Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

Once again, a lovely Christmas was had in the Phelps household. Malcolm keeps asking to do Christmas again.

I forgot to get the turkey out as soon as I should have, so I spent some of Christmas Eve morning finishing thawing it in the sink with cold water. While I did that and played with the kids and tried to finish up some household cleaning items, Ryan busily wrapped gifts. Once the turkey was in the oven and Ryan was done, it was my turn to wrap away. Thankfully I had done some wrapping over the previous few days. We were both grateful to have the wrapping done before dinner.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was basically a repeat of Thanksgiving because Ryan had enjoyed the turkey at thanksgiving so much. I forgot to get out and buy rolls (and I rarely bother to make rolls since we can get such good ones at local bakeries) and we had broccoli instead of chard, and no dessert since we've got tons of goodies around already. It was delicious.

Then we finished off the last advent presents and took down the final countdown chain and sent Malcolm off to bed. Gareth, Ryan, and myself settled down for our traditional viewing of the George C. Scott A Christmas Carol and some Theo hot chocolate.

After that was over we got Gareth off to bed. Ryan and I were feeling quite tired by this point, but did need to do a little clean up and get our blueberry breakfast bake put together as well as put out presents/fill stockings. Thanks to having the wrapping all complete, we were done by 11 pm.

The boys didn't stir in the morning until 8:45. Every year I'm grateful that our kids sleep in, even on Christmas, and for the Seattle clouds that help them sleep in. The only problem with them waking up late was that Mal wanted to eat something right away. Once I was showered and dressed I got our breakfast in the oven and got Malcolm up and then let him munch on a banana and some bread while we waited for Ryan to be ready.

Stockings were opened - Gareth found a whoopee cushion in his and Mal found a slide whistle. They both wanted to scarf down the candy and were sad when we cut them off after a few pieces. Breakfast took a few minutes more, so we let them open a gift each and then we ate our traditional breakfast. After breakfast we brought up our fake logs (poop logs as we call them, because that's what they look like (thankfully don't smell like that)) and had our first ever fire in the fireplace here. Malcolm spent the next few days begging to do another fire in the fireplace.

Malcolm was a lot more interested in presents this year and helped me open some of mine as well as opening his own. He got some dinosaurs, construction vehicles, a small basketball hoop, and books and has been having fun with them all. When it was time for nap he was not at all happy about it, but was more willing to go when I told him he could take a dinosaur with him. Gareth was excited to get a watch (he's been asking for one for years) and goggles for swimming and a set of Minecraft books and was particularly excited to open his last gift and see that it was a Kindle. Ryan picked up some magic trick trinkets for him, and he's been having fun with those as well. We tried to play with his new Jenga game the next morning, and he thought it was a lot of fun. But then Mal came along and kept knocking it over ("that was so awesome!"), so a real game had to wait until Mal wasn't around. Gareth at one point said, "How did Santa wrap that? The gifts from Santa are wrapped in the same paper that we have!" To which Ryan and I responded, "That's an interesting observation." It's fun to see him start to make such observations and know that in the next couple years he'll likely realize that Santa is just pretend.

While Mal was napping the rest of us watched "Elf". Leftover turkey made up our Christmas dinner, followed by a nice video chat with Ryan's family, and then we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" with Gareth.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Carol Sing-Along

Last year my teacher started holding a carol sing-along the weekend before Christmas, so we headed out to that this past Sunday evening.

Gareth was crying before we left because I wouldn't let him bring a book to "entertain" himself with. I told him he was old enough to be entertained by the event itself and thus ensued a huge meltdown. Of course, when we got there he ended up having a good time.

My teacher also conducts the Greenwood Concert Band during the summer, so that is the group that plays. They played a couple of festive band pieces, which both years have kept Malcolm's attention. This year MJ McDermott (worked on the last local kids tv show back in the '90s and is now the meteorologist on one of the local news stations and someone who has sung with the band before) joined the band to narrate 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. That didn't hold Malcolm's attention quite as well, but he stayed semi-decently quiet through it. Then the sing-along portion started, and that never holds Malcolm's attention. Gareth enjoys that, but isn't generally interested in singing along until they do Jingle Bells or other songs he knows well. Ryan doesn't sing much because there isn't always a bass part, and Malcolm gets upset if I try to sing.

