Saturday, August 21, 2010

8/21/2010 The home park

Being a single parent this weekend, somehow I felt extra pressure to be a Great Mom and do something Really Fun and Extraordinary and Amazing with my children.

Instead, I stayed in bed as long as I could. I didn't even have the energy to gather everyone and everything to get to the Y in time for a workout before the Childwatch closes at 12:30. I did have to get up to give Katrina breakfast at 7:30 -- she was dressed and complained that no one was helping her (often the boys will get her cereal). I got her started and went back to bed until almost 10. I am so glad to be past the baby GETUPNOW phase.

But despite my lack of energy and persistent need for a nap all day, I managed not to be too too negligent. Gabriel and I made French toast together, which he loves to do. I really enjoy the pride he gets from making it himself. I had to reach some things and talk him through all the steps, but he pretty much did all of it, including handling the stovetop flame. This boy will go away to college being an expert French-toast maker!

After a drudgerous but necessary run to Staples for some school supplies, I pulled the ping-pong table out of the garage, and set it up for the first time in our new backyard. I found a perfect spot where both players could be on pavement. The boys had a great time, playing for an hour and a half, without fighting. They even had some rallies going, but they also made up games and laughed a lot. I was very happy to see that.

Meantime Katrina played out front by herself, also for well into an hour and a half, largely because her brothers weren't bugging her. She was walking along the retaining wall, exploring the bushes and plants, sitting on the bench, running her fingers through the tanbark, teetering on the little rock river.

It surprises me to read on Facebook that other moms are enjoying their kids being 8 because they can play on their own so much better now -- this seems to be a common thing, but it's completely out of my world. All three of our kids have been extraordinarily self-entertaining since they were very, very young. Most parents admire this and smile and say "oh that's great!", but I can't even say if it's great or not. It's just how it's always been. We never made it a goal or worked toward developing independence or anything, they just did that. (Could it be that my own dim interest in kids-only activities, the dearth of extra-curriculars, my inability to join their world, played a role in that?)

Anyway, independent or not, one could safely argue I shouldn't let my 3-year-old play out front by herself for so long without supervision, but I did check on her (ok, once), and truth is, that's very normal for her, and us. I didn't go so far as to take a nap while she was out there though.

But neither Katrina nor the boys would have lasted nearly as long outside if it weren't for our new landscaping. There's so much more to do and see and play in; there's shady places and stepping stones and open areas and places to hide, climb, and search for bugs and mushrooms; there's things to dig in and draw's visually rich, it has many textures and levels and colors and curves and angles and is a very appealing place to be. I'm delighted.

In the late afternoon, I trooped them all into the car to drop off a Baba Au Rhum holiday cake I had to try making, then decided I had to capitalize on the capture. If they're all strapped into the car, I'm going to make the most of it! I took them to Michael's, and had a brainstorm as I was parking: it was time to address Julian's adorable moptop.

This turned into haircuts for all three. Just the way I like it: no planning, no waiting. Gabriel's hair was still short from the lice episode, but getting scraggly and uneven around the edges. I wasn't planning on a trim for Katrina, but she asked for it and it's always wise to have a pro even out her bangs after my hacking at them, plus her hair is getting pretty long in the back. And shoulder-length is so cute on her.

You can see in photos how pretty her hair is, but it's really glorious in real life. Smooth, swingy, full of body, beautiful multi-colored streaks, super-soft and healthy.

Back at home, the park play continued, with all three of them going around with these silly toys of animal heads on sticks with mouths that can open, picking up pieces of tanbark or hanging them from branches. Naturally for the boys these became guns and vehicles of destruction.

Some of the play wasn't so constructive, like when the boys threw tanbark and clumps of dirt onto a patio, which turned into half an hour of them sweeping it up. It'd have been a whole lot easier to put them on time-out than make them sweep, since that created a lot of work for me checking on them every few minutes. You can't leave two boys alone with brooms for long, they become weapons very quickly. But in the end they did a pretty good job.

We didn't do anything Extraordinary or Amazing today, but just being at home, playing, running, imagining -- and even being bored sometimes -- is exactly what everyone needed.


Friday, August 20, 2010

8/20/2010 Ricardo

Friday night, we had a milk emergency. One new half-gallon that morning had turned up sour, then a second half-gallon that night. This left us with no milk, a big crisis. With Dave out of town, the only choice was to pack up the troops after dinner and make a run to Trader Joe's. I was absolutely exhausted and not in the mood to go anywhere, but this was urgent.

