Friday, February 27, 2015

Photo Friday!

Nothing better for a Friday than a few fun pictures from the last couple weeks...

The Thursday of winter break, Jacob's school had a fundraiser at Chuck E. Cheese.  Most of the time I prefer to avoid that place like the plague, but when we have a reason to go there (either a birthday party or an event like this), I consent to a couple hours there, particularly because they have gluten-free pizza.  It comes in a special bag, so I know it's safe.  Jacob seems to like it, too.  We actually had some tokens and tickets sitting around from our last trip there, so I was actually eager to get them out of the house!  So off we went!  Jacob ran right off to do the sports games, and I tried to get Carter to ride on some of the little cars and play the other little kid games.  He was petrified of the cars, but finally sat in one for a minute or two.  He ended up liking the one little kid football throwing game, which was fun.  However, we were all sort of thrown off by (yet again) having other kids randomly come up and horn in on the kids' games.  I know some kids have better parental guidance than others, but I just don't get how inserting yourself into a game someone else paid for and is actively playing is ever the logical choice.  Our meal was fine and we had a pretty good time.  The one exciting moment we had was that Jacob ended up with a ticket to go into the ticket blaster.  It's 30 seconds of craziness with tickets blowing all around!  You grab whatever you can and they're yours to keep.  Craig took this great shot of him in the middle of the windstorm!

Before we left, Carter made a stop at his favorite game, a racing game.  He can't reach the gas, but he loved it anyway.
(And yes, once a little girl tried to grab the wheel from him as he played!)
Wednesday night Carter had an early bath so he had some time to play after he was in his jammies.  We were watching Scooby-Doo as a family and the kids were snacking, and Carter added a special accessory...

Those glasses came out of a kid's meal from some fast food joint, and he loves them!  Silly kid even wore them to FaceTime with Grandpa and Grandma!

Yesterday morning was my first in-person interview, and it was for the job I really want.  I felt like the interview went well.  I have an "in" there, they like my resume a lot, and the job really utilizes Excel, which is my specialty.  So many things about it seem like a great fit and I'm really hopeful I'll make it to the next round.  It's nerve wracking, though, because if I don't get this one I feel like I'll be back to square one...without the leads I had the first time around.  I was definitely nervous for the interview but I felt like it went better than I could have imagined.  I decided the day before that I wanted to book up the rest of my day as "me time", to either distract myself from a rough interview, or to reward myself for a good one!  One of the items on my list for this time off was to go to the Memorial Art Gallery here.  I've never been, even though I love art.  I did have a little taste of it back in September when I stopped at the outdoor sculpture garden/walk in between events of our friend Dave's wedding.  I'm glad I did it that day, because yesterday was no day to walk around outside!  Most of the sculptures are buried under three feet of snow anyway!

Anyway, my plan was to run to the local library and check out a pass for 50% off admission, then grab some lunch and head to the gallery for the afternoon.  I can a minor hiccup with lunch because there was no parking at my lunch spot of choice and I tried to find somewhere else.  Eventually I just settled on a good, hearty sub and headed off to the gallery.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  After all, I grew up with the Albright-Knox in Buffalo (remember my birthday trip there?) and they'd always had a lot of awesome pieces by very famous artists.  I don't really feel like I've heard much about the MAG's collection over the years, so I was mostly just interested to see what was there.

I headed upstairs first because modern art is my favorite and more of that was downstairs.  The first few rooms had a lot of old portraits, a few artifacts, and some wooden furniture.  The one thing I do remember hearing about the MAG involved the room in the picture below.  At the far end is an organ, and in the center is a fountain.  What a pretty space!

In an adjacent room was a very pretty Monet.  I actually have a soft spot for Monets like this one because in 8th grade I had to recreate a work of art and chose a similarly colored Monet that looked at a church tower.  It really is breathtaking to see the work of a master.

Back downstairs there was a stained glass window that was saved from a local house when it was demolished.  The colors were gorgeous, and I couldn't help capturing this detail.
It's hard to tell, but the blue glass was sort of rough and chunky...and deeper blue than it looks here.
One of the more unique pieces was a recreation of the famous painting "American Gothic" made entirely out of spools of thread.  Interestingly, it was oriented upside down, and there were glass globes on sticks in a stand on the wall to hold up and view the art properly.  So cool!

I love this close-up of a Hans Hoffman painting.  The colors are so pretty!
I'm pretty sure that my old orthodontist had a bunch of framed Hans Hoffman posters in his office.  Most of them looked like this.
This next one appears to be one of the more popular works there, and definitely one of the most vibrant!  The 3-D quality of this one was great, and apparently the artist uses no black paint...so the dark parts are just really dark versions of color!

I didn't notice the beauty of this marble statue (I believe she's called "The West Wind" until I took this picture.  Just look at the perfect swish of the skirt...done in marble!

This work was really amazing.  The fruit looked like I could reach out and touch it, and the tears from her onion cutting had a perfect sparkle!  Hard to do it justice here, but it was pretty!

This is the main entry courtyard at the museum and holds some modern sculptures.  There's a fountain and the glass roof, and I liked this shot because it shows a peak of an adjacent building on the property.  So pretty and a nice oasis on such a cold day!

What a fun trip it was.  It definitely lacked some of the blockbusters of the Albright-Knox, but it was a very pleasant experience!

After a trip to the gym, it was home for an evening with the boys.  I have to share this video because it totally captures Carter right now.  Here is his version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"!  He's a little rough on actual lyrics, but he is just too stinkin' cute.  Note the hand motions, too...and excuse the sippy cup at the beginning :)



Seriously, he cracks me up.  So, that's what's been up here.  Another busy weekend ahead and hopefully some good news on the job front next week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Party Time!

One week after Carter's actual birthday, we were able to have his party.  Craig's work schedule this time of year makes party planning a little challenging!  I should feel lucky we managed to squeeze in Carter's actual birth without him being on the road or having to miss a game, but it's definitely a little tough to figure out how to work around his schedule every year now.  Add in weather, Valentine's Day, February break, and whatever else, and it's a very complicated process!  Luckily we only had to wait a week, and while I can't say I was fantastic at planning ahead with all of my current free time, I felt pretty good going into the weekend...even though I had a lot to do!

