Friday, September 30, 2016

Forced Fun

I guess it's been one of those weeks where I haven't taken the time to blog.  I almost always have the urge to write and be creative, but sometimes busyness and exhaustion take over.  I couldn't even get through a Google search before nodding off the other night, let alone a blog post!  On top of that, my lunch hours have been a little crazy this week.  Shopping on one day, a birthday lunch for a co-worker on another, and a lunch-and-learn on another, so blogging has taken a back seat.  Oh, and I've also been doing a lot of Googling and webcam searching to follow my parents on their European vacation.  It's also Oktoberfest (which my parents got to stop in at!) so I always try to check in there during my lunch, too.  But otherwise it's been a pretty quiet week overall, I guess.  I had the boys solo on Monday night and part of Tuesday night, and while it's never uneventful, it all went pretty smoothly.  Carter has been doing much better behavior-wise at daycare (ahhh, just jinxed it) and while Jacob has had a fairly steady stream of minor issues with school (what else is new?), nothing has been major.  I think he's still adjusting to the volume of homework and his teacher's expectations, but nothing to panic about yet.  Craig had his endoscopy today, to get at the root of his stomach issues.  I was more excited about that until I got the bill for mine.  Ugh.  But it was important that he got it done, and it turns out that he's got a bit of an ulcer issue going on, which is actually what we expected it might be.  I'm still waiting for my follow-up testing but I'm convinced gluten isn't my problem because I have eaten plenty of it without any clear issues.  Fatty stuff, however, seems to cause me a little more discomfort so who knows what's ultimately causing the inflammation.  The reflux is on and off.  Some days it's worse, some days it doesn't bother me at all.  I'm nearly convinced it's stress.

On the bright side, fall is getting further into full swing.  The weather has been on board for a couple days with sudden coolness, but I suppose it could be worse.  We'll be getting into pumpkin patches and leaf peeping soon, which is always fun.  And the Halloween decor should come out this weekend, which always makes me happy.

When I left off last weekend after my whirlwind Saturday of reorganization, we had some plans for Sunday.  We went to church as usual, then we headed to Chipotle for their special kids-eat-free Sunday.  It was something they were doing for September and I really hope they bring it back.  It was a great opportunity to take Jacob there and see if he liked it, without risking $5 on his meal.  Carter can be pretty picky in his own right, so it was nice to not worry about him not eating either.  It took a little finagling when we got there to find something they'd both like, as the chicken and steak are spicy, but Jacob settled on the carnitas (pork) and Carter ended up with the cheese quesadilla.  When I said Jacob was gluten-free, they launched right into his corn tortillas and they seemed ready for that request.  I opted for a salad this time, which I never do, only because I'd had a Qdoba burrito a few days earlier and because I wanted to see if I missed the tortilla in case I have to go gluten-free.  I missed it a little, but not as much as I thought!  And as for Jacob, he loved it!  The pork by itself didn't delight him, but all together with cheese and a little lettuce, he was on board!  Carter seemed to like his quesadilla, too, so overall it was a great success!  So awesome to have another popular chain to add to our list--for traveling purposes, especially!

After that we headed to my random mission for the day--the Helmer Nature Center.  It's basically a nature preserve.  I believe there are usually guides and things like that, but it was pretty quiet when we got there. Carter fell asleep on the way there (ugh) and Jacob complained and insisted he wasn't getting out of the car.  Even Craig was a little iffy about it because he wanted to be watching the Bills' game--which, it turned out, wouldn't have been a waste of time like it usually is!  But I insisted we do something after multiple weekends of nothingness.  I wanted to see and do something different.  So we did.  At least it was a gorgeous day for a walk in the woods.

I took this picture across a chasm, but I was so struck by how that tree looked almost fake.  The grooves were so clear from so far away, and it really stood out among other trees.
We wound around the trails, honestly not seeing much of note.  We saw some squirrels and a couple birds, but that was it.  We did see some beetles swarmed on the pods of a plant (ewww) and I did see some rather impressive shelf fungi, but any wildflowers were gone and leaves haven't really changed yet, so there wasn't much to see.  The kids weren't impressed, so we just tried to finish off the trail and get back out to the sports fields nearby, since that's where the kids really wanted to go.

We did come to this bridge and Jacob wanted to jump on it to test it out Indiana Jones-style...and I think he's sort of airborne in this picture...

I also tried to get a good picture of both kids, but this was about as good as it gets since they move around so much...

Strong guys!  The thing in Carter's hand is a plastic "clapper" toy that he got at church that morning at the kid version of the church's campaign kickoff celebration.  It was his constant companion until he took it into daycare and it fell apart and somehow disappeared.  At least he hasn't been asking for it.
We finally came up to this section near the end of the trail that had a swampy area with a little deck.  It looked pretty mysterious and majestic.

This picture has been adjusted a little bit via Instagram, but I liked how it highlighted the green plants in the water.

The water was a bit murky, but we did get to see a giant tadpole!  The head had to be at least the size of a penny or dime.  I guess I forgot they might be that big at some point before they get their arms and legs and lose their tail!

