Sunday, September 2, 2018

Graduation!

I officially have my MS in Nutritional Sciences - Dietetics Practice! My mom arrived in town a few days before graduation, and Ryan's parents arrived the day before. Our ceremony is fairy informal - no caps and gowns. Because it's just our program, it has some nice personal touches that the larger ceremonies lack. We start with a poster session, where each student stands by a poster they made about a case study, their public health project, or a policy update they recommended at a site and the attendees can read the posters/ask questions of us about our topic. Mine was updating the inpatient BTF policy at Seattle Children's - related to my capstone project, but not part of the scope of the capstone itself. There are light refreshments (we are the nutrition program, after all - what kind of gathering would it be without food?). After posters/refreshments, the graduation program begins. We have our names called to get our empty diploma folder. Then we each present awards to our selected Outstanding Preceptors and give gifts to faculty and staff who have been key to our completing the program. A brief wrap-up by our dietetic program faculty concludes the event.

Mal was very into making a peace sign with his hands in all the pictures, so here I am holding his hand down and he sticks his tongue out instead.



I made a simple dinner for the family when we got home - grilled beef tenderloin with a chimichurri sauce, steamed broccoli, and spinach salad. Because Gareth was at camp still, we waited to go out to celebrate until the next evening when he was home. I selected a local Chinese restaurant that is a favorite of ours - Chiang's Gourmet - for our celebratory dinner. It was fun to share our favorite dishes with family. And we discovered some delicious new ones as well!

The poor air quality put quite a damper on the rest of the activities we had planned for the week. Ryan's mom, my mom, myself, and the boys escaped to see Incredibles 2 one day, just to get the boys out of the house for a bit while still keeping them out of the unhealthy air. I'd hoped to take Ryan's parents on the water taxi to Alki, but the smoke nixed that plan. We'll have to do it the next time they come when the weather is hopefully better.

One of our good friends brought me a lovely orchid as a graduation gift. And Mal was in heaven when my mom actually purchased flowers (he always asks for them when we pass the store floral department, but I never get any). She got a single red rose for him, which is still going strong somehow, and made a nice bouquet for me.




We spent the week sharing some other favorite eateries with everyone and relaxing around the house. I'd hoped to get out for walks to the park or Gareth's new school, but unhealthy air. We did head out to the local duck pond for a bit, only to discover that they're doing some renovations to it and so it's closed. The boys were happy to get out for a bit anyway and they even got some wild blackberries out of the failed outing.

Ryan's parents had to head home after a week, but my mom was staying for another week. Air quality was still bad for most of the time, but we got out to do some school supply shopping and shoe shopping for the boys. We also had fun just looking at some furnishing possibilities for our house, even though those improvements are a little ways off yet. We all enjoyed all the baking we did. We had some leftover coconut milk from dinner one day, so found some recipes to use the it in. Vanilla-coconut cake and chocolate-coconut panna cotta were both successes. The next day we made pane bianco, which I'd been wanting to try for the past year or so and which turned out beautifully. And I'd been promising Ryan more pumpkin cream cheese muffins since we made them a summer or two ago, so we finally got around to those as well.




My mom and I also got some more pictures hung around the house and found a delightful local framing and art shop to get some framing done so I can hang another couple pieces when that work gets done. The woman who owns the shop was wonderful to work with and she had all sorts of lovely prints and other artwork available to purchase. Just a fun place to look around for a while. I'm guessing the framing will turn out to be fairly expensive, but I love feeling confident that it will be quality work and knowing that I can just walk down to pick up my pieces when they're done.

Now that my mom's headed back home, I get to hit the books again. I'll spend the next few weeks getting the kids ready for school, started on their school year, and studying for the RD exam - the final hurdle to cross on my way to starting my career.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

WIC Activities

My three weeks at WIC are done, which means I'm no longer getting up super early to commute to the east side. However, I've traded that for food service, where I'm going to spend two days this week getting myself to Children's by 6 a.m. to shadow order receiving and that side of things and to conduct a sanitation/safety inspection. It's all good though; it's fun to experience different sides of nutrition services within the hospital.

One fun thing (aside from holding/interacting with lots of adorable babies and little kids) about WIC was getting to go to the North Bend Farmers' Market. Every year, if your state sets aside funds for WIC participants to use at farmers' markets produce stands, the federal government will match the amount the state gives. Total funds do not provide enough for all participants to receive farmers' market checks, and it's not a massive amount per family but it's a great way for families to get a few more fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, in WA state, if they qualify for SNAP, they also get Fresh Bucks, which are awesome, double their SNAP money, and increase fruit/vegetable consumption. Anyway, this year, we were handing out WIC farmers' market checks at the market rather than at the clinic, hoping this would boost redemption rates (if people get them then don't use them, funding is likely to get decreased the next year. Like many busy families, it's easy to have good intentions, but never manage to act on it; if they come get the checks at the market, they're more likely to use them while they're already there).

