Sunday, August 30, 2015

Weekend, Interrupted

Heading into this weekend I was looking forward to a pretty low-key weekend.  I had Friday off, as it was one of my two "Summer Fridays" at work, where we get a Friday off without having to take a vacation day.  We started the day with yet another daycare tour, and after that I was going to spend the day shopping, mostly to use up some "free money" I had at a couple stores.  Beyond that, our only firm plan was to go to a baseball game.  We were looking forward to a quiet weekend at home.  I knew in the back of my mind that there was a slight chance we'd end up in Buffalo since Craig's dad's birthday is this week and it was a toss-up which weekend we'd celebrate it. 

The daycare tour on Friday was fine.  Craig was on the road for work so it was just me and the kids.  We'd been to this place before, when Jacob was in utero, and we really liked it.  We were a little nervous about the cost at the time and they ended up not having an infant opening when we needed it,  so we had to go another route.  We assumed it would be out of our price range when our first daycare closed, so for some reason we never checked it out again even though a couple of Jacob's little friends ended up there.  I had forgotten about it when this daycare thing initially blew up, but remembered a couple weeks in and sent a message inquiring about their rates and availability.  They were booked for the summer, but the price was exactly the same as we currently pay.  I decided it was worth a tour while I had time, so off we went.  The room Carter would be in is a little smaller than I'd like, but it's fine and I like the center as a whole.  Carter seemed to warm up the longer we were there, but Jacob was really reserved.  He gave a million excuses about why he didn't like it, but ultimately I think he'd be fine.  They'd even cater to his dietary needs.  The main issue right now is that they don't have a spot for Jacob, which is only a problem for a handful of days during the school year, as well as a good chunk of Christmas break.  Some days we're already off, and two of his big breaks he can go to the school district programs.  If any of the people that are signed up for the school age program don't utilize it, there would be spots for him, but it's not a sure thing.  So...I still feel pretty stuck.  I still think it's the best option at this point, but it's a tough call.

I dropped the kids at daycare after the tour to give myself a little pre-birthday "me day".  I ran to Walmart for a couple quick things and ended up browsing the clothing clearance racks, mostly because I'm in the market for a new white cami, among other things.  I ended up finding a cute embellished tank for $3 and a cute cotton t-shirt dress for $5.  Unexpected but fun!  I moved on to Kohl's where I had $20 to spend ($10 for my birthday, $10 because they're renovating the store), and after a ton of clearance rack shopping (and forcing myself to look at regular clothes, too), I got a simple but cute dress for work and a cute sleeveless shell top for less than $10 total.  I had to meet my cousin Lori at Moe's down the road at the mall for lunch (free birthday burrito, yay!), so I headed there next and had a nice lunch with her.  After that I worked my way down to the far end of the mall and worked my way back, stopping at a few stores (including one for Jacob--no luck) and focusing on JCPenney, where I had a $5 freebie as well as a $10 off $25 coupon.  I ended up finding a couple items--yoga pants and a black skort (I know--fashion faux pas--but it looks like a skirt and has shorts underneath, which is super practical as a mom who has to bend and crouch.  I have a very similar beige one that I wear all the time)--but I discovered the coupons couldn't be used together so I ended up just getting the skort for $10.  Five items for less than $30, not bad.  I tried my favorite consignment place, too, but no luck.  I had a decent night with the boys, including making Jacob's night with French toast and breakfast sausage, which is something I haven't done often.  Craig got home very late that night.

Saturday morning Craig told me that he found out that his mom's terminally ill sister was going to be in Buffalo and there was a bit of a birthday celebration (his aunt's, and as it turns out, mine), so we did a major change in plans and packed up within a couple hours to get there around dinner time.  Initially I mourned the loss of our night baseball game and quiet weekend, but I hadn't seen his family in a while and I knew the kids would enjoy the time with their cousins.  We had a fun night, and I had some good girl talk with my sister-in-law while enjoying some "Not Your Father's Root Beer", which has been the big thing on social media lately.  It worked well for me and my challenged taste buds since it had a good spice to it.  Yum.  I put Carter down to bed a little late, but he fell asleep quickly.  We let Jacob stay up quite late with his cousins, but it turned into a very long night.  He was wired after a couple helpings of gluten-free cake, and he had a couple rounds of nausea (which happens more than I'd like--but thankfully it rarely turns into anything) at bedtime, and then he was constantly talking about waking up at 3am to play some game with his cousins.  Ummmm, no.  Long story short, he slept in the bathroom but didn't seem to fall asleep until sometime before 2am.  UGH.  Then he woke up shortly after 7am, excited to play with his cousins who slept over.  Double UGH. 

We left pretty early so we could get back to Rochester for the 1:30 baseball game (our backup plan), and I hoped Jacob would nap.  Alas, he did not, but Carter did.  Cue a rough afternoon.  Jacob didn't want to go to the game, even though he was the one that was saying how much he likes afternoon games over evening games.  He whined about a bunch of stuff (wanting ice cream, wanting to go home), and was eventually demanding a wipe to clean off "germs" from Carter, who may have touched him at some point.  It may seem like a stupid sticking point, but I refused because I don't want to validate to him that his brother is, in fact, germy.  He's never wanted to touch him, and I think it's time to stop that stupidity.  He had a mini-meltdown and I was rather unhappy, too, but we gutted out the last couple innings because Carter wanted to run the bases postgame.  Again, Jacob was unhappy with that decision, too.  Stupid sleep deprivation.  Time at home wasn't much better, so we had an early bedtime night and he was out almost instantly. 

Here are a few shots from the game:

Carter diligently opening and closing the windows of the playhouse in the kids zone...he loves it in there!

Carter started out eating his hot dog like a big boy, but gave up on the bun a couple bites in!

It was a gorgeous day!  We were totally comfortable in the shade!

An attempt at all three guys, but Jacob has ice in his teeth and Carter constantly looks away after he says cheese!

Craig is high-fiving Spikes the mascot as he runs by holding Carter, who refused to run near Spikes on his own.  He was fine with getting down once they passed him by!

Hard to see, but Craig is in the red shirt and khaki shorts to the left of center, and Carter has a blue shirt and khaki shorts, just to the right of center.  Carter took a detour from home plate and tried running again!
Jacob refused to run today.  He all but admitted he was annoyed that Craig had to run with Carter instead of him, even though he's old enough to run alone and Carter clearly needs the guidance.  He did crack a smile with the Spikes incident and laughed with the end chase, so at least he wasn't all miserable!

