Saturday, November 10, 2007

11/10/07 Just two

Single mom, hard. Two kids, easy. Hmm.

Then again, I have Peggy. Today I went scrapbooking with some friends while Peggy watched Julian and Katrina, which turned into a happy playdate for Julian with Miranda, Peggy's feisty little daughter.

Peggy can handle anything, nothing rattles her. She's the 3rd person in 24 hours to report that Katrina is one focused, determined little thing. She wants what she wants, and there's no distracting her. I've come to brace myself if she's into something and I absolutely have to pull her away to change a diaper or something. She throws her whole tiny little body into the protest, which is almost comical given how her puny 17 pounds doesn't begin to match up to her spirit. I think it's official: I have Gabriel rev.2 on my hands, though ramped down, and not nearly as strong or fast.

Julian was grouchy this afternoon, and after some negotiation about music selection, he sat down on the couch and then drifted off sitting up.

Katrina, meanwhile, wouldn't take a second nap, and instead busied herself with a new trick: stacking.

Oh yes, and what fun pushing this little button with a pinpoint of light that appears to breathe, and that gets just a little brighter when I push it. Clearly she has a future in Apple's hardware quality verification department. (Who, me?)

Boy does she get mad when I whisk her away from this foible! And she made a baby beeline right back for it again and again, until I finally gave up and closed the office door. Fortunately, that did make her give up, at least it does now. I remember Gabriel throwing an extended fit by whatever barrier we set up for him.

Dave and Gabriel left at 5:30am this morning to visit Dave's parents in St. Louis. Dave's sent me a few iPhone photos, and it warms my heart to see Gabriel running and playing and just being a kid, even in such a far-away place. It's nice to see him with his grandparents too -- I wonder how that is for them, having this sudden injection of little-kid energy around them. He lights up everything around him.

I'm enjoying having Julian as the oldest one for now though. A boy and a girl, in that order, just like I'd imagined as a little girl would be the perfect configuration (mostly because I thought girls should have an older brother and I wished I had one). My sweet little boy and my spritely little girl. Only those idyllic childhood musings didn't count on a Gabriel in the mix! And what a wonderful mix it makes.


Friday, November 09, 2007

11/9/07 The sleepover

I tried leaving work "early" today, at 3pm. Which isn't early, since I'm thinking I'd like to try to leave at 2pm on Fridays to pick Gabriel up from school. Which means picking up Katrina last which means going back to San Jose again.

Uh-oh. Rethink. I did that today, and the pickups took an hour and 20 minutes, though that included some extra time retrieving Gabriel from a playground. I sure am spending a lot more time in my car now. And at gas stations!

Julian's first: he brought home homework!

He was very, very proud of it, and wanted to go straight to the table where Gabriel does his homework and do it. Unfortunately, it was "assigned" today and is "due" Monday?! I'd like to talk to his teacher and suggest that even kindergarten doesn't get homework over the weekend, though I'm sure the idea is not to add to parents' workweek. Pre-pre-K homework isn't really required or due or anything, so I could easily blow it off. But Julian really does take it seriously (thank you Older Brother), so I'd much rather it be done at a more realistic time. And I don't want to deal with weekend homework yet.

When I picked Julian up from Kids Inc, he gave one of the daycare ladies a huge full-body hug goodbye. I get a lot of big smiles and "awwww" faces about him, and everyone tells me what a sweet, sweet boy he is. On the whole, his behavior has been a thousand times better since starting at Kids Inc, but that could also be because he takes a nap every afternoon now.

After getting everyone home, and before whisking Julian and Katrina off to a sleepover,....wait. A sleepover? After my first week of work and having them all in daycare?! I know, it seems like a lot. But with a meeting with our insurance agent tonight, and with Dave and Gabriel leaving at 5:30am tomorrow morning, it seemed the prudent thing to do. And really, Julian and Katrina aren't the ones I feel bad about being away from me.

Especially Katrina -- she's turning into Miss Tough Stuff, starting to throw major fits if something doesn't go her way. I see the same sort of, resiliance in her that Gabriel had. I've had a few people tell me "ohhh, a 13-month-old girl, yeah, that clingy and whiny phase." Not this one. Not yet, anyway. Screechy, insistent, demanding, yes. And, very playful and outgoing. She'll happily and almost aggressively sit and play with a book, pointing joyfully to pictures and blurting "Bay!" -- but GOD FORBID you have to disturb her to put her in the bath. No sad tears there, it's full-on furious FIT.