The boys were happy to get back out of the woods and run around a nearby baseball diamond.  Craig found a couple lost balls in the weeds nearby, but after a little while it was time to go home.  It wasn't exactly our most successful outing, but I felt better that at least we tried.  We did something...even if it wasn't the best thing.

Another weekend is ahead of us and we have some ideas again, so we'll see how they go!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mental Block = Clutter Buster

Today was another Saturday without a plan, and I was determined to get us out of the house so we didn't drive one another nuts.  We've had far too many Saturdays lately that go according to this schedule:

7:30 - Kids up, Jacob plays with his iPad, Carter attempts to come into our room to watch TV
7:30 - 9:30 - Carter flops around on our bed, brings in toys, watches shows, and we just try to sleep through it
9:30 - Kids and I go down for breakfast, Craig gets a little more sleep
10:30 - Craig wakes up and keeps an eye on the kids while I get in an elliptical session and then shower
12:00 - By now everyone is dressed and ready for the day, and usually Jacob is outside playing lacrosse
12:30 - A generally uninteresting lunch
1:00 - Carter is watching shows, Jacob has retreated to the iPad or gone back outside, and Craig and I are about ready for a nap...but are usually watching TV or checking social media instead
3:00 - After a lot of putzing around the house and trying to think of something to do, we're stumped and realize that anything we want to do probably won't work that late in the day

Part of the problem is that now that it's so dark so early, evening activities are harder.  It was also downright cold tonight, so the soccer game we were pondering going to would have been pretty darn chilly and no doubt short-lived.  Pretty much the only deviation from the above schedule today was that Carter slept until 8:30, so we had a little break there.  But the rest of the day went according to schedule, and we missed yet another opportunity.  Sigh.  We just don't know what to do.  If it was the apple festival weekend, we'd go wander around.  If it was leaf peeping season, we'd go to Letchworth.  If it was October, we'd go to the pumpkin patch.  But for some reason we've had a heck of a time getting more creative than a park or playground.  So we just end up not going anywhere, usually because one kid or another does something obnoxious and all motivation evaporates.  And to make matters worse, now that Carter isn't napping, he gets extra sleepy if he's watching TV around 5pm, and usually ends up being a little crazy after that if we can keep him awake.  And if we can't keep him awake, it's a disaster.  Last time, if you will recall, he peed his pants two days in a row in the post-hour-long-nap grogginess.  In general, weekend days have been rough.  On the bright side, I have a tentative plan for tomorrow.  Fingers crossed the kids don't make me so crazy that we abort the mission.  We already had a trip to Chipotle planned tomorrow so we can figure out if Jacob (and Carter) can find something he likes there.  It would be huge to have another gluten-free-friendly, omnipresent chain in our back pocket!  The chicken was too spicy for Jacob a couple years ago, but maybe the pork will work?

Anyway, because this house is making me crazy, today it went to a whole new level and I took it out on the clutter.  You know how they say that people suffering from anorexia often get that way because they're looking to control something in their life, and food is it?  I feel that way in certain areas of my life, particularly as things with Jacob get more difficult and now as Carter has picked up a terrible threenager attitude.  Since I can't seem to control my kids, instead I will try to look like I have things under control by dressing nicely for work or posting cool pictures on Instagram or capturing and sharing a rare happy family moment here.  Well, today it manifested itself in psycho-level project undertaking.

I baked gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  I fixed something on a tank top that's been waiting on my bed for weeks.  I did a load of laundry.  I dug up a plant outside that I thought was a perennial but was an annual, since it's getting cold at night and I wanted to keep it alive in the house.  I looked through the hand-me-down bins to find more pajamas (only two pairs) and socks (none) for Carter.  I looked through my nostalgia bins in the crawl space to refresh my memory of what's in them and look for one thing I wanted to show Carter (found it). 

I disassembled my broken wardrobe (one of those vinyl zip-up ones with the metal tube frame--it's the second one I've broken because my winter clothes are heavy) and tried to set up a garment rack we had tucked away to see if that would work instead.  It did not, so then I turned my attention to our cedar closet and made room for my stuff in there by moving out a few Halloween costumes and asking Craig to look through the many coats he had there.  He has always gotten at least one per season, per sport, so he had a bunch.  He set a few aside for donation or passing along, and moved other ones to the garment rack as they'll work better there than my clothes did. 

I measured in Carter's room to see if it would be feasible to move Jacob's furniture in there.  Jacob wants a big kid metal bed, and in theory Jacob's furniture style is what I want for Carter's room anyway.  However, Carter's room is small and really not conducive to anything because of the window, vent, and outlet placements.  The bed on one wall threatens to block the entrance a bit and interferes with the window curtains.  The bed on either of the other two walls makes access to the closet difficult, and one of those blocks the vent and the other blocks an important outlet, and with a platform bed that just doesn't work.  So I'm not sure anything will work.  At best we could just put the headboard into storage and reclaim a foot of space, but it's still tough. 

At one point Carter refused to pick up the toys all over his floor, and after I threatened to take them away (inspired by a brave mom at my moms' group who boxed up her kids' toys and is making them earn them back one by one), he told me to take them, so I did.  They joined his Batcave in the basement, since that was taken away due to behavior about a week ago.  But at least his room looks nice and clean right now!  I also divided up his Hot Wheels cars, other vehicles, and other characters/toys into separate bins in the living room.  We'll see how long we can keep them organized like that.  Ha!

