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

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Spring in February

18 02 2015

Our good weather has lasted so long that it no longer feels exceptional. I expect cold mornings, warm afternoons, sunshine, and blossoms everywhere. And we get a long weekend in the middle of this weather! We couldn’t be luckier.

Kite Hill in February

Patrick asked to ride his bike every day this weekend. He got his first scraped knee on Monday. Four-year-old Patrick would have been inconsolable until he’d gotten a Band-Aid, but six-year-old bike-crazy Patrick just got back on his bike and kept pedaling. Hills still challenge him — he walks his bike up and down anything steep — but he rides surprisingly well on the crowded Burke-Gilman trail. He zoomed along the three mile flat stretch from our house to Magnuson Park this weekend, his longest ride to date.

As we rode to Magnuson Park, he told me, “Biking is my favorite thing to do in the world. Sometimes it makes my legs tired, but it’s worth it.”

Bike Ride

A week in the life of Patrick

14 02 2015

Molly and I often tell with each other that all we want is Patrick to learn how to use his powers for good and not evil.

Excited Patrick

On the positive side: Once Patrick is motivated to do something it’s almost impossible to stop him. Recently, his motivation has been about biking (which obviously warms my heart). He really wants to ride his own bike to school, so last weekend we did a practice run to figure out: 1) Is it even possible (he’s only been riding for a few weeks) and 2) how long it will take. He’s a new enough biker that he can’t ride the quarter-mile downhill from our house to the bike trail — he can’t keep his speed under control. No problem! He happily walked his bike. Then, at the end of the flat bike ride along the Burke Gilman trail (where he did very well, by the way), he faced The Hill. It’s a short, steep uphill to his school, and Patrick really wanted to be able to ride the whole way. (After all, his brother can!)

Well, of course a 6-year-old who’s only been biking for a few weeks and who’s riding a bike that weighs half as much as he does can’t ride all the way up that steep hill. Patrick made it about a third of the way up, though, before he couldn’t go any further. He panted a little, looked at me, and then said, “I want to try again.” And he did: He walked his bike back down, turned around, and tried again. He got a little further in his fight with gravity, but gravity won. “I want to try again.” A little bit further the third time. 

The three attempts exhausted him. There was no 4th attempt, and his poor legs barely had enough gas to get him home after that. But I have to admit I’m really proud of his attitude and his effort. He’ll eventually conquer that hill.

On the other hand, we got contacted by the Lower School Director (think “School Principal”) yesterday. Patrick apparently got into a small wrestling match with a Kindergarten student at recess, and he’s going to be spending his recess with the principal one day next week as a consequence.

As I said: We need to teach him to use his powers for good, not evil.

The best kind of indoor soccer…

2 01 2015

…are games where there aren’t enough players for substitutes. Constant running means the kids are even more tired… which for first grade soccer, is really the point, right? Patrick’s last game before vacation was like that. The other team only had three players. We loaned them two players (including Patrick) and had just enough for a no-sub game on both sides. Given how hard it was to get the kids to sleep well with the excitement of Christmas, the extra running was awesome.

Solstice Soccer

Behind those eyes

17 12 2014

There is a problem with keeping a blog: I tend to write only about the positive things. You’re getting a whitewashed view of 21st-century parenthood. Today, I want to balance that and tell you about one of the parenting problems I’m having right now: Figuring out what in the world is going on behind those eyes:

Tree Climber

Let me tell you a story. When I picked the kids up yesterday from after-school care, they were in the cafeteria finishing a snack and getting ready to go outside. As I walked down the hallway, I heard one of the teachers in the cafeteria saying in that voice — you know, not yelling but loud & firm, the voice that says I’m done trying to be nice — “Okay, since you didn’t clean up and listen, then you won’t be going outside. You aren’t going outside, and you aren’t going outside…” I get to the cafeteria… sure enough, Patrick is one of the two children who just lost his outside time. Apparently Patrick and one other child had been chasing Alex around the cafeteria instead of helping clean up after snack. 

I tried to have a conversation with Patrick about this as he packed his things to leave to try and reinforce this isn’t the way we expect him to ask. “Patrick, you just lost your outside time, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” he answered. “But I didn’t want to go outside anyway.”

That was a lie, of course. He loves playing outside. What’s going on here is a pretty typical Patrick mind game. He’s matured enough to understand that actions have consequences. He’s now two levels past that. Level 1 is directly weighing the consequences. “Hmm. If I keep running around instead of cleaning, I won’t get to go outside. Is that worth it?” 