I baked two layers of cake on Saturday and made a list of tasks for Sunday.  The weather was pretty cruddy on Saturday, warmer than it had been (20s....oooo!) but cold and snowy.  We did some shoveling while Craig was at work and debating going to the Knighthawks game, but in the end I decided that with Jacob home for February break all week, we'd exhausted all of our easy food options and I wanted to go out for dinner anyway.  We ventured out and the roads were worse than I thought.  Still, I knew Jacob would be disappointed so we continued on.  We had a quick dinner at McDonald's (so nice when the boys will happily eat all of their food!) and ended up getting to the Knighthawks game late due to having to stop for gas, drive through the snow, and deal with some parking difficulties.  I'd wanted to leave the game early, which Jacob was not happy about, but with our late arrival I relented to staying longer, particularly if it was a good game.  It turned out that the Knighthawks came back from a big 4th quarter deficit and won the game in overtime, so it was a good game to stay for.  Of course, that meant a late night for me as I ran all over the house cleaning up piles and preparing for the party.

Sunday we all slept in and I opted to skip church rather than battle to get us all out of the house and then come home stressed and cranky with less time to prepare for the party.  I took the time to get a good start on the cake.  If you recall from past parties, I tend to focus on the cake more than anything.  I don't know why it worked out like that--maybe because Jacob's first few were not great and I felt bad about that.  I've made it my mission to never let that happen again.  Thank God for Pinterest :)  And for this year, for my sweet car-loving little boy, this was the result:


I'm not gonna lie, I was super happy with it.  It's simple and cute and exactly what I wanted!  I took inspiration from a few different Pinterest cakes and made it my own, right down to splitting M&M's in half to create his name.  My stress level was relatively low throughout, which was a nice bonus, too!

We kept the party simple because it wasn't going to be a huge group--my parents, Craig's parents and his brother's family, my cousin Lori and her mom.  We ordered pizza and wings since grilling up burgers and dogs isn't really an option with the cold and snow we've been having!  Add in some snacks and sides and it was plenty to keep us all full. 

Carter did well with presents.  He was very cute and sweet and seemed to love all of his presents.  He got a couple fun books, a bus, a Switch & Go Dino (sort of like he got at Christmas--this time a cute T-Rex!), a Duplo circus set, some Matchbox cars and track, some clothes, some new sippy cups, and some money!  He really seemed to love everything.

Checking out his dino!

Cutie with his bus and Legos!
We ate dinner and moved on to the cake.  He really seemed to like it and enjoyed being sung to!

Of course, when it came time to eat it, he preferred to stick with the M&M's...which was part of the reason I figured it might be a good move to include them in the decoration!
Cheek-full of M&Ms!
All in all, it was a great day.  The boys had fun with their cousins and it was great to have our families here.  Unfortunately, the day didn't end so well.  It started out with my mom getting an epic nosebleed just as they were ready to leave.  All of this cold, dry weather has wreaked havoc with her nasal passages.  They stayed for quite a while waiting for it to end, but it turned out that was just the beginning of the mess.  She ended up in the emergency room and then headed to the doctor in the morning when things didn't really get any better.  She should be fine now, but what a crazy thing that was.  A little while after my parents left, I realized that the full feeling in my stomach was transitioning to something very not-good.  Craig and I watched the movie "Miracle" to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice game, but by the end of the movie I was upstairs in some very bad GI distress.  I was up much of the night dealing with a double whammy of stomach distress, and most of yesterday was spent in bed.  Craig stayed home to take care of Carter, and I tried to keep my distance so this didn't spread.  I'll definitely be on the lookout for Craig and the kids for the next couple days.  Apparently this morning my mom wasn't feeling great, but we're hoping it's just a mental thing, because my parents have a trip planned for later this week.  If nothing else, hopefully it's quick!  But I'd hate for anyone else to have to deal with this.  I'm still trying to get my appetite and energy back...and I need it by Thursday when I have my interview!  In the meantime I'll be taking it easy, getting my stuff together, and mentally preparing!

I hate that my illness took away from a fantastic day for Carter, but I'm excited to play with him and his new toys tomorrow, and eventually dig back into that awesome cake!  Happy 2nd Birthday to my sweet boy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentines/Birthday/Snow Weekend in Review!

Arg, I meant to post this Tuesday but for some reason it never made it up.  Sorry!  

We have had a busy few days around these parts!  First and foremost, last week I got an email back regarding my application for one the jobs I wanted most, and today I actually had a quick phone interview that led to getting a real interview set up for next week!  Woohoo!  One step closer to a job!

Last Thursday Jacob was involved in something called the Orff Festival, a music festival put on by some of the elementary schools in town.  Jacob's class and another first grade class were the only two classes from his school involved, and they did a great job.  Not only did they do a performance, but they also "entertained" the crowd in between acts with a sing-along.  Here's a shot of Jacob in the full cast opening act, he's in the middle of the front row with his hands up by his face...

Here he is before their performance, where he played the glockenspiel!

Here's video of the performance...though unfortunately our view of Jacob was blocked by a teacher who was helping out...


 
It was an hour long and it was a great show.  The kids were awesome and it was obvious they worked really hard.  Carter was enthralled for most of it, too!  He danced on my lap, and at one point when a teacher was on the stage with a big drum, he started drumming on my legs with his hands!  Perhaps a future musician?


Friday was nearly a "cold day" at school because the wind chill was so cold.  Craig had to head out to Buffalo that night for the Knighthawks game the next day.  I kept myself occupied that day with baking cupcakes for Carter's birthday and getting the batter ready to do Valentine's Day morning cinnamon rolls.  I packed for our weekend trip to my parents' house, too, and in the evening we crammed in two errands--one to get Jacob's hair cut (see pictures above for the urgency), and to BJ's to buy a new toaster over (the toasting function of our old one stopped working and after much shopping I decided on a new one.  My BJ's membership was through work and expires at the end of the month).  I also needed gas and got a discount with my $50 purchase, so I wanted to get everything done and out of the way before the next round of snow.

Saturday morning we woke up to another few inches of snow and I was wondering how wise it was to head down the Thruway to Buffalo.  I really wanted to go and after double checking traffic cameras and the radar I decided it was doable.  First, though, we had to eat our cinnamon buns (Jacob hugged me when I told him what we were having for breakfast!) and open some presents!

