Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sucky Sunday

So...Sunday.  I guess it really began with the end of the Knighthawks game.  It did not end well.  We were within one during the fourth quarter, but eventually the wheels fell off and we lost 15-10.  It was quite a bummer since Craig had to travel there again and miss our weekend, and it's never fun to lose a big game like that.  It ended around midnight, so I knew it would make a rough start to Sunday when my alarm went off at 5am.

And, of course, when it did go off, I felt like I'd had about two hours of sleep.  I still managed to stay functional, though, and got us off to breakfast by 6:15.  Thus began the first of many minor debacles of our day.  I went to pour batter on the waffle iron and noticed it looked like someone had sprayed non-stick spray on the waffle iron, but it burned on and got gross.  I already had the batter in hand, so I put it on in hopes it looked worse than it was.  When I opened the iron, the waffle split in half lengthwise, and all of the pieces I pulled off had black crap integrated into them.  I thought maybe that solved the problem, so I decided to try again.  The second round did not go much better--still black spots and it stuck badly to the waffle iron, so that one was a loss, too.  Luckily I was planning on stopping for caffeine anyway, but still...two tries and no dice?  Not a good start.  I had yogurt at the hotel and picked up a bagel at Dunkin', along with a frozen coffee.

At the tournament, we got prime parking but I managed to forget things in the car two different times, and then had to go back a third time for Jacob's mini stick.  However, I didn't mind the walk that much since the weather was once again perfect.  I could tell, though, that it was going to be a more intense day in the sun than it was the prior day.  Still, I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather after roasting at this same tournament last year.

The first game started, and once again I was looking at my watch and wondering when Jacob was going to get in.  In the end he only had one shift--again--and to make matters worse, his team lost.  They scored a goal at the end of the first half that was signaled as a goal, but then it got called back, supposedly because time had expired...but how they figured that out without instant replay, I don't know.  In the end they lost by one goal, so it felt even worse at that point.  Jacob told me after the game that coach apologized for not getting him in more, and he'd make it up to him.  And, in game two, Jacob played a little more.  It still wasn't a lot, maybe a handful of shifts, but it was better.

The third and last game ended up being another battle, this time against the host team.  There was a lot of yelling at the ref by various parents, which was new for our group as we're not usually a vocal bunch--but a new parent may not have figured that out yet.  Anyway, it was becoming even more apparent that some players were playing pretty much the entire game, and once again, Jacob got in only once.  By this point I was pretty livid on the inside but trying to stay calm.  I almost cried, honestly.  It was like the day we found out he'd been relegated to the "B team" on his house team this spring, where we knew it stunk and wasn't fair, but couldn't really do anything about it.  I felt the same this time, because I didn't feel like he was doing anything obvious to lose playing time, yet he wasn't playing.  To make matters worse, later Jacob told me that kids were coming to the sidelines exhausted and getting sent back out too soon or refusing to go back out after a short rest.  When you have able bodied kids ready to go and don't use them, that's a problem.  How do you expect a 10-year-old to stay engaged in the game and get more experience if they're not playing?  No matter how many times I replayed the scenarios in my brain, it just didn't make sense.  It wasn't like this last year--even at worst when the team played man-up or man-down most of the game and Jacob didn't play those shifts.  Since when did winning overtake winning as a team?  That's not what the organization stands for, so it left us (Craig via text) pretty confused.

They won that close last game, but because of various tie breakers, they ended up losing the championship to that host team even though they beat them.  After winning this tournament last year, it was disappointing, and knowing Jacob barely even got the chance to help, that was even worse.  We packed up and were happy to head out.  We stopped at the Under Armour outlet when we were halfway home, but they didn't have the shoes Jacob wanted to try on and then we ended up arguing over the slides (flip flops) he wanted.  The white ones looked goofy, and I know he's weird about things getting dirty, so I had to say no for now.  Sounds stupid, but it was just one more thing to make the day annoying.  Oh, and in the midst of all of this, we were hungry but Jacob couldn't tell me what he wanted and there wasn't much around that was gluten-free, so we were raiding all the snacks and it still wasn't enough.  So on top of everything else, I was hangry.

In the meantime, Carter was eating filet mignon with Grandpa and Grandma...and loving it!

Once we got home, I unpacked a bit before my parents arrived with Carter.  Of course, the boys started driving each other nuts immediately.  Once my parents left, I opened up the Amazon delivery that arrived while we were gone (and sat on the porch for 24 hours--thank goodness our porch is mostly hidden).  Inside was my new phone.  The SD card in my old phone failed, and rather than spending $10 to get a new one for a phone that was frustrating me anyway due to very little internal storage, I decided to get a better one.  Unfortunately, when I started getting it set up, I realized that this phone doesn't allow me to store apps on the SD card like my old one, so even though the new one has more, I'm really no better off on the internal storage situation.  I'll make it work, I guess, but darn it.  The rest of the day was just challenging.  It was hard waiting for Craig to get home, the boys were crazy, and between a continued awkward food situation (nothing in the house!) and being epically overtired, everything just sort of stunk.  I've been trying hard lately to count my blessings and look on the bright side, but on Sunday it was not happening.  And with the way work has been lately, looking ahead to Monday made it even worse.  I honestly think my body was totally off due to lack of sleep and weird eating, and it just magnified everything so much.  And to some degree I knew that at the time, but it was so frustrating!

