different.  I have plenty of memories of my own birthday parties, outside in the late summer weather, and these days I'm used to Jacob's birthday parties--outside by the pool in the early days of summer.  Winter parties are a little more subdued--food, drinks, cake, presents...done.  It's less of an event and more a get-together.  It's fine, mind you, just different.

I remember having an inner conflict when Jacob's first birthday came up.  On one hand he's a baby and doesn't care about any of it.  On the other hand, your baby only turns one once and looking back you don't want it to look like you didn't care either.  For Jacob's party I think I got a mylar banner and some balloons, along with a special bib and cake plate.  Lori bought him a special outfit (which he could barely wear comfortably because it was freezing and rainy on June 20th), and I made his cake at home because we had some family allergy issues to manage at the time.  The cake was pretty much a disaster because the humidity wreaked havoc on the frosting and my inexperience was pretty problematic, but we survived.  Jacob got cranky during presents and wanted nothing to do with the cake, at least not until his nap was over and the happy baby returned in time to eat all of my cake.

It was pretty low-key, and looking back on it (and seeing some other people's well-planned parties in the years since), I feel like maybe I should have made more of an effort.  But here we are again and things are looking pretty minimalist.  I'd say about 95% of my effort is going toward the cake.  As usual.  I figure if I don't have the patience, time, or desire to spend money on anything else, at least I can try to make an awesome cake.  It's turned out well for Jacob's last two birthdays (his second birthday wasn't bad but the third was a disaster), so fingers crossed it goes well for Carter's first.  Still, I did go out to the party store to browse first birthday items, and I left empty-handed aside from a great deal I got on plates and napkins.  They didn't have any cake plates like they had last time, the banners were a bit blah, and everything was overpriced.  I was so tempted to get a really cute birthday hat, but I know it would stay on for two seconds and be thrown on the floor, so I held off.  Maybe I'll grab a special balloon or something, but aside from a craft project I pondered and have pushed aside, the decor and theming are going to be pretty non-existent.

We're having it at my parents' for a lot of reasons.  I was hesitant when they originally offered, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Craig is in Toronto for work on Saturday, so I'd be stuck trying to do party planning alone with two kids.  It's also a shorter trip back for him after the game.  Most of the people attending the party live in Buffalo, so in the event of crappy weather, it was convenient to be closer.  Jacob doesn't have lacrosse this weekend, and we haven't had a lot of chances to go to Buffalo since he started playing in November, so I had originally thought the upcoming long weekend would be a good option for going...until I remembered that it was Carter's birthday weekend.  But, having the party there solved that issue, as well!

As I said earlier, I know that Carter's a baby and he doesn't really care what we do.  It's just a party, and it's just our normal, laid-back family, so there's no need to go over-the-top crazy.  But at the same time, I do want it to be special.  I feel like I've seen way too much in the past year to take any birthday for granted.  I have two friends who currently question if their children will actually see their next birthday.  For one the answer is probably yes (though how many birthdays he may see is still a major worry), and for the other it is a total unknown.  If nothing else, watching both of their cancer journeys has been a reminder of how important it is to celebrate the little things in the everyday, and to celebrate even more when we have an extra good reason.  Just because my child isn't sick doesn't mean that we shouldn't do what we can (within reason) to make his day extra special, even if he can't quite appreciate it yet.  If anything we have more to celebrate, right?  I don't want to take it easy simply because he'll have more birthdays that he will care about more.  There are just no guarantees, and my friends' kids are living proof of that.  I pray that both my kids live long, full lives, and while it shouldn't take a birthday to give them the best life possible, that shouldn't mean that we can't embrace it when the opportunity arises.

I'm excited and nervous that his birthday is almost here, but mostly I'm just in disbelief.  How can my baby already be on the verge of ONE?  It doesn't seem possible.  More on that in the days to come...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

News & Notes...Again...

Just a few random things from the weekend...

We had a pretty good weekend as a whole.  Jacob had his moments, as usual, and Carter is turning into a royal handful, but we still managed to have one of those weekends that mixed productivity, fun, and relaxing.  It was maybe a little short on relaxing, but the other two helped that not be too much of a loss. 

