Saturday, November 21, 2009

11/21/09 Snap Circuits

Today after a very nice relaxed 3-year-old birthday party, I felt like lying down and being a slug because of a headache. But somehow I forced myself to go running, since it'd be my only opportunity all weekend (sleeping late on a Saturday morning doesn't count as an "opportunity"). I'm always glad I did; my headache mostly went away and even though it was a short chilly run, my mind was clear and my body strong.

Another mom I was chatting with at the party has a much harder time leaving her (two) kids alone with her husband than I do. My husband, I'm grateful to say, can certainly deal with all three alone together, despite the massive effort involved.

It was a very sweet scene to come home to. Especially seeing Julian up out of bed -- he got a temperature this morning and was in bed all day with 102, but it broke late this afternoon, and he seems fine now.

Gabriel spent the whole day playing with his Snap Circuits. He is far, far more tolerant of Katrina playing with them than Julian, and was so sweetly letting her put pieces on the grid and snapping them together. She loved this and stayed focused with him on this for a long, long time.

(I took this picture to show on her graduation day from electrical engineering school, to commemorate how it all started.)

Gabriel describes his "tone generator" and gives Katrina a little snapping job to do. Hard to hear it, but he informs her that if there had been a battery in place, she'd have made a short. I have no idea if that's true or not.

Dave let him on the computer, and he found the Web site for Elenco, the company that makes the Snap Circuits. Gabriel thought there was a section where people can post their own Snap Circuit designs, and then he thought he posted his own design too. In fact, I think he just navigated to the Feedback section, where he submitted this comment (I walked in just as he was trying to understand "Form Submitted" -- apparently he submitted it several times in an attempt to send it):
"I made a real squeaker! Turn the swich on, you hear a high-piched sound and an LED lights up with it. Tap the whistle chip and the sound changes."

I have to say, I was really surprised at that writing. Maybe because his handwriting is so, so, SO bad I can't ever read what he's writing and it looks like the work of a 4-year-old, or maybe because this is of his own volition and not a school assignment.

He made a squeaker all right; unfortunately the moment he tests his inventions his hearing-sensitive mother bellows, "TURN THAT &$@!$&% THING **OFF**!!" No doubt he'll remember that on his graduation day from electrical engineering school.


Friday, November 20, 2009

11/20/09 Galette

Grownup dinner at friends' house tonight! What a treat; my Dad's lady love has two daughters, one of whom lives in Sunnyvale (an amazing irony as Dad and his lady are in Massachusetts) with her husband. The other daughter lives in Massachusetts and was visiting here with her husband, so the Sunnyvale daughter invited Dave and I for dinner with both couples. Their house is absolutely beautiful, fabulously decorated, the landscape gorgeous -- so inspiring. Plus they're just really, really, really nice people.

But, the Massachusetts daughter was a pastry apprentice in a bakery and is a very serious home baker; and the California daughter's husband is a chef. So when I offered to bring dessert, I wasn't about to pick up brownie bites from Safeway. I'd planned to make a flat apple tart that I'd made recently, but it wouldn't be easy to transport, even cut into pieces. I decided to make a regular tart, which then turned into a galette -- not realizing until I was too far committed that a galette is made freeform on a baking sheet, with no pan. This was harder than I expected, not to mention that my time to make up for mistakes got seriously curtailed yesterday.

This really needs to into to my food blog, but despite the challenges, my first attempt at an apple galette came out really well! (If not exactly round.)

Unfortunately, I forgot the creme fraiche I was planning to bring. The hostess ran out and got some heavy cream, which her chef husband whipped up quickly, and it was a perfect addition.

We had a wonderful dinner and wonderful evening -- and not too much talk about Alzheimer's.

To my dismay, our longtime favorite sitter Peggy must have moved -- her cell phone number was answered by someone else, and she didn't answer her email (though it didn't bounce). Fortunately, Tonya came through with a sleepover for the kids. And I came through with everyone's favorite stuffed animals.

I might just make that galette again for Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

11/19/09 Cramming for the test

Interview tomorrow. I'm trying to re-learn everything I ever knew about networking in one night. The good news is, that's a lot. The bad news is, that's a lot. The good news again is that now, google and wikipedia are on my side.


