Sunday, April 26, 2015

In Awe

I won't lie--there are so many moments, probably daily, in fact, where I just step back and marvel at life.  Most days I'm too busy to appreciate a lot of it, but once in a while (and more often lately), I have a spare moment to realize how blessed we are.  I know that can change at any given moment, but we really do have to appreciate the good while it's here.

The past three-plus months have been one heck of a journey.  And the past two years prior to that weren't really on the boring side, either.  But if you would have told me two years ago the full story of what we did and how we got to today, I'm not sure I'd have believed you.  And if you would have told me 15 years ago when I was graduating from college where I'd be right now, I'd probably have stared at you, wide-eyed and mouth hanging open in bewilderment.

While reading has not been my strong suit in recent years (aside from my time off and any kid-free airplane trips), I've always loved a good story.  I used to read a lot.  In fact, I recently dug back into my old books to find some joke books for Jacob, and I rediscovered a stash of detective-type books--easy reading books with clues and evidence that the reader uses to come to a conclusion in the case.  I loved that kind of stuff when I was a kid, and even now my author of choice tends to have a dozen mysteries woven into her storylines that swirl around for chapters before they all settle in to resolve the massive puzzle at the end.  I'm always fascinated by how a bunch of random pieces come together to reveal the full story.

I guess the same is true for real life.  Even though so many moments are not particularly pleasant as we live them, after the fact it's so fascinating to look around and realize how everything works out or ties in eventually.  Perhaps this all springs from my belief that everything happens for a reason.  Even if the reason is almost impossible to see, I feel like most things in life eventually, somehow, come full circle and make a little more sense.  I know it doesn't always happen right away, as I read the CaringBridge posts from my friends whose daughter passed away from cancer a couple months ago, and I see how their daily life is so challenged by Amanda's loss.  And I can't say that wound is ever going to heal for them, but I do pray that along the way they will see enough little ways their lives have been meaningfully touched through that experience that it will at least provide them with a sense of peace.

Part of surviving life is just making the best of the cards we're dealt.  Some people have a way easier time at that than others, be it because of their circumstances or their attitude or both, but I'm still just fascinated by the journey...the winding path we all walk.  The start, finish, and everything in between don't always make sense when looked at separately, but together, it becomes our history.  The more years that I live on this planet, the more amazed I am by the experiences I have had.  And, quite frankly, mine seem pretty tame compared to a lot of people.  But whenever I watch the random photo slide show on my screen saver, I marvel at the many moments that pop up.  Big moments, small moments, moments I nearly forgot, or moments where I'm so grateful I took a picture of something seemingly mundane.  Every trip, every kid moment, every sign that I'm a real grown-up...they truly blow my mind. 

I spent most of my teenage years and my early 20s dreaming of finding the right guy, having the perfect wedding, and living happily ever after.  Here I am, all these years later, going on 12 years of marriage with my very loving husband.  How has it been that long?  These days we long for a little more time alone to recapture the lighthearted fun of our early days, but our love is strong and we take so much joy from the little moments we have together and with the kids.

I always wondered what it would be like to have kids, but for the longest time I didn't feel ready. That was probably caused in part by the fact that people mistook me for a kid myself for a really long time.  It doesn't seem that long ago that I was the daydreaming teenager, and suddenly I look around and realize that I have not just one, but two kids.  I've been through two pregnancies, two deliveries, two rounds of infant exhaustion, and am now entering into a second round of toddlerhood and year two of the elementary school years.  I look at these little people that are 50% me and I can't quite fathom that I'm the mom.  We've been through quite a roller coaster over the last couple years with Jacob's various issues and our various adjustments to Carter's arrival in our family.  It amazes me to think of the ways I can feel like an "experienced parent" now, even if it's just over a very specific group. 

Now that I'm in my third real job, I look back and marvel at where I've been.  I made my dream come true by working in sports for almost six years (internship included).  And thanks to Craig sticking around in that business, I've experienced four championships from a bit of an inside perspective.  Two of those included crazy whirlwind trips that were well worth the crazy last-minute airfare!  Once the sports thing became incompatible with where I wanted my life to be, I switched to a job that I was completely clueless about going in.  It was a giant leap of faith that turned into almost nine years of a pretty good thing.  I worked with some great people and learned so much more about myself professionally.  The mere fact that I spent almost a decade there boggles my mind a bit.  For the longest time I longed to reach the same duration as my first job, so I could feel like more of an "old pro", and once I hit that milestone, suddenly time flew and I left that one in the dust.  Nine years went by in a flash.

And then, out of nowhere, it was all over.  I never imagined I'd find myself among the unemployed in that manner.  I knew it would be a turning point one way or another, where I'd either move along to something better, or it would be the start of an unfortunate decline for us.  Certainly I hoped it would be the former, but it definitely made me a little nervous.  I wasn't sure how to even approach the job market after such a long absence, but with a little hope it became clearer.  What I figured out is that I was such a different person when I left my old job (mom of two, Excel geek, in my mid-30s) than I was when I got there, and I had to approach the hunt with that new version--one that was more experienced in life, more confident in my skills, and more secure in myself.  And sure enough, I got something that's pretty close to my dream job.  I love being back in an academic setting, making good money and good benefits, and in a position to better the lives of my family in the long run.  Just when I thought a little part of my world was ending, I suddenly find myself in a better place than before!

