Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Off to Camp

Last Wednesday the auto wrecking place came to pick up the car. It was a good thing I'd printed out a form from the DOL, because they hadn't brought anything with them. The driver handed me fifty bucks and loaded up the car after I signed over the title and the DOL form. I was a little nervous about if I'd done everything I needed to or not. I knew I needed to report the sale to the DOL, so I did that after the driver was gone and that put my mind at ease a bit. Not sure if there's any way for me to know that the company has done their end of the things, but it seems like it may not matter so long as I've reported the sale - the DOL will know that we're no longer responsible for that particular car/license plate (apparently WA doesn't allow you to transfer your plates from one car to another).

Saturday we pulled together most of Gareth's items for camp. Finished packing up Sunday morning and then headed out. It's crazy to think that a year ago we had just moved into the house - we drove Gareth to camp the day after moving in. Mal was excited to see the "statue-tree" again. I was very confused when this first came up, but then we realized he was talking about the totem pole at camp. Sometimes his memory astounds me - hasn't seen or talked about that in a year but as soon as camp comes up again he remembers. Now if only he'd choose to apply said memory to learning letters and such things.

The camp drop-off/pick-up are a little difficult because you're only out of the car for maybe 10 minutes when you get there, so you drive 1.5 hours, get a slight break, then hop back in the car for 1.5-2 hours back (we got stuck in some traffic on the way home). Gareth was very excited to be back at camp, so good-byes were easy. Mal was not thrilled to be coming home with us. We almost had a tantrum on our hands as he started to whine that he wanted to stay at camp. I have a feeling the displeasure at not being able to stay will not dissipate over the next few years. Thankfully I had signed him up for summer preschool this week. When preparing for that the next morning he asked "is my preschool camp?". I responded that it was indeed and he's been thrilled that he also gets to go to camp ever since.

Being at the camp made Ryan and me wish we were going camping. Not much of that will happen over the next couple years, but hopefully we'll do more of it after that. As we were driving off the island we discussed how it might be cool to own a second home - a small cottage type thing - somewhere like that. It'll never happen, but it's fun to dream sometimes.

Since I'm kid-free in the mornings I've used the quiet to do things like practice and go on a bike ride. One night I made Mal a simple dinner and tried a new recipe that's more expensive (so something I wouldn't want to make when feeding everyone) for Ryan and myself. That's about as exciting as things can get when one kid is gone and the other is still around. It's amazing how much quieter things are with no one to pick fights with. We'll head out to pick Gareth up Saturday morning and another year of Camp Quest will be in the books.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Good-bye to the Pod

Our Vibe had been making some unsettling noises for a little while, so I finally got around to taking it in for a tune-up last week. Later that afternoon I got a call telling me that there was oil everywhere, a seal had failed, and to replace the seal and compromised hoses and everything else would probably cost $1200 or more. Plus another $1200ish to fix several other things that needed doing. Considering the car is 12 years old and that we'd replaced the same seal 18 months prior, it was more than the car was worth to us and seemed to carry little guarantee that we wouldn't be in the same boat a year down the road. We had a bit of panic that night as we tried to sort out what we'd do. Bus was able to take care of most of our urgent needs. Friends stepped up to the plate and offered cars for getting Gareth to camp in mid-August if needed and any other help we might need.

We debated getting a car similar to what we already had (even though we felt it was a bit cramped for Ryan and cargo) just to get us through the next few years vs getting a more expensive car that we actually want and is comfortable. Spent a few evenings putting together spreadsheets to compare leg room, cargo space, and price points of various cars. It's exhausting to do this; all weekend it'd hit 9:30/10:00 and we'd just go straight to bed. We had some money saved up to put toward a new car since when we paid off the Pod we'd kept setting aside our payment each month to build up a nice amount toward an eventual new car. We knew we needed to figure out if a dealership would even consider our car for any kind of trade-in, since it is neither produced anymore nor running, at least not reliably running.

On Sunday we had friends come pick us up and drop us off at a dealership in their neighborhood. They kept the boys with them and entertained and fed them all afternoon and into the evening. The cars we were leaning toward were Subarus (gotta be like everyone else here in Seattle, right?), so we test drove a couple of those. By this point we were leaning more toward getting a car we actually want, so our drives were mainly about figuring out what would fit our family better. Subaru was offering some amazing financing through them and the prices on the cars surprisingly seemed to match fair prices we'd found online. They had just a couple 2016 Outbacks left on the lot that were decently priced with a few things we likely wouldn't have paid to get in a 2017, so we went with one of those. It took hours (entered about 1:30 and left about 7:30), but was so much less onerous than our previous car-buying experience.

