Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Rewind, Part 1

Well, here we are on New Year's Eve, and I'm finally getting around to blogging about Christmas. A whole week off, and only now on Friday am I getting around to this. Granted, we weren't home most of the week, and then the last couple days have been busy as well. Not to mention that it was quite a daunting task to sort through the nearly 200 pictures I've taken in the last week or so. I am seriously considering buying a netbook, something small and simple that I can take with me when we travel or that I can use in the living room while watching TV in the evenings (we got a wireless router for Christmas!), so blogging isn't something I have to specifically set aside time for. I'd much rather multitask! So, that's on my shopping list currently. Of course, I didn't have one over the holidays, so now I'm way behind. I did spend a lot of time playing on my parents' iPad, so maybe the fun of that was contagious :)

Anyway, last week was crazy. Evenings were full of wrapping and planning. Here's a picture of a Christmas decoration Jacob contributed to our decor...

In case you're wondering, it is an ice cream cone covered in paint, sparkles, and Trix. I love it!

As you may recall, last Tuesday we went to Craig's work Christmas event at the casino. We dropped off Jacob at my parents', then slept there overnight. We came back to Rochester in the morning and worked a half day of work. Thursday I took a half day, then stopped for some last minute gifts and did a marathon wrapping session at home. Fortunately, I was able to finish all my wrapping before Jacob came home. And if I do say so myself, everything looked picture perfect!
Jacob was eager to start unwrapping once he got home. He especially wanted to open two of the biggest gifts. He even guessed one correctly!
Santa brought him a hockey net, a wooden Amerks goalie stick, and a new hockey rink for his hockey guys. Here he's checking out the new balls and sticks that came with his net while Daddy put the net together.
And here's his hockey rink. It's a real air hockey rink, complete with stands. He misses Daddy's big rink a bit, but I'm hoping that this will be sufficient since it takes up a third of the space of the other one!
He also got some Legos, a stuffed hockey penguin (you can see him in the picture above), a bunch of hockey shirts, some candy, a couple books, and a hockey dress-up outfit. That was a last minute purchase at Toys 'R' Us on one of my last shopping trips, and for $15, I couldn't pass it up. It came with a jersey, a stick and puck, an inflatable helmet (never mind that it looks like a football helmet), and a goalie blocker glove! He loved it. Gift opening was a bit of a challenge, though, since he wanted to stop and play with a couple of his key gifts. Since we had a lot to do that evening, I really wanted to keep things moving, so that got a little frustrating. I guess next year I'll have to buy less, but I know at some point he'll turn into one of those crazy gift openers that can't get enough. After dinner, I wanted to whip up some treats to take to our Christmas stops, and then I had to start packing. I was so beat by that point that I didn't get far, and unfortunately that set us back for our departure the next morning.
Christmas Eve morning was a challenge. Packing, one last minute gift to wrap, and double checking my to do list ate up the morning, but at long last we piled in the car and set off for lunch and a drive to Hamburg. I ended up forgetting three things--including an article of clothing for me and a certain pair of shoes for Jacob, which meant I had to overhaul our Christmas Eve wardrobes. I guess I could only remember so many things! Shortly after arriving we had to get changed and head off to church. I very much enjoy Christmas Eve mass at Craig's parents' church. Christmas Eve at my parents' old church was always the best, but this is a nice alternative with beautiful music and a nice message. Jacob was a bit of a handful (we were there for a long time), so it was tough to really focus and reflect, but I did my best. Jacob was obsessed with the slightly frightening bronze wall art of a sacred heart Jesus in the back of the church ("Jesus scare me"--not what you want your kid saying in church, eh?), and he kept trying to crawl under the pews. Still, he did like the music and he was interested in seeing the baby Jesus at the front of the church. Afterward he also wanted to check out the piano...
I haven't quite figured out the piano thing, but I'm wondering if maybe playing the piano on the iPad at my parents' got him interested. Hmmm. At least he was gentle. After church we headed to Craig's aunt's house for the big gathering with the extended family. We had a very nice time and got some fun gifts, and Jacob loved playing with all of the sports action figures that his four older male cousins (second cousins?) have collected over the years. He fell asleep on the way back to Craig's parents' around 9pm, and I sat with him in the car while Craig went in to change and get ready for our next stop (yep, we had one more). We headed off to Craig's brother's house around the corner, and Jacob woke up shortly after we got there. I immediately put on his pajamas, hoping he'd conk back out shortly after presents. I wish.
Amidst the chaos of four kids and six adults opening presents simultaneously (one less than usual--one kid couldn't be woken back up), Jacob got another hockey net (yes, we now have two), along with a bunch of clothes, some cool sports PJs, a bowling set, and a couple other cool things.
Despite my best efforts, Jacob got his second wind and was hyper for the rest of the night. We ended up not getting back to Craig's parents' house and in bed until well after midnight. It made for a very long day, but a very fun one. I can't even tell you how happy I was to have my head hit the pillow, though I did have a heck of a time falling asleep--probably the worst case of Christmas Eve sleeplessness I've had since I was a kid. Too much on my mind and in my belly, I think! Fortunately we got to sleep in fairly late, and then it was off to day three (!) of our Christmas extravaganza...which I will blog about later :)

On a side note...I was thinking back this morning to how we spent New Year's Eve last year. We sent Jacob to daycare, which was the last day of operation for the center (still sad about that), and then headed out to put in an offer on a house (yes, the one we ended up with), eat lunch at Moe's, and pick up Craig's Christmas/birthday gift from his parents, a suit. I remember it being a cold, snowy day, one filled with emotion. The house thing was stressful, obviously, and the last day of daycare was especially sad. We had a low key evening before what turned out to be a long and hellish New Year's Day (and the days beyond) thanks to an evil stomach bug. First Jacob, then Craig, and then me to a lesser degree. Awful. Everything was such a blur for the first week or two of the new year. And then I suppose ther blur continued right through March and our big move. It's hard to believe we're at the end of another year, with nine months under our belts in this house. I was sort of expecting 2010 to be a big year for other reasons, namely that we'd be heading toward baby #2 at some point this year, but as you know, that didn't end up happening. I'm definitely ok with it (I will probably elaborate on this topic again in the new year), but in general I'm leaving this year with mixed emotions...or maybe no emotions. I don't think that's a bad thing, because I'd rather be a bit ambivalent rather than looking back on a year with sadness. It was just a good, solid year. We had the good of the house and watching Jacob grow, and no major losses. We didn't get to start adding to our family and we did have some frustrations with Craig's job and Jacob's behavior, but as a whole it was a good year. I think maybe I'm at the point where I'm thankful for the year it was and looking to the new year with hope and anticipation of good things to come. You just never know, so I'm trying to appreciate the present for what it is. Hopefully that's a good thing. In any event, Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Test House

Ok, so while it's not ideal, I guess we finally have a solution to my whole Christmas quandary of not having real Christmas in our house and figuring out what to do about Santa. We were pondering bringing a few gifts and then doing the rest at home, but since we're staying in Buffalo for a few extra days to enjoy my brother and his family, that would be a while. My mom mentioned that my brother had decided to do Christmas early, and that got me thinking. I mean, it seems a little odd to do it early, like we're cheating or something, but then again, if you frame it right, it can really work out so much better, for so many reasons.

I came up with this scenario, which not only makes me feel better, but also can be the foundation for a reasonable explanation down the road, since I don't foresee our holiday schedule changing any time soon. Santa is going to use our house as a test house. He wants to make sure everything is working right, so we've been specially and randomly selected to be among the first to get our gifts. Oh, and if this explanation ever fails once Jacob's smarter, we'll just revert to something simpler--that Santa knows that we won't be at our house on Christmas morning and wanted to make sure that we got our gifts in time. But anyway, we'll get our stuff early, have a lovely Christmas gift-opening session tonight (hopefully), and be off for the rest of our Christmas festivities by no later than tomorrow morning. Santa will probably come today before Jacob gets home from daycare, assuming that I can utilize my afternoon off to get the rest of his gifts wrapped. I still have a handful to do, and I decided on the way in to work that I need to get a few more stocking stuffers on my way home. That decision actually coincided with the lack of windshield washer fluid in my car this morning, so I might as well kill two birds with one stone. He loves M&Ms so I might as well use this as an excuse to stock him up.

I really like this idea because I think it lays nice groundwork for starting our own Christmas tradition in our own house. I think that's one thing that made me a little sad when we moved out of our other house. Other than moving in and bringing Jacob home, I felt like we didn't have a ton of memories there. Most of our significant events (namely holidays) didn't happen there, so we didn't have the emotional attachment like we probably do to our childhood homes--Christmas morning, Easter basket hunts, birthday parties, etc. So much of what we do for those significant events is with family, and our families reside elsewhere. It's more convenient for us to visit them than for all of them to come to us, so it's understandable that this is how it has to be. But still, the lack of emotional attachments to our old house was a bit of a bummer, even if it did make the moving process less difficult. But now that we have this beautiful house with a perfect place for our tree and a picture-perfect stairway down to the living room, it seemed to be a bit of a waste to not have real Christmas memories there. Now, granted, with this year's setup we won't use the picture perfect stairway, but that's not to say we won't do it Christmas Eve morning someday. And if I can capture Jacob's look of awe when he comes in the door today and sees the presents (if all goes well...though knowing him, he won't even notice), that'll be enough. And each year we'll just have to see how our schedule looks, come up with a plausible explanation of how Santa got us gifts early, and fit it in before we head out. And if all else fails and Jacob figures out that the whole thing is a bit of a sham, there's always this explanation that I hope will make things right again and keep the magic going.

