Friday, October 28, 2016

Good News, Bad News

When Carter was first born, Jacob pretty much ignored him completely.  He wanted nothing to do with him, and the couple pictures we have of him holding Carter were very forced and done under protest.  He kept his distance and eventually started acting out badly.  As much as I didn't want to blame it on Carter's arrival as the timing didn't really line up--some of the behavior started before Carter was born, and the worst of it happened many months later--three years later I can see how it probably was the main driver behind much of what happened.   If I could go back in time and redo a few things, you can certainly bet I would.

The good news about the ignoring meant that we didn't have a lot of direct confrontation.  We didn't have the older sibling hitting the baby with toys or trying to hug too violently.  But the bad news is that we often have had parallel existences, where I am with Carter and Craig is with Jacob (or, rarely, vice versa), and we never got to enjoy that sibling love thing that I expected would make me melt.  By the time Carter was mobile (meaning he was a threat to Jacob's toys), the ignoring turned into keeping his distance but expressing a general disdain.  After a year or so of that, we started to get into the confrontation phase, which is where we remained up until recently.  That phase featured bolder rejection and lots of arguing all around.  Jacob became unafraid to express his dislike for his brother, and as he became less afraid to get near him, he started getting a bit physical if given the chance.  Luckily we have been able to minimize the damage and keep them mostly separated, but pretty much every moment they were in proximity to each other was miserable for all of us.

And then, within the last few months, Jacob has begun to make an effort to play with Carter.  He'll invite him to play sports or, more recently, Hot Wheels Football.  He'll engage him at the dinner table, which often leads to loud, potty-talk filled ridiculousness.  They know how to ramp each other up, and I'll be the first to admit it can be mentally exhausting.  Rest assured we still have many moments that hearken back to the confrontation phase, many that directly result from Jacob's efforts to play, but at least he's trying.  That is a HUGE step.

Looking back on the ignoring phase, as disappointing as it was, there are moments where it seems so much easier than what we're dealing with now.  We could divide and conquer, and for the most part the only loud times were when Jacob had a meltdown.  It was misery when that happened, but at least we knew our roles and could soldier on through.  But as the boys have started to spend time together, parenting has gotten ten times harder because I feel like a full-time referee.  I feel like I yell constantly--and half the time it's because they're so loud that they wouldn't hear me otherwise.  Here are the top three downsides of this newly discovered sibling togetherness:

1) They can gang up on us - Before it was one-on-one, one kid vs. one parent, and most of the time that was manageable.  But now they can join forces to make our lives that much more challenging.  Whether it's chasing each other around a store, or convincing their sibling to take their side in a parental stand-off (which in their minds means they win 2-1, assuming one of us is alone), or having twice the manpower to destroy the house, they've discovered they can have a partner in crime to give them better odds against the parents.

2) Exposure to "older" issues - When Jacob was growing up, his only set of bad influences came from daycare.  He'd see challenging kids hitting or talking back, and that was his main source of learning those behaviors.  I suppose he saw it in his older cousins once in a while, but their parents are pretty strict so most of the time that stuff got nipped in the bud pretty quickly--either by their parents or by us as we witnessed it happen and could address it immediately.  But for Carter, he has a built-in big kid to learn beyond-his-age behaviors from.  He can see Jacob try to get physical, or talk back, or do things that aren't necessarily appropriate for a three-year-old (or an eight-year-old, but...).  And because Jacob is his brother and they have the same set of parents, it's obvious that Carter sometimes thinks the rules are the same for him.  Ironically, Jacob thinks Carter gets away with everything, but I'd guess Carter things that Jacob does, too.  So, we spend a lot of time in our house trying to help Carter understand that Jacob's behavior is not something he should be emulating.  Despite our best efforts, Carter is a hitter--both at daycare and at home--when he gets angry.  I have no doubt it's at least partly from watching Jacob, who sometimes attempts to get physical with us, and often gets in a parting shot on Carter when something doesn't go his way.  We've also caught Jacob trying to get Carter to say bad words or questionable phrases.  Potty talk runs rampant in our house despite our best efforts, because both of them crack each other up with it, and in their minds, that reward usually outweighs the punishment.  So keeping Carter sweet and acting his age feels nearly impossible right now. 

3) Germ sharing - It seemed like it was rare for us to end up with a string of sickness in our house during the ignoring phase, as Jacob and Carter never got near each other and wouldn't touch each others' stuff.  Now that they're interacting all the time, I'm just waiting for the illnesses to pass back and forth.  We actually got lucky last year, I think, because we had a pretty uneventful winter, illness-wise.  I think Carter ended up with strep once, and that was about the worst of it.  Of course, we had to deal with Jacob's surgery so I think we paid our dues, but they're even more interactive this year so I'm bracing myself.  Both kids had colds this week, but Carter's seemed much worse so I can't tell if it was a shared one.  It'll happen soon enough, though.

