Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Canal Path Edition

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

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

My handsome walking buddy

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Finishing Summer on the Fringe

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Eventually some planets came out to float...




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Playground Edition

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

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


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

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

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

And he posed for a picture!

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


Watch out, here comes the tiger!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Introvert Mom

If you pop around on social media long enough, at least with friends like mine, usually you'll come across some sort of article or quiz about introverts vs. extroverts, and how each role relates to social situations.  Sometimes it's a meme about desperately wanting to spend Saturday night home alone in your PJs with your cats, or other times it's a little quiz that tells you how much of an introvert or extrovert you are, or it could be a blog post or article reminding people to how manage their interactions with those whose social personality is opposite theirs, be it their spouse, co-worker, or good-but-challenging friend.  I don't think it's ever been a surprise to me or anyone else that I am an introvert.  I mean, I think can function moderately well when I need to be extroverted, and I might even seem extroverted with people I know well, as sometimes I never shut up (as my elementary school report cards documented pretty regularly).  But I am, at the heart of it, an introvert.  My down time is sacred.

Strangely, I do still get lonely if I'm alone too long.  Apparently I can only take so much quiet and alone time at once.  Eventually I need people around or I start feeling very left out and even depressed about how everyone is living more life than me.  I've talked here before many times about feeling like I don't really have many true friends, as my social calendar is not very full.  I see people online having wine or beer with friends, maybe around a campfire or out at a bar--and sort of wonder where we went wrong.  And yes, those people have kids.  When I do get a chance to do something like that, once I get past the social anxiety part of it, I am usually fired up about it and very excited to finally get the chance.  But, as much as I do enjoy those times with friends, I know there's a part of me that's relieved when I can take off my shoes, put on my pajamas, and spend an evening with my snack, my computer, and the DVR.

Lately I've become a little more aware of how being an introvert has impacted my parenting.  I can't say it has done so in a positive way, aside from not being a barhopping mama who leaves my kids with a sitter every weekend. I think the main problem is that my tolerance for action only goes so far.  On weekdays, I spend all day at work.  And while that's not exactly action-packed, it still means that I'm "on" all day.  I get up first, rush through the morning preparations--get myself ready, wake up the kids, pack a couple lunches, and make sure everyone's moving along--then I drop off Carter and drive to work.  I spend all day trying to focus on busting through my work and interacting with co-workers, and then I need to drive toward home, pick-up Carter, run any necessary errands, cook dinner, eat, survive the kids' interactions until bedtime, and then FINALLY I have a little me time.  Usually it's with the TV and my phone or computer, but sometimes I have to throw in some laundry, coupon clipping, paper reading, or sorting through the kids' school paperwork.  Regardless, by the time the kids are in bed, I am mentally spent and need to zone out in any way possible.  I have hit my "interact with people limit" and just need to veg out.  Of course, this doesn't bode well for Craig, who's usually sitting across the room, but by then he's pretty spent, too, so at least we each get it.  That's why we try to go out to lunch every few weeks, so we can be alone and talk while we're still willingly conscious and talkative.  Anyway, usually I can make it to bedtime before desperation sets in, but sometimes I find myself holing up with my phone immediately after dinner, content to let the kids watch something on TV and not wanting to be talked to for a little bit.  In that moment, I realize it's my introvert side coming out.  I've had to be "on" all day and I've just had enough.

Interestingly, it took me a while to realize that Carter, in particular, may have some introverted tendencies, as well.  He loves to play with toys, but many evenings he just wants to sit and watch a  show.  And while I don't always think that's a good idea, I started to realize that maybe he's feeling much the same as me.  After all, he's been spending nine hours a day at daycare, which is an awful lot of stimulation for anyone, let alone a little kid.  So while I try to be more intentional about making him play with non-electronics on weekend days, most of the time I will let it pass in the evenings because I'm pretty sure he's feeling a bit like me.  Not the best habit to get him into, I know, but sometimes that's just how we roll.

Weekends are harder.  From the moment I wake up until bedtime, the kids are around and usually causing chaos.  Loud chaos.  Most of the time I can only take it in small doses, so we end up with a few of those "curl up with the phone" moments over the course of the day.  As I said, it doesn't make for great parenting, as I know I should be doing things with them or at least insisting the TV goes off more often to force them to get creative, but usually the TV is one thing that keeps them from making each other nuts, and sometimes you just need the relative silence.  The full-time refereeing that happens when the kids aren't occupied is so exhausting, and any break from it is not only helpful, but needed.  If I get that, usually I can muster a little more time as a good, engaged mom before I get drained again.  This is part of the reason I crave having planned activities for the weekend, because if we're out of the house, usually the kids are more occupied and I'm distracted enough that I don't need an introvert moment nearly as often.  When we get home it's a different story, however.  But set activities help and I just wish I was more creative about coming up with more.

