posts tagged with 'adventure'

beach retreat

Just like last year, we had an October church retreat to the seaside. This time it wasn't on an island, but the ocean was bigger.

Zion walking towards the gray stormy ocean

almost-november sea

The event was in Falmouth on Cape Cod, and since we're shiftless layabouts we were able to leave early on Friday to beat the traffic. That meant we had plenty of time to sight-see, so we met friends in Woods Hole to see some sights.

Zion, Harvey, Matthew and Sam looking at the research ships in the harbor at Woods Hole

young men and ships

I had no idea, but Woods Hole is full of free attractions, including an aquarium and a museum of oceanography. The latter featured a very realistic mockup of the cockpit of Alvin, a famous submersible that sails out of the port.

Harvey, Zion and Matthew in the mock-up Alvin cockpit

there's a 5 1/2 in floppy drive in there

There was also a movie to watch and lots of delicate displays that our energetic children needed to be warned away from occasionally. So when we got to the hotel where the retreat was being held the boys and I headed right down to the beach—with the gray sky, spitting rain, and whipping wind we knew we'd have the place to ourselves with plenty of room to run. Never mind the weather, the ocean is wonderful.

Zion running away from waves

don't let the waves catch you!

my feet, wading

feels nice

the boys playing in the waves

inevitably wet

As we settled into out luxurious hotel room a few minutes later—distracted only slightly from our unpacking by the littler boys dancing naked on the bed—the setting sun peeked from below the clouds, giving a promise of better weather tomorrow.

the setting sun peaking below storm clouds

promise for tomorrow

Of course, who needs good weather when you have a king-sized bed, a tv, and chicken fingers and fries served on fine china?

the boys and friends enjoying chicken fingers in 3-star surroundings

they better not get used to this

There were also cookies; a plate for each kid, adorned with a decorative flower. The adults had a Mexican buffet.

True to the promise of the previous evening, the morning dawned bright and fine. It turns out that tv is a wasteland—even the kids didn't find anything they thought was worth watching—but never mind, we had a balcony.

Harvey and Lijah on the hotel balcony watching the morning

watching the morning

At this point—maybe a little past 7:00—Leah was already out and about, on her way to running a half-marathon. Maybe she'll write something about it here... but probably not. So I was in sole charge of the kids for the morning. My own three were perfect angels at the delightfully complete breakfast buffet, although Lijah, with a waffle and chocolate chips on his plate (basically his favorite foods, and the latter not usually a breakfast choice), ate only a single packet of sugar. After breakfast I took charge of a group of 15 other kids (well, 12 others and my three), and about that the less said the better. It did not go so easily. But, as directed, I took them to the beach (not sunny any more—in fact, pretty chilly!) and, for variety, to a marsh behind the parking lot.

kids walking in a marsh

nature walk

They also acted crazy in a small ballroom for a while. In retrospect it wasn't so bad—they were all making the best of a tough situation, and we mostly had fun—but at the time it was pretty stressful. So I was glad to get outside for a picnic lunch with just a few close friends (including Mama with her fresh new medal!).

After lunch I couldn't dissuade the boys from swimming in the heated indoor pool, which was fun and all... but it didn't have waves. So after a bit I declared unilaterally that I was going out to swim in the ocean, and I got Harvey and Mama—and few other kids—to come along for the fun!

Leah and Harvey in the cold ocean

we're a hardy bunch

The water was only regular cold, but it was super windy, so we didn't last long. It was still lovely, though. Harvey and I made plans to try it another time with snow on the ground. Zion and Lijah are more sensible.

Lijah and Zion on beach chairs wrapped in towels

probably a wiser choice

Mid-afternoon it was back with the Kids Program, but less-programed: another volunteer and I just took everyone interested out to the beach. That was super fun. The wind was stronger than ever, so it was just the thing to play in a deep hole.

Harvey and Abby working in a deep hole

hole buddies

A little later I took a small group for a run down the beach. We found a breakwater and walked out along it, then turned around and walked the other way along an inlet and then under the beach-front road (we had to crawl!). On the other side we were all delighted to find a secret beach!

Harvey and friends walking on a secret beach

first footprints

It was out of the way and out of the wind, and we would have loved to stay to enjoy it fully... but sadly, our retreat time was drawing to an end and parents would soon be looking for their children. So we ran back—much easier with the wind!—so they could be delivered. It was hard to leave the beach.

pinkish afternoon light over the beach

some sun somewhere

At no point in the weekend did I or Leah get to participate in any of the many retreat activities planned for adults—well, except the spectacular meals! But that's ok, because I had a great time with some lovely people, which as far as I'm concerned is much more valuable.

