Labor Day Weekend and the Museum of Flight

11 09 2009

Long weekends today aren’t the same thing they were, say, 4 years ago. No possibilities for loafing around any more! Instead, our offspring expect us to produce three days of solid entertainment for them. This job is harder when you have three days of cool, wet weather to work with, which confined us to indoor activities. Maybe this is what a cruise director feels like.

We did try one new thing this weekend: The Museum of Flight. Molly had been once, years ago. For me, it was my first trip. My verdict? It’s no Air & Space Museum, but it’s still quite nice. Alex enjoyed sitting in the different airplane cockpits. Patrick, though, is too young to really enjoy anything there. I don’t know if we’ll be returning soon to the museum, but I predict that we’ll get many solid years of entertainment & education out of it when the kids are just a little older.

Look at Me! I'm a Pilot!

My Three-Hour Vacation

6 09 2009

For some reason I still don’t understand, Alex decided that 5:00 AM was the correct time to wake up yesterday morning. Maybe this is just the kids trying to keep me on my toes. All week long, it’s been Patrick who wakes up between 5:15 and 5:45, usually with a dirty diaper. Yesterday, Patrick slept until close to 7:00. Perhaps they whispered to each other on Friday night and agreed to switch roles.

I tried to be super-dad, and I took care of the kids in the morning and let Molly sleep until 8:00. It didn’t work so well. When Molly woke up, I was exhausted and really needed a break from the kids. Luckily I talked her into taking the kids to the Pacific Science Center by herself, giving me a rare and cherished three-hour vacation. From 10:00 to 1:00, I was on my own.

If I get a morning to vacation in my own city, I usually head to Cafe Campagne at Pike Place Market. If I fully engage my imagination, I can pretend I’ve just landed in Paris for brunch, only there’s no jet lag. Cafe Campagne is busy, but I can usually snag a stool at the bar with no reservations and no wait. It’s perfect for an impromptu vacation. As usual, I had the oeufs en muerette. That’s two poached eggs over bread with bacon, mushrooms, and a delectable foie gras / red wine sauce. The thing I love about bistro food is it’s perfectly acceptable to get food with a meaty red wine sauce and a huge basket of hot, crispy, salty french fries for breakfast. (Excuse me: pommes frites.)

The second best part of eating at Cafe Campagne is wandering the market afterwards. I’ve lived in Seattle for thirteen years now, and this is the first time I made it to the infamous gum wall in Post Alley underneath the market. Yes, it’s as gross as it looks in the picture.

Gum Wall Admirers

The rest of my trip through the market, I wandered through my usual haunts and enjoyed both the crowds and the explosion of color that you can always count on downtown, 365 days per year. Three hours of tourism in my own city was exactly what I needed to recharge. These mini-vacations are a lifesaver.


Pepper Ring


22 07 2009

When I read about the food adventures that my friends Dawn and Eric have, I must admit I get a little jealous. They recently got back from a weekend in Portland that sounds and looks amazing. You can check it out here: The Portland food rampage.

This hot summer, my idea of a great meal is a peanut butter sandwich. It doesn’t involve turning on the stove and you can eat it on a blanket outside.

Picnic Dinner by you.

Reverse Psychology

30 06 2009

When does reverse psychology stop working? When it does, we’re in trouble.

Here’s an example. Tonight, Alex (also known as “bipolar boy”) was in one of his fragile moods. We had a great time playing baseball outside, but then he fell apart when I said it was time to go inside for a bath.

I tried bribery. “Alex, if you promise you’ll take a bath without fussing, then we can go out and have a popsicle first.” He promised, and he was happy outside, and we got into the bathroom without fussing… but then he fell apart again when I put some more hot water into the cold bath water that was left over from Patrick. “NO! I DON’T LIKE HOT WATER!” he yelled.

