Saturday, October 31, 2009

10/31/09 Halloween night

A full day -- and not just because of Halloween!

There were no shortage of Halloween things to do today, but I really didn't have the energy for them. Besides, the boys had their last swim lesson (sniff!), and then I went running -- my first "real" long run in a long time (over 7 miles). After getting home, a long bath, a short nap, I was in no mood for another pumpkin patch or costume parade. And no one objected to that at all.

Plenty of Halloween cheer abounded about the house anyway. Katrina just loves singing the songs she learns in preschool -- just not at preschool.

Then Julian and Katrina and I decorated the front porch, with our paltry assembly of Halloween decorations.

Julian got a "pie pumpkin" from school, so I figured we should make a pie out of it. This was really a scratch pie -- I cut open and roasted the pumpkin, I made the pastry dough (a new thing for me), and Julian made the filling -- with lots of help, but he did absolutely everything physically possible.

He read the recipe.

He measured spices.

He mixed the filling!

And uncharacteristically, I forgot to get a picture of the finished pie. Rats.

Meantime, Dave and Gabriel were off on a real mountain bike ride, a relatively new thing. Real terrain, not just a confined BMX park. Gabriel was so-so on the experience, but mountain biking without a mountain bike is pretty hard -- he only has one gear.

Then, dinner, costumes, and trick-or-treating! First, a note on dinner, because this has never happened before: Katrina ATE BROCCOLI. And even asked for more! She didn't even choke it down, she just ate it like it was nothing, because she wanted another chicken dinosaur (a frozen chicken nugget -- ick, but it's from Whole Foods, so it must be good for you, right?) Her refusal to try it so far has been entirely on principle, not taste, as she'd never tasted it. I'm glad that I've always persisted in putting a small amount of vegetable on her plate no matter what, so it's always on her radar. Not that this is a trend yet, but few things make Mom happier than hearing her toddler ask, "Mommy, can I please have more broccoli?"

Ready to comb the neighborhood!

At a neighbor's door. Katrina got the hang of it pretty well and had a great time. Last year, we had to bring her home early because she got into a snit about something or other.

I had fun trick-or-treating; it's a great way to reconnect with neighbors, and the kids were all having a great time. (Dave stayed home and manned our candy handouts.) And, since everyone had their broccoli, they got to eat a fair amount of candy when we got home (after I'd combed the peanut products out of Katrina's bag...I've got to get her tested).

Candy, schmandy....I couldn't quit nibbling on the lightest, tastiest, most delightful pumpkin pie I've ever had. I will definitely be making it again, and it will hereby forever be known as "Julian's Pumpkin Pie." No, better yet, "Julian's Halloween Pumpkin Pie."


Friday, October 30, 2009

10/30/09 Halloween parades

Good grief. Three separate Halloween parades, parties and events today.

First, Julian's. The school even changed the schedule for the PM kindergartners so that they start school with everyone, so that all kinders would be together for the Halloween events and parade, which completely dominated the day.

Julian's class.

And dominated the school grounds. This is a big deal!

I was intrigued at how into it all the parents are, the majority of whom hail from cultures that don't share this tradition. I guess dressing up in fun costumes has global appeal.

Later in the afternoon, the parade for all the school-agers, or perhaps just grades 1-3 (4th and 5th grade are dismissed later). Gabriel was strangely ambivalent, almost bored, with a blank look on his face and humming absently to himself the whole time.

Gabriel's class.

I wondered how a kid without a costume would feel, but an uncostumed girl in Gabriel's class (next to SpiderMan) said with confidence and humor: "I'm going as a girl with a dog T-shirt!"

The 2nd grade formed a circle and called for all kids with various costume types to come into the center. I was pleased to see that in 2nd grade, witches outnumber princesses.

Next! Preschool performance and parade, though the parade was to a nearby pumpkin patch. I picked up the boys, parked at the pumpkin patch, then we walked to the preschool. This way Katrina would only make one trip, and as part of the parade.

