Friday, July 17, 2009

7/17/09 Cousin Love

This afternoon, Katrina was puttering around the family room, trying to "fix" pencils (they needed sharpening), and looking for someone to play with. Cousin Aidan to the rescue! "Draw me a house!" she demanded. "In YELLOW!" And he sweetly, happily, complied.

This moment was so sweet that I tried to get some video of her ordering him what to do. Just as I was about to hit "start," she said, "Aidan, I love you SO MUCH!" ARGH! I missed it! They went on to draw-play for some time, but the impulsive joyful expression wasn't repeated verbally, though the sentiment was clearly continued.

I'm fascinated and delighted to see how Katrina and her cousins really interact this visit, for the first time. Her cousins do a lot more drawing, playing with games, and imaginative play than her brothers, who are all about functional play, cars, physical games, competition and poop-talk. She's really enjoying the diversity.

Through my sister's eyes, I'm realizing again what a wonderful place we live in. So many places to go and see and things to do, and so many inexpensive, or free, as we did today. A new favorite spot: the Palo Alto Baylands, with its long walkway to a windy vista point of the bay; the marshlands and bird habitat, the trail to the small but busy municipal airport. And a duck pond that someday we'll visit when we run out of things to see in the regular spots.

The windy vista point, which was quite calm today.

And the walkway -- er, runway -- to get there. Wait, we haven't gotten to the airport yet!

Our outings have revealed interesting pairings. Two of the cousins bring up the rear, putz around, complain, ask how much farther, and make us to yell to them to catch up.

And two are full of energy, run ahead, explore, ask if they can go, and make us to yell at them to wait.

Another big dinner production tonight, the star of which was a Poulet au Vinaigre chicken dish, that all the grownups loved. Katrina didn't approve, and flat-out refused to even look at the food, even her favorite rice.

I don't "do" food battles, but that doesn't mean I don't grit my teeth, wring my hands and roll my eyes when my toddler goes to bed without a bite of dinner. We have suspicions about the state of her tummy, and Aidan's saying his throat is sort, so let's hope our last day together tomorrow is one of good health all around.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

7/16/09 Sports Afternoon

Lazy, lazy day! I think we grownups could just hang out and yak and eat all day long. But alas, kids are kids, and need a change of scenery. Our only inspiration was to walk to the only walkable park to play a little sports. It's minimal, but there's a lawn and shade. We had fun batting, kicking, and -- my favorite -- running and racing.

The girls.

The boys.

I think I got The Shot of all five -- never perfect, but at least no one's picking their nose.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

7/15/09 Letterboxing initiation

Today our outing was to initiate our East Coast cousins to letterboxing. I couldn't believe my luck when I found a letterbox at one of my favorite haunts, a nearby open space preserve. A short but not too short walk/hike, to a pet cemetery of all things. I printed out 4 copies of the clues this time, preventing one potential cause of WWIII.

What a place to pose, around some beloved cat's headstone. My beloved Kat naturally refused to join. Still waiting for THE shot of all five together.

We took the "scenic" route back after stamping logbooks, which involved more pushing a heavy jogging stroller uphill. Fortunately, I had some surprisingly competent help.

Being so close to Moffett Field, we see lots of unusual aircraft, but not usually such slow-moving ones and not really here. Gabriel and I sprinted up a hill to get a better view of the blimp.

Later, a watermelon picnic was called for.

It's rough diggings in our yard -- only a small deck, no patio, no lawn, and a lot of dusty dirt to make kids absolutely, unrecognizably filthy. I'm OK with filthy kids, but less OK with black feet on furniture. We really need to get some landscaping in (fortunately, the city approved our use permit for a new fence today, so we can get to work on the first necessary step).

