Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Post-Christmas Recovery

I am so tired.  Really, really tired.  I don't know if it's just a month's worth of late nights, or the letdown after a month's worth of planning, or oncoming illness, or what...but I am exhausted.  It wasn't horrible going into work yesterday since it was only for one day (and then I'll do it again Wednesday), especially since the kids were driving us nuts over the weekend and a break from them was good for all of us.  But I woke up really tired.  I also woke up sore.  My back especially was sore.  I don't know if I slept funny or if this is an oncoming sickness sort of thing, but I really think I'm just super overtired from a solid month of everything--lack of sleep, too much food, constantly overthinking everything, constantly planning, and whatever else.  I'm just tired.  And normally I have a full week to be home and sort it all out.  But this year I have a couple days of work in between, so that big mental break isn't there.  I have yet to figure out how that might play out.  Ultimately I think I'll be fine, but it's annoying to have a couple days after Christmas to recover and still feel so tired yesterday morning.  Today I was off and it was honestly more of the same.  I'm not sleeping well, I can't get comfortable, and waking up is exhausting.  Today I had a headache, and the backache came back a bit later in the day.  After a lazy morning with Carter, at least I managed to clean up the Christmas gift bags and tissue paper, sort through my stash of boxes, and do a couple hours of my least favorite task, filing.

As for the kids, Christmas was generally good but as usual there were challenging moments.  At times both seemed ecstatic, but then later we'd ask them about their Christmas and get a disappointing response.  Carter was nervous about Santa leading up to it, which seemed to be what was keeping him down.  I got him to admit Santa was pretty cool after the fact, but then he seemed grumpy again for some reason.  I can't quite figure out why he doesn't seem excited, though he does seem to like his gifts.  Jacob always seems to be able to find one negative thing out of a thousand good ones, and he was like that almost all the time.  Even after getting his most wanted gift on Christmas Eve, then he was complaining because the next day is never quite as good (which isn't really true, as he always gets good stuff the second day, too), and he was bummed that the best part of Christmas was already over.  Then he was annoyed about getting an iTunes gift card, even though he always used to beg me for them.  Admittedly, he can do less with his iPad right now because it's older, but he's constantly listening to music and lately he's been doing it on YouTube.  As a result, he complains when he doesn't have WiFi, and I explained to him that he can download his favorites and not need WiFi for that.  The entitlement and glass-half-empty attitude makes me crazy.  He got so many things he wanted.  It's awful to hear and makes you wonder where you went wrong.

Even though the kids slept relatively well, there were late nights and missed naps and early mornings.  Add in being away from home and it's always a bit of a recipe for disaster.  When you factor in the anticipation and overstimulation, I feel like you just have to expect it for Christmas and make the best of it.  Quite honestly, I'm just relieved we made it through another Christmas without any major illnesses.  But it's not always easy to deal with the attitude and meltdowns on what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year.

I think the weather really did impact my Christmas spirit.  We had crazy warm weather leading up to Christmas.  I got to wear open-toed shoes the week before, and Craig was wearing shorts when we left on Christmas Eve!  It was in the 60s and definitely didn't feel like Christmas.  We didn't have any more than a few flurries (that didn't stick) during the entire Christmas season.  It was a bit of a bummer to not have pretty snowflakes in the air or snow on Christmas lights.  I will say, though, once it was a foregone conclusion that it wouldn't be a white Christmas, I decided I could get used to a warm, green Christmas!  It was nice not worrying about travel, or parking in snowbanks, or walking through ice to parties, or hauling gifts through the snow, or trying to pack the car with snow swirling through the trunk.  But I remember thinking as Christmas wound down that it didn't really feel like Christmas had even happened!  I feel like most years I have an instant sense of relief and excitement when we load in the car and head toward Buffalo.  This year I never really felt that.  I mean, I was relieved to be done, but I never got that specific feeling.  Even worse, usually there's a sense of magic and fun as we head into each of our Christmas stops, and this year it seemed to be missing.  I can't figure out why.  Too tired?  Too nervous about how the kids might behave?  No idea.  But it's a bummer.

Now Christmas is over and of course we got snow.  Last night it snowed an inch or so and was finished off with some freezing rain.  No ice accumulation that I can tell, fortunately.  But it's ironic nonetheless.  I'm sad to see everything start to de-Christmas.  Lights come down, decorations get packed away, stores lose their festive feel.  I hate January because it's such a sad contrast to December.  It's colder and less sparkly, with spring still too far away.  The only bright side is that Carter's birthday is coming, so at least I have that to think about.  I already have a couple presents bought, but I need to plan his party...and of course, his cake!  But this is definitely not my favorite time of the year, and I'll admit that I'm flashing back a bit to what happened in mid-January last year, when everything got turned upside down when I lost my job.  Even when I was filing earlier, I couldn't help but notice certain receipts and paperwork from that time off, and it took me back to that feeling of the unknown that took over last winter.  I know it all worked out just fine, but the upheaval wasn't easy and my memories of that time are very mixed.