The weekend wasn't what we planned, but aside from a couple Jacob issues, it wasn't a bad pre-birthday weekend.  Not as restful, but some good family times nonetheless.  Bring it on, 37...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Talent Show

Last week Jacob kept talking about some sort of performance coming up at daycare.  He can get a little overzealous with this sort of stuff--thinking it's a big thing when it's really just him that's totally into it--so we didn't really think much of it.  He kept talking about costumes and his animals and something having to do with Jurassic World, but again, we figured it was just something they were role playing during the day at daycare.  Then one day the director happened to be in his room when I was there and she said something that seemed to validate it a bit.  And then Thursday there was a note on the classroom door that a talent show was taking place on Friday at 5pm.  Okay, so it was a real thing.

We still weren't quite sure what to expect, despite the program of four acts listed on the sign.  But we showed up and waited to see.  We were in the preschool room where Jacob was as a four-year-old, and they had quite a setup!  They had chairs set up, a table of snacks, and they even had a divider door closed to act like a curtain!  The first act was two girls singing "Let It Go" from Frozen.  It was cute (not perfect, but cute), and it was complete with them throwing snowy confetti to mimic Elsa's ability to produce snow from her fingertips!  Later in the song the two Elsas were joined by Olaf and Anna, too!  Later they were also the backup singers for another singing act, and one of the Elsas also sang "Fight Song" at the end of the show.  It was quite the event.  A little chaotic, a little silly, but heartfelt.  And snacks always help.

But the highlight, of course, was Jacob's performance.  It was...weird.  Funny, but weird.  Apparently it was based on Jurassic World, which I haven't seen (and, strangely, neither has Jacob).  He was an explorer (a French explorer, in fact).  I can't really describe the rest, so instead I'll just show you this video...

It's not just you...I'm not really sure either.  But his acting at the beginning was great, right?  The assistant director seemed to cut them off a bit at the end, though apparently they had more in mind.  So then there was this:

Ultimately it was Jacob and his animals (a dog and two otters) getting attacked by two dinosaurs.  What all of the rest of that was, I'm not sure.  But he loved it, so I guess that's all that matters, right?

Here are some still shots of the highlights...
The first moment of his acting career!

Mid-fall as (I think) they were trying to steal his hat

Smiling through the battle

Taking a bow

Our star!  He costumed himself, by the way...
Despite all of our frustrations with Jacob, once in a while we see his determination and passion manifest themselves in positive ways.  It's always so fun to see him focus on a project and get excited for it.  It wasn't exactly Shakespeare, or even your typical school play, but he had fun and apparently worked well with other kids.  Both of those things can be very rare sightings in our realm sometimes, so it made me happy to see something like this take place.  I certainly don't love that daycare anymore, but while we're stuck there we need to make the best of it.  I can't say there has been a lot of good feedback from Jacob this summer, but this was definitely a positive! 

Only one more week left at this daycare for Jacob, maybe ever.  We're touring another daycare tomorrow, though at the moment they don't have openings for Jacob during breaks.  But if Carter is there, we might have an "in" if a spot opens up.  I feel totally trapped right now--stuck between paying too much at one place, or going to a place we're not thrilled with, or not finding space for both kids--but we need to make a change soon.  I really never wanted to have to do this kind of a search again, and because of one man's horrible decision, we are.  Boo. 

Monday, August 24, 2015


I probably write about this sort of thing a lot, but I think it crosses every parent's mind whenever they have a brief moment to stop and think clearly.  We get so caught up in life that when we have that brief moment, we suddenly realize how time marches on...and quickly, at that!

This morning at work I happened to look at the full year calendar on my wall.  I looked at today's date and marveled at how little of the year is left.  I took note of the four yellow days left on the calendar (holidays off) and tried to envision where the rest of my unassigned vacation days might fill in.  And then I looked up at the months above and shook my head at the way this year has gone.  My eye moved up to January 13, the day I got let go from my old job.  The year had barely started and it was already totally not the year I had planned.  I came into the new year thinking that for once we had no big plans or milestones or changes in mind...and then life went right ahead and handed us one less than two weeks later.  I spent the following 11+ weeks in the ultimate game of limbo.  I tried to recover my sense of purpose, tried to refocus on the things that made me great in my old job, and tried to do it all while taking on the stay-at-home mom role that I wasn't sure I could ever really do.  That period of time was transformative in so many ways, my own personal cocoon.  And fortunately I was able to come out of it a beautiful headed right to a job that sounded perfect and was definitely an upgrade from my old one, at least as far as salary, benefits, and stability were concerned.  But I had more than two months of the year off, away from work.  I lost my job in the depths of winter, and when I finally stepped back into an office full time, it was spring.

In less than two weeks I will have been at the new job for five months.  FIVE!  That's almost six, which is half a year.  And slowly but surely I've gotten more comfortable, but as I mentioned a week or two ago, I'm still finding myself stumbling through those worries about what I simply don't know because I haven't stumbled across it yet, or what I should know but may not have fully sunken in yet.  I've been given a lot of freedom lately with the projects I've been given, which is a great feeling but one that comes with a side of fear.  The last person got let go because they weren't good enough.  What if that happens to me?  Based on feedback at this point I don't think it will, but now that almost five months have passed, the pressure to succeed is only going to get stronger.  I've got a long road and a lot more responsibilities ahead.

Oh, and now that I've gotten this far, I know how the next four months of the year usually go.  We go from the first day of school to the throes of fall to picking Halloween costumes, then we'll complain about the first rounds of crappy weather before Thanksgiving hits, and then it is full-on fast-forward through December and the Christmas season.  And before we know it, I'll be right back to January 13th, even more amazed by the events of the previous 365 days.

Carter is already 2-1/2, which means that his third birthday is now closer than his second, which only seems like a month or two ago.  When Jacob was three he felt like a full-fledged little boy.  Carter still seems so much like my baby boy with his soft hair and chubby cheeks, but now when I pick him up I realize he's more than half my height!  He's still a peanut compared to most kids his age, and when I look at pictures and video of Jacob from this age he seems so much older.  I watched a video over the weekend of Jacob's play-by-play when he was three months younger than Carter is now, and so much of what he said and did seemed so much more advanced.  Carter is right on target and we always knew Jacob was a little ahead of the game, but it's becoming clear to me that he may be taking after his mama (and both of my parents before me) as the smaller, younger-looking kid in the family.  It'll serve him well later in life, if nothing else, but he might hate it in a few years! 

And then there's Jacob.  Two weeks from tomorrow he starts second grade.  When the heck did that happen?  Some days I feel like I can barely reconcile the memories of the baby he was with the big boy he is.  He's tall and lanky.  He's got four permanent teeth and a couple more baby teeth on their way out.  He's got little biceps on his skinny arms from playing lacrosse.  We may not love the attitude and opinions he shares with us on a daily basis, but there's no denying that he's growing up.  I'm definitely nervous for a new school year, since last year's teacher will be tough to beat and I have no idea how he'll respond to a less-than-ideal teacher.  I tried to explain to him that dealing with a difficult teacher can be part of growing up, but that learning experience won't get us through the hours of homework that he won't feel motivated to do.  Fingers crossed that his last teacher put in a good word for him.

