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

Birthday Love

Yesterday I got a year older.

Actually, Benji asked me a real poser about that: “How do you get older?” I said, “One day at a time.” While I thought that was a pretty good answer, Benji didn’t really buy it. After that I ran out of answers, since “It just happens over time” also didn’t satisfy.

I had a nice birthday. Benji had the idea of making vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and strawberries on top for me; he also wanted to go to the toy store and help Ian pick out a present for me. They did both those things, which was very sweet. The present was, perhaps not surprisingly, a 3-in-1 Lego vehicle set — the exact thing Benji would want! But in fact it does give me a wonderful present: peace and quiet while Benji “helps” build the set.

One of my coworkers made sweet biscuits and brought them in with strawberries and whipped cream to make strawberry shortcake for my birthday, which was also very kind and thoughtful. In the afternoon, I got to ride home with a biking buddy who works in Fremont, which was especially nice because we had a vigorous headwind.

And I got to have a nice hour-long chat with Colleen, who also sent me an adorable picture of Lumpy the Dragon for my birthday:
Lumpy

All in all, a nice quiet birthday. We’ll get together with my parents over the weekend and use the excuse of my recent birthday to eat tasty treats. I’m also using the excuse of my birthday to take Friday off and have a 4-day weekend. The weather has (mostly) turned nice, and things are looking summery, which bodes well for the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride we plan to do on Memorial Day.

“This Will Blow Your Mind Off”

Thus quoth Benji as he explained the theory of why astronomers think there’s another planet out way past Pluto. Here’s what transpired.

I sat down to write a new daily board, which says the date and Benji’s agenda for the day. Before I started, Benji said, “Wait! I want to sure you something.”

A little background. Benji really wants to be an astronomer when he grows up, and whether he does or not, it’s a fun hobby for a kid with lots of interesting exercises and experiments. There are also tons of videos on space stuff, naturally. Benji’s especially interested in the hypothetical Planet 9, which is somewhere way out in the Kuiper Belt, or maybe father. Who knows.

A few days ago, Ian and Benji watched some videos explaining some concepts about Planet 9, why astronomers think it’s out there, what they hypothesize about its physical properties, etc. I got a little summary of the videos then, and figured that was the end of it.

I was so wrong.

This morning, Professor Benji took up the chalk to draw a diagram that explains why the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects like Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea strongly suggest the presence of another, more massive object that we haven’t yet found.


He then went on to speculate about the material composition of the planet;

Elucidate on its mass relative to other Solar System objects (Earth and Neptune);

And theorize about the existence of many other such objects yet to be discovered. 


Granted, much of this latter material contained elements of speculation, but it was speculation informed by 2.5 years of education about planets and their properties.

MOHAI

Today instead of riding our bikes through the veritable monsoon conditions, Dad and I took Benji to MOHAI. I had fun memories of visiting there as a kid, and recalled that they had fun, more hands-on exhibits than most museums.

MOHAI has moved since I visited (it has to have been 20 years since I went, if not more), to a really cool art deco-style building in South Lake Union. Normally I assiduously avoid South Lake Union, which during the week turns into an insane snarl of gridlocked vehicles full of grouchy drivers. But on Saturday at 10:00 am, it wasn’t bad at all. We even easily found parking in the microscopic parking lot, which was completely full and had cars waiting for a spot when we came out a couple hours later.

MOHAI

I was delighted that they had the Lincoln Tow Truck, which we saw parked for many years and were sorry to notice vanish some years ago.

They had a kid “construction” area, which we did spend some time enjoying. We tried out all the different stuff, but Benji isn’t much into dressing up or acting stuff out. We did build with some interesting connector type toys, both in that kid area and in the “Idea Lab,” which basically had bins of K’nex-type toys.
MOHAI - Kid-Struction Zone Library

The majority of our time went to ricocheting around different exhibits way to fast to take anything in. After bouncing through several exhibits, Dad and I insisted on walking slowly through one whole exhibit of Benji’s choice (Edible City). They did have a number of interactive aspects, which we took advantage of.
MOHAI - Food Container Ship

MOHAI - Light-Up Food Wall

I liked the periscope up in the maritime room on the 4th floor; Benji and Dad looked at the ship’s wheel.
MOHAI - Maritime Room

I think Benji’s favorite, and one that we all found quite compelling, was the interactive wall exhibit. You turn the wheel and one of the wall boxes lights up and something moves inside. They had a number of those spin-the-wheel-type interactive displays, which we all liked.
MOHAI - Interactive Wall

MOHAI - Work Together

If I was kid-free, I’d love to go back there with my nice SLR and use my photography-eyes. It was a really interesting area, with the Center for Wooden Boats and various exhibition boats, the cool architecture of the museum outside plus the interesting lights and objects inside. Some day.

Edit to add: Here are some pictures Dad surreptitiously took with his nice camera.
Idea Lab

Choose Your Meal

Fun times at MOHAI

Thinking at MOHAI

Kid-Struction Library at MOHAI