Saturday, April 04, 2009

4/4/09 Big Bunny Fun Run

We did the Big Bunny Fun Run today!

This is sort of a sentimental event to me, since it's what got me started running in 2007. This year, Gabriel ran the 5K with me, while Julian walked the 1K course with Laura and Lance. (Meantime, Dave took Katrina to her first gymnastics class, which went predictably: she refused to participate.)

I figured there was a good chance Gabriel and I would get separated on the course, but he's old enough now it's not a problem -- he can follow the people and the signs no problem. I figured he'd probably start off running fast and poop himself out and walk, so I warned him that I would ditch him if he did -- I'm in this to run it!

But once he heard that it's a real race, he talked a lot about trying to actually win it. "Nope!" I informed him. "You're not going to win it." If a 7-year-old wins a 5K, it's not a very competitive one. But, I told him, you can try to win your division, which was Boys 6-8.

And he came in second!!!

First, the requisite photo with the Big Bunny as we were checking in. Julian is still afraid of the Big Bunny, even though I assured him that it's just a person in a costume.

Me and my dear boys, before the race.

My camera's battery died right as the race started, so I didn't get a photo of Gabriel actually running. Not that I had much chance -- he ditched me within seconds, and I didn't see him until we reunited at the end. He finished minutes before I did, at a time of 27:46. That's just under a 9-minute mile, faster than I've ever run the few 5Ks and 10Ks I did. (Though, that's not saying much; whatever strengths I had as a runner didn't include speed.)

After the race, we endured a late-running half-hour raffle, and then incomplete results, to finally hear the awards for the Boys 6-8 division. Competition wasn't stiff; the 3rd place finish was 32 minutes, but the first-place in his division came in at 25 minutes (wow). Gabriel will have to work very hard in two years to place: the third-place boy in the 9-12 age group came in at 21 minutes. The first-place boy in the 9-12 age group finished in under 18 minutes!

Still, I was very proud for Gabriel's moment on the podium accepting his trophy. And so was he!

I should know better by now not to underestimate this child. He was absolutely determined to win. He said later that when his body told him to walk, he didn't, because he was going to win. I told him I was very proud of how hard he tried today -- that I'm very happy for him that he placed second, but I'm most proud of his effort and his focus. I know it sounds hokey to kids -- they want the trophy -- but it really is true. His focus and persistence are what make him so remarkable.

And his patience. Katrina insisted on combing his hair tonight, and he sweetly begrudged her. This makes him even more of a winner to me. (Sorry for the corn.)

Well, I'd hoped to stave off my sons being faster than me for a little longer, but, today proved the torch has been passed!


Friday, April 03, 2009

4/3/09 Busy Boy Mom

I did so much with the boys today. I really liked that!

First, Gabriel's school had its first-grade concert today. Lots more kids than parents there, but despite my pending unemployment, this was too important to miss.

Gabriel was very, very happy I was there, and kept looking for me.

His class did a silly-face photo. The girl next to him I've made friends with, she's very outgoing and confident and I really like her. I definitely joke around and interact with the kids differently than most of the moms, but then, most of the moms and I were raised in very different cultures.

Then later in the afternoon, I took the boys to their first swim lesson. Julian was hilarious on his first back float in 2 years, holding his mouth wide open, literally like a fish out of water gasping for breath. But he had a great time.

Gabriel, not as much, though I couldn't get a straight answer out of him why. First he said he didn't like his swim trunks (and I did have to apply an emergency safety pin in the midst of his class), but later he said that everyone in his class swam better than he does. All the more reason. I consider these lessons mandatory, at least for a little while.

Then we went to pick up Katrina, but Tonya had taken the kids out for a long walk and wouldn't be back for another 35 minutes. What do you do with 35 minutes? I knew what I should do -- swim lessons underscored how long the boys' hair had gotten (goggles are a pain) -- but, being iPhone-free, I had to take a chance on driving around and hoping I'd pass by a SuperCuts. My gamble paid off, and the boys are now a-stylin'.

Then after dinner, the boys and I made cookies. My first baking in my new kitchen! I hadn't planned to have them help me; these were initiation cookies to get familiar with my kitchen and optimize locations of things (note to self: move measuring cups to the top drawer!), but they both got really excited about helping me. They were both having such a good time, seemingly relishing this sort of activity together (~ouch~working~mom~guilt~ouch~) that I didn't mind the delay, though it got really late. They did great taking turns, talked excitedly about measuring things and holding the mixer, and each got to lick a beater.

I even got Julian's toenails clipped today -- arguably the biggest accomplishment!

Having afternoons together after school every day -- or even just some days -- would be the perfect balance.


Howdy, SUCKA!

