Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Just Something Pretty...

Like I mentioned yesterday, sometimes I get a little out of sync when it comes to sharing stories and pulling pictures off my camera in a timely manner.  And as a result, things get lost and forgotten along the way, until I pull the pictures off the camera and realize that, no, I never shared that awesome thing.  And while I generally want most of the stuff here to have some connection to the kids or parenthood in general, sometimes I try to find myself again, most often with pretty pictures.

Well, a month ago I was cleaning up from dinner and realized that the sky looked...interesting.  The clouds were sort of cool and the colors were getting more and more vivid.  I tried taking a picture from the kitchen window, but decided this might be worth going outside with the real camera as I was having trouble capturing things with my phone.  This is the result.  The "lumpy" clouds were hard to do justice, but they were amazing.  And social media agreed, as a lot of people caught very similar shots.







A couple days later was our annual Day of Giving at work, where we try to raise as much money through as many donors as we can in one 24-hour span.  It's always a crazy day, and this year I got recruited to help deliver cookie cakes to our advancement partners on campus.  I love going on campus, and actually getting to go through academic buildings was a first for me.  I couldn't help but snap pictures as I ran, though since I was traveling light they had to be with my phone.  And I can't complain--the phone did well!  I just wanted to share this little journey because it absolutely made my day.
Inside the Interfaith Chapel.  I knew the windows looked like this but was wowed by them in person.  So pretty.  And you can't tell here, but there are four sides of them.

Looking up the Eastman Quad at Rush Rhees Library

Closer to Rush Rhees, with the gorgeous blooming trees!

Inside the library

Same view from behind

I'd seen a print of this painting at my last job, as it features prominent Rochesterians from the heyday of downtown, in the old Midtown Plaza mall that was attached to both buildings I worked in downtown.  The mall was demolished a handful of years ago, though the clock in the center is now in the airport.  My old job was at an agency that was a downtown mainstay for years, and we had a copy of this in the office because the original agency owner, who still worked in the office into his 90s, is in the picture.  Who knew the original was tucked away near the admin offices at the Memorial Art Gallery?

The guy in the lower right in the dark suit was the agency owner/namesake.  Classic Mad Men-era advertising agency guy, and he never lost his spunk.
And, finally, I have to include this, because the moments where he sleeps on me are so rare now.  My sweet little boy...THIS I will definitely miss.

I love little moments like this.  Little bits of beauty in the world are sometimes the thing you need to make it through the day.  They make the mundane, day-to-day stuff a little more special.  I am looking forward to our summer adventures, for sure, but I hope I get a few more of these moments, too.
 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Week-ish in Review

It's amazing how time flies when you're not paying 100% attention.  Once upon a time I tried to update this blog every day, or every couple days.  As I mentioned in my last post, that doesn't happen much anymore.  It seems like I usually have one weekend catch-up post--if something interesting even happened--and then something pops up during the week that I just need to talk about.  But often somewhere in there I hadn't pulled random pictures off my camera or phone yet and things get a little lost because enough time passes that I can't actually remember what I did and did not post.  I actually have one more catch-up post coming up soon, but for this one I'll just extend our "week" a little longer. 

A couple weeks ago we had a beautiful but windy day.  Ever since the windstorm in March, windy days sort of put me on edge.  Even though I know pretty much nothing can compare to what we had, it still stirs up those feelings.  Anyway, I went to pick up Carter that day and as we were grabbing his stuff he mentioned that he'd made a kite.  It wasn't a real kite, just one to hang on the wall, but he asked when we could fly it.  Of course that wasn't possible, but I told him that maybe someday we could go get a real one.  And then it hit me that it was a windy day and having a kite might make that windy day a little less annoying.  I had just been to the dollar store a few days earlier and I was pretty sure I had seen kites there, so I had one of those parental "Yes" moments and we stopped there on the way home.  We picked up an Iron Man kite for a buck and went home to try to fly it.  And while we didn't have any epic flights, I was pretty impressed that we got it in the air for a couple minutes at a time a few times.

Carter was so excited to hold it as it flew!

However, the wind currents weren't as constant as it had seemed, so we had trouble keeping it up there, but considering I'd never flown one myself before, I felt like it was a good first try.  And now it's there in the garage if the mood strikes again!

The following weekend was full of lacrosse.  We had a game bright and early on Saturday, a half hour away.  It felt SO early on our one day where we can normally sleep in.  But we made it.  With away games I'm always hopeful that there will be a playground, and thankfully there was.  It was a cold morning, but sunny, so we tried to keep warm by running around until the game started!

Carter has gotten to be quite the climber!