A while back a blogger I read talked about how he was diagnosed with a psychological condition that's caused by constant noise.  Between traffic noise outside his apartment and random noises inside, it slowly drove him crazy.  As a result, he got very short tempered and snapped at the littlest things.  Sometimes I wonder if I have something along those lines, because on particularly noisy days, it doesn't take much to set me off.  The constant random noises from the kids just add up and boom--I hit my limit.  That's when I know I just need some time without them to regroup. 

It doesn't help that kids tend to overwhelm you in other subtle ways, too.  The constant stream of questions from Carter or Jacob's endless list of stuff he wants to buy are both incredibly exhausting, and they feel 100 times worse on a day where my introvert side is dying to come out.  Constantly having to listen or even intelligently respond can get so tiring.  Beyond that, they're constantly asking for stuff or all up in your space, and it all gets overwhelming really fast.  When your kid is all over your lap, or kicking you in bed, or hanging on your waist, it can get trying.  It's a full assault on the senses by the time they're done, and I blame my introvert tendencies for the low tolerance.

I love my kids, but some days they're just harder to take than others.  I'd be better off if I looked like one of those fundraising thermometers so they could see the red rise and know when I'm about to blow, but lacking that I'll just have to take my breaks when I can and hope for the best.  They're kids and they can't self-monitor very well, let alone consider what I might be feeling.  So it's up to me to institute a mommy time-out when things get rough and pray they don't kill each other by the time I have the energy (mentally and physically) to rejoin them.  I wish I knew how to better manage it all, but like most things in parenting, sometimes survival mode is as good as it gets.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Disaster

I've been a little down in the dumps this week.  Part of it is the stress associated with back-to-school week.  It's getting back in the groove, getting used to nightly paperwork and homework, and dealing with all of the battles with Jacob that result from each of those things.  It has not gone particularly well.  Another part of it is work stress, as I have a number of projects that involve decision-making, which I am not good at.  My boss is extra stressed, too, and I feel like I can't help her the way I'd like. 

But I think the weight that is really dragging me down above and beyond the usual is the knowledge of the natural disasters that are impacting other parts of the country.  Natural disasters have always been hard for me to watch, but parenthood has elevated everything up to a whole new level.  Having kids raises the stakes and makes everything even more unfathomable. 

This round of disasters has been even more difficult thanks to a few recent doses of reality.  Six months ago, we were hit by a serious windstorm with 80mph winds.  Luckily I missed most of it in my bunker of an office, but what little I experienced was plenty.  I wouldn't have wanted to be home listening to my house creak or watching the trees bend, but I was rather anxious not knowing what was going on at home.  We were lucky because we only lost our grill, but other people were not as fortunate.  A number of houses were crushed by trees, and plenty of other houses lost shingles or had giant trees down in the yard.  My drive home from work brought on a helpless feeling I haven't felt very much before.  The wind was still whipping, and as I came across downed tree after downed tree, I realized that I wasn't safe in my car.  At any moment a giant tree or a piece of debris could come down on me.  I'm used to being nervous in the car in snowy weather, but for the most part you feel like you have some degree of control.  Yes, other cars and ice can take that control away, but the wind brought on a complete lack of control I wasn't expecting.  That fear was even worse once I picked up Carter and felt like I couldn't protect him the way I wanted to. 

More recently, a couple tornadoes hit Buffalo, right near where Craig's family lives.  One of them actually hit right down the road from his mom's office.  While we rarely get tornadoes in this area, it can happen...but mostly we can choose to ignore that.  But seeing damage, even something as simple as a bunch of car windows blown out in a parking lot, was a sobering reminder that they can happen--out of nowhere and very close to home.

It was hard to watch the coverage of Hurricane Harvey in Texas these last couple weeks, seeing so many families who were impacted by the flooding or the wind damage.  And now, with Irma approaching Florida, I actually know people who are evacuating (or not evacuating), and the reality is sobering.  People I personally know could be seriously affected by this storm.  Imagining how awful that would be if that was us was nearly unthinkable.  My first thoughts go to the complete upheaval of your life, the insurance hassles, and the cost of getting everything cleaned up and replaced.  I cringe at the thought of losing things of sentimental value--the photos, the mementos, the things I kept from my grandmothers' houses--or having to start from scratch with everything in our house, or how sad it would be to throw out all of the baby stuff instead of having the chance to donate it.  All of it was overwhelming a couple weeks ago as I watched that storm come through.

