Saturday, February 16, 2008

2/16/08 The Question

Driving along this afternoon with just Julian (a rare treat), he asked me, "Mommy, do you like cigarettes?"

My goodness, I didn't even think he knew what cigarettes are! So I asked where he'd heard about them, and he said, "Dad told me." As is usually the case with 4-year-olds, I couldn't get a straight story about why they were talking about cigarettes, but he seemed satisfied with my confirmation that they're smelly, unhealthy, icky and that I don't like them.

We came thiiiis close to another Doudna boy crashing a birthday party. Julian knew we were only dropping Gabriel off, but I got chatting with Betsy, and next thing I knew, Julian was ensconced in the birthday party's treasure hunt (what a great idea!). Yipes, not again! OK, I get it now: don't even bring siblings along for dropping off at parties, let alone to watch them. Katrina, yes, but Julian is too close in age to Gabriel to be asked to just watch and wait for me. I managed to scootch him out discreetly, and while he was sad at first (so was I, he was already having SO much fun, my fault!), and we had a nice time together.

First we went to an open house in Willow Glen. My intent was to convince ourselves once again that the massive investment we're about to make into our house is the right avenue, rather than moving. And if we were to move, moving to a neighborhood I like would be a must. This house was very nicely located in Willow Glen, and on the way we passed a party at a park down the block, and saw kids out riding scooters on the sidewalks, people walking their dogs, and general neighborhood sorts of things we just don't have here in sterile Sunnyvale.

Julian thought the house was haunted at first, but I had him "help" me find bathrooms and closets. This house in particular was really interesting -- Dave and I would have bought it in a heartbeat in 1999 when we bought this house. Funky, different, lots of rooms, two staircases, built-ins and triangular goofy closets, a real basement, sunny and pleasant. It had lots of intangible welcoming aspects like a really wide front foyer, and a kitchen island that overlooks the curtailed yard. Not nearly as much of a yard as we have now, but given the cost of landscaping, that could be a good thing.

But I'm experienced with funky living now, and I can quickly recognize things that would have to change. Starting with: the kitchen. It sure looks nice, and it's well-located, but the cabinets are cheap, doors don't close right, drawers wiggle, there's very little pantry space, and the island is too far away from the rest of it. A new kitchen would be a must, though it wouldn't have to actually move, and what's there is still an improvement over what I have (not saying much). The bathrooms were interesting, but cramped, and "interesting" (like a tub without a tub -- just a tiled-in hole) often means "not useful."

In terms of space, moving there would be better (over 4000 sq.ft!), and it has lots of spaces I can easily see using (a whole loft area for kids to play for instance, and a big landing on the second story). In terms of satisfaction...well, there's the rub, huh. This one, it's hard to say. It's much brighter and cheerier than our house, and it's the first one I've seen in a while I can actually picture living in.

Julian had a great time at this open house, largely because a man visiting from New York was there with his 4-year-old son, and the two boys made friends instantly. The pass-through closet with one door into the hall and another door into a room was great fun for them, along with countless other niches and closets and places to hide together. The boy even asked Julian if he wanted to come over to his grandmother's house (they were visiting her down the street) to play. Now that's neighborhoody!


2/15/08 Packed

Boy it was a busy day: physical therapy, work, remodel-shopping, architect-meeting, Date Night in Palo Alto. bedtime!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2/14/08 The Sleep

I did something totally rad last night: I stayed up until I was tired, then went to bed and slept until I wasn't tired anymore, then woke up (with a little help from a happily yakking crib-bound baby) and got up. Instead of anxiously telling myself to get to bed early so I'd get more sleep, and having a hard time falling asleep and waking up numerous times during the night, I actually slept through the night for the first time in weeks. What a difference. I almost felt normal today. There's no way around it. I'm a night person, through and through, and going to bed "early" just doesn't work.

