Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Day We Knew

Five years ago today was our 20-week ultrasound for Carter.  Of course, at the time we had no idea who was in there, and it was clearly a big deal to find out.  I was fine not knowing Jacob's gender, as it forced everyone to get us gender-neutral stuff and it made for a nice surprise when he was born.  But with Carter I needed to plan.  I needed to know if we had to paint the bedroom. I needed to know if we had to stock up on girl clothes.  I needed to narrow the name choices.  I needed to know what our future would look like, for fear that the letdown upon delivery was too much for my hormonal brain to manage.  So we headed to our gender ultrasound to find out.

I recall panicking a bit beforehand, not about the gender itself but because I'd been focusing so much on the gender that it had barely occurred to me that they might find something wrong.  I figured that would be some sort of terrible karma that my desire for a girl and the disappointment I expected to feel if it wasn't a girl might be quickly put to shame if something didn't look quite right elsewhere.  I was so nervous.  We almost had to go back for another round, as they didn't get a really good angle on the heart, but in the end the doctor was satisfied with what she saw, so we were fine...but for a couple minutes I was definitely nervous.  I was pretty sure early on that I saw some "boy" evidence, but it wasn't until a bit later than the tech focused in on that area asked us if we knew what we were seeing.  We did.



Craig was fine with it, of course, but I can't quite put into words how that moment felt.  It certainly wasn't easy...and I felt like a jerk for feeling that way.  Some people want babies so bad, and here I was feeling sad with a healthy, half-cooked baby boy in my belly.  On one hand I was happy for Jacob to have a brother (ha, little did I know), and I knew Craig would love seeing his boys in action together.  But for a woman, especially one who treasures her relationship with her mom, forfeiting the dream of mother-daughter bonding can be very difficult.  There's a certain amount of mourning that needs to take place--the loss of the dreams of seeing yourself in your daughter's face, or playing together with Barbies, or wedding dress shopping, or seeing your baby girl have her own baby.  While each of those may have some sort of boy equivalent, it's simply not the same.  The girl bond is different, and I knew in that moment that odds were I'd never have it.  And it hurt.

I cried a bit that day.  I think that was it, though.  I struggled a little after that, on and off for a few months, but I think the tears were only confined to that day.  The stuff I struggled with after that was mostly the stuff I struggle with now--never having that kind of life-long bond, and knowing that someday my boys will have a woman that's at least as important in their lives (and if I stay #1, that becomes its own issue).  I know I'll always be special, but it's just not the same kind of friendship a daughter can have.  That part is still hard.  But once I mourned, I focused on the good stuff and prayed that this little boy would be the best possible little boy I could ask for.

And boy, did God ever deliver.

I've said before that I'm pretty sure Carter has saved me as a mom.  Being Jacob's mom has been pretty challenging, and there were times I was convinced I was the worst mom ever.  And while I know I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes, having a kid like Carter has reminded me that I can't be all bad, and that this parenting thing can even be fun and rewarding.  He is such a sweet kid.  He gives hugs and kisses, he tells me I look pretty, he picks me flowers, he willingly complies with my requests/demands a good chunk of the time, and still embodies the same joyfulness that became apparent the moment he learned how to smile.  I will never forget how people gravitated to him at Disney, a place that's full of kids, and marveled at how perfectly sweet and happy he was.  His baby smile still makes me swoon, but the big kid he's become evokes such a different kind of joy, and I am soaking up whatever I can.

Out of the blue lately he's seemed to grow up in every way.  He's catching up in physical size, now fitting solidly into 4T pants (and even having them be borderline short!) when he's consistently been a size below his age, both in his waist and his height.  His letter tracing is getting significantly better, and his drawing is improving.  With some coaching he can draw very recognizable things, and once he gets over his lack of confidence in attempting those things himself, I think he will be hitting it out of the park!  I love hearing him explain things and tell stories so matter-of-factly, like such a mature kid.  At daycare he seems to have mostly moved past the phase of punching kids and teachers and throwing chairs, and by all accounts the love affair there is back on all around.  Everyone just seems charmed by him.

Sometimes I'm just shocked by his insight and deep thoughts.  He probably talks about death a little too much for my liking--though rest assured, it's mostly in a positive way, like how if anything happened to me, he'll always love me, or how when he's dead he'll do something cool in heaven.  And yes, I hope he doesn't know something I don't, but clearly the kid is thinking.  He stunned me the one night a few months back where he said that if I went to heaven he'd grab my hand to keep me from flying up there, or if he was going to heaven he'd hold on to something to keep him here.  I mean, seriously.  Wow.  He also has a great memory and will bring up something weeks later, which is always interesting.  This morning he randomly asked me about why I'll be happy when I don't have to pay for my car anymore.  A few weeks ago we were talking about how it might cost a lot for him to do karate, but that I'd be done paying for my car soon (yes, we're almost five years after the big accident), so maybe that would help us pay for it.  I found it fascinating that he remembered the car part, though!  I remember Jacob recalling the same kind of random facts, but as a parent I think it's always comforting to know the gears are turning in there.

