Sunday, June 29, 2014

Anniversary, Part 2

As promised, here are the pictures from last night's anniversary date.  I wish there were more, I wish they were from my real camera, but the iPod shots will have to do.  They have a certain charm, I guess.  So here goes...

Who knew?  Not sure I knew this until recently...

Craig posing near the lighthouse hole...

Stepping stones on the course...couldn't resist!

The one really unique feature of the course was that they have a chipping hole!  You put your ball down on a little pedestal and hit it as hard as you can across a grassy area to the hole.  It was fun!
video


Some of the course's charm...they had fake crabs screwed on everywhere!

They had a giant chair at the end of the course, and of course we had to get a selfie!

And here's Craig showing us the whole chair...
 Off to the shore we went, and as we were finishing our ice cream, we came across this giant swan...though I thought it was some sort of goose originally, but no, it's a swan.  I guess I thought swans were a little more feathery or something.
This picture does not quite do his size justice.  He was HUGE.  He had to be at least three feet tall, and his body was so strong.  I'm used to Canadian geese, and this guy was at least twice their size.  I would not want to be attacked by this guy.  Gorgeous, though...and he was grooming like crazy, so apparently it takes a lot of effort to look that good.

The sign at Marge's.  It cracks me up that this is right in the middle of an otherwise residential strip of beach houses.  I can't imagine living near here!

Heading into Marge's...festive, huh?

The view from Marge's beach...the sky was this cool pink color, and you could see the rain way far out into the lake.  It was so pleasant out there...I could have sat out there all night!
It was such a fun night and I'm so glad we got to do it.  Back to reality today.  It was an okay day, though the weather spoiled some fun.  I put on my bathing suit right when we got back from church, and I was going to do a little sweaty yard work in the 90 degree weather after lunch before jumping in.  Well, I did a little work, but then it started raining on and off.  The radar kept showing little patches of rain and the sky looked threatening so I held off from going in the pool.  I ended up taking a nap (the whole house did!), and when I got up it officially poured for quite a while.  So my suit was on all day and yet...no swimming.  Bummer.  But the kids were generally good aside from their usual shenanigans, so it wasn't a bad Sunday.  Luckily we're heading into a short week, but I do have to figure out Jacob's birthday cake so we can take it to my family's 4th of July picnic on Friday.  Did I mention we basically canceled his party at our house because no one could make it and everyone's schedules weren't meshing for a reschedule?  So we're doing a cake at my family picnic, and we'll figure out something to do with Craig's side sometime soon, hopefully with having everyone here to swim, as I know time with his cousins on his own turf is something Jacob would love.  A bit of a bummer, but I think in the end it'll turn out fine.  At least we're starting off the week on a good note...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago right now I was probably wrapping things up at the reception hall after a wonderful wedding day.  What a fantastic day that was.  Gorgeous weather, my ideal dress, surrounded by friends, and marrying a fantastic guy.  At the end of that day I wouldn't have changed anything.  It really went amazingly well. 

Eleven years later, I'm probably just as tired as I was that night, but for so many different reasons.  Looking back there are a handful of things I might have changed, but to be honest part of that is social media's fault.  There are things I've seen in the years since that I would possibly do differently now--different photo poses, maybe a couple tiny details about the reception, and maybe even a slightly different dress...though at the time I know that one was the best I saw by far.  But it was a truly great day spent with so many special people.  I didn't have a doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing, and I couldn't wait to be married.

Up until this past year, I feel like we did pretty well with the whole marriage thing.  Despite Craig's busy schedule and Jacob's entrance into our lives, I felt like we did a pretty good job about getting decent alone time and keeping our marriage strong.  Could we have done better?  Maybe, but I think we were doing a better job than a lot of people.  And then Carter was born and Jacob's behavior went down the toilet, and suddenly year 11 turned into a major challenge.  Nothing horrible or inherently, imminently destructive, but difficult in that if certain behaviors were allowed to continue for too long, it could lead to trouble.  I think it's probably similar to the early stages of what people who divorce and say, "Well, we just grew apart" might go through.  We've been so busy dividing and conquering (me with Carter, Craig with Jacob) that it's hard to focus on us.  We sit down to dinner and spend half of it trying to get the kid to eat like refined humans, and the other half trying to talk but being interrupted by Jacob's random ramblings or Carter's screeches.  It makes it very hard to put a coherent sentence together.  I feel like it takes us ages to make decisions about anything, because we can't talk about something for more than 30 seconds without being interrupted.  And by the time the kids are in bed and we could talk, we're both exhausted and more likely to spend the evening vegged our in front of our computers and our TV.  Sad, I know, but sometimes it feels like the only mental break we get. 

It's more of a "lack thereof" thing than a "negative" thing, and I can see where if it drags on for a long period of time, it could be extra problematic.  This year has been more challenging in general because up until Jacob's behavior imploded, we didn't have much to disagree about.  But sometimes we have differing ideas of the best way to manage his behavior, and sometimes we're so caught up in caring for the other kid that we forget what needs to happen for the other one, and the one who is paying attention may feel a little slighted...like, "Why am I the only one thinking around here?"  Blame it on months of sleep deprivation and the constant background noise that comes from two kids.  We're both tired and distracted a lot of the time, and it causes problems. 

It's the sort of situation where you have to intentionally make an effort to connect with the other person--to talk, to keep some intimacy, to find a way to cut through the clutter and remind yourselves why you fell in love with each other in the first place.  It's not that you don't love each other, it's just that you've forgotten why you found each other so irresistible that you just had to get married. 

We've found it extra hard with two high-ish maintenance kids to get out together alone.  We'd be nervous about what Jacob might do, and concerned about Carter's meltdowns when we leave, and between time, money, and availability of child care, it's hard.  Overnights or time out of town have been nearly unheard of since last year's Knighthawks championship game trip.  And you know, it's really something we need to properly reconnect. 

My parents were nice enough to offer to come to Rochester today to watch the kids so we could go out for a proper date.  Leading up to it, I was honestly having trouble coming up with something to do.  Maybe it's just that it's so rare that I wanted to pick the greatest option possible, or maybe we're just so out of practice that I've stopped dreaming about the things that we could do.  I posed the question on Facebook (of course), and one of my friends suggested an idea that was probably more "old us" than anything else...and I think we needed a little of that right now.

We started out the night having dinner at Bar Louie, a new chain restaurant that opened at our mall a while back.  With Jacob's limitations it's hard to go to restaurants, so we just hadn't been there.  It was a scorching hot day outside (baseball and pool time earlier nearly wiped us out), but by the evening it was a little more pleasant.  No chill, for sure!  The big door to the patio was open at the restaurant, which made for a nice atmosphere.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner, before running into the mall for a few minutes so I could make a purchase I'd been thinking about all week and finally got a coupon for! 

On my friend's advice, we headed up to the lake--though not the part of the lake we've usually gone to in Greece.  This time we headed off to Irondequoit, the next big town over, to go to their lakefront.  We went to the oldest mini golf course in the country and played a round.  I played terribly, but it was a fun course (even one whole where you chip!) and we had a good time.  We then headed up to the strip along the water just past Seabreeze Amusement Park.  The strip includes three separate restaurants in a row that specialize in burger/hot dog cuisine.  We grabbed some custard and strolled along up to Irondequoit Bay, where we saw a giant white goose.  I don't think I've ever seen one of those before.  We get a lot of Canadian geese around here, but the white goose was a new thing and it was HUGE.  We then strolled back and decided to stop for a drink at this little dive bar we haven't been to in years.  Marge's is this little bar smack in the middle of a row of beach houses.  I don't know how their neighbors stand it, but it's such a funny little place.  Out back there's a nice deck, and then probably 3/4 of the way down the beach to the lake is roped off and full of chairs for people to just sit in the sand and enjoy their drink.  We couldn't snag any chairs, but we just stood in the sand while we drank.  The air was warm, the breeze was lovely, and the sky was interesting--mostly cloudy but with a pinkish glow near the horizon.  In a couple spots you could see that it was raining way out in the middle of the lake.  It was so nice.  We got to reminisce, talk about things in detail, make some tentative plans for the summer, and just enjoy each other's presence for a change.  No wrangling kids, no second guessing decisions, no hassling of any kind.  Just hanging out like the old days.  It was much needed and so much fun.

