Monday, September 28, 2015

Good as Gold

Well, this weekend was a bit of a mixed bag.  I don't even remember what we did Friday night.  The days alone with the boys are starting to run together a bit.  Rest assured there was probably some fighting and TV watching and possibly some knee hockey playing in the living room that resulted in someone getting injured.  It's nice the boys will play that together, but inevitably it turns into a stick-swinging disaster where someone gets hurt, so I've had to outlaw it for now unless I am participating...and even then it's very challenging.

Saturday we had all sorts of good intentions to have a good day, but that went downhill fast.  I wasn't feeling great--low energy, slightly queasy with some stomach rumbling, but strangely no actual digestive pyrotechnics.  It was weird.  We had talked about going to Strong Museum because I had free admission there this month through work, but with how I was feeling I knew we couldn't do a morning trip.  I put Carter down for his nap hoping for a quick but effective sleep, only to have him hang out wide awake for over an hour.  When he finally fell asleep at 3, I decided maybe I just needed to lay down for a bit while Jacob kept himself occupied.  I woke up a little after 4 and Carter woke up at 4:15.  In theory that would have left us time to go to the museum, but I still wasn't feeling great.  I was also concerned about chasing the kids (who would no doubt be super crazy (they're enough to handle at Wegmans, let alone a kids museum!)), and I was having a hard time figuring out the best way to handle dinner with Jacob not being able to eat there.  Honestly, it was right about then that I hit the solo parenting wall.  I'd just had enough.  It had been a rough day in general and the museum process overwhelmed me.  I apologized profusely to Jacob that I just couldn't be the fun Mommy that day.  Do you know how crappy it feels to get to that point?  But as much as many of my reasons to not go had to do with how the kids drive me nuts, ultimately it was my exhaustion and reservations that prevented us from going.  And I wanted Jacob to understand that I was taking part of the blame for it.  I thought he deserved to know that, because I genuinely felt bad.  I had promised it, and I just couldn't deliver.  That sucked.  What was worse was the realization that now I had to keep the kids occupied for the night and find something to make for dinner.  We were running low on so many things and I agonized over it for over an hour.  We'd already done two different versions of breakfast for dinner, had homemade and restaurant pizza, had store-bought chicken fingers, and a pasta option.  I'd already done grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese for various weekend lunches.  I felt like I had exhausted every kid-friendly option ever.  In the end I just made homemade pizza again, since everyone would eat it and it was easy and fast.  We watched a movie (the baseball Air Bud--one of Jacob's old favorites that we hadn't seen in ages--Jacob's suggestion!), and that was it.

We knew we had a busy day scheduled for Sunday, and there was no getting out of that one!  At long last, it was the end of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, and Team Canada (Craig's team) was playing for the gold medal at 4pm.  The game was in Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on the SU campus.  We went to church as usual first, and Carter finally didn't cry when I left him at Sunday School...and yes, he enjoyed it again.  We had to stop at Wegmans on the way home, despite my attempts to avoid another trip with both boys.  We ran out of the kid-friendly sides (yogurt, string cheese, fruit) and milk, all at the same time, and I needed to head into the week stocked up!  It wasn't a relaxing trip, by any means, but I'd say it was above average...but that's still not saying much!  We had a quick lunch at home and appeared to have remained close to on time...that is, until Jacob went to try on his Canada gear.  Craig had gotten gear for all of us--a shirt for Carter, a shirt for me, and a couple shirts and shorts for Jacob, who has been extra gung-ho about this Canada thing.  I'm pretty sure he'd give up his U.S. citizenship right now, actually.  But the shorts were just a bit big in the waist and the shirts were both a little roomy and slightly longer than Jacob would prefer.  And no matter how many fixes I suggested or how many times I assured him any combination looked fine, he said he looked "like a junkyard" and rolled on the floor in tears.  He didn't even want to go.  I felt bad for him, but at the same time, he wasn't really acting rationally, either.  It took forever, but eventually he settled on just wearing his beloved Adidas shirt and pants (Team Canada's official sponsor), and we got on the road.

The trip was fine--sunny day, both kids napped, and getting there and parking were generally uneventful.  We had a bit of a walk from the lot to the stadium, but it was a beautiful day and we were all pretty giggly since Carter was referring to the top of the dome as a "cheese puff cloud".  Long story, but he kept saying it even after the game!  We met up with Craig and wandered through the little vendor village outside.

Inside we found our seats and settled in for the game.  The boys were excited and I tried to get a picture, but this was the best I got...

It was pretty interesting to see a box lacrosse setup in a facility that's usually the home of field lacrosse.  They had portable dasherboards and different turf than what was on the football field underneath.

The attendance was over 10,000, a record for this championship.  Most of the fans were for the Iroquois team, since they were not only the host team, but the team with the geographic proximity.  They were the only team that really gave Team Canada any trouble throughout the tournament, so it was sure to be a tough game.  In case you're wondering, Team USA beat Israel earlier in the day to earn the bronze medal.  Craig won one of those four years ago with Team USA in Prague.  Carter was a little squirmy during the game and Jacob had a random meltdown in the bathroom that underscores that we still have some work to do with him, but for the most part the game was good.

Half a smirk from my Team Canada boy
It was a close game for most of it, but Team Canada pulled away near the end and pulled off a 12-8 victory to clinch the gold medal! 

Craig figured he wouldn't get an actual medal, but he hoped to at least get a championship ring or something at some point.  It was cool to see all of the medals laid out for the ceremony.

Because the Iroquois hosted, there was a definite native feel to the event.  It felt very familiar since the Knighthawks games have the same kind of dancers, thanks to their owner's native heritage.
The dancers stand by as the Iroquois get their silver medals
It was nice to see all the players get their medals.  There were a lot of Knighthawks, too, and it felt good to see them win again.
Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc walks past the trophy after getting his medal
It turned out that Craig got a medal after all!  After the ceremony was over, we headed down to the turf to celebrate with the other families.

Eventually they started taking up the turf and pushing the celebration further down the floor.  Carter was loving his chance to run, though.  I caught this blurry shot of him running through the net after it had been cut to give everyone a piece.

We said our goodbyes to Craig (again) since he was staying in town for the night.  Tonight was also the NLL draft, so he stopped at the house earlier today and then headed right up to Canada.  He'll be home in the wee hours of the morning, and it will be so nice to have him back.

We headed out to the car and got a great view of the sunset.  Syracuse University is up on a hill, and the view was really nice.

By the time we got down closer to the lot, most of the color had disappeared...all except these pink streaks.

We stopped at a McDonald's at the first rest stop along the Thruway, had a pleasant dinner and another stressful bathroom experience (Carter this time) before hopping in the car and heading home.  We had a little entertainment for part of the drive, as the lunar eclipse began along the way.  I was able to show Jacob how the moon was darkening before he fell asleep.  When we got home, I showed him the partial eclipse.  It looked something like this...

I got the kids in bed and kept checking the eclipse to see the blood moon.  Of course, just as it hit totality, it clouded over and I couldn't see anything.  Luckily, the clouds cleared before totality ended.  The reddish moon was really cool.

It was a nice night and it brought back memories of the last eclipse I watched, many years ago in my grandma's driveway across from my parents' house.  I was probably a teenager at the time, and this one seemed to be way better with the supermoon!