Five years ago I had no idea who was in there, and today he's the best little buddy I could ask for.  I may have been sad he wasn't a girl, but God gave me the best possible boy I could have asked for.  And five years later I'll admit I'm pretty relieved that I don't have to deal with catty girls, periods, endless girl clothes, or tiny obnoxious toys.  I sincerely think that this was my sign that I was not equipped to parent a girl.  I could never manage self-esteem issues then, and I cringe to think what I might be like trying to help someone else through them now.  Heck, I'd probably find a way to make them worse. 

Everything worked out just the way that it was supposed to.  I was supposed to be a boy mom.  I wouldn't change a single thing about that sweet baby.  It was the first day of the rest of our family, and five years later I can't imagine my world without him.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Project

As I mentioned last week, my big project of late has been scanning old photos so I have them digitally.  One of my biggest fears was always that something would happen to those photos, as my only backup was a box of doubles in my basement.  Conversely, I've always backed up my digital photos in multiple places.  I'd print my favorites, save them on two computers, and burn them onto a CD.  Most of the pictures are also either on my iPod or phone, too.  But all of those things could be destroyed in one shot--say, a house fire, God forbid--so I finally found Flickr to be my best option to store them all online.  I don't really know what would happen if I wanted to download them all someday, but I'm just happy they're there.

But my old pre-digital photos were a different story.  I had the same film camera from the spring of 1992 through the summer of 2006.  It was a confirmation gift, and came just in time for my 8th grade class trip.  I used it through high school, college, my first years on my own, and right through our first three years of marriage.  It was large and loud, and I definitely had a love-hate relationship with it.  But digital scared me a bit and I'm honestly not even sure what finally prompted me to make the switch.  Maybe it was a good sale and I couldn't pass it up, or maybe I was looking ahead to our impending Seattle-Portland trip, or maybe something changed with film processing and I just decided it was time.  The pictures I took on that Seattle-Portland trip amaze me to this day, and I've never regretted the decision for a second.

But oh, those pre-digital pictures...something needed to be done.  I look through my digital pictures all the time, and I always wished I could do that with my old pictures.  Despite the iffy quality, there were some cool pictures and great memories in those shots, and I needed to get them backed up.  But knowing there were probably at least 1500 of them made the project seem daunting.  I own a scanner, an older one I picked up from the computer graveyard at my old office.  The old stuff was going and we were allowed to take what we wanted.  I saw the scanner and happily brought it home.  It's been attached to our old desktop and I've used it here and there--enough to make it worthwhile, anyway.  And honestly, I did look through my pictures a few years back and scan my absolute favorites.  Some had been done previously for my college website, and the rest were just other random favorites.  But so many memories were really dependent on having all of the photos, so I knew I had to get it done. 

I did not like the thought of sitting in our basement office for hours on end, so I decided to bring the scanner up to the living room and set it up next to the La-Z-Boy so I could just hook up my laptop whenever I wanted.  Of course, when I tried to do it, the software was so old that it took me a couple hours to find a solution to make it work on a new computer.  But I did, and it only took a couple weeks' worth of evenings, an hour or two here and there, to get through all of my albums, including one that held a bunch of random candids from my babyhood through my wedding that originally belonged to my grandparents.  It ended up being around 1800 pictures total.  I still have more I could do, from albums my mom put together for me with doubles from their albums, to some random pictures of the kids that we've been given over the years.  And it's crossed my mind to eventually do my parents' albums--a gold mine of amazing memories.

Going through the albums had some interesting consequences, though.  I didn't expect the range of emotions I felt as I went through the various stages.  Of course I grimaced a bit at my awkward phases right up through the beginning of high school.  I felt sad for teenage me who wanted so badly for a boy to like her.  I was actually sort of shocked at how cute I looked at times, and sort of validated to myself that maybe the boys really were just stupid back then.  I marveled at  how skinny I was when I thought I was fat (more on that in a future post, I think).  I cringed through some failed relationships.  But most of all, I did some unexpected mourning for my younger self, both the single 20-something version and as one half of a young married couple.  No, I'm not old.  I'm not even 40.  But there is something that happens at some point--maybe from parental exhaustion or the realization that you are older than recollections of your parents at various stages--where you start to see your younger self as almost a different person, and long for the carefree moments, the optimism, and when life was just far more simple than it is right now.  And I'm smart enough to know that those moments weren't all the picture makes them seem cracked up to be, and most of the time we wouldn't want to revisit those moments for more than a day or two at most. Life has never felt perfect, so surely there would be something I wouldn't want to deal with again.  But certain parts of life weigh on us, and the thought of escaping the current weight, even for a little while and especially without guilt, sounds pretty nice.  Impossible, of course, but nice. 

Even still, looking through 14 years of your life (and knowing how much more came after that) makes you realize how much you've seen and done and had pass you by.  You can't really recapture your youth, though many try...and sometimes I'm not sure I'd want to now that I have such a broader understanding of life and better empathy for others, among other things.  This parenting experience has not been easy, but I can't deny all that it has taught me.  I'm older and wiser, for sure.  But I was caught off-guard by just how distanced I felt from younger me, even though some of those moments seemed like yesterday.  I truly feel like having kids changed everything and creates a very clear dividing line between a life focused on me vs. a life focused on someone else.  Looking at a whole group of pictures from before that turning point was a reminder that the "old" version of my life had some pretty great moments too.