Unfortunately, I forgot to grab my camera before we left, so I just have a handful of iPod photos to remember the date.  I'll have to post them when I have a chance.  I would have documented things so much better with my real camera, but I did what I could.  It was such a nice night, though, and I'm so happy we got to do it.  It was a good reminder that getting away together is important, and that we can still have fun when we do it.  We need to do it more.  Our marriage is fine, trust me, but I would like it to be even better than fine.  The busyness of life with two kids is a major challenge, and I think we're up to it, but we need to be intentional about remembering each other.  And I think this was a good reminder of that. 

Happy 11th Anniversary to us...and here's to hoping we never forget to keep exploring ways to recapture the magic of that day and night 11 years ago today.  We're worth it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer "Vacation"

I'm still having a hard time believing that Jacob is done with Kindergarten.  There was so much anticipation and build-up to it, and I guess once it started we were so preoccupied with surviving it, that suddenly it was over.  Somewhere around April I realized that we only had a couple months left and there was life after Kindergarten (hopefully with a different teacher that might be a better fit), and we seemed to coast a bit from there.  Suddenly I realized Jacob actually was learning things despite the constant stream of bad feedback each day.  He could write and read and do math, just like that.  Don't get me wrong, every day involved holding our breath and praying he didn't get in serious trouble, and hoping he didn't have much homework to derail our evening.  But slowly but surely we survived.  It's like when I'm running and that second mile seems so painful...but once I'm through it and realize I only have a little bit left, everything feels so much easier. 

But it just blows my mind that he's done with such a monumental year, and I know the rest are going to go just as fast.  Before I know it, it will be second grade as he moves to a new school, or fifth grade as he goes to middle school, or eighth grade to high school, and who knows where from there.  It's all going to happen in the blink of an eye.  Jacob keeps saying that when Carter is in Kindergarten, he'll be in fifth grade, and on one hand fifth grade seems so far away, but I know how quickly Kindergarten comes, so it's really not as far off as it seems.  Our niece and nephew, who we vividly remember being born, just turned 12 and are going into seventh grade.  I think they're both taller than me now.  I have no idea how that happened.  My kids are going to be the same way.  It's nuts.  And while I know first grade is only going to get harder, I'm hoping he gets a teacher that works for him and things can go a little more smoothly. 

Anyway, we've settled a bit into our summer routine.  Jacob and Carter are now both at the same daycare everyday.  Jacob's happy to be back as a "big kid" and he loves his teacher.  She's young and fun, and if Jacob likes her and is willing to behave for her, that is good enough for me! 

Carter moves up officially next week to the pre-toddler room.  It will be a bummer to move up from his teachers, who I've gotten so close to over the past 16 months.  And I love seeing the babies come in little and grow up.  But it's fun watching Carter hang out with the bigger kids, too.  They're not much older than him, though a lot of them have been walking for longer.  But it's still so cute watching him be one of them! 

It's nice only having one stop at the end of the day and having two kids there waiting for me.  The teachers love both of them, and even Jacob is usually pretty happy to see me.  It's not cheap to have them both there, but I like that they both like it there. 

Now that Jacob has been through a year of real school, summer vacation feels a little funny.  I feel a little bad that his summer vacations bear no resemblance to the ones I had as a kid.  My mom didn't work outside the house until I was in third grade, and after that my brother was older and we could stay home alone.  Most of my summer days were spent hanging out around the house, watching TV, reading books, playing with my toys, riding my bike, playing with friends, running errands, and visiting my grandparents.  The second school ended, I was FREE!  It was the best feeling ever!  I didn't have to get up on time, I didn't have to get dressed, I could snack at will, and do what I wanted.  Instead, Jacob and Carter still have to get up every morning and go somewhere.  They spend all day hanging out with friends and teachers, just like they do all year.  There's very little to separate their school year from their summer, aside from geography (for Jacob, at least).  Maybe the learning won't be quite as intense, but still...freedom, it is not. 

I know that this is all they'll know so it's not a big deal.  It's been this way since they were born and they don't know any different.  They'll probably have some great opportunities that I never had, friendships that I never got to build, crafts and field trips and more constructive use of time, but that summertime freedom made some of my best memories and I'm bummed they won't have that.  The afternoons when I'd ride my bike to my grandparents' house, or when my cousin and I would ride to the playground, or when I'd go to my friend Heather's house and we'd play with her dollhouse, Commodore 64, or our Hot Looks dolls, or we'd try to beat Super Mario Bros.  I read so many books and spent so many hours creating stories with my Barbies.  I'd draw or do crafts.  Or I'd watch insane amounts of TV...much of which was old game shows, giving me a vast, multi-generational knowledge of random pop culture factoids.  When my mom wasn't working I'd get to run errands with her or we'd get a day out for lunch and shopping.  Every once in a while I'd get to go out and do things with my cousins, aunts, and grandma, and we'd have a blast.  I wouldn't trade any of those experiences for anything.  Even though they may never know what they're missing, I feel a little bad that they won't get the same chance. 

But for now they both seem happy, and that's what matters.  I can't say that summer has mellowed Jacob out at all, but it's only just begun.  I'm hoping we still manage to have a summer full of fun, despite our work schedules.  Hopefully a couple trips, maybe some fun evenings out, and possibly a nice staycation where we can all have the same sort of free-wheeling summer vacation that I loved so much.  It's going to be a challenge figuring it all out, but hopefully we can make some awesome memories along the way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Start of Six

Jacob has been six for five days now.  Sorry I haven't gotten around to the recap, but it was a busy weekend...as usual.  I had to go to bed at 11pm Sunday night because I literally couldn't stand to be awake anymore.  I got a couple decent nights of sleep the previous two nights, so I'm thinking my body realized how much sleep it was missing out on and got greedy.  I ate a lot of (tasty) junk at our niece and nephew's 12th birthday party (salt & vinegar chips! tortilla chips! fruit! pizza! TWO cakes!) and I think all of it didn't mix well and I had a very unproductive stomach ache--it didn't really do anything except annoy me.  And I was super tired, so I went to bed at a reasonable time for a change.

Anyway...back to the birthday stuff...I never realized it six years ago, but having a baby in late June sets you up for a good 13-17 years of major change when this time of year comes around.  Jacob gets a year older.  Then we go from spring to summer the next day.  Then the school year ends.  Add in our anniversary on Saturday and you have a whole lot of change and milestone action going on in these last couple weeks of June. Jacob's last day of school was today, and he will be going back to daycare for the summer starting on Wednesday, and he is SO excited.  He loves his teacher there, and while I'm sure the school district's option might have been cheaper, for the summer I'd rather go with what he's comfortable with and hope we have an uneventful, enjoyable summer break.  It will be a nice change of pace from the eggshells we've been walking on at the afterschool program for the last month.  Everyone at daycare knows him and loves him, so hopefully he will cooperate and they will have the patience of saints!

I'm a little bummed that he doesn't have any sort of graduation ceremony.  Based on Facebook feedback it seems that a lot of people don't see the need for it since it's full day now, but I still think there's nothing wrong with congratulating kids for making it through their first full year of real school.  It's nice to make them feel proud of their accomplishment and give the parents a chance to be proud, but I guess we'll have to wait until second grade when he graduates from his current school.  Still, the photo op would have been nice.  After all we've been through, this definitely feels like an accomplishment.  We survived!  I can't quite believe he's done, but that's another topic for another day.

Jacob's birthday was pretty low key.  He had school, which took up most of the day.  We opened gifts in the morning, and went out to dinner that evening.  We came home and had some cake.  I made up some cupcakes to freeze and keep for other parties when we know the cake won't be gluten-free, and I made a tiny cake with what didn't fit in the cupcake pan.  He blew out candles on the cake, and ate a cupcake.  I feel bad that it wasn't that exciting, but he did enjoy his gifts and there was a Kindergarten picnic that day (to which I sent in gluten-free pizza for him), so he seemed happy enough!

