Sunday, February 18, 2018

Soccer and Stuff

This week we finished off Carter's six weeks of soccer.  We're sorry it's over, but I'll be happy to get my normal grocery shopping night back since I feel like our schedule has been wonky since soccer took over Tuesday nights!  That's Jacob's normal practice night so it was always easy for Carter and me to grocery shop during that time and meet the guys at home for a late dinner.  Instead we had to take over another night for shopping, which led to another late dinner.  But I loved watching him play soccer and having a night to run into lacrosse friends, so I'll definitely miss that a bit!

A couple weeks ago they had the kids playing with the parachute, which was fun to watch.  I loved parachute day in gym class when I was a kid, so it was cool to see Carter get to enjoy it, too.  

Flapping it around

Getting some air

Running underneath the mushroom
It seemed like everyone had a lot of fun, and it made me smile to watch!  I have no idea what it had to do with soccer, but I think it's more about getting the kids moving and maybe offering something up to kids who may not have embraced the soccer part as much.

Last time we went to Jacob's therapy appointment, we were talking about Jacob's amazing setup of Hot Wheels Football a year ago.  That--and the Superbowl--inspired him to do it again.  I actually have a video of the whole setup, but I know he'd probably freak out with that floating around on the internet a few years from now, so we'll stick with the photos.  

He re-did the field signs on his Playmobil soccer field, set up some spectators, and even had a band for halftime.  He also used a flashlight for the pregame show.


He freehanded that helmet using a YouTube How To Draw tutorial
He was very proud to show the therapist everything this past week, and it kept the boys busy for a couple nights, which is always helpful.  Let me tell you, when Jacob is passionate about something, he really goes all out!

On our way to soccer this week, we stopped at a grocery store on the way to pick up something I forgot for Carter's Valentine's party, and since he had been singing on the way there, I asked him to do it again on video.  Thankfully, he obliged.  I have no idea where this came from, though since he was going to soccer I suppose it was appropriate.  But tell me this isn't the cutest thing...


The last night of soccer was bittersweet.  It definitely took me back to Jacob's last night, Valentine's Day 2013, otherwise known as the hardest day of my pregnancy with Carter and the day before he was born.  In fact, there was a pregnant mom next to us when we got there and I could sort of tell she was "done" for the day, much like I was that night five years ago.  Ahhhhh, memories.

I finally got off my butt and took a few pictures of the action...
Ready to throw down the ball to kick it into the net

Someone caught my lurking with the camera and decided to pose!

Kicking his ball in
After the session, the coach handed out certificates to all the kids and posed them for a photo...

They finished off with one last huddle and cheer...

Proud graduate!
Hopefully this does not mark the end of Carter's soccer career.  I have do to a little research to find the best fit for him in the next few months.  I think there are at least a couple soccer programs to choose from--one in our town and another that's through a local megachurch that owns their own sports facilities.  I think I'd prefer that one (and I think the timing is better for avoiding Jacob's lacrosse schedule), but we'll have to see what's available, what's affordable, and what the schedules end up being.  I can't say he's going to be the next superstar, but he sure does have fun, so it's definitely worth pursuing for now!  Now if only the weather would get nice so he could get outside and work on his skills!

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Big Day!

So, yesterday was Carter's big day!  I suppose it didn't feel so big when he had to go to daycare and we had to work, but I think we made the best of it.  Heck, when I was a kid I was a little jealous of friends whose birthdays fell on school days (mine was always the week before school started) because they got to see their friends and pass out treats.  I think I got to do it once school started, but it never felt the same.  So as much as all of us would probably prefer a special day together, he probably had just as much fun bringing a snack (donuts) to his friends and generally getting showered with "Happy Birthday!" all day.

Anyway, let's rewind to Wednesday night.  Craig was in Canada, I'd given the boys some candy for their Valentine's Day present, and we were settling in to play before bedtime when Carter asked me to play with him.  We played cars and Carter was being so good that I decided I needed to take a picture of him on his last night as a four-year-old.  I'm not gonna lie--five is a tough one for me.  That is officially big boy territory, and not even a little bit baby era anymore.  I can pretend for a little while since he's still in preschool, but man...five sounds so big!

Anyway, I absolutely LOVE this picture.

I love this kid so much.  After that he wanted to put on his badge and have me take a picture of him...so I did.

I have been nervous the past few days about Carter getting sick, because a couple kids in his class have had stomach bugs this week.  Then when he woke up on his birthday complaining about his stomach "muscles" being sore from playing with Jacob the day before, I got nervous.  Who knows what he can figure out about his body at this point?  By some miracle he hasn't had a stomach bug in a couple years, so I don't think he remembers much.  As a result of my nervousness, I made sure to take our annual picture in the morning, just in case, because I knew the result would be significantly worse if he came home sick.  I took two shots and in both he looks giant and grown up, doesn't he?