Harvey, Zion, Elle, and Reed looking at a book together

comfortable together

Let's do it again next year! (with some minor changes, already being discussed among the church staff...).

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almost summer camp

We're not doing our day camp this year, which is both a relief and a disappointment to all concerned. Since we miss a lot about the things we did the last two summers, it was nice to get together last week to reprise the fun with a slightly more manageable crowd.

boys and friends walking across the Old North Bridge

out and about

Well, I say reprise; but with fewer kids—and each of them a year older—we actually blew any of our previous camp adventures out of the water with a cycling trip down the Reformatory Branch Trail to Concord to visit some of the historic sights. I figured it would be a tough ride for the kids (though I knew it was possible, since Harvey rode it a couple weeks ago)—but as it happened they just about rode away from Bridget, Leah, and I! We were plenty hot and winded by the end... though in our defense, we were all carrying the weight of at least one other human. Zion very much enjoyed the ride.

Zion smirking at the camera

that's his camera smile

The Old North Bridge is always a nice stop on an outing—there's the history and the water and lots of space to run around.

Leah and Bridget with the kids up on the bridge

Old North Gang

And room to chill and relax with friends too.

Zion, Lijah, and Nathan sitting on a stone wall above the river

outing buddies

Actually, we didn't plan for the day to be like a summer camp adventure; we barely planned it at all. Nathan was the first one to point out how much it felt like "Camp Archibald", and then we all went with it.

Since the kids rode so well on the way out we took a longer route home, with stops to check out an old cemetery (oldest grave we found, 1726) and Louisa May Alcott's childhood home (where we worked really hard to learn the maypole dance). They weren't unstoppable though—when I offered the choice between yet more distant adventures and a shorter way home, most of them definitively chose the latter. Zion and Eliot's votes to the contrary didn't count. The revised route—for 11 1/2 miles in total—led through some agriculture.

a tractor at work in field as we ride by

scenic Concord

To be as much like camp as possible, we ended our adventure by turning on the sprinkler (also because it was super hot). But there were only two takers among the kids—without twice a week camp they don't get to see each other enough, so they wanted to use all the time they did have at home doing important things like building with legos! The adults went in the sprinkler, though; we can cool down and talk at the same time.

It was fun; we'll have to do it again soon!

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a walk on the farm

a view of Great Brook Farm beyond the fields

down on the farm

When the morning rain trailed off after lunch we decided to treat ourselves to an extra special walk with the dog—especially since it's been impossible to take regular walks around here with the whole family all together. There's always a fuss of one kind or another. We thought that a trip to somewhere kind of new would be just the thing to put a new spin on walking together; and so it proved.

Mama and Lijah walking hand-in-hand in the woods

hiking partners

At Great Brook Farm state park there's a farm and cows and fields and woods, and we wanted to see it all. Lijah started the hike off determined to be carried, but when his brothers took off running down a big hill he changed his mind. It's kind of a toss-up which is preferable from a family hike perspective: it's less work when he moves under his own power, but also considerably slower. Oh well, he needs the exercise.

Zion licking a vanilla ice cream cone

big lick

Oh yeah, there's also ice cream—made on the premises from milk milked on the premises. The boys enjoyed a cone each, and I enjoyed the last two thirds of Lijah's and couple bites of Zion's. Good thing I didn't get one for myself! After the ice cream we explored the pond below the farm; when the boys yelled for me to come and see thousands of tadpoles I thought they were exaggerating, but actually they probably weren't.

hundreds of tadpoles swimming in shallow pond water

there's going to be a lot of frogs this fall...

Rascal didn't care about the tadpoles, but he was a big fan of the water. He went in a clean pond to get started, and then a spectacularly muddy one ("he looks like a different dog!" said Zion), then a clean one again.

Rascal shaking dry

he feels refreshed

Then he lay on the grass to dry off when he wasn't begging for licks of ice cream.

All in all it was delightful, and nobody cried until Lijah did in the car the whole way home. Then he went to bed before dinner and woke up as the other boys were going down at 7:30 and took several more hours to get back to bed. So that colors our view of the outing, ultimately; but I still think it was worth it. The boys want to go back soon; I think we can make that happen.

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adventure time again

It's been a while since the boys and I took a serious outing—libraries and toy stores of the surrounding towns have been enough for us for a while. But today I felt the call of bigger and better things; specifically, the big train and the big city!

