Big.Boy.Bed.

I realize I haven’t written here in a while but the simple fact of the matter is that I haven’t had too much to say. I don’t really believe in blogging just for the sake of it, to meet some arbitrary schedule. I like to write when things happen instead of just spewing out words all the time. No one likes spewing. Even that word sounds gross… I digress.

BOOM.

The reason I’m writing now is that we made the leap. Over the weekend Don and I took Nathan’s crib apart and converted it to a full-sized bed. We brought the little dude with us to the mattress store to pick out the new device he would sleep on. I got him some super cool Toy Story sheets. Nate helped with the whole process from standing around while I took the crib apart to listening to me attempt not to curse as I installed the conversion kit.

Actually putting Nathan to bed Saturday night actually went as it usually does. I put him in his bed with all his stuffed animals and Matchbox cars and I kissed him a million times and closed the door. I then proceeded downstairs to pour a rum and Coke so strong I couldn’t taste any Coke. As an aside, Sailor Jerry is some pretty good spiced rum. I recommend giving it a shot if you are into that sort of thing.

Honestly, Nathan really surprised me. He didn’t cry when I closed the door to his room and he didn’t scream and yell for me to come back upstairs. He played in his room/bed for a while and then everything was quiet. Don checked on him around midnight and he was asleep perpendicular to how normal people sleep in a bed which is kind of hilarious.

The second night he woke up around 3am crying. I went in and put his blanket back on and gave him a hug and he went back to sleep right away. Night three was much like night one except he was definitely walking around his room for a while, pulling out books and talking to his toys.

I was terrified of this transition, people. TERRIFIED. Freeing my mostly feral toddler from his wooden prison…errr I mean comfortable crib, was scary. Turns out like with most things I did not give my kid enough credit. He was clearly ready for the change. He’s super proud of his new bed and wants to show it to everyone. It’s all very exciting for him. I on the other hand will now be crying into my drinks because holy crap this kid is growing up too fast and I.can’t.handle.it.

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Lighter and Heavier

The last week has been…difficult. I’m still trying to process all of the reports and images of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It feels like the heartbreak just keep coming and I’m definitely struggling to cope. My mother is having a really difficult time as well. It seems like she’s having some anxiety/panic attacks after the storm. She’s definitely worried about my father and his business and is feeling so sad for all the people who lost everything.

The breaking point for my mom was a few days ago. My aunt and uncle still didn’t have power and their inlaws were staying with them because they had severe flooding in their Shark River, NJ home. My mom offered to do some laundry for those inlaws. When my mom returned the clothes, Donna hugged her and cried because she was finally coming to terms with the fact that much of her home was destroyed. That rocked my mom. She called me and described it to me and was very upset.

These are the stories that make my heart feel so heavy. It’s like I’m walking around with a brick in my chest. It makes me feel 20 pounds heavier despite the fact that this morning I found out that I was officially lighter than I was when I found out I was pregnant with Nathan. On one hand that number is a huge deal for me but seeing it in the wake of such disaster makes it seem so inconsequential. I’m lighter but I feel heavier. It’s such a strange combination of things.

To add insult to injury a more traditional N’or Easter is coming to this area tomorrow. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the Northeastern part of the U.S. these types of storms are really common for us. They traditionally form this time of year and bring large volumes of rain or snow and high wind. Sustained wind along the coast could be as high as 30-40 mph with gusts to 60+mph. So many areas are still struggling to pick up the pieces and another storm will bring more destruction and significantly slow relief and cleanup efforts. I feel like I’m holding my breath all over again as this storm comes together.

Hopefully any of you reading this who were impacted by the storm are safe and warm. For those of you who aren’t please consider helping out in any way that you can. The Red Cross is always a good first stop. Let’s hope the incoming storm doesn’t bring significant destruction in the wake of Sandy. I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed for everyone in the region.