Gareth found The 12 Days of Christmas very funny, especially when the two "lords" sitting behind us went a-leaping across the hall, flinging themselves from one aisle of chairs to the next. Mal had gotten quite rowdy by this point, so he and Ryan went for a short walk outside. After singing several songs there was time for just a couple more so MJ asked if there were any that people absolutely wanted to sing. Since the crowd was sparse and Gareth was the youngest kid (excepting Malcolm) in the audience, she picked him and he, of course, chose Rudolph. Then she asked if he knew the extra parts, so he got invited to go up on stage and lead the group/sing the extras. The band initially started playing way too fast and Gareth got so flustered he forgot where he was, but MJ thankfully stopped them and told them they needed to slow down a bit and so we started over and he did great. It could have easily been an experience that ended in tears of frustration so we were grateful to MJ for turning it into a positive experience. Malcolm came back partway through, and of course he wanted to join Gareth up front. A fellow clarinetist snapped a picture of the boys with MJ afterward:

Afterward there were treats and a chocolate fountain. All my band/orchestra friends enjoyed watching Gareth wander around with his mouth slathered in chocolate. Malcolm was mostly kept away from the goodies, but only with much difficulty. He would've stuffed everything in sight into his mouth if allowed free reign. Gareth was really excited to have been able to get up and lead the group in a song and everyone was nice and complimentary to him afterward.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Haircuts

Christmas-time is a popular one for haircuts at our house. Gareth had been asking for a few weeks and I figured Malcolm should have one at the same time to avoid snot-hair should he get a cold with a very runny nose this winter.

Malcolm managed not to scream the entire time, and even let me go sit down rather than hold onto my hand through the cut. The woman cutting his hair bribed him with a lollipop; I think he made it through two dum-dums during the cut. He drew the line at blow drying his hair though. Nothing was going to make him let that happen. The stylists were all laughing when she'd ask him something and he'd say, "um, no". Most of his curl got cut off, which makes me sad, but she said that trying to keep it longer just wasn't looking good as she cut. It'll grow again, and I'll probably let it grow from now until Halloween next year, so we'll have plenty of curls again in no time.

Gareth doesn't look all that much different. He was happily engrossed in figuring out a video game the whole time. He'd spent the whole day looking forward to this moment, partly because he's been banned from video games at home since just before Thanksgiving.


Post-haircut. Ignore the cowlick - I'm lucky there's only one here; usually there are several!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Secular Christmas

We were living in Indiana when the issue of Christmas came up. We had finally talked to each other about our transitioning beliefs and sometime afterward I started wondering what we'd do about Christmas if we didn't believe the whole Jesus story. Now, if Gareth had been older I don't know that this question would have come up, since we would have had very ingrained traditions already, but since he was so little there was a definite ability to change how we did things. Was it hypocritical to celebrate a holiday if you didn't believe in the story that many base it on? I rather felt like it was and that if we weren't going to be believers we shouldn't be doing the holidays.

But I was loathe to deny myself and my kids all the fun memories that Christmas had brought me as a kid. I didn't want to give up cutting down the tree and decorating it and the house and all the baking. I didn't want to give up watching our traditional movies. I didn't want to give up the anticipation, the gift-wrapping, the Christmas-day food. Besides, so much of Christmas really comes from various pagan and pre-Christian cultures, none of which I'd ever believed in, so maybe it didn't matter?

And then Ryan showed me this video, which a friend of ours had posted:

Tim Minchin touches on all the reasons I wanted to keep doing Christmas. The reality is that the traditions, the baking, the carols, the decorating, the gift-giving, and most of all, the people  - these were always what made Christmas, for me anyway. Watching this video helped me realize I wasn't alone in wanting to celebrate Christmas even though I don't believe the Jesus story. It might mean something different to me than to my religious friends, but what it means to me is valuable and worth continuing to celebrate.

