Friday, September 24, 2010

9/24/2010 Silly photos

Getting home today, the sun was in a funny position a behind this flax plant. Perched on a small boulder in front of it, with its spiky purple leaves seeming to emanate from behind the subject, made for a fun goofy photo.


(Gabriel declined.)

A decent evening as ours go, but that still means a lot of correcting, repeating, warning, eventually yelling and screaming (theirs first then ours). Tonight was Julian's turn. The smallest thing causes him to screech at the top of his lungs, so as a consequence he has to sit outside until he's quiet for 5 minutes, but of course that only marks the beginning of the conflict escalation. I swear I think age 2 was his best year.

After dinner, Gabriel and Katrina helped me make peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle, something I made for a friend's birthday yesterday and gave away, so the kids wanted some too. I love making things with my new stand mixer; it makes even the simplest recipe so much easier.

But even more, I love making things with the kids. Peanut-butter cookies that need rolling in sugar and a chocolate kiss in the middle are great fun with them. And no privilege is greater than getting to operate my stand mixer.

I just wish Julian had been with us making cookies instead of upstairs crying in his room for being kicked out after the 29th infraction (hurting Katrina's hand after being told numerous times to move away from her). I wish it weren't that way; moments enjoying all three together are so rare and so coveted.

I'd rather think about this Julian.

I love him so much, our little oddball. He doesn't have Gabriel's powerful personality or Katrina's charms, and his drama and tendency toward victimhood doesn't wear well in this literal and technical household. All this and in the "middle child" position. If there's a different one in the family, it's Julian. Most of the time that's an asset. Today wasn't most of the time unfortunately, but I have high hopes for tomorrow.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

9/23/2010 Stressed out

Today was a bad stomach day, made worse by a forced face time at a pizza lunch with execs. By noon at work, I'm ready for a break -- and it's no break to sit -- or stand -- for an hour in an overcrowded stuffy room listening to executives answer irrelevant questions with long 10-minute meaningless answers.

Already uncomfortable, my remedy for a sour tummy and a bad mood had been to go running at lunch, but this became politically impossible. The bitterness only increased when I realized the person who demanded my face do time there had ducked out himself. I was asked many times why I wasn't having pizza, and while I had a lot of reasons, the truth was, I just didn't feel well.

A coworker asked if my chronic stomach pain is from stress. "Are you stressed?" she asked.

Am I stressed. Am I stressed? What a funny question. I was hard-pressed to think of something in my life that I'm not stressed about. I like my work, but the political aspects of the environment are emotionally stressful. My children stress me, but the guilt of being away from them stresses me more. Even the things I enjoy bring stress, in that I never feel like I can dedicate any real time or attention to them. Hovering over everything is nonstop, relentless, constant tiredness. Never getting the right kind of sleep at the right time -- weekend afternoons after a nap are the only time of the week when I feel sharp.

Today Dave picked up the kids, so I had a few relaxed minutes at home before the troops came home. When they did, Gabriel burst into the kitchen, threw up his hands and yelled, "I am SO stressed out!!!"

He did have a lot of homework, and I helped him with some of it, mostly just motivating him. One thing he had to do was to bring "clippings" of a "regional land form," but couldn't be specific about what that meant. I printed some photos of the Pinnacles from our trip last May, but I wasn't about to do all the work. So I showed him how the Pinnacles had been formed (with plates along the San Andreas fault carrying a split volcano 195 miles north over 23 million years), had him write him it down, and then we looked at animations of tectonic plates moving, how mountains are formed and how earthquakes happen.

That was actually fun. Somehow being with my stressful and stressed-out son tonight de-stressed us both.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

9/22/2010 Easy morning

Was this an early morning hallucination?

