Saturday, May 09, 2009

5/9/09 Minastics

This morning I took Katrina to "minastics," which she claims to have great enthusiasm for, but then refuses to do most of the exercises. I got chatting with the mom of Zoe, a darling and very athletic little girl in Katrina's class, who turns out to be just 2 weeks older. Zoe is cooperative and willing and follows instructions and has a great time, whereas Katrina really stands out in the class as being resistant and refusing to try most things.

Another mom of another cooperative girl, Kira, said also that Kira wasn't so hot on gymnastics at first either, it took a session or two. But when I pressed, both conceded that their girls were hesitant and reluctant, but didn't scream or resist so furiously the way Katrina does.

Still, despite refusal occasionally escalating to full-on tantrum at the mere act of being asked, overall we did pretty well at "minastics" today.

Katrina completely refuses to join the warmup -- running and hopping across the room, one of the few things she can do easily.

She likes the trampoline though.

Inexplicably, she doesn't mind the "spider walk," which is walking her feet up the wall.

She's also OK with the low balance beam, provided she's holding my hand.

But daring to suggest she go on a different trampoline to get into her favorite, the donut? Forget it. The floor tantrum followed. Of course I don't force her, I encourage her, I suggest it, I imitate it, I sometimes carry her as I do it myself. This isn't about insisting she do something (except about turn-taking and not holding up other cooperative kids), she gets furious at the mere suggestion. Such as, "look, Katrina, Zoe's have a great time jumping on the trampoline!"

She did like watching Kira very competently climb the ladder and walk on the balance beam.

"No way Mom!" Katrina won't even touch the ladder, and I do mean touch -- she shrieked when I suggested she just put her hand on the ladder to see how smooth it is.

Stamp time! She likes the hand and foot stamps they all get at the end of class. Today none of the boys in the class showed up, but all 4 girls did.

I think that part of the problem is that Katrina's really not in her element. I joke about how clumsy she is, but watching how the other kids move around the equipment, it really does seem that physical coordination is a huge mystery to her. The rewards of swinging or jumping are a bigger stretch for her. I can appreciate that. But she loves finding shapes, colors and numbers around the room, and relaxes and lights up when there's a blue circle with a 9 in it to point out -- the contrast in her comfort level is remarkable.

After gymnastics, Katrina and I joined the boys at Bobbi's for breakfast. She's always happy to see them, and declares happily, "Brothers!"

Then we all went home for a busy and mostly productive afternoon at home. Dave and I are still starved for time at home getting things sorted or straightened out, and have a lot of energy for usually drudgerous projects like getting rid of stuff in the garage (still packed with furniture and leftover construction materials). I'm also sorting through all my remodeling-related papers, getting rid of most of it, filing a few things (receipts). Usually this sort of project is a serious pain, but I'm relishing cleaning out, getting down to the bare-bones, and mostly, unpacking my craft area so I can start scrapbooking again!

The boys were "bored" this afternoon (aw shucks too much outdoor play on a gorgeous day) and pulled out some slightly forgotten craft projects. Gabriel finally finished this helicopter, a cross between a model and a puzzle. A few pieces had broken along the way, and I'd glue and re-glued some of them. On one piece, I used a tiny piece of a safety pin to strengthen the broken joint. So it was a long road, and he was very happy to finish it today.

What do we do with things like this?

The evening was topped off with a nice round of popcorn for the whole family after dinner. I'll conveniently forget that Julian was removed after saying something about peeing in his popcorn (bathroom talk at the table is strictly forbidden), because otherwise it was a nice moment.

(shh...I think the stomach flu passed up Dave and Katrina after all, yay!)


Friday, May 08, 2009

5/8/09 3 down, 2 to go

Gabriel recovered pretty quickly from his tummy-ache and brief throw-up yesterday. But after we thought we were off the hook last night, Julian started. I should have known -- no tummy bug that's ever scourged this house has ever passed up his inviting system. Three bedding changes later, we finally cottoned on and put him on a sleeping bag on the floor, which in the morning was wet from another substance. Today I really wished we had two washing machines. The laundry queue went all the way down the hall. So far Dave and Katrina are holding up though.

I spent the day at home with Julian, still recovering myself, and we both spent a lot of it napping. He had plenty of energy to be a royal pain tonight, like screaming and crying from the bathroom that he needed help because "the toilet seat is too heavy to lift up!" Later when it was time to go upstairs, I asked him to put a project away first, and then found him playing with it instead of putting it away. And he was horribly rude to me when I sternly told him he was supposed to be cleaning up, not play -- he'd cut me off with a screaming, "STOP INTERRUPTING ME I'M PLAYING NOW!" It's enough to make the biggest sworn pacifist want to smack him.

