Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2015

Mal usually comes up to our room to wake me up every morning (though I hear him coming long before he gets there). Christmas morning he woke me up, saying, "There's presents!" In past years the kids haven't been allowed into the living room before we're all ready to go out, but in our new house they can see the tree from their open bedroom door, and their primary path to our room is through the living room. It seemed a bit futile to even attempt to keep them out of the living room until we were all ready. However, once Mal had brought me down and shown me the presents, I had him and Gareth get dressed and then they had to wait in our room until Ryan and I were ready before getting into anything. They had fun playing on the bed while they waited.

When we got back downstairs they quickly got into their candy. We tried to tell Mal that candy doesn't equal breakfast, but he didn't seem to believe us. At least he scarfed down his almonds and cashews as well.


Gareth got lots of gifts that have been on his wish list for a while and some Dr. Who items, so it was a pretty exciting Christmas for him. Gifts like this perplexus. It happened to be the first gift he opened and we had to drag him away from it to get anything else open. We've all been enjoying it. It's frustrating, but the kind of thing you keep coming back to anyway.

Mal was able to open most of his presents independently this year. He got lots of duplos.

Gareth was excited to get some winter gloves. Not only will they work great in the off-chance we ever get snow, but they'll keep his hands warm on cold, rainy days when riding his bike.

Ryan passed out the presents this year to ensure gifts were handed out equitably.

Mal also got a gear toy, which he seems to enjoy. Though, as usual, his biggest interest is in Gareth's toys.

Gareth also got monopoly, so we spent a few hours playing a game. Initially he was killing Ryan and myself because he got all the railroads. But in the end Ryan landed on Park Place and Boardwalk, took a huge risk mortgaging properties and spending most of his money to buy them, and once he recovered from that and put houses on them the tables turned and Ryan ended up winning.

It's been a nice, relaxing break. We've cleaned up the house a bit and eliminated some toys the kids had outgrown to make room for new toys. We've had opportunities to get together with friends and have had lots of just hanging around the house playing with new toys, reading, watching movies, and spending time together. I wouldn't mind another week of break, but it won't be horrible to get back to our regular routine this coming Monday either.

Monday, December 21, 2015


It seems every year we have one or two traditions that we just can't pull off. Last year we skipped going out to breakfast because the thought of taking Mal to a restaurant was terrifying. I think we'll do that one this year, but between school and various parties we got halfway through December without getting a tree. Which isn't unusual, because we often purposely wait until the second weekend in the month. But I had a final on a Monday morning (that various events had left me unable to study for until the day before) and waiting until the next weekend would leave us with a tree for less than a week before Christmas (and also seriously limit our selection of trees). So in order to actually get a tree we opted to forego cutting down our own tree and just go to a lot to get one. In the end we went to a local nursery, paid a rather exorbitant price, but got a perfectly nice tree and were able to get the whole thing done in an hour. As you can see, we still have a pumpkin hanging around from Halloween. It's not the only Halloween item out still. 

Mal was very upset at the nursery when we walked back to our car so we could drive it around to where they'd load the tree on it. Because we didn't have the tree with us he thought we were leaving without a tree and was ready to hyperventilate because he was so distraught. We managed to calm him enough to explain to him that we were getting a tree. Then when we got home we had to break the news to him that we wouldn't be putting the lights on right away, and he was upset again. He managed to survive until Monday afternoon when he begged me repeatedly to put the lights on, so since I was then done for the quarter I acquiesced. He's insisted the lights be on from the moment he wakes until he sleeps ever since.

We made some gingerbread cookies this past weekend and I was surprised at how interested Malcolm stayed in it. Both boys came along when I was just starting to roll out the dough and helped cut out the cookies. When Gareth was three he'd usually help with a few cookies and then get bored and run off. Mal stuck with it through all the dough and wanted to help cut them out and transfer them to the cookie sheet. While it was occasionally frustrating to have so many helpers, I'm glad they enjoyed it this year.

I attempted substituting dark chocolate for the milk chocolate in my fudge recipe this year and it did not turn out well at all. I'm not sure why - some kind of content difference between the milk and the dark chocolate or a humidity thing? No idea, but it was frustrating to have wasted so many materials. So this year will be all cookies because I'm annoyed enough to not want to try again. Normally I'm more stubborn about trying things again, but I'm tired this year. Maybe because I've caught yet another cold from Mal (thank you petri dish of preschool!). I'll look up some new recipes during the year and see if I can find a promising dark chocolate one to try next year. Our recipe we've always used with the milk chocolate is just way too sweet anymore.

