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:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Boys' Room

I finally got fed up with the disastrous mess that was the boys room. Because their closet is just an empty space - no shelves or drawers or bars to hang anything on - their clothes were being not-so-neatly stacked on the shelf that had been where toys were kept, so toys were just strewn around the room as they took them out of boxes.

We've invited a kid in Gareth's grade over after school on Monday, so that was an excellent motivator in getting the room somewhat organized. I'd purchased some under-bed storage containers a couple weeks ago, thinking they'd be good for putting out of season clothes in. Since we haven't figured out what to do with their closet yet, I used those today to put all of their clothes in. This emptied the bookshelf to use for toys. We still have one box of things to sort out. Plus I want to get some curtain rods and hang the book bags we had in the rental next to the bunk bed, 3 for each of them to store books/kindle/little trinkets. But at least the floor space isn't entirely covered in clothes and toys anymore.

Looking in from the doorway. 
 The only outlet in the room is the one above the toy shelf there. We plan to add at least a couple more outlets. They've got two windows, both of which could probably do with being replaced eventually.

Looking from the corner by the toy shelf (nice photo bomb, Gareth)
I added command strip hooks on the wall to hang backpacks/lunchboxes. I hate having those lying around all over the house, so now Gareth's job when he comes home is to immediately empty his lunch box and backpack and then hang them up. Mal really likes his fake fire, and insisted it be in a picture, so do note it at the bottom of the frame there. The basketball thing is hanging on the closet door. The closet is currently home to their hamper, shoes, and a few toys.

The boys both wanted additional pictures of themselves:

We still have work to be done gradually. The door scrapes on the floor when it gets about halfway closed, so we need to figure that out. And the windows and closet as already mentioned. We haven't hung anything on the walls yet and I'd like to paint the room. An area rug for the floor might also be in the cards since to little kids walking = stomping. It frequently sounds like we've got a herd of elephants, not children, in the house.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wrist Pain

Not this past Monday, but the one before, I managed to get our bikes and us ready on time to take Mal to preschool on the bike. It's only a few blocks away, so not a long ride at all, but there are some decent hills on the ride. Upon getting home I realized my wrist was hurting. Such things happen sometimes, so I did my best to ignore it. It continued to hurt the next day and the next. This worried me a bit, especially as Wednesday was a rehearsal day. Oddly enough, my wrist didn't bother me so much at rehearsal, but I had a mild amount of pain through my forearm and at my elbow. As soon as rehearsal was over the elbow pain was gone and I was back to just the wrist pain and some continued radiation of pain through my arm.

Thursday I got the boys ready for school (Gareth's first day) and informed Gareth that we wouldn't ride as I was hoping to get my arm better by giving it as much of a break as possible. No biking, no more computer games, no pickup up Mal, and continuing my latest trend of minimal practicing. I got him off to school and then headed off to brunch with the co-op parents. By the time I parked I realized my hand felt somewhat numb - like it had fallen asleep. That continued through the next couple days and the wrist pain worsened. Usually a dull ache, but if I tried to grasp anything the pain would sharpen. Friday I was in so much pain I finally called the doctor and scheduled the earliest available appointment - almost a week later.

Of course, by the time this Wednesday rolled around my arm was feeling much better. Still a small amount of wrist pain, but no more tingling hand and no more arm pain. Small amount of elbow pain at rehearsal, but none by the second half. I woke up on Thursday feeling much the same. Figures that things are improving by the time you get into the doctor! But I went anyway, just to see if they might know the cause and help with the small amount of pain remaining.

The doctor has decided it's likely carpal tunnel. Not textbook, but the couple quick tests she did indicate that it's likely. So now I get to add a lovely fashion accessory to my closet - the wrist brace - and do some physical therapy.

I'm not 100% sold on the brace idea. Sometimes it feels as though the brace is creating pain that wasn't previously there or causing pain that had gone away for those couple days to return. But at other points it does seem helpful. So I don't know. I'm more hopeful that the physical therapy will be helpful when I get that started - the first available appointment wasn't for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Another Hiccup and Some Progress

I try to hold off on turning on the heat as long as possible, usually waiting until we wake up and it's in the  upper 50s in the house before giving in. But Ryan was working from home the other day and even I had to admit that I was cold. It's been cloudy and in the low 60s more frequently, so I think the house was sitting at about 63 (we usually keep it at 68 in the winter). So I gave in and we turned on the heat. We were confident it worked because the day after closing we were in the house and it seemed awfully warm and we realized the heat was on!

So we turn it on and hear it start up and wander around the house making sure all the vents are open. And then a few minutes later, after getting the house to all of 64, nothing. Ryan opens up the utility closet, the door for the furnace proceeds to fall onto him, and we take a look. Blinking light. We learned with our oil furnace that that wasn't a good thing. So I look at the furnace and decide to call the number on the sticker of what looks like the company that installed the thing. I later noticed a sticker on the door front from some company that supposedly serviced it just this past March. Yeah, not calling them when the thing is broken down 6 months later!