It's been an interesting process and I can only imagine how much more emotional it will be if I do my parents' pictures!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Same Age

As of today, Carter is the same age that Jacob was when Carter was born.  It also means that Jacob is officially double Carter's age.  It's almost impossible for me to wrap my brain around.  Maybe it's because at the time I had pregnancy brain moving into the newborn fog, or maybe it's because they're such completely different kids that the comparison is nearly impossible.  Whatever the reason, it boggles my mind a bit.

Jacob seemed so much older, but that could be because he was so much more advanced.  He would ask us to spell words so he could write them, and he was starting to draw his own sports pictures.  He was clearly advanced in his athletic skills, and based on what I can tell, he was quite a bit bigger than Carter is now.  All of those things together make me think that we definitely saw him as older, and without any means of comparison, it just was what it was. 

In comparison, Carter was immediately "the baby" and has held that position to some degree to this day.  I tell him he'll always be "my baby", no matter how old he gets.  And for many other reasons, he's continued to seem younger.  He's smaller and skinnier, so he's always been wearing clothes at his age level or even a bit below.  Even though we're told all the time how smart he is, he's not as into academics.   We're still working on letters and understanding the value of numbers.  He uses some big words, but I'd say his speech is still a little on the younger-sounding side, particularly given the mild stuttering issues he has (mostly just repeating lines a few times until he can gather up what he wants to say).  He still likes to cuddle and play little kid stuff, and I am savoring every second I can because I know he'll be a real big kid soon enough.

But now that we've reached the same stage with kid #2 as when we moved into a new phase with kid #1, it is definitely making me think.  I mean, on one hand, we know that a lot of the challenging behavior (though certainly not the worst) had already begun to surface before Carter arrived.  It's comforting to know that we're at that age with Carter and things are still relatively normal.  We have our challenges, but we don't have any serious red flags as of yet.  Carter has been the baby for four years and eight months, but Jacob had that long alone with us and it was more of an adjustment than expected when he needed start sharing.  I wonder how Carter would react if he suddenly had a baby sibling to share time with.  He's more adjusted in general because he's always had to share us with Jacob, but I can imagine he'd have some new adjustments to make.  At the same time, I feel a little like we've failed him, as I think he'd be a great big brother.  He can be such a great helper and I think he'd appreciate the experience so much more than Jacob did.  It's not happening, of course, but I feel a little sad that he won't get the chance to try out that big brother role himself.  I got a little extra sad when I pulled out some of the 5T clothes and discovered two "Big Brother" shirts.  The one I made for the pregnancy announcement has been set aside for Jacob's memory box, but the other will probably be passed along to a mom friend of mine whose little boy turned five a few months back, just after earning his big brother title.  No sense keeping it around.

When Jacob became the big brother, no doubt we upped our expectations of him.  He had a big brother role to fill, after all.  He needed to become the protector.  He needed to be the helper.  He needed to be the one with the patience to wait until the baby stopped crying or had been changed.  I know why it wasn't easy.  I just wish it would have gone better.  Part of me feels like--little sibling or not--maybe we should be holding Carter to the same standard now that he's the same age.  I'm not sure what form that takes without the younger sibling to push him along, but I suppose we've been starting a little here and there.  He's had to push through his nightly preschool homework, learning how to draw certain things or remembering to bring objects with him to daycare.  I've tried to get him in the habit of cleaning up his dinner dishes, and he's long been pretty good about putting laundry in the hamper.  I hope these habits are helping him to become a more helpful, responsible person...even if he doesn't have the big brother role helping him along.

Parenting rule #1 is obviously to never compare your kids, but having such a momentous turning point as a means of reference is almost too much to pass up.  It's hard to picture Jacob at this age and think about what I might have missed out on when I was so busy with Carter at that point.  Because I know how quickly it goes, I am holding on to every single little kid moment with Carter...but I mourn for what I inevitably missed with Jacob.  Of course, it's easier since Carter is definitely sweeter and better behaved than Jacob was at this age, but I will miss this stage so much.  When I have flashes of the good stuff with Jacob, I do get excited for the big kid version of Carter...but I'm not sure anything will replace the hugs and kisses and hand-holding that brightens my day so much now.  This milestone is a vivid reminder that the next phase is coming sooner than I think.

Our two kids couldn't be more different.  Their uniqueness is what makes them special, and probably helps keep the everyday comparisons to a minimum.  But at a time like this I can't help but wonder how they'd compare if we could see them side-by-side at the same age.  I have a feeling we'd see more similarities than we'd expect...but then again, with these two, maybe not!


Monday, October 9, 2017

One of Those Weekends...

