Saturday, July 14, 2007

7/14/07 Coffee Morning

This morning, I met with my Mom friends to see one off us before she joins the 3's club in August with her 3rd boy (~pang~). It was a lovely day to sit outside and catch up, see another friend's adorable sleepy (ah for those days!) just-brought-home baby. It's amazing, we were all shellshocked new moms together around 5 years ago, and now our firstborns are all going to kindergarten...and now, four of us have gone full circle back into baby mode.

I walked around downtown Los Gatos for a little while, and came across a store called The Running Factory. It was crowded, so I had no temptation to shop, but it was on a busy courtyard in which people were pre-registering for a popular half-marathon called The Jungle Run, that's tomorrow. I've heard of it, sounds neat, but half-marathon? Out of my league.

But wait! Turns out, there's a 10K route too. HMMM! 10K? Tomorrow??!

What awful timing -- I'd certainly have signed up today if I'd hadn't just been flattened by illness. Yesterday morning I couldn't even stand up. Maybe next year.

I wandered into a baby clothes boutique, perfect for browsing but awful for actually buying, as even the stuff on sale is far too special-purpose and expensive. Then I picked up a decorative hook rack at one of those antique stores that sells a lot of new things -- something I tell myself never to buy unless I have a specific purpose in mind for it, which I don't.

I had high hopes for BabyGap, but got caught in an intersection of between-season inventory doldrums and their sizing twilight zone. Toddler stuff too short; kid stuff too big. And most of their T-shirts were plastered with goofy logos. I must be the only Mom who discovers mid-summer that their kids need more T-shirts. Somehow, the rest of the pack knew back in January and bought them all.

A nice morning acting like a grownup (keyword there is "act") gave me some extra buffer to deal with my little brood at home.

I do attempt the positive-parenting techniques. Tonight, one sort of worked, and led to an unexpected demonstration of Gabriel's reading skills.

To distract Gabriel from bugging Katrina, Julian, Dave and everyone within a 10-mile radius, I got him to "help" me with dinner by "reading" me a recipe. For fun, I asked him to tell me how much garlic I needed. Could he find "garlic" just from my saying the world aloud? "Mom! Two cloves garlic min-sed...oh, I've never heard of min-sed, Mom." I wasn't counting on him to find "garlic," let alone read "cloves" or make a darned good attempt at "minced." I tried again with "onion," which after I spelled for him, he found with: "three-quarters chopped onions!" I don't know where he fits on the reading-ability scale for preschooled kindergarteners, it might be quite comment, but good for him no matter what.

(Julian too surprised me the other day, while I was reading him one of Katrina's baby books. I read, "This isn't my bunny -- its tail is too rough." Julian scanned the page and asked, "Where's the 'f'? " Good question! I've always thought there should be one too!)

A funny Gabriel moment tonight, again in context of language learning. Somehow he came up with that some words are things, and others words you do, and likes to point out that a word is one or the other. So I've taken that one step further and told him they're called nouns and verbs, and quiz him on those. Teaching parts of speech is easily extended to adjectives, so tonight we talked about adjectives in context of Katrina: "Is she....funny? goofy? hungry? noisy?" He got into coming up with his own adjectives for her: "Messy! Sweet!"

Then I asked him what he'd call me. After a pause, he answered, "Nice." Aww. "Aww, that's nice, Gabriel," I said, touched. Still glowing from this unexpected praise, he then said, "'Nice' and 'nice' are the same word." ? "Um, yes they are, what?" He explained, "You said 'That's nice' when I said you were nice. Nice and nice are the same word."

Oh. So they are. Adjectives, in fact. Apparently years of usage of those words...there, I did it again -- that word in different contexts and I didn't even notice the repetition. Nothing like a fresh -- and literal -- and utterly impassive -- perspective to stop you dead in your tracks.

Katrina...what happened to my fuss-free baby? She actually cried for no apparent reason today. AND has woken up at 6am two mornings in a row. Harrumph! She needed more attention than usual today, getting fussy quickly.

A lot of it seems to be frustration at trying to crawl, which she gets a tiny shade better at every day. In fact, it's possible today she took her first crawl step, if you count being on all fours and pulling yourself an inch forward as a crawl step.

