Friday, October 26, 2007

10/26/07 The Masquerade Ball

Tonight, Gabriel and Julian went to a "masquerade ball" (OK, a Halloween party) at Collins CDC. It was a "parents night out" thing, and for kids, four hours of pizza, ice cream, activities and party.

This imposed a new deadline on costume-making, for which I was cursing myself once again. Except, as Gabriel's train costume started to come together, he exclaimed again and again, "This is SUCH a neat costume!" "Thanks for making me such an AWESOME costume, Mom!" and other enthusiastic and appreciative comments. That made it all worth it. Maybe I'll make one costume a year, and buy the other two.

I turned a dry-run of costumes into an attempt to get *T*h*e* Halloween photo of all three, but Katrina was in a foul mood when she woke up from her nap.

Am I the lamest costumer? A clown with no face makeup?! Frankly, it didn't even occur to me until just now. I gotta get that boy a red nose, at least.

Julian was a little tentative at the party at first, but having Gabriel there and being familiar with the place helped. They came home with pumpkins and a whole bunch of candy. I'm starting to remember the wave of relief that happens after Halloween is over!

This afternoon, just as we were all getting into the car after picking Gabriel up from school, we came across a most curious -- and lost -- creature. This praying mantis (I believe) mistook the stroller for a tree, and deftly climbed it, probing carefully with its long .... er what, is the name for an insect's forearms?

The boys were pretty fascinated, but a little nervous too.

I don't believe they're poisonous, and this one was so cautious and inquisitive, clearly just looking for a safe place to climb, so I wasn't worried about it. When it looked like it was headed for Katrina, I gave it a rock to climb on and transferred it to a tree, up which it gracefully sped.

My thoughtful uncle sent me a link to this NY Times article, by an author whose articles I've seen many times (and often I don't care for), but this one was pretty interesting: The Migraine Diet. My sister's mother-in-law had good results with using diet to control migraines, so I delved into this with hope, but it seems the author too had mixed results. The comments other people offer are pretty interesting too, and show how all-over-the-map we "migraineurs" are. Just reading about how bad the author's headaches are reminds me that I'm a "mild" case (I've never been to an emergency room), but I'm in Day 12 of a migraine now. This one rates "only" a 4 out of 10 overall, but 12 days -- and counting -- is a new record.

In other thrilling news to me: I ordered jeans for Gabriel that actually fit him!!! And, they have an elastic back, which he needs since he still can't handle snaps or flies yet. They come in a Slim size, which is never a guarantee, but they do stay on his skinny little behind and are still long enough. Best of all, they're cheap! In fact, they're on sale for $9 right now. I'm ordering at least 5 more pairs of size 5 Slim, and not a moment too soon, since his cobbled-together mishmash of jeans are falling apart from so many washings, and are all getting too short. Let's hear it for Sonoma Elastic-Back Jeans!!

But first, lots more Halloweening this weekend.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

10/25/07 The Last Thursday

Katrina was at Tonya's all day today, the last of my "treat" Thursdays in which I'm baby-free. I had just Julian all day, which is pretty easy -- I can still get things done, including take a headache-fending nap, make phone calls, update finances, and run a whole bunch of errands.

But it was bittersweet. Usually I relish and savor my unfettered time "off" (and I know I'm in the minority who can see a whole day with a 3-year-old as being unfettered), but an exchange with Gabriel this morning dampened it. I told him I wasn't going to pick him up from school today, and he said "awww," and then told me he really likes being at home in the afternoon. Go ahead, kid, turn that positive-reinforcement method back on me, thanks a lot! His calm, sincere and positive delivery (telling me what he likes, instead of what he doesn't like) had a far greater effect on me than whining or crying.

Then Julian asked periodically this afternoon when we were going to get Gabriel, furthering the guilt. It reminded me how far we've come. The summer before Katrina was born, I still found the boys being alone together very stressful, since there was so much fighting (mostly Gabriel) and crying (mostly Julian). But now, while they still drum up their share of trouble, they're on much more of a par together than they were a year ago, mostly play well together, and generally resolve their own conflicts. Julian clearly enjoys time playing on his own without Gabriel, but his older brother is always on his mind, as he is on mine. Gabriel's absence is palpable, and when we're all together again, the ring is complete. (The reunion of all three kids is relaxing to me in one way, and so not relaxing in about 200 others!)