Saturday morning was pretty low key.  I switched out most of the rest of my winter decorations for a couple more Valentine-inspired pieces, and brought up a new toy for Carter from Jacob's old stash in the basement.  I thought it might be a good time to bring up the ball popper.  It plays music and pops balls out of it, some of which fall back into the top and most of which careen all over the room.  It used to make Jacob crack up.  Carter enjoyed it, but strangely Jacob seemed to enjoy its return even more.  The one cute thing is that he spent a while trying to show Carter how to use it to play baseball.  He'd hit the balls that hovered as the air didn't have quite enough oomph to "pop" them.  Other than the fact he was often close to hitting him with his batted balls, it was cute to see him acknowledging Carter in a positive way.  I did take video but I need to get it uploaded. 

Carter took a great nap to give Jacob and me a little time to hang out.  We didn't do anything specific, but it was a pleasant time nonetheless.  We just chatted and hung out interrupted, which was nice.  Craig was already off to work, and we had to keep an eye on the clock for his lacrosse game at 3pm.  Carter slept for so long that in the end it was a bit of a rush, but we got there.  His game was fine (yet another win--they still haven't lost) and he almost got to touch the ball this time (a few kids dominate--he'll get his chance next year, if nothing else).  Lori came to watch the game, and met up with us back home shortly after to head to the Knighthawks game with us. 

We rushed through dinner and headed out a little early to go see the Jack and the Beanstalk balloon display I mentioned the other day.  All the pictures below are from Friday, but you get the idea...

Jack's mom (I think) yelling at him about the beans.  You can't see all of the details that well, but there's a cuckoo clock on the left and patches made out of dozens of tiny balloons on her apron.

Ground level, looking across the garden at the stalk.  Note that everything you see, including all the ground cover, is balloons!

Looking up at five stories of balloons!

The detail in the garden--I love the tiny balloons making up the corn, and notice the giant bugs attacking the pumpkin on the right.

Four stories up, here is the giant in his castle!  The detail on his eyebrows and hair is crazy!

Jack sneaking around the castle with the golden goose!

Looking down...
 It was pretty awesome and even Jacob was impressed.  The game was pleasant enough, though Carter was a little more antsy than usual.  We visited with a few people to break it up, and headed out right after the final horn blew (Knighthawks win, much to Jacob's dismay, since he's still cheering for the Bandits).  Both kids went to bed pretty easily, thankfully, and I got a little me time in before bed.

This morning was the usual morning rush to get to church on time.  Carter was a bit of a mess at church.  Since he went to bed without his night feeding last night, he woke up hungry and we didn't have his usual bottle during church.  We had to fill an entire hour with toys and Kix, but he was determined to play with the big kids so we had a major struggle.  He was so tired by the end of church but there was too much activity for him to actually sleep.  On the way home we headed to the craft store because we had a bunch of things to look for, and Carter was pretty unhappy for that trip.

Still, we had to persevere because time is ticking down.  We had to look for a couple things for Carter's party, and I wanted to bring Jacob because he's got this 100 Days of School project to do, where we have to make a mobile with 100 objects hanging from it.  It could be 100 pom poms, pieces of cereal, bows, etc.  He still hasn't settled on anything, but I did suggest he take a cue from the other project I was shopping for.  I recently tossed the Valentine's Day wire garland that I used to put on our ficus tree, because the foil shapes on it kept falling off everywhere whenever it was disturbed.  I didn't want Carter choking on any of them, and I was sick of picking them up all over the place...so in the trash it went.  In its place I wanted to do a chain garland.  I opted to use felt.  I fell in love with this stiffer felt with sparkles on it, which I'm regretting a bit as my loops aren't as smooth as I'd like, but it's getting there.  I'm stitching them since I don't think glue would hold.  It's a bit of a project, but I think it will look cool when it's done.  I have one more Valentine project in the works, too--another garland of sorts to put on the TV stand, entrance bench, or mantel. 

I worked on that this afternoon while Carter took a marathon nap (he finally fell asleep on the way home from the store and slept about three hours!) and Jacob took on his Valentines.  We were given very specific instructions on how to do them (numbering with the names), and after a few early hiccups, Jacob did all 25 in one sitting without any drama.  It was awesome!  I was so proud of him.  After he was done, he started in on a little crafty project using some of the felt we picked up at the store, including a felt pennant.  I felt like the 33 cents or whatever was totally worth seeing what he'd do with it.  He was cute and his imagination amazed me as usual. 

We went out to dinner tonight to our new Red Robin.  He did very well there, as well, and Carter ate a ton--all of the chicken, veggies, and cheese I packed for him, along with some leftover Kix and a few of my fries.  I can't really remember Jacob's eating habits at this age, but I'm pretty sure Carter is kicking his butt right now :)  Those extra four teeth probably help, though! 

