Friday, December 11, 2009

12/11/09 Finding the spirit

An extremely busy intense day at work today for me. I like my new project so much that I wasn't about to waste one moment of precious time today. I love the concentration, the thinking, putting things together, making them work, and then writing it up as simply as possible. I won't be network engineering all my life, but there's a reason I did it as long as I have: I really really like it.

But the fun had to end, and I was wrenched back to another part of my life tonight. Three mom friends came over to help set up for the holiday party here tomorrow, which I've looked forward to but my mind has just too full with other things to have a chance to get excited about it yet. But tonight was a lot of fun, and a truly welcome diversion to bring me back to what also really matters in my life.

And look how nice my house looks when other people decorate it!

No one is happier about Christmas lights than Katrina though.

Every day she asks me, "Mommy, is today Christmas?"

She's going to love tomorrow! And so am I.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

12/10/09 Lights!

Julian reminded me this morning that today was the day he'd present his Cultural Poster. We practiced "Hola, mis amigos, mi nombre es Julian" many times, even though he claimed he wasn't going to say that. When I picked him up from school today, I chatted briefly with his teacher, who told me he did a great job on his presentation, and blew away the class with his Spanish introduction. I was very very proud of him, and held back nothing in hugs and praise!

She said overall he's been doing much much better, paying attention and not pestering people when they're sitting on the ground listening. The CDC said the same thing today -- and he's been a lot better at home too. yay!

Another kid in Julian's class did Italy...or did he? The kid, that is. Does it look like a kid did the writing and taping on this poster?

And I know for a fact from seeing class-wide work on the walls that Julian's handwriting amongst the worst in the class -- yet he wrote every word and did all cutting and gluing on his poster. I only helped him with the content and planning where things should go. I know not every kid feels this way, but it would have been unthinkable for me to do his project for him, to take that way from him. He loved doing it.

[ ADDENDUM: I just realized: that poster must be the teacher's poster!! Duh! No wonder it looks like everything was done by an adult!! ]

As regular readers know, I'm not an anti-homework parent, but I'm no advocate of it either. I'm finding that projects have far more value than homework, and non-homework schools do projects too, but in class. I never thought I'd say this, but it just struck me today that for kids who like projects -- and even like homework -- it's almost an odd shame that they don't have the "opportunity." Yeah, you can give them extra stuff to do, but it doesn't mean the same to them. I never, ever expected this from our ultra-putzy boy, but he gobbles up his home-based schoolwork and gets a lot out of doing it. If I were a different type of parent I might even ask for more!

Now, on to lights.

Katrina is loving this season with all the Christmas lights around. "I am so full of LIGHTS!" she exclaims.

So we spent the afternoon outside, under stormy threatening skies, putting up exterior lights. I haven't really done this before, so we don't have our places picked out or hooks installed or methods formed, so it took a while. But it was a lot of fun being out there figuring it out, with the kids running to get me a hook or hold something or help me in one way or another. They played together much of the time too, and it was nice doing something productive with them there with me.

I wish I had more time -- or a little less life -- to really enjoy these moments. I'm constantly prioritizing: was this the best use of my time this afternoon? With a party coming up on Saturday, was this the most urgent thing that needed to get done? Perhaps not, but if there's one thing I learned in graduate school, of all places, it was: do the "extra" stuff first, because when the time crunch comes, you'll still get the "required" stuff done. If you start with the required stuff, that's all you'll get done. This way, I got the extra stuff done, and one way or another, I'll get the necessary stuff done too.

(and I still remember that it's Jason's birthday, but not in time today to contact him, wouldn't that be a trip! My cousin is 33 today, and I sent him birthday cards for years when he was a child.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

12/9/09 Christmas cookies

Today the 2nd grade made gingerbread houses, though the "gingerbread" was really graham crackers. I like the little car Gabriel made out of licorice and lifesavers, parked next to the house.

My rule for things like this is that the kid who brought it home doesn't have to share it, but they can't eat it in front of their siblings. Tonight was no different. Gabriel had a choice: you can have it now with your sister and brother, or wait until later....muuuch later, who knows when....when they're not around. Never once has a child chosen to wait. And so, a rare win for Mom: suckering a kid into volunteering to share with his siblings.

They also got gingerbread men that I'd decorated with Julian yesterday.

They were appreciative of the fun colorful dessert. I love this time of year if nothing else for the color combinations! (I just wish I weren't so overloaded, and that my work situation weren't such a big unknown. That by itself would be OK, but with all the other things to juggle, I feel like I'm behind in everything.)

Julian's being oddly cooperative these days, and even made a funny face upon request for the camera. I can't get enough of this boy's face. Usually it's his mouth that captivates me, but I also love his bright oddly-colored eyes.

A coworker today told me today that she doesn't cook until all leftovers are gone. Now that's a way to run a fridge!


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

12/8/09 Cookie King

No work today, which was oddly stressful. Now that I have interesting work to do, and for such a short unknown time, the interruption of the alternative home/work days is disruptive. (A part-time Tu-W-Th schedule would be ideal!).

