Saturday, January 15, 2011

1/15/2010 Skate, Kung Fu, Soccer

A threefer! I took Katrina to her first skating lesson today, then Julian to Kung Fu, then Gabriel to sign up for spring soccer. He didn't get to play soccer, but it would have to do.

I only got photos of the skating class. Katrina was very very excited! (If not all that color-matched.)

I was prepared for the usual disorganization of classes at this rink, and was not disappointed. I thought at first it might be better when an instructor called out "Snowballs! Come here!" ("Snowball" is the 3-4 class).

But "Snowballs" can be pretty experienced, or completely brand-new as Katrina is. The instructor had to call for help from other instructors, who then told a group of kids, including Katrina, to start "march march" to the center. But a brand-new wall-hugger like Katrina can't do that yet.

Before I was able to push my way to the front of the crowd to intervene, the first instructor suggested they separate the brand-new kids from those who've taken a session or two. Geeee, ya think?? What is this, the first time you've run this class?

So Katrina got some help to the middle, and then they brought out the chairs.

To my relief, they didn't spend much time in the chairs, getting out of them to learn how to get up from all fours on the ice. I was very happy to see that Katrina could do this. She didn't need the chair to sort-of skate, actually.

It was still so chaotic that at one point, Katrina was off on her own, and then was whisked up by another teacher and stuck with the more advanced group. They were supposed to cross the ice to the wall, and Katrina tried carefully, but eventually did fall. Maybe after 8 classes she could, but that's a major delta in skill. She definitely didn't belong with this group.

The teacher of the brand-new group finally noticed her floundering on her own and put her back in the right group. Of the 15 kids in the brand-new group, about half still needed the chairs by the end, creating some roadblocks. I noticed that much of the time, Katrina was trying to skate and was stuck behind kids sitting in chairs, unable to get around.

This was a rare moment of freedom.

Despite all these challenges, Katrina seemed to enjoy and participate in the class. When the teacher asked the class to count, clap, or put their hands on their shoulders, she did it willingly. She paid close attention to the teacher and didn't seem at all rattled by all the setbacks that were increasingly irritating me. Some kids were crying or refusing to get out of the chairs, but despite never quite knowing what to do, being put in the wrong class, not being able to get through the crowd, she took it all really well.

One parent summoned one of the super-busy instructors, and I figured there must be something pretty urgent with her kid. Instead, the mother asked the instructor to make sure her son's legs were straight, so that he didn't injure his ankles. Good grief! Many other parents actively waved from the sidelines to get their childs' attention. Nothing like turning around or looking up suddenly to say hi to Mom when you're brand-new on ice skates.

When class was over, it was a mob scene. I was standing on a bench to get this photo, and since Katrina was one of the last off the ice, I had the luxury of waiting until this cleared a little. But it didn't. It was really, really hard to work her through the crowd to the benches to de-skate her.

I really, really wish there were a closer skating rink that had some semblance of knowing how to run a business. How about online registration, instead of forcing parents to cram into a tiny retail store and compete with people buying things for the fleeting attention of the teenagers running it in order to sign up for a class? How about some barriers to separate getting-on-ice from getting-off-ice traffic? How about some signs telling parents where each class is?

I'm very torn, I'm not sure we'll continue next week. The only good thing I have to say is that Katrina was very excited, she was pretty resilient about an overall crummy situation, and she did learn to get up herself if she falls.

On the way back from skating, on impulse, I put her in Julian's booster seat. I was surprised -- she fits really well!

After skating, I took the boys to their respective activities. Julian at first said he didn't want to go to kung fu today, but he had a good time. They're working on cartwheels! This is a rare chance for me to impress my son, since I can still do cartwheels. I promised him we'd practice cartwheels tomorrow.

Spring soccer for Gabriel will be tough -- two practices a week, and they could start as early as 3:30 in the afternoon. The soccer league tries to group teams by school and organize carpools, which could help with that. They also request that every parent volunteer for some position; this will be exceptionally tough for me. But I want to find a way of making this happen.

I spent the rest of the day resting and watching travel shows on PBS (I want to go to Berlin now!). I have a rare head cold and a lot of fatigue, and I'm just waiting for the cold to travel down to its usual resting spot, deep in my chest. What a waste of an afternoon, I have SO much to do! But at least everyone else got something.


Friday, January 14, 2011

1/14/2011 School office

Today was a real mind-blower.

