Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Week at Home

It's been an interesting week at home.  I'm always a bit cautious about these weeks home with Jacob, just because I'm well aware that I may not be suited to full time mothering at home.  I've long said that I'm made to work part time.  I need the adult interaction, but I still feel like the couple weekend days and a bunch of evenings aren't quite enough.  It's hard to find time among errands and relaxing during my non-work hours where Jacob isn't sleeping but is a willing participant in whatever I'd like to do.  It's a tough balance at best.

I was looking forward to this week because Jacob got some crafty stuff for Christmas and I figured it would be a good week to play around with some of it.  The other night we did Play-Doh for the first time ever, despite having numerous little cans of it sitting around, courtesy of goody bags from daycare and parties.  I just never wanted to take the time or deal with the mess.  But this week, it seemed manageable.  And it was....we had a good time.  It took Jacob some time to get used to rolling it out and using cookie cutters, but he was really great with it. 

Not bad for an automatic timer shot!

Making "cookies"
Wednesday morning we built a giant tower with MegaBloks...

...and later that day we took Jacob to a lacrosse camp that Craig had players at.  Strangely, Jacob didn't look that much smaller than the smallest kids, who are a few years older than him.  He didn't get to play long, but he certainly looked cute doing it...

Thursday I had planned to send Jacob to daycare, just in case there was anything I needed to do, returns, etc.  In the end it turned into a date day for Craig and me.  We saw a movie ("The Muppets"--brought back good memories and I wish "The Muppet Show" was still around), went out to lunch, and did some shopping.  It was a nice day and I think it's good to do that once in a while. 

Friday night we went to an open house at the sports complex near our house.  We're planning on sending Jacob there for one sport or another next summer since he's just too young for tee-ball (which is crazy since he's probably at least as good as those kids already).  I just got a Groupon-esque deal for half off, too!  Anyway, most of the local teams had players and/or mascots there, and Jacob spent most of the night playing soccer.  I made him watch a magic show and he took a break to go see the Rhinos' mascot, Rex, but neither the inflatable slides and obstacle courses, nor the lure of pizza, were much of a distraction. 

I still have a few days to go since we're all off Monday, but it's been a good week.  To be honest, we're a little slow getting going in the morning, and Jacob is all about playing anyway, so by the time we get through lunch and nap, the day seems mostly over...just a little more playtime and dinner before bedtime creeps up.  He's taken a few marathon naps during this break, which seem to hinder bedtime a bit.  I think he's probably getting to the point where he could start giving up his nap, but since he takes it, it gives him an abundance of energy.  He can keep it up as long as he needs to, even though it's a little inconvenient sometimes.

It's nice to have the time to sit and play with him, and to do some of the stuff we don't usually get around to doing.  He's at a fun age right now, where he can get into some of this stuff and isn't always stubborn like he was a while back.  He plays well by himself, too, so I've had some opportunities to blog, clean or relax...which has been a welcomed opportunity.  Still so much more I'd like to do, but hopefully the next few days can be productive as well.  I've organized toys, washed our kitchen floor (more on that in another post), and hope to do some laundry today, among other things.  I could take down the Christmas stuff, but I can't bring myself to do it just yet.  It takes me a little while to downshift from Christmas.  I hate when Christmas lights start disappearing from the neighborhood and trees start appearing on the curb.  I cringe when people post on Facebook that their tree is down on the 26th.  I sort of like the lazy side of Christmas, even if it is a little depressing to know that the fun is over. 

We have some fun things to look forward to, though.  Next weekend Jacob is going to his first Sabres' game, and Knighthawks season is just around the corner.  Later this year we're going to Disney with Craig's whole family (part of our Christmas gift!), and hopefully this will be the year we add to our family...though we need things to start working out sooner rather than later for that to happen.  2011 was a year of ups and downs.  Despite the losses (primarily my aunt and grandma), we still had a good year--we gained a nephew, took a great vacation, and came out of the changes in Craig's job no poorer but with more free time.  So, overall, not too bad.  I pray that this coming year is at least this good, and hopefully even better.  Best wishes to everyone out there for a very happy and healthy 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Friday

Now that we're through Christmas, time to catch up on some pictures from the past few weeks...

Here's a reject from the Christmas card photo shoot.  I got a LOT of this, because every time I went to hit the shutter button, Jacob bent over, moved closer to the camera, and made that crazy face.  Thank goodness we got the ones we did!

We went to the Knighthawks' home preseason game on the 17th, and Jacob kept talking about going on the field postgame.  He loves it, and although it made for a late night, he was such a good boy that we stayed.  I got some fun shots...
Where did this big boy come from?


Posing, per my request.  Didn't quite get the smile I was looking for, but still, he did that pose himself.

Again with the silly, wide-eyed face.  So much for getting a regular old smile...
And now for a few more miscellaneous ones...
Our Christmas card, with bonus artistic shots of one of our ornaments and our nativity scene

The winning picture from Jacob's latest daycare photo shoot. For prints we cropped it just below the hand in the pocket. He looks super handsome and it was well worth the obscene cost to purchase the CD (which was far less than the prints would have cost). There were some other good ones, but this one was HIM. Picture courtesy of CLIX Rochester.

It's Captain America!  Jacob showing off his shirt, shield and mask, all Christmas gifts.  There's that face again...what a goofball!

