Saturday, January 09, 2010

1/9/2010 Triple Flip

Gymnastics Day!

With working-parent guilt in full swing (even though I'm still technically unemployed), I found a way to give all three kids an activity, without running around like crazy and without taking over our weekends. Gymnastics classes for all 3, same time, same place! A relatively convenient Saturday at 9am, though the boys are in a different building than Katrina. Still, this is nothing short of a miracle.

I had some guilt anyway though -- Gabriel isn't a toddler anymore who just needs "something" to do on Saturday mornings. Things to do just for fun are fine of course, but he's plenty old enough for his extracurricular activities to be building skills he'll have for a long time. If he wants. You know me, this isn't about having something to put on a college application, but if he does want to, say, get good at soccer, shouldn't he be in soccer?

I think it's unlikely any of them will get serious about gymnastics (and as a former very poor gymnast myself I have little enthusiasm for it) (though I did have a great time showing them how to do a cartwheel and seeing if I could still walk on my hands), but let's give it a try. And at least today, things that are just for fun are pretty darned fun. The boys are old enough that boys' gymnastics really means boys' gymnastics: just a boys' class, and on equipment that only men's gymnastics uses. I'd be amazed if their enthusiasm sticks when they have to try the pommel horse, but for today, they had a great time.

First, Katrina's class. Still just for fun, mixture of boys and girls. Katrina, as usual, was reticent about the warmup, and mostly stood and stared.

I left her for a few minutes to check on the boys, and when I returned, I found that she'd completely relaxed and was now happily participating.

This isn't a parent-participation class, and they have two coaches. Only 3 kids are signed up for the class, and only two including Katrina even showed up, so each kid will get a lot of individual attention!

The boys, meantime, were having a blast. Far more than I expected, actually. Julian couldn't quit giggling on the spring board exercises.

(The room they're in has awful lighting so it was impossible to get good photos.) I was really happy to see the coach making them do some conditioning exercises afterwards. Get down and give me 20!

In case you hadn't noticed, I did make a point of dressing them similarly today. Yes, I am a complete dork, but it sure makes it easy to keep track of them. And who am I to miss out on a photo-op? They weren't exactly cooperative though, this was the best I could do.

Afterward, it was my turn to exercise. Off to the Y we went. I probably shouldn't have let them play on this trellis outside the Y afterward, but once again, who am I to deny my art. Even if they do.

Dave was at work all day again, so I had a plan. I got the movie Up from Redbox ($1 at Safeway), and told them they could watch it if they put ALL the toys away. Four rooms, including their two bedrooms, had been completely taken over by toys. It took them a long time, but they did it. And we watched Up, which I liked a lot.

After the movie, to my amazement, I found my studious sons brushing up on their language arts. They actually started fighting over the books.

We had fun practicing pronouncing and learning words, reinforcing the cliche "you only have to know one more thing than the next guy to be the expert." Because that's about where I am with Spanish, barely one step ahead of them. Still, I do know enough to introduce to them the concept that all objects have a gender, and that "a" is "un" or "una" depending on the gender. They both seem to really want to learn Spanish. Moi aussi ...oops, I mean, mi tambien.

But no Spanish classes on Saturday mornings for the next two months -- that's gymnastics time.


Friday, January 08, 2010

1/8/2010 Dressing up

Katrina, playing dress-up -- on one of her brothers. She's trying to cram a purple fringed suede boot onto Julian's foot, and as usual, he's humouring her.

Many things about having kids is unexpected, but for me perhaps the most unexpected is the validation of a cliche. In times of family strife due to illness or death, children really do bring comfort.

Today was an especially painful day emotionally, as my Dad had to be moved back to the psychiatric ward because he was lashing out. I've been a useless zombie between crying spells, stung with helplessness, pity, sympathy and grief.

