Saturday, February 14, 2009

2/14/09 What Valentine's Day is about

"What is Valentine's Day about?" Gabriel asked. He'd refused to do any cards for his classmates.

"Love," I answered, squashing a cynical remark about a manufactured holiday to sell cards and flowers. "It's about telling people you love them."

"Oh," he said. "A girl must have invented that."

Smart -- and wise!


Friday, February 13, 2009

2/13/09 A touch of Colorado

A backdrop of snow-capped mountains is a rare sight around here.

It's a common sight in many places, so why does this make me think Colorado? Just because it seems especially spectacular there, based on my few visits.

Not that we're moving anywhere anytime soon. While we could potentially push hard for the house to be ready March 6, there are too many things that could trip us up. Another week lets us handle every last detail while the house is still a jobsite, its easier for trades to get in and out, and we don't have coordinate. I absolutely do not want anyone traipsing around our house while we're living there! Also, our contractor does a 2-day deep post-construction cleaning, which should be done dead LAST.

Flooring is going in -- now that makes it look like a house! I find myself frustrated and disappointed with countless items (today I'm beating myself up that I didn't insist on seeing a stain sample before all the trim got stained, it's too dark and brown and not red enough), so I'm happy to say that I love the floor.

I'm far, far more tired Friday evenings than any other day of the week, since I spend the whole day from 8am on running around and taking care of construction items. I spend less time with the kids on Fridays, my day "off," than I do on weekdays with homework and lunches. Four more Fridays!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

2/12/09 Car-frontation

What a rattling day. First I was excited that it looked like we could move in a week earlier than I thought. Then it turned out that an important PG&E installation was missed. Now it looks like we can make up that time, but now my kitchen butcher block top will be late, which isn't a problem by itself, but it halts the installation of a necessary electrical outlet -- yes, a single outlet -- in the island, required by code.

Already tense, I went about the usual routine of pickups after work -- an easy day, since Katrina was at TLC. I was really looking forward to seeing them, and Katrina rewarded me with a spectacular "Mom-my!", ran to me and gave me her version of a huge hug. She turned to the line of toddlers staring and announced, "Thas' my Mommy!" It was the sort of scene that makes other adults smile and marvel at our close connection and my fabulous parenting.

All to be unravelled in the next few minutes.

As usual, I left Julian and Katrina in the car while I fetched Gabriel. But this time, it took extra time to get him since he had to sit on the pot first. Thank goodness he's speedier about business than Julian, but still, he's a kid, and it takes some time.

While waiting, I looked outside at my car, and saw a scene developing. One of the school administrators -- the same one whose sh*t list I'm already on for a possible residency violation -- and another parent (or teacher perhaps) were peering into my car. Great, they see Julian and Katrina alone in the car. I looked at them from my vantage point, they saw me, but they weren't clear of my role in this scenario.

I went back to hurry Gabriel, then anxiously back to the door -- now the principal had joined them, and the parent was on a cell phone. I considered going out, but I needed to keep after Gabriel. Finally he was ready, and I rushed him across the parking lot.

"Oh, are these yours?" the administrator asked suspiciously.

As I expected, the lecture about the dangers of leaving them in the car ensued, and I cut it off with saying they were far safer in the car than if I were to walk all three of them across this busy parking lot twice, twice a day.

The other parent was particularly horrified at my laxness: "What if someone takes your car?" Oh please! I told her I had my keys, and it was far, far, FAR more likely that they'd get hit in the parking lot by another car. That happens. Car thefts and kidnappings from school parking lots in Cupertino....not so much.

The school administrator pointed out I hadn't even locked my car. I looked squarely at her and said, "Really? Do you really think they're safer locked in? What if something happened to me? Then no one could get to them!" She shrugged, unprepared for such a direct question. "I think they're better off if people can open the doors."

"Wowwww..." said the other parent.

The administrator persisted: "What if they get out and run across the parking lot?" I answered that one is strapped in, and the other just doesn't do that. He's five for Pete's sake.

"Woww....." said the other parent, almost in pity at my inability to see the obvious threat of kidnapping and car theft versus a toddler breaking away and getting hit by a car. She said critically, "They're safest with you."

"In this parking lot?!" I snapped. She said she didn't have time and left. The administrator continued, "What if we called the police?" I told her, "I've explained this very thing to the Sheriff, and he agreed!"

By now I was getting mad. "You really think it's safer for me to walk all three children --" I had to pull rank here; sometimes three children gives you moral authority "-- across this parking lot, with all these minivans backing out?!" I gestured toward the white minivan parked next to me. It was hers.

