Tuesday, December 30, 2008

12/30/08 Full Day

Amazing how much fuller and more intense a day with all three kids by myself is than a day of going to work. As though this is news.


  • Gabriel earned himself two hours of timeout in his room by 9:30am.

  • Gabriel tossed his Bear into the air (as he so often does and is not allowed) in his room, and hit the glass light shade on the ceiling. It broke and came crashing down, hitting his head and then breaking into pieces on the carpet. I had to carry him outside to brush glass bits out of his hair. He never cried. I would have.

  • I had to lock the backyard door when the boys left it open for the 315th time to prove a point. Oh, oops, are you guys outside? Oh WELL. Julian cried, Gabriel growled and threatened to punch me.

  • A misguided effort to illustrate the introspection and discipline of martial arts went awry, when I showed the boys Kung Fu demonstrations on YouTube. As I should have expected, they went on a total rampage afterward ("Hi-YAH!!"). Note to self: well, duh.

  • An enormous box arrived today, and the kids opened gifts from Uncle Ronan and Anney. Katrina got a penguin that's nearly as big as she is, and watching her carry it around giggling is priceless. The boys are beside themselves with their car toys. Thank goodness this arrived last, Uncle Ronan always upstages everyone else.

  • And I found the perfect craft table to replace the nasty dark-brown 1970s oak stereo cabinet that the previous owners of our house left behind, that's served us as a hokey "craft area" for years. This is my best news of the day.

    Somehow this morning I managed to plan a trip to south San Jose, and then letterboxing in Los Altos right afterward. Those up on Bay Area geography know that this isn't exactly "on the way." I was in a hurry when I chose this letterbox, and did so because it was the first one I came across that was Katrina-friendly (no hiking). Then again, sitting for the required 4 minutes or so to exchange stamps isn't Katrina-friendly no matter what.

    The real attraction of letterboxing is going to parks or other places where the letterbox is planted. This was a park we'd been to before, but only briefly after doctor's visits. The kids all had a great time playing on the play structures.

    Katrina can sort-of clumsily run now, looking like she's going to trip with every step.

    I was very surprised that she tried -- and succeeded -- climbing up to, and on top of, this rock bridge. This is quite doable by a 2-year-old, but a first for this unathletic 2-year-old.

    Gabriel hawked over her protectively.

    She was very enthusiastic about the slide until she actually had to look down.

    Julian pretended to be barely hanging onto a steep slide, and then would let go and slide down with an "aaaAAAAHHHH!"

    I was chatting with another mom who also has 2 boys and a girl, same agespans, but her oldest is only 4 (and her baby is only 1 month). She seemed anxious about Julian's apparent distress, and unsure what to make of my response, which was to glance his way and take a picture. Rookie.

    Finally, time to find the letterbox. Katrina was unwittingly very funny in her usual instant contrariness when the letterbox hunt included counting steps. "No!" she protested, "I can't count!"

    It took some real looking, and I had to return to the car to get the stroller to contain Katrina, but we did find it. The boys were thrilled.

    I love photos like this. Life appears so idyllic. Then, an hour later, you're brushing glass shards out of your son's hair.

    Or worse, you're committing the offense of insisting on closing the front door. Katrina was outraged. I captured an amusing little clip of her tantrum -- and bonus! The camera defused it.

    Later, I showed all three the video of Katrina throwing the tantrum. Katrina didn't seem to understand that it was actually her. "That's crying baby!" she observes. The boys found it very funny.

    Today I feel like I've lived a week. Netflix delivered my next "Desperate Housewives" DVD today. I'm so there.

  • Monday, December 29, 2008

    12/29/08 Mom for a Day

    All three by myself all day! It's been a while since I've done this. Eh, it's like falling off a bicycle. You lose control, smash your head, scrape your knees, cry for a while, and then....oh, um, errr.....where was I again?

    Of course, no day is complete without some remodeling work. Today was meeting the granite guys at the jobsite and repeating 20 times: "The 30-inch vanity has ONE drill hole for the faucet; the other one has THREE."

    I had to bring all three kids to the jobsite, never a good idea, but I had no choice. Fortunately, Dave found the time to come with me. Good thing. Katrina first ran around in circles happily, before we went inside and she got all P.O.'d about having to being carried around.