Indeed, I found myself missing Gabriel this afternoon much moreso than Katrina. You'd think it'd be the opposite, as babies are so compelling and so unbelievably gosh-darned adorable, and when Gabriel was her age, any time away from him I was anxious about (though I relished it too). But time and experience have colored that perspective differently. Now it feels like time with Gabriel is precious; a mere few years before he grows up and has his own life. Katrina's babyhood seems endless at the moment, even though I know it'll go 100 times faster than Gabriel's did.

But it's not just about me. The time at home means more to Gabriel. Katrina is just a baby-almost-toddler, she mostly wants to bop around and do baby things and be served hand and foot, as babies need and deserve. Pretty much anyone can do that. In fact, I've always felt that my being a stay-at-home mom with my babies, and doing things like music class and swim class, was more for me than for them. They'd recover from the absence of those things in their babyhood.

Gabriel now, on the other hand, cares more about being at home, having his own things, interacting with his own environment. I don't mean to say that a stable home environment doesn't matter to Katrina of course, but her needs are more basic sustaining needs (diapers, food, peek-a-boo, numerous rescues from getting stuck under things). Gabriel has more complex and mature emotional needs (conversation, play, activities, downtime, projects). He's old enough now that he'll remember his time at home and with me now, and that things we do together, or apart, make a bigger difference to him.

These musings gave me another wave of irritation at his kindergarten PM schedule, and at myself for not having the gumption to get it changed. It robs me of the last chance in his life of full afternoons with him, though a few months ago, I saw it quite differently -- how could I bear all afternoon with all three alone! But now, I'd much rather have him home in the afternoon. So would Julian and Katrina. Of course, it's not all bad, as I've come to really enjoy the time with Julian and Katrina before the school pickup scramble.

Yet as much as I say I want Gabriel around, here I am writing instead of taking the rare opportunity to play alone with Julian. It's like I want them closeby, but not too closeby. I want frequent and casual interaction, but I seem to be incapable of constant full-on play, like so many Good Moms I know. Can I have my cake and eat it too?

(Actually, I just did, in the form of a Play-Doh "cake" laced with "Vitamin Z" that Julian keeps bringing in the office for taste tests. I've been taking "bites" between writing sentences. It doesn't get more metaphorically perfect than that.)

Tonight, instead of working with Gabriel on his homework (which is fun to do, I like talking to him and he's usually very focused and enthusiastic), I spent some nice time sitting on the floor and playing with Katrina. She was playing with a spiral-ramp toy that she pulls up on into a stand. Quite a few times, she lost track of what she was doing, and transferred a toy from one hand to another -- while standing. Look Mom, no hands! Just split seconds, but she's starting to get the idea of balancing in a stand on her own!

She played with that spiral-ramp toy no less than 45 minutes, too. This afternoon, while I took care of office errands, Julian was quiet for a long time, and I found him sitting and reading a book on the couch. This is why we've never gone the video route to keep our kids busy: we've never really needed to. With two long attention spans, we thought it's probably just luck of the draw, that's just the way they are. A third would say we're doing something to make that happen, right?

Well, frankly, I still think it's just the way they all are. I should know better by now than to take any credit (and hence, blame) for their basic behavior. Katrina clearly likes to interact and play, so I might not find days alone with her when she's 3 "unfettered." But that's not going to happen for another few eons anyway. Remind me I said that in another few blinks, because that's when she'll be 3.

As I was putting her to bed tonight, she stopped fussing flat when she saw her bear in the crib, pointed to it, and very clearly said, "Bay!" I think it's official, we have a first word!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10/24/07 Night play

Silly boys. I should have taken this before they'd worn themselves out; by now they were just hyper-wired-tired. I was inspired by a mom friend who'd taken something like this of her 3-year-old twins romping around together before bedtime, though she did a better job keeping her kids actually in the video.

I took them upstairs and got them to do some yoga breathing with eyes closed and whispered "Namaste"s to try to settle them down, which worked for .004 seconds.