"Now THAT is dangerous, and it is the far far more likely scenario than someone taking my car." They paused, taken aback by my escalating belligerence. "I take my children's safety very seriously, and walking three little children across a busy parking lot isn't it!"

The principal backed down and made one of his usual fumbling comments about just wanting to let me know, and I thanked his hurrying back for his concern. The administrator followed quickly, unwilling to stick out the evolving tirade. I can't say I blame her. I regretted getting mad, but I was in no mood to be judged.

But it was the other parent that really irked me. "Wowwwww..." Like I was dangling them off a balcony. Of course later, I wished I'd asker her: "When you back your car out, are you completely certain there is no child behind your car? Because here's one thing you can be certain of: it's not one of mine." But even if I'd thought to suggest that she herself might be the very danger against which I was protecting them, it wouldn't have done any good. She was already completely convinced of my irresponsibility. I think I saw her writing my license number down.

None of them noticed that my first-grader is one of the very few who still has to hold my hand across the parking lot. Even at TLC, all three of my children still have to hold my hand across the small private 3-car lot right in front of the building. At TLC, about 5% of the time, I have to make two trips to get everyone in the car, as I need two hands for the football hold for a tantruming Katrina. I take parking-lot safety very seriously; as a motorcylist I knew the odds of my getting hit in a parking lot were far far higher than on a highway.

As Dave points out, my primary motivation for leaving them in the car is convenience, not safety, but I absolutely reject a safety argument for bringing them with me as specious, not thought-out, knee-jerk, politically correct, and just plain wrong given this set of circumstances. By far their -- and my -- biggest threat in that parking lot is other cars, not kidnapping. Every safety decision is balanced against convenience, though most people bristle at that idea. Safety above all else! the dogma goes. No one adheres to that, or they'd never get into cars. Why don't you wear a helmet in a car? Because it's inconvenient.

Well, I found a fine way to ingratiate myself with the school administration, now, didn't I? We were already on thin ice. Something tells me my request for an AM time for my kindergartner won't be met with any extra consideration.

I don't expect a lot of support from you readers for my position, but for what it's worth, I'm by no means the only one to leave small children in a car for a few minutes on a regular basis. In many cases, it's safer. And it's certainly more convenient. "Woww....."


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2/11/09 I love you Julian

Julian got a list of all the names of the kids in his class. It didn't say "you must write a valentine," but that was the implication. Like I have bandwidth to oversee his valentines, and Gabriel's and Katrina's too. Not happening here.

No matter; Julian took it upon himself to write them. I gave him some blank paper, and he decided for himself to draw a heart, and write "I love you ____ Julian," for each kid in his class. He's up to 8 out of 15.

My sweet, sweet boy. I love you Julian!

Potty-training practice is going .... well .... sort of. If even the tiniest step is made each day, it's a step, and that's where we're at: tiny steps. The BIG step of actually sitting on a toilet, let alone actually going in it, is far, far away. But for now, I'm thrilled with the progress of being willing to wear underpants -- or at least, reluctantly accepting the absence of a diaper.

She insists on wearing Gabriel's Thomas underpants though.

Our tiny (but really, big!) steps include telling us each time she went in the underpants, and one time taking them off herself after going. She didn't ask about a diaper at all tonight. For only three diaper-free nights at home, this is all far more progress than I'd dared hope.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

School readiness

Today we got a short evaluation for kindergarten readiness from Julian's preschool. The "academic" criteria are very elemental, though really, they should be. Despite what many patrons of our school district might think, it's only kindergarten. Things like recognizing letters, colors, shapes, numbers. By those measures, Katrina is almost ready for kindergarten!

More importantly, his teacher wrote "very good" for the social criteria: attention span, social maturity, gross and fine motor skills, self-discipline, class participation, and that based on her assessment of his social and emotional maturity, excellent success can be expected in Kindergarten.

Not that I was in any way worried about Julian. I actually had a hard time filling out a parent survey for his kindergarten registration, especially about his strengths and weaknesses, goals I have for him, if there are any issues the teacher should be aware of, does he work well in groups, etc. He's so well-rounded there's really not a lot to say besides "He's great!"