I don't mean for this to be a bummer post, but I'm really not a fan of the post-Christmas blahs.  I wish I could make them a little less blah-like, but even that feels like a challenge this year with two kids who don't get along and limited time at home.  We're also facing treatments for Jacob's bone cyst, which is certainly a concern.  I'm thankful for a very nice Christmas, but I'm afraid festive isn't a word I'd use right now.  This year was a time of transition and full of challenges, and while I won't be particularly sad to see it go, this last year was a sobering reminder of just how unknown a new year can be. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Recap

So...another Christmas has come and gone.  From the crazy, non-stop preparations to the 48-hour whirlwind of our Christmas festivities, somehow December flew by again and we're now two days post-Christmas.  We had some very good moments, and some not-so-good moments, so let's see how much I can recall in my post-Christmas haze...

The extreme busyness began Wednesday afternoon, which I took off.  I'd been up late the previous couple nights wrapping and preparing, but I still had a lot to do in the afternoon.  I had to run around for a couple last minute gifts, and snag some additional wrapping paper to disguise the Santa gifts that would be arriving at my extended family's gathering on Christmas night.  That afternoon didn't go quite as planned, however, as Craig had decided to pick Jacob up from school early, which meant that I wouldn't have free reign of the house while wrapping the kids' gifts that afternoon.  Over the course of the week we'd had a few "different wavelength" moments like that, and I wasn't thrilled.  I had so much to do that night--wrap, make a snack to take to a couple family gatherings, make cinnamon rolls for the next morning, and get as packed as humanly possible.  The goal for the next morning was to wake up, open gifts, eat cinnamon rolls, get ready, and get on the road, ideally before lunch.  I was afraid the extra set of eyes at home might make that challenging, but luckily I was able to work around it a bit. 

That night I also had to go to Carter's evening with Santa at daycare.  He's been petrified of Santa all along and even pinpointed that as the reason he wasn't excited about Christmas.  I decided we should give it a shot anyway.  We got some cookies, listened to a barely-literate Santa read "The Night Before Christmas" (no joke--it was painful), and Carter refused to move when his name got called to get his gift.  He buried his face in his chair and started to cry.  I carried him up and he took his present, but he refused to say thank you.  He liked his puzzle, but was more interested in his cookies.

Happy eating cookies!
 
I had to drag him out of the room since he was excited about playing with the big kid toys.  We headed back home, had some dinner, and got the kids in bed.  Of course, we put out cookies and milk for Santa first, and carrots and Hershey Kisses for the reindeer.  The Kisses were Jacob's idea.  Here's the note he wrote.  Note that the spot for the Kisses is "Not for Santa" and there's a box on the right for Santa to sign.  This is the morning version--complete with Santa's signature!

 
They went down very well, and finally, around midnight, this was the finished product...
No, not all of them are for the kids...all of our family gifts were there too!
The next morning Jacob woke up around 7, and we made him wait until Carter woke up around 8.  Much to his dismay, I ran down to get the cinnamon rolls started, and then we did the traditional picture at the top of the stairs...
And yes, there's the boot!
Gift opening began, and we started with stocking stuffers...

Jacob was thrilled with his gifts, lots of eBay Lego finds that he and Craig had talked about, along with some Adidas clothes, a Minecraft book he begged me for at his book fair (even though he doesn't play), a new iPod cord, two Playmobil hockey referees, and a Canada lacrosse stick.
Checking out the new Legos!
Carter worked through his gifts--a book, a puzzle, new undies, two games for his LeapPad, Jacob's old doctor kit (from Jacob), and his big gift--a remote controlled car! 

 
 We settled in for cinnamon rolls...

Before we left, we did have one hiccup.  It was quite windy outside, and at one point we heard a noise.  It turned out that one of our shutters that had been a little loose was flopping around in the wind, hanging on by one screw.  Craig tried to stabilize it, but the wind was too much and it ripped off, breaking a piece off the shutter.  So, we'll have to get that fixed.  Boo.

We also opened gifts from Uncle John, Aunt Kristin, Kate, and Max before we left.  Jacob got Toronto Blue Jays stuff--a hat and shirt that both immediately went on his body, and a decal for his wall.

Carter got some Hot Wheels cars and a fun little car play set that's part parking ramp, part Lego...

We headed off to Buffalo, stopped for some lunch, went to Craig's parents, hung out, changed clothes and headed off to Craig's parents for church.  We made it through the service pretty well, I guess, and went to his Aunt Marie's house for his extended family gathering.  I caught this shot of the sunset along the way...

We had a nice time there, exchanging gifts, eating, and catching up with family.  I had actually surprised Craig's aunt with a gift (usually it's a family gift for them, but I thought she deserved her own this year!), which was probably one of my favorite parts of the holiday.  Eventually it was time to go and meet back up at Craig's brother's house so we could open gifts with his immediate family.

