Saturday, June 23, 2007

6/23/07 Katrina's new habit

Katrina just started a new thing: sticking out her tongue and curling it, practically to her nose sometimes! It's not easy to catch her to photograph it though. Every time I think she can't get any more adorable, she comes up with something.

She's starting to act like she wants to crawl, though hasn't hit upon what to do yet.

The boys had their first swim lesson at the Y today. Gabriel said the water was too cold. And Julian complained the water was too wet.


Friday, June 22, 2007

6/22/07 No-commitment Friday

I was nervous about today -- all three all day. I shouldn't be nervous doing my job!

But, it went great.

First, I took them all to Whole Foods this morning, and got away with it without being asked to leave.

After Katrina's nap, I took them all to my old gym for a weights class, and they all did fine in the gym daycare. There I saw my longtime acquaintance, the marathon runner with her four young children -- she handles all four all day, and that's with a husband who works at home and travels for work a lot. So who am I to complain?

Back at home, I got Julian down for a nap, then Katrina, then came downstairs to find Gabriel asleep on the couch, pillow and blanket and all. So I actually had about half an hour when everyone was asleep.

I took that time to sort through photo albums, as part of my closet-reorganization project. Some needed labelling; others got put in a box for future disassembly. Most have something to do with motorcycle travel and camping.

It was oddly surreal looking through those photos and being in my old life, with my new life (in the form of a just-woke-up rosy, tousled 5-year-old) looking over my shoulder and asking me questions like where the ground stops.

Who am I? Am I the beaten-down, frumpy, scatterbrained, hair-trigger, sullen, slog-through-life suburban housewife mom? Or the brave leather-clad dirt-covered 2-wheeled adventurer tackling a rocky road?


...and now:

Aw, but look at that adorable baby.

And tonight, Adorable Baby's pesky brothers are on a sleepover, so Dad and I got to sit together and actually talk and play with a crackly, giggly, happy, smiley, charming baby.

It occurs to me that if I were still childless and riding and camping all the time, I might wonder by now what I was missing out on. And as much as I miss my old self, I'm glad I know. And that I'm not missing out on it.


(Photos: Upper: Memorial Day weekend 1999, on a random trail in the Sierras somewhere around Quincy. Lower: 2004 Las Madres picnic, June 9 2007.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

6/21/07 The peanut and peanuts

Today was Katrina's pediatric allergist appointment.

The doc said the hives episode probably wasn't food-related, especially since the suspect food (yogurt) has since been re-introduced with no incident, and also given the length of the episode and how it gradually declined across that 3-1/2 weeks. Hives are an immune response to something, and we'll probably never know what -- just some random viral infection.

Actually, I'd concluded that the rash she had the day before I gave her the first yogurt was unrelated, but now it seems the rash supports the random-infection theory, and the yogurt was the red herring.

But since we were there, we tested her for dairy and peanut reactions. She got 4 pricks on her back, for control (C), histamine (H), peanut (8) and dairy (12). (I am very, very glad her brothers weren't there to see the nurse write on her back -- that'd have give my Magic Marker Monsters all sorts of ideas!!)

And, to my great dismay, she reacted to the peanut, as you can see from the puffy area next to the 8.

The allergist said this doesn't mean she's allergic, but she is predisposed (I wish I could remember his exact words). So, when she's a year old, we'll take her for a blood test, and depending on the outcome of that, we might introduce a "peanut challenge" in the office, if the blood test indicates a high risk of a bad reaction.

Meantime, there's no reason for me not to have peanut butter. He said that small bits of exposure could actually help her desensitize to it, and I recall my sister trying something like that with my food-allergic nephew (though time ultimately was the best solution, to some things). Katrina certainly has had minor contact with peanuts, mostly from peanut-butter-face-finger-smeared brothers giving her kisses when I had the nerve to turn my head. But, other sources say that allergies develop from exposure, rather than immune response developing from exposure. Obviously it's much more complex than that, and not one-size-fits-all. I'm lost.

Katrina was charming as ever, delighting every information-booth staffer, receptionist, nurse and medical technician we talked to. At least two people mistook her for a boy today (blue pants I guess?), so it's not just the girl factor. People just like being smiled at by babies. Actually, people just like being smiled at -- but only babies smile at any random person for no apparent reason.

