Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017

We had a lovely Christmas this year. It started snowing on Christmas Eve and by Christmas morning we probably had about 3 inches - practically a blizzard for the PNW. In fact, the car you see in the picture below got stuck trying to turn at our intersection. The kids played in it on the deck while waiting for Christmas Eve dinner (Coconut chicken fingers over rice, broccoli, delicata squash, and gingerbread steamers).

Mal joined us in watching our traditional A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version) for the first time ever. Gareth is turning into quite the night owl, so Ryan and I had to hang out and watch something while waiting for him to fall asleep - kind of annoying when you have everything ready, but are forced to stay up late waiting for the kids to fall asleep.

The benefit to having more night owl kids is that they sleep in in the morning. Here they are discovering their stockings/presents under the tree.

Then Mal checked out the snow outside. I caught an action shot of his expression of excitement about it.


Ryan warmed his hands by the fire.

Gareth requested Christmas sweaters for everyone this year, and Santa obliged. The kids opened those first. Mal was disappointed at first, saying, "Aw, that's not what I asked for for Christmas!"

But he's turned out to love his sweater, wearing it pretty much every day since. He was very excited when he opened his first package from Gram, who gave him the nutcracker he'd asked for, "This is what I wanted for Christmas!!".

Lots of gifts were unwrapped to reveal boxes this year, so the kids started acting overly excited for every single box. "Yes!! I got a box!!"

After we were finished opening presents, the kids went outside to play in the snow. After a bit, Gareth came in requesting help to get the snowman's midsection onto the base, so out I went. 

Mal was grumpy in this picture because Gareth had put in the pinecone eyes and hadn't left one for Mal to do. We soon fixed that by having Mal put in the buttons. 

Finished snowman and a happier Mal!

Then we had a brief snowball fight. Mal had donated his mittens to the snowman and realized after a bit that this meant cold hands. He wanted the snowman to keep the mittens, though, so decided he was ready to head in.

The snow turned to ice by the next morning, but by today was completely melted, except for a couple snowman remnants.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Diagon Alley & Gingerbread Cookies

We've now begun to include Mal in the movie-going tradition of winter break. He's not quite old enough for the new Star Wars movie (and has only seen the original trilogy, not any of the newest bunch), so I took him out to Coco early in the week, while Ryan and Gareth went to Star Wars the next day. A couple days later, we met up with friends to check out Diagon Alley. A family in Seattle constructed it in their driveway back around Halloween and have left it up and open to the public through the holidays. Mal happened upon Gareth's wand that morning, and wanted to get dressed up before we left:

But once there, he wasn't too keen on having his picture taken in front of Ollivander's (he had been made to change out of the costume in order to fit in his carseat safely).

While not overly crowded, there was a line to climb to the top of Gringott's, making picture-taking difficult. You can kind of see Gareth's head behind the post there.

Considering it was just a a family enterprise and was built in a driveway, it was very impressive! Mal was upset that it wasn't longer/there wasn't more to do. They have had some weekends where they've made more of an event of it, but I didn't want to try and go with all the crowds on a weekend.

Early in the week we made our gingerbread cookies. The boys both asked if we could decorate cookies this year. I haven't been in much of a baking mood, so it took a few days for me to muster the will to make icing. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the boys were actually quite dedicated about icing all the cookies we had left (with some playtime breaks thrown in), while I was wondering if we were done yet about 1 cookie in. They turned out pretty cute:

Otherwise, our break has been very restful. The afternoon of Diagon Alley, the kids played on the computer, while Ryan sat on the couch doing something, and I took up the rest of the couch napping. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. We've watched a few holiday movies here and there and the kids have been eagerly counting down to Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Winter Grand Prix

A couple weeks ago, Gareth was invited to go along with our friends to the first race of the Winter Grand Prix. He's never done anything like this before, but decided to check it out. His PE teacher offers a running club at school, where the kids run laps around the playground once a week during recess and get charms for a bracelet for every 7 laps (1 mile) they run . Gareth tries to run at least 10 laps each week. The races for the Grand Prix are about 2 miles, so a little longer than what he runs during recess.

Apparently he enjoyed his first week, despite it raining and being a bit chilly, so we signed him up for the entire series. The first race was a road race, so mostly flat road surfaces. The second race was today and was a cross country race - a little muddy after a some rain yesterday. Gareth's time was a little slower this time around, I'm guessing due to having to run up a hill plus the different surface. Regardless, he still had a lot of fun. He even told me afterward, when I was talking about my feet being cold, that the solution to that was to run rather than just watching.

Mal captured A LOT of pictures on my phone - probably got every runner on there at some point. I went through and deleted those that didn't contain Gareth.

