Monday, January 30, 2017

Weekend-Plus

The Knighthawks were playing in Toronto this weekend, and we decided it was time for another attempt at a family weekend.  Obviously our vacation there this summer had its fair share of hiccups, but apparently we were delusional enough to think we might be able to get through one okay.  Or maybe I was just that desperate to get to IKEA.  Either way.  We planned on leaving Friday afternoon, so I took a half day from work.  However, I worked in the chance to go to the Memorial Art Gallery here in town to see the M.C. Escher exhibit, which ended this weekend.  I hadn't been to the inside of the MAG in two years, since my visit when I was unemployed.  I'd been to the sculpture garden and to a non-exhibit section for a holiday party, but it had been almost a full two years since I'd seen the artwork inside.  Starting this year, I can also get in there free through work, so it was a no-brainer.

The Escher exhibit was fantastic.  There were so many of his pieces, with a good variety of the evolution of his work over the years.  There were illustrations, optical illusions, impossible landscapes, and some other really neat pieces.  There's so much more to him than the poster everyone had hanging on their wall in college (or that I figure lots of people did--I'm pretty sure that's where I first saw his stuff, anyway).

Much of the modern art had moved around, and it was nice to see some new things, or the same stuff in a different spot.  I particularly liked these works from Wendell Castle, who is a world-famous, locally based sculptor.  We actually had a solicitation for the MAG at work last year that was signed by him, so I have a new appreciation for his work.  The table that looks like it's draped with a wooden tablecloth and the chair that looks like it's supported by a soft pillow that's actually made from wood are both so cool to see up close.  You would seriously never believe the pillow--I wanted to touch it so badly!  It was perfect right down to the creases!

This upstairs section of the gallery is so gorgeous.  The Italian Baroque organ in the back is actually mentioned in our next solicitation!  But it is an amazing, historical piece, and its setting is so beautiful.

The Chihuly fan in me couldn't help but snap a picture of this glass piece.  The color was so gorgeous!

And I loved this one...it's porcelain, but I love the way it just collapses on itself.

Anyway, it was fun to get some time to wander around unencumbered and feel all cultured and stuff.  But I couldn't stay too long because I had to run and get Jacob from school, then go home and finish packing for Toronto.  We got going a little later than planned in the end, but we stopped in Niagara Falls for dinner then made it to our hotel outside Toronto a little before 9pm.  The boys were up a little later than would have been ideal, but in the end they both went down okay.  It's still nearly impossible to have them in the same space like that, though, and it was tough to get them to the point of being ready to go to bed...but once we got there, it was pretty peaceful. 

The next morning, Jacob and Craig took off for the shoot-around with the team.  Jacob loves his ballboy duties so much, particularly his time bonding with the other ballboys, who are in a similar age range and are kids of other people associated with the team.  I can tell how much he loves his time with them and I just wish he had that with kids who live near us!  While Carter and I waited for them to come back, I snapped this quick shot of Carter finishing his "breakfast dessert" (a muffin) in our room.

When the boys came back, Carter was excited to get his early birthday present from Jacob, a Toronto Raptor mascot stuffed animal.  Jacob has one himself, and it was his idea to get one for Carter.  At first Carter wasn't sure, but then he started talking about bringing his stuffed t-rex (from Toy Story) and his dragon (Figment from EPCOT) so they could all be friends.  Well, when the time came, Jacob got a bit cranky about giving Carter the new one since his at home was getting a little beat.  That seemed to set off a chain reaction of rough behavior for the rest of the weekend, unfortunately, but Carter did like his gift a lot.


We checked out and grabbed lunch at Pizza Pizza, Jacob's go-to gluten-free option in Canada.  Around that time the challenging behavior started.  Despite being on his medicine, Jacob was a handful, and on top of that Carter was super high energy and ran all over the restaurant.  It took a bit of convincing to even get him to eat. 

After lunch Craig and Jacob dropped Carter and me off at IKEA, and they went to the mall down the road.  There was a Lego store there and it apparently sounded way more fun than IKEA to them.  Silly boys. 
Jacob built this guy, who he deemed a "lacrosse guy".

Carter and I spent a lot of our time in the kids' section, admiring the many adorable stuffed animals (some were so cheap, but alas...we have so many) and letting him hide in the funny egg chair.  We wandered around and I found a few things I was looking for (and some I wasn't).  I also couldn't find a few things I was looking for, as it appears IKEA has changed their philosophy on a couple things since I was there last.  Boo.  Craig and Jacob found us near the end and we stopped for a snack of ice cream before we left.  Carter took forever to eat his, though, and eventually we needed to speed out of there so we could get to the hotel on time for Craig and Jacob to head to the arena.  Carter and I were going to hang back and take the subway there later. 

The team hotel was right downtown, which was a nice change of pace since we've stuck to the 'burbs for so long (mostly because $50 per night parking stinks--although we were able to find cheaper parking across the street).  Since someone else from the team's management stayed in the room the previous night (we were basically splitting the two nights with them), Carter and I ended up waiting around into the lobby until he headed off to the arena.  While we waited, we enjoyed this view just outside the lobby windows.  Turned out our room looked down on this view, too.
Such a nice little oasis in the city.  There were ducks hanging out there, too!
Up in the room, we were treated to a gorgeous view of Toronto's City Hall and the skating rink in front of it.  You can barely see the rink through the trees.

I took another picture as it got darker and the lights around the area started to become more visible.

I loved this view because as much as I've heard about City Hall all these years, in all of my travels around Toronto I've barely seen it.  I believe I saw it from the CN Tower this summer, but as far as an up-close view like this, it's just never been part of my path!