It helped too that I had a nice relaxed morning. Katrina woke up late too (7:45am) and played in her crib while I got dressed, then she and I had a very nice morning alone together before music class. I thought I'd get a few things done, but just didn't feel like it. I did a little dinner preparation in the kitchen while "chatting" with Katrina as she played in the family room, stopping to sit and play with her a few moments at a time, but didn't pressure myself to do much beyond hang out.

Then, off to music class, where once again, Katrina had a fantastic time. I think she really likes being around other kids and people, and she seems pretty engaged in the class (as engaged as 16-month-olds get into anything).

Today she had fun playing with the sticks.

And the drums.

She also stops and pays attention whenever the teacher plays the flute. Well, pays attention to the flute until I pull out the camera, which distracts her, so I can never get a picture of that. I have to stop taking pictures in class, since it pulls her out of her musical reverie, but it's hard to resist capturing moments of her having such a good time.

There's a lot of pink in the background! This class is mostly girls, the first music class I've ever had that wasn't either mostly or all boys, and being Valentine's Day and all, the pink was out in full force. I forgot all about V-day when I picked her clothes last night, but fortunately I happened to pick some that fit the basic color theme.

Once again, I was in a great mood all day thinking of her happy little face in music class -- and indeed, starting off the day surrounded by happy little faces.

Still a little crawling, but I think I can safely call her a toddler now!

The boys came home with boatloads of candy and cards from their classmates, some of them very creative and with a great deal of effort put into them. Not ours, naturally. Sorry, guys.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2/13/08 The Screwup

I just can't get this right. Today, Melissa told me I could pick up Katrina from Tonya's -- always a boon for me, a lot less driving. So what did I do when I left work at 4pm? Drove straight to Melissa's!!! ARRGH!

Then when I tried to pick Gabriel up at the CDC, he had at least 10 minutes of cleanup to do. I had to leave him and come back, since it was 5:15 and Tonya would soon close and I had to get Katrina. More ARRRGH.

Dave and I had a heart-to-heart with our finances and decided not to move after all. No matter how we look at it, upgrading our current living conditions is going to cost us a boatload. With remodeling, the ultimate satisfaction will (probably? hopefully? be higher). Even if I have to work to pay for it, thus not actually being in my new home much.

Still, even talking about moving, or facing the reality of remodeling, is intensely stressful, and the cracks are starting to show. Why would that be? Things are basically good: I'm thrilled with the remodel plans (except the costs of course), I'm actually liking work these days, Katrina is walking and in an overwhelmingly adorable phase.

But something is rumbling underneath, like boiling lava just under the surface. Is it my usual love-hate relationship with change: I need the shakeup, but at the same time, it unsettles me? When we moved into our house over 8 years ago, I noticed the interesting phenomenon that while I embrace and look for change much more than Dave does, he handles change a lot better than I do. He's just not the sort to get rattled. But I am, and moreso, it's like I need to be rattled. Reminds me of many a daunting terrifying steep hill or rocky river crossing on many a dual-sport ride, that my riding pals all said they'd ride my bike through for me if I wanted, and yet, paralyzed with fear and dumbstruck with apprehension, and so not having fun, I tried anyway. These days the perils are more emotional than physical, but it's still the same personality trait that dogs me, drives me crazy, divides me, pushes me.

And at the moment, it's causing me to lose my mind. How many more screwups can I make? First Monday, I go through monumental effort to get to an appointment that very clearly was written for the next day. Today, I forget a fabulous time windfall and cost myself an unnecessary 25 minutes of driving. Countless other times during the day, I find myself looking into a closet or pantry or a room and don't remember why I'm there.

When I got home with all 3 today, I wanted to do the boys' Valentines with them. But of course, dinner preparations and Katrina care made that impossible. I was able to get them started, but what should have been a fun activity together turned into a drudgerous chore.

I did get Gabriel to start his Valentines a few days ago, and good thing, because with 33 names to write and his own to sign on each one, it took several iterations. After dinner, we taped chocolates to each Valentine and sealed them, and that was fun to do with him....or would have been if I didn't have to pester Julian to write his teacher's name on a Valentine. If I didn't have to make lunches and get everyone's clothes together for the next day, the evening wouldn't have so much pressure, and every other word out of my mouth wouldn't be "Not now, later." But then the morning would be awful.

