Saturday, January 31, 2009

1/31/09 The Walk

I've grown to like going nowhere on Saturday mornings. Dave takes Gabriel to his piano lesson, so I hang around with Julian and Katrina and give them much-needed home downtime. I'm not completely idle; I get laundry done and take care of various things around the house, but nothing so encompassing that I can't spend time with the younger two.

Today it was such a nice day I decided to walk to a mailbox with Katrina. Sounds minor, certainly not worth a blog post, but I rarely have opportunities to just walk around with the kids, let alone with just Katrina. If we're walking somewhere with the boys, Katrina goes in the stroller (which she loves).

She was all for the idea of a walk, grabbed her favorite Kitty-Kat, informed me pointedly that it was time to zip her jacket, and we went out. She held my hand the whole time, kept moving, and followed my instructions, making it very logistically easy. Not all two-year-olds are so cooperative, but Katrina's not one of those adventurous gotta-go-everywhere sort of toddlers. She was so fun, talking the whole time, repeating anything I pointed out, observing things around her at every new view. Having her with me invited smiles and waves from every passerby, partly because I was walking so slowly, but also in no small part because how cute is a little toddler walking along so happily, smiling and chatting, clutching a kitty toy?

We went the long way around and got home before it got old for her, but I think she could have gone on a lot longer.

I met two neighbors today, in separate conversations, and had a nice time talking with both of them. I always feel so bad explaining that we don't really live here, we're moving out soon, just as we're starting to dig in. Everyone I talk to around here really likes living here. They have deeper reasons for being here than primarily the school district's test scores, as is often the case in our "real" neighborhood.

It was nice spending the day walking with Katrina and chatting with neighbors, instead of working on remodeling stuff. With a headache, a back that's still shaky from my near miss last weekend (half an hour of sitting puts my feet and lower legs into total pins-and-needles), and recovering from a nasty leg cramp on Friday, I took a nap this afternoon. But I woke up in the middle of it realizing that the painters had missed a set of doors.


Friday, January 30, 2009

1/30/09 7!

It's Gabriel's birthday today! 7. Seven!

We did a little family celebration this evening, but his real party is next week, a small affair with the few friends I could wrest out of him to invite. (Which didn't include some kids I know he plays with, he was very strange about inviting people.)

I didn't do an in-class celebration for him, and felt bad about it, but just how many times do I have to do the birthday thing? Two is enough, I think. Still, I felt bad when he told me that the other kid in his class whose birthday was today had an in-class party.

I didn't even make his cake for tonight. Store-bought. Not that he minded.

Once again, the Happy Birthday singing with candles lit and lights out was marred by a furious fit by Katrina. "I WANT CAKE!!!" she demanded as she reached and grabbed for it, and put up a huge protest and cried and screamed. Geez, not even Gabriel did anything like that when he was her age!

Well, that fit was minor compared to the one she threw when she wanted a third helping of cake and ice cream and Mean Old Mom said no, it's time for baby to go to bed. She screamed and cried so hard that her face was swollen and red and she was shaking after the bath. I feel strongly about cake too, but really!

We opened gifts and talked about the boys' ages both being prime numbers (I've always found prime numbers a little spooky) and had a very nice birthday evening.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

1/29/09 Katrina at play

I shudder to jinx it, but yesterday's dinnertime tantrum was very short, and tonight's was non-existent! What a difference this makes to the entire family!

After dinner, Katrina totters off into the family room, and happily plays on her own while the rest of us are in the kitchen. I'm torn about that -- I wish I could see more of her, but it's just as well she's in a different room since the boys are impossible when she's around at dinner. They get up constantly to play with her, try to engage her in noisy obnoxious games, and just generally get distracted and rowdy. It's a fascinating dynamic, but really, we're trying to eat here.

Sometimes I leave dinner to go play with her, but "dinner" for me is prime-time; it's rare that I sit down. Most of "dinner" for me is spent zooming around the kitchen, trying to make headway on the mounds of chores to be done before I can get back to work sending remodeling-related emails ("who's buying the garbage disposal?") or researching, designing or shopping.

So I settle for listening to her from a distance. Sometimes she's silent for long stretches of time, other times she chatters happily or sings.

With the 3rd child, paranoia about eensy-teensy Lego pieces just isn't practical. She loves them.

Tonight she had to clear off this entire shelf of heavy toys, just to line up a set of cars. It's almost like she was playing House with them.

Remodeling pressure is reaching a fever pitch. Meltdown? How about a full-on breakdown? What's going to snap first, my back or my mind? It's a close call.

And this is with a project that's going extremely well, with a contractor we have complete faith in and are thrilled about. How often do you hear that!

