Saturday, December 20, 2008

12/20/08 Light Show

Silicon Valley might not have snow for Christmas (usually), but we do have some really creative people who take their Christmas lights very seriously. Or not seriously at all, as these folks appear to have terrific fun with it. Two houses next to each other set up some serious lights, and then broadcast music over a radio frequency, and you can enjoy the lights moving around along with Christmas music. Their Web site is also very interesting and entertaining: synchronized music-light show.

We went last year, but Katrina was young and grumpy and rear-facing and couldn't see the lights from the car. So I took the kids tonight after dinner, and this time they could all see it. The boys' jaws were dropped, they were fascinated and thrilled.

The music you hear is on my car radio. That's Katrina in the background making some or other comment.

One thing about this single-parentness -- the kids spend a lot more time all together. I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not yet. Dave will return Monday night. That's definitly a good thing.


Friday, December 19, 2008

12/19/08 Parties

A day of class parties!

Even though I take Fridays off work to handle remodeling things, I turned down an offer to have a countertop installed today (instead of Monday when I'll have to take off work), because both boys' classes had holiday parties today. Some things are just too important.

I was surprised at how few moms attended Gabriel's class party. Burnout, perhaps. The very very active "room moms" organized an adorable craft, in which kids decorate a "tree" made out of an ice-cream-cone turned upside down onto a bed of "snow" (frosting), smear green frosting on the tree, and then stick "ornaments" (candy) on it. I wound up helping lots of the kids with this, and I had a great time. I really like interacting with the other kids and talking to them, and finding little ways of making them laugh or smile. They all call me "Gabriel's Mom" (ironically I have one of the hardest Mom names to pronounce) and I love that.

It's always interesting to see how different kids go about creative tasks. Many have real artistic bents, never Gabriel's strength. So I was very surprised that one of my favorites was Gabriel's. It was certainly the neatest, and that's saying a lot, since the frosting medium doesn't lend itself well to precise work.

Gabriel's class and teacher. There are two other Caucasian faces in his class, but don't be fooled, those two are more foreign than most of the others, with parents recently immigrated from Quebec and Finland. Only in Cupertino!

Next, on to Julian's school party. They start with a surprisingly well-run school-wide set of group songs. Not easy to get this many kids to stand and sing and gesture together! The teachers do a great job preparing the kids.

It was difficult to get pictures, but I couldn't resist snapping even a crummy one from a distance. Julian is very sincere about his group singing.

Then the party part. The kids had fruit and lots of cookies and a candy cane.

Gabriel scammed himself a spot at the table and started chowing down the sweets.

It must be the red shirts, but I got asked again a question I get asked with surprisingly frequency, "Are they twins?"

At the last party, Julian was the last one left at the table. This dubious distinction was met by another Doudna family representative this time!

Tonight we all drove Dave to the airport, to head for the Midwest to attend a funeral in Illinois. "Ill-ANNOY?!" Katrina asked sincerely, not realizing she was making a pretty good joke. Especially given the news from that state these days.

So I get to play single parent until Monday night. That means streamlining operations around here. One bath fits all.

Fortunately, I had some help with the washing duties.

After putting the brood to bed, I went online and bought a toilet paper holder on eBay, saving $30 to $60, depending on what you believe about its actual original price. That's what my grownup time has come to, shopping for bathroom accessories. My kid time helping first-graders spread frosting was far more rewarding.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Feminist

I was reading Katrina a book tonight about The Gingerbread Man, and she pointed to a drawing of an old couple sitting on a bench. "What's THAT?!" she shouted, putting her finger on the old lady. It wasn't the best drawing.

"A lady," I answered.

"No!" she said with authority. "Issa WOMAN!"

12/18/08 The Apple of my....what?!

This evening when the kids got home, Gabriel inexplicably opened his lunch bag, and started eating his leftover lunch. Normally I don't allow any snacks before dinner, even fruit, but he got a hold of it before I saw, and it wasn't worth the fight.

And then it started another one. Katrina saw Gabriel's apple and started one of her usual insistent fits. Nothing else would do. She had to have an apple.

Well, the boys might be old enough to relax that no-snack rule, but Katrina's too young to enforce it, so I gave her a small apple, just to calm her. I wasn't about to take on apple fights with both my fighters!

I've never handed her a solid piece of fruit before, so I was surprised when she tackled the apple with aplomb. She applied her laser-focus and tiny baby teeth and buzzed through it like a caterpillar on a leaf.

A few minutes later, I was shocked to see her hold up -- a stem. A stem! That's all that was left! I've never seen anyone do such a job on an apple before!

I guess I'm done cutting up fruit.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12/17/08 Gabriel-proofing

Whoever invented the wetness alarm had kids like Gabriel in mind. Some alarms have different sounds or buzz frequencies, intended the kids don't get used to them and sleep through. They're not easy to shut off, and aren't that easy to take off.

