Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Finishing Up

Sorry it's taken me so long to do this.  It's turned into an interesting week and this is the first chance I've had.  When I left off we had finished up Christmas in Buffalo and headed home for some time as a family.  We kept things pretty low key, just venturing out here and there but mostly sticking close to home.  Saturday was a rather warm day (pleasant and in the mid-50s) so I took some time to do some raking and cleaning up of our flower beds that probably should have been done a couple months ago.  We gave Jacob a test run on his bike...
Still a ways to go with the riding.  Pedaling is still a challenge for some reason, but we made a little progress.  Coordinating the pedaling AND the steering is new for him.  He can cradle a lacrosse ball, but bike riding...we shall see!
...and Carter got to reunite with his favorites, the lawn mower and the big wheel.

We also figured out that Jacob's bike helmet was too small for him, but it fits Carter!
Always mow safely!
On Sunday my parents came into town, fresh from their trip to Portland, to do our Christmas together.  I was excited because it was my first big family meal I'd ever done.  Seems crazy, but when you're always the one coming into town to the rest of your family, you don't often get the chance.  But I even got to use my grandma's china and I took care of the whole menu--ham, cheesy potatoes, broccoli-rice casserole (left over from Christmas day), corn, gluten-free biscuits, jello with fruit cocktail, and chocolate pudding pie.  My mom brought some gluten-free peanut butter cup cookies, too, and everything turned out great.  It was a low-stress meal and it was fun to host for a change!  Carter was very excited to eat, as evidenced by this picture below... 
Trying to climb into his seat!
After we ate we dove into opening the presents.  I was excited because I knew I was getting new sheets (ones that are deep enough for our mattress) and a new laundry sorter to replace the PVC one we've had since we got married (that Carter has systematically dismantled once the plastic aged a bit).  We all got some great gifts, though, and the kids were excited.  We also opened gifts from my brother's family.  Jacob got a Team France soccer uniform...

...and Carter got a Bills jersey, which you'll see in a bit.  I'll admit that Jacob was in a bit of a funk during present opening because he wanted toys (despite the fact he had so much amazing stuff in his room already!).  He got some books, clothes, and some stocking stuffers, before finally opening his big gift, yet another Playmobil set that goes with other sets he got.  He was very happy!

Carter got a Big Wheel of his own--a smaller one that he should be able to ride more easily than Jacob's old one.
He's wearing his Bills jersey and is holding a set of Lego-esque silverware that he loved!
I was very excited by my gifts for my parents this year.  I first gave my dad a magnet of his favorite painting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  I saw it when I was there on my birthday and thought it was a nice gift to remind my dad I'm thinking of him, every day when he walks to the fridge!  We also gave them a Keurig as a birthday-anniversary-Christmas gift.  It's something they'd almost never buy for themselves, but I knew they'd both enjoy it...particularly with the reusable K-cup I got them, as well.  They were pretty excited, so that was fun!

Monday the boys went to daycare so I could have a day to get things done.  They were excited to go, so I didn't feel guilty at all.  Craig and I had a lunch date and I headed out to do some shopping, which was moderately successful.  Yesterday I was home with the boys, and while it's tough to drag Jacob away from his Wii...


...we still had a relatively good day, in part because Carter took a marathon nap, which allowed Jacob and me to watch "A Christmas Story" (Jacob's first time) and I cleared out a ton of newspapers that had piled up.  All was well until after bedtime when we heard a weird cough from Carter's room, and sure enough...he had thrown up.  Sigh.  We tag teamed the cleanup (I did laundry and Craig did a bath) and I slept in Carter's room overnight.  We set up a comforter on the floor with some towels and kept a bucket handy.  He probably had about five or six episodes from 10:00pm to 4:00am.  At one point he hadn't had one in over an hour and a half, but then he had one again.  Then we tried a sip of water later on when he started asking for it, but that came back up shortly thereafter.  That was it, though.  He woke up perky and we were cautious with the water, then Gatorade and water, then small cups of Rice Chex...and he kept it all down.  It was hard to get him to rest, in fact!  Fingers crossed that it doesn't come back--to him or any of the rest of us!  Wouldn't be New Year's around here without someone being sick!  I'm glad it passed quickly, but I hated seeing him so sick!  Here's a pic I took yesterday of him once I finished putting together his new wheels...

