Sunday, December 4, 2016


This year for Thanksgiving we travelled to see Sarah's cousin in Iowa. They live on a farm fairly far from any airport with nonstop service from Seattle, so we flew to Minneapolis and spent a few nights with Carrie's parents first, then did the 3.5 hour drive down to Iowa. Both parts of our trip were very distinct and totally awesome in their own ways. In Minneapolis we got to see snow, build an igloo (Theo calls it a "snowgloo" and Vivian calls it an "eyegloo"), go to an indoor playground and to the fantastic Mall of America. Theo would like to highlight that Theo, Vivian, and Xavier met a seven year old boy at the indoor playground. Check out the entire photo album.

Theo was really helpful in pulling around our luggage. We had to travel with three car seats so we had a lot.

On board. This was Xavier's first flight since he's turned two, and it was Sarah's first flight in six years without an infant in arms (since airlines allow kids up to two years old to fly for free if they are on your lap, we'd never wanted to spend the money to buy him a ticket). For the airplane, Vivian is in Theo's car booster seat, Xavier is in Vivian's car seat, and Theo flew with no special seating. (The third car seat was checked luggage).

Grannie P's house in Minneapolis had a light dusting of snow from earlier.

The kids ran all over the yard gathering icicles and placing them on the table. Muta, the cat, had an outdoor water bowl which would freeze up and the kids would snatch that ice too.

We stopped by the Twin Cities Model Railroad museum on the first day. It wasn't big but was a fun activity.

While Vivian and Xavier napped, Theo took to shoveling the neighborhood school's playground.

We went and played mini golf at the Mall of America. We also got Xavier and Vivian build-a-bear workshop stuffed animals (and Theo a correspondingly priced lego set).

After the mall it was time to visit the indoor playground at Edinbourgh Park. The boy on the right is the aforementioned 7 year old. He showed them how to find the biggest slide.

The kids did awesome at the playground: Xavier wasn't quite big enough to climb up, and there was no way Sarah and I were going up the two or three story playground, so Theo and Vivian helped Xavier -- Vivian would pull from above while Theo pushed from below to get him over all the obstacles he couldn't manage on his own.

Next to the climbing structure there was a gym with balls and assorted riding toys. Theo used the hoola hoops to string together a train. It worked surprisingly well but the front wheel didn't have enough weight on it so it slipped a lot.

The next day, Tuesday, we went back to the Mall of America for the $12 all-you-can-ride Toddler Tuesday. Best of all, accompanying adults rode free (when required due to height minimums on the rides)

Much to my surprise and delight, the log chute was considered a toddler ride!

There was even a chicken on the carousel for Xavier.

Tuesday night four inches of snow fell, so Wednesday morning we went out to build an igloo -- and found the snow plow. The driver stopped and asked if the kids wanted to drive, but they said they were too little so he said he'd come back the next year.

We -- and by that I mean largely myself -- managed to make a sizeable igloo.

It was large enough I could fit inside with all three kids.

Theo and Vivian built a snowman while Xavier napped in the car and we packed it for the drive to Iowa on Wednesday afternoon.

Setting up the bed in Iowa. We had a choice of mattress or air mattress. We chose real mattress, because we were worried they would pop an air mattress. Wise decision.

Theo exploring the lawn on a one-person power wheel.

It was a real working farm, so we got to explore the tractors.

A tiny dog named little bit was carried around by the kids and renamed Little Chicken Nugget. Everyone started calling her nugget.

Theo pulls Piper, Vivian, and Xavier in the wagon.

POW-POW-POW-Power Wheels!!!

We even managed to get Ripley to wear a mask for a moment.

Give Theo enough time and he will try and make a train. After quite a while of riding around in the two person jeep powerwheel Theo decided to attach the wagon to it. At first nobody was available to ride in it, but Theo soon convinced everyone to come out.

Vivian got to play with a real baby!

On Friday everyone got to go for a ride in the tractor, and got to steer. This is Xavier waving.

The sun came out for sunset on Friday.

We got to check out Marshalltown Airport!

All 8 of Sarah's grandmother's great-grandchildren, together for the first time. (A 9th is on the way in March).

They all enjoy electronic devices.

Theo and Vivian really enjoyed the hot tub too.

