Monday, April 27, 2015

Evening Cuteness

A couple moments I caught this evening:

Gareth was sitting in the rocking chair and offered to let Malcolm sit on his lap. Mal excitedly accepted the opportunity:

They seem to spend a fair amount of time complaining about one another these days, so this moment was unexpected. Gareth was even thoughtful enough to ask Mal if the chair was being rocked too fast or too slow. Last time for the boys to enjoy the chair as it's being picked up by another couple tomorrow. We were gifted it by our friends in Indiana who didn't want to move it across the country with them. It got a lot of use after Malcolm was born, but it's time for it to be passed on.

And Mal "building" the table:

We'd brought this table (also from our friends in Indiana!) upstairs for Gareth's birthday. In order to get it up or down the stairs we have to take off the legs. Malcolm "helped" me take it apart when we took it up, so as soon as he saw me turn it over upstairs this evening he ran off to get his tool so he could help build it again. I let him help twist some nuts on or off, and he does a good job of that. Sometimes he starts out turning it the wrong direction, but as soon as I tell him to turn the other way he's good to go. Once everything is put together he likes to pretend to build with his tool. He was so proud to have helped.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lake Washington Tandem Ride

So I have to talk about this on the blog, just because it was such an exhilarating ride. The weather was amazing on Sunday. Ryan had some work that he needed to get done, but it'd been over a week since I'd been able to ride, so when our friend emailed me asking to ride Sunday I jumped at the chance. I made sure Ryan would be able to get some work done by asking our friend's son to come hang out with the kids after their church was over. Gareth had a soccer game in the early evening which I stressed about for a bit, but then decided to not worry about - if I was back in time to take him, great. If not, that'd just be the way it was.

We rode my friend's tandem, which meant he loaded it on his car so we could drop his kids off at church and leave from there. I went in thinking we were aiming for 55 miles since that's what he needed to meet his weekly goal of 100 miles. Apparently he wasn't expecting to meet his goal, but I didn't know that at the time. I was a little nervous about how I'd hold up for that many miles with how little I've been riding lately.

We saw a lot of other tandems while riding - even a recumbent tandem! And lots of people out in general. We ran into a 12th Man 12k going on in Renton (starting from the Seahawks training facility which is down there), which meant going quite slow for a stretch as we were going against the flow and didn't want to get anyone mad at us.

At one point we had a motorcyclist pull up beside us and my friend joked with them about racing. They let us "win" as we needed to make a left turn a few minutes later. The views all around the lake were breathtaking. And we were averaging 16 mph for much of the ride. By the end of the ride we averaged 14.7 mph. To put that in perspective, a couple weeks ago we rode the north half of the lake on the tandem and averaged 12.1 mph (granted, that was also pulling Mal in the trailer, so that makes a difference for sure). If I'm riding a single I'm doing well if I average 11 mph.

We could've just done the south half of the lake, but we were both feeling pretty good and making great time, so he decided to go all the way around. We stopped at a brewpub toward the end of our ride and met some nice people. One is a math professor at UW. She was coming from Woodinville area. The other actually lives not too far from us. It was great to see tons of families out biking along that trail. Man, if you want a successful business, setting up a brewery/bike shop along a bike trail seems like a good way to go. There were also lots of people out enjoying the various parks along the route.

Definitely a tiring ride (even the next day all I wanted to do most of the day was fall asleep). But I took some Aleve right when I got home and didn't feel sore at all the next day, which was actually surprising to me. I love getting out and riding like this. There's the sense of accomplishment after a long ride, but it also feels invigorating just to get outdoors, enjoy the sun, and push your body.

I was back in plenty of time to get Gareth to his soccer game. Normally I dislike taking Mal along to those because all he wants to do is throw balls on the field and run onto the field himself. But I took him so that Ryan could finish his work - which he did! And Mal wasn't quite as horrible to have along as he was in the fall, despite still wanting to throw himself and balls onto the field. Then we went to our friend's place for a barbecue before I headed out for rehearsal.

I don't feel ready to ride around the lake on a single yet, but hopefully in a couple months!

Monday, April 20, 2015

TARDIS Cake and Family Celebration

I baked the cake on Wednesday afternoon. One 9x13 and then split another batter between an 8-inch square and a 9x13 pan. I let those cool and then put the in the freezer overnight. After class on Thursday night I got the cake put together and a crumb coat on.

Crumb-coated and covered for the night.
I used the 8-inch cake to make the top of the TARDIS and the half-height 9x13 to add dimension to the main box. I almost forgot the subdivisions on the doors. I was less than sure about my frosting color (TARDIS blue is pretty impossible to get) and the crumb coat was incredibly difficult since I had so many little pieces added on. That took me until midnight, so I was a little stressed going to bed that night thinking about trying to finish the cake the next morning with Malcolm underfoot.

In the morning I decided that the best way to get the cake and the house ready in time would be to let the kids watch something. Gareth put in Star Wars and I was good to go. Thankfully the rest of the frosting didn't take all that long.

I purchased a black frosting to use. We already had some purchased Betty Crocker brand, but when Gareth and his friend tried to use that one with our ddraig coch cookies it seemed really runny. So I opted for a Wilton, which I could just put my frosting tip on. My tip didn't fit exactly, but it worked well enough. And the Wilton brand frosting was much better than the Betty Crocker. I was nervous doing the lettering as I've never done that before. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

That night for dinner we enjoyed Gareth's favorite: pasta salad. We also had some rolls from our local bakery and some pineapple. Going to the bakery I made the mistake of letting Mal bring his dalek from the party. I didn't notice that the dalek was missing it's head until we got to the toy store. After our toy store trip we headed back to the bakery with very low hopes of finding the missing piece. Nothing on the sidewalk, but we went ahead and stepped into the bakery. As we were turning to leave I told the employee who was prepared to wait on us, "oh, we're just here to see if we dropped part of a toy". And she had found it and set it aside, so we left the bakery much happier than we'd been upon arrival. I told the kids that their daleks would have to confine their adventures to home from here on out.

