Saturday, October 18, 2008

10/18/08 Two pumpkin patches

I wasn't planning on going to two pumpkin patches today, but this morning while Dave and Gabriel were at Gabriel's piano lesson, Katrina made being inside at home completely intolerable.

A new tantrum method is to stand and scream and cry at anything and everything I do (especially something she claims she wanted), and when I approach her, run away crying and close doors behind her. Sometimes that works to my advantage, but even behind closed doors, a screaming tantrum escalating with no end in sight is very irritating.

Julian's good-natured and patient attempts to distract her only incited her more. I think that bugs me about her tantrums the most, that I have to insist that Julian leave her alone, when he's just doing his best to help. I always tell him it's not his fault, she's just being a pest and that he's the sweetest brother ever, but I also have to tell him to just stop and leave her be, and I hate doing that.

So, out we went. I knew the 2004 group was having a small, impromptu pumpkin patch outing at a nearby place (really a parking lot converted to a place to sell pumpkins for Halloween season), so there we went. That did break Katrina's fuss, sort of, though mostly she enjoyed running away from me, and then had fresh reason to throw a fit when it came time to leave.

(Julian doing a scarecrow imitation.)

Later in the afternoon, we went to Webb Ranch, a farm/pumpkin patch up the highway. But first, costume photos!

Gabriel is a policeman, in a costume I did not put one stitch into. It's cheap, but it does the job well. I am such a sucker for a guy in uniform -- so handsome!

Julian is a shark. This costume I made, except the hat. That black thing on his stomach is supposed to be -- surprise, a stomach, filled with things the shark ate. It doesn't really work very well, but he doesn't mind.

Unfortunately, I sewed on his dorsal fin upside-down!

Contrary Mary, predictably, would have nothing of this cozy family scene.

But, back at the ranch, I was able to get a shot of all three on a hay wagon.

This pumpkin patch in many ways is a real pain. It's dusty, hilly, the sun is always in our eyes, hard to get around, parking is limited....but the kids love it. Gabriel was reunited with longtime friends he's played with since babyhood, though there are only a few he knows well at this point. Naturally, you recognize Gina, leading the charge up the hill as usual!

So cute!

Gabriel's hat was of interest to several kids, and twice I watched the same scene unfold: Gabriel's hat was snatched by another kid, and then run away with. At first, Gabriel thought it was funny, but then he wanted his hat back. One of those times, the hat got passed back and forth between several kids, and another time, there was a 3-way tug-of-war for it. Curiosity and confidence kept at bay any temptation I had to intervene, and sure enough, he came out of it both times with his hat, all forgotten and ready to play. Maybe partly because he's so skinny and small compared to other kids his age, I'm glad to see him handle these things so well. The day he comes crying to me about someone taking something from him, I'll know something really bad happened.

Who can hold a grudge? Gabriel was too busy running up and down the hill anyway. And losing his hat on his own.

Katrina, meantime, found a wagon immediately, and kept Dad busy pulling her up and down the hill.

In retrospect, I'd have skipped this pumpkin patch trip if Dave weren't there, since Katrina could well have unleashed her formidable power to trample any modicum of enjoyment I might have with the boys. But she, and Dad, had a pretty good time.

But not good enough to attempt to take her to a crowded pizza place the rest of the group was going too. She rarely eats pizza, and this place involves too much standing and waiting to order to deal with her. Still, I was in no mood to cook, so we went to Outback.

This plan quickly turned four-letter when she threw a complete fit after I mortally offended her by washing her hands. Dave and I were both amused that the table next to us apparently was a baby shower for an expectant mother of a girl. Katrina's behavior was going to put a serious damper on any celebrations about baby girls! Somehow we got her distracted, and she ate enough of Outback's new whole grain wild rice side dish for good humor to creep back in.

As I was waiting outside Outback with Gabriel and Katrina for Dave and Julian to finish up and come out, I struck up a conversation with a lady who had 4 children and 8 grandchildren. Actually, Katrina struck it up, by tottering right up to her and showing her her "guy," a Lego piece she's had in her hand all day. Katrina really brightened up for this lady, stamping her feet from side to side, giggling, running away, then running back. Somehow, she just took to her, and the lady delighted in it.

Grandma-of-8 said during our conversation that she wanted to write stories about her kids' childhoods to leave as a legacy for them, but to her surprise and dismay, she was finding she couldn't remember any stories. She urged me to write down stories now, while I still remember them. She's right, and of course I blog, but that's too current, and far far too much information to work as a story remembrance later.

When we got home, talking to Gabriel, it came up that Katrina's costume had been his, and he wanted to see a picture. So I pulled out a scrapbook and showed them the page I'd done from Halloween in 2003. The boys were fascinated by the scrapbooks, and sat poring over the pages, asking questions about the photos and the moments the pages capture.

It hit me then: there's my legacy. There are the childhood stories, captured in snippets, illustrated with photos, decorated with little touches that at the time seemed over-the-top, but now are charming and homesy. Scrapbooking isn't just a time-consuming, expensive hobby, it really is memory-building. Especially seeing how the boys love the books, I know I must get back to it immediately.

Besides, of ALL events, I have to scrapbook Halloween! A dual pumpkin patch day is not to be forgotten!


Friday, October 17, 2008

10/17/08 The Puzzle

Katrina opened a final birthday present today: an adorable round puzzle from her East Coast cousins. She won't let me touch the pieces to show her how to put it together, instead preferring to go "zoom zoom" and "choo choo" with the car and train pieces!

Thank you Aunt Stephanie!

Warren Buffett had an op-ed in the NY Times today, in which he said: "When everyone is greedy, be fearful. When everyone is fearful, be greedy."

Despite all the bad economic news today, especially in home construction, I talked to my own "Joe the Plumber" today. "Damian the Carpenter" is doing all the framing, siding and window installation in our house (him and a sizable crew that is). His business just landed two huge residential contracts and he said they just hired 5 more guys yesterday. Seems Damian and Warren are on the same wavelength, one that gave me a nice pick-up.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

10/16/08 All three

It's impossible. This is the most I could get Katrina to cooperate for an all-three photo, and this only because the boys didn't scootch near her. Then Julian had to close his eyes. Sigh.

As a beleaguered homework parent, TGIF takes on new meaning. Oops, I said I was going to stop complaining. OK, I'll think of something nice to say.

Julian counted for me while I did some bicycle ab exercises on the floor tonight. He can't count backward from 30, but he had a great time speeding up his counting so that I'd have to work faster!


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10/15/08 The Duet

Somehow, we got through homework in time tonight for Dave to practice a little piano with Gabriel. He's got an informal duet practice planned for Saturday with a teenaged girl saxophone player. Dad will have to do as a melody-playing partner in the meantime.

Dave and I are starting to think about talking to Gabriel's teacher about changing classes -- if that would help with the onerous homework situation. I really don't know if we're completely off here, if we're the only parents having such a hard time. The homework just doesn't work well for a kid who wants to do it himself and can't. When I give him hints for words that rhyme with "lick," he says, "Don't tell me Mom, I want to think of them myself!" But then he can't think of enough words, it takes forever and he gets distracted and bored....and still has four more language exercises to do -- plus the spelling, math and reading.

Julian's really the one getting shortchanged. Katrina's perfectly happy to play by herself -- when she's allowed to by her meddlesome brother that is -- but Julian wants to talk and show us stuff, and I want to do that with him.

I know I've complained about homework a lot this week -- and it's only Wednesday! OK, no more! After all, Halloween season starts in earnest this weekend, and I still have a few costume parts to make! That's much more fun.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10/14/08 Science class

I wasn't planning to renew Julian's science class. That and gymnastics seemed like a lot, and I'm getting tired of these extras.

But tonight at dinner, he volunteered, "Eardrums send messages to the brain, did you know that, Mom?"

OK, that's another $111.


Monday, October 13, 2008

10/13/08 Ghosts

I absolutely love this Halloween shirt.

It's one of the few items we have that has survived all three, partly because it still fit Julian when we discovered there would be a baby#3, and partly because I just couldn't part with it. Not only is it adorable and season-appropriate, but it was a gift from Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan. It's really held up over the years and many, many washings and wearings -- great babyGap quality.

(A fashion don't: aside from the kooky ponytails, those are Julian's giant blinky basketball sneakers she's wearing!)

Aww, those little pipsqueaks. This shirt deserves its own scrapbook page!

Would Monday be complete without a homework gripe?

Today's math homework was a perfect storm of stupid, fruitless, destined for failure, punishing those who understand, and incredibly time-consuming.

The first of 4 exercises is:

Count for someone at home. Count up by 1s, starting with 1. I counted to ________.

This really, really sucked. First of all, most preschoolers can count by 1s. Heck, Katrina just about can. And count to what, until you can't count anymore? Some way to foster a sense of achievement. If you can count by 1s, this is an infinite exercise. And if you're Gabriel, you'll insist on counting up to 500.

Or 400 if you get too tired and have to pee. This took at least 15 minutes.

But what are we supposed to say? "No Gabriel, don't push it." "No Gabriel, you don't have to do what the instructions say." Not that he'll listen to us anyway. I tried to get him to count by another number, but he insisted on doing what the instructions said, and he insisted on a multi-hundred number.

After this excruciating drudgery, Gabriel volunteered that counting by 11s is 1, 11, 22, 33 -- up to 165. This took him less than a minute. Why couldn't he have done that instead of counting up to 400 by 1s? Because he's very ordered, and because he wants to challenge himself. Dave and I were gritting our teeth that this insipid homework turns those fine qualities into liabilities.

We're guessing we're in for a shock when it's time for us to oversee Julian's homework, but maybe not in the way we expect! Meanwhile, little sister also likes numbers too -- not to the obsessive extent her oldest brother did, but there are definite signs of the same sort of ordered thinking.

I had to insist Julian sit down in the kitchen while Gabriel was doing his homework (instead of running around throwing things). He became engrossed in Gabriel's toil and watched with his usual wide-eyed innocent face. A face I can never get enough of, especially that most perfect, luscious, beautiful mouth.

When he's taking it all seriously, that is, which fortunately isn't too often! precious, my sweet boy. The middle child, the glue that holds this family together, the hub of the wheel, the center of the star.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

10/12/08 All Italian Day

Once a year, an Alfa Romeo club in Alameda puts on All Italian Day, in which people are invited to exhibit their Italian vehicles, to raise money for the Special Olympics. I've gone many times with Dave -- once even on an Italian vehicle, but in the past few years he's mostly gone with one or both of the boys, depending on their state of toddlerdom. This year, I considered going, but we decided it was too risky to take Katrina, since she could easily ruin a fun event that only comes around once a year.

But I'm glad I didn't go. I had a great day alone with my funny little girl. She's exploding, every day doing and saying new things. One of her latest tricks is to say, "I sing a song!" and indeed, she hums a few bars and clumsily stamps from side to side as if to dance to it. Today she caught me typing email to my mom, and demanded to sit on my lap, then wouldn't let me type. "Hanns DOWN!" she'd say firmly, then pull my hands off the keyboard. OK, OK, I get the picture!

I didn't do anything special with her today, but when you're 2, even a simple soybean-butter-and-jelly sandwich lunch (on your shirt, the table, your hair, your face, and everywhere except your stomach) is great fun.

I did take her to the Y and then to TJ's though. As much as I'd love to have a day when I hole up and home and go nowhere, kids need to get out.

The boys didn't want to take apart the Lego dune buggy I'd made yesterday. I couldn't believe how much it meant to them that I'd made it, and they both took great care of it and wanted me to take a picture of it. I have to remember that for the future.

It did come apart today, as a way of comforting Julian, who wanted more Legos to play with. There are only a few he can call his own; most of the Legos we have are parts of kits that Gabriel has either gotten as gifts or bought himself with his allowance. The boys are horrified when I tell them that when I was a kid, there were no Lego kits and very few specialized pieces!

A very nice day with my joyful, lively little toddler. Can you tell I'm falling in love all over again?