She pulled it out for the bath, as usual. I think she's responding to the word "Splash!", spoken playfully, because she...well, take a look at this video:

All babies splash in tubs, but she seems to think it's extra fun to do when Mom says, "Heeyyy, I'm getting soaked!" and encourages "Splash!". I mean, it really does seem like she's doing it as a game she recognizes when I say "Splash!"

It almost looks like her hair is starting to grow in a pale blonde. I'll be sorry to see the reddish color go.

Random funny kid comment: Julian last night, coming downstairs after bedtime:
"Mommy, I'm scared of something in my room!"
"What, Julian?"
"The dark!" (turns out their nightlight had burnt out).

OK gang, evvverybody stay in bed tonight...and tomorrow morning!


Friday, July 13, 2007

7/13/07 A day of rest

It was not looking good this morning.

Katrina woke us up at 6am, unusual for her these days, but still painful. Though I'd slept soundly all night and most of yesterday afternoon, I got up with chills and wasn't able to stand for more than a few minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out again. I've come to recognize a sure sign of that now: a sound like rattlesnakes in my ears.

And, we hadn't found a sitter for the day, and Dave had oral surgery scheduled for the afternoon.

Fortunately, at the last minute (in childcare time it was last minute), everything pulled together. Collins CDC was able to take Gabriel all day, and Tonya, bless her heart, soul and body, was able to take Katrina all day.

But I was still far too weak to handle Julian, who by himself without any siblings to bug or be bugged by, is the world's easiest and most self-reliant 3-year-old. So Dave stayed home today, partly to watch me since I was still so, so sick; and to take care of Julian. We chanced it that I'd be better by the afternoon to take care of Julian.

And indeed, that happened. I slept until almost noon, then very tenderly started to feel out what I could do. Slowly I was clean, dressed and standing for over 10 minutes at a time. Dave took Julian out to lunch, then we got him down for a nap, and Dave went to his oral surgery without incident.

Julian was actually fine, and probably really enjoyed this little attention windfall -- Mom and Dad all to himself all day! Dad got to rest on the couch (see note above about 6am baby wakeup time) while Julian quietly colored, then they did some puzzles together. In fact, I think Dave really benefitted from an overall quiet day at home, and some very pleasant time with Julian being his utmost sweet.

It's truly astounding how easy one child is.

Two days in a row of no baby made me sad. I took this photo of Katrina this morning just so I could see her today.

I guess that answers the question about going back to work when she's a year old. Even though I'm really not a "baby mom," it's still very hard to be away from a 9-month-old baby. They change every day, and it will only be a few months before she starts asserting herself and our relationship changes to where I need to start gently disciplining her too. There's no adversity, no conflict with a baby. We both find that very refreshing.

Tonight as Katrina was babbling herself to sleep, I could have sworn she was singing. Her "blah blah blahs" had some rhythm to them. Wouldn't that be amazing.

Having been so completely incapacitated for a day was something of a welcome break, in retrospect. A break from day-to-day stresses, from keeping track of a thousand details, from pursuing lingering projects. But just exactly what is it that I always have to do? It certainly isn't cleaning, laundry, errands or bills -- being constantly behind on those doesn't bother me!

No, it's this house. Our house is very crude, very unfinished, in desperate need of decoration and modern fittings. Visiting Sonia's finished house this week gave me a hint of what it'd be like to find your surroundings peaceful and relaxing, instead of a thousand projects screaming out at you from every unpainted wall. The absence of pleasant aesthetics here weighs on me all the time, insidiously. The absence of good function has always loaded me down. I don't need to live in a museum, but I'm long overdue for more than "one step above a college dorm."

Dave's out getting take-out sushi. Dinner, what a concept. He needs something mushy because of his oral surgery, and I need something light because this will be my first "meal" in 2.5 days (though I have been nibbling today). Out of curiosity, I weighed myself on our crummy $10 scale that I use for weighing UPS packages: 102. I haven't seen that in years. I'm never going to weigh myself again because it'll certainly be much higher next time.

After not eating for 2.5 days, my "diastasis recti" tummy is in a rare, and very temporary, state of flat. Apparently that's what happens with herniated intestines (blah) -- once they're truly empty, they don't stick out. But the spare tire will spring back after just one or two maguro nigiri.