We kept a low profile for New Year's Eve, of course.  Craig worked half the day and I ran out this afternoon to use some Kohl's coupons that needed to be used and pick up a couple things at Wegmans.  I came out to see some unexpected snow falling--a few inches so far!  Our dinner plans got thwarted multiple times (first by Carter's illness, then by a couple closed restaurants), but we got through and did a quick toast with non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice right before bed.  Once the boys were in bed I signed us both up for new gym memberships (my gym closed suddenly and a new gym nearby had a great deal ending tonight) and wrote this post.  Midnight is just around the corner and I can't wait to fall into bed after last night's very limited sleep.  But New Year's Eve only comes once a year so I will tough it out!

Hard to believe we're wrapping up another year.  I'd say this year was a little better than last year (Jacob's behavior and Celiac diagnosis were major downers despite Carter's birth and our trip to Disney), but we definitely had more low points this year--Craig's Nana and uncle passed away, my dad's surgery, continued challenges with Jacob, general health issues--but last year was so much harder for me overall.  I won't be too sad to see this year go, but I feel like we're at the point in life where there's always apprehension that each coming year could bring more challenges than good things.  Everyone's getting older, parenting gets harder, and it doesn't feel like we have any big, good stuff on the horizon to specifically look forward to.  But as always, I pray that this year will bring amazing things for us.  We have two amazing kids and great families, and I suppose that the fear of losing any of that can overshadow dreams of how things could get even better.  I guess that's the downside of having so many blessings.  You no longer need to dream of bigger and better because you have enough...but it's easy to worry about losing what you do have.  I don't mean for that to sound like a glass-half-empty thing, but I guess it does.  There's just less need to look ahead when right now is so full of good things.  Hard to explain, but trust me--I am well aware of the many, many good things we have and despite our challenges, I know we have it good right now.  Will a new year threaten that?  Or will we peak too soon?  I guess that's my concern at the end of every year.  But I do hope for the best for all of us.  So here's to 2015...may it bring wonderful things for all of us! 


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas!


After all of the craziness with Jacob being sick and the many late nights of shopping and wrapping leading up to the big day, we made it to Christmas.  Well, Christmas Eve Eve, anyway.  Because of our travels to Buffalo, we always have to do our home gifts early.  There just isn't enough space or creativity to get all of the presents there without "Santa" gifts being seen, so we have no choice but to do them at home a day or two early.  This year we were at least able to be home until Christmas Eve morning, so we could do a real "Christmas morning" at home.  It was much better than what we've done in the past, where Santa comes while the kids are at daycare so we can leave that night and still have a normal morning routine before daycare.
 
We set out some cookies and carrots with milk for Santa...


And once the kids were in bed, the rest of the presents got wrapped and the tree looked like this...

The boys actually slept in pretty good on Christmas Eve morning.  Jacob was up at 7am, and we told him we had to wait until Carter woke up, which happened around 8am.  Carter, of course, woke up with a cough, but he was happy enough so it was time to open gifts!  First the traditional picture on the stairs...

Jacob got a sneak peak of his big gift when he ran to the bathroom first thing in the morning and was excited to finally see it up close...
A bike!
On to stocking stuffers...

Carter probably could have stopped after the first couple stocking stuffers and been happy, but we continued on.  Jacob excitedly hit up his big gifts...one was a Playmobil rock band and stage...it lights up and it hooks up to an MP3 player!

And then he moved on to the other big one, and I happened to catch a great reaction when he opened up the front of the package...

It's a Playmobil castle that he really wanted but was a bit out of the price range until one of Santa's elves found a great deal out of the blue...

For some reason I didn't get pictures of Carter with his big gifts (a Duplo train and a Little People plane), but he loved them and I'll try to catch him playing this week.  One of the favorite gifts of the morning was actually a joint gift--a Hover Ball, which you may have seen on TV.  It's a soccer ball with a flat side that's made for kicking on rugs.  I wasn't sure it would work, but decided it was worth a shot because both boys could enjoy it together.  And for a brief moment, they did!  It worked perfectly and it's a very nice indoor ball alternative since it stays on the floor!  Hopefully there will be more joint playtime to come.

We packed up as quickly as we could and headed out with just enough time to make it to Craig's parents' house and change for 4pm mass.  The service was very nice as usual, with the added bonus of our family presenting the gifts. Ironic, of course, because I can't actually take communion there...but it was nice nonetheless. 

Afterward we went to Craig's aunt's house for the big family gathering.  It was a little different this year without his Uncle Mike, who passed away a month ago, but we still had a nice time and we all got some nice gifts.  Then it was time to head back to Craig's brother's house for the big exchange with the boys' cousins.  Jacob got both of the Lego sets he really wanted...but of course he blinked every single time I tried to take a picture...

