Friday, February 22, 2008

2/22/08 The Jungle

Gabriel had a field trip to The Jungle Island today (which happens to be in the same San Jose strip mall I'm going to tomorrow for scrapbooking!). Two weeks ago, Gabriel and Julian went to The Jungle for a birthday party, and they got stuck in one of the play tunnels. Dave happened to see them from a ramp and was able to talk them through getting out, including instructing Gabriel to boost a tearful Julian up through a hole.

So when Gabriel joined his siblings in the car today after his field trip, Julian asked wide-eyed, "Did you get stuck?"

Later, Gabriel explained that he went in the tunnels up to "about 36 feet." Dave and I chuckled and asked him if he could be a little more specific, but he didn't get it. He said that's as high as he'd go, and we asked why he didn't go higher, and he answered matter-of-factly, "I didn't need to." Then he said the highest was 40 feet. I wonder if the structures are marked, because 36 feet is a pretty darned accurate guess for a kid who thinks 20 miles would take 16 hours to drive.

Thank goodness for the CDC and other birthday parents taking kids to The Jungle!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

2/21/08 Grumpy Girl

Katrina...grumpy, tired, hungry? Or just being Katrina again? I was surprised at how fussy she was in music class today, as she loves it. Usually she lights up and laughs or pays attention or walks around showing off, but today she was edgy and cried a lot.

Fortunately, the instruments rescued her mood for a while, and even more fortunately, after a nap at Melissa's, she was in good shape. I was worried that since I wasn't feeling well yesterday, she might follow suit. We can't handle an illness right now!

Despite my feeling new pressure at work, and missing a day yesterday, I was really glad for the forced break this morning. I love my precious hour with Katrina alone on Thursday mornings before music class, even though I spend much of it zipping about catering to her every little toddler whim, changing stinkies, rescuing her from getting beached on top of footstools. It's funny that now, getting to a 9:30 class seems so easy, whereas with Gabriel I could barely make it to a 10:30 class!

I had a fun Mom's Night Out with the 2004 group, hosted by a friend who just finished a massive move-out remodel of her home. I'm inspired and encouraged seeing a house that's actually done, especially since I saw it this summer before it was done. Now they live there, and it's not a project, it's a home. I can't imagine!

Yes I can, and I can't wait! Until it's over, that is. (Note that the Title of this post isn't just about Katrina....)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2/20/08 Childhood games

Ah, such innocent fun. Gabriel's at the CDC "camp" this week (school's in mid-year recess), and in addition to main organized activities and playground play, they also do a lot of simple sorts of games with them. Gabriel came home with a string in a loop and showed Julian how to do a "Cat's Cradle." I remember many fun hours playing Cat's Cradle and other string games as a kid!

Gabriel was also all excited about playing "I spy" today, and wanted to again tonight. Though I wasn't feeling well and have a lot to do tonight, I thought, "this is what it's all about," and sat down and played I Spy with the boys. They were so excited about it, I had to keep interrupting the game to tell them to quit jumping on the couch! Then I taught them "Hot and Cold," which I thought would be easy for them, but they both only moved in two dimensions, and eventually the game devolved to a free-for-all of running around like mad giggling like crazy. Which, of course, is the most important and classic childhood game.

Cat's Cradle, I Spy, Hot and Cold, Mayhem -- so far, these things have survived the video-game era!

Then, more childhood fun: making cookies with Mom. I made these Traffic Light cookies for my cookie exchange party tomorrow, but due to unforeseen technical difficulties, I didn't have enough to give the boys! So I had to make more. And, they helped me. I'm glad I thought to cut up gumdrops instead of use colored sugar for the lights, since it was easier for them to fill in the traffic light "holes."

I love doing stuff like this. Maybe I like it better these days because I can't do it all the time anymore, but still, I think I'm now more Barbara Bush than Hillary Clinton.

I had to bail from work today, because of a very unhappy tummy that bugged me all morning, then again later this evening. But I think I'll be OK for music tomorrow, and for the cookie exchange party too. It'd take a lot to keep me from that!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2/19/08 Three standing

I finally got my first photo of all three standing up together!

Oh my, it just makes my heart swell to see them all together like this. What a lucky, lucky little girl to have these two adoring brothers!

Unfortunately, the reality is more like this one. Katrina doesn't want help from her brothers, and mostly pushes them away and screeches to free her hands. Too bad, 'cause it sure makes for cute photos.

"I gotta walk quick or I'll fall!!"

Julian asked me today, "Can you feel air?" I had a decent answer, I thought: "Sometimes, like with wind." Shoulda known, it was a trick question for which he already had an answer in mind, and that wasn't it. It had something to do with opening and closing your hand fast enough.

Melissa told me today that Katrina is saying "yes" and "no." That's new!

