Saturday, December 13, 2008

12/13/08 Christmas Stuff

I'd like to say today was a day of sharing and joy and establishing family traditions, but for me it was heavily marred by an exceptional tantrum day from Katrina. It sent me into a tailspin, prompting me to write about self-doubts and bonding (here), though even as I was experiencing it I knew it was transitory. As usual, we paid a dear price for a sleepover the night before, and something's bothering Katrina's mouth, so she was exceptionally difficult today.

We decorated our Christmas tree today, and what should have been a fun cheerful family moment was marred by Katrina screaming and fussing and just not getting over not being able to pull all the ornaments out of the box. No amount of coaxing or demonstrating got her to cooperatively participate. I thought it'd be fun for her to hang ornaments! Dave took Katrina out of the room, but she carried on with an ear-piercing vengeance. I tried hard to tune her out and enjoy this once-a-year moment with the boys, but I was hopelessly irritated and disappointed.

Later, the boys and I got started making a gingerbread house, while Dave bought us some time taking her out. I was grateful for that, but resentful too that we can't do things with Dave there, since he's on Tantrum Toddler duty. Not that Dave has any interest in decorating a gingerbread house anyway, but I still like to have the opportunity! We finished it after she went to bed.

The boys had a great time with this, and didn't seem to care at all that it was just a kit house I bought at Target. Someday I'll really make a gingerbread house, but to them, the real fun is in putting the candies on, and an $8.99 kit house is perfect for that.

Someday, Katrina will contribute to these moments instead of ruining them.


Friday, December 12, 2008

12/12/08 Dominoes

Fridays at Gabriel's CDC is Domino Club day. I've made the mistake before of trying to pick Gabriel up early, and being met with disappointment bordering on anger. He loves playing dominoes. He hawks over the point-counting and addition, ordering around older bigger kids with fiery confidence and intense competition.

He's not exactly a graceful winner either.

Never mind that it's mostly a luck game, at least the way they play it. There might be some strategy, but these kids aren't at that level yet. They're mostly still working on whose turn is next.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

12/11/08 The setback

Good grief. What is it going to take?

Last night, Gabriel refused to use the wetness alarm. No amount of convincing or bargaining or insisting had any effect, and we were in for a long, long battle. I won by changing tactics: "OK!" I told him that he didn't have to wear the alarm, but he would have to sleep somewhere that it didn't matter that he got wet. I very agreeably laid out a vinyl tablecloth on the garage floor, then found another one he could use as a blanket. "It'll be a little cold," I said sympathetically. "And hard. But that's OK, when you pee we can just hose it out in into the driveway." As he stepped onto concrete floor with his bare feet, he reconsidered. "OK, OK, I'll wear the alarm."

We got him up around midnight to go, just to increase his odds of success. Then around 3:30am, I heard him wailing from his bed, terrified by the alarm and unable to turn it off. And soaked. I changed his bedding, had him go again, and figured he was good til morning. Nope. Wet again. And this after a major fight about not using the alarm! It figures that it's no miracle cure as it has been for so many other children. Few methods or devices have been Gabriel-proofed.

I had to take the day off work today when I got a call that Katrina had a temperature. By the time I got to her, she seemed fine, she's been full of energy, ate well, and no temperature. I don't doubt she had something, but it wasn't serious. It was nice to spend the day with her though, she was in a good mood and was unusually (well, it is unusual!) sweet.

Julian, my little scientist. "Birds are hatched from eggs!" "People are animals!" "Water bits go into the air and make you dry!" Today a helper teacher at his preschool flagged me to exclaim that he reads really, really well. Julian was part of a circle of kids that were looking at a book, and apparently he dazzled the teacher calling out the sentences of his own accord. He really does read well, better than Gabriel did at his age, and actually beyond what we've come to understand as the "proficient" level for first graders. I'm already designing the dress I'll wear to the Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony!!!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12/10/08 The Shopping Trip

The trouble with being a working mom is that every time your kids express the tiniest regret about not being with you, you're awash with guilt. I thought I was doing a good thing tonight by taking Julian with me to Safeway -- sort of a cheesy way to spend some time together (more guilt). Not to mention that he's generally the most toxic element in the sibling dynamic here; either he's irritating Katrina or riling up Gabriel, so he's usually our first choice in being taken out of commission. Gabriel had homework to do besides.

But when I left, Gabriel and Katrina were both standing at the door, crying. Gabriel especially really wanted to go with me. "WHY?" I asked. "It's just Safeway!" "Because I LOVE you!" he cried.

Gawd. It's bad enough that the best I can do for "quality time" is grocery-shopping, but it's even worse when your child craves even that pathetic excuse for time together, and worse yet when you can't give it to him!

At least I really did have fun with Julian. He got beams from other customers when he announced in the produce section, "I love green beans, but broccoli is my favorite!"


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

12/9/08 The alarm

Last night, around 3:30am, I was startled awake by a terrified cry. Gabriel came carefully into our room -- because even in an emergency, his sense of order is still strong -- crying hard, holding the buzzing and chirping wetness alarm in his hand. "I can't turn it off!!" he wailed. It's designed not to be easy to shut off, and it worked.

He wasn't really that concerned that every night, he's been going backward in the night-training. The first two nights with the alarm, he was dry. The third, dry without the alarm. The fourth, wet, without the alarm. The fifth: wet, with the alarm. Not just wet, but soaked. And that was with waking him up before we went to bed!

Well, Gabriel is nothing if not persistent. We're hoping the experience rattled him, but there's little precedent in his life for that. Gabriel of all kids could turn around the wetness alarm thing, like by deliberately going on it just to see how it works. Humiliation is an important motivator in nighttime training, and this just isn't in his DNA. He really doesn't care that much. He's mildly curious if he can do it, and that's all so far.

We're pretty much nowhere with potty-training Katrina, though she is much more consistent about telling me when she has a stinky. She's even more consistent about refusing to sit on the potty.

I stopped by the jobsite house today, to bring by a tile shelf I wanted to add to the downstairs bathroom and to deliver the grout colors. Now that we're entering the finishing phase, there are thousands of details that can be answered by being there. I pointed out a door that swings the wrong way, and that the living room base trim is too low. I felt like shrinking when the finish carpenter asked, "Why aren't all the doors the same?" (most are stained, some are painted) and the jobsite foreman, the door guy, and another guy all shrugged and looked at me. Hey wait, you guys were all in on these decisions! Not all situations are the same -- the dry-erase/magnetic pantry door, for instance, is necessarily an oddball. The only cookie cutters used in this house are in the kitchen! So lemme 'lone!

I overheard the finish carpenter mutter something to the effect that after this job he'd be standing outside of Home Depot with his buds to look for work. We must look awfully wealthy to the crews of guys working on our house everyday. I sure don't feel that way these days, but that's because of my seriously skewed standard of living based on the roaring 00's. We are a lot better off than most of the guys busting their rear ends to build our cushy house. I'm always a little guilty and self-conscious about that, and try to be as respectful and grateful as possible. I'm glad they see me drive away in an utterly average car.


Monday, December 08, 2008

12/8/08 The Note

This evening, I was emptying the dishwasher when something metal tapped against something glass and rang a musical note.

Gabriel stopped in his tracks, paused, then asked, "What was that?" "Oh I don't know, I just clinked something and it made a note. Pretty neat, huh?" "Yeah," he said. "It was C." What? I asked him. He repeated with complete confidence, looking directly at me, certain as he knows his own name, "It was a C note."

I explained to him what "perfect pitch" is, and that very few people have it, and most of those that do had to work at it. My mother finally reached that level, for instance, but if I recall correctly, it didn't come easy. But he assured me he knows the notes, because he plays the piano so much, he insisted. Still, I know from my brief piano experience as a kid how easy it is to think you know a note, but don't. Even now, songs I listen to several times a day, I can't sing the first note.

Just to show him what I meant, I went into the piano room and covered the keys with the blanket we use as a dust protector, and told him to listen from the kitchen. He was completely out of sight.

"What's this note?" I played a key. "C." He had no doubt. OK, OK, seems obvious I'd start with middle C. "What's this one?" "G." Right again. "How about this?" I played a key in a different octave. "A. I'm telling you, Mom, I know these."

I was getting a little spooked by now. I tried C-sharp. "F-sharp!" he said. "Not quite!" I answered. I played F-sharp. "C-sharp!" No, but, interesting mistake. One more time with a sharp note. This time he got it.

Not perfect, but really close. I have little doubt now that the spoon ringing against the glass really was a C.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

12/7/08 Party Recovery

We had a terrific holiday party here yesterday! At least, everyone kindly says so. We knew it'd be tight fittings in our house, and we're really not well set up for large groups or holiday decorating, but it's a bunch of moms -- we know how to accomodate and make do.

Few houses can accomodate groups of 30 and seat everyone at the same time, and this one is no exception, but in retrospect, a lot of people did get to sit!

Some of the moms I already know from the 2002 and 2004 groups, but many are new to me in the 2006 group. In my early days as a new mom, the weekly park playgroups were an essential lifeline, and I got to know all the moms pretty well. Now as a tattered working mom, they're an indulgent luxury, so many of the 2006 moms I've never met. Too bad, because while being moms of young children is instant friendship glue, there are also a lot of moms in this group who I just really, really like.

It's funny, I had to ask myself why I like to host parties. It's a lot of work! It's on my mind for days before, it disrupts the house, it's chaotic and so busy that I really can't chat much with people, it takes over the whole weekend, and Dave is never crazy about the preparation or the event itself. Yet I truly enjoy the activity, the buzz of having our house filled with people and with joyful children. Four of us really put the party on, but one other mom, Cris, put a ton of time and work into it, more than me, and we had a lot of fun working and shopping together. It was really fun when we saw that her 2004 daughter and Julian hit it off and spent much of the party running together!

We didn't do much or go anywhere today (well, I did, more on that in a few). The kids played outside, and inside, and we spent a fair amount of time putting away toys and getting the house out of party mode.

What is it about little girls and red wagons....

My one outing today was to go to the house and test-paint again, and also to look around and start thinking about how I want to arrange the house. I'm starting to think about furniture, though given the new financial order of the world, I'm rethinking my original plan of replacing everything. I want things to be coordinated and useful, not a random mishmash as we had, but at the same time, I don't want it rigid and sterile either.

My mother offered one of those wonderful tidbits that's brilliant in its simplicity: wait to move in and see what you need before buying anything. The key to that is not bringing any of the old junk with you. Dave doesn't completely understand or agree with this, but this is one of those things I'm putting my wifely foot down about: the nasty 1970s dark brown oak stereo cabinets that the previous owners of our house left behind are not setting foot into the new house. Nor many other things that have "made do" for years. We need blank spaces to speak to us.

I sure have learned a lot about interior design and how to choose paint colors. Look for colors with lots of gray in them -- they're easy to adjust and coordinate and tend to stay muted. Or, go with bold colors. Bold or muted, not both. All the colors in all the rooms should work together. Develop a basic color scheme, green in our case. Then if you want other colors, say, a yellow room, look for a yellow with a lot of green in it. Make all the connecting spaces (halls) the same color.

Much of this I confirmed as I went about trying out various ideas for the downstairs bedrooms today, and wound up deciding on the same color for most of the downstairs rooms. But I had to see the bold colors next to the muted ones to realize: don't mix them! I love the Craftsman historical colors, but they're all very very strong, and I'm not sure I can live with them. Lots about Craftsman-era decorating is very sober and severe. I don't want the paint colors or light fixtures to make me want to burst into tears.

The downstairs bathroom tile is in, not grouted yet. The onyx border is gorgeous.

But then, I'm a newly-anointed tile freak.

Someone at the party commented yesterday that I won't want to host parties like this in our new house, what with kids spilling apple juice on furniture and everything being so hectic. But it's quite the contrary. Our fabulous new house is there to be used, not to be admired from afar. I have every intention of throwing big parties there, it'll be so much easier and pleasant. I can't imagine living in fear of apple juice.