Monday, November 30, 2015

What I'm Thankful For, Post-Thanksgiving Edition

I know, I know...this is late.  But we had a busy weekend that included two trips to Buffalo, a lot of decorating, a long day at the mall, and a ton of refereeing the kids.  I'm tired.  Blogging just didn't make it to the top of the list.  I'll try to rectify that now...

1) Two great families to spend Thanksgiving with - It was just us and my parents, but we had a lovely dinner there.  We had a good crew of family and a few friends on Craig's side, and I always enjoy when we go around the table and share what we're thankful for.  It's just nice to have two families to spend the day with, despite the rushing it often involves, and to have minimal-to-no drama all around.  Rare, I'd have to think!  And honestly, I don't want to have to pick or choose one side or the other, as it ends up not being fair to anyone.  Someone's always going to miss someone, and who needs that on Thanksgiving?  Any rushing is well worth having time with both, in my opinion.

2) Two fantastic meals - The meal at my parents' is obviously sentimental to me, as it's the Thanksgiving dinner I grew up with, give or take an item or two.  It is the holiday equivalent of comfort food!  On the other hand, with such a large crew of eaters and contributors, the meal with Craig's family ends up being quite the magnificent feast.  Lots of very good cooks makes for a gut-busting meal!  Despite pacing myself at my parents' and restraining myself a bit with Craig's family, I still ended up painfully stuffed.  Small pieces of three of the four pies didn't help!  But man, both meals were so good!

3) A job to come back to today - When we went around the table at Craig's family's dinner, I said that I was thankful that after the year started so badly with losing my job, I feel so blessed to have a new job that put me in an even better position than before.  It's pretty amazing how well that worked out.  The bonus was not totally dreading coming into work today, since I knew I had plenty to do and one fun-ish project (to a data geek, anyway) to work on.

4) 45 Years - Saturday was my parents' 45th wedding anniversary.  That is totally mind-blowing, in so many ways.  Number one, my parents do not seem old enough to be married for that long!  I still laugh when I look at my grandparents' 40th anniversary party photos and think how old they looked, but they were pretty much the same ages as my parents.  My parents' 40th doesn't seem that long ago, and it scares me to think the 50th could get here with that same speed!  I remember my grandparents' 50th vividly, by the way, as I was almost 14 at the time.  Hard to believe it's almost my parents' turn!

5) Life and Health - Yesterday we took our second trip to Buffalo because one of Craig's cousins (not a first cousin--but part of the family we see every year or two when they have family picnics) passed away on Wednesday.  He was in his early 50s and had been battling cancer for a while.  We knew neither of us could pull off the funeral today, so we felt it was important to make it to the funeral home.  We loaded the kids in late afternoon yesterday and had a relatively pleasant drive there and back, considering the short timeframe.  I credit the caffeine I drank on the way there for making it easier.  Anyway, my point is that despite the health scares we've seen in our families over the past couple years, the core of our family has remained mostly intact.  Yes, we lost Craig's uncle far too young this time last year and his Nana a while before that, but when I think of how much worse it could be with open heart surgeries for both of our fathers and so many aging relatives, I feel pretty grateful for what we still have.  I know we have harder years ahead, so I'm just trying to savor this time as much as I can.

6) Decorations - As much as I hate hauling out bins from the crawl space and trying to find spots for all of my seasonal decorations, I suppose I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'd say that about 95% of my Christmas decorations have a story--maybe they were a gift, maybe they were among the items I retrieved after my grandmothers passed away, maybe they were bought when I was newly on my own and had only a handful of decorations, or maybe they were made by my kids...or even me.  So many memories.  I felt bad yesterday, actually, since I had to toss a decoration that was a gift from my grandma.  Over the years she bought a ton of stuff at the Hallmark store (including my massive collection of Keepsake ornaments), and she acquired a number of plush music making items.  I'd had this snowman at a piano for years.  He'd lost his body movement a few years ago, but the music and lights still worked.  Yesterday when I tried to turn him on, he just didn't work.  I changed the batteries to no avail, and then I noticed that the on-off switch was broken.  It had lost its resistance and just didn't seem to function.  There was no way to dig in and fix him, and I'm not going to donate something that simply doesn't work, so I had no choice but to let it go.  I took a picture first, just to remember.  Even though the decorating can be exhausting, it makes me happy.  It makes my house feel like Christmas even when the rest of my Christmas cheer is lacking.

