Saturday, May 10, 2008

5/10/08 The Off-Site

Dave put an "offsite" meeting down on our Google calendar, meaning, our trio was going offsite for the day. Melissa watched the three most of the day, so that Dave and I could make serious headway on looking for a place to move, and organizing remodeling tasks.

We saw 4 places today, two actually with the kids. The biggest problem we're going to have is the rental terms: we need a place for about 8 months, but quite understandably, most landlords want a 1-year lease. Two of the places we saw were out of the question, one was swarmed with renters happy to sign a one-year lease, and one was a definite possibility except that it's small, a 3BR, without any extra rooms at all for things like computers or pianos. But its terms are a 3-month lease, so we might consider it.

I made good headway on a room-by-room list of everything needed, and we also went to a plumbing supply store, where I undid a kitchen faucet and kitchen sink decision, but finalized a bathroom faucet decision. One step forward, two steps backward. This is going to kill me. I'm learning not to care about most things, but so much of my day is shared with a kitchen faucet, it has to work right. Looking nice would be good too.

The boy later said they didn't like looking at houses, perhaps because they actually followed my strict orders to behave, not run, not touch anything. I was happy -- even proud -- to see how diligently Gabriel watched Katrina, holding her hand and keeping track of her, while Dave and I looked around.

At home, the kids resumed exactly what they'd been doing at Melissa's: playing out back with bicycles, tricycles, trucks and push-mowers. Katrina laughed aloud pushing around our pop-mower.

I'd have been more productive today without this ongoing headache, but at least it's back down to a 3 out of 10 again. I just don't have time for a migraine right now!


Friday, May 09, 2008

5/9/08 addendum -- the fit

Melissa caught this shot today, Katrina comforting herself with her Mimi (the satin blanket, really a pillow cover from BB&B), after throwing a tantrum.

I forget the details, but it involved jealousy over the other baby Melissa cares for, who is certainly a baby to be jealous of. I'm jealous. This 7-month-old is the smiliest, bounciest, happiest, most adorable thing I've ever seen. But Katrina knows this baby upstages her, and she acts possessive, jealous and sometimes almost aggressive. And then throws a tantrum when she doesn't get her way.

Thank goodness for Mimi to help get her out of it!


Holy Demolition, Batman!

It's official. We're remodeling. It's happening. Yay!! AGGH! Yayy!! AGGH! Yayy!

Today was among the most eventful days in our entire homeowning experience.

Dave accompanied our architect to the city to submit plans for permits. Barring any comments or requested changes, we should get the permits in 21 days -- May 30th.

And, I delivered a signed contract and a $1000 deposit check to our new contractor. We have a contractor!!

This is for real, folks! I'm no longer wandering aimlessly, wondering when I'd walk down a new road....I'm now barrelling off the edge of a cliff!

Our contractor said June is a good time to start -- July isn't ideal for him or for us, and August is really pushing it. So, OK, June.


Today is May 9th. Do the math! Then resuscitate me! This means we need to move out now!

Our trio is going to Melissa's tomorrow so that Dave and I can spend major quality time reviewing everything we need to do, room by room -- windows, staircase banisters, flooring, bathroom vanities, flooring, doorknobs, doors, everything.

And, of course, we're kicking into high gear looking for a place to move to, with lots of craigslist perusals and inquiries. There are no shortage of houses to rent, but a real shortage of ones with less than one-year leases. An apartment, which is more likely to have a 6-month lease, is out of the question.

I have absolutely no idea where time is going to come from this month. Between "finish selection" (picking everything that's going into the house), finding a house, moving, and oh yeah, going about the business of working, managing a household and raising three children, there just aren't enough minutes in an hour.

It sure would help if I could kick this migraine. Today was one of the worst yet. I'm losing track 11? Day 12? It kept me awake last night, and was absolutely brutal today, leaving me with seriously diminished capacity to kick into gear and gain any momentum on organizing our lives. So much to do, I can't get a handle on it all and prioritize, strategize, delegate!

In a major twist of irony, one of the few things I was able to do today was work, because that's a very limited scope and doesn't challenge the parts of my brain that can't think straight. But it hurt being indoors. I almost felt like I should post Dave's cell phone number in my cube in case I got slammed with a block of concrete (that's how it feels sometimes).

I'm feeling some impending separation anxiety -- on my part -- because we're going to be very busy and I'm going to miss my little buggers. So instead of testing out a kitchen faucet this afternoon, I picked Gabriel up from school. His poor teacher looked frazzled and exhausted. She said the kids have some form of kindergarten senioritis, misbehaving and not listening and being rambunctious. Gabriel was again a top troublemaker, but she didn't get specific. My little boy, so full of life and energy and strength, bursting with health and joy, running to me with a huge smile, arms outstretched, shouting, "MOMMY!!!" could he be so much trouble? (ergh....)