Zion and Lijah snacking in the middle of Harvard Square

taking in the city life

One of the things that keeps us away from heavy-duty adventure is not wanting to spend money. So rather than parking at Alewife we left the car on a side street a little ways away and walked in. It was all part of the adventure! And as you can see, the boys were dressed for adventuring.

the boys walking along a path, in pirate (and monkey) costumes

geared up and ready to roll

Even before we left the house Lijah was super excited about the train, and I think it lived up to his expectations.

Lijah and Zion looking out the window of the subway

"dark in the tunnel"

We only went a couple stops, then got out at Harvard Square. We were disappointed by the Curious George store; the University was a bit more engaging.

the boys climbing up the endless steps of Widener Library

the temple of knowledge

Harvey especially was interested in what constituted the university—was it a building? Was it the Yard, within the walls? I told him what I knew about Harvard's history and about higher education generally, but there were some things I couldn't explain; like why there was a giant tent set up, empty but for a single ping-pong table (with two rackets and one ball just for us!)

the boys playing ping pong in a giant empty event tent

table tennis tent

All in all I think Harvard was a little unsettling for Harvey—the younger boys didn't care one way or another, but he couldn't figure it out and felt nervous about not fitting in. I can identify! He did approve of how Harvard starts its name, though.

To dispel any uneasiness, we walked over to a place that's deeply comforting to all of us: the Kemp playground on Cambridge common. It was tons of fun.

Harvey and Lijah resting for a moment at the Kemp playground

this is the place

On the way back to the train we stopped for italian ice, served up by a gentleman I used to work with who I hadn't seen in years. It was nice to chat for a bit, and the boys appreciated the sugar—so did I, since it kept Lijah awake for the train ride (and none of them noticed or minded that, while we waited on the platform, the man we were sitting next to peed into a cup without bothering to stand up from the bench).

The big city is fun, but on the way back to the car we were all glad to pause for a moment and reacquaint ourselves with the natural world.

the boys sitting by the side of a pond near the train station

pond break

All told we were away from home for six and a half hours; I expect everyone will sleep well tonight!

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the water in april

Zion looking at water going over a dam spillway

water water everywhere

It got warm for a couple days, so our thoughts turned towards splashing in the April water. Well, relatively warm... but as you can see from the last post, we made it all the way to the pond. Of course, we had to start small first.

Harvey and Zion, in swimsuits, looking down at the kiddie pool

looking dubious

The air was plenty warm in that picture, but the water from the hose not so much. There was not much playing done in that little pool before we headed out on our afternoon adventure to a playground—but the playground was so hot and dry that I needed to find somewhere wetter, just to look at.

Lijah looking out over the pond and falls

spring vista

Of course, the big boys need to explore more closely!

Zion atop a high wall by the waterfall

a different perspective

They threw sticks and rocks, then found some cardboard to make into boats to float downstream. Then getting the boats unstuck from the rocky rapids was a project that took the rest of our time there. Nobody fell in!

The next day wasn't quite as hot, so when I suggested a trip to the pond I wasn't thinking about actually swimming. But everybody else was!

Harvey in his swimsuit and life jacket standing in the pond

hardy New-Englander

At least we communicated about it before hand, and were fully prepared. Lots of other families visiting historic Walden Pond on a mild spring Saturday were thinking about visiting the Thoreau house site, maybe taking a hike around the pond, and not expecting that, on seeing water, their children would need to immediately jump in. They should have known better.

somebody we don't know splashing neck-deep in the pond

that happened

The girl in that picture went from dipping her feet in to fully submerged—fully clothed, of course—in under a minute. Most kids took a little longer, but they all got wet. As cold as the water was, though, nobody could just swim: we needed other entertainments as well.

Zion working on our sand castle

sand walled village

Of course, even in early spring, it's the water that's the real draw. Yay water!

Zion airborn, leaping from a rock into very shallow water

jump in!

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first "spring" outing

With the winter as warm as it's been we've been able to expand out outings a little bit beyond the usual suspects of museums, libraries, and indoor play spaces. But so far this year we've been making wintery choices: playgrounds, sure, but by car and with indoor destinations as well. Today wasn't super warm but it was bright and sunny, with a distinct springlike feel, so I thought we'd try out our warm-weather outing model: pack some bags, hop on the bikes, and see where we end up!

Harvey geared up for a cold-weather cycling expedition

ready to go

After a brief stop at the auto-parts store (trying to get the van ready to be inspected next month) we ended up by the old reservoir, where we dropped the bikes and took to the woods.

the three boys in a tree

another tree pose

It was great to be hiking again. And naturally, every hike needs a snack break! I'm working on distributing responsibility, so Harvey got to pack the snacks. That meant store-bought chewy granola bars for everyone! (plus a muffin for himself).