First, the long-anticipated singing. Katrina drives her teachers crazy because she absolutely refuses to participate in circle time and in rehearsals, except for ONE day when she did a total turnaround. At home, she sings the songs constantly, with all the gestures, but not at school.

And, not for the performance either. I know she knows the songs very well, but she refused to sing or gesture.

The little stinker refused pictures during the parade too.

But she didn't catch on to my stealth photographer (Gabriel) in time to hide her face for this one.

There was a common costume theme among my kids' teachers.
Gabriel's teacher.

Julian's teacher.

Katrina's teacher (well, not her regular teacher yet, but a frequent sub and was Julian's pre-K teacher)

Then, about 50 minutes of jumphouse playing for all three, which is what "pumpkin patches" have become. I'm not sure what inflatable play structures have to do with large squash, but, whatever.

Once again, typical personality characteristics emerged. Gabriel stayed on the shark slide the entire time. Katrina stayed in one jumphouse the entire time. Julian moved around, bugging other kids.

The 13 seconds I was able to get them to stay here for a photo shoot was the sum total of time spent with pumpkins at the "patch."

For some reason I'm having trouble raising my Halloween spirit this year -- no pun intended -- but it really is energizing seeing the parades and all the kids together. It's better than the place I'm in, that's for sure.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

10/29/09 Chat night

Coffee, cheesecake & company! My favorite 3 C's.

Helps get an increasingly bad taste in my mouth about going to work full-time for the company I've been contracting at. To think, a few months ago I was hesitant when things were normal -- now I'd give anything for it to be like that again, instead of taken over by this new Director wreaking havoc with people's lives. It figures that when he put me on the spot today and asked who my "ideal" was professionally, that I started with Carol, one of the first engineers to leave because of him (and one of the best I've ever worked with, I stand by that). Then when he asked what my weaknesses are, I said that I don't learn quickly. I should have said that my biggest weakness is saying stupid things off the top of my head. Or considering a job working for someone I know I will hate working for.

But, no work tomorrow -- I reserved the day off weeks ago to attend to what is really important: the day before Halloween!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10/28/09 Cupcakes

Every year, the SCEEPers (3rd-graders and up, I forget what SCEEP stands for) at the CDC put on sales of baked goods and crafts to raise money for ... something. They hit up parents the instant we walk in, frazzled, in a hurry, ready to go home -- and often with little more than our car keys on us. I hardly ever carry cash anymore anyway, so when a little cherub asked if I wanted to buy cupcakes, I used my financial state to put him off. It worked -- there's no arguing with being broke.

For once, Julian got ready to go without any arguing or running away or generally resisting. (Gabriel was directly defiant: "NO!" "SO WHAT!" and "WHY DO YOU HAVE TO PICK ME UP NOW?!" and I had to drag him away.) Turns out, a CDC staffer had promised Julian a cupcake if he didn't give me a hard time today, which somehow had to wait because I couldn't buy Gabriel one either, which I was willing to do after I heard that he's been really good lately. For lack of 75 cents!

I felt a little bad, but, that's life. I piled the boys in the car, then went to fetch Katrina. It weighed on me...the nice CDCers set aside cupcakes for the boys for tomorrow when I'd bring money, but...why wait? I made a detour to Wells Fargo, and even went inside the bank branch to get change, anxiously leaving all three in the car in the meantime. The boys forgave the delay when they realized what we were doing: driving back to the CDC just to pick up their cupcakes -- and one more, for Katrina. They surprised me by being genuinely grateful and appreciative; I was actually expecting more rudeness.

And pending cupcakes eliminated all homework arguing. The extra driving, time, and trips just to get tiny 75-cent Duncan Hines cupcakes bought me all sorts of leverage. So now you know the real reason.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10/27/09 Computer Lab

Julian mentioned he had a computer lab at school recently. He was vague on what it involved, but from what I gathered, it was mostly games and videos and very introductory stuff. A total joke, since most kids are way way WAY beyond the basics on modern computer applications by kindergarten.

Katrina can now type in her password and log in, and with some help, she can bring up TuxPaint, a Mac drawing and painting application. Today she decided to type in the alphabet, discovering that even though "mno" is sung together, they're really three separate letters.