It's been a long stretch and it will be so nice to have Craig home!  And the gold medal isn't a bad addition to the household either!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


So, now that fall is officially upon us and October is less than a week away, I guess it's time to start thinking about Halloween.  In fact, the other day I took the boys to Party City to start the process of looking for costumes.  At this point Jacob is a total wild card, though he did mention at one point that he wanted to be an explorer/hunter.  I think his vision was something along the Indiana Jones line, but maybe more British?  Of course, when we got to the store he first asked what the "Mack Daddy" costume was (yes, a pimp costume for kids--I explained it later, in my best G-rated version about men that think they own women and rent them to other men who treat them disrespectfully), and then he decided he wanted the gangster. ::face palm::  So, needless to say, he's still a work in progress.  I told him his original idea might be able to be created from pieces, rather than buying a whole costume.

As for Carter, he doesn't seem to have much of an opinion.  I'd sort of like to see him as a Paw Patrol character since he loves that show, and I'm a big fan of kids wearing costumes that reflect their interests.  But we'll see.  My challenge is that I'm bitter about the stupid Halloween store after last year's ninja costume mess, where the costume was priced $10 higher in the store than online and I got backed into a corner for returning it when I found it cheaper elsewhere.  I also refuse to take the kids in there because I was so disgusted by the creepy, crude decorations and oversexed costumes.  It's all so unnecessary and has turned Halloween into such an over-the-top, adult holiday in comparison to what it was when I was a kid--95% kid fun (school parties and trick-or-treating) and 5% adult fun (grown-up parties and some minor fun decorating).  Now it's all about how scary, how sexy, how crude, and how ridiculous it can be.  Which, I suppose, all brings me to my next story.

The other day a note came home from school explaining that a few annual events had been discontinued or changed.  Among them were two popular fall events, the Fall Fun House and the Halloween Parade.  The Fall Fun House was something they put together for the kids to go through.  I've never seen it, but Jacob said there were ghosts in it and he really seemed to like it.  Well, they decided that it wasn't really developmentally appropriate for the Pre-K and Kindergarten kids, so they're going to change it to a Winter Fun House (what?) when they can better prepare the little kids to go through it.  I don't know if that's more of a physical thing (i.e., something they can work on in gym class) or an emotional thing (i.e., dealing with surprise).  Either way, at least they're keeping it in some form, though I don't really understand the new concept at all.

The Halloween Parade, however, is going away completely.  This bugs me on a lot of levels.  Look, I understand that not everyone embraces Halloween.  Heck, per my issues above, I have my own concerns with it.  But clearly the celebration at an elementary school is going to be as G-rated as possible, so that element of it doesn't bother me one bit.  But I know some people's beliefs just don't align with the holiday.  There are apparently 30 families that don't participate, and I'd assume some are conservative Christians and some are Muslims.  And you know, that's fine.  It's not a huge group when you consider how many kids are in the school, so it seems a little extreme, but I don't blame them. 

But here's where I get annoyed.  The school is saying that they don't want to exclude anyone.  Well...I would buy that a little more if they didn't have a number of other events that exclude different people.  Not that I'm complaining, but they do still do Christmas events.  They do a weekend thing with Santa, but I suppose that since it's not during school, everyone can make their own choice.  Same with the event night involving dads, since I'm assuming there are a number of kids with non-participatory dads.  But there are still other Christmas-related things at the school, at the very least.  In addition, I've blogged before about all of the classroom events involving food that Jacob either can't participate in or has to do differently.  Both years his 100th day of school has involved a food counting project, and both times I've had to scour our house for enough items to replace the gluten items on the class list.  Last year they did graham cracker gingerbread houses, and gluten-free grahams are not the same size or shape as regular ones, so his house was a little unorthodox.  Jacob also can't eat the pizza or cookies at the special events, including a school day picnic at the end of the year.  It's not that he can't participate most of the time, but the alternative is still not quite as good.

Since most of the classrooms are peanut-free, I don't know how much the peanut kids are impacted, but I'm sure there are other allergy kids that face the same issues.  It's always bugged me that the peanut-free kids have to sit at a separate table at lunch.  I don't relish the thought of having to buy $5 a jar nut butter for Jacob's daily sandwich, but if you're talking about not wanting kids excluded, let's start with something that impacts kids every day and I will gladly do our part.

Ultimately I feel like this would be a great opportunity to talk about tolerance.  Rather than sterilizing the situation and sweeping it under the rug, talk it out so the kids understand that some people have different beliefs, and that's okay.  And rather than doing away with an entire "fun" day, come up with an equally awesome alternative for the non-Halloween kids.  Give them the option to go on a really good field trip so they feel special, rather than excluded.  Open it up to everyone and let them pick how they want to celebrate a "fall fun day".  As long as the other option is awesome, everyone gets to enjoy the day in their own way. 

I probably wouldn't care about this as much if I didn't have amazing memories of my own classroom Halloween celebrations.  Let's face it--wearing a costume at school and having a party was half the fun of Halloween.  Trick-or-treating and the stash of candy was awesome, but it was always fun having another place to wear my costume and to have the chance to see everyone else's.  It bums me out to think that Jacob won't get that experience.  It probably also decreases the amount I feel compelled to spend on his costume (which wasn't much to begin with) since he'll only wear it once unless we find a party or event to participate in beforehand.  I just feel like kids are entitled to have some innocent fun that shouldn't be intruded on by politically correct adult stuff.  I know that the excluded kids may not find Halloween fun, but that's why the onus is on the adults to find a way to truly involve everyone, rather than just take away one of the big fun events of the year.  I always thought we might run into something like this if we went to a private Christian school, but it turns out the public school is the unlikely culprit. 

I have an email composed to the principal, though I haven't sent it yet.  I doubt it will do any good.  Still, I feel like I probably composed myself more than some parents, so maybe my straightforward points about the other exclusionary policies will strike a chord.  Maybe I just want to prove they're more about quieting down one group of people than removing exclusion from the school.  I don't know.  Either way, the lack of Halloween festivities just bums me out and feels like yet another example of how kids can't just be kids anymore.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

That Heart-Stopping Day

A year ago today, I was getting ready for the day like it was any other day.  I was making lunches, getting kids dressed, and getting ready to go to work.  Of course, I was doing all of that with the knowledge in the back of my head that my dad was in the hospital and would be needing bypass surgery.  But I was going about life as normally as I could when my phone rang.  My heart jumped out of my chest when I saw it was my mom, because she was calling at an odd time and given everything going on with my dad, those kinds of calls are never good.  She told me that his surgery had been scheduled for that day, at noon.  So, instantly, my plans changed.  I packed and headed to Buffalo, panicked about how the day would unfold.

I'm very used to that drive.  I do it all the time.  But that particular drive was extremely difficult.  I was in a hurry, I was stressed out, and I was nervous about what awaited me on the other end.  Songs came on and made me cry.  I prayed a lot.  It's rare I do that drive without the kids in the back seat, and when I do I usually feel a sense of ease and freedom.  That day all I could muster was dread.

I got there in time to see my dad (and witness his unfortunate low blood pressure incident) before he went into surgery.  We went down to the waiting room expecting a lengthy wait, only to panic a little while later when they called my mom's name to chat with her.  Luckily I picked up the vibe pretty quickly that he wasn't dead, but it was a scary few seconds initially.  The surgery got postponed due to another patient's emergency.  Despite the emotional roller coaster of the morning, it actually turned out to be a decent day.  My normally anxious dad was in better spirits than expected, and my mom and I got some downtime with him that afternoon.  She and I took a walk, had a pleasant dinner, and went to bed early in preparation for a very early morning, the morning the surgery would actually take place.

The next day was a busy one--surgery first thing, my brother's arrival from Portland, a long wait with lots of family for company, the good news we wanted, a joyful cafeteria lunch, a first glimpse of a still-sleeping Dad, a walk in the glorious weather with some geocaching, another visit as Dad was just waking up, and then dinner out with my mom and brother before I headed back out of town.  I hated to leave, but I needed to get back to work and I had a weekend wedding to attend.  It was such a crazy couple days.

