posts tagged with 'adventures'

the weekend's seaside adventure

This past weekend we took... not a vacation, entirely, but a trip at least to Cape Cod. Like we've done in the past, our church ran a retreat at a hotel in Falmouth; as a staff member, it was my privilege to help run the child care. Which was complicated slightly by Saturday's nor'easter. Never mind, it's always fun to be at the seaside! With full knowledge of the forecast we made the best of Friday's sunny weather with a stop at our second-favorite beachside playground on the way down.

the boys on the merry-go-round at the beachside playground in Falmouth

feels like vacation already

Our next stop was Woods Hole, where we met our best homeschool buddies at the aquarium. Last year the kids dashed through the exhibits in record time, but this time everybody was in the mood to really take things in, and we lingered for a while at each tank.

looking at a fish tank at the aquarium

engrossing

While in Woods Hole we also took in the museum where you can play in the replica Alvin's cockpit, and played on the little beach in the center of town. The mamas got coffee.

Then we all went to the hotel to check in. While the freshly caffeinated mamas took care of that, the kids and I explored the beach. It wasn't too cold to put our feet in the water—it never is, for us—but it was very cold. Numbingly cold. Luckily there was a tropically warm indoor pool nearby where we could warm up.

Zion, fully dressed, wading in the indoor baby pool

wading pool

In past years the retreat has included dinner, but we cut that this year to save on costs. So we went out to eat instead. It was wonderful; besides the quantities of fried seafood and french fries the kids were delighted by the touch-screen drink dispenser, and took in a startling quantity of pink lemonade with lemon, cherry, and strawberry flavor shots. "Mixing is fun!" they said.

the boys eating at Seafood Sam's

mmm, fish dinners!

We woke up the next day to howling wind and spitting rain. Leah laughs at bad weather, and took off before dawn to run a half marathon. That left me to see to packing up, but the kids are big now: they did a fantastic job of loading backpacks with everything they would need for the day and cramming everything else in the duffels, all in plenty of time to get down to breakfast before almost everyone else. That meant we could get a prime seat by the window, for the first time in the three years we've been visiting this hotel. We enjoyed watching the wind and the light-ship on the horizon for a while; and also the buffet.

Zion pouring ketchup onto his plate of sausages, bacon, and danishes

elegant ketchup

I kind of wondered breakfast by the window would be the closest we'd get to the ocean that day, it was that stormy out. Plus I was in charge of 32 elementary school kids. But while we did spend about six hours playing (very happily) in a windowless conference room, I did take a few brave souls out into the tempest to explore the beach and the secret pond. The pictures don't do the wild weather justice: the wind was blowing something fierce, but it was blowing directly out to see so it flattened the waves right out. They were probably something to see by the time they reached Connecticut...

kids walking along the windblown beach

adventurous

Oh, and we swam in the pool too. But I was having too much fun to photograph that. All that, and we were still home by 7:00. Maybe not a vacation, but a delightful adventure.

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a family vacation story

Harvey and Zion running from big waves

late september seas

At the end of September we took another trip down to Truro to stay at Grandma and Grandpa's beach house. This time it was just us; the Bernsteins were otherwise engaged and the friends we invited couldn't make it. So we had the house, and the vacation, to ourselves. Which was novel! We realized, as we sat down to supper the first night there, that it was the first purely family vacation we'd taken since Harvey was a tiny baby, nine years ago. I think we earned it!

Because it was well past Labor Day it wasn't only the house we had to ourselves, but pretty much the whole place. As soon as we arrived we headed right down to the beach, where we knew there'd be no trouble finding a place to set up our stuff.

Zion and Lijah wrapped up in towels on the windy beach

our private beach

One reason we were interested in hitting the beach right away was the forecast: the Wednesday we drove down was mild, but there was cold weather predicted for Thursday and rain for Friday. So we had to seize our one beachy chance! Of course, while the air was mild the water was not; it took some effort to get in, even for Mama in her wetsuit. The waves also made it a little challenging, at least for the kids. This beach is on the bay side and is usually as calm as a pond, so the two-foot breaking waves felt pretty big. Most of us did make it in at last, and Harvey and I at least spent a good hour or so playing in the water. Pretty good for September 26!

