Saturday, August 29, 2009

Military Lego

I'm really, really tired of tiny Lego pieces scattered all over the house.

Tonight I got the boys to clean up their room and the family room -- no easy feat -- with the promise of a rare movie. Since it was so hot this afternoon, I was sort of a dud mom (despite our earlier foray to the fountains), and I was so tired of their constant fighting that I thought that a movie might earn me a little peace. But not before some serious cleanup.

Unfortunately, Julian cleaned up Legos in their room, which included disassembling a "bomber plane" that Gabriel was very proud of. I probed Julian to find out if he was just being thorough, but his goofy and even amused reaction told me it was deliberate. Gabriel was really bummed, wailing and carrying on, which is unlike him.

Julian was surprised when I didn't scold him, instead telling him he'd made Gabriel really sad, then told him to go clean up in the family room. Meantime, I consoled Gabriel by helping him rebuild the plane -- not that he needed my help, but time with Mom playing Legos together is highly coveted -- and infrequent -- time (~guilt~). I was the piece-finder; he'd tell me what size and color he needed and I'd find it in the mishmash of hundreds of mostly different pieces. It took him less than 10 minutes to remake it exactly.

Thank goodness Julian didn't disassemble Gabriel's Lego aircraft carrier. It's hard to tell in the photo, but it's actually a decent copy, with an island, a catapult for takeoff, and an angled landing strip. I glowed with satisfaction that our trip to a real aircraft carrier -- which they both still talk about every day -- inspired them.

And someone else, too. Katrina has no idea what an aircraft carrier is, but she spent some very concentrated time building one of her own too.

All the books they picked at the library were about military vehicles, and Gabriel's reading log for school contains lots of books like "Air Force Fighters." In one of Gabriel's assignments, where he was supposed to fill in "My question for my teacher is: ," he wrote: "can you tell me about WWII?" He wrote that only because I made him erase what he'd originally wrote, which was "CAN I QUIT NOW?!" and then I said that as an example of something I'd he wrote it down and I let it go. His teachers are going to think we're warmongers!


Today was HOT!!

Gabriel's class has an upcoming field trip to the library, so I thought we should go to the library, make sure he knows what his library card's PIN is, return some books, and get some new ones too. And, how handy -- the fountains are right there.

With our books safely stowed in the very very hot car, I got everyone dressed, sunscreened, sandaled, and ready to go. The boys jumped right in as usual.

But today they had another player!

Katrina took some time to warm up, but then to my amazement, after some timid approaches to the water when it was low, she suddenly ran right through the fountains, and then played right alongside her brothers. A dangerous venture sometimes; she got knocked hard to the ground once...I actually saw her skull bounce on the concrete. Ouch. But after a few minutes of wailing, she jumped right back in.

She even got them started on her signature fountain move.

The moment was marred by a big fight I had with Gabriel, unfortunately. Recently, I'd seen another mom tell her misbehaving son to sit out for 5 minutes, at a pool, when her son hurt his brother. I was so impressed when he simply did it, grumbling, but cooperative. 5 minutes later, he was back in the pool. No lectures, no threats or warnings, off.

Well, today Gabriel was pestering Katrina to the point that she was crying, and he just wouldn't quit, so I had to go get him and told him to sit out for 5 minutes.

And does anyone here who knows the first thing about Gabriel think that he grumbled but simply cooperated and was back playing 5 minutes later?

No, it escalated into such a nasty altercation that he never did make it back into the fountains, plus had earned himself an hour in his room (5 minutes at a time) for all his rude insults, threats and actions. Even when I finally got so tired of him standing in front of me, threatening me, calling me names and being incredibly obnoxious that I practically ordered him to go back and play in the fountains, he was too mad, and just couldn't enjoy it. Gee, I can't wait for teenage hormones to kick in.

Later in the afternoon when it had been over for some time, he came into the office where I was sitting, looked at me, put his arms around me and kissed me. I was so glad. I hate those awful fights, but just don't know how to keep them from escalating. Moreso, I don't know how to guide or help him out of such intensity that he ends up missing out on a lot. This might be one of those things I just have to let go and let him learn himself; it's a hard-won skill that many grownups aren't so good at either.