And then there's me.  Nineteen years ago yesterday I moved into my freshman dorm and met Mary, who was the most perfect roommate I could have asked for.  We just meshed perfectly and became nearly instant best friends.  I said on Facebook today that when Jacob asked me where I'd go if I had a time machine, I said I'd go back to that day.  Instead of the crankypants I was that day, I'd love to wake up that morning knowing the amazing things that awaited me later that day.  I can't believe it's been that long now.  Time really flies.  Speaking of which, I'm officially in my last week firmly in my mid-30s.  In one week I will be teetering on the edge of my late 30s.  Another birthday, another end of August, another trek into September, which hasn't been the friendliest of months in the past few years.  Two open heart surgeries (one per father), one Celiac diagnosis, one rice intolerance, and lots of behavior issues, among other things.  Forgive me for being apprehensive, but we don't have a great track record.  On the bright side, I have two three-day weekends coming up, so hopefully I will get a little recharge heading into the start of the school year and my upcoming 10-day stint as a single parent when Craig goes to work the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. 

So hard to believe it's the last little bit of summer already.  It seems like it just started.  We've crammed a lot in, for sure, but I think it's time to re-examine the summer bucket list before it's too late...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Yep, I'm going there...

So, a couple months back when the first Josh Duggar thing happened, I was very tempted to post something here.  Things got busy, though, and I decided to just let the moment pass.  After all, what does it really matter, or have to do with my life or this blog?  Well, in light of the new revelations, it churned everything up again and I just felt like I needed to do a brain dump here.  So, my apologies in advance.

I don't know if I've mentioned it here much, but I used to watch the show a lot.  I watched the specials originally, and while I was always interested, I feel like I had a period where I wasn't completely dedicated to watching the show.  I still caught shows when I could, though.  But over the last few seasons, with babies and weddings and whatever, it was on my DVR and I watched pretty faithfully.  I don't agree with their whole lifestyle (birth control and women's pants are NOT bad things, people), but I appreciate a lot about how they live their lives.  It was nice to have a show that was safe to watch around the kids, and it's inspiring to see how they integrate their faith into every aspect of raising their family.  The patience Michelle Duggar shows is amazing, and Anna Duggar followed nicely in her footsteps.  As a mom, you can't help but be wowed by that.  At the same time, there's a lot I don't love.  I don't love that the older kids end up taking on a lot of the responsibility for their parents' decision to have lots of kids, and I worry about how the daughters aren't encouraged to seek higher education, particularly outside the home.  I also don't love some of their public stands over the years.  I may fundamentally agree with what they're trying to say, but the way it comes across often sounds dismissive and exclusionary.  But ultimately we follow the same God, and while we choose to do it in different manners, I have always applauded the fact that no matter what, they seemed to have raised up a bunch of really good kids.

And now...this.  First the sexual abuse controversy, and now the cheating scandal.  It's horrifying.  Period.  The thing is, I was willing to give him a bit of a pass when the abuse thing came out.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it's horrible what he did.  But he was a pretty young kid, and kids do stupid things.  Adolescent boys who grow up in a home where sex is a taboo topic probably do even stupider things.  His body was probably going through all of this stuff, he was curious about things, and without a proper outlet to talk about it, it manifested in some pretty messed up stuff.  I feel horrible for his victims, of course.  To be fair, though, they didn't even know it happened until they were told, and most of the actual trauma came from finding out and then having it blasted over the media many years later, so I think it's a little different than most abuse cases that are centered around violent, forced/coerced, full-on sexual contact.  Again, I'm not saying that what he did wasn't wrong or that his victims didn't suffer, but I guess I feel it's a little different from a situation where the act itself is traumatic and can be replayed over and over again in their minds.  Even happened years ago, and I think almost everyone has (to some degree) a blip on the radar where they made some really bad judgments for a while and eventually they figured it out and moved on.  Some are worse than others, and it's certainly not ideal, but it happens.  But by all accounts he had straightened up, all was forgiven within his family, and it was time to move on.

Oh, and I know that people thought the parents did not act appropriately in handling it, and while I don't know all of the details of timing, I think they did what any normal set of parents would do.  They set in place some safeguards and got their kid some treatment.  People insist they should have called in the authorities at that time, but seriously....if your young, apparently confused teenage child did something like that, are you really going to call the cops and send them to jail?  I think they did what most parents would do--assume it was a gross error in judgment and try to manage it internally.  I don't really see too many parents wanting to out their kid, out the victims, and out themselves over something they perceive as an internal family affair that can be handled with some additional safeguards and counseling.  Maybe they should have done more, but I think, to the best of their knowledge, they thought it was manageable.

I was personally disappointed with TLC canceling the show because I will miss it, but it certainly didn't surprise me and I figured it had to happen.  It would be uncomfortable to watch, for sure.  I sort of hoped that a spin-off might pop up on the UP network, where the Duggars' friends the Bates have their show.  As an aside, I absolutely adore that show and love that family.  They seem a little more normal, very sweet, very Christian (but slightly less regimented), and just charming.  I do worry, though, that everything that happened to the Duggars via their show may cause the Bates to second guess their decision to be on TV.  The evils of the world seeped into one Christian TV family, and perhaps they worry it could happen to them.  I hope not, but I wouldn't be surprised. 

But now, of course, it's pretty obvious that there will be no new show, and I'd actually be surprised if the Duggars maintain any sort of public presence after this.  I wouldn't be surprised if all of their social media accounts disappeared, at least for a while.  I found it ironic that they originally tried so hard to keep the family shielded from the outside media world, and in the end, internet porn was the main source of Josh's twisted second life.  I guess they were right.

I know that most people with dark secrets assume they will never get found out.  But I marvel at this attitude by celebrities or other prominent people.  When you're a politician, or a movie star, or some other public figure, people are interested in your life.  Some people will go to crazy lengths to find out more about you.  And some people that have interactions with you will not be able to keep it to themselves.  So how could you possibly think that anything you do will stay a secret?  I find this particularly amazing in Josh Duggar's case, since his entire public persona was based on something so opposite his secret life.  If that life was found out, he stood to lose everything.  EVERYTHING.  With all of the haters out there, how could you not assume that so many people out there would sell you out in a heartbeat if they found out you were being hypocritical?  I guess it's just proof that some people are truly sick and truly demented, because no normal, rational person would think that way. 

Even worse, he stood to ruin the reputation of his entire family.  In front of millions of people.  That's huge.  I also think it's pretty disgusting that he let his family go out and defend him after the abuse scandal, that he let them insist he was reformed and fine.  It's one thing for him to lie and say those things, but to let his family (who I really have to guess were TOTALLY clueless about this) go out and put their credibility at stake?  It's pretty awful.  And that only scratches the surface of the mess he made.