This farmers' market was quite small, but so much fun, and in a beautiful setting, with Mount Si right there, and a big open green space for people to sit and play on. We also had fruit and vegetable memory cards that kids could color and then break apart to play memory with, some fruit and vegetable bilingual books to give out, and the coolest stickers - like the stickers you get at the doctor, except that you get two squares, one which is an empty garden, and the other which are fruit/vegetable stickers that you can put on the other sticker to make your garden.

When things were slow at our table, I wandered around to all the vendors. I snagged a lovely bouquet of flowers right at the beginning of the market:


Ryan and I were planning to go back with the boys the next week, but then he had an on-call day and it turned out to be way too hot, so we'll do that later in the summer (see what good intentions we have!). We have plenty of nearby farmers' markets, but need to take the car on more long trips anyway to recharge its battery, plus this one will be less crowded, is open later than our nearest market, and will make for a fun evening trip with the kids.

I also had to create a bulletin board for the clinic while I was there; they wanted a board for World Breastfeeding Week (starts tomorrow!) that highlighted the breastfeeding support resources available at the clinic:


I always thought my elementary school teachers were so impressive with how quickly/masterfully they stapled things onto the bulletin boards and put together such awesome boards when I was a kid. This simple board probably took me way longer than it would've taken any of my teachers, but it was fun to put together.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Things the Adults are Excited About

Our yard has been embarrassingly overgrown for the past couple years, though I have tried to at least weed a flowerbed or two each summer or trim some bushes here and there. The side of our fence near the road was becoming a jungle of blackberries and ferns that was taller than the fence and was making backing out of our driveway dangerous due to limited visibility. I'd realized last summer that I could spend hours trying to hand clear some of it and it wouldn't look like I'd done anything. So this year I contacted a landscaping place and paid them to come out and do a yard cleanup. Gareth was disappointed that his source of staffs was removed (bamboo) and Mal kept yelling at us for "destroying all the nature".

This first picture shows where the bamboo used to be (along the fence around that tree). Don't ever be stupid enough to put in bamboo. It cost almost $400 to have a tiny patch of two clumps cleared (am I ever glad we didn't buy the house where the bamboo had spread through the whole yard!). We're going to get the tree removed as well as it's too close to the house/too big for the space, but we're waiting on a city permit for another tree removal before the arborists come take care of that.


The lawn is patchy and almost dead from lack of rain, but they cleared up all the weeds around the edges, mowed, and edged the lawn nicely.


This is where the jungle was. You can see some jungle remnant by the telephone pole (they didn't clear that as it is on our neighbor's property - our neighbors have since cut that bit back a little). We just had them ground clear it, so it will come back. But we're going to get it sprayed as well to help slow regrowth. One day we'll figure out what we want to do with this space, but until then I'm just hoping to keep on top of the regrowth.


They also mowed and edged the front yard and trimmed all the bushes - it actually looks like someone lives in our house now rather than looking abandoned! The tree we're waiting on the permit to remove is a birch that's in the front yard. It's being killed by birch beetle, so needs to come down. It was once a lovely tree, so I'm sad it has to go, but it lost a really large branch this fall in a storm, and I'm not wanting to wait until a big enough chunk falls off and damages the house to get it taken care of. We'll work on figuring out an alternative shade tree to plant in its place eventually.

I'm spending a few weeks commuting over to the east side. This is a time drain and is helping me realize that such a commute would not be tenable for me long-term. But it's only for 3 weeks. At least there are some nice views along the way as the bus crosses over Lake Washington and sometimes you can see Mt. Rainier (hidden by the bus window glare here).



I discovered that a friend who used to play in clarinet choir with me works at the clinic I'm at right now. She had told me what clinic she was at (she's a pediatrician) before, but I'd forgotten, so it was a pleasant surprise to run into her the other day! She went to Purdue for her undergrad and played in the same community band I played in while we lived out there. I'm about the same age as her daughter, so she calls me her second daughter; I really miss having her in clarinet choir, so I appreciate anytime I get to see her.

