Friday, August 31, 2007

8/31/07 The Schedules

Just as I expected, kindergarten throws a huge wrench into the family's schedule. I'm not the only new-K mom I know trying to figure it all out, especially with younger siblings with different needs. Many new-K moms also have to deal with their kids being upset or fearful about it, but this is a complete non-issue with Mr. Shrug.

Today, Gabriel's youngest sibling with different needs needed her naps -- and really needed them -- exactly during Gabriel's pickup/dropoff times. Without the CDC, I'd have had to wake her twice, and she'd have been a PITA all day. In fact, her morning naps have even been conflicting with the AM kindergartners' pickup times. There's no way around it. Baby naps and kindergarten don't mix.

In fact, this afternoon, I thought she might hold out until 2:45 so that I could pick up Gabriel directly from school, but at 2:10, not only was she falling apart, so was Julian. It was a mad scramble keeping her happy just long enough to persuade Julian to take a nap, which he did soundly, until we woke him at 6:15pm (!).

I know I'm not the only mom who juggles multiple schedules, but clearly I'm far less competent, selfless and flexible than other moms. I just can't bear the idea of waking up my moderately-high-needs baby, and don't know how to "make" her nap schedule work.

Even if Gabriel were on the AM schedule (8:40am - 12:05pm) and I picked him up every day (after waking Katrina up), then what? What would he do all afternoon? I take Katrina grocery-shopping and do little things with her, but the things I'd do with her are hardly great fun for him. Gabriel, of all kids, can amuse himself all afternoon at home, but every afternoon?

And then there's Julian. He doesn't always need a nap, but there are days when he most certainly does. Today was one of them. It'd suck for Gabriel if I'd planned to take him somewhere and had to bail because Julian was being impossible.

Yesterday when I picked Gabriel up at the CDC, he was intently watching a 3rd-grader playing with "Snap Circuits." He was all over it, barely containing himself from taking over, fascinated, thrilled, practically drooling watching this very nice and tolerant 3rd-grader following instructions on putting together circuits (the pieces snap together) and then pushing a button to make a tone or a light go on. Gabriel has pretty much not stopped talking about Snap Circuits since.

Actually, Snap Circuits is a bad example, because that's one thing he can't do at the CDC, and he could do at home if we had them. The CDC has a class of toys that only 3rd-graders-and-up can play with, and this was among them (marked 8+ years old). Nevertheless, the opportunities for play, toys and interaction there far exceed what he can get at home.

I need to find some sort of middle ground. I'm a big believer in home downtime, but that can't be half his day every day either. So for now, as long as Katrina's napping twice a day, and then during her transition to one nap, I think we'll keep him at the CDC before and after school. That said, as Katrina transitions to one nap, I'll start working towards making it end at 2:30, since 2:45 pickups will be a problem for as long as Katrina is napping at all. Which I hope is a long time.

This could all be solved with the lowly school bus, but inexplicably, in one of the most affluent communities in the country, we don't have school buses or lunchrooms.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

8/30/07 Slammed again

I'm really starting to resent this. My first kid-free day in some time, and a special occasion at that, since Julian isn't scheduled for Thursdays usually, and I spent much of it staggering under the crushing force of the migraine. It's been threatening all week, coming in and out, and affecting me in strange insidious ways (such as signing checks with my maiden name, or forgetting how to shift gears in my car, and dish-clinking sounds driving me to scream STOP!!). I've taken Imitrex with mixed results, sort of holding it off. But the piano fell out of the sky squarely onto my head today.

We're having a heat wave here, so the headache, heat, and child-free state all added up to taking a genuine full-on yoga class this morning. One of the few useful things one of the doctors at the headache clinic said was that some of my trouble might come from ultra-tight shoulders and neck. Could this be a biomechanical problem all along? Though I do yoga stretching, I'm a rank beginner with yoga technique, and the class today was great to tune up my method.

I went home relaxed, and lay down for a nap...and woke up with the piano on my head. I almost wasn't sure where or who I was, lying on the bed with the intense pressure squashing my will to get up, to think, to look around. Any visual or auditory input was agonizing. Eventually boredom and experience gave me the energy to get up, as I've learned over the years that changing my surroundings can make a marginal improvement. Unable to do much else, I went out to meet Dave for lunch, as being indoors was excruciating. The distraction and the avocado-mozzarella-tomato-basil salad restored basic function for the afternoon, but I'm still feeling traumatized by the severity of the pressure earlier today. And it's not over yet.

We got some wonderful gifts from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul in the mail! Yesterday I took a few videos of the boys opening them. WARNING: these are really boring and interesting only to grandparents. Everyone's welcome to see, of course, but this is hardly making cinematographic history.

