Saturday, September 13, 2008

9/13/08 Scrap snap

That's it! I'm tired of my scrapbooking stuff being trapped in boxes. I've been baking like a fiend, but it still doesn't make up for it. Time to liberate my tools, adhesives and papers!

In doing so, I found my high school yearbook, in about the last unopened box from the move. It's late in coming, but here's my long-promised high school yearbook photo with the missing baby tooth. The scan is poor, but you can still make out a definite gap in on my right side. It was, thankfully, my last lost baby tooth, but the gap being so obvious in a photo of such lasting import was mortifying to a self-conscious 17-year-old.

(What's with the collared shirt? I've worn shirts with collars about 9 times in my whole life, and one of them had to be for this photo?! And the ribbon...ugh!)

Dave took the boys bicycling today, but not at the BMX park for once. We're pretty close now to the Baylands park, with a system of flat dirt trails atop levees and surrounding salt ponds and wetlands rich with birdlife. A great place to ride, though the boys liked the one place with a hill the most.

They took the pre-riding preparation very seriously.

I would have loved to hang out and play today, but it was all business this morning. Fortunately, Katrina behaved really well for a long time in the stroller at a bathroom showroom, plus two trips to the house, a drugstore return and a bookstore stop.

Meantime, I have countless details to pursue: the fireplace framing is too high; the jobsite foreman lost the doorway arch detail; answer the interior door guy's question about a detail that doesn't pertain to the style we chose, pick up the plumbing fixtures, prepare for a switch & outlet walkthrough with the electrician on Tuesday, price two vanities for the upstairs kids' bathroom, find a 6"-deep recessed medicine cabinet that will fit the downstairs bathroom, change the bathtub order from RH to LH drain since the plumbing has to be reversed, make the pantry door only 28" wide so the inswing will clear the's never-ending.

Well, on the bright side, it makes the time I do spend with my dear children more meaningful. I found myself holding off putting Katrina to bed tonight just so I could spend more time with her. The ultimate in working-parent guilt! Aside from her nightly mealtime tantrum, she's been absolutely adorable the past few days.

Migraine is still there, but it's downgraded to a 1. Low enough I might be able to cobble together a little scrapbooking area tonight...!


Friday, September 12, 2008

9/12/08 The Princess

Julian wanted to take a picture of me today. So I showed him how to use the camera and "posed" for a photo. To my surprise, he actually got me in the picture -- it's pretty hard for kids to hold the camera still and push the button at the same time. Bonus: it's out of focus!

Looking at the photo in the camera screen, he said, "A princess!"

I'll take it. I've been reeling today from the escalation of my 6-day migraine from low-grade to medium. It's not the most painful headache I've ever had, but the surrounding symptoms are bordering unbearable: the strange waving sensations, the light sensitivity, inability to concentrate, irrational sleepiness, being cold, slight nausea; and worst of all, the sense of despondency and hopelessness.

Not a good day for a bad headache, as if there ever is one. Today was intense with house-remodeling items. First, our jobsite meeting, in which countless things were reviewed, reminded, fixed, moved, decided, accepted, more appointments set up. Then a productive meeting with the architect/interior designer at the tile store, then to the kitchen designer's showroom, to sign off on kitchen cabinets, order to be placed Monday.

After writing a very, very large check, I picked up all three kids and took them home, gritting my teeth through the usual Katrina mealtime tantrum. ALL she wants are bananas, and she ended up getting two, plus a few bites of yogurt, for dinner.

Finally, when she was done tormenting me in the high chair and ready to be cute again, I could make the boys' dinner. Or have them help me. They were a little dismayed when I sprinkled bits of spinach on the pizza we made, but complaining about pizza toppings is a little like complaining about ice cream flavors -- fine, then don't have it!

Julian was my sous-chef tonight, and did the cheese and "pepperoni" (turkey meatballs that I sliced).

Katrina made her way into the office, where she suckered Dad into sitting on his lap and playing with his calculator.

She likes TuxPaint, a free Mac painting application that includes a stamp feature. Here's a good example of her asking for help, then imitating me saying "make pickup truck."

Gabriel's invented a goofy way to lift the front wheel of his bicycle from a near-stop, or very slow. Most of the time he falls, but occasionally he gets it.

