Thursday, July 27, 2017

News and Notes, Dry Mouth Edition

So, it's been a weird week.  I've finally started taking the prednisone that I was prescribed as yet another last-ditch effort to work on my smell/taste issues.  Instead of the rage I've had in the past, this time I've picked up half a dozen other symptoms, like a foggy brain, horrible dry mouth, desensitized taste buds (who knew it could get worse?), sleep issues, weird dreams, and even less motivation than usual.  I'm also hungrier than usual, which is annoying when I'm trying to not gain weight.  And of course, no surprise--no change in the issue that we're trying to fix.  I'm at my max dose for allergy shots and now get to start going less often, and despite a couple nose sprays and now the prednisone, nothing is really changing.  My nose is still a little stuffy but I suppose compared to some people I'm doing pretty well this time of year...but ragweed season is coming.  So, not sure what's next, but this ain't it.

Last week Craig's great uncle passed away.  We had to spend a day in Buffalo for the funeral.  Jacob stayed with us since his cousins were going to be there, but we let Carter have a day with Grandma and Grandpa, because it would have been too long of a day for his energy level.  He did well, and even got to try out Jacob's old golf clubs!  And, before we left, he got a quick ride in Grandpa's car!

Last weekend Jacob played in a fun weekend event with some of his lacrosse buddies.  It's an annual event that is in memory of a player who was with FCA and died suddenly a few years back.  A few years' worth of players break up into teams and have a little tournament.  In between, they do a quick fiddlestick tournament (no equipment), have lunch and a little celebration of life ceremony, and then wrap up the main tournament.  Carter and I came for the second half and I took a couple pictures...
Fiddlestick tournament

Jacob taking a faceoff (on the right)!

Getting scrappy (still on the right)!
In the end, after some hard-fought battles, his team took the win in a shootout!  It was a fun little event and it was nice to see some familiar faces and meet some new people.

What else is new....?  Craig's phone took a swim, so he had to get a new one.  His old one, which Jacob was hoping to get, has not yet been resuscitated.  So we've been arguing with him a bit about that situation.  He still doesn't have the Bluetooth speaker he wanted for his birthday because we couldn't agree on a good one, and now he's insisting he wants Bluetooth headphones, misguidedly thinking that he can run around with them in while he plays lacrosse.  Not really.  We're at a bit of an impasse there. 

I am debating heavily about buying a new computer.  One of the ones I've been eyeing up for months is on sale this week, about $100 less than I've seen it elsewhere, but then I debate on which processor to get, and whether it's the right one for me, or what.  It's making me crazy, as big purchases always do.  My screen is permanently tinted pink, the buttons are sometimes screwy, and because I have a tiny one there are limitations with the screen size.  I love my little one for a lot of stuff, but the screen is annoying sometimes.  It also gets really slow at times.  But is it worth it?  Ugh.

Last Saturday Craig and I attacked some yard work, and I finally finished digging out the tree stump in our yard.  Craig hacked up the bushes that are too tall for me to trim, and I took a shovel all around and under the stump.  It wasn't deep but I did have to saw off a large side root.  I dumped some dirt in the hole and finally got some seed the other night to grow some grass there.  It felt pretty cool to pull the whole stump out myself, and I topped it off by trimming up the rest of the bushes in the yard.  Exhausting, but at least it's done.  Too bad it never stays done!

We have a few busy weekends ahead.  This weekend is Jacob's lacrosse tryouts and a family reunion at the beach.  Next weekend is another family reunion on my side, and after that we have our nephew's birthday, Jacob's party the weekend after that (finally), and Craig has something going on the weekend after that...and then it's Labor Day.  So that pretty much finishes out the rest of the summer.  We have a couple things to schedule somewhere in there still, like a trip to Seabreeze, the amusement park near us, but we're definitely already on the downswing of summer, which is a bit of a bummer.  It always goes so fast!  Hopefully we can cram a little more in before ::gasp:: school starts!

Sorry, I know this wasn't the most riveting update, but if I don't do it now, I won't remember what I forgot :)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Current State of (Sibling) Affairs

I tried not to harp on it in my trip posts, but we had a very hard time with the boys on our last trip.  All trips, really, but this last trip--given the duration and distance--was especially tough.  Last year I actually swore we would never do a family vacation again until the boys could get along, and this reminded me why.  And to be fair, from what I can recall, we haven't really done a full-on vacation that wasn't hooked up with some other event since.  We did an overnight in Toronto with a Knighthawks game and the rest of our travels have been with Jacob's lacrosse games.  We did add "vacation experiences" on in spots, but it seemed like the best bang for our buck once we've gone through the trouble to actually get to these places.