Oh! Melissa taught her about noses, and showed me: Melissa asked Katrina, "where's my nose?" and Katrina pointed to her own nose. Oh my goodness how cute!

...Anyway, I attempted a photo session with all three, to little avail. The best I got was one with Katrina's back turned. She got involved with the lemon tree, and once again, the world would stop turning and the sky would cave in if I tried to wrestle her attention away from it. (I can feel my past and future irritation creeping up at the advice to "distract" toddlers...past because that never worked on Gabriel, and future because.....oh....GOD!)

At least I got a few cute brother-sister shots.

I get to be single parent for the weekend...of two! Dave is taking Gabriel to St. Louis for a grandparent visit, on an early flight tomorrow. I'm excited for them, and Gabriel is thrilled about the upcoming trip. But I'll feel a lot better when everyone's back home!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

11/8/07 The Guilt

I can't figure me out. I go through these huge swings of emotions about being back at work. At times, I have to stop myself from tearing up when I think about Gabriel telling me, "Aw Mom, I really really want you to pick me up from school!" What the heck and I doing, rewinding my life to being back at the same old place doing the same old stuff (well, when I remember how to do the same old stuff that is). But this isn't my real life.

Then I have moments of great gratification and perspective. I just about burst out laughing when a coworker referred to a project in the works, something like "when we get the end-to-end testbed done..." Those were the same exact words used about the same exact project when I was there two years ago! In that time, I gestated, birthed and raised a baby to 13 months, brought a whole person into the world! Boy, life moves a whole lot slower in the real world.

When I left today, I felt uplifted. I liked concentrating and using big words and not being interrupted for more than five minutes! And I looked forward to seeing all three children. I was an amazing picture of patience tonight when Julian pulled his best three-year-old whiny screaming tantrum fit (about wanting a pencil, which was promptly confiscated when he was caught bopping Katrina on the head with it). In some ways, I'm so convinced this is not the world for me anymore. In other ways, I'm just as convinced I belong in it. Maybe just not this exact one.

At the moment, I'm becoming more and more certain I want to be home with them in the afternoon when they're all in school. But by then, Gabriel will be 10. Will he still want to bop around the backyard with his bicycle helmet on, pushing trucks back and forth, digging to plant seeds, climbing on the playhouse, coming in to check on what I'm doing and inserting himself into any cooking project I might have going? Am I missing out on what I'd look back on as some of the best times of our lives together? They always say babyhood goes so fast -- try kindergarten! Aside from the eventual retrospect, there's the now. Gabriel needs downtime at home after school, and I feel awful about taking that away from him.

Meantime, my real world marches right along, oblivious to my turmoil and search for a comfort zone. The second we got home, Katrina made a beeline for this little push-toy, put it on a footstool, and started pushing it around. In many ways, being a for-the-moment baby has its advantages.

(Notice the hack job I did on her bangs last weekend, just trying to keep them out of her eyes. I should have taken her to get her hair cut, but for some reason resisted. Oh yeah, I know the reason: she's going to SCREAM and WIGGLE and FLAIL and generally completely resist. Just like she did for my quick snips, even though I did it outside so she'd be distracted by pointing to birds. Poor thing looks destined to have Julian-like flat straight hair, so the Bangs are an especially bad look when done by incompetent Mom.)

I got the boys to come upstairs eagerly by telling them they could take a bath with Katrina, which they love to do even though they're very restricted (they have to be much calmer and can't play together the usual way, lest they bonk the baby). She absolutely loves having them there, and starts all sorts of games with them, and laughs when they drop toys into the water or other such silly things.

Thanks to another early dinner, all three were in the bath by 7:15, and all three in bed by 8:10pm, without any big blowouts or nagging or yelling or anything. This part of the new work schedule really works. Despite the getting up at 6:30am thing. And despite my sad anxiety around 2:45pm when Gabriel's teacher opens his classroom door to let the kids out and he looks out hopefully for me and I'm not there.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

11/7/07 First Day!

What a way to start the first day of what feels like a marked change in my life: with a dentist appointment. I was filled with anticipation and dread, feelings cycling up and down every few minutes, and was in no mood to sit patiently in a dentist's chair.

