Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Big One-Four

Today is our 14th wedding anniversary.  Some days it seems like we've been married forever (mostly in a good way, I swear), and some days 14 years sounds like a really long time and we can't possibly be that old.  But here we are.  Our marriage has officially reached the age of a high schooler.  Appropriate, I suppose, since some days that seems to be about as much maturity as I can muster...but yet we chug along.

I can't say it's been all sunshine and rainbows, as the demands of life don't make things easy.  Having a kid with significant challenges hasn't been particularly kind to our marriage, I'd say, but it's also a testament to its original strength, that we're still going strong despite not always agreeing on the best methods to raise him.  When they say marriage is hard work, they're right.  It needs frequent TLC and is not for the faint of heart.  You need to make an effort to maintain a bond despite all life throws at you, whether that means date nights, flowers, a thoughtfully cooked meal or surprise treat, or battling through bedtime sleepies for a little grown-up quality time.  Every marriage needs those thoughtful moments to maintain the spark.  Commitment is step #1, but being happy within the commitment is what takes the biggest effort.

I can't say we've been great about it recently.  With the boys being nearly impossible to keep together, we've been far more hesitant to leave them with anyone to grab dinner alone.  For a while we had a pretty good every-few-week schedule of going out to lunch, but that's fallen off recently, probably because Craig's schedule has been a little more erratic, mine has been busy, and neither of us needs the extra fast food meal.  But it's nice to get that time alone when we can and have a conversation that's not interrupted every 10 seconds.  We've also had very busy weekends, which zap any extra energy and time pretty effectively.  But I know the desire is there on both sides to do more, and sometimes that has to be enough.

When we do get alone time together (or the kids are cooperating!) we still have a good time together.  We can usually find enough to talk about, and while our free time styles are different and I'm much more go-go-go in general (probably from a little too much time spent with kids cooped up in the house on winter weekends while he's working), we eventually strike a good balance.  We still love each other very much, but there's no doubt we've evolved.

Take a look at these pictures...




For the longest time I looked at these and just saw us, but now I look at them and see very different people.  For one, we're officially so much older than the kids in those pictures.  I've looked younger than my years for so long, but now it's clear that time has not stood still.  But the bigger thing is that those two people couldn't even begin to understand the road that was ahead of them.  We had our whole lives ahead of us, and on that day we could barely think past our honeymoon.  Who knew we'd have one tough kid and one less tough one, a few interesting job situations, two houses, many vehicles, and who knows what else?  When I look in the mirror now, I see a different person...one who's been through a lot more than the one in the picture.  Short hair, different clothing style, more maturity, and a whole lot of changes.  I've learned a lot, professionally and personally.  I'm tired, but life is also considerably more full.  It certainly wouldn't be the same without the noisy little people upstairs.  And 14 (+2) years of love between two people is a pretty significant thing.  Many marriages have come and gone since ours began, and I'm thankful we're among the survivors. 

Thanks to lacrosse practice, a couple greeting cards, the Big Brother premiere, and some Rolo McFlurries were about as good as it got for this year.  And that's okay.  We've survived a lot worse than an uneventful anniversary.  I can't say perspective is my favorite wedding gift, but it's still a pretty important one.  We're blessed.  Exhausted, but blessed.
 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News and Notes, Last Day of School Edition

After a couple specifically timed posts, I figured I should rewind and cover a few things we missed. 

Last weekend was Father's Day.  It was also our only free weekend before three straight busy weekends out of town, so we wanted to make the most of it.  I fit in a run and some yard work, and Craig got the pool mostly up and running--not completely clear but enough for the kids to swim in.  He bought a giant inflatable crocodile with a squirt gun that he correctly guessed would get our little water-phobe Carter into the pool.  He loved it!

I put down some ant traps to deal with an increasingly difficult ant issue around our patio and watched them feast on the bait, then turned my attention to a tree in the yard.  It used to bloom pink in the spring, but over the past couple years it's gotten sicker and sicker, to the point of only having a couple blossoms and some dead branches this year.  It had also been staked wrong once upon a time, so it was very crooked.  Between the crookedness and the disease, it was pretty ugly, so it was time to take it down.  I pulled a bow saw out of the garage and went at it, despite the fact it was about 90 degrees.  This was the end result...

We still need to either dig out the stump or cut it down, but that will wait for another day when it's not 90 degrees. 

