Presidents’ Day Hike

Puppy Penny – 6 years ago at Schollenberger Park

Three-day weekends mean a day off to sleep late. A bonus day to get things done, have some fun, and get some chill time. An extra day with my main squeeze, an extra night to stay up late. Right?

HA. HA. HA. I have kids.

Holidays now mean Kevin is home from teaching, Addie is home from preschool, and I don’t babysit my part-time third child. They do not mean my kids sleep past 6 am, or refrain from climbing in our bed and complaining, or torturing the dog before sunrise. Monday holidays mean the third day in a row of this, and their pent up energy leaves us no option but to get out of the damn house.

Presidents’ Day was no exception. The morning snuggles were nice, but didn’t last. We bitched and moaned over coffee about needing to get out, but it was so windy and freezing (40 degrees, 55 within the hour). Northern CA winters are rough. Indoor activities would be too crowded for adult anxiety and toddler wildness. With no better options, and the kids trashing the house room by room, we decided to brave a hike at Schollenberger Park. A wetlands area close to us, with stroller-friendly paths, and nice views, it was a free activity: low risk if it failed.

I tricked Addie (3 ½) into getting ready by asking her to pick a ridiculous outfit, and she rose to the challenge: flowered leggings, neon striped shorts, pink tutu, purple rainbow shirt. Owen (almost 2) announced he would be riding his scooter. Kevin and I shared a panicked glance when we heard “DOO RIE!” (scooter ride). The scooter (which he only pushes backwards) means meltdowns over going in the street or heading home, and constant screams of “SELF! SELF! O-OH DO IT!” With an empathetic “sorry sweetie, today will be a hike and stroller ride”, we responded to every cry of “DOO RIE!” with “mm hmm, hike”. He was not comforted, but did get in the car, after a quick 90 minutes of getting ready. Poor Penny Dog ran in anxious circles, begging not to be left behind.

We all had vastly different ideas of how this hike should go. Kevin wanted to run, like we did in our pre-child days. I did not. Penny was delusional about getting ALL the birds. Owen never got over the scooter; he jumped in and out of the stroller, fussing about walking off the path (strictly forbidden). My genetically predisposed klutz, Addie, ran while looking behind her, holding sticks and fruit snacks, until her coughing fits confined her to the stroller. We strapped them both in and walked together in peace, looking at the water, noticing the new SmartTrain in the distance. For 12 seconds.

Halfway around the 2-mile loop, we were in divide and conquer mode. The cold wind in my ears failed to drown out demands for snacks, complaints of kicking, and WHYWHYWHY’s. My shoulders ached from pushing the 70 pounds of double beast stroller over gravel. I wondered WHYWHYWHY we thought this was a good idea. Kevin and Penny were stopped ahead, off the path (I saw passersby frown). I jogged toward my handsome husband, recently clean-shaven after his winter break beard. Fresh air and love lifted me a little. My pretty Penny, my first baby with flopped ears, wagged her curled up tail. Kev waved and assessed the scene, glanced at approaching dogs and clutched the leash tighter. He was waiting to check in, see if I wanted to switch off, or relieve me of a whiny kid.The way he oversees our family is his own brand of romance; he is the glue that holds us together.

Flashing back to those pre-kid days, I imagined K and P had sprinted ahead as I caught up for a second lap. I pictured the leisurely lunch we might have after. Maybe we would go downtown for a beer. Or lounge on the living room floor; I would devour a novel for fun and he would strum the guitar. We would make a little dinner, watch non-Disney-channel TV. We would sleep ALL NIGHT. A wistful pang stopped me.

Then I heard pure joy:



I pulled back the stroller canopies to see their faces: Addie’s spunky smile and wild eyes, watery from the wind. Owen’s toothy grin and shaggy hair. I looked again at my main squeeze. I saw his heart shine through his whole face. Those old days are gone, but they got us to this perfectly imperfect one.


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