Monday, July 28, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things...

I find summer weekends to be a very delicate balance.  Summer is so short and we try to cram so much in, but it definitely doesn't leave a lot of time for relaxation most of the time.  Usually I can't decide what's more important--enjoy every minute to the fullest, or try to rest up a bit after a long week.  I suppose it's pretty hard to rest with kids anyway, so during the summer in particular we choose to suck it up and push through while the activities are available and the weather is nice enough to make it worth our while.

I love being home and not having to pack up and rush around, but truth be told, too much time at home and we're all driving each other nuts.  Carter won't leave Jacob alone, and Jacob is not particularly nice about expressing his displeasure.  Carter isn't phased, however, so the cycle repeats itself constantly.  Jacob monopolizes Craig's time, Craig just wants to rest, and honestly so do I...but the long-term agony of not getting anything accomplished during Carter's amazing marathon naps tortures me even more than being tired.  So usually I'm cramming in what I can while I can.  Every once in a while I need a weekend at home being productive, but ultimately I feel like the best, most memorable weekends are ones where we get out and explore the world and interact with other people.  I suppose I still like to do it on our own terms, but it's nice to get out and prevent the kids from getting in each other's space.  If it's any indication how things have been lately, my Facebook status on Friday night (already) theorized that the kids must have put aside their differences for long enough to set up a lucrative bet on who can drive Mommy and Daddy nuts first.  Between Jacob's incessant nonsense talk and annoyance with his brother, and Carter's tendency to throw food, follow his brother, and get into everything, by Friday night patience was already wearing thin.

On Saturday we sort of got to sleep in now that baseball is over.  But then we had to get up and start packing for spending the rest of the weekend in Buffalo.  We had our nephew's birthday party on Saturday afternoon, and my family reunion on Sunday.  We got a bit of a late start on Saturday--both because packing was a bit of a challenge and I wanted to let Carter get a decent nap.  We finally got on the road and had a nice time at the party.  The forecast for the weekend had been a little sketchy, but it turned out to be a beautiful day.  There were a couple light sprinkles, enough to create this lovely thing:
There's a rainbow there!
One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing Craig's parents' new puppy!  His name is Teddy, and he is so cute!  He was not sure what to make of Carter, though!  You'd think a baby wouldn't be that intimidating, but perhaps having someone so close to the ground threw him off.  He would follow Carter around, but then the second Carters stopped, Teddy went on the defensive and growled at him.  Luckily he never got mean, just loud, and that made for some cute stuff to watch all weekend...
Pretty sure Teddy was growling here!

Awwww...not sure who's cuter!


What a sweetie!
That night Carter went to bed pretty early, which gave Jacob and me some time to go into the pool and swim.  Craig was out with his dad and brother, so it was just the two of us.  It was glorious.  The pool was so warm, it was a gorgeous night, and we had a really nice time.  We played fake volleyball, raced across the pool, and laughed a lot.  I showed him how I can do a handstand in the pool and impressed him when I dove for a toy.  I'm not really a pool person--I can't open my eyes and I have to plug my nose--but it was really a nice time.  I have loved being in the pool at night ever since I was a little girl.  I remember doing it when visiting my aunt and uncle when I was 12 (and watching planes, most likely taking off from O'Hare), and enjoying it at my mom's cousin's house when our reunion was there every few years.  It's just so peaceful and so comfortable.  Eventually it was bedtime, and while it took him a bit to go down, all in all it wasn't a bad night. 

We had a crazy thunderstorm overnight but the kids slept through it and we woke up to a beautiful sunny day.  Craig and Jacob were back in the pool for a while in the morning, and I spent most of that time watching Carter wander around the house and Teddy try to figure out this tiny human.  At one point Carter picked up this Frisbee ring, and he was sticking his face--and then his whole head--through it.  I snapped this picture, and while it sort of looks like he's got a toilet seat on his head, I can't get over how sweet his face is here...

We headed out around 12:30 and stopped to pick up some extra food for the reunion.  We got to see my parents, some of my aunts and uncles, Lori, and some other assorted more distant relatives.  It wasn't a great turnout, but it was nice.  It was Carter's first time at the reunion, and Jacob's first time back since he got sick there a couple years ago (and again on the drive home--yay).  With one now-healthy kid and one rookie, I was excited to (re)introduce them to a place where I have so many great memories.  I've been going to reunions there as long as I can remember, and I cherish all of the memories of playing there with my cousins.  Playing in the sand, collecting rocks, diving into the waves, and stuffing our faces with amazing fun!  Of course, the post-picnic hangover was always a little rough--full belly, sunburn, long drive, sand and sunscreen everywhere--but it was all a part of the experience.  And I love being able to pass it along to another generation.

Jacob had a great time checking out the sports facilities at the camp with Craig, and after lunch it was time to head down to the beach.  Here is Carter getting his first taste of sand...well, the real taste came a bit later when he tried to actually eat it, but he happily dug in the sand and played with rocks for quite a while.

Jacob got into it, too.  He loved making a mess, and was happy to show me...

He went into the water a bit on his own, too.  He was originally going to bury my legs, but once my help left, I needed my legs free so I buried his...

After a while I took Carter down to the water.  I'd gotten his feet in Craig's parents' pool with only a couple whimpers, so I thought I'd see how the lake was.  He didn't like it.  He started trembling and whining so I had to pick him up. 

I took a couple artsy shots of the rocks along the shore and took one last picture of Jacob before we tried to rinse and de-sand as much as we could.

We headed back up to snack a little more and pack up for the long ride home.  Both boys were out within a few minutes of starting the drive, but it was inevitable.  It made for some creative bedtime arrangements, but we managed and it was all worth it.  I loved being able to share that with them. 

It was definitely a tiring weekend, and another overnight thunderstorm and a very dark morning did not help any of us when it was time to get up this morning.  It was a rainy, dreary day in the low 60s (definitely not end of July weather), so I'm even more thankful we had two beautiful days to squeeze in a couple summer favorites over the weekend.  We'll pay for it a bit this week, but I'm so happy we got to do it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Cute, The Bad, and the Ugly

It's been a pretty quiet week around these parts, which I suppose is good.  That's not to say we haven't been dealing with "stuff", but sports are over for now and there isn't a whole lot of extraneous stuff on the schedule this week.  The weekend will be a different story, but this week is definitely quieter than usual at the moment. 