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Aftermath

I’ve been trying to write a post all day and I just can’t seem to find any of the right words. As everyone knows by now Hurricane Sandy absolutely decimated much of the Northeast and MidAtlantic. My area of NJ, just outside of Philadephia, didn’t get too much damage. We have widespread power outages. Mine was out for about 48 hours and I was really worried about how cold it was getting in my house for the kids. I could go on but the short version of this is that we were very lucky.

The longer story is that my parents, brother, and many people I grew up with live in Monmouth and Ocean counties in NJ. Those counties got destroyed. Almost everyone is without power, drinking water is problematic in some areas, houses were washed away or flooded, and hundreds of landmarks along the Jersey Shore are just….gone. They just aren’t there anymore. Seaside Heights where Don and I had one of our early dates is decimated. There are areas with four feet of sand on Ocean Ave. It’s just heartbreaking.

In a lot of ways this storm is the Northeastern version of Catrina. The damage is extreme, loss of life is starting to add up, and the overall impact to one of the most highly populated areas of the U.S. is extensive. This will easily be the most costly storm to hit the Northeast and it has the potential to be one of the top most costly storms to hit the US.  My heart breaks every time I read a story or see a picture. This is my world. Catrina felt so far away at the time but this….this is my childhood. This is my state.

It’s been a while since I cried this hard for people I don’t know. I spent an hour yesterday sobbing when I was finally back online and looking at images. I’m still just so sad and in shock. It’s all so hard to process. I hope all of you who live on this coast are holding it together. I hope you have your families. I hope you have your home.

Watching NJ pull itself up and try to recover has made me realize one thing. I’ve spent so much of my life defending my choice to live in a state that many others think is terrible, or dirty, or overpopulated and expensive. Sandy made me realize that I’m proud to live here. I’m proud of where I grew up. Most importantly I’m proud of the people of NJ and their ability to drag themselves up and help each other. I’m proud of ability to stick together and clean it up and eventually rebuild all of it. I know many people say the people of NYC are tough and they are but quite frankly so are we. NJ people might just be the toughest I know and this storm is proving that fact every minute. I’m proud to live in this state, I’ll always be proud to be here. I don’t think I could ever imagine living anywhere else.

To those of you wondering how you can help there are a few ways. If you live in NJ get some things together and go donate them to help others who have lost their possessions and home. You can donate blood via the Red Cross. ABC News also has a good list of places where you can make donations to help those in need.  

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Finishing Things

One of my best and worst personality traits is that I get bored of things very easily. More often than not it happens when I get good at something and then I become disinterested in doing that thing anymore. I have a tendency to move onto something new instead of trying to find new challenge in whatever the current thing is that I have invested my time in. This applies at work which actually serves to be a good thing because I can move between projects and pick up new things with relative ease. It comes across as me always looking for new challenges which my boss likes to see.

The place where this can become a problem is in my hobbies. Most notably playing video games. I quickly get bored of games especially once I figure out all the mechanics and become proficient at using them. When that happens inside of a game I end up getting tired of slogging through the end of the game. I’ve either already figured out all the systems or I’ve already figured out where the story is going which makes finishing the game boring. This leaves me with a tremendous number of partially finished games in my library.

When I was younger this was much less of a problem because I just didn’t have the money to buy new games frequently. I ended up making my own challenges inside of games just to keep them interesting because I couldn’t afford anything else. As an adult with a good job I have the benefit/curse of disposable income. If I get bored of a game I have the resources to move on to something else.

Part of me feels like it’s good for someone with limited time to cut their loses and move on to a new game if fun is no longer being had. The other half of me feels like sometimes I don’t give games quite enough of a chance and perhaps I’m missing a great deal of things by not finishing out a title.

So, I’m going to make a run at finishing some of these backlogged games in the next year or so. For the current holiday season I’ll make a run at finishing all the new games that I buy as I get them. Once the post holidays lulls start to set in I’m going to double back to games that I haven’t given enough of a chance, I just got bored and didn’t finish, or I never started because I have a game buying problem (seriously, I may need a group meeting). I’m going to do my best to post an update every month or so noting which games I’ve finished off and what I’m tackling currently.