Even though Katrina was ready for a nap by the time the back-pricking started, she didn't cry. Then I had to entertain her for 15 minutes sitting on the table, without being able to pick her up. Not easy! But, it was. A game of peek-a-boo had her in giggle fits, and the tissue paper covering the table was crinkly and breezy and great to bat at and chew on.

Predictably, she fell asleep in the car on the way to Tonya's, and woke up when I pulled her out of the car at Tonya's, but went right back to sleep in the pack'n'play at Tonya's. Such a darling baby.

I just realized today that our summer schedule doesn't leave me time alone with any of the three. I've really enjoyed the schedule transition that left me alone with Gabriel in the afternoons, actually, and I really wish I had time alone with Katrina. During her naps, I'll have some time alone with Julian on Wednesdays, but that's not quite the same thing. Still, self-centered as I am, what matters the most to me is time alone with just me, which is what our summer schedule is actually centered around. I don't really need all day though...sometime around 2-3pm, I'm ready to see them. I'm really going to like school days.

Betsy put it very well today, regarding having 3 kids: it's not the oldest one, and it's not the baby -- "It's the three-year-old!" Oh man, I hear it! I feel it! I live it! And it hurts!


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

6/20/07 The diagnoses

Diagnosis tummy: diastasis recti with an umbilical hernia.

Which is how you say in Latin: "Sorry, hon, that pooch is permanent. You done had too many babies."

The glue ("linea alba") that holds your -- not my anymore -- abdominal muscles together is stretched too thin now, and abdominal contents simply push out. The proof of this is when I lie on my back and lift a leg -- a ridge forms through my belly-button. Multiple pregnancies is the culprit, though not everyone who has multiple pregnancies gets it.

The good news: it's a common, harmless condition.

The bad news: no diet, no exercise, no surgery, no therapies, no drugs, no waiting -- absolutely nothing -- will fix it. No matter how thin or fit I ever get, I will always have this fanny pack around my middle.

If there's a silver lining, I guess it's that it happened as late in life as it did, as my expectations for bodily perfection are lower now anyway. I'm seeing my golden years peek on the horizon; I should be glad I've gotten away with what I have so far. But let's just hope low-rise pants stay in style, 'cause waist-buttoning is out for me forever.

Diagnosis back: mild scoliosis.

Not me, Dave. He didn't see a doctor today for any particular diagnosis, he saw one because I insisted and made an appointment for him. He is 40 now, after all. Men are supposed to get checked. Though the curvature in Dave's upper back is obvious, I hadn't noticed before that one shoulder is lower than another, indicating a spinal curvature. He has a vague recollection of hearing something about scoliosis earlier in life (maybe Laura remembers??). Another live-with-it thing, though the doc recommended against jogging. Not that Dave was in any danger of that.

Diagnosis sanity: severely compromised, and unable to withstand any further trauma.

Due to a schedule that hasn't settled yet, it happened this week that I had all three all day today. This, unlike the diastasis recti that ravages my midsection, is not a harmless condition.

Plus the cleaners this morning.

The kind ladies (who I appreciate so, so much), were scrubbing away upstairs smack dab when Katrina needed her morning nap. For the very first time ever in my dubious career as mother, I took my baby to a gym childcare and said, "Put baby to sleep please!" The Y Childwatch ladies, and Katrina, happily obliged. It was a good solution; I got the boys out of my hair, got out of the cleaners' hair, and got in a short workout before Julian's and Katrina's swim class.

Putting Gabriel into the logistical mix shouldn't, on paper, add much to the effort, as he is basically self-sufficient (can open car doors, strap himself in, un/dress himself, etc). However, while he alone doesn't directly cause problems, the effect he has on Julian is overwhelming. Dealing with the boys together at swim class today was an astounding pain in the ass, as they were constantly shouting together, running together, making obnoxious noises together, ignoring me together, being incredibly annoying together.

By the end of the ordeal of getting everyone dressed, I overheard two other mothers saying to each other, "I'm glad I have girls!"

Then I attempted to take everyone to Trader Joe's.