It's always a time of fun chaos--six kids and six adults opening gifts at the same time!  Here's Carter during the calm before the storm...

And who the heck is this big kid?!

And this is Honey, our nephew's early Christmas gift.  There's another family bunny, Sophie, who's a new addition, as well.  It was fun having a couple soft, adorable additions to the party!

Jacob got his favorite gift that night, his Playmobil hockey rink.  You can see the excitement in his hands here!

Here's Carter opening up a little Mickey Mouse train depot play set.  He really liked it but was a little confused that there was no train!  We'll be setting it up with his Lego train, I'm sure! 

He also got some cool jammies and a bunch of Star Wars tableware and a giant stuffed Olaf!

Jacob wanted to open his rink right away.  We made him not take it too far so he didn't lose pieces in the wrapping paper and other gifts, but he had to get it partly set up...

It was a late night, but after a bunch of crankiness trying to get them into bed, they both appeared to fall asleep during the five minutes I was in the bathroom!  They both slept well and other than a couple short wake-ups here and there (Jacob to pee and Carter to be covered), we managed to sleep in pretty well.  We were still tired and not feeling too great after food and (a little) drink the night before, but we were ready for Christmas day!  We got ready, packed up, and headed north to my parents' house.  Oh, and might I add here that it was freakishly warm on Christmas Eve (in the 60s), and Christmas Day was cooler but not bad.  We hadn't had any snow in December at all, which made getting into the Christmas spirit pretty tough, but I have to admit--not having to deal with snow or ice or heavy coats or boots or whipping icy winds was pretty nice.  I could probably get used to Christmases like that...though maybe I'd like to get a nice base and have it randomly be 60 on Christmas :)

We got to my parents' and had a nice dinner with them and my uncle.  My other uncle and aunt were supposed to be there, but he's dealing with some pretty significant dementia and wasn't up to it.  We're not sure how he would have done with the kids, so maybe that was better, but it's so sad that he's declined so badly.  We opened some gifts before dinner and the rest after.  The boys opened their stockings...

...and Jacob was very excited about a really cool Adidas outfit my mom got him, one that coincidentally matched one of the shirts we gave him!

Jacob also got a few books and a bunch of Wii games.  Carter got an Adidas shirt of his own, and a couple books, including a really cool one that's an interactive journey through a carpentry project.  It has all of these sliding pieces that let you pretend to hammer a nail, saw wood, or cut wire.  It's so cute!  He also got this little drill set, which was perfect since he loves the drill at daycare!

Learning to drill screws with Grandma!
After a nap for Carter, we headed off to my Uncle Jeff's house for our annual extended family party.  We exchanged our Secret Santa gifts--Carter got more cars, a little plane, and a Paw Patrol towel, and the rest of us got gift cards--and then Santa brought the boys a couple more gifts--Jacob got a Lego-style NBA court (yes, he was extremely spoiled this year--sort of by accident) and Carter got a Hot Wheels hauler to hold his many cars!  Both boys were pretty excited and Carter spent most of the night pushing his truck around and playing with the cars and plane.  Too cute.

Later in the night we took our traditional picture of the youngest generation--my two oldest cousins' kids, along with the boys.  Obviously John's kids are missing, as well as my cousin Chris' daughter.  We've done it every year since 2009.

After watching Carter learn how to slide down the stairs on his butt like we did as kids, I guess someone was feeling sentimental, because we did another picture with all of the grandkids--just missing John and Chris, since my cousin Kevin was in town for the first time in quite a few years...

And another with the oldest generation...just missing my late Uncle Bink :(
My Uncle Jeff remarked earlier that he realized that morning while sitting on the stairs with his girls before opening gifts that he probably sat on those same stairs 57 years ago, probably on his oldest brother's lap, as he waited to open gifts.  Traditions are great, aren't they?

I couldn't help but laugh shortly thereafter, as I noticed Carter taking part in another long-time tradition of hanging out under the dining room table...

It was another late night, but we had a great time (for the most part).  We spent half of the next day with my parents before packing up and heading home.  I've been pretty darn exhausted since we got home, most likely the post-Christmas letdown, but I did manage to unpack and put away most of the gifts (which is probably why I'm forgetting certain gifts the kids got!).  After a lazy day today, it's back to the grind for tomorrow.  I'm alternating days this week, so at least it's only a couple days.  I could probably use the break from the kids, but it'll be a little hard to go back knowing I still have some organizing to do at home.  I'm used to having this whole week off, so this is a switch.  Oh, and did I mention we're supposed to get some craptastic weather tomorrow night into Tuesday?  I'll probably have more thoughts on Christmas as I didn't get into some of the tougher moments of the holiday, but we'll save that for another day.

I hope you had a nice Christmas (and way less whining than we did!)!