So, what does our secular Christmas look like? Pretty much like our religious Christmas did, just minus the Jesus. We still bake and put up a tree and give gifts. We do Santa, but not over the top (it's a good exercise in critical thinking for kids). Sometimes I put out my nativity because it's pretty, sometimes I don't. We go sing the songs, even though the "lyrics are dodgy", because we like how the music sounds. And we include our kids in these things because it's part of Christmas for us and we want to share that with them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014


It snowed a couple days after Thanksgiving. Gareth was sick so didn't get to enjoy it. It's unusual to get snow so early in the season. And for it to stick around. We had freezing temps for a few days after the snow, so it took a good week or so to melt. 

This is what greeted me when I walked out of the garage to put the bike away after drop off a couple days ago:

This kid loves his bike rides! (But still won't do much with the balance bike, sadly) Mal has been a bit of a grump due to a cold lately, so it was nice to see him so happy. Gareth has been missing riding his bike to school, so I gave in a couple days this week and we rode, despite knowing it was going to be rainy after pick up. Both days Gareth and I got quite wet on the way home from school, but I figure it was either ride or walk and walking would mean being out in the rain longer.

Malcolm had been begging for a tree since Thanksgiving, but was sick when we finally went to get one and wasn't as excited about it as we thought he'd be. He's been excited about having the tree once we got it up though. Now that we have the lights on he'll frequently ask to see "Chismas tree lights". Yet again, life is getting in the way and so the ornaments will go on sometime this weekend.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


It was just us for Thanksgiving this year, which fact upset Gareth greatly the day before when he realized inviting people over is something you can do. I promised him we'd invite someone next year, though most of our friends have family in the area, so I don't know who.

Anyway. I think it was a nice day. We started out with a nice, clean kitchen thanks to Gareth doing the dishes the day before while I swept/did laundry/dried dishes. I love having a clean kitchen, but it only gets cleaned every few days at this point. So I was really grateful for Gareth being so helpful.

Kinda sad that a clean kitchen is picture-worthy, but hey, that's life these days.

We stick to the basics, foodwise, because it doesn't make sense to make tons of dishes when it's just four people. This makes the day very easy as well. So after breakfast I suggested that we play a game. We brought up Candyland in the hopes that Malcolm would be able to participate. Which didn't really happen, but he was happy enough once we gave him a couple cards and a couple gingerbread people. His people hung out in the "Cupcake Commons" while Gareth and I played a couple rounds of the game.

Then somehow we got to making faces and taking pictures (I'm attempting to get a nice one of Malcolm to send to grandparents along with Gareth's school picture, but failing in my attempts).

Gareth had to make the silly face as well:

And then he needed one with a nice smile:

After a while, if you asked Malcolm if he could smile he'd say, "yeah" and then make his puckered lip face then laugh as soon as you took a picture. What do you think, grandparents? Would this make a good picture for your mantle for the next several months?

After taking some pictures we started looking at pictures/video. The boys watched our video from last Christmas and suddenly Malcolm was obsessed with getting a tree and putting it "back" (in the corner that we put it up in). I told them we'd be getting a tree in a couple of weeks, but he of course thought that meant right away. So I spent the next twenty minutes convincing him that we didn't need to get ready to go, he didn't need his shoes on, we aren't getting a Christmas tree today.

Eventually we distracted him with a movie. Ryan started to work on a pie. He came home earlier in the week and asked if there was something he could make, so I told him what I was planning on doing and he could pick one of those things or we could find something else. He chose the pie and it turned out beautifully.

While he did the pie I prepped the stuffing and the turkey. Once the turkey was in the oven I got to hang out with the kids and work on a presentation for school. The boys eventually decided to do play-doh, which kept them intermittently entertained until dinner was ready.