As part of our outing we stopped at yet another craft store--I only ended up buying a frame for Jacob's awesome fish painting--and Target, to look for a few things, like a birthday outfit for Carter (no luck) and a stapler (partly for my one Valentine's project). 

It wasn't a particularly amazing weekend, just pleasant and with some nice bright spots.  It's going to be a busy week getting ready for the party, and I'm eager to get my desk back together tomorrow at work.  A lot to think about this week, but most of it is all for a great cause.  I can't believe my baby is going to be ONE!   

Friday, February 7, 2014

News & Notes, Freaky Friday Edition

It was a weird day.  Not in a bad way, just in an out-of-the-ordinary day.  First, today was my last day at the desk I've sat at for about 7-1/2 years.  Yesterday was my eight-year anniversary at my job, which is crazy to me.  That is a long time considering I had no idea if I would even like this job when I took it.  I pretty much had no choice at the time since my boss completely alienated me the day after I interviewed for this job.  So while I was on my way out, a confrontation with him cemented it and I swore that if I got offered the job, I'd take it.  And I did.  It all worked out pretty well, I think.  Anyway, about eight months after I got there our office moved across the street, and I was thrilled to see my new view overlooking the river.  Well, today was my last day with that view.  I had to have my desk packed up by noon in preparation for a move across the office.  I won't have a window view any longer, but I can look around the corner out my boss' window.  The new view is north toward the lake.  Not as pretty as there's some city ickiness, but it has its charms. 

Anyway, once my desk was packed up, I headed out for my normal Friday lunch, but we went to a different spot--across the street to the Sibley Building, which used to be a giant downtown department store and is now home to a city campus for the community college, among other things.  They're sprucing it up right now in preparation for adding residential space, and this week it's been host to a giant balloon sculpture--a five-story-high depiction of Jack and the Beanstalk.  It uses something like 50,000 balloons, and it sure was impressive. 

After lunch I headed home, since I didn't have an office to hang out in.  I stopped at BJ's on the way home to renew my office's membership that I manage, then worked for a couple hours at home in the quiet while watching my DVR'ed Biggest Loser finale.  The winner definitely looks too thin, for the record.  I like that show, even if it's not perfect, but I think she took it a little too far.  Anyway...

I went to pick up Carter (Craig grabbed Jacob on his way home) and stopped at the party store to look for first birthday stuff.  I can't believe his birthday (and the party) is a mere week away!  Anyway, I didn't have much luck with the stuff I was looking for, like a special cake plate (got one cheap for Jacob there) or a couple things for the cake itself, but I did stumble upon some paper goods on clearance, meaning I spent a grand total of $7.56 for enough 1st birthday plates and napkins to get us through the party.  Pretty awesome.

I made some pizza for dinner (finally found a gluten-free crust we can all agree on--yes!  And it's pre-made and cheap--double yes!!), hung out for a bit as a family, and then Craig headed out to Knighthawks practice.  Jacob and I watched the Olympic opening ceremonies (holy questions, Batman!) while I fed Carter, and then Jacob went down without incident, too. 

Jacob got his report card today, which is always an adventure.  I remarked on Facebook that I never saw myself dreading report card day, but I do now.  I don't really understand half of the codes they use in it, though, but I can read the comments just fine, which tell the full story.  It's not a pretty one.  Pretty much all of them revolve around Jacob's trouble following directions, being distracted, and not being able to complete his work.  It's not fun stuff to read, and it makes all of this evaluation business that much more real.  There's no doubt that he's going to have special needs in school, since many of the comments indicate he can't stay focused without one-to-one help.  I'm not sure what form that will take just yet, but it's definitely a sobering read.  The good news, though, is that he is slowly but surely learning to read!  It's a process, but I can see that he's learning and it's exciting watching him pick this stuff up.  And as I mentioned the other day, his artwork has been impressive as well.  It's so great to see little glimmers of awesomeness in the midst of the troubling stuff. 