Monday, December 21, 2015

News & Notes, Home Stretch Edition

Christmas is only four days away according to the Santa countdown on my wall at work, but in reality I know I have one less day than that since our festivities start on the 24th.  And that's not counting if we decide to open presents at home on the 23rd!  Nearly every year we have this challenge...Do we open gifts after school/daycare/work in the evening on the 23rd, or do we have a traditional "Christmas morning" on Christmas Eve and risk taking off later than would be ideal for hitting up Craig's family events?  I hate having to make the decision, mostly because we can't really do it at the last minute without seriously messing with the kids' minds.  We can't say, "Santa's coming while you're at school", and then decide that we need more time and push it off until the next morning.  Well, we could, but we'd have to blame it on Santa and that's not cool.  If we plan on Christmas Eve morning and then happen to get done early, it's just weird to bring the kids home to presents.  Again, we could do this, but it's just awkward and messes with the magic a bit.  So, two days out and we're still undecided.  I have yet to wrap a present aside from work ones.  Heck, we still have a couple presents to buy, not to mention a bunch more in transit somewhere.  We're getting there, but it's been a process.  I went out shopping twice this weekend and spent most of my free time browsing Amazon.  Not particularly fun, but it's what has to be done.  I still have a lot of work left to do, between wrapping, food planning, packing, and whatever else.  I have sugar cookies to decorate.  My living room looks like a toy tornado hit it.  My office has done a major move (even though I stayed put) so work is in a little bit of chaos as well.  I did manage to get a staff gift of bagels and donuts over to daycare this morning, without being late to work, which is pretty impressive.  Baby steps, for sure.

Jacob is doing okay.  He's walking around with his boot pretty well now, but he still takes the crutches out in public to give him stability, since those boots tend to be slippery on non-carpeted surfaces.  He got to go to lacrosse on Saturday, and he even warmed up the goalie.  He can stand still and shoot pretty well, which I think will help him a lot mentally.  He's allowed to be on the bench with some equipment, and I think that's key for making him feel a part of the team. They lost 8-1, though, so it was the same old-same old this week.  Sigh.

Carter has a pre-Christmas cold, but he's hanging in there pretty well.  He's having some sleep issues, though--not from the cold, but probably from some developmental phase.  He's had some trouble going down for naps on the weekend, and when he finally does fall asleep, then he wants to sleep later, which makes him stay up until all hours.  Last weekend it was Jacob's lacrosse game being during his normal naptime, and then ending up overtired from being out late at the Knighthawks game.  He was a mess for a couple days.  Oh, and did I mention that one day he randomly fell asleep at lunch at daycare?  That never happens.  I was convinced he was going to get seriously sick, but no, just a cold sometime after that.  Yesterday he refused to nap all while I was out shopping, then finally fell asleep around 3:30.  I meant to wake him before 5pm, but then I was up to my elbows in cookie dough and trying to manage the pork in the crockpot, so I didn't get him up until after that.  He didn't fall asleep until around 10:30, and then I had to wake him up around 7:45 this morning so we could get out the door early to do the bagel run.  He was tired and I'm sure he'll be off again today.

I had my own health issue yesterday, with a sore eye.  It wasn't itchy or red, but it hurt.  It got a little better before bed and was fine this morning, but over the course of the day I developed a muscle spasm in the cheekbone/temple area.  It's stopped now, but who knows what that was all about.  I was convinced yesterday that I was getting pinkeye again (God forbid), but today I'm thinking it might just be some sort of pesky virus that traveled from my eye over to the nearby muscles.  Let's hope it's just a passing, minor thing.

Back on the Christmas front, I'm feeling like we officially failed with the Christmas spirit.  We haven't done anything particularly Christmas-y aside from some Advent calendars.  Maybe this is just how it is with boys?  They're just not into decorating or the tree, and neither has asked to see Santa.  Carter and I went down one street to see a couple Christmas light displays, but both kids are sort of "meh" about the holiday in general.  Carter is scared of Santa and claims to not be excited about getting presents.  Jacob is sort of hung up on gifts, though not like last year, where I was convinced he'd be a grump all day when he didn't get what he wanted.  He's definitely expecting certain things, and he will be getting most of them, but he seems a little more chill about it.  Most notably, he's being a little weird about Carter giving him a gift.  We decided the boys should start giving each other gifts.  We're just picking one of our stash for Carter to give Jacob, and I suggested Jacob re-gift to Carter his little-used doctor kit, since Carter has been obsessed with the one at daycare.  He was agreeable to that but he was weirded out by Carter giving him something.  "Is he going to touch it?"  "What is it?"  "Can I open that one early?"  I'm not sure what his real issue is, but it is making him nervous, from what I can tell.  He'll like it, which is helpful in fostering goodwill, I think. 