The dealership had no interest in taking the Vibe off our hands, so I spent yesterday figuring out what we'd do with it. There are a large number of auto wrecking places out there with really slimy websites. I didn't feel comfortable calling most of them because they seemed so payday loan-like. One legit one near us heard Pontiac and immediately said they had no interest. Another south of Seattle was surprisingly willing to head up here to pick up the car. They seemed like they expected me to be disappointed in what they could give me for it ($50) because scrap metal prices are so low right now. I was just thrilled anyone was willing to take it off my hands. We still have to get that finished up and I have no idea how to handle the title/registration stuff as far as that goes, so hopefully they'll be helpful in that regard and hopefully by the end of this week we'll be done with the whole business, having said our good-byes to the Pod that served us decently well for 9 years. It's almost too bad it needs so much work because it has pretty low mileage for being 12 years old. That said, the fact that it isn't made anymore really seems to impact how anyone looking to buy views it (despite the fact that the engine is a Toyota engine, so finding parts shouldn't be too difficult).

The new car has been dubbed TARDIS, because the Outbacks never look particularly large to us when we see them from the outside, but feel much bigger on the inside. That may just be an artifact of us having been in such a small car for so long, but the color even worked out pretty well, so TARDIS seems a good fit:

2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ruby Chow Park

Our friend, Mrs. Redpath, was having a plane she worked on tested down at Boeing Field yesterday. Mr. Redpath invited us along for a ride down to a park nearby where you get a great view of the planes. I rode the single and he hauled one of his kids and Gareth and Malcolm on the tandem-tagalong-trailer. Another of his kids joined us on a single, as well as a friend of his from the neighborhood.

It's always startling to me how easy rides feel when I'm not pulling a trailer. I've been having some neck/shoulder muscle pain for a week now, so was a bit worried about how I'd fare, especially since I opted to not take the drowsiness-causing muscle relaxants I got at the urgent care over the weekend. Oddly enough, I felt more comfortable on the bike ride than I have through the past week.

Here's Mr. Redpath's setup. He tried to switch Gareth to my bike at one of our pit stops, but despite several attempts I couldn't get the hang of the tag along wobbling behind me. Gareth and I ended up falling - on the grass thankfully - while attempting to ride. I'm hoping to get the tag along balance down at some point so I could put Mal on it. But we opted to keep Gareth with the tandem for this ride, meaning Mr. Redpath had to work much harder than the rest of us throughout the ride.

We stopped along the Duwamish River Trail for a group photo.

And another one once we reached our destination.

Rainier was out and we got several lovely views of it through our ride, which took us along the Elliot Bay Trail and the Duwamish River Trail. I took a picture once we arrived at our destination, Ruby Chow Park.

The park is named after Ruby Chow, who was a well-known Chinese-American restaurant owner and the first Asian American elected to the King County Council.

We could see the planes well and Mal was very excited every time a small plane would take off or land. Mrs. Redpath's plane was just doing ground testing. Her plane is the furthest away of the grey planes (3rd from right).

Then we grabbed some lunch at a nearby deli before heading back home. It was in the 80s, so we went through lots of water. 38 miles round trip. We got back to Redpaths' and Mal informed me that he'd worked very hard during the ride and that he'd had a great ride.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Random Tidbits This Week

Mal can be a bit hit and miss with loving foods. He'll eat whole cucumbers in one sitting for a few days and then act like they're poison for a month. And that's pretty much across the board with all food. This past week he's been loving tomatoes, so the other day he grabbed one off the counter and started munching away.

He let me put his hair in a pony tail for the first time ever last night. He was so excited about it and kept asking to look at it in the mirror. Not the neatest ponytail ever, but there was no way he'd sit still for his hair being combed and neatly pulled back. Looked super cute still.

And here's some not totally unusual summer attire for the PNW:

(And a not unusual posture for Gareth while making a request from a grown-up.) While the rest of the country is apparently dealing with heat and humidity, we're sitting comfortably in the 70s. Which evidently calls for pants and flannel.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Playdates

Planning a couple playdates for right after family left has helped to distract the kids from missing grandparents. The day Ryan's family left the boys spent a lot of time playing with Legos. I built Mal's spaceship, but Gareth built his own.

In the afternoon we headed to Target and grabbed some baskets for their shelves. Then went to a local park to meet up with one of Gareth's best friends from his new school - Gareth had already gotten annoyed with me that we hadn't followed through on our promise of getting them together in the week or two after school got out. As Gareth expected, she was surprised to see his haircut and his braces. The three kids had a great time playing at the park, despite the broken zip line. Last summer the zip line was broken as well, so that was very disappointing to discover.

The next day we met up with some friends from the old neigborhood and went bowling. I helped Mal a bit, but my help isn't really very helpful. Thankfully 4 year olds are just excited to knock over any pins at all. Gareth got a little frustrated that the ball would sometimes change direction part way down the lane. Gareth won the first game, but Mal won the second. Mal even managed to get a strike in the first game.

The bowling alley has a thing where kids can bowl two games for free during the spring and summer. I signed them up for that, so all we had to do was pay for their shoes. Kind of cool. This bowling alley was less sketchy seeming than many I've been to (not that I've been to all that many), so that was nice as well. And it was a fun way for the boys to spend the afternoon.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Phelps Family Visit

The second week of July we had Ryan's parents, youngest sister, and a brother arrive in town for a visit (his other brother was already here for an internship). I will admit I was a little worried about it, just because I don't think I've ever cooked for so many people before, plus the logistics of having so many people in our small house. But things worked out fine in the end - as usual I let myself get more stressed than I needed to be.

The first day here we mostly just hung around. People played video games together, and Ryan's dad and I headed out to get supplies needed for a project he wanted to work on (shelves for the boys' bedroom closet, which until now has just been mostly useless empty space). That evening Ryan and his brothers went to a Sounders game.

The next day they headed to the East side to check out Microsoft while I ran various errands with the boys. Gareth made fruit salad for everyone for dinner (though I did help with some fruit cutting just to speed things up a bit, otherwise we would've been eating at midnight).

Then we went for a sail on the Sound. There wasn't as much wind as some would have liked, but it was still a fun experience. We saw some dolphins (or porpoises, I'm not sure it was ever determined exactly which they were), so that was cool. And got to enjoy some lovely views of the city from the water.



Mal wanted me to take a picture of him, but then insisted on scrunching up his face.

Mal was getting pretty grumpy toward the end of the ride, so the deckhand told the boys they could turn these handles. At first Mal wanted nothing to do with it and kept crying, but eventually he recovered and then was more than happy to play with the boat.

 I've ridden past this boat many times on the other side on the bike trail. It's from Singapore. Loading grain into the grain elevator.

A couple sculptures of Olympic Sculpture Park with the Space Needle in the background.

After our sail we headed to lunch on the waterfront and Pike Place Market. We were all exhausted by the time we made it home that evening.

The next day I had a concert at the Ballard Locks. I knew that I'd likely be playing a duet or something similar and had requested that we perform it the week family would be in town. Everyone came and listened to the concert and then we watched the Locks in operation for a bit (Ryan's dad and siblings hadn't seen them before), then headed to the fish ladder and saw the salmon.

Their next-to-last day here I took Ryan's sister and mom and the boys to the Pacific Science Center to see the Lego exhibit as well as the rest of the museum. The Lego exhibit was a big hit with Mal, who asked to go see them again repeatedly (you only get to go through once on your ticket so we'll have to buy more tickets if he wants to see them again). Before we headed to the Legos, the kids checked out some other exhibits.

Mal, about to pop a bubble wall

Grandma, playing with gravity

Gareth, impressed by an air stream keeping a beach ball afloat
Then it was off to be impressed by Lego art.

Mal adored the dinosaur, but seemed a little nervous about standing next to it

Mal knew exactly what to do here. Not quite a perfect imitation, but pretty good for age 4

Gareth had to do it as well, of course. He worked a little harder to match the statue.
After Legos we checked out all the other exhibits. We got lucky and they were feeding the iguana, boa constrictor, and turtles while we were there. The turtles were big fans of their salads. The snake seemed the least interested in his meal.

The last day Ryan's dad worked hard to finish up the shelves (he still wants to add pieces to the front of the shelves, but we weren't able to get a table saw while they were here, so he'll finish that up next time they visit).

There are four shelves that go across the back length of the closet. Now we'll be able to store the boy's clothes in baskets on the shelves. Maybe a few toys as well. But the toys won't get as much room individually as Gareth has given them in the above picture. We also bought things we can attach as the boys get older so they can hang clothes. Right now they can't be bothered to hang anything, so we figured all shelves was the way to go for the time being.

A very fun visit. It very well might be a couple years before we are able to get together again, just because I'll be so busy with school. The boys had a wonderful time with their grandparents and aunt/uncles. Gareth made sure to get lots of Grandma hugs and Mal loved looking at pictures of his baby cousin and seeing what Grandpa was up to in the garage.

Monday, July 11, 2016


We've got one room in the house put together. Well, sort of, I guess. Every time I think it's finished I realize that we could paint it or put up some wall decor or something. But those things won't be happening in any rooms for a while, so the room is essentially done.

Behold, the foosball room:

Before stools

Ryan's wanted a foosball table for a long while now. It was his birthday recently and we knew he'd need some stress-relief activities during the next couple years, so I told him to get the table. We had the carpet made into an area rug for the room. I was worried about echo in there - the carpet seems to have helped a lot with this. After having the table for a few days Ryan realized he'd really like somewhere to sit. I'd already been thinking some stools in the corners of the room would be nice. So over the 4th of July weekend we headed to Pier 1 and checked out their selection. We knew from looking online that these were probably what we wanted. We spent a while deliberating color and then ordered them.

He and Gareth spend quite a bit of time playing. Mal likes to "play" once in a while as well. Gareth loves when Mal decides to be on my team, because Mal likes to play "defense" and try to kick the ball into his own goal.