One thing I don't get about this tummy bug....I wonder if it's from a common source? I was so bad off that I had no contact with Gabriel before he came down with it, and almost none with Julian, except when he brought me his blanket and kissed my cheek that morning though (awww).

That reminds me, this morning, Julian wrote me a note, calling to me from another room asking me how to spell, "You are special! To: Mama From: Julian" Awww again. It's funny remembering that right now, because I'm still ready to strangle him from the intense obnoxious attitude tonight. Such ups and downs! It reminds me of a line spoken by Miranda in "Sex And The City," about her 3-month-old son: "It's at this point in a relationship when I'd break up with the guy."

I'm sure I'll jinx it if I dare get hopeful that this bug passed Dave and Katrina over. Maybe tomorrow I'll try eating something.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

5/7/09 The porcelain prayer

Last night I woke up around 3am with my stomach hurting. It was a familiar pain, one I'm heavily averse to and paranoid about, because it's the sort of pain I had for months in my 3rd pregnancy. I was restless and had an overwhelming urge to take my retainers out. That was a foreshadow, for soon it turned into a merciless morning of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea. I don't throw up often. I never threw up once in any pregnancy. It's frightening for me, since it's so unfamiliar and signals that something is really, really wrong.

Well, nothing is really, really wrong, but I am really, really sick. It took all my energy to go downstairs and email a quick note to my manager at work. I crawled back up to bed. There was no way I was leaving the room today, let alone go downstairs. Then I developed a temperature too.

Then I got a phone call. "Mrs. Doudna? I've got Gabriel here in the office, complaining of a stomach ache..." Oh, no. I called Dave, but he didn't answer (meeting). I couldn't believe it. I was going to have to gather myself and go get him. I could barely crawl to the bathroom, let alone go out and drive. But this is what being a parent really is -- you dig deep and find strength you didn't think you had when your child needs you. Absolutely nothing else would have torn me out of bed today.

Gabriel's no complainer or story-inventor. He looked lethargic and sad, and within 5 minutes of getting home, he rushed to the bathroom and threw up too. I set him up in bed with a garbage can and a towel, and he went right to sleep. He got up a few hours later and is now playing quietly.

But it never happens that only one person in the family gets stomach flu. It sweeps everyone. This weekend is going to suck.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

5/6/09 Backyard Play

"Look Mommy! TALL!"

(sorry girl, the genetic odds are against it -- but it's fun to play!)

Julian and Katrina were playing "camping." The playhouse was a cabin, the sand-strainers were plates (and alternately, hats), he was fishing for dinner, and she was mixing a cake.

Does it get any more adorable than this?

I'm glad he's practicing, because I've scheduled a camping trip for us in August (!! yayy !!). Julian especially is psyched for it -- and apparently, he'll be ready!


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5/5/09 Zero tolerance?

Julian has been borderline unbearable lately. Anything we ask him to do, he responds with a rude tone, refusing, and then when we start to get mad, he feigns some injury and starts crying. If a consequence is meted out, he screams and cries so loudly that no one can talk to each other at all. I'm tired of him being so obnoxious and rude.

I braced myself this morning to not react to him at all, and instead to tell him something once, warn once, then follow through with the full-on response right away. This is a lot harder than it sounds, as there are many gray zones, such as what constitutes shouting or polite words delivered in an exasperated (rude) tone.

Mornings are especially hard, as he putzes around offers one stupid excuse after another for not getting dressed: "But Gabriel was DISTRACTING ME!" Today I tried my new approach, telling him once, then again, that when Dad was ready to go, he was going, even if it meant going in his pajamas with no breakfast.

I've made this threat many times, but usually I help him along with the various tasks because that is a very very painful threat to carry out. The pain would be easy to absorb once or twice if it permanently cured the behavior, but it never does. My goal wasn't to teach him a lesson this morning per se, but rather to practice this as a way of life with him, to learn to prepare for every confrontation with a battle plan. That's really a stressful way to live -- I can't so much as remind him to brush his teeth without thinking ahead about time in his room, or the front porch, or some favorite toy taken away, if he refuses.

And sure enough, Julian went to school today with no breakfast, carrying his shoes as he half-walked half-was-dragged across the wet driveway in his socks, wailing "I'm hungry! I'm hungry!"

And sure enough, it started all over again tonight, when he responded with "nooo-ooo, I don't WANT TO!" when gave him the exonerating warning that he had to set the dinner table in a few minutes. (The warning exonerates me, so that when I talk with other parents, no one suggests giving him a warning as though that will solve everything. In fact I think all warnings do is teach him that I say meaningless things.) And so, he ran down all the timers, used up all his warnings, and went to his room until dinner, where he screamed during most of everyone else's dinner, then came down for his dinner and went right back to his room for the rest of the night, as informed and warned.