Carter and I took the subway to the game, which was his first-ever ride.  He was excited to go on a train, and the look on his face the first time the train sped through the station was great.  It was a short ride, but he seemed to enjoy it!  We had a lot of walking to do--through buildings, fortunately--once we got off the subway in order to get to the arena, but aside from him getting a little bored by that, all went well.  We had great seats at the game...

We both ate when we got there, and shortly thereafter Carter started complaining that his belly hurt.  Of course I immediately flashed back to a couple years ago when we took Jacob up to Toronto for a Knighthawks game and got to stay at the Royal York Hotel, only to have him spend the night puking.  That was one of the most miserable nights ever, and all I could envision was a repeat with Carter.  He still seemed to be in decent spirits, though, and was squirmy (in a good way--not the uncomfortable way), so I was hopeful it was just a minor thing.  He had to go to the bathroom a bunch of times, but that was mostly just having to pee...but I sure didn't fight those trips because I figured we had better odds of something happening there (rather than in the seats) if we kept ending up there.  While we were in our seats, I managed to find Craig in the press box, along with Jacob right next to him. 
Craig is in the tie and white shirt, and Jacob is on the right.  The guy on the other side of Craig is his color analyst on the radio, and the guy next to him is a former player who also works for the team.
I was tempted to take Carter back to the room via the subway, but in the end I decided that I was better off waiting for Craig and Jacob after the game and going to the hotel with them in our van.  My concern was that with my phone not working in Canada and WiFi being a little sketchy, I didn't want to get on the subway, take a while to walk back, and not be able to contact him before he started to worry and wonder where we were.  So while it meant a later night, I thought it was probably a better decision.

The big hiccup is that the person who was sharing our room had to come back to the room that night to grab his stuff, and he decided he also needed to charge his phone with Craig's charger because he forgot his and needed to stay in Canada for a couple days.  That turned into a really long wait, and during that time the kids did NOT want to go to bed.  Craig was working, Jacob was out of control, and Carter was playing right into it.  The two of them would not leave each other alone, and it was both embarrassing and horribly annoying.  Carter finally fell asleep around 11:30 and Jacob was closer to midnight.  Right around that time I snapped yet another picture of our landscape view.

Other than Carter kicking me multiple times in the night, everyone slept well and late.  This was the view (last one, I promise) from our room in the morning.  People were still skating when I took the picture above, and they were already skating when I took the one below!

Also in our field of view was the old City Hall, which is a gorgeous building in its own right.  I noticed in the daylight that the very top of the clock tower there were these crazy gargoyle-type carvings.

Here is the front of the old City Hall from down on the street as we were waiting to cross the street to our parking garage.  Notice the beautiful stone arches by the front steps.  The clock tower was gorgeous, and you can see the gargoyles sticking out just below the clock.
 
There were gorgeous carvings all over the building, not the least of which was this one embedded in a side wall.

Back in front of the current City Hall is the skating rink.

The letters lit up at night.  I wish I would have caught a picture of that.
We wandered around Eaton Centre for a while before walking another block over to a Chipotle for lunch.  By that point we were very ready to get on the road.  On our way out of town, we saw this on the side of the CTV building...I believe the lights were flashing and the wheels spun, too!

We also stopped near the Air Canada Centre so Jacob and Craig could run in and check something out.  Right by where we stopped was this impressive sculpture depicting a bunch of legendary Maple Leafs.  Older goalies on the right, then more modern players heading left.  They were good enough that I could actually identify one without looking at the names!


We drove back and made it home mid-evening.  Aside from the kids' behavior it was a pretty good trip!  Some shopping, some beautiful sights, and a Knighthawks win!  Doesn't get much better than that! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

News & Notes, Where Did January Go Edition

January is supposed to be the month that drags.  It's cold, dreary, and usually feels like it lasts forever.  And yet, here we are, with less than a week left.  Wasn't it just New Year's Day like, a week ago?  I guess somehow all of the projects I had going on at home, coupled with illnesses and a lot of projects at work have propelled us right through the month.  I guess that's a good thing, but I just sent out an invite a couple nights ago to Carter's birthday party that's in less than three weeks, so I suppose that's cutting it a bit close.  Hmmm.

So...what else is going on?  Well, I'm happy to report that Carter has been playing more with his toys since the big reorganization.  I think part of it is because he knows where things are and he doesn't have to dig through everything to find all of the other stuff he'd need to play.  All of the superheroes are in one spot.  The dress-up stuff is in a drawer.  All of his Hot Wheels cars and accessories are in one area.  So I think so far it's been successful...and so far I've been pretty good about reminding him to put things away, so we still have a pleasantly clean living room and bedroom!  He's a funny kid, though.  He's more likely to walk around with a kids' meal toy and a flashlight than he is to play with real toys most of the time.  It's a bit odd but I think it's funny how he makes up stories about what the items are for.  He's definitely a silly kid at times.  He has a serious side but he's not as stringent about things as Jacob tended to be.  Unfortunately, TV seems to be his favorite thing in the world, as watching a show will always be his preference, but when he gets that out of his mind he does like playing.  He's still really into superheroes and cars, but his new thing (thanks to a show) is Transformers.  He really wants Transformers for his birthday, which I suppose is nice since he doesn't have any yet and we didn't exhaust them at Christmas.  We don't really need a whole new line of stuff, but it's fine. 

Craig ended up sick last weekend--fortunately just another cold and not what Jacob had--but it hit while he was on the road.  I could hear him sniffle through his broadcast, and then he had a long day of travel on Sunday.  He stayed home Monday and was sent home Tuesday, but by Tuesday evening he was starting to feel a bit better.  The Knighthawks play in Toronto Saturday and it looks like we'll all be going (I need to get to IKEA...seriously), so let's hope we all stay healthy. 

