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 café 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 true...it'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 camera...so 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
Sleep

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter

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 controls...it 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!
Success!
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!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

You Win Some, You Lose Some

This weekend was our long-awaited time away from the kids, though obviously it didn't come in the form we expected.  We envisioned ourselves gallivanting around Las Vegas, eating great meals and enjoying the weather, but instead we were running around Buffalo reliving some fond memories in a new way. 

Craig and Carter spent the day together on Friday.  Craig had off and they were long-overdue for a day together.  They went to the mall to play in the play area and ride the carrousel, then went to Toys 'R' Us to use his birthday gift card, and then out to lunch.  They watched a couple movies, and by the end of the day Jacob and I arrived home to eat a quick dinner, pack up, and head off to Buffalo. 

We tried unsuccessfully to sleep in and took off late morning for our 24 hours away.  We stopped at my hometown candy maker, Platter's, which is in an amazing new location in the historic Wurlitzer Building.  You can now watch them make candy, and there's a full café and a good sized store.  It looks wonderful.  I wandered past the same molded chocolates I used to get in my own Easter basket and sell to my family, then picked up a couple things for Easter before we headed out. 

Our next stop was to the Broadway Market in Buffalo.  It's the prime destination for pre-Easter shopping in Buffalo, particularly for those with Polish heritage.  I have been there a handful of times since Craig and I have been together.  It's crazy busy this time of year, but it's always an experience.  We wandered around looking at the Polish t-shirts, sweet treats, and lunch options before eventually deciding on some fancy pierogies (Beef on Weck, Cheese, and Buffalo Chicken for Craig; two Stuffed Banana Pepper and one Buffalo Chicken for me).  I picked up a couple painted Polish eggs (my favorite), and eventually we headed out.

Our next stop was the mall, where Craig picked up some dress shoes to replace the ones he forgot at home, so he could dress appropriately for dinner.  He got a good deal, thankfully.  We did a lap around each floor of the mall before heading out to check into our hotel.

We opted to stay at the same hotel where we spent our wedding night, and to get the Jacuzzi suite, which was a nice bonus.  It's a very overdone, rather gaudy hotel--at least in the common areas--but it's charming nonetheless.  We relaxed for a bit before dinner, then got ourselves spruced up and headed out.  Normally when people stay at this hotel they opt for the dinner package because the restaurant is awesome, but the affordable options weren't exactly what we were looking for, so we opted to go to another place where we could get what we wanted for a bit less in price.  But it's a restaurant we used to go to once in a while when there was a location in Rochester, and I used to go there with my parents years ago.  The steaks are delicious, and Craig's filet and my steak teriyaki were both wonderful.  My side of mushrooms were amazing, and the salad bar and bread were great bonuses.  We were pretty full so we skipped dessert with a late-night snack plan in place, and headed back to the hotel.

Clearly I won't go into detail here, but suffice it to say that my pre-Vegas Victoria's Secret purchases got the stamp of approval, we enjoyed having a bedroom without kids down the hall, and the Jacuzzi made for a great place to watch one of our favorite movies, Couples Retreat.  Once we were ready to settle in for the night, Craig went out to grab some Blizzards from the Dairy Queen down the street, only to discover that the DQ had closed!  We settled for Frosties from Wendy's and made do by dipping some chocolate and candy-covered pretzel rods (from the Broadway Market) into them. 

We turned in pretty early and looked forward to sleeping in, but apparently we just stink at it now.  I didn't sleep particularly soundly for some reason, and then I had to pee, and then my stomach got a little cranky (too much food, apparently, though I'm wondering if I was slightly dehydrated from the Jacuzzi time and some salty food).  I forgot to shut off my usual Sunday alarm, and Craig also made a bathroom trip, so we were up quite a bit before 7:30.  But then we seemed to conk back out until closer to 9am.  So maybe we're not that bad at it.  At that point I decided it was time to get up and get ready so we could make it to breakfast in time.  Breakfast was a delicious buffet with all sorts of yummy options, and we got our fill before heading out.

