Saturday, December 31, 2011

12/31/2011 Snow trip?

No-snow Ski Trip Facebook album

Well, I think I've started a new tradition: a semi-disastrous first mountain winter trip of the year, filled with challenges and tough moments, but that will become one of our favorite memories to laugh over later.

To start, there is no snow in the Sierras. Usually by now there is a base of natural snow that is many feet deep, but right now all the ski resorts in the Tahoe area are relying on snowmaking exclusively, on limited runs.

The whole idea was to play in the snow around the cabin I'd rented, but since there really was no snow, I'd reserved a ski school day at Heavenly, a large ski resort in South Lake Tahoe, one that has a lot of snowmaking equipment and is known for spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. It also has a long steep gondola ride that starts in the midst of a downtown shopping area, and that seemed like it'd be fun.

So the kids and I drove up Thursday morning to our cabin in Strawberry, and arrived about an hour and a half before it was ready. So we continued on to South Lake Tahoe to scope out the gondola, ski school, and parking. Sure enough, the gondola started in a busy downtown plaza, right across from the ski school.

I took this to show how bare the mountains are of snow -- but isn't this an odd scene? A busy downtown outdoor shopping area with people clunking around in ski boots.

We'd been advised to meet in front of the big wooden bear in front of the ski school.

I formed a plan: tomorrow, I'd drop the kids off in a bus stop with mine and Gabriel's ski stuff, put the boys under oath not to fight while I parked at a nearby casino, then I'd run back to check Julian and Katrina into ski school. Ideally I'd have liked to put Gabriel into half-day ski school so I could take a lesson, but this place doesn't have half-day ski schools, so Gabriel and I would ski together all day.

Logistics handled, we drove back to our now-open cabin. Katrina especially was disappointed about the lack of snow, but now she was very excited about a gondola ride tomorrow.

The next morning, my plan worked just great -- we arrived at the bus stop near the gondola and ski school in plenty of time. I dropped off kids, skis, boots, helmets, reminded the boys not to fight, zoomed off to park the car, hoisted a knapsack on my back, and trotted back to the kids without a hitch. I gathered Julian and Katrina to check them into ski school, when I noticed: the gondola wasn't moving.

"Wind advisory," explained a ski school instructor. "The gondola will probably be closed all day. We'll bus the ski school kids over to the California Lodge."

What?! Oh brother. The whole reason for this gondola logistical hullaballo was because the gondola had access to more trails with manmade snow on them. If we'd planned to start at the California Lodge, I'd just have driven there to begin with, and checked J & K into the ski school there.

So after saying goodbye to Julian and Katrina, Gabriel and I lugged our stuff over to the ski bus area, heavedourselves on, and rode about 15 minutes to the California Lodge. I was glad we were wearing our shoes and carrying our boots -- lots of people huff around in their ski boots, which I HATE doing.

It took a while to orient ourselves and find the lockers for our shoes and my bag, but finally Gabriel and I were ready to tackle the lifts.

But oh my, what a sad sight -- these bare mountains! I could turn around and see the ski school beginner area, and the lake, from the lift.

But no snow! This is what it looked like from the lift. Like, no! snow!

Gabriel was happy to be on the lift anyway.

Our first run of the year, woo-hoo!

Gabriel and I followed the open lifts and the snow until we were as high up as we could go. Then there was a decent run that took us back to just one lift, and we skiied around that a bunch of times. That was great -- despite the manmade snow and wind, it really was nice to be skiing again. I was reminded just how far I have to go and how unsatisfied I am with my tentative, flawed technique.

At the top of Ridge Run, there were photographers -- who didn't know about the "Bad Weather" paper lift tickets being issued today. This meant I didn't have a card they could scan to link our photos to their Web site. At least he was kind enough to take a photo with my crummy camera.

(As an aside, I'm pretty sure I don't look that dumpy in real life -- my ski pants are NOT flattering!)

This is a pretty run though -- views of the lake the whole way down, if you can take your eyes off the ground immediately in front of you, something I'm still working on!

Gabriel got a lot of compliments on his psychedelic ski helmet, which I'd bought to identify him from a distance. Turns out, it doesn't work that well - a solid blue or red would have worked better. Actually, a brightly colored jacket is much better for picking kids out of a crowd from afar.

When it was time for lunch, we had to ski down two runs, go up one lift, ski down slightly to another lift, then go down the lift to get to the lodge. First time I've ever taken a lift down!

Gabriel and I had a nice lunch chatting, then got ourselves geared back up for the series of lifts to take us back up.

We ran into Julian's lesson on the way up, and he seemed like he was having fun.

He was excited to show me his new "hockey stop."

Gabriel and I spent most of our time on Ridge Run, though it had one area that was particularly windblown, and so was pretty icy. Other parts were deep in the mandmade snow, and this was almost worse for me. I don't know how to deal with big piles of snow that grab your skis and suddenly slow you down.