Anyway, another week is upon us.  Craig asked Jacob's coach what he could work on to get more playing time, and he got a couple suggestions.  The boys also got some actual plays to memorize, too, and Jacob is now obsessing over those.  Hopefully it works!  I don't really want to drive five hours each way this weekend for a handful of shifts!  He only has a week left of school now, which is both hard to believe and a complete relief!  It's been a bit of a tough year with his teacher, but we're almost done!  How does he only have one more year of elementary school left?!  Speaking of which, Carter is looking forward to his graduation in a couple weeks.  It's crazy to think he's almost done with preschool.  It'll be so strange in the fall to not have to go to daycare anymore, since we've been going to this particular one nearly every day for over eight years.  I still haven't decided if we'll go back.  We usually make Christmas break work at home, and he can go more cheaply to the school district's camp during February and Spring breaks, so it's really just summer we need to consider...but we have a year for that!  Craig's schedule hasn't slowed down much since his season ended, but hopefully soon.  I think we all just need one big break--some solid time of no work, no school, no daycare--assuming we can fill our time with more than just electronics and fighting.  One of these days we'll figure out a plan for some form of vacation!  This week is going pretty quickly, thankfully, since we're all excited for the next trip...but I have a lot of packing to do...again :)  One step at a time...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Super Saturday

Jacob and I had a weekend to ourselves this weekend.  Craig was on the road with the Knighthawks for the deciding game of the championship series, and my parents graciously offered to take Carter so I didn't have to wrangle two kids by myself during two long days of tournaments.  Carter isn't thrilled with Jacob's games, and with how long one of these tournaments went last year, I didn't want to take the risk so I was happy for him to get a special weekend alone with them.  I was also looking forward to some mother-son time with Jacob since we don't get a lot of opportunities for that these days.  It wasn't quite the family fun time I was hoping for when I booked the hotel room (even with the knowledge Craig might be traveling), but it was exciting in its own right.

We made the exchange with my parents on Friday after work, and I'll admit it was tough to let Carter go.  He's such a happy kid most of the time and his hugs and kisses are so sweet, so I knew I'd miss that over the weekend.  But I also knew this time was important memory-making, and I figured he'd have a blast.  So off he went!

I had to finish packing up the car, and then we decided--in the interest of time--to just hit up Chick-fil-A on our way out of town.  We had about a 15 minute wait, but it really wasn't bad and it was nice to have something we could eat on the go, to get on the road sooner.  The drive to Syracuse was uneventful (it almost felt short!) and we got settled in our hotel room around 8:30.  The hotel wasn't up to Jacob's standards (ha!), but it was fine.  It was in an area I was familiar with, and it was relatively updated even though it was a little beat up in spots.  No frills, for sure, but fine for us for two nights in which we were basically just avoiding a really early wake-up and extra 90 minute drives. We turned in early because my 5am alarm was early enough without coming in from Rochester!

The next morning brought a gorgeous day.  We partook of the hotel breakfast around 6:30 and were at the tournament shortly after 7am.  Last year when we arrived, the parking was already on the grass at the far end of the property.  This time we were smack in the middle of the lot, which was nice!  I dropped Jacob off with the team and went back to gather up snacks and other supplies for the day.  The weather was a little cloudy but very pleasant.  I had shorts on, but didn't take my jacket off until after the third game, around noon.  It was a huge contrast to last year when it was around 90 most of the day and we were roasting!

The boys won their first game 12-5, but oddly Jacob didn't play much.  He'd left practice early on Thursday after overheating, and when the coach asked me after the first game if he was feeling better, I assumed maybe he didn't play him much because of that.  But the next two games he played a ton, and they won both by good margins, one huge shutout and an 18-4 win.  Jacob had a goal in each, I think, plus at least one assist.  That put us into the semis, which last year had us waiting a couple hours for a game, but this year we had a perfect one shift on, one shift off schedule the whole day.  On top of it, the bathroom and food lines were non-existent, which was also a switch from last year.  They must have either not had as many teams register, or they adjusted times better.  It seemed like every issue we had last year was so much better this year!

In action in game 3

Relaxing between games!
They dominated in the semis (12-0, I think) and then made it to the finals.  As that game wore on, I noticed that Jacob wasn't playing again.  It was a very close game, and we were losing at times, so I figured maybe he wouldn't play as much since he's not one of the top players.  But I still expected him to get shifted in periodically as relief.  In the end he only had one shift, which was really disappointing, but thanks to a last minute goal his team won a nail-biter 9-8!  We were thrilled for them because they did so well all day long!