Carter is doing better these days.  His antibiotics are done and he seems back to normal.  He's still not finishing his bottles most of the time, but I sort of wonder if he's starting to get close to weaning off of them.  Breastfeeding was so different, so this process is new.  I'm sort of waiting for his well visit to get advice for transitioning to milk (I don't want to overwhelm his system with dairy in case his tolerance isn't quite there yet), and making sure he's getting the calories he needs.  He's such a skinny little dude, even though he looks so long.  I don't want to start taking away his opportunities to eat just because he seems less interested in bottles, but I'm not sure he can make up for it with solid foods because we're still taking things slow.  He eats lots of meat (chicken (nuggets and grilled strips), ham, even a meatball!), mini bagels (which I'm dipping in the baby food we have left, since he's mostly rejecting the purees now), yogurt melts, cheese, Kix and Cheerios, and some fruits and cooked veggies.  We tried pasta but he's not too impressed with that yet.  I'm sort of using him as my gluten finisher, since we have a few things left and he can't eat most of what we eat because of the rice flour in almost every gluten-free item.  He and I will be sharing bread for the next couple weeks, too, I think, since my office microwave is out of commission during our renovation, and there's no sense using all of the gluten-free bread for my lunches. 

The crazy thing about Carter is that he's getting so close to standing!  I'd have to look back to see when Jacob started, but I don't see any signs of it in the posts from around a year.  Jacob was saying "uh-oh" around a year, though, and while Carter has been making sounds for a long time now, we still haven't had any real words.  I keep hoping for "mama", because he can say it, but it still hasn't been directed at me.  But the standing thing blows my mind a bit.  Jacob didn't walk for real until 16 months, and getting him to stand usually took a lot of distraction.  Carter has only done it for a couple seconds at a time (also usually when distracted), but he's doing it!  He gets a kick out of flopping back to me, but I think he'll get there sooner than we expected.  We'll see if walking follows suit.  In the meantime, he's showing us his stubborn side, constantly going after Jacob's stuff and giving us an ear-piercing scream whenever we're not paying enough attention to him or when he's unhappy with whatever we're doing.  Jacob did the scream thing as well, and it is painful (literally).  It's also embarrassing when it happens in public.  People at Wegmans were probably wondering what I was doing to him the other day.  Shushes don't work yet and it's so hard to teach babies.  I just want to get him to start talking so he can communicate in another way! 

Anyway, this week is going to be all about settling into my new workspace and prepping for the party.  I have a couple crafty projects I want to do (party and Valentine's-related), and I need to get Jacob to buckle down and work on his valentines for school.  Ugh.  I have no idea how we're going to celebrate Valentine's Day at home aside from one gift we've set aside for Jacob.  Craig might be headed off to Toronto by then, and perhaps we'll be heading to Buffalo.  Thank you, Valentine's Day, for conveniently making Carter's birthday haul a little more tolerable for his big brother.  Is it weird that I'm hesitant to leave Friday because I want Carter's official 12-month photo to take place on his birthday on his chair at our house?  Who am I kidding, I probably won't be ready Friday anyway!  Should be an interesting week, that's for sure!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How Soon We Forget...

Yesterday I took a few minutes to scroll through the blog posts from the last couple weeks of my pregnancy.  It blows my mind that it was a year ago already.  One year ago today I took a day off of work to be home as Carter's room got painted a lovely little boy blue.  I folded baby clothes and rested on the couch, trying to relieve the crazy discomfort I was experiencing.  I put up the pack and play, and it seemed so early at the time...but it turns out I was only a little more than 10 days away from having a baby to put in it! 

It was really apparent to me how debilitating it was to be as uncomfortable as I was.  It was scary to even walk from my office to my car, or to go to Wegmans.  I was seriously worried about my water breaking.  Turns out, I guess, that all that worrying wasn't for naught, as I did end up having that very thing happen while sitting at my desk, three weeks ahead of schedule.  I spent a good month walking on eggshells prior, and I guess I could just tell that things were brewing up a little quicker than we'd have anticipated.

The flurry of preparations those last couple weeks were crazy, but I had forgotten about a few of the biggest concerns of those final weeks until I read the posts.  I had forgotten that a) Jacob had a stomach bug; b) Craig was out of town twice the weekend before I delivered; c) we had a major snowstorm; and d) those things all happened pretty much simultaneously.  Jacob got a stomach bug the night before Craig was on his way out of town.  That same day we got a foot of snow.  I was nervous enough about Craig being gone, let alone catching Jacob's illness and how we were going to get out of the house when I couldn't shovel snow!  The thought of going into labor in the midst of that scared me to death.  It's a wonder I didn't go into labor from the stress of it alone!

