WHEN IN SEATTLE, EAT!

Here is my account of our road trip to Seattle. On our quest to take the children places, to widen their horizon and to appreciate city life, we discovered that it is the simple thing that kept our boys happy!

Here we go again: During the recent long weekend we took the opportunity to spice up our‘daily life’ and took our boys across the border to visit Seattle.  We like to describe ourselves as ‘cosmopolitan parents’: “It is our duty to take them places and to let them explore other cultures ( I am not sure if Seattle qualifies)”

If it wouldn’t be for the border control, Seattle is only a hop and skip away from Vancouver (i.e. a two hour car ride).

Seattle, the birthplace of our modern, coffee drinking civilization (i.e. Starbucks)!

The first ever Starbucks store!

The first ever store!

Seattle, the home of one of the richest man in the world. The man, who made sure computers are a household item (Microsoft)!

Thanks to the invention of TV shows (in this case I – Carly), our boys were familiar with the city and the Space Needle way before we arrived.

During this recent trip we took the Sumas border-crossing, followed by a beautiful ride through winding, picturesque countryside through rural Washington State. I always ‘make sure’ that our children appreciate the beautiful surroundings they find themselves in. During this trip it somewhat back fired on me: “You always tell us to look at mountains, they all look the same.” Or a better one is: “Everything is beautiful here!”

Can I blame them? Not really. We moved to B.C., one of the greenest, most beautiful places on earth.                                                                                                                                                                               For 15 years now we are in the parent business and we discovered it is much easier to go with the flow and the ever changing times than to bang our head against the wall – wishing the ‘good old times back’. Gone are the days when our –now- teenager was happy to draw for hours, play with his Lego blogs or stare out of the window to count cows during a car trip. Nowadays it is the screen in front of them instead of the screen ahead of them which holds their attention. It is the 21th Century and hand held devices rule when it comes to entertaining children during a car trip!

We arrived, fought for a parking spot and started our adventure!

First stop: Pike Market at the Waterfront

A very crowded Saturday

It is Saturday and very crowded. We are six, only two of us have a mobile phone and we are all wearing dark jackets – in case of separation we will have a hard time relocation each other again! Needless to say, I love all this hassle and buzzing around me –  our boys couldn’t care less. 

If fish throwing, singing fish mongers can’t hold their attention, what can? And guess what? They didn’t appreciate some of the advertising either!

The simple solution to a complex dilemma?   An authentic Gyros Food stall:  Give the children food and they will be happy and contend!

Second stop: Space Needle

It is a 41 second elevator ride to the top of the Space Needle. Once at the top you are rewarded with a 360 – degree panoramic view. This trip alone set us back $120.00! I personally have no problem spending all day at the top to make sure I get enough ‘views for my money’. Unlike our boy. Money doesn’t mean anything to them. If this isn’t bad enough, five minutes upon arrival and a sprint around the platform we heard the first:”Can we go now?” Followed by a: “Are we done yet?”

Parents can only take so much nagging, so we followed our credo: Go with the flow and give the children what they really want: Food. This time we landed in the massive Food Hall next to the Children’s Museum:  It was MOD Pizza for four of us, Subway for our oldest and Big Food (aka a hot pork sandwich) for Dominic.

Third stop:

With a tummy full of food it is easy to enjoy The International Fountain. The fountain spouts  water to the backdrop of classical music and finishes with a grand finale.  It is simply put, Spectacular!

Fourth stop:

As young as our children are, the already know the universal truth: Goods in the USA are cheaper than in Canada and the choice you have here is much bigger! Therefore, it was enough sightseeing for the day and we headed for the next shopping mall and outlet stores! Let me rephrase this: A nirvana found for parents and kids alike. During the next few hours all we heard was the happy chatting of four happy boys comparing the newest Halo games while trying on Nike shirts or searching for the perfect winter sweat-shirt.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, educational or eye-opening: When it comes to children and being an extra-ordinary parent, we keep it simple: we offer them what they want! Food and outlet stores! Quite simple, really!

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FAMILY REUNION

Since the beginning of September we are the proud parents of our fourth boy and our children are the proud brothers to a brother from a different mother and father. I am talking about Joey, our Korean exchange student who will live with us for the next 10 months. If this wasn’t enough to adapt to, my parents from Germany arrived at roughly the same time for their first ever visit to Canada.

This is what you need to know about these two grey, but still highly active grandparents:

My father speaks basic English only, my mom speaks none. My husband speaks only English and with my parents limited English skills the three of them form a harmonious trio. I often wonder why my parents haven’t taken a language course at Community College!  Let’s hear the logical reason from my mom:”Why doesn’t Dominic (aka husband) learn German instead?”

My Dad conveniently forgot his driving licence for this trip, my mom doesn’t drive at all. They brought a Vancouver travel guide, but so far forgot to open it.

Therefore, I am the chosen tour guide. For the last two weeks Mrs. Google and Mr. Tom-Tom have been my closest friends – together we navigate the big unknown!

My parents are still young enough, very active, healthy enough and like going places. My mom is right when she says: “We didn’t come all this way just to sit at home.”

Needless to say, life as I know it has come to a standstill. I don’t know about you, but with my parents to visit I am doing things I normally wouldn’t consider doing – like sitting in the BIG RED TOUR Bus, exploring the sights in Vancouver.  But I must admit, sitting on top of the bus was an eye opener. Now I know that Vancouver is not big, not old, not historic, but its beauty comes from its location: The scenery is mind boggling wherever you look!

On Granville Island Dad was magically drawn to the Kaiserhaus Bratwurst und Sauerkraut. But surprisingly he opted for the sweet sour Chinese noodles instead. He recognized the dish from his Chinese restaurant back in Germany. My German Mom, the more adventurous part of the duo, opted for French Crepes (?) instead.

I also persuaded them to go on a beautiful bike ride along the river dykes in our neighbourhood. This round trip normally takes me three hours, but with my active 60 plus bikers in tow it took us nearly six hours! I must hand it to my mom: after cycling during the immense lunch time heat, after giving her German buns a grilling workout and her hard assed daughter only allowing one pit stop, I only heard her complain once! Aren’t they amazing? I am exhausted, I don’t get things done, and our children have to walk home from school alone because I am so preoccupied with their grandparents.

The only ongoing complaints about their trip are the ridiculously high prices for alcohol. This German couple can’t refuel on coffee and hot chocolate alone! And when they finally find a pub they get a near heart attack when they receive the bill for two pints of beer: $16.00! With this fatal beer experience they figured: “We could have gone to Scandinavia instead – drinks are as expensive there, but we are much closer to home!” Of course they are kidding, they won’t find their grandchildren there!

After two weeks of non-stop action I finally followed Dominic’s advice: I will put them on the train with the city map in my father’s hand.  Mom remembers the one place closest to her heart: Robson Street!  A happy place for strolling shopaholics!

On this note I will raise my glass to my very extra-ordinary parents who have their flaws, their die-hard habits and who can drive me crazy to say the least!  But they are my parents, I feel very blessed to have them- and I love them for who they are.