Saturday, December 01, 2007

12/1/07 Saturdays anew

One thing about our brutal new weekdays is that weekends really become weekends. I have a lot more energy for the kids and really want to be around them as much as possible.

Not that that stopped me from taking The Three to the Y this morning. I still have to get my sanity workouts. I felt a smidgeon guilty about this until I returned to the Childwatch to find Katrina gleefully playing on this little push-around car toy.

Brothers went to the BMX park today, where I'm told that Julian now goes on the same course as Gabriel, all the same bumps! I'd have loved to see that. Dave said Julian's gotten some respect from the other kids (teenagers) there, since he's on this teeny tiny little bicycle with 12" wheels, and he's just so little. Occasionally there are other kids there Gabriel's age, but Julian's peers are sorely underrepresented.

Katrina does not like her medicine. Dave administered it tonight, and said she "fought fiercely" against it. She's really not very strong or fast, even for a baby her size -- babies can up quite a fight -- but I have to admire her spirit, even as the dread and apprehension sinks in about a repeat of Gabriel's toddlerhood.

A surprisingly productive day, though I've had to recalibrate what that means. Just getting Katrina's toenails trimmed counts as productive.


Friday, November 30, 2007

11/30/07 Goodbye November

The last day of November! I'm not sure I can offhand recall a more difficult or conflicted month. I'm happy about being back at work, but really struggling with everything else. The pressure will soon make things come clear. A little like examining a dam and finding water fizzing out of cracks. I just hope I have time to jump out of the way before the whole thing collapses on me.

Katrina was in much better shape today, full of vim and vigor and forcefully stated opinions. Melissa said she stood up a lot on her own today, for seconds at a time, and thinks she'll walk in the next two weeks. I hope so!

Tonight we dared taking The Three out to dinner at Midori, our favorite Japanese restaurant. Overall it worked well, though I'm glad I brought food for Katrina. I was very busy feeding her at first, because the outrage should I fall behind in shoveling spoonfuls into that tiny but ever-so-loud little mouth...!

Gabriel claimed he didn't like Midori, but was surprisingly open to trying new foods, and in the end he counted 6 things he liked (edamame, miso soup, rice, chicken teriyaki, tempura and tonkatsu, and he tried sushi but didn't like it). Julian as usual tried and ate everything -- we actually had to order more "shooshi."

Later, I "walked" Katrina all around the restaurant, holding both her hands, and she straight-legged Frankensteined her way all over the place, giggling constantly. Uh-oh, was this one of those moments that as a parent I think is irresistably adorable, but other restaurant patrons think is annoying? I kept her away from tables and took care not to block aisles. Besides, it's hard to imagine that even the grouchiest curmudgeon wouldn't find it just a little bit cute. Even her Dad.

To my delight, Julian once again, was a darling little angel today. Right in time for his upcoming 4th birthday. What a joyful place this house is when Julian forgot to take his 3-year-old pain-in-the-ass pill. He has no equal when it comes to charming and sweet. Then again, he doesn't have particularly stiff competition from his siblings, who are both rife with wonderful qualities, but "sweet" doesn't quite make it to the top ten for them. Thank goodness for Julian.

I forgot to mention yesterday: we weighed Katrina at the pediatrician's office: 19 lbs 2 oz! I'd say now the odds are good she'll break 20 pounds by the time Gabriel turns 6, the magic age by which he can legally ride without a booster (until they change the law to "8 or 80 lbs" that is). Gabriel is way too short not use a booster anyway, but 6 still seems like a carseat milestone. There's no hurry, but when Katrina reaches 20 lbs and Gabriel reaches 6 years old, it seems like as good a time as any to start tackling the formidable task of rearranging carseats, something we'll have to deal with come summer or thereabouts anyway. As it is, with all the BMXing going on around here, installing an infant seat in Dave's car on weekends (so that the wagon is free to transport bikes) is going to become a regular thing. But we're not getting a minivan.