Jacob got some Skittles, a giant Reeese's peanut butter heart, a bag of chocolate coins, and a little baggie of Legos.  Of course, he was not excited with the Legos because they were "girl" Legos.  I know, I know...but what I got him was a little vendor cart that sells fruit smoothies.  Why, you ask?  Well, he and Craig are constantly trying to build up a Lego stadium, and I figured it would be a fun addition to the stadium.  He wasn't convinced, but it was worth a shot.  I think he'll appreciate it later. 

Carter got Skittles and a pack of Fisher-Price Little Wheelies (basically Little People permanently embedded in little cars).  They were cool because they can hook together like a train or be used separately.

Once we did presents and I did my last weather checks, we packed up and headed out.  I think in the end it took us two hours to get there instead of a little less than an hour and a half, but it really wasn't bad.  It was a little iffy in town as we headed out, but the highway had good tracks to follow and the wind wasn't bad.  The Thruway was actually fine most of the way there (we traveled slower but it wasn't slippery), and then what's usually the last 20 minutes of the drive took a bit longer because there was more snow on the road.  Parts of the end got a little dicey, but my anti-lock brakes only had to kick in once so it couldn't have been that bad. 

Once we got there and the kids were able to eat some lunch and settle in, we ran out to the giant snow piles in the yard.  My dad (yes, the guy who had major heart surgery a few months ago!) was eager to get the kids out in the snow, which is in epically high piles around Western New York.  Seriously, the flower bed in my front yard is completely undetectable, the piles at the end of the driveway are as tall as me, and the park bench in our backyard is merely an unidentifiable lump.  My parents' house had the same sort of craziness going on.  You can see in this pile just how high the piles are next to their front walkway atop foot-high bushes.  My mom is 5'4" and those piles are at least to her chest.  Here she's helping Jacob up to the top. 

Carter wasn't as much of a fan of the snow as he had been at home.  Not sure if the piles are just too big, or if what we were doing was making him fearful of something, but he was not happy.

It took a lot trial and error in frigid weather, but finally we got this to work:



That noise you hear is Carter wailing because he was upset.  I think he was afraid Jacob might get swallowed up by the snow.  He was not very happy when I took a couple turns on the hill, either!

Sunday was Carter's birthday!  We had church first thing in the morning and the boys were a bit of a challenge, but we got through.  The high temperature for the day hovered around zero, so it wasn't exactly an outside kind of day.  Once we were home, we got Craig on Facetime.  He was in Connecticut for that night's Knighthawks game.  We let Carter open a few of his presents while Craig watched.
He got a small Duplo set with a dump truck!

He also got a couple books, including this one where the wheels on each vehicle get progressively smaller on each page. 

Loving his Duplos!
After an afternoon nap, we had some dinner and finished it off with "Happy Birthday" and cupcakes!


Craig got back to Buffalo (where Saturday's game was) early Monday, and he came to my parents' house at 6am.  The temperature was about -10 when we woke up for the day.  My mom and I headed out to a newly opened gym owned by a good friend of mine.  We dated back when I was in college but remained good friends afterward.  My mom got to know him better in recent years because he managed the gym she belongs to.  Things didn't work out there so he went for his dream and has now opened his own gym.  I'm super proud of him, though I worry because he's now got a wife, a daughter, and a son on the way, so it's definitely put a lot on the line.  But the place is beautiful and I wish him nothing but the best.  He worked us out good, and we headed back to make sure the kids hadn't driven my dad nuts.

After lunch, some playtime, and me checking some photo albums of myself when I was the kids' ages, we headed back home.  After dinner we did another round of  "Happy Birthday", this time with Craig around.

Then it was time for a couple more presents...

First Carter got an alphabet puzzle...
Full disclosure: I actually got this for Jacob when he was three, but I honestly never wanted to deal with 30 pieces all over the floor, and then I figured he might not like it, and then I just sort of forgot about it.  I'm not sure Carter is ready for it, but no time like the present, right?
His big present was additional track for the Duplo train he got at Christmas.  It got a little old with just a circle of track, so I figured more track would make it more fun.  We got to make a nice big track with switches and everything, and I hope he'll enjoy that for years to come.

So...the birthday festivities are done until Sunday when we have Carter's family party.  I have a lot of stuff to do this week--clean the house, figure out the menu, finalize my plan with the cake--and I need to time it out as well as I can, particularly considering Jacob is home this week on break.  Carter is still at daycare today and Thursday.  Tonight we're going back to Buffalo for Craig's mom's annual fundraiser (Mardi Gras!) that we almost never get to go to because it's a late night for all of us.  Should be fun (and tasty)!  Beyond that, I'm simply looking forward to Carter's party to give our little guy the celebration he deserves! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

TWO!

Just had to do an updated version of our monthly shots from his first year!

Dear Carter,

I can't believe you're already two!  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was very pregnant and very uncomfortable.  I could hardly do anything without thinking you were going to arrive any minute, but ultimately a fairly routine day at work turned into something crazy.  And as hard as bringing you into the world was (no offense, I swear it was worth it), going into labor was a welcome turn of events.  I was so ready, and apparently so were you! 

You've been the most amazing addition to our family and I feel so lucky every day that I get to be your mom.  Your "terrible twos" tantrums have already begun, but fortunately for you, I'm pretty experienced with that stuff these days so I'm probably far better suited to deal with them (and keep a healthy perspective) than I was with your brother!  But in between tantrums you are such a sweet boy.  You outgrew cuddling once it was no longer accompanied by a feeding, but you are the best hugger!  You've always projected such a joy, even from the time you were a tiny baby.  Your smile was contagious, and you still bring such happiness to everyone.  You smile at people wherever we go (though now you get a little shy when they smile back) and people are always saying how cute you are.  Don't let it go to your head, but they're right!  You are impossibly adorable.

In the past year you finally grew a nice head of hair, and it has only made you more adorable.  Your chubby cheeks are still hanging in there, thank goodness!  You also learned to walk and now choose to run as much as possible.  One of your favorite phrases, in fact, is "I run!"  You are talking up a storm these days. repeating as many words as possible and now using phrases.  It couldn't have come at a better time, since we're home together three days a week now (plus weekends, of course) and it's nice to have a little buddy that I can actually talk to!  You're a great shopping partner most of the time, so I don't hesitate to take you to Wegmans with me.  You're also still a very good napper so Mommy can keep her sanity pretty easily. 