We had an early meeting with every teacher Gabriel's had (kinder, 1st, 2nd+3rd), Julian's teacher and the principal. This was a "Student Success Team" meeting to review Gabriel's strengths and weaknesses and discuss strategies to increase his "success." This was originally conceived to address behavior issues, but his behavior has overall been better recently, so we also talked about his so-so school performance.

Perhaps the most striking thing was Gabriel's teacher telling us that in visits by the school speech therapist and psychologist for other kids in her class, they also noticed Gabriel. His humming attracted the attention of the psychologist, and the speech therapist noted issues in "social pragmatics." That's a new term to me, but it's related to his not responding in conversation to feedback from whoever he's talking to. Or he'll do something to another kid that is playfully obnoxious and not stop when all social indicators are to stop.

Transitions are always an issue; once he gets focused on something it's hard to redirect him. He also assumes he understands everything, so doesn't listen to the teacher and sometimes misses important instructions.

He also doesn't seem to have many specific friends -- there's always Parth, but Parth always seeks Gabriel out. Gabriel joins groups if there's an activity he wants to do, but not just to hang out. And, all his teachers noted, he's never seemed concerned about having or not having friends. It's not clear if this is a problem or not.

( Meantime, tonight, Mr. Super-Uber Tough Cookie bawled his eyes out for over an hour when he thought a balloon he's been playing with all day had been popped. A balloon. )

A strength that Gabriel's teacher brought up is athleticism. She said he's really good in P.E. and is the fastest kid in the class. I was really surprised, actually. I know he's strong and agile, but I thought that's just how 9-year-old boys are. This is what spurred me to sign him up for soccer, which he was very happy about.

The principal added politely that he'd met Gabriel, and I sheepishly said, "yes, in the 4th week of school he was sent to your office." I added, "Let me guess, he wasn't intimidated by authority?" The principal answered apologetically, "well, no..." while all the teachers in the room who do know him cracked up.

In a different time or place, he'd just be an ordinary troublemaker. But it was useful for us, and everyone else, to confirm things like his athletic strength, or that his music teachers have noticed him (apparently a new teacher played what she said was a note C, and Gabriel raised his hand and said, "no, that's a C-sharp," and he was right), or how consistently difficult it is to guide him. Even the principal said, "It doesn't seem like any of the usual measures work with him." Indeed. The hallmark of living with Gabriel.

The outcome of our meeting was to bring all this information to the school psychologist and meet with her. The principal even asked if he's in counseling or therapy, which it sounded like he needs to be, but I'm still not exactly sure for what, or how to tell when he's "better."

We left 20 minutes before the school office opened for kindergarten registration packet pickup. A big day! I asked if by any chance I could pick up our kindergarten packet now, since I was already in the office, so I didn't have to miss more work to come back. The district has a "sibling priority" policy this year, so I'm not really cutting line. "Absolutely not," said the school admin, overriding the principal, "That wouldn't be fair to the people who've been waiting."

And indeed, this was the line at 7:40 when we arrived for our meeting that morning. The admin said this line started forming at 9pm last night.

But if we already have priority because of siblings in the school, it's not unfair to those waiting either -- we're drawn from a different pool anyway. "Fine, then give us a high-numbered packet," Dave said. But she was adament: "No, they're numbered, I can only give them out in order, and not until 9am."

Later we heard that there were parents who already have kids in our school on that long line, under the impression that our school was not adhering to the new "sibling priority" policy. Dave called the district to complain, and they called our school to straighten out the administrator, who then took me aside when she noticed me picking up our kindergarten stuff at 10:30 (no line!). She insisted defensively that she was following the protocol, but I wasn't able to persuade her that "you must wait in line to get your priority number" contradicts "sibling priority."

What an astounding hassle. It overshadowed our most remarkable experience of being in a room with every teacher Gabriel has ever had, and realizing that most parents never need to do that, and that our son is something of a special case. For the most part, our experience with him is normal (not including those extraordinarily difficult toddler years), despite some extremes (impossible conflicts, playing with electronics for hours on end). It's hard to know if we're in denial or if we're just among such a well-behaved demographic that Gabriel stands out. Gabriel's teacher kindly assuaged my working-parent guilt that lack of time together contributes to his issues, but she said laughing, "No, you really do have a difficult one!" That made me feel better.

