Where Is Heaven?

This real conversation (paraphrased here) happened tonight as I said goodnight.

B: I feel scared alone upstairs. (We’ve discussed this before, numerous times.)
Me: You’re never alone. Jesus is already with you.
B: I thought Jesus was in heaven.
Me: (thinking quickly, wanting to avoid confusion about the Trinity) Jesus is everywhere.
B: Does that mean heaven is everywhere??
Me: …Ask the pastor at church next time you see him. They study this stuff in pastor school.

Bit of a cop out, but it’s amazing how quick a five-year-old gets into murky theology. I’d love to explore that, buddy, but not as part of your trying to stall going to bed.

Eating Time and Dessert Nights

My relationship with food is definitely a love/hate thing. It’s like a combination of the feeling of getting to stay up late at night when you’re a kid, the feeling of having to take some nasty pink antibiotics, and the feeling of having to mow the lawn.

Well, when Benji came along, Ian and I decided to take a stand in two areas: Sleep and food. I wanted Benji to have a healthier relationship with food than I did.

Throughout the littlest-kid years, we defended naps with the vigilance of a mother tiger over her cubs. Sleep was tough, sure, especially during sleep regressions and when we hit developmental milestones. Is it time to go from two naps to one? How do we do it? Yet, ultimately, we controlled that to a great extent. That is, we could at least control when we put Benji in his room and when he was allowed to come out: We carved out the time for healthy rest, and for the most part, he took it.

Only since school started this September has he really seemed to give up napping, and even so, he still falls asleep occasionally during “quiet time,” which we still do for at least an hour a day after lunch.

Anyway, boy, food has proved tougher. You can’t make a kid eat! Eating or not eating — from Day 1, it’s the first place that little person asserts his independence. You can’t make me eat!

Long story short, we eventually settled on offering a variety of mostly healthy foods and telling him to eat until his tummy wasn’t hungry anymore.

But over time this evolved into Benji wanting us to quantify how much food he had to eat to be done. We would suggest a number, and he’d take that many bites, no more or less.

Then it got worse as, at dinner time, the question turned into: “How many bites do I have to eat to get dessert?” No matter what we said, this always resulted in whining and negotiating, claims that no reasonable human being could eat six bites of pasta AND all the peas, we were practically monsters in parent form, etc., etc.

About a month ago, I was talking with a friend at church about this misery and she mentioned that they just have dessert nights at their house. The kids pick two nights a week when they have dessert; the other nights, they just don’t.

I loved this idea, and combined it with another idea I heard elsewhere many years ago: Serve dessert as part of dinner. It isn’t a reward, it isn’t some kind of treasure you have to dig through a pile of gross food to get to. It’s just another part of the meal: You get protein, veggies, carbs, and a little bit of something sweet — emphasis on little. Dessert should be small enough that the kid isn’t full, and still wants some real food after eating the sweet part.

We started implementing the dessert night idea immediately, and I have to say, it’s been great. We don’t negotiate anymore. If it’s a dessert night (Benji picked Monday and Friday), I give Benji dessert along with everything else on his plate. Of course he eats it first — but then he goes on to eat a pretty substantial amount of his real dinner, too, with no complaints, whining, or stalling… or at least, none related to how many bites he has to eat. He’s still a kid, after all, and I don’t expect him to fall upon kohlrabi with cries of rapture (I know I don’t!).

We aren’t being completely straight-laced about this, mind you. Sweet treats happen at other times and on other days — with grandparents, at a friend’s house, at church, whatever — but dinner has sure gotten a lot nicer. But we are trying to focus on healthier foods that provide real nutrients, so this fits with that goal synergistically (if that’s a word, and if it’s not, it SHOULD be).

So that’s that! For now, anyway, we’ve broken free from the tyranny of dessert. Hooray!

Labor Day, School, and So Much More

The New Car

Yesterday marked the one monthiversary of buying our Bolt.

New Bolt!

