Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Biggest Struggle

The other night I had a bit of a meltdown.  It happens once in a while, where I basically just want to shut down or go on strike for a bit.  Usually it's a combination of a few things--being stressed out about anything, overtired, or overwhelmed or ticked off by some random thing.  Often it results in me going to bed early, shutting myself in my room for a few hours, or skipping out on some sort of responsibility that's just a bit too much at that moment.  It's not something I'm proud of, but in the name of the transparency that I try to maintain here, here it is. 

I think this week's version was a combination of a rough few weeks at work (big controversy at the school during a busy time of year), a lot of fights with Jacob lately, and a couple minor things that were gnawing at me, one of which was having trouble figuring out dinner multiple nights this week.  And for whatever reason, when Jacob didn't like that night's dinner plans, it just destroyed everything and I simply refused to make dinner that night.  Craig was annoyed and I was then annoyed that he was annoyed, mostly because I just wanted a little compassion in the midst of what was clearly not my finest moment.  I tried to explain that sometimes it's overwhelming to have to plan dinner every night, on top of a long day of work, knowing that someone is probably not going to be thrilled with whatever I pick.  Having to coordinate the groceries and the timing and everyone's likes and dislikes is not easy, and sometimes I just hate it.  I asked Craig what he would do if he had to cook every night, and of course he said something about McDonald's.  If only it was that easy. 

A couple weeks ago I was upset about something and tried to explain to Craig that women just think through things so much differently than men.  So many details, so much overthinking.  I think at that time I was trying to explain to him why I make certain decisions with Jacob's discipline--decisions that I have thought through deeply or even had validated by research or multiple bloggers, whereas sometimes he just seems to pick the most convenient option without thought for the long term ramifications.  For example, a few weeks back when Jacob didn't want to do his "About Me" poster for school, I was fully prepared to let him fail.  I had given him support and opportunities, but he kept refusing.  Normally I'd just keep nagging him, but now that he's in fourth grade, he really needs to take more initiative.  I wanted to see if he would feel any sort of shame when his crappy poster was next to a bunch that were well done.  But Craig kept on him, stood next to him, and even cut a couple things out for him.  I was frustrated by the whole thing and asked Craig if he would help him in high school, or worse, go to college with him.  And he said, hopefully half joking, "Maybe."  Ugh.  As a side note, when we relayed the story to our therapist, she suggested that we let him fail, too.

Raising Jacob through his issues has been a major curve ball we never anticipated, and I don't think it's even possible to plan that out when you're talking about your parenting style pre-kids.  I just think we differ in our approach sometimes and it doesn't really help with the "unified front" you usually need to parent properly.  It's hard to raise a child in the midst of desperation.  

I don't want this to sound like I'm bashing Craig or anything.  He's a great dad and he would do anything to help his kids be happy.  I think men just process things differently and I can't really blame him for that.  But helping him understand those differences easily comes off as nagging or unappreciative, no matter how hard I try. 

Anyway, my explanation the other night wasn't coming out right.  And then the next day one of my friends posted the following article on Facebook.  The amazing timing of it was what made me decide to even write this post, because it is exactly what I've been struggling with most lately, and this was an easier way to explain it.  Read it, I'll wait.

So much of it resonated with me.  Craig's "McDonald's" answer reminded me of the author's husband's response to the house cleaning thing.  My issue is the pressure of the every-night decision making.  I can't take the easy way out every night.  I want him to appreciate the process and how hard it is so he knows why I struggle sometimes.  And her story about putting the box away seems to happen around here more than I'd like, with all of the other inhabitants of this house.  I don't always bother doing it because I know I'm the default anyway and I hold out a shred of hope that someone else will take the initiative to do it first.  And when I'm constantly thinking four steps ahead and coordinating about 5,000 things, it's hard when I feel like one of his decisions doesn't take into consideration the repercussions I've tried so hard to avoid.  I guess it's good to know I'm not alone in this problem, but the reality is still pretty rough. 