That didn't bode well when one too many unbearably rude insults by Gabriel (I forget what started it, but I do recall being called a liar) made me turn around and smack him, while in the busy parking lot at the Campbell Trader Joe's. I'm sure the numerous observers, who really were just waiting to park or cross the lot, were truly taken with my honed parenting skills. Great.

One of those observers was standing outside Trader Joe's, conducting a survey of some sort. I looked at her apprehensively, awaiting judgement, knowing she'd seen my transgression. But she smiled at me as I kneeled with the boys and reviewed the rules (which Gabriel claimed he didn't have to abide by) before we went into the "grownup place."

That same someone smiled wryly at me again, about 10 minutes later, when I furiously dragged a foul-mouthed protesting 5-year-old boy out of the store with one hand, yanking a puzzled but agreeable baby along for the ride on my hip, strap the kid forcefully into the car, and open the wagon hatch (the car windows were already open).

I don't know if she smiled when I fumed back past her to retrieve my cart, then head straight to the cashier with what I had, even if it didn't include the #1 thing I went there to get.

And then she smiled at me once again, sympathetically, when she saw me emerge about 5 minutes later, groceries in hand, 3-year-old asking plaintively, "Mommy, are you mad at me too?" I wonder if she smiled too at the tears in my eyes.

It's at times like this that I feel the worst for poor innocent Katrina.

At home, Gabriel went straight to his room until lunch was ready, as I needed a serious time-out from his rude defiant behavior. It took me long enough to get things under control in the kitchen that by the time I went up to release him, he'd curled up in bed and gone to sleep. Good.

Gabriel's time in the pokey allowed Julian to play with sidewalk chalk after lunch, unfettered by Gabriel stepping or kicking the chalk, or bossing him around and telling him he's not allowed to scribble. Gabriel ridiculing Julian's drawing bothers me a lot more than Gabriel crushing his chalk, but it's not really a punishable offense. I address Julian instead, talk to him about his drawing, tell him how cool I think it is, and contradict every mean thing Gabriel says.

Nothing short of a miracle occurred when we got home from the TJ's disaster though. Katrina fell asleep in the car on the way home, usually a nightmare for me because then that's IT for her nap. But she didn't wake up as I unstrapped the boys or unloaded the groceries. I gave it a shot -- and was able to transfer her to her crib and she took a long nap from there! A successful transer! A first!

If any evidence is needed to confirm my insanity, after everyone was up, fed and/or snacked, I took the bunch to Target. What a sucker for punishment. Why would I dare, especially when my patience points and good-momma-karma have been completely drained today? Maybe I wanted a chance at redemption, who knows.

But I succeeded. We pulled it off. Gabriel was in a great mood, and mostly talked excitedly as I shopped and mm-hmm'd him as convincingly as I could, about how he was going to build a motorboat and drive the boat to Africa with a purple pickup truck. He wants to live in Africa when he's grown-up. When I asked him what country he'd want to live in, he said, "Lake Tahoe!"

It also helped that Julian, being my only progeny who hadn't napped that afternoon, was rundown and tired, so he rode in the cart for a while. Between the physical barrier of the cart, Julian's lack of energy to get sucked into a game of Make Mom Hate Her Life, and Gabriel's new enthusiasm for shipbuilding and international travel, the trip to Target went very well.

Katrina, as usual, demanded that several other shoppers join her inner circle with her tractor-beam smile.

I went for a run at Rancho San Antonio tonight, late enough to span sunset and the onset of dusk, when all the animals come out. Deer, rabbits, birds...the whole cast of Bambi was there to see me detoxify my mind and body. I had only good, warm thoughts about my children as I puffed along.

I'd promised myself an easy run, but at the last minute detoured onto Mora trail, to avoid running past the Farm twice...I've run that trail before, but not in that direction. EEEP! STE-EEE-EEE-EEP! I had to coach my feet for every next step. But as difficult as that was, it was a single-minded, focused, nose-to-the-grindstone effort...something I really needed after a full day of dealing with my two sons together.

