Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's Official!

This past week I took (and passed!) the RD exam, the final hurdle before I could feel totally done with school and ready to go find a job.

I'd planned to take it mid-October, but a mix of concerts, it taking more work than anticipated to get the kids' school years off to a good start, and lack of availability of the testing center meant that I had to push the exam back a few weeks. In some ways it was good timing because it prevented me from being able to pay much attention to election news.

By chance, my diploma also arrived this week.

So now I get to feel very official. While it was kind of fun when an IRB reviewer accidentally addressed me as Dr. Phelps, I'm more than happy to stick with Erin Phelps, MS, RD.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Halloween 2018

We spent the Sunday before Halloween carving pumpkins while waiting for Ryan to get home from Albuquerque. Gareth took charge of his own, as usual, and this year I helped him out by helping Malcolm with his. Mal created the design, with some inspiration from a pumpkin Ryan made several years ago, and then I carved it. Malcolm helped to scoop out some of the insides, though he wasn't a big fan of how goopy that task is.

My mom made us a countdown chalkboard thing a few years ago. We finally managed to hang it this past summer and I found chalk markers to use on it (previous attempts with regular chalk hadn't been very successful). The boys were excited to put it to use counting down to Halloween.

Gareth wanted to be Dr. Who this year; we chose the 11th doctor (Matt Smith), since that seemed easiest to put together. However, finding a boys sports coat that is brown is very difficult. So my mom came to the rescue and made one!

As he'll outgrow it quickly, we're trying to get as much use out of it as possible. He wore it to my concert the week before and received many compliments on it.

Malcolm wanted to be a Minecraft character. Initially I was going to do the whole cardboard box Steve thing, but then remembered that our chances of rain on Halloween are pretty high here in Seattle and I'd have a very disappointed child if their costume started to disintegrate as they were walking around. So we purchased a Minecraft diamond armor costume and diamond sword. We'll get our money's worth out of it for sure, since he wore it almost daily between when it was delivered and Halloween.

Ryan took the boys out with one of Gareth's friends (who dressed up as their DND character) while I headed to rehearsal. We lucked out and it wasn't all that rainy while they were out. I'm interested to see how many more years we have of trick or treating with Gareth. I know some of the other parents of his peers are anticipating that this year or next might be the last. It's strange to think we might soon be closing out that era with one child.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Pumpkin Patch

I finally had a weekend day that was concert and rehearsal free and the good weather had managed to hold out for another week, so we took the boys out to Bob's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch yesterday as part of our fall festivities. It was quite foggy, which added some nice atmosphere to the experience. We spent the first half of our visit eating pumpkin donuts and roasted corn. And taking pictures with the cutouts. Mal is very into making silly faces for pictures. Gareth, for the most part, feels embarrassed that you would even ask if he wants a picture with the cutout. Though he was willing to participate in the first one.

Then we headed over to the big corn maze via hay ride. Gareth was our navigator in the maze, using the postcard map to guide us through. As much fun as it would be to get lost in the maze, that still felt like a bit much to handle with a 6 year old. Maybe in a few years we'll start trying it without the map. Kettle corn helped sustain us as we wound our way through.

After finishing the maze, Ryan and Gareth went off to jog through the maze again as quickly as they could (somewhat limited speed due to crowds of people) while Mal and I headed over to the pumpkin patch to start scoping out pumpkins. Mal really wanted the big one he was sitting on, but I was a bit nervous about it as it seemed to tip over whenever it wasn't in this precise spot. In the end, Gareth found another large one he wanted for his planned design, and Mal found a medium-sized pumpkin that he liked.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Early Fall 2018

School is back in full-swing for the kids. It's felt strange to not be heading to campus daily anymore when taking them to school and to realize there's a whole new cohort of students starting that I don't know at all!