Oh, and did I mention Jacob bought a gift for a girl in his class?  He's got a little friend named Angie.  They seem to get along well and he's convinced they're going to get married.  They've apparently planned out their lives and he really seems to like her.  At this point I still find it pretty sweet, and given that he hasn't been the most giving child I've ever met, I was sort of thrilled when he mentioned wanting to give her a gift.  I found a few cheap little girl jewelry sets at Walmart (since he insisted she likes jewelry), and let him pick one for her.  At least I convinced him to not give her the one with the engagement ring look-alike!  I'm a little nervous about what her parents might think, but at this age I think it's just sweet.  And it's not like it cost a lot.  I want to encourage him to give and make people happy, so this seemed like a good starting point. 

Yesterday we had a bit of a panic moment when we realized that we hadn't strategized very well for what we were giving Jacob vs. what Santa was giving him.  Between some minor shifting and a very careful conversation, I think we figured everything out, but we'll see once I start wrapping and labeling!  I think I'm forever scarred by the year that the bike didn't work out and we were scrambling at 10pm the night before we were opening gifts because there just didn't seem to be enough.  Silly, perhaps, but an awful feeling nonetheless.  Oh, and our panic gift that we bought and ended up not giving?  We never returned it because we knew we wouldn't get that kind of deal again, so it's still sitting in our closet, presumably waiting for Carter to get old enough to get it.  Not our best parenting moment, for sure.

I feel like there was more I wanted to share, but I guess this will have to do for now.  I hope to post again before the whirlwind hits, but we shall see!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Well, this was unexpected...

So, last night at Jacob's lacrosse practice, he and a teammate fell awkwardly together.  Jacob's foot got caught under him somehow, and he was in too much pain to walk afterward.  I'll admit I thought he was milking it a bit, since he did manage to mysteriously go from the kitchen to the couch by himself and didn't make a peep when I struggled to pull off his sock to look at it, even though everything else was making him moan and yell loudly.  There was no sign of injury, no swelling or bruising.  As I mentioned when we went through the headache/strep, he's always up for an excuse to miss school, so I wasn't surprised he was being very loud and cranky about it. 

This morning he was still refusing to walk, so Craig stayed with him and made a doctor appointment.  The doctor didn't see much and said they could either give him some Motrin and rest, or get an x-ray in case a small fracture was hiding in there.  So off they went to the orthopedic doctor for an x-ray. 

The x-ray showed that Jacob had a rather large bone cyst!  It's probably just a naturally occurring thing.  It's benign and treatable, but we're in for a bit of a journey here.  We're actually lucky this happened, because if the cyst would have gotten much bigger, it could have caused a broken leg!  As it is, Jacob is in a boot and on crutches.  He's pretty stubborn about the whole thing so far, generally choosing to have Craig carry him around the house.  We need to get into the bone specialist, and most likely down the road he'll have some minor surgery to either dissolve the cyst or fill it in.  It's not particularly ideal, especially this time of year, but you know...it's not cancer, it's completely treatable, and we caught it in time that it shouldn't do any damage to his bone growth.  Ultimately, we're lucky.  He'd actually complained of leg pain many times before, but everyone (us and his doctor) had chalked it up to growing pains.  Who would have ever guessed this is what was going on?

The bummer, of course, is that he can't play lacrosse for the foreseeable future.  That is going to be extremely hard for him.  We have yet to decide how involved we'll want him to be with his team.  Should he go to games and practices to watch, listen, learn, and support them?  That might be extra hard to watch, though.  They will have a hard time scoring without him, it would appear, since he's been involved in all of their goals this year.  Our hope is that he might be able to get back in the mix by the second portion of their season later in the winter into the spring, but we just don't know yet.  I worry about him, both mentally and physically, as he's lost his opportunity to be active.  He will miss playing sports so much because that is his true love, but physically I can see this being very hard for him since he's very energetic and can barely sit still most of the time, and now he's lost his outlet for spending that energy.  I don't know how that's going to translate to his behavior at school and at home, or how it might impact his patience (or lack thereof) with Carter.  That was already at a minimum, but now that he can't run away like he was so used to doing, I don't know how he's going to function when Carter gets near him.  It's definitely going to be a work in progress for a while. 

This isn't exactly what we needed with just over a week before Christmas, but we'll just have to make it work.  We're lucky we caught it this way, and hopefully we can just get it treated and move on.  Maybe we can even decorate the boot with some lights and make the best of it.  We shall see...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wanted: Christmas Spirit

It seems like every year it's something.  Three years ago it was the exhaustion of pregnancy and the Sandy Hook massacre.  Two years ago we were still in the midst of the most challenging phase of our family's life, adjusting to Jacob's behavior issues and food intolerances.  Last year it was the death of Craig's uncle, Jacob acting like a spoiled brat, and a ton of sickness around the house.  This year?  It's hard to say exactly what is sucking the Christmas spirit out of me.  Once again, it could be any number of things.