Add in our quaint house, our great families, and all of the little things we take for granted every day, and it's clear we're really blessed.  Some days I want to pinch myself.  I look around and marvel that this is my life.  Of course, while most days that's a positive marvel, there are some days where I'm looking out of the corner of my eye for the do-over button.  But no matter what, I always come back to the idea that this is all a part of our family's story.  Hopefully someday Jacob's issues will pale in comparison to his success in life.  Hopefully someday the boys' difficulties co-existing will be a laughable memory and they'll be the best of friends.  Already my one-time desire for a daughter has been put to shame after two years with the sweetest second child I could have asked for.  We've come so far already and I look forward to the day we can look back and see how all of these random moments are a part of our bigger picture.  We feel so blessed--and yes, tired--but thankful for where we stand today. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Easy and Hard

This whole working thing has been an interesting life to dive back into.  I feel like certain things have been easier than I expected, and certain things have been harder.

Let's start with the Hard Stuff:

1) Readjusting to our new normal has been a bit of a tricky prospect for Carter.  I purposely kept him in daycare two days a week while I was off to minimize the trauma that he'd experience if he was out of daycare for a while and then thrust back in once I found a job.  I also didn't want to have to get him re-registered, and I knew that if he stayed I could get him back full time very easily.  I knew that this was a prime opportunity to give him the one-on-one time he never gets with already having an older sibling, but at the same time I knew I'd need and enjoy some time for myself, if only to job hunt.  Well, now that we're back in the groove, there are a couple adjustments that are still in process.  Carter is hating drop-off time each morning.  He will cling to my legs and whine.  He's usually fine two minutes after I leave, either settling in to breakfast or giving me a wave from the window and moving on, but this sudden freak-out has been a switch.  I know he loves it there because half the time he ignores me when I come to get him!  But I will say that lately I've gotten some very nice afternoon hugs upon my return!  I'm also missing our time together.  I miss eating breakfast together, watching him expertly eat his yogurt at lunch, and his smile and hug after nap.  I miss the Duplo sessions on the floor and being able to just hang out and watch him play.  Most nights are so jammed now, with errands and dinner and him wanting to play outside, that quality time is limited.  And weekends are tough, too, because I'm usually trying to cram in a few tasks around the house, as well.  Which brings me to...

2) I am already drowning in piles of stuff at home.  Not physically being there as much makes things extremely difficult in the "keeping things neat" department.  I no longer have the time to leisurely sort through piles or spot clean when I notice something.  I am trying to be better about that stuff than I was, as I know it really just takes a few minutes to make a big difference (even if it's just mental) and I like feeling productive.  But it's hard.  Jacob's school papers pile up, both boys' artwork is waiting to be photographed (seriously, that is such a great thing.  I can take pictures of the good stuff to alleviate the guilt of throwing things out, and I only keep the stuff that's really noteworthy.  Well worth the five minutes it takes every few weeks.), and mail tends to build up very quickly if I don't sort it immediately.  I can't get over how quickly my dining room table became a mess, or how quickly the gathering spot in my kitchen filled up.  I miss knowing that I have the time, and being able to spread out those tasks enough to still have plenty of time to relax and play with the kids.

3) On the job side of things, it has been quite a challenge to learn new things.  I like learning new things, for the record, but after nine years of mastering so many aspects of my old job, learning a lot of new stuff is hard.  I think the mere knowledge that I had so many quirky little things in my old job that only I knew (and may not have been formally documented anywhere) makes this challenge especially daunting, because I know from all I've experienced so far that there will be a lot of that going on here, as well.  The work itself doesn't scare me too much.  I know that I am capable of doing it.  It's just learning the many steps and getting used to those quirks that I'd never even know to look for...that is the hard part.  I'm very capable of the Excel work, which is a huge relief on their end and on mine, but there's a lot of adjusting to do on where to find things in our server folders, how to integrate each piece into the work, and learning a lot of processes.  I've got a great teacher, but she's very busy...which makes it all the more important that I learn what I need to ASAP, so I can take some of the load off her.

4) One of the most unexpected hard parts of this process has been readjusting to drinking large quantities of water every day.  I used to drink about 40 oz. of water every day, if not more.  Here I've been averaging at least that much.  With less to do, I tend to notice sooner when it's empty.  I've probably had 48 to 60 oz. most days, and after three months of not drinking very much, I've consequently been spending a lot of time visiting the ladies' room.  Most days I average four or five trips, which is crazy.  I'm hoping I readjust soon!

5) Finally, I miss having time to shop.  One of the more challenging aspects of this job, believe it or not, is keeping up with the fashionistas that work here!  Coming from an office where almost everyone wore jeans every day, working here has been a switch.  Not that everyone is wearing suits or dresses every day, but pretty much everyone dresses really well and accessorizes very nicely.  I'm glad I did the wardrobe building I did while I was off, because that has been a huge help, but now that I know better what I'm facing, I really want to get back out and do a little more work.  Of course, with Craig on the road so much, and evenings so busy, and Carter napping away most of our weekend afternoons, there is very little time to run out and shop.  I've had a Kohl's bag sitting on my floor for weeks waiting to be returned.  Of course, now that I got a couple huge coupons from them, I will HAVE to find time to go.  Hence why I dragged both kids to JCPenney at 5:30pm on Sunday (when they close at 6) because I had a $10 off coupon that expired that day.  I got a couple things that I liked in the five minutes I had to try them on, but I'm still pondering if they will work with the rest of my wardrobe.  It's just hard to price shop and things like that when I only get one shot to get out there and get something done!

Now the surprisingly easy stuff...

1) My commute has been one of the pleasant surprises of this job.  I thought it would be about the same, but it turns out it's about five minutes shorter.  Add in the fact that a 5-10 minute process of walking to/from my car and weaving in/out of the parking ramp has been replaced with a 30 second walk, and it's heavenly.  I do have to negotiate a traffic circle, however, and I tend to run into icky traffic in the evening, but even's maybe a five-minute slowdown.  I haven't actually hit much morning traffic, though I know I will at some point, but even still, it has been so nice to not be rushing around like a maniac.