The celebrating mob
This tournament doesn't have a trophy, but it does have a championship belt!  The boys posed with it as a team, and then took turns holding it individually.

Every kid was remarking how heavy it was, and strapping it around themselves proved difficult, but they were so excited!

We got back to the hotel, and Jacob had this odd idea to do an ice bath, which is supposed to be healing.  He got cross-checked in the back at some point, so he wanted to attend to that if he could.  Of course, he ended up with very little ice, but ran a cold bath and then spent a while trying to get himself in it!

He did, eventually.  He spent maybe 5-10 minutes in it...silly kid.  In the meantime I FaceTimed with my parents and Carter, who were having a great time--aside from a rough bedtime the previous night!  After that, we cleaned ourselves up and headed out so we could hit up the gluten-free bakery that was directly across the street.  Handy!  We pored over their options for a while and both ended up with yummy looking cupcakes and a cookie cup filled with fudge for Jacob.  We could have tried everything, though!

After much discussion, we settled on Outback for dinner.  We ended up sharing steak and shrimp.  He ate the potato side (mashed), I had a side salad, and then I added on sauteed mushrooms for myself.  He ate about 2/3 of the steak and we split the shrimp equally.  It was delicious!  Just before we left we caught the running of the Belmont Stakes, which ended with the 13th-ever Triple Crown winner!  As we waited for the race to start, I tried to explain to Jacob why horse racing is sentimental to me--since my grandfather loved it and we always gathered for the races as a family.  Ironically, the other person in my life who loves horses, Mary, lives five minutes from where we were eating, but unfortunately was out of town with her horse when we were there!

We went back to the hotel after that and settled in for the night.  We were both tired and retreated into our electronics for a bit.  I looked through photos and blogged, and Jacob played games.  I think we both just needed that downtime.  He fell asleep at 9pm, at which point I was just getting geared up to turn on the Knighthawks game on my computer.  I had another 5am wake-up ahead, but of course when your team is in the championship game, it's tough to pass up!  So, Jacob slept and I watched.  It was a very close game for most of it.  I'm going to save the result for my next post, though, since it fits the theme of that one much better. 

But suffice it to say that it was a good day all around.  Nice weather, great games, and a nice time with Jacob.  Now on to Sunday...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Kindergarten Orientation!

No matter how much I try to stop time and keep Carter as my sweet little boy, it's not working!  As a result, earlier this week we found ourselves at Kindergarten orientation!

We obviously went through this five years ago with Jacob, so I pretty much knew what to expect, but I wasn't sure how Carter would react to his first look at Kindergarten.  The funny thing is, we're in that school all the time since it's where Jacob goes to the afterschool program.  But it's a whole different story when we're there for Carter!  All year, since I realized that he'd be there within a year, I'd marvel at the thought of my sweet little boy being in that big school all by himself.  Carter just seems so much younger than Jacob at the same age.  I mean, I had similar concerns with Jacob, but they were more rooted in the ADHD-like symptoms he had then, rather than just seeming, well, young.  As difficult as he was, Jacob had a maturity to him.  Carter still seems a little more babyish sometimes, but I'm not sure if it's because he's smaller, or we baby him too much, or he just has a more innocent, eager personality that contrasts with the seriousness that Jacob often exhibited.  

Based on how he seamlessly interacted with the kids at my Geneseo reunion, I figured Carter would settle in pleasantly well with the other kids, but you just never know.  I dropped him off with the teachers and after a couple hugs, he was fine.  We did have a pleasant surprise when we came up to the teachers, though.  We'd been tipped off by our friend who works at the school that there had been a change in the teaching staff.  It turned out that Jacob's second grade teacher, who he liked, is now going to be teaching Kindergarten.  Unfortunately, his old Kindergarten teacher, who we did not like, still is as well.  Our friend actually recommended Carter to another teacher she thought would fit him best, so I'm hopeful that between the two, maybe we'll get a good one.  I really just don't want him getting Jacob's Kindergarten teacher because she did not get him and I have really negative feelings about our interactions with her.  She just didn't know what to do with him, and while I appreciate the long-term result of her frustrations getting us a head start on the evaluation path, I really hated how difficult things were for him under her that year.  I cried in the parent-teacher conference, for Pete's sake.  Not great.  Just seeing her again brought back such bad memories, so hopefully any other option will be better.

Carter is a sweet kid and is mostly well-behaved, but it's hard to tell what Kindergarten will be like for him.  He loves playing, which isn't really a Kindergarten thing anymore, and he seems to have a much tougher time with writing than Jacob ever did.  I think he learns facts really well--so things like science and history seem like an easier sell--but reading and writing are huge parts of Kindergarten so I worry how that will go.  On the behavior side, sometimes he is immediately cooperative, and sometimes he's impossible.  It's not the constant barrage we had with Jacob, but when he does it, it catches you off-guard a bit.  He's very used to his teachers at daycare, but who knows how he will respond to a new one.  I'm also concerned about having both boys at the afterschool program together, given how they behave at home.  Hopefully they can keep them apart as much as possible, unless they discover some sort of common bond before then!