I told Craig to read the article and I think it helped a little.  It had to be easier to understand it when it wasn't a direct shot at him, you know?  I can't say it gave us all the answers, but at least it did a little of the communication when we couldn't. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Camping Edition

This past weekend, Carter and I decided to take a trip down to Letchworth State Park, about an hour away, to visit with my family who was camping there for the weekend.  Because it was going to be a dry, hot weekend, I almost wished I had been able to do the full weekend (as it's usually cold and rainy and farther away), but instead we just opted to do one day of fun.  Since Jacob and Craig are not much for hiking or general outside stuff, just Carter and I went. 

We headed out a little before 10am and arrived right around 11 to find the group had just come back from their morning hike and geocaching expedition.  It was already getting hot, but beneath the trees it was actually pretty pleasant.  Not such a bad view from around the firepit...

We were on a big hill and this is essentially looking up the hill into the woods.

Carter enjoyed sitting in his chair and eating their snacks (and his PB&J)...

We hung out around the dying firepit for a while, chatting about life and being impressed by how Fritos can be used to start a dying fire.  Carter did great just hanging out, though he did take my mom down to the playground nearby.  As we sat there, my cousin's girlfriend came running out of their cabin with a baby mouse trapped in a koozie and on a plate.  When she popped him out, he looked totally scared.  She tried everything to get him to run off and find his mom, but he sat in this spot for the longest time:
So tiny!
She was ready to take him home, but after a few hours and many efforts to give him food and water, he disappeared.  She was disappointed, but we hope it was all for the best!

We took a little walk up to my parents' cabin, which was up the hill tucked in the woods.  It was so quaint!  Rustic, small, but potentially romantic...if there weren't only bunk beds!  There was even a stone fireplace! 

After a while we headed off to see the sights.  They were all pretty much what we had seen two years ago when the four of us did a day at Letchworth.  I went down this stairway alone since Craig was still dealing with knee problems, but all but one of our party did it this time.  Carter did awesome even though it was uneven and sometimes chunks of the stone stairs were missing. 

I didn't remember this rock formation from last time...

And I didn't go down this far down last time, to a cute little bridge (that I forgot to take a picture of).  The view of the Lower Falls from that path was really pretty!

And from the bridge...
I love those little lower falls!

 And of course we need a picture on the bridge...

The wall on the path to the bridge was cool...layers upon layers of thin rock!

One of the best views is from Inspiration Point.  Last time here we saw a train go over the very tall train bridge far into the background.

The trails over near that train bridge were sadly closed for construction, which was a huge bummer.  Thwarted, we decided to head back to the camp site.  On the way, we made one more stop, where we could see a little bit of fall color at a big bend in the gorge.
The rock walls of the gorge are amazing!
Back at the camp site, we hung out for a while as much of the rest of the family played cards.  It was such a fun, peaceful setting.  Carter took another trip to the playground, this time with my dad, and ended up bonding a bunch with my cousin's girlfriend.
Note the lights hanging on the cabin porch...such a cute touch!

Here is the group picture.  Pardon the slope...I used my auto timer to take the picture while it sat on a vehicle on an already sloping piece of land.  Someday I'll edit it and send it to everyone!
The girlfriend is holding Carter.  Besides me and my parents, there are two uncles, two aunts, and four cousins in this picture.

Dinner was foil packet shrimp boil (shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, and potatoes), done over the fire, and it was delicious!  After that it started to get dark, and right around that time my brother arrived.  He came into town to caddy for our cousin's son in a golf tournament the next day (yes, that's a bit of a drive, but it was really nice of him to do), and the camp site was essentially on the way (although maybe 20 minutes or so off the highway).  He stopped in for an hour or two before heading to our house just a little bit behind us.  Carter fell asleep literally about five minutes or less into the drive (around 8pm) and stayed asleep right through morning!  We hung out with my brother for a bit once he arrived, and he left a little while after we left for church.  It was a short visit, but I'm glad we could give him a place to stay.

On Sunday Jacob had lacrosse practice again, so Carter and I once again went in search of a playground.  We rode our bikes (well, his was his big wheel) over to the playground at Jacob's school.  It's maybe a quarter mile around the corner from our house, and Carter did great!  I think he likes the idea of being able to get himself somewhere by his own power!  We spent an hour or so going between the two main playgrounds at the school.  One is a typical playset, and the other has swings, a slide, some monkey bars, and a climbing apparatus.
We were playing "monster", with me chasing him around.  He loves to climb all over the place!