Julian helped me make dinner tonight. I've found this is a great way of keeping the boys under control during my prime-time of trying to make dinner, feed Katrina, and keep her safe from her over-affectionate brothers. All it takes is engaging one of the boys, then I'm in good shape.

Cracking eggs is a big honor, and today Julian got to do it. I helped him, of course, but then he got to mix the eggs. Then he got to put things into a bowl and mix it up.

Gabriel had initially refused to help me with the eggs, then he was incensed when he discovered Julian would be replacing him. How lucky am I that my boys fight over who's going to help me make dinner!

In fact, as I mentioned, I've started a food blog, sort of a silly amateurish one, but it's fun do to a recap of something new I've tried. And especially when I see how much fun the boys have helping me, and how much fun I have involving them (well, except when Julian blows into a bowl of bread crumbs), it occurs to me that this is about more than just nourishment. Food is something all people have in common. It can bring the family together in so many ways, giving us something to do and explore together. If I succeed, we'll have warm family experiences together now, which will turn to warm family memories for the kids later. When they're grown up, I want them to look forward to coming home for a good home-cooked meal and Mom making their favorite just because they're visiting.

On the flip side, I've talked to adults who came from homes in which they grew up not liking the food, and that becomes a source of anxiety, instead of happy anticipation, in going home for a visit. I'm lucky, I'm not among those; I always look forward to visiting home and glomming as much as I can from my mother (who is an excellent cook). I hope my kids remember helping me cook and bake, and that they learn to do so as well, and that enjoying the food at home will be something they remember fondly as part of their childhood.

Now, where was I.

This morning, I went running at Fremont Older Space Preserve, in an attempt to keep the run shorter. That part didn't work exactly, because it was a positively glorious morning, and I was having no end of fun exploring new trails. But....they weren't so new. I was overwhelmed with deja-vu, then flat-out recognition. I used to ride these trails on horses! Way, way WAY back when, in the days when Garrod Farms rented horses to people without guides or groups, and sent them off to the well-worn trails of the open space preserve. And here I was, years later, running the same trails. These trails are shorter than at Rancho, some parts are very steep, and you have to be on the alert for mountain bikes. The views are beautiful, and it's just about impossible to get lost, since the network of trails pretty much all hook back up to the main one to get back to the parking lot.

Once again, my child-free morning was spent running and recovering and doing little else. The recovery was partly from, again, this awful migraine. It was better today, but that could be because I finally took the last Imitrex pill I have. I hate the side-effects, but I'm getting despondent about my constantly foggy and stressful state. Ten days of migraine is a record, though I can't say this is the most intense one I've ever had.

After picking up Julian and Katrina this afternoon, before picking up Gabriel, I had a wonderful experience. I made myself a salad and sat down and enjoyed it while reading the newspaper and sipping coffee....while my two young children happily played together for an hour!. No crying, no screaming, no ordering, no correcting. Julian was so sweet, helping Katrina open things on a toy, handing her back a ball to put in a tower, laughing together. Sometimes she laughed so hard that I'd rush out to see if she was crying, but no, she was just having a great time playing with her brother. I wish I didn't have to break up the party to go get Gabriel from school.

But how nice and sweet and heartwarming! No matter how stressful three young children can be, or any one of them can be at any time, it always makes me so happy to see the adoration the boys shower on Katrina. Often too much, they can drive me crazy, and she tires of the relentless attention, but seeing how much they completely love her, talk about her, want to make her happy, is utterly endearing. I never would have expected this devotion from two young boys, but then, children are like that. Full of surprises, some so wonderful you've never have been able to fathom then until living them for yourself.

Newsflash: Gabriel just fell out of bed again. We heard the clunk from way downstairs, which means he hit hard. His bed is pretty high! Dave found him fast asleep on the floor, cushy and comfy as could be. How is he ever going to night-train?!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10/24/07 Park afternoon

It's hard to believe that I'm a full-time mom, but Tuesday is my only full-time-mom day. Even then, I stick the two younger kids in the Childwatch at the Y in the morning.

Not that Julian minds. He was having fun reading books with other boys (don't worry, it looks like he was left out, but he was interacting with the others and going back and forth with the books.)