Anyway, in reading back what was covered at Jacob's orientation, it appears the topics were similar, but they were done in a different way.  Instead of sitting in one room the whole time, they gave us the bulk of the info in one spot, and then moved us into the gym for rotating small group sessions with the nurse, counselor/social worker, occupational/speech therapists, and the parent liaison who also spoke about the PTA.  From there we did the building tour, which I clearly didn't need, and then it was back to the cafeteria for the transportation session.  After that, we got to retrieve our kids and go on the bus with them, which was a step they did parent-less when Jacob did it.  

When I picked him up from his room, he was happily watching Peppa Pig (one of his recent favorites).  He had colored a picture and seemed to have had a good time.  We hopped on a bus for a ride, and of course it was selfie time!

The ride was short, but he seemed to enjoy it.  Now we have to figure out if we can get him up and out early enough to catch the bus!  There's at least a couple kids from the neighborhood who he'd be on the bus with--and his brother for a year if Jacob would actually ride the bus.  I actually found out this week through an impromptu walk with the next door neighbor mom and kid that the mom is trying to figure out a way to avoid Greece schools--either private school or a couple moving scenarios--but she seems very unsure so we'll see if she can figure it out before he needs to end up at our school in the fall by default.  It'd be a shame to lose them just when the boys are getting friendly, but it's not really our call.  

Listening to the speakers was a nice refresher on things, and there were even a few new things, but it was nice to not get overwhelmed like I did the first time.  The only thing that struck me differently is that I had to worry about so many little things with Jacob because of his challenges, and then again there were some things I was just able to ignore, like buying lunch, because of his Celiac Disease.  So, for example, while I didn't have to assume we'd be using the counselor as much this time around, I did have to think about the logistics of possibly having Carter buy lunch.  As much as a lot of this is familiar, I'm sure we have new experiences ahead!

Anyway, after a very busy week, Carter is taking another big boy step this weekend by staying alone with Grandma and Grandpa while Craig is traveling for work and Jacob and I are doing his first lacrosse tournaments of the summer.  More on that stuff in another post...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Anxiety Means to Me...

I've mentioned here a few times recently that I've felt like anxiety has been creeping up on me more and more lately.  I know anxiety hits everyone differently, and I'm sure mine is on the low end, but it's been challenging nonetheless.  I probably need to do something about it soon, either getting with a therapist or just talking to my doctor at my appointment in September.  Maybe I need a low dose of something, or maybe just talking about it would be enough.  It isn't something that takes over my life, but it's getting closer to impacting my functionality.  You'd probably never know, honestly, as I don't have panic attacks or anything visibly amiss, but maybe you'd notice that I'm a little sadder or more distracted than usual when it hits.  But inside it's a series of constant negative thoughts, and a weight that just sits on my chest.

It's generally a stream of worst-case scenarios.  Everything goes to that worst place, whereas it used to be a completely calm and logical risk assessment.  For example, I was watching a commercial the other night for Darien Lake, a regional amusement park, and thought about taking Jacob there at some point, only to think about how terrible I'd feel if somehow Jacob fell out of a roller coaster or otherwise got hurt.  Like...what?!  I can look at that and know it sounds crazy, but it's a legit thought in my head.  It's almost like a superstitious thing, that if I don't think about that scenario it will happen and I'd beat myself up for not considering it.  But instead of just considering it and moving on, I dwell on it.

Even the wonderful offering of my parents to take Carter this weekend so he doesn't have to suffer through Jacob's tournament has been a tough thing to manage.  I worry about him being away from me.  What if his energy is more than my parents can handle?  With all the driving they'll be doing to pick him up and drop him back off, what if there's an accident and something happens to any of them?  Because it feels like I'm taking the easy way out by letting them watch him, I'd never forgive myself if something happened.  It's not that I don't trust them, because I know they'll do everything to keep him safe.  It's just that I know lots of people have great intentions and make great efforts at safety and it still doesn't go as planned.

That's the thing--I think I have some PTSD from something, probably most notably the sudden deaths of my cousin in her late 20s and my other cousin's 13-year-old son.  Why did that have to happen to them?  No one thinks stuff will happen to them, but things do happen.  People get diagnosed with cancer.  Accidents happen.  Why should I assume it wouldn't it happen to us?  I know the usual answer is to trust God, but I'll admit my faith has taken some hits in the midst of this.  I've seen losses that seem impossible to come back from, and even with all the faith in the world there are certain things that feel like nothing could fill that hole.  I don't know what to do about that feeling.  God never promises to shield us from pain, but He does promise to be with us through it.  But what if it doesn't feel that way?  I guess I've also had a hard time as it seems like prayers have gone unanswered in regard to our situation with Jacob and my missing senses of smell and taste.  I know that among those two big ones there are lots of little ones that have been answered, but lately I still feel lost.  I need to overhaul my spiritual life, I know, but I barely know where to start.

