Monday, December 30, 2013

Wishing Time Away

Perhaps this isn't groundbreaking to anyone else, but one night a couple weeks ago I was randomly thinking while I was getting ready for bed, and it occurred to me why we, as parents, tend to wish away time.  After all, don't we, as parents, always talk about how you need to savor the time because the kids will never be this young again?  We need to take full advantage of every moment, because things can change in the blink of an eye (good or bad) and it's good to just appreciate the present for what it is. 

So why do we wish away time so often?  I decided that it's because we want validation that we survived whatever parenting trial we're currently going through and came out of it OK.  Whether it's a couple days with a stomach bug, or a couple months with a broken bone, or couple years with food intolerances, I think we all want to fast-forward a bit just so we can get to the point where we look back and realize we made it through.  I dream of a time where Jacob can mature through some of his issues now, and we'll look back with wonder at what a mess things were.  I think about the joy of Carter finally being able to eat anything we put in front of him without a fear of what he might react to, and how we'll look back at the confusion and concern I'm dealing with now and be thankful it's over.  We just want to get to a point where things are OK again, and nothing else can get in to derail our plans further. 

Again, maybe this thinking isn't news to anyone, but I guess I'd never thought about it quite this way before.  I've long said that parenthood is just a series of phases.  The good and the bad will all change, one way or another, and a new set of good and bad things will replace them.  It's just how parenthood is.  While we all try to savor the good stuff (I had an easier time of that with Carter than with Jacob, I think), I think we tend to fixate more on the hard stuff and want to fast-forward through to a time where we have it all figured out.  It never happens, since we really just skip from one problem to another, but it's always nice to look back and realize how far we've come...even if the mountain ahead of us is no less daunting. 

I think what's extra hard about parenthood is that we lose our safety net.  As a kid you always have your parents to give you the safety and security you need.  When you're the parent, there isn't really anything that can give you that feeling, aside from your co-parent...who may be equally panicked.  One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons ever shows Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty sitting under a tree, and Charlie Brown talks about the feeling of security when you can sleep in the back seat of your parents' car.  But he explains that you grow up and it can never be that way again, to which Peppermint Patty says, "Hold my hand, Chuck!"  The thing is, your parents can convince you that everything's going to be OK, and most likely they're going to do the best they can to make it happen.  When you're the parent, it becomes your job, and the reality hits you that there's only so much you can do, and there are no guarantees.  It's hard.

So, we power through and hope we make the right decision.  And in my case, we wish for a time machine to speed forward and make sure everything's fine in the end.  I always think back to my teen and college years and wonder how much fun I missed out on because I was worried I'd never find the right guy.  I spent so much time obsessing over that that I probably overlooked some great opportunities to just enjoy the moment despite my singleness.  If I would have known that I'd be married by the time I turned 25, perhaps I would have just chilled out and enjoyed the ride a little more.  I think it's probably the same with kids--that if I could look down the road 20 years and know we raised two little boys into wonderful adults, I'd probably worry a little less about the little things now and enjoy my time with them so much more.  But, of course, there isn't that option and I don't know for sure that we'll have that kind of happy ending.  So in the meantime I will worry.  It's part of the gig, no matter how much we try to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand. 

It's fine, really, but this is definitely one of the harder parts of parenthood.  But if anyone happens to find a parental remote with a fast-forward and rewind button, please let me know.  Thanks!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Conundrum

I don't know if it's just because Jacob is getting older, or if two kids was my breaking point, or if this year's stress just put me over the edge, but this year I really wished we could spend Christmas at home.  Don't get me wrong, I love our families and really don't want to be anywhere else for Christmas, but I really wish we could clone ourselves or something so we could hang out at home AND spend the holidays with our families.

I grew up with pretty much all of my extended family in town.  Christmas Eve was spent at church and with one part of the family, Christmas morning was spent in our own house and at church, then the rest of the day was split between both sides of the family (but lots of presents, so it was perfectly fine that we weren't home).  I do recall wishing for a little more free time during the day to take it all in and play with my toys, but I enjoyed the family time so much that ultimately I was fine putting that wish aside for a bit and waiting until the 26th to assess the goods.  But our house was still home base, and that's where most of my memories were made.

I don't know how much I thought about people that didn't have all of that family in town.  I think there was one time that we hopped in the car a day or two after Christmas to drive more than 10 hours to visit my aunt and uncle in Wisconsin, and I think at least at that point I was a little bummed to leave my toys so soon and wondered how people who had to travel felt about that. 

Until I had kids, I don't think the travel bothered me.  I did miss some of my old Christmas traditions that were replaced with new ones with Craig's family, but I enjoyed my time with his family as well, so it wasn't a big deal.  When Jacob was a baby it still wasn't a major issue because he wasn't old enough to have Christmas memories or understand that Santa usually visits people on Christmas morning, not a day or two before.  At that point whatever was easiest was fine.

But now that Jacob is old enough to have lasting memories, I'm a little bummed out by our circumstances.  As I scrolled through picture after picture of Facebook friends and their kids, the feeling only got worse.  I'd see everyone's pictures of their cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, or all of the chaos of Christmas morning, and once again bemoan the fact that we don't get to do that at our own least, not like that.  Maybe it's just me, but opening presents in the early evening two days before Christmas just doesn't have the same zing.  It's so much more rushed and doesn't have the same mystique.  I suppose Jacob doesn't know any better and I'm a bit jaded by my idyllic childhood, but's different and not quite as cool.  I'm sure it'll only get worse as Carter gets older.  As much as I don't want my kids snooping around or staying up all night waiting for Santa, I did have fantasies this year about Jacob someday loving his brother and the two of them teaming up a bit to solve the mysteries of Christmas.  Of course, with the age difference Jacob will probably know the truth about Santa before Carter's old enough to fully appreciate it, so we might never have two completely enthralled kids, and we probably won't have that real, magical experience of opening our gifts on Christmas morning in our own house before the magic wears off a bit.  That makes me sad.

But the thing is, it's still probably more important to have the family time that we have.  Who knows how long all of our older relatives will be around, so I've always felt that it's important to defer to them while they're still around.  It wouldn't be right to keep the kids from enjoying Christmas with their grandparents, cousins, or other extended family, either.  They're as much a part of Christmas as the lore of Santa.  There isn't really a good way to have the best of both worlds since it would inevitably involve lots of Thruway travel in a short period of time and could be complicated by weather and lack of sleep. 

