Minnesota 2014

14 01 2015

I’m finally done with the Christmas photos. You can find my favorite selections here and here.

It was an iPad Christmas.

Yes, the kids got outside for sledding, snowball fights, and making snow caves. But when it gets down to -20 with the wind chill, responsible parents can’t keep throwing the kids outdoors, no matter how much those responsible parents might want an escape from the chaos. Aunt Becky organized lots of indoor activities to help release the kids’ energy without frostbite: Bowling, laser tag, the amusement park at the Mall of America, and running through downtown Rochester by way of its protected skybridges. But there’s a limit to how much you can or should provide kids’ entertainment for them. It’s good to let them fend for themselves. This Christmas, when those times came, the kids invariably commandeered the nearest screen.

Screen Time

You know how the younger generation makes fun of the older generation for not understanding technology? I thought my job programming computers protected me from that fate, in spite of the increasing gray at my temples. Well, that’s not the case. The kids’ game of choice, Minecraft, completely baffles me. They played for hours over the break, but I’m helpless at describing exactly what they did in the game. It’s like asking a chicken to describe quantum mechanics; with absolutely no comprehension, it’s hopeless. So I can’t begin to explain Minecraft, but it kept the kids happy and occupied. That’s enough.

I’m sure the kids would have been thrilled with a holiday break that was nothing but screen-time. But as adults, we know better, and we know that no holiday is complete without a feast. We had two, bookending the Brown Clan time together in Minnesota. Aunt Becky cooked a turkey dinner to welcome us all to Minnesota; Nana cooked a standing rib roast on our last night together. As an adult, I can tell you both meals were fabulous. I don’t know what the kids would tell you. As every family around the table had the same conversation about “I want you to just try this food” with their offspring, I suspect the universal opinion from the next generation would be, “Why do you have to ruin a perfectly good holiday with green beans?”

The whispers started as the dishes were drying after our last meal together: “We need to take a family picture!” Thus began the most challenging of holiday rituals: Getting the family portrait. While I understand f-stops and off-camera flash, I have no real tricks for getting 15 people to all smile at the same time and keep their eyes open. It’s just luck. That, and bribing the kids: “Come on, if you take one more serious picture, we can do a silly picture after that!” It worked:

Silly Family Portrait

Then and Now

1 07 2012

Still going through my photos from my trip to Virginia. But I had to post this… 


Is That for Me?


Ice Cream Monster

Turkey Toss

20 11 2011

The holidays are upon us, so Seattle parents know what that means. Turkey toss!

For those not in Seattle, that’s when the animals at Woodland Park Zoo get their special turkey dinners. With some animals, like the Jaguar, it isn’t a Turkey Toss… two turkey legs were just put on the ground for the cat to find. (Next to a cute paper mâché turkey, for some reason.)

Do you need this leg?

With the lion, though, it did look like a turkey toss. Or maybe a turkey zipline — I didn’t have the best view. All I could see was a turkey flying in the air, and moments later the lion had it in his mouth.

Turkey DInner

For me, it was an odd trip to the zoo, because Alex decided he didn’t want to go. He spent the day running errands with Molly instead, and I got to spend the morning just with Patrick. Molly & I rarely seem to have time with just one kid. It’s a different vibe. It’s certainly less stressful to have just one, and it’s nice to be able to pay attention to one child rather than always chasing after the one who happens to be running away.

(Molly’s theory is that always-wear-shorts-Alex knew in the back of his mind that he’d be cold if he went to the zoo. Or maybe he’s just starting to get tired of it. Or maybe he really wanted a donut from the grocery store, and he knew that was one of the errands. Who knows.)

Now that the animals have had their turkeys, it’s time for the people to have theirs. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Nana’s Visit

2 08 2011

One worry I have when family visits is our kids will realize how boring and deprived their lives really are.

This past week, Alex was at Jumpstart Kindergarten, a week long “camp” to introduce him to his new school, teachers, and routines. The catch: The camp ran only until noon each day, so we needed someone to watch Alex each afternoon. Nana to the rescue! She flew out here to watch Alex each afternoon.