And ultimately, I guess my goal is to get Christmas traditions like that going so we're fully comfortable with them once Jacob is old enough to fully appreciate them. I just want his Christmas to be as magical and wonderful as mine were, even though my traditions were different than what his will be. As long as I can still maintain some level of wonder and anticipation, we're doing well. I think I've already discussed here how it's hard to live up to many years' worth of stay-at-home mom Christmas preparations. Even now I marvel at how many presents and stocking stuffers my mom bought and wrapped. Things were always so perfect on Christmas morning. I just don't have the time at home to do all I'd like to do, but I hope to get close. A couple weeks ago my dad remarked on Facebook that he didn't know what to do with the towels he'd just folded since Christmas towels had taken their place. His conclusion is that women love to work, since we do things like put out Christmas towels and a million other decorations. My response was that we don't love to work--we feel compelled to work to enhance the lives of those around us. Call it a motherly instinct or whatever, but I'm not sure if it's something we're wired to do, or just something we do because it is "expected" of us. If nothing else, perhaps it's a desire to enjoy the fruits of our labor and sit back (ha!) and appreciate all the hard work we've done. Miserable though it can be while I'm putting them up(and even moreso when they're coming down), I do enjoy the Christmas decorations immensely. That's probably my biggest letdown after the holidays--the disappearing act of Christmas lights and decorations. Second to that is the lack of little daily surprises that tend to happen this time of year--unexpected gifts, random treats, odd diversions during an otherwise boring work day. But enjoying all of that stuff while it's still around is nice, and I guess my quest to make Christmas as beautiful and memorable as possible is as much for me as it is for Jacob. It's a tough battle some days (like today, as I head home to wrap, make treats, and pack), but starting tomorrow it's time to enjoy and go with the flow. Christmas is almost here! In case I don't get around to blogging, Merry Christmas to everyone! Have a wonderful holiday with the people you love!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Illness Overload

So I took Jacob to the doctor on Friday evening to see if he had strep. It seemed plausible enough, considering a classmate had it, and Jacob was complaining about his "mouth" all day. Well, no. No strep, just a virus. And yes, I suppose that that's good, but there's always a bit of a letdown when whatever illness we take him in for is not curable with antibiotics. Doing something about an illness always seems better than just sitting there waiting for it to go away. But still, strep is pretty awful so it was good to know that wasn't going to be torturing any of us. And by the time he woke up Saturday he had no fever and seemed pretty good, as evidenced by this happy picture...
But still, Jacob didn't have much of an appetite on Saturday. He hardly ate his lunch and managed to eat just a bit at dinner--though he did eat an entire tube of yogurt, so that was good. Craig was working so Jacob and I went out shopping with Lori. The mall was a madhouse, but we survived and got a few gifts in the process. Jacob even got to ride the train in the mall, which seemed to make his night.

And then came yesterday. Jacob woke up and immediately wanted breakfast, which almost never happens. I was hoping that was a sign that he was feeling better and he was finally feeling the effects of having zero appetite for the previous few days. So, downstairs we went for cereal and milk. Well, shortly thereafter he was just sort of lethargic. He just wanted to snuggle on the couch. Not complaining, for sure, but it's not normal for him. That lasted long enough to miss our first shot at church, but shortly thereafter he seemed better and was off to play. In the meantime Craig headed off to work (last game until the day after Christmas) and I figured all was well. And then out of nowhere Jacob came over to me whining and promptly threw up in my lap. Well, in my hands, on the carpet, and down the front of the couch. It was a mix of curdled milk and reddish pink berries, thanks to the Berry Burst Cheerios he'd eaten for breakfast. Gross as it was, it was probably one of the least gross pukes I'd ever seen, if that's possible. And yes, it made a nice spot on our off-white carpet in the living room. Lovely. In a bit of a panic, I picked Jacob up and took him into the bathroom just in case he had anymore coming, then grabbed some old towels and spread one out on the floor for him to lay on. I explained to him that if he felt sick again, that he should try to get it in the toilet, then left him laying there. Concerned as I was for him, he seemed stable, so I headed off in search of cleaning supplies. I didn't want to leave that stuff while it stained the carpet, so I grabbed my OxiClean laundry spray and hit up the stain. I let it sit, cleaned up what was left on the couch (ah, the red couch was a godsend), and headed back up to Jacob. He seemed better, still in shock, but okay. We cleaned up, tried a little water, and sat in the bathroom waiting for it to come back up. But it never did. Eventually we headed back downstairs, and I set up a towel on the floor with a bucket, just in case. By that time Jacob was begging to have breakfast again, and since the water stayed down, I consented to some dry toast. He ate it quickly and asked for more. I held off for a bit, but when that stayed down, I gave in to his request for goldfish. Those stayed down and he wanted more, so I let him have the rest of the dry cereal from his breakfast. He ate that up as well. Miraculously, it all stayed down. By then I was figuring that his breakfast must not have settled quite right, perhaps because his milk had turned. It was a few days past the sell-by date, but I have a seriously muted sense of smell (not sure why, really need to bug the doctor more) and can't smell if it has gone sour. So maybe it had. But let me tell you, it was a torturous half hour or so. Not just because Jacob was sick and it's hard to watch, but for so many reasons beyond that. Yes, I was concerned about the carpet (which came clean, by the way), but all I could think about was how we were a week out from Christmas, and how long Jacob would be sick, how soon we would get it, whether or not I'd be able to work what little I'm supposed to work this week, if we'd be able to go to Craig's work Christmas party, which I have been looking forward to for weeks, how we'd finish Christmas preparations, if we'd be able to celebrate Christmas at all, whether we'd have to miss out on time with my brother's family, and on and on and on. So, thank goodness it appears to have been just another parenting fail on my part, and not another onslaught of germs. Even still, I have been tortured for the last year by Jacob's stomach bug last New Year's, to the point that every gag or cough or suspected illness just freaks me out to no end. That was so horrible and I don't even want to think about going through it again, particularly at this time of year.

I was still nervous, though, so we carefully ate some lunch, and then I set Jacob up to nap on the living room floor. I figured if I set him up on the towel and gave him some blankets, he could nap comfortably right there next to me, without fear of destroying his crib if the pukes came back. And sure enough, he fell asleep in no time, and we both got good naps...his was almost three hours! After his nap, he got up to play and I escaped downstairs to the computer for a few minutes. When I came back up, Jacob said something about having something on his hands, and come to find out it was poop. At first I thought he had pooped and stuck his hands down his pants (which we've told him not to do--he did it once in his crib and we were grateful to see that it only got on a couple slats--and NOT his zoo of animals), but then I started to see more--drops on his toes, spots on the carpet--and realized that he'd had a bit of a blowout, up and out the back. It was soft and therefore traveled a bit. So upstairs we went, careful not to make it worse, stripped off his PJs and got cleaned up. He got a bath, and I did more damage control with the OxiClean, both on the rug and on his changing pad cover and PJs. Oy.

Still, he seemed to feel fine and I figured there couldn't be much more left in him, so I decided to venture out. I just had to make a couple stops for groceries and another couple Christmas gifts, so I figured it would be quick, productive, and a good way to feel functional again after a long day of bodily functions gone wrong. And fortunately, it went well. Gifts and groceries bought, with no Jacob issues at all. In fact, I was so desperate to make it a good day that I took an extra 15-20 minutes to drive down to a street near my first-ever apartment that is insanely well-decorated for the holidays. Each year I swear I'll get down there, and each year the season passes without the trip. Well, this year I was determined, and since Jacob had eaten a bagel at Wegmans (a free mini one, from their Kids Cookie Club bin), I knew he could hold off on dinner for a bit. So off we went, and it did not disappoint. Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea, because there was a bit of a traffic jam on the street! Fortunately that meant we had time to go slow and see it all, so I didn't mind. The first two houses on the street are awesome, and then the rest of the street has a very high percentage of decorated houses. Very pretty, tasteful decorations for the most part, and seeing so many together is just so pretty. Apparently traffic is high a lot of the time, because one house had a firepit and they were selling popcorn and hot cocoa! It was lovely, particularly with Christmas carols in the car and Jacob in the backseat. It was totally worth the trip. Of course, I didn't think to bring out the camera until the very end, but he's a slightly blurred but still representative view of one of those first couple houses. Part of me wants to go back and get video next time!The rest of the evening was pretty low key, though I did introduce Jacob to "A Charlie Brown Christmas". He loved seeing them skate at the beginning, though I think the rest was lost on him. That's ok, though...we have to start somewhere, right?