7) "Dirty Blueberries" - Carter has definitely been showing more signs of the terrible twos lately.  He talks back, hits, and throws a pretty good tantrum now and then.  Sometimes we wonder how much he's picked up from watching Jacob, or if he sees it at daycare, or if he's just acting his age.  Even still, I know that sweet kid is in there, because he still gives hugs and says "I love you" and says some of the sweetest things ever.  One of my favorites is when I ask him to do something--clean up, hand me something, etc.--and he says, "Of course I can, Mommy!"  So sweet.  Our latest thing is that he's been calling kisses on the cheek "blueberries".  I have no idea where it came from, if it's a take on blowing raspberries or something like that, but he gives us blueberries--perfect little puckered pecks on the cheek.  And then he took it up a notch and got sillier, saying that one that he gave Craig was a "dirty blueberry"!  He thinks it's pretty clever and we just laugh.  But as long as he's giving kisses, we won't be picky!

8) Another three-day work week - I'll admit it was probably easier to come into work today knowing that I only have to get through three days (again).  Jacob has a half day Thursday and a full day off Friday, and since Craig will be crazy busy leading up to the first Knighthawks preseason game, it was my turn to be home.  I am trying to keep him out of daycare at all costs, since I know he's not really comfortable there anymore and I'm still planning on trying to get Carter out of there when he transitions to the three-year-old room.  I think we're just ready for a fresh start, particularly when I realized I had no desire to go to the Thanksgiving feast there because I simply didn't feel close to any of the staff or the families.  It doesn't feel like family there anymore, outside of Carter's current teachers.  Sad but true.  So, with no daycare to fall back on right now, staying home is a good opportunity to spend some extra time with Jacob.  We'll see how the parent-teacher conference goes on Thursday, though!

9) Lacrosse - I touched on this one recently, but I love Jacob's passion for lacrosse and I love the version of him that comes out when he gets to play.  It's so easy to see his talent emerging, and I love that there's something in this world that he loves so much.  Considering he doesn't seem to like me or Carter or reading or school or my cooking, sometimes it seems like he doesn't like anything.  But he loves his dad, he loves his Legos and Playmobil guys, he loves sports video games, and and he loves lacrosse most of all, I think.  Of course, the double-edged sword is that this time of year lacrosse takes Craig away from us far more often, but it's also what keeps him gainfully employed, so I guess we'll let it slide ;-)

10) Christmas music - The end of Thanksgiving means that my block on Christmas music comes to an end.  I try to avoid it beforehand, but once Thanksgiving passes, I'm all in.  I think it relates to how radio stations used to start playing it Thanksgiving night.  I want to give Thanksgiving its due, but after that, we only have one solid month to enjoy it so I try to maximize that time.  I honestly love Christmas music because it's either happy or quite blatantly about Jesus, and I can use plenty of that in my life.  It's publicly accepted to sing about Christ at this time of year, which is sort of unique and  cool.  I need to hear "O Holy Night" to remind me to approach this season with reverence, and "Silent Night" to remind me to step back and take it all in.  I need some "Jingle Bells" to make Carter laugh, and "All I Want For Christmas" to remind me of one of my very favorite movies, Love Actually.  I just love the music, the lights, the decorations, and the random fun this time of year.  It brightens up random days, and who doesn't need a little of that?

So, that's a little snapshot of what I'm thankful for right now.  Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!  Hard to believe December is upon us...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Small Steps

Last week was the first week of Jacob's new behavior chart at school, the one the teacher suggested after his second rough day in as many weeks.  He went home early on Monday due to his fever, but he had done well that morning.  And he did well every day for the remainder of the well that he hit the top of the chart ("Outstanding!") every single day for the rest of the week, and today, too!  He'd never done it before, and now he did it five days in a row!?

Obviously we were thrilled to hear the news each day, and we were quick to congratulate him and ask to see his army guys, which he got because those who end the day on "Outstanding" get to pick a prize from the teacher's prize box.  However, the quick turnaround definitely made me wonder.  Is he really just playing us?  Or are a few stickers and an army man really all it takes (for now) to get him to listen?  Part of me wonders if the extra attention from his teacher simply made him realize she cares just as much as his old teacher.  She took him aside at the end of the week prior to tell him he's doing a great job and to let him know about the new system, so maybe that just flipped a switch with him.  Who knows?  Like I said, it's great news, but it makes me wonder how long this can go on before everyone feels like he's taking advantage.  Honestly, this is why I stopped using a lot of rewards with Jacob over the years.  It always seemed like he had mastered a skill and we'd be killing ourselves to keep up with rewarding him.  He'd have a pile of toys or too many sweet treats if we kept up with it.  In my eyes, once you master it, the new skill just becomes something you're expected to do, and it shouldn't take any rewards to continue it.  Maybe that seems unfair to a kid brain, but we simply can't go on like that forever.  So now what?  I guess we'll hang in there for a bit, see if it wears off, and maybe wait for his teacher to call his bluff if she's uncomfortable with it?  In the meantime we'll all enjoy better behavior/reports of behavior, I guess.