We went out to dinner at Red Robin for Jacob's birthday, and after that he started feeling a little cruddy.  By Sunday morning he really wasn't feeling well, so he and Craig stayed home from church to get a better handle on how he was feeling before we left for Buffalo later.  He was good enough to go when Carter and I got back, but he was definitely low key for the day.  We had lunch with my parents and went to see Craig's family for dinner.  It was a fun day but a rather late evening to finish off the weekend, which is partly why my Monday was so rough, per my story in Jacob's birthday post.  Jacob stayed home from school on Monday because, while his low grade fever was done by then, he still had a headache and felt generally crappy.  He perked up later in the day and was OK for his birthday, but Craig took him back to the doctor on Wednesday because his ear was hurting.  He did have some fluid but the doc didn't prescribe anything except some ibuprofen for the pain until it resolves.  He still seems a bit less energetic at times, is losing his voice, and still has a sore throat.  He really tired out today when we were out for a couple hours, but I hope he recovers for his tournament this weekend.  It's a long way to go to not play!  I have a family wedding this weekend so Carter and I will be in Buffalo instead.  It's a bummer to miss everything, but hopefully they have fun.

The only other interesting thing this week was that Carter had an appointment with the sleep specialist because of our concerns with his snoring.  It's not too bad when he's not sick, but I'm still a little concerned by louder breathing and lots of tossing and turning like I experienced at the hotel a couple weekends ago.  The doctor wants to bring him in for a sleep study, but our appointment isn't until late November!  So we have a pretty long wait for that.  The good news is that he's been dry for about a week straight at night, so that supposed side effect of odd sleeping seems to have righted itself...for now.  However, based on a couple things that happened over the weekend, he went to the pediatrician when Jacob did, because we suspected he had a UTI.  He has had trouble holding it lately and said it hurt to pee, but nothing came up in the urinalysis, so we'll just keep an eye on it.

And finally, today was the last day of school.  Jacob is officially done with third grade!

His report card came back great--one Outstanding and only one Inconsistent, which might be the first time ever that has happened.  He's always had the two--using self-control and either working with others or following directions--and by the magic of medication and good practice, it was finally down to only one!  He seems a little sad about the year ending, but hopefully that will make him hungrier in the fall.  He gets a couple days off surrounding this weekend's tournament, then he's off to camp at U of R (with me) next Tuesday.  Hard to believe it's summer vacation!

So, it's been an interesting week.  I'm definitely looking forward to the weekend, even if I will miss Craig and Jacob a lot.  Two more busy weekends await, though!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Birthday Bust?

For some reason Jacob's birthday snuck up on me this year.  I think it was a combination of factors:
  • We're in the midst of five really busy weekends.
  • Because of our busy weekends, we haven't even scheduled his family party, which usually keeps me moving on planning.
  • Without a family party, I haven't had to plan a cake, which is usually something I have to do a couple months out so I can mentally prepare.  And while I do know the theme, not having to really think about it beyond that probably made me less motivated in other areas.
  • Usually I have a running list of things I want to give the kids once their birthdays come around, but Jacob has outgrown most toys and I generally feel like he has enough stuff, so I'm less motivated to think up ideas for him.
  • His birthday list requests (and non-birthday requests--ugh!) are getting significantly bigger and more expensive, so I think we've officially transitioned to the one big gift and only a few little gifts phase.  But given that he doesn't need anything, really, the big things are frustrating to even think about.  His many suggestions tend to go in one ear and out the other with me because none of them are reasonable.
  • Some of his requests are very specific, and it's risky to even consider getting him something that's not exactly what he wanted, as he will show a lot of attitude--even if in the end the thing is perfectly fine.
  • He's getting older and I may or may not be in a mild state of denial.
His birthday was also in the middle of the week, which always makes it hard to make the day super awesome, as we're always rushing around in the morning and don't have a lot of time at night.  This year in particular looked to be extra challenging because he had lacrosse practice on his birthday, which would take up most of the evening.  He INSISTED he was not going to practice on his birthday.  But after the fiasco during his camp weekend of going to his house-league game instead of his travel team practice, we've been pretty sensitive to that.  Luckily he finally got on board (more on that in a minute), and it became even more important as he came down with a bit of a virus over the weekend (low-grade fever, sore throat, generally low-key) and had to miss practice on Monday.  As a result, it became even more imperative to be there Tuesday.