Despite all of this, I know there are upsides to this path we're on. If we can weather the current storm, there could be a great long-term result.  In the short term, we can hope that they learn to play nicely together just to give us a break.  One of the things I remember hearing about having a second kid is that they can play together and keep each other occupied.  That has pretty much never happened in our house, and when it has lately it doesn't last long because someone gets hurt or angry pretty quickly.  But if they can ever get to a point where they can play sports, Legos, or Playmobil together without arguing, Craig and I might find ourselves with hours of extra time.  We can only dream.

I truly hope that through these experiences, if Jacob can get to a place where he can deal with Carter's style of play, that he'll realize Carter is worth keeping around.  We used to hear on a daily basis from Jacob how the only way to make him happy and cooperative was to get rid of Carter.  And every time we'd tell him that's not an option.  Lately I feel like I only hear it once a week or so when Jacob gets mad and goes to extremes to make his point.  He has to blame someone, after all, and there are only three other people in the house.  But if all of this is helping him to realize there's a light at the end of the tunnel and "big kid" Carter might turn out to be fun, that would probably be hugely helpful to regain some sort of household harmony.  And of course, if we can get them to that point, that could be just what they need to set the stage for their future relationship as they grow into adults.  I want them to have a good brotherly relationship someday, since they're all each other has once we're gone.  I see how Craig and his brother are together, and I want our boys to have that unbreakable bond, too.  For the record, my brother and I have almost never had much in common, and while we certainly get along fine as adults, we're not exactly great communicators on a regular basis.  But I feel like we had a challenging age/gender combo, and while Jacob and Carter do have a large age gap, the gender bond seems like someday it should beat all of that out.  So that's why I'm using Craig and his brother as my example.

Anyway, it makes me hopeful that we've seen some progress from Jacob on this front, but we still have a long way to go.  It's still very hard to do anything together as a family without risking some sort of argument or minor physical altercation, but hopefully Jacob will gain more patience and start to understand the importance of having a brother and living as a happy family.  It's not something we can force on him--he has to want it and want to make an effort.  We will always do what we can to help him get there, but it's really up to him.  So, in the meantime, we wait.  We try to do fun family things, we try to facilitate playtime, and we try to remind both kids how much they're loved.  Hopefully someday it all pays off.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Week in Review

Fall is in full swing now, and we're even getting a peek of winter now, despite there still being a pair of Carter's shorts in last week's laundry.  This morning there was some sort of partially frozen precipitation falling, and they're forecasting a bit of wet snow overnight tonight.  It was only in the low 40s today, which is an extra big shock to the system when we had 70s last week!  But the colors have been lovely, though I think the first round of gorgeous color has subsided a bit and we're back in a phase of mostly yellows and greens until the late-changers start up.  But I did capture this shot outside my office last week...

Saturday was Jacob's first travel lacrosse tournament.  Luckily, it was local.  The bad news is that our weather was miserable.  It had been raining for two days straight prior to the tournament, but I suppose our ongoing drought helped it not be a mud pit at the fields.  It had stopped raining by Saturday morning, but it was only in the 40s with thick clouds and 20 mph winds.  After a busy morning preparing for the second half of our day and figuring out how to bundle up, Carter and I arrived a bit late, had trouble parking, and only saw the end of the first game.  Jacob looked a little less than lively, and when the game was over and he came off the field, we found out why--he was freezing.  Despite having some extra layers, he was still too cold.  He was in tears, shivering, and unwilling to play game two.  It took half of the game and a hat under his helmet, but he finally went back out on the field. 

I'll admit--it was really cold even with a lot of layers.  Carter had his entire body--head included--under a blanket for most of the time we were there.  After game two there was an hour break, but at that point Carter and I left because we were heading to Buffalo for my family's Oktoberfest.  Luckily, Jacob and Craig were able to warm up inside the van for a while, and Jacob added a hoodie under his equipment for the last game, which made a big difference for him as he was right in the action for the last game.  No points, but a nice comeback for him personally after a rough start to the day. 

Despite the cold, Carter and I had a fun time at the Oktoberfest.  My aunt and uncle have a huge yard, and since Carter loves to run, it was a great fit.  There was also a koi pond that he liked visiting, but of course I needed to keep a close eye on him there.  He liked riding on a swing, too.  I love his shrieks and giggles as he swings!  After warming up by a couple fire pits into the evening, we headed back to my parents' house for the night.  After church, lunch, and some playtime on Sunday (while being tortured by the Bills), we headed home. 