Mal didn't want a first day picture taken of him. I snuck one in while he was standing in line, but he was looking exactly as unexcited as he felt, and I don't think it would be fair to include it here when he was very clear about not wanting one. School is not easy for him, so starting up again was tough. A couple days before school started he told me and Gareth, "My teacher is going to be very serious.". When we asked why he thought that he replied, "Because teachers in older grades are more serious". We met his teacher at the open house the day before school started and she seemed lovely, so I was happy that his first report when I picked him up after school was, "My teacher isn't at all serious!". I think she and I were both a little worried when all of 3 days into school he decided to write a sentence for an assignment in white crayon. She tried to get him to rewrite it in pencil, but he adamantly refused. When he was telling me about this I discovered that he had good reason - it was so cool in white crayon because then it was like it was invisible and a secret message! Then he got a glimmer in his eye and told me, "She wanted me to write it again in pencil, but I didn't!" in a very, "I showed her" tone. Why, yes, I do sometimes wonder how we're going to successfully get this kid through high school.

Gareth has been walking to school with friends this year. He told me I didn't need to accompany him since I wouldn't always be around and that he needs to start doing this stuff without me. Of course, despite saying they'd back away from walking with the kids after a couple weeks, the other kids' parents haven't done so for whatever reason, so they're not without adult supervision during their walks. He also started cross-country this year, which he is enjoying greatly. He plans to participate in the school track team in the spring.

The day before school started for the kids, I attended my first board meeting for the orchestra I play in. It will be interesting to see the administrative side of running the orchestra and to try to help support the orchestra in this way rather than just through playing and ticket sales. I'm very excited about the other new members of the board, who all seem committed to taking action rather than just sitting and talking. Of course, it hasn't been without its frustrations already, as Ryan could attest to in his new role of Patient Listener while Erin vents.

Aside from the orchestra board, I also took the plunge and joined a nearby gym and am working with a trainer there. I made sure to let them know when signing up that I have a degree in nutrition, in order to prevent anyone trying to sell me supplement/nutrition bullshit. I'm excited to work toward being more physically active after the past couple years of inactivity. My trainer has been great to work with so far; I've been going a couple times a week and trying to get a walk with intermittent jogging in on the weekend. The big test will be seeing if I still make myself go to the gym in a couple weeks when my trainer is on vacation.

I'm also having fun trying out some new baking. This last week it was pumpkin banana bread, which was delicious (or scrumptious if you want to use one of Mal's vocabulary words).

Mal is very excited that it's "October season" as he calls it. He watched Nightmare Before Christmas twice this weekend and insisted we get out our few Halloween decorations. The neighbors have had theirs out since last weekend, which he faithfully recreated in a school assignment:

"I like to look at the dackorashionse". The drawing even includes their back gate and the rose trellis that one of the skeletons is hanging on. He's pretty upset with me that I won't buy large skeleton decorations for outside. I keep trying to tell him we have nowhere to store them when it's not October - he doesn't see what the big deal is when we clearly could just store them on the floor in the foosball room. Or next to the couch. Or in his closet (I promise you, the closet is way overcrowded already).

Sunday, September 2, 2018


I officially have my MS in Nutritional Sciences - Dietetics Practice! My mom arrived in town a few days before graduation, and Ryan's parents arrived the day before. Our ceremony is fairy informal - no caps and gowns. Because it's just our program, it has some nice personal touches that the larger ceremonies lack. We start with a poster session, where each student stands by a poster they made about a case study, their public health project, or a policy update they recommended at a site and the attendees can read the posters/ask questions of us about our topic. Mine was updating the inpatient BTF policy at Seattle Children's - related to my capstone project, but not part of the scope of the capstone itself. There are light refreshments (we are the nutrition program, after all - what kind of gathering would it be without food?). After posters/refreshments, the graduation program begins. We have our names called to get our empty diploma folder. Then we each present awards to our selected Outstanding Preceptors and give gifts to faculty and staff who have been key to our completing the program. A brief wrap-up by our dietetic program faculty concludes the event.

Mal was very into making a peace sign with his hands in all the pictures, so here I am holding his hand down and he sticks his tongue out instead.

I made a simple dinner for the family when we got home - grilled beef tenderloin with a chimichurri sauce, steamed broccoli, and spinach salad. Because Gareth was at camp still, we waited to go out to celebrate until the next evening when he was home. I selected a local Chinese restaurant that is a favorite of ours - Chiang's Gourmet - for our celebratory dinner. It was fun to share our favorite dishes with family. And we discovered some delicious new ones as well!

The poor air quality put quite a damper on the rest of the activities we had planned for the week. Ryan's mom, my mom, myself, and the boys escaped to see Incredibles 2 one day, just to get the boys out of the house for a bit while still keeping them out of the unhealthy air. I'd hoped to take Ryan's parents on the water taxi to Alki, but the smoke nixed that plan. We'll have to do it the next time they come when the weather is hopefully better.

One of our good friends brought me a lovely orchid as a graduation gift. And Mal was in heaven when my mom actually purchased flowers (he always asks for them when we pass the store floral department, but I never get any). She got a single red rose for him, which is still going strong somehow, and made a nice bouquet for me.

We spent the week sharing some other favorite eateries with everyone and relaxing around the house. I'd hoped to get out for walks to the park or Gareth's new school, but unhealthy air. We did head out to the local duck pond for a bit, only to discover that they're doing some renovations to it and so it's closed. The boys were happy to get out for a bit anyway and they even got some wild blackberries out of the failed outing.

Ryan's parents had to head home after a week, but my mom was staying for another week. Air quality was still bad for most of the time, but we got out to do some school supply shopping and shoe shopping for the boys. We also had fun just looking at some furnishing possibilities for our house, even though those improvements are a little ways off yet. We all enjoyed all the baking we did. We had some leftover coconut milk from dinner one day, so found some recipes to use the it in. Vanilla-coconut cake and chocolate-coconut panna cotta were both successes. The next day we made pane bianco, which I'd been wanting to try for the past year or so and which turned out beautifully. And I'd been promising Ryan more pumpkin cream cheese muffins since we made them a summer or two ago, so we finally got around to those as well.

My mom and I also got some more pictures hung around the house and found a delightful local framing and art shop to get some framing done so I can hang another couple pieces when that work gets done. The woman who owns the shop was wonderful to work with and she had all sorts of lovely prints and other artwork available to purchase. Just a fun place to look around for a while. I'm guessing the framing will turn out to be fairly expensive, but I love feeling confident that it will be quality work and knowing that I can just walk down to pick up my pieces when they're done.

Now that my mom's headed back home, I get to hit the books again. I'll spend the next few weeks getting the kids ready for school, started on their school year, and studying for the RD exam - the final hurdle to cross on my way to starting my career.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

WIC Activities

My three weeks at WIC are done, which means I'm no longer getting up super early to commute to the east side. However, I've traded that for food service, where I'm going to spend two days this week getting myself to Children's by 6 a.m. to shadow order receiving and that side of things and to conduct a sanitation/safety inspection. It's all good though; it's fun to experience different sides of nutrition services within the hospital.

One fun thing (aside from holding/interacting with lots of adorable babies and little kids) about WIC was getting to go to the North Bend Farmers' Market. Every year, if your state sets aside funds for WIC participants to use at farmers' markets produce stands, the federal government will match the amount the state gives. Total funds do not provide enough for all participants to receive farmers' market checks, and it's not a massive amount per family but it's a great way for families to get a few more fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, in WA state, if they qualify for SNAP, they also get Fresh Bucks, which are awesome, double their SNAP money, and increase fruit/vegetable consumption. Anyway, this year, we were handing out WIC farmers' market checks at the market rather than at the clinic, hoping this would boost redemption rates (if people get them then don't use them, funding is likely to get decreased the next year. Like many busy families, it's easy to have good intentions, but never manage to act on it; if they come get the checks at the market, they're more likely to use them while they're already there).

This farmers' market was quite small, but so much fun, and in a beautiful setting, with Mount Si right there, and a big open green space for people to sit and play on. We also had fruit and vegetable memory cards that kids could color and then break apart to play memory with, some fruit and vegetable bilingual books to give out, and the coolest stickers - like the stickers you get at the doctor, except that you get two squares, one which is an empty garden, and the other which are fruit/vegetable stickers that you can put on the other sticker to make your garden.

When things were slow at our table, I wandered around to all the vendors. I snagged a lovely bouquet of flowers right at the beginning of the market:

Ryan and I were planning to go back with the boys the next week, but then he had an on-call day and it turned out to be way too hot, so we'll do that later in the summer (see what good intentions we have!). We have plenty of nearby farmers' markets, but need to take the car on more long trips anyway to recharge its battery, plus this one will be less crowded, is open later than our nearest market, and will make for a fun evening trip with the kids.

I also had to create a bulletin board for the clinic while I was there; they wanted a board for World Breastfeeding Week (starts tomorrow!) that highlighted the breastfeeding support resources available at the clinic:

I always thought my elementary school teachers were so impressive with how quickly/masterfully they stapled things onto the bulletin boards and put together such awesome boards when I was a kid. This simple board probably took me way longer than it would've taken any of my teachers, but it was fun to put together.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Things the Adults are Excited About

Our yard has been embarrassingly overgrown for the past couple years, though I have tried to at least weed a flowerbed or two each summer or trim some bushes here and there. The side of our fence near the road was becoming a jungle of blackberries and ferns that was taller than the fence and was making backing out of our driveway dangerous due to limited visibility. I'd realized last summer that I could spend hours trying to hand clear some of it and it wouldn't look like I'd done anything. So this year I contacted a landscaping place and paid them to come out and do a yard cleanup. Gareth was disappointed that his source of staffs was removed (bamboo) and Mal kept yelling at us for "destroying all the nature".

This first picture shows where the bamboo used to be (along the fence around that tree). Don't ever be stupid enough to put in bamboo. It cost almost $400 to have a tiny patch of two clumps cleared (am I ever glad we didn't buy the house where the bamboo had spread through the whole yard!). We're going to get the tree removed as well as it's too close to the house/too big for the space, but we're waiting on a city permit for another tree removal before the arborists come take care of that.

The lawn is patchy and almost dead from lack of rain, but they cleared up all the weeds around the edges, mowed, and edged the lawn nicely.

This is where the jungle was. You can see some jungle remnant by the telephone pole (they didn't clear that as it is on our neighbor's property - our neighbors have since cut that bit back a little). We just had them ground clear it, so it will come back. But we're going to get it sprayed as well to help slow regrowth. One day we'll figure out what we want to do with this space, but until then I'm just hoping to keep on top of the regrowth.

They also mowed and edged the front yard and trimmed all the bushes - it actually looks like someone lives in our house now rather than looking abandoned! The tree we're waiting on the permit to remove is a birch that's in the front yard. It's being killed by birch beetle, so needs to come down. It was once a lovely tree, so I'm sad it has to go, but it lost a really large branch this fall in a storm, and I'm not wanting to wait until a big enough chunk falls off and damages the house to get it taken care of. We'll work on figuring out an alternative shade tree to plant in its place eventually.

I'm spending a few weeks commuting over to the east side. This is a time drain and is helping me realize that such a commute would not be tenable for me long-term. But it's only for 3 weeks. At least there are some nice views along the way as the bus crosses over Lake Washington and sometimes you can see Mt. Rainier (hidden by the bus window glare here).

I discovered that a friend who used to play in clarinet choir with me works at the clinic I'm at right now. She had told me what clinic she was at (she's a pediatrician) before, but I'd forgotten, so it was a pleasant surprise to run into her the other day! She went to Purdue for her undergrad and played in the same community band I played in while we lived out there. I'm about the same age as her daughter, so she calls me her second daughter; I really miss having her in clarinet choir, so I appreciate anytime I get to see her.

After this rotation is over, just three weeks of food service (back at Children's again!) and then graduation! It's been an intense couple years, but so worthwhile and I've loved my time in this program. It's always a little rough to be staring down the black hole of the unknown after graduation. I'm just hoping there are some clinical jobs with a decent commute available when I've passed the RD exam and start looking!