Someday, soon, I'll be taking mornings off work to play with my feisty opinionated daughter, instead of finding light fixtures that will project over surface-mounted medicine cabinets. She's changing so fast....flickers of "little girl" are starting to surface through "toddler." "Old lady" is quickly taking me over.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

1/28/09 Animal Babies

Dave had a business dinner tonight, so I was on my own with all three.

When left to my own devices, I can run a super-tight ship. I had dinner done, cleaned up, lunches made, Gabriel's homework plus extras done, Gabriel's new daily chore (sweep the floor) done, a load of laundry, and everyone's clothes set out, and baths started before 8pm. Things were going well.

But my tight ship hit an iceberg right as it was time to read the boys a bedtime story. Julian burst into a crying whining fit about a book of his, called "Animal Babies," that Gabriel said he wanted to read for a bedtime story. "IT'S MINE! IT'S MY SECRET!!" he screamed.

On the whole, I have a "all books are shared" policy, partly on principle, and partly because it's not practical to get three copies of every book. But I recognize that books are often gifts, and kids have a very strong sense of ownership and possession, so I try to honor that too. I tried to tell Julian that it is his book, but if he doesn't want to share it, then he'll have to read it alone, and Gabriel and I would find another book. I tried soothing him by saying we'd read it together in my room, but he was beside himself. He was so out of control that I couldn't talk to him at all.

So I took Gabriel into the family room and he picked another book, and I tried to start it, but Julian was putting up such a racket, I finally made him sit outside until he stopped screaming. "IT'S MY SECRET LEARNING! IT'S MY BOOK!!" he'd cry in frustration and throw himself on the floor.

Finally he let me get a word in edgewise and I offered him the ultimatum again: we read Animal Babies together now in the boys' room, or I read a book to Gabriel outside the room. Julian "agreed," if snapping a loud "Oh-KAAY!!!!" counts.

Meantime, Gabriel was being angelic, being very cooperative and agreeable about all these changes. He happily picked another book, and read it on his own while I was dealing with Julian, until finally I called him into his room and said we'd read Animal Babies all together.

I sat down and opened the book, and Gabriel said, "Yay! I want to learn about animal babies!" in a light-hearted cheerful voice.

Too light-hearted. Since when did Gabriel have such an interest in animal babies?

I knew right then: I'd been suckered into a power struggle between them, and used as an ignorant battering ram. This was Gabriel's war, a chosen conflict, a demonstration of power. He wanted to win a possession battle, to force Julian to give up something that Julian felt was his. Julian usually wouldn't mind sharing a book, but it had become a point of contention between them, and I got roped into it. Gabriel was only rubbing it in with his seemingly innocent desire to "learn" about animal babies. That was a hot-button word for Julian, as the boys often compete about who knows more about things.

Julian calmed down enough to read the book, and I invited him into my lap and held him close while we read it. But he broke down into soft tears, frustrated at his loss, both of the competition that I played into, and the one-up-ness he must have felt he got from the book.

I read another book too, then spent a few minutes alone with Julian, holding him and telling him that knowledge is something that everyone shares -- and to hide his book if he really doesn't want to share it. I felt bad, I really understood how he felt now that I knew what was going on. And I'm keenly aware that his childhood will always be marked by being in his brother's powerful shadow.

But don't feel too sorry for Julian. He was already in trouble for taking Katrina's beloved Mimi and hiding it from her.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1/27/09 The Countess

This morning as I was dressing Katrina, she exclaimed, "Look! A Seven! A Seven!" pointing to, of all things, a folded-up set of number sheets that we got Gabriel 3 years ago for night-training. Gabriel was so into numbers that the idea was that he wouldn't want to pee on them. That flopped, of course. (I'm happy to report that both boys have been dry for 3 straight mornings without being woken up!)

Dave and I have both noticed independently how attracted Katrina is to numbers. She frequently points them out, says she's counting (not clear she really is counting), and recites them into the teens, semi-correctly. Then yesterday when Dave picked up Katrina from Tonya's, Tonya told Dave that it was remarkable how much like Gabriel she is -- including her affinity for numbers. Outside confirmation -- it's not just proud-parent rose-colored glasses.

Interesting! Ironically, if I were a first-time parent, I'd say her attraction to numbers doesn't mean much, kids go in and out of phases. But I've seen how an early interest can persist -- Gabriel's interest in numbers never faded, and Julian is still very verbal and articulate and talkative. Julian never showed a preference for numbers; indeed he's never really had any persistent strength or weakness (early language and reading yes, but those are transitory), he's always been very well-rounded.

With three kids, I'd expect three very different experiences. But while of course all three of our children are very different, the similarities in raising Katrina and Gabriel are striking. Thank goodness Julian showed me that not all toddlerhoods are fraught with tantrums!