I was mindful of the time, however. I had to be at the gondola area ready to pick up Julian and Katrina at 3:45. Gabriel and I would have to make our way back down the mountain, un-gear and board a ski bus back to downtown, then find a way to get our skis to the car without losing my parking spot, then walk the ~10 minutes to the gondola area to pick up the other two by 3:45 the latest. Whew. We'd better get started on our way back at 2:30.

I timed our round-trip runs: 16 minutes to lift, ski, start the lift again. At the top of our Ridge Run at 2:31pm, I told Gabriel this was the last run, then we'd start working our way down. "Ok Mom!"

Gabriel and I are a decent match skiing. I'm faster than he is on the easy parts, but as soon as there's any ice or deeper snow or challenge, he doesn't slow down and easily passes me. This last run, I made sure to stay behind him even when I could have passed him. He was having fun on the sides where the whoop-de-doo's and jumps were, though he seemed awfully close to the edge to me. I squelched my worried-mom instincts and just let it go. When you have a (almost) 10-year-old boy, you have to do that.

Then on one jump, Gabriel got a little bent out of shape, staggered, then lost control, and then he was tumbling toward the boulders on the side. He landed backward, with his back draped over a rock and his left arm twisted unnaturally behind him.

I was on the scene in seconds and hurriedly took my skis off as I heard him cry out in pain and shock. I sat him up and saw right away that he was able to move all his limbs. He didn't say much, just "OWW!" and complained about his back. I got him to stand up to see if he could put weight on his legs, and he could, but didn't want to. Then he complained about his arm, that he couldn't move it. He could, I could see, but it was hard to tell how much.

Someone stopped and asked if he should call ski patrol. I said I really didn't know, but Gabriel called out, "YES! I can't ski down." I asked the guy to call just in case. Super-tough Gabriel was still resisting moving or trying anything.

Less than a minute later, a ski patrol guy stopped -- he'd just been cruising by. He did quick triage on Gabriel, and was able to rule out a few obvious things, but of course you can't tell everything from there.

Gabriel insisted he could not ski back down, so the ski patrol guy called for a sled. Then he wrapped up Gabriel's arm, and then they wrapped Gabriel into the sled.

I snapped a picture of where Gabriel's skis ended up, but looking at the photo again, the tracks don't suggest that Gabriel was still attached to these skis when they landed here. One of them was wedged nicely between rocks.

My calm demeanor hid my mounting panic: we've got to get Julian and Katrina at ski school soon -- and thanks to a stunning confluence of circumstances, was already about as complicated as it possibly could be, and now I was facing time trouble and a whole other set of logistics with Gabriel.

The ski patrol skiied Gabriel in the sled down to another lift area. I was a good 5 minutes behind them; I didn't have a prayer of keeping up with a skilled skiier even if he had a sled behind him!! But I also knew enough not to try: this was NO time to fall, better I get there late and safely.

Gabriel's sled was attached to a snowmobile. I got on the back and the lady snowmobile driver towed the sled and the ski patrol guy to the next lift area. That was cool.

But we weren't taking the lift down -- there's also a tram that leads down to a clinic near the lodge where my bag and shoes were tucked away in a locker. On the tram, I answered a lot of questions about Gabriel's age, address, skiing ability, and an interesting (and valid) question: what could have prevented this accident. Hard to say -- I'm the first to say if a kid is breaking the rules, but really, he just lost control. I wish he hadn't been so close to the edge, but he wasn't breaking any rules, he just fell.

Once inside the clinic, we thanked the ski patrol guy (who'd stashed our skis and poles nearby), and turned our attention to the medical staff. I answered some basic questions, then alerted them to my increasing time problem: I had to pick up the other two at the gondola, and I was running out of time! Of ALL days to have my bag and shoes, children, and car spread all over the place.

The clinic staff were really helpful, though reluctant to follow the obvious plan: let me leave Gabriel here while I go get the other two and my car. Instead, they called the ski school staff to try to locate Julian and Katrina -- who ironically had been near us at California Lodge all day, but by now were probably on a bus back to the gondola area.

I huffed over in my ski boots from the clinic to the lodge to retrieve my bag (with our medical insurance card) and shoes. Shoes! Thank goodness I'd insisted on wearing my shoes and carrying my boots over. I emptied our locker, changed into my blessed shoes, and carried my boots back to the clinic.

Gabriel's left arm x-ray didn't show up much, though he was still reporting some pain. The staff all commented about what a tough kid he was -- no whining or crying, just very factual answers. But despite his toughness and cooperation, he's still just 9 years old and can't judge how severe an injury is. My instinct was that his arm was basically OK.

By now it was 5 minutes away from when I was supposed to pick up the other two. The kind clinic staff had contacted ski school and figured out a plan: the Ski Services manager would drive over to the gondola area to pick them up and bring them to the clinic. Then they'd call for the clinic's own shuttle van that to take all of us and our ski gear back to my car.