I really really really really wish this headache would let me enjoy my children -- and my life -- this weekend!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/08 The Homework

It's supposed to be weekly homework, but it's broken down into recommended daily segments. The accompanying notes say it's supposed to be 10 minutes per day, but that's just of the homework. Then there's 10 minutes of reading and recording what you read in the reading log, and then there's spelling practice.

The actual "10 minutes a day" homework is far, far more than that, and most of it requires heavy involvement from the parent. For example, the parent reads aloud a list of words, and the kid stands up when a word with a short 'a' sound is said. Or partner games in which you think of something that has a short 'a' sound, draw a picture and your partner guesses what it is. Gabriel had to choose four such exercises today, amounting to far more than 10 minutes.

Then there's the spelling list. This one really baffles me. He gets a list of 15 words to practice for his Friday spelling test. At the top of the list is a section that I can only guess, since there are no instructions, are to identify rhyming words. But the section is labelled "Basic Rimes:". Yes, you read that right -- Rimes. What is that about?! An accidental misspelling? A deliberate attempt to simplify a difficult word? Either way, that's ridiculous.

Then the words themselves go from ten super-easy ones: "the," "of," "is," to five much more advanced ones: "school," "principal." Couldn't they have stuck in words like "seat" or "pen" in there inbetween?

The reading log doesn't sound so onerous until you have to write down the start and end page you read, and then how many pages you read, and then totalling the read pages for the week! This turns the reading log into a big arithmetic problem.

Add to that a tired kid who just wants to hang out, a brother who is fascinated and wants to "help," (really, wants to play with his brother and doesn't like being kicked out), and a little sister who alternately demands something immediately, or is so quiet for so long that the mom-alarms go off. Gabriel is an ordered kid who doesn't need a ton of prompting to do homework, but this was a serious, serious drag tonight. I hope other parents complain, but this is where cultural differences might kick in: many parents educated in academically intense countries might well be all for it.

I personally think Gabriel can learn about short 'a's without so much silly homework. Some homework, sure, and the straightforward homework, such as picking out words with short 'a's from a list. Once he has to find pictures in a magazine of things with a short 'a', cut them out, glue them to something, and then write down what it is, and then do three more sorts of things like that, plus the spelling and the reading log, it turns into a much much longer task than 10 minutes, and a great deal of oversight from us.

I'm complaining now because Dave's taken this on so far all week, so I haven't seen first-hand how much work it is. It's not all doable in one night like the kindergarten homework -- you really do have to do it every day, since if you fall behind, it would be very difficult to catch up. That happens, that's school, but in first grade?!

At least I liked spending the time with Gabriel, but I hated being interrupted again and again by the demands of pre-bedtime siblings, and fretting about all there was to do. It's stunning what a huge commitment the school expects from parents -- I'm sure it was nothing like this when I was in first grade, and look how I turned ou.....oh never mind.

I miss Katrina. The boys too, but she's changing and growing up with every passing day. The most time I spend with her during the day is during her evening mealtime tantrum. But she's great in the mornings. What am I doing?

9/11/08 (in memoriam....)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

9/10/08 The Complaint

Gabriel made a complaint tonight that would make any mother's heart sing: "I have the healthiest lunch in my whole class! Everyone else always gets junk food!" Unfortunately, I doubt that's really true. He gets more than his share of nutritionally-challenged items for lunch, such as macaroni and cheese and bagels; and I'm sure most of his classmates get healthy lunches. Indian cooking doesn't have a strong tradition of Goldfish.

But I've just discovered another lunch item both boys will accept as their "main course": green beans! Poor kids! MOMom. (Mean Old Mom.) Well, maybe that will make up for Katrina's near-complete rejection of all things green.

I had the nicest most adorable and heartwarming phone call and singing from my niece and nephew today, full of giggles and silly sounds.

Dave asked me later if I ever got dollar bills in birthday cards from grandparents, and I had to remind him that I really didn't grow up with grandparents. Three were dead before I remember, and my remaining grandfather lived in France and was in a nursing home by the time I was in junior high school. He struck me as a rather formal fellow; even if he lived closeby it's hard to imagine we'd have gone to the zoo together. I had one aunt and two uncles, and one uncle had four children roughly the same ages as my brother and sister and I, but they were raised in France and we didn't see them a lot (we are in loose touch and I like my French cousins a lot).

