Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Canal Path Edition

After our canal boat adventure a couple weeks ago, I mentioned to Carter that we have a section of the canal right near our house.  I had explained that there's a path there to walk and bike, and he told me he wanted to go.  It took a couple weekends to find time, but while the big boys were at Jacob's first lacrosse practice of the season, we took advantage of the gorgeous day and headed down the road about five minutes to the canalside park near us, Henpeck Park.  I walked there once before and rode my bike down the path a few years back because it connects to a large park that's near our house and accessible directly from a neighborhood street, which always made it easier to get somewhere without traveling directly on the many busy roads that border our area.  I hadn't been on the path in years, though, but it was a good reminder how nice it is!

We started out with Carter riding his big wheel and me walking.  That's what he wanted and I figured we could cover more ground that way, but something about his shorts and how he was sitting on the big wheel was bugging him, so he was stopping constantly to fix it and eventually we just gave up on that, turned around, dropped it off at the car, and continued on our journey walking.  It was fun just to look around at nature and talk about it.

My handsome walking buddy

We saw this large fallen tree with a little stream underneath somewhat hidden behind the trees near the path, and it just looked so pretty.

As I mentioned in my last post, trees are starting to change more than I'd like, but at least it's pretty.  I caught some gorgeous vines changing color on this pair of trees.

The color of this branch hanging over the water was striking!

And what was beyond it wasn't too shabby, either.

We walked along for a bit, looking at leaves, rocks, the giant houses beyond the bordering woods, a deer in a backyard, and whatever else an inquiring four-year-old wants to talk about. 
Oh, this kid.  That smile steals my heart every time.
Along the path, we saw this old building across the water.  It took a while, but I finally made out the words on the side of the building: "Grand Erie Yacht Club".  Now it looks like an urban explorer's dream, but I can't help but wonder what it looked like in its prime.
There's still a certain romance to it, no?
As we were looking at the building, we noticed something we'd been looking for the whole walk--a blue heron!  I was able to zoom in really well and capture this photo...
 
 
Carter and I really enjoyed our walk!  He's just a fun little buddy and I love seeing things through his eyes.  He's a great sport and doesn't really complain about anything, so it's fun to try out things like this with him.  I still want to freeze him at this age most of the time, but I know we can only have more fun the older he gets.  As long as he still gives his mama hugs, we're all good!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Finishing Summer on the Fringe

Mother Nature decided to mess with us a little this year, as we had two solid weeks of iffy weather to close out August and start September.  It was rainy and rather cool, so it seemed we were transitioning into jeans and hoodie weather rather quickly.  In fact, I'm pretty sure some trees outside my office are a good two or three weeks ahead of schedule.  I know I took a picture of one tree last year at the end of the first week of October, and it looks pretty similar to that right now.  I'm hoping other trees weren't as fooled, but we definitely have more changing than I like to see this time of year.  I usually comfort myself with the fact that many trees still have leaves even by Halloween, and some hang in there until Thanksgiving at times, but this year I don't think that will be the case.  I enjoy fall, but I definitely don't like what comes after it...or at least, what comes after the glow of Christmas season fades.  I'm also not a big fan of the first three weeks of November, when the weather is much cooler, the fun of Halloween/pumpkin patch season is over, and we have the long drag before Thanksgiving hits and it's "officially" okay to get into Christmas stuff.  At least we'll have a lacrosse tournament (and its associated preparations and long trip) to break things up this year.

Anyway, after all of that cool weather, now we've been in a glorious span of rather warm, mostly rain-free weather for a week, and we still have another week to go.  I'm a little thrown off with my wardrobe, as mentally I was beginning to transition to fall stuff, but now I'm trying to regain my rhythm with skirts and dresses.  Good problem to have, but it's been strange.  The good news, of course, is that we can fit in a few more "summer" weekends before transitioning into fall activities.  I wish I could add weeknight evenings into that equation, but it's dark so early now. :(

This past Friday the weather was gorgeous, and the evening was looking to be equally pleasant.  It was once again Fringe Festival time in Rochester, and I wanted to go.  You may remember my trip there with the kids a couple years ago.  It's pretty low risk to hit up the free show, and this year's looked...different.  I wasn't getting a whole lot of enthusiasm from the rest of my household, but we pushed forward and headed out.  We walked from my old work parking ramp, past my old building (which looks quite different now), and over to Parcel 5, which is a hotly contested plot of land in the middle of downtown.  It once held Midtown Plaza, one of the first indoor urban malls.  I used to be in that mall every day for years, first while working in an office tower that was part of the complex, then when I had to walk through the mall from my parking garage to another office tower connected by a pedestrian bridge.  It had definitely seen better days, but I was quite sad when it was knocked down.  I'm mostly happy with what has happened in the interim, though much of it has taken too long compared to an average big city.  This one plot of land is now slated to get a new performing arts center, but we'll see if it ever makes it through the bureaucracy that drags most things down here.  But for now, it seems to be the "cool" place to gather for outdoor events downtown.

Friday's free show was from Plasticiens Volants, a French troupe, and the show was called "Big Bang".  It was basically an artistic interpretation of the creation of the universe (I guess--maybe it's even more of a metaphor than I think), using giant helium balloons.  They were walked through the crowd of observers by people holding the guide lines, which made for quite a strange dynamic.  Sometimes it felt like seeing the person under the mascot costume, or what it would be like to watch stagehands at work during a play, but being in a position where they can physically bump into you (or get their wire wrapped around you) was even stranger.

The show initially started with a giant white ball at one end of the property, and things were projected onto it...lots of odd or even disturbing images, but some positive parts of the evolution of mankind as well.  It seemed like there might be some sort of live shadow play happening, as well, like these Easter Island heads that moved back and forth over the projected images.


Eventually these oddly shaped balloons started floating out from behind it.  They floated over us, sometimes dipping low enough to touch.  Eventually they moved back to one spot and formed into this odd "celestial body" together.
That's an eyeball up top
They broke apart again and floated more, this time starting to grow new appendages and turn into new forms that looked like sea creatures, vaguely like crabs and snails.


At one point, this strange insect came out to float around.  I think my first thought is that it might be a tardigrade (I had to look on the internet to find that name, but I'm pretty sure that's what I was thinking it was at first sight), or maybe a dust mite, but clearly it's just some sort of prehistoric bug. 

And eventually this guy came out and ate him, along with some other creatures.