So, until we someday figure out how to move to Buffalo to be close to both families, we'll have to make the best of a tough situation.  I guess I just have to plan ahead better and do what I can to make our Christmas as memorable and magical as possible.  Maybe the kids won't know the difference and the excitement of Santa is actually as awesome for them two days ahead as it was for me.  Maybe it's even more special because they're first to get their gifts or because they get three full days of presents instead of the one that I had.  It's hard to tell, particularly with a kid like Jacob who isn't phased by much and who rarely shows gratitude unless prompted, but maybe their Christmas memories don't have to be like mine to be awesome.  Still, I long for a little taste of my childhood to show up in my kids' experience, and I can only hope that someday we figure out how to pull it off.  In the meantime, Christmas will still be special.  Different,  but special.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in Crisis

I've had a lot of wonderful Christmases in my life.  In fact, I can't really pinpoint one that wasn't great.  The closest I can come to a crappy one was one where I wasn't feeling that great by the end of the day and ended up puking that night.  In fact, I had a couple post-Christmas pukings, but never soon enough to ruin the day itself.  So, it wouldn't have taken much to have a "worst Christmas ever", but this one pretty much took the title, unfortunately.  Let's hope this is as bad as it ever gets.

The week leading up to Christmas was stressful.  I had so much to do and so little time.  I had a lot of late nights and early mornings, and a long list of stuff to do in between.  I did some great shopping trips and actually was probably as comfortable with gifts as I've ever been.  I got my last ones on Sunday and did pretty well with getting everything wrapped and ready to go.  However, I didn't get as much advance packing done as I wanted to, and I didn't get to bake my second batch of gluten-free cookies.  I had to be ready to go by Sunday night, so Santa could come overnight and we could have our Christmas on Monday before leaving for Buffalo.  Everything was set up late at night and we were ready to go...

In the morning we let Jacob open one gift before we left for daycare (he had off school and we had to work).  As is becoming tradition (as it was in my house growing up), he had to have a picture at the top of the stairs first.  Carter will join him next year when he can sit better on his own and/or Jacob will actually touch him.

One of the first things he saw was one unwrapped gift--a shovel!  He's been wanting to help us shovel but one shovel is too heavy and the other is the one I need to use, so he was out of luck.  Now he has his own!

I was outvoted and he opened his big gift, a big Playmobil soccer field.  We actually wanted to get it for him last year, but couldn't find it in stock anywhere.  Craig ordered it last February and it's been hanging out waiting for Christmas ever since.  He was very excited!

The boys took a few minutes to get right to getting it up and running before we all left for the day.
It has felt turf, four players that kick, two goalies that can dive, dasherboards, a couple soccer balls, and the ability to fold up and carry it. 
I left work a little early so I could take Carter to the doctor.  After his fever last week, he was doing better but still seemed a little extra uncomfortable.  I wanted to take him in before three days out of town, just in case he was getting an ear infection.  They didn't find anything, so we basically just have to wait it out and hope he's better soon.  When we came back home in the evening, we opened the rest of the gifts.  Here's Carter and me sitting next to his two big gifts...

And here's Craig showing off Jacob's gift to us, Jacob's head on an angel body...

As I expected, Carter liked wrapping paper.  We had a pretty good technique where he would hold a piece of the paper and I would move the gift around so the paper would pull off. 

And here he is wrapped in the paper of his big gift, a lion walker!

His other big gift was a basketball hoop.  I am hoping that Jacob will want to play basketball with Carter down the road.  I could have gotten one with lots of lights and sounds, but I actually liked this scaled down version.  It's cute--there are three holes above the blue, green, and yellow things.  The balls will sit on those holes until you press or slide the shape below it.  The one above the green button will go into the hoop, and the other two will drop down through the shaft down to the ramps at the bottom. 
Carter mostly likes eating the balls so far, but he did make a basket last night!
Jacob really likes his soccer field, and ended up being rather unimpressed with the rest of his gifts...even though he liked them.  He got some lacrosse socks, a couple shirts, a pair of shorts, three books, some candy, a little Lego Christmas train, and a couple DVDs (one of which came from Santa at daycare that morning.  Carter also got an Oball car rattle and a book (from Santa at daycare).  Officially Jacob's only gift from Santa was the soccer game, but we didn't really make a big deal of it.

We ate a quick dinner and finished packing up before heading out much later than we were hoping.  In addition, we had to take two cars because Craig had to work early on Thursday and I wanted to stay in town a little longer than that.  It was a long drive to Buffalo that late, but the kids slept and the transition into Craig's parents' house wasn't too bad.  It was still a late night for all of us, but at least we were there.  That always gives me a little peace of mind and generally helps me start to get into the Christmas spirit. 

Christmas Eve was pretty low key early in the day.  We happily woke up to a fresh coating of snow after rains over the weekend melted most of the plentiful snow we'd gotten a week or two earlier.  It was looking like we'd have a green Christmas, but we got our white one after all!  We hung out around the house and I took a nap when Carter napped.  Around lunch time we started to get moving so we could visit Craig's Nana, who was finally out of the hospital and into a rehab facility.  We stopped to buy her some flowers, which took far longer than we'd hoped, and we only had a little time to spend with her before heading off to church.

Unfortunately, while we were there, Carter lurched out of my grasp and nearly smashed his head into the linoleum.  He hit the car seat on the way down and just grazed the floor as I desperately held on to his legs.  He got a little brushburn and scared himself (and us).  It took a while to calm him down, but aside from a pink mark down his face, he seemed no worse for wear.  We were still worried, though, but off to church we went.  There are two services at the same time so parking is always difficult and we were later than we wanted to be.  We finally found a spot but ended up in the gym service, not the church one where Craig's mom was singing.  A bit of a bummer, but I was just happy to be in church on Christmas Eve.  Jacob was a little trying (as he had been most of the day), but we made it through. 

On our way to Craig's Aunt Marie's for his extended family celebration, we stopped at a house just down the road from the church that I had seen video of a few weeks back.  It's a house with a fully programmed light show, complete with a face made out of lights that animates and sings to the music, which you tune to on the radio.  I will try to post the videos one of these days when I get them loaded to YouTube.  But here's a picture to give you an idea of what it looked like...
Notice the face in green in the upper middle of the house.  There were lots of trees and other lights on the lawn, too.
We waited in a bit of a line to even see the house, but it was a great show!  We headed to Aunt Marie's and spent some time there.  Present giving was a little lower key than in the past, and we just had some food and enjoyed each other's company.  Carter discovered a love of ham, which he gladly downed a few small pieces of.

After that visit we headed back to Craig's brother's house for our exchange with his family.  We already knew that Jacob's main gifts (baseball equipment) were still stuck somewhere with FedEx or the post office, but the boys still got plenty.  Jacob got Legos and a soccer ball, among other things.  Carter got a Little People pirate ship, a corn popper, and a See-and-Say.  We all got some Syracuse-themed gifts, too. 
Everyone checking out the pirate ship...I think Jacob was more interested in it than Carter at that point!

