Saturday, September 08, 2007

9/8/07 Big busy day for boys

Whew, the boys must be wasted. And it shows with Julian, being a big pain in the rear at bedtime. But, it's understandable.

They had a sleepover last night (and they're both very into them now!). Then swim lessons this morning. Julian got his "green ribbon," which means he advanced a level. Good for him! They hung out at home for a while, then Dave took them out for lunch. Then I took them grocery-shopping. Then they played outside and rode bikes while Dave did yardwork, then Dave took them to the nearby BMX park with their bicycles for two hours. Gabriel was very proud of himself that he'd gone over some of the bumps. They were both so filthy afterward that we gave them a bath before dinner.

Meantime, I was on with Katrina all day, and I do mean ON. Today was the day of The Stand, in which she pulled herself up to a stand every chance she had, but then would get stuck and cry. She needed attention and intervention every few minutes, and that was with a liberally applied "let her figure it out" policy. Not good on a day I wasn't feeling very well or energetic, despite starting off the day with an old-fashioned high-impact aerobics class at my old gym.

I took Katrina to an open house across the street, meeting up with numerous other nosy neighbors checking it out. One of those neighbors I invited inside our house to get the grand tour -- neighbors are always curious what our house looks like on the inside, given its unusual outside. I always prepare them to be disappointed!

Katrina was being impossible, crying and insisting on being held, but then not letting me hold her. She needed to get out. So I took her to Whole Foods for some nonessential shopping, and got Gabriel to come with me, then Julian didn't want to be left behind either. So, all three it was. The boys were pretty good overall, but it's still hectic keeping track of them in a crowded grocery store. Thank heavens for the salsa-sampling table today, with the corresponding chips that kept them all three busy for a while. I had to get Gabriel to go find Julian once, and Gabriel brought him back leading him calmly by his hand, it was very cute.

We ran into Betsy and her clan of three too! It was sort of a relief to see a kindred spirit, grocery-shopping with three kids of just about the same ages. And, in the same setup too: baby in the cart, the other two walk. To think, lots of moms wait until they have childcare for one before grocery-shopping, and here Betsy and I dare it with three. The real daring part is doing it at packed Whole Foods on a Saturday.

My nonessential shopping included picking up some ingredients to try a simple Spanish chicken-cutlet recipe I saw on 30-Minute Meals today. I really like Rachael Ray; her recipes and style are very accessible, and the show isn't overproduced. It's just her talking about the food, doing it very casually (like using a coffee cup for measuring rice, and approximating spice measurements in her hand), no music or silly closeups of turning the oven on, and no pre-cut ingredients that some flunky cut up before the show, and no dishes partially made already ("this takes a while so I have one already started...."). She pulls everything out of the pantry and fridge and carries it to her prep area, opens packages and pulls out bowls and pans and knives just like you and I would do. Well, as I would aspire to do anyway. I'm sure it's still contrived (how handy that the box of rice is right there at the front), but still, the way the whole show goes is fairly convincing that you really could do this in 30 minutes.

But, despite my best intentions, I didn't make what I saw or shopped for today. By the time I got my act together tonight, it was too late to try something new, and I knew the boys would come back from the BMX park tired and hungry. Maybe tomorrow.

My mind has been spinning on a new-not-so-new idea on how to solve my weekday schedule problems. The idea comes from my friend at my old gym who's a marathon runner with 4 young children: a nanny at home two days a week. That's what she does, to run and to have the flexibility to do activities with her kids. The idea has many possibilities. With someone else here, I could pick Gabriel up from school, take Julian to music class, go running, do office and remodeling things -- still with the kids, but without hard pickup/dropoff times. The other non-nanny days would be preschool days for Julian, and I'd have Katrina alone during those mornings and could take Gabriel to school (the morning nap problem is a little easier to work with and is temporary anyway), and would send Gabriel to the CDC for MWF afternoons. Then I could stop morning CDC care every day, and Tuesday-Thursday afternoon CDC care for Gabriel.