The premeditation of it all makes me cringe.  It's one thing to do what most people do--fall prey to a random moment of passion and bad judgment.  That is bad enough, and I think it happens more than we realize.  But to go to the extent of finding a site like that, paying a ton of money, and actively trolling for hook-ups?  Wow, that is just another level beyond.  When I think about what he did, I can only use a series of expletives as adjectives for him right now.

And most of all (and this is where it comes back to me and this blog, I guess), I just feel awful for Anna Duggar.  I can't imagine how completely blindsided she must have been, how completely deceived and violated she must have felt.  Knowing her husband had been with other people, wondering about STDs, frightened about what else he might be hiding...such a far cry from the life she thought she signed up for.  It makes the whole notion of saving their first kiss for the altar simply laughable.  Here they were, remaining pure only for each other forever, and now this.  Simply horrifying.  All she's done for the last five years is have babies and raise them, and this is her payback?  The worst part, of course, is that she is in no position to strike out on her own.  Not that she probably believes in divorce anyway, but she's got no higher education to fall back on, she's got four young children, and so much of her support system is the Duggar family.  I've read some articles saying that she'll probably blame herself, and I think that's a shame.  She should blame no one except Josh, his weakness, and Satan.  She is not at fault in the slightest.  If anything she's a victim of a very precarious position brought on by being pregnant for the vast majority of the last five years.  I can't help but think that might be part of the reason he felt compelled to go off and find action elsewhere. Certainly it doesn't make it right (and again, not her fault, especially if she didn't have any clue about the real Josh), but anyone that's had kids knows that pregnancy and the period that follows is not the best time to get it on, and they've had a lot of that over the past few years.  And if you happen to be an oversexed, impatient, easily tempted person, that's probably not the best position to put yourself in.  Ultimately, I see her as a sweet, forgiving girl who got caught up in a BIG mess, and my heart goes out to her.  I've actually been praying for her whenever I think of it, because I think she got a serious raw deal.  Having to decide between spending the rest of her life with a sick, twisted man who broke her trust, or having to strike out on her own into the unknown, has to be a terrible spot to be in.  As a wife and mom myself, I can't even fathom the pain she's experiencing right now, particularly since she's supposed to be reveling in this time with her month-old baby girl.  My heart just breaks.

Ultimately I feel like everything happens for a reason, that there's got to be some sort of good that comes out of a mess as big as this one.  It's hard to see in this case, for sure.  I mean, so many lives have been ruined.  Maybe it will inspire other people to clean up their acts before their behavior destroys their family.  Part of me hopes that it somehow makes the Duggars a little more human.  Yes, people are eager to throw stones right now, but I feel like you can't have proper compassion for a situation until you've lived it.  For example, when I was younger it was very easy for me to fall back on religion and say that being gay is wrong.  It was very black and white for me.  And then one of my best friends came out of the closet, and all of a sudden there were a million shades of gray.  Biblically I still believe that acting upon it does not follow God's plan.  However...after seeing the very human side of it up close, I know it's not that simple and I understand better that it's almost inhuman to ask someone to ignore the strongest feelings that humans can have, for the rest of their lives.  I still have a hard time reconciling it sometimes, but I feel like I gained a different perspective and so much more compassion than I had before.  Likewise, perhaps this experience will break down some walls and help the Duggars share their faith and beliefs in ways that won't immediately alienate a large chunk of the population.  There's no illusion now that they or anyone else can think they're "perfect", so maybe it will open some new doors.  Perhaps they will have a heart for other families that struggle with these sorts of things, and rather than just preach about the dangers lurking on the internet, maybe they will focus more on constructive ways of helping families heal.  I don't know, maybe no one will want to listen to them at all after all of this, but I feel like there has to be a higher purpose somewhere.  Like them or hate them, they have touched a lot of lives in their years on TV and I hope this experience helps them use that power for some real good beyond what they were able to do previously. 

Either way, it's a tragedy.  It makes you question the validity of everyone else that professes Christ as their Savior in the public eye, and that's not ideal for Christians or Christianity.  For people that don't understand that Christians don't claim to be perfect, this is just one more nail in the coffin.  For Christians it's another reminder that this stuff is hard and even the most motivated among us can fail.  And as a parent, it's a bummer to see what we thought was a good, safe, wholesome TV family turn into a spectacular fail.  Not enough good stuff around as it is.

But ultimately, I see this as a clear example of why we can only put our faith in God, and not in man.  We say it, we think we know it, but when another spiritual leader falls, we always feel betrayed and lost.  We shouldn't be surprised, as everyone falls short eventually.  The only human example we can have complete faith in is Jesus, as His example will never fall short.  Easier said than done, but may this mess serve as a reminder that our eyes should be firmly on Heaven.  Everything else will disappoint us, but in the end God will never fail us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Seven Years, Seven Stories

Sometimes when I feel like I should write but I don't have anything to talk about, I look back in the archives to see what was going on on this date in previous years.  Suddenly I have seven years of history to look back on.  How crazy is that?!  Our posts from this time of year have really run the gamut. 

Last year's posts were recapping our Syracuse vacation, which had its ups and downs.  Two years ago and the year before were both dealing with Jacob's behavior issues.  Both posts were very similar, and in fact both mentioned many of the same challenges.  Even though I was pregnant and exhausted three years ago, I know that two years ago was way worse, as we were just getting into the thick of the worst behavior issues.  Those issues were the ones that left me in tears most days and left me feeling helpless and hopeless all day, every day.  That was, by far, one of the hardest periods of my life.  Even though we still deal with so many challenges with Jacob, that phase was nearly impossible in comparison.  The constant meltdowns, the violent mood swings, and the (still-present) constant backtalk were demoralizing.  This was all leading up to Kindergarten, our Disney trip, and Jacob's Celiac diagnosis.  It was a very disorienting time. 

The year before that we'd just wrapped up a few days at my parents' house with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece in town, and another year prior I was recapping our vacation to Pittsburgh.  That vacation was a lot of fun, but we were just starting to get into some of Jacob's earliest challenging behavior.  He had a very hard time going to sleep in the hotel room, and we still talk about how he darted toward the pitcher's mound when he ran the bases at the Pirates game!  The year before that, when Jacob was one, he was just starting to stand up on his own and I was pondering a lot of topics typical for the mom of a baby who was becoming more of a force in the world.

