Saturday, October 31, 2015

This is Halloween

Another Halloween is in the books!  This year we got a bonus with Halloween being on a Saturday...two days of celebrations! 

Yesterday Carter came to work with me for the kid parade and trick-or-treating.  Jacob had school, of course, so it was just me and my little Marshall from Paw Patrol!  It was a lot of fun, even if he wouldn't get in a picture with the other kids.  This was the best I could get!
It was fun to walk through the other departments and see them get into the Halloween spirit!  Balloons, inflatables, cube after cube of treats...we had fun seeing it all and saying hi to everyone.  I liked being able to finally share my sweet boy with everyone after six months of either a) people seeing his picture on my desk or b) people just knowing the business side of me all that time and finally seeing the mom side.  Most amazing to me was our Gift and Donor Records department, which is normally so quiet (they have to be focused, almost to a fault), and having their whole department be decorated like crazy and having them all be chatty and enamored with my little boy.  He filled up his little pumpkin with candy (I think we need to graduate next year!  Clearance sales, here I come!) and we ended up with donuts in the Admin department.  It was a really good time and I loved seeing other people's kids. 
Oh, and did I mention that I was dressed up for all of this?   
It definitely made people smile (including Carter, who finally got it when I put on the hat and glasses), and the best line of the day was from someone getting the elevator who said, "Hey, I found I get a prize?"  The shirt and hat came from the family Halloween box that I brought home last weekend, and the cane was a few bucks at Party City.  My mom made the shirt for my brother back in high school.  He was a great Waldo.  I didn't do too bad, though!
I took Carter back to daycare as the sugar kicked in, and he joined his class just in time for party treats.  He sat down at the table next to a little girl dressed as another Paw Patrol character, Skye.  It was so cute to see them both together!
In the meantime, Jacob was at school doing their fall activities, cookie decorating and tasting fruits and veggies they found at the market.  Craig went in to help out.  It was definitely a bummer to not have the parade, even though the logistics of that are usually tough.  I saw everyone else's school pictures and the joy on the kids' faces, and it just made Jacob's day seem like it was lacking. 
I carved our big pumpkin last night, and another first thing this morning.  It was a pretty low-key day otherwise.  Although, I did completely reorganize the boys' books.  The kid books (including the beloved Brady Brady series) moved from Jacob's bookshelf to Carter's.  Jacob's got filled with the bigger kid books I brought back from my parents' house last weekend, and Carter's bookshelf is now overflowing.  I actually moved the largest of his books from his main shelf over to a crate on the other side of the room.  It not only improves access to those books, but makes room for so many others on the shelf!  It actually looks cute, too, and Carter loves it!  I took care of the rest of the boxes I brought home last weekend, then did some work in the yard during Carter's long nap.  I cleaned up the water table, took the barrier out from around my garden, and cleared all of the crap out of my awful front flower bed.  Oh, and I saw the creepiest spider ever!
The big boys played outside a bit, watched a movie, and ran to Wegmans, and before we knew it, it was time for trick-or-treating!
I got the pumpkins out and glowing... 
Hard to see our pumpkins from last week on the bottom--my battery powered tea lights aren't very strong--but the ones up top were our official ones!  I love the big one, and I like that the little one has ears!
I pretty much did the pumpkins on my own this year.  I guess that's what I get for having kids that don't like to be dirty or sticky or messy! 

Jacob was saying all day that he didn't even want to go trick-or-treating.  He really wanted to give out candy!  I told him I did not spend $30 on his army guy costume for him to hand out candy.  Sigh.  At least this year I got a picture of them together, fully in costume, and not miserable!

