Saturday, January 08, 2011

1/8/2011 Silliness

Katrina loves these dress-up dresses from Cousin Remi! She puts them on over regular clothes (?!) and wears them all day.

She also loves chasing her brother around endlessly with her revived "Mimi." Katrina and Julian play like this together a lot. I'm sure it's a relief for Julian after the much rougher playing he does with Gabriel.

They sure do love each other.


Friday, January 07, 2011

1/7/2011 The emailer and blogger

This morning, I happened to catch a glance of the latest paper Gabriel's been carrying around, pencil in hand. He does this a lot: finds some or other writing project, usually an electronics schematic, and carries the paper with him everywhere.

This morning I noticed it was a comic strip, and looked at it in a little more detail. I was taken aback -- it's really pretty cute! Dave reads the comics every day, so the kids are hooked on them too, and Gabriel has adopted many common comic methods and drawing styles. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" likely provides inspiration too. This is an interesting, unexpected thing for my committed non-artist!

So I was telling Gabriel in the car on the way home that he should post a comic every day, like on a Web wait, a blog. Hey, he should start a blog! This discussion led to Julian really, really, really wanting an email account. Well, why not?

So I told the boys that after they'd put their things away when we got home, that we'd start an email account for Julian, and a blog for Gabriel.

Julian was very, very motivated. He really wanted to do this. I noticed with bemusement that for Julian, it's about the communication and reaching out to people. For Gabriel, when we first set up his long-forgotten email, it was more about the technical: typing things in, clicking buttons, seeing things work.

So I helped Julian set up a gmail account (no mean feat these days; they're not intended for kids and I had to fudge his birthday, then gmail requires sending a text message with a confirmation number), and a list of contacts, and then I showed him how to send email. He giggled a lot at first, feeling on the spot with what to say, but he got over that fast, and then started pouring out the messages. I lost track of who he sent to, but he tried to send a message to every contact I set up for him. His big limitation is being a very very slow typist.

Then it was Gabriel's turn. Mostly, he wanted to show off his comic strip. So I helped him set up a simple blog, scanned his latest comic artwork, and talked him through his first post. He had a hard time thinking of a title and URL for his blog that wasn't taken, but Julian had a great idea: The Days of Gabe.

Our time at home on weekdays is very limited, so I doubt there will be much time for them to update blogs or check email -- they're still very very slow at it. And they have a 7:30 upstairs-for-bath time. And, we're pretty stingy about computer time in general; they don't have free access to it and it must be asked for and earned. Still, electronic communication is inevitable in their lives. I project my own delight at receiving an email from my nephew onto our hapless family members, some of whom got one-liner emails today, written with the typical curtness of children, but with much laughing and giggling and joy behind them.

And to think I once thought my children would think I was ancient for growing up without ATM machines -- try computers and smartphones and email and blogs!


Thursday, January 06, 2011

1/6/2011 A night for myself

Odd day.

I got to work as early as I could, which still wasn't early enough, about 7:50. Worked hard, fought extreme exhaustion and sleepiness and headachiness all day. As much as I like starting work early, a short nap in the late mornig would make ALL the difference in clearing my head and letting me think straight for the rest of the day.

I rarely go out to lunch, but I'd won a bet with a coworker and he was paying up! Two others joined us and we chatted about grownup things like financial markets and what motivates business executives and politicians. It's always enjoyable to have this broader social contact.

Still, I was so tired I was wondering how I'd meet my goal for the night: to start a skating class session! In some ways being SO tired means I MUST make the class, because the class is what's kept me going all day. So I left work on time, was very efficient in picking kids up, getting dinner started, homework, lunches made...and made it out to the 7pm class on time.

But what a disappointment the class was!! What class? It was a set of loosely grouped people of a wide range of skills, and no clear *class*. I finally interrupted an instructor who was teaching things that sort of looked like what I'd do, and asked her how this works. So she gave me a short evaluation, a few minutes of suggestions, then off she went to the next class member. Some of those were doing jumps and spins, way WAY ahead of me. What happened to an actual *class* with an actual *exercise*, that we all do together, and the teacher gives little corrections to all members of the class as you go along? Not 3 minutes of specifics then they're gone, that's not a class. Plus the other "classes" were mingling right into our practice area, which I find annoying too. It was really all too loosey-goosey. That was disappointing. Fortunately it was a free trial class and I didn't pay for it.