    She never lets her brothers hold her hand and guide her anymore, though they're both very willing to leap into the role of caretaker. Bummer.

    I took the crew to Lowe's to check out light fixtures. Katrina saw the blue car cart and flipped. This pause for a photo was met with angry disapproval. Naturally, the boys had to get in on the action.

    I've finally started reviewing photos for my annual calendar -- yes it's coming folks! -- and can't believe how many photos I have of everyone smiling except Katrina, who's crying and objecting furiously! This is just another one.

    Then I took them to the "old" gym, whose daycare was inexplicably open (their hours aren't nearly as broad as the Y's). I plopped them there with lunch at 10:30 and went for a workout, that I needed more intellectually than physically.

    And again, Katrina was furious about having to leave the gym daycare.

    Her new reaction to anger is to bite herself. Great. She knows she's not supposed to bite us, so she bites herself and even threatens us with her nefarious plot: "I'm goin' tah bi' TREENA!" She also tries to pinch or hit us, but it's half-hearted. Like Gabriel, she lashes out in anger, but unlike Gabriel, she doesn't like being scolded. Either that or she's just easier to scare.

    Despite her wily personality, neither Dave or I have ever had to swat her. Talking to her sternly is generally enough and she backs down -- not out of feeling sad that Mommy is angry, but moreso out of fear -- or practicality. Even Julian got a well-timed smack from time to time at this age, turning a long irritating impasse into sad crying and the end of the conflict. Gabriel wouldn't back down no matter what. Katrina doesn't concede the way Julian did, she stays mad, but unlike Gabriel she recognizes futility and looks for other ways to get back at us. She hasn't figured out yet that biting herself isn't the way to do it.

    The kids had had enough buzzing around for the day and spent a relatively quiet afternoon at home. Downtime. Ah. And I survived it!


    Sunday, December 28, 2008

    12/28/08 Triple shot

    Encouraged by a foot-buzz-free run two days ago, I wanted to do a "real" run today at Rancho San Antonio. It was a crisp, glorious day, just begging to be spent outside in the mountains.

    Talking with Gabriel about it this morning, he asked me numerous times if he could go with me. I had to regretfully tell him no, I was planning to run too far for him. He asked again and again, and I promised him we would run together, but I had a hilly 7-mile route planned.

    Still, this vacation is taking its toll -- the boys were bouncing off the walls yesterday. They really, really needed to get out today.

    Then I had a brainstorm in the late morning: take everyone to Rancho San Antonio, I'll run with Gabriel for the first 1.5-mile stretch, going back and forth to touch base with Dave, Julian and Katrina. Then I'd head off for a real run after the first part of the trail. Brilliant! The kids get out, I run with Gabriel, and I get a real run in.

    My first instinct, as usual, is to get a photo of all three together. And as usual, Katrina had other ideas.

    Gabriel and I started off together, and I was delighted that he had no trouble with the first stretch, which is half a mile of UP. While we waited at the top for Dave to catch up, I showed Gabriel a short, but very steep, hill on the beginning of another trail. Again, no problem.

    When Dave caught up, we started on the gradual downhill, with Julian for part of it, and me and Gabriel running ahead for the other part. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see the boys really RUNNING. They really needed it! But Julian wasn't close to keeping up with me and Gabriel, he pooped out fast.

    At the end of the trail (at the farm), Katrina got out of the stroller briefly, then demanded to get back in.

    Gabriel had done really well running with me, though toward the end of the downhill part he was starting to get tired. I considered taking a shorter route than I'd first planned, and running some more with him, but I'd gotten my heart set on this particular route today. I felt bad, he was really disappointed and wanted to keep running with me, but I was heading out to trails for which there is no easy bailout, and he would have had to keep going for a long, long time. Very few people, even 6-year-olds, run over 7 miles with a 1000-ft elevation gain without some training.

    As it turns out, that included me. I had a really tough time, gasping for breath at the top and fighting stitches on the way down. The relatively easy 4-miler I did two days ago was all flat, and led me to believe that I was ready to do hills again. Not really. Not to mention the return of my old foe: twinges of tendonitis in my ankles.