After this rotation is over, just three weeks of food service (back at Children's again!) and then graduation! It's been an intense couple years, but so worthwhile and I've loved my time in this program. It's always a little rough to be staring down the black hole of the unknown after graduation. I'm just hoping there are some clinical jobs with a decent commute available when I've passed the RD exam and start looking!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Camps and Berries

I'd been worried that this summer would be lacking in fun for the kids, since I'm finishing up school and thus they have to be at summer day camp through the summer. Not that that won't be the case going forward, but hopefully when I have a job we'll at least have evenings and weekends to spend together, where right now I spend those doing homework.

Summer camp has been proving quite fun for the kids. They get to go to the pool or splash park weekly, water balloons weekly, and have had a field trip to the zoo and will have big field trips like that weekly. Gareth got to go kayaking. We arranged with a friend to have them pick up Gareth early one day so that he and his friend could attend an open library session at the middle school and then walk home on their own - an exciting moment for the kids in and of itself.

We had a friend of Gareth's over this past weekend to play in the sprinkler and hang out. Gareth has also had a sleepover with another friend for a birthday, and both boys got to hang out with yet other friends. So I think we're doing pretty well at having fun this summer.

One weekend a friend we don't see often enough posted about raspberries being ready for U-pick. We jumped on the reminder and chance to get together with them again, meeting up at the farm. The kids were surprisingly less interested in picking berries this time around than when we did strawberries, perhaps due to their being other kids there to play with this time. Good thing we brought Ryan's brother along, so we still ended up with 11 lbs of berries (only $3/lb!). We ate many of them fresh, froze a bunch, sent a bunch home with Uncle Daniel, and made liqueur with a bunch.


Since we didn't have time to make jam, we just put the whole, fresh berries on our biscuits that night for dinner. Super tasty way to use them.


Gareth has another sleepover planned soon. Then some good friends have invited him along on a camping trip to Mount St. Helens area. He's been invited on similar trips before, but we've had other plans or declined previously, feeling he wasn't old enough. Ryan and I are realizing he's getting old enough and responsible enough to start loosening the apron strings a bit. Gareth also has Camp Quest to look forward to this summer. I'm hoping to arrange some playtime with kindergarten friends for Mal to align with some of Gareth's adventures so he won't feel quite so left out. And he gets to have Gram and Grandma and Grandpa all to himself for a couple days before Gareth gets home from Camp Quest, plus gets to go to a pig roast the night of my graduation, lucky kid!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Community Shindig

Every year, our neighborhood has a summer event at the local park. Every year, I've completely forgotten about it by the time it comes around. I almost forgot this year as well, but a parent reminded me about it when I picked up the kids from camp, so the kids and I went and checked it out after dinner.

Lots of local businesses/preschools/schools with booths, treats, and various goodies. The local Ace Hardware supplies free ice cream bars for everyone. Mal opted for the rainbow popsicle, while Gareth and I got Haagen Dazs ice cream bars. Then Gareth was off to play. A perk to him being older now is that I can let him go off on his own and trust that he will not wander off with strangers or run into the road, but will stay on the playground and circle back to let me know where he is once in a while. This frees me up to spend all my energy not losing Mal. However, this means all my pictures of the event are of Mal.

Popsicle and balloon light saber in hand, listening to the band play

The toy store set up some tracks and handed out free train cars to kids. Mal was happily entertained here for a bit while I chatted with his former preschool teachers - it was so fun to catch up!

After playing for a bit, Mal got in line for face paint with his friend from Kindergarten/aftercare/camp. Apparently he wins the prize for the wiggliest face paint customer of the day, but it still turned out pretty cool looking.
Mal also got a water bottle from the local Catholic school, which he dubbed "the nun school" as we passed it while walking to the event (I think they have a stained glass of Mary on the church portion, which he thought was a nun?). We watched Sound of Music recently and he was fascinated by the nuns, so after walking past the school/church he kept asking me where the nuns were because he wanted to stare at them. No nuns at this Catholic school though, so he's out of luck.

Gareth wandered around to all the tables eventually, grabbing goodies from what was left - cookies, snow cone, a free book (he chose The Hunger Games), balloon sword, etc. We got caught on our way out by the little league table as a dad recognized us from the school. When asked, Mal claimed that he wanted to play baseball in the spring, so I signed up to get a reminder about registration. We'll see if he actually wants to participate by the time spring rolls around again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Do's

We started off the summer with lice. Mal was one of at least 3 kids in his Kindergarten class to have them. We promptly took the whole family to a local business, The Lice Clinic, for checks and a one-time treatment if you have them that is guaranteed for five weeks. Mal was very excited by all this, and proudly announced to his summer camp the next day that he'd had bugs in his hair and that the bugs had laid eggs! Sadly, between that and his persistent complaints whenever we comb his hair, we decided to suggest cutting his hair short. I will definitely miss his long hair, as it's beautiful when it's been combed, but it's getting frustrating to care for since he won't care for it himself.