So, without much time or any big plans, I knew we'd have to pick our spots.  The only thing I came up with originally was that I was going to use one of the gluten-free angel food cake mixes from Aldi that I had stashed in my pantry from last year.  I knew he liked that, and it seemed like a much lower key cake than anything else.  With practice we couldn't really do our usual Red Robin dinner, so we opted to do that over the weekend instead.  But as we talked about lacrosse practice, I suggested I'd make cupcakes for him to take to his team.  It took a while, but he came around a bit with that suggestion.  Then when I realized that practice put them about 20 minutes closer to our favorite gluten-free pizza place, I suggested Craig order a couple pizzas and bring them home after practice.  That sealed the deal!

As we went through last week I started panicking a bit on the gift front, as we had practically nothing for him and I didn't really have many ideas.  Eventually Craig ordered him some Under Armour clothes, then ordered a movie he wanted and some new sports cards, and planned to get him a new binder and card sleeves.  But we honestly weren't sure if anything was going to be in on time for his actual birthday.  I felt like crap about the whole thing, and didn't really make much progress over the weekend.

Monday ended up being a rough day.  Lots of little things went wrong, and by the time I got home, I was fried.  By this point I realized that I had forgotten to figure out a plan for him to celebrate at school, and I initially bought more gluten-free cake mix to make cupcakes (since that's what Jacob said everyone brought), but then I realized that the rule might be store-bought and I couldn't find where that was written, so I started to panic.  And when I realized I didn't even have cupcake liners for the ones I needed to make for practice, I lost it.  I had a rough couple hours feeling guilty and powerless and just generally frustrated.  I was convinced his birthday was going to suck and that it was all my fault.  But eventually I dragged myself out of bed, sent Craig to the store to get liners, and managed to bake two dozen cupcakes and an angel food cake before midnight.  So, at least he'd have cupcakes for practice and something to put candles in and sing to him, even if we didn't have much else.  He understood the school thing was challenging, as buying store-bought gluten-free for everyone was nearly impossible, and even just doing GF for him and normal cupcakes for everyone else was awkward and a little on the pricey side. 

Fortunately, a few of his gifts arrived during the day, so we knew we had a couple things to give him.  Craig picked up the card binder and pages, and I found a movie that I had tucked away and forgotten about.  Then, while the boys were at practice I took Carter for a haircut and realized we should stop at Five Below nearby, as we had wanted to pick up a new basketball hoop for our pool, since our other one had fallen apart.  That became Carter's gift to him (he was so proud!), and I also found one of those magical cooling towels there, which Jacob had been talking about getting for his tournaments.  You just wet it, snap it, and it's instantly cold when you wrap it around your neck.  I had also printed up a certificate for him to buy (with our input) a Bluetooth speaker to use with his iPad or Craig's phone.  He had liked an expensive one but I'd rather shop with him and find one that's within a budget and has the best features.  So with all of that, we ended up with a pretty nice assortment of gifts, with a bit more still on the way.  So between the food and presents, it turned into a pretty good evening for the birthday boy!

Just a few pictures...
Handing out cupcakes!


Blowing out his candles

Nine!

Two movies!

Some sort of lacrosse ball that doesn't get greasy...don't ask me!

Basketball hoop for the pool!

Very excited about the cooling towel!

Reading about the Bluetooth speaker
He seemed pleased with his gifts and everyone enjoyed the various food offerings.  Cupcakes were well received, pizza was great, and the angel food cake was delicious.  We still probably have quite the battle over the speaker--he wants a LOUD one, and I'd rather not shake the house--but I can hardly believe that's the kind of gift we're giving now.  What happened to battery-operated, light-up singing toys?  Nine...wow.  So hard to believe!  The last day of school is tomorrow, and then it's onward to summer vacation and then fourth grade!  I remember fourth grade just a little too well to have a kid in it, don't I?  Ready or not, here it comes!



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NINE

Dear Jacob,

Holy cow, as of today we're only 364 days short of a full decade together.  How is my first little baby nine years old today?  I still vividly remember the many moments leading up to when you were finally born, and it's so hard to believe it was that long ago now.  I look at pictures of myself from before you were born and shortly after and think, "Amateur!"  It's mind-boggling to think about how much we've been through together since the day you were born.  You spent your first couple hours crying, and only a few hours later, the first of our many trials officially began as you were whisked off to the special care nursery.  Almost nothing has been easy in the nine years since, but here we are.