And she watched Alex’s friend and twin-separated-at-birth, Alexa, until her family could pick her up in the early afternoon.

And, of course, she kept Patrick each day.

And she invited one of Alex’s new classmates over for a playdate. (By all accounts it was a smashing success.)

They went to the library. They played with trains. They bought new books. They enjoyed the summer sun. With all of the activity and attention each day, the boys dropped effortlessly off to sleep each night, exhausted.

So, now that Nana’s returned to the Midwest and our lives return to the normal routine of daycare-dinner-bathtime-bedtime, are the boys going to realize, “Hey! I want more excitement and attention each day, just like when Nana was here!”

(Luckily for us, so far, the answer appears to be no.)

Young Photographer

In the Garden

Back From St. Louis

30 03 2010

We’re safely home from our trip to St. Louis. This is was my first plane flight since I dictatorially imposed a travel moratorium that started when Patrick could walk and was supposed to end when Patrick turned two… (Alex resumed being a good traveller on his trip to Maine when he was a little over two years old, so that’s been my yardstick.)

We returned from the trip with no travelling-with-children horror stories, so I think that’s a resounding success! Yes, Patrick was a little fussy on the plane. And no, the timezones did not work in our favor… the kids still thought 6:30 was a perfectly reasonable time to wake up. And of course, in spite of slipping effortlessly into St. Louis time, upon the return to Seattle they stayed stuck in Central Time and woke up at 4:30. But if that’s all we have to complain about, it must have been a good trip indeed!

Photobomb!Stolen Walking StickBoysFamily Visit

Theo Chocolate

27 04 2009

Two weekends ago, Molly went to a college friend’s wedding, so my mom and my brother flew in as reinforcements to help take care of Alex and Patrick. I’d foolishly thought I’d be able to watch both kids on my own for the weekend. I’m glad Molly talked me out of that plan! My mom and my brother helped me keep my sanity, and it was also a great excuse to go out and see some of the city sights that are too easy to overlook.

One of our adventures was to the Theo Chocolate factory in Fremont for the factory tour. Theo Chocolate is the only 100% organic & fair trade chocolate maker in the United States. It’s a pretty small operation, well-known in the area for their non-traditional chocolate bar flavors (like Chai and Coconut Curry).

Fair Trade Chocolate

The original plan was to take the tour on Saturday, but it turns out the website isn’t joking about calling ahead for reservations: When I called on Friday, the first available tour was Monday. All eight tours on the weekend were booked.

We took the last tour of the day on Monday. We brought Alex with us but left Patrick at daycare. This was not one of my better parenting decisions, and I think it really shows my stubborn streak. I really wanted to bring Alex on an “adventure” with us, thought this would be fun, and I persisted in the plan even though I knew that we’d have to pay the full $6 for Alex to go on the tour, the tour was 90 minutes long, and you needed closed-toe shoes and no strollers. The nice folks at Theo dropped every subtle hint they could that this is not a great idea for a three-year-old! But I persisted.

What really makes this a bad idea for a three-year-old is the same thing that makes the tour a great idea for an adult, and makes the tour well worth the $6. This is a Chocolate Factory, and they pass out lots and lots of samples of chocolate. It seems like every three minutes of the 90 minute tour, there was some new kind of chocolate to nibble on. Hazelnut crunch. Orange chocolate. 91% cacao single-origin Venezuela chocolate. Chocolate nibs. Curry chocolate. As the afternoon progressed, you could see Alex get more and more hyper. Luckily, a good portion of the “tour” is spent sitting in a room that has a door opening directly outside. When the squirming got out of control, I took Alex outside and let him run around. Alex had a great time, and we had a great time, and I don’t think Alex spoiled the tour for anyone else (if anything, I think he may have added to their enjoyment). By those measures, the tour was a success. But I still wouldn’t do it again with a kid that young.

And did I mention that the two times in his life that Alex has had any significant amount of dark chocolate to eat, he has not been able to fall asleep until 10:30 P.M.? Yup, as I said, not one of my best parenting decisions.

On the plus side, we did get to all wear fashionable hair nets, even Alex.

Alex in a Hair NetTake Off the Hair Net