Saturday, February 09, 2008

2/8/09 sink shopping

Gabriel and I went shopping for sinks today (kitchen and bathroom).

Splashworks in Willow Glen. I thought I'd settled on a kitchen sink until I saw this one. Why can't I be more like my friend Kristi, who told her husband to pick any old sink? I drive myself crazy!

Before leaving, I asked Gabriel if he wanted to come with me. Naturally, he asked where we were going. "San Jose," I said. He considered this, then said sincerely, "Oh, all right. I guess San Jose is OK!" Thank you, Gabriel -- a city of over 800,000 people breathes a huge sigh of relief at your endorsement!

We dared attempt going out to dinner tonight, at a new place nearby called Harvest. Abject failure: boys didn't eat dinner, Katrina would only eat Dave's rice, Dave didn't like having to cut chicken off the bones and that there were cranberries in his rice. I loved it, nice variety of interesting salads, and we ran into a 2004 mom + family who was also experimenting. They fared a lot better though.

But, Katrina had a FABULOUS time walking around, giggling her head off, and I LOVE that she will walk in places now. Still crawling sometimes, but the walking is SO SO SO much better -- I didn't have to carry her while we were ordering at the counter. Not only has she made a huge leap in mood and attitude, but the shaky baby-walking is unbelievably cute. I wish I had pictures of her today, her joy in walking is magnetic, infectious, relentlessly adorable. Naturally, I'm beside myself. WALKING IS MUUUUUCH BETTER FOLKS.

Dave said today that when he got Katrina up this morning (me: zzzzz...) she was kissing him! Nose, shoulder, arm. She was kissing Julian's knees yesterday too. Now this is a phase I can live with!


Friday, February 08, 2008

2/8/09 The Behavior

Today when I picked Gabriel up from the CDC, one of the teachers needed to talk to me about yet another infraction of Gabriel's: he'd just hit a kid who'd been Gabriel aside and reviewed with him what he's supposed to do in that situation (tell the kid to stop, tell a teacher, move away), and he knew, but he had no explanation for why he didn't do those things.

Then another teacher came over and said she too needed to talk to me about Gabriel attacking a kid with a hockey stick outside. I asked again if this was in play or aggressive, knowing the answer already with a sinking heart, and she said that while they're all playing around and of course hockey sticks tend to hit things, she felt what he did was out of line, going after someone for some reason she didn't see and he didn't care to explain.

Next, Gabriel's Friday Folder included a note from his teacher that said she'd been having the same problems with him in class as the CDC had been having -- and she wrote that before his two infractions this afternoon!

What's going on here? If it were any other kid, I'd think something were bothering him and causing him to lash out. That's possible, but that's really not his style. There is rarely any Deeper Meaning to his actions, rarely any chain of events that ties them together. It's usually in the moment and for the moment with him.

I thanked the CDC folks, and told them they have my full support in whatever consequences he has to deal with (no hockey for a month? Fine!). I explained that we know all too well how he can dish it out, we're not about to say this is odd behavior for him, though it's new that he's starting to act out so consistently around others.

So he got a Stern Talking-To tonight. Dave and I pulled him into the living room alone, which had a big impact as compared to sitting at the dining table with Katrina (who got a windfall of chocolate cookies for the occasion). He frowned and went between acting defensive and outraged and angry, but clearly didn't like being put on the spot. We told him in very firm, slightly angry tones, that he is absolutely not allowed to hit. I went through with him what his alternatives are, and he dutifully repeated them. We also told him that next time the teachers tell us he hit, he'll lose a highly-held privilege (Sunday TV, BMX park). Then some of the talks and readings I've attended over the years feebly kicked in, and I tried to be empathetic, telling him that we understand other kids make him mad sometimes and can be really annoying.

I'm not sure any of this sank in. Mostly, he didn't like the immediate situation, and even started to talk back and protest these talking-tos ("This is the THIRD TIME you've done this to me!" he said angrily). The formality of Dave and I sitting with him intervention-style was just enough to intimidate him -- this time. But did it do anything to stop the behavior? I doubt it. Kids are impulsive, and Gabriel has little empathy or fear to keep his behavior in check. His strong sense of order and rules is the best we have to go on. Maybe he has to get the cr*p beat out of him to connect that his big mouth and skinny little body are a bad combination.

It won't be long now before his first trip to the principal's office.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

2/7/08 Music Day

This morning, instead of zooming out the door at 7:15am, I dressed Katrina, made breakfast for her and Julian, took Julian to pre-K, then took Katrina to music class at 9:30am. It was actually more hectic than my usual early mornings, since I had a lot more to do, but it was a really nice change.