I then cleaned up the coloring stuff that had been on the dining room table all week, then organized the bin that holds all of the coloring materials.  That led to me looking through the basket of drawing stuff Jacob received around the time of his surgery, and I moved that entire basket up to his room.  I moved a couple things he doesn't use out of his room down with the rest of the coloring stuff, at which point I decided I also needed to look through the basket of coloring books in the living room that has sat pretty much untouched for a year or so.  I cleared out a pile of books that had been used up by Jacob, along with a ton of old Lego magazines.  I moved the reorganized basket out of the living room and into the dining room with the other coloring stuff.

Then I realized I really needed to organize my desk, for the second time in a couple years.  It just gets overwhelmed easily because the drawers aren't that big.  Oh, and after thinking about the furniture situation in the kids' rooms earlier in the day, then leaving stuff on the kids' table in Jacob's room that he barely uses anymore, I was thinking that at some point it might be wise to get a desk up in Jacob's room because he will need a homework spot.  But at least I have some time to think about that.  Maybe he can just have mine and I'll get a classier one, or maybe we will find a cooler one for him.  Anyway, I reorganized the whole desk for better access to the stuff I need, moved a giant stash of colored scrap paper and kids stickers (all of the ones from the doctor, goodie bags, stores, etc.,) in with the coloring stuff, and made it generally more pleasant to access. 

I fixed a wobbly tray table holder.  I started looking through our front closet, as I knew there were extra coats in there (along with outgrown boots and such), but only got around to grouping more of Craig's coats for review.  I repotted a small plant in my kitchen.  I condensed all of the Pez dispensers to one bigger cup.  I started an art project that's been waiting for months, one to transform a super-cheesy Christmas decoration we won in a raffle.  It's a wooden reindeer with two large candle holders that said, "On Dasher, on Dancer, on MasterCard and Visa!"  It wasn't a bad decoration without that saying, so I had been planning to remove/paint over the saying.  I decided today was the day to paint it, and I decided I might do a speckled layer of gold spray paint after I'm happy with the brown.

I feel like I might even be forgetting a couple tasks, and believe it or not I still have more on my list, but the day basically went like the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" books.  One thing led to another, and instead of putting it off again, I finally just did it.  All of it.  Of course, that meant not a lot of quality time with the kids, which I feel bad about, but I'm hoping the combined lower level of stress from no longer looking at clutter and unfinished projects will benefit everyone in the long run.  To be honest, we didn't get rid of much, but I organized what we had and hopefully increased the potential for those items to get used, which is equally important to me.  I still have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks--changing around Carter's seasonal clothes, figuring out the furniture situation, planning for Halloween, and scheduling those fun October weekends, but it felt good to get a few things accomplished. 

Fingers crossed for tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Health and Stuff

I guess it's been a pretty quiet few days around our house.  We had an uneventful weekend--probably too uneventful, as I hate wasting nice weather at this stage--but at least the kid stuff was also relatively uneventful.  There were moments where things actually felt functional.  A couple times I caught Jacob actively being nice to Carter, which is a major rarity.  Like, he shared with him.  WHAT?!  I made sure to compliment him on it, as it was so nice to see.  The other night he told me he likes Carter, which I still find a bit doubtful given continued iffy behavior toward him, but perhaps that single moment can grow to more.  Or maybe he was just saying it for some sort of manipulative purpose, but I can hope.

Late last Thursday night I checked my email before bed and the portal on my PCP's website had an update.  Sure enough, it was the lab report from my endoscopy.  I read through it and my heart sank when I saw one reading that was slightly above normal and could indicate Celiac Disease.  That reading was of the intraepithelial lymphocytes, which indicates some inflammation.  It wasn't super high, though.  I've seen the Celiac cutoff anywhere from 20-30 in the massive amount of Googling, and my reading was a 29.  However, there was no damage to the villi, which is the main telltale sign of Celiac Disease.  That's not to say that it couldn't be coming, that it's just not at that stage yet.  Yet my bloodwork prior to this was a massive negative (2.8 where the cutoff was 20 or above), so it's not quite clear how those two things co-exist.  As I've said, I've done an embarrassing amount of Googling since I got those results, and I came up with a long list of questions for my follow-up with the GI doctor, which I lucked out in getting an appointment yesterday thanks to a cancellation.

My mind and body have been making me a little nuts since the results came in, as I've been scrutinizing everything I've eaten and how I feel after.  I'm hypersensitive to every little twinge, and I overanalyze everything.  I honestly feel like I did after Jacob got his initial bloodwork but before his biopsy, when he had to keep eating gluten to keep the results valid.  I felt guilty every single time I fed him gluten.  I knew it was probably awful for him, I knew it would probably hurt him, but at that point we weren't allowed to put him on the diet so I just lived in guilt for a month.  It's hard to believe, by the way, that we hit the three-year anniversary the other day of the phone call we got while at Disney, the one that changed our lives forever.  And now three years later, against all odds, I'm dealing with this.  And yet, I have minimal to no symptoms outside of the lymphocytes and the reflux, which could honestly each have other causes.  There aren't a lot of other causes for the lymphocytes, but I did see some literature that indicates that proton pump inhibitors could increase the counts, and I do take one of those.  Whether that's enough to do that on its own, I don't know.  I do find it odd that I've had some form of reflux symptoms for at least two years, if not more, and if that's supposed to be caused by Celiac, how would I not already have damage?  Jacob had stomach aches for six months and had damage, but maybe he had other less obvious symptoms before that?  It's very confusing.

