Saturday, March 01, 2008

3/1/08 The Boss

"Dad's not the boss!" complained Julian petulantly, as I was parking the car with all 3 of them in it. Julian was mad about Dad putting him into the car after refusing to get in quickly.

"No, he's not," said Gabriel supportively, and they were about to launch into one of their frequent scheming about all the Bad Things they could do to Dad. But, instead:

"MOM'S the boss! She's even the boss of Dad!"

Yeah kid!


Friday, February 29, 2008

2/29/08 Zumba

We went out to dinner tonight (a rare occurrence), because I didn't feel like cooking or cleaning (a frequent occurrence). Despite an overtired time-bomb toddler, it worked out surprisingly well. Katrina loves the fried rice at our favorite Japanese restaurant, so the rice, teriyaki chicken and tempura kept her busy long enough for us to have dinner and make a polite exit. In fact, it was the boys starting to get wound up that made us expedite, as they'd run out of edamame to dismember.

Incredibly, I had enough time after dinner to make it to a Zumba class at the Y tonight. I've never done done Zumba, a cardio exercise class that uses Latin-style dancing, but I've watched it enough to want to try it. But, I wasn't crazy about the teacher I had tonight. She committed some cardinal sins of dance teachers: inaccurate cueing, inconsistent arms, demonstrating off the beat (!). She did fall short of the ultimate sin of a dance teacher: wasting my time, but I think I'll try a different Zumba class next time. I haven't done much Latin dancing, so I just don't have the moves, but they sure are fun to try.

This class was a bit of a thumbing-my-nose at my ankle tendons too, just to say, "so THERE, I'm going to have fun no matter what you say!" Unfortunately, I think I can already tell they're going to have the final word.

Julian keeps doing this silly jump, in which he runs and then jumps with one foot. He's been doing it for days, and just today explained that Aidan, my friend Hillary's 12-year-old son, showed him how to do a "skateboard jump" when they were visiting 2 weekends ago.


Gabriel's teacher sent an email to his whole class that said she's recommending a few students for summer school, and had attached information about it inside those kids' Friday Folders. What is it about teachers that have such power over us? As soon as I saw this, I rushed to Gabriel's folder with my heart pounding to see if he was among them. No, but there was a comment on his weekly "report card" (sort of) that his behavior has been better. Oh yeah, that problem -- potentially a much bigger deal than needing summer school.

2/29/08 (happy leap year!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

2/28/08 The Snowball Class

Thursdays are now kid-play day!

A music class morning! First, I had to extricate Katrina from a 1/2-lb slab of chocolate (a bitter 75% cocoa composition) that she'd discovered in the baking pantry. That's what I get for finally printing shipping labels to send some long-overdue packages. She was working her way through the plastic wrapping, which kept the chocolate somewhat under control, but her hands and face were a mess, and she managed to get some chocolate on her back.

In music class, she sat quietly in my lap at first, but even then, looks were deceiving. She wasn't relaxed at all and I could feel how excited and alert she was. Of course, sitting all sweet and cuddly-like in a lap has never been her strong suit.

Once the class did the first stand-up-and-dance thing, she stayed up for several songs, "dancing" by walking in circles, having a grand time.

She's gotten really good about putting instruments away with the rest of the kids.

Then I went to work. Work. How I like the concept, and the people, and the grownup environment. Oh yeah, and the money. It's just the actual work I'm doing that I'm not crazy about. Alas, what a luxury that would be. Many, many people do jobs they don't like. I've never learned how to do that. I go insane and drive everyone else around me insane.

But what I really like about this job is the flexibility. I left today at 3:15pm to take Julian to his first Snowball class -- a beginner skating class for 3-4 year olds. Yay! And, best of all, his class coincides with a public skating session, so I can skate too!

By the time we got there and got all dressed and skates on, we had about half an hour to practice before Julian's class. At first, it took 10 minutes to get him to the first corner, but he remembered quickly and before long was skating close to the level he had been last year. Distracting him was the key, by showing him something interesting to look at and to forget about not knowing how to skate.