At this point, I needed a break and I handed him off to Molly. He was calm when I left, but when I returned five minutes later, she was already done with his bath. He was out of the bathtub, wearing only his pajama top and a diaper, and crying uncontrollably because the bath (Which he didn’t want to take in the first place!) was over. Apparently hitting mama with the octopus contributed to the bath’s early end. Bipolar Boy was wildly kicking to keep Molly from putting on his pajama bottoms. I wasn’t able to make any more progress. All efforts to get him dressed met with more forceful kicks.

That’s when I pulled out my last and most powerful parenting trick. I looked at Molly and said in that adult-talking-to-an-adult tone of voice, “OK, I don’t think we should let Alex wear any more pajamas.”

Click! Just like that, Bipolar Boy wanted his pajamas on. For the rest of the evening, he was smiling and laughing as he played his favorite game: Doing the opposite of what daddy says. For example, “Alex, don’t say ahh so I can brush your teeth. Stop it! Stop saying ahh! If you keep saying ahh I have to keep brushing!” This lead to lots of laughter and some very clean teeth.

Yup, when this trick stops working, we’re going to be in trouble.

In the field

Bipolar Boy in the Seattle Arboretum.

Shh! Our secret.

10 05 2009

I can write this here because I know Molly doesn’t read this blog. Keep this between us, OK?

Yesterday was Patrick’s 11-month birthday. (Holy cow! I can’t believe there’s a real birthday to start planning!) He & I & Alex spent a good part of the day together yesterday. I wanted to start Mother’s Day a little early and give Molly as much time as possible on her own. Alex & I spent Saturday morning at the University District Farmer’s Market while Patrick slept. In the afternoon, the three of us went to neighborhood playground for an hour and a half so Mama could take a nap.

Alex at the farmer's market

Alex at the University District Farmer’s Market.

This was Patrick’s first extended outing at a playground. Overall, it worked out quite well. We were the only ones there, which was strange: it was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for playing outside. The solitude worked in our favor. I let Patrick crawl around next to me all over the play structure while Alex ran around on his own. There was no danger of other kids trampling over Patrick.

Patrick at the Playground

Patrick crawling at the playground.

There are two small slides at this playground. This gave me one of my Great Parenting Ideas. (For other Great Parenting Ideas, see: Theo Chocolate). My idea: Patrick’s 11 months old today! Shouldn’t he go down the slide on his own?

To my credit, I realized that Patrick’s not that steady sitting up. I knew if I sent him down the slide in an upright position, he’d probably tip over backwards and bonk his head. So I applied creative problem solving: I’d send Patrick down the slide on his belly.


That seemed to be the most stable way to slide, with no chance of falling over. Sure, there was the minor bit about what would happen at the bottom of the slide, but I had a solution to that. I’d ask Alex to catch him at the bottom. Alex seems really strong for a three-year-old. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, to give myself some more credit, this plan did not end in tears. Alex was able to keep Patrick from crashing full-force into the ground. Instead, there was just a minor face-plant. That’s when I realized what I’d overlooked. When you have an 11-month old, who’s natural state consists of a face full of drool and snot, landing face-first into a pile of wood chips at the bottom of a slide… well, let’s just say that drool and snot act kind of like superglue to wood chips. It took quite a while to get all of the wood chips off from his face.

Luckily for me, there were no parents there to witness this. And since I brought Patrick back to the house all cleaned up, Molly doesn’t know, either. Let’s keep it our secret, shall we?

Changed My Mind on the Children’s Museum

5 05 2009

So far, I’ve taken Alex to the Seattle Children’s Museum twice. The first time, he was about a year and a half old. It was a wet, cold,  winter weekend day. And – no surprise! – the Children’s Museum was packed on a wet weekend day. Alex was also too young to participate in many of the activities there. It left a bit of an icky taste in my mouth.

We had our second exposure to the Children’s Museum when my mom was in town. One of Alex’s classmates had her birthday party there. Unlike our last visit, it was a sunny day outside. One of the first sunny days of spring, in fact, so the crowds stayed away. And now that he’s three years old, Alex could do a lot more of the activites at the museum.

