posts tagged with 'advent'

on Wednesday

The best thing about homeschooling is that, by Wednesday, when you're ready for a change of scenery... it's yours to go find!

the boys crossing the bridge to Good Harbor Beach

to the beach!

After just a little bit of work this morning, we headed up towards Gloucester and Rockport for an adventure. I had no firm plans beyond wanting an outing, and knowing we needed a bit more lumber for the new deck we're working on—and there's a Home Depot that direction too, so why not?! It's been a while since we visited the ocean in the northern part of Massachusetts.

There was some temptation to head to the same spot we spent so much time at on that last trip, since our memories of it were so positive. But I thought I'd check out the street parking situation at Good Harbor beach; and when I saw that it had opened up on September 15th we just had to stay. Our first try at exploring the beach was cut short by everyone needing to use the bathroom. On our second attempt we got down to the water, which was warm enough that we all had to go back to the car one more time to change into swimsuits. It was a lot of walking... but totally worth it!

Harvey and Zion playing in the waves

yay ocean!

For three of us, at least. Unfortunately, Lijah somehow got a nasty cut on his big toe yesterday, and crossing the bridge for the fifth time he stubbed it and it started bleeding again pretty good. So he wasn't as excited about getting wet. Instead he rested on our giant pile of gear.

Lijah lying on towels and backpacks

relatively comfy

While the water was warm—for the ocean in New England—the air most certainly was not. I don't think it got much above 60°F today, and at the shore there was a stiff breeze blowing the whole time. After a little while I headed back to cuddle with Lijah, so I was ready when the bigger boys were finally done in the water and needed some warming and drying (Lijah's towel was for warming purposes only, but he didn't want to be left out!).

the boys in towels and coats, looking cold

brrr!

We had lunches packed, but we couldn't eat on the beach: besides threatening to blow away all our food and containers, the wind also kept a constant spray of sand in the air to a height of about a foot. So we instead we went into Rockport to explore the rocks opposite the harbor from the breakwater, where we'd never been. It was just as windy there but there was no sand to blow around, and we were able to find a sheltered spot for lunch. Then we climbed all over the rocks and tried to take pictures of the breaking waves, which were quite impressive. Neither Zion or I—the two main photographers—managed anything especially good... but you get the idea.

Zion and Lijah on the rocks looking at the rough sea

on the rocks

Then it was time to go home. We were back by 2:30, with plenty of time to do the rest of the day's work and play with friends. Not a bad schedule!

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alternate art hike

On Friday we had big plans to go swimming at Walden Pond with lots of friends. Even when the day dawned gray and chilly with rain threatening we weren't deterred. However, we were absolutely deterred when we reached the pond and found it closed. With five kids in the car and another three planning to meet us in a couple minutes, we had to find something else fun to do! Luckily Concord's Hapgood-Wright town forest, featuring Fairyland Pond, was just down the hill. So we went there instead.

Zion wading in Fairyland Pond

any fairies in sight?

Not, actually, to swim. Besides the cold weather and cold water, it was also pretty muddy and weedy. It would have been enough to walk around and explore, but as it happened there was even more fun to be had: the woods was the site of an "Art Ramble" organized by the Concord Umbrella Community Arts Center.

the kids looking at a birdhouse-like structure with animals peeking out from the doors

art!

I love art, and I love it even more when it's integrated into the natural environment (like at the wonderful Old Frog Pond Orchard sculpture walk). And when you can play with it! Here are the kids climbing on a giant hand, and obeying my instructions for the picture: "give me the finger!".

kids climbing on a big hand sculpture holding up fingers

all the fingers

We spent the most time at the Clootie Tree, a metal tree-like sculpture where the artist invited people to hang strips of cloth on which they had written their hopes and wishes. It was just about filled up already, though the younger kids found some space to add their own cloths. I enjoyed reading some of the wishes already up there. My least favorite was the guy who wished for a job where he could make "boatloads" of money doing something people would respect him for, and my most favorite was, "I wish I had a different snack." I guess I like realistic wishes. Lijah's was not realistic: he wished that he was the bunny from Sing.

Besides the art, we also did some fun hiking. The woods is small but very hilly, so even though we didn't go far we got to feel like we were climbing mountains. And some of the kids felt like we had gone far enough that we were lost, which is always exciting. Also there was deep mud to play in. And of course, at the end of the walk, the kids who hadn't changed out of their swimsuits after the disappointment of Walden went in the pond. All in all, I think we were quite satisfied with the alternate activity.

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the trip in review

The question we've been answering the most over the last week has been, "how was Washington?" My answer? Hot. We get some hot weather here but it's got nothing on the unremitting heat and humidity of August in Washington, which was almost too much for us. Plus in turns out that it's hard to get good drinking water when you're staying in a hotel. So we were perpetually thirsty. But that may be universal in Washington, judging by the number of folks selling bottled water and gatorade on the streets around the Mall. It seems like a fine gig, if you don't mind shouting the same thing over and over again for hours.

Our hotel room, home for four long days, was very nice. We had two big beds, a table or bar sort of thing, and a L-shaped couch. Two TVs. The most important feature was the tiny refrigerator, which we needed so we wouldn't have to go out to eat for every single meal. The only downside to the place was the ridiculous bathroom sink—the only sink. It was a shallow box-shaped thing set on the countertop with a faucet that sprayed a flat sheet of water, maybe an inch and a half wide, out at a 45° angle. It made me think of hostile architecture—how cities install uncomfortable benches to keep folks from sleeping on them. Though in this case I think it was just bad design. Hard enough to wash hands in, never mind cleaning dishes.

We spent most of our time in Pokemon world—the main hall at the Convention Center. At least, Harvey, Zion, and I did; Lijah was having none of that (none of anything, actually) so he and Leah swam in the pool, walked the neighborhood around the hotel, and enjoyed the AC in the hotel room. Harvey and I played lots of Pokemon, and Zion played lots of Let's Go Pikachu on the game systems they had set up for him.

After the competition finished up Sunday at lunchtime, the bigger boys and I were free to be tourists. We walked down to the mall and through the Sculpture Garden, which is full of beautiful artwork. Also a giant fountain, by which we stopped for a picnic lunch. There was very definitely no wading allowed, but we could still enjoy dipping our tired feet in the luke-warm water.

Zion in front of an optical illusion house sculpture

we liked this art

Harvey and Zion sitting on the edge of a fountain

chilling

Next we visited the Natural History Museum. We stayed for about three hours, and we would have been happy with twice that, but I had hopes of catching a glimpse of some more Washington-specific attractions (I mean, lots of towns have Natural History Museums). Unfortunately we were defeated by heat, distance, and the construction fence around the Washington Monument—but we did see it, at least. Then we got yelled at near the White House, without seeing that at all. That meant it was time to go home.

On Monday we finally got to do something all together: go to the zoo! After we got all packed up and checked out of the hotel, that is. Liberated our car from its underground storage where we had left it five days previously, I found that I had lost the parking slip—that meant we had to pay the daily maximum of $30. I'll take it! The zoo was wonderful, and we were entranced not only by the elephants and lions and gorillas, but but the otters and tamarinds as well. Plus the tamarinds were inside in air conditioned comfort! Did I mention it was really hot there?

a Golden Lion Tamarind

this is a tamarind

We finally tore ourselves away from the zoo in the early afternoon and headed towards home. There was more traffic on the return trip but that was fine; we had a good book to listen too and lots to talk about—and we were happy to be sitting still. There were some adventures on the way: we went over the Bay Bridge again, we saw some more broken-down trucks, and we stopped in a little town in Eastern Maryland for gas. There we visited what was instantly my favorite convenience store in the world: not only did they have like 12 different varieties of pork rinds, but for once I didn't have to worry about the boys not having their shoes—there were barefoot adults in there too!

a convenience store somewhere in Maryland

I'll probably never go back, but I'll always remember it

Did I mention that Zion didn't actually bring shoes on the trip? Traveling is fun. I'm also glad to be back home.