Luckily, he got through the day just fine, so we were able to have the fun evening we had planned.  First up was presents!

He got two Hot Wheels cars, a cool Scooby-Doo t-shirt...

...three books, including a Lego Ninjago reader, a Lego word book that will be great when he does start reading, and one called "The Scrambled States of America" that anthropomorphizes the states.  I got it through the Kohl's Cares rack a while back and it looks cute.  I figure it'll be a good way to start him recognizing state shapes now!

He also got an Imaginext Yeti Catapult he'd had his eye on, and hearing him triumphantly say "Catapult!" when he saw it was pretty cute!  His big gift was one that I was very excited about.  Part of me was terrified he'd hate it, but it's probably one of the only kid gifts ever that I wanted to get out and play with before his birthday ever arrived!  I knew it was something he loves to play with at daycare, but maybe he wouldn't be as interested at home? 

But he liked it!  It remains to be seen how often he'll want to play with them, but so far he's excited about his new magnetic tiles...and good thing because--shhhhh--Grandma got a different set for him, too! 
I swear he posed like that by himself!
Once the gifts were done, we headed out to Chuck E. Cheese!  


We ate pizza, played a bunch of games, and ultimately only got five long Tootsie Rolls with some bonus tickets we won off our cups.  The boys opted to save the big batches of tickets.  We have them going back a few years now, so hopefully one of these years there will be something they really want...and can agree on!  A big bunch of last night's tickets came from Jacob's big win on this captain's wheel game--he got the jackpot, 100 tickets!

My only regret is that the photo machine was out of paper, because we have three pictures on our fridge from this time of year going back to when Carter was just a baby!  As a whole the boys got along well and Jacob even tried to help Carter with a few games.  We had a little time for Carter to play with his toys when we got home, and then it was time for bed!  It didn't feel like enough celebrating to do him justice, but I know he had a good day and we're all looking forward to his party next weekend!

It blows my mind to think my baby is so big, since this seemed impossibly far away five years ago.  And suddenly, we're here!  We started his new year with his well visit this morning, and we found out he grew three inches this year!  Of course, I don't think he gained much weight because his BMI is down to the 5th percentile now, but his doctor doesn't seem too concerned.  We'll keep an eye on a couple things for now, but since he seems perfectly fine, so far so good.  He does now have a major fear of needles (as confirmed by his last blood work and today's four shots--poor kid), so God forbid he needs surgery because the IV will pretty much make him lose his mind.  But I can't complain...he's still the sweetest, most charming little boy I could have asked for, and as I told him, as long as he keeps giving me hugs and kisses, he's allowed to keep growing up!  Happy 5th Birthday Carter!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

FIVE!

Dear Carter,

Half a decade?  How?!  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was dragging through the last few days of being pregnant with you (not that I knew it at the time!), worried that I was going to go into labor any minute.  I was so excited to meet you, but I also knew that this was probably my last time being pregnant so I wanted to try to enjoy those last moments as much as I could.  You definitely didn't make it easy, and it was such a relief when you were born early!  You were my tiny little baby, and now you're five!  You're already a few months older than your brother was when you were born, you're going to Kindergarten in the fall, and you are turning into such a big boy right before my eyes!  I just can't believe it.

I won't lie--this year has been a trying one.  You've always been a sweet boy, but lately you've been testing boundaries and making your opinions known.  You know what you want, you know when you don't want to stop, you're pretty specific about what you eat, and you're not a fan of bedtime.  "No" has become a frequently uttered word, and you're not afraid to use your fists (or feet) of fury to show us your displeasure.  I know that a lot of the aggression comes from being used to having to defend yourself around your brother, so even though we remind you it's not appropriate, especially at daycare, I know it's going to be a tough habit to break.  We're working on it.

Speaking of which, your relationship with your brother is probably odder than ever--one minute you each think the other is the best friend you've ever had, and the next you're beating each other up.  You like being a part of his big kid stuff, and he likes having a built-in playmate.  But then someone oversteps a boundary, and you're both immediately having a physical battle over the dumbest little thing.  You hold your own most of the time, but Daddy and I are pretty tired of refereeing and telling you guys, "I told you so," when one or the other comes over to us with an injury.  It scares me to see you guys like this, but the handful of good moments provide more hope than we've had previously that at some point you might learn to tolerate one another.