What a crazy few weeks it has been.  Good weeks, but even with a week off, man, am I tired! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


On Christmas morning as we were heading from one house to another, Craig remarked that it didn't feel like Christmas.  I knew what he meant.  I don't know what it was, but for some reason it didn't exactly feel like Christmas.  I mean, it was a great couple days and I have really changed anything, but even now I'm almost surprised that another Christmas is behind us.  It always goes fast.  It's like planning for a wedding or the birth of a baby, but on a smaller scale.  So much buildup for a day or two of craziness, and then it's over.  You're left with good stuff in the aftermath, but there's so much planning and's over.  I have some theories about why it felt that way, but I'm not sure if any of them really explain it...or even all of them.

1) This was the first Christmas without my grandma.  For a variety of reasons, we didn't even see that side of the family this year.  My parents had everyone over on Christmas Eve, but that's our prime time with Craig's family, so we missed it.  For Christmas, everyone had other family commitments and our Christmas day is usually full enough that there was no need to force it.  And without the gifts my grandma used to give, there wasn't that added motivation.  While I didn't miss the gifts themselves, I certainly missed the dose of "Grandma" those gifts represented.  Every year we'd get a new Hallmark ornament (our tree is covered with them), and that tradition is over.  It's probably a good thing as we're nearly out of room, but I did enjoy pulling them all out this year and appreciating how special they are now that she's gone.  She also tended to give certain things over the years--Christmas linens, jewelry, perfume, etc.--and I'll always look at that stuff knowing it came from her.  So while it's not the gifts, I do miss time with that side of the family and the memories from the gift opening over the years. 

2) Last Christmas was pretty hard to top.  Last year, John, Kristin and Kate flew in from Portland on Christmas.  We had a blast on the 26th opening presents with both kids, and the next few days were really great having the whole family together and watching the kids interact for the first time.  Also, their presence extended the holiday a bit.  Like this year, we did our Santa presents at home on the 23rd, Christmas with Craig's family on the 24th, family stuff on my side on the 25th, and two exchanges on the 26th (as I recall) because my mom's family came over to see the Portland crew that night.  It made for a great, long-running Christmas.  In comparison, this year seemed short and significantly less exciting.  Still great, but you know...different.

3) Christmas mass was in a gym.  It was still lovely, but it was different.  Growing up, we spent all of Christmas at church, or so it seemed.  We did two services on Christmas Eve (Children's service and Candlelight service), and then one on Christmas morning.  I loved the Christmas Eve services so much, and once Craig and I started spending the holidays together, the compromise was giving up Christmas Eve traditions with my family.  In return I got to keep all of our Christmas Day craziness, which was the key part of Christmas for me.  But I've always missed Christmas Eve...even though my parents now go to a different church anyway.  For the past five years or so, we've gone to Christmas Eve mass late in the afternoon.  I actually really liked the year we did Midnight Mass, but I don't think that's the best idea for a busy next day.  But over these past years I've really come to enjoy that time at Craig's parents' church.  The music is beautiful, the mood peaceful, and knowing that the kids are hyper because they're excited for Santa makes the distractions a little cuter than usual.  This year the church had another service in the gym to handle the overflow from the very busy mass in the main sanctuary.  Craig's mom was part of the singing group for the gym service so we went to that one.  And while it was fine, it was different.  And in a year of lots of "different", I suppose it didn't help.  Still, it was impressively lovely for something in a gym, and the message was really nice.

4) No snow.  We hardly had any snow prior to Christmas and other than a flurry the moment we arrived in Buffalo on Friday night, no sight of snow through the holidays.  I appreciated the easy driving while running Christmas errands, but I missed that extra Christmas spirit boost.  Of course, here we are three days later with a few inches of blowing snow. 

5) Maybe I planned better.  I still had a lot of last minute stuff to do, but I think overall I planned better so I wasn't spending the few days before Christmas buying things like teacher presents and co-worker presents and all the stuff I normally scramble for.  Maybe because it was more evenly spread across the last couple weeks of the season, I didn't have the same rush I normally associate with the end of the Christmas season. 

Like I said, in spite of all of these changes, we still had an awesome Christmas.  Jacob's excitement was fun to see, and that probably made the holiday for both of us.  We enjoyed our gifts (one of my surprise favorites--Shel Silverstein's "Every Thing On It"--loved his stuff as a kid and can't wait to share it with Jacob), but Jacob's joy was infectious.  As I alluded to above, Christmas tends to change as you get older--from the crazy-about-Santa phase, to a more mature but still excited phase, to sharing it with a special someone, to enjoying your children and grandchildren.  Every phase has its good points and bad points, and each phase involves some adjusting.  "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "better" or "worse"...but it does take an open mind to appreciate the new and gracefully miss the old.  I may miss my old church on Christmas Eve, but a chaotic-but-fun time with Craig's whole family is a special blessing itself.   This year may have been different, but despite that, we still had a fantastic holiday.  We are truly blessed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One more thing for today...

Happy Birthday to this blog! Hard to believe, but it turns four years old today! Four years ago today, I vividly remember sitting down at the computer in the office in our old house and sharing with the world (or at least the select friends and family members that I sent the link to) that we were having a baby. Four years later, that baby is running around the house changing his clothes repeatedly, leaving bits of Batman's "house" on the living room floor, and yelling to me that he peed in the potty. Definitely a big change from that Christmas to this one!
Craig and me with the first ultrasound picture, which we had framed and wrapped up for our parents' Christmas gifts--our way of revealing we were expecting.  I look so young.
I'm not sure I would have expected to still be doing this four years later, but I certainly hoped I would.  And nowadays I'm hoping that I'll have a whole new story to tell at some point in the not-too-distant future.  But I suppose Jacob is enough subject matter for now.  It's worked for this long, anyway. 