It's still been a bit of a tough week around here.  For every moment that the kids are cute, there are about five moments when we're pulling out our hair.  Here's a sampling of what the kids are up to these days:

  • Civil wars - The boys will not leave each other alone.  It is a constant battle around here.  Carter wants to get into Jacob's toys and into his personal space, and Jacob won't have it.  He is constantly climbing upstairs to get into Jacob's room.  Jacob basically tosses Carter off him or tries to slam the door in his face.  He's annoyed right now because his beloved basketball hoop he got for his birthday won't let his door close fully, so Carter can get in.  If we do shut the door, Carter still goes up there and cries like crazy outside the door.  Our stairs do not work well with gates, so we're just sort of stuck this way.  On the flip side, when we try to distract Carter, Jacob finds a way to ruin it.  He either wants to get in on what we're doing, or he'll steal whatever Carter has...anything to spoil the party.  And inevitably, 10 seconds later Carter gets into Jacob's stuff, and we remind him that if he wouldn't have spoiled Carter's fun, Carter wouldn't have gotten into his stuff.
  • The spitting - Part two of the civil war is the constant spitting battle.  Carter has always liked to blow raspberries.  It was actually one of the "normal" baby skills that Jacob took extra long to do, but Carter has been doing it since the Baby Center emails said he should be.  Well, lately Carter's been doing it a ton, and when he spits on Jacob, it drives Jacob nuts.  Of course, at times Jacob does it back to him, which only encourages him.  Carter is completely unphased by Jacob's displays of anger (not to mention mine), so mostly he just finds the outbursts entertaining.  But it is BRUTAL.
  • Carter has an uncanny ability to get into everything he shouldn't.  His toys are completely uninteresting in comparison to Jacob's stuff, lacrosse sticks, balls, electronics cables, Jacob's drawing utensils, stacks of papers, our potato chip cabinet, and crumbs on the floor.  He just doesn't get the word "no" yet, at least not for more than a second.  It makes it very hard to multitask with him around.
  • Aside from tormenting his brother, Jacob has been pretty much status quo.  Still a lot of potty talk and back talk and smart alecky comments.  Still, he's having some good moments.  He enjoyed his field trip to the trampoline place today (yay, no injuries), he's been loving playing Lego again, and he seems to be taking a bit of a break with sports.  He loves Scooby-Doo, old ones and newer ones.  He's been nice enough to smile for pictures lately, which has been lovely.  But he's also got a fascination with smacking butts--his own (his dance move) or other people's (including mine). 
  • Carter is still a fantastic sleeper, and it's gone to a new level lately because he truly loves bedtime.  He says "night-night" constantly, and loves snuggling up with blankets.  It's so cute.  He's also always saying "bye-bye", everywhere we go.  I almost got him saying "hi" the other night, but he hasn't done it again.  He says his own version of "thank you", which is so sweet, and he's taken to saying a very matter-of-fact "no" when he's asked questions--usually about food.  I know I will be hating that word soon enough, but for the moment he's so sweet and decisive when he uses it that it's really cute.  Not to mention that I'm relieved to know what he wants!  He has started saying "More" and signing please, which is not only helpful but polite, and once in a while he signs "All Done".  The other night I asked him if he was all done with dinner and his arms shot up in the air immediately.  Seriously cute.  Still not a lot of other words coming out yet, but it's nice to have a little more progress. 
  • Carter's walking is getting pretty good, though he's still a little unstable at times.  He's trying hard to run, though, and he wants to go down stairs in the worst way.  He's making progress, but I think he's been luckier than skilled!  These days it's rare to catch him crawling at all, and he looks like such an independent little boy when he walks around.  He's also getting considerably more hair, so he's looking older these days.  He keeps ending up with a bit of a mullet, but it's starting to even out.   He seems to be teething again, this time for the canines, but other than having to chew on everything, he seems happy enough.  Oh, and how he carries his bedtime books back to his bookshelf for me is the absolute sweetest thing ever.
  • We're trying to figure out a fall sport for Jacob.  We want to do basketball but so far haven't found a non-winter league that doesn't conflict with lacrosse.  We might have to do a six-week clinic-type thing like we did with soccer before Carter was born, but we'll see.  The break is nice for now, but I think he'll want that outlet again sooner or later.
  • Work is driving both Craig and me a little crazy, but our vacation week is in sight...even if we don't know exactly what we're doing with it yet.  We have it bookended by a couple weddings, I have a long list of to dos, and we're hoping to visit Toronto for a couple days, but aside from that, we don't have any set plans.  I need to get on that.
So, I guess that's our current state of affairs.  Hopefully some fun activities coming up this weekend.  God knows we need to get out of the house a bit so Carter and Jacob don't drive each other crazy!  And I thought we'd avoid this a bit with two kids so far apart.  Ha!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bye-Bye, Baseball...for now

It's hard to believe, but Jacob's baseball season is over.  What started in late April/early May has now finished.  It's a little weird to think we're done for the season already, because last year's season ran from late June to late August, so to be done with sports for the summer is pretty crazy.  While it will be nice to relax again on Saturday mornings and be able to spend entire weekends out of town, I will miss it.  It was usually a good excuse to sit out in pleasant weather, and over the course of the season, watching the kids was a blast.  Carter wasn't always the most patient, which was a challenge at times, but when I could watch the games, it was fun.

Early on it was tough to see if the kids would gel into a team, because there were a few older kids and a few younger ones, but as the season went on, everyone got into a pretty good groove at the plate.  It was so fun to watch some legit great hits--doubles where most hits are automatically singles--and a handful of nice plays in the field.  Most involved the most experienced kid on the team, who could actually catch and throw on target most of the time, but slowly but surely the kids are getting it.  A couple of them will move up next year, and some may not be back or be on the same team, but there were a couple kids from last year's team and a couple more from this year that I would love to be with again next year.  We love our coach (and he loves us because he's a huge Knighthawks fan!), and hopefully next year will be another good crew.  I will miss watching the little victories every week. 