The crumbly, separating mess :(

Ryan and the boys watched Elf the other day. I guess Mal was tired because he fell fast asleep while watching:

Growing up my grandma gave us these cubes that could be put together to say "Merry Christmas", "Season's Greetings", or "Happy New Year". They spent most of their time saying anything but those three things. My mom knows how much we enjoy getting to play with the block letters, and when we only had Christmas (with Thankful on the back), we found we could make a lot of curse words, but were severely limited in what else they could say. So as part of our countdown my mom has sent some more letters to add to the mix. Some are clearly for other holidays, but we can combine what we've opened so far with what we already had to make statements such as "fart shame" or "my cats shimmer" or "'Murica":

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Rattlesnake Museum and Coming Home

Several weeks before our trip I showed Gareth options for things we could go check out while in Albuquerque. He got very excited about the Rattlesnake Museum, so I made sure we went and saw that. Sunday afternoon we headed over to Old Town to do that. Thankfully the tickets weren't particularly expensive, because it was rather disappointing. While they certainly had rattlesnakes, they also had the space cluttered with every item that had ever been branded with a snake or was loosely connected to snakes in any way. And rather than have one single gift shop space they had cheap trinket items scattered throughout the museum.

Anyway, here's a snake.

Mal really, really liked the tortoises and kept insisting that we go back to them.

At least he spent some time checking out the snakes and other animals there. Gareth only had eyes for random things spread through the museum.

So, all in all, not really worth it. Snakes are rather boring as most of them hide in corners or sleep anyway. But since it was a request that Gareth made, I'm glad we did it just to fulfill that request. After we finished in the museum I made us take a short walk to the Old Town square because I'd caught a glimpse of the sad, er, I mean grand, Christmas Tree there. 

Old Town itself looked like it was shops full of tourist trinkets. So I think I'm okay with not exploring it further on future visits.

Monday we got all our stuff packed up and then spent the afternoon with Ryan's dad at a park across the street from the first house they owned in Albuquerque. I'd never seen that house before, so that was interesting. And we all had a good time throwing frisbees around and playing on the playground. Gareth was very sad that evening as he said goodnight to everyone. Mal was more oblivious. Everything went smoothly with the flight home, aside from Mal and Gareth continuously pestering one another whenever we were sitting in the airport.

When we arrived in Seattle I had a clarinet choir friend pick me and our luggage up so we could go to dress rehearsal while Ryan took the boys and headed home on the light rail and bus. When they walked in the door Mal said, "No! I don't want this one!". Guess it took him until walking in the door to realize he wasn't going back to Grandma and Grandpa's house. And then he went to the fridge, opened it, and proceeded to ask for and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and apple slices with peanut butter - two things I'd offered him many times in Albuquerque and which he'd consistently voiced staunch opposition to throughout the trip.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Week

I was determined that this trip we'd get out of the house and see some of the local sites. This has never happened before and I didn't want to sit around and twiddle my thumbs for a week.

We spent one morning going up Sandia Peak on the tram. I was very glad we went first thing in the morning as by the time we came back down there was a long line for tickets. Mal was a little nervous on the ride up, and again did not enjoy his ears popping as we ascended. There was a little snow up on the peak, which the kids loved. You would think they'd never seen snow before. And I suppose it has been a while. While it was windier and colder up on the mountain, we chose a good day to go as it was in the 60s in the valley, so it really wasn't all that cold up on the peak. The boys spent a good hour or so throwing snow. We walked around a bit and found a spot that was slick. Gareth joined some other kids in sliding down the slick patch. Mal stuck to the less slippery areas with me. I enjoyed the beautiful views. When Gareth felt his hands were sufficiently frozen we headed back down. As soon as we were on the tram to go back down he regretted that we hadn't stayed longer. So we've promised him a trip up there again the next time we visit.

Thanksgiving was typical. There were 19 people around my in-law's table because some friends and the fiance's in-laws joined us. I was very peopled out by the end of the evening, so went to bed while the other siblings played Open Arena.

Friday was prep day for the wedding. I got up and looked over my application essays again, then attached the applications to my grad school application and submitted it. Now I'm just waiting on one letter of recommendation. I've got excellent grades, excellent GRE scores, I'm assuming good letters of recommendation. But there are only 12 spots in the program, so not getting in is definitely a possibility. Just have to wait and see.

While everyone else headed to the gym to decorate, we took our kids and Ryan's 11 year old sister to Explora. Since we have a Pacific Science Center membership we were able to get in free through the ASTC Passport program. The kids loved it.

A sand topography map display. As you shift the sand, the topography map shifts to match the features you create.

Riding the high wire bike. Gareth is not tall enough to do so yet.

