Saturday, November 24, 2007

11/24/07 Oh my darlin'....

...oh my darlin', oh my darrrrrlin' Clementiiiine....

Clementine "cuties" are in season, and I have a bunch of them, some I'd bought and some that came in mine and Betsy's weekly fruit box. This morning I got caught in one of those "FEED ME NOW OR THE WHOLE WORLD WILL CAVE IN" moments, and quickly peeled Katrina a clementine, cut a few pieces in half, and stuck them on her tray.

Oh my goodness, did she like them. It was all I could do to keep up with preparing the pieces, which were supposed to buy me enough time to make her a sandwich, before she devoured them and then insistently called "AH!" and pointed frantically for more. Finally, after 3 clementines, I got just far enough ahead of her to slap together a soynut butter sandwich, and even more fortunately, she got derailed from the clementine craze and actually ate the sandwich bits.

Despite a slight cold (runny nose, coughing), Katrina was in a great mood most of the day. A trip to the Y's Childwatch this morning and then a mecca to Trader Joe's made up her morning excursions, and the rest of the day she played very happily scribbling or looking at books when her brothers weren't bothering her.

Brothers were too busy outside with Dad working on some new-old bicycles that Dave rescued from imminent deposit at a dump. Dave got talking to the owner of a property way down the end of a neighboring street, who'd just sold the property to a developer who's going to level the old house (it's nothing special) and put 4 new houses up. The now-former owner was cleaning out the garage and offered Dave some kids' bikes that hadn't gotten much use and had been sitting for a while. Dave brings home discarded vehicles the way little girls bring home stray kittens, so we're now richer two more bicycles.

They needed some work, so Dave and the boys glady delved into that today. First, Dave showed Gabriel how to test the spokes, then Julian got into the action.

I didn't see the rest of the wrenching party, but they got the 20" bike up and running, and apparently that's now Gabriel's new bicycle. Dave said the frame is a little big for him, but he has no problem riding it and wasted no time skid-sliding it around the leaves along the sidewalk. Julian will inherit Gabriel's 16" bike, though he's still too small for it.

The boys are very very anxious to go to the BMX park tomorrow!

I'm going to try to go for a short while too, to videotape them, though dusty bike parks and crawling babies don't mix well. It looks like the BMX park is going to be enough of a fixture in our lives that we'll have to soon solve the problem of only having one car that can conveniently transport bikes and baby. I can install a carseat in Dave's car for the few hours my car is toting the boys' two-wheelers around, but what a pain.

We had an unusually nice quiet afternoon, thanks to Julian being an unbearable pain in the rear end. There was absolutely no way he was going to spend the entire day tormenting the whole family, so I invested time in getting him in his room for a "nap." He loudly and rudely insists he doesn't want to take a nap, so I tell him he doesn't have to sleep, just lie down. "But that's taking a nap!" he petulantly complains. Finally I told him just to have quiet time, read him a book, and made a hasty exit. To my amazement, he stayed in his room quietly for about two hours, some of which we think he did spend sleeping.

Thank goodness. Gabriel worked on his Italy cultural poster for school, while Dave and I caught up on office things, and Katrina happily scribbled. I was getting up a lot to help Gabriel, checking on Katrina on and off, getting rid of old mail and organizing things. I commented to Dave how amazing it was that Katrina was playing so well by herself.

But eventually my "it's too quiet" alarm went off, and I checked her in the craft area -- not there. I did a quick scan of the downstairs. No baby. I ran upstairs -- not in her room or the bathroom, and the other rooms' doors were closed.

Ran back downstairs....waitaminnit, we never close our bedroom door if we're not in it. Why was it closed? Ran back up, into our bedroom. Then could hear crying from a distance, but couldn't locate it. Where was she? After another scan of the upstairs, I went back into our room and realized our bathroom door was closed too -- and there she was behind it, shaking and crying pitifully. She'd snuck all the way upstairs and closed two doors behind her in our relatively soundproof house. Will someone please notify the Mom Of The Year Selection Committee to cross my name off their list of candidates?

