Saturday, May 30, 2009

5/30/09 Wall shopping

Saturday's priority was, of all things, shopping for retaining wall materials. Landscaping stuff is hard to pick from catalogs. As it turns out, it's not easy to find at real stores either -- ironically, the brick-n-mortar stores were short on brick!

At least one place was very pleasant and attractive to be in, and had a cool little fish pond. Katrina loved it.

This is very typical of the dynamic with the three of them. Gabriel frequently near Katrina, often with his arm around her.

And Julian pestering her, her shoving him aside and screeching.

This morning, I took Katrina to a really successful gymnastics class. She voluntarily did some new things (somersaults) and needed no coaxing for some new favorites (walking her feet up a wall, balance beam), and didn't throw any major fits. She really enjoyed having my full attention and physical play with her during the class, and I did too.

We're in a nowhere zone with potty-training. She's doing great with going to the little potty if she has to pee, but refuses to go before getting in the car, refuses to go in anything other than the baby potties, and always poops in underpants. I had no choice but to put a diaper on her for gymnastics, with regret. I know we'll get past this, but I sure wish I had some idea how.

Sleepover tonight! For the grownups, dinner and housewarming party at a friend's house. Ahh.


Friday, May 29, 2009

5/29/09 Swim boys

I left work a little early today, partly because I was dog-tired from sleeping horribly last night from stomach trouble, and partly because of stomach trouble. But leaving early (well, earlier) proved to be a good thing, giving me a little time at home alone before going to get the boys for swim lessons. I was able to pick up Gabriel just after he got out of school, and for once we weren't rushed getting Julian and then to the swim school on time.

I once thought I'd hate waiting around during lessons, especially swim lessons, since I had so much fun doing swim lessons with them when they were babies. But I really like being there. I like the sounds, the activity, the energy, and seeing them in the water. The hectic part -- getting dressed and undressed -- is greatly mitigated by the fact that I only really have to deal with Julian. Katrina isn't there, and Gabriel takes care of himself in the boys' room.

The only downside to these particular swim lessons is that I don't think Julian is being challenged. When I see him he's either waiting, or being pulled around on his back. He used to swim across that same pool when he was 3. But he really likes it. Gabriel is making good progress, swimming well with his arms, though he doesn't know how to coordinate breathing yet.

My boys. I just adore them. I adore them before swim class when they're still rowdy, and really really adore how mellow they are afterward.

I don't need to be a full-time Mom, but I do want afternoons with them after school.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

5/28/09 Underpants Day

"Underpants" ? Tonya chuckled that Katrina calls them "underpants" instead of "panties," which puzzled me at first. Why wouldn't you call them underpants? Then I realized: this is the difference between raising girls instead of boys.

I'm not sure, but this might be it -- after a stinkie in a Pull-Up this morning at preschool, Katrina did great in underpants the rest of the day, just one accident (isn't there a better word for that?) at 5pm. Once we got home, she had 2 more "accidents," (one of which was no accident but her ongoing deliberate refusal to use the potty for #2), but also the now-regular successes.

Despite the huge challenges of getting her to go near real toilets, agreeing to pee before getting into the car, and considering the potty for #2, I'm having a hard time imagining going back to diapers. Even at nighttime, it's seeming short-lived: this morning, she woke me up at 6:30am (moments after Dave had gotten into the shower, argh), asking to have her diaper removed so she could go.

I know the reason for this new attitude toward potty-training. It's because I spent over $60 stocking up on diapers and Pull-Ups last week.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

5/27/09 "I'm so proud of you!"

This is pretty funny -- every time Katrina uses the little potty, she's very happy and proud of herself. Then she repeats what she always hears from grownups: "I'm so proud of you!"

I sent her to Tonya's in underpants today, and she did great except for one stinkie. It took Gabriel months to get solid on solids, so once again, it looks like she's taking after her brother. Tonya likes consistency, so she's going there in underpants every MWF now. At TLC, out of courtesy to the busy preschool teachers, she's going in Pull-Ups on Tu/Th, but that's only for a few more weeks, and I might talk to the teachers about trying underpants next week depending on how this weekend goes.

Someone again today suggested getting a portable potty to keep in the car, but I just can't imagine carrying that around. What, I'm supposed to carry it -- and its eventual contents -- around museums, the beach, grocery stores, hikes? Blah. No, she's got to learn to squat. Better yet, to use a real toilet. Her relentless resistance doesn't mean it's not sinking in -- that's a pattern with her: no no no no no no no no no no No No No No No...then suddenly -- OK!