I still marvel at how different you are from your brother.  You like sports, but you really love anything that has wheels.  Trucks, cars, buses, trains...they are your favorite.  You love pushing stuff around the house, including the lawnmower I made for you out of Tinkertoys since the bubble mower isn't too useful with three feet of snow on the ground!  You definitely find more dangerous trouble than your brother.  While he mostly whacked furniture with hockey or lacrosse sticks, you're more inclined to dig in cabinets and climb anything you can.   We call you "Hurricane Carter" because of how the living room looks after you've been playing.  Fortunately you love Duplos so we've had fun lately building with those.  But it's not uncommon for every bin to have been emptied and half the other toys pulled off the shelves by the end of a play session.

Your brother still doesn't like you all that much (sorry), but we're working on it.  Keep being your charming self and eventually he'll realize you're at least a good source of comedy.  You farted in your sleep last night when we were all in the same room and he thought that was pretty funny.  It would probably help if you stopped tackling him and invading his room, but I know you just do it because you think he's the coolest kid in the world.  I'm not sure why, since he barely gives you the time of day and doesn't treat you particularly well, but you love him so much.  You get nervous when he's not around and worry when you think something is hurting him.  You've called him "Brother" for months, but you're finally getting "Jacob" down pat.  It's sweet.  I hope someday you're best friends, but for now don't take him personally.

I have been lucky enough this past month to spend a lot of extra time with you, and it makes me so happy to have been able to do it now, when you're learning so much and haven't really learned how to complain.  Like I said, we do have some epic tantrums, but most of the time you're just happy to hang out and be included, so it's a pleasure to have you around.  There is never a dull moment with you.  Lately you constantly point to and name body parts (mine and yours), you're great with your colors, you love animals and their sounds, and watching you zoom cars and trucks around the house makes me smile.  Your bright eyes and big smile make every day better.  So many people love you and I feel so grateful to be at the top of that list.

Two years ago you were born as this tiny, hairy, skinny baby with a crooked little nose and coloring so much darker than I expected.  I fell in love with you instantly.  No matter how disappointed I was when I found out I wasn't going to get the daughter I so desperately wanted, I knew that the moment I saw you, none of that would matter.  Over these past two years, you've not only proven that theory correct, but you've made it clear to me that God knew exactly what he was doing when he made you my second child.  I couldn't have asked for a better kid to fill that role.  You are exactly what we needed in our lives.  Thank you for being such a cool kid.

We love you and look forward to many more years of fun with you.  Happy Birthday, baby boy!

Love,
Mama

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Out of My Comfort Zone

I've decided that what bugs me most about this whole unemployment experience is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone and is forcing me to have to make decisions, which is one of my all-time least favorite things to do.  A month ago I was just working away, minding my own business, churning out a ton of work, and now I sit here a month into my forced "vacation" trying to figure out what my future holds.  I still find it ironic that when the new year started I noticed the distinct lack of "things on the horizon".  Many people state that this will be "their year", or are excited that something big is going to happen or a major change is going to be made.  I just didn't feel any of that.  We were fine in our jobs and the kids are moving along.  Now that they've both been born and learned to crawl and walk, most of the milestones in our future seem much more gradual.  For example, Jacob is constantly improving his reading and Carter is constantly learning to talk more.  Potty training might be the next big one, and even that one is a little gradual!  But anyway, it just seemed like this year didn't have any clearly positive changes ahead.  Little did I know that a couple weeks later, everything would change.

Now that it has, I hate that I'm having to tackle all of this "uncomfortable" stuff.  That may be what makes me most bitter at this point.  I hate having to sell myself, I hate having to do interviews and make first impressions, I hate having to start from zero and learn a whole new job.  I have no choice at this point but to do all of it to get back to where I was.  Of course, it's probably important that I do all of this stuff again.  It's been nine years and the farther you get out of the game, the harder it is to get back in.  So I know that in the long run, this is a growth experience.  Even when I changed jobs the last time, I was shocked at how amazing it was to learn new things and get a fresh start.  I truly hope that same feeling is in my future, so in the long run I probably will be thanking my old job for letting me go.  But in the meantime it's hard. 

One of the things I'm finding hardest about the job hunt itself is that I'm not sure where I truly belong.  My previous job title was a marketing analyst, but the two jobs that I've applied to with similar titles involve some skills that I don't have.  The other jobs that I've applied to utilize some skills from both of my old jobs.  When I bring up job sites, I don't really know what to search for.  The analyst jobs are a little different than what I was doing before, and I'm actually open to other things, but my other skills don't lend themselves to clear search keywords.  I wouldn't even have known to search for the other jobs if an old friend of mine didn't handpick them for me.   

There are moments when I wonder if I should be using this as the opportunity for a total switch.  Maybe it's time to do something totally different.  Of course, I don't really have the luxury to go back to school or learn a special skill.  I can't just pick up an entry level, run-of-the-mill job at this point if I expect to get back to what I was making before.  I need to build on the experience that I already have if I want to maintain our normal standard of living.  And, of course, as I've been home with Carter I have many moments where I've confirmed how much I would love to be home part time.  I love the extra time with him, I love having flexibility and time for both kids' schedules, I love being able to be a more available backup for Craig.  I really appreciate having more time to think and plan so I'm not so scatterbrained and last-minute.  Having the time at home has been a weight off my shoulders.  Again, I know that's not an option long-term.  As excited as I am to get a job, I will be sad to see my time end, if only because those little luxuries have been such a joy.

But even the mere fact that my mind even has a chance to wander to these impossible places is part of the frustration I've felt in the past month.  I was fine in my prior existence.  I never asked for any of this personal growth.  I don't want this opportunity to allow me to feel like I'm missing out or to make me feel like I need to make any difficult decisions that could impact my family.  I was fine in my old life and resent that this change makes me have to re-examine everything.  Could it make things better?  Maybe.  But none of the good stuff ever comes without discomfort, and that's what I hate.  Whether it's discomfort for me or the ones I love, none of it feels good...even though in the long run it could be so much better.

Part of me wishes I could go back in time and find a way to avoid this fate.  At the same time, another part of me knows that everything happens for a reason.  I wouldn't want to give back the time I've had this past month either, and I know this is a huge opportunity to better us overall.  I just hate the in-between.  I need to get brave...fast!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Long Overdue...

Okay, so as I was looking through posts from two years ago, I was reminded of something I never did do that I said I would.  I did remember prior to looking at the posts that I never did it, but now that we're hitting the two-year anniversary, I guess there's no time like the present!  I never showed you the final result of Carter's room!  The post talking about it can be seen here and was from the day the room got painted, just over a week before Carter was born.