FOUR YEARS.  Wow.  As they say, a baby changes everything.

Christmas Recap!

Wow, what a crazy few days it has been!   I knew last week it would be non-stop, and it was.  But it was awesome.  We really had a great holiday. 

It all started on Friday afternoon.  I made a couple stops on my way home from work (half day, thank goodness!) and started working on one last batch of cookies to take along with us to our family gatherings.  I knew it would take a lot of time, but I still did it.  I had more presents to wrap (including a couple waiting on our doorstep when I got home), and I needed to pack up both Jacob and me for the trip to Buffalo.  It was quite a to do list for the end of the preparation process!  We didn't leave until late-ish that night, but it all got done!

The tree was ready to go, fresh from our annual "test run" visit from Santa, by the time Jacob got home from daycare. 

Jacob very much enjoyed his gifts from Santa and us, as well as Uncle John, Aunt Kristin, Kate, and Max.  This year seemed to be a bit different than the past--he wanted to fly through gifts much more quickly, rather than how he was in the past where he wanted to stop and investigate every single gift.  Too quick, in my opinion, and I found it nearly impossible to get a good picture!  He got a lot of gifts, most of them superhero-themed.  If last year was the year of sports, this was the year of the superhero.  He got a Spider-Man-themed toothbrush/cup holder, a lot of superhero books, Batman slippers, a Captain America Pez dispenser, and a few action figures, among other things.    
Captain America figure!  Oh, by the way, he's in his jammies because it was PJs day at daycare...appropriate for gift opening, though!

First Knighthawks jersey!  They were way discounted so we thought it was just about time for one!

And yes, the Batcave!  This was the big, long-awaited gift, and Santa delivered.  Jacob once again walked in the door and pinpointed which present was the big one he wanted (he did it with his hockey rink last year), and he was right. 
 Jacob loved the Batcave, and admittedly it's pretty cool.  It was tough to pry him away once we finished dinner and packing, but eventually we were off...but not before taking a little detour through a nearby neighborhood to see their amazing lights.  Almost every house decorates, and they even sell hot cocoa and popcorn!  The lights were awesome. 

We got to Craig's parents' house pretty late, but Jacob went back down without a problem and we spent the next morning lazily getting ready for a busy afternoon and evening.  We headed out to Craig's parents' church for Christmas Eve mass, and Jacob was actually pretty good for it!  After that we were off to Craig's aunt's house for the annual Christmas gathering with his extended family.  We ate, Jacob opened a few presents (including the Captain America shield he's been eyeing up and trying on at every department store we've entered for the last few months), and then it was time to head back to Craig's brother's house for our exchange with the immediate family.  The stream of superhero presents continued... 
Captain America mask to go with his shield!

Batman undies...for Daddy!
 He also got a Batman and Batmobile, as well as a bunch of crafty things we'll hopefully play with this week.  He got a couple pairs of PJs and a Captain America t-shirt.  And here are the boys after the gift rush...
Captain America (and other superheroes) PJs!
Everyone seemed to like their gifts a lot, too, so that was great.  The boys played a bunch with their toys (Grant got a Batcave too!) and there were only minimal sharing issues before the kids headed up to bed prior to Santa's arrival.  Jacob even got a little solo playtime before we were ready to head back to Craig's parents' house.  All in all, it was a good (albeit late) night.

Christmas morning Jacob slept in until 9am (good, but bad because we couldn't make it to church with my parents, which would have been nice).  We got ready, packed up, and headed off to my parents'.  It was a much lower key Christmas day than usual, but we had a nice, quiet Christmas dinner with just the five of us.  Jacob opened up presents before and after we ate.  This one was a hit! 
The Jokermobile actually elicited a squeal!

Excited to get the Riddler and his car!
Other than three villains to go with his Batcave, Jacob got a bunch of Lego-themed books and a Viewmaster!  After a nap, we headed to my uncle's house for the annual Binkley gift exchange and smorgasbord.  The adults did a Yankee swap-type exchange, and the kids got gifts from Santa.  Jacob got this awesome Melissa & Doug set where the little boy can be dressed in magnetic outfits, all of which were sports uniforms!  He loved it!
Studying the options...

Anyway, it was really a nice weekend with a good mix of family time and down time.  I ate (and even drank!) a little too much, but it was such a fun time.  Another successful Christmas in the books, and hopefully a fun week to go!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas' Cast Members

Now that Jacob is getting old enough to understand Christmas, there are so many more elements that play into how we approach the season.  I have known for the last three Christmases (holy cow, Jacob's fourth!), it's all been a lot of practice.  I've been trying to get better at this "parent-at-Christmas" thing before it became a big deal that could make or break the holiday for my little boy.  From start to finish, Christmas is jammed packed with things to get right.  There are traditions leading up to the day, and one major amazing day (or two) at the very end.  I'd probably panic more about doing the million little traditions if I wasn't already so busy shopping, baking, wrapping, and celebrating.  But in the grand scheme of things, the culmination of the holiday on Christmas Eve/Day seems to, by far, overshadow anything that leads up to it.  We all have memories of advent traditions, special craft projects, and Christmas programs and pageants, but doesn't the thrill of Christmas morning beat it all?

But regardless of everything else, you really want to get Christmas right when it comes to your child.  You want to make sure that you give them just the right amount of tradition, and that you create the magic that you had as a kid.  If you read too much in the blogosphere, your mind will spin from the various takes on the Christmas season presented by any number of parent bloggers.  Traditions, theories on Santa, and every craft project known to mankind can really make you think twice about how you're spending your holiday. 