So here were are at the start of a very busy week. I have a full day of work today, and half days for the next three before being off until January 3rd. A-MAZ-ING. Anyway, two of those half days off are taken up by Craig's work Christmas party (at Seneca Niagara Casino), along with the aftermath--no, not a hangover, just heading back from an overnight at my parents, where Jacob will be spending the evening. And no doubt the other half day will be a sprint to finish everything that isn't done--wrapping, packing, etc. I'm still waiting to get my Christmas cards, which I need to get stamped, addressed, and sent in the next couple days. I haven't started wrapping, but I would like to start tonight so we can haul some stuff to my parents' house tomorrow...just to have a few less things taking up space when we finally come in for Christmas. I also need to get my boss's gift done, since she's off starting Wednesday. I did a second round of cinnamon applesauce ornaments last night, since the first batch didn't really turn out (too thin, cracked, warped, and they stuck to the cookie sheet so the backs were awful), and those are drying. Hopefully they'll be good to go by Thursday when they go to Jacob's teachers, along with a batch of Dunkin' Donuts gift cards. I still have two gifts to buy, and I'm stumped, even though I can really get anything in the right price range if all else fails...but I'd like them to be good. But ultimately, the wrapping and packing (for nearly a week!) is stressing me out. And not just any week, a holiday week of varying activities that may include parties, snow play, and at least a handful of showing off/photo ops with both of my parents' grandchildren together.
Speaking of that, I seriously cannot wait to see my brother and his family. It's been a year and a half since I've seen my niece in person, so being able to see the kids together--at least to the degree that they will nicely play together--should be nice. I have a feeling their modes of play will be a little different (guessing my niece isn't spending much time playing hockey, lacrosse or football), so who knows how they'll interact, but it'll be nice to have everyone together at least. It'll be a crowded house, but I will gladly sleep on the air mattress and take quick showers if it means we're all there :)
Wish us luck this week...should be a fast but interesting one!

Friday, December 17, 2010


I'm not big into the whole "FAIL" thing I see people overusing on Facebook, but I seriously can't think of any other way to put last night into words. I missed Jacob's Christmas program. Well, not all of it, but just the part he was in. Ugh. Craig got some of it on video, so I will be able to post it here at some point, but yeah, I missed it. By about three minutes. I had my work Christmas party yesterday afternoon, and I got out of work a little early. Since I was missing my normal Thursday class at the gym for the program, I figured I'd pop in, get in a good 45 minute workout, mostly so I didn't feel like a big fat blob in the midst of Christmas eating (particularly following the party), and leave in time to get there. Well, apparently I miscalculated how long it would take to make myself presentable and drive there, because I got there about five minutes late...and Jacob's class was the first act. I missed Jingle Bells and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. On the video it didn't look like Jacob was singing much, but he did manage to shake a jingle bell extremely well. On the bright side, he did sit nicely for the whole thing. And for that, I'm very proud of him.

And as you can imagine, I am thoroughly disgusted with myself. I feel like, well, something that's probably not appropriate to write here. I tried, I really did. I truly thought I left enough time to get there. But when I did arrive the kids were just coming back down to their parents. Heartbreaking. I totally screwed up. Totally.

I keep trying to find a bright side to this whole thing--the learning experience, if you will. On the bright side, Jacob didn't really know any better. I'm not sure he noticed that I wasn't there, and even still, I don't think my absence would be particularly disappointing at this stage. Now, give it a few years and I miss something, then YES, he will probably be crushed. But let's just hope I have learned my lesson to build in a significantly bigger chunk of time next time I have to get to something like this. No matter what. And while I never would want to miss his first one, maybe this one's the best one to miss out of all of them because he doesn't get it yet. At least I'm the only one who's sad...not him. Not that I want to give myself an easy out, but I suppose if I don't, the guilt will just kill me more than it already has.

As if all of that wasn't enough, Jacob woke up this morning not quite himself. He's had a brutal runny nose for a couple days, but otherwise he seemed okay. But this morning, a couple minutes after he woke up he started crying and saying that his mouth hurt. I had an inkling that he might be talking about his throat, but when I asked him directly, he insisted it was his mouth. Getting any vitamins or medicine in him was a challenge, but eventually when I took him to wake Craig up, he was jumping on our bed happy as could be. With my boss off today, I was hesitant to stay home, and seeing him act normal made it seem like he'd be ok. Today is Santa day at daycare as well, so I'd hate for him to miss that, despite the whole fear of Santa issue. But eventually he seemed ok with going, so we did. Of course, upon arrival we learned that another kid came down with strep, which got the suspicions up a bit more. By lunchtime I got a call that he was complaining about his mouth again and that he refused to eat lunch. Bad of an eater as he is, that's rare. I asked them to call me again after naptime (if he's going to sleep for a couple hours regardless, it might as well be there while I wrap up work), and if he was still not feeling good, then I'd take a sick half day and come to get him. Turns out I'll only leave a little bit early no matter what, and tonight we'll head off to the doctor. Thank God we don't have a copay. Still, he's been on my mind all day, and I certainly felt guilty for even having to send him to daycare in the first place. Should be an interesting weekend alone with him, that's for sure. I'll take all the cuddles I can get, though. And if I can have a healthy child for Christmas, all the better.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SNOW, Continued

So, the snow seems to have subsided. I don't know how much we ended up with, but it's probably around a foot. Yesterday morning's commute was horrible and long, but the drive home was back to normal, save for a couple of slow, slippery turns. Same for this morning's commute. Jacob's Christmas program has been rescheduled for tonight, and today is my work Christmas party. Both of those things could put a crimp on my usual (and desperately needed) Thursday workout, but it's a small price to pay for two good events. So I guess it's a good day. Last night brought another unsuccessful and moderately frustrating Christmas shopping expedition, so that's got me a little down, but hopefully luck will be on our side by the weekend. Long story short, I am immensely grateful that the snow has stopped for now and we can get back to normal.

However, life won't ever be back to normal for one family. Remember how I posted the other day about how those stressful and snowy commutes just aren't safe, and I wonder why we push ourselves in Western New York to drive in that crap? A sobering confirmation of my fears popped up in the two days since I wrote that. On Tuesday morning in the midst of the miserable commute, there was an accident on 390, which is the road I travel every day. However, this accident was way south on 390, a good 30 minutes from the part I drive, around the section I drive when I'm coming back from a Geneseo visit. Seeing the accident, a man named Ken Parfitt and his grown son stopped their vehicle and got out to help. Assured that a tow truck was on the way, they headed back to their vehicle. Before Ken could get in, another car lost control and hit both him and his vehicle (with his son inside). Ken was seriously injured and yesterday morning, he passed away. He died helping someone he didn't even know. You won't be surprised to hear that he was a committed Christian. He left behind a wife and eight children.

Sad as this story is, it probably wouldn't have registered too much on my radar. However, when I heard his name reported yesterday following his death, it rang a bell. The more I read about his story, the more I realized I knew who this man was. Years ago when I was in college, the Parfitts attended Geneseo Baptist Church, now called Christ Community Church. They left at some point when I was still in college, most likely around the time that the church had a pastoral shake-up and a good portion of the church membership broke away. I'm not positive that's when they left, but the timing seems about right. Still, even during the short time that our attendance there overlapped, I vividly remember the family. They were hard to miss, actually. Every week, five little boys, well-dressed and well-behaved, sat quietly in church. Their mother was always dressed in a long dress. At one point, the church set up a program where families would host a college student for dinner. My suitemate Bridget ended up going to their house. Bridget had a vibrant personality, right down to her clothes and makeup. It was quite a contrast to the uber-conservative Parfitt family, no doubt. I remember her coming back from dinner, impressed but shocked by the well they behaved, how talented and intelligent they were for being so young. They could read, play music, and interact like young adults, all at a very young age. It was something Bridget had never experienced before, that's for sure. At one point Jamie Parfitt, the mom, became pregnant again. And imagine the joy when she had a little girl! The church certainly rejoiced for that one, I'm sure, and I remember seeing her in sweet little baby bonnets and dresses at church after that.

In the 10+ years since, I'd obviously lost track of them. They left the church, I graduated, but I still thought of them from time to time. Maybe it was a big family or one with lots of boys, or a family that you just knew was from a conservative Christian sect. Either way, they popped into my head from time to time. In the end I suppose they remind me of the Duggars--lots of kids (albeit more than half the amount), conservative with all the girls in dresses, musical, homeschooled, and ultimately, truly faithful to their God. It was only yesterday, when I started putting the pieces together, that I came to understand what became of that family. I also came to understand the legacy their father left behind, and the faith that will ultimately guide them through the toughest time in their lives. I have no idea what God's ultimate plan is with them, because this sequence of events seems unnecessarily harsh for such a devout group of His followers, but I have no doubt that He does have a plan for them. Ken Parfitt would have wanted it no other way. I pray that God blesses this family in amazing ways despite their loss, and that this experience does not steal the joy of Christmas from them for years to come. Only God knows.

To read more about this amazing man, here are a couple links. I especially recommend reading the Bob Lonsberry one. I normally don't care for him, but this is a truly amazing story.

I said it once and I'll say it again...Just because we Western New Yorkers can drive in snow does not mean that we should drive in snow. Stay safe, everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Ok, I know it's December and snow makes things Christmasy, but I am so done with it right now. It would be one thing if it just came in when I didn't have to drive anywhere. They could get the roads clear, and then I could get back out in the world at my leisure. And with weather this cold, it could stick around right through Christmas. But no. It's only December and I've already had enough bad commutes to last me until spring. I'll admit I was a little miffed when the snow melted over the weekend and there were patches of grass showing. I figured that with all the snow we suffered through a couple weeks ago, it would at least stick around until Christmas and we wouldn't need anymore real snowfall until then. But no, it melted and now there's plenty more to replace it. As of this morning we had five more inches, and I'm sure we have a few more now. It's been a blizzard out my window almost all day, and all I see of the bridge over the Genesee River is a big backup going in my direction. My route home was closed for part of today. That's comforting, isn't it? My boss is yelling at me to leave early, which I will be doing soon as I don't feel like getting a late fee for being late to daycare. I was a half hour late to work today, despite leaving early. Long story short, this weather is annoying.

