Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Working Together (Sort Of...)

Before I get into the main topic of this post, I wanted to mention something I forgot to include in my last News & Notes post.  That's what I get for writing distracted and/or tired!  Anyway, Jacob had a couple very good days at school last week.  Thursday I got an email from his teacher.  Those always scare me a little, but this was a good one!  He wore his fedora to school that day (the one he got for his birthday), first of all, and she thought it was so cute!  Then she said that he got to get on the P.A. system that morning and ask everyone to stand for the pledge.  For the pledge he took off his hat and held it over his heart, which his teacher said melted every adult's heart in the room!  I credit going to a lot of sporting events and being around a military/political family, but it was really nice to hear.  Then on Friday he was a "Bucket Filler", which is a special designation at his school.  I don't know the full process for getting named one, but I think you earn bucket filler coupons for doing good things, and every week someone gets picked from each class to go to a special event where they do a craft, among other things.  It took a while for him to be one last year and I was wondering about this year since his behavior had been so much better overall.  It was nice to hear he'd finally been chosen.  Finally, he also told us that a vase he made in art class got picked for the district-wide art show at the mall coming up in the next couple months.  I haven't gotten confirmation on that yet, but I'm very excited!  I'm sure there will be pictures if he is indeed right!

Anyway...Monday was the first day of spring break and I was home with both kids.  We had a good start to the day as we all collaborated on making an awesome circus with Duplo blocks!  It turned into quite the project.  Carter was helpful in the beginning but then had a tendency to crawl over things and break them, so he was a little less helpful in the collaboration by the end.  But here is the finished product...
 
The train stops at the entrance and there's a ticket window and official entrance with flags...
 
To the left is a crazy vehicle Jacob made.  I'm not sure what its purpose is here, but I guess it's either a display piece or something for the kids to climb in.  To the right is a playground with a swing, a slide, a ride-on vehicle, and a playhouse.
 
The next section includes a performer on a horse, a bear in an enclosure, and a goat on my Lego version of one of those goat walks (they have them at pumpkin patches where you feed the goats up on the walkways using a pulley system).
 
On the right is a (very unstable) stairway across the tracks to our version of the "big top"...or the "arena" as Jacob called it.  He did all of the very artistic construction of the structure itself

There is some sort of a high dive setup on the left, both where the little girl is standing and above her, with a mat on the ground below.  You can also see the ringmaster standing in the back.

 
Looking at it from another angle, you can see the clown standing on the elephant, and the tiger with the flaming jump.
 
If you look back in the first picture you can also see the fleet of service and security vehicles that Jacob created.  I was happy with the train track because it has two circuits...one to travel around the whole circus and one to just ride around a smaller part like a ride. 
 
We had a lot of fun just getting creative with it!  And even though Carter got to be a bit of a hindrance by the end of it, it was nice that we could all sort of play in the same area without making anyone nuts.  Being at home with both boys is a little like being a full-time referee, since they're constantly in each other's space--Carter just wanting to love Jacob, and Jacob just trying to bait Carter.  Finding one activity that we all can do is challenging!  I can't say that the harmony continued all day, but we did OK.  They're both going to daycare for two days this week, today and Thursday.  I wanted to keep Carter on his schedule, keep my schedule open, and give Jacob a couple days at daycare since he was looking forward to doing break there. 
 
Carter has been under the weather for a few days now.  He got a fever on Sunday and it was gone by midday yesterday, but then the diarrhea started.  It hasn't been out of control, just four or five very loose BMs.  At the same time, he's seemed uncomfortable with eating.  His mood seems too good to be experiencing major discomfort from the diarrhea, but it seems like his teeth might be bothering him.  Two are partly in, and it seems like at least one more is on the verge of breaking through.  He didn't want to eat much of last night's dinner--he'd chew his chicken and then spit it out--and tonight's dinner was even worse.  We went out for pizza, which he seemed excited about, but then he barely ate any of it (like, literally two tiny bites).  He tried to lick some pieces but spit out half of what he did try to chew.  All I can figure is that his teeth are bothering him and it hurts too much to chew.  Poor kid.
 
I'm trying to find a few fun things to do over the next couple days, and then we'll be on to a fun weekend!
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Outside!

As I mentioned in my last post, the weather has been pretty dreadful lately.  The kids have been dying to get outside, so the second the weather was back in the mid-40s with sun and no wind or rain, we were out there!  I was eager to get out and put Easter eggs on our tree and bushes, since Easter is a week away and all of the snow, rain, mud, and cold had kept me from doing it earlier.  Jacob wanted to play baseball, and Carter wanted to ride his bike.  It still wasn't warm, but it was better than it has been!

Not sure what Jacob is doing in this picture, but he's not looking for a pop fly or complaining...I know that much!  I just thought it was funny!

Carter wanted to get in on the baseball action, so Daddy was helping him with his form at the tee...

He wanted to put on the helmet but kept trying to put it on backward!  We were joking that he looked like a character from a Charlie Brown episode where a really little kid wanted to join the baseball team and the helmet was as big as he was!

Once he got it on right, he was a pretty stinkin' cute ballplayer...

Jacob kept working on his fielding and managed to find every patch of mud he could.  Notice the knees, and imagine a matching patch on his butt! 

Between Jacob's mud and Carter brushing up against salty cars in the garage, both winter coats got a late-season washing last night!  It felt good to be outside and feel the sun, but we really need a little more warmth!  The forecast for this week looks a little better than it had been looking, so hopefully we get to be outside a little this week while Jacob is home and I'm enjoying my last week before my new job starts!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

News & Notes, Absent Spring Edition

It snowed overnight.  Well, it snowed all day yesterday, too, but those were just flakes that didn't add up to much.  But last night it snowed.  Per the weather forecast it was only supposed to be less than an inch, but we woke up to a couple solid inches this morning.  That felt a little demoralizing considering spring has been here a week already and it hasn't really felt like it at all.  Despite the fact that it's cold today, the sun has done its job and those couple inches have mostly melted.  Thank goodness.  There's really no end in sight to the cold weather, though.  We're supposed to have a couple days in the 40s and one in the 50s this week, but most of the warmer weather comes with rain, and there's still no 60s to be found.  The boys are just so eager to get outside and play, and the weather has simply not cooperated.  Next Sunday is Easter and the last forecast I saw was a high of 37.  Last year on Easter Jacob was running around in shorts.  Granted, it was a couple weeks later, but still...we haven't been anywhere close to that.  Good thing both boys' planned outfits involve long sleeves!

I'm very excited for Easter, mostly because I'm excited for the boys' Easter baskets.  They're both getting a main gift (a Playmobil set I got cheap for Jacob, and a Matchbox car launcher and some track for Carter, since he's been enjoying the cars and track he got for his birthday), and then I have a couple other little things--mostly candy for Jacob and a little bit of candy and a couple little books for Carter.  I still have yet to figure out if I'm going to hide eggs in addition to baskets, but that also involves the decision of where we'll be Easter morning, and the jury is still out on that.

I'm looking forward to spending Friday with my family--coming into town to see my parents, then heading to my uncle's for our traditional family dinner of prunes and noodles (or, really, noodles and croutons for most of us), then church after that.  The decision is whether we stay in town and deal with two cars once Craig comes in Sunday (since the Knighthawks play Saturday night), or come home Saturday, stick around for church on Sunday, then head back to Buffalo for one or both sides of the family.  It makes for a busy weekend, particularly considering I start work on Monday, but holidays are about family for both of us so we're fine with it.