We ate snacks and Jacob enjoyed some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies courtesy of Ciocia (Aunt) Andrea.  We had a good time until the kids had to go to bed so Santa could come.  We headed back to Craig's parents' and it ended up being a pretty early night, at least relative to most of my nights over the previous week!

We headed out in the late morning to go to my parents' house for Christmas Day.  We had a lovely meal with my two uncles and aunt.  Carter downed more ham and a little bread.  My mom did a good job on making most of the meal gluten-free, especially the desserts.  Jacob enjoyed a special peppermint one in particular.  After we ate we exchanged gifts with my parents.  Craig got this cool Norman Rockwell puzzle-turned-framed picture...

I got some clothes, some Platters chocolate (local favorite), a necklace, and my traditional angel ornament.  Jacob got some coloring pages he's been wanting for ages, which he was very excited about.  His big gift, however, was a super cool Greek soccer uniform, direct from my parents' Mediterranean cruise!  We were all amused that no one could pronounce the name on the back!

Carter got some clothes and four cool cars, and was obviously a happy camper!

Well, that is, until he took another unfortunate header...which really put a damper on the entire day.  He'd been so clingy to me since the weekend, not really letting me out of his sight or letting anyone else hold him.  I think my arms are getting tired and maybe just having to hold him all the time makes it hard to be 100% on all the while I was holding him, I guess I wasn't holding him in a way that protected him against another lurch like he'd done the day before.  Well, he did it again, and this time he slammed headfirst into the coffee table.  The noise was absolutely awful and I was beyond scared of what I'd see when I brought him back upright.  He cried right away, which is always a good sign.  Craig was visibly upset with me for letting it happen a second time in two days, and obviously I felt guilty beyond words for not preventing Carter from really hurting himself.  It got a little ugly for a little while in the chaos of trying to check him over and get him iced.  He had some visible bruising and swelling pretty quickly, but it didn't get much worse.  I called the pediatrician nurse line to double check the things to look out for, and we let him rest. 

We headed off to the celebration with my extended family on my dad's side, which is always chaotic and boisterous.  I was a little concerned, but I suppose it went as well as could be expected.  He seemed relatively normal but still very clingy, and he had moments of misery in the middle of it.  However, it was hard to tell if the misery was a headache, teething (he's been chewing on everything again), or belly pain since he's always a little constipated.  He had a hard time letting me pass him off, but my one aunt and uncle in particular took it upon themselves to suck it up and push through.  He did pretty well for a couple spells, and it was nice to have a break. 

We exchanged gifts in Secret Santa form, and we all did well.  Craig got a Dick's gift card, and I got a picture frame, banana saver (the thing that clips on the end of a half-eaten banana to keep it fresh, and a page-a-day calendar.  Carter got two electronic toys--a cute laptop toy and a dinosaur with alphabet buttons along his back.  Jacob got two shirts and a hoodie, per his request to get plain shirts.  He also got two boxes of Skittles!

At the end of the night we did our traditional picture of the youngest generation on the stairs--my cousin Nicki's two girls, my cousin Todd's kids, and my now two kids!  Missing are John's two kids and my cousin Chris' little girl. 

The night ended much better than the rest of the day, but I did sort of end the day discouraged.  It had been a rough few days--ungrateful moments and difficult behavior from Jacob, concerns over Carter's health, issues with the boys' dietary restrictions, tensions between Craig and me for a couple reasons, and just a general exhaustion from lack of sleep and too much running around. 

Craig left bright and early the next morning because he had to work.  The boys and I hung out with my parents for the day.  My friend Heather and her husband Peter came to visit, and otherwise we just hung out.  We got home around dinnertime and had movie night with a last minute but much wanted gift for Craig--Hotel Transylvania.  Today it's been a tough balance with just me and the boys, but I need to find some time to get through my to do list this week because it is LONG and I will lose my mind if I can't cross at least a few things off. 

I'll admit, this Christmas was very difficult for me, for a lot of reasons.  Still, I know we are very blessed with awesome families and fantastic presents.  We have so much, but there are definitely some things that are causing me some angst on a daily basis and it kills me that so much of that had to seep into our Christmas celebrations.  This may have been the first Christmas that I have understood why people get even more depressed among the usual joys of Christmas than they are at any other time.  There's a certain degree of frustration and guilt that comes with not feeling joy during the happiest season of the year, and that just compounds the sadness of anything else that's going on.  My mood has brightened a bit, though, and I'm hoping this week off of work will be somewhat restorative.  That would be the best Christmas gift I could ask for.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

News & Notes, Not Enough Time to Write This Edition

Sorry for the radio silence.  It has been a busy week.

Christmas is four days away, and our Christmas starts a day before that. I need to be ready to go--wrapped, packed, and all--by Monday night.  I still have a few gifts to buy, and I'm mostly on my own with a sick baby (yes, again).  Craig and Jacob are currently at Jacob's lacrosse game.  They're also heading to Buffalo tonight and Canada tomorrow for Craig's Knighthawks championship ring ceremony.  It's good in that it's one less kid to manage, but bad in that I lose my built-in baby distractor when I really need it.  The only reason I'm even typing right now is because Carter desperately needs a nap and he wakes up every time I try to put him in his crib.  So, he's on my chest and I'm typing around him.  He came down with a fever yesterday, and he's still got it now.  It's up around 101, too high to just be teething.  He's got a cold along with it, and he's pretty sad as a whole.  I had more or less deduced that his issues a couple weeks ago were just a virus.  Apparently the spaced-out puking is a thing the doctors have been seeing, and once his appetite came back, he tolerated the oatmeal and Cheerios just fine again.  Of course, earlier I gave him his first bit of dairy since all of that, and he did an awkward burp-puke thing shortly after.  It wasn't much, and he's held the rest of that bottle down so far.  I'm still a little concerned about dairy, but it could all just be weird circumstances.  I wanted to try over a weekend, but perhaps we'll give it a rest for another few days until this virus is gone.  I have one more day of work before nine days off, so I'll have time to experiment more.

I'm about 85% done with gifts, but I do have stragglers to get somewhere in between Carter's misery.  Some are clear and easy, but a couple are a little less clear. 

