Hops and Skips

Seattle, a Toddler, and Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease, Part 2

A coworker’s daughter had HFMD back in the Spring, so I pumped him for advice. His cure-all? Oatmeal baths.

The catch?

Our Airbnb didn’t have a bathtub.

We’ll never know if the oatmeal bath is the way to go, but by late Sunday, blisters were wreaking havoc on our daughter’s legs and hands so we had to develop our own cure-all: an aggressive medley of Calamine lotion, Desetin, prescription hydro-cortisone (for her persistent eczema spots), and Vasoline – determined by the stage of the blister. It wasn’t pretty – I can’t even come up for the words to describe how her skin looked (thank goodness it was pants season) and we left remnants of topical creams on pretty much every linen in the apartment – but it seemed to relieve the discomfort and kept us all sane.

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Day four was cold and dreary, but it didn’t dampen our exploring spirits. Our mission was basically to be outside as much as possible, so we started the day at the Seattle Japanese Garden. It’s tucked away in the southern part of the Washington Park Arboretum and offers just the peace and tranquility you’d expect – soft walking paths circling around the lake and through the foliage. It started raining as we strolled, so, with water on my mind, I directed us to a cozy seafood lunch on the water at Duke’s Seafood and Chowder on the southern shore of Lake Union. The surrounding marina and waterfront real estate would have probably been bustling during warmer months, but it seemed nearly deserted in the cool October rain. Navigate your way to Duke’s and step through the door, though, and there’s a warm buzz of busy energy, surprising for an everyday Tuesday. We sat by a window, by a fireplace, and enjoyed a filling seafood lunch.

When you’re in the midst of travel excitement, you don’t really want to interrupt the adventures for a nap, but, with a toddler, that nap break is very much needed. To me, this is the part of traveling with kids that requires the most flexibility and compromise – you have to find a balance somewhere between that strict toddler-led schedule of every other day and the carefree spontaneity of travel. Most importantly, you have to meet your kid’s needs. Sometimes it can be really frustrating, but I’ve found that if we loosely plan our days around these needs (meals and naps), it keeps enough structure for kids while allowing enough unplanned exploration.

Planning car or stroller rides around nap time has been our best solution, so after lunch at Duke’s, we took a drive west to Discovery Park. It’s Seattle’s largest city park, but it’s less of the manicured, playground style; instead it has beaches and hiking trails and hundreds of acres of dense forest, open meadows, and rocky cliffs along the coast. While bébé napped in the back, we meandered slowly through its roads, parked for a rest and alternated trips to the Visitors Center, and navigated to the lighthouse at the park’s (and city’s) western-most point. I was very much reminded of our rainy days in New Zealand’s Catlans, crossing paths with hardly another soul.

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Whenever I travel, I always have at least one perfect “vision” that encompasses the setting and the vibe, everything I expect from a place. We do always end up visiting a few check-list spots in any new location (because do you really want to go all the way to, say, Paris and NOT see the Eiffel Tower?), but I spend more time planning a way to make my “vision” come true. Here’s what it was in Seattle:

A spot on the water,
A downtown view,
A dreary, cool day,
A cozy indoors,
With oysters
And a glass of wine.

My vision led us to Westward, a waterfront restaurant near our place in Wallingford on the north shore of Lake Union. There were boats in the marina; the buildings of downtown blanketed by clouds; and an oyster bar run by some friendly shuckers that amazingly toed that delicate line between allowing privacy and offering friendly conversation.

It was fitting that I lived out my “vision” on the final night of the trip; when you know a trip is coming to an end, it’s always better that end is a satisfying one.

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In many ways, Seattle surprised me. It contradicts itself – connected to nature but incredibly (unexpectedly) densely populated; touting green, simple living but with an extravagant cost of living. I’m curious to explore further, beyond Seattle central, to see how daily life plays out in the suburbs or surrounds. But despite the feeling that residency requires an elite membership card, the city of Seattle did not disappoint.

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