Friday, September 05, 2008

9/5/08 The Policy

Katrina's hair is getting just long enough for ponytails, and to my amazement, she was very cooperative about my fumbling to put them in this morning.

Bye-bye baby, I'll see you Sunday!

I picked Gabriel up directly from school today, Julian in tow, to leave straight for camping. Or so I thought. Gabriel's school has implemented a new policy in which parents can no longer pick up their kids from outside the classrooms, all of which open to the outside, no indoor hallways. Instead, now we're supposed to wait behind a blue line painted in a corridor between two buildings, and the kids are supposed to funnel up this corridor to find us. This wide-open campus is now a closed.

It was a disaster. We were all packed together in 100 degree heat, under these metal roofs radiating yet more heat. The children were supposed to find their parents in this crowd, and then somehow get through it to get out.

5 minutes after school had closed, I broke ranks with some other parents to go to Gabriel's classroom to find him. Empty. About 6 other moms arrived to find the same, and we were all very annoyed. Where are our kids now? There are many ways out of the school, you can't expect them all to go up this one corridor. Incredibly, this mayhem is intended to ensure the safety of students.

At least I knew where Gabriel was: at the CDC. He'd made his way there behind the buildings, and was sitting comfortably in air-conditioning munching on graham crackers while Julian and I sweated under the roofs, sheepishly following this unfriendly policy. And we don't know where the boundaries are. Gabriel's classroom opens right onto a paved playground, bordered by a field and then a public park. There are no fences there. Or blue lines intended to herd back those most annoying of customers -- parents.

But what bothers me the most is missing the opportunity for informal exchanges with other parents outside the classroom, seeing Gabriel's friends and classmates, peeking inside his classroom, chatting briefly with the teacher, and generally feeling a little more connected to his schooling.

After losing 20 minutes to this fiasco, I packed the boys into the car, blasted the A/C, and we were on our way south to camp. We watched my car's outdoor thermometer rise to 103 as we started into the mountains, then as we approached the coast, it started dropped. When we arrived at the campsite, it had dropped to an astounding 68 -- a total of a 35-degree drop in under an hour. I set up camp in fog, long pants and long sleeves.

And so we spent the weekend camping along the coast.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

9/4/08 Back to school night

I'm not partisan. I don't like listening to either convention. But when I listen to NPR the entire 2 hours a day I spend driving, some of it is bound to creep in during the news.

This morning, it was all about Sarah Palin's speech last night. Like her or not, she makes some pretty good sound bites. I loved her delivery on her comment about the tenacity it takes to be a hockey mom: "You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" (perfectly timed pause)..."Lipstick."

Maybe that was why I wasn't paying attention when I was carrying Katrina to Tonya's house this morning. I tripped over the sidewalk, stumbled, and couldn't recover -- boom, down we went. My left forearm took the brunt of it, instead of my hands, to cushion a startled Katrina. She landed on my arm, my hand cradling her head, and somehow I managed not to land on her. Or break my arm. It's no wonder where she gets her clumsiness from. She didn't at all appreciate the sacrifice.

Tonight was Back to School Night at Gabriel's school. We recruited Tonya's daughters to play with our little trio on the school playground for the 45 minutes allotted to parents in the classroom with the teacher. Five of which was taken up by the chatty principal on the loudspeaker urging teachers to end on time.

Gabriel's teacher would have finished close to on time, but a minute or so after time, a mom roped her into a question about how to teach subtraction at home, so that her daughter doesn't get confused with the method taught at school. This is so far from my reality...I can't imagine having that much time or attention, yet. They're in first grade for chrissake. Give your kid an allowance, she'll learn fast about subtraction.

Meantime, Gabriel, Julian and Katrina had a great time playing in the completely unshaded playground in the midst of a late-summer heatwave....urgh. Fortunately it was late enough that it was starting to cool off.

Kassidy, one of the girls minding Katrina, and who sees her every weekday, commented that she's a handful! Sort of, it's not like she's always running away or anything. She's just very OPINIONATED. Her Opinion about dinner tonight was, "What, are you freakin' out of your mind?! NFW!!!!"

I challenged Gabriel to see if he could get undressed, clothes in laundry, shoes put away, showered, dried, and in Pull-Ups (sigh, still) and pajamas in 5 minutes. He did it in 4:20. Sucker! But, wow. Beating the clock was actually more motivating than the ice cream that I insisted he could only have after he was ready for bed. MOMom.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

9/3/08 Gabriel and Katrina

...but not ours. There's a Gabriel and a Katrina at Julian's really pretty small preschool. Who knew!

I picked up Julian today at the tail end of his "Science Explorers" class. When we first got the flyer for this extra class, we blew it off, turned off by all the "stimulates" and "develops" language. But Julian's teacher let him take the class one day when there was an absence, and she told me that he loved it. So we signed him up.