[Insert 10 hours and lots of activity here]

So...Carter is no less miserable, but I did get a lot done.  After I stopped writing when Carter woke up, I gave him some Tylenol (trying to hold off unless he's visibly uncomfortable) so we could go out and do some running around.  We got a lot done at Kohl's--far more than I expected--and survived a very long line that actually went relatively fast.  We went to Wegmans to pick up a few things, then headed home.  We still have to get a bunch of gift cards for some daycare teachers and a gift for our niece, but I think pretty much everything else is done!  I did a lot of wrapping, as well, maybe a little more than half.  Of course, it took another late night and I'm risking major sleep right now writing this because Carter has been restless and I'm flying solo tonight.  Oh, and as an added bonus, he puked all over me tonight, which may have been another round of the dairy problem...or maybe it's just a little tummy upset or choking on mucus again.  I'm really thinking it's the dairy now, but we'll see.  He may outgrow that one sooner than the rice, but we'll see.  I may email his allergist again and see what his thoughts are.  Not going to let it stress me out yet...not much, anyway.  Once we get past the holidays I need to make an appointment with the dietitian at Strong to see if we can get some sort of meal plan to feed him without completely blowing up my kitchen given the conflicting gluten, rice, and possible dairy issues. 

Anyway, the fever has been pretty brutal and I'm hoping it chills out soon.  I'm half expecting a roseola rash to pop out just in time for Christmas, but the fever hasn't been as high as I would expect for that.  He's got a nasty cold, though, and the fever definitely makes him a little more irritable.  He's in a weird spot now of always wanting to be held, but not wanting to sit still.  It is a challenge. 

The week has been crazy, from Craig's Christmas party on Tuesday to my Christmas party on Thursday, and shopping and such in between.  I've also been sick with a nasty cold all week, which has not made things any easier.  Craig's work party was at the casino as usual.  It was a late night driving back, but we had fun while we were there--a great dinner and one mildly successful session at a slot machine, for a change!  Wednesday I did some late night shopping and stayed up super late for a second straight night, this time to wrap gifts for the Portland crew so I could mail them out the next day.  Thursday was my work party in the afternoon, and that evening I stayed up late again to work on getting our Christmas cards out.  Last night was an early night in comparison, but I didn't get a lot of sleep between the two kids and their various wakeups.  Tonight it's back to extra late, thanks to wrapping and much-needed blogging. 

Supposedly it's ice storming a bit outside, but I can't tell if it's just raining or starting to ice.  How that plays out, as well as Carter's overnight, may have an impact on the rest of our day.  I may try to sleep in and hit up later church for a change, since I don't have to get Jacob to Sunday School earlier.  I pretty much have to finish everything tomorrow so we can do our home Christmas on Monday and head out that night.  We have plenty to do on Tuesday, so it would be ideal if we could leave that night.  But things are crazy busy and complicated so it's hard to plan for sure.  But I think we're close!  I'm looking forward to the kids opening their gifts, particularly Carter, though I know he'll like the paper better.  But his two big gifts are perfect for him, so it will be fun.  Jacob will probably be a little hot and cold on his.  He'll love one of them, for sure, but the smaller ones will be interesting.  He may be unexcited by the books, for example, but I think he'll like some of his stocking stuffers.  But he may surprise us! 

Ok, it is time to go to bed now.  Wish me luck over the next couple days, and if nothing else, I'll try to get a Christmas update up here as soon as possible.  Have a wonderful Christmas in the meantime!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ten Months!

Who's got two thumbs and turned 10 months old today?  This guy!

That was totally not on purpose, but it cracks me up!  Hard to believe our little man turned 10 months and we only have two more months before he's noshing on cake (hopefully...barring anymore weird food things!).  Apparently top teeth are what cause kids to start doing the ridiculous squinty cheese face, because he just started doing that today!  His top three teeth are coming in really fast and they're pretty obvious now.  He's turning into such a big boy!

It was a busy and productive weekend even though Craig was gone and I'm starting to get sick (again).  My parents came in yesterday to watch the kids while I ran out and got a ton of gifts.  The snow was pretty brutal and in twelve hours or so I shoveled about 4 inches out of my driveway twice!  Not sure if I'm sore today from sickness body aches or from shoveling.  I also changed the furnace filter, baked a batch of cookies, did three loads of laundry (well, washed and dried...folding is still undone), took our Christmas card picture, and kept both kids alive and well.  I did more online shopping tonight, and I'm slowly whittling down my list and making decisions, but still a lot left to do.  Two Christmas parties this week, too. 

One other thing to note is that we got a call from Jacob's pediatrician late last week and she said that per the paperwork we submitted and Jacob's teacher filled out, he didn't qualify for any specific diagnosis like ADHD or anything along those lines.  He's definitely a different kid at home than he is at school.  Here he has more hitting issues and is simply defiant, whereas at school he has trouble focusing or following directions because he's simply distracted.  On one hand I guess it's good he's not serious enough to warrant a diagnosis, but on the other it doesn't really give us any answers.  We need to start the process to see a behavior specialist now because it takes a lot of time to do it, so we're going to do that.  We could medicate down the road, but it may not work given his symptoms so that will certainly be a last resort.  We still have yet to get the evaluation from the district, and that one may be more important because he probably would benefit from having some extra attention in the classroom.  No scenario is ideal, obviously, but if we can help him learn how to manage his distractions a little better, that would be great.  We shall see.

I'm exhausted now, so it is past time for bed.  Wish me's going to be a fast, busy week.  Help!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Annual Pre-Christmas Freak-Out

Every year around this time I start to panic a little bit.  Or a lot.  Last year I was pregnant but I had the benefit of a week off early in December to get my bearings a bit and prepare as much as I could.  This year the Christmas season is extra short, I have two kids, and Christmas is less than two weeks away...and I feel like I've done almost nothing.  I felt good going into the season because I bought a handful of gifts back in November (and a few others earlier in the year), but now we're two weeks out and I've done almost nothing else.

I have a full list on my iPod of all of the people we need to buy for.  Some of them have suggestions, some of them do not.  People have been asking for suggestions for almost everyone in our family, and I'm stumped enough with what I have to buy.  Jacob and Carter do not need any more toys, and Carter is all stocked up on clothes thanks to hand-me-downs from his brother and three cousins (four if you count his supply of Nike sneakers, too).  Most of the stuff Craig wants is best managed by gift cards since it's more complicated than the average family shopper needs to do.  I have a few things on my list, but most are more than most people should be spending.  Still, I'm trying to think of suggestions for all the well-meaning askers, but I'm coming up short. 

Half of my issue is deciding what to buy, and the other half is actually getting out to do it.  My parents may come visit this weekend (weather and health issues depending) so I can have some time to do some running around.  I know I can do online shopping, but I'd rather not spend a crap load on shipping, nor do I want to risk not getting things in time as we get closer to the big day.  I think we're at a disadvantage when it comes to shopping because we live so far away from most of our family.  We don't get as many of those casual conversations that might spark an idea, so we're stuck going off of lists most of the time.  I'd definitely rather get someone something they'll like and use, but between working directly off a list and getting a nice, generic gift card, it all tends to feel a little impersonal.  When all else fails I still value liking the gift above all else, but there's no doubt it's extra awesome when you think of the perfect surprise gift for someone.  I just feel like I can't seem to do that quite often enough!