You're officially halfway to adulthood now (what?!), and most of the time I worry that we haven't made the most of our time together.  I feel like I've spent so much time trying to keep you on track that the quality of our time has suffered.  We tell you all the time that we could have so much more fun as a family if you just listened and cooperated.  While we've done a lot despite our challenges, I feel like there was so much more that we just didn't have the energy to attempt.  I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea how to raise a kid like you.  I feel like I've made mistake after mistake despite endless best intentions.  You are stubborn and free-spirited and full of big ideas, but you're currently lacking the skill to rein some of that stuff in to a reasonable level, which makes our job as parents really challenging.  Either we try to give you guidance and get shut down, or we let you fail and have to manage the frustration that results.  Neither route is easy, but I'm trying to opt for the latter because I'm sure you feel like I tell you what to do enough, and learning your own lessons is more valuable in the long run.

You're definitely not an average kid, as you've disproved most parenting norms and philosophies for years.  I still find it really hard to figure out what you're capable of doing or understanding on your own, as you're super smart and can be really driven, but sometimes there's a key component in there that just doesn't click into place...and the challenge is figuring out of it didn't click because it just didn't occur to you, or because you had different plans.  I want to have high expectations of you because I know you're capable of amazing things, but I know you're also not like most kids.

We've had an eventful year: third grade, travel lacrosse, an official ADHD diagnosis, and medication that changed your entire outlook on school.  Watching you improve at lacrosse has been amazing, and it brings me so much joy to watch you play with passion.  I know practice isn't your favorite, but I hope you learn to embrace it at some point because the best players know that every game and every practice represent opportunities to learn and improve.  You have so much potential, but it's still going to take a lot of hard work to achieve the success you want, and it won't always be on your terms.

Seeing your improvement at school has taken a huge load off my mind this year.  I know you still have your challenges, but hearing you say how much you like school has made my heart so happy.  You even have favorite parts besides gym, which is a first.  It was just amazing to me how your medicine made an immediate impact and changed your perspective so greatly.  Clearly it makes a difference to not be distracted or yelled at or constantly redirected, and it makes me happy to know you can experience that peace at school for the first time in your life.  You are creative and enterprising, and I know someday that will serve you well if you learn to channel it properly.

Lately I look at you and see such a big kid.  I can barely believe you were once my tiny baby, or even that cute little toddler.  The dimples are still there and parts of the face are similar, but you now have a mouth full of big kid teeth, you put gel in your hair, and you're getting within spitting distance of my height. In many ways you still act like a little kid, but now and then you say something that reminds us just how big you really are.  I know so many changes are coming in the next few years, so you'll have to pardon me while I brace myself and try to savor whatever little kid-ness you have left.  There's no rush, I promise.

The day you were born was one of the most disorienting days of my life.  I was exhausted, overtired, and so sore I'd have sworn I ran a marathon the previous day.  You were sick, I was worried, and yet I was so out-of-sorts that I didn't even think to ask if I could visit you until later in the day.  But it was so amazing once I did, and eventually I even got to hold you, which was even better.  Even though that day was so hard, nowadays I sort of long for it because everything seems so simple looking back.  My entire job at that moment was to love you.  I didn't have to teach you or discipline you or play referee.  I didn't have to worry that I was doing it all wrong (aside from feedings and diaper changes and deciphering cries--that was all new!).  Now it seems like anything we tackled that first week was so easy compared to the big kid issues.  And yet I know it should be just that simple now--to love you--and I do, so much--but this responsibility we have as parents to teach you how to become a decent human being is pretty daunting, and most days I feel like I can't rest for a moment because the clock is ticking and you are a challenging student.  We try to discipline with love, but it's not easy because you can make us absolutely insane with your unconcerned response to most of what we say to you.  But we're trying.

We hope you had a great 9th birthday and this is the beginning of a great year.  You have so much potential, and with a little more cooperation, I think we can start helping that turn into something amazing.  We love you so much!

Love always,
Mommy (and Daddy, too!)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

So about that job...

A month ago I posted about the odd situation I got into at work, where I was flat-out asked why I didn't apply for a position that came open.  I went through all of my reasons, and in the end I just had a gut feeling that it wasn't the right time.  Boy, was I right.