Malcolm actually enjoyed the turkey and cranberry sauce this year, which is two foods more than he enjoyed last year. He also seemed to enjoy the pumpkin pie. We ended the day by watching some Dr. Who and Cosmos with Gareth.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stream of Thought on Parenting

I have a friend who posted a rant about motherhood and how it isn’t valued enough and before I knew it my response was an entire post by itself. Sorry, her blog is private, so I can’t link you to it. But here's the rambly stream of thoughts it kicked off for me anyway:

I think that the role of parent should be viewed more seriously and respectfully by our society. It's a hard job. And a job it certainly is. I filled out a survey the other day at my school where I knew when they asked about working while in school they were asking about paid work. Usually with this sort of thing I reluctantly put down that I'm not working. But screw that! This time I put down that I work more than 40 hours/week. Just because it's not paid doesn't mean I'm sitting around with all sorts of time for schoolwork. For me, taking two classes with kids is a heck of a lot harder than taking 10+ classes and teaching but without kids.

Lots of other countries have ways to help parents balance parenting and paid jobs, recognizing that the years when parenting typically happens are also important years for employment, recognizing that parents being able to be with their kids and bond and parent makes for a better society and a better workforce. I'm sad/frustrated/annoyed that the US is lagging so badly in this respect. It doesn’t seem right that the cost of staying home with your kids is extreme financial vulnerability/no retirement/no social security. And the reality in our country is that successfully managing the economy of the home isn’t seen as valuable experience when one is ready to re-enter the paid workforce, making it an extremely difficult, sometimes impossible transition to make. Completely ignoring how many of these skills positively transfer to many paid jobs is ridiculous. I know someone who spent years volunteering with their PTA, in charge of huge amounts of ordering and financial stuff, but no one cared about that because she wasn't getting paid to do it. It took her a very long time before she finally found someone who was willing to pay any attention to all the skills she had acquired while parenting and give her an entry-level position.

Parenting and policies surrounding it can be difficult to discuss. People tend to be extremely sensitive about it and get easily upset if what they’re currently doing isn’t being constantly affirmed. My kids and myself are much better off when I’m in school/working. I very much am still their parent and doing that job as well. Ryan and I are still raising them, though I certainly value the relationship they have with their sitter. See, even I get upset if it’s implied that by both of us working we won’t be raising our kids (and if just one of us is working does that mean that only the one not working is raising the kids?). :) But I try very hard to remember that the eventual scenario I hope for my family could be terrible for another family where having a parent home full-time might be best, or for another family where an “equally-shared parenting” style might be best. The President’s recent remarks addressing difficulties that force women out of the workforce against their will (my friend mentioned that debacle briefly) are an example of what a minefield this can be. I think what the President said was taken wildly out of context. Could it have been said better? Yup. But he was absolutely not dissing SAHPs. Anyway, that mess could be a whole discussion all it’s own, and not what I want the focus to become here.

I do think it’s important to discuss how we can shift our culture in ways such that child-caring and managing a home will be seen as valuable skills and what policies we can implement to allow for the broadest possible choice for parents, so that more people can determine for themselves what is best for their family rather than being forced into scenarios that may not be best for their family’s financial/mental/physical health. Another difficulty arises in the fact that child-rearing and managing a home have been venerated before and all that happened was to further the exploitation of those performing that work (it's such a noble/selfless work - if we laud you enough maybe you won't notice we're totally taking advantage of you!). So how do we give parenting the appropriate respect without using it to force people into a dependent or subservient position or without it becoming a vehicle for shaming people (seems this happens a lot these days - parents are constantly being told what they're doing wrong or the millions of things they must do to be doing parenting right and have every neighbor looking over their shoulder ready to criticize or even call CPS at the drop of a hat).

