Saturday, April 18, 2009

4/18/09 Letterboxing and ping-pong

On the whole, I try not to blog about current events or my opinions on things going on in the world. That can get boring fast. This is blog about kids and family. Which can also get boring fast, but at least you know what you're in for.

But I'm captivated -- thrilled! -- by this story of Susan Boyle, who blew away Simon Cowell and a sneering audience on the original British version of "American Idol," called "Britain's Got Talent." She appears like a dowdy, masculine spinster, a caricature of a fashion don't, as socially awkward as a preteen -- and then she starts to sing. And it's lovely. It's fascinatingly compelling -- such auditory beauty coming out of such visual homliness.

Steph, if you're reading this and have been trapped under a rock the past few days, see this: Britain's Got Talent, Susan Boyle

Today we walked to a somewhat nearby park (nearby if you're Gabriel and really really far away if you're Julian) and did a little letterboxing. This was fun -- the boys were into it, my Mom liked interpreting the clues, and Julian found both the letterboxes, which he was thrilled about.

First, some playing on the dinosaurs, while Mom and Bonne Maman tried to figure out the clues.

Then the letterbox finds. Julian really did find the very well-disguised one the first time.

The second bonus letterbox was tough, the clue was pretty obscure and I was surprised we figured it out. I actually found the box and gave Julian a big hint. In times like this it's handy to communicate with my mother without the boys understanding, quickly telling her in my halting French that if she finds the box, not to let on. He was psyched.

Katrina tagged along in the stroller with Dave, and had fun running around the park and clumsily toddling after her big brothers. Whaddya know -- she can hug!

Later in the afternoon, we pulled out the ping-pong table and Bonne Maman had a great time with the boys, while Katrina and I napped. I've been semi-migrainey all week, darn it. It was the first T-shirt day of the year and I'd much rather have been playing ping-pong with the queen of spinners and marvelling at my progeny playing with their grandmother than napping off a headache.

Mom confirmed what I've suspected: though Gabriel could keep a rally going better (older and more persistent), Julian has some talent with the racquet.

Papa Paul made an astute observation about Julian today. On walks, Julian is putzy and slow and stops a lot and complains about being tired and it takes forever to get anywhere, while meantime Gabriel just walks or runs along without a peep. But in the backyard, Julian has plenty of energy running around playing. Maybe, Papa Paul astutely observed, on walks, Julian is just bored. Hmm!

A beautiful day and another fabulous dinner -- we are eating like kings and I'm having SO much fun cooking, making salads, learning from my mother, and even sneaking in a little wheat-free baking -- even if I forgot to put the bananas in banana-blueberry muffins (DOH!). My new kitchen has been hard at work letting us play this week!


Friday, April 17, 2009

4/17/09 Amazing Sayings

I took Gabriel to Barnes & Noble today, where there's a better selection of Rainbow Magic fairy books than at Borders. Once again, Gabriel insisted on wiping out his meager means on books that he can probably get at the library. He had to dip into his coins to cover the cost of two books, then felt the little pouch he keeps his money in after paying. "Wow, Mom -- my wallet is a lot lighter now!" The cashier cracked up. "Story of my life, kid!"

Tonight, Julian was sous-chef again, and was tasked to dice red peppers. "Do you know what a cube is?" Bonne Maman asked him. "Yeah, it's a square..." a thoughtful pause, then "...well, like a square sphere." Interesting way of expressing the concept of volume! Though he likes green beans better without the "square spheres" of red pepper.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

4/16/09 Coyote Point

We took Katrina to daycare today so we could drive about 40 minutes to a semi-nearby science museum and small -- very small -- zoo, at a recreation area right along the bay. Perfect!

The boys had a great time with the science exhibits, themed on weather, though I'm not sure how much actual science they got out of it. A chain of marbles that simulates waves when shaken is, to them, just a chain of marbles that you shake. But Mom and I had a great time looking at the patterns made by magnets under ferrous liquid.

We walked through the habitat displays and talked about a few things, like how animals camouflage themselves and the life cycle of an insect (which only Mom remembered). If I had any notions that I could ever be suited to home-schooling, they were soundly squashed today.

Then we walked around the zoo and gardens, looking at the birds and animals. The displays were nicely done, with lots of views and descriptions. The boys really liked the golden eagle, and we happened to catch the otter feeding also.

Of course, the requisite photo of the whole group. Why is everyone compelled to take these photos? But I like the fluffy white bird in the background, some variety of heron, Mom thinks.

Great view of the bay from outside, including a clear shot of San Francisco.

We had a picnic lunch before leaving for home, though the boys were getting antsy and started to revert back to their usual behavior patterns. Boys will be boys, but brothers will be INCREDIBLY OBNOXIOUS!

I was hoping they'd get it out of their system outside, but no, they were horrid in the car ride home, dimming the glow from a nice outing. Anyway, this "environmental learning center" was a terrific place, we'll certainly go back.

Gabriel's having a grand time doing KenKen puzzles in the NY Times with Bonne Maman.

Most kids remember their grandmother's cooking, but Julian will remember cooking with his grandmother. He was quite the sous-chef tonight, peeling and chopping parsnips, peeling garlic, basting fish, and various other tasks Bonne Maman gave him.