While all of this were going on, my kids were not impressed.  Carter was borderline scared, and Jacob asked me--no joke--about 40 times in an hour if we could leave.  My take was, "We've never seen anything like this before, and we'll probably never see it again, so we're just going to appreciate this odd life experience for an hour."  I won't lie, it was weird.  It was rather abstract and very strange, but hey, it's sort of fun to watch giant balloons float around the center of your city.

Eventually some planets came out to float...




And then something else did that made me momentarily question having the kids there...even though plenty of other people did too:
Yep, those are sperm.
The sperm even pulled a "Look Who's Talking" moment and starting bumping up against the yellow sphere in the picture above, as if they were trying to enter.  Apparently one got in, because the yellow ball started doing this...


And eventually it rose all the way up and looked like this underneath.  Perhaps this was some sort of planet.

After that one started floating around, these spiral cones came out, and a bunch of these bubbles were carted through the crowd.  One came literally right in front of us--to the point we had to get the kids out of the way--and immediately it exploded in front of us.  It was loud but probably not as bad as I would have expected, but it was definitely a surprise.  The guy pulling it went right back to sticking another one on, and we figured out that the popping must have been part of the show as the other ones started to do it, too.

There was some sort of odd ending where the eyeball found its match, and by then we were ready to start walking.  I wanted to go to the Spiegelgarden, which is the center of the action for the festival.  I walked there with the kids last time, and I just loved the magical atmosphere.  We wandered that way briefly again.  We saw this giant igloo, which had some sort of light and sound experience inside it.

The rest of the garden was still pretty magical.  I still really want to go to a show in the Spiegeltent...

There was an outdoor movie that you needed headphones to hear and could sit on comfy cushions to watch, and some table games.  We had fun with the row of funny mirrors...
Jacob, me (holding the camera), and Craig holding Carter
Everyone was ready to go, and while I wanted to go look at the Chihuly at the Eastman School of Music across the street, I gave in and we headed for the car.  I snapped a few pictures on the way back, as it's fun to see the city all lit up and lively. 
Across the street from Parcel 5 - far left is Midtown Tower, where I worked for eight months and is finally swanky condos; Xerox has the lights on the top corners; the building with the triangles on top is Legacy Tower (formerly Bausch & Lomb), and the tall orange one is the Metropolitan (formerly Chase Tower), where I worked for more than eight years.  The buildings in the foreground house Windstream and our newspaper.  The one on the left used to be a couple floors taller and was totally redone after the mall was removed).  The newspaper building on the right was a new build. 
This is the new front of the Metropolitan, formerly the side.  Swanky, eh?  There are apartments here now, in addition to a few offices.  It's so odd to realize that my old office doesn't even exist anymore.  It's now across Parcel 5, in the building you see in the third picture in this post.

This is looking back toward Midtown Tower.  This view used to have the pedestrian bridge from the mall in the middle of it.  I love how colorfully lit and vibrant this area looks now, when it used to be a dead zone after 5pm.

Looking up at the old digs...probably somewhere near the lights up there.  This was the side of the building of my second desk position, where I sat when I was let go.

So much has changed since I last went downtown daily--not the least of which was the flashy new (functional!) elevators in the parking ramp!--but it's nice to see and I loved being down there for the evening.  The kids may not have had as much fun, but I will always try to expose them to whatever I can so they can't tell me someday that we never did anything interesting.  At least this way I have the pictures to prove it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Adventures with Carter, Playground Edition

I should have posted this last week, but I sort of forgot these pictures were on my phone until mid-week, and it's been a heck of a week in general due to a controversial situation at work.  I worked late on Thursday and the rest of the week was just sort of exhausting.  So now I'm a week behind...but oh, well.

Last weekend I decided to make good on a promise to Carter to take him to a new playground.  I saw it last month when I stopped at our school district's community education office to sign Jacob up for the afterschool program.  The facility is at a former school, on the other side of the complex from where we went to our family counseling through the district a couple years ago.  The playground looked like it had some fun stuff to climb, which I knew Carter would enjoy.  We had a nice day and a free afternoon, so off we went.  And sure enough, Carter really enjoyed it!


One of the slides was so high and steep!  Carter called it a "roller coaster slide" and went down it more times than I could count!  He even stopped holding on, so he could get the full effect!  There were a large number of scuff marks at the bottom, so from what I can assume kids have been using their shoes to slow themselves down near the bottom!

There were so many places to climb!  This one was a little tight for me--I survived unscathed, but once was enough--but Carter loved that it was like a secret hideout tunnel!

There was one climbing structure that looked a little daunting, but Carter climbed across it from end to end!

And he posed for a picture!

I did it myself (playgrounds seem to be a proving ground for me these days--I also proved I could still hang myself upside-down that day!), and it was hard.  He did so good!


Watch out, here comes the tiger!


We had so much fun that he wanted to stop at one more on our way home, the one we went to with him when Jacob was at his lacrosse training camp and he had Mommy and Daddy all to himself.  We didn't have a lot of time, but we did have fun and got a little nature lesson, too.  There's a wooded area near the school (which I realized will officially be Carter's school a year from now--yikes!) and I saw no less than eight squirrels running around like maniacs at one point.  We saw one nearby chewing on the nuts that had fallen off the trees and were able to see what was left behind after the squirrel got the nut out of the shell.  It turned out that they were hickory nuts, which I don't think I've ever really come across before.  It was cool to see, though.

After that adventure, it was back to another week.  Now that the school year has started, Carter's teachers have gotten more serious about the educational aspects of their room.  They're starting a new curriculum and with it comes a bit of homework.  Luckily they're mostly easy assignments--bring in a book, wear a color, bring something that starts with the letter of the week.  Some take a little more effort, like drawing a picture or making a collage.  He only needs to do half of them to get a prize at the end of the month, so we do all of the easy ones and usually skip the collages.  Conceptually it's still a lot for a four-year-old, and if I had magazines around it would be much easier.  But I don't, so I'm not going to break the bank when I know we have the rest covered.  Again, he's four, so most of the effort will be mine anyway.  God knows we went through enough stress with Jacob and the collage he had to do!  I don't mind the rest of these, though, as it gives us something to work on together, which is more productive than just watching TV.