But when I give Julian a special hug and he hugs me back and says, "I love you mama," it really does bring me back. I'm still sad about my Dad and this awful disease that robs him of all his tools to be who he is, but that sadness is balanced by seeing my children, bursting with life and promise and joy. It makes me determined that they have as many good experiences with me as possible before my time comes. They will be so, so much younger.

Julian's learning about penguins in school, and oh my is he ever. He talked nonstop for 10 minutes, spewing facts about penguins -- and good ones, things I'd never have known about them. And while I really am interested in the penguins, I'm also fascinated by his sincerity, how deeply important it is to him to teach us. If a fact pops into his head, he must express it before he forgets, it's critical. He speaks very very clearly and projects out -- he's not mumbling or running his words together, he articulates it carefully and looks right at you with his wide excited eyes.

His Grandpa Jim, a writer, a science program producer, a researcher, would have been completely taken by this little boy, as am I. He might want to find a different stylist for the Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony though, the purple-fringe boots really weren't his thing.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

1/7/2010 Adorable Julian

"Adorable Julian" -- this was the subject of an email from a classmate's mother to me today. She volunteered in Julian's classroom today, and said Julian wrote her two notes (part of a group project I guess), and then took her hand as they were walking back from the library.

He sure can be a charmer!

He can also be a miserable pain in the rear end, as he was at home later. But please, let's not think about that now.

Today I filled out an "employment application" and an approval for a background check -- final steps in a likely job offer. I can't help but get pangs that maybe Julian took this mom's hand because he wants a mom there. I think he'd be thrilled to have me in his classroom sometimes. I don't know any mom that volunteers in the classroom that doesn't love it, though that's a very self-selecting group. Would I be volunteering anyway if I weren't looking for a job? Or endlessly feeling guilty that I should want to but have to drum up enthusiasm for it? If it was important enough to me to be that involved, wouldn't I have worked my life that way?

I can't deny that the last 2 months of work, when I had a really interesting project, revived a huge part of me that's been dormant. I like the focus, the having to think hard, the collaboration, the sense of accomplishment. Could I get that same satisfaction from being a full-time mom? The answer is self-evident: apparently not, or I'd have done that. Now, if I could just get over the guilt.

Today I revived another long-lost part of my life: I went to a ballet class. And I was reminded again of another source of focus, concentration and accomplishment that my former self used to enjoy 3-4 times a week. And don't even get me started on what our trip up Mount Hamilton last weekend did to me.

I can't be an engineer, a dancer and a motorcyclist -- my old self -- and a mother. But I am a mother, that's permanent. Yet I haven't learned how to be truly internally satisfied without those things I used to do. I need to though; I'll have to find other things that supply the same basic elements (concentration, challenge, accomplishment) as I age out of those.

I just hope I don't squander the most important thing I'll ever do by trying to satisfy, or squelch, the relentless urge to be me.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

1/6/2010 Joining the ranks

I did something so mainstream today, I'm not sure what to make of it. And I'm surprised how excited I am about it.

I signed Julian up for Little League. Little League! It doesn't get more all-America than that!

It didn't have to be Little League, it could have been another baseball organization, except that's just what's available where we live. And Julian wanted to do baseball.

He'll be in their very first division: Tee-ball. No pitchers, games are 3 innings or an hour max, one practice a week, one game on Saturdays. The season is 3 months long, starting in March.

Still, it's such a foreign world to me. What do we know for organized team sports? The only team sport experience at all in this family is my Canadian brother-in-law who plays hockey. And my nephew, who's now also taking hockey. Other than that, the world of practices, games, teams and uniforms is completely new.

And I'm surprised how excited I am about it. Maybe it's because employment looms -- how can I possibly balance life with work? But I'll be darned if life is going to come to a screeching halt because of work. Team sports is very popular these days, I want my kids to have the chance to participate.