2) As much as I expected more HR-type structure at my new job, one of the nice things is that I'm no longer tracking my time in 15 minute increments.  I used to have to account for all the time in my 7.5 hour day (plus a half hour lunch), and here they're actually a lot more relaxed.  It's nice, especially right now when I'm not overflowing with projects, to not have to account for every moment.  I'm doing work when I have it and trying to fill the downtime with relevant stuff--looking at our sample binder, researching the school, etc.  This morning I spent some time looking around the giving webpage at my alma mater, just to see how their setup differs from my department.  Not exactly hardcore work, but relevant and fine when nothing else is pressing.  I probably would have felt weird putting something like that in my old timesheet, but here it's more about holding myself accountable, which feels much better.  Does that make sense?  And if I'm five minutes late or have to leave a few minutes early, I don't have to obsess about making it up.  Oh, and I get an hour lunch now, which is amazing!

3) I've found it easier to stay on task at home now that I'm back up to full speed.  It's easy to get complacent when you're out of your groove, and I started to near the end of my break, in particular.  I forgot one of Jacob's practices, as well as one of his doctor's appointments, both of which fell around afternoon pick-up time...just because I was in such a routine that the break in routine was easy to forget.  Now that my schedule is busy again, I'm finding it easier to remember things--that laundry must be done, that projects need completing, etc.  I suppose that could be because my brain had time to refresh, but I'll take what I can get.  Now if I could just remember every morning that I need to cook dinner every night, that would be great.

4) Getting comfortable with my co-workers has been easier than I thought.  There are still awkward moments with the people I don't know well, and I haven't exactly found a BFF yet or anything, but I think that for the most part I did better remembering names than I expected.  I had some nice small talk with different people, and for the most part it's been pretty comfortable.  I really like my boss and we have a lot in common with two boys at similar ages.  I found out today that her oldest, who's five, has a severe tree nut allergy, so we bonded a little over our kids' respective food challenges.  My closest co-worker, the one who's teaching me everything, has three boys (older) but as a whole we don't have a ton in common, yet we get along surprisingly well.  That's been a much better relationship than I probably could have hoped for.  Ironically, my lack of smell comes in handy since she's a smoker, so there's one plus for an otherwise crappy problem.

5)  I'm not going to say this is truly easy, but I must say that waking up earlier has been going better than expected.  I used to set my alarm pretty early and snooze forever.  Now I set my alarm a little earlier (6:10) and only let myself snooze until 6:30 when a second alarm goes off.  Lately I've let that slide to 6:45, but then I put myself behind the 8-ball a bit so I try to keep it as close to 6:30 as possible.  With that I can usually get out of the house by 8:20, drop off Carter at 8:30, and get to work by about 8:50.  That's a perfect schedule for me, and I happily leave at 5pm every day.  Everything about this schedule just feels so much better than my old schedule, and I think that's why it's been a little easier to get up...well, that and knowing I really don't want to be late!  But I like the feeling of being early and not rushed, so that's been nice. 

I'm sure there's more, but right now I have to go off and do one of the other hard parts of this transition....figure out my benefits!  Again.  Sigh.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

News & Notes, Slacker Edition

I've had these pictures on my camera/computer for far too long and never got around to posting them.  I guess that's what happens now that I'm back at work and falling asleep in my chair most nights by 9:30.  These were from last week when the weather was better and the boys were eager to get outside!

Carter loves his bikes!  This is the "little" one that he got for Christmas from Grandma and Grandpa.  He hasn't quite figured out the pedals yet (perhaps it runs in the family?), but he loves motoring around on this one.  He also enjoys Jacob's old one, the "big" one, that makes noises and is a little easier to move around without the pedals since there's more room for his legs!

Here's Jacob mid-shot!  Lacrosse season has begun, so he's eager to get out and practice his trick shots, if nothing else!

Both boys on their bikes.  Jacob is still having a heck of a time learning how to keep his momentum while pedaling.  At this point I wonder how we're ever going to get him on two wheels, but he's made a little progress so I suppose anything is possible.  Try explaining pedaling to someone sometime.  It's harder than you think.

Jacob on his bike with his fancy new helmet.  Just that little slope made pedaling almost impossible for him, though those training wheels can make things tricky if they get hung up on things.  We just have to keep at it.

Cool dude

The chalk came out and Jacob was diligently working on creating the perfect basketball court.  He did quite the lacrosse field later in the week.

Carter got right into using his new chalk.  I love how he'll flop on his belly to play sometimes....although the driveway wouldn't be my first choice!
Last Thursday was Jacob's second lacrosse practice, and since Craig was on the road from Wednesday to Sunday, I was on the hook for it.  I've only had to do a couple practices with Carter in tow, and I won't lie--it's a little daunting.  He's a good kid, but it's a lot of time to keep a two-year-old occupied.  Thursday had been a pleasant day for most of the day, but just as I got out of work the clouds came in and I was cursing the 70 degree forecast that prompted me to pack capris and flip flops for my evening clothes.  It was freezing!  And practice is apparently a half hour longer this year than it was last year.  I'm pretty annoyed by that because 90 minutes twice a week seems a little extreme for a) 6-8 year olds; b) kids who probably have normal bedtimes starting a half hour after practice ends; c) kids who are in school and have homework; and d) the 50 degree weather we're still going to be having for at least another week.  An hour seemed sufficient last year, so I don't know what changed.  And for older kids I can see it, I guess, even though homework is even more of a concern, but if any of these kids have parents who work early, I can easily see them going to bed by 8 to wake up by 6 or 7am.  Leaving only a half hour to drive home, grab some food, and get to bed...that's just not enough.  Jacob's bedtime has always been later--8:30-9ish--but it's still not a lot of time and definitely makes family dinner difficult.  And with his Celiac, snacking and quick meals aren't as easy, either.  Anyway...a couple pictures of Carter that got us through the last half hour...
You can't see it easily here, but he kept putting leaves on his head and thinking it was hilarious!