    I wasn't the only one wiped out by our foray.

    The boys were a lot calmer and manageable this afternoon! Despite my tough run, I feel athletically satisfied for the day. And I'm really happy that I might really have a running partner in Gabriel.

    Katrina, on the other hand....she's really been a pill. Dinner went fairly well though. She still sits in the high chair sometimes, but lately more often than not, she insists on sitting on a regular chair, and is OUTRAGED at the suggestion of a booster seat.

    I get to be full-time Mom this week! I think that's a good thing.....?


    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    12/27/08 Birthday Playdate

    Today we had what started out as a "Hi, Helen!" playdate, that I hijacked into a birthday celebration for Julian.

    Julian hadn't asked a peep about a birthday party. I'm amazed; many kids count down the minutes until their birthday party. But I just couldn't get one organized in time; I'd have had to plan it mid-November, and it was too busy a time dealing with remodeling. I might have pulled it off had it not been for the extra challenge of post-holiday timing.

    So turning a playdate that Helen, visiting from San Diego, had motivated to catch up with her 2004 Las Madres friends into a "birthday playdate" was the best I could do. The timing was good, at least, it's not often Julian will get birthday parties so close to his real birthday. Next year, he'll get to choose his own partygoers and I won't be so tied up with life that I can't plan a party ahead of time. Fortunately, for most kids, "birthday party" mostly means "cake," and that, I was able to do.

    As it turns out, it was a group of The Usual Suspects, a nice-sized group of longtime friends. Helen showed up looking tanned and fit, as she's training for a marathon next month.

    Left to right: Sonia, Stefanie, Me, Helen, Betsy.

    Interestingly, all of us are double-boy moms; that is, all of us have two boys close in age without siblings inbetween. 4 out of 5 of us had those two boys first; two of us prepended and appended not-very-girly-girl girls. All of our 2004 "babies" are boys.

    I had fun preparing for this playdate/party, despite the slight schizophrenia between the two events. I didn't want anyone to feel obligated to bring gifts or be on time or other formalities that occur with "parties," though I did feel the least I should do is provide some lunch, something hostesses don't usually do for "playdates." We had a nice time hanging out, and everyone was very forgiving that I turned a playdate into a semi-party.

    We caught up and yakked, the kids played (though Julian mostly followed Gabriel and Gina), and then the payoff: cake! Which suffered a serious lack of decorative inspiration, and I just copied what I did yesterday, plus an inscription.

    Julian put on a good face, but I wasn't sure he had that great a time. Poor kid; he just doesn't know my friend's kids that well. I really will do better next year. I have a lousy record for 5-year-old birthday parties, though this was a terrific playdate!

    Helen is unbelievable. After an hour, the family room was carpeted with toys that had occupied now-empty shelves. But this is how she insisted on leaving it.

    The playdate was definitely the highlight of the day. Being parents to Gabriel and Katrina definitely wasn't. They were both nothing short of unbearable today.

    Katrina cried angrily during the Happy Birthday singing, because she wanted THE CAKE! You can see her in the corner of this photo, crying and reaching for the cake, the little brat. Lucas' reaction (the little boy sitting next to her) attests to the volume level.

    Then she insisted on getting the '5' candle, and threw a fit until she eventually, somehow got it.

    She held off the demanding impossibleness for much of the playdate, but was exceptionally demanding, difficult to please, and extremely, obnoxiously bossy this afternoon after her nap. She's also picked up a very nasty habit from her brothers: threatening to punch me ("I'm going to PUNCH you, Mom!"), and then doing so, though the actual force behind the punch is more like a tap. Still, it's the thought that counts. By 6:15pm, Dave and I were counting the minutes until we could put the little firestorm to bed.

    Then her oldest brother picked up where she left off, getting into his new semi-hysterical obnoxious giggling mode where all he does is is be destructive and laugh at everything, especially being told to stop. The only way to break him out of it is to do something severe enough to make him cry, but that can often backfire and make him angry, escalating the situation. Once again, Dave and I were suffering every minute until we could get him out of our sight. Gabriel has really been acting out lately, making us very nervous. We know well from past experience what his "phases" are like.