I think the "after" post got lost in the shuffle because that last week or so was hellish and I'm not even sure how much I got done in the room.  And after that I had plenty of other things to talk about, I guess!  The room has remained mostly the same since then, with a few fun additions.  I just wanted to highlight some of the fun pieces. 

This picture looks a little cramped, and it sort of is, but probably not as bad as this picture makes it look. 

That chair on the left has seen lots of late nights nursing and lots of evenings of bedtime stories!  The rocking chair on the right was mine when I was little.  Jacob never really got into it, but Carter loves it.  Sitting on the chair is Carter's stuffed Figment from EPCOT.  Figment was my favorite when I was a kid and I figured since Carter had no opinion when we were there, Figment would be a fun one!  The chair rail border is the original crib bumper (my beloved Baby Snoopy theme).  My big brainstorm when Jacob was born was to hang it on the wall.  I did it again here and love it.  The blue table used to be a great match with our guest room, but it has worked well in the nursery, too.  Right now it holds the humidifier and an old CD player that we use for listening to some books that come with CDs.  On the wall to the right of the window is a crocheted prayer quilt that we received from the church for Carter's baptism.  Above the closet door is a gorgeous needlepoint of Carter's name.  We got a matching one for Jacob, too, and they were given to us by the wife of a friend of ours.  I'd never even met her, but I've known her husband since my day with the Amerks and she sent those along during the worst of our struggles with Jacob.  It was so sweet.  On the door is an alphabet thing that was once Jacob's.  The only other thing to note here is that the window only has blinds on it, but soon the blue curtains in the "before" picture will be making a return.  They're currently in Jacob's room (as he is far more sensitive to light), but as sunrise gets earlier, I know Carter will need some in his room.  He's getting the blue ones and Jacob is getting new red ones!

Here is the opposite side of the room.  The door (the vantage point from the last picture) is to the right of this one. 

Carter is sleeping in the crib, in case you're wondering.  I've still got part of the breathable bumper up on the crib because he has a tendency to throw himself against the rails.  The decorations above the crib are stuffed squares that match the Baby Snoopy theme.  The bookshelf was a freebie from our old neighbors at our old house.  It came at just the right time, when we needed display and storage space in Jacob's room.  It has been a godsend.  On the top shelf is the bear that Carter was photographed with every month during his first year, as well as a stuffed moose that my co-workers gave me as part of my surprise mini-shower.  Carter's bank is up there, along with a picture of us and the grandparents on his Christening day and a fancy Noah's Ark water globe he got as a baby gift.  On the shelves above there's a bear that came with flowers we got when Jacob was born, along with a gorgeous personalized cross from his godmother.  The other shelf has his baby monitor camera, a wooden moose on wheels that we got at a craft show for Jacob when he was one, and a beanie baby moose from his great-grandmother's collection.

To the left of the door is the changing table. 

The quilt above the table is the original from the bedding set.  Right at the changing table is a dollar store wall decal of a sea serpent.  I added the alphabet (another dollar store set) following the curves above it.  The clock in the middle is a Knighthawks uniform clock that was a season ticket holder gift a few years back.  I had a cool, modern white clock there for a long time, but it stopped working and the Knighthawks one is fun...and the first sports thing in the room!  The cross is a ceramic Precious Moments one and it was a Christening gift for Jacob, and it's too fragile (and probably to him, too babyish) to be in his room...so here it stands.

That's pretty much it but I had to include this one because none of the other shots got a view of the lovely needlepoint from my oldest friend, Heather, that basically reads like a birth announcement.  Jacob has a matching one.  Someday they will no doubt hang together somewhere in our house, but for now they're in each boy's room.

So, two years later, there it is.  I love the blue so much because it is such a calming but bright color.  It's just clean and fresh and I hope it will grow with him as he gets older.  Absolutely worth what we paid the painter, too, just to have it done well and painlessly!

I also mentioned in the original post that I'd post pictures of Jacob's room, but to be honest, his is still a work in progress.  He's got fun sports bedding, a cool stair-step cube bookshelf, a couple of fun wall decorations (Knighthawks decals, a retro Topps baseball card tin sign, a wooden US map showing the major league baseball teams, a cool sign with his name), a soccer bean bag chair that he never sits in, and basketball hoops on both the wall and the door.  But it needs a little help still, so maybe once the new curtains are up I will get serious about it and post a picture then. 

But at least I've gotten this one covered...two years later.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Purple for Amanda

The morning I lost my job, I happened to see that there had been a new CaringBridge post about Amanda, the cancer-stricken daughter of friends of mine from college.  The post revealed that she had taken a pretty significant turn for the worse, suddenly needing a major increase in her morphine dose.  The inkling at the time was that it was the beginning of the end.  The morphine made her sleep all the time, and at the time they were afraid she might never be wide awake and interactive again.  They were a week away from her 6th birthday and decided to celebrate a bit early, just in case.  She wasn't really able to enjoy it, though that celebration seemed to set off a flood of tributes to Amanda.  People had their own parties and her favorite color purple started popping up everywhere, but there was a very real fear that she wouldn't make it to her birthday. 

But make it she did.  Not only did she make it that extra week, but she continued to remain stable for weeks after...to the surprise of pretty much everyone.  Of course, for a girl that has been a fighter since her diagnosis, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise.  She's always exceeded expectations and amazed even the most experienced medical professionals caring for her.  Per her parents, she never complained.  She battled for more than two years and only near the end did it really keep her down.  She was a living, breathing miracle.

She became something of a local celebrity thanks to a special feature article that the newspaper did on the palliative care team at Golisano Children's Hospital in which she was prominently featured.  A Facebook page popped up, inspired by something her mom wrote, and people started hanging up purple ribbons and posting photos of them.  We have two outside our house--one on the tree and one on the porch.  At this rate the tree one might be there until spring because I'm not going through three feet of snow to get it!  Every US state, numerous Canadian provinces, and quite a few countries around the world were represented.  It was truly wonderful to see support coming from all over. 

Saturday morning's CaringBridge post shared that Amanda's heart rate had spiked overnight.  Apparently that's one of the signs that the end was near, and when I didn't see a post first thing this morning, I was worried.  When I got home from church and saw a notification of a new post, immediately I got nervous.  The post was a short one.  Amanda passed away at 3:12am Sunday morning. 