Things I wouldn't be sad to see: Can we provide better ways for people to maintain their qualifications for a field if they choose to leave the field for a few years? Can we have paid maternity and paternity leave? Can we match the amount of paid leave other countries offer? Can we offer some amount of social security recompense for years spent as a SAHP? Can we pay a living wage so parents don't have to run from job 1 to job 2 to job 3 just to feed, clothe and put a roof over their kids' heads? Can we make more jobs equally-shared-parenting friendly? I think some of these at least should be implemented, but I honestly don't know the best way. Would companies slowly change on their own if employees started requesting changes? Or does most of this need to be more top-down? Living wage initiatives have been pretty successful at elections, so that at least is one thing we may not have to wait for our inept federal government to fix. But leaving things up to individual companies and cities means the shifts we need could be a long time coming.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random Photos

Just some random photos, some from quite a while ago.

These first couple are from June. One of the few times I've let Malcolm play in the car. I have video from this day as well, which is a good one because this was when his talking was really starting to take off. But I think I shot it in the wrong direction and am too lazy to attempt to upload it and fix the direction. Anyway, he loved playing in the car, but then that's all he ever wanted to do and it was causing too many tantrums. So no more playing in the car.

I finally took pictures of Gareth's Kindergarten artwork this past summer (figured it should be done before he started 2nd grade). These are my favorite. Self-portraits from September and June. I love how much more detail he added at the end of the year.

More recent. Gareth insisted I take a picture of Malcolm in the frog towel post-bath just because he though Malcolm was particularly cute that day.

Gareth's first time playing video games online with other kids (Minecraft, with kids his age, set up by a former coworker of Ryan's). He was soooo excited to get to wear Daddy's headset.

Random cute picture of Malcolm

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bed Decor

Here's the new cover/pillows we got while my mom was here this summer:

Found a pattern for some roman shades that can go on a curtain rod, so at some point I'll have to pick a fabric that will go well with this stuff (and my mom will make the shades because otherwise it'll never happen).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween 2014

This year Gareth really wanted to be a ninja from the LEGO show, Ninjago. He opted for the green ninja. Originally I would've preferred he go with red because I found some pretty awesome looking ideas for the red online, but in the end I think green turned out to be a bit easier in some aspects than red would've been, which is good since I had a hard time getting myself motivated to make this costume and put it off until October and then after getting the materials continuously put it off until this past weekend.

I still used a lot of ideas from the red ninja and also found some good stuff on a thread about Ninjago costumes. Red would've been easier because you can actually order red gis. But I ordered white and dyed it green. Color wasn't as perfect as I would've liked since the only green dyes I could find were either forest green (too dark) and kelly green, which is what I went with and turned out a bit too pastel/light. But I left things late enough that I couldn't dwell too long on that. Someone in the thread had posted an image of the serpent that's on the back of the character so we were able to print that on transfer paper and iron it on. I spent quite a bit of time trying to find square washers or something similar for the armor on the front, but had no luck. My mom found the small square things we ended up using, the best part of which was that they're iron-on as well.

 Solo cups cut in half and covered in duct tape worked great for the shoulder armor. I grabbed some scrapbooking spacers to stick them together/space them. Velcro holds the shoulder armor onto the gi. At the fabric store we found a fairly close match in color and I was able to use the pattern from the red ninja people to make the headscarf thing. The head armor is just a headband covered in duct tape and I used posterboard to make the diamond-shaped portion of that. In order to get it to arch backward rather than stand straight up I stuffed some newspaper in the back of it (duct taped on) and then used velcro to attach it to the finished headscarf.

Green ninja actually has a couple of swords, but I ran out of time to figure something out for that. Garth hasn't said anything about those for a while and seems not to care much, so I'm glad for that. No weapons allowed at school anyway and since it was a rainy day here I figured he probably wouldn't mind not having an extra thing to carry around (even if I figured out how to attach to his back, it could get annoying quickly) while trick-or-treating.