So, a few weeks ago I got a random email from the head of our talent management department.  Pretty quickly I figured out it had to do with the position, which still hadn't been filled to my knowledge.  Sure enough, she asked me why I wasn't interested.  I explained my reasons (again) and she explained that she really just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything I didn't feel comfortable telling the manager for that open position.  When I finished explaining my take, she said that what she was hearing from me is really what they want to hear from every employee--basically that I want to learn as much as I can in my current position before I move up and take a job that I may only be partially prepared for.  Could I do it?  Sure.  Could I do it better with more base knowledge?  Absolutely.  She loved hearing about my concern for loyalty and not wanting to put my current boss in a tough spot if I were to move on.  Long story short, she was thrilled with my attitude and position and I was free to go.

After I got back to the office, I stopped by my other co-worker's desk, the one who had actually applied for the job, and asked her if she'd heard anything.  I saw her in an office with our main boss and the hiring manager the day before and figured it had to do something with the job, particularly since it had been accidentally blurted out by our big boss in a meeting a couple hours prior that the position was still open.  Well, she spilled on everything that had happened--they knew she wasn't getting it, didn't tell her in time, etc.  After all that, I had to be honest and tell her my side of the story, and it turned into a couple hours of brutal honesty and secret spilling.  We needed it by that point!  During that conversation I got a head's up that our main boss was interviewing for another internal position, which was not good news.  But at that point we seemed to be OK because one good candidate had been hired for another open position and we figured that the entire shake-up would actually give us an opportunity to rework things to work best with everyone's strengths.

Fast-forward to this week.  I came in Monday, exhausted from the Syracuse trip.  We found out there were random donuts available elsewhere in the building, and as we came back to our desks ready to eat them, we were ushered into our main boss's office.  She told us she got the other job so she'd be moving to a different department in about a month.  We were pretty deflated after that.  I said (and my immediate boss agreed) that had I taken that position, she'd be walking out the door herself if she had lost both me and our main boss.

A couple hours later I heard my boss talking on the phone with someone, and I could tell by the conversation that whoever it was was leaving their position.  It turned out that it was the project manager for our calling program, who has been a steady mainstay for years.  We were already losing two other members of that team--one was being shifted and the other was not a good fit for us--so this was a major blow on an already rough day.  Shortly thereafter I returned a call I had received earlier that day from my contact for the unit I manage.  We had been through an interesting year, with both of us learning as we went in our first full years managing the program together.  We also undertook a major crowdfunding project that had been an amazing success, which led the way to a great year.  But guess what?  She's leaving!

So that was three in one day.  We couldn't blame any of them for the decisions--they were great moves for each of them for different reasons.  But we were devastated.  We literally couldn't do much more than groan and laugh at how ridiculous the day had been.

Well, in the spirit of my favorite Facebook memes, the next day apparently said, "Hold my beer". Still reeling from the day before, we ended up going out to coffee for a scheduled meeting that afternoon.  As we were getting settled, another member of my department--the one that would have been the boss for that open position--announced SHE was leaving.  It felt like the hits would never stop coming.  We were completely flabbergasted.  Afterward, the remaining three of us (we have a couple other admin-focused people, but my boss, the other girl who applied for that job, and I are really the core of the operations at this point) marveled at what would have happened if either of us would have taken that job, as we'd basically be the one tasked with running that whole section of the department in the interim, which neither of us would have been prepared to handle.  It would have been awful.  It's bad enough now, but at least this way that whole section of our department is some higher-up's problem to deal with, rather than one of ours.  So yay for that.  But it's small consolation when your entire department has been gutted and there will be three of us plus a new guy trying to keep the department afloat for a couple months heading into a new fiscal year.  It's a lot to deal with.

Ironically, before last week's events, the three of us were approved to take a half day to go to an event put on by one of our vendors.  After everything happened, we found it appropriate--and necessary--for the three of us to have that time together.  The event was in Syracuse and our sales rep took us (and some other University employees) in his RV, which was awesome.  We were treated to appetizers, a tour around their facility that updated us on their capabilities, and the most amazing dinner.  We could have one of 10+ types of wine or 6+ types of beer from a local brewery, or the brewery's root beer.  They had clams and shrimp cocktail for appetizers, followed by a lobster and steak dinner with corn on the cob, potatoes, and rolls.  As if that wasn't enough, they started serving root beer floats (and we got to keep the glasses!), and there was also a lovely dessert table.  It was overwhelmingly awesome and we were so happy to have had the opportunity.

