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Three dozen years old! The boys “helped” me pick out balloons for my birthday. We rode bikes at the playground, and hit the wading pool in the afternoon (you know, Mama’s favorite things to do). We wrapped up the day with a giant chocolate cake and a super late bedtime.

4329_lo4328_lo These two pictures by Chris. Weird flare from the candles — there are a lot of candles!
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Pedal boats at Green Lake

I was a little dizzy from the rocking motion, and Chris may or may not have felt light-headed after a hour of pedaling, but our two little freeloaders had a good time.
Tip: Renting a pedal boat at Green Lake is just $15/hour before noon (normally $22).

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Playdate party

We went to an amazing party at Playdate Sea in honor of these little birthday brothers. Really, could they be any cuter??

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Paul loved Playdate. I felt kind of bad, because I used to take Joseph there all the time, while kiddo number 2 never goes.

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Joseph, being braver than usual, went down the super steep slide about a zillion times.

5 new Seattle ice cream spots

I ate my way through another ParentMap story — this one’s about ice cream! It’s on ParentMap here.

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Need a treat that will cool you down? We’ve rounded up five new ice cream shops, along with fun kid activities nearby. Try ice cream focused on local ingredients, chef-made flavors, gourmet popsicles and the newest branch of Molly Moon’s.

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Sweet Alchemy

4301 University Way N.E., Seattle, in the U-District

Cost: $3.55 for 3 ounces, $5.55 for 6 ounces, $7.55 for 9 ounces

Lois Ko started working as a scooper at the Häagen-Dazs on the Ave in 2001, when she was a student at the University of Washington. She bought the ice cream store in 2006, a year after graduating. Then last year, she broke away from the franchise and re-opened as Sweet Alchemy.

There’s none of that corporate feeling left. From the draped fabric ceiling to the floor, tiled in actual pennies, every inch of the store has Ko’s personal stamp. Especially the ice cream.

Take the blueberry lavender, for example. Ko went blueberry picking with her daughter (now 7), and was pregnant with her son (now 2). “I could taste everything,” she says. The blueberries suggested flowers to her, and inspired the intriguing new flavor pairing.

The Persian Rose grew out of customer suggestions. Sweet Alchemy started with a cardamom ice cream. A Lebanese neighbor recommended adding rose water, then some Iranian customers suggested pistachio. The result? A fragrant, not-too-sweet combination that you’ll be thinking about long after it’s devoured.

Ko makes a point to use local products – the blueberries are from Kent, the milk comes from Lynden. Each morning at the store, they crack open 80 to 100 eggs and re-pasteurize the milk with egg yolk for the organic base. On the back of every employee’s shirt is their recipe: milk, cream, sugar and egg yolk. It’s sweet alchemy, indeed.

Nearby fun: Plan your visit for a Sunday, when street parking and campus parking are free. Also free on Sunday: admission to the Henry Art Gallery, a small, contemporary art museum on the edge of campus (4100 15th Ave. NE.) With all that extra cash you save, you can load up on more ice cream.

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Sweet Bumpas

6555 5th Ave. S., Seattle, at the Equinox Studios building in Georgetown

Cost: $4.50 for a single scoop

Before Matt Bumpas got into the ice cream business, he worked as a school psychologist in Seattle Public Schools. “Now I get to see kids happy all the time,” he quipped.

His 180 degree career shift took him to culinary school, then to the pastry chef position at Poppy, a foodie favorite in Capitol Hill. Customers raved about his ice cream, and in 2014, Bumpas left Poppy to start Sweet Bumpas.

His ice cream flavors are playful and surprising. There’s chipotle peanut butter, cinnamon basil with corn cookie, Earl Gray rum raisin and more. His favorite this season: the hokey pokey from New Zealand, sweet cream with homemade honeycomb candy inside.

Bumpas says parents inadvertently teach their kids to be picky eaters. “Honey, you’re not going to like it, that’s a grown up flavor,” he’ll hear someone say. Or another parent will see the sign for “fresh mint cocoa crumble” and say, “Oh, it’s just regular mint chocolate chip.”