Looking back a year later, sometimes I can hardly believe it even happened.  My dad's recovery was pretty smooth and today he's healthy.  In an alternate reality, had he not gone to the hospital and left on their scheduled vacation instead, this week we could have been mourning the one-year anniversary of his death.  Instead, he's spending this week on vacation!  They already made up the vacation they missed, along with a couple others.  It's such a blessing that the surgery ended up being closer to a blip on the radar, rather than a complete turning point in all of our lives. 

The weather this week has been very similar to what we had a year ago.  Cool mornings, gorgeous days full of sun, and just enough warmth to still feel like summer.  Part of me can easily flash back to that week, but I feel like another part of me has blocked out the fear and fatigue of those few days.  My emotions were so raw and it's hard to let myself go there again.  Of course, I have the luxury of not having to go there since it all turned out so well, but it's overwhelming to think about how huge of a week it really was.  So much has changed since then, too, so it's almost surreal to think about where we were a year ago. 

I'm so grateful for so many things.  I'm thankful my dad went to the hospital when he did, and I'm thankful the doctors figured out what was happening before any damage was done.  I'm grateful for a very skilled surgeon and a recovery that was free of major complications.  I'm so happy that we had so much family support during the process, as it made the stressful hours of surgery feel like just another family gathering.  I think fondly back on how my then-employer sent flowers, and while I still miss the people there, I'm thankful that professionally I'm in a much better place a year later.  Most of all, I'm so thankful for another year of memories with both of my parents, and the increased likelihood that my kids will remember all of their grandparents. 

I guess all I can do is wish my dad a Happy Heart-iversary! :)  I'm so happy you're still here with us, because none of our lives would be the same without you!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

News & Notes, Halfway There Edition

We're pretty much halfway through our stint without Craig.  As I said yesterday, we're surviving.  Some annoying moments for sure, but we're managing.  Just a few updates on random stuff...

Potty training - It's still happening, but not going particularly awesomely.  It still seems to be going pretty well at daycare, but home has been a challenge.  If I don't bug him often, he seems to forget to use the potty and he pees in his pull-up.  Sometimes he does really well, though.  I'm not sure where his head is at, honestly.  And maybe I should be more into it and try real underwear or something, but I just don't feel like he's serious enough about it yet.  I don't want to be cleaning up accidents.  Maybe I should send undies to daycare if they think he's ready there?  Maybe I should do a sticker chart?  I don't know, I should be in more of a rush, but for some reason I'm just not.  I've been praising him, though, when he's dry so he knows how proud I am.  I do need to lay off a bit when he does pee in the pull-up, but I want him to know that he needs to try to stay dry.  I saw some Paw Patrol undies somewhere lately, so maybe those will be good bait.

School - School is still a bit of a mystery.  Jacob still doesn't seem to love his teacher, but he hasn't been directly complaining about her as much, so maybe that's a good sign.  He seems to be doing well with his work and has been doing his homework at the afterschool program.  Reading 20 minutes five times per week is still a bit of a challenge, especially this week with Craig gone and me doing double bedtime duty.  I won't lie, I've been dozing off when Jacob's reading because these books aren't exactly riveting.  I guess 9pm is a terrible time for me!  His reading is pretty smooth and he knows a lot of words.  He still struggles with some, but considering how little we made him read over the summer, he is doing well.  His behavior has been consistently in the middle of the pack, per their color chart, but he's been telling me he's been trying to be helpful and earn "Bucket Filler coupons", which is a behavior thing at the school.  Picture day is next week and by then we'll be well into the swing of things.

Seasonal clothes - I never did get around to Carter's clothes over the weekend, but I did do Jacob's.  His are a bit less of a chore, but it blew my mind a bit when I got into it.  He gets into severe clothing ruts where he only wants to wear a handful of items.  He likes "plain" clothes, does not wear pajamas or jeans at all, and will completely discount an item of clothing for random reasons.  He gets a ton of hand-me-downs from his cousins from time to time, and I had an overflowing crate full of them up in his closet.  I pulled that down and sorted through, and most of it I was able to pack away, even if it wasn't too small just yet.  I just know it's not stuff he will wear.  I also packed away a huge drawer of pajamas since he hasn't worn pj's in nearly two years.  That was one battle we gave up.  I filled an entire bin, probably 1/3 with too-small clothes and 2/3 stuff he simply won't wear.  Ugh.  Luckily his closet is big enough to keep off-season clothes handy, but I had a few bigger shirts to move down the line.  We'll see how those fit soon.  Pants will be an issue, but he's between sizes, so I still need to figure out where to get them without breaking the bank. 

Reflux - A few weeks ago I was sitting in my chair in the evening and I suddenly felt this discomfort in my neck/throat.  It felt strange, almost like my throat (not neck) muscles were stiff.  Within a couple days, my throat was burning and felt like something was perpetually stuck in it.  Now, I self-diagnosed myself with acid reflux last winter, and I take two medicines.  I could not fathom why I was suddenly having problems again.  It was really bothering me a lot, and finally a couple weeks ago I did some research and called the ENT practice I visited a few years ago for my smell-taste issues.  I decided that since the symptoms were in my throat (not my chest), the ENT was a good place to start, since most people said that GI doctors are more concerned with the belly and if they don't see anything there, they don't care.  I got an appointment for the next week, but the appointment got postponed at the last minute when the doctor got stuck in surgery.  I went on Monday (and interestingly I ended up with a different doctor who's an alumnus of the UR School of Medicine, so we had some chats about that!), and it turned out to be a really good appointment.  I won't lie, I was concerned going in.  I worried that it could be a tumor or an infection or even something called Barrett's Esophagus, which is when the tissue is impacted by the acid and changes, to the point of becoming pre-cancerous.  Luckily, the doctor eased my concerns.  He was funny, though, because he said that when you're dealing with a mom like me, you need to assure them that "they'll be around" and confirm that it's not a tumor or anything worse.  Hate to say it, but he's right.  He didn't see anything concerning, but did say that my esophageal sphincter is spasming.  It's caused by the reflux, and he said to just change the time I take one of my medications for two weeks, and it should resolve.  If it doesn't I might need a scope, but it already felt better today, so I'm hopeful.  It was a little scary for a bit, though.

Cheerios - So, you may have seen that Cheerios has released five varieties of reformulated gluten-free Cheerios.  We were eager to try them.  And as I found each variety marked gluten-free, I bought them.  He tried each one and loved them all!  It was so nice to see him so excited and loving his new breakfast options!  And then tonight I came across a blog post saying that a lot of Celiacs have reacted to them.  Apparently their testing process isn't ideal--that they do "mean testing", which means that instead of testing each box, they test a batch.  Within that batch there may be iffy results, but as long as the batch itself is less than 20 ppm (parts per million--the usual standard), they're fine.  But if a certain box ends up with a patch of bad stuff, he could get sick.  So now I'm torn.  While there are plenty of Celiacs who have been fine, it worries me a bit because his symptoms have traditionally been less obvious and I might not even know if it's impacting him.  I don't want to risk his health, but I'd hate to take something he loves away unnecessarily.  I guess I just need to monitor him more closely, but it's frustrating that General Mills is being so lax about this.  Completely safe oats would be better, but better testing would be sufficient for now.  It's so hard to know how he reacts to small amounts of gluten since we don't have any 100% clear glutenings, so this all makes me so nervous.  But I also hate the thought of taking them away because I know he's really into them.  This stuff is just hard.