Katrina had a great time at the Y today, as she always does. She loves the big-kid Childwatch, since they go outside to a really nice playground -- or on cold days like today, stay inside and paint.

A conflict over candy canes -- but only after homework -- sent Gabriel to the bottom of my list today. When I asked him to put away a milk carton he'd taken out, the foul-mouthed brat retorted, "NO, I am not a maid!" and then attempted to go outside. He came very close to some corporal punishment for that, but instead I sent him to his room for half an hour, just so I didn't have to see him.

Meanwhile, Julian finished his week's worth of homework eagerly and without complaint, in about 15 minutes. He did his daily reading and updated his reading log and was really very cooperative.

It's always hectic when I'm trying to make and serve dinner, which is why this is a popular time for TV kid-parking. I'm still reluctant to open the TV/video door, since around here, state changes are a big challenge. That is, getting them away from the TV could cause more trouble than the TV prevented. But TV did occur to me while the boys were "playing" as I was trying to finish dinner makings tonight. Doesn't seem like much on the video but it's very disruptive and obnoxious when they run through the kitchen!

Actually as loud and irritating as they can be at the time, I have to say, I love watching my "little darlings" after the fact -- their energy and camaraderie; their simple childhood fun. Still, that TV-while-making-dinner thing might have some merit.

After dinner, I squeezed in a little cookie-decorating, as I already had the baked gingerbread cutouts and needed to do something with them! Only Julian joined me, and we had a great time together.

Julian and I also sat together on the island for dinner tonight, so he could share my artichoke. I've tried artichokes on everyone before, but no one liked them, and I decided to make one for myself tonight. He loved it! And I loved discovering a new special thing that just he and I can share together, though when it comes to food, that's actually quite a lot.

As parents, we're not supposed to have favorites, but today it was hard not to.


Monday, December 07, 2009

12/7/09 Homework pests

How is a kid supposed to get any homework done around here? Katrina wanted to sit with Gabriel (who sat right down when he got home and started his homework!), but Julian wanted to pester Katrina, making for a lot of chaos. She's in high demand around here.

Katrina and Julian play a lot more together -- they spent the whole evening chasing each other (mostly) joyfully -- and are tightly bonded as siblings, but there is an unmistakable, unique synergy between Gabriel and Katrina. Gabriel took great pride in showing Katrina his homework.

He quizzes her on the math problems!

This is cute now, but it tickles my curiosity about how older siblings affect the younger ones. Will he help her with math homework when she needs it? I think both my younger siblings will agree with complete certainty that I had no effect -- or interest -- whatsoever in their education.

Of course, every family has its own dynamic.

"Boy Mom, you sure know a lot about military!" Julian exclaimed tonight. I beamed internally, though I did have to correct him. "No, I know a very little about one war," though I was glad that it wasn't as much of a reach to talk about Pearl Harbor today than it used to be.

Julian even remembered that Pearl Harbor was what got us into WWII from previous discussions. We also talked again about the Doolittle Raid, the first aggression the USA was able to return by bombing Tokyo in 1942, something we've talked about before (because of the coolness of launching land-based bombers from a carrier, and because I just watched the movie "30 Seconds Over Tokyo"). This meant so much more when I told them that the bombers were launched from the USS Hornet -- the aircraft carrier we visited. (Actually we visited its successor, as the actual Hornet used in the raid was sunk later -- but there's no need to dilute the point with history!!) I told them we'll definitely go see Pearl Harbor in real life someday. As an incentive to quick getting ready for bed, we watched some vintage footage of the attack on YouTube.

I love these moments with the boys...they're so engaged and fascinated, and look to me for so much information. It's really a big responsibility...what I tell them, and how, could have a tremendous impact on shaping their attitudes. I hope I do it in a mind-opening, informative way; sticking to the facts. Their primary interest is technical though: how fast planes fly, how big missiles are, how much stuff gets blown up by a bomb. They want to find bad guys and enemies, and they want to root for a team. It's a tricky balance; it's interesting and arguably important to talk about war, but the natural softening one uses to describe horrific things to kids risks glorifying it. How can war be so awful when there are so many cool aircraft involved? I sure look forward to having support from the schools to teach history, 'cause I surely am underqualified!


Sunday, December 06, 2009

12/6/09 Tree day

Aunt Laura's here for the weekend!

She played hide-and-seek outside with the boys for hours!

Then I got my Dutch Oven, finally! Laura went with me on a fast trip to Williams-Sonoma, after numerous failed attempts to buy it elsewhere. And I get a funny photo.

(Next time I go to Williams-Sonoma with my favorite foodie sister-in-law, we're going to have TONS of time! How fun is that!)

Today we got our Christmas tree, the time-consuming, hassle-packed, labor-intensive, expensive way: by driving into the mountains and picking our own. But despite many failed negotiations with a toddler to walk on her own, still so worth it if nothing else just for the views.

And for a rare family photo (THANKS LAURA!).

Having a great time, wish you were here.