Saturday, December 08, 2007

12/8/07 Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree today, the old-fashioned way: we drove farther, paid twice as much, and got a much scragglier tree than if we'd gone to Home Depot, 5 minutes away, and paid $20 for a lush, fragrant tree. But it's so much more fun this way.

Dave and I got our tree at this same farm when I was 8 months pregnant with Gabriel, and I remember thinking it would be so fun to come back with kids. And it really was fun! On the drive into the mountains (a short trip, barely 10 minutes), Julian exclaimed several times, "This is such a BEAU-tiful place!" I love going into the mountains, and always get a pang of regret that being on narrow twisty scenic roads was such a regular part of my life for so long. I really miss it, but when the kids are older, we'll make up for it.

It was cold, but the boys warmed up fast running around.

It took about 5 minutes to find a suitable tree, but we spent more time wandering around anyway before settling on a different one (because we'd never find the first one again). I carried Katrina in the backpack.

The boys helped Dave carry it back.

The kids all had a great time, which meant I did too!

I took the boys to the Las Madres 2004 Holiday Party tonight, which was a great time, as always. The wonderful kids' musician Andy Z was there -- he's so much fun I wish I were a little kid again too! To my surprise, Gabriel jumped right into the fray, and a little less surprising, Julian stood dumbstruck for much of it, but I know it will stick with him more.

Katrina stayed at home with Dave, and a good thing, since the room was busy and crowded and full of places for a crawling baby to get stuck under. Too bad, because I put the most adorable sweater on her today, and it looks absolutely great (green is a good color on her). It was brand-new with tags, and I'm ashamed to say I'm not sure who gave it to us. I'm pretty sure it came in a bag of other things from any number of generous friends, though it's made in France and the labels are in French.

Could this photography get any worse? Two toilets in the background, Pull-Ups in the photo, and redeye. But at least you can see the sweater, and that delighted impish face making a huge mess of the stack of Pull-Ups.

Earlier tonight, the day seemed hectic and out of control, but looking back on it, it seems just right.


Friday, December 07, 2007

12/7/07 The Light Show

Tonight after dinner, we trekked the crew out to see a raved-about Christmas light show in Sunnyvale, the Severns-Pease Christmas Display. This was no ordinary light show -- it's synchronized to music so that you can tune your radio to an FM frequency, and listen to the music with the lights together. It was fabulous! Once Gabriel understood that a funny sound in the music meant some light would light up with it, he thought it was hilarious. Julian, typically, didn't react right away, just watching it dumbfounded. Poor rear-facing baby couldn't see it at all from our otherwise optimal vantage point, and she was tired and fussy. I thought it was absolutely wonderful, the music really made it.

The Web site is really good too, with a lot of humorous detail from the homeowners who put this show together. They do it all on their own, spend their own money and their own time, just because they think it's fun. We'll definitely have to go back when Katrina isn't pooping out.

I'd asked Melissa to bring Katrina home to our house today, for a Friday afternoon break. Perfect! I left work early, went for a quick-hit run, a hard-hit trip to Trader Joe's, then spent my remaining free hour at home alone scrapbooking. It was urgent.

It's always hectic at home making dinner. It could be fun, but I have a little time bomb crawling around, who at any moment forces me to drop everything. But tonight I found a way to keep Katrina happy while I got things under control in the kitchen. Taking advantage of her hunger, I gave her a bowl of broccoli. And then another. And another. Small bowls, of course, but still. Nothing makes a mom happier than her baby calling out for more broccoli!

Another dinner-making challenge is that the boys want jobs to do. This is a really good thing, something I want to encourage, and something I really enjoy. But, there are times that I am just too busy, or there aren't suitable jobs for them, or the jobs I really need done don't measure up. Fortunately, I found one tonight for Gabriel: cutting the woody ends off asparagus. It made Julian jealous, but I found a job for him too: arranging the asparagus in the pan so that all the stems were facing one way. I could have done both jobs with one fell swoop of a kitchen knife and then one toss in the pan, but I love including the boys. And they're much much better about doing chores (though I don't call them that yet) like setting the table if they're already involved.

Katrina stood up for much, much longer today! Melissa said one time she actually picked up a sippy-cup, stood up, then drank from it standing up, then put it back down. Tonight she stood up and looked around, looked down at something she was holding, fiddled with it, looked around again, then lowered herself down. Her balance is getting more solid every day.