Craig comes home tomorrow night for half a day, hopefully for one bedtime and one morning rush.  We miss him and it will be nice to have him around for a bit.  After that we'll see him again on Sunday.  I wish the week would move a little faster, but I'm trying to make the best of it.  We'll get there!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend Update (a.k.a., I Haven't Totally Lost my Sanity YET)

So, we've made it through the first weekend of Craig's time away.  As much as the morning and bedtime rushes are difficult during the week, weekends are harder because you have to manage three meals a day and a full 12 hours of "entertaining".  You have to discipline, monitor screen time (ha!), keep the peace, and negotiate leaving the house with children that get all crazy the moment we walk out the door.  Twenty-four hours of that kind of activity across two days can make a weekend not feel all that weekendy.  I was almost relieved to come into work today.

The weekend wasn't horrible, but it wasn't outstanding, either.  We had our fun on Friday night, but then Saturday we had a whole day to fill.  Initially we'd been talking about going to Strong National Museum of Play since one of the perks of my employment is free admission this month.  I really should have remembered that sooner, honestly, but at least it's something to do on one of these weekends alone.  However, this weekend a new exhibit opened and I was worried it might be extra crazy.  It's also hard with Carter's naps and Jacob's gluten issues because finding a time where we don't cut into nap too much but also don't have to be there for a meal is very difficult.  It's not that we can't bring Jacob food and eat there (none of the museum's food options are great for him), but it's just something I'd like to avoid if at all possible.  Oh, and then one of Jacob's friends basically demanded our phone number so we could set up a playdate, and made mention that they have a membership.  So, now, Jacob has it in his head that we could meet up with her next Saturday.  We'll see if her dad contacts me, but it's still on the agenda for next weekend for us regardless since we couldn't make it work this weekend.  We couldn't really get ourselves moving to go early Saturday morning, and then we had sort of discussed going to Jacob's favorite restaurant for dinner since Saturday was their 10th anniversary.  Since we didn't do the museum, I decided we should try for the restaurant, even though we were there pretty recently, it's more than a half hour away, I was alone with two kids, and the weather was crappy.

Well, the second we pulled out of the driveway it started downpouring.  The drive wasn't great, I second-guessed my route (it was fine and we got there OK, I just confused myself), and then the boys were absolutely crazy once we got there.  On the bright side, we won a "door prize" of a dozen cookies, which we will be using next time we have four of us in the house to eat them!  Anyway, we ate our dinner (a gluten-free Buffalo chicken panini for me, and pizza for the boys--strategically chosen to provide us with another meal this week) and Jacob was incessantly asking about getting cookies.  I think he was concerned because there were so few in the display, but I know they usually have them in the freezer, too, so I wasn't rushing.  He kept trying to get up and order without me, and he was driving me nuts.  Eventually Carter was the only one eating so we stepped away from the booth for a second to strategize our half dozen selection.  At some point after that, both kids were chasing one another around the tiny eating area, being loud and distracting.  Carter was banging on the display glass and the candy machines.  Once we got the container of cookies, Jacob kept trying to grab them, ripping the styrofoam closure in the process.  Oh, and there were also free cookies as part of the celebration, which Jacob kept trying to get to, but I never did get a chance to ask if we could have any of those because Carter kept trying to go out the front door, and eventually succeeded while I was trying to keep Jacob from digging into one set of cookies or another.  It was crazy.  And frustrating.  And I totally felt like an incompetent mom because it looks like I can't control my kids.  Sigh.  I made Jacob come out with me when Carter exited, and that was that.  No free cookies, and no paid-for cookies that night either.  Home, a little playtime (though no TV), some Grandpa-Grandma FaceTime, and off to bed.  I was had had enough.

Yesterday wasn't much better.  Carter freaked out again about going to Sunday School, even though he loved it last time and (of course) loved it again this time.  We had to go to Wegmans afterward, which was frustrating as usual as the kids are forever bugging each other, touching everything, and being generally disruptive.  Luckily, meals went smoothly.  Carter's nap was short and the Bills lost, but Team Canada won their first game after a pretty good comeback.  The day was full of a lot of refereeing between the boys, though, and Jacob's video games were quite limited due to behavior, but he kept himself occupied pretty well, and in the end we managed okay.  Oh, and I HAD to clean up the living room after bedtime.  The general mess around the house has started to get to me--toys, school papers, anything Craig didn't sort before he left, kitchen clutter, was giving me anxiety.  So I did a massive sweep of the living room and cleaned up everything.  Any toys that were out will need to be re-found.  Sounds cruel, but it needed to happen.  Jacob noticed first thing this morning and liked how open the room looked, and Carter didn't even notice.  Jacob's room is next, because he has Playmobil guys scattered over more than half of the open floor space in his room.  We've been talking about organizing them for months, and it may just have to happen this week before I clear it all out and hold it until we find a solution.  I really need to dust and vacuum badly, too, but finding the energy for that at the end of the day is very hard.  At least I did get the fall decorations up this weekend, so I'm a few days ahead of the game on that.

So, I'm definitely missing Craig but we're surviving.  It's nice to have some time with the boys, though, but man do I wish they'd get along!  Or listen.  Or stop talking for even a minute.  But boy, do I love them.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday on the Fringe

For the last couple years there has been a festival in Rochester called the Fringe Festival.  It's an artsy festival--lots of music, dramatic performances, art installations, fun events, and sideshow-type acts.  I've always been intrigued, though admittedly I felt like I was a little too vanilla to fit in!  Every year I'd hear people's rave reviews of some of the shows and feel bad that we didn't go.  This year I feel like I've heard so much more about it, probably because my employer is pretty involved in this festival (particularly the music school end of it, since the venues are right downtown where the music school campus is).  I felt like I wanted to give it a shot this year, but of course it happened to fall during the exact span of time that Craig is gone.  Still, the Friday night part seemed a bit more family-friendly and I wanted to get out and have a little adventure since I know this could be a long week.  Jacob was not excited, but most of the time he'll complain about an unknown like this and then admit later that it was pretty cool.  I grabbed the kids from daycare, made a quick dinner, and got us out the door.

There seemed to be a huge backup on the road leading to where most of the parking was when we got downtown, so I went for my backup plan--the same parking ramp I used to park in for work.  It was a little bit more of a walk, but not by much.  It was also $5 cheaper and wouldn't leave us stuck in traffic if we left with the rest of the crowd.  I was a little nervous about being a bit outside the main crowds, safety-wise, but there were still people around and we really weren't too far away from where we would have been anyway.  It was only a two-block walk, and it honestly worked out perfectly.

We got to the site and wandered a bit to get the lay of the land.  Eventually we got in line to get some free samples of some gluten-free snacks--G.H. Cretor popcorn (which we already love in the one flavor) and Hi, I'm Skinny Sticks.  We got multiple bags of each and snacked before the performance.  We all loved all of them and will definitely be seeking out the Skinny Sticks at Wegmans.  I've actually found a cheaper version of our favorite popcorn at Aldi!

Anyway, we found a spot on the grass across from the building and killed 15 minutes before the performance with our snacks.  This was our pre-show view...on a perfect, warm evening. 
I used to eat lunch in the basement of this building once a week at my old job!
We were really there to see a show by Grounded Aerial, a performance troupe that is suspended from the top of a building and does some interpretive dance/acrobatics along the side of the building.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was definitely an experience! 

The show started with performers on a metal sculpture/structure in the park across from the building. 

Here's a far-off view of the structure...

The dancers on the structure interacted with the performers on the building.  I didn't fully grasp the story, but it was still cool to see...

 At one point a wizard joined in...

It's not every day you see people hanging off a building!

Jacob was rather unimpressed by the performance, but Carter mentioned this morning that he liked seeing the people on the building!  I wasn't wowed, I guess, but it was neat to see!  I'll try almost anything once!