Sometimes it seems like the change of scenery might be helpful.  Until we're actually there and I realize it's less embarrassing (and much cheaper) to simply yell at my kids in the privacy of our own home.  It's the definition of insanity--doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome.  We have officially hit that point, mostly because I have some misguided shred of faith that perhaps this attempt at memory-making will finally be memorable for the right reasons.  I do want to expose my kids to new places and things, and trips are usually the best way to do that.  I guess teaching them some history, geography, and pop culture in between yelling is better than banging our heads on the same four walls at home.  So we keep trying.  I read this blog post recently (after I started this post, ironically) and I guess it's good to know I'm not alone.

The biggest challenge is that the boys can't leave each other alone.  There is some sort of weird compulsion that draws them to one another.  From Carter's perspective, I think it's just that natural draw that little kids have to big kids.  They're fascinated by them, and if one lives in your own house, even better!  However, after so many rough-and-tumble run-ins, he seems quick to rely on a punch or kick at the first sign of confrontation, which is not well-received by Jacob and is something we're working on stopping.  From Jacob's perspective, I'm not sure what the draw is.  There is probably a part of him that likes being a person of great interest to Carter, but at the same time he has this horrible, deep-seeded dislike of him, so I feel like most encounters turn into an opportunity to "get even" or prove his dominance. It either turns into a physical battle, an onslaught of insults or leading questions with the sole purpose of belittling Carter, or potty talk that he's trying to get Carter to repeat.  Being in a hotel room makes things extra impossible, as it's a small space without many options for punishment.  At home we send the kids to their rooms, but the best we can do in a hotel is send them to opposite sides.  And that only seems to last a moment before one or the other has somehow wandered back.  Sometimes it's a derailed trip to the bathroom, and sometimes it's just that inescapable lure.  Either way, it's impossible.  Add in a couple bouncy beds, lots of adjacent furniture, and generally being off their schedule, and it's a recipe for disaster.  Our hotel neighbors probably thought we were nuts.

But the thing is, they do have moments.  Maybe it's Jacob giving up his Chick-Fil-A prize at the ballgame, or setting aside the gluten items in his summer camp "Halloween" bag for Carter, or teaching him how to play Xbox.  Or last weekend, as they played nicely with Carter's Hot Wheels track, or when Jacob cheered him on in the pool as Carter learned how to use a kick board (and took to it immediately), which taught him a swimming skill Jacob only picked up recently.  It can happen, but all too often it's followed by a moment of immediate, searing anger/jealousy that leaves both kids complaining about mutually caused injuries.  But here and there we've had moments that haven't ended disastrously, which gives me a tiny bit of hope that something in Jacob's mind is starting to click and realize this brother thing isn't all bad.  But as of now we're fighting impulse control on both sides and neither one usually wants to back down.

I've come to realize more and more that a lot of Jacob's behavior reflects back to his trust in us.  That trust was inadvertently shattered when Carter came along, and he didn't express until years later how hurt he was by how much time I was spending with Carter when he was a newborn.  Of course, he never TOLD me it bothered him and just generally kept his distance, so I tried not to push him.  Even then his behavior was a problem but it didn't seem directly tied to Carter, as we never saw a direct link, timing-wise.  But now I can clearly see that when Jacob feels attacked or like we're always taking Carter's side, his behavior gets more extreme.  Conversely, one of his best weeks was around Easter time, when Carter had a rather terrible run of bad behavior.  Seeing Carter get disciplined apparently made Jacob feel better, and he ended up being rather pleasant for a while.  It was a noticeable change and he admitted that Carter's downturn was part of it.  I feel like if he knows we've got his back and are giving him a fair shake, he's a little easier to work with.  But the second he feels like we've abandoned him emotionally (which isn't really true, but he's an extreme kid), he's ready to turn his back on us.  That's when we get the, "I'm leaving this family" statement, or worse.  Those are the moments that I look into our future and have the worst fear about where we're going if we can't get this figured out.  Part of it is Jacob's challenging personality and a higher-than-usual sensitivity, but I'm sure we could find ways to manage things better.  It's hard, though, when you know you have one kid whose impulse control is still pretty immature, and one whose should be better than it is, so you sort of default at coming down on the kid who should be able to do better.  But what if he can't?