Trick-or-treating went okay.  The weather was nice, a little chilly but very tolerable.  I had a heck of a time getting both kids to say trick-or-treat and thank you.  Jacob obviously was not exactly helpful with his brother, but we didn't have any fights either, so that's a win.  We went up the one side of the street and Jacob wanted to quit 2/3 of the way down, but I convinced him to stick with it until the end of the street.  Good thing, too, since the last couple houses were fun!  One had lots of decorations (Carter was scared by the inflatable tunnel) and a guy in a goalie mask waiting on the porch to scare big kids.  The other had a guy dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi who welcomed the "young Padawans" to his driveway.  It was outstanding.  We had to skip the entire other side of the street, though, because Jacob wanted to go out for a shift with Craig.  I tried to catch a picture of the boys walking back, but even my camera's not that good... 
Jacob is up there somewhere...
About one minute after I took this picture, Carter wiped out and scraped up his chin.  I shined the flashlight and saw blood, so I picked up the pace back home.  It was just a scrape and he went back out for the handful of extra houses with Daddy, but he might be hurting tomorrow.  Of course, he doesn't even win the bloodiest Halloween award since Jacob had that gusher of a lip injury when he was 1-1/2 that sent us to the ER (unnecessarily, as it turned out) on Halloween night.  Ugh.  Anyway, Carter had already bumped his eye today when I accidentally nudged him as he was standing at the top of the stairs, and then I noticed tonight he seemed a little warm, and sure enough, a low-grade fever.  He'd been coughing and congested most of the day, so he must have a bit of a cold.  We're also watching him for a potential UTI, because lately it seems like he only pees a tiny bit then five minutes later ssays that he has to go again.  Then last night he seemed to be pained when he said he had to pee, and he said it felt hot, completely unprompted.  So, we'll monitor it.  He seemed fine otherwise, even with the fever. 

Jacob loved handing out candy, and our switching of his gluten-filled candy was relatively easy.  Both kids have plenty, especially Carter, thanks to my office.  I normally try not to eat my kids' candy, but he's got a ton and we don't need to keep it sitting around.  We have a lot of extra anyway, because our neighborhood is always unpredictable.  Some years we have very few, some years we run out of candy.  This year was pleasantly in the middle.  I also saw some cute costumes and had very polite, mostly costumed older kids.  Not bad.

So, November starts tomorrow.  Time change tonight, early sunsets from here on out.  Hopefully Carter will recover quickly.  We have 3-1/2 weeks on the downslope of fall, then Thanksgiving, and then the crazy Christmas season will be upon us.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that this year, but it'll be here quickly!  Anyway, I think it was a good Halloween.  We've had our ups and downs, but all things considered, we had some fun and ultimately that's what matters!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

This Week is Not My Friend's Halloween week.  It's the last week of October and I'm sort of in denial.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...this year has flown.  Losing my job in the first two weeks of the year threw this whole year into chaos.  I mean, the year usually goes fast enough when you're just going through the hum-drum normal stuff in life, but when you're distracted by something else?  Apparently that speeds things up.  I spent almost three months trying to get a job (and spending time with Carter, and getting some rare alone time, too), then spent many months adjusting to our new normal.  Suddenly I've been at this job over six months, and Christmas is less than two months away.  Carter will be three in less than four months.  Time is flying.  I am sort of overwhelmed by the thought of Thanksgiving being in four weeks and the Christmas craziness starting immediately after.  It's unbelievable how quickly we got here.

This week has been a tough one.  I haven't been feeling great, and in fact tonight I feel horrible--body aches, chills, exhaustion, along with an iffy stomach--but all week I've been battling the sniffles again.  I'm super busy at work and I really can't miss work.  I brought my computer home tonight just in case I have to stay home, but I'd hate to miss the Halloween festivities tomorrow.  I actually managed to cobble together a costume from the stuff in the family Halloween box that came home with me from the weekend, but I guess we'll see if I get to wear it.

I've had a hard time thinking up dinners, which is always frustrating.  It seems to happen once every couple months, no matter how much I try to plan or wrack my brain for ideas.

Carter battled me hardcore about trying on his Halloween costume (and his backup Halloween costume) the other night, and I have no idea if he will put it on willingly tomorrow (assuming I feel good enough for work and can take him to my work event) or Saturday.  Tuesday I had to take him to Wegmans while Craig and Jacob were at lacrosse, and I realized as we walked in that it was trick-or-treat night there, which I had forgotten about.  Luckily Carter was  too young to realize that the other kids were going around getting treats!  Still, classic #momfail moment.  Oh, and it took me most of the week to remember to give Carter an overdue bath.  Mom of the Year, huh?.

