Saturday, August 09, 2008

8/9/08 Skating afternoon

I've been free of migraines for two glorious months....maybe even nine glorious weeks. But it's back today, with a vengeance. Yesterday I felt very, very strange, irrationally tired and feeling like the top half of my head was extremely heavy. Then there was the relentless cold, feeling unable to bring my body temperature up to a normal level. And sleeping badly, restless, with lots of strange dreams.

It all came together today with a brutal headache this morning, at least a 7 out of 10. I'd forgotten how it saps my energy and will to live, depresses me and puts such weight on my ability to function. Every step of the day takes ten times the effort and motivation. It makes the last 9 weeks seem idyllic and perfect and problem-free.

I know from experience that skipping normal things for headaches, though sometimes unavoidable, never helps. So I gathered myself and fulfilled my fun goal for this weekend: take the boys ice-skating!

I hadn't seek Gabriel skate since his week of ice-skating camp, and Julian hasn't skated in months. So it was a bit of a new thing for me to see both boys.

But what fun! It took Julian one time around the rink to remember, and after that, it all came back. Including being able to get up from a fall himself, which is a huge back-saver for me. Gabriel is well past being a rickety first-timer, and showed me his new skills of dips and glides and stops.

Gabriel demonstrates dips:

Gabriel skating fast:

The boys skating together:

I had such a great time with them. This is what I really love about being a mom, doing things with them together, watching them interact, talking excitedly about it together later. I feel like such a "boy-mom" when I'm doing something fun alone with them, and remind myself that Katrina will only enhance the mix...someday.

Gabriel had his second piano lesson this morning, with a second teacher. Already?? Well, we needed a teacher closer by, and this was the first teacher who'd been recommended to us. It went really well, and Gabriel seemed to enjoy it, though he later said he liked the first teacher better. Still, 9am Saturdays are now committed.

I watched some of the Olympics tonight with a clean pajama'd and calm Katrina all cuddled up on my lap -- her part of the cuddle moreso from gravity than nature -- but still, she was cheerful and interactive and very sweet. After she went to bed, Julian took her place, and me and my guys watched the men's gymnastics together. This is fun, I like telling them about the different countries and what little I know about the various sports. BMX biking airs the 16th, that one we're not going to miss!


Friday, August 08, 2008

8/8/08 The Bench

After going to Trader Joe's twice and spending $150 on groceries today, we went out to dinner.

I just couldn't gather myself to cook tonight. I'd realized today that we've hardly done any take-out, restaurants or freezer foods, and now I'm working and getting home around 5:30pm. What's wrong with this picture? It's not like I'm cooking anything wonderful or new either.

I also can't make anything that requires more than 20 minutes of oven time. Prep, oven time, cool-down time and serving time puts dinner well past 7pm, and that just doesn't work anymore. Maybe I could sneak in a 40-minute lasagna if I had it ready to go right into the oven, but that would require preparation on weekends. Somehow, I don't see that happening.

I ran into an old friend at the gym today. She works full-time and has two children (6 and 4), so I asked her how she deals with walking in the door in the evening and making dinner. She said her kids are a lot easier to deal with now that she doesn't let them watch TV during the week anymore. That's interesting! But, her situation doesn't apply to mine anyway -- if all I had to deal with were my 6-year-old and 4-year-old, it'd be a different world. It's the demanding toddler that makes it hard.

But such a cute one! Katrina was all charm today (mostly, see below). And she was so good when we went out. Somehow before I got to the table, she'd already been settled in on a bench by the helpful waitress, without even so much as a booster. I was apprehensive about this arrangement, but she was really really good and mostly sat, chatted, and devoured bowl after bowl of fried rice.

The boys were really good too. This was one of the most successful outings we've had since...well, ever.

Part of the reason we went out was because the second we got home, even before we walked in the door, Katrina threw a full-on flailing screaming tantrum. I have no idea what set her off, but she was determined to keep it going. Every effort I made to distract her was met with contempt and a fresh bout of angry screeches. Finally, I finally hit upon something too irresistible to keep up the show: searching for strawberries in our little strawberry patch. I was able to harvest a few handfuls with my now-cooperative helper holding a little pail. Her attitude shift was immediate and drastic, and then she was all smiles, happy chitter-chatter and full-on adorable. But I was out of energy and time to make dinner by then. Such ups and downs: the low of a complete fit, the high of a small child delighting in finding strawberries.