Every year, and this year in particular, I hear so many people saying that we need to get rid of the Christmas stress and appreciate the reason for the season.  I couldn't agree more, but I don't know if the people who will end up gift-less as a result of that pursuit would be as understanding.  It's all well and good to say it, but at the end of the day the gifts need to be bought.  I've heard and seen a couple things this year saying that you don't have to do every tradition, that you don't have to bake cookies or go to every tree lighting or whatever...but honestly, for me, that's the stuff that helps Christmas feel like Christmas, and if I'm just siting around "appreciating" the season, it's going to come and go without any real memories to take away.  Ultimately it's an impossible situation.  Do everything and you're stressed, do nothing and it feels empty.  The in-between isn't much better, because then you're picking and choosing, and becoming even more aware of what you're missing.

I think I'm having an even harder time this year because of all of the issues we've been dealing with as a family.  From Jacob's behavior issues to Carter's food issues, from Craig's Nana being sick to just feeling generally overwhelmed by life most days, it's hard to feel Christmas joy or find peace in the quiet moments.  Usually by now I've been moved to tears by one Christmas song or another, but perhaps this year all my tears have been spent.  That sounds so depressing and so cynical, but this year more than ever I am buried under the burdens of life in general, and Christmas is only making it harder.  Just trying to get through the day's usual stuff is hard enough, let alone adding Christmas shopping and other activities into the mix.

You might think that having a baby makes Christmas that much more special, and to some degree it does, but let's face it--he's really not that into it yet.  I think by next year he'll be talking a bit and will have more of an appreciation for what's going on.  This year I know he'll love wrapping paper, since ripping and crunching paper is one of his favorite activities.  The other thing that does give me a little Christmas spirit is watching his face light up when he looks at the tree.  Most days I'll pull him out of his car seat when we get home and walk over to turn on the tree.  The way his face lights up when the tree "magically" illuminates is classic.  I need to try to catch it on video one of these days, because it's that adorable. 

But truly, I'm just bummed...and stressed.  I want to enjoy this time of year so badly.  I want to look at the pretty lights, eat some cookies (which, of course, are far more complicated this year with the whole gluten-free thing), listen to the music, and ponder God's great gift.  Instead I spend my evenings searching the internet for the perfect gift for everyone and wondering when I'll actually be able to make a decision about it or go to a brick-and-mortar store to buy it.  I look at the dwindling days and our busy schedule and I freak out, pretty sure that this will be the year it doesn't all get done.  Every year I feel that way, but with a lot of work and a few late nights, it does.  Nothing feels better than hopping in the car, usually on the 23rd, with all of the presents wrapped and packed.  That is when I usually can finally relax and enjoy Christmas.  But for whatever reason, this year I'm not so sure it's going to happen.  And what then? 

I have a lot of work to do...but I suppose I should start tonight by getting to bed so I'm not as tired tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Good Stuff

Despite all of the craziness with Carter this past weekend, we did have a couple better moments.  Friday was Craig's birthday, and I managed (possibly for the first time ever) to do a homemade cake for him.  We can't exactly run out and get cupcakes at Wegmans anymore, so I took the opportunity to test out Wegmans' gluten-free cake mix.  It was a relatively short, dense cake, but it wasn't too bad.  I will probably do another test run before Carter's birthday (even though he can't eat the gluten-free cake, I will make one so Jacob and Craig's brother can eat comfortably) to try what a random former pastry chef told us when we were in Florida--add an additional egg and beat it for an extra minute.  Still, it was fine.  My decorating left a little to be desired, though.  I should not write on cakes, it is confirmed.  I just need to do star tip letters and all is right with the world.  End of story.  I just did a little piping along the bottom and topped the cake with round ball sprinkles.  Simple but festive.  Here's Jacob trying to help blow out the last candle...

See, the writing ruins it!  Someday maybe I'll learn how to write neatly!
On Sunday we had Jacob's Christmas program at church.  When I was a kid, we spent a good chunk of our Sunday School time in December, as well as a couple Saturday mornings (I think--I know it was at least one), practicing for our Christmas Eve program.  It always seemed like a lot of work.  Our current church's program seems a little more haphazard.  It's usually in early December, and this year it was at the same time as church instead of on a Sunday afternoon.  It was also in the gym instead of the church itself.  Considering they couldn't really fit everyone in, I'm thinking they may not do that again.  Anyway...Jacob had been there for a couple weeks prior and we did go to the Saturday practice, but that didn't seem like enough time to learn what he needed.  Still, they do have a director who prompts them on hand motions and all that, but I was still understandably unsure how things would go.  Everything with Jacob is a bit of a crap shoot, but lately he's fancied himself a bit of a performer so we figured this could be right up his alley.  Sure enough, he did awesome.  I mean, I'm not going to say he knew every word, but he faked it really great when he didn't!  He did a good job standing up front for the whole hour, too.

Here's a picture of him doing the motions for one of the songs.  Sorry about the quality, it was odd lighting and I was zoomed way in.  Also please excuse his hair.  It would not behave and he has since gone in for a haircut...

And here is a video of him singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain".  He was really into it, and I loved every minute.  We don't see that kind of enthusiasm often, so when we do, I will take it!

The other big thing from last week was that Carter is getting no less than three more teeth.  He's got three on the bottom (the symmetrical fourth is still being stubborn), but suddenly three have busted through on the top.  In the picture below you can see the three bottoms, and if you click on the picture to see the zoomed version, you'll see at least two of the three popping through on top!
I'm very sentimental about these first few batches of teeth.  When the first couple come in, I miss the full-on gummy smile that I've loved from the beginning.  I love the two bottom teeth phase, is my absolute favorite!  It just symbolizes that great time when your baby is smiling and active, but before they start formulating plans of their own to take over the house!  There's a joyful simplicity about that period, and when the top teeth come in, it's the beginning of the end.  They're old enough to start having opinions (but not old enough to express them in a coherent, clear manner--ugh!), and it changes their whole look from tiny baby to emerging big kid.  Still, part of me is excited to see his big boy smile, because it does start us down the road of knowing what he'll look like as a big kid!
Otherwise, we're just hanging in there.  I'm totally freaking out about Christmas being two weeks away.  Hopefully I'll have a whole post on that one of these days.  Carter is still pretty iffy.  He got a fever on Monday but it went away in the evening, only to come back (very low) yesterday morning.  He was fine by evening, but in the meantime he's gotten a nasty cold with a cough.  He's not quite as happy as usual, but it's hard to pinpoint the cause.  All of this is making me hope that all of this has been just a weird virus and not the intolerance thing like I feared.  There have been a couple other babies in his room at daycare with oddball illnesses--random puking, etc.--so that's making me hope that's what it is.  I also had a minor stomach issue last week and Craig hasn't been feeling great in the past day or so, either, so maybe this is just some weird illness that wreaks some havoc with the digestive system for a bit and then goes away.  I'm hoping to slowly start to reintroduce the questionable foods to him soon, but it's hard to judge when even his cough is contributing to the vomiting.  I just wish he wasn't so skinny already, because this whole not eating much thing isn't helping him put on the weight he needs.  And once all of this is over I will have the added task of figuring out what else to feed him to help him bulk up.  At least those new teeth should help that task a bit!
So at least parts of the weekend were good, and I hope you enjoyed the proof!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Baby Question Mark