Two weeks ago we had the cutest moment where we were trying to teach him how to draw a birthday cake.  He needed a little coaching but ultimately did it all himself, and it was so cute!  He was so proud of his work and couldn't wait to show his teachers the next day.  It completely melted my heart to see him looking so victorious.  Then last week he had to either draw two leaves or glue two to a piece of paper.  So, we went out in the evening, just as it was starting to get dark, in search of leaves.  Carter was excited to use his Lightning McQueen big wheel, since he knew there was a spot in the back where we could stash the leaves until we were done!  Cute, right?  We picked up a couple a house or two down, but I knew there was a house around the corner with a tree dropping red leaves, so we took a little journey to get there.  He rode, I walked.  We got to enjoy a gorgeous sky along the way.

We also saw from a distance five deer running out from behind a house next to where we were going and run across the street, presumably to go hang out on the golf course nearby.  We picked up a handful of leaves that were to our liking, even though we only needed two, then went home to glue them on paper.  We had a giant purple one, a few red ones, one that was half yellow-half green in a perfect mottled pattern, and one reddish one from our yard that was a different shape than the rest, which were maple leaves.    
My view when he's on his Big Wheel...he's fast!

He was a really good boy for the whole thing, and we really enjoyed our little adventure.  He's always up for something fun, and I really appreciate that about him.  Lately I've been feeling like we need to get out more and do things, and he's such a good little buddy for that stuff.  We had another fun adventure this weekend, which I'll blog about soon.

Last week the big boys reintroduced Carter to a long-time favorite activity in our house--using the various hockey rinks and lots of different hockey guys to create epic games.  Jacob still needs to have a little more patience and there's sometimes a little contention about whose guys are whose, but for the most part it made for some fun playtimes over the week.  The living room is still full of rinks--the main rink and practice rinks--and so many guys.  Chaos, but I'll let it slide if they play like this...


Carter is really getting to be a much more fun kid as he gets older.  Most of the time I still want to freeze him in this perfect stage of little big kid who still unapologetically adores his mama and isn't afraid to show it, but as he gets older he's that much more fun to hang out with.  Even Jacob is slowly seeing the benefits in having him around, even if he doesn't always show it in the best way.  I'm so thankful for the little ball of joy he is most of the time, because God knows we need it around here.  I prayed for the perfect kid to complete our family, and I really do think we got him.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Introvert Mom

If you pop around on social media long enough, at least with friends like mine, usually you'll come across some sort of article or quiz about introverts vs. extroverts, and how each role relates to social situations.  Sometimes it's a meme about desperately wanting to spend Saturday night home alone in your PJs with your cats, or other times it's a little quiz that tells you how much of an introvert or extrovert you are, or it could be a blog post or article reminding people to how manage their interactions with those whose social personality is opposite theirs, be it their spouse, co-worker, or good-but-challenging friend.  I don't think it's ever been a surprise to me or anyone else that I am an introvert.  I mean, I think can function moderately well when I need to be extroverted, and I might even seem extroverted with people I know well, as sometimes I never shut up (as my elementary school report cards documented pretty regularly).  But I am, at the heart of it, an introvert.  My down time is sacred.

Strangely, I do still get lonely if I'm alone too long.  Apparently I can only take so much quiet and alone time at once.  Eventually I need people around or I start feeling very left out and even depressed about how everyone is living more life than me.  I've talked here before many times about feeling like I don't really have many true friends, as my social calendar is not very full.  I see people online having wine or beer with friends, maybe around a campfire or out at a bar--and sort of wonder where we went wrong.  And yes, those people have kids.  When I do get a chance to do something like that, once I get past the social anxiety part of it, I am usually fired up about it and very excited to finally get the chance.  But, as much as I do enjoy those times with friends, I know there's a part of me that's relieved when I can take off my shoes, put on my pajamas, and spend an evening with my snack, my computer, and the DVR.

Lately I've become a little more aware of how being an introvert has impacted my parenting.  I can't say it has done so in a positive way, aside from not being a barhopping mama who leaves my kids with a sitter every weekend. I think the main problem is that my tolerance for action only goes so far.  On weekdays, I spend all day at work.  And while that's not exactly action-packed, it still means that I'm "on" all day.  I get up first, rush through the morning preparations--get myself ready, wake up the kids, pack a couple lunches, and make sure everyone's moving along--then I drop off Carter and drive to work.  I spend all day trying to focus on busting through my work and interacting with co-workers, and then I need to drive toward home, pick-up Carter, run any necessary errands, cook dinner, eat, survive the kids' interactions until bedtime, and then FINALLY I have a little me time.  Usually it's with the TV and my phone or computer, but sometimes I have to throw in some laundry, coupon clipping, paper reading, or sorting through the kids' school paperwork.  Regardless, by the time the kids are in bed, I am mentally spent and need to zone out in any way possible.  I have hit my "interact with people limit" and just need to veg out.  Of course, this doesn't bode well for Craig, who's usually sitting across the room, but by then he's pretty spent, too, so at least we each get it.  That's why we try to go out to lunch every few weeks, so we can be alone and talk while we're still willingly conscious and talkative.  Anyway, usually I can make it to bedtime before desperation sets in, but sometimes I find myself holing up with my phone immediately after dinner, content to let the kids watch something on TV and not wanting to be talked to for a little bit.  In that moment, I realize it's my introvert side coming out.  I've had to be "on" all day and I've just had enough.

Interestingly, it took me a while to realize that Carter, in particular, may have some introverted tendencies, as well.  He loves to play with toys, but many evenings he just wants to sit and watch a  show.  And while I don't always think that's a good idea, I started to realize that maybe he's feeling much the same as me.  After all, he's been spending nine hours a day at daycare, which is an awful lot of stimulation for anyone, let alone a little kid.  So while I try to be more intentional about making him play with non-electronics on weekend days, most of the time I will let it pass in the evenings because I'm pretty sure he's feeling a bit like me.  Not the best habit to get him into, I know, but sometimes that's just how we roll.

Weekends are harder.  From the moment I wake up until bedtime, the kids are around and usually causing chaos.  Loud chaos.  Most of the time I can only take it in small doses, so we end up with a few of those "curl up with the phone" moments over the course of the day.  As I said, it doesn't make for great parenting, as I know I should be doing things with them or at least insisting the TV goes off more often to force them to get creative, but usually the TV is one thing that keeps them from making each other nuts, and sometimes you just need the relative silence.  The full-time refereeing that happens when the kids aren't occupied is so exhausting, and any break from it is not only helpful, but needed.  If I get that, usually I can muster a little more time as a good, engaged mom before I get drained again.  This is part of the reason I crave having planned activities for the weekend, because if we're out of the house, usually the kids are more occupied and I'm distracted enough that I don't need an introvert moment nearly as often.  When we get home it's a different story, however.  But set activities help and I just wish I was more creative about coming up with more.