I know from experience that it will take a few weeks before I'm in the swing of things, and that the huge tumble of mixed feelings about this job will settle down. I was looking forward to it in many ways, but my heart sunk too when I saw the same old building in the same old place with the same old work. Paradoxically, I've been away from it long enough that much of it is new, but I was with it for so long that it all seems like old hat too. Old hat I'm not very good at right now.

Moreso, I was struck with what it was like to be back in an office. Do people really think and care about this stuff all day long? Was I one of them once? Can I ever be one of them again? Haven't I been one of them all along, on a temporary hiatus? Or am I truly done with that life? Or is my concept of that working life skewed because it's all been at the same company for the past 10 years, and I'm ready to move on? I was ready to move on before Gabriel was born, and somehow knew that that was my way out. It's ironic that this same company seems to be my way back in.

Today, I worked until 3:30pm, and went straight to pick up Katrina, then the boys. We got home at 4:50pm -- that's well over an hour of driving to pick everyone up and get home. Not to mention the morning dropoff. Yikes!

It worked well to have everyone home at 5 though, and to have had dinner basically planned, if not done. Last Sunday, I prepared three "entrees," and have a stock of TJ's things in the fridge, which I guess constitutes a menu and a plan. But the midweek trips I did with Julian and Katrina after picking them up to Target and Whole Foods and such aren't going to survive the change. Which means: weekend shopping. I hate that.

Katrina was wasted tonight, and couldn't recover from a semi-choking/coughing fit at dinner. While I paced her around, wiping her mouth, offering her milk, and trying to decide how serious this little fit was, Julian tried to make obnoxious sounds and cause trouble. But Gabriel wouldn't bite. Instead, he looked on with great concern, apparently thinking of ways to help, and finally said, "Mommy, why don't you go put her to bed?"

And I did. But this meant leaving the boys unsupervised for dinner, which meant, you guessed it, a lot of trouble and no eating dinner. I couldn't leave Katrina alone in the bath, so I called them to come upstairs. They joined her in the bath, and Dave came home to find everyone fed (sort of), and well into the bath-bed process. And it wasn't even 7:00!

There's a small group of people at work who sporadically go running at lunch, on a 4-mile route along a levy. Flat, but dirt, perfect for running. That's not enough to keep me in shape for the PG&E trail, but it's better than nothing. And most of the group are men -- I might actually have to run fast if I join them, and that could be a good workout. Once again, I don't quite know how to work the time in, but I have to believe that things will somehow fall into place.

I have no photos, it was too dark when we got home. Sniff.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

11/6/07 The Last Day

I'm so not a morning person, but this morning, I made a good pretense of it. I dropped Katrina off at Melissa's, and was at Rancho, stretched and ready to run, before 8am. I took this self-time to commemorate the moment just before hitting the trails at 7:55am. I ran the PG&E route again, enveloped in fog the whole way until the very top when the sun broke through. I'm sure it was a personal reward from the heavens to me. On the way back, I detoured back onto the lower third of the PG&E trail in the reverse direction. I thought for sure I'd set a personal record for feet climbed, but checking Rancho Runner, another route climbs just a little bit more. Rats. In any case, it was a good last hurrah, and early -- I was done running by 10am. I don't know how I'll keep in shape to do this sort of running once I start work. Tomorrow!

Once again, my children were all thrilled and in great moods when I picked them up. I'm very happy about that, but it still perturbs me a bit. Am I really that boring to be around?! I guess so!

Julian gave me a big hug in the parking lot and said, "I had SUCH a good time, Mommy!" Once again, he was full of new little songs and gestures and stories and sayings. He seemed so proud when he talked about "my class," and he was very happily playing outside with other kids when I picked him up. Any concerns I have are alleviated, he's blooming there.

Katrina too was in fabulous form when I picked her up, full of silly cackling sounds and games and trying to grab things and throw them to impress people. Melissa had to wake her up almost four hours into an afternoon nap! No wonder she was in such a good mood.

Gabriel, ironically, is the only one who's so-so on the whole after-school care thing. He does great, he's always happily engaged in something when I pick him up, but I feel the guiltiest about him. It makes me even more certain that what I need in a job is flexibility and self-direction. This one isn't it, but maybe it's my foot back into the door of the working world, and I can start to find my way to that job independence I want.