Carter is seriously the best baby I could have asked for.  I know I say that a lot, but it is true.  He is awesome.  He has his moments, certainly, but the thing is that he's so good when you hope your baby is so good...eating, sleeping, when he needs to be patient...and he is.  Knock on wood, of course, as everyone knows everything with babies is somewhat of a phase and it can change tomorrow for no apparent reason.  Still, he's been such a sweet, chill baby from the beginning that I'm hoping that element of his personality is here to stay.  When dealing with Jacob there's a certain element of normalcy that's missing.  I don't mean that in a bad way, but let's face it--it's not normal to battle with your child for an hour about clothing or bedtime.  And it happens All. The. Time.  So, not normal.  And I know each kid is different, yada yada yada...but sometimes you just want your kid to be like, "OK, mom."  With Jacob, it's rare.  With Carter, if he could talk, I think that's how he'd be.  Yes, now that he's crawling and getting more mobile he's definitely getting a little fussier about staying in one spot.  And when I leave the room for more than a couple minutes (or seconds, depending on his mood), he's not a happy camper.  But for the most part, I think he gives us a taste of that normal that Jacob does not right now.  And while it's hard to recall how Jacob was as a baby, I think he was fine...but not like this.

Anyway...the one knock on Carter at this point is obviously his eating issues.  The rice intolerance is a major challenge.  Given that most of the gluten-free foods we eat have some sort of rice flour in them, and that most baby foods use rice because it so rarely causes reactions, it is very hard to feed him.  Either foods aren't easy enough for him to eat, or it's something we haven't tested yet, or it's a food that's not easy to make in small quantities.  I'm definitely struggling, and it doesn't make me feel much better that he's not really gaining much weight right now.  We had his well visit this morning and it was pretty obvious that he's not really gaining like he was.  Not sure if it's just a natural growth pattern, or that he's more active now, or if the craziness of this past weekend contributed.  Allow me to explain...

Friday morning Carter woke up happy as usual.  I took him to daycare, left as he was starting his bottle, and went to work.  As I was getting on the elevator, daycare called my cell and told me that he had just thrown up three times.  I found this extra strange since he'd been normal and happy right up until I left him.  When I got back there to pick him up, he was sleeping but woke up when I tried to move him to his car seat.  He seemed happy and comfortable.  We spent the day on the living room floor on the designated puke comforter with a bunch of towels and his toys.  We played, he napped, and I tried to get stuff done.  I gave him some water, which he held down no problem, then some formula.  I initially started with just his usual formula just in case it was a stomach bug and he had a touch of temporary lactose intolerance.  I'd actually been giving him a half scoop of sensitive formula for the previous week to see how he tolerated the dairy, and he seemed to be doing well.  He held down the single ounces of formula I gave him, and I gradually increased the amount.  I also gave him the dairy-laced formula again (since I had his daycare bottles sitting there ready to go).  He did fine all around.  He was in a good mood and kept everything down.  It was definitely weird but I was also grateful he was doing so well.

This, of course, got me thinking that this was another intolerance coming out.  We'd been doing Cheerios for a few days prior, and then Thursday night I gave him one Yogurt Melt (those little Gerber yogurt drops) because it's one of the few baby finger foods not made with rice.  I figured since the dairy-laced bottles had been going well, that was a good next step.  Everything seemed fine until Friday morning, and the way it all went down seemed eerily reminiscent of his rice reactions back in August.  Projectile vomiting, fine afterward.  But he'd been on oatmeal (and indirectly wheat) for a month, and dairy for a week.  The only new thing in either of those snacks was corn starch in the Cheerios.  Still, it seemed a little odd that he didn't vomit until three days in and the next morning to boot (rather than a couple hours later like usual).  But it did take him a week to react to rice, too, so who knows?

Saturday morning I gave him a regular bottle, and I think then he spit up a bit more than I would have expected.  At that point I thought maybe his belly wasn't ready for dairy, so I cut out the other formula and stuck to the Nutramigen.  At lunch I gave him some squash and oatmeal.  He wasn't really into it, but he eventually ate it.  Later on he had another pretty significant spit-up, which got me nervous again.  Still, he seemed fine aside from being super tired because our busy day (Jacob's Christmas program practice--during which we went to the mall--along with Jacob's lacrosse game and a Knighthawks preseason game) kept getting in the way of his napping.  Every time he'd almost fall asleep, I'd have to move him and he'd wake up. 

Sunday he was fine all day.  He still didn't seem particularly eager to eat solids, but he did well with tiny pieces of banana at breakfast and drank his morning bottle relatively well.  He fell asleep mid-bottle in the afternoon, probably because his lack of naps Saturday left him extra sleepy.  He took a long nap and initially woke up a little cranky before conking out again for a little longer.  He woke up happy from there and while he didn't finish his dinner bottle or have much interest in solids, he still seemed happy enough.  As I was giving him his bedtime bottle, he stalled out with a couple ounces to go.  He didn't seem uncomfortable, just distracted, and then he puked up a good amount.  Not the whole bottle like he's seemingly done before, but still, quite a bit, mostly all over me.  And then he was fine.

So...seeing as he hadn't had dairy but had eaten oatmeal, was it that?  Or did his stomach bug take a break and decide it wasn't done?  He was fine again this morning and I definitely felt like I stumped the doctor at his well visit this morning when I recalled the weekend's events.  She said to continue on as normal and see if the upped dose on his one reflux med helps.  I think I'm actually going to cut out the oatmeal and dairy for a couple more days, then start introducing them back in one at a time.  Hopefully by then if it is a bug, it will be gone and he'll be fine.  If not, I'll have to keep experimenting.  That is torturous, though, because making your kid sick (and bracing for the puke) is so awful. 

Oh, and to complicate matters further, he spiked a fever at daycare today.  That could be the next step of a bug, or it could just be a reaction to the one immunization he got this morning.  He seemed miserable when I picked him up from daycare, but after a while he seemed to feel better.  His fever went away, too.  Tomorrow is another day, of course! 