One exciting thing this week is that we're getting a new storm door!  Yes, that qualifies for exciting these days.  Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of the day we moved into this house, and for five years the storm door has annoyed me!  It's been fine, I guess, but it's a little older, all metal, and has always seemed a little gerry-rigged.  I can tell that the handle has been replaced, and the latch only latches on the edge of the door frame, rather than the little bar apparatus that most doors of that era use.  Well, lately one of the screws holding on the spring cylinder that closes the door has been falling out constantly, so the time has come to replace it.  The day I got my job offer I stopped into Lowe's hoping that I could get it ordered and installed while I'm still home all day.  Installation is now scheduled for Wednesday, so I'm thrilled!  In our old house we put in a storm door with the retractable screen, and I've missed that here in the spring and fall.  The new one will have that, and the construction in general seems more trustworthy with a kid who likes to bang on the glass sometimes. 

Speaking of that five-year anniversary...it's so hard to believe that we've been here five years.  We do feel very at home here so in that way it seems like forever, but when I realize that a) Jacob was younger than Carter is now and he's now pushing seven; and b) we're now been here four months longer than we were in our old house, it sort of blows my mind.  On the bright side, we've spent a mere fraction (knock on wood) in improvements and repairs compared to what we spent in our old house.  There we did windows, basement windows, garage door, garage door opener, front door and storm door, hot water heater, stationary tub, and central air, bought a new stove (that stayed there), and we replaced the bathroom sink right before we put it on the market.  Here we've fixed the garage door and dishwasher, replaced the carpet in two rooms, painted one room...and that might be it aside from the new storm door.  I'd love to replace the bathroom sink because it needs it, and if I'm being picky I'd change out the kitchen sink and dining room light fixture.  In a perfect world I'd love to redo parts of the kitchen and replace the paneling in the basement.  But do you notice the trend?  None of that NEEDS to happen.  Soon we'll probably have to replace the hot water heater and possibly the furnace and central air as they're all getting older, but so far this house has done what we'd hoped--get us out of the constant stream of expensive projects.  The money we'd otherwise have spent upgrading the old house has been put into the mortgage of a much better house that should continue to fit our needs for years to come.  Pretty good trade-off, and I'm glad I can say that five years later.  I still look at our gorgeous living room, huge crawl space, bright kitchen, and giant linen closet, and thank God we stumbled across this house when we did.  When we just missed out on the house that prompted us to get ours on the market, we weren't sure what would happen, but I'm thankful for how things turned out.

Just for some perspective on what five years can do, here's a picture of Jacob from five years ago today, sitting among the moving mess...
He was 21 months here, and he nearly fit in that box!  Notice the baseball in his hand and the hockey stick across his legs.  Gosh, what a cutie.

And here's a picture I took of him last week...
His hair looks nearly the same in both pics, no?  His smile is looking a little odd these days because his top two front teeth are loose.  He was desperately trying to pull one out last night because it's bothering him.  While I get sad when I think of him losing his most prominent baby teeth, the way they constantly move in front of each other is starting to freak me out!  His smile just seems off-kilter and a little extra gummy, so I guess I'm ready for what comes next...
 I say it here often, but time flies.  Now if spring could just get in on that trend, I'd be a happy girl...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Transformative

If I had to label the past 10 weeks with one word, it would be "transformative".  I didn't really go into this thing thinking that I'd come out feeling like a changed person, but I do.  I can't say it's some major, jarring change, but I definitely feel like I've evolved.  I realized shortly after the layoff that I had put so much of my identity into who I was at work, and that no longer applied.   I had to reset my sense of self, and I've had 10 weeks to work through it.

Obviously the most significant part of this experience has been the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom for a while.  While I've been a mom for nearly seven years, the opportunity to stay home and focus on my kids has been limited to maternity leave and a few week-long vacations here and there.  Having 10 weeks to concentrate on home life has been great.  I could truly make the kids a top priority and still have time to do other projects around the house. It was a luxury to spread out my daily tasks to a full day instead of a few exhausting hours at night.  I think that put me in a better mood in general, though admittedly, I'm still not exactly a model mom.  I've spent more time with my butt on the couch and my computer on my lap than I probably should have, especially with Carter around.  I like that he can play on his own, but I know I probably should have been even more interactive than I was.  He's hard to keep up with sometimes as he jumps from toy to toy!  But having the extra time to enjoy his silliness, his post-nap smiles, his skilled lunchtime yogurt-eating, and having a fun little errand buddy, has been priceless.  I'll be happy to get him back to consistent instruction and social interaction at daycare, but I will miss him and his hugs all day.  Jacob didn't benefit from my time off quite as much, but it's been nice to be the one picking him up and having a little time to hear about his day, since that's not always the case when I'm working. 

Through this process I proved to myself that while I could stay home and not lose my mind, we're all probably better suited to having more of a balance.  But exploring my "mom side" a little more was enlightening and I truly loved spending extra time in that role.  The extra spare time has also allowed me to rediscover my creative side and my love of reading.  It was nice to know those elements still existed after so many years of focusing on just work and family.  Hopefully I'll take that as a reminder once things get back to normal that I need to make a point of visiting those parts of me a little more often.

I've definitely watched a lot of TV during this time, and I've noticed that a lot of the shows I've been gravitating to have had a common theme of transformation.  Early on I was really into "My Big Fat Fabulous Life", which is a reality show following a fabulous but obese woman who's at peace with her weight, but still working her way through life as she hits 30.  I've also started watching "My 600-Lb. Life", which I somehow never got into before.  While it's hard to watch at times, it's amazing to see people finally figure out how to reclaim their life.  I've also watched a lot of "What Not to Wear", which has probably been the best parallel of the transition I've been going through.  So many of the subjects are in a tough spot in life, often coming back from a tragedy, or between jobs, or having simply lost sight of themselves to a busy life.  They forgot how important it was to present themselves in a certain way, and over the course of the show their new wardrobe and makeover reconnect them to a confident version of themselves that they forgot was there.  I've had a similar experience as I've worked to rebuild my dress wardrobe after years in jeans.  I've tried to modernize my look and I've bulked up my accessories to give my wardrobe a little more personality.  Seeing myself with a little extra "polish" has been a huge mental boost.

In addition, I've spent the last couple months focusing on selling myself--pinpointing my skills and showcasing them to convince people I can do a job.  Having to pull out those positives and focus in on things that I'm good at has been a nice ego boost, as well.  Even if you know you can do your job, sometimes it's easy to forget that your abilities don't end there.  It's nice to know that other people, specifically people that don't really know you, can see potential in you, as well.  I've felt more confident than I expected throughout this process, and that's been a nice change of pace for me, since confidence has never really been my strong suit. 

Add in some time in the gym and an extended chance to relax and recharge, and I'm coming out of this experience with a fresh perspective.  I know what's important in life and I love being productive when it benefits my family.  I am ready to get the "new me" out into the world and share what I have to offer with a new group of people.  I'm sure it won't take too many long days at work or busy evenings at home to suck some of the life back out of me, but I hope that I can take some of the lessons I learned during this time with me into the next phase of my life.  It's been a huge blessing to have this time, despite the inherent stress, and I hope to carry this experience with me for a long, long time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I GOT IT!

Yesterday morning I was packing up to go to the gym, and the phone rang.  I didn't recognize the number, but it was local so I picked up.  It turned out to be the call I've been waiting for--I got the job!  I am very excited and even happier that a lot of the little details that I was worried about worked out perfectly.