My visit with the doctor didn't really clear anything up, but it made me feel a little better.  She confirmed that she can't make a Celiac diagnosis without damage to the villi.  But there is still inflammation there, which we need to figure out.  It can be caused by a few different things, the most ideal of which is an overgrowth of bacteria.  It sounded like she couldn't really link the reflux to anything at this point, so I'll just have to deal with that for now, which is fine. 

But now I'm in line for a slew of additional testing.  One will test for the bacteria overgrowth.  Another round of blood tests will check all of the Celiac testing I already had done, along with a few others that aren't normally done anymore because the other test usually tells the whole story.  However, one of my levels was a little low, which can impact the main test result.  Technically my level was not low enough to impact the results, but it was still enough of a blip that it's worth retesting and adding a few more.  Beyond that, we're also going to do genetic testing.  If my test shows up negative, it's a 99% chance I won't get Celiac.  If it's positive, it's not a sure thing I will, but it's a higher likelihood.  But, given Jacob's diagnosis, I'd almost have to think mine is positive.  It'll take a while to get these going and get the results, so we're status quo for now.

Of course, like I said, I've been scrutinizing my body since, and of course I worry when I've eaten gluten and feel something odd.  But is just gas?  Is it just the inflammation causing some trouble?  Is it all in my head because I'm stressed out and nervous?  Or am I on the path to Celiac Disease after all?  And if that's not enough, now I'm wondering a bit about Carter's bloodwork that he had done for Celiac Disease, and I'm wondering if his is reflecting the full story.  He's not actively complaining about his stomach at this point, but when I ask him he often says it's still yucky.  So who knows what's up there.  We still have an appointment for him next week, though I worry because they really wanted me to keep a food diary and I haven't...only because there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it bothering him.

On the bright side, the doctor was very supportive of my idea to get chiropractic work and/or acupuncture to work on both my taste/smell issues and the reflux.  I sort of doubt it will work, but it's worth a try.  And allergy shots are up next, once we get past the worst of allergy season and I'm not afraid to go off allergy medicine to get the one last test I need (for the one thing I'm not allergic to)before starting shots.  Hopefully that can improve some issues, too.  I guess you could say that I'm on a mission to fix all the things right now.  I suppose I was waiting for the kids' issues to lighten up, but that may never happen, so I need to start taking care of myself. 

On top of that, Craig is heading to my GI doctor on Friday to follow up after his little ER visit a couple weeks ago.  I'm guessing an endoscopy is in his future, too.  Hopefully she can figure out what's up with him easier than she has with me.  We're falling apart, apparently. 

So that's where things stand.  Fun stuff, huh?  Hopefully we'll get back to regularly scheduled parenting sometime soon. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Down Time

Yesterday morning, as I was laying on a medical bed with an IV in my arm, I realized the ridiculousness that motherhood creates when it comes to down time.  Between parenthood and work and being a wife, sometimes it's hard to get quiet time alone where there isn't some sort of demand on your time or attention.  But it's always surprising to realize what random things--even things that are normally inconveniences--turn into calming "me time".  Here is my random list:

1) The five minutes I had to wait for the nurse to take me back for my endoscopy, despite having an IV in my arm and a hospital gown on.  At least they let me keep my pants.

2) Waiting at the doctor's office

3) Being stuck in the drive-thru

4) A shower that takes place before the kids are awake

5) Using the bathroom without any kids around

6) Driving/flying long, boring distances alone; Bonus points if I get to stop somewhere cool or have a good book to read in the airport.

7) Staring blankly out the window at work while my frozen meal cooks in the microwave

8) Waiting in the car for anything, like when I get to my mom's group a few minutes too early

9) Working out alone, although this one sometimes falls into the "demand" category as I don't always want to do it.  But when it feels like something I really want to get out and do, like when it is a beautiful day for a run or when I need the stress release of a tough workout, it is wonderful "me time".

10) Washing dishes, although some days it is definitely more of a pain than any form of relaxing.  But when I need a break from the kids' craziness, sending everyone back out into the living room or outside while I wash dishes can be a few minutes of unexpected bliss.

In all of these cases, just those few stolen minutes of quiet, without anyone calling my name or climbing on me, or asking me to do something, or without me having to worry that the kids are going to destroy something or one another, is relaxing.  It's ridiculous, actually, and is probably a sad reflection on how exhausting motherhood can be sometimes.  To be able to find joy in daily annoyances, particularly for someone who isn't exactly patient, is pretty incredible. 

