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:

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.


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.


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

Holiday Activities

This may be the first job I’ve had where we actually were closed on President’s Day. It feels weird! But maybe that’s because I spent the morning with some very weird people playing some pretty weird games, like…

The Booger Game!

Actually, this was to help Benji understand why having his finger stuck up his nose all the time is not only disgusting, but unsanitary. Mom and I used a couple of crawl-through tubes and stuck them together as “nostrils.”
Benji the Virus

Benji the Virus was sneezed out of the nostrils along with some boogers (his snuggles), which I then picked up while I pretend to play. I then “picked” my “nose” by shoving Benji the Virus back into the nostrils — gross!!

After I got the cold from Benji the Virus and sneezed him back out again, Mom picked him up, but she decided to wash her hands before touching her face.

Benji the Virus in the Sink
We tossed Benji the Virus into the “sink” along with some “sink gunk” (pillows) and proceeded to swirl him around and wash him away down the pipe to the waste treatment plant.

We did this game for perhaps 30 minutes, with variations. I doubt he’ll quickly forget why we wash hands after picking our nose! –That’s honestly the best I’m hoping for. Getting him to use a Kleenex, or (gasp!) actually stop picking is far beyond my wildest dreams.

Make Hug-A-Planet!

We made a couple of small plush-stuffed planets today. Well, actually, Mom made them, and it was actually a dwarf planet (Pluto) and Earth’s Moon. Fortunately, they’re pretty straightforward to make. We just looked at how a small beach ball was constructed.

To start, Mom introduced Benji to her 1940s-era Singer sewing machine and they explored exactly how it worked.
Sew a Planet: Sewing Machine Intro 2

Sew a Planet: Sewing Machine Intro 3

Sew a Planet: Sewing Machine Intro 4

Benji helped with putting the pressure foot up and down.
Sew a Planet: Sewing Machine Pressure Foot

We fed the planet Pluto until it was stuffed!!
Sew a Planet: Sewing Machine Intro Stuffing
(Benji also briefly had a silly beard.)

We also went to a fabric store to buy some material for the moon project. After that, I returned home to ride my trainer and do a little work/stuff around home, so I haven’t yet seen the outcome of the moon sewing. I expect it will be very similar to Pluto. The only problem is that Benji is expecting to make ALL the planets today — not feasible, time-wise or inclination-wise. And then when we finally do get all the planets made, where will we store them?!!

Dispatch from the Weekend

It’s the first weekend after my first week! By Friday, I sure did feel more tired than I have in a long time. Between not sleeping much from anxiety and actually doing stuff out of the house all day (even if just mostly sitting around), I sure was ready for the weekend!

After some discussion with Ian, I did go for a bike ride as usual.

It went better than the previous week, but my leg around the back of my knee is still hurting pretty severely by the end of rides. It’s a bummer, but I trust it will resolve itself eventually. But it was a beautiful day for a bike ride, about 50 degrees and not raining, so well worth going out. Ian and Benji were OK with sticking with our usual Saturday routine, even though I’d spent much less time at home than usual.

When I got home from my bike ride and Benji woke up from his nap, Benji, Ian, and I went to the park near our house. We played a game we called “Star On/Star Off Machine.” Benji would pay me some wood chips, and then go down one slide. As he went by, I would tap his tummy and say “Boop! Now you have a star on thar!” Then he would pay Ian some wood chips and go down the other slide to have his star removed. We kept playing this after Ian went to go do dinner, and it evolved to seeking treasure to pay for the star on/off.
Searching from Treasure

Searching for Treasure 2
Treasure included handfuls of sand, grass, and moss; the caps from acorns; interesting shapes of wood chips; pebbles; pine cones; and sticks. I deposited them in the “bank” we set up, but Benji kept bemoaning that he never had any deposits in HIS bank. –because he spent all his treasure on stars!

After dinner, we had a very serious game in which Ian managed to balance four pillows on his head at once, which really tickled Benji’s funny bone. It was pretty ridiculous to turn around and see this giant pile of pillows on his head. But you don’t need to take my word for it…
Pillow Head Dad

At church, I helped in the kid room. We’ve had 16 to 20 preschoolers in the room the last few weeks, way too many for just two volunteers to help out with. The coordinator asked me to help out even though I’d already done my stint this month and I said sure. We did all the usual stuff, but then the coordinator, Ken, had a new game for while we waited for church to finish: Silent Red Light/Green Light. It was the same as regular, only they kids couldn’t make any noise during the game or they had to go back to the start.

Silent Red Light/Green Light

Silent Red Light/Green Light 2
It was hilarious watching them! The kids tried so hard to stay quiet, but they just couldn’t. They kept being repeatedly sent back to the start, both for breaking the silence rule and for going when the Stop sign showed. Benji finally won once when he realized he could run, not just walk at the same pace as all the other kids. That started an arms race of running, which led Ken to finish the game with crawling.

Silent Red Light/Green Light Crawling

A couple of the littler kids didn’t quite get it; they ran when the Stop sign showed, but when questioned, explained that Stop means “Go” and they really just wanted to get a high-five. Oops. Still getting the hang of this.

When church finished, we played at the nearby park for a while, as it was another sunny-ish and pleasant day (although getting windy, which makes me think of weather changing).
After Church Park Play

Then I got my weekend goal done (scanning tax documents, very exciting) during nap time; when Benji gets up, it’ll be time to head over to my parents’ house where Benji will spend the night while Ian and I go bowling with our church group.

Overall, it’s been a great weekend — we’ve gotten done what needs to happen, and I think we’ve all gotten to play and relax, too. I don’t know if it’s going to be sustainable, staying so busy all weekend, but as with everything else, we’ll see how everything shakes out as time goes by.