Gabriel and Julian's video thank-you note:

Gabriel tries to read the tag on his gift while Julian opens his:

Gabriel reads the tag on Katrina's gift (she was already in bed):

Katrina opened hers today, and mostly was puzzled by the scotch tape sticking to her fingers. But she did due diligence on the book itself, chewing it immediately.

I'm happy to report that she was much better-natured today, and ate well, instead of fussing at every turn of events. What a relief, and what a fun baby when she's like that. Playing with a fun baby tonight was a welcome and short respite from the miserable clamour of pain and pressure pummeling my head.

Gabriel's kindergarten teacher told me in email (we had a brief exchange about his accidental hot lunch) that he's a "sweet boy" and has good manners! Now that's a relief! Oh my, if only she knew! And I hope she never does!


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

8/29/07 Lunch notes

Julian has decided his name is now "Henry." At first, I misunderstood when he said, "I hate being Julian." What sort of deep-seated self-esteem issue have I fostered in a 3-year-old? But no, he meant just his name. So now he's Henry. He actually told someone at Target today his name was Henry. This could be a problem if he ever gets lost!

I'm torn about what to do with Gabriel's schedule. I'm surprised how much I miss him and think about him all day, much moreso than when he was at pre-K. But, he is having a grand time at the CDC, rather than being stuck at home every afternoon due to baby naps. And today, Katrina's naps conflicted perfectly with both pickup and dropoff times, confirming my concerns about time conflicts. And he really likes the CDC, as do I.

This morning when I dropped Gabriel off, it was unusually quiet in the CDC since the only kids there were a small group of PM kindergartners. Three girls were sitting and looking at a set of interlocking plastic pieces, apparently discussing what to do. When Gabriel walked in, they immediately chimed, "Gabriel! Will you help us build something?" Oh boy, was he in his element! He took right over and started masterfully instructing them. He didn't even glance back to see me slinking uselessly away. How can hanging around at home with Chopped Liver (formerly known as Mom) compare to the admiring attention of three adorable little girls? (Though really, girls, isn't it a little early for the damsel-in-distress routine? Sheesh, build it yourselves!)

I took Julian and Katrina to Target today, and happened to come across their tiny stock of grownup Halloween shirts. Already! In August! They'd just been put out this morning, and sure enough, people were buying them. Including me. I'm tired of asking people in the few days before Halloween, "Where did you get that cute T-shirt?" only to hear, "At Target, in August -- but I think they're out of them now." Well hah. Now I have a Halloween T-shirt. In August. Boo for me.

On Erin's inspiration, I ordered a monogrammed lunch box from Land's End for Gabriel. Gabriel's monogrammed towel is very handy in potential misplacement situations, so I figure a clearly labelled lunch box is a good thing for kindergarten.

But I'll have a little regret, since I'm actually having fun labelling his paper lunch bags. Gabriel pointed out to me yesterday that I hadn't put a heart before his name, so I added it for today.

I've heard of moms sticking notes in with their kids' lunches, so I tried it today. Partly, I did so to remind Gabriel about his lunch items, though I'd talked with him about it ahead of time.

So I asked him if he found the note, and he happily exclaimed that he had, and he really liked it and thought it was funny, then recited it back to me word for word. "Look for the cheese! Love, Mom," he laughed. Now the pressure's on. Can I can come up with a cute note every day?

(By the way, talking to Gabriel about what to look for in his lunch, and "negotiating" what to put in it, made the difference between his barely touching it, and today, almost finishing it. He insisted on the same exact thing for tomorrow as today, so he's getting that, and a note that says so.)

Gabriel decided some days ago that August 30 was his beloved Bear's birthday. He even went so far as to write it down on the calendar, and has been counting down days until the birthday. Today I suggested to him that we make a present for Bear, in the form of a photo of Gabriel with him. This led to a photo session, in which I got a nice picture of Gabriel and Bear. I'm still trying to persuade him to hold off on Bear's party until this weekend, when Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan will be here, and I'll take the excuse to try making a bear-shaped cake.

Then I managed to turn the three minutes Katrina was content sitting into an impromptu all-three photo session. I got some rare shots of them in birth order, though it took some fast-talking and persuading, since Gabriel usually insists on sitting next to Katrina.

Katrina was still grouchy, un-smiley, hard-to-please and not eating well today, but no temperature. That means, for me, no Katrina tomorrow. Love her though I do, it'll be a relief.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

8/28/07 The temperature

My first Tuesday of our so-called "regular" schedule, with Julian and Katrina all day.

And oh, did I have grand plans! I'd take Katrina and Julian to the park, to meet up with the 2006 Las Madres group at 10am (finally!). Then I'd take them running in the double jogging stroller. Katrina would get her morning nap there, then we'd go home and have lunch. I'd take the kids to Rite-Aid to pick up a prescription, and buy more kid toothbrushes (to resolve a nightly conflict over the one SpongeBob toothbrush), and Katrina would take a good nap in her own bed in the afternoon.

