Saturday, April 19, 2008

4/19/08 The Find

Aunt Laura's here!!

Sleep foiled grand plans for a gruyere fritatta for breakfast, so we went to Bobbi's.

Katrina didn't object to the lower-brow fare. This was one of the few opportunities I had for a photo without her stuffing eggs, pancake, waffle, and bacon into her mouth.

We went back to this lovely nature preserve for another shot at the letterbox we missed last weekend. Thinking about it and talking to the resident expert letterboxer, I had a good idea what my mistake was and was determined to correct it.

This time, the place had been seriously weed-whacked and was much easier to traverse. Based on last week's experience, I brought the backpack instead of the stroller, unnecessary as it turned out, since Dad insisted on carrying Katrina when she didn't insist on walking.

So we set out on the newly shorn trail.

We mingled with wildlife (most of it was alive).

We made our way through forests and along creeks.

We pushed through jungles of tall grasses.

We surmounted obstacles.

We sailed along the clear parts.

Then, much more easily thanks to the reduction of flora, we navigated our way toward the letterbox, which Julian found, much to his delight.

An easy trip back and a quick check in with the local blacksmith (really a replica that's about to be torn down -- not up to code!).

Once back at home, Katrina was out for the count. After sharing a yummy un-foodie lunch with my foodie sister-in-law (Dave went out for a burger), it was time to decorate cookies. The Plan had been to do this with the boys, but they were having too much fun playing with Aunt Laura and talking to Uncle Ryan on the phone. So I got started myself.

Gabriel and Laura joined us, and it came out during this activity that Laura has never decorated cookies!! What a waste of talent! But what a huge opportunity for me! I will take it on as a personal mission to correct this egregious injustice.

We made an appearance at a luau party, so I could say goodbye to the hostess, a 2004/2006 Mom friend who's moving down South. What a day for a luau -- this weekend is as unseasonably bitingly cold as last weekend was balmy warm. We left when it was time to feed children more easily than can be done at a grownup outdoor freezing buffet (though the food looked great).

It was too late to cook, so we bailed and went straight to our favorite Japanese restaurant, where Katrina had her favorite fried rice. She's doing so, so well with a spoon that I have to think back to the last time she let me just feed her. I still have to help her a lot, but we're well on our way toward feeding independence. She even tried my chopsticks.

(I remember discovering that my sister dared to put a bowl of cereal with milk in front of my 23-month-old nephew, and had been for some time. I wouldn't have dreamed of doing that with Gabriel then! Much of that was due to his inclination to throw food, but also his spoon-handling skills were poor, and also I was inexperienced (and tired of wiping milk off the walls). Julian I let have a milk bowl much younger, and Katrina, I've been doing that with for some time. Actually, cold cereal and milk is among the easier things for them to handle -- but no fun if you have a thrower, or if their spoon-handling skills aren't there yet. I'm glad Katrina doesn't take after older brother on this one.)

Since we went to the restaurant impulsively, I braced myself to make do without any toddler accoutrements from home....except one: the sippy-cup of milk. We stopped at home just long enough for me to grab one, but that was all. I didn't even think to grab a bib -- no matter, since Katrina was covered head-to-toe front-and-back in rice by the end anyway.

Maybe tomorrow I'll make a big breakfast....or not. Visits don't get more relaxed than those from our SoCal family!


Friday, April 18, 2008

4/18/08 Recess Day

I took the day off today from work, for a Very Important Date -- a playdate! Gabriel and I joined the Las Madres 2004 group for a park day, since this was the last day of his spring recess. It was really nice just hanging around outside -- being outside -- chatting with friends, watching Gabriel play on swings and in the sandbox. When he was a baby, these park playdates were a lifeline! It almost felt like one today too.

A very energetic and kind Dad spun kids on the tire swing tirelessly (no pun, really!). But not as tirelessly as Gina, who was on that swing for well over an hour, and who never got scared and cried out "stop!" as Gabriel did. Mean Mom Me, I hate standing at swings and pushing, so with some help from an energetic and kind grandma, Gabriel got pumping on a swing himself.

Katrina took her nap today with the big kids, on a mat on the floor! She did pretty well for a new experience like this. I'm glad, because when we move out for remodelling, I'm thinking that's when the crib goes. And when Julian gets a real bed and Katrina inherits Julian's tiny toddler bed.

Also, when we travel back East in July, I sure as heck won't be lugging a pack'n'play around, so it'll be good if she's already used to a mat on the floor. She's pretty -- dary I say this about her? -- agreeable about changes like this. As long as she has her Mimi!

Gabriel and I went to Whole Foods after the park, then after we got home and I unpacked groceries and had a long-overdue lunch, I lay down (I take every chance to rest my back) while he played happily with Legos, singing to himself. I felt so nice having so much downtime with him; interestingly, it seemed like far higher-quality downtime for me than if I'd been alone. I guess because I was really making good use of my day off from work today, just by being with and enjoying my firstborn son.

