Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

We had a good Christmas this year. Christmas Eve is when we usually have our big dinner, but I forgot to put the ham in the fridge to thaw on Saturday, so we had to save the big dinner for Christmas Day. We had chicken bisque instead, which is delicious and was enjoyed by all. After we got Malcolm to bed the rest of us settled in to watch George C. Scott's "A Christmas Carol", which took much longer than it should have because Ryan wasn't happy with the picture and was trying to figure out how to get it to show properly on the TV so we'd get the whole picture with nothing smushed or stretched (he never found anything that worked), so it was quite late before Gareth was in bed.

I'd anticipated much crying from Malcolm through Christmas Day, but he ended up napping through most of it (though he was pretty grumpy/whiny for the time he was awake), so the rest of us were able to enjoy our Christmas in peace. I'm sure Malcolm will be a more pleasant Christmas companion next year.

Gareth woke up about 7:45, just after I got up. Since he was up, I let him play video games downstairs in order to distract him from his excitement and temptation to peek into the living room while I got ready for the day and couldn't supervise him.

After doing that I got breakfast in the oven then got Malcolm dressed while Ryan showered. The boys and I hung out in our room until Ryan was ready. It was about 9:30 before we headed out to the tree. Malcolm was rather nonplussed by it all. He happily sat on the couch for a bit while stockings were opened. He was excited to have a clementine in his and, being way past normal breakfast-time, asked to eat it. Gareth found a monster popper in his stocking, which was a big hit. Ryan and Malcolm each had one as well, and it has been one of Malcolm's favorite things. He really likes carrying around the eyeballs and will happily chase them down if someone else will shoot them out of his monster for him. Gareth also received his long-desired pedometer.

After stockings we ate breakfast (grapefruit, blueberry breakfast bake, and bacon), then headed back for the presents under the tree. Malcolm lost it shortly thereafter and so he went down for a nap a bit early while the rest of us opened gifts. Ryan's big gift this year was a Kindle. He'll be getting through books much more quickly now that he'll easily be able to read on his commute. Mine was a Wusthof Classic Ikon chef's knife. I already have good knives, but have decided that having two chef's knives would be useful. We also got the last of our big camping needs (sleeping bags and pads for Ryan and myself - these would've been purchased anyway, but I got them in mid-December and figured it'd be fun to stick them under the tree).

Gareth got a lego storage crate and a lego set that he'd wanted, as well as an Optimus Prime transformer and some board games (I was so, so tired of Candyland, so hooray for Clue!), a yo-yo, and books.

Malcolm didn't need much, so we just got him a few cars. He also got some books, some duplos, and a camping chair from other family members.

A family membership to the Burke Museum will provide us with some fun outings throughout the year.  By early afternoon we'd finished, except for Malcolm's gifts. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and watching Elf while the ham cooked. We enjoyed our Christmas dinner (well, most of us did; Malcolm disliked it as much as he did Thanksgiving, despite it being all things he usually likes), then spent more time with new toys before chatting with Ryan's family and heading to bed.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Frozen and Carols

We try our best to make Christmas a memorable time for the kids - something that they'll think fondly of when they're grown. So we travel to go cut down a tree and have all the little gifts across the mantle for the days leading up to Christmas and we bake and have certain movies we only watch at Christmas-time and we have grapefruit and on and on.

One thing we started last year was to take Gareth to a movie. Obviously we'll start to include Malcolm once he's old enough to sit through a movie in a theatre. Right now he makes it about 5 minutes. Yesterday we left Malcolm with some friends and took Gareth to see Frozen. Pretty good, a little cheesy, as many Disney movies are. But it was nice how they broke some Disney stereotypes a little bit. Gareth said it was "awesome" and couldn't pick a favorite part. He did note that he was confused by why the sword broke against the ice at the end though, because metal should be stronger than ice. After the movie we stopped at Five Guys for burgers and fries to take home with us. Since movies in the theatre and fast food are both things we never do, they make for a pretty exciting outing.