We had a pretty decent weekend.  We had our moments as usual, but overall it was pretty good.  I had another busy Saturday morning, this time finally getting the house cleaned (mostly, anyway).  It was in desperate need and I was happy to get everything cleaned up before the Christmas decorations come out this weekend.  My parents came in for Jacob's lacrosse game (more on that in a minute) and dinner, which was fun, despite Carter taking his turn on the naughty list during the game.  Craig spent most of the day at the Knighthawks' training camp, which means his season is slowly approaching.  Sigh.  Sunday we went to church, did some grocery shopping, and had a pretty low-key day at home.  Oh, and this weekend I made a couple attempts at de-glutening a couple favorite recipes--my mom's crustless crumb apple pie and a chicken noodle casserole I had to stop making because one of the key ingredients was Stove Top stuffing.  The apple pie was a success, even though the crumb top didn't exactly crumb with gluten-free flour.  Instead it was dabs of dough scattered across the pie top, but it all tasted good and the consistency was fine.  The chicken noodle casserole got new life because my mom found me a couple boxes of Aldi's gluten-free boxed stuffing, which my store was sold out of.  Jacob used to love the casserole, but either his tastes have changed or the different stuffing didn't do it any favors because he put up a HUGE stink about it.  In his words, "It tastes like garbage."  Nice, huh?  So much for tact.  I guess it actually tasted fine (per Craig), just a little different from before.  Carter liked the noodles and ate most of his chicken, but didn't love the broccoli or stuffing components too much.  I'm enjoying it thoroughly in leftovers, though!

Anyway, the highlight of the weekend was probably Jacob's game.  His team started pretty slow again, though they seemed to see a little more action on the offensive end.  Jacob was out there playing hard, taking faceoffs, and trying to generate offense.  A little after halftime Craig had to leave to go back to work, and shortly thereafter Jacob assisted on his team's first goal!  A few minutes after that, he scored one of his own!  Craig missed both, and I only saw the tail-end of each play (I was half watching while catching up with a friend whose son was playing on the other team), but it was great to see him continue to contribute.  He was pretty happy after the game, even though they lost again (7-2 this time), but they're definitely getting better with moving the ball and making passes.  I must say, though, that it makes me so happy to see him out there because he's really doing well.  He's so mature out there.  I love watching him anticipate what's next because he knows the rules so well.  He'll dutifully walk to the faceoff circle right after a goal, a good 20 seconds before his opponent makes it there.  For all of the stuff he doesn't "get" in life, he sure gets it out on the field.  Not that he doesn't need direction still, but it's amazing watching him improve.  If only he could bring some of that discipline into his daily life.

Tonight we took another small step toward restoring some normalcy to our home by going for our first appointment at a family counseling center run by our school district.  We feel like this type of family counseling might help Jacob learn to respect us and like his brother a little more.  Tonight was our intake night, where we just told our story, answered a ton of questions, and got on the schedule.  So, every other week we'll be going there and working with a team of four people (two in the room, two watching through a window--yikes!) to work through some of the issues that have been plaguing us.  On one hand it scares me because it'll put my parenting skills under a magnifying glass.  I know I haven't done everything perfectly, and I know my temper does me no favors...but when your kid is totally defiant and no amount of recourse seems to do any good, what do you do?  But on the other side of things, hopefully this will give us some good techniques to try, and hopefully we can help Jacob learn the skills he needs to be a solid member of our society and household in general.  Sometimes I think he's simply oblivious.  For example, tonight while we were answering all of the boring questions, he was playing a game on Craig's phone.  When it came time to answer some questions himself, Jacob was hesitant to pause his game, and after a couple questions he tried unpausing it while continuing to answer questions.  Eventually we just had to take it away.  Back at home, I told him that next time we go back, he needs to be more respectful.  He asked how he was disrespectful, and I explained that he needed to keep his game paused.  He said that he could still focus on answering questions by playing, but I explained that when he does that, other people perceive that he's not focused.  So even though he may think he's focused and respectful, he's actually putting out a different vibe.  No matter how many times we explain that, he won't believe us, so hopefully someone else can make him see that.  He also has a hard time making eye contact and keeping his fingers away from his mouth when he's in shy mode.  He's so quirky and we definitely need to work through some of those quirks.  It's nice to feel like we're trying something, though, and at least we have some hope that this might get us somewhere.  One step at a time.

A busy week has begun and we're all looking forward to Thursday and our long weekend.  Hard to believe the Christmas season is just around the corner!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekend Wrap-Up

Alas, no pictures from this weekend...soon, I promise.  I feel like I fail myself and my kids every time we get through a weekend (or worse) and I haven't taken any pictures.  I suppose it's less vital now that the kids don't change so much from week to week, but it does bum me out a bit because they'll never be this age again.  But maybe I earned a free pass after my videos from last week :)

We had a busy weekend, as usual.  Friday night we went out to dinner to one of our new standbys, Five Guys.  They're really good with the gluten-free thing.  It's not cheap, but it's good and relatively quick.  It was a little hectic between the kids and their various issues, but it's nice when I don't have to think about dinner!  Craig and I did movie night (Pitch Perfect 2, not as good as the original, but not as bad as my parents said!) after the kids went to bed.