Yesterday was the last game of the season, as well as our end-of-season picnic.  Here are a few highlights...

Ahhh, Jacob and his endless obsession with cleaning off home plate...

Our little pro

Just hanging out in between innings

End of the season team picture...Jacob is the third from the right in the bottom row, and Craig is in the red shirt in the top row.

This is how Carter *wanted* to spend the whole season...digging in the dirt and throwing the rocks.
Carter fell asleep on the way home from the game, and once I dropped him off in his crib, I ran off to Lowe's to pick up some mulch at Lowe's for this small patch of flower bed next to our garage.  It used to have a hydrangea, but it died, and ever since it's become overwhelmed with weeds.  I killed all of them a week or two ago, but I hadn't had a chance to get the mulch to cover it all.  I also bought a tiny azalea bush to plant.  I came home fed the awake members of the family some lunch, and went out to plant the azalea and dump out the mulch.  I also attempted to transplant another plant in the backyard from a bad spot to a better one, so we'll see if that takes.  Carter woke up around 2pm, and I spent the next hour preparing to go to the picnic (heating up a frozen gluten-free pizza and thawing an emergency cupcake) and feeding Carter a late lunch.  Off to the picnic we the rain.

It was nice to finally catch up with other parents when I wasn't already doing double duty of taking care of Carter and trying to watch Jacob's game.  Mingling during games is hard!  And now that I got to chat with everyone at the picnic, I wish we had a couple more games left!  
Jacob spent pretty much the whole picnic here, despite the rain.  He was loving the basketball court with its adjustable hoop.  While most of his teammates played in the pool, or at least took shifts, he was all basketball, all the time.  He's in the black clothes on the left.

The cakes with all the kids and their cool!  And so tasty!

Quick snap of Carter and Daddy on the basketball court.  Daddy helped Carter dunk once and it was so cute!

 And how waterlogged was Jacob after playing in the rain for a few hours?
Here he is with his trophy!  And very wet hair.
Despite the rain we had a great time.  We headed home and Carter and I packed up and headed to Buffalo for an overnight with my parents.  The goal was to go to the Canal Fest craft show, which is a long-time tradition.  My mom and I used to go with my grandma first thing in the morning on Saturday.  We don't buy much, but it's always fun to look!  Carter was an angel as we walked through the craft show, but a handful the rest of the weekend.  He's definitely inching toward the terrible twos already--testing boundaries, throwing tantrums, and just generally getting into trouble.  What a handful!

Still, it was a pretty good weekend.  I'm not sure what's next up in sports for Jacob.  Lacrosse doesn't start until November, and originally we were talking about soccer for the fall, but now we're leaning toward basketball.  I tried a bit tonight to find him a local league like Upwards or CYO, but it doesn't appear any of the ones I found were a good fit.  We'll keep looking, and if nothing else we'll do a little six-week clinic like we did for soccer right before Carter was born.  Just something to give him that outlet and keep him learning.  But for now we have plenty to keep us occupied for the rest of the summer!  But it won't be the same without baseball!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One of these things is not like the other...

So, Carter is officially 17 months old.  That means we're only a month away from a year and a half.  Seven months away from birthday #2.  And the terrible twos.  And since his birthday is less than two months after Christmas, that means that within that time we'll also have winter and Christmas again.  Wait, you mean summer won't last forever?  Oh, only another month and a half?  Darn.  This was just getting fun.  The worst thing about summer is how fast it goes, and with kids that seems to have become even more true.  Light speed, people....seriously.

So...just a few random thoughts as we hit this stage.  First of all, one of the things that has been very insightful the second time around is being able to look back at pictures of Jacob and see when he started looking like "him".  Baby pictures are cute and all, but there's a point at which you realize that the kid you have now doesn't really look much like the tiny baby in the pictures.  There are features, yes, but it's only once your kid reaches a certain age do you realize that their face hasn't changed a whole lot from a few years ago.  It thins out, but the look is pretty similar.  Looking back, Jacob truly started looking clearly like himself somewhere between a year and 18 months, which is obviously where Carter is now.  It's nice to know that we can start knowing that this is somewhat along the lines of what Carter is going to look like as he gets older.

And in case you don't believe me, here's a picture of Jacob from a few weeks older than Carter is now.  He was about a week shy of 18 months in this picture, and I kid you not, I see this face pretty much on a daily basis now when I do something that annoys Jacob...
I was looking for a picture closer to the age Carter is now, but when I saw this one I laughed out loud and HAD to include it here.  It is SO him.
I've talked at length on here about how different my two boys are.  There are some similarities these days.  Just like Jacob did, Carter says "ball" constantly and is always wanting to be holding a lacrosse stick.  He'll settle for a bat or hockey stick, but lacrosse is far preferred.  They started walking around the same time and seem to be similar in size.  At least, Carter is now wearing the same sneakers that Jacob has on in the picture below, and I noticed a video of Jacob at this age with a shirt that Carter wears right now.  I will say, however, that the hat Jacob is wearing below hasn't fit Carter's considerably larger head since the beginning of the summer, so there's that difference.  They both love being outside.  Carter is a better eater but their love for milk at this age is identical.  I know there are more, but even still--in so many ways these kids couldn't be more different.

Carter definitely seems to have an easier going personality than Jacob did at this age.  He has his moments, but he seems to have less tantrums and is generally more content.  As I mentioned, he's a way better eater.  It's an odd day when he doesn't eat the vast majority of what's on his tray, whereas getting Jacob to eat anything was a struggle.  Carter remained a great sleeper through teething and usually takes monster naps, unlike Jacob at this age, though he also seems to be a lighter sleeper in general, as he will often shift position when I come in to check on him.  Trying to wake Jacob is like trying to wake the dead.  Jacob seemed to talk a lot more a lot sooner than Carter, and he was always more of a snuggler than Carter has ever been.  The biggest difference, though, may be in their looks.