I will be working for the University of Rochester, the largest employer in this area.  I'll be working in the Annual Giving department.  Part of the job involves the mailings to alumni, but the biggest part is analyzing the data to measure success and increase efficiency.  That part uses my Excel skills and I am very excited to join a team of great people.  Everyone I met seems really nice, and the extra bonus is that a former co-worker of mine (two jobs ago) works in the same department (but a different group).  It's nice to know she's there, and she has already invited me to join her for lunchtime walks when the weather breaks!  Obviously the hard part starts when the job does, but at the moment I feel relief to actually have a job, and excitement that the job seems like such a great fit for me.

So much of this experience seems divinely appointed.  Things just fell into place so beautifully, right down to the little details.  See, three years ago I met with my former co-worker for lunch.  A job was open in her department and she thought I'd be a good fit.  It sounded really appealing, but at the time I knew I wanted to have another baby and I really didn't want to leave my old job.  I truly enjoyed the people I worked with and liked what I did.  I didn't like the idea of leaving behind something known for something unknown, and I didn't want to immediately get pregnant and leave my new employer in the lurch, either.  The timing just wasn't right. 

Fast-forward three years, one baby, and one layoff later, and the first person I contacted when I got home after the layoff was my old co-worker.  And in her words, my timing was perfect!  There were open jobs that would work, and based on everything she told me, they sounded great.  And sure enough, the one job in particular seemed like a perfect fit.  It was heavy in Excel and incorporated some elements of skills from my first job, too.  The interview process was downright pleasant, and everyone was so friendly.  There are a lot of working moms there, too.  Getting in at U of R posed a great opportunity, for so many reasons. 

The further I got into this process, the more I realized how perfect it was.  On one hand I was confident that I was a very good candidate for the position, but on the other I worried that some factor would prevent me from getting it, and I feared where that would leave me.  I mean, if there's a position that's such a good match and I don't get it, what does that say about other positions?  About me?  My skills are broad but a little odd, I guess.  My old job was an atypical "analyst" position, and I didn't have certain skills that job postings for "regular" analyst positions requested.  That doesn't exactly put me at the top of those lists.  On the other side of the coin, my skills were broad enough that finding a good search term on job sites was tough.  I worried that if I didn't get this one, I'd never find another one that fit me so well.  

I had a good feeling throughout the process, since my skills lined up so well with what they seemed to be looking for.  I got along well with everyone who interviewed me, and I suppose I was also a "non-contingent" candidate.  You know, when you sell a house, you look for the buyer that doesn't need to sell a house on their end so things can move along quickly.  For this job, I was already free of limitations from another job and ready to get back to work as soon as possible. 

It was a long process, but getting the call on Tuesday morning made everything worth it.  On top of that, it put my mind at ease about a lot of other things.  I don't start until the Monday after Easter, which means I get to spend Good Friday with my family like usual and I won't have to find care for the kids, whose daycare is closed that day.  Jacob is off all next week, too, so I'll be able to spend some of the week with him.  I'm putting them both on Carter's Tuesday-Thursday schedule, just in case anything else comes up that needs attending to, and so Jacob gets a couple days at daycare like he always wants.

In addition, the salary was higher than expected, vacation is comparable (though I will miss my Christmas week off!), and my concerns about having to start earlier in the morning ended up to not be an issue.  It really looks like a great situation all around.  It won't be an easy job--everyone definitely seems busy--but I hope it's work I love.

So, I have a little over a week to enjoy my time off, have time with the kids, and tie up any loose ends.  I have to do a little running around tomorrow--some work-related and some not--and I need to start making firm plans for next week.  I still have a couple projects to get to, I need to plan food for Easter meals, and I want to investigate a couple fun things for Jacob's break.  Never a dull moment, even 10 weeks into this break!  Crazy.  But I'm so thrilled to have this new job that I think it's offsetting my sadness that my time off is coming to an end.  I'll have a lot of thoughts on this experience in the days to come, but within a couple weeks we'll be back to your regularly scheduled working mom programming :)

Stay tuned...  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Not What We Were Expecting....

A month or so ago, Jacob's lacrosse team decided to do a group outing to a Syracuse University lacrosse game.  I've been to the Carrier Dome for one or two events related to the lacrosse team (alumni stuff that Craig wants to cover, mostly), but this was my first real game.  With Craig having this weekend off (which almost never happens and was very fortunate!), we couldn't wait to go.  As with so many things that are planned in advance, it didn't go quite how we planned it.

Saturday evening we ran out to the mall because Craig needed some new jeans, and as we were waiting in line I noticed that Jacob had a minor rash on the back of his neck.  It was on his back and his belly, as well.  It wasn't really itchy and he felt fine other than a cold he's had for a couple days, so I figured we'd just keep an eye on it.  We had a small window the next morning where we could get him into the doctor and not be late for the 12:30 game (plus the 1:45 drive down the Thruway), so we just kept that in mind.

The rash wasn't any better the next morning, so Craig took him to the doctor just to be safe.  His rapid strep test was negative, but the doctor gave him antibiotics just in case the real test came back positive, since the rash can be a symptom.  He still seemed fine and wasn't considered contagious, so we headed off to Syracuse a little later than we'd have liked, but still on time.  I brought a sandwich for Jacob to eat in the car, since we weren't going to have time to stop for lunch beforehand, and the rest of us could more easily eat at the stadium.  Well, somewhere along the way, he started to not feel great.  He drank a juice box but did not want the sandwich. 

A few minutes outside the city we ran into major traffic.  Apparently most of it was going to the game, which surprised us.  We ended up sitting in traffic for over a half hour, which made us late to the game.  If that wasn't enough, parking was hard to come by and we ended up being directed off to a residential quad up the hill from the stadium to park.  It was crazy and quite frustrating.  I had to pee very badly and I was getting hungry, Jacob was complaining that he was nauseous, and we were really late to the game already.  By that point, I was ready to just go back home.  I didn't want to worry about a sick kid and the whole experience was exhausting.  Jacob decided at the last minute that he felt okay enough to walk himself into the game, so we all sucked it up and headed in. 

We made it in sometime during the second quarter, but between bathroom breaks, snacks, moving seats, and whatever else, we didn't really get to settle in and enjoy the game until the second half.  By then Jacob was pretty low key and visibly not feeling well.  But we wanted to stick it out until the end because Jacob's team was supposed to go on the field post-game.  Here are a couple shots from the game...
It was very well attended and we ended up in the upper deck!

Syracuse goal celebration!  They went out to a huge lead (13-1 at halftime)! Syracuse is ranked #1 and Duke #4, so the lopsided game was a surprise.


Syracuse wins, 19-7!
After the game we briefly made it down on the field.  A few of Jacob's teammates, as well as some of the older team and some of the girls team, were there as well.  Jacob is the 4th kid from the right.

While we were down there, I snapped this very simple, pleasantly geometric shot of the dome from directly below.

Carter was loving being on the field, and really wanted to play goal!  We got shooed off the field pretty quickly after this, and he screamed the whole way off, the whole way up the stairs, and up in the concourse for a few minutes while we got ready to go.  He really wanted to stay down there!

Jacob really wasn't feeling great by that point, but he gutted it out.  Even though he was disappointed about not being able to spend more time on the field, I did manage to get a nice shot of him on the way off the field...

We got back on the road and the boys fell asleep in the first half hour or so.  Jacob woke up when we had to stop for gas, and went back and forth between feeling OK and being on the verge of throwing up for most of the rest of the trip.  We got home around dinner time and I got the food ready while the boys played.  I gave Jacob the option of eating something really basic--a couple chicken nuggets--instead of the homemade mac and cheese.  He ate that and seemed fine--not great, but stable.  Later on, closer to bedtime, we were watching a movie, and suddenly he was throwing up on the couch!