Fortunately, our closest TJ's has Ricardo. This is a stuffed penguin that gets hidden somewhere around the store for kids to find, and earn themselves some sort of prize if they do. The real prize is for the parents, whose kids are immediately consumed with the search instead of shoving, spinning, running, pinching and drawing aggravated looks from anyone within 30 feet. You have to be OK with the kids being out of sight as they scour the aisles, but you all know me by now -- to me, that's the whole point.

And the boys found Ricardo! They were very excited and happy about it, not even objecting to a TJ's staffer taking a photo of them. The photo gets put up on a wall of friends, next to a drawing of Ricardo.

And, they all got lollipops. I really, really hate lollipops. Sticky, can't set them down anywhere, and they immediately expose my parent-scrooginess. I told them all to finish them before we got in the car, because there was no way in the world those things were getting anywhere near the car. For once, all 3 complied.

It's an astounding drag to get everyone into and out of the car for what should be a quick trip, but Ricardo made it fun. Thanks, Ricardo!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

8/19/2010 First day of school!

This was it! My 1st and 3rd graders!!

My pre-Ker wasn't into the photo party.

I brought the boys to school today, mostly just to see them off and to have a proud Mom moment -- and then to scoot off quickly for the sake of the teachers. Even first-grade teachers have to deal with some pretty freaked-out parents. Parents were all crowded around Julian's classroom, taking pictures, trying to go in to see their cubbies, reminding them about lunch.

One Dad told me he'd taken the entire week off of work, and had rehearsed his son walking from class to the CDC yesterday, but would pick him up today and tomorrow to take him on the 50-yard trip to the CDC. 99% of me shrugs at this, 1% of me wonders if I'm missing something -- should I be walking Julian to the CDC? I'd told him he had to walk there himself after class, and he said with his wonderful wide-eyed sincere look, "I know, Mom!" And I believe him.

By 3rd grade, things have calmed down, there was a lot less parent-helicoptering going on.

Julian brought home a sheet on which he'd written the 5 class rules today. I smiled at seeing that -- that's clever of the teacher, reinforcing the rules and getting an idea of how the whole class writes.

(As a note on "class rules" -- I like straightforward practical clear rules like "Keep your hands to yourself," but I never like ambiguous fuzzy rules like "Be kind." That's a broader goal in life, and even something as apparently benign as kindness has tradeoffs. I'm not selling my house to feed starving families in Africa, after all. Rules should address actions, not intent. But what do I know about running a room full of 6-year-olds.)

Sometimes it's hard describing to non-parents, or to people who parented my generation, why school is so much work nowadays. Let me give you an example. Both boys came home with "homework" for parents: a Student Emergency Card to fill out for the classroom, a list of missing school supplies, a request to describe your students' likes and dislikes, an enrollment health card for the school office, and a library contract that parents are supposed to review with their kids and sign. Never mind the homework Gabriel had too. It's relentless.

I didn't have much better luck with photos picking up from the CDC this afternoon. Still just 2 out of 3 cooperative.

Katrina surprisingly announced to a new CDC teacher: "When I'm done with pre-K, I'm going to CDC!" She's rarely so open with strangers.

Well I can't wait for Friday now -- I can thank school for that.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

8/18/2010 School Night

Big day!

I took the day off work today and took the boys to the city, as our last-day-before-school hurrah. Our primary mission was to see the Pampanito, a WWII submarine, but we ended up adding a visit to another WWII craft on the same pier, a Liberty ship named the Jeremiah O'Brien.

Sub in the foreground, Liberty ship in the distance.

The big cargo boat was almost more fun than the submarine -- certainly more spaces and views than in a submarine.

Including a view of the submarine!

The 3" gun at the back (aft?) of the boat was pretty cool. Not toddler-territory to get to.

There were numerous decks and levels (that's the Golden Gate Bridge in the background).

Including a 4-story engine room, with ladders and catwalks all the way down to the bottom of the boat. It was like something out of The Poseidon Adventure.

We saw all the San Francisco cliches -- the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf...truth be told, I hated the crowds and traffic and tourist-trapness of the area. I've never liked it around the piers, except for the boats themselves.

After a ridiculously long service at Denny's for a late emergency lunch, we were so late that we drove straight to pick up Katrina at preschool. Then to the boys' school to find out teachers and rooms for tomorrow.

Gabriel keeps belly-aching about school starting tomorrow, and is trying to commiserate with Julian, unsuccessfully: "Isn't the first day of school BOOOOORING?" Julian is trapped between wanting to be "in" with his older brother, but really not minding at all about school starting.

Caught a video of the boys doing their usual messing around. This is sort of cute here, but lemme tell you, it gets SERIOUSLY old when it's at dinner, in stores, while driving, getting ready to leave for somewhere, bedtime, in the kitchen, in the office...everywhere, constantly.

This particular moment is benign, but they often turn to real fighting, with pain and injury and greatly escalated fist-swinging, without a clear turning point. Even Katrina, heard in the background, thought it had turned hostile -- she was only a minute behind, as it inevitably did.

A friend who has two girls assured me yesterday that girls are violent together too. Really, they do this too -- and the drama? I guess that's just kids -- though not all end up with bloody noses from it.

Busy busy night tonight...lunches, filling out CDC forms, making sure everyone has everything ready. And, back to the strict bedtime: 7:30 upstairs, lights off 8:00. I made it by 8:13....we're out of practice (Dave left for St.Louis tonight so I was on my own).

More photos of our outing today later, I had a ton to do tonight and I'm plum outta time!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

8/17/2010 Chicken Coop

Not much to say, and no photos -- I should have taken some, but I was busy waitressing. We went out to dinner at the Sonoma Chicken Coop in downtown San Jose tonight with our longtime moto-friends. (One even showed up on a motorcycle -- one that used to be mine in fact.)

This was good -- we ate outside, it's informal (no table service), and with two other girls there in the same generation as our kids (1st and 5th graders), our kids were remarkably calm and well-behaved. In fact, after the initial flurry of getting napkins and drinks and whatever, it was the most peaceful dinner I've had in months!

But those nights are numbered. This was the last Tuesday Night Dinner of the summer. Next week and for many many weeks after that, Tuesdays are "school nights."


Monday, August 16, 2010

8/16/2010 The 6-week clock

It starts today.

For months at work I've been putting off my management, saying that I can't do much until the software package I'm supposed to test and deploy is installed and ready to go. Then I need 6 weeks to test it and figure out how to set it up. That clock started Monday.

I've worked enough years to know that it doesn't matter what I encounter, what setbacks or possible great new ideas come up, or just how bad this package is -- on Sept. 30th, one way or another, I must deliver.

The gun barrel is cold and steely against my temple, piercing into my consciousness at all levels and at all times. In the grand scheme, this software package means absolutely nothing by itself.

But my success at this project means future freedom and latitude, and extraordinary personal growth and accomplishment at pulling something together out of a disjointed dysfunctional set of pieces. I've been handed a pile of scrap, and I need to weld it into art. My challenge isn't so much technical as it is making the best of very little.

So forgive the brevity and mundanity of my upcoming posts, but it's an investment in the future.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

8/15/2010 Lemon weekend

We went to an unusual car show Saturday: the Concours De Lemons, whose slogan is "Celebrating the oddball, mundane and truly awful of the automotive world." Classic clunkers and losers and weirdos. Who could resist?

It was about an hour and a half drive, so the kids were ready to run around when we arrived. This low-key event was held in a public park, so there was plenty of running and goofing-around room.

And we were not disappointed. DeLorean, Corvairs, Trabants, a Unimog, an Edsel -- only thing missing was a Yugo. A sense of humor seemed to be the only requirement for entering a car.

Signs grouped cars by country of origin, usually humorously.

Near the parking lot was a terrific climbing tree, it was hard to peel the kids off it.

This is about as ideal an outing as it gets for the Doudna family -- informal, low-ley, outdoors, related to vehicles -- we all had a great time!

That was yesterday....Dave had to work today, so I didn't do much with the kids today away from home. I did use the movie Star Wars as an incentive to get the whole house picked up and all their laundry done, folded and put away (cleaners are coming tomorrow). They know Star Wars from books, cards, a few video games -- but they don't know the original movie. And the time for them to learn it coincided perfectly with the need to get the house under control. Besides, I just love that movie.

Tomorrow the week starts....the week that contains the tipover from summer to school. I feel like I'm taking my last few steps up to the cliff I'm about to jump off of.