Saturday, April 03, 2010

4/3/2010 Big Bunny Fun Run

It must be Easter Weekend, because the Big Bunny Fun Run 5K was today! Dave took Julian and Katrina to Julian's T-ball game, while Gabriel and I ran in the race.

First, a little yoga stretching.

At the start -- on your mark!

I recognized a woman from the Y and struck up a conversation, since she was running with her 8-year-old 3rd-grader too (the girl on my left). The woman is a phenomenal athlete, but she said she wasn't really running the race, she was going to stick with her daughter. She was floored when I told her that not only did I have no intention of sticking with Gabriel, but last year, I had no choice! He left me in the dust and I met him at the finish.

(I don't know, am I really that more lax than other parents? I got the same sort of great surprise from many parents in Julian's class when I did a drop-off for him at a birthday party, like they'd never heard of such a thing. But I really didn't see much risk in an 8-year-old following along in a large group of people on a well-marked route, and people with orange vests at every turn to point people in the right direction.)

The Big Bunny blew the airhorn, and we were underway. I sprinted to get ahead of Gabriel to get a few action shots.

He was ahead of me for the first half, but then I got ahead of him. I wasn't surprised; he hasn't been running in Running Club this year, though that didn't reduce his determination at all. I tried to follow along some preteen girls too, and realized that it's not that easy to run with kids -- they don't keep a steady pace. During the few minutes I ran alongside Gabriel, he'd speed up and slow down again and again, and it wasn't comfortable for me.

Not that I was very fast. I saw the hind end of many in the 60-69 age group, and spent much of the race trying to match the pace of a man in the 70+ group. I finally caught him toward the end.

Still, I finished in plenty of time to set up for a finish-line shot of Gabriel, which unfortunately happened to be when he blinked.

He finished strong, though he was limping around for about half an hour afterward.

Mercifully, this year they did the awards announcements right away after the race, and did the youngest age groups first (as compared to last year when we had to endure 45 minutes of a raffle first, and they did the youngest age groups last).

I wasn't expecting Gabriel to get a trophy this year, but when I heard them announce 31 minutes for the 3rd-place finisher in his age group, I realized, "Holy cow, he's placed!" I dropped everything to search for my camera and got it just in time to hear: "....and in first place, with a time of 27:02, Gabriel Duh ... er, ... Dood-na!"

He took First Place in his division, and beat his time last year handily too. I guess youth trumps conditioning! Good for him! I was really proud and happy for him. But he was sober -- he'd been looking forward to "beating the pants off you, Mom," and that, he didn't do.

Just for fun, we stuck around to hear the finishing times for my age group. Forget it; the 3rd place finishers in 40-49, 50-59, and even 60-69 all completely beat my time, which I believe was just under 27 minutes based on Gabriel's time. In my age group, the 3rd-placer was in the 22-minute range, something I'll never see. But if I have any strength in running, it's not speed -- I was starting to pass people toward the end, but in a 5K that's not enough time to catch up. If I want to be competitive, I'll do better in longer races with hills. And I have to want to be competitive, which I really don't.

Next year, Gabriel's age division will be 9-12, where the competition is much stiffer. But he'll have a good shot at beating his old Mom.


Friday, April 02, 2010

4/2/2010 Work/life mix

As we enter my 3rd month of full-time work, the adjustment continues. Though it seems 10 times harder to do anything outside the bare minimum, in some ways I feel more determined to do those things. Our lives can't become just about work, even if having lives outside of work takes even more planning and compromising and energy.

So when our longtime friends Sean and Louise were in town and suggested we get together, I knew I wanted to have them over in our new house and make a nice dinner. That's why we did the remodel, or a huge reason for it -- it was so difficult to make dinner and have guests before. It's crazy to think we wouldn't do it now because of not knowing how to make all the logistics work. And it wasn't clear right away how it would work, but with a little planning, a little compromising, a lot of flexibility, a conveniently timed day off of work (for Dave), and really relaxed friends, it turned out to be pretty doable.

Big bonus: other grownups in the house really disrupts the kids' routine too -- amazingly, they were all really good. Unusually calm and agreeable, in fact. It was remarkable. It helped that Louise made a point of entertaining them while I was making dinner, permanently earning herself a place in their hearts.

So, we had a nice grownup dinner and grownup talk and a nice grownup visit, and it was completely worthwhile. Even more worthwhile, perhaps, because having grownups over is more of an event now than it used to be. Good. I like an eventful life.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

4/1/2010 The welt

When I was picking the boys up from the CDC today, I was briefly chatting with a longtime CDC staffer who's just announced he's leaving. I could see the boys as they were supposed to be gathering their things, and then noticed Julian standing and crying. Then I saw Gabriel laughing with three friends.

Turns out, Gabriel had whirled his jacket around and the zipper had smacked Julian right in the back. There was a nasty welt and swollen spot where impact had occurred. To make matters worse, Gabriel was laughing.