Jacob changed his mind a handful of times over the past week for his costume, and after a frustrating shopping trip night last night, I finally spent $30 tonight on a costume he's going to wear for about two hours.  We don't really have anything here that we could cobble together, let alone anything that's up to his very particular standards.  We were short on options, so now I just have to hope Carter wants to wear it in 4-5 years to get our money's worth.  Some parents at Jacob's school tried to get the Halloween parade reinstated, but in the end the district rescinded the permit they got for unknown reasons, so they gave up.

I made cutout cookies last night so Jacob could take some to school for cookie decorating.  That actually went relatively well.  It took me all week but I finally remembered to email his teacher yesterday to make sure there was nothing else I needed to worry about.  They bought fruits and vegetables today at the public market, so I'm just having her double check the dips they're using. 

The mess around my house is out of control, and I actually spent about an hour last night running around just putting things away and picking things up and throwing things out.  I'm pretty tolerant of mess, but eventually I hit a breaking point.  It doesn't help that I really need to vacuum and dust, and I just don't have enough energy at the end of the day.  Most nights I've been falling asleep in my chair at 9:30 and snoozing until I can drag myself upstairs after 11.  Not very productive.

At least I bought Halloween candy ahead of time.  Let's hope we have enough to trade out the candy Jacob can't eat. 

Ok, I'm falling asleep again and desperately need some Tylenol before I head to bed.  I'm sure I have a half dozen things I need to be doing tonight, but I need to sleep more than anything.  Pray this gets better...I want to enjoy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sunday Funday!

Sunday's focus was our annual family Oktoberfest.  My Uncle Jeff hosted, and little did we know there were some fun planned activities awaiting us!

First up was that the kids had to search around the yard to find the "geocache" with their name on it.  A bunch of family members are into geocaching, including my parents, and Uncle Jeff has some experience creating and hiding them.  No GPS was needed for this one, though, as everything was in the back yard, but they were very well hidden.  You can see in the picture of Jacob below that it was a cylinder wrapped in camouflage tape.  They were all hanging somewhere, and his was tucked into the tower of a windmill.  Each one had a little flashlight, a lottery scratch-off, and some loose change.  The kids had a good time looking for them and discovering their treasure!

Next up was a donut eating contest!  Jacob couldn't participate in this one, but the other three kids in attendance at that moment--Carter, Max, and Kate--all got in on the action.  There was a grown-up version, too, but I opted to take pictures instead! 
Waiting patiently!

Carter dug right in!

His was first to fall, but he got to enjoy his donut anyway!

Kate did great!  Here she is posing with her well-nibbled donut and her lottery ticket prize!
After the games, we had some time to hang out and eat and congregate around the fire.  It was a cool day, but manageable, especially for the kids who kept running around!
Carter and Max getting into the sports equipment!
Later in the afternoon there was a pumpkin carving activity!  I missed the beginning of it, and came out to the tops cut off my kids' pumpkins...

However, once we got to the guts, both kids abandoned me!

I sat and carved a couple pumpkins for them, with minimal input other than both of them wanting something scary!  Luckily they were pretty easy to clean out and I was not as picky about it as I am at home.  You'll see the finished versions in a minute!

As I mentioned earlier, Craig and Jacob didn't arrive until Sunday.  Jacob had school on Friday and lacrosse practice on Saturday, and between wanting to keep the chaos a bit lower at my parents' full house and being unsure how participatory Jacob would be with his cousins (since we know how he is with his brother), it just seemed like all signs were pointing to Sunday.  He and Kate ended up bonding over the campfire, of all things.  Not my favorite, but as long as they followed some rules I was OK with it.  They could burn the end of their sticks, but nothing should come out of the fire flaming. Of course Jacob broke that rule later, but that's another story.
Yes, Jacob is trying to make fire there.  Good luck.
He and Kate were also using their charred sticks to draw on other pieces of wood.  Jacob really got into it.  He didn't put a heck of a lot of effort into the one he made for me, but he loved making them for my cousin Jamie, whom he adores.

