Saturday, May 31, 2008

5/31/08 The Picnic

I brought the kids to the rental house today with a carload of things, including more basics to be able to spend some time there. Nothing like making an emergency sandwich to quickly discover what's needed -- dish soap, anyone?

It was almost noon when we arrived, and I thought Katrina was OK with a yogurt she'd had an hour earlier, but she started to act really grumpy. I made a half-sandwich, proud of myself for having everything except cleanup stuff, except...whoops! Where's she going to sit?

Picnic time! I sat her down in the only uncarpeted area in the house, and to my amazement, she actually sat there and ate the entire sandwich sitting on the floor.

She was very ready for a nap when we got home, and even sang out, "nahh-ime!" (naptime!) as I carried her upstairs. Lay her down, give her Mimi, and that's it.

I marvelled again at how in so many ways, she is a remarkably easy toddler. She's really adaptable -- eager, even -- to new situations, and it doesn't get any easier when it comes to going to sleep. It's not hard for me to get a lot done at the new house with her bopping around, she doesn't demand my attention at all, and is very happy to explore and play in her new domain. Brothers are an added bonus, but even without them, she'd play on her own quite happily. And it's much more fun for me to be there with the kids.

Yet I'd never say she has an easy personality; she's very very opinionated and vocal and inflexible about things she wants. But a toddler who is so cooperative about an unusual lunch situation, who naps so readily, plays happily while I zoom around sounds very easygoing!

I made some progress packing today, trying to focus on things that I don't want the movers to pack themselves. Top priority: my scrapbooking stuff! I took a picture of my craft area so I'd remember where I put things.

Most of that is in boxes now.

I tackled a job I really dreaded, which was going through our utility closet and packing or getting rid of things that have been stashed there for years. I hate it, but at some point in life, one must finally be forced to deal with things shoved deep into corners because you just didn't know what else to do with them. It's time to face the light fixtures the previous owners left behind, a box of doorstops, and old rolls of contact paper.

Dave and I looked more carefully at the comments from the city about our plans. There's a whole page from Public Works about "off-site improvements," including a crossed-out reference to an accessory building, but they didn't cross out the fee for over $1100. Then there's an encroachment permit fee of $250, and yet another "developmental impact fee," yet to be calculated. And we have absolutely no idea what this is about -- we aren't making any "off-site" improvements.

Most of the city's comments I can sort-of forgive; this is what the building department is for. But 6 weeks of previous delay for a "planning review" and neighbor-comments period, during which time nothing progressed, makes me a whole lot less forgiving about stuff they come up with now. These comments should have started coming in April, not now. They had so much time, there's no excuse for this hasty sloppy work, such as a huge new fee whose only explanation is hand-crossed-out.

In theory, I shouldn't worry about that now, and should focus on moving. But I'd feel a whole lot better about moving if we had that building permit in hand. The ball is rolling!


Friday, May 30, 2008

5/30/08 Stats

Katrina had her 18-month-old appointment today, once again, at 19 months old.

Weight: 24 lbs 9 oz (45%ile)
Height: 32-1/4" (55%ile)

Otherwise unremarkable...healthy, developing normally -- no news is good news!

I asked Gabriel this afternoon how his ears were today. His answer: "WHAAAT?"

Dave and our architect went to the city this afternoon just before the building department closed to get the comments on our plans. Thank goodness, they were ready. 3 departments have comments, again some that could easily have been given to us in previous interations. Many of the comments involve a lot of work to create (a full electrical plan for our master bedroom, for instance). Hard to say how long it'll take to update the plans.

And, they want a five new full sets of full-scale drawings -- even for the departments that have signed off, or have only a comment or two on a single page. Nope, ALL 25 pages, which are HUGE, at $50 a pop. Our architect asked if we could have the plans we already gave them back, and print only the pages that change, but nope, it's five full new sets of plans. Green, anyone?