Anyway, during dinner the boys had fun with their daleks: "Exterminate! Exterminate!". After dinner we were about to send Mal off to bed, which he was not at all happy about. He wanted to do birthday presents!

So we let him stay up way late and watch Gareth open his presents. Then sent him to bed while the rest of us watched Dr. Who and enjoyed cake. Gareth was thrilled to be allowed to stay up for two episodes, until 10 pm! He's been allowed up that late before, but it's pretty rare. He went to bed a happy boy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gareth's 8th Party

Gareth deliberated for weeks over what to do for his birthday. He finally settled on Dr. Who. And for the first time ever I was tempted to go overboard on the theme, because it's so easy to do with Dr. Who. Thankfully he's only made it partway through season two, so there's so much we couldn't do because he hasn't seen those episodes yet (no weeping angels, fish sticks and custard, fez). Honestly, I was tempted to try to convince him to wait another year before having a Dr. Who party just so we could do some of those things. And since none of his friends also watch Dr. Who the challenge was to make the party fun for them as well. So I held back and we stuck with a T.A.R.D.I.S. cake and an Who-related activity.

I saved up boxes and other random recyclables for a couple weeks and each kid got to create their own alien species. So kind of related, but not so much that kids who don't watch the show can't have fun with it. Of course, that activity eventually broke down into making swords and armor out of cardboard. Which I knew would likely happen because the blog I got the idea from apparently had that happen at their party as well. I didn't care, because they were having fun and I had low expectations to begin with. But a couple friends did make creatures, as did Gareth. Here's his creation:

I discovered that the problem with an organized activity is that you might get some kids who don't want to participate. Which doesn't bother me, but it left the couple who didn't just sitting there while the other kids were involved in the activity.

They played with that stuff for a good 40 minutes, which was as much time as I was hoping to get out of it. Then I sent them outside to play while I got the tables cleared off and cake set up.

One of his gifts was a pair of bike gloves and sunglasses that he loves wearing:

After cake and presents they had time left to play outside again. Malcolm enjoyed running wildly around the yard while the big kids played various games of their own creation involving "pig piling" each other. The nice thing about this age is that they're all more careful about making sure others don't get hurt.

I found some Daleks that are compatible with LEGO to use as a party favor, which we set out next to their plates when we did cake.

The kids seemed to have a good time. It's nice to have a small activity that doesn't require a lot of effort to mix in with free play. Not sure if I'll do similarly next year or not. Or maybe I'll see if I can convince Gareth to go the really easy route of just having a couple friends for a sleepover or a movie or something.

Monday, April 6, 2015


I wasn't very into Easter this year. I remember feeling like it was just behind Christmas in excitement when I was a kid (egg decorating, candy, egg hunts) and figured I'd love doing those things for my kids when I grew up. But for years it's just fallen flat. So I put in minimal effort this year and am glad I did.

Each of the boys got an egg with a few jelly beans, an egg with a chocolate candy, a bag of animal crackers and a mini stamp and ink pad in their basket. Gareth also got a jump rope. The stamps/ink pads and jump rope were leftover from Christmas countdown purchasing. That was it. And they were thrilled with it. Gareth had no idea it was Easter, so he was surprised to have anything at all. I realized the baskets don't need to be full to the brim in order for them to be enjoyed.

At noon we went to a friend's house for an egg hunt/brunch. There were lots of people we didn't know, but several we did. Gareth enjoyed playing with some friends who don't go to his school anymore, Malcolm enjoyed eating all the cantaloupe and strawberries. Gareth had a hard time finding eggs at that hunt, so Malcolm shared some (I snuck some from his basket when he wasn't looking) with Gareth. They'd let the little kids start first, so he had several to Gareth's one. I did take my camera (and my phone), but still failed to take any pictures. Even when Mal was being super-cute up in the tree house.

Then we came home and got our ham in the oven. We had friends coming over for dinner - I'd been chatting with them after school on Friday and we were all discussing our lack of enthusiasm for the holiday, so I invited them to come over for ham. They brought side dishes and dessert. We had ten of us in all and it worked surprisingly well considering our small space. Noisy, because wood floors and three seven/eight year olds is a recipe for noise. But we had a fun time (I'm not sure how the lone 8th grader enjoyed it, but the rest of us did!). We did an egg hunt for the boys in the back yard, so if they felt they hadn't had enough candy earlier, they got plenty then.

Mal enjoyed playing with the unfilled eggs

Ready to go hunting. "I uv eggs!" was his refrain by end of day.

Goofy boys
Hunting's not too hard in our yard, especially since I cut the grass the day before. But there were still some weeds in the beds to help hide some eggs!

Checking out the loot:

Things ended on a less good note (for the kids) when we discovered the boys had smashed several of their eggs filled with goldfish crackers all over our basement floor. I was glad there were no jelly beans smashed into the carpet, but none of us were thrilled to see the mess they made. After his friends had left, Gareth got the "we're disappointed" lecture from both of us, vacuumed up the floor before going to bed, and somehow thought that was a good time to try to negotiate a later bedtime. Nope, not happening now kid. But aside from that, it turned out to be a good day.