In the end it all worked out.  Jacob recovered quickly.  Craig's trip to Philly was a little harrowing but he got back at 3am.  He left later that day for Buffalo, but I figured having him that close was much safer than Philly.  The snow was bad but with Jacob sick we really didn't have to go anywhere, and the neighbor helped out a bit with clearing it.  I remember being so relieved when we made it through that weekend, but the following week was very had for me physically, culminating in a Valentine's Day where I was so uncomfortable that I could barely sit through Jacob's soccer practice and our oh-so-romantic family dinner at Friendly's.  I felt better the next morning and got a ton of work done...until I felt a little something funny, took a couple trips to the ladies' room, and realized things were happening.

One of the other things that stood out to me from those last couple weeks of posts was our ongoing concern of how Jacob would adjust.  Turns out those concerns were valid...and then some.  Here we are a year later, and he still doesn't accept that Carter is here to stay.  He doesn't like him, doesn't want to be touched by him, and is generally just angry with him.  Sometimes I wonder what we could have done better to transition him, but I have no idea how we could have truly made it any easier for him.  He had us to himself for over four years, so there's no way this new little person wouldn't have rocked the boat a lot.  Add in the fact that Jacob's not your typical "wanting to be helpful" kid most of the time, and there's not a lot of options for us to involve him that he'd be up for.  It's a challenge, for sure.  It kills me that the one thing that saved me from utter despair when I found out Carter was a boy was that Jacob would have a brother...and now he doesn't appreciate it one bit.  Maybe someday, but we've been saying that for months and it hasn't gotten any better.  In fact, it's gotten worse--he went from ignoring him to actively hating him.

This year has flown by faster than any year in my life.  It has also been the worst year of my life with the exception of the ridiculously happy baby that brings dozens of smiles to my day.  We've just had one challenge after another, Carter included.  In his short life we've had to deal with his milk protein intolerance (and having to stop breastfeeding) and the rice intolerance, along with his reflux and chronic congestion.  But he's so happy that it's hard to be anything but happy when you're around him.  Now if we could just do something about his ridiculously painful shrieking that he's picked up in the last couple weeks...

I know I've already talked about it a lot, but I tend to get nostalgic when big anniversaries come up and I can pinpoint exactly where I was one year earlier.  This time of year (and especially with a storm coming overnight tonight) I'm definitely taken back to a dizzying last couple of weeks as a family of three.  I knew one day I'd look back at that time and marvel at its simplicity, even though at the time it seemed crazy.  Sure enough, one kid seems so simple now.  I wouldn't change a thing about Carter, of course, but yeah, life is a lot more complicated these days.  More than we ever imagined.  So pardon me for getting a little nostalgic for a simpler time.  These two weeks one year ago were the last moments of our old normal, which it turns out never really made a comeback.  So, yeah, they were more special than we ever could have imagined.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The A Word

Most people, from the moment they find out they're pregnant, hope and pray for the perfect baby.  I think in a lot of cases we don't even know what that really means.  Healthy, yes, but beyond normal functionality I don't think most of us get too specific.  Most people probably don't spend significant amounts of time praying their baby avoids their environmental allergies, for example, but I'm sure at least once I specifically asked that my kids be spared of major food allergies, cancer, or anything else that would shorten their lives or significantly reduce their happiness.  I mostly just prayed that they would grow into happy, functional adults and live a long, healthy life.

You worry nonetheless but hope that God knows what he's doing.  But what happens when some of your worst nightmares start coming true?  What do you do when the bullets you thought you dodged boomerang back around?  That's sort of the spot we're finding ourselves in right now, at least to some degree.

I think my biggest fears with both kids were probably 1) Anything that could lead to their death (cancer, SIDS); 2) Anything that would be life-alteringly awful (deformities, major food allergies); 3) Autism or any other severe mental issue.  As Jacob got older, I thought we had gotten past those problems, at least as much as you can.  Cancer or accidents are always wildcards, obviously, but aside from a few behavior issues, his respiratory issues, and his milk protein intolerance early on, he was by all accounts a normal kid.  We had a healthy and happy kid.  And then the last six months happened.

Well, maybe the last year.  I don't want to pin Jacob's behavior issues on Carter's arrival because there were certainly issues before that.  They seemed to intensify a bit before Carter was born, and again about six months after, and while I'm sure that's a contributing factor (I'm probably more confident of that now that I was earlier), I'm sure there were various foundations set before Carter even existed.  In the last six months, his behavior problems have become a major disruption to daily life.  He's also been diagnosed with Celiac disease, which has sent our typical household menu into a tizzy.  It's all been very jarring to our simple, normal existence.  I never imagined we'd be facing down such an array of evaluations or having to put so much effort into having a "normal" daily life.