After the show I really wanted to wander down the street and check out one of the other main venues.  I knew it was another couple blocks farther, which concerned me a little, but Carter was in the stroller and Jacob seemed fine (annoyed, but no more than usual!) so we wandered with the post-show crowd.  I got to point out the music school to Jacob, and then we headed over to the Spiegelgarden, which is adjacent to the Spiegeltent, where the main performances are.  It almost didn't feel like Rochester.  The garden felt sort of magical, I guess, sort of surreal that this thing just popped up where there is normally a parking lot. 
Looking across with the city in the background

Looking at the Cristal Palace (the Spiegeltent).  It has stained glass, for goodness sakes!
 Across the way is the Eastman Theatre, part of the Eastman School of Music.  It's so pretty.

We wandered around, caught another view of the tent...
I think that might be a random game of Jenga in the center of the picture!
 ...and then we saw this odd piece of artwork, a bicycle fountain...

On our way out, we saw this fun cutout of the Rochester skyline...

We had an uneventful walk back to the car and the boys went down just fine.  But I have to admit it was fun to walk the streets on a beautiful summery night, full of lights and people and activity.  Ok, it was a little awkward going down East Ave. with a stroller and two kids, past all of the bars and restaurants with outdoor patios full of cool 20-somethings.  But back with the festival-goers it was just cool.  We won't have many more nice nights like that this year, and it was fun being out in the world.  We definitely missed Craig, but I'm trying to embrace these moments of bonding with the boys when I can. 

I'll leave you with some videos from the performance.  It's so hard to describe, so hopefully this helps!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

On My Own

Today begins an 11-day stretch of solo parenting.  Craig is off to work for Team Canada at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship in Syracuse.  Yes, I know, he's an American, but you take work where you can get it, and it's not a bad idea to work for the gold medal favorite if you can pull it off!  He knows a lot of guys on Team Canada anyway, so patriotism aside, he'd probably be silently cheering for them regardless. 

I've gone through the 10+ days alone thing before, when it was just me and Jacob.  Jacob was three and Craig went to Prague.  Of course I was super jealous, but I tried to be a good wife and make the best of it.  And while it wasn't easy, it had its good points--lots of me time in the evenings, a chance to bond with Jacob, less pressure to cook decent meals, etc.  Last year Craig wanted to go to Denver to work the outdoor lacrosse championships, and I ended up losing my cool a bit and basically guilted him into not going.  I just could not deal with him being gone for that long and me staying home with two crazy kids.  For whatever reason, the mere thought of it destroyed me. 

I'm still not particularly excited about all of this, but either I'm in a much better mental state in general, or I've fallen into a state of apathy and have resigned myself to simply surviving.  The boys are going to drive me nuts, I have no doubt.  Bedtimes and the morning rush are going to be frustrating and exhausting.  I will be playing referee, negotiating homework and screen time, and dragging begrudging children to do things they don't want to do.  I'll be dealing with two Daddy-obsessed boys who won't have Daddy to call on for everything.  I'm already trying to convince myself to go to bed at 10pm each night so I can wake up earlier more easily and because I also keep my cool a little better if I'm not so tired.  I was falling asleep at 9:30 last night and I have been yawning all day today.  This does not bode well for tonight.

Syracuse isn't that far away, and in an emergency Craig could be here in 90 minutes, but he will be gone for the vast majority of the time.  He will be back for one day next week, and we might go to one game near the end, but it's definitely going to be a challenging time.  I'm definitely going to have to pray for patience and be as regimented as I can.  Bedtimes have to happen on time and I will need to keep everyone on task in the morning.  Outings have to be as quick and foolproof as possible.  However, I'd like to find an activity to keep us occupied on weekend days so we're not just sitting around the house getting on each others' nerves.  I have a couple options, but it's mostly just working up the energy and courage to give anything a shot.  We can't even go to the grocery store without the boys driving each other nuts and getting into trouble, but I keep hoping that if they're more engaged in something fun, it might be better.  Wishful thinking?

Our house definitely won't be the same for a while.  We'll all miss Craig a lot, for various reasons, but I'm hoping this is my chance to bond with my boys and remind them that I can be a fun parent, too.  I keep reminding myself that Craig got through five days alone with them, and he can't even cook, so I should be able to manage okay for twice that amount of time.  Of course, I let all the little things distract me--the fact that my house desperately needs to be cleaned, the growing stack of dishes in the sink, the fact that the boys eat hardly any veggies--so it's no wonder stuff like this ends up stressing me out.  But we'll manage.  We have to.  Hopefully the boys will understand the importance of being a good team, and while Daddy's going for the gold, we'll score a few victories ourselves.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Tour

Today I had the privilege to take a tour of the new Golisano Children's Hospital here in Rochester.  A new eight-floor stand-alone hospital opened up in July, adjacent to the rest of the University of Rochester Medical Center.  It's been a work in progress for many years, and the first phase is now open.  The second phase is in progress that will enhance some of the offerings in the hospital, and they're already thinking about phase three, which will add a couple floors to the building.  To see it for yourself, you can take a tour here

Even though I don't fundraise directly for the hospital, I work with people in our immediate group that do.  One of the upper level bosses suggested that some of us newbies head over for a tour to see everything, and I was very excited to go.  I had a feeling that I might get a little emotional since I've had so many friends who spent considerable time at the original children's hospital.  I knew that the one garden has a butterfly plaque with my friends' daughter's name on it.  But I wasn't really prepared for just how emotional the tour would be.

We started out in the garden where Amanda's butterfly hangs on a wall.  The outdoor healing garden is named for the daughter of a local news anchor that was born with serious complications and battled through them, only to pass away from complications from a surgery right around her first birthday.  Names on butterflies, leaves on a tree, and benches throughout the garden honor donors and memorialize those that have passed away.  The outdoor space is so peaceful, but I definitely choked up at the site of Amanda's name.  She is the daughter of friends of mine from college.  She battled cancer so bravely for a few years before passing away last winter.  They spent so much time at the old children's hospital for her treatments, and have remained active, despite their grief, in raising money and awareness of childhood cancer.

We walked back into the beautiful main lobby and marveled at the warm, colorful setting and the adorable children's furniture in the main waiting room.  As we looked, a couple came out from a hallway with their tiny baby, fresh from the NICU, in the carseat on the way to be discharged.  The baby was so little you could barely see it in the carrier from an angle.  It was still so curled up and tiny!  We got to see a sibling clubhouse, a fun spot for small siblings to go play while their family is occupied upstairs.  We also got to see a Ronald McDonald lounge, which, much like the Ronald McDonald House, provides families a place to relax, grab coffee and a snack, and get a break from the world upstairs.  At that point I thought about another friend of mine from college, someone who was a couple years younger than me, and who now has a nearly one-year-old son who is battling brain cancer.  I can only imagine that that space will be such a haven for her if her baby boy needs a hospital stay. 

We wandered up to the NICU and stood just outside learning about why this NICU is so special, from the private rooms and windows in each room, to the extra care to keep the rooms quiet and peaceful for the babies.  I thought back to Jacob's stay in the special care nursery and what a trying week that was.  That was in an affiliated hospital to the one I was in today, and I suppose we were fortunate that we got to stay where we were and didn't have to transfer to the NICU at GCH.

We then headed up to one of the patient floors and got to see the playdeck, a wonderful indoor space full of ride-on toys and fun spaces to play.  At that point I thought about my former co-worker, whose son spent more than four months in the hospital battling leukemia.  He was younger than Carter is now when he was diagnosed, and he's now a happy, healthy four-year-old.  He was one of the wonderful success stories, but it didn't come without a grueling stay at the hospital.  She was pregnant at the time, and trying to corral an energetic (even when sick) two-year-old was exhausting.  I remember her posting countless pictures of her little boy playing in the old hospital's playroom, and even getting a couple stints on the outdoor patio (which the new building doesn't have...yet!).  I thought about how much she would have loved a space like this with its gorgeous views and fun décor. 