A while back a blogger I read talked about how he was diagnosed with a psychological condition that's caused by constant noise.  Between traffic noise outside his apartment and random noises inside, it slowly drove him crazy.  As a result, he got very short tempered and snapped at the littlest things.  Sometimes I wonder if I have something along those lines, because on particularly noisy days, it doesn't take much to set me off.  The constant random noises from the kids just add up and boom--I hit my limit.  That's when I know I just need some time without them to regroup. 

It doesn't help that kids tend to overwhelm you in other subtle ways, too.  The constant stream of questions from Carter or Jacob's endless list of stuff he wants to buy are both incredibly exhausting, and they feel 100 times worse on a day where my introvert side is dying to come out.  Constantly having to listen or even intelligently respond can get so tiring.  Beyond that, they're constantly asking for stuff or all up in your space, and it all gets overwhelming really fast.  When your kid is all over your lap, or kicking you in bed, or hanging on your waist, it can get trying.  It's a full assault on the senses by the time they're done, and I blame my introvert tendencies for the low tolerance.

I love my kids, but some days they're just harder to take than others.  I'd be better off if I looked like one of those fundraising thermometers so they could see the red rise and know when I'm about to blow, but lacking that I'll just have to take my breaks when I can and hope for the best.  They're kids and they can't self-monitor very well, let alone consider what I might be feeling.  So it's up to me to institute a mommy time-out when things get rough and pray they don't kill each other by the time I have the energy (mentally and physically) to rejoin them.  I wish I knew how to better manage it all, but like most things in parenting, sometimes survival mode is as good as it gets.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Disaster

I've been a little down in the dumps this week.  Part of it is the stress associated with back-to-school week.  It's getting back in the groove, getting used to nightly paperwork and homework, and dealing with all of the battles with Jacob that result from each of those things.  It has not gone particularly well.  Another part of it is work stress, as I have a number of projects that involve decision-making, which I am not good at.  My boss is extra stressed, too, and I feel like I can't help her the way I'd like. 

But I think the weight that is really dragging me down above and beyond the usual is the knowledge of the natural disasters that are impacting other parts of the country.  Natural disasters have always been hard for me to watch, but parenthood has elevated everything up to a whole new level.  Having kids raises the stakes and makes everything even more unfathomable. 

This round of disasters has been even more difficult thanks to a few recent doses of reality.  Six months ago, we were hit by a serious windstorm with 80mph winds.  Luckily I missed most of it in my bunker of an office, but what little I experienced was plenty.  I wouldn't have wanted to be home listening to my house creak or watching the trees bend, but I was rather anxious not knowing what was going on at home.  We were lucky because we only lost our grill, but other people were not as fortunate.  A number of houses were crushed by trees, and plenty of other houses lost shingles or had giant trees down in the yard.  My drive home from work brought on a helpless feeling I haven't felt very much before.  The wind was still whipping, and as I came across downed tree after downed tree, I realized that I wasn't safe in my car.  At any moment a giant tree or a piece of debris could come down on me.  I'm used to being nervous in the car in snowy weather, but for the most part you feel like you have some degree of control.  Yes, other cars and ice can take that control away, but the wind brought on a complete lack of control I wasn't expecting.  That fear was even worse once I picked up Carter and felt like I couldn't protect him the way I wanted to. 

More recently, a couple tornadoes hit Buffalo, right near where Craig's family lives.  One of them actually hit right down the road from his mom's office.  While we rarely get tornadoes in this area, it can happen...but mostly we can choose to ignore that.  But seeing damage, even something as simple as a bunch of car windows blown out in a parking lot, was a sobering reminder that they can happen--out of nowhere and very close to home.

It was hard to watch the coverage of Hurricane Harvey in Texas these last couple weeks, seeing so many families who were impacted by the flooding or the wind damage.  And now, with Irma approaching Florida, I actually know people who are evacuating (or not evacuating), and the reality is sobering.  People I personally know could be seriously affected by this storm.  Imagining how awful that would be if that was us was nearly unthinkable.  My first thoughts go to the complete upheaval of your life, the insurance hassles, and the cost of getting everything cleaned up and replaced.  I cringe at the thought of losing things of sentimental value--the photos, the mementos, the things I kept from my grandmothers' houses--or having to start from scratch with everything in our house, or how sad it would be to throw out all of the baby stuff instead of having the chance to donate it.  All of it was overwhelming a couple weeks ago as I watched that storm come through.

But now that Irma is going to hit Florida, it's become even more stress-inducing.  Knowing that people I know, or their close family members, are there and having to make the choice to evacuate hits so close to home.  And with the power of this storm--knowing what Andrew did there many years ago and this one is worse--it's so scary.  For whatever reason, this one really got me thinking about what I would really do if we were faced with a situation like that.  I came to the conclusion that I would feel completely paralyzed.  Part of me would be tortured by the thought of leaving my house, but the safety concerns are clearly huge.  But the thought of waiting in line and co-habitating for days on end with complete strangers?  That's pretty scary on its own.  I can't even fathom how horrible it must be to choose what you take with you, or to leave your home and your neighborhood knowing for sure that you won't ever see it like this again.  With a storm like this damage is a given, and it will be widespread.  Your entire neighborhood might not even be here anymore, let alone your house.  It has to be completely agonizing to leave, only to spend days not knowing how anything fared.  I feel like the stress of driving home afterward would be enough to send me into heart failure.  But being there during it would probably literally drive me insane, in addition to it being super unsafe.  But the reality I'm seeing now is that it's not as easy to evacuate as everyone would like to believe, that it takes money and the ability to be away from work and the availability of gas and supplies.  I just don't know what I would do. 

Then I think about the kids.  I think of how sad Carter would be to lose his cars or stuffed animals, or how upset Jacob would be to lose his Legos.  Heck, the Legos got a little mixed up when his cousin played with them at his birthday party and he flipped out a bit afterward when he couldn't find things.  What would happen if they were gone?  Sometimes I can see times where Jacob flips out more than you'd expect, and I think it's more anxiety than anything, a desire to control something controllable.  I can't even imagine what mental troubles we'd be dealing with if everything he knew and loved was gone.  I know it would devastate Carter, too, and their whole sense of security would be gone, possibly forever.  I don't do well with insecure situations like that either, so I can't imagine trying to keep the kids stable, too. 