Then, the class. First thing: learn to fall and get back up! These are not Julian's strong points. In fact, his best skating is when he's going pretty fast, a scramble that looks like he's going to fall.

But by the end of his class, I saw him get up from the ice by himself, and using the advice the teachers gave him (hold onto knees if he thinks he's going to fall). I was impressed that two teachers could handle a good-sized group of 3-4-year-olds, presumably who are all beginners. But by the end of the class, none of them needed to be held up, and all were moving on their own power really well. And no little chairs to push around!

Three other kids from the 2004 Las Madres group are in the same class, including Julian's longtime pal Andrew. Andrew had no trouble getting up off the ice right away (and today was his first time) and caught on very quickly. I'm already envisioning them passing the puck to each other for the final SCOOOOORE!

The blues still haunted me all day, but they hadn't a prayer against Katrina's happy bopping around in music class, and Julian's excitment about skating. It was fun being back on the ice too, though I feel directionless without having classes and something to practice. Also, the late afternoon public skating session before classes means there are a lot of little kids on the ice, making harder for shaky helicopter-arm skaters like me to concentrate. Maybe I should take classes again, and drown (well, freeze) my running sorrows that way. Ice skates completely immobilize your ankles, exactly what my sore tendons need.

I'm so glad I broke my vow to do only one activity at a time (total! not even per kid!). Now, how can I squeeze in piano lessons for Gabriel....?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2/27 addendum -- the songbook

This warms my heart to no end. Just as I was ready to put an end to this day, I found a creation of Gabriel's in the craft area. Now I know why he wanted to borrow my stapler.

Gabriel made a "songbook" tonight, complete with a title page, page numbers and "The End." And, he "wrote" his first "song" -- about his teddy bear!! I couldn't resist scanning the pages he wrote on.

Just when I'm blown away by how he's growing up, he reminds me that he's still just a little boy. Awww!

Now I can go to bed smiling, with a love song about a teddy bear ringing in my head.


2/27/08 Now it's the knees

I forced myself to go to the Y tonight, in a futile attempt to lift the firmly entrenched drear from my spirit tonight. I'm not sure why, but I'm inconsolably blue today, I think largely because of the sense of intense pressure to settle on windows and doors by Monday, so as not to hold up our project. It sounds silly now that I write it out, but it's been weighing tremendously on me. Impending remodeling is such a big cloud looming in one's future (still a few weeks away from structural and construction drawings).

I've been making myself do the elliptical machine for 20 minutes, but tonight I felt twinges in my knees. I know from experience that the elliptical does that to me, as do step classes. Is there nothing safe?! I don't have knee problems!

It's so unfair, so many common injuries from long-term running I never even got to, because of whatever's wrong with my ankle tendons. The same physical characteristics that hampered me as a dancer make me a perfect runner (my first ballet teacher described me as "tightly knit," a nice way of saying "dream on, honey") -- except for this overuse injury. And, as much as everyone likes to remind me that I'm getting on in years (something I alternately deny and acknowledge as it's convenient), overuse injuries are most common in younger athletes who don't have other impediments to their athletic endeavors, such as long-term injuries yet; lack of time, lack of energy, or lack of childcare. In other words, this ankle problem is in addition to all the other problems related to getting older.

Work has its interesting moments but overall isn't exciting. My usual outlet of exercise is frustrating because it's not enough -- I want to run. Remodeling is in one of those annoying tension-producing phases, something to be expected, but depressing nonetheless. I don't know what to change, and just have to chalk this up to one of those lulls in life.

I did do one thing today I'm really happy about, but you'll find out about that tomorrow.

Meantime, and especially on a blue day, my children are a continuing source of grounding and reminders of the cheerful, energetic, optimistic sides of life. It could easily go the other way, especially if Gabriel gets into a snit, but both boys were very sweet tonight. I especially enjoyed picking Julian up today, he was having so much fun playing outside with some friends, and was full of boisterous joy. I don't say that often about him! It makes me like Kids Inc a lot -- it's not an impressive place to visit, but Julian is thriving and happy.