On Saturday we drove back up to Minneapolis and got something we forgot -- the igloo was still standing despite the 40 degree temperatures!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Holiday Wishlists

It's coming up on the holiday season, and to make gift giving easier we wanted to highlight some wish lists which may help you:

Michal's Wishlist
Michal enjoys gadgets of all kinds but especially electronic gadgets and super-especially electronic gadgets which link to or use a phone in some way.

Sarah's Wishlist
Sarah likes birds: feeding and housing, and treats: clothes, makeup, and snacks. She likes practical things: things she can use or which make her life easier in some way. Home organization is always good.

Theo's Wishlist
Theo loves building things: blocks, magnet tiles, legos, hotwheels track and crafts which involve building. He still loves trains and to a lesser extent airplanes. Theo is like his father and will not appreciate clothing.

Vivian's Wishlist
Vivian loves babies, hockey and horses. Pink and green are her two favorite colors, and she also really enjoys getting new clothes. She loves art and crafts and projects she can do.

Xavier's Wishlist
Xavier loves balls, trains and vehicles (including the choking hazard size matchbox cars). He likes all sports-related things and recognizes the difference between balls used for different sports (eg golf ball, baseball, football). He would also like some more clothes with balls on them.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Kitsap Steamers

On Oct 24th we visited Kitsap Steamers for their final ride of the year. I took a video of one entire ride which you can see below.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Birthday Coincidence

For Theo's sixth birthday, we let him choose the restaurant for dinner and he wanted to go to the conveyor belt restaurant. There are three to choose from, but he loves the train delivery at the new location north of us.

It didn't even occur to me until we were in the car at 4:45 heading north on the same surface streets (because traffic on the expressway was miserable) that it's the exact route we took six years ago at almost the exact same time of day when we transferred to the hospital after 40 hours of labor.

Luckily I was much happier this time and the traffic was much better. It only took 30 minutes to make the 8 mile trip. Traffic was bumper to bumper and not moving on this surface street six years ago, so much so that even in the midst of labor I noticed and thought about getting out and walking. At this point the hospital is less than a mile away.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Xavier's Second Birthday!

Xavier celebrated his second birthday with a couple big events. His sister's early morning hockey lessons fell on the same day of the week as his actual birthday, so for the first time we didn't do gifts before breakfast. It worked out ok, especially since he didn't know the difference. I'm sure that will change soon but for now we benefited.

We had balloons tied to each kids' chair when they got up. Xavier had a football, a basketball, a Thomas the train, and a giraffe in the shape of a number two that he calls a horse. That's mainly because I was unable to hunt down a bus or chicken balloon for him. Theo got a shark and Vivian got a "shiny pony" aka a unicorn.

After Vivian got home and when Xavier woke up from nap, we did presents. Boy did he rake in the loot this year. He scored a tunnel that he can actually fit through (crawling, but it means I can finally retire the infant one he still loves but gets stuck in), a cool cars book, a tough trucks book, a train maze with balls that move magnetically (he has finally come to terms with the fact the balls don't come out), a duplo number train, a duplo bus (which is definitely one of his favorites), a chicken coop with slide and singing chicken, a chicken with a wheelbarrow and a man to push it, train pajamas he still hasn't discovered, a bus with a magnetic alphabet, a Falcons number two football shirt, a drum set, a small popple which is a lovie that can turn into a ball, a water bottle (making a complete set of three for us), train pants, a Lego bus that Theo made for him, a dog in a crate with accessories that Vivian picked out for him, a ball pit, and two hundred balls to go in the ball pit. Xavier took the plastic scissors that came with the dog and "used" them when we needed to open more things later. He's so cute!

Opening presents mostly consisted of trying to prevent his siblings from ripping into everything while Xavier looked on. He definitely was into opening things, but he liked to take a gift out of all the packaging and play with it before moving on to the next present. The older kids couldn't handle not knowing what was in all the presents, and in the cases where they did know, they couldn't wait for him to open that specific thing.

After presents and some semblance of a lunch, we went for a light rail ride to the brand new station at the end of the line, which in a giant coincidence opened on Xavier's birthday. Because he also loves riding buses, we took a bus further from the end of the line and ended up at a pretty cool park. We had about 15 minutes to play before tearing off to a buffet for dinner around 3:45 (!) so that we could make the return trip and still get home before bedtime.