From the moment Carter was born, he looked different.  He was hairy and red, with dark hair.  Jacob was always so much fairer.  Jacob had a dimple, but Carter had crazy chubby cheeks.  Their faces really never looked that much alike, and their coloring has always set them apart.  I think the funniest difference is that Jacob's body shape has always been straight up and down, whereas Carter has these chubby thighs that stick out wider than his tiny butt.  It's hilarious.  Still, I wanted to look at old pictures where Jacob was Carter's age and see just how different they are. 

These pictures are a little closer to the age Carter is now that the one above, maybe a week younger than 17 months.

And for reference, here are a couple more of Carter from recently.  I'm only including the second one since he's sort of looking down, as it's the closest I can find to the one above.

They just don't really look alike.  And you know, I like it like that.  I'd hate to look at baby pictures and not know who was who.  I like that my boys are both such individuals and that they've both utilized separate sets of genes.  I have friends with two boys where you can barely tell them apart, and while that's cute in its own way, I love my boys just the way they are.  It's funny, though, because I still have a hard time thinking of them as a "set".  Because Jacob never wants to be near his brother, and because they never really do anything together except battle (you know, Carter wants to be near him, Jacob pushes him off, Carter tackles him), seeing them together is still a little disorienting or something.  It's almost like someone Photoshopped them together or superimposed one in the presence of the other.  Seeing them together just doesn't compute most of the time.  It probably doesn't help that Carter's proportions seem so much different than Jacob's, with his big head in particular.  It's hard to describe, but hopefully one of these days they'll interact normally or I'll at least be able to get some pictures of them together where they don't seem superimposed. 
Anyway, I love my little individuals.  I am still adjusting to the fact that Jacob is six, and now we're a month away from 18 months for Carter.  It just doesn't seem possible.  They are growing up way too fast! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Something Old, Something New

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a nice weekend.  I realized on Saturday that nearly every single weekend through the end of the summer has something going on.  It's crazy.  It's not that every weekend is booked, but there's something to plan around every weekend, at the very least.  Weddings and parties take up most of them, though I'm hoping that in between we can sneak in some family time, plenty of relaxing, and at least a little bit of "to do" list stuff...both the fun and the not fun lists.  We're planning on a week of mostly staycation next month, and I have a long list of stuff I need to try to fit in somewhere.

One of the things on my list for the summer was picking a day where we could drive down to a town called Avon (the "A" is pronounced like "apple", not like the cosmetics).  It's just a bit down 390, the highway that runs south from Greece, where we live, downstate where it changes names and heads toward Binghamton.  About 30 minutes south of Greece is the Geneseo exit, where you get off to go to my beloved alma mater, SUNY Geneseo.  I like heading down to Geneseo periodically.  So much has changed on and off the campus, but there is something about that town that still feels like home.  Every time I'm there, I would practically give up an appendage for just a regular old day back in college, going to a couple classes, hanging out with Mary, napping away the afternoon, complaining about the food, and watching a lovely sunset while I avoid my homework.  Oh, the simplicity.  I just love being there, though.

Anyway...back to Avon.  A friend of mine who has Celiac disease told me about this place there.  The original conversation was about the fact that they do donuts...real donuts.  And they only used to do them once in a while and she was all excited when they'd announce they were doing them again.  Turns out the place does a lot more than just donuts.  It's called the Livingston County Pizza Company and Gluten-Free Bakery.  Not only do they have a whole regular pizzeria-type menu, but 3/4 of that menu is available gluten-free.  Pizza, chicken fingers and wings, fish fry, burgers, panini sandwiches, pasta, etc.  All of the typical fried stuff is available gluten-free, which is very rare.  And, everything that the bakery side does is gluten-free.  I really wanted to go there to give Jacob a chance to eat whatever he wanted, though he insisted he still just wanted pizza.  Still, I knew the bakery portion would be a hit regardless.

We had to stop at my cousin Lori's my-parents-are-out-of-town get-together on our way south, and the GPS sent us on the back roads there, which wasn't bad at all since it was a pleasant day.  The place itself is down a side road across from some railroad tracks, in a very unassuming little building. It was a typical tiny pizza joint.  Who'd have known that little building would hold such a gluten-free powerhouse?

We ordered a pizza and a Buffalo chicken panini with fries.  We had to be creative to keep Carter happy while we waited, but the food was worth the wait.  It was so good!  Jacob was loving the pizza, deeming it his favorite ever.  The panini was great and very large.  And the gluten free food was basically the same price as the regular food!  We ended up with a couple slices of pizza and a section of the panini to take home.  Then it was time to pick cookies!

There's a place here in Rochester that used to have a number of local locations (including one downstairs from my old office) called Brad's Cookie Nook.  There's only one location left at one of the malls, and we used to get a coupon book that had a number of buy one get one free coupons - buy one, get one; buy three get three; buy six get six.  Whenever I'd remember to bring one of those coupons with me, I'd delight and agonize over picking the flavors.  There were so many and they all looked so good.  Well, when you have to eat gluten-free, opportunities like that are rare.  If there's anything gluten-free available at all, it's probably one type.  Well, this place was a different story!  It took me back to the joy and agony of Brad's Cookie Nook, because there were so many flavors to pick from!  M&M, chocolate chip, chocolate and coconut, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, molasses, chocolate crinkle, and s'mores, which they were out of.  They also had half moon cookies, which are awesome, frosted, cakey cookies.   There were also pastries and pies available that looked fantastic.  We ended up getting one half moon and a half dozen of the other cookies, and the nice lady working the counter gave us an extra chocolate chip to share with Carter before we left.  It was so nice to let Jacob have at all the options, since it's so rare for that to ever be the case with anything gluten-free.  Almost brought me to tears!

The bad news is that it's so out of the way for us.  My friend who goes there is just a short drive away since she lives further south, but for us it's an easy half hour, even on the expressway.  Still, the good news is that it's on the way to Geneseo as well as being near one of our local drive-ins, so we have a couple options to work it into a larger set of plans.  It takes planning, but at least we know it's worth it!