One more day of a four-day weekend, and I'm nowhere near getting anything done that I'd planned. The remodel must not stall for lack of decisions! The pressure is mounting, but maybe that's exactly what I need.


p.s. How could I forget?! The most incredible thing today: NO MORE MIGRAINE! It was a one-dayer! Hurrah!

Friday, November 23, 2007

11/23/07 The Biscuits

This morning, I got to sleep late, until 9am, and then get up slowly when I darned well felt like it. Dave had The Three under control downstairs (thanks!) while I lounged. Ahh.

But...the drowsy reluctance to get up this morning (a luxury now that I spring out of bed at 6:30am on weekdays), turned into a familiar and hated feeling of pressure, lethargy, laziness. That reminded me, I was feeling unbearably sleepy yesterday at some point...or was it the day before? I couldn't quite piece it together. When was yesterday again? Another sign. Sure enough, by this afternoon, it developed into another dreaded migraine.

Still, I functioned reasonably well this morning. I made some plain biscuits, with the feeble excuse that I couldn't let a pint of buttermilk go bad, and the boys helped me roll and cut them out. Then I called my family back East, which always makes me so happy to talk but so sad not to be there, especially since it sounds like my mother made quite the delicious well-rounded feast.

While I talked on the phone, Katrina sat on the porch and had a biscuit, where "had" is something between eating it and spreading it all over the porch.

I wish I could say that homemade biscuits are healthy, but really, something that's just refined white flour, butter, buttermilk and leaveners isn't exactly packed with nutrition. Gabriel is starting to ask if certain foods are "junk food," and I have a hard time answering him on things like this. Biscuits aren't Cheetos, but they're not spinach either, homemade or not.

During Katrina's nap, I went running....whoops, detour. I had to take a nap first, the pressure was getting to be too much. I so resent this! I just don't have room in my life to be taken down by a migraine!! It took seconds to fall into a deep sleep, and when I woke up, it took all my willpower to get up, get dressed and go run. I felt like I was wearing a Cat In The Hat hat, like every turn of my head was being dragged down.

And running was no different. It took tremendous effort to do a moderate route, especially since at first, the jolting hurt my head with each step. Uphill took care of that fast, but still, I never really reached a stride. The last mile or two, I fell back on my new iPod to get me going, and that was fun. To my surprise, the best part about the music was my finishing sprint, which turned into a full-on balls-out haul-ass dash, I'll guess about 200 meters long. Not often in life that adults run full speed for any distance, even runners. It felt great. But as soon as I bent over to stretch, the rush of blood to my head turned the pressure back on, and the pain flooded back. Well, compromised run as it was, it was completely worth it, if nothing else for the intense effort of the final sprint.

The cost came at dinner, which was an emergency TJ's freezer item in lieu of my loftier plans. And whose remains lie in wait in the kitchen for me to peel my reluctant rear end off this chair to finish cleaning up. Though, one thing that's come out of my new job is that Dave and I are evolving a habit of cleaning up together. An unexpected benefit of this is that it gives us some time to talk every day when we're not distracted by other wind-down sorts of things (email, blogging, web-surfing, newspapers). Do I need to point out the obvious that this is after The Three are safely tucked away in bed? The fact that it takes a drudgerous cleanup job for us to be able to catch up for 15 whole minutes a day is depressing, but the fact that it happens now at all is really good. So it is the collective reluctant rear end that must be scraped off the collective chair to finish our work for the day.

I had lots of grand plans for this long weekend, but something tells me that even without a headache, I mostly just want to....hang.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

11/22/07 Thanksgiving!!

We went to our annual Orphan's Thanksgiving potluck at Paul and Elisabeth's again this year. I'm not sure we can claim Orphan status anymore, as now we're the parents.