The Plan fell apart by 9:45am, when Katrina really, really needed a nap RIGHT NOW. She napped until noon, I gave her and Julian lunch, and went about the thousands of details needed to get two kids out of the house, and myself ready, to run.

By the time we hit the trail, it was 1:15pm, and it was hot. We're having a mini-heat-wave right now, and somehow I managed to pick the hottest time of day on a hot day to run an open enough trail for a double jogger, which means little shade. And it was hot. And tough. The route I took isn't all that steep, and I've run it before with the double, but today I compulsively tacked on an extra little bit. It darned near wiped me out. I couldn't believe how bad I felt on the way back, which was mostly downhill.

When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was shocked at how dizzy and strange I felt in the head. I'm not entirely certain, but I think a lot of that was due to a migraine flickering the background. After all, yesterday was Monday. Then again, much of the exhaustion could easily be from the heat and supreme effort of pushing the double jogger up even the most modest of hills. Whew.

My car was parked in the shade, and the parking lot was actually fairly breezy, so its outdoor thermometer shouldn't be too far off. Should it? It read 100 degrees.

I had an impulse to pick Gabriel up on the way back, early at 3:15pm, but decided that today wasn't the day to test out having him home early. I was so so tired and hungry, and knew that as it was, I'd have my hands full with the younger two the second I walked through the door.

And sure enough, Katrina came through: fussy and edgy and crying and impossible to please. The low point came trying to wash my face from eye-stinging sweat with one hand while holding her, and trying to snag gulps of warm water in between. Sheesh, grownups in the real world are allowed a few moments to take care of themselves when they're completely wrung out!

I got her down for a nap and took a quick shower while Julian played by himself downstairs, as he had much of the day. He was angelic today; calm and cooperative and sweet and playing quietly with books or drawing. He doesn't get much unfettered time alone at home, it was nice for both of us. We had a nice yogurt snack together before going to pick up Gabriel.

After dinner, I attempted to get a photo of all three, since it so happened they were all dressed in light blue today. It's not a total accident, as I do choose all their clothes the night before. But it's not really a conscious matching thing either. I was just in a light blue state of mind, I guess.

The photo session was a bust though.

First, the boys were still excited about their reunion, the exact moment of which marked the end of Julian's affability. Immediately, he was injected with Obnoxious Potion and did his utmost to cause trouble thereafter.

Then Katrina was crying inconsolably. I took a picture anyway, and unwittingly captured a rather tender scene of Gabriel genuinely trying to comfort her. It never ceases to warm my heart to see how consistently and completely he loves his little sister.

Meantime, Julian just did his best to ruin the photo shoot.

I whisked Katrina up off to an early bedtime, nursed her for a good long time,then picked her up for the bath.....uh-oh. It was hot today, but not hot like this. Her skin had that now very familiar burning sensation. Sure enough: 101.7. No wonder she'd been extra-high-maintenance tonight, and didn't eat well. This is her first real temperature, too. I wonder if it could be teeth?

Selfishly I'm praying that she'll be better tomorrow. My one baby-free day of the week is coming up Thursday. I'd even toyed with the idea of tackling the tough PG&E trail again. But not with today's temperatures. Both of them.


extracting information

Are torture methods useful in getting prisoners to confess with reliable information?

Yes, if it's a father playing a guessing game with a reluctant kindergartner to extract valuable data about the kindergarten proceedings.

Dave's reconnaissance mission directed an interrogation toward lessons in letters and numbers. He was able to extract the following intelligence from the subject kindergartner interogee:
- Numbers were discussed. The teacher doesn't know any numbers above 10.
- Letters were discussed. The teacher does, however, know the whole alphabet.

He's gonna crack next time, I just know it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

8/27/07 An unnatural act

I did it. It's like overcoming an addiction, facing limitations, taking a first step into unraveling years of built-up compulsive behavior, of letting go of recreating my own childhood. I challenged my innermost concept of motherhood, and in a small way, shifted my self-image.

So it is not lightly that I take a deep breath and announce to my friends, my family -- indeed, the world:

Today I ordered a Halloween costume on eBay.

It was time. Though I once again started thinking about Halloween in July, painful history tells of a huge time scramble, late nights, of long lines and even longer credit-card bills at Jo-Ann Fabrics, of serious design flaws, and worst, of uncomfortable children who don't want to wear their goofy home-made costumes.

Oh, I'm not over this addiction. I'll still get my hands dirty with countless varieties of glue, draw and re-draw designs, scour household goods for raw materials and spend a lot of money and time. But Julian has been sufficiently consistent with saying he wants to be a clown that it was a good opportunity to outsource. And save the engineering for costumes that aren't easily bought, as Gabriel won't be dissauded from something battery-powered.

Now, can I bring myself to buy a ladybug costume for Katrina? One step at a time, folks.