    Julian was much better overall, but Gabriel completely hyped him up and we only got through the bedtime process by separating them as much as possible.

    I focused on the positives of the day by finally, finally catching up on my food blog. It's been two months since I posted! I often stage food-blog posts, by uploading photos and putting in links to recipes, but I just haven't had the chance to really write them out. It's fun, it's like writing mini-articles, with a beginning and an end. It helps ground me, and makes me feel like a grownup. I really like learning to cook and entertain. This is something that everyone in every aspect of my life -- friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances -- will enjoy.

    Now, I'd better get planning Gabriel's birthday party -- I'm already behind.


    Friday, December 26, 2008

    12/26/08 FIVE!

    My boy is 5 today!

    Julian obliged me with a photo, to show off his new Gap shirt from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul. A little big, but he didn't mind.

    We went out to dinner early at Outback, and somehow inbetween Katrina's nonstop demands and my shrinking from frequent glances from neighboring tables, Julian asked me softly, "Are they going to make me a cake here?"

    Poor kid. I hadn't said much about his birthday, but I did bake two cakes today and had some butter softening up for frosting. I was a little behind though, so as soon as we got home from the restaurant, I whipped up the frosting and very quickly decorated it. Then I "surprised" him (sort of) with the cake and singing, and we did a family birthday.

    (A family birthday that was interrupted by us all getting tired of Katrina constantly demanding something and being on the verge of throwing a tantrum because those were not "MY PREZ-INTS! MY PREZ-INTS! MY PREZ-INTS!")

    Julian was very happy with everything he got, ignoring Gabriel's disparaging remarks about getting books for gifts. (The little jerk; he got some books this year that he loves.)

    It's not lost on me that this day might have been a real milestone for me as a mother. Five is a real threshhold, when there's no remnants left at all of toddlerhood, with school looming in the near future. Someday I will experience my youngest child turning 5. I look forward to that, though I know perhaps I might not be as happy about that as I think I will be. Indeed, Katrina insulates me from any melancholy I might have about Julian growing up. But she also keeps one of my feet in the tantrum-diaper-nap-unreasonable-toddler world, when the other foot is now squarely in little-kid world.

    I am so proud and so head-over-heels in love with my sweet, precious, thoughtful, imaginative, playful, goofy, singy, genuine, happy five-year-old boy!


    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    12/25/08 Merry Xmas!

    We're weird. We don't get up at the crack of dawn to open presents, and our kids don't bug us to. Maybe we should, because we never finished opening them today.

    One tradition we started some years ago will contribute to this materialism sloth: leaving one unwrapped gift per child under the tree, so they can jump right in Christmas morning to play with something. This year that worked against us, since the items in question required some help unpackaging, and one child insisted on asking permission first (guess who), but we did get to snooze late and make a late breakfast.

    I made pancakes from a Cook's Illustrated recipe (technique, really) that I've made before, and I'm beaming proud and happy to say that Dave loves them. The kids, eh, they like pancakes period, they're not discriminating. But Dave is a tough audience, and he really likes these ultra-fluffy buttermilk pancakes. It makes me feel like a real cook when I can make a very standard dish (pancakes) and make it exceptional.

    We had to get everybody outside; the boys were bouncing off the walls, so I concocted a weak excuse to go to the jobsite. We all trucked over there to measure a thing or two, pick up mail, check out test-paint...and really, just wander around. Dave and I both like doing that; it helps us see the space as a home, rather than a jobsite, and we always come away with ideas. And future punchlist items.

    Despite the ideal photographic conditions and a good selection of backgrounds (despite the construction dust), Katrina wouldn't cooperate with a photo. "NO PICTURE! NO PICTURE! NO PICTURE!!"

    The boys point out their favorite colors. This is a good spot in the house to test-paint colors for all different rooms, since it's lit (our house has no electricity right now), but without direct sun.

    Back at The Ranch, it was finally time to open some gifts. I made up another new "tradition" this year that will expedite things: whoever's turn is next to open a gift has to throw away the wrapping of the last person's gift that was just opened!

    I didn't take photos of everything, but the kids loved their gifts. Julian said, of a book of 101 Science Experiments from Aunt Stephanie, "I'm going to do all these ess-periments and then I'll be a real scientist!" Gabriel got so involved with a robot toy from Bonne Maman that he refused to open any gifts after that! So thank you Aunt Stephanie and Aunt Laura, for those lovely still-wrapped parcels for Gabriel. Leave it to Gabriel to find a new angle to gift-un-wrapping.

    Katrina went about methodically pulling out each alphabetic puzzle piece from this book, loudly reciting the object's name for each piece.

    Even though this was supposed to be a lighter year, there was no shortage of bounty and a sense of plentifulness. The kids loved everything, and I'm sure Dave and I will too when we get around to opening them!! Thank you all!

    I was reeling from a horrible headache today, so took a nap in the late afternoon. As it turns out, that caused me to miss a phone call from my East Coast family, one I wasn't expecting at all or I'd have instructed Dave to wake me up. This is one of those consequences of living with a "migraineur" -- when they say they need a nap, they really mean it, so it didn't occur to him to wake me. I'm heartbroken I missed the call. It's Christmas! Damn these headaches.

    Then I kicked into gear with one of my new favorite parts of the day: cooking. I should have prepared most of this yesterday, but...oh well. Still, with a huge late-afternoon scramble, I managed to get everyone seated at 6:30pm. Our dinner menu:

    Stovetop-roasted chicken with lemon & herb sauce
    Sauteed green beans with herbs
    Mashed potatos
    Ciabatta stuffing with chestnuts and pancetta

    The first two items came from Cook's Illustrated, a very special issue to me. I just got subscribed to CI by donating to a local public radio station, and the first issue I got happened to be one that Laura & Ryan used for our fabulous Thanksgiving feast. In fact, the sauteed green beans were the same ones that Ryan made, though he did a better job of it (crisper). I'm not a big stuffing fan, but Dave is, and I'd saved the stuffing recipe from a Giada di Laurentiis show for a year. But it was my favorite item of all, it was so tasty.

    I really had fun making Christmas dinner, though I was mindful of the many times my poor mother was trying to enjoy Christmas morning with us and zooming out again and again to check something in the kitchen. I "solved" that accidentally by serving Christmas dinner at dinnertime, instead of late-lunch-time, but that has its consequences too.

    Then the kids got to indulge in their decoration efforts, by tearing apart the gingerbread house, and eating the cookies they'd decorated. Every year we do a gingerbread house or cookies, I feel like we just managed to squeak it in -- they're not established as traditions yet. But the boys are getting old enough to remember stuff like this, and it seems we eke it out somehow every year. So maybe these will be new traditions. That would be nice for me if they remember decorating Gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies as part of the holiday. Next year though, I'll make the gingerbread house.

    First they had to endure a group photo. Katrina, clearly, was quite miffed at having to sit in my lap. But I love this picture because of the boys' expressions: Gabriel in the classic kid-fake-smile, Julian in his usual face-making mode (and oh, those lips!).

    A cookie improved her attitude.

    Time to take apart the gingerbread house! I think the boys had more fun making it than eating it. The cookies were much more popular for actually eating. Phew. Nice to know I can compete with a $8.99 kit from Target.

    I was intrigued when a longtime friend from many years ago, who's still single (ladies alert -- I know Boston's Most Eligible Bachelor!), asked me what I was doing for Christmas. That question, until fairly recently, was a perfectly normal one. That's what you ask young adults who've moved away from their origin families. But once again in my life, where and who I spend Christmas with is a given.

    And now if you'll all excuse me from this Christmas glow, I have a birthday cake to make.


    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    12/24/08 A Colorful Christmas Eve

    I spent a lot of time with the boys today. First, they accompanied me to the jobsite house and "helped" me test-paint and measure closets. Gabriel helped me by writing down all the closet measurements as I called them out. He takes his job very seriously, even tucking the pencil behind his ear like a real carpenter.

    When I paint a test patch on the wall, their job is to take a dry brush and smooth the edges so there are no streaks. There are now patches of color all over the house! I think I have it down-pat now. The theory of using a 50% strength formula of the main color in the halls didn't work at all, so I had to try another color. Looks like the entire new part of the house, except one bathroom, will be some or other shade of muted green. I like getting the boys' opinions on all the colors, too, and though I have to keep a close eye on them and immediately nip any running games that get started, it's much more fun having them there with me.

    Later, we decorated cookies. I'd made the dough two days ago and only today got around to cutting out and baking the cookies, then we decorated them after dinner. I have a system now, in which I ice a cookie, then set the wet cookie on a tray, where they sprinkle away to their hearts' content. Normally I'm very open to letting them do everything themselves, but a bowlful of drippy icing...I think I'll handle that one myself for a while.

    They had a great time. Gabriel tried again and again to get perfect red stripes on candy-cane cookies. Julian's cookies were random and creative. A nice summary of their personalities as seen through Christmas cookies.

    Katrina was in better shape today overall, and other than a showy dinner tantrum, she was pretty good. Tonight's tantrum was partly sparked by foolishness and stubbornness on my part. Foolishness because the cookie-baking project was in full swing -- and full view -- when she came into the kitchen, and she wanted a COOKIE, not dinner. Stubbornness because even my under-the-weather baby is not getting a cookie for dinner, not first, anyway. I finally got her to eat by quietly asking Gabriel to put the bowl of turkey burger in front of her instead of me. She has nothing to prove to him, so she calmly accepted it. When I gave it to her, she dumped it on the floor angrily, earning her one of her first at-home timeouts.

    Time to go play... I mean, wait for Santa!


    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    12/23/08 Christmas Eve Eve

    Incredibly, I went to work today. I was absorbed in an interesting problem -- a refreshing change for once! -- when the Director walked around and kicked everyone out, around 1pm. "Go home! Be with your families!" He was right, of course. Dave was home with Katrina, who had a temperature last night and isn't eating well, but was overall in a decent mood today.

    I got Katrina up from her nap today, and found her playing quietly in the crib with her baby doll. "I put diper on da baby, Mommy!" Katrina lifted the baby by the ankles as I do with her to change her. Then, "It *smells*, Mommy!" Hmmmm...maybe if the "baby" potty-trains, she'll consider the idea for herself.

    I'm looking forward to a down day with the whole family home tomorrow. I think. That's a nice-sounding fantasy, but the boys have been increasingly out of control lately and Gabriel has started really acting out. My affection for a cute 2-year-old toddler suddenly skyrockets!


    Monday, December 22, 2008

    12/22/08 Rejuvenation

    I love Rejuvenation. It's store, catalog and Web site that features new "old" house parts. They started out as a salvage place, and still have a huge warehouse store in Portland that Dave and I visited in 2002. Their print catalogs are full of amusing little anecdotes and bios on longtime loyal employees, and their Web site is excellent.

    I had to laugh today when I went to Rejuvenation's page for doorbell buttons, where it has a little diddy called Saved By The Bell. They're very understanding: "By the time customers are choosing Door and Cabinet Hardware, they're are a bit tired....With their projects nearing an end, these folks are burning through their hell bent phase."

    We're not really nearing an end, but I did buy a doorbell button today. Getting one thing crossed off my to-do list is definitely rejuvenating!


    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    12/21/08 Pancake Breakfast

    Today I took The Three to a long-standing annual social event put on by some longtime motorcycle friends. We join together for a pancake breakfast at a friend's house before going to the annual motorcycle show, but lots of people never make it to the show anymore. I'm among them.

    I braved it with all three alone, hoping to get in a few conversations with old friends. And that basically worked. This sort of thing is much easier now that the boys are older. I gave them a stern talking-to ahead of time about wrestling, fighting, running, and jumping, though Julian got away with some furniture gymnastics. Other than some fake-clinginess (holding onto my legs and asking to be picked up, something she NEVER does at home), Katrina was pretty forgiving. No major fits at least, phew.

    It helped that I invested the effort to go to Borders yesterday to get some new books for the grownup breakfast.

    Felipe happily engages Katrina in a show-n-tell.