Lijah eating a store-bought granola bar

less chewy when it's cold

Just as the water is a big draw in warmer weather, the ice was today. Given the insane warmth over the weekend I was surprised to see it looking pretty solid—and of course we had to try walking on it.

Harvey and Zion standing on the ice at the middle of the pond

still bearing

As much as we enjoy snow, it's absence meant we could roam wherever we wanted, including up some startlingly steep slopes.

Harvey and Zion scrambing up a steep, leaf-covered hill

hard-working climbers

That one was steep enough that sliding down in on the leaves made a satisfactory sledding replacement!

After that I was ready to head home for lunch—I didn't get a muffin!—but the big boys wouldn't leave until they at least tried to cross the ice on the lower pond to the pump house, or whatever it is. Ice that was somewhat softer than on the reservoir proper—but don't worry, Harvey had a plan: send Zion first. They were very proud when they made it, and of course Lijah insisted on joining them. Then we went home. By that point we were all ready for a rest.

Lijah and Zion apparently asleep in the blue bike, heads hanging over the edge

outside wears you out

Of course, Zion was just pretending to be sleeping. But he was ready to sit on the couch and listen to three stories before lunch and another four afterwards. Spring is tiring!

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two Monday outings

Lijah swinging high in the baby swing, brothers heading up a hill behind him

spring adventure in winter

To let Leah start the week off with some solid hours of paying work, the boys and I are doing Monday morning outings these days. It's wonderful for all concerned, especially since our Sundays now feature a lot of stressful child-care for Mama and a lot of stressful church management for me; we're quite happy to reverse the picture (and subtract the stress!) on Mondays.

Last week I took the boys out to Jam Time in Maynard, an indoor play space for kids one through six that features lots of great toys and climbing things. And a ball pit.

Lijah in a sunbeam in a ball pit

sunny ball boy

Everybody had a great time (though I was needed so little I wished I had brought a book along). The play structures were lots of fun for the bigger two—Harvey got some solid practice in on the monkey bars, Zion learned how to slide down the fire pole, and they both enjoyed the super-quick smooth wood slides. Lijah spent an hour or two playing with a fireman and some plastic horses, with a few breaks for more active pursuits. It was all wonderful but for two things: we were exposed to some strong gender-normativism from some of the other kids there, and it set me back $30.

Today it was back to free adventures. With the weather bizarrely warm—practically summery—there was no reason not to go to a real, outdoor playground, and since we also wanted to visit the Arlington library we picked Robbins Park in Arlington. Though its main attraction, the giant slides, were closed for winter, there was still plenty to do. While the school kids in their playground across the street packed what fun they could into their 15-minute recesses, we ignored the bells and whistles as we ran and climbed and swung (and had a picnic). The boys even made some friends, who in true boyish fashion started out as enemies—or attackers, at least. Not that it was so crowded we couldn't escape other people when we wanted to.

Lijah running down a big hill towards the playground

room to run

After a while it was on to the library for some quiet time, and then a toy store for some desiring time. We stopped in to see Grandma and Grandpa on the way home, a delightful end to a fine adventure (especially since they always give out snacks). All that, and we still got home mid afternoon, in time to do plenty of housework before dinner. A successful Monday all around.

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almost ice skating

Harvey and Zion running on the outdoor ice rink

on the ice

Lexington is making a laudable commitment to improving public spaces—following up on the giant street-side checker game over the summer (beloved by the boys even if not blogged by me) they put in a free, open-to-the-public ice rink on the piece of land that hosts the Farmers Market in more temperate weather. The infrastructure was in place some time ago, but with the weather lately more temperate than you expect this time of year the ice took longer than expected to develop; and the boys, knowing that the rink was there, asked almost daily when we could go visit it. Yesterday was the day!

In order to make sure to get enough exercise if they wouldn't let us on the ice without skates, we parked a ways away and walked over on the bike path. The bigger boys ran ahead while I took things at a relaxed pace with Lijah. He was very excited to be walking, except when he wasn't.

Lijah sitting down in the middle of the bike path

"I can't!"

It's not like I was forcing him to walk: I had the stroller, and would have been delighted to plop him in it and catch up with his brothers, who were about a quarter mile ahead of us. But he was having none of it; when I walked back towards him to make the offer he hopped right up, calling, "I did it!"

As laborious and earth-bound as the walk may have been, all three boys were transported with delight to be on the ice, where just walking seemed like flying.