Julian's school brought in a photographer with a pony to take adorable photos of the kids. I had no intention of participating, and didn't even ask about it or sign Julian up. Photos like this are the worst of the worst to me -- staged is bad enough, but I really don't like costumes and props, especially ones that have no relevance to our lives. Forget it.

But, as it turns out, they take photos of all the kids regardless, and parents have the option later of buying the photos, or not. Yeah, right. What option? Like you can possibly turn down your kid with a pony?

And sure enough, the photos were even hokier than I could possibly have imagined! So hokey that they tipped to the other side and are absolutely, positively hilarious.

How campy does this get: a cowboy strumming a guitar, and carrying a rope.

Or tipping his 10-gallon hat while astride his trusty steed.

It's so bad it's great. Then there's the complete love of seeing your child's beaming smile, even if it comes next to an animal he's probably terrified of and normally wouldn't get within 100 feet of.

Bill's Pony Pictures lightened my load by 40 bucks today. I just couldn't resist the guitar.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

4/2/09 The Turnaround

I still remember the advice we got from several sources -- including an expensive child psychologist expert -- when I exasperatedly asked what to do when toddler Gabriel would throw a huge fit in our driveway and refused to come inside. Inevitably, the advice dodged the question and handed him control: "Just let him." Yeah, but what if I don't want my 2-year-old screaming in the driveway -- or screaming inside because I carried him in -- for 45 minutes every day while I'm trying to make dinner and take care of other children? What if I find the whole situation disruptive, distracting, and unacceptable? I'm allowed!

What should I do?

I finally concluded -- largely thanks to the non-help of experts, that there really was no answer, and that I had to handle each new iteration as its own episode, and choose one or two aspects of the situation to focus on, grit my teeth and stick it out. That's how I got through Gabriel's difficult and painful toddlerhood.

The memories rushed back today as I pulled a grumpy Katrina out of the car, and she threw herself on the ground and shouted "No!" when I asked her to bring her lunch inside. Shades of the past! Meantime, Gabriel, the Original Sinner, agreeably took his own lunch inside, chuckling at his sister's antics.

What should I do?

Well, despite this re-enactment bringing up my PTSD, I was able to stay calm and do what I often do when I just don't know what else to do: take pictures. And incredibly, my attempt to document a reincarnated moment turned it around.

Katrina started off having a tantrum in Gabriel's driveway-tantrum spot, but then found that her lunch bag made a fine rabbit in a pinch, and started "hopping" the bag up and down until she was laughing and relaxed. This is what those experts are thinking of -- a normal rich array of possible responses on the part of fickle toddlers, induced by distraction and not reacting to the tantrum. That never came close to working on Gabriel. Katrina isn't exactly textbook in toddler response, but she's at least in the library. Gabriel wasn't.

And then she was very funny and agreeable the rest of the evening, even volunteering to go pee in the little potty once, and making it happen. Definitely her brother's sister, but thankfully no carbon copy.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

4/1/09 The Addition

Dave and I had an interesting idea that we're back home and starting to settle in (keyword there is "starting"), and our schedules are becoming utterly predictable with two out of three kids in school soon, maybe we can start thinking about a new addition to the family!

We've both always loved dogs, and came very close to getting a dog before Gabriel came, when we reluctantly bowed to practicality and decided to wait. I used to go to agility trials as a rare spectator -- no one who doesn't have a dog goes to those! We always thought we should wait until the youngest child was 4 or 5, but that was before another youngest child shifted everything by a few years. Maybe it's time to un-hold a lifelong dream.

Having looked into this a lot already, I already know where to start: rescue organizations for a breed or basic type/size of dog we'd like, that have fostered the rescues and that can place them wisely with the right family. Oh my how the kids would LOVE it! Even Julian, who's always been a little afraid of dogs, but has always been very interested in them. But really, it's for me -- I've always wanted my own dog.

Meantime, Katrina was being silly with her spoon tonight. Not silly enough to distract Gabriel, who's been walking around all day with his nose buried in his newly beloved Rainbow Magic book.

He even insisted on bringing his new books -- carefully placed inside the Borders shopping bag, receipt and all -- to school today, and I found him wrapped up in them again when I picked him up at the CDC. He's carried one of the books everywhere with him today, and won't even take his eyes off it walking into the bathroom to brush his teeth.

I should know better than to really cook on a "work night," but I'm starting to get into a groove in my new kitchen. Tonight, it actually happened that I used all six burners on my cooktop. So I had to take a picture.

OK, I could have made all this with four burners, and in fact, it turns out that it's pretty hard to keep track of six things going at once, but partly it eliminated some timing logistics, and partly I did it just because I could.

And partly, because I have a somewhat picky family and because I'm compulsive. Gabriel doesn't like asparagus, so does that mean the whole family never eats asparagus, or that he gets out of eating a vegetable when the rest of us have asparagus? And Dave really likes it grilled, but I wanted to try a shallot-mustard-orange sauce on steamed asparagus. So: all of the above. Gabriel gets green beans, I grill asparagus for Dave, steam it for me and Julian, and make a sauce. These variations alone accounted for three burners!