What's more, despite the sadness of the many funerals I've attended this year, the fact that I've been able to do them without kids--to travel, mourn, and catch up with family uninterrupted--has been its own type of escape.  That seems awful given the circumstances, but I think any change from the daily grind can be refreshing, even if it is tinged with sadness.  It's not a bad thing to get a reminder of how precious life is, and to remember how important it is to embrace life--despite its challenges--and appreciate what we have while we have it.  The chance to get that perspective is so rare, and it took motherhood to get me to realize how necessary it is.  So I find moments in which to do it, at the most random of times. 

Parenthood is funny sometimes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Big Catch-Up

So, with everything that's been going on lately, from a funeral to school starting to random medical stuff, I got a little lax in posting pictures.  So here is a big wrap-up from the past two weeks.

First, I don't know if I mentioned that for my birthday the boys gave me a lacrosse stick.  Jacob had been wanting me to have one so I can play with him, and sure enough, that was my present.  Normally I'd be a little annoyed that my gift benefited him (since it seems like he's always getting something new--though most of the time it's stuff he needs like lacrosse equipment or clothes, but still...), but because I know we need more bonding time and I know there was a heartfelt reason behind it, I'm good with it.  I'm not quite at his speed, of course, but we've played a couple times.  The guys also gave me flowers that Jacob picked out. 
I love the hydrangea since that was one of the main flowers at our wedding, but that white one on the left has been so gorgeous and it's still lovely two weeks later!
Craig's parents gave me a pretty fall bouquet with sunflowers in it, but this flower was my favorite!  I am drawn to these wherever we go because they're so intricate and vibrant!

The night before school started, the same night Craig went to the emergency room, I decided we needed a fun night.  We went to the frozen yogurt shop for dinner, then stopped at the playground outside Jacob's new school so he could play basketball and Carter could play.
Such a big kid, climbing the faux rock wall all by himself...

Crazy static hair from the slide!

When did he get so big?!

Being a tough guy...with his school in the background!

Carter climbed this no problem, but wasn't quite sure what to do when he got to the top!

Basketball!  I wish it didn't overlap with lacrosse season because I think he'd do great on a basketball team!  He got a lot of practice at camp this summer.
The next morning marked the first day of school...

Such a difference from when we did this for the first time three years ago!
School seems to be going OK so far.  Nothing outstanding, but not awful either.  He's got a couple kids in his class (though not the top two he wanted) and while he's not enthralled with anything yet, I think this year has some stuff he might really get into.  He's already starting basic multiplication and division, which surprised me.  He had one note home on Friday after getting caught throwing (someone else's) orange peels at lunch.  I think it was a group effort, but he got caught and lost his recess time.  He did better yesterday.  I'm still a bit annoyed with the teacher so far as we haven't gotten a lot of information at all.  I know Jacob is in third grade and should be capable of sharing info, but I think that's wishful thinking with eight-year-old boys.  I'm not clear on our homework responsibilities other than being told we need to sign this notebook every night.  We used to have to read, and some pledge we signed talked about 15 minutes of reading (us reading to our child, though) each night.  So I'm still a little perplexed about that.  I need to email her to mention the Celiac stuff, though we already have food event #1 next Friday, a school-wide ice cream social in which the ice cream is encased in ice cream sandwiches, which of course he can't eat.  Sigh.  Communication has just been minimal, and while that may be something I need to get used to as he gets older, it's hard to stay involved when it's lacking.

Ironically, we're having better communication at Carter's daycare since management has been changed over (again), but things are still pretty inconsistent overall and it's bugging me.  After the owner died a couple months back, we heard NOTHING about it for a long time.  Eventually we got a letter stating that the owner's girlfriend, who was supposed to run it with the owner's ex-wife (the original owner), had left.  Then our director moved up to corporate and we got a new director, who I actually like, but they've been switching teachers constantly and it's making me crazy because I rarely know who to talk to about Carter.  I need to get him out of there, but his behavior has been iffy lately so I worry about a major change.

On the good news front, his Celiac test came back negative.  It was a huge relief, but of course now I need to figure out what might have been causing the stomach issues.  He hasn't complained as much lately, but it's like pulling teeth to figure out when it's bothering him or to get more details.  He's actually had a decent number of potty accidents lately, which may have been bad luck (his sleeping schedule was all off this weekend, and two of the accidents were after accidental late afternoon naps--more in a bit), but I've started to wonder if maybe he has some sort of infection that's not showing many symptoms.  I'm keeping an eye on it and asking lots of questions.

On Sunday we decided to skip the torture of watching the Bills and take advantage of nice early fall weather at a nearby park.  This one normally has a spray park, but that season is over and Carter loved their playground.  He was actually checking out the spray park section at one point, and when I told him where water usually comes out, he high-tailed it out of there!  He had so much fun while Craig and Jacob played basketball, soccer, and football nearby.

He climbed it all by himself, zero help from me.

I love his smiles, but that handsome face is so perfect!

He climbed up through this "tube" and was so proud of himself.

He liked being taller than Mommy!

He did venture back to the spray park long enough to ride the dolphin.

No motion sickness here!  This kid loves to swing!