Pardon that I cannot get this picture to rotate, but this is Carter looking through the floor of the playset.  It lined up perfectly!

We also had Jacob's first lacrosse tournament of the season on Sunday.  This one was for his house team--unlike the rest for his travel team which will put us on the road all weekend--and was local.  It was at a high school complex and took place on three fields made from one football field.  The weather was pretty cloudy when we arrived around 8am, but it was just warm enough for us to not feel too cold.  The forecast had been iffy all week but had perked up a day or two earlier.  The sun even came out at one point and it looked like it was going to be a nice morning, but then we noticed giant clouds forming in one direction and it looked like we were going to get hammered with a thunderstorm.  Luckily the big cell that seemed to be coming right for us dissipated and we only ended up with a steady but not soaking rain for the last game, at which point I took this picture, which just makes me smile a bit as it seems to capture sports parent life pretty accurately.   
Under the umbrella!
Initially, last week looked like it was going to be busy.  Jacob normally has practice twice a week, and he had a game scheduled for Wednesday, as well.  He had a therapy appointment Thursday, along with his school concert, so we knew we had a lot going on.  But then because of the Wednesday game there was no practice, and then the game itself got canceled as too few kids were available, so suddenly we just had one busy night.  Initially Jacob wasn't very excited about his concert and would have much preferred going to practice that night.  But then they sent home the note that said to dress your best, and of course he jumped at the chance to wear his suit.  And yes, I am still completely perplexed by how a kid who refuses to wear anything except athletic apparel in his daily life is so into dressing up when he can.  But there is no in between.  No khakis and a button down.  No jeans and a nice sweater.  Either all athletic or all dressed up.  That's it.

Initially the concert was supposed to be at the high school performing arts center, but earlier in the week it moved to Jacob's school's gym.  It was a major downgrade.  Considering it was full when they had just the moms and their kids in there for the Mother's Day event, I couldn't quite fathom how they'd fit three grades worth of parents and families, along with risers.  And sure enough, it was packed and people were standing.  On the bright side, that meant we got to leave early once the third graders were done, but it definitely made the whole thing feel a little less special.  It's always interesting to see Jacob in his element, and see some of the fruits of his labor.  His concerts always crack me up, though, because when I was a kid I went to a Christian school so all the songs we sang were either religious, patriotic, or related to our school play.  This concert had a song about fairness, another about recycling, and another that was a German folk song translated into Japanese.  It never occurred to me when I was a kid what public school kids were singing, but perhaps now I know.

Jacob's at the middle left.  The snappy dresser on the right is a good friend of his.

The view from our seats.  As you can see, it was a bit of an odd setup.

Where did this big kid come from?  Holy cow.

I had a shortened work day on Friday and spent the afternoon running around trying to get some things done.  It had been a crazy day at work, for a number of reasons (including the whole situation I wrote about last week coming to a head--turns out no one got the job, but it came out in a meeting before they actually told my co-worker who applied.  On top of that, HR wanted to talk to me about the position to make sure I wasn't holding anything back when the manager had talked to me about it.  So my co-worker and I both spilled about everything, then had a number of minor but ridiculous calamities hit on a short work day before a holiday weekend when we were pretty much the only people in our department in the office.  NUTS.), so basically I needed a few hours to decompress.  I ended up starting the long weekend with a whimper and went to bed rather early, hoping I'd feel a bit more energized for the next few days.

This weekend we were really trying to make the most of the three-day weekend.  We knew we had a Red Wings game on Saturday night, a picnic Sunday, and needed to fit in mini-golf somewhere in there, as well.  The weekends for all of June and half of July are going to be insanely busy for all of us, and I'm already panicking about the yard work that won't get done, among other things (as I look at my filthy house that just got cleaned two weeks ago).  Sigh.

Anyway, we had a pretty low-key day.  I planted my garden, the kids played, and eventually we were off to the game.  The cloudy day turned to sun just in time.  It was a nice though slightly cool night, and overall we had a good time, despite Carter getting a bit difficult.  We didn't get to stay for fireworks because the game went into extra innings, unfortunately.  But we did get these funny pictures...



And like I said, it was a nice night...

On Sunday we had my family picnic and my aunt and uncle's.  They live here in town so it's one of the few parties we get to go to with a short drive there and back!  It was a really nice day--a little overcast at times but very pleasant temperatures.  Carter got to play cars, Jacob played outside a bit, and I got to see family and even meet my cousin's new girlfriend who was braving a family function for the first time!  We ate a bunch and had a very quiet night at home digesting food.

On Monday we had a lazy morning thanks in part to the rain.  I did manage to get Carter to try on all of his summer shirts and switch out his seasonal clothes in his closet.  After lunch I did some running around, and then we went to play mini-golf, as the weather had vastly improved by then. 
 