Speaking of Jamie, her husband Dan was on duty that day as a police officer, and happened to show up for dinner.  The kids enjoyed coming out to see his vehicle, though Carter decided he didn't want to sit in the car.  He still thought it was pretty cool.

After dinner we got all of our immediate family together to pose for a picture.  We try to do this every time we get together, since it tends to be pretty rare and the kids change so much.  The one I have on my wall at work has Carter as a six-month-old!  Jacob is a head taller now!

Carter kept asking me to chase him around the shed, and he spent most of the day holding (or losing) his flashlight!

My attempt to get a smiling picture was foiled by his constant motion, but I did get this one.  It's super blurry, but the smile is irresistible!

Meanwhile, my cousins Lori and Brian were playing the giant version of Jenga that my uncle created.  It was quite the match, and I think it went a few rounds beyond this, but it was intense!  Brian eventually won.
Look at that middle section!

Soon it started getting dark, and we really needed to get back on the road to Rochester. We ended up staying a little longer so Jacob could roast a couple marshmallows, but eventually it was time to say our goodbyes to the Portland crew and everyone else and get on the road.  I was sad to leave after watching the kids together, but it's just more motivation to get out there someday.

I'll leave you with a picture of our jack o' lanterns...more carving to come this week!
Jacob's is on the left, and Carter's is the littlest one...they now live on our porch!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More Family Fun!

The whole crew got back to my parents' house after their sleepover as the rest of us were finishing up breakfast, and we all got ready to go over to my parents' old church for their annual holiday bazaar.  I know, a church bazaar doesn't exactly sound like a good time, and I suppose for part of our crew it probably wasn't, but despite the disaster that was the situation when my parents left the church, there were a lot of great people that they left behind.  A few of them have come to their new church in the years since, but it's always interesting to go back and see people again.  I'd been back there for my cousin's wedding last year and again a couple years before that when they dedicated the church office in memory of my late aunt, who was the long-time secretary.  But my parents have been gone for a number of years, and my time there has been quite limited since.

So, you can imagine the reaction of all the little old ladies (some of whom I was shocked to see still kicking around there!) who saw both my brother and me, with our own kids!  Many of them have known my mom since before she was pregnant with us, for goodness sake, and now we have our own kids who are all growing up rather quickly themselves.  Of course, I had a moment like that, too, when I saw a girl who used to sit across the aisle from us.  She was quite a bit younger than me, maybe 10 years?  I saw her walking around with three kids!  Even though she's certainly old enough for that to be the case, it blew my mind a bit!

Being there brought back memories of the many hours I spent walking among the booths, considering my purchases, and enjoying the atmosphere.  Back then it was a two-day event, and I could barely contain my excitement as school released on that Friday and I dashed downstairs to check things out.  Often my mom had been there all day already, and I couldn't wait to check in with her.  They had a full menu of food, a Christmasy feel (trees, lights, themed booth signs, music), and booths of all types.  There was a sweet shop, a quilting booth, a knitting booth, toys, "attic treasures" (basically a garage sale), a kid-friendly booth that usually had grab bags, a Christmas booth, a booth that made novelty buttons (the round ones with the silver backs), and a plant booth, which was run by my grandma for years.  Grandma would usually give us grandkids each $5 to run off and spend as we wished.  Usually I'd make at least one button.  I know, it sounds odd, but customizing your button with a picture from a magazine, or a sticker, or coloring one of the school spirit themed photocopied designs was so fun!  I'd often get a grab bag, buy a tiny plant from my grandma's booth, some homemade candy, and maybe find an attic treasure I liked.  The whole thing was fun and magical, probably because we could roam on our own without parental supervision.  We had such a blast.

