Saturday, May 03, 2008

5/3/08 Just you and me

This doesn't happen often, but the kids had another sleepover last night, two Fridays in a row. This meant that today would be limited by overtired children, so we made a point of not going anywhere.

But this had an odd side-effect: the boys played indoors on our computers all day! Usually counting screen-time isn't a factor in our lives, but if there someone monitoring our permissiveness, we'd have failed the test. Gabriel could not be wrested from the Mac chess again, despite his crummy endgame that results in frequent draws when he has 8 pieces left to his opponent's one.

Then Dave set him up to play chess against someone on the Internet! It was a close game until the very end when Gabriel's opponent disconnected before finishing the game. Probably for the same reason Gabriel would have also had to bail in a few minutes: Mom says time to go wash hands for dinner.

Dave picked up the bunch and minded them this morning while I went to a ballet class. He described Katrina as "bipolar," flipping out and staying angry for a long time after every diaper change. Other times, she was darling and delightful and full of energy. She was better after a nap, and after a snack, it was really time to get her and Gabriel out, even for a short trip, so I took first & last-born for a quick shopping.

Julian didn't need to get out as much as they did, and he wasn't interested anyway....until we were leaving. He was all sad about me not taking him, so I made it up to him by making chocolate-chip cookies with him, "just you and me."

Both boys really like it when we do things "just you and me," so I use the term carefully and only when I can fully commit to it (thankfully Dave said he could watch Katrina outside while he tackled our weed jungle).

I just got the spring 2008 edition of Fine Homebuilding's Great Kitchens. The cover kitchen is absolutely stunning, and bears some resemblance to what mine will look like. Operative word there is some, because mine will be lacking major elements of this beautiful cover kitchen: numerous windows with green views, tons of space, really unusual cabinets. But the white cabinets with some glass, the wood island with legs and seating for 4, some open shelves, the floors -- all reminiscent of what I hope mine will look like.

Of all the complaints I have about my current kitchen, one of my biggest complaints lately is that photos taken in it are horrible! Bad lighting, awful backgrounds, tight quarters...cookie-mixing photos are tough anyway, but anything will be an improvement. Then we'll do lots of "just you and me"...and lots of all of us.


Friday, May 02, 2008

5/2/08 No respect

Sunnyvale posted our house with a notice about our upcoming "addition to the second story addition," which is really funny because most of the remodel will be downstairs.

Apparently, the few square feet we're adding to the upstairs (again!), that will (barely) visible to only our two immmediate next-door neighbors, triggered some requirement to post the notice, as well as mail it to all our neighbors.

But Julian needs to learn some respect for authority. Or not -- that's how I feel too!


Thursday, May 01, 2008

5/1/08 Ms

Massive, monstrous, miserable, mortifying, mean....migraine.

Tonight injury was added to insult when I bent down to pick up some pasta stars from the kitchen floor, and the silverware drawer popped open. As I stood up, >>>bang<<< on my forehead -- the worst thing that can happen to a headacher. I crumpled in agony on the floor, crying out in pain. But then something remarkable happened.

Katrina, mid-fit herself about the horror of just having had her hands washed, stopped her fit, cocked her head and came right over to me, pushing my hands off my face. Intently fascinated and curious, and perhaps even a little concerned, she pushed me into a full sit on the floor and plopped herself on my lap, then pulled my hands around her waist, something she only ever does in the beginning of music class. She kept looking up at me, talking to me, watching me closely, not letting me change my focus off her and back to myself. She wasn't scared or upset by my distress, it was more like she was aggressively trying to stop it.

It reminded me strongly of how I reacted during a memorable moment in my life, when I was 13 and my parents sat us down and told us they were separating. My mother started to cry, something I'd pretty much never seen, and I went right over to comfort her. But even then I knew then I was really comforting myself, because my mother showing the slightest sign of humanity rocked my world -- she had to be my strong immovable pillar or I couldn't live. Katrina's response to my moment of weakness seemed very much the same -- not fear, not sympathy, but rather: "you can't be like this, this doesn't exist."