Since we bought it, we’ve figured out that:

  • My bike fits in the back, but only with the seats all the way down and the passenger seat squeezed all the way forward–leaving room for only the driver. Clearly before we replace the Prius, I need to get a hitch-mounted rack for the Bolt.
  • The car has at least 300 miles per charge. Ian drove it for two straight weeks, just about 300 miles, without a charge.
  • The radio turns on every time we turn the car on, and so far we haven’t found a way to turn it off.
  • It feels like riding a bike: You’re very aware of ups and downs, since you’re paying close attention to energy usage; and it has a hand brake paddle on the steering wheel that lets you slow down or even come to a full stop without ever touching the foot brake.

Ian and Benji use the car the lion’s share of the time, since during the week I exclusively travel by bus or bike. It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to drive the car… but not into downtown Seattle. I can’t believe how many people are actually willing to sit through the misery we call a commute in their single-passenger vehicles.

It’s been quite the month.

Labor Day Weekend

Benji, Dad, and I had a very fun Labor Day weekend, hitting Alki Beach and Twin Falls on back-to-back days.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls 2017 - 1

Twin Falls 2017 2

Twin Falls 3 - Benji on a Rock

Twin Falls 4

Benji at Twin Falls 2017

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River 2

Alki Beach

Alki Beach 1

Alki Beach 2017 - 2

Alki Beach Labor Day Weekend 2017

Alki Beach 2017 - 3

Alki Beach 2017 - Tidepools

School

Benji’s half-day kindergarten at ORCS started on September 11.
First Day of ORCS Kindergarten
I think it’s going well, although to be honest, I hear very little of how the day actually went. All I can really say is that Benji goes, and then I see him in the evening and he probably has a craft and is tired-hyper. But anything in between — going to school, having lunch, doing the afternoon with someone — I just trust is happening.

But overall, from the little snippets I do hear, Benji is liking half-day kindergarten. We’ve started keeping track of our reading hours, and so far it’s about an hour a day. He also said he likes having his best friend Will in class with him, and his two favorite parts of the school day are free choice and recess. Just about right. I tried to ask about academics, but aside from being really excited about doing colors this week, I haven’t heard much.

So far, Benji’s remained astonishingly healthy, but he’s been sniffling and sneezing lately, so I expect that’s about to change.

At Benji’s 5-year doctor visit we determined he’s totally normal in terms of physical growth and such. The doctor did refer us to Children’s for an assessment of large and fine motor skills as well as speech. That’s still pending.

Meanwhile, we’ve had two weeks of school and no pattern set yet. Next week will be another week with no pattern, but starting in October things will hopefully settle down.

Work

My work has gotten increasingly busy. I like it, and I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I’m starting to get close to full capacity. I have a secondary project that I’m really excited about, but it’s taking a long time because release notes and release-related content updates always take top priority. This release cycle, which finishes on release night on October 19, has a number of big stories that require quite a bit of time to document.

I’ve been bringing my work laptop home on the weekends in the hopes of getting some work done, but somehow I hardly ever do. It’s work I love, but weekends are so full, especially with wanting to spend time with Benji and Ian since I don’t see them as much during the week; biking; and (importantly) catching up on sleep (hopefully).

What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?

Benji Turns 5: Part 1

OK, Benji actually only turns 5 once. But this weekend he gets to turn 5 twice, once on Saturday with our family and once on Sunday with his friends. Today we:

Went to the KidsQuest Museum in Bellevue in the morning. I skipped my big ride and spent the morning with Ian and Benji having a truly astonishing amount of fun at the KidsQuest “museum” (in the loosest possible sense; to be fair, it did have the occasional random fact on the wall, but really it was a fabulously designed play zone for kids).

