Saturday, May 16, 2009

5/16/09 A packed morning

All three to gymnastics today! I was worried about the boys behaving while I was coaxing Katrina through class, but that was the least of my worries. For starters, the teacher didn't show up, and our class got absorbed into the one right after, making for a packed class. Then Katrina was even more impossible than usual, and her antics was always holding someone up. When she refused to even line up to go to another room, I'd had enough and said it's time to go. She actually seemed sad about that, good! Meantime, the boys were quietly reading Nate the Great books, and were perfect.

A quick shopping at TJ's, then I dropped Julian off at a birthday party, then took Gabriel and Katrina to the Y, then dropped Gabriel off at home, then went to pick up Julian. I'd forgotten that there would be water play at this party, but fortunately the kind hosts loaned Julian a swimsuit. I hadn't thought to "sunscream" him either, and he has a nasty sunburn now.

Julian, front and center for the cake-cutting. Whose birthday is it, anyway?!

The birthday boy, Alex, is on Julian's right.

(Julian was telling me about some classmates who are Japanese, and I said he had some Indian and Chinese classmates too, like Alex. Julian said with genuine surprise, "Alex is Chinese?!" I asked Alex's father today where he's from, and he said Taiwan, but his parents were from China. His wife's family is Chinese too, but she was raised in Singapore. "Sometimes Alex doesn't know where he's from -- he says he's American!" Like Gabriel, one of the few other Caucasian kids in Julian's class is Finnish (Kai, on Julian's left, his other best friend besides Alex).)

Did you catch that I dropped Gabriel off at home? He was tired of driving around and really wanted to work on his Snap Circuits. I thought this was as good a time as any to experiment with Gabriel's first time at home alone, since we'd be just a few minutes away. I couldn't find any problem with the plan other than possibly being arrested or flagged by CPS for inadequate parenting, and they could catch me on so many other things anyway. Dave pointed out we should show him how to use phones and brush him up on phone manners, though.

After a busy morning, we ensconced at home. Katrina found a fun way to entertain herself: sorting toys by color into like-colored baskets (red in red, orange in orange, etc).

Even more exciting, I had her in underpants this evening. She was dry for almost two hours, then suddenly, "I hafta go pee!" and she sprinted, giggling, into the bathroom to make use of the little potty. Hooray!

The boys are in chocolate shock this weekend. Last night, they asked about baking brownies, so we did. Today, Gabriel found a description of "puzzle cake" in a Nate The Great book, in which you put cake mix into cupcake liners, and squish them together in a baking pan. The cupcakes bake in funny shapes, then you pull them apart and try to put the puzzle back together. Gabriel exclaimed that the best part was when you give up on the puzzle and eat the cake!

I also put pudding inside the cakes, so they got chocolate pudding before the cakes were done, then chocolate cupcakes too. And Julian also had birthday cake today! They're beside themselves. It won't be long before they figure out that all they have to do to get home-baked sweets is to ask. And help me bake them.

Getting hot this weekend. Shorts and sandals should cut down on some getting-ready time!


Friday, May 15, 2009

5/15/09 Food Fight

Dave rode out of town this morning, so I'm single parenting it this weekend.

This particular trip has me unusually melancholy - I'm really glad Dave's going, but I'm increasingly sorry I'm not. Looking over the maps reminded me of how I used to spend hours looking over maps and getting so excited planning the strangest routes over the tinest roads to the most remote places. Longtime familiar roads and towns are now fading from memory, replaced with a vague impression I've been there. That part of my life seems so, so far away, but it was so, so much a part of me, how could that be?

(For you non-motorcyclists out there, we live smack-dab in the, bar none, THE best place in the world for motorcycle-riding. There is absolutely no place like Northern California. Oh sure, there are other great roads in other great places, but there not nearly as many, so interconnected, so diverse, and covering such a huge range of beautiful places. Wide-open sweepers, smooth banked curves, tiny twisty nasty pavement, easily traversible unpaved, horrible rutted rocky barely-passable dirt roads -- it's all here. I miss the travel, the exploration, the technical challenge, the excitement, the sense of accomplishment, the clarity and focus of mind. And the stunning beauty of right here.)

Now my life is an "adventure" every day, but not in the same way.

Tonight I took on one of my toughest challenges yet, far worse than any 45-degree uphill with a sharp turn to the left at the top with a huge rut forcing you to the other edge: Getting Katrina to take a bite of broccoli. Inexplicably, I chose tonight to test her new reasoning skills, which, I discovered, are quite powerful, but not in my favor. One bite of broccoli was all she had to fulfill to earn herself a whole bowl of pasta. It was a challenge I immediately regretted, but didn't dare back down on once I'd started (not unlike riding a steep uphill: you lose momentum, and you're setting yourself up for a tumble...I always liked downhill better). Well, she refused to even try a tiny bite of cheese-covered broccoli, and ended up crying for her Mimi and had no dinner at all. Nice going, Mom. She won that one, hands down.