Then he got a Playmobil set he really wanted...
He was so excited!

Carter did well, too.  He got clothes, a little train with Ernie on it, a little Duplo set, a whole set of dinosaurs, and a whole set of safari animals.  Both boys did very well.
Carter is kissing the elephant...silly boy!
We had a rather late night that night, not just because of the gift exchange but because of a stand-off with Jacob.  We forgot something at home that we really needed, and he freaked out when we suggested some alternatives.  The stand-off kept us up quite late, past midnight.  Once that was settled I couldn't sleep because there was a terrible windstorm outside.  Most Christmases around here it's cold and snowy, but not this year.  We had wind and thunderstorms instead!  The wind was terrible, with gusts at 65mph.  Two buildings in Buffalo partially collapsed!  We had a couple friends in Rochester with some property damage, though luckily all we came back to was the pinwheel in our front yard missing one petal! 

I finally fell asleep sometime after 3am, and the boys slept until after 9.  We had a lazy morning for the most part, just getting dressed and me preparing a casserole to take over to Craig's brother's for lunch.  Normally we have to leave by 11am to make it to my parents' by noon, but they were spending the holiday in Portland with my brother's family.  It's the first time ever that I've been apart from them on Christmas.  It was fine as I was happy that my niece and nephew got to be with them, but it was definitely...different.  Oh, and did I mention that our sister-in-law was sick with the flu and we didn't see her for even a second over the two days?  That was a bummer, as well.  But we had a nice time nonetheless. 

After a quick lunch we headed off to my extended family's gathering.  It was the usual chaos...lots of people, lots of food, a couple dogs, and the usual big gift exchange.  Jacob got an iTunes gift card that he really wanted and Carter got an awesome dinosaur toy that turns into an excavator (I actually almost got him another one in the line myself, after I got one for my nephew--they're super cool).  Then, some gifts from Santa arrived for the youngest kids!  It was not our doing, I will say that much!  We gave our OK for the special delivery because a couple of the cousins needed a boost in their belief in Santa, but the gifts our kids got were as much of a surprise to us as they were to them.  And boy, did Santa go all out!  Carter got a Leap Frog Innotab 2, and Jacob got--get this--a Wii!  If you recall the Wii U debacle from a couple weeks ago, this was not that, but it was a Wii nonetheless...a refurbished one, at least.  Santa went way overboard, for sure (though the main target of this little plan got an iPhone!), but Jacob is, of course, thrilled.  Carter just goes with the flow.  He spent most of the day with a bit of a fever, but he was in a good mood and I caught this adorable picture of him playing with his cousin Jordan's phone...

We also snapped the annual picture of the next generation (minus a couple who were at their other side of the family this year)...

We headed out after a late dinner and came directly home.  Due to the stand-off the previous night we opted to head back to Rochester instead of staying at my parents' empty house like we originally planned.  It was just as well, I guess.  It gave us the whole next day at home to sort through the gifts and clean up a bit.  We've had a relatively lazy couple days since, which has been much needed for all of us.  Carter is still congested but his fever was gone when he woke up on the 26th.  My throat is finally not sore for the first time in a couple weeks.  Tomorrow my parents are coming in to do our Christmas, and I'm cooking and might actually use my china!  It should be fun to hear all of their stories from their trip and finish off with a few more gifts. 

It was such a crazy rush leading up to the holiday and I'm savoring every moment of not having to do anything right now.  My dishwasher is fixed, we're all home together (for one more day), and I finally have a little time to think!  Of course I have a long list that's been waiting, but I'm not going to stress out.  This week is all about rest and recovery, and that's what I aim to do first and foremost!  Hope everyone had a nice Christmas...enjoy the last week of 2014!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Oh Christmas Week, Oh Christmas Week...

Merry Christmas!  It's the very end of Christmas night, and I clearly have some catching up to do.  The week before Christmas was pretty crazy, as usual.  This week ended up far more complicated than expected.  When I last blogged on Saturday night, I was still dealing with the worst of my virus--which, honestly, isn't much better but is a little better controlled, at least. 