It doesn't, however, really soften the blow of the chaos we're heading toward, but it was nice for a night.  It's all so hard to believe, but I guess it's comforting to have my gut feeling validated so emphatically after wondering if I'd made a mistake not wanting to move up sooner.  It still may not be the best situation, but it's one I can live with, and there's definitely something to be said for that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tournament Time - Part 2

So, off to tournament #1 we went.  It was going to be a gorgeous day, but gorgeous also means sun and we were already at a disadvantage as we'd forgotten to grab an umbrella for the trip--which would have been more necessary with rain but helpful for shielding the sun.  That was a mistake we will hopefully never make again.

We pulled the wagon up to the team tent area and tried to settle in a bit.  In case you've never done the tournament thing, each team has their tent headquarters that parents can leave their stuff in and kids can raid the snack table between games.  Unfortunately there's not a lot of shade under the tents since there's so many people wandering in and out, so it's really just a home base of sorts.  But every team has one and it's pretty amazing to look out over the property and see so many tents full of players and supportive family.  This particular tournament was at a sports facility with a large main building.  There was a bathroom (about 5-6 stalls) and a snack bar.  The only other bathrooms were two port-a-potties at the other end of the property, a good 5+ minute walk (maybe longer with a four-year-old).  Our tent was slightly closer to the port-a-potties, but on the main drag back to the building.  The van was just beyond the main building, so again, a good walk from where we were.

Anyway, we sunscreened up, said hi to some parents, and eventually made sure Jacob was ready to go for game #1.  We settled in our chairs, and at that point it was still cool enough when the sun went behind clouds that you were comfortable in a hoodie.  They lost the first game and we retreated to the tent to fuel up.  After a short break we were back at it, and this time lost a pretty sizable lead to another Rochester travel team (one that includes a couple of his house teammates) and lost in the last minute or two.  That was a heartbreaker.  Back to the tent we went, this time for what seemed like a bit longer.  By now I was reapplying sunscreen as it was clear the sun would show no mercy.





In the midst of all this we had Carter needing to pee every half hour at most, thanks to all the water and Powerade he was drinking.  Each trip involved a long walk and usually a line to wait in, which isn't great when you have a kid who likes to wait until the last minute to go.  It was pretty exhausting, to be honest, to trek all the way to a bathroom, wait in line, and then deal with a hot (and no doubt smelly, but clearly that's not an issue for me) stall. 

At some point around that time we realized that Craig missed out on the sign-up for the food--it was through an app he was having trouble downloading, and somehow I dropped off the email list so I knew nothing about anything.  We had some stuff for Jacob anyway since he can't eat a lot of kid sports standards, but I felt a little bad about the whole thing.  We'll rectify it next time.  Jacob mostly made do with trail mix and fruit, along with a sandwich from our stash.

Game number three was better, this time a great win.  Of course, the slight complication of that was we knew a win would probably put us into our fourth game of the day.  By this point we were tired, a little hungry (the snack bar line was long, we didn't want to eat the team food, and our stuff only got us so far), and feeling the sunburn.  We'd had enough of Carter's potty runs and there was only so much conversation we had the energy to have around the tent--not that Jacob wanted us around anyway!

So, while we waited more than two hours for our last game assignment, Craig took Carter to the arcade in the main building to let him play a game.  Shortly after I happened to be checking my phone when he called me and said he couldn't find Carter.  He was getting change and Carter was right behind him, and suddenly he was gone.  I calmly freaked out and started wandering down that way, and halfway there I ran into a woman who was holding Carter's hand, and he instantly ran to me.  He had been wandering IN THE PARKING LOT near the building.  I thanked her profusely and tried to figure out what happened.  I think he just forgot what Craig was doing, lost sight of him, and didn't really know what else to do but wander.  We went over some guidelines for the future after that--find a mom with kids to help you, yell for us, etc.  And the next day, as we were unloading the van, I climbed in and 10 seconds later I hear Carter screaming for me.  He was a couple vans down, clueless to the fact I was in the open back of the van.  So bad news, short memory; good news, he yelled this time.  Oh, and we also ran into that woman a while later when Carter had to pee again, and was having such a hissy fit about having to go that the woman at the front of the line let us go.  The woman who found him probably wondered what kind of disaster parent-kid combo we were!

