Saturday, August 23, 2008

8/23/08 The Straightjackets

The boys were getting so out-of-control and rambunctious this afternoon that despite time limitations (Dave and I were going out), I had to get them out. So I took them for only slightly-needed haircuts, just to disrupt their rapidly building momentum toward complete chaos. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing both of them under the haircutting smocks, hands confined, tented into docility. Too bad I didn't bring my camera. It was a glorious ten minutes. And they looked quite dapper afterward!


Friday, August 22, 2008

8/22/08 Tooth Fairy

It's official! I'm strapping on my wings and playing Tooth Fairy tonight.

Gabriel isn't entirely buying the fairy bit, but he wants the cash enough to play along.

Another very difficult coming-home tonight, and that's with not going to work today. Katrina's tentative state transitioned to full-on toddler-tantrum after a stinky diaper change, and her furious rejections of anything I tried to calm her afterward resulted in me standing outside, holding her and feeding her. My back has been inflamed and irritated today (always is ultra-sensitive after physical therapy), I had things on the stove, and this was just not good.

Insisting on being held suddenly flipped to demanding being put down, so she had some dinner outside while the boys pushed each other around on a little firetruck.

I'm doing something wrong, and I think I know what now. I doggedly quizzed my hapless mom-friends about how they handle getting home from work, walking in the door with three, making dinner, and not losing your mind. After careful analysis of the data, I've reached the conclusion: stop cooking! This is a bummer, because cooking has become fun for me, though it's exactly opposite of fun when I burn a panful of garlic because I have to run outside for the 200th time to scold bothersome brothers. Other than self-indulgence, I have no excuse for trying to actually cook. Everyone's fine with semi-convenience foods, and I have 5 Trader Joe's within 15 minutes driving distance, two freezers, and a telephone.

The remodel project is becoming onerous. Every time we go to the jobsite, there's more major news. The electrical run to the upstairs and the downstairs subpanel need to be replaced. The main plumbing pipe from upstairs wasn't right. A whole new fire-rated wall, a great deal of new plywood sheathing, new siding, new subfloor, a ton of unexpected framing to support floor joists that were suspended in mid-air, a tyrant of an inspector who really will make us tear out a whole wall if it protrudes 3/8" into a setback.

All these things are possible when you open existing walls in an old house that's been added on to several times, but did they all have to happen? I haven't dared ask our contractor how our schedule is looking, because he'll tell it to me straight, and I'm not sure I can take it.

Still, the good news is that the whole team takes every development in stride, and deals with it, no excuses, no heel-dragging. We really have top-quality resources. I especially rejoice in scenes like this: the jobsite foreman (who's excellent), the kitchen designer and architect all talking together.

No communication breakdown is going to prevent the kitchen bay window from being placed at absolutely the correct height for the countertop to flow into it!

I continue to express my appreciation with baked goods; today the crew got (slightly overbaked) zucchini muffins.

Meantime, I still prefer our new neighborhood, and while our rental house is pretty plain, we're more than getting by. We're going to end up with quite the palace, but I'm more of a quaint farmhouse sort of person. That is, provided it works well, which ours didn't. Still, how do these things get away from me?


8/21/08 First of First!

Off to school! Poor kid doesn't seem to mind that I send him in this dorky "Class of 2020 shirt." Incredibly, no one gets the joke.

It was all pretty straightforward; Gabriel knew where his room was and led me there. I chatted a bit with other parents, some of whom I vaguely recognized but couldn't possibly place their names or their kids' names, which are mostly these long lovely elegant Indian names with multiple syllables sewn together in such a way that my Western brain will never keep together. I was raised with Amys and Jeffs.

It seems the Cupertino school district's only African-American first-grader is in his class. Caleb and Gabriel are doing their part to create diversity in this otherwise mostly homogenous class. I chatted a bit with Caleb's parents, they're very very nice. All the parents are really nice.

The teacher surveys the troops. No doubt about it, this is the teacher we saw at the first-grade orientation who was pointed out as giving daily homework!

I'm swinging wildly about this whole school thing again. Daily homework, that's out of control for a first-grader. But then Tonya told us two of her girls had had this teacher, and Tonya said she's awesome. She seems highly regarded by the other teachers, and experienced. And she seemed really nice. OK, I feel better.

Then I see the kids sitting at tables facing the front, two to a table. Are they really ready in first grade to be sitting lecture-style in a classroom? It irks me. They're just little kids! But then, I'm fairly certain my first-grade class was arranged that way too, with a reading corner (which I used to trap boys in to kiss). Back then, parents didn't fret about things like table orientation.

Is this really the right thing for him? If I can find fault in this, couldn't I find fault in just about any school setup? And any decisions or changes or doubts I have now aren't just about Gabriel -- I have to think about the other two also. And I really don't know what to think about them.

I wonder what junior-high-school teachers have to say about McCauliffe (the whole-learning warm-n-fuzzy school) kids versus Collins kids, and heck, Faria (the full-on straight academics school) kids. And then, I wonder what the high school teachers have to say. I'll bet by high school they can't tell who went where. Not that that doesn't matter in other ways, of course.