One of the side effects of keeping our sanity around you two is that we've probably let electronics rule the roost a bit more than we'd like.  And much like your brother has always taken to sports, you take to screens.  When we started noticing that you were less able to turn them off when needed, we had to limit them a lot more.  You can still use your Leap Pad when needed, and maybe your hand-me-down Leapster once in a while, but things like the tablet, Daddy's phone, or Grandpa's iPad are only for special occasions.  The educational stuff I don't mind, but the mindless stuff we're trying to limit because you're smarter than that!  As a result of more screen time recently, your regular toys have been a bit lonely, but we're trying to reverse that trend a bit.  Hopefully you will continue to rediscover things you like now that we're getting you back on the right track.  It helps when Jacob wants to have toy "battles" with you, because every Lego, Imaginext, Playmobil, and army guy in your possession becomes part of the fight.  So at least you're still playing with those!  But you do still like your Hot Wheels cars and books, and you like to play around with your stuffed animals.  I know there's imagination in there, and I want to find it again!

You have taken up a new love lately--soccer!  Your brother is annoyed it isn't lacrosse, but I keep telling him that he should do what he can to nurture this like, because maybe it will lead to a love of others down the road!  We started you playing soccer at the beginning of January, and you really love it!  I can't say you're the next superstar, but the joy on your face when you're running around or helping your coach afterward is so sweet.  Your six weeks ended earlier this week (one day short of five years to the day when Jacob finished his--on the day before you were born!), so now we're on the hunt for a team to join once the weather gets nice.  Looks like I might end up being a soccer mom after all!  And a goalie mom at that, since you seem awfully fond of that net!

Even though I feel like you're more of a social butterfly than Jacob ever was, you also appear to be more of an introvert.  I think that's part of the reason you love video games and TV shows so much, because it gives you a way to chill...and given how you're usually running at top speed, I can see how it might be needed.  Many days you ask if you can stay home from daycare.  You ask for Mommy-Carter days or Daddy-Carter days (or the almighty Mommy-Daddy-Carter day) quite often, and we've been giving you a few here and there since school starts in the fall and we won't be able to have that one-on-one time on random days anymore.  We love those days as much as you do!

You are such a different kid than Jacob ever was, so raising you has been quite the adventure.  I figured we'd be old pros at this by now, but your addition to our family has definitely kept us on our toes.  I can't complain, though, since you have saved me many times from thinking I can't do anything right!  When I'm feeling down about something, you're the first to run in with a hug and kiss.  You tell me all the time, randomly, that you love me, and you give me the sweetest compliments, like that I'm "the best cook!"  Your smile brightens my day and your snuggles are the best!

You have a big year ahead of you.  You'll graduate from daycare, maybe start a real team sport, and  go to school.  You'll start learning to read books and write words.  You'll make new friends and start taking those small steps out into the world.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that, but for now we'll do it together.  I will savor every moment where you'll still hold my hand, give me kisses, and cuddle me on the couch.  They won't last much longer, so I'll take what I can get.  You're my last little boy and watching you grow has been equally awesome and sad.  I know how fast this all goes, and each stage with you has been such a joy that it's hard to watch one pass, no matter how great the next one is!  I love you so much and I'm so proud to be your mama.

Happy 5th Birthday sweet boy!

Love,
Mommy

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Evolution of the Mental Load

I know I've mentioned this here before, and probably relatively recently, but not long ago I saw another blog post or article about the "mental load", the term for all of the stuff that women (generally moms) take on the brunt of in the home.  It's all the remembering for almost everyone, about everything.  The article was actually about how a couple tries to divide their mental load evenly because the wife expressed her frustration about carrying the bulk of it.  While I applaud their efforts, I wonder what remains undone that the wife just has to let go of, and how much of it ends up being essential stuff.  I can't even imagine what would happen if we tried that.  Part of me feels like we'd only end up worse off because I know things would be missed and somehow I'd end up either dealing with the fallout or feeling guilty about it.  Clearly I don't "let go" very easily.

Recently I got to thinking about how we got to where we are now, where I feel overwhelmed by my share of the mental load.  I realized that it's been a gradual build, but that the main turning point was new motherhood...and most of the evolution is my fault.  But before I get to that, let's look at where we started.  When we were first married, we both worked long hours.  We didn't have a lot of stuff to worry about.  We only had two people--and later a house--to keep track of, and very little of it was urgent.  So, other than Christmas, I feel like things were pretty laid back and easy enough to manage.  We had each lived alone separately before we got married, so we each had a pretty good grasp of our own needs at the time, and divvying up everything else seemed to balance out pretty well.  Anything extra I took on was only because a) I was probably more finicky from the start (i.e., more effort spent decorating, cleaning, cooking, etc.); and b) I didn't travel for work like Craig did, which gave me free weekends and a bit more time to take care of anything that we'd otherwise consider joint.  Then I changed jobs and our free time became even more unbalanced.  While he worked or traveled all weekend, I was home and free to do whatever I wanted.  Perhaps partly out of guilt but mostly out of reason, I took on a bit more.