(Side note: I find it really annoying that every site on lice I found recommends short hair for boys and ponytails for girls - seriously? If you're going to recommend short hair to avoid lice, it should be short hair for everyone, regardless of gender. If Mal were a girl, we'd still be getting a short haircut right now.)

Mal was more eager to cut his hair than I expected, given his persistent dislike for hair cuts historically and frequently saying he likes long hair best. He also wanted to go to the other extreme of "bald", which I'm not sure I could handle. I have never liked the buzzed super short look that so many people do for boys, so while I typically love to let my kids do whatever they like with their hair (as long as they can care for it themselves), I'm not wanting to let him go that far just yet. Give me some time to adjust, and in a year or so if he still wants it super short like that, fine. I may not like it, but it's just hair, and it will grow.

Gareth desperately needed a cut as well, so I scheduled them at the same time. Ryan has been complaining that Gareth's hair wasn't getting cut short enough at previous visits, so I made sure to get a picture only halfway through which I sent to Ryan, telling him Gareth was all done.

Halfway through, getting ready to wash his hair:


Almost done!

Our stylist was shocked that Mal wanted to cut his hair off. He was ready to go too - jumped up on the seat by the sink as soon as Gareth was done. When I brought him here for the first time a couple years ago, he was terrified of the sink (water is scary!) and getting his hair cut. Even the last time I brought him in, he held his fingers about a centimeter apart when telling her how much he wanted cut off. But he did awesome this time; he's made huge progress this past year with so many things he'd always been anxious about before!

Before pictures:

The one on the right is the beginning of the school year - his hair grew so much this year!



(Mal's been on this Christmas in July kind of kick - making Ryan read a Christmas book at bedtime, listening to Nightmare before Christmas, wearing his Christmas sweater, and then he was in tears one night because I was "giving up" by saying I would pull out his nutcracker for him in the morning and not that night. He carried his nutcracker with us on the bus to the salon.)


We had to take the bus to the salon because the car battery died for some unknown reason and Ryan was stuck waiting for roadside assistance for a couple hours. I caught this picture while walking to the bus stop. His hair was looking so nice, because I'd been finding time to comb it every couple days and braiding it to help prevent tangling.


During/after pictures:





He even let her use the clippers around his ears and neck. I thought that might be pushing it and that she'd have to do her best with scissors, but he did okay with it after she showed him that they wouldn't hurt. It was rough seeing all his hair on the floor (we could've donated it, but that was a bit more work than I have time for at the moment), and of course it's weird to have this strange-looking child in the house that has all the same mannerisms as Mal. But we'll adjust eventually, just as we did with Gareth.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Concert and Graduations

The end of the school year is always quite busy, this one even more so due to concerts and graduations. Gareth had his first concert ever. He was selected to play a solo, which I was starting to feel a bit worried about a day or two before as he practiced and kept messing up in the same spot and struggling to continue after messing up. So I advised him to practice just the section he was struggling with, note by note. He's clearly maturing a bit, because he actually listened to my advice! And it helped. Plus, he discovered all on his own that if he tried to take it really fast, he was more likely to mess up and get lost, whereas if he slowed it down just a bit, he could get through with fewer mistakes.

He did awesome on his solo at the concert. I also discovered that, compared to his classmates, his ear isn't half bad. Sometimes listening to practicing is painful due to intonation. But, oh boy, I'm not sure anyone in the strings group was playing anywhere close to the same pitch for any of their notes. Other instruments have a bit of an advantage there. They might squeak and squawk a bit, but as long as their fingers are in the right place, they'll be sort of close to in tune.



The day of K graduation, Mal lost a second tooth. I got an email from his teacher, letting me know he'd lost it in the wood chips and was devastated, that some kids were planning to search for it at the next recess, but obviously she didn't have high hopes for their success, etc. He ended up handling its loss pretty well. And is adorable missing two teeth.


Graduations!



It feels weird to realize their year is over, since I'm still plugging away. The worst part is it means I have to start packing lunches for Mal again. He'd decided to try school lunch and loved it, which eliminated a lot of stress for me (he's sooo picky about what he'll eat in a packed lunch - even some foods he likes are deemed unacceptable for eating away from home). But only 8 more weeks and then we'll all be done!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Birthdays, Schools, and Teeth

Apparently having a full-time internship, assignments to go with that, additional school assignments on top of those, and a capstone to work on, plus the usual life stuff is bad for blog post writing. So, what's been happening the past few months?