Upon arrival at my parents' house, it became quite apparent that things did not go well.  The boys, as usual, could not leave each other alone.  Bedtime last night was hellish, and as a whole Carter was a terrible listener.  They thought Jacob was a bit better than he used to be, but he still incites Carter a lot and the two of them are such a massive handful.  So much so, in fact, that if this Vegas trip ever happens we'll probably have to find alternate plans.  And we'll pretty much not get an opportunity for a break like this until our kids grow out of this ridiculous phase, as it's simply too stressful for my parents to have them there together.  It's all pretty depressing and solidifies our isolation in this exhausting, frustrating life we live.  I love my children, but there's no doubt they're better separate.  A co-worker of mine was talking about something she saw about a family with two problem kids that ended up getting apartments across the hall from each other so each parent could live separately with one kid.  That sounds like something we need to do, and a less efficient version of that plan has crossed my mind before.  It's sad, but it's our reality. 

We tried a new place for lunch with great gluten-free options--Anderson's, a Buffalo staple--then headed home.  Jacob and Craig had to run off to lacrosse practice, and I felt crappy so I just laid on the couch while Carter watch a movie and played around me.  Eventually I felt good enough to get us out into the gorgeous weather, and after dinner Carter and I took a nice wagon ride.  It was perfect out there.  It was a decent end to an up-and-down weekend, but the loss of our backup plan is a tough one to take.  Of course, we head right back there on Friday for Easter weekend, so hopefully we can find some answers quickly.  Sigh.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Current Mood: Sad

Ugh, today is just sort of a bummer all around.  Today was supposed to be the first day of our vacation, yet here I sit at my desk post-lunch starting this post.  And like every other day I will go home, make dinner, wrangle a couple crazy kids until bedtime, and then veg out in my chair until my own too-late bedtime arrives, probably finishing up this blog post then.  Instead I'd hoped to be basking in 80 degree temperatures by the pool, eating fabulous food, and luxuriating in a gorgeous hotel room on the other side of the country.  I'd be doing all of it with the love of my life, away from the kids for more than a couple nights for the first time since there have been kids to be away from.  But it was not to be.  And between the loss of the adventure and much-needed bonding time and the mental break we both so desperately needed, I'm just sad about it.  It could have really been a great thing for us.  But recreating it on our own is not really in the budget at the moment.  Could we?  Possibly, but I don't really like the thought of taking an unplanned chunk out of our savings for something like that.  It may become necessary down the road (as I decided last year, about every 10 years we really should), but at the moment--if only because we're told there's a chance it could still happen--we just can't.

As I climbed into bed last night, I thought about how it should have been a night of frantic last-minute packing and planning, and how I actually would have welcomed being more stressed out--only if it meant jetting off to a few days of luxury.  But instead I climbed into bed as usual and got up for a day of work.  It was miserably rainy and cold here--and will probably snow tonight--which just adds insult to injury since it was in the 80s in Vegas.  I drove by the airport twice thinking about how, for weeks, I enjoyed the thought of flying out of there soon.  All of the plans I held off on for so long but ended up having to start making--like the list of notes for my parents or some shopping for "fun" clothes--were for naught after all.  It's all just a lot of wasted energy and excitement, and it's just a bummer to lose out on a chance to do so many things I rarely get to do. 

And as awful as I felt about all of this today, nothing compared to the sadness in my heart as I kept seeing the pictures in the news with the Syrian father and his nine-month-old twins who died in a recent chemical attack.  His wife and many other members of his family died, which makes it even worse, but the pictures of him holding his babies absolutely crushed me, much like the little refugee boy who washed up on the beach a few years ago or the other little boy who was photographed looking shellshocked while receiving medical attention after surviving some sort of attack.  These poor, innocent kids and their no doubt tortured parents are stuck in hell in their own country.  And now we're bombing Syria, which I'm not sure will make anything better.  I'm just so sad for those people, and seeing faces like those beautiful little babies who looked like they were sleeping but will never wake up, and that dad who is now all alone,  I just can't even.  It physically hurts.  It seems far away, but with our current president at the helm, I sort of feel like all bets are off and I wonder if there's any chance that someday we'll have attacks like that on our own turf and be the ones trying to figure out how to flee violence like refugees.  It may not be imminent, but it's not like it's impossible...and that thought is sobering.

