Yesterday we got together with my friend Ellen. One of the (many) things I like about Ellen is that she always pushes our boundaries with her suggestions for what to do. She’s the one who took me cross-country skiing before Benji was born, and left me practically unable to walk for like a week (the blog post title: “A Litany of Aches.” Ah, good times). She invites me and Benji to parks in the city of Seattle that we otherwise never would go to. She encourages me to eat odd things and try tea I wouldn’t normally have. It’s good to have this kind of friend.

Yesterday was no exception. She suggested that we take a light rail train from the new UW station, which I was keen to visit but hadn’t actually expected to actually use so soon. At first, hearing the suggestion, I thought in my head: That’s too big of a trip. Maybe we should just go to a park. But then I thought, No, every time we do an adventure with Ellen it’s really fun, even if it’s also a bit of a stretch. We’ll give it a shot.

We picked Ellen up at her house and drove to the Center for Urban Horticulture. There we paused to eat a snack and let Benji examine every single map board. He was excited to find the “You are here” marked with a little pine cone, which Ellen called her “little pine cone friend” and pretended to put it in her pocket. The rest of the walk to the light rail station, we looked for maps and found a surprising number — more than I would’ve expected, and more than Ellen had ever noticed before. Benji found a red dot “You are here” and pretended to put that in his pocket.

The walk took quite a while. It’s not far, just a little over a mile through the Union Bay Natural Area and skirting around the UW sports facilities. Not far, that is, if you have grown-up legs and interests. But in addition to scrutinizing every map, we admired a large, rapidly scuttling beetle; picked up a small, slow-moving green cricket and relocated it to some friendly leaf/grass habitat; peeked over a bridge at some incredibly horrid oily slough water; sat in the dirt and generally dragged our feet; tried to go into Lake Washington at the UW boathouse; and, of course, continually asked when we’d get to the light rail station.
Union Bay Natural Area

Eventually we made it, however, and Benji was excited to find even more maps at the light rail station.
Benji and Ellen look at a light rail map

Light Rail Map

The escalators were surprisingly scary. In the past, Benji has wanted to ride escalators endlessly. But this time, he balked and only went down while holding both our hands — maybe because they were really long and going down into the dark? I’m not sure. In any case, we made it down to the trains, where we totally forgot about all escalator fears.
Benji's first light rail!

Benji rides light rail

Our ride was really short — we got off at the next stop. Handily, this was near Cal Anderson Park, a park Benji’s never been to, and which has one of the more interesting fountains around. My picture doesn’t really do it justice, because when we got closer I spent a lot more time keeping Benji out of the water. No time to pull out a phone!
Benji at the Cal Anderson fountain

The fountain was pretty fun, but Benji was pleased they had a playground area, too. He climbed up the ladder steps pretty easily…
Benji climbing the steps

Ellen squeezed up with much more difficulty.
Ellen squeezes through the hole
The entrance wasn’t made for grown-ups!

Other things were fun to play with there, too.
Benji walks up high

On the springy teeter-totter with Ellen

By about 11:30, we were SO ready to eat! After what Benji would probably liken to the Walk of a Thousand Tears, we made it to Ellen’s favorite bakery. They had one of the fanciest little pastry thingies (they called it a croissant, but I have to disagree; it was layered like a croissant, but that’s where the resemblance ends) and not only did they look pretty, they tasted delicious.

Fancy Nouveau pastry
Look at Benji’s face: “oooooo!” He was saying, “I’m going to try some of YOURS, Mommy!” But in the end, he didn’t like the crunchy part, so I got to eat both my blueberry lemon pastry, and his ham and cheese croissant.

When I looked at the clock and it was 12:30, I realized we wouldn’t be getting back home for our usual nap time. That was OK; we finished up, walked (increasingly slowly, feeling rather tired) back to the light rail station, and took the train back. Benji was getting quite tired, so I carried him on my back for some of the walk back from the UW to the car.

On the way back to Ellen’s house, Benji and Ellen joked about putting their “little friends” down for nap. After we dropped her off at her house, Benji about fell asleep on the drive home. I kept him awake long enough to put him down for nap in his room, when he conked out solidly, and we had to wake him up.

Needless to say, Benji and I both slept extra-well last night. Another fun, successful adventure with Ellen!

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