Everyone at the starting line. Gareth is in there somewhere.

Gareth, just after starting

And a close up, about half-way through his first lap.
Mal got pretty into cheering on the runners, especially Gareth. Gareth was losing steam during the second lap, but when our friends and Mal cheered him on at the half-way point, he picked up speed again.

He's already stated that he's interested in trying out cross-country this next fall. It looks like his middle school doesn't have a team, so I'm going to see if we can figure out something for a local team. If you want to follow along with how he's doing, the results get posted on the website linked above a few days after each race.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Milestone

On Thursday I wrapped up my final course of my MS degree! It's a small milestone, because we still have internships and their assignments, plus theses/capstone to finish up, but a milestone nonetheless. I'm feeling excited, but also quite nervous, for internships. This last quarter was a fire hose of information and it feels impossible to remember it all. So, just the usual concerns of looking like an idiot and screwing everything up. But I'm trying not to worry too much about that right now and just enjoy my break/work on my capstone/get training done for my first rotation.

In other happenings, the boys are getting excited for Christmas. Gareth specifically asked to receive another ornament this year (I've been gifting them an ornament each year for the past few years), so it's nice to hear that he really enjoys and appreciates that tradition. He came to me the other day and said, "I've got a great idea! We should all get sweaters for Christmas! It would be fun!". I'm hoping he's not wanting an ugly sweater, because I absolutely refuse to do the ugly sweater thing. Also, who knew that holiday sweaters were such a thing? I was shocked to see that most places that have nice ones were sold out. Or if they had Gareth's size, they wouldn't have Mal's and vice versa. Anyway, it's fun to have him expressing enjoyment in the things that aren't just new toys.

I was at a friend's house the other day and they have a new nativity, which made me laugh:

Mal was so happy when we hit December and started playing Christmas music. He and Gareth managed to have a Saturday where they got along fairly well. At some point they both got up on Gareth's bed and pretended to sleep, requesting that I take a picture so they could see what they looked like.

Not to let the previous year of illness be outdone, Mal developed a sore on his rear end just before Thanksgiving that wouldn't heal, despite my best efforts. We finally got to the doctor yesterday and turns out it's strep. I had no idea you could get strep down there (though it does make sense when you stop to think about it; I'd never heard of it before though). The pharmacist is, unfortunately, getting to know us quite well and remembered that we'd recently had the same antibiotic (for the first of his ear infections over the summer). I'm crossing my fingers that this is the worst of it this year. I only get three sick days between January and August (we get vacation during UW breaks, but those are set days, not time you can use whenever), so don't have time to deal with illness. 

Mal's class has been having a gingerbread unit, where the Gingerbread Man has been their story for learning new sight words, they've done button counting for math, got to taste gingerbread and tally who liked it/didn't like it/wasn't sure, etc. He brought home a gingerbread decoration the other day, which also demonstrates his discovery of the question mark (apparently his entire class has been covering their work in question marks after learning about them; Mal is content to just use it after his name).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Halloween and School Update

Mal came home from Jump Start eager to be an eagle for Halloween, all because their school mascot is an eagle and "Beaky" had shown up at some point during jump start and he thought having an eagle costume was the coolest thing ever. Gareth finally settled on Luke Skywalker, which I found an easy DIY tutorial for online. Ryan's brother has just moved to the area, and he came over Halloween evening to scare off youngsters with his Slenderman costume. He and Ryan enjoyed that while I headed out trick-or-treating with the kids. Gareth got to take charge of the pumpkin carving this year, and once Mal saw the cool face Gareth made on the big pumpkin, he wanted the same face on his little pumpkin. Pumpkin-carving happened and was all cleaned up before I got home from my concert the weekend before Halloween.

The weather was perfect, so the kids were happy to stay out for quite a while, and we got rid of almost all of the candy we purchased. It was fun seeing so many kids and families out on our street. Upon seeing Mal, kids or adults would occasionally break out in the school song, which just added to the entertainment of the evening.

It being a school-night and all, the kids didn't have much chance to revel in their loot when we were done. Gareth scarfed down as much candy as he could before we sent him to bed.

Not much else has been happening in our life. School is keeping me very busy. I'm hoping to be done with the core of my capstone project by the end of December so that I can focus on my write-up in January-August. Not sure if that's how it'll actually play out, but it'll be much more difficult to find time to do capstone stuff once I'm in rotations. I was able to get into the kitchen for the first time the other day and blend up my first recipe attempts, do a flow test, then bring them home so I could test them again after 24 hours:

I was expecting these recipes to be a bigger failure than they were. Still some tweaking to be done, but I'm hopeful that I actually can produce a working recipe by the end of December. The kids thought they looked pretty tasty, but they really aren't intended to be tasted, since they're for tube-feeding, so I highly doubt their palatability.

