Saturday, November 22, 2008

11/22/08 Brothers and sisters

Julian...drove me crazy today constantly bugging Katrina! Or rather, Katrina's screaming during their play -- much of which was very happy together today -- drove me crazy.

Katrina screams a lot playing with Julian -- sometimes for fun, often to protest something, other times because she's had enough of him, and still other times because he's had enough of her and has closed himself in his room, and she wants him to come out! And, of course, she just screams. That's just her way.

I loved hearing them play together when she wasn't screaming though -- lots of laughing, making up games, returning to well-established games they've already made up together. This is a new side of Julian's play I've never seen before, as most of his play has been with an older sibling. He really does play with Katrina, coming down to her level and playing toddler games. Gabriel really never made allowances for Julian's being younger -- he still doesn't!

Gabriel was off with Dad most of the morning, but when he returned, he went to the family room to read. While I was in the kitchen with Katrina for lunch, I caught this scene of the boys.

They weren't playing together, and they each had the whole house to do their own thing in...but still they sat right next to each other, almost back-to-back. This is the amazing thing about just don't do this sort of thing with anyone else.


Friday, November 21, 2008

11/21/08 Running Club

The PTA at Gabriel's school puts on a "Running Club," every Tuesday and Friday. The hard-working and dedicated volunteers keep track of cards for the kids in each class. Each card has 20 squares on it for punchouts. For every lap the kid runs, their card gets a punch. When the card is filled with punches (20 laps), the kid graduates to the next card. A lap is about 1/4 mile, so each card represents 5 miles. The kids have about 25 minutes after lunch to participate, if they so choose.

Gabriel told me yesterday that he was 3 laps away from his purple card, and that he was the only one in his class about to get a purple card. I'm told by the PTA volunteers who run the Running Club that Gabriel is among their most dedicated members, and that he's advancing through the colored cards very quickly. I have to make a scrapbook page of this, so I told Gabriel I'd come at lunch to day and get photos of him at Running Club.

But he upped the ante. "Will you run with me, Mom?"

Urgh! Fridays are my day "off" from work, which means, they're grueling! After our weekly jobsite meeting Friday mornings, I'm spent and anxious to go home and have lunch and take a much needed nap and then attend to countless life's details. But how could I refuse such a request?

So I joined Gabriel at lunch today, hoping no one would ask me if I had a TB test on file. I dodged it by hurriedly signing in at the office and zooming out before anyone had a chance to ask what business I had there. It's weird; parents are allowed on campus if they sign in, but it's not clear when we need the TB test. Volunteers need them, but parents picking up kids from class don't. TB isn't really that discriminating.

(Ironically, I did get the TB test this morning, so that I could attend a Thanksgiving Presentation that Gabriel's class is doing next week. Parents are encouraged to come see their child read aloud a paragraph they're writing about their family and have their child serve them tea and cookies -- but parents can't attend without a current TB test on file!!)

Even if I have TB, it's unlikely I'd pass it along to anyone in an open field that borders a public park. So I skirted the subject and ran alongside Gabriel when Running Club started today.

Volunteer 4th- and 5th- graders do the card-punching as a kid completes each lap.

I trotted along with Gabriel, and swarms of other kids, for the first 3 laps. Then he turned in his full blue card for his new Purple card! He could barely contain himself as the lady filled out his Purple card.

He's already run 30 miles -- not bad!

It was quite the status symbol -- many, many kids asked him about his purple card and ooh'd and ahh'd that he had it. The Running Club moms told me that Gabriel really is pretty fast, and has moved up the ranks of color cards quickly. But I saw from running with him that he's not so much fast as he is consistent, and motivated. He doggedly keeps at it. That's my boy!

The best part of the day was when Gabriel first saw me when he was lining up for Running Club. He screamed MOMMY!!!!!! and obviously basked when other kids asked him, "Gabriel, is that really your Mom??" Moms on campus (properly TB'd of course) are a common sight, but moms in running clothes trotting around the field with all the kids? Not so much.

I was intrigued that the boys traded a word here and there with me (especially Gabriel's charming pal Parth), but the girls were much more talkative and inquisitive. "Gabriel's Mom!" (that's how I was summoned). "Why are you running with us?"

Gabriel runs about 2 miles at lunch, twice a week. He's in decent shape. If I weren't a runner, there's no way I could have kept up with him today, neither in speed when he sprinted, nor in endurance. But I'm happy to report that a 45-year-old injured semi-runner (I still try to sneak in 2-4 twice a week, as my back allows) can still easily outrun a determined 6-year-old. Not forever though.

And how ironic was it to run into my running pal Sonia at the park/school border! She also has two boys, same age difference as ours, and she oves to run. Her oldest is Julian's age (well, 7 weeks younger), so I enjoyed being the bellwether here and showing off: "See, when they're 6, you can run with them!" I'm sure she'll love that.

I had an afternoon committment as well: Julian's Thanksgiving Snack. I've never heard of Thanksgiving in any terms other than Feast, but there were so many snacks it might as well have been a feast. Mostly, we watched the kids sitting at the table with these cute paper feather hats. I knew it was important to Julian that I be there though, since I saw him looking around intently for me before he saw me.

One thing I really like about TLC compared to the last place: I really like the other parents! It's so easy to chat with the other moms -- and dads. Several dads there today too, including one unabashedly showing off his adorable 5-monthold girl.

I held nothing back in bragging to other moms what a good eater Julian is. He supported my case by being the absolute very last kid at the table. When everyone else had cleaned up and had long since been playing, he was still sitting cleaning his plate.

One thing I'm newly thankful for is that my job gives me the flexibility to do stuff like this. Perpetually tired and overloaded as I am, these things are real highlights. Seeing how happy my sons are when they see I'm there really brings me down to earth.

A note on Thanksgiving: I had to explain, at length and not very effectively, to the boys, that they don't really have Indians in their classes.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

11/20/08 The Bicycle Thief

I think I said some months ago now that I was really tired of the Dow Jones Industrial Average making the front page every day. I'm really, really, REALLY tired of it now!

We watched a movie a few nights ago that haunts me. It was an Italian movie called "Ladri di biciclette," (The Bicycle Thief) made in 1948, set in the post-WWII depression that Italy suffered. A desperate father gets a rare job hanging posters, but he must have a bicycle to do the job -- his wife hocks the family's sheets to trade for their pawned bicycle -- and on the first day of his life-saving job, his bicycle is stolen.

It both comforts and alarms me. The throngs of unemployed, the scrabbling, the desperation of the father whose whole life hinges on finding his bicycle. It's a reminder that we're nowhere close to being that bad off. But it's also a reminder that seriously bad times have happened in living memory. 1948 looks like ancient history, but I was born only 15 years later. (OK, OK, so my birth is ancient history now too, I get it.)

The movie is supposed to be one of the best Italian movies ever made, and indeed, it meets my measure for a great movie: I keep thinking about it.

One of the absolute worst things in the movie, to me, wasn't even intended to be that bad a thing. The first day of the father's new job, he drops his son off before dawn -- at work. The boy cheerfully starts setting things up at an Esso station. Then when the Dad is late picking him up (since his bicycle was stolen), the boy complains, "Dad, you're late, it's 7:30!" Half an hour late to pick up his BOY from WORK after TWELVE HOURS!!. The kid can't be more than 7 years old! And that was normal!

If we lose everything and I have to grow food myself in our yard, I'll do it to keep my children from working. That's horrible. But that could never happen now, right? That was all decades ago. Yet I just heard a news report on NPR a few days ago about children in Brazil whose parents have no choice but to pull them out of school and send them to work in the sugar cane fields. (Brazil is the world's biggest agricultural producer of bio-fuels, and this report was about the human cost of that distinction.) The working conditions in sugar fields makes a gas station look like a cruise ship. It still happens around the world. But to us? In Silicon Valley? Not likely -- but lots of things have happened that I'd have scoffed at a few weeks ago.

Despite my unease, it helps give me genuine appreciation for what could really go wrong. Last summer, I was worried about gas prices. That seems like nothing now! But, truly the worst thing that could happen is for one of children, or us, to get seriously ill. Then looking back on being on the brink of the next Great Depression might seem like nothing.

Happily, the only health issue around here is Katrina's new bout with hives. This morning, another one on her leg just after she woke up, probably where she'd been lying down on it.

It started subsiding right away, and she didn't have any more all day. She'll probably have another tomorrow morning, and it could go on for days, even weeks. Just one of those things.

It's so corny, but having boisterous healthy children around really does pull you back into the present and equalize your perspective on life.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

11/19/08 The kicker

Gabriel was a TAD p.o.'d tonight about losing ice cream. After I held fast, he expressed himself in writing. (Hmm, where do you think he gets that?)

("You will give me ice cream and obey me!!!!!!")

Poor kid....I could only laugh at his written defiance.

But I'm really tired of his new kicking, and to some extent, throwing, problem. He drop-kicked his lunch when we got home, and later threw a puzzle piece and gave Julian a slice across his mouth and a fat lip. He likes kicking in soccer, but really, it's got to get under control at home.

So he lost ice cream. I talked with him at length about it.

"What's better, kicking or ice cream?"
"What's more fun, kicking or ice cream?"
"What do you eat your vegetables for, kicking or ice cream?"
"What makes you happier, kicking or ice cream?"

I still don't think he got it.

Katrina had the mother of all hives this morning, covering much of her right leg and rear end. Red, swollen, itchy.

But we've done hives. We know hives. They change quickly, and without other symptoms, they're mostly a mystery. They change so quickly that by the time you get to the pediatrician, they're gone. And even if you get there in time, the poor helpless doc throws up his hands and says, "it's just one of those things!"

(For those who don't recall: Katrina had a 3-week hive episode when she was 7 months old, resulting in numerous trips to the pediatrician and ultimately, a pediatric allergist. All we learned is that multi-week -- even multi-month -- hive outbreaks are common, and usually their cause is untraceable. Just for completeness, the allergist tested her for dairy and peanut allergies, and she reacted to the peanut test slightly. Hence, no peanut exposure until age 3.)

(May 2007)

By the time I dropped Julian off at school this morning, Katrina's leg/butt hive was mostly gone, so I brought her to Tonya's (she gets dropped off last). Tonya said she had another hive on her face after her nap, but it was gone within an our. Then after her bath tonight, she had another raised hive on her arm, but hives often appear after being in warm water, and it started to subside after a few minutes.

Sigh. She's reacting to something in her environment. I doubt it's food though. She'd have to actually eat something first.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

11/18/08 Shades of white

Today's remodeling emergency was an email from the painter: "The trim color you chose is Trail Dust, right? Just confirming, I'm buying it tomorrow."

No, Trail Dust just happened to be on a color card that happened to get taped to the wall. It's gray. It's really dangerous leaving stuff taped to walls!

So I sent a quick email to our architect/designer, then hurried to the paint store to get a sample of "Cream Froth." Looks lighter than we'd had in mind, quick call again, then walk around the paint store on my cell phone discussing the finer points of pink and yellow undertones. Fortunately we hit upon "Calming Cream" -- the perfect shade of white.

I'm quite certain if I'd witnessed this scene, of a woman in a paint store frantically pulling paint cards out, shouting into a cell phone about shades of white, I'd have rolled my eyes in contempt. I'd never do that! Uh-huh. It's just white!

I've been told by Dave and the painter that our house is now primed, and the primer is tinted with the dark greenish color we've chosen. The caution in their voices concerns me. Apparently it looks very, very, VERY different. It's no longer a shade of white.

My efforts to save money on granite may have paid off -- instead of $1000 each for two bathroom countertops, I've found a place that will do both for $900.

Now I just have to decide on the right shade of white.


Monday, November 17, 2008

11/17/08 Learning Day

I learned a lot today about how granite countertops for bathrooms are installed and edged. More than I wanted to know.

Far more interesting was my lesson in astronomy:

"We're in a solar system! It's in a gaLAG-sie."
"Saturn's rings are made out of ice and iron!"

from my little scientist. (Iron?)

For some reason, Gabriel quizzed Julian in the car on the way home, "What's 39 plus 61?" He pushed hard, but Julian just didn't know. Then again, later, Gabriel needed help coming up with the answer to how much water I'd need if I made one-and-a-half cups of rice next time. Katrina finally ate some rice tonight, hence the context for needing to make more rice!

Baths are supposed to be calming before bed, right? (Only the first 8 seconds are worth it....anyone know a good *free* AVI editor?)

Katrina came into the kitchen tonight holding her Mimi (her satin sucking blanket that's really just a pillow cover) up to her chest, announcing, "I wear a dress!" Now if that's not pre-programmed genetic Girl, I don't know what is. She doesn't have any dresses that fit her and are in season right now, and it's not like she gets the idea from seeing me.

Poor thing has a little cold; a runny nose and a slight cough. Still, she chatted happily -- and loudly -- to herself before falling asleep tonight. We could hear her clear across the house shouting "SHI-MA-SEI!". That's Japanese for "Welcome!"...we think. At least that's what they say to greet use at our favorite Japanese restaurant. Then again, the manager and all the waitresses are Chinese.

Thank goodness, Gabriel's homework has been much easier these past few weeks. Much less open-ended, plain old worksheets for his daily math -- we're down to the recommended 10-15 minutes now. A huge relief. And it's not compromising his learning one bit.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

11/16/08 Eating Disorder

Arrgggh....Katrina! Feeding her has become nothing short of an ordeal. All she wants is treats or breakfast things. A typical dinner scene, as it was tonight:

Surrounded by food she often has liked, refusing everything, outraged to tears by the offers. Even homemade pizza that her brothers made was met with a fresh round of mortified screams. A banana finally ended the impasse. She lives on bananas and yogurt.

Aside from dinner, we had lots of nice time together today, starting with Dylan's birthday party. The boys came too, despite misgivings. They had a great time running around playing soccer, though Gabriel doesn't get it that Gina and Andrew really play soccer and know the rules.

It was unseasonably warm today -- T-shirt and shorts weather.

Two! He doesn't look so Terrible.

Katrina mostly ate grapes and chips. Ah well, I guess she won't be the first toddler to get through the 2s without vegetables. It's really not so much the food itself as the fight and the fit and the fury at the offers.

I like it when she asks me: "Let's play Boing!" This is a game I made up, in which we hop down the hall like frogs saying "boing! boing!" and sometimes I stand up and make a tunnel that she can hop under. We both laugh a lot, and it easily morphs into other games, usually involving chasing or wrestling, and always with me on floor in one form or another. (Note to self: clean carpets soon!)

As much as she drives me crazy, I miss her more and more as my spare time, thoughts and energy are funneled into choosing light fixtures and finding bathroom countertops. It really hit me last night: I want to go home. I want to bring my children home.