Then he ran around my chair giggling and talking about the "hot dog go boom", which is a reference to the hot dogs that race on the field at the Knighthawks game.  There are three people in giant costumes that run around and knock each other over.  The boys love it and Carter talks about the hot dogs going boom a lot.  Here he was running around and I just caught what I think is a sweet picture.
In other news...My new job is still going well, but there is so much to learn!  The stuff I'm doing is very technical and can create a bit of a mess if it gets screwed up, so it's been a slow process.  In the long run it will still be fine, but being patient can be challenging!

I guess we've all mostly adjusted to me being back to work, though Carter is a little cranky at drop-off every morning.  It's a phase and it probably would have happened at some point, but I'm bummed he's doing that because avoiding those moments was part of the reason I left him in day care two days a week while I was off!

The boys, for all their differences, finally agree on something!  Their favorite TV show right now is Paw Patrol on Nick Jr.  We started watching it while I was off, and before long Carter was asking for it every day.  Well, when Jacob was home on break and watched it, he decided he really liked it to!  Carter calls it "Puppy Show", and now even Jacob is asking for it when we get home in the evenings.  I'm taping one episode per day and there are others on demand, so we're good for a while, but it cracks me up how much they both love it!

I've been so exhausted at night lately, often falling asleep by 9:30 or earlier.  I don't know if it's still sort of like the first week of school with a kid, when they're coming home beat after a long day, or what.  It makes it hard to stay motivated when I have a handful of house stuff that I used to do during the day, and now not only do I have to do it at night, but I'm tired on top of it.  The dishes and laundry don't let up!  At least Craig is back from his roadtrip and isn't traveling this weekend!

Finally...just a few cute Carter-isms!  He talks a lot these days, still mostly short phrases and an ever-growing single word vocabulary.  Lately he's been cracking me up with "O-tay" (for "okay"), "Help me!" when he needs help, and calling Jacob "Buddy" after I did it.  Whenever I ask him what he did at daycare, he rattles off the names of his friends...though strangely, I'm not even sure some of them are in his current room with him yet!  Sometimes they combine, but it's funny that he's so fixated on his old friends instead of his new ones who should be more interesting since they're older.  Another cute thing he's doing is that when we read his one animal book and I ask him about the animal on the page, he automatically says what the animal says.  For example, "Duck says 'quack quack!'"  They must have that book at daycare and do that, because he's gotten so good at it!  We still have some challenges, like him not wanting to use the potty, or like him having epic meltdowns when he doesn't get his way, but managing those comes so much easier the second time around!

Ok, off to bed.  This working thing is tough!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The State of Brotherly Love

I decided I hadn't really posted in detail lately about the relationship between the boys.  Clearly that's been a sticking point for the two years and two months that Carter has been in our home.  While I don't see any sort of full resolution coming anytime soon, I do think that there's finally a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.  Getting to that light is going to be a very hard-fought proposition, however, but just knowing it's there makes a big difference.

When Carter was born, I truly had no idea how Jacob would react.  I thought he'd either love to have someone to laugh at his jokes or shoot pucks at, or he would absolutely despise this new invader in his house.  It turns out that neither of those things happened, at least not right away.  I still say that the moment Jacob walked into my hospital room and saw me holding Carter, a switch flipped.  He wouldn't go near him.  It was almost like, "Holy cow, what is THAT?"  We tried to give him a heads-up on what was coming, but we didn't really want to scare him either.  Kids freak out more if you make a big deal, so I think we erred on the side of simplicity.  Not that anything could have truly prepared him, mind you, but perhaps we should have done more.  And if I could go back in time, I'd definitely not have been holding Carter when Jacob walked in.

When we got home, we went through a solid year of indifference.  Jacob pretty much just ignored him.  I mean, he had moments where he was mad that I wasn't available, or maybe annoyed once Carter got more mobile and Jacob's toys were around, but for the most part he didn't talk about him and didn't acknowledge him.  We have a couple forced, painful pictures of Jacob holding Carter, and that's about it.  Heck, if you ask Jacob about our trip to Disney, he will seriously insist that Carter wasn't there.  I really think he just blocked him out.

Once Carter really got moving, things got harder.  Jacob got crankier about his toys and his space, and Carter was making himself more known around the house in general--curiosity, talking, general naughtiness, etc.  Jacob took notice and seized every opportunity to point out Carter's faults.  Jacob's complaints would frequently include the mention of not wanting Carter in our house.  He'd often do something to purposely frustrate Carter, or even hurt him.  Most of the time I don't think he did things with the purpose of truly hurting him, but rather just putting an obstacle in his path or stopping him from getting in his personal space.  He didn't really understand that those things could really hurt Carter, and he didn't really seem to care even once we told him.  Those issues are still a really big problem between the boys, and it's only getting worse now that Carter is stronger and more mobile.

