The Neighborhood is the Thing

IMG_2620Last month the boys and I had to clear out of the house while Beautiful hosted her book club and well timed invitation to the neighborhood block party by our old house gave us the perfect escape. I hadn’t thought about that neighborhood right by the park for a while but when we pulled up I was brought back to just how great it was. So many kids and old trees and caring neighbors. The boys didn’t remember the kids that were now running around the blocked off street save for a couple that we have maintained relationship with. I remembered them, or rather remembered them much smaller. I was taken back to days on that street as all the kids played and well placed parents were stationed outside houses talking.

Our new neighborhood has really great neighbors that we have started to get to know, but for every friendly face there is also the somewhat sketchy neighbor who may or may not be up to no good based on who you ask. The real difference is in the number of kids though. Apart from one house on the corner, no one else has kids and the boys end up driving each other crazy. I miss that street and the safety of the environment and I miss that perceived safety that we had as kids in a much bigger environment. We all have the stories about our time as kids and the coming home at dark was all that was needed for checking in and I hope that as my boys get older they will get a little taste of that. While they are still young I want them close and that puts into contrast just how great we had it in that neighborhood.

You will find us peeing from such great heights

Such great hights

Such great heights

When you’re working from home in the summer the playdate becomes key to maintaining some sanity for the boys and I. When there is another kid there to engage them I have time to work on what I need to and they get a new perspective on tired playthings. After a fantastic time at Tumbling Camp E (the kid formally known as “The Charge”) came over to play. After going through the usual suspects: cars, cards, forts, and bikes the boys told me they were bored. Bored? How could you be bored when there is so many cool things you can do like fix the washing machine, or pull the weeds, or build a dirt track for bikes, or get the cement out of the secret weed room, climb up on the roof and pee over the crown of the house. There were other nonsensical things said to encourage the kids to think creatively but when they heard ROOF CLIMB PEE everything else became white noise. “Daddy can we?” Can you what? “Can we pee off the roof?”

Now here is where a good parent would explain that they were giving examples to get them to think outside the house. But we all know I am not a “good” parent. Instead I said the following:

Listen boys, if you can get the 10 foot ladder off the side of the garage, over the wood pile, and somehow put it up to the house and climb up than by all means pee off the roof. Good luck with that!

My thought being it was an impossible scenario that would keep them busy for a good amount of time. Since there is a picture attached to this post I’m sure you see where this is going. The ladder was already up against the back of the garage from the night before when Beautiful climbed up there to steal flowers from our neighbors tree. Not all our kids mischievous traits come from me!  After about 15 minutes my sister-in-law came in to ask if I told the boys they could pee off the roof. Well technically I did but there is no way they can get up there so …… I went outside to find one kid peeing into the neighbor’s yard, another on his way up to cross streams and a third kid talking himself into the adventure. They all had a chance to rain down from above before I helped them down and put the ladder up in its PROPER PLACE!

I know the moral of this story should be something about thinking about what you say and safety and all that but knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have done anything different. The boys had an awesome dangerous adventure and I got a good story. That’s a win-win.

That Summertime Sadness

IMG_1096This has been a summer of adventure for the boys as they have now spent more time away from home then they have sleeping in their own beds. The summer kicked off with a visit to North Carolina where we had a great time with family, I got to sample cocktails in an underground whiskey club, and the boys organized a pickup soccer game with 20 kids in the park. They then spent the next two weeks driving from Cape May, NJ all the way back to Portland with stops to see many friends and family members. They made it home just in time to head to Clatskanie for a soccer camp before finally coming home a month after school let out.

Rule breakersSummer is usually a tough time where I have to manage a full work week with the boys anxious to play and explore. But this summer has been a whirlwind of travel, camps, and family that has left me feeling a little sad about the changing landscape of our lives. There is now more work hours and less play as the boys find engagement elsewhere. As a dad that liked the idea of being primarily focused on parenting while working a little on the side I’m finding it harder to come to terms with my new role. I know that there is still a lifetime of parenting to do but part of the job is always letting go of something, be it the seat of the bike as they learn to ride or the keys to the car as they learn to drive. I guess what I’m getting at is I recognize a trajectory of growing independence in the boys that will have me letting go of more and more. As I sit here working alone in the house while they are both away at another camp at my parents house those days don’t seem years down the road. It feels like tomorrow and I’m not ready for tomorrow.

Pregnancy is a nine month process of getting us ready to be parents and I think that childhood is an even longer process of teaching us to let go. I want to be the kind of parent that knows when to hold and knows when to let go but that knowledge doesn’t come easy, and it’s not without sadness.