“No, you taste this,” Bumpas says. “There’s nothing regular about it.”

Instead of using extracts and flavorings, 1.5 pounds of fresh mint leaves goes into a 6 gallon batch. Taste it, and you’ll never go back to the freezer-burned carton from the grocery store.

You can find Sweet Bumpas at six farmer’s markets each week, and a scoop window at its new kitchen facility in Georgetown (open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Nearby fun: It’s a five-minute straight shot to the Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way S.), which just opened a new Apollo exhibit. Children up to 4 are free, and kids 5 to 18 can sign up for the Connections program at special events to get free admission for themselves plus their grown-up.

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Seattle Pops

1401 N. 45th St., Seattle, in Wallingford

Cost: $4 each

Remember the freeze pops we ate when we were kids? It was basically frozen sugar water, and it’d turn your mouth weird colors, like electric blue.

Seattle Pops is seriously upping the popsicle game with its gourmet line of nearly 40 fruity and creamy flavors. You can’t go wrong with the pleasantly tart strawberry popsicle, made with berries from Puyallup. Or try the chocolate banana, so creamy you feel like you’re eating ice cream on a stick. In the kitchen, Seattle Pops is always experimenting with potential new flavors. How about a chocolate coconut curry popsicle? Or dog-friendly puppy pops?

Owner Megan Janes came up with the idea for a popsicle business in Seattle in 2012, and ran it through a group of business students at University of Puget Sound, her alma mater. Seattle Pops now is in its fourth season, and does 13 farmer’s markets a week. Their first brick-and-mortar retail store, located in the heart of Wallingford, is scheduled to open July 28. (Check their website and Facebook page for the big announcement.)

The new store carries flavors you won’t find at the farmer’s markets, like mango chili, pineapple jalapeño, avocado and cinnamon horchata. The store also offers chocolate dipping, in milk, white or dark chocolate.

Megan runs Seattle Pops along with her sister, Lindsey, and their dad, Dave. The three of them put their heads together for all the business decisions and recipes. “I’m proud of both of them,” Dave says about his daughters. “They work really hard.”

Nearby: Browse the aisles at Archie McPhee across the street (1300 N. 45th St.) for terrifically juvenile gag gifts. Or head a few blocks over to the Meridian Playground (4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.), which features a playground next to a fruit orchard and a P-Patch.

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Molly Moon’s

4822 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, in Columbia City

Cost: $4.50 for a single scoop

The best advertisement for Molly Moon’s is the aroma of fresh waffle cones wafting out the open door. Hours after we stopped by the new store in Columbia City, I could still smell it on my clothes, in my hair, on my children. Mmmm.

Molly Moon Neitzel, the doyenne of Seattle’s artisanal ice cream scene, says she’s been eying a location in Columbia City for three years now. This store, her eighth, opened June 2 between a Starbucks and a children’s consignment store.

“I wanted to provide great jobs to a diverse team in a diverse neighborhood,” Neitzel says. “A big part of the goal was to create 20 good jobs with benefits. And we did that.” (You can read more about Molly Moon’s business practices in our story here, and a Q&A interview with Neitzel here.)

With a Full Tilt just a few blocks away, there’s no shortage of ice cream on this stretch of Rainier Ave. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ice cream lovers either. We visited on a warm Sunday afternoon, and found a cone-licking crowd spilling out the doors. Strangers waiting in line swapped tips about what to get, and no one was in a hurry to leave this delicious place.

Nearby: Go swimming in the gorgeous Rainer Beach indoor pool (8825 Rainier Ave. S.) as an excuse to visit this newest branch of Molly Moon’s empire. Just opened in 2013, the facility includes an 85-degree lap pool and a 93-degree leisure pool for the kids. Read more about the pool’s family-friendly features in our review here.

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12 Scoops

4267 S Orcas St., Seattle, in Hillman City

Cost: $3.49 for one scoop

You’ll smile when you reach to open the doors to 12 Scoops – the handles are made of ice cream scoopers. Owner Wally Morris designed the cheerful red and white interior himself to appeal to kids. He knows his audience; he’s got six kids, age 4 to 35.