We needed some supplies for supper so after we dried off we drove into Welfleet to visit the wonderful grocery store there, with wood floors and shelves and a not terrible selection of things to eat. After stocking up we drove down to the harbor to take a walk. The evening light was beautiful, thanks to the gathering clouds.

the setting sun turns the air over Welfleet Harbor dusty yellow

peaceful evening

The clouds had settled in to stay when we woke up the next morning, which is why I told the boys not to pack swimsuits for our trip to Provincetown. I thought that made sense; besides the clouds it was windy and cold. We wanted to go visit Race Point Beach, where I assumed we'd walk a little, be impressed by the giant waves, and then look for somewhere warm to visit. I should have known better.

Harvey and Zion getting wet in the waves

waves are too much fun

You know how it is: they thought they were just getting their feet wet. It really was cold and windy, though, so we couldn't exactly swim, even leaving aside the fact that the waves probably would have killed us. Good thing swimming isn't the only fun thing to do at a beach!

Harvey jumping off a sand bank

yahoo!

(I really wanted to do a flip off that bank, but it turns out that at 41 I don't have it in me any more.) So we jumped and walked and collected crab shells until the roaring wind—which made any non-shouted conversation impossible—drove us crazy and away. Done with the wind but not yet with the ocean, we drove a couple minutes to another beach on the other side of the point, which presented a completely different aspect: calm, quiet, and mild. With no waves to speak of we watched the tide not creep but race up the beach, and the boys had fun playing real-life Forbidden Island (while I forbade them to get their second suit of clothes wet).

Next we visited Provincetown proper. The boys and I had a great time walking on the long long breakwater (pictured here) while Leah cuddled up with her book in the car to have a break from the wind. Then we tried to find somewhere to park to let us check out downtown, but even at the end of September the place was hopping. I don't go on vacation to battle for parking, so to the moans of the boys who had seen a plush Pikachu in a store window I pointed the car out of town. They were mollified when we found a quiet skate park to play in.

Then we turned for home, but I wasn't totally done exploring and asked the family if they would mind checking out just one more beach. And they were glad they said yes, because Head of the Meadows was the best one yet. The sun had come out by then (as may be seen in the picture that tops this post), and though the wind was still at full force there was a big dip in the beach that blocked some of its force. And even better, the dip held a considerable pond. Which spelled the end for the second suit of dry clothes.

the boys getting wet

going in

I wasn't tempted by the pond, but while the boys frolicked I was watching the waves, and finally I couldn't resist. Fear of sharks kept me from really swimming, but I did go in enough to get my clothes—my only clothes, since I didn't think to bring spares—soaking wet. It was worth it. Then we headed home.

Friday we woke up to steady rain. Leah wanted to get the house clean for a prospective renter who was coming to look at it, so I took the boys over to Welfleet to go to the library there. We'd wanted to visit it ever since we first noticed it last year, but who has time for libraries when there are beaches to visit! Except in the rain, of course. I'm glad it rained, because the library trip wasn't just a passable consolation prize, it was one of the best parts of the vacation. There was a giant collection of comic books, including the long-sought-out Hilo book 4, which absorbed Harvey and Zion; Lijah was delighted by the toys. An assortment of old cooking gear was his favorite, and he and I enjoyed imaginary play with the various strange objects. It was very cozy with the rain pouring down on the skylights.

But we hadn't brought anything to eat, so at maybe 1:00 I dragged them away for lunch. Leah had packed everything up, so after lunch we said goodby to the house and headed home for real; stopping on the way, of course, for some ice cream. It's not a vacation without ice cream! Even Rascal got some.

the boys licking cones

like you do

It was a good time. Family vacations are nice; let's do one again some day!