Based on the stories above, I'm sure you can assume where my thoughts were going when we were in the thick of Carter's foot issues.  The day or two after each overnight episode were wracked with worry and dread.  We still need to get blood work done, by the way, but my fears eased up a lot when the x-ray was clear.  But then I started worrying about my own health.  My ongoing throat issues got progressively worse.  A few years ago I figured out I probably had reflux because of a couple symptoms I was having, and a year or so later I saw an ENT because it felt like something was stuck in my throat.  He diagnosed some sort of spasm in my throat, possibly stress-related.  Last fall, a week before I got sick with a long-lasting virus, my throat started hurting when I burped--but only on one side.  I figured later it had to do with the cold, but then it stuck around--as did the cold.  Eventually I think it got better, as I don't remember the throat thing bothering me for a while, but then a month or two ago it came back.  I wondered if it was allergies, or my reflux acting up, or God forbid something much worse.  I tried getting an appointment at the ENT a month or so ago, but they never called me back.  But then it got better for a couple weeks (when I was taking omeprazole again, just in case), but then it came back and I got twice as worried that it was cancer or something bad, being only on one side and feeling like something was pushing on my neck at times.  Sometimes the fear was almost paralyzing, and it definitely took over my thoughts a lot of the time. 

Luckily I got into the ENT rather quickly, and after a scope, it was deemed to be inflammation from reflux.  It was a huge relief and obviously a huge answer to prayer.  Of course, I don't do a lot of reflux-worsening behaviors, so I think it really rests solely on my stress level right now, which is still very high from things being insane at work all day and exhausting at home with the boys at night.  Add in that tournament season is starting and the school year is ending, and everything is nuts.  If it gives you any idea of how bad things were, the problem improved by a ton just by the mental relief that resulted from the confirmation that it was nothing serious.  How crazy is that?  Of course, I still have a couple other concerns on the back burner (dermatologist appointment coming in August, for one), but for now I'm okay again. 

I don't want to worry anyone--because truly, I'm okay and I know there's help available if I need it, and I'm at the point where I understand that it may be necessary when it flares up again.  But I felt it was important to share--not just because it's my policy to be honest here, but also because it's part of our story, at least my part of our story.  This is parenthood, I guess, where every little thing--whether it impacts you or your kids directly or indirectly--seems larger than life sometimes.  In 24 days the worst of the work stuff will be over for a bit, and then maybe I can work on the rest a little more calmly.  In the meantime, please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers if you can.  Every little bit helps. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

When Jacob's Away...

This weekend was Jacob's 2nd annual training camp for his travel lacrosse team.  It's an entire weekend on a college campus with his coaches and teammates, with practices, fun activities, and faith-building programming.  Last year we had pulled him out for part of Saturday because he wanted to play for his house team, so I'm not sure he got the full effect then, but this year it would be an entire weekend without him.  He was a little hesitant this year--mostly because of limited gluten-free options, it seemed--but once we got there, he seemed to loosen up.  I think it was a relief to see who his roommate was, and once we got his bed made and both sets of parents got to say embarrassing things and bid them farewell, they were on their own!

Roommate pic

Who is this big kid?!
I won't lie, it's a little intimidating to leave your nearly-10-year-old on a college campus with a couple hundred other kids and a few dozen coaches, but they have a great program in place and this is always one of those little steps you need to let your kid take in preparation for big steps down the road.  I was actually a little jealous as I drove away, thinking of what it would have been like to be parent-free for a few days at that age, and thinking back to my first moments alone at college.  Ahhhh.

It's always fun to have Carter solo since it's so rare for him to be alone with us.  We decided to broaden his horizons with dinner at Applebee's, and he very much enjoyed his corndog and chocolate milk!  Interestingly, I found out a couple hours later that someone ran into the building with their car, on the same side we parked on, shortly after we left!  No major damage, I guess, but funny that we never go there and the one night we do, that happens!

The next day Craig was off to work for game two of the Knighthawks' championship series.  They lost the previous weekend in Saskatchewan, so it was do-or-die.  We as a family were having a bit of a conundrum, as a win would keep them in the running for a championship, but it would also mean that Craig had to travel again and he'd have to miss Jacob's first tournament weekend in Syracuse.  I've probably never been so torn about a game, let alone a championship one.  More on the game in a bit.  Carter and I had a pretty quiet morning, with me puttering around the house trying to clean up and organize all the stuff I hadn't done all week--months' worth of photographing (and disposing of) the kids' artwork, wiping down the bathroom, starting some laundry, etc.  My parents came around 2pm, and after a little catching up we were off to do some geocaching!

