Saturday, August 30, 2008

8/30/08 Party, party

Arrgghh....Katrina's capacity to make even the most innocuous outing miserable is unmatched.

This morning, I took her and Julian to a kitchen & bath store, then to a paint store. I didn't want to, but I have a deadline for bathroom vanities. I had very specific goals in mind, no putzing or browsing, and indeed, I was out of both places in 15 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. We went in the morning, right after a big breakfast, so she was at her best of the day.

Katrina's best, however, includes ear-splitting shrieks if her playful brother so much as looks at her the wrong way, scraping a plastic toy along walls and bathroom fixtures to create the highest-pitched most irritating sound possible, throwing her arms around my legs and crying, followed immediately by flailing and demanding to be put down, freaking out if the wrong item is offered to her or if the right item falls out of her reach. I figured the lady at the bath place would triple the estimate I was requesting just to get us out of there. Meantime, my 4-year-old boy, not usually the most agreeable demographic, quietly sat and colored.

We fared a little better in the paint store, perhaps because I put her in the stroller. But once again, when she let loose her disapproval of, oh, say, the way the stroller was facing, she was shot looks from other customers that went beyond irritation and well into alarm.

I'll give her this: my decision-making process becomes far, far more efficient when she's there. No overthinking anything; I have no choice but to go with my first instincts.

This evening, Gabriel had a birthday party at a nearby inflatable play place, for a former kindergarten classmate. I brought him alone and dropped him off, though I stayed for a little while to chat with some of the other moms. Gabriel launched right into high-energy mode, showing off and jumping around like a madman, or running through a tightly packed huddle of giggling girls -- playing around them, but not exactly with them. They actually talked to each other.

The mom of the birthday girl assured me more boys were invited, though the gender imbalance hadn't occurred to me. I was too busy being bemused by the fact that I was the only mom not wearing a sari. And being the only boy so far clearly didn't bother Gabriel (others arrived later and I doubt he noticed that either).

Foolishly, I brought Katrina with me to pick Gabriel up from the party, mostly so Dave could eat dinner in peace. I don't know, maybe I thought it'd be fun to show off my cute toddler to those moms who'd I'd told about her. It wasn't a bad idea in theory, and several other moms had toddlers there too, for the whole party.

Once again, disaster. I don't know what came over me, but I gave Katrina a cup of watered-down apple juice, and she was outraged when I didn't stand at the crowded, wet, sticky table and just keep pouring her more. I tried to extract Gabriel from the throngs of kids, get him to thank the hostess and gather things to go, while Katrina angrily stormed away from me, crying furiously. Other parents saw her and started to comfort her if they didn't know me, or frantically pointed her out to me if they did. This tiny little girl walking around by herself, wailing in a small room swarmed with 6-year-olds, must be terrified and lost and desperately wants her mother's comfort! Yeah right.

I braced myself to pick her up and leave, when Gabriel started to go back into the fray. With Katrina flailing and screaming in a football hold, and in no position to weave through the crowd again to retrieve him, I had to call for my sometimes-hearing-impaired son so sharply that once again, I drew the now-familiar startled looks. I threw a harried and apologetic thank-you to the hostess over my shoulder, grabbed Gabriel's hand, and made a hasty ignominious exit. Stares followed me like a wake behind a boat.

Arrrgh. I did survive this once already, right? Does that qualify or excuse me from surviving it again?! I don't want to take her anywhere anymore!

Really, she can be a lot of fun. It's just all on her terms.


Friday, August 29, 2008

8/29/08 Underachiever

I had all sorts of plans for today, my day "off" -- sort of. Yet few of them were accomplished. I think I just heap everything that's pressuring me to get done into one day, unrealistically. I'm so unproductive. Yet somehow, other women my age manage to have a Down's baby and four other children, and still find time to govern Alaska and run for vice-president. I couldn't even get dinner made tonight.

Before driving north to pick up my car tonight, I managed to get the crew to pose for a photo. This isn't the best one of all three, but Julian's face is irresistable.

After picking up my car, Dave took the boys out to dinner, and I came home with Katrina, who had the rare treat of being able to put together train tracks without fraternal interference. She loves these train tracks.

So do I. These have been far and away our longest-lasting toy, as Gabriel got them when he was Katrina's age, for Christmas. Unlike his two younger siblings, he couldn't put tracks together until he was at least 2-1/2.

