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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

First Week of Summer Break

The first week of summer break is in the books, and it went pretty well, especially considering I'm not really on break. Gareth was signed up for a PE camp at his school, which was awesome. I remember liking PE in Elementary school, but not doing the awesome stuff they do here. I don't know if it's a Washington thing, or if we've had a nationwide spike in PE teachers who are actually excited about PE, or what. But they do all the usual sports plus archery and roller skating and biking. For the biking unit, the PE teacher turns the blacktop into an impromptu traffic garden in order to teach the kids the rules of the road. There are a couple of permanent traffic gardens in Seattle, but chalk and cones works decently for a schoolyard setting (though how awesome would it be to have permanent ones??). Anyway, PE camp was basically a mini version of the year. They got to play a variety of games the first day, skating the next, then archery, then biking. Gareth had a great time.

Midway through the week I needed to go up to campus to get some work done. So when I picked Gareth up from camp, we hopped on the bus to campus. I figured we'd make an afternoon of it, since he'd wanted to see more of campus when his class was there for a fieldtrip back in the winter. Took him to the HUB for some lunch, then showed him my building on the Quad and the cherry trees (we'll have to come back when they're in bloom sometime), then we headed to Suzzallo Library, which he'd been eager to see. He was duly impressed by the reading room and then we explored a little further into the more typical part of the library. He was in awe of the number of books all in one place. Then we started to head toward the Drumheller Fountain, but made a quick stop at Mary Gates Hall, where he realized that as gorgeous as they are on the outside, most of the other buildings just have offices and classrooms inside, so aren't quite as exciting to tour as the library. On to the fountain we went, where we sat on a bench to rest our legs and enjoy the fountain for a bit before heading home.

The boys also saw the "brushing teeth doctor" this week, which Mal had declared to be his favorite doctor, largely due to the fact that you get a prize when you're done. He was much more excited about the visit this time and thought the ride as the chair reclined was very cool.

He did end up crying when they were spraying water into his mouth to rinse out the toothpaste, but the dentist calmed him down by showing him photos of his family's camping trip from the previous weekend. Gareth was declared to have done a much better job brushing around his braces this time than he had the previous time. We have an orthodontist appointment this next week where we might find out when he'll get the braces off.

The childcare center has all sorts of activities planned for the kids through summer. One day this week, Mal got to experience a visit from The Parrot Lady, after which he was in tears because he wanted to buy all the parrots. I told him he can buy whatever he wants when he's older (and that parrots need a lot of space to fly around in - don't know if it's true, but we'll say it is). He's not old enough to go on off-site field trips, so when the big kids went to the zoo, he got to play zoo with stuffed animals and had a great time. Every Friday is splash day, where they turn on the sprinklers and let the kids run through them. I wasn't thinking Mal would enjoy this much since he refuses to run in the sprinkler here at home, but apparently he loved it. Not sure he actually ran through the sprinkler, but at least he enjoyed himself. And then we stuck around for the center summer potluck at the end of the day, which both boys had a great time at. All the younger school-age kids have been missing Gareth this week (he gets swarmed by kids when he returns after being out for a day or two), so some of them enjoyed getting to hang out with him at the potluck.

Hopefully the rest of the summer goes so smoothly!

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Boys Make a Discovery/Father's Day

Ryan's been pretty good about making sure the lawn stays mowed lately, and the kids seem to have discovered that we actually have a yard! Gareth lost our soccer ball when he was playing with it on the deck and kicked it over the rail, onto the street, where we assume it rolled down the hill and into the busy road. So I purchased new soccer balls and some foam baseballs so the kids would stop using the bat with the soccer ball. And the kids actually spent some time playing in the yard for the next couple days. Shocking, I know. They have now reverted to their usual patterns of playing solely on the deck and inside. But it was nice while it lasted.