A fascinating road is unfolding in front of me, seeing how alike my firstborn and lastborn are, while increasing my gratitude and awe for my slightly uniquer middleborn.


Monday, January 26, 2009

1/26/09 Baby, I was born to run

Today was it. Kindergarten Registration Packet Pickup Day.

I tossed and turned all night, and then anxiously drove to school just after 7am. Would I find a mob? Would I find I'd squandered a lot of brown hair? The answer was something inbetween. This was the line at 7:15am.

(This is just to pick up a numbered registration packet, which establishes your priority for a spot at this school.)

By 8:30, the line had moved, and was much longer. This photo doesn't show it, but the line U's around behind the building. There were about 60 people by then.

More arrived by the time the office opened, for about 80 total. With at least 120 spots for kindergarten at the school, I probably could have arrived at 9am and still been assured a spot. Even if not, people move, so we still probably could have gotten in eventually. But while the risk was low, the consequence was drastic, so it was well worth the peace of mind to arrive early enough. Julian is #13.

I was especially surprised to see that the line was mostly Dads! They explained that this was easier than being at home taking care of the kids.

I chatted with six Dads at various times on the line, and all six planned to enter the lottery for the alternative school Faria, which heavily emphasizes academics. I assured them that first-graders here get plenty of homework, and offered my opinion that the difference between this school's test scores versus Faria's test scores made little difference in the child's ultimate outcome. The biggest factor in their success now is that the teacher has a high standard of pupils -- most come from highly educated, stable two-parent families, all have access to top health care, arrive at school well-fed and clothed, all were well-prepared in preschool, none have emotional or discipline issues (Gabriel notwithstanding). I was surprised that they all readily agreed. Not that that dissuaded them. Those test scores are some powerful Kool-Aid.

My Mom friends report that one other school had a major line-wait situation, two others had some lines; most had none at all.

Still, the district deserves at least a letter to complain about putting parents through this more than once. There is no priority for families with siblings enrolled at the "regular" schools, but clearly they get the concept since they do offer sibling priority for the alternative schools (including Faria). So I get to do this again in two years. Springsteen tickets, anyone?


Sunday, January 25, 2009

1/25/09 Teeter Toddler

Today our main mission was to go to the house for some measuring and to look for packages that arrived. It's still really muddy back there after recent rains, and no landscaping to help it drain. Gabriel helped Dave with the hose to rinse off a muddy walkway and shoes.

The kids had a great time playing on the stepstones in the front yard, which were placed hurriedly by the previous owners of our house right before they sold it to us. Now, nearly 10 years later, that temporary measure is still there. We don't move fast.

Katrina continues to impress me with her instability and lack of balance. Are we related? Even I'm not this clumsy....oh wait....yeah, I am.

She will step down very short steps now without climbing, sometimes. It's more fun to follow someone and make it a game though.

Fun's over! Time for the whole family to go to a lighting store. Whee.

We had a plan though: two cars, we make some final decisions, Dave takes the bunch home before the store pleads with us to go, and I stay behind to do the painful ordering part. I was expecting mayhem on a Sunday afternoon, but it was eerily dead.

One kind saleslady amused herself by setting up our little clan with crayons and paper, and they had a great time. Katrina really took to her, talking and pointing things out that she'd drawn.

We actually escaped with a compliment about how well-behaved our kids were!!!

It was so funny when we first arrived, and the lady smiled at her, and Katrina put her head down and finger in her mouth, with a pout. "Aww, shy, is she?" Yeah, shy, that's Katrina all right. It was more like a passive-aggressive gesture of resistance, which turned to confident friendliness moments later.

The same lady asked me if it was different having a girl after two boys -- turns out she has a 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl. I really have a hard time agreeing with that -- it is different, but moreso because of personality than gender. Katrina does girl-things, but the things about her that dominate my experience with her aren't really gender-specific. She's very verbal and chatty, I guess that's more of a girl thing (it still shocks me to think that at 2-1/4, Gabriel was just just barely starting to say a few words). Julian's language was at least as good, but he didn't yak quite the same way. She likes to wrap stuffed animals in blankets or diapers sometimes, the boys never did that (other than Gabriel once trying to nurse his teddy bear). Ahhh, I just hit upon it: BOSSY. Katrina orders everyone around to the point of rudeness. That's different.

Today after her nap, I held her for a few minutes -- or rather, she stood there and allowed me to put my arms around her. I had something on the stove, so I stayed as long as I could, but then moved away, and to my surprise, she put her arm out around my neck, as if to hold me there. I gladly stayed, but then I felt her trembling slightly, as she often does just after waking up. She didn't want me there for comfort, she needed a leaning post! Well, I'll take it. What are moms for, if not to help steady their child?