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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jump Start/Eclipse

Mal had his first day of Jump Start yesterday. Jump Start is a program where the Kindergarteners spend a week at the school before school actually starts. They go for a half day and get to figure out some of the basics of how school works, meet the teachers, see the classrooms, etc. Mal was really excited to finally get to go to "Gareth's school". I was a bit worried he'd be upset at drop off, but he wasn't.


Mal had one of Gareth's teachers from last year. He was pretty calm through the whole thing, grabbing his teacher's hand when it was time to get into circle and quietly listening (zoning out?) while another teacher talked for a while.  


The kids all got to go out and look at the eclipse for a bit, which Mal was very excited about when we picked him up. It sounds like the day went really well since he came home happy and kept asking throughout the day if we were going back to school. He won't necessarily have the same teacher for the school year - we'll find out at the end of the week what room he's assigned to for the year.

While he was at school, the rest of us walked over to the local park, along with just about everyone else in the neighborhood, to watch the eclipse. We only had one pair of glasses between us, but taking turns worked out just fine. 


And here's a lame photo attempt. It didn't look anything like this when actually viewed through the glasses. We had about 93% totality here. It got noticeably dimmer and colder, to the point that Gareth and I were uncomfortably chilly.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Camp Quest 2017

We managed to secure Gareth a spot at Camp Quest again this year (it's filling up faster and faster each year, so there's a definite possibility that some year we won't be able to get him registered in time). This year they're doing an X-Files theme, changing "I want to believe" to "I want to follow the evidence". I tried watching X-Files once and I couldn't make it through one episode due to how disparaging they were of the people who were rightly skeptical and demanding evidence of the claims being made.

Anyway, Gareth was excited to head out. Mal was excited because he knew we'd see cows along the way.


Mal insisted on going to meet the gorilla after we got Gareth checked in. The gorilla's name is George, and he's the camp morale officer apparently.


We hung out on the beach for a bit before leaving, allowing Mal to find some shells to bring home. I almost thought he was going to make it all the way there and back without succumbing to sleep. This picture, we thought he'd fallen asleep, but then he roused for a bit and informed me he wanted me to take a picture of him resting. Just a few minutes later he was asleep for real.


Before we knew it, a week had passed and we were headed back to camp to pick Gareth up (and hoping he hadn't broken/lost his new retainers during the week). This time Gareth wanted a picture with George, and of course Mal had to get in there as well. We found out the mother of one of the counselors actually teaches at Gareth's school. And Gareth managed not to break/lose his retainers!


We stopped at a bakery that I've seen along the way every year and always been curious about. Got some apple cider donuts for the ride home and a cinnamon bun and apple turnover to share later in the day, starting a new end-of-camp tradition. Gareth told us about some of the camp activities this year, and that his cabin had stayed up late each night telling each other silly stories. He was clearly tired on the way home, though he said he was only resting:


They handed out solar eclipse glasses at checkout, which was good for us since I hadn't been on top of things enough to get any. They even let Mal take a pair, much to his delight. Another great year of camp in the books. Just three more years until Mal can go as well!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Terracotta Warriors

The Friday after Gram left we had a friend of Gareth's come over and then all met up with some Ballard friends at the science center so we could go see the Terracotta Army exhibit. We assumed the kids wouldn't want the audio guide, so I just paid for them for the adults, guaranteeing that the kids all wanted one. 



Even without the audio guide the exhibit was impressive. The only thing that could have improved the experience was not going through with an impatient five-year-old.

That five-year-old did enjoy the couple of hands-on activities in the exhibit:


Afterward, we hung out for a while in the science center. The older kids had a good time in the health/wellness, space, and tide pool sections. Mal loves going to see the bugs and reptiles as well as checking out the tide pool. After hitting all those areas, we headed outside where we all got ice cream and even happened to catch the beginning of a concert at Seattle Center:


Then it was back to the bus for a crowded ride home. The kids were so well-behaved, a definite perk to them getting a bit older! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Community Rotation/Gram Visit

Just after finishing up my online summer class (that I put way more time into than I should have), my mom arrived in town. She came to visit and to help out with the kids while I'd be away at Camp Leo doing my community rotation. The kids had a great time with her while she was here. She'd brought several activities for them to work on together, took them to the park, made cookies with them, etc. Then when I got back, she continued to entertain them while I finished up my rotation assignments. We even managed to sneak in some time to accomplish some small projects that I'd been wanting to complete.