So I'm very very glad to have extended family in this part of my life. My niece and nephew singing Happy Birthday to me on the phone more than makes up for the lost dollar bills from grandparents.

9/10/08 (45 and counting!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

9/9/08 Gearhead girl

Ahh, the torch has been passed.

Sitting on the motorcycle was the only way Dave could persuade Katrina to get out of his car's driver seat and stop playing with the steering wheel. She loves it. "Bye-sih-tull! bye-sih-tull!!" she declares ("bicycle"). Dave says she's a total gearhead.


Julian was so good about setting the table tonight. It helped that I asked him to make my napkin into a triangle shape.

Gabriel did his homework before dinner.

Ah, these darling perfect well-behaved helpful little children. You buy that?


Monday, September 08, 2008

9/8/09 Katrina's colors

Gabriel was really a pain tonight. The least of his offenses was not getting out of the car for a long time because he was too busy kissing Katrina, and she was actually tolerating it.

Yesterday I found him sitting and helping her play with Zoobs (a sort of building toy that's Julian's), pausing to kiss and hug her. This boy's love for his little sister knows no bounds.

Homework's started again. It's due weekly, but it's going to require a lot of oversight from us on a daily basis. Gabriel also has to practice a spelling list every day, as he'll have a spelling quiz every Friday.

Katrina's definitely identifying colors now, sometimes even correctly. For a few weeks, it seemed she's been trying, though still saying an object's color with the object, as though it's part of the name.

For instance, the "orange firefly," a tiny dragonfly barrette, too small for her hair, but she likes playing with them. She saw them in the drawer I keep a brush and her hairbands in, so I started handing her one every morning to play with. I used to give her any firefly, but now it has to be the "ahhjj fiefie" (orange firefly). Then she started pointing out the "boo fiefie."

Today I directly quizzed her on Gabriel's T-shirt, which had identical red, white and blue cars on it. She got "boo" (blue) and "rit" (red) right, and couldn't identify the white one, but so what. Most telling is that she understands the question and what sort of thing she's supposed to answer. She's experimenting and saying new things and imitating and trying to communicate all the time now, a real language explosion.

Even her regular evening dinner tantrum was relatively minor. She's shedding babydom with every passing day now!


Sunday, September 07, 2008

9/7/08 Camping weekend

We had such a fun camping weekend! I used to camp a lot, Dave too to a lesser extent, but it was all motorcycle camping, often roving. Meaning, you're not in one place for more than one night, and spend the day travelling, so you tend to bug out early and arrive late, often setting up camp in the dark. You can carry a lot more on a motorcycle than on a bicycle or backpack, but it's still a far cry from car camping.

Still, my first experience car camping -- with kids -- was just great! We got incredibly lucky that our camping weekend coincided with a major heat wave. Along the coast, that meant that it was beautiful and not foggy and freezing, and we weren't in 100+ degree heat back home. Really, coastal beaches around here are famous for being cold, so this was a superb stroke of luck.

Most families shared one tent, and some tents were huge.

That legacy of motorcycle camping meant that I have two pretty small tents. The boys shared their own tent, and I got my own. Later, several people thought the separate-tent idea was great, though short of buying another tent, that's just what we had to do. It worked out great; even if I get a larger tent that I can stand in, I'd still put the boys in their own tent.

The moms who organized this trip did so, so much, it's just incredible. They arranged for the campsite, collected money and bought all the food, organized work details and basically took care of every last detail. Really hardworking ladies -- and husbands -- and I'm so grateful to them for having made this possible. Nice touch on the weather clairvoyance too.

There was a little fog Saturday morning, but it burned off quickly.

Julian at one of several portable tables, with other 2004-born kids.

I wish I got more "scene" photos, but, here's the main firepit where people gathered.

Hills attract kids immediately.

Some people brought tricycles too. Julian discovered too late that this little lowrider doesn't have brakes, and he fell hard on his helmetless head, resulting in a marble-sized bump on his head and a lot of crying. A helpful mom suggested a piece of candy to ease his pain; I declined. I can just see the kid-brain spinning that one: "hmm...! pain + crying = candy! hmm!!"

It took about half an hour to get past this bump problem, and the spot is still very sensitive. It's hard to enforce helmet-wearing for a little tricycle, but Julian's awful bump demonstrates why we should. (yes, that's Gabriel in the photo, but Julian's the one who bonked his head.)