Katrina spent the afternoon at Tonya's today. More and more she's getting to the point where she needs peers. At 16 months old, she too is thriving with the personal attention and care Melissa showers on her, but I think it will be time for a change come summer.

In fact, I'm thinking July will be a good month to make lots of changes -- take a month off work, pull all 3 out of daycare, take a trip back East, do some daytrips and fun things with the kids, and maybe put the boys in one or two weeklong daycamps for some variety. Julian so loved the Y daycamps last year.

(Maybe a music daycamp for Gabriel. He keeps showing surprising interest in music, like today latching on to a Santana instrumental on the radio, and wanting to know all about how "kitars" make notes. Tonight he said wanted to make up his own songs and write them down, though he couldn't think of one at the moment. Piano lessons, next Parks & Rec session!)

Then in August, it all picks back up again. I may have to decide to go back to Covad as a part-time employee, rather than a contractor (or not at all). Katrina will be pushing 2, opening up more childcare options, and changing her needs to be in a (small) group setting. And in August, Gabriel starts FIRST GRADE!! OH MY ***G-O-D**** !!!!!! (yes, I'm actually screaming).

Katrina had a grand time tonight with a simple thing: a basket of fruit leather. She loves taking groups of like objects and putting them in and out of containers. Julian earned himself a fruit-leather dessert (that boy can eat!), and Katrina caught sight of the basket and that was it. As is always the case with her, her intensity of fun playing with it was matched by the intensity of her protest when it was time to put it away to go up to bed. My little pistol.

OK, I feel better now, at your expense, dear reader. More good tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2/26/08 The sweet boys

While Julian was having some post-dinner cookies tonight, he reached out his hand as I walked by, and took my hand. "What are you doing?" I asked him. "Nothing," he answered, "I just wanted to hold your hand...because I love you." Then he pulled me to him and gave me a smushy kiss on the cheek with his exquisite lips.

That was even more gratifying than the boys doing their pre-dinner chores without a struggle!

Tonight should have been horrible. I was woken up last night by stomach cramps, and felt awful and tired all day. I picked everyone up late, and hit all kinds of traffic, and got their dinner started late. Tonight is a pre-cleaners night, so, lots of work to straighten up for tomorrow, lots of bugging kids to put toys away. And, Dave went out to Tuesday Dinner, so I got to do everything by myself.

But despite the odds stacked against me, there were no showdowns, no tears, no fights -- much nudging to get putzy boys to clean up toys -- but lots of fun time spent talking, looking at things together, playing music and talking about the song in Spanish, watching Katrina "dance" (sort of a bopping up and down, not in the least rhythmic but full of joy), and just good clean fun together. I'm exhausted, I'd have liked some downtime, but I feel good and happy about the evening and some really nice time with my children (including the fun post-bath chase of a naked giggling Katrina).

And my cheek is still glowing from that wonderful kiss!


Monday, February 25, 2008

2/25/08 Check Engine

I'm not a huge fan of the show Home Improvement, but I do remember a funny scene in which Jill (the wife) casually mentioned a lighty thing on her car's dashboard. Her car-geek husband Tim cringed and asked what it was, and she said Oh I don't know, the oil light or something? He was mortified and said WHAT?! How long has it been on? Oh I don't knew, a few days? she answered. He buckled over like he'd been kneed in the nuts, groaning about women and cars.

I determined at that point I wasn't going to be like that. This morning driving to work, a "Check Engine" light came on, so I called Dave right away. If nothing else, I wanted to document the event, as I'm likely to forget anything these days (poor Katrina had no shoes today, for instancE). Dave said it could be any number of things (even a loose gas cap), he'd check it at home.

But I didn't have to worry. It took Gabriel all of 2 minutes to notice it, from the back seat: "Mom, why is there a light that says Check Engine?" I have to tread lightly in these situations, as Gabriel takes car trouble as seriously as his father. It's frightening sometimes to see how similar they are, right down to their skinny flat square rear ends.

Dave was probably smarter as a kid though. Gabriel got into serious trouble tonight, all escalating from not doing his pre-dinner chores. Each step of the way is another warning, another consequence, another carrying-through, then him reacting, leading to another warning, another's exhausting. It went from losing cookies (I put his plate of cookies in front of him and took away one at a time for each rude obnoxious statement) to getting kicked out of the dining room, not leaving, being warned he'd have to go upstairs, still refusing, being warned he'd get dragged upstairs and spend the rest of the night there, refusing, warned he'd get dragged upstairs for the rest of the night and spanked, refusing, then that Dad would do it and do it much worse than I would, still refusing. I don't need to add that his refusals weren't silent, they were usually accompanied with obnoxious rude talk and threats that would make a sailor's blood run cold. I was feeding Katrina (quite successfully, she hasn't been eating well lately and was on a roll with a bowl of broccoli) and couldn't leave her long enough to implement.

Finally I was able to carry it out the physical parts of the consequences and dragged Gabriel upstairs. You'd think he'd back down then? No, of course not! He knew he had nothing to lose at that point, so on the way upstairs he shouted, "I'm going to PUNCH you, Mom!" And to think, I was horrified hearing Hillary's 6-year-old daughter retort that she'd take her mother's jewelry! Once again, I felt caught between spanking him at all, and not doing it soon enough -- and, the risk that he'd continue to escalate and then I'd really have no recourse. But this time, the smack did the job, and he finally, finally backed down. That still wasn't it for the night, he gathered himself for a few more skirmishes, but he was also sad about being upstairs alone.

I used those moments as opportunities to sit and talk to him quietly about making choices (tempting as it was to say "Well, SEEE?? it's your own damn fault!!"). I have to keep it simple, so I ask him why he was sent upstairs ("for being rude") and then ask him who's crying now ("me"). I doubt even this basic statement of facts sinks in. Thank goodness they don't happen very often anymore, but he can tap his deep reserves of conflict tolerance at any time. The backbone on that's downright unnerving.

Too bad he didn't realize that Julian got to go with Dad to the auto parts store to get antifreeze for my car, and help Dad "fix" my car -- now THAT would have sunk in! Nothing is nearer and dearer to their hearts than "helping" Dad fix a car!

Meantime, this unusual dispersion of boys meant I had some peaceful playtime with Katrina. I love sitting on the floor and playing her favorite game, in which she "hides" behind me and laughs when I can't find her. (Warning: grandparent-quality video here, but it's short):

Fortunately, Dave and the boys will keep a close eye on the antifreeze level in my car. That's serious business in the Doudna household.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

2/24/08 The easy weekend

Yesterday, I went scrapbooking with my Mom friends, which happened to coincide with Dave taking Gabriel back to Stanford to participate as a subject in language study. A perfectly reasonable thing to do with the other two in tow anyway.

Except that my car had a flat tire! "My" car being the only one set up to take all three. Now what?

Well, we discovered in a pinch that we *can* fit all three in the back of Dave's car, provided Gabriel doesn't use a booster seat. He wasn't too happy about sitting on towels, but felt better once I noodged Katrina's seat over a little.

Good thing he's so skinny!

Luckily the tire could be repaired and my car is back in commission.

Thanks in large part to a sleepover Saturday night, we somehow had a fairly relaxed weekend. After making breakfast this morning, I took all three to the Y, where an afternoon disaster almost occurred: Katrina fell asleep at the Y's childwatch. But, she was still tired later and took a nice solid nap. I spent some nice downtime with the boys, helping them with things they were working on, talking to them about their various discoveries and projects. My goodness, life is easier when the youngest child around is 4!

We usually pay dearly the day after a sleepover, with tired grouchy children. Not so much this time, though Julian did take an impromptu nap with his head on a Music Together CD case. Katrina was tired today too, but that also meant a long nap and only a few of those frustrating "aggh!' moments when a toddler is impossible to please.

Toddler? It's almost official, I think. I didn't see her crawl today, though she did as recently as Friday. Certainly in terms of behavior -- and cuteness -- she's all toddler now!

School's in tomorrow...back to the mad scramble!