But that didn't stop Gabriel last night from turning off the alarm, removing it, changing his pajamas, and getting right back into bed (with a wet sheet, ick). I went into the boys' room to take them to the bathroom around 1am, but I was 10 minutes too late. He'd already put his wet pajamas in the laundry basket and ditched the alarm onto the floor. One thing about Gabriel, he'll tell you to the minute when he woke up. After he wet the bed, that is.

Spending half my day dealing with remodeling issues is becoming the new norm. Yesterday I left work to meet with a Corian fabricator, answer numerous questions from the carpenter, painter and tilesetter. Before I left work, I was on the phone several times (not good). Today I had to drive to Redwood City to get Corian samples (the guy yesterday forgot to bring them, arrgh), then ended up leaving work again to bring beadboard and cap samples to the carpenter, and spent a good half hour working with him on how high and where to put things. The details are coming fast and furious.

The tile has been the biggest time-sink and source of angst and countless decisions and problems. Many times I've asked myself: why I can't point to a tile pattern in 5 minutes? Why can't I use one size in the whole bathroom? Why can't I use the same tile in all the bathrooms? Why didn't we do a one-piece pre-fab shower and skip the tile altogether? Why can't I just be normal?

I had my answer today looking at the nearly-done bathrooms: because that would take all the fun out of it!

Bath 1. This onyx border is beautiful; varied and full of life. Natural stone is my favorite.

Bath 2. It's great when someone else pulls you out of your comfort zone. Some of my favorite things I'd never have thought to choose myself. Ceramic? Glass? I love it. This floor is perhaps my favorite in the whole house.

Bath 3. This glass border is great -- I was nervous at first; colored glass against faux-stone porcelain is punchy and trendy, but I love it now. This bathroom is filled with strange angles and transitions; the tile guys did a LOT of cutting. This will be where the vast majority of child and smelly-teenager bathing will occur, so I wanted low-maintenance porcelain 12x12s in here. It has a shower now, which it didn't before.

That vanity -- and the order sheet -- is cherry with a glaze, can you tell? I see "espresso." I never wanted it that dark. One of thousands of things I have to get over.

A huge bright spot in childrearing has just flooded our house, like the sun pushing through after a powerful thunderstorm blowing through Montana. Katrina! She's been adorable lately, full of joyful observations, games, songs, roaring laughter and enthusiastic cheer. So much like her consumes me with pride and shaking fear at the same time. When they decide to unleash their power from the Dark Side, it's ugly. But when they direct their shining lights strength toward good causes and happy intentions, it's Utopia.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Artist

Katrina got over a quickly escalating bath tantrum tonight when I showed her a little bath gel thing in the shape of a purple crayon. She liked it so much that she delayed the tantrum until it came time to get out and abandon the soapy implement, at which point she tried to bite me.

She was very funny pretending to draw in the bath with the faulty gel dispenser. "I want to color the SQUARES -- Mommy!" (tile squares on the wall). She often punctuates a sentence with a name. "It's PUH-TLE! (purple).

She scribbled a bit, then paused to admire her imaginary work. "Wow -- that's BOOH-tih-full!!" Yes, you certainly are.

12/16/08 The life cycle

Tonight I got a call from a long-lost friend -- not mine, but one of Dave's. Actually, the wife of Dave's childhood friend Michael, and the daughter-in-law of Michael's parents, who'd mentored Dave in high school. Both just died, the father today. On top of it, Michael's brother died earlier this year. A devastating time for that family. Dave is Dallas on business, and the kids were scaring up an unbelievable racket, so I couldn't talk long.

I pondered this news for a few moments as I skittered around the kitchen, trying not to ruin anything while serving Katrina's every whim and demand. Five minutes later, the phone rang again. A pregnant friend had her baby today!

It's very rare to get phone calls in the evening. But to get one about death immediately followed by one about birth is an eerie coincidence.


12/15/08 The Birthday Card

Julian got a beautiful hand-drawn birthday card today! He loved it and immediately set about to studying it.

I caught him just after he'd read who it was from and got him to repeat that. His smile is priceless (ok ok to me anyway, but I am his mother!)

Incredibly, he hasn't said much about his birthday, even though the subject comes up a fair amount in the context of Christmas. But when he saw this card, he said joyfully, "My BIRTHDAY!!"

Thank you Bonne Maman and Papa Paul! So nice to have artists and musicians in the family.

I heard an interesting little tidbit today, from a most unexpected source...I was chatting with Tonya when I was picking up Katrina, and she said, "So, how did Gabriel feel about being sent to the office last Friday?"

B O O M.


"Ohhh, you didn't know?"

No, we wouldn't know, 'cause neither he nor his teacher said anything about it!! But Susan, who runs Running Club, saw that Gabriel, usually her most fervent customer, was missing fron Running Club on Friday. She asked Gabriel's teacher, who shook her head in frustration and didn't want to talk about it, but did explain that Gabriel was having his lunch in the office. Susan mentioned it to Tonya, and Tonya only naturally assumed I knew. And I should have.