On my first trip there, I didn’t even realize that there was an arts & crafts room at the museum that has all sorts of cool things that are too big or make too much of a mess in the house: An easel and paints, a light table, real clay (not Play-Doh), markers/scissors/paper… Alex had a great time painting and exploring all of the items there.

The arts & crafts room is what really changed my mind about the Children’s Museum. I now think it’s a great place to go if you’ve got a kid old enough and you can avoid the worst of the crowds. I don’t know of another place that has so many hands-on, creative activities. It’s quite a different experience from going to a playground or to one of our standard kid places (the zoo, the aquarium, or the science center).

Here are some photos from the party. You’ll get an idea of the hands-on activities that exist for the kids there. (Plus what a great place it is to have a birthday party!)

Quite the Week!

17 03 2009

Last Thursday, I wrote how it was a big day. I wrote too soon. It’s been stretching out into a big week of milestones.

Friday was Alex’s second day wearing only underwear at school. I learned when I dropped him off that his first day had gone better than we’d realized. He had only one “accident.” As normal, he wore a pull-up during naptime, and he managed to soak through the pull-up during nap. That’s what put him into that winner of an outfit of shorts, someone else’s underwear, and someone else’s socks. Anyway, Friday was not that good of a day. About five accidents at school.

Which brings us to Saturday, and our first day of keeping up the underwear-only regimen at home. I must say, this was tough on me. My normal mode of parenting on the weekends is to get Alex out of the house in the morning. This does two things. First, it keeps him engaged and wears him out. He takes a better nap and the rest of the day goes more smoothly. It also helps me – I get stir crazy in the house and I’d much rather get out to the farmer’s market, the aquarium, the zoo, a park… anything. No such luck on Saturday. We decided the prudent thing was to play it safe, stay at home, and keep offering Alex a chance to use the potty every half hour or so.

On the potty front, things went better than I expected. He had two accidents that day. Once, he was happily playing and then looked up at me and exclaimed, “Pee!” Sure enough, he had. He seemed a little surprised. The other accident was the dreaded #2, and what was worrisome is he didn’t seem to notice or care that he was walking around with dirty underwear.

On the stir-crazy front: We all felt it. Alex kept whining, “I want to go somewhere!” He didn’t nap that day. I had my fill of doing kid jigsaw puzzles. But by the end of the day, Alex seemed to have the potty thing down. He’d ask to use the potty, and he had no accidents after 10:00 AM. The hours spent on jigsaw puzzles were worth it.

Sunday’s big milestone, of course, was Alex’s birthday party. We tried to keep the invitation list small: Just four friends from school and four friends from outside school. It still made for a full (and loud!) house. Alex clearly had a great time. One interesting thing: Alex wouldn’t blow out the candles on his cake. They scared him. Last weekend, I suspected this would happen. We’d taken Alex and Patrick to our friend Tony’s birthday dinner at a nearby restaurant. At the end of dinner, the waiters brought out a cupcake with a candle for Tony. Alex turned to me, concerned, and asked, “Why did they bring him fire??” I tried to explain about candles for birthdays, but he just said, “I don’t want candles.” We didn’t listen to him, but we should have. He really didn’t want candles on his cake.


Monday’s milestone: Monday night, Alex and Patrick shared a room for the entire night for the first time. This is the culmination of a week in which Patrick slept through the night, each night, uninterrupted. What a glorious thing.

Tuesday’s milestone: This has been Alex’s first full day without accidents, either at school or at home.

It’s been a whirlwind week. Both kids are changing & growing right in front of our eyes. Yeah, I know I’m supposed to savor each stage of their life and feel a little sad and nostalgic that they’re growing up. But really, I’m thrilled that Alex finally seems to “get” potty training and that Patrick is finally sleeping the night through. I’ll deal with the nostalgia later.