While we were gone, Jacob created a new game that he has been obsessed with getting our family to play this week.  It's called Hot Wheels Football, and he made it his mission on Monday to get everything ready for an epic battle that night.   
The "commissioner" and his setup

He set up a doormat made from a piece of the Bills' old turf as the field, and used pieces from various other toys to round out his stadium.  The main stands are from his Playmobil soccer stadium, the yellow stands are from his Club Penguin air hockey rink, the goal post is from a fast food kids' meal toy (I think), and he used a toy storage bucket and a Hot Wheels launcher to create a scoreboard stand that utilized Craig's phone as a timepiece.  He also set up the Little People parking ramp with signs like this one...

And he made banners for the sides of the scoreboard support...
This one features Jim Kelly...

This one has Bruce Smith.  Jacob asked me for another prominent Bill, and that's who I told him.  He remembered the number incorrectly when he made the banner, but he fixed it :)
Here he is with the full setup...notice the stands are full of other cars and he has banners on the field.

The game is sort of like demolition derby with Hot Wheels cars, as two players race three cars each across the field.  One has a little ball and is trying to get to the opposite end zone, and the other ones are trying to block them.  There's definitely a fumbling problem as Hot Wheels truck beds are not deep enough, which leads to some questionable rules that strangely seem to skew toward Jacob.  But he's been so passionate about it, even creating some new banners and a field "tarp" again last night.  He was initially actively trying to involve Carter in this, but it's probably a bit tough for him to follow.  And then last night Carter came home from daycare with a fever and a nasty cold, so Craig and I have both stepped in to play.  It's not always easy to play with Jacob because he's a bit hardcore about things, but we're really trying to honor his passion, as it's fun to watch him take an idea and run with it.  He's been so proud of this.

He actually took down most of his setup tonight to play other sports stuff with Carter, so his effort to play with Carter continues.  I'll write more about the good and the bad of this shift soon.  But for now, I assume we haven't seen the last of Hot Wheels Football just yet...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

So, I was wrong...

Turns out I know nothing about anything health-wise, as I got a call from my doctor this morning that the breath test results came back positive for the small intestine bacterial overgrowth!  Who knew?  The good news is that this pretty much explains away any of the slightly odd test results I've gotten.  It seems like the inflammation, and most likely the slightly iffy iron result and the one slightly off test among all of the other negative Celiac tests, could be a result of this issue.  So, two weeks of antibiotics and it should be cleared up.  From what I've read it does tend to come back, though I have no idea how I'll know that for sure since I didn't really have any symptoms in the first place.  This was really just an accidental finding, courtesy of the endoscopy to explore my reflux, which at this point I'm not even sure is reflux.  It's definitely something called globus, which may be caused by stress, reflux, or a handful of other things.

So, at this point I get to take an antibiotic for two weeks.  After that, depending on what my doctor tells me, I may give my body a week or so to get back to normal and see what that feels like.  After that I may try to go off one of my reflux medicines, the proton-pump inhibitor.  I'm thinking that might even be the cause of this issue, as most of the causes don't seem to apply to me, but "low stomach acid" could.  If my reflux really isn't reflux (or isn't as bad as it seemed), perhaps the lack of stomach acid led to the bacterial issue.  In any event, it's not ideal to be on it long-term anyway, so I need to give it another try.  I'm also thinking I may want to try a probiotic to keep the bacteria in check long-term.  They're not cheap, but it may be worth it.  And hopefully once I know how my body should feel, if the SIBO comes back, at least I might have a chance to know if something has changed.

The good news is that I don't have Celiac Disease at this point.  My genetic testing is still being processed and could be a couple weeks.  At this point it doesn't really mean anything, but it'll be good to know if I have a real risk of developing Celiac Disease down the road, or if there's nearly zero chance.  Like I've said previously, given Jacob's diagnosis I am guessing it will be positive, but if it's not, that definitely makes me wonder where his came from.  In the back of my mind (courtesy of an allergy theory of a friend of mine), I can't help but wonder if the antibiotics he took immediately following his birth could have messed with his immune system a bit.  They were necessary, mind you, but I wonder.

So, what's next?  Allergy shots.  They're long overdue and could have a lot of upside.  I got tested five years ago, but put shots off because there was no sense having nine months of shots that weren't helping me, just because they can't risk upping the dose during pregnancy.  So I held off until after Carter was born, but at that point we started a long series of other health issues, from Jacob's behavior and Celiac diagnosis, to Carter's milk protein, reflux, and rice intolerance issues.  I feel like we've been dealing with one thing or another for so long, and I really do need to do it now.  For one, my allergies are really annoying.  Second, it could potentially help my smell and taste issues.  Third, for all I know the constant drainage is causing the globus.  I have great insurance coverage for it, so there's really no reason not to do it.  Perhaps I will move along to chiropractic work or acupuncture after that. 