I suppose that is part of the reason why we live here.  We probably could have moved elsewhere and made more money or found more opportunity, but between wanting to be close to our families and the downsides to living elsewhere (not just weather, but traffic, cost of living, etc.), it makes a little snow in the winter not sound so bad.  I truly don't mind living here, but it doesn't make it much easier to watch what's happening down south.  It's a bit of "survivor's guilt", I suppose, along with simple human compassion.  Why was I blessed to be born and to stay in an area like this that doesn't have these problems?  And why do so many other people's prayers go unanswered as they beg for the hurricane to shift?  And what can you do from here as all of these other people suffer?  I feel fortunate to be here, even as I complain about daily stuff that other people wish was their biggest problem.  But it's all so hard to know other people are going through hell, and yet still selfishly hoping that it's never our turn.  All I can do right now is keep everyone in my prayers.  It doesn't feel like enough, but it's all I've got.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Back to School...

Today was the big day...the first day of school!  It's so hard to believe that Jacob is in fourth grade now.  Seems like just yesterday that we were putting him on the bus to Kindergarten.  And five years ago today we announced my pregnancy with a porch photo of Jacob in his big brother shirt.  Carter is now older than Jacob was that day, and a year from now he'll be doing his first official picture as he heads off to Kindergarten.  Holy crap.

But here is Jacob's official picture:

I just looked at last year's, and wow, does he look older.  Next year will be his last at this school, and then it's on to middle school, though the jury's still out on which middle school that will be--public school or a rather pricey Catholic school with a great lacrosse team.  The price tag on that one is a little scary, but the experience could probably serve him well if he's up to it.  I can't quite fathom Jacob managing changing classes, having a locker, or having to remember which books to bring home, but it's coming soon no matter what. 

Next year both kids will ride the same bus, though they'll get off at different places.  I can't believe Carter is only a year away from Kindergarten.  We have a long way to go before I will see him as Kindergarten ready, but again, it's coming.  Since Jacob had a four-year-old picture on the porch, I figured we'd take Carter's picture today, too...

 
Jacob's day didn't go great.  He doesn't like his teacher's Long Island accent, and his three best friends all ended up in the same classroom--without him.  He was pretty unhappy with a couple kids in his class, but in general he doesn't have any good friends there.  I keep trying to tell him that of all the kids in his class who he hasn't been in a class with before, he could probably find a new good friend.  He's not buying it, though.  I wish I had more advice to give, but I didn't start having different kids in my class every year until I hit high school.  I had pretty much the same crew of 12-15 other kids every year from Kindergarten through eighth grade.  And even when I had the changes in high school, I had nine periods' worth of classes to find friends.  I do remember the end of some first days in high school where I was really unexcited with the classmates I had and what a bummer it was, but I also know that most of those classes actually turned out pretty well by later in the year.  He should be fine, but it's hard to tell him that now. 

Nothing is really changing for Carter as he's been in the four-year-old Pre-K since February, but apparently we're starting a new curriculum and five little homework projects are coming home each week, with the goal of doing at least half per month in order to get a prize.  Many of them are going to be more like "parent homework" than something for the kids to worry about, but we'll see how he does.

So, we're off to the beginning of another year.  Let's hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Adios, Summer...

Well, another summer has (un)officially come to an end.  Labor Day is over and school starts tomorrow.  I was bemoaning earlier today at work that I should have taken more vacation during the summer.  I have a ton to take before the end of the year and now my best window to do it is over.  Not that I had a lot of "free time" to do that since we're still shorthanded at work, but I feel like I have the same regret every year.  Hopefully I'll have some good reasons to take time this fall.

Anyway, we finished off the summer with a pretty low key Labor Day weekend.  Our big activity was on Saturday when we went to our favorite gluten-free pizza place for dinner, then headed to Minnehan's, a fun spot near Geneseo, to play mini golf.  I figured a fun, more challenging course might be a little more interesting than our usual Adventure Landing courses around the corner.  We enjoyed our dinner, loaded up on cookies, and battled slightly chilly temps as we headed out on the course.

Everyone taking on hole #2.  It's a challenging course with long holes and lots of scenery.  Note the fountains in the background.
I played this course in college as it was our "local" course, and 20 years later it's still giving me fits!  The boys liked it, though, once they got used to the challenge!

It's such a pretty course with a very unique layout.


The boys were fascinated by this hole, which has a waterfall as part of it.  If your ball goes under those white sections, it falls into the water and rocks below.  The current automatically directs it into a metal channel that takes it down to a tunnel and on to the green (though stuck behind a brick).  The boys kept putting their ball down to see it happen again and again!


Over the bridge to the back nine...

Looking back toward the mill and castle
The final hole is hard to see, but it's sort of like Skee-ball, and whichever level you putt your ball into, that's your score.  Contrary to the picture, Jacob did not conquer it...we all stunk! :)

It was not my best game, but we had fun despite the cool, damp weather.  The next day we headed to Buffalo for Craig's dad's 70th birthday.  We enjoyed partying with his family and celebrating his dad (and it was nice getting a couple belated presents myself!).  We stayed overnight and planned to go home around lunch time on Monday, but the family was going to the Labor Day parade in South Buffalo so we decided to go see Craig's mom marching. 

We had no idea this parade was a candy jackpot!  Almost every float or set of marchers (and there were a lot!) had candy!  Even standing back a bit Carter and I collected a lot for him.  Jacob and his cousin Grant were closer to the front, and you can see Grant's Frisbee full of candy in the picture.  I think Jacob must have been eating what he was grabbing, but eventually he got a Frisbee, too, and had quite the collection by the time we left.  We saw some kids with grocery bags full!  That should keep them until Halloween!

After the parade we walked over to the nearby park, one where we did some geocaching after my dad's heart surgery three years ago.  We stood right outside the hospital during the parade, too, and of course it brought back a lot of memories of those crazy couple days.  Anyway, over in the park Carter and his cousin Luke went to check out the kid activities, and when Craig went to bring them back, he snapped this picture of Carter with a couple friends...
 
The guy on the left is Sabretooth, the Sabres' mascot, and the guy on the right is Celery, a recently-retired racer for the Buffalo Bisons.  He used to race against two different Buffalo wings and a cup of blue cheese, and he never won in his hundreds of races...until the other night when he ran his last race and finally took the victory.  Apparently he's going to be more of a fan-interaction mascot next year. 
 