The worst part of all of this is that I hate driving in this weather with Jacob in the car. Obviously I'm concerned about myself (particularly since I want to be around and functioning for Jacob), and Craig as well, but Jacob is so much more fragile and it scares me to drive with him. It's slippery and it's scary. It gives winter driving a whole new spin when you have a precious life riding in the backseat.

On the less-important-but-no-less-disappointing front, Jacob's Christmas program at daycare was canceled due to the weather. I have no idea if they'll be rescheduling, so it's a bit of a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing him sing "Jingle Bells" with his friends. He's still talking about seeing the kids sing at church on Sunday, so it stinks that he might not get the chance to do it himself until next year. I'll keep my fingers crossed that they pick a new night, though!

Off into the snow I go...keep safe, everyone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Failing Christmas

I went into this past weekend with a really hopeful outlook. Jacob had a good day at daycare on Friday, ate wonderfully at dinner, and was great at the hockey game. He went to bed pretty easily once we got home, and I started my cookie weekend (in preparation for our cookie swap at work today) by making colored sugar to decorate the cutouts I was planning on doing at some point over the weekend. The sugar turned out perfectly, and I spent the rest of the night catching up on things, finishing up a Christmas present-related project I had been working on, and pretty much feeling like I had made good progress for an evening where I only had a little bit of time to work with.

Saturday started out pretty good, too. We had a relatively lazy morning where we slept in until 8:30 or so, and then I eventually got myself out the door to do some shopping at Kohl's, where I got two gifts. Ultimately Saturday was supposed to be THE big shopping day for us because that was Craig's last weekend day off until Christmas. Not only does he have two games this weekend, but I'm pretty sure Saturday he's heading up to Canada for a lacrosse thing. Lovely. And considering most of our Christmas shopping this year is for his family (my parents' anniversary/Christmas/birthday gifts were all wrapped up in their new iPad and we don't exchange with my brother and sister-in-law because we just focus on the kids), I was really hoping to get the vast majority of that stuff done because I'm not a fan of making in-store judgment calls on Craig's behalf. I feel more comfortable picking out stuff for my family, and I'm sure he feels better doing it for his--not that he wouldn't love for me to handle the details, of course! But once I got back from Kohl's, things just went downhill from there. Lunch ended up later than I wanted it to be, so Jacob's nap started later than I wanted it to start. And then he proceeded to nap FOREVER, so by the time he woke up it was nearly 5pm and we were already behind on our day of shopping. Craig wanted to go to Red Robin to use his free birthday burger coupon, and thank God they move people in and out like cattle, because we only waited a few minutes despite the crowd, and then ate and headed off to shop. But two stores and one mall later, we really only bought a few gifts. It was not quite the success I was hoping for. I was stymied by my search for the perfect holiday photo sweater for Jacob, and had to settle for second choice, but I did manage to get three other items for a total of about $ awesome sweater for $5, nice pants a size up for $4, and a hockey sweatshirt (also a size up) for $4. Children's Place has had some insane clearance lately and while I have plenty of gifts to buy, I am more than happy to replenish Jacob's wardrobe for the next size up if the deals are good. $4 stain-resistant khakis? Yes, please. Adorable $5 sweater? I'll take it. Hard to resist when you can find staples!

We were at the mall until it closed at 10pm, and Jacob was still wide awake. He made it home awake, too. Thank goodness he dropped off quickly once we were home. But ugh...a 10:30 bedtime is not ideal. After he was in bed, I checked on some cookie dough I had put together to chill hours earlier during Jacob's nap. It ended up so sticky that I don't think any amount of flour would have rescued it. It was awful. I probably should have worked on it a bit more, but it had been such a rough night that I think my patience wasn't what it should have been. So my attempt at stained glass cookies failed, practically before it started.

Sunday morning we slept in until 9:15. Ahhhh, the glorious bright side of the late bedtime. It's always short-lived joy when it gives way to a cranky kid off his schedule, but it felt good anyway. I was actually planning on skipping church because I wanted to take Jacob to the kids' Christmas program in the afternoon, and I figured that I'd be pushing my luck with two rounds of church in one day, and preferred he be a good boy for the kids' one. I had a fun few minutes snuggling with Jacob in our bed shortly after he woke up, and I was hoping that was a good sign for the day. We had another lazy morning after Craig went off to work, other than me making another batch of cookie dough, this time for traditional cutouts, so it would be chilled by Jacob's naptime. That took longer than I'd hoped and by late in the morning I decided it was time to start working on our Christmas card photo. That was why I got the one sweater the night before, and I was determined to get a good picture so I could get them ordered and sent out ASAP. And this is when my day really started going downhill. I took 34 pictures. I probably would have taken 34 more if I could have. Or maybe I would have needed half that if my dear child had any interest in listening. It took a few attempts before I found a pose that worked, and then once I did, I could not get Jacob to do what I was asking. Truth be told, there are probably a handful of acceptable photos in the batch, cute pictures for sure, but I'm not sure I LOVE them as our Christmas card. But most of them are just a touch off--Jacob not holding his prop quite right (I tried two different ones), or not looking at the camera, or not smiling, or doing his cheese face which makes his eyes all squinty. He looks sleepy or like he's trying too hard, and I'm not sure any of them are exactly the look I was trying to capture. Like with his original baby announcement, I want to capture his essence--one look that shows the people who don't see us often what an awesome kid we have. I even tried showing him other cards we've received to inspire him to listen to my instructions, but no, it did not go well. By the end I know we were both frustrated. And I even put him in his crib for a while, both because he needed a break and so did I. Yes, Mommy needed a timeout. I knew that all that time was unreasonable to ask from a two year old, but I did it anyway and was beyond frustrated when it didn't work out. Well, duh. I almost made him take a nap before I gave him lunch (and it was already late) because he was refusing lunch, but eventually he calmed down and so did I. He ate his lunch and watched me get the first batch of cutouts ready, and then I put him down for his nap, which went pretty smoothly. I then worked on the cutouts and miserably failed. I don't know what went wrong, though the prevailing theory is that my baking soda might be past its prime. There are a couple other thoughts, but I really have no idea. The cookies ended up crumbly and misshapen compared to what I know my mom's look like every year, so that was disappointing. And it meant that I was behind the 8-ball for getting cookies together for today's cookie swap.

Even though Jacob had only been asleep for about an hour, against my better judgment I was determined to get him up and go to the Christmas program. I was truly excited to take him there, for a number of reasons. First, he's got his own Christmas program at daycare on Tuesday night, and I wanted to give him a little preview. Second, I thought he'd get a kick out of seeing kids doing the whole show. Third, I think he'll actually be old enough to participate next year (I think Sunday School starts at three), so I figured it would be nice to get an idea of what we could expect next year. I knew he'd be tired, but after skipping church I really thought it was important to go. So I got him up and we rushed off. All things considered, he was actually really good. He was quiet on the way there and sat quietly on my lap for 2/3 of the program. He liked watching the kids a lot, I think. By the end he wanted to draw with the pew pens as usual, but he was even good while doing that. I was very relieved that it went well. However, as I sat there, I was seriously fighting off tears. I don't know what was doing it, I think a lot of emotions were converging. First, I'd had a rough day where I'd taken all of the joy out of Christmas--ruining cookies, yelling at Jacob for not listening even though I knew full well I'd pushed him beyond a normal two year old attention span--and all of that in the aftermath of our rough night of shopping. Second, I think I was having a hard time believing that my baby boy is within a year of participating in that program himself, and the speedy passage of time got to me a bit. Third, I was thinking back to all of the Christmas programs I participated in, how annoying the preparations were sometimes, but how in the end they were programs we were so proud of. And in doing them year after year (two, no less--one for school and one for Sunday School), they really became a fundamental part of the Christmas season for me, and I really do miss being a part of that stuff these days. Amidst all of the rehearsals and stress over memorizing parts and speaking into microphones, it really did always drive the point of Christmas home by the end. And I think when you wrap all of those elements up, it just got to me that I could be so frustrated and so out of the Christmas spirit, despite being so blessed all of these years to have had fabulous Christmases each and every year. I'm so fortunate to have the fun and family that have made my Christmases so great. Of course, it's made my current Christmases a little more complicated, since now I feel like I have to make Jacob's Christmases that great as well. My circumstances are certainly different than they were for my parents, considering my mom was a stay-at-home mom for many years (and worked part time beyond that) and we didn't have to travel at Christmas, so I know it's worthless to compare, but get used to a certain level of success, and it's hard when you can't live up to that. In any event, I held the tears back and tried to enjoy the singing children and the fact that Jacob was content. We headed off to Wegmans afterward for more cookie ingredients, among other things, and it was a trying visit. Lots of yelling and swatting at me from the cart. I just don't get it sometimes.

Dinner wasn't much better and neither was the post-dinner time, but he went down easily and I managed to whip up two successful sets of cookies after that. Thank goodness. So even though two sets came out ok, the failure of two other sets, plus unsuccessful shopping and the usual Jacob frustrations (and my accompanying parenting failures) just led me to feel like I had failed in my opportunity to have a lovely Christmasy weekend with my boys. I truly love Christmas but I hate that it brings with it so much stress. So many things to do, to buy, to make...and neglecting any one of those can disappoint a loved one or cause a major social faux pas, neither of which are ideal. Every year I stress about the same stuff--what to get for Jacob's teachers or my boss or my good friends or any number of family members--or worry that I won't get around to making holiday traditions or simply just enjoying the season. And you know what, every year it works itself out. No, things may not be ideal, but Christmas is still always a special time anyway. So I know I need to stop stressing out because it all works out, but I do know that it doesn't happen without a lot of hard work. There's a balance in there somewhere, and hopefully one of these days I will find it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back to the drawing board...