Other kids calm down very quickly and listen with fascination when another kid is being scolded. I was moderately stern with Gabriel while his friends stood staring wide-eyed -- not nearly representing how furious I was with him. I informed him he was spending the whole evening at home in his room. I've told them all many many many times not to swing jackets around; the zippers can really hurt.

Gabriel told me later he was laughing because he thought the welt on Julian's back was in the shape of an 'e'. As if that made it any better. I was so angry at him I just didn't even want to be around him. Then I get upset at that too: I want so so much to be near him and talk to him in our precious short evening time together, in the precious short few years we have left together -- why does he do these awful things that poisons our time together?

Increasingly, the working-parent guilt creeps in. I think Gabriel needs more home downtime. He needs great projects he can sink himself into, to dive into, to be in his favorite and best mode. He's always been great at self-entertaining, but the bar is higher now that he's older. And in fact, his life at the CDC after school prevents him from exercising that self-entertainment, because he has no quiet time alone to Left to his own devices, Gabriel spends hours working on something, happily humming away to himself. There's just not enough of that in his life.

Meantime, I'm slowly settling into work. As I expected, the learning is the best pull there...I'm loving learning about new technology. Every day, something comes up in which I have to go scour a dense technical specification to go find a tiny fact. That's really great. I'd thought that part of my life was over, but it's still very much a part of me. I like learning, I really like my coworkers, I love my immediate manager, my confidence is being restored every day.

And I like being around men again -- the mom world is dominated by women, which I also loved, but so much of my adult life has been spent primarily around men that when the only man I had a meaningful conversation with for weeks was Dave, I felt something was missing. It's a different style of conversation, but one I'd grown to know well from years and years of working and riding motorcycles around almost all men. There are plenty of women to chat with at work too too, but the atmosphere is male-dominated, and that's a comfort zone for me.

Still, much is expected of an engineer of my level -- can I do that and still be a good mother to my slightly-unusual firstborn son? He needs so little from me on the surface, but what he does need, he needs intensely. Nowadays we don't have the luxury of shrugging our shoulders like parents of yore and saying "well that's life." Just because he's bored doesn't mean he can physically abuse Julian and laugh, of course. But what can I do -- what should I do?


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

3/31/2010 March out

Last day of March...usually I welcome this milestone toward summer, but having had one of the best trips we've ever had as a family this month, I hate to say goodbye to it. Has one fun weekend turned me from a summer-water person into a winter-snow person? Doubtful, but I have a new reason to look forward to January next year.

Coffee and chatter tonight with Mom friends -- feels good to be back in the real world. And to think, for so many years I referred to work as the "real world." It's such a no-brainer which world -- and they truly are worlds apart -- is real.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3/30/2010 Double Dip

Whew! When I signed Julian for T-ball, it was a calculated risk that T-ball would overlap Gabriel's hockey. Overall my gamble worked: only one night would there be a conflict. And tonight was the night.

So, I picked the boys up, zoomed Julian over to T-ball practice at 5pm, then zoomed Gabriel to hockey, where he got on the ice at 5:18pm. Hockey takes so much longer to suit up for, parking is worse, it takes longer to find a spot to suit up, and the pitiful minimal gear we have is harder to deal with (snapping on the helmet is a pain!).

Then I zoomed again to go get Katrina, while Dave joined Julian at his game, and took him home when it was over.

Crazy as it was, I made two observations. One is that Katrina is completely engaged during the hockey lesson. She loves watching it, even though she has to stand on a bench and look through some plexiglass to see. And it's cold and noisy and poorly lit, but, she loves it. She's much harder to entertain at T-ball.

The other is, again, despite the inconveniences, how much I like watching hockey and skating, and how awed I am by the toughness of my little firstborn son. The warmup exercise involved the entire class -- over 25 kids, most bigger and almost all better skaters than Gabriel -- chasing a single puck. I thought this was sort of silly really, they have plenty of pucks, couldn't they have tossed a few more on? But despite this swarm, relatively tiny Gabriel isn't the slightest bit intimidated, and fights hard to get to the front of the pack and actually got his stick on the puck a few times. He's getting good enough at stickhandling that now his skating is holding him back; he really needs to improve his hockey skating. Unfortunately, his confidence means he thinks he can skate well, even when an even smaller 5-year-old boy whizzed past him.

Still, I look at my burgeoning son out there and feel like this is what makes it all worth it. Logistics were hectic tonight, but just look at how strong and sure he is, how he's growing, being challenged, exercising his character. That is by far the most important job I have in my life. Developing these remarkable beings, these silly children is more than worth leaving work early, it's essential. Besides, I think I need it more than they do.


Monday, March 29, 2010

3/29/2010 Day Camps

Whew....just went through the most grodious process of signing up for daycamps. At the Y, this is not trivial -- the stupid form makes you write the parents' names, addresses, all phone numbers and even birthday TWICE.