The customers in front of us in line snapped pictures of their Insta-worthy cones before digging in. There are 12 flavors to choose from, and they rotate out every month, hence the name “12 Scoops.” One flavor to you don’t see often is Grape-Nuts cereal ice cream. Morris, who was born in Jamaica, says that’s a flavor he remembers from growing up.

Morris previously used the building as a warehouse for another business. When they outgrew the space last year, he turned the storefront into an ice cream shop because, “I’m an ice cream lover.”  He has plans to expand and add a restaurant, but the ice cream isn’t going anywhere. “We will always have ice cream no matter what we do,” Morris said.

Nearby: Let the kids (under age 6) get their wiggles out at Seattle Gymnastics Academy’s indoor playground (5034 37th Ave. S., #200). Little gymnasts will especially love the foam pit and tumble track. Tip: Admission on Tuesdays is only $2 with a non-perishable food donation.

 

More ice cream

  • There are all kinds of good reasons to go to Marination Ma Kai (1660 Harbor Ave. S.W.) in West Seattle. The views of the Seattle skyline, the patio area where kids can run around, the spam musubi, and the Hawaiian shave ice, which you can get with a scoop of Husky Deli ice cream.
  • The Seattle-Bainbridge ferry trip alone is a treat for the kids, but top it off with a scoop from Mora Iced Creamery (Madrone Lane N., Bainbridge Island) to make it an epic excursion.
  • Try the Theo Chocolate Chunk at the Fremont location of Bluebird Ice Cream (3515 Fremont Ave. N.). If you have room afterwards, walk three blocks west to the Theo factory store to eat all the free chocolate samples you can handle.
  • It’s unclear which is the bigger attraction at Full Tilt – the fun ice cream flavors or the pinball machines. It’s the perfect pairing for kids and the young at heart. Locations in White Center, Ballard, U-District and Columbia City.
  • Portland’s famous Salt & Straw is slated to open its first Seattle store in Capitol Hill in late summer.

Blueberries

It was too early in the season, and most of the blueberries weren’t ripe yet, but that didn’t stop my kids from foraging.

Our go-to blueberry farm, Mercer Slough, is closed for Light Rail construction, so we went to Larsen Lake instead. Larsen Lake turned out to be just as nice, with a large restroom, parking lot and Rainier cherries for sale. I always have to supplement our u-pick because I have two, ahem, snackers. U-pick berries are $1.50 a pound, and we managed to rack up 36 cents worth in our pail.

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Corporate freebies and bargains for kids

Who doesn’t like free stuff? This round up of the best corporate freebies and bargains ran on ParentMap here.

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Want to support independent stores? Me too. But when it comes to getting freebies and bargains, hit the chains and don’t feel guilty about it. The big box stores will give your kids free things to tempt you into their doors. They hope you buy something, but that’s up to you.

Here are the best corporate giveaways and deals with no strings attached. We don’t do freebies that involve waiting in a long line, or having to buy an adult meal. Make sure you sign up a few weeks early for birthday clubs, though, to get your coupon in time.

 

Free birthday balloon at Toys ‘R’ Us

Sign your kids (through age 10) up for the birthday club and for their birthday, they’ll get a coupon for $3 off anything $3 or more and a birthday Mylar balloon. Supposedly the kids get a plush Geoffrey the giraffe toy too, but when we visited, the store was out of them “until further notice.”

Toy “R” Us also holds special events with free giveaways. Previous events have featured Hatchimals, LEGOs and Pokémon. Just sign up for the e-mails or check the store’s event page.

 

$1 Mylar balloons at the Dollar Tree

The latex balloons from the grocery store are $1.50, and they start to droop after a day. Head to the Dollar Tree instead, where you can get a Mylar balloon for $1. A store employee will fill up the balloon for you right there so they’re fresh and will last longer. The Dollar Tree has a big selection of balloons – birthdays, stars, smiley faces – that covers all special occasions.

While you’re there, pick up sidewalk chalk, craft supplies and paper party goods. The Dollar Tree is the cheapest place we’ve found for these expendable kid items.