And tonight we went to a carol sing-along that my teacher was putting on. I didn't play, because we had the kids and I knew Malcolm would be wiggly. Malcolm enjoyed watching the band play some pieces and then when we started singing carols every time I tried to sing he'd turn his head to me, frown, shake his head "no" and cover my mouth. Apparently he's not a fan of singing. Or at least not my singing, though I don't think my voice is that bad. He made it quite a while - 15 minutes maybe - before he was ready to be wandering. So I wandered the building with him while Ryan and Gareth stayed and listened to the singing/playing. I'm not sure how much they sang, but Gareth was happy to follow along with the words at least. And then Gareth was very excited for the treats afterward - cookies and fruit and marshmallows to dip in a chocolate fountain. Malcolm had sampled some cookies while wandering and managed to sneak one more before we left.

Real Haircut

I wasn't anticipating getting Malcolm a real haircut so soon, but we had the car in for an oil change and there was a kid's haircut place a few blocks away, so we walked down there. And ended up needing an appointment, but since I was there decided to go ahead and make an appointment for the same afternoon.

Of course, Malcolm refused to nap this afternoon, though he was still in a remarkably good mood while driving there. But that all changed as soon as the woman cutting his hair picked him up. This is a kids oriented place, so they even have cars for the littlest ones to sit in, but that wasn't enough to calm Malcolm. So he cried through the whole thing, just like Gareth had through his first cut. I'm guessing that after a few cuts it'll start to go better. And luckily the hairstylists are used to such crying since the place is specifically geared toward kids, so she (and everyone else there) was completely unfazed.



Side view to show off his curls

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

After School

I love this picture my friend snapped of our sons playing after school a couple days ago. The joy in their eyes, the toothless grins, all of it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tree Pics

We'll be done putting our tree together one of these days. We put it up Monday night, after Malcolm was in bed. Gareth helped with setting the branches free.

Then we did his advent present and sent him to bed while I did the lights. I finally purchased some multi-colored lights this year, because I knew Gareth really, really wanted them. I loved the colored ones as a kid to, so I guess this is the route we'll be going for a few years. I'd purchased 500 lights, but didn't have enough, so ran out and bought a couple more boxes in order to get it all done Monday night.

Malcolm had missed the whole setup, so he was in awe when he came out to the living room in the morning. It took him quite a while to get brave enough to try and touch the lights or tree, but now he's past his awe/fear/wonder and every time he's in the living room will try to touch the tree. So we get to spend the next couple of weeks keeping him away I guess. At least he's being fairly gentle still. I'm interested to see what happens when the ornaments go on. It'll be a bit top-heavy on the ornaments this year as we'll try to keep most of them out of his reach.

Gareth really wanted to do the ornaments Tuesday night, but I'd decided I should spend a little time studying for my Chem final the next day. And I had rehearsal Wednesday night, Ryan goes to the gym Thursday night and we have a work party for Ryan and a friend's party for the rest of us Friday night. Saturday it is, I guess. I'm rather enjoying a few days of just the tree and lights though, and a bit of anticipation won't kill Gareth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tree Farm

Last year we went to Carnation Tree Farm for our tree, which was a very nice tree that we enjoyed. We had a Grand Fir because that was the only kind of tree they had a decent selection of. I decided we'd go ahead and go there again, because it was familiar and the tree was a nice tree.

Well, we finally rolled ourselves out of bed this morning (Ryan and I were out late last night) and got everyone ready and tried (unsuccessfully) to have Malcolm nap before we left. Luckily I took another look at the farm's website before we left because it turns out their Grand Fir field isn't open at all this year and they were only selling a select few of all their others. It was really quite ridiculous. Thankfully a fellow clarinetist had told me last year which farm her family always goes to, so I called them up to make sure they were open and had trees left.

It's a bit of a drive out to Reade's Christmas Tree Ranch, about an hour, but it was worth it. This place was larger than Carnation Tree Farm, with much better selection of every kind of tree they sell. The family that owns it was very friendly and helpful. It reminded me of where we went when I was a kid much more than the Carnation farm.

Malcolm fell asleep on the way there, waking up just a we parked. He got to ride in the Ergo, which he wasn't always so thrilled about. We headed over to the Grand Firs, but couldn't help but be drawn to the Noble Firs, despite the fact that they're more expensive. The Nobles look like their branches are sturdier than the Grand Firs and the Grand Firs often have really long needles - we'd just managed to find one last year that didn't have crazy long needles. In the end we went with the Noble since that's what we all seemed to like. As the kids get older I think I'd like to look at more of the varieties though, just to see if there's anything else we might like as well that we're just not familiar with right now. But at the moment the kids, especially Malcolm, just don't have the patience for that.