The big slide!  He thought this one was like a roller coaster, much like the one the previous weekend.  I have some video of him on this one that will hopefully make it into the next video roundup I inevitably do when I remember to load videos onto YouTube.
He's such a fun little buddy to hang out with and I have another playground in mind for this weekend if the weather cooperates.  Our 90 degree temps will be ending after today, and things will be a lot cooler and possibly more rainy for a few days before stabilizing back in the 70s next week.  Yay for extended summer and leaves on the trees longer than expected!  Anyway, the next playground is one we've definitely been to before, a couple times with Jacob, but I don't know if we've ever taken Carter.  As much as I enjoy our time, I know one of these weekends I should switch with Craig and take Jacob to practice so Carter can get some Daddy time.  Jacob accuses me of liking Carter more than him, and I remind him that while I love them both equally, usually Jacob prefers Craig in the first place.  Also, Carter doesn't really give me a hard time about anything--unlike Jacob--so yes, I generally do enjoy my time with him more.  Hopefully someday that kid realizes that treating people pleasantly really does make things better!  Still banging our heads against the wall at therapy trying to get him to understand his role in our family dysfunction, but maybe someday it will click.

It's now officially fall and we are creeping up on pumpkin patch season!  No plans yet, but we will have to be very careful this year since Sundays are practice days and won't be valid pumpkin patch options.  Usually the weather and a couple other events limit our choices, so this year might be extra tough.  Carter will enjoy the indoor pumpkin place we go every year and that will certainly be one of our Sunday afternoons while the big boys are at practice.  I think this coming weekend will be much lower key than usual, which is not a bad thing, as things will probably only ramp up from here! 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Canal Path Edition

After our canal boat adventure a couple weeks ago, I mentioned to Carter that we have a section of the canal right near our house.  I had explained that there's a path there to walk and bike, and he told me he wanted to go.  It took a couple weekends to find time, but while the big boys were at Jacob's first lacrosse practice of the season, we took advantage of the gorgeous day and headed down the road about five minutes to the canalside park near us, Henpeck Park.  I walked there once before and rode my bike down the path a few years back because it connects to a large park that's near our house and accessible directly from a neighborhood street, which always made it easier to get somewhere without traveling directly on the many busy roads that border our area.  I hadn't been on the path in years, though, but it was a good reminder how nice it is!

We started out with Carter riding his big wheel and me walking.  That's what he wanted and I figured we could cover more ground that way, but something about his shorts and how he was sitting on the big wheel was bugging him, so he was stopping constantly to fix it and eventually we just gave up on that, turned around, dropped it off at the car, and continued on our journey walking.  It was fun just to look around at nature and talk about it.

My handsome walking buddy

We saw this large fallen tree with a little stream underneath somewhat hidden behind the trees near the path, and it just looked so pretty.

As I mentioned in my last post, trees are starting to change more than I'd like, but at least it's pretty.  I caught some gorgeous vines changing color on this pair of trees.

The color of this branch hanging over the water was striking!

And what was beyond it wasn't too shabby, either.

We walked along for a bit, looking at leaves, rocks, the giant houses beyond the bordering woods, a deer in a backyard, and whatever else an inquiring four-year-old wants to talk about. 
Oh, this kid.  That smile steals my heart every time.
Along the path, we saw this old building across the water.  It took a while, but I finally made out the words on the side of the building: "Grand Erie Yacht Club".  Now it looks like an urban explorer's dream, but I can't help but wonder what it looked like in its prime.
There's still a certain romance to it, no?
As we were looking at the building, we noticed something we'd been looking for the whole walk--a blue heron!  I was able to zoom in really well and capture this photo...
Carter and I really enjoyed our walk!  He's just a fun little buddy and I love seeing things through his eyes.  He's a great sport and doesn't really complain about anything, so it's fun to try out things like this with him.  I still want to freeze him at this age most of the time, but I know we can only have more fun the older he gets.  As long as he still gives his mama hugs, we're all good!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Finishing Summer on the Fringe