Incidentally, I couldn't help but laugh the other day when I drove by our old house.  I go by once in a while, as it's a very short detour on my drive to pick up the kids, and sometimes I just like to see if anything has changed around the house or the neighborhood.  For the first time, I actually saw people outside!  I saw two kids running around the yard, and the mom standing on the porch step with a baby.  I couldn't really gawk so I didn't get a really good look, but it hit me as I was driving away that they could possibly have three kids in that house!  When they moved in I know they had a boy about Jacob's age.  Our move was five years ago, which means they could have easily had two more kids.  I can't even fathom having three kids in that house.  Storage was minimal, the rooms were small, and we felt a bit tight with just one kid.  The mere thought of the second was what prompted us to get that house on the market, pronto.  Our living room now is huge, and sometimes even it doesn't feel like it's big enough for both kids.  I can't imagine how they'd fare in the tiny living room we had, and I know the hardwoods would have taken a serious beating.  My linen closet alone is quite possibly 10 times bigger than the one we had in that house.  The old house's basement storage was decent, but a far cry from the huge crawl space we have now.  I know there's something to be said for keeping things minimal, but a) I think that can lead to wastefulness (i.e., getting rid of baby clothes before having another baby); and b) I still don't think we had a ton of stuff and I felt quite claustrophobic there near the end.  Anyway, the thought of these two boys in that little house made me laugh!

Currently I spent most days with the boys feeling like a referee.  Carter always wants to be around Jacob, and Jacob usually wants nothing to do with Carter, so we're constantly having to shut Jacob's door or are physically pulling Carter off of Jacob when he's trying to hug him or play-fight.  Jacob still isn't very gentle with Carter and has a tendency to not take Carter's body parts into consideration when he's trying to restrain him.  I definitely feel Jacob's pain, because if I had someone doing that to me (oh, wait...I do), I'd be pretty annoyed too.  We try to remind him that if he proactively tried to play with Carter, he'd keep Carter entertained, off of him, and away from the stuff he doesn't want him to play with.  They're constantly battling over toys or sports equipment that may have once been Jacob's but have been passed down to Carter as Jacob's use for them waned.  But of course the second Carter touches something, Jacob goes on the defensive.  Jacob gets mad if we force him to share food (i.e., a chip from a bag of potato chips) and accuses us of always making him give up stuff for Carter.  We've tried to be mindful of that, but at the same time, we know a six-year-old brain is much more capable of coping with something like that than a two-year-old brain.  And, quite frankly, Jacob is convinced Carter has cooties so I highly doubt he'd even want something Carter was holding, food-wise. 

Anyway, despite the constant battles, I do see a little light at the end of the tunnel.  The boys have been able to play sports together a little bit.  Once in a while Carter gets invited up to Jacob's room for a mini-lacrosse game, or Craig finds opportunities for Carter to participate in outdoor sports.  Last night Jacob even helped Carter get a toy out of the garage when we were playing outside.  Helping his brother?  That might have been a first!  Also, they have gotten into some giggle-fests in the back seat or at dinner where they just crack each other up, but the downside of those is that I'm usually the one who has to tell them to quiet down because it gets very loud, very silly, and ultimately very deafening and/or distracting! 

Slowly but surely Jacob will see that Carter has the ability to play, and hopefully he will finally get that this little brother thing isn't so bad.  Strangely enough, Jacob seems to have it in his head (sometimes) that he'll get to that point, too.  He talks about how Carter can't play Wii until he's four, to which I respond that he'll be surprised how functional Carter will be as a three-year-old.  Of course, I do worry that as he gets older, that number will continue to climb because things are always relative.  For example, his brother will always be four years and eight months younger.  So when Jacob is turning 11 and his brother is around the age he is now, will Carter still be considered an annoying kid in comparison, even though right now Jacob considers himself a pretty capable and cool big kid at the same age?  Still, Jacob has talked numerous times about wanting to share a room with Carter someday.  I don't know how that is even logical in his head since he never wants Carter near his stuff right now, but he thinks that when Carter is older it will be better for them to share a room and leave Carter's room for guests.  Jacob's room is big enough, I suppose, but I still haven't quite figured out his logic for this.  I personally think having one's own space is a great thing, and I honestly think the age difference would make sharing tough as Jacob gets into the tween and teen years.  I wouldn't be opposed to letting them have sleepovers or whatever if that will bring them closer down the road, but I still find it intriguing that Jacob thinks about sharing a room with someone he claims to not like.

Now that Carter's personality has come a lot more into focus, it still holds true that they couldn't be more different.  Carter's daycare teacher (who had Jacob at the same age) agreed wholeheartedly when we were talking the one day.  It's not that Carter isn't a full-blooded high-energy two-year-old.  He just has a much lower key background to his energy that allows him to stop for hugs and randomly sing songs.  Jacob's brain is always going, so it's no surprise he was hard to keep up with at Carter's age, both mentally and physically.  Jacob was all sports all the time, and Carter loves a little of everything--sports, cars, animals, play food, etc.  Carter gives the best full-body hugs and is always concerned about other people.  It's really priceless sometimes when he asks where Jacob or Daddy is.  He definitely has his tantrums, though (including an epic one through half of Wegmans the other day when I denied him a cookie), but I know better how to handle them, and in between the meltdowns things are a lot more blissful than the downtimes were with Jacob.  Jacob's behavior is a lot better right now (particularly in comparison to a year or 18 months ago), and although we still have major issues with him listening and taking direction, I feel like we're in a good spot right now with him. 