As much as I complain, I really do love the little critter. I think about her all the time, with pride and affection, even about her willful episodes (otherwise known as "tantrums"). The fact that her age and stage of life are not my favorites are not her fault.

The boys, on the other hand, are at a phase of life I really like, especially Gabriel's. I'm in my element with a 6-year-old boy. Arguably a 4-year-old boy, at least ours, isn't anyone's element, but Julian's annoying traits have been slowly fading lately.

They make driving down a busy expressway fun when they see a green light up ahead, and cheer me on to make the light. "Go Mom GO!" then, "Yayyyyy!!!" when I make the green. Katrina joins in the clamor, and they've all succeeded in turning the most mundane chore of the day into genuine fun. This is what's great about kids.

8/8/08 (cool date!)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

8/7/08 Big Boys

Sit down for this one: this morning, Gabriel and Julian got up, made their beds, got themselves dressed, got themselves breakfast, cleaned up breakfast (!), got their shoes on, and were completely ready to go before we were even out of our bedroom!!!! They won't offer any more explanation for this besides Julian admitting, "It was Gabriel's idea!" Amazing.

On the way to pick Gabriel up today, Katrina revealed another word I didn't know she knew: "Peece Tow!" Believe it or not, that means "police car." She was pointing to a Sheriff who'd pulled over a car on the road where Gabriel's CDC is. I didn't think she'd recognize the flashing lights, but she did.

As I often do, I left Julian and Katrina in the car while I zipped in to get Gabriel. Eeps! Sounds bad, but really, I always lower all the windows, and leave the keys in the car so the windows can be operated and the car moved if need be. Really, the odds of someone stealing my car out of a school parking lot with two small children in it are far, far less than one of them getting injured in the parking lot as I try to herd them through the minivan parade. No need to call the cops on me.

Especially since one was right there to take up your cause anyway.

When I emerged with Gabriel, Katrina's "peece tow" was now next to my car, with the concerned young Sheriff interrogating Julian. Oh great. Fortunately, Julian had answered "inside there!" rather than "I don't know, she's gone" as I'd feared. And I really was gone for less than two minutes. He seemed to understand as I hastily explained my safety (yes, and convenience) tradeoff. Julian said he sure hoped the policeman gave me a good ticket instead of a bad ticket.

Driving home, Gabriel asked an accidentally relevant question: "Is jail timeout for grownups?" The context wasn't my encounter with the fuzz, but rather, the Detroit mayor's incarceration today. Good thing my kids are up on current events!

What are the odds for a repeat of this morning's domestic help? I give it Julian's favorite odds: 10,000 to 1! But I'm delighted they took such fun in this today.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

8/6/08 Macaroni and Baloney

I'm ruining my children. I play the silliest music for them. Somehow I joked around with them about "macaroni and baloney," part of a line from the song Hot Lunch from the soundtrack of the movie Fame. Really marginal quality music. Now I've got my Fame CD in the car and we're playing that all the time, and now they're singing "macaroni and baloney..." all the time. "If it's yellow then it's Jello, if it's blue, then it's stew...." Oh brother!


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

8/5/08 National Night Out

Our neighborhood has an association that participated in the National Night Out tonight. A firetruck stopped by (one of about 12 stops for them tonight), and we got treated to a little concert by, of all things, a ukelele club. Turns out, two neighbors across the street belong to a ukelele club, which treated us to a performance! Gabriel was excited to see this and brought out our ukelele too, but it wasn't really the right forum for a jam session.

That's a city Fireman joining in the hula (behind the guy in the red jacket).

We met more neighbors tonight too, a mixture of empty-nesters who've lived here for decades, and young families. Boy, I'm going to be sad to leave this neighborhood, I really like it here!

That said, I'm starting to get tired of this actual house. We truly have nothing to complain about, but I do miss our insulated rooms, a larger office, more spacious bathrooms, having two stories, and especially, a place where I can set up my scrapbooking.

Back to work today. An auspicious start...I attended what I thought would be an informational meeting, and was introduced to someone I didn't know. All in the room were surprised (shocked?) that I didn't know a top-level VP. He even said, "you've never seen my picture?" Uh, no, if I'm going to look at pictures of celebrities, it'll be George Clooney.

