Saturday, October 04, 2008

10/4/08 Costume Day

Halloween Season is here! Recognize this costume?

Except she's taller and chubbier around the waist than her skinny older brother, who was also 4 months younger at the time.

Katrina wasn't really into the trick-or-treat portion of the party until she found the bag of ducks. Ducks and trucks for her today (other kids kept pushing her around in this, it was pretty funny.)

After her nap, we took The Three to the house, mostly because Dave and I both needed to be there to notarize documents with our next-door neighbors, thanks to our favorite travelling notary, Melissa. She and Katrina were happy to see each other again. I didn't get a photo of them, darnit.

I did get a few crummy ones of Katrina endlessly looping through the under-stair storage hideaway.


Friday, October 03, 2008

10/3/08 Croup

Gabriel saw one of those big battery-operated Jeeps that kids can ride in today, and said he wanted one. I told him he could save up for it if he wanted, so he asked, "How much does it cost? 60 bucks is my limit!" Such the budgeter.

Julian came home from school early with a temperature today, which I wouldn't have bothered with a doctor's visit for, except for the labored breathing and occasional very strange sounds coming from his throat. He was overall fine by the time we got to see the doc, but the symptoms I described sounded just like a mild croup, which is going around, she said.

This evening, it hit him a lot harder, with a higher temperature that put him to sleep as soon as we returned from picking up the other two. He woke up after dinner, coughing the telltale "barky" cough typical of croup. It's the most surreal sound I've ever heard come from a child; it casts itself away and is strangely stuttered and just doesn't sound human.

While I was frantically searching for some Cloraseptic (in the hopes of briefly relieving his throat pain from coughing), I heard crying in addition to the bark-coughing. I called out to Dave in slight irritation, "WHAT is Gabriel crying about? I can only handle one at a time!" Dave called back to me that Gabriel was sitting right next to him and wasn't crying at all, it was Julian. "No it's not, Julian's in the other bathroom right near me --check Katrina!!" Dave called out again, "Katrina's fine, that's Julian!" "Oh, give me a break," I thought as I finally turned up the bottle and rushed back to Julian, "that's a completely different sound coming from a different place and a different child than that awful coughi..." I was stunned as I entered the bathroom and saw Julian alternately crying (sounds normal) and barking (sounds absolutely horrible). It was Julian. Oh my goodness.

He was so miserable it brought me to tears as I searched for ways to help him. I persuaded him to go into the shower bathroom with me and I turned on the hot water to make it all steamy. I don't know if that helped him, but sitting him on my lap, rocking him, holding him and talking softly to him helped me. He put his head against my cheek and twice, he turned to kiss me.

Suddenly, he'd had enough of the steamroom, got up abruptly and practically ran back to bed. I sat on the floor and watched him as he quickly fell asleep, thinking about the millions of mothers around the world who also look helplessly at their sleeping sick children, far sicker and hungrier than mine. There is nothing worse than seeing your child suffer.

Thankfully, about half an hour later, Julian got up again and seemed to feel better. He asked for dinner, then ice cream, and then put himself straight back to bed. This really isn't a bad case of croup, but even a "good" case sounds downright eerie.

Windows and doors are getting installed in our house! The rest of the windows are awesome, though now that they're in, it's quite obvious that we should have ordered some with obscured glass (like a downstairs bathroom window, duh!).

We're getting a lot of improvements that should have been there to begin with, such as a beadboard detail on all the second-story roof underhangs, to match the original part of the house. Actually, the new stuff in place is done a lot better than the old from 1913.

I'm holding my breath about the big focal-point living room window -- if I had a mouse I'd stretch the upper section downward and make the rectangles squarer. It's not perfect, but as I say about everything else, if that's the biggest mistake we made, then we're in good shape.

Four south-facing windows, and a tall new dormer, will brighten up our formerly cave-dark family room, though it will take some serious fencing and landscaping to keep us from getting too personal with our neighbors.

I love bay windows, and this one was intended to be low enough to really sit on, hence the elongated vertical proportion. I can't wait to sew a beautiful cushion and some beautiful pillows to fit into the window seat.

With every passing step on this project, I'm alternatively thrilled and terrified. I really, really wish the economic news and the stock market would get off the airwaves, it's seriously stressing me out listening to 2 hours of bad news and grim predictions. It's giving me genuine financial jitters for the first time in many years. What if our line of credit gets cut off and we have to sell seriously depressed assets? What if our house value falls so low that we find ourselves upside-down? What if Dave's company goes belly-up? A week ago, these scenarios were unthinkable. Usually I tackle "what-ifs" with "thens," and formulate a plan for any potential bad angle, but I don't have an answer for the next Great Depression.

Maybe it's a good thing that the nervousness about remodeling and the national economy are happening at the same time -- get it all over with in one fell swoop. Saves money on alcohol.

But even if we were to lose our house and have to move to Ecuador, what I need the most right now is for my little boy to feel better.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

10/2/08 "Kiss Mom!"

Tonight I turned on the radio in the hopes that a sentence or two of the VP debate might filter their way through kid-cacophony. Amused at the moderator's comment that neither candidate had answered a direct question (a pet peeve of mine of all politicians -- answer the darned question!), I asked Dave if he remembers Gwen Ifill from when he used to watch the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour.