Most of the time Jacob is pretty self-aware about feeling sick, and he's usually the first one to want the bucket or to run up to the bathroom.  I have no idea what happened this time.  Craig got him cleaned up and settled, and I got Carter into bed (it was time and I wanted him out of the way and away from the germs!) and then worked on laundry...lots of towels AND the couch cushion covers, which I'd never attempted to wash before.  Only two needed it, but I wanted them to match, just in case, so I did all three.  I Febreezed the foam, as well, and hoped for the best.  Jacob woke up about an hour after he went to sleep and threw up again, this time on the comforter we'd laid out on his floor for him to sleep on.  I think that was just sleep grogginess preventing him from getting to the bucket in time.  I threw in another load of laundry and Craig slept in Jacob's room just in case he got sick again (he didn't).

Today I'm home with both kids.  Jacob is doing better, eating and drinking a bit but still having moments where he's unsure it will stay down.  He watched a lot of Scooby-Doo this morning, but this afternoon he's perked up enough to play on the iPad.  The rash seems to have mostly cleared from his torso, but it's really up on his cheeks now.  I told him he looks like a teenager with acne ;-)  Poor kid, he just can't catch a break.

At this point I'm clearly hoping that none of the rest of us get it.  Carter was a little odd this morning in that he didn't want to eat breakfast and was a little more cranky than usual, but he snacked on cereal later, ate lunch just fine, fought his nap a bit, and has now been sleeping for about an hour and a half.  I'm definitely keeping an eye out for a rash or any sign that he's getting this virus.  Craig and I have had some tummy rumbles and things like that, but sometimes I think we psych ourselves out a bit.  We'll see. 

The good news is that I'm still home to take care of any sickies.  The bad news, of course, is that I'm no longer making money as I sit here.  Over the weekend I got a response to my Friday follow-up saying that I might hear something today on the job front.  The message seemed positive (there was a "hang in there...it'll be worth it" vibe, I felt) and included a smiley face emoticon, which I took as a good sign.  Nothing yet today, however, which could be a function of HR handling that end of things, rather than the people within the group I'd be working with.  I don't mind hanging in there for a couple extra days...but only if I get it in the end!  I can't get unemployment until Wednesday, technically, because my severance went until last Tuesday and you need a no-pay week.  Hopefully I can at least squeak out a little money during this time, right?

So...still waiting, on a lot of fronts, I suppose.  Waiting on the job, waiting on illnesses, waiting on money, waiting to plan out our Easter weekend...but hopefully we'll get some good answers soon!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Boys

Gosh, I love my boys.  They make me absolutely crazy, but I love them so much.  Mothering little boys is such a bizarre, awesome, challenging task, and most days I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge.  But then I walk by the girls clothing section or hear about some sort of tween girl drama and figure out that girls are absolutely no easier.  So I refocus on the task at hand--turning two crazy little boys into capable, caring men.  Yup, it's overwhelming.

The boys are like oil and water right now, which isn't making things any easier.  Carter absolutely loves Jacob and thinks he's the greatest human ever.  Of course, that doesn't stop him from randomly walking up and hitting him, so there's that...but most of the time he just wants to hug his brother and is always very concerned about where he is and what he's doing.  If Jacob walks out of sight when we're out in public, Carter asks, "Brudder?"  Or during the day when we're home, he'll often say, "Brudder school?"  He genuinely cares about him and lives for any attention he can get--positive or negative, I suppose.  So when he's tackling a very unwilling Jacob, I think he just appreciates that Jacob is acknowledging his existence at all.  They wrestle a lot, which usually doesn't end well.  Carter's random assaults on his brother don't really help his case, but he just can't help himself.  Jacob has zero patience and zero compassion in those instances, which we need to work on, but amidst those we have had a handful of decent moments where Jacob will let Carter play a sport with him.  Jacob's patience or Carter's attention usually wanes before long, but it's a start. 

Incidentally, I laughed a bit tonight as I played some knee hockey with Carter, because he's still learning how to hold the stick right and get off a decent shot.  At this age Jacob lived with a stick in his hand and already had perfect form in at least a couple sports.  That's not to say Carter won't be an athlete--he's got a strong arm, for sure--but clearly his skills are not as innate as Jacob's.  But Carter does things I don't remember Jacob doing on a regular basis--like driving around cars and willingly giving lots of wonderful hugs.  Jacob was a cuddler but not a hugger, and Carter is the opposite...although lately he's acquired the attention span to watch TV shows and loves sitting on the couch (often on top of whichever parent is on the couch) to watch.  But ever since he stopped getting a nighttime bottle, snuggling and sleeping on people has been a rarity.  But the hugs make up for it!  He gives real squeezes, and I'm not sure Jacob did more than drape his arms.  Carter also loves to dance and make noise with instruments or toys.  He sings a few songs and can be so cute just playing with his toys.  He'll put some Duplos together and say his trademark phrase, "I did it!"  My favorite is when he drives his stuffed carrot car (with a bunny driver--it was in Jacob's first Easter basket) around his crib rails, sound effects and all.  He's so darn cute.  Of course, it doesn't come without a stubborn side, like when he throws a tantrum every time we can't stay outside and play, but he's a funny little dude.

Jacob is such a unique kid.  There are moments where I absolutely want to pull my hair out...when he mindlessly chews tiny holes in a brand new shirt, when he talks back or argues a ridiculous point for no apparent reason, when he has zero ability to wait for anything or consider someone else's situation, when it seems like everything out of his mouth is a complaint or a demand, or when he simply can't seem to keep his mouth shut.  Those moments make me crazy, and they happen a lot more often than I'd like.  But then I see him fidgeting or dancing around like he has to pee, and I ponder all of the things I've read about hyperactivity over the past few years.  I hear him complain about a stomach ache and I worry about his Celiac disease.  I see him forget about the simplest, most obvious things--like brushing his teeth after breakfast instead of running right to his iPad in the morning, or remembering his take-home folder every afternoon--and I wonder how he'll manage when there are bigger things to remember.  All of those things are a reminder that he's managing a much different set of factors than I did at his age.  As a result, it's extra hard to find the line between being sensitive to his needs and still trying to keep him on track.  Still, he's got such an amazing mind in that head of his.  While so much of what makes it from his head to his mouth could use some serious filtering, it's clear that the wheels are always turning.  The pictures he draws can be truly impressive, and the random facts and scenarios that he comes out with can make your head spin.  Lately he's been really into rugby.  It all started about a month ago when we randomly caught a rugby match on TV.  I looked up some of the rules to help us understand what was going on, and not long after he asked me to download a rugby app on his iPad.  He plays it a lot and is now a serious rugby expert (in his mind, anyway).  Right now he wants a rugby ball for his birthday and asked me to look up rugby cakes on Pinterest.  They all were either way too complicated (a scrum made out of fondant?!) or looked a lot like football aside from the goalposts.  I'll have to try to remember to post a picture of the rugby picture he drew.  It's really pretty cool, and his passion is clearly illustrated. 

Thanks to various sports apps, he probably knows more foreign flags than most people and has asked us a million questions about various geographical and political relationships between countries.  I always say that talking to him tends to be like that one Google commercial (I think), where someone mentions a topic in conversation and the other person starts spewing random phrases somehow associated with, but not necessarily relevant to, that topic.  For example, they could bring up the Easter bunny, and their friend starts talking about rabbit food or Easter Island or egg recipes.  You just never know where a certain topic will take his mind.  It's as impressive as it is exhausting, and while I constantly wonder how he will interact with others as he gets older, I still feel like there's something in there that can contribute great things to society. 