But now that Irma is going to hit Florida, it's become even more stress-inducing.  Knowing that people I know, or their close family members, are there and having to make the choice to evacuate hits so close to home.  And with the power of this storm--knowing what Andrew did there many years ago and this one is worse--it's so scary.  For whatever reason, this one really got me thinking about what I would really do if we were faced with a situation like that.  I came to the conclusion that I would feel completely paralyzed.  Part of me would be tortured by the thought of leaving my house, but the safety concerns are clearly huge.  But the thought of waiting in line and co-habitating for days on end with complete strangers?  That's pretty scary on its own.  I can't even fathom how horrible it must be to choose what you take with you, or to leave your home and your neighborhood knowing for sure that you won't ever see it like this again.  With a storm like this damage is a given, and it will be widespread.  Your entire neighborhood might not even be here anymore, let alone your house.  It has to be completely agonizing to leave, only to spend days not knowing how anything fared.  I feel like the stress of driving home afterward would be enough to send me into heart failure.  But being there during it would probably literally drive me insane, in addition to it being super unsafe.  But the reality I'm seeing now is that it's not as easy to evacuate as everyone would like to believe, that it takes money and the ability to be away from work and the availability of gas and supplies.  I just don't know what I would do. 

Then I think about the kids.  I think of how sad Carter would be to lose his cars or stuffed animals, or how upset Jacob would be to lose his Legos.  Heck, the Legos got a little mixed up when his cousin played with them at his birthday party and he flipped out a bit afterward when he couldn't find things.  What would happen if they were gone?  Sometimes I can see times where Jacob flips out more than you'd expect, and I think it's more anxiety than anything, a desire to control something controllable.  I can't even imagine what mental troubles we'd be dealing with if everything he knew and loved was gone.  I know it would devastate Carter, too, and their whole sense of security would be gone, possibly forever.  I don't do well with insecure situations like that either, so I can't imagine trying to keep the kids stable, too. 

I suppose that is part of the reason why we live here.  We probably could have moved elsewhere and made more money or found more opportunity, but between wanting to be close to our families and the downsides to living elsewhere (not just weather, but traffic, cost of living, etc.), it makes a little snow in the winter not sound so bad.  I truly don't mind living here, but it doesn't make it much easier to watch what's happening down south.  It's a bit of "survivor's guilt", I suppose, along with simple human compassion.  Why was I blessed to be born and to stay in an area like this that doesn't have these problems?  And why do so many other people's prayers go unanswered as they beg for the hurricane to shift?  And what can you do from here as all of these other people suffer?  I feel fortunate to be here, even as I complain about daily stuff that other people wish was their biggest problem.  But it's all so hard to know other people are going through hell, and yet still selfishly hoping that it's never our turn.  All I can do right now is keep everyone in my prayers.  It doesn't feel like enough, but it's all I've got.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Back to School...

Today was the big day...the first day of school!  It's so hard to believe that Jacob is in fourth grade now.  Seems like just yesterday that we were putting him on the bus to Kindergarten.  And five years ago today we announced my pregnancy with a porch photo of Jacob in his big brother shirt.  Carter is now older than Jacob was that day, and a year from now he'll be doing his first official picture as he heads off to Kindergarten.  Holy crap.

But here is Jacob's official picture:

I just looked at last year's, and wow, does he look older.  Next year will be his last at this school, and then it's on to middle school, though the jury's still out on which middle school that will be--public school or a rather pricey Catholic school with a great lacrosse team.  The price tag on that one is a little scary, but the experience could probably serve him well if he's up to it.  I can't quite fathom Jacob managing changing classes, having a locker, or having to remember which books to bring home, but it's coming soon no matter what. 

Next year both kids will ride the same bus, though they'll get off at different places.  I can't believe Carter is only a year away from Kindergarten.  We have a long way to go before I will see him as Kindergarten ready, but again, it's coming.  Since Jacob had a four-year-old picture on the porch, I figured we'd take Carter's picture today, too...