Thanks to my new high-BTU burners and kick-*ss range hood, I can grill indoors again, and in fact have used my grill pan more than any other pot or pan so far. I need another one; this one is too small and is such a pain to clean. Or better yet, a real grill outdoors. Mmm.


p.s. I think we'll name our dog April Fool....gotcha.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

3/31/09 Rainbow Magic

Gabriel was so enthusiastic about something today that he finished his homework -- the whole week's worth -- before dinner, then asked again and again if I would take him out after dinner so he could spend his own allowance money on it. I agreed, and took him out to the store, though I couldn't dissuade him from spending almost every cent he had on this highly desirable thing.

What could possibly motivate a 7-year-old boy so much to do his homework early and spend all his money? A Lego Bionicle? A remote-control stunt motorcycle? A video game?

Nope. Would you believe: a fairy story?

He had to have some "Rainbow Magic" fairy story books, such as India the Moonstone Fairy. He chose wisely, coming away with two four-in-one books, each $6.99, instead of individual stories for $4.99 each. This really counts when you only have $16 to begin with. The past few days, it's been all I could do to tear him away from these same books at the CDC, so they must be pretty good.

On the way home, we were waiting at a long red light, and he said, "When is this light going to turn green? I'm tired of breathing in this spot!"

Katrina was in true form tonight, being bossy and picky and resistant to everything, until she discovered a windfall of new puzzles.

It's handy to have friends nearby with girls outgrowing stuff just in time, though these puzzles aren't specifically "girl" toys. We really don't have a lot of girl-oriented things around here. Except for our boy's fairy books.


Monday, March 30, 2009

3/30/09 Wired

It's one thing to go overboard in wiring every room, some in multiple places, with cable, phone and data outlets. It's a little crazy to have an upstairs and downstairs patch panel. And to accidentally spend a small fortune doing so.

But it's another thing when much of it just doesn't work. And when you spend the entire evening carrying a TV and phone around to every outlet to test them, climbing in and out of a filthy basement, tracing, marking and moving cables, and discovering that yet more doesn't work. The effort, time and money we already put into this makes me resent every minute. This is definitely one of those things that if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. I've run and traced a lot of cables in my career, and I mark them.

And I get to miss more work tomorrow morning because the plumbers can't tell left from right either (hot and cold in their world). Missing work was routine recently; now it's a major imposition. We have to get on with our lives already!

At least Dave figured out why our cable TV wasn't working upstairs, normally the only place TV ever gets watched around here (ironically). Just in time to find out that there really isn't anything to watch anyway. Food Network is packed with commercials, and I just don't have the heart to watch HGTV right now.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

3/29/09 Emergency Furniture?

Dave and I were musing last night about what furniture we really "need." Everything we have, we've had for years, and it was a mishmash before that there was no point in replacing until after The Grand Remodel. Now it's overwhelming, and much of it is there, so it's hard to prioritize what to get first. I figured I'd let the answer present itself, that the most urgent need would make itself known in due time.

This afternoon after Katrina and I got home from another nice Easter party, she made a beeline upstairs to play. Dave and the boys were out, so I took the opportunity for a quick snack, then forced myself to spend 5 minutes on a project I've been avoiding. Katrina sounded perfectly happy upstairs (that should have been a warning sign), but it was approaching naptime, so I went up to get her ready.

As I went up the stairs, she appeared at the top, and I was shocked -- both her arms were completely coated in something white and gooey. First short-sleeved T-shirt of the year, too. I could see it was on her clothes and her shoes and she was making footprints of it. She must have found my hand lotion.

Then in the boys' room, there was a huge puddle of the white goopy stuff, with a craft project of Julian's soaking in the middle of it, and various other toys coated too. GREAT. I picked up Katrina to start to wash her off when I realized....oh no. This isn't lotion -- it's GLUE.

An entire bottle of Elmer's glue, dumped in a puddle and then luxuriously spread all over her arms and clothes. Julian had left it out when he'd asked Dave to open the box labeled "Crafts" so he could work on a wooden squirrel project, which he did on the floor right as you walk into the boys' room. A magnificent mess, and one with a clock, because the stuff would soon start to dry. I was so stunned I barely knew where to start. Fortunately I heard Dave pulling into the driveway just then, and carried Katrina under her arms down the stairs hollering, "HELP!" After we stripped her, he gave her a bath downstairs while I tackled the sticky puddle upstairs.

So I was right. The most-needed furniture would find a way to call out the criticality of its purchase. We need a craft table!


p.s. these just in from Sonia, some photos she took at the Easter party today. Katrina was in a very silly mood!