Well, Jacob's back to his uncooperative self. He hasn't gotten the check next to "Cooperative" for most of the week, and we've been getting those notes on his daily sheets about not listening. I know he's been spending some "timeout"-ish time in the office, which is really the best way they can get him away from the trouble and the situation, which is what timeouts should do. We discussed how he doesn't like being away from the group and being excluded from things (hence why he usually comes running when I say that Daddy and I are going to eat dinner without him and eat up all the food). We've also had horrible issues at bedtime (most nights this week, all except Wednesday), which could potentially be partially the fault of Craig's birthday cupcakes, which we've been having for dessert most nights. He's been up late, throwing out his animals, and being just generally difficult. I've been wracking my brain all week trying to figure out what's different from last week when he was being so good. I haven't figured out anything specific.

Tonight is another hockey game, and once again I'm debating whether or not we're going to go. His behavior may not warrant it, but he's usually good once we're there, it gives us an excuse to have dinner out (I only have so many ideas for "Jacob and me" dinners--we've already had two this week), and it kills a few hours. Usually we'll leave after the second period to get him home for a reasonable bedtime, so it's not a bad way to spend the evening, but if his behavior at daycare today is bad, we might just have to skip it. It'll make for a simpler yet potentially more frustrating evening for me, but there are pros and cons on both sides. I could get a head start on cookie baking, perhaps, or finally catch up on one of my Biggest Loser episodes on DVR, do some online shopping, or maybe even go to bed early. But at the same time, I do want to give Jacob a night he will enjoy whenever possible. It's a tough balance, made tougher by demands of the holiday season and his recent behavior.

I want to be consistent with discipline, but at this age it's hard to know your child's limitations. I mean, what is he cognitively able to control and what isn't he? One thing that kids take a while to acquire (and this is scientific--I read an article about it once) is impulse control. They have no filter, so when they want something--whether it's a desire to say something or do something-- they do it. It takes a long time to learn to restrain those actions. And I guess in the meantime it's up to the authority figures in their lives to teach them what isn't appropriate and should be restrained. But until they actually get that, it's hard to find the line between teaching them when they go wrong and punishing them when they willfully misbehave. I find myself thinking about this stuff a lot--not simply to give Jacob an excuse, but more to reframe my thinking of how I deal with his misbehavior. Sometimes it's a knee jerk reaction to yell and punish, but when you step back from the situation and think, "Did he really understand what he was doing?", it makes you stop and rethink things. Here's a simple example--Kids have to learn the simplest of concepts from scratch, like when you drop something, it falls. That's why dropping things off the high chair tray is so fascinating for babies. But when things fall, not everything responds the same. Most things babies have in their possession just fall. Maybe they make a noise. But if they drop something of mommy's, it might do something different, like break. So when your child is young enough to still be experimenting, and not old enough to realize that what they're touching will break, it's hard to really punish them for dropping and breaking something. They just didn't know. But if they've been constantly told not to touch that object, have the understanding to get what that means, and still disobeyed, it gets more complicated. Should they be punished because they knew something was wrong and still did it, or is it that impulse control issue, that they simply can't hold back? I truly have no idea how you know.

Lately I've been thinking a bit about how it felt to have a new baby. Like I mentioned the other day, two of my friends just became first-time parents in the last week or so, and another is welcoming baby #2 (baby #1 will be two in February--yeah, they're daring) tomorrow. And while I know about a million other thoughts and emotions cloud your thinking when you have a newborn, there's one thing that I've decided is truly special about that time. When you have a new baby, they've never done one thing to knowingly wrong you. Sure, they may keep you up for hours at a time, or be a fussy eater, or scream through a diaper change. But all of that stuff is just instinct. It's unavoidable and it's certainly not on purpose. They would probably rather be cooing happily, but when something in their world isn't right, crying is how they tell you. So no matter how frustrating and hard it may be when your baby communicates like that frequently, they're not doing it to make you crazy. I suppose things get less clear as you go along, for example, understanding that when they cry you come to help, and knowing to milk that for all it's worth. But until your child starts knowingly disobeying, they're still your little angel most of the time. However, once that obvious disobeying begins, you start bringing the emotions of disappointment, distrust, and anger into the relationship. It's a sad moment, quite frankly, because this perfect (albeit stressful) relationship that you've had experiences a big change that pretty much lasts forever. Those sweet, innocent days become fewer and fewer. Some days I get conflicted with Jacob. I love him beyond words and always will, but there are some days, after a particularly rough battle or bad night, that it's hard to look in his face and see that perfect baby. I see a touch of mischief in those eyes or in that smile, and it makes me sad. I miss the days of looking at him and thinking he's the most perfect thing on the planet. Do I still look at him and marvel at the amazing creation he is? Of course. But I get many vivid reminders that he's not perfect, and they take me even farther from the sweet days of his infancy, challenging as they were in their own right. At the end of the day I still love him so much, and I think that the "hard" feeling I feel goes beyond his behavior. I worry about what that behavior indicates about what he's feeling inside, I wonder what it means for his future (behavior and otherwise), and I probably beat myself up for whatever flawed parenting may have caused it all. Would more or less or different discipline have changed things? Should I not have drunk all of those Nutrasweet-laden beverages when I was pregnant? Have all these months of daycare finally turned him into a rebellious child? You just wonder what has caused it all, and how you got so far from the sweet baby you brought into the world. And in true parental form, you just want to make it all better.

Don't get me wrong. We're doing okay. It's a challenge but it's more or less what we signed up for. Every day is an opportunity to figure it all out, and that's what I will try my best to do. He's worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remember this? (And NO, this is NOT an announcement)

I just realized that three years ago today we had our first ultrasound. I knew it was right around this time, but when I checked the images, I saw that they were dated December 7th. Crazy.

Somewhere in there you'll see a tiny Jacob. I will never forget sitting there watching it all happen, being absolutely shocked about how formed the baby was. I expected an amorphous blob, and here was a real actual baby. He even moved around while we were watching, which was unreal to see. Little arms and legs that I never expected would be there yet. I remember leaving there on this incredible high, so excited about our future but still scared out of my mind. We were leaving in a few days for our Florida trip, so that made things even more unknown. But I was so excited anyway, and sort of dying inside that we couldn't tell anyone until Christmas!

It is so amazing to look at that picture and know that it's Jacob. What a difference three years has made!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas and Life Lessons

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I wanted to say that we had a really nice weekend. Jacob was actually really well-behaved. That's not to say we didn't have our moments, of course, but in the grand scheme of things he at least acted his age...rather than just some crazy version of it. He was downright pleasant at times, saying "thank you" a lot when I'd give him something and even behaving at church. It was really, really nice. Even on Saturday when my parents and my aunt came into town, Jacob was great. We pretty much just showed my aunt our house, and then all of us (minus Craig, who was working) went to dinner and the Amerks game. Jacob ate his dinner very well, and then was a very good boy at the Amerks game, our first in about a month. Grandma took him to play knee hockey with the other (bigger) kids in the corner of the concourse during intermissions, and apparently he held his own...though I guess he needs some brushing up on the rules since he was scoring on himself when he played goal, then high fived everyone. Yeah, not exactly. But overall it was a very pleasant experience to have a normal relationship with my child for a few days...minimal yelling, not a lot of threatening, and lots of smiles and hugs and snuggles. Fantastic. Oh, and a very happy birthday today to Craig! I was hoping to celebrate with singing and cupcakes tonight, but he has to work. I guess last night's dinner out with a big celebratory sundae at the end will have to do for now.

Anyway on to today's main topic. I feel like this Christmas season has been a bit of a conundrum for me. We have this awesome little boy who is really starting to understand Christmas this year. I want to make sure it is magical and fun for him, and I'm sure that regardless of anything else that goes on, it will be. He has many years to refine his appreciation for the simpler points of the holiday, but I know that at this point it's pretty much all about the gifts. And between us, both sets of grandparents, and his aunts, uncles, and godmother, he will be well taken care of. Beyond well, I'm sure. But I worry. Why? Well, on one hand, for a kid Christmas is the one time of year where dreams come true. You get presents, you get to eat treats, AND you get time off from school to enjoy it all. But on the other hand, when you're dealing with an impressionable toddler, how much is too much? As a parent, where do you draw the line between making your kid feel the magic yet making sure they come back down to earth appropriately after it's all over?

For months Jacob has been making a mental Christmas list. On it is pretty much any piece of sporting equipment you can imagine...even if he's already got a few scattered among his toys. Skates, hockey gloves, helmet, pucks, sticks, balls, you name it. He also wants a hockey net and (thanks to a couple prompts from us--either purposeful or accidental) a new hockey rink for his "hockey guys". He's getting both of those last two items, and he's also getting a real hockey stick and probably a mini goalie stick (since he doesn't have one of those among his many sticks, and he likes being a goalie). We're also hoping to get hand-me-down skates sometime soon. At this point I know he's not doing it out of greed. He just knows he wants it and that's it. I know he'll be thrilled with all of what he gets, but I do still worry that when all is said and done, he'll be sitting there asking us where his hockey gloves and helmet are. I'm sure we'll blame a little of it on Santa ("Sorry, buddy, he must not have been able to fit it on the sleigh..."), but I don't want to do so much of it that we turn him against Santa. After all, Jacob strikes me as a kid who will remember come next year, and he'll probably bring his hockey stick when he goes to see Santa next December, ready to rough him up and make sure it doesn't happen again! All kidding aside, I'm left wondering if this is really the best time of year to make the point that we don't always get what we want. He'll certainly learn that as he gets older, but is now the time to start the tough lesson? I just don't know. We've definitely covered a lot of his bases, so I suppose I'm also a little worried that he'll start thinking that if he asks for something from Santa, he's going to get it. I'm not a big fan of that lesson, either.