We wrapped up our time at the park, grabbed some late lunch, and headed home.  We tried to get a little relaxation into the rest of our weekend Monday evening, and I had an atypical Tuesday (lovely lunch with an old friend and a closed office due to a water problem).  And now tomorrow is the first day of school.  As usual, we're hoping for a smooth start.  We're once again going in blind, without having met his teacher or seen a class list, so we'll just have to see how it goes.  Fingers crossed!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bored.

Apparently Jacob is becoming a tiny bit more self-aware, because lately when I ask him why he torments his brother and makes the rest of us crazy, his answer is, "I'm bored."  I don't know about you, but when I was bored I'd lay around my room and grump around and finally settle on watching something boring on TV.  Or maybe I'd pick up a book.  I did not want to tell my mother that for fear she'd come up with all sorts of things for me to do--all of which would probably involve some sort of housecleaning. 

But Jacob's version of boredom involves running around the house, making random loud noises, bothering his brother, and generally making life miserable for everyone else.  I can suggest any number of activities, but none are acceptable.  Reading, writing, drawing, playing Legos, playing outside, watching TV, playing a video game...nope.  And while I could assign him a cleaning task, he would most certainly not do it.  The dutiful obedience gene that would have made me feel compelled to do what my mom told me to totally skipped him, and while I could just make it one of the 400 battles I feel like I fight with him every day, I don't.  I'm tired and he wouldn't do it well anyway.  The other day I tried to get him to write birthday thank you notes and it turned into a disaster and a meltdown, so we're back to the drawing board on that one.  The kid doesn't like to write, refuses to follow directions, and then gets so upset about the whole thing he can't function anyway.  I have no doubt the cleaning would follow a similar path.  I'm sure many judgy parents out there would say I'm letting him off easy and he needs to learn how to do that stuff, but until you've dealt with a kid like this, you wouldn't understand.  Their brains just work differently and the rules don't apply quite the same.  It stinks, trust me.

Anyway, when you think about the boredom thing within the context of ADHD, it actually makes a lot of sense.  Jacob is used to a lot of sensory input.  He's constantly thinking, constantly being distracted, and when things slow down a bit and there isn't constant input directed at him (like he was getting in school or at camp), he basically needs to create his own.  That's where the noise and the crazy behavior comes in. 

Another element to it is his relationship with Carter.  He's finally getting to the point where he wants to play with Carter, but the problem is that the two of them have very little in common.  Jacob rarely wants to do what Carter is doing, and Carter rarely wants to do what Jacob is doing.  Finding common ground is nearly impossible.  So, what ends up happening is one of two scenarios:
  • Carter tries to do what Jacob wants to do, isn't doing it the way Jacob wants, so Jacob gets mad and Carter quits.
  • Jacob pesters Carter to stop doing what he's doing, which makes him a nuisance, and only serves to get Carter mad.  Carter refuses to play with Jacob, and Jacob just becomes more annoying in his desperation.
Jacob gets more agitated when he's bored and specifically wants to play with Carter, but he can't get him to do it.  Nothing else will do at that moment, and his agitation comes out in trying to wrestle Carter or otherwise forcing him to pay attention to him.  It's exhausting, because stuff like this goes on all day when they're together. 

I wish Jacob could understand that two years of mistreating Carter (or four, if you count when Jacob was completely ignoring him) has led to this, where Carter is always on the defensive and they just don't have a lot of common interests.  Jacob has never been the nurturing brother who wanted to help feed him, or build Duplo towers with him, or race his cars.  He seems to be coming around slightly, but rarely and only on his own terms.  I don't think either of them have any idea how good it could be if they got along most of the time.  Tuesday's Seabreeze trip was a little glimpse of that, and I made sure to point that out to Jacob. 

The problem is that he is unwilling to consider anyone's ideas except his own.  If he's claiming he's bored, then take some of my suggestions and maybe you won't be anymore.  Try harder to cooperate with your brother.  Have a little more patience with him.  Try to find any other way to get your frustration out of your system beyond driving us all nuts.  Instead of complaining I yell all the time, listen the first time and see what happens.  Long story short, I need some effort on his part.  None of this is going to work if he doesn't put forth some willingness to cooperate. 

We haven't been to the therapist since this "boredom" thing came to light, so I'll be interested to hear her take on this.  Maybe there are some methods we can try to channel that energy or frustration, or maybe she can give Jacob some additional insight into what he's feeling.  It's a process, no doubt.  Sometimes I feel like we see progress and some days it feels like we've only moved backward.  I'll take it as a small victory that we have a tiny bit of insight into what Jacob is dealing with, and hopefully we can help him more now that we understand more about what's bugging him. 

School starts on Wednesday, and hopefully getting back to a normal routine will help a little.  Fingers crossed that he likes his teacher, has a good group of friends in his class, finds his niche quickly, and doesn't get too overwhelmed by the work.  Fourth grade was a tough one for me, so I'm definitely on edge thinking about the things Jacob might encounter this year.  The good news is that he'll be going into the year at the right level of medication and we shouldn't have the same adjustment period we had last year.  This might be the first year where his teacher gets to see the best side of him right off the bat, and that is sort of crazy to think about.  It's a huge opportunity to start the year off right for a change, if nothing else. 

I feel like this was sort of an odd summer--between strange weather (hot early, rainy and moderate in the middle, and now cool a bit too quickly), lacrosse travel, and what seems like a few less adventures than usual.  I'm sure looking back through the pictures I'd see that's not the case, but it still feels...different.  Fall is coming and we usually have some fun adventures then, too, but it's still hard to say goodbye to another summer.  No choice, I guess, so here we go...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Seabreeze!

Many years ago, before we had kids, Craig and I spent a day at Seabreeze, our local amusement park.  It's a small park, much smaller than Darien Lake, where I crafted much of my coaster love as a teenager, and even a bit smaller than Fantasy Island, which we've covered here the previous two summers.  We went through a phase in our relationship where I tried to break Craig of his coaster-phobia, and out of love he tried to ride a handful of coasters for me--a couple at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, and a couple at Seabreeze.  Despite having a really good time that day at Seabreeze, we never ended up going back.  The closest we got was venturing back to that part of town for a great anniversary date a couple years ago, to the mini golf course across the street and a bar down the road. 