Although it is a terribly sad loss for everyone who knew her (and even those of us who didn't), the bittersweet joy, of course, is that after more than two years of fighting, that sweet little girl is healed and rejoicing in Heaven.  While those down here weep and mourn, she is whole and at peace. 

As a parent, my heart breaks for her parents, Liz and Paul, and her four siblings.  I can't imagine the depth of their loss.  Their entire lives have revolved around Amanda's every need for so long.  The loss itself is so heartbreaking, but I also think of the practical side of things--how do you ever find your "new normal" after so much time living this "other" life?  Maybe I'm just more aware of it because my life took a big 180-degree swing four weeks ago and I've had to find a "new normal", too.  Of course, mine is hopefully temporary, and theirs is a very difficult version of forever.  While I will certainly be praying for their comfort and peace, I will also be praying that the family can find its way back to a normal life, albeit one without their precious Amanda Panda.  It's one thing to mourn as they will in the days to come, and it's another thing to live with the loss for the weeks, months, and years beyond.  I imagine it seems impossible, an insurmountable task.  I know they draw great strength from their faith and from the army of prayer warriors surrounding them.  But the unthinkable has occurred and there is certainly a hole there that is nearly impossible to fill.

It seems like such a senseless loss, leaving all of us here to wonder why cancer had to take another young life, such a sweet, amazing girl with so much life to live.  But there is no doubt that Amanda has touched so many in her short life.  She has inspired countless people to live with more purpose, to find the little miracles, and to savor every second.  Hopefully her story will contribute to the effort to bring more awareness to childhood cancer, the research for which is generally underfunded compared to so many other cancers.  There is no doubt that her death cannot be in vain, but it remains to be seen exactly how and to what extent her life and death will impact the world she lived in.  For the time being, the world is just a little bit sadder than it was 24 hours ago, but I truly believe that in the long run, her joyful, fighting spirit will leave this world a much better place, somehow.

But for tonight my thoughts and prayers and with her family and friends.  Yesterday I painted my toes purple in her honor, and early this morning I added some glitter.  Little did I know that it would come to represent the confetti upon her entrance to Heaven.  Even still, those purple toes will hang in there for a while, a frequent reminder to pray and remember.  Rest in peace, Amanda.  This world will miss you, but we'll see you in heaven someday...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

News & Notes, Buried in Snow Edition

We've got close to a couple feet of snow on the ground already and we're supposed to get another foot by Tuesday morning.  It's been really cold most of the last couple weeks, with the exception of a day or two.  The one day it was in the low 30s it felt like it was 50.  It's been that cold.  I'm grateful I don't have to go out in the snow much right now, but the thought of more snow is making me a little crazy.  The snow banks are getting high, so high it's hard to toss shoveled snow on top of them in spots.  It'll be interesting.  Funny that we're getting this storm this weekend, because two years ago this weekend we got a similar storm.  It happened right in the stretch run of my pregnancy...which, of course, means...

Carter turns TWO in one week!  I cannot believe he's going to turn two already.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday (or maybe only a year ago, if nothing else) that I was giantly pregnant (for me) and super uncomfortable.  Reading back in the blog from the weeks leading up to his birth, I marvel at how it all played out.  I was so sure he was coming early, but I still had no idea when.  I talked a lot about planning ahead, but it's so interesting reading it back knowing how quickly things would happen afterward.  It was such an adventure.  I just marvel at his newborn pictures and what a difference two years can make.  Even still, sometimes I'm amazed at how I feel like Jacob was so much older when he turned two.  I don't know if he was talking more, or my perspective is just different the second time around, or if the boys are just so different that it's impossible to compare.

His party isn't for a couple weeks so I can be in a bit of denial for now.  I have an idea of what I want to do for his cake, but I still need to figure out food for the party (whether to go easy with pizza or find some winter home cookin' option, since the usual dogs and burgers don't really work right now).  It's rare to have time like this to plan, but I'm a little nervous about getting overconfident and running out of time in the end.  Next weekend Craig will be out of town for Carter's actual birthday (and Valentine's Day), so I'm trying to find ways to make the weekend special while still saving some of the fun for Monday when Craig is home.  Singing, cupcakes, presents...hopefully a little of all three both days!  His birthday is such a nice little bright spot in the midst of the worst of winter!

Yesterday would have been my 9th anniversary at my old job.  It's still a little surreal that I'm no longer there, but I think the sting is wearing off a bit.  Of course, I haven't really made much progress in my job hunt.  I still have the three applications in at one place, and earlier in the week I sent my resume to another place.  I think right now it's more of a timeline thing than a lack-of-interest thing for the three applications, so I'm not worried yet.  I still have a couple more things to look into, but now that LinkedIn progress has leveled off a bit, I feel a little less productive on my kid-less days than I did initially.

Carter is saying a ton of words now, and he loves repeating words.  In the last week or two he's been getting better at phrases.  I love how he adds adjectives to words.  It's hard to explain his intonation, but right now he says each word with the same intonation so it sounds very robotic.  Picture an automated system that fills in words, and imagine how it would say something like "red car".  It's so cute.  He even said "I love you" back to Craig on the phone today.  Yesterday he counted, "One, two" to me when he had two pieces of a clementine on his tray.  He may not fully get it, but he did touch each piece with his finger when he counted.  I got all excited so hopefully he will continue to get it.  He's definitely in the terrible two stage with some of the tantrums he's been throwing, but he does crack us up all the time. 

Aside from his suspension, Jacob has been doing okay.  We're definitely dealing with a lot of backtalk and attitude, but as a whole we're so much more functional than we were even a year ago.  Sometimes he can be really great to hang out with, but lately he's been really fixated on a couple things and it's been tough to deal with.  He's constantly talking about his Playmobil guys and which sets he still wants.  No matter how many times I tell him that he's not getting anything until his birthday, he constantly pages through the catalog and talks about it.  It drives me nuts.  He's also been compulsively washing his hands.  We know the main issue that's triggering it, but we can't figure out why he's convinced that he needs to still wash his hands when the trigger isn't present.  He will wash every couple minutes sometimes, and he can't seem to help himself when we ask him about it.  It seems a little OCD, but I think it's just a temporary glitch in his brain that isn't unlike his tendency to fixate on other things.  Sometimes it's a positive-ish fixation (sports, toys), sometimes it's not.  It'll definitely be something we chat with the therapist about.  We also have to deal with the anger issues that caused the suspension, and we need to deal with the attitude.  He flat-out says "no" to our demands, and he likes to counter our ultimatums with his own ultimatum.  Excuuuuse me?  Ah, no.  Rest assured that we always get our way, but learning from experience has never been his strong suit.  I wouldn't feel like such a nag if he did learn, but maybe someday it will all sink in.  In the meantime I'll be banging my head against the wall.  Only because I love him so much and this all just kills me.