Friday. Thank goodness. My sorry rear end has a hot date with the couch now, where it will be firmly planted and glued for the next few hours, except for the occasional mecca to the freezer for an ice cream refill.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

11/29/07 From Bad to Better

After a very difficult day yesterday, I was ready for a better one today. But it couldn't have started worse (worsely? worst? English, please!): Katrina, awake and crying furiously at 5:45am. I was going to say crying pitifully, but her cries are rarely pitiful, usually more forceful and insistent, like her. She cried nonstop as I got myself and her dressed and got ready to go. In a frustrated fog, I hadn't yet had a chance to think straight when Gabriel said, "Maybe her ear hurts."

Bingo. As I drove Katrina to Melissa's, I formed a plan: I'd call the pediatricians when they opened and take her there at noon, timed after her nap but in time to pick Gabriel up from school. Sure enough, raging double ear infection. The doc said the ears were bright red and swollen inside, nothing marginal about this one. Prescription, advice, and we were on our way.

My plan had been to leave work early and pick Gabriel up from school today anyway, since I had an architect meeting today at 4pm. I hadn't planned on an emotional crisis yesterday or Katrina's ear infection today, so picking Gabriel up from school today couldn't have been better timed.

The only thing that didn't work was that some guy walked RIGHT by as I was poised to take a photo of Gabriel right as he was released from class!

It felt like I'd returned to paradise, being at the school again. So lively, so colorful, so many joyful little people. Why didn't I see it this way before?

I was glad that Katrina held out long enough to pick up Gabriel, since he really, really needed to work on homework and his Cultural Poster, both due tomorrow.

(I actually think the Cultural Poster was too much work, too large a project across too much time for kindergartners, especially on top of regular homework. And I say that as a parent who has far less prodding to do than most. But even as conscientious as he is, this task in particular was too much. I can't imagine what the parents who were asking about how to motivate their kids to do regular homework make this happen.)

I helped him a great deal with it, giving him ideas and writing things down for him to spell, talking to him about it, but I didn't touch the poster itself. He did all the drawing, tracing, coloring, writing, gluing, and he "wrote" much of the content too. I'm actually sort of proud of how...well, kidlike it looks. I suspect a lot of other posters in his class will come in a whole lot neater. We managed to squeeze in two runthroughs of his "presentation" for it. I can't imagine how we'd have finished this if it hadn't happened that he'd be home early from school today.

Gabriel today that he was the only one in his class doing Italy. Later he also said that "SO MANY!" kids in his class were doing India. He said the teacher called on each kid to ask what country they were doing. Two were doing Africa.

Though Gabriel was very helpful keeping Katrina entertained while I met with our architect, he moved in and out of pest mode a lot today. Katrina was in much better shape this afternoon after a nap and some children's Motrin and her first dose of antibiotic, but she was still a handful. The child bright spot today came from a surprising source: a cooperative, sweet, delightful Julian. He's the oddball around here, as his brother and sister are more similar to each other than he is to either of them, but he corners the market on charm.

I was cheered considerably by my meeting with our fabulous architect, who once again solved a problem in 5 minutes that I haven't been able to figure out for years. This time, it's for the upstairs bathroom, which only has a bath and no shower. Not a problem now, but it won't be long before the kids will want showers instead of baths. So now, we have a Plan for the upstairs bathroom that includes a shower, a bath, a storage cabinet, and a much more sensible place for the toilet. (We had a nice chuckle as we made sure that the toilet placement would work for those who use them standing up and facing them, something easy for short women to forget!)

We also tightened up some details in the kitchen and agreed that she'd help us with the interior design as well. I'm thrilled. It makes me look forward again to remodeling, which isn't easy to look forward to. I can't WAIT!