Being a parent is hard.  It often means putting your own wants and needs on hold to take care of your kids.  But eventually you get to a point where it's as important to take care of yourself so you can take care of them.  I think it's also important to set an example of taking care of yourself and not ignoring health problems, so kids know it's okay to do what it takes to be healthy.  It takes time and money, so it's not always easy, but the upside is huge.  We'll see how it plays out, but I'm happy to finally be making some progress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Too Many Things

It's only Tuesday and I am seriously already done with this week.  Between the kids and work and life in general, I'm just spent.  I suppose this post is similar to one of my News and Notes posts, but it's more just a stream of consciousness about the many, many things floating through my brain.

Yesterday I had this weird breath test done that's supposed to check for a small intestine bacterial overgrowth.  I feel like it almost has to be negative as I felt pretty much zero body response while I was taking the test, and it seems like if there was an issue I might have been gassy or something.  I could be totally wrong, but that's just my hunch.  I had to drink some sweet stuff, and breathe into a bag for a few seconds every 20 minutes for three hours.  Luckily I could work on my laptop while I waited.  No results on that one yet, but in the meantime, I've gotten some other results from this round of bloodwork, most of which look negative for Celiac.  My iron level looked fine, but a couple other levels seem to indicate some sort of inefficiency in how my body is utilizing the iron.  The levels of two related tests were normal, but near one end of the spectrum.  My official Celiac test again came back fine, but the one level that was a bit low last time was identical this time.  So that level is low and I have slight inflammation in my intestine, but otherwise I have no symptoms.  Weird.  We'll see what yesterday's test and my genetic test have to say.

I think that testing, along with having to work on my small laptop screen for a few hours, made me a little overtired by the end of the day yesterday, and things were only made worse by something Jacob did.  Dinner as a whole was a little rough, with both boys getting a little too hyper and Carter not wanting to eat.  But as I went to look at the containers of cookies and donuts from the other night, I realized that they were empty aside from one half of a cookie.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that no one else had had any, meaning that Jacob ate five donuts and 4-1/2 cookies in less than 48 hours.  I was furious.  When we got the donuts I said that he could have at least one of each of the three flavors, but we all should have a chance to try the other ones.  The three of us shared one that night, leaving two extras.  On top of that, Jacob had said no to getting cookies like we normally do there, because he was happy with the donuts.  But I got them anyway because I love their crinkles.  I had half a cookie that night, and Craig had a half on Sunday.  But only the other half of mine was left yesterday.  Jacob ate everything else.  I was mad that he was so selfish, mad that he'd broken our deal, mad that he snacked so extensively without anyone knowing, and mad that he didn't seem to care.  It led to a big blow-up, lots of punishments, and the usual frustration.  He had a whole series of excuses about it, about how I don't give him enough food and how he can't eat anything at the afterschool program because they don't have things he can eat.  Never mind that he never used to eat the snacks I sent him for that, so I gave up, and that he hasn't asked me for anything recently.  Then he was complaining about Halloween and how he wants to skip school that day, even though I have always sent him snacks--donuts, cutout cookies, you name it--so he can fit in with his classmates.  Conveniently he forgets that I do everything in my power to make things better for him.  It's extremely frustrating and makes me wonder why I make the effort.  Anyway, it was a series of excuses and deflections and very little in the way of anything more than a forced apology.  So you can imagine, then, how much madder I was when I checked my voicemail and found a message from his art teacher talking about how disruptive he's been in class.  We've been getting the same info from his regular teacher, about how he's missing out on directions and things like that because he's just too distracted and impulsive.  I just wish he had any desire to try harder to regulate himself and make his teachers proud of him.  They know he's smart, they know he can do better, and we get zero effort.

He also told us last night that a classmate (one he seems to have a lot of trouble with) wrote a story that somehow told about a "Jake" dying through some means or another.  Jacob was obviously upset by that and said the kid didn't even get in trouble.  So, I emailed his teacher last night, and this morning she called me.  She explained that she only found out about it right before the end of the day.  She wasn't sure if it was malicious, but was going to ask the student to change the name in his story.  I assume there might also be some punishment somewhere along the way, but who knows.  I suppose in some way this qualifies as bullying, so in case we didn't have enough to deal with, let's just add that.  Ugh.  His teacher brought the conversation back to his behavior in class, just as we talked about last Thursday at his open house, and she ended up asking me what had worked with him previously.  I told her about his last teacher's reward system, so apparently she's going to try a 1-10 rating system with him.  It didn't work today courtesy of a rough time at lunch, but hopefully in the long run it might.  It was funny, though, because when the teacher described something he did in class the other day, I explained exactly what was probably running through my head at the time.  She said to me something like, "You sure know him well," and I wanted to be like, "Uh, yeah...#1, he's my kid; #2, I live this stuff every day; and #3, I have overanalyzed this kid for-freaking-ever."  I have theories on almost everything.