Both the kids made cute Father's Day gifts for Ryan, though neither actually handed them to him. I found Gareth's sitting on a pile of end-of-year papers he brought home, and Mal decided his needed to be housed in the linen closet.

Mal told me that he was starting to cry in this picture because it was hurting his neck to hold that pose. And you can see that we have a lot of work to do in the learning letters/writing department still.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Post-quarter Happenings

Right in the middle of finals I had my last orchestra concert of the season. We performed Rachmaninov's Third Symphony and Rite of Spring.

I got to play the Eb clarinet part on Rite of Spring. I'd previously assumed all the solo stuff in the piece was first clarinet; turns out, it's all Eb clarinet. Yikes! I started practicing the part back in October, just so it wouldn't be too stressful with school going on. Unfortunately, my performance was not my best. Things went a little wonky for everyone in the opening and I messed up a couple things I'd never messed up before. But, after that, all my other solos went well. There were plenty of things that were not perfect for the orchestra as a whole throughout the piece, but we made it to the end in one piece. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play it because, as one trumpet player put it, most community orchestras wouldn't be insane enough to even think about programming Rite of Spring. We also had our largest audience of the year - just over 1100 people; it's always fun to play to such a full hall.

Mal's been pretending to be Darth Vader a lot lately. One day he went to preschool with his makeshift Vader cape on:

And he's been insistent about wearing the rain boots quite a lot lately. Of course he would be, now that it's not raining anymore.

Ryan's birthday also fell during my finals, so we held off celebrating that until this past weekend. I made one of his favorite dinner dishes and a German chocolate cake. We only had 15 candles, so we just kept relighting them until he'd blown out 36. Ryan didn't really want any items, because anything he really wants he'll just buy himself anyway. So I'm trying to get Gareth to do a thorough cleaning of the boys room instead of buying a gift. And Mal decided he wanted to get Daddy 16 sparkling waters "because Daddy's turning 16". I informed him that Daddy is actually turning 36. "Oh, then I'll get him 36 sparkling waters". The idea made me laugh, so Ryan's gift he got to open was 36 cans of sparkling water. When Gareth found out Ryan was turning 36, his response was, "Oh! I thought he was 46!".

The day after I finished classes, I swept and mopped all of the main level floors. It was so satisfying! I finished that before noon, so I even got to enjoy a clean living room for a few hours before the kids came home to make a mess in it again. Cleaning is so much more enjoyable when there aren't kids around to try to help. I find if I start out intending to have them help I can deal with that much better than when they come along and decide they want to "help". And sometimes you just want to get the cleaning done and having a 5 year old do the cleaning isn't conducive to the end goal.

Gareth still has a few more weeks of school, so we won't be in full summer mode for a bit yet (plus, the temps have dropped into the low 60s again - I turned the heat back on yesterday). I'm trying to keep myself on task and get as much done as I can before he's done with school. Hopefully we'll be able to get the occasional fun outing in over the summer alongside all the work I need to do.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Year One

Year one of graduate school is in the books. Granted, I have things to do over the summer. Lots of things actually, if I think about it for more than a minute. I have a portfolio due at the end of June, an online Nutrition Management course to finish by the end of July, a community rotation to complete (I'm going to a camp for kids with diabetes the day after my online course finishes), and I'm hoping to make a huge amount of progress on my capstone project (currently working on IRB revisions).

The past 8 months have been extremely rewarding, even if incredibly stressful at times. I started out more than a little unsure of myself, wondering if I'd feel horrifically unprepared compared to everyone else, and knowing I was the last person to get in off the wait list leaving me wondering if I really could hack the program. All that good impostor syndrome stuff. My first metabolism exam showed me that at least the academic side of things was definitely doable for me. And having a cohort to go through everything with is great. When this comic sums your life up just a couple weeks into winter quarter, you know everyone else is right there with you.