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the Archibalds go to Washington

Camping is exhausting, and most years our annual Bar Harbor trip is the most exhausting thing we do all year. This year, though, we topped it. Less than two weeks after we got back from Mt Desert Island—and before I had any time to write about camping, or about anything at all—we packed the car again and headed to Washington DC for Harvey to compete in the Pokemon World Championship. He did not win, but it was still a fantastic—and overwhelmingly tiring—trip.

Lijah cozied up in the car at 4:00 am

early riders

We left home at 4:15 in the morning on a Thursday. Our friends who go to Washington more than once in a lifetime told us an early-morning departure is the way to go, traffic-wise; they also said their kids fall back to sleep as soon as they get going and sleep for the first third of the trip. That didn't happen for us. Everyone was too excited! Never mind, they're great travelers. And we did appreciate the traffic-free roads we encountered almost the whole way down (I guess it's impossible to involve yourself with New York City without running into some traffic).

in traffic heading towards the George Washington Bridge

we were trying to remember some words from In the Heights

Once we got through Hartford every moment brought the boys farther south than they had ever been; and soon, farther west as well. We eagerly took in the sights, especially the bridges. The boys are bridge fans, and the Bay Bridge in Maryland was easily the most impressive one we've ever crossed!

Once we were over it, it was only a little ways farther to Washington. Our route to the hotel took us by the convention hall where the Pokemon event was being held; in fact, it went right under a pedestrian walkway where hung a gigantic inflatable Pikachu! We had arrived.

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vacation accomplished!

We went camping. Besides the usual hiking, we also did some bouldering, swam in several bodies of water, saw a magic show, ate lots of snack food, and stayed up late. Vacation is tiring!

Lijah sitting in front of our tent looking tired

home away from home

camping back in 2018, day 2

our tents in the fog

back in the mists of time

We're diving into planning for our annual camping vacation, which, as in years past, has led me to remember that I never finished writing about last year's trip. In fact, I thought I hadn't even started, but in looking back I found that I did describe the first day. Since we've got to get it out of the way before we have more stories to tell, here's the next chapter in the account.

We woke up to a cool misty morning, so I was very happy to get a fire going to warm things up and start piling up the food. Eggs, bacon, and bagels were fine; leftover roasted red peppers from the previous night's pizza made things extra special.

the gang having breakfast at the campsite

our own cafe

There was lots of excitement for hiking among members of the party both young and old, and it translated directly into productive energy for the 4-year-olds, who hit the steep and bouldery bottom section of the trail up Pemetic like there was candy waiting for them at the top. 4-year-olds can hike considerably better than 3-year-olds—like, way more than 25% better!

Lijah climbing up a steep part of the trail up Pemetic

upwards!

The Pemetic SW trail is super interesting, and delightful when you're going up. There's lots of fun scrambling, and the kids' favorite part is one section where the path divides and you can choose to come up through a gorge, or on a more open, dryer path above. The big kids picked the former, naturally!

Maybe there wasn't candy at the top, but besides the beautiful views the boys—and all of us—were rewarded at the top with a delicious lunch. I suppose it wasn't quite rewarding enough for Lijah though, because he couldn't manage any enthusiasm for the summit photo.

the Archibalds posing at the top of Pemetic Mountain

Lijah's not feeling it

The way down the south ridge of the mountain is totally different that the trail up the northwest side. Going down the granite rocks we could walk with almost a normal gate, as we took in the views of the islands off of Northwest Harbor. I would not recommend doing this hike the other direction.

hikers spread out moving down the South Ridge of Pemetic

the side with a view

We didn't have the quickest start in the morning, so by the time we finished up the hike we were ready to head back to the campsite. It was my turn to cook, and I cooked tortillas over the fire, which if I do say so myself was pretty amazing. I had the dry ingredients all mixed up ahead of time, which was great... but once I set everything up I realized I hadn't brought a rolling pin! Never mind; a few minutes work with a saw and my pocket knife gave me a perfectly good home-made roller. It worked so well I even brought it home when we packed up! Only I was too busy whittling and cooking to take a picture, sorry.

Naturally, the kids spent the late afternoon in the pool. Like you do! More uniquely, we also found time to play some Pokemon.

Tim and the boys playing Pokemon on the grass

of course

Then it was early to bed for the Archibalds, without even a peek at the stars. Camping vacations are hard work!