Incidentally, this morning I randomly came across an article about a disorder called PANDAS.  A mom wrote the article about how her son was "kidnapped" without ever leaving the house.  One morning he woke up and turned into a different kid.  He became withdrawn and distracted, showed signs of OCD and anxiety, started losing his coordination and cognitive abilities, and eventually developed constant tics.  After years of testing and pleading with doctors, he was diagnosed with PANDAS and PANS, a similar related condition.  Both are caused by illnesses (one strep, one Coxsackie) that if left untreated, leave the body overreacting to defend itself.  Luckily, there were treatments to eventually bring him back to normal.  It was a pretty amazing article, and while clearly Jacob's symptoms are not that severe, it definitely got me thinking.  I don't really recall him getting strep or a fever in close proximity to when this stuff started, but I suppose I could have just never blogged about it.  Who knows.  While I don't think that's what he has, it made me wonder what other issues could lead to lesser but similar symptoms.  As I read, on some level I felt some of this mom's pain.  I mean, even though Jacob has always been challenging, there was a time when he was five where he became a different kid--to the point where we got bloodwork done that eventually led to the Celiac diagnosis.  I look at his baby and little boy pictures now and that kid is almost unrecognizable to me.  Not physically, of course, but I was so close to that little boy, and this one almost feels like a stranger sometimes.  There is so much distance between us and it kills me that I somehow lost that close relationship we once had.  With the hateful things that come from his mouth now (and the angry things that come from mine), it's so hard to feel close to him.  It's agonizing.  And also like this mom, I feel like we've been on a constant quest, ever since things really fired up, to find him help.  And like her situation, it's been a series of dead ends.  It hurts.  And admittedly, sometimes I wonder if there couldn't be something attacking his brain that is making all of this happen.  Perhaps it's some sort of low-lying mental illness, or maybe it's something else.  But the anxiety, OCD behaviors (he has a few--though nothing serious enough to warrant a diagnosis), meltdowns, odd physical movements (he literally cannot sit still at the table, for example), and random noisy outbursts that we almost jokingly compare to Tourettes, there were probably more similarities in this article than I would have liked.  Again, that child's symptoms were so super serious that it seems stupid to compare, but it just makes me wonder.  Could there be some sort of weird underlying cause of all of this that makes him so darn difficult to work with, so consistently impulsive and exhausting?  No one has come up with a real diagnosis yet, so I guess stranger things have happened.

On the bright side, while school has been challenging, at home he's been trying to play with Carter more.  Sometimes this is good, but Carter is a tough sell.  A lot of the time Carter is busy doing something else, but when he's interested, half the time it ends badly, and half the time Carter loses interest pretty quickly.  And of course then Jacob gets mad and terrorizes him for a bit.  But I guess it's good he's finally interested.  He just needs more patience and a little bit more gentleness.  Weirdly, over the weekend Jacob was actually pretty good, to the point that I could hug him without getting pushed away.  In fact, last week one time he actually climbed on my back for a piggy back ride, and leaned on me a bit when we talked before bed.  Those moments with him are rare, and I have no idea what spawned them.  It hasn't stuck, unfortunately, but it's good to know that potential is there. 

Anyway, it's been a crazy couple days already this week.  My brain is tired.  Work is busy, the kids are exhausting, and so many of these things--particularly about Jacob's and my health issues--keep percolating in my mind.  So I write them here, hoping the venting session makes me feel better.  Time will tell...

Monday, October 17, 2016

That Time of Year Again...

Well, it was a sunny Saturday in October with temperatures in the mid-70s, so you know what that means--time for the pumpkin patch.  Of course, the rest of Rochester thinks the same thing, so we knew we were in for a busy day at our favorite pumpkin patch.  I won't lie--it kills me knowing how much it costs us to go there every year, but given all of the activities and the fact that the kids will only be little enough to enjoy it for so much longer, it's just one of those things you suck it up and do every year. 

Sure enough, we got there in the early afternoon and the lot was parked out to the road.  Luckily we got a decent spot vacated by an early arriver.  But it was certainly very busy inside.  The good news is that it's such a giant place that people were pretty well spread out at all of the activities, and only a handful of lines were really lengthy waits.  Getting in might have taken longest of all!

