Saturday, December 29, 2007

12/29/07 The Game

Somehow, in the past few weeks, I've heard from three moms that their oldest two children play board games a lot together (coincidentally, all 3 pairs of siblings are brother-sisters).

Gabriel and Julian already play a great deal together, it's hard to imagine how they could play together *more* -- but I've never introduced board games to them. So, I got one for them for Christmas, not anticipating how many others we'd get, but the more games, the better!

I actually wanted the classic Candyland, but The Learning Game didn't have it -- I guess it's not "educational" enough. I got what proved to be a poor substitute, another candy-based game called "The Lollypop Game." Actually, since it is so simplistic, it's a good choice for an introduction to board games -- to learn to take turns, understand the object of a game, the concept of a spinner, that one person wins. Gabriel has played some games at the CDC, so he gets it, but Julian needed some introduction.

Once I played one round with them, they were at it together for over an hour! This was perfect, since it was too rainy and wet for the BMX park today, and they were pretty much stuck indoors. As we all were. Dave and I were feeling sluggish today, and Dave is fighting a cold.

But by 4:30pm, the game was wearing off and the boys were getting punchy. Everyone needed to get out. Some longtime friends of ours were holding a housewarming party tonight in San Francisco, something I resigned myself to missing since our regular sitter is out of town and I hadn't looked into another one in time.

But hmm, on second thought -- a party, at someone's house, in the city! I love excuses to go to San Francisco -- I haven't been there since I was last pregnant. Katrina had woken up from a sound nap around 4pm, so the timing was unusually good. The boys got a hasty dinner, we packed up the Kat'n'kaboodle, and off to the city we went!

To my amazement, at this grownup party in a very small house, everyone we know from our mostly child-free circle who has kids was there, for a total of six girls and three boys. So after a few no-running admonishments, the boys had a fabulous time playing with the other kids. I had a great time poking around our friends' new house, and just being in the city again.

Though Katrina's crawling makes her a serious liability in a crowd, she lights up with so many people around to impress. She insisted on having her hands held to be walked around, and almost let loose into a trot a few times, giggling joyfully. I tried to take a break from this once, but she pried both my hands off my knees and pulled me, insisting on being walked around. Whenever she sees her brothers running together ahead of her, she flails her body and laughs and acts like she's going to jump out of her skin after them. By all means, baby! Walk it! Chase them!

On our way back from the city, she fell asleep in the car -- so soundly that she actually rested her head on my shoulder as I carried her upstairs, and only started to wake up as I entered her room. I didn't even change her clothes, just put her right down with her blankie and she went right back to sleep.

But darnit, I'd meant to get a photo of her today, because she's wearing a stunning purple ribbon-lined sweater from Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan. Hmm, I guess I can take the photo of it all rumply on her tomorrow morning!


Friday, December 28, 2007

12/28/07 Katrina's mess -- and not

A cold, rainy, windy, decidedly indoor day. I took The Three to the Y, then to Whole Foods, then home for good.

The boys were surprisingly good and calm today, given how they were stuck inside most of the day. They both love Julian's new piano, and have been figuring out how to "read" the music book that comes with it, which has color-coded letters for notes to play simple songs. Gabriel's worked half his way through Old MacDonald, and was very pleased that he didn't even need the music book anymore for that song, so he said. It was fascinating seeing his moment of discovery that music can be memorized.

I expected Julian to be interested in the piano, and he is, but am really surprised by how Gabriel's taken to it. I guess I shouldn't be, since as Betsy wisely observed, "reading" music appeals to his sense of order. So I asked Gabriel about piano lessons , and he said, "you mean like on a Bonne Maman piano?" "Yup," I told him. "Oh!" he said with excitement, "that kind has eighty-eight letters!"

Katrina had only about an hour of inexplicable grouchiness today, a big improvement. I've really been enjoying playing with her on and off today, though of course on her terms. Sometimes she just wants to bop around pushing her little wagon, other times she insists on attention. It's so funny reading her a book -- it's not good enough to sit her on the floor right in front of me, she has to climb up and sit on on my leg, and absolutely cannot be dissauded from that pose. I've liked going in and out of her world numerous times today.

