Saturday, December 26, 2009

12/26/09 Julian is SIX!

My boy -- six years old!! I can't believe it.

I can't say the day was all fun & games though. I went running in the morning, and threatening weather ruled out my usual default pasttime (hiking). Kids needed to get out though, and I needed to do some "research" for my project to reorganize the boys room. So, I trucked the bunch up to Ikea. On the day after Christmas. What WAS I thinking.

Katrina was supposed to be taking a nap, but she heard us leaving and came running after us in a Pull-Up. So, she came with us. Thank goodness, Gabriel insisted on all the stroller-pushing, that actually made things a lot easier.

I'm thinking of replacing the boys' two dressers with one huge one. And this fits the bill: it's huge all right. The rest of their clothes would go in their closet, which right now only has a useless hanging pole. I don't know, this is pretty massive, but it fits the space perfectly.

I also bought a rug for their room, though it's in our family room temporarily in an effort to absorb some of the awful racket. I hate buying furniture on impulse, with no plan, just to get something in there, but, that's exactly what we did.

This set me behind to make what I'd planned for dinner, and I hadn't even started Julian's cake! I went to the grocery store with the intention of buying him one, but decided against it because there weren't any small enough. Besides, Gabriel said something the other day that was along the lines of shock that I'd buy a cake. "Of COURSE you make a cake!" This from the same kid who also asked with complaint why we were the only kids who don't get storebought cakes (which is SO not true). I guess he meant "only kids who don't get storebought cakes whose mothers can actually decorate cakes."

Anyway, Dave pointed out that if I use a mix and canned frosting, to them, it's still "making" the cake. So I set aside my new baking snobbery and quickly whipped up a cake. Me and Duncan Hines, that is.

After cake time, it was gift-opening time. A major affair, because most of Julian's birthday presents from his party hadn't been opened yet either.

(I'd used the birthday presents as a very serious consequence for obnoxious behavior, which he continued -- even after he saw me storming off with an armload of unopened birthday presents. My kids are immune to consequences that don't involve fingerprints on their rear ends! I should qualify that to: my boys. Katrina, for all her "spirited" behavior, has never earned herself more than a light tap on her hand once or twice.)

Quite the bounty, and this doesn't include some things he did get to open!

Yay six!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas gift

I can't believe I forgot to post this photo on Christmas day, one of a very very special gift from my thoughtful (!) husband.

This is a beautiful all-wooden model of a B-17G, and its nose art is even that of the B-17 I flew on (the Nine O Nine). I just can't take my eyes off it.

The more stories I read of men (and a few women) who had experiences on these planes, the more it takes on a life of its own. Historically, it seems there is disagreement as to the effectiveness of the daylight precision bombing campaigns the B-17s were so instrumental in, but there's no question they had a huge role in many many veterans' experiences. Maybe I like it so much because it's so basic and so tough, not a star technically, nothing sleek or sexy to look at -- but eminently fixable, and brought so many guys home alive despite unspeakable damage.

I really, really hope the Collings Foundation will be flying the Wings Of Freedom tour again next year; I'll be the first to sign up for a flight on one of the very few B-17s still left flying. It won't be long before that part of military aviation history will be forever grounded. But at least I can see it captured in my living room every day now.

Gift-giving time is often a struggle for husbands, and Dave would be the first to say he's right up there in that category, but this was a really special, thoughtful and meaningful one to me. Thank you dear!

12/25/09 Christmas Day!

For a lot of people, Christmas is a religious holiday. It really isn't for us, so it turns into one about Stuff instead. And now, food too. Fortunately our kids are pretty cool with waiting for present-opening until after breakfast. They didn't even eat the chocolate coins Santa left for them in their stockings.

BIG breakfast first! Zucchini frittata, cranberry harvest muffins, brioche french toast, and the only fruit we have right now, apples.

Julian got two similar books -- similar idea that is, but different books (one from grandparents, one from Santa). I love these new sorts of books for kids now, they're colorful and fun to look at, and filled with interesting things about the world. Educational, perhaps, though that word is a bugaboo for me now. They're fun and the boys love them.

Gabriel really liked his book from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul too.

It isn't Christmas without Legos! Thank you Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan!!

This is amusing: this kit says it's for ages "10+". Julian finished it in about 20 minutes without any help at all.

Katrina's first gift was perfect: another building toy. I had Tinker Toys as a kid and loved them.