After picking Gabriel up, we drove around the neighborhood a little, looking for "For Rent" signs. There were lots of them around a few months ago, but none now. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought it'd be fun to do together. He says he can't wait to find a new house. I hope he understands we're moving back to this one. I hope I understand that as we enter this surreal stage of our lives!


Thursday, May 08, 2008

5/8/08 Control

I really, really, really wanted to swim tonight, to clear my mind and try to equalize the relentless, vicious, horrible pressure and pain that just won't let up on my head. But the swim center's pool was closed for cleaning, and the Y's lap swim wasn't open yet. I went home, swimless, and frustrated, and went into the kitchen to dejectedly resume the nightly chores.

Dave was upstairs putting Julian and Katrina to bed, and Gabriel was downstairs playing with Legos. He saw me and asked, "Mom, remember when we used to build train tracks together?" I told him Mm-hmm, though it was a long time ago, then he said, "Can we do that together again?" Taken aback, I told him that'd be so fun, but we didn't have time tonight, let's make a date for tomorrow night. He said OK, then asked me what I was doing. I said I was just cleaning up and making lunches. "Can I help you?"

He was so sweet, so sincere -- where did this come from? He talks to me all the time about his Legos and piano and chess, but this reaching-out was different. I wasn't just someone to bounce his spinning imagination off of, it seemed like he really wanted to be with me.

So I had him make his own sandwich for tomorrow's lunch. I didn't touch anything. I told him where to get everything, gave him lots of guidance on spreading cold peanut butter (difficult for anyone!), where to find the bag to put the sandwich in, put lids back on jars, put jars away, put knife and plate in the dishwasher....lemme tell you, you need virtual handcuffs to keep your hands off when your six-year-old has a knife full of jelly, his head turned and not paying attention! But I exerted tremendous control in not being controlling, and he did the whole thing himself.

His conclusion from the experience? "I don't want to make my own sandwiches anymore." Yeah, it's a lot of work, huh! Mission accomplished! We had a laugh together at Dave's expense that now Gabriel knows as much about making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich as Dad. (I'm sorry to say that's almost true.)

No tantrums from Katrina today. And Julian's healing kiss on my forehead was the best medicine possible. Kids are good.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

5/7/08 The stroller

Melissa had stepped out when I arrived unexpectedly early this morning to drop off I had a few minutes to play with her outside. Of course, she would have nothing to do with me when she found this stroller to push around.

We get bid #2 tomorrow! This remodel might actually happen. My mom asked if I'd talked to the boys much about moving out yet, and asked if they might be scared or upset by it. That hadn't even occurred to me, but then, I'm not known for my accurate predictions.

So I brought it up with Gabriel tonight, and told him we will have to look for another house to live in for a while, while the "carpenters" fix our house. "Oh cool!" he said, "let's look now!" Julian said he wants to paint our house "rainbow." Yeah, somehow I didn't think they'd be scared!

Tonight I was play-chasing a naked and giggly Katrina before taking her up for a bath, when suddenly it felt like I'd stepped in a bowl of Jello and my footing was squishy. No, it's not what you think -- I inspected my shoe and found nothing. As I stood upright, again it felt like I was on Jello footing, then it felt like I'd suddenly been shifted sideways by a few inches. As I caught my balance, I realized that this was just another migraine moment. This is the sort of weird altered perception that happens all the time with a headache -- this particular incident was different only in that it was distinct enough to describe. Day 9 of a 3-out-of-10 headache.

This is no time not to be able to think straight -- or else our house just might end up being rainbow!


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

5/6/08 The Variety

It won't stop. It's going to literally weigh on me for the rest of my life (ok, not literally, but it does feel like a 35-pound disk has been parked inside my brain). At this point the worst part is the relentlessly disturbed sleep. That's even worse than catching a glance at my new enemy, the mirror, and seeing a puffy-faced, strung-out, wasted former human being.

The price for a gallon of 87-octane regular gas at the most convenient gas station on the way home from work today was $4.22 a gallon.

This was no time to get depressed about money. I was on my way home to meet the first contractor to give us a bid.

Gas prices are not only high, but they seem to vary a lot now too. The station closest to home was selling gas for the much more "reasonable" $3.85 a gallon today. Things are looking up.

But I was in no shape to meet with a contractor. Our lives were about to be permanently altered (disruption, debt, distress), and here I was barely to put sentences together.