I was glad Julian's teacher was there. She was there as a note-taker, but I think all this gave her a really really good picture of Julian's life. She already knew that Julian's older brother was a big presence and huge influence, but hearing about him from all his teachers formed a complete picture. I do try for Julian not to be lost in the fray, so I was glad his teacher heard first-hand what he's up against.

Everyone agreed that next year, the boys' classrooms should be as far apart as possible. I'm confident the principal will think carefully about which teacher will best suit Gabriel for 4th grade, when class size jumps to 30. And while they may all dread another Doudna child at this school, I'm looking forward to some redemption when Katrina starts kindergarten!


1/14/2011 Soap!

It's been an eventful day in many ways, so this is hardly the biggest event, but, it's the most immediate.

The boys and Dave and I were wrapping up dinner, chatting about what to do for Gabriel's birthday party. Katrina had excused herself and gone upstairs about 10 minutes before.

Suddenly we heard a screeching wail from upstairs. Katrina was screaming crying about something, and kept doing it. It was an alarming sound, and kept escalating. Dave and I rushed upstairs, with the boys close on our heels.

And there was Katrina in the bath, surrounded by bubbles and with the water running over her head, screeching. She'd gotten undressed and started her own bath, and then took the kid-safe shampoo and dumped it on her head and attempted to wash her hair! But she put far too much shampoo on, and enough of it got in her eyes that she panicked and started screaming.

Usually when she goes upstairs she just plays around, so we had no idea she'd taken it upon herself to start her own bath -- with disastrous consequences! As I type, she's still crying on and off. I have to give her credit for independence though!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

1/13/2011 Hard work

Whew -- I worked late tonight, I'm feeling a cold coming on (which always travels down into my lungs), and we have a 7:45 meeting with the principal of the school tomorrow. Good night!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1/12/11 CCC!

Coffee, Cheesecake, Chatter! I love every other Wednesday night.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 Extra work

Discussion continued on at work today about the controversial article Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. The vast majority of people I work with were raised within some form of the author's philosophy, so it makes for very interesting discussion.

It occurred to me in discussion that I'm one of the very very few engineers at work who doesn't speak another language fluently (I can only think of one other). Most are foreign-born, including one of the 3 other Caucasians. At least 3 coworkers I know of had arranged marriages (all men), probably more. Other coworkers escaped arranged marriages only by one generation. So, many things that seem foreign or outdated to most Americans are very familiar to the vast majority of people I am surrounded by every day.

Anyway, overall, feelings are very very negative about Amy Chua's harsh style -- no one liked it, but most Asian-raised coworkers relate to it. An interesting comment on the online WSJ version of the article said that Chinese kids complain privately about their parents as they're being raised, but then go and raise their own kids the same way.

My Korean coworker astutely observed that this is probably why me and my (rare) American-raised coworker have a harder time with our Middle-Eastern-raised authoritative management. It also made me realize just what Dave and I are up against when we complain to our school about too much work. Crafting a Heritage Doll is in the noise to the Indian and Asian-raised parents. (That said, the school itself promotes a "positive" philosophy about incenting kids to behave, which ironically rankles us.)

So much is wrong to me with Chua's child-raising philosophy that it's barely worth enumerating. I see no benefit to insulting or berating children, even if they know they're loved; nor to them having no social life, choices, or fun of their choosing. I see great harm and countless missed opportunities in choosing their activities for them or forbidding unstructured time. While I'm inclined, to some extent, to agree that Western parents fret too much about their children's self-esteem or a close relationship, I think children having warm childhood memories isn't just about parental ego: it's important to the children through their adulthood too. And I see no reason to sacrifice that for "achievement," whatever that is.

In fact, it was amusing talking today about my lax high-school education, the freedom I had and abused, and how I regretted later that no one had the time to participate more in my schooling. What a drastic difference from my Asian-raised coworkers -- my Korean coworker had to stay at school until 10pm and only got 1 week off for summer "vacation" -- yet here we are in the same sorts of jobs. (However I must clarify that she is far, far more qualified, experienced, capable and educated than I am!!) Somehow we all got there, but with very very different routes. I don't recommend either.

What possible detriment to "achievement" do happy warm fun silly childlike experiences present? Those moments are irreplaceable -- not even by performing at Carnegie Hall. I want my children have warm fond memories of their childhood, and of me, for their sake -- even if those memories have to bubble through additional memories of me insisting they do extra work to make up for sloppiness.