As it happened, Sunday night, Dave commented that we need to start reading his Friday Folder on Fridays, because this one had comments that Gabriel is starting to lose "free time" and recess time because of his frequent disrupting the class (talking loudly, humming, laughing). So we confronted him Sunday night, intervention-style, unaware of the Friday office visit -- and the little stinker didn't 'fess up to that major event.

Being sent to the Principal's office is supposed to be a very big deal, especially for a first-grader, so we're really surprised his teacher didn't tell us. She probably figures she can handle it, but I'm not sure she knows what she's up against. Unfortunately, this major trump card apparently didn't faze Gabriel.

Dave and I intended to confront him about it tonight, but he got saved by the bell. At the tail end of dinner, our lights flickered and then went off completely. They went back on, then off, then back on again, just long enough for me to find some flashlights. Then they went off for good.

Katrina was shocked into silence for a few seconds, then right away started to cry. It's really dark here with no power! But as soon as I had a flashlight on and was able to find candles, she was fascinated and thrilled by the new turn of events. The boys were beside themselves with excitement to find their headlamps and really make use of them. Tonight was a pick-up-for-the-cleaners night, and incredibly, the power outage made the usual drudgerous chores of putting away toys by candlelight fun!

We had such frequent power outages at home that I had a whole box dedicated to the event, with candles and flashlights, but since we've moved, that box has been scattered and lost. Still, I dug up a few glowsticks left over from -- get this -- Burning Man '99 -- and discovered that they made great nightlights in each room, allowing us to navigate the house easily. Given all the power outages we lived with, I can't believe we never thought of this before. Glowsticks will become a permanent fixture in my next "Power Outage" box.

I had some shopping to do anyway, so drove out and was able to check out the situation. The major road connecting us to the rest of the world was completely closed in one direction, and I could see numerous emergency vehicles a ways down. The power was out for at least a mile. The major road was still closed when I returned around 10pm, but our power was back on.

With my computer up again, I sent a lengthy note to Gabriel's teacher asking her what happened on Friday, please tell us about these events, and perhaps most importantly....why is he doing this? What's going on?

The power outage caused us to skip baths, homework and a stern talking-to, but that Get Out of Jail Free card expires tomorrow!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

12/14/08 Party time!

Today I took all three to another Las Madres holiday party -- one that was far, far too big to be at anyone's house! It was held at a nearby high school, in a community room with a fenced outdoor play area, perfect for groups of 35 families.

I'm delighted and thrilled and relieved to say that Katrina was in much, much better shape today. Playing outside with other kids, other kids' toys, and occasionally, her brothers, made a world of difference.

Gabriel and Julian leaped right into a soccer game.

Katrina and Dylan did a little running together, which is amusing since Katrina still doesn't run very well and Dylan is a lot faster.

Julian found a way around my instructions not to shove Katrina flying down a slope on a tricycle she can't stop. "Look Ma, one hand!"

Katrina found a far superior tricyle playmate, except this one flew down slopes as fast as she could herself, and quickly left her new little fan behind.

I finally was able to coax Katrina indoors (it was chilly outside!), where she reluctantly shared a seat with Julian. Besides, it was time for the musical entertainment to start!

Andy Z is a popular kids' entertainer around here. It's nice to see that he easily engages very very young toddlers and first-graders alike. Lots of kids know his songs well and were singing along.

I wanted to clap along with everyone else, but Katrina decided this was the time for a power trip and a moment of appearances. She insisted on sitting in my lap, wouldn't let me clap, sing, rock, or take pictures, or even stand up. "Sit back DOWN, MommY!" she'd demand. She even started biting me at one point. Still, I have enough working-mom-guilt that I mostly gave in to her apparent demands for attention, which I think were really just trying to control me. Eh, she needed to do that at that moment, OK.

I was very surprised to see Julian with his hand raised at the conclusion of the entertainment, even though it wasn't really a Q&A format. Andy Z had said something about St. Nick being on his way, and Julian finally pushed through and announced, "St. Nick is Santa!"

Despite Katrina's little performance during the show, overall we had a terrific time. And then Katrina was downright delightful for the rest of the day. This evening, she played happily and joyfully, interacting with us from time to time, but other times cheerfully doing her own thing, for well over an hour.

The biting thing though....not good. She bit Dave tonight when she disapproved of the bath ending, and bit me today, several times. Not in anger exactly, but not just for fun either. More like, experimenting to see what will happen.

On the other hand, an adorable new habit that's started a few days ago is singing -- a lot. Sometimes it's a line or two from known songs, other times she talks in song. I'm sorry to say that her older brother does this too -- in class, a lot. Gabriel's teacher commented in hs Friday Folder that he's now losing free time and recess time for talking loudly, humming and distracting the rest of the class.

Overall a good Christmas weekend, with yesterday's tantrum transgression forgiven.