Well, when we woke up Sunday morning, Jacob was complaining of eye pain.  When I went in to check on him, I realized he was burning up!  His fever was only around 100, but it stuck around for a while.  He complained about belly pain and had a few spells where he was convinced he was going to be sick, but he never did.  The fever was a bit lower on Monday morning and he seemed in good spirits.  He was off school and very excited about going to daycare.  It was Santa day and party day, and I promised that if his fever was lower and he felt OK, he could go.  So off he went, and all was well until about 4pm when we got a call that his fever was sky high and he was complaining about being sick again.  Because he got sent home he couldn't go the next day either, which made Tuesday a very complicated day. 

I had already planned on buying lunch for the daycare teachers as our Christmas gift to them.  They had all pretty much been involved with the kids this year, so rather than buy them all gifts, it made more sense to do a big group gift.  But with the time I had to pick it up, and both of us needing to get work done before the holiday but also needing to keep Jacob home, it got a little crazy.  I spent most of the day worrying that we wouldn't be able to go to Buffalo for the holiday.  My freaking out would have made a great blog post, had I had time to sit down and write it, but I was doing so many last minute things--shopping, wrapping, baking--all until the wee hours of the morning.  I was at the mall until 10pm one night and picked up a bike just before midnight, shopped at Kohl's until after 10pm another night and visited Toys 'R' Us no less than three times in one week.  It seemed like the shopping would never get done, but eventually it did...even though I was still worried we'd be stuck here.  As hard as it always is to finish things early, pack up and haul off to Buffalo for a couple days of craziness, I was very concerned about staying here because we really appreciate our family time so much.  It seemed wrong to miss out on it for a year.  While quiet family time at home has its benefits, we've both always grown up with lots of family at the holidays and wouldn't have it any other way...for us, and for the kids who deserve the same chance to open gifts and play with their cousins like we did.

Fortunately, by later Tuesday his fever was gone....so I launched into packing mode and finished wrapping for the kids so we could have our "Christmas morning" on Wednesday before we left.  Of course, by Wednesday morning, just as Jacob's appetite seemed to return a bit more to normal,  Carter was sounding very congested and I was afraid he'd be the next victim.  But we did our Christmas morning, finished packing, and headed off to start our big holiday odyssey. 

I'll have an update on all of that soon....as soon as I can dig out from the pile of toys and get my camera out to upload pictures.  I'm tired now and Carter is, indeed, congested and feverish, so I may have a long night ahead of me!  But for now, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Still here...

Can you tell it's the week before Christmas?  Sorry for the silence.  My nights have been filled with online shopping and actual work-work, and you'd think staying up until midnight or (gasp) 1am would give me time to blog, but no...Christmas alone is plenty of work.  I'm exhausted and still sick.  I've had some form of cold symptoms for over a month, starting with the body aches and chills, then the cough shortly thereafter.  The cough eased up by Thanksgiving, but over the course of that weekend at the funeral home, I started feeling cruddy again.  Just general congestion and a touch of sore throat initially, with a return to the cough because of the congestion, which has been mostly in the form of mucus in my throat.  Then I got the pinkeye last week, which went away by Monday but has been trying to come back for a few days now.  My throat has been very sore for a week now, and the only thing that takes the edge off is Mucinex, which I think breaks up the mucus and makes the inflammation a bit less.  It's really starting to beat me down.  I called for more eye drops yesterday and the sore throat was so bad by the evening that I went to urgent care after Carter went to bed.  I thought it might be strep, but no, just an upper respiratory infection.  Viral, of course.  Lots of co-pays later I have a few things to ease up the symptoms, but we'll see how things go.

We have a handful of gifts to get, and a lacrosse doubleheader for Jacob today.  I haven't quite figured out how to fit it all in AND bake AND wrap, but somehow it will all get done.  Just a matter of whether we try to cram a lot of things into Tuesday, or allow ourselves a pleasant Christmas Eve morning at home to open gifts.  Jacob is definitely excited, and while Carter is not a fan of Santa just yet, when I asked him this morning what he wanted Santa to bring him, his answer made me smile.  Something tells me he'll be a happy boy when he opens his big present!

Wednesday we got to visit Jacob's school and watch the first graders' March of the Toy Soldiers.  It's a 30-year-old tradition at the school, apparently.  All of the first graders marched to two classical music pieces about toy soldiers and they did great with their marching and the straight faces they needed to maintain.  Here's a clip of it.  Jacob is in the first batch of kids.  Also, if you go to the last 30 seconds or so, you'll also see when the Kindergartners made a cameo as the "mice" that the soldiers are not rattled by (per the story we heard prior to the march).



Here is Jacob's whole class afterward.  He's 4th from the right in the back.