We had some fun with the arcade games and the boys spent their tickets (mostly candy for Jacob, and a car for Carter), and then we came home for dinner and s'mores.

After that, it was still a nice evening so we had some bonus time outside.  The boys rode their bikes, and I snuck around to the side of the house to capture the rhododendrons in their full glory.  They are so big I don't know what to do with them!
 

And finally, this is what happens when you shoot a bubble gun at the same spot of grass for a while.  Cool, isn't it?

Anyway, it was a pretty good weekend.  There was some productivity, some fun stuff, and a little bit of downtime.  Not enough, apparently, based on today, but I guess I should just get used to it because weekends will not be very relaxing for the foreseeable future.  But at least we had some fun.  And let's hope more fun is to come as summer gets into full swing...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

1500

This is post number 1500!  It's hard to believe that 1500 times in the last nine-plus years I have selected "New Post", had something to say about parenthood or our life in general, and hit "Publish".  That's a lot of times.  I started this blog nine years, five months, and one day ago, 3441 days in total.  That means I've written one post every 2.3 days.  It's hard to believe that in another seven months this blog will hit a decade...and six months after that (13 months from now), Jacob will be a decade old, too.  Mind-blowing.

I started this blog as a way to communicate with family out of town as I progressed through pregnancy and early parenthood.  I figured it would also be a good way to document this experience for posterity, and I didn't even realize at the time how valuable it would be.  It is amazing how the exhaustion of parenthood turns everything into a haze.  I remember things, of course, but there are so many little details that would have been lost forever had I not documented them here.  There are so many feelings that I don't think I'd fully recall if reading this blog didn't perfectly transport me back to the time when I wrote the post.  It's like a baby book on steroids, and I'm so grateful I have it. 

I never knew at the time how long it would last.  Some people post two or three times and never get back to it.  I didn't want mine to be like that--mostly because I was always saddened by the many abandoned Geocities pages once upon a time--and I found the process very helpful in so many ways.  And then once I had so much of Jacob's life story documented, it would have been a shame to only have a small portion of Carter's life here.  So I kept going, and here we are.  Lately my posts have been fewer and farther between, for many reasons.  Sometimes it's just time, sometimes it's because I've already pondered so many parenthood issues and don't want to beat a dead horse.  Sometimes it's because I wonder how much I really should have out there now that Jacob is older, and as the issues get more serious, there's only so much I can comfortably get into before you start questioning my sanity.  I've always tried to be truthful and brutally honest about this experience, and while it's not as black and white as it once was, I still find that there's value in exploring as much as I can.

We've been through so much since I started this blog--from the very early stages of pregnancy, to the various stages of preparation for becoming parents, to Jacob's delivery and difficult first week, to all of the ups and downs of those early days of parenthood.  Then things got hard--very hard--and despite all that we decided to do it all over again.  Then we went back to the early pregnancy moments and the baby preparations, to the delivery and a much better post-delivery experience.  Now we're over four years beyond that, with so many challenges--and, yes, some little victories--under our belts.  Add in house buying, new vehicles, job changes, and medical issues, and we've had a pretty full plate over the past nine years.  After all of that, it almost scares me think what might be ahead, but I sincerely hope that brighter days are coming.  I know that in so many ways we do have it good, but it wouldn't hurt to get a nice, easy lull for a while.  But if not, we'll work through it the same way we have for the last 1500 posts' worth of stress and challenges.  We're not always graceful, but we make it through. 

I've spent so many hours sitting here writing.  I hope someday the boys will have this to read and know how much I love them.  I hope when I'm old and gray, this will bring back memories that time would have otherwise stolen.  I hope somewhere along the way maybe it helped someone, or at least helped me process everything we've been through.  But ultimately, I'm just glad that we have a little story about us...

Our story may be a bit messy, but it's ours.  And I will continue to tell it for as long as I can.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Can of Worms

When I was young and on my own for the first time, I used to put off medical stuff all the time.  In fact, I didn't pick a doctor for the first couple years I lived here because I just didn't want to deal with getting recommendations and finding one that was accepting new patients.  But at the time, I really didn't need one too often, as I was in the "invincible" stage where I didn't feel like an annual physical was really needed.  But then I got a horrible cold (like a six-month hacking cough) and I got completely stuck.  Every doctor wanted a new patient visit before I could come in for a sick visit, and they were scheduling new patient visits weeks out when I needed help immediately.  I ended up going to urgent care, but learned a bit of a lesson and made a new doctor a priority.  But then I had kids and still didn't do the annual physical thing, mostly because I figured my annual OB/GYN visit--which I have always stuck to--would catch anything major.  Then I decided I didn't like my new doctor, who didn't appreciate any of my theories or when I pushed for more help with an issue.  Two years ago I was sick repeatedly and then out of work, and decided I needed to use that time to get back on track.