Today I got a call from the psychologist at Jacob's school.  She had started evaluating him prior to the holidays, and we hadn't really heard anything.  She wanted to make an appointment to discuss the results.  She gave me a bit of a preview, starting out with a rundown of his test scores from all of the different evaluations she did.  As a whole, he scored very high.  In most cases he was on the high end of average, or in a couple cases, as high as the 99th percentile.  He's obviously very intelligent, particularly in the non-verbal, visual realm.  The one area where he struggled was with writing his alphabet.  The test was to see how many letters he could write in 30 seconds.  He only got...two.  He was distracted and needed a lot of prompting, and it took over five minutes for him to do all of them.  That is nothing new, and that revelation transitioned into the more difficult part of the call, which was his behavior issues.  Based on what she was seeing in the evaluation we filled out, and what she's seeing on her end, she wants to do a little further evaluation, this one focused on Asperger's.  Obviously if he's on the spectrum he'd be considered high-functioning, but actually hearing someone finally use that term in an official "suspicion" sort of way (meaning, the red flags may be pointing in that direction) was hard, even though we've known for a while that it could be possible.

Heck, if you look back in the blog, I remarked a couple times how his stubbornness made me wonder what was up with him, even comparing his behavior to the character Max in the TV show "Parenthood".  Max has Asperger's, and while I know it's just a TV show, there were some eerie similarities.  But the thing that always made me think that wasn't the case was that Jacob was always more social than you'd think a typical kid on the spectrum would be.  He made eye contact, he was chatty, he was relatively normal, all the way up through the ages and stages where Asperger's is supposed to become apparent.  Even now, with all we've been through, he CAN be normal.  It doesn't happen a ton, but he can be totally normal and friendly for significant periods of time, and I just don't know if Asperger's kids can just "turn it off" at times.  It's just odd.

On a side note, a couple weeks ago I noticed that a friend of mine (who has her own son with some behavioral challenges) commented on Facebook on a photo posted by an autism support page.  The picture showed a city bus with an ad (possibly for a medical facility) talking about the ultimate goal of eradicating cancer, diabetes, and autism.  People (parents of kids on the spectrum, to be exact) were very upset by this ad, saying that their kids don't need to be "fixed" or whatever.  Maybe I'm just an outsider still, or a bad parent, but I just don't agree.  Yes, kids are all great and unique.  Autistic kids can have amazing strengths and skills, and I get how parents wouldn't want to change their kids, per se.  But, honestly, if I could better my child's quality of life, or prevent other kids from having difficulties like this, why wouldn't we strive for that?  I understand that things like cancer and diabetes are far more physically damaging, for sure, but am I nuts that I'd prefer my kid to be able to interact normally within society?  My boss and I were talking about it and she concluded it's like the people that are against cochlear implants.  They claim it's damaging to deaf culture and there's nothing "wrong" with being deaf.  But silly me, can't hearing be helpful in integrating into normal society and advancing one's career or improving interactions with loved ones?  I love Jacob, but--wrong or not--when I see him, I see so much potential that is being stifled by his inability to shut off the stuff in his brain that's dragging him down.  I am blown away by his vocabulary, math skills, and artistic abilities, but I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't trade even a tiny piece of all of that to have a kid that was able to enjoy his life without obsessing over wearing a certain color shirt or thinking that his little brother somehow spit on him from four feet away, rendering his food contaminated.  There's just not a lot of quality of life there, for any of us, and I can't for the life of me understand why people would have any issue with "curing" autism if it meant that their child would have a better life.  It's one thing to love and support your child unconditionally...but it's another to act like their world (and yours) wouldn't be better if they were able to fit in with their peers and communicate better with the world around them.  I just don't get it.  Maybe someday I will. 

So, anyway...we have more paperwork to fill out and we'll get the full story on the rest of it next Monday.  We still need to get in with the specialist, which will hopefully give us more answers.  Our main hope at this point (regardless of diagnosis) is to get some coping techniques to help us manage the hitting and the hardcore defiance--like when he needs to go to school but refuses to wear anything in his closet.  It kills me that this is our reality right now, but we're doing everything we can to get answers and help Jacob through this.  I pray that we find a solution that works for him, and for us.  I know there's an amazing kid in there, and while the flashes are great, I wish so badly that his bright shining light could come through all the time.