Saturday, April 25, 2009

4/25/09 The non-joiner

Dave took Katrina to gymnastics this morning, and reported with regret that it's really not fun. He wants it to be fun, it's always fun to have some one-on-one time, and she has moments of being fun in class. But mostly, she resists and refuses, partly from fear, but from what I saw, mostly just for the sake of it. She seems to be untroubled by peer pressure -- everyone else is hopping across the room, having a great time, but instead she'll stand and stare with her finger in her mouth.

This made me think -- all the activities I've taken her to, she's never really been into. Music was OK sometimes, but it was really touch-and-go, as she'd get into a State at any time. Swimming was a disaster. She's great at school and daycare, including the Y daycare, so maybe her stubbornness is all for our benefit.

Today at lunch, Katrina insisted on sitting on a chair in the dining room, at the table still covered in cloths and boys' craft projects. The rest of us were in the kitchen, where she too normally sits, but today, she wanted to be alone in the dining room as everyone else bantered and laughed together in another room. Thinking about her in gymnastics and pretty much every other group activity I've taken her to, then sitting alone at lunch, started to put it together. She's not antisocial -- daycare shows that -- but she definitely has some sort of strong streak that either makes her not care, or actively resist, joining in groups.

Tonight she was a serious grouch, and when she said she wanted to play outside, we practically shoved her out -- PLEASE! Play outside! And she did. She was outside by herself until past 8pm -- almost an hour -- when there were only a few last scraps of daylight, and only wearing a T-shirt. We couldn't believe how cold her arms were, but this never bothered her. She could have come in anytime, but playing outside, alone in the cold and dark, was what she wanted.


Friday, April 24, 2009

4/24/09 Crafty Boys

After swim lessons today, the boys and I picked up Katrina and got home at a nice early 4:45pm. I was all set to change into my frumpies, snag a chocolate snack, start dinner and burrow in at home....but Gabriel was all excited about a wooden craft project he'd just finished. The boys had both done one they'd received as party favors and really liked them.

I commented idly that these wooden craft projects were easy to get at Michael's, and Gabriel asked excitedly if we could get some more. "Sure," I said. Then a parallel spirit quantum-leaped into my body and said, "Let's go!" "RIGHT NOW?!" he asked, incredulous. Mom never says "right now" unless it's about following one of her orders. "Yup, right now!!" My pajama dreams evaporating in a sudden flameburst of Good-Momness, I piled the crew into the car, and off we went to indulge in some materialistic consumerism. The boys were beside themselves.

These wooden craft projects are small and cheap, but the boys have a great time with them. And, they were on sale, for 79 cents, down from $1. Fun doesn't get any cheaper than that. Gabriel picked a biplane, and Julian picked a military boat, and they both immediately got down to business when we got home.

(BM & PP, you'll recognize these projects: Julian did a similar tractor while you were here.)

Like how they're set up in our "formal" dining room? Clearly, this is not a space devoted to storing china that no one ever uses. Seeing our one dining table covered in tablecloths, paint and glue brings me far more joy than a perfectly presented "formal" dining area anyway. It's so much more alive this way.

That said, the kids really do need a craft table, but there's a small impediment to that: "glue girl." Paint, glue and cups of painty water in reach of crafty little sister with a propensity to confuse Elmer's for body lotion says that the dining room table is a fine place for craft projects. Even it means we can't eat on it.

But the boys' new devotion to crafts meant that Katrina very very VERY happily played outside by herself, not screaming or crying once in almost an hour of very very VERY happily toddling about without any interference from brothers. This made Mom very very VERY happy.

And oh JOY! A new freedom!! She can open the sliding door to the backyard and let herself in and out! I can cross "doorman" off my Mom resume!

The boys are having a terrific time with their swim lessons. Their favorite part is at the end, when they have five minutes of fun time, but they're both smiling and greatly enjoying the time in-between too. And I think they're even learning to swim in the process.

I'm increasingly impressed at how well some kids -- younger than Gabriel, even -- swim. These lessons are a far cry from my days holding onto the edge and kicking to nowhere. I can already see how much more comfortable the boys both are in the water, though I also saw Julian fall off the mat during playtime and the teacher have to pull him out. They're still a ways off from being water-safe, but this is a great start, and they're loving it.