The boys' reaction to my stress is very different. Gabriel pretty much never notices or responds. Julian acts puzzled, he watches me with wide eyes and asks me what's wrong, but I can usually put on a happy face and distract him ("oh I just bonked my head...hey, where's your new car?"). I was totally unprepared for the strength of Katrina's reaction; she was almost forceful, and would not be put off. Fascinating, these children are.

[ Later addendum: Dave points out that since she was interrupted mid-tantrum by my unfortunate encounter with a drawer, her behavior toward me was more likely a way to re-direct attention back to her....that seems quite right! ]

I had some real highlights today: a run at Rancho, where it was just beautiful, and a nice outing with my Mom friends, some nice moments with the kids. But thanks to this vicious headache, it came out as a really tough day. But again, thanks to my willful toddler, the headache won't be the most memorable thing about the day.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4/30/08 Too safe?

I remember fire drills at school when I was a kid. Pretty exciting, actually, and a great way to get out of classes and hang out with friends.

How things have changed. An excerpt from a notice we got today from Gabriel's teacher preparing us for a drill his school will be conducting:

Here is what I need to tell them: We are just practicing, in case there was ever a bad person on our campus that wanted to hurt us. Once the drill begins, it will last 15 minutes. We will lock the door, block the door from the inside with desks etc., as well as build a barricade that we will hide behind. We will then sit very quietly and pretend that we are hiding.

The teacher is naturally very concerned that some of the kids will be scared, and asks us to talk to them and prepare them.

This is over the top. Conducting drills so they're prepared for emergencies, know how to line up, where to meet, how to respond if there's a fire or earthquake or some emergency, sure. But barricading themselves inside a room and hiding? I've never bought the cliche "you can never be too safe," and this is why. This is "too safe."

Katrina...oh my goodness. Schizo-baby! Melissa reported two massive tantrums today, and we had one more tonight as well. These tantrums take on a life of their own....triggered by some ordinary event (having to leave a favorite play area, a diaper change), then persisting through more events and new reasons to throw new fits. Not even Gabriel had tantrums to this extent at just 18 months old....with him they started around 19 months (though his hitting problem was well-established by now).

Then when it's over, she's the happiest, cheeriest, funniest most playful little thing imaginable, giggling and bursting with joyful energy and being absolutely adorable.

Imagine if Julian had been my first, and I thought that's how all toddlers acted -- I'd be in serious shock right now! Another mom friend recently commented that her 2-1/4-year-old boy had "just started" with tantrums, throwing himself on the floor, for instance. JUST STARTED!!

This brings me right back to when I was in the exact same life as other toddler-moms, yet still in a completely different world, exchanging experiences with the same words, but speaking a different language. I know, because I've been in two toddler-worlds now. One is called Julian-Toddler-World and one is called Gabriel-Katrina-Toddler-World. A "tantrum" in each world is the difference between a gentle breeze and a tornado.

Speaking of Gabriel tantrums...I was upstairs resting this evening (I'm on day 3 of a "functional migraine") when I heard Gabriel screaming and crying, apparently having been physically removed from his new chess obsession by Dave, who'd run out of patience and gentle ways to wrest him up for bathtime.

I intervened, without looking like I was, by taking over Gabriel and talking to him while he furiously described his father's crimes. He wanted to make just one more move because the pawn....ah-hah, I had an opening. I asked how many squares a pawn can move. "Well, of COURSE, just one!" I drummed up what little memory I had of chess pieces, and asked him how a knight moves and which can move diagonally and how you queen a pawn and how many bishops you have. His enthusiasm and excitement were infectious, and I kept it going until he'd gotten over his fury. Then as I persuaded him to get undressed, we talked about word games and how we'd play Boggle together (sucker).

After about 15 minutes of genuinely delightful conversation with my bright-eyed little boy, he cheerfully went to join Julian in the bath, storm having passed. And for me, a huge reward: I overheard him tell Dave, "I was just having the BEST talk with Mom about games!" Then he added, "...and we also talked about YOU!"