I can't tell you how often I say or do something as a parent that I know immediately wasn't the right way to deal with the issue, but I am at such a loss that I do the only thing that comes into my head.  For example, when Carter gets mad and hits or kicks someone or something, I probably shouldn't resort to spanking him after my yelling has no effect.  Normally I reserve spanking for high level offenses when I feel like it's important to make a clear and immediate impact, but when nothing else has worked, I'm not sure what else to do.  But clearly doing the exact thing I'm telling him not to do (and modeling that anger = hit) is about as bad as it gets.  But when yelling and privileges and all of that doesn't work, then what?  No one can seem to give me that answer.  We have boundary pushers (each in their own distinct way), and it seems like we have no ammunition to push them back. So, honestly, our best bet is to attempt to avoid confrontations all together.  Whether it's doing our darnedest to keep the boys physically apart, pick our battles, or finding proactive ways to circumvent issues, that's what we have to do.  It's not 100% easy or effective, but it's a start.

I desperately wish we could get our boys to see the value in each other and learn to respect each other as a result.  Right now they just seem to see an adversary (most of the time), rather than a flash-and-blood human being who they're technically supposed to love unconditionally.  Someday perhaps they will see the value in having a brother, but there are days when I wonder if we'll all make it there intact.  Battles on the stairs, shoves across the room, full-body name it, they do it on a regular basis and constantly endanger each other.  Hence why we just prefer to keep them separate if we can. 

Needless to say, we're tired.  It's exhausting, frustrating, and very sad.  Craig and I have a hard time getting in a decent conversation, mostly because the kids are never quiet, but partly because we're so tired by the time the kids are in bed that we can barely think of what we wanted to talk about.  We don't always agree on how to handle the battles, either, so that's made things even harder.  We could probably use a long vacation, or even just a nice day date or fancy dinner.  We need a break from the arguments and decision-making.  And maybe someday it'll happen.  But for now we need to do more than just survive.  Better than nothing, I suppose, but we're trying.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Tournament-Plus Trip, Days 4 & 5

Because Jacob's team did so well on Saturday, we didn't start playing until 1pm on Sunday.  The good news is that we had a lazy morning.  The bad news was it would be hotter and it would make for a late day getting on the road afterward.  Well, for everyone except us, maybe.  We'd sort of built in an extra buffer on our trip to either come home late Sunday and just stay home on Monday, or to tack on one extra day and make the most of being six hours away from home.  Given how the boys had been acting, I wasn't confident we'd do the latter option, but I managed to find a nice but cheap hotel deal in Gettysburg so we decided--in the middle of Jacob's game--to stick it out for one more day.  It also broke up the drive a bit more, which is always helpful.

Anyway, Jacob and his team got back at it and won their semifinal game pretty handily.  That meant we'd play the host team in the championship.  We only beat them by a couple goals the previous day and it was a bit of a rough game.  That team had actually beaten the top team in their bracket in the semis, which surprised us a bit.  We just had to hope the kids kept their heads on straight even though they'd already beaten them once.
Look at that high-step!
It was a physical game, but in the end it was no contest--Jacob's team won 8-1!  This was the first time they won on the field (as opposed to their other championship, which was a mathematical calculation), so it was fun to capture their celebration!
Equipment was flying everywhere!
It was so great to see them finish off the season on a high note.  They really came together as a team over the course of the season, and everyone really did contribute.  So awesome!
Jacob is standing on the left near the edge of the banner.  He's a bit blocked here.

Raising the trophy

Happy champ!
Of course, you can't have 20 boys win a championship without some shenanigans, and here you see a few kids (Jacob among them, no surprise) sizing up the Gatorade cooler to douse their coach!

Initially it didn't look possible since another set of teams was still playing and using it, but another one was found and the boys did the deed...
And thankfully we had an amazing coach who willingly went toward a bunch of smiling kids hanging out around a Gatorade cooler...Good thing it was HOT!

Another picture before loading up and heading out, this time with a proud dad!

It was sad to leave everyone, but tryouts are in a couple weeks and one family is trying to plan a pool party soon.  It was a great group and I'm really pleased with the experience and the organization as a whole this year.  It's not cheap, but I really do believe it's the best place for Jacob to be as he grows as a lacrosse player and as a person.  The values and inclusiveness of this team were really appreciated, especially as we encountered cheating opponents and mouthy opposing fans.  Having such a strong character focus is huge, particularly at such a formative age.