We're drained, yet the struggle has only just started. And now, we have to turn our attention toward moving.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

5/29/08 BP up!

Today I drove by a sad sight: a cast-aside, neglected, forgotten sign, tossed on its side in a corner with dumpsters and stacked tires....past its useful life, obsolete. It was a gas station's price sign, with hooks to hang the cents of the gas prices, but the huge "3" for dollars was permanently printed on the sign....

I took Gabriel to the pediatrician this morning....slight ear infection in his left ear, not nearly enough to explain his sudden episodes of intense pain and crying. Gabriel really doesn't cry often anymore, so to see him wailing in pain is heartbreaking. (Julian wailing, on the other hand, does little more than make me roll my eyes!) I wasn't going to give him the antibiotic unless his ear pain got worse, and it did this afternoon. He had a very slight temperature again tonight (99.5) but I'm hoping the meds will make him comfortable enough to go to school tomorrow. He has to turn in his LAST homework of the year!

It's just as well I missed work today, because I got a lot done. How would I ever get all this taken care of if I were working? Two phone calls with USAA, two to the movers, two calls to an "abatement company" about asbestos removal (very irritating, a trace amount in sheetrock in one bathroom), a call and an email to the city building department, two calls to family daycares -- and that's between the pediatrician and a window-salesman meeting at 2pm. Whew!

The window meeting was with the architect and the window guy, and I'm SO glad we did this. Lots of tech talk about windows that I can't begin to follow. Lots and lots of big problems ("no, we only need ONE of those $800 windows"), medium problems ("whoops, that garden window has to be tempered glass"), and minor problems ("white hardware in the bathroom windows only") prevented.

The hardest problem, the living room window, turned into a pussycat. A beautiful one our architect designed:

Gabriel spent this meeting-time at Melissa's, which for once was in a convenient location -- about 5 minutes from the window place.

I caught this photo of Katrina with her hand on Gabriel's shoulder. She'd been standing looking over his shoulder at a video game he was playing, and they looked so familiar and comfortable together. Her continued touch as she moved away appeared inocuous, but was actually very intimate. Of course, she might just have been balancing on him -- she is pretty clumsy.

When I arrived, she was wearing someone else's shoes and talking on a toy phone. So much for the tomboy angle.

Katrina didn't take a nap today (very unusual for her), and Gabriel was out of sorts...this was the scene in the car as we pulled into the parking lot at Julian's daycare after a 20-minute drive.

When I got home, in my email was waiting another bombshell. Our architect did get a hold of the building manager at the city to ask again about "comments" on our plans. And they're major. Not only major, but some of them were things they could easily have told us weeks ago, if they'd bothered to actually look at our plans. Both the architect and our contractor agree that what they're requesting is far beyond the scope of usual comments. And 3 out of 5 departments still haven't even looked at our plans yet -- including Structural Engineering, and that's not a quick look-see sort of review. I'm fit to be tied!

The really irritating thing is that the comments are DUE tomorrow, but the guy told our architect that she could pick them up Monday morning. Think the city would accept our, say, taxes "due" on a Friday on a Monday? Suuure. So, we're going to the city first thing in the morning to tell them we are picking up the comments tomorrow at close-of-business, as due. Let them cram for the test.

This time, I'm NOT putzing the letter of complaint to the city, despite how topsy-turvy our lives will be -- but AFTER we get the permits!

Moving day set for June 5, packing boxes delivered tonight -- we're ON!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5/28/08 Going Postal

I can see the headline now: "Crazed woman strangles city planning commissioner -- cites permit delays."

The city isn't going to give us our permits Friday!!!!!

And you know why? NO! You know why you don't know?? 'Cause they won't tell us until Friday why they can't give us the permits on Friday! They can only tell us today that there are "comments" -- translation: no permits.

Dave got lucky that he caught the planning person managing our project, in fact, or we'd have known none of this. Five departments have to review our plans. Two have signed off, one has redlined with comments -- automatically costing us at least another two weeks -- and two more departments haven't even looked at them yet!!