Oddly enough, I'm starting to like work. I still don't like the actual technology I'm working on, and it's a complete career dead end, but the awful machine I'm working on is so quirky and difficult (thanks Cisco) that it's like uncharted territory. That puts me in my comfort zone: finding out how something works and boiling it down to something workable. But at the same time I'm liking work, I'm also feeling new pressure to perform -- and new pressures outside work at the same time.

Another nice moment today was when I took Katrina with me to get valentine's candy tonight (while the boys had dinner), and even though it was past 7pm (tick tick tick...), she found joy in the excursion and was cute as ever. I had fun making faces at her and making her laugh while I was putting gas in my ever-empty car. Having her funny little face in front of me turned an annoying errand into unexpected quality time.

I'm so glad I have Music with Katrina tomorrow morning, I'm really looking forward to it, to give me some much needed down-to-earth time. Provided I don't forget and take her somewhere else, that is.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2/12/08 The Blues

Last night I was tormented by dreams of a contractor sternly telling me I couldn't have what I want. In real life, the (potential) contractor is the nicest guy in the world, but his preliminary estimate of the cost of our project has us reeling, and considering moving again. Moving has its own problems and costs, and I've invested a lot of heart and soul into my new kitchen. My new kitchen. So I don't want to move, but we should do our due diligence once again.

So at a time when I'm feeling intense financial pressure, I'm also starting to really miss being home and doing Mom things. Parks, playgroups, classes...and now the pull to be with Katrina is the strongest. She's in a really good phase right now, full of cute sounds and exploration and making a leap to true toddlerhood -- including all the good fun things about that phase of life (which of course is also filled with things that aren't good or fun).

On top of it, suddenly I have new pressure at work too, adding to stress about taking time off. And, I still consider running to be on hold, not over, and when I can resume that, it'll also take time. Glorious, fun, beautifully spent time, but time. Ankles allowing, that is.

(I let myself run two-tenths of a mile on the treadmill yesterday, and completely felt it in both ankles later. It takes nothing to inflame this again! But the physical therapist I've been seeing doesn't think it's hopeless, I just have to lay off, really lay off, for a long time.)

One thing I really don't like about work, and almost resent, even though I created the situation myself, is that when I get home with my little brood, I have to kick right into gear and have no time to just be with them. I have to tell them again and again, "Oh, sorry sweetie pie, can that wait until my hands aren't wet?" Or "I can't look at that right now, I'm making dinner, can you ask Dad later?" It's Cats In The Cradle (Harry Chapin) all over!

I did find a little time tonight to open one last birthday gift for Gabriel, from cousins Aidan and Remi. It's brilliant, combining Gabriel's two top interests right now: Snap Circuits and piano: a Snap Circuits kit that records music! He was thrilled, and said several times, "Man, I am SO lucky!". He wasted no time building the recording circuit, then using it to record 4-second segments of piano.

(THANK YOU Engels! SOMEHOW I'll find a moment to get Gabriel to write a thank-you note in Gmail.)

Katrina, meantime, was airing out a nasty diaper rash, having a grand time sorting through a box of jeans we just received today (most of which will have to go back, since the Levi's 4 Regular jeans I got for Julian fall off his skinny little rear end). The cuteness and exuberance doubles each day (well, except when that poor sore bum needs wiping...ouch).

I want to work, but I don't want to have to work. I want time with my children, but I want time at home alone. I don't want to triple our mortgage debt, but I don't want to live in this house the way it is anymore. Something has to give. And I'm no good at decisions.


Monday, February 11, 2008

2/11/08 The Scramble

Katrina greeted me this afternoon with a huge smile, and walked up to me happily, arms outstretched. And I got a shoulder kiss too, aww! Quite the change from the usual shriek and pushing away. I'm starting to like the little bugger!

I caught a few moments of her being very sweet after I put her in the car, kissing Julius.

And Gabriel's beloved Bear.