He's really smart, but when the going gets tough, he loses his patience.  Earlier today he was talking about where he wants to go to high school (it's a constant debate in this family given the state of the schools in our district vs. the cost of a Catholic education), and I told him that if he wants to go to the Catholic high school, he's really going to have to buckle down and get used to school work, because that school only takes kids that are up for the challenge that their rigorous educational experience provides.  I know he's got the brain for it, but does he have the patience to put it to good use?  For the things he loves, his passion and his fact-filled brain can take him a long way.  I love watching him improve, be it in lacrosse or in his school work.  I love when he gets excited about things and when I get a legitimate chance to praise him for something.  He talked recently about a project he did in art, and that there was a chance that it could make it into the school district's art show at the mall.  I have no idea what the odds are it will, but the excitement on his face as he talked about it, and as I got excited at the prospect of seeing it there, really warmed my heart.  I know he feels like he doesn't get the same attention as Carter and he thinks we go out of our way to make his life miserable, but when so much of what he does is decidedly less cute (and often downright obnoxious), it's hard to give him that same positive attention.  So when I get the chance, I do everything I can to help him see that we love him and can get just as excited about him if given the chance.

Life with our boys is such a blessing and such a challenge.  We have two very different individuals to raise, and that's not always easy.  What worked for one might not work for another, and rules that make sense for one might not make sense for the other.  Keeping things fair is never easy, particularly when one is too young to know better and the other should know better but can't always translate that into reality.  It may not be what we bargained for, but at least it keeps things interesting and reminds us that creativity beats a cookie-cutter approach any day.  I know that as a parent I should say that I wouldn't change a thing about my kids, but I won't lie--I hate that we face so many battles as a family on any given day.  I desperately wish that my kids got along.  I fear that some of Jacob's quirks will leave him feeling isolated as time goes on.  My heart hurts when I see Jacob deal with another crappy aspect of the Celiac life or when he can't seem to get past some facet of his unique personality.  But I know that some people would give up their right arm just to have two kids to write about, and I know that our problems often pale in comparison to what some people deal with on a daily basis.  I've written here about my friends whose kids have battled cancer, and hopefully one of these days I will tell the story of a friend of mine from college who is living an unthinkable hell thanks to a flawed judicial system.  My problems are nothing compared to those folks, so I know that I am blessed beyond measure every single day.  Nuts or not, this is our life, and I am so lucky to have it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Keeping Busy

So....another week, still no answers.  I did find out that my two former co-workers were contacted for letters of recommendation (which they provided right away), so that's a good sign.  I sent an email today to check in, but I didn't hear back...not that I expected to, really.  I have to think that I will definitely hear something next week.  Of course, my big fear if I do get the job is that I'll have to ask off on Good Friday because both boys are off since daycare is closed.  My backup plan has some flaws right now, so I just have to hope it's already a holiday for them...and that this is the biggest problem on my agenda by then! 

In the meantime I'm trying to keep myself busy.  My doctor's appointment this week went well, and based on what I'm seeing in my bloodwork, my only problem is (still) my cholesterol, which is just above 250.  I'd really just like to go on medication for that since I'm fighting a losing genetic battle.  Could I improve my diet?  Maybe, if I wanted to suck all the joy out of eating.  With our gluten-free restrictions it's hard as it is, and quite frankly, I'm at a healthy weight and my diet is pretty reasonably decent as it is.  My guess is that genetics will win regardless.  But at least everything else seems fine.

Earlier this week I started playing around with a couple Pinterest projects.  I figure I might as well do them while I have the time!  One of them was a random "Shrinky Dink" jewelry project.  I'd pinned it a couple weeks ago, and then happened to realize I had the #6 plastic that I needed to do it in my pantry.  I bought a container of fastnachts (gluten-filled, donut-like baked goods that are available during Lent) a couple weekends ago (so good!), and the container was the exact type of plastic I needed for the project.  Just like Shrinky Dinks, the plastic will shrink and thicken when placed in a hot oven.  The Pinterest project used the plastic to make fun jewelry by having a child scribble colors on the plastic, cutting it up, punching holes, shrinking it, and using jewelry hardware to put it all together.  I did a lot of playing with the pieces I ended up with, and did three fun pieces. 
 

Upper left is a pendant, lower left is a bracelet, and on the right is a complete necklace.
The bracelet was basically a carbon copy of the one from the pin.  All of the scribbles look like fun abstract art when shrunk down.  Each bead is maybe a centimeter wide, and I connected them with jump rings.  I like that they're clear and light, but still colorful.

Once I finished with the bracelet, I have some pieces leftover--some additional unused links (I saved some in case any break) and some additional odd-sized pieces that I punched holes in and shrunk for fun.  In addition to the little end caps and jump rings, I bought some clear string for necklaces so I could fix an old beaded necklace of my grandma's that Carter destroyed a year or so ago.  I used three tiny pieces with jump rings and created a very delicate illusion necklace.  It's really simple and sweet.  Sorry about the sideways picture--I don't know why it flipped--but you get the idea.

The third piece was a triple linked pendant that I put on a chain I had. 
 

They turned out so much better than I expected and I love each of them.  Of course, my next experimental batch (completely colored in, larger red and blue pieces) didn't work so well.  The plastic had some flaws, but I'm not sure if it had to do with needing to draw on a certain side, or having a certain side face-down in the oven, or that I put them on a hot pan (with once-used parchment), rather than a cool pan.  I'll keep playing, though.
 
When I bought my jewelry supplies, I also bought a stack of felt.  I bought 11 different colors so I could make a very cheap, portable toy.  I don't know if Carter's quite ready, but since I have the time I wanted to get it done.  I pinned this one ages ago, probably close to two years ago when I first joined Pinterest to give me another diversion during nursing sessions.  I loved the idea of a felt Mr. Potato Head set, all contained in a travel wipes case!  I just happened to have an extra hanging out, so for $2.53 + tax, I made this little beauty:

I used one as a guide but made it my own.  I had fold out flaps for more storage and had lots of fun with the pieces.  I used the real toy as a guide for some of the pieces but made a lot of others, too.  There are blue shoes, women's shoes, sneakers, a bowler hat, a beanie, a women's hat, a baseball hat, brown women's hair,  a purse, a lacrosse stick (ha!), earrings, eyebrows, two sets each of arms and ears, three noses, three lips and some smiley teeth, three mustaches (one of which could also be a unibrow), two generic sets of eyes, one set of women's eyes, a pair of glasses with googly eyes, and one pair of sunglasses.  It's all pretty easily replaced, and it all stores in the case.  I thought it was so cute and so simple that I couldn't resist!  Hopefully Carter learns to play with it in the car since he's pretty bored most of the time on long trips.

Tonight we went to the arena to watch Craig's alma mater, Mercyhurst, play in the Atlantic Conference Hockey Final Four.  Despite getting outshot 62-29, Mercyhurst tied the game with 34 seconds left and won it a little over three minutes into overtime!  After we came home, local favorite RIT beat Buffalo's Canisius, which means RIT and Mercyhurst will play for the championship tomorrow.  We had a nice time, although Carter spent half the night on guard against the other team's mascot!  Here are a few pictures from the night (my first pictures with my real camera in two weeks--shame on me!):
Carter liked drumming on the ledge inside the suite.  He really might be our musician.