Well, it was a three-day weekend for me and it turned out to be one of those weekends where we did a little bit of everything--random productivity, complete laziness, and a little dose of fun, as well. 
It started out on Friday with just Jacob and me, as he was off school for the first part of his four-day weekend.  We honestly didn't do much, but that was pretty much his choice.  I think he really just wanted to spend some time playing video games and simply not having to go to school.  He picked our lunch spot, Mighty Taco (alas, the one down in Henrietta as our Greece location closed over the summer), and Craig joined us.  We stopped at Kohl's quickly to try on some Under Armour clothes for size, then picked up Carter around 2pm to head to the doctor.  Carter has been dealing with a yucky cough for a couple weeks, but oddly his nasal congestion didn't seem too bad and definitely was not draining through his nose like you'd expect for a cold, which was even more odd.  When I brought it up to the doctor when we were there with Jacob earlier in the week for his quarterly medication check-in, she seemed to think it was worth a check.  I had scheduled the kids' flu shots for Friday, and luckily we were able to schedule everything together.  The doctor prescribed an antibiotic for Carter, thinking that it might be some sort of bacterial bronchitis.  Not much change a couple days in, but we'll see.  The cough is so phlegm-y and it's no fun hearing him congested, so I'm really hoping this works.  Both boys got their flu shots, too.  Jacob was really nervous about it but Carter ended up being the one who cried for about 10 minutes after.  Poor kid.

Saturday ended up being a really blah day.  The weather was warm but really gray.  It had rained overnight into the morning and it just didn't seem like a good pumpkin patch day with the dampness.  As much as we had wanted to do something like mini golf, it just never happened.  The boys went out to play a couple times and I overwhelmed myself by starting to organize the last three bins of Jacob's old clothes by size so they're ready for Carter.  I pulled them out of the crawl space and sorted them, but I quickly freaked out about how much there was.  And then I went up to Jacob's room and dug into his closet to see if I had chucked anything to the back that he had outgrown (I have gotten lazy with keeping a bin in there).  Sure enough, there was a huge pile!  And then I looked through his closet and drawers again and collected another huge pile!  I couldn't bring myself to finish the project until Sunday, at which point I refilled all three bins PLUS another one, and moved a bunch of stuff up to Carter's room.  Some stuff got washed right away to hopefully get into the rotation soon, another batch is on shelves in his closet so it's there when we need it, and yet another batch ended up in the crate in his closet where I tend to put the "on deck" clothes, only these are now a bit further out than the ones I put on the shelves.  Another group of summer clothes ended up crammed in his dresser for now, at least until I fully shift to cold weather clothes and pack away a few more things.  Despite the overwhelming amount, the problem right now is that we're pretty slim on 5T clothes as I think Jacob nearly skipped that size and went right to Boys' XS.  Carter seems to be catching up at bit as I think 4T stuff fits him pretty good all around, which definitely wasn't the case in pants for a long time, but I think we'll need to look forward to a few new things at Christmas!  But beyond this he should be in great shape.  Jacob's wardrobe was actually pretty limited--lots of t-shirts and sports pants--and some of it has been worn to death.  But thankfully his cousins were a bit more well-rounded so he'll have some jeans and shirts that aren't just sports or superheroes!

Despite the lack of excitement, Saturday did end with this glorious sunset...


I felt bad that the timing didn't work out to do something more interesting.  Early sunsets and rapid cooling after sunset really makes night activities hard this time of year, and I know our time to do much of anything outdoors is so limited now. 

Sunday started out normal, with church in the morning (although we did have an extended stop at the playground because we got chatting with our friends whose son plays lacrosse).  We had some lunch, watched the Bills, and soon enough it was time for Jacob and Craig to go to practice.  Carter hung out while I finished packing away clothes, and then we went outside for a bit.  He rode his big wheel and played with his bubble gun while I cleaned up our two old strollers which had been collecting dust (and lots of cobwebs) in the garage.  I figure neither has been used since at least last summer.  I felt it was time to clean them up, get them out of the yucky garage, and store them with the rest of the baby stuff until I get up the guts to get rid of them.  Not that there's a lot of space left down there (our once cavernous crawl space is rapidly filling up), but it's better there than the garage.  Weird feeling, though.

We grabbed a quick dinner and then headed downtown to Strong Museum for our annual free night sponsored by a company that holds an investment my grandma made for me years ago.  It's always so nice to go for free and at a time where it's not crazy busy. It's always hard to fit in everything we want to see, so I know Carter is due for a solo trip with one or both parents on a day when school is in session (so it's not as busy) but before he goes into Kindergarten.  I did one of those with Jacob when I was pregnant with Carter, and it was so great!  Maybe in the winter or early spring.

But for now we tried to cover as much as we could.  We loved the aquariums near the entrance.
This fish has teeth!  See those two little buck teeth?!

I loved how this fish glowed red!

And this one was a shiny blue!
Carter's first priority was to go to Wegmans.  The mini-Wegmans is so cool, and on busy day's it's madness, so it was nice to do it and not feel crazy!  Carter shopped...

...and scanned...

...and then took me over to the Prepared Foods section to serve me food.  His apron even says, "Prepared Foods Manager"!

We also spent time in a couple sections we hadn't really noticed much before.  There was a TV studio where you could pretend to do a cooking show, or maybe a general morning show, since they had a weather board in there, too.  Here's Carter with the camera!  Both cameras projected onto monitors, which was fun!

There was also a farm section where you could pick or weigh potatoes, green squash, carrots, or apples.  Here's Carter in the little mini greenhouse with the carrots (and his bucket of apples!)...