We also got to see the teen lounge and a parent lounge, as well as a school room where long-term patients can get tutoring.  We heard the inspiring story of the family that furnished that school room.  We caught a glimpse of a couple sick kids, and it was a sobering reminder of why the new hospital is so important.  We walked through another peaceful outside garden, and that marked the end of our tour.  And when it was over, the consensus among the moms in the group was that we needed a good cry!

Pinpointing the emotions was a little difficult.  After all, we just saw a beautiful, inspiring hospital that doesn't feel like a hospital.  On one hand we were so thankful to have this amazing hospital in our own hometown.  God forbid we ever need to use it, but it's good to know that such an awesome facility is there.  On the other hand, we were keenly aware of how blessed we are to have healthy children.  The NICU is full, and there were numerous patients on the floors.  And we're so lucky to not be among them.  And on a personal level, I was nearly in tears for most of the tour because every space made me think of my friends who would have loved having amenities like that during their extended stays, or may use them in the future.  Having a connection to know how important a hospital like this can be to families who need it really made the tour that much more personal to me.  It was almost overwhelming.

I was so impressed by everything I saw, from the beautiful design to the small touches.  There was the giant Lite-Brite feature in the 8th floor lobby and the wall-mounted motion dioramas in the hallways.  Some of the common spaces housed smaller alcoves to help kids who would be overstimulated in the larger spaces.  The low furniture and playful décor were just perfect.  And the many touches to make the space comfortable for families, from the lounges to spaces to sleep in the patient rooms, were so comforting to see.  The facilities and services offered by the hospital are top-notch, including the only PET-MRI machine in a children's hospital in the whole country...and it's themed like a pirate ship!  From top to bottom, it was so impressive.

I never imagined that the tour would be as emotional as it was.  It's funny what parenthood does to you.  And while I'm so happy that facility is there, I truly hope we never need to use it.  But if we do, I take great comfort in knowing it's going to be the best possible place for our kids to heal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


So, after last night's reading debacle, this morning Jacob came down to our room and asked if he could play Wii, since I took that away in the midst of some ridiculous behavior during our last-minute evening Wegmans trip.  He's constantly encouraging his brother to get riled up, and it's getting problematic when we're out in public.  Last night on the way back to the car, he walked through the parking lot, stepped on an island, and twirled around a tree...and of course Carter wanted to follow suit.  I am having a heck of a time getting Carter to hold my hand lately, so a lot of the time I'm trying to make do with him walking close to me.  And of course Jacob's little side trip did not help that.  He just can't seem to understand when it is time to be serious and not do something that might put him or his little brother in danger (or in an embarrassing situation, or whatever).  Everything is a big joke to him. 

Anyway, this morning I said that he still had reading to catch up on, but he could play Wii *IF* he got ready, had breakfast, and did some reading.  Then, if there was any extra time, he could play.  Of course that was responded to with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Well, okay, whining and rolling around on the floor in protest of the injustice.  Sigh.  Craig and I repeatedly tried to explain to him that this is the new reality and that despite his insistence that he's not going to read, that yes, he HAS to read.  End of story.  We're going to attempt to switch his normal read time from bedtime to shortly after he gets home, because 20 minutes is longer than it used to be and half the time he was too tired to get in his full 10-15 minutes without nodding off.  He didn't like that revelation either, even though it will free him up for Wii and TV and whatever else for the rest of the night.  As he rolled around and complained, we reminded him that he was wasting time and if he had any shot to play, he was blowing it with his tantrum.

After some other form of a threat, he finally got up and got ready.  I apologized to him while he was eating breakfast, explaining to him that I don't like yelling at him and that we have to work out our differences, particularly since it's just going to be the three of us for a while when Craig is working for Team Canada.  I told him that I know he's smart and that he can do the work, but he just needs to put in the effort.  I reminded him that I love him, even though sometimes the things I say and do may not make it seem that way.  I assured him that I desperately want to get along, but I need his cooperation, too.  He took it all in, emotionless, as he ate his breakfast, but nodded his head.  And do you know what he did after breakfast?  He read.  He sat down at the dining room table with that book and read about half of it.  Sure, he was reading it to himself and could have just been staring blankly at the pages, but I think he really did read.

I don't think it was my speech, but I do wonder if he just realized that he needed to get it done if he ever wanted to have "fun" again.  Either way, I will take it.  Still, I don't anticipate this will be any sort of breakthrough.  This is looking to be another year of drudgery, much like Kindergarten.  Jacob does not like his teacher, though I have yet to figure out if he's just being grumpy or if she's incompatible with him like his Kindergarten teacher was.  He says that she's boring and mean.  He thinks we're mean, too, so I take that with a grain of salt.  He doesn't understand that normal discipline is fair and necessary to form good kids.  He just takes it as a direct affront to his way of life.  But he says she disciplines for no reason, which I certainly question as he's not always the most aware of his own tendencies.  I will say that her communications have been pretty dry and basic, so it's possible that she's not the most enthusiastic teacher.  I think we'll get a better idea once we go for Open House in a few weeks and can get a better read on her once she's had a chance to connect with the kids a bit more.  But in the meantime, he's not thrilled, and that makes me sad...for all of us.  He needs a teacher who sees his potential, and I truly hope that once everyone has settled in, that will once again be the case.  I can't get anything out of him as far as what they're doing in class, or what he might be enjoying even a bit, or which exact issues are making him not enjoy the year so far.  It's still early, but it troubles me when he starts disengaging like this.

It's so hard to not know how to motivate your child.  There's such a fine line between helicopter parenting and guiding them in a way that gets results, particularly with a child who isn't exactly typical in a lot of ways.  Jacob is incredibly smart, but if it doesn't come easily and it's not something he's passionate about, it is very hard to motivate him.  He's always had his own agenda, and school is clearly not on it.  I'm still perplexed as to why reading doesn't excite him, given his thirst for facts and figures and general knowledge on numerous topics.  You would think that would be a gold mine for him, but so far it hasn't been.  I feel like we shouldn't have to bend over backwards to motivate him to do the schoolwork that is expected of him, but if we don't I fear it won't get done.  And I absolutely believe there is value in letting your kid fail, but what happens if they don't care or they start believing they really can't do it?  That's what I feel like we're facing.  If we don't push him, he won't do it...if we do push him he will resent us and rebel.  I feel like the same thing applies to chores around the house.  If we don't push him or bribe him, he won't do them.  If we do push him he will complain and make our lives miserable.  I don't feel like he should get paid to do normal things that contribute to the household--cleaning up after himself, for example--but I'd be willing to pay him for above-and-beyond contributions, like raking leaves, sweeping grass clippings, cleaning bathrooms, etc., as long as he does a good job.  And I think that last part might be the challenge.  He'd be so eager to get his prize that he won't want to pay attention to detail, and then it starts a whole new argument.  And it all just sets a really bad precedent, because incentives that we use as motivation will forever be expected.  That's just how he is.  It's why I think twice any time he asks for something besides milk or water to drink at dinner.  If I say yes, he will expect it next time.  It never fails.  It's just how his brain works, and it makes parenting even more difficult than normal.  He has never conformed to most of the parenting suggestions you'll see all over the internet, and it leaves you at a loss when a "sure-fire" method fails miserably.

Anyway, night two of homework went slightly better.  He did ten minutes of reading before dinner and ten more a little before bedtime.  It's going to involve lots of discipline for all of us, no doubt.  I never thought I'd have to hate homework again, but I'm definitely dreading it.  I know it's important, though, and with any luck we'll get in some good habits and it'll get easier.  We can only hope.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Where did Summer go?