Gabriel got a report card today! That is, a Kindergarten Progress Report. For the most part, his teacher ranked his skills with S for Satisfactory (no 'N'eeds Improvements or 'O'utstandings), though to our surprise, she ranked his science-related skills ("shows understanding of concepts taught") lower than all others, including language skills.

Here are her comments.

Gabriel knows the alphabet and letter sounds (phonics), can can blend words as well as rhyme them. He is a good reader, is able to write complete sentences and has a great vocabulary. He enjoys our art activities and is talented at drawing. Gabriel is doing fine in math as well. The one area I hope Gabriel can make progress in this year is to focus more on his work, not daydream so much, and work a little faster. Many days he cannot finish his assignments, although the work he does complete is always good quality. Gabriel participates in all classroom activities and discussions. He is very sociable, well-liked by his classmates, and I really enjoy having him in my class.

Talented at drawing?! Now that's a first! I've seen the artwork of his classmates, and proud of my dear son as I am, I can't say that his drawing really stands out. But then, what do I know about art? Good for him!

Indeed, Gabriel has developed a new lollygagging trait, with a Gabriel twist to it: when he putzes and drags his feet, he really does it, and it's very hard to wrest him out of it. Julian, the master procrastinator in the house, interacts when he's trying to drag things out: complaining, whining, throwing himself on the floor, classic kid stuff. But Gabriel acts like he has headphones and blinders on. I don't mind it, I figure he's just being a kid. Still, he will need to learn to turn it off for school.

Ah, no lunches to pack tonight. Let's hear it for weekends!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

12/6/07 The Snowman and the Bunny

Julian often comes home from daycare with a new little story or song. This time, it's a little poem about the snowman and the bunny, complete with hand gestures. He's very hard to understand in the video, so here are the words, as best as I can make them out.

A tubby little snowman with a carrot nose
Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?
The hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch
Ate that carrot going crunch crunch crunch

This wasn't his best, but he is so cute doing this! He really likes it when I laugh and clap at his performance.

Katrina stood up several times tonight for at least 5 seconds, looking around with a huge smile as if to say, "Heyyy, it's pretty cool up here!" And then she didn't fall, she let herself down. She's still very unsteady, but one time today she took a tiny step to catch her balance. I made a deal with Betsy that whoever's 2006 baby walks first, that mom makes the other a consolation cheesecake. Katrina's recent progress has me collecting recipes!

I made a point of spending some good quality time sitting on the floor playing with her tonight, relishing every moment of it. She was one giant giggle fit tonight, having a grand time impressing her brothers with her antics.

She also gets a big kick out of a game she made up, in which she crawls circles around me, and I look around saying, "Uh-oh, wheere's baby?" when she's behind me, then she bursts out in front of me, laughing so hard she actually hits her head on the floor.

I had a decent day at work, and a good time tonight with the kids, and an easier time getting home since I didn't make dinner. Dave got Chinese take-out and the kids got a combination of leftovers and TJ's frozen, but since dinner is the only real opportunity I have to get vegetables into them, I steamed fresh broccoli.

But it's all still too much. Something has to give. I'm just not sure what yet.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

12/5/07 14 months!

Katrina turned 14 months old today! I'm not sure we can really say she's standing yet -- she can get into a stand, but then immediately plops onto her bottom, giggling away. Her showmanship is certainly a handicap.

I'm not sure this counts as a word, but anytime she sees an animal picture or drawing, she points to it and says, "Bay-ah!" with awe at her discovery. It's very cute.

I had a better day today -- it's so minute-by-minute these days. I slept better last night, and so was in much better shape to do a lot of painstaking and exacting numbers-looking-up today. I was really a mess yesterday. I've been putting Julian's drawings up in my office, it's nice to see a splash of color on the dull cubicle walls.

Still, more and more I miss sitting down and playing with the kids, especially Katrina -- something I really didn't do much of before anyway. I can talk to the boys while I'm making dinner, and have fun finding ways for them to help. But not Katrina -- her idea of "helping" is walking a footstool around the kitchen, right under my feet and right under a hot splattery skillet. It bums me out that her good time, about half an hour right after we get home and before her teeny tummy alarm goes off, is spent cooking and not playing. These days, I like cooking, so I want to enjoy that too. But I have to spend that precious half-hour of Happy Baby Fun Time focusing in the kitchen, not rolling around on the rug playing Rocket or Bridge or Bouncy-Bounce. We really need to be wrapped up by 7pm, so that the boys have time to chill, play, transition, and Gabriel can work on his homework. Tonight we didn't sit down until 7:20pm, and that was much too late.

So I played with Katrina upstairs before nursing (still hanging in there, barely) and bath, until she pooped out. She's really getting more and more delightful, more fun to play with, more sophisticated in her interaction. It just firms up my resolve: I am not doing this full-time rat-race indefinitely. I have a feeling that when she really starts to walk, I'm going to feel the tug much more strongly to take her to 2006-playgroup park pladates and library storytimes and music classes...all things I didn't do before.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

12/4/07 Deadbeat dragging

I couldn't believe how tired I was this morning. It followed me around like a weighty cloud all day, easily fielding my feeble attempts to revive myself (going outside to stretch, coffee, working on something hard). No matter what I did, I couldn't push past it. I didn't want to talk to anyone or move too much or even look at myself. What happened to strong, in-control, capable me? I'm a ragtag mess, barely moving from one step to another.

I'd already decided to leave work early, when Melissa called and asked if it was OK to take Katrina to Tonya's for the afternoon. Couldn't be better. I left work early, forced myself to go grocery shopping, and then went home and lay down. But I couldn't nap; I was too tired-wired. I promised myself: IN BED tonight 10pm, no excuses.

But I felt better -- calmer even -- when I was back home with my little clan. Everything in its rightful place now, the world back in order, everyone where they belong. Gabriel outside running with a truck and a flashlight, Julian calmly drawing in the craft area, Katrina doing her best imitation of a tornado (I was going to say hurricane....), pulling everything out of whatever cabinet, drawer or box she came across before moving on to the next one, leaving a little path of destruction in her wake.

Julian observed tonight that the sky was "almost completely black, but not quite, it's still kind of purple!" He was delighted to hear that there was a word for that: twilight. He's turning into a little boy right before my eyes, just about ready to cast off the last scraps of toddlerhood. My little boy, almost 4 years old.

And now, if there's one commitment I'm going to keep today, it's my bedtime.


Monday, December 03, 2007

12/3/07 Katrina tries to stand

(First let me say: I accidentally erased all our messages tonight before hearing them, so would the executor of the estate of my long-lost rich great-uncle who unexpectedly left me his vast fortune on his deathbed please call back?)

Tonight after dinner, I gave Katrina's red, raw and bleeding rear end some air time, to address a persistent diaper rash since she's been on the antibiotics for the ear infection.

Well, she loves to play with her shoes, usually trying to put them on, but tonight it became more fun to try to stand up with one shoe in each hand. Stand up, did I say? Yes indeed! She tried again and again and again to stand, sometimes staying up for a few seconds.

It wasn't easy to photograph, as her moments of standing were brief, and her poses daring, but I managed to get some modest shots.

Of course, this amused her brothers to no end, so she also started sitting down on purpose to make them laugh. But impressing the audience (and herself, as she sometimes applauded herself), holding the shoes, and perhaps being barefoot, all contributed to this big step toward walking.

The thing that really struck me was her persistence. She did this again and again for over half an hour, reminding me so much of Gabriel's breakthrough moment in walking. One day out of the blue he set his mind to it and worked hard for a really long time to push to a stand and a very stiff walk.

In fact, what the heck. Here he is at 15-1/2 months old, taking his first steps, though this doesn't include the parts where he falls again and again, laughing and laughing and laughing each time.

(This video clip does work, it just doesn't have the preview frame)

Just like Gabriel, Katrina found fun and joy in this game, never looking to me to decide how to react if she fell, and laughing instead of crying when she fell. She must have been getting tired after a while, but she still got better and better as she kept trying.

I'm cautiously thrilled -- Gabriel stood up on his own at 14 months too (Katrina is just two days shy), but it took another 6 weeks for him to get to what you see in the video clip above, and then another six weeks to give up crawling!

I left too late again this morning, 7:20am, and paid for it with an extra 10 minutes of commuting. Doesn't sound like a lot, but the difference between 35 minutes and 45 minutes is huge!