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to the ocean in May

A couple weeks ago the sun was shining and we didn't have anything on the schedule, so we decided to head for the ocean. Our exact plans were uncertain, but I figured I'd point us towards Gloucester and see where we ended up. So with picnic lunches and swimsuits packed, we headed north! The ride itself was fun as soon as we got north of the Rt 93 split; the boys felt like they were entering unexplored territory. The deadly on-ramps on Rt 128 through Peabody and Danvers were of particular interest. Of course, when the ocean came into view that was even better! Driving somewhat at random through Gloucester we came to a beach, off Eastern Point Road. So naturally we stopped for a while.

the boys running to the water at a beach

the first one we found

Unfortunately the parking lot was marked "residents only", so while it was pretty much empty we were nervous about getting too far from the car. And it was too cold to swim anyway. So after a little exploration and jumping we moved on. Our next stop was Good Harbor beach, which we know well from the old days. Well, I know it well; Harvey didn't remember it. At first glance I thought parking there would be safe, but then I realized that all the other cars stopped along the street had people waiting in them. The signs threatened towing, so while the boys got to roam I sat with the car.

the boys walking on Good Harbor Beach

independant exploration

It was still coldish, and when the boys came back they said the water was too far away. Low tide will do that. So we moved on once more. Tired of Gloucester's restrictive parking regulations, we headed for Rockport where I knew I could find a place to put the car on a side street within striking distance of all sorts of attractions. That means it was Rockport that got our tourist dollars.

Lijah (in sheep costume) browsing in a toy store

sheep shopping

Actually, we didn't buy anything at that toy store, because we don't have that many dollars. But you can bet that, after a picnic lunch on the breakwater, there was one place where we were happy to part with a couple bucks.

Zion holding up an ice cream cone in front of the store

the sign says all it needs to say

Or actually two, because Lijah wasn't feeling the ice cream love; only fudge would satisfy his seaside cravings.

Lijah holding out a piece of fudge

concentrated chocolate power

Well fed, we wandered through town looking at the ocean down each alleyway we passed. Before long we came to one wide enough to walk through, and at the end of it we found a beach!

the kids walking down the rocks to front beach

can we get down this way?

By now it had finally warmed up a bit, so the boys changed into swimsuits and we spent half an hour splashing, jumping from rock to rock, and making a sand castle in a vain attempt to hold back the rising tide (as pictured here). We couldn't stop it though, and eventually it rose so high our piece of beach was in danger of disappearing, so we moved on. At the other end of the beach we found a stream emerging from a tunnel under the road (which Harvey and Zion had to explore, of course). Then we climbed some rocks and found a big square tide-pool filled with warm water, right next to a tiny sandy beach about five feet long. It felt like a private oasis! By the time we were done playing there it was past time to go home. It was a good trip!

Harvey and Zion in a big tide pool

our private pool

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nature photography

I really wanted to do the moments from the week post on Sunday, or at least Monday: we did so many exciting things last week that I captured on pretend film! Or at least one very exciting thing, a trip to Hartford so Harvey could compete with the nation's best in a day of Pokemon card battles. But my phone is not cooperating. It doesn't want to share its photos with my computer. I'm sure we'll work it out, but for now that's the hold-up.

However, I do own an actual camera. Quite a good one, actually, thanks to my family's generosity a couple Christmases ago. Only it's a little cumbersome, and also a little complicated... I confess that after a year and half I still haven't managed to read the manual enough to really bring out its best. Even with my lack of skill, though, there are definitely still some areas where it far outstrips my phone camera, and on our visit to the Acton Arboretum today it totally proved its worth.

pink flowers

May flowers

We'd never been before; I had no idea it was there, even. We went with friends from our homeschool coop, and had a great time. Besides the flowers, there were also turtles and frogs.

a frog

he liked the rain too

Pictures of humans will hopefully be forthcoming in the near future.