Right around this time Craig and Jacob arrived from lacrosse practice and Jacob started his shopping!

Eventually the big boys moved on to the video games, and Carter and I kept working our way through the museum.  I loved this view through the one window.  The city is in the distance and the different colored glass (and the checkers on some panes) make the fading light outside look pretty funky!

We went into the section that celebrates all sorts of classic toys, from Legos to dolls to cars and trucks, and Carter once again enjoyed playing with the plastic rocks and the trucks.

We built with the magnetic tiles...
I loved my house, and how cool that you can change the color of the lighted base!
...and then he took to the Hot Wheels tracks...

He pretended to drive this car and then spent a few minutes playing vet with the stuffed animals.

We headed back down to the ground floor to see if we could catch the butterflies, but we had a couple detours.  In one spot he controlled the parts of a giant Mr. Potato Head (he could make them spin!) and then we stopped near the superheroes.  Here's our picture from where Carter scaled the building like Spider-Man...

Then he turned himself into a superhero...even if his headshot was a tiny bit askew ;-)

I'd never gone up this little set of stairs, and who knew it was a balance beam over a miniature 3-D cityscape filled with superheroes!?

Carter and I took a quick detour into the butterflies.  Butterfly habitats have long scared the crap out of me, but when this one is free and I can try to focus on getting a good picture, I freak out a little less.  I did shriek a little bit when a giant one flew all around me, but at least I didn't completely freak out!  And I got a couple cool pictures!
Somehow I managed this one while zoomed...and it was in focus!

This chameleon was pretty cool...he was teal!

This one was even more orange than it looks...so pretty.

I generally don't like brown ones because they remind me of moths, but this one had such detail on its wings that I could almost pretend it was a discolored monarch!
We only had a few minutes left once we left the butterflies, and Carter loves the Berenstain Bear area.  He played with the produce conveyor belt now that he's finally strong enough to do it himself...
The veggies go up when you turn the wheel, then tumble down ramps on the other side.
We finished off the night in the pinball room, where Craig and Jacob had mastered the art of getting free games by holding the flipper buttons in at a certain time at the end of a game.  Jacob even had to leave one ball in his game because the museum was closing!

We had a fun night, though it was tough to get the kids to go to bed when we got home, partly because they had the day off today!  Craig gave them a fun day, between a trip to the Lego store and a visit to the dollar theater.  Now it's back to the grind tomorrow for all of them, and day 2 of a very busy week for me!  A crazy work weekend and Jacob's first fall lacrosse tournament are ahead!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

News and Notes, How is it October? Edition

So, October is already here.  It seems like I was just dealing with the unofficial end of summer when my birthday hit, and now we're suddenly into October.  The good news is that a prolonged stretch of warm weather has significantly slowed down the trees, so it looks like they'll be hanging in there a bit longer after all.  I do worry that this weird weather will get everything out of sync and we won't have that awesome period of gorgeous color--where most of the trees are colorful at the same time--since some trees dropped early and others seem to have leaves just drying up and falling down, but I suppose it's never perfect.  I'm definitely looking forward to the colors, but not the cold!  I'll take the mostly moderate weather we've been having for as long as possible.  My personal litmus test was always the Amerks' home opener, which is tomorrow.  When I worked there, usually I could get away with open-toed shoes for at least the first game or two of the season, but after that it seemed to pretty much be closed toes and pantyhose all the way to the end, unless we hit the playoffs or had a random warm spell in March or April.  Looks like I might get a little extra this year based on the forecast, but we'll see!

Tomorrow starts Jacob's four day weekend, and Carter is off on Monday.  Before we knew about Carter's day off, I had taken off Friday and Craig took off Monday.  I'm a little worried about him having both kids home alone all day because it is not fun right now with them always in each other's space, but hopefully they'll find something to keep them occupied.  Jacob's and my day will be a little shorter than expected since I'll be picking up Carter early.  He needs to get a nasty cough checked out at the doctor, and then they'll both be getting their flu shots, but hopefully we can have some good bonding time doing something...even though Jacob almost never has any suggestions when I ask him.

Last weekend Carter and I did yet another playground, this time the Greece Canal Park not far from our house.  We've been here a couple times before, but as I recall it might have only been with Jacob.  I had forgotten just how big it is...it seems to go on forever!



Carter actually played with some other kids for a while, and as they left it went back to our usual setup of me being the monster or the zombie!  He spent a little time on this smaller set...

...and he hopped on the swings a couple times.  He loves being pushed so much!  I wish I knew how to teach him how to properly pump so he could keep it going.  He's close but doesn't quite have the weight shift he needs.

This side of the playset had a zip line, rock wall, a bridge, some hiding spots, and a big tube slide.

Blurry, but Carter liked being in his hideout!

But he loved the tube slide most of all!
We spent a good hour there and he had a blast!  He just loves pretend play and anything that involves running and climbing!

I also had to share this picture from the other day.  We walked past the Halloween stuff at Wegmans and he picked up this pumpkin that looked like a mask but was actually a porch light cover.  He put it on and it totally cracked me up!