So we opened the cabinet doors and turned on the TV in the living room, a rare event for the kids around here. We've never resumed our Sunday-night half-hour of TV, so the kids have no TV habit at all at home, though they still get bursts of screen time on the computer and Dave's iPhone. I can't imagine how we'd fit in TV with Gabriel's homework and all, it's out of the question.

Julian and Katrina instantly planted themselves in front of the TV, not realizing right away how kid-unfriendly this show would be. Katrina, being (almost!) 2, found great delight in the images anyway. There's been so much angst about Sarah Palin that many readers will find this truly mortifying: she saw a closeup of the candidate and shouted, "Kiss Mom!" and stood up and kissed the screen!

Not having developed partisanship yet, later she also kissed Joe Biden's image. (I think "Mom" was just her way of saying adult brunette woman; she didn't actually think that was me.)

Katrina's been so funny and adorable lately. Even her usual mealtime tantrum has largely subsided down to plain old toddler finickiness and unpredictability. She likes to sit at the table now, which despite the extra mess and lack of room for a 5th person (as if a mom can actually sit during dinner anyway), I'm all in favor of. Now if only she'd eat more than "uhr-uhrt" (yogurt).


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

10/1/08 Getting sent home

Aww, how peaceful, how idyllic, how warm, this little scene of all three having breakfast together (Cream of Wheat with milk and strawberries for Julian).

The behind-the-scenes version, however, is a lot more hectic: tending the stove, cutting, arranging, mixing. Then it takes a long time to cool enough to eat, it's a sticky mess to clean up and the whole thing sucks up valuable seconds in the morning. And Katrina would only eat a few bites, though she couldn't get enough on Sunday.

But I can't resist putting raisins in the shape of a smiley-face on the cereal. And that's OK.

I left work at 12:30 today, because it's October 1st and my contract through the agency expired Sept. 30th, and my own corporation's approval as a vendor has been delayed again. It was all I could do to maintain a serious expression when my manager was somberly telling me to go home until the contract is straightened out, lest I not get paid.

YIPPEEE! I'm so outta here!

I made a beeline for Rancho San Antonio, and spent some quality time with the late-summer brown foliage and all the warm earthy scents. I had a very tough run on a modest route that used to be a "walk in the park" for me when I was in running shape, but I loved being reunited with the hills and the canyon and the tree canopy again.

I always stretch before I run, including some modified yoga poses (meaning, I don't know the right way to do it).

Stretching is supposed to help prevent tendonitis, on the off-chance my back would ever allow me to run enough for my ankles -- remember them? -- to become a problem again.

Tonight's homework struggle had me in tears. What an astounding PAIN IN THE ---- ...! well, you know.

Either Dave or I were completely absorbed in pushing Gabriel along for a full hour, and I was really starting to resent this control of our time. Meantime, Katrina peed twice in training pants, squandering a fabulous potty-training opportunity.

Every night, there are four elements to Gabriel's homework: a language exercise, spelling, a math exercise (now due the next day) -- these are supposed to take 10 minutes -- then an additional 10 minutes of reading.

Today the math exercise was exceptionally insipid: the student is supposed to tell the parent about their favorite Explorations mathematics exercise they did today, and then draw it!! Gabriel had no idea what an Explorations exercise was, and neither did we. It took over 10 minutes to drag out of him any math exercise he did today in class. Finally, he came up with Minute Math, but couldn't describe it well enough for me to understand what it was about. He did say it had to do with writing something on a whiteboard, so he drew a whiteboard, complete with the brand name of the whiteboard maker at the bottom. This is math homework?!

I'm starting to notice that the aspects of the homework I like the least are those that look for other ways of looking at something, to put a concept into context of day-to-day life experience, relate it to the real world, make it hands-on....I think that's called "whole learning" in modern parlance. Maybe this is based on the kind of kid I have, or kind of kid I was, but I'm much more of the mindset to give the basics, teach the tools, focus on fundamentals. Not exclusively -- you can't learn a language without conversing in it for example, but you still have to start with the grammar and vocabulary. I think real-life examples should support that learning, not drive it.

Overall the math and language work he does in class looks pretty good, but it's all language and math. It was Julian who informed us tonight that "...sound travels in waves!" Oh, really? "Yeah, through air and water!" He likes his Wednesday science classes.

Dave and I are already actively practicing and working on how to discuss our concerns with Gabriel's teacher at our 20-minute conference on Monday. "No no dear, don't jump up, slam your hand on the table and shout 'THIS IS STUPID!!!' Try again...let's start with the positives...."

Still, homework couldn't completely dim the glow from running on my dear trails again today.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

9/30/08 The way minds work

Tonight I commented that something was "random." Julian pondered this for a moment, then piped up, "That's like Peggy', child!" Huh? After some probing, it turned out that he meant that the word "random" sounds like "Miranda." (And that he doesn't know the word "daughter.")