Another tube to climb up.  This one was high and more complex, and he needed just a little help to figure out how to get from the bars to the platform.  And then he did it about four more times completely on his own.  Amazing to watch him learn.

We finally took a break from the playground to go see Jacob and Craig, who by then were on a nearby soccer field.  Eventually we worked our way over to a bigger football field and the boys turned their attention to kicking field goals.  You can see Jacob in black and red trying to kick one below.  Carter is under the goal post.

Then Craig started kicking.  He did three or four kicks and only made the last one, which was a little shorter.  But he gave it a valiant effort!

We had a nice time at the park, but the weekend in general was pretty exhausting as Jacob had a couple rough patches and Carter wasn't on his best behavior, either.  In fact, both days Carter was watching a show before dinnertime with Craig on the couch and he fell asleep.  And both days, when we finally got him awake again--which was a battle--he was still so tired he didn't bother to get up to visit the yeah, we had a couple incidents, one of which was ON me.  I'm very strongly debating ditching naps at daycare so he will go to bed on time and get a better, more restorative night's sleep.  Hopefully that will help his behavior, which has been pretty up and down at daycare, but we'll see.  I worry about taking away two hours of sleep to gain one, but staying up until 10pm isn't ideal either.  Worth a try, I guess, but avoiding the 6pm conk-out is scary!

I guess the only other thing is that tomorrow morning is my endoscopy, so we'll see how that goes!  More soon...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Long Goodbye

Yesterday we laid to rest my Uncle Bruce.  He had suffered from dementia for the last few years, but his passing was rather sudden, caused by a brain bleed.  On one hand, the suddenness was shocking and sad.  On the other, if this wouldn't have happened, he could have hung in there for a long time and the dementia only would have progressed.  His quality of life was pretty limited at this point so in many ways it is a blessing, but clearly it's heartbreaking no matter what. 

I hadn't seen him in probably at least three years, if not four.  I know he came to Jacob's 4th birthday party, when some of the memory issues were just starting.  I'm guessing we might have had some sort of Christmas gathering later that year, but that might have been it.  I had been warned later on that kids could agitate him, and then past a certain point he probably wouldn't have known me anyway.  So I just never went.  And now, of course, I feel guilty about that.  But I suppose that's more my issue, and chances are he never noticed my absence.  But it makes me sad anyway.  He was actually supposed to come to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' this past year, but he ended up not wanting to get out of bed that day, so it never happened.  And now, less than a year later, he's gone. 

I've thought a lot over the past few days about his absence from family gatherings over the past few years.  I probably missed him less than I should have, and I tried to figure out why.  But then I realized we haven't had many family gatherings over the last few years.  Things started winding down when my grandma died five years ago.  Suddenly Christmas gatherings were a little less urgent, and her birthday was no longer an excuse to get together.  At the same time, families had grown and everyone had their respective groups to eat holiday meals with.  Getting us all together for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would have made for too big a group.  Our family reunions died out a year or two prior to my grandma's passing, too, and if you add in my being out of town to begin with, the get-togethers on that side of the family were just too few and far between to get a real feel for how they should be after she died, let alone once my uncle was no longer able to attend. 

I guess the first time his absence struck me was when we went to my cousin's funeral in April and he was the only sibling in that generation not there.  It felt strange to know that he was probably oblivious to everything going on halfway across the country.  Ironically, one of the moments that made us smile during this funeral was my aunt's realization that her daughter Kristi and Uncle Bruce probably ran into each other in heaven and both said, "Wait, what are YOU doing here?"  My aunt and uncle's bereavement since Kristi's death has been a very painful process, and that little thought at least made them smile for a minute.  But his absence was felt again earlier this summer when my Great-Aunt Lois passed away, and again, he was the only one from that generation (cousins included) not there.  It just felt like something was off, like the balance of the universe had shifted somehow. 

But it wasn't until I started seeing pictures of the "old" him that made the rest of the memories start flooding back more clearly.  When I saw pictures of him in his prime, I could picture his smile and laugh and larger-than-life presence.  I remembered spending long summer days on his boat, coasting through the Niagara River and Lake Erie.  I remembered going to the last Sabres game at the Aud in Buffalo with him, which was my beloved high school graduation gift from him.  I remembered his love of Christmas, how he would decorate his house like crazy, wrap his gifts in ancient wrapping paper bought at an after-Christmas sale twenty years earlier, and have us over to his house on Christmas Eve for cheese, crackers, pepperoni, and shrimp cocktail.  I remember how there were times where he was on duty as a firefighter during holidays, meaning he was sadly absent for one get-together or another.  I remember the smile on his face when he would unwrap the chocolate covered cherries and the pin-up calendar he'd get for Christmas every year--and how that calendar would end up in his garage workshop where he fixed lawn mowers and snowblowers.  I remember how he became a doggy daddy to the dog he bought for his daughter, and how Sherlock became his constant companion.  I will always remember his love of food, how he always got the biggest piece of cake, was famous for ordering double lobster on cruises with my parents, and pretended to steal the entire dish of "white salad" (a creamy jello salad that was a family staple) at every family dinner.  His belly could have gone up against any pregnant woman's, but despite terrible family heart history, his cholesterol was fine.  Based on what everyone used to say, he also seemed to be the best insight into what my grandpa was like.  He died before I turned two, so I don't really remember him, but there were times my grandma or others would call my uncle by his father's name because of a certain familiar behavior or two.  I'm sure there are more memories that I haven't even thought of yet, and I haven't looked through my photo albums either, though I know there are a few pics of him scattered here and there from his role as my godfather. 