But seriously, the questions just keep coming.  It seems almost impossible to know what's going on with him right now.  Sick?  Intolerance?  Who knows?  I just want him healthy and I want to stop worrying about how skinny he is.  That kid is such a source of joy that I just want to get all of this hard stuff behind us and focus on the good.  We need as much of that as we can get. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conference was Jacob's parent-teacher conference at school.  Given the results of his first report card (good academically, bad behaviorally), I knew it would be a rough meeting.  We were there for a good 45 minutes, discussing and rehashing all of the stuff we've been dealing with for the past three months.  What we deal with at home is far worse than what they deal with at school, but at school there are 20 other kids to manage at any given time so it's significantly more complicated when you have a child that needs guidance every step of the way. 

And that, I suppose, is the overriding issue at school.  At home we deal with violence and complete disregard for whatever we tell him.  At school he just cannot stay on task.  We deal with that at home, as well, of course, but at school where the structure is so important, it is impossible.  The usual morning tasks that take most kids 5-10 minutes takes Jacob a full half hour if the teacher isn't on him every step of the way.  He then misses out on drawing and writing in his journal like his classmates.  Projects that take his friends 30 minutes to do stretch across days with him.  Part of the issue is that he gets distracted.  The other part is that he gets so tied up in the details that he can't focus on the important stuff.  He will draw a scarily realistic depiction of a basketball court, but by the time he's done with that, he's blown all the time that he was supposed to spend writing about it.  On top of it, he usually distracts his friends by singing or talking, and lately he's gotten a little disrespectful when he's asked to stop.

They've tried a lot of the usual tricks to keep him on task.  They have pictures of each morning task so he knows what order they go in.  They've tried a "cardboard office" where they put up a barrier to give him his own space, and they've tried putting him at a desk in the corner with less distractions.  Nothing works.  On one had I feel their pain.  We've tried everything, too.  But on the other hand I'm frustrated because they've collectively dealt with a heck of a lot more kids than we have.  There has to be some kid out there that was more distracted than Jacob, and there has to be something they tried for them that worked eventually.  Or maybe he's just that special. 

They talked about some other things to try--for example, giving him a tangible way to mark off when he's done with a task (like Velcro pictures or marking it off with a dry erase marker) or setting up rewards (game/TV time) when he completes tasks successfully.  We can certainly institute those at home, as well, but my caveat every time someone recommends any sort of chart or reward is that when he gets in one of his moods, nothing sways him.  No matter how many times we tell him in the morning that the sooner he gets ready, the more time he'll have to play, it doesn't motivate him to stay on will a series of tangible checkmarks to "earn" the playtime do it?  No idea.  We can try.

I do wonder a bit if all that they're asking of him is intimidating him.  They're trying to have these kids try to write sentences when they're still learning to sound out words.  He's not very good at it, in case you're wondering, and I have to guess that for a detailed perfectionist like him, it might drive him nuts to the point he doesn't even want to try.  That's just a guess, but even his teacher admitted that they're asking a lot of the kids these days. 

I know that it's very hard for me to know how to work with him, because school came naturally to me.  I did have to study to do well, but I'd guess that my retention with what I did was better than average.  So to have a kid that can't focus and doesn't love school, it's really hard for me to know how to manage that.  We also don't have a lot of time in the day to try to make things fun.  I feel completely stuck on that front, because obviously we both have to work.  I'm feeling very frustrated with this whole situation and I'm just not sure where we go from here.  There are so many things that need fixing, and no good answers yet.  Oh, the school psychologist did call today and say she started evaluating him yesterday.  She enjoyed her time with him and he's scoring well on everything she's done so far.  The speech pathologist that we talked to today said the same.  There's no question he's smart and very verbal, but the challenge is channeling all of that into something productive and efficient. 

I won't lie, it's getting hard hearing the same story over and over again.  So much potential, so little action.  My heart is just breaking because I don't know how to help him, and he can't seem to help himself.  We just have to keep trying.  We don't have a choice.  But this is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and I don't know how I'm going to keep going.  I will, but only with God's help, I guess.  Prayers, please...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving in Review

I've been trying to write this post for at least three days now.  I'm either too busy or too tired to finish it each time, but hopefully today will be the day...

We certainly had an eventful Thanksgiving weekend.  Wednesday during the day we went to Jacob's Thanksgiving feast at daycare, since he was off school.  I brought a few gluten-free accoutrements to replace the things he couldn't eat--stuffing, rolls, and gravy--which worked out well.  We managed to get all packed up that night and head to Buffalo right around bedtime for the boys, so they got some sleep on the way there and settled in pretty well at Craig's parents once we got there.  We had a comfortably lazy morning before heading over to Craig's brother's house in the early afternoon.  We snacked, watched some football, and played with Carter before eating closer to dinnertime.  I tried to help prepare the food a bit, but Carter is going through a mommy phase right now and would not stop crying (whether he could see me or not) until I was holding him.  So I'd do what I could while he was distracted, hold him for a bit, and repeat it the next time someone wanted to hold him. 

Our dinner was a fantastic and mostly gluten-free affair.  While there were a couple gluten-filled items, there were gluten-free substitutes.  Cornbread stuffing, gluten-free drop biscuits, gluten-free gravy, and lots of naturally gluten-free items as well.  Dessert was much the same, with some layered rainbow jello, apple and cherry pies with gluten-free crusts, and a yummy gluten-free Oreo pie as well.  Everything was delicious.  We had a pleasant evening and then headed back to get some sleep and check in on Black Friday online shopping (not successful). 

We left late Friday morning and had a late lunch at home.  I took down all of my fall decorations, made up some Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, and made popcorn for movie night.  I didn't get nearly as much done as I would have liked, though. 

Saturday morning was equally low key in that the kids and I were in our pajamas until at least 11am.  Craig had an event to go to at 11, Jacob was content watching TV and messing around with coloring and hockey tape (don't ask), and Carter went down for a great morning nap.  During that time I managed to get a lot of the Christmas decorations up from the crawl space and scattered around the house.  I also got the tree out, but it sat undecorated for a couple days.  If it wasn't pre-lit, it wouldn't have had lights either.  When Carter got up from his nap, the boys and I went out to run a few errands.  I stopped to get a pair of boots I'd been eyeing up for a while (a very good sale), then we went to the dollar store to pick up some supplies for a couple projects Jacob needed to do for school.  We got a note home before Thanksgiving that each kid needed to contribute a decoration for their door, as well as a stocking to hang by the classroom "fireplace".  UGH.  I mean, it's fine...but I hate projects that end up being more work for the parents than the kids.  And with Jacob, everything is a battle so I knew it would be a bit of a long haul.  Still, we managed to come to some fairly quick agreements and escaped with only having to spend a few bucks.  Our final stop was Lowe's, where I needed to get desperately overdue filters for our refrigerator and furnace, as well as some replacement nuts and bolts to fix our broken kitchen drawer.  The wheel that keeps it on a track came unscrewed from the drawer, and the screws would no longer hold it in.  After wracking my brain for a while I realized that screws with nuts to hold them on would work, so I just needed to get a couple of those.  And yes, it worked.  Go me.

