So...post-vacation we came home and had a couple weekdays and a weekend to settle back into life before reality hit on Monday. Craig actually had to work on Thursday and Friday, but the kids and I were home all day in the heat. We mostly just hung out, since I had no desire to take both kids out in public again together anytime soon. Luckily the weather got a little better so the house wasn't super hot for that time, but it was warm and it definitely knocks your patience level down a bit. We did get some pool time in, and the gutters finally got cleaned, and the missing piece of siding got replaced. That felt good to get crossed off the list.
On Saturday we all headed to Buffalo. Craig and Jacob continued on to Canada (again) for a lacrosse game that Craig needed to do some work at, and Carter and I went to my cousin's 30th birthday party. It was good to see my family, and aside from a rough start due to Craig and Jacob leaving and Carter not getting to close the van door himself, he had a great time. There were a few other kids to play with, and he got very creative with the Kan-Jam equipment!
We came home Sunday afternoon and I finally drove the van, without incident, so that was good to get under my belt. Don't ask me to take it anywhere with close quarters, or to park it, but at least we know I can functionally drive it.
The new A/C and furnace has been installed, and while we're not sure it's operating entirely properly yet, the house is definitely more livable. We also got a bee problem taken care of, and had a plumber come fix an issue with our water heater (corrosion on one of the pipes coming out of the top) that was covered under warranty. So, the good news is that we're checking things off the house list...but the bad news is that most of it doesn't come cheap. It's been a rough summer on that front! But now that the air is fixed, hopefully I can start using our other big purchase this summer, the elliptical. Because apparently food has not been in short supply this summer. Ugh.
On Monday we went back to the therapist. We told her about our difficulties during the trip, looked at our treatment plan, and discussed our issues with reward charts/systems (as that was one of the items listed), but we didn't make nearly the kind of progress I would have liked given our current problems. And it's continued to get worse this week, which has me oh-so-tempted to look up our therapist in the university email system and let her know the latest developments. I thought that hurting his brother might bump us up on the urgency scale, but it didn't seem to...but now a new thing (I'd rather not share yet) has us concerned again, and waiting two weeks doesn't seem ideal. I'm really starting to think this is some sort of anxiety-driven issue. It seems like the mere thought of his brother--and especially his presence, particularly in a place he considers special to him--snaps him into crazy mode. The other night when we grabbed a quick dinner after the first night of fall baseball, Jacob freaked out because Carter came. He was agitated all through dinner, to the point he walked out of the restaurant (and yes, Craig followed him). It's so sad that he can't seem to process this stuff properly, and has no desire to. I have no idea what else to do, and it's heartbreaking that my kids can't just enjoy each other's company, and that one's presence is causing the other so much agony. And I still worry what all of this will do to Carter long-term. He's been a trooper so far, but he's getting older and things will definitely start to solidify in his brain soon. He's picked up a nasty hitting/screaming habit when he doesn't get his way, and I feel like some of that comes from Jacob doing it more often recently. In fact, listening in general has become much more of a challenge for Carter. Daycare has noticed, and he's definitely started doing that smile-and-defy thing that makes parents crazy. I don't know if he's picking up on Jacob's behavior, or the attention, or if he's just super overtired from the trip and weeks of sleeping in the basement. Or maybe he's finally gotten into the three-year-old groove. But either way, it's been pretty disappointing to have our sweet kid be not-so-sweet right now.
We said on the trip that unless behavior improved, the only trips we'll be taking in the future will be adults only. That seems harsh, but if the kids make it miserable and they're not appreciating what we're doing anyway, what's the point of taking them? I mean, most of the trip was spent keeping them apart. I ran around taking pictures so we could appreciate some of what we saw after the fact, but we spent so much time playing referee that we certainly didn't make the most of our time. The reason you take kids on vacation in the first place is to expose them to new things and give them memories, but I'm not sure how much of that actually sunk in this time. Jacob still talks about last year's vacation, but this year his main priority at each stop was making it into the gift shop (in addition to making his brother nuts), so I have no idea if he bothered to really take in much amidst his complaining.
It hit me somewhere in the middle of the trip that part of what makes family vacations special is the memories you make with your family, but since Jacob seems to have little affection for us, perhaps it's different for him. I mean, he loves Craig but sometimes I wonder how much of that is tied to Craig's ability to get him things--including access to lacrosse experiences--rather than innate, child-to-parent affection. He's not affectionate at all, with any of us, so it's hard to tell if there are underlying attachments that would remain if the only thing we provided him was very basic love and protection. Anyway, I realized that since he doesn't seem to have much desire to make memories with us in the traditional sense, that buying stuff and associating that with the trip probably just resonates with him more. It's sort of like the love languages thing. He's definitely on the "material gifts" end of things, so I guess that's where he places value for something like a trip, too. It's sad, but that realization probably gave me a tiny percentage more patience with the store thing.
But like I said, at this point I feel like anything more than a day trip or a weekend Buffalo trip to see family is just not in the cards. It's not worth it if we're not enjoying it and they're not even paying attention to what we're seeing. God knows Craig and I would probably benefit more from a vacation together than anything else. Unless I'm forgetting something in my current brain haze, we haven't done a real one since we had kids, honestly. Nothing more than a couple days here or there, and not many of those, either. We could use a real one, definitely. Or maybe down the road it's parent bonding trips--one kid, one parent. I've seen those be successful, too. But I suppose that's twice the hotels and twice the travel costs...or four times, if we each take each kid somewhere. But it's clear that right now the kids can't be together if we want a functional trip, so we need to explore other ideas. They're only kids once, so I hate to withhold experiences and memories from all of us, but we feel very stuck right now.
I wish I had answers for any of this stuff, but I don't. I feel like we've tried so much, with so little to show for it. But we press on. We have to.