We've got a couple eventful weeks ahead so hopefully I won't be dwelling on the same stuff all the time.  In the meantime, here is a cute shot of Carter I took the other day, in my effort to get a cute, current picture to include in his party invite.  Enjoy :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Irony of Punishment

Last night I was thinking about Jacob's whole suspension thing, and I thought back to high school.  Back then I realized that any sort of suspension (out-of-school or in-school) seemed so stupid.  You're taking (in most cases) kids that most need to be in school and you're either sending them home or sending them to a room where they don't have to go to class and have a cool teacher (and from what I remember hearing, other little perks).  It seemed so counterproductive.  If they're misbehaving so badly in school, chances are they don't want to be there.  So they do what they're not supposed to and you give them what they want?!  Even as a teenager that setup seemed so dumb to me.

Last year Jacob had an afterschool suspension, too, and I thought that, too, was dumb, because...hello?  His goal in life is to be picked up at dismissal time.  He begs to be a car rider.  Heck, he's already been asking if he can be a car rider the day before his birthday--in JUNE.  He usually says he doesn't like the afterschool program, but I know he has fun sometimes and likes most of the teachers, too.  I do think he has issues with the kids sometimes, which I think is partly because he's such a different-thinking kid and he doesn't always fit in.  But like I said yesterday, he's not a dangerous kid.  He can lose his temper and act out physically a bit (hence his attempted air punch), but I don't really feel like anything he would do is more than kids just do.  Not that it's right--I get that--but I know Jacob's been on the receiving end of some roughhousing, too, and I can't help but wonder if there was punishment then.  It seems like he gets caught retaliating a lot, based on what he tells us. Anyway...the point of all of this is that the suspension helps him avoid the afterschool program, which isn't necessarily a punishment for him.  Again, it's a little counterproductive.

Last night I'll admit I wasn't really in a warm fuzzy mood.  Both kids were making me crazy and the last thing I wanted to do was spend quality time with them.  It felt like giving them that time immediately after their difficult behavior would be validation or a reward.  That's not really the precedent I wanted to set, since the last correlation I want is that "bad behavior = fun time with mom".  But the more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt.  I should never withhold the best of me from my kids, and quite frankly, quality time with me is probably one way to fix some of the behavior issues.  I mean, in theory, the more loved and secure they feel, the less they should feel the need to act out to get attention.  But still, in my anger and exhaustion it didn't happen.

Anyway, it just struck me funny that the suspension and my reaction had sort of a strange parallel.  Both of the "punishments" were well-intentioned but not the most constructive given the circumstances.  Even though the punishment tactics differed (the school one would probably be considered desirable in Jacob's eyes, while my exclusion probably wouldn't be), neither instance really set the stage for any sort of improvement.  How easy it was for me to criticize their technique, when I was doing my own version at home.

But just as Jacob said last night, today was a new day.  We had a pretty easy morning getting Jacob off to the bus, Carter and I built with Duplos, and he had an early lunch and nap so he'd get enough sleep in before we had to pick Jacob up from school.  We had a relatively low-stress trip to Wegmans, a dinner I knew they'd both eat, and a pleasant evening where the boys nearly played Duplos together (believe me, "nearly" is noteworthy in this house).  Carter played nice, I finally found a couple missing toys in the last place I could think to look, and I snuggled with Jacob on the couch while we watched all of the Valentine-themed Charlie Brown specials on DVD.  Both boys went down pretty easily and my solo time involved listening to Craig broadcast the Knighthawks game, watching My 600-lb. Life on the DVR (it has become my TV obsession during this time off), and paging through one of the magazines in the foot-high stack I've collected over the years that I need to eliminate while I have the time.  It was a much better day and I'm relieved.  Once in a while you just need an easy one.

On to tomorrow...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One of those nights....

Craig is on his way to Minneapolis for work tonight, and it just so happens that we had one of those nights tonight.  UGH.

It had been a relatively decent day.  I had a bit of a wacky morning, though.  The other day the neighbor's plow guy got stuck for a good couple hours on the edge of the property, digging a pretty significant rut into the grass (and providing great dinner prep entertainment).  This morning as I went out to shovel, he pulled in the driveway to apologize and say that he'd fix the grass in the spring.  He offered to plow out our driveway today, and initially I said no, but he insisted.  He proceeded to get stuck twice, for a couple minutes each time, due to some really bad technique on his part.  I was a little panicky, but eventually he was done.  I headed off to the gym and got a great workout in, then had a pretty low key afternoon.  I did manage to hang up a new smoke detector and start the curtain process in Jacob's room.

The problems started when I went to pick up the boys.  I picked up Jacob first and found out he'd been suspended from the afterschool program for tomorrow because he punched a teacher in the stomach.  Anyone that knows Jacob knows he wouldn't do that maliciously, but he does have a temper and it clearly went horribly wrong.  As he tells it, he got mad playing a game and meant to punch the air in anger (which he does quite a bit), but somehow ended up hitting a teacher instead.  I know there's no excuse, and we're both very unhappy about this, but at the same time I know how upset Jacob was and I know that he didn't mean to do what he did.  I sort of wish there was some sort of discussion or appeal in cases like this, but so far nothing like that has ever been offered up.  Believe me, I will push for it if it comes to that.  He may be impulsive, but I know he's not dangerous.  Regardless, he's out for tomorrow and I have a feeling he's only a step or two away from getting banned for the year.  That would be bad.  We're going to make an effort to go back to his therapist so he can work through a few issues--his anger, his issues with his brother, and his renewed compulsive handwashing, which hasn't been an issue in a long time.  The therapist never works great with his schedule, but particularly now with me off, we really need to do it.  In the meantime, electronics are off limits--no iPad, no Wii, no power over the TV (meaning, it may be on, but he cannot choose what we watch).