After I took the picture of Craig and Carter while we waited in line, Jacob wanted in on the action!
 It wouldn't be a trip to the pumpkin patch without one of these...

We hopped on the hayride to go to the back of the farm...only it was minus the hay because they were running a couple trailers for the big crowd and this one only had benches...

Jacob wanted to go to the sports thing (more later) but Carter wanted to go to this tire climb.  He enjoyed climbing up and into the top tire and through a tunnel around it.

Then he wanted to do the corn maze.  I normally don't do corn mazes, as the one here pretty much scarred me for life nine years ago at our first visit here.  But this one was actually super easy if you didn't want to participate in a contest they're running, so we had a nice walk through the corn.

Back on the outside, Carter wanted to play tetherball.  It was right at head level so it was a bit risky, but hearing him squeal with joy as we played and he ducked was pretty fun!

We finally caught up with Craig and Jacob, who had headed over to the apple guns!

Jacob enjoyed his annual shooting and actually hit a good one off a cow target!  Carter then wanted to go to the playground, and in between climbing and sliding, he did this twice to talk to us and I couldn't stand the cuteness.

The big boys split off again to get Jacob some water, so Carter and I went to this giant cargo net climb with a fun slide.  He impressed me last year with how well he climbed by himself, and this year he had to go it while fighting off a large crowd of kids.  I was a little annoyed that he cut in line for the slide, but when I got up there after he dragged me with him the second round, I found out that everyone was cutting in line.  And here I thought educated kids were so used to turn-taking and lines from school.  Guess not.
Fun slide!

We tried this confusing color maze (you had to follow color paths and change colors at white squares, but had to go in a certain color sequence--I never did get it!) and played some cornhole (bean bags), then checked out the straw crawl.  Carter liked to throw it (I told him to stop), but clearly other kids were too as there was a fine haze of dust in the air.  Probably good we didn't stay there long.

We moved on to the big slides--a giant tube slide built into a big hill, and a set of racing slides on the other side.  The tube slide always shocks me with its speed by the's crazy!  Carter loved it, of course.  I took this picture while in line the second time, and it perfectly captures the gorgeous fall day...

The racing slides are pretty high and fast, too. 
Waiting at the top!

We had a blast on them, and then Craig and Jacob got in on the act.  We raced as a family, and then Jacob decided he really liked it and did a couple more rounds himself.  Of course, he almost injured himself climbing up the wrong part of the hill, but perhaps someday he'll learn to follow our advice.  Ha.  Here he is on one of his runs...

We did yet another slide in a wooded area before heading over to the animals.  We visited the goats and got there just in time to see the cutest little baby goat climb through the fence!  A girl held on to it while Craig and Carter fed it...and it was seriously adorable.

I couldn't help but share the picture of this duck in with the turkeys.  Doesn't it look like he's got a Donald Trump coif going on?

Jacob wanted one more round at the sports area, throwing balls...

...and then we headed back toward the front as we were running out of time.  We did have a  short detour on the spider web...
Not often I get them in the same shot!
Then we visited more animals, including baby pygmy goats...

...and a cow, which Carter and I fed...
It felt funny!
We also saw this emu.  His neck was all tucked in as he laid on the ground, and just as I was trying to take a picture, he looked me like this... 
He pretty much looked like he wanted to eat my camera.
Carter was obsessed with the elevated goat feeding system (where you crank a can of food up a belt to a goat waiting on a catwalk above), but the food vending machine was out.  We were visiting with this guy instead...

...but then someone who had food offered some to Carter.  The goat up above was eager!

Carter was really into it and didn't want to leave, but there was no food left for him.  Of course, I couldn't help but be distracted by the baby piglet across the way.  Last year there were adorable baby piglets, and this year I saw online that another one was born a couple weeks ago.  I couldn't wait to see it!
It is so tiny!  The picture doesn't do it justice!
At first he was nursing, and then he was running around the enclosure like a speed demon!  I tried to catch some video to show his size relative to the staff that was in there, but was only a little successful.  The mama is so big in comparison.  But seriously...too cute!

While Carter and Craig rode the train, Jacob needed a bathroom break.  I couldn't help but snap a picture at the top of the hay bale mountain we climbed on our way back to the pumpkins.

We ended up not buying pumpkins since the line was long and we have another place we can get them.  But while we debated kettle corn and donuts (both no), Jacob asked me to take his picture with the giant jug of maple syrup...?
Our next stop was our favorite gluten-free pizza and cookie place...only this time we were also getting donuts.  Real, gluten-free donuts!  We got glazed, chocolate glazed, and pumpkin glazed.  It's crazy to think this was Jacob's first real donut (not the odd frozen ones we get for special snacks, like when school has donut holes for parties) in three years!  He loved them!