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we can adventure by ourselves

In past years we've done this summer camp thing. When I asked the boys if they wanted to try it again this year they were all for it, and at least one family who participated in the past told me they were interested, so I emailed a few other folks to invite them. But so far, nobody has wanted to join us. Never mind, last Thursday the boys and I went on an adventure all by ourselves, and gosh-darnit, we had a great time!

the boys looking out at Fawn Lake

on the adventure trail

We didn't go anywhere new; just old Fawn Lake, where we've been lots of times before. It was Zion's first time biking there, at least! There was some grumpiness here and there as we walked around the pond, but nobody can be in a bad mood for long in the presence of such lovely natural beauty, and by the time we made it to the lunch cliff spirits were high. Zion made his higher still by climbing up the hardest way.

Zion bouldering, viewed from above

on his way up

After lunch we played hide-and-seek and tag in the field for about an hour, then we took to the streets for the ride home. I was a little nervous about Zion experiencing 45 mph traffic beside him for the first time, but he did great. The reason for our detour away from the lovely bike path that would have led us straight back to our house was that the bike path doesn't have an ice cream shop. And we needed ice cream.

the boys licking ice cream cones

treat

And even that wasn't the end of the fun; next we stopped at the library for an hour of relaxing reading. Then we finally went home, to have dinner.

After dinner we went on another adventure, to outdoor concert back up by the library, where Harvey and Lijah got stung by several wasps each. But that's another story, and friends did join us for that outing, so we didn't feel as much like brave and solitary explorers.

We're doing some more exploring tomorrow. We'll see if anyone feels like coming along.

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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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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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November

bare trees and gray sky behind the Old North Bridge

gray light

I had a project to post something every weekday in October, and I did. Then I thought I could take a break in November. We've also been pretty tired out and some of us sick. But that hasn't prevented us from enjoying the November weather.

Zion's face poking up from a leaf pile

big pile

You'd never guess that iconic-type of fall image was actually taken on the sidewalk of a busy street. All the leaves fell at once this year, so there's pretty much a pile under every tree.

the three boys playing in a leaf pile on the sidewalk of a busy road

roadside entertainment

After that moment of fun and a short trip through Wilson Farm (ask Lijah about the llama...) we went down to Arlington to walk around the Reservoir. Around, and in some cases over: it's very shallow this fall. Still enough water for swans.

Zion and Harvey looking at a pair of swans on a pond

bird watching

The next day I took the boys to Concord. We stopped at the Old North Bridge—pictured at the top of this post—and generally got into things. Like trees.

all three boys up in a tree

trees make us smile

Zion was very excited to find a shiny button.

Zion showing off his brass button

see?

We thought it might be off a redcoat's jacket. There was one talking to tourists not far away, but when we looked at his uniform we saw it wasn't a match. Disappointing, but at least it meant Zion got to keep it!

As well as the bridge and its surrounds, we also explored the boathouse. I'd never been in before—I didn't know one even could saw that he could open the latch he didn't hesitate to invite the rest of us in. We had fun playing in the semi-darkness.

Lijah in the dim light of the boat house, by the just-cracked door

gloomy fun

The dock was fun too.

the boys at the end of the dock, looking into the murkey water

don't fall in

And at home, we even managed to enjoy—briefly—a fire out in the yard. It was Lijah who encouraged me—commanded me—to start it, and the two of us spent a lovely 15 minutes appreciating the warmth and light.

a fire in the grill, seen past Lijah's shoulder

toasty

November at its finest.

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weekend long ride

On Saturday Luke finally got me out to do a long ride with him. He started the day off by riding up here from West Roxbury, so he already had a lot of time in the saddle by the time I joined up; but with plans to go almost 50 more miles I wasn't sure if I was going to make it! We were headed out to the Haystack Observatory out in Westford, which meant plenty of fine fall riding along quiet rural roads.

Luke riding down a country lane

he knows the way

After 25 miles or so (and only one major wrong turn) we made it to the base of Haystack Hill and, eventually, to the top. It turns out they like to put observatories up high.

Luke riding towards a towering white ball

I think we found it

It being a Saturday the place was closed to automotive visitors, but there was a sign pointing to a pedestrian cut-through around the gate. We thought that could go for cyclists too.