And indeed, my life was permanently altered. The contractor we greatly favor came in with a perfectly reasonable bid. I am beside myself. We're going through the formality of getting a second bid Thursday, but unless the second guy offers to do it for free, we're set on the meticulousness, thoroughness, professionalism and fabulous communication skills of the contractor we met with today.

Dave picked up our trio while I summoned every scrap of willpower -- nay, will to live -- I had left, and forced myself go running. I made the right call; it wasn't long before endorphins kicked in and the headache was momentarily on pause. Oh my, how I've missed running -- the immersion in nature, the rhythm of the movement, the clear thinking, the pure effort, the reunion with my soul. Energy and optimism and joy surged inside me, and I topped it off with a full-on all-out haul-ass sprint at the end, pushing so hard I felt like I was flying. There's just nothing better....though, finding a good contractor you really like is pretty darned close.

The pressure and strange feelings picked right back up when I got home, but I was too happy to see my dear children, without the drudgery of the hour-long pickups first. One dear child was the picture of sweetness and cooperation -- and yogurt. Katrina's insistence on feeding herself doesn't mix well with her refusal to wear bibs, but, I can live with this. Especially since: no tantrums today! Yay!

Maybe it's because she re-discovered this push-wagon. It keeps getting banished because her brothers wreak havoc with it, then she sees it semi-hidden and demands it and is thrilled to have it back. Since the last time she had it, she's grown enough that now she can reach the ground!

Somehow, her scraped nose from Sunday looks worse every day!

No tantrums, a good contractor, a local gas station with a "low" all I need is a headache-free day.


Monday, May 05, 2008

5/5/08 The Kat-walk

I had some perspective on my dear girl today, writing in email to a friend (slightly modified): "I have a healthy, energetic, normal toddler: adaptable, fabulous attention span; no eating, sleeping, car or separation issues; no issues away from home or with other people; no hitting, kicking or biting problems; overall cooperates, likes to please, interacts and usually plays like a charming little angel...near perfection. So what am I complaining about?"

I was reminded when struck with the double-whammy this evening of having to bring her in from outdoors and change a stinky. Naturally, this egregious offense on my part resulted in a major tantrum, no doubt made worse by the need for dinner. But I was in no mood to scrape food off the walls, and Katrina made it quite clear that's where it was going the moment I sat her down in her high chair. I took her out, and she re-assumed yesterday's posture on the ground, on her back kicking and crying, pretty much in the middle of the kitchen.

Great. Fine. Again. It figures. Brace myself. Deep breath. Batten down the hatches. Here we go.

I had nothing to lose by giving the cool-down idea another shot. Without a word, I unceremoniously moved her to a corner of the family room, out of sight. She threw herself on the ground again.

And then you know what the little sneak did? Tantruming all the way, she pushed herself on her back with her feet, in a perverse cockroach-like catwalk, all the way back to her original spot, kicking and crying the whole way. If she was going to throw a tantrum, I was damn well going to see it!

So I moved her back to the corner, without a word or any reaction at all.

And again, she made her way back, on her back, kicking and screaming the whole way, to the same exact spot. She did this with some stealth, not in-your-face, as though her distress just happened to bring her back, and then just happened to keep her there. Funny, that.

The little stinker! This was just for show!

So I tried (again) not to be an audience. It's hard, because she was right in the middle of everything and made it hard to hold normal conversation with the boys. But then, right before dinner, "normal" conversation with the boys involves a lot of yelling anyway. I turned the radio WAY up, and sang to myself and danced around while I got the final parts of dinner ready. The boys were unusually cooperative, aware that they'd been upstaged. They sat down to dinner while the tantrum raged on.

I put a sippy-cup of milk and a bowl of broccoli on her chair, within reach, in case she really did get hungry. And whaddya know, the little rat actually did get up and grab her milk when she thought I wasn't looking, then lay right back down to resume the performance.

After I had the boys settled down to dinner, I was able to tackle Katrina. I know from experience that even the tantrumer gets tired of the tantrum after a while, but doesn't know how to get out of it, and welcomes a graceful exit.

So I quietly picked her up and sat her in the high chair in the dining room, where her brothers were making pig-sounds and bathroom talk (great), and quickly put myself out of sight. No eye contact, no talking. Zoom in with a bowl of food, a spoon, some hidden crossed fingers, a round of giggles from foul-mouthed little boys...and we were done. Whew.

No good photos today, just one crummy one. The boys like to run along some bushes and then back down a sidewalk on the way to the car, after Gabriel's piano lesson. Today Gabriel and a piano classmate stopped to laugh together too. I sure hope they don't do that during the class.