More than anything this year I've been thinking about Santa and the Elf on the Shelf.  In case you're unaware, the Elf on the Shelf is a big thing now, involving a book and a creepy little elf doll that costs somewhere around $30.  I've never read the book, but the basic story is that the elf comes into your house, keeps an eye on the kids, and flies back to the North Pole at night to report back to Santa.  Presumably this makes keeping the naughty and nice lists updated much easier.  The parental secret to the whole thing is that each night (or early morning), the parents must move the elf to a new location in the house so the kids think that he flew back to the North Pole and landed in a new spot in the house upon his return.  It's a big deal the next morning for kids to find their elf's new spot.  Here's a picture of the elf at John and Kristin's home, from my trip to Portland...
I made him look a little creepier than usual by using my fish-eye setting to emphasize his head...but yeah, that's him.
Some parents have a blast with it, judging by various blog posts and Facebook photos showing the elf in fun and/or precarious positions.  I've seen a couple making snow angels in flour, one straightening the star on a tree, and numerous adult-themed ones involving alcohol and its after-effects.  On the other hand, some parents forget to move the elf regularly and blog about making up stories about why it's still sitting in the same spot.  The ultimate reward, however, is that every time their kids are being bad, they simply point to the elf and poof!  Perfect kids.  Maybe. 

On one hand I think this is a super cute tradition.  I think I'd have fun thinking of places for the elf to land (though I think I would lose my creativity quickly) and if we had time in the morning for a game of hide-and-seek, I think Jacob would love looking until he found him.  However, I'm not sure I want to add the elf to my arsenal.  I mean, I'm not sure what's wrong with just using Santa as a good behavior incentive, and that's free.  I'm just not sure we need the elf doing Santa's dirty work, too.  If it's the visual impact of it, I did read somewhere to tell your kids that smoke detectors are Santa cams (though presumably make sure your kids understand their dual purpose first).  I have an inkling that some parents might use the elf for evil, and perhaps I'm worried I might be one of them.  I try not to bust out the Santa threats too often (though admittedly, I "called" him twice the other day!), but sometimes you just have to.  It's probably manipulative and an easy crutch, since we should be encouraging good behavior for reasons other than losing Christmas presents, but hey, it's the one time of year that parents can take advantage and get a bit of a break.  It just won't have the same impact after the presents have been delivered, so get it in now.  Long story short, part of me really wants to do the elf thing, but I need a couple things to happen beforehand: 1) The price needs to drop a LOT...or we need to get the book from the library and find a cheaper version of the elf; 2) I need to get to a place where I wouldn't rely on it as a crutch, and just enjoy it more as a fun holiday tradition. 

As for Santa...well...there are a lot of people that think encouraging your kids to believe in Santa is like telling them a giant lie.  Just the other day I read that Justin Bieberthis route, however.  Because truly, even if St. Nick doesn't deliver presents to good little boys and girls, we as parents take that role so his spirit lives on.  I mean, no other time of year will I spend money like I do right now, so it has to be the spirit of St. Nick taking over, right? 

Interestingly, there was one question Jacob had about Santa already that I couldn't even answer.  He was rattling on one night about all of the gifts he wanted, and I told him how lucky he was already to have the toys he has.  I told him that some kids don't get any toys at Christmas because their families don't have any money to buy them.  To which he responded, "Doesn't Santa bring them presents?"  Shoooot.  Smart kid I have, eh?  I was stumped, and then finally revised and said that they may get one or two from Santa, but that's it.  It did sort of put the whole Santa thing into perspective, that it certainly sets things up for some confusion as to inequality, etc.  I did read somewhere that someone told their kids that Santa may bring the toys, but the parents still have to pay for them, which may be a good out for that one.

So, for now we'll do without the elf but keep Santa in the mix.  I think it's fun to see the holiday through Jacob's eyes, and this is the purest way to do it.  He'll learn the truth soon enough, and I want to enjoy this time while we can. 

The final character of Christmas is, of course, Jesus. He's the most important, yet he's probably the least understood by a three year old.   Santa is everywhere, and the Elf is something he could see and understand...but Jesus?  Well, he knows bits and pieces.  Let's just say the whole story of Jesus isn't the simplest of stories to present to someone his age.  You can try to simplify, but ultimately it's a hard one to describe.  I mean, this time of year Jesus is a baby, and in the spring he's a grownup dying on a cross?  And then he comes back to life?  Why don't other dead people come back to life?  Jacob keeps asking about baby Jesus' lack of shoes and whether "he's a baby yet".  "Not until Christmas," I say.  I did shell out a few bucks this year to buy Jacob the Little People Nativity set, because I thought it would be nice to have one he could play with, and eventually we can recount the Christmas story together with tangible figures to help him understand.  I'm waiting on our delivery of the shepherd addition, which I think is important since the shepherds' encounter with the angels, and later the Christ child, is a huge part of the story.  Anyway, Jacob knows some of the bits and pieces, but keeping it extra simple at this stage is a challenge.  I certainly want him to know what's most important, but getting past the presents is going to be a longstanding challenge.  When I was a kid we spent Christmas at church--two services Christmas Eve, one Christmas Day, whereas we're lucky to get to one thanks to our crazy schedule.  I couldn't really avoid it as a kid (particularly since I went to a Christian school and spent most of December practicing for one program or another), but Jacob's around it a bit less.  I do hope that someday we send him to a Christian school so he can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas full time, without hesitation, but the elements factoring into that decision will fill another blog post at another time. 