Katrina got this adorable dress/legging set from Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan. Brown dress and brown/pink striped leggings. The funny thing is, she also got a dress set from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul: brown/pink striped dress and brown leggings!! (I didn't get a photo unfortunately)

Then we add a dress-up rainbow skirt to the outfit, and we're done. Project Runway, here we come!

Katrina and I had matching Christmas bows in our hair today.

I got an awesome cookbook: "I know how to cook," a translation of a classic French cookbook "Je sais cuisiner." My mother told me later this was her mother's standard cookbook, and it's filled with fascinating, many very simple, and very diverse recipes and methods. Katrina had a great time looking through it with me, and I loved the rare cuddle time with her.

She got her own fun book to look at: you just can't go wrong with Richard Scarry.

This was Gabriel's big gift -- not the Nintendo DS he asked for, but it'll do. Not surprisingly, he loves it.

I didn't get a photo of Julian and his build-it Robo car thing, which is disappointing since it already broke.

Still, by late afternoon we all needed to get OUT. Dave took the boys to the BMX park in the last hour of daylight, and Katrina and I hastily joined. I got a few shots of Gabriel tackling the deepest drop in the park. He goes on all the hills and every obstacle on the course now, though he doesn't jump or flip or anything -- yet.

I was late starting Christmas dinner -- I have to learn to plan ahead better so that I'm not scrambling in the kitchen while kids are hungry or impatient to open presents (though again ours were very relaxed about it all and didn't make a huge deal about opening). Still, I pulled off a very simple rack of lamb that I LOVED, and I had a surprise fan for this too: Gabriel. He loves lamb!

I wonder if someday, when they're grown, the Stuff will be forgotten, but the elaborate breakfast and dinner will be what they take with them. I have to be prepared for that not to happen -- as kids me and my sister and brother were never really into food either. That's a very recent development for me. Still, I have to believe I'm setting a high bar so they will someday look forward to coming home for Christmas for Mom's cooking.

It was a really, really nice relaxed pleasant day with just us and our Stuff around the tree, a short sanity outing, lots of good food, and just being together.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

12/24/09 Letter to Santa

At what age do they stop believing in Santa?

Today we discovered NORAD, told to us by a furniture-shop owner (we're among the very few people who shop for a dining table on Christmas Eve, apparently), which lets them track Santa as he makes his way around the world. It includes photos and videos of places where Santa stops, so it turns out to also be a great way to talk about other places around the world. We all want to go see Machu Picchu in Peru now!

NORAD renewed Gabriel's faith in the existence of Santa enough to not only write him a letter, but place it facing the fireplace, so Santa can read it the moment he alights on the hearth.

Dave explained to me later that really, this note is rooted more in skepticism than faith. It's a test. If Gabriel really is awarded a radio-controlled car, a Nintendo DS, $100, Snap Circuits Extreme, and p.s., walkie-talkies, then apparently Santa must really exist.

I remember well as a kid enjoying so much getting presents not only from Santa, but from his elves, reindeer, and even the mysterious "Z." We always had Christmas up at our country house -- for many years my Dad's house in upstate rural NY and now my brother and sister's weekend getaway. This was normal Christmas for us, though now I realize that it didn't include many common Christmas things, like a huge feast or extended family. But that's the way it was, and we loved it. We got a lot of gifts anyway, we made many of our tree decorations, we cut down our own tree on our own land, and loved being in the country for a usually white Christmas (remember that we were coming from uber-urban NYC). It was such a magical winter place that we believed in Santa for long past most kids did.

I'm continuing the tradition of making gifts "from" funny sources (this year, from Donner, Dasher, Comet, and once again, the mysterious Z), but we also have a new tradition of having one unwrapped gift ready, from Santa. This should have a practical angle too: it delays the 6am Christmas wakeup call, as they'll each have something new to play with (or in this case, look at) right away. That's the theory, anyway.

It was fun tonight wrapping their gifts, stuffing their stockings and getting ready for tomorrow. A whole new angle to Christmas, one of those things that the kid-life puts you into that you didn't expect, from the outside seems like a drag, but really, is total fun.

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12/23/09 Christmas Eve Eve

I wish I could say we did something more holiday-ish and fun than what we did: go to the gym (the one that shows Tom & Jerry videos in the childcare), and then Lowe's to check out closet systems. My biggest accomplishment for the day was figuring out how to set up the kids' closets, by discovering a Web site that makes it easy to design and order the closets. Woo-hoo.