Well, Mal had a birthday. This is probably the easiest cake I've ever made. We also had his first ever birthday party. We invited 3 kids, 3 said they were coming, but in the end, only 1 made it. Which worked out fine, because I've since learned that the dynamics between the 4 kids is a little messy at times.



The only thing he asked for was "masks", so I got him a variety of dress up things, which he loved. The cape and Darth Vader mask are definitely his favorite of those.


Gareth also had a birthday. We went for a purchased ice cream cake this year because life is crazy. And a simple sleepover with 2 friends a week or so after his birthday, though we'd had a couple other friends over the week before his birthday. Basically, things were barely holding together around the time of his birthday, partly evidenced by the lack of birthday pictures.

Even my take-out Chinese fortune cookie decided to give me grief for not having worked on my capstone report in a while!


Mal's class does a "Me Museum" for each student through the year. Since our last family picture was when Mal was about 18 months (not to mention Ryan was wearing a sling in the picture) and before that Mal wasn't even born as Gareth was 3, we had to take a quick, poorly lit family picture for his museum sheet. I knew it wouldn't turn out great with the light behind us, but I didn't have time to care.


I presented on my capstone at our annual Student Research Symposium. Trying to sum up my whole project in 5 minutes was no easy task! I wisely inserted a video of my formula running through a feeding tube, which I think added a lot to the presentation. I also received an award for leadership, which was unexpected, but nice. Here's my "I'm taking this on a crowded bus to send to Ryan" picture:


Spring lawn mowing is always interesting here in Seattle. The lawn starts growing, but by the time it stops raining long enough for you to mow it, it's a couple feet long. Which means you have to bag it, and then it requires multiple weekends to mow the whole lawn because you keep running out of space in your 96-gallon yard waste and overflow yard waste bins. But by the time you get the whole lawn mowed, rain is becoming less frequent, so you'll only have to mow a time or two more before the lawn dies and you don't have to mow again until the next spring.


It also didn't help that our yard waste bin was stolen twice within a month. Why anyone would want to take a yard waste bin is beyond me.

Memorial Day also happened. Coming near the end of the quarter, it was a pretty chill day. I did schoolwork all morning and then we grilled in the afternoon. Mal really likes watermelon and corn.


Gareth is starting to get excited to move to another school next year. They had a welcome event for incoming students this past week, so we took the route he'll walk each day, meeting up with friends along the way. He's incredibly excited about the library, which is occasionally open during lunch and has "so many books!!!!". He and his friends quickly made themselves at home there and had to be dragged away. Pretty sure we were the last people to leave the school.


While we were gone at that, Mal lost his first tooth! Ryan let him stay up long enough to excitedly show me when we got home.


And that sums things up. I'm working away at my capstone report this week and should be able to finish up my draft by the end of my break next week. Then it will hopefully just be a few edits and I'll be set to graduate in August!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter Break Wrap-Up

Winter break is wrapping up here, with the kids going back to school, Ryan back to work, and me starting internship. We've all really enjoyed sleeping in every day, so I have a feeling it will be a rough transition back.

In the final days of break, Ryan made toffee, which disappeared in no time, and I made fudge. This was my last attempt at fudge. What had always been a reliable recipe throughout my childhood and early adulthood had not been working at all the past two years. Each time, the butter would separate from the rest of the fudge, leaving a goopy mess. I was tired of wasting the effort and supplies (two sticks of butter, nuts, chocolate, etc) on it. But the kids really wanted it, so I gave it one last shot. And it worked this year! The only thing I can figure is that I'd been cooking it on the stove's "turbo boil" burner the previous two years and that this overcooked the sugar mixture. Makes sense in that we'd only had issues with it since moving to this house. As it makes two 9x13 pans of the stuff, I had to figure out how to get rid of it all. Buy Nothing to the rescue! I gave away a pan plus some to neighbors through the group, leaving just enough for the kids for a little while.

On New Year's Eve I eventually told the kids "no" about video games enough times that they gave up. They ended up building a fort in the basement out of boxes, blankets, and desk chairs. At some point they decided that I was an alien monster and they would periodically "sneak" upstairs to battle me with their (empty of darts) nerf guns. This kept them entertained for the whole afternoon and we let them sleep in there overnight. Sadly, the fort had to be taken down the next day in preparation for the return to school (and so we could have full use of the basement back).



On New Year's Day, as usual, we made our gingerbread house. I spent most of the day on it as I hadn't got around to making the pieces the day before. The boys and I had fun decorating.