Mal trying to imitate Gareth's pose and come after the camera at the same time

Mal was the monkey that I made back when Gareth was the same age. All I had to do there was cut and re-stitch the face opening of the cap - apparently Mal's face is a little longer than Gareth's was because when I first tried it on the velcro closure landed at his mouth, not under the chin. He was much less amenable to having the tail on, and especially to having me hold the tail (he hates having me hold his hand or pretty much anything that gives me any control over whether or not he rushes into a street while walking), so after a while I just took the tail off because I was worried he or another child would trip on it.

Gareth as the monkey
Mal as the monkey

We did our pumpkin carving Thursday night. Got Mal into bed and then Gareth and I got to work. Gareth was so much more involved in this whole process this year. We used his design, as usual, and he was actually really helpful with scooping out seeds and he helped draw the design on the pumpkin and even made a few cuts, though he still wanted me to do the more detailed areas. I got a new tool this year, which makes taking just the skin off very easy, so he had fun with that as well.

We stayed in our neighborhood for trick-or-treating this year. Went with a neighbor and one of Gareth's friends. Gareth and his friend are a few years older than the other kids, so they wanted to move more quickly than the rest of us, who had to lag behind with the pre-K kids. Malcolm was pretty good about saying "trick-or-treat" and "thank you" when prompted. He wanted to hold all his candy in his hands rather than putting it in his bag, which quickly made things a bit difficult. We made it a couple blocks with all the kids - about 45 minutes. Then it started to drizzle and the little ones were going ever slower (lots of stairs to climb at every house), so our neighbor opted to take her kids home and offered to take Mal as well so I could stick with Gareth and his friend. They had a lot of fun, got a ton of candy (we only did a few blocks total, but when everyone gives 2 pieces to a whole handful of candy it doesn't take long to fill your bag!), and hardly seemed to mind the rain.

Gareth's head armor started to fall off after 20-30 minutes in the rain. I hadn't even thought about the effect that the headscarf getting wet would have on the velcro's adhesive. I was a little disappointed that I constantly had to remind Gareth not to be greedy and to say thank you. I'm thinking some of it is a result of being 7 and some is a result of going in a larger group without me there to remind him to be polite for the past couple years. He was good about asking how many pieces he could take, rather than just reaching in and grabbing at least. I think we'll stick to our own neighborhood for the next few years. Being close to home when you're done trick-or-treating and not having to drive back home is really nice. Altogether, quite a successful Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Malcolm Moments

Malcolm is at a difficult stage right now. Pretty much the apex of everything horrible: incredibly stubborn, whiny, prone to screaming, always grumpy upon waking. Pair it with a strong desire to be independent and a lack of ability to be reasoned with and he's often making life miserable. Normal stage, I know, just a pain to get through. It's a good thing two year old kids still have many adorable moments or else none of them would make it past two. So, here are some cute/silly Malcolm items so I can focus a bit more on his positive attributes:

-His sitter is awesome about doing lots of musical activities with him. He's got a song that he's working on based on one of their Halloween decorations, Slim the Skeleton. Mal has been singing a line of it for days now: "My name is swim, swim the skelican, I so bony since I time (his attempt at died)".

-He's really into hugs and kisses right now. I have to give them at least once before I leave the house for anything. Even his sitter and sitter's wife have had to give them.

-He loves to pretend he's various animals (usually a dinosaur, monkey, or cat). Lately he's taken to hitting himself on the cheek and then saying "meow!" in a sad tone.

-Speaking of hitting, the other day he was sitting on my lap and hit my knee with a small car he was holding. It wasn't hard and I barely noticed until he exclaimed, "Malcolm!! Be nice a Mommy!" Sadly, he didn't follow his own remonstration and almost immediately hit the car on my knee again.

-If given the opportunity, he loves to help. He'll happily hand you dishes from the dishwasher and is getting quite good about helping to pick up toys at the end of the day.

-His favorite part of picking up Gareth from school seems to be pilfering leftover food from lunches. He's come to prefer Gareth's friend's lunch to Gareth's. "See Noah runch?" is a daily refrain. Sometimes he's lucky and there's some leftover fruit or part of a sandwich. Even if I bring snacks with us, the big kids' lunch leftovers are his favorite.