I worry about his expectations a lot.  He has a way of getting something in his head, exactly how he wants it to happen, and when it doesn't happen it can lead to a major meltdown.  Whether it's what he wanted to wear that day, or what he wants to watch on TV, or what he is getting for his birthday, it's always a little scary.  He gets a lot of big ideas, and sometimes we'll nip them in the bud right away, and sometimes we'll just say, "Well, put it on your birthday/Christmas list..."  He assumes he'll get it and sometimes we have to do some damage control.  This year we didn't have much of that (yet--he's still got another party to go), but we did have to manage the fallout from not having the friend party he wanted.

He really wanted a party last year, and it would have been a good time for it as a last hurrah with his daycare friends.  However, he got really snippy about the place and with all that ungratefulness we just scrapped the whole thing.  This year he brought it up again, and we even had a place in mind for months.  Then he started changing his mind, and then time became an issue, and the guest list was a tough one, too.  We're not thrilled with his friends from his class (most of them, anyway), and the daycare friends aren't easily accessible anymore.  We have his baseball team, but we don't know many of them super well yet, and the party would have been a few hours after a game, so the whole thing just seemed weird.  We may still allow him to invite a couple friends to do something later in the summer, but the whole thing is just a little awkward.  I'm hoping that by next year he'll get a better core of friends and he'll be a year more mature and things might be easier.  We'll see.  I feel bad, but sometimes you can't force this stuff.  Ever see the episode of the Brady Bunch where Peter throws himself a party and no one shows up?  I admit, that was among my concerns...that if he doesn't have any great friends and some kids just find him weird, what if...?  I'm sure someone would have showed up, but I'm hoping next year it'll be a little better.

Anyway, his party is Sunday.  It's looking like a rather small gathering, but as long as his cousins and grandparents are there, he'll be happy.  He went for a special birthday lunch and shopping trip with Lori after his half day of school today, since she'll be on her way back from London (!) on Sunday.  Still, should be nice to have everyone here.  The pool is ready!

Without further ado, here are some pictures from his important last few days...

This was the one gift he really wanted, a working scoreboard for his Playmobil soccer stadium that he got for Christmas!
He also got a book, some Legos, a soccer Smurf, and a bunch of clothes

He wanted this outfit a couple months ago but we couldn't find it when we went back to the store.  I found it online (really cheap!) and he was very excited to get it...so much so that he was breaking into it right away.

I got this hat for him in the same order, because he tried one on in the store and liked it.  It was about $3, so I couldn't pass it up!  I'm sure he'll find some use for it!  This is pretty much his usual demeanor these days...

I did manage to get a real smile, though!

Here he is with his tiny cake and six candles! 

Laughing hysterically at Daddy while we were singing to him, because Daddy was singing silly!

Now that it appears that Carter's rice intolerance is done, he can partake of our gluten-free foods...including CAKE!

Apparently one of the few characteristics they share is their eating habits!

Ok, I should have tried to make these angles more similar, but we were in a rush.  Here's the first day of school on the left, and the last day on the right.  I've seen some crazy changes in other people's pictures.  Hard to tell, but his face definitely looks thinner.  My baby is definitely growing up!

So, it's been an eventful few days!  More to come...

Friday, June 20, 2014

SIX

Dear Jacob,

Wow.  It has been quite a year.  I won't lie, it's been the hardest year of my life.  You have given us a serious run for our money in the past year, and I think both Daddy's and my sanity hangs by a thread some days.  But to see how much you've grown and changed in other areas of your life has been amazing, and gives me hope that that side of you will one day win out and we can put all of this craziness behind us.

We don't know why your behavior went way off the deep end last summer.  It could have been your brother's continued presence in our house (nope, he's still not going anywhere), it could have been the transition into Kindergarten, it could have been the gluten, or maybe it's just how you're wired, and for whatever reason some combination of something set it into motion.  Ultimately it doesn't matter what did it (though, ummm, it might be helpful to know if you do), it just matters that we're stopping at nothing to do what we can to get you through it.  You've seen doctors and counselors and therapists this year, all with the purpose of trying to figure you out.  And while that hasn't necessarily happened, you have pretty much charmed every single one of them along the way.  We hear so much about how smart you are, how much they enjoyed hanging out with you, and how impressed they are with something you did--usually a picture you drew or an elaborate story you told.  The refrain at daycare was always, "He drives us nuts, but we love him anyway!"  Sometimes I feel like you're wise beyond your years, because while I'm not always sure other kids "get" your sense of humor, adults generally seem to get a kick out of you.  Of course, then you fall back to the potty talk and suddenly the charm wears off. 

Last year at this time you could barely read any words, and while you loved to have people spell words out so you could write them, spelling yourself was pretty rare.  A couple weeks ago you knew almost 90 of the nearly 100 sight word flash cards we have, where last fall you only knew a handful.  Now you've read me entire books from your bookshelf with only a couple requests for help on tricky words.  You've written cool journal entries and funny bios about Mommy and Daddy.  You seem like you could do math worksheets with your eyes closed, and your drawings can be so detailed and sophisticated.  If it wasn't for that pesky skill of having to sit still and listen, you'd have Kindergarten completely aced.

One thing I've grown to love about you is your passion.  Your interests have always been obvious, but as you've grown older you make it your mission to go all the way with things.  You need to dress the part, learn the skills, and create a perfect setup.  While it can be challenging when that desire surfaces at an inconvenient time, we definitely know that there's a method to your madness and someday these skills will serve you well.  In the meantime it's awesome to watch you learn.  Seeing your improvement with baseball and lacrosse this year has been so cool!

You're also so creative, and I love watching your brain come up with something new.  Sometimes the pictures I pull out of your school folder are amazing.  The one picture you painted this winter is going to have a very hard time getting replaced in our interchangeable frame photo gallery.  It's gorgeous.  I love hearing you make up stories, or do play-by-play like Daddy.  There is so much going on in that head of yours.  I wish I understood more of it.

We know that there's such an amazing, smart, funny kid in there, and we just wish that all of the other stuff that's drowning him out would go away.  While we love so much about you, we hate that so many of our interactions involve repeating directions or yelling when you ignore us yet again.  We dream of what it would be like to have you obey the first time, respond to a question without resorting to potty talk, or have you agree to do something without hitting us in anger first.  I know that parents need to love their children unconditionally, and we do, but whenever I hear parents with difficult kids say that they wouldn't change them for anything, I think it's crap.  Anytime you could improve your child's existence--their ability to interact with other people, to feel love, to learn without limitation--you do what you can to do that.  We love you to pieces, but I desperately wish we could get you to see the big picture.  We remind you how much more fun we could have if you cooperated, but you just can't seem to control it.  We're doing what we can to help you learn, but boy, it is not easy.

You have moments, though, moments where you can be so sweet, so loving, so charming...and when those moments happen, it's enough to keep me going another day.  I just wish there were more.  I never dreamed six years ago today that this is where we'd be now.  I thought that by 6 you'd be our little buddy and we'd have this parenting thing pretty well down pat before hormones took over in a couple more years and started screwing things up again.  But things have continued to be challenging.  I mourn the fact that you've missed out on enjoying these past 16 months with your baby brother.  I'm sad that Kindergarten was such a challenge for all of us.  I'm bummed that I don't want to hang out with you more because I'm exhausted from trying to figure out how to handle your challenging moments.  I miss that sweet little baby that I hadn't screwed up yet, the toddler who thought I was the coolest thing ever.  I don't know where things went wrong, but I'm going to spend as long as it takes to figure it out.  I know that, despite the potty talk and hitting that permeates almost every conversation we have, there's a kid who's worth it in there.

I don't know where these last six years have gone (well, aside from begging you to eat dinner, teaching you how to use the potty, and trying to discipline you...all in between multiple sports obsessions), but it blows my mind to realize that my tiny baby boy who put me through three hours of painful pushing and a crazy week at the hospital is now a full-blown big boy who's going into first grade.  Sometimes it's hard to believe because you don't always act your age (for the love of God please use a fork!), but mostly it's just shock and awe about how much you've changed.  I don't know if you'll ever care enough to read this post, or this entire blog that you inspired, but I hope you do and you realize how loved you've always been.  Regardless of what you think of me as a parent, I hope you know that I'm just trying to do my best and I'm only doing all of this because I love you too much to not give it a try.