Yesterday I was trying to give Gabriel an example of how math can be useful in the real world, as he complains sometimes about why he has to do homework. I told him, "Today at work, I needed to know how many minutes there are in a day." He scrunched up his face, puzzled, and said, "Well, why would you need to know one-thousand four-hundred and forty?!" OK, OK, never mind. [ Addendum: this is something he memorized, not that he calculated on the fly. ]

Two days ago I was showing Dave some samples of new handles for our dining room hutch, and mentioned that three of them cost $15 each, but one cost only $3. "WHAT?!" Gabriel exclaimed, "FORTY-EIGHT DOLLARS?!" I stared at him. Could I do that in first grade? Would I have?

He calculates quickly, but it takes years of experience to put into context what $48 means. I'm still learning how myself. $15 is a lot for a handle, but $5 is a lot for a piece of cheesecake too. Fortunately, I don't need a lot of either, and I'm buying both.

2/10/09 MOMom

Mean Old Mom. I like this kind of meanness.

Tonight before bed, Julian asked for ice cream. He'd earned it, since as usual, he'd eaten all his dinner, including a healthy dose of spinach. Gabriel wanted ice cream too, but he hadn't touched his spinach. I told him no, he had to eat some spinach first. So I put a plate of creamed spinach in front of him and told him that was his road to ice cream. He objected at first, but ice cream was too powerful an incentive.

This on the tails of a complaint by the boys, on the way home from pickups, "Mommy, how come we never get to go to McDonald's?"

Yessiree, this is the sort of mom-you-are-so-mean I can live with. Despite the strong risk that I'm permanently turning them off to spinach, and elevating McDonald's to forbidden-fruit status.


Monday, February 09, 2009

2/9/09 Changes

Whew! What a day of logistics.

It's time to decide and commit to where Katrina is going to go next year, as I need to reserve her spot at TLC (Julian's most excellent preschool where she goes Tues-Thurs) by Thursday. I hate to break the ties from Tonya's, but even Tonya thinks Katrina needs to go to one or the other, not both. I'm sure she's right. I'd much rather Tonya's family daycare, but it's just far enough, and opens just late enough, that it puts me on a busy expressway, max distance from work, at the peak traffic hour. But this might not matter so much when we're living closer to everything, and the boys both go to the same place.

The BIG change is that Tonya is suggesting to a group of parents that they all potty-train their toddlers, and asked if I'd like Katrina to join. The other kids are overall much readier -- they have gone on the potty before, and don't resist the whole idea with screaming fury -- but the group-think might work on Katrina. (This is a handy departure from older older brother's style!)

So tonight, I decided for this week: no diapers at home.

Katrina was outraged at the idea when we got home and I stripped her down, but she's distractable and to my surprise, I was able to get her past the tantrum. Then she said she wanted underpants, understandably enough. After vociferously rejecting various suggestions I had, including the Elmo set she'd chosen herself at Target, she agreed to Thomas underpants. Fortunately, we still have a stash of those in Gabriel's drawer. Looks like I'll be training my girl in Spider-Man and Scooby-Doo instead of Princesses and Dora.

Having done this twice before, I'd be surprised if she potty-trains in the next few weeks, but we're laying important groundwork for later. I had to change her clothes twice, but this is good -- she got to see and feel the consequences. And I confirmed what I've suspected for a while: she's past the baby-phase of going ALL the time, unlike her brothers at this age who went every 15 minutes. Physically, she can probably handle it. Cooperation is the much bigger hurdle. Miss Contrary has to decide for herself, but it seems she needs a little push.

Now I have to figure out if I can cut the tie to family daycare. I'm not sure I can. Who's the resistant one who needs training here?!

Speaking of logistics and changes: I turned in the kindergarten registration packet for Julian today at the school. My boy is going to kindergarten! I actually got choked up leaving the school office with my registration receipt.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

2/8/09 Sensitivities

Julian in so many ways is more physically sensitive than Gabriel. His tummy has always been more volatile, he's horribly allergic to penicillin, he gets canker sores, he gets nosebleeds -- he even has a lot more snot than Gabriel! (sorry, TMI.)

And now, I suspect Julian has a genuine food allergy: kiwi. A benign one as they go, since it's not exactly a pervasive food, but he's very consistent in complaining that his throat hurts as soon as he eats one. It's no threat and he's in no danger, but it's a shame, because he's the only one here besides me who will eat kiwi, and they're healthy!

A first today: I didn't carry Katrina at all leaving the Y this morning!

Not that she can't walk of course, but it's a question of cooperation. She won't always (ever?) hold my hand crossing streets or parking lots or walk with me. But today she was great walking back to the car (a fair distance since the Y's parking lot was full). Let's gloss over the fact that I carried her in in a football hold, kicking and screaming!

Tonight, Julian is concerned that the Earth will turn into a star.