He was so cute with his makeup and his cool hat.  The diamond on the front was a family crest he had to create with the letter "R".  It was carved into a piece of thin metallic stuff (heavy tin foil, maybe?).

I brought him home with me afterward and just worked from home, but before that I had to see his gingerbread house he created in class on Monday.  Luckily, the gluten-free graham crackers worked okay, and he was very proud of it.

I had Thursday off, mostly to get a few Christmas things done and then grab the kids and head off to Craig's work Christmas party, our annual trip to the casino in Niagara Falls.  I had a productive morning, ordering a few things online, picking up a couple pre-ordered gifts, and finding a few more things I needed.  The afternoon before the party always gets hectic because I need to pack up, grab the boys, and drive to Buffalo, then drop them at my parents' and meet Craig at the party.  This year I added in a trip to my parents' Walmart to pick up a couple more gifts I had ordered (knowing I'd be there before Christmas).  The party was fun--great food, good company (including the Sabres' head coach, Ted Nolan, who's also a Knighthawks advisor), and good enough gambling!  It was a late night, though, which in the midst of so many other late nights lately was not ideal, but it was worth it. 

Have I mentioned yet that Carter is not a fan of Santa?  Well, actually, he thinks Santa is cool...unless he's 10 feet away.  He will point to Santa in books and on TV and say, "Santa!" over and over again.  But when we get anywhere near a real one, he freaks out.  A couple weeks ago we stopped at an event at Jacob's school (we had to miss most of it because of his Sunday School Christmas program practice), and Jacob got there just in time to see Santa.  As he went up to see him, Carter started crying.  He was shaking and everything!  I don't know if he thought Santa was going to hurt Jacob, or what.  Last night we were at Wegmans, and one the way in we saw a very cool Coca-Cola truck...
Looking at the back of the truck from behind the cart racks
The sides of the truck were completely illuminated, the whole tractor trailer was outlined in lights, and the circle on the back and picture on the side were pictures of Santa.  When we got inside, we found out that Santa was in the store.  We walked over on our way out, and I was hoping that two extra weeks of Santa propaganda might have convinced Carter to like him, but no...instantly the kid that waves and says "hi" to everyone in the store buried his face in the shopping cart handle and whimpered.  Ok, guess not.  He'll be seeing Santa at daycare on Monday and I'm hoping that the lure of a present will help him be brave!

We're getting there, though.  We have a few presents under our tree (not ones I've wrapped, mind you--that's next on my list), I'm pleased with our decorations, cookies will hopefully get baked tomorrow, and once we get a few more gifts, we'll be in good shape to be ready in time.  That last one is a big "if", however.  Schedules are tight and it's always a crunch.  But we will get there.

Off to wrap now...well, once I clean off my dining room table...again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Two Years Ago: Innocence Lost

Two years ago today the three of us (plus Carter in utero) were on our way to Montreal for the Knighthawks' pre-season game.  On our way there, we stopped for lunch at Cici's Pizza in Watertown.  We noticed something on TV and then started checking things on our respective devices, only to find out about the Sandy Hook shooting.  It was horrifying, to say the least.  While I tried not to let it ruin our weekend, it definitely put a damper on things.  I couldn't even fathom it.

I only mentioned it briefly on this blog, months later, but at the time I had a hard time processing it all.  I wanted to blog about it, but it was just too painful.  I honestly couldn't even let my mind go there.  What happened there was every parent's worst fear.  To think about it too much was too hard, too gut-wrenching.

Two years later, Craig is in Montreal again this weekend.  We're not there with him, but the coincidence is interesting.  This year's anniversary has even more significance because this year Jacob is in first grade, the same grade that lost so many children that day.  I won't lie--the couple times that I've been in his classroom, my mind briefly went to that place, wondering if the Sandy Hook first grade classroom was anything like Jacob's.  I thought about the kids in his class, how they couldn't have been too different from the kids that lost their lives that day.  Sweet, innocent kids that loved the same sorts of things Jacob and his friends do now (minus Frozen, I suppose!).  The thought of most of those kids getting shot up by some psycho was unfathomable as I looked at them.  And while the odds of something like that ever happening again are slim, sometimes I can't help but wonder, "Why couldn't it happen here?  No one there ever thought it could happen there, so why should here be any different?  What's stopping someone from doing the same sort of thing here?" 