But the post that caught my eye the most was from seven years ago.  Jacob was two months old and starting to get belly problems from what was probably the same intolerance and reflux that Carter ended up with (though, presumably, the intolerance was not as bad).  I was still grappling with all of the changes brought on by parenthood, and I posted the text of an email forward my mom had sent me a couple years prior.  I had saved it for future reference, and finally took a look at it again a couple months into motherhood.  At the time I didn't feel like I'd experienced enough to really, fully understand its truth, but reading it again seven years later...well, let's just say it was right.  Here it is:

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family.""We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral." I know," she says, "No more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations." But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every-day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years ... not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, and not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes."You'll never regret it," I finally say.Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
So true.  All of it.  I still have a very long way to go in this mothering thing, but already I can validate pretty much everything here...with the exception of bike riding, darn it, as that one is still eluding us.  But replace that with watching your kid score a goal, and we've got a winner.  Constant angst, constant second-guessing, constant exhaustion, and the deepest love and happiest joy you could ever imagine.  It's unrelenting and will remain that way forever.  I had mentioned in another post in one of the years I read through about how I knew my life would be forever changed the moment I saw the first pregnancy test turn positive.  Even if that baby wouldn't have been meant to be, it still would have stuck with me forever.  It would have been a short-lived joy followed by a profound loss.  But luckily that baby thrived and became Jacob.  Of course, I still worry about him constantly, fearful of what his difficult personality could mean in the years down the road.  He already thinks we're ruining his life and believes he knows better than us, and I worry about how that translates to horrible teenage judgment and rebellion.  I feel completely inadequate most of the time, and while I do pray for Jacob, I also pray for myself, that I can be the type of mom that he needs to guide him through these difficult periods of his life. I don't feel like we're a very good match at this point.  We probably have a case of what doomed my dad and me for a while--our personalities are just too similar!

Still, I marveled at the changes across seven years of posts.  I've continued writing here for so much longer than so many other bloggers (paid ones, too!) have lasted, all in the name of remembering the details of this experience and giving my boys the chance to read their own life story some day.  Maybe they won't care, but if it gives them even a little bit of insight into how much I love them, then it'll all be worth it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Catching Up, Multimedia Style

I finally got around to uploading a bunch of videos, so I can finally share some of the fun ones.  I also have a few extra pictures to share. 

Oh, and before I forget, we've made a very little bit of traction on the potty training situation.  The other night, Carter started peeing on the bathroom floor right before his bath, and once I yelled and he stopped, I told him to sit on the potty and finish it...and he actually got a little more out there!  And then, apparently he peed on the potty at daycare and once more over the weekend with Craig! I haven't gotten many details yet, but it's good to know we're moving (slowly) in the right direction.

Ok, so, pictures first...Here's one of the boys both playing in the sprinkler at a party we went to for the former director of our daycare a few weeks ago.  A bunch of mostly former daycare kids and parents were there to surprise the director, and we had a really nice day catching up with all the people who had left.  Unfortunately, I found out this past weekend that two more of Carter's long-time buddies have left.  I'm pretty sad about the whole thing and feeling so unsure about what to do.  But anyway, at the party it was HOT and the kids were loving the sprinkler!
It's a miracle I got the two of them together!  And yes, Jacob was fully clothed.  He dried.
Here are more pictures from Fantasy Island, this time from my parents' pictures.  Consider them proof I was there ;-)
Carter and me on the hot air balloon ride that made him giggle uncontrollably!

Carter riding the bird

Me coming off Devil's Hole (aka the Gravitron)

At the end of our big slide race!

Bumper cars - we're on the left in the yellow car.  This may have been the moment before we hit someone and I bashed my knee into the wheel.  Ouch.

On the Crazy Mouse.  Jacob was rubbing his head because the last set of brakes caused him to bump his head a bit!

Rock 'N' Roll, one of his favorite rides...and yet he wouldn't ride the same ride at Waldameer....

Happy Carter and Grandma on the ferris wheel!

Not-so-happy Jacob and mama (but he survived!)
And now for some videos...
First up, the view from the crazy high swings at Fantasy Island...
And here is Jacob's first-ever driving experience, on the antique cars at Fantasy Island.  It's a little long, but I was trying to capture the harrowing adventure as best I could...
I had to capture Carter's delirious laughter and huge smiles from the hot air balloon ride at Fantasy Island.  He was so giddy and it was totally cracking me up!
This is the end of the battle that Craig and Jacob volunteered for at Old Fort Niagara.  They marched across the battlefield and took their shots, and this was the victorious end...
This is the cannon demonstration at Old Fort Niagara.  I think they had some technical difficulties, so it took an extra little bit for it to actually fire, but it was cool to see...and loud!
This is Carter playing on the chimes at the Erie Zoo.  I loved the fun little stations they had around this section of the zoo for kids, and this was my favorite!
Finally, this was at the end of the night at the Erie Seawolves game.  I had already changed Carter into his pajamas for the drive back to the hotel.  I was hoping he'd fall asleep and we could just transfer him right into his bed, but no such luck.  Anyway, on the way out we'd stopped at the store to shop and so Jacob could get his free hat autographed.  Carter loved these claws, and this roar was absolutely hilarious.  The ferocity at the end still cracks me up.
This past weekend was a little different, as I spent most of the weekend with my parents, and Craig took the kids to his parents' house.  We left Friday night and the boys dropped me off before heading to their final destination.  I had a bridal shower to attend on Saturday with my mom, and I figured Craig might be more comfortable just taking the kids to hang out with his family, rather than hanging out at my parents' house while I was gone.  They spent Saturday with Craig's family, hanging out and doing a little school shopping.  In the meantime, I got in a run, went to the lovely shower, relaxed during the afternoon, and then went for dinner and a walk along the river with my parents.  Did I mention I ate way too much over the course of the day?  Breakfast buffet at the shower, and a Buffalo specialty, fried bologna, for dinner.  But it was really fun to spend time with my parents without playing referee for the kids or constantly running off to fetch something someone needed!  Sunday we went to church and then met Craig and the boys at my dad's cousin's house for my annual family reunion.  It was a rather warm day but pleasant in the shade.  Carter loved riding on the swing in the yard and enjoyed checking out the bunny rabbit and the deer that came into the yard.  Jacob and Craig took advantage of the big yard and played some lacrosse.  They both spent some time inside playing Legos, too.  I had a nice time catching up with my family, and Jacob ate a bunch of the dessert I made (a gluten-free ice cream cake of sorts...Oreo-type cookies crushed on the bottom, a container of mint chocolate chip ice cream over that, and Cool Whip on top, all frozen--really refreshing!).  As a whole we had a nice time, but we were eager to get home.  Both boys fell asleep on the way home, and Jacob woke up right at the end feeling ill.  Luckily we made it home and he fell back to sleep almost immediately after the nausea had passed.  Carter woke up a couple times (once as we were going to bed, and once again at 3am) seeming a bit uncomfortable.  I'm not sure if it was gas or something else, but he seemed fine this morning.  These kids always like to keep us guessing, that's for sure.  I missed them a lot, but it was nice to have some girl time (and mimosa time) at the shower, to listen to the sermon at church, and to have uninterrupted conversations for a change! 
I can't believe we only have a couple weeks left in August.  Carter is now officially 2-1/2, by the way, and my birthday is just around the corner.  School paperwork for Jacob arrived today, and I think most of our big summer plans have passed.  Summer is just a little too quick for me! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

News & Notes, Post Vacation Edition

Just a few randoms today...