Overall, it was a great way to spend a hot mid-day.

Swim class progress

This morning at swim lessons, I watched Julian's class with increasing irritation. Since Julian's "promotion," he's supposed to be in a more advanced class. But for him today, his lesson entailed his going out with the instructor a total of 4 times, and really not doing much each time. His classmates included a new girl who cried through the whole lesson, and another girl who needed a lot of help, and they were both much younger. The teacher knew Julian was more advanced, but the class was still structured for little kids who are just getting started. This was ridiculous.

So I did what I should have done months ago: complain. OK, ask, but the supervisor recognized it as a complaint. She looked through the list, and indeed, the other kids in Julian's class are "rainbow" level -- well below his "blue" level, and much younger. So, she rearranged things to put Julian into a different class altogether, of kids above his level, and in the deeper pool. FINALLY. OK, I'll give it a little longer.

"By the way," she added, "your other son earned his Purple today."

In contrast to Julian's class, Gabriel has been making noticeable progress every week. And sure enough, Gabriel's gone up a level in a very short time. He said later that the swim test was much easier than the lessons.

Gabriel's Purple level lets him try out for pre-competitive classes, which are completely different: coached, drills, full-length pool (well, 25 yards). I think this would be great, but we won't go there yet; first we'll see how both boys do in their new classes. I'm looking forward to a real class for Julian.

And, when Katrina turns 3 in a few weeks, maybe I'll look into "novice" classes for her, if they have any at my new favorite time: 8am Saturday morning. I don't love this swim school, but the convenience is unbeatable. And who knows, it's possible they'll even pick up some swimming along the way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

8/28/09 Sharing

Katrina didn't "earn" herself dessert tonight, but she did score some jelly beans (for going stinkie in the potty, something she's done every time for a week now!). So that solved the dessert dilemma.

Gabriel wanted a jelly bean too, but they're for potty rewards. I told him to negotiate with Katrina, and he did. She gave him a jelly bean.... exchange for a bite of chocolate ice cream.

Meantime, Julian waited for our neighbor to emerge, to give her some cookies. I guess she gave him some candy, and he wanted to reciprocate. He waited patiently outside, and I suspect he ran out of cookies while our kind neighbor was busy inside.

Today was the first set of "Friday Folders" from school. I'm highly amused...or is it bemused? Julian's teacher's comment: "Julian takes a long time to finish his work. He needs to be reminded to stay on task." You have no idea, lady. Just wait.

I was floored to see a worksheet that shows a blank face, and the pupil is supposed to draw an expression on it, then fill in the word, "I feel _____." Julian drew a face that's crying, and wrote "tirt" (tired). But the really surprising thing was a Challenge section that said, "Can you write another sentence?" Sentence-writing, already? This is the first week of kindergarten!

Well, whatever, there's no penalty for not being able to write sentences in kindergarten. I guess this is better than being in an inner-city school district where teachers are dealing with unfortunate under-prepared kids with social issues and home troubles. But once again, I find myself yearning for balance.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

8/27/09 The drop-off

I'd like to get to the point at which I can drop the boys off near school and simply say, "hop to! go to your class!" Gabriel's reliable that way, but Julian? And if I ask Gabriel to take Julian to his class and wait there until the first warning bell? Sounds OK in theory.....

I took the day off today for more appointments, then remembered that now I don't have CDC care Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to my new schedule. So, I figured this would be a good dress rehearsal for the boys getting to their classrooms themselves. I told Gabriel to take Julian to his class, and followed behind them.

It became immediately apparent that this won't work for a while yet. They putzed around, got distracted, and couldn't even walk a few yards without pushing each other and messing around. They're also very poor at negotiating crowds. Then in front of the classroom, they started running around in circles, dropping their knapsacks and kicking them across the playground. I sent Gabriel to his classroom, disgusted, and then enjoyed the relative peace while Julian played calmly. Meantime, Katrina joyfully pointed out every shape and number when she wasn't running laps around a circle. I regretted not having my camera.