Julian and his classmates, lined up like little ants, awaiting the fun time as their stylish teacher sets up.

The "magic carpet" during playtime. Gabriel's class did the same thing this time (playtime activity is different every week) right next to Julian's class, so I captured both classes. Wow, I even captured the moment in which Julian fell off and his teacher pulled him out -- no emergency (at about 00:33 in the video). They're both having a great time (each boy is on the far left side of each mat). The "magic carpet" play is a little more advanced in Gabriel's class, where the teacher rolls the kids off the mat; Julian's teacher mostly pulls them around. They both love it.

As I see it, this isn't just play -- it's using their new skills without even realizing it, incorporating them into fun, and rounding out their general water competence. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm convinced that the hours my sister and I spent jumping off truck innertubes into our pond upstate was an essential part of our water-learning. And FUN! Please, let's not forget fun amidst all this learning!

I thought I'd be bored waiting half an hour during the swim lesson, but actually, I can't quit smiling at all those childhoods unfolding in the pool around me.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

4/23/09 How many days until 6?

I've often said that children aren't really "stressful" -- very annoying sometimes, but not truly stressful. Then I amend that to exclude Gabriel's toddlerhood, which often was truly stressful and had us wondering if we'd done the wrong thing.

But now, sometimes Julian's 5-year-old-ness is approaching stressful too. This is definitely not the best place in his life. The putzing around in the morning, the complaining, the disobedience (modern parenting parlance calls that "not listening," but it's really the same thing), the rudeness -- still just "very annoying." But the constant pestering of Katrina is bordering stressful.

This afternoon, despite strict orders not to touch it when Katrina is near, Julian again closed the heavy 4'x8' backyard sliding door on her hand, claiming he didn't know she was there. Never mind that they were facing each other inches apart, and that she was shrieking in pain as the door pressed against her soft little fingers. I was so upset I was almost in tears. In shaking half-whispered tones, I ordered him to his room until dinner, clutching my wailing baby. For once, he didn't hurl back insolent remarks or throw himself on the floor with a fabricated injury, and instead he quickly and silently retreated to his room.

I can't wait until 5 is over.

Tonight Katrina said out of the blue at dinner, "I want Bonne Maman and Papa Paul!"


4/22/09 Camping on the mind

I've been thinking about camping today, largely due to a wonderful post on one of my favorite blogs about a recent camping trip (and a brave one, in the mountains in April, meaning, brr!). And because I've been thinking about my former motorcycling life, which involved many many camping trips.

At the moment we're not planning any trips at all -- we've got to get our lives under control after so much upheaval with moving and remodeling -- but thinking about camping again gets my imagination going. I wonder if we could squeeze in a long weekend sometime this year...

Then tonight, Julian asked me out of the blue, "Mom, when are we going camping again? I loved it!"

Coincidence or clairvoyance?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4/21/09 Tuesday dinner

I went to a regular Tuesday dinner with old motorcycle friends tonight, with Dave's encouragement. Two couples we know who travel indefinitely -- one by bus, one by boat -- were visiting, so it seemed like an especially good opportunity to dip a toe back into my old life.

It was so interesting being there, falling right back into my former -- real? -- self. So familiar, yet many aspects seem new: sitting through a whole meal, finishing a whole sentence, listening to a whole story. When I used to attend these dinners regularly, I was strong and self-confident; my career was flourishing, my need for adventure challenged with frequent motorcycle trips. For the most part during those years I was seeing another motorcyclist, and that hasn't changed either (except that we're married and have three children, details details).

A topic that often arises is if I'll ever ride again. I don't dare really ask myself that. Practicality, my ally and nemesis, and what got me started motorcycling in the first place, says no. I started riding because of free parking anywhere on the UCLA campus -- and my first bike got 70mpg! -- but I got hooked in it for travel. Motorcycling is a high-overhead activity, not just in the gear, bike, space, time and money, but for me there's the added physical and fear challenges. I was able to cope with those hurdles with experience, constant practice and intense desire, but I'm not sure those are as strong now.