Dave and I are both steamrollered today from a much-too-early morning and an overall tough week. Only the bare minimum is getting done tonight, and then it's time for us to collapse to bed. I say this more from the heart than I ever have : thank God tomorrow is Friday.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/28/07 And again

I feel like I'm going to snap. Today at work I remembered how I'd had some ambition of picking Gabriel up from school on Fridays, and how distant and remote and impossible that seems now. School itself feels like a distant and remote world, one so far away from the gray cubicle walls, fluorescent light, and relative order and dullness of an office.

Then I was struck with a terrible thought. Maybe he'll get so used to being one of the CDC kids that that will become his life, his expectation, what he looks forward to after school -- not hanging around home with his mother. That will happen in all too few years anyway.

What if he doesn't want me to pick him up anymore?

I couldn't get that out of my head all day, and struggled not to cry when lulls in work let my heavy heart pull my thoughts back to my son. I couldn't feel as sad about Julian and Katrina, a preschooler and a baby who you'd think would need me more than an ultra-independent kindergartner, but was too sad about Gabriel to spin into my usual guilt cycle about the other two. There's plenty of time for that.

Maybe it's me who needs Gabriel more. We have such a history together, we've been through so much already together in his short life. Full-time momming is such a challenging, frustrating, hard thing to do, and its rewards are short, infrequent, and unpredictable. But those rewards are deeply felt ones. Seeing Gabriel's face light up happily when he saw me outside his classroom, and having him run to me with outstretched arms, is one of those wonderful joyful moments that make it all worth it. It was all I could do not to watch the clock during a meeting this afternoon, and then not burst into tears when I saw it was 2:45pm.

I wish I knew why this, of all things, is hitting me so hard now. I'm getting up to speed at work, which is one essential component to getting a grip on this work/home balance that so escapes me. That's good, it brings me closer to the obvious solution of cutting back on my hours -- easy enough to do with this flexible work and contract. But perversely, it's the very flexibility of this job that makes me not want to jeopardize it by not being productive enough yet, so I feel compelled to work every possible minute.

That is, unless some other essential interest gets in the way. To my great surprise, one problem that's been handily solved is how to fit in exercise. There's a trail about 3/4 of a mile from the office and a shower at work -- in just over an hour, I can fit in a run and the day's shower, with no overhead of going anywhere. The run gives me a crucial energy boost, and greatly improves my outlook on life, even today. I had a great time running with my iPod, going fast and feeling strong. Something has to give, but running and exercising isn't it. It can't be, or I really will snap.

The part I struggle with the most is the afternoons. The mornings, to my surprise, are pretty good. Though I'm a true-blue night owl, I actually don't mind leaping out of bed at 6:30am and whisking a pajama'd unfed baby into the car and zooming away into the sunrise. It's almost a personal challenge to beat the traffic (and today I left at 7:10, and there was a noticeable increase in traffic from yesterday's 6:59am departure), and I like getting to work when it's nice and quiet and getting a great parking spot. But I have to fix the afternoons, starting with my own irrational compulsion to work until 4pm. That's just too late.

One minor tweak in the afternoon rush worked well though: after picking up Katrina, I picked Gabriel up next. Then I left Katrina in the car with her protective older brother in the small parking lot right in front of Julian's preschool, which made it much easier to quickly run in and get Julian, and feel that she was safe. I can see the car the whole time, and if any adult pokes his head in, Gabriel is old enough to explain before they call CPS on me. Julian, I can still picture saying, "I don't know where my Mommy is, she left!"

Tonight I talked to Gabriel about picking him up from school. I asked him if he has fun playing outside with other kids after school, and he said "Yeah, I do!" Then I asked if he still wanted me to pick him up, almost afraid of the answer. But he said sincerely, "yeah Mom I still wish you'd pick me up from school." I said, "But you like playing with your friends afterward, right?" and he said, "Yeah, but I like it when you pick me up better." And he gave me his warm bony hug.

Such a kid. No wonder I miss him so much.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

11/27/07 The Knowledgeable

Tonight a context I've already forgotten started me into my usual snow job about how Moms know everything. It was something about my mommy knowing everything, because all Moms know everything, and so that means I must know....

"No one knows everything!" blurted Julian, "Not even Moms!" Bubble-burster. What ever happened to kids having imagination?

Later, at dinner, we were talking about school, and I asked Gabriel who taught him in his reading group this week. Julian piped in, "Your teacher is Miss Kowalski, right?" and Gabriel answered cheerfully, "Yeah -- we're getting pretty used to her!"


Monday, November 26, 2007

11/26/07 Love-Hate

This morning at work, feeling good about the long weekend with the kids, the fun at Thanksgiving and how much I like my new cooking and running habits and enjoying a coffee break when I damn well felt like it, I thought, This is good, I like my life.

This afternoon at home, already exhausted by the early day and the hour and ten minutes of driving and picking up, with hours and hours of work ahead of me and no chance to sit down or even pour myself something to drink, I thought, This sucks, I hate my life.

Clearly, balance still escapes me.

I ran into Kristi today while picking up Gabriel. Like me, she was about to pick up her kindergartner, drive home and walk in the door alone with three tired hungry young children and start everyone's dinner. Unlike me, she was very relaxed and undaunted by this upcoming maelstrom. How does she do that? Partly, she doesn't have a 13-month-old who can demand that you drop everything at any moment for a rescue or a stinky diaper (though twins make up for a lot). Partly, she has this idyllic schedule that means she never has to do this two days in a row. Partly, she and the fam just returned from a fabulous trip to Disneyworld, and even she and her husband had a great time (now that's saying a lot!). Partly, she's been doing this a long time and has it all figured out. Mostly, she's the sort of person who takes things in stride and deals with them.

I'm doomed.

I keep telling myself that it's a conspiracy of numerous factors that forms a perfect storm, and that just one or two of those factors neutralized will make a huge difference. The distance to Melissa's is one problem. The distance to work is another problem. Having to carry Katrina and negotiate all the doors and child-safety gates and stairs and gathering things while picking up the boys is another problem. The ultra-early morning makes me sleepy all day.

Moving Katrina to Tonya's, working from home some days, Katrina walking, and getting better established at work so I can work more independently will address a lot of those problems. But I'm not making any changes yet; I've committed to sticking this out until the new year, and then I'll re-evaluate. So it can only get better.

Katrina was exuberant today when I picked her up at Melissa's, despite a chapped face from all the nose-wiping. I had a pang of sadness when she crawled joyfully away from me to Melissa to play, which was quickly wiped out by the memory of Gabriel often crawling around crying when I picked him up from daycare when he was a baby. This is much, much better.

Tonight after dinner I sat and played with Katrina for a while, which mostly revolves around books. Either she's pointing to pictures in one, shoving one in my face, spying one and crawling energetically toward it while giggling, or finding yet another one.

More and more she's practicing standing, and we keep catching her standing up for a second or so at a time, until she realizes it and then plops onto her bottom. I'm not about to get optimistic about impending walking though, since her wily older brother did the same exact thing at this age, finally standing on his own on his 14-month-birthday. So far, for physical milestones, her brothers have pretty much trumped her.

Gabriel was as perfect as little boys get tonight, coming home and working on his Cultural Poster for school, and being funny and sincere and interesting to talk to.

Julian, incredibly, was also sweet and chatty and asking cute questions and saying cute things, then he happily volunteered to set the table. Which he did quickly and completely, far better than Gabriel ever does!

Katrina was a handful while I made dinner, but she was adorable and fun afterward in her neverending quest for More Books. She's also trying to put her "shoes" on now, and her little motormouth just about never stops yabbering and making inquisitive sounds.

I may hate my life, but I sure do love my children.


p.s. a little addendum to yesterday: some video of Gabriel and Julian at the BMX park. I'm so proud of them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

11/25/07 The BMX park

I had it all figured out.