Nowadays it's certainly different.  Still so many of the same faces, but everything's a bit lower key.  It's only one day, the theme is now fall (cute but less magical!), and there's just not as much to see...even taking into consideration that I was smaller and everything seemed bigger back then.  But it was nice.  It was pretty busy and our kids definitely had fun checking things out, particularly the toy booth!  My mom bought Carter and Kate blankets, and Max a pillow, all at the quilting booth.  She asked about Jacob, but I didn't think he'd like any of the blankets, and he has stolen one of our grownup ones as his own anyway!  He was also getting a fun weekend with Daddy, so don't feel too bad for him!  Over at the toy booth, my mom bought 10 books for a dollar that were split among the kids, and Kate and Max picked out a couple things that they bought with money that (I think) they picked up somehow from our Uncle Jeff.  He likes to make bets with the kids and while I missed the goings on while attending to Carter, I think that's where they got their money!  Anyway, it brought back some good memories and I think the kids had fun, too.

We headed home for a quick lunch before heading out to our next stop, a Canisius College Women's Volleyball game.  My cousin's wife is the coach, and it was their house that everyone had stayed at the night before.  I hadn't been to one of her games in a while, so it was nice to go and introduce Carter to a new sport.  He was mildly interested, though he asked to go to the bathroom an awful lot!  He was interested in the logo/mascot, a griffin (half lion, half eagle) and he did tell me the next day when we saw a volleyball that you have to hit it over the net, so clearly he picked up something!  The match was exciting.  They won the first game, lost two, came back to win the fourth by a couple points, and then won the tie-breaker!  It was nerve-wracking, but so great to see in the end. 

Back at the house, we settled in for the night with a spaghetti dinner and some family time.  The kids played more with the toys, but in the end it turned into a night of electronics! 
All the kids playing a game on Grandpa's iPad

Kate and Carter watching a movie on Kate's iPad before bed

Max playing on the iPad on Grandpa's lap

Three kids, two iPads, one chair :)
Who says electronics can't bring people together?  Bedtime was a bit eventful with all of the kids, but eventually they settled down and we all had a relatively early night.  We still had one more day left together, this time with Craig and Jacob, too, but I feel like this post is long enough for today...especially considering all of the fun we had on Sunday!  More to come...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cousinly Love

A few weeks ago I found out that my brother's family was coming into town for a long weekend.  Almost instantly I asked for that Friday off so I could get some bonus time with them.  It's been over two years since we've seen them.  Despite my best intentions of getting out west to see them, it's never happened, though I realize it needs to be higher on my priority list.  Regardless, I was so excited to see everyone, but most especially my niece Kate, who is now 6, and my nephew Max, who is almost 4.  They were both so much younger last time (obviously) and so much of their personalities has evolved in those two years.  Not to mention that Carter was only six months old last time we saw them, so clearly he'd be more involved in this visit, as well. 

As much as I wanted to make a complete set of grandkids by bringing Jacob, it wasn't really in the cards for the first part of the weekend.  He had school on Friday and (as it turned out) a last-minute lacrosse practice this weekend.  I considered pulling him out of school to bring him with me, but I try not to do that and I had a feeling he'd spend most of his weekend either playing on his iPad or complaining about being bored.  He doesn't always mesh well with other kids, and I honestly did not want to spend the whole weekend trying to convince him to play with his cousins or breaking up battles between my two kids.  I knew he'd enjoy his bonus time with Daddy, and when they both come in on Sunday for our family Oktoberfest, they'll hopefully make the most of their quality time.  I feel a little bad Jacob doesn't get more than a few hours with his cousins, but this time that will have to do.  Maybe it'll be a good test run. 

The whole crew got in Thursday and spent the day adjusting to Eastern time and getting settled.  Friday morning Carter and I left home at 9am to make it to Buffalo and meet everyone at the Great Pumpkin Farm.  I've seen dozens of pictures of my friends' kids posted from there, but I'd never been there.  More of the activities run on weekends, but the weekday stuff was free and generally fine for the kids.  It was so good to see everyone, and while it took Carter a little while to warm up, soon things were going swimmingly!

We checked out some animals, including a llama or alpaca that was a big fan of eating leaves...

...and some very loud geese.  We wandered around and saw the hay maze, which is a kid-friendly version of the corn maze.  We headed in...

...and made our way through...

Once we got out (which was rather easy, by the way), we headed over to the playground area, where there were a bunch of slides and things to climb on.  Carter loved the littlest slide!
Max and Grandma were waiting at the bottom!
 Carter moved up to the medium slide, and loved that one, too!