Starting Summer Off Right

adventure time

School is out and summer is a day or two old now but the boys have grabbed onto the adventure of this break with both hands. Segundo has been gone for a week now while primo only joined him this past Friday at my parents. Their cousins, my sister’s three kids, are there and my parents are pulling their typical crazy stunts like having five kids spend the week with them. So far they have spent a couple of days at house on the coast, camped in the back yard, target practiced with the BB guns, traveled to Mt. St Helens, and criss crossed the Columbia on the ferry. They are making treasure hunts for each other, cooking hotdogs on the fire, and having one the best times of their lives right now.

I remember getting to have those times with my grandparents on Mayger beach. We would spend all day in the river with our cousins and listen to crazy family stories around the camp fire until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. While my boys are getting a much safer atmosphere then I had there is no loss in adventure closeness. Our boys are lucky that way, to have grandparents on both sides that not only want to spend weeks with them, but know how to make that time magical. There are more adventures to come this summer but these boys are already off to a great start.

US Open Cup Soccer on a Tuesday Night

Learning to taunt the goalie

Learning to taunt the goalie

Devoted readers may have picked up on my slight love of soccer specifically as it relates to the greatest club in all the world, The Portland Timbers Football Club. Well Tuesday night there is an opportunity for you and your family to get in on the action when the Timbers Under 23 team plays the Charleston Battery in the second round of the US Open Cup om Tuesday May 21 at 7:30 PM at Jeld-Wen field in downtown Portland. The tickets are $10 a piece and available at the gate or online and there will be room to roam for the kids.

The Under 23, or U23, team is a collection of college kids getting some high level training and play while on summer break. A number of past U23 players have gone on to play for the Timbers Senior team later like Brent Richards, Jake Gleeson, and Ryan Kawoluk. They play in the PDL against other non-pro teams and this years team is very good.

As for the US Open Cup that is a tournament here in the US that involves teams at nearly every level and this is the 100th year that the cup has been up for grabs. It starts with smaller rec and local club teams playing for a chance to participate. Last week was the first round and the Timbers U23 team played a club team from Sacramento called California Gold. Now there are some higher level teams added and the Saplings have another home game against a  USL-Pro team. If they win they go on to play an MLS team in the 3rd round when the highest division is added to the tournament.

If you live in Portland then come out and watch these kids play in this great tournament. My kids love it at the stadium and I think your’s will too.

He writes adventure on his chest

wild_man_henry

Segundo has a clothes problem at preschool. This manifests itself in a number of ways from getting his regular clothes wet or dirty, to struggling with his pants during emergencies. Lately he has managed to keep most of the clothes on that he shows up to school in. Most but not all. When I show up at 3 to pick him up he is usually missing his shirt and socks. “I get hot daddy, and I need to get some freeze on me!” His teachers have been keeping track of when his shirt comes off and the nicer the day the earlier it happens. Here is one of the many reasons I love Trillium Preschool, their willingness to let Segundo be himself. They make sure he is safe but allow tons of space for him to navigate safety and danger on his own terms.

Yesterday when I rounded the corner into the school grounds I could see in the window of the preschool where the kids were getting one last story before heading home. there was Segundo in his bright yellow pants, no shirt, no socks, and covered in dirt. His pants were rolled up just below his knee and he looked like some hipster hillbilly wild man. A modern-day lord of the flies in skinny jeans. I just smiled as I walked past to pick Primo up first. I knew that this was a great day, that there was a story written in all that dirt on his chest and back. I knew I would get versions from each of the teachers and some impromptu reenactment  from Segundo and his friends. He is the Oscar to Primo’s Felix and I am so thankful that he has the space to himself.

The not so secret Chinese garden

This past weekend we braved the cold mist and walked the Chinese Gardens in downtown Portland. I tried to get the boys to move slow, to take in the quiet, and contemplate the beauty but they had a scavenger hunt and everyone knows you can’t half ass a scavenger hunt. That is the way my boys see moving slowly and contemplating, the way Chip Kelly see’s punting on 4th down. That’s just for quitters. So we moved through the gardens not like pilgrims seeking peace but as Spanish Conquistadores in search of gold. What we found was a great time in a special place in the heart of the city. The truth is there are many places like this in Portland but I love the juxtaposition of the cars in trains just outside the ornate windows of the garden. I think the boys liked walking through the gates into a different world. But that is the business of the children isn’t it. Finding other worlds in the heart of their ordinary cities. I just had an easier time of tracking with them this time.