Jacob had his school open house last night.  It went well.  We got some good feedback from his teacher and even saw him pick up a crayfish, which they're studying right now.  It was gross but he was very excited!  I can see why his teacher's accent bugged him a bit, but he seems to have settled in fine.  His teacher is at least "okay" to him at this point, and while he still misses his friends in the other class, he seems to be friendly enough with his classmates.  There's one problem kid in the class right now (he's as tall as me and probably outweighs me by 40-50 pounds, no joke), but otherwise he's settled in reasonably well, thank goodness. 

Not much else to report.  My big project lately has been scanning all of my pre-digital photos.  I have at least four full albums and some other miscellaneous albums that I want to back up.  I'm probably 2/3 through right now.  It's almost 1,300 pictures spanning from my eighth grade class trip through our honeymoon.  I have about three more years' worth of pictures plus one older album of pictures of me from my grandparents' collection.  Someday I'd love to do my parents' entire collection, but that would be even more of a project!  I'll feel much better once mine are done and uploaded to Flickr, though.  It's been an interesting walk down memory lane and I'll be sharing more about it soon, both my thoughts on the project as a whole and in the form of throwback posts when I get bored!

Fall fun is ahead...stay tuned!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another Day, Another Tragedy

This morning I woke up groggy and even snoozed my radio for a few minutes, which I rarely do.  Normally it takes music and two separate alarms (snoozed multiple times) to get me moving.  It's bad, but it's all I can muster most motnings.  I'd been up in the night because Carter wet the bed, and it's Monday, which is never a good feeling.  I figured snoozing my radio would give me a few more minutes of real sleep, but even when it came back on and I tried to hop on my phone to wake up, I was still nodding off as I checked my email.  That is, until the radio DJ wished listeners a good morning, but then added something like, "at least as good as it could be given the news out of Las Vegas."  He refused to mention a single detail as he was clearly upset and apparently didn't want to rehash whatever he'd probably already been talking about for a couple hours.  Immediately I opened up my browser and headed to a news site, where the headline was at least as bad as I'd feared.  Fifty dead and 200 injured in a shooting near Mandalay Bay.  In the hours since, nine have been added to the death total, and more than 300 have been added to the injury count.  Horrific.

Not much is known about the shooter as I type.  He was retired but pretty well-off, he lived nearby, and he had a girlfriend.  He had one minor citation, but no other history with the law...though his dad was another story.  His family is currently stunned and confused.  But the fact remains that he had at least 10 weapons with him when he started shooting from the Mandalay Bay tower facing a country music festival across the street, so clearly this was quite the plan.  No one knows at the moment what he was upset about, or whether he had a mental health issue--diagnosed or not.  But he killed a lot of people, including himself, and the world will never be the same for so many people.  It's now the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, though I fear it won't stay that way forever.

I have a hard time knowing that my kids will grow up in a world where this is the norm.  I don't think I really knew anything about a mass shooting until Columbine happened while I was in college.  I still remember sitting in my junior year dorm room watching our usual lineup of afternoon TV when the news brief came on.  We were stunned.  We were only a few years out of high school ourselves, so it hit pretty close to home.  But it was such an unheard-of thing.  I mean, there was a stabbing in my high school a couple years before I got there, but it was one isolated incident of jealous rage between two people.  But a mass shooting?  How? 

Now it's far too common, and incidents just in the years since Columbine have touched all age ranges and numerous workplaces and social settings.  Some of it is at the hands of typical terrorists, and some has been at the hands of the mentally ill.  I still maintain that more needs to be done to take all assault rifles out of the hands of ordinary citizens.  There is no need for them, and if anyone insists they have the right to use one to shoot for fun, all I can say is that their fun is not more important than the dozens of lives those types of guns take.  Just like recreational drugs were outlawed because of their danger to society (even though people very much enjoyed using them), so should assault weapons be because of their danger to society.  Society still has a lot to do with the mental health aspect of it, because you know, guns don't kill people, people kill people...but the less guns there are to get, the smaller the chance of something like this happening again.  Wishful thinking maybe, but it's worth a shot at this point, no?

I think the hardest part of this one for me is that it could have been us.  Remember how we were supposed to go to Vegas in the spring?  Not that we would have been at this specific event or anything, but who's to say it couldn't have been something else?  Heck, we were at a large outdoor event like that here a couple weeks back when we went to the Fringe Festival, and it's entirely possible someone could have shot at us from one of the many buildings bordering the site.  But even more than that, I think about the parents just like us, the couples that just wanted to take a special trip or have a special night out to get a little break from their kids and reconnect as husband and wife.  How many of them are never going to go home or kiss their kids goodnight?  Or how many survived only to have their lives drastically changed forever?  It's easy to think that something like that could never happen to us, but I guarantee 99% of the people involved in incidents like these never thought for a moment it would happen to them.  Why couldn't it be us?  And in this day and age, it seems more likely than ever.