I thought I'd try giving her a bowl and spoon with a highly desirable food in it today (applesauce), with the hopes she'd be more motivated to spoon it herself and not throw the bowl. I called it right on the throwing (for once, she didn't), but the spoon quickly gave way to sucking handfuls of applesauce off her little paws. It was very cute, and I didn't mind the cleanup job at all.

Sometimes if it's close to, but not quite, bathtime and Katrina needs a new diaper, I'll let her go "al fresco" during the in-between time. Dave's gotten her used to sitting on a potty upstairs, so I thought I'd try it downstairs too. She was so funny smiling sitting there that I had to take some pictures.

But she kept putting her hands into the potty, foiling my photo-op, and then I realized why: she went! This is the second time this week. A complete random accident, but that's how it starts. I made a big deal of it, and I don't think she knew why, but she's learning that something about sitting on the potty can be a big deal.

(She really wanted to splash her hands in it, and I did let her touch it once, just so she made the connection, though she protested fiercely when I whisked her to the sink!)

I really, really, really look forward to her walking for a new small reason: then we can lose the snap-at-the-crotch onesies which hang down and get in the way when a baby's bottom is exposed, complicating potty-training.

Walking, potty-ing...I can see these major milestones in the distance, marking our steady march out of babyhood. I feel like I should be sad about that, but I'm not at all. Indeed, it almost frees me to see other babies and be genuinely swept away by how adorable they are and feel no angst whatsoever. It almost gives me a twinge of looking forward to being a grandmother!


12/27/07 Belated Birthday

Finally...Julian got to open all his birthday presents tonight, after a good dinner. He was pretty good about it, appreciating each thing before tearing open the next. I've got to learn to make sure Uncle Ronan's gifts are opened last, because things like a remote-control helicopter are a tough act to follow!

I had a surprisingly good day with all three alone today. This of course was made possible by a trip to the Y and their marvelous Childwatch, but also, Katrina was in much better shape than she's been the past few weeks. Still demanding and outraged if something doesn't go her way, but played very happily for a long time with many things.

I swear, she thinks that robot from Uncle Ronan is a doll, the way she chases it around and almost tries to hug it, right before pushing it over. She's getting downright possessive of it, screeching or scolding her brothers (with this new sharp "DAH!" sound and a pointed finger) if they tried to rescue the hapless thing. Gabriel is very generous with letting her play with it though.

Gabriel is still in Snap Circuit heaven, though he also spent a significant part of today outside. The boys did a lot of downtime playing together today, just what holidays are for.

With misgivings, I pulled this little wagon out for Katrina. She loves it, and right away pushed it all around, then tried to climb on it. She can't quite flatfoot it, but she's in the right household for that! I just have to make sure her noisy big brothers don't get a hold of it, or it'll get rammed into things (note that it's already held together by duct tape).

Rain predicted tomorrow -- we're going back to the Y.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

12/26/07 The Birthday Bust

I sort of wished this morning that we had one more day between Christmas and Julian's birthday, just to have a little more breathing room. Turns out, I got that wish. Julian didn't eat well today (never a good sign with him), fell asleep before dinner, and was lethargic after barely touching his plate. He threw up a little before going to bed, so we didn't even attempt present-opening or leftover cake. Poor kid.

We had cleaners coming this morning, and for once, the logistics worked perfectly. Dave took Katrina with him to the airport to drop off Laura and Ryan (sniff!), giving
me the crucial time to pick up before the cleaners arrived. Normally it'd take me a few days to recover from Christmas and guests, but I was shocked into doing it in one hour.

While the cleaners were here, Dave took the boys to the BMX park, and I took Katrina to the Y. She held out because of a micro-nap she got in the car on the way to the airport, normally a disaster, but it worked perfectly this time. I got her home when the cleaners were almost done, and after a picnic lunch in my bedroom, she took a sound nap.

She even had some happy gurgly moments this afternoon, an increasing rarity in Katrina-land.