It's been unusually cold here (below freezing for a whole week now, which almost never happens here), so we're letting our tree hang out in some water in the garage overnight so it doesn't die of shock when it comes into our warm house. Pictures will come tomorrow after we get it set up (hopefully that happens tomorrow). I'm a little worried about Malcolm trying to pull the tree over, but he did get annoyed by the needles scratching him while I helped Ryan carry the tree, so here's hoping that was enough to make him decide to stay far, far away from the tree this year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another Quarter Down

Today was my last day of class for the quarter. I have one final next week, so I do have some studying to do over the next few days, but am starting to be able to relax a bit and spend more time thinking about the holidays without feeling guilty because I should be working. End-of-quarter apathy started to set in about three weeks ago, so it's a good thing we've reached the end.

My Developmental Psychology instructor did everything in his power to make the class as easy as imaginably possible. We didn't even have to read the text, had no projects (aside from raising a virtual child and living our own life virtually) and all exams were multiple choice, and very easy multiple choice at that. Yet some students still tried to argue points and whatnot, which is especially ridiculous considering he made it very clear at the beginning of the quarter that he wasn't willing to argue points on the exams. I'm not sure how useful this class will be for me in the long run, so I was rather glad it was extra easy. But it also made it somewhat less interesting to have it be so incredibly easy. Or maybe it was that it was only an hour class and I've become accustomed to two hour classes where you can have much more in-depth conversation about the material. I can't quite put my finger on what left me feeling dissatisfied with the course. I mean, the instructor has been teaching there for ages and is a nice guy and seems to really know his stuff and did a good job of making sure we were all understanding the material. But it all just felt lacking somehow. At least I made a friend in the class. We've talked about getting our kids together at some point - we'll see if it happens or not.

General Chemistry was more intense. Four days per week, two hours each day. New instructor, so some things about the course were a bit unrefined as he was figuring out how everything works at the college. I made some friends in this class as well, which is particularly nice since we'll all be moving on to the second part of General Chem together. The first couple chapters we covered here were things I covered in high school. Not that I actually remembered them or learned them well then (I had two years of inexperienced/horrible chemistry teachers in high school). But at least the concepts weren't entirely foreign. And while some of the other chapters had a lot of information, when you got right down to it none of them were terribly difficult. 

I had to wonder if most of the class was bothering to read the text or not. I have a feeling they weren't, because many of them seemed to have difficulty grasping even the simplest of concepts. Concepts that were explained quite clearly in the text (or so I thought). And then explained and re-explained multiple times by our kind teacher, who really seemed to want everyone to understand. Which I appreciated, except that it meant we got behind schedule and didn't finish all the material we should have this quarter. We did make it halfway through the last chapter to be covered, but now I get to teach myself the last half of that chapter and hope it's not too terribly important as we move on through chemistry (molecular orbital theory and stuff about bonding in solids). I try to keep in mind that at some point I might be the horribly confused person who just doesn't get what everyone else thinks is so simple. Hopefully those who were struggling so much don't have to take much more chemistry for what they want to do.

One good thing this quarter was having early classes. Chem was at 8am, so I'd drop the boys off at our friend's place at 7:30 where they'd eat breakfast and play and then Gareth and his daughter would go to school (they're in the same class) and I'd pick up Malcolm after I finished at 11. Or on my short days Ryan would get the boys ready and Gareth to school before I got home just after 10. Since Malcolm's mostly given up morning naps (occasionally he'll take one at Colin's house for about 30 minutes), this schedule worked nicely because I could get a bit done with him after coming home, feed him lunch, put him down for a nap, and then have 2-3 hours to practice or do schoolwork or whatnot around the house. He usually wakes up just in time for us to pick up Gareth from school. Malcolm struggled going to Colin's house last quarter, but he adores Colin now. He even gets to ride on Colin's bike sometimes and really loves that. And Gareth and Colin's daughter enjoy playing together before school. Unfortunately, my schedule will be one hour later next quarter - Nutrition at 9, followed by two hours of Chem at 10. At least I won't have to feel badly about waking the boys up at 7am anymore, but they won't have as much playtime at Colin's before school and I think they'll miss that.