I found out that I'll be at UWMC for my first rotation, which I'm pretty excited about. The other option was a hospital that's a trauma center, which would have been fine, but there are others in the cohort who are much more eager about trauma than I am, while UWMC will have more oncology and other areas that I'm interested in. And, in more awesome news, I just found out that I got accepted to do my concentration rotation at Children's! I'm really excited to spend spring quarter there, getting to work with the amazing RDs and expand my knowledge and experience in pediatric nutrition.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Late September

It's been a busy month! I started rehearsals for both of my music groups, the kids got settled in school, and I started classes at the end of the month.

With the help of my mom, Ryan and I had selected some shades to replace the paper ones covering the living room window. After she left we were working on getting measurements made to put the order in. Then when I went to go make the order we ran into some snafus with the size of the window and the particular brand we were wanting. So we went back to square one, contacted a local window treatment company that does in-home consultations, and they were able to get out to us pretty quickly. We felt like they knew what they were doing better than the Home Depot people, so we ordered through them instead. They didn't try to upsell us to the highest cost product and were able to show us better how the shades would look with our type of window. The shades were ready to install before I was expecting them to be, with an installer who was done in no time, where I would have fussed and stressed for hours if I'd tried doing it myself.

They look so nice, and I love not having to deal with clipping the paper blinds up and down anymore, as well as being able to lower them from the top if I want. Now I'm really excited for when we can get around to (afford) to do the rest of the windows. The company already has the other measurements, so when we're ready we'll give them a call and just have to make style decisions.

The other big news of the month is that Gareth selected violin as his instrument to start in school.

They only get 20 minutes per week, but it'll be a decent enough introduction I hope. He's been enjoying pulling it out and seeing what he can figure out. We'll see how long the excitement lasts. I give it about a week before he's not practicing at home anymore.

Malcolm has been upset with us all pretty regularly since the violin entered the house. On the way to the store when it finally sunk in that we wouldn't be getting anything for him. On the way home from the store because we didn't get anything for him and therefore he has and is nothing. After arriving home, because the violin was too loud while he was trying to watch a show. And because we won't let him open up the case and play with it whenever he wants. Don't we know that he has rehearsal and it's a long rehearsal and he needs to play the violin??

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Early September

The first couple weeks of September were filled with attempting to prep for the next year. I've made several dinner dishes that I've stowed away in the freezer, to be used at some point this quarter, including a delicious beef stew.

I got a few breakfast foods done as well, but not enough so will have to make more periodically throughout the quarter.

And I finally got the blackberries cleared from one of the front gardens, at least as much as possible. Then I trimmed the bushes so that I could get a ladder in between them and clean out the gutters.

Turns out, not cleaning out your gutters for a couple years is a great way to make compost. There was some lovely, rich-looking soil I pulled out of those gutters. My favorite thing, though, is that I'll no longer have to listen to rain pouring over the gutter corner by the front porch. There are still some sections of gutter to clear, even in areas we did clear last year (all our trees are horrifically messy), but I need Ryan's help with moving the ladder to do that. Mal had fun climbing up on the ladder though, and even helped clear out some of the gutters!

It turned chilly one weekend, so I took the boys (separately) to get some winter clothes. With Mal, I was exhausted after 5 minutes. All the shirts were "too dark" and he only had eyes for hats and slippers. I finally convinced him to choose some things to try on. Of course, the thing he really needs - pants - we only found one pair that fits, even when you account for adjustable waists. Most that fit around the waist are too short, while anything that's long enough drowns him in the waist. But I wasn't about to go to another store with him in the same day. So I took him home and picked up Gareth for his turn. Took this picture while waiting for Gareth to illustrate to Ryan how much easier shopping is with a 10 year old than a 5 year old:

Still, I was exhausted when we got home and took a good nap.

The first week of school was a honeymoon period with Mal and school. The next week we entered the "I want to murder Mal every morning" phase. One morning it was because he wanted the pirate shirt and then, never mind, he wants the dinosaur shirt. But then! The letters on the dinosaur shirt come too close to his neck and scare him! And the sleeves on both sizes of rain jacket available to him make him "not perfect" and he wants a sweater instead of a jacket (but you'd better send the jacket for when he inevitably freaks out about the rain getting on his head). And there was something poky in his shoe, despite my taking the shoe and sock off twice and thoroughly checking for all things poky. As he waved mournfully until he could no longer see me while walking into the building with his class, I could only be grateful that his teacher gets to deal with him all day and not me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

First Day(s) of School 2017

Our schools do a staggered start, having most kids start just after Labor Day but the Kindergarteners wait to start until the Monday after that. This allows K teachers to meet with students and parents individually and address any concerns. Mal was a little disappointed that he didn't get to start the same day as Gareth, but took it in stride once he realized he'd get to watch movies most of the day so I could transcribe interviews.