Today was the class day, and I walked in and found the teacher was working with him, and she just about melted when she saw I was his mom. "He's so well-behaved!" she exclaimed. I don't know if it's a sell job or what -- these classes aren't cheap -- but according to the science teacher and Julian's teacher, he really takes to the science class. So far, they mostly look like fun, which I'm all for. Learning, ok, great, whatever. Most 4-year-olds learn about centrifugal forces by whirling a ball on a rope around their head on their own anyway.

Katrina skipped her daily mealtime tantrum tonight. I'm a new woman.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

9/2/08 "Tata"

Tonight I caught the tail end of Katrina's daily coming-home tantrum, which was derailed by leftover zucchini frittata. Eggs, zucchini, ham, perfect. And despite her automatic protests, she was finally ready to eat. Then the storm blows over, just like that, and she takes bites of "tata" between glowers at me.

Last night after our walk, when it was almost dark, this is what Katrina thought of my plan to take her inside. The concrete is too scratchy to lie down on and throw a complete fit, but she was ramping up for it. She looks pretty harmless in this video, in retrospect.

Summer's over, and I'm filled with regrets. No swim lessons, no fountains, no beach. On the other hand, we had a nice family visit, a Park Week (even if we all got sick), daycamps, and some enjoyable moments on outings between Katrina tantrums. I'm feeling very confined by remodeling, toddler tantrums, and a fearsome back injury. Well, it might as well all hit at once.

Would someone please explain the appeal of the TLC reality show "Jon & Kate + Eight"? I mean really, despite 8 kids, it's just a family through normal day-to-day activities, with lots of kids crying and mom being exasperated -- I get enough of that in my own real life. What's so interesting about someone else's dirty laundry? .... But I love it!! I hope it's on tonight!! (Thanks for getting me hooked, Ro!)


Monday, September 01, 2008

9/1/08 Letterbox parks

I like this combination: look for a letterbox in a local park, then stay and play in the park afterward.

Gabriel found the box today.

This is a really lovely park with a fabulous dry creekbed to play in -- shaded, curved, lots of places to hide, slide and run.

Except once again, little sister would have none of it. Fuss, cry, scream, draw looks of grave concern from onlookers -- what is that woman doing to that child?!. Once again I found myself irritated and frustrated to tears -- can't I just enjoy the simplest thing with the boys?! This child is nonstop trouble!

So I regretfully pulled the boys out to find a place for Katrina to play where I could see them too.

They made do. Gabriel planted himself on this digger and stayed until we left.

Julian, in his remarkable capacity to make friends, somehow got into a game of lacross with a nearby Dad!

Katrina found a tunnel on a play structure, forcing me to hang out in blazing sun and not have a place to sit to rest my back (though sitting isn't so great either).

At least she was happy for a while, which poses another problem: how to extract her to go home. Fortunately, a pancake from this morning's breakfast handled the transition.

We reconciled later in the day, when I took her for a power-walk around the neighborhood in the jogging stroller. Gosh, I miss running. Walking just isn't the same. But it was fun to chat with Katrina on our walk, and play her new game of her saying "Thank you!" and you respond "You're welcome!" and she giggles. She went "whee!" and "zoom zoom!" for most of our 40-minute walk. As long as we were moving, she was very happy. Life on her terms.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

8/31/08 The neighborhood

We went to a Labor Day party today, hosted by some unexpected neighbors. My father has "hooked up" with a lady in the lovely home where he's living now, a lady who's at about the same stage of dementia as he is. Their hookup has meant a lot to us, as well as her family, since they're both very happy and spend every second of the day together. They've even moved into the same room now, facilitated by one of the lady's two daughters, Cindy, who lives nearby in Massachusetts.

We thought it was ironic when Dad's lady's other daughter, Cathy, also lives in California, but were all blown away when it turned out to be the same exact city! Just one zip code over. And, Cathy and Larry happened to be visiting back East at the same time we were, so we met them at Cindy's house, and much of the rest of the family, last July. They're all such nice, generous, interesting people.

So Cathy and her husband Larry -- a professional chef, lucky me -- invited us to an annual Labor Day bash at their house today. I was touched by their invitation, and was really looking forward to seeing them, so we all went this afternoon.

It was very risky arriving anywhere at 1pm with Katrina before her nap, but we took two cars and were completely prepared to bail. Actually, she did really well for about an hour, and Dave took her home without disgrace for once. The boys played with another 4-year-old Aidan for a long time too.

Their house is stunning, beautifully remodeled, decorated and landscaped, not a hair out of place. But still comfortable and relaxed, not formal at all, with various touches around the house that come from Cathy's partial upbringing in Hong Kong. I took a few photos before my camera battery died, and this is probably the least attractive one, but, I want this pantry!

Not only are Cathy and Larry very nice and interesting people, but so are all their friends. Many of them live in our same city too, and I had a great time getting to know so many neighbors. Many families with young children arrived as well, so there were no shortage of other parents to exchange war stories with and playmates for the boys. Cathy is a very serious cyclist, so there was a big athlete contingent as well.

Friends, neighbors, backyards, parties,!