Benji gravitated to the trains first, and it was very difficult to pry him away. Which, frankly, is reasonable — it’s not only the biggest train table I’ve ever seen, with several different areas where the kids could pop through and stand in the middle, but it was representative of Seattle, the Eastside, and the rural area to the east of the Eastside.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 0

We ultimately insisted that we explore the entire museum before spending the entire time at the train table. I’m sure glad we did, because we also found…
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 1
This really doesn’t do justice to the super cool conveyor belt system they had that allowed you to convey boxes all over the room. Plus, kids could go in the truck cab and do a ton of different stuff.

Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 2
Oh my gosh the water room was amazing. A-MAZING. It literally had a magnetic maze you could run water through; these drums that water shot up and drummed; vortexes you could put balls into and play with; and so much other super cool stuff.

When it was time to dry out Benji and I went and built a castle out of giant foam blocks.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Kids Museum 3
We are seriously considering getting a year membership. It’s way handier than going to Seattle; although it’s not nearly as great as something like the Science Center, we also didn’t have to commit the entire day to the activity. And it had such a wide variety of areas, I could see going there through the winter for sure.

While Benji had “quiet time” I sneaked out for a short ride. I tried to get in as much climbing as I could in 3.5 hours. This equaled not many miles, but 6,100 vertical feet. It was such a treat to breathe fresh, clean air and see blue sky! The temperature was perfect and overall it was the most perfect biking weather imaginable.

Not long after I got home and showered, our family arrived to celebrate Benji’s birthday! Jane and Auntie Cait are in town from Pennsylvania, which was a big highlight.
Benji 5th Birthday - Saturday: Family Party
…well, OK, a big highlight after the set of 5 fire truck Matchbox cars Janie and Auntie Cait gave Benji, of course… Other presents were cool, too.

Benji’s going to be pretty surprised when he has to write thank-you notes for all of them…

Architects, Eat Your Heart Out

Today is Saturday. I am still too sick to do a bike ride, but with the assistance of a heavy dose of ibuprofen, I’m feeling well enough to do some low-level stuff with Benji.

Such as the 45-minute architectural wonder we call the Rainbow Castle.

First we built the castle. Benji said, “It needs a strong foundation to hold the rest up.” Good call! He remembered that from a Veggie Tales video (!). I didn’t take any pictures until the main tower was built.
Rainbow Castle 1

Then we decided to build a wall and a moat.
Rainbow Castle 2

We finished that and then added some rainbow blocks around the wall, because rainbow.
Rainbow Castle 4

Rainbow Castle 5

Then we took Benji’s $31 dollars he saved up from his allowance for many months and went to Snapdoodle. There Benji made some really good optimizing choices. He found a two $10 Lego sets and determined that he could still buy a stuffed animal that was $10 or less. So he found one $8 stuffed dolphin, and bought all three things for $30.77 with tax. Talk about getting the most out of your money!
Allowance Booty

Saturdays

Well, I’m realizing it’s been several weeks since I said anything here. I’d love to say that’s because we’ve had a bunch of super exciting weeks and I have lots of amazing stories to share.

In fact, on Memorial Day weekend, we went with Dad to the LeMay Car Museum, where we had a delightful time. I didn’t get to try the race car driving simulator, although it looked really cool; but, in the family area, we did enjoy the pinewood derby car racing and the giant United States map with roads and tiny cars, and holes that Benji could pop out of like a gopher.

LeMay Car Museum: Derby 2

LeMay Car Museum: Derby 1

LeMay Car Museum: US Map 1

LeMay Car Museum: US Map 2

LeMay Car Museum: Driving a Car

That Monday, Memorial Day, Dad and I rode the 7 Hills of Kirkland Century, which I believe was our first full century of the year.

This hasn’t been my best season for training and fitness; between being sick, the nasty weather, and starting commuting, I’m a month later starting century rides than usual, and I’m slower than previous seasons. It’s just been tough coming back from everything, and I am still figuring out how much commuting works for me to get in riding but not get overtrained or too tired. Last year I was able to steadily pull at 20 to 21 mph for long periods, and this year, that’s a real effort.

Yesterday we did our second big organized ride of the year, the Flying Wheels Summer Century.

