We Went to the Zoo

18 03 2015

We went to the zoo on Saturday; our first trip in a long time. Clouds and the threat of ran kept most people away. I wanted to see the zoo’s new lion cubs. Patrick’s the one who spotted them first: All asleep in a ball in the edge of their enclosure. Disappointing — I was hoping for frolicking.

Three Brothers

Make sure you look carefully. There are three lions in this photo.

Of course we stopped at the Zoomazium so the kids could play. There, Alex discovered that growing up has its downsides.

Someone learns there are drawbacks to growing older.

The Seattle Project

4 03 2015

Alex is learning about Seattle history in his third grade class. It’s been fun as a parent, too. One of his homework assignments was to go to someplace new in Seattle and take notes. We chose a UW Women’s Basketball game, and Alex spent a few minutes after the game learning about UW sports history from the mini-museum inside Hec Ed Pavilion.

Alex learns to make a

Alex learns to make a “W” with his fingers at the basketball game. Yes, the stadium was mostly empty for the game.

Then, last week, I chaperoned on a field trip to the Museum of History and Industry. The kids had an hour to work on a scavenger hunt, answering various questions about Seattle history. After, they worked in groups to identify various historical artifacts. Alex’s team had to identify a sextant. I don’t know how they did it, but they correctly knew that it was from the age of explorers and that we’d use a GPS for the same function today… but of course none of the kids knew how a sextant would be used. But I bet none of the adults in the museum knew that either.



The age of explorers.

But the most fun Seattle experience happened by accident this past weekend. We decided to go to the Seattle Bike Show by bike. While I’m used to biking everywhere, I’m still a little timid riding with the kids beyond the couple of miles around our house, especially when either kid is riding his own bicycle (as opposed to being pulled by me). The Bike Show was at CenturyLink Field, south of downtown… waay beyond my usual bike-with-kids stomping grounds. I don’t think I would have done it if there hadn’t been an organized family bike ride there. Riding in a big pack with other families showed me that it’s both easy and fun to get to downtown Seattle by bicycle… as long as you have the time to do it at a kid pace.

Exploring Seattle by Bike

Our route to and from downtown. Riding at Alex’s pace, it took two hours each way.

Our bike route wound up being an impromptu tour of Seattle’s industrial history. We went through trainyards and shipyards. We rode by an enormous ship picking up its cargo of grain at Terminal 86. We took the time to stop at Fisherman’s Terminal (“Home of the North Pacific Fishing Fleet”) and look at the memorial to those who lost their lives at sea. It was a way more fun and scenic way to get downtown than just driving on I-5, and I’m so glad we took the time to do it.

Bike trip selfie

Bike trip selfie at the Fisherman’s Terminal. Patrick rode with us to the stadium on our cargo bike, but he phoned in a rescue for the way home: Molly came to pick him up. Alex and I did the return trip alone.

Chilly Hilly 2015

28 02 2015

Patrick and I were speeding downhill on Fletcher Bay Road when I saw it: The Mile 19 shortcut sign. Turn right on Lynwood Center Road and you stay on the main Chilly Hilly route, which gives you 33 miles of biking around Bainbridge Island. Turn left and you cut off ten miles from the route. In other words, the left turn means you’re done. 

I decided to check in with Patrick. I was pulling him along on a tag-along bike. If you haven’t seen one, it’s basically a third wheel that clamps to the seatpost of my bike. Patrick gets his own seat and set of pedals, but I get to help with balance and speed. I called over my shoulder to him. “Patrick, how are you doing?”

“Good.” He sounded chipper.

“Do you think you can finish the ride?”


I turn right for the full Chilly Hilly route.

On the ferry

Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Hill Regional Park

26 01 2015

Another weekend, another hike through the woods. We took advantage of the spring-like weather and spent Saturday afternoon exploring Lord Hill Regional Park. It was our first time there. I was hoping we’d see wildlife, and I came armed with binoculars and a telephoto lens. However, while we heard plenty of frogs and saw a beaver dam, plants & mud defined the rest of our interaction with nature. Still, I’m glad we tore the kids away from their screens and got them outside.

The Deep Dark Woods

The rest of the photos.


9 01 2015

Minnesota, December 2014: Jetlag kept Alex and Patrick from falling asleep at night. The usual parental question of “How do we tire these kids out?” became even more urgent than it usually is on school breaks.

Luckily for us, three inches of dry, powdery snow fell the second night of our trip. The next afternoon, we bundled up the kids and headed to the Rochester Country Club. The snow hid all signs of golf and gave us a landscape with large, uninterrupted swaths of white and no cars. It’s the perfect place to turn kids loose and let them sled.

Hike to the Hill


From a “tire kids out” perspective, few things work better than making them walk up a hill a few dozen times in the cold. And they all did it willingly, with smiles on their faces, because of how much fun it was to go back to the bottom.

It was an exceptionally good sledding hill. It sloped down several hundred feet, its width gave a large margin of error for imprecise steering, and it came to a gentle stop with no crazy obstacles. I did a couple of runs myself. Free-falling down a hill: It felt like skydiving without leaving the ground. 