But really, setting up the kids' closets is the first link in a long chain of events that should lead to fewer toys scattered all over the floor. And it's long overdue. We should have moved into the house with this stuff done, and I don't want to wait until we move out!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12/22/09 Park Day

What, me take kids to the park? That's what Moms are supposed to do, right? I haven't done it in ages. But even working moms do it a lot, I hear.

I'm OK with park-hanging if I have other moms to chat with, or something to do, like sports stuff with the kids. And I've always had other grownups to chat with, thanks to my mom's groups and park playdates. We used to go to the park a lot, but in retrospect, I didn't take them to parks very often by myself. Incredibly, I get bored.

Today there was a bitter wind and it was cold, so without some grownup company, I'd never have gone. But I'm really glad we did; it's always good to get out, and the kids really needed that sort of stretch-your-leg outdoor time today.

Swings are always a big attraction. I'm SO done with standing and pushing kids on swings. Gabriel finally learned today how to pump himself. Julian tried half-heartedly, but gave up easily.

Meantime Dylan and Katrina played on the slide together happily.

Then on the airplane together, less happily. Dylan takes (or better yet, ignores) Katrina's bossy orders good-naturedly.

Somehow the littler boys got up here too, it's about a 4-foot sheer wall to climb to get to the top of this shed. Betsy saw the older kids pull Dylan up, which must explain how Julian got up there too. We put the kibosh on this; if it were just Gina and Gabriel, fine, but too many kids up there is asking for trouble. But not before I got a photo.

Then the little kids found the little swings.

Did I say I was done with pushing swings??

Katrina loved the swing this time; last time I tried it with her she was much younger and cried right away, unlike her older older brother who always loved swings. But exactly like her older older brother, she threw a big tantrum about having to get out of the swing, reminding me of yet another reason why swings, along with balloons and lollipops, are on my hitlist of classic childhood favorites.

I relished watching the boys run as hard as they could for a long time, and it paid off. When we got home, Gabriel was pooped, for a while. Katrina was a nightmare, fussing and tantruming at just about everything, even things I had nothing to do with ("I don't WANT my puppet!"). I had really had it with her -- I'm DONE with swings and carrying toddlers and REALLY done with tantrums!! -- and put her in her room for a nap. Incredibly, she took one.

Gabriel bugged me all afternoon to learn about computers. This got started last night when he asked me what a "router" was, remembering our hours spent troubleshooting our home network. He wanted to look at the circuitry of a screen, still not completely understanding that except for laptops, computers are separate from the screens. I kept having to put him off (Katrina), but he wouldn't let up. He wanted to take something apart and see the "ICs" (integrated circuits). I don't know if we have anything around here he can safely take apart, but fortunately Santa has an electronics kit in mind, if Gabriel can wait that long. I know some engineers who are engineers not just by training, but by nature...I wonder if this is what it looks like when they're almost 8.

Some Christmas cheer tonight: we got caroled! I answered the door to a group of about 20 people singing, just as Gabriel was running out of the bathroom buck-nekkid after a bath. I shoo'd him upstairs, then the other two came down, curious. Julian was scared at first and wouldn't come out, but Katrina came to the door and listened to the carolers. It was really nice, I loved it.

The kids were all just done with their bath, early, because I was about to take them to a great Christmas lights display in Sunnyvale that is coordinated with music that they broadcast over the radio.

The boys loved it; though typically Katrina found fault with just about everything. Julian liked the music and watched intently in silence. Gabriel wanted to know all about how they transmitted the music over the radio and wanted to see all the circuitry that controlled the lights, and really wants us to do something like that too. And, maybe he will.


Monday, December 21, 2009

12/21/09 Turn it in

I turned in my laptop and badge to work today -- my contract is done!

The boys went to winter camp at the CDC for today, but Katrina's preschool is closed, so I had her to myself all day. I took her to work to turn in my laptop, which she was enthusiastic about. "Are we going to your work job??" she asked several times. She was surprisingly quiet and calm in the office, including while I chatted with (now former) coworkers, some of whom had heard stories of her outrageous tantrums. Her peaceful demeanor made me sound like a real exaggerator. The skepticism that this darling tiny little girl could be such a tyrant was palpable.