Mother Nature decided to mess with us a little this year, as we had two solid weeks of iffy weather to close out August and start September.  It was rainy and rather cool, so it seemed we were transitioning into jeans and hoodie weather rather quickly.  In fact, I'm pretty sure some trees outside my office are a good two or three weeks ahead of schedule.  I know I took a picture of one tree last year at the end of the first week of October, and it looks pretty similar to that right now.  I'm hoping other trees weren't as fooled, but we definitely have more changing than I like to see this time of year.  I usually comfort myself with the fact that many trees still have leaves even by Halloween, and some hang in there until Thanksgiving at times, but this year I don't think that will be the case.  I enjoy fall, but I definitely don't like what comes after it...or at least, what comes after the glow of Christmas season fades.  I'm also not a big fan of the first three weeks of November, when the weather is much cooler, the fun of Halloween/pumpkin patch season is over, and we have the long drag before Thanksgiving hits and it's "officially" okay to get into Christmas stuff.  At least we'll have a lacrosse tournament (and its associated preparations and long trip) to break things up this year.

Anyway, after all of that cool weather, now we've been in a glorious span of rather warm, mostly rain-free weather for a week, and we still have another week to go.  I'm a little thrown off with my wardrobe, as mentally I was beginning to transition to fall stuff, but now I'm trying to regain my rhythm with skirts and dresses.  Good problem to have, but it's been strange.  The good news, of course, is that we can fit in a few more "summer" weekends before transitioning into fall activities.  I wish I could add weeknight evenings into that equation, but it's dark so early now. :(

This past Friday the weather was gorgeous, and the evening was looking to be equally pleasant.  It was once again Fringe Festival time in Rochester, and I wanted to go.  You may remember my trip there with the kids a couple years ago.  It's pretty low risk to hit up the free show, and this year's looked...different.  I wasn't getting a whole lot of enthusiasm from the rest of my household, but we pushed forward and headed out.  We walked from my old work parking ramp, past my old building (which looks quite different now), and over to Parcel 5, which is a hotly contested plot of land in the middle of downtown.  It once held Midtown Plaza, one of the first indoor urban malls.  I used to be in that mall every day for years, first while working in an office tower that was part of the complex, then when I had to walk through the mall from my parking garage to another office tower connected by a pedestrian bridge.  It had definitely seen better days, but I was quite sad when it was knocked down.  I'm mostly happy with what has happened in the interim, though much of it has taken too long compared to an average big city.  This one plot of land is now slated to get a new performing arts center, but we'll see if it ever makes it through the bureaucracy that drags most things down here.  But for now, it seems to be the "cool" place to gather for outdoor events downtown.

Friday's free show was from Plasticiens Volants, a French troupe, and the show was called "Big Bang".  It was basically an artistic interpretation of the creation of the universe (I guess--maybe it's even more of a metaphor than I think), using giant helium balloons.  They were walked through the crowd of observers by people holding the guide lines, which made for quite a strange dynamic.  Sometimes it felt like seeing the person under the mascot costume, or what it would be like to watch stagehands at work during a play, but being in a position where they can physically bump into you (or get their wire wrapped around you) was even stranger.

The show initially started with a giant white ball at one end of the property, and things were projected onto it...lots of odd or even disturbing images, but some positive parts of the evolution of mankind as well.  It seemed like there might be some sort of live shadow play happening, as well, like these Easter Island heads that moved back and forth over the projected images.

Eventually these oddly shaped balloons started floating out from behind it.  They floated over us, sometimes dipping low enough to touch.  Eventually they moved back to one spot and formed into this odd "celestial body" together.
That's an eyeball up top
They broke apart again and floated more, this time starting to grow new appendages and turn into new forms that looked like sea creatures, vaguely like crabs and snails.

At one point, this strange insect came out to float around.  I think my first thought is that it might be a tardigrade (I had to look on the internet to find that name, but I'm pretty sure that's what I was thinking it was at first sight), or maybe a dust mite, but clearly it's just some sort of prehistoric bug. 

And eventually this guy came out and ate him, along with some other creatures.

While all of this were going on, my kids were not impressed.  Carter was borderline scared, and Jacob asked me--no joke--about 40 times in an hour if we could leave.  My take was, "We've never seen anything like this before, and we'll probably never see it again, so we're just going to appreciate this odd life experience for an hour."  I won't lie, it was weird.  It was rather abstract and very strange, but hey, it's sort of fun to watch giant balloons float around the center of your city.