Checking out displays in the sound area

Mal controlling one of the water spouts at the fountain
We spent a couple hours there and Gareth was not happy when it was time to go. But I was hungry, and Gareth had forgotten to eat breakfast, so lunch was needed. Ryan's sister spent the rest of the afternoon playing Minecraft on my computer while Gareth played video games on the N64 that had been pulled out of storage.

Saturday we got all dressed up for pictures. I got Mal's outfit on our local Buy Nothing group. I'll be returning it to the neighbor who lent it when we get back. And I borrowed my dress from a friend, so all I had to buy was the shrug and a necklace.

Not the best pictures ever, but the best I've got at the moment. Everyone thought the boys were adorable. Gareth wore some khakis, a navy blue button-down shirt, and a sweater my sister knit for him that looks gorgeous on him. Sarah looked beautiful in her Eowyn-inspired dress. After pictures we headed home, took naps or whatever, and then got dressed again for the reception. Mal was very excited for the party - particularly for popcorn and cake. He was quite sure it was a birthday party and was somewhat disappointed that none of the presents were for him. His dinner, unsurprisingly, consisted of croutons, popcorn, pretzels, marshmallows, and cake. The rest of us ate pasta, salad, and rolls as well. The boys did well, despite being up way past bedtime. They snagged a couple of balloons from the newlyweds' decked out car before we brought them home and got them into bed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


We're currently in Albuquerque for Thanksgiving and Ryan's sister's wedding. It's been a rather tiring trip thus far, in all honesty. We were up early to get to the airport for our flight. Usually I plan to get to the airport about an hour before my flight when it's just me. So I figured planning to get there 1.5 hours early would be plenty with the kids in tow. Next time we'll plan to get there at least 2 hours early because we got to our gate toward the tail end of boarding.

Mal did surprisingly well during take off. He has a cold, so I was very nervous. And he'd told me emphatically a few days before that he didn't want to go up in the clouds. But he seemed fine and was settling in, excited about the plane and the window and munching on apples. About ten minutes into the flight he let out a shriek and started flailing. This happened repeatedly for the next several minutes until he made clear he wanted me to put my hand on his ear to "close" it. He held my hand to his ear and buried his face in my lap, intermittently screeching and squirming when the pain intensified until he cried himself to sleep. He slept clenching my hand to his ear for the rest of the flight.

We had a nice long layover in Salt Lake, allowing us to get some lunch and hang out at our gate. Mal did much better on the second flight, though I have no idea why. He managed to entertain himself without me having to pull out any of the new items I bought to bribe him into good behavior. Upon arriving in Albuquerque we quickly grabbed our bags and headed to the rental car place and drove to my in-laws.

The first night here Ryan came and found me and asked if I'd noticed Gareth twitching his head. I checked it out, and sure enough his head was twitching involuntarily back toward his shoulder, sometimes rapidly. He's had a couple of tics for a while - blinking his eyes and clearing his throat. But his doctor thought the blinking was gone at our last visit. Then around the time school started this year his throat clearing shifted to a vocalization, almost like he was trying not to clear his throat. And a month or so later he started making an odd face every few seconds. I haven't noticed that one for a while. But now he's doing the head twitch and the blinking is definitely present as well. So I called his doctor the day after we got here and set up an appointment for when we get back to figure out what's going on.

Malcolm started refusing to eat anything except fruit and cookies as soon as we arrived. This has led to many tears and much screaming on his part, and frustration/annoyance on my part. Today I finally asked Ryan to go out and buy a whole bunch of yogurt because it's something he'll almost always eat and has lots of protein and will help get him through the day a little easier. I already know he'll reject everything at Thanksgiving dinner (except pie), so I guess it'll be a yogurt Thanksgiving for him.

And that's kind of how things are going thus far, in addition to the typical upsets between Gareth and Mal causing various emotional meltdowns. Gareth got the wind knocked out of him while playing on a swing and Mal got a small cut on his hand when it hit a recliner while playing. There's constantly something going wrong with one of them. At least Ryan and I get to go out a few times because we have plenty of willing babysitters around. But after today I'm tempted to put a moratorium on long trips far away from home until Mal is old enough to stop throwing tantrums.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

Mal has been excited for Halloween for weeks. He's been asking if we can go to Halloween and we've had to stop and see every single decoration at every house on our walk to and from preschool. Neighbors across the street had several skeletons out and we had to say hi to them daily. Sometimes he'd update me on the skeletons' moods through the day. He loved all the spiders and pumpkins. He was simultaneously terrified and fascinated by "creepy things". He watched the Curious George Halloween movie over and over until he fell in love with "punkin Chismas" (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and has only wanted to watch that since.