Katrina had lots of fun tonight crawling around "chasing" Julian, making loud screechy sounds that are hard to tell if they're giggling or crying. I'm not she knows herself.

After all that yesterday about reading the school lunch menu, and deciding that Gabriel would bring a packed lunch every day, Gabriel got a school lunch today.

Today when I picked up him up, I had to run back into the CDC to his cubby to get his "project," along with some notices and his lunch. I noticed his cubby had two other names now, but found his things there.

But at home, I saw that his lunch hadn't been touched. "Why didn't you eat your lunch, Gabriel?" I asked him. "Oh!" he declared happily. "I had a hot lunch!" Huh? "I had chocolate milk and cookies!" Great.

It was hard to get anything out of him, but apparently the CDC folks couldn't find his lunch to bring with him to kindergarten. My guess is that his cubby's been moved, but he's still putting his lunch in his old summertime cubby, so the CDC staff couldn't find it.

That still leaves the mystery of how he got a hot lunch, but all he said was something about a fifth-grader getting it for him.

Once again, I'm frustrated by the lack of information about how lunch works. There should be something on their Web site about the hot lunches, and about how kindergartners even go to lunch at all. Does the teacher take them? Are they left to their own devices for half an hour? I remember someone telling me something about getting help from volunteer older graders; maybe that's what Gabriel was talking about. I get the most information from the CDC staff, actually.

(Dave asked a good question: why are they giving the kids chocolate milk? That's out of step with this day and age's concern with childhood obesity. Especially when the menu just says "milk.")

Naturally, I'll ask about cubbies tomorrow. And try to find out if Gabriel owes a 5th grader some money!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

8/26/07 Snooping

This morning, I took the boys to a birthday pool party, that was held, mercifully, at baby's naptime. So Katrina stayed behind while the boys and I went in the water.

I missed most of their water playtime because we were a little late. Then, grossly overestimating how much time we had, I decided to swim some laps myself, while my friends kindly agreed to keep an eye on the boys. I took a break from swimming, looked up, and found all the kids at the tables eating pizza. Oops!

Great place for a party though. Quinton's parents sure know how to throw a party.

Later in the afternoon, I resurrected my old backpack (one of a few items that survived the ill-fated "we're done with babies" sweep) and took Katrina open-housing, largely to practice evaluating kitchens.

First I saw a $1.8M house in unincorporated territory, by following signs, and there was no one there except a lonely, anxious realtor.

Then I saw a $1.5M house next to a nice park, and it was packed with Asian families. They obviously know something I don't, because though this less expensive house was nearby, it was much, much nicer -- better layout, better kitchen, better yard, better location, better feel overall.

However, I didn't like the kitchen! I'm not sure why yet, but right away it struck me as cramped, even though it's in a fine space. The obvious prep place for food is pretty far from the fridge. Plus there's not enough space on either side of the cooktop, and the weird 3-level island isn't inviting.

The lonely realtor at the more expensive house commented that the schools the house is zoned for have "high API scores." I just can't get myself to care about API scores in choosing a house. Is this really a decision factor? Do people really choose a house in Los Altos over one in Cupertino because of a local school's score on this one specific test? It's worth a moment's interest, I guess, and an extreme score one way or another is worth asking about. And I want my kid to succeed as much as the next guy. But isn't there a whole, whole lot more that goes into a kid's school experience -- and life outcome -- than one measure? I'm already not crazy about the way Gabriel's school is run, but its "API" score is very, very low on my list of things to care about. I don't even know what API stands for.

Meantime, in Cupertino, home of the largest Whole Foods Market west of Austin TX, (and whose schools apparently have high API scores), a sampling from the school hot lunch menu:

Monday: Turkey Pizza Pocket
Tuesday: Chicken Nuggets
Wednesday: Nachos/Tortilla Chips
Thursday: Cheese Pizza
Friday: Chicken Patty/Bun

There are "healthy" things available every day, like applesauce or "chilled pears" (code word for "canned"), and milk. But there's plenty of opportunity for kids to eat nothing but junk for lunch. And I've never believed that if you give kids healthy food at home, they'll develop the habit of eating healthy and will avoid junk food. All kids like junk food.

Didn't I care about this when he was at Kids Inc for pre-K, you might ask? The food there certainly wasn't any better. Yeah, but, it seemed more temporary, and all the kids ate the lunch there; it wasn't set up well for some kids bringing bagged lunches.

So, I'll be packing lunches, ones that meet even my low standards. A rare victory of food snobbery over laziness. Tomorrow, he gets a bagel with cream cheese, a Babybel cheese, a bag of grapes, and a bag of cashews, and a bottle of water. Last week, I also packed him a few cookies, and all he ate was the cookies. No more cookies then. Poor kid will be scarred for life.

Maybe by the time he can make his own lunch, he can do so in a brand-new high-API-score kitchen!