After dinner we headed further down the road to Geneseo.  It was a nice night so I figured we could walk around a bit, find a nice spot to eat cookies, and just enjoy the evening.  Turned out that Geneseo was busy!  It was reunion weekend, so there was a reception on campus for the "milestone" reunion folks.  A lot of the bars were crowded with alumni, too.  The Geneseo Airshow at the tiny airport nearby had been earlier in the day.  There was also the Geneseo Rotary Summer Festival, so there were lots of people walking along Main St. on their way to the village park for a concert, along with vendors lining the edges of the park.  The town was seriously hopping, which almost never happens, especially during the summer!  Of course, the townies and other unsupervised local kids were out in full force, so it was an interesting sight to behold and made me remember why I live in the 'burbs...even though I'm not sure most of what's around us is much better.

We walked down to the campus, which I love to do, and eventually stopped on the patio that overlooks the Genesee Valley and provides some of the best sunset views ever.  We snacked on a couple cookies and enjoyed the view before heading back up the hill to find a bathroom.  We walked over to the festival grounds in case there were port-a-potties there, but it appeared the academic building across the street was open for that purpose.  We finished up there and headed out for the night.  It had been a fun little adventure with a little bit of old and a cool something new.  The kids went to bed when we got home, and I headed back out to Lori's party for a little bit.  It was finishing up when I got there so I basically helped her clean up.  We chatted for a while before I headed home. 

Yesterday was a pretty low key day.  We did church in the morning, leftovers for lunch, and then Carter went down for his nap.  It was rainy and gross outside so I headed to the mall for a bit.  There were a lot of sales and I had a few coupons and gift cards so I gave it a shot.  I wasn't particularly successful.  Nice to get out, though.  We spent a little time outside in the evening and that was about it. 

Here are a few pictures...
Jacob only has a couple more games left in his season.  Part of me will miss his games, but the flexibility it throws back into our schedule will be nice.  He will miss it, I'm sure.

Killing time during the game.  Gosh, he's cute.

Seriously, where did this handsome little boy come from?  Where did my tiny little baby go?

A little taste of Geneseo...I walked under this arch countless times.

Sturges Hall...which chimed just as we walked past it.  Sigh.

Looking out over the valley...the union is down the hill to the left, a dining hall that was closed when I was there (and is now an awesome food court) is down to the right.  Down and to the middle was the reunion reception.

The boys eating cookies.  I love how Carter is laughing at Jacob!

Sunset as we were heading out of town...Jacob asked to see the sports fields so I drove around a bit to show him, and caught this along the way.
Good weekend.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Happy Story

After my last heavy post, here's a happy story.  The other day the boys and I stopped at Target on our way home to pick up a few things.  On our way in, we browsed the random section in the front of the store where everything is $1 or $3, and Jacob found a mustache keychain for $3.  He immediately said he wanted to get it for his teacher at daycare, Miss Toni.  He had mentioned the other day that she'd gotten a mustache tattoo on her finger (?), so I assumed she must have a thing for them.

I've mentioned here before that part of the reason we consented to having Jacob at daycare this summer despite the fact it's not cheap is because we knew it was the lowest stress option for everyone.  He loves Miss Toni and everyone there knows how to manage him.  His stress level would be low, and so would ours because we wouldn't have to worry about him misbehaving all the time (or them complaining about it, quite frankly...they just deal and move on).  He is happy to be with her and it's really nice to have him enjoy his days there so much more than he does at school. 

Initially I wasn't convinced that we should buy the keychain, but we spent a couple minutes playing with the other keychains in the bin, and during that time I realized that it was a sweet gesture.  For $3, it was a small price to pay for giving Jacob the chance to make someone else happy.  Oh, and did I mention that it talked?  Apparently it's a creeper's mustache, because it said in a slick guy voice, "Well, hello there!"  Heehee.

The next morning Jacob was excited to give it to her.  He walked into the classroom and said, "Miss Toni, I have a present for you..." and he pulled it out of his bag.  She was so excited!  She laughed and hugged Jacob.  She showed me her tattoo, a thin line in the shape of a mustache on the side of her pointer finger, so if she puts the finger under her nose (like a mustache) she actually has one there.  Strange, yes, but cute in its own way...and unassuming enough, I suppose.  She explained that she's totally into them--she has some stuck on her dash of her car, has a collection of Slurpee mustache straws, and so on.  Her dad has had one forever, and she swears that's where it started.

She hugged Jacob at least twice and I swear she was nearly in tears, though it may have been because she was laughing so hard.  But she definitely loved it!  Jacob was equally giddy, and he said to me when I came back into the room to say goodbye after dropping Carter off in his room, "I want to buy her another gift!"  So, I'll take that to mean that he loved making her happy.  It was such a nice side of him to see, since he's normally a bit on the selfish side in general.  I'm hoping that he learned the joy of making other people happy and that it will stick with him...all for the bargain price of $3.  It remains to be seen how well he learned that lesson, but I will give him credit--this weekend we got a cookie (more on that story soon) and I told him I wanted a bite.  He ate a bunch of the cookie last night, but today he said to me, "Mommy, you can have the rest of the cookie.  I had half and you can have half!"  Well, he ate more than half, but I really appreciated his offer.  I double checked with him before I ate my portion, and he was still happy to pass it along.  It was sweet.  So maybe he did learn something!

We had a pleasant enough weekend, and I will hopefully write that up soon!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Trouble with Being Honest

Last week around these parts we had a bit of a situation.  Last weekend was too busy and this week too exhausting to get into it here, but today has generally stunk so I guess there's no time like the present.  Work was frustrating, the kids were brutal at dinner, we found out about a couple of unexpected ongoing expenses, and my brother's college roommate lost his battle with cancer today.  So, yeah, craptastic.  Might as well get into a little more since my mood is already in the toilet.  Maybe getting it out of my system will help.

On and off for the past few years, Craig has talked about going to this year's World Lacrosse Championship, which is going on in Denver right now.  Of course, back then we thought things would be a little different--that Jacob would be a little easier to manage, that baby #2 would be a little older than Carter is now, that our financial situation might be a little different--so perhaps it could have been a family trip.  Well, considering where things actually are these days, that sort of a scenario really wasn't going to play out.  A few weeks ago, Craig started talking casually about going to Denver himself.  He'd talked to a few national teams that were going, but it seemed his best opportunity was with Team Israel.  The Knighthawks' team photographer was working for them, and a guy that used to be in the NLL league office was working for them as well.  At first it didn't seem serious, but as time went on things started to take shape a bit more. 