Carter has been particularly difficult lately, as well.  While he can still be sweet and fun, recently it's been a near-constant stream of "no", jello body/stiff body, mischief, and general battling.  He freaks out when it's time to leave daycare, he melts down waiting for dinner, he is constantly getting into everything he shouldn't, he's always bugging Jacob, and he's constantly testing.  While Jacob had his own brand of trouble, Carter is far more creative, getting into everything.  Tonight he was cranky about eating his dinner and somehow dumped the rest of his plate on the floor.  After dinner he was constantly trying to hang out in the dining room while Jacob did his homework, which I knew Jacob would find distracting, so I was constantly moving him back to the living room.  Then he started hitting me in anger, so he spent some time in his room.  Then he tried getting into Jacob's room, even though he knew he shouldn't, and I was in the midst of talking to Jacob so I put Carter in his room and closed the door.  By the time I opened it, he had somehow pulled out most of a roll of garbage bags that I keep in his cabinet for his diaper pail.  It took me no less than 10 minutes to re-roll the giant pile of connected bags. 

How bad was it?  When I mentioned to Jacob that he had to take a shower tonight, he eagerly ran to the bathroom and started getting undressed.  He never does that.  He kept saying how excited he was for tomorrow morning.  Why, you ask?  Because it will be a new day.  And hopefully a happy day.  Yep, it was that bad. 

I know that I have my issues, too.  My temper flares pretty easily some days, particularly on ones like this one where it's under constant assault.  I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.  If I'm too calm, it seems like the message doesn't get through.  The alternative is me yelling, and that doesn't set a good example.  Carter pretty much laughs at me no matter what, and Jacob just gets indignant.  The funny thing is that the stuff that Jacob pulls with us all the time drives him nuts when Carter does it.  I keep hoping he'll see the similarities, realize how nuts it drives him, and start working on his behavior himself.  God knows I need some work, too.

Sometimes this job is just really stinkin' hard.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unexpected Revelations from the Mom Life

I'm probably getting really boring with all of my revelations from SAHM life, but this experience has really been interesting and full of little things I didn't expect.  And, yes, I have plenty of time to ponder them...

1) I'm less bored than I suspected - I sort of thought that eventually I'd get really bored and just want to nap all the time.  Aside from feeling sleepy right around 4pm every day (possibly not coincidentally around the time I need to start pondering dinner and picking up the kid(s)), I'm keeping myself surprisingly busy.  Days with Carter revolve around meals and naptime, with some playtime in between.  Days without Carter involve going to the gym, working on the job hunt, doing any tasks that require full concentration, and running any errands that are way easier alone.  I've been keeping busy enough with all of that that I still have a number of projects on my to do list...not the least of which is doing a complete window covering overhaul in the boys' rooms.  I've had all of the pieces for months, but drilling into walls and having to measure are both at the top of the "household tasks I hate" list, so it's still not done.  Now I'm not actively avoiding it, either, but I've still been a little too busy to do it.  Regardless, keeping myself on some sort of schedule and having a plan for my days keeps me more focused and less likely to turn into a blob.

2) I'm really not that much better at planning dinner - I've had major problems meal planning for a long time, but it's gotten considerably worse since we went gluten-free.  Our choices are much more limited and the kids are picky, and the handful of meals that work get old relatively quickly.  I think my brain just subconsciously avoids it.  I thought it might get easier with more time on my hands, but sadly, it has not.  The good news is that I have a little more leeway for pulling things out to thaw or having the time to run to Wegmans at a moment's notice.  But I still can't seem to plan ahead very well.  Bummer.

3) This may never happen again, so I must enjoy it - As important as it is to get another job, I really do want to enjoy this time as much as I can.  Chances are I may never get an opportunity like this again.  I had seven weeks off twice previously for maternity leave, but that is an exhausting time and the baby pretty much needs to be the entire focus.  I took two weeks off for my wedding, but beyond that it generally hasn't been more than a week at a time.  Having three weeks off in a row without a newborn to care for has been very strange...and strangely easy to settle into.  But because it's so rare, I'm trying to take advantage.  Whether it's taking something off my to do list, finally visiting the Chihuly chandelier, or hopefully going to the art gallery here (I have never been), I want to make the most of this time.  Heck, even getting out to lunch with Craig once in a while would be great, since we don't get many date nights right now.  I want to maximize the twice-weekly childcare and having available daylight for more than an hour a day.

4) I don't hate housework as much as I thought - I used to think I hated housework.  I didn't want to vacuum, dust, do laundry, do dishes, scrub floors, etc.  And while I still don't love it, I learned that the main reason I hated it was because I was in a constant time crunch and that was NOT how I wanted to spend my free time.  Now that I have some time I really don't mind it as much as I thought.  I guess it's all just part of feeling like I'm contributing to the household somehow.

5) It's easy to feel like a freeloader even though I'm not yet - I still have more than a month of severance left, but I'm already trying to make a major effort to save money and actively contribute to the overall quality of life in our household.  Even though we're still bringing in the same amount of money (even more, actually, since Carter isn't at daycare as much), I'm just overly conscious of the fact that I'm spending my days at home and it probably looks like I'm not accomplishing much aside from some laundry and a few job applications.  I can see where I'd feel guilty spending any money if I wasn't bringing in anything.  I am well aware that true stay-at-home moms serve a very important purpose, but I can see the financial part of it bothering me a lot.  Other people may be fine with it, but I think all of these years of us both being significant contributors would throw things a bit off-kilter if that changed.

6)  Accomplishing things for my family is so much more rewarding - At my old job, my life revolved around a queue of tasks that needed to be done.  I very much enjoyed the feeling of checking something off the list.  I originally thought I'd feel unfulfilled at home because I wouldn't have the same sense of accomplishment, but it turns out that doing things at home--almost anything, really--is more personally fulfilling than the things I was doing at work, mostly because I know it's for my family, and my family is forever.  There's a very stark reality that happens when you lose your job and you once considered your job part of your identity.  Suddenly that part of your identity is gone and you feel a little abandoned.  You wonder why you sometimes put work ahead of your family, if work was just going to crap on you like that.  It becomes quite clear where your priorities should lie, and doing anything for them feels more rewarding and more permanent than anything you could do for an employer.  In reality, work is important and you have to give it your all if you want to stay employed, but I hope I can keep in mind the big picture next time around.

Just taking things one day, one meal, one task at a time...we'll see where things go from here!