I love my boys and celebrate their differences, in part because as my memory ages it's going to be way easier to keep their stories straight, and I continue to hope and pray that their relationship will grow as they get older.  I hope Jacob discovers his protective older brother side, and that Carter learns to give Jacob the space he needs.  I don't know if they'll be sharing spontaneous hugs anytime soon, but a little family harmony when they're in close proximity would be a great start.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

First Week and a Taste of Spring

So, my first week of work is over and I'm not scared yet!  I got to see a little more what I'm going to be doing, and while not all of it is particularly fun, it's right up my alley and I think it will be fine once I get used to some of the terminology and "judgment call" type stuff.  But it's been fine and I feel so lucky to be with such great people and in a job I think I can be passionate about.  It's been fun learning about the school and getting a private college perspective to compare and contrast with my state school experience.  Everything has a name that someone paid for, for example, and the impressive (and wealthy) alumni are pretty outstanding.  College campuses tend to have a unique energy, and even though we're not right in the middle of the campus, I'll still have some direct dealings with students, which will be cool.  In addition, all of the activity surrounding the hospital keeps things interesting.  I won't be dealing directly with the hospital, but people I work closely with will.  I thought it was funny that yesterday I got a piece of mail from another part of my department--my brochure to sign up for the Stroll for Strong that I did last year.  I just like that so much of the school and hospital are connected to the community.  In fact, sometimes it's hard to find a day of news coverage that doesn't have something pertaining to one or the other.  It's a nice sense of connectedness after a job at a company that no one had heard of!
This week, among other tasks, I got my desk set up.  It was nice since my beloved Chihuly calendar and family photos were packed away for so long.  Luckily I really like my cubicle and felt pretty settled right away.  Of course, the flowers from my boss warmed it up from the beginning...

Here's my cube.  My calendar is on the left, and most of the rest of the walls are full of pictures.  I'm still debating bringing in a few more of the random art I had at my old desk, but I don't want it to look too colorful or busy!

Here's a close-up of the photos I put together late last year.  On the top there's a cute pic of Carter, a close-up of a violet, a dramatic pic of Jacob at the Braves stadium in Atlanta, and a close-up of the Chihuly hanging in Union Station in Tacoma.  To the bottom right is a family picture from last Easter, a selfie of Jacob and me from the first day of school, and a picture of Craig and the boys taken in Geneseo last summer.  To the left is a float frame of five fun pictures--three Chihulys, the glass balls from the Corning Museum of Glass Christmas tree, and a shot of Multnomah Falls in Oregon in the middle.

And hung on my other wall is an organizer with Jacob on the field at Frontier Field last year, a rose, a cute picture of Carter from last fall, and another Chihuly from Tacoma.  On the board across the top is Jacob's baby picture, Carter's baby picture, a picture with my whole family, and a picture with Craig's whole family.  Below those is our family picture with the Knighthawks' championship trophy, and Jacob's school picture.  Carter's picture is in a separate frame below on my desk, just because I ran out of frames and nothing else was vertical.

So, those are the pictures I love most out of my thousands of case you were wondering :)

In other news, today was the first truly beautiful day of the year--sunny and warm all day.  It felt amazing out there.  The boys and I did spend some time outside (pics to come), but it took a while to get out there because I have yet another case of pink eye and it's bumming me out.  Jacob was at a camp with Craig all afternoon, and Carter took a good nap that allowed me to go out and clean up some of the yard, but I've been tired all day and it was tough to work up the energy to get the boys out there. 

Fortunately, I've been able to enjoy some spring inside.  I've gotten a ton of flowers as gifts lately, including this hyacinth that is now in full bloom.  So pretty!

On my kitchen counter I have the hyacinth, daisies, and kalanchoe, all from Easter gifts, plus what remains of my flowers from Craig and the flowers from my boss which I brought home for the weekend.  Quite a group...

Just wanted to share a pretty close-up of the kalanchoe from my mother-in-law...

...and a pretty purple carnation from the flowers from my boss...

Anyway, it's nice to have them, and hopefully this decent weather sticks because the boys (and everyone else) have been craving it!  We'll need all the sanity we can get this week because I'll be home alone with the boys almost all week.  Craig has to spend the beginning of the week in Buffalo for his great-aunt's funeral.  I'd be there under normal circumstances, but with my job just starting and a lot of stuff happening this week with another new person starting, I just can't go.  After that he's off on an extended road trip for the Knighthawks.  It's going to be a very long week and weekend, for sure, but we'll get through it one day at a time...even if it means bedtime comes a little earlier than usual!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Little Bit of Old and a Whole Lot of New

So, it's officially day three of being back to work.  I don't count Monday, which was my orientation day, since that was sort of an oddball one--early morning, out early in the afternoon, not at my actual office--but I've now been at work for three days, and so far so good.

My boss is wonderful, a best-possible scenario given that I was coming from a super awesome, understanding boss at my old job.  My new one had an adorable arrangement of flowers waiting for me on day one, and she's just really nice and checks in often and wants to make sure I am comfortable.  She's also a mom of two boys close in age to my kids, so that's another nice bond.  My closest co-worker is just a little younger than my parents and totally different than me, but she's an Excel person as well so it's really nice to work with someone who "speaks" Excel.  I've followed pretty well so far with what I've seen her do, so it makes me feel like we work similarly.  My primary job in the long run is to take a ton of work off of her plate, and hopefully make what she does a lot easier in general, so I'm hopeful I can do that soon.  She's been really great, though, in that despite being crazy busy, she's been really good and patient about going over things and letting me take it all in.  Everyone else has been really friendly and helpful, so that's been such a nice introduction to this job.