Meanwhile, we always laugh at Carter stuffing his face here...

And he was rewarded with a piece of donut for dessert...
As we were eating dinner, I noticed that the sky looked ripe for a gorgeous sunset.  And every time we get far enough south to go to the gluten-free place, mentally I know we're just down the road from Geneseo, home of my alma mater and some of the best sunsets I've ever seen.  Well, I convinced Craig to do one more mini-adventure for the day, and we drove there just in time to see the sunset.
I caught this one as we drove there.
We stopped in the parking lot below one of my old dorms, as I knew we'd have an unobstructed view there.  And this, my friends, is why we always tried to get dorm rooms that faced the valley...

It was really beautiful.  Eventually everyone was getting a little antsy in the van, so we drove back around so Jacob could see the new stadium across the street.  By the time we were back on the road, the sky was looking different but still beautiful.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good picture of it while we drove, but just as we crested a hill near the interstate entrance, we saw the most amazing moon rising!  It was huge, and apparently called a "hunter's moon".  Again, I had a hard time doing it justice from a moving vehicle, but this was the best I got. 
The thin clouds around it made a pretty glow, too.
It was a long, full day, but honestly it went really well.  We only had a few instances of the sibling rivalry that makes us nuts, and both kids were overall very well behaved.  I don't know what magic hit that day, but I will take it!

Yesterday was back to the same old stuff, with a lot of fighting (by the kids) and yelling (by us).  We actually had the kids with us in church yesterday (special single service at a different site, so no Sunday school), which was a little exhausting, plus I was cranky because I wasn't allowed to eat anything interesting all day because of a test I did this morning.  I ate only three pieces of dry toast, two giant bowls of white rice, a piece of plain baked chicken (no breading), and a crapload of salt, as that was all I was allowed to season with.  It was pretty awful, as all I wanted was something sweet.  It was nearly impossible to snack with the limitations, so I tried to keep myself busy so I didn't think about it.  I also couldn't eat or drink anything after 8pm, so I was very hungry by mid-morning this morning during the test, but now it's over and my belly is full.  While I was there I got one other test result from bloodwork on Friday, another one that makes Celiac disease look unlikely, but we'll see what today's test (looking for small intestine bacterial overgrowth) shows.  It's a good thing I have no real symptoms or else I'd be much more concerned about all of this stuff.  At this point it's just figuring out why my intestines are a bit inflamed, but at least it's not bothering me.  Just another day of 2016, the year of the medical bill...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Night at Strong

After my long day Saturday, it was a challenge to get up and out of bed on Sunday.  I was all alone as the boys had gone to Buffalo on Saturday so Craig could attend a fundraiser, so I knew I just had to get myself ready for church, which seemed much more doable than the average Sunday morning.  I stopped at Wegmans on the way home, and the boys got home shortly thereafter.  We went out to lunch so Jacob could try the new gluten-free crust at Uno, then went to our nephew's hockey game, which happened to be nearby.  It was ironic it was near us, since the boys just came from hanging out with Craig's brother's family in Buffalo, but the kids got some bonus cousin time and it was nice to see our nephew play.  Craig and Jacob had to leave before it was over, though, so Jacob could make it to lacrosse practice, and after the game Carter and I said our goodbyes and headed home.  Not surprisingly, he fell asleep on the way there.  Normally that would freak me out and I'd be desperately trying to wake him up, but I knew we had a busy night ahead that could exhaust him before bedtime, and I figured the nap might reset him from the overtired, hyper behavior he'd had the rest of the day.  So, once we got home, I plopped him on me and we rested on the couch for a while.  It was nice, since he so rarely sleeps on me these days.  I know these times are extra limited now, so I'm enjoying them while I can.

Eventually I had to wake him up so we could eat some dinner and get on the road for our night at Strong Museum!  It's been a while since we were there, and I was excited for Carter to get a chance to see it now that he's getting bigger.  As we ate dinner, the skies were crazy.  There were dark clouds everywhere, but off to the west the clouds ended abruptly and the sun was shining brightly beneath them.  As the sun set further, it lit the underside of the clouds and made everything have this crazy golden glow.  This picture doesn't even begin to do it justice!

We met up with Craig and Jacob right when we got there, as they pulled in from practice directly ahead of us!  I knew it was a bit of a risk to have Jacob there, as he's getting bigger than a lot of the exhibits are targeting, and obviously he and Carter have a hard time playing in the same area.  I will say that he's been making more of an effort to play with Carter, but he still needs to work on his patience and temper when Carter doesn't play exactly as he'd like him to.  Baby steps, though...