I feel like I've done so many of these posts, but these things keep happening and it never seems to get easier to handle.  It never makes any more sense than it did before, and yet nothing ever seems to change to ensure it won't happen again.  I can't say I have any faith in the current administration to make it happen, but eventually one of these will hit close enough to home to the right person and even the toughest lobbyist will be no match for their determination.  It may not be in time for my generation, but I pray it is for my kids'.  In the meantime...pray, pray, pray. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Biggest Struggle

The other night I had a bit of a meltdown.  It happens once in a while, where I basically just want to shut down or go on strike for a bit.  Usually it's a combination of a few things--being stressed out about anything, overtired, or overwhelmed or ticked off by some random thing.  Often it results in me going to bed early, shutting myself in my room for a few hours, or skipping out on some sort of responsibility that's just a bit too much at that moment.  It's not something I'm proud of, but in the name of the transparency that I try to maintain here, here it is. 

I think this week's version was a combination of a rough few weeks at work (big controversy at the school during a busy time of year), a lot of fights with Jacob lately, and a couple minor things that were gnawing at me, one of which was having trouble figuring out dinner multiple nights this week.  And for whatever reason, when Jacob didn't like that night's dinner plans, it just destroyed everything and I simply refused to make dinner that night.  Craig was annoyed and I was then annoyed that he was annoyed, mostly because I just wanted a little compassion in the midst of what was clearly not my finest moment.  I tried to explain that sometimes it's overwhelming to have to plan dinner every night, on top of a long day of work, knowing that someone is probably not going to be thrilled with whatever I pick.  Having to coordinate the groceries and the timing and everyone's likes and dislikes is not easy, and sometimes I just hate it.  I asked Craig what he would do if he had to cook every night, and of course he said something about McDonald's.  If only it was that easy. 

A couple weeks ago I was upset about something and tried to explain to Craig that women just think through things so much differently than men.  So many details, so much overthinking.  I think at that time I was trying to explain to him why I make certain decisions with Jacob's discipline--decisions that I have thought through deeply or even had validated by research or multiple bloggers, whereas sometimes he just seems to pick the most convenient option without thought for the long term ramifications.  For example, a few weeks back when Jacob didn't want to do his "About Me" poster for school, I was fully prepared to let him fail.  I had given him support and opportunities, but he kept refusing.  Normally I'd just keep nagging him, but now that he's in fourth grade, he really needs to take more initiative.  I wanted to see if he would feel any sort of shame when his crappy poster was next to a bunch that were well done.  But Craig kept on him, stood next to him, and even cut a couple things out for him.  I was frustrated by the whole thing and asked Craig if he would help him in high school, or worse, go to college with him.  And he said, hopefully half joking, "Maybe."  Ugh.  As a side note, when we relayed the story to our therapist, she suggested that we let him fail, too.

Raising Jacob through his issues has been a major curve ball we never anticipated, and I don't think it's even possible to plan that out when you're talking about your parenting style pre-kids.  I just think we differ in our approach sometimes and it doesn't really help with the "unified front" you usually need to parent properly.  It's hard to raise a child in the midst of desperation.  

I don't want this to sound like I'm bashing Craig or anything.  He's a great dad and he would do anything to help his kids be happy.  I think men just process things differently and I can't really blame him for that.  But helping him understand those differences easily comes off as nagging or unappreciative, no matter how hard I try. 

Anyway, my explanation the other night wasn't coming out right.  And then the next day one of my friends posted the following article on Facebook.  The amazing timing of it was what made me decide to even write this post, because it is exactly what I've been struggling with most lately, and this was an easier way to explain it.  Read it, I'll wait.

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12063822/emotional-labor-gender-equality/

So much of it resonated with me.  Craig's "McDonald's" answer reminded me of the author's husband's response to the house cleaning thing.  My issue is the pressure of the every-night decision making.  I can't take the easy way out every night.  I want him to appreciate the process and how hard it is so he knows why I struggle sometimes.  And her story about putting the box away seems to happen around here more than I'd like, with all of the other inhabitants of this house.  I don't always bother doing it because I know I'm the default anyway and I hold out a shred of hope that someone else will take the initiative to do it first.  And when I'm constantly thinking four steps ahead and coordinating about 5,000 things, it's hard when I feel like one of his decisions doesn't take into consideration the repercussions I've tried so hard to avoid.  I guess it's good to know I'm not alone in this problem, but the reality is still pretty rough. 

I told Craig to read the article and I think it helped a little.  It had to be easier to understand it when it wasn't a direct shot at him, you know?  I can't say it gave us all the answers, but at least it did a little of the communication when we couldn't. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Camping Edition

This past weekend, Carter and I decided to take a trip down to Letchworth State Park, about an hour away, to visit with my family who was camping there for the weekend.  Because it was going to be a dry, hot weekend, I almost wished I had been able to do the full weekend (as it's usually cold and rainy and farther away), but instead we just opted to do one day of fun.  Since Jacob and Craig are not much for hiking or general outside stuff, just Carter and I went. 

We headed out a little before 10am and arrived right around 11 to find the group had just come back from their morning hike and geocaching expedition.  It was already getting hot, but beneath the trees it was actually pretty pleasant.  Not such a bad view from around the firepit...

We were on a big hill and this is essentially looking up the hill into the woods.

Carter enjoyed sitting in his chair and eating their snacks (and his PB&J)...