Speaking of our non-Orphans, two of them stayed behind with Dad while one of them napped, so I went to the Thanksgiving house early, partly because it would take a long time to unload and unwrap all the food I made! I had so much fun with this. I made:

Parmesan pine nut crackers (appetizer)
Spiced Carmelized Cauliflower
Shalloty Green Beans
Apple Spice Yams
Cornbread (two kinds)
Holiday Cranberry Sauce
Pear Clafouti

and brought ice cream we had way too much of from another event.

The cornbread was fun; one was from a Trader Joe's mix, and the other from a recipe on the cornmeal box. Gabriel "made" the scratch one, and Julian "made" the TJ's mix. I gave them as many jobs as possible, though nothing is more fun for them than cracking eggs. I'm sorry to say that the TJ's mix once again trumped the scratch version: heartier, more flavorful, richer color, and just, well, cornier. But I'm in the wrong blog to talk about that!

I had about an hour to hang out and be a grownup and chat with our old friends, with Gabriel quietly doing a color-by-numbers upstairs. Dave later arrived with Katrina and Julian, and we had a little trouble keeping the boys under control, but for the most part, people were understanding and seemed to get a kick out of them playing together. I'd talked to them very sternly about The Rules, especially No Running, since the hostess has an injured foot and it was important she not be run into or have to do any hasty movement.

But all discipline broke loose when other grownups undermined my efforts! I wish I'd gotten photos of this, but two women ended up playing with Gabriel and Julian on the furniture, in which the boys sat on the back of the couch and then were either pushed or shaken down with their hands. Then the women gave the boys piggy-back rides out to the car. I'm not sure who was laughing harder, but they all had such a good time that it was hard for me to step in and be the stick-in-the-mud saying "no jumping on furniture!" I was delighted they were all having so much fun, though I was concerned that the hostess probably didn't share in that perspective.

Another thing to let go at Thanksgiving is kids' eating. I expected better of Katrina, but all she'd eat was cornbread and parmesan crackers, and let the whole room know, in vociferous vocals, of her MortifiedOffendedness when I dared offer anything else. Gabriel, to my surprise, was very open to trying new things, and had a good well-rounded meal.

Julian, also to my surprise, barely touched anything, though he choked down some turkey and green beans once he realized he wasn't getting any dessert otherwise. And boy, did he milk the lack of attention from his parents, heading back to the dessert table numerous times and asking some hapless childfree adult for help. He had 3 helpings of ice cream and then pie!

Anyway, I hope our host and hostess agree, but it was a rousing success overall. I look forward to the day when we don't have to be so careful and calculated and on the alert. Next year, we'll have a 2-year-old, and they're not famous for being persona grata at childfree grownup events! Though Katrina was so cute and overall so good (save during dinner) that she might have built up some goodwill. Along with my Holiday Cranberry Sauce, the biggest winner of all I brought.

Still, many of our original motorcycling group's events have long since withered away, especially those that involved actually riding motorcycles. I so hope this one doesn't. It's just too much fun. Then is full of changes, and it wouldn't hurt us to spend Thanksgiving with other families, and have other kids there.

Though Dave had cleaned up the whole kitchen before he left to join us, we still had a lot of leftovers to put away and dishes to clean after we got home. We went to bed nice and early after all that, tummies and spirits full.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

11/21/07 The half-day

This Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I always liked to have a half-day, though I'm not quite sure what that means when you're an hourly-paid contractor who has to work weeks just to pay for childcare...and what that means when there are three kids at home!

I compromised and went into work for 2-1/2 hours on Wednesday morning, then came home at 10:30am and had some time to myself before picking Gabriel and Katrina up from Melissa's at 1pm. Wow, that little bit of time to myself sure takes the edge off the Mad Scramble. Not to mention, all the time I spend driving turns into real cost when it means I could be working instead.

Anyway, I had a nice afternoon with Gabriel and Katrina, and spent a lot of time preparing all the food I was bringing to our potluck Thanksgiving. Dave came home early too, and brought Julian home from Kids Inc, so we were all home early. Julian brought home an Indian costume he made, and was very proud of wearing. He was being very cute, which I'm sorry to say happens less and less these days. God, I am so done with 3!