I liked waiting in front of Julian's classroom. I was intrigued by the moms obviously dressed up for CDC care? No zooming to get to work by 8am to cram in enough working hours? How does that work? Maybe this is what it's like to have a "real" job. It all looked so there balance after all? I know, things are not what they seem, but the appearance was encouraging. And I liked being there, being in touch with the classroom, seeing the other moms, and a dad or two, and the other siblings. Seems a lot of them know Julian already!

When the bell rang, the other moms shoo'd their kids into the classroom and put their knapsacks in their cubbies. I decided to hang back and watch, using Katrina as my excuse not to intervene. Julian went right from the top of the play structure inside to his classroom, leaving his backpack outside. I waited, then saw him retrieve it, then negotiate the contents of his cubby.

OK, they're not ready to be dropped off, but it's very early yet, and they're well on their way. And I'm going to like being there twice a week.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

8/26/09 Potty-trained?

Back-to-school night is next week, and creates a real dilemma for us. In past years, we always got some sort of childcare so that Dave and I could both attend the 45-minute talk by Gabriel's teacher in his classroom, in the evening. This year, Gabriel and Julian's back-to-school sessions are at the same exact time. I hate to miss one, but we'll have to split up so that one of us attends each classroom. But even with only one parent attending the classroom, we still have a childcare problem.

The answer presented itself today. The CDC, bless their entrepreneuristic souls, is putting on a back-to-school parent's night: childcare for two hours, including dinner. And, potty-trained siblings are welcome! I read the notice in passing, assuming it wouldn't apply to us, until I realize in joyous disbelief -- hey, that's us! OK, 80% potty-trained, but, close enough! But, they said as long as there are no diapers involved, bring her. Yay! I hope they don't regret it when they discover what a serious annoyance the boys can be with her.

(Their pricing goes up to 2 children -- apparently we're in the minority, as they didn't even have a provision for 3!)

Katrina's preschool also offers a discount for potty-trained kids. 80% is close enough, so in addition to not buying diapers, we'd save up to $100 a month in preschool charges, $30 with the part-time schedule she's starting next week.

I watched Katrina today at TLC taking care of business by herself. She's slow; she insists on carrying a particular footstool to a particular toilet, and she has to be shooed away from the sink where she'll play in the water indefinitely washing her hands afterward, but, she goes through the whole process entirely on her own. Actually, she hasn't had a pee accident in a few weeks, and she's getting better and better about finding the john for #2. I upped the ante from chocolate raisins to jelly beans, I think that will improve her success rate.

She's still not 100% done, but even if she night-trained tomorrow and never had an accident again, I'd still say she was the toughest of all of them to potty-train, mostly due to a resistant and insistent personality. (Julian was by far the easiest.) But in this day and age, getting all of them mostly done before age 3 is a decent accomplishment. And it's paying off!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

8/25/09 School Day

I took advantage of Katrina's last week of childcare on Tuesdays and Thursdays to catch up on doctor's appointments and other things around the house. I also snuck in a nap and a run, but not before dropping the boys off at school.

I like having some contact with their classes by watching interactions with the kids waiting, chatting with the moms, and seeing how they behave in class. Julian has already made several friends, enough so that another mom smiled at me before class and said, "oh, you're Julian's mom?" Julian can't remember any of his new friends' names though, understandable since they're all fancy Indian names that take me some time too. (Thank goodness for Gabriel's pal Parth!)

I got a sneak peek at Gabriel's class too. One of his teachers was raised on an apple farm, so they're doing a lot about apples this week. For once, I don't mind at all the parent-participation homework of having to find labels around the kitchen with apples.

Then I had to return to Katrina's class because I'd forgotten her lunch again. Naturally, see what I found her doing!