The thing is, I know he's only two so I don't want to go all out. But I also don't want to feel like we're chintzing out and not taking advantage of the holiday enough to give him some great stuff. We've gotten him some good things already, but I'm constantly trying to think of other things we could get him. I feel like I haven't been all that creative, but then again, with a kid who just plays sports, sometimes it's tough to think of anything else. I mean, on one hand I don't want a bunch of toys sitting around that he won't use. If he spends 90% of his time playing sports, is it worth getting him anything else? But at the same time I want to use this opportunity to encourage him to do other things. I want him to get some cool new toys that will capture his imagination and potentially give him new things to do so sports doesn't need to be everything. All sports all the time is particularly tough this time of year, because he can't go outside to play and is limited to what he can do in our living room. Now would be the perfect time to divert his attention to some other things, if at all possible. He's getting a bunch of Duplo blocks (the big Legos), which I know he plays with at daycare. There had been some talk about getting him a little table and chairs set, and I think that might be fun for him, too, because he could sit and color or play with his Legos. But I'm sure there are other things he'd enjoy, too, if only I could figure out what. But he really doesn't need that much, because he's really not home that much. Between daycare, naps, meals and errands, his time is limited. Still, I want him to love what he gets, use it, and be grateful for it.

What might scare me most is the aftermath. Will he be spoiled by the influx of presents and decide he wants everything in every store? Will he think Christmas is going to come again and again, and start listing off a batch of new wants? I'm strong enough to not buy him everything in sight, but I also don't feel like dealing with meltdowns every time we go to a store. But maybe none of this will happen. Maybe he'll be happy with what he gets and won't need anything else until we start getting close to his birthday. As a side note, I must say that I appreciate having his birthday and Christmas exactly six months apart, because it always allows for a "Maybe you'll get it for your birthday," or "Maybe you can ask Santa" response when he asks for something, since one big day or another is less than six months away.

When I think back on Christmases as a kid, I was spoiled. Not in an obscene way, but I was treated very well. I had two grandmothers that liked to shop, and my mom was always great about getting good stuff and having plenty for us to open. We usually got a big gift from my parents every other year or so, and plenty of medium and small gifts. When my cousin Lori and I discuss those crazy Binkley Christmases where the grandkids got spoiled, we came to the conclusion that at the time we knew we were making out well, but aside from normal childhood greed--I think it's unavoidable, to some degree--I think we understood that we were very lucky kids. And I think that's what I want for Jacob--for him to feel spoiled, but to also know that he is. I think that there's a fine line with spoiling. It's one thing to be spoiled, not realize you're spoiled, and just assume that it's what you deserve, and another to be spoiled, know you're spoiled, and know you're a fortunate child to be spoiled. I don't want Jacob to have everything he wants, because that's just too easy. I want him to long for certain things, maybe even for years, so he appreciates them when he finally gets them. I want him to know that he's fortunate and that it's important to give back at the holidays to show that thankfulness. And most of all, I want him to feel that magic of Christmas, each and every year. As long as he has that, I suppose the life lessons can wait for another day...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Knock on wood...

Jacob has been ever so slightly better this week. I'm not sure if it's because I've developed better coping strategies, or because some random discomfort isn't bothering him anymore, or if the four day Thanksgiving weekend got him out of a rut, but I will take it. And, of course, writing this will probably come back to bite me--never fails--but for now, I do think it's been better. And I hope it stays that way. As I've mentioned before, I'm not looking for perfection. He's two and it's a tough age. But if we can avoid tantrums about everything, or at least confine them to "convenient" times, or deal with them in a civilized, routine way, then that's acceptable to me. I'd prefer to avoid public meltdowns, random punches, drama over putting on his coat, food thrown on the floor, and the constant use of "jello legs", but I know it's not entirely possible. It's just learning to minimize and manage them.

I've had fairly good luck with timeouts. No, Jacob doesn't like to sit there and I have to plop him back on every ten seconds or so at times, but after it's over and we chat about why he was there, usually he's much easier to deal with. He gets out of his spastic tantrum and moves on. Hence the point of timeouts, I suppose. The only problem is that they're tough to do in public. I also think a good night's sleep works wonders. I've been trying to put him down a little early lately in case I make it out of bed early enough to head into work early (I am trying to make up some extra time for our holiday flex time, so I can use less vacation over the holidays and take an extra day beforehand), but as long as he falls asleep and stays asleep (unlike last night where he was wide awake for two hours in the middle of the night), I think he'll benefit from a little extra. Some mornings when he's dead asleep when I come in to wake him, I feel bad and wonder how much more sleep he could really use, and how it might impact his day. But with our schedule, any earlier of a bedtime means almost no playtime after dinner. And really, I think good playtime helps as well. When he's engaged and gets some good attention, he's a lot of fun to be with. He'll generally stay out of trouble and play nicely. The hard part is finding the energy sometimes, but I have to keep telling myself it's worth it in the long run. Even just threats of timeouts or losing privileges seems to help a bit, at least to change his course for a bit. And yes, they have to be threats that I'm willing to go ahead with. That's not always easy, but as long as I'm consistent, I think he'll get the idea eventually.

He's gotten "Cooperative" checked on his daycare sheet most of the week, which is such a nice thing to see. Seeing negative notes every day for a week or two was getting really old and really frustrating. I don't know if all of the talking-tos that we've done with Jacob are finally setting in, or if this week's activities are just more stimulating for him or less conducive to boredom or misbehavior. I'm hopeful it's the former. Eventually he'll learn that the more he cooperates, the easier things go in general. No, maybe he won't get exactly what he wants right this second, but he'll probably avoid punishment and get something just as good later. And really, who wants to spend every waking moment battling other people?

In other news...Jacob is really getting big. He's probably still only 30 pounds and just under three feet tall (far cry from the less than seven pounds and 21 inches he was!), which only puts him in the 50th percentile, but I'm pretty sure he's moved into 3T clothes, at least on top. Bottoms are a different challenge since he's so skinny--he'll sometimes grow out of pants in length before they ever really fit him in the waist, so thank goodness for adjustable waist pants!--but tops are suddenly not fitting him. Jacob is definitely his father's son in that he's a skinny kid with long arms. The thing that's perplexing me, though, is that Jacob seems to have a really long torso. Neither Craig nor I do, so that's a bit of an oddball thing to me. So many of his shirts (even 2T ones, some of which are still big width-wise) are too short for him, both in the body and the arms. I feel bad sending him to daycare in shirts that are too small (ok, they're "fitted" right now, if nothing else), but it's going to take time (and Christmas) to rebuild a wardrobe that had been seemingly well-stocked with hand-me-downs. This morning I pulled out a bunch of 3T shirts I had put away for him, mostly cheap clearance buys from last winter. Some look a little big, but not all of them! They'll fill in the gaps when I put away the officially too small stuff, and then I'll have to see how he fares at Christmas. Beyond that I'll fill in the blanks (and restock the reserves) with after-Christmas clearance. I just can't believe how quickly he outgrew the 2Ts!

I couldn't help but laugh the other day when I picked up Jacob out of his crib infant-style, like I was about to rock him. He wouldn't come out of the fetal position and I needed to get him up, so that was the only way to get him. But when I did it, it really hit home how big he is. I think he's nearly a full pair of legs longer than he was when he was born! It's amazing to look at the walking, talking little boy he is these days. It's a far cry from the less than seven-pound, 21 inch long infant we brought home!

I've had a couple friends have babies in the last week, talked to an instructor at the gym who found out she's having a girl (after a boy a couple months older than Jacob), and read a blog from a pregnant blogger who's due any day, and it's all gotten me thinking a bit about potential baby #2. Specifically, I've been wondering if I will bond more with baby #2 in utero than I did with baby #1. I think I will. For one, we'll find out the gender of baby #2, so halfway through the pregnancy we'll have an image in our heads and maybe even be able to call it by name. We'll start picturing our future--whether we'll be breaking up wrestling matches in the living room, or saving a tea party from a foul ball. Last time around everything was such an unknown that my brain couldn't even go there. All I could focus on was the present. And I think having gone through this process, we'll have a much longer term view. We'll be able to better comprehend that the tiny little baby will someday turn into an active toddler. I think there were times that we forgot that with Jacob--that we were so caught up in taking care of a baby that it barely occurred to us that times would change and he would turn into a little boy with a big personality. I mean, obviously we knew it was coming, but we couldn't even fathom what it meant at that point. Next time around I hope we can keep that in mind, so even on our worst days we remember that everything is just temporary. If we can make it through the tough stuff, we'll be rewarded in the end with an awesome kid.