And the comments from all departments are "due" Friday, but they don't say when on Friday. Our architect tried to pin the guy down too, but he just says "Friday." More pushing, the most he'd commit to was "afternoon."

These people are messing with my life!! This is my house, not a junior high school book report -- what's this cr*p about not even looking at the plans until almost the last day?! And more cr*p about any random time during the due date that they'll be ready?

They've had the plans since April 8, at which point it took them 3 weeks to decide that our neighbors deserved yet another 3 weeks to look at them, after which it's another 3 weeks before they come back and tell us that they have comments, starting off yet another 3 week wait.

It's infuriating. They're taking months to take over $8000 in permit fees from us. $8000!! I tend to expect a little service!

Thank goodness for kids. Nothing is a stronger reminder of "life goes on." A fun afternoon of markers brings me down to earth, though I wasn't the one having the fun.

Katrina was arranging and counting the markers are much as she was drawing with them. You regular readers can already anticipate the scene when I had to pry her away. She seriously disapproved of this change of state, though she recovered once the car got moving, thank goodness.

The key to broccoli: a fork! Katrina thinks it's great fun to try to stab broccoli florets, though sometimes she picks them up and sticks them on the fork. Fine with me -- a whole bowl of broccoli consumed this way. Yay green vegetables and vitamin C!

I feel such intense pressure to get things ready to move, things ready to remodel (productive meeting with the window salesman today, and another tomorrow with him again, this time with architect), to produce at work, and to take care of my Dad's affairs....and yet kids again remind me that life goes on. Despite mounting deadlines, tomorrow I'm missing work to take Gabriel to the pediatrician. His left ear has been bothering him on and off for days, and tonight he had a low-grade fever again. Probably fighting an ear infection again, as he has no other symptoms -- only "WHA-AAT?"

A day alone with my son...not so bad. Life goes on.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Talked to a moving company today. I can't believe how much work we have ahead of us. And since I've been missing so much work, I'm going to work tonight.

On the way to pick up Katrina, Julian asked me to play music "that's in the car already," meaning, CDs rather than the radio. He wanted to identify different instruments in songs: "Trumpet!" "Drums!" "Piano!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that Alan Parsons Project is highly synthesized and I wasn't sure if any of the instruments were real. Still, his enthusiasm was fun.

I can already see this fascination with playing games on the Lego Web site eroding Julian's ability to entertain himself. Lately it's become a real struggle to pry him away, and he whines and complains that he wants to play on the computer. He's been a real pain lately anyway -- cause or effect?

One school of thought would be that he needs his own computer and place to play games, but somehow I dig in and feel the exact opposite -- the game-playing should remain in a privileged place, on computers that aren't theirs and they have to ask permission to use, and we can maintain tight control over (though we haven't). I know their own computers are inevitable, but at this stage of their lives, I see free access to computers -- or even increased access beyond what they have now -- only interfering with their learning.

I succeeded in "closing the office," and now Julian and Gabriel are making up games together with Lego cars, instead of playing electronic games with Lego cars. Splitting hairs? Not at all. Even if they model their games after the Web games, their interactive play is completely different than having the computer do it all for you. I'm not opposed to computer games in moderation, but "moderation" is not in the Top Ten of kid skills! At least not mine.

"Games people play, you take it or you leave it..."


Monday, May 26, 2008

5/25/08 The Flip side to tantrumers

Hoo boy, did we pay dearly today for the sleepover -- but only with Julian. He was a real pain this evening, threw a huge fit before dinner, then fell asleep on the bathroom floor during dinner. When he woke up, it was one complaint and whine and fake-crying after another. Dave commented that it seems we got a drama queen after all, and it's our son!

For as difficult as Gabriel can be, whining and drama isn't among his foibles. Katrina is following in Gabriel's footsteps in terms of temperament, with the notable exception that she will cry if she's scolded, though it's an angry cry, not a hurt cry, and is often followed up by an act of aggression.