Level 2: Patrick tries to directly manipulate the severity of the consequences. I can’t go outside? Well, I didn’t want to anyway. I’m going to lose a Pokémon card? OK, I’ve got others. 

I see this happen in every action/consequence conversation I have with Patrick, and it makes it so hard to use this tactic to get Patrick to change his behavior. He’s stubborn and self-motivated, so it’s hard to come up with consequences that seem more significant than whatever it is Patrick wants to do right now. What’s particularly maddening these past few weeks is “whatever Patrick wants to do right now” seems to always exclude focusing on what teachers or coaches need him to do. Last week’s piano lesson ended early, for example, because Patrick was essentially unteachable.

If this was all there was to it, parenting would be challenging enough. But there’s a new wrinkle these past few weeks: When Patrick doesn’t get his way, he gets irrationally angry. Crying, frustration, impossible to reason with. He doesn’t get to sit where he wanted at the dinner table? Tears. I ask him to brush his teeth before his brother at night? Tears and fighting. It’s really sapping my patience and energy.

For the most part, our life right now is great. I tell every new parent that life gets so much better once your youngest child is five years old. That’s true, but now you know some of the challenges we continue to face. Right now, Patrick’s living under the cloud of me saying that, because of his recent behavior, I’ll be returning his Christmas gifts. That’s the kind of consequence he pays attention to. I’ve also told him he can earn them back with good behavior between now and Christmas. It’s going to be an interesting week.

Happy Birthday, Patrick

24 06 2013

I’m still going through photos from our recent boys-only trip to Virginia. But while I’m working on that, it’s important to note this happened:

Blowing Out the Candles

…with the help of these people:

Birthday Crew

Because of travel (and general end-of-school-year craziness), we weren’t able to get Patrick’s party scheduled until two weeks after his actual birthday. Luckily, no kid minds having the party-and-present season extended. Patrick loved all of the extended attention, and everybody enjoyed running, jumping, and generally getting sweaty at the Seattle Gymnastics Academy for the party.

I’ll never know…

5 11 2012

…if they really missed me, or if they just wanted to get presents. But whatever the reason, they seem happy to have me around. It’s good to be back.


I must say, it’s gotten so colorful since I left for California!

Autumn by the Tracks

Though some of our weekend color was man-made…

Gum Wall Patrick

Here are my excuses for not writing more.

25 09 2012

Summer in Seattle is precious. It’s bright, and magnificent, and perfect in every way except longevity. Good habits and prudence are things for our grey, drizzly days. All Seattleites give way to hedonism with sunshine and warm weather. And this has been the best Seattle summer in at least a decade. It started slow, but dry and clear weather has lingered beyond any reasonable expectation. It’s really hard to sit in front of a computer and type when the outside beckons.

Because of the extended dry weather, we’ve been able to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities on the weekend: Soccer games, bike riding, you get the picture. This past Sunday, we had a particularly nice trip to the zoo. No crowds! Hungry birds! Loud siamangs! (First time in two years I’ve heard them…) 

Someday the rain will return. Someday my kids will no longer want to spend sunny Sundays at the zoo. But until then, I’ll be outside more and writing less…

Alex, Patrick, Cockatiel

Alex and Patrick feed a cockatiel at Willawong Station in the Woodland Park Zoo.

Happy goat.

Patrick and Alex have the petting area all to themselves. This goat obviously enjoyed the attention.

Hello, Autumn!

4 09 2012

Every single parent I know is happy school is starting. Somehow, when I was growing up, I completely missed out on this part of back-to-school… Thank God the little rugrats are out of the house!

First Day of School

Alex starts 1st grade, minus a tooth.

But before settling into the comfortable routines of a new school year, I want to remember what an epic summer it was. The kids visited three states, yet we had none of those meltdowns that make parents dread air travel. (Even during the Kafkaesque evening at Dulles airport, the kids remained in good spirits.) We had a fun and sunny weekend camping! And thanks to the hard work of one devoted grandmother, Alex learned to both tie his shoes and ride his bike.

Alex Rides

Add in some of the best Seattle summer weather in years, and there’s nothing to complain about at all! 

Here’s hoping that our autumn is as great as our summer….

Running Through the Spray

Wet at Magnuson

23 07 2012

We spent a lazy Saturday afternoon at Magnuson park. As you can tell, the boys didn’t enjoy it one bit.