Camp Leo is down by Mt. Rainier National Park. Since my preceptor and I arrived early, we drove up past the camp and found a lookout spot:


A couple days after I got back we took Gareth to the orthodontist and had his braces removed. Then went back a week later and got retainers:


The boys had requested that Gram make marshmallows while she was here, so once I was back she obliged. Mal enjoyed getting to lick the bowl (and eating the marshmallows):



I still hadn't put away my sleeping bag from camp, so Mal found it and was pretending he was Santa Claus and the sleeping bag was his sleigh.


One of Gram's projects with the boys was to make boards that we can record their height on. Mal was supposed to be getting ready for bed, but he discovered that Gram and Gareth were out sanding the boards and didn't want to be left out, so I let him sand for a bit before telling him he'd done a great job and getting him off to bed. The next day the boys got to paint the boards before Gram added the ruler markings. 


We also managed to get to the hardware store and get our wall paint matched so that I could touch up the spots that had needed repairs since moving in. The boys' wall where Gareth had overloaded a hook and ripped off some plaster now looks good as new. As does the bathroom wall where a person working on our tuck pointing had ripped out some sheetrock when tripping in the bathroom. I'd also wanted to take off the towel bar and put in hooks instead and fix the towel ring by the sink, which meant a couple more patches to the sheetrock. I'm so excited that we'll all be able to hang our towels in the main bathroom now. We also found a basket to hold the bath toys, which helps a lot in keeping the bathroom more organized.



The boys and I were sad to see Gram go, but got to enjoy a bus/lightrail ride with her down to the airport. Luckily I managed to schedule some time with friends over the rest of the week to help distract them from their sorrow over her absence.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fish, Octopuses, and the Movies

We've continued our summer adventures this week. Gareth slept over at a friends house on July 4th, heading with them to the fireworks. The rest of us hung out at home. Mal was extremely excited that I bough a dead fish and told everyone we passed in the store that we had one. I've never cooked fish before, so this was definitely not in my comfort zone. I'd got a recipe for honey-ginger grilled salmon from a friend that looked simple enough, so decided to give it a try.

About to start looking for those pin bones
The pin bones were surprisingly easy to find. I think I only missed two. Following the instructions from my friend, I cooked it under the broiler (aka upside down grill). I started out on low, was worried that wasn't doing the job, turned it to high and then got absorbed in my school work. So when I remembered it, it was a little blackened on top, but the internal temperature still wasn't there yet. I put some foil over it and cooked it on low a little longer. I had not idea if it was flaking easily, but the internal temperature was reading above safe levels, so I just hoped I wouldn't make any of us sick. Mal took one bite and decided he didn't like it and would stick with the hot dog we had wisely made up for him. Ryan and I enjoyed it though. Flavor was quite mild, though the ginger came out nicely here and there. A somewhat scary adventure, but one I'm willing to try again as I'd really like to force myself to like fish. The only problem is that this 1.5 pound fillet was gone in one sitting. Ryan eats so much that fish isn't often an affordable option for us. I only purchased and attempted this because the local store had fresh fillets on sale for less than $10/lb.

Then we had my birthday, which wasn't very exciting. I spent it doing schoolwork. We had chicken and arugula salad for dinner. I wasn't in the mood for anything really for a dessert, so we just ended up giving the kids root beer floats and leaving it at that.

Gareth had another orthodontist appointment this week, and found out that he'll get his braces off in one month. He's very excited about that as they've turned out to be not so exciting as he initially imagined they would be.

Mal was very excited that they had the Bubble Man come to preschool during the week. That same day, Colin swung by with his daughter to hang out for a bit. Mal immediately asked for a ride on his bike, and Colin obliged, with a short spin up and down the street a couple times. Not as long a ride as Mal wanted, but Colin was going to have to ride home in the 80+ degree weather. It's weird to think that it's been two years since Colin watched Mal.

Gareth got to enjoy going to a splash park with the childcare center on Friday, while Mal (who isn't old enough to leave the center for field trips) got to enjoy the sprinklers at the center. This weekend we needed to buy the boys some more shorts, and we found this octopus pair, which Mal just had to have:


And then Sunday, the boys and I got an invite from friends to join them for a movie (Despicable Me 3), so we headed down to the theater for that. We actually got a second invite to join friends for Cars 3 that afternoon just before we left for the theater, but had to decline the invitation since we were going to be at the theater in a different movie already. The boys enjoyed the movie and I got them fries and a milkshake afterward. Turns out, the fries at Five Guys are ridiculously salty, so after trying a few, the boys just ate peanuts instead. The milkshake got much better reviews.