The weather definitely has not helped.  It was nearly 70 degrees yesterday!  We shattered the record.  Buffalo hasn't had measurable snow yet this year, which continues to shatter another record.  We had an inch one morning a few weeks back, but it melted by the end of the day.  I've worn my winter coat a handful of times.  Yesterday I walked into a Christmas party without a coat at all.  It most definitely does not feel like Christmas when we were dodging a downpour while leaving Jacob's winter concert last night.

Also not helping is that the winter concert only contained one Christmas song. I'm not one to get into the whole Starbucks cup thing, but I must say that the extreme lack of explicitly Christmas-related activities around us is throwing me off a bit.  I feel like you couldn't turn around without tripping over another Christmas thing when I was a kid, but now there are some vague holiday things and lots of general busyness, but Christmas itself seems a bit lost.

I'm also adjusting to a new normal as far as work-related holiday things are concerned.  I was pretty used to the holiday deal at my old job.  Party with a $10 gift, cookie exchange, excessive amounts of free food, and a week off.  Now we have a secret snowflake exchange, a corporate-ish party for the whole office, a smaller luncheon for our department, and less food in general than I expected.  I'm hoping to squeeze out a couple days off between Christmas and New Year's, but no guarantees.  Oh, and to top it off, Craig's awesome work Christmas party at the casino seems to be a no-go this year, thanks to some management changes, so that's a bit of a killjoy, too.  On the bright side, I did resurrect my list of Christmas market webcams after I lost my best list on my old work computer.  I managed to pull an older list off my home computer and clean it up, so I'm once again dreaming about someday making it to Europe and seeing the Christmas markets.  Sigh...

I came into the season with very few gift ideas for anyone, and that brought me down a bit, too.  I finally got a few things bought online the other day, which helped, but I still have a lot of decisions to make and some people for whom I have zero ideas, so I am concerned this isn't going to go well in the home stretch.  Our ideas for the kids are getting there, but making decisions about what we should give them, and what ideas we should pass along to others, have been really challenging this year.  It's getting harder to buy for Jacob as he has plenty of toys and is picky otherwise.  With Carter there's a delicate balance between giving him things you think will cater to his interests or spark his creativity while not overloading him, since he already has so many hand-me-downs.  There's also the matter of his birthday coming up in two months!  I know that ultimately they'll be happy, but as a parent you want to make the best decisions that will excite your children and keep them content at least until the next gift-giving event, if not for their entire childhood!

I have cookies to bake over the weekend so Jacob can (yet again) decorate a cookie at school.  I need to spend my evening alone tomorrow while Craig takes his weekly trip to Canada making my signature double-decker monkey bread for my work party on Thursday.  I have a ton of decisions to make and a lot of planning to do to ensure Jacob can eat (and feel included) while we're on the road over the holiday.  It can be overwhelming when you've already got so much else going on.

I was thinking the other day that part of what makes Christmas so hard as an adult is that it was so carefree as a kid.  The hardest part of everything was having to worry about waiting.  That seems so easy now!  Now there are so many decisions to make, gifts to buy, and things to think about.  It's no wonder there is less time for fun! 

I just want to feel excited about Christmas without worrying about so many other things that I fear won't get done.  I have nine days to get it all figured out.  Wish me luck.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Birthday Weekend

This weekend was Craig's birthday weekend!  He had to work on his birthday, but we did what we could to celebrate.  We went out to dinner on Friday night, where Craig snapped this picture of Carter being a big boy at the far end of our booth.

Saturday Jacob had a relatively early game, right in the middle of Carter's naptime.  In retrospect I should have stayed home with him since it's the only game on the schedule like that, but instead we went.  Carter was a pain in the neck, but at least we got to see Jacob assist on his team's only goal.  Yes, they lost again.  It's a tough season but it's amazing to see him out there, improving each game.

After the game we headed home, packed up, and headed out to Buffalo.  We chased the sunset the whole way, and we had this gorgeous cloud formation ahead of us for most of the trip... 
Those clouds looked like cotton candy, especially the one at the bottom that looked like a full, spun piece of cotton candy.
 We had pizza and wings with Craig's family, and finished off the evening with ice cream cake...
 
Sunday morning we had to get up and running pretty quickly, but Craig did take this picture of Carter watching some morning TV with the sunlit window in the background.  Pretty, huh?

 
Carter and I dropped the big boys off at First Niagara Center for the Knighthawks' closed-to-the-public preseason game.  Jacob was going to be the ballboy, so he was allowed to go.  Carter and I had a few hours to kill, so we went to the Walden Galleria.  I spent many days off of my youth shopping there with my mom.  It's always been a huge mall, but over the last 15 years it's changed so much and gotten huge!  We only really got through the top floor before it was time for lunch, and the boys were finishing up shortly thereafter so we had to take off.  Only I can walk into a giant mall three weeks before Christmas and not buy anything!  I did almost buy two dresses really cheaply at JCPenney, but I exercised some restraint...and now I'm regretting it, of course!
 