We went home, and all my productivity vanished into a frustrating evening.  We found out that Craig's Nana was in the hospital and not doing well, so we concluded that it was important that we go visit her on Sunday.  We're happy to do it, of course, under those circumstances in particular, but it definitely dashed my hopes for a productive yet restful last day of the long weekend.  On top of that, Jacob (who had been rather cooperative for most of the day) turned back into a maniac.  I didn't know what to make for dinner, and reluctantly settled on breakfast for dinner.  I've been doing it a lot these days and it seems like a total cop-out, but it's so easy to make gluten-free pancakes or waffles and some eggs.  I got more of my decorating done, and spent the rest of the night working with Jacob on his school projects.  We got the body and face of his hockey-playing snowman decoration done--posterboard and glitter glue--and set aside to dry.  I wrote Jacob's name on his dollar store stocking, also with glitter glue, and set that aside. 

Sunday I felt compelled to get up and go to church despite our busy day ahead, if only because it was the first practice for the Sunday School Christmas program.  They pretty much only have two, so that was important.  Not that Jacob usually participates willingly, but it's worth a shot.  We came home, had a quick early lunch, fed Carter, and got on the road to Buffalo.  Both kids slept along the way and we arrived at the hospital around 3:30 thanks to some really bad traffic on the way in.  Craig's brother's family arrived shortly thereafter and we took turns going up to visit Nana so someone was still down to watch the kids.  It was great to see her, and by the time we got there she was doing better.  What they thought was an intestinal blockage possibly wasn't, and they were hopeful that antibiotics would do the trick.  If she would have needed surgery it would have been devastating, as she's 94 and her heart isn't particularly strong.  We originally thought as we were going there that it might be the last time we saw her, but the prognosis has gotten better over the last couple days so we're hopeful she'll pull through.  Still, it was good to see her and talk to her, and it definitely meant a lot to her that we came. 

We decided to eat dinner at the hospital before returning home, mostly because there was a conveniently located Mighty Taco in the lobby!  Mighty Taco has a great gluten-free menu.  In fact, the only alteration to what Jacob normally eats there is a corn shell instead of a flour tortilla.  It does make me a little nervous with all of those flour tortillas lying around, because cross-contamination would be easy, but they make a pretty big deal about their gluten-free menu so I'm hoping that means they take it seriously.  It was nice to have a "normal" meal out, and we headed back home with some evening time to spare.  Jacob and I spent most of it working on his school projects again.  I let him loose on his stocking with the glitter glue, and we were lucky to have it 99% dry yesterday morning (36 hours later!) when he had to take it in.  He did a great job, though.  I forgot to take a picture, but maybe I'll post one after he gets it back after the holiday. 

The bigger challenge was his snowman.  The assignment was to create a Christmas/winter-themed decoration for the classroom door.  Jacob wanted to do a snowman, and he wanted it to play hockey.  Ok, that seemed doable.  The assignment gave suggestions on materials people have used, and I decided a trip to the dollar store was in order.  We bought posterboard, googly eyes, glitter glue, and craft foam.  We had originally intended on using cotton balls, too, but we forgot about that until it was too late...same with the googly eyes!  Jacob had a lot of ideas about how he wanted to do it--including real sticks for the arms.  It turned out that the real sticks worked well, but then he wanted to make a hockey stick out of the sticks, too, but that just didn't go well.  But he fought us on it for quite a while.  I think he's got this thing where he can totally see something (that a certain outfit makes him look like a sports guy, for example), but he can't understand that no one else will see it that way.  Our big concern was that no one would know that it was a hockey stick.  Same for when he tried to make a goalie mask out of the foam, which pretty much just covered the entire face.  Or when he wanted to add a chin strap and it looked really strange.  It took a lot of convincing, but eventually we found acceptable other suggestions and let him do a lot of the execution.  I tried to only step in when a step had been going on for far too long or if a screw-up would have messed up everything to the point we'd have to start over.  I helped do the arms (since it took some engineering), did the nose (since it was a mix of two colors of glitter glue), connected the stick to the arms (again, engineering), and did the skate blade glitter and some of the cutting around the skates (since we had to cut before glittering and Jacob couldn't quite visualize leaving space for it).  But he did the vast majority and we were thrilled with how it turned out:

So, it was a busy weekend and this week hasn't slowed down.  Craig has a busy week and I haven't been feeling well, and I feel like there are a million things I need to be doing to get ready for Christmas.  At the same time, Carter is getting to be very active and will not sit still for anything (or be far from me for long), so it's hard to get anything done.  Oh, and Monday night as I was playing with him, I thought I heard him grind his teeth--which is impossible with only bottom teeth--so I felt around, and sure enough, one of his top teeth is coming in!  The other one doesn't look far behind, and I think I can even see another couple looking like they're coming soon!  What happened to my baby?!  Oh, and he's totally pulling himself up now, and this morning Craig put him in his crib for a minute and came back in to find him standing up!  I've already moved the mattress down once and I don't see him going all gymnast on us anytime soon, but the final mattress move is coming sooner than we thought!  He's getting to be a major handful, which is a little frustrating at times, but he's still darn cute...

We also started putting a half scoop of sensitive formula into his bottles last weekend, and so far he seems to be tolerating it, which bodes well for dairy.  I bought some of those yogurt melt things last night so we can try that, as I'm having major anxiety about his ability to do solid table foods at his age and his rice intolerance makes finding suitable foods difficult.  We seem to be upping his food intake a lot now (usually an entire jar of food and some oatmeal at each meal), and last night I gave him a couple Cheerios, which he successfully ate without choking.  He even got one in his mouth by himself! 

Ok, one more story from the weekend.  I happened to put up the tree and lighted garland during Carter's nap on Saturday, and I was interested to see his reaction when he woke up.  I carried him out of his room and his eyes instantly went to the tree.  He stared at it for a few seconds, unsure of what he was seeing.  Then a coy little smile popped out with a little grunt/guffaw he's been doing lately when he's amused by something.  He's been staring at it (and crawling toward it) a lot ever since.  I was trying to get a good picture of his fascination, but between him moving and his short attention span, this was the best I got.  I know it's blurry, but I just love the sweet look on his face...and you still can't beat those cheeks!
Oh, that face...
So, yeah, things are a little crazy.  But we're swimming along...