For now I have managed to tie up Dishonored and the main story line of Borderlands 2. I’m going to finish up the first Borderlands 2 DLC tonight. After that I’ve got Forza Horizon to tackle. We’ll see how this all works out. I’m shooting to finish 52 games before  Halloween 2013. Probability of success is likely less than 20% but I like challenges so let’s do this thing.

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Making Plans

I have a tendency to get a little crazy right around this time of year. It’s not that I worry about the holidays or stress about buying gifts. It has more to do with the fact that the end of one year drives me to start making plans for the next year. I want to know where we are going on vacation over the summer, what games I’m actually going to care enough to use my free time on, what classes/events/etc each of the family members are going to be participating in. In short, it’s not even Halloween and I am exhausted.

Over the weekend we did manage to answer a few questions. First, we are going to venture back to the Outer Banks for a summer vacation this year. My dad and I sat down and picked a property to rent as well as the week we are going to go and we got that locked down. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. With two kids in tow this is the only kind of vacation I can even imagine taking. It requires no air travel, everything we need can be packed or purchased on site, there are enough rooms for everyone, babysitters are built-in, food can be cooked, and adult beverages can be stored in a giant fridge. Oh and there is a beach right there. Yeah this is heaven for me.

Don and I have also largely figured out what types of activities we’ll each be doing and what the kids are doing running until at least June. I’ll keep hitting Judo at least twice a week and Don is participating in a bowling league through the winter. Nathan will continue to go to Gymboree in an effort to socialize him and keep him less feral. Now that the baby is mobile we might enroll her in a Gymboree class too. While it is a bit expensive I’m hoping it helps get her past her stranger anxiety.

Speaking of stranger anxiety holy sweet jeebus. This baby is stressing.me.out. Nathan never dealt with any sort of stranger anxiety. I’m not sure if it was because of his personality or because he went to daycare or both. Kaitlyn on the other hand is ridiculous right now. Everyone makes her cry except her direct family. My parents came to visit this weekend and she spent most of the day alternating between joy and the biggest crocodile tears I have ever seen. She’s usually so laid back that it is extra upsetting to see her so upset.

I’m not really sure how to handle it other than just ride it out and hope she outgrows it. I doubt bringing her around more people will magically fix it. It’s probably developmental but this is one of those parenting situations that make me feel like a newbie despite the fact that she is my second child. Stop flipping the script baby! I cannot handle this shit!

Do any of you guys make crazy plans as the year comes to an end? I’m curious to know if I’m the only one that gets planning anxiety as the calendar year starts to wind down.

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Fall is Kind of Crazy

I want this hoodie.

Fall is actually one of my favorite times of year. I like the flux between warm and cool. Throwing a hoodie on in the morning is one of the coziest things for me and combined with a cup of coffee it’s my secret happy place. One of my other happy places is running around with Nate out in the leaves and letting the baby bang on one of the huge pumpkins we picked out at the local farm.

Beyond the obligatory family things and cool weather this time of year also aggressively reminds me that I love video games. There are always so many new games between September and December, many of which I end up playing. It makes me smile to play through sequels and experience new IPs for the first time. This year is no different, with plenty of high-profile sequels and a bunch of new IPs that are interesting and fun to play.

Most of my time for the last two weeks or so was spent chugging through Borderlands 2. I played a bunch of it with friends, which is always a fun experience but just like the first game I invested a ton of hours into it on my own. I get the first chunk of DLC for the game today. I’ll likely get started with that as soon as I get my broken self back from Judo.

I’ve also spent a good amount of time with Dishonored at this point. That game is exactly what I look for in a new IP these days. It has a well-designed world that is interesting and makes me want to run around and explore. All of the mechanics are fun and work well. The only problem I have with it is that the game fiercely reminds me that I am terrible at stealth in video games. I try my hardest to sneak up on fools but what inevitably happens is they see me and I’m forced to stab them in the neck. I suppose it’s a first world video game problem. The game at least offers me the option to solve my problems with violence instead of making me fail a section every time I’m spotted. I suppose that’s a nice enough compromise for me.