1) I forgot to mention last week that Carter has a chipped tooth!  It's not that bad and we have no idea when it happened, but while we were at Fantasy Island I happened to notice that a little bit of the lower corner of one of Carter's front teeth seemed to be missing!  He falls on his face all the time, usually from a full sprint, and there have been plenty of times where I have walked over to him post-fall expecting the worst.  I do remember one particularly nasty face-first fall not long ago on a hard surface, but I can't remember where it was or when it happened.  Even still, I feel like after that one I would have looked closely, so who knows when it really happened.  It's really not that noticeable, and I'm sure over time it will smooth out a bit, but I've still pondered taking him to the dentist just to get it checked and possibly filed in case it's sharp on his tongue.  Poor kid, but I guess we should consider ourselves lucky as it was clearly a close call!

2)  Carter is really talking a lot now.  Sometimes he's still hard to understand as he's got a couple speech issues (Cs sound like Ts, for example), but his sentences are getting more complex and he's getting more perceptive about what's appropriate to say when.  He's gotten to a super cute stage, for sure, though I think we're in trouble!  The other day I was scolding him for trying to go down to the basement, and I told him he was in trouble.  He replied with a smile, "I not trouble, I just Carter!"  He's definitely got a mischievous side and he likes to run off more than I'd like, but he's still generally more easy-going than Jacob.  He can get very riled up by his big brother, however. He can be a complete angel in the grocery store alone with me, but with the two of them together it is nearly impossible!  When he's got an opinion he will let you know loudly, but he's still got a sweet side where he will ask where someone is (out of concern) or will help clean up when asked.  He's very polite with using "please", "thank you", and "you're welcome", and offers to brush my hair sometimes.  He's stubborn, though, when it comes to eating, as he will not eat a single bite of non-french fried potatoes or most vegetables, no matter what we do.  But gosh, he's one lovable kid.

3) Jacob is still trying our patience all the time.  We're still dealing with him thinking he's right all the time, and that he can make his own rules.  Like I've said a million times before, it's not that we let him get away with things--we don't--but he just cannot get it through his head that the rules apply all the time and that he needs to follow them, end of story.  He'll constantly one-up our ultimatums with one of his own or try to find a loophole.  He will flat-out refuse punishments ("You're not playing Wii tonight."  "Yes I am!"  (And of course we win.)), and find any excuse to weasel out of things.  It is maddening.  He still needs to write some thank you notes from his birthday (I know, it was almost two months ago) because the thought of bringing it up exhausted me.  Well, the other night he did lose the Wii because of some grocery store antics, so I offered that he could earn it back if he wrote a thank you note.  You would think the world was ending.  I even wrote out what he needed to write (baby steps, people--this is his first time) so he could just copy it.  He agonized over it, complained of a headache, freaked out about mistakes (we used pencil), and made it way more dramatic than it needed to be.  But you know what, he got through one.  And last night, after much angst, he got through another one.  And each of the next couple nights he will have to do it again before he can play the Wii.  For reasons like that, in general he's not a big fan of mine.  He says I'm boring, and to be fair, it's hard for me to get involved in a lot of what he does.  I can't play sports at his level, I'm not very good at Lego, and I don't understand half of what he tries to do with other toys.  Craig is the man for all of that stuff.  Jacob is completely obsessed with Craig, constantly asking where he is and basically just wanting to be his permanent sidekick.  On one hand it's great, and on the other it's a little frustrating...both for Craig who never gets a spare moment, and for me, who is easily cast off as unneeded.  Even though we both dole out punishments, for some reason Jacob is convinced that my goal in life is to make his life miserable.  I am constantly trying to remind him that I love him and just want to help him, but it's not going very well.  He's still not a fan of his brother, either, though we do have functional moments now and then.  But mostly he tries to trick Carter into saying something he can make fun of him for, or to do something he shouldn't, which is so frustrating.  We try to explain to him that he's being a bully, but in true Jacob fashion he insists he's not, even though he'd see someone else doing the same thing and know it's wrong.  I'd say I hope he outgrows some of this stuff, but I can't say I'm optimistic based on what I hear from other parents.  Ultimately I just hope he realizes at some point how much we love him and that we're just trying to do what's best for him.  But right now, it's hard.

4) Work is finally consistently busy for me, and I like what I'm doing, but I still miss that feeling of overarching knowledge about the job as a whole.  I still feel a bit clueless at times.  I've certainly learned a lot and come a long way from where I started, but there's still a degree of uneasiness and unfamiliarity with what I'm doing, particularly now that a new year has started and I haven't done this part before.  I'm constantly second-guessing myself because I know there's still so much I don't know.  The thing is, I was in such a good spot at my old job.  I was the master of my (Excel) domain.  I knew what I was doing and could do most of the job in my sleep, if I had to.  That's certainly not the case now, and I miss that ease.  I think I can be very good at it with more time, but the interim is mentally exhausting.  It appears they're happy with my work, but I'm still feeling guilty because my two closest co-workers are still super-stressed and crazy busy, and I had hoped to alleviate some of that when I got here.  My one co-worker feels like she can never take vacation, and my boss has actually been here for part of this week even though she was supposed to be off.  I'm definitely doing what I can to contribute, and down the road I will definitely be taking on more, but I feel bad not sharing in their stress-fest.  It probably doesn't help that the workflow is just different here.  At my old job I could check a dozen things off my list in one day, whereas here projects tend to be a little more long-term or multi-step.  Without that ability to constantly check things off, it's hard to measure my productivity like I used to, and mentally that's a bit of a challenge.  Still, I'm happy to be here, particularly when I see my paycheck.  I'll admit that the memory of my time as a stay-at-home mom does linger in my brain more than I expected it to, which is an added mental challenge, but I know this is where I need to be.