Last year, after Jacob went to Seabreeze with camp and loved it, and Carter turned into a ride maniac at Fantasy Island, I promised the kids we'd go this year when Carter was tall enough to ride almost everything.  I think he was just 38 inches last year and I knew he'd cut it close if we tried then, so I figured we might as well wait.  And sure enough, he clocked in at 41 inches this year, which made him tall enough for all but a handful of rides, plus a bunch of waterslides he wouldn't do anyway.  It took us forever to find a date that worked, but we finally made it happen on Tuesday.

The park doesn't even open until 11am, and since I hadn't been at an amusement park past dark in ages, I figured we wouldn't rush there and we'd plan to stay late.  There's something special about old school amusement park rides with the flashing light bulbs on every appendage, and I probably hadn't done that since possibly my "Coasters Across Ohio" trip with my friend Lois in 2001.  Disney is a totally different animal and doesn't count, and I feel like any other time I've gone to a park (which isn't very many in the past 15 years or so), we've gone early and left before it got dark.  So, with a late start, nostalgia for my late nights at Darien Lake, and an insistence that I was not going to rush us through the park, I figured a late night might be in order.

I had an allergy shot in the morning and then we ate lunch at home to minimize any food issues at the park.  We arrived around 1pm, when it was just feeling warm enough to start out our day at the waterpark.  We were lucky enough to get a really pleasant day in the mid-70s, but it almost felt a little too cool with a bathing suit, especially considering that the water (much like our pool) has been out in the open on our recent nights in the 50s!  Still, we had a great time.  We split up and Jacob and I did some of the big slides--one open one in a double tube, one tube slide in single tubes, and these crazy racing slides on toboggan-shaped mats that you rode on head-first.  The first two were great, but the racing slides were a bit much--very narrow, water in your face most of the way, and quite fast.  Even still, we had a great time.  Riding the double tubes with him was a lot of fun!
The racing slides - they pretty much just looped around and then came out into the open for a final hill.  You can see the other two slides we did in the background--one was blue and the other was a cream color.
After those slides, we met back up with Craig and Carter.  They'd been unsuccessful in doing anything, as Carter's water phobia--which I'd hoped we'd cured a bit with the alligator float in our pool--was still holding strong.  None of the splash pad areas or mini water slides were of any interest to him.  Jacob and I still had to conquer one more slide--the one Jacob was afraid of, the Helix, and then I figured I'd take my shot with Carter.  The Helix was among Craig's and my favorites from our original trip there, and yet Jacob refused to try it.  I told him if he did it I'd let him play the basketball game he likes on the midway, and he agreed.  So, up we went...
This is the Helix...and also note those little teal and pink slides below it.
We had been calling the Helix the "toilet bowl" because that's sort of what it's like.  You slide down the big slide (as seen above), which is a very fast, very intense three second ride, then get spit out into the bowl, which you ring around a couple times (just like a flushing toilet) before falling through a hole in the bottom and sliding down into the pool.  Coming out of the slide at the beginning and going into the pool at the end, the tunnels have water streaming down on you, so between those and some intense splashes from the current in the bowl, I was a little nervous about Jacob's response.  We rode a double tube and I couldn't see his face, so when we were finally in the pool and he said, "Can we do that again?!" I was immediately relieved!  He loved it! 

Oh, and while we were waiting on the stairs to that slide, down below us, Craig bribed Carter to try the teal slide in the picture above.  We watched from above as he came up the stairs, hesitated, then went back and finally went down!  Again, I couldn't see his face as he got to the bottom, but as he stood up he slipped and face-planted back in the water, which I knew wouldn't go over well.  Even still, when we joined back up with them, he was proud of himself and was excited to do more!

Our next stop was the lazy river, which we could do as a family.  Carter and I shared a double tube, and Craig and Jacob shared another.  Carter was just tall enough to have his feet on the bottom while popping up through the tube, and I made sure to keep my feet accessible so I could steer us out of approaching waterfalls.  Jacob, on the other hand, was purposely steering Craig into them!  In the picture below, you can see a low, arched set of fountains to the middle right.  Jacob steered Craig into those and he got a direct hit for a good 10 feet!  Merciless, that kid.  And yes, the water was cold here, too.

We did two laps around the river by the kids' request, then Craig and Jacob did a couple slides (including the Helix again) while I hung out with Carter.  He decided to try a couple more slides, all on his own!  He did these two before I made him sit and warm up for a few minutes because he was so shivery!

He did them a couple more times after that, along with the pink one next to the teal one he did first.  I did one more Helix run with Jacob before checking out the wave pool for a few minutes, and then we decided it was time to change back into regular clothes and start checking out the rest of the park!

Jacob and I started with a ride on the swings, and Craig and Carter went on the train.  On the swings I noticed that Jacob was closing his eyes for the whole ride.  He wouldn't really talk, but he didn't look scared either.  He looked like he was in some zen state throughout the ride.  I haven't quite figured out his ride tolerance.  He likes rides, but coasters scare him and he doesn't really like spinning.  He avoids ones I think he could do and tries ones that I know are probably not the best...and you never quite know what he'll say.  Despite his eye-closing, he really likes the swings!  We moved on deeper into the park and Carter and I rode the kiddie coaster, which was pretty decent as far as they go.  We also checked out the new ride this year, the Time Machine.  It's reminiscent of the Rainbow, a long ago ride where you sit facing forward, and the whole ride swoops up and around in a big vertical circle.  You remain upright.  I went on something similar a couple years ago in Erie, and it wasn't too intense, so I figured this one might be okay.  We bypassed riding this one for the moment, though.

We did ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, which was once upon a time my favorite ride.  It is not any longer.  Spinning is definitely no longer my forte.  I figured that out over the past couple years, but this confirmed it.  I definitely did not feel great coming off this one, despite taking a Dramamine that morning.  I was fine enough, mind you, but I get this little headachy blah feeling if I spin too much. Jacob also went on for some reason and really didn't enjoy it either.  Carter, on the other hand, giggled the entire time.
 

While Carter and I went on another ride, the Seabreeze Flyers, Jacob got his snack of choice, a root beer float...
And yes, I am jealous of Craig's iPhone's portrait mode that makes everything look like a professional shot!
The Seabreeze Flyers is an old school ride where your car floats outward as the ride rotates, and you have control of a rudder/sail type thing that lets you control whether you fly straight or twist and turn in the air.  Carter loved it.  I liked it, though after the Tilt-a-Whirl I was ready for it to be over pretty quickly.