Sunday, December 02, 2007

12/2/07 The broken record

Before going on a weekend "long run" today (runners who work full-time do that, apparently), I tried to get a December photo of The Three, for the yearly calendar.

Mostly I got outtakes. The boys were...well, sort of cooperative, but not enough to get The Quintessential Shot of three darling calm little cherubs. What I did get was a lot of moments like this.

Lots of overhead aviation activity didn't help my cause.

Katrina wasn't crazy about this pose. I'll have to try this again indoors when it's not quite as cold.

After the botched photo session, I embarked on my main goal for the weekend: the Long Run. Paranoid about keeping up my running progress, I'd planned an ambitious 10.5 mile route. But to make it that long, I'd have to skip my favorite trail (Upper Wildcat) and instead take a longer that one I'm not crazy about downhill (Upper Rogue Valley). The navigational dilemma was solved by a last-minute re-route to cover both trails, which involved some (uphill) looping back. This impulsive-compulsive tacking-on of routes pushed the total to just over 12 miles -- and just about pushed me over an edge.

I had to seriously psych myself to keep going. Even in the first part of the run, the uphill PG&E trail just about did me in. It's about mental toughness, finding things to think about and push through the immense effort, all for the moment of elation of seeing the final tower at the top. I had my iPod at the ready as a safety net, but for fear of getting hooked, I only pulled it out when the downhill long-haul set in.

And it was cold. It was about 50 degrees out, and windy. (That won't draw much sympathy from gentle East Coast readers, but 50 degrees in California-land feels colder.) I saw lots of other serious-looking runners in long tights, long-sleeved shirts, and some even with hats and gloves. I felt like a real novice in my shorts, tank top and thin 3/4-length-sleeve shirt. They obviously know something I don't. Such as, after that long a run in the semi-cold, it's hard to move your fingers to do things like untie your laces or handle car keys. Though running itself kept me warm, I was really surprised to see how blue my lips and fingernails were when I got home.

A final comment on equipment: I tested out my 3rd pair of running shoes today, a new pair of Adidas that are supposedly trail runners. But they weren't sturdy enough, and about halfway through my run, the bottoms of my feet felt achy. I wish now I'd bought a different pair that had a much more substantial bottom and a much deeper tread (and cost another $40). I haven't had enough experience as a runner to have criteria for running shoes, and "trail" running shoes don't seem to be all that different. But I think from now on I'll be looking for the heftiest ones I can find, a challenge because of the World-Wide Conspiracy Against Size 6-1/2 (same old story: "hmm, we have that in a 6 and a 7, but that's odd, no 6-1/2"). This job thing forces me to do most of my running on very even trails and a lot of pavement, all flat, so the new Adidas will be fine for that.

Somehow I still managed to stock up on weird ingredients at Whole Foods this evening, with Gabriel and Katrina in tow. Actually, it's much easier to shop with Katrina if Gabriel is there (like he'll pick up whatever she's thrown for the 20th time) -- and now he can get out of his carseat by himself too! Still, the basics of the week's cooking will come from Safeway and Trader Joe's, since things like chicken or fish cost an ungodly, and unnecessary, fortune, at Whole Foods. But if you want whole nutmeg or star anise or leeks, Whole Foods is the place to go.

And now, my wrung-out rear-end is due for some quality time with the remote control and some taped Food Network TV shows. Ina, take me away!


Today's route, according to Rancho Runner:

15) Parking -> Coyote -> PG&E -> Upper High Meadow ->
Upper Wildcat Canyon -> Wildcat Loop Trail (N) ->
High Meadow (W) -> Upper Rogue Valley -> Rogue Valley ->
Chamise -> Ravensbury -> Rogue Valley -> Coyote -> Parking

Results for route: 12v456sprKL7jHM3uwv21
Route Miles Up Down
12 0.29 0 30
2V 0.51 195 0
V4 1.60 500 310
45 1.86 1020 100
56 1.26 0 520
6S 1.37 0 450
SP 0.61 285 0
PR 0.18 135 0
RK 1.00 0 400
KL 0.51 0 75
L7 0.20 75 0
7J 0.60 0 120
JH 0.05 0 10
HM 0.12 0 10
M3 0.31 0 25
3U 0.15 20 0
UW 0.25 50 0
WV 0.67 120 0
V2 0.51 0 195
21 0.29 30 0

Total Distance = 12.34 Miles, 2430 feet of climbing