We picked up the guys and headed home.  Carter fell asleep on the way to the arena, and Jacob fell asleep after a short time, so we had two sleepy boys the whole way home.  We had an uneventful dinner and then I tried to run out for a birthday treat from Wegmans, only to get shut down (the gluten-free section in the bakery has disappeared!), so I got us Frosties from Wendy's and we sang "Happy Birthday" over those!
 
Now we're back to the grind with our proverbial calm before the storm.  It's still a busy week, but this is our lull before the full brunt of the holiday rush hits next week.  I have two work holiday things, Jacob's winter concert (plus our next counseling session the same night), and we have a ton of planning and other things to be thinking about.  I've hardly bought any gifts, so it's going to be a mad rush at the end.  Plus I want to do some baking, I need to make something for our work event, and I suppose I need to start thinking about food that travels well for the holiday itself.  So much to think about, and I can't stand sitting at work and thinking about it all in the back of my mind while I'm supposed to be focused on work!  Apparently that phase has begun, though.  And now I have to go coordinate who's getting what for the kids before I go to bed.  Fun times. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Lull

I took a couple pictures today and when I went to take pictures off my memory card, I realized that I only took a handful of pictures in November.  That makes me so sad.  My kids will never be this age again, and I just let a whole month pass by without capturing much of anything.  In fact, I haven't taken a picture of Jacob since Halloween.  That's certainly not on purpose.  I don't know why I let that happen, but I think it's a bit of a perfect storm. 

November is traditionally a low month for photos, since we're past the fall fun and we don't seem to have any school functions or even many family functions.  Parenting has been tougher lately, with Carter being a bit more stubborn and Jacob being defiant as usual, with an extra side of attitude.  It doesn't exactly inspire me to capture our daily lives, that's for sure.  I guess I've been lazy or tired or apathetic about pulling out the camera, which isn't good.  Normally it brings me a lot of joy, but lately I just haven't made the effort.  I don't know why.  Tired from work?  Not enough time in the evenings?  Nothing good to show?  I'm not particularly entertained by the two kids driving each other nuts, so why would anyone else be?

I keep meaning to take pictures of Jacob playing lacrosse.  He's definitely getting more action than before.  His team is having a tough time because they're so inexperienced, but he's been in on all of his teams' goals this year--two goals and two assists in three games.  But for whatever reason I just haven't done it. 

Right before Thanksgiving I was thinking about how often I used to pull out the camera and just take pictures of the kids playing.  That was before most of it involved driving each other nuts, of course.  It also helped when I actually played with the kids more.  Lately, that just hasn't happened a lot.  But the other night when it was just Carter and me, I did think to pull out the camera.  I had a hard time getting him to stand still, but I did capture how Carter plays hockey...

He's not as detail-oriented as Jacob was at this age, but I do think it's cute that he uses the bottom of the basketball hoop as his "net".  Silly kid.
I tried to get a cute picture of him, and he kept running away from me, but I did manage to catch this one out of sheer luck...

I know it will get a little better with Christmas coming.  We have Jacob's concert next week, and hopefully we'll have some sort of Santa encounter or Christmas card photo attempts in the next couple weeks.  I'll get some when Christmas hits, too, but hopefully I can encourage myself to make up for lost time before then. 

In other news, Craig took Jacob to the doctor Tuesday night, and he came home with a diagnosis of strep throat!  We never would have guessed it!  He was home Wednesday as well, then had a half day Thursday and full day Friday thanks to parent-teacher conferences.  His went fine, by the way.  The new behavior stuff seems to be working better (though the newness has worn off a bit).  His teacher was happy with his progress and he's about a level up from where he should be.  His report card had a couple "I"s where we'd expect them--listening and self-control--but overall he's doing well.  It was a relief since I'm still traumatized by our Kindergarten conference that left me in tears.  The more I see his teachers work with him, the more I realize how bad a match his Kindergarten teacher was!

I was off with him the last couple days.  Thursday was tough because I had some work to finish up when he was home in the afternoon.  He kept himself occupied, though.  Friday we had an early dentist appointment, then came home to an hour of Wii Sports!  I was really sore this morning and all I can figure is that it was from all of the tennis, golf, baseball, and bowling we did!  After lunch we went on an adventure to a local gluten-free bakery, since it has terrible hours and this was our best chance.  We got yummy cupcakes for ourselves, and a couple cookies for Craig and Carter.  The cupcakes were great and the day was going great.  However, after I spent some time crafting a complaint about Ambit Energy, Jacob started slipping into negative attention land again.  He kept complaining he was stuck in our armchair and whining about not wanting to read.  The day didn't end particularly well despite a pleasant Red Robin pre-birthday dinner for Craig.  It was so frustrating to have the good early part of the day go downhill like that.  The counselors wanted us to keep track of when Jacob is compliant, and I swear it only happens when it benefits him or he's got complete one-on-one attention that doesn't include pressure to do anything he doesn't want to do.  Unfortunately, that's not really sustainable.  Sigh. 