Although the whole furnace breaking down thing is a pain, at least we discovered it while the weather is still warm and not in the middle of winter. The company was able to get someone out to look at the furnace the next day. He informed me that the gas valve was bad. I went ahead and signed up for their service plan because who knows what else will go wrong with the furnace in the next couple years since the place has been empty for several years. Anyway, they would need to order the part and would send a technician out to fix it once it was in. That happened yesterday and that guy spent over two hours checking out the furnace and realized it needed a new capacitor as well. In the end the repair that he expected to take just an hour took the whole afternoon and I was a bit late to picking up Gareth. But we have a working furnace. Now to get the thermostat programmed correctly.

In good news, we finally got around to purchasing ourselves a new mattress. Since ours was 10 years old it was probably about time to do this anyway. Researching memory foam was proving difficult and overwhelming. It felt like there were too many potential points at which to mess up what we chose for our mattress (which firmness you want all the layers, are the expensive Tempur-pedic really worth it?, etc). We'd had a couple people recommend latex to us along with a specific store. So we headed over there this past weekend. Things seemed to jive with what we'd read, but we went ahead and left without purchasing, just to give ourselves a chance to think things over and read up a bit more. I went back today and made the purchase. The mattress will arrive next week. We went with a California King so that Ryan can finally have his feet on the bed. Once it's in we'll move into our room and move Ryan's drumset into the basement bedroom. Woohoo!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Back to School

Gareth started school this past Thursday. Mal started this past Monday. I did take pictures of both of them, but I took them on the real camera and have now realized I don't know where I packed the cord to connect the camera to the computer. So no first day pictures for you.

Malcolm loves his preschool. He loves playing in the outdoor space and loves the different spaces they have available indoors as well. He doesn't seem to interact with any other kids much, but that's fine. He's just a few days in and he's always been one to hang back and check things out before joining in. And anyway, Gareth didn't start showing much interest in playing with other kids his age until he was almost four. So I'm hopeful that as he gets a bit older and more familiar with the space and the kids that he'll eventually start interacting with others more.

Gareth's first day seemed to go okay. I had a hard day, emotionally. Just a day filled with missing his and my friends and twinges of regret that we moved or wondering if we should have at least tried to keep him at his old school. Rationally, I know that the things that feel weird and different at this new school aren't necessarily bad. And I know that in the long run it will benefit Gareth to also have friends in our new neighborhood, since we plan to be here for a long, long while. But on that first day, it was tough to keep that in mind. I missed walking onto the playground and being greeted by people who are happy to see me and I them.

Gareth was a bit hesitant when we got to the school. They're supposed to all line up at their class number and then the teachers come get them and walk them to class when the bell rings (first weird thing - at the old school everyone just runs into class when the bell rings). But we were there early and he had time to play. I asked if I could go and the look on his face just about killed me. Hesitation from realizing he doesn't have any friends to run off with, and doesn't know the school. So I offered to stay and once he knew I'd stay for a bit he ran off to play by himself on the playground. He came back just before the bell rang and seemed a little more at ease, so I said goodbye. After school he commented that he doesn't have much to do at recess when he doesn't have any friends. Despite knowing it was just the first day, hardly enough time to get to know people and make friends, it hurt to hear. Weird thing number two was arriving to find parents lined up about four deep, facing the school. It seemed way too organized. The teachers also walk the students out and the students have to point out "their person" before they're allowed to leave. What if a kid is allowed to walk home on their own? Seems a bit ridiculous to me (and makes it hard for me to casually get to know other parents in his class because there's no waiting in the hallway together). But I'm guessing they have a reason for it, perhaps the proximity of the school to a busy street or a number of students with custody issues or some other safety issues. I'm sure it'll feel less weird eventually.

But things are looking up after day two. He said some kids invited him to play soccer at recess and they had talked about playing again on Monday. So he seemed more optimistic about making friends. And I've promised that we'll set up times to play with his friends very soon. This weekend he's at a sleepover with a friend from the old neighborhood. We'll just have to be more intentional about keeping those friendships, but I think it's something we can do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The View

So we actually have a bit of a view at our house. If we trimmed the redwood tree branches we'd be able to see it better from the deck. And if we could eliminate the telephone pole it'd be much nicer. But despite that it's sometimes rather beautiful at sunset. I'm a tad jealous of the boys because their window avoids the branches and has the best view in the house. Or you can walk down to the backyard and get a better view than on the deck, but this night I was too lazy to put on shoes.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Strike Days

Wednesday should have been the first day of school, but instead it was the first day of the strike. The strike continues today. I'm assuming it'll be at least Monday before school starts. I don't mind, as I side with the teachers. And as the days will have to be made up, I'm rather hoping they take them from the stupid mid-winter break first. Do the kids really need a week-long break in February, when they've barely gotten back from their two-week break at the end of December and had a few more days off since then?? Not to mention, mid-winter break is a child-care nightmare for working parents and for me the days I have class.