Anyway, the craziness is about to start and I won't lie--I'm excited.  I always take a deep breath right around this time, knowing that the next few days will be an amazing whirlwind of emotions, sleep deprivation, family, and wrapping paper.  It's truly an awesome experience but it is not for the faint of heart!  And with that, it's time to get what little sleep I can before it all begins...stay tuned :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

42 Months

So, today Jacob officially turns 3-1/2.  I feel like I've been calling him 3-1/2 for a while now, but now it's official.  We're halfway through the age of three and headed toward four.  Holy cow.  My baby isn't a baby anymore, as he so often reminds me...and to which I respond that he will always be "my baby".  Yup, already setting up to me that mother-in-law.  Sorry.

Truthfully, I can't imagine how I'll feel when he's legitimately grown up.  Will he still be my baby when he towers over me?  Will I still long to snuggle him on the couch, or will the weirdness of that overpower the urge?  Or will I just be over it, no weirdness necessary?  Or, God forbid, he'll make me so crazy that I'll feel like I barely know him and could never have given birth to him.  Again, God forbid.  I'd like to think that if we made it through the terrible twos, we can make it through anything, but I know that the problems only get bigger and more complex from here. 

But for now, we're in a pretty good spot.  We still have a lot of moments where the selective listening, direct defiance, painful whinyness, and oblivious goofiness when we least need it make us a bit crazy.  But things are getting better.  Jacob is getting to be such a little person.  I think Craig is in all his glory, reliving his youth as Jacob gets into superheroes and Legos.  And, of course, the whole sports thing.  On the other hand, I'm trying to embrace the superheroes and figure out how to accept that they will be part of our world for the next few years.  It's only the beginning, I'm sure.  But when I consider that Jacob is finally getting to a point where he will sit still, hang out, cuddle, and have a normal conversation, superhero everything is a small price to pay.  To watch his little brain work, to see him put things together and make sense of his world, is such an amazing thing.  Up until now, most signs of independence he showed were unwelcome...otherwise known as defiance.  But now we see him do things on his own--get dressed, use the potty, walk into his classroom alone, learn songs--and this kind of independence is pretty awesome.

He's so full of life. He runs, dances, makes up silly words, and pretty much doesn't stop until bedtime. He changes his "uniform" every few minutes. He's passionate about his stuffed animals, his sports, and his superheroes. He's got an infectious giggle, and actually asks to be tickled to let it out. He's exhausting but enchanting, and while there are moments that we'd like things to be a little easier, we are beyond grateful to have him for our son. And today, three and a half years after he entered our world, we're beyond blessed to have him.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jacob's Christmas Concert

Last year I had one of my biggest mom fail moments yet, where I just missed Jacob's performance in his Christmas program because I miscalculated the time it would take me to get up to Greece after a workout.  I got out later than I wanted and hit a little traffic along the way, and they were just coming off stage when I got there.  Horrible.  This year I was determined to do it right. 

Good thing I did, because I would have missed one of my first truly memorable parenting moments.  What I mean by that is, while there are dozens of amazing, awesome, memorable things you go through as a parent, there are certain moments that stand out as classic, bizarre hilarity, something that's right out of your favorite TV show...even if that show is America's Funniest Home Videos.  Thursday night, we had our moment.

The classic moment happens right around the 2:40 mark.  Craig was up front getting this video, and I was in the back taking pictures.  When the fateful moment happened, I pretty much had my head in my hands but laughing, too.  The mom next to me (whose son was the one in green covering his face) said, "At least your son is singing!"  True.  Despite the moment, which was indeed funny, I was really proud of Jacob.  He knew his songs well and was singing along just fine.  That's gotta count for something.

Interestingly, having been a kid (and adult) who mostly tried to fade into the background, I wasn't quite sure what to make of my little scene-stealer.  One of my most horrifyingly frightening moments when I was a kid was when I was selected as Mary in the Sunday School Christmas Eve program.  It involved speaking into a microphone and everything, which was pretty scary.  I have no idea how old I was--maybe 9 or 10?--and I wish that there was video floating around of it, awkward as it might be.  I was in such a haze of fear and nerves that I only remember bits and pieces of the experience.  It would have been nice to see my performance in context, all these years later.  And while the end result was exhilarating, I spent most of December fearing microphones and trying to overcome my fears in time to put on a flawless performance.  I knew my lines well and actually enjoyed the end where we got to hang out with the manger and be visited by the shepherds and three kings.  It was certainly a character-building experience, if nothing else. 

From everything I've heard from Craig, he dealt with much the same nervousness when he was younger.  So, to see our child in only his second big performance stealing the show, I wasn't sure if I should be happy he's so comfortable up there, or mortified that he was such a grabby-hands with the mike during a group performance.  Oh, and stealing from the director's grandson (also a Jacob, born the day after our Jacob, in the same hospital), no less. 

I'm so glad I got to be there, though.  I am very proud of my little man and applaud his enthusiasm.  Looks like we could have an interesting run of shows for years to come...   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feeling the pressure...

Last weekend Jacob and I went to visit my parents.  Craig had a road trip (and so it begins) and since we hadn't been there a lot I decided it was a good opportunity to get in one last visit before the holidays.  I had been wanting to go to the Christmas market set up in Niagara Falls anyway, so it seemed like a good fit.  We headed up Friday night with Craig, who was flying out of Buffalo early Saturday, and fortunately our sleepy boy did, in fact, sleep.  He was awake but drowsy when we arrived, and went back down with little fanfare. 