Then we had a baby.  My realization that spawned this post is that an increased mental load was a coping mechanism for new motherhood.  I was so intent on being the best mother possible that I subconsciously vowed to learn everything possible about my baby so I'd be well-equipped to deal with any issues.  I'd be the master of his eating and sleeping schedules, so that if he cried, I'd know what might soothe him.  I'd be aware of how many diapers we had left so I'd never be caught without a backup.  I'd be the master of the diaper bag because I wanted to be sure we had the exact extra set of clothes we'd need if we had a blowout.  It was a period of forcing myself to take in all of those details so I never found myself unprepared or incapable of taking care of my baby.  Because I nursed and because of Craig's schedule, I also spent more time with Jacob and needed that knowledge more than he did anyway.  Add in sleep deprivation and general new parent panic, and you can imagine that it was pretty much survival mode for a while.  But looking back, if I could have squeezed in just a bit more time to teach Craig some of my tips and tricks, or to empower him to think through the scenarios, I should have.  Sometimes he doesn't absorb details as much as I'd like, though, and I think I probably figured it was a waste of time to tell him something he'd probably forget anyway.

As time went on, things continued to migrate in my direction.  I did the majority of the daycare dropoffs and pickups, so I was the one that knew his teachers and remembered to share details with them each day.  I was the one doing the main grocery shopping, so not only did I have to remember the essentials, but it just made sense that I'd pick up things for Craig since I was going to the store anyway, be it shampoo or razor blades or snacks.  I've always been the cook, but that got more complicated once Jacob started eating real food, and even worse when Carter picked up an intolerance and Jacob ended up with Celiac disease.  I  was also the one to remember to buy snacks or supplies for class parties or activities.

Because I'm generally more organized, I also became the person who had all of the contact information to fill out daycare or school forms, or to call the doctor's office for most appointments.  And because I remember details better, it usually made sense for me to be the one to go to those appointments to ensure I knew exactly what the doctor said.  To be fair, Craig has done his fair share of sick visits with the kids, probably in part because I'm more hesitant (at least outside of flu season) to run to the doctor for something that may be an untreatable virus.  Taking time off of work and paying a co-pay to simply be told it will pass makes me crazy, so he's stepped in among my hesitance quite a bit to take them in anyway.  So there's that.  But if it's a long-standing appointment?  I need to be the one remembering it.

Long story short, it's been this evolution of me taking on a little more here and there--partly because his schedule is busier and partly because I am more neurotic about knowing everything.  And now we're at a point where we're both being pushed to limits and neither of us feels capable of taking more on.  He's not accustomed to needing to be more aware of the big picture, and I panic when I lose my grasp on it.  So what now?

I want to be clear--Craig is a good father.  He cares deeply and does everything he can to keep the kids happy.  He handles the majority of Jacob's sports, and he's happy to take advantage of his more flexible work schedule when he can if something comes up, be it an appointment or a class party.  He works his butt off every day of the week, even working from home most nights.  He still finds time to play with the kids--either sports outside or their epic Lego-army guy-Imaginext-Playmobil battles inside.  He was a bit under the weather for a couple weeks recently, and while he hung in there pretty well, I'll admit I had a hard time being a great partner through it.  It only compounded the pressure I normally feel that I need to handle it all.  I'm sure my self-induced guilt isn't helping matters, either but I just don't know what to do sometimes...and yet I also know it could be so much worse, so what's my problem?

I'm tired, I'm stressed at work, and I'm forgetting things, which was never really the case before.  I haven't had an extended break from work in a long time, and while I know Craig's roadtrips are not vacations, changes of scenery can be renewing in their own way.  I need a vacation.  Preferably with Craig, but I'll take what I can get as long as the kids aren't involved.  I love them, but I need some mental and physical space for a few days.  But it's no secret that they are absolutely brutal to deal with together, so I feel guilty leaving them with anyone.  I feel like the only way we can do it is by separating them and having different parts of the family watch each of them.  But that involves it needing to be when school is out, which complicates things.  Early summer is dominated by Jacob's lacrosse tournaments, and late summer is super busy for me at work.  And then there's the matter of digging into savings for something like this, and the horror of coming back to a pile of work, and maybe it's not worth it after all.  I just feel paralyzed.