And that started today. I decided Gabriel had to do the practice sheet that is always stapled to his math tests, thinking about my Chinese coworker's comment that sloppiness usually indicates a need for more practice. In fact, I felt newly silly -- why haven't we insisted on this every week?

Then Julian announced loudly and rudely that he'd done enough homework yesterday and didn't need to do any more tonight. I decided on a new rule on the spot: as long as he has homework to finish, he had to do it, even if it is only Tuesday.

After my horrendous conflict with Gabriel last night (aren't kids supposed to cry when their mean nasty mother puts them on the porch in only thin pajamas in 44-degree weather??!?), Julian was no match for me. I insisted -- channeling Amy Chua again -- that he go upstairs and finish his homework. This isn't just philosophy; in practice he leaves the time-consuming parts for Thursday nights, and we end up having a big struggle that night. No more.

Then, at 6:15pm, it struck me. Julian was upstairs working on finishing his homework. Gabriel was, without argument, working on his practice sheet. Katrina was shouting songs to herself in her room. It was more peaceful than it's been at homework time in weeks. I know this magic won't last, but I relished the moment anyway. Could this be a direct result of my new inspiration?

Probably. In fact, Gabriel wasn't working on his work that peacefully at first -- this is Gabriel after all. He'd said he wasn't going to finish his math homework, and threatened to tear it up. Amy Chua's daughter tore up a music score that she resisted working on, then her mother taped it back together and laminated it so that she couldn't tear it up again, and insisted again that she sit down to the piano and work on it. Wow. Major.

So if Mrs-Extreme could go that far, I could at least take a first step. And I did. I told Gabriel if he tore up his math homework, I'd tape it together, laminate it, and he'd still have to do it. Incredibly, Uber Tough Cookie backed down and finished his homework. I'd started forming a plan in my head to run to Michael's to get a laminating machine -- that thought must have come through in my voice when I told him he had to finish.

I definitely don't want any readers to think I condone Amy Chua's methods or conclusions. I have a much broader view of "success" in life, and have never believed it could be measured with academic achievement alone. And if I'd never had a Gabriel, I'd probably be a complete Positive-Parenting advocate and would write Amy Chua off as a nut case. But in many ways, "positive parenting" failed me with my extra-tough kid, and I do draw inspiration from someone willing to stand up to extreme child resistance, even if she created it herself with, in my opinion, unreasonable and destructive demands.

I want to do better than her (I can't wait to see the memorial book written by her kids) -- I want my boys to love me and take happy funny memories of ski trips and camping and air shows with Mom to their graves. I want them to leave home truly ready to face the world on their own, with confidence and independence and resilience and social skills and athletic skills and an open mind.

And some part of that needs to be because of Mom and Dad's insistence on their best work. Amy Chua would call that "believing" in them. I would agree with that to a limited extent, but will set my expectations and "beliefs" more fairly and constructively, at least in my Inferior Western Mother view. I'm not going to turn into a parent with the same level of expectations she has, nor willing to make that level of scarifice (who has the time?!), but she does give me a much-needed poke to stand up to my resistant sons, and to the notion that the only approach is praise and encouragement and incentives to get kids to do their best.

Gabriel came home today with two perfect math practice tests, first time ever. He said, "I wrote it better only because you insisted."


Monday, January 10, 2011

1/10/11 Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Yesterday this article in the Wall Street Journal (we're print subscribers) caught our attention, starting with the brash headline and the in-your-face expression of the author: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.

Dave was mostly put off by the article, but I was very intrigued at the author's confidence and conviction and fortitude. She knows she'll be lambasted for her methods -- the story about berating her 7-year-old daughter and forcing her to work for days until she was able to master a piano piece is chilling -- yet she's unshakeable. Why can't I have that kind of self-assurance?

But the discussion of this article had even more impact on our boys. Gabriel in particular was horrified to hear that an A- grade was not accepted. "What if you just get something wrong?!" he asked. I took some sick pleasure in telling the boys that a Chinese mother would respond to their rudeness and saying No very very differently: "You'd be sleeping on the porch if you talked to a Chinese mother the way you talk to me!"