My mom sent us a package a couple weeks ago, containing our first ever Halloween decoration:

The kids were very excited to open the package and have something Halloweeny around the house. And for the jars of candy she sent as well. Mal kept saying "Happy Halloween" over and over and over. You had to respond in kind or he'd get more insistent and desperate in his tone. Then he'd let it be for a few minutes until he felt it was time to start the process all over again.

For costumes the kids went easy on me this year. Gareth couldn't think of a costume idea except for Mario (seriously?! I could think of several, but wanted his costume to be his idea and didn't want to suggest something I wasn't sure I could deliver). Plus, reusing Mario would be easy. His Mario costume from two years ago just barely fit still, Mal was due to wear the Joker costume. We did our best to prep him for the makeup, showing him video and pictures of Gareth in the costume. He seemed excited, but come Halloween we only got as far as brushing his hair. As soon as Ryan showed him the face paint he freaked out. So we pulled out the monkey costume from last year, which also just barely fit, and he was happy as a clam. The Joker costume was actually a bit large on him, so maybe we'll try again next year.

We carved up a pumpkin Halloween afternoon, and Mal was bouncing with excitement. Both boys helped a bit with scooping out the insides, Gareth helped with designing the face, and Mal (with help) helped to cut out some of the face.

As you can see, there's a second pumpkin there. Gareth got it on a field trip. We were all too lazy to carve two pumpkins.

Friends from our old neighborhood came over our way to trick or treat. We also invited a new friend to join us. The weather was supposed to be rainy, but it looked like we'd get a mostly dry window around 5-6. So we decided to head out once all our friends came and eat after trick or treating. Ryan and a friend stayed home to man the door and watch Walking Dead. Initially we seemed to be the only ones out. But after one street we started to see a few more people out. There were quite a lot of houses passing out candy, so once we'd done a few blocks the kids were ready to be done. We headed home and ate smoked gouda mac n cheese and apples (and candy, of course).

I'm not sure exactly how many kids came to our door, but we ran out of candy, so next year I'll plan on buying more. We got very few kids at our rental place, which was always disappointing to me. I'm excited that this house will hopefully consistently see more trick-or-treaters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Fun

Ryan and I went to Elysian's (okay, Anheuser-Busch's) Great Pumpkin Beer Festival a couple weekends ago. Usually Ryan and festivals do not get along at all. But this one is pretty enjoyable. They have bunches of chairs out, so we usually snag a place to sit after a bit (this is key for Ryan, who hates standing for long periods). You get to sample some really great pumpkin ciders and beers (and the occasional mead or barleywine), they've got some great food trucks there, and you get to enjoy some fascinating people-watching. Ryan and I just aren't the personality types to get crazy into festivals, even with a little alcohol to help. But we do enjoy this particular one. It's fun to get out just the two of us and see how into such things others get. It's noisy, but not really raucous, and some people do dress in costumes or deck themselves in all orange. But there are plenty of people like us who are clearly not crazy party-ers. Works out to be a good combination for us.

Ryan got a little in the spirit of things and threw on a shirt with some orange in it. I'm pretty sure I don't own any orange.

In the background you can just see a giant pumpkin (just above the beret). They had several of these there. That largest one is filled with Great Pumpkin I believe. Others were being carved by an expert carver. I overheard the carver say that the one he was working on they were going to use as the Great Pumpkin, but when they opened it it was moldy, so they sealed it back up with wax and relegated it to carving.

While we did that our friends the Redpaths took Gareth and Mal with them to a family cider press. The kids had a blast. Mal apparently helped throw some apples into the chopper. Both boys loved playing on the trampoline.


And Mal made a friend of R2D2.

At some point in the afternoon Mal climbed into his car seat and took a nap. He woke up shortly after this picture, and you can see he looks less than thrilled to be awake. Which is probably why he got to play with one of his favorite things - the elephant.

They got to eat donuts and drink fresh apple cider at the press. Then afterwards they went to another friend's house for dinner, which is where we met them when we got back. We got to sample the cider and it was tasty and not overly sugary like what you typically can get in the store.

This past weekend was mellow as I came down with a cold courtesy of Mal attending preschool. I was going to host a couple of my friends Saturday evening but decided I should postpone since I didn't want to get them sick as well. A friend of Ryan's invited us to a corn maze on Sunday. Ryan is slightly terrified of taking the boys anywhere by himself (because of Mal being 3), so I was a bit surprised that he said he'd do it even after I pointed out that he'd have to take them by himself since I could use the quiet house to get some rest. We kept it a surprise, just telling the boys they were going on a drive with daddy while I prepped some lunch for them. When they got home several hours later they were bubbling with excitement over the donuts and the maze and the "punkins". Mal apparently enjoyed the mud and told me all about a caterpillar that he touched and the hay ride.