One highlight was this talking walking flashing robot toy that Uncle Ronan gave Gabriel for Christmas. Julian would have been terrified of this when he was Katrina's age, but she thinks it's funny!

She wanted to play with it, though Julian managed to protect it from her probing little paws. Notice how she screeches at Julian's interference and practically orders him to leave her alone with it!

Gabriel was so sweet and helpful this morning during my mad scramble to pick up clutter and laundry and prepare for the cleaners. He carried stuff up and down the stairs, put things away, and kept asking me what else needed to be done. He was clearly proud when I hugged him and told him I could never have done it without him.

But later, we had a horrible blowout. As usual, they start simply enough, then escalate. This time, I insisted he wash his dirt-coated hands after playing outside, and he made a goofy face at me. I laughed at him, partly because his face was funny, and partly to see if he was being silly or defiant, and hopefully to disarm him if the latter. Bzzt. Wrong answer Mom. Laughing enraged him, and he spit at me, twice, then after being sent to his room for 5 minutes and not allowed to bring his Snap Circuits with him, he swatted his hand toward my face. More insults, more threats, more defiance, more refusal. Every infraction added more minutes, and he still wouldn't go to his room until I threatened to put the Snap Circuits away. Then he slammed the door and throwing stuff at the door was next. Dave and I both went in to warn him against throwing, and Gabriel said to us with bloodchilling venom, "I think it's time you both left!" I did leave, as Katrina was screeching at some or other obstacle downstairs, but he kept it up even after a spanking. Eventually the episode fizzled without him ever backing down. He fell asleep and slept well past his sentence, woke up all sweaty and disoriented, and reached to me for a hug and asked me for a dry shirt like the little boy he is, and that's how it all ended.

Fortunately, these episodes are increasingly infrequent, and we recover from them more quickly, but they're always a stark reminder of how far he'll take things. I'll abandon laughing at him as a defusing strategy though. I was glad we were back to being buds tonight.

Katrina's latest trick is to climb onto a footstool, survey her domain from all fours, then realize she's stuck and scream at the indignity of her predicament. It occurred to me that this common baby trick is a little snapshot into the differences between the personalities of our three children. All three got stuck on top of footstools. Gabriel worked at it until he found his way down. Julian cried. Katrina screams.

Tomorrow, all three all day all alone!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

12/25/07 Holiday wrap-up

We had such a wonderful holiday with Laura and Ryan. It was only 4 full days, but they were 4 very full days!

(Blog note: should I go back to previous posts and upgrade them with photos and comments? I'm tempted, but their unusual brevity says something on its own, so I guess I'll fill in the blanks here.)

(Photo note: the drastic difference in photo quality is because Ryan took most of them. Even when he's just snapshotting with a point-and-shoot, the talent and skill shines!)

First, we started off with Julian's birthday party. I kept the invitees to a small group of kids who Julian knows well, either from Tonya's and Las Madres, though I probably could have gotten away with another year of inviting my friends and making it a big yakfest. But the time of year calls for a small, controlled situation (hah), so we only had three other of Julian's peers there, plus siblings.

It worked out really well, despite my dishwasher disaster (it croaked for good the night before, so we had to round up and install a new dishwasher the same day -- and did!). I'd wanted to have some games, but just ran out of time to prepare for them. As usual, it wasn't necessary.

(The only blemish was at the very end, when all the kids were playing outside and one guest started crying that Gabriel had hit him with the bat. I saw Gabriel standing near him in a threatening pose holding the bat, and asked him what happened, and he flat-out said that he had. I didn't wait for the excuse and sent him straight to his room, though of course, there is no "straight" with him. He refused, I sent for Dad to carry him up, and he went spitting and hurling threats at me. I think even the most pacifistic anti-spanker would have wanted to give him a good whack on the rear end for his rude talk!)

A note about the cake: I tried my new Giant Cupcake pan for the first time, and had all sorts of technical problems! Each side of the pan bakes at different rates. The deep side can hold an entire batch of batter by itself, but then puffs out too far. Any detail in the shape of the pan is lost when it's covered by frosting. I'm a supremely amateurish cake decorator (fortunately, a giant cupcake is a goofy idea to begin with, so the lopsidedness randomness actually worked).

Finally, serving it is a challenge. This time, I lopped off the top and served it in slices to the kids, and all the Moms on diets (which is all of us all the time) had the bottom part. But, the giant cupcake did have that OohWow effect on the kids, and that's what I was after.

Four years old! (well, in four days)

We'd had some grand plans for things to do while Laura and Ryan were here, but one has to calibrate "grand." No one is better at relaxing, or better to relax with, than our fabulously well-adjusted in-laws. Much time was spent lounging around in PJs, unshowered, with no particular schedule.

That's my perception of it, though of course in reality, there is very little actual lounging with the kids around. Katrina made sure to keep my stress levels high, my teeth gritted and my nails bitten with her grumpiness and high-maintenance, which fortunately everyone else tuned out. Ryan spent an unprecedented amount of time playing with the boys outside, taking them to the little park down the end of the block, reading with them, playing with them on the floor. Laura and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, as she indulged my new cooking habit, and I continued to discover the depth of her foodieism and cooking experience.

In the end, we never made it to the light show, ice skating in San Jose, decorating ornaments, making a gingerbread house or gingerbread cookies, making stockings...but since I'm on my 3rd would-be-toddler, I know that those things will be easier to do in future years when we don't have a crawler and a 7PM time bomb.

Of course, some things had to happen. A trip to the BMX park was a must, though a large mud puddle foiled Julian and his tiny wheels.

Hanging with Ryan afterward.

I had a hankering for a good run on Christmas Eve, and thanks to family support, I was able to do so with relative ease-of-mind. It was a beautiful morning, so we talked about all going to Rancho San Antonio for a short hike -- or should have been a short hike. It took a lot of effort to keep Julian going, so we had to stop a lot, but Katrina wouldn't tolerate much of that, so Dave went ahead with her in the jogging stroller. Gabriel happily tottered along the whole way, though he pooped out at the end.

It was fun for me to run, go home, take a shower, and turn right back around to go back to one of my favorite places on earth. I don't walk there often these days, it was nice.

These boys were ON all day, and they were wiped out by the end of the day!

Christmas Day, after a huge breakfast and gift-opening, everyone needed to get OUT. So everyone except Dave (who indulged in a great nap) went down to the little park at the end of our neighborhood.

I actually haven't seen the boys ride on pavement in a while, and was very impressed with Julian especially. I've come to expect a certain skill level from Gabriel, but Julian comes up with new things all the time. He was practicing a "sharp" turn that Ryan encouraged him to do, and even swooped around with his feet on the bar.

Julian doing his "sharp turns":

Incredibly, the boys don't run into each other (often):

Later, the boys ran Ryan down with many rounds (Gabriel kept count) of Hide-and-Seek.

The boys totally scored with gifts! Some wonderful games, some really special books, and musical instruments. Ugh, I shouldn't even try this, because I'm bound to not mention something really special. We gave Gabriel his much-anticipated Snap Circuits though, and he predictably loves them. It made me feel so good when he looked at me and said out of the blue, "Thank you so much for Snap Circuits, Mommy." Boy, when he wants to be sweet (not usually in the Top Ten of his qualities), he does it Gabriel-style: all-out.

The kids hang out. Thanks to Aunt & Uncle distractions, the boys weren't bugging Katrina quite as constantly.

I think this is the first year I've ever made a genuine Christmas dinner. Some poor planning meant some shopping-scrambling, and a huge push in the afternoon to get everything done. It couldn't have happened without Laura doing over half the work, and all the consultation and company-keeping. What fun! Of course, next year I'll make the dessert the day before, and oh yeah, buy a turkey ahead of time, hel-lo! Better planning also would have made up for many of the inadequacies of my kitchen, but conversely, my future new kitchen will make up for my poor planning, since I'll have six burners, two ovens, and a whole lot more space. But nothing will make up for Ryan the Clean Machine -- he is fast, efficient, and resourceful.