After breakfast, we'd take a family self-time photo out front, and I'd prepared everyone's clothes accordinging (a loose theme of red and white). Dave would take the boys to the BMX park, and I'd follow with Katrina to take some video, then I'd take her to the park to play with the White family. After her nap, I'd take her to Sur La Table in Los Gatos to return something, and pick up a few "necessary" (ahem) items. Perfect.

Not so perfect. She has a cold, mostly a runny nose and a lot of coughing, and just couldn't sleep last night. So we stayed up with her (fortunately it wasn't too late yet) and tried to keep her vertical as long as possible to clear things out. I sure wish she would just put her head down on my shoulder! Nothing doing. Finally, after about half an hour, her cough had calmed enough that she could lay back down and sleep. I relate, since when I have a cough, the transition to lying down brings it on.

Then she woke up this morning at 6:15am. It's Sunday, baby! Argh. She was way too much of a mess for the family photo, and needed a nap before the boys left for the BMX park. No photo, and no BMX park. Wah.

Not all was lost; I had a rare hour at home while she napped and it was nice and quiet. Just as I was accepting this state of affairs, she woke up. I tried to feed her (no WAY Mom), hastily installed the extra carseat in Dave's car, and zoomed out to the BMX park to catch the boys.

And I did! Dave had taken them to the bike shop first, so they were in full swing by the time I joined them at the park. Grumpy as Katrina was, she just about jumped out of the stroller seat with excitement watching her brothers, who at the time were the only ones there, with one other kid about Gabriel's age (maybe younger).

What fun. It's hard to believe that just last May, Gabriel was riding the little yellow bike with training wheels. It was only a few months ago that Julian lost the training wheels too, and now here they both are going right up the big hill to the plateau where the riders stop and start. Julian will go over some of the bumps, but not all of them, and Gabriel hasn't yet tackled a center course of bumps, though I don't see why he couldn't.

Julian, poised to start from the plateau, then goes down and takes the first bump.

And then back up to the start-stop plateau.

Later, a bunch of big kids arrived too, and it could be a little unnerving seeing Julian swarmed by all the bigger bikes. He's still just three years old!

Gabriel, meantime, tested his mettle on the 20" bike. It is way too big for him; he had to get off the bike completely every time he stopped, since he couldn't reach the ground well enough to balance the bike with one foot. (Of course, I of all people support riding a two-wheeled vehicle despite other people telling you it's too tall for you!)

It didn't seem to slow him down.

You go boys! I'm so glad this is developing into a regular activity for them. They worked hard, and were good and tired later. And it's a fun thing for Dave to do with them -- he has to ride his bicycle too!

For the record, today there were two girls there, both older than Gabriel, but apparently not as experienced. Both went around the course about the way Julian did, skipping the same big humps, though neither would go up the stop-start plateau. It could just be an experience thing; even the other boy about Gabriel's age wasn't as confident, and cried whenever he fell, to the irritation of his jocky Dad. This is definitely a man's world so far, though Katrina was so animated and excited, it almost seemed that all she needed was a bicycle and helmet to break in.

I took Katrina to Los Gatos afterward to return a $7 cooling rack at Sur La Table....and wound up buying over $200 worth of other things. How does that happen?! Well, a good saucepan with a steamer insert and lid that all fit together was long overdue anyway. And I couldn't resist this adorable Giant Cupcake Cake Pan, what with birthdays coming up. It did occur to me later that it might be a tad difficult to actually slice this cake, but this is a good problem to have. And despite coming home with every possible shape of spatula, I somehow forgot my dearth of small ladles. Looks like I left myself an excuse to go back!

When we got home, boys were having lunch, Katrina got a little more lunch (her eating has been off today), and then we attempted the family photo again. For once, the boys were very cooperative, but it took some work to get Katrina not to cry. She relaxed and started to laugh right afterward of course, when Julian made up a game of her patting his face.

If there's anything I ought to know by now, having been a mom for almost 6 years now, it's that I never really have anything figured out.