We’re Still Alive

18 01 2009

Up until last Sunday, things were going so well. In my head, I’d already started drafting a blog post about how I remember the 7-8 month age as being one of the best periods of Alex’s life, and now Patrick’s going through the stage. He’s developed enough that he’s no longer just a blob. Some simple things are now easier, like carrying Patrick around. He’ll hold his torso upright when you carry him, which makes the whole process a lot easier. And Patrick now has a pretty predictable routine, which involves a lot of sleep at night, and he’s just a happy, smiley kid when he’s awake. With Alex, this period lasted a brief month, so I was determined to enjoy it. Last Sunday, things were going so well. Molly & I even made arrangements with a babysitter to watch the two kids and go out to dinner. It was our first dinner out in over seven months.

Things changed when we got home from our dinner Sunday night. During dinner, we did have this feeling of foreboding. Patrick hadn’t been himself that day. When we got home, our fears were realized: Patrick was sick. He was running a 102-degree fever and was just unhappy.

Thus started a week of parenting with a sick kid. Two trips to the doctor, multiple days off work (especially for Molly, who took all of Friday off), stress-inducing arrangements with backup child care (Will she take as good care of Patrick as us? What if Patrick doesn’t like the backup nanny? What do you mean, the nanny can’t give Tylenol?). Patrick’s new, blissful sleep schedule was history. By Friday, everybody’s nerves were shot. (And did I mention Friday was Molly’s birthday?)

What made things worse is Patrick seemed to get better a couple of times over the course of the week. Each day we thought it might be the last one of him being sick, and we got our hopes up. He’d be off of Tylenol/Motrin for half a day, seem happy, then wham! Suddenly, he’d have a 102 fever again, and it seemed like we were back at square one.

My experience Tuesday night went beyond typical sick-child parenting. Patrick had just fallen asleep in his room, Molly was getting Alex ready for bed, and I was doing the dishes when suddenly Patrick started crying. I told Molly not to worry about it. I went in to Patrick’s room, confident that a little time with a pacifier and bouncing in a parent’s arms would calm him down so he could fall back to sleep. It had always worked before.

Not this time. For forty minutes, he screamed. He cried. He arched his back and tried to squirm out of my arms. He screamed some more. My child is really sick, I thought. He’s in pain. He has cancer. He’s dying. This isn’t normal.

After forty minutes, Molly had finished putting Alex to sleep and she came to relieve me. She took Patrick out of my arms and he calmed down right away. She looked at him, took him out of his room, and set him on the play mat in our living room. And sure enough, he was quiet and happy. He didn’t have cancer. His little body hadn’t been wracked with agony from some terminal illness. He just didn’t want to go to sleep, and he had been locked in a contest of wills with his father who kept trying to get him to calm down and shut his eyes.

Oh no, I thought. Maybe the blissful seven-month age was over before it started. I remember clearly what ended the golden era of Alex’s infancy: It was when he developed free will. Things were great when he could sit up, sleep well, hold his body up when we carried him – yet he couldn’t move on his own, and he was just happy being dragged around wherever we needed him to go. Bliss ended when he really cared that we kept him from exploring some new and dangerous corner of the room, and when he knew he really wanted that toy and we couldn’t swap it out with some other. Once Alex had free will, a new and complex era of parenting had begun.

Patrick had just spent forty minutes fighting with me because I was trying to get him to do something he didn’t want to do. Free will is here.

Time will tell if we’ve really crossed that threshold with Patrick. He certainly shows more determination each day to propel himself on our carpet and grab ahold of whatever has caught his eye. Or maybe his feistyness will recede along with his fever.

I’m happy to say that one week after Patrick’s fever first spiked, we seem to be back to normal. As I write this, both kids are sleeping, and they’ve been quiet since bedtime. With luck, we’ll be able to survive until the end of cold and flu season. At least everybody’s survived this past week.

Overheard at the Playground Yesterday

18 02 2008

Dad: Claire, it’s time to go.

Claire: But dad, the wood chips are lava! You need to carry me.

Dad: You now, we have to start going to playgrounds that don’t have so much lava.