We went to a trail not far from our house.  It's an interesting spot, and we found three caches along the path.  One was among weeds as tall as Carter!

Of course I took this as an opportunity to do some nature photography.  This was maybe only as big as a half dollar, but the little dandelions all on one skinny stem (rather than the thick tubular ones I've seen before) were sort of cute...
Each bloom was probably only as big as a dime

And, of course, a buttercup!

This was the view from the top of the hill we had to go down to find that first cache.  It was pretty!

The second cache was challenging as it was hard to find the path just to get to it--again because the weeds were taller than Carter--but this one was in a large metal ammo box so it had some little prizes for Carter to choose from.  He picked a ninja turtle with karate chop action!

This one had cute flowers nearby, too.  These reminded me of strawberry flowers, but I don't think they were.

These were seriously the cutest.  Tiny blue and yellow flowers in clusters.  Each flower was maybe a quarter inch in diameter.  Apparently these are forget-me-nots, which just recently got some publicity because Prince Harry selected them for Meghan Markle's bouquet in honor of his mom, who loved them.  I had no idea that's what they looked like, and I absolutely adore them!

Then it was on to the third cache further down the main path.  Carter found this one (with a little direction) inside a rotting tree!

Finally it was time to turn back.  Carter was a little grumpy about geocaching when we started, but seemed to perk up as we went along--aside from the endlessly long path!  But between piggy back riding and him deciding it was fun to run ahead, we made it.

Grandpa and Carter...awwww.
After a failed attempt at one more and a really quick one in a nearby parking lot, we headed home to recuperate for a bit.  Soon it was time for dinner, and Carter nearly fell asleep on the way there!  But when he woke up he was treated to his first sub!  Remember, we live in a gluten-free environment most of the time, and sub rolls are not too frequently done gluten-free, so it just hasn't been a thing for us.  He recently discovered his love for mayo, and Grandpa gladly shared his turkey sub with him.  Carter loved it! 

After dinner we killed some time at Highland Park, where the Lilac Festival is held.  We had to go back to the cool natural playground, and Carter had a blast running around while Grandpa and Grandma snuck in a couple more caches.  Even I went off with my mom to try to find one, but that one wasn't as successful.  The playground wasn't quite as busy as during the festival, but it was close!  We couldn't resist a couple pictures in this little nook :) 

After that it was off to the Knighthawks game.  Like I said, we were a bit torn about the outcome as it's not ideal to have Craig miss Jacob's first tournament weekend.  But, alas, we were at the mercy of the Knighthawks who played a pretty amazing game and are now one game from another championship.  It's obviously great for the players and for Craig who spend a long season fighting for a chance like this, but even Craig wasn't thrilled by the idea of another road trip.  I think it kills him a little to miss Jacob play, too, but if they win I'm sure it will all be worth it.  Of course, my heart's a tiny bit broken that I have to miss this game--not that I'd be going anyway because flights to Saskatoon are definitely out of the budget these days--but after moving heaven and earth to make it to the last two wins on the road (and seeing them in person at home for two others), not being there for this one will certainly feel a little weird.  Even weirder, I guess, that I'll probably be sitting in my hotel room watching it on my computer (hopefully with a sleeping Jacob but probably not!), rather than with a bunch of rabid fans.  Does it even count if it happens that way?!  I guess it's fine if we get a good celebration later, but nothing's like that moment and sharing it with other people.  Or maybe they'll lose and it'll all have been for nothing.

Anyway, Sunday was a little awkward because Craig slept in and Carter and I went off to church.  It was mom group week so we were there longer, which meant we missed Craig heading off to Jacob's training camp for a parent meeting, practice, and pick-up.  It poured on practice, too, so I'm glad we had to miss it!  Carter and I kept things pretty low-key, and that mood continued once the boys got back sometime after 3pm.  Everyone was tired and Jacob was out by 9pm.

Now we have a cool start to the week (after 90s last week) and I'm in the midst of trying to figure out what I need to pack for the weekend.  My parents generously offered to take Carter for the weekend, which will kill me just a little bit because I'm not away from him often and he's such a little bright light in my day.  But I know that he won't be that happy at the tournament and with only one parent to bear the brunt of that boredom (and countless bathroom trips), while also needing to attend to any needs of the big kid, it's hard.  Not impossible, but definitely a very possible source of frustration.  I know he'll have more fun with them, and they offered, so I need to just suck it up and let go.  Jacob and I should get some good bonding time out of the deal, which is important, too.  It's a far cry from the family bonding I was hoping for, but we'll make it work.  I'm totally out of tournament mode, though, so I need to get back into it quickly and figure out what snacks we need, what tricks I'm forgetting, and make backup plans for food and entertainment!  We'll be just down the road from Mary so I'd like to see her, but I know Jacob wants team time so I need to wait and see how that pans out.  It's all only just beginning, though, so I need to buckle down and take a deep breath.  It's all fun, but it takes a lot of work!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Something Special

Today I had a reunion with a group of friends from college.  This particular get-together occurs every five years and is with the group from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the organization that changed my college experience and the rest of my life.  It's mostly for those who participated back in the 90s, so there's a group that's a few years older than me, a lot from my era, and a few from more recent years.  Even though I didn't go to school with some of the older folks, some lived close by when I was in college, and others participated as group leaders at retreats or popped into large group meetings periodically.  There were always stories told, so they're still familiar to some degree and they've been the driving force behind these reunions for a while now.

I was a little disappointed as the guest list took shape for this one.  For every person I was excited to see, there were a bunch that weren't coming.  A lot of them were in for an adult dinner get-together tonight, but with Craig on the road and the kids as they are, it would have been complicated.  So, I just had to make the best of it at the picnic.  And honestly, my heart is so full tonight.

Mary couldn't make it, unfortunately, and obviously she was central to my college experience.  Hopefully I'll have as many as two chances to see her in the next month, so that's good, but given the inseparable pair we were back then, I figure it always freaks people out a bit when one of us is missing!  But I did get to see a number of people I haven't seen in years--probably since the last one--and with five years of kid growth all around, it was a little mind-blowing.  We mostly just caught up and reminisced as we ate, and it was great. 

As for the kids, they literally ran off as we arrived and ended up having a blast.  Jacob spent the entire day on the basketball court, eventually being joined by a handful of other boys.  Carter was in his glory on the playground, and after lunch he had more friends than he could count.  I tried to check in periodically, but they were generally self-sufficient and didn't need more than a couple water breaks the entire five hours we were there!  Amazing what happens with other kids around!

Highlight #1 of my day was seeing Pastor Dave (a.k.a. Papa Dave).  He was our father figure at college, a pastor of the church we went to and part of the Intervarsity staff.  He was a wise man, so gentle and welcoming, while being young at heart and a perfect addition to our lunch time conversations in the union lounge.  He is one of my favorite people in the world to this day.  His face lights up each time I see him, and he remembers infinite numbers of details of interactions he had with all of us.  This is nearly 20 years ago for me, and more with the older crew, and he still remembers.  All this from a man who almost died in his 40s from a brain hemorrhage.  He's one of the most incredible, genuine people I've ever met.  He's now 70 (though I swear he looks almost the same) and I guess there's always the thought in the back of my mind that he won't be around each chance I have to see him, I savor it.  Today he recounted how shocked he was when I got my internship with the Amerks, as it was pretty out there for a shy, reserved girl like me to drive into the city multiple times a week.  He was always such a voice of reason, but everyone's biggest cheerleader at the same time.  He was always tickled by Mary's and my friendship, and because his daughter loves horses, that was a special bond he had with Mary.  Anyway, seeing him--and hearing his remarks during the sharing part of the event--was truly great.

Dave and me on my graduation day 18 years ago - he always said that we couldn't leave campus without a signed note from God, and someone today said that they forged theirs and that's why they now are back on campus as a professor!
Highlight #2 happened during the worship time.  I was standing across from the door and happened to look out and see a familiar face walking up from the parking lot.  It was one of my dearest friends, Ted.  Ted and I have a bit of a complicated history, I suppose, but his friendship was one of the best things I took away from those four years...and he was only really a major part of two of them.  It all started one day during my junior year during one of those aforementioned lunchtime conversations in the union.  I was recounting to Pastor Dave my mixed feelings about my very dear high school friend Mike's "outing".  I'd found out through a friend that Mike was gay, and given that he was one of my best friends, I was crushed.  Certainly I was worried because he'd been a Christian, so I wasn't sure where that left his faith, and HIV was still a big deal back then and he hadn't dated much even when he was straight so I wasn't sure how careful he knew to be.  But the worst part was that he was afraid to tell me.  That lack of trust hurt more than anything, and I was reeling about all of it.  Dave gave me some advice, and Ted just happened to be there.  Even though we hadn't ever talked much, I spilled the whole story to him.  He was easy to talk to and put me more at ease.  That conversation led to more long ones, and conveniently he lived in my dorm, so sometimes conversations went long into the night.  The thing was, while we did develop feelings for each other rather quickly, the friendship came first for so long and it was a huge lesson for both of us in patience and restraint.  My suitemates couldn't believe we could talk all night without anything happening, but truly, nothing did.  I think this all started in October, and by December we knew things had to progress, but we were so careful about moving forward.  We did eventually date for a little bit, but I got flaky at some point and it didn't work out.  Once we got past that awkwardness, our friendship resumed and he was a huge part of my college experience.  Since then, though, I think I've only seen him twice.  He happened to pass through town the day I moved to Rochester and kept me company on that first night.  He came into town a year later and a group of us went to the zoo together, but by then I was with Craig and I suppose guy-girl friendships with former flames can be weird.  Seventeen years later, he's lived all over and we're both married with kids, but a recent move back to New York allowed him to make it in today.  I almost didn't believe my eyes when I saw him walking up, and all this time later it meant the world to see him.  Our friendship means the world to me.  And he's still the same guy, just a grown-up version! :)