At home, we finished off the day with strawberry ice cream. When asked what he wanted for his birthday, the only thing Xavier said was "happy." After we asked enough times, he finally said ice cream. Strawberry.

We got colored cones and lit some candles stuck in ice cream for him. He blew them out very expertly! It turns out he doesn't like ice cream cones (he comes by that naturally) so he asked for a spoon to get the rest out. Once that stopped working so well, he drilled a hole in the side of the cone and sucked the rest of the ice cream out. The first time I thought it was strange but figured he accidentally punctured the cone in his excitement. The second time I watched more closely and saw him deliberately making the hole and extracting the ice cream. He's so clever.

On Sunday, we invited both Xavier's friends and their families over for dinner. We had two kinds of melon (including our first golden watermelon), a veggie tray with two dips, and tortilla chips with avocado corn black bean dip to start. The kids played outside until time for dinner, which was a Mexican buffet of sorts. Afterwards the kids' had more ice cream in colored cones and we lit his candles and sang once again. His fries a brought him a much needed pair of new shoes in size 8(!), a pair of glow in the dark skeleton pajamas that Vivian has totally absconded with, and a Curious George book.

Xavier specifically said he didn't want cake, but Vivian made a cake a couple days before his birthday anyway so I figured that covered that. It was also strawberry with cherry filling between the layers.

So all in all he had quite the celebration, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which kid was most excited.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Volcano Questions

Michal wrote about our recent trip to Idaho, which included Craters of the Moon National Monument. We spent oodles of time in the car with a five, four, and not quite two year old. While we were driving through the volcanic landscape, Theo (and Vivian contributed a time or two) came up with the following questions about the scenery:

How can a volcano spread this much out? (Many volcanoes)
How can it spread this wide? (see above)
How big tall and wide was the volcano? (Many volcanoes)
What was its name? (Lots of names, including one called Inferno)
Was it a stratovolcano? (No)
How many trees used to be here? 
What did the early days look like before the volcano erupted?
How much lava did the volcano throw out?
How many houses did the volcano knock down?
How many people died?
Does the volcano have gas in it?
Did this road get knocked off?
How many rivers had the lava in it?

The short answer to most his questions (we asked a ranger on duty): It was a lot of different volcanoes over a very long period of time (certainly to a five year old).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Labor Day Vacation: Idaho

With Theo and Vivian attending the same school now (and their first day coming on Wednesday 9/6) I took three days off around Labor Day and we headed East to check out Boise and Craters of the Moon. You can view the entire album on Google Photos, or check out this play-by-play:

Day 1: Thursday, Sep 1

We rolled out of Seattle around 9am with a scheduled stop at Mt. View RV Park in Baker City, Oregon, a roughly six hour, 368-mile drive. We stopped in Kennewick, WA to eat some fast food (complete with indoor playground) then hit a highway closure in Oregon due to an accident; we found a way around to the next exit which involved off-roading on a barely maintained dirt road only to find that the highway was still closed, so we went back over the dirt road and on to the next exit where we found an open road.

Arriving at the campsite we found it to be ideal: it had a pool, paved roads (so the kids could ride their bikes) and our site was right next to the playground. We did all of the above.

We didn't know it yet, but this would be the best campground we'd stay at on the trip. It even had awesome signs at the pool:

There was even a fly-over by two fire-fighting helicopters! (We saw lots of evidence of wildfires later on in the trip).

Day 2: Friday, Sep 2

We woke up, packed up, and went three miles to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City -- something we hadn't planned on doing but we found the sign when we arrived and decided to check it out. It was amazing -- really well done, and Theo in particular got a lot out of it -- we think perhaps because his school had studied immigrants last year. First we hopped into a wagon outside:

Then we went inside and saw the diorama of life on the Oregon Trail:

We sat down for a bit to watch a brief portion of a brief film on the trail, before going through a simulated journey on the trail complete with five stops where the kids rubbed a crayon on a brass plate to color in a personalized pamphlet of their journey:

After the Oregon trail, we hit the road in earnest to make Arco, Idaho -- just past Craters of the Moon national monument, a 4-hour, 47-minute drive over 313 miles. We stopped in Craters of the Moon itself (about 15 minutes before Arco) to take in the visitor center and an initial drive around the 7-mile loop; we stopped to do the 1/3rd mile loop at North Crater (Theo's choice). It was an incredibly windy day.