I think this has to be supported with frequent, short, calm, listening talks when we're on good terms too. Though contemporary positive-parenting dogma has failed me in many ways, this sort of positive talking is an essential component for preventing this awful behavior. It just has to be in concert with a zero-tolerance plan for when he does act out.

So tonight before lights-out I sat down on his bed and talked to him about not being putzy tomorrow morning, that I know he's a big boy and can get dressed himself -- no putz, no rush -- and that it'd make me really happy if he has time for breakfast.

He oinked back at me. Without another word, I got up and left the room.


Monday, May 04, 2009

5/4/09 I Want Boys

Katrina's new thing in the car, the rare times I drive alone with her, is to ask about her brothers. She's quiet, or softly humming to herself, then out of the blue says, "I want boys." For once, it's not a demand or a complaint, just a statement of fact. When I repeat it back and ask her, "you want your brothers?" she smiles and says, "yes, brothers!" Today she added, "I want Julian...but I want Gabriel too!" Then when we arrive and she knows she'll momentarily see her brothers, she can't stop grinning. on the whole, she seems happier in the car when they're not there to bug her, but she claims to miss them. It's really super, super sweet.

Sure, the boys bug her too much and don't know when to leave her alone and let her play by herself, and they're constantly tugging her hair or taking her hand to kiss it at the dinner table, eliciting screams of objection, but I hope this love affair lasts a while longer.

"I want boys...!"


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wooden Models

"Crazy" Charles asks a good question -- what are these wooden models I keep referring to? They're simple, cheap little kits -- popular as party favors as they're about $1 at Michael's -- that come with tiny pots of paint and one of glue, paintbrushes, a little square of sandpaper, and the wooden parts to make a little model.

The first time Gabriel got one as a party favor, he asked me to help him with it. A combination of being busy with remodeling stuff, dreading dealing with paint, and having no interest in building a model made me put him off. Well, he wasn't put off, and he found a "splat mat" and spread it out on the floor, and got to work on it himself. I either overestimated how hard the instructions were, or underestimated him, because he did the whole thing by himself. Then Julian got one as a party favor, which he also set about on his own with a little help from Bonne Maman, and this kicked off the fad.

This is the first one Gabriel did, which he has since given to Katrina and done a much better job on identical Race Car kits.

This is a sampling of the models both boys have done. The three on the left are Julian's, and the three on the right are Gabriel's. Julian also does his entirely without instruction or help, other than getting him bowls of water to dip the paintbrushes into.

I love these things, and so do they. And bonus, you get the instructions in French too!

5/3/09 Some days ....

Are we allowed? Is it OK as parents to say "some days I just don't want to do this" ? Is it OK that some days you just don't like kids, your kids in particular, or the lives kids put you into?

Katrina had numerous impossible-to-please tantrums today, including a mondo one when she should have been happy and well-rested after a 3-hour nap. Julian was worse, whining and complaining and being rude and finding the silliest excuses to throw himself on the floor and cry.

Gabriel was pretty good, focused heavily on a new project (a 3-dimensional wooden puzzle of a helicopter), though he went to his room once for punching Julian. I really hate catching him in the act of punching when I know Julian deserved it -- I have to respond consistently and punish Gabriel for punching, while inside I'm meanly thinking to Julian, good, you asked for that, you brat.

Julian asked about playing ping-pong today, so as soon as Katrina went in for a nap, I pulled out the table. It is completely impossible to play with her there, she's constantly underfoot and demanding the balls and paddles. Gabriel joined, and the boys and I had a really nice time playing. I'm delighted that they're both getting a lot better -- we even got a few rallies going, where "rally" means the ball got hit back and forth twice. Real playing is a long ways off -- neither has any interest in forehand, for instance -- but they're both getting more consistent and are following my suggestions well.

They played a little together too.

It's funny, so often I berate myself for not being willing to spend time doing stuff with my children, but I think that's because it's the wrong "stuff." I can't bring myself to do craft projects together, but I can play ping-pong with them all afternoon. I think I have to stop berating myself and just accept that that's the way I am.

We're in a military airfield's flight path, and sometimes we get to see some pretty cool aircraft. This one is OK -- the really cool ones go by WAY too fast to even turn on the camera. A few weeks ago I caught a pair of fighter jets flying in formation and they were totally vertical when I first saw them, quickly straightening in a graceful arc to horizontal before landing.

At dinner, I tried to video Julian throwing one of his fussy-fits to see if it would deter him. It didn't, but I caught a sweet moment instead of Katrina feeding Gabriel. It's hard to pick out the sweetness out from behind Julian's kiniption (supposedly about the travesty of his napkin being trapped under his dinner plate), but you can sort of make out Katrina saying delightedly, "Gabriel like it, Mommy!"

Some days it's just no fun to be a parent, but even those days still have a lot of good to them.