A couple weeks into winter quarter I got a moment of validation when I received an email informing me the faculty had nominated me to apply for a scholarship through Mortar Board/Tolo Foundation. This particular scholarship, in honor of Betty Runstad, is reserved for Nutrition students. Whether I got the scholarship or not, I was grateful to have been nominated. I spent the next couple months compiling a cover letter, resume, and my qualifications in scholarship, leadership, and service. My brother was very helpful in the editing process on these as I'm apparently prone to downplay what I've done. A couple months later I did an interview, and, in the end, I got the scholarship. I've also been given a scholarship by the department for next year. Between the two, my tuition for fall and winter quarters will be just about covered. I'm very grateful for that because it helps keep the loan amount at something more reasonable.

Anyway, this past quarter has been so enjoyable. Between starting on my capstone and taking classes that are more oriented toward practical application, I found a lot to enjoy. I also had the opportunity to attend a 4-day pediatric nutrition conference that was here in Seattle (I applied for a scholarship to it, didn't get it, but was instead offered the chance to attend as a volunteer). The conference was exhausting, but an incredibly valuable learning experience. And it was fun to meet some RDs who are already practicing in pediatrics. I attended another conference this week, a 1-day event at a local hospital. These types of events are getting me excited for the rotations we'll do next year, though I'm certainly nervous about them as well!

Next year will be extremely busy as well, but I'm hopeful that this summer, despite all I need to do, will provide enough of a break for our whole family to take a deep breath before plunging into the final year.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Emerald City Bike Ride 2017

Yesterday I rode in the Emerald City Bike Ride. This is only the second year they've held the ride; I missed last year because it conflicted with a concert. It was exciting to get to go this year and the weather was beautiful. This ride is a 25-mile loop that starts at the stadiums, rides the I-5 express lanes, crosses the 520 bridge, then comes back via the I-90 express lanes. It's not a difficult ride (no real hills), but gives you access to some routes you normally can't bike on, meaning you get some great views and experiences.

You can start the ride as early as 6 am, so I was up at 5 in order to get my stuff together and ride over to Redpath's in order to catch a (car) ride with them to the route start. Biking at 5:15 on a weekend with no car traffic around was so nice! I made it to Redpath's right on time, added my bike to the rack, and we were off. We started the ride around 6:30 and finished at 9 - leaving plenty of time for other activities that day.

Looking back toward the Space Needle from I-5

Looking toward the Aurora Bridge from I-5

Headed back toward downtown on I-90
I was grateful the ride started so early since we were going to hit the mid-80s yesterday - no one wants to be riding in that heat! Which was confirmed later in the day when Gareth asked to go ride bikes at the park. We were less than a block from the house before Mal was complaining about the heat. And when we got to the playground Mal rode his bike for a couple minutes before declaring it too hot. He played in the shade for a bit and then decided he could handle the heat and headed to the playground. Gareth rode his bike for a while, headed to the playground, and within a couple minutes came back declaring "That's not going to work for me. It's too hot." So he went back to riding his bike, but looked like he was melting while doing so. He took frequent breaks to sit in the shade and drink water. The trip ended when Mal fell on the blacktop and decided that one drop of blood meant he was going to die. Gareth said he was ready to go anyway - it'd only been 45 minutes or so since we'd arrived.

Playing in the shade of the school entry
Hopefully my schedule allows me to participate in the ride again next year. I think it's one Gareth could do as well - there were quite a few kids around his age. He's starting to outgrow his current bike, so if we get him on a different bike and out riding a bit more during the next year I might try to figure out if I can bring him along.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


We spent the evening with some friends last night. One of these friends, JR, is amazing with kids; he took our boys for the day when we needed to get a new car last summer and Mal was excited to get to see him all day yesterday. When we were done eating, JR offered to take Mal to look for dead crabs at the beach (it's been an obsession of Mal's since last summer when they saw some on the beach while we were buying the car; he often talks about how he's going to eat dead crabs with JR). And then it turned from just Mal to taking all of the kids and taking the all in the rain at that. 