But as a whole, it was just amazing to look around at so many people, realizing that once we were all just kids and now our kids are all playing together.  It was crazy to realize that collectively we've created this whole new generation, and all these years later we know we had something so special that we still care enough to get together and catch up with each other for a few hours.  I'd do it every year, honestly.  It really struck me as Dave spoke that as much as we knew it was something special, it truly was a unique and special experience to have those four years to bond and grow together.  I'll admit my work on my faith now isn't quite what it was back then, and that's not good--but today was a reminder how great it was back then and how I should be doing better now.  It made for such a fulfilling time, socially, spiritually, and academically, and nothing may ever match it.  But I'm so glad it happened and grateful for a little peek into the past today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stop and Smell the Lilacs

This past weekend was our last "family togetherness" weekend at home for a while.  Craig is on the road this weekend, working next Saturday (and Jacob will be at lacrosse training camp), and then Jacob's first tournament is the week after that, at which point Craig might be on the road again, too. After that it's one tournament, one weekend in Buffalo, then two more tournaments...and maybe then we'll get some good family time at home!

The weather wasn't stellar this weekend--in fact Carter and I skipped Jacob's last two house lacrosse games because it was pouring (so I watched the royal wedding on DVR instead).  I spent much of the weekend trying to get the house cleaned (love my new vacuum!), but other than dinner out Saturday we didn't really have many plans.  But on Sunday, I knew I really wanted to get to the last day of the Lilac Festival.  It was cool and drizzly in the morning but by later in the afternoon the sun came out a little and it warmed up.  After some yard work and a lot of prodding, we dragged the boys off.

Parking is always a pain, but luckily the boys were good sports about the walk.  But immediately upon entering the grounds, Jacob made a beeline for the food vendor with Icees.  They're actually one of the few things we trust at stuff like that.  We continued to wander past vendors and eventually ran into friends of ours who we chatted with a while.  But eventually Carter got antsy and the playground that was our main destination was right around the corner.  It's a new playground made out of natural materials, and it's pretty cool.
Notice all the logs...and some had been flattened on top for easy navigation

I had a picture of Carter so I needed one of Jacob too!
Ignore Mr. Serious in the foreground and check out the stuff in the background--logs, rocks, and more.  There was a large wooden bridge and a teepee, as well.  Carter loved it and even Jacob liked walking around it.  I can definitely see us making a return visit when it's not so busy!

After playing, we walked across the street to one of the main areas of lilacs in the park.  I tried really hard to get a picture to update one I got the last time we went, and this was as much of a challenge as that one!  I have to share the outtakes, though...
This is an "almost" except Jacob is actually purposely making a weird face, and his arms are strange.

This was a lucky shot just because Carter flipped out immediately after because of Jacob's arm.

Much better!

We tried a closer one, but this one almost went downhill the second I took the picture because Carter was adamant that Jacob not touch him!  He was practically hovering here, but when Carter noticed it, he lost it and demanded I delete the picture!
Of course the highlight of the festival--aside from food, I suppose--is the foliage.  The lilacs were either almost done or not quite open yet, but they were pretty.  I sure wish I could smell!

This tree looked like some variety of crabapple tree, and the pink was stunning.

Such a pretty pansy...

After this we headed over to the poutine food truck because Jacob wanted gluten-free poutine.  We all snacked a little on that as we walked over to the Kids' Zone, where Carter got to pick one thing to do and chose the inflatable obstacle course.  I think he's officially a pro now! 

We didn't get to see as much as I would have liked, but it was getting later and we took off before the kids got too tired or cranky or any of us got too hungry.  I was happy to get Jacob a treat since it's not easy to coordinate visiting that food truck, but the rest of us needed a more affordable and less mobile dinner!  I'm just happy we got to go, and hopefully next year when I bring it up I won't get the rolling eyes and grumpy response I got this year.

In other news, another week is in full swing.  Craig is off to Canada today, back late tonight, then off again tomorrow morning for the Knighthawks' first game of the championship.  He'll be gone until Sunday evening.  We'll have a couple picnics to keep us busy here--one with my college friends, and another with my family--thankfully all here in Rochester.  I'm currently debating how I want to spend a free few hours on Friday afternoon if we get out of work early like usual, though most likely I'll be buying stuff for my garden and getting it planted so it's ready whenever the rain comes this weekend and before things get too crazy.  We have so many busy weeks ahead, though at least we got our hotels all booked for Jacob's tournaments and can officially start planning our side trips and scoping out food options.  Part of me is dreading the exhausting stretch, but the other part of me knows this is the most exciting part of our summer so I need to embrace the crazy and enjoy the ride.  It'll be fine, really.  I just need to get back in the travel groove ASAP!