We hung out around the dying firepit for a while, chatting about life and being impressed by how Fritos can be used to start a dying fire.  Carter did great just hanging out, though he did take my mom down to the playground nearby.  As we sat there, my cousin's girlfriend came running out of their cabin with a baby mouse trapped in a koozie and on a plate.  When she popped him out, he looked totally scared.  She tried everything to get him to run off and find his mom, but he sat in this spot for the longest time:
So tiny!
She was ready to take him home, but after a few hours and many efforts to give him food and water, he disappeared.  She was disappointed, but we hope it was all for the best!

We took a little walk up to my parents' cabin, which was up the hill tucked in the woods.  It was so quaint!  Rustic, small, but potentially romantic...if there weren't only bunk beds!  There was even a stone fireplace! 

After a while we headed off to see the sights.  They were all pretty much what we had seen two years ago when the four of us did a day at Letchworth.  I went down this stairway alone since Craig was still dealing with knee problems, but all but one of our party did it this time.  Carter did awesome even though it was uneven and sometimes chunks of the stone stairs were missing. 

I didn't remember this rock formation from last time...

And I didn't go down this far down last time, to a cute little bridge (that I forgot to take a picture of).  The view of the Lower Falls from that path was really pretty!

And from the bridge...
I love those little lower falls!

 And of course we need a picture on the bridge...

The wall on the path to the bridge was cool...layers upon layers of thin rock!

One of the best views is from Inspiration Point.  Last time here we saw a train go over the very tall train bridge far into the background.

The trails over near that train bridge were sadly closed for construction, which was a huge bummer.  Thwarted, we decided to head back to the camp site.  On the way, we made one more stop, where we could see a little bit of fall color at a big bend in the gorge.
The rock walls of the gorge are amazing!
Back at the camp site, we hung out for a while as much of the rest of the family played cards.  It was such a fun, peaceful setting.  Carter took another trip to the playground, this time with my dad, and ended up bonding a bunch with my cousin's girlfriend.
Note the lights hanging on the cabin porch...such a cute touch!

Here is the group picture.  Pardon the slope...I used my auto timer to take the picture while it sat on a vehicle on an already sloping piece of land.  Someday I'll edit it and send it to everyone!
The girlfriend is holding Carter.  Besides me and my parents, there are two uncles, two aunts, and four cousins in this picture.

Dinner was foil packet shrimp boil (shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, and potatoes), done over the fire, and it was delicious!  After that it started to get dark, and right around that time my brother arrived.  He came into town to caddy for our cousin's son in a golf tournament the next day (yes, that's a bit of a drive, but it was really nice of him to do), and the camp site was essentially on the way (although maybe 20 minutes or so off the highway).  He stopped in for an hour or two before heading to our house just a little bit behind us.  Carter fell asleep literally about five minutes or less into the drive (around 8pm) and stayed asleep right through morning!  We hung out with my brother for a bit once he arrived, and he left a little while after we left for church.  It was a short visit, but I'm glad we could give him a place to stay.

On Sunday Jacob had lacrosse practice again, so Carter and I once again went in search of a playground.  We rode our bikes (well, his was his big wheel) over to the playground at Jacob's school.  It's maybe a quarter mile around the corner from our house, and Carter did great!  I think he likes the idea of being able to get himself somewhere by his own power!  We spent an hour or so going between the two main playgrounds at the school.  One is a typical playset, and the other has swings, a slide, some monkey bars, and a climbing apparatus.
We were playing "monster", with me chasing him around.  He loves to climb all over the place!


The big slide!  He thought this one was like a roller coaster, much like the one the previous weekend.  I have some video of him on this one that will hopefully make it into the next video roundup I inevitably do when I remember to load videos onto YouTube.
He's such a fun little buddy to hang out with and I have another playground in mind for this weekend if the weather cooperates.  Our 90 degree temps will be ending after today, and things will be a lot cooler and possibly more rainy for a few days before stabilizing back in the 70s next week.  Yay for extended summer and leaves on the trees longer than expected!  Anyway, the next playground is one we've definitely been to before, a couple times with Jacob, but I don't know if we've ever taken Carter.  As much as I enjoy our time, I know one of these weekends I should switch with Craig and take Jacob to practice so Carter can get some Daddy time.  Jacob accuses me of liking Carter more than him, and I remind him that while I love them both equally, usually Jacob prefers Craig in the first place.  Also, Carter doesn't really give me a hard time about anything--unlike Jacob--so yes, I generally do enjoy my time with him more.  Hopefully someday that kid realizes that treating people pleasantly really does make things better!  Still banging our heads against the wall at therapy trying to get him to understand his role in our family dysfunction, but maybe someday it will click.

It's now officially fall and we are creeping up on pumpkin patch season!  No plans yet, but we will have to be very careful this year since Sundays are practice days and won't be valid pumpkin patch options.  Usually the weather and a couple other events limit our choices, so this year might be extra tough.  Carter will enjoy the indoor pumpkin place we go every year and that will certainly be one of our Sunday afternoons while the big boys are at practice.  I think this coming weekend will be much lower key than usual, which is not a bad thing, as things will probably only ramp up from here!