Saturday was a pretty lazy day.  We mostly just hung out around the house, which was fine with me, and after naptime we got packed up and headed off to Niagara Falls USA.  Niagara Falls makes me sad, because there's so much potential there but not much going on.  Even with the Christmas market and some event getting set up in one of the buildings near the market, there wasn't a lot of activity.  But the casino was packed, of course.  It was COLD, though, and it was probably a good thing the market wasn't as big as I'd hoped.  Keep in mind I've been watching webcams across Europe for years with Christmas markets like this (though many are WAY bigger), so I really wanted this to give me a taste of that fine (predominantly) German tradition.  It ended up being a bit lackluster, but it also gave me a new appreciation for the thousands of people that go to those things since it was so cold!  Here's the rundown, though...

View as we came out of the casino, where we parked.  Pretty lovely, eh?

Zoomed out, looking down toward the market.  If you look close you can see little huts and tents down the way.

The ice rink at the far end of the market.  Jacob wanted to skate.  Of course.  No dice.

My dad, posing with one of the ice sculptures nearby

Jacob with another ice sculpture
On the bright side, the time in Buffalo coincided with the first real snowfall of the season.  We got a little bit here but it melted during the day.  Buffalo, however, got enough that it stuck through the weekend, which was nice to be able to get a little Christmas enhancement.  I don't particularly love snow, but I don't mind just enough this time of year to make things white and Christmasy. 

Sunday we went to church and I sort of freaked when I saw the third candle was lit on the advent wreath.  Holy cow, Christmas is coming fast!  We did some shopping after church, had a fantastic lunch made by my mom, and then headed out in time for nap.  Jacob conked out pretty quickly on the car ride home, and I felt bad that he woke up when we arrived at our pit stop, the photo place where I had to pick up a CD of Jacob's picture from daycare.  I need to print photos ASAP!  Oh, and there's that little issue of getting a picture for our Christmas card, but whatever...

Sunday evening I started work on Christmas cookies for today's office cookie swap.  Last year had been a disaster, so I was nervous this year to try the cutouts my mom does so well every year.  In the end they turned out beautifully...and don't they look pretty?
Pre-baking...elegant in their simplicity.  Picture the finished ones frosted in white and sprinkled with red, green and blue sugar.
I baked another batch last night, mint chocolate truffles, and got a nice assortment of treats today to bring home.  I'm still freaking out about how quickly Christmas is approaching, though.  I had an opportunity to do a ton of shopping today, but it didn't do much good.  I had a really hard time finding what I wanted or deciding on certain gifts.  We're running out of time and I have no idea how we're going to have enough time to pull it all off.  Not gonna usual I'm stressing out more than I'd like to be.  I need visits from the inspiration fairy as well as the time fairy, ASAP. 

I'm beat, though--thanks in part to a caloric work holiday dinner, no doubt--so for tonight, I've done what I can.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back in the swing of things...

I've been back for a few days now, and as you can probably guess by the lack of blog content, I've been busy.  Work has been crazy, and it will only get crazier since we have just a couple weeks left before a week off at Christmas, and lots of activities and parties and vacation days to work around.  I don't even think I can fit in all of my vacation days, since my request for the 23rd was denied (eh, it'll be a half day anyway).  I've got a cookie swap and our department's holiday celebration next week, as well as my office party and Jacob's Christmas concert.  We have a ridiculous amount of shopping to do, and I already feel like the Christmas season is slipping away without a good opportunity to enjoy it.  I don't think any of us are feeling particularly fantastic--I feel like I'm on the verge of another cold, after never getting over the other two I've had over the last six weeks or so; Jacob had a couple lengthy coughing fits the other night; and Craig has had some cold symptoms, too.  On the bright side, Craig has been doing a fantastic job losing weight lately, so at least one part of the health department is going well.  And no, not even close to any baby news these days.
Coming back home has been...interesting.  It was a little frustrating coming home to things being a little out of place--laundry in the wrong drawers, all out of certain foods, etc.  I shouldn't complain, because it means that Craig did laundry and they didn't just eat fast food the whole time, but it's hard to come back and have to resettle more than just yourself.  My jet lag wasn't too bad since I never actually adjusted to Pacific time, but I was still very grateful for my extra day off before going back to work, even if it wasn't nearly as productive as I would have liked it to be.  Lately I've been feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day...and if I'm not feeling that way at any given moment, I'm probably forgetting half of what I need to be doing.  It absolutely boggles my mind--whether I'm at home or at work--how quickly time passes after I put things off.  Suddenly weeks (or months!) have passed and I never got back to something.  It's pretty awful and there are times I wonder how on earth I'll ever keep up with anything if this second baby ever happens.

This month is yet another excuse to let the housework slide.  I'm busy enough with shopping and decorating and planning, and it's probably not good, but all of the other stuff just doesn't get done.  And I'm sure next month I'll find plenty of other better things to do yet again.  And suddenly I'll realize it's been a couple months since the last thorough cleaning, or that I've been trying to get around to shampooing the rest of my carpets for weeks.  Time passes all too fast.  As much as I keep trying to rush the pregnancy thing, I know there's so much I could be doing in the meantime. 

Speaking of time passing, I think Jacob aged while I was gone.  Sounds silly, but maybe it's just a changed perspective after having a break.  There are certain things that strike me as much more grown up, like the way he talks or plays with his toys.  He's a pretty awesome kid, though.  He said that he missed me, and he's been pretty generous with the hugs and kisses since I got back.  He still has moments that are so infuriating, though, where he just blatantly ignores what we're asking.  I had very little tolerance for that when I got back, surprisingly.  Perhaps Kate is that much better of a listener that I forgot how bad of one Jacob can be.  But the good moments in between are really great these days.  He certainly makes us laugh sometimes, and his sense of humor is definitely moving to a new level.  Oh, and while I'm 100% sure this will jinx us, Jacob's been back in underwear for the first time in a few weeks, and things have been going well.  Very well. 