Ok, I feel like I'm babbling.  I'm exhausted from a busy week and a couple late nights trying to do what I could to give you a good birthday.  I need to get some sleep, but I wanted to make sure I gave you a birthday post.  Perhaps it's not as happy-go-lucky as some of the others, but I'm not about to gloss over the truth.  It's been a rough year, but I hope that six is kinder to us than five.  Just know that we love you and want to see you succeed.  We may not always know the best way to do that, but be patient with us...we're all just trying to figure things out.  We hope you had a wonderful birthday, and we hope that this year is the best yet.  We'll do everything we can to help it happen, but any help you can give us would be great.  We're tired!

Happy 6th Birthday, Jacob Julian.  We love you so much.

Love,
Mommy


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Video Post, Finally...

I'm a bit sleepy today thanks to a late night at a concert in Buffalo with my college roommate, so the video post is about as good as it's going to get today.  I spent yesterday at home cleaning my entire house, and never quite getting around to the project I originally wanted to tackle, the giant stack of artwork in the office.  Oh, well, the house was gross and needed a serious scrubbing.  It's much better now.  Mary came in around 5pm, and we headed out by 6ish to go see her favorite band, NEEDTOBREATHE, in Buffalo.  You may recall they were the same band we saw when I was pregnant with Carter, at the same venue, which happens to be a standing room-only kind of place.  It's fine, but man...I'd enjoy concerts so much more if I could sit!  Apparently I'm getting old...but at least I wasn't pregnant this time.  It's also the same venue as the concert we went to with other college friends to see another favorite band, Five Iron Frenzy, last fall.  We had a great time last night, though.  The band is awesome live.  A little bit of country, a lot of rock, and a little side of blues.  Really great stuff.

While we were gone, a huge storm blew through Rochester.  We had no idea, though we knew something was up when we got off at my exit and my normal right turn at the end of the ramp was totally closed to traffic.  We had to go up another exit and make our way back around.  We started to see a lot of tree branches as we approached my neighborhood, and things started clicking.  Turns out the closed road was due to an exploding transformer that started a fire, took down six poles, and landed on a couple cars.  Fortunately, the damage was minimal and everyone was safe, but the road was still closed earlier today.  Part of me is sorry we missed it, but based on the number of branches I saw down this morning, part of me is relieved, because I know I would have been terribly nervous...and I don't like getting nervous in front of the kids.  At the time it hit, Craig was shuttling them home from Jacob's practice and off to dinner, so they were out in it for a bit.  Crazy stuff.

Anyway, on to the videos.  I'm pretty much only including this one in case you wanted to see what a mid-sized arena looks like while celebrating a championship.  This was a few minutes after the Knighthawks won, just as the teams were going through handshakes and other postgame stuff.  Everyone was still going nuts, and it was lovely to watch. 



Out on the turf, Carter was pretty reserved and was just trying to figure things out.  Here he is, enjoying the confetti all over the turf.  I tried to get video of him walking, but he was content to crouch in one spot.



 Here's video from the pictures I posted the other day of Carter playing with the packing paper from our Amazon delivery.  The second half is priceless and captures him so well :)



And finally, here's a little taste of him walking.  I hope to get a little more before he gets too good at it.  These early walking days are so awkward and cute.  He's motoring around pretty good now, but I love watching him be so big and independent! 


And while it looks like he just sort of veered into the mulch, I sort of think he did that on purpose, because he loves digging in dirt like that.  I think we're in for it with this one.  I think the nail brush I bought to tackle the dirt under Jacob's nails might get a workout between these two boys!

So...yeah, those are the videos.  Now it's time to start focusing on Jacob's birthday, because I feel totally unprepared.  I'm hoping we have enough gifts to make him feel special (because, when you're six, isn't that what it's all about?), and looking forward to dinner out on Friday.  I'm sure I'll have plenty of thoughts on six years of Jacob in the next couple days.  Stay tuned...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week in Review, Photo Style

Just some random photos from the past week...

Last Tuesday was the fan celebration of the Knighthawks championship.  There was a parade from the arena to City Hall for the (annual--ha!) proclamation, and after an afternoon of golf, the team gathered at a hotel downtown and fans came to enjoy the party.  They got pictures with the team and the cup, bought championship merchandise, and had a nice bit of closure on the season.  I took the kids down for a bit.  Carter was a hit in his Knighthawks jersey (complete with his last name on the back!) and his mini lacrosse stick

We also got a family picture with the Cup!

I took this picture of Carter looking out the window.  The sun was setting and the river is in the background.  It was sort of cool.

Jacob played a bit with some kids he knew, including his baseball teammate (their family has season tickets), and Carter got to see his friend Josephine, the daughter of a set of season ticket holders, who was born a couple weeks after him.  She outweighs him by about 10 pounds and has about two inches, at least one shoe size, and at least six months in clothing sizes on him!  She's always been a lot bigger, even since birth (over nine pounds!), but she looks like a toddler, for Pete's sake, especially compared to our tiny little peanut!

Over the course of the week Carter really started to walk a lot.  One day he just started walking more than crawling!  Even now he'll still default to crawling when the going gets tough, but he's doing really well! 

Sometime the week before I set off a bit of a debate on Facebook.  I asked a question about what people do for their kids who have winter birthdays (meaning, close to Christmas) if they find a gift they know they'd love.  I'm used to having Jacob, whose next major gift-giving holiday is only six months away or less.  Usually you can put it off for that long without missing an entire phase.  But with Carter, who goes 10 months between his birthday and Christmas, I'm not sure what to do.  Do you buy something and risk spoiling, or do you just let it pass and hope it's still something they'd like by then?  I just wanted to see if people had policies for that, or not.  Of course there was one side that was all for buying whatever, and another side that knows that kids have too many toys as it is.  I fall somewhere between, I guess.  It was all spawned by this toy that I've been eyeing up since right after Carter's birthday.  Since he's been visiting the big kid room at daycare, he's loved the shopping cart that they have in there.  I'm pretty sure he could push it around all day.  Well, I saw this toy that's a shopping cart that turns into a mini kitchen.  It comes with a few food items and plays music and has interactive modes.  If I had a daughter, she'd already have a kitchen set, but while I know they're not just a "girl' toy, I'm hesitant to do that with a boy.  But to have a mini kitchen that's in a cute other toy I know he'll like, well, that's better.  And to get it for $23 shipped?  Well, sign me up.  And, I'd rather have him using it for these next six months than to have it sit in a box all that time.  So, this time I'll risk spoiling.  I'll have pictures of that another time (he loves it, by the way--collecting things in the cart from all over the house), but for this moment, he was having a blast with the giant piece of packing paper that came in the box...


Saturday we had a busy day, starting with Jacob's Little League game bright and early.  I spent Carter's nap tackling our evil evergreens with the electric trimmer that sliced up my finger last year.  I focused on keeping two hands on it at all times, and I survived unscathed.  The weather was rather cool, which made baseball watching miserable and yard work tolerable.  That night we had to go to the Red Wings game for Jacob's Little League group night.  It was our first game of the year.  We got to go out for a parade with his teammates...
Jacob is on the right, baseball pants and all...

So handsome when he cooperates!

And we discovered he's a fan of the allergy-free pizza at a special concession stand there.  Thank goodness.  Carter and I shared a bowl of Buffalo chicken mac & cheese (no blue cheese and light on the hot sauce), and he loved it!  Despite how cool it was earlier in the day, it was actually a nice night for a game.  A few extra layers than usual, maybe, but nothing crazy.  We left during the 7th inning since it was getting late, but it was fun while it lasted.

Kodak's headquarters overlooking the field at dusk
Sunday we headed to Buffalo for Father's Day.  We had lunch with my parents and dinner with Craig's whole family.  Jacob played some baseball at both stops, and Carter just wanted to roam around.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend walking with him to make sure he didn't injure himself.  He's doing a lot of near-faceplants still, but no major injuries yet, knock on wood.  We got home rather late (these long days are deceiving), but the kids went down pretty quickly after naps in the car, and we were off and running on another week.