Return Trip

Smiling Patrick

The Boys

Four at Once

Sperling Family

Katie Spins

Mother and Daughter

Sled Train

December Backlog: Zoolights

6 01 2015

I’ve got quite a backlog of photos from December to work through. Let’s see how long it takes to work through them.

On December 21, we checked out Zoolights with the Leis’s. We arrived at the zoo with hundreds of other families after dark. While the animals were not on exhibit, Woodland Park Zoo strung thousands of tiny LED lights through the exhibits around the north meadow into the shapes of all of their headline animal attractions. It’s like walking through a gigantic 3D Lite-Brite set.

The lights are neat, but the transformed Zoomazium really excites the kids. Inside, the décor sets the mood with blue lights, decorative snowflakes, and hundreds and hundreds of fake yarn snowballs. You can imagine the effect. As soon as you walk inside, you become part of a gigantic kid-vs-parent indoor snowball fight. The kids occupied the high ground, claiming the play mountain as their fort. From there, they would either play it safe and lob snowballs at the parents milling on the ground, or the kids would be more daring and launch raiding parties. Raiding parties take advantage of the general mayhem to weave quickly through the adults and launch point-blank sneak attacks on parents from behind.

Yup, a good time was had by all.

Alex Takes Aim

Patrick Takes Aim


Wood Smoke and Chilly Mornings

11 08 2013

Morning Sunlight

Last Sunday night, I stared at the embers of a dying fire, then looked up. Through dense fir branches, I caught glimpses of the starry night, a too-rare sight thanks to Seattle’s cloud cover and lights. But it’s summer, so the clouds are gone, and this wasn’t Seattle. I was at Cougar Rock campground, 3000 feet up the side of Mt. Rainier. 10 feet away, my family slept inside our massive Kingdome 6 tent, exhausted in their sleeping bags.

The Leis family was asleep in the next campsite. Camping had been Jenny’s idea. Her twin sister Katie had flown in from the East coast to join the adventure, and we’d celebrated their birthdays around the campfire with cupcakes and candles the night before. Not a bad way to turn ____ years old. Though with the absence of presents and inflatables, I’m not sure my kids recognized it as a birthday party. To a 7-year-old, grownup birthdays make no sense. Boring!

Other friends of the Leis’s had joined us on the trip. Their campsite was nearby, still on Loop B, but out of sight. They also had two boys, so between us we had six boys aged 7 and younger. It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but the forest is a perfect place to absorb and channel little boy energy. Earlier that night, as we grownups sat around the fire and enjoyed our grownup drinks, the kids had been roaming the campsites in the dark. The boys were chasing a group of slightly older girls on bikes who we’re pedaling around and around Loop B. Our boys thought this was the best game in the world, and I think the girls were just trying to ignore them. Our parental supervision was limited to a periodic census, making sure we could count six glow-sticks through the trees. It was awesome.

Nisqually River Boys

We’d spent the morning hiking the trails above Paradise. Because the campsite was so close to the trails, we beat the worst of the crowds in spite of our unhurried breakfasts. We’d lucked out on the weather. It was warm but not hot. In front of us, we had clear views of the massive glaciers; mountain ridges ringed the horizon behind and below us. When the serious mountaineers would pass by, we’d point out their helmets, ropes, and ice axes to the kids. With binoculars, we could see the line of climbers on their way to the base camp 4000 feet above us. Their tiny black silhouettes stood out against the blue-white ice field. They’d be making their summit attempts the next day.

We made it to the tree line. We got to hike across a 50 foot stretch of snow, which was the highlight of the morning for all the kids. That and the marmots that stalked us through the alpine meadows. Spectacular mountain vistas? Boring! Snow in August and Rodents of Unusual Size? Awesome!

Above the Treeline

The act of hiking itself, just putting one foot in front of the other, challenged Patrick at times. I don’t know if we would have made 50 feet up the trail, much less to the tree line, if I hadn’t caved in and carried him piggy-back-style, with my backpack full of water, food, and a first aid kit slung on my front. With all the extra weight, I got my exercise for the day. I was a little disappointed that my Fitbit said I’d only walked the equivalent of 92 flights of stairs that morning. It felt like more. My wrists were sore for two days from the strain of supporting Patrick’s butt.

While the grownups liked the hike, the kids were happiest in the campground. They climbed logs and chased girls. Alex carried a stick most of the day. He made a noble but ineffective attempt to sharpen it, and it was his spear for elk hunting. All the boys got Junior Ranger patches from the evening Park Service program at the campground. Patrick found ants, ant larvae, and beetles, and proved (again) he’s not at all squeamish about picking up bugs.

As I reflected on the day, I knew what the kids liked so much about the campsite was freedom. As long as they were close enough for us to hear them, we let them do what they want. Modern childhood is structured and supervised around the clock. Having hours to just go play with friends is as rare a treat for them as a starry sky is for me. We’d be heading back to Seattle and normal life the next day. I didn’t know if I’ll be able to give this kind of freedom to the kids in our city life, or if this will always be something that comes with wood smoke and chilly mornings. But I’m glad they got this treat this summer. Patrick told me it was the best weekend of his life.

Parenting Version 2.0 continues to be great. Tired and happy, I joined my sleeping family in the tent.

The Family 

The Brothers