You'd think after spending all that time in the kitchen and having everyone home early that I'd have a bang-up dinner ready, but no, it was pizza for the boys and take-out Chinese for the Dad. Just ramping up for the Big Gorge tomorrow!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

11/20/07 The preparations start

A relief today, I got to pick Katrina up from Tonya's instead of Melissa's, though Melissa still had Katrina, just at Tonya's.

Ironically, this meant I left work earlier today, since now I could actually have a little time at home alone before the big mad scramble. I wasn't sure to do with this 40-minute time windfall, and potential tasks swirled around my head as I drove home. Finally, I told myself to just sit and scrapbook, just because I feel like it. The other'll get done.

Indeed, since Thanksgiving is coming up, I have a lot of preparing and cooking to do! So I put the boys on KP while Katrina happily scribbled with a pencil.

(Does anyone else notice a little safety problem here?! GEEZ Mom, peelers, pencils -- why don't you just hand them an open flame while you're at it?!)

I'm still so torn about work. In so many ways, I'm enjoying it now, since I'm getting ramped up. But that seems so indulgent, as what I'm doing really isn't all that important to the world. Whereas what Melissa and Gabriel's teacher and Julian's caregivers do actually really matters.

Then I miss my children, then feel guilty about not missing them, and then at home feel guilty for not spending focused time with them. They're all in pretty good moods lately, especially Katrina. I have to wonder if it's all the attention and care they're getting from the pros. Quite different from the hanging-around I do with them, in which I interact a lot, but rarely sit and focus.

Though it might make me wonder what my value as a mother is, I am awfully glad that they're all pretty happy with the arrangement. Well...I'm not 100% sure about Gabriel. He's so adaptable and isn't one to complain, but he gets a lot more into pest mode in the evenings now, and I miss his joyful moments of telling me how glad he is to be home after school. He's the one I feel by far the worst about being away from, whereas Katrina is thrilled with whatever's around her. Julian...hard to say. He's still in honeymoon phase with the new place (new to him, anyway).

But more and more, I know that I want to work, and that I want to work on my own terms. This job is a perfect stepping-stone toward that. I'm encouraged about my idea about becoming a contract tech writer. According to some tech writer friends and an engineer contractor at my company, tech writers with an actual tech background are few and far between and in demand. It will take some time to establish myself, so, first things first: get my engineer side back up to speed, then start looking into making the shift. The current situation is unsustainable long-term (too much driving and early-getting-upping!), but it's an investment, one that I hope will allow me to call my own shots in some years. Such as, being able to pick up my little clan from school at 2:45.

For now, I'm really looking forward to the upcoming holidays at home with everyone. I can thank work for that too.


Monday, November 19, 2007

11/19/07 The Broccoli Hug

Katrina, once again, was in fine form today when I picked her up, full of smiles and happy expressions and just about bursting out of her skin with energy and joy. She bopped around happily at home while I scrambled to get everyones' dinner ready, pointing to things and exclaiming when she happened upon something new, until well after I had the boys sitting down to dinner.

Then she sat quietly and worked on a little bowl of cut-up green beans (they look like peas) and cauliflower, until I was ready to sit down and feed her spaghetti with meat sauce and then butternut squash. She started to cry at the end, and no wonder, it was 6:45pm and approaching the 7pm Witching Hour. I picked her up and held her for a few minutes while I did some one-handed kitchen jobs, nibbling on some broccoli the boys left behind.

On impulse, I offered her a little broccoli floret. I was surprised that not only did she eat it, but she put her head on my shoulder and actually put her arm around my neck right afterward. Gotta be a fluke, I thought. This is the world's least cuddly baby after all. Another floret. Another head-on-shoulder and arm around my neck. And again, and again, and again. I couldn't believe it!

Gabriel and Julian were entranced by this, Gabriel especially. He was very taken with how cute she was being, and at one point said, "Mom, she's giving you a broccoli hug!"

