Day Two in Sydney

5 06 2016

I didn’t think it was possible, but the weather for my second day in Sydney was worse than my first day. On Saturday, there was either torrential rain or howling winds, but not both at the same time. But apparently Saturday was just the warm-up act for Sunday, where Mother Nature decided to unleash everything she had on this city.

When I heard that the weather forecast, I decided that I’d spend the morning at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which would keep me out of the weather. Sure, it was a fifteen minute walk, but I figured with my new waterproof shoes (purchased so I could walk during Saturday’s rain) and my waterproof hoodie, I could survive a fifteen minute walk.

Here’s what I didn’t count on.

First, waterproof shoes don’t help when you have to walk through standing water that goes over your ankles, like I had to here:

Second, I learned that my waterproof hoodie does not have waterproof zippers. I had a nice wet line along my shirt, and the things in my zip-pockets that I thought would stay dry (like my passport!) all got damp.

The rain was so intense that I stopped halfway through my walk to the art gallery to take shelter in St. Mary’s Cathedral and dry out a bit. I felt like a medieval traveller seeking sanctuary.

By the time I made it to the gallery, my fingertips were starting to wrinkle, like I’d spent too long in the bathtub. The inside of the gallery was not immune to the weather, either. Leaky ceilings forced the curators to remove several paintings from the wall to prevent damage. (The wall in the next picture is not supposed to be empty!) Now that I think about it, almost every building I was in on Sunday had buckets set up to catch leaks from the ceiling (St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Art Gallery of NSW, and the State Library).

All told, the Sydney airport got 6 inches of rain this weekend. Other parts of town got even more. I guess winter isn’t the best time to visit…

The Ring

27 05 2016

Seeing this ring on my finger is both the most vivid reminder that my dad is gone and how much I am like him. Strange how that works.

My dad wore this ring pretty much every day. He got it from his father, who “borrowed” it to wear at prom from his brother (or uncle? I can’t remember the details of the story). The ornate script inscription on the inside says “From Father 1920.”

When I see this ring on my finger it reminds me that my dad is gone. It also makes me think of how much I am like him and about the connections that spread across time and generations. Strange how that works.

Scenes from the past weekend

10 02 2016

He may be a goof, but he’s our goof:

Imp (I)

Imp (II)

Alex still greets every camera with a thumbs-up:

Duthie Thumbs Up

I’ve entered a life stage where I’m living for the weekend. The weekdays are a meaningless blur of routine, and then Saturday morning comes and our latest outdoor adventure begins.

Making his Stage Debut!

29 01 2016

I forgot to note the highlight of last week: Patrick made his stage debut in the school production of The Lion King.

Kids surprise you. Participating in the play was entirely Patrick’s initiative. Not only did he choose to be in the play, he knew which character he wanted to be: Ed, the silly hyena who doesn’t talk. Memorizing his “lines” couldn’t have been easier. He had three: Two “hee hee hee!”s and one “huh?” He apparently scowled better than the other hyenas. Early in rehearsal, the director complained that the other hyenas were too nice and told them to act more like Patrick.

If he grows up to be the next Rupert Grint, you can say you saw him here first!



Ed, Closeup

Be Careful What You Wish For, Winter 2016 Edition

22 01 2016

Last winter, we didn’t ski because there was almost no snow in the mountains. The nordic trails at Hyak never opened.

This winter, we missed half of the kids’ first cross-country ski lesson because there was too much snow. This was our view for two hours on Saturday morning:

Our View for Two Hours

Less than a mile in front of us, the DOT had closed I-90 while they cleared multiple stuck vehicles. It could have been worse, I suppose; yesterday, I-90 was closed for most of the day at the mountain pass because the avalanche danger was too high. Growing up in Virginia, I never thought I’d live in a place where “avalanche danger” would be a phrase you’d hear in traffic reports. Still, snow and bad traffic is still makes for a better Northwest winter than no-snow. If you can’t escape to the mountains, the lowland gray and drizzle is just too dreary after a while.

Skiing has finally clicked with the kids. We did three half-day downhill lessons at Stevens Pass this winter. By the end of the third day, Alex could confidently ski down all of the green runs and was starting on the blues. Patrick’s still on the bunny slope, and he’s good at turning right. With his stubbornness and daredevil attitude, I think he’ll be unstoppable shortly after he masters “left.” Both kids prefer their cross-country ski lessons, though. Cross-country has a lot less waiting around and a lot more lets-play-outside. 

I’m glad this year’s giving us more snow to play in. I just hope we avoid the “too much” snow problem for our remaining weekends!

The Boys at Hyak


14 01 2016


Patrick’s lost about 7 or 8 teeth in the past year; I’ve lost count. What’s strange is, aside from one of his front teeth, the remainder of his adult teeth seem in no rush to break through his gums. He’s had a particularly gap-toothed smile for the past several weeks. 

Alex, in contrast, has a mouth full of adult-size teeth that look too big for his face. His 4 front top teeth stick out so much it looks like they’re trying to escape.

I don’t think we’ve put enough money in savings to cover the dental bills.

New Year, New Hobby

8 01 2016

Among my still ill-formed goals for 2016 is “mountain bike.”

That’s not a goal yet, it’s just a verb. It’s also a verb that required obtaining a new noun and storing it in our basement. That’s not a problem for me. Molly will confirm I’m an enthusiastic fan of any hobby that gives me an excuse to get a new bike… and so Christmas brought another two-wheeled contraption into our house and got me itching to go outside.

