Saturday, February 19, 2011

2/19/2011 A rainy Saturday at home

I'd thought seriously about another one-day ski trip with the boys this weekend. It'd be the last chance we have until our trip in March, but logistics were too daunting. To start, school's out and it's the busiest ski weekend of the year. Nearby lodging is full, ski lessons sold out, traffic and crowds will be horrible.

This is all complicated by the WONDERFUL bad weather we're finally having. The storms mean lots of rain down here in the flatlands, but lots of beautiful new snow up in my beloved mountains (and actually even some here as well; Mount Hamilton has snow right now). Great if we were already up there, but getting there will be hampered by power outages, blocked roads, chain controls, and more crowds and traffic. It just isn't the time for us to do an impromptu unplanned trip. If we'd planned one, I'd be ecstatic -- this is perfect for it -- and those who have lodging secured next week will be in snow heaven! I'm so happy for my friends who do have planned snow/ski trips.

Besides, there are no shortage of home projects to catch up on, especially with my mother coming next week and the cleaners coming Monday. So with great regrets, common sense, usually a stranger to me, took over, and we didn't go.

So, a rainy Saturday at home. Our issues aren't about bored children per se -- if there's one thing the Doudna kids are great at, it's self-entertainment -- but it's more about the boys tearing each other to pieces and pestering Katrina nonstop.

Gabriel's March book report is on describing a how-to project. Naturally, he picked something related to electricity, and wrote about how to make a battery from a lemon. I insisted he work on this report a little bit each day, and he's done now. Done! It's due March 2, and no book report hanging over his head during "winter recess" (aka 'ski week', sniff) next week -- Yayyy!

So based on his report, today he wanted to actually try making a battery out of a lemon. He picked some lemons from our one productive lemon tree, we found zinc-coated nails in the garage, he found some pennies, and whaddya know -- he made battery cells out of lemons. He put them in series to produce more power, measured 3 volts, then attached them to his Electronics Playground to light up an LED.

Now that's what I call a great rainy-day activity!!

But indirectly thanks to skiing, we do have another thing to keep kids busy: Rats!

We're rat-sitting for friends who had a ski trip planned this week (lucky ducks, and with the best snow!). It's only fitting that we be responsible to take care of these two, since I'd encouraged the idea of rats as pets.

We're having a grand time with Scabbers and Spot, both females. It is impressive how different rats are from other rodents. I had gerbils and guinea pigs and even hamsters as a kid, but I never remember them being so distinctly different from each other. The unique rat personalities are evident within a few minutes of holding them. They also seem to recognize and get to know individual people really quickly.

No one is more excited about our visiting pets than Gabriel. He absolutely loves watching them and playing with them, while I marvel at his remarkable tender side. He speaks softly and affectionately to them, laughs at the littlest things they do, and generally just lights up around them. Yet this morning, he had no compunction about decking Julian for insulting him.

Spot is the calmer more cuddly rat, who likes to hide in pockets and hang on you, and is generally shyer.

Katrina finally let her guard down when she saw Spot in Gabriel's pocket and wanted a turn with Spot. I think since I'd spent a fair amount of time with Spot yesterday, Spot always wanted to stay on me, so I had to put her on Katrina and vacate. Worked fine.

Scabbers is a busy little girl, always twitching her whiskers inquisitively and looking for new places to climb. Julian was nervous about the rats at first, but got used to the idea quickly.

Gabriel can't get enough of either one, though Scabbers is more likely to join the party.

The kids all put sweatshirts to hold the rats on so that the hood would protect their necks from sharp claws, and so they have pockets for the little critters to hide in. Gabriel has designated his sweatshirt "the rat sweatshirt" and insists on keeping it somewhere that he can get to it quickly in case an opportunity to play with the rats comes up.

Tonight he asked again and again about playing with the rats, and with each passing time I could see he could handle them fine, so have gotten more liberal about letting him play without me hawking over him, as we get to know how to handle these very agile creatures.

These poor deprived children are so overdue for a pet.

As much as I like these animals, I'm thinking of a pet that isn't caged and that can hang with us all the time. A dog is out of the question as long as I'm working full-time. But a cat? This depends on Dave's allergies, which he thinks have improved enough that he can tolerate a cat. He's even said recently he thinks he can live with a cat, and I'm liking the idea more and more.

But now the kids are completely opposed to a cat -- they want rats!!

Cat, rat, pets....I'm just trying hard not to think about the magical fresh snow and how very very far off March 12 is (our Sugarbowl trip) -- and how very very little left there is of ski season after that.


Friday, February 18, 2011

2/18/2011 Note to the teacher, and boys

Julian's "poor" behavior report for the week resulted in his being compelled to write a note to the teacher:

Dear Teacher,
I am sorry for doing Kung fu moves. I will never do it again.
From, Julian.