All along, I can't say I was excited.  Jacob wasn't either...until Daddy offered to bring a couple things back for him, of course!  But I was trying not to be "that wife" and tell him flat out "no"--he's not my child, after all--but I wasn't showing any enthusiasm, either.  Let's face it, 10+ days alone, working full time with two kids, is not exactly how I want to spend 1/6 of my summer.  I love my kids, but sometimes my patience only goes so far and not having a convenient opportunity for a break is a scary prospect.  Ten mornings of getting us all out of the house, ten nights of double bedtimes, ten days of trying to cook dinner while trying to keep the peace between the kids, ten days of not being able to work late or having to recruit help to do something as simple as go to the gym.  I feel like I can't keep up on a normal day with a live-in partner, so the thought of all of that was simply overwhelming. 

I did that same duration a few years ago when Craig went to Prague for the indoor version of the world championships.  Back then it was only one kid, though, and I didn't really want to stand in the way of him getting a chance to go somewhere so exotic.  But this time around was Denver, and while it was still a unique opportunity, it wasn't quite as once-in-a-lifetime as the other one.  In addition, this wasn't for work, nor would it really be a career-enhancing opportunity, so it was purely a pleasure trip for him--albeit one where he'd be working a ton.  Which means that he'd probably come back exhausted and need a while to recover, which isn't really ideal either. 

Less than a week from when he would, in theory, be leaving, things got serious.  And all of a sudden, he was ready to go and I was feeling stuck.  I didn't want to get in his way, but I also wasn't sure I could make it through that much time without him, without losing my mind.  He could finally sense that I wasn't happy about it, and suddenly one morning I just let it all spill.  There were so many emotions playing into this.  After so many months of him working nearly every weekend, this summer was supposed to be our time as a family.  At the same time, I feel like our time as husband and wife has been so limited, so it hurt that he was so eager to run off to Denver, when it seems like pulling teeth to even consider a weekend away for us.  I felt like I'd be in a holding pattern the whole time--getting time to accomplish anything is almost impossible with two kids.  Going to the gym, keeping the house in one piece, going shopping...everything would be so much harder.  And again, it would be different if this was for work, but it wasn't.

Over and over in my head I kept thinking, how would it be if I was in his position and he didn't want me to go?  But the thing is, I can't even fathom that.  I wouldn't even be able to consider that much time away, so it's nearly impossible for me to consider how I would react.  Craig doesn't really cook, and with Jacob's special dietary needs, I'm pretty sure if I was gone for 10 days, they'd all be subsisting on cereal, PB&J, and McDonald's.  Even when I'm gone a couple hours, I feel like he's quite eager to pass the kids back to me when I walk back in the door.  Maybe that's just my perspective, and I know it's hard because Jacob monopolizes him like crazy, but I have no idea what would happen if I was gone for an extended period of time.  I guess I would just know better than to even dream about going away for 10 days.  Things change when you become a parent, and I guess sometimes you have to make tough decisions as a result. 

Oh, and as an added twist to this, I've been thinking a lot about marriage in general lately.  I have this page-a-day calendar that I got as a Christmas gift.  Most of it had been fine, but sometime in June it started talking about marriage.  And while I tried to appreciate the spirit of the messages, it really started to bug me.  It was very old-fashioned advice and it was focusing on the passages that talk about a wife submitting to her husband.  It was giving tips about preparing for your husband's daily return home.  Give the kids a snack so they're not whining.  Hang up the phone so you're available when he arrives.  Put on some lipstick and make sure you don't look like you've had a hectic day.  Be physically available for him.  Like I said, I tried to appreciate the spirit of the advice--pray for your husband, try to make him happy and make him feel loved--but in this day and age of working moms, why should I add even more to my full plate just to make his life so much easier?  Why shouldn't he do the same for me?  We should strive for that, yes, but where is the fine line between being supportive and risking sanity?  So, with all that in mind in the weeks leading up to this trip, I felt very torn about what to do.

Ultimately, I had to share my feelings with him.  I wish that those feelings were different, but they weren't.  I didn't want that anger and frustrating building inside of me.  Even still, once I got it all off my chest, I told him to go.  All the plans were made, and quite honestly, I felt like a lot of the "damage" was already done.  It was clear how eager he was to go.  While his argument was that I never told him (prior to that one morning) not to go, I reminded him that he never directly asked me if I was okay with him going, either.  I think he knew the answer wouldn't be yes, so he didn't want to ask the question.  Whereas I would agonize like crazy if I was in his position, it seemed like an easy choice for him.  Maybe that's a testament to the trust he has in me, but it just felt like he wasn't really considering the full impact.  I know that wasn't his intent, but it still didn't feel good on my end.  The thing was, I'd survive him being gone--I wouldn't like it, but I'd survive--but what bugged me more was that I was even in that position in the first place.  Ultimately I didn't want to have to be the one who told him not to go.  I wanted him to consider on his own why it might not be a great idea.