I chatted briefly with Julian's old preschool teacher, Miss Amanda, and told her that Julian claims kindergarten is SOOOO easy, and that the work she had him doing in preschool was much harder. I'd had a feeling she had been a pretty rigorous teacher; much of his little science learnings came from her, and she had noticed and asked me about his reading on his first day. She laughed and said, "Well, his pre-K class was so advanced, the kindergarten material was too easy for them, so I had them doing first-grade work."


Now I have a little more context for why Miss Amanda had commented that she thought Julian could skip a grade, which I completely disagree with, especially since kindergarten isn't about academics. I'm very reluctant for any grade-skipping, but at age 5 it's ridiculous to even mention.

Of course, Julian doesn't mind that kindergarten is "easy," he said today it's fun, and he's making friends (something Gabriel never mentioned) and that he really likes his teacher. And that's what matters in the first week of your school career!

I caught up on doctor's appointments today, including something I've put off way too long, something all women of my vintage should do yearly, especially if their grandmother died of breast cancer and their aunt survived it. I recently received admonishment for having put it off, and one of my regular readers present at said admonishment should consider it reiterated if she too has not scheduled The Squish. You know who you are, blondie.


Monday, August 24, 2009


Katrina sure had fun with slides this weekend!

First, this tiny little one at a Round Table Pizza at a birthday party. She and Dylan played together for at last half an hour on this. Hard to get good photos, but it was very cute.

Next day, a park playdate. Katrina insisted on playing at the bottom of this bigger-kids' slide, where bigger kids come flying down and could obliterate her. She was adament on this slide (out of at least 6 at this park), and another mom made me feel better when she said, "You know, there's just so much you can do." Katrina's just going to have to get clocked a few times. Mostly she screamed at other kids, especially her brothers.

Finally she followed Dylan to a different slide, where she played for a long, long time. At one point, two other boys, about 4 I guess, tried to play on it too, but she scolded them and demanded, "Me go up! Me go up!" I wish I'd gotten a picture, it was pretty funny. The boys took it in stride, smiling to me as I shrugged. I know playground politics say I'm supposed to admonish her to "share," but it's futile.

Julian and Andrew had fun too, though it quickly gets physical and there's always lots of shoving.

I love shots of kids in a grassy field, with that as the only background. Katrina was in the mood to run across the grass, providing me with a perfect photo-op, I thought. But all I got were the goofiest photos and faces -- which I guess was a good photo-op!

(Note to self: green dress against green grass, NG. Next time, get the blue.)

I spent a lot of time with Katrina this weekend, it was nice. I wonder if I'll miss her toddlerhood someday, and regret my impatient attitude toward it. While I'm better-suited to older kids, this is the last year I'll ever experience this magical age first-hand, one in which it's pure delight to go down slides for half an hour.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Last Friday, the second day of school, didn't start well at all. I'll spare you the details, but I left the boys at the CDC looking very grim, and me feeling horrible after a huge fight.

It only got worse for me when I got to TLC with Katrina and discovered I'd forgotten Dress-Up Day. And though I'd missed a week of work already, and though today was supposed to be my big push 8-hour day, I dropped her off and quickly drove home to rummage through old Halloween costumes, hoping I'd come up with something fast and easy. And I did, two in fact: the shiny cape she had used last year, and the traffic light costume for Gabriel when he was 4 (I think). I zoomed back to preschool, where I surprised Katrina with costumes -- a choice of two, in fact. I thought she'd go for the shiny cape, but it was a no-brainer: the traffic light.

So, on with the traffic light, a quick-and-easy slip-on vest, and back to play. I'd even put fresh batteries in it to make the red, yellow and green lights work.

I was floored to discover that she can indeed pedal a tricycle! She's been holding out on us! At home, she's refused to actually pedal, instead insisting on Fred-Flintstoning her way around, but these tricycles must be too tall or something. She loves this.

Then all the kids lined up to get ready to go inside. And who, of course, has to be different, sitting way on the end all by herself, just to make a statement?

I think I'm set for Halloween for one of them!

(still catching up....weekend "news" will have to come later, not that there's much to say.)