Sitting to pet the caterpillar. If you look very carefully you'll see a bit of it's fuzzy body at the bottom of the frame.

Mal loves his "punkins". He was so thrilled when I finally let him help choose one at the store several days ago. He made me set it in the passenger area of the cart so it could be next to him and leaned his head on it while we finished our shopping. 3 year olds can have their adorable moments.

Standard pumpkin patch picture with a cute kid. Mal told me all about how he needed help to pick up a pumpkin when he saw this picture.

And the rope maze. I think that's what these are. They had a kid's maze, so maybe that's this. Ryan didn't have time to take pictures in the big corn maze because he was busy carefully following the little map so that it wouldn't take them until dark to make it through. Prodding a 3 year old through a corn maze isn't exactly an easy task, I'm sure.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Settling In

While our new neighborhood hasn't completely grown on me yet, as indicated in a previous post I'm loving our house. And I'm feeling rather excited about the elementary school. We had our curriculum night a couple weeks ago and got to hear from the principal and then from the 3rd grade team.

The principal seems excellent. It sounds like they've made a lot of changes in the past few years and she seems very willing to listen to parent concerns and involve parents in the decision-making process for the school. 

Gareth's teachers are trying to model their approach after the 5th grade classes (which are prepping kids for middle school, so basically modelling it after a middle-school approach). Instead of having one teacher for reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies they are having one of the teachers cover reading/language arts, one cover math, and one cover science/social studies. So Gareth has a homeroom teacher and class. He's with those kids for gym, arts, library. But he goes to another 3rd grade teacher for 4th grade math, in a class with kids from all three homerooms. And he goes to his homeroom teacher for reading (again, not necessarily his homeroom classmates), and to the third teacher for science. This works well because all of the teachers have expertise and interest in those particular fields. The woman covering science and social studies was a research biologist for years before becoming a teacher. She loves to incorporate her experiences from 8 trips to Antarctica into what they're covering. 

I chatted at length with the math teacher. Sounds like, in addition to math, she's hoping to get the kids to work on their perseverance and on re-framing how they see certain tasks rather than just complaining that they're boring or too easy. Gareth was complaining that the work was boring because it was easy, but he'll be one of the first to take an easy route out as soon as the work gets challenging, so I'm excited that she seemed determined to make sure they all learn how to work hard now and put their best effort in. One of my biggest fears with him is that he'll breeze through elementary and even middle school and not have to learn how to work hard until he hits some class in high school and then flounder because of that. I definitely benefited from things not necessarily coming easily to me through elementary school. 

All three teachers seem pleasant, eager to communicate and work with the parents, and excited to be with the kids. Gareth seems to have hit a stride with other kids. He hasn't mentioned anyone in particular or asked to play with anyone, so I'm not sure he's made friends yet, per se, but he makes it sound like he's at least interacting pleasantly with others in his class and is coming home happy.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bedroom and Music Room

This past week we had our new mattress delivered, which means that Ryan and I have moved into the upstairs bedroom. Woohoo! It may have no light or ventilation, but we are both immensely enjoying having that loft like space to ourselves. It helps that it's fall and not summer.

Eventually we'll figure out what kind of pillows we want (something fancy or just basic pillows in a king size?). Standard-size pillows look pretty lame on a wider bed. We were both surprised at the fact that our quilt actually covered all of the surface of the bed. Doesn't hang over the sides at all, but it's good enough until we get an appropriately-sized solution. We plan to get some nightstands for either side of the bed and lamps to go on them. There's a half-bath to the right of the picture and a closet behind me.

Us moving into the upstairs meant Ryan could move the drumset into the "music room" (aka guest bedroom). We did that today since Gareth and Mal had some friends coming over this evening and I wanted the basement more clear for them to play.

Ryan tested out playing the set once he got it set up and it cuts down on the sound in the rest of the house a lot to have it in it's own room, which I appreciate. We still have a lot of little things to find homes for, but I already feel so much more moved in - and am loving the house so much more - just by getting these things done.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First Day of School 2015

Finally found my camera cord! Going to have this publish in September just for the sake of the pictures being in the right place (in case we ever manage to print the blog or anything).

Here's Mal on his first day of preschool, sort of. He went to a few days during the summer session so he could acclimate a bit. But this was the first official day. He was so excited to have his very own lunchbox.

And here's Gareth on his first day, opting for a picture by the tree:

Malcolm didn't want to be left out, insisting that Mr. Potato Head also get to be in the picture: