Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter Break Wrap-Up

Winter break is wrapping up here, with the kids going back to school, Ryan back to work, and me starting internship. We've all really enjoyed sleeping in every day, so I have a feeling it will be a rough transition back.

In the final days of break, Ryan made toffee, which disappeared in no time, and I made fudge. This was my last attempt at fudge. What had always been a reliable recipe throughout my childhood and early adulthood had not been working at all the past two years. Each time, the butter would separate from the rest of the fudge, leaving a goopy mess. I was tired of wasting the effort and supplies (two sticks of butter, nuts, chocolate, etc) on it. But the kids really wanted it, so I gave it one last shot. And it worked this year! The only thing I can figure is that I'd been cooking it on the stove's "turbo boil" burner the previous two years and that this overcooked the sugar mixture. Makes sense in that we'd only had issues with it since moving to this house. As it makes two 9x13 pans of the stuff, I had to figure out how to get rid of it all. Buy Nothing to the rescue! I gave away a pan plus some to neighbors through the group, leaving just enough for the kids for a little while.

On New Year's Eve I eventually told the kids "no" about video games enough times that they gave up. They ended up building a fort in the basement out of boxes, blankets, and desk chairs. At some point they decided that I was an alien monster and they would periodically "sneak" upstairs to battle me with their (empty of darts) nerf guns. This kept them entertained for the whole afternoon and we let them sleep in there overnight. Sadly, the fort had to be taken down the next day in preparation for the return to school (and so we could have full use of the basement back).

On New Year's Day, as usual, we made our gingerbread house. I spent most of the day on it as I hadn't got around to making the pieces the day before. The boys and I had fun decorating.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017

We had a lovely Christmas this year. It started snowing on Christmas Eve and by Christmas morning we probably had about 3 inches - practically a blizzard for the PNW. In fact, the car you see in the picture below got stuck trying to turn at our intersection. The kids played in it on the deck while waiting for Christmas Eve dinner (Coconut chicken fingers over rice, broccoli, delicata squash, and gingerbread steamers).

Mal joined us in watching our traditional A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version) for the first time ever. Gareth is turning into quite the night owl, so Ryan and I had to hang out and watch something while waiting for him to fall asleep - kind of annoying when you have everything ready, but are forced to stay up late waiting for the kids to fall asleep.

The benefit to having more night owl kids is that they sleep in in the morning. Here they are discovering their stockings/presents under the tree.

Then Mal checked out the snow outside. I caught an action shot of his expression of excitement about it.


Ryan warmed his hands by the fire.

Gareth requested Christmas sweaters for everyone this year, and Santa obliged. The kids opened those first. Mal was disappointed at first, saying, "Aw, that's not what I asked for for Christmas!"

But he's turned out to love his sweater, wearing it pretty much every day since. He was very excited when he opened his first package from Gram, who gave him the nutcracker he'd asked for, "This is what I wanted for Christmas!!".

Lots of gifts were unwrapped to reveal boxes this year, so the kids started acting overly excited for every single box. "Yes!! I got a box!!"

After we were finished opening presents, the kids went outside to play in the snow. After a bit, Gareth came in requesting help to get the snowman's midsection onto the base, so out I went. 

Mal was grumpy in this picture because Gareth had put in the pinecone eyes and hadn't left one for Mal to do. We soon fixed that by having Mal put in the buttons. 

Finished snowman and a happier Mal!

Then we had a brief snowball fight. Mal had donated his mittens to the snowman and realized after a bit that this meant cold hands. He wanted the snowman to keep the mittens, though, so decided he was ready to head in.

The snow turned to ice by the next morning, but by today was completely melted, except for a couple snowman remnants.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Diagon Alley & Gingerbread Cookies

We've now begun to include Mal in the movie-going tradition of winter break. He's not quite old enough for the new Star Wars movie (and has only seen the original trilogy, not any of the newest bunch), so I took him out to Coco early in the week, while Ryan and Gareth went to Star Wars the next day. A couple days later, we met up with friends to check out Diagon Alley. A family in Seattle constructed it in their driveway back around Halloween and have left it up and open to the public through the holidays. Mal happened upon Gareth's wand that morning, and wanted to get dressed up before we left:

But once there, he wasn't too keen on having his picture taken in front of Ollivander's (he had been made to change out of the costume in order to fit in his carseat safely).

While not overly crowded, there was a line to climb to the top of Gringott's, making picture-taking difficult. You can kind of see Gareth's head behind the post there.

Considering it was just a a family enterprise and was built in a driveway, it was very impressive! Mal was upset that it wasn't longer/there wasn't more to do. They have had some weekends where they've made more of an event of it, but I didn't want to try and go with all the crowds on a weekend.

Early in the week we made our gingerbread cookies. The boys both asked if we could decorate cookies this year. I haven't been in much of a baking mood, so it took a few days for me to muster the will to make icing. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the boys were actually quite dedicated about icing all the cookies we had left (with some playtime breaks thrown in), while I was wondering if we were done yet about 1 cookie in. They turned out pretty cute:

Otherwise, our break has been very restful. The afternoon of Diagon Alley, the kids played on the computer, while Ryan sat on the couch doing something, and I took up the rest of the couch napping. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. We've watched a few holiday movies here and there and the kids have been eagerly counting down to Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Winter Grand Prix

A couple weeks ago, Gareth was invited to go along with our friends to the first race of the Winter Grand Prix. He's never done anything like this before, but decided to check it out. His PE teacher offers a running club at school, where the kids run laps around the playground once a week during recess and get charms for a bracelet for every 7 laps (1 mile) they run . Gareth tries to run at least 10 laps each week. The races for the Grand Prix are about 2 miles, so a little longer than what he runs during recess.

Apparently he enjoyed his first week, despite it raining and being a bit chilly, so we signed him up for the entire series. The first race was a road race, so mostly flat road surfaces. The second race was today and was a cross country race - a little muddy after a some rain yesterday. Gareth's time was a little slower this time around, I'm guessing due to having to run up a hill plus the different surface. Regardless, he still had a lot of fun. He even told me afterward, when I was talking about my feet being cold, that the solution to that was to run rather than just watching.

Mal captured A LOT of pictures on my phone - probably got every runner on there at some point. I went through and deleted those that didn't contain Gareth.

Everyone at the starting line. Gareth is in there somewhere.

Gareth, just after starting

And a close up, about half-way through his first lap.
Mal got pretty into cheering on the runners, especially Gareth. Gareth was losing steam during the second lap, but when our friends and Mal cheered him on at the half-way point, he picked up speed again.

He's already stated that he's interested in trying out cross-country this next fall. It looks like his middle school doesn't have a team, so I'm going to see if we can figure out something for a local team. If you want to follow along with how he's doing, the results get posted on the website linked above a few days after each race.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Milestone

On Thursday I wrapped up my final course of my MS degree! It's a small milestone, because we still have internships and their assignments, plus theses/capstone to finish up, but a milestone nonetheless. I'm feeling excited, but also quite nervous, for internships. This last quarter was a fire hose of information and it feels impossible to remember it all. So, just the usual concerns of looking like an idiot and screwing everything up. But I'm trying not to worry too much about that right now and just enjoy my break/work on my capstone/get training done for my first rotation.

In other happenings, the boys are getting excited for Christmas. Gareth specifically asked to receive another ornament this year (I've been gifting them an ornament each year for the past few years), so it's nice to hear that he really enjoys and appreciates that tradition. He came to me the other day and said, "I've got a great idea! We should all get sweaters for Christmas! It would be fun!". I'm hoping he's not wanting an ugly sweater, because I absolutely refuse to do the ugly sweater thing. Also, who knew that holiday sweaters were such a thing? I was shocked to see that most places that have nice ones were sold out. Or if they had Gareth's size, they wouldn't have Mal's and vice versa. Anyway, it's fun to have him expressing enjoyment in the things that aren't just new toys.

I was at a friend's house the other day and they have a new nativity, which made me laugh:

Mal was so happy when we hit December and started playing Christmas music. He and Gareth managed to have a Saturday where they got along fairly well. At some point they both got up on Gareth's bed and pretended to sleep, requesting that I take a picture so they could see what they looked like.

Not to let the previous year of illness be outdone, Mal developed a sore on his rear end just before Thanksgiving that wouldn't heal, despite my best efforts. We finally got to the doctor yesterday and turns out it's strep. I had no idea you could get strep down there (though it does make sense when you stop to think about it; I'd never heard of it before though). The pharmacist is, unfortunately, getting to know us quite well and remembered that we'd recently had the same antibiotic (for the first of his ear infections over the summer). I'm crossing my fingers that this is the worst of it this year. I only get three sick days between January and August (we get vacation during UW breaks, but those are set days, not time you can use whenever), so don't have time to deal with illness. 

Mal's class has been having a gingerbread unit, where the Gingerbread Man has been their story for learning new sight words, they've done button counting for math, got to taste gingerbread and tally who liked it/didn't like it/wasn't sure, etc. He brought home a gingerbread decoration the other day, which also demonstrates his discovery of the question mark (apparently his entire class has been covering their work in question marks after learning about them; Mal is content to just use it after his name).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Halloween and School Update

Mal came home from Jump Start eager to be an eagle for Halloween, all because their school mascot is an eagle and "Beaky" had shown up at some point during jump start and he thought having an eagle costume was the coolest thing ever. Gareth finally settled on Luke Skywalker, which I found an easy DIY tutorial for online. Ryan's brother has just moved to the area, and he came over Halloween evening to scare off youngsters with his Slenderman costume. He and Ryan enjoyed that while I headed out trick-or-treating with the kids. Gareth got to take charge of the pumpkin carving this year, and once Mal saw the cool face Gareth made on the big pumpkin, he wanted the same face on his little pumpkin. Pumpkin-carving happened and was all cleaned up before I got home from my concert the weekend before Halloween.

The weather was perfect, so the kids were happy to stay out for quite a while, and we got rid of almost all of the candy we purchased. It was fun seeing so many kids and families out on our street. Upon seeing Mal, kids or adults would occasionally break out in the school song, which just added to the entertainment of the evening.

It being a school-night and all, the kids didn't have much chance to revel in their loot when we were done. Gareth scarfed down as much candy as he could before we sent him to bed.

Not much else has been happening in our life. School is keeping me very busy. I'm hoping to be done with the core of my capstone project by the end of December so that I can focus on my write-up in January-August. Not sure if that's how it'll actually play out, but it'll be much more difficult to find time to do capstone stuff once I'm in rotations. I was able to get into the kitchen for the first time the other day and blend up my first recipe attempts, do a flow test, then bring them home so I could test them again after 24 hours:

I was expecting these recipes to be a bigger failure than they were. Still some tweaking to be done, but I'm hopeful that I actually can produce a working recipe by the end of December. The kids thought they looked pretty tasty, but they really aren't intended to be tasted, since they're for tube-feeding, so I highly doubt their palatability.

I found out that I'll be at UWMC for my first rotation, which I'm pretty excited about. The other option was a hospital that's a trauma center, which would have been fine, but there are others in the cohort who are much more eager about trauma than I am, while UWMC will have more oncology and other areas that I'm interested in. And, in more awesome news, I just found out that I got accepted to do my concentration rotation at Children's! I'm really excited to spend spring quarter there, getting to work with the amazing RDs and expand my knowledge and experience in pediatric nutrition.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Late September

It's been a busy month! I started rehearsals for both of my music groups, the kids got settled in school, and I started classes at the end of the month.

With the help of my mom, Ryan and I had selected some shades to replace the paper ones covering the living room window. After she left we were working on getting measurements made to put the order in. Then when I went to go make the order we ran into some snafus with the size of the window and the particular brand we were wanting. So we went back to square one, contacted a local window treatment company that does in-home consultations, and they were able to get out to us pretty quickly. We felt like they knew what they were doing better than the Home Depot people, so we ordered through them instead. They didn't try to upsell us to the highest cost product and were able to show us better how the shades would look with our type of window. The shades were ready to install before I was expecting them to be, with an installer who was done in no time, where I would have fussed and stressed for hours if I'd tried doing it myself.

They look so nice, and I love not having to deal with clipping the paper blinds up and down anymore, as well as being able to lower them from the top if I want. Now I'm really excited for when we can get around to (afford) to do the rest of the windows. The company already has the other measurements, so when we're ready we'll give them a call and just have to make style decisions.

The other big news of the month is that Gareth selected violin as his instrument to start in school.

They only get 20 minutes per week, but it'll be a decent enough introduction I hope. He's been enjoying pulling it out and seeing what he can figure out. We'll see how long the excitement lasts. I give it about a week before he's not practicing at home anymore.

Malcolm has been upset with us all pretty regularly since the violin entered the house. On the way to the store when it finally sunk in that we wouldn't be getting anything for him. On the way home from the store because we didn't get anything for him and therefore he has and is nothing. After arriving home, because the violin was too loud while he was trying to watch a show. And because we won't let him open up the case and play with it whenever he wants. Don't we know that he has rehearsal and it's a long rehearsal and he needs to play the violin??