Today at work, I had a very interesting discussion with 2 coworkers and my manager, all of whom were raised in Asia (China, Korea and Singapore) by Asian parents. My closest coworker from Korea said she had to stay at school until 10pm. My manager said absolutely he was raised that way, but no one considered it cruel, it was just the way it was. He added that it depends on the kid; the article author is a little extreme, but certainly he and his wife have a much higher standard for their children than Western parents. He also pointed out that the suicide rate for Japanese and Korean teenagers is very high, and that many kids flounder in college when they're on their own for the first time. My two female coworkers said they don't want to raise their daughters that way at all; my manager has two sons (and a full-time mom wife who has the time to implement the tougher rules) and says they walk a cliff; they push their sons as far as possible without pushing them over the edge.

I have no interest in forcing the kids to play violin or forbidding playdates, but it did get me thinking about Gabriel's schoolwork. He had to take a math test again after the holidays, because he'd done so poorly on something of a mid-term exam before the holidays. His teacher explained that kids who'd gotten a 3 or less (out of 6) were re-tested, and that Gabriel knows the material but he can't read his own handwriting. When we talk to Gabriel about his sloppy homework and middling math grades, he retorts that it's stupid and he doesn't care.

Superior Chinese Mother never had a force like Gabriel to reckon with, but there's something to her conviction. Most of the discussion we have with Gabriel's teachers, school and CDC, surround a "positive" approach and rewarding him and giving him incentives. Some of that, especially regarding baseline cooperative behavior in school, has always made Dave and I uncomfortable -- why should he get a special reward just for meeting a basic expectation, like coming in to class after recess without causing trouble? And some of it just plain doesn't work -- there is no incentive to persuade him that he must take more care with his work.

I talked to my mother about this on the way back from work today, and she suggested getting a 5th-grader or someone to review his homework. This got me thinking. A hired tutor is more logistically possible and will have more authority over Gabriel (a 5th-grader has no prayer against Gabriel). But one way or another, we need more help.

While picking up the boys, I talked to the CDC director about the logistics of bringing a tutor in after school, and we'll talk to the principal about it Friday, at a meeting that's been scheduled for weeks to review his behavior issues. Ironically, his behavior at school and CDC has been much better in recent weeks, so our meeting Friday will refocus toward schoolwork.

I was inspired.

I told Gabriel on the way home tonight that sloppy work is no longer acceptable. I told him he now has to get at least a 5 out of 6 on his math tests, and that we will hire a tutor for him if he doesn't. I am serious. Superior Chinese Mother would say always a 6, but Inferior Western Mother has done little more than glance at his mistakes and tell him not to handicap himself with carelessnes. His firm "yeah this is stupid" attitude will only get entrenched if we don't tackle it head-on now. If he truly didn't have the aptitude for math, I'd approach this differently, but actually that would be an easier problem to address. Not giving a sh*t is a much harder one.

So boy, was he surprised tonight when Dave and I reviewed his homework line-by-line, and two past math tests. Dave made him redo every problem he got wrong, and explain his reasoning. As we expected, all his mistakes are because he's careless and sloppy and makes assumptions. One of my Chinese-raised coworkers said today that when a kid is sloppy, that means he needs more practice. She is absolutely right, and Gabriel is going to get that.

However, Superior Chinese Mother is a Yale Law professor, and probably didn't have the problem of an adorable 4-year-old girl completely distracting her sons when they get home and have to do their work. I wanted to review Gabriel's test when I got home, but realized I was already tracking very late for dinner and I had no choice but to set his work aside until Dave got home.

I asked myself briefly if I was overemphasizing homework -- the granola-y schools are nothing like that -- but no, Gabriel's awful attitude is a problem in class as well as at home. And it's only going to get worse as he gets older. His personality and will is much much too strong to let this go.

Just to give an example what we're up against: tonight after lights-out, Gabriel kept messing around and making noise, keeping Julian awake. Dave warned him, then started taking things away. Gabriel being Gabriel, this only caused escalation -- he was furious and started screaming at the top of his lungs. This gave Julian an excuse to get out of bed.

I went up to his room and without a word, took his wrist and led him outside, where I made him sit on the porch in his pajamas. That's a rule around here: screaming gets you sent outside. I had to do that last night too, and like tonight, it was cold, about 45 degrees. So much for that "and he never did it again...."

I left him outside for about 2 minutes, then opened the door and asked him, "Are you ready to be quiet now?" He was huddling on the bench, and had pulled his PJs down around his feet and hands. He glared at me and said through clenched teeth, "OF COURSE NOT." I closed the door without a word.