The Ski Services manager arrived soon with Julian and Katrina, barely able to contain himself with laughter. He pointed to Katrina and mouthed to me, "She's hilarious!" He said they both talked nonstop on the way over. I thanked everyone profusely as we bundled everyone and everything into the clinic's van, and the bored young driver took us back to the Nevada casino parking lot where my car was.

All items and people reunited, we drove gratefully back to our cabin. I'll be darned, is that a snowflake?! We thought we saw one or two. So many businesses and jobs in that area depend on snow. C'mon Mother Nature! We had an easy dinner, lots of treats, quick showers, and some TV. Gabriel was still saying his arm hurt.

In the morning, we packed up to clear out by 11am. The only hitch in this plan was when I just about had the car packed, and went back into the cabin one last time to retrieve Katrina and the key, when I found the door locked. "MOM-MY!" Katrina called from inside. She'd locked the door and didn't know how to unlock it!! I called to her several times to "turn the knob," but she didn't know what I meant. After a quick run around the place to find another way in, I returned to the front door and calmed my voice. "Katrina, see this knob?" I wiggled the main lever. "Not this one -- turn the one above it." She cried out, "But it might LOCK it!!" I assured her that was OK at this point, and finally, I heard the deadbolt click open. Whew.

The cabin wasn't huge, but it was nicely laid out and the general living area had plenty of space.

Pretty mountain view too.

Since we had to leave by 11am, I figured we'd drive back to South Lake Tahoe again, then drive around the east side of the lake for a little sightseeing. This plan basically worked, with several stops along the way.

We stopped to see Cave Rock, which wasn't much in the grand scheme of things.

The best stop was at a vista point within the Lake Tahoe State Park (in Nevada), with some trails down to the lake and some great climbing rocks.

My new favorite picture of Julian.

My plan had been to stop in Truckee for lunch, but the kids were all set on Denny's, and my iPhone reported the nearest Denny's was in Reno. Gabriel was in command of the iPhone, so I couldn't see his searches, but by the time we figured anything out, we were on I-80 and on our way to Auburn. "Can you guys hold out another hour?" A quick snack stop and then we made great time to Auburn, where the Denny's milkshakes made up for the delay.

I was stunned to see that there was actually snow on the mountains around Donner Pass -- far more than there had been on the south side of Lake Tahoe. Not enough to ski on by itself, but still a lot more.

The trees and landscape were different here too; more severe, even more homogeneous. As pretty as South Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area are, I like the northern end and Truckee better.

I'm the meanest car travel mom, but I also have very few kid car travel issues. I don't know which is the effect and which is the cause, but we travel with no electronics (well, Gabriel had his new MP3 player, and the boys did get to text Dad with the iPhone), no screens and no food. We stop for meals, and only in emergencies (such as a last-minute decision to wait another hour for lunch) will I give them snacks, and then only at a stop outside the car.

At our last gas/break stop before the final push home, they were getting restless, so I played my last card and gave them all new activity books and flashlights. It was only on the last leg of the trip that I had to do even that -- and then not a peep until we got home at 6pm!

Of course, there were the usual peeps about helping out once we arrived. I'd rehearsed and talked with the kids well before we got home: when we arrive, please help carry stuff inside from the car. I've learned from my new experience with camping and skiing that if I don't unpack the car in the first 10 minutes, it won't happen for days.

Gabriel was a huge help, one arm notwithstanding, and not only helped me carry things from the car to the house, but he brought his own knapsack upstairs, unpacked it, and hung it in his cubby without being told.

Julian, meantime, was exactly opposite. After numerous reminders, he finally spilled out of the car carrying nothing, then played with the Christmas lights after I'd told him not to, then wouldn't go back to the car to help carry things in. He'd been a big problem with following instructions all day, and I was way too fried for more from him, so I delivered him a sound spanking after he'd defied me one more time. I know the anti-spanking advocates say there's another way, but I'm sorry: his attitude was markedly changed afterward -- so much so I wished I'd done it hours ago. In fact, he seemed happier after the initial shock was over.

With the car unpacked and a quick dinner made, I had time to reflect on the trip.

How much can we take? First, no snow. Then we pick the ONE day to ski that high winds shut down the gondola and many of snow-blown trails for which I'd chosen this large, hassle-rich ski resort. Then Gabriel has the worst crash he's ever had!

Well, despite allll that, it was still completely worth it. I was so happy to be in the mountains again, happy to share it with my children and get them to see the beautiful state we live in. We talked a lot about snow and how I grew up with it (now they all want to move to New York), but I told them that I really love California (and Nevada, where we spent the better part of the morning) and the mountains and all the beautiful things here.

I'm hoping our trips to the Tahoe area will become a permanent part of their childhood memories. I'd love to add summers to that too -- but first, let's find some snow up there this winter!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12/28/2011 Trip prep

I think I've packed enough for a week's trip! But it's hard to pack for a two-night trip to a place where you don't have anything without also happening to be prepared for a week. I've got food, everyone's snow stuff, everyone's regular clothes stuff, entertainment, and even some extra bedding -- just in case. Plus all the maps and papers and logistics for reservations.