Overall, I tend to think that kids are going to succeed if they're inclined to succeed and have good support at home. Certainly the kind of early schooling they get will influence it, but it won't make or break them in the end. A whole-learning approach school could help ordered Gabriel with out-of-the-box thinking, or it could deprive him of the structure he thrives in. Conversely, whole-learning could nurture Julian's imagination, but wouldn't develop his putzy lazy side. Julian's very social in pre-K, chit-chatting away instead of doing his work. Ah, the torch has been passed -- just like his mom!

But all I can do is speculate, and agonize on major decisions based only on speculation. Maybe I should just let it go -- we're in a middle-of-the-road situation, Gabriel's basically happy, and this is our life. If I need to tweak and meddle in someone's life, it should probably be my own.

Minor disaster after school: Gabriel didn't go to the CDC as I'd told him several times to do. Instead he told his teacher I was coming to get him, and when I didn't show up, she brought him to the school office. The CDC folks called me to check, then found him in the school office. Lots of CDC-bound first-graders got confused today, apparently! In kindergarten, the CDC staff collects them straight from the room. Not first grade -- they're on their own.

But boy did I feel bad, thinking of Gabriel standing by the door, looking out for me, waiting hopefully, disappointment creeping in with each passing minute. It's that same sinking feeling at an airport, watching a nearly empty baggage carousel going around with one or two suitcases that you anxiously check each time, even though you know they're not yours. Then the dreaded thunk....they've stopped the carousel. No bags. No hope. No Mom.

Gabriel went through this the last day of school too, and now again the first day of school. This rots. I should have been there to pick him up today. There will come a time when he doesn't care. But I always will.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8/20/08 Two Lunches

It's official! Tonight was the first time of future thousands that I made two lunches. All set for tomorrow, in their lunch sacks with their names stitched on them: half a PB&J, yogurt, berries, carrots, and milk.

Someday, it will be three, and then I'll be grateful when it goes back down to two.

I've actually been pretty spoiled making just Julian's lunch the past few weeks. He's a really flexible eater, and I can come up with a much wider variety of things to give him, including most dinner leftovers. Actually, he does better with variety, he's less likely to eat something if he got it the day before. But Gabriel...standard kid-stuff, same-old, same-old.

A note on food pickiness....I don't know if Katrina is genuinely picky, or just very opinionated. Well, opinionated we do know. She was outraged when I offered her tortellini for dinner tonight, screaming and crying and throwing her arms around. The nerve of me! No, she'd spotted the bananas, and that was it. So dinner was a banana, peas and yogurt. I tried about 5 things inbetween, but she refused, immediately, vociferously, and very very loudly. It's not worth fighting with her about food, she's too young. Besides, she'd always win.

Gabriel often won't try things because...well, he's a kid. Kids do that. Julian will then claim not to like something just to follow along. Tonight, I made a (really good if I do say so myself) florentine lasagna, and Gabriel instantly rejected it, which Julian did immediately too. I considered bailing and giving them something else, but some combination of philosophy and inertia and miffedness kept me in my seat. So we talked about it instead. There's a lot to say about lasagna: how to say "Florence" in Italian, that spinach is superfood, what a silly word ricotta is, that the noodles are like pages in a book. In time, Julian was curious enough to try it, and not only did he like it, but he even asked that I pack it for lunch for him.

Gabriel...well, he tried the required 3 bites, then he got Katrina's leftover peas, baby slobber and all. Too bad. It's more important that he not get used to me waiting on him than it is for him to have a perfectly balanced 3-course meal. Even if it is the night before first grade starts. Letting of the toughest skills for a mom.

After swimming tonight, I stopped by Gabriel's school to see the posted class lists. It's really been weighing on me: is he -- that is, are we -- going to get the one teacher that gives homework every day? Nightmare!!

I can't remember the teacher's name, but I'm fairly certain it's the only one that starts with 'O'. Scan the lists...six classes, 10 girls and 10 boys per class....there it is, Doudna, Gabriel...Mrs. Olsen. DANG!!!

Well, if any first-grader is suited to daily homework, Gabriel is....heeyyyyy, I wonder if that has anything to do with it.....??

Katrina found another hand-me-down hat that passed her complex and top-secret criteria for approval.

I'm not really into dressing little girls, but this short little dress-and-bubble-bottom combo is so cute!

As if it really needs to be said again, first day of first grade tomorrow! Among the many other things that means, it also marks one year from tomorrow that the boys will be in the same school!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

8/19/08 First loose tooth!

Gabriel has a loose tooth! His first!

He didn't even know it. I was flossing his teeth tonight and noticed it right away. He asked me again and again which tooth was loose, until finally after 15 minutes he could find it himself. It's really pretty darned loose, one of the very front ones on the bottom. It's pretty exciting for me too!