Still, the few minutes of instruction I did get were useful, and it makes me want to take classes again. I just can't waste my ultra-valuable time on a disorganized group lesson, so I signed up to inquire about private lessons. I assume they're more flexible in scheduling and more bang-for-buck in time and cost. I've gone way backward from where I was when I'd taken the real classes -- at the steep point on the learning curve that I'm on, I'm bound to slide back very quickly!

It occurred to me that what I really want to do is take dance. That's been true ALL my life, since when my first Halloween costume was a tutu my mother made. But I did take class for many many years, when my life lent itself better to evening classes 3-4 times a week. Still, someday, somehow, I will tearfully joyfully rejoin the dance world again -- creakier and stiffer, but I was never very flexible or graceful to begin with anyway.

Skiing all seems so crude my comparison -- maybe that's why it appeals to me so much now. It's more a sport and less an art than dance or skating, and maybe I just need some of that. (2 more weeks to our ski trip, I can't wait!)

My brief reunion with skating tonight was uplifting anyway. Little things like that add extra time load, but it helps bring this life a little more into balance.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

1/5/2010 Taking care of self

I had a dentist appointment this morning, so after dropping kids off, I took advantage of the time before and after to run some errands that feel SO good to get off my back. Then I took care of some things at home (including the most important -- a nap), then went to my regular weights class.

After that, I was really ready to work, and had a very productive afternoon, even though it was short. I love days when I feel fulfilled and optimistic and like I can handle life after all. Having some flexibility in the morning, getting a few nagging items out of the way, a nap, some exercise, then going to work and being intensely productive and able to concentrate, not slogging through exhausted, is great. This is the way it should be! It's not, but it should be.

Maybe I need more dentist's appointments.

Kids pretty good today. Boys taking to my new additional "work" item for them: emptying their lunches when they get home, not just putting them on the counter. We had some banana bread magic still lingering to keep them cool during dinner, mostly.

The clues are presenting themselves...I just need to decode them now!

ALERT to Doudna Kid Calendar fans: that IS coming! I'm working on it, but haven't had a big gush of inspiration and time coincide to make it happen. Sorry it wasn't ready before the new year!


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

1/4/2010 An unusually good day

I tossed and turned all night last night, anxious and fretful. I even got up around 3:30am to check Web sites for hockey classes, soccer organizations and skating lessons. I knew I'd be wasted today at work, and more disheartened than ever at my inability to balance all aspects of my life.

Despite my exhaustion, I have a rare new project to work on, that is off Mr. Horrible's radar. This learning is great fun, and it feels good to have a chance to prove myself and to interact with my most worthy coworkers (instead of doing busywork that isn't important to anyone). I'd committed to going running at lunch with a coworker, which I've learned is essential to giving me energy on an especially tired day.

After picking up the boys, I thought to ask Gabriel if he'd finished his homework, and he launched into his usual eye-rolling and defensiveness -- but he had. I told him that if he had, maybe we could make some banana bread together. He'd made me feel very guilty yesterday when I told him maybe we could do it this weekend, and he said, "you always say that Mom, and it never happens."

So, we made it happen. While I was making dinner and doing some baking of my own, he used a recipe in his class recipe book, a book that his teacher had pulled together from favorite family recipes of each kid in the class. Another kid had submitted banana bread as well as Gabriel, so I suggested we try the other kid's recipe.

I stayed almost completely hands-off, talking Gabriel through every step. For things he couldn't reach, or things that are too heavy to handle, I helped him, but that was only a few times. He got out all the ingredients, bowls and cups; he did all the measuring and mixing -- and of course, smushing the bananas in a bag. Kids are very very slow workers, so it took pretty much all night, but he was dedicated to the task.

And what a difference in the evening!! When I picked the boys up, Gabriel was clearly on track to spend most of the night pestering his siblings, so this completely neutralized a very toxic element. Julian had no one to ignite his formidable potential for obnoxiousness, so spent much time quietly reading alone. Katrina indulged in her usual favorite activity: playing, talking aloud, making up her little stories, without being bothered in her room with her door closed. Ang Gabriel clearly relished the attention and alone time, as did I. It was still hectic (I didn't even get any photos!!), and made for a very late evening -- no head-start on lunch-making, and Dave and I weren't done with everything until 9:30 -- but it was overall so so much more peaceful and enjoyable.