5) The daycare situation is still hanging in there.  Did I mention we got a $25 gift card as a "thank you" for sticking with them?  I'm not really happy with things, but as I keep telling Jacob, we're sort of stuck there for now.  We don't really have any other options for Jacob these last few weeks of summer, so we just need to push through even though he's insisting that it's boring and the kids don't like him.  I know that for the most part it really is fine--maybe not fine like it used to be, but tolerable--but it's sad that things are like this because it was completely avoidable.  Carter still has teachers he's comfortable with, but his class is really tiny now and two more of his best buddies are probably on their way out.  Both are probably going to Doodlebugs at some point--one is on the waiting list and the other turns three next month so he should just be able to pop into that classroom at that point.  Ultimately no one trusts the management (aside from the new director, who is sweet), and I know that when Carter turns three there won't be a familiar teacher waiting for him, so it just makes sense to find a better spot then.  I'm still holding out hope that the old directors will figure out their plan, as they've definitely been looking into sites and working out some numbers.  But I still wonder how many people will jump at the chance to go to them once their kids are already settled in their new place.  Some will, as they have reservations about their new places and trust the old directors completely, but others might discover they like the new places better.  We're trying to do playground dates to keep everyone in touch and familiar, but I have no idea how this is going to play out.  None of the options thrill me right now, but eventually we'll probably need to settle on one. 

Sorry, this was probably boring, but sometimes you just need to get some of that housekeeping stuff out there.  More soon...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Trip that Almost Didn't Happen, Day 3

After our late night on Friday I was hoping for a decent sleep-in on Saturday.  The boys did pretty good, aside from Carter waking up wet at 4am and needing a full change.  We moseyed out of the hotel a little after 10:30, which was not as early as I probably would have planned, but given the circumstances, it was fine.  It's just always a challenge gathering up clothes and toys and whatever has been left in the bathroom, then getting it all down to the car.  As I mentioned in my last post, this was our "wild card" day.  We didn't have any specific plans aside from going down to the water, hopefully checking out the beach for a bit, and then stopping at Mercyhurst on our way out of town.  Whether we got back at dinner time or bed time was totally up in the air and simply depended on how fun things were! 

Our first stop was the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, right across the street from Waldameer Park.  Craig kept bemoaning the fact that this was on the site of his old drive-in movie theater, but we stopped in anyway since it was free.  I think it would be better for older kids, and if we wanted to spend more time here there were a couple movie presentations and things like that.  We could have learned all about the history and environmental development of Presque Isle.  The building itself was very nice, and included a 75-foot tall observation tower.

Inside they had these three towers full of wooden motion toys that you could start up using a wheel.  They were all connected so they'd all start moving at once.  It's hard to see with the reflections on the glass, though.

Here's a close-up of one.  It's got a UFO and a sign that says, "Welcome to Presque's out of this world!"  The UFO spun, and the human (alien?) figure there moved, as well.

There was a lot of ecosystem-type educational stations--here's Jacob playing with one where a fan could blow sand.  I think it was showing how the coastline formed.

The boys played a few minutes in a room with puzzles, puppets, and drawers full of discovery items, and then we ushered them upstairs.  Here's the top of the towers--who knew they were lighthouses?

We took the elevator up to the top of the observation tower.  Here's a view down to the front plaza...

...and over to Waldameer.  You can see the top of the big roller coaster (with the colored flags) to the right.  You can see the lake in the background.

Here's a shot of the smaller coaster that Jacob rode with me and didn't like.  It was so covered in trees that it was hard to get a good picture of it from inside the park.

Jacob wanted to take the stairs in the tower, so I made the deal we could walk back down!  He and I took all 131 stairs back to the ground and met Craig and Carter there!

Then it was time to go off to the beach!  As we got on the road, we passed under the tunnel for the big roller coaster that goes over the road.  Riders pass through it twice.  It was definitely an interesting addition to the ride!

We drove around Presque Isle State Park for a while.  It is a very long peninsula and the roads are generally one way, but since we were just exploring, we drove to the end rather than utilizing any of the u-turns along the way.  The outbound side mostly had grass from the road to the water, which was maybe only 10-20 feet at any given spot.  There was a great walking/riding trail and we saw a ton of people using it.  The boys were eager to get to the beach, though, so we continued on and picked a beach where we saw a concession stand and decent parking.  We hauled our stuff down and picked a spot.  We weren't planning on staying for long, particularly since it was nearly lunch time and concession options aren't always the best for Jacob.  Jacob had refused to put on his swim trunks at the hotel (and honestly, none of us bothered to do it either at that point), but of course both kids got wet while trying to bring up water to our spot to make castle-ready sand.  Luckily they dried just fine, and we had a very nice time.  It wasn't too hot and there was spotty sun, so it was a pleasant day for it.  The beach was mostly sandy with a lot of small, smooth rocks.  The water was seaweedy but for the most part clear.  The boys had fun building for a bit, and I think next time we can make plans to spend more time here.

One of Jacob's creations

Taking a walk to the water to fill up the pail
After our super cheap McDonald's lunch using our coupons from the baseball game, we took a quick trip to Mercyhurst University, Craig's undergrad school.  We figured the campus would be quiet, and aside from what appeared to be a wedding in the chapel, it was.  As we drove through, Craig marveled at all of the changes since his time there.
Entry gate
Craig wanted to see if he and Jacob could get on the lacrosse field for a couple minutes, and sure enough, the gate was open.
The entrance to the football/lacrosse field
They only did a few shots, but it was fun to see them out there!

We took a little stroll in our quest for the (closed) bookstore, and came across two lovely park areas.  This one was actually a class gift from Craig's brother's class.  That sculpture is a fountain with water cascading down the sides.

Craig thought that this park's landscaping/design might have been his class gift, but he wasn't sure.

After a quick look at the gym (mostly to find the bathroom!), we piled back in the car and started the drive home.  We planned to stop in Buffalo for dinner, but the ridiculous antics in the back seat (seriously, they wouldn't leave each other (or us) alone) prompted us to just push through and get home.  They both ended up falling asleep for the last hour or so.  It was an unfortunate ending to a fun trip.  It was not without its challenges and super annoying moments, but it accomplished what I wanted it to--we saw some new things and made some new memories.  I'm glad we did it, but I definitely need to remind myself that these types of trips come with major battles and frustrations.  I guess it's nice to fight those battles in a different setting, but it's never going to be the blissful trip we'd all like it to be.  But things should get a little easier as Carter gets older and can do more, and hopefully the boys will get along better (in general) as time goes on.  Still, I don't anticipate extending our travel time limit any too soon!  Now we're back to the grind and facing down the end of summer...I can't believe how fast it's gone!  Let's hope we can finish it strong!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Trip that Almost Didn't Happen, Day 2

We leisurely got up and around on Friday, ate the cereal that I brought from home for us, and got on the road to the Erie Zoo.  When we asked Carter what he wanted to do on vacation, he said, "Animals", so we had to include a zoo!  The zoo didn't look too big, but it had some good animals and we were excited! 

Right inside the gate was a beautiful old building with beautiful details.
The stonework was beautiful, and above the arched window is an elephant head holding a light fixture by the trunk.  So pretty!
Inside was a handful of animals--a few small lizards, a small cat, naked mole rats, meerkats, some birds, and these sleepy lions, both with their tongues hanging out...