It turned out to be a feather-stroking meeting about cancelling a major engineering project and deciding to limp along the old stuff for a while longer. They said they needed a network architect to decide what the network should do, and for business development to decide what the company wants to be -- but the big word missing to me was 'customer'. What do they want? "I've never written a business plan," I piped up, "but I'd think the first three words should be 'Our customers want...'"

Well, if I was at all worried about them insisting on me hiring on as a full-time employee, I think I took care of that today!

It's so darned cold and dark in that office. I took a walk today, just to get out, and thought sadly about Katrina. I missed her, and felt like crying as I walked along a busy noisy avenue in an industrial area, thinking of her giggling with glee as she tries to run in circles, her fluffy blonde hair bouncing behind her. What a contrast to dingy office life.

But this is still too good an opportunity to pass up, for now. I've got to cut the umbilical cord eventually, but as overloaded as we are with remodeling, I need to coast, even unhappily, for now. And when our little bunch are all a little older, and we're past the tyranny of toddlerhood, then I'll be braver about breaking out on my own, somehow. Or fed up with office life.

It took me 50 minutes to drop everyone off this morning and get to work, and strangely over an hour to pick everyone up and get home. With the three pickup locations being roughly equidistant, it doesn't seem as druderous though. Let's see if I still feel that way in another few weeks!


Monday, August 04, 2008

First Piano Lesson!

Dave reminded me that I left out a major event last Saturday. Somehow upstaged by the county fair, and having no photos, I forgot to write about Gabriel's first private piano lesson! (How could I do that to Bonne Maman?)

Dave took him to a teacher who'd been referred by another teacher who'd been referred to us by a longtime student, but had no openings. Dave first talked to the potential teacher on the phone, explaining that we'd like flexibility in the lessons -- still structure and basics, but to let Gabriel's own musical interest drive the style of music he learns. (I think back to taking classical piano lessons in the 7th grade after teaching myself the entire Maple Leaf Rag....I think I'd have done a lot better if my teacher had been amenable to Scott Joplin over Bartok.)

So, a half-hour lesson was scheduled for last Saturday, and Gabriel was excited about it. First, the teacher asked him to play whatever he wanted, and he played "American Patrol" -- a Glenn Miller big-band tune! Not usually a kid's first choice. Dave said she was immediately impressed not that he could play it, but rather by how much of it he knew. Then "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," both hands, and several verses. Same thing -- pretty advanced for a 6-year-old who's had virtually no instruction and has been playing well under a year. She worked with him to show him some basic technique, and took a moment to catch Dave's eye and say emphatically, "He works hard!" Arguably that's the most important thing.

Overall it went really, really well, though a half-hour seems to be his limit. Leave 'em wanting more, a basic tenet of showbiz, right?

So we're going to continue the lessons. Scheduling will be a challenge, but she's going to try to squeeze him in nearby, as she genuinely felt his ability is exceptional.

Dogged pursuit or raw talent? Hard to say, but it doesn't really matter. Gabriel's interest in music is no passing phase. Even if piano lessons don't work out, he can take other music lessons, or try again later. He might not like routine directed practice, for instance, and that's fine too (though we won't pay for lessons in that case). I really feel that we should encourage music, but not force it down his throat either. If it's in him, it'll come out in its own way. Private piano lessons is a good start, but it's by no means the end.

One wonderful thing that's coming out of this is that Dave finds himself poking around on the keys himself too. "It's ironic," he observed, "that what stopped me playing myself is what's getting me to start again." And that "what" is Gabriel.

8/4/08 The New Week

Gabriel saw a "Baby on Board" sign in a car window today and asked why that was there. I explained that it was so other people know there's a baby in the car. He said "Oh," then paused, and asked, "What if they don't know?"

He couldn't understand why I was laughing for 5 minutes. I've never liked those signs, even before I was a parent, and perhaps even moreso now that I am one. Are others expected to drive extra-carefully around a car that might have a baby in it? Aside from the impracticality and futility, is a baby's life any more important than anyone else's? Does a mother's, grandfather's, dear friend's, teenage child's, husband's life deserve any less regard than a baby's? Sure, I'd want other drivers to take care when I had a baby in my car, but I want that just as much now that my babies aren't babies anymore. I know, I know, it's just a silly sign with a cute alliteration, but they've always bugged me a little.