At least I got a little more appliance-decision-making done. I've decided the two features I must have in convection wall ovens are 1) knobs; and 2) pull-out racks on rollers. These apparently simple things push the choices right into the high-end. So I twisted some high-end knobs today and was mortified by some of the things I found. The $3000 Viking's knobs have this awful spring-tweaking sound, and the knob bounces back a bit when you set it to a temperature. The $2800 GE Monogram's knob works much better, but it's so small that it's hard to tell if you set it to 325 or 350. The much more reasonably priced Kenmore Pro's knob felt great, but the position that sets the temperature is at 12 o'clock (hard to see for short people) and is identified by a teeny tiny little black mark that will scratch off in a matter of months. My best bet so far is the GE Monogram, but part of me is wondering if I'll ask myself in 10 years why I didn't spend another $1000 and get the perfect Thermador oven.

Why is any of this important? Because the specific appliances you choose can have a pretty big effect on kitchen design, and nailing down the kitchen design will be a huge step in getting this remodel going. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that I want two ovens, and that a double oven is the way to do it. That affects where to put it, the electrical layout, other appliances, such as now a microwave needs another place. Choosing the specific appliance is less important, but it can still matter if it's a weird size, or if you want to match styles of appliances. I'm told you're supposed to do that. Happily, the kitchen designer I'll probably use is a calm, patient sort and will deal with me picking appliances based on knob feel instead of the finish (a white fridge with a stainless-steel dishwasher?!).

Anyway...back to what really matters:

Katrina loves being tossed into the air, so I tried to take a little video of me throwing her up as high as I can (which isn't very high). Her laughing sounds a lot like crying, but believe me, she was all smiles, and loved this.

Just like her older older brother. It occurred to me that of my mom's five grandchildren, Katrina and Gabriel are similar, and Aidan and Julian are similar, and Remi....she's her own deal, that one! None of them are nearly as crafty, always probing to see what new things she can do, new ways of making the world hers. Aidan and Julian are sweetie-pies, sensitive and imaginative and observant. Katrina and Gabriel...bulldozers, little forces of nature.

Not just my running will give way to my rejoining the workforce -- this blog will too. Let's see if I learn to keep it short. I might have to for lack of material -- it's not nearly as much fun reporting on childcare provider's reports!


Monday, November 05, 2007

11/5/07 New things start today

Wow, what a day, full of new things for all!

But first, I have to note: two of our neighbors already have Christmas lights up!

This morning, Katrina went to Melissa's as usual, but earlier. I'm glad she's already established there -- at first, she cried when I left, then pouted, and now she lunges joyfully for Melissa when she sees her.

Julian started at Kids Inc today, and I immediately had doubts. When I brought him, he was so reserved, almost fearful, not meeting anyone's eyes...should I have found a cheerier, brighter place? But even before I left, he was engaged in a sponge-stamp project, and when I picked him up, he was happily playing outside with two girls. Then tonight he was full of stories, new sayings and gestures, and in an excited mood. I love that he has to take a nap, it showed today.

Gabriel was disappointed I wouldn't be picking him up from school, but as usual, I found him happily engaged in an activity at the CDC. Little did he know (even though we told him) that Dad and Mom had been there that morning to talk to his teacher about him: Parent-Teacher Conference Day!! Goal-setting conference, as they call it.

As we expected, there was almost nothing to report. He's slow and often doesn't complete his work, but she doesn't want to rush him and is looking for creative ways of teaching kids to complete something quickly. To our surprise, she said he's very articulate and his writing is excellent. We did note that his writing has improved dramatically, and she said they do practice writing a lot. Not surprisingly, she's noticed his perfectionism and dedication to order, and showed us a calendar that the kids were supposed to fill out for November. It was a math exercise of writing the numbers from 1 to 30, disguised as filling out the dates for November in blank squares of a calendar. But Gabriel being Gabriel insisted on filling in the dates for the end of October and the beginning of December too, even (unnecessarily) splitting the last Sunday in November between 25 (November) and 2 (December). No square left unfilled, that would disrupt The Order. Other than pronouncing a few letters, in all areas he's advanced beyond what they expect of kindergartners. My guess is that he'll always do OK in school because he's so ordered. Then again, that could set the stage for a mondo teenage rebellion.

But today I was most worried about Katrina. Would she feel isolated all day at Melissa's? No problem; Melissa had two other kids with her (including her own 7-year-old son), and when I picked her up, she was in an astounding mood. With the other kids there, she was in her element, crawling around and giggling and showing off with Gabriel-esque exuberance.