Saturday morning I had plans to do a number of things--take my car for an oil change, stop at a giant church garage sale, and run to Wegmans.  I got a bit sidetracked by a random reorganization project.  I've been looking for something in and around our linen closet for a while, and for some reason I got sucked into changing things around.  I moved my crates of bedding on the floor instead of the top shelf, and organized some random toiletries.  Then I took on our crazy supply of bags--backpacks, old purses, fabric shopping bags, small tote bags, travel bags--and set aside a half dozen to donate, a duffle bag full of beat-up ones to toss out, and a couple other bags of bags to keep around.  After running around and organizing all of that, suddenly I was exhausted.  We dropped off my car, came back for some lunch, and then Carter went down for a nap.  A couple hours later we were heading out the door for Jacob's first lacrosse game of the season!

I was intrigued by this season because Jacob's team lost almost all of their players from last year.  They all moved up to the next level.  The bad news is that there were some really talented players in that group and the team that only lost once in the two years Jacob has been on it was not going to be the same.  The good news was that Jacob was one of the oldest players, and after an offseason of camps and lots of practicing around the house, he's actually gotten pretty good.  We knew he'd be one of the main contributors, but without game action we weren't sure how things would actually play out.  The game got started and the other team went out to a quick 1-0 lead.  However, a couple minutes later, Jacob got a nice pass, ran in on goal, and scored!  After goals being so elusive for the last two years, seeing him get one so quickly was wonderful!

Unfortunately, that was his team's offense for the day and they lost 6-1.  He got plenty of action but his teammates are inexperienced and he wasn't listening to his coach as much as he should have (shocking!).  The other team was almost all second graders with previous experience, whereas Jacob's team had only four kids with any experience, so it's no wonder it was a tough game.  We've spent a lot of time since talking to him about what he needs to do next game.  He's got a lot of his own ideas, so we're trying to rein them in and remind him how he needs to listen to his coach during the game.  It's going to take some time for his team to get it together, and in the meantime he'll probably get an education on losing gracefully.  This time the first thing he did was blame the refs!  We definitely need to work on that. 

We ran home, ate some dinner, and I caught up on the packing I should have done earlier in the day but felt too tired and blah to do.  We got in the car and headed to Buffalo to spend Sunday with Craig's family.  First we went to see our nephews play hockey.  The boys mostly ran around like maniacs in the lobby, though I thought it was sweet that our 13-year-old nephew got ministicks for the kids in the store and played with them.  Too cute.  After that we grabbed lunch, stopped to pick up a couple things, and spent the rest of the day eating and watching football to celebrate our sister-in-law's birthday!  We ate way too much and headed home late (we stuck around to see the torturous end of the Giants-Patriots game).  The kids went right to bed.  Oh, and right before we got home I accidentally ran over a freshly dead skunk on the road (traffic to the left of me, so I couldn't swerve), and instantly the car stunk.  Not that I could smell it, of course, but Craig was miserable about it.  We had to stop at Wegmans to get milk, and I guess the smell was overpowering outside the car (and not great in).  Oops.

We all woke up this morning feeling less than great.  Craig's, Jacob's, and my stomach were all off.  Jacob was bargaining harder than usual to stay home, but because he does this all the time, clearly we couldn't let him stay.  He missed his bus, though, and we still had to go pick up my car at the mechanic after its oil change on Saturday.  Plus Craig was going for a car wash, so it was a crazy morning.  Due to time constraints he ended up dropping off both kids and I guess Carter had a rough drop-off.  He slept well but didn't have a nap yesterday, so apparently he was still off.  And right before noon Craig called me to say that the nurse called and Jacob had a low-grade fever.  Oh, Monday. 

I picked up Jacob and worked from home this afternoon.  Other than the fever he actually seemed fine.  He was a little cautious with eating, but stomachaches aren't exactly rare for him so it's hard to know what's going on.  Maybe he was glutened yesterday, maybe he ate too much junk like Craig and me, or maybe he's just generally off.  It's so hard to know.  It didn't seem to bother him that much, though, and by tonight his temperature seemed normal.  Nothing like starting the week off a little crazy, though!