It was perfect today, the tail end of a heat wave, so, warmer than usual but not so hot we had to close the house down. It was actually overall such a nice day that I have to remember now that I had a few hours in which the boys were infuriating me: Gabriel with rude insults and persistent defiance starting from a small infraction, escalating into a 2-hour standoff, and Julian for throwing a bat over our front yard fence again. My niece and nephew are nothing like that, and my sister doesn't brace for battle when it's time for a kid to do something. I'm focusing on picking my sister's brain and enjoying the challenge of cooking new and flavorful dishes that she can safely eat. This is a good new normal!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

7/14/09 Heat Wave

It's HOT here! This is unusual! We had the house closed down by 9:30am this morning. It stays comfortably cool inside on super-hot days with the windows and doors closed.

A perfect day to try out Blackberry Farm, a newly remodeled and re-opened city park, with two pools. This was fun, though it took us a few tries to find our spots. The shallower pool wasn't open at first, and we kept getting swamped by day-campers, but the kids had plenty of fun, safe playtime where they could all stand. And jump.

The older two boys, to our surprise, pooped out first, though later rejoined their younger cousin/siblings, who pretty much didn't stop jumping and playing in the water the whole time.

Katrina mostly sat on the side and splashed, hesitant and resistant to getting in the water with me.

I marvelled that at her age, the boys could jump off the side and swim to another corner. But she's a completely different story, a drowning waiting to happen. I instructed Gabriel to holler immediately if he saw her fall in the water. Those Water Babies lessons really did buy us a critical 10 seconds when the boys were 2 years old, not to mention a lot of added fun.

I also "tested" the boys, sort of. Gabriel was able to make it across the pool twice, if you count stopping and flailing around like he was about to drown every few strokes, but he made it without touching down. Julian couldn't swim even a few feet. Having seen what kids can learn with high-quality swim lessons, I'm spurred anew to find better lessons.

After swimming, we had a picnic lunch in the playground area. Lots of nice shade, though really far from the bathrooms -- an issue when kids have been playing in the water as long as they had been -- and hot for play structures. But they couldn't pass it up.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with grownups hunkered inside, hiding from the heat, and kids getting completely filthy playing in our dirt-only backyard. It's really fun to see them move in and out of phases, grouping themselves according to activities. Aidan spent a lot of time showing Gabriel and Julian a jousting game outside, but was also happy later to "play" cards with Katrina. Just like with her brothers, Katrina gives everyone some low-key competition-free play.

I was delighted with how dinner turned out, and that my super-strict-diet sister actually had two helpings of a wild mushroom mix I made. More incredibly, my niece Remi had several helpings of a beef kabob I'd marinated and grilled. Success!

Other than the desert dirt landscaping, our house is working exactly as I wanted it to: lots of spaces for people to be in, places for hyper activity and places for quiet time, comfortable for guests, no activity of one person shuts down the rest of the household. Fortunately, desert dirt is just fine with kids.


Monday, July 13, 2009

7/13/09 Pudding Kids

We -- that being two sisters and their five children -- had a nice lazy morning, but by 1pm, grownups thought it was time the kids get a change of scenery, toddler-nap notwithstanding.

It almost seemed that in the time we were figuring out what to do, a heat wave rolled in, which prompted a very last-minute decision to go to a nearby park with water poles. No snacks, no toys, just, pack'em-up'n'go. We only stayed for about half an hour; Katrina's deteriorating mood and a horde of same-shirted day-campers shoo'd us home. Besides, my camera battery died, and what fun is a park outing without a camera?

(I'm kidding about the camera of course.)

A nap for Katrina, and a pudding treat for the rest.

The boys spent the rest of the day in their swim trunks, and the better part of the afternoon and evening outside playing a game loosely based on "baseball."

No one's having more fun than Katrina, who inserts herself into many of the games and is kindly welcomed by her older cousins. The older four play together roughly on the same level, and all play "down" to Katrina's level as they move in and out of various states and games. She's loving it.

Let's hope for more hot tomorrow, we all want to swim!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

7/12/09 The Gang's All Here

Almost no photos today?! This must stop. I picked up a minivan this morning ("Mommy, this blue car is FUN!") and then picked up my sister, nephew and niece from the airport. The children are having a blast together, and I'm having a great time catching up with my sister. No one is happier than Katrina, revelling in the new arena in which to show off. Lots of ideas for things to do tomorrow, but no plans yet. Just the way I like it.