We learned about two types of lava, ah-ah (rough) and pahoehoe (smooth). We learned about cinder cones.

We also stopped at Snow Cone (Vivian's choice) and Spatter Cones and got to go inside one!

The entire landscape is incredibly surreal.

After the two stops (plus the visitor center) at Craters of the Moon we went to the KOA in Arco and made camp and a quick dinner. The campground was so-so: there was a pool but it was tiny and cold (and the weather was cold, like the rest of the trip), the roads unpaved (making for tougher biking) and the playground was teeny tiny and distant from our site. The kids did take the dog to the off-leash area. This is what our camp looked like at night after everyone was in bed:

Day 3: Saturday, Sep 3

The saving grace of the KOA was the free breakfast waffles starting at 9am. After a scrumptious meal we headed back to Craters of the Moon. Everyone got to choose one activity again today. First up was Xavier's "choice" (meaning we picked something we thought he would like, and boy were we right): a sculpture you could walk through that was a model of a lava tube, but Xavier called a "tunnel".

Then we went to Theo's choice, the Tree Molds where imprints of 2,000-year-old trees were visible in the lava. This of course involved a 2-mile round trip hike.

For our final activity, Vivian's choice (but really also mine, and not to mention that Theo was also totally into this): "Bat Hunting" or looking for bats in the lava tubes. Of course as soon as we got inside an actual dark tube, the kids pretty much flipped out and wanted to get out so we went to Indian Tunnel, a tube with a lot of collapsed ceiling (it's safe! really!) so it was pretty light inside.

The last thing we did on our way out of Craters of the Moon was to stop and get the kids "sworn in" as Junior [Moon] Rangers. Vivian wasn't sure which hand was her right hand so she just raised both.

Then we drove to Boise, staying at a primitive camp site (no electricity, no running water) at Macks Creek Park -- a 3:16-hour, 199-mile drive. But first we had to deal with the cattle. Some ranchers decided to use the US highway to move their cows, while our kids were sleeping in the car -- super stressful since we weren't going anywhere fast which tends to wake them up.

We later discovered this was the result of driving through the cattle:

Anyway, this was the primary goal of the entire trip: the Sandy Point State Park beach at Lucky Peak Reservoir in Boise. Sarah and I went on a pre-kids tour of the western US and we were coming into Boise in 99 F heat and happened across this sandy lake, and found it wonderful; it was a little bit less wonderful in 73 degree weather but the kids loved the sand anyway (and are willing to get slightly wet in cold).

The campground at Macks Creek was pretty bad, no facilities, loud neighbors, dust everywhere. But the views were great, and the sunset wonderful.

Day 4: Sunday, Sep 4

Although our planned called for spending two nights at Macks Creek, with the weather forecast getting worse (it rained in the morning in fact, but only enough to get the trailer wet and not enough to get rid of any of the dust) we decided to bail out of Boise. Macks Creek had no cell phone coverage so we figured we'd pack up and go into town and try and re-schedule our Monday night reservation. We did so successfully after a brief visit to the water, and we gave the kids the choice of visiting either the aquarium or the zoo and although they picked the aquarium, once we were done (it was tiny!) they wanted to go to the zoo. We drove by but didn't feel inspired to pay another $10/person for another one-hour attraction so we left.

We stopped for lunch in Baker City (the same town we camped the very first night), then found an ice cream parlor, then an awesome oregon trail-themed playground, and two hours later kept going to Hat Rock campground.

This was the only campfire we had on the entire trip!

Ever wondered what taking down our trailer looks like? Here's a timelapse that shows the entire ~30 minute process in 26 seconds:

Monday, Sep 5

After leaving Hat Rock Campground we drove 40 minutes to the Playground of Dreams in the tri-cities (Washington). It's really called that, and it's pretty awesome but there's another one like it in Shelton, WA so it's not the only place in the world you can find it. Then all-you-can-eat pizza lunch buffet, and then a drive to the KOA in Ellensburg, WA. The KOA was awesome, because it had a kiddie pool! Alas it was too cold and windy, and although it was sunny when we arrived, it was quickly overcast with forecast of heavy rain in the morning. We set up camp at 3pm, swam, walked around, cooked dinner, then around 7pm bailed out: packed up and drove home.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Vivian Tries Hockey

The Seattle Junior Hockey Association had a free try hockey day today. Vivian loves hockey, because it's the favorite sport of the main character in Inside Out (her favorite movie). She had a blast, taking only two breaks in the 90 minute session. The improvement is remarkable over the course of the photos and videos (I took tons). Check them out.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Vivian's Graduation

Vivian is finishing her two years at Nanny Boo's Preschool and today was her graduation. Teacher Boo gave an endearing speech about Vivian.

