Friday, November 25, 2011

11/25/11 Thanksgiving

We had a remarkably successful Thanksgiving dinner, despite the odds -- all child-free friends at our "Orphan's Thanksgiving," and us, with three rambunctious children.

I spent a small fortune at Barnes and Noble in preparation, mostly with payoff.

But when the event is held at the home of the iPad designer, you're bound to have a few iPads floating around. In this case, three -- enough to keep all 3 kids mesmerized all evening (books notwithstanding). And what luck, the iPad designer himself (one of my oldest and best friends) spent quite some time showing Katrina how to play Angry Birds.

This annual "Orphan's" Thanksgiving is a potluck, so I brought numerous items, including a wonderful "Brown Butter Apple Tart." I took this photo just to show my Mom how much I love my new tart dish! Such a simple item, but something you really miss if you don't have one and are inclined to make tarts.

However, to my surprise, the most popular item I brought was an apparently nondescript Parsnips Puree -- also Mom-inspired. I got far more comments on that than anything else I've ever made, this year and others, including from one our longtime friends who's a professional baker and an extraordinary cook. He's from Brazil and somehow didn't know despite many years in the USA that parsnips exist! Luckily I had a sous-chef for this dish: Julian peeled the parsnips and did such a thorough job I had to look them over to make sure I wasn't looking at unpeeled ones! The Leeks Gratin I brought were also a hit.

The day after Thanksgiving, today, we didn't do much -- I've been feeling super-low-energy these past few days for some reason. The most significant thing we did was pull out our snow clothes and try them all on to see who'd outgrown what. Now I know it's time for a hand-me-down rotation -- Gabriel can live with last year's jacket but ideally he gets a new one, Julian gets Gabriel's last-year's jacket, and even Katrina could do OK with Julian's last-year's jacket. I'm never sure about these things -- it can seem so obviously OK in your living room, then so obviously not-OK the second you get on the ski lift and realize "dang those pants are WAY too short!"

Katrina insisted on spending the rest of the day wearing her snow clothes, including a trip to the supermarket in her snow bibs and boots! She spent all afternoon talking through pretend snowball fights, playing with her goggles and mittens and talking nonstop about snow. Gabriel said he wished we lived in Truckee. I half-agree, though reality is that our jobs and lives are here at sea level. I don't want to move to Truckee (?? boy that was a tough sentence to type!!), but the pull to spend significant time at altitude this winter is strong. We're all VERRRY ready for snow!!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/11 The Famous Tantrum

Anyone remember this?

3-1/2 yo Katrina's dinnertime tantrum

Probably not; for us this was routine.

But this video caught the attention of an NPR science reporter who's looking at a new study done on toddler-tantrums. I guess he was trolling YouTube for toddler tantrum videos, and this relatively routine fit of Katrina's had particular interest -- I think because Dave is in it, and is so calm. A few days ago, the reporter called us to talk to us about it, and this turned into a phone interview this morning!

When looking for the video to which he was referring, it was striking just how many tantrum videos I'd posted -- and those a tiny fraction of the actual tantrums. Few are of Gabriel, because at the time I was still using a real videocamera and had to edit the videos. By the time Katrina was at it, I was only using my regular still camera, and now YouTube existed, so I'd posted a lot more videos of her. My goodness, it was worse than I even remember.

So I talked to the reporter for about 30 minutes this morning about our experiences with kids and tantrums. Any discussion about tantrums has to start with Gabriel, but the fact that Julian was really not a tantrumer was really important in the discussion. It was surprisingly hard to answer basic questions like, "What started it?" or "What ended it?" It's so funny, and perhaps telling, how hard it is to identify what started these tantrums, even though they were a multi-daily occurrence for many years. How could I not remember?!

The reporter asked a lot about how Dave is reacting so calmly to Katrina in the video, and about how she freaked when he pointed out to her that choosing a particular chair at a round table didn't make a difference. Of course, tantrums are all about being unreasonable, and reason only fuels the fire.

At the end, the reporter played short audio clips from this video, mostly of Katrina SCREAMING, and asked me to react to them. Now it's almost funny listening to her scream "NOOOOO!!!", though it also evokes painful memories of exasperation and just...well, hating life at the moment. I'm SO glad those days are over...well, mostly over.

I don't know how the whole discussion will be edited -- I'm sure if my voice airing our dirty laundry makes it on national radio it will only be for a few seconds. But we'll find out probably on Monday, Dec. 5th, when this report on tantrums should air! It will be either on "Morning Edition" or "All Things Considered" -- both shows I listen to all the time in the car (which means every day, but never in their entirety).

I sure am glad to talk about this in retrospect though....mostly.


p.s. If you want to see a truly funny tantrum video, this is the one: Why throw a tantrum if no one is around to see it?"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

11/20/11 The RC Car

Boy, I'm behind. We've had too many major things happen in the past week to write about it.

Wednesday we had an "SST" meeting with all of Julian's teachers.

Thursday we had an "IEP" meeting to find the results of the extensive assessment the school district did on Gabriel (cognitive, psychological, language; questionnaires from parents and two teachers). This was a huge deal, it turns out! We didn't finish and will have to re-meet, but it looks like he'll qualify for "services" for language (an articulation issue) and "social pragmatics." Overall with language and speech he was outstanding -- the speech pathologist and psychologist both said his manner of speaking like an adult was very unusual for a kid his age -- but his empathy, ability to respond to others' manners, ability to perceive emotion in others, was very low for someone who overall is so capable with language.

Friday Julian was suspended from the CDC. This is huge. He was messing around with another kid, head-locked him, and bashed the kids' head on the floor. If he'd done that at school, he'd have been suspended from school. As it is, the kids are spending 3 days at CDC next week because school is out, so missing a CDC day is a big deal. Tonya will fill the gap for us, thank goodness, but it's really unacceptable for us to have to find other childcare arrangements because of behavior.

Saturday, Julian had his first counseling session, offered through the school district. First we talked with the counselor, with Julian present, then she talked with him alone. He wouldn't tell us what they talked about; mostly he was excited about a G.I. Joe he got to play with at the end. I'm a little concerned about the counseling because the counselor explained to us that she's a "mandated reporter," which means if Julian says things that she has to report, we could be looking at another visit from the county Family services. She also said she'd be talking to us about "parenting skills," and asked if we ever considered timeouts instead of spanking. Good grief, are we back to that?! Still, I hope that Julian feels good about having his own counselor, and I told him she's there just for him to talk to about his feelings.

Saturday was great though, since Uncle Ryan was in town, and we all had such a great time with him. Aunt Laura was at a girls-only thing in Napa, but they're both coming back next weekend, yay!

Today, Sunday, we went out to our annual pancake breakfast at our friends' house before the motorcycle show, which Dave went to afterward. At home, Gabriel spent most of the day trying to fix a remote-control car to bring to CDC tomorrow, because it's "electronics day." I hate these days; kids bring in their video games to play, and they're not allowed to share. So it's really hard on the few kids without video games, and I'd talked to the CDC about this already. To make matters worse, things like remote-controlled cars aren't usually allowed. But Gabriel had talked to the CDC director last week about bringing his RC car, and the director agreed, knowing our situation.

Gabriel played with the car today, but something on it broke. He spent hours working on it, including roping Dad into taking him into the garage to solder a wire. Something mechanical was still wrong with the car, so Gabriel kept at it, then the wire they'd soldered broke again. It became clear it was beyond repair.

Gabriel was so upset -- and this is not a kid who gets upset easily. He just didn't know what to do. He'd alternately wail (since babyhood, he still can't sob) about being "tortured" at Electronics Day, then gather himself and tackle the broken toy again, then give up in frustration and wail again.

It was heartbreaking. I felt so bad for him, and then annoyed again that we're put into this position. He'd been a really good sport about it, he'd planned ahead, then spent so many hours getting his car ready, only to have it break again, so his disappointment was really deep. He was now dreading the next day, when incessant beeps and squeaks of everyone else's video games would just rub it in. I remember what that feels like as a kid, like your whole world is wrapped up in this thing, and then it falls apart.

Even though I knew he'd recover, I wasn't sure I would. So during dinner, I snuck out to Target and got him another RC car -- this time one with a better suspension and meant to climb. It's not an expensive one, and I know it won't last forever, but I sure feel better.

And so did he. It felt good showing it to him and seeing his whole mood turn around. He hugged me several times and thanked me -- I think not just for the car, but for lifting his disappointment. At least that's what I'd like to think.

I'm not quite as worried about Julian on Electronics Day, for a number of reasons. Though he too doesn't like having to watch other kids play with their video games, he didn't have his heart set for days on bringing an alternative. He's also just been suspended, which seriously curtails my sympathy. This is a huge pain in the rear for us, not to mention the extra expense. Katrina hasn't said anything yet; I'm not sure this is as big a deal for the kinders.

It's sure been an emotional past-few days, ending now on an up-note for now.