Eventually some planets came out to float...

And then something else did that made me momentarily question having the kids there...even though plenty of other people did too:
Yep, those are sperm.
The sperm even pulled a "Look Who's Talking" moment and starting bumping up against the yellow sphere in the picture above, as if they were trying to enter.  Apparently one got in, because the yellow ball started doing this...

And eventually it rose all the way up and looked like this underneath.  Perhaps this was some sort of planet.

After that one started floating around, these spiral cones came out, and a bunch of these bubbles were carted through the crowd.  One came literally right in front of us--to the point we had to get the kids out of the way--and immediately it exploded in front of us.  It was loud but probably not as bad as I would have expected, but it was definitely a surprise.  The guy pulling it went right back to sticking another one on, and we figured out that the popping must have been part of the show as the other ones started to do it, too.

There was some sort of odd ending where the eyeball found its match, and by then we were ready to start walking.  I wanted to go to the Spiegelgarden, which is the center of the action for the festival.  I walked there with the kids last time, and I just loved the magical atmosphere.  We wandered that way briefly again.  We saw this giant igloo, which had some sort of light and sound experience inside it.

The rest of the garden was still pretty magical.  I still really want to go to a show in the Spiegeltent...

There was an outdoor movie that you needed headphones to hear and could sit on comfy cushions to watch, and some table games.  We had fun with the row of funny mirrors...
Jacob, me (holding the camera), and Craig holding Carter
Everyone was ready to go, and while I wanted to go look at the Chihuly at the Eastman School of Music across the street, I gave in and we headed for the car.  I snapped a few pictures on the way back, as it's fun to see the city all lit up and lively. 
Across the street from Parcel 5 - far left is Midtown Tower, where I worked for eight months and is finally swanky condos; Xerox has the lights on the top corners; the building with the triangles on top is Legacy Tower (formerly Bausch & Lomb), and the tall orange one is the Metropolitan (formerly Chase Tower), where I worked for more than eight years.  The buildings in the foreground house Windstream and our newspaper.  The one on the left used to be a couple floors taller and was totally redone after the mall was removed).  The newspaper building on the right was a new build. 
This is the new front of the Metropolitan, formerly the side.  Swanky, eh?  There are apartments here now, in addition to a few offices.  It's so odd to realize that my old office doesn't even exist anymore.  It's now across Parcel 5, in the building you see in the third picture in this post.

This is looking back toward Midtown Tower.  This view used to have the pedestrian bridge from the mall in the middle of it.  I love how colorfully lit and vibrant this area looks now, when it used to be a dead zone after 5pm.

Looking up at the old digs...probably somewhere near the lights up there.  This was the side of the building of my second desk position, where I sat when I was let go.

So much has changed since I last went downtown daily--not the least of which was the flashy new (functional!) elevators in the parking ramp!--but it's nice to see and I loved being down there for the evening.  The kids may not have had as much fun, but I will always try to expose them to whatever I can so they can't tell me someday that we never did anything interesting.  At least this way I have the pictures to prove it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Playground Edition

I should have posted this last week, but I sort of forgot these pictures were on my phone until mid-week, and it's been a heck of a week in general due to a controversial situation at work.  I worked late on Thursday and the rest of the week was just sort of exhausting.  So now I'm a week behind...but oh, well.

Last weekend I decided to make good on a promise to Carter to take him to a new playground.  I saw it last month when I stopped at our school district's community education office to sign Jacob up for the afterschool program.  The facility is at a former school, on the other side of the complex from where we went to our family counseling through the district a couple years ago.  The playground looked like it had some fun stuff to climb, which I knew Carter would enjoy.  We had a nice day and a free afternoon, so off we went.  And sure enough, Carter really enjoyed it!

One of the slides was so high and steep!  Carter called it a "roller coaster slide" and went down it more times than I could count!  He even stopped holding on, so he could get the full effect!  There were a large number of scuff marks at the bottom, so from what I can assume kids have been using their shoes to slow themselves down near the bottom!