Gabriel reminded us tonight that when he wants to give us trouble, he's the master. One rude comment escalated into being warned, then removed to the dining room for dinner, a swat for a particularly rude one ("then you stop being so STUPID Mom!"), a toy banished, two more toys banished, then sent to his room for the rest of the night.

It's stressful and unnerving facing off with Gabriel, because you just don't know where -- or if -- it's going to end. He can easily outlast the last resort. Julian's been the main source of evening angst around here lately, but he withers and screams and cries and carries on. It's intensely annoying, but in a strange threadlike sort of way, we're still in control. With Gabriel, our control is a thinly veiled illusion that someday, he'll break through like a karate kick through rice paper, unleashing his furious power.

Katrina, thank goodness, when scolded or even told gently that she can't do something, busts up into angry tears. This is much better; there's no escalation and she can generally be distracted or comforted out of it (though tonight she SHRIEKED in protest at being told -- gently -- not to play with the swinging door). If she were my only child, I might be mystified why smacking a defiant child would ever be necessary -- clearly there are other ways out of difficult situations! Sure, if they're like Katrina and actually respond or even cry when they're scolded. There's rarely any need to do anything more physical with her than to pick her up and move her. As much as she takes after her older brother, she doesn't have his iron backbone or icy courage.

Meantime, I'm so proud of her sudden turnaround on potty-training!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5/26/09 Grandfathers

Julian, in one of those classic childhood innocent moments of poignancy, said to me today, "Mommy, some grandparents live in California." A stab went through my heart. He equates grandparents with far-away distant relatives that you get to see once or twice a year.

Like me, he'll grow up without any extended family in the area who you see on holidays, at parties, and random weekend afternoons. My kids have aunts and uncles and cousins and yes, grandparents, and they certainly know that they're special in their lives, but they don't get to see them on a regular basis.

I never knew any of my grandparents. My grandmothers died before and soon after I was born. I did meet one of my grandfathers, but by the time I was 14, he was succumbing to dementia to the extent that he confused me with my mother and was losing his English. And he lived in a nursing home in France, so it's not like we could pop over easily for a visit.

With my recent immersion in WWII history, I remember now that both my grandfathers were in WWII. That's actually odd when you do the time math -- being born in 1963, I'm actually on the old side to have a grandfather who served in WWII, as most of those were kids in their late teens drafted in the early 1940s. Both my grandfathers were in their 40s during WWII.

The grandfather I did meet was also in WWI -- my mother says that her father joked that he was the youngest corporal in WWI and the oldest lieutenant in WWII (in the French Army that is).

My father's father was career military, in the Army Corps of Engineers, a civil engineer by trade. He fascinates me because of all the old photos I have, that my brother rescued from a decaying box in a barn at my Dad's house, of destroyed bridges and buildings that he took after D-Day. He's smiling in many of the photos I have of him, and my brother also found a newspaper clipping of a story in which he used his gift of gab -- and a smattering of high-school German -- to persuade some Germans to surrender in a small town in France after D-Day. A photo-taker, an engineer, a yakker -- I'd have related to him! And the 5-year-old girl in me wonders if he'd have liked me. That girl only saw that grandfather once, in his casket at his funeral, a sight sufficiently shocking for a 5-year-old that the image is still with me.

My mother's father with my 8-month-old mother (who was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen), 1940.

My father's father, undated photo, probably in the 1930s as he looks to be in his early 30s.

It's funny, an irony of getting older myself, that I feel the loss -- or rather, absence -- of grandparents more now than I did as a kid. That's just the way it was then, I didn't know for normal. I'm grateful that my children will have grandparents in their lives, as I didn't. But my guilt grows that it's a surprise for them discover that some grandparents live closeby.


Monday, May 25, 2009

5/25/09 You get what you plan for

Today, I planned to do nothing. And I got what I planned for! An unproductive, little-bit-here little-bit-there, discontinuous, lazy day! We'd had a full weekend, I needed to catch up around the house. Which means doing, basically, nothing.

I wasn't motivated to go out partly because poor Katrina's GI tract had a touch of the Julians today. But she tried many times during the day to poop on the potty. She tried! She sat on the little potty and said she wanted to go! This is a far cry from her usual flat-out refusal. Unfortunately her efforts mostly yielded tears. Finally by afternoon, a suppository and a relaxing nap took care of the problem. Later in the day she pushed out some more pebbles into underpants, dashing my hopes of the first direct-to-potty delivery, but if there's anything I've learned about potty-training, it's to be thrilled with even the tiniest steps. Such as: she finally started to flush herself. I finally got her to "flush" by pushing on my arm as I pushed the lever, and last night, I saw her put her hand on the lever, then push on her arm with her other hand to flush!