And then she discovered that there's no key for "10," and was delighted when I showed her how to type in 10 with two separate digits.

This reminds me of Gabriel when he was 3-1/2, logging into Dave's computer, bringing up TextEdit, enlarging the font, and then typing in all the names of his preschool classmates.

(June 2005)

Julian never did anything like that, but he was able to navigate TuxPaint's buttons and dialog boxes when he was just 2-1/2.

Good thing they're teaching them about computer videos in school.


Monday, October 26, 2009

10/26/09 Science Museum

Phew, tired tonight, but compulsion drives me. MUUUST POOOOST PHOOO-TOS....

Dropped Katrina off at TLC today, and took advantage of a Staff Learning Day at the boys' school to go to the city and check out this highly regarded science museum.

It has an aquarium, planetarium, rain forest and many other environmental displays. It would take weeks to see it all, but with two little kids in tow, start with the good stuff.

Penguin feeding! Boys loved them.

Some game involving a lit mat. You push images of fruit into a pit trap and hope the "bugs" follow and you catch them. Or you just stomp on the bug images.

Many displays of reptiles and fish.

Some sort of tree snake waiting for fish in the water below.

An eel garden.

We caught a "dive demonstration" in the Phillipines Coral Reef, with a diver answering questions (from the water!), and a fish feeding.

New habitat: rainforest, an enclosed area with water, fish, trees, birds and many beautiful butterflies.

An elevator takes you down under the rainforest, including a transparent tunnel so we could look up at the big fish and turtles. And take some very strangely lit photos.

We were there all told about 3-1/2 hours and saw a tiny fraction of the fascinating attractions. The boys had a great time and really really enjoyed it. And such a glorious day to be around Golden Gate Park too.

Bonne Maman had suggested going here, based on some descriptions she'd read in a paper -- funny how you get to know your own area from visitors!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

10/25/09 Pumpkin Patch

Going to pumpkin patches -- that is, farms that put up many sorts of entertainment and ways of spending money to sell pumpkins -- is now part of the modern ritual that is Halloween. Today we joined our old 2002 friends at a pumpkin patch we've been to for several years now that our favorite one with the train closed down.

Of course, you dress in fragile costumes to run through fields, around animals and play in jumphouses.

We tried for a grandmother-mother-daughter shot; this was the best we could do.

We hit the farm at peak parking time, requiring a bit of a walk. But fortunately, I had brought reinforcements.

A gopher entranced the kids for a while; this little guy must have really wanted to go out this hole but kept pulling back when encountering numerous inquisitive little faces. Maybe he got lost in his underground maze.

Pony rides! Now that I know Katrina likes ponies, we had to do this. To my surprise, Gabriel wanted to also, and Julian wasn't scared and also wanted to.

Photo-op! The kids (minus one of mine).

The moms (plus one of mine).

Then, of course, the inevitable jump house. One small jumphouse, and $5 a pop! I'm starting to put jumphouses down there with swings, lollipops and balloons as childhood staples that I don't like.

But, new thing: Katrina? She wanted to try a jumphouse? Sure enough, and she loved it!

So instead of a tantrum about going in, the tantrum was about getting out, and I had to go in to fetch her. The natural exit was a slide, which she at first refused, but gravity won.

Pumpkin time. I didn't want to haul around three pumpkins, so found a cart, and ended up hauling around three more.

Home, lunch, tantrums today. It's really stunning how much more enjoyable days are without hour-long toddler tantrums. I have so much more energy and have such a more positive outlook. I wonder if I'll forget how draining they are. Yesterday was really exhausting with Katrina's nonstop demands and impossible tantrums, and the relative ease and joy of today really underscored that.

Since a visit isn't a visit without THE photo, I shamelessly exploited greed by telling the kids we'd open gifts from Bonne Maman after pictures. It worked!

As usual, we're having a great visit -- fun play, terrific food, and lots of just hanging around together! And since I got THE photo of Bonne Maman with grandkids, I can relax now!