We admired a red panda on our way to the next exhibit, and then came into a cool building themed like an old Asian temple.  Inside were the orangutans, and they were so fun to watch!  This one was hanging out when we came in...
He was so close and so big, and I almost felt guilty for standing there staring at him.

And then the baby joined him...
They all seemed fond of their blankets and sheets, and the handholding was so sweet!
 This one was hanging out up above...

The baby's face was just so sweet!  It reminded me that it's been a while since I've seen the baby at our zoo, though she's now pretty big, too!

We saw a tortoise, a couple very active monkeys, and some sleeping red pandas, too.  And here's the outside of the temple ruins theming.  So cool!

After that we saw a leopard, a jaguar, some carnivorous plants, some farm animals, and a live camera of three lynx kittens nursing with their mother.  At the tiger exhibit, Craig was silly and decided to pose for this picture, with his willing assistant...

Their African exhibit was pretty cool with its African outpost theming, too.  We saw a warthog, African wild dogs, rhinos, and zebras.  We then came to my favorite animal, the giraffes!  I just think they're so amazing--they look so clumsy but are so graceful.  They have gorgeous eyelashes and such complex bodies.  Strangely, the two giraffes were alternately eating from their box on the wall and then licking the wall.  No idea why. 
Check out that tongue!
Back in a more central area, they had a lovely model train setup that Carter liked, of course!

We crossed a pretty bridge to the other section of the zoo...

We saw some small penguins like we have here in Rochester, and I must say, this one was my favorite...

They had some fun kid activities in this section, including this cute spot where kids can jump on these squares and they chime.  Carter loved it!

Inside their discovery center, the boys tried to create their own zoo exhibits with animals and walls and railings...

After they played there and we checked out some tamarins, lizards, and a giant snake, back outside we saw llamas and alpacas and some kangaroos!

The weird part about that exhibit was that it was just barely roped off, so in theory the kangaroos could come right up to you!

Craig is not a fan of aviaries, and the boys all ran ahead of me while I took pictures, so they missed out on seeing this gorgeous bird up close!
(No, that's not my arm!)
We had a quick lunch at the zoo.  Of course, with Jacob's restrictions it's hard so we were a little lenient on what he got to eat (read: crap) but he was happy and the rest of us ate fine.  Carter's healthy wrap meal even came with a free animal baseball cap (we picked a tiger!)!  The gluten stuff really does make eating on the go very hard.  I have to do a lot of research, but in the end we do end up eating a lot of fast food and snacks that I brought with us.  I wish he'd get into healthier options to make it a little easier, but no luck so far.  Of course, on vacation there's always the added challenges of time and money, so even the best research doesn't get us far. do what you can.

On our way out of the zoo, Jacob checked out the little pond...

...and I caught a beautiful butterfly nearby!

We did a second check of the otter exhibit on our way out, since our first stop yielded nothing, butthis time only saw a tail sticking out of the one hole!  Boo.  We made a quick stop in the store (sigh, it's vacation) and headed out...
One of the two pretty mosaics near the entrance
Overall it was a really great zoo.  It was an easy zoo to navigate by stroller (and it seemed like Carter could see almost everything from his stroller), and the exhibits were well done.  I was rather impressed! 

We went back to the hotel for the afternoon, with hopes that Carter could nap.  Of course, when we got there, Carter was wired and wouldn't go down no matter what we did.  Jacob wanted to go to the pool, so I finally took him there and hoped that Craig could model napping for Carter while we were gone.  Jacob and I spent a half hour down at the pool, mostly in the hot tub!  We had a nice chat and some quality one-on-one time, which we don't get much since he's addicted to Daddy and Carter is usually around.  When we came back up, both Carter and Craig were sleeping.  We had some nice quiet time on our electronics, and finally got Carter up to head to dinner and the baseball game!  We tried Chick-Fil-A since we don't have those around us and they have a grilled chicken nugget option and dedicated fryers for their fries.  Jacob wasn't really a fan, but it was worth a shot.

How we'd never ended up at an Erie Seawolves game, I have no idea.  I feel like we've hit up every minor league team between Rochester and all of our vacation destinations, but apparently not.  Craig had been to the stadium once when it was first built, but a lot had changed since.  It was a beautiful night for a game, and we were pretty excited about the ticket package we'd bought.  It was an awesome value.  For only $38 (including fees), we got four tickets, four hats, and four coupons for free meals at McDonald's.  Our entire lunch the next day cost just over $6!  It was such a great deal!  I had also snagged great seats, and it turns out that the first base upper deck seating where we were was named the #5 best seat in minor league baseball.  Not too shabby!

Outside the stadium I snapped a picture of the boys with a baseball frog statue.  I'm guessing these frogs were Erie's animal series at some point, because we saw a few of them around.

I thought it was interesting that the word "Erie" near the top of the scoreboard was spelled out with nautical flags.  And yes, former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland was there signing autographs.

This was the view from our seats.  I never got a good picture of our direct view of home plate, but as you can see, it was a nice overview.

This is a picture looking toward where we sat.  We were in the second section in of the upper deck.  It was an interesting stadium in that the space constraints of the city block caused them to put an upper deck on one side and a normal bank of seats on the other.

Carter was very antsy that night, so we had to take a lot of walks.  During one, we tried to find the mascot, C. Wolf, but came across their other mascot, Perry, a giant inflatable fish.  He was definitely a bit of a prankster.  He'd loom over people from behind or head butt them.  Here is Craig giving him a high five...

...and if you look closely here, you can see him with a fabric lunch bag in his mouth that he snagged off the table nearby.

Jacob did extra well at the game because they had a jersey giveaway for kids over 4, and with his free hat, he was all decked out!

Here's a view from our seats looking the other way.  Notice, no upper deck over there!

On another walk with Carter, I snapped this shot with the setting sun in the background.

Carter and I finally tracked down C. Wolf and watched his antics up close...

And after a fun game, we found out that the kids could run the bases.  So, down they went!  All I could catch of Jacob was a blur...

And Craig did his best to keep Carter moving...though at home plate he pulled the same thing Jacob did around the same age, trying to run back on to the field.  Of course, it was a much bigger deal in Pittsburgh than in Erie!

We made a last minute stop at the souvenir stand (after I changed Carter into his PJs in hopes that he'd fall asleep on the drive back--no luck), and he was cracking me up with this giant foam claw and his roar.  I did get it on video and I will share it when I can.

Jacob also got C. Wolf to autograph his hat!

The boys had a tough time going to bed again even though it was so late, but overall it had been a good day.  One more day was left, and it was our "wild card" day.  We had some loose plans, but nothing specifically scheduled, so we were just going to roll with it and slowly but surely make our way home...