Saturday, September 27, 2008

9/27/08 An afternoon out

We went to a party in Oakland this afternoon, then braved the toll plaza on the Bay Bridge to go into the city for dinner here.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the view down 18th St. toward the bay -- the entire view was taken up by what at night appears to be a gigantic apartment complex. It was actually the Star Princess cruise ship. I knew those things were big, but holy cow!

Talked a lot to old friends about what was my favorite ride of the year, around the Sierras over Labor Day. I miss that part of my life, but I have wonderful other things in my life instead now. But I miss those too.


Friday, September 26, 2008

9/26/08 Soccer Mom for a day

I planned my day around going to the CDC early today to watch Gabriel play soccer. It's a completely informal pickup game, there's no way to identify who's on which team, and there's no equipment other than the ball and two markers for the "goal." It's organized by one guy who likes to coach, and who's assigned to 1-3 graders, and he seems to play for both teams to facilitate the game. So it's a far cry from league games. This guy does this every day, and it's become a big hit among the kids.

I should say, the boys, because not a single girl even watched longingly from the sidelines -- this was strictly boy territory.

I arrived just as they started and watched for about half an hour. The "game" was pretty full at first, but about half the boys dropped out after about 10 minutes, leaving only the die-hards, including Gabriel. Some of the boys clearly play often and have developed ball-handling skills.

I couldn't believe how much fun this was to watch, marvelling at my son's determination and enthusiasm and intensity.

Gabriel scolds Parth for touching the ball with his hands. A rule broken! Not in my world!

In this particular soccer world, Goalie is a coveted position, perhaps because that's where most of the action occurs. I overheard several boys asking repeatedly if they could be goalie. When it was Gabriel's turn for goalie, he was irritated by a much bigger classmate horning in on his goalie-spot, and he kept scolding the kid and shoving the kid out of his way as needed.

The goalie gets to kick the ball back into the field. This isn't Gabriel's forte.

Gabriel puts his all into a block.

I had a great time watching and was so glad to see how much fun Gabriel was having too. He'd noticed me when I arrived, but all he did was shoot a puzzled glance my way, then got right back into the game, and didn't look at me again until it was over. The famous focus.

After picking up the other two, I took the trio home, gave them dinner, and then we went right back to the same place for an Ice Cream Social at Gabriel's school.

Katrina wasted no time taking off into the open field. So much for meeting other PTA parents.

I went back to the tables to check on the boys, and when I turned back around, she'd found a pickup game!

It was cute at first, but this boy thought it was funny to keep the ball away from her and make her chase after him. I'm not at all protective about playground interactions, but really, this was a 3rd-grader taunting a toddler, and I pulled her out of it. She took it very well though, never crying or screaming, just doggedly going after the little brat.

No matter, she found her own ball anyway. "I fow'da PEEK BOW!!" (I found a pink ball!)

Katrina's brothers unwittingly avenged her anyway, by snagging the same flat ball and getting into their own pickup game.

Then when I turned back to Katrina, once again, she was playing with balls, this time with a Dad and his 21-month-old.

The other girl was one of those nice little girls who shares and tries to cooperate and play together. She offered Katrina the ball several times, trying to draw her into a game, but all Katrina did was grab the ball and take it away, and then tried to keep both balls in her stubby little arms.

The other girl didn't know what to make of this. After it was clear Katrina was only going to be possessive, I started to get self-conscious that maybe the Dad expected me to do something about my grabby little girl. And I will someday, but they're too young now. I don't like to chant "share, now, share!"; it's futile.

I had to smile to myself though. I'd admired a similar personality on the soccer field just a few hours ago.

Katrina did not approve of my attempts to round everyone up to go home, and it took some doing. Without the stroller, I don't know how I'd have done it, since the boys kept scattering too.

You know, being a soccer mom might not be so bad!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

9/25/08 A bad start

Thursday mornings, Dave drives the kids to school/preschool/daycare, so I get a little time in the morning to take care of things at home. So I thought it would be a good morning to call the IRS to follow up on my Dad's lost tax rebate check.