And Katrina loved music class today! She lit up, bopped happily around the room, climbed on me, giggled aloud, stopped to pay attention to the teacher, then more playing. She really loved when the class stood up, and I held her hand and walked her around the room. I think she imitated one of the tonal patterns once too.

I'm so glad we're doing this; time alone with her is at a premium, and it was so nice for us both to be together doing something we both enjoy so much, with no distractions. She'd been under the weather for so long (and she still can't scream right) that it was so nice to see her so relaxed and animated and throwing herself into fun. It made me smile all day long to remember her happy little face.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

2/8/08 It's all in the toes

I had my first physical therapy session this morning! I explained at length to Conrad, an Australian runner, the nature of my troubles. He explained back in far more detail than I can remember the biomechanics of the foot and leg.

After some testing, measuring and watching me move my feet, the results were in: I have weak toes!!

OK, there's more to it than that. Since there's no bleeding or obvious injury, all we can go on is highly educated guesses. My calves are actually very tight, not allowing enough flexion at the ankle and proper pushoff, especially up hills. Exercises to loosen calves, check.

But the real surprise was when he told me to curl my toes, and then was easily able to uncurl them with his fingers. The muscle that controls the toes also controls how your foot lands and pushes off, and should be much too strong for him to uncurl my toes. So it's a good guess that I must not be pushing off correctly, or in the right direction, especially up hills. So, exercises to strengthen my toes (no kidding!) are called for, like lifting a towel from the floor with just toes numerous times...isn't there a song about ankle bone being connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the....oh well. Exercises to strengthen feet via the toes, check.

So, ice, anti-inflammatories (I've heard conflicting things, but to heal the existing inflammation, OK), rest (wah), exercises, and then inserts/orthotics to correct the slight pronation and help train my foot to strike properly. All things I'd have considered to be minutiae -- but the persistent, nagging sensations around my ankles say otherwise. Oh yeah, or quit running. No.

Last night, Katrina got into some sort of snit when I tried to give her dinner -- food she likes, and she was hungry. I tried everything, including my usual final straw of taking her outside, still nothing but back-arching, screaming-crying, pushing my hand away. Fed up, I sat her down in the living room to go tend to the stove for the boys' dinner. I thought she'd come into the kitchen after a few minutes, looking for the sippy-cup of milk that can act as a moment-changer, but no, she pushed herself around on her back in the living room and cried angrily nonstop for a solid 20 minutes. I couldn't believe it -- a full-on, and LONG, tantrum (20 minutes is a long time for a 16-month-old!).

After I finally had the boys sitting down -- no mean feat, as Julian was giving me a hard time and I made several trips to the garage to put toys away -- then I tackled the toddler tantrum problem. I can't quite remember what I did, some combination of offering her something else, moving her somewhere new, distraction, and time, finally broke her down to take a few bites, and then we were finally on our way. Whew. She showed no signs of slowing down, either, it could easily have gone on had I not put my full attention to "redirecting.

I mentioned this episode to Melissa this morning, later thinking I was making too big a deal of it. But Melissa encountered the same exact thing today, unable to break her out of a major snit when her Plan for life was thwarted. Melissa remembers all the trouble we had with Gabriel, so she's prepared.

I can't believe I have another tantrumer on my hands! Yes, all toddlers have tantrums, but I know whence I speak when I say tantrumer!

One thing that's not like Gabriel, thank goodness: tonight, Dave was carrying Katrina, and for some reason, she bit his shirt. It wasn't quite malicious, but it's that classic experimental thing that can make it turn so, as Gabriel's pinching did (evolving into a nasty 1.5-year hitting problem). Dave gently scolded her, telling her nooo, not nice. And she pouted and cried!!!!! YIPPEEEE!!!!!

I love that I can decide at 8:35pm on a Wednesday night that the ends of my hair are too brittle and gross, and run out to Supercuts and get a trim and be home by 9pm.

Second night in a row I've felt the house shift. First one, there really was a small quake across the bay, so small Dave didn't even feel it downstairs (I was upstairs). Tonight, just paranoia. Or exhaustion. Or....?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

2/5/08 The Math Homework

16 months old and still crawling! It's official. All three of my children are genuinely late walkers. Katrina is walking more than crawling now, but she still crawls when she really needs to get somewhere. Her walking is getting better and better, though she's started holding her hands above her head for balance, I think because she's trying to go faster. But it's still mostly a game, rather than a mode of transportation.

She did have fun walking around barefoot after I changed her and took her leggings off. First, I had to peel off a hugging brother.

Seeing her legs bare under a dress, I think her ankles are still pretty skinny!

I was intrigued today because Gabriel's math homework seemed to take a sudden leap in difficulty, with actual addition problems. So I scanned it to comment on that, but later realized that the page with addition problems was an "extras" page.

The regular math homework is simpler and more conceptual: draw a line under the longest item in each group, then draw the longest item overall in the box at the bottom, and is the sort of work Julian does too. (Gabriel did do it, but his light writing didn't scan well.)

But I think the "extras" page is a lot more advanced, or certainly a big step ahead of what the previous "extras" were. He finished both quickly without any trouble, though he didn't recognize the format in the 2+2 problem (that you write the answer under the line).

He also reads all the words, including the tiny-printed instructions at the bottom of the page for the grownups, and for the most part can follow their meaning. But he needed explanation for the "Are there enough?" problem: "Enough what?" he asked. (Hmm, is that climate discrimination? We don't wear mittens here!)

If we were the sort to push him, he could handle a lot more than this, I think. He was certainly more interested in the "extras" page, as each problem is shorter and it goes faster than work that involves drawing, as most of his homework does (like drawing the longest object on the regular homework page).

But really, he's just a kid, and mostly, he wanted to get back to assembling some Lego kits he got for his birthday. And I'm just fine with that.


Monday, February 04, 2008

2/4/08 The Return

Still not screaming, but Katrina is much, much more herself today. Melissa brought her home to me this afternoon, and she bopped around happily reading books, playing with balloons, getting into Gabriel's new Lego kits (he got two for his birthday and loves them).

Tonight was so completely back to normal -- the mad scramble -- that it's almost hard to remember that just this morning, I took my mother to the airport. It was such a wonderful visit that the fun of it all far outweighs the sadness of knowing it will be months before I see her again. One good thing about my long morning commute is that I call family a lot more often now -- might as well make use of my 30 minutes of captivity!

After dropping Mom off, I ran some errands, including a trip to Home Depot Expo. It helped remind me why I never bought anything there for the last remodel: too overwhelming, too underhelping. Why does every place display the most outrageous and funky bathrooms they can, instead of the 99% that the rest of us would actually use?

I saw my actual chosen rangetop, and didn't love it! I've seen it in range form, and in drop-in cooktop form, but not rangetop form. It looks so plain (even though I chose it partly for its looks), and I didn't like the knobs (even though I'd already tried them), they're a little thick and the plastic part is a little rough. The Viking knobs have as perfect a feel as they get, and suddenly the imposing grates look cool. This sort of indecision and doubt is exactly what undermines project schedules. I'm not changing cooktops now!

OK, fun's over. Back to work tomorrow.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

2/3/08 The Party

What highly anticipated once-a-year major party event occurred today? Oh, you mean, the Superbowl?! Nope. Gabriel's gymnastics birthday party!

First, some other things happening around here. Bonne Maman brought a gift from our longtime family friend Francoise, a book titled "Ou est Charlie?" -- the French version of "Where's Waldo?" I had NO IDEA this would be such a hit. The boys LOVE it. Here's why neither of them bothered Katrina this morning:

Bonne Maman also got Katrina the world's most adorable socks from a nearby store in NYC. The brand is Little Miss Matched and they came up with the most clever idea of putting three socks into a set!

OK, now that's cute.

Now, onto the big stuff. Gabriel's party was a smashing success, at least in that no one actually got smashed (which is more than I can say for many of the other parties going on around the country today). I loved it, the kids had a great time, and it was exactly what I wanted: low-key, fun, under control, simple.

It helped that the first hour, they were all under the control of a highly capable gymnastics teacher. And, that most of the kids had done this sort of class before.

The one thing I felt terrible about is that siblings couldn't join -- we were limited to 8 total kids. Andrew had been coached carefully about this ahead of time by his aunt (Betsy was out of town), but he was really upset about not being able to participate. Meantime, I was busy setting up when the teacher lined up the kids for the class, and didn't notice that Julian had made his way into the mix. Whoops.

I let it go at first, since two kids were late and one didn't want to join in right away. But after about 10 minutes, the latecomers arrived and the other kid decided to join in, and now we were over capacity. But Julian was so well ensconced and having such a great time by then, I just couldn't bring myself to pull him out. The teacher let him stay and he didn't hold up the class or anything, as he's done this before. Still, it hardly seemed fair to Andrew (whose aunt had wisely taken him to go do something else).

Actually, the teacher had seemed greatly relieved when she asked me what the age range was before the class, and I told her the kids were all within months of 5-1/2, except the 4-year-old brother who wasn't supposed to join (eeps). (Come to think of it, maybe she let him stay since she knew he was the brother of the birthday boy.) She later said it was a really good group, easy to handle, overall calm, everyone participated and listened. Whew!

One of my favorite moments was when Gabriel's little pal from class, Anushka, kept giving him hugs, and he good-naturedly pushed her aside, rolling his eyes. He didn't want to be bugged at the moment, but he took it really well.

Then Parth joined in the action, and the three friends all laughed together.

It struck me seeing Gabriel interact with Parth in particular, a really nice boy who I talked to a lot at Gabriel's class party. Gabriel has his own friends now, not just friends he makes because I'm friends with their moms, and his own games and interactions with people I don't know at all. Gabriel and Parth and Anushka spend every day together in class and then at the CDC, more time with each other than he does with me. All part of the daily miracle, with a touch of tragedy, of growing up.

After the gymnastics class, the kids sat down and had some fruit cups, juice, popcorn and .... never mind -- don't I know enough by now that no food is of any interest after popcorn? So much for the sandwiches that Bonne Maman worked so carefully on cutting out in shapes!

(Notice who is the only one who didn't ask for a hat, and indeed refused to consider it.)

After a snack, we played musical chairs twice. A little advice about musical chairs: bring songs that don't already have stops in them! Andy Z doesn't work well for this. And, bring a boom box with some volume, instead of a wimpy little clock radio. And an extension cord!

Other than that, it worked well. Gabriel and Parth were the last two both times, with Gabriel the winner once, and a tie the second time. These two have played musical chairs at the CDC many times together, so apparently they've developed strategies. Gavin was my button man after he got eliminated, helping me turn the clock radio (urgh) on and off for the rest of the game.

Finally, the cake. More singing, more junk food. And, another Giant Cupcake cake.

By now, I should have some experience with my tricky Cupcake cake pan, but this one gave me by far the most trouble. First I made a Devil's Food (mix), split the batter across both pans. NG, the cupcake top was too small, but the bottom salvageable. Inexplicably, I used another flavor to make another top, but put too much batter in, overflowed the pan, and started a fire in my oven!! It took my Mom and I a few minutes to frantically scrape everything aside to put out the fire. Then, I had a hard time decorating the cake, using yellow frosting with yellow M&Ms, but all that did was make it look drab, and it just ended up looking like a lopsided tutu. The final straw was that I didn't use toothpicks to fasten the top to the bottom, and the top slid off in the car ride to ghe gymnastics place and one side got all smushed!

Of course, the kids didn't notice, they just wanted to eat the cake. Julian thanked me for putting candy on it. Mom and I were both intrigued that the two kids of Indian descent didn't want any. There's an Indian bakery nearby - I wonder what Indian kids have for sweets?

I've always suggested no gifts for parties, so as not to put any pressure on guests and because we really don't need MORE STUFF. But, something happened this time that makes me reconsider: the kids themselves want to give the birthday honoree gifts, they want to see the birthdayer open a gift that the guest picked himself. I had to pull Gabriel away at the end of the party as he'd started opening things because his friends wanted him to open things they'd brought. Next time, I will work in gift-opening, as it's so nice that his friends are so generous and want to enjoy the giving. And it's time Gabriel learned gracious gift-receiving too, instead of being handed a giant anonymous pile of loot later.

Score three for me -- all three kids' parties this "season" worked out great. I will definitely do a gymnastics party again, and 8 kids total is a perfect number. They all had such a great time, and it felt like such simple clean easy fun.

And good news on the sick baby front: Katrina's lung capacity is still nowhere near normal, but her behavior was on track tonight. She bopped around much more happily, played, scolded brothers, snuck upstairs, pulled things off shelves, and acted much more like herself, just "de-barked" as Dave called it (a reference to barky dogs who've had their vocal cords surgically altered so they're not impossible to live with). She even ate a little dinner tonight, so I think this strange episode is past us. I'm glad my Mom got to see a little of the normal Katrina tonight, and the normal interaction between her and her brothers (constant pestering, much tenderness and love).

I'm bringing Bonne Maman to the airport tomorrow, with joy and sadness. What a wonderful visit! It's been only a few days, but such full fun ones, rewarding and relaxing and intense all at the same time. We had lots of time to be mother and daughter, and grandmother and mother too. I can only hope for such wonderful times with my own children when they're all grown up.