This is the mascot that freaked out Carter.  He *was* a little creepy.  He's a "Colonial", in case you were wondering.  I appreciated the hardcore hugs, regardless.
Carter thought it was funny to flick the straw on his cup to fling water, and while I don't normally allow that, the pure joy on his face was irresistible...



And in case you're wondering, I did try to take pictures of Jacob, too, but he either makes a weird face or gives up smiling before I can get a good shot.  Ugh.  Not the most patient kid.  Still, the boys were pretty good tonight and we had a nice time. 

Sunday we're off to Syracuse to see the Orange take on Duke in lacrosse, as part of a group of Jacob's teammates.  I've never seen a real Syracuse game in person, so it should be fun.  With these two games and the start of March Madness, this is shaping up to be a full college sports weekend.  It's so nice to have Craig off (again), but he's got a busy April (and possibly May) ahead so we really need to make the most of our time now.  Should be a good couple days.  Now if only the weather would get its act together and actually act like it's spring, we'd be all set...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Big Week...One Way or Another...

It's odd going into this week knowing that one way or another, this is probably going to be a pretty pivotal week.  I should find out, for better or for worse, about the job I've been interviewing for for three weeks.  If the news is good, that could mean this is my last free week.  If the news is bad, I'll be hunkering in for a while, freaking out a lot, and refreshing my job hunt, which has been a bit on the back burner the further I've gotten into this process.  I know that's bad, but when you're not finding much it's hard to stay motivated to keep searching. 

In addition, tomorrow marks the end of my severance, so my "free ride" will officially be over and crunch time begins.  I filed for unemployment today but can't get benefits until next week because this is my mandatory unpaid week.  Boo.  So no matter what, it's a big week where everything changes.

I mentioned the other day that I have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday, which is my first physical in a very long time.  I just never got in a good habit, then I disliked my doctor, and then I just didn't bother to find a new one.  But with everything that's happened with my dad (not to mention a handful of things with my mom), and a few little things I'm noticing as I head into my late 30s (UGH), I feel like it's time to get things looked at so things are better down the road.  My lack of smell and taste is an issue, of course, though from past experience it's not something with an easy answer.  I'm pretty sure I've picked up a nasty case of reflux, and I got diagnosed a few years back with high cholesterol that hasn't been rechecked.  The cholesterol runs in the family so I'm pretty sure that even with diet it wouldn't be enough to avoid medication.  The reflux has been managed with over-the-counter medicine, though I'm a little worried I might need more since my throat still has moments where spicy foods or carbonated drinks burn it a little.  It's way better than it was, though.  I also have my borderline PCOS that I was made aware of when I tried to get pregnant with Carter.  I'm probably overdue to get to a dermatologist since skin cancer runs in the family, and someday I should really start allergy shots.  One thing at a time, I guess.

Anyway, I'm trying not to let the impending news bother me.  I have no idea when I might get the call (or email, for that matter), so I'm just trying to live life as usual and make the most of the time I have left.  I made a double batch of gluten-free meatballs to freeze over the weekend (and the first taste test was good!).  I worked on Carter's baby book a lot over the past few days as it was sorely overdue for work.  Believe me, it was no small task filling in a lot of that stuff two years later!  Yesterday I finished the third novel I've read during my time off, as part of a mission to catch up on all of the books I was behind on from my favorite author.  This is definitely the most reading I've done in ages, particularly outside of traveling.  Today Craig stayed home for the morning to sleep off his weekend traveling, and Carter, Craig, and I headed to Dairy Queen for lunch and free cone day!  Don't worry, we brought Jacob a treat for later!  I also caught up on a couple mainstream/Christian movies that I never got a chance to see--"Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof"--that I happened to catch on DVR yesterday.  I still have "Courageous" to go.  I'm currently working on one fun Pinterest craft and might start another soon.  Tomorrow I'm planning on going to the gym and meeting my old weekly lunch buddies for lunch.  As I have all along, I'm keeping busy.  It's all I can do at this point.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures I hadn't bothered to upload until today.  I took them at Jacob's lacrosse game last week.  This week's game was his last for a few weeks, before the spring outdoor season starts.  Yes, it's still freezing out there and the fields still have snow covering lots of mud, so who knows if the season is actually going to start on time.  I'm sort of relieved the winter season is done, even though Jacob made a lot of progress.  I enjoy watching him, for sure, but I will enjoy having our Saturdays back for a while and not having to convince him to go to practice every Tuesday.  I missed his only goal this season a couple months ago--one of the few games I missed--but this season he definitely got some good shots off, got quite a few loose balls, and has positioned himself to be a good player once the really good players (who are sort of ball hogs that only pass to one another) move up.  Anyway...
 

Carter is a handful at games, usually trying to run away.  Food (note the snack cup in the lower left) usually helps.

That's Jacob right in the middle in the white jersey.  He's still not a big kid out there, but he's no longer one of the littlest.
I'm very proud of him and I'm interested to see how the spring season goes.  I also can't wait for baseball.  I love watching him succeed, because amidst the constant nagging and disciplining at home, I need those opportunities to praise him for the stuff he does well. 

So....stay tuned...hopefully good things are ahead...

Friday, March 13, 2015

News & Notes, Almost Spring Edition

The weather around here has been amazing over the past few days.  Considering we've still been hanging out in the 40s, it's a clear indicator of just how miserable our winter was.  February was the coldest month EVER in Rochester and we survived, so I guess it's no wonder our expectations are low.  Even still, feeling mid-40s after weeks of weather in the teens (and even below zero) has been wonderful.  The snow has melted rapidly and we're even seeing spots of grass...even though most parts of the yard still have a solid foot of snow left to melt, if not more near the driveway where we shoveled.  The driveway is very close to being back to its full width for the first time since early January.  It's been amazing to watch the transformation.  Of course, it didn't come without a minor issue with the house.  Fortunately, it was confined to our porch, where ice damming caused water to back up into the area over our porch.  It caused the porch ceiling (aluminum paneling, maybe?) to sag, and as we pushed on the paneling, water gushed out the end.  We had a couple days of that, but it appears to have cleared up now.  It's hard to know if there's actual damage up there, but at least it's not in the house.

The boys have enjoyed the improved weather and the later sunset post-time change.  Tonight Jacob was playing lacrosse and Carter was riding his "bikes" and walking with his lawnmower.  Carter pitches a serious fit every time we need to come in.  It's still hard since Jacob won't play with him and Craig and Jacob usually play something that's hard for Carter to join in on.  Hopefully as baseball season approaches they can work on Carter batting off a tee and Jacob can work on his catching and fielding. 

Yesterday I had my third round of interviews for the job I really want.  I will hopefully hear next week.  I don't know what I will do if I don't get it, but at this point I feel like I've done everything I can to get it.  My skills are a great fit for what they want, and I felt like I connected well with everyone I met with.  Still, you never know who you're going up against and there's only so much that's within my control.  I could do everything right and still not get it for some reason that is completely separate from anything I did...like them giving preference to an internal candidate or someone with a better connection than I had.  Still, I aced my Excel test and have experience with so much of what they're looking for.  So, I'm definitely hopeful but still nervous.  Craig might be more nervous than me, though, so for his sake I really hope I get it.  Otherwise I'll be on unemployment and be back to the drawing board for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with my two former department mates.  It was the first time we got to hang out since I was let go.  They're seriously busy without me, of course.  Hearing even a few horror stories was enough to remind me that moving on to new work problems (everyone has them!) might not be such a bad thing.  Still, I feel bad for them, particularly in light of the fact that I've had two months to relax and recharge.  They didn't have much more insight on why the hammer fell my way, other than the same conclusion I came to--that the upper management had no idea that they didn't know how to do the things I did, and never bothered to ask.  I was literally just a salary to them.  Many other experienced "salaries" have also been cut, so I know I'm not alone.  But it's sad.

