Friday, May 19, 2017

Climbing the Ladder

I meant to do a post like this a few weeks back, but at the time it didn't really have a "hook" beyond stuff I've probably already talked about here before, so I never really got around to it.  But now I do, so here goes.

Many weeks ago, a lot of things seemed to be in transition, at least work realm.  Craig applied for a job in another part of the University, a couple people from my department moved on, we were interviewing new people for those positions, and there were some internal promotions or job changes at work that caught my attention.  I guess it just seemed like everyone was moving up to bigger and better things.

Now, when I came to my current job, it was a literal Godsend.  I lost my job and the perfect job had just come available, and I had the connection to get an extra little boost in the hiring process.  I got a comparatively large salary upgrade upon taking the job, and there are so many things about this job that are better than the one I had.  I still miss the people and some of the innovation aspects of that job, but overall this is probably a much better fit.  I have no complaints, but it definitely became apparent over these last weeks that if you want a good boost in salary and/or prestige, a new position (and often a new company) is the way to do it.  Unfortunately for me, I am a creature of habit and I don't like change very much.  Even with this job being a great fit, it probably took me a good year before I felt like I had a good sense of the majority of the job, and I seriously still learn new things almost every day.  I hate limbo and I hate being uncomfortable, so that transition period was really tough for me. 

Anyway, with so much job movement going on around me--and a lot of random bills coming in the mail--I started to get a little antsy and wonder if I was missing out on something.  No one else seems to shy away from job hopping, so maybe I shouldn't either.  I mean, it's not something I seriously considered, even through all of this recent stuff, but I guess maybe I just got to wondering if there was something wrong with me that I didn't want to do it.  The money would be nice, sure, but the stress...ugh.  The thing is, I know I'm a good spot for my lifestyle.  I don't have a lot of take-home stress, I have the freedom to go to doctor's appointments and kid stuff without a lot of hassle, I don't have my work email tied to my phone, and most of the time there is no expectation of having to check in when I am on vacation.  Those are pretty big things right there, and I know that if I were to move up or change positions, that could all change.

The biggest catalyst to all of this overthinking was the position in our department that opened up.  The person who left it was a fellow mom of a toddler, and she'd been there for a few years.  She was moving up to a better position in a competing medical system.  I was sorry to see her go, but certainly I could understand the upgrade and her need for a new challenge.  Her old position is one notch above mine.  It is on the medical side of the University, as opposed to the academic side where I am, but it actually isn't that far off from what I do.  And honestly, I didn't think much of it for myself--probably because not long after it was announced, I went to lunch with my former co-workers and one mentioned that her job (a different company now) was on slightly shaky ground due to an acquisition.  So immediately I mentioned the job to her, and pretty quickly she applied and got an interview.  And yet all along I'm thinking, "Geez, she's about 10 years younger than me and she'd be in a higher position than me if she got it!"  But I loved working with her, so I could get over it just to have her around.  Then, right around the time she interviewed, someone else announced they were leaving, which opened up some additional opportunities for our department to shuffle things a bit.  Then I found out that someone in our department who started at the same time as me in the same position level had applied for the original open job.  Internal candidates have the best shot at getting positions, so if she got the one job, her job would now be open...which actually could be good news for my friend, because as it turned out, she didn't really have enough experience for the one she interviewed for, but could be a good fit for the one that could open up because everyone really liked her.

In the meantime, we interviewed a handful of applicants and one really stood out.  But he seemed to be a better fit for the newer open position, and that left my current co-worker and another internal candidate from another department as the main prospects for the original one.  And about five minutes after I got that update from the "boss" for that position, I got an email from her asking me to come into her office for a few minutes. At that point I sort of figured what might be coming.

"I have to ask...Why didn't you apply for the position?"  Long story short, she thinks I'd be perfect for it, she'd love to work with me, she thinks I have a good knack for this stuff, and I am much stronger with data than either of the other applicants.  I got the feeling that if I applied, I'd get it, hands down.  So...someone pretty much offers you a higher position and a raise and you turn it down...but why?

I already dug into reason #1 a little bit above, where I appreciate that my work life does not intrude too much upon my home life.  I don't think that would change significantly in this case, but there are some reasons why I just don't think now is the right time.  There may be a point where things change and I'd feel better about it, but much like when I was approached the first time about coming here (three years before it happened), it just didn't feel right.  Fast-forward to today, and once again I just feel in my gut that I can't do it right now.  The truth is, I am pretty fiercely loyal if you treat me right (hence why I cried more for my co-workers' stress levels than my own when I lost my last job).  And certainly people could argue that I'm loyal to a fault and I should take the opportunity when it comes because another chance may not (though in this business, change is a constant).  And as ridiculous as it sounds, respect for my boss is one of my hold-ups.  Literally the same day as the above conversation (a couple hours later) she gave me a glowing review and gushed about how grateful she is to have me as her data partner.  We do make a great team, and I'm so thankful for all of the patience and time she put into getting me to this point.  I know that getting me trained was not easy for her, as it's a very tedious process.  And past a certain point it takes an awful lot of faith to let someone loose on our data, as any little mistake can brew up a world of trouble.  But she taught me and dealt with my dumb questions and now it's paying dividends in the form of not worrying when she passes something off to me.  She's under an incredible amount of pressure as her plate is constantly full, and it's frequently being piled on by higher-ups who have a last-minute meeting and need a report or some data analysis urgently.  I can't even imagine if she had to go through hiring and training again.  And of course, I'd have to watch it from a cubicle across the way, which would be pretty awkward in itself.  I don't think she'd begrudge me the opportunity to move up, but I do think she'd inevitably be personally hurt by the whole thing.  And that wouldn't sit well with me.

Lest you think I'm just doing this for someone else, there's more.  When I changed jobs, it took me quite a while to get used to what I'm doing each day.  There are a lot of quirks and a lot of "layers" of stuff to learn here because it's such a large organization.  Everything impacts something else, so sometimes there is a clear-cut, time-tested way to do things to make sure that something doesn't get inadvertently impacted.  It probably took me a year before I had a really solid understanding of most things, and like I said, I still learn new things almost every day.  After two years, I feel like I'm in a good place.  This was the first year that I managed the direct mail fundraising for actual units, and that was a learning process itself.  In the other position I'd be managing quite a few more units in a totally different part of the organization, so it would be a lot to take on and a lot more to learn.  And while learning is a good thing, I'm feeling like I'm finally at the point in my current position where I'm comfortable with all of the base stuff and I can now start delving into the more complex stuff.  Instead of just doing what's been done, I have a better feel for where things can improve and how I might be able to do that.  Simply put, I feel like I've just scratched the surface of this position and feel like I can do more within it before I jump to the next thing.

I feel like a lot of people don't develop properly in their careers because they are so eager to get that promotion and jump to the next level, even if they don't really have the depth of knowledge that would serve them better there.  They're qualified enough--maybe just better than any other candidate--so they get the job, but they may not have spent long enough in their prior position to fully understand the next one.  I think that happens with bad managers, for example.  They're so eager to climb up the ranks that suddenly they're thrust into a position to manage people, yet they don't have a complete picture of what those people really do on a daily basis.  Without that, it's hard to manage realistically or efficiently.  I thrive when I feel like I have a comprehensive knowledge of a subject.  I don't have great self-confidence and hate making decisions, but when I feel like I've experienced something enough to have some evidence that my decision is a good one, I am much more self-assured and willing to assert myself.  Translate that to the office, then, and you can see my issue.  I'd much rather fully enhance my knowledge to the point that I feel like I have serious command over it, than to jump into something new and be almost back to square one.  And yes, that's a new realm to learn more about, which serves me well in the long run, but like I said, the timing just doesn't seem right to make that leap just yet.  Someday I'll feel trapped or bored, and hopefully at some point then, an opportunity will present itself.  Or heck, maybe I'll just get good enough at what I'm doing that they'll have no choice but to reward that.  Because, if I haven't mentioned it, my current position plays into my strengths really well.  The other position would, too--to some degree--but again, I'd rather get better at the stuff I don't consider to be strengths (i.e., major decision-making) before I go jumping into a job that demands that on a daily basis.  (And yes, I know, practice makes perfect...but if "practice" doesn't go well, guess what--I might not be here for long.)

So, now I'll sit at my desk every day knowing that I probably could have had that position and that I'm considered well-qualified to move up, but I'm not really able to tell anyone about it.  I don't want the applicants to feel like they weren't enough, or for my boss to feel like anyone was trying to poach me. Yes, she'd probably appreciate that I stayed, but trust me, this is one of those need-to-know-basis things, and right now, no one needs to know.  It's not a bad thing to keep in my back pocket, though.  It's nice to be appreciated and recognized for the work you do and know that others think highly of you.  But this experience has definitely taught me that there's a fine line between living to your full potential and knowing when something just has to be "good enough" for now.  In a world of working moms just trying to show their kids a successful woman, what I'm doing seems a bit contrary to that, but I still feel like there's a lesson to be learned from it.  Whether it's "follow your gut" or "know your limits" or "finish what you started", they're all good...but only time will tell which lesson is the most applicable here...


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Three Times in Four Days

Every once in a while we go through one of those spans where it seems like we're constantly in Buffalo.  We have family things or some other planned activity, and we spend so much time on the Thruway that it makes me wonder if we're really dumb for not having moved there by now.  But when we both have jobs and our lives have basically been here for nearly two decades, I guess it's not that easy.  So, we continue the travel and make the best of it.

Last week ended up being really busy.  Between Jacob's normal lacrosse schedule and a work event I had been planning for the last six weeks, our evenings were already a little crazy.  Then Thursday I had to go to Buffalo for my cousin's bridal shower.  It was fun seeing most of the women in the family, and enjoying a little wine and lots of food while celebrating my second-youngest cousin's impending marriage!  I grabbed this pretty shot outside the venue, which was along the Erie Canal.

Originally I planned on sleeping over at my parents' so I didn't have to drive home late, but then I had two Muffins with Mom events with the boys first thing Friday morning, so I limited my wine intake, drank a Diet Pepsi, and dragged myself back home that night.  I had muffins with both boys (separately) by 9am on Friday, so yes, it was a bit of an early morning!

Normally I'd pull these off my phone, but I'm print screening Facebook instead because it's quicker!

I had a busy day after that, as I had a number of things on my list.  I started with a trip to the dollar store, a run to Wegmans, my first allergy shot, a trip to use my beloved $10 coupons at JCPenney, a bunch of cleaning at home (though I ended up snoozing a bit on the couch thanks to the early morning), then a somewhat ill-fated haircut (it's really short and while I've gotten compliments on it, it's still a little odd), and my first run in probably 10 months.  That was two miles in about 21 minutes.  Not bad, but oh, was I ever sore for the next two days!  By then the boys all came home and we had dinner, followed by more cleaning at night so the house was ready for Mary's arrival on Saturday!

We had Jacob's lacrosse game at 11:30 and Mary arrived in time (and with mud-ready gear, as it was still a bit damp out) to see the game.  And what a game it was!  We're not entirely sure of the final totals, but as far as we know, Jacob scored four goals and five assists!  One of the better players from his team was out, so perhaps he just had more opportunities.  Or maybe it was the speech Craig gave him last week.  But whatever it was, he closed on the opportunities and really looked great out there!

Mary and I took off right from the game and made a stop in Geneseo.  We ate lunch among an entertaining commencement day crowd at Mama Mia's, and smiled as we walked through campus and caught glimpses of graduates getting their pictures taken in iconic campus spots.  Mary said that she wanted to run up to them and say, "Seventeen years from now you'll still miss it!"  We wandered around campus in search of the giant rice krispie treats they used to have (apparently they still exist!) but all of the dining areas were closed or in use.  But we wandered around and through Mary's old department's floor--a department that no longer exists but whose wall decor was still intact many years later.  It was a nice stroll and we felt very fortunate that the weather cooperated.  It was probably in the upper 50s and cloudy, but it was surprisingly tolerable...and a much better option than the rain that had been forecast all week!

We hopped back in the car and headed toward Niagara Falls, taking the same route I used to take home from college.  Not much has changed, but it was a nice little throwback.  As we approached our Thruway exit, I pondered the best way to kill time before the concert and decided to take a detour through N.T. to stop at Platter's, the chocolate wonderland that Craig and I stopped at during our day alone.  It was significantly toned down from Easter, but we each still found a treat and enjoyed baby cones of fabulous ice cream as a pre-dinner treat!

We eventually made it to Niagara Falls and found a lot to park in that was relatively close to the park near the brink of the American side of the Falls.  We walked over, through throngs of foreign tourists, and eventually found a spot to eat dinner, which was Aunt Cookie's subs brought from Geneseo.
Not a bad view, eh?  The brink of the falls is even with the top of the railing, so we were pretty close.
After eating we took the long way back around to catch a view of the falls themselves.  It had been a while since I'd been at this spot.
The American Falls are in the foreground, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls are in the far back left.  The tall buildings are all hotels on the Canadian side.

Caught a boat in the middle of the mist.  I believe this is the Canadian version of the Maid of the Mist.
It was finally time to head to the concert, which was in a not-great part of town a bit away from the tourist areas. We were a little nervous about parking and safety and all that, but we got lucky with one of the last parking spots in an adjacent lot.  We then had to join an eternally long line to get into the seatless venue, and it wasn't until we got to the front of the line that we realized why--they were frisking everyone as they entered.  That was a new one for us.  It dripped rain for a bit while we waited, but it was fine and still a much better scenario than the forecast had been saying all week!

As we waited, I couldn't help but snap pictures of the surrounding neighborhood.  It's clearly very depressed, with lots of vacant storefronts and neglected buildings, but you could also tell there was a ton of history there.  I would have loved to see it in its prime!
How cool is that window?

You can tell there used to be something between those decorative panels, as the exposed brick underneath is visible.  I wonder what was there...

Those French doors and the arched window with the year marker above looked almost whimsical.

This building really caught my eye, as Jenss was an upscale department store in Buffalo years back.  The building's brick was still painted with the store name, and I was shocked that the front doors still had the neon logo intact.
The inside of the theater was equally interesting, but much better cared for.  The walls and ceiling looked freshly painted and beautifully preserved.  I am still obsessed with the ceiling.

The concert itself was amazing!  They played so many great songs and we enjoyed every moment!

This was at the very end of their encore, when they performed without electronics--no microphones, no amps.  Just their voices, a banjo, and a couple of percussion-type instruments.  It was amazing.
The car was still intact when we made it back outside (yay!), and we headed back to Rochester.  It made for a late night getting back around 12:30, and the next morning was early since we were going to church and then on to Buffalo, but it was worth it for such a fun day and a great show.  Mary left early to get back to her own church and her weekend work at home, and after we headed to church and a couple stops, we were off to Buffalo for Mother's Day (trip #3 for me!).  We spent a couple hours with my parents and a few hours with Craig's family, and then headed back home again.  For gifts, Carter colored me a picture and answered questions about me, and Jacob made me a flower magnet.  I probably could have had flowers from the boys, too, but we were so stressed out getting them for everyone else that I turned them down!  Other than that, it was a pretty good day overall.  And given that it's taken me three days to post this, clearly it's been busy getting back to the grind this week.  We have another busy weekend ahead, including a lacrosse tournament for Jacob.  But Memorial Day is coming and this is only the beginning of a very hectic time ahead! 

Thursday, May 11, 2017


May 10th, 11th, and 12th are sort of funny days for me when they roll around every year.  And I think most years I address them in some form on this blog.  These three days correspond to two of the greatest adventures I've ever gone on.  My life hasn't exactly been one thrill after another--heck, stand-up paddleboarding a couple years ago was really going out of my comfort zone--but clearly I've lived a fun life with tons of memories to look back on.  But two that stand out among the rest are the two last-minute trips I took to watch the Knighthawks win championships.  One was ten (!) years ago, and the other was four years ago.  In fact, my dad posted a picture from his memories today with my mom and my two kids while they were watching the kids in my absence, and it was almost shocking to see how tiny Carter was--and of course I felt a wave of guilt all over again for leaving my not-even-three-month-old baby behind for three days.  But both of those trips created incredible memories that I wouldn't trade, and I think deep down I knew that when I took them and that's why I did it in the first place.

I am not an impulsive person, at least not with stuff that costs a lot of money or involves significant wrangling and planning.  Stuff like that usually involves a lot of risk assessment for me--considering costs, weighing pros and cons, planning out every last detail down to what I'm bringing and where I'm eating well in advance.  But both of those trips were planned the day before the trip, after a period of short but intense consideration.  I think in the end it just came down to knowing I had a prime opportunity, and in the long run I'd have been sorry to miss out on it.  And sure enough, all these years later I know I'd regret missing out on those memories a lot more than I miss the money I spent.  It makes me happy I took the plunge each time, even if it was scary in the moment.  As I was thinking about the trips yesterday, I realized that each of those trips is precious to me for different reasons.  The driving purpose of both was the same--a championship lacrosse game--but their value in hindsight varies greatly, mostly because of the stages of life I was in when I took them.

With my first trip, I was a full year ahead of Jacob being born.  We hadn't even started trying yet, but we knew that was on the agenda.  I knew at the time that the trip might be a bit of a last hurrah, and that's another reason why I went for it.  In addition, so many of the staff were going on that trip, and I was still only a little over a year removed from working there, so I was close with most of them and still had a strong connection to a good chunk of the team, as well.  The team was amazing that year, with a 14-2 record and a dramatic win to send them to the finals, and it just seemed like, for the first time ever, everything was falling into place for them to win.  Previous teams had mental breakdowns at the worst times, having momentary lapses in effort that cost them key games.  And with this team, it never happened.  So between the "team of destiny" feeling and the staff members I could share it with, it made it hard to say no.  And once I found a plane ticket within what I was willing to spend (even though it still seemed crazy), I was all in.  The thing was, I had never traveled alone.  We'd taken a couple plane trips since we'd been married, but I had never gone to the airport, checked in, and boarded a plane alone.  It felt very empowering at the time, as I felt pretty sheltered in that regard until that moment.  Things got a little dicey once I got to Phoenix without a real plan in place for getting to the team hotel (life before smartphones and WiFi!), but it all worked out.  I got to see a part of the country I'd never seen (real cacti!), I got to spend some quality time with friends, and I got to witness my first real championship win.  It was an incredible feeling, particularly because I'm a Buffalo native and winning the last game of the year is a bit of a shortcoming in that area.  So to see our team ahead as time ticked was such a foreign but incredible feeling, and seeing it in person was beyond memorable.  The postgame celebration was truly unique (just the team and a handful of staff, family members, and fans), as we sat around the hotel pool on a gorgeous evening with the Cup as our centerpiece.  The entire thing felt surreal, and I will never forget it.

Once I had Jacob, I knew my impulsive travel days were over.  I remember being super bummed when he was a baby and there was a free bus trip down toward New York City for a playoff game, and I had to pass because I knew I couldn't take a baby with me.  That was a little sobering, even if I knew it was coming.  Fortunately, the next championship run, five years after the first, ended at home. My parents were in town for the game and nice enough to stay with Jacob while we went out and celebrated late into the night. 

But the following year it became clear that if we wanted to win it, it would have to be on the road.  So once again I agonized over possible travel arrangements and bemoaned the fact that flights to Vancouver were beyond expensive.  But then I realized that I could get to Seattle for a fraction of the price and brave the drive north.  It wasn't the most convenient, but it was doable.  Once my parents officially said they'd take the kids, I got a little more serious, but I still felt terribly guilty.  However, thinking back, I had a four-year-old and a three-month-old, which means I was still in the thick of the newborn fog and any sort of escape probably sounded like a dream come true, even with mom guilt.  An uninterrupted night of sleep alone sounded pretty nice, I suppose.  So then I opted to Priceline it, which got the price down to a more reasonable point.  However, they screwed me on flights (most that I saw on standard sites looked like good times, and I got the one crappy flight that took away an entire day), which led to this horrible sequence of events that involved no sleep, hours on the phone, and an early morning stand-by attempt that was fortunately successful, but overall stressful.  But once I was off?  Holy cow.  It was incredible.  I had forgotten what it felt like to read a book or sit in silence or not have to worry about who needs to eat or get dressed.  Then when I got there I took my detour to see all of the Chihuly glass in Tacoma, which had been on my bucket list since we passed by it in 2006 while on a train between Seattle and Portland.  That was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  Then I had an evening alone with Craig and the best night's sleep I'd had in ages.  The next morning I had a glorious run on the boardwalk in New Westminster, followed by a walk on the same path to photograph flower after gorgeous flower.  I watched another championship win and experienced another postgame celebration (a much lower-key one this time) and then started the taxing trip home very early the next morning.  But that trip will always be memorable for me because it enabled me to find myself again, the part of me that had been lost among two kids, sleep deprivation, a job, and a household.  I had forgotten what it felt like to run without feeling compelled to get home, or to leisurely take pictures of beautiful things without worrying about taking my eye off the kids.  I could admire art and nature at my own pace and in silence.  I could wander and observe.  It seemed indulgent, but I think it's probably something every baby mom needs to stay sane.  It's too easy to lose yourself to the role of "mom", and forget what else you loved before your kids overtook it all.  Even the time alone with Craig was precious and rare, and while there wasn't a lot of it (between him working and me being dead tired at night), but what we had meant the world to me.  I just needed those couple of days of remembering myself, and it was a great recharge.  And to this day I am so thankful for those memories, to say that I have seen those Chihuly pieces and had the adventure to fly to and drive through the Pacific Northwest by myself.

Two trips, two different perspectives, but each a great adventure.  This time of year brings up so many memories because of those trips.  Sometimes they evoke a little bit of frustration as I compare the humdrum activities of the same dates in subsequent years, and long for the opportunity to cross off more bucket list items.  But I know that's not fair as those were exceptional days out of an entire lifetime, and few days--let alone an average workday--will ever compare.  But most times they just make me smile.  And maybe hope a little bit for more days like that in the future.  I'm so glad that I can look back on those trips and have no regrets about them years later.  I feared they might someday be considered a foolish waste of money, but good luck and a thirst for adventure go a long way, and I'm so glad I took the chance.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Picture Perfect

Much of the time these days I find myself marveling at my big kids.  When I realize that Carter's next birthday will officially move him out of toddlerhood.  When I think about Jacob going into fourth grade in the fall.  When I think about Carter being almost too big to pick up.  When I realize Jacob is less than a foot shorter than me.  I wonder how I, with this little body that has long been mistaken for much younger than it is, could have given birth to not just one, but TWO of these ever-bigger little people.  How am I the mom--not just to babies, but to big kids?  In the last four years of dealing with Jacob's behavior issues, these kids have grown up.  Time has flown by as we've spent our days trying to stay sane. 

I look back at pictures all the time.  Sometimes it's through Facebook's "On This Day" memories, or sometimes it's when I'm looking through old photo albums on my phone or iPod looking for something, and I just can't get over the plethora of memories we've had or just how much has changed over the years.  Craig and I are about six weeks away from anniversary #14.  I'm 17 years removed from college this month, and my prom was four years before that.  I passed the 25th anniversary of my confirmation a few weeks ago.  The book that Jacob and I just finished reading this week (the second in our bedtime series where I read to him in an effort to help him appreciate some classics--first was "The Indian in the Cupboard" and the most recent was "A Cricket in Times Square") has belonged to me since I was only two years older than Jacob is now.  In the immortal words of The Talking Heads, "How did I get here?" 

But the pictures are this concrete reminder of how much we've been through and how much has changed.  I can't believe the little kids in my pictures are the same ones that live in my house right now.  Being able to remember them like that is a precious gift, particularly on days when things aren't going so smoothly.  Of course, most of those pictures don't tell the full story.  Most of the time I know the context they were taken in, but usually what you see looks pretty pleasant and typical.  But I know the truth, and sometimes the picture was a rare shining moment, and sometimes it actually captures the mood perfectly.  Here are a couple examples where it goes both ways:

What you see: A cute picture of two-year-old Jacob at his favorite place, a baseball game.
What you don't see: That he was under the seats because he wouldn't sit still and was driving us nuts.  I think I took the picture just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

What you see: Three-year-old Jacob being absolutely adorable in a stack of hay bales.
Why this picture still makes me smile: I'm sure we had our share of difficult moments that day, too, but we had a blast at the pumpkin patch and this picture just captured the joy of the day.  It was 80 degrees in October, after all!

What you see: Carter and me taking a pretty successful selfie...and with a happy boy like that, how could we not?
What you don't see: I was completely stressing out as we were on our way to Pittsburgh--probably already running late--and I realized we forgot Carter's reflux medications.  We were sitting in the car outside a Wegmans in Erie, waiting for his prescriptions to be refilled. 

What you see: Carter being absolutely joyful while playing with a classic toy.
Why this picture still makes me smile: Those everyday moments were the best and I miss when I was guaranteed a smile just by looking at him.  He also couldn't talk back yet!

These are just two easy examples I could remember off the top of my head.  Our entire trip to Florida could have fallen into the "betraying their context" category, as we were completely stressed out that entire trip, between Jacob's behavior issues and his probable Celiac diagnosis while we were there.  That trip was exhausting and frustrating, but within those moments we had some great little micro-memories...ones that without the context would have been amazing, but within the context were little jewels in the rough.  Fortunately a lot of the context fades over time and on the surface they become precious memories...unless I really sit there and think about it.  I think most of the time I'm just so overwhelmed by the passage of time as I look at them that I don't think that deeply.  But if I try to take myself fully back to those moments, I remember--for better or for worse. 

But at the end of the day, these moments are important.  They're a part of our history.  I cherish the 10 second videos I have of each kid as a newborn, to hear their squeaky cries that I swore I'd never forget.  I love that I took pictures at random moments that were otherwise unremarkable, just because I knew I'd never remember that moment without it.  I sometimes need those moments to remember why we do what we do each day.  It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day drudgery when the kids aren't listening and we worked all day and I have to cook dinner and neither kid wants to go to bed.  But seeing them succeed, or seeing them be happy--and capturing those moments--is what it's all about.

Take tonight, for example.  We went to the mall to see this year's school district art show, because Jacob had a painting on display.
His is at the top, the one you can see in its entirety above his head

I was really pleased with the picture and so proud of him.  It's great when you get to legitimately praise your kid for something awesome.  Well, after I took the pictures above, Carter was trying to get in on the act and wanted his picture taken, too.  Obviously he didn't have anything to be "honored" for, but you know, he put such a sweet smile on his face that of course I took it!  And I'm so happy I have this picture to remember him so earnestly wanting to be a big kid just like his brother...

So many little moments frozen in time.  And even if we couldn't fully enjoy them in the moment, I'm so glad we have them to look back on now.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Movie Monday

As promised, here are some videos from the past months...

The first one is from the Corning Museum of Glass.  This was Carter and me walking into a weird optical illusion where we walked into an image of ourselves that seemed to be floating in air.  It's hard to do it justice here, but Carter loved it!

This was from the following day at the Discover Center in Binghamton, and features my friend Heather enclosing herself in a giant bubble.  She worked there, so she was an expert at it!

This was supposed to be a thank you video for Uncle John after he and his family gave Carter this amazing track for Christmas!

This is a quick snippet of what life is like with these two boys, taken as they played on the playground the day before Easter.

Here is Carter riding his (very squeaky) tricycle the other day...

Here he is using his bubble reminded me of the torrent of bubbles we saw at my cousin Kristi's memorial last year.

Here he is showing off his pedaling skills on his big wheel...

Again, these are just funny little random moments in our lives, but I'm happy they've been documented!  Enjoy...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Swing Back Sunday

I finally took the time to pull pictures off my phone, so here's a big catch-up post of pictures since early winter!  If you follow me on social media you've probably seen a bunch of these, but probably not all.  There were a couple gems that I think never even made it there, for whatever reason.  So instead of Throwback Thursday, I'm coining the term "Swing Back Sunday"...

Around Christmas time, Carter and I stopped at the mall and one of the restaurants outside had this fun keg tree on their patio.  There is a much larger version each year at the Genesee Brewery downtown, but I just thought this looked so fun!

Carter went to the dentist this winter, and I couldn't help but laugh when he had on his shades and was getting his fluoride treatment.  He just cracked me up...and did awesome!

Speaking of awesome, how 'bout this kid?  I could only catch a picture on my phone when I saw him sitting like this, slung across the back cushion of our big armchair while watching TV.  This kid...and that look...

When we went to Toronto in late January, Carter and I went to IKEA.  Halfway through the store, he decided he was ready to take a nap on the mini bearskin rug.  It took a lot of convincing to get him up from this spot!

Believe it or not, this is what February looked like around here this year.  We actually had a couple days where it was warm enough to play outside without a coat...and someone was very happy to be outside!

We took this at a Knighthawks game, and you have no idea how hard it was to get this shot.  But I love it!

This was our view from breakfast during our overnight away.  It was a little like an Italian cafĂ© on the street.  So nice while it lasted...

This is a picture of my current group of painted Polish Easter eggs following our trip to the Broadway Market on our weekend away.  The blue and green ones at the bottom are the most recent additions.  I just love the colors so much!

When the weather first got nice, Carter and I went out for our first evening walk of the year.  The picture was a little blurry, but you can still see he's smiling!

And this is the sunset from our walk that night...

Easter weekend, the day the baby giraffe was born, we pulled out a couple games from my parents' basement.  One was Monopoly, which Jacob really wanted to play that afternoon, and the other was this one, Run Yourself Ragged.  It's an obstacle game that uses a tiny silver ball, and you have to use the buttons and knobs at the bottom to get the ball through in a minute (as timed by the brown house-shaped thing in the back).  Fun fact: I swallowed the ball from the game when I was probably around Jacob's age.  We did recover it (ewwww) and it was a dark silver instead of the chrome it once was, but it still works!

This is Carter while eating the chocolate sucker that was in his Easter basket.  And true to Carter, you can tell he's still talking while eating!

This is from last week when Jacob and I had to go to his doctor appointment and my favorite food truck happened to be parked in the parking lot!  They have gluten-free poutine, so that was our lunch. 

And last weekend before the Knighthawks game, Carter and I were at the mall checking out a couple things, and as we walked through NY & Company, Carter took a liking to the mannequin.  He noticed her hand, and it was perfectly placed to hold, apparently, as he instinctively grabbed it and asked me to take his picture.  And then he asked if it was cute.  Oh boy.
And yes, Carter, it is cute...though I'm not sure how I feel about losing you to a headless woman!  Silly boy.
Stay tuned, as hopefully tomorrow I'll have a few fun videos, too.  But I feel cleansed now that I got to share these, as I probably told myself countless times that I would get to these stories soon and never did.  I love these little snippets from our daily life, as it reminds me of the little blessings amidst the tougher times. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

News & Notes, Spring has Sprung Edition

It's's actually feeling like spring around here these days.  Well, Thursday felt like summer, and yet we're back to early spring today, but for the most part we've stuck in the 50s and 60s lately, and it's been glorious.  Most of the trees are turning some shade of green and most of the flowering trees and spring bulbs are in full bloom.  It's nice, though for some reason not as bliss-inducing as I feel like it usually is when it finally arrives.  Maybe it wasn't late enough yet that I was in complete agony waiting for it to happen, so there isn't as much of a contrast? 

Anyway, it's been nice to get out with the boys as they needed the freedom.  Carter is loving the bubble gun he got for Easter, and is pedaling up a storm on his various ride-ons.  Jacob has been happy to play lacrosse again. 

I figured I could share a few shots from this week's time outside...

Artsy shot of the remnants of Carter's bubble gun.  The bubbles we have are apparently very sturdy!

Couldn't resist one more from my actual fun!

My little tiger on his tricycle

He really liked shooting me with the bubble gun!

You know it's spring in my yard when these purple flowers pop up in the back yard.  I love them, but they are taking over!

Last weekend I dug up about 200 bulbs from my flower bed.  They were apparently spent daffodils that haven't bloomed for the past two springs, so I guess it's time to replace them.  It was exhausting, however, because they were buried rather deeply and were trapped under some landscaping mat that was still surprisingly tough despite spending around 10 years buried in dirt.  But they're out, and I'm sure I'll find out where I missed a couple next spring!  I did manage to change out all of my solar lights this week, which was a long time coming.  They've been a mishmash of lights for a while, and only some of them still worked.  I got a great deal on them at Aldi, and combined with the ones I picked up at the end of last year at Target, it appears everything is functional now.  One set is in the most visible areas of our flower beds, and the other group is in the background.  I have a couple non-matching spares, too, for when the kids destroy something.  And the two other survivors from the original batch are now near our back patio.  Funny how a little thing like that feels so good to accomplish cheaply!

Thursday night while Carter was playing outside, I finally met our next door neighbor who has been living there for a couple years now.  Why it took so long, I don't know.  I mean, it's sort of a weird setup--two sisters and the one sister's little boy--and originally I thought they were just renting, but now I think a relative bought the house after our old neighbor passed, and is renting it to them.  But they smoke (which has bothered Jacob while playing outside) and certain things seemed a little odd for a while.  Their crazy plow guy is the one that caused (and never fixed, despite repeatedly telling me he would).  But all things considered, they've been fine.  I think Craig has talked to them a couple times, but aside from waves now and then, I was mostly concerned with keeping the kids managed when I was outside, and I generally like to let neighbors approach me.  That's where my introvert side really comes out.  Anyway, a couple weeks ago she asked me about the Easter eggs I had strung in the tree because her son was obsessed with them.  But for whatever reason, I didn't get into chatting then.  But then Thursday while I was talking on the phone to Craig about how all the rain had caused our pool cover to rip (arrrgh!), Carter tried to give back a ball that's been hanging out between the two yards for a week.  And then we finally got to talking.  Turns out her son is only a couple weeks older than Carter.  He was really into Carter's big wheel that has a bunch of fun buttons and sounds, and while Carter wasn't the best sharer, he did let him press the buttons.  But anyway, now I know their names and hopefully it won't be as awkward.

As for the kids, they're still driving each other (and us) nuts.  Thursday our therapist gave us a little reward project to try that only kicks in if the kids refrain from fighting for three days.  We shall see how that goes.  Jacob has been extra difficult lately, which could partly be the result of a couple weeks of being out of routine with spring break and a couple days of forgetting his ADHD meds in the morning.  It seems when Carter is bad, Jacob is good, and vice-versa.  It's maddening.  I don't really like rewards, but I keep hoping that if they see that life can be good when they're not battling, maybe they'll realize things can be better.  We have to try something, I guess. 

This weekend marks the end of Craig's lacrosse season and the official beginning of Jacob's.  The Knighthawks' last home game was last night, and Craig is spending today in Georgia before heading back tomorrow morning.  It will be nice to have him around on weekends again.  This morning was Jacob's first game for his house team, and I certainly could have used Craig this morning.  We had to be up and out by 9am, which doesn't sound bad but is challenging for a family that usually spends the morning lounging in bed until at least that time.  And when you consider it was a late night for the boys and I was probably up for an hour or so when Craig came home super late and just stayed up straight through before leaving for the airport around 4am, it made for a bit of a tough morning.  We got there later than we wanted, but before the game started.  Jacob didn't have any points but he played a different position so it was good to see him doing pretty well there.  They lost, but they always get better as the season goes along.  It was a cool morning and I feel like I'm still warming up, but at least it wasn't raining!

Action shot!

This week I got my allergy testing redone, and hopefully I will be starting shots this week.  My doctor suggested getting a CT scan of my sinuses as well, in order to hopefully find out if anything else is going on up there that could be contributing to my smell and taste issues.  I had an MRI six years ago to rule out polyps and tumors, but the swelling will be more evident in a CT scan.  I dread the cost of it since it seems like we've had one medical bill after another lately, but if it gets me closer to figuring anything out, then I guess it's worth it.  But in the meantime the shots should help the allergy end of things.

Well, my body is giving me hints that this morning's early wake-up call was not appreciated.  Off to try to close my eyes for a bit...yeah, right...

Friday, April 21, 2017

In Defense of the Mom Speech

I have this bad habit of trying to talk sense into my kids.  Normally it's preceded by yelling and that sort of thing, which is no better, but once I chill out a bit, I try to help the kids understand why they're supposed to do what I ask them to do.  I realized some time ago that kids won't be motivated to do something if they simply don't understand why they're doing it.  In a perfect parenting world, the simple fact that I ask them to do it should be motivating enough, but let's face it...that is not how kids work.  I sat through this speech a while back for work that talked about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.  The key to life is transforming extrinsic motivation into intrinsic, so you're doing something because you want to, not because anyone or anything else is convincing you to.  And while a lot of that speech amounted to exhausting psychobabble, there is certainly food for thought there.  With kids I think we're just trying to help them see those motivating factors so that down the road they understand the importance and it just becomes part of their normal life without question.  Whether it's cleaning up their room, eating healthy, or going to school (and later work), we know they need to do those things to be functional adults, so we put an immense amount of parenting energy into teaching them the discipline they'll need to tackle those tasks (and more) later in life.

Well, when you have kids like mine, the task seems insurmountable.  First you have Jacob, who has thrown up daunting barriers to pretty much every sort of parenting discipline since he was approximately 18 months old.  He certainly has his own set of challenges, and sometimes for that reason it's even harder to feel okay about pushing these things on him, because you just don't know what he's truly capable of.  His brain works differently than most people's, so it's not as simple as saying he's lazy or defiant.  It simply does not occur to him sometimes because his brain is so full of other stuff.  He can come across as thoughtless, messy, obnoxious, or awkward without even realizing it, and even as his parent it's hard to know what he's truly capable of vs. what's a battle that's not worth fighting.

Then you have Carter, who for all of his incredibly sweet moments, is now almost as much of a handful as Jacob.  He's sneaky and busy and has a hair-trigger temper.  He is the epitome of an impulsive four-year-old.  He'll walk up to Jacob and punch him (which I think is just him being proactive for whatever battle is sure to ensue, but still...).  He will throw a toy the second it starts to frustrate him.  He runs at full speed most of the the time, whether he's inside or out.  Getting him to stop long enough to consider rules or other general good behavior is extremely difficult.

When you add the two together it is a recipe for disaster.  Both of them are completely fixated on each other, and when that happens, they will listen to nothing.  It's pointless to talk any sense into them until they're separated and starting to calm down themselves.  We've pretty much stopped even "punishing" them, per se, but when it gets bad between them, they're both just directed to go their separate ways.  Sending both to their rooms usually doesn't work unless one of us is there to police them, since their doors are right next to each other.  But as long as they're apart, we can start chilling everyone out. 

Once that happens, sometimes I will try to talk sense into one or the other of them.  It's usually pointless and yet I feel compelled.  How are they ever going to understand the problem if it's not explained to them?  Or how to fix it, for that matter?  So I try.  And 98% of the time it falls on deaf ears.  Well, they might hear it, but being able to bring it to mind in the moment when they're facing the same situation doesn't always pan out. 

But every once in a while...after many, many repeat attempts...something gets through.  Months ago, it was the constant reminder to Jacob to put his cereal bowl in the sink and rinse it out.  It took months, literally, but he finally does it regularly now.  Next step is for him to clean up the mess he leaves behind on the table, but one thing at a time.  The most recent thing that sunk in was how he asked for breakfast.  Every morning I'd get this rude, "I want breakfast!" yelled through the house.  It sounded so demanding, like I was his servant and was expected to drop everything and feed him.  I mentioned it a bunch of times, told him what I would prefer to hear, and lo and behold, he now says, "May I please have some breakfast?"  Small stuff, perhaps, but it's proof that at some point, two mom speeches actually worked!

I've had a couple successes with Carter, as well.  We've had a hard time getting him to stay in bed in bed at night--both around bedtime and in the middle of the night.  We still have issues with bedtime, but he's gotten much better about staying in bed at night.  After I talked to him a few times about growing up and making me proud by being a big boy, he started sleeping through and asking me in the morning, "Mommy, are you proud of me?"  Then, we had this other issue where every time I would get to daycare, he would hide.  Usually I'd find him quickly and he'd get upset by that, or he wouldn't get enough time to hide and that would frustrate him, too.  It all came to a head the day I was reviewing and ordering his pictures a few weeks ago, when the photographer noticed something out of the corner of her eye behind me, and it turned out to be Carter, who had hidden behind the bookshelf he often hid behind, but since things had been shifted for the photo shoot, he got himself stuck trying to get out.  He was crying and looked desperate to squeeze his head back out.  We moved the bookcase and got him out without injury, but he seemed pretty scared.  I reminded him after that that I had previously asked him to stop hiding and this was one of the reasons why--I didn't want to see him get hurt trying to sneak into tiny spaces.  I told him that I would much rather have him run to me and give me a big hug like his friends do with their parents.  And you know what, he almost always does now, unless he's totally absorbed into something else.  So, again, proof that my lectures sometimes sink in.

I wish it worked more often than it does, but odds are that sometime before they're 18, most of the speeches will eventually sink in, as we don't send our kids out into the world as complete jerks.  They still have a lot to learn even at that point, but in general they're at least decent human beings by then.  So, presumably, most of the large scale life lessons must sink in somehow.  So perhaps the mom speeches aren't as pointless as they seem.  It may take a lot of attempts, and it may take years, but eventually, finally, they mostly work.  So on any given day, I guess I'll take my chances...

Daycare pickup

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Sorry for the belated Easter update.  Evenings just haven't been my friend this week, and my lunch yesterday was filled with a learning session, so I just haven't had the chance to write.  We had a pretty good Easter weekend, although the downside was that Craig was out of town for most of it, and when he got back from his roadtrip, he was sick.  So he pretty missed out on all the fun and food on Sunday, which was a bummer.

The end of last week was busy--between packing, food shopping and prep, and making sure I had everything I needed to top off the kids' Easter baskets, there was never a dull moment.  One evening when I was out doing some of the errand running, I caught this picture.

This doesn't even do it justice, as the whole sky was glowing much more orange than you see it here.  And behind me, the tops of the trees were glowing pink, with a very gray sky behind it.  It was sort of creepy and surreal, but very cool.  It was a nice moment in the midst of hurrying up everywhere.

Friday morning we had to get on the road pretty early because we needed to meet my parents at their church by 12:30.  We actually got in the van on time, by some miracle, and got there early enough to run across the street to Burlington Coat Factory.  I had promised Jacob we'd go back there and see if we could find another tie for him, since he loves his suit so much that he wanted another tie option to change it up, and they're super cheap there.  We had a little hiccup when he had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction in the bathroom, but we recovered quickly, found a tie for $6, and headed back across the street just in time for church.  The kids were pretty good--Jacob was actually great and Carter had a couple moments but wasn't too bad, all things considered.  We pondered trying to stay for the walk-through experience the church had set up for Good Friday, but by then Carter was getting a little crazy and we still hadn't eaten lunch, so we headed home.

We kept ourselves occupied for a couple hours before heading over to my Uncle Jeff's (site of most traditional family gatherings) for our traditional noodles and prunes Good Friday dinner.  It's already a great spread of appetizers before we dig into egg noodles, croutons, and prunes/stewed plums (well, a select few do the plums) for dinner.  I brought gluten-free pasta and croutons for Jacob and my cousin Lori, who is also gluten-free, as well as my first attempt at spinach-artichoke dip.

As we got further into the meal, Jacob started complaining that his stomach was bothering him.  He was still functional, but given that I'd felt a little off the previous day or two, I was a little cautious.  And anyway, I keep waiting for one of our major holidays to be ruined by a stomach bug, so I'm extra paranoid.  While he was getting some air in hopes of feeling better, my uncle took him to the backyard to fly his fancy drone.  My Uncle Jeff is a gadget guy and a computer whiz, and he has this very hi-tech drone that he loves to use when he's out hiking, which is another passion of his.  Why he wanted to risk having my eight-year-old fly it, I have no idea, but he did, and Jacob had fun.
Controlling it via phone

He flew it out over some woods, then back to right above us.  I was really zoomed in to get this shot.  I bet it was still 100 feet up.

Bringing it in for a landing with Uncle Jeff back at the almost looks like the star on the top of the tree in the middle!
It was a really cool experience for Jacob, and I love seeing him act mature enough to do neat stuff like that.  Even still, his stomach was still bothering him so we ended up leaving the party a bit early.  Of course, that meant I had to keep Carter and Jacob away from each other for an extra couple hours in a quiet house, which wasn't easy...though it was a good indicator of how Jacob was feeling later on, as he seemed to gain some extra energy when Carter was around.  We ended up watching some playoff hockey on Canadian TV and Carter played with his Transformers.  The good news is that it all prevented me from eating or drinking more than I already did, which probably saved me from some belly issues of my own.  And, after a while, Jacob was feeling better.  Both kids went down pretty easily, as well, as it had been a busy day and Carter was excited to sleep on the air mattress in the office, which I think he considered a "big boy thing" since Jacob did it last time.