I know that's a terrible, dark thought.  I don't let thinking like that permeate my daily life, by any means, but once in a while I do wonder why those kids had to die when so many others live normal, carefree lives.  I can't imagine losing Jacob, let alone in such a tragic, violent, sudden manner.  I don't know how those parents have moved on, and I'm sure many truly haven't, but it's a good reminder to thank God for every moment we have with our kids. 

I don't know if I had a real point for this post, though I did feel it was important to address the anniversary given Jacob's age and that it has been on my mind lately.  Like I said, as a parent it's almost impossible to fathom and even now I can't really let my brain go there because it's just too horrible.  Those six year olds were just doing what they were supposed to do--go to school--and the teachers and other employees in the building that day were doing their life's work--caring for the kids--and the unimaginable happened.  Those kids would be in third grade now, and their lives were snuffed out far too early.  I don't understand it, not even within the context of God's plan.  It seems like no good could come of it, but maybe other lives will be saved down the line from legislation or security improvements, or mental health will get greater attention.  Anything to not make their deaths in vain.

It doesn't stem the sadness, horror, or tiny bit of fear as I think of Jacob's class (or even Carter's).  But two years later I just wanted to mention that my heart still breaks for those families and the terrible reality they still live with every day.   Their strength (little though it may seem to them some days) is astounding.  The energy they've put into making the world a better place in the aftermath is admirable.  Nothing will ever bring their kids back, but I pray that in their honor, society ensures that no one else ever has to deal with a loss like that again.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Video Friday

Just a few videos that I've been behind on...

This is from way back when we went to the pumpkin patch.  Carter was just starting to talk, and he shares one of his favorite words...to this day, even!


This is probably most representative of our life on a daily basis.  It also showcases Carter's cutest skill...seriously, the first time he did it I about died of cute...


And this one shows his talent identifying body parts...he's even better now...


Yes, we have a lot of cute going on in this house on a daily basis! 

My eye is still pretty nasty looking but it feels ever-so-slightly better today.  Hoping each round of drops makes things a little better...because I need to be better for the weekend!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Photo Thursday

It's been a while since I posted photos.  I guess it's a combination of not a lot of photo-worthy activity and Christmas busyness and general laziness.

This time of year is always crazy, let alone when we got a slow start and everyone's had some manner of the crud over the past couple weeks.  I'm hoping for a strong finish over these last two weeks so we can truly enjoy the holiday itself.  But alas, as I type this I'm sitting at the doctor with one eye squeezed shut because it hurts so bad I can hardly stand it.  It's red and draining like crazy and this all happened since I woke up.  I was hoping for some antibiotics that would also take out the cold that won't quit, the one I got a month ago that almost got better but never really did, but I got drops instead.  This is terribly painful and rather contagious, so it's a pretty bad situation.  As much as I wanted to use another vacation day, this is not the way I wanted to do it.

In the meantime, until I'm feeling better, some photos...

I took this from Jacob's window a few weeks ago, though the screen and everything.  I couldn't pass up the shot, though!

Mommy-Jacob selfie...once in a while he's cooperative!

Right near the end of our fourth two-hour shift at the funeral home...apparently he can be cute anywhere, at any time!

This is a little hard to see, but this is Jacob at his Sunday School Christmas program.  He is snapping along to the song, and he was freaking out the day before after the rehearsal because he couldn't snap.  He faked it really well.  He almost didn't make it to the program because he had been suffering from random stomachaches after a suspected glutening at the funeral luncheon.  He missed his lacrosse game the day before, but he gutted it out for this performance.

A wide view of the Christmas program.  Jacob's group was near the middle, to the right of the lighted cross.  Nice performance.

Carter got a little antsy near the end, and since I already had my camera out, I snapped this one of him smiling at the people behind us.

And now...a couple outtakes from our Christmas card photo shoot.  It didn't go very well, but we survived.  This was probably earlier than I've ever done it, at least in recent memory!  I got cute smiles from each kid, but never together or without some sort of awkward pose or blur.


Hope these bring a couple smiles to your day.  God knows we need them around here at the moment!  My red, swelled up, oozing, painful eye should hopefully start clearing up soon, but this was the last thing we needed, particularly with Craig heading out on roadtrip #1 this weekend.  Not like I was going to get much shopping done anyway, but this is not helping. 

On the bright side, a video post is coming soon!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tough Love: Giving Crushed Hopes for Christmas

Jacob wants a Wii U for Christmas.