So now we have one relatively calm week before the storm, with Thanksgiving next week and the Christmas season beyond.  I can hardly believe it.  Part of me is excited, part of me is completely overwhelmed at the thought of decorating, shopping, baking, and partying (and wrapping and packing and eating and not sleeping...).  Breathe... 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reality Bites

Monday was not a good day.  We got both a call and an email home from two of Jacob's teachers for the second time in a few weeks.  He made a number of bad decisions throughout the course of the day, and ended up on "red" for the day.  It was not good.  Then he gave us a heck of a tough time with his evening reading.  That's a struggle almost every day, in fact.  He does not find reading fun in the least, and no matter how many times we tell him that reading is one of the most important things he can do for his future, he insists we're wrong.  It's such a struggle, and it makes me wonder how we're ever going to survive book reports or other major school projects that take focus and effort. 

Monday was so rotten that it sucked me right back to our everyday reality two years ago, panicked about how we can function with such an uncooperative, opinionated, cranky child.  I was feeling the same feelings of hopelessness that dragged me down for months when Jacob was five.  When you have a child that pushes back on everything, gets easily discouraged, and complains constantly about situations they must face, it is exhausting.  Overwhelming, in fact.  I just wasn't sure what to do.

I spent the evening composing a rather long email to Jacob's teacher, finally letting her in on his history.  I held off earlier in the year from spilling his whole story because I wanted to give her time to get to know him without clouding her mind ahead of time.  But after his second really bad day, I wanted her to understand where we've been, what we've done, and suggest a couple things we could try moving forward.  I told her about his evaluations, about his work with the school counselor and psychologist, about how much he loved his teacher last year, and how he's feeling like his current teacher doesn't help him like the other kids and that he doesn't have any friends.  I explained my theory that sometimes he just doesn't listen because he's so wrapped up in his own agenda that he literally doesn't comprehend that what he's doing is wrong.  He convinces himself that his reasons for disobeying are more valid than whatever our reason is for him to do what we're asking.  I didn't want to give excuses, but hopefully give her a different perspective so she understood he wasn't just being a jerk.  I basically did a giant brain dump and put it all out there.

She called me Tuesday afternoon and we had a pretty good talk.  We discussed how he'd had a better day thanks to a Veterans' Day assembly he helped out with.  She reminded me that he's part of this "friendship group" with the school counselor that practices politeness techniques and other tips for being a good school citizen.  She mentioned one other tool she utilizes for some kids that helps them to see how their good choices build up over the course of the day.  She also mentioned that she could talk to his old teacher to see if there were techniques she used with him that seemed to work better.  She also mentioned that she doesn't see the "no friends" thing happening at all.  He's got a couple close friends, and he's social in general.  She theorized (and I agree, as I often feel this way myself) that he's just not feeling a true connection with those kids.  Or, I suppose, he may just be looking for sympathy or an excuse for his troubles.  It was all pretty positive and I'm hopeful that he will see some small changes working toward a better feeling in his classroom.

I did also do a little more research on an outside therapist.  We're currently trying to get a call back from the free family therapy offered through the school district, as we think that might be good for all of us.  But I still think Jacob needs a one-on-one therapist to work through some other issues--perhaps the friend stuff, a tendency to absentmindedly put things in his mouth (clothes, zippers, the Wii strap or cord), and more of the family stuff--primarily listening to us and his relationship with Carter.  His first two have not been good matches, and when I didn't find anything ideal while poking around online, I checked the site of the practice we've been at, and sure enough there was one male therapist that seems to do a lot of work with kids--in fact, for some of the exact issues we're facing.  So, that's another call that needs to be made.  I fear that he won't be accepting patients, or that his schedule won't be conducive to Jacob's or ours, but it's worth a shot.

I've said before that all of the issues we're facing really make me fearful for the future.  Sometimes when I think about how a certain tendency or trait might translate five or ten years from now when he's a hormonal teenager, I get worried.  When I think of how defiant he can be right now and how he makes bad behavior choices with friends, the high school version of that looks terrifying.  I know that the help we're trying to get him should help reroute that uncertain future, but sometimes even the best therapy doesn't work.  Sometimes the demons are too strong.  I can only hope and pray that we find what he needs and get it for him.  While I do pray often that he will start to listen, I also pray that I can be the mother he needs right now.  So far I feel like I'm failing miserably, given the fact he doesn't want me anywhere near him, but hopefully in this case persistence pays off and someday he will realize how hard we tried to get him on the right track.  Our love for him never wavers, but some days remembering why we need to keep trying can be very difficult.  Monday was bad, but other days have been better as the week has gone on.  Baby steps for our big kid.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Video Thursday with Carter

I don't prefer to use my iPod to take pictures and video, but sometimes you have to seize the moment and use what you have available, just so you can preserve the memory.  So pardon the quality and just enjoy the view...

I've been meaning to get video of this for ages, and finally did it Friday night.  We do this thing, and somehow the kids started calling it "monkey bike".  I'm not sure how that happened, maybe one of the kids mangled some phrase and that's how it came out.  But basically, it's like a "Superman" move where I lay on my back and put my feet in the air, and the kids lay their belly on my feet and I hoist them into the air, ideally with their arms and legs extended like Superman.  Jacob's getting pretty heavy, though I can still do it with him!  Carter hasn't really gotten the Superman pose down, and he's so squirmy that I have to hold his hands, but his laughs are contagious, particularly when my toes tickle his armpits!  This video's a little crazy, but seasickness aside, it's worth it for the laughs...