I wish I'd caught a picture of Mal when he got back. Wet curls, in a jacket a size or two too big for him (it'd been nice out when we left the house, so he borrowed one). He was quite possibly the proudest, happiest little Mal I've ever seen as he ran in, holding a plastic bag, and saying "I found a dead crab!!" It was seriously adorable. 

We caught a picture later in the evening, when he was getting a little tired and didn't want to show his face:

Then he took the crab out of the bag:

Don't worry, we made sure the out of the bag experience was brief. And that he washed his hands after putting the crab back in the bag. He was convinced that we could cook and eat the crab, but all the adults managed to get through to him eventually that doing so could make us sick. And I made sure to quickly shut down any ideas of the crab being carried into bed with him. He was convinced though that we could store the crab in our fridge. Thankfully, by the time we got home he was so tired he didn't notice that we didn't bring the crab in the house. And this morning when he asked about it I just told him it started getting really smelly, so we'd had to throw it away, which he thankfully seemed to accept. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter, Ten, and Other Things

Mal's preschool takes spring pictures (as does Gareth's school, actually - I guess the photo companies weren't making enough off the fall pictures, so decided to try and get parents to buy pictures twice a year). I picked up Mal's to look through the other day and they just made me laugh. Here's one of the individual pictures:

Gotta love the blueberry stained lips. And who knows what provoked that facial expression. In the class photo he's giving the photographer some serious side-eye and leaning away from his classmates. Looks like he was in quite the mood that day. Which may not be entirely surprising since they were taken the day he got back from being home sick for a week.

He got to spend the past week hanging out in Kindergarten since Gareth was on spring break and in the "school-age" room. Occasionally they'll let Mal go to Kindergarten anyway, but I guess with the extra school kids there they allowed him to more than usual. He came home with a sheet of the three letters he's willing to write. If only he'd be willing to figure out an L and a C, he'd be able to write his name. Not that he'd write them in the correct order. You'd think the M and A would be more difficult than L and C, but for some reason, these are the three letters he likes best.

Gareth just turned 10. Most of his friends were out of town for his birthday celebration, but we had fun with the couple kids who were around. I fed them lunch and took them all to the movies (ugh, Boss Baby was the only kid show in theaters; you'd think they'd try harder to have decent shows out around typical Spring Break times, but apparently not) then came back home for cake. Gareth wanted the Minecraft cake again, so it was pretty easy to repeat what I'd done just a few weeks before, except with orange jello for lava instead of blue for water.

I keep forgetting to buy more birthday wrapping paper, so Gareth got some Christmas paper instead.

It was an exhausting day where I got not schoolwork done, but he and his friends really enjoyed it. He got a sports camera from my mom, which he's been having fun with over the past few days, taking video of running around the yard and making a dialogue with himself as two different characters.

Easter weekend was some of the best weather we've had yet this spring. I discovered that I can sit in the yard and still have access to internet, so did so in order to encourage the kids to play outside. Mal prefers to sit next to me rather than play. At some point he did get up and manage to twist his ankle a bit, which he's showing off here:

Clearly a severe injury. And here's Gareth finishing up a lap around the yard with his camera attached to his waistband:

Mal trying to sleep in his chair.

Mal offered to do my work for me:

Eventually Mal tired of me doing work and insisted we go for a walk. We headed down to the school playground where he finally decided he could be a little active. He's still too scared to try monkey bars, but he was more brave than usual about the slides and willingly went down the big slide several times.

We didn't do much for Easter. I knew we'd have had tons of sweets recently, so I picked up a couple non-food items for each of them and then put an apple, a package of blueberries, and a pez dispenser in each of their baskets. They didn't even notice their baskets when they first came into the living room and were just sitting on the couch playing with toys. Gareth finally saw them. "Oh, yeah! It's Easter; look Malcolm! (Mal gives a confused look toward the baskets) Can we open our Easter stuff, Mom?"