Lijah walking on the ice, looking like he's in the sky

like floating above clouds

There were no restrictions we knew about so the boys ran wildly around the ice surface, racing and spinning to their heart's content. The running was possible because the temperature—just above freezing—and the light snow that had fallen the day before combined to make the ice a little sticky. It was kind of disappointing, given that we had come all that way for ice—but on the other hand it was nice that none of the kids slipped and broke their heads open.

Not to say there were no falls. Harvey cut his face doing a comedic face-plant over the low rail, and then there was a moment when the bigger boys were taking a quiet sit down in between races.

Harvey and Zion sitting on the edge of the rink

a breather

Lijah came along, but instead of just finding his own spot to sit, he gave Zion a shove.

the boys as before, with Lijah pushing Zion

his role in the family

Turns out Zion's perch was somewhat precarious.

Harvey still sitting, Zion's feet poking over the rink edge where Lijah pushed him off

oof

No injury resulted though, and when Zion grudgingly forgave us for laughing everyone was alright again.

After a good long time on the ice surface proper we explored a little further and found that the frozen overflow from the rink was much slipperier than the rink itself. So we played there for a while.

Harvey and Zion sliding on the overflow off to the side of the rink

the real slippery stuff

And then some more on the rink (the boys had to get across it to get to the gate...), then a trip to the toy store, and the Lexington library... it was a full day. But Zion confirms, the (almost) skating was the undeniable highlight. Now to find some real ice skates for us all before we run out of winter...

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Concord in the cold

Lijah leading the other boys over the Old North Bridge

over the bridge

Yesterday morning we took an outing to Concord. I wanted to do some walking around outside, but given the sudden drop in temperature—after a warm rainy day that melted what snow we had the cold was a shock—I wasn't sure we could make it. But when I suggested the river there was a clamor of approval, so we gave it a shot.

Lijah's face in profile, bundled in the hood of his down coat

braving the wind

It was quite cold. The water and the exposure makes that bridge particularly chilly in winter, and yesterday was no exception. For at least 15 minutes, though, Lijah was good for it, enjoying the sight of the geese and a swan and charging over the bridge to see the "knight? knight? knight?" (actually the Minuteman statue).

a fledgeling swan in the shallows by the opposite bank

also enjoying the day

We saw one other person there the whole time. With the place to themselves Harvey and Zion played and played; I think they would have been happy to stay out lots longer.

Harvey and Zion playing a little way down the bank

boys at play

It's fun to watch what they get up to. Here they asked me if they could roll down the hill—of course I told them to go right ahead!

Zion and Harvey rolling down a short steep hill above the river

just not too far!

When Lijah reached his freezing point he let us know it, so we hurriedly decamped to the car (where he was mollified and refreshed with apple slices) and then to the Concord library, where we spent a pleasant hour or so playing with their legos and looking at books.

It was a good time all around, though all the cold and excitement took a lot out of the littlest one: it's not a long drive home but it was enough for him to drop off to sleep—and the car wasn't exactly quiet!—and he didn't stir at all when I brought him inside and tossed him onto the bed.

Lijah sleeping on his back in the bed, still wearing boots and coat

tuckered out for a winter nap

That's how every outing should end!

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latest discoveries

Yesterday the boys and I spent an afternoon at the Discovery Museum in Acton. It wasn't only that we needed more chicken supplies from the feed store down the street; I really want to expand their brains with the power of well-designed play!

Lijah and Harvey working in the life-sized play kitchen

play work

Last time I went was just with the two younger boys, who could spend all day in the "Children's" part of the museum. Harvey has other interests, and with him leading the charge we soon headed over to the other building for some Science Discovery. Happily, even Lijah likes science too: he was entranced by the heat camera, and watched his own rainbow form on the screen with delight.

Lijah looking at himself in the heat camera screen

"movie? movie?"

While I couldn't interest the older boys in a truly scientific investigation of what the camera revealed—like the fact that Harvey's hair is vastly more insulative than Zion's—they were amused to notice that their skin is in fact hot all over, and their clothes keep the heat in.

Harvey on the heat camera screen lifting his shirt to show his red belly

hot belly

There were also opportunities for personal growth. Harvey was brave enough to approach the woman running the pendulum-table spirograph to ask for a turn (and he wanted to make one as a present for Mama!). Zion got lost a whole level away from us and didn't scream or cry. And Lijah overcame a new-found fear of humidifier steam ("no smoke! no smoke!") to be able to spend a good half-hour in a room with a seven-foot-high water vapor tornado. Good times all around!

Plus, we picked up the chicken feed on the way home.

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