posts tagged with 'advent'

summery outing

Zion feeling the water

down to the water

Yesterday the weather turned warm and summery, so we headed out on the bikes for a summery outing to Fawn Lake. I made sure the boys packed changes of clothes.

Surprisingly, no one needed them; we had some wet feet, but nobody was inspired to take any great risks (or to straight up jump in the water). Maybe we were having too much fun hiking together and seeing what was around the next bend. Lijah can't always keep up with his brothers, but when he does manage it he's delighted.

three boys walking together around the pond

hiking together

We saw some wildlife: there were geese and swans on the pond, and I spotted four turtles basking on a log.

a pair of turtles basking on a log

the braver two

We didn't see any beavers, but there were plenty of signs of their presence. Here's one of maybe 50 downed or partially chewed-through trees we saw.

Lijah considering a large tree cut almost all the way through by beavers

impressive work, beavers

We were particularly delighted at the new outflow at the north end of the pond: it now runs through a two-foot diameter plastic pipe under a wood bridge, and the boys loved putting their hands in the icy water as it burbled out the lower side. (If you ask me the whole thing looked a little tenuous; if the pond bursts its banks next spring and washes away a segment of Springs Road just there I'm going to say I called it.)

Zion atop a rocky ledge

victory!

Besides the water, there were also other amusements. Zion was very proud of himself for climbing this rock—twice—and then we made it our pirate ship and spent 20 minutes attacking the swans. But the water was the main draw. That's what happens when it feels like summer!

the boys lying on a walkway looking down into the water

close examination

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our first protest

Zion holding a protest sign

he agreed to hold the sign I made

As promised, we went protesting yesterday. There won't be any kids at the midweek events unless the homeschoolers pick up the slack!

We drove to Arlington and walked in to the train station. We left home early enough that there was plenty of time to stop and check out the new ice on Alewife Brook (among many other diversions).

Zion checking the very thing ice on Alewife Brook

it's what we do

The train ride itself was delightful, and we were happy to spend most of it chatting with someone we know from church. Looking around at the thin Red Line crowd I wondered if anyone else was going protesting... it turns out that, no, they weren't. This was a smaller event than what we saw over the weekend.

a small crowd protesting on City Hall Plaza

small crowd, big plaza

But that's good: we wouldn't want to be overwhelmed on our first time out. The bigger boys got right to work making signs (the organizer had white posterboard available to supplement our cut-up boxes!), while Lijah watched and shivered. Not that he wasn't willing—but he only managed to draw a couple lines before his hands got too cold and had to go back in his pockets.

Harvey and Zion working on protest signs, Lijah looking cold

putting their drawing skills to work

I missed getting a photo of Zion's beautiful abstract sign, completely colored on both sides, but here's Harvey's carefully staged protest display:

Harvey sitting behind his sign, posed to look like his stuffed dog is drawing it

his eye-catching pose

The sign was kind of a collaborative effort. The boys were having too much fun this morning to pay attention as I tried to tell them what we were going to do, so I wasn't surprised when Harvey said, in response some remark I made about the horrors of certain Executive Orders, "I don't really care about that." I told him he was a generally caring person, and would probably object to some of the specific implementations—he agreed. I also helped him spell "immigrants", so the I-turned-into-an-A towards the end is entirely my fault. It's hard to spell long words out loud while also intermittently chanting! Climbing up on the subway vent above everyone's head and making it look like his dog was just finishing up the sign was all Harvey, and he got an appropriate amount of attention for his efforts.

While it took the boys a fair amount of time to warm up to the act of protesting—no pun intended, but it was pretty cold!—they were totally unfazed by the city. There was lots to notice and remark on, and we would have been glad to explore more if we hadn't felt like we might freeze to death.

Zion in his hood, with tall buildings behind him

country boy in the city

On the ride home I took a video of the bigger boys chanting "No Hate! No Fear! Refugees are welcome here!" It is kind of catchy. They say they enjoyed the outing and are excited to go to another protest. That's good: I think someone should be protesting every day. Maybe the next one we do will be bigger. A little rest first, though: protesting is hard work!

Harvey and Zion on the subway; Zion lying down

protesting is hard work

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ice and ice cream

Harvey and Zion walking to a hockey goal far away across frozen Fawn Lake

ice outing

The forecast yesterday morning called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing through the next day, but the sky outside was shining blue and the air mild. Just the weather you want for a winter cycling adventure! So after a nominal amount of schoolwork the boys and I headed out into the wide world. Our ultimate goals were to visit friends' almost-new-house (pending inspection) and buy some Bedford Farms ice cream for a celebratory almost-new-house dinner. Of course there were lots of adventurous stops on the way—and, as is our habit, a picnic lunch.

the boys eating a picnic in the woods

picnic bench

That was at Fawn Lake, our first destination, which we reached after two and a half miles of riding on the sticky-mud-over-frozen-gravel surface of the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. After lunch we explored along the shore, with Harvey and Zion mostly interested in finding a place to get out onto the ice. We don't need the news to tell us about the dangers of possible thin ice: it was plenty apparent most spots along the shore, with water spurting up from cracks if you so much as touched it. Of course, the danger there was only wet feet—still, something we wanted to avoid with miles to go before our journey was through.

With Harvey leading the charge we headed along a narrow path fringed by beaver-downed trees (all the remaining trees have collars of hardware cloth to keep them unchewed and upright). Towards the south end of the pond, in the shadow of the trees, we found an area where the ice was solid right up to the shore. There was even a hockey goal out there as a testament to the solidity of the surface. Harvey and Zion were delighted and headed right out to it; I stayed closer to shore with Lijah who, since our skating trip in December, wants nothing at all to do with ice.

Harvey and Zion walking on the ice

an essential part of any winter adventure

The bigger boys could have stayed all day, but after promising them a return trip another day I got everyone packed up to head back out on the road. Well, not the road, exactly, since the next part of our expedition was to pioneer a route through the woods in the direction of our friends' house (almost-new). There were plenty of paths, all visible on the map; the only questions were a) which one would actually get us where we wanted to go and b) which one were we currently on. Neither was ever really clear. But the exploring was delightful all by itself, with twisty singletrack up and down hills that challenged Harvey and I on both ascents and descents.

Harvey pushing his bike up some steep singletrack in the woods, brothers following

pathfinding

Our cargo bike is wonderful, but it's not the most sure-footed off-road ride; and worst of all it has terrible ground clearance. Luckily Zion and Lijah were happy to run in the woods for those segments where I had to lift it over logs every twenty feet. We had maybe a half mile of that, and then just a little more on the road til we reached the house. The boys were disappointed we couldn't go in—not even in the yard—so we had a little discussion about what it takes to close a home sale. And we sure hope the closing goes well! It's always nice to have more friends in town, and nice for friends to go from 10 miles away to 3 1/2, especially when we can do three of those miles off-road (though to be honest, where they live now we can do 9 3/4 of the ten miles off-road, thanks to fortunate siting of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway... but that's just a coincidence!).

After gazing at the house from the side of the street, we turned towards home—now riding along the not-entirely-comfortable shoulder of Rt 4. But the car noises and exhaust was bearable knowing that where the road gets into town a prize awaited!

three boys enjoying cones in front of Bedford Farms

winter's snow and ice cream

All in all it was a wonderful outing, and we were more than ready to get home, right on schedule for nap time.

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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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