As long as I'm complaining, I HATE slicing fingertips. Aside from being painful, it takes days to heal, it's hard to handle objects, hard to cover with a band-aid, then as it's healing there's always this flap of skin that catches on stuff.

Another random observation: as sick as I was, I'd almost prefer that over another day of migraine. I went straight from a 9-day bout of headaches to being horribly sick, so the contrast was quite clear. Despite intense stomach pain, fever, chills, achy, faintness, my mind was clear. I could think, I could put sentences together, I could remember things, I could track time. With a headache, I have the strength to exercise, I can stand for an hour at a time, I can drive and appear to basically function. But the migraine scrambles my brains. I mix up words as I'm reading a book. I make easy spelling mistakes (and I do not make spelling mistakes!). I can't remember if a phone call happened this morning or last week. I can't concentrate.

Even though Dave doesn't have to stay home from work when I have a migraine (and some migraine spouses do), I'd rather get physically ill and retain my mind. Then again, physical incapacity and lack of exercise make me insane. Hmm. Seems there's no winning this one!

Ahh, I hear the sound of sushi being unpacked. That will soothe the body and mind.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

7/12/07Sick as a dog

(Where does that expression come from, anyway? Poor dog!)

Day "off" today from kids, but completely wasted with getting really, really sick. Stomach flu-like pain, nausea, temperature, and then to cap it off, I passed out tonight too. Fortunately it was mild and slow enough that I felt it coming and made it to a bed, though I don't remember getting to the bed, and it's a very very strange and unpleasant experience.

I called Tonya to ask about her taking Julian and Katrina tomorrow; she could take Julian all day and Katrina half-day. Close enough. But...then Julian threw up tonight. No daycare for him.

The only reason I'm up now is waiting for a call back from Danielle to see if she can come help us tomorrow. I'm in no shape to care for three children.

What a way to end a migraine headache!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

7/11/07 Wise Words

"Stay calm -- you'll have more control."

Some good words from SuperNanny this week. Ones that hit home, since I've been giving a lot of thought to my furious outbursts, beyond my relief that there are no SuperNanny cameras to capture and publicize my indiscretions.

As a kid, I remember respecting my mother more than my father for discipline issues, since Dad was more likely to lose his temper. Mom is much more even-tempered, didn't yell or lose control, but when she was mad at us, we hopped to. Dad was fallible, Mom the pillar who could do no wrong and whose respect we didn't dare lose. (And that's still the case!)

Unfortunately, I take more after my father than my mother in temperament. And I know that my tendency to lose my temper and raise my voice and slam things will ultimately result in my kids not respecting me. They need me to keep cool.

I wish I could be more like my sister, or like Betsy, both of whom are far calmer and more patient than I am. I've seen both of them gracefully handle situations for which I'd have been teetering on the edge of an ugly outburst. Why can't I be more like them? I try, I observe, but I can't consistently implement.

I can give myself a slight pass on two counts, I guess. For one, Betsy and Stephanie's primo troublemakers are really mostly just mischievous. Curious, envelope-pushing, testing, enterprising, endlessly creative. Oh, I know Gina and Remi can dish it out, and I've seen both their moms get frustrated with them. But both girls fall far short of the out-and-out belligerence, defiance, rudeness and incredible obnoxiousness that is my beloved Gabriel. His astounding lack of contrition and relentless determination, combined with my naturally more volatile personality, makes for a constantly brewing tempest. Julian "the sponge" watches and learns and takes on a lot of his big brother's negative behavior. Still, it is perhaps because of this extraordinary challenge that I especially need to keep control.

Pass #2 comes from the spirit-sapping scourge of migraines. I learned in my Most Miserable pregnancy #3 how chronic pain affects you in so many blatant and subtle ways, and chronic headaches are just the same. They make me very short-tempered and irritable, not just from the presence of intense pain, but also from the absence of the little sanity-preserving breaks from children that one is granted at random times throughout the day. Instead, I spend those times lying down, cringing, desperate for a few scraps of nap to give me a little protection from the pain.

The effect of nonstop pain was underscored today when incredibly, I think this 10-day headache storm finally broke. Last night, it wasn't looking good: as I was drifting off to sleep, violent images flashed through my mind, such as an axe digging into my skull, or a shark grabbing my head in its teeth and shaking me back and forth, or a tower of squares building on top of me and crushing me. Disturbing dreams, being woken up by a new wave of pain, being unbearably tired in the morning -- all collateral damage of migraines (not to mention your 3-year-old's hair). They take away the critical refreshers everyone -- especially moms of Gabriels -- need.