Of course, the problems never really get better...just different and more complex. But one of the mysteries of parenthood is how fast time goes, and inherent in that is that things will change. Children will grow, they'll go through phases, and before you know it, you're on to the next step. Nothing ever lasts too long, including your child's childhood! I'm just trying to remind myself to appreciate these moments, because they're both fleeting and special. Our time will never be quite the same again, for better or for worse. Things are always changing, but at least that means there's never a dull moment.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Preparing for the Holidays

Being a mom around the holidays is challenging. It takes a lot more planning than it did in my single days or married without kids days. Granted, back in those days I worked more (and on weekends!) so it was still a challenge, but parenthood means less control over everything and more that I'd like to have control over. You have the responsibility of making sure your kid gets a great holiday experience--presents, attendance at their events, exposing them to Christmas traditions--while also making sure that social obligations are taken care of, gifts are bought and wrapped, and child care is secured for any non-kid holiday events or crazy shopping trips.

These first few days of the Christmas season have been a bit odd for me. I was very excited about decorating the house and pulling out the Christmas music, both of which I have certainly enjoyed. Jacob has been learning Jingle Bells at daycare for their Christmas program, and I've enjoyed helping him practice at home. He's learned a bit about Frosty the Snowman and is taking interest in the manger scene and the tree, and he loves Christmas lights on houses. Incidentally, we had a casualty last night--I went out to get the mail and came back to Jacob holding a tiny little hockey net that he'd pulled off of an ornament. Luckily it wasn't one of my really good Hallmark ornaments, and I was able to superglue it back on, but he certainly got a stern talking-to (again) about not touching the tree.

The weather has put a bit of a damper on my holiday spirit, though, as moderate temperatures, lots of rain, and brown-green grass everywhere doesn't really scream "Christmas" to me. We've actually been a little short on snow in December the past couple years, and it is a bit of a bummer since this is the one time of year that I enjoy snow. A little white stuff makes everything just seem a little more picture perfect. And I'm actually hoping the weather forecast holds out and we get a little snow next week. As long as we get enough to cover the grass and it's cold enough to stay there for a while, that's enough. While I do enjoy a little snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas to enhance the mood, in reality we have far too much traveling to do and snow just complicates that. But as long as the ground is white and the roads are clear, that's perfect.

In general, I've been waiting for some big intro to the Christmas season, and it just hasn't come. Other than the decorations around the house and the influx of emails in my inbox, I'm not sure I'd even notice it was Christmas season at this point. And it IS only November still--for another few hours, anyway--so I'm not sure what I'm expecting. Maybe it's because I haven't done any real shopping (wandering the mall without a purpose for an hour on Saturday doesn't really count), or maybe it's because I haven't pulled out the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Maybe it's because we haven't made any holiday-ish plans, or any that we know of seem so far away that I don't even want to tempt myself thinking about them.

I will say that the whole holiday shopping thing is bugging me a bit. I feel like I'm missing out on great deals by not going out on Black Friday or scouring the Cyber Monday ads to get stuff. But quite frankly I'm lacking inspiration on what to buy people this year, and all of the stuff I'm seeing in ads just seems to fall into a few categories--cheesy, expensive, unnecessary, or just plain crap. I usually do start out the season feeling uninspired, and slowly come up with ideas for gifts, but by then we're short on time, things get sold out, or we can't find what we're looking for. I'd love to get all of my shopping done now, before I get busy with Christmas parties and activities, baking, Christmas cards, and whatever else. I know it gets busy and the Christmas season flies by, and I hate that end-of-the-season crunch. It sucks the spirit right out of you. So I'd much rather get that stuff done early and enjoy the end of the season more, but it's just not happening. I tend to panic the closer we get, as I know that each shopping trip is that much more important. That if I don't find something this time, my future opportunities are limited. I wonder if I'm getting a good price and think I should go home and research more, but then it means another trip out to buy it later. Opportunities tend to be so limited as it is that it's a tough call. Do I take Jacob along and risk a meltdown? Do I head out alone when Craig is watching him, or worse, late at night after Jacob's in bed? It's certainly quicker in general without Jacob, but I HATE being out all night and coming home just in time to go to bed. Usually it's already late and then my sleep suffers, and then I'm tired the next day and not wanting to do anything in the evening, and on and on and on. I end up getting anxious about my time management and getting everything done by the end with even a little time to spare to enjoy things. There's nothing worse than getting gifts in the last-minute rush, then coming home and wrapping them, only to have all of five minutes to put them under the tree and take a picture before packing them all up to put in the car. But welcome to my life for the past few years!

Each year I swear I'll plan better, utilize my evenings better, and get really creative with gifts, crafts, and baking. And it mostly never happens. I get tired, I get busy, and shopping trips and big ideas never go as planned. I did do the gingerbread ornaments last year, and I may do them again this year, so I guess there is a shred of craftiness in there somewhere. I'd like to do real cutouts this year (yay, I have a stand mixer to help with that now!), and I'd really like to have more presents bought and wrapped earlier than ever. The last minute gifts we usually run out and get less than a week before Christmas? I really want to do those NOW. However, Craig has a lot of busy weekends this month, so it's going to be a challenge. We have all of two Saturdays and a Sunday to make it happen, and only weekday evenings beyond that. Yikes. As a parent you have to plan much more than ever before, so you'd think I'd have carried that over to Christmas, but not so much. I try, though. I just fail. I try not to be beat myself up about it, though. After all, I'm still pretty new at this and the responsibilities change a bit each year. I know I need to keep learning, and I'll have nearly mastered it just in time for my kids to no longer care :) Just kidding. But I do think it will take a long time to get comfortable with it all. My mom has always seemed to be a master--nice gifts, individually wrapped stocking stuffers, cookies, advent calendars, etc.--and it's a lot to live up to! Or at least, let's just say I'm used to the best. I want to give that to Jacob as well. I'm definitely using these years where he doesn't know any differently as my practice runs. Hopefully one day he'll appreciate it as well.

I'm still looking forward to this Christmas season, but with a list as long as Santa's, it'll be a challenge!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

No matter how long a break you take from work, it seems it's never easy to go back. If it's too short, it's not enough of a break, and if it's too long, you get so comfortable in non-work life that you just don't want to go back. There may be a middle ground in there somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. I was actually surprised at how easy this morning's daycare drop-off was. Jacob barely looked back. Maybe he missed it. Hopefully he proves that by being a delightful child today. Oh, how I wish.

Our weekend as a whole was pretty good, even though Craig worked for a good portion of it. We left for Buffalo on Wednesday night, and Thursday was busy and full of food, as expected. We did church and lunch with my parents (joined by my grandma for the meal), and an early dinner and evening with Craig's family. We stayed overnight there and came back Friday morning, just in time to avoid the lake effect snow heading into the area. Jacob seemed to enjoy his day. He was manageable at church and didn't eat much at my parents', but it was about naptime so I think that was part of the problem. During his nap we hopped on the webcam with my brother and his family, and that got me even more excited for all of us being together at Christmas. Jacob didn't eat much better with Craig's family, but he did have a great time playing with his cousins. Here's a shot of Jacob getting a piggy back ride from big cousin Maddy :) After two big meals, iffy sleep and some travel, I was beat and ended up staying upstairs in bed after putting Jacob down. At first it was just to keep him calm, but eventually I just didn't want to get up either! Here's a quick shot--the only other picture of the weekend--from bedtime. Jacob found these glasses among the toys in the room we stay in, and he thought they were funny. I can't help but agree.

Once we got home on Friday, I started working on Christmas decorations. I put away all of the Thanksgiving/fall stuff, then gave the crawl space its first real test as far as hauling out bin after bin of stuff. And happily, it wasn't too bad. I don't miss the eternal walk up our old basement steps (only seven in this house) or the close quarters of our old storage room (yes, the crawl space is short, but it's roomy otherwise). It was a pretty quick process of getting the stuff out, but a much longer process of placing it. Five bins and a Christmas tree makes for a lot of stuff. The tree went up quickly, but didn't get decorated until yesterday. But in the free time I had, I managed to get 99% of the decorations up over the course of the weekend. Just a couple more things I'm pondering at this point. In between decorating, I tried to be productive. I played with Jacob, read days' worth of newspapers, and tried to make the house look presentable amidst all of the stuff. I could have used another day or so, but it's not bad.

Jacob was hot and cold all weekend. When he was good, he was great. When he was bad, he was very difficult. Even still, I appreciated the opportunity to have such a lengthy period of time to spend with him so I could try to understand him. We definitely had some difficult moments and a few timeouts, but all things considered, I was sadder to leave him at daycare this morning than I sometimes am after a rough weekend. And since I had four days of time to get totally annoyed with him and it didn't happen, I felt like it was progress. Of course, I swear he came thisclose to breaking my nose twice yesterday. He was battling me at one point during church (he was so good for the first half or so, then freaked out because he wanted a certain pen, and then because he wanted other paper besides the five different pieces from the bulletin, and then because he wanted (as usual) to play baseball and run around the room), and at one point he moved in a way where his head suddenly went across my nose. I swear I thought it was broken and I was waiting for the blood to gush. It hurt. And of course, it hurt Jacob's head, too, but try getting him to understand that both of our pain was caused by him fighting me. Then we were playing in the evening, having a good time. He took our fun a little too far, though, and suddenly it happened again. Ouch. Needless to say my nose hurts today. I don't think there's any visible damage--maybe a small mark, maybe a tiny bit of swelling--but doing anything to my nose today hurts. As a whole, meals were a little iffy and Jacob is still "Mr. No" about almost everything. He refused to pick up a mess he made on Friday, and as a result, we missed another Amerks game. We haven't been to one in weeks, partly because he's misbehaved beforehand and partly because his general behavior makes me not want to expose him to any more "nasty hockey guys" who he so enjoys emulating. He'd been good enough on Thursday and Friday up until that point to give him a chance, and then it all fell apart.

Still, we did have a good weekend. Jacob is starting to notice the Christmas decorations a bit more. He noticed a bunch of hockey ornaments on the tree, and he LOVES the various Hallmark plush music-makers that we've gotten as gifts over the years. We have a snowman that plays a piano, a plush Snoopy's doghouse, a plush Snoopy playing the piano, and a stuffed Snoopy, all of which play music and have flashing lights. Jacob plays them on repeat, sometimes two at a time. He played with two of them throughout my entire shower on Saturday morning. Nice that I knew right where he was :) It's a bit of a challenge corraling his sports enough to protect breakables and explaining to him that he can't touch the tree, but he's been pretty good so far. And I must say, decorating the house was pretty neat. While it didn't flow quite as nicely as the routine in our old house, where I knew where things went from year to year, I am very happy with the end result. The placement of the tree is perfect, and made for interesting decorating since I had to decorate it with a bit of a 360-degree view. I made use of the stairs and the landing to hang ornaments all over the tree, and it's neat to enjoy the tree from so many different angles. And I finally have a railing to put lighted garland on, so that's cool. A few years back I bought a lighted wreath and added my own touches to it. I wanted something to add drama to the red wall in our living room, and it was really pretty. I was concerned about where I would hang it this year since it's heavy and I'd have to use a certain hook (and probably leave it there all year). Fortunately, I had a brilliant idea to hang it on the railing! Below are a couple views of the finished product. The second picture was only taken in a landscape orientation to avoid Jacob's toys, but one of these days I will move them out of the view and take a picture that captures the essence of what sold us on the house the second we walked in. But still, other than not seeing the cathedral ceiling in that picture, it gives you the idea. It's fun to have a mantel, too!

I still wish we could do a Christmas morning in our house with kids bounding down the stairs, but considering how important family is, I can't complain about our current setup spending it in Buffalo with family all around. We'll just have to get creative and get some new traditions set up to enjoy our wonderful picture-perfect Christmas house. Oh, and might I mention it was nice to put out decorations, no matter how tacky, after a year of censoring our decor for house showings? Fantastic. Yes, there is kitsch, but it's fun :)

It's not easy to recover from a holiday weekend, despite the break from work, and now that we're heading into the holidays the pressure is on. Hopefully I'll blog more about that later...but in the meantime, I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I know I've been complaining/venting a lot lately. Jacob's behavior issues have certainly been at the forefront these days, consuming my thoughts a good portion of the time. I don't know why he's being so difficult, what might be causing it or where we may have gone wrong, and I'll admit it's making me a little crazy. It's like when your child is sick--you just want to take away their pain and fix everything. And until you do, you feel a little helpless. You keep pondering what might help and do everything you can in the meantime to make things better. But oh, if only Tylenol could fix this one...

However, despite my frustrations, I know that we are still incredibly blessed. Maybe that's frustrating me even more--that everything else is so good, but this one big issue is dragging the rest down. And I do know that our situation could be so much worse, in about a million different ways. We could have a sick child, no home, or be unemployed. We have none of those issues, so regardless of everything else, we are blessed. Here's what I'm thankful for:

1) Two meals - While having two meals just hours apart on Thanksgiving isn't the easiest thing to stomach (literally), it is really a special thing. Not only is the food fantastic at both meals, but having two means that we have two sets of family members who we get to spend time with. Some people won't even have one meal on Thanksgiving, and we have the opportunity to stuff ourselves silly at two. And we're certainly lucky to have two families within a reasonable distance of our home and each other so we can spend time with both of them in the same day. We don't have to travel far, nor do we have to choose one over the other each year. Every year we have with our families is a blessing, particularly as everyone gets older. I think of all of the holidays past with family members who are no longer with us, and I know that I should savor each and every holiday while everything is as it is. It's special.

2) A healthy child - Yes, Jacob's behavior is driving us nuts and may be indicative of bigger problems. Yes, he has a cold right now that will probably usher in his perma-cough that shows up all winter, every winter. But he's alive and well, running around and talking up a storm. He's smart, he's passionate, and when he's not being a crazy child he can be really sweet and fun. And he's a good sleeper, which does a world of good for my outlook on life each day. When I'm tired, the whole world is a few shades darker. Overall, we're just blessed to have him. There are so many people out there who can't have children or who have lost children. They'd probably give up important body parts to be in our position right now.

3) A beautiful house - We went through so much craziness in the last year, deciding out of nowhere to sell our house and trying like crazy to find a good one. And we did, on both counts. I never thought I'd survive the selling process or the moving process, but somehow I did. We had great family that came out to help with the move, and all of it got done (with the help of movers as well) in a matter of hours. Well, the settling in process took considerably longer, but eight months later we're happily settled in our home. As I've mentioned before, there are so many things about our house that make it absolutely perfect for us. A fall without leaf raking and a front porch conducive to trick or treaters are just two of the newest discoveries. And the mere fact that (knock on wood) we don't have any pressing repairs or improvements is such a massive load off our minds. We have a lovely home that we can enjoy for years to come, and we won't have to worry about cramming another baby in when the time comes...there's plenty of space now.

4) An extra year to enjoy our lives as we know them - Yes, in my grand plan I wanted to be pregnant right now. I wanted to be well on our way to having two kids three years apart. Well, that's not how things have worked out. I'll admit it's been a little hard to watch people who had kids around the same time that we did move on to another baby. I can think of four off the top of my head, actually, and part of me really wishes that I was one of them. However, it's just not a smart move financially right now, and we're hoping that by this time next year we'll be in a better spot. We do have reason to hope, but that may still be a long way off. It's looking to be a smart move as well because of Jacob's current issues. The stress alone would be bad for a growing fetus, let alone the physical struggles of dealing with Jacob right now. We can use this year to hopefully get him figured out a bit, and enjoy our last bit of time where he's the sole center of attention. Maybe we'll even have the time and money to take a fun trip somewhere cool. Or maybe Craig and I will have a chance to get away alone for a bit while there's just one child to ship off to the grandparents. There are plenty of things to fill the year, including getting Jacob potty trained and adjusted to a big boy bed, and to start getting our spare bedroom ready for him to move in someday. The time really isn't a bad thing.

5) Two jobs - With so many people losing their jobs around us, it's nice that both of us have managed to keep ours. While we'd both like to be making more, and while I still have my dream of working part time, at least for now we're both employed and bringing in enough money to live comfortably. And I'm extra thankful that there's a true prospect for improving the short term and long term. More on that later, if anything comes of it. And while we both have our share of difficulties with our jobs (who doesn't?), we both have a lot of things that we like about them. Craig is fulfilling his dream of working in sports, and I have a job that has turned me into a Microsoft Excel nerd :) And it pays me better and demands far less hours than my previous job, which did have the benefit of fulfilling my dream of working in sports. I also got a husband out of the deal, so that wasn't bad, either ;-)

6) We're still happily married - We probably don't get to hang out or talk to each other as much as we'd like, since by the time evening hits and Jacob's in bed we're both too spent to do much more than watch TV, but when we do have the time to hang out, we still enjoy each other's company. And despite the stresses of work, parenthood, and home ownership, we're still happily together. And that means that much more this week, after hearing about marital infidelity by a friend of ours. It was disappointing and pretty shocking, and makes me that much more grateful that we've made it this far without feeling the need to resort to stupid, selfish behavior like that.

7) A special month - Earlier this month Craig's Nana turned 91. Saturday my grandma turns 86, and Sunday my parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. It's truly a blessing to have those things happening in our world...from the fun stories Nana shared during dessert today to the great example my parents have set with their marriage. I still remember my grandparents' 40th anniversary party, held under a tent in our old backyard. I was nearly four years old at the time. Looking back at pictures, my grandparents already looked old, but despite being in the same general age group as my parents are now, I think my parents look so much younger! Scary to think I'm pretty much the age now that my parents were then! I also know a number of other people with birthdays this month. Seriously, I think almost every day I had three or four friends on Facebook with birthdays. Something special about this month, I guess!

8) Anticipation for a great holiday season - I'm excited to decorate our new house, excited to see how Jacob reacts to everything this year (please God, don't let his current issues ruin everything!), excited to have 10 days off of work, and excited to see my brother and his family at Christmas. We talked with them today on the webcam (primarily to reveal my parents' anniversary gift), and it was awesome to see my niece Kate being such a big girl--talking, drawing, looking adorable--and I can't wait to see the two kids together. They're probably actually really close in abilities right now, so it should be fun to see if they talk to each other or play together. Let's hope it's all good! Regardless, it will be so good to see everyone together for the first time in a year and a half.

9) Potty training - While the whole process still freaks me out a bit, I'm excited that it's getting started earlier than I thought. We still have a long way to go, but it's a start. And amidst all of this frustration with Jacob, it's given us a little bright spot of pride every time he manages to go n the potty. Little victories, folks.

10) This blog - For nearly three years it's been a constant in my world, documenting my thoughts, feelings, and happenings for posterity. The blog has had its moments, but I really do appreciate it's presence in my life. I like looking back and seeing how we've progressed and what we've done. It's the most in-depth baby book possible, and I am grateful for the way it has documented our lives. It can be a great place to vent or sort through my feelings, a great creative outlet, and the cheapest form of therapy there is. And just one glance through it reminds me how lucky we are, how blessed to have so many good (and not-so-good, but life-enhancing nonetheless) experiences filling our world. And on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for them all.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!