Since we had decided to extend our trip another day, we headed off to our next stop, Gettysburg.  Since our goal was to make it back to a lacrosse clinic for Jacob the following day at 5:30, we knew our time was limited, so we decided to see as much of Gettysburg as possible that night before it got dark.  We arrived around 6:30, stopped in a store that Jacob and Craig had stopped in before (partly to use the bathroom), then headed out to the battlefield area.

Gettysburg is full of battlefields and monuments.  Every roadside and every open field has some sort of marker.  This particular battlefield had a lot to see.

We walked around, read monuments, and let Carter run like a maniac before walking back toward downtown.  Gettysburg had a surprisingly adorable downtown.  Lots of Colonial-looking taverns, cute bed and breakfasts, and odd little shops.  We visited one such shop in a narrow house.  It had a little of everything, from keychains and magnets to Civil War artifacts and modern collectibles.  Everything was in different rooms and it was one of those old houses where the halls and stairways felt so tiny--I could practically hit my head as I came down the stairs!  On the porch was one of many advertisements for ghost tours around town.  I don't know what makes them "ghost-y", but there are guides in period costumes walking small groups all over town.  Maybe next time, but for now, we'll stick with our little ghost...

We wanted to maximize our time before sunset, but we stopped in an ice cream parlor and had an ice cream dinner first.  Carter had this amazing chocolate Oreo flavor, I had cherry vanilla, Craig had vanilla soft serve, and Jacob had strawberry Flavor Burst soft serve.  Once we were stuffed, we wandered back to the car and drove around a bit.  We noticed "Auto Tour" signs around the battlefields so we started following them, and then we found this... 

It was a massive monument to everyone from Pennsylvania who fought in the Civil War.  It was so beautiful, and we couldn't have asked for a prettier backdrop, either.  The detail on the monument was gorgeous.


Abraham Lincoln
As we were walking up to get a closer look, we noticed that there were people on top!  Sure enough, inside one leg of the monument there was a spiral staircase.  Up top, we got a great view of the surrounding area!

The room at the top of the staircase was cool.  It was all metal (maybe copper?) and had lots of texture and detail.  This picture is looking down the small staircase from the landing to the top of the spiral staircase.

The kids did a bit of a repeat of the CN Tower incident from last year, so back down on the ground we did some lecturing about running away and hiding from us while more than 50 feet up in the air.  
There's the stairway to the right, and the lecture to the left.
Here's another pretty monument nearby...

Eventually we made our way to our hotel, a really luxurious looking Wyndham.  The lobby was swanky and the room was big.  We were only missing free breakfast and a fridge in the room, but otherwise, it was a good deal.  And there was a real Civil War cannon in the lobby!
And yes, those are the kids underneath it.
After a bit of an adventure to figure out a Jacob-friendly breakfast, we got on the road to Hershey.  As much as I would have loved to do Hersheypark, I think we need to wait until the boys are older.  Carter seems to be my ride guy, but until he can ride the big ones, it's not worth paying to go there.  Jacob might ride some and Craig won't ride much of anything, so this time around it didn't seem worth the money.  But maybe someday.  In the meantime, we'll enjoy the street lights...

We stopped at Hershey's Chocolate World...

We did the fun little free "factory tour", which is done in a moving vehicle through simulated factory scenes.  It seemed to fill Carter's ride quota for the day.  We also got free chocolate!  Then we did a cheap but fun 4-D mystery movie featuring some of the candy characters.  It was cute and even Jacob enjoyed it!
3-D glasses on!
After that each kid shopped for a treat (though Carter ended up with a small treat and a Hershey's Hot Wheels car), and then it was back in the car to head home. 
Jacob with his giant Hershey Kiss!

We decided somewhere along the way (after a couple unplanned potty stops and driver changes) that we weren't going to make the lacrosse thing on time, so we turned our attention officially toward home.  We kept ourselves occupied with movies and travel bingo (where you look for the people, places, and things on your bingo card), and we arrived home around dinner time.  At least we had some time to get settled, but it didn't make Tuesday much easier.  I felt totally discombobulated, and if that wasn't enough, it was also the Corporate Challenge on Tuesday night!  It was a totally different setup this year, so that had me off my game, too.  I only managed to forget a hair tie, and despite serious heat and bashing my knee on a metal guardrail five minutes prior to the start, I didn't do half bad.  It was my longest time since I really started running, by maybe a minute, but because of the heat I specifically paced myself so I didn't pass out.  I'll call it a win and hope for better next year.