Some weekend support would be nice too, so that Dave and I can do things together, without tag-teaming or being overrun by children. There is still a lot to be said for finding infant care for Katrina MWF mornings when Julian is in preschool. But then Gabriel is at CDC/school full-time. I'm still mulling it all over.

18 months. 18 months old and the pressure starts to lift. I remember now that I felt this exact way when the boys were babies too: love my babies, but feel intense time and activity restriction. 18 months isn't that far off. And now, I can also look ahead and see that there's a lot of fun in store: taking walking, talking, potty-trained, self-feeding and now, two-wheeling, boys bicycling at a BMX park is exactly the sort of neat thing I'd envisioned doing with kids. Right now, I can't easily participate in those things, but someday, we'll have three of them doing it. Wow.


Friday, September 07, 2007

9/7/07 The pickup

I had a vague in-theory feeling before Gabriel started kindergarten that it would turn my world topsy-turvy, but couldn't begin to pinpoint why. And I still can't. But it has.

After all this angst about wanting more time off, missing my adult side, having dreams about going back to work and the fridge being empty, today I woke up in a minor panic about all my children growing up and leaving me. It's as though my mom instincts have kicked back in and swung me the other way. I know I'll reach equilibrium eventually, but even though I anticipated an adjustment, it's been even more than I realized -- and it's still happening.

This morning, Dave got the boys off to school before I even saw them. Then I had Katrina all day to myself, and she was a total delight. After breakfast, she played in the family room, crawling around and giggling to herself, making adorable "bah!" sounds, and just thoroughly enjoying herself.

I tried to get some video of her being hilarious at lunch, but as soon as I turned the camera on, she mostly was just looking for more food. This was the best I could get.

She woke up late enough from her morning nap that I was able to plan to pick Gabriel up directly from his kindergarten class today. And though she was getting ready for nap#2, we actually managed it!

(Talking to Steph today made me realize this might not be clear: I don't drop Gabriel off at his kindergarten class, nor do I pick him up. We drop him off at the CDC, which is a daycare center about 20 feet away in a different building on his school campus. Then, the CDC staff takes him to school at 10:40am, and picks him up from school at 2:45pm and brings him back to the daycare center. There, they amuse him until we're good and ready to pick him up. It's exactly what working parents would do, and we pay dearly for it. I really like the CDC, that's where he went for summer "camp," the staff is very very nice and caring and fun, and they have lots and lots of fun older-kid stuff for him to do. It's well-run and communication is good -- the school itself could learn something from them. Still, I'd like to cut out either the morning or afternoon CDC care, but right now, Gabriel's kindergarten schedule conflicts squarely with Katrina's naps and the rest of our lives. I know other moms work around this, but I haven't figured out how yet.)

The pickup was instructive: I got an initiation to the traffic patterns (basically, stop and more stop behind a parade of minivans), and learned another basic thing about kindergarten vs. preschool: you pick them up when the teacher is ready, not when you're ready. There's no "I'm here, let's go!" Instead, it's "wait outside until they're let out." A subtle but significant difference, especially when you're toting along a baby on the verge of a nap. And no fun if it's raining, I imagine.

Fortunately, Katrina held it together, beaming at other moms, bouncing in the stroller, cackling and laughing and putting on her best cute-baby show.

One of my biggest objections to Gabriel's schedule is that he's away from home full-time every day, and it's too much for me. I miss him. Gabriel! Yes, my wily, challenging, independent tough cookie. Who's in a most delightful place in life right now. I even miss seeing the boys play together all afternoon! Is that possible? Just two weeks ago I couldn't wait for that to be over! A severe case of the grass is greener, or what?!

I'm SO glad I was able to bring Gabriel home this afternoon. Katrina went down for her nap right away, then I had a very nice quiet time alone with Gabriel. We had a snack, we talked about school a little, he showed me some numbers on the calculator and had me help him say them, we talked about how many minutes there are in a day, and he calculated it on his calculator.