As I drove into town for the funeral, I decided that this situation was sort of like watching a show on DVD or the DVR.  When he started to go downhill, it was like someone pressed the pause button.  He was still there, just like the picture on screen, but from my perspective the action was on hold as I never saw him in person.  But his death was like the stop button.  Not only was the action gone, but the picture disappeared as well, and that finality was what made it all so sad.  It's probably sadder that dementia got him in the first place, but knowing his soul had left this earth was so final.  I suppose there was a degree of mourning that was or should have been happening these past few years, knowing that he was no longer the same man I remembered, but his death brought it all forth at once over these past few days.  The delayed goodbye feel to this one was a strange sensation after one tragic funeral and one best-case-scenario funeral over the past six months.  This one was definitely in an odd spot in between.

Still, it was nice to see family.  Some were ones I've only seen at one or both of those other two funerals, and some I haven't seen in many years.  That's not the reason you want to reconnect, but you might as well make the most of it.  We've started saying that we need to resurrect some sort of family gathering so we can meet up at something that isn't a funeral.  Times like this remind you how important those connections are, but when we get back to reality it's hard to make it a priority.  I also got to chat with my mom's cousin and his wife who had a difficult child of their own (and that's putting it lightly), and it was nice to talk with people who know what it's like to feel the lack of control, the helplessness, the panic, and the complete sense of dread that we go through when Jacob is at his worst.  Their issues were quite different from ours, but there are parallels and it was strangely comforting to talk with someone who's "been there", even though their story did not end well.  That connection was a vivid reminder of how isolating this experience can be.

My uncle's sudden passing has definitely left a lot of things up in the air, so the journey definitely isn't over for my family.  The folks closest to the situation can definitely use your prayers.  It hasn't really sunk in for my aunt, and she is not in great health to begin with.  There are still some tough decisions that will need to be made, and the mourning process has just begun.  It's hard to believe that Uncle Bruce is gone, but I'm glad to know he's healthy, whole, and happy up in heaven.     

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

News & Notes, When It Rains, It Pours Edition's been a bit of a rough week and it's barely mid-week.  It actually all started last Friday, when I decided that I needed to take Carter in for bloodwork to check him for Celiac.  He'd been complaining about his belly for about a week.  It didn't seem like it was in a lot of pain, but he indicated that he felt full a lot and said it felt bad.  When it kept happening all week, I decided it was worth checking.  So when I got out of work early before the long weekend, I picked up Carter, picked up the paperwork, and took him to get poked.  He didn't enjoy it but he mostly just said, "Owww," and whimpered a bit.  He didn't cry, and I was proud of him for being a tough guy.  We're still waiting for the results.  He hasn't complained as much the last couple days, but we'll see what they say.

We went to Buffalo for Craig's dad's birthday on Saturday.  It was a nice day and as a whole the boys were pretty decent.  We came back Sunday afternoon and had a pretty low key day.  Monday morning started out pretty horribly with some bad news from my side of the family (more in a bit) and then Jacob had a really, really bad outburst.  Like, bad enough we each recorded bits of it to show our therapist.  It really seems to be some sort of panic attack or anxiety attack because it's clear he loses all control when it's happening, and then can be totally fine later.  In fact, by the evening Jacob and I had a delightful trip to Target to finish his school shopping, and you'd never know he'd said a ton of horrible things to me earlier in the day.  We have such a long road ahead and he's still extremely resistant to any sort of help.

This morning I was supposed to be home with him before handing him off to Craig for the afternoon and heading into work.  I woke up to the news that my uncle, my mom's oldest brother and my godfather, had passed away.  He has been suffering from dementia for a number of years now--he started far too young--and a brain bleed put him in the hospital the other day.  It was only a matter of time, and he passed late last night.  It's sad, although the version of him that we all knew and loved disappeared a while ago.  I hadn't seen him in years, actually, because kids tended to agitate him and it was hard to be in town without my kids to manage.  Not that he'd have recognized me anyway by that point.  His quality of life was low, and the family was rapidly approaching making some tough decisions, so this is probably a blessing.  I will always remember his jolly but tough nature, his tendency to throw people in Grandma's pool, his love of food, his long service as a firefighter, fun summer days on his boat, the dog he bought for my cousin that turned into his next "child", his amazing Christmas decorations, and the fact that he took me to the last Sabres' game in the Aud as my high school graduation gift--which is the greatest gift he could have ever given me, as those moments will live with me forever. 