11/19/09 Playground

Before my day turned upside-down, it started off normally normal as anything gets with three children at a school playground. I really don't have to walk Julian to class anymore, but I've been working so much I just felt like it.

Gabriel and Katrina had a great time chasing each other and playing hopscotch, while Julian reunited with his kindergarten friends. It'd been hours since they'd seen each other, after all.

But, I can always count on Katrina to take a vision of a nice relaxed morning and inject a tantrum into it. Starbucks had some stuffed animals and other kid-attractive items in a basket at her level (on purpose, I'm sure), and my gentle admonition to her to put a monkey back into the basket was not well-received.

The tantrum continued on the sidewalk outside the store. The difference between Katrina and Gabriel at this age, though, is that when I walk away, Katrina loses her nerve and gets up and runs after me, wailing pitifully: "MOM-*MEEEE*!!!!" Uncharacteristically, I wasn't at all rattled by this. I wonder if my calm attitude was viewed by onlookers as lax ("DO something!") or strong ("way to keep cool mom!"). Some onlookers did shoot me a glance of sympathy -- for Katrina, like, "ohhh, poor girl!" to which I responded with a giant eye-roll.

I'd planned to spend the afternoon baking a nice-looking tart for a dinner we were going to Friday night, and I did, but not in a relaxed way at all. I rushed through it so I could hit the books and prepare for an interview I had the next day. It's one thing to really not know something, but another thing entirely to know something but not to be able to speak about it intelligently because it's one or two sentences removed from your immediate memory.

Children, grownup social life, work....the day was balanced, but there was too much work in all of it!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11/18/09 Brace yourself

Feh, too much work in my day today to make for interesting blog posts.

But, I do have something to say about last week. Those cute photos of Katrina laughing on the porch made me think something...then Gabriel said it too: "I love how her front teeth stick out!" The dentist last week confirmed it: start saving, 'cause that mouth isn't looking good! She has an obvious overbite. Gabriel's a shoe-in for braces too, though not for a while since he's still only lost two (bottom) teeth.

Julian, on the other hand, totally different. Aside from having a lot more room in his mouth, his X-rays don't show anything ugly coming up -- could still happen but looks OK now -- and his mouth chemistry is different than Gabriel's. Gabriel's teeth start looking really dingy and awful after about 5 months. I've never seen tartar build up on the front of front teeth before, but they do on his. The hygienists always remind us to floss him and help him brush, which I do often enough to help if it did, which it doesn't. Julian's teeth, on the other hand, are shiny white and never build up tartar. But he also gets canker sores.

Hmm, I wonder if knowing that two of our kids will need braces will affect my attitude about working?


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11/17/09 Improving the odds

One thing about having three kids: it's rare that all your children are awful in one day. Today's angel was Katrina, being adorable and delightful and funny and even relatively agreeable.

Julian has been a major pest lately. My fuse with him is very very short; I find myself snapping at his first obnoxious resistance ("No YOU close the car door Mommy"). He ignores me when I pick him up at the CDC and I often have to physically drag him away from the reading corner, then at home he swings his lunch around and strews the contents of his knapsack all over the living room, throwing himself on the floor and wailing if I insist he put it all away.

But nothing, nothing can match the horror of a confrontation with Gabriel. They're much much rarer these days, and unlike his toddler days they're now actually about something. But just like his toddler days, he takes conflict head-on when something means something to him, and when there's a row, it's really ugly -- scary, almost.

This morning's issue started, as usual, with the boys not getting dressed. This is really becoming painful -- they dress themselves in minutes if so motivated, but most of the time we're ignored or told, "It's my life to live!" Gabriel had some paper weapons he'd made -- a gun and a sword, and was bugging Katrina with them this morning. That makes her scream, and makes us scold him to stop.

Dave eventually took Gabriel's paper weapons away, and all hell broke loose. Screaming, knocking things around, bloodcurdling insults and threats -- and ultimately no breakfast. I managed to settle him down enough that he got into the car without much trouble, then he had breakfast at the CDC and was fine the rest of the day, but it was a nasty morning.