After another 2 minutes, I pulled him in and brought him upstairs. At his bedroom door, I motioned him to go in his room, and told him to go to bed without saying a word. He stood and stared at me, icicles shooting from his eyes. I lowered my face to his and said in the most menacing tone I have, "YOU GET IN THERE *NOW*." He stood his ground. I told him he'd spend a solid 5 minutes outside in the cold if he wasn't in bed by the count of 10. He didn't move.

Outside it was again. I put him on the porch (secretly relieved that he cooperated with this step) and went to my car. "Where are you going?" he demanded. I was just going into my car to check its outdoor temperature reading, but his question gave me an idea: driving away might freak him out more than anything. So I did. I started my car, and drove away. It was 44 degrees.

I drove around the block, about 2 minutes. To a Chinese mom, I was being too easy on him. To a Western mom, this is child abuse.

When I returned, I motioned him to go inside and told him to once again, go straight to bed without saying a word. "What, did you just drive around the block?" he demanded, not at all nonplussed. I led him all the way to his bed and told him to climb up right now.

And he resisted again. I told him taking him outside was taking up too much time, now I was just going to start spanking. He held his ground for a moment, then climbed up while still glaring at me in the eyes, then sat on the edge of the bed. I told him to get all the way up, he refused.

What would Superior Chinese Mom do? Climb up to a top bunk bed and chase a defiant almost 9-year-old on her hands and knees? Probably. I started to, but he rushed away, and I left quickly before he had a chance to escalate. He's really getting too old and too fast to be chasing.

Experience reminds me that this will all be forgotten tomorrow. But I'm not forgetting about coming down much harder on his schoolwork. I regretted for years that I didn't have more pushing when I was a scatterbrained boy-crazy teenager. My working mother didn't have the time, my divorced father didn't have the interest, and the post-hippie-era culture didn't support it. I struggled with feelings -- and grades -- of academic inferiority, and it wasn't until graduate school that I unlocked my door: I need a lot of repetition and practice for things to sink in. Not that I wish I'd been raised by Superior Chinese Mother, not by any means, but I would have benefitted greatly from more attention.

So I can thank Superior Chinese Mother for some very interesting discussions today, some feelings of superiority of my own, and new gumption to stand up to my iron-willed son. Maybe someday he'll thank her too.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

1/9/2011 The poignancy of children

I remember once being at an airport with my father. I can't imagine the occasion; I don't ever remember flying together when I was a kid. Maybe I was picking him up when he was visiting.

In any case, as we were waiting for baggage claim, he observed a young boy, probably about 4 years old, staring at the carousel. My father looked at him for a moment, and said with his characteristic observation of the ordinary, "Look at that poignant expression on that child's face."

I looked. "I don't know Dad, I think he's just spacing out." The kid looked pretty blank to me. But my father saw depth in his face.

People often cite how insightful children are in their innocence -- "out of the mouth of babes." And for certain, they are full of surprising comments, which can easily be taken for a refreshing, unadulterated view of the world.

But if you had any doubt as to the meaningfulness of vast majority of what goes through a child's mind, look no further than this gmail exchange between Gabriel to Julian.

Hi, J-Fart. |
Guess what? V
J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk,
idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot,
moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%.
J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%.
J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%.
J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%. J=Jerk, idiot, moron, and 0%.

hi Gabriel.Guess what?You fart 999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,888,888,888,888,888,888,888,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999 times!!!!!!HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!YOU JUST LEARNED YOUR ABCS!!!!!!!ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYandZ!!!!!!!

yYOu You look like a princess and you smell like some poo!!!!G=JERK!!!!!SUCKER!!!SUCKER!!!SUCKER!!!SUCKER!!!

Yeah, they're deep all right.

Julian is very excited about his new kids-cookbook from grandparents. Today we made "eggs in a frame" for his breakfast, substituting a heart-shaped cookie-cutter for an upside-down glass to cut out the bread. He loved it! He also got some real cooking experience: two burns. Not easy to handle a frying pan when you're so short.

Later we tried on some new snow stuff for Katrina. Her pink-flowered base layer, and another pair of snowpants, that are labeled size 3T but are longer than the 4T pair she wore tubing (and match the jacket)

Katrina was very thorough in testing out all her gear, so she was very overdressed for playing outside. "Mommy, take me to the snow!!"

Gabriel posted another Timmy The Total Jerk comic today, after spending a solid hour and a half re-drawing and tracing it to make it darker. Maybe his new comic-strip artist side will finally persuade him that legible handwriting has its place after all!