I'm sure keeping the cows in business though. Today at TJs I bought just about every dairy product there is: milk, cottage cheese, several types of yogurt, several types of cheese, sour cream, half-and-half, heavy cream, several kinds of cheese, butter and ice cream!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

8/28/08 First week of first grade

Gabriel's teacher sent home a "welcome parents" note the first day of school, with logistics about things like forgotten lunches and dropoff times. But the first thing it says is:
"Expect your child to be EXTREMELY TIRED for the first month of school. He/she may also have butterflies, aches and pains, and/or tears."
This is as much outside Gabriel's world as crying when Mommy was mad when he was a toddler (which the new reader might not know: that never happened). Hmm, those things might be related.

Gabriel brought home a sampling of work he did in class today. I was a little surprised to see addition so soon; I recall this sort of work being "extra" in kindergarten. Maybe the teacher was calibrating to find out what her class knows. Of course, what do I know of first-grade math?

Nothing is teaching Gabriel arithmetic faster than having an allowance though. The opportunities are endless: "How many more weeks before you have enough saved for that Lego racer car?" We've even had to [ try to ] explain percentages to him. There's no way around it when there's sales tax involved. "Why does California want my money?" he asks innocently.

However, the biggest challenge for a new allowance-receiver is where to keep the money and not to lose it!

Earlier on the learning scale, we have our budding botanist giving flowers kisses.

I don't think Katrina is quite speaking in sentences yet, as in, putting together individual words with grammar. Two, maybe three words, like, "help open box." But she sure says a lot of "sentences," such as: "turn on the light," and knows what the phrase means even if she doesn't understand its components. She's a little parrot right now, repeating back everything anyone says. And she talks a lot, yakking away in her own little language, with a few recognizable English words peppered in there.

She has a huge advantage in language development right now, which is two older siblings. Not only do they talk to her, but she hears her brothers talk to each other. They get a big kick out of enticing her to say silly or gross things.

Julian's language is so well-established that it's hard to believe that if he were suddenly moved to another country and never heard English again, it's quite possible he'd never remember that he ever spoke English. At 4-1/2, he won't have a lot of memories of this part of his life. Gabriel at 6-1/2 might have a better shot at remembering English. My friend Heike forgot most of her German when her family moved here when she was 6 (she later studied it and it came back quickly). Of course, there are individual differences -- Julian by nature is a much faster and more natural language-learner.

I find all this fascinating. I was one of the very few undergrads who didn't find the class "The Psychology of Language" really boring. I just talked to my college roommate today, and she told me she's back in school, for another master's in another field (nursing). I always thought it'd be interesting to go back and study psychology with more than an easy 'A' in mind...especially when it turned into not-so-easy Bs.

I'm so glad a 3-day weekend is coming up. I've felt a lot of self-induced pressure getting this school/work/remodel routine in place. Downtime is due. And a handy heatwave to coincide. Shorts weather, finally! I know white after Labor Day is a fashion faux pas, that rules out my pasty office legs.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

8/27/08 Welcome Back Parents

Collins held a "Welcome Back Parents" night tonight. After work, meeting with our kitchen designer, returning something at REI, picking up all 3 kids, making dinner and staggering from what I fear is the onset of a migraine, I blew it off. Next week is a "Back to School Night" in the classrooms anyway, in which we meet the teacher and get a tour of the classroom. That's far more important. I just couldn't do it two weeks in a row.

Besides, I really felt the need to exercise tonight, and managed to sneak in a 28-minute swim. Not much, but I feel much better.

Julian really really wants to know how the Tooth Fairy knows a child has lost a tooth. "Do you call her on her cell phone?" he asked, so sincerely I didn't have the heart to lie to him. But I can't break the truth to him either! Especially not when Gabriel got a dollar in the special little tooth pillow. I'm running out of ways to put him off. "She just knows."

Besides, no one can prove or disprove the existence of the tooth fairy anymore than we can God....for all we know, there really is a tooth fairy. I'm not enough of a person of faith to discount that possibility.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

8/26/08 7:20am

Our little crew crammed into the back of Dave's car, which I'll be driving for at least tomorrow, on the way back from dropping off my car for service.

I can't say I'd be heartbroken if the Subaru dealer found something catastrophically wrong with my car and I needed a new one. But I'd shed heavy tears for our checkbook.

Our remodel is going well, basically, though it's turning into a ton more work (meaning: money) than we'd expected, like probably having to repaint the entire upstairs. I'm entering the phase of a project in which you start to think it's just reality, that a torn-up house and a constant stream of bad news is permanent and that ownership of our house is reversed -- it owns us, not the other way around. Sort of like the later phases of a pregnancy when you start to think it's all a big joke someone's playing on you and you're going to be pregnant forever.