The one thing we don't have is a good weather report. The prediction for our ski day on Friday is: RAIN! BLAH! Bad enough there's no snow, but now they have to add insult to injury with RAIN?! Well, we're going to have fun anyway!


Monday, December 26, 2011

12/26/2011 Julian's 8!

This morning Julian and Katrina conspired together to make a Surprise! And they made sure we knew about it.

They'd prepared a breakfast table with namecard settings together.

But most of all, they had a great time together working on the "surprise" for at least an hour.

Around lunchtime, Julian asked about checking out Sky High Sports, the trampoline place where his (as yet unscheduled) birthday party will be. Though I'd planned to do some grocery-shopping and general preparing for the week (I'm going to work for 2 days), right away I thought, "great idea!" The boys were getting stir-crazy and completely out of control, and really needed to wring some energy out. I made an online reservation, and all 3 kids were ready to go on time for once.

My compensation for this outing was a willing photo of all three, which for once they agreed to.

Katrina even willingly modelled her new dress from Bonne Maman and Papa Paul.

An active place like Sky High is just the sort of "kid" entertainment that I really like. On Christmas Day, I'd taken a walk with Julian and Katrina, and ended up at a small playground, which was OK, but those basically bore me. Something that includes entertainment for me is different though.

Cameras on the trampolines aren't allowed, but while Gabriel was taking a break, I asked him to video a new accomplishment.

This place is brilliant -- we only reserved an hour, but Gabriel pooped out after about 40 minutes. Katrina kept going the whole time, and all 3 were WAY calmer when we got home. The problems of Julian pestering Katrina and making her scream, as well as the boys fighting, have been escalating to unbearable levels lately. It's all we can do to keep them apart, and what a shame, but it's so constant that I'm on guard as soon as I hear one kid entering a room that another is occupying. So wearing them out was well worth it.

Cake and singing, with Aunt Laura and Uncle Ryan on the iPhone!

What a great way to spend a birthday! Eight. I can't believe it!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

12/25/2011 Merry Christmas!!

We survived! Actually, we were amazingly efficient for us -- breakfasted and mostly all gifts open by noon. It used to take us days!

Gabriel and Julian, skeptical of Santa but not 100% confident, both left notes for Santa -- and asked him to write back. Katrina is still completely convinced.

We didn't go anywhere or do anything today, except I went for a short walk with Julian and Katrina, just to get outside. Gabriel was too absorbed in his new MP3 player to think about anything else. He sure has a lot to learn though -- he walks into a room with music blasting into his headphones, asks a question, and then shouts, "WHAT?" when I answer!

Such generous family, too much good stuff to list here, but thank you all! The only thing that would have made the day better would have been to be together.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

12/22/21 Bad boys

Yesterday, Julian told me that his first-grade best friend, Aditya, is now forbidden to play with Julian by his father. Apparently Aditya came home upset about Julian's non-stop rough-housing one too many times. Rough-housing is OK of course, but not quitting already when it's well past time to, is not OK. I apologized to Aditya's mother once. She was gracious and kind, but obviously rattled on behalf of her son, I felt all that much worse.

And today, Gabriel got into a fight at CDC, and ended up hitting his (former?) friend Minoj. He almost got sent home for not talking about it with the CDC director, who determined it was a disagreement rather than an act of aggression (bullying). Then I saw the CDC director giving Minoj's mother an "Ouch Report" -- something the CDC has to do in writing to report an injury that occurs while in their care. I approached Minoj's mother and apologized. She was gracious and kind, but obviously rattled on behalf of her son, I felt all that much worse.

Boys will be boys is one thing, but I'm getting tired of my sons alienating their friends, and putting me in a weird position with their mothers.

I don't know how much this matters, but both Gabriel and Julian's former friends are only children. Maybe they're just not used to the rough-and-tumble dynamic that brothers get to exercise and develop (overdevelop in our case). Certainly this doesn't justify my boys' behavior, but my guess is that their friends' threshholds and expectations are set differently. For example, Gabriel claimed that Minoj provoked him by filling in some holes Gabriel had dug, and Minoj probably never expected to be clobbered for it. Julian would still have filled in the holes, but he'd know darn well what he was risking. If Minoj had a brother, he might have done things a little differently -- like duck.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12/20/2011 Off the air

Well, it's been what, 6 months? No wait...since September.

Sigh --I've lost my voice again, this time as much as possible and still have one at all. (There was one time I completely lost my voice, like really, NO sound at all, but that's only happened once.) I remember I had to postpone a phone interview for my current job in September because I'd lost my voice then. That's only 4 months ago. Great. I never get used to not being able to mumble "thanks" to someone who holds a door or whatever, and having people whisper back to me.

I'm absorbed in a work project that I'm having so much fun with, it almost feels like I should pay them. Tonight after dinner I sat right down to write up something, and next time I looked up, it was 10:30. It's been a long time since I've been that psyched about something! Unfortunately, I need to ask some questions on the phone tomorrow, don't know how that's going to happen.