I love these moments with my boys; they're both filled with joy at their reunion and find fun in the simplest things together.

Unfortunately, we couldn't just go home. First, another pickup. Boy, am I looking forward to not having another 45 minutes of rush-hour driving afterward to get their normal, healthy, energetic, lively, adorable (ahem!) little sister.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

5/4/08 Tantrums

Do you believe in reincarnation? Well, here it is. Gabriel The Torrid Toddler has been reborn, in a female, strawberry-blonde version.

Katrina's tantrums are now a multi-daily thing. They're set off by the apparently smallest event, often related to a diaper change, and then last and last and last through numerous other events.

I'm trying to remember how to deal with tantrums in a toddler too young to weigh consequences, or to sit in timeout. Putting her somewhere so she can finish her fit sounds good in theory, but I'm realizing -- remembering -- why that doesn't work. It quickly turns into the tantrumer controlling the situation, sometimes deliberately. When she's in another room crying and screaming, I'm "on duty," paying full attention, listening for breaks in the storm, checking for opportunities to get her back on track. I still need to feed her, to go places, to do things -- we can't all be left on hold for as long as she decides.

Besides, on the surface, it sounds like you can just ignore it, but that's only true if it will end in a relatively short amount of time. First of all, you can't really ignore it. But even if you could -- for how long? Half an hour? An hour? At what point does it become neglect for a 19-month-old to be freaking out alone?

Katrina didn't get a nap today, and I took her to a birthday party outdoors in a park, knowing she'd be better off outside in a new distracting situation than at home. She did fine at a very nice party in a nice park outside, even recovering from a nice face-plant on the pavement, and had fun trying to climb up a nice slide.

I enjoyed being able to stand and talk and mostly relax while I watched her play. At first she checked in with me a lot, but later, she wandered off on her own, though her brothers were often in sight.

She fell asleep in the car on the way home, and I let her sleep in the car for almost an hour, frequently checking on her. I heard her when she woke up and she was not happy. This turned into another full-scale tantrum, more sad than angry, and without her usual energy, but no less persistent.

About 30 minutes into it, she had escalated to kicking while lying on the ground, mortally offended by the offer of her favorite food. I had no choice but to leave her alone while I got everyone's dinner together, which did nothing to lessen it (though she calmed down momentarily for the camera).

Dave got her out of a tantrum yesterday by showing her some favorite Sesame Street clips on his iPhone. This time, he asked the boys to show it to her, which they happily obliged.

It worked for the length of the video, but picked right up again afterward.

After everyone was sitting to dinner, I put my full attention to pulling her out of this. I sat and read "Five Pumpkins" at least 25 times, then moved on to a lift-the-flap farm book. It took 10-15 minutes, but finally, she calmed down for just brief enough moments that the reading would take hold, and finally, FINALLY she got interested in the book. After more reading, I was able to move her to my lap, read both books for now the 100th time. By then, Julian was done with dinner and was butting in, so I was able to transition her to sitting with him and reading. I didn't dare offer her dinner until another half hour later, when she was finally far enough away from The Fit to eat.

It's exhausting. I feel run over by a steamroller after these episodes. These are very, very long minutes -- about 60 of them tonight.

I thought I'd be good at this by now. I know better what to expect. But so what? I know that getting her out of these fits is a crazy patchwork of time, luck, timing, and persisting enough with the right distraction for that particular tantrum. And in the end, I still don't know if I could have gotten through it sooner, or prevented it somehow.

I do know, sitting here in the safety of the office, listening to her even breathing over the monitor, that she'll outgrow them. And I'm not as mystified or alone as I was with Gabriel, baffled why all the standard methods and experts and advice and magazine articles and nanny TV shows never came close to addressing the challenge. And I have Julian to remind me that I'm not completely defective. But that's little comfort during the first 99 readings.

Maybe I'm freaking out about this far more than necessary. It's only been a week or two of serious tantrums after all. Maybe they won't last for two years. Maybe she won't completely control us, send me into a depression, cast a dark shadow over the whole household, make me lie awake at night shaking with frustration about how difficult this toddler makes it to love him. Her, this time.

Or maybe it's just this ongoing, persistent, relentless migraine. It's not the worst I've ever had, but when it's not actively striking, it's a constant undertow. It seriously drains my emotional resources and resolve, at a time when I'm faced with the most stressful child-raising moments.

Experience also tells me that reconciliation is instant and easy. All it takes is quietly stealing into her room and watching her sleep, listening to her breathe, touching her soft hair, and seeing her look so peaceful and so secure and so vulnerable. Despite her fierce displays, she's really just a baby.