(For the record, we brined and roasted a 15-pound turkey, made sage-walnut-fig stuffing, bagged stuffing, steamed cauliflower, spiced carmelized cauliflower, braised leeks, braised Dutch Gold potatoes, spiced cranberry sauce, and maple pecan pie.)


Two years ago, I was filled with Christmas spirit and happily indulged in every cliche I could get my hands on. My youngest child was almost 2, and I was enjoying that "coming up for air" that many Moms experience when shaking off the last bits of baby phase. There was new relief at Gabriel's growing out of his peak difficulty, and of course Julian was an ultra-angelic toddler. I was really able to enjoy them and do holiday things with them. I started to look forward to things like family-wide bicycle rides (not yet anticipating the future role of bicycles in our lives).

But a few weeks later, the bomb dropped, leaving me with a black eye and a new due date. Last Christmas, my memory is of just coming out of being in pain all the time, not sleeping well, still remodeling, and dealing with an unsoothable, if very smiley, moderate-to-high-maintenance baby. And remaining shock that we were back to babies.

This year, perspective set in. Though Katrina has been pretty difficult lately, I know that toddlerhood is around the corner, and kidhood looms not so long beyond that. Based on past experience, I know that all her strong personality traits that I'm steeling myself to endure again in a toddler will manifest themselves in wonderful ways when she's older. I can look at Gabriel and see her future, even as she reflects his past. I still couldn't completely relax and just wallow in holiday spirit this year, and I wish I could have spent more time with the boys, but these are practically nits when I think of all the cheer and joy and fun we all had -- and will have even more of in the future when all three can really participate.

I hope I can get it together to scrapbook this holiday. It was really special.



Merry Christmas!

We woke. We ate. We unwrapped. We went to a park. We ate. A lot. A WHOLE lot.

The pajama party is almost over, Laura and Ryan go home tomorrow. Wah! But tonight we're enjoying some pecan pie and dry mead and wonderful fun warm family time together.


p.s. How easy is it to use an iPhone? Here's Katrina (14-1/2 months old and still not walking) flipping her thumb to peruse photos (though she accidentally enlarges them at one point too).

Monday, December 24, 2007

12/24/07 Twice to Rancho

Busy, fun-filled family day again!

Made breakfast (late, more of a brunch) while Dave and Laura shopped for final Christmas dinner items (including a turkey, doh!).

Went running at Rancho, took on the PG&E trail challenge (it was time to practice wheezing and gasping) again. 10.5 miles, 2000 feet of climbing, beautiful day.

Then we all went for a short hike at Rancho, Katrina in the single jogging stroller. Big mistake, should have brought the double for Julian. Uncle Ryan very accomodating about lots of piggy-backing and carrying.

Up late enjoying dinner, home-made eggnog (my first attempt), and dessert. Undid any caloric karma I gained from my run.

Hung out by the tree doing final gift-wrapping -- Laura is downright talented with ribbons.

Continuing our new family tradition of one unwrapped gift for the boys, so they can come downstairs and find something to play with immediately (headlamp flashlights).

Not enough time to make cookies for Santa. Next year!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

12/23/07 Christmas Eve Eve

Fun, relaxed day with Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan, though you'd never know it by the relentless shouts of laughter from the boys. They all played hard today, including a trip to the muddy BMX park.

I wish I could have been in the action more, but instead took Katrina to REI and to The Learning Game, and stayed home with her during her too-short nap while the rest of the gang was out at the BMX park. She's been grumpy and fussy and edgy, which I chalk up to fighting a sniffle, though really, it just shaves down her already thin tolerance for life's little setbacks. And the minor cold does reduce two basics any almost-toddler needs: sleep and good eating. Uncle Ryan did an outstanding and unprecedented job of entertaining and keeping her happy while I made dinner -- not easy for me or Dave to do, let alone another grownup she doesn't know well. Well, used to not know well.

Lots of photos from today, but I didn't take any of them, and it's too late to upload from Ryan's camera. I can't wait to see them though!