A few enterprising Dads lined the kids up for a hike. Gabriel joined at the last minute, just as Julian bailed. They went all the way to the beach, which is a 100-foot drop (according to Gabriel), and the best part was a ride back up in a V8!

Before lunch, I took Julian to the beach while Gabriel was on the hike, and later went back to get Gabriel. I love beaches. I love the ocean, and it's a crying pity that I don't get to them more often, especially living so close to paradise.

A smattering of surfers had Julian very concerned. "What if the lifeguard drowns?"

The water here is still too cold and fast to do much body-surfing, as I did as a kid on the Atlantic beaches. But sand play is always a big attraction.

We went back to the campground for lunch, then back to the beach. I didn't think the boys would have two trips in them, but they did. The beach is closeby, but not really walking distance, so we drove.

Back on the beach, three other moms and I went for a walk, while Dads and other moms watched our offspring. I was one of three "a la carte" moms, cleverly phrased by Lance's single mom, but Gabriel was in good hands with this (shh, handsome) redheaded Dad commandeering an engineering project.

This Dad has taken his daughter (on his right) snow-camping in Yosemite, by himself, when she was three! They're serious campers, and I enjoyed talking to his wife on our walk.

Gabriel later tackled his own castle, a second one built behind a levee wall, after his first got washed away.

Other than the dead decapitated sea lion (not a sight you see on Atlantic beaches), it was a lovely walk.

Julian, unfortunately, didn't fare so well. Somehow during a frisbee game, some sand got in his eye. Several moms and myself couldn't get him to open his eye, and even a very impressive uniformed ranger couldn't persuade him either. The ranger had a bottle of eyewash stuff, and we did our best to flush out the sand, but Julian just couldn't tolerate opening his eye at all. We went back to the campsite and I sat him nearby, still clutching a cloth to his eye, while I started on dinner detail. Before long, he disappeared into his tent and went to sleep. Just as well.

As I was getting Gabriel to bed, Julian was just waking up, and he was wet. I got him cleaned up and pajama'd, then found some dinner for him with the help of yet even more helpful moms. He sat by the fire with the grownups, calmly eating dinner, listening to a Dad play guitar, and a few times took his hand off his eye. It was red and swollen, but at least he was able to open it. After he was done eating, he got up and said, "I'm going back to bed!" He'd been sleeping since 5pm, I was amazed! It had been quite a day for my little mishap magnet.

Julian's eye still looked a little swollen this morning, but he had it open and was looking around like normal. Thank goodness, because I was prepared to take him to Urgent Care if not.

Back to motorcycle-camping habits, I packed up quickly, got the boys breakfast and ready to go not-so-quickly, but we still left early enough to be home before 10am. My only regret is that the group photo of all the Moms and our 2004 "babies" happened while Julian was deep into a piece of cantaloupe and he refused to join me. Sniff.

Don't bring white shirts camping!

The only thing that marred this weekend for me was, of all things, a "minor" migraine headache. I was OK as long as I was moving around, but sitting and talking was hard.

When we got home, I was tired and in need of real sleep because of the headache, but was bracing myself to hear horror stories of Katrina torturing Dave all weekend. Not so! They did really well. She had her share of tantrums and opinions, but Dave said overall it was pretty quiet without the boys, and he appreciated the change. It was too hot on Saturday to go out much, but a nearby park has a little water feature and she enjoyed that.

The boys were happy to see Dad again, and they all like watching Sesame Street videos on the iPhone!

Katrina was adorable and funny today. It seems like she's made a huge leap in her language while we were gone! Dave said she's been telling him, "No way, dude!" in mock resistance.

She can finally climb up onto this chair, and this afternoon was having fun being silly on it. This is by no means a rare moment, but minute-for-minute, her tantrums are unfortunately more memorable. So this might seem like a very ordinary dull video to you, but to me, it's the most delightful thing to see her being charming and silly and happy.

Some of the best photos from the weekend are on other moms' cameras, so I'll have to update this post later. Laura told me she got a photo of the ranger ministering to Julian's eye, and Sonia got a photo of me and Julian. Me, in a photo? Horrors! I think I'll go single-handedly raise the air quality rating by taking my first shower since last Thursday. Not without some sadness rinsing out the salt spray from my hair.