Julian's behavior in class is declining; he's messing around a lot, and apparently this week kept getting out of his chair to show off kung fu moves in class. (And I'm about to spend another $300 to continue his lessons?!)

Dave was stunned tonight when Katrina cleaned up some cards that had been scattered all over the floor -- without even being asked. Meantime, the boys present an ongoing struggle every morning to walk them through each normal step of the day -- never mind something that isn't part of a daily routine. We're not used to that level of advanced thought!

I worked late tonight, and Dave ran out to get takeout. We're probably horrible illegal immoral prosecutable offensive parents for doing this, but we do leave Gabriel alone sometimes. What's more, twice now we've even left Gabriel and Katrina alone for a few minutes, like tonight to zoom out to get takeout when another parent is on their way home and running late). Gabriel knows how to call Dave, and we tell him to mind Katrina, and he takes that job seriously.

While you Gentle Reader might think very little of us for doing leaving our children at home alone for more than 30 seconds, consider this: we wouldn't dream of leaving the boys alone together for more than 5 seconds. Gabriel and Katrina are a far more trustworthy pair than Julian and....well, anyone.

I'm not sure what that says about us as parents or people, but in my defensive opinion, it says more about how boys are compared to girls than it does about us. I hear girls dish out their share when they're older, but for now I'm here to tell you: boys are way, way more difficult, less trustworthy, more inclined toward violence and chaos, more defiant, more impossible in nearly every way, than girls at this age.

Any girl-mom who's feeling skeptical right now, I ask: have you ever arrived at a nice restaurant's valet parking and discovered one of your girls' faces covered in blood, matted in her hair, spread all over her face so you couldn't find where it was coming from, dripping all over her jacket and clothes -- because she got punched in the nose by her sister?

Katrina drives me crazy in her own way, and you all know I'm more in my element in the boy-world than the girl-world. Girls have their issues too, I know. But you can probably leave them alone together at younger ages without worrying about broken bones or the house being set on fire. And they don't write as many notes of apology to the teacher!

Blood, notes and all, I do dearly love my boys though.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

2/17/2011 The explanation

Something tells me he'd have managed for a cookie.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2/16/11 Milestones

When a baby is born, a parent's life transforms drastically from total independence into total tound-the-clock care of another person.

But ever so gradually across a childhood, total helplessness yields to tiny freedoms. Some are larger than others (you can sit up without toppling over), but all are joyful transitions for a parent. Tonight I witnessed one of these miniature milestones when Gabriel trimmed his own fingernails!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2/15/2010 The Morning List

I'll never know what possessed him, but tonight Julian wrote a list of each task that must occur in the morning before leaving for school.

One of these tasks doesn't exist (2. wash hands, though I guess that's implied in the morning pee). A few were skipped (between 6 and 7 should be "put knapsack on porch").

The remaining jobs are never-ending torture for we parents. Each step has to be pushed through, reminded, bugged, nagged, told again, and again, and again, each subsequent time with a raised voice.

I must qualify: Boys only -- Katrina throws little fits from time to time, but overall moves from one job to the next happily ("time to get my LUNCH!!") and even when she's having a fit she mostly goes through the steps, if noisily. The boys...? It takes a tractor to pull them through.

Yet clearly, they know what to do.

O, would that the Morn be this simple.


Monday, February 14, 2011

2/14/2010 V-day

I really like that the schools have kids write parents Valentine's. Her teacher wrote "Happy Valentine's Day" at the bottom, but the rest were her words.

Julian was proud of a little poem he wrote (and printed at school I guess), part of a larger card with photos of him making kiss faces with his glorious lips. He said proudly, "Everyone else did 'Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Sugar is sweet, and so are you!', but I wrote this just for you!"

Then Gabriel showed me his monochromatic super-simple Valentine. Now I think I know why Julian made such a point of his poetic creativity.

The boys didn't pass valentine's out (Katrina did hers though, happily), but who would have noticed the Doudna boys' missing valentine's with all the crap that goes around? Good grief, I hate to be a killjoy, but can't the school ban this? They come home with bags and bags of candy, lollipops, candy necklaces and all sorts of weird junk. It's just too darned much, and creates no end of problems when they insist it's theirs and they can eat it anytime they want. They can't of course, but it's just one more thing for me to enforce.

The cards are very sweet though!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

2/13/2010 Fashion Girl

It's official. Katrina is a girl. She changes her clothes constantly!

I can't even remember what she started out in today, but it doesn't take long before she strips down and finds a "dress-up" dress. This one is a hand-me-down from Cousin Remi, as are the boots (and if you're reading this, keep 'em coming!).

Katrina rode her bicycle and played with the soccer ball all day in this outfit, though she disapproved of the picture-taking.

No doubt about it: boys and girls really are different, and this is not socialization. The boys never cared about changing their clothes, and she does it 3-4 times a day!