Thanks to large groups including people substantially stronger and fitter than myself, I was able to ride pretty fast on these rides. But it wasn’t so much my fitness as my ability to just wheelsuck guys who can ride 23 mph for 50 or 60 miles at a stretch.

In any case, even if my legs aren’t as fast as I’d like, I’ve gotten to spend some beautiful days outside with good friends, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. As usual, I have to acknowledge the loving sacrifice Ian makes every Saturday when I’m gone for half (or more) of the day on what may be the least time-efficient athletic activity ever.

Here’s what my Saturday looked like yesterday:

  • 4:10 am – Get up, eat breakfast, get ready for bike ride.
  • 5:00 am – Ride to meet Dad; ride together to the start of Flying Wheels.
  • 6:30 am – Our group is together, so we start riding Flying Wheels. Ride the ride, a total of 5:05 moving time plus about 45 minutes of stops for water, food, and restrooms.
  • 12:30 pm – Finish the ride and eat free ice cream while chatting with many other bike friends I didn’t ride with but saw at various points in the ride.
  • 1:00 pm – Ride home very, very slowly with Dad and a couple friends.
  • 1:45 pm – Eat enormous bagel sandwich (also very slowly), take shower, lay down and rest.
  • 3:30 pm – Benji is up from “nap” — it’s time to get going again!
  • 4:00 pm – Drive with Benji to Redmond to meet in-laws. Walk to Benji’s “favorite” hair cut place (a Great Clips, sigh) and wait for a million years while an entire enormous Indian family all get their hair cut first. While waiting, go for a walk with Papa Gary and have an adventure.
  • 5:30 pm – Finally done getting hair cut. We won’t quibble about how even it is. Give big tip for the hassle of Benji squirming around all over the place. Walk to Anderson Park for a little time in the sandbox.
  • 6:00 pm – Drive home and administer snack along the way. Get home, Ian feeds Benji a burrito (after pasta, Benji’s favorite food) while I did something that I’ve forgotten. I think it must’ve been wash dishes and prep cookie materials.
  • 6:40 pm – Start bedtime routine.
  • 7:20 pm – Benji is “down” (in fact, he went to sleep faster than usual, probably thanks to taking a walk in the afternoon) so we eat whatever dinner we can scrounge.
  • 7:30 pm – Bake cookies for church tomorrow (while listening to a podcast about scientology, which is fascinating).
  • 8:40 pm – Finish cookies, go to bed exhausted.

I was all excited to sleep until 6:30, which is when Benji’s allowed to wake us up on weekends… but my body decided that since I woke up at 4:10 yesterday morning, I probably wanted to keep waking up around then. So I woke up at 4:30 am. Oh well. I sleep a lot less in the summer and a lot more in the winter anyway, I assume thanks to the extreme differences in amount of daylight.

Anyway, that’s not a totally unusual Saturday. After riding 100+ miles, I’m the “go” parent in the afternoon. We’ll always do something — get together with friends, go to a park, play in the back yard. Sometimes we’ll have people coming over for dinner in the evening, which means I’m also tidying the house and prepping and cooking dinner, and then spending the time with friends later into the evening.

Compare this to Dad’s normal recovery routine: Eat a big meal; take a soaky bath; take a long nap; wake up, do some quiet activities, and then go to bed again.

No wonder I need a nap on Sunday afternoons!

OH! Last thing: Our “waiting for the hair cut” adventure. We walked with Papa Gary on a little path that goes through the woods behind the shopping center, and we found some old train tracks.

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Benji's Photo
(Benji took this picture himself)

There was a creek (Bear Creek? I think?) with a tiny train trestle and a tiny barge in the stream. It had a sign, not pictured, that said it was a salmon research vessel. Huh.
Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Salmon Research Barge
We played Pooh Sticks on the trestle for a while, although I felt rather nervous that there were no railings or anything to keep Someone from falling over.

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Secret Train Tracks

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Anderson Park