I'm sorry if this comes across as complainy.  Usually this blog ends up where I vent and talk myself through things.  Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't.  I guess I'm just at a loss as to why I'm so worn out, even though on the surface things are fine.  I have a loving husband, two kids, a nice house, a good job, great extended family, and everyone is generally in good health.  The important stuff is all there.  I know I could use a vacation, I know Jacob is no easy task and the kids together are exhausting, and I know I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well.  Winter has a way of dragging everyone down, and maybe it's time I go see someone to figure out if that's part of my problem.  But I feel like so many other people, in far worse circumstances, find ways to get stuff done and find joy in their daily life...and despite my efforts, I'm firmly entrenched in blah.  I need a break, I need spring, and I need my kids to just leave each other alone, FTLOG!  Maybe then...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Mommy-Carter Day

Wednesday was our long awaited "Mommy-Carter Day".  I'd promised one to Carter back in December, and had fully intended on doing it sometime in January, but with having MLK Day off, a couple days for my uncle's funeral, and a busier than expected month at work, I could only squeak it in on the last day of January.  As I've probably mentioned before, we're valuing these days more as we count down to Kindergarten in the fall (paperwork came a week ago and registration is next week!).  Once school hits, we won't have the luxury of taking him out whenever we feel like it, and all of his days off will be on the same schedule as Jacob, so he won't get the solo time he craves.  He's never known life without Jacob around, and therefore he values the times when he can have one or more parents to himself.  That was all Jacob knew for more than four years, hence his trouble with his brother's arrival, and Jacob clearly wants solo time too...but for Carter it's like this elusive, magical thing that only happens once in a blue moon.

I mean, to be fair, he gets some time alone.  When Jacob's at practice twice a week, he and I get to hang out.  And Craig very much values TV/movie time on the couch with him in the evenings or on weekends, and most often Jacob has no interest in hanging out for that.  But it's rare to just get time to snuggle or do what he wants to do, without a real time limit or the looming threat of departure for daycare.  Carter asks to stay home almost every day, and it was nice to have one day to say yes!

Craig actually had to be up and out pretty early that day for a work thing, so my dreams of lounging around in pajamas were dashed pretty quickly because I had to get Jacob to school by 8:30.  So I got up and dressed and got Carter dressed, then we dropped Jacob off and headed back home (round trip of about five minutes--yay!) to get some couch snuggle time while we ate our breakfast.  He was allowed some time on his Leap Pad (electronics have been very limited lately!) while I took a shower.  We headed out to the library, as we hadn't been there in a while, maybe since early fall?  He played on the computer there while I picked out books, and he was very pleased with my choices!  We tried to figure out one of the computer games together before hunger took over and we ventured out into a sudden snowstorm to grab lunch.  We went to a local pizza place that we drive by every day on our way to daycare.  I have loved their pizza, but since they don't have a gluten-free option, we haven't been able to go there in a long time.  But I had a BOGO coupon for slices, so I thought it would be perfect for us.  He picked pepperoni, and I picked Buffalo chicken, and they were HUGE!  I laughed when I saw them!  I should have taken a picture, but I'm not sure it would have done them justice.  I managed to finish mine, and Carter ate a big piece before continuing to chip away at it in smaller sections.  He probably finished about two-thirds of it.  I think he was saving room for dessert, which was a giant cookie (sensing a theme?).  They had Holy Cow! That's a Big Cookie cookies.  We've seen them around at festivals, but obviously never gotten one because Jacob can't eat them.  They're sugar cookies six inches in diameter.  I pretty much only consented because they had a Candy Explosion one that looked amazing--chocolate chips, white chips, M&M's, and sprinkles!  We each had a big piece and still had almost half the cookie left!  By the time lunch was over, we were in a great mood, and I wanted to snap a couple pictures to capture it, just in case the rest of the day didn't go as well.



After that, it was back out into the snow to buy Carter sneakers.  His most recent pair were getting a little beat up and I figured it wouldn't hurt to size up.  So we went to Skechers, whose clearance section is usually a gold mine.  After much discussion and debate (and me having to say no to a pair of sneakers with a built-in Simon game knock-off (no kidding)), we picked out one pair for now and one pair that's the next size up.  Believe it or not, those have ties instead of Velcro.  We've hit that point where Velcro is harder to find (at least where it still looks cool) and he'll be needing to learn to tie his shoes anyway.  They'll probably fit him right in time for Kindergarten.  Speaking of which, registration is this week!  How did we get here?!