I joined the 21st century tonight, and started a Facebook account. I was floored to see that most of my longtime old friends who I looked for (Hillary, Andrea, Patty, Chris, Lisa) all had Facebook accounts. Facebook is for teenagers all right -- including teenagers who are now staring 50 in the face!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

5/14/09 The Three C's

Coffee, Cheesecake, Chatter. What more could a mom want?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

5/13/09 Ready for Kindergarten!

Julian had his pre-kindergarten checkup today. He's great!

Eye test, fine. About 20/30, expected for 5-year-olds. I was surprised to hear that it'd still get sharper, eyesight can still be developing at this age.

Hearing test, fine.

Blood pressure -- that tickles!

Waiting for the doctor for more tickling examination.

Stats: 43-1/2" tall (50%), 40 lbs (25-50%).

Julian was very brave for his shots, though he said, "I did say ow!"

Perfectly boringly normal!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5/12/09 Helping each other

This morning at 5am, our dreams of escape were shattered...Dave's turn to toss!

So he was in no shape to take care of kids or go to work. I got Katrina dressed, then got myself dressed and went downstairs to find Katrina sitting calmly at the island, with breakfast in front of her!

Gabriel had hauled her onto the barstool and gotten everything else, down to a placemat and a napkin. We're really not set up with stuff in kids' reach yet (and should be), and they're not in the habit of helping themselves, so this was a really nice surprise! What a terrific big brother.

Julian, meantime, was attempting his putzy "I need help" B.S. routine. He sat on the floor in his pajamas watching me as I unloaded the dishwasher, while Gabriel and Katrina ate breakfast, claiming he had no energy and was too tired to get dressed. I calmly told them about the time when my mother got really sick with pneumonia and might have to go to the hospital, and that we had to be really really good so she wouldn't have to go to the hospital, and how we found the energy when we were too tired.

He got "help" getting dressed though -- from Katrina. And though he did end up going to school with no breakfast, there was no major conflict either. He did start with the rude talk, almost by habit ("NO BREAKFAST?! How am I supposed to go to school?? MOM, do you even have a BRAIN? NO!"), but one reminder of the Rude Closet and he stopped.

Sick days aren't so bad when we help each other!


Monday, May 11, 2009

5/11/09 The Rude Closet

I swear we've been sold a bad bill of goods on discipline. Authoritarian and Alternative alike agree: warn, state a consequence, carry through firmly and consistently. You're done. Lesson learned. Right?

Why didn't anyone tell our children about this?

For us, carrying through with a consequence is only the beginning of a prolonged, painful conflict in which we suffer hours of screaming and crying and threats and defiance at every turn -- because we did something to them. This steep escalation used to only be Gabriel's department, and he's still the master, but Julian's screeching despair punctuated by enraged insults upon carry-out of a consequence is also absolutely horrendous.

It's like there's just no way out. I'm so on edge that I find myself clenching my teeth before asking (firmly, clearly, simply, calmly, kindly, positively and all the right things) for one of the boys to do something. And it's not all bad, but it can turn bad at any moment.

This morning, Gabriel lost a valuable alarm circuit thing, because he wanted to bring it to school, but only said so as everyone was getting into the car. We've talked many times that if he wants to bring something to school for Sharing, that it needs to be ready to go (in a bag, in his knapsack etc). If it's not ready to go, it's not going. He was so angry that he had to be dragged into the car and was so rude and threatening to Dave that Dave called me and asked me to put the circuit away.

Tonight, Julian lost a craft puzzle because he wasn't cleaning it up, and when the consequence of it getting put away (really away) was carried through, he completely freaked. His shrieking and howling were so savage that I had to leave the house and take a walk around the block.

What are we supposed to do?!

I was so upset at Julian's freakout that I tackled it sort of head-on, by calling him upstairs and getting him ready for bed alone. I needed some good time with him, and we all needed him to have time apart from Gabriel. He was still very upset about the craft puzzle pieces, wailing that the pieces were lost. I knew they were really important to him. Out of nowhere, I heard myself say that the pieces weren't thrown away, they got put away in a closet because of rudeness....yeah, yeah, that's the ticket, a Rude Closet. They're in the Rude Closet to get given away to a kid who's not rude.

I couldn't believe his reaction: wide eyes and genuine fear. "Given away?"