So, yeah, everything about this day was pretty darn sad.  From the news to the weather to what could have been, it just sort of sucked.  I tried to put a little bit of good back in the world by giving blood for the first time in months.  After being turned away last time because my veins are a little temperamental, this time I had to go through two iron tests but eventually was able to successfully donate.  I feel like it's my duty as someone with O Negative blood and a mom who was saved by blood donation to give back, and it's not easy...but I'm trying to do it anyway.

Looking toward better things, we're heading to Buffalo for the weekend and will hand over the kids to my parents on Saturday morning before heading off for 24 hours alone.  It will be a nice break and I'm looking forward to spending time alone with Craig doing whatever we want.  We will probably go to the Broadway Market, get a nice dinner, and enjoy a night at the same hotel where we spent our wedding night.  Hopefully we can pick up the kids on Sunday and do something fun (ha...if only).  I was hoping for the Buffalo Science Museum, but the weather is going to be glorious, so we may need to rethink that.  But hopefully we'll be rested and relaxed and ready for another week with the kids.  But at least it's a short week that ends with Easter!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Two-Face

I could have titled this post "Jekyll and Hyde", but I'm pretty sure I've used that before and considering Carter's love for superheroes (and their villains), I figured "Two-Face" was more appropriate.  We seem to have developed a bit of a behavior issue with Carter where our normally once sweet boy is now showing some sides of him that we're not liking.

This has been building for a while, I suppose.  I've mentioned before that it seemed like Carter was picking up on Jacob's roughhousing, so he started to think it was normal to just run up to someone and punch them.  Not that Jacob has done that specifically, but when most of his interactions with Jacob have involved some sort of wrestling or physical contact as they battle over something--be it toy or turf--I think he just sort of accepted that as normal and translated it to his own means of defense.  So, he does run up and punch people.  And for some odd reason, he tries to bite Jacob when they're fighting.  And when he's mad he thinks it's okay to kick.  His temper flares very hot very fast, and he will not hesitate to throw a toy or show his displeasure whenever something doesn't go his way.

I'm guessing some of the temper comes from seeing us fly off the handle with Jacob, and sometimes, increasingly, with Carter himself.  The problem in our house is that no one likes to listen the first time, so there tends to be a lot of escalating incidents--yelling and very angry expressions that only get worse the more they're ignored--because we're trying to be firm, and when that doesn't elicit a response, where do you go from there?  We have used spanking, though we try to reserve it for direct defiance or a last resort.  I know that the spanking probably doesn't make the hitting problem any better, but again--when you're not getting responses, guess what?  You resort to desperate measures.  It's not something I'm proud of, but I do think it speaks to the stress we're under on a daily basis.

What's bothered us more lately is that Carter has been lying, stealing, and doing nasty things for no apparent reason.  A lot of times he will lie and say, "I tricked you!", but most of it isn't funny trickery, but rather annoying.  Don't say you want this kind of cereal only to tell me after I've poured it that you were tricking me and you want something else.  And don't tell me in the middle of grocery shopping that you have to pee right this second, and then tell me after we rushed to the bathroom that you were only kidding.  I explain that things like that are actually lying, and that tricks are normally reserved for something sillier.  But he also won't hesitate to lie to get out of trouble or to tell an elaborate fib for no apparent reason.  The other night I found Jacob's new basketball in Carter's toy cabinet.  I asked him where he got it, and he said Jacob gave it to him.  I figured that probably wasn't the case, so I asked him directly if he was lying.  He insisted Jacob gave it to him.  I reminded him that he'll get in more trouble for lying than for taking the ball, and gave him another chance to fess up, but he insisted...and honestly, his poker face is okay but not great so I had a strong feeling he was lying.  And of course, Jacob had no idea Carter had it.  Lately he's also been trying to sneak toys to daycare, usually in his pockets if his pants have them.  This morning he came to me and said, "I don't have anything in my pockets!" and of course I found a superball and a Lego man flashlight in them.  He's also snuck toys home, which is even worse because it's stealing.  And no matter how much I explain that he can't do that because they don't belong to him, he insists he wants them so it's fine.  UGH.  Other people's stuff is not yours just because you want it, Carter.