Carter may be the cutest kid ever, but he definitely knows how to push buttons these days.  He has a tendency to hit people, hit things with toys, throw things, and cause general chaos.  He's making Jacob nuts, and we're following right along.  He's constantly scattering toys all over the house, throwing things he shouldn't, and hitting or making a giant mess when he gets mad.  He thinks it's all funny, unfortunately.  We're working on it and hoping he outgrows it, but it worries me.  I don't want to get into a lengthy battle of wills with him.  We know how that went with Jacob.  Heck, it's still going on.  Lately we're battling his smart mouth--lots of talking back, smart comments, and bossy demands.  A couple years ago I remember hearing a quote from Kate Gosselin (of Jon and Kate Plus Eight fame) that stated she only let her kids have iPhones so she had something to take away.  I am totally on board with that.  That's about the only way we can motivate him to listen.  Not ideal, but we muddle through.  Always a work in progress.

Craig is on a roadtrip this weekend so it's just me and the boys for a couple days.  Jacob's last lacrosse game in the winter season is tomorrow and beyond that we're pretty low on plans.  I'm trying to think of something fun for the evening just to get Jacob out from the electronics and ensure Carter doesn't drive either of us nuts.  Still, it's always challenging to go out with both of them alone, because in the event they both don't listen at the same time, I can't always tackle two kids at once.  I really haven't felt like that for very long, only recently since Carter started getting very opinionated and got the guts to wander off without me.  So, we'll see. 

I'm definitely in a weird spot these days, simultaneously hoping that I get a job but sad that my days at home might be numbered.  I'm trying to savor every last minute and get as much done as I can.  I'm still working through a stack of old magazines and one more book by the one author I read.  Today I dug into Carter's baby book, which is seriously behind.  I have a lot of stuff ready to add, and this blog to try to fill in the blanks, but there is a lot of tough stuff.  Today I spent most of Carter's nap Googling his birth date to find headlines, prices, and pop culture stuff from when he was born.  I also filled in what I had from his heights and weights, and I'm working on his teeth and milestones, but perhaps I didn't track them as well as I thought.  This blog makes up for it, right?  Anyway, I'm trying to savor my time with Carter, too, but after forgetting two things on our schedule in the last week, I'm realizing that maybe I need to get back into a routine! 

So...this should be a big week for us.  It's important, too, to start making plans as Easter approaches.  I don't have answers for daycare about spring break or answers for my family about Good Friday (and therefore, Easter weekend as a whole), so once this job situation is clarified a bit, that will help.  On Wednesday I'm also getting to the doctor for a well visit for the first time in ages, so that's another fresh start on its own.  Here goes nothing...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Is it a job?

It's pretty rare that anything I post on Facebook (or here, for that matter) turns out to be controversial or inflammatory.  Last night I shared a link to an article on Facebook, and it got a pretty immediate response.  You can read the article here:

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Being a Stay-at-Home Mother Is Not a Job

I feel like I have a bit of a unique perspective on this considering I've had a full time job for nearly 15 years, have been a working mom for nearly seven, and have just recently been unexpectedly thrust into the stay-at-home mom life.  I know what it's like on each side (to some degree) and I definitely have opinions on both.  I definitely don't agree with everything the author said, nor do I love her tone in parts.  I also don't think that the generalization applies to anyone with a lot of kids or special needs children.  Under those circumstances it is definitely more of a job.  I also don't think it applies to anyone who works out of the home part time, as I don't think it's fair to hold someone like that up to the same SAHM mom standard since they're 20 hours short on time each week.  All I can speak to is my perspective of being home with one kid, which is the same as the author.  I'm lucky enough to get two days to myself right now, though that was as much for his benefit as mine--Carter loves it at daycare and I did not want to deal with the red tape of pulling him out completely or the trauma of trying to get him back in the groove when it was time to go back.  So maybe I'm not entitled to speak to this entirely...but it's not that much different than a SAHM putting her kid in preschool.

ANYWAY...I just felt like her perspective resonated with me where I am right now because I don't feel like being home with Carter is a "job".  Is it easy?  Not always.  But is it the same stress level as a real job?  Not for me, anyway.  However, the first comment on the post actually pointed out that what I'm doing now seems easy because I'm actually doing one job (motherhood) instead of two (motherhood AND a job).  She's right, I suppose.  What I'm doing now does seem downright luxurious compared to having to do both.  I can do laundry and dishes at my leisure.  I don't have to cram errands into evenings or weekends.  Naptime gives me "me time" where I can read or catch up on the DVR.  I get to hang out and play with my very energetic but very cute toddler.  Still, even on the worst of days I have a very hard time referring to all of that as a "job".  Perhaps it's just the negative connotation of that word in my mind after 15 years of wishing for the weekend no matter how much I enjoyed what I did.  I just can't put parenthood (something I chose to do) in the same category as something I generally need to do to keep us financially viable.  It's splitting hairs, I guess, but being a parent is so much more noble a position than anything I could be hired to do. 

At the same time, I don't think SAHMs should be given any less respect by those who do work.  It's a different choice/position in life, and it comes with a lot of stress, responsibility, and time consumption.  There are perks and downsides to both, and it's just a matter of picking which set of stuff suits you better.  From my perspective I know that financially I need to work.  Mentally I probably need to work, too (though perhaps less than I thought!).  But from where I'm sitting right now I know for a fact that I'm a less harried person when I'm home.  I get to take care of household tasks and errands during the day, instead of at night when I'm already spent or on weekends when I'm trying to cram everything in that didn't get done during the week.  Instead of working 40 hours per week and splitting the rest of the time between stuff around the house AND time with the kids, I can focus all of my time on the latter two.  Don't try to tell me that's not easier on some level.  Is it easy?  Not really.  I hold myself to a higher "home" standard right now so it's easier to fill that time with stuff I'd have never even gotten to before.  But it still beats having to spend 40 hours a week away from the house and still having to do so much of the other stuff.

Motherhood is hard, however you do it.  I still maintain it's at least a little bit harder when you work a full time job out of the house, simply because your physical absence means you're always playing catch-up--on housework, on kid time, on everything.  But there is a certain level of patience and skill involved in being home 24/7, particularly with multiple kids.  There's no vacation time, often little budget wiggle room, and a constant barrage of kid-related craziness.  Some people are built for that, and that is awesome.  I guess it's up to each individual mom to decide whether she considers what she does at home a "job".  For some it absolutely may be.  For me, it's not.  It's a responsibility I signed up for, I don't get paid, and it's still a heck of a lot more pleasant than the life of a full-time working mom.  I know I need to get back into that lifestyle soon, and I'm excited for a new challenge.  I need to do it, and I will devote myself to it, no doubt.  But a tiny bit of me will be sad when I have to say goodbye to this existence I've been living for the last eight weeks.  The lazy mornings and cuddles after nap are pretty tough to beat, after all.  If that is a job, then it is the best job I could ever ask for.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Balloons!

This week in Rochester everyone has been abuzz about this year's edition of Balloon Manor, a crazy balloon art exhibition that has been setting up shop in a building downtown the past couple years.  Last year we went to see the Jack and the Beanstalk themed display, and this year it is an ocean theme!  I really wanted to get downtown to see it, and our schedule last weekend just didn't allow it.  It's only around for a little over a week, so I knew we really needed to get there ASAP.