Besides a pair of giant white orbs (the Haystack Radio Telescope proper, pictured above, and the Westford Radio Telescope) and one smaller orb (Haystack Auxiliary Radar; only a 40-foot dish) the site is also home to a couple of much more visually interesting exposed metal antennas.

the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna and the Zenith Antenna, seen from across the parking lot

I'm sure they all do something

We deemed the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna as the most photogenic for the purpose of our official posed bike shots; though I was challenged to get both bicycle and antenna in the frame.

my bike leaning against the fence in front of the Millstone Hill Steerable Antenna; with Luke and warning sign

proving I biked there

Because we kind of had to sneak in we were the only visitors, but the site seems like it would be at least moderately welcoming to visitors during work hours. Outside one of the buildings they had a pair of parabolic dishes with platforms in front of them; standing on one platform you could hear a whisper from the other, 30 yards away (just like the one at the Discovery Museum only bigger and better!).

They also had an apple tree, and, as is always the case, I couldn't resist trying one. I had some thought it might give me super-powers—you know, the radiation and all—but no luck. It was pleasantly sweet but soft and mealy, so I didn't finish it (the only disappointment of the whole outing).

me holding a red apple in front of the Haystack Radio Telescope

symmetry

Then it was time to head home. We chose a more southerly route in order to make a loop, and it took us through picturesque Concord.

a red barn (or garage) amidst fields and stone walls

well-kept rural landscape

We crossed the Concord River by way of the Old North Bridge, which merited another stop for a photo.

my bike leaning against the rail of the Old North Bridge

almost home

Then home, for a total (for me) of about 45 miles. There were definitely moments along the way when I thought I wouldn't be able to make it up the next hill, but after finishing up with three flat miles on the dirt of the Reformatory Branch Trail I was feeling good and would have been happy to keep going even further. And I didn't even get sore afterwards! So... 75 miles next time?

Thanks, Luke, for getting me out there!

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downtown by bicycle

I had a little extra time today between finishing up work in Cambridge and meeting Leah and the boys to hang out with friends in Arlington, so I hopped on my bike for a little extra ride. I thought maybe I could head downtown and go all the way to the ocean. That may not have sounded like a reasonable plan to Harvey ("there's an ocean in Boston?!" he asked incredulously, as I described the adventure afterwards) but, judging by distance alone, it was entirely reasonable—just like five miles away! Never having biked into the city, though, I overlooked one crucial point: it's a terrible experience!

Well, maybe not entirely terrible. But doing it as I was on a whim and without a well-planned route I exposed myself to all sorts of things that made for a not-so-fun ride. Things were fine as I started out from Rindge Ave down Sherman into Harvard Square. But east of Harvard—I ended up on Mass Ave, because, you know, you do—I was faced with a series of red lights that made me start doubting the whole enterprise. Over the river I was into Back Bay, which wasn't my original plan; I meant to cross the Longfellow Bridge, which is much closer to the ocean! Avoiding Comm Ave, I headed down Marlborough St, where four-way-stops every block—not to mention countless double-parked trucks—kept me from building up any momentum. And things got even worse when I hit Berkeley St, where, apparently, Marlborough's one-way traffic reverses! It was only with difficulty that I found a legal way around that didn't lead me onto Storrow Drive.

So there were navigation challenges; there's also the insanity of city drivers who, wherever the road allows, accelerate to maybe 30 miles an hour over a short block. That's tricky on, say, Arlington by the Public Garden, where I was trying to cross four lanes of traffic to make a left. Up Beacon Street I went to the State House, where I looked at the time... and made the decision to give up my quest. Caught in the crazy tangle of Old Boston streets, I was needing to look at the map on my phone at almost every corner, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to get anywhere in the time I had available—never mind getting back! So with many more map checks I made my way back down to the river and across the bridge by the Science Museum; if I was going to turn back before my objective, at least I'd make a good loop of it!