-A couple times now he's found the same girl, who is the same age as him, on the playground. He will not leave this poor kid alone once he sees her, and insists on roaring at her or trying to touch her jacket. All us grownups are pretty sure he's trying to play with her, but she wants none of it. She's got a couple older siblings and is apparently quite good at holding her own, but around Malcolm she holds tight to her mom's leg and shies as far away from him as possible. Several adults have attempted getting him to just say hi or something that doesn't involve being obnoxious to her, but he either gets upset ("No!") at the suggestion or completely ignores you and keeps roaring away. After trying to reason with him a bit we all give up and I finally succeed in finding something that will entice him away from the other child.

-He loves to read. Over the summer the favorite was "no good very bad day". He's branched out a bit now and loves How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? which is almost always followed by Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? which is usually followed by either Curious George Feeds the Animals or Spot Goes to the Beach, depending on which can be easily found. Almost always this same order. He will allow substitution of other dinosaur books if one is not accessible at the moment. And then once we read those the cycle either starts over or, if he's particularly agreeable at that moment, he might go pick out some other books to read.

-He's fascinated by mushrooms. His sitter's house has a ton of awesome, huge mushrooms, so he likes to go check them out and touch them.

Of course, half of what makes him cute is just the way he speaks and his facial expressions - hard to put down in the blog. The cuteness fades as they get older, so I'm trying to enjoy it now even though it comes with unpleasant characteristics on the side!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Swim Lessons

We realized early in the summer that if Gareth wants to go to Camp Quest next summer we should make sure he knows how to swim, since it's on a body of water and all. We'd started swim lessons a couple summers ago at the local pool and they hadn't gone well. Ryan, at a family swim and in a matter of minutes, had succeeded in getting Gareth to put his head in the water. The group lessons proceeded to undo any small progress we had made with Gareth on our own until we finally got tired of paying money for him to sit at the edge of the pool and occasionally be taken on a tour of the pool by a teacher and pulled him out of the lessons. We decided at that point that we'd wait until he was a bit older and we'd pay the money for private lessons.

There are a couple places that I know of around here where you can do the private lesson thing. They both have a lot of outstanding reviews from other parents and the one we went with in particular had a lot of reviews about how their kids went from scared to swimming in a matter of weeks. I was a little doubtful it could only take a few weeks, but we figured even if it took a little longer we'd still end up spending less in the long-run going the private lessons route.

So Gareth started at the beginning of August, two half-hour lessons per week. I loved his instructor - she was the perfect combination of firm and nice. She wasn't going to let him waste too much time being nervous, chatting away in order to delay things. But she wasn't mean about it either. And she would give him explanations for things: You need to hold onto the edge of the pool with just one hand because if you're trying to lift half your body out of the water that will be more tiring than letting most of your body stay in the water. Or, if you look down while swimming then you won't have a problem with water going up your nose. Or, you need to be able to open your eyes in the water so that if you fall in water at some point you'll be able to find your way to the boat/shore/safety. She was firm when need be - if he was trying to cling to her instead of flipping over to his back float as instructed she would simply state, "No!" and flip him over to his back. But she was also very encouraging and would praise him when he did well. Really the perfect combination for Gareth.

I was a little doubtful after week two that he'd really be able to swim by the end of four weeks as he was so nervous about putting his face in the water and going to the deep end, but still figured he was making more progress than in a group lesson. Then in the next couple of lessons he made huge progress, and by the end of his four weeks he was jumping in and swimming the length of the pool! Not beautiful swimming by any means, but definitely swimming. Then we were off for a week or so while school started, but just one lesson later we were told he was ready for his clothes test. I'm still shocked that in just 9 lessons he went from terrified of putting his face in the water to swimming. So much better than paying for group lessons for a couple years!