It turns out that Julian's school has a 4-day-a-week option. I'm starting to seriously consider it for Katrina too. The appeal of having them in the same place, and such a close same place, is very high. But even though I always get a slight "ew" feeling whenever I walk in and see the place, there are many things about it that mitigate my misgivings about daycare centers. It's small. There aren't a lot of kids. There isn't much turnover of caretakers -- some of them there remember Gabriel. The outside play area is ample and shaded, and the kids seem happy entertained, and well-cared for.

One of my problems with Gabriel's experience at a center (a much brighter cheerier one) when he was a baby was that I could never predict who would be taking care of him. The continuity of caretakers at any center can't match that of family daycare, but it's better at Julian's school than most. There's one lady in charge of the 18-month-olds (the youngest they take), and she's there every day, and all day, though of course she has help.

And, of course, it's close, inexpensive, available, they provide lunch, and Julian and Katrina would be together (though not in the same room) -- good for them, good for me. I'm rationalizing, of course; it will be very hard to get through toddlerhood without Tonya or Melissa.

But just the idea of having Katrina closer has put new spring in my step and made my whole work/commute situation seem much more manageable. I searched through the fog for a long time trying to figure out what had to change, and I'm almost certain now that the biggest problem is being too tired from getting up too early and trying to beat traffic. This whole past week, I've been deliberately getting up later (thanks to Katrina happily playing in the crib, or not waking up herself), spending time with her in the morning, and getting to work later. It makes an astounding difference in my attitude the whole day -- I'm so much more relaxed, I feel like a normal grownup, I'm more productive and in a better mood, and even look forward to getting home with everyone. Partly, Katrina has been easier to deal with when we get home, and the later sunlight goes a long way toward mood improvement. But mostly, I'm not hating life from being desperate for sleep all day long.

Aunt Laura's visiting this weekend -- I think I hear Dave's car pulling up now with our ultra-special arrivee! Yay!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

4/18/08 Where the trees are

Julian asked me today, on our way to his last skating lesson, "Do trees have addresses?"

Katrina had to share Melissa today with a crawling, pulling-to-stand baby girl who just turned 7 months old (wow!). Katrina's fine with the boys at Melissa's, but not the baby. Not only was she crawling again, but when the baby pulled up to a stand on Melissa's leg, Katrina took the baby's hand off Melissa's leg and said "Mine!" What a brat -- I'm sure glad she's my youngest!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

4/16/08 The Morning

Dave had an 8am meeting this morning, so whisked the boys to school early...which left me and Katrina behind to sleep peacefully! At 8:05am, I figured I really had to get up. Ahh. I got ready, then woke Katrina out of a sound sleep at 8:20pm.

At that hour, I wouldn't dream of taking her to daycare in PJs and without breakfast, so I dressed her and took her through the usual rounds of offer, reject, offer, reject. A few bites of banana, a few bites of Joe's O's; then oatmeal was the ticket.

I caught the most interesting little mannerism: she'd scoop a spoonful of oatmeal, then gently tap the spoon on the edge of the bowl, then put it in her mouth. I guessed she was imitating a grownup wiping the bottom of the spoon on the bowl, which Melissa later confirmed. You can see it in the first second of this video.

She's getting pretty good with a spoon!

Then it turned out that we'd blown Wheels Day at the CDC -- horrors! So I brought Gabriel his bicycle and helmet to the CDC, took Katrina to Melissa's, and arrived at work at 9:30am.

How civilized. I wasn't drop-dead dragging wasted all day, I was far more alert and productive and in a good mood and looking forward to picking everyone up. What a difference, sleeping until 8am. And I didn't go to sleep the night before until 1am!!! It's no different than it has been for years for me: I can do fine on less than 8 hours of sleep, as long as that sleep comes when I need it, and I don't have to get up too early in the morning.

But perhaps the most important factor is that I had some nice time alone with my youngest child, alone, and when she was in a great mood. That makes it.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

4/15/08 The Tantrum

I picked Katrina up from Melissa's a little early today, and since Dave was picking up the boys, I was looking forward to a little quiet time at home with just Katrina before the onslaught.


She was having a great time in the backyard, having recovered from a loss of a tricycle. She tipped over on this one twice, then Melissa put it away and Katrina had a major fit. She got over it with the little push-wagon, which she would not be parted with when I took her home. She was seriously PO'd about being put in the car, and fussed much of the way home. Then, just as she was getting used to being in the car (which usually she's fine about), we got home and I had to take her out of the car.

OH! WELL!! EX>>CUSE<< ME!! The calamity! The disaster! The pestilence!

She threw a full-on tantrum once inside. Nothing would console her. Not her sippy-cup of milk, not Life cereal on her tray, not going back outside to be reunited with her tricycles. Every time I approached her, she'd get madder.

Not knowing what else to do, I took some video.

This actually calmed her down, though she clearly didn't want to be recorded (how does she know?!) and even made some baby-threatening moves toward me. This is about 10 minutes into the fit after we got home (though arguably it was a continuation of the fit that started when I took her from Melissa's):

I tried giving her a choice favorite of Life cereal. This just offended her more.

(Again she calms down when the camera comes out -- what you see is calm.)

I finally gave up and set her in the family room, asking myself, "at what age do timeouts start again?" Not knowing what else to do, I figured she just needed to freak out a while longer, and anxiously left her to flail on the family room rug while I checked email.

"She's got to get tired of this after a while," I told myself.

Nope. After another 10 minutes, I got tired of it and started reading a book. She paused when an interesting flap got turned in the book, and I threw in some counting of items in the book. More silence, more attention. I counted six moons, and as I was about to turn the page, I heard "...sehben..." Seven! OK, I have an inroad now. More reading, more waiting, then I was able to put her on my lap. A hug was out of the question, though I sure could have used one!

Finally the storm was over. Then she bopped around happily on her own for about 45 minutes before I sat her down for dinner. During that time, I played a silly-sounds game with her, and she was all giggles.

Tantrums seem to last a lot longer than they actually do, but between knowing what time we got home (4:20), the timestamps on the videos (4:42), and fretting that it was after 5pm and I needed to start dinner, I know that the full-on flipping-out part of this tantrum lasted well over half an hour, and wasn't fully over for an hour.

Oh brother, shades of Gabriel! These toddler highs and lows really put me on edge. Thank goodness that was over, I was done with conflict for the day. Or so I thought.

I called the boys inside for dinner, and Julian came in first to go to the bathroom and wash his hands. But Julian apparently had done something that angered Gabriel, and Gabriel came in looking for blood. He stalked into the bathroom, I heard some sort of impact sound, then a shriek of pain and surprise from Julian. Most of the time, Julian has a hand in the conflict, but this was a flagrant unprovoked offense. I was infuriated, rushed over and swatted Gabriel's rear end and sent him upstairs. ("Oh god it's no wonder where he gets that..." I thought with alarm, "I'll think about that later.)

As usual, it didn't end there. Dave went up to talk to him, and when Dave came back, Gabriel was in his room hollering his head off. Apparently, as Dave left, Gabriel raised his hand to threaten Dave, and Dave hit his hand down. The screaming and crying continued as I served dinner and settled a now bubbly-sweet Katrina in with a bowl of rice and a spoon. How long would this go on?

"He's got to get tired of this after a while," Dave said.

Oh SH*T.

I'm still traumatized from Gabriel's toddlerhood, and any sign of it from Katrina panics me. To get it from The Master himself in the same day is too much!!!

Thankfully, some reason does exist in a 6-year-old. I went up to talk to him, and he resisted at first, but I said he'd be very sad upstairs crying in his room alone instead of coming downstairs, having dinner, and decorating cookies after dinner with me and Julian. Then, very unlike his sister, I hugged and rocked him and he cried on me for a while. Gabriel, for all his tough-cookie-ness, and bony body, is still the huggiest of all three.

I said to him that the secret about crying is that you cry because you feel bad, but it makes you feel better, and that crying is like a storm -- all windy and wet and scary -- but afterward, the clouds go away, the sun comes out, and everything is fresh and bright. He was as comforted by our moment alone as he was the actual words, and I held his hand as we walked downstairs for him to deliver his apologies, wondering how much longer in his life that my little boy would hold his mommy's hand.

Gabriel did apologize, sincerely and without petulance, but the amazing thing is that he was shaking and started to cry again afterward, and turned to me for more hugs. I don't think he really was sorry, but I think it was very, very hard for him to apologize, and he seemed to need my support. I was fascinated as I was touched, and encouraged for my long-term future with Katrina, even though the short-term has high potential to be rocky.

Now it was my turn.

Seriously PO'd myself about the enormous time and energy investment it takes to do our relatively straightforward taxes, then having to pay a fair amount to e-file, I threw my own little tantrum and MAILED PAPER to the government this year. If you're going to create a ton of work for me, then by golly, you can do your part too -- I'm not going to pay to make it easier for you! Then I flipped the bird at the mailbox. Hah, take that! I think I deserve a timeout -- in bed.


Monday, April 14, 2008

4/14/08 Musical Monday

Now this is the way to start the week. First, I got to sleep until 7:20, then snooze until 8am -- and for once, I wasn't tired all day. Then I had some nice time alone with Katrina in the morning, then to music class, always a highlight for me.

Well, usually a highlight for me, anyway. Katrina was animated and playful, but punchy -- at any moment her energy could tip negative if things didn't go her way. She sure is klutzy though, tripping and hitting her face on my shoulderbone twice.

After arriving late at work, I left early to take Gabriel to his piano lesson. I might not mind this chauffer business after all! I watched the beginning of the class, but none of the other parents waited in the class, so I left too. I had about 35 minutes, so I went home and started dinner defrosting, picked up Julian, and returned in plenty of time to see the end of Gabriel's class.

One thing I noticed in piano class, in addition to other times, is that Gabriel is having trouble hearing again. He wouldn't say so when I asked, but Dave said this morning he said so. He has a slight cold, so his ears probably have fluid in them. If this keeps up, then I'll take him to the ear doctor again. Summer's coming up; I hope we don't have to deal with ear tubes.

Today Katrina had to share Melissa -- with two 3-year-old boys! Melissa said that during some outside playtime, one of the boys was on the new riding toy, and Katrina went over to him, stood in front, and then SCREAMED. I've seen this before too, where she makes a stand, and then goes red-faced and hands-shakey and darn near pops a vein with the force of her shriek. The poor boy handed it right over.

At home, she could not be persuaded to come inside, even though it was pretty cold and windy outside (what a change from yesterday!). She went from tricycle to truck to lawnmower, screeching in protest when I tried to take pictures. Well, exCUSE me!

Katrina and Julian have been playing together more and more, not yet as peers, but they entertain each other a lot and make up games together.

After Katrina's bath, she and Julian played this "my mimi" game, which I captured some of:

Normally I wouldn't condone throwing pillows at my baby's head, but this game was well established before I investigated all the giggling. Katrina didn't mind at all, and I'm quite sure she'd have said so if she did. ("Mimi" is her satin blankie that she sucks on to go to sleep.) I love how happy she is when she sees her brothers in the car, on the occasions they're with me when I pick her up.

Gabriel's having a grand time with the ukelele, when he's not banging around on the piano. Even though playing a note isn't nearly as straightforward as on a piano, he's working hard at playing familiar songs on it. I'm pretty sure I heard Mary Had a Little Lamb in two keys tonight.

Music is definitely the way to soften the blow of Monday.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

4/13/08 The Open House

I took Katrina to an open house this afternoon -- not for her, obviously, but to convince myself one last time that we're doing the right thing by not moving. This house was very unusual, with a huge lot right on a creek, with beautiful views and in a nice location. Also, I know the realtor, I met her at my first Las Madres playgroup, and she's expecting her third baby. She sells real estate with her mother, who I've met and like. So I also wanted to say hi.

But the house itself...I'm ready for an upgrade. Indeed, it'd be a step backward from what we have now, in terms of all the "finishes." Stuff I never even knew existed 8 years ago, but now, a vinyl bathroom floor or aluminum windows jump out at me. I didn't make any observations aloud while other potential buyers were milling around, instead extolling the fabulous virtues of this house.

Not that any of this bothered Katrina, once we were there. But first, man was she was !!Oh!!MAN!!P-O'd!! when I put her in the car, because I intercepted her on her way to the tricycles. WHAT a fit! But she likes new experiences, and liked it when I let her out of the backpack to chat with my friend. To my surprise she sat right down and got to work on the buckles.

After some time, it became remarkable to my friend and her mother that this young toddler was so focused, and I launched into my usual explanation that that's standard fare for Doudna babies.

But a new behavior emerged too: showing off. Katrina started getting really silly, walking around and making faces, putting her head on the floor, making eye contact and giggling, grabbing my hands and trying to lead me places or rolling on the floor and laughing. This while I was telling my friend that she doesn't fit the "easy" third child thing:
"Oh brother, can she ever put up a fuss..." teeheehehehee! "She doesn't recover from setbacks well..." blblbll-hah hah! "If something doesn't go her way, she can be awful...." WHEEE!!!! She wasn't supporting my case at all. "Yeah, too bad she's so unhappy," cracked my friend's mother as Katrina jumped out from behind my legs with a "boo!"

Julian sometimes amps it up around other people, but that's recent. Gabriel never did anything like that at all. This was the Katrina show, with her front and center, and us as the unwitting audience.

And when we got home, she was reunited with the driving force in her life.

During dinner, another first: Katrina played in the backyard by herself, and for a really really long time: "mowing" the lawn, pushing tricycles around with her feet, hiding in the playhouse, chasing "boOO?!" (birds). We could see her outside from the dining room, mostly, but still, this is a big step into kid-world for her, as playing outside all evening is SOP around here. Dave and I both dreaded bringing her inside, knowing it was going to be ugly (and it was).

It's supposed to cool down to normal April weather here, but I was thrilled with the unusually warm and summery weekend. Julian summed up summer's advantages: "Because then I can wear T-shirts and don't have to roll up my sleeves when I wash my hands!" Just my kind of thinking.