I got a picture of Carter in Big Bird's nest on the way in, though we honestly skipped most of the Sesame Street area as a) our time was super limited; and b) he's never been a big fan.  He's always liked Elmo and been fine with it when we've read books with the characters, but it's never really been his first choice.  Not that it matters these days as the quality doesn't strike me as quite what it was when I was a kid...but I digress...

They had a special dinosaur exhibit, and Carter tried digging for fossils...

Then he posed with one of the dinosaurs...

...and then another

I can't remember what this little area was supposed to be, but Carter liked the lights!

I loved how he gave this one a hug!

Carter tried to sit on a dinosaur's nest with eggs, but he was a little small.  However, Craig came in--not having seen Carter try--and he decided to give it a try himself!

We moved on the superhero area, and Jacob and Carter worked together to be "zapped" with superpowers to lift this thing up.  It's too heavy until you press a button and get "zapped", and then it's easy to lift.  It was cute watching them try together.  At least we had one moment of harmony, until each wanted to do it without help!

The Toy Hall of Fame area has been upgraded since I was last there, and it looked very dramatic from below on a dark evening...

Also new since my last visit was the addition of a pinball machine room!  Many of these used to be upstairs with the other video games, but this old store had been converted to house a ton of games and a few historical and technical educational features.  Sharing was a bit of a problem here, as well, and shortly thereafter it was time for the big boys to head home, as they'd done what Jacob was into and keeping him there would only have led to trouble. 
Note the flippers flanking the entrance and the silver ball just inside

Carter and I headed into the Berenstain Bears section, and he actually gave every member of the family a hug!

We haven't read many of these books yet, just a few, but I have a couple from my childhood and we've gotten a couple from the library.  They're a bit long for him most of the time, but I guess he likes the characters!  He tried his hand at playing with money in the quilting shop...

...then moved on to the workshop...

We tried out many of the other areas, including the farm conveyor belt, the playhouse slide, and the dentist...
Pulled teeth...ouch!
In the storybook area, he sat so nicely with the troll near the troll bridge...

Then he decided to climb the "beanstalk".  Unfortunately, he got up but couldn't figure out how to come down.  At first he was just going to go backward down the up ramps, but then a bunch of kids came in and that wasn't going to work.  After a lot of yelling to him, a couple kids convinced him to follow them, and eventually he made his way back down.  Thank goodness I didn't have to climb in there myself!

We were starting to run out of time, so we ventured upstairs to another newly renovated area that focused on classic toys--dolls, building toys, trucks, etc.  I always love seeing toys I owned in the displays...
I had at least one (maybe two) of those Strawberry Shortcake dolls on the left (still in my parents' attic), and a couple of those Care Bears are in my crawl space right now.  Oh, and I did have some of those little Smurfs on the left, too.
And then there's this guy.  I vividly remember being at a gift-type store with my grandma, and I desperately wanted this guy.  However, she thought he was terribly ugly and I ended up with a little china tea set instead.  I still have the tea set (minus a couple handles), but I couldn't help but smile when I saw E.T. sitting there!

Meanwhile, Carter was having fun playing with magnetic Hot Wheel car tracks and digger trucks.  He loved scooping and dumping the plastic rocks...I could barely drag him away!

As time ticked down to closing, I asked Carter one more time if he wanted to go see the butterflies.  I'm not really a fan of butterfly enclosures because they freak me out when they fly near me (they are still bugs, after all), but 1) it's cool in its own way; 2) I can focus on taking a cool picture and that helps with the anxiety; and 3) this is the one time we can get in there for free (normally there's an upcharge), so when we're at this event I try to push it a bit harder.  He had refused previously, which I think was partly because I made him nervous about stepping on one.  But this last time I asked him, he said yes.  When we got down there, they had just cut it off, but the attendant let us in anyway.  We only had about 10 minutes, if that, so we rushed through and looked at butterflies, giant goldfish, turtles, and cool plants.  I didn't really get any award-worthy photos, but I like these...
This one was pretty big!  I freaked out a little as he moved, but he was pretty cool.

This bird was in there as well.  Cool coloring around his beak!

This one flew around for a bit and finally landed on this shower pouf.  Not the most elegant backdrop, but it does match the pink in its wings!

Unfortunately this didn't focus perfectly, but the colors and patterns on this one were so intricate.  Maybe a little too moth-like for my taste, but striking.
The closing announcement came just as we were heading down the hall and toward the exit.  We crammed what we could into two hours, but I definitely need to take him back there soon because we barely got to scrape the surface.  He was a pretty good sport despite me rushing him through, and the best part is that he went to bed just fine.  It was a little late because of when we got home, but he went right down!  It was a fun to spend that time with him, and I hope I can let him run amok there soon!