Anyone see the problem in this? Calling the IRS on a good morning?

After 40 minutes on hold (I was watching the clock), the lady I talked to said it was actually after 6 weeks that I was supposed to call them back, not 4 weeks as I'd been told. I'd had to wait 35 minutes just to request the trace, and I was incredulous when the guy told me that I had to call them back when they're the ones doing the trace.

But, not so fast -- 6 weeks had gone by. A little more probing -- hmm, seems the trace never went through. WHAT?! Something about a "systemic failure." So, what, I get to sit on hold for 40 minutes in another 6 weeks? No, the trace won't go through, I have to call a different number.

I was so frustrated from the hold time and the runaround that I actually started to yell at her. I knew it wasn't her fault, and said as much, but I also told her that she's the only one I had to push back on. She has to complain to her supervisor that excessive hold times and ridiculous bureaucracy was causing taxpayers to become irrational and making her job unpleasant. She said it wasn't the IRS's fault, write your Congressman. I said no way -- Congress decides tax law, that's another major aggravation. But hold times and lack of information and brick walls -- that's all IRS. (Did you know this is "tax season" and that's adding to the hold times??)

After an hour all told, I was really rattled and couldn't even think about going to work. Why do I let these people get to me? Maybe it's all the other insecurities: the house being torn up, the imminent collapse of the country's financial system, a fire at our jobsite, constant unexpected expenses. Meantime my job continues to be dull and senseless, and it seems crazy that I work barely 20 hours a week, yet my toddler is living a full-time-working-mom life.

Maybe I'm just not satisfied -- again -- with the way I've arranged my life, always feeling so strung out and like I can't do well at anything I do. Didn't we hear this same tired old complaint when I was a full-time mom too?

A new guy at the CDC runs the afternoon activities for the 1-3 graders, and he's been organizing a soccer game every day. And surprise, surprise, he has a most enthusiastic participant! Gabriel looks forward to soccer every day, and insists on wearing socks and sneakers to school every day instead of sandals. The CDC guy tells me Gabriel's even a decent goalie, which tells me he's probably a pretty poor shot. We'd tried Gabriel in soccer a long time ago, and he didn't like the class at all. But he likes the competition and keeping score.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go to the CDC and check out the afternoon soccer game. Then pick up the others, take them home for an early dinner, then back to Gabriel's school for an Ice Cream Social sponsored by the PTA. Serious detox from the morning.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

9/24/08 Fire in the hole

The bad news is that there was a fire on our jobsite today.

The good news is that no one was hurt, it was minor, put out quickly, and no real damage done. Our contractor called the fire department to check it out, and the house got a clean bill of health. It was started by a plumber with a blowtorch that caught some paper backing on insulation. Still, "fire" and "jobsite" are not two words one likes to see anywhere near each other.

That's not the worst thing that happened with remodeling though. We got a notice from PG&E today: moving the gas line will cost us over $5000. We'd expected more like a few hundred dollars, as this is a straightforward move. I'd really like to know how they can charge $2300 for engineering and administration.

I should be used to these unexpected major expenses. I've lost track of how many $5000-$10,000 surprises we've had. But there's no budgeting, no conserving, no spending strikes, no cutting back. Few of the extra expenditures have been luxuries or options. When you have to spend thousands of dollars on an unexpected concrete removal and dirt excavation, saving $500 on cheaper tile just isn't satisfying.

I really really wish the economy, sagging housing prices, and stock market would get off the front pages already. I don't need the insecurity, what with our house torn up and all. Add to that renewed doubts about living here at all, thoughts I normally push away until a friend astutely describes similar thoughts. Then again, living in the Bay Area, talking and dreaming about moving away are common pasttimes.

Plus the serious grass-is-greener affliction. When I was a full-time mom, my impression was that working moms were on the whole happier, still in touch with their basic selves, despite the challenging balancing act. Now that I'm working, it's quite clear that full-time moms are far happier and less stressed and have much better lives, despite their challenges. It occurred to me today while driving (and I have lots of thoughts while driving since I do it about 2 hours a day) that a big part of the sense of rat-race is spending all of my driving time in rush hour traffic. As a full-time Mom, I almost entirely avoided crowded driving. Maybe I'm just feeling pissy about my car time because it's Pledge Week on NPR.