He'd had his Christmas list pretty well set for a few weeks, right up until he got to spend hours playing Wii with his cousins last weekend and decided he really wanted to get one himself for Christmas.  In case you're unaware, those things are not cheap.  And you know, for a kid always teetering on the edge of the naughty list, I'm not sure a $300+ gift is really in order.  It's one more thing for him to get totally obsessed with and for us to argue about.  Heck, the other day we were already arguing about where we'd put it if we got one, and I really don't need another thing to drag him away from at bedtime.

To be fair, as far as video games go, it's pretty cool.  He can get plenty of exercise from sports and dance games (as he's constantly pointing out), and he really has a lot of fun doing it.  We've talked about getting a system for years, either a Wii or an XBox Kinect, so we could use it for exercise and because we knew Jacob would love it as he got older.  But at that price, for this kind of challenging kid?  I just can't.

But he really wants it.  REALLY. WANTS. IT.  He's been cooking up plans in his head all week, of games he'd play and things like that.  He even wrote a story about playing it with his cousins as part of a school project this week.  He's clearly really into it, and as a parent you instinctively want to feed your kid's interests and make them happy.  But this would be a really extravagant toy.  Bang for the buck-wise, it probably would rate pretty high in the end, but it just seems like too much for him right now--money-wise and when it comes to his behavior issues.

The big problem is that he's convinced he's going to get it.  Even though we've told him multiple times that just because he wants something, that doesn't mean he's getting it, he's still talking about it like it's happening.  Maybe that's because he's generally gotten whatever his "big" gift request was...the Club Penguin hockey rink, the Imaginext Batcave, countless Lego sets...but those were all so doable.  This one, not so much.  But for a kid that's used to getting his big gift, and still believes wholeheartedly in Santa, this is a tough spot.

It's easy enough for everyone to say that he needs to learn to accept disappointment.  We all did it to some degree as kids, for sure.  But look...the kid's already dealing with all the disappointment (and stomach aches) that go with having Celiac disease.  He is constantly driven crazy by his baby brother.  He's got us nagging him constantly (for good reason, but still, it can't be fun for him either).  Blessed as he is, he's got some hardships that I can see many six year olds having a hard time with.  I truly don't know how much of the behavior stuff he can control.  Yes, he could be a better listener, for sure, but that's not to say that I don't think there are certain elements of it (attention-wise, mostly) that he either can't control or would have to work beyond-his-years-hard to control.  When you can give him a command over and over again (literally, saying "Put on your shoes" constantly until he listens) and it still takes him a while to respond, something tells me he's just got so much going on in that head that he can't "hear" what we're saying.  And given that he's such a passionate kid, a kid full of ideas and plans, it's hard to dissuade him once he gets going.  He's just not your average kid, trust me.

Ultimately I know this could break his Christmas, no matter how many other great things he gets.  He's got his heart set on it, regardless of how we warn him, and I can easily foresee him ruining his own Christmas by moping around when he doesn't get it.  He's a very intense kid and doesn't let go of things easily.  There's always such a build-up to Christmas, and to see him let down at the end of it...well, that's a hard thought.  A frustrating one as a logical parent, but a sad one as a loving parent.

I read a story the other day about a family that canceled Christmas.  They'd spent months trying to improve their sons' behavior and make them less entitled, but in the end they felt they had no choice.  Oh, they're still doing a lot of Christmas-y stuff, and they've made a really great experience out of it by using the saved money to give to others, but Santa will not be coming.  The kids will get gifts from family, so they'll be far from deprived, but still...that's a big step.  In my anger and frustration, I've thought about doing something similar many times over the past few years.  Jacob is spoiled enough and I'd like him to know that being on the naughty list is a real issue.  But I've always stopped short, because Christmas is...well, sacred.  I remember back to being a kid, and how exciting all of the build-up was.  I waited all year for this one amazing time of year, and for this one exciting day.  I can't imagine how crushed I would have been if it simply didn't happen.  I worry that it would break his spirit, not just teach him a lesson.  And really, once he was old enough to know the truth about Santa...well, at some point I know he'd probably respect us for it, but he'd probably spend a few years really ticked off at us about the Christmas that never was.

It's complicated now, too, since Carter is around and there's no reason for Santa to skip him.  Not that Carter would know the difference, but I don't want to send the message to Jacob that Carter did something wrong to deserve it, too.  And it would just be horrible to have Carter opening presents and Jacob not.  There's a point at which it's not even about the stuff...it's the insinuation in the mind of a six year old that somehow he doesn't matter.  Even if he's been warned, even if material things don't equate to love...I just have a feeling that's how it would be internalized.  And I just can't do that. 