I just filled out one of these speech surveys for the Center for Infant Studies at Stanford, where I've volunteered all 3 as subjects in various language studies. Gabriel's going back this coming Saturday, as he's a particularly valuable subject in studies looking at formerly speech-delayed children.

Filling out these surveys in the past are what sparked me to make a note of their words. It was easy for Gabriel at 18 months: zip, though much of the survey includes questions about gestures they make, and words they recognize even if they don't say them. Gabriel lacked many typical gestures too, like handing you things, pointing, pretending to put clothes on. Julian, it was a lot more work, and it was thanks to this that I counted 100 words for Julian at 16 months.

Katrina's in the middle, and adding words and sounds a bit at a time. No speech delay, no speech advance, just smack dab normal.

For now I can identify the following "words" she makes:

muh (milk)
shee (shoe)
nuh (nose)
bee-bee (baby)
boo? (bird)
boo? (book)
na-na (night-night)

But one thing I've just realized today is her attraction to rhythms. She loves to "count," though I doubt she knows what the numbers mean, she clearly says "fie...sih...seben..." in a sing-song tone. Melissa said today that she played the Music Together CD for Katrina today, and that she flipped when she heard the Hello song, looking all around for the group, then sat down and clapped her hands against her knees. She's only seen the Hello song in class three times!

So tonight I played our new Music Together CD (finally!) while I was feeding her, and I was floored when she imitated "beep-beep-beep" in the song "Riding in the car." I remember now she'd imitated some "tonal patterns" in class last week, but I'd brushed it off as a random accident. I don't think so now.

Then tonight as I was putting her to bed, I semi-sang, "bedtime, bedtime...." -- and to my surprise, she imitated the sounds with "na-na, na-na...".

This fascinates me. Even Julian, who loved to sing (still does), never did this. Now that I think about it, there are many times over the past few weeks that she's imitated a rhythm and I wrote it off, not believing she'd do that the first or second time she hears one. Actual words are much harder-won, they come and go and take weeks to stick, which is probably why I haven't noticed this affinity for rhythm or songlike patterns. Naturally, as a mom, my imagination runs away with I have the next Christina Aguilera on my hands? (probably not!)

One more thought on's been all over the news today that Fidel Castro has resigned, formally acknowledging a handoff of power that happened a year ago to his younger brother Rahul. What strikes me is that every time I hear the story, they refer to Rahul as Fidel's "younger" brother. These men are 77 and 81!! Pointing out who's younger hardly seems relevant at this stage of their lives!

But it is relevant, because they're brothers. Decades of adulthood, yet the relationship formed in the relatively short time they spent as children together is permanent. And we as news listeners all seem to understand what that means. Gabriel and Julian too will never transcend the fact that they'll spend 16 years of their lives in the same household with Gabriel being 2 years older.

But will Katrina survive 14 years of her life with two older brothers in the same household? Will they?!


Monday, February 18, 2008

2/18/08 Decisions, decisions

I need to learn how to make difficult decisions. I'm terrible at it. I wind my way around all the ins and outs, all the possible scenarios, rationalize each detail -- only to mask what really ends up making the decision: gut feel. I can't bring myself to cut out anything substantial in our upstairs remodel plan, even things I care about less than others (such as fixing our strange master bedroom layout). "What if....?" Yet I also want to find ways to make the hefty cost more palatable.

My relatively plum work situation is going quickly the way of "fish or get off the boat." My manager told me today that my company is not renewing contracts past July, and urged me once again to join as a part-time, but permanent, employee. I'm already horribly torn about it. On the one hand, I've wanted to work independently for years, and I'm truly ready for a different company, and a better location. Accepting another job there reminds me of Ashley in Gone With The Wind, dejected after Scarlett manipulated him into staying in Atlanta, rather than become financially independent by accepting a banking job in New York. "If I stay here with you," he said, "I'll never stand alone again."

On the other hand, a part-time flexible job is exactly what I need. The lesser pressure of not being a contractor would be nice, and I'd actually build vacation again, and be able to participate in a retirement plan for the first time in years. As an employee, I could expand into interesting new projects, as the reluctant network engineer in me is still sleepily interested in networking.

But the permanence of it is almost heartbreaking when I look at my blooming baby, who at 16 months old is bursting with new sayings, new discoveries, and for whom walking around in her half-stumble walk is a joyous new venture. I want to do park playgroups with her, swim lessons in the summer, and just have her around at home while I experiment in the kitchen. Julian wants to take ice skating lessons again, and at 4, parent-tot skating classes are one of the last activities I can do with him (not to mention a nice excuse for me to skate a little too!). And, while this doesn't torment me like it did at first, I'd still like to pick Gabriel up from school sometimes.

Work more, home less...much of how I've come to know this house, how I use the spaces, how I want it to work, revolves around my "working" here -- as a full-time Mom, that is. But it's a very difference place if it's only what I come home to, rather than be with all day.