It was a busy week even after that and I'm still exhausted.  Thank goodness for a weekend without real plans!  Of course, we found plenty of ways to fill it up after so many weeks on the road, but it's nice to be able to not rush around or drive long distances for a change.  It's been a fun ride for the last month or so, and hopefully we'll have a little more to look forward to in the fall.  But for now we have the rest of our summer to enjoy!

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Tournament-Plus Trip, Day 3

Jacob's first game on Saturday was at 8am, which meant that we had to be at the field by 7am.  That meant we needed to leave by about 6:40.  Luckily we were able to grab a couple things from the free hotel breakfast and head out.  It was a comfortably cool morning, and getting in all three games by a little after noon meant we finally had some pleasant lacrosse-watching weather after weeks of near-90s and sun (and yes, I know it could have been raining...somehow we avoided that!)!  The team picked up three wins, one being a blowout that involved putting one of our top offensive players in goal and letting our two goalies play out (and we still got a shutout).  Watching the goalies' excitement to be among the runners was pretty priceless!  Jacob played a ton during that game, too.  He had some good chances and picked up a couple goals on the day.
Jacob shooting on the left.  The goalie snagged that one, even though it's hard to see in his stick.

He scored on this one, but I have no idea where the ball was when I took this!
After the game we checked out a restaurant near our hotel that had great gluten-free reviews.  It was an upscale sports bar-type place.  Jacob loved having gluten-free bread before his meal!  A couple things about the food made it a tiny bit too fancy for him, but I think we could do better next time and it was nice knowing it was a safe place.  The rest of us enjoyed our food, and then we headed back to the hotel for a quick pack-up before our evening activity, a trip to Aberdeen, MD to watch the Ironbirds!

We had originally wanted to go see the Phillies play, but tickets for the games we could make ended up prohibitively expensive compared to what we were originally looking at (not sure if it was the day or the timing that made the difference), so that's when we really started scrambling for more minor league games.  Aberdeen was only 50 minutes away and the stadium looked really nice.  It's Ripken Stadium, named for the famous baseball family, and it's part of a huge complex that hosts tournaments.  Compared to most single-A stadiums, this was a palace!

Inside there was a large kids' zone, and once again we let the kids pick a couple things.  Jacob wanted to do something like this in Harrisburg, and he got his chance here.

Carter opted for the bounce house first.  He loved it!
Normally I'm not a fan, but it was empty!  He smiled the whole time!
We walked through the concourse to explore food options, and we ran into this guy:
The Chick-Fil-A cow!
It turned out they had a table in the concourse and we all got to spin a wheel.  Two of us got coupons for free food (we tried to find another location on the trip, but no luck.  They're good for a while, so hopefully we'll have our location before they expire!), Jacob won a little football, and Craig picked this funny stuffed cow that he thought Carter would like, but after a pouty face, Jacob ended up letting him have the ball, no strings attached (sometimes he can actually be nice...really!)!

The stadium was really beautiful, and it was a gorgeous night for baseball!

We sat in the corner, almost directly across from this spot--blue seats beneath that white section.  The building in the background is a hotel overlooking the stadium!

From our close!

One of their mascots, Ferrous

Party deck area (complete with seafood concession stand!) at the end of the first base side

Both boys just HAD to have fresh lemonade.  Thank goodness they both liked it and finished it!

Cal Ripken, Jr.'s son Ryan was playing for the home team.  He looks a lot like his dad!
Eventually we needed a break so we went back to the kids' zone so the kids could use their other token we bought before before the game.  Carter picked this giant slide (mostly because we reminded him he wanted to do the big slide in Harrisburg, but it was all wet from the rain).  He got five slides for his token, so he was a happy boy!  He even shared one with Jacob!

Along the concourse this time, we ran into the other mascot, Ripcord!

Oh, and it was also rally towel giveaway night and Zooperstars night!  We picked a great night!  It was also a high scoring game--visitors out to a quick 6-0 lead, Aberdeen tied it, Aberdeen took a two run lead, Tri-City tied it. 
You can just see the moon peeking through the clouds to the left of the scoreboard and flag

Family selfie time - pretty much encompasses all of the emotions of our trip!
In the end, Aberdeen won on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth!

We also could have stayed for a postgame movie on the field, but it was time to head back (and we already had that movie in the van!).  We had a great time, and aside from nasty traffic caused by rubbernecking at a really bad accident on the other side of the road on the way home, it really was a pretty smooth trip.  Definitely beat the movie that some of the other families went to!  One more day of lacrosse was ahead, back to the hotel we went, and luckily a lazy morning awaited for a change!