Despite me telling him to go, of course he didn't.  I didn't want this to turn into a guilt/manipulation thing, but I guess there was probably no other option.  Now that competition has started in Denver, he's wishing he was there.  While I'm thankful he's not, I also feel bad that I'm the reason why.  I don't like that, but again, I was having a very hard time changing my feelings about the trip so it was either let that anger fester and let him go, or let it out and be the reason he stays.  Neither one is a good option. what?  Well, it's sort of along the same lines that I talked about in regards to our anniversary.  We need to focus on our relationship.  Our kids are important, work is important, taking care of the house and spending time with our extended family is important.  But this family doesn't work right if we're not right.  And while we're really fine, I think it's sometimes more of a passive fine.  Nothing's wrong, but nothing's outstanding either.  We're getting through day-by-day however we know how.  We're tired, we're both at our limit many days, so it's hard to put in the effort to communicate well and focus on each other.  We're interrupted constantly by the kids, and when they're asleep, we're both too spent to do much but veg out in front of various electronics.  If one of us goes to bed even five minutes before the other, the odds of that person staying awake long enough to talk is pretty slim.  For the first time in the 11 years we've been married, I'm truly aware of how much work marriage can involve.  It was never really that clear to me before, but now it is.  We're far from critical, but I want ensure we never get anywhere near that point.  We somehow need to focus on ourselves before we turn into one of those couples that wakes up in 20 years and realizes that we put so much time and effort into our kids that we have nothing else in common once they're finally out of the house.  Whether that's a few more date nights (or lunch dates, for that matter), an overnight, a weekend, or a longer trip away, I don't know.  Maybe it's just making a concerted effort to set aside an evening to snuggle, or forcing ourselves to go to bed earlier and at the same time so we have time to chat in bed.  It's about being communicative, even when you might not like the response, but being ready to talk through it regardless.  It's about teaching the kids that interrupting is not okay and that if Mommy and Daddy need to talk, they need to learn to be quiet.  It's about turning off the electronics, or focusing together on one.  All easier said than done, I know.  But I don't just want to get by, I want to excel at this marriage thing.  Before kids, that wasn't hard, but now it takes a concerted effort, and I think we've been too busy to notice that.  Until now.  I get it, and I'm grateful that it all became so clear to me before it became a real problem.

Marriage can be hard.  Parenthood can be harder.  But mix the two (and throw in a few speed bumps) and you have a daunting challenge.  I've seen too many good marriages end to assume that anyone is immune, but you can bet I will do everything in my power to never go down that road.  Not only do I think marriage is worth working for, but the last thing I'd ever want to deal with is lawyers or court rooms or custody agreements.  That alone is motivation to work harder, and I say that every time I hear someone's horror story.  But ultimately, the true motivation is that image of growing old together...having a long, happy marriage with two great kids, a plethora of happy memories, and a bright love, honor, and cherish as long as we both shall live. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

News & Notes, Holiday Hangover Edition

We're officially back to the grind after the long weekend.  Yesterday was a mental challenge for me because Craig was off.  He was up and at 'em early and as such, ended up getting a few things done in the morning (whereas I would have been back in bed the second the door shut, so good for him).  But he called me around lunchtime practically fishing for something to do.  It was wet outside so yardwork and the pool were out of the mix.  He'd taken back bottles to the store and done a couple other things, but he was pretty much out of ideas so I told him just to enjoy it.  Of course, if I were off I have an eternally long list of things (literally, it's on my iPod Touch) that would keep me busy for days.  There really wasn't anything I could pass off, so I guess good for him?  I remember being bored in the summer when I was a kid and watching boring, terrible TV as an adult, but I don't think I've used the word "bored" since I've had kids.  Oh, to even have the chance to be bored!  Not gonna lie, I was a little jealous.

We're down to Jacob's last four baseball games of the summer.  On one hand it's a bummer because we like his team for the most part and it's great to see him do so well.  We like his coach and I enjoy chatting with the coach's wife.  What I don't like is keeping Carter entertained twice a week for an hour and a half, and how his sports schedule has interrupted my workout schedule, which has led to the development of a pouchy belly and annoying love handles.  I need to get rid of those ASAP because my clothes fit funny.  I care a lot less about being chubby these days except when it comes to how my clothes fit.  I do not have the time or money to replace my wardrobe, so for practical purposes I need my body to stay at a certain point so everything still fits right.  Aside from that my body does not bother me.  I guess that's what having two kids will do--mad respect for what it can do and simple acceptance that childbirth changes things.  But when I know that it's my eating and lack of exercise, I need to rectify that.  Now.  I took my old class last week for the first time in ages and I was SO SORE.  Two days of so sore that I could barely get out of a chair.  I need it, though.  Tonight's game got canceled due to an ill-(well-?) timed monsoon. 

I'm preparing this week for my first public speaking experience in quite a few years.  Back when I worked in sports I did a couple gigs at high schools talking to kids who had an interest in working in sports.  It was mostly a cautionary tale that it's bad hours, crappy money, and not as much player interaction as they'd hope.  But I shared the good and the bad, and since it was basically just talking about my life (as work was my life), it was pretty easy.  Easier than public speaking in college, where every "ummm" or "like" would get you points off.  This is similar in that it's a topic that I'm very familiar with, but it's a webinar that's open to the whole company and there's a couple technology things that have me a little unnerved.  But I think the presentation turned out OK and I just need to get in a little more practice so I'm more comfortable with transitions and the like.  But still, it's weird.

Jacob is pretty much the same these days.  Better at times, but challenging at others.  I think he's a little more relaxed without school, and he's loving daycare.  We're trying to encourage him to read more this summer, but it's definitely a slow go.  He's doing really well, but he gets frustrated easily and tends to pick longer books than he should.  I want him to keep practicing, though.  He's loving sports as always, though I don't know if he has a real favorite right now.  Maybe basketball because of the new hoop he got for his birthday, but he's more equal opportunity than usual, I think.  He still dislikes his brother, though once in a while he seems to appreciate when Carter laughs at him.

Carter is a handful.  He's walking all over the place, leaving messes in his wake.  He likes Jacob's toys more than his most of the time, and always heads for Jacob's room first.  He's not really using any new words, but he seems like he's starting to get the idea of "all done" at mealtime.  He can be very chatty and very expressive.  He's taken up dancing whenever he hears music, which is basically just bouncing a little and sticking his butt out a bit.  He's such a cutie and he keeps us on our toes.  His favorite person at daycare just had her first if Carter someday marries a girl named Teagan, you can know it started now :) 

Over the last couple weeks, Teagan's mom sent me a few cute pictures of the kids.  These two of Carter cracked me up...

The other day I took the following picture of Carter when he went down for a nap.  Pretty similar, huh?  But soooo cute.

These next pictures got lost in the shuffle of Jacob's birthday.  I took them at Jacob's baseball game a couple weeks ago.  It was HOT.  But how adorable are these?

Jacob's teammates' sisters were flipping his shade up and down and he was loving it!
 And here's Jacob in his catcher's gear.  He loves playing catcher!

