Off season adventuring in Kelly Point Park

Betcha can't do thisThis summer we hit up the park at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers a couple of times. Beating the heat with a cool swim next to ships getting loaded with cargo destined for far off places. The beaches were packed and the mood was festive. Six months later at those same beaches we found new adventures in the midst of much fewer people. This past weekend the boys and I headed down to Kelley Point Park in Portland on a cold misty day. There were a few people walking dogs but we were mostly alone in the fog and sand. We played “I betcha can’t do this” trying to find things that the others couldn’t do like walking on wet logs or jumping over sand dunes. As we walked along the Columbia river around the point where the Willamette sneaks away we found a ton of drift wood. We set about making a shelter that soon turned into a fort/food cart/castle.

beach front food cartI wasn’t sure about heading to the beach on that wet cold day but we needed to get out of the house and explore somewhere and I found myself driving that way without any real plan. After a couple hours playing on the beach I realized that this was the very thing i grew up doing farther down the Columbia towards the Pacific Ocean. We played on the river what ever the weather and knew that there was as much fun to be had in the rain as there was in the heat of summer. I’m not sure why this was such a revelation for me but I was caught off guard by the off season nature of a familiar place. A favorite summer swimming hole could also be a great winter adventure land where the fog added mystery. We worked and played on that beach until our structure was complete and ate pretend burgers from the walk up window before heading back to the car and on to find warm drinks and dry clothes.

I love living in the North West where wet days don’t always mean indoor fun. While there are many great places to play inside when it gets wet and cold there are also so many great spots to explore outside with wet hair and rosy cheeks.

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.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle for fun


One of the covered Parios at the new house was a bit too low and presented a problem unique to parents of young boys. All of the metal bars supporting the cover were low enough for the boys to hang on and the suggestion from our realtor to just tell them not to  was comical and unrealistic. One does not just tell a little boy not to hang on a metal bar that he can reach. So the awning had to come out but it was too cool to throw away and needed another use. First we set awning to the side of the driveway and the boys turned it into a slide and perch to look into the neighbor’s yard like little nosey busy bodies. They would get a running start and climb to the top. Then the game was jumping up so that their hands were just holding the top and yelling for their brother or friend to help them climb the rest of the way. They could all get up themselves but the fun was in the teamwork. Soon the game became keeping the other from running up the slide by body checking them off and it became apparent that this slide was no longer safe in the driveway. Plus those neighbors were getting a little tired of little boys watching over the fence as the gardened on a Saturday afternoon.


So we turned the awning around and found that it was a great shape for a soccer goal. We  took turns taking shots and playing goalie. The height was perfect for Primo to tip shots over the bar like a young Troy Perkins minus the full back tattoo and I got to practice placing balls into the upper corner. As Primo blocked more and more shots I started kicking the ball harder and harder until the game ended in tears and wicked welt on my tiny keeper’s belly.



Yet another use was found for the former Pario cover as we flipped it back over and ran the hose over the top of one end for a super steep water slide. The weather has been warm here in Portland and the water features in the local parks haven’t been turned on yet so we madee our own water park in the backyard. The boys used a stool to climb up one side and then after checking out the other neighbors back yard slid down into a growing pool. Though it was too slippery to run up, the boys tried again and again only to slip and smash their faces into the cascading water. They would crack up and do it all over again.

There are more uses to come for this once Pario cover but we are getting a lot of mileage already. I think an elaborate fort is in the not to distant future, as well as a ball return for some solo baseball toss. What are some of the ordinary things your family has found new fun uses for?

He writes adventure on his chest


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.

Playdate Christmas Tree Farm

We set out in search of a Christmas tree and found a fresh smelling playground. Well we found a tree too because we’re good at that sort of thing here in the North West. South of town, with a coupon for a free tree in hand, we found the tree farm in a neighborhood of tree farms. All we had to do was find our perfect tree, wave down a lumberjack and watch as they cut down and loaded the tree on their 4-wheeler to deliver to our car. Instead of looking for the tree, like Beautiful wanted, the boys and I set out trying to get lost in the rows and rows of trees. First bolted off from Primo and Segundo as they squealed in laughter and tried to keep up. It was harder than I thought to break away in heavy growth, but I soon figured that weaving and doubling back was my best move.

The boys were harder to find when it was my turn to track them down. They could get under the bigger trees and stay surprisingly quiet once they gained some space. Beautiful shook her head at our complete disregard for tree hunting and found the tree her self. Once I located both boys we had to find Beautiful and then get the attention of one of the tree farm workers. We had ventured far off the path in search of just the right tall skinny tree and the game of bringing in the tree cutters took on the feel of Evergreen Marco polo. Primo found the path, Segundo the worker, and it was up to me to get us back through the thicket to Beautiful and the tree.

The tree was cut and dragged out while Primo held up his log slice overhead in celebration. Hot Chocolate and the task of tying the tree to the top of the van while six old timers sat around the fire making fun of me was our reward for a good hunt. The rain held off for our playdate in the forest but picked up on the drive home. It was a good day for bringing home a Christmas tree, and now our living room is more the festive.

Looking back on a busy summer: The great road trip of 2012

Right after our stay at The Great Wolf Lodge we dropped the boys at my parents for Soccer camp and our first week of kidless time. The next Saturday we brought them up to Gig Harbor, along with the RV that had been living in our driveway for the last year. The boys were heading East in that RV with Grammie and Tom Tom and most of their cousins. Five kids and three adults in a small space for 2300 miles sounds like a nightmare I had, but for the boys it was a dream come true. Two weeks without mom and dad, on the road with their grandparents. They had talked about it all spring, counted down the days on their calendar in their room.

They all piled into the RV on Sunday morning and headed towards Uncle Dan’s house in Colorado. They wouldn’t make it there on the first night but that was the first known stop in the cross-country trek. They had to make stops every now and then to run the boys to burn off that extra energy. Tom Tom would line them up and the races would be on. There were movies to watch and books to read and plenty of snacks to keep the boys occupied. They took naps all together on the folded down dinette and we followed along through Aunt Meg’s tweets. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Finn:some bad guys in our world are called robbers. Don’t know what the others are, but don’t worry, my dad and your dad {SCuda} are stronger.


Entered Nebraska. One boy sleeping, one baby in midst or epic nap, two boys sharing an ipod, one boy chatting with Grammie.


Henry: will a bear hit us {talking about hitting animals on the rd}? Grammie: no, they stay in the wilderness. Henry: but they would eat us.


Milo: Grammie, get me out! Grammie: no, you’re a sitting duck! (As she pelts him with a grape in his car seat :)


There was a stop in Idaho, one in Colorado, another in Nebraska, and there was meant to be one in Iowa but it was hot and there were sick folks that needed to get home so Tom Tom drove through the night to get home to Indiana. If not for colds they say they would have loved a longer trip but I don’t believe them. Both Beautiful and I grew up on road trips and family vacations and I know that my boys are good travelers but five kids in that space would get old pretty quickly.

Once in Indiana the boys got to spend some quality time with Aunt Heather and her pirate adventures. Their cousins left and Primo and Segundo got Grammie and Tom Tom all to their selves for the first time since we left Indiana, the first time for Segundo. They swam everyday and lived in Grammie rules for two weeks before Beautiful met them in Iowa to fly home. We all agree this is something that needs to happen often and the boys are already wondering what day on their calendar they can circle and start the countdown towards.