Across the river conditions improved right away—well, as soon as I got myself on the right side of the street. The cycling was fine on Cambridge St and I finally got into a rhythm and felt like I was on a bike ride rather than a mad orienteering expedition. Then I turned onto Beacon, where the paving is exceptionally bad. But Beacon took me up to Somerville Ave into Porter Square, where the green-painted bike lanes are a thing of beauty: a true paradise after the desperate struggle I'd endured. Too bad I could only enjoy them for a quarter of a mile before I turned onto Rindge and finished the loop (in an hour and ten minutes; I had plenty of time to spare).

I really ought to have taken some pictures along the way; there were many fine sights, and this is like the fourth pictureless post in a row here. But frankly I was too terrified and/or confused most of the time to be thinking about aesthetic concerns. The biggest problem was with navigation, and obviously if I knew the city better—or at all—I would have done much better there. But even if I'd been totally certain of my route, I'm still not sure it would have been a really pleasant experience. There are lots and lots of cars downtown—I can't imagine why—and when they aren't playing drag race on multi-lane roads they're stopped in traffic, so close to parked cars that you can't find a way to squeeze through. Add in the stop lights and the pedestrians (who are the smart ones—that's the way to get around the city!) and you start to question the sanity of the whole endeavor.

It was so bad that I need to try again one time to see if I can do it better.

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artistic outing

a stone bird sculpture; Harvey and Zion in the background

in the sculpture garden

On Saturday I took the boys out to Old Frog Pond Farm, an apple orchard that also has a sculpture walk.

a big egg-shaped porcupine-looking sculpture

porcupine egg?

As we pulled in the boys were delighted to see what looked like an egg made out of porcupine out on the front lawn, and we were instantly sold on the idea of mixing sculpture with apples. It was a chilly gray day, and the morning's light rain had just ended when we got there, so we had the place to ourselves. The woman at the sculpture side of things greeted us warmly, gave Harvey a map, and pointed us in the right direction... then we were on our own to explore.

Zion and Harvey walking in the sculpture park

a farm where they grow art

There were all kinds of pieces by a variety of artists, but all of them shared certain qualities—especially in how much they blended in to the natural (and agricultural) environment. Sometimes so much so that they were hard to spot!

an instalation: white plastic leaves in the oak tree

subtle

All the art was very approachable for the kids, and lots of the pieces just cried out to be touched. I'm not sure what the rules really were, but when things looked safe enough I didn't want to hold the boys back. Who could resist, say, this giant mancala board?!

Lijah checking out a giant mancala board

begging to be played with

The biggest piece on the walk was a rusty-brown teapot of a considerable size. We saw it right from the beginning but the path took us away from it, around a pond and through the edge of the woods. When we came to the end of the loop and saw it again the boys ran right up.

the boys checking out a giant teapot sculpture

the biggest sculpture

I was delighted to see it was made out of old leaves stuffed into a structure of chicken wire. Even more delightful was discovering, a little later, that the piece is called "Compost Tea".

detail of the teapot sculpture: leaves under chicken wire

that's what it's made of

I don't think I could pick my favorite of the sculptures we saw—I could barely restrain myself from posting pictures of all of them! There were eggs woven from twigs and carved out of wood; golden dragonflies suspended over the stream and a silvery creature emerging from the pond; suggestions of birds in pieces of branches and cast-off iron machinery; and a sacred circle of standing stones, to name just a few.

The walk was free (though we did pay the suggested donation, despite not being asked—I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't read the website) so I thought we might support the endeavor by picking some apples... also Lijah was just about demanding it, since he could see them hanging on the trees. So we did.

Harvey and Zion picking apples, alone in the orchard

a real orchard, and all to ourselves

The only varieties left were two I'd never heard of, Green Crisp and another one I can remember. We got both, and it was nice to have to work to find good apples off of real trees in a real orchard.

Lijah walking back through the orchard, munching on an apple

Lijah approves

The only bad part of the day was we came home to find that Leah would have loved to come with us to the orchard, something I completely failed to realize. I'm now working on being a better listener.

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