 

Free kids’ workshops at Home Depot

Build a wooden toy at Home Depot’s free kids’ workshops, which take place from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month. Hammers, nails, wood, paint – everything’s provided. Kids get to take home their finished project, along with a little orange apron and a pin.

You can register online, but we would still suggest getting there early to make sure you get a kit. Make sure the kids are wearing something you don’t mind getting paint on. The workshops are recommended for kids 5 to 12, but we’ve seen much younger do-it-yourselfers too (with parents helping, of course).

Upcoming projects include making a tic-tac-toe game (June 3), a bug house (July 1) and a Penske truck (August 5).

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Free cupcake and book at Barnes & Noble

Sign your kiddos up for Barnes & Noble’s kids’ birthday club, and get a free cupcake, cookie or gluten-free Rice Krispies treat from the café. It’s an honest-to-God cupcake – not a mini-cupcake – in your choice of chocolate, vanilla or red velvet. The coupon arrives in your inbox just before your kid’s birthday, and is valid for 2 weeks. Go have a treat, play with the train table, browse the kids’ section and call it a fun family activity.

Also, kids in grades 1 to 6 can sign up for the Barnes & Noble summer reading program. Read any eight books, record it in your journal and earn a free book.

 

Free LEGO builds at LEGO stores

Join the LEGO VIP loyalty program, and register online for the monthly mini model build events at LEGO stores. It’s a different model each month. Kids 6 to 14 learn how to make it and get to take it home for free. The program fills up fast, so sign up right away.

LEGO stores sometimes have other special giveaways – find your nearest store online for details.

 

Free crafts at Lakeshore Learning

Lakeshore Learning, aka every teacher’s favorite store, offers a free craft every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations are needed, and kids 3 and up can make some art to take home. Upcoming projects include a paper frog (June 3), a feathered parrot (June 10) and a Father’s Day card (June 17).

 

Disney Store free events

The Disney Store has several regular free events. Every day when the store opens, one helper gets picked to receive a special key or medal. At Disney Store storytimes, kids get a free finger puppet to take home. And starting June 10, the store will hold Summer Play Days every day at 3 p.m. where kids get a free embroidered patch.

For other special events with giveaways (they happen frequently), check the Disney Store’s event calendar.

 

Pottery Barn Kids storytime

Pottery Barn Kids holds a storytime every Tuesday at 11. Attend five storytimes, and kids will get a little gift. https://www.potterybarnkids.com/customer-service/store-events.html

 

E-mail discounts from your favorite brand

My oldest was late walker, and I spent a fortune experimenting with various handmade, soft-soled shoes while he stumbled around and tripped a lot. Then I found See Kai Run, a Seattle-area company that makes podiatrist-approved shoes for kids.

I bought a couple of pairs of shoes at full retail price before I wised up and signed up to get e-mail alerts for sales and clearances. Instead of paying $50 to $60 a pair, I spend less than $20.

Lesson learned: Sign up for your favorite brand’s e-mails.

 

Chocolate and ice cream

These sweet treats aren’t just for kids – the whole family can enjoy these freebies.

Are you a chocolaholic? Join the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club and you get a coupon for $10 to spend at the store for your birthday.

Love ice cream? Sign up with Baskin Robbins for a free birthday scoop.

If it’s not your birthday, try these annual ice cream giveaways (but you will have to wait in line):

Block party

The kids got their red, white and blue on at our friends’ annual Fourth of July block party. We always go home and go to bed before the fireworks start, though. This year, the boys and I snuggled in bed and we could see just enough of the fireworks over the treetops. After the finale, we laid down and went to sleep. Now that’s the way to see a fireworks show.

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Discovery Park

The first and last time I went to Discovery Park was 2009. Back then, it was no big deal to walk 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the beach where there are no restrooms. It’s much trickier with two little kids.

Parents: park at the visitor’s center, let the kids play in the interactive exhibits and use the restrooms. The shuttle stop is just outside, and riding the mini school bus was just as fun as the beach.

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4288_lo Throwing rocks into the water, the Discovery Park edition.

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