While I was gone, Craig and Jacob went to an Amerks game and saw Santa.  Jacob hopped right up on Santa's lap and told him he wanted Batman.  That's quite a switch, but it's further proof our little boy is growing up.  I'm excited for Christmas this year and hope he's happy with his gifts.  And I hope he's grateful.  Hard to believe we only have two more weeks until we find out!  Let the rush begin...

Monday, December 5, 2011

...And Back...

Well, I'm on my way back from Portland, composing this offline to kill some time on my long flight. Looks like I'll actually have a movie on this one, but I might also have a little trouble making my connection, so we'll see how that goes. Thank you, morning fog, for delaying my flight crew. My trip was really nice, a mental break from my usual responsibilities at home and some good quality time with John, Kristin, Kate and my adorable new nephew, Max.
It was a pretty low key visit compared to my last trip west, when Craig and I visited Seattle and Portland during a whirlwind week of sightseeing—Pike Place Market, Space Needle, Rose Garden, Mt. Hood, Oregon Coast—but this trip was really mostly about Max and Kate, and I definitely enjoyed that portion. We ate well—a fantastic Mexican place, a cool brewery, a funky pizza place, the tiniest sit-down restaurant ever, along with a couple delicious meals prepared by Kristin. We walked around the neighborhood a bit, and ventured downtown. We went to the Nike campus and shopped at the employee store, and had a brief but lovely visit to the Oregon Zoo's Zoo Lights display. But the most precious moments were certainly spent cuddling my new nephew, and it was fun to play with Kate, as well. She was hesitant and shy at times, but when she let down her guard, we had fun.

Max was a delight, and it definitely reinforced my desire to have another baby. And playing with Kate solidified that I'd love to have a girl. But I do think it reminded me that I'll be totally in love with a new baby regardless of the gender, even if I might still have a nagging desire to buy cute dresses and play with dolls and play kitchens in addition to daily games of lacrosse and soccer in the living room. Holding a little boy definitely brought back memories from 3-1/2 years ago, when Jacob was a newborn and made those adorable noises. It's been a long time since I dealt with a baby too young for head/neck control, or that did the crazy, explosive poops mid-feeding. It took a little adjusting, but I was pleasantly surprised that the instinct came right back. Perhaps a little clumsier than I was before, but I think I was a lot less phased by getting peed on than I may have been before! I savored every moment of snuggle time and tried to take a lot of pictures of both Max and Kate.

Of course, I had my new camera with me, which presented both an opportunity and a challenge. I had great subjects to test out my camera on, but also the issue of trying to get good pictures despite not knowing the best ways to use my camera. Lots of settings to try out, lots of fun shots to play with, but all with the risk of not getting great pictures of the kids or the scenery while I was there. It didn't go perfectly, but I think I'm reasonably happy with the shots I got. Definitely a few winners in there, as you'll see below.
Clock of Nations in the Rochester airport.  It used to be in the mall I walked through every day for work.  I took the picture with the "toy camera" setting on my new camera to age it a bit.

View of Mt. Hood from the plane.  Gorgeous, and you can even see the snow blowing around! sweet.  So.  Sweet.
View from John & Kristin's condo

I love this picture and it was totally random.  Trixie came right up to me and set her head on my lap.  Couldn't resist.

Max, wide awake and still so sweet.  Handsome little man.

The tree got put up and decorated on Friday, and here's Kate with it.  Her ornament hanging handiwork is in the lower left :)

This picture turned out a little blurry, but it was probably the best smile I got! 

Apparently sweet runs in the family, eh?

One of my favorite artsy pictures from my trip...fisheye effect on the hanging decor in the mall downtown

Pretty tree from Zoo Lights

We only got to see a portion of the decorations, but this was one of my favorite walkways

Anyway, I'm happy to be heading home to my boys, even if Craig was dreadfully sick yesterday morning and I'm in total fear of Jacob coming down with the same thing...or me, for that matter. Being with another nearly-three year old was a good reminder of what I had left at home, and although I wasn't anywhere near miserable without him, I did miss being a part of his daily life and I'm looking forward to getting back. It is Christmastime, after all, so I'm happy to be getting back in the groove in time to start enjoying some of the best parts of the season.

Now there's just the little issue of catching my connection in Chicago to get back to that life. Or rather, catching it with a full belly, empty bladder, and enough room to store my luggage on board. Fingers crossed, because I want to see my baby tonight...

[Insert extra long flight, brisk walk through O'Hare, arrival at my flight with about five minutes to spare, super quick flight to Rochester, and a ride home from my boys here]

So, I'm finally home.  It's been a long day (did I mention I woke up extra early?), though my travel was relatively painless other than the stress of potentially missing my connection.  A movie made the first flight go quickly, and a rousing game of Mahjongg

Friday, December 2, 2011

Calm Before the Storm...

Well, not really "calm", but the blog's been a bit quiet, eh?  Sorry.  I'm not sure if I'm simply content with nothing to vent or discuss, or if there's just been too many things on my mind to get overly philosophical about any one thing. 

We had a lovely thanksgiving.  Not a particularly photogenic one, apparently, as the last pictures on my camera are from last Wednesday's thanksgiving feast at Jacob's daycare.  I will post those and a couple others soon, but seeing as how there aren't a LOT of pictures on my camera to pull off, there just hasn't been a high priority to do it (or to post them here) since last week. 

