Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

18 Month Malcolm

Malcolm's hit a year and a half and he's pretty dang cute, if I do say so myself. He's getting into absolutely everything - the kitchen is a minefield of various kitchen utensils by the time dinner's ready each evening, and as more and more shelves are within his reach we're having a harder time keeping paper books and various older-child toys out of his hands. Thankfully he's getting better about not putting things in his mouth, but he's still not great about it. If only I had a nickel for every time someone told me, "Your baby's got wood chips in his mouth" at a playground....

He loves walking the halls at Gareth's school and going on walks down our street. He has a strong desire to explore the road and screams at you when you stop him from walking into it. He will occasionally try to say words after you say them, things like "shoes" or "ball". He says daddy, and sometimes even uses it to mean daddy. I've also heard an occasional "baby" or "baby boy". Otherwise, we're still stuck on "uh-oh" and "peek-a-boo".

All his molars and eye teeth decided to come in at the same time and I think we've finally got them all poking through at least a little bit. He likes to point you in the direction he'd like you to carry him or point at what he'd like. And he really loves balls. He's pretty good at throwing them, for a baby, and enjoyed kicking around some soccer balls at Gareth's game last weekend. He'll try most foods pretty easily and usually likes them. He loves sweets and we've realized it's best just to never give them to him because he will throw a huge fit if he doesn't get more. He doesn't like milk, but loves it if you blend it with banana and mango.

Everyone at the pediatrician's office loved his overalls. He's not as calm about his doctor's visits as Gareth always was - he doesn't like the doctor touching him and gets very upset if I put him down on the exam table with the crinkly paper. But he loves it when he's left in the room with just me and is able to explore everything. His height/weight percentiles have kept pretty steady at 50/20. He's now 32.5 inches tall and just over 22 pounds.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Who Is This Stranger?

Now that school pictures are out of the way, I finally broke down and scheduled a haircut for Gareth:

I'm still having a bit of a hard time recognizing him with short hair. It's like some other body came and took over Gareth's mannerisms and voice. He's still a little surprised by it being short himself. A couple weeks ago he said he wanted a mohawk, but I told him that'll have to wait until he's able to be completely responsible for his hair himself - we don't even bother to brush it most mornings, we're certainly not going to maintain a mohawk! It'll be nice for him to not have hair in his face anymore (and for me to not have to listen to complaints about that), and so far he seems very happy with the short cut.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reading As A Chore

At Gareth's school they send book bags home with the kids - Ziploc bags with some books and a reading log in them. They use the letters A-Z to help guide the kids to books that are "just right" for them. Last year this whole system was pretty relaxed. Using the bags wasn't required and the log was mostly for the parents' benefit, to help them remember what books their kids had already checked out from the class library. Ryan and I completely ignored the A-Z levels, because we feel we read because it's fun, not to make sure our kid moves from one level to another during the year.

Gareth came home with his bag at the end of last week and, so far as I can tell, it works similarly to last year, except that the kids are supposed to read their books for twenty minutes each day, logging the minutes as well as the book, level, author, etc. And that it's technically their homework. After just a couple days I've decided I don't like this. I can see how it'd be helpful for some kids who don't like to read or parents who want some help carving out time to read with their kids, and even for the teachers because I'm more likely to remember to fill out the log this way. But I'm worried that for Gareth it'll eventually turn reading into a chore rather than a fun activity. Already, after just a few days, the focus with the books from school is not enjoying the story but getting the minutes done. "Has it been twenty minutes yet?" is asked several times while reading. It's been obvious that his focus is not solely on the book and the story.

Now, I know that he reads for at least twenty minutes each day. We often read a bedtime story together and then he reads in his bed before going to sleep. I have no idea for how long, but my guess is that it's usually at least half an hour, if not closer to an hour. And he often reads first thing in the morning as well. So I'm thinking we're going to stop worrying about the twenty minutes. I'm sure he'll read the books from school because he's choosing them himself. We'll log them, and if the teacher really wants minutes, make up some numbers (I'm doubtful she'll care that much about the numbers considering how well he reads). He may not do the reading right when he gets home from school, and he may not read those particular books for twenty minutes, but I just can't get myself to see either of those things as more important than finding reading fun.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Beans and Rice

Ryan decided he really needed some Brazilian beans and rice in our meal rotation, so he purchased a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker for my birthday. It has sat, waiting to be used, ever since as we didn't know how to make Brazilian beans. The rice we've had down for years.

A family across the street from us has a nanny who is from Brazil and, as their younger son is the same age as Malcolm, we've become friends. So I asked the nanny and her husband to come over for dinner one night and show us how to use the pressure cooker and make beans. Her husband plays drums, but they live in an apartment, so I figured he and Ryan would also have fun doing some drumming. They came over on Friday and did just that. The beans took longer than they should have, probably, because we were chatting and dealing with kids and she was showing me what she does. But it turns out it's pretty simple and definitely not an exact science.

It goes something like this:
Sort and rinse pinto beans. Soak the beans for a couple hours if you feel like it. Or don't.
Don't bother rinsing the beans after you soak them - just use the same water to cook them in.
Eyeball the amount of water needed (I'd already had 7.5 cups in there for one pound of beans, but we added some more, so used about 9.5 cups).
Add some paprika and cumin.
Turn on the heat and wait for the pressure to build, turn down the heat some when the pressure has reached the needed level.
Cook for 15-20 minutes, then let the pressure release on its own (this happened faster than I expected) and check the beans. We originally cooked for 15 minutes and some of the beans were super soft while others were not quite soft, so we put them back on the heat and cooked for another 5 minutes or so.
Heat some oil in another pan, add bacon if desired, and garlic and salt. And anything else you'd like to toss in with the beans. Cook for a couple minutes then add the beans and most of the liquid to that. Allow to cook until juices are as thick as you'd like (they'll thicken more as the beans sit, so don't over-thicken the first day).
Serve over rice.

Brazilian rice is way better than your typical steamed rice. And this is a little more exact than the beans:
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil for every cup of water used. Add minced garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add desired amount of rice and cook in oil for several minutes.
Bring water to a boil in a separate pan (1.5 cups water for every 1 cup of rice).
When water is boiling and rice has cooked in oil for a bit, turn of the heat and pour water over rice (this will bubble vigorously, so be careful).
Cover rice with lid and simmer for 18 minutes. If there's time before the main dish is ready, I like to let the rice sit for a couple minutes covered after I turn off the heat.

Our beans and rice turned out really well. A little more salt was needed and they were a little bit thin the first night, but the leftovers had thickened nicely. Gareth said they were really yummy and Malcolm seemed to enjoy them the next day. Ryan and I are excited to add this to our rotation and experiment with the beans a bit. It'll be a good backup/need something fast and easy meal as well, probably replacing pasta as our go-to in that category. And it sounds like our friends have some other good Brazilian food they can show us how to cook, so we have that to look forward to as well.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Day of School 2013

The district and the teachers agreed on a contract, so school started today. Thank goodness, because Gareth and I were driving each other insane. Making brownies together yesterday helped keep us both busy and from getting too annoyed with one another.

Gareth got the one teacher I'd heard nothing about and who probably would've been my last pick. But then we found out that probably 2/3 of the class are kids he knows from either pre-K or from Kindergarten last year. And a friend told me that everyone she knew who'd had this teacher loved her. Apparently this teacher also used to teach a K/1 class, which means she is probably decent at teaching kids who are all at different levels in their learning (essential since they don't start Walk to Math until 2nd grade). I got to ask her a couple of questions last week and I feel really good about her now. We'll see what happens as the year progresses, but I'm hopeful that she'll be a great teacher for Gareth.

It was pretty easy to get the kids ready today. Gareth wanted to play some, but he's excited enough for school to start that it wasn't too hard to redirect him to morning prep. We've got a couple of weeks to shift to making lunches the night before most days. This year I plan to have him help with putting his lunch together more, but this morning I went ahead and made it for him since I'd decided that he should really have a bath this morning. Easy enough since he'd requested hummus and veggies.

So, yeah, we got him bathed, got all his supplies put together and got ready to head out. He rode his bike today. I rather like having him walk so I get to talk with him (sometimes, if he doesn't find a friend to play with along the way), but he loves riding his bike to school and it's supposed to rain the next couple days so I figured I should let him ride while he can.

Dropped him off and then hung around for a bit to chat with some parents before heading home to get the car and drive to breakfast with some other co-op parents. Malcolm was surprisingly well-behaved at that and even managed to not totally freak out when the other little kids looked at him and then he fell asleep on the way home.

Gareth reported that the first day was "good", which is better than last year's "boring and disappointing", so I'll take it.