He told me tonight he was almost late to class this morning because he was scarfing breakfast at the CDC. I told him sternly that he absolutely cannot be late to school because of breakfast that he had plenty of time for at home.

I shouldn't complain...most of the time our boys are really fun and full of life and energy and ideas and joy. But on days like today, it's hard not to be grateful that there's another one here to look upon with unfettered fondness. Another one child, that is -- and not a boy.


Monday, November 16, 2009

11/16/09 Clean House

It made for a crazy evening last night, but we got the place picked up. Today, some very competent and diligent ladies (they always are ladies) scrubbed our house from head to toe, even making a cute little fold in the toilet paper. Some are enterprising enough to make a bow-tie out of toilet paper, or arrange stuffed animals on the kids' beds in cute ways, like putting sunglasses on a teddy bear. It's SO nice to walk into the house at the end of the day and have it be sparkling.

I still have no idea what's going on with work. A really really interesting new, but short, project I was given I finished today, minus the writeup. I still have no idea if there will be a new project to work on as a contractor, or if I'm going to be offered a job as an employee. This day-to-day -- sometimes minute-by-minute -- stuff is exactly opposite of how childcare planning works! But I plan to take most, if not all, of next week off, to prepare for Thanksgiving and try to catch up on life around the house. Somehow house life is more satisfying when my life away from the house is too.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

11/15/09 Art Museum

Who am I not to indulge such an enthusiastic request to see an art museum? I have no idea what's gotten into Julian, but he really really wanted to see an art museum. So, we did that!

I took all three to downtown San Jose to see the art museum downtown. It was a really nice day, perfect for a trip to the city. Too bad we were just going to San Jose. It just isn't a real city. But it did the job for today, and the kids loved this rare experience of actually walking along city blocks, with big buildings and traffic and a surprising amount of bustle for a Sunday.

Julian was SO happy to see the sign. "ART MUSEUM! ART MUSEUM!" he exclaimed excitedly.

Gabriel wasn't excited about this idea at all, and I had to practically drag him into the car. But, he settled down when we talked in the car on the way there about what art was -- not just paintings, although paintings are lovely too. He was very surprised to hear that music and writing -- his and my preferred artforms -- are art too, and that art is a big part of engineering, such as with architecture.

Besides, an art museum in the heart of Silicon Valley will never be just paintings, though that's what we were after. This museum isn't huge, and that was fine. We went to a Visual Arts display that had a variety of things -- sculptures, a house built out of blue bottles, woodcut ink prints, photographs, paintings -- even a digital image of a tree blowing in the wind projected on the wall. Another area had a vintage pinball machine, which the boys loved.

Gabriel was really excited when he discovered that an art piece of a blindfolded woman was made of folded-up pieces of cotton, and I talked to them about how it just looks like a bunch of fabric rectangles up close, but standing at a distance, the actual image comes out. I hoped they didn't ask me anything beyond that, because that was the full extent of my art knowledge!

No photography allowed, so I didn't get any photos of the kids looking excitedly at the displays. Not that I had a lot of time anyway -- it was a lot of work making sure they didn't touch anything, even the walls. They're used to hands-on types of museums; an art museum's basic protocol is foreign to them. Fortunately, Katrina stayed in the stroller most of the time, and I knew it was time to go when she insisted on pushing the stroller through the Ansel Adams exhibit, and it took all my attention to make sure she didn't run into any walls.

It's not a large museum, and I had a goal of about an hour anyway, and that was perfect. Katrina was starting to get antsy (though overall she loved looking at everything), and there's only so much not-touching kids can take. They had fun playing on the steps outside for a few minutes, right next to where the outdoor circular ice rink will be set up in a few weeks.

This was a perfect outing for us -- a great day for it, something we could do at any time of the day, not too long, not crowded, and didn't take over the day. I could just hear their synapses snapping as they all sucked in the new sights and concepts, and we talked about how things looked, how they were made, and what we saw in them. And it was a lot of fun. Definitely earned my Good Mom badge for the day.