"Given away, to polite kids." I thought about renaming it the Polite Closet, but it just didn't have the same tone (sorry, positive parenters). He chewed on this. "What if I promise not to be rude?"

I ran with it, a la Carrie Bradshaw, who did what any writer does when put on the spot: "pulled an idea out of my ass." "No, no, the Rude Closet doesn't understand promises, only politeness. For five straight days!" I also talked to him very matter-of-factly about all the backtalk and rude talk and how it's just not allowed, and why, but it was all Charlie-Brown-grownup wonk-wonk-wonk to him. The Rude Closet on the other hand....that sunk in.

To my amazement and not-so-secret delight, as the boys were finishing up getting ready for bed, Gabriel appeared downstairs, with the same wide-eyed fearful face. "Mom...I didn't know about the Rude my alarm circuit in there?" He started to cry -- cry! -- when I said it was on its way to a kid who wasn't rude. "What if I'm not rude?" "Hmm, I don't know, can you do that?" We talked about how long it should be in there for, and he said he thought it should be for the number of days in a row he's been rude, forgetting that he'd admitted it'd been least 5 days in a row (and I was being really generous with that). "OK. I'll think about it and talk to Dad later." Dave and I actually cleared a shelf and put their confiscated toys up there, in plain sight, tonight.

I was completely making this up as I went along. How many days, and how to track a particular toy's liberation date, general sentencing guidelines, I haven't worked through yet. In general, putting things away has its limits: kids quickly realize that they have nothing to lose now, and can be even more obnoxious. And the threat/consequence of giving toys away is nothing new. But for some reason, the prospect of quarantine in the Rude Closet has yielded the first sign of contrition yet. The devilish details will surely bring reality crashing around my ringing ears tomorrow, but tonight, I'll relish a small victory.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

5/10/09 Mother's Day!

Being one of the biggest "hallmark holidays" today, I didn't want to go anywhere near any restaurants today. But I did want to do something with all of us, outside. The original plan was to go letterboxing at a popular shoreline park, but a big event made the parking impossible.

Plan B: a nearby baylands park. Maybe we could find another letterbox in this park via Dave's iPhone, but even if not (and that didn't work), nothing lost -- it's a neat nature preserve on the bay. It's mostly marshland with trails and wooden bridges, lots of birds, a duck pond, a launch for hand-carried non-motororized sailboats, and a small county airport right next to it.

We walked out to a vista deck on the bay that was really, really windy. Since we weren't expecting to go here, we weren't prepared at all. Katrina was wearing only a thin little dress, but she was pretty protected from the wind in the jogging stroller.

"No picture!"

This preserve abuts a busy county airport, with small planes landing and taking off every few minutes. We walked out to watch the runway for a while.

My little camera is no good at distant wildlife shots, but I loved these birds, so colorful.

Before we left, we attempted a photo shoot. Not easy given that the boys were in one of their impossible out-of-control giggle fits and that Katrina never likes her picture taken. This was the best we could do, but I'll take it!

I wish I could say that I spent today revering motherhood, reflecting on its joys and meaning and importance, but much of it was instead spent in exasperation at the constant rudeness and disobedience of boys. It is SO frustrating. Absolutely everything turns into a minor battle, something as simple as "close that gate" or "stop running that toy on the walls," is met with defiance, being ignored, escalation, or just plain No. By the end of the day, I was ready to snap at the slightest backtalk.

At least Katrina was competely, utterly delightful this morning especially, charming and sweet and saying adorable things and laughing a lot. The boys, on the other hand, defied every request, talked back at just about anything we said, and were awful again and again.

There were many good moments though. Thanks to moving and lots of toys having been stored away for a while, Gabriel has rediscovered his Snap Circuits and is taking them to a new level now, experimenting with his own circuits. Dave's been helping him a lot, and I get a kick out of watching them work together. It's watching my little boy growing up right before my eyes.

And Julian wrote me a song!! He asked for help spelling some words, and I suggested he put the date and his name on it, but otherwise, he did this entirely himself.

Sung to the tune of "Bingo":
I love you and she loves me and
Mommy was her name-o
and Mommy was her name-o
May 10th 2009

(I discovered that the way he writes a '9' is to turn the paper upside-down and write a '6'!)

Still, I could do without the insults ("bye UGLY MOM!") and the threats ("if you don't help me right now then I'm not going to put away my project") and the backtalk, ("no YOU put away my plate!") and the whining and crying ("I hurt my foot, I can't pick up the puzzle pieces!") -- and that's just Julian.

I'm losing faith that we know what to do -- it used to seem more obvious at night, when they're in bed and we can regain perspective and form plans and prepare for the next incidents, but today, I just have no idea. I guess nothing characterizes motherhood more than that.