And, we made some chocolate-zucchini muffins together. Betsy sent me a recipe with allspice in it, which was juuust enough excuse to make it. Plus, the boys had a sleepover at Tonya's tonight, so I thought I'd bring some goodies. I let Gabriel do way more than I usually do, including cracking eggs himself (splat!), pouring things into measuring cups, and handling the mixer. No easy feat because all he wants to look at is what number the mixer speed is set to. But we had a great time.

It was a really, really nice afternoon with my delightful firstborn child, after a really, really nice morning with my delightful lastborn child. I didn't get to spend much time doing "me" stuff, but for once, the pull wasn't there today.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

9/6/07 A day with Julian

My childcare schedule is sort of a mess right now. Too much time for Gabriel, too little time for Katrina, just right for Julian....but the times themselves are a mishmash.

Today Katrina was at Tonya's all day, so I had Julian alone all day. I could put him at Tonya's, and I could have picked up Gabriel early, but I wanted to see how it would go having Julian alone all day. Answer: fine, though I got to do less of grownup things I wanted to, and he got to do less of kid things he wanted to. And, I discovered, I'm not used to having just one kid to deal with anymore!

I took Julian running at Rancho this morning, then to the park for a 2004 playgroup. A reasonable compromise between grownup and kid fun.

After a false start and a fake-out, he cooperated for some self-time photos at Rancho today.

An interesting day for photos because of the odd reddish glow of the sun filtering its way through the forest fire smoke haze in the sky. It made the light a lot like that of a low sunset, but this was in the late morning when the sun would usually be getting too bright and strong for good pictures.

After being out all morning and early afternoon at Rancho and the park, I was ready for a shower and lunch. When we got home, Julian went straight out back and put his bicycle helmet on to do "construction," then quietly played in the dirt for nearly two hours. So outgoing and friendly, yet also very happy playing on his own.

(Yesterday, Julian was in fine form announcing things out of the blue to random people. He stopped an older lady in front of the grocery store and informed her, "I have Red Hot Chili Peppers in my car!" (Not surprisingly, she had no idea what he was talking about, even if she had spoken English.) Then inside the grocery store, he asked me loudly and clearly enough for the numerous people around us to hear, "Are you my Mom?" No, I'm your kidnapper, thanks a lot!)

Tonight Dave and I went to Back to School night at Gabriel's school, which was held in Gabriel's classroom and conducted by his teacher. She went through the curriculum, including the things they'll do on a non-daily basis, such as the weekly music class and PE, and showed us the books they'll use and described the sorts of things the kindergartners will learn. Very useful. So far I really like the teacher and what he'll be learning, but I'm still not crazy about the shot-in-the-dark information from the school administration itself.

We had a chance to see things posted on the walls that the kids had done, including coloring an elephant and writing something about it on the same paper. I was very impressed with the artistry and creativity of many of Gabriel's classmates, whereas Gabriel's idea of coloring was to draw a grid inside the elephant's outline, and then meticulously color squares inside the grid. If he has a future as an artist, early emergence of his talent won't be its hallmark.

Katrina was in fabulous form today, of all days, when she was at Tonya's all day and then with Peggy this evening. Smiling, giggling, cackling, crawling around and finding new things to open and pull everything out of...and, I realized today, the awful screeching has subsided too. Yay! It makes me look forward to a peaceful morning alone with her tomorrow.

In fact, I like time alone with each kid, and for very different reasons with each one. The pull of being with my baby is strong, as babies change so quickly and need their mommies so much and are just so adorable. But at the same time, each day that goes by with my schoolkid away all day increases the pull to have him home too. Suddenly his days living at home seem numbered.

Then there's Julian....the quintessential middle kid. Half of me is in schoolkid mode and half of me is in baby mode, and I'm struggling to reconcile those two lives. But there's a preschooler in the mix too. Maybe he's exactly the middle ground I need.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

9/5/07 Back to the grind?

I had a dream last night that I was back at work, and I was so relieved! What was the big deal? I thought.

It's not going to happen anytime soon, because of the remodel, and because I'm really not sure what/where I'd want to work anyway. It's just on my mind some more partly because my scattered thoughts got more focused from talking a lot with my successful sister-in-law over the weekend, whose career in the corporate world is skyrocketing, and who really enjoys her job.