Then, Monday night, he started singing the ABC's with a microphone that came with a guitar Jacob got for his third birthday.  He sings the song a lot, and it's too cute.  I couldn't pass this up.  So after he did it once, I got him to do it again so I could record it.  This kid cracks me up.

I can't even tell you what a joy this kid is to have around the house.  He is full of hugs and declarations of "I love you!".  He's such a fun little buddy most of the time.  Even when he's being naughty, he still manages to rebound nicely.  Lately he's been throwing his stuffed animals out of his crib when he's put in there during a tantrum (I know, not ideal, but that's how it worked out and it hasn't harmed his sleeping environment at all), and when he chills out and is back on the floor, he willingly puts them back in.  Tuesday he was having a rough morning and had a tantrum during breakfast.  He dumped his food on the table (he sits in his high chair still, but now uses the table rather than the tray), so I put the tray back on because he showed that he couldn't eat like a big boy.  When he threw Chex on the floor, I then turned him around in his chair since that's what happens when he throws food on the floor.  When he seemed to calm down, I gave him some pieces of apple (leftover from packing Jacob's lunch) to prove that he could eat like a big boy, and he threw those on the floor!  I was furious and put him in his room for a bit.  When he calmed down and I went to get him, he first cheerfully picked up all of the animals he threw out and then went down and cleaned up all of the apples off the floor (by eating them...oops) and then climbed in his chair unprompted and cleaned up the pile of cereal on the table, too.  He's still two so he has a lot of frustrating moments, but he has a sensible, sweet side, too, which is honestly not something that Jacob ever seemed to possess at that age.  He is more likely to be willing to listen and be agreeable to things.  Yes, he can be opinionated and stubborn, too, but what a joy he can be most of the time.  I am savoring every moment of his childhood as much as I can, because I know soon enough he'll be too cool for hugs and kisses and "monkey bike".  If only I could freeze these moments and thaw them out someday when he's grown and I need an extra hug...

Friday, November 6, 2015

News & Notes, Indian Summer Edition

First, just a few more photos to share from Halloween.  These came from the slide show they sent out at work.  I love the first picture of Carter and me, and the second one shows him playing with the electric ball.  It was a little hectic, but lots of fun!


I realized I didn't have any daylight pictures of our real Halloween pumpkins, so I made sure to snap this the other day.  I like them!  So much that I didn't even send them out with the trash today, even though they're starting to mold.  In fact, one of the ones we carved at the Oktoberfest that I did throw out was almost completely colored on the inside (mostly dark gray, but other colors, too) when I looked at it this morning.  So gross!

Part of the reason everything is so moldy is because we've had record-breaking warmth over the past couple days.  It hit 78 on Wednesday and was in the 70s again yesterday.  All week has been amazing.  It was still pretty warm today, but it was windy and rainy.  Normal weather will be back tomorrow, but it was fun while it lasted.  The only problem with nice weather in November is that it's dark (and therefore cooler) by the time you get out of work, and you can't really take the kids outside to play in it during the week because it's pitch black outside by the time you get home. 

The time change itself wasn't horrible, but Jacob still seems to be waking up a little earlier, and Carter is having a heck of a time going to sleep, though my guess is that we're just going through a phase, rather than him just being "off" from the change.  I've resumed being half asleep in the mornings, but I'm still having a hard time staying awake at night after the kids go to bed.  I like that it's a little lighter in the mornings, but it is a bummer going home in the dark!  I realized that this year I don't have my gorgeous sunset views to soften the blow.  Previously, the time change meant that I could see fabulous sunsets 16 floors above the city, and that almost made going home in the dark worth it.  Now I'm lucky if I get a glimpse of a pretty sky from the stairwell or the highway.  Definitely a bummer.

This could be a whole post itself, but we're having a particularly rough time with Jacob right now.  Or rather, I am.  He keeps demanding that I stay out of his room.  He really doesn't want to be around me at all, but I can't quite seem to figure out why he's acting that way all of a sudden.  The disrespectful talk is sort of matter-of-fact, rather than purposely malicious, but it's hurtful and disrespectful nonetheless.  I don't know if he's just mad at me because I don't let him get away with things, or if he's thinking I'm "contaminated" from spending so much time with Carter, or what.  It's gotten pretty intolerable and we need to get into the family therapist ASAP before it gets any worse.  I also meant to ask when we were at the doctor's office today if they can recommend any male pediatric therapists for Jacob to go to on his own, but I forgot.  I'm convinced that the other two never stuck because they were middle aged women that didn't know how to relate to a boy like him, and he just considered them another mom type nagging him.  I feel like a man might be able to relate better with sports or other guy stuff.  I feel like he might see a guy as "on his side" from the get-go, and maybe when he starts talking things out with someone like that, he'll finally start believing the stuff we've been telling him all along.  It's worth a try at this point, because I feel like we have a lot of issues to work through again, from friend troubles at school to easing him into a winter wardrobe after months of abusing the same handful of t-shirts and not wanting to wear any of the (perfectly acceptable) long-sleeved shirts in his closet.  He's getting older and getting the bigger kid attitude, and it scares me to think how some of this might translate a few years down the road.  I really want to get it handled now.