Needless to say, that long break started to get to us.  Bored kid, hot weather, long wait, sunburn, and a lack of desire to walk to the van to replenish our supplies all sort of wore us out.  At one point Carter had a complete meltdown because I wouldn't let him finish drying his hands.  He loves hand dryers in public bathrooms, but he was messing around with it and taking too long, and people needed to dry their hands so I dragged him out of there.  He had a full 5-10 minute meltdown about it, constantly trying to run back and do it, to the point I had to carry him back to our spot kicking and screaming.  That pretty much encompasses where we were by then.  So by the time we sat down for game number four more than seven hours after we got there, I couldn't wait for it to be done.  Luckily the boys put in a good showing and demolished a team that's a year older than them, so that was a nice way to end.  But as soon as it was over, we were out of there!

We had evening plans, after all!  After all of the years working in hockey, Craig had a friendship with someone at the Syracuse Crunch.  They just happened to be in the Calder Cup Finals, somewhere the Amerks haven't been since 2000, when I was an intern and Craig was in his first season.  We ended up getting tickets for Game 5, so after some cleanup at the hotel and a quick dinner, we were off to the game!  Sitting in a cool arena was a bit of a change compared to the hot sun all day!  We were exhausted, but we figured we'd enjoy what we could.  It has also been a while since our last hockey game, to the point I'm not sure Carter even remembers going to a game.

We had listened to Game 4 in the car the previous night, and I was excited to hear some familiar names--namely two kids of players I watched when I was first into hockey.  One of them was the son of former Sabre Mike Peca, playing for the Crunch, and the other was the son of the player that officially started my hockey obsession, Pierre Turgeon.  Once we got to the game, it made me smile that from a distance, with his five o'clock shadow and all of his equipment on, he looked a lot like his dad!

The Crunch scored in the first minute, then added four more before the end of the first period!  Carter fell asleep early in the game and ended up sleeping on Craig and me for an hour or so.  He woke up and seemed to be in better spirits.  We enjoyed watching the game, but between a nagging headache I had and a looming early wake-up the next morning, we left a little bit into the third period.  It was a gorgeous evening, but we had to get right back to the hotel and get to bed.  I slept a lot better that night, but we had to be up before 6am in order to get to the field by 7am, so it still wasn't quite enough!

We got to the next tournament pretty much on time, and before almost anyone else, which got us great parking!  It was already getting rather warm and sunny, as the high temp for the day was around 90!  The boys had three games that day, and I spent most of them just wishing we could rush through so my skin would stop burning in the sun!  Despite lots of sunscreen, my arms and shoulders got pretty toasty the previous day, so getting back out in the sun was the last thing I needed! 

Fortunately, the boys played three really great games.  They even got a shutout in one game and only let in three goals total.  They scored a bunch, and even Jacob got in on the action.  Believe it or not, we sort of lost count (partly due to some weird officiating), but we think he ended up with four goals and a few assists!  Overall, it was a great day...

In between games, the coach did an interesting devotional, part of which included having the kids count up from 1, one at a time, without overlapping each other.  It was clearly impossible, and I think the ultimate lesson is that doing something on your own is tough, but it gets much easier with guidance and teamwork.  It makes us feel good to see Jacob getting these kind of lessons in the middle of his lacrosse world, as that's probably the best way to reach him.

It was so hot!  Carter was kicking back and enjoying his slushie!

Quick family (spectators) picture while we waited for game #3

Jacob in front of the net holding up his stick to block the goalie
The great news is that the team won their age group in the tournament!  It was great to see the boys get rewarded for their great day after the tough start the previous day. 
Team photo with their championship shirts (Jacob is in the back row on the right next to the coach)

They're #1!
 

We grabbed some lunch and stopped quickly at Mary's apartment nearby so I could return the umbrella she accidentally left in my car last month.  We chatted for a few minutes, but we were definitely eager to get back home and get a few things done before another busy week.  I drove home while the boys slept, and I was very relieved to get home and settle back in.

It's been quite the beginning to the week, but more on that another day.  One tournament down, three more to go...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tournament Time! - Part 1

This weekend marked the first tournament weekend for Jacob's travel lacrosse team this year.  Last year he played in two in the fall--one locally (if you recall, he was so freezing he hardly played) and another in Maryland over Veteran's Day weekend (I stayed here because Mary was coming into town for a long-awaited concert).  But many months later he's stepped his game up quite a bit, and it was exciting to see how his team would fare in their first real outing of the season.  We had back-to-back tournaments in Syracuse in one weekend, so at least we got to start the season with a slightly shorter trip!