After that, it was time to move on to the not-fun portion of the day--a quick stop at the bank and a longer stop at Wegmans.  He started to get a little antsy during that stop, but we made it out before things got out of control.  Then it was off to our fun stop--Adventure Landing!  I had promised Carter we could go and play a few games ($5 was my limit).  We actually did pretty well with the games--I wouldn't let him do the four-token ones, but we found enough similar two-token ones (he prefers driving games) that he stayed happy.  We picked out a couple prizes with the tickets we earned, and then we got some bonus fun.  The Wow Factory, the ball play zone that he enjoyed so much at his friend's birthday party, was free!  They run it on a more limited basis during the week (i.e., the guns don't work), so it's free to just go in and run around.  Carter loves to run, so he spent about a half hour doing that!  As we were leaving, suddenly Carter had a case of buyer's remorse on his ticket prizes, and so started the downhill part of our day.  He had chosen a fish-shaped toy that shoots a foam ball, and even though I asked him directly when he was choosing, he decided at that point he wanted to have the similar gun one instead.  I practically had to drag him out of the building and deal with a very cranky kid for a couple hours, because he wouldn't stop insisting he wanted the gun one instead of the fish.  He was so bad I had to leave him strapped in the car when we went to get Jacob, and he continued right through our arrival home.  So much for a fun afternoon.  He did much the same thing after the birthday party there when he decided on the way home that he wanted a different slap bracelet than the one he picked out.  So, perhaps we won't be going back there for a while.  And yes, he's since come to terms with both items, but I do not need that kind of aggravation.

Despite some of the frustrations, I'm glad we did the day.  I know he appreciated it, and unrushed time with him tends to be rare.  The good stuff outweighed the bad, and the good was really good while it lasted.  I still can't believe he'll be five in less than two weeks!  The countdown is on!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

January Funk

We officially have less than one week left of January, and thank goodness for that.  This month has gone fast enough, I guess, but we've definitely gotten into that time where winter starts to seem endless and everything is just a bit blah.  This seems to be a thing for me now, at this time of year specifically, and I've generally blamed it on being off work in the winter two out of three years a while back--once for maternity leave, and once when I lost my job.  Part of me feels like my body just got used to being able to hole up in the house in the winter and cocoon whenever I felt like it.  I think there's probably more to it than that, but that seems to be what I long for the most.

I'm starting to think this is some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Not a severe one, to be clear, but it makes sense.  We're in the depths of the dark winter, as only in the last couple weeks have we seen even a glimpse of daylight during the evening commute for the first time in months.  But mornings are still so dark, and no joke, every morning when I wake up I sort of want to cry and whine a bit because I just don't want to get up.  Look, I know I need to go to bed earlier, but when you crave your alone time without the kids, you tend to stretch it as long as possible.  But even still, it goes deeper than just being tired.  There is some inkling of hopelessness when I wake up and see that it's time to consider getting up, and lately I just have an even harder time doing it.  I want to stay in bed, snuggle in, and rest.  Ironically, when I get to do that on weekends, usually I end up feeling even more sluggish when I finally do get up, but still...it's my first instinct.

I know mornings aren't the easiest around our house, particularly until Jacob's medicine has kicked in, but I hesitate to think that's the main culprit.  So, then maybe it's my job, but that's confusing to me as well.  I like my job.  I don't have any specific complaints about it.  I'm grateful for it.  But man, I just don't want to go.  Lately I'm also really distracted while I'm there.  I'm going to guess the latter issue is more of a sleep deprivation thing, but I literally cannot figure out why I'm feeling like this.  Is it because I'm burned out and need a real vacation?  Maybe, since I never did take a full week off last year.  Many short breaks are good, but I'm thinking there's probably something about a long break that's a bit more rejuvenating.  I don't know if I want to drag in the whole "Craig and I need an 'us time' vacation" issue here, but I suppose the lack of said bonding time could be bringing down my general mood overall.  On the bright side, the kids have slowly begun to learn to play together, so the constant stream of trouble has slowed a bit (at least in phases), but we still have frequent flare-ups and I don't trust them to not be jerks if we leave them with family while we go on a trip.  So that's an issue.  But is it really all of that?

Some days I think it's just mom guilt.  Almost every day Carter begs to stay home.  Much like me, I don't think he actually hates daycare.  He learns a ton and generally seems to enjoy what he's doing there.  I mean, he'll complain about stuff, but sometimes I think he just wants something to complain about.  His teachers generally have great things to say about him, and he often doesn't want to leave when I pick him up, so I don't think anything is truly amiss.  But like me, he just doesn't want to go.  He wants to hole up at home and hang out.  We're doing that Wednesday, by the way, since I had a day to take and I had promised him a Carter-Mommy day this month.  But whether we have one scheduled or not, he asks for it almost every single day.  We talk about why we can't do it all the time.  Then he gives me a big hug and kiss when I leave, and of course I'd much rather take him home and get that treatment all day.  But I can't.  Subconsciously I probably know his little kid time is extremely limited and I want to take advantage while I can, but clearly that's not happening.  But every day is a struggle to leave him. 