 
Jacob's day didn't go great.  He doesn't like his teacher's Long Island accent, and his three best friends all ended up in the same classroom--without him.  He was pretty unhappy with a couple kids in his class, but in general he doesn't have any good friends there.  I keep trying to tell him that of all the kids in his class who he hasn't been in a class with before, he could probably find a new good friend.  He's not buying it, though.  I wish I had more advice to give, but I didn't start having different kids in my class every year until I hit high school.  I had pretty much the same crew of 12-15 other kids every year from Kindergarten through eighth grade.  And even when I had the changes in high school, I had nine periods' worth of classes to find friends.  I do remember the end of some first days in high school where I was really unexcited with the classmates I had and what a bummer it was, but I also know that most of those classes actually turned out pretty well by later in the year.  He should be fine, but it's hard to tell him that now. 

Nothing is really changing for Carter as he's been in the four-year-old Pre-K since February, but apparently we're starting a new curriculum and five little homework projects are coming home each week, with the goal of doing at least half per month in order to get a prize.  Many of them are going to be more like "parent homework" than something for the kids to worry about, but we'll see how he does.

So, we're off to the beginning of another year.  Let's hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Adios, Summer...

Well, another summer has (un)officially come to an end.  Labor Day is over and school starts tomorrow.  I was bemoaning earlier today at work that I should have taken more vacation during the summer.  I have a ton to take before the end of the year and now my best window to do it is over.  Not that I had a lot of "free time" to do that since we're still shorthanded at work, but I feel like I have the same regret every year.  Hopefully I'll have some good reasons to take time this fall.

Anyway, we finished off the summer with a pretty low key Labor Day weekend.  Our big activity was on Saturday when we went to our favorite gluten-free pizza place for dinner, then headed to Minnehan's, a fun spot near Geneseo, to play mini golf.  I figured a fun, more challenging course might be a little more interesting than our usual Adventure Landing courses around the corner.  We enjoyed our dinner, loaded up on cookies, and battled slightly chilly temps as we headed out on the course.

Everyone taking on hole #2.  It's a challenging course with long holes and lots of scenery.  Note the fountains in the background.
I played this course in college as it was our "local" course, and 20 years later it's still giving me fits!  The boys liked it, though, once they got used to the challenge!

It's such a pretty course with a very unique layout.


The boys were fascinated by this hole, which has a waterfall as part of it.  If your ball goes under those white sections, it falls into the water and rocks below.  The current automatically directs it into a metal channel that takes it down to a tunnel and on to the green (though stuck behind a brick).  The boys kept putting their ball down to see it happen again and again!


Over the bridge to the back nine...

Looking back toward the mill and castle
The final hole is hard to see, but it's sort of like Skee-ball, and whichever level you putt your ball into, that's your score.  Contrary to the picture, Jacob did not conquer it...we all stunk! :)

It was not my best game, but we had fun despite the cool, damp weather.  The next day we headed to Buffalo for Craig's dad's 70th birthday.  We enjoyed partying with his family and celebrating his dad (and it was nice getting a couple belated presents myself!).  We stayed overnight and planned to go home around lunch time on Monday, but the family was going to the Labor Day parade in South Buffalo so we decided to go see Craig's mom marching. 

We had no idea this parade was a candy jackpot!  Almost every float or set of marchers (and there were a lot!) had candy!  Even standing back a bit Carter and I collected a lot for him.  Jacob and his cousin Grant were closer to the front, and you can see Grant's Frisbee full of candy in the picture.  I think Jacob must have been eating what he was grabbing, but eventually he got a Frisbee, too, and had quite the collection by the time we left.  We saw some kids with grocery bags full!  That should keep them until Halloween!

After the parade we walked over to the nearby park, one where we did some geocaching after my dad's heart surgery three years ago.  We stood right outside the hospital during the parade, too, and of course it brought back a lot of memories of those crazy couple days.  Anyway, over in the park Carter and his cousin Luke went to check out the kid activities, and when Craig went to bring them back, he snapped this picture of Carter with a couple friends...
 
The guy on the left is Sabretooth, the Sabres' mascot, and the guy on the right is Celery, a recently-retired racer for the Buffalo Bisons.  He used to race against two different Buffalo wings and a cup of blue cheese, and he never won in his hundreds of races...until the other night when he ran his last race and finally took the victory.  Apparently he's going to be more of a fan-interaction mascot next year. 
 
We wrapped up our time at the park, grabbed some late lunch, and headed home.  We tried to get a little relaxation into the rest of our weekend Monday evening, and I had an atypical Tuesday (lovely lunch with an old friend and a closed office due to a water problem).  And now tomorrow is the first day of school.  As usual, we're hoping for a smooth start.  We're once again going in blind, without having met his teacher or seen a class list, so we'll just have to see how it goes.  Fingers crossed!