I want to mountain bike more in 2016 because it may be an easier hobby to share with the kids than biking on the road. Alex, for one, fell in love with biking in the woods ever since our first trip to Duthie Hill Park last summer. (The #1 thing Alex wanted for Christmas? A full-face bike helmet. He’s a timid biker and doesn’t need a full-face helmet. But he was so insistent I indulged. He’s very happy.)

Close Up

I’ve taken the bike out three times since Christmas, each time with family. One thing I’ve learned: This will require different parenting habits than I currently have. We’re lucky our two boys (mostly) get along and are pretty close in age/ability/interests. My default weekend parenting mode is to go do something with both kids. That doesn’t work here because even simple mountain bike trails are beyond Patrick’s ability and interest. If I bring both Alex and Patrick, I wind up watching Patrick push his bike through the trees while Alex pedals off on his own, which worries me and isn’t that fun for him. This past weekend, instead of bringing Patrick, Alex and I went to Duthie with one of Alex’s friends (Nick) and his dad. That was a much more fun experience for everyone. (Except for Patrick, of course, who went grocery shopping instead of mountain biking.) So, it remains to be seen how well I can integrate this new hobby into our family. Whatever happens, though, I’m looking forward to spending as much time outside in 2016 as I can.

Gettin' Air

What Parenting Looks Like in 2015

31 12 2015

Our kids amassed an impressive collection of Playmobil when they were younger. Pirates, knights, airplanes, helicopters, a complete veterinary hospital (Patrick had a thing for little animals), and a cool mad-scientist laboratory complete with fluorescent stickers and a hand-powered blacklight. 

As Alex and Patrick grew older, they spent less and less time with Playmobil. It’s been at least 2 years since either of them touched one. Last weekend, we decided it was finally time to find a better home for the toys. My idea was to just put everything into a big box and take it to Goodwill, but Molly voted to separate the toys by theme and offer the sets to friends with younger kids. So that’s what we did. As I helped her sort, I came across a little red Playmobil fish. For a few weeks in preschool, Patrick carried this fish wherever he went, wrapped up in his little fingers like a plastic talisman. I rescued the fish from the donation box. It joins the remaining scraps of Alex’s blanket as a memento of life with young kids. 

Childhood Mementos

(Patrick came in while I was writing and looked at the pictures over my shoulder. I asked him if he remembered the fish. He doesn’t.)

I don’t really miss those years. Everything about raising elementary school kids is easier and more fun. Need some uninterrupted Adult time at home? No problem, an Xbox is cheaper than a nanny:

Best. Christmas. Ever.

Need to kill time at a bounce house while one kid plays indoor soccer? No problem! I can relax with a book while the kid wears himself out. An added bonus: Having elementary age kids gives a ready-made excuse for reading “young adult” literature. No more Very Hungry Caterpillar for me!

How I Parent

End of Innocence

4 12 2015


The next generation disappoints me a little. Patrick figured out several months ago that there’s no tooth fairy (though he still puts his teeth under his pillow and expects money in return). Yet he didn’t make the leap from “There is no tooth fairy” to “There is no Santa.” He has been getting more curious, though. Two years ago, Alex asked the questions about Santa. Now it’s Patrick’s year. “I’m just trying to figure out if it’s the parents,” he explained to me on the way to school on Monday after one interrogation session. I have a hard time telling a flat-out lie, so when he asked me, “Are you Santa?”, I just said nothing. Somehow that dodge worked. He didn’t press the issue. I don’t think he’ll be a good investigative journalist when he grows up.

Last night, yet another tooth fell out of that boy’s head. More precisely, Alex the Dentist yanked another tooth out of Patrick’s head. (Alex has pulled almost all of Patrick’s teeth.) While Alex was downstairs telling Molly, my conversation with Patrick went from the nonexistent Tooth Fairy to Santa, and I finally told him The Truth. Watching his face, I could see his emotion quickly change from disappointment to elation that he’d figured it out. I told him not to talk about this at school and he was obviously thrilled to be in on a secret.

Patrick thought we shouldn’t tell Alex about Santa, too. “Would that be fair?” I asked. He agreed it wouldn’t, so when Alex came back upstairs he happily blurted out, “Alex! Mom and dad are Santa.”

I think I’ll carry this next parenting memory to the grave. Alex looked at me, confused and trusting. I nodded, confirming what Patrick had said. Alex immediately started crying. A little bit of his soul got crushed right in front of my eyes. While it didn’t take too long to cheer Alex back up (Christmas isn’t canceled, he still gets presents), he was still a little somber when I turned out the light. When he woke up yesterday morning, he lived in a world that still had a tiny bit of magic in it, and when he went to bed that magic was gone.

Living with a 4th Grader

3 11 2015

Beginner band.

Today: Molly leaves work early, gets Patrick to the dentist and then both kids to piano practice. I’m waiting for them to get home. The car pulls in at 6:15, the usual time. Alex comes in first. Thus begins the typical question-and-answer.

“How was your day?”


“How was working outside?” (They had a school project today and had to bring good mud boots to school.)


I see where this is going and try to change the pattern.

“Alex, can you tell me something that isn’t good?”

“Well, to start, the Fall Band concert is tonight.”

“Wait, what? Are you serious?”

“Yes! I have to be at school at 6:40.”

“How come we didn’t know about this?”

“I forgot!”