We left for Buffalo on Wednesday night.  Jacob went to bed late and woke up coughing in the middle of the night, yet he was still awake shortly after 7am.  We had a lazy morning then did a quick errand before heading over to Craig's brother's house for the feast.  We had a fantastic meal, and for a change, it was just that one.  My parents were in Portland, so we only had one stop this year.  It was a little bit of a bummer to not see them, but I was more than happy to share this year.  It was great for John, Kristin and the kids to have my parents there, and good for me to only have one meal to gorge on and less driving to do.  We had a good time with Craig's family and Jacob definitely made good use of his cousins' stash of masks and helmets.  That kid is totally into role playing right now--in his own weird way, hence the the fact that he's been parading around in as many as four layers lately.  He'll wear four short-sleeved shirts on top of one another, and shorts under his pants, and for some reason in his mind he's being a superhero or a sports guy.  Don't ask me how, but that's the latest thing.

I did some shopping online thanksgiving night--got Jacob's big gift and a new camera, which I cannot wait to play with!  Good timing, too, since that means I can leave one camera with Craig and take the new one with me to Portland.  More on that in a bit, though...

Friday we headed back around lunchtime and I managed to put up the tree (no decorations) and get settled back in.  Craig was busy most of the rest of the weekend with work, but I managed to do a little shopping (nothing exciting), put up most of the Christmas decorations, and finish the tree over the past few days.  I wouldn't call our weekend relaxing, exactly, but it wasn't super crazy either, which was nice. 

However, being back to work this week has been a little on the hellish side since I have a ton of work to do and only three days to do it in.  Everyone's busy, everyone needs everything ASAP, and I'll be in Portland in less than two days.  So, yeah, not exactly a happy start to the week for me.  On top of that, I had to finalize Jacob's daycare pictures (yes, there were a couple good ones, but I needed them to fix one for me, since he had a major patch of hair out of place) and changing over all of our insurance (medical and dental) to my job.  Craig's offerings changed and mine turned out to be the better deal.  I hate that kind of paperwork.  All of these things had a deadline of tomorrow, so between work and decorating and planning for my trip, I've been making lists and trying to carve out time to get everything done.  I'm not even sure where to begin on instructions or "suggestions" for Craig for his five days alone with Jacob.  I know they'll survive fine, albeit with a lack of home cooking and probably a little less structure than usual.  They'll be fine.  The bigger question is what I will be returning to!

I'm sure I'll be blogging from the airport pondering my coexisting angst and excitement about my trip.  It's rare enough that I even get on a plane, let alone be away from Jacob for this long, so the whole thing means I'm just a bundle of emotions heading into it.  The busy week isn't helping, nor is the mere fact that it's Christmas season.  As it is this time of year I usually have a million things swirling around in my head--gift buying, cookie baking, parties and dinners, Christmas events--and there's never enough time to do it all as it is.  Throw in a cross-country trip and it leaves me a little more anxious than usual.  However, I have no doubt it will be worth it in the end, just as it was last time we had a trip in the middle of Christmas season, our fantastic trip to Florida when I was newly pregnant.  This time I'm flying solo, though, for only the second time ever.

This is my first time traveling with technology, so I'm trying to remember everything I might need for my laptop, MP3 player, cell phone, and new camera.  I'm trying to bring stuff to run outside.  I'm trying to remember the rules for packing liquids.  And I'm trying to pack it all into two carry-ons.  Ha! 

Should be an interesting few days, that's for sure.

Photo Friday

Of course, it's almost the end of Friday in the time zone where most people who read this blog reside, but oh well.  Things are good in Portland, though I do feel a little like I'm missing a body part without having Jacob as my constant companion.  Perhaps being around another child of a similar age makes his absence even more apparent, as some of Kate's tactics are similiar to Jacob's at times, though she's got a girlier, sweeter delivery most of the time.  It's different not having to be the disciplinarian, though...but I appreciate the break.

Here's a couple pictures from late last month:

Jacob discovered he could take the flight goggles off our stuffed Snoopy and he thought it was really funny to wear them.

Jacob has been wearing a ridiculous amount of clothing on a regular basis lately.  This day he was wearing his new lacrosse jersey, his favorite shorts, lacrosse gloves, a fancy helmet that Daddy got him, and his soccer shin guards.  He was ready to go! 

This is at Jacob's daycare thanksgiving feast...this was a totally random face and it seriously cracked me up!

This has nothing to do with Jacob, but I just wanted to share--because isn't this gorgeous?  It's the view from my office.  This is the only redeeming quality of these early sunsets this time of year!

Hopefully more soon from Portland...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On my way...

I'm sitting in O'Hare after a perfect first flight, utilizing my 20 free minutes of WiFi before my next flight, which boards in another 15 minutes or so.  It's been a long morning already, up at 3:15am and to the airport at 4:30am.  Security was easy and I had some time to hang out with the old Midtown Plaza Clock of Nations, which I used to walk past every day on my way to work, that is now sitting in the airport.  It was fun to have time to sit and watch it as it came to life on the hour.  I got online for a bit, and then it was time to board.  The flight was smooth, with my own single seat and window, and a gorgeous sunrise following us all the way here.  The descent into Chicago was exactly as I'd hoped when I'd picked the left side of the plane--I finally got a nice view of Chicago after so many flights here on the other side without the city view.

It was hard saying goodbye to Jacob this morning while he slept, not to mention last night while he was still awake.  It's hard to take this time away, but I feel it will be worth it.  More on that later.

Time to board...