We had a friend of Gareth's over Wednesday since his parents needed to work. They spent the day building a fort and playing minecraft. Oh, and here's some of our still-messy basement:

The drumset is temporarily to the left of this picture. Once we move into our room it will move into the bedroom that is behind where I'm standing
The near door leads to the garage, the far door to the bathroom/laundry room
In the afternoon we decided to search out a park. Their requirements: zipline, swings, and a metal merry go round. The closest park to us has a zipline, but it's broken, swings, and a plastic merry go round that you have to sit in. It's heavy and difficult to get any good speed on. So I posted in a local group on facebook and quickly got a suggestion for another park with a zipline.

I've been struggling with the new neighborhood a bit. Our old neighborhood had a main street section and just felt very small-town like. I'd fallen in love with it immediately. This area feels more suburb-like to me - not my thing at all. But I'm trying to keep an open mind and hope that as I continue to explore a bit I'll find areas to like. This park yesterday was helpful in that. It wasn't all that hard to get to or home from, had all three things the boys wanted, and looks like it has several trails to explore. There are a few sketchy things about it (some stairs had lots of broken glass and one of the boys said they saw some needles in the shrubbery next to the stairs), but those things were easily avoided. At one of our favorite playgrounds in our old neighborhood Malcolm once found a used tampon under the play structure. You simply learn to keep an eye out for such things and steer your kids away from them. The playground area itself was well-maintained and there were several kids playing there, but it wasn't over-crowded.

Mal loved the mural on the bridge
No school yesterday meant we had this friend over again, as well as another friend. They had a few squabbles in the morning, but eventually settled in. Re-built their fort, played some video games, played outside, played Legos. Gareth was invited to spend the night at his friend's house. I'd think they'd need a break from each other after two whole days together, but apparently not.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


In addition to moving this summer, I've had the GRE looming over my head. I'd signed up back in December to take it, long before we even thought of moving. I was expecting a fairly calm summer, in which I could intersperse studying with fun activities with the kids.

I started studying as soon as I got back from Grandmother's funeral. The result being that I have yet to finish the newest season of Orange is the New Black. Studying got put on hold for a while here and there as I had to deal with closing stuff and packing and moving. It's been 13 years since I did math, so while others apparently all do awesome on the math section, I was very stressed about it. I'm good at math, but if I don't use it I definitely forget all the little rules. And geometry has never been my favorite. Thankfully most stuff comes back pretty quickly. I centered all my studying around the math section, figuring I'd be fine on the verbal and hopefully on the writing as well.

This past week was crunch time. I took several practice tests and, while not thrilled with my scores on the math sections (ugh, my speed math is super rusty!), they were good enough. I felt much calmer about it all after looking up the requisite scores for my program and realizing that at least my practice scores were well above what is required.

Yesterday afternoon I headed to the testing center. I've never taken a standardized test on computer before (except for a couple practice tests for this), so that was new. But not a big deal. Once I was done with the writing section and had moved on to verbal, I made use of the headphones they provided because trying to concentrate with several other people still typing away in the background was difficult. Guess I should've let Gareth play with Legos in the same room as me while I was doing practice tests! I felt okay after the first half. The verbal stuff wasn't bad at all. A few words I didn't know, but felt like I could make educated guesses about. And I usually finished those sections early. The first math section wasn't even all that bad. A couple I didn't know, but I did finish the section with time to review a couple answers. I was not happy at all after the second math section because I ran out of time and had to just pick an answer for several questions - annoying because some of them I was sure I could do if only I had more time! I was glad that my extra section was verbal, because I was exhausted and upset with myself by the end of the second math section, and if I'd been thrown a third math section I wouldn't have been happy at all. But a third verbal section wasn't a big deal and I was able to breeze through it, finishing with almost half the time left.

I reported my scores and was shocked to see the math score. After the second math section I was expecting the score to be really low. But it was higher than my practice tests had been - not as good as my high-achieving self would normally like, but hopefully plenty good enough. Considering how long it's been since I took a math class and how spotty my studying was with everything else going on this summer, I feel pretty good to have done so well. And the verbal score was excellent as well. Granted, they're "unofficial", but as long as the writing went well I think it's safe to say the GRE is behind me. I drove home, grabbed some food, and headed back out for a clarinet choir rehearsal. I'm excited that I get to have a few weeks without that looming over my head before classes start up and I start stressing about the rest of the application.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ice Cream Social

Gareth's school sent out letters telling us his room number last week, but not his teacher. They held an ice cream social last night where you could find out your teacher's name. Most of the teachers weren't there because they were at an SEA meeting to discuss the contract negotiations with the district and vote on whether or not to strike if no agreement is reached. While I'd be a bit sad to lose some of my couple weeks where they're in school and I'm not, I do support the teachers in striking if it comes to that. Those incomes listed in the Seattle Times article? I wouldn't want to live on that in Seattle, especially lately. A veteran teacher with a masters only makes $80k? If you're single that's a pretty decent salary, but if you are supporting a family you're going to be struggling a bit (and almost certainly having a long commute to your job). I will never understand why we so undervalue educators in this country. The district wants to add 30 minutes of instruction to the day. How exactly? The kids are already there 6 hours and get paltry recess time as it is. SEA has come together with parents and is demanding more recess time - and equitable recess time as lower income areas are currently most likely to get short-changed. Those are just a couple of the big issues.

Anyway, the principal was there, so Gareth got to see her, though it was difficult to hear what she said. And we did walk around inside the school a bit and walked up to Gareth's classroom. You can tell this school isn't quite as old as his previous one partly because the classrooms are more spacious. And because of the newer doors and sheetrock walls etc. I'm interested to see where the kids keep their belongings as there are no lockers to be seen (lockers in an elementary school seemed weird when he started K, but now that I'm used to them it was weird not to see them). Apparently his teacher is a full-time sub. Two of the third grade teachers had babies and are taking a full year off. But the parent telling me this assured me that the subs are fully-credentialed teachers and are excellent.

I also found someone to ask about bike racks. She assured me there are some out front. I have yet to find them, but I'm not entirely sure which side of the school is considered the front either. I'm guessing it's the side of the school I haven't had a chance to check out thoroughly yet. Gareth had a great time playing on the playground, and Malcolm scored a balloon, hand sanitizer, and chapstick from a local dentist's office (a few local businesses/health clinics were there with tables in addition to the before/after-care people and the pta tables). People were all very friendly and I'm hopeful that it will be a good environment for Gareth. They also hold a small open-house in a couple days where you can meet your teacher and see your classroom and drop off supplies (maybe - they always said you could do all these things at our previous school, but we only had one year where the teachers were actually at this event and they never did have the classrooms ready to check out, so I'm keeping expectations low). Maybe he'll actually get to meet some other kids from his class at that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Making Friends and Doctor Visits

Part of moving is Gareth changing schools. And Malcolm as well (I'm still sad about this as I was so looking forward to being in Teacher Lauren's class again, but we have found what I hope will be a good alternative). I know Gareth is a little bit nervous and upset about this as he mentions it occasionally. But overall he seems to be attempting to take it calmly.

Gareth has always been social and good at making new friends. My biggest concern is that he hasn't had to make new friends, really, since preschool. His closest friends then are still among his closest friends now. And we just moved away from them. I kind of feel like a horrible parent. I loved that he was still so close with his friends from preK. But he had added a few new friends to the mix over the past couple years, so he'll be fine and will make new friends and I will work much harder than I usually do to be intentional about getting together with his current friends.

I'm actually much more worried about me. I'm hoping to stay close to my friends (who are the parents of his friends). But if he makes new friends that means I have to at least get to know some new parents. And that's a little terrifying. It's one thing when your kid is starting kindergarten and all the parents are in the same boat for the most part. Sure, some have older kids at the school and have parents friends already, but they're open to getting to know new people as part of their younger kid making friends. But coming in to a bunch of 3rd grade parents who already know the ins and outs of the school and already have circles of friends? It's exactly what I'm horrible at. I don't break into existing groups of friends well at all. Lack of shared history leaves you always feeling just a little on the outside, if not a lot. At least we haven't moved that far away from our friends, so continuing to get together with them shouldn't be all that difficult.

In other news, I took the boys in for their yearly physicals today. They're both doing great. Mal, as usual, was not super-thrilled to be at the doctor's office, though he does like to look at the fish in the waiting area. He has at least stopped screaming the instant he sees the doctor and just spent this visit acting very scared and sad. He only screamed when she tried to check his ears and when she wanted him to lay down on the table (he hates the crinkly paper). Neither of them had to get shots this time around, which Gareth was happy about - mainly because he doesn't like hearing Malcolm cry when getting shots. Gareth tends to take his own shots in stride. Both boys are very consistent in their growth. Gareth's just above the 50th percentile for both height and weight. Mal is just above 50th for height and about 40th for weight. She did comment on how different the boys' personalities are and seemed glad to hear that Mal will be doing preschool, giving him a better chance at socialization. That's one reason why I'm excited for it as well. Gareth has a couple tics and it was nice to hear that she didn't notice him blinking as much (I've always been horrible at noticing this one, but others have commented on it as well). He's still clearing his throat all the time, but we're going to keep trying to ignore it and hopefully it'll diminish on its own eventually.