Partly because of this work project, partly because of this bronchitis (it'll turn to horrendous coughing next), partly because Gabriel is still slightly recovering from his knee injury, and largely because there's NO SNOW, I decided to postpone our short trip to the mountains this Thursday. Wah! How could this happen to me, the first winter I'm completely ready to ski all winter all if I could. Instead the low snowfall makes front-page news. To add insult to injury, there's a blizzard in New Mexico -- send it our way please! I feel bad for the ski resorts and all the surrounding businesses that depend on a busy Christmas, actually.

My consolation is finding a cabin that we can stay at for 2 nights right before New Years' next week (no easy feat; most places are booked and require 5-night minimums). For that, we don't need ski snow; the kids will be very happy to play right outside, and while I'll regret not skiing, I think I'll be happy to just hang out inside. But maybe by the 29th it'll snow!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

12/18/2011 Errands

A few days since I've written....few remarkable things transpired. Unless you count Christmas cards -- I finally sent some out this year!

Friday morning we were awakened at 6am with piercing shrieks -- Katrina. Dave got there first, and found her covered in blood. Another gushing nosebleed. One pajama sleeve was soaked, and there were large spots of blood all over her bedding, pillow and pajamas. Julian's had nosebleeds before, but never with this sort of volume. By the time it stopped and I got her cleaned up, it was time to get ready to go to work anyway. Ugh -- I felt it all day, having to get up so early.

This weekend we put up Christmas lights -- late, but we're one of the few families in our immediate neighborhood that does anymore. Julian told me that our neighbors across the street don't celebrate Halloween or Christmas. I got some gifts ordered, some things boxed up and sent out, packaged some things to return, caught up on everyone's laundry, mostly finished updating my Google Contacts so I could send out Christmas cards, made a few batches of holiday meringues, ordered jackets for all 3 kids, finally ordered some new shoes for Katrina, labelled and washed a pile of new sweatshirts, and various miscellaneous other things. Yet it feels like we didn't do anything!

I've planned for us to go on a one-night trip to the mountains to snow-play and ski, but the skies aren't cooperating. There's very little natural snow right now. Wah! I hope that fixes itself in the next few days!

We decorated the tree also. I let Julian and Katrina place most of the ornaments (Gabriel was playing piano and didn't join us), but I put some of the more fragile ones up high. This is so much more fun to do with kids -- or rather, watching them do it.

Though Gabriel didn't join us for the decorating, he did help me put the lights up. That was always my job when I was a kid, now I can pass the torch to him!

I had to make two batches of these holiday meringues to get them right, and sent some to my niece and nephew (who hopefully will share with their father and uncle if he's there!). These are so pretty, and easy -- I think this just skyrocketed to my favorite Christmas cookie.

One night after dinner, Katrina got a pencil and piece of paper, and began intently writing something. At one point, I walked by her and peered over her shoulder, and she rebuffed me immediately: "Nooo! Don't TALK to me now!" I feel the same way when my head is overflowing with words and I just must write them down and don't want to be interrupted.

Later I walked by her and saw her carrying the paper. This time, she let me look at it. I was absolutely stunned. Usually she writes little things like notes to herself, or to-do lists that contain items like "ask for ideas." But this -- !


We are in God,
Where we die.
How did we die?
We ate too much
candy: that's how
we died
When we visted God we really died.
God is really in sky.

And she was so directed while writing it, like she knew exactly what had to be said, and where to place it. It's almost a little creepy, but I remember my sister telling me that my nephew Aidan went through a phase of being interested in death. I don't sense that Katrina's giving it any real deep thought, but she mentions dying a lot. She told Dave later this was a song.

Gabriel's knee seems to have fully recovered, and after two physical therapy sessions and a lot of muscle relaxants, my TMJ is allowing me to chew mostly normally, but with very limited opening.

No school next week!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12/14/11 The Knee

Ouch! Gabriel apparently tripped over a basketball today at lunch, running full speed. He landed on his knee and wasn't able to bend it or walk on it. Dave picked him up, and pushed him in a wheelchair to his car to take him to the doctor.

It's probably OK, she didn't feel anything broken and didn't think his symptoms merited an x-ray -- but she said if it doesn't get better quickly, to call an orthopedist.

Gabriel's been hopping around all day, but tonight when he was more focused on ice cream, I noticed him walking almost normally. I believe that it hurts him, but I think he'll get over it quickly.

Good thing, because I was JUST about to try to book us for a snow/ski day!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12/13/2011 TMJ

Jaw is still pretty bad.

I went for an x-ray today, and physical therapy Monday and upcoming Friday. I'm in less pain, but chewing is now a lost art. I had no idea the mouth was so complicated -- even drinking thick soup involves jaw motions I never knew about, and have to re-learn. Eating has become a dreadful chore, something I brace myself for and put off for as long as possible.

I'm trying to do some holiday cookie baking, and it's taking all the fun out of licking the batter bowl. Now that's serious!