When I got home, I intruded upon a charming scene: Dave and Gabriel were sitting on our bed, reviewing coin-counting. I'd gotten Gabriel a small coin purse today at Target, and he wanted to put his coins into it, and play more adding-up games. He reminded me today that he had to "buy" breakfast, for instance. He insisted on labelling his new coin purse himself, with his full name, including his middle name James.
(Which reminds me, don't let even the most meticulous 5-year-old use a SHARPIE, you know those permanent markers, on the wooden butcher-block counter. But you knew that. Did I? Hel-LO. How long have I been doing this mom thing?! Do I not get it yet?!)

And here I sit, still sticky from my run, still frazzled and guilty from a traumatic day...well, traumatic afternoon...well, traumatic incident...actually, it was really only a traumatic moment, but it dominated my frazzle. Gabriel is overall such a nifty kid...he's just so (darned) persistent and determined and tough-skinned. He makes me so, so mad, and I love him so, so much.

I should be in bed with a hot water bottle on my head instead of typing now. See earlier reference to Diagnosis: sanity.


6/19/07 Great America

Gabriel went on his first field trip today -- a pretty big one for only his second day at Collins CDC! Great America is a huge amusement park in Santa Clara, and it was an all-day event for him. I really wasn't sure how to pack for him, and ended up with all sorts of problems, like his water bottle didn't fit in his backpack's outer mesh bottle pocket, so it got put into his backpack, and leaked all over everything.

The biggest quandary was lunch. The park doesn't allow you to bring in your own food (I'm sure they make exceptions as necessary), so instead, we were instructed to give him $10 - $30 in cash. But that's all the information they gave us, and I didn't realize the problems until the night before. Obvious things like: who carries the money? And how? I'm supposed to hand a $20 bill to a 5-year-old and expect him to make change and keep track of it?

Answer: yes! Sort of.
I found a pouch to transport the money in, and that got added to his backpack. We sent him with $12, and he came back with $2.80 and a lot of chocolate ice cream on his shirt, so somehow, it all worked out. I don't know how though. (One additional hurdle here is that since Dave did the dropoff and pickup, the teacher-parent communication had to pass through the formidable Father Filter, through which only the most salient of information fragments survive.)

So, Gabriel spent all day at a huge amusement park, got hamburger and chocolate ice cream and no doubt other junk food, rode on a roller coaster and other rides, plus his first school bus to get there -- all sorts of exciting stuff!

But the only thing he wanted to talk about was the money. The $2.80 he came home with.

He really wanted to know how much it all added up to. Dave showed him, then I did again, what each coin was, and how many cents it was worth. The concept that one coin could be worth more than another took a few times, but he seemed to accept it, if not understand it. It helped that some coins say how many cents they're worth, though I got a crash course in the US Mint when I discovered that dimes are apparently too small to print "ten cents" on.

Though he had a hard time remembering how much each coin was worth, it wasn't long before he was able to add up simple amounts, like 6 cents or 15 cents.
Then I made up a game that he LOVED: he had to "buy" each part of his dinner. So, green beans cost him 7 cents, rice cost him 16 cents, and chicken cost him 20 cents. For each item, he carefully picked out the right coins, and handed them to me, then I'd put the item on his plate, and put the coins back in his pile. I created a monster, because now he wants to do that for everything. But I also used this little lesson as a segue to suggest that he can earn money for extra jobs!

I've read that you can/should start kids on an allowance as young as 3, which seems way way WAY too young to me. But, Gabriel might be ready for an allowance, in small token amounts, since he's far from making rational spending decisions.

I can't believe firstborn is really truly no longer a preschooler. And now that he's going to a place that's oriented for school-age kids, he's in a brand-new phase of life. I have to admit, I got a little choked up at his pre-K "graduation" all seems so significant -- and so exciting and wonderful, really. I just love seeing my firstborn turn into a genuine person.

Now, if only my second-born would drop the obnoxious toddler sh*t. And if only my third-born would stay an innocent, charming, giggly, squeaky, smiley, batting, adorable baby forever.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Julian's lips

I've always thought Julian had the most beautiful mouth, since he was born.

I still think that -- his lips are full, his mouth a beautiful shape. And he is a fantastic kisser, having practiced since he was 7 months old and made kisses all the time. Where did this feature come from? It's not characteristic of anyone in his immediate family.