I woke up with a start at 7:20 this morning. 20 minutes late from the get-go! Incredibly, I got everyone dressed, fed, sunscreened, packed up and into the car by 7:58, but it was a stretch made only possible by thorough preparation the night before, and Dave dressing Katrina. This thing about making lunches in the morning...I'm just not in that sphere of competence.

It's staggering to think how much easier our mornings would be without having to load up the crew in the car and do a forced march in a massive minivan parade to the school, or a mad dash and an extra charge at the CDC for morning care to avoid it. But no, in this, one of the most affluent school districts in the country, there are no school buses.

Someday...someday... no more thinking of 7:20am as late to get up. I'm just not made for it.


Monday, August 25, 2008

8/25/08 Carrying the load

Gabriel got out of school today, complaining of a "chest pain." It so happened Dave was at our jobsite house anyway when he got the call, plus he'd taken time off this morning anyway to look at siding samples, so he threw up his hands and called it a day. So he picked up Gabriel from the school office and took him to the pediatrician this afternoon.

By the time Gabriel got to see the doc, he was feeling better. The best she could come up with was that maybe carrying a backpack now was making him sore. I find that a little hard to believe, since I got him a Land's End "featherlight" pack, he's only carried it to school twice, and empty both times! But Gabriel isn't one to complain if he doesn't really feel something, and it's not like him to make something up just to get out of school. So we both truly believe something was wrong, we just have no idea what.

This resulted in a major time windfall for me this evening. No pickups! Better yet, I got to make dinner without being interrupted 100 times and with my blood pressure at normal levels. As I was making rice, defrosting hazelnut-crusted trout, heating fish sticks, steaming pre-cut cauliflower and cutting bread, my friend's pointed words rang in my head: "I never cook." Well, of course not never -- she meant on the worknights she walks in the door with 3 hungry tired children after a full day, as I do. I need to pin her down on if "cooking" includes heating TJ's fish sticks.

Major decision about the outside of our house: shingles on the 2nd story, or not?


Sunday, August 24, 2008

8/24/08 Color-shopping

Today we took a drive, then short walk, around a neat neighborhood in central San Jose that has lots of older houses, many built in the era our house was. We did this to get an idea of what colors houses of our era were painted. I'd like to get away from white if we can, though white is quite historically accurate for old farmhouses.

As usual, any outing was complicated in spades by having our so-not-go-with-the-flow youngest member of the family along.

Cute as she was, she immediately insisted on stopping or going her own way, and within a few minutes got into a full-on rage that had me just wanting to pack up and put my faith in 1" square paper samples at the paint store.

I'm thinking light gray, Dave's thinking greener, and we saw enough shades inbetween that we're pretty sure we can easily find the right thing. If the factory-painted fiber-cement shingles we have in mind offer a color that's acceptable, that means the whole second story won't have to be painted -- ever! That's a very appealing idea!

Still, we hit paydirt stopping to look at a house whose owner happened to be outside, painting it! He called for his wife, and they explained to us how they'd completely redone their house, and put shingles on the 2nd story as we're considering doing, but weren't happy with the installation. They did exactly what we were doing, driving around looking at other houses to get color ideas, and painted their first story a slightly darker shade than the second (hmm).

They also had an adorable 2-1/2-year-old daughter, who played pleasantly in front while we hurried through the conversation, aware of our little time bomb strapped into the car. The fuse was lit upon being released from the car and given the opportunity to walk around. Boom! There was no winning.

Squarely in the OCD-worrywart department: today I noticed a comment in Gabriel's school's newsletter that congratulated Mrs. Olifant for her retirement from teaching first grade. Mrs. O---?! That's the name of the teacher who gave daily homework! A mom I'd met whose son had just finished first grade with her had told me that it blew them away. I thought the mom had said Olifant, but when there was no Olifant, and there was an Olsen, I figured I just didn't remember right. Retired!

Really, my relief is ill-founded. The school doesn't heap unreasonable work on, and this is about our child's education, after all. In fact, the CDC is offering a "homework club" in which the CDC staff sits with the kids and helps them get through homework. On the surface, it sounds like a great idea, but I'm balking at it. Dave and I -- and Gabriel -- got a lot out of doing his kindergarten homework together. When he's older, the supervision will transition more to just getting it done from how, but I think in first grade we'll still get a lot out of doing it together. So, daily homework...if it happens, we just buck up and deal with it. I have lots of bucking up to do anyway.