Monday, December 12, 2011

12/12/11 Office-free

Yay! Julian made it through Monday without being sent to the principal's office, or home. That's three whole days in a ROW! OH GOODY.

Tonight Julian's counselor wanted to see the kids interacting, so asked that we bring Gabriel and Katrina too. Then Dave and the counselor and I watched them play through the counseling room's one-way mirror. But she barely saw anything about how the boys interact, since there was a "Battleship" game there, and the boys had a great time playing together.

At home, I'm under a constant strain keeping them apart, like sprinting to put my body between theirs if they so much as pass each other in the hall, or giving them strict orders not to talk to or about each other, to get within 5 feet of each other and even not to look at each other, just so I can have a few minutes to change my clothes when we get home without a major fight breaking out.

The only inkling the counselor had of our real lives was when the boys ignored me when I instructed them to put away the Battleship game. I allowed them each one more turn (that's a nod to the "giving choices" thing), but then they carried on as though I was inaudible telling them "TIME to put the game away, NOW!"

A 2-week break is coming up -- anyone taking bets that Julian can keep out of trouble another 4 days?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/10/2011 Tree day!

Yesterday was Pajama Day at school!

And today was Christmas Tree Day at home. We went to our usual place in the mountains, mostly for the experience. We certainly don't save money or get a better tree by finding our own and cutting it down, but you can't beat the fun of running around in a christmas-tree forest.

I really, really, really like kids getting older. I had nothing to do with tree-handling logistics this year. Dave and Gabriel handled it entirely on their own, including the carrying.

(On a side note, Julian can make himself tuna now -- he skips sandwich part and eats it from a bowl without a sandwich -- but he can open and drain the can, break up the tuna and add mayonnaise and mix it up. Seeing him, it's obvious a kid his age should be able to do things like this, but somehow nowadays they don't. They should be doing SO much more than they do!)

Despite a rough morning and relentless, horrendous, egregious, extreme, persistent, nonstop LOUD fighting between the boys (it's really gotten bad), it was a nice afternoon and a much-needed outing. At a last-minute impulse, we even went out to dinner on the way back from getting the tree. It was such a great and welcome idea, it should have been the plan instead of a last-second "STOPPP!!"

We also had a very nice time this evening putting the tree up and putting lights on it. Decorations tomorrow, which Katrina is very excited about, and even more important: the TRAIN under the tree, which Gabriel is beside himself about.

It's hard for anyone to feel scroogy around these guys!


p.s. Happy Birthday to cousin Jason, who is 35 today!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

12/8/2011 Three in a row

Julian got sent to the office again today -- 3rd day in a row he got kicked out of class. This time though, the principal called us to bring him home. The principal warned us that if he got sent to the office again that we'd get called to come and get him.

This is so unacceptable I don't even know where to start. Julian just can't control himself. The consequences we give him just don't make him stop to think or do what he's told.

But it's also frustrating that now we have to leave work for this. The tiniest thing he does in class now turns into a direct hit for us (today it was Dave), partly because his teacher is so fed up and she knows that as soon as he's started down the road of obnoxiousness, it's pretty hard to divert him. Today it started with Julian putting paper cups on his head, letting them fall, and laughing. Innocent enough, but he wouldn't stop, he was disrupting the class, and then kept disobeying his teacher. That used to mean an irritating email for us, but now it means having to drop everything at work and go retrieve him. It is such a struggle for both me and Dave to get in enough time at work as it is, we just can't leave work for this. It could happen every day -- we have less control over it than we do if someone gets sick. And some jobs, you can't just leave -- like, say, a teacher.

Do the principal and Julian's teacher know what a huge deal it is for one of us to have to miss potentially a whole day of work? They're used to most kids at our school having at least one parent, or someone else, at home, so it's not the major impact it is on us. In fact, when our overall very nice principal, who we both like, told us that if he gets sent to the office again that he'll get sent home, he didn't seem to recognize what a major leap that is. He almost said it the way you'd say, "the next time he does that, he'll lose two days of recess instead of one." But the difference between being sent to the office and being sent home is HUGE.

Then we have the problem of what to do with Julian. He has to stop this crap!! We're running out of ways to address the immediate problem (disobeying the school office staff), and laying a long-term foundation (counseling, talking to him) for him not to want to, or need to, disobey.

Add to that another morning of work I missed today. I went to see 3 dentists, lucky that the second two were able to see me with no notice. The last one is a TMJ specialist -- that's a jaw problem that many people have. It's not a big deal for your jaw to sort of click, but last Sunday it suddenly turned into a lot of pain chewing, and now I can't open my mouth very wide and can't chew at all. I'm glad to have a plan to solve it, but it's going to mean missing yet more work (xrays, physical therapy, then a bite-plate thing to correct my jaw misalignment). So I really really can't risk missing work because my son pestered his brother or put cups on his head, and neither can Dave.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

12/7/2011 Coffee Night but... cheesecake. Something's really wrong with my jaw, and I can't chew or move my mouth properly. Unfortunately for my patient friends, it doesn't prevent me from talking, but I couldn't finish my cheesecake!! Now that's too much!! My doctor referred me to my dentist, with whom I have an appointment tomorrow.

WHAT a day. First, a call from a story producer at ABC News 20/20, who'd heard the NPR piece on tantrums. Mostly he was exploring to find out more about the family, and if is feasible for us to fly to NYC for a studio interview. Their angle is more along why people are posting tantrum videos to YouTube!! In any case, it was left open-ended, and if they want to pursue it, we should hear back in a few days. I'm excited about the idea, for no good reason -- why would I expose our shame on TV after radio?!

But I think it would be....well, fun. And I'm developing a very thick skin about the whole "you're horrible parents" tantrum thing.

My friends pointed out though that these reporters may not realize that our tantrumers are really on the extreme edge of tantruming. It's true; I read an article somewhere that said "most tantrums last 3-4 minutes long..." ?! MINUTES?! Katrina's tantrums lasted often up to an hour, they happened at least once a day, and went on for well over a year. Gabriel...his were way worse, and with a hitting problem in the mix. No wonder armchair Monday-morning-quarterback parents think from watching 30 seconds of our hell that all we'd have to do is "ignore" it.

Still, despite the chance to maybe be on TV, I was rattled from our blowout with Gabriel last night. That's way more serious stuff. Gabriel was fine this morning though. But Julian had had a bad day yesterday, with a note from the teacher about getting sent out of the classroom, and his complaining that it was all Gabriel's fault.

Today Dave and I had a follow-up meeting with the school district specialists about Gabriel's assessment and services that will result from that. But right before we left work, we got an email from the principal: Julian had been sent to the office by Gabriel's teacher, because Julian was pestering Gabriel while Gabriel was on line for music class!! Then Julian was disruptive to the secretaries in the office, not listening to them, and they had to call in the principal for help. Julian will be sent home next time this happens, and this is just SO not good! We can't be leaving work for this.

We just can't keep up. And how could our critics, with all this material??

We came home and started researching Catholic schools, and then boot camps, as something to threaten him with -- and carry out as necessary. But my friend Betsy gave me an even better idea: Confession. Well, and all the Catholic stuff around that, which I know nothing about, but I think it involves Sunday School. Hmm. Sunday School, reconciliation, confession, penance -- and actually, Julian might very well like the ritual and ceremony of church. I'm seriously going to think about it!

I never thought I'd say this in a million years, but I can't wait for my dentist appointment tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

12/6/2011 The REAL tantrumer

Cripes....just when I think I'm out of the woods -- Gabriel reminds me of what he's made of. The kid is just unbelievable.

It wasn't his fault to begin with. When Julian and Katrina and I got home, Gabriel was quietly working on homework. Julian launched right into his usual pestering and provoked Gabriel. Next thing I knew, Julian was crying because Gabriel had thrown scissors at him. Gabriel defiantly defended his action, but though I was silently sympathetic, I was furious at this dangerous action. I docked him 3 weeks allowance.

This is where most stories end. A swift and decisive consequence, and that's it, right? Uh-huh. He was so outraged that he followed me into the kitchen and threatened me with some object, "I still have a WEAPON Mom, and I'm going to USE it on you." He repeated his threats while I pretended to ignore him while I moved around the kitchen, trying to decide what to do.

Then something else happened to trigger him, and he ended up screaming as loud as he could. I warned him if he continued screaming, he'd have to go outside. Of course he continued, I told him to get a jacket and go outside RIGHT NOW.

Next thing I knew, Julian was shrieking in pain and I heard the front door slam. Apparently Gabriel had grabbed a jacket, then swung it at Julian -- a strict no-no because -- the zipper hit Julian in the face. A swinging jacket with a metal zipper is really dangerous, they're absolutely not allowed to do that.

I ran outside after Gabriel and called him to come inside right now. No response. I couldn't see him, either. He'd gone somewhere away from the house, or was hiding.

I was furious. Throwing scissors, threatening me with a "weapon," swinging a jacket, then leaving the house -- somehow the last 15 minutes had deteriorated horribly. I stormed upstairs and cleaned out two of his shelves and his desk, putting all his recent toys into a garbage bag and box, and then took them to the garage. I checked on him outside, looked around the house, and called for him -- nothing.

Fine. If he's not coming inside, then he's not coming inside. I locked all the doors and took Julian to Kung Fu with Katrina in tow. Then I took Katrina shopping at Whole Foods, which she delighted in. She attracted so many smiles from onlookers, this happy charming little girl delighting at all the Christmas decorations. If only they knew...

Before picking Julian up from Kung Fu, I checked at home -- Gabriel was standing on the front porch, glowering at me. He had on a T-shirt and shorts, and my car said 49 degrees. He'd been alone outside for well over half an hour. I'd hoped to freak him out a little, but he certainly didn't act very concerned. I let him in the house and instructed him in the most deadly voice I could muster, "YOU TAKE YOUR HOMEWORK AND GO UPSTAIRS RIGHT NOW." I absolutely did not want him in sight when I got Julian home. He resisted, but he was gone when I got back with Julian.