Today I was doing basic triage on a box of random old photos from my Dad's family, and came across an old army photo of my grandfather, who we knew as Daddy Jay. Well, referred to as Daddy Jay -- my only memory of him was attending his funeral in Boston when I was about 5. What little we know of Daddy Jay was that he was a civil engineer, a career military man (Army Corps of Engineers, I think?), and attended but didn't graduate from MIT. My father used to tell us fantastic stories of Daddy's Jay's exploits -- discovering the North Pole and the Equator, for instance (we bought this for years!).

But who knew that a piece of Daddy Jay would show up decades after he passed.

Look at those puckers. Is there any doubt that Julian is his great-grandson?!

I'm still searching our ancestry for an explanation for Gabriel.

6/18/07 Happy baby

Just to complete the record, the Father's Day photo gifts.

But what better Father's Day gift than a happy, charming, delightful, fun baby? Today Katrina was in fabulous form, outdoing herself being outrageously, relentlessly funny and sweet.

And, I believe, she's officially sleeping through the night, if a full week counts. Today she woke up at 8am!! It helps when her brothers don't make a huge ruckus in front of her door at 6am (or worse, at 5:30am as they did, ironically, on Father's Day). I've had to put her back to bed a few times, like last night at 1:30am, when she coughed herself awake, but I don't count that. When that happens, I pick her up, sniff for diaper stinkers, hold her and see if the cuddle-drought continues (it does), put her back down, and hand her a dry corner of her favorite sucking blanket. And, she goes right back to sleep. Goooood baby.

Still no signs of crawling, but she's trying to reach farther out. I guess that's a start, though she gets stuck sometimes.

This joy made up for a lot today. First, I had a horrible headache again -- was I really in for a 5th Monday in a row of migraines?!

And, I couldn't nap it off this morning, since we had a carpet installer banging on the stairs. I gathered every ounce of energy I had and dragged us all to the Y instead, where Katrina ended up napping. I guess that was just as well, since no one was going to nap at home with that racket going on.

Later, our remodeling plumber showed up because of a wonderful new leak downstairs, from upstairs, which appears to be a tiling/sealing problem instead of a plumbing problem.

I seem to be permanently scarred from our year-long upstairs remodel, because any contractor showing up, no matter how courteous, how on-time, how helpful, or how necessary they are, I resent the intrusion. I know it's not their fault, but I just don't want them there.

Our generic term for contractors are "carpenters," which is how I described the carpet installer today to Julian. For once, the description made sense to Julian: "Oh that makes sense -- the carpenter is installing the carpent!" Thank goodness Julian was cooperative about a nap today. And thank goodness that the brief snooze I was able to get, curtailed by a cough, was enough to get me over the hump and get past a headache without prescription drugs.

Gabriel's first day at Collins CDC went great! Dave dropped him off, and said his new teacher talked right away about getting Gabriel comfortable, helping him transition to a new place...Dave shrugged it all off, as I would have. In fact, I almost forgot to remind Gabriel last night that he was going somewhere new tomorrow. We're so blase about this, because new situations are non-events for him. He adapts so, so easily, or, put another way, he just doesn't seem to care much one way or another. I guess there are advantages to a tough skin. I have to remind myself that the other two might actually need some support, comfort and...what's that other thing they're supposed to get...oh yeah, parenting, in new situations.

Gabriel said it went "mostly well." I pressed him on "mostly," and he related a story that he only had two big Lego blocks, and some other kid had more. So Gabriel said he pointed this out to the other kid and told him it wasn't fair and he should share, and apparently the other kid told him where to go. Gabriel said he told the other kid "Fine, I won't be your friend," and that was it. I'd love to know what the real story is, but I don't doubt that Gabriel made a demand of a bigger, older kid, which other than a few other kindergartners, they all are. I'm glad he's going to get shot down, actually.

Tomorrow he goes on a field trip to Great America, a HUGE amusement park. Thank goodness it's them and not me!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

6/17/07 Father's Day

Lucky me! I got photos of Dave and the whole bunch today.

Lucky Dave! He got a photo of me and the whole bunch, framed, to put in his office.

Lucky kids! They got to run in the fountains this afternoon.

Lucky baby! All this new stuff to look at, and new people to beam smiles at.

(Notice her brothers in the background, preparing an assault on the hapless water towers.)

(yeah, I'm pooped too.)