Trains, Buses and Monorails

Allergy season has arrived with a vengeance again, and I have forgotten to take (or bring) my medication today. It could be a very long day … already I am sneezing uncontrollably and peering about blearily with red-rimmed eyes. It is funny how a few discomforts can focus the thoughts internally … it will be an interesting challenge to see if I can be cheerful and friendly today.

Last Monday I took the kids in to the ‘big city’ to the Children’s Museum in the Seattle Center for the day. We had planned to go to the Pacific Science Center but couldn’t find our membership card … both Kathy and I called to see if they would accept some other form of proof of membership, but they were adamant (and rather rude) in their refusal. I guess some museum curators don’t want anyone to actually use their museum, or perhaps they are a little over-vigilant in wanting to make money.

David was particularly excited about taking the train home. All the kids have been pestering me for an opportunity to ride on the train … my glowing reports of the joys of the Sounder commuter train have tantalized them for months. Not wanting to get up as early as commuters (the poor wretches), we took a bus in to Seattle, then another bus (through the bus tunnel) as far as Westlake.

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David kept us apprised of any Herbies that we passed.

We walked the rest of the way (about 15 blocks or so) to the Seattle Center. This proved to be a mistake … I should probably have taken a transfer and ridden the bus all the way through town. It was further than I had anticipated and several of the kids were tired by the time we arrived.

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Dancing and music and a picnic lunch

We ate our lunch inside the Seattle Center listening to some live music and watching some elderly couples dancing. There were perhaps eight to twelve couples with the average age well over 70. It was somehow very poignant to listen to the strains of Danny Boy and watch these brave souls step (or in some cases, shuffle) around the floor. Not an accomplished ballroom dancer myself, I was vaguely encouraged to see that some of them had still not learned to dance very well even after a lifetime of opportunity, while others moved with a grace that belied their years. I sat and imagined that some of them had probably been married more than sixty years, and wondered what Kathy and I will be doing when I am 86 and she is a young thing of 81. They danced for more than two hours (just finishing up when we came out of the Children’s Museum) which I thought was pretty impressive in terms of mere stamina.

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Joshua embarks on a brief career in broadcasting.

The kids enjoyed the Children’s Museum, although I thought it was not as nice as the one in Olympia. Many of the exhibits were damaged or dirty and a number of the moving parts were out of order. I suppose they get a much higher volume of visitor traffic at the Seattle Center than in the comparatively-sleepy Capitol district of Olympia. David provided some brief excitement by opening one of the alarmed exit doors, thinking it lead to another part of the exhibit. By apologizing abjectly, we managed to avoid a tongue-lashing, although David frowned for some time afterward, as he often does when embarrassed.

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A bunch of blue-tongued skinks

After finishing our tour of the Children’s Museum, we stopped at the food court for Icee drinks, universally choosing Blue Raspberry over boring old Cherry. Although we were tempted to ride the Ferris Wheel (in honor of the recent home-school reading of the story describing Mr. Ferris’ first attempt) I felt that David and Sarah might not enjoy the ride. We settled on a conventional Merry-Go-Round which was well-appreciated by everyone, even me.

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This might have been David & Sarah’s first merry-go-round ride.

We rode the monorail back to Westlake, which was a vast improvement over walking, and caught the bus back to the train station without mishap. Discovering that we were almost an hour early, I took the kids on a quick run through the Uwajimaya shopping center (an oriental grocery store and food court near my work) and introduced them to a favorite lunch choice (Pahd Thai with Orange Chicken). I had an entertaining few minutes trying to buy train tickets for the three oldest kids … the ticket machines wouldn’t accept my credit card and some of my dollar bills were very wrinkled. As the train pulled into the station, the kids started to panic, not realizing that the train would be sitting there for another fifteen minutes or so. Fortunately, I had enough quarters to buy the last ticket, and we boarded with relief.

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The monorail beats walking, any day of the week.

We devoured the Pahd Thai Chicken (if it hadn’t been for Daniel’s solicitous care, I wouldn’t have received any) and experienced only one mishap with an exploding Sprite. The other passengers looked on in hunger and envy, so I made the kids put the few remaining noodles away.

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We certainly would not have been welcome in the Quiet Car.

David seemed a little let down by the train … I think he expected to sit up front in the engine and to pull the steam whistle, wearing an engineer’s cap. He is an interesting little fellow … I could see his face twisting and frowning as he looked out the window, struggling with disappointment. He is usually very careful not to say anything that could be construed as ungrateful, having learned from his older siblings’ negative example. I come down pretty hard on anyone who vocalizes an ungrateful spirit, recently having taken a piece of cake away from Daniel at a family party for this very reason. I’m proud to say that he took after his Mama and spoke only cheerful things … he is a good boy, and well do I love him.

We eventually arrived in Tacoma, found our car and headed home. It was a full day of treats … the kids must have thanked me at least five times each on the way home. Kathy spent a good part of the day with her dear friend Julee, so I think I can say that a good time was had by all.

There is a strange but happy side-effect from these field trip days. While I love my children dearly, I am finding that the more time I spend with them on outings such as these, the more I want to be with them again, and the warmer my heart feels toward the little rascals. You might think that it would be a chore to spend the day with five little children, but I find it to be very fulfilling.

Being cooped up in the house with a bunch of bickering kids is no picnic, but spending comparable time out of the house on a field trip seems to introduce a very different dynamic, which is a delightful surprise. It probably doesn’t hurt that I ply them with treats and take them on adventures.

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