As I mentioned, we bought a canoe. Then we had to wait while we procured paddles, life jackets, and some means of carrying the canoe to the water (in the meantime we played with it on land). All those objectives were achieved by this morning, so in the middle of the day we took a trip out to Walden Pond to see if it floats. It does!
We've been to the pond hundreds of times, but none of those trips were as exciting as this one. From the dangerously steep, rutted lane down to the boat launch and the violent rocking of the boat as Zion and Lijah stepped aboard for the first time it was clear that this was a new level of adventure. The smaller boys, who didn't have paddling to distract them, were pretty nervous at first; Lijah especially looked like he wanted to kiss the sand at our first stop, on the other side of the pond. There, the boys explored for a few minutes and we had a picnic lunch. After about half an hour of paddling all around the pond, though, even Lijah was starting to get used to the motion. Then, as the sun broke through the clouds, we completed our circumnavigation and approached the old familiar beach—but so different, seen for the first time from the sea! Also there was nobody else there.
The boys ran around a lot and swam a little, while I lay in the sun and thought about how lovely it is to be alive (and also some about Pokemon). Then they put the boat back in the water and experimented to see how tippy it really is. It's pretty stable, actually, but if you really want it to go over it sure will! I think it made them feel a little bit better about this whole boating business. Harvey, certainly, was emboldened enough to try a short solo voyage of his own!
Harvey tells me it was a the best adventure we've ever done. Here's to lots more—even better!—in the months to come.
Zion turned 7 yesterday. We celebrated in the morning with a ceremonial pancake breakfast and presents from me and Harvey. Zion very much approved.
Then we went for a canoe trip on the river, and he wasn't such a fan of that; but even on your birthday not everything can be totally to your taste. His baseball party with his friends is the afternoon. That one comes with a real cake.
Happy birthday to our wonderful fierce cuddly boy!
Zion's party was this past Saturday. For the second year in a row it was a baseball party, per his request and the invitation.
The kids didn't feel like they had to rush into playing baseball. They mostly all knew each other already, and our yard offers plenty of opportunity for free play.
When they started forming opposing gangs, though, I figured it was time to formalize the violence as sport and we had a pretty fair game: birthday guests vs siblings and parents. We didn't keep score, I don't think, but there were some fine hits and even a little fielding.
Then we had dinner—hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the fire, plus chips and lemonade (and salad and unsweetened ice tea for the grown-ups). After dinner Zion wanted to go right to presents, so that happened before cake.
The cake of course is the most important part of the party. This year Zion wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate of course limits the range of decorating possibilities, but I think I did ok.
In the end Zion didn't care for it and limited himself to ice cream, but everyone else seemed to approve. There's none left now, that's for sure!
The day was a fine end to a full birthday week for our middle child. Harvey is now planning his own party, for late June. The fun never stops!
After a few practice runs taking our new canoe out on ponds, we felt ready to take on the Concord River. The trial run on Zion's birthday was a little rough, but Tuesday we mobilized the whole family for another go—with rather more success. You can see from the picture above that we've made some improvements to our fine vessel, the Green Gecko; the tent is essential to keep the sun off the cargo on these bright spring days.
Leah borrowed a kayak from friends so she could join us (and also took the morning off from work). Her boat goes faster than ours, but she was kind enough to wait up when we got too far behind.
In Bedford the river feels hugely wide, but upriver into Concord it narrows significantly, and it felt more like river boating as we navigated the twists and turns. The current was much more noticeable in the confines space too, and navigating around all the fallen trees in the water was exciting!
Our goal was the Old North Bridge, but as we made our creeping way upstream it became clear we weren't going to make it—especially since we needed to be back home for the next scheduled event safely before 3:00. Still, we couldn't go all that way without finding somewhere to go to. The Great Meadows bird sanctuary was a great consolation prize, and we had a pleasant picnic lunch on a bench by the riverbank. Then we explored a little. Just like last time we were there, the highlight was playing in the fords.
After lunch we went a little further upstream before we hit our cut-off time, and turned around. It's a good thing the current was helping us along on the homeward trip, because we wouldn't have made it otherwise: our arms were about ready to fall off! The kids didn't work quite as hard, but after over three hours in the boat they well earned their riverside playtime back at the boat launch.
Since we were disappointed of the bridge Tuesday, Thursday the boys and I put in upstream on the Sudbury River and paddled down to it, with a brief excursion a little ways up the Assabet River. We were excited to make it to what felt like a fabled destination, though sadly my camera ran out of batteries so I wasn't able to capture our triumph. Even sadder because the light was beautiful as the morning's sunshine gave way to threatening overcast; overcast that threatened us right back upriver after just a few minutes play at the bridge (since we've been to the bridge by car and bicycle hundreds of times, the exciting part about this visit was tying up to a real dock at the Old Manse boathouse).
Both wind and current were against us as we headed back to the car. The wind was so strong we had to take down the tent, but that was fine since it was about as dark as night anyways. Harvey and I were a little concerned. Lijah, on the other hand, is now totally used to being in the boat, and lurched happily from side to side to lean over and put his hand in the water. It was easier when he was terrified! He even put in a good long stretch of "helping" with a paddle of his own (Harvey was very kind and patient to not throw him overboard).
I thought the whole trip was pretty quick, but when we got back to the car I found that it had been well over two hours. Oops! Time flies when you're on the water. It was great fun, but after all that work I think we all deserve a quiet, boating-free weekend.
Zion learned to ride his bike yesterday. It was a tough sell on my part... it's been over a year since I started encouraging him, with two or three false starts at training programs. Unlike Harvey—who started cycling on his own at 5—he wasn't feeling very self-motivated. But now that he's 7 I'm about done with carrying him, so I've been encouraging him a little more vigorously. Yesterday I was so grumpy I told him he had to just go out and practice for half an hour, with no whining. That was enough.
Most of the time I'm happy to let the kids set their own pace for their learning and development. In this case though, I knew that Zion would be so proud and delighted with himself when he finally figured it out that pushing him felt worth it. I was delighted this evening when he called to a friend, "I don't like scootering any more, I just like biking!" Despite it being a blazing hot day he headed out three or four times to ride up and down the street—that's after our mile-long ride around the big block this morning (with many stops). Next up: the three-mile course at the PMC kids ride!
Besides his cycling accomplishments, Zion also lost his first two teeth in the last week and a half. He's felt pretty grown up lately in a lot of ways, and now his grown-up teeth make it official. Of course, as the kid who declared he wanted to be the baby again when Lijah got bigger he's still holding onto some little-kid tricks too. Good thing he's cute enough to pull it off most of the time! I'm happy to let him be the baby as much as he wants; a baby who can ride his own bike is the best kind there is!