But this morning, I had no choice but to scoot everyone out of the house, because the cleaners were coming. I took Julian and Katrina to the Y, in the hopes Katrina would get a nap there, and to work out for a few minutes. (As it turns out, I spent 20 minutes signing Julian up for a week-long morning daycamp, which he'll do during Tonya's vacation later this month!) Then I did a few half-hearted ab exercises, and then whisked off my mini kit-n-kaboodle to swim class.

And through all this, forgot about The Pain.

Poor Katrina only had a 10-minute nap at the Y, and she was a mess the rest of the day. And what a day to be crying at swim class: Dave stopped by to see them, and all he saw was his little daughter miserable. She took a long nap later, but she cried so hard several times today that she was coughing uncontrollably.

But during Katrina's nap this afternoon, a wonderful thing happened. I didn't try to nap. I read email. I sorted through address labels. I scanned an interesting article. I web-surfed. I sat and chatted with Julian about his treehouse drawing. I made some peach sauce for Katrina. I talked about cashews and moons with Julian. I chilled. I putzed. I relaxed. I enjoyed my son.

Who, after he'd had his fill of Mom's attention, requested his Sesame Street CD, and promptly fell asleep on the floor, a la brother. I guess he needed a nap too, oops.

Then when Katrina woke up, I played a game with her and Julian, in which Julian hid under a blanket and we "looked" for him. All three of us were giggling and laughing and just being silly.

Who's this happy, fun, playful Mom, laughing and enjoying her children? When's the last time I was like that? What's different?

What's different is that I think, I hope, I really hope, I was experiencing a phenomenon I've only recently come to recognize: an odd burst of energy at the end of a migraine. It's like whatever resources my body summons to finally oust the headache go into overdrive, leaving me briefly inspired, optimistic and full of energy and cheer.

Or maybe it's just that I decided to have some caffeinated coffee.

Whatever it was, it made for a pleasant -- even delightful -- afternoon, even though Katrina was really at her worst. Poor thing, something was bothering her, though I never figured out what. She went right to sleep after crying through her bath tonight (she never ever cries in the bath anymore!), so I think she was just really really tired. Missing a morning nap really messes up the whole day.

Here she is really, really, really trying to crawl, and getting frustrated (unlike her, but again, it was a bad day for her):

(There's Julian in the background playing with his adorable Ryan's Room Clubhouse, a perfect birthday gift from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul last year.)

Stay calm, you'll have more control, says SuperNanny, who I watched say that while nursing Katrina before dinner. I was inspired and enlightened and newly determined to keep my cool, soberly remembering my own perceptions of my parents.

But then came the excruciating nightly ritual of prying the boys out of the backyard to come into dinner.

First, the heads-up: "Almost time for dinner!" A few minutes later, "It's time to come in now!" I give them a few minutes to transition, park their bicycles....nothing. First warning. Nothing. Next warning, said very clearly, "If I have to come back out to get you again, I'm locking the bicycles in the garage."

That sort of worked: Gabriel came in, but then was drawn back outside to warn Julian of the danger ("Mom's really going to do it!"). Cool. But then, he got distracted out back, then found one excuse after another not to come in, and once again, I found myself going outside numerous times to get them to come in. Very annoying while I'm trying to serve dinner (Dave was 100% occupied with a miserable baby).

Then it quickly devolved: I started to put the bikes away. Gabriel hurled blood-chilling hate words at me and slammed a door. He got timed out upstairs, refused to go, I had to drag him, he slammed another door and said more unacceptable things. Spank. Meantime, Julian is still putzing around outside. Resolve is out the window, and I am livid, glaring, shouting, blood pressure skyrocketing, situation out of control. Please, turn off those cameras.

It seems obvious what I should have done. After the warning about locking up their bicycles, I should have immediately followed through and done that. Dave said as much too -- "and that is that."

But that is not that. That starts a HUGE confrontation, far worse than what we had, resulting in them both screaming and crying and wailing at the injustice, and then washing hands and coming in for dinner is long forgotten -- they're both much too worked up to cooperate. I know this from painful experience.

Fine, they'll learn then, won't they?

Who, my boys? No way!

Where are these children that remember the lesson and apply it the next day?! (Peekskill and Saratoga, I'll be bound.)

It just turns into a major confrontation every time. I'm much better off giving in a little after I start to carry through, and using their alarm to get them to cooperate. But that's hardly reliable, as tonight proved. There just doesn't seem to be a way to win. Fully carrying through every time, and I most usually do, is extremely, extremely painful, and a huge investment that rarely yields an applicable lesson.

So I asked the boys at dinner: "What do you think we should do so that you come right in for dinner?" Gabriel said, "Well, here's what I would suggest..." (who are you, Dr. Phil?) "...just FORGET ABOUT IT!" OK, thanks. About as useful as Dr. Phil.

I talked to them about a chart...but right away, all they could talk about was the trains they imagined they'd get for the gold stars. I tried a chart once, and it completely backfired. It turned into holding gold stars over their heads, and it wasn't a very powerful incentive. Besides, it rubs me the wrong way to set up a reward system for something as basic as coming to dinner. Some things kids just have to do because that's just what kids have to do.

But how to get past these ordeals? How do I stay calm? How do I have more control?

I mused over all this as I ran off my guilt and self-doubt at Rancho San Antonio tonight. How much of the way I am is because of the way Gabriel is? And how much of the way he is is because of the way I am? Who's affecting who here? How would Stephanie or Betsy or any of my other mom friends, all of whom have far superior self-control, dignity and grace under fire, handle Gabriel? But really, that's rhetorical. How can I do it?

"If you know the why, the how will follow." More wise words, from my Dad, actually. Now if only I can connect those to "Stay calm -- you'll have more control."


p.s. As an aside, I'm totally loving this Web site Rancho Runner that Betsy told me about, one that calculates distances for routes at Rancho San Antonio.

5) Parking -> Equestrian Parking -> Coyote (west) -> High Meadow ->
Wildcat Loop (south) -> Upper Wildcat -> Wildcat Loop (east) ->
Coyote (east) -> Equestrian Parking -> Parking

Results for route: 12VWUPSTUWV21
Route Miles Up Down
12 0.29 0 30
2V 0.51 195 0
VW 0.67 0 120
WU 0.25 0 50
UP 0.90 465 0 <-- amusing, the points are labelled "UP" (and it WAS!)
PS 0.61 0 285
ST 0.12 0 20
TU 0.53 0 180
UW 0.25 50 0
WV 0.67 120 0
V2 0.51 0 195
21 0.29 30 0

Total Distance = 5.60 Miles, 860 feet of climbing

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

7/10/07 Mom's (cookie) night out

Quick one night out tonight with the 2006 Las Madres group, which I guess I'm going to join! One member was baking custom-shaped cookies for a wedding this coming Saturday, another volunteered her kitchen, and the rest of us were invited to help roll, cut, bake, ice and box. And, of course, yak.

My ulterior motive was to check out Sonia's kitchen, and I wasn't disappointed. Oh my, it was beautiful -- and functional, and new, and just fabulous. I got other good ideas on how to set up our future new space too. I can't wait for that.

I made astounding progress to that end today, talking with and making appointments with two promising architects for next week. This work was only accomplished thanks to a nearly 3-hour nap this morning, essential to combat this ongoing migraine. Nine days and counting, same headache....I can't explain exactly how I know it's the same headache and not a series of separate headaches, but it "feels" like the same one. The nap, and a nice swim afterward, helped keep it at bay today. (But as I type, I can feel the pain building again.)

Gabriel had a great time today in his swim lesson this morning. And, he worked pretty hard! I was glad to see how well he listened and followed instructions, and really tried. But mostly, he seemed like he really enjoyed it, like asking the teacher for more underwater swim time, and doing lots of bouncing around and laughing while he was above water.

He and Julian start August 25th on Saturdays at this swim school, I'm looking forward to that. As for the Saturdays in August before then, today I signed them up for 4 lessons at the CA Sports Center, where I swim. Gabriel was very impressed when I told him the pool was 50 meters long (indeed, most non-swimmer-types haven't ever seen a true competition-sized pool).