I think it might have been around this time that Jacob and I rode the Jack Rabbit for the first time.  He had ridden it with his friends from camp, but I could tell he wasn't convinced he liked it.  But he came with me, and because the lines were so decent, we waited a few extra minutes to go on the front car.  I love the front in any coaster, but its line is usually twice as long.  So, with generally short lines, I figured this time it was worth the extra few minutes.  I also explained to Jacob that the front is so much smoother than the rest of the train, and I figured he might need that.


It's a classic wooden coaster with a top height of only 75 feet.  It's a fun ride, and this run was actually smoother than most wooden coasters.  Of course, Jacob had his eyes closed for the whole thing, but he seemed to like it a little better than when he went on the old wooden coaster in Erie with me.  He also seemed to think the front car made for a better ride than he'd done in the past.

After that, we decided to walk over to the kiddie rides and let Carter ride a bunch of stuff while the rest of us ate some dinner and/or digested.  He rode the turtles...

...the rockets...

...the boats...

...the cars...
Seriously, how cute is that tiny gas station that dinged when they passed under the canopy?  The theming for the whole ride was so cute!
...and the swings!
Oh, this kid...

He had a blast!  He just loves rides so much!  (And I'm internally rejoicing because I need a ride buddy ASAP!)

Slightly more digested, we headed to this fun ride, the Bobsleds.

Craig is not a ride person at all, but this one he did.  It's another old school roller coaster, this time with a much smaller hill and a tubular steel track.  So while it looks and feels much like a wooden coaster, it's not.  It also has single, four-person cars, so we fit perfectly.  It has a fun little layout with lots of little hills and crazy turns, and both kids absolutely loved it!  I wasn't sure about Jacob initially (eyes closed), but in the end we rode this one three times!  We raced in the USA bobsled first, then Italy, and then Jamaica...haha!

I then braved this crazy coaster, the Whirlwind, by myself.  It's a bit like a wild mouse coaster, but the cars spin and they're double sided, so I rode much of it backwards!  It's a pretty fun ride, though it whips you around a bit so you need to be prepared when it changes direction--which was a little tough when I couldn't see what was coming!

Carter and I then took on the Sea Dragon, which is a very similar ride to my beloved Pirate at Darien Lake!  Since I now get a little motion sickness on playground swings, I was a little nervous about this one, but it was fine.  The funniest part was that we rode this later (with a gorgeous view of the sunset as the boat swung), and a woman couldn't believe Carter was riding it, because she was terrified to ride it!  And when we walked to the end of the ship, which is the seat with the most intense ride, she was even more shocked.  But of course he giggled through it and we had a blast!

Then I had to go with Jacob on the Music Express, which is much like the first ride he fell in love with two years ago at Fantasy Island.  Of course, he refused to ride the same one in Erie a week or two later, but with subsequent trips to Seabreeze he likes it again.  Once again, he closed his eyes for the entire ride.  That's why his eyes are closed in the picture!

Carter then wanted to ride the teacups, and I braced myself.  I tried my best to minimize the spinning on this one since it's somewhat controllable, and we all came out unscathed.

It was starting to get late, so after wandering through the arcade, we headed back toward the middle of the park so the big boys could ride the log flume before it got too cool outside.  All these years later it is one of the rides I tend to avoid.  Someday when we're at a park with a few water rides I'll dress appropriately for them (bathing suit and board shorts all the way) and ride them all, but if I can avoid them, I do.  I'm scarred from a couple childhood rides gone bad, or maybe it's just the squishy shoe/wet shorts aftermath.  No thanks.

Carter and I rode the train instead.
From the train, looking toward (L to R) the Screaming Eagle, Hot Air Balloons, Log Flume station, and the swings.  The flume track went all around us.
We got to see the boys start their flume ride as we rode the train, and we got off just in time to see them go down the hill!
Craig was mid-yell here, and I'm not sure if it was on purpose or he couldn't hold it back!

And the end result...WET!
You can't even see Craig's eyes because his glasses were still water spotted!
We rode the hot air balloon race, with Carter and me in one balloon and Jacob in his own...
I avoided spinning on this one as much as possible, too, as this one was like the teacups, only high in the air!
We then headed back to the area near the Bobsleds, where both boys rode the airplanes.  Carter rode it by himself earlier, and it was nice to see them actually acting like brothers!

We stuck around that area and re-rode a few things before dark.  On one of the Bobsled runs, Jacob finally opened up his eyes, and when we finished, he said, "That was much better with my eyes open!"  Ummm, yes, duh!  He did it again when we rode the Jack Rabbit later, this time in the back seat of the first car.  And again, much better!  Silly kid.

Eventually we hit up the carousel...
The building is beautiful and the carousel is a classic, although both have only been around since the mid-90s after a fire destroyed the old carousel.  They did a great job making them feel pleasantly old, though!
..and did another ride on the Music Express, this time with Jacob's eyes open!  And yes, he liked it better.
This picture didn't turn out as well as I'd have liked, but I did get the blur from the moving cars, so that was fun!
We walked back to the other end of the park one more time, where we did the open-eye run on the Jack Rabbit and another ride on the Flyers.  Before we headed out, I finally decided to brave the Time Machine.  Jacob, presumably still pumped from his ride on the Jack Rabbit, came with me.  It appears this more compact design makes things a bit more intense than the similar ride I'd been on, as the swinging motion was a little more than expected.  Jacob didn't enjoy it.  I was fine, but not the top of my list, for sure. 

It was close to 9:30 when we finally started to walk back out of the park, and I looked longingly at the Screaming Eagle (see the picture from the train above).  I wanted to try to ride it, just to see if I could still do an upside-down ride, but the kids were just starting to lose it so it was time to go.  Maybe another time.

Overall, it was a really good day.  The kids were pretty well behaved for the whole day.  If I had to pick highlights, I have a couple.  One was riding the Bobsleds as a family.  It was nice that all four of us could do something together and all enjoy it.  The kids both loved it and it was fun seeing them bond over a common joy.  My other highlight was seeing the kids face their fears and surprise themselves with their bravery.  Between the kids' waterslide runs and Jacob opening his eyes, it was always gratifying to see them overcome their fear and even enjoy it!  Carter's giggles on every ride still crack me up.  I can't wait until he's big enough to ride big coasters with me, and with any luck Jacob will get to that point, too.  I was sad that the medium sized drop tower they have wasn't working, because I know Carter would have loved that one, too. 

It was a truly good day.  Now the hunt is on to see if we can find an affordable indoor water park to visit this winter...or a new amusement park challenge for next summer...can't wait!