So it was a nice relaxed day...until it came time to put away toys after dinner.

Would someone please explain the concept to me of teaching a child a lesson? If they resist a request to clean up toys, then you give them a clear task, set a timer, and state a consequence -- then if the child fails in his task, the consequence is carried out, and the child learns his lesson, right?

Where's the part in which they scream uncontrollably for a full hour about the consequence? Where's the part in which they hurl insults at you and blame you for not getting their task done? Where's the part in which every remaining step of the day produces fresh outbursts and crying and excuses and task-definition and consequences and more fruitless escalation? What's left when being with this child is a miserable, frustrating, painful existence for the rest of the family?

I could only be talking about Julian, of course. Gabriel by personality could easily be worse, but Gabriel's much more rational and calculated even at the height of conflict. Partly age, partly temperament. Julian falls into a seizure of victimhood, screaming out of control about the injustice, whereas Gabriel's fury is usually more directed -- harder to deal with, but Julian's way is still annoying beyond belief, and lasts a long, long time, wearing everyone out. In most ways, age 5 is fun with him, but his tantrums, if you can call these tantrums, have never been worse. What happened to my "angel baby" ?

One thing about having three children: your odds of not wanting to strangle all of them at any given moment goes up! Ah, but overall it was a good nothing day.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not port-a-potty

The most remarkable thing happened today while we were out at the airshow, a public place with no particular accommodations for potty-training toddlers. Especially if you don't know they're potty-training.

Katrina's been doing great at home with going to the little potty on her own, but she won't touch a real toilet. She finally will "flush" my arm, that is, push on my arm while I push the lever, but she won't touch the lever herself. Sitting or being held over a real toilet is out of the question. So she's not ready for full-time underpants, but, no problem. I'm very happy with her progress.

So today to go out to the airshow, we put her in a diaper, as usual. After the hour-long drive, and then another hour of being at the show, she was getting increasingly difficult and grumpy, and I was thinking this trip was a lost cause. She kept saying she wanted to go back to the car and that she wanted to go home and shrieked if anyone talked to her or looked at her.

After settling in to watch the aerobatics, I sent Dave to get some popcorn, hoping that the treat would improve her mood. As soon as he left, she cried, "I want to go pee in the potty!!!"

What potty? We're at an airfield -- all there is is Port-a-Potties. I picked her up and tried to distract her, not sure what to do. I didn't want to tell her to go in her diaper if she didn't want to, but what else to do?

After about 5 minutes of increasing distress on her part, I decided to carry her to the Port-a-Potties, hoping an idea would present itself on the way there. Dave wasn't back yet, so the boys would take care of themselves, I rationalized (and they did, the angels). I tried to get her to go in the grass, she refused. How about here on the gravel? (right next to the potties). No, more crying and furious outraged refusal. I looked around for a bucket or something I could persuade her to sit on, but nothing presented itself. She kept crying for the little potty.

Then I took her into the port-a-potty, all the while calmly telling her there is no little potty, then tried to tell her this is a little potty. Uh-uh, not buying it. I took her diaper off -- completely dry. No wonder. She must really have to go, it'd been hours.

I sat down on the toilet seat and put her on my lap, quite willing to let her pee all over me if that's what it took, but she was outraged. I tried to hold her up in front of the far less intimidating urinal -- she doesn't know who it's for! -- nothing doing. Desperate, I tried to get her to go pee on the floor in front of the urinal -- countless boys already had -- nope. I tried again to get her to go outside -- a good life skill for girls to learn anyway -- nothing doing.

Defeated, I put her diaper back on and figured nature would take care of itself in a few minutes anyway, but I was sick about how upset she was. She didn't want to pee in her diaper, a really good thing, but she was out of options. When we got back to the boys, Dave was there and I tried to tell him what was going on, but suddenly Katrina's crying changed to, "I want to go pee in the grass!" I quickly took her diaper off, but it was too late, she'd started to go in it. I held it up to her while she finished -- it was loaded.

She cried for underpants, but I didn't have any with us -- after all, we're not potty-training outside the home yet, how can we if she won't touch a real toilet? I put another diaper on her, and after getting over that in about 5 minutes, she relaxed a lot. She was in a much much better mood. No wonder!