I'm sure all my cookie-nibbling tonight wiped out any caloric benefits of my swim today though!


Monday, July 09, 2007

7/9/07 Collateral Damage

One of many downsides to this ongoing headache (8 days and counting) is what a huge waste of time it causes. As soon as Katrina takes a nap, so do I, so I never get anything done that moms can only do while babies nap. On Mondays, this must-nap thing means leaving the boys alone together, though I really don't nap soundly as I'm still on the alert.

But not alert enough to hear Julian and a pair of scissors this morning.

His new 'do is a perfect example of the many indirect consequences of migraine headaches.

He didn't want me to take a picture of him though.

Gabriel engaged in a far more productive endeavor during everyone's afternoon nap, which he was so proud of he wanted me to take a picture. A parking lot, complete with marked stalls, and lanes designated by chairs on the deck. He's still lining up vehicles, just like when he was a toddler.

Ah, childhood, filled with such innocent fun. Like hacking off blocks of hair.

The kids model their new monogrammed towels after Julian's and Katrina's swim lesson today.

Today we registered Gabriel and Julian for Saturday swim lessons at DACA, starting the last week of August. They really don't like the swim classes at the Y -- the water's too cold, the teachers inattentive (Julian spent his whole lesson last week with his goggles in his hand), and from what little Dave can see, the lessons don't involve much more than play. The setup at DACA is really good, and much smaller, and I can see from Gabriel's lessons there that there's a good mixture of play, fun and really learning. But, I do like Water Babies for the younger ones, so I signed Julian and Katrina up again for Mondays. Gabriel will be along for the ride Mondays until he's no longer available because of....kindergarten. Starting next month!!.

Maybe by then Julian's bald spots will have grown out a little.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

7/8/07 The Playdate

Today the boys came inside from "helping" Dave do yardwork, and each brought me a flower. Well, mostly -- Gabriel amended it to: "half the flower is for you, and half the flower is for Bonne Maman!"

I love it when they give me flowers, and I helped them put the flowers in water and made a big deal of it. (But not too big. I know boys.)

Today Gina came over for a playdate! This was the first time I've ever had a dropoff playdate, and it was as perfect a situation as it could be for that. Dave was home, and we know Gina well, and she and Gabriel play well together.

Well, Gina does, anyway. They did great at first, playing with Gabriel's bicycle, then sidewalk chalk. But then Gabriel started bugging Dave about fixing a train toy, incessantly, ignoring Gina until she found something else to do. Before that, he was being bossy, claiming she couldn't play with something until something else was done, or getting into obnoxious hysterics and bothering Dave, instead of playing with his friend.

Finally, he simply fell asleep, and Gina just went about her business with Play-Doh.

At least Julian joined her for some creative coloring after his nap.

All in all it went well, but Dave and I were disappointed in Gabriel's rude behavior, and talked to him about it later. I don't think he understood. Incredibly, Gina asked Dave on her way home about Gabriel coming over for a playdate!

Dave almost didn't want to drop her off, muttering something about giving away the easiest of the bunch. But then, he's always had special respect for Gina ever since that time she got Gabriel to give up a tricycle by swiping his hat and making him chase her, then doubling back and claiming the tricycle!

Katrina really, really, REALLY wants to crawl, but she still doesn't quite know what to do! Here's one of her better attempts.

She got her first taste of macaroni and cheese tonight, and had the rest of us laughing in stitches. She LOVED it! The look on her face was priceless, downright joyful combined with her near-frantic attempts to reach for the spoon for more. Too bad she had already filled up on yam, zucchini and yogurt first. But just wait until her first birthday when she gets to try frosting!

Woe be me for this headache scourge, as last week's Monday Migraine still hasn't gone away. More Imitrex today helped manage the moment, but it's little more than a band-aid. Better drugs aren't the answer for three reasons: 1) they won't wipe out the entire migraine and all its ill effects (such as waking up in the middle of the night with the pain); 2) the fact that I'm nursing greatly restricts what I can take and 3) all drugs have side-effects. I really want prevention, but that's really a lofty goal for any migraine sufferer. For now, I guess I'll try to remain grateful that I'm not one of those who has to stay in bed for two days with earplugs and eyeshades. If I'm coherent enough to complain this much, then I'm one of the lucky ones.