Speaking of health, I never actually got back to my Celiac genetic test results.  If you recall, I was tested in the fall around the time the small intestine bacterial overgrowth was discovered, and while I got a test result back online, I didn't see any actual results in the test.  It just said something about the test being finalized, with no actual detail.  When I finally went to my GI doctor after Christmas, she looked it up and said that it showed a "moderate risk", which means the test was positive.  It still doesn't mean I will develop Celiac disease, but it could happen at some point.  I don't think there is much I can do to avoid it no matter what, but I imagine being in good health all around won't hurt.  I cringe to think about Jacob and how they say that stress can be a trigger.  I can't imagine what his little body and mind must have gone through 3+ years ago when his hit.  Between his new brother (and any resulting abandonment he apparently felt afterward) and the start of kindergarten, I just wonder if everything just crept up on him at once and caused the Celiac to surface.  It makes me so sad to think about.  I worry that someday there will be some extreme stress for me and that's when it will hit.  The doctor said that there's a spike in diagnoses for people in their 50s, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

After ignoring my health for all of the holidays and most of this month due to having so many other things going on (illness and furniture changes among them), I finally got back on the elliptical last week.  It felt good, but then this week hit and there has been a lot of stuff preventing me from getting back to it again (like last night when I got in bed at 9:45 because I couldn't keep my eyes open).  But it's still definitely on my agenda to keep up with, because in just a couple months I will be expected to wear a bathing suit in public and I need to not look quite like I do right now.  It's not off-the-rails-horrible, by any means, but there are some definite midsection issues and I'd like to work on that sooner than later.  Our schedules just feel really crappy right now and I can't quite wrap my brain around how to fit in an actual gym visit so I can start running again.  Of course, if I do that it means I absolutely need to get new sneakers and I have been putting that off for months.  UGH.

As for Jacob, we're still struggling with his behavior when his medicine wears off.  It seems to be working well at school, as his teacher had glowing reviews when I asked a couple weeks ago.  But when it wears off in the evening, he can be nearly impossible.  He gets irritated for no reason, he has endless energy, and absolutely no filter.  Bedtime is full of him jumping around his room and making random noises for an hour after bedtime.  At dinner he can barely stay in his chair.  Everything with Carter turns into a fight.  It's incredibly difficult to get through the night without losing it with him.  It stinks.  He's on the cusp of getting to the long release form of the medicine so we're hoping that the more constant dose will keep him a bit more even-keeled.  But maybe it won't.  The success at school is really important, so I'm trying to look at that bright side.  But I decided that the challenge is not just getting through the evening, but making sure that the tactics we use to get through the evening don't drive a bigger wedge between us.  When logic and polite asks don't work, often you need to resort to more forceful measures.  Over time all of those extreme measures can take their toll, and that's what I hate about it most.  Yes, it's hard, but ultimately it's just going to make matters worse, even if it's something we have to do to get through the day. 

I guess that's the big stuff right now.  We have a pretty big weekend ahead, but more on that soon!




Saturday, January 21, 2017

About the March...

I don't get into politics much here, but obviously today was a rather significant day with all of the women's marches going on around the world.  I surprised even myself with how much interest I paid things--all social media based, honestly--but there was a lot going on in my feed and I couldn't stop reading things about it.  But the thing is, like most other political topics, I find myself somewhere in the middle and I'm so sick of the extremes on both sides at this point.

I did not vote for Trump.  I've thought he was a jerk long before any of these political aspirations popped up.  Heck, I didn't even like the thought of him owning the Buffalo Bills (although, if that would have stopped this all from happening I'd gladly go back in time and reconsider).  I watched The Apprentice for many years, but definitely not for him.  I liked the concept and actually liked it much better before the celebrity version started.  I actually came to like and respect his daughter Ivanka more than anything because she's a tough chick but with class.  She's obviously very wealthy but the mom side of her in recent years has been surprisingly relatable.  Anyway, I don't have any respect for her dad, for multiple reasons.  Not that I think Hillary Clinton would have been any better, but I guess all horribleness being equal I'd have rather seen her make history as the first female president than the ways he'll be making history now.  God knows I'd rather see inspired little girls than the people who seem to be inspired by Trump. 

I hate politics in general and honestly try to avoid them like the plague.  Almost all politicians have their own brand of slime going on--my mother-in-law being one of the exceptions--no matter their party.  I'm a registered Republican but in recent years I can definitely see myself being much more moderate.  I think Republicans have gotten a little too extreme with their social views.  I mean, I don't like abortion at all, but I also know you can't ban all of them and it makes no sense to ban them AND stop funding birth control and children's programs.  As much as I wish adoption was an option for every unwanted pregnancy, the reality is that you either need to let women who don't want to deal with a baby take care of that beforehand, or you need to provide them with reasonable options to prevent it altogether or ensure the children they have (though maybe can't afford) are still taken care of.  It's not the kid's fault, after all.  And while I'm not advocating to kill the baby in utero either, you can't say that the fetus matters but the living, breathing kid doesn't need to be supported in some way.  No option is ideal, but I am just finding some Republican policies to be short-sighted, even if I know what they're trying to do.

Anyway, my point is that I find myself in the middle of the marches today, too.  I have no issue with peaceful protests like we saw today.  People don't know where else to start sometimes, so power in numbers seems to be their best option.  That's fine.  Will it do anything?  I don't know.  I don't think Trump really understands why they're protesting, nor does he care.  He is arrogant and definitely has his own opinion, and I don't think any of this will change his mind at all.  But people felt they needed to do something, so they did.  And I'm fine with that.  Do I agree with everything they're marching for?  Absolutely not.  I don't like the emphasis on abortion and Planned Parenthood, for example.  Per the above, I do not agree with abortion, but I'm also smart enough to know it can't be outlawed.  Do I think there should be more resources and counseling for those considering one?  Yup.  I don't want to see a single baby killed.  I'd much rather see those babies born and adopted.  But without legal abortion I'm afraid there will be botched back-alley ones, kids born into terrible circumstances, and more drug-addicted babies than we can manage.  But I'd still like women to consider that the fetus isn't just tissue, but a real human being who deserves every chance to live.