But tonight, idly writing an email message, it came together for me, how Gabriel going to school marks a real change in my life. When he was born, I was his whole life. Since then, he's gradually gained autonomy as he's grown up, but school marks the beginning of his own "career," if you will, his own life as a student. It makes me want to be a grownup again, to resume my own life, to re-integrate my adult side. I can't, and never want to, completely set aside my life as a mom, but I'm readier than ever for it not to be my entire life.

It's hard not to think sometimes that the perfect phase of momhood/kidhood for me is having a kindergarten 5-year-old and a preschool 3-year-old. One kid in real school with his own life now, and one on the way there soon. Not too close, not too far.

But there is this poor innocent *baby* in the mix! One who deserves a mom who's into being a baby mom.

Today I had a lot of wonderful baby-mom moments with Katrina. I sat on the floor a lot and played with her. I held her up by her hands, and she cackled and giggled, delighted by her stance, though still unsure of how to move her feet. I made her Wedgit towers and she had a grand time knocking them over. I got out a little push-wagon for her and helped her stand up on it. We made lots of funny noises and faces during mealtimes.

We also got a very nice unexpected visit from Kevin and daughter Fiona this evening. It was 11 months ago today that Dave called Kevin at 2:30am, the classic call: "It's TIME!" and Kevin rushed over to watch the boys while we went to the hospital to bring this feisty little life into the world. Kevin, like most people who haven't seen Katrina for a while, was surprised by her reddish hair. She was enthralled by the visitors and liked playing with Fiona. Meantime, the boys were very well-behaved and charming.

Such an idyllic picture. How could I not be completely, utterly taken and delighted by my life? What privilege I must enjoy, what lack of adversity must exist, for me to complain about my life caring for a healthy, vital baby! What's it going to take to appreciate all I have, someone getting seriously ill? Financial ruin? Breaking a limb? So now I must reconcile guilt with the tug of wanting to rejoin the grownup world. I want to want to be a baby mom again. Or maybe I'm just forgetting that a big part of being a baby mom is missing your grownup side.

This ambivalent state will fix itself whether I want it to or not. And Gabriel's going to school is the clear, tangible evidence that the baby life is in fact very, very fleeting.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

9/4/07 Unofficial end of summer

Sniff! Laura and Ryan went home this morning, Gabriel went to school, and routine picks up again. But not before one last hugfest with Julian.

Dave took the day off work today, which gave me a chance for a much-overdue run. I thought it'd be a bust, since I've been fighting a low-grade migraine for 8 days now, and I could feel it building again this morning. But chances for jogging-stroller-free runs are few now, so I grabbed it while I could. I was really anxious to hit the trails just to free and clear my mind -- being out in the hills and trees and natural setting is downright soul-cleansing.

I wound up doing my longest run yet, just shy of 10 miles. I ran the PG&E trail again, but this time, I went the other way, approaching the pinnacle via Upper High Meadow trail. I suspected this way would be somewhat easier, as the climbs are spread out across more miles, but it was more than "somewhat" easier, it was a whole heck of a lot easier. Running back down the PG&E trail reminded me how many steep, long, difficult climbs there are. If I hadn't done it once, I'd have thought today while going down, that there was no way I'd make it up.

When I got home, Katrina was still asleep for what would be her one nap of the day. This freed us to go to a park this afternoon, so we went to the toddler area at Creekside to meet up with the 2004 group. Julian really never spent a lot of time there, since by the time he was old enough to play on the play structures, Gabriel had outgrown it. Actually, now Julian's outgrown it too, but he was quite happy there today.

Katrina hasn't been on a lot of play structures, so this was new to her too.
She had a great time playing in the tunnel, making an attempt to crawl down the short step out of it (a first), and crawling back and forth in it.

I met up with one 2004 mom I hadn't met, and got some chatting in too.

On the way back from the park, we picked up Gabriel. Within minutes, the sky turned black, the air putrid, and a swarm of locusts fell upon us. Gabriel was on a mission to cause a fight, and when he sets his mind to something, there is no stopping him.