He was really excited for the clothes test - he thought jumping in with all his clothes was such a crazy thing to do. As he said, "It's like I'm on a boat and a sea monster knocks me in the water and I need to swim to land!" He did great and I like feeling like he's less likely to drown if he goes to camp next summer (I'm sure they have lifeguards, but still). We've still got a couple more lessons that we've paid for, so now it seems they're just working to improve his skills. He's so much more confident in the pool now - and he loves it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sibling Education

Ryan occasionally watches Star Trek with Gareth. Usually, after the episode is over, he'll turn to Gareth and say, "That was a show called Star Trek" which elicits an irritated, "I know!" shouted from Gareth.

Yesterday Ryan decided to show Gareth an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and was telling Gareth that it was TNG, not the old Star Trek, before the show started. Malcolm turned to him and shouted, "I know!"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa's Visit

Grandma and Grandpa flew in on the first day of school for a visit. This was Malcolm's first chance to meet Grandpa in person, so it was kind of a big deal. Gareth was very excited to know that they would be there when he got home from school.

We sent Gareth to school the day after they came because he didn't want to miss his friend's birthday. While he was at school, Ryan took his parents downtown. He showed them where he works and tok them to lunch at Lowells, Ryan's favorite place for fish and chips. They also spent some time at Pikes Place, which you may as well do if you're already there. They arrived home in time for Grandma to go help pick up Gareth. He needed to run inside for a minute when he got out and when he came back out he came with the principal. Gareth had been telling everyone who would listen that his grandparents were in town and the principal said Gareth had better come introduce him to Grandma.

We took Gareth out of school for the duration of their visit so that he could get some quality time with them. Friday the weather was supposed to be warm, so we headed down to Golden Gardens and Shilshole Marina to check out the sailboats. Grandpa would've loved to walk down on the docks, but we would've needed to have someone who lives there with us as access to the docks is restricted. But we were able to stand above them and look down at the boats. Next time they come we'll have to be sure to arrange a sailboat ride somewhere. We hung out on the beach for a few hours, letting the kids play. Ryan, after much urging from the rest of us, submerged himself in the chilly water.Gareth kept going in the water, but not usually very far because the water was just too cold to stand for very long. We came home and enjoyed a late lunch at our favorite Greek restaurant, Takis.

Saturday we hung around the house most of the morning. After Ryan got back from his lesson I took Ryan's parents and Gareth to Elliot Bay Book Company since Grandpa was wanting to check it out. I was slightly terrified to drive there since it's in the Capitol Hill neighborhood which I'm not at all familiar with and I was certain that parking would be a nightmare. I'm glad I had my phone giving me directions, and we got very lucky with parking - found a spot right in front of the store!  We enjoyed browsing there for a couple hours and then headed home.

Sunday afternoon we checked out the farmer's market (I wanted to get some nectarines). We dragged Gareth along with us, but I think he ended up being glad he went once he got to try samples of fudge, toffee, soda, straight cranberry juice, and fruit. Plus we got donuts, so he really had no complaints in the end.

Monday we borrowed Redpath's station wagon so that we could all go to Snoqualmie Falls. I've been meaning to go for a while but we hadn't got around to it, so I figured it'd be a good trip to take with the grandparents. The waterfall is very pretty and the short hike down to the river/lower viewing point was perfect for the kids. Apparently after rainier/snowier seasons the fall will actually extend across the entire ridge, but since we're coming off summer (the dry season in Seattle), it wasn't doing so.

The waterfall

Mal playing in some old piece of equipment from the power plant

Gareth had fun playing by the river

Just seconds earlier Mal was holding both Grandma and Grandpa's hands, and it was very cute, but he let go of Grandma's just before the picture.

Attempted pic of boys at the top but Gareth's blocking the waterfall. Oh, well.

Gareth was very sad to say goodbye the next day. Malcolm has missed them as well, asking about "Grandma and Grandma" (couldn't quite get that pa sound down while they were here!) and generally being extremely cranky since they've gone.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


When I went to upload the first day of school pictures to the computer I was surprised to see these photos. I'd totally forgotten that I'd let Gareth have the camera a few days ago: