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.