But I know other people were marching for gay rights.  In fact, my cousin and her wife were at one of the marches.  I don't know what kind of credible threat has been made toward repealing gay marriage laws, but I'm thinking it's probably been brought up to at least leave it to the states.  In that case we'd probably be fine in New York, but other states would not be as lucky.  Regardless, they feel threatened and it is not my place to judge that.

Other people marched because Trump's treatment of women, the disabled, and those of other ethnicities has been pretty suspect.  I'm not saying he truly believes any of those things (well, the womanizer thing seems pretty legit), but he definitely hasn't done himself any favors in those areas.  Either he does have issues with those groups, or he has one heck of a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth.  He has not made himself a good role model for kids, as he often seems to be as big of a bully as the kid on the other side of the classroom.  The problem is that a lot of people are looking for an excuse to hop on the bandwagon, and he has managed to validate bullying and discrimination on a grand scale, whether that was his intention or not.  We saw it in the days after the election, and I think it may ramp up again now.  It shocks me that people are so supportive of a person that seems to have no issue bullying others.

Some people marched because the legislation he's already planning scares them.  I can't say I'm a huge fan of Obamacare, as I know it hasn't been as awesome as promised.  But I also know it's been a godsend for many others, and Trump has never really detailed how it's going to change.  I do know that it's been brought up that pre-existing conditions may make people ineligible, and I know that is devastating to so many people.  If I was in that position, I'd probably march, too.

The thing is, you can't group all of the protesters into one group because they all have a different reason they're marching.  Heck, I'm sure even they didn't all get along.  You can't tell me there was no tension between the pro-choicers and pro-lifers.  I know some pro-life groups were denied the right to march, which is wrong.  But I hope ultimately everyone got to march and was able to put their immediate differences aside for the greater good. 

Regardless of their side, it's easy to say they're just whining and taking the easy way out (one of my Facebook friends actually did).  Maybe they should be doing more (she suggested foster care), but again, I'm not sure a lot of people know where to begin.  But I know that people were marching because they feel legitimately threatened (or at least marginalized) by Trump and his policies.  I don't think it makes sense to discount that.  Even if I personally don't agree, I'm not them.  So why would I judge them?  As long as it's peaceful, knock yourself out.  There are clearly a LOT of people worldwide that take issue with everything that's going on right now, so it seems to be worth considering that something isn't right.  The media may be to blame for a lot of it, but it's pretty clear that certain things are happening with or without a media slant. 

It's only day two of this presidency, so I'm really trying not to jump to conclusions or freak out.  I can't say anything he's done has given me much hope, though.  Maybe the media is somehow not covering any of the good stuff, but some things he does are going to speak for themselves anyway.  I don't know how qualified he is for this job, nor do I think he will be seeking wisdom from anyone except "yes" men.  Despite his claims otherwise, I don't find him to be a religious person so I don't really foresee him humbling himself before God asking for guidance.  All of those things concern me.  I hope he somehow figures things out and in four years we all find ourselves in a better place than we are now.  Like the meme says, "Wishing for Trump to fail is like wishing for the pilot to crash the plane we're all on."  But if he and the media and those at opposite ends of the spectrum would just stop doing things to divide everyone in the meantime, that would be great.

At the end of the day, it's still my job to teach my kids what's right.  I want them to think critically about both sides of an issue and be compassionate enough to understand other people even if they don't agree.  It's hard to know what to believe anymore with the media and other forms of "spin", so I think at this point it's important to tune into the people we know and love, and if something is bothering them, consider why and do what you can to be supportive.  While there may be some bigger fish to fry down the line, I think that's a good place to start.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Rest of the Story

So, I mentioned in my last post that Jacob got sick.  He woke up Saturday morning complaining of light sensitivity, and then he had a headache.  At first I thought it was a migraine, but when Tylenol worked right away, I knew it probably wasn't.  But within a few hours he was laid out on the couch and the body aches were setting in.  When the low-grade fever and congestion set in, I figured he had exactly what I had over Christmas and what Craig got a few days later.  I cringed at the thought of dealing with two weeks of Jacob's misery (God knows we as adults were pretty unhappy that long), but I was thankful it wasn't a stomach bug.  And the other good news was that Monday was a holiday and he had an extra day to recover before school.  By midday Monday he had perked up considerably, enough that he and Craig went to see a movie and he was pretty active that night.

Craig and I went to bed a little before midnight on Monday.  I think I was still pretty awake because Carter was snoring enough that it was bothering me (both the noise itself and the agony of listening to his congested little body try to breathe through his nose--we will be chatting with the doctor late next month and I am fully expecting an ENT visit is in our future).  And as a result of being awake, I heard whimpers coming from Jacob's room.  Craig went to check it out and I followed shortly thereafter.  Jacob was crying, seemingly half asleep.  Strangely, he was responding to us but also talking nonsense.  He was saying some really funny stuff about hockey players (too much NHL17 on Xbox, perhaps?), but it was clear he was unhappy.  It was almost like a bad dream that he was half awake for.  But as he continued to whimper, I realized he might actually be in pain, so I asked him specifically what was hurting him.  He finally said that he felt like he was going to throw up, and instantly we managed to rouse him enough to get him into the bathroom.  We did our usual comforter on the floor thing and after a little waiting, sure enough, the stomach bug made its entrance. 

I tried to be the one to stay up because I didn't want Craig getting the bug before his roadtrip this weekend.  I alternated between hanging out with Jacob and climbing back into bed between episodes.  I never slept, though, and of course Jacob made sure of that.  Between yelling for me, asking for company, requesting water, whining, and opening and closing the cabinets to attract attention, sleep never came.  At one point he was complaining so much about how much his stomach hurt on his right side that I started Googling "appendicitis symptoms".  I did one easy test that appeared to be negative, though, so I tried to put that to rest.  He had a stretch of a couple hours without an episode, but at 4am one more came.  After that things settled down and I think I fell asleep around 4:30 or 5am.  I changed my alarms to the last possible wakeup time, and I figure I got a couple hours of sleep total.  It made Tuesday pretty painful at work, and by lunch time I was struggling.  I called once to check in, and Jacob was feeling a little better but his stomach was still sore.

When I called mid-afternoon, I could tell they were in the car and Craig nonchalantly said that they were on their way to Strong (the hospital).  That sure woke me up for the rest of the afternoon!  It turned out that when the stomach pain remained, they called the pediatrician and they felt there was enough reason to investigate further for an appendicitis.  So off they went.  I had visions of another surgery, another night on the convertible visitor bed, another year where my health care flex spending account was gone by the end of January, another hiatus from lacrosse.  Fortunately, some blood work and an ultrasound later, Jacob was deemed simply viral and sent home.  It was certainly a relief, but I just wish peace of mind was not so pricey!

He was better yesterday, finally eating a bit more and even requesting his homework so he could get a jump on it for his first day back.  Now I'm just nervous about one of those reoccurring bugs or that one of us will get it.  I can picture ways that any of us could have picked it up, but I have no idea what the hibernation time might be.  It's nervewracking, but at least I got through yesterday's rescheduled holiday party at work.  A lake effect snow storm before Christmas postponed it, and it was a bummer after being part of the planning committee.  But we tacked it on to a departmental retreat, and all went well.  Now I just have to worry about Craig's trip this weekend and some tight timelines at work...and another lost night of sleep.  Blah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slowly but Surely...

It's taken a while, but things are finally getting closer to tolerable around here, at least as far as the organization goes.  It has taken a lot of effort and patience, but we're close.  Of course, just when I was feeling better about things, Jacob woke up with a stomach bug Monday night (following a couple days of the general blahs) so now we're sort of waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop to see who else gets it.  I was running on two hours of sleep yesterday (and had to work), so it's been a bit rough around here the last few days.  Luckily, he only got sick three times over about four hours, so while it was awful for him, and awful to see, I know it could have been so much worse. More of that story to come, though...

Anyway, when I left off with the massive reorganizing project, I had just finished Jacob's bed but didn't bother photographing it because it was already a mess and I was waiting to fix the scratched dresser anyway.  The replacement drawer fronts came Thursday and I successfully installed them on Friday.  Here is the finished product...
Ignore the mess surrounding it...some things are still a work in progress!
And here is the bed...simple but effective!

It definitely changes the look in his room a bit!  In addition, we moved over Jacob's table and chairs to Carter's room, in hopes we could move Craig's old desk into Jacob's room.  He's giving us a very hard time about that, though, so most of the contents of his table are lined up against the wall in his room at the moment. But one or two underbed bins should alleviate that, at worst.  He seems to like the new look, though, and I think he's really enjoying the extra space to play lacrosse in his room.

Carter's room, in the meantime, is a little on the full side now that the table is there, but he already seems to like sitting at it so we'll keep it for now.  It's not too full, but let's just call it "at capacity".  At some point when the toys start getting weeded out for good, the table could move down to the living room and get replaced with one more shelf that fits a bit better.  But for now, we're fine and Carter loves his space.

Over the weekend, Carter and I went to visit my parents.  My dad had some minor surgery last week and there was a surprise joint 70th birthday party planned for my aunt and uncle.  Jacob and Craig were already planning on staying back because of lacrosse, but then Saturday morning Jacob woke up with a light sensitivity and a headache.  I thought it might be a migraine, but then the body aches and congestion started so I assumed it was the same thing Craig and I had around Christmas.  Until last night, that is.

Anyway, we left Saturday after lunch and had some time to hang out before the party.  Once we got there, Carter was happy to eat snacks!
Goofball!
The surprise went well--it was mostly a surprise from what we heard, with my uncle getting an inkling something was up.  But there was a bunch of out-of-town family on my uncle's side, so it was very exciting for them to have them there!  I love this picture I got of them while waiting to blow out their candles :)

We ate dinner and they opened their presents (lots of gift cards and a few sentimental gifts), and Carter was in his glory hanging out with my cousins' daughters and running around the gym where the party was held.  He had a blast and impressed everyone with his considerable energy!

On Sunday after church, Carter became interested in a toy stashed in my old room, a set of clear, colored plastic discs.  They are in the shape of octagons and have a number of slits that allow you to connect them to each other.  He brought them in to show Grandpa in his bed (he's feeling OK but still quite sore, so he was laying low).  At first they played around with shining a flashlight through them and looking at the colors, and then with Grandma's help they built a giant tower of them!
From Grandpa's belly up to the ceiling!

Such pretty colors!
We stuck around for lunch and then Carter had a major meltdown as we left because he was insisting he wanted to stay!  Had it not been for a busy week, my parents would have probably considered it, but we all guessed he'd probably change his mind really quickly once I walked out the door.  He continued to whine through the first part of the car ride, but he was asleep before I even hit the Thruway!

Back home, Jacob was feeling a little better (the calm before the storm, I guess), and I made some lasagna for dinner.  I used gluten-free noodles for the first time.  They were fine but the boys were not into it.  Sigh.  After that, I looked around my living room and started to lose it a bit.  I finished taking the Christmas tree down on Friday night, and vacuumed the area and rearranged furniture on Saturday morning.  So our full toy storage setup was back and I was suddenly determined to get things more organized.  I had made room in Carter's closet for "parking" for some of his larger vehicles, like his Mega Bloks dump truck and bus, as well as a few other ones.  Once I had those moved, that opened up space on our eight-cube shelf in the living room.  I rearranged things there a bit, then put a few things on the coffee table in the corner that makes for a nice play surface and some storage.  Puzzles and the little hockey rink on the shelf, and his Paw Patrol playset on top.  I selected one drawer under his bed for all of the superhero figures and vehicles, then picked another for a handful of dress-up clothes.  Hot Wheels tracks went into a big basket in the living room.  Finally, I emptied out every bin in our cube storage and every basket elsewhere, along with everything in the bookshelf cabinet in Carter's room, so I could group the toys better.  All of the random toys and Happy Meal toys have a bin in Carter's room, all of the Hot Wheels cars are in one bucket, all of the other medium-sized cars are in a basket in his closet, and there is a basket of random balls that still needs organizing as indoor and outdoor balls, because somehow we have a little of everything everywhere.  It was a ton of work but it went more smoothly than expected.  I did some editing Tuesday night to get all of the Little People back in the same area and shift a few more things, but for the most part things are good.  And inexplicably there is still space.  Not that we need anything else to fill it, but we do have a birthday coming.  I personally feel so much better now that it's like this, even though I know it won't last.  But in the meantime I hope that Carter is more motivated to put away toys now that there is a designated spot, as well as more motivated to play with things now that he knows where they are and all of the pieces are in the same spot.  I know it won't go as well as I'd like, but I'm hopeful it will be an improvement. 

Next step: Drag my butt on to the elliptical a few times a week.  Assuming I ever feel like I have the energy...or the idea of wearing a bathing suit in April is motivating enough....

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Musical Furniture

This weekend began the major challenge to revamp the boys' rooms and get our organization situation in check.  There is no doubt, we have WAY too much stuff in our house.  There are a few reasons why this is the case:

1) We are sentimental - Both Craig and I cherish memories, and many of those memories are held in material possessions.  Be it a stuffed animal or a stack of newspaper clippings or on a VHS tape, we have a lot of random stuff that we'd hate to get rid of.

2) I don't like to waste things - One of my weird fears is that we'll get rid of something and then suddenly find a use for it and have to go buy it new.  That's why we moved a bunch of extra stuff to our house almost seven years ago, and why most of it still sits in our crawl space to this day.  And, you know, once in a while something does make a return appearance.  For example, my old microwave cart from my second apartment reappeared in Jacob's closet a few years ago as an extra set of storage shelves and cabinets, and I think Craig's old desk will make an appearance for the first time since our old house very soon.  I come from a long line of folks like this--I think many of us with WWII generation grandparents do--though one was organized about it and the other had a few rooms that were borderline hoarder-ish (but oh, the treasures buried there!).  I try to be organized about it, but in the end it's still just a lot of stuff!

3) We take pretty good care of things - Related to #2, when things are in good shape, I hate to get rid of them for nothing as they probably have some value.  Yes, I could take the contents of a dozen bins of baby clothes to Goodwill, or even give them to someone having a baby, but that is a LOT of clothing and I feel like I should be getting more than a tax write-off back.  Same with all of the toys that are still in really good shape.

4) The baby thing - I always said I would keep the baby stuff around until I was past childbearing age, just in case something went awry, because I would freak out if I had to spend money on all new baby stuff after having kept it this long already.  Of course, I haven't thrown out the infant seat yet and that would definitely need to be replaced no matter what...so clearly there's still some sentimentality there.

5) We have two kids of the same gender - We had plenty of stuff when Jacob was little, and again, because I don't like to waste, Carter has gotten the hand-me-downs of everything.  On top of that, he has a birthday and Christmas to go through every year, so in essence he ends up with double the stuff that Jacob had.  It doesn't really seem to go to his head, thankfully, but it is a lot of stuff.  I thought by having two boys we'd have less than if we had one of each, but now I'm really not sure that is the case.

6) I'm lazy - Not in a terrible way, I guess, but just the way where it seems like a lot of work to take stuff to consignment or to put on a garage sale.  I'm not sure I have the bandwidth for either of those things.  I don't want to drag a bunch of stuff to the consignment place only to have them reject it because it's too old.  At least we have a van for that now, but still.  And for the longest time I couldn't picture us having enough stuff to even do a garage sale, but now I'm convinced we have plenty to have a decent one.  But the thought of figuring out how to load it all up into the garage, price it out, and sit there for a couple days does not thrill me.  I wouldn't even know where to begin with the baby clothes.  As it is I still need to go through bins and pick out favorites to set aside for each kid (tiny newborn clothes for Carter, favorite sports shirts for Jacob, the Christening outfit both boys wore).  For this I'd have to go through and group outfits and figure out what to charge for the rest of the single pieces.  There are SO many clothes across all of the sizes--no joke, probably a dozen bins at this point--so I can't even imagine.  And the baby stuff probably has yellow stains again, so I'd have to soak and wash those, too.  No matter which way I go about it, it all takes a lot of time and energy, and I don't really have that right now.