In case you were wondering, we went to the doctor today because I finally scheduled the kids' flu shots.  The tricky thing about flu shots is that Carter could probably get the nose spray, but Jacob can't since he's got a history of respiratory issues (thanks, RSV).  But since I try to take them together, I can't, in good conscience, give one the shot and one the spray, so I really need both of them to get the shot together.  I always hope they'll bond over the pain, but no luck this year.  We went out after for a frozen yogurt dinner, which was fun, but Jacob spent most of the rest of the night complaining about his sore arm.  Carter wrapped up the night crying for 45 minutes straight because I refused to constantly interrupt Jacob's reading time to go up and replace his blanket.  Sigh.

Jacob started lacrosse practice this week, and his coach is super impressed with his progress.  He'll definitely be one of the best players on the team this year since all of the talented, ball-hog big kids moved up, but the team definitely won't be the powerhouse it had been since he joined.  I think the losing will be a good exercise for Jacob after only losing one game in two years.  It'll be tough for him when he doesn't have many good, reliable teammates to pass to, but as long as we can keep his ego in check, I think it could be an interesting year for him.

I found out earlier this week that the other analyst at my old job--the girl who held the same position as I did but did completely different stuff--is leaving!  She got a better paying job, in a related but slightly different industry.  I am thrilled for her--both to be getting a raise and getting out of there--but I feel awful for my old boss who is amazing and wonderful to work for.  She went from having a team of three (plus an intern) firing on all cylinders to just having herself.  Who knows if they'll even rehire for the position, but even if they do, that person won't have all of the back-knowledge that she's lost with the two of us.  It's so sad.  I can't help but feel a little twinge of satisfaction, though, that they sent me--a loyal employee--packing, and now they've lost the one they decided to keep.  Serves them right.  The other bright side is that if she hates her new job, I will no longer hesitate to find her a job with me!  I would never have stolen her from my old boss, but now she's fair game!

Today marks seven months at my new job.  Hard to believe!  Work has been up and down for me lately.  I generally like the work, but I have some super busy days, and some that are a little too quiet in between.  I definitely feel like more of an integral part of our team now, and both my boss and my fellow data whiz are thrilled with my presence here.  I've done good work and my instincts have been better than I thought.  Getting me to a consistent workload is a bit of a process, since there's a ton I need to learn over time before I can get to a comfort level of taking on elements that will give me more consistent work.  Slowly but surely.  It was a great move, though, no doubt.

I guess I'll finish this up with a cute story.  Lately Carter's been asking me to rock him at bedtime, and once in a while I'll jokingly sing lullabies to him.  Tonight we were playing on the floor a bit, and I asked if I could lay my head to sleep on his lap.  He grabbed my head and said he was going to rock me.  He proceeded to push my shoulder back and forth and did his best rendition of "Rock-a-bye Baby", which was hilarious.  He was so ridiculously cute. 

Hopefully we can have a nice family weekend...but let's hope the rest of it goes better than tonight's start...

Monday, November 2, 2015

Toy Treasure Trove

As I've mentioned a couple times in the past week or so, I brought home a load of stuff from my parents' house after the weekend there with my brother's family.  When I arrived on Friday, there were probably about 10 boxes sitting in the family room, some for John and some for me.  When I started going through them, I realized that this process was going to be a challenge.

See, there are obviously some things that are instant keepers, and there's usually a couple of things that are junk or simply didn't survive 30 years in the attic very well.  But the in between stuff is the real challenge, and I think it breaks down into a couple categories.  First, there's the stuff you have an attachment to, but no real use for.  Being a girl with two sons, it's especially difficult.  I know I got some of my mom's things when I was a kid--a couple really beautiful dolls, her Barbies, and a cool metal dollhouse with furniture.  But without a girl for me, who gets the girly books or the cool dolls?  I don't want to just get rid of them, but it seems silly to have things sitting in a bin for years on end, taking up space.  The other category is the stuff that you feel just enough of an allegiance to that you hate to throw it out, but you also don't love it enough to waste space by keeping it.  Adding to the problem is that it's probably not the best stuff to donate either.  For example, I had a couple teddy bears--my first bears, in fact--and honestly, they just weren't that cute or cuddly.  I knew my kids wouldn't want them, and I would feel terrible tossing them, but they're so old that it seems silly to donate them.  There are some things that fall into this category that would probably do well on eBay, if I wanted to get into that, but that takes time and effort.