I worked today but took tomorrow off.  I'm going to a concert in Buffalo with my college roommate, who's coming in from Syracuse.  I'm going to spend most of the day cleaning the house, because it needs it and I am mentally spent from dealing with the mess and clutter around here.  It will be nice to get some things done!  Jacob's birthday is coming up Friday but his family party is still a couple weeks away.  Still, we have a lot to figure out before Friday!  School is over next week and things have just been generally busy, so life is just sneaking up on us.  We're getting into the throes of the crazy summer schedule, and I have a lot of organizing to do to make sure we cram it all in!  A lot to think about, for sure! 

I still owe you a video post.  Soon, I swear!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Christian Education

Today marked the last day of school at the place where I spent most of my early life.  St. Matthew Lutheran School, where I spent my Kindergarten through eighth grade years, closed its doors today after 57 years.  That makes me so incredibly sad.  I know in recent years it's been a far cry from what it once was, but that descent alone was tragic enough.  Once upon a time it was probably the biggest Lutheran school in Western New York.  Here in Rochester there are maybe a couple, but back then, the Buffalo area had quite a few.  We played sports against at least seven other schools in the area, plus two more here in Rochester.  Now I think there's probably about half that.  I know the same trend happens with Catholic schools, where they close some to make the others stronger, and I get that.  But what kills me here is that the school was once a powerhouse, and now it's gone. 

Not only am I a product of the Lutheran school system, but so were all 11 of my cousins on my dad's side, as well as my parents and most of my aunts and uncles.  My grandfather was instrumental in getting the school back up and running after it closed somewhere around the Depression/war era.  When I went there, one of my uncles was once the principal, one aunt was the music teacher, another was the librarian and go-to substitute teacher, and yet another was the church and school secretary.  My younger cousin Jamie has been a teacher there for the last few years, too.  Heck, I myself worked there a few times--two summers as a janitor, and one winter break as a preschool/Kindergarten aide.  I loved most of my teachers (and generally learned to respect the ones I didn't), got a fantastic education, and made some lifelong friendships (well, one lifelong friendship (hi Heather!) and a few that Facebook has nurtured in recent years).  I have more memories than I can count--events, projects, plays, funny classroom moments, first crushes, field trips, sporting events...the list goes on.

I know that I wouldn't be the person I am today without that experience.  Some people would probably say that kids that go to religiously-based schools are sheltered, but I'd venture that at the very least we were somewhat protected until we were old enough to make better decisions.  It didn't work for everyone--many kids went off on their own paths regardless, and I know a lot plays into that--but I'd have to think that even after the worst of decisions, some part of each of those kids' lives somehow comes back to the experience they had at that school, even if it's the tiniest bit of guilt for those decisions or the slightest inkling that at some point they should go back to church.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think you could spend nine years in one place and not have it touch your life in some profound way.  But for those of us who totally bought in, it was a godsend.  I always found it amazing how in public high school classes of 300-400 students, inevitably there were at least a couple of Lutheran school products each year in the top ten.  My year, there were three, me included.

My cousin put up a Facebook status this morning about the closing as well, and he hit the nail on the head when he referred to it as a family tradition and said that it helped all of us cousins stay close and turn out pretty darn well.  Truer words have never been spoken.  It's pretty rare for there to be 13 grandchildren in one family and for none of us to have had more than minor hiccups in life.  Life happens sometimes, yes, but I'd say that for the most part we've all stayed on the straight and narrow...no real scandalous stuff, at least.  We always knew in school that if we screwed up, it wouldn't be long before it made it back to our parents.  When your uncle is the principal and your parents are generally friendly with many of your teachers, it's a given.  It was pretty good motivation, for sure.  Kids may have thought I was a brown-noser, but when you're well aware of the consequences, it's easier to just behave!  All of us cousins did so many things together--sang in the choir, performed in plays and Christmas programs, played sports, had the same teachers, you name it.  We still tell stories and laugh about old teachers and classmates.  I can't quite describe the impact it had on all of us.

The two summers I spent as the janitor there were so interesting to me.  I spent four hours a day cleaning classrooms from top to bottom--scrubbing desks, washing walls, stripping and waxing floors (that part with the main janitor)--and reminiscing about my years spent in those same rooms.  A handful of my teachers still worked there at the time, and I loved when August arrived and the teachers started trickling back into their rooms.  It was fun talking to them as an (almost) adult.  Some of them were there long enough to teach the children of former students, and I think that is a rare and wonderful thing in this day and age.  There was something truly special in that school for so many years, and it's so sad that it slipped away. 

In case you're wondering, at least part of the trigger was discord within the church.  At one point half the church sided with the older, conservative pastor who'd been there over 50 years, and the other half sided with the younger, newer assistant pastor who was trying to shake things up.  Quite frankly, I am convinced that guy was Satan incarnate because of how he brought so much animosity into the church in such a short period of time.  The other pastor wasn't innocent in the mess, either, as his resistance to change made the other side fight even harder.  What a mess it became.  The division led a large portion of the church to leave (my parents among them), and without the large church population to support the school (both financially and with student population), it set the wheels in motion that brought them to this day.  Like I said, I know that Christian education in general isn't what it once was, but I do think that had the church not had such a major blowup, this wouldn't have happened quite so soon.

Given our educational experiences, we both agonized quite a bit last year about what to do with Jacob.  Should we spend the money to send him to a private school, or go the safe route and see what public school had to offer first?  There was really only one school we were looking at, but when I called in the early spring to see if they had openings, their Kindergarten was booked.  I took that as our sign that Jacob should give public school a shot.  Last summer we did hear about a good Catholic school just up the road, but by that point we were pretty much set to give public school a shot. 

It's hard to say if it was the right decision.  On one hand, public school probably offers more options for him.  There are a handful of available teachers in each grade, so if one ended up being a terrible fit, there are other possibilities.  The public schools are equipped with counselors and psychologists that were a huge help to Jacob this year.  They have a lot of experience with kids from all walks of life, and it's a good opportunity to expose Jacob to a variety of kids (which, I, quite honestly, never had).  I cringe at the thought of spending $10,000 or more to send Jacob to Catholic high school, so perhaps it's just better to have him used to public schools now.  I don't mind saving the $4,000 a year now, either.

On the other hand, private schools have a lot of upsides, too.  Both that we'd consider wear uniforms, which would potentially eliminate a major battle each morning.  Also, I'd say that in general, most teachers are going to be more caring.  Not that public school teachers don't care, but the simple fact that Christian school teachers are Christian could indicate an extra motivation to care.  I'm sure there are wonderfully caring public school teachers out there, just as there are really crappy Christian teachers, but you get what I'm saying, right?  Everyone needs to maintain some sort of Christian demeanor, so I can see there being better odds of having a really sweet, understanding teacher.  He'd learn more about Jesus, too, which would be great.  He gets it at Sunday school, and we do our best at home, but I don't know how much sticks.  I'd like him to have that extra Jesus boost at Christmas and Easter, too, and to start seeing the world from that Christian perspective the rest of the year.  He's really lacking in general respect and empathy, and I feel like the kids he's with right now aren't helping matters.  The other day he came home and said that his good friend said that his dad is in jail.  Now, kids are weird and say a lot of odd stuff, but if that's really the case...well, I can't say I really want Jacob hanging out with that kid if the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

I worry, though, that a private school might not have the resources to deal with him.  They may not have the same support staff like the public schools have, and I worry that he'll sort of fall off the radar, so to speak, if he's out of the public system.  I don't know if that's truly the case, but it scares me nonetheless.  We do know a couple kids from baseball that would be in his class at the Catholic school, and I know one of the teachers at the Christian school from college.  Also, it's not helping matters that I'm annoyed that a) Jacob's class hasn't done any field trips this spring (which I feel like were the highlight of June when I was a kid); and b) it doesn't appear there will be any sort of formal Kindergarten graduation (which is a major contrast to my experience, where we did a full performance of "The Ugly Duckling" at our ceremony).  I don't know, I just feel like there might be a different attitude at a Christian school, and it might rub off on him in a positive way.  But, it's a major investment, particularly when you consider we've got Carter coming up in the next few years, too.  Could it be worth the money?  Absolutely.  But what if we make this major change and it's not a good fit?  How disruptive would it be to switch him again, particularly as he gets older?