Could it be that tough-cookie tantruming personality traits disincline a kid toward whining? Of course I don't mean that they're mutually exclusive; Julian can throw a tantrum and Gabriel from time to time can complain, but at least in this household, there's a definite pattern that the stronger personalities are less likely to whine -- and the softer personality is less likely to wage all-out war.

Dave noticed today that Katrina now really is counting -- not just reciting numbers as she has been for months, but actually moving objects one at a time as she counts them. That and her relentless fascination with all things wheeled made him add that she really is like a female toned-down version of Gabriel (with the huge exceptions of crying when scolded, and no language delay). Dave isn't into personality analysis, so this made a strong impression!

I'm wondering how audible our day-to-day antics will be to our new neighbors. It's really interesting exploring another house -- it's layout changes a lot of things in our lives. We're not on a corner now, so we have neighbors on either side, and close. But the backyard butts up against another backyard -- no more neighbors waving at us through her kitchen window while we're having dinner.

I took the boys to the "new" house this afternoon to figure out where furniture would go and what room would do what. This house is smaller than ours, but is far and away the largest rental we saw, and has a huge benefit: an attached garage! That's a luxury I could quickly get used to. Also, there is a living room, dining room and family room, plus the 4 bedrooms, to help us spread out. The 3 bedrooms aren't huge, but we really can't complain.

Still, there will be some challenges. Everything is so cheap in the new house -- the kitchen faucet is awful (and I'm very in-tune with faucets these days!), the doors and walls are thin, the windows drafty and ugly. And none of the outlets are grounded -- this will be a big challenge plugging in all our computer and office equipment! Tomorrow a moving company is scoping out the job, and they're skeptical that we can fit a 2600 sq.ft. house into an 1800 sq.ft one.

I came up with a stroke of genius -- rare for me these days -- in how to figure out what to move where. I wrote down each piece of furniture and its width on a separate sticky note, at home. Then at the "new" house, I walked around the rooms and put a sticky note the wall where I thought each item could go. This was really helpful! Now I have a decent idea of how our house will be arranged, what items will have to be left behind (my craft area, sob!); others will go into different rooms. If I were REALLY organized, I'd take a photo of each piece of furniture, print it, cut it out, and tape it to the wall for the movers, but that's a lot of work. I don't feel like it.

Gabriel couldn't understand why all three of them couldn't share a room. Not because thinks it's unfair Katrina gets her own room (that comes later), but because he wants to take care of her at night. Awww!

The boys had a great time measuring stuff, with Gabriel actually measuring walls and helping me decide if a bookshelf or something would fit there. I had him measure the !TWO!Walk-in!Closets!! in the master bedroom and taught him the Very Important Rule that MOM gets the biggest closet.

I brought a carload of stuff over, mostly to make spending a few hours there easier -- toilet paper, snacks, pantry items, pen and paper, baby-changing stuff. I was just about done putting the sticky notes on the wall when Dave and Katrina arrived. The boys had been pretty cool up to that point, but Katrina's energy and excitement revved them up -- she was thrilled to be back at her playplace. It was hard to get much done after that, but I glowed in enjoyment and pride at watching my joyful children playing together.

Then, another major change in our lives: Trader Joe's! My favorite TJ's will now be inconvenient, but a lesser one will be downright easy to get to, as I learned when I took Katrina there after leaving the "new" house. A different

Praise be...Julian finally stopped wailing. He may not tantrum the way his siblings do, but he can still make life miserable for a long long long time.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

5/25/08 Sleepover

In theory, kids sleepover at Tonya's, big headway on deciding what goes where in the "new" house.

In practice, a nice Central Coast zinfandel, a foofy salad, grilled fish, coconut creme brulee at a cozy Italian restaurant.

And now, bedtime at the "old" house.