Weather-wise, it was a miserable weekend.  Rain, cold, and more rain and cold.  We went from high 80s and humid to rainy in the upper 50s over the course of just a couple days, and now we're back into pleasant weather for the foreseeable future.  But oh, was this weekend ever a sobering reminder of what's ahead.  And even if it comes with pumpkins and pumpkin spice and apple-everything and fall colors everywhere you look, it is a bummer.

As a side note, it reminded me how desperately I need to start sorting through the unending supply of clothes for Carter (again).  That kid is the hand-me-down king, no doubt.  Right now, between at least two sizes (he should start fitting into 3T tops soon, but in some cases he might still fit in any longer-length 18 month pants because he's so skinny) and two seasons, his closet is going to be a serious challenge.  As it was I moved the heavy winter 2T stuff (sweaters, corduroy pants) into a bin back into the crawl space just so I could fit his summer stuff!  Anyway, that project is coming soon.  Yikes.  Luckily he hadn't grown too much so the pants I hastily grabbed as I packed for the weekend fit him just fine, so I guess the bright side is that possibly not much has changed.

Anyway, we knew well in advance that we had a busy weekend planned because it was Craig's brother's 40th birthday.  Of course, then our daycare friends (all of the people who have left the daycare we're still at) planned a playground play date for Friday night, which made our departure even busier!  We rushed through dinner and last minute packing in order to get there before it got dark, and we got a good hour or so in, I guess.  The boys had a blast running around and playing with old friends, and I tried to catch up with other parents and teachers while trying to give Craig a break, since he's hobbling around with a bad knee (possibly a meniscus tear).  Here's a picture of Carter that Craig captured...

We got to my parents' house around 9:30 with a sleeping Jacob and an awake Carter...go figure.  Both boys went down fine, though, thank goodness.  Of course, Jacob woke up around 3am complaining about having to sleep on a sleeping bag and sniffling like crazy, since he didn't get to take his allergy medicine before he went to bed.  That kept us up for a while, making Saturday a rather sleepy day...thanks in part to the weather, no doubt.

Our plan was to get up and out rather early so we could go to the outlet mall nearby.  Craig needed to get some gear for his upcoming Team Canada stint at the Adidas outlet, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to look for more pants for Jacob, who appears to be in between sizes at his usual stores.  We also did some birthday shopping for a couple people.  We dodged the rain to grab some lunch, and headed out for downtown Buffalo.

Carter getting comfy in his car seat with his animals

Craig's mom got us tickets for a charity hockey game at Harborcenter, the new complex adjacent to the Sabres' arena.  It has a hotel, restaurant, Tim Hortons location, two ice rinks, and a number of other amenities.  We've seen it from the outside passing by downtown numerous times, but we hadn't been there yet.  The transformation in that area as a whole is amazing.  There is cool stuff to do along the waterfront, the old canal bed has been rewatered, and in the winter they have ice skating on the canal!  Oh, and as we headed south out of the city, we also saw Buffalo RiverWorks, which is another site among the grain elevators on the edge of the city that has sprung up out of nowhere and is now an entertainment/event destination.  They have ice rinks, roller derby, and concert/event space.  It's so exciting to see Buffalo coming alive like that!

Anyway, back to was beautiful!  The smaller rink has a window view out toward the city, and the bigger rink has a gorgeous wood ceiling.  It's a top-notch facility.

Carter wanted to play bubble hockey, but was broken!

Looking out on the big rink....the wood ceiling was gorgeous!

Color guard before the game

Looking down the smaller rink, with windows looking out at the city

We also took a walk over to (716), the restaurant during one of the intermissions.  The TV over the bar is as big as a movie theater screen, and we caught a glimpse of a few Sabres sitting in a private room off the second floor.  We didn't get a chance to go to the Tim Hortons, but that is just motivation to go back.  It's a special location that's focused on the Sabres and the company's namesake, and I can't wait to see it.  But there are so many other attractions down there now that we could make a full date night out of it--skating, (716), Tim Hortons, etc.  Someday...

We watched the game and the kids had a blast with their cousins.  Jacob hung out with his cousins that are closer to his age, and Carter hung out with his oldest cousins, who got a kick out of his tendency to wave to the people in the penalty box, since we were sitting right next to it. 

We had fun at the game and followed it up with a fun night at Craig's brother's birthday party.  Good food, some beverages, and good company!  Jacob slept over with his cousins and we slept in with Carter (after a brief early wake-up for a bathroom visit for Carter).  We were still pretty tired, though, but had a pleasant afternoon watching the Bills win their season opener!  We had more food and family time before taking off just before the end of the game to beat the stadium traffic!

Carter in his Bills jersey partaking of one of Daddy's favorite foods--chips and dip!
Overall it was a fun weekend despite the crappy weather.  A new week has begun, and we started out on a good note by Carter being formally discharged from the pulmonary clinic that he's been going to since infancy, much like Jacob did.  He made it through his summer colds without any issues, so they're comfortable letting us go.  He's still on a night dose of his reflux meds, but doesn't seem to have any chronic respiratory issues right now, so we're free!  Unfortunately, that good start did not translate to tonight.  Craig was on the road and I realized during dinner that I needed to go to Wegmans tonight to pick up milk and a couple other things.  The kids were not happy and the 20 minute trip was pretty miserable.  On top of that, Jacob's first night of reading homework was a complete failure.  On the first page he read a simple word wrong, over and over, and kept laughing about it.  After five minutes of trying to get him to focus, I gave up and walked out.  It was late and he was showing no signs of getting serious, so now he'll have to make up his 20 minutes another night.  Arg.  I have no idea how we're going to get through a week and a half of nightly reading when Craig is with Team Canada.  Nights are hard enough.  Sigh. 

We'll see how it goes...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Second Grade, Here He Comes!

So, this morning was Jacob's first day of school.  Second grade has arrived!  Here is the official picture:

He's wearing his nice new collared shirt and his gray shorts.  Nice shirts with sports shorts is not usually my favorite look, but he picked it out himself and it works.  I was just happy he was excited about it, or else we might have had trouble getting him out the door this morning.  He wasn't happy about taking the bus, but he got through it, of course.

We didn't even cross to the other side of the street, nor did he look back once he went toward the bus.  We've certainly evolved :)

I snapped this picture of a flower that I've passed by a bunch of times and thought looked cool, but never saw it up close.  Pretty, huh?

How did the first day go?  According to Jacob, he has the worst teacher in the world.  That good, I guess.  He can't seem to give us specifics aside from her being boring and doing nothing fun.  I don't know what he expected to have happen on day one, but I really hope he reconsiders and gives her a chance.  I told him that it's too long of a year to hate his teacher, so he should really find a way to like her.  No word yet on homework, but God knows I have a stack of paperwork to fill out!  He found out his best female friend from last year is in his class, which was good news for him.  But it appears the jury is still out on this year...or should be, at least.

Day one is in the books and Jacob is already asking how many days until the weekend.  Sigh.  Let's hope tomorrow is a better day.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Week in Review, Labor Day Edition

Major Takeaways From This Weekend:

1) Rest is good, but somewhat overrated
2) Carter is an above average potty trainer
3) Yard work + allergies = a crappy day after
4) Cookies are awesome
5) I really should have done more late nights in the pool

School starts tomorrow.  Luckily all of the school supplies went to school last Tuesday when we met his teacher.  I didn't even blog about that, as it was a pretty low-key meeting.  It was such a big deal a couple years ago, but this year it felt a little "been there, done that".  I sensed the night before that Jacob was feeling a lot of stress about school because he was complaining of a headache every time school came up.  I hoped that seeing his classmates and meeting his teacher might help, and I think it did.  He's in the same class as two of his biggest troublemaker buddies last year, unfortunately.  But he's got some other new names so I'm hopeful that maybe he'll have a chance to make some better friends.  His teacher seems nice.  Not quite as bubbly and fun as last year's, but she's relatively young and friendly, so I hope he'll be a good fit in her room.  We dropped off supplies, did the usual in-room scavenger hunt, mentioned his Celiac disease to the teacher, and were in and out in less than 20 minutes. 