It took "only" 45 minutes to drop everyone off today, and that was with first-time dropoffs, picking up things, dropping off things. Julian's new school was ready for him, with a spot at the table, a cubby, his own teacher. He was excited to bring his new pink lunchsack (fortunately we've recovered from fraternal mockery), and went in happily with his new teacher.

When I picked him up, he was happily playing out back in the very nice outdoor play area.

I talked at length with his teacher -- the same person I dropped him off with -- and she said he did great. No crying for Mommy, he listened and played well with other kids, and adapted immediately. I didn't expect any problems, but I was relieved and proud to hear how well he'd done anyway.

They did a little music class today, and she said she thought he wasn't getting anything out of it, since he was immobile during the music, but afterward he asked for more, and sang the songs to himself. Just like Julian!

Julian's teacher added with incredulity, "He can read!" They had some exercise that involved looking at pictures in books that also had some writing, and Julian misunderstood and went ahead and read the words aloud. I was really happy that he's getting enough attention that she noticed.

(My pride is a little tempered with self-consciousness about being mistaken for a parent who feels it's important for their preschooler to "get ahead," so I rushed to explain that we don't have a tutor or do enrichment programs or show him flashcards or anything. Then it just sounds like I'm bragging. But it's true -- he's just really interested in reading, and much of the credit goes to Dave, who reads to them every night, always books within their reach to read too. And Julian has the older brother to model after.)

Anyway, it was a smashing success. I'm thrilled with Julian's new place. And very, very proud of my well-adjusted, charming, happy little boy.

I don't know if Katrina's making up for the stomach-flu episode, but all of a sudden, we just can't feed her enough. She's still VERY opinionated about what the food is, but for things she likes, she's ravenous. Breakfast yesterday was a banana, three bowls of cereal, then two pancakes.

After her dinner and during ours, she played fiercely with this little castle toy with balls that fit into the castle towers. She was at this for no less than a solid half-hour, giggling and yakking constantly.

She's been a real chatty-Katty lately; Tonya says she talks all day long.

Gabriel was back at the CDC today, reunited with his pal Parth. Unfortunately, the first thing he said to me when I picked him up was, "Mom, I am really having trouble hearing!" During an "I Spy" game he had to ask, "WHA-AT?" repeatedly. We have an appointment scheduled next week for him, but I'm going to try to move it up.

I had a nice run yesterday, despite my heightened aversion to yellowjackets, which thankfully were not in sight at all. But darnit, my feet are buzzing tonight. This can only get worse when I go back to work tomorrow.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

8/3/08 "Fix it!"

This is Katrina's latest phrase: "fix it!" This applies to numerous things: a stuck stroller, two train cars that need to be coupled, a cup that needs to be refilled. So far it's been uttered without the characteristic demanding screech, but she's still pretty insistent when she says it.

Another new phrase: "thank you!" Little moments like that make you feel like you're doing something right.

Another playdate today with Kirin, the son of one of Dave's coworker's (Uday). Kirin lives in Ohio with his mother, but spends summers here with his Dad. They'd planned to go BMXing, but Kirin broke his arm two weeks ago in a soccer daycamp. That didn't prevent all sorts of fun today at a large nearby park -- the boys brought their bicycles and had a great time riding around, and climbing around some rock and concrete climbing structures.

Kirin's grandfather was there too, and gave Julian a helping hand. Julian seemed to need this only when there was a grownup around to offer.

Uday (Kirin's Dad) brought his dog Jackson, in whom Katrina had moderate interest when she wasn't pushing the stroller around. No fear of the big dog at all.

I've been a baking fiend lately, determined not to waste so much as one piece of fruit that's been raining in from my split CSA subscription. Uday, his father, and five kids (Kirin, Rahul, Kirin's 5-year-old cousin, and our three), enjoyed some plum mince streusel bars.

Katrina played a little on the climbing structures, under Dad's careful guidance, but they were way beyond her ability and she'd get stuck and cry. Not brave and not athletic -- I guess that's a good combination. She'll have to fall back on cuteness.

Watching brothers play frisbee. Julian, once again, the best thrower.

Uday's fiance is also a pretty blonde who grew up the youngest of three with two older brothers. She wasn't there today, but I pick her brain about the experience whenever I see her!

Big week coming up. Julian starts a new preschool tomorrow, and I start...w_o_r_k on Tuesday. Boom.