I milked it for all it was worth, and happily handed over most of the broccoli scraps that were to have been my dinner, relishing each warm gesture from her. What mom wouldn't give her baby the food off her plate after all -- especially if it means a hug after each bite!


Sunday, November 18, 2007

11/18/17 Annual moto-breakfast

Back in the days when Dave and I were single and active frequent-riding motorcyclists in a large group of like-minded, we both attended an annual pancake breakfast hosted by a couple in the group. The idea was for rides to gather and have breakfast before going to the annual International Motorcycle Show, held at a local fairgrounds. Though many friends now arrive in cars and don't bother to go to the show, the pancake breakfast event lives on. It's one of my favorites of the year, as I always enjoy visiting with our longtime friends in their charming old cottage in Menlo Park.

We weren't sure how it'd work today, as we wanted to arrive at 9am, and Katrins was already acting like she needed a nap. I rarely say this, but fortunately, Katrina took a short nap in the car on the way up there, so she was in good shape (and later took a good solid afternoon nap).

The hostess was prepared for kids and had paper and markers and crayons for them, as well as a plateful of chocolate cupcakes -- and that's the first thing the boys were offered when we arrived! The boys did great, in no small part because of the hostess' efforts. I got compliment after compliment about how polite and well-behaved they were, from child-free adults, no less, who on the whole have much higher standards for good behavior.

Naturally we got lots of comments on how cute Katrina is, and indeed she was in her element again, making cute noises, or putting her head down to play peek-a-boo, smiling at people and generally letting everyone know that the world is hers.

I forgot to take photos (?! WHO, ME?!), but fortunately a friend who is now a professional photographer was there with his gear.

I talked to another longtime friend for a little while, and she reminded me
that she grew up with two older brothers, 2-3/4 and 4-3/4 years older than her, exactly the same as Gabriel and Julian are older than Katrina. "Did they take care of you?" I asked eagerly. She looked at me like I was nuts. "Did they teach you how to drive?" She made a face and said a drawn-out "Noooo" which might as well have been "duuhhh." "Did they get you into motorcycles?" Another "yeah right" face and then, "Yeah, only because they wouldn't let me ride theirs!" One of her brothers runs a successful suspension-tuning business, and she is one of the absolute best and fastest riders I've ever known....that is, for the few seconds I'd ride behind her before her taillight disappeared in the distance. And she's famously sarcastic and close with her brothers now. Still, a good insight.

I've often been accused of overextending myself, doing things the hard way, taking on just a little bit too much extra. It's true, I find direction and purpose in the self-induced pressure. Tonight was a good example of that, the operative word being "tonight." I went running in what started off as "this afternoon," but got into time trouble circling the packed parking lots at Rancho San Antonio in the hopes of coming across someone just about to back out. What was I thinking, it's Sunday afternoon, and all 6 parking lots were completely full.

By the time I did find a space, I was seriously annoyed that I'd have to run a different route than the 8-miler I'd planned. In need of hills, I started off on the lower third of the PG&E trail, planning to take the one turnoff to other shorter loops. But come the sign and the turnoff, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It was probably past 4:00...did I have enough time to take the whole PG&E trail? I told myself I'd work out the times as I started up the trail (based on memory of having run the route with a watch), and if I figured I couldn't do it, then I'd turn back. Not having a watch on me and not quite remembering what time it really gets dark added to the denial.

Well, long story short: I made it, but barely. I passed a hiker at the very top, who told me it was 4:30. Whew; I knew that left me juuust enough time to get back the closer trails before it was pitch-black, though there were so many people around as I got closer that I wasn't worried. After stretching and making my way back to the distant parking spot I'd lucked on, it was completely dark. It was 5:32 when I got back in the car.

Fortunately Dave had things under control with The Three when I got back, helped in large part by solid naps from the younger two. It was a lot of tag-teaming today, but we pulled it off. I'm looking forward to when we're in a rhythm with my being at work again when each day, including weekend days, isn't one giant experiment!