Yesterday I had another interview for the job I really want, and I also went for an Excel skills test that I aced.  After that, Craig took a half day from work to recharge a bit, so we met up for lunch and came home for a bit before picking up the boys for a surprise trip to Balloon Manor!  During our time at home, Craig watched a movie and I finally finished a project I started at least a year ago and dug back into in recent weeks.  I have wanted to put curtains on Carter's window so the upcoming early mornings and late sunsets don't screw up his sleep schedule.  However, I decided my best bet was to take the curtains out of Jacob's room (since I bought them to coordinate with the d├ęcor that's current in Carter's room) and replace Jacob's curtains with new ones.  However, each room also needed new curtain rods.  I bought the curtains and rods for Jacob's room ages ago, but getting up the guts to take down the old fixtures (wide, non-decorative ones that didn't fit the new curtains) was daunting and I hate the fear of measuring and drilling for new ones. 

A few weeks ago I took down the old ones (moderately successful), and a week or two ago I put up one of Jacob's new ones.  I had a couple issues, but it went up fine in the end.  Yesterday I did the second one (better), ironed all four of the new red panels, put up Carter's rod (one that was in the living room of our old house), and hung the blue curtains in his room.  It was a lot of arm work, but it got done.  It was one of the big things on my "before I go back to work" list, so I was very happy to get it done!

We grabbed the boys from their respective spots, and headed into the city.  The display is in a classic old downtown department store that currently holds a campus of the local community college and is slowly but surely being redone to become apartments and retail space.  If it ever happens it will be great.  The current owner has kept some nice touches and having Balloon Manor there for two years has probably raised a lot of awareness of the building and its history.  I wish I could have seen it in its prime! 

The display was amazing!  Of course, Carter was scared...but the rest of us enjoyed it.  So amazing that it is all balloons!
The ocean floor was full of different plants, and there were fish and crabs everywhere!  There was a mermaid in the middle, too, along with some relics from a sunken city, I guess...

I loved the giant oyster with the huge "pearl" balloon in the middle!

There is a five-story atrium, and the display goes all the way up!  Here's a huge octopus with an eye patch!  He's climbing up the chain of an anchor...

I love this treasure chest with a lock and crabs guarding it!

Looking down at the ocean floor from a floor or two up...

Here is the ship whose anchor the octopus was climbing!  It was huge and suspended near the 3rd and 4th floors.

Looking down on everything from the top floor!

Here are the pirates in their lifeboat.  I just love the look on the one guy's face!  Hard to believe that kind of emotion can be captured with balloons!

Here are the boys back on the ground floor!
It was a fun little trip and it was nice that Craig could join us this year since he didn't get to go last year.  It's so amazing to see what creative people can do with a bunch of balloons!

Craig is off this weekend (first time in a couple months!) so hopefully we'll find a couple fun things to do.  Or we'll just hang out and let the kids tear the house apart as usual!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seven Weeks

Today marks seven weeks that I have been off work.  Why is this significant?  Well, aside from the fact that my severance is dwindling and I really need to get a new job (next interview this Thursday and a follow-up next Thursday!), seven weeks is important because it marks the same period of time as both of my maternity leaves.  That means that as of tomorrow I will officially be away from work longer than I've ever been since I started my grown-up career life.  That's pretty significant.  And as much as I've enjoyed it, hopefully it will never happen again...unless it's on my own terms. 

I feel like I've definitely settled into this existence much easier than I thought I would.  I don't miss work as much as I thought I would, but in another couple weeks I'll definitely be missing the paycheck, and that's really the main reason I need to go back.  As I've said previously, this experience has taught me that checking things off a to do list for my family is much more fulfilling than doing it for "the man".  Maybe my next job will change my perspective on that a bit, but the reality of the way my last job ended might stick with me for a while, a stark reminder of how quickly dedication can feel pointless.  Still, my ongoing dream of working part time has been validated.  I would love to have the best of both worlds.  I love the thought of having spare time and brain power to dedicate to my family while still having something that's my own.  I realized the other day that when I "grow up" (haha) I really just want to be my mom :)  She worked part time for years and gave us a great mix of support and independence.  She was there to do fun stuff when we weren't in school and be involved when we were, but we also had a bit of the latch-key experience (which I think is important for learning to self-motivate on homework, for example).  If I could give my kids anything like that, I would be thrilled.  But for now full-time work is a must, so I'm going to have to make the best of it...assuming I can actually get a job.  I'm getting close on the one I really want, but there's still a few more steps to go, so no chicken-counting here.

In the meantime I still have at least another week or two of time at home.  I'm really trying to appreciate all of it, from the extra time with Carter to the extra hour of sleep, from the slower pace in the morning to the extra opportunity to do household chores.  I've enjoyed my bonus doses of 80s game shows, "What Not to Wear", and "Friends".  I just like having the bandwidth to think about things and the time to do the things I need to do.  It's nice to not panic about doctor's appointments or school events.  If I need to go to the store, I can.  It may take a day here or there, but fitting it in somehow isn't an issue right now. 

Lately I've actually been doing a lot of clothes shopping.  That probably seems ill-advised considering our income is a couple weeks from being cut pretty dramatically, but there are a couple reasons why I'm doing it.  First, my wardrobe has evolved the past few years.  My old job shifted to casual attire (i.e., jeans were OK every day), then I was pregnant for a while, and eventually my body changed.  Certain elements of my wardrobe no longer fit well or no longer felt like "me".  Some things have gotten a bit worn, too, and while those issues didn't feel like a big deal in my old job, it's a totally different ballgame when you're making first impressions again.  So, in anticipation of getting a job with more formal attire where I need to make a good first impression, I've been taking advantage of my abundance of time to rebuild my wardrobe.  I'd rather do it now while I have the time than try to cram it in once I'm working again.  There won't be many spare evenings or weekend days where Craig can keep the kids, and even when those happen, I would be rushing around and merely hoping to catch a good sale.  Right now I'm strategically trying to take advantage of coupons, sales, and clearance racks, but it still adds up.  Still, I think there's something to be said for heading into a new job with a wardrobe that inspires self-confidence.  Like I said, I've been watching a lot of "What Not to Wear" and it's very clear to me that the right look can change your entire perspective on yourself.  If nothing else, having a look you're comfortable with gives you one less thing to be distracted by, so you can focus on the important stuff instead.  I'm just trying to get enough new pieces to work with the rest, and hopefully it'll be enough. 

There's a lot about this time I will miss when it is finally over.  For now I'm doing my best to enjoy them.  I'm enjoying my lack of a commute and my added time to work out.  I'm trying to hit up things still on my to do list.  I'm hoping to exit this phase of my life with as few regrets as possible.  It's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I want to make the most of it...even if I'm still trying to figure out on a daily basis how to do that.  Seven weeks in there is still never a dull moment, and it makes me wonder how I functioned while working full time.  If I've had enough stuff to fill those eight hours a day (and then some) for this long, how many things were just sitting undone for infinite amounts of time?  It's a little scary thinking about going back to that life, but it's imperative that I do.  All I can do is use all of this as an opportunity for a fresh start all around.  If there's a better way to do things, I'm determined to use this experience to help me find it.  I will make the best of this time.  It would be a shame to let the dark side win, you know?  If my former employer didn't think I was worth keeping around (I was, by the way), then I'm going to make darn sure that the version of me that comes out of this experience is never going to be considered expendable again. 

Onward to discover what happens after seven weeks...