After picking up Gabriel, we went grocery-shopping. I love this time of year at stores for photo-ops, though I didn't do so well with this one.

After getting home, unpacking, snacks and a round of bathroom visits, we went to the park in the hopes of meeting up with a playgroup. Which we didn't at first, then just as I was starting to gather things to leave, a whole group of friends arrived, so I stretched Katrina a little while longer.

She is very social, making eye contact, smiling and engaging people, then showing off. Julian made a lot of eye contact as a baby too, but mostly to stare at them and draw them in; he didn't leap into "let's be friends!" mode as Katrina does. It's very sweet.

She had fun standing at this bench, except for the three seconds my back was turned talking to another mom, then I saw her lying on her back crying and a swarm of people around her, probably wondering where is this poor baby's negligent mother! Well, negligent mother was right next to her the whole time she was sitting safely on the ground, tossing wood chips into the back of this dump truck.

Meantime, the boys had a grand time playing on the play structures together, and later with Gina and Andrew when they arrived.

Gabriel had claimed at first he didn't want to go to this park, but as we were getting into the car, he happily exclaimed, "I had SO much fun, Mom!" Both boys played really hard, and were hot, thirsty and tired when we got home.

And 9 of a migraine. A moderate one, as migraines go, but it's been increasing in intensity the past few days. Today I was pummeled by the "ice-pick" variant of migraines, especially at dinnertime. Those make concentrating and interacting not just difficult, but impossible during the stabs, just like if you'd just dropped a brick on your foot. You can't do much while you're hopping around on one foot, howling in pain, but then it passes enough for you to say, "wow, that smarts!" and get back to business. It's kind of like that. Except the smarting has lasted a week and a half now.

But I did get one piece of good news today, or rather, read a piece of good news. In a newspaper article about a nearby commercial lot that's been vacant for years, save for an old rundown building, there's a mention of what will soon go in there: a small shopping center, with a BRAND NEW TRADER JOE'S!!!!!!! YIPPEEE!!! Now, instead of driving 7 whole minutes to worship (worshop?), it can be just 5 whole minutes! That will make five TJ's within 12 minutes' driving. What a life of privilege I lead!


Monday, October 22, 2007

10/22/07 Katrina's first word?

"Did she just....?"

Katrina points to her Luminou bear and says "bay!" juuust enough to make us think she's really trying to say "bear." She does it to other things too, but she still has about a 60% hit rate on her own bear. This might be her actual first word!

Actually, she's very very cute with most stuffed animals (bears in particular though), hugging them when she gets one, then lying on it and hugging it.

We got the news on the peanut test. The summary: a slight potential for developing a peanut allergy. Her number was 2.4, which is a level of IGE (allergic antibody), in nanograms, in her system. Under 15 means probably not peanut-allergic. But if there's a number at all, that indicates a potential to develop the allergy with exposure. She probably won't react to trace amounts of peanuts, but any exposures could bump that number up and push her into the allergic range.

So, net result: no peanuts until age 3, and try to even avoid foods that are labelled "May contain peanuts." Other nuts are OK.

Actually, Gabriel's peanut-free experience at CDC last summer got peanut butter off our staples list here (and regrettably replaced it with the far less nutritious cream cheese), so this won't be too hard. As for other things....well, looks like I'd better make an eye appointment and update my reading glasses, 'cause those label fonts are awfully small.

I added a new account on a Mac for Julian, and updated Gabriel's photo on his account, so had to take new face photos for the login screen. Gabriel took the task very seriously. Julian...not so much.

Julian is relentless now in supermarkets, accosting innocent bystanders with his announcements and stories. "My baby sister's name is Katrina!" "I crawled with her last night and didn't make her cry!" (a noteworthy event) "Gabriel goes to Collins CDC!" At one nearby supermarket, there's a good chance that whoever he targets is a kindly grandmotherly type who's thrilled to talk to this warm, cute little boy. But he also tries to talk to young delivery men who aren't quite so charmed, and also doesn't understand that in Cupertino, there's a very good chance that someone won't have sufficient command of English to make out the hurried and slightly garbled words of a 3-year-old. Julian's speech is excellent for his age, but he still is just 3.