Gareth always likes to take his first day picture by the tree.

Mal needed a picture with himself in it as well, being some kind of monster, of course.

And waving goodbye as his teacher leads them in.

Gareth is lacking the nerves that accompanied the start of school last year. He knows all of his teachers - one from last year and two from his 3rd grade year. He's a little disappointed that most of his friends are in other homerooms, but at least this year they'll get all of their recesses and field trips together. Waking up early was, as expected, difficult. Mal refused to eat anything until after we'd dropped Gareth off, so I began anticipating an especially pleasant morning the following week on Mal's first day.

Mal's meeting with his teacher was..well, let's just say that she got a good picture of what he's like. He had zero interest in participating in the assessment. When he did participate he refused to count above 10 (even though he demonstrated when we got home that he can count at least to 30 before getting bored), refused to identify any shapes besides a circle and triangle, refused to draw a picture of himself, decided to draw a gorilla instead and got exceedingly frustrated when it didn't turn out perfectly, etc. As a parent, it filled me with all sorts of horror, but like I said, at least she knows better what she's in for now. And hopefully she'll know how to get through to him, because I haven't made much headway there during the past 5 years.

As expected, getting Mal to eat this morning was difficult. At least he tried, once I explained that he absolutely needed to eat what he'd asked for because we didn't have time to go through multiple choices and if he didn't eat he wouldn't have any food until lunch and he'd start feeling tired and grumpy. He was happy enough as we headed out to school, though we barely made it in time for the bell - Gareth had to run back and grab an ice pack for his lunch.

Mal wanted his first day picture by the tree as well. Every picture lately he poses like this.

I asked him to put his arms down and ended up with this:

I finally managed to snag one with him not posing while waiting in line. As soon as he realized I was taking a picture, he started to raise his arms.

Settled into the classroom. I was worried he wouldn't remember where his cubby or desk were because he seemed supremely disinterested in finding those things the various times we'd been in the room previously. But he was one of the first kids to finish putting his stuff in his cubby and found his desk no problem, though I did have to encourage him to actually sit down. 

No tears when I needed to leave, though it's possible tomorrow will be a different story. When I left he was working on a drawing and seemed pretty chill. Hopefully it'll be a great year for both kids!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Yesterday the boys and I left mid-morning to head down to Tacoma and hang out at the zoo/aquarium with friends who were pet/house sitting for their grandma down there. We did this same outing a couple summers ago; it was a lot more relaxing with a 5 year old than with a 3 year old! No tantrums were thrown, just a lot of excitement, and a lot less worry about kids getting lost.

They had several sea animal sculptures in the park, all made out of trash that had washed ashore. Mal liked looking at them all, but particularly enjoyed the octopus.

We started off the trip with a carousel ride. Last time Mal was too scared to go on, but this time he eagerly climbed aboard the lion. However, he did insist that I stay standing next to him for the ride. The animals were quite active this trip, despite the hot weather. We got to see zookeepers feeding a tiger and holding a talk with people about tigers and endangered tiger habitats. This elephant was working hard to try and get some bamboo leaves to eat.

Mal really wanted to see the birds. At first I wasn't going to pay for a seed stick, but quickly realized that it was a fairly inexpensive way to make the kids' day, so we got one each. Gareth's bird even started walking up his arm after finishing off all the seeds! At the end of the day, Gareth said the birds were his favorite.

The walruses, sea lion, and otters were a big hit again. The red wolves were napping, so not too exciting to see. After lunch, we got the kids ice cream.

Mal didn't want to leave the zoo, but we'd been there for nearly 4 hours and had seen just about all there was to see. I think everyone except for Mal was exhausted.  As we drove to Grandma's house, Mal kept trying to tell us we had missed various animals, even though we hadn't. Once at the house, Mal had a love/hate relationship with the dog, who is very friendly but also as big as Mal. The dog was overly excited to have new people around and kept wanting to chase Mal, which was scary for him. But as soon as our friend put the dog outside, Mal insisted he wanted the dog to come back in. Gareth did a better job of keeping him calm around the dog. When we got home Malcolm was very excited to recount every detail of the day to Ryan. We cut him off at some point because he needed to get in bed. This morning, as soon as he was up, he was telling daddy the rest of the details.