So, our house is super full of stuff.  We are not at hoarder level, to be fair, but I've definitely started getting creative with storage and trying to find better places for things.  Christmas really put the toy situation over the edge.  Most of it is good stuff and Carter uses a lot of it, but the storage situation is just not working.  We only have so much space in our living room and so much space in Carter's room.  So, I decided a long time ago that my best bet was to move Jacob's furniture into Carter's room, since that furniture was exactly what I would have wanted anyway--medium wood, six drawer dresser, and a bed with storage.  At the same time, Jacob is getting older and I figured he might appreciate the opportunity to pick out his own furniture.  So I pinpointed a dresser he would approve of after asking what color wood he wanted, and I narrowed down the bed options.  The dresser I settled on was actually very similar to his current one, but a slightly different medium brown (more chocolate than orange), a more mature style, and a different brand.  As for the bed, he wanted a metal one.  We had originally picked one out, but when I read some reviews, it appeared that the bed had some major structural issues so I made him pick another one.  The bed was supposed to arrive late last week, but apparently the storms down south slowed things down because it didn't arrive until today.  The dresser, however, arrived last Wednesday (thank you free Amazon Prime Trial), and the big box was taking up space in our dining room for days. 

The tricky part is that there isn't a lot of spare area in the boys' rooms, so we had to be strategic about moving out Carter's old stuff, moving in Jacob's old stuff, then bringing in the new stuff.  However, on Saturday I was more focused on taking down the Christmas decorations.  For some reason they were really bothering me this year, so it was time.  Strangely, though, the tree is still up and I don't mind it at the moment.  But its time is coming.  Anyway, once I got over that mental hurdle on Saturday (amidst making one exchange from Christmas, doing a quick Walmart run, going to Jacob's lacrosse game, and going to a Knighthawks game at night), Sunday was the big day.  We moved Carter's old dresser, the original changing table/dresser when Jacob was born (sob!), down to our office.  I moved the TV stand from my first apartment out of the office, and it will now be crawl space storage.  The old particle board dresser that's been holding a ton of Craig's memorabilia (it's a hand-me-down from a college friend of mine that did double duty in my studio apartment) is on its way out.  Craig spent a couple hours sorting through his stuff and moving it into the new drawers.  In the meantime, I took drawers out of Jacob's dresser, moved the frame into Carter's room, and made space to assemble the new dresser.

The new dresser went together pretty smoothly, even if it did take three hours.  The end result is nice, but unfortunately three drawer fronts had some damage.  Well, four actually, but one was a pretty quick and easy fix.  The other three have been reordered and while I'm a bit concerned about disassembling and reassembling, I'm pleased with the final look.  There are also some issues with how the drawers line up, but at a glance it looks nice.  The drawers also move easier than the other dresser, so that's helpful.  And yes, Jacob likes it.  Once that was together, I moved Jacob's clothes into the drawers, moved the empty drawers into Carter's room, and started filling them.  Now, I forgot to mention that at every step of this process there were numerous sub-steps.  Cleaning up clutter, vacuuming, and sorting through clothes made everything take so much longer.  Jacob had a pile of too-short pants sitting near his closet for a couple weeks, so I finally had to pull out his bin of outgrown clothes, add those, bring up a new bin, go through his closet and add more, and finally put the bins in the crawl space.  Then in Carter's room I needed to put away his too-small clothes, shift clothes and blankets around, and find a spot for a couple baskets of baby toiletry items that used to live in his dresser.  My goal was to clear one shelf in his closet for bigger stand-alone toys, like his trucks and buses.  It took a while, but I eventually succeeded. 

Last night I wanted to start switching up the beds so that all I'd have to do tonight is assemble Jacob's bed.  I moved Carter's basic bedframe (mine from when I first lived on my own) down to the crawl space.  I had his mattress and box spring propped up against the wall so we had enough space to bring in the new bed.  Then I had to move Jacob's mattress, shift his bed base just enough to move the headboard out from behind it, move that into Carter's room, and then start disassembling the bed base.  Given the slightly flimsy materials and the awkward structure, it became apparent that it was necessary.  The good news is that it only involved those round things you have to twist to lock, and not any screws.  So I carefully took it apart, moved each piece into the room, and started putting things back in place.  I was a bit concerned about how the bed might fit because of the additional length from the headboard and because there's a cold air return at the base of the wall, but in the end, it all fit really nice and it looks great.  And Carter was pretty excited about his new space, putting toys in the drawers and eagerly getting ready for bed!  Also of note is that we took off the bedrail since it doesn't work too well with the bedframe (we did it with Jacob, but the frame is four years older, so I don't want to stress it), but I stuffed a pool noodle under the fitted sheet.  He didn't fall out, so hopefully we're good there.

The box spring moved into Jacob's room, at least for the night, and Jacob's bed was on the floor, which he found entertaining.  We had thought about using the boxspring with it to make the bed higher, but in the end just the mattress was better.  Tonight I scrambled to iron the bedskirt and assemble the new bed.  It went pretty smoothly and it looks nice.  It's a bit of an adjustment since it's a totally different look, but I think it suits him.  I'll do pictures when the room isn't such a disaster, though! 

So now it's just a matter of tweaking everything to make good use of what we've got.  We need to figure out what goes in Carter's underbed storage and his closet vs. what stays in the living room or gets packed away.  We have a boatload of stuff in Jacob's room that needs a new home after all of these changes, and I need to decide on some sort of underbed storage for him.  I have two stuffed animal hammocks that can hold a bunch of his beloved animals, and those need to be set up.  I still need to take down the tree and get the living room back in order.  And then maybe I can relax a bit and try to enjoy all this newfound organization.  Or perhaps start planning Carter's birthday party...*sigh*...it never ends.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year, Same Stuff

Well, as predicted, the change in the calendar didn't really change anything else.  The colds are still hanging in there, Jacob is still as difficult as ever, and the week between Christmas and New Year's has officially become my nemesis.