    In some ways, she's easy at these things because she's not a super-curious toddler who gets into everything. In other ways, she's hard, because even if she doesn't show it, I know she's a time bomb that can make life very unpleasant for anyone within a mile's earshot if something doesn't go Exactly Her way. Fortunately, she kept the lid on and made a liar out of me.

    I had a brief flash of an artistic moment here -- stripes! It was better before Julian adjusted his position, he'd been right against Gabriel.

    We made a graceful exit before things got too out of control.

    Back at the ranch house, Katrina is testing Uncle Ronan's footsteps in graffiti art. I spent 20 minutes tonight Goo-Gone-ing and scrubbing the fridge, floor and a few walls. No more crayons in baby's reach!

    It rained this afternoon, sapping the few faint flickers of motivation I had to take the kids anywhere after Katrina's nap. I was quite happy to stay at home, give them an early dinner, and have an overall peaceable evening.


    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    12/20/08 Light Show

    Silicon Valley might not have snow for Christmas (usually), but we do have some really creative people who take their Christmas lights very seriously. Or not seriously at all, as these folks appear to have terrific fun with it. Two houses next to each other set up some serious lights, and then broadcast music over a radio frequency, and you can enjoy the lights moving around along with Christmas music. Their Web site is also very interesting and entertaining: synchronized music-light show.

    We went last year, but Katrina was young and grumpy and rear-facing and couldn't see the lights from the car. So I took the kids tonight after dinner, and this time they could all see it. The boys' jaws were dropped, they were fascinated and thrilled.

    The music you hear is on my car radio. That's Katrina in the background making some or other comment.

    One thing about this single-parentness -- the kids spend a lot more time all together. I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not yet. Dave will return Monday night. That's definitly a good thing.


    Friday, December 19, 2008

    12/19/08 Parties

    A day of class parties!

    Even though I take Fridays off work to handle remodeling things, I turned down an offer to have a countertop installed today (instead of Monday when I'll have to take off work), because both boys' classes had holiday parties today. Some things are just too important.

    I was surprised at how few moms attended Gabriel's class party. Burnout, perhaps. The very very active "room moms" organized an adorable craft, in which kids decorate a "tree" made out of an ice-cream-cone turned upside down onto a bed of "snow" (frosting), smear green frosting on the tree, and then stick "ornaments" (candy) on it. I wound up helping lots of the kids with this, and I had a great time. I really like interacting with the other kids and talking to them, and finding little ways of making them laugh or smile. They all call me "Gabriel's Mom" (ironically I have one of the hardest Mom names to pronounce) and I love that.

    It's always interesting to see how different kids go about creative tasks. Many have real artistic bents, never Gabriel's strength. So I was very surprised that one of my favorites was Gabriel's. It was certainly the neatest, and that's saying a lot, since the frosting medium doesn't lend itself well to precise work.

    Gabriel's class and teacher. There are two other Caucasian faces in his class, but don't be fooled, those two are more foreign than most of the others, with parents recently immigrated from Quebec and Finland. Only in Cupertino!

    Next, on to Julian's school party. They start with a surprisingly well-run school-wide set of group songs. Not easy to get this many kids to stand and sing and gesture together! The teachers do a great job preparing the kids.

    It was difficult to get pictures, but I couldn't resist snapping even a crummy one from a distance. Julian is very sincere about his group singing.

    Then the party part. The kids had fruit and lots of cookies and a candy cane.

    Gabriel scammed himself a spot at the table and started chowing down the sweets.

    It must be the red shirts, but I got asked again a question I get asked with surprisingly frequency, "Are they twins?"

    At the last party, Julian was the last one left at the table. This dubious distinction was met by another Doudna family representative this time!

    Tonight we all drove Dave to the airport, to head for the Midwest to attend a funeral in Illinois. "Ill-ANNOY?!" Katrina asked sincerely, not realizing she was making a pretty good joke. Especially given the news from that state these days.

    So I get to play single parent until Monday night. That means streamlining operations around here. One bath fits all.

    Fortunately, I had some help with the washing duties.

    After putting the brood to bed, I went online and bought a toilet paper holder on eBay, saving $30 to $60, depending on what you believe about its actual original price. That's what my grownup time has come to, shopping for bathroom accessories. My kid time helping first-graders spread frosting was far more rewarding.