Over the weekend Craig and the boys set up an elaborate battle in our upstairs hallway and between the boys' doors, which basically form an "L" shape at the end of the hall.  Jacob's Playmobil guys battled Carter's superheroes, and there were Mega Blok fortifications and who knows what else.  Well, at some point Jacob had to go to lacrosse practice so some of the stuff got put away, but other stuff stayed out.  Carter played nicely for a while as I worked on a craft project I'd been staring down for a while.  At one point I went into the basement to dig through my craft supplies--basically two bins that hold everything from my glue gun and googly eyes to a bunch of random crap I pulled off Jacob's art projects before I tossed them, just in case we needed foam shapes or beads for anything down the road.  I wanted a couple things to finish off my project, but as I was digging through I decided it needed some organizing.  While I was doing that, Carter came down and handed me a vehicle with the string from an anchor from one of Jacob's ships tangled in the wheels.  I untangled it and asked him if he had been in Jacob's room.  He told me that the ship was part of the battle in the hallway, but I reminded him to not go near Jacob's stuff anyway.  Later on I saw that a bin of random crap (Happy Meal toys, goodie bag toys, etc.) had been dumped in Jacob's room.  We had just been looking through that bin the other day, so I assumed Jacob had remembered something he wanted to grab, dumped it, and never cleaned it up.  After all, that wouldn't be out of character for him, and Carter pretty much never goes in Jacob's room in the first place.  But when Craig and Jacob came home and I heard yelling, I realized that Carter had been terrorizing the house while I was downstairs.  He had dumped the bin, ransacked Jacob's room and toys, and taken a couple things from the bin as his own.  Thankfully, the worst of the damage was a wrinkled sail on one of Jacob's ships (which he's still super mad about), but all things considered that was pretty minimal compared to what it could have been.  But what he did was really awful, and we had no choice but to punish him.  He spent most of that evening in his room, he's lost his TV privileges (it's still on in our house a lot, but he cannot pick his shows at all) for the week, and I'm aiming to get him to bed early whenever possible.  It still doesn't seem like he understands how nasty he's being, though.  And part of that is probably the age, but I just don't like where it's heading.

Add in that Jacob is a loose cannon himself and it makes for some pretty spectacular fireworks at times.  It's exhausting, and it's part of the reason our not-happening trip would have been so enormously helpful for us.  My parents have generously offered to help us out and we will be taking them up on the offer this weekend, but clearly it's not the same and I'm not sure how much a 24 hour break will do...but it's something.  I worry about how they'll be for my parents now that it's more than just Jacob causing trouble.  It makes me sad that my sweet baby, the one who made me think I actually wasn't that bad of a mom, is now becoming as big of a problem as Jacob.  I can tell that their issues still seem different--although I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with another ADHD diagnosis down the road given a few things I've seen lately--but having double the challenges now is not exactly what I was hoping for as they got older.  "They'll grow out of it" just doesn't seem like it's getting any closer right now.

I keep hoping that when we see the sleep specialist in June, we'll find out how compromised Carter's sleep has been and find out that could be impacting his behavior more and more as time goes on.  The snoring hasn't been as bad lately, but he's still coming in our room most nights (and most nights we direct him back--though whether or not Craig comes back to our room is sometimes a toss-up), and that tells me he's not sleeping as soundly as he should.  I can see the effects of that building up over time and causing issues.  I've read about kids who got their tonsils and adenoids removed, and instantly their behavior improved.  They also do better with nighttime toilet training, which is still an issue with him, despite the fact he had a long run of mostly dry nights about a year ago.  All I can figure is that this stuff has progressively gotten worse over the last six months, and his behavior has gone downhill accordingly.  Maybe I'm wrong and it's all just behavior that has developed based on his interactions with us and with Jacob, but I can't help but wonder where my sweet boy goes sometimes--because there are still enough moments to know he's there somewhere.  I just find myself hoping that for once we can get a quick fix, even if it means a rough week or so of recovery for him.  But we'll see where that goes in a couple months.

In the meantime, we're trying to figure out how to deal with rough bedtimes, constant sibling battles, and disappointing behavior we never had to deal with before.  Once again I find myself at a loss on how best to deal with it all, but I guess this is what parenthood is all about.  One day at a time...as always.