On Thursday night, a day before leaving, we gave Craig his early Father's day present, which had been hiding in my trunk for a couple weeks.  He got a collapsible wagon that is a staple of tournament life!  No joke, 90% of parents appear to have one of these.  You load it with chairs, coolers, equipment, and whatever else so you're not looking like a pack mule walking from the minivan to the tournament tent.  He'd been asking for one, and while I wasn't sure it was necessary, it turns out it is!

Even though one of our later trips is going to be our "vacation" this summer, we still managed to tack on a couple additional activities to this trip.  I'd had my eye on the Chinese Lantern Festival at the state fairgrounds for a couple months, and once we found out a Saturday tournament had been added on top of the Sunday one that's been on the schedule for months--and confirmed an early start on Saturday--we opted to get a hotel for two nights to eliminate endless driving and early (earlier) mornings.  I did my best to keep it cheap, but stopped short of the cheapest one because some reviews were a little too sketchy.  We ended up with a decent one--pretty updated, basic free breakfast, and in a convenient enough spot.  Not bad for the last minute!

I took a half day from work on Friday so we could get on the road sooner.  Due to a few circumstances we ended up on the road around dinnertime, which was actually fine because we could eat a little something at home and still get to Syracuse in the early evening.  We quickly checked into the hotel and arrived at the festival right at sunset.  It was great timing because you could see the creations in daylight but also see the effect of the lights inside them, then enjoy it all in the dark.  They were definitely easier to photograph in daylight, but being there at night was wonderful, too. 

 
It was really hard picking pictures for this post, and I still ended up with 29, I think.  I took about 100, though some of that was toggling between photo settings to see which ones worked better with the lighting.  But here's a sampling...

The sky was really pretty as we arrived!

Even in daylight the entry gate was gorgeous!

A canopy of lanterns as we entered the grounds

Elephants

Penguins!

The dragon was so cool!  It was so long!

The moon rose and it was pink!

Guessing these are lotus flowers?  The colors were so pretty!

I liked the flamingos' reflection more than the real things, I think!

Silliness with the giraffes!  Jacob is feeding one...

Fish!

More pretty stuff in the pond

What would a Chinese festival be without pandas?
 
Loved the colors on these

Lion on the lake

Silly boys!

Tulips


Flower basket

Jacob getting silly with a lantern

Dragons

The dragons' bodies were jeweled and I was shocked I could get a close-up like this!

Sea life!  The shark reminded me of Bruce from "Finding Nemo"...

They had ones like this for all of the Chinese zodiac.  I liked the dragon best.

Full view of the entry gate and lantern canopy

So pretty!

The dragon in the dark

These lanterns were even more breathtaking on the way out!

The gate was so pretty...so colorful and grand!

There were some other animals, lots of flowers, and some other artistic forms, and there was also a cultural performance with music, dance, and other special talents.  We only saw that from afar as we wandered around the grounds.  Keeping the kids in check wasn't easy, and dealing with the begging for kettle corn and slushies wasn't ideal, either, but it was a nice walk.  I'm sure the kids didn't appreciate it as much as I did (although I know Carter liked it), but t's not like you get to do something like this every day, so I'm happy we did it.

We got back to the hotel later than I would have liked for our wake-up time, but not terribly late.  The kids are always completely wound up at hotels, so I knew it would take a while to settle them down.  We watched a little basketball on TV while Craig and I checked email and social media, and then it was off to sleep...sort of.  Craig never sleeps well in hotels when he has to wake up early (paranoia from one time he missed his flight), and I was sleeping next to Carter, who decided to be an acrobat in his sleep.  He flipped and kicked and made me generally nervous, particularly because we were in a double bed--rather than a queen--and things were tight.  And of course he seemed to finally settle a bit more by about 5am, so I think I got one decent hour of sleep before I started anticipating my alarm.  We still ended up rushing through getting ready and barely had time for breakfast before we feared we'd be late for the strongly suggested arrival time at Jacob's first tournament.  We probably didn't plan as well as we should have, but at least we got there mostly on time (an hour before game time).

That marked the beginning of a very long day...and an exhausting--but generally good--weekend!  More tomorrow...