It was a really, really nice day with her alone, so different than when the boys are with us too. Though I have to dig a little to find patience for the toddler-life (taking 5 minutes to get in or out of the car, persuading and making up games to get her to get ready to go, waiting while she insists on finishing a puzzle, handling yet another floor tantrum at Starbucks), it's much easier to find that patience when it's just me and her. The boys require a whole different type of patience and handling, and I just can't find both kinds in me at the same time.

Even though I know this about her, I was again taken by how very, very well she plays on her own. She goes upstairs and plays in the boys' room for hours -- I even (sort of) got to take a nap, until a balloon got stuck and she asked for help with it.

Normally this maternal inattention would be accompanied by a pang of guilt -- nowadays parents are expected to "stimulate" and "develop" children at all hours -- but in Katrina's case, she so rarely gets non-stimulated downtime at home that I gave her all the space she needed today -- guilt-free. Her brothers give her plenty of stimulation. Unfettered concentrated time to play without being interrupted or distracted, and without having her hair pulled or toys taken, is a golden prize. She sings and chats to herself the whole time. Sometimes I turn down the radio just to listen to her expressive little voice happily yammering away.

All good things must come to an end though, and it was with regret that I went to retrieve her monster brothers. They wasted no time in resuming their latest running game, in which they tear around the house full-speed, usually colliding at some barrier. Today that game had a brief break when Julian was in the lead and tried to make a break for it through a dark hallway to the sitting-room door. That was closed. He ran face-first into the door, leaving sweat marks on it, and was knocked to the ground. He was shocked into wailing loudly for about 10 minutes, but then he and Gabriel were right back at it.

Gabriel was so out of control, shouting and slamming doors, that I eventually had to send him to his room for a cooloff. When I first told him to go up, he stood on the steps defiantly and looked at me icily and retorted "NO!" I was furious and stalked toward him, glaring into his eyes, put my face up to his and said, "YOU MAY NOT SAY NO!" But he stood his ground as I approached, not intimidated. Practicality won out and he backed off and went upstairs -- I am still bigger than he is after all. For now.

Tomorrow starts 2 weeks with all three of them at home...I think I'll be looking forward to school starting again! But today's good memory of listening to Katrina singing happily will carry me through.


12/20/09 The Glamour Don't

Today was definitely a down day. Though I managed to get up in time to catch a spinning class this morning (these are getting addicting), tummy troubles that started yesterday continued and benched me for the rest of the day. But that was OK, I could still revel in the glow from yesterday, having had such a fun party and knowing that I didn't fail Julian for his birthday.

Still, by the afternoon, I thought my GI tract had stabilized, and I needed to get out, somewhere. It was a beautiful day, but I wasn't up for hiking or anything. I decided to take Katrina for a quick trip to a furniture store. Gabriel needed to get out so much that he asked where we were going, then ruled it out as soon as I told him it was a store. He asked if we could go to the Baylands park again, to my surprise, where I'd much rather go than a furniture store too. I had to sadly turn him down, but we will go there again -- maybe running together.

I was a complete slob myself today, so it's just as well that Katrina and I matched. She picked all her clothes today. Every stitch of it, except her cupcake underpants and birdie socks, are boy clothes, mostly hand-me-downs from her brothers. The boy sneakers are my fault (hey they were on sale!).

Practicing to be a model for the "Fashion Don't" pages of style magazines.

In the end, both boys joined us for the furniture-store trip, making me feel a little guilty. They're this anxious for a change of scene today?! (Dave was working again.)

Five minutes into the store, I could tell an intestinal emergency was threatening, but it wasn't a big store anyway. We did a quick sweep, I made some notes, and went straight home, where I went to bed for the rest of the afternoon.

The short trip was enough for them though, the kids got the change of scene they needed. When I got up, they were playing some very noisy games together, and I tried to catch some video of just basic interaction between them. By then, the game with all 3 of them chasing each other had changed, but I still caught a glimpse of typical life around here: the boys making a ton of noise while Katrina tries to play with their toys. Gabriel's been following everyone around with his video camera that Uncle Ronan gave him for his birthday last year; they're have a GREAT time with that.

(No, I don't have a no-running-in-the-house rule...I can't begin to imagine how to enforce one even if I thought I should!)

She likes this new building toy that Julian got, though I could think of better uses for it than building a cage for this poor little teddy-bear.

I wrapped up my final work tonight, deleted anything personal from my work laptop, and sent in my final bill. My contract is DONE!

Now, two weeks with the kids at home....I think I'm looking forward to it...?!