Gabriel wants to do soccer, though its season is in the fall, which is why Julian is our team-sport initiate. Natural ability says little about their ultimate success in a sport (or in school or in life), but there's no question that everyone has their own strengths. Gabriel runs like a deer and throws like a girl, so it's just as well he prefers soccer. Julian runs like a girl but he can throw (or so I'm told by others who know), so baseball might work well for him, though there's plenty of running too. I had fun talking to him tonight about the rules about baseball, and he knew more than I thought, based on his daycamp last summer.

Me, a "soccer mom"? Seemed so unlikely. But baseball somehow seems like more fun, even though there's more action in soccer, and I personally would far, far prefer to play soccer than baseball (as my own natural abilities are much more in line with Gabriel than Julian's). But, as we grownups continue to learn throughout our child-raising careers, it's not about us. Either way, I'll be on the sidelines, cheering happily -- between surreptitious glances at my watch.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

1/5/2010 Lots but nothing

The thing about unemployment is, you have SO much to do, and do SO many things during the day, yet at the end of the day, it seems like you got nothing done!

Email today says the CEO signed an offer package, I should receive a written job offer in the mail soon. It's a good thing, but I'm increasingly nervous about how to balance work and life. Then again, it'll be good to get less nothing not done.


Monday, January 04, 2010

1/4/10 Respectable boys

School's back in!! Morning mayhem, once again.

I'd promised the boys to get haircuts last weekend, but somehow it didn't happen. Today, I fulfilled that promise -- picked them up from the CDC and took them straight to Supercuts before getting Katrina. No line at 5pm! They were both done in less than 20 minutes.

Delinquent --

-- to dapper!

(actually I kinda prefer the shaggy look, but they both really wanted haircuts.)

An exciting new trend is taking hold in this household: the boys want to take their own baths. Gabriel's done it a few times, and is plenty old enough to -- he just needs prompting to keep going.

But now Julian has joined in, and keeps asking to do his own bath. So tonight I tested him. I said he could take a bath downstairs if he did it ALL himself, and added that I'd be very proud of him if he did (this sort of talk often motivates him, but no effect on Gabriel). Other than needing reminding to get out of the tub, he really did handle the entire process himself, and was very proud of that. Not that any of these tasks are out of reach of a 6-year-old, but I guess we're so in the habit of doing it ourselves, we hadn't noticed that both boys are ready for this independence. The planning is still beyond them though: if you want to putz around in the bath, then you'd better get it started earlier.

Hmmm...good advice. Bathtime!


Sunday, January 03, 2010

1/3/10 Hand-me-down dress

I'm really not into dressing up my little girl, and I dread the idea of having to shop with her someday.

We got this denim dress as a hand-me-down, and a necessary change of clothes today (don't ask) made me suggest to Katrina that she try it on. I had to help her with it though, as it has snaps, so it won't be daily wear -- she usually gets dressed completely by herself, picking her own clothes and everything. The "stripe wars" outfits she picks are very amusing.

So I did dress up my little girl in a dress today, and whaddya know -- it was fun! She squealed with delight seeing herself in it: "Mommy, I'm a princess!" Princess?? Ugh, but, OK, whatever.

She wasted no time in pairing her frog boots to complete the outfit, and ran outside to show Dad.

It really was pretty cute to see her running around in it, though how can a happy 3-year-old girl with long blond hair in a new dress not be cute -- especially to Mom? (Even this hard-core boy-Mom.)

Later Katrina made up a game she called "the hug game." I kneel and hold my arms outstretched, then she backs up and runs at me full-tilt with her arms out. I grab her as she barrels into me, pick her up, swing her around and say, "GOTCHA!!!" She laughs uncontrollably and beams her big beautiful overbite smile. A little tough on the knees, but who am I to argue with my hug-resistant toddler making up a game that involves full-body contact? It's so sweet to see her so happy.

She's actually been pretty delightful lately, and I think we've even had some tantrum-free days. In fact, yes, today was a tantrum-free day! Those are great, and very very welcome.

Getting older... it's no good for me, but it sure works well on my girl.