Getting back in the swing of things has been okay.  It hasn't helped that I've been sick on and off, though it seems to be getting better.  Last night was the first night in a while that I felt normal, so it was good to get a few things done.  Still, it's a bummer to spend time in the evening doing dishes or folding laundry, since I used to be able to get that stuff done during the day.  I've made a concerted effort to stay offline during the day (except at lunch), so I spend a lot of time in the evening catching up on social media and email.  Waking up early has been a challenge, but I'm pushing myself to go to bed earlier, and so far adrenaline gets me moving quicker in the morning.  Today was the first day I dropped Carter off at daycare myself, as I've been taking things very slowly to ensure I'm not late.  Slowly but surely I'm getting back in the groove, including digging back into the frozen meals that have been waiting in my freezer since January and getting back this morning to bringing a four-day supply of milk for my morning cereal.  The photo arrangements that I finally finished a few weeks before I got let go have been unearthed and hung in my new cube, and I was so happy to get my beloved Chihuly calendar back up on the wall after missing a couple months of pretty pictures.  In some ways it's been nice to get back into a new version of some old routines, but certainly I miss the freedom of my time off and look longingly at the pictures of the kids.  I do miss post-nap smiles from Carter and day-long random hugs.  But I know this is a really great scenario for all of us, so I can't really be too sad right now.

I've felt all along that I've been led to this place.  The way I felt three years ago when my friend tried to get me there, the way the timing worked out this time, the ease I felt with the interview process, my comfort level with all of the people I met, all of the signs were leading right there.  The signs have continued in these first few days, too.  Some of the elements of my cubicle are nearly identical to my old one, which makes me feel right at home.  I found out the other day that the namesake of the building I am in (he and his wife donated money and their names are on it) made a lot of his money in the Yellow Pages industry!  I did more research today and it turns out he was involved with a regional independent publisher that sold out to Yellowbook a year before I got into the business.  I've been appreciating a slightly better commute (a lot of slow traffic at times, but minus the merge I hated and a few minutes shorter), a longer lunch, and a more relaxed structure, time-wise.  So many things about this job feel so comfortable right now.  I have yet to get into the real work, obviously, but nothing I've seen has scared me yet!  In fact, today I got a little preview of some of what I will be doing and my brain was already churning about how I could possibly improve the process.  It's still a bit of a stretch since I don't know all the details, but everyone got a little excited at the prospect.  I just love that I can possibly bring something new to this position, and I can already tell that I'm going to learn a lot of very valuable skills. 

Still, there is a lot of "new" going on.  I've met a ton of new people, and I'm learning to navigate a very confusing new building.  There is a whole lot of new terminology to learn, practically a new language, in fact.  Today a woman in HR gave me a helpful guide of common acronyms and a few other abbreviated terms used around the university and medical center, and it was many pages long.  Imagine, they use enough of those kinds of things that it fills pages!  That is a lot to learn right there!  I've had to learn the names of the different schools and entities around the university and medical center (and their acronyms), and look into certain campaigns and other happenings around the university so I know what people are talking about in meetings.  And all of that is before I even get into my work and start learning processes to work with the data!  On top of that, I'm exploring the world of new clothes, new jewelry, and a new purse!  Having to dress up has been sort of fun--it feels fancier, you know?  I work with a lot of well dressed women, so I'm relieved that I got some new clothes and bulked up my collection of statement necklaces so I feel like I fit in a little better.  That said, I'm really looking forward to casual Friday tomorrow!  Oh, and any woman can tell you how disorienting it is to start using a new purse! 

I feel like I'm feeling my way around a lot of stuff right now, but so far it all feels like a lot of positive change.  There are drawbacks and challenges, of course, but I know what the alternative is and I feel so blessed to be where I am right now.  All of the good signs all along have kept me moving forward confidently, and I'm so grateful for that peace.  I pray it continues, because this is a good place to be right now!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter, Teeth, and a New Start

Wow, do I have a lot of catching up to do.  It's been a crazy, crazy few days.  I don't even know where to begin, but I guess we'll just take this chronologically and see how it goes!

Last Thursday was my last "free" day, and quite honestly I don't even remember much of what I did.  I went for a run because the weather was finally decent, I met Craig for lunch, and then I went to pick up my parking pass for my new job.  Oh, and I went to Wegmans to pick up a few remaining things for Easter weekend and finished packing up the kids and me for our trip to Buffalo.  Eventually I went to pick up the kids from daycare, and I was shocked to find out that one of Jacob's top front teeth finally fell out!  They've both been loose forever and the one night last week he was desperately trying to pull one out, but all it took was his lunchtime sandwich and it was ready to come out!

I didn't actually take a picture of the missing tooth or post it online because I wanted to surprise my parents when we arrived there Thursday night.  Well, Friday morning as Jacob was eating his Chocolate Chex for breakfast, the other tooth came out!  So, he has officially joined the ranks of the big kids with his giant gap!

It totally cracks me up, but I do think he looks adorable.  I can hear it in his speech periodically, but so far he seems to be doing well with eating and everything else.  He seems happier to have them out after having them flopping around in there for so long!

Oh, and before we left on Thursday, Craig brought home a couple treats for all of us, including gorgeous flowers for me.  I think it was an, "I'm sorry I won't be around for most of the weekend" gift.  He had to leave for Toronto Thursday night, work a game there Friday night, come back to Rochester after the game and work another game in Rochester on Saturday.  It was a busy weekend all around, clearly.  Anyway, here are a couple pretty pictures of the flowers...

We had a lovely Good Friday with my family.  We mostly just hung out during the day and I prepared some food for our annual get-together, including some gluten-free croutons for our traditional prunes and noodles dinner with my dad's side of the family.  I'm very excited that I know how to do it now, and that I know they turn out OK!  The dinner was a lot of fun as usual, with lots of talk about my new job in particular.  We headed off to a very nice church service after that, and then it was back to my parents' and time for the boys to head to bed.