Of course, I know that spending "quality time" with kids always improves their outlooks, and mine, but the life of a working parent doesn't always allow that. And the life of a working parent whose kids attend Collins and have an inordinate amount of extra project time especially doesn't allow that. But when somehow, the energy and time can be found, the payoff is huge.

Maybe I'll sleep tonight instead of searching for guilt alleviators in the middle of the night.


Monday, January 03, 2011

1/3/2010 First day of school

I was thinking that maybe, I was just complaining too much about school. Many of my friends handle far far more than I do, after all. Maybe I was blowing it out of proportion, and I was just being overwhelmed by projects around the holidays and chronic disorganization. The new year would certainly bring improvements.

Nope. It's just as much of a pain in the ass now.

Actually, I do have additional insight as to why, though it's nothing new. The challenges of picking up kids, walking in the door and getting everyone settled, making dinner, cleaning up lunches, dealing with homework and all that are very real, but it's all made much much more difficult by how rude and resistant the boys are.

Every step of the way, they have to be pushed, reminded, threatened. Just getting them out of the car, inside, jackets and knapsacks hung up, hands washed, lunch put away, is a tremendous effort. It can take 20 minutes just for this baseline state, with reminders turning to threats for absolutely every step.

Katrina, on the other hand, overall is very cooperative. She might get distracted and lose her way, she might leave her lunch on the porch, she might forget to hang up her jacket, but all it takes is a reminder or two, and she cheerfully does it. If they were all like this -- putzy, forgetful, needing reminders, even every day, it would be SO much easier. But the boys are relentlessly rude and defiant.

"I don't HAVE TO!"
"I'm not GOING to school tomorrow, WHO CARES about homework!"
"What are you, STUPID?! Why do you keep TELLING ME!"
"It's MY LIFE and I'll live it HOWEVER I WANT!"
"Fine then I'll take YOUR dessert away!"
"EEEIEIEEIEEEEEEE!!!! Why do I have to do ALL THIS WORK!!!!!!!"
"Why don't YOU do it!"

That's before we even get into the house.

Then if I implement a consequence -- Julian lost dessert for not coming to the table after being told numerous times, then running down a countdown -- I've lost my leverage and they're even worse until bedtime. Julian got sent out to sit on the porch bench twice during dinner for rudeness ("Who's the STUPIDEST one in the family? DAD!").

Oh JOY. This is such a FUN LIFE. "You signed up for it," you might think. No. No one signs up for this part of child-raising. It just tags along, like a burrs on your socks that you can't pick off.

I took this video of Katrina because she was reading this "Zelda and Ivy" book so well. She reads aloud, but she is really truly reading now, and I'm super proud of her. And happy for her, she loves it.

However, that's not why I'm posting the video -- you really can't make out her words, but her reaction when she notices the camera is pretty funny.

She can be plenty defiant too -- of course she has great role models, but she's the only one who flat-out answers with a straight "NO!" and an evil glare (Gabriel's great at those too). Tonight she too threw a fit around dinnertime and we had a struggle, but she's much much easier to distract out of it.

Still I can't help to wonder how different -- ok, easier -- our lives would be in this phase if we had girls. And to think, I'm told the hardest years are the teenage ones.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

1/2/2011 The dog days of school

I don't think I've ever been bluer about a back-to-school night than this one. WAAAH!! Does it HAVE to be over?! WAAHHH whiiiiiiinnneee WAAAAHHHH.

We got all the indoor Christmas stuff put away, cleaned up the craft table to prepare for the onslaught of homework, got most laundry done, and -- once again -- ugh! -- lunches made. I HATE doing that! So we're ready, but emotionally I'm so not ready for school to start. The absence of school last week really pointed to what made my holiday season so, so stressful. Letters are coming, something really has to change.

Thanks to a birthday party that the boys were at much of the afternoon, we had a relatively peaceful day. I'd better go bask in that relaxed feeling while it lasts, because at 7am tomorrow, the race begins anew. Happy new year indeed.