All told, all the kids were in good shape. I left to pick everyone up at 4pm, and got home at almost 5pm, though I spent a lot of time debriefing with Melissa and the staff at Kids Inc, more than I usually would. Still, the pickups will be arduous, and the order will be a challenge. It'll be most convenient to pick Katrina up first straight from work, but most inconvenient to lug her around and strap and unstrap her twice to pick up the boys. It'll take a while to figure out the optimum schedule. Getting home tonight at 5pm was the max, and that's with having the main "entree" for dinner already prepared. (Get ready for this: I prepared three meals last Sunday, ready-to-go from the fridge to the oven. Think that's going to work? I give it 30% odds!)

Even though Katrina only had one nap today, she was in fine form at home. Her latest thing is to raid a cabinet, find an object, set it on a footstool, and then push it around, practicing walking.

Melissa said today she stood unassisted for several seconds....until she realized what she was doing, then tumbled to her bottom! Katrina turned 13 months old today, so nothing speedy about this walking development, but she still has 4 months to beat her brothers. I hope it's less than that.

My day was fabulously productive, meeting with our architect, then with a kitchen designer with the architect. This helped focus the discussion on both sides, and I was very happy with the thorough list of questions the designer asked me. In the end, I felt that she had a very good idea of what I want (function) and what I need (form), and will be a big help in nailing this down. I can't wait!

One more day before work starts. My Plan is to go on a big run tomorrow, but I'm not sure how feasible that will be after getting up so early to bring Katrina to Melissa's. Though it's clear the whole family operates better on an earlier schedule -- all three were in bed before 8 tonight, and I give a nod of thanks to Congress for that -- I never really will.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

11/4/07 The Appliance-shopping

Lordy! I'm up to my eyeballs in ovens, dishwashers, features, rangetops, Consumer Reports, folly of having too much choice!

But I've learned a lot. A very knowledgeable appliance salesman put an end to the handle-up v. handle-down wars of dishwasher utensil loading. And the winner is? Handle UP. Because your hands should never contact the food surface. (I always thought it was so your hands don't get cut or sticky, and the one time every 6 months you might have to re-wash a spoon is worth it).

I've also learned that I too can be easily suckered by appearance. I just love this Thermador wall oven, because of its nice handy beefy knobs and great features, but especially because of the cute analog clock right smack dab in the middle. Aww. Then I saw the price and just about had a heart attack. I'm going to indulge myself, but not that much! Knobs are a must though, most ovens have touch-screens and I've had it with that.

I went to an open house today, at a brand-new house, just to calibrate what you get in a kitchen of a $1.8M house. Not bad, but it has lots of things I don't want (dark cabinets, chimney-style range hood, double sinks, oven/microwave in one unit, 2nd prep sink), and lacks some details I'd really like (tile niche above the cooktop). And the cabinets were too high, just like in my current kitchen. My kitchen won't be completely designed around the fact that I'm 5'1", but I sure would like to be able to reach the 2nd shelf without tippy-toes.

The crucial element to making so much progress in choosing kitchen appliances was Peggy. She came early Saturday afternoon so Dave and I could make it to an appointment at an appliance store, to Katrina's delight. Now I can play outside allll afternoon!

Even though this poor old truck has lost its rear wheels, Katrina liked it so much that when I tried to pick her up for a brief Mommy-Baby bonding moment, she let out the most furious ear-piercing defiant SHRIEK you can imagine from such a tiny little person. This wasn't sad longing, this was outraged full-body heart-and-soul protest. Well, heaven forbid I come between her and her pathetic little truck!

I needed the hug. I'd just come from a very very sad memorial service for a 2004 mom I didn't know well, but liked tremendously. As did the hundreds of other tearful mourners at the service. She was much too young and energetic and giving and wonderful to fall victim to a sudden stroke at age 35. Nothing was more heartbreaking than her 3-year-old daughter crying "Daddyy...!" and running to the sobbing bereaved husband, right in the middle of his remembrance talk. The tragedy is overwhelming, the loss devastating, the search for "meaning" futile. I found cold solace in Katrina's rejection of my affection, as she pointedly and insistently reminded me that life goes on. I just wasn't quite ready for that reminder yet.

Not only does life go on, but it changes drastically. Tomorrow, Julian goes to a new place. Katrina goes to a familiar place, but for much longer. I don't start work until Wednesday, leaving me precious spare hours to get many things taken care of. Not the least of which is one last long run at Rancho San Antonio. I just don't know how that's going to happen after I start work. That last run might be what I need to lift my heavy heart.