If not for a really fun and beautiful outing today, the day would have sucked.
I'll start with the bad stuff. First, Gabriel had a rare crying episode this morning when the leg broke off a teddy-bear pancake I'd made. By itself this isn't bad, but this kid does not let go of things easily, and he carried on for nearly half an hour, with Katrina joining in when I refused to serve her after numerous rude demands (she refused to say please). I had some fantasy of calling my sister and brother today, but this noise level made it impossible.
There's also a seriously increasing problem of Gabriel attacking Julia. Boys will be boys, and brothers especially will be very physical together, but too many times, Julian is left howling in pain for a relatively minor offense. I know he can be a pain, but getting kicked in the back for make a stupid sound repeatedly is too much. Today the attacks happened more times than I can count, though Julian dished out his share too, including a deep bite on Gabriel's hand. Naturally, that cost Julian dearly.
They really, really needed to get out.
But we had a long delay leaving because of a major Katrina tantrum. She refused to go to the bathroom before getting in the car, a strict rule. And there was no leeway here -- she hadn't gone for a while, and we were going to be in the car for a long time. I was SO frustrated alternatively trying to persuade her and threatening her with taking her to Tonya's, while the boys were ready, in the car, and pounding each other. I threatened to put a diaper on her, but wouldn't you know it, I gave away all our diapers yesterday. I was ready to take her to Kid Park, a place where you can do drop-in childcare, and again she was fine with that.
But finally, finally, she relented. By then I was a wreck, teetering on complete insanity, seething with frustration, ready to put up all three for adoption.
Few things soothe the soul more than getting outside and into the mountains. I made a fortunate navigation error, which meant we took Page Mill Road, a twisty scenic road I used to know like the back of my hand from motorcycling. The kids loved the detour, fascinated by the road features and the views. Still, Katrina was excited to get to "Rock Castle," our state park destination (really Castle Rock).
Castle Rock is a wonderful state park in the Santa Cruz mountains, with one of my all-time favorite hiking trails. We weren't there to hike though, we were there to walk the 3/10 mile to the huge rocks, with fascinating formations and caves and all sorts of stuff to climb on.
Katrina at first insisted on staying in the stroller.
This actually was stressful for me; I wanted to follow the boys and see how they got used to the climbing before not worrying about them. The odds of someone stranding themselves or falling are high there.
Gabriel jumped right in, excitedly exploring every crevice, wiggling through tunnels, climbing up to the tops.
Julian was typically hesitant at first, but it didn't take long for him to relax and start exploring farther than Gabriel did.
In fact, I made the mistake of blurting out without thinking, "Wow, Julian, you're a really good climber!" It went to his head and he kept trying to show off. But it's true; usually Gabriel is better at gross-motor-skill things, and Gabriel has a big age advantage, but Julian was surprisingly more agile and courageous. Gabriel is very competitive though, and several times he saw Julian scale some obstacle that Gabriel had tried and given up on, then he tried again and got through it.
The boys had a great time exploring and playing, and I gave them free rein, quelling a small thread of fear that one of them would get trapped or stuck when I was too far away to help in time. But you have to let kids go, and actually they were both pretty careful. (As babies/toddlers, none of my kids showed any particular ability or inclination to climb.)
I like to climb too, though cold hands and minding a grumpy toddler hampered that.
Katrina, typically, did not take to this right away. At first, she'd barely even walk on level ground without holding my hand.
Then she tried climbing through a very easy tunnel, and got all scared. I didn't rescue her, instead coaxing her to climb out herself.
I carried her around the back of the rocks and up onto a small plateau with a level area leading to a shallow cave. This turned her around. She relaxed and had a great time playing in "her" cave.
Then she got brave enough to try some other caves too.
In the end, it looked like I was going to have a problem getting them all out of there, but it was late enough and they were hungry enough that some granola bars tore them away.
We had a nice drive home and an overall good afternoon and evening. Gabriel and I made two batches of cookies from my new old cookbook, I Know How To Cook (a new translation of a classic French cookbook that my grandmother used). The kids were tired and had an early bath and a movie. I have to say, it's weird when they're watching a movie, so quiet. I can't turn off my Mom "it's too quiet" alarms.
Aside from yet another fraternal impact incident, they went to bed tired and without any trouble. And we now have another Top 10 Favorite place to go.