There was still one higher one, and you had to climb through a pretty steep tunnel to get there.  It was a bit daunting for Carter, but never fear, Cousin Kate is here!  She did such a great job getting Carter up there, and it was such a nice change of pace to have a big kid who's willing to take him by the hand and help him.  His other big cousins, on Craig's side, are usually pretty good with him, too, but so much of the time they're focused on big kid things.  It was refreshing to know he had a little kid buddy, since his brother refuses to do things like that. 
Kate helping Carter through the tunnel
There was also a wooden train that the kids were having a blast playing on.  Carter loved sitting in the front and "steering"!

The windows on one of the cars were so cute, and I thought Kate looked great as a fairy!

This part of the train brought back memories, since there was a similar one at the first pumpkin patch we visited when Jacob was a baby. 

Getting a good picture of three kids is pretty tough, but this one wasn't bad!

I caught this picture of Max, who was walking through a giant tunnel back near the slides...

Eventually we'd had our fill of the playground and decided to go look at pumpkins.  We certainly didn't need to buy any, with two that we bought on our pumpkin shopping trip and another that Carter got at daycare, but Kate and Max were staying that night with their second cousins (our cousin's kids) and pumpkin painting was on the agenda.  Of course we had to take advantage of the photo ops along the way...
Really wish Jacob could have been there for this one!

Quite the display, huh?

Three kids in a wheelbarrow!

One more attempt at three smiling faces...close!

A 1,700 pound pumpkin!  Just look at that stem!
We had a classic Buffalo lunch at Duff's, gorging ourselves in chicken wings and being entertained by the kids' "playing" the games nearby--bubble hockey, a shoot 'em game, and a toy crane--all without money.  The boys in particular were so cute together playing bubble hockey.  We headed back to my parents' house and relaxed a bit.

We spent quite a bit of time outside so the kids could run off their energy.  They ran the gamut on sports.  Carter kicked around the soccer ball a bit...

All the kids played with a couple bouncy balls, too.  I liked this picture that looked like all of them strategizing.

Grandma and Grandpa came out and a baseball game broke out...

Max trying his hand at pitching!

Carter taking a time out on the bench while Max took his turn

They had a lot of fun outside, but eventually we had to come in for dinner.  The kids had fun playing with all of the old toys that my mom brought down from the attic for my brother and me to sort through.  The boys were loving the Matchbox cars, and the Little People airport and circus train, and a little ride-on cart that held a bunch of plastic shapes and some dowels to connect them.  There was also the Playskool workbench...

In the end I brought home seven boxes worth of stuff, plus the family Halloween box of random costumes and accessories.  Some came from my old closet, most were from the attic.  Two boxes are full of books.  Some are good books for Carter, and others are ones I hope Jacob will take an interest in sometime soon.  Wishful thinking, but it's worth a shot.  I left some things there to donate, too, but it was pretty agonizing as a whole.  Most of them will end up in a bin as keepsakes of my youth, but either way it's seven less boxes I will need to move out when my parents downsize someday. 

It was really fun to watch the boys play together, since they're only about 15 months apart.  Max is definitely a step up from Carter, but they were both cut-ups with their talking and silliness together.  Max was telling nonsensical knock-knock jokes this morning and Carter was just cracking up!  They both came out with funny little things and generally played pretty happily together.  It was nice to see Carter with a cousin closer to his own age, getting to have a partner in crime like Jacob does on the other side of the family.  I also enjoyed watching Kate with him, because she was still pretty young, but more nurturing as a girl.  His only other girl cousin is great with him, but she's also older so it's a different dynamic.  To see a little girl step up and help him was so sweet, since we're so used to Jacob just ignoring him or egging him on. 

After a very fun day, the four of them headed over to our cousin Todd's house so the kids could hang out with their second cousins, who they're also close to.  They all slept over there for the night, so we had a quiet evening with just my parents, Carter, and me.  We missed the kids, but the breather wasn't too bad either since it had been a very stimulating, noise-filled day.  We still had a couple days left, though, so we all went to bed eagerly anticipating more days of fun!

Stay tuned for more...