(Speaking of age, I was shocked when he told someone that Katrina was "12 months" and that he was "almost 4." Usually he says "I don't know" and "3," respectively.)

Yesterday's Mercury News had an article advising new empty-nesters on how to fill their lives now that their children were grown and gone. I showed it to Dave for a chuckle, since it seems to us now that we'll never get to that stage, and even when (if?) we do, we won't have any trouble filling the time!

But the article still had some interesting insights, such as commenting that isolation can occur when a home loses the "vibrancy" that children bring to it. That word struck a chord for me, and I think it's really quite accurate. It sums up the subtle, visceral reasons I wanted children in my life, some sort of protection against getting old and losing touch with the young world. Indeed, I think of Gabriel and how strong and confident and self-sufficient he's getting -- his presence is absolutely vibrant, it injects energy and life and lifts everyone up. Most of the interaction with him is interesting and fun and increasingly rich and rewarding as he matures.

I can't say that about the other two yet. Katrina mostly drains my energy, as a 12-month-old should. I don't mean that badly, I just mean that by the nature of her age, she mostly uses my energy rather than infuses me with it. Julian, it's a wash -- his sweet and adorable side is pretty well balanced with obnoxious 3-year-old behavior. But it makes me look really forward to when they're all older. Gabriel is so wonderful to have in my life now, it's almost thrilling to imagine it will be times 3. (I'm choosing to ignore the teenager thing in this idyllic projection.)

It may well turn out in another 17 years that I'll have wished I saved the article for new empty-nesters after all. Meantime, we're still plugging along with the first word.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

10/21/07 The bicycles

Today was overall a relaxed Sunday, as relaxing as it gets with three young children around. Dave got to wash his car and do stuff outside, which meant the boys could zoom around the sidewalk terrorizing the occasional pedestrian with their bicycles.

[ Hmm, having some YouTube trouble.... come back later, hopefully the video upload will succeed?? ]

Meantime, during these antics, Katrina sat on the grass and pointed at birds, for a little while anyway.

Dave told me about a now-rare blowout with Gabriel this morning (while I mercifully slept late, still battling a horrible headache). It started and escalated the usual ways, with Gabriel on timeouts again and again, hurling insults and threats and things, and ending up back on timeout.

But, he's older now, and is learning he doesn't want to be on timeout. As Gabriel was building up to another obnoxious comment, Dave warned him again to think very carefully before he said anything. So Gabriel said, "FINE Stupid Dad, then I'm going to WRITE something mean about you!" And off he stormed to our craft area, where he furiously pulled out a crayon and paper.

Silence for a few minutes, then, "How do you spell 'ticket' ? "

See, the boys know that some tickets are good (Chuck E Cheese, amusement parks, movies), and some tickets are bad (from police). So, a serious threat from them is a "bad ticket," a threat Gabriel carried out with a yellow crayon. He didn't seem to think it reduced the impact to need help spelling it!

Fortunately, our wily firstborn recovered, and was angelic the rest of the day. As stubborn and determined as he can be, it never ceases to warm my heart to see how tender and nurturing and completely loving he is with Katrina. Out of the blue, he'll say that she is the cutest baby in the world, or that he loves something she's wearing (!), or that we should paint pink flowers all over the walls in the whole house.

Today while she was having lunch (cottage cheese and applesauce, a staple of my childhood!), he had fun imitating her goofy semi-laugh, making her actually laugh:

Before bedtime, Gabriel came downstairs to get something, and saw me as I was about to write his name on his lunchbag. I still try to come up with a creative and fun and different way to write his name each time, though I'm running out of ideas! But this time, he wanted to write his name himself.

And he did -- I was blown away with what a nice, sweet job he did! Writing isn't his strength, especially compared to the near-calligraphy of some of his classmates, but he continues to surprise me. He was very proud of himself, and I made a big deal of it and kissed him a lot. I'm always happy to have an excuse for that.

The only downside to the experience was that Julian, whose skill and inclination to write doesn't surprise me at all (and is far superior to Gabriel's at his age) got a hold of the same blue Sharpie Gabriel had used while I was distracted.....note to self: LOSE THE SHARPIES!!