This morning was a big scramble, or could have been had I not scrambled the night before to prepare. I talked to the boys about getting up really early, packed my lunch, Gabriel's lunch and Julian's breakfast, and as usual, set out everyone's clothes (including mine).

Dave left for Phoenix at 5am, and I was on my own. Still, preparation paid off -- we were all on the road at 7am. Dropped off Katrina, dropped off Gabriel, dropped off Julian at 7:35 (5 minutes late, but 2 minutes after they opened 3 minutes late), and a Kids Inc lady helped him with his packed breakfast. I zoomed to Los Altos and arrived at my 7:45am appointment at 7:47am, where I proudly presented myself to my therapist.

"What are you doing here?" he asked. "Don't you have an appointment tomorrow?"



Sunday, February 10, 2008

2/10/08 The Shoes

I managed a photo-op this afternoon, which only happened because I didn't quite notice that Katrina was carrying around two markers and a glue stick. This never would have happened if I tried to take them away.

Dave took the boys to The Jungle today, for a birthday party of a classmate of Julian's. I suggested he bring Gabriel to play too, as a member of the general public. But, not being familiar with Jungle parties, it turned out that keeping Gabriel separate wasn't really practical, and the generous hosts of the party invited him in for pizza and cake. Once again, a Doudna boy crashed the other's party.

The boys both had a great time, but Dave witnessed an episode that furthers our concern about Gabriel's aggression, if we can call it that yet. Gabriel and a first-grader (and Julian to some extent) got involved in some game in the ball pool. Some conflict arose, shouting and throwing balls ensued, and in short order, the other kid decided he'd had enough and tried to get out. But Gabriel went after him and restrained him, holding his legs so he couldn't easily climb out of the ball pool. The kid got annoyed enough to whack Gabriel in the face, but Gabriel wouldn't let go. By then, Dave could see this was really conflict (it's hard to tell sometimes), and intervened to distract Gabriel so the kid got free. Dave said he could see then that Gabriel was truly angry that the kid got away. As usual, Gabriel wasn't at all deterred by the fact that the other kid was older and much bigger (Julian sidelined himself from the conflict).

And this morning, Julian was crying because Gabriel hit him with his teddy bear (usually a benign, but still obnoxious act), while Julian was in bed.

So, another "intervention" talk tonight. Gabriel clearly blames us for these talks, outraged that we're doing this "to him" again. We talked sternly again about hitting, reviewed the consequences with him, and told him that he wasn't getting any TV tonight. (I'd already sequestered Julian upstairs with a Wallace and Gromit video.) He started to cry angrily and then started in with the threats, claiming he was going to watch TV anyway. Incredibly, we managed to deflect it and talk about other things, and he got over it much more quickly than we expected.

This is new ground for us, the talking-tos and serious non-immediate consequences -- how and when to carry them out, for instance. We should have taken the TV away this morning when we first heard he'd hit Julian (he admitted it), but the TV-watching is also tied to cleaning up the family room. How would we have enforced that? Would the TV deprivation later in the day be too far removed from the offense for it to sink in? These are things we have to figure out.

Later in the day, something happened that caused me to get a good look at Gabriel's shoes. And Oh My Heavens -- talk about bad mom me! They were full of holes! Not only was much of the stitching worn off, causing holes at the seams, but the toes had holes worn through the rubber toe protector things. So after working out the logistics with Dave, I took the boys to Vallco to get Gabriel some badly needed new shoes.

On top of the awful condition of his shoes, he'd grown a size too. I guess this can happen if you don't put the kid's shoes on every day anymore!

After the shoes, even though it was 5:15pm and getting very late to be out, Gabriel gave me the little push I needed to go get my little scraggamuffins some haircuts. And, we pulled it off before Supercuts closed at 6pm. New shoes, haircuts...a banner day for accomplishments for me!

But nothing matches the challenge I face tomorrow morning. Dave is flying to Phoenix for the day, leaving the house at 5am. That leaves me with all three to get ready and drop off and make a 7:45am physical therapy appointment. If I can do that, anything's possible.