It's probably a good thing we didn't end up living in Buffalo, because I probably would have wanted to send him to St. Matthew, and now we'd be in this terrible situation.  As much as things were different, it still would have been familiar, and that would have been a tough feeling to ignore.  I don't have a solid connection to either of the schools here, so it's a little harder to jump right in.  But I know the value of Christian education, and I'm thankful my parents encouraged it.  Craig enjoyed his Catholic education, as well, so it seems like it should be a no-brainer for us.  But Jacob isn't your average kid, and there's a lot to consider as a result.  We don't have a lot of time at this point, but it's crossed my mind a lot lately...and even more so today once this news came across my Facebook feed.  It was a sad day for Christian education in Western New York, and I pray that someday the church will right itself and the school will once again share the love of Christ with generations of children.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Progress

A couple weeks ago I was finally able to articulate in my head a very important element of my personality.  I realized I like progress.  Not necessarily change, but progress.  I know, I know...who doesn't?  But I really think that progress is a major element to preserving my happiness.  For example...
  • I hate getting bogged down in one single project at work because it means I can't be checking other smaller projects off my list.  
  • I have frequently gotten off the highway in the midst of a major traffic jam, because even if it ends up taking the same amount of time as sitting in traffic, moving along from street to street makes me less crazy.  
  • I get annoyed when I pass by construction projects that seem to stall out.  For example, around a hotel near us, they recently demolished a house and an old office building to reconfigure the hotel's parking and add some retail space.  I knew it was coming based on reading the town's planning board minutes (I'm nosy), but initially it took a while to get it going.  Once it did I was excited because it removed two eyesores...but now I'm annoyed because while the parking lot construction is moving forward, there's an empty hole in the ground where the office building was and nothing is happening.  
  • When I'm waiting for a delivery, I get annoyed if the tracking doesn't update at least once a day.
  • I love checking off to do lists, flipping up the calendar, and finishing up an event that's been on said calendar for a while.  
I've mentioned here before that when things in my life seem a little out of control, I find myself doing a lot of little things to try to control what I can.  I think that all plays into this too...that if I'm not seeing progress in other areas of my life, I try to make progress happen where I can.  

I think this is partly why Jacob's issues drive me absolutely batty.  When we were hoping that the gluten was his issue, I kept hoping that even though the progress was slow, we were getting somewhere.  Then we were setting up appointments with people who might be able to help him.  It took a while to navigate that setup, but we did and it felt good to "get somewhere".  But now here we are, having gone through all of that, and it feels like most of the time we're right back where we started from.  He's not having the meltdowns like he once did, but the behavior is terrible--disrespectful, defiant, quick-tempered, self-centered--and it feels like we've hit a bit of a dead end.  He's not messed up enough for a diagnosis, but he's also extremely difficult to the point of dysfunction with a lot of the things we need him to do.  I know there are more options out there and we just have to find them, but at the moment I feel a bit stuck and it bothers me.  It was one thing when we felt like we were building toward something--and even better, some weeks he was amazing--but now that we've been in this rut for a while and nothing has quite panned out, I am incredibly frustrated.

Another issue where this comes into play is the loss of my sense of smell and taste.  It's been four years since I really noticed it was an issue, and while I don't think it's gone forever (I have brief nanosecond moments where I'm pretty sure I just tasted something because I'd never remember that in-depth how it tasted), but I haven't found the magic bullet to fix it either.  I tried a couple years ago by going to an ENT.  They gave me steroids and a nasal spray to ease up the swelling in my nasal passages, but it didn't seem to make a difference.  I could get allergy shots, but when I was planning on getting pregnant it didn't make much sense to spend a year on a maintenance dose (since they can't change anything if there's a risk of anaphylaxis).  Lately I've been using castor oil in my nasal passages, as I read that it can decrease swelling, and I figure that maybe doing it longer term than what I did with the steroids might give the tissues more time to heal, if that's what's needed.  If that doesn't work I can try chiropractic work, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, allergy shots, or at worst, going to a clinic that specializes in the problem in Washington, D.C.  But as long as I'm trying something, it frustrates me a lot less than when I'm just sort of stuck.

On a lighter note, I see it with Carter, too.  We're at a very interesting point with him right now.  He's right at the cusp of walking and talking.  I'm pretty sure he started taking steps a bit before Jacob did, so I assumed he'd walk earlier.  Instead, we've just had a longer period of time where he could take steps, but generally wouldn't without prodding.  We finally seem to be getting over the hump a bit, as this weekend he took off a couple times on his own and can make it longer distances without dropping down.  But that interim was getting frustrating.  He'd make progress and then it wouldn't go anywhere.  Talking has been much the same.  He started out with "ball" and "no" (complete with wagging finger) pretty good, and he's added in "Night-Night" and "Bye-Bye".  He can say "Mama" and "Dada", though not too often is is really directed at us.  But it seems like we're back at a standstill now.  I think he might be trying to say "dog", which would be cute, but I think my frustration here resides in the fact I've been trying to teach him--both in words and signs--"more" and "all done" so mealtimes are easier for all of us, but it still hasn't taken.  He's at the age where he knows what he wants but is unable to communicate it, so he takes to screaming or mini-tantrums.  This is all manageable, though, and watching him learn new things is so much fun that I think I'm impatient because I just want more!  He's just beyond cute these days.  I love watching him toddle around like a mini-Frankenstein (arms out, one lumbering step at a time), and I love the look on his face when he realizes how far he just walked on his own.  It's great now that he seems to understand some of what we're saying.  He always wants to go outside or walk through the house with his walking toy, and he always wants to be where his brother is...to his detriment, I'm afraid.  Still no progress there, either, by the way.  Jacob's gotten a lot braver and is unafraid to (somewhat gently) bodyslam Carter when he's got the faintest inkling Carter might infringe on his domain.  It's awful.  We've talked to him, assured him, and scolded him.  Nothing seems to communicate to him the dangers of manhandling his brother...because even though it's a somewhat gentle bodyslam now, I wouldn't be surprised if it continued to escalate.  I hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  We do our best to keep Carter out of his way, but he's a determined little baby and Jacob's fast.  Bad combo.  Like I said, for now it's fine, but we're definitely keeping an eye out.

But yeah...progress.  I just like to keep things moving.  I like to keep improving, keep refining, keep moving.  I don't always have the time or energy or brainpower to keep doing it in all parts of my life, but I do what I can.  It's all I can do to keep my sanity some days.  I want things to be better, to be more efficient, more comfortable, and more convenient.  I don't particularly love change, but if we can constantly be in the process of moving toward a positive one, I'm all for it.  In fact, I need it.  Let's hope it keeps coming.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

And the offseason begins...

One of the best parts of the Knighthawks winning the championship last Saturday was that the lacrosse season was OVER!  It's a long season to have Craig gone pretty much every weekend.  He starts going to practices in Canada in November, and now that the league added two regular season games and two more weeks of playoffs, it goes all the way through the end of May.  That's more than half the year.  Within that time there's maybe two or three weekends off, and maybe a third of the Sundays off after home games, but it's not a lot of time.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to accomplish things on the weekend with two kids.  It's a challenge, for sure.

So this weekend marked the first weekend of the off-season.  We grilled for dinner on Friday (complete with watermelon for dessert) and stayed in so we were ready for a busy day on Saturday.  I did buy a rather large HDTV for our living room online that night.  I'd been eyeing one up and noticed that Target had a better sale online than they'd had in the store for a while.  With the sale, plus 5% off with the RedCard, plus 2% cash back through a shopping site, it was a great deal.  So, our living room will finally be in the 21st century...once I get an HD cable box, anyway! 

We were up bright and early for Jacob's baseball game at 9:30am.  It's pretty hard keeping Carter content for six innings, but that time seems to work better than the noon or 6pm games.  When we got him home I put him right down for a nap because I wanted him to sleep before we had to leave for Jacob's 2pm lacrosse game.  The rest of us had lunch, but by the time it was time to leave, Carter showed no signs of waking up, so the boys left and we would meet them there if we could.  There's just no sense taking a cranky Carter to the game if he's going to be miserable, because I won't be able to watch the game in either case...so I might as well let him sleep.  And he did!  During his 3-1/2 hour nap, I did a bunch of work outside, planting a couple of my parents' leftover tomato plants and doing a lot of trimming around our patio.  I still have so much work to do, including getting over my fear of picking up the electric hedge trimmer again after my incident last summer. 