Here are a couple pictures of the pretty flowers the boys got me for my birthday...

My birthday was pretty simple since it was a work day.  My boss got me some chocolate and a cute mug, and we all went out to dinner at Red Robin.  We finished off the day with a quick trip to Five Below to buy Jacob's headphones for school (and I got a couple Christmas gifts for Carter in the process--score!!).  I had a slice of the gluten-free cake from the little celebration with Craig's family, and that was about it!

I haven't felt particularly inspired to take pictures lately, but I did snap this cute shot of Carter this week...

One night this week we had some time to play outside before it got dark.  Carter decided to take the wagon for a walk.  He insisted on pulling it!

He pulled it around the block about halfway!  According to Google, he pulled it about half a mile!  After that he wanted to ride, which was fine since it was getting dark and it was probably another half mile home.  He was so cute, though!

Even though my parents were hosting my family's Labor Day picnic, we opted to stay home this weekend and relax.  We were on the road last weekend, we'll be on the road next weekend, and then Craig will be gone for two straight weekends (and the entire week in between) to work the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship.  So it seemed we should just have some family time at home.  It was supposed to be a hot weekend, so hopefully we'd get in a little more pool time and find something fun to do.  Well...I can't say it was the best weekend.  It was fine, I guess, but not what I'd hoped. 

I managed to fit in a little running around Friday afternoon when we got released from work early.  We had a pretty quiet night as usual.  I really wanted to do something fun Saturday, and gave the boys a bunch of suggestions--like going to the balloon festival an hour south of here, or going to the canal on the other side of town and getting a treat, or going hiking in a park nearby.  No one wanted to do anything.  I baked some flourless chocolate cookies that I'd been wanting to make for months, and we are now all officially addicted to them.  They have a ton of powdered sugar, four egg whites, some cocoa, and chocolate chips.  They're amazing.  We opted for a quick dinner out and a run to BJs.  After a very successful day of potty training for Carter, almost by accident, we needed to buy some pull-ups, and there were a few other things we needed to stock up on.  I was disappointed about the day, but the boys had been pretty good and we celebrated by bringing out the DVD of Despicable Me 2 that I'd gotten a great deal on and squirreled away for a rainy day.

Sunday we got up for church and had something to look forward to--Carter's first day of Sunday School.  Our church started a class for two year olds that does not need them to be potty trained.  I wasn't sure how he'd be when we dropped him off, but I figured he would really enjoy it in the long run.  He screamed for a few minutes when we tried dropping him off, but the teachers were great and just tried to work with him.  They gave us a pager, but they never had to use it.  When we came back, he was happily stamping away, and he's still talking about it!  Meanwhile, Craig and I got to sit together, in church, next to each other, and actually listen, for the first time in years!  For most of the past seven years we've sat in the family room with a kid constantly interrupting or running around the room.  Even when Jacob was finally potty trained and we had a year or so where he was in Sunday School, so many of those weeks Craig was on the road or had worked late the night before so I was there alone.  It was such a rarity.  I'm still a little torn about taking him out of the church atmosphere (even the family room version we sit in) this early, for fear he won't be able to behave as well when we visit my parents and do sit in church, but I think in the long run he will learn so much more in Sunday School.  We won't be able to go this week (which is a bummer for Jacob, too, since it's the first week with his new class), but in a couple weeks we'll see if he remembers!

I did some work in the yard Sunday afternoon to "earn" my time in the pool.  It was about 90 out, and by the time I pulled some weeds, killed some others, and tried to hack away at the overgrown blackberry vines in the back yard, I was dripping in sweat.  I also looked like I'd been in a cat fight from the thorns on the vines.  The pool cooled me down pretty well, thankfully.  I made crockpot pork chops for dinner, and we had another quiet night.  I did try to take some pictures of the boys playing baseball, but it was so hot and humid outside (and so cool in the house) that the second I turned the camera on, the lens fogged up and stayed that way.  Oh, and I did finally try to remove the stains on the ceiling of our porch from when the ice jams caused dirty water to leak through the vinyl panels.  I had to try to bleach them.  I didn't get them completely removed, but they're better.

As much as I wished we could do something interesting today, I knew it wasn't really meant to be.  Between sleeping in, Carter's nap, and needing to keep a decent bedtime, I knew it wasn't really happening.  I did try to catch a cute shot of Carter watching a movie in his little pop-up tent this morning, but he was on to me and the best I could get was this squinty shot through the open roof...

I'll admit I was rather bummed out about our unexciting weekend and pretty much spent the day stuck in a funk.  I was feeling crappy from my allergies reacting to yesterday's yard work (I could see the pollen every time I pulled out a set of vines), and I didn't even get out of my pajamas until about 4pm.  Craig and Jacob spent a few hours in the pool, and I tried to nap.  I finally gave up, watched a little TV, and then showered and got dressed in case we somehow did anything productive.  We ordered in for dinner (only because it was a good deal and I knew we'd have leftovers for another meal this week), and planned to go on a quick school shopping trip (with yet another good set of Kohl's coupons).  However, Jacob let Carter out the back door just before we were going to leave (Craig was in the yard and Jacob desperately wanted Carter out of the basement), and Carter tripped on the steps and scraped up his nose a bit.  So, it became just Jacob and me going shopping, which he was not happy about at all.  He really wanted Craig to go.  But he had to deal.  And although I was ready to strangle him (again) because he was fixated on an expensive Adidas hoodie that he didn't need, I finally found a pair of Adidas pants that we could agree on, and he voluntarily picked a really nice collared golf shirt made out of the breathable sports fabric.  It was a really nice shirt, and I was super impressed by his choice.  We got both for less than $20 total--not as good as two pairs of shorts for $1.90 like last time--but it was worth it to get two items he really liked and hopefully gain a little trust. 
It was so warm and lovely outside that I made it a point to finally go out to the pool tonight after bedtime.  The water was warm and I just sat in a chair raft staring up at the stars and praying for a good school year for Jacob.  I almost hated to come in because it felt like I was officially letting summer end.  Sigh.  Back to routine tomorrow, which is good in some ways and hard in others.  I still have to prepare Jacob's chalkboard for tomorrow's first day pictures, but we're mostly ready to go.  Carter will be going back to daycare with some pull-ups (if I can remember to bring them).  He did really well this weekend--not perfect, but very good.  He told us he had to go a lot, and we asked quite a bit, and one time he told me he was pooping and we managed to get him up and on the potty before he actually went.  His main slip-ups were when we went out for dinner, his naps, and when he got a little too busy playing.  But he did really, really well for a 2-1/2 year old boy who's only been sitting on the potty regularly for a couple weeks.  I sort of thought he might be the type to just "get it", and I think I'm right, but I think his bladder might still need a little more time. Definitely at night, but he's probably 85% there during the day.  We'll see, but I'm encouraged.

So, yeah, I appreciated the downtime this weekend and the opportunities to sleep in and not have to pack and travel, but I really could have used a couple high points to spice up the weekend and send off summer in style.  Next weekend should be better, and on the bright side, it's only a four-day week!  Fingers crossed that tomorrow goes could be the difference between a great year and a long one!