Still, I don't think my working for The Man is a long-term thing. I'd thought I'd have one last hurrah, maybe. Going back to the same company again is hardly a hurrah, but the flexibility can't be beat. I guess that helps make the decision, or rule out other possible avenues. Part-time and flexible are musts.

A wise friend once told me that she'd found that more time often doesn't help with difficult decisions. She's right. So often, it's a matter of throwing away the pros-and-cons list, clearing your mind, and getting in touch with your basic instinct. Running was a great way to do this; something about being outside in a park, just me and the trail and trees and sky, that helped put me in touch with what I really feel. (Unfortunately, all I feel now from running is sharp achy feelings in my now-all-too-familiar tibialis posterior tendon.)

In the face of all this change, I made a point this evening of spending real time with my children this evening. Katrina is having so much fun walking, or sort-of walking. She's still very clumsy, trips a lot, and falls back to crawling, but she loves taking off and trying to walk as fast as she can. Tonight she spent a lot of time going around the "column" around the living room, dining room, and kitchen, laughing her head off. "Yayyy!" is the latest expression, she claps and applauds all the time now (especially at herself).

(On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is "grandparent-level-interest" and 5 is "mildly interesting to all", today's videos are at about a 1! Which is more than I can say for most of my videos.)

The boys love this book "Octonauts" that Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan got them -- signed by the authors! I'm ashamed to say I don't recall the story of how they found this book, but I do remember it was a good one. They always find the best books.

The reading in this book is more advanced than I expected Gabriel to understand, but
he was doing well enough with it that I thought I'd take some video. (He reads words really well, but that doesn't mean he understands the meaning of the sentence or story.)

In addition to a few seconds of his reading, I also captured a minor conflict between him and Julian. Normally I wouldn't have let Gabriel's hitting Julian go -- I know it happens between them ALL the time; but I do have to make a show of not allowing it. But I was filming. Watching this later, I personally find Julian's empty threats pretty funny, and Gabriel is obviously not in the least bit concerned! They get back to reading pretty quickly, which is another reason that much of the time, pretending not to see a conflict works out best.

(In retrospect, this almost isn't worth posting, because it's about as benign a conflict as we get around here.)

I have a cookie exchange party coming up, and a fabulous new cookie book I have has a great idea: traffic light cookies! Gabriel loved the idea, so I took him with me to Michael's to find a tiny round cookie-cutter (they were out, darn it, but I think we found a workaround). I also bought some disposable pastry-deocrating bags, and when the total came to about $16, Gabriel said, "$16...hmm, that's not too bad, Mom," making the cashier laugh aloud. He just seemed so sincere,so grown-up, but the words and the delivery coming from this skinny little pipsqueak make for an amusing combination. After we got back from Michael's, we made the cookie dough together.

One thing I will say about having three, and I imagine this gets truer with more children, time alone with any one of them becomes all the more precious (and time with all of them together decidedly less!). They're one decision I'm very happy about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

2/17/08 Old friends

This was a rare treat -- indeed, it's never happened before: a visit from my longtime friend Hillary! She and her daughter and son (ages 15 and 12) are visiting the West Coast for a few days, so we got to see them this morning.

After breakfast, Dave took the boys to the BMX park -- all of them, as Hillary's son joined them with his skateboard. Hill and her daughter and I chatted outside while Katrina took a nap, until her son called to say he was bored. Hillary and her daughter went to pick him up and then continued on Monterey for the rest of their trip.

It's been far too long, and the few hours we had to catch up only showed how much more time we need. But it's been that way for years; brief visits here and there, always leaving with 100 things more to say than were said -- and it will continue to be until we're not both bound by children's schedules. Hard to believe Hillary and I made friends when we were younger than Gabriel! I'm glad she finally had a chance to meet my children though, and that Julian was in Prince Charming mode (such a friendly little guy).

Gabriel was very excited by the blooms on the sad scrap that remains of our almond tree today.

We tried to go see the Willow Glen house I saw yesterday -- the whole family -- but, the open house had closed over a half hour early. How annoying!

Still, peeking in the windows, I was able to remind myself that one problem I'd have in this new house, again, is isolation in the kitchen, as it's not really connected to a family room. Better than what I have now, but a far cry from what I will have. I'm reluctant to move to avoid remodeling, and just end up needing to remodel anyway.

This house did have two bedrooms downstairs, one with its own bathroom, much like what we're planning on (though the Willow Glen house is over 4000 square feet, much larger than what we'll end up with). That same feature I'm toying with not doing, because it adds substantially to the costs.

The kids sure had fun looking at the outside of the house though. Katrina and her unsteady scramble cruised all up and down (and almost into) the street, while the boys played tag with the trees in front of the house.

OK, looks like we're staying and remodeling. Let the bleed begin. Gulp.