Saturday morning I woke up too early and checked my phone.  I took a glance at the webcam of April the Giraffe, which I'd been watching periodically since a few weeks earlier when they originally said she'd have the baby anytime.  I wasn't a crazy watcher like some people, but I'd make an effort to check in every few hours, as after a while it just became a "thing" to want to spontaneously catch the birth.  When I checked at 7am, all was well.  I rested a bit longer until the kids were up, at which point I turned my phone on again.  The app must haves still been open because I looked at the camera again at 7:30 and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a baby hoof sticking out!  From then on that morning, I was glued to my phone.  The early stages took quite a while, so I managed to eat breakfast and watch some Sesame Street with Carter while waiting.  Sometime around 9:40, one of the contractions caught my eye and I could tell that the head was starting to come out.  I knew that once that happened it would be fast, and sure enough, a few minutes later you could clearly see the head.  A few more pushes after that, and the baby splashed out.  It was incredible.  Tons of amniotic fluid, a placenta delivery (I think), and some other assorted grossness...but incredible.  Then I ended up watching for another hour until the baby was on its feet and seemed to be trying to nurse, before I went off to take a shower and return to being a more engaged mother for the rest of the day!

It ended up being a pretty rainy day early on, which was a bummer as it's hard to keep the kids contained in the house.  Jacob declared that he wanted to play Monopoly, which elicited a couple groans (mine included), but we headed down to the basement to bring it up (along with another fun game from my youth called Run Yourself Ragged, famous in our house for having been the game whose ball I swallowed.  And no, I have NO idea why I had it in my mouth in the first place.).  We played quite the game of Monopoly while Carter miraculously kept himself occupied.  Grandpa went bankrupt first, then Jacob, both at the hands of my mom.  By then she had pretty much everything and put houses on almost all properties, so it was only a matter of time before I went under as well.  She crushed us!  But it was a fun way to pass the time, and when we were done, the sun was coming out!

It had also warmed up pretty nicely, so off to the playground we went!  Jacob and I played basketball for a while (he beat me in PIG)...

Love to see smiles on his face!

For some reason I feel like this sort of captures his essence.  I have no idea why...but I like it.
Eventually we got tired of our balls rolling in the mud, so we moved back over to the playground itself, where Carter was running around with my mom.  I caught this shot of the two boys taunting each other on the bridge...

And after lots of attempts to get a shot of Carter smiling, I got this one when he was on a spinning seat!
I'm not even sure what we did the rest of the day that day, but before we knew it, it was bath time.  Both boys had to get cleaned up and in bed so the Easter Bunny could come!

Jacob was excited to wear his suit for Easter, and even Carter felt pretty spiffy in his shirt.  Don't they look handsome?

After that, it was time to look for their baskets!  After some clues, Carter found his behind the dining room curtain...
 ...and Jacob needed some narrowing down before he found his in the bathroom cabinet!

Jacob got a variety of candy, a Polish t-shirt directly from the Broadway Market (which was meant to be for Dyngus Day the following day, but alas...Craig's illness kibboshed that), and some hair gel that he's been wanting.  Yes, hair gel.  The kid who loves his suit thinks he needs hair to match!  Carter's basket had less candy (as he goes through his much slower) but had two books (one cute little book about prayer and one called, "Bedtime for Batman"!), some Hot Wheels track, and a Hot Wheels rocket launcher.  Both boys seemed very happy with their haul!

We went to church after that, and while both boys did pretty well, now it was Carter's turn to complain about a stomach ache.  He seemed okay, but just liked laying on me a bit more than usual.  He perked up a bit by the end of the service and we headed off to the breakfast in the gym.  Carter downed a couple pieces of donut, half a piece of coffee cake, a pancake, and part of the egg and sausage bake, along with a cup of orange juice.  We brought pancakes and donuts for Jacob.

After that, it was time for the annual candy grab.  Jacob has done it for years, and Carter has done it a couple years now.  Well, for some reason Jacob decided to pass this year.  I'm not sure if it was the maturity of the suit, or what he actually said about candy being unhealthy, but he passed.  Carter was ready for his hunt, however!  He wasn't as aggressive as I expected, but he picked up about half a bag of candy.  Along the way he picked up one of the three prize eggs, which I thought all of the kids had found right off the bat, but this one was just hanging out along the wall a couple minutes in.  Well, it turned out that much like his big brother, Carter won the big bunny!  It wasn't quite as big as Jacob's, thankfully, but it turned out Carter wasn't that into it.  I asked him if he wanted to give it to someone else, and he agreed, so he gave it to a cute little two-year-old girl, who wasn't too sure about it herself.  I actually thought he was going to tackle the girl just to give her the bunny, but eventually she took it.  It was sweet, and I complimented him many times. 

Once we got back to my parents' house, the kids did some hunting for some Easter eggs of their own.  They were hidden around the family room, and while they did pretty well with the first 10, the last couple involved some serious clues!  Still, the boys had fun with it and enjoyed their candy and some change!

Eventually we took off to Craig's side of the family.  The kids were thrilled to see their cousins!  We got our fill of amazing food--ham, kielbasa, breads, fruit, and vegetables mixed in with good stuff--and topped it off with Jello jellybeans, cupcakes (regular and gluten-free), strawberry shortcake cake, pies, and cookies.  Everything was so good!  Our sister-in-law coordinated a big Easter egg hunt for the kids, so they collected even more candy there.  Aside from Carter having a few behavior issues when the big kids didn't include him, it wasn't too bad of a day.  But Craig was miserable throughout his trip home, and while he tried to see his family for a little while, eventually he decided to leave before it got worse.  The kids and I followed behind a while later.

Overall, it wasn't a bad weekend.  We had the usual behavior issues, but the kids were pretty good about keeping themselves occupied when necessary, and we got in some good family time.  Craig's situation definitely stunk, and he's still recovering.  I can't seem to get enough sleep this week, which might be partly because I'm off my allergy medicine for testing next week and my body is battling a bit.  On the bright side, spring officially arrived over the weekend as we now have trees sprouting leaves and blooming, and the grass has greened up (and grown).  The temperatures still aren't consistent, but it hasn't been too bad and I'm so thankful it seems the worst is over.  Time is flying faster than ever, but for now, I won't complain...the best time of year is right around the corner!