This is a huge step forward with potty-training. She wants not to go in a diaper, and waits, yay! But we have a big hurdle with what to do when there's no colorful baby potty for her. I know there are all sorts of portable devices, but she's got to learn to use real toilets. I can imagine carrying a potty ring, maybe, for a while, but she won't have anything to do with those either. She also shrieks in horror if I try to hold her in front or over the toilet or to sit on it facing backward. I've tried everything.

Tonight I tried to pretend the potty ring is a motorcycle, sitting on it and pretending to be accelerating and banking and making vroom sounds. Clever, huh? Not clever enough. She was rolling in laughter, but refused to sit on the "motorcycle" with me. Absolutely, positively, no way, not.

Conquering her fear of real toilets -- which is in great part due to her remarkable clumsiness and inability to climb -- is potty-training hurdle #1. I think our best bet is to learn to go on the ground. That's always there. Potty-training hurdle #2 is....well, #2. But today's upsetting episode says we've definitely turned a corner.

5/24/09 Air show

Today we all went to the Watsonville Fly-In and Airshow, something that's been on our calendar for months. It's only happenstance that it capped off an unexpected aviation week in the Doudna household.

It's sort of like a plane rally. People fly their own planes in to show, but the organization also arranges for an air show -- aerobatics by private planes, and some demonstrations by military aircraft. The boys were especially excited to see a "hammerhead" stunt by biplanes, and we weren't disappointed.

First, we walked around looking at the planes, watching some formation flying in the background.

What's wrong with this picture? (Hint: where's the prop?)

Then we parked ourselves on a haybale to watch the show. I sent Dave to get some popcorn in a desperation effort to improve Katrina's attitude, as she was on the verge of ruining the whole day for all of us, once again. In Dave's absence, the answer presented itself (I'll write about that in a different post), so the popcorn was icing on the cake and she was great for the rest of the day.

Who's the photographer? Not Dave, he's next to me. Thank you Gabriel!

It's difficult to photograph aerobatics even with a good camera and a good photographer, but for the record I had to get a few shots. I don't remember seeing, or perhaps appreciating, such stunts before, like flying sideways or practically coming to a halt in the air. The flips and twists and turns and plunging dives are pretty hair-raising too. The boys wanted to see a biplane do a "hammerhead," and got plenty of that.

Then we got to see a Harrier jet. Katrina was terrified of the jet sounds, but I was completely psyched to see these again. I used to see Harriers practice through the breakroom window when I worked at a NASA facility at Moffett Field, but you never get used to the awesome power and stunning feat of hovering.

We decided to leave after the Harrier, as the airshow was almost over anyway and it wouldn't hurt to beat traffic. First, a silly photo.

The boys' chief objective today was to score some toy planes, which they did on the way out. They're thrilled.

Katrina got one too. She loves it, but didn't want to be bothered in the stroller, hence the sour puss.

Then as we were making our way out, there was one last demo. We'd toured this plane on the way in, a massive Air Force C-17 transport plane. Its sheer size is stunning, it is absolutely enormous. (I can't stand the non-word "ginormous," but really, if anything is ginormous, this is it.)

Who cares watching this fat dinosaur fly anyway, right? We didn't need to stick around for a demo of this lumbering monster after seeing all those tiny nimble planes doing gymnastics in the sky.

Well, we were stunned. It took off in a very short distance on the runway, and at about a 45-degree angle. Then it banked and swooped and maneuvered like nobody's business -- I swear it looked like it was about to do a flip. This was positively awesome to watch. I wish we'd been at a better vantage point; we were on our way out and so couldn't see the runway, but this thing is so big you just can't miss it.

I heard the announcer say that they couldn't put the flaps down while it's on the runway, or the flaps would direct the exhaust to the runway and blow out the runway (something like that).

And how slowly it can go too is just as amazing, like it's almost suspended in air. Despite the incredible skill and bravery -- and balance! -- of the aerobatics pilots, bending this behemoth around the sky was far more impressive.

In fact, just looking around the show, I was much more interested in the vintage fighter planes than the regular privately-own planes. It seems I have developed a new fondness for military aircraft.

We took the back way home, which included a fun unpaved (though smooth and easy) road. Definitely no need for DVDs or snacks in the car; this is plenty entertaining. If you stay awake that is; Katrina dozed off and the boys had a grand time asking Dad about how to drive over bumps.

I'm so glad tomorrow is a day off, because that's exactly what we're going to do with it.