I wasn't very creative this year and didn't even really consult the boys beyond "so, do you want to do ice skating?" There are many other options, but frankly it's way way easier for us for them to do camps in the same week. I also signed them both up for a swim camp, without consulting them. One week won't turn them into swimmers, but it goes a drop toward preventing them from being drowners.

It's astoundingly expensive too. One week of a relatively inexpensive daycamp costs between $500 and $600 total for both boys. We pay that much for an entire month during the school year for each one. Suddenly Katrina's "camp" at TLC will seem cheap! I'd love to do a daycamp for her -- she's old enough for the Y's "pee wee" camps that Julian loved so much -- but they're only half-day, and I just can't afford the time off of work.

I used to think "dang, a ski trip would cost as much as a summer of daycamps." Now I think, "dang, a summer of daycamps costs as much as a ski trip!" So funny that I'm dreaming of snow instead of sand for next winter. My mother remembers having to drag me out of the water blue and shivering; but easily bailing out of ski lessons for being too cold. I've been a water person through and through since day one, and that's not going away...but I sure am enjoying the thoughts of adding snow to that repertoire.

Actually, though I grew up with snow and know it well, California snow, altitude, snowpack depths unheard of in the east, warm days are all very new. I love living so close to the ocean, but these days all I can think about is getting back into the mountains. If we can afford it after the staggering bill for summer daycamps that is!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

3/27/2010 Easter Party

It's my life migrates more and more away from the baby-toddler-young-kid world, especially with full-time work, I'm reminded that that world still exists strongly, and indeed IS the world of many other families, just as it was for ours. I made some wonderful, lifetime friends that way, and probably will continue to, but park playgroups are just not part of my daily life anymore. I'm not sure how that happened.

So when I realized I almost missed a weekend Easter party, I signed me and Katrina up right away. What used to be a regular thing for me (and Katrina) has now become a rare, and special, treat!

At the last minute, I decided to take Julian too, with reservations. There would be other siblings his age there, separating the boys is always a good thing, and Dave wanted to go on a motorcycle ride. Bringing Julian meant that if I was running late, he could leave Gabriel alone for a while before I got home. Leaving the boys alone together -- unthinkable. But just Gabriel? Probably illegal, but, no problem.

At first, Katrina and Julian only played together, wrestling around while all the other kids worked at a craft table, decorating Easter baskets (what a great idea!). Eventually I got Julian to participate, but Katrina would have nothing of it. While the whole rest of the party glued and drew and decorated, she played by herself on a couch. I haven't been with her in groups of kids for a while; I'd forgotten she's like this. No surprise really; she's never been a joiner.

She was also the only kid to refuse to play "Pin The Tail On The Easter Bunny" too. Julian was into it though.

She participated in the egg hunt at least, and even stuck to the 12-egg limit, asking me several times how many eggs she had in her basket, and listening when I told her, "only 2 more!"

No photos though. At least Sonia got some of her and me together later.

As always, it was so nice chatting with mom friends and seeing all these wonderful kids together. This was a lifeline for me with the first one, and now something I enjoy and miss with the third.

Dave was away riding all afternoon (good for him! I was so glad for him, he doesn't do it enough!), so I had to grocery-shop with all three. This is a pain, mostly because Gabriel is increasingly resistant and obnoxious about it. I finally made him stand by the door while we finished shopping, as his boredom had turned to pestering Katrina and she was screeching. His attitude improved a lot when it came time to hand around balloons.

I took the boys' balloons away at home until they'd taken care of their laundry though. I don't fold or put away any of their laundry anymore -- they do. But there's little work savings there; it's much more effort to get them to do it. Despite the effort, they're both pretty good at putting their clothes away though! Katrina can easily "fold" her laundry too, but getting her to tackle a whole basket every week is more work than I can handle right now.

I didn't write yesterday, but we had another fun T-ball practice and game on Saturday afternoon. Well, Julian did anyway; Katrina and Gabriel played nearby with varying degrees of tolerance. A friend says her daughter made friends with other younger sisters right away and had a great time playing together, but, not Katrina. She's always on the periphery, looking inside from out, not shy, but not social either. There was another little girl her age sitting right near us, but she had no interest. I did see Katrina attempting to engage another boy who'd wandered away from the field, but that was about it. Dave took her to a playground for part of it, and I played catch with her, and also Gabriel, a little, mostly so I could watch Julian's game between throws.

Despite the sibling distractions, I am so surprised at how much I love being a sports-mom. I thought I'd barely tolerate it, but really, I look forward to the game (and moreso, the practice) hours before, and love watching the kids interact and learn. Maybe I won't like it as much when it's more for real -- like when they keep score and people start taking it seriously, but for now, being a sports-mom is a blast.