So, just when I thought that was going to complicate a busy week even further, Craig called and said he was going to the ER to get himself checked out.  Over the past couple weeks he's been having chest pains and burning.  When it evolved into a headache and nausea overnight--which was reminiscent of symptoms his cousin's 40-something husband had before he died in his sleep--Craig decided it was time to get it checked.  But unfortunately, since he'd already complained of chest pains and his doctor recommended going to the ER for a full workup, that was his only option.  So after a morning with Jacob, I stopped into work to check in, do a couple things, and pick up my computer, then headed back home to stay with Jacob and work from home.  He went to the hospital.  He had a bunch of tests, but it appears it may be GI related, as his heart testing was all normal.  It was nervewracking and there is still work to be done, but we're thankful it seems minor right now.  Follow-ups soon, though.

Speaking of GI issues, I have an endoscopy next Wednesday to check into my reflux issues.  There's a small chance that it could be gluten-related, even though my bloodwork is negative, but I'm thinking it has more to do with sitting at a desk all day and slumping in a chair at night.  It was better this weekend despite eating plenty that could have made it worse.  I've been wanting to go to the chiropractor for my taste/smell issues for a while, but now I'm thinking maybe that would help reflux, too.  After all, Craig's cousin's son was having issues moving his bowels, and after countless tests, it turned out that getting adjusted regulated his body naturally.  Why couldn't it impact reflux?  So we're both a mess, I guess!

Tomorrow is the first day of school and Jacob is going in blind--no chance to see his room or meet his teacher--so it should be an interesting day by the time he gets picked up for his therapy appointment.  Third grade may be a whole new ballgame in a new school, with ELA testing to prepare for, and potentially more work.  He hasn't really been challenged with projects or anything like that yet, and third grade is when I remember getting work like that, so I guess we'll see.  Amazing to think that in two years Carter will be heading off to Kindergarten (and Jacob to his last year of elementary school).  I know that will be here before we know it.  Heck, four years ago today I posted this post, and it's amazing to think it's been that long...even though we've lived a lifetime of stuff since then.

I'm sure I'll have more to report within the next couple days, so stay tuned...

Friday, September 2, 2016

An Artsy Adventure

On Tuesday I worked from home so I could stay with Jacob, whose camp ended on Monday and is now child-care-free until school starts next Wednesday.  I took Tuesday, Craig took Wednesday, my parents are hanging out with him yesterday, Craig took him to work today (it's a short day), and we'll probably split Tuesday.  Back to this past Tuesday evening, Jacob had a chance to go to a lacrosse thing downtown, and Craig was busy, so it meant that Carter and I had an hour to kill.  I decided that we were going to visit the sculpture garden at the Memorial Art Gallery, which was just a quick drive away.  I have been there before, most notably when I had time to kill after a wedding a couple years ago, and then briefly when I actually visited the museum during my time off work (because that day it was too cold to look at much of anything outside!).  Given that Carter just loves to run, I figured the outdoor space would be perfect for him.  He could run and explore to his heart's content, and I could enjoy the view, as well.

Carter's favorite area revolved around characters like this, but in larger, stone form...
Doesn't this one look so sweet looking up at me?

There were a lot of stone pieces like these, as well as pieces that look like molds for them.

Carter loved climbing in the molds!

"Take my picture, Mommy!"  He's sitting on an arm...

Terrible angle for me, but had to do the selfie after he asked me to sit in the indentation next to him!
Eventually we moved on to another area...
He loved running through this one and hiding from me on the other side!

This one is part of a larger group called "Unicorn Family".  It has a few chairs, a table, and a large lamp that lights at night. 

This is the view from afar...a little phallic, but fun.

I took a picture of this one last time I was there, but I made sure to get a different angle this time, and I loved how it almost disappeared into the sky.
We moved along the front of the gallery into an area I hadn't explored previously.  There was a walkway with a dense canopy of trees, and I couldn't resist getting Carter running ahead of me (again)...

There was a little mini garden tucked up against the buildings with a few very different sculptures grouped together.
Carter liked banging on these metal cubes because they made "music".

These penguins seem like they would be better off in a zoo somewhere, but look closely and you'll see Carter hiding behind one.  "Look, Mommy, I'm a penguin!"  And later we were penguins together!

Here's the other end of that walkway...I sort of love this picture for its simplicity.
I was intrigued by this horse, because I saw a very similar looking one in Vermont on my work trip last year.  I went so far as to look up the artists to compare, but nope, it appears wood branches just make good horses.

I'd never gone right up to the front of the older part of the gallery, and this entryway was just beautiful!

After Carter spent a while throwing pinecones near the front of the building, we finally wound around the back.  He was fascinated by this one and spent a lot of time throwing sticks through the hole.  Not ideal, but hey, it kept him occupied.  But eventually I had to drag him away because it was almost time to go!

One more stop on our way back before getting a couple more minutes in with the big cement people again.  The metal sculpture is such a contrast to the classic building in the background.

Carter was not happy about leaving, but I didn't want to be late to pick up Jacob because he was in the middle of a city and the last thing I need is for something like that to be another strike against me in his book.  But it was a fun little diversion for an hour and hopefully I can take each of the kids back there (separately) sometime.  I have free admission thanks to my job, and Carter is free, too.  I need them to be on their best behavior, but a little art appreciation is never a bad thing!   I don't know if Carter really appreciated the art itself, but I loved watching him discover each piece in his own way.  This age is so great for stuff like that!