Once I had looked through the attic boxes, I decided I also needed to make a trip up to my old room, where there were still a number of boxes in the closet.  One was full of books, and the others were more animals and a few other random things.  I plodded through those, carefully sorting books and animals into piles.  It was mentally and emotionally exhausting, balancing logic and nostalgia for each item.  It's just...hard.  It's sort of like the moment of truth for Andy in the last Toy Story movie.  Are his toys going to sit in a box forever just so he can keep them, or are they better off moving on to another phase, in his case brightening the life of another kid?

In the end I brought home half a dozen boxes.  Two of those boxes were books.  One box contained mostly books for Jacob--slightly bigger kid books that I think he can grow into.  There are a lot of mysteries and some Choose Your Own Adventure books.  I also kept a couple "classics" that I thought might work down the road--James and the Giant Peach, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Sideways Stories from Wayside School--but that I knew he'd turn his nose up at now.  Hopefully he'll give them a chance.  I think he might enjoy them if he let himself try.  The other box of books was a selection of littler kid books for Carter.  Of course, bringing home a load like that meant that we had some reorganizing to do.

Coincidentally, Jacob had said the other day that I could move all of his books into Carter's room.  In the end I left some--some of his longtime favorites along with any more recent acquisitions that I thought he might still find entertaining at some point.  But the vast majority got taken out and replaced almost perfectly by the new books.  Meanwhile, in Carter's room things were already a bit cramped, but part of that was because I had his tallest books laying down on his bookshelf.  I happened to notice an empty crate (the plastic kind, presumably from college) in our basement, so I grabbed that and took it up to his room.  I put the tallest books in there, filled the remaining space with Jacob's old books and my old books, and had just enough room in the crate for one specific set of books that didn't quite fit on the main shelf.  In the end it was perfect, and Carter loves his extra little shelf.  It'll be much easier for him to access those tall books, too, I think.

I managed to distribute a couple animals and some other books and puzzles to the boys, and most of the rest fit in one bin.  The one exception was my Rose Petal Place dolls and house.  I am torn as to what to do with them, but for now I'll keep them.  They'd be an eBay possibility someday, but I really did love them! I might have sent them home with my niece if the house wasn't so bulky!

Back at my parents' house there is still some stuff waiting for me.  My bedroom closet still holds my Barbie collection (at least two Barbies, two Skippers, and one Ken, plus my mom's Barbie and Ken, and assorted clothes, a fold-up house, and a fully stocked kitchen).  My Cabbage Patch dolls and a box full of clothes are still there, too.  There were a couple more boxes in the attic my mom didn't bring down yet.  She knows my Strawberry Shortcake dolls are up there.  There was also one toy that came down in the first load that made me realize I had two more from the same line.  They were called Wish World Kids, and they were convertible toys that started as a piece of furniture and opened up into a fantasy playset.  The one that I have now is a TV that turns into a TV game show set.  In looking through the booklet in the box, I realized I'm 99% sure I had a dresser that became a hair salon and a refrigerator that turned into a soda shoppe,  I'm hoping those other two are still up there, too.  Even though I totally forgot about them, just seeing the one took me back to being 10 or 11 years old and being so excited about getting them!

All of this has gotten me thinking, though, about these same decisions with the boys' toys.  I've thought about their clothes a lot over the years, but now that we're starting to outgrow the little baby stuff, I'm really having to think about what will stay and what will go, not just for memory's sake, but for possible grandchildren!  They might be as little as 15 years away, after all!  So far I have a couple memory bins for the kids.  They hold artwork, baby souvenirs, birthday cards, and anything else that I thought was important to keep.  I have thoughts in mind about what sorts of clothes I might want to grab out of the dozen bins in the basement.  Definitely one of Carter's tiny newborn outfits, the boys' Christening outfit, Jacob's first baseball cap, and a couple of favorite shirts that have stood out to me over the years.  But what about the toys?  There will be animals, no doubt.  The Legos, Playmobil, and Little People are keepers.  I'll keep around the Incrediblock and the Peek-a-Blocks because they're pretty cool and universal.  If it survives Carter, Jacob's Imaginext Batcave might survive, though it's a pain to store, so maybe not.  We have so many toys around here, but how much am I willing to keep around?  What will mean the most to them 20 or 30 years from now? 

This experience has definitely been food for thought.  It's hard to encapsulate your childhood (or your child's) into a handful of toys, outfits, or keepsakes, but I guess we have to give it a try, just so we have something to hang on to (literally) when the rest of it fades away.