Mal opened his stuff but didn't want to eat anything. He got sick a few minutes later, then ate all of his blueberries (which did stay down) before deciding he was done eating for the day. So Easter was rather low-key at our house. He rallied to do a very quick egg hunt later (I need to find better hiding spots), but hasn't really touched the candy from the eggs - most unusual for him. He took a couple of good naps during the day, so hopefully he'll be feeling his usual self soon.

Monday, April 3, 2017


The cherry trees are in bloom at UW. Because our program is housed in a building on the quad (Raitt Hall), we get to take in the beauty somewhat regularly (all of our classes are actually elsewhere, but we often head up to Raitt for meetings or to study). My pictures certainly aren't the greatest, and the quad was more crowded than usual with people coming to check out the blossoms, but here's what I snagged on my phone while walking to Raitt last week:

We're starting to get more spring-like weather, as you can see in the pictures above. I made time to go on a bike ride at the end of last week. We headed up to Iron Horse State Park and rode a portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. It's a packed gravel trail that is an old railroad bed. You can ride it all the way to Idaho - apparently many people who ride cross country use the trail for that portion of the ride. We were hoping to make it 18 miles in, to a tunnel that doesn't open until May 1. We made it almost 11 miles before the snow we were hitting more and more frequently made us give up - we were getting to where we were walking more than riding. Riding through the snow was nerve-wracking, probably more so for Steve than for me since he was responsible for keeping the bike in control, which the snow really didn't want to allow. But it's a great ride - nice wide trail, lovely scenery, peaceful; we'll be heading back once the tunnel is open and the snow is gone.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Mal turned five recently, which is somewhat startling to me since Gareth was turning five when Mal was born, and that doesn't feel like all that long ago. He was extremely excited for his day. He got to take in cupcakes to school and picked the ones that were spring themed, with flower rings. He wanted pasta for dinner, so we had that and some corn.

And then he wanted a Minecraft landscape cake, like Gareth had last year. I was even less meticulous this year, but he was happy with it.

Then he got to open presents before bed. One of his preK teachers got him a present, which he was very excited to open. We gave him some marble run accessories and a sonic screwdriver (which actually came from a cohort friend who had gotten it in a box she won at comic con. She knew the kids were into Dr. Who, so passed it on just in time for Mal's birthday. He was also very excited about some new books, Nightmare Before Christmas, and a camera.

I made him wait until the next day to put together his gift from his teacher. He sat there watching the hexbug climb through the tunnels for a good half hour the next morning.

Although he was very excited about being five, he's actually in an anti-growing-up stage at the moment. He often insists that he isn't growing up. And the other day the doctor mentioned that his feet were huge (they have always been long and skinny, which both the doctor and I commented on) and that he was going to be a giant. He spent the rest of the day periodically checking in, asking, "Am I not going to turn into a giant?". When we ask if he's our baby-babes, he'll still usually say yes.

He's still as stubborn/determined as ever, which makes me a tad anxious about Kindergarten next year. Only recently has he begun recognizing several letters; I think he can write three of them. He's not putting sounds to them yet, that I know of anyway. He can, however, recite the entire opening sequence of Star Trek: The Next Generation and pair soundtracks with movie titles within a bar or two, or recognize what yogurt his babysitter bought two years ago - he's got an amazing memory. But he only seems to remember what he chooses to, and if he's not interested in doing/learning something, it's incredibly difficult to get him to do it. School might be a very interesting journey with Mal.

He likes to "joke" right now. Often he'll come up and tell you something ridiculous or pretend he broke something and then say, "I'm just joking!". He's not biking yet - we need to get him out on the balance bike more. He's such a cautious kid that getting him on a pedal bike could take a while, despite his love for them. He's also playing with his imagination a lot more recently (which probably goes along with the joking phase), so it's fun to hear what he comes up with. I'm looking forward to seeing how he grows over this next year.