He loved the parsnips puree that he helped make, and gobbled three helpings of salmon, earning himself some pear clafouti dessert, though he wouldn't have much to do with the cumin-garlic greens. We sure are eating well this trip!

Now let's hope that having Katrina home tomorrow will deflect the boys from each other....uh-huh, yeah, sure, that always works.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

4/15/09 Togetherness

Thank goodness for school. Without it, days like today would be the norm, which means, two boys together all day.

We had a fun day with grandparents, a day that we planned not to do too much except have Bonne Maman and Papa Paul take the boys out somewhere local this afternoon. But the boys have been very rowdy together, fighting, getting hysterical, bothering Katrina, and generally being a big pain. By mid-morning, we'd all already had enough of them. I know all siblings fight and play rowdily together, but are girl/boy siblings and sisters quite so loud and violent as brothers?

So I took Julian with me to the gym while grandparents had a very pleasant morning with Gabriel and Katrina. I was nervous that the boys would be impossible on their afternoon outing with grandparents (a short bicycle trip to a nearby court that they could ride around) but fortunately they were really good.

Later, though, they were horrible together in the backyard, running toy trucks into things and each other, throwing rocks and toys, tearing leaves off our trees. Gabriel got another hefty set of timeouts/cool-offs/banishments/whatever you want to call them in his room today, starting as a consequence for some offense (e.g. punching Julian), and quickly getting escalated when he's unbearably rude to me in response.

Happily, my informing the boys yesterday that saying "stupid" means "I'm stupid" has resulted in a drastic reduction of the usage of that word. Unhappily, now "stupid" has merely been replaced with the most derogatory alternative term they can think of, amusingly enough, "pesky." Though I know that Gabriel's intent is no less venomous when he insults me with "Pesky Mom!" it just doesn't have the same impact. To me, anyway. He gets just as much time in his room.

Tomorrow Katrina is going to daycare, and we'll do a bigger outing with the boys again. After today, I'm wondering if we're leaving behind the wrong child.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4/14/09 Windy Beach

Today Katrina went to daycare, and three grownups and two boys went to the beach. We picked a sunny, but very very windy day for it. Still, Natural Bridges State Beach is beautiful under any circumstances.

This was the best shot I could get of grandparents; Julian was afraid of the water and the wind, and kept trying to go back to the car.

But climbing up on some rocks made him feel better, he could see the ocean from a "safe" distance (though stories of people getting swept off rocks had me keeping close to them).

While climbing rocks, watching surfers and marvelling at soaring pelicans, it had either gotten warmer and the wind had calmed down, or we just got used to it, and Julian relaxed a lot. Gabriel was unfazed.

I missed Katrina, but outings like this would have changed completely for everyone if she'd been along (not to mention we'd have had to take two cars, a real pain). Time with just my boys always makes me glad.

The boys were pooped out later, and while they claimed they didn't like the beach, they sure seemed to like it while we were there. I absolutely love going to the coast, and berate myself every time I'm there that I don't go much more often. Thank you to Papa Paul for the suggestion to go to the ocean!


Daddy Dreams

Yesterday morning when I went to get Katrina in her room, she was sitting up in bed, so adorable with her fluffy moptop and bright face. She looked at me intently and said, "Daddy was in my nap!" Dreaming about Dad, how sweet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

4/13/09 Busy Visit

Been a while since I've blogged! We've been a little busy, and I've been too tired to upload photos. Or write, but really, who cares about the writing? I know you're all in it for the pictures.

On Saturday, Bonne Maman and Papa Paul arrived! I dropped our little bunch off at Tonya's, picked up grandparents at the airport, dropped grandparents off at home, then retrieved said bunch and took Julian straight to a birthday party. We'd had to turn down so many birthday parties; this one we could (barely) fit in, and he really wanted to do this one at Young Chef's Academy. A great idea for a birthday party!

First order of business next morning: something between a recital and a jam session. Bonne Maman noted Gabriel is very interested in classical music. (She also did Ken-Ken puzzles with him later, and said he really liked it.)

It's Easter! A day for a pretty dress...

...and an Easter egg hunt at a friend's house.

Races are always called for.

(Unfortunately some bad behavior at the friend's house, some bad behavior last week at school, some violent behavior toward his brother, and some shockingly rude behavior in the car on the way home added up to a 3-hour timeout for Mr. Firstborn that Easter afternoon. And he wasn't done yet -- a reprimand from me yielded a venomous, direct "Stupid Mom" from really, if that doesn't deserve a smack, I don't know what does.)

All forgiven in the morning, and today, a short hike. A 1-miler up to what I think is the best view in the Bay Area.

A refresher in poison oak spotting.

Some hill-running....

...and, of course, a photo-op.

Me and Mom. We tried to get the next generation of "me and mom" in the photo too, but Next Generation had other ideas. (Then when she's a teenager she'll complain about the generation gap.)

In the afternoon, after a ruined nap (Julian opened Katrina's door and let her out, arrgh), a little football.

And admiring a beautiful gift of a painting.

No nap meant some rare cuddling -- and look, how handy! A warm loving grandmother is on the job!

We're having a great time cooking and and testing out my new kitchen. It wasn't specifically designed for more than one cook, but it easily accommodates two cooks and a random assortment of hangers-on.

Julian thinks it's fun to have two moms and two dads now.