 I probably had more to say, but I think this is enough for now! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Birthday, Interrupted

Jacob turned six two weeks ago.  We had another family birthday party the day after his actual birthday, and despite our best efforts to get a party together the following weekend, it just didn't happen.  Some people were busy, others were out of town, and nothing really worked great for everyone.  So, rather than just have a party with a handful of people, we had to get creative.  We decided to just bring a cake to my family's 4th of July picnic (which was already claimed by other family members, in case you're wondering why we didn't just host it), and celebrate there.  I figured attendance would be better and he'd appreciate the bigger crowd of voices singing to him.  Then, we planned on having Craig's family (just his parents and his brother's family) here today so Jacob could enjoy having his cousins here on his turf.  We're at their house and Craig's parents' house a lot, but I think he enjoys this annual opportunity to do things on his terms, with his own stuff.  So, that was the plan. 

The bad news is that we didn't firm up Saturday's plan until mid-week, so not only did that mean a lot of last minute planning and shopping, but it also meant that I had to do two cakes in two days!  As you know from my history, I don't take the cake thing lightly.  If there's anything I try to do well for a party, it's the cake.  But two in two days?  Yikes.  Still, we hatched a plan, and I needed to make it work.  I shopped and baked Thursday night, did some cake frosting and decorating in the morning, and by lunch time we headed out to Buffalo.  I needed to finish the cake there, just so nothing got ruined by the long drive. 

At the picnic, Jacob had a couple presents to open from my parents.  He got a pair of goggles, as well as this gift...
Ladder golf!  Unfortunately, the construction was pretty shoddy and my mom decided she should return it and try to find something better.  But it was fun while it lasted...
While the ladder golf was being constructed, Jacob played lacrosse.  My cousin Brian joined in, and it was pretty funny to watch...

Is it just me, or is Jacob suddenly looking like such a big boy?

So, back to the cake.  Jacob had gone back and forth, but in the end he settled on a hockey cake.  I figured it was easy enough, and sure enough, it wasn't bad.  The name brand gluten free cake mix was fine and it came together pretty nicely.  I did all of the frosting and the goal creases at home, then marked off where the rest of the lines and circles would be with a toothpick (so much easier to fix if you don't like the placement--we changed the creases once and the faceoff circles twice!).  Jacob had a couple minor meltdowns about the look--originally he wanted colorless, square creases (like in the old days) and he wanted a couple other details that just wouldn't fit, but in the end we worked through them and I was very happy with the result...

Once we were satisfied with the decorations, we added the finishing touches...
We just happen to have a large supply of hockey guys.  Note the penguin referee, as well...
Jacob was so excited about the cake and kept saying that I was the best mom and the best cake maker ever,  That felt pretty good, I won't lie.  I get a lot of the opposite most of the time, so it was good to hear and it was great to see him so excited.  He couldn't wait to get the hockey guys on, and he was so excited to be sung to. 

See, big boy...right?
The cake was good but there were so many other desserts at the party (including a cake that looked like a flag on the inside when it was cut!) so we ended up bringing a LOT home.  So much for getting back in shape!

Jacob played a pretty outstanding game of ladder golf, but by then my mom determined it wasn't quite hardy enough for Jacob's standard of play.  As she was taking it apart, Carter was playing peek-a-boo through the ladder...

We left around 8:30 and got home around 10.  The boys went right down to bed (Carter slept on the way home), and I got back to baking.  I had a near disaster with the cake for today--I used Wegmans' gluten-free mix for this cake and it didn't go as well.  Part of that could have been the pan I used (I used a ceramic casserole dish because I don't have a square cake pan) and part of the cake stuck to the dish pretty badly.  The cake was still pretty warm so I just stuck the piece back in overnight and stuffed it in the freezer for a bit this morning before the crumb coat of frosting.  That piece actually stuck in pretty well, but then I realized that the cake sunk in the middle pretty badly.  But then I realized that yesterday's cake had domed when I baked it, and I'd trimmed that part off to flatten the layers out.  I took a few of those pieces (never mind that they were chocolate and today's cake was white) and filled in the sinkhole.  It worked like a charm, miraculously. 

The rest of the cake was so-so.  I couldn't get the blue frosting dark enough, I couldn't get it smooth enough, and I was having a hard time with the marshmallow accents.  Jacob actually came in and suggested I make them shorter, so I pulled them back off the cake, cut them with scissors, and smoothed things out again.  It was a solid suggestion, though...he was right.  Anyway, it's probably hard to tell, but any idea what this is?

Maybe this picture will help...

Give up?  It's a square Lego.  It was fine, but not my best.  I needed a design that was fairly simple and not too big since we didn't have a huge crew today, and this fit the bill.  If I do another one someday I will definitely work on my technique...and get better pans.  But Jacob was a good sport about it...

I got together a pretty good picnic feast...burgers and dogs, baked beans, salt potatoes, baked rotini, my famous broccoli-cheese-rice casserole, lots of berries, and a giant watermelon.  The kids nearly wiped out the latter two items long before we ate!  The boys swam and played lacrosse before we ate.  I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but things we pretty well under control and I did get a chance to enjoy the gorgeous day and spend some time with the family.

After dinner and singing Jacob opened a couple that he really wanted...
Slip-n-slide baseball!
He also got a really cool basketball hoop for the back of his bedroom door, complete with a cool backboard!

And once we had eaten the cake, the boys headed out to try out the slip-n-slide!  They had to be so cold because it was getting cooler by then.  But that didn't stop them from playing for quite a while! 
Jacob stepping up to the plate!

Now Jacob's pitching, with a runner on third!
All in all it was a great couple days.  We're all pretty exhausted, and poor Carter is probably so sick of being rushed out of the kitchen while I was working!  Thank goodness we have another day to recover this weekend...we all need it!  But it was great to get some family time and crank out another 1-1/2 successful cakes :)  We still haven't made it to a real fireworks display on the 4th in a very long time, but one of these years!  Despite the, ummmm, unofficial fireworks display still going off down the street, I'm off to bed...I've earned it!