So, sorry for the lack of action around here.  Hopefully there will be a renewed sense of fun in the weeks to come...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Caged Animals

Last night was our first official session of family counseling.  We went to the intake session last week, and now it was time for the real deal.  We weren't sure how the session was going to go, but we did know we had a team of four people.  Two would be sitting in the room with us, and two would be in the next room watching through a window.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about not seeing the people watching us, but one way or another I knew it would be a little odd.

I came prepared with some toys for Carter, but what I didn't anticipate was how difficult sitting in the room for an hour would be for Jacob.  He spent the first 15 minutes of the session begging for Craig's phone, despite the no phone policy in the room.  He had a very hard time sitting still, and was alternately hanging off the chair, slumped in it, or on the floor.  It was actually pretty hard to watch as a parent, because it's a little horrifying to realize that your seven-year-old can't sit still at all.  We know he has a hard time at dinner, and often he'll stand at one end of the couch near Craig's head (or mine if Craig isn't around) rather than sit.  He had a tough time answering their questions in general, playing sort of coy, I guess.  He definitely seemed nervous to the point of acting extra silly and very fidgety.  I told Craig on the way out that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they tell us we need to get him re-evaluated for ADHD after how he acted.  It's like he can't be serious and straight-laced for a moment when he's on the spot like that.

They asked us a lot of questions to get a feel for our ultimate goals from this process, what we think could be one step to make things better (for example, if we'd rate our current situation as a 2, what would be one step to get us up to a 3?), and what has worked in the past.  I thought the questions were actually really insightful and did a good job at getting to the heart of our issues.  We talked about Jacob's and Carter's interactions, as well as Jacob's troubles with following directions and responding immediately to our requests/demands.  Jacob couldn't explain why he doesn't listen, aside from just having other things on his agenda at those moments.  He couldn't really explain, either, why the new behavior chart at school worked for him.  Why does he listen to his teacher and not to us?  That is the million dollar question, apparently.

They got to see Jacob and Carter interact pretty typically.  We rated their relationship around a 2, while Jacob said it was a 1!  During the session, Carter broke out in his new fascination, potty talk, and of course Jacob laughed hysterically, so it continued.  Then Carter went over to try to hit Jacob (his other recent development), and then it dissolved into a mess of them chasing each other around the room.  Luckily most of that took place after the main part of the session, while the two in-room counselors were comparing notes in the other room with the hidden folks.  Craig and I looked at each other like, "Oh man, they're getting quite the show back there."  Not that we weren't trying to stop it--we did, and we tried multiple distractions--but ultimately it always went back to the chase.  Exhausting. 

Overall, I suppose having the hidden people watching us wasn't as bad as I thought.  I think just knowing that four mental health professional-types were sitting there watching our every move makes you think twice about what you do and how you do it.  I think the part that got me the most is that while the people in the room with us had to maintain their poker faces, all we could picture is the hidden people's unrestrained reactions to the kids' behavior.  They could be back there laughing, or shaking their heads, or looking completely bewildered, and we'd never know.  Who knows what they were thinking back there?

We got homework to watch very carefully when the boys interact nicely, as well as to note in what situations Jacob does listen.  We go back in two weeks--luckily we got in an hour earlier so we can still make Jacob's winter concert--and apparently they'll want to talk to Craig and me alone for part of it.  I feel awful for the person who will have to wrangle the kids for that part! 

As a whole, I definitely think it's a good thing.  I think we need people to help us talk through our issues and find ways to manage them.  I think that's what's been sorely lacking in much of what we've done so far with Jacob--we never had someone pushing for results at home.  His school counselors did a good job a couple years ago with helping him in the classroom, but it was hard to translate that success to home, and this sounds like a promising start.  I definitely think Jacob needs someone to tell him straight-up that he needs to listen to us, and I think this is a good first step toward getting him somewhat desensitized to his brother's presence.  It's definitely going to be a process, but this one feels better already. 

Of course, by the time we got home, Jacob was complaining of a headache, and at the time dinner went on the table, he was moaning and crying in pain.  I knew he wasn't excited by my dinner choice, so initially I thought it was an act, but eventually I got him some Tylenol and let him go lay down in his bed.  Craig went up with him, and about 15 minutes later he came back down saying Jacob was asleep!  So, yes, there probably was something wrong.  He had a rough night of sleep, waking up at least twice with bad dreams.  His head still hurt this morning and he definitely seemed off, so Craig stayed home with him.  I worry about whether he will add this to his arsenal of avoiding school, but sometimes you just have to make that call.  His head was still hurting a bit this morning, so if it keeps up we'll definitely have to consider taking him in since this is odd for him.  Maybe it was a migraine, though the way he was screaming and carrying on I can't imagine that was helping his head pain.  We'll just have to wait and see.  Never a dull moment for us...