Playtime: Son’s 16th birthday a time to reflect on our favorite activities through the years

Try Hockey for Free at Olympic View Ice Arena March 5.

Being somewhere between a “drive-by” birthday celebration and a “room full of aerosols” birthday makes celebrating your baby turning 16 weirder than it already is. No one but me is surprised that I am having the mushiest pangs of nostalgia about this milestone, which feels less like a milestone due to COVID and also because of his disinterest in driving thus far. The little things have been taking place of the parties and worry about solo car trips. Things like the hours spent in his room, the big change in the types of presents requested, and that he needs to lean down a bit to hug me.

Even though he is well past the stage where you prop them up next to a sign that lists their age, size, favorite foods and recent accomplishments, I feel very much in that mindset. BTW the answers are 16, too big, things that come in any form of crinkly packaging, and picking out what Seattle Kraken gear he will wear to school the night before. Since this column isn’t (solely) meant for self indulgence, but I can’t get my mind off the this-is-your-life style montage I have running through my head, I thought I would combine the two and talk about all of the local events and places he loves or has loved throughout the years. I am so worried about forgetting something significant, so if I forgot about you, I am sorry and if it makes you feel any better, it’s not personal — I can’t call the kids the right name anymore.

When he was about 3 1/2 and had a brand-new sibling, I made a call to the front desk of the Frances Anderson Center after seeing some activity options and asked the now-retired and always-missed Debbie Johnson what she suggested. Ben was signed up for the now defunct Camp Goodtime on that phone call. Camp Goodtime not only led us to lifelong friends, but also to Meadowdale Preschool, which we both truly loved (and where we found even more long-lasting friendships.) Meadowdale Preschool, while currently full, opens registration for the 2022-23 school year in March. You can find more info on the program at

When he was old enough, he started doing camps through the city’s Discovery Programs. Led by Ranger Naturalists, these camps had him trekking through Yost, learning bird calls, dissecting owl pellets, and learning all about the Puget Sound. He would come home covered in dirt or sand wearing his backup clothes and be so incredibly happy. We even hired a Ranger Naturalist to guide the kids around low tide for his brother’s birthday, it was a really great time and we all learned a lot! They are offering a Discovery Spring Break Nature Camp this year and Jennifer Leach, program coordinator for the Discovery Programs, told me that they are planning to have summer camps this year as well. You can find these programs in The Craze and online at For information on their yearly events, like the upcoming Starlight Beach Walk scheduled for Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m., you can visit

After showing little to no interest in soccer but needing some kind of activity for all of his toddler-to-kid transition energy, we took him to a Try Hockey Free event with Seattle Junior Hockey Association (SJHA) when he was 4. Fast forward to friends, free skates at Lynnwood Ice Center, and an obsession with our new NHL team, this sport has been a big part of his life. Not all hockey is weekly trips to Canada and going to live with a family in Minnesota — there are teams for different levels and options to start later than your preschool years. SJHA is holding another Try Hockey Free Event on March 5 at Olympic View Ice Arena in Mountlake Terrace followed by a new season of beginner hockey, which includes an option for newcomers who are 10-plus. Older skaters can volunteer time during beginner sessions, which is something that my favorite skater finds to be both rewarding and hysterical. You can find more info and registration on

After one-too-many swim lessons in a hot, loud, chlorine-filled room while chasing his little brother, I gave up on group swim lessons. While his swimming was serviceable, he needed an activity after an injury and so swimming was a great option to get activity. The Teen Swim lessons were just right. It was a smaller group, away from the younger kids, with less waiting your turn. I could not have predicted how well it was going to go and in the three sessions we did, I saw that the other adults bringing teens were happy as well. You can find more info on these lessons and all the other pool-related options at

Lynnwood’s summer day camp has been a lifesaver after Edmonds Day Camp was no longer an option. You can pick a week or all summer (though you have to register fast) and spend the days outside at Lynndale Park, taking trips to the Lynnwood Pool, and learning all the camp songs possible. As kids get older, there is an option to be a junior counselor. The registration fee is less than for day camp and while some of the activities are what I call “job adjacent,” there are still activities geared just for them. My son finally had the chance to be a junior counselor and loved the camaraderie, the feeling of having a tiny bit higher rank, and leveling up to nickname status where the campers only know you and their counselors by their chosen nickname. Both of my kids have gone there, and it has been a great option for a week here or there or all summer, including before- and after-camp options. You can find registration and more information at

The Edmonds School District has hosted one of my son’s (and my) favorite camps, Summer Music School. I want to go on and on about Summer Music School; marching in a band is something that he has wanted to do as long as he could remember and this was the perfect opportunity. Summer Music School has many options — from theater to songwriting to jazz band — and allows students to try new instruments with no rental cost. My son was able to participate in a Korean drumming group and try steel drums with the leader of Steel Magic Northwest, both of which were a way to work on percussion while trying a new thing. Summer Music School has been postponed during COVID, but you can keep an eye out for updates on Edmonds.Wednet.Edu.

My son’s birthday was certainly affected by COVID, but we did our best to celebrate We went down to Climate Pledge Arena to visit The Lair, which is the team store inside the arena. It was amazing to be inside, even if barely, and of course the store has every Kraken item imaginable. Then we headed across the water to our favorite burger place, Coastline Burgers in Kirkland, where we are in shock, each time we visit, because of how good it is. The icing on top was a chance to see his birthday twin and best pal, the card from our neighbor with a dollar for each year of your age with the offer expiring at 18, doorstep deliveries from friends, and messages from friends and family.

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.