I thought it might be fun to look for my high school yearbook with the photo of me with my last missing tooth. Turns out, it wasn't fun at all looking for it. And I still can't find it. All my scrapbook stuff is in boxes too, and even if I were to unpack it, I'm not sure where I could spread out and scrap. Not scrapping is starting to weigh on me. I think that's why I've been baking like crazy, as a poor, and very caloric, substitute for scrapbooking.

Later addendum: I found my yearbook! Here's my senior photo, with my last missing tooth. The new one hadn't even started growing back in yet. The gap was horribly embarrassing for a self-conscious 17-year-old high school senior.

(circa 1981)

In other tooth news, Katrina now has 4 molars, one per side and one per jaw, nicely symmetric and opposing. All bets are off for food now - she can chew steak.

Except for that toddler personality thing. She's all about bananas these days ("mana-mana-MANA-MANA??!?"), so I have to hide them before giving her dinner. Not that living on bananas is a bad thing, but just how much potassium does one baby need?


Monday, August 18, 2008

8/18/08 Somersault Olympics

I came up with a "great" idea to distract the boys from the nonstop pestering of their fascinating, but frazzled, little sister tonight: somersaulting down the narrow hallway in our rental house. Here was my attempt to get them to do it together, which is actually sort of funny in its failure.

Katrina cottoned onto this activity, and did her silly giggly waddly showoff trot up and down the hall, interfering with her brothers' fun. But when the boys were out of the way, she started somersaulting down the hallway herself! I didn't think she could do that!

Of course, this exercise mostly served to completely rile up the boys, and they were completely out of control for well over half an hour.

I had a really tough evening coming home tonight. Katrina was in good shape, but I had to drop dinner-making and run every few minutes to handle piercing shrieks. Ordinary screeches I've come to ignore, but ones that indicate pain are something else. The boys just wouldn't quit bugging her, and in a time of day when she's already edgy. She got pushed down, a tricycle run into her, pebbles tossed at her, toys put in her way, trapped behind a shed, toys taken out of her hands, blankets put over her head -- and this is all affectionate play! None of it malicious, but none of it welcome, especially not by me. How many times and in how many ways do I have to say L E A V E - H E R - A L O N E!!! Someone remind me why I try so hard to get everyone home early in the evening??


Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/17/08 Pizza Party

This afternoon I set up our two tents in the backyard, as something of a dry run for our camping trip coming up in September. Naturally, the boys had a great time playing in them.

These tents are the ones Dave and I each used on our various motorcycle camping trips, before we started sharing one.

Ah, the memories opening up my tent again! I'd forgotten how free and secure I felt riding around with all my camping gear strapped to my bike. I used my tent a lot, sometimes joining the BMW motorcycle club every month for a distant campout. The scent, the feeling of the poles in my hands, brings me right back to a former life. So often I set up in the dark after hundreds of miles of riding, and almost always packed up very early the next morning, with freezing cold fingers and wet gear. What was with me, why did I have to leave Quincy at 6:30am in 35 degrees on Memorial Day? To miss traffic? To beat 90+ degree heat crossing the Central Valley? To ensure a solo ride, something I treasured? To get home by noon and just relax the rest of the day? Or just to do it?

But some reality unfolded in my backyard as the tents did: am I insane thinking it will be fun having Katrina along on the camping trip?? There could be nice moments, but she has a talent for bringing me crashing down hard at any time, and demanding all my attention when I'm up to my eyeballs in logistics. (Paradoxically, she will also play by herself for a very, very long time for a not-even-2-year-old -- she just won't tell me when.) I think I'm going to leave her behind with Dave, with a blank check to Melissa for any relief he needs from our adorable little tyrant, and a big deficit in marital brownie points.

Dave does have fun with her one-on-one though. She "helps" on his weekly run to Safeway by carrying the grocery bags to be recycled. Incredibly, she took a liking to this "new" hand-me-down hat, and actually wears it. So cute!

Meantime, the boys got ready for a wishbone-snapping. Even with my blase boys, there's still a risk of someone being miffed for losing this utterly random exercise, so I prepared them carefully. They each made a wish, and then snap!

Now I have to break it to Julian that just because he won the snap-off, doesn't mean he'll really get a new Lego set.

Last week, Gabriel's CDC took them to a pizza place for lunch. Sounds simple, right? But it was more than that, as usual: the cooks showed them how to make pizzas, and they got to do many of the steps. Gabriel had a great time with that, so I thought it'd be fun to make a pizza with him, and got the major ingredients at Trader Joe's last week. Dough, sauce, cheese, done.

He was excited to make a pizza, and I "deferred" to his superior knowledge of pizza-making. I had to laugh when I'd ask him questions, and he'd start the answer with such authority: "Well, usually I just ...." Usually?? He's done this once!

First we rolled out the dough.

Spread the sauce.

Sprinkle the cheese.

Notice a critical tactical error? Duh, move the dough to the baking sheet before putting sauce on it!

Not only was this fun, but the pizza was pretty good, and the boys loved it.

My back was very unhappy about all the bending up and down setting tents up, but it's even more unhappy sitting here typing. No problem for the pizza party though.