Friday, January 25, 2008

Train Rides and Two-Year Olds

Where to begin . . . Last Sunday we took the train south to Portland. We were joined by our friends and their two-year-old son Daniel. The boys are both excited about trains at this time in their development due in no small part to the proliferation of Thomas the Tank Engine products flooding the toy market. Daniel in particular in obsessed with trains and train crossings and having your tickets punched (which never happened on our train by the way.) Neither boy took a nap on the nearly four hour trip from Seattle to Portland, so they were quite wired by the time we checked into our rooms at the Embassy Suites Hotel. The last time Jen and I were in Portland was probably three years ago, in our pre-Justin days. We had remembered eating at a great place called the Red Star Tavern. It was a little pricey (I come from rural Massachusetts when having lobster once a year on the fourth of July was our family’s big luxury.) I tampered my parenting stress with a couple of pints of porter and enjoyed a seared tuna with braised oxtail. Jen had a delicious Wellington prepared vegetarian style. Justin devoured all of his fruit dish and whatever Daniel couldn’t finish. It was a great meal with friends and a perfect way to celebrate Jen’s birthday. Everyone crashed soon after the walk back to the hotel. The next day we made the obligatory trip to Powell’s Bookstore. It was a nice clear day in the city, but the wind whipping down the streets made it quite cold. Later on, after everyone had a nap, the kids enjoyed frolicking in the pool. I took the opportunity to stay in the room and get some reading done. There was free HBO in the room, so we happy to catch an episode of Bill Maher’s show. Dan Savage, the editor of our local alternative weekly The Stranger, was a special correspondent that evening reporting on the Republican primary in South Carolina and Mike Huckabee’s candidacy in particular. It was a good piece and provided an opportunity for Bill Maher to climb onto his soapbox and trash religion. Always entertaining. Religious fanatics are so thin skinned and temperamental. I consider myself an agnostic when it comes to the existence of some kind of supernatural being, whether it has an active part in our lives, or just got it started way back when. (Six-thousand years? Better think again.) But I applaud people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher among others for speaking out loudly and without self-censorship for a side that doesn’t often get a voice.

So I got a little off topic there. Meanwhile back in Portland. Justin had definitely gotten Daniel’s cold virus, so the train ride back was a minor detour into hell. No nap again, so the little guy was a snotty miserable wreck by the time we got home. One would have thought that he would sleep soundly that night. That was not the case. As a parent, I’m always come up with reasons for his waking and crying: he’s teething, it’s a cold, he’s overtired and the damnable combination of all three. That evening I was due to attend another in a series of lectures about the merging of politics and religion, but I opted to stay home and distress from the weekend with the toddlers. I opted to stay home from Schlock Cinema the next evening too, because I also have this cold virus that followed us from Portland. I missed a showing of Attack of the Puppet People. Damn! I did find out that I can watch it on my computer for free on the Netflix site, so I can theoretically make up that class.

Tomorrow is Justin’s second birthday. He received a retro-style tricycle from Jen’s parents today (some assembly required.) We holding a big bash for him at the Woodland Park Zoo on Sunday morning.

It’s quarter past eleven. Justin has just awoken and is crying out. He varies from a whine to a full throated wail, trying to get me to come up there, so that he can make believe that he’s asleep when I walk into the room. I’ve started reading a book that I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a decade. It’s a book about cell biology called Life Itself. It’s fun to ponder facts such as human beings being composed of 70 trillion cells that are also able to live independently. There are two hundred types of cells that make up our physical being (liver cells, nerve cells and such.) Each of those cells contain a bustling world of electro-chemical reactions that we’re only just beginning to understand. I’m sure that in the decade since this book was published that many more milestones have been reached. It was just a week or so ago that it was announced that a beating rat heart was created in a lab in Minnesota from baby rat cells. The researchers emphasized that they were at least ten years away from creating a beating human heart.

Justin is still whining and it’s now eleven-thirty, so I’ll post this and deal with my cranky baby. He probably just wants to know that I haven’t forgotten about him.

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