A few nights ago, I was half-listening to the Presidential debate on the radio, and Katrina picked up on the name "Dr. Kissinger." "Dah-ta KEES-GEH! Dah-ta KEES-GEH!" she chanted again and again. Not exactly baby talk.

At dinner tonight, I was reading Gabriel's weekly curriculum, and noted that he had P.E. tomorrow. "PEEEEE!" Gabriel hollered, and he stood up and thrust his crotch forward, pretended to hold himself and spray the room, still shouting "PEEEEEEE!!!"

Sigh. This is our hope for the future?


Monday, September 29, 2008

9/29/08 The Homework

There are lots of things wrong with our evenings. Homework isn't the only one.

But now Gabriel has daily math homework that must be done that day and turned in the next. Between the math, the spelling, the English worksheet, and the reading, it takes up the entire evening after dinner. I'm OK with homework in general, and I'm even OK with a lot of homework. But 6-year-olds who need to go to bed at 8:30 just don't have time for that much. It took 50 minutes to get the "10-minute" portion of his homework done tonight.

The math homework wasn't even the easy worksheet of equations that he can blow through himself in a few minutes. Instead, it was to list things around the house that have dates on them. Gabriel spent 10 minutes sitting in frustration trying to think of things until we were free enough to sit with him and help.

That's another thing -- a first-grader is apt to have young siblings in an un-self-sufficient stage of life, and we're frequently interrupted. Tonight, we were lucky that Julian and Katrina were playing very happily together, but other nights, we really have to come down on Julian for bugging Gabriel to play. I hate doing that.

Getting homework started before dinner, in theory, would be the answer, but there's absolutely no way that can happen. When I first walk in the door with all 3, I am on duty, dealing with making dinner, unpacking lunch sacks, changing Katrina, feeding Katrina (she insists on being spoon-fed now, and even when she doesn't, she still requires constant attention), putting things away, and maybe if I'm really really lucky, taking a few minutes to change my clothes and put my hair back. I can't possibly sit with Gabriel to help him with homework.

But even if I could, I don't want to push him through the door and right into the homework chair. The kid just got home, he'd like some unwind-time too. So it has to wait until after dinner when presumably things are calmed down. Yeah right: dinner cleanup, lunch prep, changing Katrina, herding Julian away, attending to assorted bumps and toy malfunctions, baby-bath, setting clothes out and maybe even sneaking in a moment of play with the younger two.

Our rental house is set up so that the "family room" is the large room off to the side when you first enter the house, and the "living room" is right off the kitchen. All the kids' toys are in the family room, and they play there, away from the kitchen. Overall this works well; we can eat dinner in peace and toys aren't scattered all over the living room.

But now, working-mom guilt creeps in. I don't have time in the evening to sit and play, and often they don't even want me to -- but I do wish I could watch them, talk to them, insert myself as I'm invited. Our reconstructed house will have a family room, eating area, and kitchen all together. I had doubts about that, but now I'm looking forward to it. Except we'll need to find a homework spot where the homeworker is protected from siblings and toy temptations, yet still accessible to the parent-partner-participant.



Sunday, September 28, 2008

9/28/08 The Water Frog

Katrina's new phrases now include "I finiss da PEES!" (I finish the peas) and "I found it -- on the floor!" and, when rocking on a footstool, "I make a noysssss!" (noise). These new phrases indicate some new conceptual expression now, indicating abstract things (noise) or locations (on the floor). She still doesn't do a lot of back-and-forth; mostly she answers "Naaaahhh!!!" if you ask something, with an occasional, "yeaaaaHHH!" but she sure is getting good at announcing her accomplishments.

When Gabriel was a toddler, I'd walk in a room and find things (usually cars) lined up all the time. Today, Katrina was doing the same thing, only this time with the little characters that came with the house playset.

It almost sounded like she was telling me what they were saying to each other. Oh no, she's turning into a girl on me!

I took the three to Michael's today to look for doodads for Julian's Halloween costume. As I was checking out, an elderly lady behind us on line smiled as she watched Gabriel play with Katrina's feet as she was sitting in the cart, making her giggle, with Julian watching closeby. She looked at me and said, "You're going to have a great Christmas!" then, very sincerely, "I wish I could see that."

Then I took them to the park near our house, briefly I warned the boys, because Katrina was way overdue for a nap. I'd planned for the day to be a down day, but they really needed to get out, so I stretched Katrina anyway. Fortunately, there was a frog water feature at the park, and she didn't budge from there.

I had a great time playing "soccer" with the boys, though I've never played and have no idea how to "handle" a soccer ball. I think the rules are sort of like hockey, but without the checking. My ignorance didn't bother the boys at all, we kicked it around together, tried to get it past each other, tried to steal it from each other and "scored" sometimes.

If I do turn into a soccer mom, does that mean I can play too?! This was fun! Making banners and organizing trips I'm not so sure about, but the running-around part is a blast.

Meantime, Katrina got herself completely dripping-wet soaked.

I'm not in the habit of bringing extra clothes, but I did have a towel in the car, so she went home in a diaper. Boy was she mad about being pulled off that frog though! I think I got as wet as she was from trying to carry her to the car. She really, really likes to play in water, we'll have to do this some more.