I was never a thrill-seeker speed-junkie weekend-afternoon fair-weather squid -- even adrenaline scares me. The things that attracted me to an apparently dangerous activity weren't about the danger, and are still in me: the need to accomplish small goals, the desire to be moving in the outdoors, the mental catharsis from a repetitive activity, the endurance challenge, the paradox of wanting solitude and company. Trail running satisfies much of that too, though ironically 1 year of running injured me far more than 10 years of motorcycling ever did. Still, the stakes with motorcycling are much higher now. It's not just my life I'm risking anymore, it's four other people's too.

Will I ride again? It's about as likely as was my starting to ride in the first place, or having three children. Both were unlikely to the point of improbable. But they happened.


Monday, April 20, 2009

4/20/09 Adieu!

I took Mom and Paul to the airport this morning, but not before one last photo-op.

What a wonderful visit! We had a perfect balance of doing things and not doing things, a lot of unfettered time, and lots of great cooking. Oh, there were some down moments (most of which involved Julian), but the good far far outweighed the bad. I'm delighted that the new kitchen and guest suite work very much as I'd planned, and the proof is in having satisfied and comfortable guests.

I decided to take the rest of the day off to handle some affairs I've put off for too long, but first, my first "real" run in months, and on an absolutely beautiful day. It's unseasonably hot right now (Gabriel told me it reached 106), but it's still green and springy and made for some wonderful earthy fragrances on my favorite trails at Rancho San Antonio. In the old days, a 4.5-mile run would have been merely maintenance, but it was a good challenge today. I haven't felt so mentally alive in weeks.

Tonight at dinner, Gabriel asked to be excused before eating much of his dinner. I reminded him that he had to go do homework, something we've all happily forgotten during the weeklong recess. "Oh yeah," he said, looking outside wistfully, "I forgot about that." I told him I knew a great way for him to put off his homework a little longer: eat his broccoli! "Oh, OK!" he said cheerfully, and delved into his healthy green vegetables. I like it when homework works for me!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

4/19/09 Heat Wave

It was HOT today! A few days ago we were shivering in a biting wind, and today was an unseasonable, at any time of year here, 90 degrees. I'm a lizard in this hot weather, I love it. I could spend the whole afternoon sunning myself on a rock if my children would let me.

This meant I could put Katrina in the one cute summer dress I have for her, not that she really let me take a photo, as she lounged around in the toasty backyard. At least she happily permitted the dress.

Before she arrived in the backyard after a shopping trip with Dad, I'd been having fun practicing ping-pong with Julian, but she and her demands quickly put a stop to that.

Both boys managed major knee-scrapes today, the sort that has them anxiously looking for Mom, Julian in tears and Gabriel hopping from the intensity of the injury. Some cleaning, kisses and brightly-colored band-aids restored all limbs to full function.

Katrina is working on giving up her nap -- after an hour and a half of yakking continuously in a Pak'n'Play crib (that worked two days ago!), we gave up and she played outside for the afternoon. When brothers weren't bothering her, she was engaged in a digging, moving, and sorting project for over an hour. Dave said it took a shower and two baths to scrape the dirt off her, and even then she looked like she still had a layer left. That's-a my girl!

My philosophy on dirt is: the dirtier you got, the more fun you must have had! I guess some Moms might get upset about the new dress thing.

Mom and Paul and I walked around downtown Los Gatos this afternoon, crowded with other sightseers and window-shoppers, wallets firmly closed with a steely paranoia. In different economic times, especially with my mother there to confer with, I'd never make it out of Williams-Sonoma without buying something. Instead, we happily looked over the various items and chatted about what we could have used in the massive flurry of cooking we've done this week. It was fun to see the expensive frittata pans they sell, using a wonderful recipe for a leek-gruyere frittata to help sell said items -- that I adapted this morning to a single hand-me-down cast-iron skillet a former boyfriend left behind, with great success. Our Sunday brunch included French Toast, a bowl of freshly-cut fruit, Pavel's Russian yogurt, maple-brushed baked bacon and the leek-gruyere frittata. Mm-mm-MM. I've put on 5 pounds in 6 days. Or is that 6 pounds in 7 days? At least I had some help consuming the yummy blueberry mini-muffins and mango mousse and pear clafouti I couldn't resist making.

Alas, reality rushes back in after when Mom and Paul depart for cloudier and colder pastures back East tomorrow morning. School starts again, work resumes. How many days 'til summer?