I went to get the boys up at about 6:45am, and to my amazement, they were both dressed, shoes on, backpacks ready and on the porch, had had breakfast, and were playing together quietly. That's the rule, and they met it! It's stunning how much easier our mornings are when they cooperate. Not only do we have a great deal more time, we have joy, freedom to think, room to smile and laugh and new will to live. When they're cooperative like this, it underscores how incredibly draining and miserable our usual mornings pushing them every step of the way are.

I sure wish I knew how to reproduce that magic, because it was good.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9/21/2010 WFH

A new acronym: WFH. Working From Home. I like OOO better -- Out Of Office.

I stayed home today, with no regrets, with a low-energy but overall healthy Julian. He has sniffles but his temp never returned, and he rested and read a lot today. This let me work....and do some other things that desperately needed attention.

I swear, as soon as I have a chance to tackle the building pile of ToDos, I'm stunned by how large and how smelly that pile has gotten. I took care of a few things today that if I hadn't done today, I'd have been in serious time trouble (relating mostly to the Sept. 30th deadline for completely Dad's Medicaid application).

Some of that pile included a stock-up trip to Target. Having Julian with me turns a drudgerous chore into quality time with my son, incredibly. He liked that he can finally see over the carts now, and was very helpful pushing the cart around.

What a wonderful, delightful, funny child when his brother isn't around to compete with for the Most Obnoxious Son award.

I was determined not just to get absolutely necessary things done though. In addition to phone calls made, letters written and sent, packages put together and mailed, emails sent, store items returned and bills paid, I also went to a framing store to finally, finally put some artwork together for our bare walls. Actually, I should say, to add to a building pile of artwork to put up on the walls -- like most things around here, it just hasn't happened. I was really impressed with our friend Paul and Elisabeth's house decoration last weekend -- while I'm not quite as enamored with cat art as they are, I do appreciate actually having things on the walls. It's long overdue for us.

Amidst all these home errands, most of the day was actually spent working. That WFH thing. I did a lot of work actually -- in fact it kept me from really getting ahead on "homework," but alas, deadlines loom regardless.

Tomorrow, no WFH or OOO, it's back to normal.


Monday, September 20, 2010

9/20/2010 Insights

This risk of suspension thing really has us in a tizzy.

Gabriel's principal said that "next time" Gabriel will be suspended for hitting. Next time when? This school year? The rest of his life at Collins? Seems to me a clear probationary period should be established. I don't mean that he should think he can revert to his old ways after 3 months, but I also think that the constant vague threat will lose its meaning too.

Also, we found out that the kid that Gabriel punched risked suspension too. Now that's really arbitrary. That makes me think that the principal is throwing around that word without really thinking about it. It means a lot to parents, and it needs to be better-defined. Dave and I are doing some research on school and California policy (thanks SR!) and plan to talk to the principal about it.

I chatted this afternoon briefly with the very very very very very nice Mom of the kid who Gabriel punched. She assured me that they were total pals again, that her son wasn't completely innocent either, and that it wasn't a problem. She is SO nice, I felt so much better. A lot of Moms would be understandably PO'd if their kid got in trouble with the principal for being punched!

I titled this post "Insights" because of two remarkable things Gabriel said today, one of which came now.

I told Gabriel that his friend now risks suspension too. Gabriel frowned and said, "That doesn't make any sense -- he's not the one who got in trouble!"

Ya gotta love this kid's clarity.

Moments later, the mom of one of Julian's kindergarten classmates, and a rare neighbor, parked next to my car and got out. I was floored to see that she's pregnant, and she laughed about needing to park as close as possible these days. After I drove away, I told Julian that his former classmate was going to have a sister, and wasn't it exciting that our neighbor is pregnant. Gabriel responded, "I don't care if anyone's pregnant -- unless it's you. Now that would be OK." Taken aback, I asked him, "Why is it OK if I'm pregnant?" And he answered, "Because that would mean more family members."