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two new forests

Harvey and Zion fording a spring creek

adventuring

Even though we live in the suburbs, there are lots of wild places around to explore (wild enough for us, at least, despite the ubiquitousness of road noise and old stone walls), and the last two days we visited two new-to-us woods. Yesterday we went out to Concord to visit the south end of the Estabrook Forest, which I learned about at the coop meeting on Monday. We climbed Punkatasset Hill, which may be only 290 feet high but is steep enough to be exciting—especially when Zion and I took, oh, a 20-foot sliding fall down a portion of trail called the "ski hill". On the other side of the hill we found brooks, marshes, a deep pond, and a lovely meadow where we had lunch and played in the grass. The woods are much bigger, and paths reach all the way up across into Carlisle to reach Rt 225; I want to go back later and explore much further!

This morning we met up with some of our coop partners for a presentation at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. I enjoyed hearing the ranger talk to the group about signs of spring in the woods, and specifically vernal pools; Harvey and Zion report that they didn't, but both of them raised their hands to offer answers or comments several times so it couldn't have been too horrible (Lijah just called out without raising his hand, especially after he got a big laugh from the crowd for his first comment). Following the lesson we were directed outside to look at a real vernal pool. Amusingly, the ranger had us drive the half mile—if that!—to the pool, which he told us was too far to walk. It's not entirely spring yet so the pool life wasn't in full swing, but we were able to net a few macro-invertebrates (a new term I learned!) and watch them swim around in tubs. The adults were interested at least.

the boys watching a ranger talk at a vernal pool

listening from the back

All that took just an hour and a half, so when everyone else left we took to the trails to get some walking in. Unfortunately I hadn't prepared by reading that Wikipedia page I linked above, so I didn't know what the reserve had to offer and the trail we picked at random was pretty dull. By the time we realized where the pond was we were about done—tired out from all the direct instruction—so we didn't even get to check it out up close. If only we had headed straight there—and if only I had realized there were WWII bunkers hidden in the woods!—we may have had a longer and more adventurous visit. Oh well, next time.

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urban outing

We've been sticking close to home on weekdays the last few weeks, so yesterday I thought it was time for a big outing. It's a little cold for hiking; a indoor entertainment in the big city seemed like a safer bet. Of course, there was also a lot of outside time involved. Never mind, we're tough. At least the train was warm.

the boys standing up in an empty subway car

surfing the subway

Being cheap we did some walking to get to the train, stopping by fields and streams on the way and not quite falling into the water of Alewife Brook (Zion always insists on testing the cat ice to prove, yet again, that he is heavier than a cat). Zion and Lijah haven't been on the T in a while so they really enjoyed that part of the trip.

Arriving in Cambridge we went first to the Kemp Playground. Well, we went first to the public restroom that's perched precariously on the intersection where Garden Street meets Mass Ave, where we enjoyed the sight of ice in the toilet bowl. Then the playground, which we had to ourselves for close to an hour of climbing and imaginative play. It's fun being there with lots of other kids, but there's also something to be said for a solo visit.

The main reason I chose Cambridge for a Wednesday visit is that on Wednesday afternoons Massachusetts residents can get into the Harvard Museum of Natural History for free. Since there's no chance I'd ever pay $45 for the four of us to visit, Wednesday is it! There's definitely some interesting stuff there: dinosaur bones were the main draw for us this time, but we also enjoyed the dead animals—especially the animals of the northeastern woodland—and the minerals.

Harvey and Zion looking at minerals in a museum cabinet

shiny things

Lijah also enjoyed that I brought a snack; otherwise he might not have survived the hour-and-a-half we spent in the museum.

Heading back to the train the most direct route took us through Harvard Yard. That was great because it let us enjoy one of the perks of first-class university education: free games and entertainment! (assuming you're not the one paying for your schooling). It was "Winter Fest" outside the Science Center building, and among the offerings were bowling, shuffleboard, and curling. How could we resist?!

the boys playing... shuffleboard? in Harvard Yard

colleges are fun!

Even the train ride towards home was entertaining and educational, as Harvey and Zion explored momentum by jumping while the train was braking. The other passengers were very patient with them.

It was a good time. Plenty of walking, plenty of intellectual stimulation, and a fair bit of adventure. I picked up a Charlie Card at the train station, since we might be doing more urban adventuring soon.

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