It started with Gabriel shouting that he didn't want to hear Red Hot Chili Peppers Song #2, which I was playing at Julian's request. I ignored his insults, demands and blood-curdling threats ("You're not allowed in the house now, Mom!"), and brought the bunch inside. Or tried. Gabriel put his full weight against the door and tried to keep me out, so I pushed it door open and carefully pushed through, as I was carrying bags and Katrina.

The writing was on the wall: we were headed for a big long drawn-out fight. After he made a move to hit me, I sent him to his room. Time to remove the caustic agent! But first, he had a parting shot: he knocked over the little bookcase next to the front door, which came down with a loud crash that made Dave run in to see what had happened. Thank goodness I hadn't set Katrina down yet. As it is, a wooden knob on the bookcase caused a deep dent in the old oak floor.

What do you do for such an infraction? He got a spanking and was sent to his room for the rest of the evening, coming down only for dinner. Even then, he was rude and insulting, but I managed to ignore it. Julian requested a Draco story, and despite Gabriel's obnoxious demands to stop, he ended up getting sucked into the story, and dinner went pretty well after that. But no cookies, and straight back upstairs after dinner. As I type, I hear Gabriel throwing things around his room, apparently missing out on storytime for threatening to hit Dave and Julian with a plastic toy during the bath-bedtime process.

I don't know what happened to him today. He was in a good mood when I picked him up, but it all went awry with the wrong song. I'm happy to say this doesn't happen often anymore, but it's an ugly preview of what could come when he's a teenager. When he wants to dish it out, he has no equal.

I need another long steep run up the PG&E trail. It's less painful.


p.s. today's route:

According to Rancho Runner:

10) Parking -> Lower Meadow -> Farm Bypass -> Coyote -> Farm ->
Rogue Valley -> Upper Rogue Valley -> Upper High Meadow -> PG&E ->
Wildcat Loop (NE) -> Coyote -> Parking

Results for route: 1efwu3mlkr654tuwv21
Route Miles Up Down
1E 0.30 15 0
EF 0.54 40 0
FW 0.23 120 0
WU 0.25 0 50
U3 0.15 0 20
3M 0.31 25 0
ML 0.69 125 0
LK 0.51 75 0
KR 1.00 400 0
R6 0.32 60 0
65 1.26 520 0
54 1.86 100 1020
4T 0.12 0 80
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 = 9.79 Miles, 1680 feet of climbing

Monday, September 03, 2007

9/3/07 Labor Day

Laura and Ryan are the embodiment of Labor Day, a day meant to remedy labor: relax, rest, hang out. No one does these feats like they do, and it's marvelously infectious.

The boys -- all of them -- went to a nearby BMX bicycle park that just opened, so that the boys -- the three of them who had bicycles -- could ride around. Julian made a huge leap, and can now stop and start on the two-wheeler by himself! Later he was riding around the backyard fast, having been released from the training wheels. Go little biker!

Meanwhile, we girls made a pilgrimmage to the new Whole Foods, something I knew Laura, a foodie mentor of mine, would appreciate.

We didn't get a lot of photos this trip somehow, a shame because we had under our roof the best photographer possible for our semi-cooperative brood. It's not easy to get closeups of Katrina-grabby-paws anyway!

At least I got a few of Uncle & Aunt with their niece, even though they mostly spent time with their healthier and more agreeable nephews.

It took some time for Katrina to warm up to new grownups holding her, especially considering that she cries even when grownups she knows (Tonya, Peggy) hold her when Mom or Dad are around. But she did so pretty fast with Laura and Ryan.

She's gonna warm up real fast, and the boys will be even happier, when they put together the following combination of elements:

1) Mom hates going to big crowded places
2) Dad doesn't like it either
3) Laura and Ryan live in southern California
4) Laura and Ryan love Disneyland!

Someday! But for now, an unlaborful Labor Day is the way to go.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

9/2/07 Pool afternoon

Swam and hung out by the pool Sunday with Laura and Ryan. Fun!

Katrina has a cold and isn't at her best, but she had fun swimming too.