What's stunning is his tone of voice. He says it so impassively, so factually. He doesn't say it pensively or with anticipation, as you'd expect about a kid talking about a potential sibling. It's like it's SO obvious. Gabriel has said before that he'd like another sister or brother, and takes it in stride when I tell him I'm not having any more babies. Aside from the technical reasons (I'm 47 and had a tubal ligation), NO more babies.

In fact, I told my pregnant neighbor, "Congratulations -- but stop at TWO!"

I do think stopping at two is smart, and I often lament how difficult it is to spend any concentrated time with one or two. It's not just that three divides your attention across three children; it divides your attention across three stages of life. Unless you were smart about it and had twins or triplets that is. Maybe this is why I like taking the boys on excursions so much, because then we're all in the same "place" for a day.

But while two is smart, perhaps more livable and more intimate, when you're in the life of 3, for better or worse, you are glad for each individual. While the life of 3 is often very hard for us, we could never say we didn't want the 3rd. It's the challenging first two that makes life so tough these days -- Katrina happily reminds us of the joys of childhood. Lately, she makes it worth it. I'm told I'll be saying the same about her brothers when she's 13 or 14.

But tomorrow, I get the ideal situation: one. Julian came home with a temperature today, and while he perked up before bedtime (insisting on doing his homework?!), I'd already decided to keep him home tomorrow. Odds are good his temperature and lethargy will return, and he was complaining of a headache (that freaks me out) and a sore throat. A day alone with my #1 #2 boy will be just fine with me.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

9/19/2010 Weekend Getaway

Dave and I went away for the weekend together, for the first time since our first child was born. We drove north to a private community called Sea Ranch, which really is private -- a giant homeowner's association maintains the roads and hiking trails for the hundreds of houses along a 10-mile stretch of coast. A good friend has a house there and kindly let us use it for the weekend.

It's an amazing thing about California, but not doing much for the weekend means that you're doing something that countless people all over the world want to do -- view the stunning Pacific Coast. And we didn't do much this weekend, but didn't need to. This was the view from the living room.

A 10-second walk takes you to these low cliffs. Tempting to climb, but still plenty dangerous.

We really made sure not to do too much. And being right on the coast, you don't have to do much to be doing a lot. About a mile down Hwy 1 was access to a wonderful little beach, with a favorite sunning spot for harbor seals and nice little coves.

I love climbing over the big rocks and looking for marine wildlife, and came across clusters of shellfish, mussels I think. Soberly I realized that that must mean where I'm standing is usually underwater. We spent a lot of time here just looking at the waves and birds, and occasionally seeing a harbor seal pop his head out of the water.

We went out to a nice dinner at a low-key place with a surprisingly high-brow menu, and watched some travel documentaries about towns in the Italian countryside. We hardly looked at the clock, because for once, we didn't need to.

Sunday we took a leisurely drive home, taking the "backroads" of course, of which there are many up there. The smaller off-the-beaten-path roads in Northern CA are mecca for motorcyclists, and while the experience isn't quite the same in a car, it sure beats droning along behind self-righteous putzy SUVs who doesn't know anything about turnouts on Highway One. Driving, navigating, deciding routes is something that Dave and I are always in sync on, since our early friendship was centered around adventurous road (and often off-road) trips.

We got home with 20 minutes to spare before our self-imposed deadline. I was apprehensive but happy to see our children -- would the boys launch immediately into obnoxious mode and remind us how difficult our lives have been recently? No, it seemed that Gabriel, to my surprise and delight, had engaged our weekend nanny with Yahtzee and card games. She said usually she works the game to let the kid win a little, but with Gabriel she worked hard and still lost. Julian had been asked to leave until he could play without disrupting the game, and Katrina was happily chatting about being a bird today (she's always some new character every day), while the nanny worked on her ponytails. I felt a stab of guilt that I never sit and play Yahtzee with them, but really, that's not my thing. Ping-pong, and when we get a trampoline, sure.

Back to reality tomorrow, but what a delightful, and much-needed, diversion from it.