Carter had just woken up and started to eat his late lunch when the boys got home.  We all got cleaned up and headed out for a dinner out to Jacob's favorite place, Pizzeria Uno, where he can get his favorite gluten-free pizza.  We had a pleasant dinner and stopped for a take-home treat from Dairy Queen (Dilly Bars that we kept for today). 

This morning we went to church (and made it there early for the first time in ages!) and made a couple quick stops on the way home.  We had a simple lunch that took a bit of an odd turn.  I don't know where my head was, but I accidentally fed Carter rice.  As you'll recall, he appeared to have a bit of a rice intolerance last summer, when he repeatedly threw up his next bottle after eating rice cereal.  Usually those kinds of intolerances disappear by age three.  Carter had possibly eaten some Cheerios with rice a while back, and he snuck a dropped rice puff from under a high chair at daycare without a reaction, but we hadn't tried anything major because the risk of a worse reaction than he'd had previously.  It's gotten pretty easy to avoid the rice stuff (I just avoid all gluten-free foods, pretty much), but for some reason it just totally slipped my mind today.  He liked it, too, and had eaten a couple helpings before I'd realized what I'd done.  Oops.  I was nervous for the entire afternoon, watching him like a hawk during his nap via the monitor.  He didn't sleep well, which wasn't like him, so that made me extra nervous.  He woke up whining after about an hour, and was wide awake when I went into comfort him.  He was up for a little while, and in a relatively good mood, but he still seemed off and very tired so I put him back in bed.  I think he rested a bit, but it didn't last too long.  I tested him out with water and Cheerios after his nap and he still seemed fine.  So, perhaps the intolerance is gone.  We'll take it slowly and see how things go!

At that point I had to go out and pick up the new TV at Target, and left a crying Carter in my wake.  I needed to fold down the backseat in order to fit it in, so the rest of the family had to stay home.  The pickup went pretty smoothly, and we had a pleasant dinner with our dinner leftovers from last night.  Once the kids were in bed, I took to setting up the TV, only to realize that we need an HD cable box to get everything fully up and running...but that means losing our current DVR, which has quite a few things saved on it.  So, we need to work through those as soon as we can!  But at least things are functioning right now.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with the giant hole in our entertainment center that no longer fits our TV...at least until I find a new one that I really like and feel like paying for it!

I forgot to mention that Craig spent a good chunk of his weekend trying to get our pool open.  It needs a couple inches of water, stair installation, and some proper chemicals beyond the gallon of chlorine he dumped in to clear up the green once the cover was off, but it'll be a nice warm week so hopefully we can get it functional before next weekend. 

So, I guess it's been a productive weekend.  It's amazing how things change with two parents in the house!  It would be easier if Carter didn't freak out every time I left his sight, but we'll get there.  It's nice to have him back, no doubt!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Photo Wednesday, Pretty in Pink Edition

I mentioned the other day that I owe you a photo post.  It's been a few weeks since I pulled photos off my camera and fortunately the championship got me moving, so now we have this.

Jacob got to play catcher in his baseball game a couple weeks ago.  He was loving it! 



I snapped this picture of Carter at the funeral home while I was trying to keep him occupied near the end of our first day there.  Did you know it's a state law that you can't have food or beverages in funeral homes?  Neither did I, but I bent the rules for dry cereal.  I think water would be the exemption, since there's a drinking fountain there...so the sippy cup is legal :)

Another thing that kept him occupied was watching the cars drive by.  He just looked so sweet staring out the side door that I had to snap a picture.

And now for the pink portion of the post, per the title.  As I mentioned, Craig's Nana's favorite color was pink.  We all tried to wear pink for the funeral, and pretty much all of the flowers were pink.  You know me, I can't resist a good flower.  So, perhaps it was tacky, or perhaps it's just a nice way to remember Nana, but here are the photos I took...




When we got home from the funeral, the pink gerber daisy that I won at Craig's cousin's baby shower was exploding with blossoms.  It had only had a couple since I got it in March, and finally it had a bunch all at once.  This was the best one...

Also, as is often custom, we all got to pull a flower from the arrangement on top of the casket, and I pulled this pink rose.  I purposely pulled one that wasn't in full bloom, as I wanted it to last a while.  I took this picture last week, but it's still looking beautiful.  It didn't really open up any further, but it has stayed nice and fresh.  I took a similar picture (same spot, same vase) with a pink gerber daisy (a little lighter than the one above) that I pulled from the arrangement on my grandma's casket almost three years ago.  Seemed fitting.

So, I know it's not much, but it's something.  I have some videos I need to upload as well, so now I owe you a video post.  Other than that, not much to report.  We're all still pretty tired from the weekend but trying to get back in the groove.  Both boys napped around 6pm yesterday...Jacob on the way to lacrosse practice (he never did wake up for practice and Craig drove him home) and Carter on the way home from daycare.  Hopefully one of these days we'll be back on track. 

Jacob only has a few weeks left of school, and his birthday is coming before that...and I have nothing planned.  We did chat about his cake yesterday morning and since I refused to do basically the same cake as last year, it looks like we'll be working on a hockey rink cake.  I pinned all sorts of ideas on Pinterest, and I think it's doable.  He wants a friend party but keeps changing the venue.  With his sports and his cousins' sports, other birthdays, the 4th of July, and so many other events, it's always a challenge to plan the family party, let alone two parties.  I also haven't thought much about presents...so yeah, I need to get on that.

Carter is still undecided about the walking, but I catch him doing unprovoked walking a lot more these days.  It's almost like, if he's up, it's easier to just walk.  If he's down, he'll still crawl.  He also gives up pretty quickly sometimes, but I know he'll get there.  He's on the same timeline Jacob was, apparently, so I know he's close.  Figures THAT would be one of the few traits they share.

I guess that's about it for now....more soon!

Monday, June 2, 2014

And Three-Peat Makes Four

When I worked in sports (an era that started more than 14 years ago), I would have given almost anything to win a championship.  Growing up in Buffalo, championships were pretty hard to come by.  Back in 1992 and 1993, I watched the Buffalo Bandits (ironically now our biggest rival) win Major Indoor Lacrosse League championships, and that was a big deal.  Everyone knows about the Bills' Super Bowl losses and the Sabres' lack of official success over their 40-some years, so even those two championships seemed like a pretty big deal at the time. 

But working in sports brings on an even more urgent need to win.  You can be a huge fan, but it's quite different to have that team infiltrate your entire life.  Losing doesn't just bum you out, it ruins your day at work, too.  Everyone's in a crappy mood, customers complain more, and it's generally harder to do your job when your team isn't winning.  In addition, you get to know the players and take it a little more personally when they are people you actually know and they are having a tough time at their job.  You want to see them win.  Case in point, as much as I've always been a Sabres fan, I cheered like crazy for them about eight years ago when all of the guys that were on the Amerks when I worked there had moved up.  These days I don't know any of them anymore and it's a little harder to get too worked up about it.  But when it was guys I knew?  I really wanted them to win.

As you may recall, back in 2007 I traveled to Phoenix, AZ, to watch the Knighthawks in the championship game.  Look here and scroll down a bit to see a sampling of photos from that amazing weekend.  I did it on a whim because I couldn't bear to miss the moment when that group of guys finally put it all together.  It was the same core of guys from when I was there, and the staff was all friends of mine, so I really wanted to be there see them win.  And I did.  I still consider it the best weekend of my life.  My wedding and my kids' births were great, but the adventure and excitement of that weekend were unbelievable.  Sharing it with Craig made it extra special, knowing how hard he works all the time.

The following year Jacob was born, and Craig actually won another championship, this time with the Rattlers, the outdoor lacrosse team.  While it was a great accomplishment, that one didn't even compare to the Knighthawks' win, for a lot of reasons.  On my end, I couldn't even go because I was home with a two-month-old Jacob.  It was still great for Craig...but for the purposes of this post, we'll stick to focusing on the Knighthawks' wins as those were the ones that held the most significance for both of us.

In 2012, the Knighthawks finally got to host a championship game.  The 2007 game was supposed to be a home game but got moved due to the circus being in town.  So, the 2012 game held special significance because the home fans finally got to share in the fun.  Go here to see the highlights from that day.  That experience was surreal, as I thought we might never have a championship experience again, and it was fun to share it with Jacob, who was a month shy of his fourth birthday.

