“And Don’t Come Back Unless You’re Bleeding!”

Paisley, Liam & Broder

Getting some much needed fresh air: Paisley (9yo), Liam (5yo), and Broder (20mo).

When I was little, and was too stir-crazy or wild to be confined to four walls and a roof, my mother, perhaps with just a note, just a hint, of exasperation, routinely threw me and my brother outside with the words (the warning?), “And don’t come back inside unless it’s dinnertime – OR YOU’RE BLEEDING!”

And ALL the other mothers in our neighborhood did the same to (for?) their children, so I always had good company. In lieu of putting up padded walls, or turning to tumblers full of vodka to cope, the parents of my generation knew that their kids just needed to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks OUTSIDE.

I was reminded of this parental coping mechanism just last Sunday, as my children, as cute and squeezably-adorable as they are, decided that the only game they wanted to play was seeing which one could successfully make the other one cry and scream the loudest.

They are VERY good at this sort of entertainment.

Not able to handle their grating, chalkboard-scratch-like screams anymore, in desperation, I went to open the back door to shout my mother’s demand, and just as the words, “And don’t-” left my mouth, I remembered that my backyard is a mud pit… Crapola.

Of course, I knew that my backyard was a mud pit. It’s been that way since the start of last summer, when my husband and I decided, after receiving several (insane) bids from landscape builders that equaled the amount of a college education (or two!), we could do the dang work ourselves. (Now, now, I can hear you snickering!! That’s not very nice. Even if it is justified.) So, we spent 4th of July weekend (yes, I said last year – stop rubbing it in!) excavating what I had been calling our “forest restoration” project (really, our backyard did look like a jungle, with poisonous hemlocks growing and everything) and turning the space into a lovely… lovely…. well, lovely spot of dirt. We planned on doing more work during the rest of the summer – we really did! – but then we decided we should transplant a beautiful paper bark maple we wanted to try and save… And of course, that means waiting for the tree to go dormant… In the fall… Or the winter… Or the following spring. Hey, we’re patient people! So, our lovely spot of dirt has become, with the addition of the monsoon season we call Spring in Seattle, a lovely… spot of mud.

Not relishing the idea of my kids tracking mud into the house, a new plan needed to be formulated. And quick!

Luckily we are blessed with an abundance of outdoor possibilities. Seattle, it turns out, has over 400 parks and open areas to explore, and though I have no citation to back up the claim, I’ve often heard that that’s more than any other city in the country. So, even if it was raining (and occasionally snowing) on us that day, we packed up the cute and adorably-squeezable little trolls we call our children and went to the park.

Little did I know that the park we picked would become my new favorite park in Seattle.

Kubota Gardens

My new favorite park in Seattle: Kubota Gardens.

Kubota Gardens, in the Rainier Beach area of the city, is truly one of the prettiest parks I’ve seen. The kids had a blast following all the paths that just demanded – in the nicest way possible, of course – a full-speed sprint to see what was around this corner or that bend. During a rare moment of calm (who knew?!), we even watched rain drops form concentric circles on the still ponds. I could well imagine countless hours spent dropping leaves and twigs in the meandering streams and watching them go over the little waterfalls spread throughout the park. There were a countless number of perfect little spots for laying down a blanket (on a warmer day, of course) and spending the afternoon eating a picnic and napping in the dappled light of a cherry tree. Okay, okay, I know I’m letting myself get carried away – can you imagine my children napping under a tree?! Bahahaha! – but the idyllic setting of the Gardens just invited daydreams of such peace and tranquility that I can’t wait to take the kids back for another visit soon.

Which way should we go?

"Which way should we go?"

I'm going this way!

Paisley: "I'm going this way!"

I'm going this- wait! Look at this rock!

Broder: "I'm going this- wait! Look at this rock!"

I think I'll stop here for a moment.

Liam: "I think I'll stop here for a moment."

Wow. This is way better than making each other scream.

My imagination: "Wow. This is way better than making each other scream."

The fun came to an abrupt halt, though, when the 5yo took a tumble and came up with half a pant leg dripping in mud (I thought I could get away from mud-tracked-through-the-house why exactly??) and tearfully claiming that he was incapable of walking, though having no discernable wounds and definitely lacking any of the prerequisite bleeding to warrant re-entry to the house. We were, however, coming up on that dinner-time thing, so off to the car we returned.

And though I love discovering new favorite parks, I must admit that after surviving 30 minutes of soul-cringing tantrums and snippy little comments exchanged between the two oldest children, I did reflect on how nice it would be to actually have a backyard (that was more than a mud pit) where I could relegate the cute and squeezably-adorable little terrors until dinnertime – if for no other reason than it was SIGNIFICANTLY CLOSER to the dining room. I guess it’s time for me to break out the gardening supplies…

It took Mr. Fujitaro Kubota 35 years to transform the five acres of logged-off swampland he acquired in 1927 into the gorgeous American-Japanese garden it is today (he finished it in 1962, when he was 83 years old). I figure I’ve got ¼ of an acre to work with; if it took him an average of seven years to finish one acre, that gives me… (excuse me while I bring up my Calculator App) not quite two years to complete my own garden. Even if I count the ¾ of a year it’s taken to “transplant” the paper bark maple (you know that’ll never happen, right?), that still gives me plenty of time to get my hands dirty, attempt to turn my brown thumb green, and build a space where my kids can go explore and run when they become too wild or stir-crazy to be confined to four walls and a roof.

My own (currently mud-filled) backyard will never be as grand and peaceful as the Kubota Gardens, which I’m sure will remain my new favorite park for years to come. But I do longingly look forward to the day when, finally, I can open up the back door and scream repeat the VERY WISE words of my mother: “And don’t come back inside unless it’s dinnertime – or you’re bleeding!”

Though knowing my children? They’ll probably be bleeding long before dinnertime…