Check out all the photos.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Camping at Offut Lake

We spent last weekend camping with one of our neighbors whose son is one of Theo's best friends. This was a new campground for us that we'd never visited before. Largely dedicated to fishing, there was a playground, campfire, and face painting. The kids had a blast. See all the photos.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP 2016)

Every five years I ride the STP (here's the blog post about the 2011 ride, and here are the photos from 2006 which predate this blog!), which put this year as the year to do it. There's nothing new to say about the ride itself that wasn't said in 2011. The biggest differences are in the technology (you can see in the 2011 blog post that EveryTrail is pretty much kaput) and in the approach to training. This year I rode three training rides, pulling Vivian behind me on a trailer bike.

On June 19, I rode 40 miles of the Burke-Gilman trail with her, took her home on the light rail from the UW when her hands were getting blisters.

After I took Vivian home, I rode the light rail back to finish 15 more miles along the "missing link" and the terminal 91 bike trail through downtown to SODO.

On June 26, I rode the Green River trail with Vivian on the trailer bike behind me:

Finally on July 3rd I took Vivian on the Chief Sealth Trail. This ride was a disaster; not only did it rain a tiny bit but I also fell over, which means Vivian fell over. Fortunately she was fine; I suffered a nasty gash to the back of my leg.

Training for the STP isn't my forte apparently; I hoped that removing Vivian and the trailer bike would save me lots of weight and make the STP itself doable; Vivian weighs around 30 pounds which is roughly how much the trailer bike weighs. Fortunately this theory proved largely correct; between the ability to join pacelines and draft and the reduced weight, I did quite fine on the STP. Notably this was the first year I did the STP on a road bike; previously I had done it on my mountain bike but two bike shops refused to work on it on account of a bent fork and I decided it was time to switch bikes.

As in years past, I overnighted in Winlock, 122 miles into the ride; this means I only have to do about 80 miles on the second day. It's also just before the start of the hilliest section of the entire ride. On the first day I rode 125.4 miles, climbing 1,997 feet with an average speed of 14.7mph. On day two I rode 85.6 miles over 2,412 feet with an average speed of 16.0mph. (This is slower than the 2011 average of 16.7mph combined, but I also trained much more in 2011.)

Here are some select photos from the trip, or check out all the photos on Google Photos.

The journey starts in the UW parking lot, loading bags onto trucks. You have to commit to your destination at this point, as you need to put your bags on the truck that goes to your overnight spot.

There are official photographers along the route, and this year they happened to get 34 images of me, so for the first time ever I splurged on photos like this one:

Here's a photo of me at Centralia, where a majority of folks stop (but 22-ish miles short of Winlock):

After Centralia the crowds thin out significantly; this is a problem as it's harder to find someone to draft.

Once at Winlock you pick up your bags:

And then set up a tent, although I went with a hammock + tarp strategy:

Day 2 is a bit harder than the first day. Not only is it hillier, but there are fewer riders making it harder to join a paceline: a few thousand people finished in one day, so they're not on the road on day 2. Also where on day 1 everyone started from the UW in a matter of three hours, now there are fewer people spread out all along the route from Centralia to Longview, and they're starting whenever they feel like it; I woke up at 5am and was rolling by 6am.

This is what a typical meal looks like at an STP food stop:

Day 2 is also less pleasant, because a lot of it is on US-30, a four lane highway with a 55 mph speed limit. It looks like this:

This is me crossing the St. John's Bridge into Portland proper:

And at long last, the finish line. I arrived at 12:30pm, well ahead of the pack (largely since I biked further and started earlier than most):

I'm putting my phone away from taking the earlier finish line photo in this one:

I had 5 hours to kill until my Amtrak back to Seattle, so I went to Powell's and to Lan Su Chinese Garden. On the way back I took a bus whose route took me on the same street that led to the STP finish:

Finally, adding a fourth finisher medal to the collection:

See all the photos.