I just feel like getting through each workday is a means to an end.  Even though evenings in our house are far from harmonious, I know that evenings are my chance to relax and do something I'd much rather be doing.  So, I just push through the workday waiting for 5pm, push through pickup, dinner, and bedtime, then savor each bit of freedom I have after that.  That's probably why I wish away my weeks, just hoping for the weekend where I can get it in slightly larger quantities.  I know I shouldn't (the kids are growing up fast enough, after all), but I do.  One of the things that stood out most to me when I was off work was that the efforts I made all day directly helped the people that were closest to me, and that felt so much better somehow.  I didn't mind doing errands and cleaning because I had the time and it all felt like a direct benefit to everyone in the house.  I had time to think through problems and fix them properly.  Even better, I could actually do something for myself on a regular basis.  Nowadays it's just about cramming in whatever I have the energy for.  Speaking of which, it probably doesn't help that I haven't felt 100% since around October, so maybe that's a contributor, too.

I think I've also identified that one of my biggest issues right now is that I don't have anything big to look forward to.  It seems like most people have a trip planned, or some big event, or even weekly or every-other-week outings (maybe with friends or a spouse) that keep them going.  It's like the carrot on the end of the stick, you know?  But I don't really feel like we have anything like that right now.  We don't have a social life, we don't travel for fun, and I often wonder how we'd do anything anyway because I'm always exhausted and feel guilty when I do finally have something going on.  Without anything like that, though, every day is just another day among endless days, rather than being one day closer to something good.  Even worse, without  a "good" target, what if it's another day closer to something bad?  With the flu epidemic lately and lots of other bad news, I just feel like I'm obsessing over the bad possibilities and don't have anything good to outshine them.  It's exhausting.

Ultimately I just feel like my body and my heart are pulling me home.  It worries me that this is some sort of unseen, unknown force that's a precursor to something, but maybe I'm just plain lazy.  I don't know.  I'm hoping that things will get better as we get into February.  My work flow will change again (more urgent deadlines, so maybe that will force me to focus), Valentine's Day and Carter's birthday will be in sight, and we'll be getting more daylight.  It looks like the weather might turn colder again, though, so that will be a struggle again.  But for now I'm just stuck in a rut and spring  (and some fun) needs to hurry up!

Monday, January 22, 2018

News and Notes, Funeral Edition

OK, so this is more about the funeral weekend than a usual "News and Notes" post, but I'll touch on a lot of random thoughts and experiences from the weekend, so it'll probably end up as all over the place as one of those normally is.  As expected, it was an interesting few days back home for my uncle's funeral.  I spent most of Wednesday evening while I was home alone with the kids trying to pack and make notes for Craig for the time I'd be gone.  I was leaving a day ahead, so I had a lot to prepare.  If I was going to be MIA for a couple busy days, I knew I needed some backup.  I had packed up Carter but I still needed to leave a list of things that needed to happen (like Jacob's 8am dentist appointment on Friday) or things that the kids still needed (like Jacob's snow gear for a snow play day at school or the last few toiletry items that would need last-minute packing).  In the middle of all that, my mom let me know that my dad had a stomach bug, so he'd probably be missing most of the funeral events.  That, of course, put me into panic mode that we'd catch whatever he had while we stayed there.  Luckily he kept himself mostly quarantined to the upstairs, and I came armed with Lysol for that bathroom, just to be safe.

The first event was a memorial service at my aunt and uncle's church here in Rochester on Thursday morning.  That morning ended up being hectic--Craig and I both accidentally slept in a little too long.  He actually had somewhere to be yet kept snoozing his alarm, and I kept dozing and just sort of forgot that I needed to be up by 8:15 or so to pack Jacob's lunch.  And, of course, it turned out that since Craig was running late I also had to take Jacob to school.  But once everything had sort of settled down, I had just enough time to check my work email and get ready for the memorial service.  It was absolutely wonderful, if you can say that about anything related to the death of a loved one.  They sang one of our family's favorite songs, "Here I Am, Lord", without knowing it would have been the family's first choice.  It fits my uncle's lifelong dedication to Christian education so perfectly, and was always a classic of the Male Chorus most of the men in the family used to sing with.  Then there were three wonderful speakers who all told funny and sweet stories about my uncle and his time as principal of their school and president of the congregation.  All of it reminded me even more vividly of my memories of him as my principal, and there were many smiles and tears all around.  Then they brought in the entire school (maybe 75 kids?) to sing "Jesus, Name Above All Names", which is another classic from my grade school years and a particular favorite of my aunt who was the music teacher and choir director (though not the one married to my uncle--her sister).  That made it all even more meaningful.  It just made your heart happy in the midst of the sadness, as much as anything could.