Gabriel made a cookie at the CDC today, plastered with gooey orange frosting and drowned in jimmies and sprinkles. Cookies are so much better when you make them yourself!

The best thing happened today was that I called my father for the first time in weeks, and he happily remembered me.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

9/23/08 The Motivation

One of the questions we had to answer for Gabriel's teacher to prepare for an upcoming parent-teacher conference was, "How is your child motivated?"

Well, unfortunately, Dave and I immediately came up with the same answer: Money! Ever since the allowance started, Gabriel is all about money. He wants to play piano for us so we'll drop coins in his tip jar (Dave started that), and doesn't quite understand when I suggested that being a musician is not a great way to make money. He counts the days down to allowance, and the threat of losing his allowance or any money at all resonates harder with him than anything else.

Lately the boys have been giving us no end of trouble after going to bed: laughing, throwing things, running around, screeching so loud you can hear it outside, well past bedtime. Our standard strategy is to take things away until they're quiet for 5 minutes, but last night this backfired, Gabriel-style, as we found ourselves cleaning out their room and they were still completely hyper pushing 10pm. It's usually just Gabriel who needs to be calmed down; Julian will follow.

Tonight, Dave didn't mess around. After one warning, Gabriel was "fined" ten cents. That put a stop to it, fast. As Dr. Phil says, we've found his currency.

Now how do we explain that to his teacher?!


Monday, September 22, 2008

9/22/08 The House

Katrina loves her new playset so much that she talks about it when we're not home. This is the first time that language has given me insight into what she thinks about that's not in immediate view. Mostly when we're driving, she points out red cars, but today she said numerous times (translated) "I want to play with the HOUSE!"

This house playset came with some standard family characters, and tonight she brought me one of a woman holding a baby bottle and announced joyfully, "I fow da MAMA!!" (I found the mama). I just love how delighted she is about her pronouncements.

But the Cute award goes to Julian today. He learned some dances at school, and while he's said many times he doesn't like to do dancing at school, he volunteered that he'd learned a Mexican dance and a Chinese dance. I couldn't get a good concise demonstration on video, but here's one anyway.

The Music Together class I'd thought about taking with Katrina this session was full. I thought about signing Julian up for a kids' choir, but haven't pursued it (like to find out if he's old enough). Gabriel suddenly loves playing soccer at the CDC, but I can't imagine how to fit in classes or a league. Well, I guess if they're going to get shortchanged, it might as well all be at the same time. They'll recover. I'm not sure I will.

Katrina's having more fun playing with her house than I am with mine!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

9/21/08 Baby gets a new pair of shoes

(I just discovered that some-or-other keystroke erases all the text in Blogger, with no undo option. So I'll be "brief" in retyping what I just spent 10 minutes writing, argh!)

The boys went to a birthday party today for Gabriel's peer, and Julian was kindly invited as well. It was a Lego-theme party, in which each kid was given a box of Lego pieces to make a car, then "race" them down this ramp that the Dad built. The boys loved this, of course.

The Dad also baked and decorated a Lego-block cake. What a great idea, and what an amazing Dad!

Meantime, my main goal for the weekend HAD to be met: Katrina needs new shoes. All she has are her summer sandals (a few other hand-me-downs but not in her size and not everyday daily shoes anyway), and with fall approaching, she needs real shoes. So I left the boys at the party and whisked her off to our favorite shoe store. Predictably, she threw a fit about having her feet measured, but she consoled herself with a giant rubber ducky while I paid for the shoes.

Then I brought her home and went back to the party to chat with friends and pick up the boys. We all had a really fun time.

Katrina's full of new sentences today: "I play with the house!" "I want to sit there!" "I read the book!" It's still one-way communication, but she's having a great time with it. It's hard to imagine that Gabriel still hadn't said any real words at this age.