We mostly just hung out on Saturday morning and headed back to Rochester after lunch.  We decided that it made the most sense to come home, go to the Knighthawks game, and head back to Buffalo the next morning with only one car, rather than being stuck with two cars if we stayed and Craig met us.  We had a nice time at the game and enjoyed church at our church the next morning.  I couldn't help but snap this picture of the area above the altar because it just looked so pretty...

After church we ran home and had a little time for Easter basket and egg hunting.  Jacob found the first one under the (transparent) hood of Carter's car!

Carter got in on the action with a little help from Daddy...

...and Jacob got a little cranky because Carter was getting help, which derailed the hunt for a bit.  But eventually Jacob returned, and the boys found their baskets.
Carter got some books, a Matchbox car launcher and more track, a few different kinds of candy, and one of those expanding towels with Scooby-Doo on it that he currently thinks is a hockey puck!

Jacob got a couple chocolate bunnies, a Nerds rope, some gummy bears and jelly beans, a little basketball game, and a Playmobil set.
The eggs hidden around the living room had change in them, so they each earned a little money, too!  We headed off to my parents' house for lunch shortly thereafter, and attempted to do a family photo.  This is about as good as it got...

I also got a cute picture of Carter and Grandma...

We stopped at Craig's aunt and uncle's house on our way south, then continued on to Craig's family's gathering.  We had a very nice time, with lots of eating and some nice playtime for the kids.  It wasn't quite as fun as last year's 70 degree weather, of course, but it was a good time nonetheless.  We headed back early in the evening and got back around bedtime for the kids.  I had some things to prepare for my very early morning on Monday, so it was a bit of a busy evening.

I had my orientation for my job at 7:30am.  My stomach was a little off when I got up, but I felt good enough so off I went.  The orientation was a little boring, but I suppose it could have been worse.  My table had a nice variety of new employees (there were 70 in all!), and we all just hung in there together through multiple speakers, a lackluster lunch, and the long-awaited afternoon cookie break.  I got out a little early and went home to catch up on things, but my stomach issues started getting worse and I was barely functional by dinner time.  It was all lower half stuff, but I was really uncomfortable and exhausted and went to bed early.  I wanted any chance of feeling better by the morning, and that was as good as it was going to get.

I woke up the next morning still having issues but having a bit more energy, so it seemed I could make it through my first day at work okay.  I carved out enough time in my morning to grab some anti-diarrhea medicine on my way to the office, just in case.  They had a nice welcome breakfast for me (bagels, fruit, and juice), and I started a busy day of checking out my new digs and learning new things.  Today was day two and things are still going well.  I haven't really gotten into the work yet, but I'm learning a lot of the context, I guess, and I'm slowly but surely getting trained on various other things.  So far everyone is great and I'm getting more comfortable.  I'll share more soon about my feelings on the end of my time off and our "new life" now that I'm back at work.  It's been pretty crazy, but I'm happy that things are working out well so far.  More soon...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Eggs and Sky Zone!

Yesterday we had a busy day.  Not only did our new storm door get installed, but we dyed Easter eggs and Jacob got to go to Sky Zone, the trampoline place!
We dyed eggs during Carter's nap because I didn't quite trust him yet with cups full of food coloring!  Jacob and I had fun experimenting with different colors and techniques, and we ended up with some very fun eggs!  I tried to put rubber bands around one, stickers on another (to leave white space), waxy white crayon on others.  I tried actually creating purple dye instead of double dipping, since dipping in blue and red to get purple never seemed to work.  It was a little better :)  We had fun and hopefully we can think of better things to do with the eggs than just play "Kingers" (smashing the ends of two eggs and seeing which one comes out unscathed)!

All of the eggs!

Close-up of cross artwork using crayon, the blue egg with the stickers removed to leave white shapes, the pink rubber band egg, and the "Knighthawks egg" that's half purple and half teal!
 I caught a cute picture of Carter once he woke up from his nap and had a snack before our trip to Sky Zone...

Jacob has been asking to go to Sky Zone for a while.  He went last summer with daycare, and he's wanted to go back ever since.  He got a gift card for Christmas (though he actually didn't get it until a month or so ago--long story), and even though I knew it would be busy on break week, I told him we'd try to get in this week.  We had one hiccup because I didn't know how their system worked, but we worked it out and we got there!  I didn't feel comfortable letting Carter jump just yet (though there was a kid his age out there!), so we just watched Jacob enjoy his hour of jumping time!
He's in orange, taking off from the side!

Crazy jumping!

He kept trying this move of crossing his legs...I think that was his "fancy" jump!
After a half hour bouncing on the regular trampolines, he moved on to the basketball hoop...

After a bunch of basketball shots, he moved on to the foam pit for his last 15 minutes...and he loved it!

It was interesting watching him.  He tried a few little things but rarely strayed from straight jumping.  He also didn't jump very high compared to a lot of kids.  I don't know if he took to heart my appeal to be careful and not hurt himself prior to Easter, or he's just not naturally coordinated for that sort of thing.  He's a great athlete in a lot of ways, but perhaps this is just another thing--like his difficulty with bike pedals--that doesn't feel natural to him.  He was fine and he had a blast, which is all that matters, but I guess I was caught a little off-guard by his conservative approach.  I'm so happy he got to go, though, and he mentioned multiple times how much he enjoyed it, so it felt good to have made the effort.

The boys went to daycare today and I spent the day getting ready for our trips to Buffalo this weekend.  We have our annual Good Friday festivities with my family, then we'll head back on Saturday for the Knighthawks game that night and church the next morning, before coming back to Buffalo on Sunday for more family time.  It'll be crazy, especially with my starting work Monday, but we wouldn't have it any other way!  Hopefully we'll have some photo-worthy moments to share...stay tuned!