After that, I ran to Wegmans to pick up the Lysol, some grape juice (no idea if it really works to ward off the stomach bug, but it hasn't failed me yet), and a couple other things that came up since my trip to Wegmans the previous evening (ugh).  I had some lunch, did about 45 minutes of work, and then finished packing so I could get on the road.  My dad was feeling better and starting to eat by the time I arrived, but he opted to skip both days of visitation to ensure he didn't pass it along.  The first night at the funeral home was three hours, and I passed most of it by talking to an old friend of mine.  Her parents came in, and I spoke to them for a while, then she came and stayed until nearly the end, so I was talking to her for a good chunk of that.  Another friend of mine came, too.  She was another Lutheran school alum, and her dad was also a principal at another school.  We knew each other more in high school, though, and reconnected a bit at our 20th reunion.  She also now works with my cousin, which is cool.  I chatted with her for a while and both friends and I compared notes on our school days.  More old friends and familiar church faces that I haven't seen in person in years kept coming in, and while it made for a tiring evening, it was great to see people.  I also had my fair share of family/cousin time, too.  All along, though, I kept looking at my uncle in the casket and remained in utter disbelief that he's gone.  He was so lively just a few weeks ago, and has been such a constant in our family that I can't quite wrap my brain around a new era without him.

One of the cute parts of the funeral proceedings involved my uncle's tie collection.  He had a ton, and a lot of silly ones.  They put out the collection at the funeral home and encouraged people to take them and wear them to the funeral.  It was amazing to see them all, both on display and throughout the day Saturday.  The pastor's happy face "Jesus Loves You" tie under his gown was pretty priceless!

There was an entire bag full left on the chair behind this ladder, and eventually all but a handful were gone!

The early part of Friday was pretty quiet, just a lot of lounging around before we had to head over to the funeral home at 3pm for a five-hour stint.  This session featured a bit more family arriving in town, visits by four old teachers plus one I knew but never had, and more familiar church faces that I haven't seen in years.  The old teachers were interesting.  Two were among my lesser favorites, but seeing my Kindergarten and First Grade teachers was great.  I haven't seen them since I did my janitor stint at the school about 19 years ago.  I had a great talk with the first grade teacher in particular, discussing how things have changed in learning between my time in first grade and Jacob's, and telling her I still have the tissue paper Christmas wreath I made in her class!  Honestly, standing before the two people who taught you the basic foundation of your entire education more than 30 years after the fact is pretty weird, but cool.  I also got to see a woman (also a family friend who I have seen here and there over the years) who was my long-term substitute when my third grade teacher had tuberculosis for part of the year.  When she mentioned how my uncle led her to that position, I gave her a thrill when I told her how I still remembered the crazy papier-mâché/tennis ball/ping pong ball planets we did with her.  It sounded like having her own class (she was usually a Pre-K aide) was a lot of work, and the long-standing impact seemed to validate that it was worth it, which was nice.  Near the end of the evening, Craig and the kids arrived.  Electronics (and my cousin Brian's girlfriend, who Carter is obsessed with) saved the day, and after a quick bite to eat, we all called it a night not long after getting back to my parents.  The last open-casket goodbye at the funeral home was tough.

The funeral was super sad but lovely, as like all other parts of this process, it was full of sweet stories, humorous recollections, and a validation of his dedication.  There were lots of tears, but smiles, too.  After the service, Craig had to leave for the airport for a road trip.  Thank goodness for a rare Sunday game, as at least he could be around for part of this.  We headed to the cemetery after that, and thankfully the weather had broken a bit and it was in the 40s.  The wind wasn't pleasant and there was still snow to step through, but it wasn't bad at all compared to what it could have been.  It was odd standing between the headstones of my grandparents and aunt and uncle, but I guess it felt right to share that moment with them, too.  After that was the luncheon, at which point my brother had to leave (he's driven up that morning from their ski trip in Massachusetts), but before he left, we got a picture of all 13 grandkids, for the first time since my grandma's funeral 12 years ago.

I was originally planning on going home after that, but then they planned a cousin get-together nearby at 6pm, so we stuck around and I ended up hanging out with my cousins until 11pm!  I never expected to stay that long, but many great conversations were had!  Obviously the kids and I slept over and we came home right after church on Sunday, so we had a little time before Jacob's lacrosse practice.  Craig didn't make it home until this morning.

Last night I started my next big project, another round of photo scanning, but this time with my parents' albums.  I brought home their first eight albums, which should keep me busy for a long time!  It's already been fun but bittersweet, mostly because there are now so many people in those albums who have passed.  Seeing my Uncle Bruce, Uncle Cliff, Uncle Bink and Aunt Karen, all as young parents, made me smile.  In the next moment it breaks my heart knowing they're all gone now.  But I enjoy seeing my parents as a very young married couple, so it will be fun to go through the albums again and hopefully ensure they're kept forever.

It's back to reality now--busy days at work and everyone at home sort of on the verge of sickness--tired, iffy stomachs, sniffles--which only plays into my panic about this year's extra intense flu.  I know I have it easy, though, as my thoughts and prayers are now with my aunt and cousins who have the daunting task of finding their new normal.  We all miss him already.