The rest of the evening went better. Gabriel was still defiant, but not rude, and he eventually softened during dinner. He never told me where he was, never complained about being cold, didn't say anything about all his toys missing -- if he said anything at all, it was to continue complaining about Julian. He was concerned about missing out on Christmas-tree cookies for dessert, but accepted it.

I would love to hear the reactions from a roomful of people observing Gabriel following me and threatening me, while I pretended to ignore him. I doubt any faction would approve of how I was handling that particular moment. Ignore it? Respond to it? Threaten him? Take away a privilege? Smack the crap out of him? Answer: none of the above. Anything I do, or not do, will egg him on. The kid just doesn't back down. There just is no answer. I've known that since before he was 2.

Though I had a lot of doubts and was worried when he was locked out, in retrospect, it was probably the best choice because it calmed me down and gave him nothing to push against. But obviously I can't leave my home every time we have a conflict.

Thank goodness massive blowouts with Gabriel are much rarer these days, but his potential and his power are really staggering.


Monday, December 05, 2011

12/5/2011 The NPR show about tantrums!

I am really surprised at how many people I know -- or sort-of know, or used to know -- heard this on the radio this morning and contacted us!

What's Behind A Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct The Screams

The screams that the scientists deconstruct are Katrina's. Lots of listeners have said "Ugh! That's awful!" One friend even said, "That must have been a rough night!" Yeah, awful, for sure. But one rough night? No. That was daily, for well over a year. Regular readers will recall my complaints about Katrina's "dinnertime tantrums" -- that video was just one of many such tantrums.

And she wasn't nearly as bad as Gabriel was.

Everyone in the world has an opinion about this. The comments on NPR's blog page are telling. Most are pretty judgmental, though what they say tends to fall into one of two categories: One, you're a horrible parent because you didn't ignore the tantrum; or Two, you're a horrible parent because you didn't spank the brat.

Of course, some tantrums can't be ignored, and to my delight, these now have a name: "escape" tantrums. That's a tantrum that's thrown to avoid doing something you've been told to do. What a great way to get out of putting your shoes away: throw a major tantrum, you get sent to your room, and don't have to do what you were told! Cool!

And of course, spanking doesn't end screaming and crying. For a real tantrumer like Gabriel, it could even give the tantrum new (negative) energy. I can see spanking a child who's old enough if they do something really egregious or destructive, but that'd be to address that immediate behavior, not the tantrum itself.

Ironically, I have seen spanking break a kid out of a nasty jag -- and that kid is Julian, our one non-toddler-tantrumer. To this day, there are times he resists doing something every step of the way and is so obnoxious and dangerous (flailing around so I get whacked in the face), that a spanking will settle him down. He'll cry, but he'll stop. It's really pretty remarkable. That doesn't work on Gabriel, and we've never tried on Katrina.

But overall, the know-it-all advice from the armchair parents out there is much the same as I got throughout my years of dealing with tantrums: overall not very applicable or useful. The reporter even asked me during the interview if I'd give any advice to a parent I saw dealing with a tantruming kid, and I said no, I wouldn't give them advice because I don't know anything about the surrounding circumstances. But if I were to do anything, it'd be to give them support, a "hang-in-there" sign, because that's what made me feel better.

Thank heavens this is all in the past tense. Mostly.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

12/4/2011 Busy/Lazy weekend

For once, I actually did things with the kids yesterday. Saturdays are often a bust for me because I go running early in the morning, and that about does it for me -- keywords being "early" and "morning." But this Saturday, I had a good run (a long one, over 10 miles including the famously steep PG&E trail), and then actually did things the rest of the day before pooping out.

In addition to getting Julian to Kung Fu, I also took all 3 kids to the BMX park in the afternoon. It was an exceptionally glorious day, in the low 70s -- crisp and beautiful without being hot. This means the park was packed, mostly with teenage boys.

It's been a long, long time since the boys have been there, but the boys pretty much picked up where they'd left off.

Which means, Julian in Zone 1.

And Gabriel pretty much everywhere else.

Katrina was a horror, complaining constantly that I was walking too slowly, too fast, not keeping up with her, ahead of her, behind was nonstop nagging! She was a serious drag, and I put up with being scolded and criticized right up until it was time to put her bike away so I could retrieve her brothers.

Then I snapped and told her to go stand by a distanc post where she could wail and scream all she wanted, but I couldn't hear her. I got lots of dirty looks from dads on that one, but overall dads are way easier than moms on these things!

The best part was: the boys went from being hyper out-of-control to pretty mellow. Later, Dave took them to the Psychotronics Film Festival (lots of short old horror clips).

Sunday...lazy, lazy day. Didn't do much. And just to capitalize on that theme, they got to watch King Kong tonight!!