Last year, as you might remember, I decided (again) at the last minute to hop on a plane for the Knighthawks championship game.  It was in Langley, British Columbia, and I had to fly into Seattle and drive north a few hours.  I added in my special side trip to Tacoma to see some of Dale Chihuly's best work, just in case the game didn't go well, and while the trip was generally exhausting, it turned into a fun little adventure.  The recap of the game is here, and you can click on the "Older Post" link from there to see the other fun parts of that trip.

Fast-forward to this year...and the Knighthawks had a pretty good season.  Still, it seemed the deck was stacked against them because the league changed the playoff format.  Instead of one game per round, the final two rounds of the playoffs each consisted of two games--one in each team's city.  If each team won one game, there would be a 10 minute mini-game to decide the winner.  In both rounds, the Knighthawks lost the first game, meaning that in order to win the series they had to win both the second game and the mini-game.  Lacrosse is such a game of momentum and runs, so that mini-game was such a wild card.  In the previous round, they also needed sudden death overtime to officially win the mini-game, which was so intense!  The championship proved to be quite scary, because Calgary had knocked off the best team in the league in the previous round and then won game one against the Knighthawks pretty handily.

As I had mentioned in my previous post, Saturday was a crazy day.  Jacob had baseball at 9:30.  Craig took him there and met up with my parents, who took over once Craig had to go to work.  In the meantime, I took Carter to the Stroll for Strong, to walk with my friend whose son is now in full remission from leukemia.  That walk turned into a bit of a debacle, as most of the team cut out (the guest of honor apparently didn't like the noise or crowds), and the woman I ended up walking with fell in the middle of the course and sprained her ankle.  By the time we got back to where the team had been hanging out, everyone had dispersed, my friend was leaving with two melting down kids, and Carter and I just sort of wandered around for a while to find food.  Eventually we just headed home and Carter was out like a light a few minutes into the drive.  Back home he napped and I cleaned up the house a bit until my parents and Jacob arrived home after lunch and geocaching.  After a little time to chat, Carter woke up and we all headed outside.  My mom took Carter for a walk and my dad and I (with help from Jacob) did some serious yard work.  I have some lovely sunburn to prove it.  We ordered in for dinner and then headed off to the game. 

The game was a back and forth affair.  Calgary jumped out to an early lead, Rochester came back to tie it.  The Knighthawks went up by one, but Calgary stormed back with three straight.  Rochester came back to tie it and was up by one at the half.  At one point Rochester sprinted to a 10-6 lead, but then Calgary pulled to within one.  Luckily, that was as close as they ever got, and the final of game two was 16-10.

With a big win under their belt, it was time for the really important part--the deciding 10 minute mini-game.  Ten minutes is so scary because anything can happen.  If you go cold for too long, you're done.  The nerves really jacked up at that point, but the arena was crazy.  Things quieted down really fast as Calgary jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes.  I'll be honest, I thought we were done for.  We just didn't seem to have it.  Still, in the back of my mind I had this thought--What if this was just a scary moment in the midst of an incredible comeback story?  I've blogged here before about how we sometimes get bogged down in the details of our current situation and forget that there's a bigger picture that we may not be aware of.  Things may not make sense in the interim, but in the long run, the purpose is clear.  Well, when that thought went through my head, I certainly thought it would be an amazing story, but I never thought it might actually happen.  But...it did.

Calgary held their lead for three minutes before the Knighthawks cut the deficit in half.  It was a little glimmer of hope, but with only a little over two minutes left, it was still a mountain to climb.  But then 51 seconds later, the Knighthawks scored to tie it.  The arena was exploding by that point and with only 1:23 left, anything could happen.  And 24 seconds later, the improbable happened...the Knighthawks scored.  It was absolutely crazy.  It was a very nerve-wracking 59 seconds to finish off the game and the Knighthawks' goalie had to make some amazing saves at the end.  But they did it.  They won.  Unreal.
This was a few minutes after the game was over and people were still going crazy.
We got to go down on the field at the end, and while it's always chaos, the raw emotion is such fun to watch.  Of course, they ended up rerouting us down through the concourse, so we missed a giant confetti cannon go off.  Bummer.  I saw Craig pretty quickly once we were actually down there, and snapped as many pictures as I could.  I don't know if I was still shaky or if my camera settings were off, but most of them ended up blurry.
Blurry, but that's the goalie raising the cup :)  I ran into his mom on the way down to the field, and was so happy to congratulate her.  We've sat together a couple times and we chatted a bit last year on the championship trip.  She was a young widow and she's always there alone, but you can tell how immensely proud she is of her boy...and missing his dad, no doubt.
The funniest part of this game was that Jacob finally came around.  He's cheered against the Knighthawks all season long, but admitted he wanted them to win the last playoff game against Buffalo, mostly because a win meant he might have a chance at playing on the turf at some point.  But for this game, he really got into it.  He was cheering and even shouting at the team!  It was miraculous, quite frankly, for a kid who has always just sat there entranced.  He looks pretty happy with the outcome here!

So...that confetti cannon...it put down a lot of confetti!  Here's the MVP trophy--awarded to Dan Dawson, who is truly a fantastic player--sitting on the fringes of it.

Jacob decided to try to scoop up confetti and play lacrosse with it...

...And Carter just liked picking it up and throwing it.  He was so stinkin' cute.  He's just starting to walk independently once in a while, and I loved seeing him walk on the turf, bend to pick up pieces, and throw them.

I tried to catch the team photo, but it's hard with so many people on the turf.  When we won in Arizona, there were only a handful of us, and I got a photo good enough to be used in a couple places before the official one came through.  Nowadays, with dozens of the owner's family members out there, it's a challenge to get anything without a dozen phones or cameras in your shot...

Craig is somewhere in the back left, with Jacob.  The mascot is on the left in the front.

While we waited to see what else was happening, Carter just plopped down and starting playing with confetti again.  It works perfectly for him, since he's into picking up and throwing anything right now--grass clippings, rocks, etc.  Confetti was perfect!
 

My parents took one for the team and decided to stay overnight since it was already very late and it would give me a chance to go to the postgame celebration with Craig.  We got both kids home and in bed around midnight (I know, I know--but it's one time and I was far from the only one!), and my mom dropped me off at the hotel (luckily right down the road) where I met up with Craig.  There was a nice party room set up.  I had a little champagne, chatted with various team members and staff, and we headed out of there around 2am to head back into the city to the unofficial team bar, where the fans were patiently waiting for the team and the Cup to arrive.  Eventually it did, and as usual we enjoyed watching our fan friends drink out of it.  We didn't do it this time, but hopefully we'll have our chance as a family, as Craig usually has to bring the Cup home with him once in a while after appearances.

The one funny moment of that stop was when I was chatting with few people, including a woman that I remember from my days with the Amerks.  Speaking of questionable parenting, she was always out at the bar with her very young son at all hours after games and at events.  We all just sort of shook our heads at the time.  Without thinking I mentioned how bad I felt about the kids being out late, and she poo-pooed it, mentioning how often she did it.  She gestured across the table to a young man (about 20) who was sitting there, and it took me a second to realize that was her son, all grown up.  I remember him in the 6-8ish range, and now he's 20!  Wow.  I am old.

Before heading out, I made sure to snap a picture of the new name plate on the Cup, just as I've done every time before.
Have I mentioned the Cup leaks?
We got home a little after 4am and didn't get to sleep until around 5, just as it was starting to get light.  The kids slept until 9am, but yesterday was a very sleepy, very cranky day all around.  But was it worth it?  You bet.

So...I've now witnessed four Knighthawks championships in person.  Something that I thought was a once in a lifetime event has now happened four times.  Each one has been unique in its own way, from the venue to the game to the postgame celebrations.  Once you win one championship, you always want to win more, but I'd say that the urgency decreases a bit.  You will always have that amazing experience, you've been there and you know what it's like.  I know how that joy feels, and I certainly want to keep experiencing it, but even if it doesn't happen again, at least I know and I've had these four chances to experience it.  I never could have imagined it.  What an amazing experience.