Every year I look forward to time off between Christmas and New Year's.  At my old job we were closed the whole week, but at this job we actually have a lot going on so we all try to take shifts and work a couple days during the week to maintain coverage.  I worked Tuesday and Friday (which was a short day), which meant I was off on the 26th, made it through one day, then had two days off before another short day, which was followed by a three-day weekend.  I figured that at some point in there I could rest, play with the kids and their new stuff, and catch up on some things around the house.  I always think that will be the case, every single year.  And every single year, something pops up to screw it up.  Usually one kid or another is puking, or I get sick enough that any rest I get is just getting me through the illness, rather than catching up on what I lost all through December.  It seriously never fails.  Looking back at my Facebook "On This Day" posts last week, one of the big themes was sickness, from Jacob's emergency room visit caused by nervous parenting during his first stomach bug, to Carter being sick a couple years ago, to a nasty stomach issue I had a few years back in the wee hours of New Year's Day.  It seems like there's always something that messes with my sleep and prevents me from doing all of the things I want to do.

So, of course, this year I got this obnoxious cold a couple days before Christmas and it left me wanting to do little more than lay on the couch.  Yes, I did do a couple things around the house, and yes, I did do things with the boys, and yes, I did sleep in, but none of it was at the level I wanted it to be at.  Then Craig got a cold--possibly the same one since he lost his voice, too--and we spent our time at home trying to trade off referee responsibilities while the other rested.  I felt awful one day and Craig took the boys to Wegmans so I could nap.  He stayed in bed until noon another day and I wrangled the boys to eat breakfast and get our day moving.  Each day I would dutifully get dressed and put on some makeup in hopes I'd feel good enough to do something, but each time we got to the end of the day and I felt a little silly for looking so presentable for doing nothing but laying on the couch and watching TV all day.  Even New Year's Eve was pretty blah, even for our standards.  I forced myself to drink some wine (even my favorite wasn't really appealing) and Jacob made it his mission to stay up until midnight to drink sparkling grape juice.  He made it, and got quite the pop culture education as we watched a couple of the NYE shows.  And yes, we saw Mariah Carey and it was bad.   

We did finally get around to leaving the house on Monday.  I had snagged a really great Groupon deal for Glow Golf at our mall, and we all went to play a couple rounds.  Both kids eagerly put on clothes they hoped would glow in the blacklights (see the bottom of Jacob's pants and Carter's skeleton shirt, specifically), and we headed out.  The boys were a handful, as usual, but luckily it wasn't too busy so we didn't make anyone too nuts.  Jacob played a hole or two ahead of us the whole time, Carter was always on his tail, and half the time that became a problem.  But it was tolerable enough that we made it through 36 holes (we could have played 54, but we figured once through each course was enough!).  My game was completely off (I blame the cold and the distractions), and somehow Jacob beat us all.  But it wasn't a bad way to spend a couple hours on a cruddy winter day.

They're smiling, I swear!
My cold seems to be fading a bit, finally, two weeks later.  As of Monday morning I didn't feel the constant need to take Tylenol to manage my headache and general blahs.  I'm not 100%, as I'm still tired, my appetite is a little off, my throat is a bit sore, and I'm still dealing with periodic congestion, headaches, and throat-clearing.  Craig seems to be doing a bit better as well.  His voice is back, and while he's still coughing, he seems much more functional than he did a few days ago.  Carter has had a perma-cold for weeks on end, and I really need to get him into the doctor...although that involves exposing him to even more germs, which I don't love the thought of.  Jacob started a higher dose of his ADHD medicine yesterday, and while it seemed to work like a charm at school, it seemed to make his non-medicated times nearly unbearable, so I'm not sure what we're going to do there.  The mood swings were pretty rough and the usual disrespect was even worse.  I dread the thought of starting over with another drug, but we may have to.  I'm hoping it was a blip with it being the beginning of getting back into the school routine, but I don't have a particularly good feeling.  We have a fresh set of concerns to share with the therapist, as I really just feel like what we're doing is not enough.  Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a train speed down the tracks, clearly bound for a catastrophe, and yet I feel completely helpless to prevent it.  And in this case, maybe the most appropriate metaphor is that I'm able to call the engineer and tell him, but he's oblivious, thinks nothing is wrong, and simply will not listen.  I've heard far too many stories lately about troubled kids making bad decisions, and I desperately fear what will happen to Jacob when he's a few years older, more hormonal, and more equipped to act upon urges.  Soon I won't be able to physically stop him, and that scares me, too.  That's why it's all the more important to find solutions for him now, so we can get him leveled off, help him understand we're on his team, and hopefully help him get through those difficult years with support.  

The other thing occupying our time right now is a big reorganization in the boys' rooms.  Today Jacob's new dresser arrived.  It's in a very heavy box and will probably take me three hours to put together.  His bed should arrive Friday.  He's getting a big kid metal bed frame.  The dresser looks pretty much like his old one.  Carter is getting all of Jacob's old stuff because it has a lot of storage and that's exactly what we need in his tiny room.  I'm not sure it'll fit comfortably in his tiny room, mind you, but we're going to try.  Underbed storage and more dresser space will make room for some of his new toys, including in his closet, which has always been overwhelmed by clothes.  The challenge is going to be to manage the furniture moving, as we'll need to get the old stuff out before the new stuff can come in, particularly in Carter's room.  Their doors are at a 90 degree angle to one another, and the hallway is narrow, so we'll have our work cut out for us.  And we have to get Carter's old stuff (a changing table dresser and my old, basic bedframe and box spring) down two floors to the basement.  It's not going to be easy, and the limbo will probably make me nuts, but I think the end result will be nice.  One casualty from the early stages of this was a garbage bag full of Jacob's massive stuffed animal collection.  I almost never thought I'd see the day come, but a large bag full has exited his room.  The ones he kept are mostly sports-related ones or ones he got at zoos.  The rejects include a lot of our early moose collection, as well as some ones that were gifted to him as a baby.  Not sure what their fate is yet, but it's a big step.

So...it's a new year but it's still never a dull moment around here!