My ability to churn through games is obviously hampered these days. Part of it is the fact that I don’t get weekends to plant myself on the couch with a controller in my hand. The other part of it is that Judo eats up two nights a week. Those are two absolutely necessary nights that I’m in love with but those are two nights that I often don’t have any leftover energy to play anything when I finally get home.

I still manage to finish a lot of games. I have a few quality nights every week to play and my husband tends to enjoy reading before bed so he goes upstairs much earlier than me, leaving control of the good TV to me. It also helps that both of our kids are doing reasonably well in the sleep department. We still need to settle the baby multiple times a night but it isn’t a big fiasco involving hours of rocking or anything crazy like that.

I’m really looking forward to the time when the kids are a little older and have the chance of being interested in this hobby of mine. Being able to play games with my kids is exciting for me because it’s something I grew up doing with my father and then later with my brother. My brother used to perch on the couch and watch me play games for hours. He never enjoyed playing, just ingesting the story while I operated the controls. Those are some of the truly happy moments my brother and I spent together as kids.

For now I’ll settle for having a warm hoodie, a cup of coffee (or a strong drink), and a video game controller in my hands a few nights a week after the kids go to bed. Long live fall and new games.

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Sibling Rivalry Doesn’t Even Begin to Describe It

“War. War Never Changes.” I couldn’t have said it better myself Ron Pearlman. There is a war being waged in the Stryker household right now and only two of the three sides know they are fighting.

When Kaitlyn first came home from the hospital Nathan was pretty good with her. He would hug her and say “hi baby” and all those nice little things an older sibling sometimes does. He acted out in other ways, by throwing tantrums, or being general difficult, or not sleeping, but he never acted nasty to the baby. Now everything has changed. Ever since Kaitlyn started being able to roll over a few months ago Nathan has become increasingly jealous of her. Now that she is crawling it’s full out war. Nathan vs. Kaitlyn. The problem is Kate has no idea there’s a battle going on. She’s so pumped about being able to crawl over and hang out with her big brother putting her directly in harm’s way most of the time.

Don and I have been waging our own war of attrition against Nathan’s bad behavior towards the baby. We give timeouts and take things away when he’s nasty to her. He says he’s sorry and hugs her after he does something inappropriate. He will even tell us “you don’t hit the baby!” The problem is none of it really sticks and it inevitably devolves into a yelling/hitting situation again a few hours later.

Now don’t get me wrong I knew this was coming. I have a brother three years younger than me and we fought like feral animals until I moved out of the house. For years he wanted to do what I was doing and I wanted nothing to do with his face. We didn’t really start getting along until I moved out. The plus side is I only have to deal with this shit for like another 15 years. Awesome. Hopefully the baby will not have a permanent imprint of a Matchbox car in her head before then. Then again if she really digs Matchbox cars too it could be like a free tattoo.

When Nate isn’t being a Tasmanian devil who’s sole mission is destruction, he is actually awe-inspiring at this age. He picks up new words and phrases daily. He tells me “I don’t know” when I ask a question he legitimately doesn’t know the answer to. He sat on my lap yesterday for 30 minutes picking out sheets on Amazon for his big boy bed that is coming in a few weeks (hold me or send Whiskey).

The most thrilling of these new developments is his after nap behavior on the weekends. When he wakes up he wants to crawl into my lap and watch me play a video game. He will sit there for no less than an hour and ask me which people are bad guys and tell me to be quiet when I’m sneaking around. It’s fantastic. It gives us that little bit of bonding time that we sorely need. Quiet moments like these where I can share things I enjoy with him help to offset my frustration with him when he does something terrible to the baby. It’s ridiculous how in the span of 90 minutes he can go from being a monster to one of the most adorable humans on the planet.

I think I’ll feel a little better about all of this when the baby is upright and capable of fighting back. Right now I just feel anxious that he’s going to actually hurt her which means one of my children has to come with me everywhere. I’m convinced I will never pee in peace again. Any of you folks have epic sibling rivalries as kids? Did everyone make it out without too many permanent scars?

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