There were so many places to climb!  This one was a little tight for me--I survived unscathed, but once was enough--but Carter loved that it was like a secret hideout tunnel!

There was one climbing structure that looked a little daunting, but Carter climbed across it from end to end!

And he posed for a picture!

I did it myself (playgrounds seem to be a proving ground for me these days--I also proved I could still hang myself upside-down that day!), and it was hard.  He did so good!

Watch out, here comes the tiger!

We had so much fun that he wanted to stop at one more on our way home, the one we went to with him when Jacob was at his lacrosse training camp and he had Mommy and Daddy all to himself.  We didn't have a lot of time, but we did have fun and got a little nature lesson, too.  There's a wooded area near the school (which I realized will officially be Carter's school a year from now--yikes!) and I saw no less than eight squirrels running around like maniacs at one point.  We saw one nearby chewing on the nuts that had fallen off the trees and were able to see what was left behind after the squirrel got the nut out of the shell.  It turned out that they were hickory nuts, which I don't think I've ever really come across before.  It was cool to see, though.

After that adventure, it was back to another week.  Now that the school year has started, Carter's teachers have gotten more serious about the educational aspects of their room.  They're starting a new curriculum and with it comes a bit of homework.  Luckily they're mostly easy assignments--bring in a book, wear a color, bring something that starts with the letter of the week.  Some take a little more effort, like drawing a picture or making a collage.  He only needs to do half of them to get a prize at the end of the month, so we do all of the easy ones and usually skip the collages.  Conceptually it's still a lot for a four-year-old, and if I had magazines around it would be much easier.  But I don't, so I'm not going to break the bank when I know we have the rest covered.  Again, he's four, so most of the effort will be mine anyway.  God knows we went through enough stress with Jacob and the collage he had to do!  I don't mind the rest of these, though, as it gives us something to work on together, which is more productive than just watching TV.

Two weeks ago we had the cutest moment where we were trying to teach him how to draw a birthday cake.  He needed a little coaching but ultimately did it all himself, and it was so cute!  He was so proud of his work and couldn't wait to show his teachers the next day.  It completely melted my heart to see him looking so victorious.  Then last week he had to either draw two leaves or glue two to a piece of paper.  So, we went out in the evening, just as it was starting to get dark, in search of leaves.  Carter was excited to use his Lightning McQueen big wheel, since he knew there was a spot in the back where we could stash the leaves until we were done!  Cute, right?  We picked up a couple a house or two down, but I knew there was a house around the corner with a tree dropping red leaves, so we took a little journey to get there.  He rode, I walked.  We got to enjoy a gorgeous sky along the way.

We also saw from a distance five deer running out from behind a house next to where we were going and run across the street, presumably to go hang out on the golf course nearby.  We picked up a handful of leaves that were to our liking, even though we only needed two, then went home to glue them on paper.  We had a giant purple one, a few red ones, one that was half yellow-half green in a perfect mottled pattern, and one reddish one from our yard that was a different shape than the rest, which were maple leaves.    
My view when he's on his Big Wheel...he's fast!

He was a really good boy for the whole thing, and we really enjoyed our little adventure.  He's always up for something fun, and I really appreciate that about him.  Lately I've been feeling like we need to get out more and do things, and he's such a good little buddy for that stuff.  We had another fun adventure this weekend, which I'll blog about soon.

Last week the big boys reintroduced Carter to a long-time favorite activity in our house--using the various hockey rinks and lots of different hockey guys to create epic games.  Jacob still needs to have a little more patience and there's sometimes a little contention about whose guys are whose, but for the most part it made for some fun playtimes over the week.  The living room is still full of rinks--the main rink and practice rinks--and so many guys.  Chaos, but I'll let it slide if they play like this...

Carter is really getting to be a much more fun kid as he gets older.  Most of the time I still want to freeze him in this perfect stage of little big kid who still unapologetically adores his mama and isn't afraid to show it, but as he gets older he's that much more fun to hang out with.  Even Jacob is slowly seeing the benefits in having him around, even if he doesn't always show it in the best way.  I'm so thankful for the little ball of joy he is most of the time, because God knows we need it around here.  I prayed for the perfect kid to complete our family, and I really do think we got him.