I got a new doctor then and I've been a little better about things, but as a whole I feel like I've spent a lot more time taking care of my kids' health than mine.  Between all of the various specialists they've visited, and Jacob's many issues, my health has taken a backseat.  I gave up on my smell/taste issues for six (!) years and put off allergy shots for much more than the one pregnancy I anticipated doing it for.  But last year I went to the ENT and GI doctors for my reflux concerns and finally got my eyes checked a few weeks ago.  But between my ongoing smell/taste issues and needing to get a baseline check with a dermatologist (since skin cancer runs in the family), there's still stuff I've been putting aside every time the kids' appointments start taking up time in my schedule.  I don't want to miss work, I don't want to manage so many appointments, so one thing drops out--me.  It's a terrible habit, but I know I'm not alone in that. 

Well, a few weeks ago when I visited the allergist, he suggested I get a CT scan to look at my sinuses.  I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money, as I wasn't sure how it might inform my treatment beyond the shots I was getting anyway, but eventually I decided I might as well just do it to make sure we were looking at every option.  I got it done yesterday and this morning the first set of results showed up on my PCP's portal.  I can't really understand doctor speak, but there were a few odd-sounding things.  First, apparently I have mild osteoarthritis in my jaw!  I suppose that shouldn't surprise me, as my jaw has clicked for years and a few years back I noticed that my jaw seemed to open funny, almost crooked or uneven.  Luckily I don't have noticeable pain (although I think it might explain a couple times things have been a little uncomfortable), but it caught me off-guard.  In general it sounded like I have chronic sinusitis, but there were a couple things that sounded odd (like something about them not seeing a septum, though it's not clear if it's an anatomy thing or because it was obscured by something).  It sounds like I have a good amount of congestion and mucus.  My guess is that I might get some antibiotics to clear out any possible infection, and then maybe some extended steroids to reduce any inflammation.  The doctor knows that I had them six years ago and they didn't work, but I wonder if being on them longer might allow for more recovery.  It might drive me absolutely insane as steroids and I do not get along (I turn into an unapologetic you-know-what), but if it helped?  Totally worth it. 

But I feel like every time I do one of these things, it seems to open up a can of worms.  With the GI stuff it turned into an endoscopy and then the small intestine bacterial overgrowth.  With the allergy stuff it turned into the CT scan.  Now I'm doing twice-per-week morning allergy shots and wondering where these results will take me.  And heck, I'm guessing that when I go to the dermatologist, they'll find something that needs further investigation.  It would be one thing if I was single or even childless, but when I have a husband, two kids, and a job relying on me, it's scary to think of the implication of these examinations.  I always want to better my life and maintain good health, but it always takes a lot of courage to get things checked.  I feel like I'm too young to have the steady string of issues I've had, and it's getting tiring.  The last couple days I was having some sort of throat issue--possibly spasms of my esophageal sphincter, similar to what I had a year and a half ago when I ended up at the ENT--that seem to crop up with stress.  That was better today, but I still have a random ache on the side of my throat that I mostly only feel when I burp, but not when I swallow.  I've gone through a million scenarios in my head, of course.  And I will get it double checked, I promise.  But on top of that, when the results first came in this morning, I felt pretty discouraged about everything.  I'm just so tired of worrying about all of this stuff.  Am I just tired because I'm not getting enough sleep, or is something wrong?  Why can't I taste or smell, and is it going to be a fruitless wild goose chase to try to fix it?  Should I try a chiropractor or acupuncture?  There just isn't enough time or money to figure it all out.

I might have been just a little more discouraged as I was living in the past a bit this morning.  Twenty-one years ago tonight I was at my senior prom.  One of the best nights of my life provides a stark contrast to health issues and a diagnosis of arthritis at 38.  Looking back in the blog, I had a number of interesting memories during this time of year.  I had successful Corporate Challenge runs, Knighthawks championships, two funerals, multiple fun Memorial Day weekends, and Craig returning from a 10-day trip to the Czech Republic.  And, of course, nine years ago we were still getting ready for Jacob's arrival.  Life is crazy.  Would I have imagined being where I am now?  Maybe, but probably not.  So many unexpected turns along the way, but here we are.  And we have no choice but to continue on.  Hoping and praying all of this brings along so hope and success...


Friday, May 19, 2017

Climbing the Ladder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Three Times in Four Days


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Picture Perfect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Movie Monday

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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