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.