It was a good reminder that as they get older, reasoning ability helps manage the vice-like persistence. Gabriel is living proof of my tantrumy little toddler's future, just as she re-lives his past.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4/29/08 The Blowout

Last night, as I started my bath, I couldn't turn the water on. No matter how much I turned the knob, it just wouldn't move. What gives here? Finally I realized it: I was turning it the wrong way. Now what gives?! Am I losing my mind?

Turns out, yes. Because those tiny cognitive blackouts are a marker for an oncoming migraine. Momentary inability to recall my last name, to shift my car, to turn a knob in the right direction....all small sparks from the miswiring in my head that causes the scourge of migraine.

It hit hard today at work, made far worse by another incredibly useless painfully dull training session this afternoon, for a protocol I don't know, will never use, don't even know what the letters stand for, and on test equipment for which I didn't have the software on my computer anyway. I'm not sure which torture was worse: the headache or the boredom. Mostly, I web-surfed, horrified by this story about an Austrian man who incarcerated his daughter for 24 years and fathered 7 children by her.

I really looked forward to being home with my dear children, despite the daunting drive and pickups, made all the worse by the looming pain and pressure. Katrina was adorable playing outside at Melissa's....until I had to remove her from a dirtpile. OH MY. I had to carry her, kicking and flailing and screaming and deposit her unceremoniously into the car, where she fought hard not to get strapped in. Thank goodness she's really not very strong or coordinated.

Then she screamed and cried most of the way to get Gabriel. The screaming went right to my tortured nerve center, making me feel like I was going to have a seizure. I blasted the radio as loud as it would go, also painful, but not as bad. Usually that stops her screaming, but all it did this time was somewhat drown it out. The screaming didn't cease until I carried her in to get Gabriel. Thank goodness, finally a brea....

...hmm, why is my arm wet? And Katrina's back? And her bottom ....and.... Holy crap! It's ALL over my sweater, shirt, arm, hands; her shirt, sweatshirt, pants, outside the pants, EVERYTHING. WHAT a mess!!

I grabbed a paper towel to try to get the worst of it off, but this set off a full-on firestorm tantrum -- rolling on the floor, screaming, trying to crawl away, attracting the attention of the entire CDC. I didn't know what to do -- she was much too much of a mess to leave while I scrounged up what I'd need to change her. Besides, this would take a full box of wipes and a bath for both of us. Someone gave me a plastic bag, where I put my sweater. I put her sweatshirt around her waist to cover the worst of it, starting more fits afresh, then grabbed a long strip of paper towels, held them on her back, braced her against me in the tightest hold I could manage, and rushed out to the car with Gabriel trotting behind me to keep up.

I called Dave to ask him to get Julian, but couldn't hear him above the screaming, so I amended my question to an order: "GET JULIAN!" Katrina was going full-bore by now. She didn't let up through bringing her inside, trying to strip her as she flung herself on the floor, and trying to get her filthy diaper off as she kicked and flailed and screamed and twisted and grabbed my hands and did everything in her power to make this already difficult job impossible. GEEZ I was only trying to clean her up! A brief bath didn't calm her either; all she did was stand up and try to climb out and very nearly slip and bash her chin.

Clean, diapered and with a sippy-cup of milk, she still stood screaming and crying, almost convulsing, face covered in tears and snot, but this was the best opportunity I had to run upstairs and strip my own clothes right in front of the washing machine and get us both some clean clothes.

It didn't end there. Now prepared to give her tantrum my full attention, I did everything I could think of to break her out of it, but she was in full swing. Food, no. Reading, no. Music, no. Counting, no. Pretending to ignore her while I danced around, no. Leaving her alone for a few minutes, no. Food again, no. Sippy-cup, no. She was going on an hour now, riding on major momentum. Even if she wanted to, she didn't know how to get out of it.

Visions of Gabriel flashed through my throbbing head. I've done this before! I know how bad it is! But I know I can get through it too. Parental amnesia is strong, but I know this never happened with Julian. Unfortunately, parental amnesia isn't strong enough to forget the horror of these tantrums with Gabriel.

Finally, finally, finally, I tried once again to pick her up, and this time, she didn't take swings at me. I slowly and carefully offered her a bite of spaghetti, and slowly and carefully, she took it. Thank GOD! Another bite. And another. Sip of milk. Reaches for the spoon....finally, I could set her down in her chair. And so it passed. The sigh of relief from me could have knocked down a redwood.

Still shaking from the trauma and reeling from the intense headache, I called Dave and said -- not asked -- "take the boys out to dinner, I am NOT cooking tonight!"

This was a very, very long and painful hour. It'd be easier to handle it if she could just tell me ahead of time how long it'll take to pass, so I can look forward to the angelic fresh clear happy toddler that emerges afterward. Once the food kicked in, Katrina was charming and playful and adorable. Forgiveness comes easy.

(Katrina has some chub on her now, but she still has skinny ankles!)

I finally found out why Gabriel isn't drinking the milk boxes I pack him for lunch, after drinking them every day at first: "Because they're not the Clover ones, Mom!" Brand recognition, silly me, why didn't I guess that?!


Monday, April 28, 2008

4/28/08 The mornings

Katrina had a great time in music class today -- and no mini-meltdowns!

My days go so, so much better now that I've given up trying to beat traffic in the morning. Sleeping later helps, but really, the biggest factor is spending some time with Katrina in the morning. It's not all fun and games; she can be a pest with feeding, and I don't like getting banana splatters on my work clothes, or dealing with a stinky right before getting in the car. But it makes me feel so much more connected to what's really important in my life.

Katrina is "speaking" in full sentences. She looks right at you and utters a series of words, with lilts and pauses and intonations that sound just like real speech. Too bad they're not in English!! They're a complete mishmash jumble of sounds. But they seem to mean something to her.

Today she came in to find me and "said" some sort of sentence, looking at me intently, then looking to a different room. For the first time, she clearly was trying to tell me something, so I followed her into our guest room where she'd turned on the TV. Ah. Then she "explained" to me how she did it.

Julian helped me get Katrina to eat a whole bowl of pasta stars (shh, with broccoli bits) tonight. She rejected it outright at first, until Julian and I chanted together: "Spoon goes in the moooooouuuthh!!" and she'd giggle as she shoveled a huge spoonful of food in her mouth as we sang "mouuth!" She ate the whole bowl in about 5 minutes -- the difference between a paltry dinner and a nice big satisfying one. This left us with a charming adorable happy toddler for the rest of the evening. It's funny that I played that game with Julian when he was a toddler, and now he was helping me play it too.

Gabriel was too busy during all this with his new distraction: chess. Dave showed him the very basics on a Mac chess game, and now he plays it again and again and again and again and again and....well, this is Gabriel we're talking about. He's learning all about the game from the computer program and having great fun with it. Oh the modern age -- he'll be pretty surprised to find out that real chessboards with real pieces exist!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

4/27/08 Girls Day

Dave took the boys to Half Moon Bay today to Pacific Coast Dream Machines, a now-annual event for us. I was sort of anxious for the boys to leave this morning so I could have Katrina all to myself all day! Finally, they left at 11am.

We didn't do much, but it was a wonderful not-doing much. I made a mecca to Trader Joe's, apprehensive because of Katrina's furious fit about being wrestled away from the backyard (oh and the offense of a diaper change too). But she was delightful, turning a major shopping trip into a fun outing together: going "zoooom!" when I'd push the cart, singing and making adorable sounds, playing peek-a-boo with people stacked up behind us at the cash register.

She fell asleep on the way back from TJ's, soundly enough that she rested her head down (and it happened to land on me), and I was able to take a photo in the mirror. This is a rare event, I had to commemorate it!

After her nap, I took her on some errands, which again she lit up into fun time together, after she got over being mad about diaper changes and having to leave the backyard.

It was a beautiful day today, we were all glad to be in T-shirts. After brothers returned, all flush and full of energy from a fun trip seeing motorcycles and helicopters, she was happy to be reunited with them, and she spent every instant out back that she could, getting coated in dirt.

The boys had a great time. I wish I could have been there too, but I'll get a lot more out of these things when not dealing with a toddler.

Why can't weekends be three days?