This morning we stopped at an event at Jacob's school where he got to sit with Santa.  And of course he told him he wanted a Wii U...and that was it.  Lovely. I eventually told Jacob flat out that it wasn't happening, and of course he was upset.  I will say, though, that he hopped right back on board demanding/adding things to his list.  When I brought up the possibility of putting his behavior rewards toward earning enough of it to get it next year, he didn't like that.  He pretty much said he just wants to get it.  Which tells me that he probably would be well-served by the experience of earning it.  We'll see how this plays out.  He'll be a very lucky little boy regardless come Christmas, whether he believes it or not.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Home...Finally.

Gosh, what a crazy few days.  Or, rather, nearly a week.  I realized this morning when I sat down at my desk that I hadn't been there since last Tuesday.  That's a long time.  We were in Buffalo for five full days, which is longer than we've been there in ages, if ever.  Certainly we wouldn't have been anywhere else during a time like this, but it's been a bit of a weird time nonetheless.

The time with Craig's family was good, I guess--as good as can be expected considering the circumstances.  The kids had a great time together and it was nice to see Craig's aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Everyone enjoyed watching Carter wander through the funeral home in his little man clothes.  Even the corrections officers who were there to guard the casket (for honor, not necessarily safety) cracked quite a few smiles as he ran past or constantly tried to play in the little fountain.  His cousins would chase him around, other people would scoop him up and whisk him off.  Craig's cousin's husband grabbed him to watch a show on his phone, and at one point I downloaded a couple new apps to kill some time.  Overall he was a handful, but very well behaved.  Jacob played a lot on his iPad and chased his cousins around.  He had moments where he clearly didn't understand the importance of what we were doing, but to the casual observer he was fine.  Overall there were a lot of very difficult moments for all of us, because this was such a tragic situation and two kids don't always understand that.  We ended up sending Carter to my parents' for the funeral because I didn't want to have to wrangle an active kid for such a long day of quiet time.  I'm glad we did.

One of the biggest challenges of the weekend was that our schedule was all over the place.  There were days to sleep in, but there were a couple early mornings, too.  Bedtimes were generally later than we would have liked, and sleeping somewhere else never really leads to the soundest of sleeps.  Mealtimes were a little random, as well, and Jacob's diet in particular was a little odd since gluten-free foods were not in abundant supply.  Between those issues and the emotional toll of the funeral process, we all came home pretty beat.  Craig and I are both battling congestion (again--second time in a couple weeks), Carter has a nasty cough, and Jacob spent part of today in the nurse's office with what we think may have been a touch of gluten cross-contamination.  We're all just tired and off.

We got back around 5:30pm yesterday and I started realizing just how deep of a hole I had to dig out of.  I had hoped to do some shopping or something over the weekend, but between our schedule and just trying to keep up with email and social media when I finally did get to a computer, I didn't get anything done.  Not that I was in much of a mood to.  I don't know if it was the funeral, or a bit of a pity party that the weekend I had planned on using to catch up on life and get a head start on Christmas ended up being so different, but I'm having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit.  I'd been waiting to listen to Christmas music and put up our decorations, but the weekend it was all supposed to happen ended up being such a sad one, and I almost feel guilty thinking about doing fun Christmas stuff.  At this point I just don't feel like it.  It didn't help that the tree that I put up before we left now has a row of lights out, and I'm not sure they can be fixed.  It's a pre-lit tree, so it's a little more complicated that switching out the set.  So we have a dark Christmas tree in our living room and all of my fall d├ęcor is still sitting on my dining room table.  I'm busy doing dishes because the dishwasher still isn't fixed, catching up on work because my schedule this week is weird, and staring at the pile of newspapers that arrived while we were gone.  We've barely bought any Christmas gifts, and I'm short on ideas.  Everywhere I look there's something I need to do work on or clean up.  I feel like the calendar has something on it every day this month, and with Craig's schedule I'm not sure when our shopping is going to get done.  There simply isn't enough time for anything right now, or at least my schedule, energy level, and brain power aren't aligning very well.

I know that my issues are nothing compared to the sadness we left behind an hour down the thruway, but it's hard heading into Christmas and not feeling it.  The season is so short and so fast, and here I am wasting it pitying myself and worrying about the million things I need to get done.  I don't want to pressure myself, but part of the fun of Christmas is the special stuff we get to do.  It's a delicate balance.  I need to figure it out.  But I won't be doing it tonight.  Tonight, like last night, I'm just happy to be home and in my own bed.  It's the little things.